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Holding This Season Loosely When I’d Rather Clench my Fists

This holding what I have loosely thing is a continual practice.

Definitely not a once and done "this is what I'm going to do, that's final, I've got it down, moving on" type of decisions.

It reminds me of my yoga practice (which I'm now feeling a little anxious to get back into. I do some prenatal yoga, but it's not quite the same. Any locals have affordable ideas for a mama in need of regular yoga, including childcare?).

Sometimes it's several times in one moment that I have to consciously determine whether I'm doing what I can on my part and then let the rest go. I have to open my hands, sometimes physically to let this trusting parts of my life that I cannot control to someone or something else happen.

Y'all, I want to control parts of my life that I can't, even though I don't really know how they are going to turn out best. I don't like that in-between discomfort that comes with letting life unravel. I want the comfort of knowing.

I don't know when my Selah girl is going to show up. I want to tell her any day but one, because I don't know how her being born then will effect others' feelings. I want to control her birth and I how other people feel about it.

My sweet niece was born yesterday to one of my favorite people in the world. She sleeps 1,450 miles away, and I don't know when I'm going to get to snuggle her.

I've been spending quite a bit of time researching Noonday, wondering if it's the right fit for me and my family. There's only so far I can go until I get the answers I need, and the one or two people who are assigned to answer them for me are currently occupied with other things.

Yesterday, I found out that one of my dearest, kindred-spirit-type friends is moving 1,600 miles away in less than 3 weeks.

Y'all. I can't control any of that, and it's hard.

I can keep playing my own part and opening up my hands, even when I have to pry them open (several times in one moment).

I will. I'm going to practice that.

I have to believe that there are beautiful things to be had in

practicing openness, not shutting down

doing the best I can with what is mine to control

look for reasons to be grateful

for parts of life I don't love right now.

That is the hope I am holding onto.


Not Sleeping: Perspective for Today

I am awake when I shouldn't be and slept way too few hours last night (tonight?).

So I write.

So I look at the nights when I can't sleep (and there doesn't seem to be a particular pattern to these nights) as practice for those when I am up feeding/changing/snuggling Selah while my boys sleep. I am practicing for the next day, when I still have people, events, and appointments I've said yes to. I still have a son who needs and deserves my attention. I am practicing for the days when I will need to accept or even ask for help or say no or ask for a rain check more often than feels comfortable.

I am gathering up my resources- blogs I can check in with during the wee hours of the morning and tools to make not-sleeping almost, and maybe even actually, enjoyable.

I am treating myself to the kombucha I bought to split with Nolan after a patience-stretching experience at the grocery store. (I'll probably drink his share, but that just means I get to buy another one, right?)

I am reveling in the growing family that I adore. The house picked up by my husband while Nolan splashed in the bathtub and pretended to make me coffee and soup.  The promise of a green smoothie and coffee in a few hours and the quiet that comes with being awake while the rest of my world sleeps.

Maybe practicing today will make the upcoming onslaught of sleeplessness a little more manageable. And if not, at least I've found some beauty in this time.


Favorites Lately

My favorite festival is Rodale's Organic Apple Festival. We went (with a sick baby) and loved it, as expected.

It happened on the first official day of fall and...although I no longer think I have a favorite season (it used to be fall) because living with Nolan is like living out every thing with fresh eyes and so much more is beautiful now...fall is already really, really good over here.

The season just kind of spilled out of that first day.

We did all get sick, one after another, but we went on an impromptu apple-picking trip. It was an off time, so we had the play area all to ourselves, almost the whole place to ourselves (with the exception of employees). We fed goats and chickens and tried apple cider donuts for the very first time.

My husband made apple sauce while Nolan and I slept and it. is. DELICIOUS.

I made this apple pie smoothie (making a few substitutions based on what I had available) which I had to wrestle from Nolan. (Really. Every time I tried to take a sip, he tried to pull it away from me. )

Tim introduced me to the simple but incredible dessert that is thin slices of fresh apple cooked in butter. (I will be eating those every day until I am tired of them.) (Maybe I'll try cooking in coconut oil, too?)

The "baby" (he's not so much baby any more) and I have been getting longer stretches of sleep- usually 4 to 5 hours in a row each night, which translates into a lot more joy for both of us. I have been laughing so much and so hard lately and crying some happy tears. I like that.


Mothering a Boy

This little boy is a the joy of my life.

I know. This is news to you, right?

Sometimes, I start feeling like what I'm doing (with him, being his mom and all of that) doesn't matter because he won't remember. Of course, I can feel that way if I choose, but those thoughts aren't founded in truth, exactly.

What is it about somebody remembering something or not remembering that makes us (maybe not you, but sometimes me) think it is a good gauge for what is worth doing? Nolan will not remember what is going on in his life right now, but he will be loved (albeit imperfectly) during his most formative years. At his core, (I hope) he will know he is loved unconditionally. With that perspective, feelings of worthlessness don't really make sense.

I fill other roles, but

I am Nolan's mother.

There are so many ways to parent. I just keep attempting to learn. Keep thinking and paying attention, keep talking and listening.

Today, I was caretaker to one of Nolan's birthday buddies (we have two sets of friends who each had a son the same day Nolan was born) in addition to my usual little rascal.

In the beginning, I was breaking up every entanglement (the other boy is significantly smaller than Nolan)...but as I was observing them, I noticed that this is just how they did things. The being on top of one another, the grabbing of a toy, and then grabbing it back. The touching of faces and pulling of hair (although that got a little iffy sometimes).

I watched them, and I played with them, but I stopped intervening on every.single. thing. They didn't need that from me.

Several months ago, I learned that Nolan enjoys most things I would find scary or a little too rough. Most times, he thinks they are hysterical.

Being the mother of a little boy has been quite the learning process for me. I imagine it always will be.

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Where Were We?

We traveled just over 1,000 miles to celebrate the birth of a marriage.

Not just any marriage.

Well, of course it was the kind that would have us driving a thousand miles with a baby.

We arrived early to explore the town and spend extra time with the queen of my heart.

(So glad we did.)

Since arriving home, we've been recovering, yoga-ing, writing, eating, kind of- sort of getting back into a routine...and not really sleeping.

I've been extra sensitive lately and a little angsty, and I think the lack of adequate sleep just might be the culprit.

Today he is 9 months old.

If you look closely, you might be able to see evidence that he loves to feed himself.

(That's peaches, pancakes, and yogurt adorning his face, shirt, and body...and maybe a little in his stomach.)

He also loves water and bubbles (which helps with after-breakfast clean-up), the color red, "reading" to himself, wheels, electronics, climbing, his tunnel, and just generally being a crazy little boy.

He's cheerful even when woken up too early, and I think his favorite food is a toss-up between watermelon and banana.

My baby is 9 months old- so much and so little time all at once.


This Boy

There are still nights when I take to food like some take to beer or books or cups of tea. I'm not really (physically) hungry, but I'm eating because there is a need to relax, to let go, to numb out a little (or a lot).

The next morning, I often feel inclined to stock up on doughnuts to drown out feelings of having "messed up." I want to numb out again...but I don't.

I don't because there's this boy with this face that melts me even on my tiredest, most difficult days. He is depending on me to live life with him. He needs me not to be numb so that we can play in the dirt and explore the yard and get our hands dirty and splash almost all of the water out of the tub while we both laugh about how much fun this is.

I like to try new things and explore places, but I think that everything is scary to me the first time I do it.

This boy? There is very little fear in him. I've seen him do a face plant in both his tub and his baby pool, and each time, he is right back to playing as soon as he gets over the shock of it. He loves the stairs and although we let him climb them (assisted), he's now interested in going down them. He loves to wrestle and wants to go everywhere and touch everything. He just go,go,goes, with no qualms about falling or whether he will succeed. (You might be getting a small taste of why I can't be "numbed out" during the day.)

I really do believe he is the most adventurous parts of his daddy and me combined, and I love that about him. And I know, I know, that life with him will have me swallowing my fears over and over because I don't want to crush that spirit. I don't want to miss out.

Being his mama is like seeing my heart beat outside of my chest. It's an invitation to a wild and precious life.

As many would when honored with an invitation from a very special person, I accept.

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Mommy Worries

I wrote my last post early Mothers Day morning, coffee by my side and the rest of my family sleeping upstairs.

I didn't post it the same day because it was Mothers Day. I wasn't sure I wanted to publish a post that was all, "hey! look at me being a mom!" on the same day. Because we get it. I'm a mom. Everything has changed. (Except I will continue to write about it because everything has changed and I NEED to keep writing.)

I packed our schedules too full that day.  Church and lunch and dinner and hours away with not enough of time for my baby boy to recharge.

Nolan loves to be around people, but he needs to be away from them to re-energize.  (Hanging out with his Mama and Daddy counts as "alone.") By the time we arrived at my in-law's, Nolan was in and out of miserable. He needed to decompress. He needed to get away and watch the cars go by and maybe pick some grass.

But everyone wanted to see his sweet face (who can blame them?), so we all acknowledged he was grumpy and tried to work with his current state of being anyway.

I struggle sometimes with what to do when I know I can fix things for him.  I know him so well, of course. We've become buddies over these last few months. He knows I will laugh when he tries to give me "kisses," and he trusts me.

(Ahem. He trusts me to take care of him, which includes not packing his schedule too full...)

He needs other people, too.

I don't want to smother him. I don't want to do anything to cripple who he is and how he develops. I'm a stay-at-home mom, and I love it, but I worry sometimes that he can get too much mommy time.

I know he's only 6 months old, but I'm coming across the "what to do when there is no right answer" conundrum. Which is pretty much the same as, "I could always find something to worry about from now until the rest of my life because I am responsible for this little life...and. REALLY. I could always find something to worry about before he was born."

Over and over, I go back to my old stand-by of doing the best I can in the moment. Sometimes it is enough and sometimes the moment lets me know I need to change a few things, educate myself, or just pull him into my arms and hold him tight.

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Add ‘em up.

I originally called The Social Eater my "courage project." Because stepping out and actually acting on something that really lights me up inside felt scary. Who knows what will happen, if I fail, if anything will come of it? Who knows if I can make a positive, measurable difference in a world FULL of broken spots?

But now, my project feels normal. I mean, yes, it does take effort and planning, but it's what I do now, this chasing my passion thing. It's not scary at all (anymore); it's just a part of my life right now.

It's a part that I'm still so excited to share and live; that magic hasn't worn off. The magic of encouraging words hasn't worn off, either. (Encourage: to give courage. Thank you to every one of you who have done that for me.) They still propel me forward, so I hope I haven't given the impression that those words aren't still so meaningful to me.

I'm just saying that the part of trying new big and little things that is scariest for me is the first part.

This weekend, I made bread from scratch. I've baked bread before, but usually the quick bread kind (like banana bread or chocolate chip pumpkin) or the kind I can leave in my bread maker and move on. But this kind was all me and no sugar for the yeast to grow on. I was nervous, but I did it. It was good, in fact. So good that it's almost gone.

My husband and I also cooked beans from scratch. It's easy, and I'm not sure why I haven't done it before other than trying new things, even little new things, is scary for me. Oh, and it takes some effort.

Almost every single new Nolan thing is a little scary. The first time I took him in the car by myself. The first time I was alone with him for an extended period of time. The first long outing. The first non-pureed food. The first time I told somebody "no" because it was best for him.

Choices that seem so big turn out to be not so scary, but they're still big. They still add up.

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Happiest of Birthdays

Yesterday was my birthday. It was perfect, thanks in part to so many people that I felt I just had to find a way to pay homage to all of them. I hope I didn't miss anyone, but yesterday was just so full of good that I have a feeling I likely did. Still, if you played a part in making the day so refreshing and beautiful and special, thank you. My heart is full, and I am so grateful to have the friends and family I do.

Nolan has changed yet another part of me (in a good way) because most years I have "needed" the day to be perfect (whatever that means) and FULL of celebration. Those are good things, but usually I will put too much pressure on it which kind of takes away from the fun.

This year, I just wanted to go to Rodale's Tulip Festival with my family; I wanted to bask in mass quantities of my favorite flower and show them to Nolan.  I wanted to go on a date with my husband. Since those events were already on the books, I took on a much more relaxed approach to the day. I was free to enjoy it.

And enjoy it I did.

Some of my favorite parts:

-Snuggle time with Tim and Nolan in the morning. Oh MY, you should see this baby in the morning. He is chatty and happy and so excited that hey! all 3 of us are together! I love it when we can all lounge in bed together.

-An hour long conversation with my sister. It made it seem like she's not so far away. Also? She's getting MARRIED to a man who is perfect for her, and I'm so excited for them and her and OK, me,too because I just got a new brother-in-law whom I adore.

-Two hilarious phone messages, one each from Katie and Steven. Really. I laughed out loud.

-Tim took care of Nolan while I did Yoga for the Warrior. I'm getting closer to being able to do Bird of Paradise! (See below if you're wondering what I'm talking about.)

-Birthday mail! My favorite piece today was a card from my friend Kristen T. I'm pretty sure Kristen is my long-lost sister. Words from her just kind of seep into my heart and fill in the cracks.

-The Tulip festival! Rodale is a bit of a drive for us, so it meant time for Tim and I to talk. When we got there (after a bit of a panic because oh, no! We were going to be late! I HATE being late and making people wait), I fully sunk into Tim's everything is going to turn out fine and soaked up an hour and a half of wandering through fields, rows of beautiful flowers, and what I think is going to be Rodale's kids' summer camp with Tim, Nolan, Mary Ellen, Bill, Steph, Eric, and my mom.

Can I just tell you how much I love my family? I had a blast just taking in the scenery and exploring the grounds with these people who I feel so lucky to have in my life. And I got to watch them love my son. There's not a lot that can fill my heart like watching people love my baby well. (Also? You should have seen Bill with that little boy. They looked like they were just meant to be together, chilling, and taking in the sights.

-Tim and I went on a date! Just the two of us! I'm not quite sure when the last time that happened. I mean, my parents offer to watch Nolan often, but we usually have to use that time to work on homework or complete a project. But today? No projects, no homework. We wandered into a health food store when we arrived a bit too early for dinner (I got a few new things to play with- dried cherries with no sugar added, coconut oil, and fair trade cocoa nibs.) and then ate quite possibly our best dinner out to date.

Tim's cousin, Stacey, has been recommending The Farmhouse for quite some time, and I'm so glad she has. Words are my love language, but right after that? Food. Really good, well-thought-out food. The Farmhouse does that kind of food well. They source local and organic ingredients whenever possible (part of why it tastes so good- it's fresh!), aren't afraid to use fat (hello butter, pancetta, cream, and duck fat) and are creative with their menu offerings. Love, love, love. I'll certainly be talking about this meal for quite some time.

Oh, and our server? Amazing. I'll be contacting The Farmhouse to find out her name (we were at Table 3 at 5 o'clock) because she was just that good. Guessed immediately that I love mojitos, works there because she loves the food just that much, had great ideas and tips on what to order, and was so sweet and fun. To our server- I'm so sorry I don't remember your name! But I'll be finding it out and remembering it. You helped make our dinner so wonderful.

-With my love tank full, thanks to all the great conversation, experiences, sweet birthday messages (in email, text, and written, and facebook form) and amazing food, I returned (with Tim) to pick up my son, refreshed.  Snuggles happened immediately, of course.

-As a perfect topper to the day, my dad presented me with two cookbooks he personally picked out for me. My dad essentially works two jobs, is training for a marathon,and is in the middle of a construction project at home (plus he tries to spend as much time with his grandson as he can!). He doesn't have a lot of extra time to be picking out presents, but he DID. And he picked out ones that perfectly suit my interests. That made me feel like a million bucks.

-And then my mother handed me giant organic chocolate cupcakes.


The Look on His Face

Nolan had this look on his face this morning while I made his breakfast that I just needed to capture on camera.

Except the camera was upstairs and my desire to just be with him and experience that look won out. Grabbing the camera would have taken me about 30 seconds, but staying is what I chose in the moment.

But that look? Oh, my goodness. Eyebrows raised, lips puckered into a closed "O," waiting expectantly- mostly patiently- for mashed banana and rice cereal. It had me breaking out into a smile at every glance.

We both did our kitchen thing-him with that look, his waiting, his watching the cars go by. Me with my mashing, mixing, and trying to get some kind of breakfast for myself started.

He took a few bites but was more interested in taking the kitchen in, in watching the sun rays stream in and those cars move across the highway.

A week ago (and even further back than that), I was struggling. Struggling to put my finger on just what was bothering me. Wanting to talk to someone who might get it but not quite knowing which words might provide a proper outline.

Layer by layer (a blog entry or two,conversations with a friends, a social encounter-or several!), I realized I felt like a different person and I wasn't sure if I liked me because I felt like I didn't know me. Not everything has changed, but so much has. That realization came with an almost instantaneous of COURSE you've changed- you're a MOTHER now.

I don't know if everyone is like this, but I'm the kind of person who almost always feels so much better after she untangles all the mental knots she's been working through.

I also realized- I do like me. I get to watch the world through the eyes of this little boy who is the best of both me and my husband. I get to watch the different kinds of excitement on his face, listen to that giggle, hold him when his lip goes all pout-y and he breaks into a slow, sad cry.

I don't care about cars at all and I can't catch or throw very well (you can imagine how I am in group sports situations), but I will learn those things because my son loves them and I have a feeling he will continue loving them.  We will try out thousands of new things together, but we will also be content with simple things- like plastic spoons and sitting on the porch to watch the world go by.

That look on my son's face this morning, with its patience-but-not-really, is a mirror.

I'm linking up with Just Write, an exercise in writing about ordinary and extraordinary moments.