Monday, September 26, 2011

Save yourself :)

Lately I have found myself repeating the same thing over and over again in my head.  Maybe I should back up a little bit...I just wrote in a previous post about the guilt-factor that is somehow gifted to every new mother.  I try to fight it, but I feel it all of the time.  I feel guilty about the craziest things.  I feel guilty when my children are in their car seats for too long.  Even if they are perfectly content, I somehow imagine that their little bodies aren't getting enough room to grow when they're cooped up for a long time (crazy, I know.)  I feel guilty when someone takes care of Julia so that I can get a few things done around the house.  It's that crazy belief from the 1950's that a "good mother" should be able to balance all things...but I have yet to find a balance that involves a 2-year old and bathroom cleaning chemicals.  I feel guilty when I have to run errands for myself, I worry that my daughter eats too much sugar, I feel guilty for feeling guilty.  Ugh.
I don't know how this mantra started, but one day it was playing in my head.  And the next day I said it a few more times.  And somehow it has evolved to make me smile whenever the guilt-factor arises.  This little saying was ingrained in my head from a young age since we traveled quite a bit.  Who ever pays attention to the flight attendant's announcements?  I always did.  I was fascinated by the issue involving the overhead mask if the plane should happen to lose pressure:
"In the event of an emergency, please assist yourself before assisting the child next to you." 
I never quite understood that phrase before.  I assumed that it meant that the adults were selfishly more important.  Now I realize that without the adults taking action, the kids wouldn't make it.  So there it is.  It reminds me to grab a sandwich before I feed Charlie even if he is screaming, it is the reason why I put Julia in the shower with me in order to contain her and assure that I will actually get that essential time in the morning, and it helps me remember that the house won't burn down if I take 30 minutes to myself to go for a run.  Heck, maybe everyone will be a little more at peace if I go and get a pedicure :) The bottom line: if I take care of myself, I can better care for my kids.  It's not rocket science, but it's not easy to remember all of the time either. 
This weekend I miraculously finished a 5k with some other great mothers.  All of our children survived the training for this event.  Whether it is acknowledged or not, we recognize that taking care of yourself makes you a better mom in the end.
Julia agrees...
most of the time.
And Charlie continues to go with the flow :)

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

....and still growing

I don't know why I'm so surprised by how much Charlie is growing.  I have done this one time before.  I know how this happens.   One moment they are helpless and the next moment they are saying, "Well, actually..." as Julia has started reminding me when I am not consistent. 
It is easy to enjoy every moment.  Charlie continues to make us smile everyday with his unending happiness (yes, he even laughs in his sleep!)  I can't believe it has only been 10 weeks and then again, I can't imagine our lives any different.

5 weeks
6 weeks

7 weeks

8 weeks
9 weeks

10 weeks

Monday, September 19, 2011

Books and a blog

Ahh, luxury of luxuries, I read a book. 
Not just any book.
  I was able to move beyond The Going to Bed Book and Fancy Nancy to read a big girl book.  I was on the hunt for a good one for our trip to Maine.  If I was going to spend those precious hours engrossed in a book, it had to be worth my time.  I have many half-hearted attempts by my nightstand that never made the cut.  A good book has to withstand numerous interruptions and almost a magnetic force to keep me involved. 
I left for Maine dissappointed that despite trips to the library and Barnes & Noble, I just couldn't find anything that was Maine-worthy and engrossing enough to take my attention away from my constant "mom" state for a while.  Then it happened, this book literally fell into my lap.  We stopped at a farmstand in Freeport, ME just 10 minutes from the cottage.  We had driven off the beaten path to pick up some fresh produce for dinner.  In the corner of this little shanty was a stack of cookbooks and this book:
I had acually been looking for this book after reading a review in a magazine, but couldn't find it.  The fact that it takes place on the coast of Maine conveniently sold me as I would be reading it while relaxing by these same cold waters.  This Life is in Your Hands is a wonderful true story about a family who abandons their everyday luxuries in order to homestead, which means they are completely dependant on farming the land for their everyday needs.  It is the story of how they maintained this lifestyle and it's peppered with real life tragedy as well as the reality that this escape to be self-sufficient is not an escape from heart-ache.
The only disappointing part was the fact that I flew through this book and again had to begin the search for my next read.  I have been craving something inspiring.  Something that can keep me grounded in the midst of what feels like such a busy and crazy time in our lives. 
I found it.
One Thousand Gifts by Ann Voskamp is a reminder and a challenge to find joy and gratitude in life - the daily reminders that we often overlook.  It is truly grounding to read a book like this.  My mind is constantly checking off lists and looking forward in an effort to acheive some sort of readiness for what is next.  It is difficult to bask in what is right in front of you when you are busy looking beyond it.  It is really the simple things that make our lives great.  This book is a perfect tool to remain reminded of the overwhelming blessings found in these moments and beyond:
"Gratitude bestows reverence, allowing us to encounter everyday epiphanies, those transcendent moments of awe that change forever how we experience life and the world."
-Sarah Ban Breathnach from "One Thousand Gifts"
The truth is, I am drawn more and more to the simple things.  This Life is in Your Hands was nowhere near a call to leave for Northern Maine and try out homesteading, but in many ways this couple had the gift of creating a new meaning of life for their family without "stuff".  One Thousand Gifts further fuels this desire toward simplicity and adds a much needed demension of the grace and abundance that is found here. As a consumer, we are constanty innundated with the things we "need" in this world.  The irony is that the "it" thing is constantly changing and it is a game to keep up with the latest.  I've found that as a mother, the guilt factor is added in and I typically feel as though my child will not acheive an imaginary developmental level if I don't keep up.  I feel like I come up short in my desire to run from the pull of daily life.  It is nice to escape from all of these demands for a little bit.  Curling up to a good book has been a great way to do this and it's even better to find something that challenges you regroup and rethink.
My friend Laura has a similar vision to enjoy simplicity in the little things.  She has started a great website with her friends, called plant. eat. create., which highlights very simple ways to enjoy each of these elements.  I always tell her that I feel inspired when I spend a bit of time with her.  This inspiration will likely rub off when you check out her blog.

Wednesday, September 14, 2011


Ah, home
Let me go home
Home is wherever I'm with you.
-Edward Sharpe and the Magnetic Zeros

I can just imagine Julia and my dad singing this song in the above picture.  It's a song that makes me smile whenever I hear it.  It makes me want to drive the country roads of my hometown with the window down.  That's exactly what I did this weekend when I made the trip to Pennsylvania.  After a long day at the Arts Festival, I took Julia and Charlie to my friend Becca's house, which was a wonderful trek along the roads that lead to my childhood home.  Since miraculously, both kids were sound asleep in their carseats, I decided to take a little detour to travel past my old house.  During the day I'd had the great opportunity to gather in Wilmington with some of our greatest friends and as I drove along I was able to reflect on the people that have walked this road with us.  Having a child will do this to you - thrust you into this constant state of nostalgia...that's where I am right now (bear with me). 
The interesting thing is the fact that on his first trip south, Charlie is seeing this from a whole different perspective.  This isn't home for Charlie or Julia.  They were both born in Springfield, Massachusetts.  No matter where life takes them, Massachusetts will always be where it all started.  No matter how much I tell them, they will always see things starting from the time they were born.  The hard part of retelling this story for them is the fact that someone new lives in that house on the hill in Landenberg, the horses are on another farm, my elementary school, the place where I met my best friends is now a Charter school.  Even Happy Acres, the old hometown restaurant has changed hands a few times and is now an Italian restaurant.  I didn't frequent Happy Acres very often, but somehow I miss it.   Then I realized that this reality of change is true whether I lived in Chester County or Massachusetts.  Though many of my friends have the privledge of living in their hometown, life changes.  It will be a whole new experience for our children. 
So on the way home, I told the kids (Julia, since she may be able to retain some minscule amount of information and Charlie, because he is a captive audience and has a face that looks like it's in a constant state of wonder) about each and every meaningful and mundane spot along our route.  They will always know how special this place is to me.
The greatest part about all of this brings me back to the lyrics of my favorite song.  Thank God I have changed since my school days :), we all have.  My friends have their own families, my family has evolved from moves up, down and around the US and our surrounding are constantly changing.  There are few constants in life and so I have found "home" in the people that mean the most to us.  They are home no matter where we are.   I see this now as Julia embraces the people who mean the most to her.  I may innundate her with stories about growing up and what has been special to me throughout my life, but ultimately she will create her own meaning.  We all crave the familiar from time to time - I wonder what places my children will hold dear to their hearts and return to when they need a "home" fix.   Even though they won't grow up in Chester County, my secret wish is that they will run along the trails of the Brandywine preserve, find their way to the river and feel as though this is a magical place embedded into their own childhood as it was in mine. 
This was our first of many trips to Pennsylvania for Charlie.  Thank you to everyone who made it special and thank you for being part of these special memories for all of us! 
It's nice to be home.


Tuesday, September 6, 2011

favorite things *(reprise)*

I always write about my favorite tools - the gadgets that make life easier.  From muffins to my baby Boba carrier, I often find myself going on and on and on to new moms about the quirky essentials that make daily life as a parent a little bit easier.  Since we've been somewhat homebound (it takes a lot of energy to confidently take my fragile newborn and two year old who is like a volcano waiting to erupt out on my own), I realize how much of our day is spent doing the mundane.  Maybe it was our trip to Maine, where we packed our car to the brim, but really only used a quarter of what we brought or maybe it was this morning when both of my children were in diapers and found great joy in each other's smile - I have come to the realization that some of my favorite things lately are not things.  They are moments. 
Here are the favorites of the week:
  • Things have gotten better.  There is no real measure for how or why or what has changed.  It's just better.  We're getting this whole "2 children" thing figured out.
  • After a fun day with friends yesterday, Julia sat quietly in her carseat on the way home and sweetly announced, "I feel happy mommy and daddy!  This was a good day!" 
  • Charlie continues to insist that his favorite sleeping position is on the chest of the person holding him.  It makes for some unending priceless moments of snuggling with him. 
  • We are reminded daily of the wonderful community of friends surrounding us with encouragement and some good old fashioned help every now and then (like storing breastmilk in their freezer after the hurricane came through and mowing our lawn while we were away).  They also serve the important role of normalizing all of our crazy moments!
  • Nothing puts a smile on Charlie's face like the presence of his sister.  There are few places that Julia would rather be than right by his side!  I could say this over and over again, but I am in awe of their relationship already!
  • Julia has mastered the big girl bed.  It was like slaying a dragon.  We are all quite proud of ourselves that nobody was hurt during this process!  Now bring on the next challenge - we are armed and ready!
It's nice to write these down as I realize how quickly we forget these moments...and how quickly the things can turn sour :)  It is even better to have some of them captured on camera.
The following pictures were taken last month by my best friend - she's a pretty amazing photographer and even more amazing friend!
"Sitting there in your pajamas & all the time in the world & if I could keep any moment it would be this: watching you & holding my breath with the wonder of it all."
- Brian Andreas

Sunday, September 4, 2011

"Maine. The way life should be."

Everyone has their points in life they can set their compass to.  Whether it is a certain place or time, it serves as a constant.  It's the point at which you can take inventory of the rest of the world and measure what has changed.  For me, this point is Maine. 
We've taken this yearly trip around Labor Day for the past four years for the simple purpose of relaxing.  Maine is certainly the place to accoplish this goal.  We have a limited agenda and a Gray vacation motto of "anything is fair game", which means we can stop wherever we want, eat whatever we want, and change the plan at a moment's notice.  It's tough to have a strict agenda in Maine.  It seems as though all of that goes out the window as soon as you cross the border from New Hampshire into this great state.  Once we drive over  the bridge, everything feels lighter. 
Our vacation this year was just like every other, relaxing and rejouvenating-filled with daily trips to the local farmstand, a lobster a day (for Chas), walks and runs around Mere Point, a few good books, and drives along back roads filled with talks about what we would do if we had a house on the coast.  It was also different this year.  It was different in the obvious ways.  We added a new member to the mix - Charlie had his first taste of the salt air.  Julia was able to enjoy things from a different perspective.  It was also different in much more subtle ways.  Our lives have changed drastically from that first family trip four year ago.  We were newleyweds then.  We spent every day kayaking and discovering new adventures.  Little did we know, the next year Julia would be present in our lives, which added a new twist to this get-away.  Relaxing on vacation took on a greater priority.  Our time became less defined and we were just as content to spend our time on the dock.  It may have been less adventurous perhaps, but more exciting.  The next year Julia was growing and learning.  The whole trip seemed dedicated to teaching her everything there was to know about Maine.  She learned how to eat corn on the cob and touched a lobster for the first time.  She heard all of Charles' adventures as he grew up vacationing in Maine.  This year was filled with a bit more of this as she is so excited to soak in the world around her.  She took her first dip in the cold Maine waters and loved every moment of it.  Charlie is becoming so alert and aware of his surroundings.
Every once in a while, Charles and I look at each other and smile.  We use this place as a point of reference.  Our lives have changed so much over the years.  In some ways I miss that first year, though I know there will be plenty of adventures to be had on the coast of Maine.  I love this place in our lives.  There is excitement in knowing that there is so much to look forward to.  At times like this, we are reminded to slow down and enjoy these milestones.