Some Things Never Change

“Go to sleep, girls.” My increasingly annoyed voice carries over their hushed murmuring and the sound of a slow mechanical lullaby. I am struck by how easily the words fall from my mouth.

My mind suddenly goes through a cloudy flashback sequence as if from some 1980s sitcom. And, actually, I am transported to the ‘80s again with my sister, Mary, and instead of a mother’s voice like my girls now endure, it’s our frustrated father standing in the hallway, hands curled into fists jutting into his bony hips, uttering those same words.

We weren’t unlike Harper and Hannah, Mary and I. Mary, too, had flowing hair down her back and a propensity for cozy, long nightgowns. By nature, she was the quiet one, filled with a motherly maturity. I had an innate combustibility, ignited by either mischief or laughter…often both. Many a night I found glee out of bringing down Mary’s well-behaved walls in a fit of giggles. So, too, do Harper and Hannah’s personalities intermingle and support the other.

Memory is a funny thing. It might have only happened once. It might have happened countless times. It might have been when I was first sleeping in the same bed as my sister as a toddler, or a bit later and closer to the time of his death.

But, in my mind, the echo of our father’s angst growing to its height occurs in one glorious, guilt-riddled moment. The final threat that we’d be spanked if he heard “one more peep” out of us was just enough to bring our noise down several decibels…but there was no way that he didn’t still hear our stifled snickers. I like to think that he had selective hearing and didn’t actually intend to follow through with the deed. Or maybe he knew at that point that his cancer was terminal and that it simply wasn’t worth the energy (or, if he was in touch with his foresight, any additional future trauma it might inflict).

It’s one of the small handful of memories I still carry of him, and it’s ghostly at best. The giggles, his frustration, and the sense of my childhood bedroom are there, but the one thing that I’ve agonized over since we lost him is that I have no recollection of his actual voice. There are no recordings. No well-planned goodbye messages. No letters to open on special days to tell me that I mattered. None of those romanticized things that movies suggest are left behind out of sage and thoughtful planning by the terminally ill. 

All that’s left are faint memories, and the occasional bright red cardinal. His voice may be gone, but the few, simple words remain.

And my girls remain. As they speak across the room in their beds, sharing secrets and nonsense. They continue the legacy of sisters, and I’ll continue the legacy of a frustrated, secretly laughing, parent.

It’s the least I can do to ensure that some things, undeniably, never change.

The Times We Need

Lately, it seems like even the good days are burdensome.

I walk the halls of my two-thirds empty school building when the day is done and, muffled, ask through my mask, “How was your day?”

“Good…no complaints,” I hear in response. But all of our eyes tell the same story; we’re wiped.

I have had lots of lessons with English classes lately that have given me life. I hadn’t really missed being around lots of people and rather dreaded leaving the safety of our family’s cocoon, but the feeling of a job well-done was sorely missing. So, it’s hard not to find a bounce in my step that hadn’t sprung in quite sometime.

Bounce or not, though, the exhaustion and turmoil is seen in everyone’s eyes. The drain of daylong screens. The emotional anguish when the only response is crickets and joyless eyes. The overwhelming dread that, despite hours of planning, a simple glitch can throw the whole lesson out the window in a quick moment. The strife of unfulfilled connections with the students sitting in the room with us. The bleakness that we’ve only been at this for a month and it feels like six.

And these larger feelings don’t speak to the smaller, less important but gnawing sensations that occasionally rise to the top. “Why can’t we use the Pit?” “Why can’t we sign out books?” “It’s not even as bad as the flu; why do we have to go through all this?” It’s all too much to argue and reason with.

The challenges of life carry such a weight and noise that it’s impossible to ignore them, but the harmonies fly around so lithely and loose they’re easy to ignore.

So, while it’s all too easy to hold on tightly to the awfulness and dread, we must find time to dig – daily – to find small joys. Beautiful birds and brazenly red leaves, a brief laugh and warm mug of coffee.

I like to think that this is why humans have clung so dearly to holidays. They’re really ritualistic constructs designed to allow us to recognize – whether by resting and restoring or celebrating and rejoicing – a moment in time. To remind us that we’re alive and we’re taking part in shared experiences.

And I also like to think that life likes to throw holidays at us at just the right time.

With the turning of leaves and the crisping of air comes a vivid reminder of my anniversary and, just as if someone knew that it might be the perfect time for Meg to take part in some deep introspection and appreciation, we are gifted with our tenth year.


There’s something about those round numbers, isn’t there? As if we’ve done something. We’ve really DONE something. Looking at our three children and their various stages of life, our two mischievous yet precious cats, and the fact that we, ourselves, have definitely reached an unspoken stage of our own lives (ones with gray at our temples and aches and pangs in the morning), we really have done something.

But, this year more than any the celebration holds so much uplifting importance. Most can agree that 2020 has been absolutely awful, but there’s good to be found.

The meaning of strength and fortitude behind a tin wedding anniversary is no accident. We have discovered over the past 6+ months how much we can get through together. How much we can rely upon each other when we hit our respective bottoms. The fact that we do, indeed, still work well together. That our family is, ultimately, the very most important thing to all of us.

And, most importantly, our bond of friendship – best friendship – is stronger than ever.

So, in times of COVID-19, when we’re still keeping the reigns pretty tight on our social distancing and limiting non-essential travel, how does one celebrate their tenth?

Pretty low-key, actually. Same as birthdays, same as holidays. But the beauty and meaning behind the day gets to have its own spotlight that way, and since we met and fell in love doing community theater together, isn’t that appropriate? So, no trip to Vermont. No special night out. No pile of gifts. And it actually sounds lovely.

Lots of reflection and looking through photo albums and answering sweet, curious questions from the kids. Maybe play some Vitamin String Quartet and a handful of favorites from our reception to have a dance party with the kids. We’ll order a nice meal in and give the kids hotdogs. Maybe I’ll make an apple pie like my mother did for our “cake cut.”

We’ve already started chatting and contemplating about who we were when we met, the things we did when we were dating, the feelings that evolved and continued to support us through several phases of life. One thing that stands out is the simplicity of it all. Of course, it never feels simple when you’re in the thick of it, but given the turmoil of life now, it’s helpful to see things – then AND now – clearly.

The simplicity and quiet joy is exactly what life calls for at the moment, and I’m so grateful for the gift of it.

Growing Old Connections

I can feel the dirt sneaking its way into my gloves, leaving grit in my fingernails. The fabric is coated in rubber, but soil seems to happily ignore this feature. I pause and find gratitude for the small level of protection. Gratitude and slowness in the moments that are slow enough to notice have been my saving grace during quarantine.

While each day, hour, minute seems to jump in levels of uncertainty, moodiness, job duties, and needs, we’re now mostly able to ebb and flow as a family along with the fluctuations. 

For the most part, we’re sharing an inflatable life raft. When someone falls out, we’re nearby to pull them back to the reality of the boat. When one of us starts flipping out over homework or an infuriating social media moment, we’ll regroup and remind each other just to focus on the motion of rowing, together.

Togetherness will get us through.

Strangely enough, this doesn’t apply to being with anyone outside our raft. Right now, our mental health and ability to survive relies solely on keeping our little life boat afloat.

When we were first starting to get the hang of the situation, emotions ran high and we threw spaghetti at the wall trying to determine what would work for us to keep a semblance of normality. We had uncomfortable Skype and Zoom calls. Unnatural attempts at driveway-window chats. Facebook Kids. Anything to try to connect with nearby family, but none of it seemed to stick or work to form connections.

Turns out, what worked the most was us. Our closely knit group of hilarious, creative, passionate little people…and the two parents who are just lucky enough to get to share in their lives.

Emotions still run very much hot and cold; I can’t change who I am just as much as our two-year-old can’t change her own speech delay. We are who we are, and somehow we’ve all grown to accept each other with far greater understanding while being squished together in close quarters. 

But, while we miss the family and friends and connections outside our home (and, sure, chat via the window or a good, old-fashioned phone call), my connections have started coming from unexpected family members.

The ones that have long since passed.

As part of my quarantine birthday this year, my husband renewed my Ancestry account. I hadn’t worked on my family tree since our firstborn was still in diapers. Two more kids later and it seemed like no better time than to give me a distraction with doors into the past.

What can I say? He gets me.

So, while I enjoy the occasional chat with my own mom, one of my favorite connections is to people I’m revisiting or, better yet, meeting for the first time. My husband’s long lost family from Italy. My grandmother’s British side, leading me to wonder how they would’ve felt about the deeply rooted Irish contingency that took over most of my bloodline.

Having experienced the life-shaping loss of a parent at a young age, death and the relationships we share with the departed are large, looming life themes for me. The grandparents who stepped up helped mould my mind, my sentiments, and my philosophies, and gifted me with the perspective of history. 

Each time that I click a new leaf and discover a new name, I greet the person with excitement. I wonder a hundred or more things about their life.

I make assumptions about the difficulties that they must have endured simply to survive in a certain place at a certain time. I give thanks that they did, and know that the tough survival instincts many of us have lost aren’t truly lost; they were passed down, but have laid dormant until this very unique, challenging time. 

It’s here to slow us down, to make us sit with discomfort, and recognize our ability to do hard things in order to survive and thrive. I live my 21st century life, performing my job and teaching my kids through technology. But the historical passion and interest I’ve always had is bubbling to the surface like sourdough fermenting; I may not be living with such difficulties, after all. Seeing these names and reading my son Farmer Boy everyday brings it all home. A pinch of perspective can have soothing effects.

So, as I continue to turn the dirt in my hands and plant new seeds in my brand new raised bed, I’m feeling more connected than ever.

Hoping to see new leaves spring forth, a bridge between now and then.

I’m learning the lessons they teach from the grave. Their resilience. Their ability to create a life and survive with far worse circumstances. I yearn, more so, to know those lessons that have disappeared. The common sense connection to nature and the seasons. When to plant, when to prepare (always). How to sustain a family. 

My garden is late this year, but I will grow for them.

This post was written as part of a blog hop with Exhale—an online community of women pursuing creativity alongside motherhood, led by the writing team behind Coffee + Crumbs. Click here to read the next post in this series “Together, Apart”.

Changing the Narrative

It’s funny. As a traditional Enneagram Type 9, I have an incredibly difficult time creating and maintaining habits.

Blogging. Exercise. Drawing and painting. Getting back to the piano.

Pretty much anything that I do for myself is a slog.

So, why the heck, amidst one of the most stressful times that most humans have encountered, did I decide to take part in an online writing challenge?

Maybe it was because it was, literally, a small challenge – haiku. Maybe it was because it flexed just the right amount of creative brain power. It gave enough structure to guide, enough prompts that I could lean into someone else’s theme with my own individual experience, and was short enough that it took very little time away from my burgeoning work, parenting, and teaching life.

Most days, it recharged my battery in five to ten minutes, giving me a sense of accomplishment and a feeling that I’d shared something of myself and for myself, before returning to others’ needs. And even those days that were particularly challenging (like the prompt “Made You Laugh”) or that seemed oversimplified or predictable, I still showed up.

I still. Showed. Up.

So, all of April, I created. By my birthday on May 1st, I had accumulated 30 days worth of haiku. Some days, it was one simple 5-7-5 poem. Other days, I made several separate poems or one long piece with 5-7-5 stanzas. I ended with what my husband suggested as my first book of Pandemic Poetry.

While I doubt I’ll do much with it, the time taught me much. My main takeaway is that writing is still my outlet.

See, there have been points where I felt no purpose behind writing anymore. I knew that I wanted to, but couldn’t see a reason. And then, as it tends to do, daily life took me away.

It’s so strange and surreal that this strange and surreal time is what brought me back to realize – sometimes just showing up is the reason to show up.

For this type 9w1 to announce publicly that she’s making a shift to this blog is scary but hopeful. Over the years, I’ve dug deeply into the sod of this site, sharing about the early days of marriage, of house projects, of philosophies and how-to’s and recipes. None of it is wrong or bad, but I’m hoping to flex my writing skills away from the “articles” of yore.

I’m hoping to grow new fruits. To try my hand at a new type of gardening. Of a whole new language. Still sharing my experiences and hopes and attempts at life, but telling it as the story unfolds.

And I’m hoping that you’ll find yourself nodding, or thinking, or laughing along, or maybe even feeling that your story is worth telling, too.

Here’s to showing up and telling our stories. 

Pebbles

I have about two dozen posts I’ve either started or would like to write. Updates on Hannah (and all the kids, really). At least two chats regarding the Monkees, plus the details of eating dairy-free while on a glorious trip to NYC to see them in concert. Decluttering, simplifying, and general house posts are lower on the list, along with parenting topics. I’m sure I’m missing something.

But I can’t seem to finish a one. And it’s not for lack of will or trying.

Life’s just overwhelming…which seems to be the new norm. It’s not by any terms a complaint. Just how things are right now. Hannah’s up throughout the night, whether from teeth or an unknown allergen, and Beardslee keeps Dave awake with his own nagging. Add the daily grind and it’s hard not to feel either exhausted or down…or a mix of both.

The kids and I are finally on spring break, so I hope to do some spring cleaning with a mix of resting (I’ve had some health issues lately so this is a must), a bit of family fun, and, yes, maybe even writing. Or, maybe not.

But I recently found myself explaining how it currently feels to a friend, and then to Dave. It’s the best metaphor to explain life right now, and to realize how much we’re actually accomplishing each week, each day, each hour.

Maybe you can relate.

Every task that we accomplish, even those things that we do routinely that seem too mundane to add to our to-do lists, are pebbles. Some are small, quick jobs. Others are larger rocks that take multiple steps to complete. Then there are the boulders that you never seem to check off your list, leaving them to do at a later, less busy time.

These all drain our energies, both mentally and physically. We don’t realize the toll that day-in, day-out meal prep for 3 different diets (5 people altogether) takes, plus silverware, drinks, condiments, and clean-up. Multiplied by three meals. Or laundry. Or drop-offs and pick-ups. Or any attempts at cleaning. To say nothing of the tasks we face at work.

Then there’s the guilt. The guilt of not doing enough “extras” for our kids. The guilt of not keeping up with friends or sending birthday cards or seeing family as much as we’d like. The guilt of not finding a new eye doctor for way-too-many-years. I could go on…but these are stones that we keep pushing forward with us to the next day, hoping that we’ll finally toss one of those guilts away tomorrow when we cross it off the to-do list, finally.

It’s easy to feel the weight of all those pebbles and stones and rocks everyday.

But it’s just as important for us to turn around every now and then. To look back. What do you think you’ll see?

It’s the old stones of everydays past. The breakfasts, lunches, and dinners that your family won’t remember but that you know have nourished their bodies and souls to get them to today. The diapers changed, baths given, books read, tearful baby bedtimes soothed, meltdowns averted. The cat pans changed, vet visits accomplished, moments of petting that have added up to a loving, trusting furry friend relationship.

Speaking of relationships, those stones behind you are the connections, brief as they may be, with your spouse, that add up to that good, safe, comforting place you cohabitate together. The laughs you share amid the chaos, the rare conversations you’re able to actually finish, the shared side-eye over an irrationally screaming toddler, or the pat on the back to let each other know you’re on the same team. These pebbles matter, and they create their own hill, far different from the one you began laying over 10 years before, but far more fulfilling than you ever realized was possible. Your very own hill that will only grow stronger as you continue on together.

But that hill is part of a larger mountain of everyday pebbles.

Looking back, you’ll see the things you’ve forgotten but that your weary mind and body can’t. It, after all, lifted every one of those stones. It placed them, minute by minute, as you accomplished things both grand and minuscule. Day after day, year after year.

You’ve built yourself a mountain.

So, the next time you feel anxious or sad or guilty that you just can’t seem to keep up with life, let this be your reminder to stop and turn around. You’ve been far busier, moment by moment, than you may realize.

Allow yourself the chance to ease your body and mind. Rest. Contemplate. Embrace the slowness of the moment. Because when you get back up, the job of moving pebbles only continues.

And this, after all, is what makes up life. Your very own mountain.

Daily Discomfort

Discomfort.

Not really a word that many would find pleasing, but it’s giving me all sorts of hope right now.

See, I suffer from anxiety. I honestly didn’t realize the diagnosis until about a year ago. It had remained buried under a lifetime of depression stemming from my father’s death. Since it’s less traumatic than depression (with its suicidal, overwhelming doom), it’s easy to miss.

When I was going through my usual back-to-school spiral of unknowns and changes last year, I had the epiphany. I shared my new realization with my mom and even a couple of siblings. The response was pretty similar: we thought you already knew (my siblings seem to have it, as well). And, honestly, I think that the norm these days for many people leans into the realm of anxiousness. Phones and social media and all that goes with it.

This coupled with the fact that I went to write down a list of issues I want to tackle only to lay my hand on a notebook which lists almost every single issue – untouched – from last year, brings me to my new beacon of exciting hope.

Discomfort.

I once saw a gif that essentially advised you to “do one thing everyday that makes you uncomfortable.” It was easy to ignore and even roll my eyes at. Who wants to do that?! Cheeseball.

But then I had an epiphany. Looking at my huge list of things I need to work on, the thought of each thing made me…uncomfortable. Changing habits tends to do that – put you in a place of discomfort, truly outside your comfort zone. Even the things that used to be enjoyable that have gotten challenging to do seem uncomfortable because they’re not part of my current norm and breaking the habit of NOT doing them would be tough.

Yet, the THOUGHT of getting on top of these things – of finally taking control over some things or putting myself out there more or finishing some projects or following through on some ideas – is invigorating. Initially, the list is daunting to look at and completely impossible without a direct how-to manual.

So, I’ve figured it out. As cliche as it sounds, I’m going to DO SOMETHING EVERYDAY THAT MAKES ME UNCOMFORTABLE.

Some days that already have built-in challenges (hello, first day of school) are non issues. I’m already beyond uncomfortable and padding myself with grace. Other days, it might mean perusing the list to remind myself to try something new.

Some days it may be simple – like avoiding a single use plastic item (hey, it adds up) or forcing myself to skip social media and work on laundry or do a workout. Other days, it’ll be more in-depth like getting a house project done, working on my website, or creating a new budget. Still others, it’ll fall somewhere in between, like decluttering a closet.

Whether tiny or large, it’ll chip away at not only the to-do lists but hopefully at my anxiety, as well. I realize that living in a cocoon of my own making may be comfy, but isn’t achieving a full, well-lived life. It’s also a crappy model for my kids. So, some of the activities may seem like a walk in the park to some people, but may be a huge feat for others (like me).

I hope to check in with my discomforts along the way, both to hold me even more accountable and also to grab hold of one of those discomforts – writing here more often! Ha. I also think I’ll actually USE my planner to jot down a word or two encompassing my daily discomfort for that day.

I’d LOVE to hear about things that YOU find to be filled to the brim with fear, anxiety, or discomfort? Anything in your daily life that you avoid regularly because of it? Seriously.

And if anyone wants to join, you are SO welcome! I may also hop onto Instagram (my favorite safe haven), so find me @megactsout to follow along. Share your own stories by using #dailydiscomfort.

Grateful

It was a rough night with Miss Hannah. She’d nurse and fall asleep but the second her body hit the bassinet, she was instantly awake. Lather, rinse, repeat.

That’s been par for the course lately, though. So have aspects of the Terrible Twos, fighting the uphill battle of keeping a newborn from getting sick when your eldest has spiked a scary fever, cats seeming to punch into their night shifts for mayhem the second the whole house goes quiet at bedtime, and the proven fact that things will sometimes be simply out of our control in this household for awhile.

And I’ve never been more grateful in my life.

Between an overall perspective that has ripened with parenting experiences as we’ve aged, a near-constant barrage of bad, awful, and dreadful news in the world, the fact that there’s a sense of finality with this third baby, and a healthy dose of holiday season sentimentality, we’re holding on tightly to that which we find dear.

So bear with me as I share with you a list of all I’m thankful for this year, in no particular order, and in earnest. I’d love to hear what’s topping your list in the comments.

I am grateful for…

…the antique cradle, passed down from generation to generation, that my daughter refuses to sleep in for any lengthy duration of time, for at least we have options and a healthy, snuggly child who’d rather slumber warmly in my arms. This won’t always be the case.

…the constantly-full garbages. They mean we can afford newborn diapers as we mull what choice to make regarding cloth and disposables. I’m grateful, in all honesty, for less laundry as our little “eats and immediately disposes of said meal” cherub maintains a productive output. So. Many. Damn. Diapers.

…all that baby poop. On the same note, I’m actually totally fine changing what feels like 50 diapers a day. Scout’s honor. If we didn’t have these poops and pees, we wouldn’t have a healthy baby…and we know from watching friends, family, and even strangers cope with terrible infant illnesses and child loss how precious a healthy baby really is. So, by all means, bring on the poop and pee and spit-up and just anything that goes along with parenthood…because parenthood, to us, is absolutely everything.

…the endless supply of toys (since I’ll be cursing them in another month or so). The fact that our children have so many options for free play, expression, and imaginative downtime is something to embrace, for so many families around the world can’t even come close to saying the same.

…speech impediments. Because if there’s one thing we’ve learned as parents, it’s that (almost) nothing is permanent, and once Hadley’s cute little w “r”s are worked out by the speech therapist at school, yet another trait to his “little boy” side will be gone. Some phases are good, some horrible, and some a bit of both, but either way, “this, too, shall pass.” Just hold on tightly while you can.

…strawberry blonde hair. We often compare our kids subconsciously. It’s not intentional; it’s kind of to just be aware of milestones, what they have in common, and what makes them unique. There are tons of differences (and a few similarities) between Hadley and Harper. Well, while I see much of Harper’s sweetness and some of Hadley’s facial features in Hannah, her light reddish hair upon birth (“Um, is this right?!” one nurse remarked…) has reminded us not to expect cookie-cutter kids from the get-go. This one’s got ideas of her own and I can’t wait to see them unfold.

…our three cats. As annoying as they may be (infuriating at nighttime, to be honest), life would simply be less bright and meaningful without them. They’re our first children, after all.

…just the right amount of digital entertainment. Basic cable, a slew of DVDs, the only occasional Netflix, and limited tablet time for our oldest (oh, and iPhones for Mom and Dad because #sanity + #interactionwithadults) is just enough to force us to get creative and teach our kids that limited choices can be an amazing life lesson. We’ll wait and see what they think when they’re 13. Until then, pop in another Monkees episode and crank up the Pandora Christmas channel!

…the time I have to spend tending to and managing this little zoo with only a brief occasional check of my school email to ease my mind about that zoo. I am truly lucky. Truly.

…sweatpants and maternity clothes. No explanation necessary. #doihavetogetdressedfortheholidays

…the fireplace. With the touch of a button I can overheat the whole family. It wasn’t always this easy to get a roaring fire, folks! But, really, there’s nothing like twinkling clear lights on a tree with a fire and hot cocoa.

…online shopping. Because sweatpants, a sore C-section wound, and crowds don’t mix. Merry Christmas, kids!

…the friends and family who get why I’ve dropped off the face of the planet the past month or so, and those who have offered genuine help (even if I turned it down). You guys mean the world to me. Can’t wait to hang out…in, like, 5 years.

…the unabashed joy of beloved traditions (and letting go of the guilt when we don’t uphold others). Dave and I are ecstatic about some traditions (cheery Christmas music and old Christmas movies!) and others (like getting a real tree) will just have to take a rest until things are less crazy in our lives. Not that we won’t miss them, but, again…phases.

…awareness (which brings me to tears at least twice daily) of just how lucky I am to have this life: a supportive husband-slash-teammate; three gorgeous, special, healthy little humans; three partially insane, partially overweight, but so animated felines; a house that’s juuust right for our brood; families that support and help us despite our weird, quirky standards and choices… Or maybe I should be thanking my hormones for all those grateful tears….

And, finally, I’m thankful for the pie this Thanksgiving. Because life’s not really worth living if there’s not the chance of pie.

You could also replace “pie” with “hope” if you felt so inclined.

Feel free to drop a few of your “grateful for”s down below. Let’s spread the appreciation!

In Defense of the Binky

defense-of-binky

The first few weeks of Harper’s life were completely pacifier-free. Unlike with Hadley, the hospital hadn’t shoved a Philips Avent-style sucker into her perfect little mouth.

Of course, they were totally different. Hadley screamed from the get-go. He was a ravenously hungry 10+ lb. bruiser, so I can see why, despite my research saying that using a pacifier would deter successful breastfeeding, the nurses had little choice but to stick one in his mouth. It was either that or let him cry it out…another theory we don’t subscribe to.

Harper, though, was just over a “petite” 8 pounds. She also had a hard time working up much noise at all. We called her our little bird, with her mouth agape but little rising to the top. It was actually concerning for awhile. I still have to have my ears perked throughout the night to make sure I hear her rustling. It’s the only way she can get her meals.

But, after awhile, we gave in to the pacifier.

Why?

Well, it started innocently. Just the occasional bout of crying at a family get-together or rough patch.

Then, while she’s a “good sleeper” (I hate giving kids those “good baby/bad baby”, “good sleeper/bad sleeper” labels since they change so easily and quickly), I came to realize that she was far calmer and slept better when she sucked on a paci for a bit.

I officially gave in.

At first, there was a bit of guilt on my part. My mother said that my three siblings and I used a pacifier for a month each, and, of course, my grandmother used none. I think that she (and, to an extent, I) was proud that our little girl was able to forego the superficial tool. And, I’m sure she probably could.

But, why the guilt? As with most things regarding children, guilt is the enemy of good parenting. There is no award here. If our children grow into healthy, well-adjusted, kind adults, we’ll all get a “Good Job!” participation trophy. There is no gold, no silver, no bronze. The only losers here are those who truly don’t CARE for their children, and those who parent solely based on the guilt.

So, I won’t allow it to seep in.

There are pros and cons to using a pacifier. So, it’s up to us to make up our own decision.

I don’t intend for her to use the binky long-term.

She has a firm grasp on breastfeeding (and I actually use it to calm her when she gets too “in her own head” fussy to take the breast; it’s a fabulous trick that helped with Hadman, too).

She has learned to self-soothe, especially because she doesn’t take a firm hold onto a binky very easily. Actually, if she simply keeps pushing it out with her tongue, I’ve learned not to keep trying. She’s clearly telling me she doesn’t want it. So, suck on her hand, she will, if need be.

I know her cues. A binky isn’t a replacement for good, old-fashioned snuggles and comfort. When it pops out because her tongue’s working full-time, it doesn’t go back in; she’s clearly hungry.

So, with that, she continues using her favorite little shamrock bink for the foreseeable future.

No apologies.

Just a happy baby.

Why We Couldn’t Do the Tiny House Thing

It’s intriguing. It’s resource-saving. It’s simplifying. It’s even hip.

And there’s no way that we could ever attempt it.

The tiny house movement is a fad (there, I said it) in which people buy or build a super small building and make it work as their one-and-only living space. We’re talking 200 square feet spaces, guys. It’s kind of like taking a tiny NYC apartment and proving that you could live in it any old place. Sure, in the city it may seem worth it…okay, not even in the city does it seem worth it. At least, not for our family of four humans and three cats.

Even if it would be the best excuse ever to get well-meaning relatives to stop. Buying. All. The. Stuff. Tiny just isn’t viable or sustainable in the long-term.

tiny-house2

Currently, we’re living in a house just over 1,000 square feet. Some might say we’re already living in a tiny house, but I’d argue that it’s more of a small house.  Not bursting at the seams. Not “a hut in Africa” small. But cozy and definitely cramped, especially with a 3-year-old who takes to announcing “I’m Kid Flash!!!” zooming from room to room. As cute as he is, it gets old.

The idea behind tiny house living is an admirable one. In response to the mentality behind McMansions that led to the housing market collapse, people thought, “That’s gross materialism, plain and simple.” So, what’s the opposite? Gross simplification.

As you know, I’m all about living a simpler lifestyle. The benefits are immense. If we COULD wrap our heads around the idea of living in a tiny house, maybe this blog post would be a very different discussion. But, as it is, I’m a realist. And a mother, at that. Four years ago, I know I thought, “Well, if we don’t find another house, this one will suit us just fine in the long-term.” I was wrong.

I couldn’t have foreseen the special, what-the-heck-is-in-his-Wheaties kiddo who would bless our family. He is SUPER-CHARGED a lot of the time. Kid’s got spunk and energy for days. The only good our tiny house is to him currently is as a race track: the fact that our layout offers a misshapen circle to race is his favorite. Dining room, kitchen, living room…dining room, kitchen, living room….

No, a kid like this deserves a larger space. Sure, we could do a tiny house on a HUGE plot of land, but we spend far less time outside during the winter than we do inside. (Maybe I should amend that.) And, since winter is *usually* a pretty lengthy season in these parts, there’s a lot of energy that can get stored in a 3-year-old body. That energy inevitably explodes in sometimes disastrous ways.

So, while we by no means long for a McMansion or even a Happy Meal version, we’d like to upgrade to a reasonably larger space. At least one that allows for more inside play space (along with a bit more outside, too) but still small enough that we know our kids, if you catch my drift. Then, in purchasing a house rather than wasting materials on a new build, and by upgrading in eco-friendly ways, I’m hoping that our footprint will still be markedly less than the big beasts.

As with all things in life, moderation is key.

Babywearing

For those readers who’ve never heard the word before, “babywearing” may sound a little odd. Even I found myself choking out the words when I wore Harper at a recent family event – “I’m going to wear…the baby will be in a carrier.” While I may be unapologetic about the choices we make, it doesn’t make it easier to be the odd man out sometimes. 😉

So, what IS babywearing? It’s exactly what it sounds like: wearing your baby as an option of carrying or traveling with your little one. It keeps baby soothed and the sound of mama’s heartbeat is reminiscent of  when baby was in the womb. Babywearing is the one of the most literal aspects of “attachment parenting.”

But one of the most appealing parts of babywearing comes when you have more than one bambino. Whether at the grocery store, traveling, or just trying to get something done with your hands free (like chasing a 3-year-old), it helps exponentially.

There are several different styles of options for wearing a baby: an easy structured carrier (we have an Ergo), slings, wraps of all fabrics (we love our Moby), and mei tais. They range in ease of use and price, and offer options regardless of your child’s age. Yup, you can babywear from newborn to toddler.

When Hadley was born, I was so overwhelmed and absolutely drained by nursing and his feisty personality, so when I finally got around to trying him in a carrier, it didn’t stick. Kind of like cloth diapering, at that point I was simply in survival mode and didn’t feel the need to stress myself out more for the sake of giving this method a go. It didn’t make life easier at the time.

This time, though, it DOES make life easier. There’s a learning curve (especially when wrapping!), but between the fact that Harper seems to be a snuggler and our Moby wrap has allowed us to actually get out of the house, it’s a lifesaver.

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My favorite examples? Our first time using one, we hit up a local Christmas tree farm. Seriously, we NEVER would’ve been able to get a tree as a family of four (with a “doesn’t listen to ‘STOP!'” kiddo in tow) without the thing. It. Was. Perfect. The fact that it was a super warm day (the whole month of December was…blah) helped.

The first time Harper and I left the house one-on-one, I had some groceries to get. I threw on the wrap, carefully snuggled her in, and she slept during the entire trip. Plus, if people want to see her, it’s fine – but she’s still at a safe distance to avoid all the yucky germs being passed around this time of year.

Then, our first real family outing was a huge success thanks to babywearing. We hit up our favorite “local” getaway spot, Cooperstown, on a chilly day. Harper and I were both dressed in layers (I actually wrote about how to babywear in cold weather a little while back), and she slept most of the time. It. Was. Awesome.

When Harper’s a bit bigger, I look forward to getting out for some walks with the Ergo (which is more structured and pretty quick to put on and take off), and hope to continue wearing her for our summertime outings.

While we do have a stroller (a double one, actually), which we’ll most likely use for farmers’ market trips and other lots-of-walking-involved trips, this option is perfect for so many applications.

If you’re interested in giving babywearing a go, check out Babywearing International to see what style will fit your family’s needs.

Now, to get the Dorky Daddy to give it a try!