Theodore

My baby nephew died yesterday.

He spent his whole life here on earth in a hospital.

His parents got to hold him only once in the first several weeks of his life.

He lived for 2 months and 19 days.

We have hope, that in heaven we’ll get the chance to properly get to know each other. But we have to wait until then. I don’t really get to know you who you are in this life, Theo.

But, in the short time that I did know you, I loved you deeply and you taught me quite a bit about pain–about dignity and faith and hope in the face of horrifying circumstances. You reminded me how to pray and refocused me on what matters. Sometimes, it can be easy to forget. I can’t ever thank you enough for teaching me those things.

I will miss you every day, until I see you again, warrior baby.

Love,

Aunt Michelle

more tiny humans

Ailey swinging

On a Friday in June–some of the best kinds of Fridays are in June–we found out that I am pregnant again.  Then, I promptly vomited, as if, now that it was official, I officially had symptoms.

This baby, unlike Ailey, is not a surprise.  Ailey is almost two, and though we were completely unprepared for her to make her grand entry into our family when she did, we’ve always wanted to have our kids be close in age.  Built-in play-mates and learning to share by necessity and all of the things that come with close siblings sound like a dream.

So, here we are, actually doing the family thing, even if we feel like imposters, technically too inexperienced for the gig.  I’m still waiting for Some Authority Figure to sternly demand that I present the mom license that I don’t have.  But, they don’t give you a license when you have a baby, and this time next year, we’ll have two tiny people in our family.

There is often a lot of talk about being ready for babies and if there’s anything I’ve learned about building a family, it’s that “ready” is such an inadequate description of the situation.  I don’t know if part of it is because we didn’t actively decide to start when we did, or that I’ve always made really impulsive decisions, but being ready is kind of a myth.  There are so many things that you just adjust as you go–make room in the budget here, give up a thing or two there or promise myself I’ll sleep at nap time and mourn the loss of sleeping in while I sleepily smile at the toddler whom arrived in our bedroom at 6 am.

I guess what I’m trying to say is that motherhood has taught me so much about the realities of life and what little of it that I can actually control.  I’m grateful that our family is growing and that I think I’m actually maturing along with that growth.  But not too much…  😉

Christmas in the Rockies

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Growing up on the East coast meant there were Christmas tree farms every few miles. The one my family usually went to was at the end of the street where we lived, so it was an extra quick ride squished into the branches of our tree choice that season in the back of the family mini-van.

This will be our third Christmas in Colorado (though we’ve always gone back to Maryland for the actual week of). The first year, we lived in a bitty 600-square-foot apartment, so I bought a still-potted, mini tree and poured some glitter on it (hashtag festive!).

The next year, we had a tiny baby, a tiny budget, and a Groupon for a pre-cut tree that was insanely overpriced and browned very quickly.

Then, I heard about how most of the cut-your-own tree situations go down out here in the Wild (almost) West. Since it’s so cost-prohibitive to maintain Christmas tree farms due to water shortages, there are very few of them out here. Instead, there are designated areas where you’re allowed to purchase a permit for $10 and cut your own tree FROM THE FOREST.

The forest service offices across the state sell the permits and hand you a map and off you go.

We even bought an axe for the occasion.

It was great.

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a letter to my younger self

ailey me in mirror

The person I saw when I looked in the mirror just now probably would have really frightened 18-year-old me. If I’m being honest, that image probably would have really frightened me from just a year ago.

Today, I am twenty-five + a few months. I didn’t get much sleep last night because Ailey, 10 months + a week, is simultaneously teething and fighting a summer cold (as she has been for it seems like this entire summer). She’s a really happy, easy-going lady baby most days, but last night that combination of sore gums and stuffed sinuses made her really, really mad. I’m talking scream-crying at 3 am, all out mad. So today, when I looked in the mirror, I could see the wear on my face that a night of scarce sleep will give you.

Today, I am worn out. When I am tired, instead of race-crawling around the house with Ailey, or playing the game where she screams with glee while I run through the house with her riding piggy-back, I’m trying to play the game where I lie on the bed while she looks at books. It was a good try, at least. I decided to just get over myself and try to get some exercise–don’t they say that’s better than napping when you’re tired (they’re mean)? I pulled out the stroller and we went for a walk. We only dropped one toy along the way and then had to go back for it. I decided to be ambitious and jog a little. At this point, I am dripping–the sun is oppressive and hot, the way it can get in Colorado in middle of the day in the summer. I’m regretting that decision to make it a two-Arnold Palmer morning instead of just drinking water.

A whole half mile later, Ailey is basically asleep in the stroller. We’re close to home by now, and I’m ambitious. I’m going to hold this drowsy baby on one hip and close the stroller one-handed and hoist it into the back of the SUV so I’ll have it for later, yes I am. And I did, but not until I’d successfully squashed one finger hard enough that the entire weight of the half-folded strolled was dangling from that finger, and yes, baby is still on my hip, so I have no other free hand to save the first one.

I made it out eventually. We hustled into the house and I carted Ailey to her crib for a real nap (fingers crossed) while I hurry to the bathroom to run cold water over my finger. I catch my reflection, and my face is twisted into a grimace from the pain of the pinch (it’s not serious, thanks!) without a lick of makeup on my flushed, slightly sun-pinked face. My hair is piled up into some kind of something on the top of my head and hasn’t been washed in a while, if you were wondering. There are a few new strands of gray (already!) visible in my dark hair, sticking straight up in revolt. They’re settling in, staking claim.

But I cannot help but smile back at this new me, who I see these days more often than the one whose hair is done and face is painted. It’s definitely been a little while since I’ve seen the well-rested me staring back from that reflection. I would’ve thought future-me was lying if, a year ago, she’d told me I liked it here and I was loving how I fit into this slightly frazzled-looking version of myself. I am content. I have worked hard and put in some time to stare into the eyes of a tired, happy mama in the mirror.

Admittedly, not every day looks like this. I’ve been pleasantly surprised at how often I still can find a few minutes to put on some make up and pick out some clothes I really like and put them together. Motherhood hasn’t meant looking exhausted and threadbare all of the time. But, it has meant that my priorities are different. Getting some exercise with a mini-human in tow has been more important that making sure I look a certain way. Crawling around on the floor, chasing after tiny legs that have just learned to climb stairs has taken precedence over a leisurely morning lying in bed. Sometimes I miss the free time, but I certainly like building something that matters, visible in the character of a little, budding person. I am okay with the person I see in the mirror, even if she isn’t someone I expected to see.

So long, Maryland

Well, Ailey and I returned to the west(ish), so we are officially back in Colorado for the long haul. After three weeks in Maryland visiting family, it really felt like we lived there. And I guess in some ways, it should. I am a born and raised Marylander. My soul is chock-full of crab cakes and beltway traffic, if souls can be full of such things. I was surprised at how quickly I slipped back into routine there, even now that I have a daughter who wasn’t yet a part of my life when I lived there. But, you know, driving familiar roads and just seeing all of the same sights that I had just stopped noticing after 23 years, and oh, the rain! It just feels like home is supposed to.

So, now we are back in Colorado, where the air is thinner and the mountains are in view, and now that feels like home in a different way. Growing up is so weird and beautiful. I must be maturing if I can attest to the beauty of it, since historically I’ve resisted growing up with every fiber of my being. It’s hard not to cling to the familiarity of youth, isn’t it?  But now it isn’t so bad, this growing thing.  If I have to age, I suppose I should do it gracefully and enjoy the new experiences each stage of life brings my way.

Anyway, here we are, growing up, and along with that, cutting a different path and sorting out the details of a new life for this little family. Ailey will grow up familiar with mountain vistas and so much snow and very little rain–so differently than I did (not to mention legal marijuana, so there’s that). Life is weird.

In Defense of My Young Family

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I was 22 when my now husband, Trent, asked me to marry him. We were overjoyed. I joined the ranks of young people getting engaged and posting the news on Facebook.  I know for every person who liked my post announcing that we would be married, there were a few rolling their eyes. Once we shared the news, we were inundated with people, young and old alike, telling us we were too young to make such a huge commitment like marriage. Complete strangers would notice the ring on my finger when I was out running errands and beg me to wait. “There’s no need to rush into things,” they said.  At my bachelorette party, an older woman pulled me aside and chided me.  “You are way too young to do this!  You have your whole life to settle down. Why waste your youth like this?” I smiled politely and thanked them for their advice and moved ahead planning our wedding.

We got married a year later. Marrying Trent was one of the best decisions I’ve ever made. He is compassionate and strong. He challenges me to be better. He’s fun. He loves me every day more than I deserve on my best days.  He is steadfast where I am flighty.  I’m spontaneous and he is responsible.  We balance each other well.  Do we fight? Sure.  What married couple doesn’t?  Is marriage difficult?  Absolutely.  It’s hard to live with another person who could show me a lot of evidence that I can be really selfish.  But, being married to Trent has taught me so much.  Every day, I’m grateful to have him by side.

Seven months after our wedding, we were surprised to find out that I was pregnant.  It wasn’t exactly the timing  we’d had in mind, but it was happening.  Again, when the time was right, we shared our news on Facebook (as it turns out, baby posts get even more likes than marriage ones).  We were excited and totally scared out of our minds.  I can only describe having a baby as the craziest mix of the most extreme emotions I’ve ever experienced.  Our daughter, Ailey, was born September 27 and she is one of the greatest joys of my life.  I’ve been exhausted and frustrated and covered in spit-up at times, but I’m not lying or attempting to save face when I say that it’s worth it.  There are times when it’s really hard, but I have difficulty even remembering the tough times when she smiles her huge, toothless smile at me or wraps her tiny hand around my finger and holds tight.  I know we’re new to this parenting gig, so I can hardly speak with  authority, but so far being a mother has been one of the most amazing experiences of my life.

Just like we’d experienced after we announced our engagement, once the pregnancy was announced, the dissenters spoke up.  In the months leading up to Ailey’s birth, we heard time and time again, “I can’t imagine having a baby as young as you guys” from others our age.  Several people who were much older than us said, “get ready for your life to change forever.”  “You’ll never sleep again,” they warned.  Upon hearing we were pregnant, countless people asked “did you guys plan this?”  It was pretty obvious that a lot of people thought we were way too young.

And I do understand where people are coming from when they say that we were too young to do what we’ve done.  Actually, I myself have said those things before we became the very people I was referring to.  I recognize that divorce rates of young couples are climbing.  I know that increasingly, kids are raising kids.  We all make mistakes, and sometimes those mistakes are closely tied to major life decisions, like getting married and raising kids.  Here’s what else I know:  marrying my husband and giving birth to our daughter are two of the best things that have ever happened to me.  Having both of them in my life has taught me (and at times, forced me) to be a more selfless, loving person.  I think of my own needs far less often than ever, and I am a far better person for it.  Have I missed out on being young?  Maybe I haven’t partied, or traveled, or goofed off as much as I was planning to before getting married and having a baby, but I don’t know that it would have mattered.  I can say that no amount of single or childless years would have better prepared me to be a wife or to have a baby.  There is no “perfect” time at which you are suddenly prepared for marriage or parenthood.  We’ll travel more once our kids are older, while those of you who wait to have kids will still be raising young ones when ours are grown.  It’s a tradeoff.  Getting married and starting our family young was the best thing that could have happened to us.  But, that doesn’t mean it’s for everyone.

Don’t get me wrong.  I’m not saying everyone needs to hurry up and start families.  Rushing into marriage is not what I’m advocating here.  I just want people to understand that my timeline is different from yours.  Actually, everyone’s timeline looks a little bit different.  There is nothing wrong with being unmarried at 35 or with having four kids by then.  The problems arise when we put pressure on others, or judge them, because their major life events are coming at a different pace than our own.  I experienced a lot of doubt and anxiety because so many people voiced their opinion that we were too young to do what we did.  Maybe they’re right, I thought.  My life is over, I worried, instead of enjoying the exciting parts of life that I was about to experience.

I’m also not trying to say that there aren’t young people getting married who should have waited.  That happens, too.  I’ve had friends announce engagements that have made me cringe because is was concerned it wasn’t the best for them. I think if my younger sister wanted to marry someone I didn’t think was right for her, I’d lovingly share my concerns.  But, the majority of the negative comments that we received cautioning us not to rush into anything were from people who didn’t know us well, if at all.  Unless you know someone well enough to have some business expressing your opinion about their relationship, just don’t.  Everyone who knew us and knew our relationship well supported our marriage, which was an important confirmation to us that we were doing the right thing.  I don’t think it’s wise to marry someone if the majority of the people you trust don’t approve, but most people, myself included, can’t hear that unless it comes from someone they really trust.  So why say it to strangers?

So, let’s all stop hating and just be happy for each other no matter which stage of life we’re in.  Mmmmk?