Tag Archives: mamahood

Dear Addison: Before You’re a Big Sister

Dear Addison,

Before anything else, I should mention how much I love you. Not like I love ice cream or doughnuts right now or even coffee. I’m talking about that Mama’s love that aches in its insistence, blinds in its radiance, distracts in its omnipresence and overwhelms in its depth. How much my heart tugs in my chest when you let out a deep, raspy giggle, how a small but constant weight lifts off my shoulders when I see you after being away for any amount of time, how my hopes and dreams for myself and for you are so intertwined that I often can’t tell them apart.

nat addie st pats2

It has been a rough season for you and me, little girl. At times, I question whether I was the best choice to be your Mama. Maybe I’m not wise enough for your independence. Maybe I’m not patient enough to reach you in your strong willed stances. Maybe I’m not nurturing enough to comfort you when you feel hurt or confused or misunderstood. Maybe it shouldn’t have been me.

It positively doesn’t matter, though, because I would not choose to be anyone else’s Mama. Not on the very best days,
when we laugh about beating up monsters and let the breeze whip our hair around swinging peacefully at the park,
or on the very worst days, when tears and tempers flow freely from both sides of this union.

You are mine, and I am yours. For the yesterdays full of chubby cheeks and napping on my shoulder, for the todays mixed of delight and destruction, and for all the tomorrows that may be ahead. I knew from the very first millisecond of your life that I was inextricably bound to you, that this new person had in every way rewired my soul to its own.

So before life changes in a monumental and irreversible way, I wanted to let you know that even though some things will never be the same—
how much sleep Mama gets, how many clean clothes you have at one time, the number of days we get to spend just the two of us–
the way I feel about you is not one of those things. That is constant. That is eternal.

Some of my favorite moments with you are the quietest, so rare in this endless marathon of energy and noise that is toddlerhood. I love doing puzzles with you. It’s one of the few activities you will concentrate on for a half hour, determined to finish the whole thing at one time and so proud when you tap that last piece into place. When I give you a piece, you study it, try it one way, furrow your eyebrows, turn it around, and try it again until it fits. I was so surprised to learn that you actually do have that kind of patience and persistence. It’s mesmerizing.

addie grass

I hear “I can do it myselp” or “all by myselp” 219 times a day. You can go right ahead and thank your “me can do it” daddy for that little trait.

You love to have braids in your ever lightening curly hair, either one Elsa braid or two Anna braids. You are specific, and it’s unacceptable to give you a ponytail when you want braids or leave your hair in one braid when you want two. I’ve learned to take my marching orders seriously.

We still have Flapjack Fridays. You’ve started asking to help, so now you carry your stool into the kitchen and will help pour the pancake mix, milk and blueberries in the bowl. I once let you crack the egg. Yeah, just once for that. You’ll mix it a little and then scoot away to wait for them to cook. Though you’re extremely strong willed, you are very task-oriented and like completing a job you’ve been given.

pancake hands

You are so social, goodness gracious. If there are any other kids at the park, you can’t get to them fast enough. You’d be up for anything if I told you your friends would be there. You also like to call the shots with all those friends and have recently been referring to people, even little kids you met five minutes prior, as “baby.” Not like a little newborn baby but in a saucy, probably offensive way.

“Come on, baby!”
”Let’s go, baby!”

This is usually my cue to take a very important call on the other side of the playground.

addie sidewalk

You like dancing, singing, jumping, sprinting and twirling, all prefaced with an unending loop of “Watch this. Watch this. Watch this. Watch this.” I promise we are watching. Sometimes.

At this particular moment, your favorite movie is “The Little Rascals.” You have a massive crush on Darla and don’t like “Panky.”

You’d live in a tutu and heels if allowed. Trying to put jeans on you is declaring all out war.

I paint your toenails and have, more than once, contemplated bringing you with me to get a pedicure. Maybe when you’re three, professional salon treatments will feel more appropriate.

You’re a lot pickier than you used to be when it comes to food, but luckily there are still a handful of healthy eats you like: fish, peas sometimes, avocado, chicken usually, bananas, eggs, peanut butter, blueberries like a fiend. And because you’re two and I guess signed some sort of contract, you must have regular servings of mac ‘n cheese and Cheerios.

I think you’re going to make an excellent big sister. While at the park with BeeMa the other day, she was telling someone you were about to have a baby brother. You mistakenly thought another little girl was talking about your brother when she said, “It’s icky.” She was referring to the slide, but you were not having any of that and told her, “My brother is NOT icky.” For all the worrying I do about how this transition will affect you, that story is singed onto my mind so that I remember not to shortchange my fiery, passionate girl. You are capable of nurturing, of defending, of bonding with this baby more than I could probably imagine.

addie beam

Your brother and I will have a new, special relationship, of course, but I am so intrigued at the thought of your relationship with him. To see it spark, to see it grow and evolve, and to see it become one of the most meaningful parts of your life and your identity. I am a completely different person than I might have been because I am a sister, and I believe the same will be true for you, in the very best, beautiful way.

I know I always place the blame on you, but thank you for loving me despite my impatience, my tantrums, my mood swings and my refusal to share dessert with you. I am here for you after the toughest days, but you also come back to me for bedtime stories, for pretend “hot coppee” from your kitchen in the mornings and for kisses and hugs on knees and elbows and foreheads.

addie smoothie

I’ll always be yours, Addison Brooke. When you’re a “terrible two,” when you’re a terrible first time driver, when you date a terrible boy that I despise, when that terrible boy breaks your heart and I break his terrible face, when you choose a terrible major or choose to become a terrible University of Florida Gator, when your own toddler is being downright terrible,

and when you suddenly have a terrible little baby taking up space in your house, your car, your schedule and your Mama’s arms,

remember that I am still yours. And you are mine.

nat addie dockFrom My Whole Heart,
Mama

Five for Friday

1. This week has kicked my butt. I am exhausted, irritable, emotional and overall a real treat to be around. A nice representation of the whole week was Maya pooping in the middle of our bedroom, for no apparent reason, at 6:30 a.m. Tuesday morning.

2. Equally as pleasant smelling, Addison has hit a major regression with potty training. I knew I wrote that braggy blog post too soon. She’s potty trained in a month! I said. It was easy! I had to add.

Ha. Ha.

I think she has used the toilet three times since Sunday. And not for lack of being in regular underwear. If anyone has any disinfectant to spare, we’re in the market.

potty training card

3. I am trying to commit to reading more at night instead of the t.v. marathons I usually partake in. Even if it’s only for 20 minutes, I think it will help me sleep better and help prevent my mom brain from turning into complete mush, just in case it’s not already totally liquefied. Jury’s still out. I’d started “All the Light We Cannot See” several weeks ago, but it was just too heavy for me to get excited about right now. I kept opting for my Us Weekly instead. So I looked around for an easy read to hopefully reignite the habit, and I went with “Big Little Lies.” I read somewhere it would be a good beach book, i.e. perfect for devoting minimal energy and even fewer brain cells.

So far, that’s accurate, and I’ve actually turned off the t.v. before 11 p.m. to climb into bed and read this week.

(Source)

big little lies4. My 34-week appointment is this morning. I’m definitely NOT supposed to want them to find that I’m like 4 cm dilated yet, right? Right??

5. Alex & Sierra. Such soothing little melodies. I try to work while listening to them but immediately find myself staring out the window wistfully reminiscing about making out with Clayton on our first date. Oh to be 19 again. (Source)

alex and siera

Gotta go scrub some Elsa underwear. Peace.

Aaaaah freak out

Like I mentioned, Clayton was out of town last week, so I tried to spice up our regular routine.

Tuesday I picked up Addison from pre-school early to catch my brother’s baseball game. He coaches a high school team, and the game was relatively close. My parents came with me, so during the game I had plenty of recruits to help locate, corral and entertain Addison.

IMG_7722The weather was great, the kiddo was behaving and our team was winning.

baseball pano2

Then we tried to leave. Addison bolted in the opposite direction. I wasn’t concerned at all because I assumed she’d come back, plus I thought the back fences of the baseball fields blocked the park from the main road leading into it. I even told my mom not to worry. Look at me being so chill and relaxed, totally owning this parenting thing right now. But Addison didn’t stop. My mom and I stiffened a bit and started moving toward Addison’s direction. She was pretty far away by this point. The closer we got to the back fences, the wider the gap appeared between the baseball fences and the fence to the park. This meant she absolutely had access to the gates, which opened to the road. At rush hour. With cars going 50 mph.

Once I fully realized she could literally be on the street within a minute or two, and there was nothing I could do to stop her – I was way too far away, even if I ran, which I can’t in my current spherical shape – I freaked. We were yelling her name, and she started to slow down as she reached the fences but still didn’t stop. I was jogging at this point and in addition to desperately wanting to get to Addison, I was worrying about hurting the baby, too.

It was one of the scariest motherhood moments I’ve experienced.

She eventually did stop behind a transformer by the fence. Thank God that was there and she felt like she could hide behind it because she was probably so afraid of being in trouble she would have kept right on going. My mom reached her first, but I was just a few steps behind and my terror/rage combo shoved her right out of the way so I could deal with the runaway. It wasn’t pretty. We were in public, so there was a limit to the mad rush of emotion I could display. Probably a good thing.

I must have nailed the discipline and stern so-help-me-God tone because Addison was upset for about six seconds. Then we walked past the playground and she begged to go play. Not feeling particularly playground-y, I muttered some sort of response, potentially laden with expletives, and that’s when she lost it. By “it,” I mean motor control of her lower extremities, as toddlers are wont to do in public, forcing me to basically drag her the quarter mile back to the car on the concrete. Felt like skipping through a meadow holding a feather.

My dad drove home, even though we were in my car, so that I could cool off. I was actually sore the next day from all that activity, either because that scene was so intense or because I haven’t worked out in seven months.

Let’s see, that was Tuesday, so Addison should be free to get out of time out in about four and a half more years.

Five for Friday

1. Clayton has been gone all week. Bye, I’m going to take a nap.

No, it hasn’t been that terrible…or so I said all cocky to myself on Monday afternoon. I wanted to seem brave and independent about the whole thing. That lasted a solid 24 hours. By Tuesday night I was sobbing during my nightly call with Clayton. Pregnant with a toddler is werk, guys! Middle class suburban werk, sure, but still tough.

However, I didn’t buy ONE SINGLE MEAL this entire week. You’d have to be me, my husband or our bank account to understand how monumental this is, but woa. On an average week with Clayton in town, I’m sending him last ditch texts to pick up dinner at least twice. I’m working on it.

mac n cheese

Only the finest for my family. At least the mac ‘n cheese was organic and the sausage was chicken.

2. I even made some food for friends that recently had a baby. They didn’t get mac ‘n cheese. I tried a new recipe and have no idea how it turned out because I didn’t taste test. Always a safe bet as a terrible cook making a brand new dish for other people. Close up, it looked pretty good.

IMG_7733IMG_7737

But cropping can be deceptive.

messy kitchen

As is the case with most of my kitchen adventures, there was a casualty. I left our skillet on the oven too long with oil in it, and there was no salvaging that charred disaster. I’m still smelling smoke at random times.

3. I attempted to sprinkle in some fun outings for our Girls Week. All of them went terribly awry at some point, but whaddyagonnado. More on that later.

For a few minutes, we had fun getting some free froyo after school.

froyo collageAnd then the froyo ran out and a 40-pound hellfire and brimstone storm rained down from the skies on Mama. AKA, she threw a shoe at me. Good times.

4. Finally. Be gone, devil.

buhbye fb 5. This superstar on Instagram. (Ignore my text alert.)

IMG_7740Does she remind you of anyone???

maya collage

From now on, I’m sticking to Maya’s breed as “scruffy.”

Now it’s off to a weekend full of shirking my household responsibilities and lots and lots of take out!

Potty Party

Even though I wanted Addison potty trained months and months ago, she wasn’t cooperative with our early efforts. Knowing her personality, determinedly independent plus strong-willed, I decided to wait until she seemed ready and not stress about it. And then I got pregnant. The window of riding it out became smaller: I firmly did not want two kids in diapers.

We planned a “naked weekend,” which sounds highly more scandalous than it is. I didn’t do a ton of research, so my plan was simply to keep her out of a diaper for three days. She didn’t necessarily have to be totally pantsless, but if she was wearing clothes at the house, she only had underwear underneath.

Great plan in theory. In reality, we were all fantastically stir crazy by Saturday afternoon. And the little stinker waited until the two times we left the house to go in a pull-up. (As committed as we were, cleaning up an accident in the car was not even considered, I don’t care how far back those pull-ups set us.) She seriously waited for hours and then went within minutes of having the pull-up on. Strong-willed, much?

She ended up having two accidents in the house and one at the park – we had to get out! – that weekend. She hated it. After those, it was game on for her. It took about two weeks for her to be nearly perfect peeing on the potty. Soon after she got the hang of using the toddler potty, she wanted to use the “big potty,” so I bought her a princess seat for the top of the regular toilet. Because princesses make everything better. Can I tell you the quote on the potty seat? “Glamour begins with confidence.” I am so close to taking a Sharpie to that thing and changing it to “Book smarts are the ultimate goal.” or “You can’t wash your hands or read too much.” This princess culture is too much for me sometimes.

The “system” we’re using somehow morphed into a complicated algorithm of rules and rewards. I printed charts and hung them outside the bathroom with a sticker book.

potty chart stickers

At the beginning, Addison would get to put a sticker on the chart and get a treat every time she used the potty. Because I was desperate to have this milestone behind us, I also offered a small prize when she finished a row and a great big awesome prize when she finished a whole sheet. It was way too much, and of course she remembered everything I’d promised and made us hoist her up for a sticker and drug us to the treat jar after every pit stop.

potty chart2potty prizes

Also ridiculous were the treats. We had tons of leftover candy from Christmas stockings, so instead of one M&M or one jellybean, homegirl got a full size York Peppermint Patty or a fun size candy bar. There was no messing around. And she learned so quickly that she was having five of those things before lunch.

The small prizes mostly came from the Dollar Store or repurposed Christmas presents from other people. Lots of stickers, some little books, temporary tattoos, that sort of thing. The favorites have been a set of “Frozen” rings and “Frozen” headbands.

IMG_7438Once she finished the first chart, Clayton and I took her to Target and offered her three different presents to choose from. We came home with…surprise, surprise:

elsa doll

Since then, the rules have changed a few times and she’s been surprisingly flexible about it. First, I casually stopped giving her the small prizes. Then, if she didn’t mention it, I bypassed the stickers because it became such a chore to lift her up that much. Now, the stickers and treats are reserved for non-pee scenarios only. This helps buy us a lot of time in between full charts. Otherwise we’d have gone through about four sheets already.

In a month or so, she is about 95% potty trained. She still wears pull-ups, but I think we’ll get rid of those during the day soon. I have been quite impressed with how well and, I don’t even want to say, easy the whole process has been. I mean, there have certainly been messes that I’d like to block from memory and potty training out in public is a whole other nightmare, but overall it seems like we waited until Addison was good and ready. And if she’s like her mama, she’d do just about anything for a constant stream of chocolate throughout the day.

Finally, there’s one item on our Before Baby checklist that’s actually complete!

Five for Friday

I am trying out this totally unique and original concept of listing a few ramblings, products, musings, complaints and the like on Fridays.

1. Clayton’s birthday was this week! He’s kind of a big deal around here. We went to Outback (gift card, hey-o!) and I attempted to make banana pudding for the first time ever. Mainly because I thought it came in a box like jello pudding that you just pour, mix and serve. No, sir. I had to bust out the mixer and re-do several steps. In the end, it was edible, but I need some practice. Good thing I plan to keep that guy around for a long, long time. Even if he pronounces it “puddin’.”

photo 4

pudding collage

2. Addison is officially in a toddler bed, aka crib with the front rail removed. It was awesome the first night and then miserable the second night. She woke up every hour with a new surprise – turning all the lights on, going to the bathroom, putting on a tutu, shouting to me at 4 a.m. that she was doing her princess puzzle, all sorts of exciting discoveries in the middle of the night. Particularly enjoyable were the few times I woke up with a small, silent figure standing directly in front of my face staring at me cloaked in shadows. That’s quite an exercise for the startle and bladder reflexes right there.

The next morning we met with a potential new sitter at a park and I can’t imagine the impression I left on the poor girl. It was BYObigasscupofcoffee day, apparently.

photo 1

It seems the novelty wore off quickly because last night she stuck it out until 7 a.m. I’ll take it.

3. We’re painting the nursery today!

4. Okay, Clayton’s painting the nursery today.

5. Hello, new lover.

Scandal_Season_2Now, I know it seems like I watch a lot of Netflix. That’s because I do. Clayton is smack dab in the middle of studying for his PA recertification, and he actually has the self control to prepare ahead of time. He scoffed at my suggestion to just wing the first attempt and go from there. I mean, you can take it up to four times, c’mon! Anyway, at night while he’s studying I will read, work on my novels, practice the piano, organize the nursery, work ahead for maternity leave, plan meals watch a crap ton of t.v. We downgraded our cable, so Netflix has been a lifesaver. Or something less dramatic. I honestly don’t have the physical or mental energy to do much more than eat ice cream and shed tears along with Olivia Pope after 8:30 p.m.

And that’s this week’s five!

Closure & Contemplation

“The only way to find out if you’re in the right place
is to stand in the place.”
- Amy Poehler

During a brief respite from determining how I can force Amy P. to adopt me, I took a few minutes to watch this Smart Girls video of her speaking on courage. The above quote kept echoing in my head after I heard it for a few reasons.

Most obviously, I thought about our time in Virginia. Clayton and I had been so excited and optimistic to leave Florida. We’d talked about that leap for years, imagined it over and over, and finally had an opportunity. We were so ready. Never in a million years did we think that journey would circle right back to Florida two years later, at our own choosing.

nat shenandoahIn some ways, it felt like we’d failed. Scratch that, it felt like I’d failed. I was the one who couldn’t hack it less than a year in, I was the one looking for PA jobs in Florida (no one would even see me for an interview) after building up this dream of what life would look like anywhere but here. But Ames reminded me that we wouldn’t have known if that move was for us unless we actually packed up and moved. Turns out, Newport News did not hold the Noas’ glamorous, reinvented future. It did, however, hold a lot of military bases, terrible traffic and an insane job in a trauma hospital. (But weekend D.C. trips were pretty fantastic.)

nat clayton dc

So we moved on. I think about those years quite a bit, for better or worse. Maybe moving on didn’t necessarily have to mean moving back, but Clayton and I were both so desperate for relationships. Tampa had a whole vending machine of prepackaged, ready to consume friendships waiting for us. It would have been hard to take another risk in a new city at that point. Plus, I was pregnant and wanted my mommy.

When I think about where we’ll be five or ten years from now, though, I don’t know that Florida is sustainable. Crazily enough, I’m the one who will probably initiate another foray outside the Sunshine State. Clayton has the personality that accepts things as they are; I am the wanderer and questioner. He can’t sit still literally, but I can’t stay still figuratively. After only a few years being back, I cherish the family and friends that fill my life but still wonder what might be waiting. And, quite simply, we won’t know if there is another place for us until we’re standing in that place

Apart from an actual get-up-and-go battle cry, A.Poehls reiterated some thoughts I’ve been wrestling with about my work. Writing as a career in and of itself still thrills me. Factor in doing it from home, on my own schedule, and in between caring for kiddo(s), and it’s oh so tempting to ride this wave as far as it takes me without changing course.

contract

But then some days, like today, I will catch a glimpse of what writing about things and people and places that truly inspire me would feel like. And I know with certainty I could do that. That’s about where the debilitating blackness of the Unknown begins to stretch out ahead. I have no idea what “writing about what I want” looks like. A book, a column, a blog that is actually maintained, a journal that never sees the light of day. Or a more creative day job that nurtures me professionally but prevents me from nurturing my family in the way I am used to.

So far, I have not felt a strong enough pull to make any effort to change my work load. I take what I am given by my current clients, weathering the hectic months along with the silent ones. Thankfully, my income has remained pretty steady and everything balances out by the end of the year. Except for taxes. God forsaken taxes.

Now that baby number that’s-it is coming along, I’ve been getting a different thrill thinking about what comes next. I am sure this was a crux, but it seemed a little pointless to dive into a new lifestyle, hobby or work situation knowing a baby was about to be on board. Could I have opened a new business or enrolled in a doctorate program in my second trimester? Sure. Would it have led to a mental breakdown ending in a murder-suicide primed for a Lifetime movie? Probably. All signs now point to the imminent end of childbearing, and I’ll be “free” to and (eek!) responsible for creating what life will look like raising babies instead of making ‘em.

It’s an exciting proposition to feel like anything is possible. I honestly feel that way, as cheesy and PSA-sounding as it is. I’m looking forward to training for all sorts of running PRs in the next decade, planning trips that require air travel and being able to take the necessary sedatives to follow through with them, visiting far away friends more regularly, and who knows what else. I was semi serious about the doctorate program. Always the scholar.

oh the places

My future second mommy Mama Amy offered an added reassurance that yes, all those plans may crash and burn—okay, not cool to use that analogy related to air travel; double my dose, please—but taking steps to stand in those places, no matter what the result, is courageous. Even more, it’s living.