Today is my son’s 5 month birthday. I can definitely say that I’ve fallen in love with the little guy in the last couple months. I guess all the attachment parenting tactics have been working for me – breastfeeding, baby-wearing, co-sleeping. I know you’re not “supposed to” co-sleep, and I actually prefer not to but I just can’t keep getting out of bed every time he wakes up in the middle of the night. So he sleeps in his crib part-time and in our bed part-time. I never planned to co-sleep with my daughter either, but it also became a necessity…and it’s only since Paul’s been born that she’s been willing to sleep by herself. Anyway…

I feel almost back to my normal self. Definitely not thriving like I was during my pregnancy, but it seems like my hormones have stabilized enough that I’m no longer feeling as moody. I feel exhausted but mostly okay lately. The one problem is that I’ve been so sleep deprived that now I’m having a hard time sleeping even when everyone else is asleep. The little ones are both asleep now, so I should quickly wrap up this post and try to get to bed.

I’m looking forward to preschool starting again soon. Of course I love my 3-year-old, but I know we’ll both be happier once she’s back in school. She needs kids to play with, and I need some time to do the dishes without being interrupted by “Mom you pretend to be the Evil Queen and I’ll be Snow White, okay?”

In other good news, I got an email from an editor today saying that my travel articles were good, and that he wouldn’t say it if it weren’t true, because he’s worked with a lot of “terrible” writers lately. So that made me feel good. I’m glad that I’m staying connected with my career even though I don’t get the opportunity to work very much right now.

My sweet baby boy is almost crawling already. That puts him about a month ahead of his sister, which was already super early. He also has a delightful laugh. Just thinking about his laugh makes my heart melt.

I was hanging out with a new friend yesterday who’s a first-time mom of a 2-month-old. She seemed to be coping as well as could be expected, but it reminded me of how overwhelmed I felt when I was a new mom. I thought of all the mama skills I’ve gained that have helped make my life easier.

Not easy mind you. But easier – today I was able to accomplish taking my four-month-old and three-year-old with me to the grocery store. And I also did laundry. And applied for a job. And tonight we took the little ones out for pizza and dancing. So it was a productive day.

My friend Catherine writes a blog called The Ten Thousand Hour Mama. There’s a theory that if you spend ten thousand hours practicing something you will become an expert at it. So, ten thousand hours of violin practice, and hopefully you’re ready for a career as a professional musician.

After 3 and 1/4 years as a full-time mom, I think I’ve easily surpassed the ten thousand hour mark. A conservative estimate of ten hours of mama time per day for 3 years puts the total at 10,950 hours as of my daughter’s April birthday. So even subtracting the hours my mom has watched my daughter or that she’s been at preschool, we can call it good.

Skills that I’ve gained? Breastfeeding has been much easier this time around. In part because of my baby, but in part because I knew what to do. I also used to be really uncomfortable breastfeeding in public because I was worried about offending people. But I don’t care anymore. My baby’s need to eat comes first.

I’ve also mastered the skill of getting out of the house. This is incredibly hard as a new mom. Packing the diaper bag with enough wipes, diapers and outfit changes. Getting the baby strapped into the carseat without too much screaming. Or just maintaining your calm throughout the screaming. Now also getting the three-year-old ready and in the car. This is actually one of the most important skills I’ve mastered – I try to have an outing every day in order to maintain my sanity.

I’ve managed to get my 3-year-old potty trained while taking care of my newborn. Or rather, she accepted the bribe of going to ballet camp if she would start pooping on the potty. Ballerinas use the potty.

The things is, you can’t ever be an expert mama because every child is different and every stage is different. I feel like taking care of the baby is easier this time because I’ve done it before and perhaps because of the baby’s personality. But age 3 is new territory and it’s hard.

Maybe once both of my children have graduated from college, then I can consider myself an expert mama. Until then, I’m still learning.

Baby Paul just turned four-months-old last week. He’s a happy little guy with a warm smile and an infectious laugh. His dark red hair has been falling out, leaving bald patches on the back and sides of his head. We’re curious to see if it comes back the same color, or perhaps light blonde to match his eyebrows. Recently he started rolling over from his back to his tummy and getting stuck. This has led to more frequent nighttime wakings.

As for me, my hair has also been falling out for the past month or so. I’m about at my pre-pregnancy weight, but the hole in my abdominals hasn’t healed, so I’ve started doing exercises to correct that. My moods are up and down – I’m not quite sure what my baseline mood should be anymore, since I’ve been either pregnant or breastfeeding for the past 4 years. I also haven’t gotten very good quality sleep for the past 3 + years since my daughter was born.

I’m tired.

I miss working and interacting with other adults regularly.

I’m thankful for two healthy children. Very thankful. I’m enjoying the many opportunities to snuggle with my baby. I know the snuggling age will go by quickly.

It was perfect weather for baby's first trip to the beach.

It was perfect weather for baby’s first trip to the beach.

It’s the big literary news this week – Atticus is a racist.

In Go Set a Watchman, the sequel to the beloved 20th-century classic To Kill a Mockingbird that was just released this Tuesday, Atticus Finch is revealed as a bigot. Really? Atticus, who so honorably defended the black Tom Robinson in a rape trial? Who in fact endangered his family by being willing to stand up for an innocent black man in small-town Alabama? Who has become as much of a cultural icon as a literary character ever could be?

This is rocking the world of many an English teacher.

Atticus was on my list of top 5 boy names for my son, born in March. It’s grown in popularity in recent years, and as a writer/editor/Mockingbird fan I couldn’t resist considering it. In Mockingbird, Atticus is a great father, a great lawyer, an all-around great guy.

So why has Harper Lee (and her publisher) decided to shatter our perceptions of him now after so many years?

Yes, perhaps the 89-year-old author is not making the best decisions. Maybe she just needed the money.

I haven’t read it yet, or even obtained a copy. But maybe it works. Mockingbird is told from the point-of-view of a 6-year-old girl who hero-worships her father. Watchman takes place some 20 years later, and is told by a third-person narrator.

A 6-year-old girl is not a very reliable narrator.

But we bought into it. We wanted to, needed to believe in Atticus the hero. We wanted him as our father. And now he, like so many other heroes before him, has turned out to be deeply flawed.

It’s fiction, but the thing about great fiction is that it teaches us something important about life.

And what about my son? We didn’t name Atticus. My husband, who is not a book nerd and couldn’t care less about this whole conversation, nixed it immediately. Instead we named him Paul, after the grandfather I never met and the apostle who wrote a good portion of the New Testament.

Paul the humble. Paul who was a real hero and not a fictional character, and who was always honest about being deeply flawed, referring to himself as “less than the least of all God’s people” (Eph. 3:8).

Maybe we could learn something from him.

The day he was born.

The day my son was born.

Hugs

Hugs

Books: Just finished reading Brene Brown’s The Gifts of Imperfection. Her research is so fascinating and helpful. If you’re not familiar with Brene, check out her viral TED talk.

Movies:  My daughter has been watching and re-watching Disney’s Peter Pan this week. I haven’t seen a movie for grown-ups in awhile.

Television: For kids, we’ve been loving Octonauts – full of facts about sea creatures. Did you know that sometimes whales are born as albinos, and if so, they can get sunburned?

Work: I’m just getting started on a new travel writing project, writing short online travel guides. Hurray! And I’m beginning a volunteer job as publicity chair for my daughter’s preschool.

Parenting challenge: Potty training. Caring for a baby and a high-maintenance 3-year-old who doesn’t nap. Not having a backyard. Determining if my daughter is allergic to dairy/lactose intolerant.

Gratitude: Baby brother laughed for the first time the other day!

Looking forward to: A free ukulele lesson in the park for my daughter next week. Also taking her to the symphony in the park later this summer.

Today I found a note to myself that I wrote on December 31, 2009. Apparently I had intended myself to read it 10 years later, but 5 and a half years seems good enough.

Dear Ursula (me),

You should now be 36 years old. That means a lot has happened since I wrote this.

I am now 26, happily married for 3 and a half years, living in a nice apartment in Westmoreland and teaching 4th grade. I wonder if I will still be teaching in 10 years? I just hope to be happy in my job, whatever it is.

Also, I hope to still be happily married and have 2 or maybe 3 children. I hope that Spencer will be happy in his job. I hope we own a house.

Most importantly, I hope that God remains at the center of my life.

I think I should write back.

Dear 26-year-old Ursula,

So much has happened in the past 5 and a half years that I can hardly relate to the childless version of myself. I wish you would take a little more advantage of your childlessness. Go to Seattle for the weekend. Go to yoga. Take an art class. That’s cute that you like the Westmoreland apartment. I guess it did have some hipster appeal, with its proximity to Papa Haydn and the neon glow of the Yukon Tavern sign visible from the bedroom window. Soon you’ll find out about the horrible mold problem – really you should just move now.

Teaching is fun though, right? I’m not sure why you took a job that paid so poorly, but then again, I know you were excited just to have a teaching job. And fourth grade really is a great age to teach. I’ve now been married almost 9 years, have two sweet and sometimes challenging children, and am occasionally working as a freelance writer and editor. I do love being a mom and a writer and editor – I just wish I were able to get more consistent work. I am keeping my teaching license and may still go back to it at some point if the right job opens up.

My goals for the future remain much the same – be a good mother and wife, be happy in my work, keep the faith, be financially secure and own a house. Make meaningful memories.  Have fun. Do good deeds. Overflow with joy.

Love,

Me

 

 

 

 

 

I didn’t babysit much as a teenager, but once I babysat two sisters for an entire weekend. They were super easy and sweet elementary age kids, but still I thought a whole weekend seemed a bit relentless. You know what’s really relentless? Being a stay-at-home parent.

Today was hard. It was raining and I was without transportation, so I was stuck in my 2-bedroom apartment all day with my newborn baby and my sassy, firecracker 3-year-old who refuses to potty train or take naps. I questioned my sanity frequently throughout the day. Thank goodness for streaming Netflix. I was able to stay fairly patient with my sassy girl, and only told her she was being annoying once or twice.

If we lived in France where they have free government-subsidized daycare, I would probably not be a stay-at-home mom. I would wear professional clothes and work in an office and spend my day talking to adults. But we don’t live in France, and in spite of my master’s degree, I’ve never been able to get a job that pays a living wage. So, here I am – doing the most meaningful and important and underappreciated and relentless job there is.

Yes, it’s a blessing to be a mother of two, and to get to stay at home with them – but it’s also really really hard. I’m reminding myself that the first few years with my daughter were very difficult, and then I felt really happy after she started going to preschool last fall. It gave me just enough space in my life to feel like I could do the things I needed to do to take care of myself. I know that in 2 years and 3 months, she’ll be in full day kindergarten and my baby will most likely start preschool. I imagine that somewhere during that time she’ll agree to use the potty. Life should start to be easier again then. That’s a long time, but in some ways, it’s a short time.

It’s the longest shortest time.

 

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