11.01.2017

Learning Contentment from My One-Year-Old

When Ash first started playing on his own, I found myself doing that annoying parental thing of announcing every little action. I think they call it "Sportscaster Parenting".

"Look at you pick up that toy, Asher!"

"That's sparkly, isn't it? Are you going to pick it up?" 

"Oh, you're going to chew on it, huh? That's probably not a great idea..."

"You bounced the ball. It's a very bouncy ball isn't it. Oh, and you put the ball in the basket. What else is in the basket?"

While this kind of communication isn't inherently bad--in fact, it can be beneficial--it is unnecessary every single moment. Of every single day.

Worse, this chatter was coupled with a constant introduction of newness. New toys,  new environments, other ways to interact with whatever it was with which he was interacting. 

I wasn't letting him just be. I was getting in the way of his examining the object or event before him. I was defining it. I took from him the ability to create context. He couldn't discover without my narrating it and putting a framework around it that, frankly, didn't need to be there. 

Now that Asher is almost thirteen-months (all the cry faces), I've seen in him (when I get out of the way) an incredible brightness. He is a little scientist, as most babies and toddlers are, and I absolutely marvel at the way he tinkers with things and creatively or practically interacts with his environment. It's in this space--one of free play, open context, and relative safety--that he grows.

It's also in this space that he can stay occupied with a task for fifteen minutes. It doesn't sound like much, but as my fellow mamas can attest, the attention span of these incredible brains is so very short. If I interrupt, so goes his focus. He gets irritable and then goes from thing to thing, throwing or dismissing. And that's my doing. But when he's left alone, he's engaged. He's focused. 

He's content.

Can you imagine my surprise when I realized that this kid, this wobbly little walker with perpetual bed head and an undying love for cheese, was teaching me an incredibly valuable lesson? How often in today's busy world do I bounce from distraction to distraction, task to task, without focusing on anything? Big or small, I'm missing it all. The hours pass by in a blur, and I can't remember accomplishing anything meaningful, or interacting with anyone significantly. 

This is a problem. 

So I'm taking a lesson from Ash and working on blocking out the noise, the chatter--the Facebook, the Insta, the emails, the notifications, the endless barrage of shiny things beckoning us away from what we really care about. Because how can I expect myself to enjoy wonder alongside my baby boy if I can't sit and be?

7.27.2017

Mamas, We Have to Value the Hours Clocked at Home

I recently watched a really interesting interview with Senator Benjamin Sasse that was insightful on several fronts, but one point that he made that really struck me was the importance of work to our sense of accomplishment and identity. Without beating a dead horse on the current state of affairs front, we're facing a workforce that is increasingly set on doing the least amount of work necessary to get by. One of the many points that he made is that we, as humans, have an innate desire to contribute to something, to work, to produce, and this shift toward consumption (in every sense) is essentially setting us up for a world of discontentment and lack of output...and we're already seeing this to be true.

Personally, this resonated in a big way. I know that I feel best when I am productive. Unfortunately, that is largely measured on things done, tasks marked off my perpetual to-do list, or hours clocked toward the "day job." However, where I think I fail to fully grasp just how much I am doing is that I don't count the hours and efforts toward raising my son. I am not unique on this front, but in realizing just how much our work contributes toward a sense of contentment, it's no wonder that so many mothers struggle to feel like enough, to shake off guilt, and to find balance in "just" being a mom.


If we don't consider the countless moments that we're "on" as we raise our children, all that we really have as a reference point for how we're doing are the gaps: the chores not done, the messes lingering, the office hours kept by our husbands, or the absence of dedicated attention to our work outside of the house (since we're always, always split between worlds once we have children). Is it any wonder that post-partum blues are so common? We're working our tails off and not giving ourselves an ounce of credit.

And hear me on this: it's on us, moms. We are our own worst enemy, overwhelmingly, because we take for granted what we're doing. How quickly do we focus on where we fall short because we're surprised to find ourselves struggling under the weight of a brand new job that never, ever ends. There's no quitting time, no Happy Hour, no paid vacations. It's a position that in any other industry would be marked by astronomic rates of burn-out and periodic dissatisfaction if we're really honest.

But what would happen if we look at raising our children, at cultivating our family with our spouse, as a full-time job? Would we be more inclined to acknowledge a job well done on days when we all survive, some memories were made, and the dishes got put away? Could we challenge ourselves to a performance review on a weekly basis and see all the critical thinking executed, the problem solving employed, the physical hurdles overcome, and the sheer volume of effort and heart employed?

I pray that we can do just this, even if just in those challenging, lonely moments when we feel the weight of trying to balance everything...and failing at it. Because we will fail. It's impossible. But if we allowed ourselves the unabashed focus on our main "job" as we did without thinking twice about it in our work before kids--understanding that our primary position is now Full-Time Mom (whether you're simultaneously employed elsewhere or not)--perhaps there we will find not only grace, but praise. 

Job well done, mama.

7.19.2017

Dancing Through the Long Nights

Lately, Asher has been waking at some point during the night/early morning and needing my help to get back to sleep. 4:00 AM feels awfully early, but I also have to remind myself that it's actually pretty impressive that he went that long, considering he goes down around 8:00 PM. Nevertheless, dragging this tired body out of bed at that hour always feels difficult. When M is home and a mere hour or two from his own alarm going off for a full day of work, I scoop up Ash in my arms with his Lovey and trek into the nursery. I flip the fan on high (because homeboy sleeps so incredibly warm and usually calms quickly with a cool breeze), turn on his soother and the diffuser, execute a quick diaper change, and settle in for our dance.

That's right, we dance.

I hold him as he rests his head on my shoulder, Lovey clutched between us, and I bounce. I bounce until I feel him relax and his breath slow, signaling that he's ready for me to cradle and sit in the recliner to finish up the night (morning) together.

I wish I could tell you that it always feels beautiful, precious. It doesn't. Some nights, I'm fighting back tears. Of exhaustion, of frustration, of stress, of sadness. So many feelings. I wish I could sleep uninterrupted for a whole night. I wish he could sleep uninterrupted for a whole night. I wish I could snuggle my husband. I wish I could unwind before bed with a bath, a book, a glass of wine. I wish I could wake up and get dressed in my favorite clothes and go to work with a hot cup of coffee in hand. I wish I could play with him all day without constantly watching my phone for a work email or message. I wish I could write in a coffee shop without an ounce of guilt or exhaustion.

I think about all of these things at 4:00 AM. My head swirls, my heart swells, and my joints ache as I bounce and rock my precious baby boy for however long he needs to find his own peace. Sometimes it's minutes. Some nights, hours.

This is our dance. It's beautiful and it's overwhelming at the same time. I see him rest comfortably in my arms as the morning light drifts in around the curtains of the nursery, and I want that moment to exist forever. There, I find strength, rest, and joy. And I have just enough in me for another night of dancing with my son.

7.14.2017

Hair Falling Out? Check In on Your Thyroid.

Apparently when some women are pregnant, they get long, luscious locks. I, however, had no such luck. In fact, I found myself corralling handfuls (not exaggerating, as I'm wont to do) of hair during every shower, and wondering if this would curtail before the thinning was beyond disguising. I chalked it up to another pregnancy thing that would go back to normal after baby arrived, but I found that the hair loss continued without missing a beat after my delivery.

It never occurred to me to consider hair loss a symptom. Like fatigue, dry skin, and brain fog, it's one of those things that when experienced often enough, you start to just adjust and assume they're part of your new normal (especially as a new mom). Imagine my shock as I was reviewing a list of symptoms of hypothyroidism at a visit with my Integrative Medicine doctor, finding all of the above on the list...as well as several other "annoyances" to which I had adapted.

On the one hand, you can Google almost any issue or even slightly abnormal experience and get suggestions ranging from a run-of-the-mill infection to a life-threatening, rare disease. Symptoms are nuanced and illnesses these days are not cut and dry, just one thing or another. With our modern diets and incredibly stressful pace, it's nearly impossible to actually detect when our bodies are trying to tell us that something is wrong, much less take the time (and justify the expense) to address it. 

But I've been doing exactly that as I work to get to the bottom of my autoimmune condition. I am not relegating myself to staying on medication my whole life, which may very well be something that I just have to get over. But doing so without investing the effort in helping my body actually HEAL and return to a state of balance so that it can handle this condition on its own (which I wholeheartedly believe is exactly how our amazing bodies are designed to work) is not something I can justify. My baby boy is only nine months old, and I don't just want to be dragging these old bones around for his life. I want vitality. I want to be well. I want him to have to warn his friends about his sharp, sassy mama. (The spirit of Biggie shall live on! RIP, Ma.)

So, I share all this because I want to inspire hope. I'm about three months into this particular journey, and still working through some big changes to chip away at the years of stress, toxicity, and exhaustion my body has endured. But I will say this: my hair is no longer falling out. My hairline is slowly returning to normal. And I will embrace the peach fuzz in the process, knowing that it's a sign -- albeit a small one -- that I'm on the right track.

7.03.2017

Simplifying

Consider this post on the housekeeping tip...

I am reigning in things a bit. The blog is one of several aspects of my life where I've sort of spiraled out and started chasing things that I don't need to. In the spirit of transparency, I've sought out lame ways to monetize this space, which is something I have no business doing. I started blogging so that I'd have an easy outlet for writing, which I still genuinely enjoy. I never put too many parameters around what I'd write about (hence, my embracing of the "lifestyle blog" genre), but I could/can feel a shift in trying to market my posts in a way that isn't genuine and it started to get my wheels turning about things I need to let lie.

I can get really consumed with stuff if I'm not careful, and after many years of keeping up a budget and trying to be more mindful about spending (yes, sometimes erring on the side of cheapskate), I allowed my pursuit of brand affiliation and site traffic to open a Pandora's Box of stuff. I don't even function well when surrounded by stuff, so it's an odd paradox that I can't explain...but I can control.

So, I am not shutting down this site (which was admittedly my overly dramatic knee-jerk reaction). I am, however, taking a step back and trying to simplify this space. I shut down my Twitter because I had nothing terribly important to contribute there, and I'm going to do the same with my blog's Facebook page. Unless I have original content to offer, it seems silly to have these going and feeling like one more thing to chase. I will continue to stay active with Instagram because I've really enjoyed that medium, so feel free to follow me there, and you can also sign up in the left pane to get my posts via email.

Without boxing in what this blog is or what it will become, I am at least taking a step back to return to my roots and focus on good content...whatever the topic. I may still cultivate affiliate relationships and dabble in OOTD posts (in all their awkward glory), but I'm going to relax on striving to make this blog something it isn't, to be something I'm not, and to leave the runway open for those who do far better than what I (half-heartedly) attempted.

And yes, this post is largely self-serving, a personal line in the sand of sorts. So thank you for bearing with me.

...As you were.