I don’t think it’s a secret, among those who know me, that I love a clean house.
And by “love,” what I mean is not only do I like seeing my house all tidied up and clean, but I really enjoy cleaning in general. Even as a child, I loved Saturday morning chores done with my mom. I realize I’m probably in the minority of people who actually enjoy cleaning, and I’m cool with that.
What may not be known, though, is my even greater love for a well lived in home. A well loved home.
As much as I enjoy the wiping down, the picking up, the putting away… seeing how our home works for our family brings me even more happiness. I clean up the mess so we can make the same mess again the next day.
What I share with you is the cleaned up side. I snap photos when my baby is napping and my husband isn’t home, when things are straightened up and the piles are put away. But it occurred to me today that while I like looking at a photo of my living room so pristine, I love the not so perfect pictures of life being lived in our home, too.
These are just close-up shots and you can’t see the bigger mess, the whirlwind that happens between the hours of 8am and 2pm when my little guy is up and running. I clean it all up during his nap, and once he’s awake after his nap around 5pm we get to repeat the cycle. And I wouldn’t have it any other way. Sometimes when I leave Ezra’s room after laying him down for his nap, and I stand on the stairwell where I can see both the upstairs play room and the downstairs living room, in that quiet moment I think how it can’t be possible to love a tiny person this much (especially one whose sole mission, while awake, is to wreak havoc). And yet.
Sticky spots on the floor, an orange stain on the rug, crumbs in the couch, fingerprints (heck, full on handprints) on the television… these are hallmarks, to me, of a well loved and lived in home. These are the things I wipe up and sweep away, but they are also the things I’m trying to remember. And not just remember, but dearly remember. I think every mom has been told, countless times, to hang on to these precious days and while it may be trite, it’s also true.
Dinosaurs and puzzles will be traded for video games and sports gear, one day. The messes will be there, but they’ll be different. And I’ll miss these days.
A lived in home, though, is more than just the sentiment behind what’s piled in the corner. And while I love my lived in home, there are those messes that never seem to go away. The ones that are frustrating, repetitive, and seem to serve no purpose other than to cause annoyance. These are the ones I’m learning to be a little more graceful about. A little more kind. A little less grumbly.
When I’m scrambling to prepare dinner, only to cut the bag of frozen vegetables open at a weird angle and have half of it dump on the floor. When I clean all that up with a toddler under foot, finish loading up the crock pot, and look around at the counters only to realize the mess wasn’t just contained to the floor. When I’ve used up all my energy cleaning up the last spill, the last smear, the last random sock on the floor. When I’m tired. When I wonder, why can’t I get any help around here?
Those are the moments of personal imperfection – of just plain daily life – that I’m trying to equally let go of but hang onto as well. They’re a part of this dreamy haze of being the mama to a toddler and the wife to a husband who works long hours for our benefit, where I’m learning to balance realistic expectations with an idealistic hope. Where I’m cutting myself some slack because I couldn’t finish putting all the laundry away, but the good news is we at least have clean clothes. There’s still beauty here, in the monotony of day to day. These moments still tell of a well loved home.
So, what is the wish for my home? I’ll tell you.
A little more grace. A little less (self-imposed) pressure for perfection.
A little more uninhibited enjoyment. A little less guilt over unfinished chores.
More of puzzle time on the rug. Of trains hidden in cabinets that are not really cabinets, but are actually caves. Of stories made up on the spot about wild animals. Of imagination. Of love notes left in surprising places. Of moments on the couch, catching up on a favorite show.
I wish for my home to be a refuge, to be a gathering place for family, to be quiet when we need it and loud otherwise. I wish for friends and family to know they’re welcome, and for laughter and stories to be captured among these walls. I wish for this home to be a tool we use to build a lovely life, together.
And right now, looking around at my perfectly imperfect living room, I think I can see those wishes very plainly. How lucky we are, so lucky.
I stopped updating here on the blog about my pregnancy when I was nineteen weeks. Which may not have not seemed unusual given my spotty update history, but unlike things in the past, it was a purposeful move.
During my twentieth week, we had our routine anatomy scan. It went really well and we came home knowing for certain we were having a little girl and that she seemed to be following in her brother’s footsteps – healthy, on target. Not to mention those ultrasound pictures. Cutest baby there ever was (apart from Ezra, of course)!
That weekend, I went away with my mom and sister for a girls’ weekend – extra special at the time knowing for certain there was a new little girl on the way.
During the drive down, I got a phone call.
That day in January was cold, as January is prone to being, but the rest of the day I felt this heat inside me as I tried to process the news I was given. An anomaly. A problem. Further testing. High risk.
At the time, I couldn’t believe my luck – given earth shattering news about our second child, and I was hundreds of miles away from my husband. I had to make my own phone call to tell him what was happening, in between more calls from my doctor’s office to schedule upcoming testing that would either confirm or deny what was suspected. It was a whirlwind unlike anything I had ever experienced.
I pressed for a name for this condition, and I could tell my doctor didn’t want to say. I was asking for information that she was reluctant to give which, at the time, frustrated me but now I can see was her attempt at a gift. Because we all know what happens when we have too much information before we have any answers.
She did give me a name, though. Duodenal atresia is what she told me.
Of course, I googled. Who wouldn’t? When you’re given a medical term, you put it into Google and see what you get. At a certain point, what I was reading was overtaking my thoughts, though, and I realized that those words weren’t our story. They were someone’s story, but they weren’t ours. We had two weeks from that point until we could connect all the dots and really see what was on the horizon. I filed away what I had learned from the all-knowing-internet and tried to stay focused on what I did know – that my baby moved like crazy and I felt her night and day, that no matter what the outcome she was ours for a reason.
When that day finally came, it turned out to be a long one that ended with confirmation. Leading up to the appointment, Alex and I had both settled in our hearts that we would hear a positive diagnosis for this abnormality – maybe as a coping mechanism, maybe just to help square ourselves mentally and emotionally. Either way, in that moment we were unfazed. And I don’t mean that in a bad way; I mean it in that we were able to see past what was going on and look toward what the future would hold. We agreed to further testing to rule out any associated conditions, and we waited for the next round of meetings where the plan of action would be laid out.
I think I had cried as much as I was going to at that point. Some tears were in anger over knowing my baby had to struggle from the moment she was born. Others were from fear that I had done something to jeopardize her health. There were tears of just plain sadness, too, at the uncertainty of life and how silly it seemed to feel so confident about having a healthy pregnancy. Babies are fragile. Pregnancy is a risk as much as it is a gift.
Since that day when we received confirmation of her diagnosis, so much information has come our way and I feel as though we are really just now making sense of it as it looks like this pregnancy is coming to an end and we’re about to move on to the next steps of our girl’s journey. What I mean by that is we’ve been told “this will happen” and “this might happen” and so on – but now we’re actually seeing what all of that means.
We met with the surgeon who will correct this issue, the neonatalogist who will care for her in the NICU, a nurse from the NICU who will also oversee her care, maternal fetal specialists at the hospital where she will be delivered, not to mention countless triage nurses (since after every appointment it seems like I find myself in labor and delivery), lactation consultants, genetic counselors, social workers and other specialists.
We’ve learned that the duodenum is a piece of your small intestine that connects it to your stomach, which means it’s integral for digestion. We’ve learned that sometimes there’s no genetic reason (as in our case) why this doesn’t connect, or gets blocked, but that in that event surgery is the fix. We’ve learned we’re looking at a 4-6 week NICU stay, though really we can’t be sure how long recovery will take. We’ve learned that babies who have this mean a high risk pregnancy characterized by a lot of excess amniotic fluid since there is no digestion happening in utero, and that that means a lot of antenatal testing until delivery. We’ve learned that delivery will be early, but hopefully not too early – though it seems like it’s up to my body and whatever it decides is its breaking point as to when our girl will arrive.
I’m 33 weeks now, and the current goal is to get baby to 34 weeks with an ultimate goal of 36 weeks. You may be wondering, why am I talking about this now? This past Monday, I found myself being admitted for preterm labor and I had one of the most terrifying experiences of my life – which I need to write about, and not just for me. Most nights I can’t sleep, not just because of the general uncomfortableness of pregnancy, but also because the amount of fluid I’m carrying pushes my ribs in places they don’t belong, and during my bouts of sleeplessness I think about other women who are pregnant and going through this same thing. I’m not alone; you are not alone. But oddly enough, we don’t talk about what makes us not so alone.
With each small piece of this journey, I see or remember a story someone has told me about their struggle that I may or may not have been sympathetic toward at the time. I feel equally embarrassed at my lack of empathy in that moment and humbled by that individual’s survival strength. Why do we try to gloss over someone else’s struggle? Is it because the thought of making it personal is too much, or is it because we can’t fathom slowing down enough to listen?
I don’t know that the answer really matters, but through all of this I’ve kept silent and now I realize it’s time to speak about it. There are things I will want to share – not just for me, but for you too. You – a mama who heard her baby is going to struggle, who heard a medical term she was completely unfamiliar with and is now learning all she can about it while trying to maintain some normalcy. A family who finds themselves in a NICU at their local children’s hospital, or in a surgical meeting hearing how their child’s issue will be fixed and is trying to separate out the emotion from the reality so they can just hear what’s being said. Dinnertime conversation changed from favorite television shows and random happenings to the most recent medical bill that arrived and whether or not you had six or more contractions in the last hour.
And maybe even more, I want to share because I shared my journey with Ezra. I don’t want to keep this in the dark just because there is something imperfect – which is funny to say because I certainly don’t think of my daughter as imperfect. Something in my head was telling me, though, that these are the things that no one wants to read or see. These hard things are what we hide, because we can’t pretty them up.
So, I’ll share for her, for me, and for you. Especially for you, though, because I suspect people are telling you that it isn’t so bad, that it could be worse, that you’re lucky this is it, and so on – all the things people say because they’re not sure what to say. And while all of that is likely very true, don’t for one moment let anyone lessen your grief, your experience, or your journey. There are no degrees when it comes to something like this, and we all deserve to tell our story.
And this is my baby’s story.
Wow, I have not posted a Looking Back, Looking Ahead since August 25, 2014.
I know you probably don’t find them too incredibly interesting, but they are some of my favorite posts to go back and read (all 9 of them, haha….). I think this is because my specialization for my history degree was cultural history, because I am fascinated by people’s day to day lives and what they value (or don’t value).
Andplusalso it makes me look through my photos, instead of them just stacking up in iPhoto and six months later I have hundreds of photos to sort and I don’t know where to begin. Because that’s what has happened… Anyway.
Mondays and Wednesdays are my work days, meaning my little guy spends time with his grandma – aka “gammy” – and I get some distraction-free writing time. Or knitting. Or whatever needs done.
Lately, my work has been all writing.
Meagan Francis of The Happiest Home recently did an e-course on freelance writing and getting published by magazines/blogs and I took that class so I have been finishing up the homework. I have a lot of ideas for queries to send and I’m getting pretty excited about this, to jump in with something I’ve been dreaming of doing for a long time.
I started 2014 with a lot of goals and I ended 2014 with not much progress on those goals, but a clear picture of what I did not want. I spent the better part of November and December working on a gigantic knitting order of wool soakers. I’ve done an order larger than that one before, but at that time I wasn’t pregnant (and just coming out of the fog of the first trimester) and I didn’t have a very active 2.5 year old (Ezra was only 1.5 at the time). It’s funny how those two things drastically impacted my productivity, which was difficult for me to admit but it turned out to be a good thing because I learned something very important.
I really only recently came to this conclusion, after I realized I was dragging my feet on any kind of goal setting for 2015 – and it’s March now, people, so the newness of the year has pretty much worn away. Don’t get me wrong, I truly enjoy knitting for others but what I don’t enjoy is monotony. And, on a more practical note, I am only one person who is a mom to almost two littles and that means my time is precious and limited. When I have free time, I want to be able to choose knitting because I want to, not because I have to.
So, for now, I am shuttering the shop. But you know what? This is a great thing. I have so many ideas and projects I’ve wanted to work on, and I actually do think I will eventually sell one-off things I’ve made.
All of this to say that for the last three years, I’ve felt torn between pursuing professional knitting – as professional as I could be with limits on time, money and manpower – and professional writing. My goals always reflect this, with me trying to figure out how to divide my time between the two or somehow combine them. Well, after three years I see I can’t make that work. It has to be one or the other, and right now, writing wins. And it’s very exciting to me to have a clear focus, finally.
I want to go into more detail about this thought process when I share my 2015 goals so, for now, I’ll leave it at that and get back to what I was originally talking about…what happened this past week. This happened –
That is a gigantic cinnamon roll from Servatii. I actually don’t like cinnamon rolls, at all, but Ezra insisted on grabbing this thing when we ran into the bakery to pick up some donuts for some special people.
Being the good mom that I am, I got him the cinnamon roll which he proceeded to not eat. This is a thing we are dealing with around here – asking to eat something, then suddenly no longer being interested once said something is purchased/made. But in the case of this cinnamon roll, Ezra’s aunt saved the day and decided to eat it so it wouldn’t go to waste. A big sacrifice for her, I’m sure.
Tuesday was my birthday! I turned 31, and for some reason 31 seems way more serious than turning 30. I feel like 31 needs to be written out like thirty-one, as in woah I am thirty-one?? Maybe that’s just me.
Those flowers are from my parents and sister (and the dogs, too!) and they are so beautiful.
The older I get, the more simplicity I crave in my life and I didn’t want my birthday to be any different. Ezra and I hit up the grocery store and afterwards we grabbed a sweet treat at one of my favorite coffee places. I have been craving burgers lately, so I wanted to go to Smashburger for dinner and that is what we did. Don’t tell Smashburger, but I kind of feel like Five Guys might have a better fast food burger. You can’t beat the Smashburger fries, though. The best part of my birthday meal? My sister made her famous brownies. I cannot get enough of those things!
And there’s an awkward photo of me blowing out my birthday candles, but looking like I’m blocking my child from getting any brownies. Because I was.
Anyway, later that week I tried my hand at some chalkboard art to put in the living room in this little area I’ve set up by the windows.
I will have to take some updated photos of the living room because I’ve changed things here and there. It’s definitely feeling more like a home in our home and less like a beige box.
Thursday and Friday were pretty normal days for Ezra and I. We played a lot, and we headed over to the knit shop on Friday – which was a day full of rain, as in it literally rained all.day.long. – to drop off a sample I had made. Yesterday, Saturday, we ran up to the mall to make some returns and spent the rest of the day hanging out at home.
I have been breaking out my “big” camera – aka, not my iPhone – to take some photos and I grabbed these –
Some more birthday flowers (these were from Alex and Ezra)
And a closeup of my little boy and his wild hair.
Ezra has been telling me that his hair is “so mean” and that he needs a haircut. I had these dreams of Ezra pulling off gorgeous, long locks until …well… forever? But, I can’t abide mean hair so we’ve scheduled a haircut for this upcoming week.
That bring us to today. Spring is here in Cincinnati and the weather is so perfect. We went to the zoo this morning, and so many animals were out and about. My favorite was seeing the bearcat (but I didn’t get a very good picture) because I have not once seen that guy move, and my second favorite was the snow leopards. One was literally against the barrier; I’ve never seen them so close up.
Ezra loves – and I cannot emphasize it enough – animals. Every time we visit the zoo, it seems like he has a different favorite. This time was the rhino. He picked out a rhino stuffed animal and had to hang out for a bit on the giant rhino statue in front of the main gate –
This upcoming week is going to be pretty busy, but I’m looking forward to it. I hope to finish up my queries and get them sent out, as well as take care of some last minute finishing touches on the playroom and Ezra’s big boy room – both of which I cannot wait to share with you. I think the teepee is set to arrive Tuesday or Wednesday, yay!
When I was in the swing of Looking Back, Looking Ahead, I shared a roundup of links at the very end. I don’t have any links for this week, so next week I’ll get back to that so there’s something interesting to check out. Until then, as always, thanks for reading
March 6th – March 12th
How big is baby? She is as big as a cucumber – approximately 15.2-16.7″ tall and 2.5-3.8 pounds. She’s getting big!
How I’m feeling? My last OB appointment was February 16th and I ended up having my March appointment this week, so slightly early. I learned that the following week would start my twice-weekly nonstress tests and amniotic fluid indexes (on top of the growth ultrasounds happening every 4 weeks….plus normal OB appointments… lots of doctor and hospital visits).
I’ve never had a nonstress test so I really had no idea what to expect.
This week was also the week I turned 31! I have no deep thoughts on this matter, haha. I think I have nothing going on right now that I don’t need to wax philosophical about turning 31, but I will say 31 seems a heck of a lot more serious than turning 30 and maybe one day I’ll sit down and think about why.
Any cravings or weird dreams? Dreams, no. But cravings? Yes. A giant burger. All I wanted that week was a giant cheeseburger, so we went to Smashburger for my birthday dinner. It didn’t exactly hit the spot – I think I was really craving a burger from Five Guys!! – but it was still delicious.
Any other details? The weather really started to warm up, with temps in the 40s. And rain. Which melted the snow, so nobody was complaining. Plus, Ezra got to break out his raincoat and umbrella that he had gotten for Christmas.
This was also the week I deactivated my Facebook. I made this decision for a lot of various reasons, and here I am about a month later and I can honestly say I do not miss Facebook one bit EXCEPT for the Timehop entries I no longer can see. But the good news is whatever I posted on Facebook also exists in my iPhoto so I can just look at the pictures there.
I want to write a post at some point about leaving Facebook, because it really was a big decision. But in the meantime, I’ll say that my main conclusion is it pushed me to reach out one-on-one to people, rather than just loosely “interacting” with them on social media by giving a like or generic comment. It’s been really interesting to see all of that change and I’m thankful for it. Plus, I recovered a lot of time!
The only other major thing from this week is I started hearing a lot of “Ezra needs a haircut!” so I made him an appointment to get a legitimate haircut. He had had his hair cut two times, but both times were just tiny trims. But the haircut didn’t happen until the following week, so I had a few days to enjoy those curls still
February 27th – March 5th
How big is baby? Baby is the size of an acorn squash and is approximately 15.2-16.7″ tall and 2.5-3.8 pounds. She’s bumped up a little! And we’re moving into the family of squashes, apparently, with this new designation.
How I’m feeling? I have to be honest and say these maternity pictures were something I didn’t want to do, when it came down to it. And for no real reason other than I felt like a whale and didn’t see how I would possibly photograph well.
I chose Rhonda Meador to do these because of her style. I’d been following her on Facebook for awhile and was always struck at the intensity of her photos – the moody colors, sometimes the seriousness of the subject’s face. It seemed like the right kind of vibe for what I wanted. I love my first set of maternity photos with Ezra (done by aliciahasekoester photography) – but that pregnancy was so different, and that set reflects that. The tone is really fun, lighthearted.
But this time? I wanted thoughtfulness. Dark colors. I wanted intensity. I wanted it to be a session of just me with my girl, to capture the time when she was safe in my belly. A time when we weren’t talking about doctors, appointments, worrying about the future.
I think I got that with these photos. Honestly, I don’t even recognize myself in them. Rhonda made me feel something that I hadn’t felt for most of the pregnancy – she made me feel beautiful, and she made the experience special. When this little girl is older and sees these photos, I can’t wait to tell her the story about how wonderful this session was.
Any cravings or weird dreams? No weird dreams, but sleeping started getting a little difficult at this point. I think I was waking after five or six hours, but I could easily at least get back to sleep. As for cravings, none that I remember.
Any other details? My mom and aunt had mentioned wanting to throw a sprinkle for the baby, and it was around this time they started planning and I had to get a list together for invitations. I wanted to keep it small, so we stuck with family and a few friends. It really got me thinking how my life has changed even in the last year, and how lucky we are to live in this neighborhood with such amazing people. We’ve been here almost a year, and I can say that the friends we’ve made here are so special to us. Thinking about the shower was something really positive to focus on for me, plus it was great incentive to finish up a few other house projects – like the playroom, which I need to write a post about still!