Four Years.

When the rain is blowing in your face
And the whole world is on your case
I could offer you a warm embrace
To make you feel my love
-Bob Dylan
Years ago we were just young soon-to-be-lovers TPing a bathroom at a friend’s Christmas Party. We snapped that picture on your flip phone and years later it’s the one we value most; our first photo together. Then, four years ago today, your dad married us on what surely was the hottest day of the year both literally and figuratively. My dear love, you are my everything and my everything is you.
Happy Anniversary.
Wedding photograh by Viera Photographics

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They come in all shapes and sizes.

Hooper’s first birthday

Van’s first birthday
We took Van to the pediatrician the other week for his one year check-up and the fact that kids come in all shapes and sizes rung true all over again. Van is the same size Hooper was when Hooper was 18 months old and it blows my mind.
I don’t give advice because I know no two situations are the same but if I could go back in time and give advice to the neurotic lets-take-inventory-of-every-bite-eaten-and-every-ounce-drunk self, I’d tell her not to worry and not to obsess.
Maybe then I wouldn’t have a toddler who pockets watermelon and a baby who – through baby led weaning – is more independent at the table than his older brother.
In other news, apparently my sister is in charge of getting the cupcake
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into my kids’ faces and Sarah, well, she’s my sister’s “assistant”.

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Then & Now

I’d say it’s amazing how fast a year goes, but that’s so cliche. Instead, I will say that with my first-born, every day felt like a marathon. I felt like that newborn phase was going to last for the rest of my life. When I had my second,  my perspective was much better. I knew it’d be a hard year and then it’d get easier.
Before I had kids, I couldn’t think more than a week ahead. I lived life day by day and rarely planned for anything and had a hard time committing to something unless it was going to happen the next day.
The days are long but the years are short, or so they say.
One year ago today I was sitting in the very same room as I type right now, in a birthing tub. This picture is obviously poor quality but it tells a story. The beginning of the story, anyway. A paper bag with a plastic bag in case I got nauseous (I didn’t), the sliver of the elbow of my midwife watching over me just barely making it in the right part of the frame, the birthing supplies in a trash bag on top of the pin ball machine that sat there un-used and taunting me for weeks (I was two weeks late), and Willy looking halfway helpful and halfway helpless.
I say it only tells the beginning of the story because we don’t have photos of the EMT’s who eventually came and had to transfer me butt-booty-naked in an ambulance to the hospital. We had our birthing plan all mapped out and, ultimately, we had to go with plan B.
Life doesn’t always go the way you plan it, does it?
And within ten minutes of being at the hospital, with one nurse pumping up and down on my stomach as if my heart were in my abdomen and I was in full cardiac arrest (clarification: I was not in cardiac arrest) and with some doc I had never met pulling and twisting, Van was born. All nine and half pounds of him.
On the days I work, I pump in a lactation room on the postpartum unit. I watched the other day as a newborn was wheeled past me and as I sat down to pump milk for Van, I thought how crazy it is that that little glow worm will be crawling and communicating and socializing in, what feels like, a blink of an eye.
Right now, Van is napping. I breastfed him while he held on to his blanket, his latest obsession, and laid him down in his crib. He quickly rolled over, hugging his blanket to his chest and sticking his little bum high up into the air.
One year. Three hundred and sixty five days. Fifty two weeks.
The days are long but the years are short; It’s true.
You can read Van’s entire birth story here

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Then & Now

When I became a mom for the first time, within a few months, it was almost impossible to remember what my life was like before I became a mother. Now I’m a mother to two and it’s difficult to remember, just a year and then some later, what it was like when Hooper was a baby. It’s difficult to remember how we spent our days together, difficult to remember the way he moved, difficult to remember the little details that were then our everyday life.
Mothering Van has provided me with a glimpse of who Hooper once was and I’m reminded all over again how fast they grow, change, and evolve. Every mom says it and every mom means it, but it’s absolutely ridiculous how fast the time goes.
I was going through some old photos of Hooper and came across the one above of him playing with my old fisher price spin toy. He was 21 weeks in the photo, right aroundd the age Van is today. It gave me a bad case of deja vu as just the other day Van took interest in the same toy. It’s the first toy I remember Hooper playing with and now the first toy that has captured Van’s attention as well.

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Then & Now

I struggle with Christmas. It’s not so much of the hustle and bustle during a time that’s supposed to be relaxing, I can handle that; It’s the gift giving and consumerism part of it I have a hard time with. When it comes down to it, I don’t want to raise my children to be greedy little bitches. And shit, I don’t want all the praise going to some fake fat bearded guy when I was the one who worked hard to put Thomas the god damn train under the tree. Okay, I joke about the latter but I’m not joking about the greedy little bitches. The reality of it all is that family is the greatest gift of all. I know, because I was young and dumb, that muchkins or even teenagers for that matter can’t quite grasp the maturity that’s behind that statement. I’m wondering how to start instilling the gift of love and family early on. Willy and I have always been kinda scrougey during the holidays. We never celebrate Valentine’s Day. And it’s not because we don’t love each other. I love Willy with my entire heart. He’s my best friend. We’ve always felt Christmas and Valentine’s Day were centered around consumerism instead of actual love. So how do you replace the gifts with love?
Before we had kids, Willy and I would travel during Christmas time. It worked out best because it was the only time we would have off work or school. We spent one year in the Dominican Republic and another year in Nicaragua. It’s interesting to compare Christmas here to Christmas in countries where greed and consumerism hasn’t taken over. In the Dominican, there was one celebration and everyone in the town was there. They played music and danced, but there were no gifts. In fact, we were the only ones handing out baseball cards and little trinkets to the kids that we had brought from the states.
I’m wondering if we should start a family tradition of traveling for Christmas. Going through old pictures is watering a seed that has been sitting there for sometime. It sounds dreamy. And I’ve been itching to put a backpack on these rusty shoulders of mine. But I don’t want to ruin it either. What kid doesn’t have the fondest memories of waking up to find out Santa had been there the night before.
Your thoughts?
In any event, we had a nice Christmas. Hooper slept on our drive up to Santa Barbara (he’s such a trooper in the car) and Van greeted everyone with smiles and the occasional spit up. Hooper has yet to catch on to the whole present idea anyway so I figure we have another year to figure it all out. We didn’t buy the boys anything this year. Hooper had a good time opening his “prizes” from the advent calendar and he opened a few gifts from our very generous relatives. He woke up the morning after and went straight back to his cars anyhow. 

I can’t begin to tell you what these photos, these memories, do to my soul.
Hope you all had a wonderful Christmas.

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Then & Now

Without a doubt, Hooper’s difficulty with putting on weight as an infant had a major impact on me. It’s the culprit behind my obsession with what he eats now as a toddler. I should preface this post with clarifying that Hooper’s weight was never an issue for anyone besides myself. His pediatrician asked that he come back more frequently to be weighed, but he never declared it to be an “issue” and never suggested that I supplement with formula. Taking him back frequently to be weighed, however, made me neurotic. I’d make sure to feed him just before entering the office in an effort to get just a couple ounces higher on the scale. Once he started eating solids, I’d give him as big of a meal as I could before taking him to get weighed. Secretly, I’d even hope that he’d forgo his morning shit just to add the additional ounce or whatever. I know, I’m a total wack job. I grew obsessed, and well, it’s stuck. I spent much of his first year wondering if I was giving him enough, if I was producing enough, if he was healthy. Then, after I stopped breastfeeding at a year and I could monitor completely what was going in and how much, I realized he was fine. If he was hungry, he would eat more. If you are a regular reader of this blog you know my son is difficult to feed and picky, but he does eat. After a while, I chalked his weight issues up to the fact that both Willy and I are tall and thin and it therefore only made sense that our child would be the same.
And then Van was born.
And he’s a beefcake. Coupled with the fact I don’t see much of myself in his appearance, I’ve wondered once or twice if I brought the wrong baby home from the hospital. My midwife told me that milk comes in faster and is more plentiful with the second child, but I didn’t believe her with all my heart. I don’t know the reason behind the difference in weight, but I’m oh so thankful to tuck those anxieties away in a memory box.
The onesie in the photos above is the same. Hooper is 22 weeks and Van is 6. Van has already grown out of it as evidenced by the amount of cleavage he is showing and the downward pull. I felt bad after a while of having him in it and actually unbuttoned the snaps to provide more comfort. I took it off at the end of the day and tucked it away in a bag in his closet labeled, “for the next baby”. Are you guys as astonished as I am… We’re talking about a difference of SIXTEEN weeks here people :: scratches head ::

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Then & Now

I told Willy the other day that it’s too bad you can’t live your life in hindsight. When we came home with Hooper, we were hit with a ton of bricks. We were exhausted, anxious, and completely clueless. We had one of our biggest fights within the first few weeks and I don’t think either of us recalls what it was even about. We were just so tired. Sure, we both loved Hooper instantly (me a little more than Willy, truthfully), but that first month was about survival.
Bringing home a newborn this time around has been a completely different experience. I think we know now that a newborn has nothing in the way of difficulty when compared to the all-time-consuming 21 month old. Which brings me back to the fact that it’s too bad we can’t live our lives in hindsight. I think we would have enjoyed Hooper as a newborn much more if we new how easy we really had it. But, life can’t be lived in rewind mode. So my advice to first time moms is this: Relax. Enjoy these moments because next week you’ll be caring for a completely different baby; they change that fast. Just as soon as you begin reworking your life around the little bean you are holding today, that little bean starts to sprout and your plan must be adjusted again. You are not alone in thinking that the newborn stage is both wonderful and the worst thing ever at the same time. Parenthood is full of these dichotomies. You’ll have plenty of time to bond and love your child, so if you feel like you are simply “getting through” the first month, that’s okay. Hang in there.
That’s my two cents. Does anyone else have any other words of wisdom for the first timers out there? How was your experience with bringing home a second baby; was it easier than the first? How ’bout those of you with three; do they all get easier?

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Then & Now, 1 Week Old

When we were first time parents, we had no idea what we were doing. Who does? (Classroom filled with eager students waiting to be called on simultaneously drop their raised hands and slug down defeated in their desks). We were filled with anxiety and expectations and we were beyond exhausted. Willy had a difficult time bonding with Hooper in the first few weeks. He grew impatient easily with his crying and I had a hard time adjusting to my husband complaining about our baby. My mother bear instinct was extreme and I found myself constantly defending my son. There was also a lot of residual anxiety left over from Hooper’s birth, which was much more eventful than Van’s, in my opinion. Hooper must have sensed his Papa’s anxieties because he only wanted me. This fed Willy’s fear that he was not needed or wanted and added more responsibility to my already filled breastfeeding and recovering schedule. Of course interspersed with all the adjusting was a deep love and amazement over what we created. It just took a little while to get settled. The first week, or even the first month, was coined “survival month”. And we survived.
Van’s first week has been drastically different. Willy bonded instantly. With love came patience and it’s made all the difference in this transition. I can’t say our home is peaceful all the time, there are definite moments of chaos and simultaneous crying and diaper shitting and all the other fun stuff that comes along with balancing taking care of a newborn and a toddler. But the love and patience has lessened the challenge.
The difference has made me question medical induction versus waiting for a baby to come on it’s own. It’s interesting that with all we know medically, we still do not know what exactly causes labor to start. Based on my experiences, it seems that they come when they damn well please. I wonder now if Hooper’s introduction to the world was a little rockier based on the fact the doctor decided he needed to come out. Van is much more peaceful in his first week of life and I can’t help but think of the fact he entered this crazy world when he was ready. I suppose there is something to be said for being parents for the first time too that makes the experience a little hairier and begs the question, “Seriously? These people are letting me take this child home?”. We’re much more relaxed this time around and thus, the transition has been fairly smooth thus far. Can’t say for certain, however, what next week will bring…
Side note: Yes, we realize Hooper looks nothing like the newborn that exited my vagina.

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Then & Now, 38 Weeks

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Pregnant with Hooper.
Pregnant with Van.
There has been some moody days this past week. I chalk it up to being displaced while our kitchen was being re-done, then moving back into a dust ball and having to reorganize everything, and oh ya, being 38 weeks pregnant. Almost. There. I remember questioning a few weeks ago if it was “easier”, for lack of better words, giving birth the first time because I didn’t know what I didn’t know. Ignorance is bliss in so many situations. Now I know the pain and subsequent recovery I am in for and I no longer question what is better because I’m pretty sure ignorance was bliss.
Can I share too much information for a second? If you don’t want to hear about the gory preparation for birth, stop reading. I’m terrified of tearing again. I had a stage 3 tear the first time around and recovery was nothing like I expected it to be. I prepared myself mentally for a natural labor and feel like I passed that test with flying colors. But those two weeks following delivery were incredibly painful. My back hurt from my inability to stand or walk upright. I was hunched over all the time and going from a sit to stand hurt like hell. To help prevent tearing this time around, I’ve started doing perineal massage. It’s not fun, hardly the highlight of my day, and just a little reminder of the pain that’s around the corner. I told Willy it feels similar to sticking your fingers in your anus and stretching it from side to side. Sorry for the awful analogy, but it’s only fair that these husbands of ours have some idea of what we have to go through. Honestly, I felt like evening the playing field and actually giving his asshole a little stretch. The first time around I fooled myself into believing that my gymnastics history and ability to do the splits in all three directions would help facilitate labor. Um ya, not the same muscles involved. Not even close. Willy has a friend who claims he read a study about labor pain being equivalent to a man being kicked in the nuts. Over the last few weeks, as I’ve been stretching my perineum, this proclamation has bothered me more and more. Can you imagine if they offered epidurals for men who have been kicked in the nuts? Or coaches to help men through the pain? What a dumb study. In any case, I digress. I’ve been moody this week and a bit resentful that I alone have to go through the pain and recovery that is labor. But truthfully, I’m just terrified. And yet, at the same time, I’m anxious for Van to get here on time… Time is of the essence, you see, because as soon as I go past my due date, my birth plan is subject to change. Again. (You can read Hooper’s birth story here). Sure, it was emotionally exhausting to go so far past my due date the first time but the worst part was that my birth plan went out the window. So I’m struggling with an inner tug-o-war: For a lack of an equivalent analogy, I’m like a man begging to be kicked in the nuts sooner rather than later. And that’s where I’m at.
Physically, there is a venomous snake apparently living in my right upper inner thigh and every now and again he likes to bite me in my groin. The pain is so sharp and unrelenting. It stops me in my tracks and I involuntarily make a face that makes my vegetable eating face appear as though I’m actually enjoying them (I hate vegetables). Willy and I went to the Dodger game the other night and I’m pretty sure the usher there was certain I was in labor. It took the entire first inning just to get to our seats. My midwives have assured me that this is normal and I’ve read of many others that describe the same pain. I know he’s far down there, I feel the pressure, I just wish he’d get off whatever nerve he’s on.

Then & Now, 29 Weeks

Pregnant with Hooper at 29 weeks:

 

And, pregnant now at 29 weeks:
Willy and I are fairly certain we have decided on a name. You can read about our previous struggles with chosing a name here. With a mutually agreed upon name under our belts, this pregnancy has my full permission to proceed forward. I feel like giving that little guy a tap on the butt while muttering, “hurry on now, hurry on“.
I’ve been having quite a bit of round ligament pain. I remember the sharp pains in my lower abdomen from my first pregnancy but feel they are more frequent and more intense this time around. I’m sure lifting a toddler up and down all day doesn’t help the muscles and ligaments. I’m also noticing a faint pregnancy line forming down the center of my abdomen, which I also had the first time around. I’m peeing more, getting up sometimes three or four times a night. And ever since I got off the plane from Maui I’ve noticed some swelling in my legs. I don’t recall having any swelling with Hooper, so this is new this time around. I’m trying to keep my feet up as much as possible and drink more water… which, of course, inevitably leads to more peeing. It’s a vicious cycle, this pregnancy thing. Otherwise, the weeks are steadily moving and all is good at my midwives appointments, which are every two weeks now.
On the mental front, because lets face it- pregnancy affects us just as much mentally as it does physically, I’ve been feeling a mix of conflicting emotions. With every kick and wiggle I feel a rush of excitement and urgency. I want to meet this baby now. On the other hand, I think about how wonderful things are at the moment. Willy and I both have some degree of freedom. We have evenings together, just the two of us, while Hooper sleeps. We have mornings that start at 7 or 8 or even 9 when Hooper wakes. Because I’m no longer breast feeding, we can leave Hooper for longer periods of time. I’ve enjoyed afternoons by myself at flea markets without any guilt. We’re at such a good place and part of me grieves the fact that all this will be turned upside down when the new baby arrives. I assume these are normal feelings and feel no shame in being honest about them. Our family is going to grow and expand soon enough and with that comes a period of adaptation. We will adapt and all will be well. Would love to hear from other mom’s who have also experienced these emotions…

 

Then & Now, A Vintage Teddy

For Christmas, I unwrapped the most special gift. I’ve been eyeing this teddy bear since I was pregnant with Hooper. It was my moms as a baby and she’s held on to it all these years. Thus, she was reluctant to hand it over. It took a special holiday for this beauty to land in my lap and I’m oh so glad it has. It will either go in Hooper’s new room or in the new nursery. I haven’t decided yet. Thanks mom, I’ll treat er’ good.

Then & Now, Survival Time

Friends of ours are new parents. Emmerson is a few days old and we met her the other day. It quickly reminded me of our early days with Hooper.
Oh how Hooper cried. As parents, and new parents at that, we tried our whole grab bag of tricks to figure out why: Is he cold? Is he wet? Did he poo? Is he hungry? Then we tried adding a blanket, changing his diaper that was hardly soiled, or offering more milk even though it seems like he just came off my raw, cracked, and tender nipple. Come on new moms, you know you feel me on this. Anyway, by the time we would reach the bottom of our grab bag, chances are Hooper would be asleep. Not so much because of the interventions we tried, but because he was a newborn, and therefore good at shut eye (intermittently, of course). Sometimes I think all the things we try are really to make us feel better because it just pains us too much as new moms to watch our new little bundle of joy “suffer” in any way. But truth is, babies cry. Who knows why. I imagine that womb is quite the cozy place and I suppose there is some adjustment period warranted.
Oh how Hooper pooped. Actually, as a newborn Hooper had something quite different than what I’ve come to know poop to be. His poop was far from solid, far from dark brown, and smelled like shit that came out instead as throw up out of a homeless mans mouth. I was reminded of this when we turned Emmerson onto her belly for a few more photos and heard an explosion in her diaper. And then I was thankful when I didn’t have to change it.
Remind me again of a dad’s role in caring for a newborn? Is this question harsh? Am I going to get hate mail for what I am insinuating in asking this? In my experience as a breast feeding mom, much of the responsibility fell on me. Don’t get me wrong, Willy wanted to help. And he wanted to bond. It was hard for him not to play as big of a role as he had envisioned and hard for me to take on a role I expected to be much more shared. This is why I’ve come to coin the first month with a newborn as survival time. People can say how magical and loving and special those first few weeks are and in no way would I disagree with them. There is all that too. But it’s hard. I will never lie about that.
Anyway, I snapped a few shots of Emmerson. It wasn’t easy. I had forgotten all about how to position a newborn, not to mention the explosion. In any event, there will be many Emmerson photo shoots in the near future.
One photo had an uncanny resemblance to a picture of Hooper when he too was just a few days old. It brought back memories of our own survival time.

Then & Now – December 9th

Five years ago today, I went on my first date with the man I know call my husband. My best friend. We had been friends in college years prior, but never persued anything romantically until running into each other years later at a bar. We saw each other at that bar in August. I was with Janet, of course. We were actually in between adventures, which was pretty typical. We had just come back from an around the world trip that took us from Thailand to India to Malta to Egypt to Morocco and back.
I remember the henna still being fairly fresh on Janet’s hand from Morocco, our last stop. We were home a week before we took off on the road and drove all the way to Louisiana and back. It was in that week that we found ourselves sharing a few drinks with a few friends. And we saw Willy, an old friend of both of ours. We pulled one of those say his name and turn around quickly but then glance back even faster to see if he turned around tricks. You know, when you’re not quite sure it is who you think it is. Well, he was who we thought he was and the next thing you know we were all making small talk, catching up on the few years we had missed of one another’s lives. Truth be told, I had no idea he was into me. I didn’t leave the bar that night with any sort of anticipation or butterfly flutter in my stomach.
And just like that Janet and I were off on our road trip.
We came back sometime in October, I think, and we had no money. So started a series of garage sales. Somehow we got back in touch with Willy, who offered us lots of treasures for our sale. Since we had so many, all the big ticket items were gone. We were left with some random clothes and trinkets. Willy showed up with a truck full of stuff which ended up making us the majority of our money that day. All he wanted in exchange was for us to come to his Christmas party. So we did. Next thing I knew, he was reaching for my hand. We held hands a lot during that party. And we kissed. And then I left with anticipation and butterflies swarming in my stomach.
On December 9th, he picked me up for our first official date. I was living with my parents at the time having just got back from our wild adventures. I also just started preparing for nursing school, so I was pretty much a post-college graduate with a degree I wasn’t going to use, with no money, studying for a second degree. My mom encouraged me to have a glass on wine before our date, so I did.
He took me to an upscale Hawaiian fusion restaurant. Little did he know that he’d be throwing down a Ben Franklin or two on a bill when in reality I was salivating as we passed the local Denny’s. I don’t think we’ve been to as nice of a dinner since. Anyway, I digress. Sparks flew. Romance budded. A love was born. That was five years ago.
Back to the present.
Today, December 9th, my best friend had her first ultrasound and met for the first time that lovely little life growing inside her. It’s miraculous, really.
I’m overcome with love today. Love for my husband and love for my best friend.

Then & Now – 8 weeks

When I saw my first positive pregnancy with Hooper, I called an OB right away. Since we had been planning to get pregnant, I asked a few friends for their OB/GYN recommendations. I went with Dr. S purely because my friend had delivered two children vaginally in his care. With the statistics today pointing to a 1 in 3 c-section rate, this was what was most important to me. Back to my point. I was on the phone with the office, gitty with excitement, making my first appointment to come in. They scheduled my first appointment for the following week, at five weeks. They did an ultrasound. We saw what appeared to be a little yolk sac. We were in love. Instantly. Dr. S muttered something about not seeing the embryonic pole and left us with parting words that still make me cringe, “I wouldn’t celebrate just yet”. We made our next appointment and left with confusion and a little speck of fear. What followed was blood test after blood test tracing my HcG level, which was always high and always increasing. In hindsight, I had nothing to worry about. What we saw on the ultrasound at five weeks is pretty typical for what an ultrasound at five weeks should show. Maybe I’m skeptical, but I still wonder if it was his ploy to suck us in under his wings of fear.
We went along with him for a few more weeks before we changed our care and were seen by two wonderful midwives.
Fast forward.
When I saw my first pregnancy test this time around, I smiled. I wrapped it up in a box, put the box in a shirt, but plastic cling wrap around the shirt, taped the cling wrap, put it in a box, and wrapped the box in wrapping paper. Then I gave it to Willy. And then we celebrated together. I sent a text message a few weeks later to our midwife and told her the good news. She gave us the option of getting an early ultrasound for dating purposes or just coming in after the holidays. We opted to have the ultrasound since it wasn’t too long after I started my periods again (I was breastfeeding) and we weren’t completely sure of our dates.
We went to the midwives backup OB, Dr. K yesterday. And I had my first ultrasound, at 8 weeks. Not only did we see a yolk sac, but we also saw a little fetus and heard a little heart pounding. Music to our ears. We had a short discussion about going for another home birth (it didn’t work out the first time around) and surprisingly got a dose of reassurance. Yes, you are reading it correctly. An OB/GYN advised us that a home birth could be the best option for us.
We left with excitement. No fear.