Little Moments

Things that have made me smile today:

  • Dropping my son off at pre-school for his second day in the three-year-old class, knowing that he will have fun and that he is in such good hands with teachers that will love him and take good care of him.
  • Driving alone in my car, listening to the radio a little too loudly.
  • Getting my first Starbucks Pumpkin Spice Latte of the season today from baristas that know my name, ask about my little boy, and know my order.
  • Sitting on my back deck feeling the beautiful breeze as it floats the scent of the “Autumn Festival” Yankee Candle I have burning beside me into the air.
  • Surrounding myself with silence, typing, tastes and scents that relax me.
  • Taking the time to ignore the chores and choosing to listen to life’s little pleasures.
  • Remembering that before there were days of mommyhood, there were days of me.
  • Giving thanks for this life, this house, this moment, and all of the blessings that have gotten me to this day, this time, this now.

My perfect fall morning.

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I Am

I Am

I am strong and hopeful
I wonder if everything really happens for a reason
I hear laughter
I see tomorrow
I want to be happy
I am strong and hopeful

I pretend that I have it all together

I feel lost

I touch my toddler’s sticky fingers
I worry about how it will all work out
I cry when I allow myself to let go
I am strong and hopeful

I understand that life is never what we expect
I say that I can handle it anyway
I dream for all the pieces to fall into place
I try to focus on the moment
I hope that one day I will KNOW I made the right choices
I am strong and hopeful

*This poem was made with the I AM template through Mama Kat’s writer’s workshop. It’s funny the things you discover about yourself when you are given the right prompt. What would you discover if you tried?

Mama’s Losin’ It

Writing Woes

So I have this writing problem.

I love writing. I think it heals me.

It allows me to process, to vent, to understand. It allows me to explore humor and candor, reality and dreams, and all of the pieces that fit together to make a whole me.

It gives me an opportunity to recognize myself.

There are times when the words form together in my mind and pieces compose themselves. I don’t have to think, I just have to listen to myself and urge my fingers to catch up to my mind.

Often, this happens late at night, when I am lying in bed.

If I am really feverish to document these musings, I reach for my phone on my nightstand. I open the “memo” section and text like a mad woman.

And then I am relieved. I am saved from the burning emotions brewing in me. Once I have released them into print I feel more calm, and can drift to sleep.

When the morning arrives, and my day becomes busy with getting the toddler dressed and making breakfast and trying to go somewhere so we don’t go stir crazy in the middle of this heat wave, the thoughts I composed the previous evening remain unshared in my phone.

And so my phone holds multiple posts, holding onto words and emotions that were once so prevalent they were all I could think about; but not being shared in the one community in which I could openly disclose them.

My phone hides all of my secrets.

(Yes, I am in BIG trouble if I ever lose that thing.)

So, in an attempt to re-connect with the blogging world and do what I came here to do in the first place, share myself, I will have to purge into the depths of my phone.

I am really not even sure of what is on there.

Some memos are just lists of what to get at Target. (Ok, a lot of them. Target is like my second home.)

But some memos are pieces of my heart.

So I will challenge myself and this blog (and my phone) to reveal more of the pieces of me.

And I will try really, really hard to be more present here.

On that note, does anyone know where the toddler hid my phone?

Attachment Parenting Is Not A Bad Word

By now, we have all seen the controversial TIME cover and developed our own reactions. Mine was initially one of anger that I was quickly able to temper by reading posts by other bloggers with a message I could relate to; of course you are mom enough. Don’t take the bait; no matter how you parent you are a great mom.

With the approach of Mother’s Day, a provocative picture, and a titillating title, the TIME cover was clearly nothing more than an opportune-timed jab at the old-fashioned and worn out ply for “mommy wars” and a play on the insecurities of all mothers, regardless of parenting style. As I read articles denouncing the cover with pleas not to play into the controversy, I was able to nod my head in agreement and compose my own piece focusing on the joy of being a mother rather than the style in which you chose to execute that privilege.

I could be at peace with it, because of course there will be talking heads and uneducated media articles feeding into the flame, but it seemed most people in the blogging world were not taking the bait.

Then, I noticed a link to a blog article in my Facebook news feed. I thought it would be another eloquently written post about the ludacracy of the cover. I clicked and looked forward to nodding along as I had with previous pieces.

The underlying message was the same; don’t buy into the cover’s ploy to enrage you or tell you that you are not a good mother. But in taking down TIME, this article also took down attachment parenting. The writer stated,”most moms who subscribe to attachment parenting are older hippie moms with gray hair and saggy boobs and Subarus.” She went on to list the reasons that she thinks attachment parenting is ridiculous and throw Dr. William Sears, the person who co-wrote The Attachment Parenting Book with his wife, Martha Sears, under the bus.

Perhaps these are common stereotypes. But they are, indeed, just stereotypes not actually steeped in reality.

So here’s my big reveal: I am an attachment parent. I breastfed my son on demand until he was two. We still co-sleep even though his third birthday is approaching in September. I always used the Baby Bjorn instead of a stroller and in one particularly memorable episode, I joined a mommy play group for a walk in a park, and I had no idea how to open my stroller. It was embarrassing, and it was clear I did not fit in with this group of moms who used strollers and formula.

But maybe, if you subscribed to the stereotypes represented by the above blogger, you would not guess my attachment parenting tendencies. I am a fairly young mother, (I was 25 when my son was born) I try to wear stylish clothes, (on the days I’m not running around in work out pants) and keep my hair and make up presentable. My go-to color for clothes, nail polish, and lip gloss is pink and I carry a Coach purse. I’m a girly girl in disguise as a busy mom and wear flats due to the impracticality of the heels that reside in my closet. My decision to attachment parent is not one born out of a “hippie identity” nor one that narrowly encompasses my entire personality. It is simply the parenting style that I chose, that I believe in, and that my son thrives on.

Perhaps the idea of attachment parenting seems scary and extreme and it’s a little too easy to buy into the hype that you have to be an “older hippie mom” to do it. But perhaps that comes from a misunderstanding of what attachment parenting means. The principles of attachment parenting are birth bonding, breastfeeding, babywearing, bedding close to baby, belief in baby’s cries, balance and boundaries, and beware of baby trainers. Basically, skin to skin contact after birth, breastfeed, hold your baby as often as possible, sleep close to your baby, respond to your baby’s cries, establish clear boundaries of yes and no for you and your baby, and listen to your instinct and your baby rather than taking advice from others about your child’s care. In an even more concise summary, attachment parenting is high-touch, responsive parenting. I missed the birth bonding part due to my emergency c-section delivery. For me, the breastfeeding led to the co-sleeping, my baby’s constant need for touch and my desire to hold him led to the baby wearing, and my belief in responding to my baby’s cries and cues allowed me to establish boundaries, ignore bad advice, and feel confident in the way I was parenting my son. I believe in attachment parenting, and I practiced it. But that doesn’t mean that you have to, or that you have to judge others who do.

The idea that attachment parenting requires breastfeeding a child until they are old enough to spell is simply not true. The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends a child receive breast milk for the first year of life (source) and The World Health Organization recommends breastfeeding for up to two years (source). The idea of extended breastfeeding may not be normal in America, but it is normal worldwide, and it is not an idea established or solely supported by Dr. William Sears.

The idea that if you co-sleep your kids will sleep with you until they are in middle school is also not an idea advocated by Dr. Sears or  attachment parenting. In the attachment parenting book, it says “children wean themselves from your bed when they are ready…in many families this process begins sometime around age two.” The attachment parenting book even gives you tips on how to make the transition. The misguided belief that attachment parenting requires a child to sleep with you into late adolescence is not an idea put forth by Dr. Sears.

Attachment parenting does encourage baby wearing, or holding your baby in a wrap or sling as often as possible. Again, this is not a new idea. Many countries all over the world have been carrying babies in slings or shawls for years. And, if you read The Attachment Parenting Book, the baby wearing practice is really only for the first 6 months. As soon as the baby starts crawling, attachment parenting babies are highly encouraged to explore their environments.

Nowhere in the times I have read or referenced the book have I read the lines “If you do not do attachment parenting you do not love your child” or “You are “screwing up” your kids if you don’t practice attachment parenting.” In fact, Dr. Sears and his wife are parents to eight children, and they only started formulating and using attachment parenting after the birth of their fourth child. I’m sure that doesn’t mean they did not love their other children.

Attachment parenting is not a bad word. It is a style of parenting. What parenting style you use and how you weave it into your own parenting will depend on you, your family dynamics, and the baby (because my goodness these little people have big personalities). Time’s cover is obviously meant to illicit a response rather than give an accurate depiction of what attachment parenting is. It is also clearly meant to draw on women’s insecurities of their own parenting style with the provocative “are you mom enough?” headline. Though many people are choosing to rise above the blatant attempt to ruffle feathers, I was disappointed to find out that some responses further propagate the same message in a different way; you are only mom enough if you do it my way.

Making fun of attachment parenting while attempting to scorn TIME for their poorly thought out scheme to boost sales contradicts and diminishes the stance all mothers should be taking; however you decide to parent, you are absolutely mom enough.

We will not be able to truly change the conversation until we can fully convince ourselves that all parenting styles are acceptable. Basing our knowledge of all parenting styles on facts rather than on assumptions or titillating magazine covers is an excellent place to start.

*For more information on Attachment Parenting, read The Attachment Parenting Book by Dr. William Sears and Martha Sears. http://www.attachmentparenting.org/ also has some good resources.  Their piece in response to the TIME ploy is a well written summary of what attachment parenting really stands for and what TIME actually acknowledges about this style of parenting.

read to be read at yeahwrite.me

Take Time to Watch The Butterflies Dance

I caught a glimpse of them today.

I watched as they fluttered outside my window, creating delicate flight patterns as they circled around each other.

I watched the fragile wings open and close and create a blur of color and beauty.

The butterflies moved in and out of my line of sight through the window as they encompassed each other and danced from the flowers to the sky.

“Mommy! My butterflies!” my toddler exclaimed as we watched them dance. I was delighted at his excitement.

And it was then I finally realized none of the rest of this matters.

Over the past two days I have been inundated with the grown up world. I have been dealing with the insurance company and bills and phone calls. And of course, I saw the Time cover.

In my already stressful world, the initiation of a mommy controversy is not something I want to be a part of. But it riled me none the less.

I have been in an unshakeable bad mood since yesterday. But then this afternoon, I turned off the computer. I put down my phone. And I watched the butterflies dance with my son.

It doesn’t matter how you fed your baby or how long you breastfed. It doesn’t matter if you did attachment parenting or not. It doesn’t matter where your baby slept or whether you used slings or strollers.  This cover is clearly meant to illicit a response, not give an accurate depiction of breastfeeding or attachment parenting. It is also clearly meant to insult ALL mothers, posing the question, “Are you mom enough?” Mom enough for what, exactly?

There will always be decisions to make in parenting. There will always be opportunities for you to question your parenting choices.

But that takes away time from the things that really matter.

What really matters is that you love your child, in the best way that you know how, and in the way that works for you and your family.

And that you take the time to stop and treasure the moments with your children as they marvel at the wonders of the world.

I’d rather spend my time as a mother loving my son and delighting in his excitement over the beauty of butterflies dancing. After all, aren’t these the moments of motherhood that make it magical?

*These are my favorite blogger responses to the Time cover. Please take a moment to read their eloquently written words.

http://themomalog.com/2012/05/10/are-you-mom-enough/

http://practicalkatie.com/2012/05/11/every-mom-is-mom-enough/

http://www.sisterhoodofthesensiblemoms.com/2012/05/are-you-mom-enough-not-to-take-the-bait/

http://www.farewellstranger.com/2012/05/11/lets-talk-about-something-else/

Why I Write

It’s dark here, as the light of the moon casts shadows over the bed.

Toddler breathing and cat purrs form the soundtrack for this particular scene of my life.

It’s a nightly occurrence, the glow of the moon through white cotton curtains, the steady breath of my beautiful boy, and the contented purrs of a cat beside me.

The clock ticks, warning me of the dangerous hour it is approaching and my impending duties of mommy in the morning that will be made so much harder if I don’t surrender to sleep.

But it is here, always here, that my mind becomes alive.

I remember my past, present and future as they all intertwine into a current conversation lulling me away from rest and restoration and into questionings and ponderings.

Sometimes, I revel in this time. This time of me. Sometimes, I dread it. Often, I feel alone.

One night, in this time of me, I stumbled upon a blog. I read posts by a woman who had struggled with her birth experience. For the very first time, I knew I wasn’t the only woman who felt this way.

I spent that night, and many more, pouring over her words and allowing tears to stream down my face as I motionlessly jumped up and down and silently screamed, “I am not alone.”

So I started writing. Writing thoughts more composed than just scribbles in notebooks or notes in the memo section of my phone. I started putting thoughts on paper and screen instead of just narrating them in my mind. I started to open my heart to the vulnerability and bravery that comes with hitting the publish button.

Sometimes, I write stories about my son. I try to capture memories that I want to hold on to forever. I would like for my son to read those one day. I hope they will mean as much to him as they do to me.

But mostly, I write to sort out the collisions of past, present and future that occur at my most fragile time; when I am in the midst of myself.

One day, maybe someone will read these words and they will mean something to them. Maybe one day I will understand them all myself.

And so I write for my vulnerability, my process of grief and self discovery, and my hope that one day these words resonate with someone so that they might say, “I am not alone.”

I started writing to find myself. I continue writing to find you.

Today, I link up with the lovely Galit and Nicole as they ask the question, “Who do you speak for?”

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An Hour Alone

I used to be a scheduled person. I used to be a Kindergarten teacher, so my day was divided into 20 minute segments of learning, teaching, organizing, writing lessons, entering student progress, and even squeezing in lunch and a bathroom break in a 20 minute time frame.

Then I became a stay-at-home Mommy. I was on baby time. I slept when the baby slept. I nursed when he wanted to nurse. I ate however much I wanted whenever I was hungry. I enjoyed trash daytime television. I reveled in the lack of schedule.

I have not had a schedule for nearly three years now. And I adore it. I adore staying up late when I need to and sleeping in when the toddler allows it. I adore taking leisurely walks with my toddler and marveling at things like flowers growing because we have nothing else to do. I love not having a schedule.

My life is not always as lovely as described above. My days are filled with laundry and dishes and cleaning and bottom wiping and trying to keep up with the needs of an ever-demanding and incessant talking toddler. But I don’t have a time frame to complete all of my to-do list.

So today, I am linking up with Stacey of Mothering Moment’s great listicles idea. It’s an interesting task; describe an hour in your day.

Today, I’m going to share a very rare hour with you. An hour of alone.

4:00 PM – Toddler and husband are upstairs for a nap. House is quiet. Cat sits in my lap and purrs as I sit at the computer reading and commenting on other’s blogs.

4:20 PM – Decide to get a snack. Go for a diet coke and some Cheez-Its. This is my time, remember? No one said it had to be healthy.

4:25 PM – Really wish we had cupcakes or something in said quiet house. Search kitchen. We do not.

4:32 PM – Turn on TV to TBS where Friends re-runs are on . Enjoy the banter between Rachel, Ross, Phoebe, Monica, Chandler and Joey.  Hope turning on TV does not wake sleeping boys upstairs.

4:34 PM – Sit back down at computer in guest room/office/playroom downstairs. Position chair to see TV in living room. Enjoy background noise of Friends and the clicking of the keyboard.

4:35 PM – Wonder what will happen next so I can finish this post.

4:38 PM – Stuff face with Cheez-Its and diet coke. Delicious.

4:39 PM – Check bank account balance to see if we have enough disposable money for me to order take out tonight while the hubs goes back to work on the night shift. Frown at the questionable outcome.

4:42 PM – Cat comes back into my lap and makes herself comfortable. She is soft and warm and I think we both enjoy this quiet company away from the toddler pulling her tail and demanding my attention.

4:51 PM – Hear husband’s alarm going off upstairs. It’s almost time for him to wake up for the night shift. The toddler will be awake soon, too.

4:56 PM – Realize it’s time to wrap up post. Spell check. Remain in awe that I got a whole hour alone to engage in junk food and blog activity.

4:58 PM – Hear husband walking around upstairs and start shower. Consider going up there. Remember we are not in college anymore and typing with a cat in my lap is actually much more appealing than joining husband in shower. I am getting old.

5:00 PM – Gently place cat on floor. My time is up. But what a wonderful time it has been.

It’s safe to assume that the rest of my day was a constant task of toddler wrangling, bottom wiping, dishes, laundry, cleaning, and blogging catch up. But this hour, was for me. Thank goodness for blogging, Friends, diet coke, and Cheez-Its.

Join me on staceysmotheringmoments.com

Over The Moon

Over the moon might not even fully express how excited I am today, but it’s pretty close.

When I started blogging, I thought I’d try it out, see how it went, and give it a go. In all honesty, I didn’t think anybody would read it. It would just be my own little place of rambling, and if I got really lucky, I might meet some online friends.

I have gained so much more. I have met some amazing writers, found writing communities that stun me with their talent, and delighted in the joy of online communication with wonderful people.

And the weird part? People are not just reading this blog, they actually seem to like it! I am giddy with excitement. This blog thing? Might actually work out.

I am honored to share with you two blogs that have featured some amazing writers this week, and am beyond excited to say that I am mentioned! Twice!

I found Jennifer through the Yeah Write community. I have been so thrilled with the talent there, and love Jen’s contributions. She just posted April’s Best, a collection of wonderful writers and posts that will make you think and laugh. Here, she mentions my post Get Over It. Head on over to check out this collection of bloggers. They are all worth a read.

I’m not sure exactly how I came across Kristen of What She Said, but I am oh so glad I did. Fellow Richmond dwellers with toddlers, we live in similar worlds. I love her humor and honesty, and she made me a life long fan with her post The Road to One and Done. I have also loved following her on Twitter and getting to know her as a “real” person. Her words of encouragement have been so inspirational to me, and it was by her reassurance that I thought, “maybe I really could be good at this blog thing.” I am truly touched by the sweet comments she made about me in her post Friday Tapas: The Lite Edition, and her mention of my recent post, Life Lessons From the Toddler. Head on over and get to know the fabulous Kristin!

And just for a little more shameless self promotion, I wanted to let you know that I finally jumped on the bandwagon and made a Facebook page for Elated Exhaustion. Come on over and “like” it. You would make my day. http://www.facebook.com/elatedexhaustion I even updated my social media buttons so you can get to the page from there, too.

Thank you all for your support. I am so honored.

Have a great weekend!

~Julia

Inspired

I tentatively placed my hands on the keyboard and willed myself to let go of the story that had been hiding in the recluse of my mind for months.

I watched as the letters under my fingers transformed into words on my screen, pouring out thoughts and telling a story I had never before shared.

I dared, much like I am now, to let the story unfold on its own, and present itself in its own way. Even I was not fully aware what direction it was taking.

I edited slightly, because when my mind speaks is doesn’t always remember to spell.

I published. I linked. I waited.

I held expectations no higher than a hope that this would be a prequel to my whole story and that it might allow me to connect with more readers in this wonderful blogging world.

And then it came. The brave. The transparent. The inspiring. The different perspectives. The outpouring of responses on a story I thought was my own.

I was amazed and humbled to discover that this story is not just my story. Parts of this reality had been experienced and felt and endured and coped with by many. People shared pieces of their own times of loss, their own times of difficulty, their own perspectives. People came here, to this small little corner of the internet, and shared their hearts.

To say I am honored is an understatement. I never knew that a simple post with a picture of a pumpkin would open the amazing dialogue created on that page. I cherish these bits of your lives you so generously intertwined with mine and savor them as though they are a decadent dessert. (Of chocolate, of course.)

This blogging world is still new to me. I am not even aware of all the things I do not know, as I have just started to climb this ladder and do not have the vision to see more than the next step in front of me. I am in awe of this community.

I have been lucky enough to find bloggers whose words float over the screen like a melody, whose descriptions entrance me, whose honesty both surprises and compels me. I have been lucky enough to read stories of people who break down the barriers of convention and instead allow the private of their lives to dance freely into the public. I have been lucky enough to find bloggers whose kindness surpasses many of those I know in “real life.”

Everyone has a story. It is what makes life so tragically beautiful. There is such artistry here in the intertwining of these hearts and voices. I see slivers and pieces of diverse stories slowly thread over each other as they weave their way into a part of the tapestry of shared experiences.

One of the reasons I started a blog was to finally share the birth story that I have never told, in full, to anyone in the past two and a half years since it happened. I have carried it, mostly alone, as I have walked this path of new motherhood. I started a blog to find you. To hear these stories. To know that I am not alone.

And to tell you that you are not alone either.

Thank you for allowing me the opportunity to share a brief overview and summary of my story. Thank you for not making me feel like I am crazy to have these musings. Thank you for giving me the courage to begin to share my birth story. I will tell you all of it one day.

Thank you for making me feel inspired.

Reflection and an Anniversary

Today, I am thrilled to link up with two fabulous bloggers, Alison of Mama Wants This and Ado from The Momalog as they both celebrate their one year blogging anniversaries. Not only is this an important milestone for them, but they are also celebrating by giving fabulous prizes away to…you! I had no idea that blog anniversaries were such fancy occasions, but I am so excited to be a part of it!

Anyone can participate; the idea is to link up your favorite post. It’s a great way to meet other bloggers, read eloquent writing, and maybe win some fantastic prizes.

The post I am including can be found in its original form here.

(I also copy and pasted below, if you want to skip the click-through step.)

This post is not the most uplifting or lyrical that I have ever written, but it is one of my favorites. I wrote it late at night on a memo on my phone, when the words came pouring out of me and had to escape somewhere. It was the first time I was brave enough to write about my intimate thoughts after having my baby. It was the first time that I realized my words had power. And it was this memo, that sat in my phone for months, that nagged at me to start a blog in the first place.

I had words to say, and intimate thoughts that needed to be shared. This piece of writing allowed me to start to use my voice to once again find pieces of myself I thought I lost after having the baby. It is written from a dark place in my life, when I felt overwhelmed by motherhood and baby and not at all at peace with the dramatic changes pregnancy and breastfeeding had imposed upon my body. But these words made me feel for the first time in a long time, that my story had significance.

So in honor of these wonderful blog anniversaries, please enjoy a glimpse into one of my most intimate moments of discovering myself in my reflection.

Reflection 

My bathroom mirror was a thick fog of steam created by the shower I like to run almost scalding, so that it nearly burns as I stand under the flowing current that strips my skin of the days’ events. As I pulled back my shower curtain to reach for my white towel, a reflection of someone caught my eye in the mirror. It was someone I recognized mostly, but things had changed without my noticing. As I stared now, I watched water droplets drip from my breasts, which sit much lower than they used to. My nipples have darkened and there are stretch marks dirtying the cool white porcelain of skin that covers what used to be one of my favorite body features. Now they have become nothing more than a food source for the baby. While I pride myself on breastfeeding, I also grieve my breasts that I now no longer admire unless they are kept in an expensive bra that gives them the illusion of elasticity.

My eyes traveled down to my stomach, which used to be flat and jeweled with a belly button piercing, but is now like a map of squiggly lines leading to nowhere and a scar of a decoration of youth. I lifted my “baby pouch” with both hands and tried to remember my pre-baby body. Maybe I’ll get a tummy tuck one day, I thought. But a quick glance at my c-section scar reminds me of all the pain, and I winced at the thought of undergoing surgery ever again, for any reason.

As the steam lifted, I noticed circles under my eyes that I’m quite sure weren’t there a few years ago, and some stray eyebrow hairs. I’ve given up pedicures and waxes, and now resort to plucking when I get the time, but I’m surprised at how out of control my brows look. I guess I need to check the mirror more often, I think as I lift the tweezers for the first time in weeks.

At least I’m saving money this way. Not looking in mirrors allows you to forget that you have run out of concealer for the dark circles or chapstick for the chapped lips. It allows you the freedom to not care what you look like and not spend money on make up.

But I can not help but to feel trapped into a surprise when I can’t stop this mirror from reflecting.