Author Archives: Karen

Little Man Letters: Hard Love

“If you can think and speak and communicate in writing you’re unbelievably powerful in the authority manner because arguments move the world forward.” – Jordan Peterson

Dear Enzo,

49 weeks ago, you were born into a fallen world that becomes more chaotic and broken by the day.

I know, total downer way to start a letter. But looking around at the crazy and then down at my perfect baby…the starkness of contrast is startling. It demands my attention. So over and over through the past year, I have worried, prayed, written…about this crushing feeling of intimidation.

How do I raise a godly man amid such confusion and discord? Will I be smart enough to answer your questions? Will my actions guide you in the right direction?

You are a white male. Born into a city outsiders love to hate. In some circles that’s three strikes before you’ve even stepped up to the plate. Many who claim to hate stereotypes and assumptions will have no problem attaching them to you. Therefore it’s our job as parents to teach you to rise above, and prove them wrong.

Your dad and I believe in the imago dei. That all human beings are children of God, made in the image of God, and should be treated accordingly. Unfortunately that is not always the case, even in the most advanced societies. So we recognize that as Christians we are called to be on mission, to heal hurts and bridge divides. It is the primary and most important work of our earthly lives.

Sounds simple, and in some ways it is. Love God, love people. Got it. Done & done. The trouble (among other things) is government. It exists to bring order to chaos but currently it is creating quite a bit of chaos of its own. As a result a loud and rowdy crowd has emerged and there seems to be no acceptable way to disagree with them. Get in line or get insulted, those are your options. It is very difficult not to let your emotion overpower your intelligence when attempts at presenting a peaceful counterpoint are met with sarcasm, disdain, character attacks.

But I promise you, I am learning. I have stepped out of the debate ring and left the political arena in favor of study. I am dedicated to understanding the past and present, and effective communication. Challenging myself to be well-versed in all sides of the issues and then forming my own structured, complete arguments rather than always paraphrasing or regurgitating what is readily available. I hope by doing so, I will be able pass on the gift of perspective and articulation to you. Because aside from faith, I believe those are two of the greatest gifts your dad and I can give you.

They are not easy skills to acquire, but I am fighting mental fatigue and technologically-inspired laziness, facing my feelings of inadequacy, because I love you far too much to send you out into this world without the knowledge and confidence to stand up for your truth. The higher you climb, the more determined the opposition will be to tear you down. The mama in me wants to respond by keeping you sheltered under my wing, but that’s opposite of good parenting. You were made to be courageous, and I hope you will gain such a spirit by following (your dad’s and) my lead.

Love, 

Mama

When the wolves come and hunt me down
I will face them all and stand my ground
‘Cause there’s a fire burnin’ in me
They will see my strength in this love I found

Enzo Alan: 10/11 Months

 

Age: 11 Months

Stats:
Next appointment is 1 year, I’ll update then.

Life Lately:

The last 2 months have been So. Much. Fun.

Enzo has become super interactive with us, and seems to master a new skill every day. He loves to stack toys, wave, give hugs, play hide and seek, chase and be chased, feed us things, crawl around in small spaces, open and close doors + drawers, and raise his arms up in response to “How big is Enzo?” “Up” “High” or his favorite song from music class, where we make the motions for a dolphin jumping in and out of the water.

He is always so proud of himself when he raises his arms. Probably because we make a big deal out of congratulating him. Sometimes he even does it at night when I’m trying to put him to bed, as if to distract me. Hey mom look what I can do! Aren’t you proud?? Yes I am son, now GO TO BED. ;) 

He has 8 teeth, 4 on top and 4 on bottom. He is always chewing on his fingers with the back of his mouth so I suspect there are some trying to come in back there but I haven’t seen them yet.

He sleeps through the night, averaging 11 hours (except for the past week and a half. He and I are sick with a cold that never ends, so I totally understand. I haven’t been able stay asleep either), and his morning nap is now pretty solid, 1-2.5 hours. The afternoon nap, on the other hand, is dicey. Sometimes he sleeps for 2 hours, sometimes not at all. It’s often not at all. He shouldn’t be ready to give up his second nap yet, so I still fight the good fight but MAN battling him can wear me out. 

He likes to say DaD-EE now, but has completely dropped Mama. He jabbers a lot but hasn’t picked up any other words yet.

I have been working with him on clapping and blowing kisses but he’s not interested. He will hold onto the outside of Ron and I’s hands and make us clap but he won’t do it himself.

He walks while holding onto things and is really quick about it but he doesn’t seem to want to walk on his own yet. He sits down when we try to hold his hands and help him walk.

He’s very picky about food and we’re struggling to get him to eat more finger foods. He will eat rice rusks, yogurt melts, crunchies, and occasionally nutrigrain bars but everything else, small bites of our food, he rejects. He still mostly eats chunky purees and half the time he doesn’t even want that. I have to sing and dance or take him outside to walk around while I feed him so he’s distracted enough to not throw a fit. I dread meals. I don’t see that changing anytime soon but I can hope! In the meantime I just keep trying new things while keeping our regular winners on hand as backup. 


Yesterday I posted a blog about my first year as a SAHM. I want to add a couple things to that. 

Parenthood is not a competition. Whether you are a working parent, SAHP, or a mix of the two, every choice has its pros and cons and hard moments. But I do want to give some love to those who juggle a job and parenthood. High fives to you all, for keeping your ships upright despite all that is demanded of you.

I want to make the most of my time at home so I set a lot of goals and expectations for myself. When I fail to meet those self-imposed standards, I get frustrated, overwhelmed or stressed. And that’s nonsense. My deadlines and projects have no negative consequences if I miss them or mess up. Meaning much of the stress I feel (some struggle is definitely legit) is manufactured. In those moments I compare my life to that of a working parent to give myself a perspective adjustment. Is this something I should be fretting overUsually it’s not. So I take a deep breathe and mentally fist bump all of you who don’t have the luxury of cutting yourself slack at work. Or who will never see a day this side of high school graduation when you can address some of the home projects I can. 

But on that note I thought I would give you an idea of what I DO do all day. So this is a rough outline. No two days are the same because kids are unpredictable and love to throw a wrench in perfectly crafted schedules. It’s seriously Enzo’s top hobby, I think. But this is what I attempt: 

7am Wake up, feed Enzo milk. 
7-8am Play in Enzo’s room. We read books, count, stack, and turn on the CD from his music class to sing some of the songs. 
8-9am Make breakfast, feed Enzo, then clean up the kitchen while he plays with his toys in his playpen. 
9-10am Shower and get ready. Enzo hangs out in his pack n play while I do that. We have a glass shower so I can make faces and play peek-a-boo with him to keep him entertained, if he’s not interested in his toys. Those glass doors are SUCH a huge help. I’m sure he would not be as content if he couldn’t see me. I also know once he can climb out I will have to go back to working out and showering before he wakes up. I’ve gotten lazy this summer because I know if I have to I can put it off until the very end of the day, since the weather is nice and it stays light so late.

**On days we have music class, storytime, or a playdate in the morning, I condense play time and breakfast so we can be out the door. 

10am If we have been out and about Enzo usually falls asleep in the car on the way home so I will sometimes use that opportunity to run errands. We are still utilizing his infant car seat because when he does fall asleep I can usually transfer him in and out of the car to his stroller without waking him. Those days are numbered though. If we are home I give him more milk, turn on the instrumental lullaby music, or read more books as I try to get him down for a nap. 

10:30-12:30 On a good day Enzo will nap 1.5 – 2 hours and I will do as much as I can of the following: my devotional, laundry/clean the house, meal plan for the following week, workout, write a blog, work on his baby book, make plans for his nursery or birthday party, organize one of the many areas in the house that somehow manages to end up in total disarray, make phone calls to contractors, do my volunteer work for the church, catch up on e-mails and group texts, get started on dinner prep, look up new rhymes, songs, and games to play with Enzo, study from a stack of parenting or landscape books (we’re wanting to re-do our front landscape this fall), or some other random task like taking measurements for wall art or putting together our front porch rocking chairs. 

12:30 – 1:30 Lunch and clean up 

1:30 – 3:30 I try to get us out of the house. We go to the store, library, park, splash pad, or visit friends/family. 

3:30-5:30 Nap 2 Attempt. If successful, I clean, workout, or finish dinner prep, whichever didn’t get accomplished in the morning. If not successful, I try to survive with a crazy moody munchkin until Ron gets home. This is the most common time for him to receive distress texts. 

5:30-7:30 Dinner, Clean up, Playtime with Daddy, Bath. 

7:30-8 Storytime and bed. 

8-11 Workout if I didn’t get it in that day, finish cleaning up dinner, hang out with Ron. 

You may be wondering how many days it would take me to get through a naptime to-do list and the answer is I never get through it because there is always more of all of it. By the time I complete one task, another is ready and waiting for me.

I realize none of it is anything super impressive. I’m not over here dancing backward in high heels or anything. But I do put my whole heart into being home. I try very hard to make sure our days are meaningful. That I’m keeping life fun, new, and interesting for Enzo and I’m doing things that matter when I’m not focused on him. Whether that’s something that will make life easier for Ron and I (never underestimate the joy of an expertly organized closet) or writing something that will hopefully one day help someone. So that’s what I mean by never bored. I am not over scheduled or too busy, but there will ALWAYS be something up next. And on deck. And in the hole. ;) 

 

SAHM Life: 1 Year

My first year as a SAHM can be divided into two parts: Breastfeeding + The Rest.

The initial months were ROUGH. Sleep deprivation, the chaos of my entire life turning upside down, a body I felt like a foreigner in…it’s a lot to deal with the first time around. However, looking back I attribute most of the discontent to breastfeeding. I hated it. HATED IT. It sparked an awful hormonal reaction for me. A rage I can’t even put into words. Not every time, at first, but eventually I couldn’t even bear the thought of feeding my baby. I would dig my nails into my leg or squeeze something the entire time to combat the waves of fierce, inexplicable anger.

Enzo wasn’t loving it either. He was making adequate diapers and gaining *just* enough to meet guidelines, but he was screaming a lot. Acting hungry even after hours (days, weeks) of cluster feeding. And honestly, he began to look tired and sickly to me.

Feeding him was a nightmare, the exact opposite of a bonding experience, so around 8 weeks I decided to switch to exclusive pumping + supplementing. I had been pumping after every nursing session to try and get my supply up. Meaning by the time I finished that, Enzo was usually up again. I was getting absolutely no sleep and felt like I was living in a vortex of crazy.

Pumping still brought a negative response (putting it nicely) but at least I didn’t have a sweet baby attached to me in the process. Also by using bottles and supplementing, we quickly confirmed Enzo was HUNGRY. He gained a pound in a week and became a whole new baby. Calmer, happier.

I’m not sure why he wasn’t getting enough to eat. I had his latch checked 3 times, not by top breastfeeding specialists but my pediatrician and lactation consultants. They all saw nothing concerning, each stating he appeared to have a wonderful latch. Maybe someone trained in latches would have seen something different, but I really don’t think that was why he wasn’t getting enough milk. When I began pumping I averaged 20 ounces a day, and that was stuffing my face with recommended “milk producing” foods and hooking up to a machine for a total of 10 hours a day. Literally. With bottles we found Enzo was satisfied by 30-32oz.

Lactation consultants will tell you babies are more efficient than a machine and that may be true, Enzo may have had a latch issue not making him efficient enough, but in my gut I believe it was me, not him.

So maybe I could have done more to try to fix myself, but it wasn’t just about milk production. It was my sanity and emotional stability. I saw no reason to go on for months and months hating something so much when there was another perfectly healthy option for feeding my baby.

Still, the choice to abandon breastfeeding became it’s own issue. I was so disappointed in myself for  1. hating breastfeeding, 2. giving up on it and 3. supplementing. I continued to pump at all hours of the day until 4.5 months when I decided I needed more than 4 hours of broken sleep a day. I cut back on pumping sessions until I stopped producing at 5.5 months. My goal had been 6 months, but I was done with what felt like heroics. As soon as we switched over to full formula, a huge burden was lifted. Guilt that I wasn’t giving my baby “the best” lingered, but I got over that because I finally felt like I could give him MY best. I didn’t have to spend the majority of my day sitting at the kitchen bar attached to a pump, trying to keep him happy and entertained in his boppy lounger.

Between a miscarriage, a close miscarriage call with Enzo at 5 weeks, having a pelvis that’s literally too small to birth a baby, and then hating breastfeeding/not producing enough milk…it seemed like nature was telling me I wasn’t supposed to be a mother. Throw all of those thoughts and feelings in with a mass hormone exit, a drastically different lifestyle from what I’d known for 32 years, and harassment from all sides about trying to keep our infant away from sickness during flu season and HAVE MERCY. What a brutal Fall + Winter.

Thankfully it was all up from there. I could not be happier. Staying home certainly does NOT feel like a vacation, but neither am I bored or unfulfilled. My to-do list is forever growing and as long as I have children to care for, it will remain that way. There will come a day when I have the time to read and write (to clarify, writing is more than a hobby. when I talk about writing I mean a book. that’s one of the things I work on when I find a nugget of free time), and I won’t be frantic trying to complete my workout and chores before the baby needs me again. And when that day comes I will enjoy the peaceful productivity. But I will miss this.

First morning smiles, and hugs after naps.
His tiny body contorting itself into even tinier spaces, then hollering when he gets stuck.
How he is CONSTANTLY finding a new way to potentially harm himself, that I never would have thought of on my own. It’s both terrifying and impressive. 
His tiny hand and arm gripping mine as I carry him around. 
Carrying him around.

Storytimes and music class and proudly parading around Target with THE cutest child in the entire world. ;) 
Stroller walks, porch pools, park trips. 
Chasing and being chased by a tiny giggling human. Up the stairs, around the rocking chair, via his hilarious ferrari walker. 

It’s sweet and fun, but also demanding and exhausting. Trying to maintain the home while making sure my rapidly changing baby has fun, feels loved, socializes, learns on pace, sleeps enough, eats enough, etc., Twenty. Four. Seven, is no joke. 

So it frustrates me a little when people ask if I’m bored, or better yet, What do you do all day? I prefer What did you do today? It might seem silly, but there’s a big difference in inference. One makes it sound like you must have trouble passing the time, the other acknowledges you were busy and the inquirer is just interested in what was accomplished.

I have a great deal of flexibility by staying home, but that doesn’t equate to easy. It just means that I can shuffle my schedule to accommodate the various needs and requests of my baby, friends and family. Trust and believe if you ask me to be somewhere or do something for you I was not sitting on my thumbs just waiting for an invitation. I had to put off something I had been working on or planned to get done. (That isn’t meant to come across negatively, I’m just trying to clear up some misconceptions about staying home.)

It is SO. NICE. to have such flexibility. It’s a blessing to be able to be there for the people I love at a moment’s notice. And I think I have made it ABUNDANTLY clear that I am grateful beyond words for the time I get to spend with Enzo. But it’s still work. More challenging work than what I did for my “real job.”

After experiencing it for a year I can confidently say it isn’t for everyone. Not every parent can or wants to stay home. But if you are on the fence, debating whether the sacrifice in career and finances would be worth it….oh honey, draft that resignation letter and quit. Right now. Call or email me if you want to talk about it more, but know I will try to sway you to stay home.  

That’s an overview of the year, just for fun here are some details in the form of What I Swore I Would Do, and DIDN’T + What I Swore I Would Do, and DID.

What I Swore I Would Do, and Didn’t.

  1. Breastfeed. I did but not as long or successfully as I was determined to be. 
  2. Date Nights in the First Month. Ummm…we haven’t had a single date night yet. I have left Enzo alone with my mom and dad a couple times while I ran errands solo, but I don’t even like doing that. I am a total baby hoarder. Before Enzo was born, I had somehow convinced myself that not wanting to leave my baby would be a sign of weakness. So I was hanging my head as I told a fellow SAHM about our lack of date nights and she said looked me straight in the eyes and said so seriously, You shouldn’t feel bad for wanting to be with your baby. And you know what? She’s right. I do think dates are important for our marriage, and I want to give Enzo time to build special relationships with his extended family, but it’s not a flaw in my personality to want to spend time with my kid. I know as he grows, there will be natural boundaries. I’m not going to follow him into kindergarten or summer camp or other places parents aren’t supposed to go. But for now, Ron and I get plenty of one-on-one time when Enzo sleeps so we don’t feel a need for date nights. We love to be together as a family when he is awake. So who knows when we will start doing date nights (or when I’ll want more “Mom Time”) but I’m done shaming myself for a lack of them. 
  3. Travel or Treat the Baby as an Accessory and Live the Same Life We Did Pre-Baby.

    The first three months we chose to keep Enzo sheltered because a newborn contracting RSV is a lot more serious than a younger child or adult. Some people think this is ridiculous, and that’s their prerogative. Ron has seen enough for us to know we don’t want to take our chances. But that didn’t mean we planned to keep him sheltered forever. We take him out and about to restaurants and public places all the time now. However, we haven’t traveled yet (we hope to for his birthday week and our anniversary week in December, though) and overall we live a less active life than before. Not because we can’t and don’t think we should do some of the things we used to do. We just don’t want to. He’s no longer small enough to be considered an “accessory.” He’s a moody, squirmy, nonverbal yet opinionated little person. That can translate to a lot of work when it comes to day-long outings and travel. As he gets older we will definitely be all about more adventurous activities but for now we don’t mind slower, simpler days. We are still very much enjoying our life, he isn’t holding us back from fun. We just have a new definition of fun in this season, and it will evolve as our family grows and changes. 

What I Swore I Would Do and Did

  1. Shower Daily. I don’t judge any new moms who don’t find time to shower every day, I totally get it. It’s crazy how the time can get away from you, especially in those first months. And certainly it’s harder the more kids you have in the house. But showering is a big deal to me. A really big deal, ha. On a normal day I shower twice, sometimes three times depending on when I worked out. So I always knew that I would find a way and I did, starting in the hospital. There has not been one single day I haven’t showered since bringing Enzo home. Sometimes I put it off until Ron got home from work but it still happened, and it was one of those small things that made all the difference for me in those early weeks.
  2. CIO/Sleep Train. This was WAY harder than I expected it to be, but I still did it. I weighed the arguments for and against and made an informed decision that I do not regret. Enzo sleeping through the night was a GAME CHANGER and 1000% worth it. 
  3. Lose all the baby weight. Sure, a baby shifts priorities. But I don’t think making time and putting in the effort to regain fitness is selfish. I gave up a great many “Me” things when I had Enzo. All of my hobbies and social activities have taken a backseat. But I won’t let my health go. It’s too critical to my happiness and well being. It took me A LOT longer than anticipated but I clawed my way back to pre-pregnancy weight and I’m continuing to work hard toward my goal weight, muscle tone, and running speed. 

Bottom Line, I love this SAHM life. If you told me this is as good as it gets, it’s all downhill from the baby years..I would believe you. It’s pretty darn amazing. <3 

Little Man Letters: Let’s Climb

Dear Enzo,

You are almost a year old. By day, I watch in amazement as you learn and grow. How did you get SO BIG, SO FAST? I’ll never know. By night, I plan your first birthday party and hustle to finish your nursery.

Planning a party and decorating a nursery are incredibly fun, yet difficult tasks for me. I’m a storyteller. A lover of beauty and meaning, metaphor and words. Never have those things been more important to me than now.

You entered this world a perfect miracle, ours for the raising. You won’t remember your nursery or your first birthday party, but I will. For me, they set the tone for everything your dad and I hope to instill in your heart and mind over the next 17+ years.

When I walk into your room or celebrate your first year, I hope to be reminded of the big picture. Small daily stresses have a way adding up, until they are consuming far too much time and energy. I want your room and your birthday to bring me back to home base.

I’ll try to explain.

Originally the theme of your little man cave was polar bears, until I found a cover for your boppy lounger with mountains on it. It snowballed from there.

Polar bears are still well-represented, but mountains have a commanding presence in your room. I love them in a literal sense, because you’re already a determined climber. But more than that, I love them for all the great metaphors they contain about life and faith.

The innocence of childhood is a magical, yet heart-breaking thing. I would give all I have to make it last, but that’s not possible. Therefore my job is to prepare your spirit for battle, against anything that tries to tear you down and turn you away from your God-given purpose.

It’s an age-old fight that seems to have intensified with time. This generation is increasingly hostile toward Jesus, the bible, and each other. Even within the Church, division is rampant. God’s truth runs counter to culture, making this whole mountain thing as much for me as you.

I feel like I’m standing at the bottom of the tallest, steepest mountain I will ever encounter. Daunted. Wondering how I, with all my sin and flaws, will successfully lead you to Christ. And do so in such a way that you will be more than just a casual fan, liking His teachings but never fully applying them to your life. I want what Jesus wants…for you to follow him. In order to get you to that point, you first have to follow (your dad and) me. The mere thought of it is humbling, terrifying, and motivating, all at the same time. 

Because while I don’t know exactly what God has in store for you, my gut says you will be called to ignite a ceasefire.

The devil has gained a foothold when it comes to unity, and it’s going to take an army of God’s soldiers to shake him loose. I hope you will be among them. Maybe even leading. Which sets a mighty high bar for us as parents. We are your first examples of how to walk in love while standing firmly in truth. A very difficult thing to do.

But there’s no turning back now. You’re here, staring up at us with big, blue eyes. Perpetually imploring What’s next, Dada? Where are we going, Mama?

Up, son.

May our every action, inaction, and interaction lead you in the right direction. So that when our job is done, and we’ve carried you as far as we can go, you will continue on. Taking heaven’s banner to new heights, for all the world to see.

Enough talking. Baby, let’s climb.

Love,

Mama