RSS Feed

Category Archives: Children

For the Teachers

er, Teacher, What Do You See?

I don’t want to talk about what happened.

I don’t want to talk about the boy who walked into a school last Friday morning. I don’t want to talk about his motive, or his mental state or his actions. I don’t want to talk about our gun control policies or how we stop the violence. Certainly, these discussions need to take place. But I’m no expert and — for me — now is not the time.

I want to talk about the teachers. Therein lays the hope in this deplorable, devastating crime.

I didn’t know what to say about any of this, and didn’t plan to write anything on this topic. But last night, when I let my son choose his bedtime story, he pulled “Brown Bear, Brown Bear, What Do You See?” off the shelf. We snuggled in to the cozy chair in his room, and he began paging through the book while I located his pacifier and got comfortable in my spot. When I looked up, he had the book open to the page covered with the bright, colorful faces of a classroom full of children.

What do you see?

He quietly pointed to the face of a boy, and then moved his little finger around the page from girl to boy to girl to boy. My eyes welled with unexpected tears as I whispered, “Children. Those are children.”

Next, he moved backward through the book, and the Teacher’s warm, knowing face gazed up at us from the page.

What do you see?

I whispered through tears, “That is a teacher. She helps the children.”

It is a horror to think of what those children and teachers saw that day. But it is an inspiration to think of what those teachers did that day.

Our society is woefully remiss in celebrating the men and women who shape our children. We send our nation’s young to classrooms like the ones in Sandy Hook every day, and in each one, there is an underpaid teacher pulling off a minor miracle. These people inspire creativity and curiosity in our kids while managing disputes, confiscating cell phones and administering discipline. It is truly amazing what they do.

Today, I want to talk about those heroic teachers who shielded the children from harm with their very bodies. I want to thank those who locked their classroom doors, kept calm and did all they could to keep their students safe.

Would I have thought to read to the children to soothe them? Would I have been able to keep my voice even as gunshots echoed through the halls? Would I have had the foresight to tell them I loved them in case those were the last words they heard? I doubt it.

At least for these first few days, let’s talk only about the teachers and the kids. Let’s remember them, honor them and mourn their too-soon departure. Let’s send our love to those who survived this horrific incident and turn off the TV so the media trucks will leave Sandy Hook. Let’s switch the channel when we see a schoolchild being interviewed, whether their parent allows it or not.

Let’s thank our teachers every chance we get.

Until I’m better able to wrap my head around the immense tragedy that happened last Friday, I will focus on the stories of heroism and hope. I will be thankful for the parents who saw their children come home unharmed and the teachers who made their school proud.

As for the incredible grief I feel for those parents whose children did not come home: I’m not yet ready to face it. It’s too awful to think about the precious babies who didn’t know such horror existed until they saw it. I’ll save that for another day.

Today is for the teachers.

Thank you.

The Best Parenting Advice I’ve Received

Outside Playtime

Enjoying a little time out of the house

I know, I know: talking about the best parenting advice I’ve received is like talking about the best colonoscopy I’ve gotten. Who really likes getting parenting advice? Who is truly helped by the lady in line at the grocery store who helpfully informs you that your child shouldn’t be using a pacifier?

Yet, I’ve been given some parenting advice — some from friends, some from family members and some from perfect strangers — that’s really helped.

Here are some of the gems I’ve collected along the way:

1. Take Care of Yourself First

I know how this sounds, and I know how hard it is to do. When you hear that heart-wrenching cry, you levitate out of your chair like Sigourney Weaver in Ghostbusters and arrive at your baby’s crib with no memory of how you got there.

But it’s not a bad idea to take a moment for yourself before you run to your baby. I didn’t do a good job of taking care of myself when my son was very small. I remember rarely napping during the day and being hungry all the time.

First, I started having dizzy spells, which is scary when you have a baby in your arms most of the time. And then, my milk supply began to drop off rapidly. It scared the crap out of me, and I had an epiphany:

You can’t take care of this baby unless you take care of yourself first.

I started fixing myself a one-handed snack while holding my hungry son so I could feed myself while I was feeding him. I forced myself to nap a little more and drink more water, even if that meant I had to take the time to fill my glass while the baby cried. When you have a baby, taking care of yourself is a selfless — and necessary — act.

2. Leave the House Every Day

It was my second trip to the lactation center. Things weren’t going perfectly, and I was more than a little frustrated. And then, in walked an angel who gave me not one, but two indispensable pieces of advice, both of which I’ve included on this list:

Leave the house every day, even if it’s just to walk down the street.

She was so right. I’ll admit, some days, I only make it to the backyard of my house. But even just breathing a little fresh air seems to restore my sanity and makes everything seem a little easier.

3. It’s Not You, It’s Your Baby

Okay, not necessarily. But it could be. During my visit to the lactation center, I confided to the consultant that breastfeeding had been pretty challenging. And then, she said something that freed me from my guilt:

You know, it might not be you. It might be him.

That hit me like a brick on the head. I had never considered any scenario where my son was less than perfect! But acknowledging that she might be right about that allowed me to say, who cares if we’re not perfect at this?

So many things in parenting are a team effort, and just because you’re the parent doesn’t mean you have to take all the responsibility for any failure.

Although it got easier, breastfeeding was a challenge every single day until I finally weaned my son, and it was still worth it. And now, when I think back to our breastfeeding days, I don’t think of the struggles; I think of those early mornings when the sun streamed through the window and I sat in a comfy chair with my son. My heart aches a bit, and I long for those days gone by. (But only for a moment.)

4. Pull a Toy Switcheroo

I was in a toy store with my mom perusing birthday gift options for my son, and as we were ooo-ing and aww-ing over all the new toys, a shop worker generously offered this wonderful advice:

You don’t need to buy a bunch of toys — just put half your child’s toys in the closet, and then switch them out with the other half two weeks later.

So I tried it, and when I got the old toys out two weeks after having stashed them away, I was shocked. My son’s response was kind of like how I feel each time I rediscover Gouda cheese: It’s cheese that tastes like bacon! Why don’t I buy this ALL THE TIME?

In addition to my son showing renewed enthusiasm for his old toys, I was amazed to see how much he had progressed in two short weeks. Instead of banging his toy piano on the ground, he sat and pressed the keys one by one. Entertaining for him, rewarding for me and economical for all of us.

5. Don’t Wish Away Even the Tough Moments; They’ll be Gone Before You Know It

This piece of advice came from one of my most amazing mom friends. I’ve come back to her words so many times since my son was born, often in the midst of one of those “tough moments.” Every time I think of this, it calms me down and gives me the strength to shrug off whatever challenge I’m facing.

In just one short year, I’ve found my friend to be so, so right. So many moments, good and bad, are indeed gone before you know it. No matter how many people tell you the time will fly, you’re never prepared for just how true it is. The good stuff, the bad stuff: it’s all part of the wild ride. And in its own way, it’s all good stuff.

Yes, there were those nasty early diaper blowouts that you thought you’d never in a million years miss. And then you find one of your son’s tiny newborn diapers. You hold it close to your heart, remembering when he was so little and helpless and smelly and sweet.

There were those days when you had to change your baby’s outfit six times because he spit up heroically each time you wrangled him into new clothes. And then one day you pack away those tiny outfits that no longer fit. You long for the days when you dressed him in precious outfits that only a tiny baby wouldn’t look ridiculous wearing, and you find a few of your tears make their way into that plastic bin.

There were those 4 am wake up calls when your baby cried out for you, and you stumbled to his bedside, wishing you weren’t the only person able to feed him. And then he starts to not need you as much as he used to, and you long for the days when you were his everything.

So please, trust me. Don’t wish away the tough moments. Don’t long too much for the next stage or the next milestone. It will all come and go so fast. In the meantime, hold your baby close, breathe in the smell of his tiny head and relish in the moment — it will be gone soon enough.

Hail to the “Working Dad”

Dad and Baby

My husband, doing his other full-time job

Last Friday night, after a long week of work, my husband walked through the door carrying these:

Flowers for Mom

“Hon! Wow!” I said. “Flowers for me on your birthday?”

“Oh yeah,” he said with a tired smile. “I guess I forgot.”

Granted, his birthday was not technically for a couple more days, but, still. I couldn’t help but be struck by the selflessness of his gesture — and how hectic his week must have been to make him forget his impending birthday.

I don’t write much about dads on this blog. But then I read Ken Gordon’s article, “Am I a Working Dad?” and started to wonder, why not?

Working Dad. That’s a new one. It sounds funny coming off the tongue, but Ken has a point: Why is the term “working mom” reserved so exclusively for women?

There’s a part of me that wants to safeguard this term for women. Despite a study that finds doing household chores actually makes men happier, women still do more of the (unpaid) work at home. Not to mention, women are still being compensated at a paltry 77 cents per dollar for the same work done by their male counterparts in the workplace.

However, according to a 2011 report by the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, men devote more time doing paid work outside the home, and most still contribute to the household chores. As a result, the total amount of work done by each partner in the average household is actually not too unbalanced. I’ll admit: this was a surprise to me.

Additionally, according to “The New Male Mystique,” published by the Families and Work Institute, “men now experience more work-family conflict than women.” The report claims “although men live in a society where gender roles have become more egalitarian and where women contribute increasingly to family economic well-being, men have retained the ‘traditional male mystique’ — the pressure to be the primary financial providers for their families.”

I guess our men really do deserve a little more credit.

In my household, our roles are pretty traditional for the time being. My husband often jokes that it’s 1940 at our house (and bless him for not pointing out that the 1940 husband rarely had to bring home Chipotle for dinner). His career is extremely demanding and requires long hours, so I’m managing things at home pretty single-handedly. Or so I thought.

The “working dad” article changed my perspective a bit. It’s not 1940 in my house, and that’s not just because I’m absolutely hopeless at cooking a pot roast. Unlike the stereotypical 1940s dad, my husband doesn’t come home and read the newspaper over dinner while administering stern looks to the kids.

When my husband walks in the door, he flings his arms wide and cries, “Wee man!” The dogs wiggle around him, wagging their tails and vying for his attention. He pets the dogs, he kisses me on the cheek. And then, he turns his attention to his son. He makes goofy faces, he rolls on the floor, he plays peek-a-boo behind the flowers he brought home. At some point each evening, he kisses Hudson on the cheek and says, “I missed you today, buddy.”

He is a hands-on dad, and his efforts shouldn’t be diminished just because that’s not his full-time job.

Yes, I do most of the booger chasing around here, and I change the vast majority of diapers. I take Hudson to the pediatrician and clean the dogs’ ears and make sure everyone’s nails are clipped. It’s hard work, for sure. But my job wouldn’t be possible if it weren’t for what my husband does each day.

Day in and day out, my husband rises before the sun, earlier than anyone else in the household. He feeds the dogs, makes his own breakfast and often plucks the baby from his crib to deposit him in bed with me, all before starting his professional day.

Ken Gordon writes that “every good contemporary parent is employed on many levels,” and he’s right. Working moms are on 24 hours a day. Stay-at-home moms are on 24 hours a day. And, nowadays, most dads are on 24 hours a day, too. Parenting is a full-time gig, whether you have another job to go to or not.

So, today, let’s hear it for the boys. Thank you: for listening to our fears, for rubbing our sore shoulders at the end of a long day, for drying while we wash. Thank you for sharing with us your fears, and for showing your sons it’s okay to be soft and vulnerable and in touch with your emotions.

Thank you for being our partners.

All hail the working dad! (And happy birthday to the one who lives in my house.)

Growing Away

Independent Baby

Well, it happened. Despite my best efforts, my sweet baby turned 1 year old.

Months ago, when he first rolled over, I thought, no! I’m not ready for this! When he first started crawling, I thought, no! I’m not ready for this! When he took his first steps, at the urging of my parents, I said, “Stop encouraging that! I’m not ready for it!!”

So, most certainly, I wasn’t ready for my baby to turn 1 and not be a baby anymore.

My son’s first birthday was idyllic, graced with family and cake and even a life-sized giraffe. There were enough people around and enough work to do getting ready for his birthday party to distract me from the ache in my heart.

But in the days since then, that twinge in my heart has crept up on me, and it lingers there today.

My son is wonderfully independent — he charms total strangers and is content to be held by anyone, anywhere. Even when he takes a hard fall, he can’t find the time for a reassuring cuddle with mom. I’m proud to have a happy, well-adjusted kid.

But …

The days of nursing him in the morning, with his little body snuggled up against mine are long, long past. His precious little baby toes have morphed into stinky boy feet that must be wiped clean of dirt and dog hair each night. Those feet point away from me more often than not, as he lurches gleefully after the dogs or scrambles after a rolling football.

He is growing up. Growing into. Growing away.

I know this is part of the deal. You don’t get to have them forever, and if they don’t want to grow up and leave the nest, you’re not really doing your job. You have to hide your tears and cheer them on to bigger, brighter things.

My husband says to me frequently, “He’ll always be your little boy,” and I know he’s right. But there’s part of me that wishes that he’d always be my little baby.

While our kids played together at a playground recently, I mentioned to a friend that I think I may have a tendency to baby my son. My friend replied simply, “You do.”

This friend of mine is the sassy, straight talking type, and I love her for this. But the truth of her words hit home as I watched her daughter, just three weeks older than my son, climb the slide and go down it head first — all by herself. I looked down at my son, who was about to pop one of the rubber playground chips into his mouth, and thought to myself, well, she’s right.

She is right. I do baby my son. I only get to have him for so long and I’m in no hurry to speed it up. He’ll do everything he’s supposed to do when he’s ready, and it’ll still be before I’m ready. In the meantime, I’m savoring each precious moment.

The night of his birthday, I stole my son away from all the grandparents and aunts and put him to bed myself. I fed him his bottle (yes, we’re still doing that), read him his stories and then held him in my arms.

Amazingly — miraculously — he snuggled in to me for the first time in ages and looked up into my eyes. I told him how proud I am of him, how much he’s changed my life and how he is my very favorite person on the face of this earth. I thanked him for being the best baby I could have ever dreamed of. I told him that I love him so, so, so, so, so very much.

Tears rolled down my cheeks as I sung him the words that hang on the wall of his nursery, the words I sung to him long ago when he was so tiny, and so awake in the middle of the night.

You are my sunshine, my only sunshine
You make me happy, when skies are gray.
You’ll never know, dear, how much I love you
Please don’t take my sunshine away.

It was the best birthday present he could ever have given me.

The next day, we celebrated his first year with a small group of family and friends, and it was everything I hoped it would be. Even though the weather thwarted the picturesque outdoor event I had planned, the party was perfect and joyful. Hudson enjoyed every minute of it and I only cried once, when the birthday candles flickered brightly and everyone joined together to sing “Happy Birthday” to my sweet boy.

Today, I’m coming around to the idea that my baby is growing up. In the grand scheme of things, he’s still very small, and we have a long journey ahead. Maybe it’s a blessing that he snuggles with me so infrequently, for it means so much when he throws his arms around me with the ferocious love the Wild Things had for Max.

I’ll eat you up, I love you so!

And every day, there are those moments when he looks over his shoulder to make sure I’m still there, watching. Of course, I always am.

He won’t always be my baby. But he’ll always be my boy. I can’t express how thankful I am for that one, beautiful thing.

* * * * * * * *

Please enjoy a few photos from Hudson’s birthday party, which was inspired by the beautiful illustrations of Richard Scarry. Special thanks to my talented friend Elizabeth, mom to Millie and genius behind Bella Originals, for sharing her gorgeous photographs!


This decorative garland featured a photo from each month of Hudson’s life, showing how much he’s grown in just one brief year

Party Table

The decor had to be adapted for an indoor party, but things turned out fairly well despite the change in plans

Birthday Presents

What a haul! Hudson is lucky to have so many wonderful people in his life

Caprese Bites

Comprised of fresh Buffalo mozzarella, grape tomatoes and a tiny sprig of basil, these cute caprese bites were masterfully put together by Hudson’s Aunt Stephanie and fit the apple-inspired theme well

Cupcake Tower

This homemade cupcake tower was a snap to make, thanks to a tutorial I found on Pinterest (click on the photo to follow the link)


Organic carrot cake cupcakes were made from scratch by Hudson’s Aunt Abby

Apple Cupcakes

Guests also enjoyed vanilla wedding cake cupcakes designed to look like apples and also made by Aunt Abby

Birthday Cupcake Topper

Hudson enjoyed his very own individual carrot cake

Party Plates and Cups

Tiny signs scattered around the party furthered the vintage schoolhouse theme

Party Cups

These miniature clothespins were so cute, I tried to use them as many places as possible!

Party Nametags

Guests identified themselves as a city mouse or a country mouse by choosing the appropriate name tag

Baby Ball Pit

The ball pit was a big hit with kids of all ages

Pom Pom Garland

This homemade pom pom garland added another vintage touch

Party Favors

Goodie bags included goofy glasses, crayons, bubbles and a little thank you card

Baby First Birthday

Here I am, overcome by the beauty of the moment

Cake Face

Success! He likes it!

Being Freshly Pressed and Other Joys of Blogging

Freshly Pressed Badge

Woo hoo!

What a 48 hours it’s been!

Two days ago, I received an email that my little blog had been chosen (out of 1,029, 431 entries published that day) to appear on Freshly Pressed on the home page. I felt like I had just won the lottery.

I called my husband, my sister, my mom. I posted to Facebook and LinkedIn. I walked around with a goofy grin on my face. I was on cloud 9.

And then, another feeling — just a twinge of a feeling, really — began to poke its little head out: fear.

Is my blog ready for this? Am I ready for this?? Am I really getting recognized for an entry with “turd” in the title???

At 11:00 that evening, ready or not, my account started pinging wildly with new messages. And sure enough, my blog was right there in the first spot on Freshly Pressed.

Freshly Pressed

That’s right: I’m the dork who took a picture of the screen with her phone.

I spent nearly all the next day poring over my site, responding to emails, moderating comments and basking in the glow of it all. But throughout the entire experience, here is what struck me the most: every comment left — every single one — was positive and supportive.

Many years ago, when blogging first came on the scene, I recall thinking, why would anyone want to do that? I saw blogs as little more than personal diaries made public and, for the life of me, I couldn’t understand why anyone would want to shout their most intimate thoughts and feelings to the world.

I guess this experience has answered that question pretty definitively.

Some time ago, one of my 10 roommates from college emailed this blog entry to the entire group of us, knowing it would make us laugh. It did (in fact, it still makes me snort with laughter each time I read it), and it also started a round-robin flurry of emails amongst the group. I laughed all the way through that afternoon — just like old times.

Back in college, we all would sit on the front porch of the old, decrepit house we shared and while away hours we should have been spending in the library. I miss those times, and I miss seeing more of those women. But that day, it was like we were all together again. I remember thinking, this is why blogging is awesome.

Blogging connects us to one another. It allows us to share our experiences in an increasingly disconnected society. It allows us to read something that resonates with us, and share a laugh with friends — new and old.

Over the past couple days, I have been positively flabbergasted by the number of people who have visited my blog and shared words of solidarity and friendship. I feel like I’ve just done a backwards faith fall into a sea of arms right there to catch me.

For all its positives, being a stay-at-home mom can be a lonely job. There are no work lunches, no office holiday parties, no Starbucks runs with the team. Granted, there are mom’s groups and play groups and PTAs, but there are always those solitary afternoons when you’ve been bitten and pinched and spit up on, and you wish desperately for an adult conversation over a glass of wine.

So I owe you all a thank you. Thank you for being my confidant, my support system, my outlet. Thank you for reading what I have to say, and making it worth saying. Thank you for traveling this parenting road before me and leaving crumbs of wisdom along the way. Thank you for being there to catch me.

Happy blogging!

On Humility and Turds

Parenting's Reward

My sweet little slice of humble pie

A few mornings ago, I unzipped my son’s sleep sack and two perfectly round turds popped out, fell to the floor and rolled under the changing table.

Thunk, thunk, rooollllll.

I stood there, frozen, thinking, how did those turds escape?, only to proceed further and discover my son’s pajamas were unsnapped and up around his waist. His diaper, pee-stained but turd-free, was unfastened and resting at the bottom of the sleep sack. Poop was everywhere.

If there’s one thing I’ve learned in my time as a mom, it’s the importance of humility.

The funny thing was, I had just had lunch with a friend the day before the turd incident, and humility was the very thing we were discussing. I had recently been involved in quite a few conversations with other moms that had carried a pretty judgmental tone. Whenever I encounter moms bashing other moms for their parenting styles or decisions — or even just talking in a know-it-all fashion — I think about humility.

The most common fodder for the “Mommy Wars” that have gotten so much press lately is the decision to work a traditional job or stay home to raise kids. What those engaged in this silly battle seem to overlook is that there is no one-size-fits-all approach to life, and there are challenges no matter which road you choose to take.

Wendy Goffe writes in her article, “A Working Mom Defends the ‘Lululemon Stay-at-Home Mother’” that she’s thankful for her job and ability to pay for a nanny, because she doesn’t “have the skills to raise five children.”

There are days when I don’t believe I have those skills either. Especially on mornings when I find I’ve failed to perform the simple act of properly fastening a diaper so my son’s legs don’t wind up smeared in poop. When you’re a stay-at-home-mom and fastening diapers is a pretty prominent part of your job description, that’s a demoralizing feeling.

What gets me through the day is humility. I remind myself that I don’t have it all figured out, and that’s okay. It’s okay to be intimidated by the supreme responsibility of raising a human being from an infant to a man. Shouldn’t we all be?

Contrary to the fussy, colicky baby I prepared for throughout my pregnancy, my son sleeps through the night, eats well, plays independently and has a happy demeanor most of the time. I consider this nothing more than immensely good fortune, and I thank my lucky stars for him nearly every day.

If anything, this makes me less qualified to judge a mom whose baby cries incessantly, or wakes several times a night for months on end or refuses to eat healthy, well-balanced meals. What do I know about that mom’s struggle? What makes me think I would handle those challenges better?

And, also, there’s this one little thing about parenting that we all have to remember: things change.

After months of sleeping beautifully, my son recently starting waking up crying in the middle of the night. At times I worried my parenting luck had run out. But we got through what turned out to be a simultaneous growth spurt and rough teething patch. Now, we’re dealing with a new challenge: his proclivity for biting. Hard.

That three-week span when I found myself rocking a crying baby in the middle of the night, I thought about how fortunate I’ve been. I can’t imagine how much strength it would take to deal with that all the time. I don’t judge moms who have had a tough road with their babies; I admire them. I sympathize. I raise my fist in solidarity with them.

And I sure hope those moms who have never had to wipe up after a turd on the loose don’t judge me.

*       *       *       *       *

Welcome to those of you who found my blog via Freshly Pressed! Thanks so much for stopping by, and thanks to for … just, everything. Follow my blog to keep in touch!

Autumn Days Are Here Again

Autumn Baby

Four days old on a beautiful autumn day

Dear Sweet Autumn Child,

Once again, the air has begun to cool and the smell of autumn is in the breeze. As I feel the new season approaching, I can’t help but think — as I imagine I will for the rest of my life — of my sweet autumn baby boy.

One year ago, I sat outside with my hand resting on a swollen belly and I wrote a letter to you, my autumn child. I wrote about this season and what it means to our family — how it’s special to your dad and me for so many reasons. And now, here we are again in the season of your birth.

There was so much I didn’t know on that autumn day last year.

For starters, I didn’t know you’d be a boy — a rough and tumble kind of guy who gets up from a fall and takes off again, undaunted. I certainly didn’t expect your blonde hair or your big blue eyes. I didn’t know if you’d be colicky or easygoing; a good sleeper or a night terror. I didn’t know if I’d be a confident mom or easily rattled by a crying jag — and I didn’t always believe I could do the job I had ahead.

Before you, I thought of autumn as a season of endings — of leaves and flowers fading away and the wildlife preparing for winter. Now, I see autumn differently.

It is a season of beginnings, of arrivals, of impending change. It’s not a time for the weak.

Although I’ll remember it for the rest of my life, my memory of the day you arrived has grown soft around the edges. My pregnancy, which seemed interminable at the time, now seems like a movie I watched late at night; I remember the plot, but some of the details have become foggy.

I wish I knew how to grab hold of each beautiful day with you and make it stay just a little longer. You’ve become a whirlwind of activity, and I breathe a sigh of relief once you’ve finally gone down for the night. But there’s also a little twinge in my heart for another day gone by.

Last night, I listened to my father read you the book Love You Forever on the last evening of your grandparents’ visit. Each time he sung the little song from the book, you tilted your head up at your grandpa and smiled, and I took a little mental snapshot of the two of you. It was a poignant moment, one I’ll hold on to for a long time to come.

I’ll love you forever,
I’ll like you for always.
As long as I’m living
my baby you’ll be.

No, you are not yet the man who rocks his ailing mother. Nor are you the unruly teenager or the sullen 9-year-old boy. But suddenly, you seem more like the mischievous 2-year-old than the tiny baby in the story.

It’s been nearly four years since the beautiful autumn day when your father and I were married, and nearly a year since the beautiful autumn day when you came into our lives. I recall our first walks when I bundled you tightly against the brisk fall air. I remember the chilly winter mornings when I’d pull a blanket over my knees and you’d nuzzle your warm body against my skin. I remember the spring afternoons when I carried you in your sling and shielded your eyes against the bright sunlight. And I remember our long summer together, swinging and playing and discovering the world.

It’s already been a wild ride, and I know we have so much more to come. Welcome to autumn, my son, the season of your birth.

Best Laid Plans

Newborn baby love

Gazing at my newborn son’s perfect head

Yesterday, upon reading a friend’s account of her newborn daughter’s birth story, I couldn’t help but think about best laid plans, and how often they veer off course. And, how perfectly the phrase about best laid plans captures the always-going-awry world of parenthood.

This friend of mine planned for her baby’s delivery more meticulously than anyone I know. She chose her natural birthing center long before she ever became pregnant and did everything possible to ensure the most natural experience possible.

And yet, she could never have planned for the many complications she endured throughout her pregnancy, including a bicornuate uterus, a potentially breech baby and “unstable lie”, a constantly flip-flopping fetus and an external cephalic version. (You’re not alone: I had never heard of most of those things before either.)

Unfortunately, all her careful planning went out the window when her baby first decided to wait until more than a week past her due date to arrive, and then showed signs of distress during the slowly developing labor. Despite months of preparing for a natural, drug-free birth, my poor friend found herself being wheeled down the hallway for an emergency C-section.

Best laid plans: how they do go awry.

Parenthood is full of plans gone amiss; it’s almost as if labor and delivery are nature’s way of preparing you for a life filled with the unexpected.

I had my own best laid plans for my son’s delivery, most of which went out the window in the 41st week of my pregnancy. I had intended to let him arrive on his own schedule, until we went for a 41-week ultrasound and were (mis)informed by an overzealous technician that our baby was already weighing in at nine pounds (“And growing more each day!”).

While my husband and I were thrilled to have such a healthy and vital baby, I became terrified for the labor I was already dreading. Two days later, in the darkness of night, my husband and I checked in for an induction with enough luggage for a three-week stay.

And once again, my carefully laid plans unraveled, one by one.

It turned out that labor was a far cry from what we saw in a series of horrifying videos shown at our childbirth preparation class. My experience was nothing like that of the overalls-wearing mom (seriously, who gives birth wearing overalls?), who walked the hospital corridors and brayed loudly while rolling around on a yoga ball.

Within moments of arriving at the hospital, I was given a hospital gown to wear, hooked up to a monitor and prepped for an IV. So much for the socks and tennis shoes I prudently packed so I could walk the halls and undergo natural childbirth. So much for the birthing ball, which we never unpacked from the car (given the other six bags we dragged into the facility). So much for the Jacuzzi tub I was so excited about, which never saw a drop of water during our entire stay.

Since that day, there have been plenty of other best laid plans.

There was the Superbowl party we tried to attend, only to have my usually happy 3 ½-month-old son launch into hysterics just as we pulled into the driveway. (Little did those partygoers know there was a woman frantically trying to breastfeed a manic baby only steps from the front door.)

There was my snobby attitude toward baby formula, which ended up being a lifesaver in the post-partum days when my son and I struggled mightily with breastfeeding.

There have been numerous cancelled plans, countless ruined outfits, endless missed opportunities.

That’s all just part of being a mom. You plan like you’ve never planned before, only to have things fall apart at the seams. You worry endlessly about one thing and then discover you were worrying about the wrong thing all along. You stress and agonize over your child’s birth, only to learn that the delivery is just the beginning of a long journey you’ll make together.

As it turned out, my friend’s umbilical cord was wrapped around her baby’s neck, not two or three, but four times. As her baby traveled down the birth canal, the cord pulled tighter and tighter around her sweet baby’s neck. The natural birth she had so carefully planned may have actually spelled disaster. Who could’ve ever guessed such a thing?

As my friend so beautifully wrote to her perfect little daughter, “On the day you were born, you were born. And that’s all we really wanted anyway.”

Those words bring tears to my eyes.

You try. You do your best. You make your plans, and watch as they fall apart before your very eyes.

And at the end of the day, you look down at the perfect little head of the human being you created, and you smile. Nothing else really matters. Nothing else ever will.

Read parts one and two of Sara’s delivery story on her excellent blog,

Perfectly Imperfect

Tree Swing

So read the tattoo sported by a man who came to hang a swing from a tall, shady tree in my yard.

Perfectly Imperfect.

His was not a private tattoo, carefully placed in a spot he could conceal if he so chose. It wound around his wrist and artfully snaked up his arm, streaked with dirt and sweat on a late July day.

I found myself wondering what made him choose that phrase for his permanent ink; what was it about that statement that made him want it emblazoned on his skin for all the days of his life? And then I found myself thinking how freeing those words are.

While not as old as my husband and I would have liked, my house is not new. This house has lived longer than I have. It has stood in this spot for over 40 years, and bears the scars of people who lived here many years ago.

The windows are old and heavy, and require more than a little elbow grease to be heaved open. The edges of the glass panes wear shaky little mountain ranges of paint, unevenly applied by someone I’ve never met.

Behind the large mirror mounted on the bathroom wall, you’ll find a layer of psychedelic wallpaper that I just couldn’t bring myself to tear down.

And the built-in cabinets in our den wear a once-fresh coat of paint, applied by us only a few years ago. Now, just four years after we arrived here, the paint has begun to chip away and show the dark, old wood underneath. When you open those cabinets, you can peer into ancient caverns that once held someone else’s belongings.

Perhaps they once stored some child’s toys. And perhaps those toys belonged to a boy named David, who perfectly imperfectly tattooed his name on the inside of one of the doors.

This little detail, this tiny personal touch, is one of my favorite things about this house. I love being reminded that people lived here before us; that families made their lives here and raised their children and ate family dinners in the very spot where we today eat ours.

I love feeling the breeze come through the kitchen as my reward for the effort of heaving those large windows open. I love seeing that, no matter how many times we apply a fresh coat of paint, we are reminded that we can no more cover the past than we can erase it.

And I love seeing little David’s name, scrawled in his childish hand, when I open the cupboard door to retrieve some firewood or a photo album. (Because, in my house, those things perfectly imperfectly live in the same spot.) It’s a reminder of those who came before us, and those who will someday live here after we have moved on.

I like to think that, before we do, my son will tattoo his own name in a spot I’ll never find. A new child will feel the breeze in his hair as he swings from the tree in our backyard, where a little plastic swing is waiting for him. And one day, he’ll open a cupboard door and see the mark of a boy who lived here before.

I hope these children — both the one who lives here now and all those to come — grow up to remember an idyllic childhood, marked by open windows and backyard tree swings. I hope they’ll look back fondly upon a house that was perfectly imperfect. I hope they’ll see themselves as perfectly something, even if that thing is imperfect.

And I hope the mom who finds my son’s name someday smiles when she sees it. I hope she thinks of us, and imagines us reading in a chair or sharing a meal in the kitchen. I hope, like me, she will never try to scrub this tattoo clean or paint over it. I hope she sees just how perfectly imperfect it is.

We’re All “Mom Enough”


My little guy, happy in his sling

Congratulations, moms! Society has found a new way for us to fail.

As much as I tried to avoid doing so, I have to discuss last week’s provocative cover of Time Magazine. You know the one.

It’s weird. It’s controversial. It’s challenging.

So what?

I admit, at first glance, I thought it was depicting another one of those inappropriate teacher-student relationships. (Sorry for the mental image.)

But, no. It’s a gorgeous, stylish mom, breastfeeding her 3-year-old son. And now, people all over are judging her and weighing in on her parenting decisions.

The funny thing is the article isn’t really about breastfeeding at all; it’s about attachment parenting. I won’t go into the details on what that is — I don’t really feel I’m qualified to discuss it. I don’t even know if I would be called an attached parent or not.

Yes, I practice “babywearing.” The sling is a great way to tote my baby around, simple as that. (Also, I don’t know how “attached” I am, since in the photo above, I’m not actually wearing the sling. I’m the one in the background enjoying a glass of wine.)

No, I don’t co-sleep with my son. Frankly, I’m afraid if he and I sleep and nurse in my bed, we’ll never leave it. The dishes will pile up; the dogs will starve to death; before I know it, he’ll be 3 and we’ll be on the cover of Time.

Yes, I make homemade baby food. Trust me, if this were any more complicated than putting a sweet potato in the oven, it’d be beyond me.

No, I didn’t have exclusively positive, affirming thoughts throughout my pregnancy. Any mom who didn’t spend some of her pregnancy in bed with a bag of marshmallows is a stronger gal than me.

Whether you’re practicing attachment parenting, helicopter parenting or whatever else, you’re probably just trying to do the best you can. Despite the wealth of parenting books out there, babies don’t come with an instruction manual. Aren’t we all just trying to figure it out one day at a time?

My state’s recent inability to love thy neighbor, to live and let live, has made me suddenly hyper-aware of all the ways we pass judgment on each other. And based on what? As a society, we’re not exactly knocking it out of the park.

According to the National Poverty Center, 22% of our nation’s children are living in poverty.

One out of every three American children is considered to be overweight or obese.

One-third of our country’s fourth grade public school students are at or below the “Basic” reading level.

So why are we worrying about this healthy, well cared for child?

I was inspired to finally write about this subject after reading an amazing commentary titled, Wake Up Moms — You’re Fighting the Wrong Fight! I was hooked by the second paragraph, just after reading this line:

I’m sorry – I’m busy perfecting my “style” of parenting. I just like to call it “parenting” and it involves me making sure my child stays alive. It’s working out pretty well for us so far.

Amen, sister. Whether or not you agree with the author’s perspective that our country’s standards for maternity leave are deplorable (I do, by the way), she makes a great point. Why are we moms wasting our time judging each other? Isn’t our job hard enough?

I have no idea if my style of parenting would meet society’s approval or not. I really don’t care. I’m just doing the best I can. I don’t know a mom who doesn’t question herself every single day.

As for the breastfeeding mom? She’s taking care of her son the most effective way she knows. And let’s not forget: breastfeeding isn’t exactly a walk in the park. It’s one of the most selfless things a mom can do for her child, and it’s really, really hard (at least for me).

And still, that beautiful mom probably looked at that photo of herself and found something to criticize.

I say, bravo to her. Bravo to you. Bravo to me.

We’re all doing the best we can.

%d bloggers like this: