Author Archive

Resolutions and New Calendars

I love the new year. I love looking back on the year past, I love thinking about and making resolutions for a better me. I love the new, crisp calendar that hangs on my wall. I love the idea of starting fresh.

Looking back.

2011 was a hard year. I recently called it my hardest year, though it has some tough competition from 2008. Everything changed. I found out I was pregnant mere days after I decided I would never be pregnant again. I faced my worst fears. I lost control – of my body during my pregnancy and of my home during a remodel. I left a job and coworkers I loved to stay at home with my daughter, which threw everything I thought I knew about myself into a tailspin. I walked a hard path with my mom as she struggled with her health, visited countless doctors, and went through two painful and serious surgeries. I gave birth to a beautiful and sweet baby girl, who was literally taken out of my arms and rushed to the NICU. I spent five long, scary, painful days in the hospital with her while recovering from my own surgery. I saw my sweet little dog’s health fail and eventually make his life too much of a hardship to bear. I said a sad goodbye to him two weeks after my daughter was born, when my life was in that newborn chaos of sleeplessness, love, and disarray. I saw my grandpa’s health decline so far and so fast that I barely got a chance to say goodbye. I watched my sweet toddler struggle with her new sister, with being two, with growing up.

Resolutions for a better me.

2010 was a year about me. I focused on myself – mind, body and soul – and ended that year feeling the best I’ve ever felt. 2011, on the other hand, saw me giving my body over to pregnancy again. I feel lost inside this me.

I will find myself again. I will emerge healthier, happier, and in control.

I can be quick to judge. Being critical is easy. It can make you feel like part of the in-crowd, it can make you feel superior by casting others as inferior. If you’re gossiping, it’s easy to think that maybe no one is gossiping about you…but in reality, the opposite is true. Open the door of judgement, and you will be judged. On the other hand, kindness begets kindness.

I will keep an open mind. I will give people the benefit of the doubt. I will be kind. I will take the high road, even if it’s the harder road.

Leaving my job meant leaving work I was good at and skills that were valued. I’ve struggled with my identity since being home. Who am I now? What am I good at? What are my skills? Changing diapers, making lunch, reading books – it can be hard to feel important and skilled when your life is the minutiae of parenting. It’s a struggle to maintain independence when my job is to be someone’s mom 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. I love and cherish my children with my whole soul, but I still want and strive to be an autonomous person.

I will take time for myself. I will learn new things and continue to enrich my life outside of my children, while still working to be the best mom I can be.

Starting fresh.

I am ready and excited for the year ahead. I can’t wait to see every member of my little family grow and learn and laugh. I know I will stumble, and occasionally fall. But I will pick up, brush off, and keep going.

I am looking forward to a 2012 that is better, brighter, and happier than ever.

For me. For my family.

And for you, too.

– ALW

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Yuletide

It’s December. The tree is up. The ornaments are hung and the lights are lit. There’s a wreath on our door with, at my daughter’s request, a big red bow. The gifts are purchased and the calendar is filled with plans for holiday cheer.

Growing up, Christmas was a magical time for me. My Grandma would announce the holidays with a jubilant, “It would be Christmastime!” We’d plan a family trip to pick out out our tree from a grocery store lot sponsored by our town’s Jaycees. My mom would play Christmas records as she decorated our house, and my sister and I would beg her to play French Jingle Bells just one more time. We still laugh about the made-up lyrics we used to sing along.

My birthday falls six days before Christmas, and as a kid, I’d pretend the world was lit up in red and green and gold just for me. I reveled in the cheer, in the kindness, in the giving and, of course, the receiving. I’d pick out cheap gifts for my whole family at my school’s holiday fair, and could barely stand the wait for Christmas day to hand them out.

I loved singing in my school’s Christmas program. I loved wrapping, sharing secrets of gifts and surprises, and getting together with family. I loved the tradition of making a family pilgrimage to remember the dear ones we’ve lost. I loved the snow, the joy, the music in the air.

When I got wise to the myth of Santa, I didn’t tell my parents for more than two years. One year, they finally took me out for a slice of pie and hot chocolate and asked me point blank if I still believed. I was the youngest in my family and I was so sad to close the door on what had been a lovely and magical and beautiful part of my childhood.

In this day and age, I know it’s perhaps a bit uncool to declare my love of the holidays. Christmas fatigue is strong, as stores start the season earlier than ever before. Black Friday is often a display of consumerism at its worst. The whole holiday can be marked by conspicuous consumption, which feels distasteful in these hard economic times. Big business competes to get bigger, folks sink further into debt, and forced togetherness can be stressful. Santa has fallen on hard times as many families wonder what, exactly, children can learn from a big fat man who breaks into our homes and brings our children material things.

Yes, Christmas can bring out the worst in us.

But to me, it’s so much more than that.

I want my daughters to have wonderful memories of the holidays like I do. I want them to sing carols and watch the night sky for Santa. I want them to feel kindness in their hearts as they pick out a gift for someone they love or give a toy to a child in need. I want them to daydream about a village in the North Pole where magic happens. I want them to know that magic can jump out of the storybooks and touch their lives. I want them to have memories of cocoa on cold nights, of hanging ornaments and making paper snowflakes. I want them to wake up in December to a festive house and twinkling lights. I want them to know the songs and the stories – the lessons of Scrooge and Bob Cratchit, the beautiful cadence of the Night Before Christmas read aloud, the sweet melancholy of Charlie Brown.

I want them to have one day each year where all their hopes and dreams come true in spectacular fashion.

I want them to know the importance of family, the importance of time spent together. I want them to feel the raucous, chaotic joy of a room of 60 people who, despite living different lives in different places, truly love one another.

I want to teach them that we can and should put aside our differences at this time of year. That perhaps those differences aren’t so big after all. And maybe – just maybe – if we can do it at Christmastime, we can do it throughout the year.

So, this Christmas season, you’ll find me shopping and sending cards and baking cookies.

My house? It’s the one with the big red bow. I’ll be singing “Jingle Bells” with my toddler for the 27th time today. I’ll be driving to see family, to have a drink with a friend or through the lights display in the park. We’ll be at the much-maligned mall, sitting on Santa’s lap.

Charles Dickens said it best. Although Christmas “has never put a scrap of gold or silver in my pocket, I believe that it has done me good, and will do me good; and I say, ‘God bless it.'”

– ALW

Thunderbolt

I had a baby.

I’ve been aching to sit down and write about it. I want to detail my birth experience before I forget the details. I want to write about the thunderbolt of pure love that struck me upon seeing my new baby girl.

I want to write about nursing, how I am trying again, and succeeding (though it’s perhaps ‘success’ by my standards alone, as I will always struggle with low supply and supplement with formula). I want to write about our five days in the NICU, our heart-wrenching time there and the immeasurable kindness we were shown.

I want to write about the joy and gratitude in my heart when we were released to go home.

I want to write about my smart and hilarious toddler, who just hasn’t been herself since we all came home to live our new life. I want to plead for advice in easing this transition for everyone involved.

I want to memorialize my beloved friend and dog who passed away a week after our new baby girl was born.

I want to rejoice through words how, after seeing the chaos that is our life these days, my dad told me, “despite all of this, you are the happiest I’ve seen you in months.”

I want to sit down and write. I want to make an apple pie. I want to have some beers and go to bed tipsy and sleep until I wake up. I want the lawn mowed.

But I had a baby. So for now, I’ll carve out time for my toddler. I’ll kiss her and hug her and tell her that it’s going to be okay, that it’ll work out, that we love her as much – and more – than ever.

I’ll nurse my baby because I finally, finally can.

I’ll sneak in a shower. I’ll study tiny fingers and toes and beautiful new-baby lips. I’ll nuzzle a soft downy peach fuzz head. I’ll kiss tiny, soft, paper thin ears and a button nose.

I’ll try to take a mental snapshots of these early days as a family of four, for despite the chaos and confusion, I know I’ll remember these as some of the best days of my life.

I had a baby. Her name is Georgia.

– ALW

The Summer of Us

Dear Iris,

What a summer. Since May, it’s been you and me. I had high hopes for this summer, and to be perfectly honest, it’s been a lot harder than I expected. I think we’ve done pretty well, considering. The basement was finished, disrupting our routine and our space, and kicking us out of the house for days at a time. I’m pregnant with your baby sister, which has been hard on both of us. I can’t carry you around as much as you’d like, it’s hard for me to get down on the floor to play with you. I’m exhausted all the time, my patience is running on empty, and well, you’re two. Two is a rough age for everyone. I’m learning as we go to be a stay at home mom and I’ve stumbled at times. It’s been hard to be outside because I am always hot. Oh, and we just experienced the worst heatwave in something like 20 years.

I know you probably won’t remember much that happened this summer, but I think we’ve had some pretty good times. We had lots of play dates with friends. Your tantrums over not wanting to share your trains were epic, funny at times and frankly, mortifying at others. We spent a day at the beach. We spent a night at a hotel and you were thrilled that we all shared a great big bed. We took walks and swam in the pool.

We “played trains” for hours and hours and HOURS. You fell in love with your new playroom. You got a big girl bed and you picked out polka dot sheets and your “big girl circles blanket.”

We rode on a train!

We went to a baseball game.

We went to a carnival, and you rode cars and monkeys and horses and your favorite – the big slide.

We ate ice cream and gelato. Lots of it.

We laughed a lot and we cried a lot – both of us. The summer has been a roller coaster, and we rode it with gusto.

But the summer’s not over yet, kiddo. Still to come? We’re going to install new carpet, get a new roof, and oh, we’re going to have a baby.

We’ve talked a lot about your baby sister. You’ve put your hands on my belly and felt her move. You’ve been genuinely interested in her. It melts my heart when you talk about her.

The truth is, I can’t fully prepare you for what life will be like when your baby sister comes. Because honestly, I don’t know. When you came into our lives, we were wholly unprepared for the life force that was you. When baby sister comes, our family will change and our home will change. We will go from a threesome to a family of four. We will have to renegotiate who we are – to each other and to our newest member. It will be hard for you because you will not be our only baby anymore. It will be hard for me because I will need to figure out how to give you both what you want, what you need and what you deserve while still making time for myself and for your daddy. We’ll all learn by trial and error and it won’t always be pretty. But we’re family, and family is complicated and messy and imperfect. It’s also safe and comforting and warm. And tied up in all that complication will be even more love in a house that is already bursting at the seams with it.

Iris, you’re going to be a big sister! That’s a big, important job. I don’t know how to be a big sister. I don’t know what it’s like. I’m a little sister, so I won’t totally know how you feel when your baby sister comes into our lives or when she gets bigger and wants to play with your toys and borrow your clothes and bug you when you’re with your friends. Life won’t always seem fair as you blaze the trail of being our firstborn. I won’t always do or say the right thing. I won’t always have the answer. In fact, I’ll probably have fewer answers than I’ll want to admit.

I do know that I’ll always make time for you. I’ll try my hardest to be sensitive to you, your things and your space. I hope you will understand that she’s going to adore you, even as she’s driving you bananas (and she will). I hope you are friends. I hope you’re kind to each other. I hope you are allies. I hope that many, many years from now, you get together as old ladies and reminisce about life with daddy and me. I hope you laugh and smile when you think of the years that we all lived together as a family.

I hope you always know that no matter what your baby sister does or who she is, you are loved as much – and more – than ever. She will never take your place in my heart and in our family. Once upon a time, you saved me. No one can ever take that away from you. No one can ever take that away from us.

Life is about to change in a big way. For all of us. But we have each other and we all have so much love to give. It’s going to be great.

Hold onto your hat, little girl.

With love,
Mama

– ALW

I Want to Complain

I want to complain about being pregnant. My belly feels impossibly huge and I am getting more uncomfortable by the minute. I can’t bend at the waist or carry my toddler. I am starting to feel nauseous again, and I am always, always, ALWAYS hot. My back hurts, my hips hurt, and I get terrible headaches. I am so tired.

But I am incredibly lucky to be carrying this baby. I can’t wait to meet her. I love to feel her kick and squirm inside of me. If I’m totally honest, I’d never let someone else carry her for me. Right now, she is all mine. I know the pain of loss. I know the disappointment of trying month after month without success. I know the constant stress of going through pregnancy in a panic. And so far, things are going great. Time has flown. I still worry. And when I feel the first kick of the morning, I silently thank my baby girl for letting me know she’s okay. I am thankful and so happy that life led me to something I didn’t even know I needed.

I want to complain about being a stay at home mom. I’m hugely pregnant and even small tasks are tiring. I don’t get a day off. I need a break. It’s tedious. Sometimes I feel like the bad cop, correcting and saying “no” all day long. I’m exhausted. I work hard all day long, yet society at large doesn’t value what I do. I had no idea how difficult it would be.

But I am incredibly lucky to stay at home with my beautiful daughter. I get to hear all the hilarious things she says and the silly and wonderful songs she makes up all day long. I get to “play trains” – and even when I’m TIRED of playing trains, I could be doing a lot worse. We can stay in our jammies all day and not brush our hair. We can take walks on a Tuesday morning or go out for ice cream on a Thursday. We have play dates with friends. We can lounge around and read books or look for acorns in the yard or swim in the pool. We get to take naps every day. It’s the hardest job I’ve ever done, but it’s the most important job I’ll ever do. I am trying every single day to be better for my daughter.

I want to complain about finishing our basement. It’s taken weeks longer than planned. There were workers in our house for over a month, cramping our style and making me feel like I was in the way in my own home. There is dust everywhere and everything is out of place. It feels never-ending. It’s a giant, draining, messy pain in the ass.

But we are incredibly lucky to be able to make these changes to our home. We are doubling our living space. We are adding value to our house. We have worked hard through the years to have the means to make these much needed changes to our lives. We are turning our little house into a home and giving our whole family space to live and breathe and grow. So many families have to make due with so much less. We are incredibly fortunate to be able to create the space we need and want.

I am 30 weeks pregnant. I am a stay at home mom to my toddler. We are working to finish our basement.

It has been so much harder than I expected.

I wouldn’t change a thing.

– ALW

The Broken Road

Dear Baby Girl,

In just 12 weeks, we will meet. Oh, you already know me. I’m the one who eats all that key lime gelato and pepperoni pizza. I can’t wait to lay my eyes on your face and hold you in my arms. I can’t wait to kiss your little nose and rock you to sleep on my shoulder. I can’t wait to see you smile for the first time. I can’t wait to hear the things you have to say.

I am so excited for you to meet your daddy. He is kind-hearted and sweet, and you are going to adore him. I’ll tell you a secret: he’s more fun than I am. He has the patience to read you a book 10 times in a row if you ask him, and if you’re a thrill-seeker like your big sister, he’ll flip you around in his arms and carry you on his shoulders and swing you in circles until you’re dizzy with laughter.

Speaking of your big sister, I cannot wait to see you together. She has a big personality and a big heart, and is a force to be reckoned with. She lives to have fun, to laugh, to learn everything she can soak up about this world. I hope you adore each other. I know you will, and I know you’ll have moments when you can’t stand each other, too. That’s okay. I hope you will be great friends. I hope she shares her toys with you. I hope, as your awesome Grandpa Hap used to say, you fight for each other and not with each other. She has been an only child, and the center of our universe for over two years now. She may struggle with your arrival. I hope you are patient with each other. I hope you grow old together, sharing stories and laughing. She is the only person in the whole world who will share your upbringing and understand exactly where you came from. You are allies. I hope you never forget that.

My pregnancy with you has been so different than my pregnancy with your sister. I felt so sick with your sister, but this time around, I feel really great. I am only now starting to feel those aches and pains that mean I’m getting close to meeting you. I’m not quite so afraid all the time, though the fear does creep in. I had a hard time at the beginning. Sometimes life takes us down a path that we don’t expect. And through your life, you’ll learn that change is hard. Even change that leads to amazing and wonderful things.

At my wedding to your daddy, your grandma and aunt gave us an amazing gift. They surprised us by signing us a song called “Bless the Broken Road.” It was the perfect song to sing to me that day because every road that has led me to true happiness has been marked along the way with heartbreak. The broken road led me to your daddy. The broken road led to me your sister. And it has led me to you. And you three are and will always be the great loves of my life.

Your daddy has taught me to be kinder, gentler, and to forgive more easily. He shows me every day what it means to be selfless and to put others first. He is by far the kindest person I have ever met. He works so hard for our family. I am so incredibly proud and feel so lucky that he is your daddy.

Your sister taught me to be a mama. From her I’ve learned patience and perseverance. She taught me to be flexible. She taught me selflessness and showed me the amazing love that a mama has for her baby. She makes me laugh, she drives me nuts, and she breaks my heart with love every day.

And you, baby girl, have taught me trust – trust in my body, trust that life will turn out okay. You have led me and our whole family to a place that I never dared dream we could be. You came into our lives with a determination that, for many weeks, I did not understand. You changed everything and made my life – all our lives – fall into place in a way I never knew possible. You are the catalyst that led us turn our adequate house into a home. As I sit here, I can hear your bedroom being built, and with every nail, every sheet of drywall, I feel like I am closer than ever to the life of my dreams. Closer to you.

I can’t wait to learn all of the things you will teach me once you’re here. I can’t wait to see how you’re similar to your sister and your daddy and all the ways you are uniquely you. Will you be fiery like your sister? Mellow like your daddy? Will you have my tendency to say inappropriate things? I can’t wait to see how you are different from us, how you will surprise us, how you will make us laugh. You have already been such a blessing, I am so excited to see what you have in store for us.

In your life, during hard times, people will say things to you like, “everything will turn out fine.” Sometimes that will be true, and sometimes it will not. Not all of your roads in life will be easy. But sometimes, baby girl, the broken road is the right one. It has been for me. It led me to you.

Love,
Mama

– ALW

Plan C

It’s been a while.

Five months, in fact, since I sat down to write something.

The truth is, I’ve been avoiding it. It’s been nagging at me, but I’ve forced it out of my mind.

To put it mildly, there have been some other things to occupy my thoughts.

Since I last blogged, my life has, in the wise words of the Fresh Prince of Bel Air, “been flipped turned upside down.”

We started off the year with a decision. After some serious thought about some big questions, we decided that we would be done having children. We would live our lives as a family of three.

Sometimes all it takes it to lay it out. To clearly outline all the pros, the cons, the expectations, the fears, hopes and feelings. Inevitably, when I get it all out on paper, my true feelings emerge so easily it’s as if there was never really a question in the first place.

My husband and I talked and talked. Could we truly be happy with just us – the three of us, in our little house, on our busy street, with our annoying dogs, in this lovely town? Undoubtedly, unequivocally, yes.

Iris

I couldn’t have been happier, more relieved. It felt as if a huge weight had been lifted. We could move forward, grow up together, make this little home our forever home. It felt right. It felt comfortable. I felt lighter in the knowing, in the deciding of something that had weighed on me for some time.

But truth, as they say, is stranger than fiction.

And it’s true, life can throw a curve ball. In this life, we don’t always get to stick with Plan A. Especially after, say, too many drinks at a birthday party. We are lucky to live in a country that still, and hopefully always, offers us choices. When Plan A fails, we are able to move on to Plan B without much worry or concern that our best laid plans have gone awry.

But sometimes, Plan B is simply not enough. It is too late. It is inexplicably, inconceivably not in the cards and and we are faced with Plan C.

I am pregnant.

I found out 10 days into the new year, and since that day, everything has changed.

I fell into a depression, the worst I’ve ever experienced. I sought help, and started to see light again.

We looked at moving away from our beloved Madison, back to family in Illinois. We decided, in the end, to expand our small home here, in the place that we love, though too far away from the family we love. Our basement is set to be finished in June, nearly doubling our living space and adding a third bedroom.

After much agonizing, countless tears and a gut-wrenching goodbye, I quit my job to become a stay at home mama to my Iris and baby-to-be.

When the time came for my 20-week ultrasound, we walked back into the scene of the worst day of our lives with our hearts in our throats. To our happy relief, we are having a healthy baby girl.

And now, five months into the new year, it’s starting to feel like life is falling into place again. I have some catching up to do – with friends, with writing, with myself. I’m taking baby steps back into the world as the new me living this new life.

The spring has been unseasonably cold. But it’s slowing warming up.

And today, the sun is shining.

– ALW