Going Home Again

You can always go home again, but it won’t always be the same as it was the last time you were there.
When I was growing up, I remember going to the pool a lot. Summers were spent floating around, jumping off the diving board, and ordering milkshakes from the snack stand. If you were really hungry, you could order full meals to be delivered from the grill (you just had to make sure you remembered your parents’ club account number). As I got older, I would take friends out there and we would spend lazy days in the sun until we eventually had to go to work (for me, it was Blockbuster, if that tells you anything about my age).
It was an entirely new ballgame going back there this weekend with my two-year-old son. Gone are the milkshakes (but they do have a slushies!). Gone are the days spent in beach chairs, listening to whatever music was blasting out of the speakers. Instead, I spent my time chasing Sawyer around the kiddie pool, wondering just what percentage of the water was actually urine and worrying about swimmer’s ear with all the splashing he was doing. I spent my time putting him in his puddle jumper (and taking it off, and putting it on again, and off, and so on). I got out of breath trying to blow up a beach ball, gave up halfway through, and figured he wouldn’t care anyway.
Yet not much has actually changed about the physical makeup of the pool itself. A slide has been added and the chairs replaced, but overall, it looked how I remembered it. Even the locker room was the same and you still had to sign-in at a faded binder just inside the gate.
The same experience goes for the local history museum. I remember when the children’s level was added to the basement of the museum. It was odd taking Sawyer there to play knowing I had once led haunted tours through there at Halloween time.
I won’t even talk about the devastation of my favorite hot dog place (conveniently located in a gas station close to my parent’s house) closing down.
I always have this picture of home in my mind and the older I get the more I realize that that image doesn’t really exist anymore. And the parts that do exist, I can’t see the same because so much of myself has changed.
Taking Sawyer to the places I grew up in was such a weird, almost out-of-body experience; these layers of memory overlapping each other and getting tangled together. It was like being pulled in two directions, how things were and how things are. I’m so thankful I got to share those things with him, but I also want to make sure I don’t become one of those parents who is constantly comparing things to “back in my day.”
Despite all of these changes, I’m thankful for the few constants that remain:

  1. Giovanni’s Pizza will always taste the same and be my favorite pizza. I will argue with anyone on this. Vehemently.
  2. If it’s decent weather outside, my dad will find some job to tinker with.
  3. At some point, birds will get into a fight on the bird feeder outside (usually the blue jays, sometimes the woodpeckers).
  4. Everything is about a seven-minute drive from wherever you are, no matter which road you take.
  5. The train still goes by ridiculously early and it can be heard all the way at my parents’ house.
  6. My parents won’t believe me when I say I double checked and that everything got packed up (for good reason, I almost always forget something).
  7. I will be sent back home with bags of extra food and snacks (that will go bad if I somehow don’t take it with me).

But whether it’s sweeping changes or a state of perpetual sameness, I’m thankful for the feeling of home when I go back there, no matter how much it or I change.

The Making of a Mother

social-16

Let me start off by saying that we are the lucky ones. I understand the blessings we have been given and recognize that so many still suffer; suffering that often remains hidden. But infertility affects one in eight couples, and we are one of those eight. (Infertility 101: Fast Facts).

As a part of National Infertility Awareness Week, I feel compelled to share a glimpse into our story in the hope that it can encourage others to share their stories, and so that those struggling know they aren’t alone.

Our son, Sawyer, was born in May of 2017, after three years of trying.

After trying and failing for a while to have a child, Matthew and I went to a local reproductive endocrinologist (Boston IVF if you’re in the Evansville area) to figure out why things weren’t working out. After a battery of tests, we were told that there’s no obvious reason we shouldn’t be getting pregnant, we just weren’t. We were part of the 10% of patients with “unexplained infertility“.

Which only left us asking “why?” and “what next?” with no obvious path forward.

For me, my biggest struggle was the idea that my body was failing to do what it was literally made to do. I couldn’t wrap my brain around it and for a while, I couldn’t forgive myself. I could not give myself grace. In my mind, I had failed as a woman. I had failed Matthew and myself. I realize now that those feelings were unwarranted, and it made me pretty unbearable to be around, I’m sure. When students would ask when we were having kids, I know they probably didn’t understand why I never knew how to answer the question well (or lectured them unnecessarily about why it’s not a good question to ask). Others getting pregnant (while I was truly and sincerely so excited for them) also reminded me of my own perceived failings. It’s not always easy for friends and family, those who had children easily, to understand and it’s easy to feel isolated in this struggle. “Just keep trying, it’ll happen eventually,” is a heart breaker of encouragement. We told ourselves we’d be the cool aunt and uncle who’d spoil all the other kids in the family.

But then, after a few years, with the help of the awesome doctor and nurses at Boston IVF, we were able to bring Sawyer into the world. He was (and is) the answer to so many prayers.

But as most people who’ve had children know, the question of more children comes up. So we tried for another with the hope that this time around would be way easier…

… only to discover that just because you have one child, doesn’t mean it’s easier to have a second.

It was doubly frustrating this time, because I knew it was possible. All the feelings from our first go-round came rushing back in quickly. We went the same route as we had with the doctor to have Sawyer, and it failed. My hopes had climbed so quickly, that the only option was for them to crash just as quickly. We looked at and ruled out a number of options, knowing they weren’t for us.

So we stopped trying. I even wrote an (unpublished) post about raising an only child.

But knowing there was a small possibility with a different medicine, the thought kept poking at the back of my brain. After a few months off, we called the doctor again and, being told it probably wouldn’t work, decided to go for it anyway as a last ditch effort. If it didn’t work, I could have accepted that we had exhausted all options that worked for us.

But I’m thankful to say that if all goes well, kiddo #2 will be here in October.

God is so, so good and modern medicine is simply amazing.

Knowing the struggles and trials we went through to bring children into the world helps me to better appreciate those rough days and hard nights of parenting. It helps me to appreciate better what we’ve been given, because I know how much it took to have to begin with.

But there are so many families that go through so much more, often without success and great tragedy, and a lot of the time it’s not obvious to others. I’ve linked to a page called For Friends and Family to help others better understand what some familes may go through and how to be supportive and encouraging.

I know compared to the struggles of other families, ours may not seem that bad, but it was our struggle and one that so many other families deal with.

♥️

Google made this amazing video in honor of National Infertility Awareness Week that gives a brief, but emotional insight into the struggles many families go through.
“Being a mom is hard work. Becoming one is, too.”

Toddlers Aren’t For the Faint of Heart

Earlier this week Sawyer decided to be a rock-climber and climb up a rock hill to the big kid’s slide at the park. He tried to climb a ladder to get to a twirly slide. He has never seen a dog he doesn’t want to be friends with and there is no limit to what he won’t try to climb. He has zero fearful bones in his body.

To be honest, I was not fully prepared for this transition into toddler-hood. Sawyer is fearless and it inspires me and terrifies me at the same time.

So here we are. I have become a full-fledged toddler mom. No longer do I have to shout, “don’t put that in your mouth!” Instead, it has been replaced by, “slow down” and “come back down!”

As a parent I want him to explore and learn and be curious, but also never leave my side. Is that possible? I’m guessing not. I’m having to learn how to let go a bit. I’m trying not to be a helicopter parent. I’m trying to curb my initial reaction from running over when he falls and picking him up to simply saying, “it’s okay, brush the dirt off.”

And now he is going to be a Big Brother (!!!) He is going to be awesome at it, if only he slows down enough to even notice a new baby. One of my big worries is going to be encouraging his exploration while balancing a newborn. Seriously, if you have tips/advice, send them my way!

So that’s the season of life I am in currently. Toddlers are scary. And nerve-wracking. And wonderful. And so, so fun. But being pregnant with a toddler is possibly the most exhausting thing ever. Thank goodness for naps.

P.S. – Toddler life also means that half of our conversations look like this. Meme from this website.

Funny toddler memes

One of Those Weeks

Some weeks I am Super Mom. Meals are planned and prepped in advance. Laundry is folded and put away soon after being done. The kitchen table is cleared off and there aren’t any dishes in the sink.

This week is not one of those weeks.

Laundry is still sitting in the dryer. My planner is empty. Sawyer has had frozen chicken nuggets for lunch twice this week. The table is covered in stuff and there are most definitely dishes in the sink.

And it’s okay. I’m okay with it.

I’ve learned that in this season of life I’m in (you know the one with the toddler who is discovering his independence and strong will?) that I have to give myself grace. Grace to rest. Grace to let things go for a bit. Grace to take some time for myself. Grace to not have everything done on my to-do list (and grace to not even make that list in the first place).

Grace is a concept I’ve struggled with since having Sawyer. In the past, having things done and in order has been what brought me peace of mind. But the older I get and the older Sawyer gets, the more I’m realizing that sometimes it’s better to take a break than run myself ragged. Trying to do everything and have everything perfect at all times no longer brings me that same peace of mind. Don’t get me wrong, it usually all gets done eventually, but the sense of urgency has faded.

I encourage you to give yourself the same grace. Your home won’t fall apart if it isn’t sparkling every day. Your kiddo won’t hate you if every meal isn’t prepared with love (in fact, I think two days of nuggets made Sawyer love me more). Your dryer probably has a wrinkle release setting for those times when laundry stays in there for days.

So, give yourself some grace.

💙

Don’t Get Too Comfortable

If I have learned anything as a new parent over the last twenty one months, it is to not get too comfortable.

Have a good routine going? Throw in a stomach bug and some new teeth and it is SHOT.

Have a good rotation of toddler meals planned and prepped? Surprise, now they don’t like chicken.

Just as soon as I get comfortable (and okay, maybe overly confident) it all changes and I’m reminded of all the advice we were given when we were expecting. Some of it was good (take some time for yourself every so often), and some wasn’t so good. I’ve got a niece coming this spring and a nephew arriving this summer and I’ve done a lot of reflecting over which advice was actually helpful and worth passing on. Below are some of my favorites:

1. Your baby is your baby. He or she will go at their own pace. (This helped me avoid stressing about all those baby timelines on the internet.)
2. Pack two extra outfits in the diaper bag, not just one. Some days are two explosion kind of days (or three if you’re traveling long distances and just that lucky).
3. You can never have too many burp cloths. Seriously, they are multifunctional life savers.
4. It doesn’t get easier, but you get better AND you get scarier (the perfect mom voice takes time. It comes easier if you’re a teacher).
5. “This too shall pass” is my motto on the rough days (yesterday, for example). The long nights of crying won’t last forever and those sleepless nights will end before you know it.
6. You can do it. That’s all there is to it. You can and you will. You are the best parent for your kiddo, that’s why they’re yours.

What it boils down to, for me, is trying to be realistic in my approach to parenting. Some days we make crafts and color and read books all day and make it to the park and enjoy a healthy lunch. Some days all Sawyer will eat is grapes (not for lack of offering other foods) and listen to the Blippi Tractor song over and over. Every parent will figure out what works best for them and their kiddo.

Just don’t get to comfortable, it could change tomorrow!

Parents, what good (or bad) advice were you given that stuck with you?

♥️

Goodbye, Clutter!

I love Thanksgiving. I love Christmas. But there’s something that comes with a New Year that makes everything feel fresh. I love Christmas decorations, but I really love the feeling when they are all packed away until the next year. The New Year Reset is one of my favorite times of year. I love how everything looks when it is free of seasonal decor. It always seems so neat and clean.

Currently I’m going through a yearly home organization challenge hosted by A Bowl Full of Lemons. Each week it focuses on a different area of the home and a deep cleaning of that room and a purging of all the stuff that never gets used. So far, I’ve cleaned out the kitchen, the pantry, and my closet. As I went through each area, I realized there are some things I’ve carted from Murray to Mayfield, on to Evansville and Newburgh and never once used. Why? Why keep all this stuff that only takes up space? I know I’m not the only one who has packed stuff along like that. I’ve boxed and unboxes items multiple times, probably even thinking, “I never even use this!” while putting it away in a cabinet or drawer.

The same goes with clothes and shoes. Why do we hang on to things for years without actually wearing them? Then I watched Tidying Up with Marie Kondo on Netflix and it discussed the sentimental attachment we form with things. I made it about 15 minutes into the first episode before I had to go clean out a closet. I had tshirts in my closet from spring breaks of my youth and summer vacations from years ago that I hadn’t worn in literal years. I associated these items with the memories. If I don’t have the shirt, did it really happen? But thankfully, that’s not how memories actually work! As I started to pull things out I had to stop myself multiple times from saying, “well, maybe one day I’ll…”. Let’s be honest, I probably wouldn’t.

So my goal, house-wise, for 2019 is to get rid of all the stuff we haven’t used since moving to our current home. I’m going to be brutally honest with it, too. Sorry, tong-spoon hybrid, I’ve never used you, time to go! Same for you, unused mug, I don’t even remember you came from!

What about you? Are you like me with holding onto things for years or do you keep things decluttered naturally?

Either way, I hope your 2019 is off to a great start!

♥️

Food is my Love Language

As we near the end of the 2018 holiday season I’ve been reflecting a lot on what some of my favorite holiday memories are and I realize that most of them involve food in one way or another.

So when I say that food is my love language, I’m not trying to be silly. To me, cooking is an act of love. You take food when somebody is sick, you make special food for holidays, you have special meals for life’s celebrations, you go out for special meals to mark achievements. Food brings people together better than anything else, in my opinion.

Cooking is one of the greatest things I can do for another. Time spent making sure people are happy and full is never time spent wasted. I may not be the best cook in the kitchen, but I’ve been blessed to grow up in a family of cooks on all sides, ready and willing to instruct. I’m so thankful they had the patience to teach me, even when I didn’t have the patience to listen.

Many of my favorite memories with family and friends are tied to shared meals and lessons in the kitchen. I’ve learned that a dropped chocolate cake, still in the carrier, is just as good when it is scraped out of a lid as it is when it is gleaming on a cake stand. A turkey can be brined in an old Coleman in the garage, as long as you weigh down the top to keep the raccoons out. Dishes that are well-used and well-loved never go out of fashion (not even Nana’s Desert Rose). Tomatoes are never as big as the ones grown in a home garden. There’s never a bad time to make some bacon and, when in doubt, add more butter.

I hope you and yours had a wonderful holiday season with wonderful memories and delicious food!

Here’s to a good 2019 (and all the meals ahead)!