Never

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When I was little, I was never going to wear a skirt. Or paint my nails. I was absolutely never going to have a boyfriend. Gross.

I was never going to swear.

I was never going to disobey my parents. What could I ever want to do that would upset them anyway? We were buddies.

I was never going to drink. I’d accidentally sipped a beer on New Year’s Eve once and gagged. Why would I ever do that again?

Later, after I’d done all these things, I was never going to settle down. There was absolutely no way I was moving out of the city — any city. I was never going to stay put or learn to cook or choose paint colors.

Until I did.

And then I was never going to be the mom that wore stretch pants or my hair up for days or sobbed uncontrollably because sleeeeeeep. I was never going to say, “Maybe we should think about an easier trip” or “I need help” or “I forgot to feed the dogs.”

I was never going to be that girl. That woman. Mom. Wife.

And the more pregnant I got, the more I thought, maybe I’ll never go “back to work.” My mom was a stay-at-home mom and it was the best. Maybe the job I’m meant to have is raising a baby into a child into a teenager into a faux-adult into a real adult — the hardest job in the world.

Then Forrest came and thanks to my husband, I got to spend 6 months at home with him. It’s been perfect. And awful. And joyful and miserable and incredible and boring and the most surreal 6 months of all time. And somewhere in there it occurred to me that I did want to get an additional job, but only if it would complement my full-time gig.

So I did. I got a job as a writer for a brand that’s doing important things, and one of those is to let me work from home. I’m so grateful, and hopeful that more companies realize how doable and effective this can be. Yes, Forrest goes to daycare and yes, someone else may see him crawl for the first time —someone who’s not me because I chose to work. But we’ll all survive that.

I’m not trying to do it all because I can’t. Since I started this other job, I’ve barely cooked. Clean laundry sits on the dining table for days. I have 23954396 phone calls to return. Last night, my husband had to take care of Forrest until bedtime because I had a deadline to meet. It’s not perfect.

But it feels like the right choice for us, and that’s enough.

And it means I can’t write here as much, but I hope to check in and record these fleeting feelings and trials and moments.

Because of all the nevers I’ve nevered, I never want to forget this part.

Music

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We are sick again.

I love that Forrest is meeting new friends at “school” and learning things I wouldn’t think to teach him and, as my dad insists, “building his immunity.” But I hate that every other week, we are sniffling, sore-throated and sleep deprived. It’s unavoidable, and even if he weren’t in daycare, it’s that time of year so inevitably IT is going to end up in my bedroom, screaming through the monitor with runny-nosed agony at 3 am.

And when he gets it, I get it. Cold, check. Stomach bug, double check. Hand, foot and mouth? Oh yea. Big time.

This weekend, we both had a nasty cold and after fitful attempts at sleep, we had to do something.

So at nap time, I crept up to his nursery, sweet, snoring babe in my arms, set him in his crib, turned on the white noise and, curve ball, placed my iPad near the crib.

Side note: When I was little Kennedy, my dad drove me to school, just the two of us. We’d listen to one of two things, Hall & Oates or George Winston, a pianist. There are better pianists, but because of this father/daughter carpool, he’s my favorite. I remember my dad saying he wished that he could play the piano and I remember thinking, “You can do anything.” 

So, I turned on Pandora and tapped George Winston. Then I crept out as though the floor were fragile glass covering a fiery abyss.

Flash forward an hour and a half and despite the runny nose, despite my husband and I clanking around downstairs on house projects, despite our audible disgust when our dog presented a dead mouse as though it were the one thing missing from our lives (true story), Forrest was still peacefully asleep.

According to smart folks, any sensory experience, such as listening to music, impacts a baby’s brain and emotional development. There’s no scientific evidence that a certain type of music, such as classical, has any more influence than another genre, so you can back off on the Bach if he’s not your jam.

The point is music, at any age, is proven to be good for the soul.

So hopefully, it’s good for the sleep.

If you could listen to only one artist for the rest of your life, who would it be?

 

 

 

 

 

 

Road Trip

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There was this road trip my husband and I took a few years ago. It started in Salt Lake City and wound through Bryce, Zion and Grand Canyon National Parks before finally, windows down, radio crooning, hands holding, it unwillingly ended at the airport so that I could fly home and he could stay behind and we could hang onto every last detail of those perfectly imperfect five days.

Every February, we escape the New England cold for warmer climates. This year, Forrest in tow, we loaded the car for our first, big family road trip and headed down the east coast.

And here’s what I have to say about it.

  • After you have a child, get stuck with your partner somewhere. Get stuck somewhere without distraction, where no one can look at phones or remember to change the laundry or fall asleep or do anything but be together. Then talk. Ask questions you’ve been meaning to ask and mention things you’ve been meaning to mention and say, “How are you?” and really listen to the answer. And hold hands.
  • Give yourself permission to rest. This is hard for me. Rest feels like time wasted. I am so wrong; it so is not. Rest makes us better people to ourselves and to the people around us. Rest makes us better parents, partners, mothers, fathers, friends, daughters. Lack of rest is abusive and selfish. You’re doing no one any good by toughing it out. Whatever you have to do to get it, do that thing. Separate yourself from the scene. Ask for help. Put it in your calendar. Whatever it is, just rest.
  • America is beautiful. I’ve been struggling with my American pride during this joke of a presidential campaign, but step out of that circus tent and man, this country is stunning. New England with its bare, wintry trees and winding, billboard-less highways. New York to Washington DC, commerce and universities and industry and development and stature. The South, where I’m from, and even on cruise control, the car seems to slow down alongside houses too close to the highway, where big, green trees rooted in a tormented history sway to the sweet, soft sounds of Southern charm. All along the coast, people and accents and cuisine from such different places, crowded within this singular, confused, beautiful country. It was good to see it.
  • We had more fun as two, but we’re more full as three. This is hard to write and I know as Forrest gets older and more independent and can do more stuff, we’ll have more fun than we ever had. For now, he’s a lot of maintenance and doesn’t sleep well in new environments. My husband and I used to pull the car over on a whim to lie down in a pretty pasture. That’s a real thing we did. But, we got to introduce Forrest to family and they held him and we were so proud and he made us laugh with his backseat coos and he hugs and tries to kiss now, and he’s ours. Our two made this three and we get to have adventures together now, and it’s everything I can do to contain my heart when he and my husband hold hands.
  • Invest in the people who make you and your life more joyful. No amount of energy, chaos, time or money is too big an investment in those people. Period.

It’s good to be home.

If you were driving cross country and could take anyone with you, famous, friend or family, who would you choose?

Vacation!

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This is it. Our first, real family vacation. We’ve flown across the country for sun and sea and I’m so excited.

I’ve never traveled with a baby so I polled experienced friends for tips. There are so many! Bring your own car seat, curb check, wear plane-friendly clothes for babe and breastfeeding-you, where to sit, when to board, buy diapers when you get there and for the love of GOD get an aisle seat.

Thank goodness for good friends because all of these tips were employed. But, there’s more to being prepared than the logistics, isn’t there? A couple days into vacation and I’m realizing it now.

I’m seeing that from now on, vacations will be different.

There are plenty of resources on how to logistically travel with baby, so here are some thoughts on how to be emotionally ready for your first family trip:

  1. The plane ride is no longer down time. Remember when you’d board, the headache of checking in and security behind you, and exhale. Ahhh. Earphones in. Book out. One Stella, pleaseandthanks. Not anymore. Your sole focus is on hushing the baby so as not to disturb other passengers having the aforementioned moment of Zen. The seat has never felt smaller, the stuff never stuffier. You can’t feed him yet because you want to feed him during takeoff. So, you make the noises and do the cooing and then finally, takeoff. He eats. He sleeps. Two Stellas please. Relax for now. Then he wakes up. Back to the noises, cooing and overfeeding.
  2. You will forget something. The sooner you accept this, the better. Map out the closest grocery store to your destination so that when you realize you left the formula, wet wipes, etc. on the kitchen counter, you know where to go.
  3. Your schedule is not your own. I don’t know why this surprised me – my schedule hasn’t been my own for five months – but for some reason I assumed that we’d go on vacation and Forrest would be up for whatever, whenever. I was wrong. Much like at home, your baby is a baby. He eats, naps, gets fussy, poops at inconvenient times. And he’s doing it all in a strange environment, three hours earlier than normal. So don’t expect this to be a vacation from parenting. On the contrary, you’ll take a few steps back while he adjusts to the newness, which stinks. I think I actually looked at Forrest and said, “But, we’re on vacation!”
  4. Something will go wrong. My husband and I pride ourselves on our ability to wing it. We rarely make reservations. We never pack as much as we should. We’re predictably late. But, it always works out because, hey, it’s just us and we’re winging it! Not so fast, Footloose and Fancy Free. You have a baby now. So, this time, we prepared. We got TSA pre-check, we categorized Forrest’s outfits, we triple checked the airplane bag, we ordered diapers to be delivered to our destination. We nailed it! Or so we thought. In all my worrying that Forrest would catch something on the plane, I never imagined I would. I spent our first 36 hours of vacation sick as a dog, unable to eat or move, much less play in the pool. Thank you to my wonderful family, who stepped up to parent in my sickly absence.
  5. You’ll be a new kind of happy. It may not be the vacation of days gone by, when every hour was happy hour and you had not one obligation, but it will be a new kind of happy. You’ll see your child play with his grandparents, everyone unhinged with laughter. You’ll see how joyful your partner is lathering your baby with sunscreen. Your babe will see things like the ocean for the very first time, and he may not remember that moment, but you will never forget it. You’ll nap when the baby naps and wake up with the crunch of a towel under your cheek and baby drool on your chest and be a little sweaty and a lot blissful.

You’ll be more grateful than ever that you get to travel at all, because now you get to share it with this brand new person, and he’s soaking up every last drop.

On that note, I’m taking my Pedialite back to the beach. For those logistical tips on traveling with baby, here are a few of my favorite resources:

Have Baby Will Travel

Pregnant Chicken

Science of Mom

Safe adventures, everyone!

If you could pack up and leave tomorrow with your child, where would you go? 

 

 

Time

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In those early days, when I couldn’t see straight from the sleeplessness and had no anchor by which to assess the passing of time other than how long my roots had gotten, time stood still. If you had held up your hands to look like a camera, thumbs and index fingers touching, and “clicked” at any given time, the picture would have looked the same: me, haggard, hunched over an insatiable baby.

Someone said to me, “The days go by slowly, but the years will fly by.” Umm, thanks for reminding me I’ll be doing this for years. This was literally me.

But, now I’m starting to see it. Forrest is almost five months old and he’s sitting up by himself and rolling over and he thinks yawning is as funny as I think this is. How did we get here so quickly? Our days don’t fly by the way they did when I was bouncing from meeting to ineffective meeting, but what happened to January? No really.

What if I don’t want the years to fly by?

What if it’s already zooming by too fast?

What’s the cause of this phenomenon and HOW DO I REVERSE IT!?

It’s raining and gross and we can’t play outside, so I decided to dig. As luck would have it, some very thoughtful thinkers have pondered this for years. More accurately, they’ve questioned why time seems to speed up with age, but I figure we can draw some comparisons.

For the sake of getting dinner on the table, I’ll summarize the most popular theories below*:

  1. We track time according to memorable events, and there are fewer memorable “firsts” as we age. Think dates, kisses, school milestones, etc.
  2.  When we’re young, we’ve lived a high percentage of our total life, but as we age, that percentage decreases, so relatively speaking, time seems to have sped up.
  3. There may be some unnamed “internal pacemaker” that slows as we age, so in relation to consistently progressing clocks and calendars, we feel like we’re moving slower, or time is moving faster.
  4. As we age, we celebrate significant moments less vigorously and with less anticipation, so they can seem to fly by. This one devastates me.
  5. That dreaded six-letter word: stress. The more stress we feel, the less we live in the moment, so as we age those moments fly by unnoticed and all of a sudden, Holy Summer’s Over Batman! It’s true, but seriously why do we do that??

Okay, so what can we do?

Maybe the only one we can really manage is that last one. If stress has anything to do with how fast the years with my son will pass, I better try, right?

Then, here’s my challenge to myself. For every moment of stress I feel, because I will, I’m going to escape for 60 seconds to the one place I always find serenity – the outdoors. I’ll step outside, open a window and look, watch Forrest weave a leaf between his fingers, squint at the sun.

I’m at my most peaceful out there and so is Forrest. From the time we brought him home, the only sure way to quiet an outburst was to open the door and step out.

And maybe, just maybe, even though I can’t eradicate stress from our life, I can forget about it, even if for a minute. I can create a different moment in a peaceful place and I can pause to be shamelessly distracted.

Then maybe, instead of revving up with anxiety, time will take a breather. It’s worth a try.

What can you do to stress less?

 

*Friedman, W.J. and S.M.J. Janssen. 2010. Aging and the speed of time. Acta Psychologica 134: 130-141.

Janssen, S.M.J., M. Naka, and W.J. Friedman. 2013. Why does life appear to speed up as people get older? Time & Society 22(2): 274-290.

Wittmann, M. and S. Lehnhoff. 2005. Age effects in perception of time.Psychological Reports 97: 921-935.

 

Cold

IMG_4533My nana called pneumonia, “PNEU-monya.” It slid off her lips with sluggish Southern charm, “Chile, you go outside in this, you’ll catch PNEU-monya.” I’d smile dismissively, double knot my sneaks and run off, laughing at silly, ‘ole Nana.

Now, I’m a mom. Forrest is only four months old and it’s February in New England. He must be dropping lbs in water weight from an interminably runny nose and his hands are freezing all the time. If he runs a fever, we have to go the ER, where he could need a spinal tap and will definitely be poked and prodded and hate me always. I’m sure of it.

The fresh air always makes us feel better, though, so we apply the same logic to young Forrest. Enough blaming cold weather for the common cold; we know better. We have iPhones and hashtags and the shared economy and we’re so progressive. Listen to us.

So, we wipe his nose, bundle him up, and head out, blanketed by our presumed rightness. Pneumonia, shmeumonia.

But, are we right?

I actually had no idea, so I did a little digging and it turns out, maybe not.

If I had written this a couple of years ago, I’d have reported that the only real line you can draw between cold weather and a rhinovirus is that when it’s cold, people tend to congregate in confined, indoor spaces, thus the virus is easily transmitted.

Today, the case is a little more complicated thanks to a team of scientists at Yale University, who apparently set out to vindicate Nanas everywhere.

In short, the researchers infected mice with a strain of rhinovirus, looking not at their immune system as a whole, but at the cells that line mouse airways specifically. At normal body temperature, the cells could defend themselves and their surrounding cells against the infection.

BUT, duh duh duuuuuhhh…

When the scientists dropped the temperature, the cells were compromised. Their defenses were much weaker, allowing the rhinoviruses to invade and even multiply.

This is me.

Smart people are digging deeper into this revelation before conclusions are officially announced, but suffice it to say I’m a terrible mother and my crazy-pants Nana was right.

Okay, but really, what’s my personal conclusion? I’m not going to stop taking Forrest outside because it’s cold. That’s crazy talk in our neck of the woods. But, I am going to stock up on toasty, indoor activities for his sick days to give those airway cells a boost.

I’ll let you know how it goes.

What old wives tale have you adopted as truth?

 

Self

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Over the past week or so, I started feeling boring. Not bored; boring. I’m four months into motherhood and it feels like my globe trotting, last-minute, backpacking self is a distant, mocking memory.

Maybe that spontaneous spirit started looking for another life to lease when my son, Forrest, set up camp. Maybe this is the “new me.” Maybe that’s how it goes.

But, no, that’s not it. That can’t be it because I can feel her in there.

And she’s pissed.

She’s tapping me, whispering stories, taunting me with a glass of all the things we used to do and be and they’re slithering down my throat, and all of a sudden I’m choking on a licorice laced cocktail of whatifs and usedtos.

Because now what? Now we go to Home Depot. A lot. We go to Home Depot and come home and build things and paint things and figure out how to DIY things, all to make this house our home.

Yea, we do other stuff, too. This weekend, we headed to the Catskills for some would-be-snowshoeing-turned-hiking-because-El Niño, and I’m training for the Boston Marathon, which makes me feel a little more connected to my former self, which is in truth probably why I’m doing it.

At times, though, I guess it feels like my outdoorsy, world-wondering self is focusing a whole lot on what’s indoors, right here at home.

And here’s the kicker: I like it. I love how hard we’re working on making these walls and a roof our home, and I love that Forrest sees that. I love that he’s haggled at flea markets with me and hung out in the wood shop with his dad.

He’s a part of this, and I hope that if he sees us labor with our hands and heads then maybe he’ll default to using his, too.

But…

With the same verve as ever, I love all of the places my husband and I have ended up because we’d never been there before or, “What’s down that road?” I love the clunky weight of hiking boots and the sandy crunch of unwashed trail hair and that moment when you look up and…sigh…that view!

So…

Maybe there isn’t an easy answer. The best I can come up with is that I need to embrace both selves; more so, I need to be proud of them. By enjoying our home and nesting in our community, I’m not betraying that spontaneous spirit. And, when my family and I hit the road next for parts unknown, we’re not abandoning home.

If I give myself permission to be both, accepting that compromise is part of the deal, maybe the result won’t feel boring at all.

What does your “other self” whisper to you and how do you answer?