On Being a Mama

I can pretty much sum up my entire life right now in three words: tired, happy, mama. I have never enjoyed anything more, worked harder at anything, or lost more sleep over anything in my life before my dream came true and I became a little boy’s mama. I try and try to put it into words, but I can’t find a way to adequately express my love for that little blonde boy, my great big dreams for him, or how hilarious I think all of it is sometimes. What I can put into words though, are my experiences as a tired, happy mama (and a tired, happy step-mama too). Here are some of them so far.

Being a mama means hearing the baby cry on the monitor when you only have one leg shaved, but jumping out of the shower anyways so he doesn’t have to cry any longer. It is also knowing darn well that you won’t get another chance to shave that other leg today, so it’s just going to have to go ahead and stay prickly.

Being a mama means cleaning boy pee off of the toilet seat, the floor, and the wall, yep that’s right, the wall; for the 50 millionth time and wondering if they are ever going to pick the seat up or learn to aim. (Or pay full attention while aiming.)

Being a mama means sitting at a baseball game in 97 degree July weather and dumping water over the baby’s head every 10 minutes so he stays cool, so we can be big brother’s full cheering squad for All-Stars.

Being a mama means washing load after load of boy clothes, spending hours of your life turning shirts inside out, picking grass pieces out of dirty socks, and trying to figure out which clothes go to which of the four boys. And eternally searching for the mates to those 6 or 8 socks that never seem to match any of the others.

Being a mama means making coffee its own food group, and looking forward all day to that beautiful glass of chilled white wine you can pour once they are all tucked in for the night and you can finally put your feet up and do YOU for a few minutes.

Being a mama means loving every second of your weekly Costco mission, pushing the heavy loaded cart through every aisle with a perma-grin on your face because the baby in the front of it smiles, waves at, and talks to every stranger who walks by him, and it makes both your day and theirs every time.

Being a mama means laughing your head off when your one-year-old’s favorite new pastime is standing next to you in your closet while you get dressed, so he can slap your once-toned thighs repeatedly because he thinks it’s hilarious how they jiggle.

Being a mama means knowing before you get there, that Spot IS actually in the basket, but acting surprised for the 5th time that night when he lifts the flap and finds him, just as delighted as he was the first time.

Being a mama means hours of washing and cutting-up, warming and testing, spoon-feeding bites, and sitting beside the high chair, dodging flying food and wiping messes off the floor. And doing it all over again 3 hours later.

Being a mama means letting him fling an entire package of Always panty-liners one by one across the bathroom while you get ready, because you know it will buy you just enough time to get your makeup on.

Being a mama means spending an entire night in a recliner with a sick baby on your lap, taking his temperature every 5 minutes and watching the clock tick the hours slowly by until you can give him his next dose of baby Advil.

Being a mama means crying your eyes out after you put the baby to bed on the night of his 1st birthday party, because according to the rest of the world, he is a toddler now and no longer a baby.

Being a mama means making a running mental list throughout the day of all the little things you need want to do once everyone is tucked in; like paying those bills, finishing up your own laundry, looking up that new recipe you saw online, or watching that recorded episode of the Bachelorette you have been dying to see – but then being so tired you just collapse into bed at 9:15 and do none of it.

Being a mama means dropping the baby off at Grandma’s for the morning so you can get caught up at the office, and feeling like a part of your body is missing all day until you get him back in your arms. Because part of your body really IS missing – your heart stays with him every time you leave him.

Being a mama means laughing, crying, praying, napping, wondering, playing, hoping, reading, practicing, teaching, learning, cleaning, chasing, hand-holding, snuggling, soothing, loving, and living.

And did I mention drinking coffee?

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This little boy has my heart.

A Missing Fear of Heights

We Wilsons live in a house with many, many stairs. We decided baby gates were really only needed on the tops of two of our staircases – at least at first – so we put those in and called it good. After many months of both his Daddy and me trying to keep our determined little Hankster from figuring out how to go UP the stairs, he finally got his chance. And he mastered it in about one minute. By the time I got over to him he was already halfway up, and nailing it, so I let him keep going against my better judgement! When he got to the top he did a little victory dance with an adorable squeal, as if he knew he had just accomplished something against great odds. I was equal parts proud for him and terrified for me.

As he danced around at the top of the landing, I had a scary revelation. With this new accomplishment came a new challenge: going back down the stairs. Why oh why did we build the split level house with three long flights of stairs? And why oh why does he think if he just runs straight at the stairs faster he will get down them easier? This adorable monster of ours obviously does not understand the concepts of heights, inertia, or danger

Just crawl down them backwards and show him, they said. He will pick it right up, they said.

Well, he still hasn’t figured out the whole “down” thing yet, so I’m praying he does soon! It takes so much willpower to not just scoop him up and carry him down myself!

My other terrifying Hank adventure this week also involved great heights, but this one included a near-death experience! He decided that in addition to not being afraid of heights, he would also try to be a stunt baby!

Why not?

Our back deck is one of Hank’s favorite places. I love letting him play out there while I do dishes, because it is hooked right to the kitchen. Daddy built us a hell-for-stout baby gate on the stairway down, and a big sunshade overhead as well, so we both thought our deck was one big wonderful outdoor playpen where he couldn’t really get into too much trouble.

Keep the monster caged!

That is, until I saw him try to get himself OUT of the playpen!

I made the mistake of taking a work call while I was cleaning up the kitchen a few mornings ago, and after the minute-or-so phone call I peeked out the door to check on Hank and I almost fainted. There he was – laying on his back, wriggling his chubby little bod underneath the bottom railing of the deck! And he must have channeled his inner Flat Stanley, because he was already up to his waist!

I panicked, rushed over to him and yanked him out, and frantically yelled for his Daddy while Hank looked at me with disdain, like I had foiled his plan. I never in a million years would have thought A) that he would be able to fit under there and B) that he would have any desire to find out whether or not he did!

Well, he sure did. And once I explained the whole emergency to Daddy, he tried to ease my mind with some good old Daddy logic.

“You know honey, his head definitely wouldn’t have fit through anyways, if he could have even gotten that far.”

Oh, ok! I feel much better now!

Seriously? So what you are saying, Daddy, is that his 25 pound body could get through and dangle from his 81st percentile-sized head, and you would be ok with that?

Yeah, I didn’t think so.

And I was just not ok with risking it, either, on account of “we didn’t think he would fit through there.” Simply “watching him closer” didn’t seem like the right solution either, as fast as he had gotten himself into his little predicament in the first place!

So off to Home Depot we went, and the 1-by-2s quickly went up around the bottom railing so I can sleep at night and Hank can still continue to enjoy his lovely alfresco redwood playpen. Crisis averted. For now, anyways. Probably just until the monkey realizes he can climb the rails!

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Just try to get through there now, you adorable little Houdini!

10 Things I Never Thought I Would Be Thankful For

In my 33 years, I have lived a full, exciting adventure of a life. I have had ups and downs, twists and turns, and a lot of unexpected goodness thrown in there, which has made me both a believer in fate and also in God’s plan. The one thing that has shifted the most, through all the excitement over the years, is my perspective. Many of the things I am thankful for these days, I never would have believed 10 years ago! Here are 10 things I am thankful for today:

  1. A full dishwasher at the end of every day. (It means I have 5 mouths to feed besides my own, and those mouths belong to my 5 biggest blessings.)
  2. A big noisy, messy, crazy family of ALL BOYS. (They keep me on my toes and certainly, never bored!)
  3. A husband that I miss terribly because he’s on the road for work a LOT. (It reminds me that I’m married to someone I can’t live without.)
  4. The peaceful time at the end of the day when I get to tidy up the living room, the kitchen, and fold a load of clothes before bed. (I never appreciated that time when it was just little ol’ me, and I certainly didn’t look forward to it.)
  5. A baby who wakes me up between 5:30 and 6:30 every morning. (This is now the best part of my day.)
  6. Coffee. (See number 5.)
  7. A super long grocery list. (It’s no fun buying groceries for just yourself.)
  8. My job. (My amazingly flexible job lets me be a working mama but still allows me to be a good mama. I always dreamed of being a stay-at-home-mom, but now I wouldn’t trade it, I love both of my jobs!)
  9. My divorce. (It turned out to be the open door into what has become the best part of my life.)
  10. Quiet. (I used to hate quiet and had to have music playing at all times – now some quiet here and there is lovely, simply because it is rare.)

Since I titled this list “10 Things I Never Thought I Would Be Thankful For” – I will leave this last one off the official list, but it is noteworthy nonetheless:

I am also thankful for my big, awesome nose! (My ski-jump-esque profile reminds me every day that I am unique, that I have a little extra character, and most importantly – that I am related to some pretty amazing people with noses just like mine.)img_20160610_155615-1.jpg

So for all of you who know me and may have thought to yourselves, man, she would be really pretty if she would just get her nose done – Not happening! I finally have learned to love my nose after all these years of hating it, (even if it does have its own zip code.) I used to hope Hank would keep his adorable little button nose he inherited from his handsome daddy, but honestly I will be equally thrilled if he ends up with a big amazing beak like his mama. I am sure he will rock it even better than I do.

Like I said before, it’s all about perspective!

6 Ways a Baby Drives a Type-A Mom Crazy

I am one of the biggest Type-A, control freaks I know. Or I was, anyways. Until my tornado baby came along, I was Master Of My Universe, and I loved it. My house was always picked up, my kitchen immaculate – hell, I used to even buy flowers once in a while, just because. Flowers I would arrange in a lovely white pitcher on the clean, bare countertop, just because it looked so nice. I was Martha Freaking Stewart.

Now don’t get me wrong – I love my life even more now with that crazy adorable whirlwind running all over tearing my house apart, but I have had to learn to get over some things! And for me, this is definitely a work-in-progress. Here are some highlights from Life With A One Year-Old that still drive me (just a little bit) nuts.

  1. Sippy cups. In a perfect world, there would be one universal size and shape of sippy, regardless of brand name, so all the tops would fit all the bottoms. Nothing frustrates me more than pouring the milk into the sippy cup, but then realizing that the ONE top that is clean at the moment is a Nuby and not the Munchkin I need, because of course the Nuby won’t screw on to the Munchkin. But I take that back – it is possible that the milk that sprays all across the floor and up the wall 25+ times a day when the baby throws the sippy as hard as he can frustrates me more. “Leakproof?” Not in my house!
  2. Keeping track of things. For the first month of having the adorable Little People barnyard playset, I actually put the animals back in their corresponding stalls every night, shut the barn doors, and folded it up neatly in the toy corner of the living room. Seriously. Now, I am lucky if there is one farm animal within a 25 foot radius of said barn. My new daily battle is keeping my entire kitchen Tupperware stock out of the potato bin. Yesterday, I opened it up and found 3 tuppers, 5 lids, 3 baby spoons and a plastic cup that I had been looking for all morning. (And a sack of potatoes, that I forgot was even in there. Go figure.)
    Hank’s treasure chest
  3. Bedtime. I set out trying to keep my little guy to a strict 7:30 bedtime. I fought hard to keep it there, but the craziness of my life and ever-changing blended family schedule wore me down and made me give up the fight, rather than lose my sanity. “Bedtime” is now a sliding window from 7pm to 9pm, (depending on about 15 different variables ranging from baseball to fishing to homework to teething to whether we have had dinner or whether we can even SEE the dining room table under all the clothes piled on top of it, that need to be put away so we CAN have dinner.)
  4. The clean house/laundry conundrum. Having a baby wrecked havoc on both the cleanliness of my house and my ability to keep everyone’s laundry done, folded and put away. Mopping? Now done in small concentrated areas when a tub of yogurt gets hurled at the floor or the dreaded milk splatter sprays across the kitchen. Dusting? Do people actually do that? Folding clothes right out of the dryer? Impossible. If you don’t like wrinkles, you are in the wrong house.
  5. The dishwasher. I have spent some serious time trying to brainstorm an invention that would keep the overly-helpful baby out of the dishwasher. I usually end up hand-washing half of my dishes anyways these days, just to keep them out of his eager little hands. Knives, forks, anything that still looks dirty and anything breakable – these are his absolute favorites to grab as soon as someone sets them in the dishwasher rack. His other favorite pastime is pulling random (clean) utensils out of my cabinets and “loading” the dishwasher for me. I found the turkey baster in the dishwasher the other day. I haven’t basted anything in at least 6 months.
  6. My car. My car used to get vacuumed as much as my house did. I actually have a devoted Norwex microfiber that lives in the jockeybox for dusting my dash and cleaning the glass. Well, these days, I need a tub of clorox wipes, a garbage bag, and a shop vac to get my car back into shape. If I had a dollar for every goldfish cracker I found rat-holed away in the car seat, door handles, and floor mats, I could probably afford to get my kid-chariot detailed professionally once in a while.

I know that someday, my sweet little monster and his big brothers will be grown up enough to help me keep the house and car spotless and organized, most likely when they are 18 and off to college. And I fully realize that when this happens, I will be wishing with all my heart, for the days of goldfish crackers, spilled milk, and pacifiers scattered all over the house! So I am embracing my new personality like I am embracing motherhood. I am not even sure what the technical term is for the opposite of  Type-A, so I’m calling it Type-Z!

Hank playing Sink or Float with his paci and my cappuccino

My 13 Months as a Milk Cow

Friday, June 17th, ended my 13 glorious months as a milk cow.  I spent over a year of my life as an on-demand, round-the-clock milk-machine.  And I loved it.

I was one of those on-the-fencers during my pregnancy, when it came to the decision of nursing vs. bottle.  In our age of Mommy Wars and in-your-face social media, where everything you want to know (and don’t) is on the internet, I was torn!  I knew that “breast is best” but I also knew that my husband and I were both pretty darn healthy, even though both of our mamas raised us in the era when formula was the latest greatest thing.  I had friends bottle-feeding and friends who nursed, and everyone I talked to thought their way was best.  I finally just gave up trying to make my own plans, and figured I would “let go and let God.”  I would give it a try and if I didn’t have any luck, I had a drawer full of free formula samples to fall back on.  Well, everything worked just dandy, and apparently God bred this skinny lil’ mama with a +1 score for milk production, which I think surprised all of us!  At his 1-year check-up, our prize calf was ready to wean at the 93rd percentile for height and the 83rd percentile for weight.  So, yay for the whole milk-cow mama thing working out!  And yay for kicking off the calf! (WEANING=WINE.)

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My weaning celebration.  AKA – Mama’s sippy cup

Growing up on a ranch, I was lucky enough to get a lot of first-hand experience calving. One thing I learned from seeing the trauma of birth on our big Hereford calves, was that a mama cow’s colostrum was a magic elixir.  Those completely dumb 110-pound bull calves we had to pull on occasion – who seemed to not care if they ever stood up once they hit the ground – were living proof.  Get them up standing next to mama in a nursing chute and squeeze those first few gulps of milk down their throats, and they perked right up!  Any time we had bottle calves on milk replacer, we even gave them colostrum paste in a tube, so they would get that same jumpstart.

With my calving knowledge tucked in the back of my mind, the personal goal I set was to nurse my baby for at least a week.  Even if that was as far as I got, I figured he would at least get that first liquid gold, jam-packed with all the goodness that science can’t quite seem to replicate.  His instant immunity, the antibodies I read about in all those pregnancy books; that first amazing jolt of life that would make him want to kick and play like those big dumb bull calves who bounced right back from their own traumatic births.

After the first week, with only a few minor roadbumps, I was still going strong, so I stuck with it.  Thirteen months and one chubby baby later, I can proudly say it has been one of my greatest accomplishments.  Were there days I wished I had listened to my formula-feeding friends?  Yes!  Many, actually!  But I am stubborn and I had an annoying little voice in the back of my mind that kept telling me to keep the milk flowing, so I did.  And so, for any of my mama friends who may be on the fence about it, too; here is a brutally honest little look at both sides of my dairy-barn fence.  And a little humor thrown in there as well, because nursing took me (way) out of my comfort zone, and the best way I dealt with it was by laughing about it!

The Hardest Parts

  • Nursing sucks, at times. (Literally.  Ha!  Take that free lanolin sample and use the hell out of it!  Then buy two more bottles when that runs out.  Lanolin is your friend.)
  • Nursing made me HANGRY.  I have never been so hungry in my entire life!  Nobody could touch my Oreo’s, or they knew they were in grave danger.
  • Three weeks of counting to 10 at the beginning of each feed because of the let-down pins-and-needles pain. (That did finally go away.)
  • Night feeds. For an entire YEAR. (And more specifically, every 2-3 hours, for about 9 months.)
  • That one time I got the clogged milk duct.  Painful does not even begin to cover it.
  • Awkward!  At times, especially in a house full of boys.  “What’s he doing under there?”
  • No wine!  I even tried the little breastmilk/alcohol test strips one time, and yep, it showed up.  So yep, I pumped and dumped.  And I cried equal tears while pouring out the milk and the wine.
  • Limited nursing wardrobe. (Seven different colors of nursing tops, one for each day of the week.  And, repeat.  For 13 months.)
  • Nursing a baby on 5 flights, sitting next to several strangers.  Talk about uncomfortable.  Can’t all planes have two seats on a side instead of three?  Or automatically upgrade nursing moms with babies to First Class?
  • Pumping every day for almost 9 months.  (I can still hear the ch-whoosh ch-whoosh sound in my sleep.)
  • Teeth. Enough said.

The Best Parts

  • Breast milk is FREE! (Well, pretty much. I did have to buy freezer bags and a few pump parts.  And a nursing cover-up, as I am not one of those let-it-all-hang-out-kind of moms.  Kudos to those of you who are, but I am a bit more bashful.)
  • Sitting in a cozy La-Z-Boy feeding a beautiful baby on your lap, listening to Enya playing quietly and the birds chirping outside the window, while he drifts off to sleep = bliss.  And I got to do just that, many times a day.
  • My fat little baby, who gained weight like a pro!
  • Nursing could calm that baby down from ANYTHING, no matter what.  If he was crying for any reason, nursing him would fix it.  Always.
  • I didn’t need to hold a bottle, so I had two hands free to read a book, scroll through my news feed on my phone, inhale snacks, or actually get some work done at the computer.  I got to where I could actually do most of my office job at my desk while nursing the baby on the boppy.
  • Never having to worry about bottles in the middle of the night.
  • Never having to worry about bringing bottles with me anywhere I went – I had the baby’s milk ready to deliver at the perfect temperature, on-demand.
  • Those 50 pounds I gained while prego (yep you read that right, 50) melted off pretty fast since a lot of my calories went into milk production every day!
  • I truly appreciate both sleep and wine more than I ever did before I was a milk cow for 13 months.

So, my stint in the dairy world was life-changing.  I felt like a living, breathing, walking, milk-producing little Mother Nature in human form.  Not only did I miraculously grow a human in my tummy, I also fed him for over a year (six full months, exclusively) thanks to that magical mother super-power that I got to tap into.  That to me, is one of the coolest things I have ever done.  And if I weren’t completely certain that this little guy is my one and only, I would do it all over.  In a heartbeat.  So I guess I made the right decision.

Hank, I am happy to report, has happily moved on to whole cow’s milk, so thank God Costco sells it in 2-gallon boxes!  So far between him and his brothers, we kill about 4 gallons a week.  I may be looking for a milk cow to throw in the corral here soon.  And I will be happy to let her take over the farm’s milk department.  My dairy days are over!

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Must. Get. Every. Last. Drop.