Friday, January 11, 2013

Six Months

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Bennett turned six months Saturday. Six months! This means he started solid foods. I don’t love this part of child rearing. It’s just… so… messy. More to clean, more to pack, more to buy, more to keep fresh, more to think about, more to prepare, more to do three times a day. Anyone else daydream of the time we would have and the things we could do if we didn’t have to worry about food or eating ever? Or sleep? No, just me? Harley and I put off solids as long as we can because we dread the work. And this time around, it was about more than just work. It was about Bennett being fed by another person.

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A person who may or may not wear a headlight while feeding him.

My baby is growing up, and this baby has been different.

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Bennett refuses to take a bottle. This has been a problem. I’ve had to cancel commitments, turn down invitations and excuse myself to find a private space. He’s had to accompany me places he wasn’t supposed to, like Breaking Dawn: Part 2, Anderson’s school field trip, a Girls’ Getaway Weekend in Williamsburg, VA and most problematic, our anniversary date. Actually, we narrowly got away with that last one thanks to one patron saint, Rachel, who was nothing short of amazing when she took on a completely high maintenance and somewhat ridiculous babysitting/chauffer gig.

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Rachel took Bennett on her double date…

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So we could be alone on our anniversary date. Jekyll & Hyde at the Kennedy Center, November 2012.  It was all Rachel’s idea. She’s amazing!

We’ve tried to get Bennett on the bottle. We tried, he tried. He cried, we cried. This mama’s heart is all about sleeping training and cry it out at 4 AM but mid-evening, when he’s just so hungry and frustrated, and I’ve got two other kids to deal with and two boobs right there… well, I could only take so much of the bottle battle. So I gave in and met his needs easily, quickly and wholly and he was so sweet and so grateful every time. We probably should have tried harder. I know he’d figure it out eventually if he had to. But the thing is, he doesn’t have to. I’m here, I’m mostly very available and it’s just so much easier to nurse him than watch, or listen to, that bottle battle. So we’ve been exclusively dependent on breastfeeding for six months.  Six whole, long months.

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Anderson’s Field Trip to Homestead Farm with Bennett attached. October 2012.

To be fair to Bennett, I have to say: he is the easiest, best-natured baby ever. The bottle is Bennett’s one baby flaw. (Aaaand that he won’t take a pacifier either – which stunned this paci-addict family.)  As long as he’s fed his way, he is happy, low maintenance and quiet. He sleeps on the go, is easily entertained, happily puts up with a load of brother smother and rarely fusses. Most of the times I schlepped him places, he was fantastically cooperative and good. Not much skin off anyone’s back. Angel, dream baby. I’ve got it good.

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Family pictures. November 2012.

But that didn’t stop me from complaining. Bottles were never a problem with Anderson and Max. I breastfed them for 12 months and 11 months respectively, so they were dependent on me and were mostly with me for their first years. However, I pumped and they took bottles like champs, so leaving them for extended periods of time, like say for entire days for a wedding or even two and a half days straight for a freelancing trip, was doable. With Bennett, not so much. He has been 100% dependent on me for food. Totally reliant on me to live. Completely counted on me to grow. And my, has my tiny baby grown.

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My smallest newborn (8 lb) has grown into my fattest 6 month old (19 lb).

I grew this. All of this. All heavy 19 pounds. All solidly packed 27.5 inches.

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He weighs the same as his brothers at six months, but a 1/2 inch (Anderson) to an inch (Max) shorter.  75th percentile for both height and weight. I’m cleansin’.

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January 2013. A kiss for good luck just before weigh in at the pediatrician’s office. After we got the numbers, Max and I praised him, “Way to grow Bennett! Way to GROW!”

A moment please, as we collage honor The Grand Master Chubb.

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This is Bennett’s theme song. We sing it to him while we nibble on his thunder thighs, Michelin man arms, tire tummy, rolly ankles and wrists…

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…and his big bum. Oh his delicious, big bum!

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My baby’s bum on my blog. Oh my.

I’ve taken my Chunky Monkey everywhere for six months. He is always right by my side, in my arms or in that crazy heavy carrier. There he is, taking up 90% of the shopping cart, claiming an entire captain’s chair in the back seat of the car or awaiting my push in the stroller. There he is, on my lap in the movie theater and restaurant. There he is, being rocked to sleep with the old foot-push-on-the-car-seat trick at my meetings and doctor appointments.  Friends and family have supportively put up with him during three trips and countless girls’ nights. My people were nice about it, but of course it would have been easier to not have him there.

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Me and my sidekick on a Girls’ Getaway Weekend in Williamburg, VA. November 2012.

This has been a taxing sacrifice and even led to a Mommy Meltdown earlier last month. It’s important to have alone time when you are only focused on yourself or your errand and not a little person. It is good to feel freedom to escape without a 3-hour clock ticking down the minutes until you must return. Three hours. That’s the longest stretch I’ve had all to myself in six months. The times I chanced stepping away I was either on a short leash with a small time frame or I got a phone call from Harley – who is awesomely hands on and tried more than anyone to break this kid and let me get away -- when my cart was half full or my meeting just beginning. “He’s crying. I got this, you don’t have to rush home… but he’s pretty upset and the bottle isn’t working.” Six months! Nine months before that I was growing him on the inside. As Gloria Pritchett says on Modern Family, I was “turning food into human.” Me and my body haven’t been alone in 15 months. 15 months! Did I mention there was a Mommy Meltdown?

So when The Saturday of Solids came, I was excited. No more complete dependence. No more lack of freedom. No more “it’s all me or he dies.” Bennett starting solids meant someone else, anyone else, could contribute to his sustainment of life. Harley will shoulder some of this great responsibility. A sitter can do it. I get a break. Hooray, hooray! Now I can leave him. Rejoice!

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Of course he took immediately to rice cereal.

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“Spoons? Sure! Bottle or pacifier? Don’t insult me.”

Wait. Did I say I was excited? Let me try this again.

I’ve taken my Chunky Monkey everywhere for six months. He is always right by my side, in my arms, or in that familiar, well-used carrier looking ever so soft, sweet, smiley and scrumptious. There he is, keeping me company on all shopping executions, peacefully sleep sighing behind me in the car, cooing at me as I push the stroller. There he is, on my lap as I watched the conclusion of Twilight and there again, as I tasted the best gnocchi of my life on my 33rd birthday. There he is, snoozing in his car seat (thanks to my foot trick) as my oncologist told me 4 1/2 years after my diagnosis with melanoma, I’m finally graduating from quarterly to annual skin checks. Bennett has shared it all with me. Friends and family have gotten extra opportunities to snuggle, kiss and love my baby. And when friends, family, colleagues, hair stylists and doctors alike gushed “That’s the best baby I’ve ever seen! He’s so well behaved! He doesn’t make a peep!” I beam, because he was there. 

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Bennett on the Girls’ Getaway Weekend in Williamsburg, VA. November 2012. He pretty much slept or flashed these happy faces the whole time.

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I have the best friends and family and there is nothing that touches a mama’s heart like seeing your people love on your baby.

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North Carolina. October 2012.

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Girls’ Getaway Weekend. November 2012.

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Anniversary dinner date. November 2012.

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North Carolina. Christmas 2012.

So when The Saturday of Solids came, I was sad. No more complete dependence. No more “it’s all me or he dies.”  Bennett starting solids means Harley, a sitter, anyone, can feed him. I get a break. Sniff, sniff. Now I can leave him. Sob!

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I don’t have to take this face of joy with me all the time.

Last week, he needed me. He had to have ME to meet his most important need and he needed ME to live. And I could do it so simply. Swoop in, feed him and he immediately settles into rhythmic satisfaction. When we finish, he smiles at me. It’s clear I’m his favorite. Is this all a pride thing? Maybe a little, but I think it’s more that I needed his dependency too.

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Bennett was totally there when I went dark. Watched the whole transition. Yet he didn’t even notice.

Bennett is my third boy. I wanted a girl. I am bananas crazy in love with him. I would not change a thing. I’ve even come to pretty healthy terms with the fact that I have all boys (and could always have all boys), but initially… Initially, I totally wanted a girl. (I still do.) I embraced his gender long before he was born, but part of me, even after he was born, felt a little “been there, done that” about him, my third boy. Maybe his bottle refusal was a blessing in disguise. Maybe I needed him to need me to necessitate all this extra, special, dependent, beautiful time we’ve shared.

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Thanksgiving 2012. We stepped away to feed mid-dinner. I was thankful.

Maybe that’s why I nursed him Friday night at 1:00AM. We finally 100% sleep trained him at five months (way later than we should have), and since then I bust out the tough love and ignore his rare cries in the night. But last Friday? The night before The Saturday of Solids, I just wanted to nurse him. That one was for me. (Maybe I even caused him to cry out, so I could have the excuse to feed him.) Maybe that’s why I fall under captivating love spells where I can’t. stop. kissing. his. face. We’re talking full on baby make-out sessions for 40 minutes with this man.

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Addiction, friends, in the very best way.

I’m grateful Bennett and I have bonded like this. I’m happy he’s been my 24/7 buddy for six months. And who am I kidding? He still is. Solids, at the beginning, are a very small part of his diet. I plan to breastfeed him for a year, and as of our attempt last night, he still doesn’t take a bottle. We’re going to work on it. It’s his New Year’s resolution. But I’m still going to be there, nursing him several times a day, growing him, sustaining him, loving him… and taking immense joy in it. I’m happy that privilege is mine. I appreciate my ability to do it. It is a gift. I have the rest of my life to have breaks, me time and solo errands. There are far more years with movies and meals and meetings alone than ones with a Lump of Love planted on my lap, grabbing at my fork, my pen… my heart.

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The Saturday of Solids, January 2013. Cafe Rio pork salad is the best introduction to solid foods, no?

They are only so little so long.

All of six whole months.

Only six short months.
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Friday, January 4, 2013

2013 Resolved

We established I was a bit overwhelmed last year right?  Yep. The holidays are over and life is graciously slowly down.  I welcome the break in chaos and look forward to a month of hunkering down and refocusing.  It’s a new year on the calendar and five days away from a new year in my life.  I’ve been doing a lot of thinking lately about life and priorities and what I believe and what I don’t believe and what I want to teach my children and how I want to teach it to them. 

I wrote that paragraph.  Then my thoughts got jumbled and instead of sorting them out I went upstairs and made 48 cookies from scratch. 

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Am I developing adult onset ADD?

There’s much going on in my head and my heart, and I’m going to attempt to write this out without worrying about sense or flow.  I’ve got to be better about that if this blog is going to have any life in 2013, and life I want it to have!  In my family we say, “give your feelings a voice.”  This is me, letting stream of consciousness take over, giving my feelings a post.

2012 was a difficult year.  There were some wonderful, happy highlights.  Him being the best of all.

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Bennett Harlan King.  He’s almost six months old. 

There were heartbreaking lows for myself, my family and my friends.  The year wrapped up with a particularly horrific public event that continues to haunt me.  When I heard the news of the shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School, I couldn’t stop crying. I didn’t sleep much that night. I kept thinking about what happened, and about the state of the world, and trying to figure out my role in making it a better place for my babies.  Here’s what I came up with.

It’s not about guns.  It’s not about mental health.  Those things are important and need to be looked at, but my heart tells me this is about the breakdown of the family.  That’s a place I can make a difference.  That’s empowering.

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The night before my Pre-Kindergartener started school I felt inspired to tell him something.  I told him there is one thing I want him to do above all else this year in school:  Be a friend to everyone.  I told him listening to the teacher is necessary, learning is important, but I will be most proud if Mrs. Lloyd reports that he is a friend to everyone.  Anderson is a great, friendly kid.  I wasn’t worried he wouldn’t be kind, but I felt, deep in my bones, this is the lesson I need to teach my boys every day before they walk out that door and it needs to start now.  Maybe it’s because I was bullied in junior high.  Maybe it’s because I’m raising three boys and sooner or later they will all likely be on both ends of some level of bullying.  I feel a heavy responsibility to raise my boys into not just decent people, but GREAT people.  I want to teach my children to love others and to serve others.  What matters most at the end of this life?  Not school grades or worldly successes, but the way we treated God’s children.

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My little boy on his big first day of school.

So I told Anderson that.  We talked about it again the next morning as I drove him to his first day of school.  Then I didn’t mention it for awhile, until Parent-Teacher Conferences.  I asked Anderson if there was anything I should ask his teacher.  He thought for a moment and said, “Mom, ask Mrs. Lloyd if I’m a friend to everyone.”  I was so happy he’d internalized this concept.  I asked Mrs. Lloyd.  She acted a little surprised by the question, but then she told me, “Yes.  He is.”

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It won’t always be this easy.  Anderson is outgoing and loving by nature.  And he’s only four.  I can only hope and pray that if we teach and live this principle now, it will stick with our children as they grow. When I heard the news of the Connecticut shootings my first reaction was to pull Anderson out of school and home school him, which is saying a lot, because for me (and my kids) that would be a disaster.  My second, and much better, reaction was to not let fear win.  We can’t live in a bubble.  We can’t shelter our kids and protect them from everything.  I read many opinions and reactions after the shootings.  Some made me uncomfortable and upset.  Others, like this, resonated with me:

And in despair I bowed my head:
"There is no peace on earth," I said,
"For hate is strong and mocks the song
Of peace on earth, good will to men."
Then pealed the bells more loud and deep:
"God is not dead, nor doth he sleep;
The wrong shall fail, the right prevail,
With peace on earth, good will to men."

Verses 3 & 4 from “I Heard the Bells on Christmas Day”

And this:

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I believe right will prevail, and I believe there are always more helpers than hurters.  I will teach my boys that. 

My favorite blogger wrote about the New Town tragedy here.  It inspired me. 

I returned to one of my latest reads this weekend, Brene Brown’s Daring Greatly, dog-eared and highlighted in many places, one specifically related to this kind of tragedy and the vulnerability that arises from it. Brown refers to her research of families who have lost children and experienced unspeakable traumas in life and what she learned from them: “Don’t squander joy. We can’t prepare for tragedy and loss. When we turn every opportunity to feel joy into a test drive for despair, we actually diminish our resilience. Yes, softening into joy is uncomfortable. Yes, it’s scary. Yes, it’s vulnerable. But every time we allow ourselves to lean into joy and give in to those moments, we build resilience and we cultivate hope. The joy becomes part of who we are, and when bad things happen—and they do happen—we are stronger.” (from Daring Greatly, Gotham Books, 2012)

She personalized it this way.

The only thing I know to do is to fall more into love—to draw close to things that are good, the people and places and experiences that draw the best from me. To honor the children and teachers that are lost, I pay attention to the children and teachers, friends and strangers who have not been lost.

Yes, yes and yes.  I look at 2012 and my personal trials.  I look at sad things happening in this country and around the world and I say “amen!”  The only way I know to react -- the only defense I have -- is to love more, to serve more and to show more gratitude.

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I had a profound moment with my father-in-law on the day we blessed Bennett last September.  I was listing recent serious woes of loved ones and he gently pointed out that none of those trials are my trials.  They affect me.  They hurt me.  They’ve been hard for me.  They’ve changed me.  But they aren’t mine.  And, to be sure, my day of serious woe will come.  Everyone’s does.  I’ve thought about that and decided I need to focus more on the beautiful things in my life and be grateful for them, because my life is beautiful.  That’s not to say I don’t have my own trials.  I have had trials, I do have trials and I will have more trials.  But I have so many blessings and their goodness far outweighs the bad.  2012 was tough, but it was also a year of incredible growth and opportunity to witness amazing outpourings of love.  In 2013 I commit to be better about seeking the beauty and the blessings, even in the face of hard times.  The beauty and blessings are everywhere.

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Remember how I went dark???

I commit to look for the joy.  Focus on the good.  Search for silver linings and tender mercies.  Look for helpers.  Appreciate deeper.  Serve better.  Embrace fabulous.  Love more fully.  Squeeze life’s lemons.  Gulp down the lemonade.

And I will verbally identify it.  For me, that is key.  We’re starting a new practice this year at our dinner table.  Each night everyone gets a chance to share their BEST of the day.  “What’s the BEST thing that happened to you today?”  I hope this helps us identify our happiness and blessings while fostering good communication.  I’m raising three boys.  I need them to know how to communicate and emotionally connect.

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All these trials and all my analyzing has led me to resolution making.  I have so many goals this year. Probably too many. I only get serious about New Year’s resolutions once or twice a decade.  The last time I got this serious was in 2002 when I resolved to “be emotionally vulnerable with men.”  That’s the year I fell in love with Harley. 

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More than ten years later, look where that emotional vulnerability got me.

One goal I have this year is to say nice things. We often focus on keeping not nice thoughts to ourselves. That’s important, and I need to work on that too, but what about the other side? I probably only say 10% of the nice things I think about people. No more! If I think it and it’s nice, I’m going to say it. Shout compliments! Proclaim admirations!  Spread love!  I’m going to send more cards and letters the old school way. I love mail! I kicked off this goal by sending cards to three people (a relative, a family friend and a woman in the ward who I’ve decided is my local Yoda) telling them how something they said or did shaped me, inspired me and how I appreciate them. This will be hard as my time is limited and interrupted these days, but I know this practice will prove worth it.  I’m also challenging myself to hold a pen the proper way while writing these cards.  I’ve been holding my pen the wrong way for 27 years.  We’ll see how this goes.

We’re working on a family mission statement. We’re asking ourselves questions like, “What do we want our kids to remember most about our family and what we stand for when they leave our home?” 

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Our kids are young, but we’re inspired right now, so we’re thinking, pondering, discussing and resolving to be better. It will come. For now, for this year, it is this.

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I need this direction for 2013.  I need to choose love.  I need to be a friend to everyone.  I need to recognize and celebrate the joy.  Many people around me are excellent examples of who I want to be. I will look to you as I try.  I want to be better at all of it.  I want to teach my children to live it. 

Happy New Year!

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