A year.

What a difference it makes, yeah?

One year ago today, I marked the due date of my little man. Chris and I walked the beach, pondered the adventure just out of our grasp, daydreamed about who our baby would be.

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I was hugely pregnant. Nervous. Uncertain. Excited. Hopeful.

Would I love being a mom? Would I even like it? Would I like my kid? I mean…I know I would LOVE him…but would I LIKE him? (It turns out that I do, oh god, I do)

Could I handle a drug-free, all natural childbirth? Could my body do it? Could my mind? (Yes, yes, yes)

Was Mango a boy? A girl? (BOY!)

What would life look like? Baby at daycare, mom at work…how would we balance it all…would any semblance of the old me remain?

Would the learning curve be as steep as I feared it was? (Steeper, in fact)

Would we make it at least a full year breastfeeding? (We would!)

Would this little person steal my heart, my whole heart, every single little crack and crevice of it? (And then some)

Would I be astonished, floored, absolutely in awe of who I have become, what I have learned, how much I have changed in just one year’s time? (I would, I would, I would)

And, looking back, would I have had any idea of just how very much I would adore a tiny little creature? How hard I would work each morning to hear those little giggles, the sweetest music my ears have ever heard? How I could love something so much it makes my heart weak?

No, I would not have had the slightest idea because I could not have had the slightest idea. But looking back to a year ago today, I would tell myself to buckle up, hold on tight, you’re in for the most magnificent adventure of your life.

This boy.

This week’s prompt:

Everyone has different things that keep them going. Sometimes it’s the  people around us, other times it might be what’s waiting for us on the  other side of hard work. Whatever it may be, there’s usually some sort  of motivation to get up every day, get things done, or maybe even go the extra mile. With that said, what would you say is your biggest motivation in life? Has it always been this way? Source

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This boy.

Motivation incarnate.

Motivation with a smile, a heart, a soul, a giggle. Motivation with love.  So very much love.

MY motivation. To smile, to giggle, to love. My motivation to give a little more when everything in my being is telling me to take. To take a break, to take a nap, to take an escape. But no. Give.

Give smiles, give laughter, give love.

Has it always been this way? Hell no. The magical thing about motivation is that it is dynamic. It moves with us, changes its façade, constantly reinvents itself. In other points in my world, motivation looked a lot like…a softball bat, a field hockey stick, penny candy, a diving board, beer (that might still hold true), a good long run, chocolate, a degree and then another degree, travel, adventure, a beautiful hike, a margarita!, a new dress.

And all of those motivations? They’re…fine. Sometimes great, sometimes…just fine.

But this motivation?

This motivation makes my heart sing. Challenges me to see the world in new ways. To practice kindness. To give more. To take less. To share the joys of a simple day’s adventure with a tiny little man whose heart is so big.

That is where I find my motivation. In the little man’s heart, soul, kindness. And in his giggle. Oh god, his giggle.

Finding time for the soul

Another week, another prompt, this time one week late (better late than never, and perhaps a bit poetic given the nature of the prompt):

We all encounter challenges on a daily basis. You may consider yours something small, like having enough time in the day to accomplish everything you set out to do, or it may be a bit bigger- perhaps something you have to overcome mentally or emotionally, or even a struggle when dealing with a difficult person. Whatever the case, take a look at your daily life- what would you say is your biggest challenge? Or if you have a past struggle you were able to overcome, how did you do it? This week, write about a challenge you currently deal with on a day to day basis, or discuss one you managed to get past. Source IMG_1927Time. I hate that excuse. They (ugh, they, who are THEY?) say replace I don’t have time with It’s not a priority and everything shifts. And it’s true…to an extent. Somehow we make time for our priorities, even if our priorities are watching a shitload of TV, or even if we don’t prioritize the shitload of TV at all but somehow it winds up happening because good lord we feel like we are exhausted and have no time but somehow there’s always that list of shows that we must watch and do watch and there goes the time.  But we’re tired and sitting on our behinds with glassy eyes and a blank stare feels so nice sometimes.

But other times? It doesn’t. It feels…empty. Devoid. Blank (stare).

So what’s the challenge? The challenge is finding the time in our daily routine to step outside of the monotony. To remind ourselves that we do, in fact, have time. Lots of it. If we eliminate the excess, the unnecessary, the bland. Focus on the rich colors of our daily world (this time of year they are the blues, pinks, yellows, of Cadbury mini eggs). Take a breath. Drink a cup of coffee and actually taste it rather than guzzling it because good lord we’re tired.

Okay, guzzle the first cup. But taste the second. And breathe.

Quit telling ourselves we’re going to minimize screen time because, let’s be real, it’s a fruitless endeavor, a failed intention. Instead of minimizing, let’s maximize. Look at things we value. Eliminate the smut. Shrink the reader, the news feed, the things we stare at for the sake of staring rather than for the sake of feeling our soul sing, our spirit grow, our heart beat full.

There are lessons to be found in this journaling. Reminders to savor my time, use it wisely. Gentle taps on the shoulder (they sound like key strokes) telling me to open my eyes, hug my boys, bake cookies, step away from the routine that leaves me feeling bland. Tidy the house, make a photo book, be creative, be me. Step out of the nine to five, because that is all it is: my nine to five. There’s a whole lot more of me outside of those hours, and that whole lot more of me shines far brighter when removed from the cubicle, challenged to soar.

So yeah.

The challenge? Finding time, spreading my wings, remembering that despite recent choices that have led to a more settled, seemingly less adventurous existence, there is still so much of me that embodies the soul of a wandered, the mind of a creator, the heart of a baker (baked goods are love embodied).

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The worst week: take 2.

Saturday 1:00pm, walking into the New England Aquarium:

Me: I can’t wait to see what the little man thinks of the fish! I think he’ll really like the big tank…
Chris: The kid just threw up on himself.
Me: What? Oh…shit.

Being eternal optimists, we carried on with the plan after changing the boy into fresh clothes and cleaning up the stroller (if only we had some Febreeze, we might have forgotten the incident ever happened).  To our dismay, the aquarium was absolutely packed, but we did manage to find a few quieter spots to let the little man gaze in wonder at the fish. IMG_2088IMG_2091IMG_2094

My heart melted. He pounded the glass (No pounding on the glass!), squealed in delight, and eagerly looked back and forth from Dad to the fish to Mom to the fish to Dad…to fish…Mom…fish…fish…TURTLE!

With each squeal, Chris and I felt more and more confident that the barf blip at the entrance was more a product of cobblestone streets and less a product of a sick baby – the relief grew as the minutes passed…until the barfing continued and anxiety, despair, and pity ensued.

Little man was sick…again (and again, and again, and again). Not as horribly as the last time, but still. It’s hard to see a baby not feel well…to feel helpless, unconfident, worried. It’s hard to be cooped up in the house all day (a SMALL house), pacing back and forth from kitchen to living room, kitchen to living room, front door to side door, front door to…shoot me.  And it’s especially hard to lay awake at night (Mom, I finally get it) worrying that the boy will be sick again, listening for wimpers and cries, counting the minutes until daybreak.

I don’t even want to talk about the reality that is work in a week like this. It’s pathetic.

But like all things, worst weeks pass. Worst weeks pass and we all return to our respective normals, as the memory of the worst week fades away into new memories of smiles, baby laughter, and love. Those memories will come.  But for now? I hope worst weeks only come in pairs and not in threes. Oh, please let them only come in pairs.

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Giant checks and cups of coffee and rainbows and…daydreams.

This week’s prompt…make it happen, Kara:

If you had unlimited resources, what political or social issue, or area of scientific or medical exploration would you fund? Do you have a cause  that is dear and near to your heart that you’d put your time, energy, and money into if you had the means? Tell us about it, along with a bit of background explaining where you’re coming from. Source

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Curiosity? Kindness? Simple pleasures? Are any or all of those social issues? Because they are the social issues I hold most dear to my heart, if they are, in fact, social issues.

Can we make them social issues? I think we should. They affect us all…socially…so perhaps they are social…issues. Sure.

I would pour my heart into it. My soul. My everything.

There would be grants, scholarships, big huge checks (in actual size, not necessarily in monetary value) like people only ever really win in my dreams. A random acts of kindness grant with which the recipient could buy coffees all around, pick up a check while out to lunch some day, bring someone a bouquet of flowers just because, deliver a box of chocolates.  A curiousity scholarship with which to travel the country, the world, the next town over. Explore, learn, be curious. It’s the most selfish of simple pleasures. Learning for the sake of learning. Seeing things in a new way…and having a scholarship with which to do so! Oh gosh it would be glorious.

How do I make it happen? Can you imagine it? What fun we could have. It might sound trite, but let’s be real, happy people make other happy people, and if the world was full of more happy people, perhaps we would have less of the heavy, dark, tiresome, real social issues to contend with? Or at least the social issues would be…happier.  Is it too optimistic? Too much to ask? I don’t think so.

So let’s do it. Explore somewhere new. Buy a friend, a stranger, ourself a cup of coffee. Purchase a bouquet, grow a bouquet, deliver some cheer. Be the kindness…be the social issue.  Deal with our issues.  Wait…what? Where did this become about our issues?

Back at it…back on the random act of kindness train. Do something about it, be the change, make something happen. Have faith in yourself, your beliefs, your ideas, you.

Make something happen. Do it, you won’t regret it. No, not one bit.

Now who wants a coffee? This one’s on me (really – who wants one? I’m buying).

Babies and beers: Everett Edition

By the time the weekend rolls around these days, I am READY.  So ready. Tired, cranky, spent, READY.  Ready for some time to breathe, some time with my two favorite boys, some time to just be. And to do chores, clean the house, clear the clutter, blah blah blah.  Whatever the activity may be, I hold my Saturdays very dear to my heart.IMG_2042

So this Saturday, James woke up early as is the norm, and we took advantage of some sunshine and warmer than usual temps to walk to Dunkin for a coffee (no milk in the casa) and to CVS for milk (to remedy the aforementioned problem).  It’s a quick walk, just over a mile roundtrip, but so very refreshing after being cooped up for the winter. James hung out, shared some smiles with me when I invaded his stroller space, and cooed. Oh, baby coos first thing in the morning: you make those early hours so much less painful.

Back home for way too many cups of coffee and a quick breakfast later, we headed out for this month’s Babies and Beers event (event might be giving it more credit than it is due – Babies and beers is a group of us who have babies and like beer, so we get together to share…babies and beers).  It’s fun!IMG_2030

This month called for lunch at Five Horses Tavern in Davis Square before we hit the trail eastbound to Everett.  I sipped on a new-to-me beer with lunch – Troeg’s Nugget Nectar - which was both delicious and fitting given that I’ve called the little man Nugget since the day he was born. Following lunch, the train headed to our next stop: Night Shift Brewing. Stuck in the back of an old warehouse (with horrible parking!), this spot is really neat. You pretty much walk in through their loading dock and are greeted by a sweet little bar area, folding tables, and old wooden casks. And the beer? So tasty!

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We had our fill and headed next door (really) to Idle Hands, a tiny little brewery. Our palates were a little…tired…at that point, so I can’t say that we had the most discerning of opinions, but we all agreed that Idle Hands was small but mighty.  Tasty beers, kind folks, a fun spot.IMG_1999

So Babies and Beers: Everett edition?  An overwhelming success.  Combined with warmer temps and a morning spent outdoors, this Saturday felt as glorious and rejuvenating as all the best Saturdays do.  IMG_2016IMG_2039 IMG_2040

The clutter.

There is so much of it. Clutter. Everywhere.The house, the car, the desk, the mind. Cluttered. This wild child is to blame for some of it, but most of it? It’s me. He just looks cute though, so we look at him instead of clutter.IMG_1900

The goal? Get rid of it. Bit by bit. I’m not out to win any awards, and I have no illusions that I can rid myself of all the clutter. In fact, I’m not sure that I want to (a life devoid of all clutter actually sounds a little…boring?). But some of it? Please. Good lord, please.IMG_1854

I started two days ago. The desk, covered in papers, folders, pictures, crap. After the boy went to sleep for the night, I plugged away, filing, sorting, tossing, recycling. And the result? A clear desktop, orderly files, piece of mind (a bit, at least).

And last night? The old computer, full of pictures, full of memories, full of work from years gone by. Sorted, stored, saved.

So that’s that. Piece by piece, pile by pile, I’ll make my way through it. Again, no illusions that I will clear it all away and find myself in some zen-like state of cleared space and cleared mind – zen isn’t really me anyway. But I do hope to get rid of some junk, tidy up the space (all of the spaces), clear the clutter.IMG_1849

And then, inevitably, to make more clutter. Because in my world, the clutter is a result of time spent on the other…the other activities, the other fun, the other more important things. So we’ll take it…some of it…as the byproduct of good times.  But before we do that, we’ll sort through the old good times’ clutter…because old good times’ clutter is really, frankly, rather annoying.

Soul rejuvenation

I find my world a bit overwhelming these days. I equate it to life moving too quickly, me trying to do too much, never having enough time, blah blah blah, but what it boils down to is that by the time Friday afternoon rolls around, I need a little soul rejuvenation.  I find it in the simplest of places.

The little man woke up early – earlier than usual – on Saturday morning, and while my first instinct was to groan and hope that my husband would get up with him, what really happened was that I crawled out of bed, pulled on some sweats, poured a giant cup of coffee, and enjoyed the most peaceful morning with my son. My tiny little man who is growing less and less tiny as the days pass. My baby boy with the piercing hazel eyes (his dad’s hazel eyes), the asymmetrical toothy grin, and the most generous smile in the world.

We shared one of my favorite simple pleasures in baking a batch of blueberry raspberry muffins.  And then we ate one, okay two, steam still rising, hot out of the oven. He kicked his pudgy little leg in delight, the sign that he’s pretty happy with whatever it is he’s consuming. He let out little baby “Mmm…mmmmm’s,” and I felt my whole being relax.

I have tired eyes these days. Tired eyes combined with a tired body, a tired soul. The weeks wear me out. I’m pulled in a lot of different directions, some of them unbelievably positive, others not so much. And some days it feels like the not-so-positives demand far too much of my time. But when I take a few minutes, early in the morning, with the tiny little man who is so much a part of me, I can’t help but let go of all of those directions, and just breathe. Enjoy. Soak up the time with my little boy. Savor it. Hold it tight for fear of how quickly the days go by, and how soon - I can already feel it – my tiny little boy will not be so tiny.

Tiny or not, I will hold these Saturdays dear to my heart. The early mornings, the hot coffee, the steaming muffins, the wee little man clinging to my hip: these are the ingredients – the perfect recipe - for soul rejuvenation.

This new you.

So I’m beginning – or joining, rather – a project. A journaling project from Sometimes Sweet where I’m issued a weekly prompt, and I write about it. The hope is that it gets the juices flowing, allows for some time to ponder, and gives me a brief few moments each week to get lost in myself. We’ll see where it takes me.

We begin with this week’s prompt (the third in the series, but the first for me):

They say hindsight is 20/20, and with good reason- looking back at something always gives us a better view. We’re often able to really see how our choices and decisions then shaped our today, and examine what we would have done differently given the chance. When looking back though, we often look way back, but for this exercise stay a little closer to present time and look back just 12 months. If you could go back just one year, what would you tell yourself? What advice would you offer about everything you’ve experienced?

March 3, 2013: in my mind, at that time, less than a month away from meeting Mango. In reality, exactly one month until the little man would appear, grasp my finger, coo into my chest, and leave me weak with love. And tired. And rocked. Broken in the best of and the worst of ways. Questioning each move, riding the steepest of steep learning curves, overwhelmed with joy, happiness, tears, a rollercoaster.IMG_0006 (2)

I’ve written before that I could sum up 2013 with the words so much. So much love, so much joy, so much exhaustion, excitement, tears, adventure, learning. So much. To date, I cannot think of any other way to describe it. I think it might forever be the year of so much.

So what would I tell myself? With tears in my eyes, I would wrap myself in a hug, pour myself a cup of coffee and then a wine, and say, you have no idea. You have no idea the joy that will come into your world at the very instant this seven pound fourteen ounce wonder takes his first breath. You have no idea how many times you will question yourself, your instincts, your sanity, your very being. You will be shocked at how strong you are, humbled by the man you call your husband, astonished by what you can - and what you struggle to - do. You have no idea what an incredible year it will be.

You have no idea how tired you will be, nor can you fully understand just how good that first sip of coffee in the morning will taste. You will eat obscene amounts of chocolate. It’s okay, chocolate is soul food.

You will forget things. A lot of things. You will wonder where your mind has gone. You will struggle to regain your identity at work, your identity as home, your sense of self.  It’s okay. It’ll come back, some parts in a different form than they were before, but you’ll find yourself, and you will adore this new you.IMG_1975 (2)

That’s it, that’s all of it: you will adore this new you.

Socially responsible misbehavior

I’m not sure what it is, but I have this pattern when people I love go away where I feel sad and that sadness manifests itself in the behavior of a bad puppy. I misbehave in generally mild ways that really mean nothing in the grand scheme of things, and oddly enough, this misbehavior when I’m abandoned it something I love about myself.

So my mom bakes the most delicious family-recipe Chex Mix (it’s NOT Chex Mix, it’s Nuts and Bolts and it is ten million times better than Chex Mix, but for understanding’s sake, it’s similar to – but way better than – Chex Mix). Everyone in the family has their favorite part (duh, the used-to-be-cheese-Tid-Bits-before-they-were-discontinued-so-now-by-default-they’re-Cheez-Its are by far the best), but a very firm rule exists that one must NOT pick through the Nuts and Bolts.  Handfuls (upon handfuls, upon handfuls) only!  Until the mother migrates South for the winter, and the daughter is left to her own devices. When mom returns? The jar is devoid of all used-to-be-cheese-Tid-Bits-before-they-were-discontinued-so-now-by-default-they’re-Cheez-Its.

Or perhaps should we reference the M&M’s in the candy jar? First browns and greens, then yellows, then oranges, and – ugh – finally, if I must, the reds and the blues. Color by color we go, must to the dismay (disgust?) of the parents.

Fast forward to life in Mongolia: the man of the house disappeared for a few weeks to return home for a visit, and what did I do? Duh, bought myself a beautiful Mongolian blanket because “it was cold in our apartment without you.” No it wasn’t, I just liked the blanket.

And, finally, rewind to last night. The man was gone for one night. ONE night. And what did I do? I purchased myself the most beautiful, socially responsible, helping women around the world scarf because of course it was my civic duty to help these women, no?  Don’t be ridiculous. I liked the scarf, and the man was out of town, so I bought the scarf (it could have been worse – I wanted this one too!).

BUT, at least this time my behavior benefitted not only myself!  Really. Check it out: fashionABLE. It’s a beautiful little story that the company has created for itself. A story that is perfect for folks like me: folks who like pretty things, helping women, and self-indulgent misbehavior.