Solo. For a Minute.

Wednesday, August 17, 2016

 (bandana-hair is my life right now. And maternity leggings. 37.9 weeks pregnant, don't mind the stale "selfie smile" attempt here. I felt sheepish.)


I just dropped Quinn off at his first day of preschool. He gets to go to a great Rockwood Early Childhood classroom two mornings a week, for three hours each time. 

This means that today, for three hours, I am solo. Just me. (Well, and Fiona the cat and also this nearly-cooked baby in my tummy.) I get to be solo exactly 5 times before baby is due. I'm not going to lie: I've been  looking forward to this two-week span the entire summer. I have been fantasizing about what I might do with each small window of solo time. Take myself to breakfast? Sew? Get a massage? Shop for a coming-home outfit for the baby? Go back to bed? It's been a lovely lovely thing to anticipate and dream about. 

And now I'm here. Today, I've chosen to put on Alison Krauss Pandora and take some time to write. I truly think I've been missing a piece of me this past year as I've taken less time to "write myself into well-being", as once said by essayist Nancy Mairs. Just the centering activity of putting aside duties and electronics and worries and letting myself freewrite this messy brain of mine into words... It's so incredibly cathartic, healing, and nurturing. It helps me understand myself better, and thus go back out and understand my world better... My kids, my loved ones, my life choices.... I find more clarity, more purpose, and more gratitude. 

So this morning, I write. I've been thinking about my hopes and wishes for this last go-round with a new baby. I've been incredibly nervous about the coming storm--- the utter disruption of the rhythm my family has been settled into for quite some time. It'll have been 3.5 years since we managed life with a tiny baby. Three years since we moved to this house. I am, of course, incredibly excited and grateful for this baby to join us. But.... anxious. I know myself, and I know that the hormones will throw me off my game for as many as two full years, and I worry about how that will manifest this time, with three very vibrant, very needful kiddos already here. On a smaller scale, I have high hopes for taking newborn photos of my littlest one, and if I let myself think about it too much, I begin to get anxious about the success of that project. I get anxious about Lucy's recent regression back to nighttime accidents, and wonder how we'll manage multiple kids with nighttime needs while we are dealing with that desperate, awful newborn-stage sleep deprivation.  

I am clearly putting some high expectations onto a pedestal-- the IDEAL life versus what I fear we are facing. And because I'm doing this, and letting myself worry, I am feeling no rush to "get this baby out", as so many many 38-week pregnant ladies beg for at this stage. Please, baby-- STAY IN. Let me have this two week haven I've been dreaming about. 

But in those two weeks, also let me begin to gently talk myself down. Remind myself that those high expectations for how life SHOULD be-- organized, predictable, rested, cheerful, adventurous, creative-- are not the only way, and are only going to break my heart if/when real life fails to measure up. I want to take time over these next two weeks to gently talk myself through the messy beauty of what reality will really be like soon. To gently reset those expectations and begin to get ready, and maybe even excited, for the phase we're about to enter. 

 This is very very likely my last baby. Last time doing this. And the early weeks are so fleeting, so foggy, and so ephemeral-- so hard to keep ahold of. I don't want to lose even more of those moments to a "despair of expectation". Instead, here is what I want:

I want to remember to really look at my baby in those first moments, instead of worrying about Joe or someone else grabbing the photographs I think should be happeneing in those moments. 

I want to feel her in my arms, wet and floppy and new and alien, and just remember how it feels to have her so long in, now suddenly out. 

I want to let myself be tired in those first hours in the hospital, but not let that make me get selfish. I want to try to be tired with my baby there with me, as much as possible, instead of feeling like, "I'll have days and days with her soon. Someone else can take her for now." I want to soak as much of those first hours up with her, before I am home and in "real life", as I can. 

I want to forget about my hair, desperately in need of a haircut, and just throw on the bandana and get back to the task of looking at my baby's fingers and toes and eyelashes. 

I want to really see Joe being a daddy again. I want to watch him hold her, talk to her, soothe her, and really SEE. I want to soak it in and remember how lucky I am to have him as my partner. 

When we get home, I want to work like hell to put on blinders to things that are out of place or piling up in the corners. I want to shake off that twitchy feeling when  I see those things. I know from past times that my fragile, tired, hormonal post-birth self is extremely sensitive to those stupid things, and it's STUPID. I want to work on breathing in calm and breathing out that incredible need to have order and control. 

I want to feel gratitude for the help my amazing mother-in-law will be offering nonstop while she is here. I want to remember to look her in the eye and tell her thank you. I want her to feel my gratitude full-force. 

I want that exact same thing for when my mom and dad are here and helping. It's far too easy to let the inner adolescent rear her snappish head at my parents when I am tired or stressed or feeling stretched thin. And that is utterly unfair to them. I want to take deep breaths and really SEE them, see their service and deep love and just be grateful. 

I want to remember that I've gained some pretty cool "baby whispering" skills as a newborn photographer, and try to tap into that utter confidence I feel when handling someone else's baby--- that trust that of COURSE this baby is going to go to sleep, any minute now. With my own babies, the stakes are higher, and I get rattled so much easier. I want to push that down and let the calm confidence rise up. 

In fact, I want to be brave enough to let the kids snuggle or hold my baby for her nap if they want to... even if that means it's not a "good" nap or the baby might wake. I want to live in the moment and trust that even if baby wakes earlier than I would've liked, the trade-off to have had such tender moments between siblings is WORTH IT. This baby won't be this tiny for very long. 

I want to speak my truth to my kids and my husband without that twang of annoyance behind it that happens even now when I feel overwhelmed. If I am not handling things well, I want to be able to speak gently but firmly as I explain to them, "I am having a hard morning. I am not doing a good job of holding this baby and getting you dressed for school. I am sorry. Can you help me?" or other similar truths. 

I want the kids to feel like I trust them. With baby. With doing more things on their own. With being able to help me help baby. I want them not to bear the brunt of my emotional stress. I want to try so hard to take a breath before I speak so I don't have an edge to my voice all the time. 

I want to remember to count fingers and smooth downy soft hair down and kiss the tip of her nose when she has woken me for the 5th time in a night. I want to remember that this tiny baby will be a toddler in no time at all, and breastfeeding will only be for one more season, and sleep will come again one day, but this time will never come again. 

I want to be brave enough to ask someone to come hold her if she ends up colicky like Lucy was. To be brave enough to ask for one hour to go for a walk or a drive in utter silence while I regroup. 

I want to stop and SEE. As much as I can, as tired as I will be. I want to work and work and work on being mindful and in the moment-- not seeking escape or distraction or rewards or external validation. I want to go inward and pull my family close to me and just stay MINDFUL. See. Look, through the chaos and mess and even through the not-so-beautiful emotions, and still find something exquisite and miraculous there. I want to keep seeing, even when I want to run away.

I will need so much grace: from my husband, from my children, from my parents, from my husband's parents.... from myself. I will be a mess. I will be a genuine, post-partum mess. I will be raw and I will be snappish. And I will need my loved ones to forgive me again and again. But that means I also need to learn how to more freely GIVE GRACE BACK. Let them make mistakes or do things differently than how I'd do them. Let them fumble in their attempts to help and serve. Let them have bad days of their own. Let them have confusing and icky feelings too. I need to remember that they deserve gentleness at least as much as I do. Probably more. I need to take deep breaths and let things go and give grace. 


As the next two weeks zoom by, I need to reread these wants and hopes, and begin to prepare. And I hope that if I can reflect gently on these wishes, that I'll begin to see the changes ahead not as a "coming storm", but as a glowy, fleeting, incredibly special, even if hard, time that we'll only get for a little while. I hope I can begin to feel confident that we'll not only survive, but love it. I know already how much I'll love looking at, holding, and photographing my tiny one. But I want to breathe in confidence that I will even possibly love the chaos and hormones of that time as well. That is is EXACTLY what I will be meant to be doing, and that with help and mindfulness, I might be able to do it well... With grace and lots of breathing. 

Until then, I am going to grab the hours and days in these two weeks and squeeze the marrow out of them-- with equal parts nesty productivity and self-absorbed "treat myself" moments and as much cheerful normalcy as I can give my kids  before the world flips upside down. I am going to work and rest and play and wait. And all shall be well, all shall be well.... all manner of things shall be well. 


Oh, and because even third kids deserve some attention, here are Quinn's "first day" photos from this morning. Can you even handle the cuteness??


First Day of School 2016-17

Tuesday, August 16, 2016

Can you even believe it? A third grader and a kindergartner! What cool kiddos I have! ♥

To be honest though, Lucy, who is not a morning person anyway, struggled a bit this morning. First, being woken at 7:15 instead of getting to sleep past 8 was rough for her. But then also, she had had an accident (two actually) last night and that threw off the "chi" of the morning... She was a little weepy and argumentative throughout breakfast, and though she mostly cooperated with the things that needing doing (hair, clothes, finishing food, etc.) she definitely still had her moody moments. Like this photo:

She's let me take a few photos (like the above one, with her cute cute fake smile), but by this last shot she was OVER IT. 

I think this is all pretty overwhelming to her. And I don't blame her in the least. 

When Noah started kindergarten, it was like, HIS DESTINY. He had been born ready for "real" school. He was an "old" kindergartner anyway, almost 6 years old, and neither he nor I could wait to get him in there to begin. He was just ready. Made for it. 

Lucy is a different creature altogether. A year ago, if you'd asked me if she was ready for kindergarten, I'd have had a panic attack on the spot. She was so YOUNG still.... so emotional and reactionary and quiet around peers. But as her year of preschool went on, she grew so very much. I was in awe of her progress and it was a joy to see her blossom. By her 5th birthday, back in April, I had NO doubt she was ready for the next step. She'd do FINE in kindergarten. 

But just because she's ready, and will do fine, doesn't necessarily mean she's made for it. That this is her ideal. To be honest, I don't think I'm sure that full-day kindergarten, or a long chunk of traditional school, is her ideal environment. She's not made like Noah. She's .... I can't pin down a word. But she's not inspired by rules and structure and progress the way Noah is. She is in her own world, and could probably happily spend years just doing her own thing... whether it be arty things, dress-up things, or running around a yard or field or park. I don't know that she'll blossom under the structure of formal school. But then again, I don't know that she was thriving particularly under the unschooling of our days before this. Not that she was regressing... but maybe without any challenges or new, hard things, she was just going to kind of BE, and stay. And maybe now she'll have some new experiences and opportunities, socially and academically, that will do her a world of good. 

I don't know. I'm not seeking an alternative, or anything. I'm just..... kind of pondering why it was harder for me to see her go into her kindergarten classroom than it was for me to send Noah to his. I hope she can adjust to the newness. The longer days. The harder demands. The social minefield (yes even in kindergarten!)... 

I hope she continues to blossom and thrive in her own special, Lucy-way, even as she begins this track of life. 

Anyway. As for us here at home, Quinn and I get a couple of weeks together, just the two of us, before baby arrives, and I am pleased with this.  He'll start his 2-day-a-week preschool tomorrow, and that will be good for him... and good for baby and I once she arrives. 

So we begin a new school year. I wish so much for my kids. I wish for them excitement and that spark that comes from new knowledge. I wish for them an easy path to a good friend or two who they can count on at lunch and recess and beyond. I wish for them to work on perseverance, even when the task in front of them is hard and frustrating. I wish for them to love the smell of crayons and the chance to make art. I wish for them to lean on each other when they're together. I wish for them to feel pride in their accomplishments. I wish for them to learn to see others around them with love, and to be inclusive and thoughtful. I wish for them to have fabulous connections to their fabulous teachers. I wish for them to thrive and grow and be alight with the joy of learning. 

God speed, my little ones. 

iPhone Post: The Last Weeks of Summer

Monday, August 8, 2016

 1. July 10: home from our epic road trip out west, Quinn and Noah went with me to get our rental minivan washed and vacuumed before we returned it. 
2. Quinn, Mr. Cool
3&4: Heading to a nearby park to try out some Pokemon Go hunting. How sweet is that hand hold between Lucy and Noah??

 1, 2 & 3: We call this "Po-Go-Walking", and the kids had a blast. 
4: then we headed to Menchies to get some frozen yogurt as a reward. 

 1. Bed snuggles at Quiet Time.
2. Hey! A Bellsprout in our very home! 
3. Kinetic sand keeping kiddos busy when it's too hot outside to play. 
4. And this belly, man. July was the month I finally FELT PREGNANT, ya know? Walking stinks, deep breaths are tough, and she keeps growing and growing. 

 1. We made it to one kid movie this summer, and it was fun! Secret Life of Pets... oh, and we Poke-hunted while the previews played. Hello, Paras! 
2. And then we did the indoor mall playplace, and this Venonat visited me. 
3. Target stop, and Quinn fell deeply in love with this toy train, the "Tumble Train" and made us stay many extra minutes while he stood here and gazed at it. 
4. And look-- a Gloom visited me while I spent one of my many many nights at the computer, trying like mad to get caught up on client photo sessions. For the record, almost a month after this photo, I'm still not caught up. Sigh. 

 1. Not my fave right now--- Fiona and her "pee on our couch" issue. 
2. Red Robin one evening, thanks to a birthday gift card from my awesome brother and his wife. Hooray for not making dinner!! 
3 & 4: Cool cats having breakfast in the sunny dining room. 

 1. A stunning baby quilt, completed by my bestie Melanie for  my birthday in spite of her also being in the middle of a major job and house and state change. What a girl!! 
2. Snapchat filter fun, whenever the boredom really starts to creep in. 
3. Quinn at my now-weekly dr. appt, getting some iPad time while I have a NST session hearing my girl's heartbeat on the monitor for 30 minutes. 
4. Noah had a week of evening Cub Scout camp in the middle of July. He mostly LOVED it! 

 1. Lucy requested a floor "nest" this night.... Maybe she was missing all the floor sleeping we did on our vacation?
2, 3, & 4: Monkey Joe's playdate with our friends the Meuns. The kids played HARD! 

 1. One last Monkey Joe's image... 
2. Morning sleepy faces.We're stuck with each other most of the day, every day, but somehow we still mostly love each other! 
3. Morning peeks out the front door with Q and Fiona. 
4. IKEA trip with L & Q while Noah was at scout camp...We picked up some cubical shelves for when I rearrange the kids' room to accommodate the new baby moving in.

 1. Quinn is POTTY TRAINED! (Mostly.) This is his incentive chart to earn the "Tumble Train." He's not perfect at it yet, but he's 85% there! 
2. More indoor play. I'm just too pregnant and July is too hot for much outdoor time. 
3. Having said that, we did head to a nearby park one evening for a goodbye picnic hosted by the Meun family, who is moving back to the Netherlands in a few days. *sniff*
4. Lucy ended up with a cold at the end of July, and one of her "sick days" she felt sure she'd throw up. So out came the famous Hess Puke Bowl, though she never ended up needing it. She DID, however, pass her cold to Quinn, who passed it to me. AWESOME. 

 1. I have a lofty goal of making three quilts for my kiddos for when they all share a room... to tie the room together. Here is my fabric, ready to be cut for patchwork squares. Fun! 
2. Finally sick of the cat pee couch, we have retired half of our sectional to the garage and we negotiated this loveseat from a nice Craigslist seller. This was his ad photo. He said Pikachu was not included. I thought it was pretty clever of him to include Pokemon in his ad. 
3. Quinn attempting some #2, with the help of an iPad cartoon propped up nearby. Sorry, future Quinn, for the photo. 
4. And new-to-us loveseat, in it's new home in our living room. With Lucy enjoying some screen time on it. Cuter than Pikachu, even!! 

 1 & 2: We ventured out in the heat to a fun park in St. Charles, making sure to choose one with a water feature. 
3. Lucy headed to Grandparent Camp for the last few days of July. Here is her "goodbye" face to me. 
4. Noah and Quinn and I, without our Lulu, headed to a fun popcorn/candy shop near us, then headed to Forest Park to go Poke-hunting. Fun day! 

 1&2: one evening we went swimming. The water felt AMAZING. 
3&4: The Saturday Lucy was gone, Joe took the boys to a local library ComicCon and I got to stay home and get some much needed nesting and cleaning done. I compiled some baby gear and cleaned off my sewing table. PHEW! 

 1-4: Mom Date with Noah. So fun! We headed to the mall and Noah did some bungy-trampolining. Then we spontaneously decided to try the nearby massage chairs. Adam Levine tried to photobomb us. And then we headed to Cheesecake Factory to get a slab of cheesecake to go. Turns out it was National Cheesecake Day-- a total coincidence!!-- and we got a killer deal on our purchase. YUM! 

 1. The last Sunday of July, my folks and two of my siblings came to spend the night (and bring Lucy home), and we had a fun time playing Cranium before the kids bedtime. 
2 &3: Then on the next day, August 1, we all headed to Johnson's Shut-Ins for a full day of water play. Lucy and I just stayed the day, but Noah and Quinn spent the night with my family and did a second day of Johnson's Shut-Ins before heading to Grandparent Camp for the rest of the week last week. 
4. Before Lucy and I headed back home after our water day, I needed a little rest and lay down on the cabin porch under the ceiling fan. The kiddos were totally into this idea and insisted on joining me. It was cute, if not very restful. 

 1. One last mama-selfie with my boys before Lucy and I drove away... Cute kids! 
2. The next day, Lucy joined me for a dr. appt, and we headed to Jilly's for a girl's lunch and shared cupcake. 
3. Lucy was so good to play with play doh while I cut patchwork squares for the quilts. 
4. And this girl of mine--- she's a sleep-in girl. So the whole week it was just she and I last week, this was a common sight even at 9:30am. It made for a lovely pace to our mornings!

 1. While it was just L and I, I planned to finally shoot a "Princess and the Frog" minisession I'd had supplies/plans for for ages. This is how she felt about it all, when it came down to the wire. AWESOME. But no really, it was really deflating to me to have her shut down and give me this attitude. I did get some keepers, but it was really frustrating. :(
2. So I let her have some screen time afterward and I went to a different room to try to get over my frustration with the whole thing. 
3. We ended up at the pool that afternoon and the cool water and one-on-one time helped us patch up our differences and we ended up having a blast. 
4. Last day together, Lucy and I headed to Walmart (along with everyone else in the area) to do the tax-free school supply shopping. Her reward was a Dumbo Ride at the Game Center as we exited the store. 
 1-4: After Walmart, we headed to the Magic House, and while I intended to only spend maybe 2 hours there, Lucy was still going strong 3 hours into it. I was kinda done, as evidenced by the last pic. Haha! It was still fun (and way easier) to go with just one kiddo instead of two or three. 

1. Last evening with just one kiddo, Joe and Lucy and I headed out to get ice cream at Oberweis. 
2. Then we drove to Castlewood State Park to do some Poke-hunting, and we found deer! So fun to pull over and watch these 4 deer graze at twilight. 
3. Saturday morning, Lucy was invited to a playground Popsicle party for all incoming kindergartners. She met a few cute girls who will be in her class, and got to meet her teacher, the same kindergarten teacher Noah had! 
4. Noah and Quinn returned Saturday, but there aren't any pix from yesterday or today of the boys.. So last photo of this batch is Lucy this morning at church, looking cute and playing with cardboard monsters in the chapel pews. 


Next up in life: One more week before school starts, so we have some summer fun yet to have. 
Three and a half more weeks til my due date, so I have some preparations still to complete.... Sorting out the newborn girl clothes for baby, getting a car seat and installing it, trying to sew those quilt tops, trying to get the house more in order after a summer of kids home and pregnant mama not feeling like doing much. 
It'll be a month of trying to get things done while also trying to soak up the last days of life as we know it.... And I'm not sure I'll be good at either of those things what with this fresh, terrible summer chest cold that has hit me, causing me great discomfort and misery. Additionally, I continue to stress about being behind on client work, and I can't walk past the clean laundry mountain without physically cringing. I'm 100% done with this gestational diabetes life, and wish I could just drown my worries and stresses in sugar.... But this is the riskiest time, growth-wise, so I need to just keep going. 

Ah, who knows? 

When baby gets here, it'll be a season of "letting go" and letting life be a bit messy and chaotic and out of order. So maybe I need to just embrace that attitude early and let the laundry mountain grow a bit more and let life continue to feel a little chaotic while I try to find a way to rest a bit and try to get over this virus. Who knows? I need.... a guru or something to guide me these last weeks. Ah well. It's all good, come what may. It'll be okay. 

Happy new week to all of you! Here's to those last days of summer...
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