June Bucket List // Countdown to REAL Summer

make it happen

For a lot of people, anything after Memorial Day is summer time.  Everyone starts talking about the beach and school finally being finished.  Those people don’t live in Massachusetts, where snow days pile up and the last day of school is somewhere in the June 27th range.  For all my teacher loves who aren’t on leave, I feel you.  I need to come and bestow spray bottles, freeze pops, and iced coffees upon your hardworking heads.  For my maternity-rocking self, this means I have one more month of childcare before I need to be ready with a solid summer routine.  This is a wishlist of things I want to do while I can still send Milo to his air conditioned funworld across the street.

1. Finish the boys’ nursery.

All the big pieces of furniture are in place, but there are a few more things I want to do to cozy up their little space.  I need to hang artwork and a shelf I painted, find some valences that are colorful, and I’d love to repaint the windowsills.

2. Set up a work space for myself.

I need a better place to organize my papers, hang a large calendar, and keep my laptop.  I have some projects that I’d really like to buckle down on, and I have no idea if a dedicated work area would be helpful, but I’d like to try.  This should be a one day project, tops.

3.  Buy a domain name, build up the aesthetics of my new project, and generate some material.

I’ve been thinking really hard about a project that I want to roll out for the beginning of July.  It’s something that I think I have the talent for, but I need to prove to myself that I have the drive and follow through.  Setting up a work space and possibly work hours might help me towards achieve this.  This is my greatest hope for the month of June.

4.  Take Milo and Elliott to cool places before the school k ids take over.

There are a few museums and play places I want to spend time in before the summer crowds ramp up.  In the early weeks of June, I hope to keep Milo home at least once a week and head out on a little adventure.

5. Summer Routine!

I’m really excited about this summer.  It’s the winding down of my long stretch as a stay-at-home mama, and my first experience being home with both boys completely full time.  With Milo’s speech therapy work and Elliott getting old enough have tiny windows of focus, I’ve toyed with the idea of writing out plans for our day, highlighting the skills we need to practice.  I’m always happier with a plan, but it seemed too insane to do just for my own little family, until I found this amazing article that gave me permission to run my home like a daycare this summer.  There is always a piece of me that says “we deserve a day to kick back, watch TV, eat snacks, be chill,” and those plan-less days are the days where we are all crying and desperate by 3pm.  So I’m going to have a planning template for days when Ben is at work, and we are going to rock this summer.

June also brings Father’s Day and our 6th wedding anniversary, and I’d like to organize myself to give some end-of-year gifts to the teachers who have supported our family this year.  It’s going to be busy and wonderful and hopefully, super productive.  Do you have any big plans for this summer?  Tips for carving out a work space for yourself?  Ideas that will occupy tiny babies during the hottest days?  Happy June, lovelies.

*The above image was found on Pinterest, but it’s from Tattly, distributors of kick ass temporary tattoos.  I will buy.  Summer arm candy, here I come!

last week // this week no. 2

milo toy story

e man

dinner

mama milo mirror

buzz at the libraryLast week was like we turned  corner.  I don’t know if it was just in contrast to the insanity of the week before, or if Ben and I were more on the same page after spending some time talking about our family values, or if some weeks are just going to suck and some are going to go well.  Probably that last one, which is comforting and terrifying at the same time.  We watched less TV, ate more family dinners, played with bubbles, met with friends, got really into Toy Story, exercised a ton, and had the most mundane week possible.  Perfect.  Here are some good things that happened and good things to look forward to:

-I’ve been tracking my Weight Watchers points carefully, using Couch 2 5K to learn how to run again, and playing Wii Fit on my running rest days.  I spent the entire week staying right on plan, and it felt really great.  I’ve been going to meetings for about a month or so, but being fairly lazy and shifting up and down without really losing any weight, so last week reminded me that nothing is going to change until I get my ass in gear.  It might be corny, but when I run I think about Milo and Elliott, I think about running after them on the playground, I think about running a race and having them jumping up and down at the finish line, saying, ” My mom is strong.”

-Milo is really into his toys lately.  I’ve always been an “outing” mama, planning walks and park trips and library stops, but twice this week, Milo would wake up from his nap or get home from daycare, run excitedly to his Toy Story collection, and start building Mr. Potato Head or piling all the action figures into the Fisher Price dollhouse.  I would say, “Get your shoes, we’re going for a walk” and he would wrinkle his eyebrows and sit down hard.  “Do you want to stay here and play?” would be answered with “Yesh!  Yesh!”  I’m so proud that he can express himself to me and that I can squash my gogogo attitude and sit with him.  We’ve had the best slow afternoons.

-Milo is getting some help with his speech delay.  At his 18-month appointment, we expressed some concerns about how many words Milo would regularly use, and we got a referral for Early Intervention services.  He was assessed and qualified, and last week we wrote up a plan for getting him therapy to help him better communicate.  There were definitely times over the last two weeks where I felt overwhelmed- the process is very proactive, simple, and accommodating, but the idea of Milo being “behind” in any way was stressful.  I was scared that he was be frustrated by the testing (he was) or that people might treat him differently once they understood that he was getting extra help (they haven’t), but now I’ve just reached a point of excitement.  Tomorrow is our first in-home visit, and I can’t wait to see how it rolls out.

-Yesterday Ben spent a lot of time with the kids so I could have some time for myself.  Elliott came with me to a brunch with friends (he’s the price of admission to most places) while Milo and Ben went to the park, and then I slipped off completely kid-less for a pedicure and a run!  We also fit in family dinner and a family walk.  We have a busy week coming up, so it was a lovely, restful Sunday.

-We’re headed to Florida!  My youngest sister is graduating college, and we’re spending the weekend helping her celebrate.  My twin sisters and dear cousin will get to meet Elliott for the first time, and we’ll all be together, which happens so rarely.  I’m anxious and excited to fly with both kiddos- Ben is staying behind for work but LAurel will be there to help me.  I have plans to pack a special backpack of treats for Milo, and Ben surprised me with an early Mother’s Day gift of a Kindle Fire!  This will probably be the final factor that makes for a smooth ride.

This week coming up is packing, making birthday/graduation/mother’s day cards, hanging with Ben before we’re separated for a long weekend, and travel!  What made you happy last week?  What are you looking forward to?

Yay, you’re 27, congrats, go to work.

milo peep

babies

three boys
milo supermarketThings have been wild.  News coverage, Twitter overload, trying to stay in touch with endangered loved ones.  Early Intervention, play-based assessments, diagnosis, sensory issues, baby sign language.  Family dinners, less TV, deflecting unwanted advice, keeping up with chores, dealing with an ant problem.  Baby and toddler digestive issues (read: LOTS OF PUKE AND POO).  I tweeted on Thursday: “This week has been really heavy. Which made me realize that last week was, too. Which made me realize that this is life. I’m tired.”  But I’m also done with excuses.  Because THIS IS LIFE.  There will be a weekly tragedy, annoying e-mail, childhood illness, sisterly hangout…or maybe all of them at once.

So, in the name of getting our shit together, here are some good things, happy things, positive things, back-to-business things.

-I just loaded my reader (ugh, still stuck on Google, not loving The Old Reader yet) with new blogs about Weight Watchers and weight loss.  If reading about fancy mamas who take lots of instagram pictures makes me want to be a fancy mama who takes a lot of instagram pictures, I’m hoping the same logic will extend to reading about these ladies and their work outs and meal plans.  I have some kids to chase, blah blah blah.  This just needs to happen.

-I’m also working on a family photo book for Milo, and it’s looking really cute.  I’ve hunted down and gathered pictures of our family members and edited them with the names in bold font.  One of Milo’s favorite pastimes is walking around our house, pointing at faces in pictures and asking us to name them, so I want to give him this for the cuteness factor, and to help with his new shy stage (Here is the hierarchy- 1. Ben, 2. Me, 3. Whoever is holding Elliott.  Otherwise- nervous.)

-Ben and I filled an entire dumpster with garage trash, got some quotes on a landscaping overhaul, and have been taking the boys out for lots of walks on our street.  All of these things=being friendly and more involved neighbors.  Our curb appeal is still more like curb appalling (ha HA!), but we’re getting closer to being adult homeowners.  And we finally took our Christmas wreath down.

-This is my current parenting mantra: “Example is not the main thing in influencing others.  It’s the only thing.”  -Albert Schwertger.  Want kids that read?  Read to them…READ IN FRONT OF THEM.  Want kids that eat vegetables?  Put vegetables on the table…AND EAT THEM WITH GUSTO.  Want kids that are kind to people and animals?  DO THAT.  DO IT ALWAYS.  ESPECIALLY WHEN YOU THINK THEY AREN’T LOOKING.  My kids are still teensy, but I already know that this is going to be very important, even more so if they have personalities anything like mine.

-It’s all going to happen.  You can stress and freak out and make lists and demand things of yourself.  You can berate and dismiss yourself, make 1000 excuses, come up with a new system every Sunday night.  Or you can let it be.  And trust that it will happen.  I’m noticing chores get crossed off the list, phone calls returned, little corners getting cleaned up, all in the natural course of life.  If I’m living it right, everything else falls into place.  Honestly, I can only remember this fact when I’m sitting still during 15 minutes of weekly clarity…but it’s true.  Trust that it will happen.

(The pictures with this post are from the last few weeks, just some sweet little gems that never made it to the internet light of day.  Whenever I’ve sad, these subjects ground me right back to where I need to be.)

Observed (and coveted) Habits of Clean and Tidy People

I’m feeling nesty.  At least, I think I am.  I’m not sure that this deep-seated urge to get rid of all my stuff is related to having a baby as soon as the holidays are over, or if I always just want a cleaner, fresher house.  I’m always finding myself wishing for something simpler and more organized.  The irony is that I am an exceptionally unskilled housekeeper.  I will kindly let myself believe that I just haven’t blossomed in that arena yet…I only learned about the necessity of regularly cleaning bathrooms a few years ago.  Really.  And I have no excuses.  I grew up in a clean house with daily and weekly chores.  My priorities are just…different.  Like right now, for instance.  I have a perfect window of opportunity to scrub the bathtub and put in a load of laundry.  But please.

This nestyish desire for a clean home also comes from suddenly having a child who is able to get into any room of the house at any time, to whom piles of clutter look like the beginning of an amazing adventure, and who can destroy any evidence of a cleaning task (a basket of folded laundry, a Cheerio-free floor) in two seconds with a huge grin.  I know that my house will look like toddlers live here for the next five or so years.  But I would really like to get  a system going that lets me stay on top of hygiene, if nothing else.  It’s looking like we’re going to be in our little cottage with a minimum of two kids and a cat for several years…so we need to get livable up in here.

Here are some habits I’ve noticed in people who seem to have their shit together:

1. Touch it once. Tidy people usually put things where they go right away.  Something comes in mail that you need to save?  File it.  Right then.  It’s ten steps to the file cabinet, and then you eliminate the scary pile growing in the antique desk that shouldn’t even be in the living room where your kid plays in the first place.  Take off a shirt?  Hang it up or throw it in the laundry.  I’m shockingly bad at following this advice.

2. Wash it now.  If you have just a snack plate or a juice cup to throw in the sink, why not rinse it and put it straight in the dishwasher (or, if you live on the prairie, give it a scrub and put it in the drainer) instead of letting it become the beginning of the horrifying pile that can grow in your sink?  This won’t work for every situation, but you can probably cut the horror in half.  I hate doing dishes.

3. Keep cleaning supplies in several places.  Even in my tiny house, I do keep the stuff to clean the bathroom in the bathroom, instead of a cabinet that literally might only be steps away.  Some times those steps are all I need to discourage myself from following through.  If you hate the Earth and still use paper towels, like my family does, stash a roll in every room for quick wipe downs.

4. Have a plan.  I’m not sure if this is for everyone.  I’m really not sure if it’s for me.  But I’m totally enamored with the idea of having a loose cleaning schedule that you follow.  Pre-children, I would binge on cleaning/laundry/errands on Sunday afternoons, and it brought me enormous joy to do it all at once.  Now, however, Sundays are the only day that all three of us are together, and when it’s just Milo and I, there are no long stretches of time to use half-watching The Royal Tennebaums and half-playing housewife.  There are plans on Pinterest that look promising, and it should be easy enough to give yourself a chore a day.  It’s the follow through that makes me nervous.

5.  Have people over.  This one seems counterproductive, especially if you’re nervous about how you care for your house.  But I’ve read from people who are better at homemaking than I (mostly people who run websites called Apartment Therapy) that the best way to make your home more livable and welcoming is to live and welcome in it.  Have people over, invite friends in for coffee (this means you keep coffee on hand, or are totally cool with Dunks runs), make play dates for your kids, order takeout and throw a blanket on the floor for a picnic.  This is the hardest tip for me, because I am very Gollum-y with my time and my space.  I like to be out of the house with Milo often, and when I am home, I like to unbutton my pants, eat croutons out of the package, and roll Milo around on the floor, crunching Cheerios into the carpet like vacuums were never invented.  But I know that the best way to teach Milo how to be social is to be social with him.  And I want to have a takeout picnic this winter.

These tips are just things I’ve gleaned from reading obsessively about cleaning on the internet while I should be physically cleaning our space.  I have owned the Apartment Therapy Eight Step Home Cure for years without ever completely following the program. but the book is very inspiring and I suggest it to anyone trying to feel homier.  I also love the blog Adulting, and there have been several awesome entries about housecleaning and caring for your yard.

Basically, if you pay for your living arrangements at all, you’re shelling out a ton of money for a roof over your head.  It should be a place that you love to be, where you can be at peace, and where you can feel safe to let any children/pets/friends roam freely.  This might mean museum presentation or a once-a-week Cheerio banishing.  For me, it’s going to be a balance of both.

Cleaning tips?  Life with children tips?  Admonishments for a healthy young woman who has never, ever cleaned her windows in three years of home ownership?

The first two weeks

Milo’s first day

Mrs. Swicker’s early morning desk

Running errands at Target

Books for little kids and big kids

Thank god for apple slice samples at the grocery store

Back home to read books/climb the bookcase like a ladder

The first two weeks are over, and I have only needed to repeat my mantra (I can do hard things) four or five times.  This was a fortnight full of parent e-mails, lunch pin memorization, a mad and frustrating rush to get to daycare before it closes, simple dinners, afternoon walks, learning to do errands in the evening to save weekends for fun, a fabulous visit with my mom and sister, lesson planning, falling asleep on the couch, a new family division of labor, and the solidification of our new routine.

I love my class and my first grade team.  We work well together and have a beautiful plan for the year that is going to guide our planning and make things fun and interesting.  My kids are funny and sweet.  Milo has settled into daycare and loves his provider very much.  So much that when we saw her outside of her house last night, he lunged out of my arms to be held by her.  It hurt my pride a little, but I am constantly reminding myself that he has a lot of adjusting to do, and I am so lucky that he is happy and safe all day while I’m working hard.  Obviously, though, I took a little ego-beating.

 Ben has really stepped up, doing tons of chores whenever he’s not at work and doing the arguably harder drop-off at daycare.  My friends have helped me get to daycare on time(ish) in the afternoon, even thought Milo is typically the last kid and the buses aren’t running smoothly enough yet for me to get there a second earlier.  I had to turn a parent away who turned up asking to talk to me because I had to leave, and they rescheduled for Monday morning at 8; this leaves me wondering all weekend.  I think all the time of mother’s guilt, accept it as a part of my adult life from here on out, and try  (with less difficulty that ever before) to move on and enjoy my two days at home.

On the upside, Ben and I are really enjoying our new life as working parents.  It’s important to get to feel fulfilled in lots of different ways, and I think we are.  We work together in the morning and have breakfast as a family meal.  We split up chores and errands and give each other breaks.  We take turns picking what we’ll watch at night, and have both planned little outings and mini vacations with friends coming up in the fall.  This morning, Ben was packing his lunch and I was feeding Milo, and we were moving through the kitchen and helping each other out, talking bills and plans and upcoming dates.  Ben just stopped and said, “I love you at 26.”  Poor guy has been dealing with my rollercoaster of emotion since the month I turned 19…I’m glad we’re both happier as I get older, wiser, and probably a good deal calmer.

Today Laurel is coming to watch Milo while I get a pedicure, and then later while Ben and I have a little date night.  In between we have BBQs, brunches, and some phone-and-internet-free play time.  I hope your fall is just as full and you’re giving yourself lots of things to look forward to.  Here’s to enjoying this season of our lives.

These Baby Days

Motherhood isn’t like I thought it would be, mostly because I can’t remember thoughts I had before Milo was here.  How annoying, right?  I am completely overtaken by this tiny creature.  I still do all the things I used to do, but I do them for him, about him, because of him.

I still spend a majority of my time interacting with social media, but it’s pretty much a constant stream of pictures I take of my incredibly beautiful baby, who is, of course, the first lovely baby to ever exist.  I still spend my days texting Ben and the rest of my family as my main way to keep in touch, but instead of funny movie quotes and countdowns to the next visit, I send cute pictures and anecdotes and poop updates.  POOP UPDATES REALLY HONESTLY POOP UPDATES.  I know.  I also do a lot more online shopping (Christmas is coming and we’re entering the unpaid portion of my maternity leave), and I’m simply ruthless about what blogs I read now.  Sometimes I just hit “mark as as read” and move about my day.  I’m living on the edge.

I still get up earlier than most of my household in order to get ready for “work.”  When teaching was my only job, I cherished getting into the classroom before many people were around.  I would read over my lesson plans and go around changing the dates on the whiteboard, setting out materials for centers, and getting myself organized to tackle the day.  I found that I have fallen into a really similar routine in the house.  I feel 97% more prepared to be a mama when I’ve taken time to make sure all the bottles and pacifiers are washed and sanitized, I’ve restocked the diaper change basket with plenty of diapers/a clean changing pad/new peepee teepees, the bassinet is moved into the living room with clean sheets and a fresh swaddle blanket and burp cloth hanging over the side, and I have a clean outfit for Milo waiting patiently for the first daylight feeding.  These tasks take me about 15 minutes if everyone is sleeping when I try to do them, but the effect is so goddamn satisfying I feel like I’ve just solved world hunger when I’m done.   I also keep a feedings/pumping/diaper changes log, which is reminiscent of teacher record keeping that I might just miss a little.  I mark off that I’m drinking enough water and remembering to take my pills.  I’ve finally stopped forgetting to eat, so I don’t track that.

The thing I didn’t expect to be so cutting is guilt.  It’s mostly coming from within myself, but it’s surprisingly keen and hits me when I’m not quite prepared for it.  I feel guilty for not exclusively breastfeeding, and then I feel guilty for continuing to try to force Milo to nurse when it’s something that makes him scream almost every time.  I feel guilty for not holding him enough, and when I feel guilty when people tell me that he needs to be laying down more or we’ll spoil him.  I feel guilty for spending money on the brand name formula, and guilty when I consider switching to the Target brand (“You already aren’t giving him breast milk, now you’re going to buy cheap formula, too!?”)  I feel guilty when Ben takes over Milo-duty and I read in the bathtub.  I feel guilty that we were given a very expensive breast pump that I am using only once or twice a day.  I feel guilty that something is wrong with the radiator in Milo’s nursery and I don’t know how to make it warm enough in there to feel safe leaving him in his crib overnight.  I feel guilty that I love sleeping with him snuggled in our bed, even thought one million people/doctors/academies of science have said this is dangerous and they don’t suggest it.  I feel guilty for not using the baby carrier that we bought yet, and then I feel guilty when I read a blog entry from a babywearing mama who says that the brand we registered for “should never be used for a baby.”

Actually, that babywearing mama’s use of the word “never” kind of snapped me out of it for a second.  In my head, the voice of my best self said, “Who in the world is she to say never about anything?  She doesn’t know Milo.”  And then I was okay, because I thought, just for a second, that  if someone was wrong, it might not be me. I remember distinctly just clicking the X and not allowing myself to wallow deeper into the guilt of possibly buying the wrong kind of baby carrier.  As good as it felt to pour out my worries in the confessional above, I simply do not have the time or ability to let those things overcome me.  It feels nice to sit with your self-pity sometimes, but there is someone who needs me, and his name is Milo, and he leaves no room in my heart for thinking about myself negatively.  It’s not something I would have ever been about to wrap my mind around before he came.

Almost everything I was certain about before I was a mother has been disproved in a span of only 3 weeks.  The only thing I know is that I am already better than I was before October 13th.

 

 

 

 

“Before everything else, getting ready is the secret to success” -Henry Ford

That’s all we are doing around here.  Getting ready.  Getting ready at school means spending extra time perfecting routines, so they’ll be solidly in place when I am gone.  It means creating a binder of information, so my substitute teacher will know everything from how the kids go home to the signal they use to ask to go to the bathroom.  It means having everything for the next day set up before I leave, just in case.

Getting ready with the midwives means several birthing classes, including an all-day affair that was good but definitely freaked Ben and I out (YouTube c-section births).  It means weekly appointments, which can be tricky to juggle with a full-time job and midwives taking their vacations through the entire month of September.  It means still needing to find a pediatrician, and making decisions about what kind of labor I would ideally like to have, and a new understanding of the parking situation at the hospital.

Getting ready at home means mountains of baby laundry.  It means charging baby monitors and unwrapping the plastic from the breast feeding pillow.  Hanging the nursery art and packing a hospital bag.  It means making time to see movies with Ben and trying to touch base with friends before those simple things become much more complicated.  I’m also suffering from nesting urges, which make me need to vacuum behind every piece of furniture and order photographs for empty frames and in general waste precious energy on unnecessary things.  It’s silly, but it makes me feel better to know that it’s a primal urge that tells me Milo is closer and closer every day.

I say it often, but we’ve been really lucky to have tons of support in the getting ready process.  I went through and crossed many things off the 25 while I’m 25 list, because we’ve gotten a lot done.  At this point, where my birthday is 2 weeks away, it’s clear that not everything will get done, but in all honesty, it was a pretty tedious list.  I can’t wait to make my 26-while- I’m-26 list, and balance it out nicely.

We’re on a mission to buy nipple cream today.  This is my new life.  Here are some pictures of lately: