Thursday, February 28, 2013

ETST Sponsor: Tea Collection Spring and Summer Styles

Welcome back to Tea Collection, returning in sponsorship this month.

Quality clothing, soft textiles, global design inspiration and charitable give-back programs make Tea one of my favorite sites for kids' clothing.  And having to find quick get-dressed solutions for kindergarten mornings this year makes me appreciate Tea all the more.  Lainey loves the style and comfort of their clothes and I love the fact that they come out of the dryer wrinkle free.

Check Tea's site on March 3 for their new arrivals, part of the South African inspired Cape Town Surf Collection.  A fun collection of Spring Party Styles (girls party dresses and boys best look) for the holidays will also be available with this collection. 

My current favorite Girl and Boy looks from Tea for spring and summer: (the girls accessories are so dreamy this season--kerchiefs, scarfs, fabric covered bead necklaces, oh my!)

Photobucket
Girls Outfit: Peppercorn Head ScarfBrush Flower Tab Shoulder Tee, Sunset Stripe Twirl Skort, Peppercorn Loveable Necklace, Saltwater Sandals
Boys Outfit: Zebra Tee, Chester Stripe Hoodie,  French Terry Cargo Shorts, Vans Authentic Checkboard Kicks



And some sweet new baby clothes from their site, highlighting my most sought after quality in baby clothes--super soft stretchy cotton.  Plus, I'm a sucker for kimono wrap styles for baby.


Photobucket
Top, from L to R: Ardmore Kimono Baby Outfit, Mini Stripe Footie, Soweto Kimono Romper, Mini Stripe One Piece
Bottom, from L to R: Ardmore Flutter Sleeve Romper, Kimono Baby Outfit, Elephant Jammies

Shop for your little citizen of the world here.

Wednesday, February 27, 2013

From Two to Three

I feel like I'm supposed to slide into these next blog posts with big transitions that address the gap of life-with-two-kids to life-with-three-kids. 

Photobucket

What's it like? 
Is it different? 
How many times have you had a breakdown? 

To which I would respond:

Hard to tell yet--newborn loving fog. 
Kind of. 
Three--all of which went something like Oh my God, I'm a hungry ravenous beast, why aren't there any $@#&ing groceries in our fridge?  Food breakdowns are the worst.

I will say that in thirteen days, I've learned the following:  Boys pee a lot.  Feet can substitute as hands when you need to pick things up and your arms are full.  After a nine month hiatus, beer maintains its charm.  Middle children will eventually let you know that they need extra loving.  In letting you know this, middle children may or may not incorporate ransacking drawers, ransacking closets, ransacking pantries and/or ransacking purses.  Okay, not "and/or. " Just and.

Photobucket

However, in thirteen days, I've also remembered that I love the newborn stage very very much.  Like the Queen of the Andes plant, its blooms are divine yet fleeting--froggy legs, curled toes, sleep squeaks, milky skin, flour sack cuddles and that wonderful newborn quality that can only be described as smooshiness

Photobucket

Add "last baby" to that sweetness, and you have what my sister refers to as frosting.  Last babies are frosting.  Mind you, my sister also coined the last baby phrase "Just give it to her" which, as I understand, resolves all whining, fits, fights and problems.  Baby wants something?  Just give it to him.  Who had the crayon first?  Just give it to him.  When the baby's crying, reflexively reply "Just give it to him" and all becomes well.  Always.  This is brilliant.  Too good of a secret to give away in the books, you know.

Photobucket
There's only one fox up in this town.

Life does not lend itself to smooth transitions.  You just jump in and swim.  It works for both the big hard challenges as well as the monumental celebrations in life.  Which is why I cut my hospital bracelets off and folded up the birth certificate and slipped the hospital cradle ID card into the memory box, sighing a big "Now that was beautiful" before picking up where we left off.  Life's pretty much the same with a little more laundry, a little less sleep and a lot more love.

Photobucket

Photobucket

Photobucket

My three favorite adding-another-baby saviors in terms of how not to go crazy, how not to feel guilty, how not to snap at your husband "I'd like to see you push out a giant head" and how not to run to the shower to hide with a bottle of wine:

A)  Pick two rooms.  I've told myself my main responsibility for quality control in our home right now is the living room and the shared baby room.  Brett took the kitchen.  These three rooms cannot fall apart right now.  It is our job to keep them clean, welcoming, happy, maintained.  Just these rooms. Everything else--don't worry about.  It's helped a lot.  And strangely, the other rooms have managed to keep up.  Some sort of brain trick, I think.

B)  Verbally validate.  A wise reader shared this advice way back when Nella was a newborn.  Sometimes all it takes is a little verbal validation to remind your kids that their voice is heard, that their presence is noted.  When you're tending to your older kids and the baby signals their need for you, say out loud "Just a minute Baby, I'm with your sisters right now."  Wait even just thirty seconds before going to get the baby.  Your older kids hear that statement and know that they come first sometimes too.  Everyone has their turn.

C)  Pick up the baby.  No matter what I have to get done or how messy the house is, when I want to hold him, I pick him up.  I hold him, I wear him, I smell him, I kiss him, I cup his head in my hands and rub his velvety hair.  Suddenly, everything feels fine.  Because it is.

Photobucket

Photobucket

I may not know a lot about a lot of things, but I know how to savor a baby.

Photobucket

******

And in jumping in and picking up where we left off...we had a party.

Let me explain this party thing for a minute. I may love a good party, but I have to be honest--most of our parties are only parties because we add the word "party" to what would otherwise be considered a completely normal event.

Take the Oscars, for example.

Photobucket
My hot red carpet date this year.

We watched them in our pajamas. And that's pretty much it. Laundry still sat on couches, dishes still laid in the sink, and we scrounged through the refrigerator looking for "party food" because we had nothing else planned.  But we called it a party.  The Eighth Annual Pajama Glama Oscar Party, to be exact.  And maybe we tweaked a few details like adding costume jewelry to our pajamas and serving our strawberries in pretty fancy dishes. 

Photobucket

Photobucket

To the kids though?  It was a magical memory.  A very special party indeed--even if they only got to stay up for the red carpet walk.

Photobucket
Lainey tracked her favorite dresses in a notebook as they made their debut on TV. I checked her list to find "Black Sparkaly Dress, Red Pretty Dress, Dress with Sparkaly Jakit."


Photobucket

Photobucket

Oh this boy, this boy.  Bradley Cooper's got nuthin' on him.

Photobucket

You don't have to go an extra mile to create imaginative memories for kids--an inch is all it takes.  A lunch becomes a picnic when you add a blanket.  A nail painting session becomes a spa night when you throw some cucumber slices in the mix.  Dinner becomes a dinner party when everyone wears a hat.  Cooking becomes a "cooking show" when you describe every step while you stir (and do it in a British accent!).  A living room dance becomes a Carnegie Hall performance when you shine a flashlight on the dancer.  Grocery shopping becomes an adventure when you stop to talk to the lobsters.  And life becomes Enjoying the Small Things when you dare to take a different perspective.  By golly, have fun.  And I promise I'll never say "by golly" again.

So we'll call this two-kids-to-three-kids thing Having Fun.

Photobucket


Because truly, it is.

Photobucket

Much love, friends.

Tuesday, February 26, 2013

Behind the Business: One Willow Boutique

Fun sponsor to introduce today--one I think a lot of you will love as I know there are many camera toting friends out there.  Introducing One Willow Boutique, a collection of beautiful editing presets, fairly priced, for photographers who use Lightroom (that's all I use!).  Presets are a great way to speed up your editing workflow and subtly (or more dramatically for those who like some major "POW") transform your images to highlight your subjects.

Jessica is the designer and photographer behind One Willow Boutique as well as the mother of six.  In an effort to speed up her editing process and utilize Lightroom, Jessica began developing Lightroom presets for her images and was soon being asked about her editing techniques.  She created One Willow Boutique in response and one preset collection soon grew to five. 

One Willow Boutique currently offers five preset collections for Lightroom 2 and 3 and three collections for Lightroom 4 as well as adjustment brush packages.  Presets are available both in RAW and JPEG formats and each collection offers something unique from soft, warm vintage editing to bright and boldly contrasted.  Check out her galleries of before and after images--quite beautiful.

Photobucket


There is a wealth of information on Jessica's site re: how to use these presets as well as in depth tutorials.


Photobucket


More behind the business with this talented mama:
Photobucket

1.) In both your photography and editing presets, I love the warmth and softness in the images. What is your ultimate goal in creating preset collections? Do you have a certain look or feeling of images that you aim to convey when creating your presets?

Thank you! Each One Willow Preset collection is creatively designed and fine tuned to provide beautiful and effective photo enhancements in Lightroom. I’ve designed them to help streamline photo editing with lovely, unique finishes. The presets provide a wide range of edits; some subtle, some simple and some a bit more dramatic, but all are fully adjustable to suite various images and photography styles.
Each preset collection is designed with a specific inspiration and feeling behind it. I aim to keep One Willow Presets consistent with what they are known for: versatile, subtle and effective but also creative with various photography editing styles.

2.) Do you have a favorite preset collection or particular preset(s)?

My favorite collection seems to rotate with the mood and lighting of the season. Each collection brings with it a different inspiration. For example, the Fairytale Collection was inspired by warm summer evening with lots of sunlight; the presets in this collection work wonderfully on summer-y images while the Timeless Collection was designed with rich tones to enhance the colors of the fall and winter. The Beautiful Things Collection was inspired by lifestyle images and Retro Candy is perfect for creative retro toned images. All the collections are unique, and I love rotating between them depending on the style of edit I am aiming for. The most versatile collection is the Palette Collection; it is a workflow Collection and I find myself using that one quite often right now.

3.) I'm a big Lightroom user and love when I find good Lightroom presets. What do you feel is the main benefit of LR editing?

The huge benefit of editing in Lightroom (and the very reason I began designing presets) is the amount of time I save on editing. We are a busy family of eight and I am a Wife and Mom first so I strive to save as much time in my editing workflow as possible. And after arriving home in January from adopting our sixth child, I appreciate this more than ever! I do my best to get the best photo I can in camera and get super excited when I can import in to Lightroom, click on a preset or two, and finish an edit. Batch processing using presets is also an incredible benefit too!

4.) Favorite part of your job/creative process?

My favorite part of photography is capturing life inspired moments. I love seeing and capturing the small details of everyday life but I also love capturing the emotion and inner beauty of a person through portraiture. I enjoy having a balance of both in my portfolio. My creative process starts with the image and then moves to the computer where I do my best to enhance each image with processing. I know so many photographers (and busy Mamas and Papas) who share this same love, and I am thrilled that I can share a bit of creativity with them through Lightroom Presets

**********

Check out One Willow Boutique as well as Jessica's beautiful photo blog to find some photo inspiration and tools to enhance your images.  Use Code ENJOYSMALL for 15% off your order.

Monday, February 25, 2013

The Grace of Now: Guest post by Rachel Turiel

I'm honored to bring you another guest post today, this one by Rachel Turiel who writes about raising her family in Colorodo on her blog, 6512 and Growing.  When I read Rachel's posts, I often find myself shaking my head "yes," smiling, high-fiving her in my imagination for choosing the perfect words to describe what so many mamas wish to define.  I love that even though I've never met her, we share love for many things, namely the honor of raising and enjoying our families.  Her words today were truly a gift for me--one I'm happy to share with you.

******************

The Grace of Now
by Rachel Turiel

My children are cleaning up the daily trail of toys that expand from their shared room like some explorers’ route of conquest, like say, the midday takeover of the living room.


“Do you still want this silly putty?” Rose, my 5 year old daughter asks her brother.

“Naw, just kick it under the couch and then when we’re roaming around later, we’ll find it.” Col, 8, replies.

This is not as much cleaning avoidance as it is strategy, in which it will actually be great fun to rediscover the lost archipelago of silly putty on a further territorial advance.

I hardly flinch, overhearing this conversation. I’m long indoctrinated into the deranged and gorgeous ways of children, in which life is lived like a competition for Grand Poobah of the If It’s Not Fun, Why Do It? society.
If I can find the right frame of mind, which sometimes entails a literal search (think: coffee beans, hot water and french-pressing my own depths for inner strength), I can see us all on the wild adventure entitled: ordinary family day.

Photobucket

There is no place I’d rather be.

On every ordinary day, these children lead me to the cliff of sparkly rainbows where I sigh gratefully for this life, these babies, the whole cherry pie of motherhood. And then 10 minutes later we’re all falling down that same cliff, the one perched above the nest of poisonous snakes, snakes who won’t go to bed at night, who won’t wear a hat when it’s two degrees outside, and who invent dubious sibling poker matches: I’ll see your blood-drawing scratch and raise you a small kick in the shin.

Photobucket

Photobucket

My greatest roadblock is believing that things should be different. That, because I am devoted to motherhood like say, Elton John is devoted to his feather boas, my kids will eventually come up empty on the Netflix queue of their own sibling drama. Or that by draping my own boa of love around my children daily, we might avoid boarding the wrong train, you know, the one that stops at the stations: hurt and pain.

But it’s not like that. Parenthood contains everything. It’s more Shakespearian than Shakespeare, what with the comedy of emergency bath evacuations due to stealth poops, and the tragedy of mama-guilt that finds you wherever you’re hiding...like water, like a flood.

Photobucket

What helps is letting it all in, making space for the largest emotions that erupt from the smallest bodies; or the messes that, like those trick-candles, never seem to completely blow out; or the hot flare-up of my own anxiety and regret.


And then, I turn to the grace of now.

Photobucket

These days with young children are like having your own, slightly tipsy tour guide ushering you through life, pointing out: the squirrels in the park! the sparkly shoes! the paintbrushes ready to plunge into color! Their job is to wring juicy, succulent moments out of the thin, bland air of ordinary days; your job is to follow.


Today, one tour guide has fallen so hopelessly in love with a bottle of glue, she’s adhering bits of fuzz found on our floor to a piece of paper. The other grabs my hand, gasping audibly at the first scraggly clump of spring dandelions; his own joy the mindfulness bell that brings me back to the luckiness of this life.

Sometimes it seems like these moments---and our tightly braided lives---will go on forever, an endless string of dishes and hand-holding. But they won’t. Someday my children will walk by a clump of sunny dandelions and not think to scrabble them together into a bouquet. Someday my bed won’t be full of children wriggling like puppies before the sun is even up.

Photobucket

These days, these moments---today!---is all we really have. To witness the growth and evolution of a child is exquisite. To love and be loved unconditionally is both like being encased in protective armor, and also like having it shatter daily, because it’s the most tender, vulnerable skin you’ll ever wear.

And truly, all I ever remember by the blessed end of the day—by the time I’m ghosting through the kids’ darkened room, pulling blankets over slumbering bodies, those bodies that, sleeping, appear to be cobbled out of such earnest goodwill that I imagine them exhaling world peace in their sleep—all I remember, is the joy of parenting that, like cream, always rises to the top.

Photobucket

*************************

Rachel Turiel is a freelance writer and regular contributor to NPR, "Earth Notes," Mamalode, and Edible San Juan Mountain Magazine. Her writing has appeared in Literary Mama, Mountain Gazette, Bugle Magazine, Rhythm of the Home and more. She writes a biweekly column, "Adventures in Motherhood," for the Durango Herald.

Read more on Rachel on her blog, 6512 and Growing.

Photobucket

Thursday, February 21, 2013

Welcoming Dash: A Birth Story

Well, I'm just going to start typing.  Because you have to begin somewhere.  Writing a birth story three years after writing the birth story is interesting.  My, how we change over time.  And yet really, I'm still the same girl.  The one who started dreaming of being a mama when she was barely big enough to hold a baby.  The one who held giant spaces in her heart reserved for three beautiful children, and she didn't even know it.  The one who possesed a multitude of strengths that would stretch and grow throughout the years, guiding her through challenges, pulling her toward victories, and always always pushing her towards a greater love.

First, I'll preface this by saying that writing the stories of my babies' welcomings is done freely.  I didn't reread or edit my girls' before posting, and this will follow suit.  I write.  I write and I write and I write, and whatever falls onto this screen gets published.  Love and honesty without censoring is how I like my kids' birth stories to be preserved. A bit has changed on this blog since I wrote Nella's birth story.  More readers, more hearts, more stories, more scrutiny, more perceptions, but I'd like to believe--and I do--ultimately...more love.  For our families and our children and our unique journeys.  I think that's all I have to say about that.

There are scribbles of precious unshared moments from my children's births that are hidden in baby books, and there are parts of these chapters--also precious--that I share.  It is a common thread that runs through the tapestry of motherhood--all kinds of mamas, hundreds of thousands of unique and beautiful children, miles of earth that separate us, cultures and beliefs and families that identify us--but each of our children has a story of how they were welcomed.

This is Dashel's.

Photobucket

A Little Story to Begin 
Last year, Brett's Grandma Betty passed away on May 25th.  She didn't say much the last couple days before she died, but she had a few moments where she asked some interesting questions, according to Brett's dad.  "Who are the people in the mirror?" was one.  And another..."Who's the baby?" 
Brett's dad asked "What baby?," and all she replied was, "There's a baby."  A month later, we found out we were expecting.  Grandma Betty would have celebrated her 91st birthday last week, on February 13th.  She always wished she was born a day later...on Valentine's Day. 

xoxoxoxoxoxoxoxoxoxoxo

I felt a deep desire for this baby shortly after Nella was born.  I wanted this baby for Nella, for Lainey, for us, for a lot of reasons really.  But it didn't happen like I planned (hello life lesson #242--I think I'm finally gettin' this one).  A couple miscarriages and then crickets for almost a year--until I self-therapy'ed myself into a very good place of peace and acceptance and moving on.  I was thankful for my two girls and so very aware that we can't control a lot of things in life...but we can be happy.  If it happened, it happened.

And then we went on the best vacation of our lives last year--a road trip to Michigan where Wanderlust and Relaxation traded hands at the wheel and drove the ship together for three weeks.  I felt so presently aware of how much my family makes me happy.  Even in the car, after seven hours of driving when the girls were shot, there was us.  And for three weeks the four of us were together, walking the busy streets of Chicago, scouring Lake Michigan for smooth stones, fishing from the edge of the dock by our cottage.  I had no idea that the four of us was really five of us until I snuck into the tiny bathroom of Glenn's grocery store in Lewiston, Michigan to take a pregnancy test.  When I screamed, the four cousins who were standing outside started banging on the door. When I let them in, we tightly huddled, shared a group hug, jumped up and down and took a picture in the blurry mirror above the dirty sink.  We called the baby "Squirt" because we went back to the cottage for a toast, and among the clinks of Coors Light glass bottles, there was a tinny tap of one soda can, my Squirt.

I waited until we heard a heartbeat, until we made it through a couple of "this one's going to make it" ultrasounds before I let it sink in.  And while I thought I wanted another girl because girls are what I know, I had no idea that what I really wanted was a boy.  Sometimes you don't know you want these things until fate picks them for you.  And then you're thankful that you don't get to make all your own choices because that would be kind of selfish and boring, and you'd never get to experience your secret wants--the ones only fate knows.

A boy.  My son.

My water broke last Thursday morning.  I went in for a quick appointment to check on everything and was sent straight to the hospital with nothing but my purse.  That's what Heidis are for.  They pick up husbands and baby bags and cameras and everything you need for once-in-a-lifetime experiences. 

I spent an hour alone in the birth room before anyone arrived.  We chose a different hospital for this birth--a half hour away and close to the Isles of Capri.  I loved the peaceful environment, the view, and that calm hour I spent alone with the comforting sound of my boy's heart, transmitted in a constant stream of ba-bum, ba-bum, ba-bum from the monitors strapped around my very large middle.  I wasn't nervous or scared or anxious, just present. 

One of my favorite things from all my births?  The warming bed--the tiny diaper and bulb syringe and stretchy striped hat that's laid out for my baby--the one who's still inside me.  There's always this gripping moment of reality when I see those three items.  They represent the transformation that's about to happen--that the baby I've dreamed of and felt move and imagined holding is moments away from being real, from being placed in that diaper and dressed in that hat and placed in my arms.  That realization has made me cry for all three births.  "Send me a picture of the empty crib," my sister texted.  It's important, that moment.

Brett and Heidi arrived along with a little surprise--Nella came too.  I got to hug her as my baby one last time before Brett ran her home to his mom for a nap.

Photobucket

And then several hours of this incredibly significant time.  Baby prepares, Mama prepares.  Our room felt full of love--music and candles, favorite things from home, stories with friends and my husband who was very nervous and cautious.  I didn't realize until after Dash was born just how nervous he was this time. 

Photobucket

Photobucket

Heidi feng shui'ed as Heidi does.  I ate popsicles.  Brett paced the room and constantly asked everyone if they needed anything. 

And the pain increased.  "Tell me if you want an epidural," the nurses said, and I made note of the fact that they estimated half an hour for the anesthesiologist's arrival.  I knew I'd probably want one eventually--I had one with the girls--but I also wanted to breathe through some contractions.  I wanted to feel as much of this birth, as crazy as that sounds, as I could. 

Photobucket

Photobucket

Pre-drugs, your pain is monitored only by your own perception of contractions, on a scale of 1 to 10.  "That was a four," I started off reporting.  Then four built to five, five to six, and by seven, I had invented a brilliant pain management plan.  Instead of moaning or cursing, you yell celebrities' names--obscure ones--the more interesting, the better.  I admit I stole this from Steve Carell in Forty Year Old Virgin when he screamed "Kelly Clarkston" during a chest wax.  But I can honestly say, shouting "BOB HOPE!" and "FLORENCE HENDERSON!" pulled me through the dooziest of doozies.  And Heidi snapping "Oh my God, you can do better than that" makes you laugh; and when you laugh, Contraction-of-an-8 feels like Contraction-of-a-3. Which is good, contractionally speaking.

Somewhere near breaking point, we said that thing you say to make it feel better:  "Just think, he's going to be here soon, and everything's going to be perfect."  That's when I let myself honestly confront my fears.  I cried--not for long, but long enough. Because I remembered saying those same words moments before Nella was born.  And even though everything turned out fine--more than fine--I like to listen to these feelings and to fears and to everything that hums within.  My last birth and my present birth shared a bridge for a short moment, and I felt the depth of those beautiful moments again which is exactly what propelled me to the place I needed to be when they told me that my boy was ready to come out.

Oh, and the epidural?  I finally asked for one.  And got it.  But his head was too big and down too far, so it didn't work.  Even after two "refills" and a billion clicks of that clicky thing they give you to administer your own boost.  I actually think the clicky thing is for purely psychological reasons now because even when I knew it wouldn't give me anything, it felt really good to click the bejesus out of it during a bad contraction. 

So they say "You're ready.  Time to push."  And right now I can close my eyes and remember everything about what happens when they say that.  How the room suddenly shifts as nurses excitedly prepare; how the ligthing changes; how the faces of your friends suddenly express more love as if that's possible; how your husband holds your hand so tight, you can feel his fear through his grip, and if you've ever wondered how much he loves you, you have a pretty good idea by the way he looks at you; how you start crying and can't stop--a little bit because it hurts but a lot because you know that you're about to meet your baby and mere seconds separate you from one of the single greatest, most love-filled moments of your life. 

They told me to push.  And I did, crying "Am I supposed to feel all of this?" through all of it.  I remember holding Brett's hand so so tightly and feeling like he had such strong safe hands.  I remember him telling me I was doing a really good job.  I remember the pain.  I remember the comfort of my friends and hearing them cry and feeling lucky to share moments like this with people I love so very much.  I remember my doctor and her kindness, her gentle instructions and feeling safe and comfortable with her in charge.  And in hindsight, I'm glad the epidural didn't work so good.  Because I felt my son make his way into the world. 

Oh to go back and have that moment again.  The euphoric moment of seeing him held high, pink and perfect and crying.  Reaching out my arms in the most desperate grasp to hold him, and finally feeling the weight of his body and drawing him to my face where I could kiss him.  Skin to skin, we connected.  He cried one good hearty cry while I sobbed steadily but smiled.  Beamed.  I kissed his nose and made note that it was cold--colder than the rest of him.  And we fell in love, my son and me.

Photobucket
*My friends Heidi and Laura once again captured our sweet first moments
Photobucket

Photobucket


The nurses took him only for a moment, but my eyes didn't leave him.


Photobucket

Photobucket
Dr. Clements, our wonderful doctor who helped bring this boy into the world


Brett asked about fifteen times "Is he okay? Are you sure? Is she okay? Are you sure?"  But I knew the moment he let go and breathed in the relief that everything was okay.  He was suddenly calm and elated while together, we welcomed our boy.

Photobucket

Sweet Baby Dash.  He blink-blink-blinked just like the girls did, taking in the first lights and sounds of his new world.  He clearly responded to our voices, even stretching and reaching back towards Brett when Daddy hummed his first hello.  "Did you see that?" I asked Brett.  He was smiling radiantly.  "Yes."

Photobucket

Photobucket

These moments?  I have them forever.  These are the ones I'll go back to both when things are rough and when life feels glorious.  When parenting is hard, when years replace days in separating me from the moment he arrived, when I don't have the answers and he's not tiny and I'm not the one and only thing he needs for survival, I'll remember what it felt like to be handed my son--how quickly and deeply that love began, and I'll find perspective hidden in these memories.

Later that evening, Brett returned home to our girls while I paid no heed to the things they tell you about resting that first night.  I can't sleep.  I want to stare at him and study everything about him.  I want to talk about babies and life and begin tallying up the hilarious moments during the birth that we knew would be shared later.  So Heidi and I whispered for hours by candlelight and Bon Iver and ate chocolates and roasted almonds while Dash got kissed and snuggled.

Photobucket

I talked about how different it felt from Nella's birth--how nice it was not to be crying and scared and yet strangely, I admitted that part of me actually missed the memory of those painful, precious moments after her birth.  It's hard to explain. 

We finally slept a few hours, Dash's little cradle cart pulled perfectly parallel to my bed so that when I opened my eyes, I could see his face; I could reach over and touch the cold nose that I had kissed for the first time just hours before.

Everything felt so incredibly calm.  The evening, the next morning, the trail of visitors, Brett's voice on the phone when he called to take food orders and let me know the girls were on their way.  Calm and sunny--a giant picture window framed our room and poured a constant stream of sunshine throughout the day.

Photobucket
one of my favorite photos from the hospital, taken by my friend Monica, from her phone

For both girls' births, there were so many specific things I had planned for and remember happening, and this time around I was in a happy haze, observant in a different way of the events around me.  Relaxed, receptive. 

I didn't cry when the girls met their brother but rather smiled and sat calmly on the bed, watching them, marveling at the fact that it seemed so meant to be--like he'd always been here and they'd always loved him.

Photobucket
Babies who suck their fingers are funny

Photobucket
*Thank you to my father-in-law who took all the beautiful photos of the girls welcoming their new brother
Photobucket
Brett's dad who shares Dash's middle name

Photobucket

Photobucket
Curious sisters watch his hearing test

Lainey and I shared some very special hours together in the hospital.  After a stream of visitors left, we decided to let Lainey stay alone with me and Dash for a little bit while Brett took Nella home for a nap.  I know she'll never forget those moments.  We veered from our nursing routine for one feeding to give her the opportunity of giving him a bottle, something she had talked about a lot before he was born.  Watching that?  Well, that one made me cry.  Such a quiet bonding experience between little brother and his second mama--a relationship that has captivated me this week in way I hadn't anticipated. 

Photobucket

Photobucket

I love the hospital moments.  I love that for every second I'm there, it feels special, like a vacation--the one where a new baby is welcomed and mamahood is celebrated.  And being that this was my last mamahood hospital vacation, my heart was raw.  I remembered each of my children's stories--how they were welcomed, how the moments in that hospital were spent. 

Photobucket
His coming home outfit, crocheted by my mama; and that's a yawn, not a cry

Saturday evening, as we packed up and gathered all the memory tokens from the room before we headed home, I held back tears and turned around once more before we left.  Room 11, added to the Hall of Fame.  I thanked the sacred space for the memories it delivered.  Another birth story written.  Another soul to love.  And he's ours to take home.

Photobucket

I can't believe it's been a week.  I've succumbed to a few normal postpartum blues breakdowns this week--just wanting to stop time, wanting to go back to that day, wanting to preserve that memory as long as I can--hence the hospital bracelets still hugging my wrist and the playlist from his birth continuously repeated.  I am trying to balance my sentimental heart with the one that embraces reality and understands that the present is the most important time.  Not yearning for the past, not needlessly anticipating the future.  Just living right now, in this moment.

So, we're doing that.

Photobucket

Photobucket

Something about the juxtaposition of a big strong teenage boy holding a tiny fragile one completely melts me.
Photobucket

Photobucket

Photobucket

Photobucket

Photobucket

Photobucket
*Another favorite photo.  How inventive this girl is in finding ways to get to him.  Unlike another moment earlier this week, this one didn't involve a pointer stick between the crib slats.  Or Frosted Mini Wheats flung into his Moses Basket. 


You know, we've come a long way as women.  Our culture recognizes and celebrates our accomplishments, talents and unique gifts far more than it did fifty years ago.  Much good has come from voices for feminism.  And today, we talk a lot about recognizing and valuing our identity outside of motherhood.  I know that's important.  I have no doubt that if I didn't have children, I would have found fulfilment and happiness in other things and I wouldn't have been any less of a woman or lover or nurturer as I am today as the mother of three.

But I can also say that I am an independent woman who is completely and utterly in love with motherhood--so much that yes, my identity is and forever will be intertwined with this gift--being their mother.

How incredibly grateful I feel right now to be given our boy.  And what a treasure this week has been.

iPhone first moments
Photobucket


So there you have it.
A birth story--more laid back, but then again, so is he.  Pretty chill, pretty calm.

The best thing about birth stories?

They are just the beginning. There is more to be written for our family, for our love, and for the life of our precious Dash, the sleepy boy who purrs when he dreams and cries in tiny, raspy, velociraptor squeaks.

It's as if he's always been here. 


Photobucket