Friday, December 30, 2016

Living the Ordinary Life

I've been thinking a lot over the passed few days about the picture I paint of my life and the life of my kids via social media. 
I've been accused of over-posting in the past, criticism I take in stride. With each moment I capture and share, my thought process is always, "Do I want to remember this?", and "How do I want to remember this?" (i.e. which filter, angle, caption, etc.) because for me, social media is a place to capture the moments that define my motherhood and my kids' childhoods, without including anything (too) embarrassing or invasive. If you want to come along for the ride, great, but for the most part, I often forget that aside from close friends and family that anyone else is even watching the show. I don't always consider my complete audience and often make assumptions about what people already know. 
A few weeks ago, while thinking about how life has changed so much since having Piper and how I feel like my rating as mom has dropped from a solid 8/10 to probably a 2 on some days, a few sweet friends just-so-happened to message me via Instagram and asked how I always seem to stay so calm and positive. And I was completely blown away. 
"Me??? Positive?? Always??!"
Instagram for me is for the happy moments or the moments that are so chaotic they somehow become funny and I don't want to forget. And for me, it's going to continue to be that way, and I think many of you agree that you use it for the same reasons. It's the digital scrapbook of our lives. Instead of stickers we have emoji's and instead of hours spent organizing it all into large, heavy binders, we have compact books printed for us.
But when all is said and done, I'm always left wondering just how off the picture my incomplete message is to those I love.
I've said it before and I'll say it a million times:
I am a beyond ordinary person. 
And I fail all the time. As a mother, as a wife, as a nurse, as a friend, daughter, neighbor, what have you.
I can't tell you how many times Adam has come home from work to find me, aside from the occasional pursing of the lips, voluntarily catatonic on the couch because of the emotional and physical toll the day has taken on me. 
Or how many times he's come home and I immediately declared that I needed alone time and gone in our room and watched Netflix while he made dinner. And later confided that I felt like every day was just me trying to survive. 
Or how I can count on my fingers how many times I've shaved in the last four months and made my kids anything other than peanut butter and honey sandwiches and eggs for lunch. 
I've lied awake at night wracked with guilt from exposing my children to the whiplash of an unprovoked mood swing and I've looked into my infant's eyes unable to imagine anything more beautiful or incredible, and at the same time wondered if it's more terrible to be done having babies or to have another one. 
I scratch my head each week, wondering when the laundry baskets went from completely empty to overflowing and cursed my small-sized front loader for making it take three times longer to get everything washed, leading to my laundry room resembling my 14-year-old bedroom. 
I've dieted week after week, and when the realization that the weight just wasn't ready to come off would hit I'd have a few one-woman cookies and milk parties. 
And more positively, I've sat back while all three of my kids are on my lap, some laughing and some crying, and somehow found that in that precise moment I could never be more happy or grateful. 
I know that, by nature, the little moments we share only show a small portion of what our lives are really like, but my point in rambling about all of this is, in your social media consumption, however big or small: 
Don't forget it. 
Don't forget it's a piece, and usually, it's the best pieces. We don't want to remember the scary stuff. For me, I want to flood my feeds with all the good stuff, so when my kids and I look back each night and years in the future, they can see just how much they have always been loved and adored in their mediocrity by their super dorky mom. 

I never want anyone to ever look at me and think I'm more than I am. 
I am you. My crazy is your crazy and I have many of the same joys and demons as you do. 
So if anyone wants to talk crazy, I'm here. Always. If you want to talk happy stuff, same deal.

As Tina Belcher once said, "I'm no hero. I put my bra on one boob at a time just like everyone else". 
And Tina, you're extra special for even bothering to put a bra on in the first place. 

Saturday, December 17, 2016

Top Picks for Children's Books

While finishing up some Christmas shopping for the kids, I found myself perusing the children's book section at Target in hopes of taking home a few new treasures I'd been eyeing over the past year. My kids love their books and pretty much destroy them within six months of getting them, and I knew we were overdue for some new ones. 
My intention was to pick out one or two from my list to purchase and then spend just a minute or so discovering some new ones. Five minutes turned to ten turned to 20 and I quickly became that weird lady in the corner, wearing brightly-colored sweatpants, sneakers and a full-length wool coat, laughing out loud at the bear in the Elvis costume and the pidgeon who swore he didn't need a bath. And then, every Target employee in America hated me when I found each book significantly cheaper on Amazon and purchased seven new books right then and there in between Click, Clack, Moo and The Very Hungry Caterpillar
Honestly, I could have done way more damage than that, there are just so many great ones, but for now, here are a few I recommend adding to your Christmas list for a special little kid (or just yourself) this year. Some of these may be old news, but still, a classic is a classic and deserves to be recognized.

1. There's a Bear on My Chair by Ross Collins. This one had me awkwardly chortling to myself in the aisle. It's so stinky delightful and silly, and its easy rhyming and rhythm make it a smooth read you won't struggle through. I'm talking about you, "What's Wrong Little Pookie". 

2. The Pigeon Needs a Bath! by Mo Willems. This snarky little rat with wings swears he doesn't need a bath, but anyone who's seen one of these guys land in a puddle of pee on a NYC street corner begs to differ. 

3. The Book with No Pictures by B. J. Novak. This one had me skeptical, but Ryan from The Office delivers. This book indeed has no pictures, but is surprisingly silly and honestly one of my top picks from the bunch. 

4. A Giraffe and a Half by Shel Silverstein. A standard classic that, along with The Giving Tree, belongs in every home. 

5. The Wonderful Things You Will Be by Emily Winfield Martin. While reading this one I immediately thought of Scout because, due to her sassy and determined personality, I know she'll be an incredible force (for good) in the world. And its sweet words and illustrations create such a warm, whimsical and loving message. 

6. The Very Fluffy Kitty Papillon  by A. N. Kang. A chubby white kitty is so fluffy that he's lighter than air and goes on to explore the world. I swear, books like these are what childhood is made of. 

7. The Day the Crayons Quit by Drew Daywalt. 
The colors in Duncan's crayon box each have their list of grievances and detail them in individual letters to him, warning that if things don't change they'll quit. Yes, Blue is always filed down to a nub, and White, well, you're just useless. 

Saturday, November 26, 2016

Paw Patrol!

This past week we enjoyed the company of my sister Briana and brother-in-law Nick who flew in last minute to spend Thanksgiving with us! Gosh, those two are just the best. It isn't until one of my sisters comes into town that I remember how much I love my family and late night burger runs and pie and working out to AC/DC and not shaving my legs or bothering with makeup and constantly talking in terrible accents and pretending as if no time has passed at all while planning the layout of our shared home in the middle of nowhere. 

They left yesterday and as balm to the wound they've left on my heart since their departure, this video of Scout's reaction to the Paw Patrol dvd Adam purchased for the kids while Black Friday shopping has been on repeat. Catching this moment has been my greatest achievement this month. Besides still being able to nurse Piper. The fact that "the girls" still know what to do this late in the game is just so freaking awesome. 
Good job, ladies. 

Tuesday, November 8, 2016

2 Months with Three

It's been two months since Piper's birth and my initiation into the motherhood of threes. 
I remember when I was pregnant and scared with Scout that countless people told me to chill out because it doesn't get hard until there's three.
"Hey, two is exciting. Three is a different story." 
And they were totally right. 
Two was bliss and three is bliss with an equal side of chaos. 

But first, a quick update on the kids. 

Jude started Kindergarten this school year and is doing so incredibly well my heart could burst. He's obsessed with all things Lego's and asks multiple times a day for the Lego City Fire Station we volunteered Santa to promise him for Christmas. He also started indoor soccer right around the same time and although he doesn't quite get the concept that the whole thing is a competition, that's almost what I love most about it--just my perfectly happy boy running (and often skipping) around the court happy to kick the ball and give it to someone else and cheer for the other kids whether they're on the same team or not. He also loves his new baby sister and teasing his newly crowned middle sibling. 

Scout is constantly talking, singing and playing some sort of instrument. She's known for going 0-100 at any given moment, usually because of a dog or a baby or Winnie the Pooh. "WOOOOOAAAAHHHH DOGGIE! AIR-PAY! (airplane) DADDY!!" and such. And when the non-stop singing doesn't stop when it needs to (church) and crackers are shoved in her mouth to serve the same purpose as duct tape, she spits out a "ank you" and continues on humming loudly. It makes me so happy that she's just this little tone deaf humming bird around our house, putting anything around her neck that could resemble a scarf and standing up on anything that could resemble a stage, and just being a perfect mix of affection and fire. Two is so much fun. And so freaking frustrating. She loves her baby sister way too much and is often found hugging and kissing her with so much terrifying love that I swear she may inadvertently kill her. Piper doesn't seem to mind. 

Piper has been smiling for the last few weeks and just loves her siblings, even when Scout sits on her back during tummy time. She's a beautiful and easy baby that loves to nurse and sleep and smile. She's even started sleeping through the night. If that first postpartum month wasn't so hard I swear I'd have 20 more if they could all be just like her. I'm one lucky mom and the magic of having a newborn hasn't lessened with it being my third. It's just as heavenly as ever. She's nearly doubled her birthweight, and although she doesn't have any dimples like the other two and her eyes are this weird mix of blue, green and brown, we've accepted her with open arms. 


Recently, some friend think I've had enough time to become some sort of expert on the subject and have asked what it's like having three. For those on the cusp of becoming parents of three themselves, I've left out a lot of the struggle because, you know--fear-- and have been more candid with the others who still have time to save themselves.
No, it's not that bad, but I admit it is harder than I thought it'd be and everyone's emotions are running higher than anticipated. 

Here are just a few things I've learned and been subject to over the past 2 months: 
-I laugh on the inside when people assume that the baby is the cause of all of the stress, when it's actually the other two acting out due to having their attention cut by 33%.
-Your standards for cleanliness will have to be lowered, if only just a little bit. Otherwise, the pent-up anxiety will drive you to insane sprints of cleaning that just leave you in hopeless tears on the freshly mopped bathroom floor your son just missed the toilet and peed on. 
-You will resent anything that needs mincing. When your baby demands to be held, your two year old is starving and your 5-year-old thinks this is the perfect time to tease the 2-year-old, ain't nobody got time for that. So just skip it. Or give it a few whacks with a butcher knife and call it good.
-Have a really interesting answer in your back pocket to the question of whether you're done having kids or not. You can't just say you don't know because people demand a follow up. 
- Leaving the house is terrifying because the older two know your hands are full with the third and will take any opportunity to scatter in random directions, and usually toward a busy road. 
-But, if you confine yourself and your little ones indoors, their stifled energy results in mutiny. I've come to appreciate the concept of "sister wives." 
-With each kid my milk supply has increased exponentially. This time around I'm convinced big boobs are completely overrated. Why would I want volatile goodies that go from saggy, half-deflated water balloons to red and painful explosive firehoses, when I can be perfectly happy with the easy-going chest of a 12-year-old boy. 
-I've never been more tired in my life. And as an on-and-off-again night nurse, that's saying something.
-Depriving someone of sleep is a form of torture, designed to not only mess with their ability to function physically and mentally, but to essentially break them down to a state of insanity. I haven't had moments of insanity, yet, but I've had moments where if someone asks me for so much as a turn of my head Dr. Banner ceases to be Dr. Banner. 
-And when you're essentially up 24/7 around the clock taking care of people, you can't have too much ready-to-grab-and-eat stress food, i.e. homemade muffins, chocolate, cookies or pie. Seriously, this beautiful flying unicorn of a lady dropped off a giant Costco pumpkin pie a few days after coming home from the hospital and I devoured that thing in two days BY. MYSELF. Her name is forever etched on my heart. 
-Also, having those foods your kids can help themselves to proves handy in keeping them alive when you've once again dropped into a near death-like sleep while nursing the baby on the couch.
-I hope more than anything that those moments when I'm nursing and nature's not only calling, but also refusing to stay on its side of the dam because, you know--birth--and everyone follows me into the bathroom, with the baby and boppy still on my lap, are completely erased from their photographic memories. Please, oh please, oh please. 
-You may all of a sudden age 60 years and forget easy things, like a time when six hands weren't clawing at you for 10-12 hours a day, when you last shaved your legs, went grocery shopping, what day it is, your kids' birthdays, how jeans feel, or how to keep an idea going until the end of your sentence.
-You may even get to a point when your heart could burst for joy because of all the beautiful and wonderful kids you now have to love while simultaneously resenting that they require any effort on your part to stay alive. 

I'm getting there, I promise. I'm not 100% yet. But I'm getting there. Inch by inch. Day by day. But the best advice I can give for adjusting in those first few months is to let things go, order in your groceries, arrange playdates and ask people to take your older kids for a few hours, buy a few new coloring books and packs of crayons, have a few takeout menu's handy, teach your kids to do chores BEFORE your baby arrives, and to just suck it in. Which is such a dumb saying and I hate it so much, but really. Soak in the moments. Because during all the hard I've been reminded over and over again to stop wishing away this day for the next because this very moment is the one I've dreamed about my whole life. Good or bad, I'm living my dream. And honestly, how many people can say that? 

Here are just a few of thousands of favorite moments snapped over these last two months:

Friday, August 5, 2016

Miss Scout is 2!

Always so many emotions when one of my little ones turns a year older.
ESPECIALLY those first couple of years.
This past year of having Miss Scout in our lives has been even sweeter than the last. Pretty much immediately after she turned one her big personality came out and we came to know her as a sweet, but sassy, impatient, but kind and very loving and nurturing little girl. She has us all wrapped around her finger, especially her big brother, Jude. Those two are seriously the best of friends.
The other day, after picking Scout up at the play area at the gym, Jude got really excited to see her. And as they opened the door to let her out he yelled, "Hi Scout!", and then turned and walked the other way. Scout immediately yelled, "Wait!" And Jude turned around just in time for her to hug him around the waist. 
He responded, sweetly, "Oh sweetie, I love you." 
It melted my heart and that of a few other moms who were lucky enough to hear.
They have their moments, of course, but for the most part, they're truly great buddies.

The most terrible and traumatizing labor and recovering out of the two I've experienced by far, but you were well worth it. And although my body at times mimics that of a 90-year-old woman, I forget all of that when I reflect on the joy you bring into my life constantly. Your quick kisses, tight hugs, huge smile, love for dogs and all things princess and babies and ice cream are just a few of the reasons why I love you so much. 

And here are a few favorites taken of our girl by our ever talented friend, Myra Merrill, back in May! 

Friday, May 20, 2016

Thoughts on being pregnant

A third baby! How fantastic, how intimidating, how uncharted and how exciting for our family to be growing even bigger. I always knew I wanted a few babies (8, to be exact--that dream has since changed), but now that my dream is actually a reality I'm just as nervous as I am thrilled to be snuggling and getting to know yet another sweet babe this fall. 
There's no denying that we're thrilled about this new addition. So thrilled, in fact, that the morning I found out we were expecting was exactly two mornings since my sweet husband had left his unfortunately toxic job--and we weren't even phased.
"It'll all work out," he said. "I don't even care," I said. We hadn't been trying for very long and after a year of trying for Scout, which seemed like an eternity for us, and pales in comparison to so many that try for so much longer, we knew it was meant to happen and meant to happen now. 
And everything has worked out and the pregnancy has gone very, very well. 
Baby girl #2 is due September 10th! 
She's very strong, active, and merciful. Thus far. I'll keep you posted. 

Thoughts on pregnancy

Me and pregnancy have a bit of a complicated relationship. 
And bear with me on this one. 
I always envisioned my pregnant self as basically the same me, wearing the same pair of skinny jeans, unbuttoned, for 9 months, delivering a perfectly round 8 lbs. baby, and then going back to my normal clothes as if nothing had ever happened. I'm good at controlling what I put in my body and thought this stage of my life would be no exception, minus an exploding uterus.
But with my 5'4" frame, small torso, short legs, and unfortunate genes, these hopes were dashed 4 months into carrying Jude. 
With Scout, the weight gain was slower, a red, itchy rash covered my chin the entire time, and in the last 3 weeks of carrying her I made up the difference in what I had gained with Jude. 

It's not as easy as labeling it a "love-hate" relationship, because there are so many things we naturally love and hate about the experience.
It's more of a struggle with a self-declared war against myself.

I like feeling a sense of control over my body and appearance. 
Why did that just sound so shallow? 
I once told a friend of mine, in shame, that something I have struggled with in recent years was the way my jeans fit being synonymous with my level of self esteem. You might say, "That's so high school of you, Britney." But in all honesty, I was too busy with sports to care about my weight in high school. Also, skinny jeans hadn't been invented yet. 

I've surmised that it really has nothing to do with caring about what others think of me, and it's more of an internal struggle of knowing I am fully capable of not having unwanted face fat, arm pit fluff, and leg girth, but for 10 months out of my life, I have no control over my own body's usually predictable metabolism. It's more about living up to the high expectations I've set for myself, and less about having high expectations for how I want others to see me. 

And the whole time I resent my mind for not allowing me to simply enjoy this time of my life, that is so very temporary, and just take care of myself now, and deal with any unwanted weight or body changes later. 

One night, after prodding Adam to give a straight-forward answer about his feelings on the matter over the years, he finally answered, "Honestly, I don't see it as you getting fat. I see it all as something really beautiful."
And then I stopped. 
First of all, shut up and kiss me, you perfect fool.
Second of all, he was absolutely right. Any change, any skin rash, any face chub, any stretch marks or ankle swelling or extra hair or love handles or leg girth, for the sake of creating, growing, delivery, and nourishing a sweet, innocent babe is extraordinarily beautiful. And being the vehicle that brings that person into the lives of their father, siblings, grandparents, aunts and uncles and others is no small feat on a body. 
My thoughts shifted from resenting my body for not being a little more compassionate, to taking pride in the life it has already created. 

I mean, seriously, the whole thing is pretty incredible, right? 

So, in the name of 3.5 months to go, I'm giving myself permission to keep going to the gym, eat a cookie or two (or 5) and just deal with it. 

Because in the end, this is the only time in my life when I get really awesome boobs. 

photo credit to Myra Kjer! 

Saturday, March 26, 2016

Jude is 5!

On Friday, my sweet Jude Dude turned 5! 
Jude woke up early that morning to a brand new toy waiting on the kitchen counter, nibbled the frosting off his donut for breakfast, made a trip to the YMCA to play, blew up balloons the rest of the day at home, enjoyed a celebratory dinner of hot dogs, french fries, and watermelon--all per his request--with Nana, Grandpa, and Uncle Nick, opened up a new color-changing Doc Hudson car and soccer ball and net from Nana, jumped with little sister on a new mini-trampoline from us, and blew out the candles on his purple (favorite color) monster, rainbow cupcakes from Nana!

It was low-key and without Adam this year, but the festivities are going all weekend as Adam returns. Which is a very Stevens way of celebrating birthdays.

Hey Jude,

You are just the sweetest, funniest, happiest, silliest, kindest, most curious and best hugger and snuggler of a boy ever.
I just love you to absolute bits, bud. 
Right now your favorite shows are AFV and anything Winnie the Pooh. Your favorite toys are color-changing cars from the Cars movie. Your favorite thing to do outside are swim and play soccer. Your favorite lunch is an "eggy" sandwich with oranges. Your favorite dinners are pizza, spaghetti and meatballs, and hot dogs, with ice cream for dessert. 

Anyone that knows you will say you love everyone, have a joy for life like no one they know, always celebrate the little things, and are the best big brother ever. 

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