Friday, August 29, 2014
This was my first full week back to work and it was harder than I expected. Mila was born in January and almost eight months later, I haven’t felt like I’ve truly been “back to work” yet. I took some time for maternity leave and was fortunate to have my mom and grandma take care of Mila as I transitioned back to work last spring. It was the middle of March, and with just eight weeks left before the semester ended, I worked from home when I could, brought the baby with me to faculty meetings, answered a lot of emails in the middle of the night while I nursed, and relied on mom and grandma when I needed to be away. Mila got to stay home, I took breaks throughout the day to nurse or snuggle, and before I knew it, May was here and the semester was over, ushering in a summer break to be home again. I’ve had almost eight months home with her, a luxury many moms don’t have, and I don’t take that time for granted. But at the same time, I am blessed to have a job I love, and I thought I was ready to get back at it. I am a woman who thrives on a schedule and a good plan, and I was looking forward to a new semester and a fresh start for our family. I packed bags, sorted through Cruz and Mila’s summer clothes and filled their drawers with new pajamas and socks, and spent nights at the kitchen table, planning meals and after school activities for Cruz. I was ready, or so I thought I was.
And then Monday came and that familiar tug, that always-present weight I felt as I kissed them both and walked out of daycare to my car was back and consumed me for the day. I welcomed back students with a smile on my face, worked most of the day on plans for my first week’s classes, and accomplished more than I sought out to do, but they never left me all day long. I wondered what they were doing, wondered if Mila was sleeping, and wondered if they missed me or wondered where I was. I finally couldn’t take it anymore and left work early to pick them up. Cruz, of course, was fine, acting out his role as ‘snack helper’ perfectly, his little head peeking up from behind the food cart as he pushed it down the hall behind his line of friends. He’s always been so easy going, happy to adapt and find fun anywhere he is, that I think he’s made these years of daycare easy on me. But Mila seems a little different. I’m not sure if it’s because she’s older and more aware of her surroundings, or more attached, or just a little more in tune with her emotions, but she seems a little more affected by change and transition. She greeted us with her big smile, but soon after followed it with a big cry, as if she didn’t know what to do with all the emotion she was feeling. And as I scooped her up and drove them home, the lump that had been in my throat all day seemed to capsize into the same overwhelming emotions Mila felt, tears running down my face as I looked at them in my rearview mirror and wondered if I’m doing this thing right. These emotions come with the territory of being female, of thinking too much and feeling even more.
I got home and was determined to make the next three hours count until I once again packed up my things and headed to night class. I served Cruz cookies and milk at the table, asked him about his day, and didn’t check my email or my Facebook once. I got the magnet board down from his room, sat in a semi-circle with Mila on one side and Cruz on the other, looking at pictures and matching them with their letter sounds. And when Mila got fussy, I wrapped her in her favorite blankie, sang her church songs, and rocked her to sleep. She fell asleep with her head on my shoulder, something she never does, evidence of a big day and a need to be close to her mom. I rocked her, rubbed her back and her perfectly plump legs, and soaked in the quiet I felt for the first time all day. My mind was devoid of the tangled up mess of emotions and hormones I had felt all day and I knew I was exactly where I needed to be.
There is a weight to motherhood that I never expected all those years I dreamed about having babies. The minute that little plus sign shows up on the pregnancy test, we are bombarded with 99 million ways to do this motherhood thing. There’s breast or bottle, cloth or disposable, work or stay home, homemade or store-bought, public or private, cry it out or rock to sleep, center or in-home, and the list goes on, leaving us feeling stretched, guilty, attacked, defensive, overwhelmed, and inadequate. And when there are that many decisions to make and a society and a social media world that promotes and categorizes based on which line you fall, we are bound to question whether our decisions are the right ones for our kids. But what we forget sometimes as we compare ourselves with others and wonder what is best, is that there is one thing that unifies us all – the love we have for our babies. We wouldn’t spend our days grappling with our decisions, or missing them like crazy, or cleaning up those high chairs again and again, if we didn’t love them with every piece of our heart. This common thread should unify, not polarize, because Lord knows we’re already hard enough on ourselves.
I am slowly learning that there is no single right way to parent and I’m relying on God’s help this semester as we figure out what works best for our family. I’m determined to make the hours I have each week with them purposeful and deliberate. They are God’s little people after all, and they should be treated with our best. But what we often forget, is that we are all God’s children, too, filled with our own unique light and purpose in this world. If we all started seeing ourselves and others that way, imagine how the world would change. Glennon Melton wrote about Mother Teresa in her book, Carry on Warrior and said, “Mother Teresa understood that everyone is Jesus. She understood the meaning of the word Namaste, which means, ‘the divine light in me sees and honors the divine light in you. God in me recognizes God in you.’” We all God’s people, here doing the best we can. And if we seek to live that way each day, well then, that is a life well lived.
Wednesday, August 27, 2014
I used to say that Cruz couldn't go to bed for the day until I made him laugh. And I mean really laugh. His big, high-pitched, uncontrollable laugh that I'm convinced can move mountains. Or at least cure a case of the blues in the middle of a long Wednesday afternoon.
Tuesday, August 26, 2014
We closed the door of our summer vacation yesterday, locking inside a room full of colorful memories from our first summer as a family of four. Our summer included some travel - an extended wedding weekend, a week-long trip to Disney, and a work trip to San Francisco, but was mostly filled with the everyday ordinary things. Rice cereal with fresh peach swirl, jelly toast cut into fours, swimming lessons, ice cream before naps, and nights in our backyard, throwing frisbee, swinging Mila, or plucking red tomatoes for tomorrow's BLT. It was an easy summer with challenges that included maneuvering two littles around town, packing for the pool, and scheduling naps at the same time. These challenges seemed so big, so overwhelming at first, but we developed a rhythm that worked most days. Some days were long, but I wouldn't change a thing. It was another season, a season of growing and learning and loving these two babies that are growing too fast.
Some pictures from our last week of our summer on Fleur Drive. As we spend our days getting caught up in siding colors and door styles and roof angles, these pictures help bring me back. Back to nights filling up this driveway with sidewalk chalk, talking with neighbor Jim when he gets home from work, or walking barefoot around the block stopping to point out every letter C we see. We know them like the back of our hand and this neighborhood, with its shaded park just around the corner and its "porcupines" on the sidewalk, will forever leave such an imprint on my heart. This place has a good chunk of our history and we will its shade trees and sidewalk memories.
Random treasures from a walk. Cruz even found a single newspaper and discovered his daddy's picture inside. Quite a coincidence, since it was the only ad he's purchased in months!
Waiting for Daddy to get home from work...
Cruz wanted a baby swing this time. It kept them confined for a good twenty minutes. We swayed, we sang, and we talked about his very first day of preschool.
Afternoons too hot to play outside. Puzzles and superheroes and peekaboo.
I was Cruz's sous chef on Sunday and followed his lead in the kitchen.
A summer supper...
And finally...our new digs. It's been a slow process, but we should finally have a hole by the end of the week. We couldn't wait to get our shovels in the dirt and inaugurate this land of ours. Cruz is so excited and has been asking many questions about the process. He calls our builder Wade a "lumberjack," and keeps asking when he's going to start building our house. Soon, brother.
Monday, August 25, 2014
"a portrait of each of my children, once each week, in 2014"
Cruz: We had a slow Sunday afternoon and Cruz and I decided to get a little messy in the kitchen. I measured out all the ingredients for our favorite banana cookies, arranged lots of tiny measuring bowls on a tray with a variety of kitchen utensils, and let Cruz have at it. Usually he helps, but today it was all him. He didn't quite know what to do with all the independence, but I was blown away with his precision and carefulness. He cracked the egg all by himself, and I loved watching the tip of his tongue stick out as he stirred in the flour and watched it disappear.
Mila: Mila missed the action in the kitchen yesterday, taking a three hour nap in the afternoon. This has been her jam lately, long, lazy afternoons with a lullaby mix playing on Pandora. I love that she sometimes puts herself to sleep, holding her muslin blanket up by her face and listening to her music. And now, her signature grin reveals not three, but FOUR baby teeth, including one on the top. I think she'll have one more by the end of the week.
Wednesday, August 20, 2014
One week ago today, I officially turned thirty in a hotel room in Palo Alto, California. My celebration amounted to some birthday cake M and Ms in the airport and a free downloaded season of Parenthood to my iPad. My work trip wasn't ideal timing with the end of summer, the start of a new semester, lots of preschool transitions for the Cruz Man, and the start of a new decade for me, but it was a great opportunity professionally and I couldn't pass it up. It's just not every day you get the chance to co-author curriculum with Stanford University. Beau's mom graciously came to stay with Beau while I was gone and the kiddos loved their time with Grandma. And as I rolled into the driveway a few minutes past my birthday early Thursday morning, Beau was waiting up with a single lit candle in a Scratch cupcake to welcome me home. I was exhausted, a little sad, but above all, so thankful to be home to my three most precious gifts.
We did celebrate this weekend, though, with one last getaway before a new semester starts up. After getting surprised with not one, but two flower bouquets from my hubby and my parents and the sweetest homemade succulent gift from a friend, we left around lunch time on Friday for a little staycation in our state's capitol. We had lots of outdoor plans for our weekend - an Iowa Cubs game, a morning at the Farmer's Market, and some shopping in the East Village, but when it poured the entire two hours there, I began to think otherwise. Cruz would have been happy to be stuck in our hotel room the entire stay - all weekend he kept asking when we could go back to our hotel! We unpacked our swimsuits and checked out the showtimes for the Ninja Turtle movie just in case, but decided to take our chances and hope for the better half of the 50 percent rain chances that loomed over us for the weekend ahead.
Beau's motto when buying flowers for me...go big or go home. This time, with lilies that are bigger than my head! Lots of them!
We had dinner at the Flying Mango on Hickman Road, and by the time we had reached Principal Park, the sky was beginning to clear up. It ended up getting pretty nice outside and the previous forecast had scared many people away, so we enjoyed an open row to ourselves just three rows up from the first baseline. We had ample room to spread our family out and our first baseball game as a family of four went off without a hitch. We made it the entire nine innings and even stayed for the fireworks show, thanks to a bounce house intermission, a plastic helmet full of blue ice cream, and lots of attention from a super nice father son duo in front of us. Mila wore Cubbie blue and looked exactly like her brother when he was a baby. And everyone thought she was a boy, white rubble butt and all. :)
After a late night Friday, the kids slept until 8:00 on Saturday morning, a new record for Mila girl. It was overcast, but the rain chances for the day had fizzled and we headed to the Des Moines Farmer's Market for a burrito bowl, some croissants from La Mie, and a fresh flower bouquet to add to my collection at home. When in Rome, I figured, even though now my kitchen table shows signs of a new baby, a funeral, or a birthday girl feeling a little self-pity for being four states away on her thirtieth.
We had sushi at Miyabi 9 in the East Village and I snooped in a few stores before the kids started getting tired and we decided to head home. Sunday, we met my family at Pfeiffer Park for a pizza picnic, some playground fun for the cousins, and a frog ice cream cake picked out just for me from my little love. Turns out an ice cream cake isn't the only thing Cruz purchased for me while I was gone. Beau took Cruz shopping to the Dollar Tree and he picked out some special gifts he just knew I would love. A Captain America coloring book, a camouflaged water bottle, a sparkly baton, and some sour patch kids. He knows me well. :)
Here's to thirty. To a decade filled with celebrating these little blessings that make every day feel special.