The Perfect 10

If you’ve ever run a long distance race you know the feeling.  You’ve spent countless hours training for this race.  Blood, sweat, tears, and pushing your body to its limits all for this one moment.  You think you’re ready.  As ready as you’re going to be.  The gun shot sounds and you’re off to do what you came here to do.  The race is physically grueling and demanding, making you question if you have enough fuel in your tank to finish it. But you expected this. You’re mentally prepared.  You’ve rehearsed this a million times in your head. Once you get over the fact that your legs no longer feel like they belong to you, you see it.  The finish line.  This gorgeous sight to behold finally peeking over the horizon.

Then it hits.  That rush of energy and adrenaline rushes over you like a tidal wave.  While your body should be sputtering out of gas, this wave has kicked you into a gear you didn’t know you had. It’ll be short lived, so you take advantage and leave every last ounce you can muster out on that track.  Finish hard. Finish strong. This is it. 

I’ve replayed the moments before my son’s birth in my head countless times since he graced us with his presence four months ago.  I still revel in it, allowing myself to go back there and feel the purest form of excitement and anticipation.  I’ve been known to cry happy tears a time or two in the shower as I stood there reminiscing it.

My first child was a planned cesarean section breech baby.  We found out at thirty two weeks she still hadn’t flipped and I knew in that moment she wasn’t going to.  One of those mom instincts.  Regardless, I tried some home remedies to flip her and she still refused.  Twenty four hours before her birth appointment she put me into labor.  Things progressed hard and fast, and the whole thing was really quite a blur.  We had our appointment so ingrained in our head that we hadn’t even packed bags yet. Not only that, but we had to switch hospitals as there was no way I would make it to the one we intended. I remember being wheeled in agony to the OR, and then my next real vivid memory was when I got to look across the room and see this six pound thirteen ounce piece of perfection my husband and I created.  The actual birth was a little lost on me.

When I became pregnant with our son eleven months later we had some decisions to make with my doctors.  Do we go ahead with another cesarean? A process I now understand and would know what to expect. Or if our little man cooperated, do we go for a vaginal after cesarean? Another completely new birth experience. Many personal factors went into our decision, as it does with every mom who has to make it, but we chose to go for the vaginal. Go big or go home, right?

I felt like a first time mom again.  Everything I had learned the first time around appeared to have left me and I was learning all over again. Ring of fire? Got it. Meditation breathing? Got it. Push like you’re trying to have a bowel movement? Got it. I was ready to go to battle and do whatever I needed to do to make sure baby and I stayed healthy and safe. I had rehearsed it a million times over in my head.

I’ll skip the whole labor portion of my story.  You know what happens here. It’s terrible. It’s miserable. I screamed offensive things I didn’t mean and I blamed the man that did this to me. I was sure this is how I would die.

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My husband said I got the epidural right before he was certain my eyes were going to roll back in my head. I would’ve married the woman who gave it to me had she let me. After a few hours of relaxed and restful progress, the nurse came in and brought the news we had been waiting for.  It was a perfect 10 centimeters. 

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Of all the things I did anticipate, I did not anticipate how I wold feel in that moment. I thought I would be too exhausted, too tired, and in too much pain to care. You see, I thought the warm elation would only engulf me when my son was actually on the outside and in my arms. But it started now.  Here. At the perfect 10. As the nurse went to call the medical team that would deliver our son, I laid there trying to stay afloat over this flood of joyous emotion. I flashed back to the day we found out we were pregnant with him, desperately trying to keep it a secret until my husband got home from work. To the deepened bond I felt with our daughter as she started to take interest in my growing baby bump and began to gently care for her baby dolls in preparation. To the day we found out we were blessed with a boy in the middle of a blue silly string fight. I flashed to the sleepless nights due to my hips, my back, and my mind that wouldn’t stop thinking about how I was going to juggle two on my own while giving them both everything they need. The last few weeks of pregnancy were so fresh in my mind. My body had enough and every single day was a monumental struggle just to make it to bedtime with my toddler and I in one piece. All of this hard work had culminated into this one moment.

This was my sprint to the finish. When my body should’ve been sputtering out of gas, this was my body taking me to a gear I didn’t know I had. I knew it would be short lived, so I took full advantage and gave it every last ounce I could muster.  I had rounded the last turn and I saw that glorious finish line. (My husband saw it too. Probably a little too much of it :). After twenty three minutes of sheer determination to meet my son, I had made it. This marathon of a pregnancy was over. I had finished hard. I had finished strong.  And no matter where I placed, I was surely the winner here.

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Over these last four months I’ve thought often about that moment I had made it to ten. While it is a vivid memory I know I’ll keep with me forever, I can’t help but smile.  This stunning little man in my arms…he is the perfect 10. 

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New Moms: I Give You Permission

Ok let’s just start with the obvious here.  You surely don’t need my permission. Frankly, you don’t need anyone’s permission.  But if you’re wired similar to how I am, as a new mom it might feel that way sometimes.  I mean, they just give you this baby at the hospital, you put it in the car, and then its just… yours? To do what you want with and hope you don’t mess it up?

You see I grew up one of those first born, adult pleasing, rule following, scared to get in trouble kind of girls (except for that stretch in middle school – yikes!).  Not that I don’t have my own original thoughts or won’t stray off the beaten path when necessary, but I generally don’t like to rock the boat too much and prefer to do things the “right” way.  So as a new mom (and sometimes still!), I feel like I need to hear from someone, anyone, its OK to do things a certain way.  In my gut I know I’m right.  Hello, I’m the mom here!  But the truth is, it still feels good when you see someone, knowingly or not, give you the green light to do things a specific way.

Now please understand that I’m not intending to make any of your concerns seem silly.  This is not one of those times when an experienced mom looks down from her high horse and chuckles at how new to this you are for worrying about something. Girlfriend, every worry is valid as a new mom. But before you go worrying too much or wondering if you’re totally botching this one shot with this gorgeous tiny human, I will gladly be the one to give you that permission.  Trust me, its ok!

I give you permission to… 

Not use a nursing cover if you don’t want to.  While this one obviously relates to your own personal level of comfort and depends on the setting for which you’re nursing, if you don’t want to sweat with your baby as you try to keep it in place while keeping baby happily latched – DON’T! And don’t you dare feel like you have to run to your car or hide in a bathroom if you’re out and about. If you want to – absolutely. But don’t be shamed into anything. You are literally feeding another human with your body, which in my book means you have super powers. My rule at home is: my home, my boobs, my baby.  If you don’t want to see him eating lunch, don’t look! Or you can eat your lunch at my kitchen table with a bag over your head.  Because that’d be the same. And it’d be pretty frickin’ funny.

Use the same sippy cup for awhile.  If I used a new cup every time my toddler wanted something new to drink, I’d need an entire cupboard dedicated to her cups and I’d be a slave to the dishwasher. Don’t be a slave to the dishwasher.  When she’s done, throw that puppy right back in the fridge and pull it out later.  Ain’t nobody got time for that.  (Just don’t let things sit out for 18 hours and then try to reuse it.  Because then she could get sick.  And ain’t nobody really got time for that either).

Use your breast pump parts a few times before washing. Let’s just go ahead and piggy back off the one above. Use your pump, put the parts in a clean bag, put it in the fridge, and repeat for up to 24 hours. Thorough cleaning after that, but don’t kill yourself every single time! You are not a slave to your pump. Don’t be a slave to your pump.

Put on your face and tame that mop every day.  Some days I don’t get to this one till 3:00 p.m., but let me tell you – making yourself feel a little pretty, whether that means putting on a little make up, styling your hair, or simply washing your face is a game changer.  Do it every day.  Do it even if no one except the babies are going to see you. Take that time for yourself.  It makes a difference, trust me.

Keep baby in the same clothes if its just a little spit up.  So her shirt has a little wet spot.  Wipe it up, and move on.  It won’t be the first and certainly not the last time a little something gets on her clothes.  If its not going to make her uncomfortable, its not a sanitation risk, and its not going to stain if its remnants stay for a little while – leave it.  You’d be a slave to your washing machine. Don’t be a slave to your washing machine.

One or two cups of coffee.  Pregnant or nursing. Everyone will be just fine.  Maybe half and half makes you feel better.  That’s fine too.  Everything in moderation.  Don’t take this as permission to pony up to the espresso bar and imitate spring break of ’03 here.  But one or two cups – you’ve got bigger concerns than that.

Pick that teething toy or paci up and (gasp) wipe it off and put it back in baby’s mouth.  Whoa.. relax.  If it fell in a pile of dog poop or got stepped on or fell in a public bathroom, or any bathroom, you bet I’d be cleaning that thing up.  But use good judgment, keep a pack of paci wipes in your bag for emergencies, and don’t sweat every time it drops.  Truth is, if baby gets to it before you, its going right back in that little mouth anyway. Just suck those germs off and pop it back in. Seriously.

Lay baby down and take a shower. There will be days a shower is your saving grace.  The hot water has actual healing powers. Fact. So if you are dying to take a shower, take one. If baby is fed, dry, and safe in his crib, lay him down and take a shower.  Albeit he may be pissed, but he’ll be ok.  A happy and healthy mom means a happy and healthy baby.  So if you want to stand in that glorious box of hot water goodness, you better get in there dammit!

Don’t stress out and run when baby cries in public. It’s going to happen. Repeat that with me. It’s going to happen. Your baby will lose their freaking mind in public at some point. Or a lot of points. And sometimes there’s not much you can do.  Half the people who are witnessing it have had kids and should understand.  And the ones who give you a dirty look, well, karma is a relentless bitch.  Whether its because baby isn’t feel well or its because you’re sticking your ground in a teachable moment – don’t sweat it.  And if you see this happening to another mom in public, its in the mom handbook to give her that smile and nod that says, “I feel you sister. You’re doing a great job”.  IT’S GOING TO HAPPEN.

Not change the crib sheets for a few weeks. It happens. You’ve got a lot on your mind. The world will keep spinning and baby will keep sleeping. Promise. Better yet, take one out of a fellow mom’s playbook, and put a few sheets on the crib. One gets soiled, rip it off and there’s a clean one underneath!

Turn away visitors. You’ve probably heard and read this one a million times already so I won’t dive into it, but you’ve heard and read it a million times for good reason.  Take care of yourself.

Keep baby in the same clothes for a few days. Its easy to fall into this time warped trap that is your home when you are a new mom. If all of a sudden you wake up and realize baby has worn the same jammies for three days, no one cares. It’s all good, darlin! Maybe try a new outfit, today? And no, it doesn’t have to match.  You don’t have to memorize every Carter’s matching set you were gifted.

Keep yourself in the same clothes for a few days. OK I wanted to be clever and have this match the one above it. The more I think about it though, your clothes are most likely pretty gnarly.  Whether its night sweats because your hormones can’t decide where they want to level, breast milk that has streamed down your stomach repeatedly, spit up, or baby snot you’ve wiped with your sleeve repeatedly…scratch this one.  Change your damn clothes. Chill.. I didn’t say you had to shower, too.  🙂

Cry.  Seriously. I’m giving you permission to cry guilt free. Because if you’re anything like me, you’ll do it six times a day during the first month (cough, cough – year). Don’t try and fight it. Don’t try and mask it. You let that shit flow and ugly cry your ass off.  Cry because you’re happy. Cry because baby smiled at you.  Cry because you’re overwhelmed. Cry because you finally got through your first postpartum poop.  Cry because its a Tuesday.  Just do it.  You’ll feel better.

Cry because you clipped baby’s skin while clipping her nails. Yeah yeah I just said ‘cry’ above. This one is separate because everyone has done it and everyone loses their marbles when it happens. Their tiny finger bleeds what seems like their body weight, and it won’t stop. You’ll be hysterical, but I’m telling you – its fine.

Feel nerves about leaving your house with baby the first few times.  The first time I left with my first child I had packed a bag for the end of the world and walked her what I felt like at the time was 12 miles to the store.  Turns out it was 0.2 miles, and I still laugh at myself to this day.  The first few times are nerve wrecking.  Do it anyway.  You’ll get better every single time. 

Have a glass of wine or a beer while breastfeeding. Yes, while breastfeeding. It won’t get into the milk yet and it starts your “two hours per drink” timer at the earliest possible moment. Sometimes you need that grigio baby! But no, the wine pours you got accustomed to when you were 24 don’t count. Standard pour, sweetheart. I would post a pretty epic picture I have of myself doing this, but I don’t think anyone wants to see my areola. And if you do, I don’t want to show you, because that’s weird.

Shake it off if no monthly pictures get taken on the actual day. 30 years from now when your precious babe looks back at this beautiful book of baby pictures you made for him, he won’t be able to tell if his 9 month picture was taken one day before he turned 10 months (or if you forgot all together and slapped a 9 month, then 10 month, and then an 11 month sticker on a 12 month old baby with a few outfit changes) . It still counts. And you won’t tell the difference either.  High five, mom. You rock for trying to capture these elusive monthly pictures. By elusive, I mean good luck after they start sitting and crawling. 🙂 Don’t be a slave to the 12th of every month.

Shop Mom to Mom Sales and buy Christmas presents at a second hand store.  Fun fact: kids’ interests change fast and their bodies grow even faster. I think Tayler wore a new outfit every single day when she was in 3 month clothes, and not even all of her 3 month clothes got worn.  If Kate Middleton can recycle outfits, so can my kids, dammit. She’s not a princess! Not only do they grow out of clothes insanely fast, but half the ones they do wear usually get caked in some sort of bodily fluid at some point. You don’t have to buy $30 baby pants just so they can contain a blowout.  My $3 used once Baby Gap pants from a Mom to Mom do the same thing for 230% less money.  And kids don’t need a ton of toys anyway.  Get out your Clorox wipes or vinegar mixture and shine up a used toy that looks new for a quarter of the price.  Your child will NEVER know, and neither will your friends who come over for play dates.  Unless you tell them, because its awesome. Put your money towards your children’s college fund or for some fun classes if you feel like makin’ it rain. Don’t be a slave to keepin’ up with the Joneses.

Drop the kids off. Take the day off. Tell NO ONE. OK, tell your spouse if you want. But you need a personal day sometimes.  Take those kids to their day care and go home for a nap.  Eat a bowl of popcorn while binge watching Parenthood on Netflix and crying over how you wish you were the Bravermans. Get a pedicure. Take care of yourself. Remember: happy and healthy mom means happy and healthy baby.  No one needs to know.

Be sad. Not every moment of motherhood is like the commericals. Not even the Huggies ones. There will be moments of loneliness, sadness, confusion, despair, anxiety, worry, insecurity, and that ‘feel like you’re drowning and can’t come up for air fast enough’ kind of feeling. It’s normal.  And it is not a reflection of you as a mother.  It’s a reflection of chemicals in your body and some major effing life changes all at once.  I give you permission to ride out, embrace, and allow yourself to feel these things.  What I don’t give you permission to do, however, is harbor them all yourself and not seek help or talk to anyone.  Ask for help. Talk to someone. Anyone. Email me if need be.  Seriously.

Not feel the pressure that surrounds us moms constantly. Thanks a lot, Pinterest. We all have our thing. We all embrace different stages, different ages, and different areas of motherhood differently.  YOU are the best person in the entire world to be your child’s mother.  YOU are giving that baby everything he needs simply by loving him as fiercely as you do.  You will grow just as fast as he does.  You will reach a point where you feel comfortable in your mom skin.  You will learn that if it is what is best for you and baby, then that is all you need to know.

I give you permission…

to not feel any need to get permission. 🙂

— As always, a quick thank you to my honest and witty Momtourage. You didn’t think I wanted permission for all of these things on my own did you?! 🙂 — 

The Doggone Truth

Oh boy. I’ve had this one on the back burner for quite some time now.  Quite some time, as in nearly a year.  I didn’t know if I was the only one.  I didn’t know how to put it without sounding heartless and cruel.  I don’t really have a solution or end game for this one other than, “this is how I feel about it”. And I really wasn’t sure if anyone else would be able to relate.  After all, scroll your Facebook feed and if its not people obsessed with babies, food, or Crossfit – its dogs.

I’m nervous.  I can just hear the scoffs and the, “I would NEVER feel that way about our dog”, and the, “This lady should not be procreating if she feels this way about her dogs”.  I can hear it because I’ve seen it.  Not long ago I was scrolling my own Facebook feed and a friend had commented on this post that popped up.  The title immediately peaked my interest. If you want me to save you a minute, its written by mom voicing with brave honesty how her relationship with her dog changed once she had kids.  Brave. Honesty. I read the article and felt a weight lifted off my shoulders.  I wasn’t the sole mother out there who was struggling with the relationship she had with her fur babes.  That light feeling was immediately replaced by a punch to the gut, however, when this woman I felt connected to was incessantly bashed in the comments.  People crucified her. She must be a horrible mother! She doesn’t have a heart! This woman should never have kids! She obviously can’t handle being a mother! And on and on and on.  It was terrible. If these anonymous commenters hiding behind their screens felt these things about her, then they must surely feel the same about me. Ugh.

When I started this blog I told myself I had two rules. 1. I only write when I feel inspired, and never force it.  2. I tell my honest truth.  If anyone takes the time to read it, they deserve that.

Well, despite my fears, here is my truth.  A truth that I think more than just this woman and I experience.

Before I dive in, I’m feeling the need to put out a little disclaimer: I am not seeking advice for how to better deal with my dogs. And I am not seeking your input on how to better manage my home.  I am not seeking any sympathy or anything resembling a pity party; I am fully aware that my situation is a culmination of conscious decisions my husband and I made. I just want to put myself out there in hopes that another mom may breathe that sigh of relief knowing she isn’t the only one.  That’s all 🙂

My husband got our first fur baby, Stokley, as a graduation gift from college from his parents. A beautiful, lovely golden retriever that was part of our dear friend’s new litter of pups.  He was friendly, lively, and had a coat of fur to die for.  He moved around with us as it took us a few years to get settled into adulthood, and once we were married we got the itch to give him a sibling. Enter Skyler.  Another golden retriever with a gorgeous light coat, adorable little size, and playful as can be.  They immediately grew to love each other, and they were our babies.  Weekends spent walking them through scenic trails.  Hours playing out in the backyard. The subject of most of our pictures. You know the drill.

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We talked about how we would prepare them for kids, which would be here in nine short months.  The blanket that smells like the baby.  Let them be curious and get close.  Continue to shower them with attention and affection.  You know that drill, too.

And we did.  We did all the right things, and our fur babies adjusted well.  They are both sweet to our kids and for that I am so thankful. Going from our number ones to our number threes couldn’t have been easy for them, but it is the reality. They are the last ones that get dinner at night and they are the last ones to be put to bed at night. Its just how it is now.

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I stay home with our two year old and three month old.  One of those conscious decisions Matt and I made.  If you’re a mom of multiples or you’ve been in the same vicinity as a pair of littles, you know how busy it can be.  You know that some days it takes every last ounce of energy to make it to bed time.  And you know there are times you nearly shutdown in nervous laughter because shit. is. bananas.  There are too many times when the kids have used up every last ounce of your patience, and the dogs become your tipping point.  Between the kids and your spouse, sometimes it feels like all your attention and time is used up and your reserves are empty.

It’s…challenging.

Its challenging when I’ve worked really hard all morning to get their schedules just right so I might get a few minutes of nap time alone… for Stokley to hear someone clink a spoon on the Food Network and start barking like crazy and wake them up.

It’s challenging when I tell Stokley to sit and stay at the back door so I can get a rag to clean his feet, and he doesn’t listen. Only to spread poop throughout the entire main floor that my toddler daughter has now taken an interest in.

It’s challenging  when I’m in the middle of a dirty diaper change, and Skyler starts puking on the carpet because she insists on eating anything and everything she finds.

It’s challenging when after multiple vacuum jobs each day, their hair still shows up in diapers, food, little fists, and on every blanket we own. I can’t keep up.

It’s challenging when I’m in Harrison’s room and finally lay him down for a nap, when Skyler makes her way up to the bedroom and shakes her collar with vigor. Waking the tiny, exhausted human I just got to sleep.

Its challenging when I try to take the dogs for a walk with the stroller, but can’t because Stokley has a new sense of protectiveness and will quite literally take off to attack any other dog that crosses our path.

It’s challenging when after a sleepless night I finally get the baby back to sleep, and have one more glorious hour to lay in bed. Until both dogs won’t stop crying to be fed downstairs.

It’s challenging when all I want to do is be spontaneous and do fun things with the kids in the backyard. But I can’t until any and all dog poop gets picked up.

It’s challenging when I have a sleeping baby strapped to my chest and a toddler eating lunch, when I look out to see Stokley has wrapped himself around a tree.  Because going outside in 10 degree weather is exactly what I am wanting to do at the moment.

It’s challenging when I know all they need is my affection that they so deserve, and I struggle to muster it up.

And if I’m being really, truthfully, honest… some days its challenging to find my love for them.  I’d be lying if I said there’s never been days where I’ve wished a family member could take them.  And I’d be lying if I said the “if only the dogs weren’t here!” thoughts never crossed my mind.

I have no advice to give, and no “ah ha” moment to leave you with at the end of this one.  I’ve got nothing, because I myself am still trying to sort it out. I’m still wrestling with guilt over how I feel about my dogs, and I’m still trying to make this one big happy home for everyone – including the pups.

What I do know, however, is that while my relationship with them is strained, my daughter’s relationship with them is not.  She laughs with them, lays on them, helps feed them, and knows their rules to reinforce.  She loves them. And they (kind of) love her.  As the kids grow older they will take on more responsibilities with them, and these dogs are going to be the ones they remember as their first pups.  They will forever be a part of my children’s childhood memories.  And when my reserves are depleted, that is reason enough to keep trying.

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To the author of the article that gave me the push to write my own – you are not an awful person or mother.  I know this because I understand and I’m not an awful person or mother.  It’s our experience.  Our truth. And there’s no shame in that.

Because having little kids and dogs, its…challenging.

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Dear Mainstream News: We’re Breaking Up

Dear Mainstream Media Outlets,

We have to break up.  You and I, we had a great go, didn’t we? I had a genuine interest in you, and most of the time that interest felt reciprocated.  But at the risk of sounding like every bad rom com break up cliche, we have to break up – it’s not you, its me.  I’ve grown, found myself, and the new me just doesn’t see her future with you in it.  At least not right now.  Maybe one day in the future we’ll meet up again and rekindle our magic, finding that we can once again meet each other’s needs. But until then, I’m going to have to walk away.  I’ll try my best to explain myself.

I’m a mom.  I have been for nearly two years now, and every day since becoming one, I’ve felt myself slipping farther and farther away from you.  It’s not you. You’ve held up your end of the deal.  Well, most of you. You continue to keep on keepin’ on, presenting the latest news from around the globe every single day without fail.  The good, the bad, and the ugly. You always show up.  Sometimes with integrity.  Sometimes not. But no one is perfect, right? I just can no longer pull my weight in our relationship.  I have nothing left to give.  I’ve got nothing left in the tank.  You see, I’m a mom now.

Back when I was young, wild, and yet to start a family I could consume you without missing a beat.  I had you on all of my devices, checked in with you religiously, and had a strong desire to stay current on all happenings in this world that surrounded me.  I can no longer be that girl. I tried, believe me. For two years I’ve been trying to be that girl. But there’s no going back. I’m a mom now.

One of the little secrets no one told me before becoming a mom is that the depths of my heart would reach levels I never knew possible.  So deep, and so wide, I’m not sure how to accommodate it anymore.  It’s too heavy.  Too much to bare. I feel too much.  And I just can’t carry it all. Everything you show me affects me in ways I have no longer have control over.  Every story. Every heartbreak.  Every life gone too soon. And god forbid, every single injustice, mistreatment, or tragedy that involves a child.

I’m a mom now.  It’s all too close to home.  I can no longer separate myself and my family from what I read.  And there’s just too many of those stories.  Far too many. Every time I read one of your articles about a young child abused in unspeakable ways by those she was supposed to be able to trust.  Every time a newborn is quite literally thrown away like they are part of the garbage. Every time children are forced to flee their homes and become refugees in fear of rebels terrorizing their community. Every single time there is a story about a child that is hurt, lost, mistreated, trafficked, used, beaten, kidnapped, neglected, or any of the other thousand verbs that that should never happen comes into my awareness – it consumes me.  I see those children as if they were my own.  And I see my own in those children.  The lump immediately travels up my throat as the rip simultaneously makes its way across my heart.  My legs feel unstable, and my stomach tightens into a ball.  And if I’m somehow able to make it to the end of the article, I can guarantee you there will be tears.

It doesn’t consume me for the ten minutes following.  I carry it for far too long. I still can’t get past the kid at the library who stiff armed my daughter in the head over ten months ago, let alone all the stories from this summer about young children left to die alone in their overheated vehicles.  I see them in my own children, and they show up in my dreams.  I can’t even talk about the things I feel for the parents of these children. It hurts too much and I keep trying to make sense of things that I know will never make sense.  They can’t make sense.  In no world I want to live in should these things ever make sense.

I imagine their fear. Their loneliness.  I imagine their scared uncertainty. Their hopelessness.  Their pain.  Their fear. Oh, the fear.  I want to swoop in and pick every single one of them up, showering them with the love, attention, and the safe environment they so deserve to live in.  I want to reassure them all that every tomorrow will be okay because I’ll be here. I want them to know their worth and potential, and that they will always have someone cheering them on.  I want to read to them while rubbing their back before gently tucking them in at night so they can peacefully dream about snowmen, cookies, their friends, and Mickey Mouse Clubhouse. But I can’t. It’s not possible.  They aren’t mine.  I don’t even know them.

Don’t worry, I haven’t allowed these stories to completely dampen my faith in humanity or turn my heart black.  For every tragedy I read, I know there are a million more people out there bringing comfort and joy to the lives of our littles.  I know this because I try every day in my own ways to be one, and I see all the good every single day in the hundreds of moms and teachers I am connected with.  But for now, at this moment in my life when my heart is working overtime trying to make room for this ever-growing and burning love I have for my own children, we just need to take a break.

Don’t worry, I won’t be negligent to shut myself off from you completely. People need to know the truths from around the world so brave men and women can act on it, and do their part to spread a little more love in this world that desperately needs it. We need to be exposed to the dark so we know where to spread our light.  I just can’t give you what I used to, and I hope you understand.

I told you – its not you, its me.  You see, I’m a mom now.

11.18.14 031

Why You Won’t See Me With My Kids When You’re Visiting

Yesterday was the day.  We officially got back into the grind after a wonderful holiday season as a family of four.  My husband went back to work after two glorious weeks at home, our gauntlet of family Christmases and get-togethers came to a screeching halt, and I was flying solo again with our two vibrant munchkins.  While it definitely felt good to get back into our routine, a tiny part of me couldn’t help but mourn all the help I had over the past month.  You see, when we’re around family and friends, I get to sort of quietly slink back to the sidelines and allow our loved ones to take center stage – whether they realize it or not.  Sometimes I wonder if our family and friends ever question my mothering ability.  After all, when they’re here, I’m usually on the couch with a glazed over smile, letting others willingly attend to most of the needs and wants of my kids.  If that’s been you at one time or another, please know I’m not completely checked out of my parenting duties.  Every want and need is carefully and quietly observed, and my legs are on constant standby ready to jump up for instances only mom can handle.  But for several reasons, I’m letting you take the lead.

If you’re visiting with us, it means you’re an important part of our life, and therefore an important part of our children’s lives. Proximity isn’t a luxury we have when it comes to family and friends.  If we’re together, it means it took effort, planning, and may not happen again for awhile.  I want our kids to know you, to see your picture and shout your name, and to feel comfortable the second you walk in the door instead of hiding behind my legs.  So when my daughter pulls your hand into her playroom for the 72nd time in an hour, I’m going to let her.  I want her to have that bonding time with you – whether you’re secretly just wanting to sit on the couch or not. 🙂 Thanks for being a trooper and letting yourself get silly!

I’m learning and observing while watching you play with my kids. Yes – I’m learning from you.  Sure, I’m the mom and I arguably know my children better than anyone on the planet.  I know the things that make their drums beat and their hearts flutter, but you get to come in and see them with fresh eyes.  You always seem to spot the toys we haven’t pulled out in awhile, the books that need to be read with some new gusto, and the dance moves we’ll now be adding to our repertoire. Your style of play, the way you manipulate toys, the things you do to make them laugh, and ways you challenge them are all being carefully cataloged into my mental filing system. Spending all day everyday with them can cause some ruts I’m oblivious to, so you bring a new light into our house that I’m thankful for.  Quite frankly, I envy this fresh and limitless energy you come in with. Players gonna play, play, play!

Despite common belief, mothers don’t always like to hold their babies all day everyday.  How dare I say it, but its true! No one loves cuddle time more than me, and no one loves breathing in my sweet baby in my arms more than I do, but I do it for endless hours every single day.  By holding my son for awhile, you’re giving me a little time to feel human again.  I get to pee without juggling a “I’ll only sleep in your arms right now” baby.  I get to drink coffee.  HOT.  I get to sit without rocking and swaying back and forth (until I subconsciously do it anyway).  I get to put a little makeup on without having to sing and dance so baby stays entertained. I get to make a meal that will take longer than three minutes to prepare.  It gives me a little “me” time, and for that I am so grateful.

My kids need to know others can take care of their needs as well.  I stay home with both of my kids. As a result, they don’t get the same levels of interactions with other caregivers and children that daycare children do.  We go to play dates, classes, and play places so they can flex their social muscles, but I also want them to know that at times other adults will need to take care of them outside of mom and dad, and that’s OK.  So when you feed our daughter, put our son to bed, or give them a bath to help out, you’re not only doing us a favor – but you’re doing them a favor, too.  They learn to trust their loved ones and know their needs will be met.  You may not do it exactly like we do, but that’s OK, too.  No judgment here – your way keeps them flexible!

If you’re one of the ones who shies away from anything related to our kids while you’re here – that’s OK in my book, too.  Having you around is all we really want anyway. Come join me on the couch. 🙂

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Speaking to Pregnant Women 101: The Twins, The Huge, & The Ugly

Its here.  Open season.  No no, I’m not talking about bow hunting season. Open season for the rude, the ignorant, the annoying, and the unintentionally hurtful comments that get slung around all too freely – because I’m pregnant.  If you gasped in horror thinking, “what could she possibly mean?!”, don’t worry… I’ll explain.

I’ve wanted to write this piece for quite some time now, going over in my head all the things I wish I could say to the general public, but I tend pull back from topics that I see written about a lot.  I leave those topics for the real writers who can express themselves far better than I can. Trust me, there’s no shortage of “Things NOT to Say to Pregnant Women” articles on mom pages these days, but as I near the end of my second pregnancy I can’t sit back on this one anymore. I just can’t.  If it helps just one person censor or think twice about what they say to those beautiful women carrying children, and saves one pregnant woman from feeling crappy for a few hours (or a few days), I’ll rest easy knowing my time here was not wasted.

My initial intention for writing this blog was to base it off my personal experiences.  I have plenty, believe me.  But before I dove into it I threw out the idea to my Momtourage hoping they’d give me a more well-rounded view of the kinds of general comments pregnant women receive.  In my request I told them, “no direct quotes are needed – the gist of it will be great”.  Thinking that they probably wouldn’t remember the exact quote anyway, right?  Fast forward 24 hours from when I asked for their help, and I was holding FIVE single spaced pages of not only direct quotes, but those who spoke them as well.  FIVE PAGES. Clearly this was not just my problem. While pregnant women get pretty good at letting comments roll off their shoulder (because we do understand that a lot of times the comments are not coming from a malicious or hurtful place), the fact that these moms remember so vividly who said what speaks volumes.

So think of the rundown below as a quick “Speaking to Pregnant Women 101 Class”.  If you ace the class and think to yourself, “I would never say any of that!” – round of applause and high fives.  Seriously.  If you find some of the quotes hitting a little too close to home and you think to yourself, “Shit.” – pat on the back, and just do better next time.  We know you don’t mean harm (at least we don’t think you do?).  And we appreciate your interest in our pregnancy – it is a really exciting time for us.  But no matter the innocence or attempt at humor behind your comments, they still kinda suck, and still kinda leave us feeling shitty.  So here we go – direct quotes included! 🙂

TWINS. FOR THE LOVE OF GOD, ITS NOT TWINS.  YES, I’M SURE. 

I’m starting with this one first just in case I lose you at some point.  Comments referencing twins were experienced by nearly every mom in my Momtourage, and several got twin comments on more than one occasion.

“Are you sure you’re not having twins?” Yes, kind stranger, I’m sure.  I appreciate your indirect comment on how large my belly is though. 

“Are you sure its just one in there? You’re sure though?” Ask me if I’m sure one more time, co-worker I rarely see or talk to. I dare you.  

Persistence doesn’t help things either.  [Actual conversation]

“You sure its just one baby in there?”

“Yep, pretty sure”

“Do twins run in your family though?”

“Nope, and I’m still sure its not twins”

“Well I think you’ll be the first in your family.  Its definitely twins”

I can’t believe I didn’t notice you in the room when I’ve had all my ultrasounds! Surely you must be an obstetrician, right? Or a GD psychic. Because if you’re just being this annoying, expect me to avoid all interactions with you in the future.  

Enough with the twins. Unless I tell you first that I am in fact carrying twins, in which case twin comments are OK – because its actually accurate.

I AM ACUTELY AWARE OF HOW LARGE I AM – NO, YOU DON’T HAVE TO TELL ME.  

Listen, we get it.  You still don’t mean harm.  And we understand that we’re pregnant and our bodies will grow to accommodate the precious life inside of us.  But only WE get to make comments about our enormity, not you.  Just, don’t.  Not even jokingly.  Seriously, don’t.

“I swear every time you walk down the hall you get bigger!” I would kinda want to fight you right now if I was still quick and agile.  If I’m at all bigger since last time I walked down the hall, maybe its the lunch I just ate.  In which case I kinda really want to fight you. 

“You’re getting pretty big there Missy.  Looks like you’ve been eating too many watermelons”.  Oh, I am? I couldn’t tell by the considerable back pain from it all. 

“Wow! You REALLY popped out! You grow bigger everyday!” I wish my house had mirrors.  I had no way of knowing until you told me!

“You are REALLY pregnant!” I AM?! 

And when you reference how HUGE my baby must be, I take it as a reflection of my size.  Since, ya know, I’m carrying this HUGE baby.  Don’t use words that reference baby’s “massive size”.  Not chunky, not linebacker, not Clydesdale, not enormous… none of it.  I’m already thinking about how I have to push this HUGE baby out, so how about “healthy”.  Just stick with “healthy” if you absolutely must comment. Which you don’t.

And on the opposite side of the coin, don’t make comments about how small I may be.  

Yes, I’m taking care of myself. Yep, I’m measuring right on track.  Not all women show the same.  Surprisingly, women all have different body shapes, genetics, health habits, bone structures, and the way their babies are carried inside.  WEIRD.

NO, MY DUE DATE IS NOT TOMORROW.  NOPE, NOT EVEN NEXT WEEK. 

A wise mom-friend once said, “I swear the second you start to pop at all everyone thinks you’re due within the week.  Does everyone forget how big baby bellies get?!”.  She couldn’t have hit the nail on the head better.  The magazines, articles, and commercials that only feature insanely fit, 20 weeks pregnant women doesn’t help our cause either.  If you ask when the due date it is, don’t make a dumb comment or make a face of horror when we tell you.  Most likely, it’s not tomorrow.

“Did they calculate your due date wrong?” Probably.  They have no way of telling.  If only they had information on my menstrual cycle, or the ability to track the baby’s size throughout my pregnancy.

“When are you due? [responds – still have 13 weeks to go] Oh, you definitely look like you’re done” Again, what would I do without all these expert strangers out there?! 

“Look at that belly, there is NO way you’re going to make it to your due date”.  Keep ’em coming jackasses.  Making it to my due date is kind of priority of mine.. for the sake of my healthy growing child and stuff”.  

“Oh wow, you’re really big for x amount of weeks!” Oh because you’ve studied like a gabillion pregnant women? You’re probably just comparing to your wife huh? She’s a tiny betch, so… 

“When were you due?! Like last week?!” Still three months to go, socially appropriate stranger.  I will cut you. 

When we tell you when we’re due, despite whatever you think about our size in relation to it, something like this would be great, “Oh that’s wonderful!  I bet you can’t wait to meet your sweet baby!” With a smile.

STOP COMPARING.  TO OTHER WOMEN, OR TO MY PAST PREGNANCIES.  NEWS FLASH – THEY’RE NOT THE SAME. 

“You’re looking wider this time around” Ah, an adjective every women loves to hear. Wide. 

“Wow you’re a lot bigger this time, huh?” I see your filter is up and running today.  

 “So and so is pregnant, and you are WAY bigger than she is” Oh, is that what we’re doing? Comparing our bodies to others’? If that’s the case, I could have a field day comparing you with others.. 

“You’re carrying different this time around.  Your face seems puffier”.  Because who wouldn’t receive that warmly?

Which leads into the next one..

IF YOU THINK YOU NOTICE THE PREGNANCY SOMEWHERE ELSE, JUST… SHHHH. 

We are already self conscious. Right before our own eyes we’ve surrendered to so many body changes that we don’t always expect or warmly embrace.  Its all for the health of this tiny miracle, so we really don’t mind, but there’s no need to point it out.  We’re aware.

“Man, he really got you in the face!” Can I get you in the face? 

“I can tell you’re having a boy because you look like you are gaining weight all over!” Weird, you too! 

“I can tell you’re getting bigger from the face and hips” COME ON, PEOPLE.. 

Or this little gem from a cashier..

“Don’t tell me what you’re having – I want guess!”

“Ok”

“I think its a girl!”

“Yep”

“I could tell because girls always make their mamas look like hell”

“Oh, well that’s an interesting theory”.

Being pregnant does NOT mean our entire body is up for unsolicited public critique.

YOU DO KNOW WHAT A BACKHANDED COMPLIMENT IS, RIGHT? 

“Oh my gosh your son is so cute! He must take after his dad!”  Thanks? 

“You look really good this pregnancy.  Last time you were really wide in your hips and thighs”. Thanks? 

“They do say girls suck the beauty out of their mom so they end up pretty” Thanks?

“You look so great pregnant! Better than you usually look!” Thanks? 

“It doesn’t even look like you’re pregnant.  It just looks like you ate too much pizza or something”.  Thanks? 

 

If you feel the need to comment about a woman’s pregnancy, follow this little tip: Give her a KISS.  Keep It Sweet & Simple. We really do appreciate all the genuinely kind and appropriate comments.  In a time when self image can temporarily suffer, kind words can go a long way. Even if you’re just lying to us. 🙂

“You look wonderful – you’re all baby!”

“Pregnancy really suits you!”

“You’re the cutest pregnant woman I’ve ever seen!”

“Mom and baby are looking fantastic.  I can’t wait to meet him or her!”

All acceptable.  If you’re prone to foot in mouth syndrome, just memorize one and use it on repeat.

 

NEXT CLASS: MISCELLANEOUS AND OTHER RANDOM, NONE OF YOUR BUSINESS, PREGNANCY AND CHILD REARING TOPICS. 

You know, like breastfeeding, family planning, and other entirely personal choices.

foot_in-mouth

 

 

The Faces of Modern Day Fatherhood

There’s a running joke in our family with the punch line, “I’m just the dad” [accompanied by the small smiled head shake].  Kids only want to snuggle with mom before bed? “I’m just the dad”.  Dad works insane hours to pay for college, but mom gets the thanks for the support? “I’m just the dad”.  Kids call to check in, and they just want to talk to mom? “I’m just the dad”.

When circumstances and timing are just right, it’s produced quite a few chuckles.   As parents we all have those moments when our kids unintentionally under-appreciate us, but my problem with the joke is that today’s dads are anything but “just the dad”. 

Listen to any of your grandmothers tell stories about their children’s births or what their responsibilities were when their children were young.  You know what I’m talking about.  Times were different.  Many dads weren’t allowed to be in the delivery room when their children were born.  Many didn’t change a single diaper. Dad’s focus was on providing for the family, and mom’s was raising the children.  Not to say dads weren’t rock stars back then too, but with different expectations, culture, and opportunities, things were just… different.

Today’s dads, however, keep adding to their polished fatherhood resume.  There’s nothing they are scared to do, nothing they can’t figure out, and nothing they aren’t a part of.  They are involved in every facet of their children’s lives, and bring such a powerful presence to their parenting team.  These modern day dads are severely underrated, and need to be celebrated and supported just like moms are.  They deserve it, and they’ve earned it.  

If you aren’t sure who I’m talking about, they are easy to spot.  They are the dads that walk in the door after work, take off their shoes, and run straight to the playroom to help build a block tower.  Its the dad that stayed up late on a Wednesday putting together a crib or dresser for the nursery without being asked.  The dad that takes his baby out for errands by himself because “he’s got this”.  They are the dads the kill it in the bedtime routine game, and then head downstairs to help pick up the kitchen before bed.  The dads that are active participants in discipline and teaching life’s hard lessons.  They are the dads that take the time to teach: mowing a lawn, how to read, tying shoes, or how to be a good friend. They are the dads that have the burning ache in their heart when they’re away from their children, because to them, there is no greater joy than watching their children grow and being in their presence.

Being a dad today is no easy task, and thanks to my growing Momtourage I was able to put together a collection of pictures that finish illustrating what my words can’t. To all those rock star dads out there – you’ve got a huge fan base over here. Keep up the good work!

This is what modern day fatherhood looks like.  Enjoy!

To the dads whose immense pride is worn on their face from the very beginning

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To the dads who make baby wearing look like it’s the coolest thing you can do with your child

Tayler 8.29.13 185

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To the dads who take bedtime, middle of the night, feeding, and diapering duties seriously 

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To the dads whose kisses and cuddles are tender enough to heal all  

Tayler 8.12.13 143

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To the dads with a sense of humor, who don’t mind getting silly, and love having FUN

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To the dads who understand the value of reading with their children 

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To the dads who ROCK the joint nap  

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To the dads who have passed the fatherhood rite of passage by carrying their children on their shoulders 

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To the dads who are present, in the moment, and on their level

Tay 1.3.14 288

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To the dads who teach, lead, mentor, and understand that the little moments are actually the big moments 

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And as if today’s dads weren’t doing enough, the real beauty comes as a product of their example – raising boys who learn from early on what it means to take care of others and be incredible fathers themselves one day.  

Giving baby some tummy time, while keeping him warm with a bandana and multi-taksing. :)
Giving baby some tummy time, while keeping him warm with a bandana and multi-taksing. 🙂