happy birthday, everett!

Everett, I cannot even imagine my life without you. This is the year you learned to share me with your brother, and you did so willingly, sweetly, generously. I continue to be amazed by your ability to adapt, to change, to go with the flow with a smile on your face. You welcomed Carson with open arms and open mouth kisses, and I couldn't be prouder of the kind boy you are growing up to be. You are fiercely independent, wildly energetic, and full of joy, which continues to be your best attribute.

You make every room brighter and every day better. You will always be the one who made me a momma, and that makes you very special.

I love you forever, sweet boy.

when love is a relay.

For Brett. Puerto Vallarta-9

 

We are driving the same drive we have driven hundreds of times, 90+ miles from here to there, mostly freeway, always stop and go traffic through the city of Davis. It is gloomy and cloudy and the skies are every shade of grey, which is not fitting at all, actually.

It is Easter.

Everett starts to whine, and then cry, and in 10 seconds his face turns green and I know exactly what is happening.

"Get off, we need to pull over!" I yell, followed by a more peaceful, "It's okay buddy, you're okay, it's okay, it's okay."

Alas, we are too late, and chunks are flying out of his mouth.

Carson is screaming his head off, as he normally does during stop-and-go traffic. Brett flies across three lanes and we get off on the next exit. Farmland and a single gas station. That'll do.

We pull into a parking spot and it starts to rain (because sometimes life is like a movie).

Brett hops out immediately to tend to Everett and for the first time that day, I realize it is unseasonably cold. The wind howls and rattles the car back and forth, while my husband of seven years wipes vomit off our firstborn.

I un-click my seatbelt and unbuckle Carson, who is still screaming, and, as it turns out, is covered in spit-up himself.

"I don't suppose we have a change of clothes for Ev?" Brett asks.

"I think there's a sweater back there somewhere," I reply.

I console Carson with a two-minute nursing session. Brett stands in the rain, droplets staining his shirt, and changes Everett out of his barf shirt into the spare sweater. Both of them hop into the front seat, across from Carson and I.

And we look at each other and we laugh because there was nothing else to do but laugh. Everett chimes in with a giggle, and Carson smiles. The car rocks ever so slightly with the wave of the wind while raindrops pelt the windshield.

And we sit there, parked at the gas station on Easter Sunday, all four of us huddled in the front seat, limbs crammed together, listening to the rain and trying to ignore the scent of vomit permeating the car.

This is our life.

***

I've been thinking about how my marriage has changed since having our second baby. We are more tired, of course. There is more laundry to do, more dishes, more baths to give, less of us to go around. We are in man-to-man defense mode most of the time.

You take this kid, I'll take that one. You feed this kid, I'll feed that one.

There is no break, no time to sit, no time to relax. We are always doing something: feeding kids, changing kids, bathing kids, cleaning up spit-up, cleaning up pee, cleaning up toys, cleaning up yogurt, you get the idea. It's ironic how much time we spend cleaning, given that our house is a complete disaster on most days.

We split the responsibilities as best we can. We negotiate time away and we negotiate the chores and we try very very hard not to complain.

Do you want to do dishes or bedtime? Do you want to do baths or laundry? Do you want to go grocery shopping or watch the kids?

It's a cycle, and it never stops. We're two ships passing in the night, half asleep with blue-eyed children in our arms. We're learning the ins and outs of our own exhaustion, our own debilitating frustration, our own shortcomings as parents. We're learning to read each other better, to understand the different types of tired, to notice the I-can't-do-this-anymore looks on each other's faces.

Right now, parenting feels like a giant relay race with no end in sight. We're simply running different stretches at different times, but the race never stops. We're taking turns and running till it hurts, until we need a break, until we're running so fast we can't breathe. And then, when we simply can't go any further, when our knees are about to give out, we tag each other.

Tag. You're it. 

And then it's my turn and I'm running and I'm not stopping and I'm pouring the Cheerios and cleaning up the yogurt and breastfeeding and trying not to yell. I'm behind on everything: work, e-mails, gifts, thank you's, meal planning, laundry, 40 pieces of unopened mail. I'm reading books and doing finger puppets and changing diapers and giving time-outs and I'm going going going with sweat dripping down my face, heart pounding out of my chest, and then it is 6:07pm and my knees are about to give out.

Tag. You're it. 

And then he's running and he's not stopping and he's wrestling and playing catch and tickling baby feet and giving baths. He's exhausted from his day, his job, his stress, the overwhelming burden and privilege to provide for a family of four. He's warming bottles and reading more books and doing dishes and he's going going going, fire in his lungs, and then it is 8:24pm and his legs are done.

Tag. You're it. 

And somedays we have barely said anything to each other aside from hi, how was your day, it was fine, how was yours, it was fine, the kids did _____ and it made me laugh and the kids did _____ and it made me angry and I'm so tired, are you tired? When will we not be so tired?

We ignore the piles of mail, the to-do's that aren't done, and opt to collapse on the couch instead. He finds the Netflix binge du jour while I set up my breast pump and we watch TV with the familiar sound of milk filling bottles in the background.

We go to bed too late, as always, he sets the alarm and I turn on the oscillating fan, and our bodies melt into the mattress side by side. We rest, for just a moment, before the next stretch of running, which comes only a few hours later at 3:02am. Every single night at 3:02am I get up and start running, because it's my turn, while he dreams until 6:47am, and then it's his.

Back and forth, round and round, we're on the hamster wheel that never stops. We're learning to love each other in stolen glances, in midnight whispers, in hamstring stretches and water breaks. A lot of the time it feels like we're parenting separately, running separately, resting separately. I never knew co-parenting could feel this isolated, this exhausting, this lonely in our own house. It feels like we're running in two different directions with two different kids, doing two different things, only stopping occasionally to check in with each other: are you okay?

We're seven months in and I still feel like we're in survival mode, like this is harder than it's supposed to be and we never have enough help and how is my baby still not sleeping through the night? I think a lot of people would say that the transition from zero kids to one kid was The Hardest but my truth is the opposite---zero to one was a breeze compared to this. And zero to one was not a breeze. I think about all the families with three young kids, and four young kids, and five young kids, and I'm just dumbfounded. How are they not drowning?

I have to believe that this is a phase, that this too shall pass, that pretty soon things will click into place and parenting two young children won't feel so stressful and chaotic and physically draining. But the truth is: I really miss running together. I miss parenting side by side.

We'll get back there, eventually, I think. I hope.

For now, I just need to keep reminding myself: even though we're not always running at the same time, we're still running the same race, and we're on the same team, chasing the same prize, and damn---there's nobody I'd rather relay with than him.

inconvenient.

I somehow made it 2.5 years as a mom without so much as even acknowledging their existence. Scratch that---one time I almost got ran over by a couple of kids in the freezer aisle who came barreling past the frozen meatballs, whizzing by me with a blur of metal. I'm talking about the Trader Joes tiny shopping carts.

You know the ones. They're meant for kids to use. I'm not sure for what purpose, to teach children how to steer a cart? To teach them how to grocery shop? To annoy every single other person in the store?

I think Everett noticed them once and inquired innocently, "Momma, what's dat?"

I responded like I usually do when I simply can't be bothered with something as inconvenient as tiny shopping carts.

"Those are shopping carts, buddy! Maybe next time."

He asked if we could buy grapes and that was that. (I am going to miss his toddler attention span when he gets older.)

But I digress.

It was a foggy Wednesday morning and it had been a rough week. When I say rough, I mean there had been an incident involving diarrhea in the car seat. I repeat: Diarrhea. In. The. Car. Seat. We were all a little on edge, we were all tired. We were all sick of potty training and sick of the crummy weather.

We were out of milk and cheese and cereal and even though the idea of grocery shopping with two kids gives me anxiety, I decided to suck it up because I was hungry for cheese and we had nothing better to do. So I packed up the kids and the 84 things required for us to leave the house and off we went.

I don't know if it was the fog or the Sam Smith song playing on the radio or what, but something came over me in the parking lot.

Today's going to be the day, I thought to myself.

It's tiny shopping cart day. (cue dramatic music)

I've been thinking a lot about inconvenience lately, and how bothered I am when things are inconvenient. Getting two kids in and out of two car seats every time I need to run a simple errand? Inconvenient. Spending 45 minutes every day playing whack-a-mole to get two kids to go down for a nap at the same time? Inconvenient. Needing to pack 84 things every time we leave the house so we are prepared for things like diarrhea in the car seat? SO VERY INCONVENIENT.

If I'm being totally 100% honest right now, just taking care of two children every day is pretty inconvenient. Don't get me wrong, my children are miracles and I love them more than life itself but let's call a spade a spade: everything is harder to do with a toddler and infant in tow.

I don't always have a great attitude about it. I sigh loudly and I lose my patience often. I hate that about myself, and I've been thinking about how I can change (both my perspective and actions).

So on that foggy Wednesday morning, I decided to embrace the inconvenience. I mean, why the heck not? Grocery shopping with two kids is already a ton of work. It's already going to take twice as long as it would if I was there alone. Why not turn an otherwise boring errand into a grand adventure for at least one of my kids?

As soon as I fished the tiny shopping cart out of the line-up, Everett's face lit up like a Christmas tree. He felt so grown-up and proud pushing his very own cart up and down the aisles. We stopped at the produce section and I let him pick which color grapes. I started filling his cart with all his favorite snacks: bananas, granola bars, carrot applesauce, cheese sandwich crackers. He trailed right behind me the entire time grinning ear to ear. He almost crashed into two different people, saying "Whoa! Watch out!" each time. I'm sure they appreciated that (good thing he's cute).

When we went up to the checkout counter, he handed every single thing---one by one---to the cashier, naming each item.

"Yogurt!"

"Pouches!"

"Nanas!"

"Cheesy crackers!"

Bless her heart, she let him empty his whole cart. As soon as it was empty, Everett turned to me and said, "Momma, I put it back."

He wheeled his cart back over to the line-up and much to my surprise, perfectly shoved it into the other carts, just as he had seen me do dozens of times. The cashier seemed equally impressed, and handed Everett a sheet of stickers.

As we packed everything and everyone back into the car, I asked him if he had a good time grocery shopping.

"Dat was fun, momma! I wanna do it again."

And you know what? It was fun. It was so fun that for a minute there, I totally forgot it was inconvenient.

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that christmas spirit.

WMHR Christmas-5 WMHR Christmas-1 WMHR Christmas-2 WMHR Christmas-3 WMHR Christmas-4

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WMHR Christmas-9 WMHR Christmas-14 WMHR Christmas-19 WMHR Christmas-20 WMHR Christmas-21 WMHR Christmas-23 WMHR Christmas-24Oh hiiiiiiiii there.

I accidentally took a break from blogging because POTTY TRAINING.

Our Christmas was lovely. It was busy and crazy and messy and involved a 4.5 hour drive that required fourteen stops for Everett to not pee, but other than that, there were pockets of peace in between it all. There was an adorably botched gingerbread house and a sleeping Santa baby and a beautifully set table and a quiet movie night.

Christmas with two kids this year was not as.....intentional as I would have liked it to be. We missed a quarter of our advent activities due to rain and potty training. We missed our Christmas Eve church service due to rain and traffic and a poorly planned afternoon. Our Christmas morning was a little rushed because it takes us two hours to leave the house and we needed to be somewhere at 2pm (we got there at 4:30, don't even get me started).

But hey. We have a toddler and a newborn and we did the best we could under sleep deprived circumstances. Everett was mesmerized by our Christmas tree and loved his gift this year (a super cool ramp for his toy cars). Carson was subject to a lot of hat-wearing and enjoyed his two favorite things on Christmas day: naps and nursing.

All in all, a good Christmas for everyone.

How was your Christmas?

p.s. where to get those chalkboard printables + how to make that DIY advent calendar

is it worth it?

It started with potty training. (It always starts with potty training, yes?)

We began on a Monday, planning to take full advantage of the rainy weather. Our house was stocked: juice boxes, salty snacks, tons of fiber, and two brand new packs of Cars undies. Bring it on.

At the risk of being that mom blogger, this is what I really want to say about potty training: the potty training was easy; the poop training is a whole different story. It’s all fun and games until your toddler gets constipated.

Moving on.

Picture this: Brett and I stuck in the house for an entire week with a toddler peeing on the floor and a newborn that needs to nurse every two hours and so much rain and so much laundry and nobody is sleeping well and is it okay to give your toddler a laxative?

I’m an optimist; always have been, maybe always will be. When I read a book about running a 3-day potty training bootcamp, I assume we will be done potty training in 3 days, maybe 4 or 5 at the most. We needed to be done quickly because on day 5, we had big plans—The Polar Express. We had dropped a serious chunk of change on tickets months ago. It was going to be our Big Family Christmas Experience: a one hour train ride to the North Pole, a visit with Santa, cookies and hot chocolate, and our best friends in tow. All the ingredients for a magical evening.

Poor planning on our part meant that on Polar Express day, Everett was still potty training and Carson was due for his two-month shots.

The day was sheer chaos, as you can imagine. Everett had a tummy ache and in a moment of preventative panic, we decided to put him back in a diaper so he wouldn’t have an accident onboard a one-hour train ride with no bathroom. Anytime Carson was awake, he was screaming like a banshee.

We left the house late, as usual, and our process of getting into the car was worthy of reality television. Sometimes I wish we had a nanny cam set up in our garage to capture the pure shitshow that is our family trying to leave the house with two kids.

While Brett put both kids in the car, I triple checked the diaper bag: burp cloths, diapers, pacifier, Solly wrap, extra change of clothes for both kids, sippy cup for Ev, snacks, wallet, phone. Check check check. I could hear Everett whining from the car for his hot wheels jeep because he simply cannot function with less than four toys in the carseat with him.

Forgot a jacket for Everett. Forgot a sweater for myself.

Back inside. Back inside.

My phone had 20% battery, need the USB charger. Back inside.

(Heaven forbid my phone dies and I no longer have the ability to capture these impending magical memories.)

Carson woke up screaming bloody murder, red face, hyperventilating. Need Tylenol stat. Back inside.

Where’s the syringe? We have no syringe? What happened to our medicine syringe?! WHY ARE WE SO UNPREPARED FOR LIFE AT THIS VERY MOMENT?

We pulled out of the driveway as Everett was crying and Carson was screaming. Brett and I looked at each other and laughed, not because anything was funny but because everything was stressful in a way that makes you laugh awkwardly as a coping mechanism. This better be worth it, I thought to myself.

We parked in the structure and started walking towards the ticket station. It was cold and just starting to rain and Everett was complaining that his tummy hurt and Carson was squirming in the wrap, attached to me with a permanent “shhhhhh” streaming from my lips. Our friends showed up and saved the day with a syringe, like drug dealers only better.

Once aboard the train, we all got settled. There were children everywhere. I shouldn’t be allowed to say this because I am a mother but when there are children everywhere, I want to evacuate. This is how I know I am not meant to be a preschool teacher or a childcare worker or even a nanny for more than three children. Our train was very, very loud.

30 minutes later we arrived at the "North Pole". Carson was starting to fuss so I rocked my body back and forth, holding him close in the wrap and shushing him as best I could. I looked over to my right just in time to see Everett with his hands pressed against the window, taking in the sights. When Santa came into view he started waving in that adorable way that toddlers do, shaking his entire arm back and forth with excitement.

“Hi Santa! Hi Santa!” he said over and over again.

I stared at him, desperately trying to see Santa from his perspective. I tried to see the magic that he saw. The innocence. The belief. For two minutes, I forgot all about potty training and the rain and Carson’s shots and the drama of us leaving the house. For two whole minutes, I watched the world through my toddler’s eyes and my heart skipped a beat watching pretend snow fall over pretend elves wrapping pretend presents.

And then those two minutes were over.

And then Carson lost his mind. The only thing worse than a screaming baby is a screaming baby in a confined space, such as a train. I frantically ripped him out of the wrap, attempting to unwrap fabric from my body while simultaneously unsnapping my bra strap and arranging the nursing cover around my neck.

Santa was on the train now, walking down the aisle passing out bells. He nonchalantly threw two at me and made a joke about me having my hands full.

Getting off the train was just as much work as getting on it. Can you take the diaper bag? Don’t forget Ev’s blanket. I need to get the wrap back on. Is that your sweater? Where’s my phone?

We walked back to the car and Everett started to cry, complaining of a tummy ache again. Carson screamed while I wrestled him into the carseat. I wish I could scream sometimes and get away with it.

Brett and I climbed into the car last, exhausted and hungry.

What do you want for dinner?

I don’t care.

I’m hungry.

Me too.

Should we stop and get something?

With the kids melting down in the backseat? No.

We lament over everything: the potty training, our empty fridge at home, the diaper bag that is never properly packed. I tell him that sometimes I am tired of life feeling so hard. That in the grand scheme of things, our life isn’t hard, but that taking care of a toddler and a newborn is a special kind of difficult. I feel like I spend hours and hours and hours trying to get us to wherever we need to be, just so we can be there for 30 minutes and not fall apart. It feels like it takes all day to prepare for something like The Polar Express just so I can watch my toddler wave to Santa for two whole minutes.

And I am left with the burning question: is it worth it?

Truth be told, it would be a lot easier to stay home and turn on the TV than go anywhere with two kids. It would be much easier to be permanent homebodies, only leaving the house for an occasional run to Chipotle when necessary.

But what kind of life is that?

And this is where being a parent becomes tricky because when you are a parent, you live an entirely different reality from your child. When I talk to Everett about The Polar Express, he remembers going on a choo choo in his jammies and eating a cookie and seeing Santa. And to him, it was perfect. He doesn’t remember (or care) that it was chaos getting in the car. He doesn’t remember or care that his baby brother was screaming half the night. He probably doesn’t even remember that he had a tummy ache. Those two minutes of magic that I witnessed? Those two minutes were the whole night for Ev.

And maybe that's just what parenting is in this season. Maybe this is what life will be like for the next couple of years raising two small children who seem to need something every second of every day. Maybe I will spend 95% of our days working and preparing and cleaning and packing and checking and double checking and triple checking that damn diaper bag. All so that we can have 5% magic in our lives.

Is it worth it?

You tell me.

adaptable.

Everett-14 Everett is two years old and has already lived in three houses. That's....weird.

Each time we moved, I had a minor anxiety attack about how our move would affect Everett. I was worried we would disrupt his routine, his sense of normalcy, his safe place. Will he be confused? Will he have a hard time adjusting? Will he be sad? 

And every single time we moved, the answer was no. Everett marched right into his new bedroom, marked by the boxes with toys carefully packed inside, and started playing as if nothing had happened.

As soon as he figured out where the toys and snacks were kept, he was home.

When I was pregnant with Carson, I spent a lot of time worrying about how Everett was going to react to his new big brother role. I worried he would be jealous of a new baby, and become needy or whiny. I worried that his wonderful sense of independence would be replaced with a sudden desire for attention. I worried about his attitude, his sense of security, his identity as my former "baby".

And then we came home from the birth center with Carson in tow and it was as if he had been there all along. Everett gave a general nod in his direction, said "hi baby bruhder!" and continued playing with his hot wheels like it was no big deal. He was unfazed. Unchanged. Not disrupted in the slightest.

His interest has been slowly growing. He loves to turn on Carson's swing, and insists on sitting on the bathroom counter when I give Carson a bath. Anytime Carson cries (which is kind of a lot), Everett responds with a quick, "Baby bruhder, it's okay!!!"

I keep waiting for the other shoe to drop. I keep waiting for it to hit him, this huge life event that just took place while he was sleeping one Saturday morning in October. I keep waiting for a tantrum, a fit, a dramatic scene of some sort. I keep waiting for my two year-old to acknowledge the bigness of this, the drastic nature of what has just happened to our family---we grew by an entire person.

And....nothing. There is nothing. There is just Everett and his hot wheels and his Cheerios and his new balance bike that I found on Craigslist a couple weeks ago. Cruising right along enjoying life just like he always has.

As if there were always four of us. As if this house we've lived in for a few months was always our home.

I will continue to worry about Everett for the rest of my life. Of this, I am sure. I will worry about him when he heads off to preschool and when he drives a car for the first time. I will worry about him when he falls in love and gives his heart to someone else. I know at some point, change will affect him differently than it does today.

But in the meantime, I am going to just sit in awe of this boy of mine, the most adaptable kid on the planet, and continue to watch him take on change like it ain't no thing.

on time, two kids, and the importance of marveling.

Lee Brown Photography -34"It’s almost as if I had no concept of time prior to having children. I’ve spent my whole life waiting for the next stage, the next season that was surely going to be better than the present. The grass was always greener on the other side---in the future. I spent all of high school dreaming of college and all of college dreaming of my career. I spent all of my years dating dreaming of marriage and all of my marriage dreaming of babies. Dreaming, always dreaming, of what’s next and what’s to come.

And now, for the first time in my whole life, I’m not dreaming of what’s next. Because I know the season on the horizon; I know what’s next. And what’s next is me not having babies anymore. It’s a body that is done being pregnant, done birthing babies, finished breastfeeding forever. That thought haunts me in a hundred different ways.

Because as exhausted as I am today, right now this minute, pouring every ounce of myself into this newborn and toddler, wiping spit-up off my shirt and emptying that stupid dishwasher for the eighth time this week, I cannot even begin to imagine a life without babies."

....read the rest over at Coffee + Crumbs today.

our newborn photos.

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So, that's crazy.

My sweet friend Lee took these pictures for us last weekend when Carson was two weeks old. We bribed Everett with ice cream and it worked for, oh about two whole minutes. Good thing he's ticklish.