blessed

18th May 2016

This afternoon, as I pulled into my “driveway” with a screaming baby ready for a nap a man from the bus stop walked up to me and asked if this was my house. Usually I hate interacting with strangers, and this was no exception, but I’m working on being warm and friendly, so I answered, “Yes.”

“You have a beautiful home,” he said, “and a beautiful back yard. You’re blessed.”

“Thank you.” I replied and proceeded to head into the house to put August down for a nap.

sunshine

Normally the word blessed rubs me the wrong way. Obviously, the intent of the word is to convey some influence by God, but I find that, for me, it seems to negate any action on my part in the quality of my life or my achievements. Maybe that’s silly or pretentious, but that’s how I feel. I’ll be the first to tell you that there is a higher power in my life and I owe much of what I have to circumstances outside of my control; but, dammit, I get to take some responsibility for the overall “goodness” of my life.

mama

After August was born, I spent a lot of time just looking at him. I think this is fairly common for new parents. He was so perfect. So brand new and unmarked by life. He was by no means a blank slate-he definitely came with his own spirit and personality-but the possibilities for his life were [and still are] so vast and open. I just thought constantly about giving him the best life I could, in spite of all the things out of my control [I think this is also fairly common for new all parents].

lips

These thoughts about the life I want to give my son quickly morphed into one big question about my own life: “Would I want to give him the life I have?”

I mean, we talk a lot about how parents would willingly give their life for their kiddos [pregnancy and labor bring many women into very close proximity to that choice as it is] but I hadn’t really considered the fact that being a parent would be much more about giving my life to my son. Every practice, every habit, every pattern of behavior I have is up for grabs. He is a sponge and hasn’t yet figured out that I’m imperfect and not everything I do is awesome and amazing-it breaks my  heart to know that that look of sheer adoration above, will one day go away as he realizes how completely flawed and human I am.

dad

In those first few weeks after he was born, I took an honest look at myself and my life and realized that it wasn’t good enough for him. Let me be clear, I have/had much to be grateful for and yeah, most things were actually really good, but I didn’t feel like I was fully present or authentically myself.

When August was six weeks old, I returned to the rooms of 12 step recovery for food addiction [maybe I’ll write about that in the future]. This is the hardest thing I do every day. It requires me to show up; to ask difficult questions and deal with difficult answers; it makes it impossible for me to ignore the stuff that I used to lock away and medicate with food. I’ve had to examine my spiritual life and make changes that have been difficult [maybe I’ll write about this someday, too, once it’s less painful]. But, the life I have today feels so much more connected and authentic than ever.

bug

So, yeah, my life is blessed; every day I am free to be present and authentic is a gift from my higher power. But, damn, it takes a lot of work to make space and be willing to receive the gift.

being mom

8th May 2016

When you wait five years to get pregnant, motherhood begins to carry a ton of expectations. You fantasize about what it will feel like to hold that baby, to look into those eyes, to teach them EVERYTHING, and mostly, you wonder about that “big love” everyone is talking about. This is not one of those posts about how being a mom isn’t everything I wanted or hoped it would be. It is, but it’s also so much more. And really, isn’t that how life is? Not all good or all bad; it’s not either/or, it’s both/and. So, I thought I’d do a list of the things that surprised me most in the aftermath of meeting my little boy.

MORTALITY

I’m the kind of person who can obsess over the morbid. If my husband doesn’t answer a text right away, I prepare myself for the inevitability possibility that the worst has happened. In the first few weeks spent holding my tiny, vulnerable baby, I did have thoughts about losing him. What surprised me, though, was how much more disturbing it was to think of my own mortality and how difficult it would be to leave him.

MILK EVERYWHERE

Like any new mom, I was curious about the whole breastfeeding in thing. Would I notice when my milk came in? Would I make enough milk? How would it feel? etc. I only noticed my milk had come in when August was actually satisfied after nursing. And I had no problem with my supply-there was a lot, but it evened out eventually. What I did not anticipate was that there would be milk all over the place. It leaks, the boy isn’t very tidy, and I still have a mini stash in the freezer, even though he doesn’t really take a bottle [I use it to make muffins and pancake things for the boy].

THE BIG LOVE

Everyone talks about how you don’t know love until you have a child and then it’s just this all-consuming, self-sacrificing love. After [almost] nine months of caring for the boy, I can safely say that the big love is real. But it wasn’t immediate. It took time to develop [like any other love, right] and required a lot of trust and patience on my part in the beginning.

GET HIM OUT

My labor was pretty quick, so I didn’t spend a lot of time pushing. Even still, I was amazed at how much relief I felt as soon as he was out. I’m sure part of that feeling was the rush of endorphins and just being able to hold him in my arms, but physically, it was so nice to not have all of his eight and a half pound body [plus all the other placenta stuff] out of me.

TWO HOURS

Two hours is actually a long time. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve put August down for a nap and gone about being productive and after only 30-45 minutes I think “Wait, is the boy ok?” Two hours always felt like such a tiny bit of time before [and it still does if I’m trying to nap] but two-ish hours of quiet feels like an absolute eternity now.

MY HEART EXPANDED

When I was pregnant, I definitely felt more emotionally vulnerable, but it was a shallow vulnerability. Crying at commercials or videos on Facebook, but not much depth to it. Now, though, I have all the feels, in a deep profound way. My capacity to empathize with other people has grown so much-to an almost ridiculous extent. When I see those people of Walmart pictures, I feel sad because those people are someone’s child! When my husband road rages at bad drivers, a small part of me thinks “That person has a mom!”

MY BODY

If I could sum up my feelings about my body, now that I have a baby, in one sentence it would be: My body is not my own. My body feels primarily functional now, everything is about feeding and caring for the boy. I have stretch marks and leaky boobs and it took a couple months to get the whole personal hygiene back to normal, but at the end of the day I remind myself that I’m keeping this little human alive with food I make with my body! How crazy is that? All of my body shame/hatred is still very much there, and I really miss being pregnant if only because it was the one time I felt nothing but love for my body.

LAID BACK

I’m a pretty type-A person, so I kind of anticipated that I would be a semi-crazy mom. You know, trying to keep everything “just-so” and giving in to my control freak, but I really haven’t. I feel like I fit the description of a second-time mom, really. Joe is actually a little more high-strung about stuff than I am-which is nice, because we balance each other out. I’m not obsessing about whether or not August is “keeping up” with other babies, or trying to keep him away from screen time or dirt or little bumps-I feel like the whole mom thing has come pretty naturally which is nice.

IT DIDN’T FIX EVERYTHING

It’s hard not to assume that having a baby [when you’ve been trying for so long] will fix everything wrong in your life. To be fair, I don’t have that much “wrong” with my life, but I still imagined that becoming a mom would make me feel better about myself, more fulfilled, more in touch with the Divine, etc. And I’ll be honest, it helped with some of those things, but ultimately, I’m still the same person I was before he was born, flaws/imperfections and all.

august

august

6th January 2016

august

Standard birth story disclaimer-lots of pictures, and probably lots of words, too.

August’s due date was August 7th, but I had a feeling he would come early. As we neared that date I began to fear that, like most first babies, he would come “late”. He arrived Monday, August 10th-exactly when he was ready. That last week was agony-only because I was so bored and just ready to get the whole birth thing over with and meet my baby.

19

last pregnant selfie-2 days before he arrived

That Monday, around 11:00 am or so, I began feeling contractions. They were not painful, it just felt like my belly tightening. It seemed like they were coming pretty frequently so I started timing them. They were lasting about a minute and were about 6-8 minutes apart. I thought those numbers might mean something, so I called the hospital for advice. They said not to worry until they became intense enough that it “took all my concentration to get through”. So I hung out at home with Joe [who was working at home] and my sister, Bethany and had lunch.

Around 1:30 they had intensified enough that I had to breathe through them.

18

getting a break from contractions

They really weren’t too bad, though. I took a bath at some point and also used hot wash cloths with lavender oil to spread over my belly during contractions. Probably the worst thing was that I threw up at one point between contractions. I checked in with Joe and told him that we should plan on heading to the hospital as soon as he was done with work at 6:00. I continued to labor at home while watching tv and requesting fresh wash cloths with each wave.

We left our house around 6:20 and got to the hospital close to 7:00. They ushered us into the triage room and began taking all the important vitals. We also got there right at a shift change so we were waiting to find out who our nurse would be. The woman who worked with us was named Tammy, which is my mom’s name, so that was a fun and reassuring coincidence. I remember her checking my cervix, telling me I was dilated to a 4 and 100% effaced “We’re having a baby tonight”, she informed me [as if I didn’t know].

It was around 8:00 that we walked across the hall to our delivery room. Because I’d thrown up, they prepared me for an IV to get some fluids in me. Over the next hour I continued to labor while they did all the information-giving stuff. By about 9:00 they’d placed the IV and were reviewing information about epidurals. The contractions were getting pretty intense and I wanted to check out those tubs-my midwife thought I should wait until further into labor since I was “doing so well” at the moment.

Now, I had planned on doing a natural, non-medicated birth, but ultimately, whatever got my baby here safely was fine with me. A little after 9:00 I informed my nurse that I wanted to talk to my midwife about an epidural. My midwife came to talk to me and offered to check my cervix again, just to see while I got a dose of fentanyl [to take the edge off and prep me for an epidural if that’s what we ended up doing]. I had dilated to an 8 and my water still hadn’t released. My midwife offered to release my water for me and see where we got after that. She informed me that things would definitely intensify, but I figured it might get things moving a bit faster. Umm, I was right. She released my water at 9:45 and almost immediately I felt the urge to push. She told me to wait, and I did with difficulty, until she could check me again. I’d gone to a 9 and then a 10 while she was checking. “Oh, ok, you’re good, you can push”

As a quick side-note, probably the scariest thing about the whole experience was the sense that my team wasn’t quite ready for me. We were expecting a big baby and they were worried about his shoulders, so they wanted a doctor present, just in case. While I tried to focus on my body, I heard the sound of people scrambling and making quick calls to get someone in the room ASAP. When I’d imagined giving birth, being up on my knees always seemed like the best option, but I was too exhausted and the waves were coming so close together that I never made it there. They coached me to curl up and push [exactly what our hypnobirth instructor warned us of, but oh well]. I had no idea how draining it would be. [My best friend had told me that she had wanted an epidural, but when the time came, she was too exhausted to get in the right position at the side of the bed so she went without.] I just remember the pressure of his head and everything in me needing to push him out, but I just felt completely spent. I looked at my husband and cried “I can’t do it, I have nothing left.” “You are doing it,” he reassured me, “he’s so close!” After about 30 minutes of pushing and a small episiotomy [that elicited the loudest scream of the night], August Boyd burst into the world like a lion at 10:15 PM.

17

so happy together

1

that face

13

Joe’s thoughts on becoming a dad

12

he finally gets to hold him

The hospital where we delivered is baby-friendly, so August was put straight on my chest and stayed there over the next couple hours while I delivered the placenta, did all the initial post-partum stuff and listened to my nurse tell me how exceptional this birth was. Also, we had to call our family and let everyone know! It’s funny because it wasn’t until about 8:30 or 9:00 that Joe actually let his parents know we were at the hospital-we were expecting to be there for several hours before August arrived-so they were pretty surprised when we called to let them know that he was here.

4

the hearing test put him right to sleep

9

our first [but not last] selfie

7

aunt beth

doubtfire

only the best entertainment for us

Our stay at the hospital was pretty normal I’d say. I got into the shower as soon as we were settled in our room and then settled in. Our days were filled with Mrs. Doubtfire, Kashi Oatmeal Dark Chocolate Cookies with chocolate milk, and, of course, snuggling our little bug. We went home Wednesday around 11:00-we were definitely itching to get out of the hospital!

2

being outside the womb is exhausting

Becoming a mom is one of the most incredible, life-changing mundane things I’ve experienced. It seems so strange that there was a time before. It’s like he’s always been here. And yet, those first weeks are hard. My recovery was pretty quick and I didn’t have too hard a time with the baby blues, but the big love that I feel for him now, definitely developed over time. It wasn’t an immediate burst that arrived at the same time he did. It’s been more of an awakening; a slow bloom of immense love that somehow feels perfectly normal and contained. Reflecting on the experience, I’m reminded of how intense and exhausting it was, but seeing his tiny, perfectly round face in these pictures definitely has me planning for a second and third.

#planwithmechallenge week 1

3rd January 2016

intro

I’m participating in the #planwithmechallenge hosted by Kara, Kim and Jessica. I’ve been posting little snapshots on my Instagram account, but many of the posts elicit a much longer answer than I care to type out on my phone. So, I figured why not blog it? My plan is to post a weekly summary here to go into some of the prompts in a little more depth.

DAY 1: INTRO

I’ve always like the idea of being one of those organized, planner people. The stationery section of the store, in general, always drew my attention, which is probably why I’ve accumulated a stash of empty journals and an embarrassing pile of unfinished ones, too. Despite all this, I never really quite found a planner or system that really worked for me-the elusive planner peace.

collection

I’ve bought countless planners from Target, but I never felt like they had the right layout or enough room. Thinking I just hadn’t met the right planner, I began investigating online and quickly found the Erin Condren cult fan club. Those planners are colorful and cheery and all the YouTube videos made it seem like this one might be the one. So, I splurged…and did well with it for a while, but ran into the same problems I always had with pre-made planners-they just weren’t easily adaptable for what I wanted.

ec spread

a little over a month and I’ve lost my mojo

With that in mind I began investigating downloadable/printable options, and boy, are there options. I don’t know how many I purchased and printed and inevitably tossed during that time (it was a lot!). At some point I saw Ryder Carroll’s video about his system that he called the Bullet Journal. I fell in love with the concept, but I didn’t really see it as being a planner system for me. I saw it as more of a note-taking solution and implemented it in my scripture study and eventually my academic studies when I went back to school last year. But the simplicity and flexibility of the system had been planted and slowly germinated in my mind while I tried other things.

Well, one other thing. DIYFish inserts, to be exact. Now, I really love these inserts and they worked well for me for a long time. Sheng Chen has created a multitude of printable sheets to use with different sizes and style of planners. I used the 8.5 x 5.5 size in a disc bound system (I can tell you more about this if you’re interested) which allowed me the ability to customize and create something that really worked for me…until it didn’t.

diyfish

so pretty, maybe I’ll come back one day

What I was struggling with was archiving. You see, the inserts were just too bulky to carry around all at once. So I would carry only a month’s worth of pages at a time and switch out each month (a potential issue in and of itself-if I was slacking around the first of the month, I might not get the new pages put in and then I’d be completely thrown off). For a while I would just toss the pages each month, because I wasn’t really concerned with looking back at old to-do lists—the stuff I was writing down wasn’t really meaningful to me in the long-term. But, that started to change once I had my son. Suddenly there were things that I wanted to document and track and be able to review for years to come. Some of these things were sentimental (milestones and special moments with the boy) but some of them were practical, too (sleeping and eating habits, poop, etc). I found that the DIYFish inserts just didn’t work for me with these new needs.

So, in the last couple weeks I found myself returning to the Bullet Journal. I searched through Pinterest and Instagram, finding inspiration from fellow BuJo fanatics (I’ll list my favorites in a coming post). Suddenly it clicked for me. I could create a journal that would allow me to plan and improve my productivity AND archive special moments and habits (both mine and the boy’s) in a compact, attractive little book. I love that I don’t have to commit to any layouts-I can try it for a month or a week or a day and see if it works for me. If I feel like getting elaborate and fancy one week, I can easily pare it back to the simplest basics when things get crazy the next week.

DAY 2: MY JANUARY SET UP

I’ll try to limit the word count on this one and let the pictures speak for themselves…

monthly detail

monthly spread

Ok, I totally stole the monthly layout from Kara [no shame in my game] and gave it just a couple tweaks.

-At the bottom I wrote down one single intention for the month [to build a solid morning routine]

-Next to the PM column I added a place to keep track of which page each date was on, that way I could quickly find a certain day without cluttering up my index.

-I personally HATE ribbon bookmarks, so I cut those off and will be using these sticker tabs from Girl of All Work. The TODAY one is peeking up from the top and will get migrated throughout the planner. The monthly ones will, obviously stay with their month and may end up being stapled if the adhesive is not strong enough.

habits

habit tracker and gratitudes

I limited my habits to track to only five and plan on adding (or not) as needed throughout the year. I also have my chore list. I assign a different room to each day of the week and use a dash for routine tasks and a check box for one-time things I’d like to accomplish this month. I’ll explain a bit more when I talk about planning strategy below.

Daily gratitudes is self explanatory, right? [even if gratitudes isn’t a real word]

forward

end of gratitudes with my personal mission statement and forward planning

I was inspired again by Kara to do the mission statement-I only wish I’d put it somewhere that felt tied to the whole year and not the month of January [maybe the front cover].

I’ll discuss the forward planning a bit more below.

august stuff

memories and sleep tracker for my son

I wanted to track some things related to my son [his name is August, which makes monthly trackers a little confusing]. Memories is pretty obvious, right? The sleep tracker is hopefully just for this month. He’ll be five months old on the 10th and is doing that whole sleep regression thing, so I felt like keeping track of his sleep would be helpful. I used to have an app to do this, but for some reason having it on paper seemed to make more sense. Probably because I can still see when I put him down but he didn’t sleep, which I couldn’t track very well with the app I was using.

daily

Finally, the dailies can begin. Again, pretty self-explanatory I hope.

DAY 3: PLANNING STRATEGY

strategy

I find that I’m only successful with my planning, if I am in my planner every day. No matter what system or planner you have, it won’t actually do the work for you. In the past I’ve had more complicated systems that never really worked because they just didn’t make sense for what I needed. I used to try to color-code things, but my brain just doesn’t work that way-the colors end up being annoying to maintain and overwhelming to actually look at on my page. So here’s a brief [ha!] breakdown of what my strategy looks like.

WHERE: Main planning usually happens at night in my bed, but I make sure to keep my journal with me at all times so I can easily jot down any ideas as they come.

WHEN: As part of my evening routine I sit down and reflect on how that day went, then review what I have planned for the next day. In the morning I look over everything I sketched out the night before and keep my journal open to today’s page so that it stays present in my mind.

HOW: First I check in with my habit tracker then jot down my three daily gratitudes. Then I jump over to the memories page for my son and make a note of anything memorable from that day. I look over the current day’s spread one last time to see how I did on whatever tasks/goals I set out for myself.

Once that’s done, then it’s time to go into the next day. I look at my monthly page to see if there are any appointments for the day-usually there aren’t. Next I go to my weekly chore outline to remind myself which room is my focus for the day. I use a single box for the room and then bullet out individual tasks underneath. I have one or two recurring tasks for each room and then I add in any additional projects based on how much time I think I’ll have. If I have a busy day of appointments, then I won’t do any projects, just the recurring tasks.

I don’t use a weekly spread [at least not right now] so my routine stays pretty consistent until the end of the month. Then I’ll draw up my monthly calendar and fill in appointments and goals and set an intention for the month. I keep track of my appointments on my phone using the Sunrise calendar app. I find it’s easier for me to do appointments on my phone since I can do it with one hand if needed. Everything else-recurring household tasks, projects, etc.-is listed in my forward planning page. Some of those projects may end up being a collection on their own [for example my capsule wardrobe] but I like having the entire year on a single page for quick reference.

With my monthly calendar complete, I just have to draw up my habit tracker and weekly chore list along with my lists for memories/gratitude/whatever I feel like tracking that month. I use the monthly goal list to add projects to the weekly chore list. For example: I would like to finish my maternity album this month, so that went on my monthly goal list. Since I do all my crafting/scrapbooking in the guest room, I add that project to the day I have set aside for the guest room-Sunday [technically Sunday is for the nursery and the guest room]. When I plan out my itinerary for Sunday, I’ll have routine tasks-mainly laundry from the nursery-and if time allows I’ll plan some time to work on my maternity album.

WHY: I just wanted to finish up by talking a little bit about why I do what I do. I have a problem staying focused when I’m working on a task. If I’m grabbing laundry from the bedroom, I can easily get side-tracked by my cluttered vanity or the picture I want to hang in the living room. I created a system where every project has a place and every place has a day-a nice riff on a place for everything and everything in its place. If I have a project idea come to mind, I go to my journal and jot it down, knowing that I will work on it at some point, but I don’t have to drop everything to do it now.

I’m a planner because I NEED to be. If I don’t write down at least an idea or intention of what I’d like to do, I’ll get lost in unfinished tasks, distracted by all the new ideas I have. It also helps to remind me of all the things I actually do accomplish in a given day, week or month.

I hope you enjoyed this…let’s call it, thorough post on me and what I do as a planner. I don’t anticipate future posts being quite this long, but I can’t make any promises.

the bitch is back

1st January 2016

So, I lost all my previous content. Semi-frustrating, but hey, blank slates are inviting, right? More content is coming. My little brain has been churning and bubbling all through my brief long-ass hiatus. Stick around if you don’t want kittens and puppies to die.