One Year of Motherhood

I turned 38 last Tuesday. I could ponder what it means to be so close to 40, but I find my thoughts instead turning to the last year — the first full year of my life that I’ve been a mother. What a life-changing year. As I reflect, I keep mulling over the aspects of motherhood that have shocked me the most. Unlike the relatively easy adjustment of marriage, adjusting to parenthood has been work – hard work, self-crucifying work, rewarding work.

The first shocker was sleep deprivation. Not sleep deprivation itself. I expected sleep deprivation and put it near the top of the list of what I was most dreading for the year. What has shocked me is the way this sleep deprivation drags on. We’ve been blessed with a smart, funny, tender-hearted little guy; he’s wonderful in so many ways, but he’s a crappy sleeper in many ways and has been since he was born. Interrupted nights are still the norm more than the exception in our house. What has also shocked me is how utterly and completely mean I am when I’m sleep deprived. I’ve found layers of me that have not been fun to find; I find myself in need of a spiritual renovation to refine these rough edges. And, I also recently started some Plexus supplements to try to bring some hormonal balance too. Sleep deprivation has not just been a fringe issue this year; often it has felt like the core of the struggle.

The next shocker was how desperately I needed to lean into my marriage while finding it harder than ever to maintain it. Mark and I have never had a knock down drag out fight – ever. And, we rarely even have skirmishes, but the ones we have had are concentrated in the post-baby days. We learned in pre-marital counseling that cultivating a transparency about expectations is one of the best practices a couple can commit to. The tricky part about having a baby is that an entirely new mountain of expectations emerges. In the earliest, most sleep-deprived, most hormonal days, I didn’t even fully know myself what my expectations were, but I did have panicky, knee-jerk reactions when they were not met. To give an example, one night I stewed all night long that Mark hadn’t asked me if I needed my water bottle refilled before he went to bed. I was angry all night at him, and I was angry at myself because even while I was busy fighting a million imaginary arguments with him in my mind, I knew that I was being ridiculous. He was surprised when I climbed into bed at 6 am and started sobbing. And, he did ask me more often if I needed water. I wasn’t under the illusion that having a baby wouldn’t change my marriage, but I was under the illusion that working as a team to parent would be easier than it has been on some days. (and that’s with a kick-butt, super awesome partner on my side). At the same time that these expectations and tensions were introduced, I also learned afresh how much I value Mark as a partner. There have been many times that him putting his arm around me at 3 am when I finally (maybe) get to sleep have made all the difference in the world. And, it’s heaven when he says, “Go take a bath, honey; I’ve got the kid.” We’ve both seen a new side to our marriage, and I’ve been privileged to see a new side of my husband who is a patient teacher and devoted caretaker to our little guy.

I’ve also been shocked by how different my perception of the world is. Having a baby has made me see the world in entirely different ways. Some of that is the simple, practical side of things — which restaurant has enough ambient noise to cover the noises of a baby, which stores have decently clean changing tables, which shopping venues have the best carts for kids. Some of the changed perspective is expressed in what we do. We never wandered through the animal barn at the local farm market before, but now we detour there frequently so Ezra can see the chickens and ducks. We never lurked around playgrounds, but I have a feeling I’ll spend 75% of my days this summer at playgrounds. And, at its deepest level, my changed perspective is coming through slowing down to discover the world all over again. Spring is here, so I’m being introduced almost as if for the first time to geese honking though the sky. On our walks, we take time to crunch leaves underfoot. As we watch nature shows on TV, I’m reminded to say “Wow” at squirrels dart through the trees. (Long, drawn-out, whispered “wows” are the soundtrack of our life right now). I pray over Ezra that God will protect his curiosity and use it someday to see new solutions to problems that people or organizations have, and I feel as his mom the weight of responsibility to keep that sense of curiosity alive for him.

Finally, I’m shocked by how much motherhood is cheerleading. I’m not a cheerleader by nature. If you read my personality type profile, you’ll find that I’m driven to perfection, and while I drive myself, I’ll drive others just as hard. And, I see that. I know that side of my personality can become parenting liability. But, I also see a side of me that has found it easier than ever before to believe the best in someone. I still remember how crazy excited I got when Ezra turned his head from one side to the other to follow a toy. I ran for my phone, so I could video the astounding feat. When he batted at a toy, I was beside myself. When he puts his laundry in the basket in his room, he gets a “good job, buddy” for every single piece of clothing that goes into the basket. Every. single. piece. As he clumsily shoves his spoon, upside down and mostly empty by the time it gets there, into his mouth, I see progress not failure. (And, mess, lots of mess). I was laughing with someone who has a younger baby. I was telling her that looking back at videos now, some of the milestones we got excited about are unimpressive in hindsight. And, I know many of today’s milestones will be the same in hindsight, but that doesn’t make them lose their wonder. That doesn’t dull the praise that’s heaped upon Ezra today for the new skills he learns. I find my definition of perfection expanding; my bar of expectation finally (mercifully) lowering. 

I’d love to hear from you. What did you/do you find most shocking about motherhood?

And, just for giggles, I’ll leave you with a shocking text conversation that just happened this morning in our house. I didn’t see this coming.

potty

 

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Ezra – 13 months

Ezra sunglasses - 1-2019Ezra, I was going to stop writing these monthly updates last month at the same time we stopped taking those crazy milestone pictures. Nevertheless, while I can let go of wrestling with you so you sit still next to a giant stuffed animal, you are still changing too fast to give up writing my favorite memories of you each month. I love looking back at all the funny little phases that you went through.

You started walking this month! One week and one day after your birthday, we had all four grandparents over for a little party. After chowing down on your favorite dessert, pumpkin pie, we took you downstairs to open your presents and play. With a ring of adoring grandparents surrounding you, you decided it was the golden opportunity to take your first steps between Grandmom and Gongy. You certainly picked a moment when you would get lots of cheers. For the most part, you’ve still spent the month crawling, and you still act like you have Jello legs if mama or dada try to get you to walk on command. However, if you’re motivated by something of high interest, you’ll walk, and you’re quite good at it.

You also have started following directions quite well. You love our morning routine. Mama or dada will tell you to put your duck paci away, and you love to throw it in the crib… so much so that often you try to throw it from across the room. (I hope you stay that excited about doing chores.) Then, I tell you that it’s time to turn off the light, and you turn your attention to the light switch. When we tell you to jump, you start bouncing up and down. And, you’ve started to make rudimentary animal sounds. When we ask you what a cow says, you say, “mmm.” And, when we make a rooster sound, you have your own little baby crowing sound that you make. Along with following directions, you are even more tuned in to what is going on around you. You are interested in watching us cook. It fascinates you to see ingredients get mixed together, and if we let you handle a rolling pin or try to stir something, you are eager to participate.

You continue to love music. You’ll still sing a little version of lalala bamba if we sing it for you. And, you and dada have some rowdy dinner dance parties that make you laugh big belly laughs.

Your other accomplishments are learning to get onto the couch by yourself though it’s a little hit or miss. Sometimes you can get up there without help, and sometimes you get frustrated because you just can’t pull it off. One of your favorite expressions is “Oooooo…” You purse your lips into an exaggerated “O” and coo “Oooooo.” We love it! We’ll often try to anticipate what will please you enough to make your let out your little coo. You love your frozen bananas. We store them in an ice cream container, and as soon as the container comes out of the freezer, you start doing a jig in your high chair. You also do the same thing when you see a cheese stick. You even know what the cheese stick wrappers sound like as they separate from each other, so sometimes you are reacting to the cheese sticks before you’ve even seen them. Instead of tasting everything (though a decent amount of stuff still makes it into your mouth), you now test most things by sitting on them. You sit on one of your toys in the playpen like it’s a makeshift stool; you sit on the parking garage for your cars.

Your dada and I continue to love seeing you learn about the world around you. We love how you find so much humor in life that you often crack yourself up. And, we, of course, love you just for being you.

Resolution Check-in

You may remember my snazzy two-sided checklists. If you want the nitty gritty about how they played out in January, slog through the next few paragraphs. If you simply want the big philosophical lessons learned, scroll fast. I’ll alert you when to stop with a bold headline.

I only hit my goal of 5 quiet times one week out of the month. Most other weeks, I got in four. Overall, I saw growth but more room for growth. Not a total loss but not a win.

My kitchen counter wavered between disaster and zen. Except for one week, I cleaned the counter every week even if it took scrambling on Sunday night. But, I found myself cheating by shoving paperwork that needed tending behind the napkin holder or moving it to another surface. The goal for this month is to take care of paperwork instead of stashing it. Ugh…. I hate paperwork.

As for monthly cleaning, I would like to trumpet that the house got vacuumed more than once so loud that we can’t talk about the bathrooms… Ask me next month, m’kay.

The other monthly goals were interesting in what they revealed about what I do with “me time.” I exceeded my blog goals and fell short one sewing goal. During my responsibility-free evening, I found it hard to not direct the parenting decisions (and wasn’t entirely successful at being silent). And, I worked on my side gig of consignment toy selling instead of relaxing. The volunteer schedule for the big consignment sale was released at 8 am the Saturday I was supposed to sleep in. (What?!?) I got up early to snag the shifts I wanted and couldn’t fall asleep again.

The projects section of the checklist was the most helpful part of this endeavor. I got some annoying stuff done. Super dumb stuff that I’ve been meaning to do for months (or years). Stuff like finally switching an auto-payment from a credit card I want to close. Stuff like FINALLY ordering checks with both our names on them and our correct address, so I don’t have to run to my husband every time I want a check. Are you ready for this one? Stuff like unpacking the last of our hospital bags from the birth of our now one-year old. I also made significant progress on the large projects of reorganizing our pantry/coat closet and cleaning our storage room.

BIG PHILOSOPHICAL TAKEAWAYS (AND TIPS)

If you skipped all the nitty gritty, here’s where you can tune in again for some big picture learning.

Lesson 1: Timing is not everything, but it’s important. One of the first adjustments was my conception of a week. I was thinking it would run Sunday-Saturday, but I had to switch to a Monday-Sunday schedule. That gave me two days with Mark home to tie up loose ends. I don’t like how my procrastination pushes so much to Sunday, so I’m still working on that rhythm, but overall, letting a full weekend end the goal cycle seems to be best.

The system of having 4 small tasks, 2 30-minute tasks, or a 2-hour investment into a project per week worked well. First, I could look at the week overall and decide what would best mesh with what we already had on the calendar. And, when I broke the 2-hour projects down into 4 30-minute time blocks to cross off the list, I’d set my phone timer for 30 minutes and usually wind up spending at least a few minutes more beyond the 30.

Lesson 2: Life looks a little different now. I need to get my head back in the game with the kitchen counter, but at the beginning of January, I was finding that I would proactively pick up an item or two off the counter throughout the week because I knew it would make life easier when I did the big cleaning. I also found myself chipping away at other areas of the house to prevent them from becoming projects. After I had completed the project of unpacking our hospital bags from a year ago in our bedroom, seeing mess start to accumulate again was obnoxious, so I made a point of tucking stuff away before the bedroom had to become a project again. I’m annoyed that our hallway had to go on the project list for this week because I wanted to chip away at it, but time is finite…

Lesson 3: I don’t take enough  time for self-care. I love my little side gig of toy flipping, but it’s a side gig that can be time consuming. I should have taken the responsibility-free night and the sleep-in morning for myself — like really myself not just to work on the side gig I love that has a deadline. How do I know? I usually start having crazy dreams when I get stressed or let something consume me too much. A couple weeks ago, I woke Mark in the middle of the night by shoving the covers off him and picking at him. I was saying, “What kind of blocks is this made of?” We had a good laugh at 3:30 in the morning; nonetheless, I should take more time this month to sew and enjoy a good audio book even if I have a consignment deadline. This self-care won’t be easy. When I made my lists at the beginning of January, Ezra could play on his own for extended periods of time both upstairs and in the basement. I figured I could sit nearby and sew for a bit. I still can, but it’s going to be trickier. He no longer drives his little car around happily for 20 minutes. Instead, he drives it for 5 minutes then starts to use it as a mobile step stool to climb toward trouble. He seems to have the DNA of a mountain goat. Here he is in his typical, tip-toed stance to reach for EVERYTHING.

Ezra - play kitchen -12 months.jpg

Lesson 4: The lists did help with communicating expectations and with accountability. Mark jumped in to do some of the tasks on the lists, and he cheered me on (and pressured me — in a good way) to finish others.

So, how are you all doing on your resolutions? What are you learning from them? Any tips for keeping a one year old busy while you get other stuff done? How do you rope off time for your own self-care? Draw a boundary between what you love that is work and what is truly relaxing?

One Year – Happy Birthday

crawling w ballon

Dear Erza,

About this time exactly one year ago, I sat down on the couch and told your dada that I wanted to go to sleep early and get a full night of sleep just in case the doctor told us at the ultrasound the next day that it was time to induce mommy and hasten your arrival. We didn’t make it to that ultrasound, and I didn’t get that good night of sleep because at 3 am I woke up with intense contractions and knew you were ready to meet us. Tonight, I sat in the rocking chair upstairs and took a few extra minutes to sing you teary-eyed versions of Amazing Grace and Great Is Your Faithfulness. The emotion of knowing that tomorrow you’ll be my one-year-old and not my little baby got to me as did recalling God’s faithfulness in blessing us with you.

This month, we’ve had many adventures with you. We got to go to the Farm Show as a family, something your dada and I have dreamed of since before we got married. We had a blast watching you mimic the neighing horse, headbutt the sheep, and throw your own little dance party on the shuttle bus. We also took you on your first long road trip to Raleigh to visit your Aunt Jillian, and while we were there, you visited the science museum. You spent the day bouncing in your carrier when you saw exhibits that caught your attention and clapping anytime you saw something that might resemble a dog, including the sculpted wolves.

You still aren’t walking, but you are climbing like you are the spawn of mountain goats. You try to climb the back of all the furniture, stick your feet through your baby gates as if you wish there were footholds instead of open air, and use the seat of your little red car as a stepstool. Today I caught you trying to climb out of your playpen twice, which was horrifying to see. I don’t know what life is going to look like once I can’t contain you in there.

You are practicing walking. Your favorite place to practice is at your baby gates if I don’t lock them. You’ll open the gate, walk to the other side of it, close the gate, open it again, walk back through to the other side, again and again and again and again.

You’re more nuanced in your emotions, and I catch you trying to manufacture emotions suitable for the moment. Your fake cheesy smile where you scrunch up your eyes and cheeks is adorable, and when you’re upset but not too upset, you muster a pathetic half cry (that makes me laugh). You pause, close your eyes, wait a few seconds to let some tears build up, then let out a wail. Your excitement, however, is always genuine and dramatic. You’ll flail your arms, shiver your body, clap, squeal. You find delight in so many things. I think you’re also starting to understand hugs a little bit. You’ll sometimes spread your arms wide, lean your head on our shoulders, and pause there. And, my heart melts. Every. time.

You’re starting to mimic more sounds. You like to say “pop” when we say “pop, pop, pop.” You can copy us when we make sounds like a dolphin clicking, and when we’re playing with your books or toys that make animal sounds, sometimes you let out rudimentary growls, neighs, or moos. When I find you using the rail of your crib to bounce up and down, I’ll bend my knees and say “jump, jump, jump,” which keeps you bouncing. Sometimes, I swear that only your toes are left on the ground. But, when your daddy comes into the room and jumps up off the ground, you squat way down in your crib and then stand back up, then squat down again and stand back up in your baby version of big jumps.

You’re initiating play more often, which your dada and I love. One of your favorite games is to wrestle your giant stuffed puppy in your nursery. If I’m in the hallway folding laundry or ironing or tending to diapers, I’ll hear you squeal. That’s your signal that I should watch as you pull the puppy onto you or as you climb over it. You’ll also wrestle with dada and me. If we lie on the floor, you come crawling over and then clamber up on us squealing. You put your face down against ours, so we’ll kiss your neck to tickle it, wrap you in our arms, and roll back and forth with you. You also made up a game where we’ll put our head on your chest and pretend to snore. You push us away, and we play grumble, “Hey, you woke me up.” You laugh and laugh. Then you grab our head and pull us to your chest again, so we can snore and restart the game.

Sleeping has been much better this month since we figured out you weren’t actually ready to let go of the second nap. Now that we’re back on a 2 nap schedule, you’re sleeping better through the night, often sleeping from 7-7 with just your 10:00 feeding and diaper change.

As I reflect back on this whole year, it’s hard to wrap my mind around how much you’ve changed from a baby who we would cheer for if you batted at a toy to a bouncing, exploring boy. If I had to wrap you up into three words, I would call your energetic, curious, and pleasant.

Your energy seemingly knows no bounds. Any cuddles we get we are grateful for because they are rare. We know you adore us, but we’ve accepted that you have far too many things to do to want to sit on our lap and twiddle your thumbs. I remember sitting on the couch when I was still carrying you in my belly, and if your dada or I pushed a foot, hand, or butt, we’d get a kick back. We could watch you roll from one side of my belly to another or feel you stretch big. Nothing has changed. You are constantly on the go. I spend my days putting things you shouldn’t have out of your reach and watching you go from thing to thing to thing that you enjoy. If you harness that energy for good, you’re going to leave a mark on this world.

Curious should have been your middle name. You hate to miss a single moment. I could probably count on one hand the number of times that you’ve napped in public. It’s not because mama went home at nap time (I often didn’t). It’s because you could not bear the thought of closing your eyes if there were people to observe. I also love the careful way you examine toys to see how they work. You pick up on how to operate toys quickly. And, you are observant. We put a video monitor in your room, and as soon as you went in the room, you pointed to it on the wall. It took you three days to forget it was there. We’ve had you out and about, seen you lock in on something across a room, and realized that you spotted a balloon. When we take you for walks, you love to crunch leaves under your feet or kick sticks and rocks that we come across. I hope you never lose your sense of wonder.

And, you are such a pleasant, adaptable baby. Each time your great-grandma saw you in the few short months we had with her, she’d remark what a good, pleasant baby you were. And, she would recognize that in you still. You are up for adventures anytime. When we keep you up past your naptime or bedtime, you usually can do that with minimal drama. If it’s not bedtime related, you rarely cry or fuss. And, you love to see people laugh and frequently laugh yourself. You’re a baby who is fun to have around because there is always some antic that you want us to watch. I hope you always find joy in life and can see the good in situations.

And, if I added a 4th word, it would be handsome. You’re so cute. Really. You are. Just tonight someone in the store had to go out of her way to tell me how adorable you are, and that happens just about every time I take you somewhere. Even your daddy and I still can’t get over how adorable you are.

Ezra, we love you. Those are short words, but they are so true. Your dada and I had our lives completely changed by you, and we are completely blessed for it. This year with you has filled our hearts over and over and over again with a full of pride and joy kind of love. A can’t stop talking about you, look at pictures of you when we’re not with you kind of love. A willing to slow down the speed of life to accommodate you love. A go out of our way to amuse you kind of love. A thankful to God for each day we get with you kind of love.

Happy birthday!

 

Prayers for Sanity and Growth

As Saturday looms near and will bring with it Ezra’s first birthday, I’ve found myself in a nostalgic mood, wanting to record some of the moments of this first year before I forget them. One of the memories I want to capture is how I’ve prayed for Ezra over this past year. (Plus, I promised a few months ago that I would tell you all how I used prayer as a sanity strategy in the middle of the night.)

Before I tell you how I’ve prayed for Ezra, let’s get a few things straight. I’m not some sainted mom who managed these sweet moments all the time. There have been plenty of time where I’ve stomped to the nursery, thrown the door open, and growled, “Ezra Weston, why are you not asleep?!?!?” There have also been plenty of rocking sessions where I’ve just thrown my head back against the rocking chair in abject misery, hoping against hope that Ezra will fall asleep and stay asleep.

When all the stars were aligned though, and I had some coffee and enough Jesus, I passed the time while waiting for him to drift to sleep by praying over him. I stumbled onto this prayer strategy early in his life when he was struggling with his tongue tie, so it would take him forever to drink his bottle then I’d have to hold him upright for 15 minutes to prevent reflux. Much of the middle of the night was passed with me trying to stay awake long enough to get him safely back to bed.

I’ll also let you in on a secret. It can be difficult to calm your mind and spirit enough to pray over a child who is overtired or  sick or just discontent for one of the million mysterious reasons that cause babies to wail on and on. However, if you can manage to start the prayer, it it very difficult to stay upset with the baby. I know when I’m praying, I’m reminded that I’m holding a tiny, precious human who has been entrusted to my care. I’m reminded that this frustrating moment is a tiny blip in what I pray will be a long and fruitful life. So, unless you start to pray in a tone like this: “Dear God, please make this amazing hazel eyes that NEVER seem to shut, shut right now, and please mute these little lips for the next 30 minutes,” it’s tough to start praying and stay upset (not that I would know anything about this strategy going off the rails. Nope, not me…)

What I do is I pray my way from head to toe as I rock in the glow of his nightlights. What are some of the things I pray for? Here are some examples.

God, I pray for Ezra’s eyes. Help him see the world the way that you see it. Open his eyes to notice people who are hurting and need compassion. Help him to see people with love. Help him to see the beauty of the world around him, and plant in him a desire to create beauty to add to the world. Help him to also see things correctly. Help him to know when to call wrong things sin. Keep his eyes from things that are not helpful.

God, be with Ezra’s mouth. He loves to chatter. Help him to use those lips to speak the truth in love to others. Give him words that enrich and encourage people. Give him kind things to say. Help him to avoid words that tear others down. Please help people to feel better for being in his presence. Help him to tell others about Christ.

Please be with his ears. Help him to be receptive to your wisdom. I pray that his dad and I can give him wisdom, and I also pray that during his life you bring a wide circle of mentors into his life who can speak truth into it. I pray that you would make him receptive to those truths. Help him to have the tender heart of a learner. Help him to seek your instruction.

I pray that you would be with his hands. Please lead him not just to work but to a vocation in his future. Guide him to some task that give him a sense of purpose and that that builds your kingdom in some way. It can be anything from an accountant to a mechanic to a doctor. Just help him to find joy in the hours he invests in making a living and help him to see how he can bring you glory through doing it. Make him attentive to the ways that he can use his hands to help others in need. Always make his hands gentle and tender and caring. Help others to feel safe in them.

I pray that you would help him to follow you in obedience with his feet. Please prompt him to follow your calling wherever you lead him. And, while you know that I want that to be in my backyard, I pray that you would make my mama-heart brave enough to willingly release and support him to whatever task you call him.

(Note on that last one… When our church commissioned our last missionary, a young woman in her very early 20s, the pastor asked her dad to pray for her. As her father released her to the mission field, I lost it and was snot-and-tears crying in the middle of the service.)

Sometime I mix it up, and I also pray that if God has a wife for Ezra in the future, she would be experiencing similar things and God would be drawing her parents to himself, so they can be nurturing her character as well. I’m sure as he grows and I see his strengths and weaknesses emerge along with his passions and talents and interests, I can pray even more clearly for him. Tell me, what are the things you pray for in your kid’s lives?

Welcome, 2019!

I am generally bad at keeping New Year’s resolutions. But, here I am. I’m making several.

I’m also generally bad at using checklists, but I just finished creating a checklist to help guide the year. Here it is in two-sided glory. See what I did? The monthly list folds over to the back side. Nifty, huh?

checklist

I decided to make the checklist track most of my resolutions, and I decided to make one piece of paper cover a whole month since, heaven knows, I don’t need more scraps of paper around this house. (But, I don’t want to know about your fancy checklist apps.) Plus, if I only need one checklist per month, then I only have to maintain the willpower to print this document 13 times (one extra to cover weekly lists for those weird weeks that don’t cleanly fit in a single month). I’m hoping that having the checklist visible somewhere will help me communicate expectations better. I’m not going to go into my whole struggle with expectations right now, but if my checklist is visible to Mark, it will help him know loving ways that he can help me and also help him know what I’m trying to accomplish in any given week since sometimes I forget to use my words and instead look like a chicken with her head cut off.

Here’s a brief whirlwind tour of what’s on the checklist and why. Five quiet times a week. I need more Jesus in my life. I’m making a true confession when I say that setting the bar at 5 times a week felt aggressive. I’ve not been that consistent in my quiet time, but I think that to build a habit, I’ve got to set it at 5 times. But, 5 minutes of any spiritual development counts. Obviously, I hope to get in more than 5 minutes most days, but 5 times-5 minutes. That’s the balance I came to as I tried to make the goal achievable.

Clutter on the kitchen counter is where I start to lose the battle of the whole house. Plus, a cluttered counter is something my sweet husband does not often complain about, but I know it makes him crazy. Mopping our first floor is going to be necessary since soon Ezra will be set loose to walk around in that space. Between his high chair overflow and dog hair… ugh. The floor should be mopped every day, but time is finite.

The project space will be filled out weekly using one of 3 philosophies – one big project that I want to carve out two hours to work on, 2 smaller 30 minute projects, or 4 quick projects. I hope that by doing this, I can keep annoying things from hanging over my head for too long and keep big projects on the radar. For example, I just brought home a video monitor for Ezra’s room. I keep telling myself I need to get it hooked up, and I could conceivably continue to tell myself that until he’s 18. But, if I put that project with 3 other brief ones on the list, then either Mark or I can take a look at the list, knock out the project, and keep the house humming along a little more smoothly. And, yes, I plan to have another longer list somewhere that projects will be pulled from, and no, the projects on that list will never be exhausted. But, weekly goals will help prioritize what I want to do.

Then, I have a monthly checklist. I’ve set goals to blog at least twice a month. One of the regrets of my first year of motherhood is that I’ve blogged so little about the experience;  I also want to revive my quilt blog. And, I want to sew at least three times a month. Now that Ezra is getting to the point of being able to play independently, I think I can set up a spot in the basement just out of his reach and sew while I keep an eye on him. Blogging and sewing are huge for my sanity. In the same vein of self-care, Mark and I discussed what we could do. At the beginning of each month, we plan to carve out on the calendar one evening each month where one or the other of us is completely responsibility free. Normally he gets home and plays with Ezra and then cooks dinner, but on his responsibility-free night, he can opt for a break if he wants to just veg out. On my nights, I get to hand Ezra off to Mark when he gets home, and I’m not doing the bedtime routine. Oh, hallelujah, I’m not doing bedtime. Then, we’ll mark one day each month that one or the other of us gets to sleep in as long as we want. Sometimes that will be the same day since my mom takes Ezra occasionally overnight, and sometimes, we’ll just take turns getting up on Saturday and whisking the noisy baby to the basement play area and putting the dog out so the other person can sleep.

And, yes, I’m embarrassed to admit it but cleaning the bathrooms and vacuuming the whole house are on there as monthly chores. In an ideal world, they’d get done more often then that — by someone else. But, we don’t live in the rich people neighborhood and aren’t planning on hiring help, so… on the monthly list those chores go.

book stack

And, the stack of books above represents my reading list for the year (except on closer investigation, I’m going to swap out Doing a Literature Review for something more beneficial to my editing work). I chose 12 books last year. I gave up on God Meets You Where You Are because I ran out of time. And, I have 3 partially completed books from 2018 to finish before I get to my 2019 reading list. To be clear, I read more than 11 books last year; it’s just that Agatha Christie had a way of sneaking in sometimes. This year, I’ll need to be more mindful of my pacing of the chosen 12. The whole point of this stack is to force me to read books on my shelves that I ultimately want to read but won’t reach for first. I pick a marriage and parenting book each year, snag a few non-fiction, and choose a biography and a classical work. Novels work their way into my reading on their own, so other than a classic, I don’t put them in this pile.

So, how about any of you? What resolutions did you make? Any tips for keeping up with a checklist?

Ezra – 11 months

Dear Ezra,

You’re 11 months old. One more month until you are a one year old. How time flies!

Your motto in life continues to be, “Why sit when I can stand?” You cruise around on the furniture all the time. And, you got a car that makes you so happy (and us because you’re hilarious in it). You use the steering wheel to support yourself and walk laps around and around and around the house. If you were just a little more confident, you’d be walking by now, but you do not like to let go of mama and dada’s fingers. Seriously, if your car is not going in the right direction, you’ll pick it up and swivel it to where you want it to be. You could be walking, little man. We had a rare mild and dry day this month, so we took you for a walk. With mama holding one hand and dada holding the other, you walked halfway around the neighborhood, stopping to step on leaves as you went.

You continue to enjoy mimicking us, so you’ll fake cough if someone is coughing. You’ve also learned to stick your hands in the air when you hear, So big! You still like clapping, and you’ve mastered waving. I took you to Target the day you turned 11 months old, and you were waving at anyone who would pay attention to you and even the people who wouldn’t pay attention to you. You are a super friendly baby. At our Christmas party, you let anyone who wanted to pick you up, do so without a fuss. There was also no fuss when you met Santa. You just gazed inquisitively at him and tried to figure out why you were sitting on his lap.

This month, your interest is returning to books. You got to open a book a day leading up to Christmas, so that helped, and you have some books with textures and sounds, and those have lured you back to the book world as well. You still don’t like to sit still on our laps to read, but at least you’ll grab books on your own and take the time to leaf through them. You still love music, and you’ll sway or bounce when your toys make music or we play music for you. You recognize the song BINGO without any lyrics and get excited when you hear it. The music you are most responsive to is the jingle for the Schmidt Kramer law firm. You can be not paying a bit of attention to the TV, but when that jingle plays, you stop everything and wave at the TV or start clapping. For Christmas, you surprised mama by liking your play kitchen the most. You love to bang the cabinet doors and pull everything out onto the floor. So, I guess, I should not have actually been surprised that you like the toy kitchen so much because if we didn’t have cabinet locks on everything upstairs, that is exactly what you would be doing. You also like anything that is hollow and distorts your voice. You’ll pick up blocks and talk into them because you like hearing yourself, and if we give you an empty paper towel roll, you hold it to your mouth and trumpet through it. And, your other favorite for the month is any toy phone or remote that makes noise when you push the buttons. With all that reading and talking and button pushing, you’re actually pretty good at playing independently. You stay content entertaining yourself for long stretches of time, especially if you don’t see mama or dada doing anything that you are particularly tempted to get your hands into.

You love to talk. It seems like some days you talk from the time you get out of bed until you go to bed at night. You grunt and squeal. We’re ready to declare that your first word is “hi.” You’ll say that sometimes when you wave. You make car noises when you drive your car or push your toy cars around on the floor.

On the sleep front, we’ve hit more bumps. You, once again, don’t like to just be put in your crib to go to sleep, and several days this month, you decided 4 am would be an excellent wake time. You’re mostly down to one nap in the afternoon unless you just can’t make it to bed and need to grab a quick cat nap later in the afternoon.

On the eating front, you learned to drink out of a straw, and you enjoy cold water. It’s nice to be able to hand you a cup and let you take quick drinks when you’re thirsty. You’re down to no more than 5 bottles a day, sometimes as few as the 4 you get at sleep times.

Every day, we see our little baby slipping away and turning into a little boy. Watching you grow is an adventure – a tiring, chaotic, wouldn’t-trade-it-for-the-world adventure.