Thursday, January 29, 2009

Preschool drop-out.

Ever since oh, I don't know, the very first day a year and a half ago, I have had conflicting feelings about Liam being in school. I started him with the best of intentions but as the months dragged on, it became harder and harder for me to force him to go.

He has always been naturally reserved around kids his age so I enrolled him in a part-time parent's day out program two days a week hoping it would help him grow socially. I thought the social aspect of school would probably be hard for him at any age so it might be better to get used to it sooner rather than later. I couldn't stand the thought of him crying on his first day of kindergarten and being made fun of from that day forward. Better to cling to mama's leg at age 2 than at age 5.

Of course, the transition wasn't easy. On mornings before school he would whine and drag his feet and say he didn't want to go. When I would ask him why, he'd say he didn't like school. When I would pick him up at the end of the day, he'd be happy and seem like he had a good time, but when I would drive by the playground to spy on him he'd be sitting all alone, watching the other kids play. His teachers assured me that he liked to sit and watch the other kids play but it still broke my heart. When he told me last week that he was too sick to go to school, I finally heard what he'd been trying to tell me all along.

HE DOES NOT LIKE GOING TO SCHOOL! He has never liked going to school.

So why was I pushing my 2 year old to do something that made him feel uncomfortable? Did I really think this attempt at socialization was working or had I gotten so accustomed to my weekly me time that I was afraid to give it up? Sure it's good for me to have a break, but at the expense of my child? That's not right. Have I been pushing him to go against his grain just so he will fit in? And what? Be just like everyone else? Why?


And so on and so on and so on.


I spent the weekend weighing the pros and cons, asking for advice, talking to my family, researching expert opinions and reading, reading, reading.
What I decided was this: while preschool (or daycare or mother's day out or playgroup or school...) might be wonderful for some kids, it is not the best fit for all kids.

Liam is a very unique child: smart, imaginative and sensitive. He doesn't want to run and jump and throw blocks; he wants to read books and act things out and write in his notebook. This is wonderful but makes him different from a lot of other kids his age. Sure, a part of me would love to drive by the playground and see him running around with the other kids, laughing and having a good time. But at the expense of who he is? No way. I don't ever want him to stop being himself in order to fit in.

The more I thought about it, the more I realized that is kind of what socialization is. Learning to fit in with others. While I definitely think that is an important skill to have, I don't think it is something that can be forced. Especially not on a kid who really does like sitting in the corner of the school yard, watching the other kids play.

I still didn't know if pulling him out of school would be considered over coddling or trusting my gut but I couldn't stand to send him another day. I called the school to let them know we were playing hooky and ended up talking to the director all about what I was feeling. She was very understanding and helped me see that, for Liam, not going to school was exactly what he needed right now. I only wish I had asked her for advice a little sooner.

I am starting to realize that all kids are special needs kids. It's our job as p
arents to figure out what our unique little wonders need so we can love, nurture and teach them the way that works best for them. Some need to be pushed while others need to be coddled. I am trusting Liam to teach me how to be the mother he needs me to be.

Sure, I'll miss my me time but I won't miss making this happen twice a week...

I'm kind of a bad-ass for lasting as long as I did!

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Laundry room redux.

Do you recall about six months ago when I was forced decided to re-do my laundry room? Of course you don't. I barely remember that and it's on my to-do list. Six months in between the before an after is enough to make even the biggest DIY fan lose interest. What can I say? These things take time. Like four days of work and six months of procrastination. Just take a moment to refresh yourself and we'll revel in the finished product together.

You with me? Let's do this.

Here is what the laundry room looked like before before, as in before the paint spilled on the floor:

And here is what it looks like now:

I'm sure you're thinking I thought you said this was a laundry room. So where the heck's your washer and dryer? Well, that's part of the reason this little project took me so long. I didn't just slap on a coat of paint, I rearranged appliances. That's no small feat. Especially for me and the mister who are both completely lacking the home improvement gene. Thank goodness for friends who know what they're doing and are willing to help.

Liam's helping, too...in his own way.

Here are our washer and dryer in their new home, against a different wall.

Now you see them...

Now you don't!

That handy dandy curtain is the other reason this project took me so long. The painting and rearranging and shelf hanging really only took me a couple of weeks; I've been almost done with this room for months. But the room dividing curtain was key to the finished project so I had to make it happen.

My idea was to hang curtains on a hospital-style ceiling track so I could whoosh! open the curtain every time I needed to toss a load of clothes in the dryer. But I had trouble figuring out exactly how to order what I needed and couldn't commit to spending a hundred bucks online for something that may or may not be awesome.

Several trips to Home Depot left me confused and defeated and wondering why no one had marketed hospital curtains to home-owners (it's a great idea!). On our fifth and final attempt, we decided to try a vertical blind hanging kit we found on clearance. We figured for $20, we could probably make it work.

And we did. Sort of. The track holds the curtain just like I wanted it to but the whoosh! I was hoping for is more of a sonofabitch! why won't this motherfucking thing open?!? We can't have that every time I do laundry so I hung some curtain tie backs and accepted the fact that this is every bit as good as my original idea.

Let's take another look, shall we? Laundry room...

Pretty room!

I've got all my crafty stuff stashed in here and am excited to have a creative place to work. I might even add a desk or a work table at some point. Maybe. We'll see. For now, this project is DONE!

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Not your mama's housewife.

I've been a stay-at-home-mom for almost three years and I'm finally, maybe, starting to get the hang of it. Turns out, all it took to go from Peggy Bundy to June Cleaver was the proper attire. I should have known.

Going from a working woman to a stay-at-home-mom is a shock to the system. Life is suddenly, completely, 100% different. It's enough to give even the most hormonally balanced among us a run for her money. But for me, it wasn't the mom part that knocked me off my rocker; it was the stay-at-home part.

Until Liam was born, I don't think I had ever spent more than a few hours in my house by myself. Then all of a sudden I was home, perched uncomfortably on a spongy donut with my perfect baby in my arms like, so...what goes on here?

Not with the baby. No, for some reason that came to me very naturally. It was the house that had me baffled.

I had no idea how much work went into this place. How it managed when we were both working full time is anyone's guess. Who took care of the sink that is always, mysteriously, full of dishes and the laundry hamper that is never empty? Not to mention the dog that needs to be let out (and then in and then out and then...you get the picture) and the cat that needs food or water or attention or something at every moment of every day.

What this house needed was a multi-tasking domestic diva to constantly stay on top of every last detail before it came crashing down around us. Unfortunately no one checked my resume before giving me that responsibility and I was severely lacking in most, if not all, prerequisites.

Bill would leave for work in the morning and return like 30 seconds later for lunch. I'd hear him pull up and suddenly notice my morning cereal bowl balanced precariously on my used coffee cup that was shoved amongst magazines and breast pump attachments and pacifiers and dishes from the night before on the ever growing heap that was once my bedside table. I'd walk out to the kitchen to greet him and the open dishwasher would remind me, oh yeah, that's what I was doing.

The same thing would happen at night when he'd come home (like immediately after lunch) and again the next day and the day after that. I just couldn't get on top of it.

It reminded me a little of Liam being born; of laboring naturally in the most unnatural, howling, screaming, projectile vomiting kind of way. One of the nurses rushed in and grabbed me by my face so she could yell at me nose-to-nose, "Maggie! You have got to get on top of this labor NOW! It's going to get a lot harder before it gets easier so GET CONTROL OF YOURSELF!"

That's when I requested the epidural.

But there was no easy way to take control of my house. No matter how hard I worked at keeping it clean and organized, it continued to outsmart me. I'd slog through a sink full of dishes only to find another pile of plates and glasses waiting for me the next time I passed through the kitchen. I swear I did the work. Just look at my dishpan hands! But it didn't matter. My house was a big ass muddy hill that I had to push a boulder up day after day after day; every time I stopped to cuddle my baby, the stupid rock just rolled back down.

This went on for a quite a while. Years, really. Eventually I just gave up and accepted the fact that I was good at taking care of Liam and bad at taking care of my house. But my housewife costume changed everything.

Photo by Liam.

When I tie on my apron ($12.99 on clearance at Anthropologie) and snap my rubber gloves into place (different pairs for different tasks), I feel like a superhero homemaker of yesteryear, ready to take on whatever mundane task my house throws at me.

I'm still not very good at cleaning (or maybe it's this time consuming for everyone?) or cooking (I forget to make dinner more often than not) but at least I'm having fun. My housewife costume and the hip hop dance mix on my iPod have made the cleaning part of my day something I look forward to. I put Liam down for his nap, step into the phone booth and hop out an ass shaking, dish scrubbing superstar. I doubt the 1950's homemakers ever had this much fun.

Sunday, January 18, 2009

Sicky poo.

Liam loves to act and already has several characters in his repertoire. Most are from Blue's Clues but recently he added one that we cannot trace. The character's name is Chicky Poo and as far as we can tell he's a gay waiter. We'll be playing in his room and all of a sudden, he'll turn to me and in the most saccharine sweet, high pitched voice say, "Oh, you must be Maggie. Would you like some tea? I'm Chicky Poo."

Chicky Poo is somewhat baffling but we greatly prefer him to Liam's latest incarnation, Sicky Poo. Sicky Poo is a whining 2 year old with a hacking cough and runny nose who can't make it through the night without waking up crying for Mama 2 or 3 times. While Chicky Poo is nothing if not polite, Sicky Poo does things like cough in your face or directly onto the remaining half of your pizza. No, Sicky Poo is not my favorite.

While I know it must be tough growing molars and even tougher when you're fighting a cold at the same time, I still find myself, dare I say it, annoyed from time to time. There's just something about dragging myself out of a nice warm bed to get coughed on in the middle of the night that rubs me the wrong way. Call me crazy.

The worst part is how sweet Sicky Poo is about the whole thing. When I hold his aching body tight and say, "Oh, Baby, I'm so sorry," he tries to comfort me. "It's OK, Mama," he says reassuringly. "Sometimes I cry."

How is this the worst part? Because I still find myself getting impatient with the whining and irritated with the coughing in my face. And then I just feel bad.

One morning after a restless night of rocking and crying, Liam woke up early and wanted to start the day. While he might be able to function on less sleep than usual, I cannot. I shuffle around like the walking dead and am lucky if I ever get caffeinated enough to hit my stride. Fortunately he agreed to watch a little TV in my bed so I could wake up at my own pace.

As we sat together, I leafed through a magazine, waiting for my coffee to kick in. I had already read it a few months back but none of the articles were sounding familiar. Then I saw something I couldn't forget:

I know it's hard to see in this photo (I can't get the scanner to work on my laptop) but at the top of each page is a note from my husband.

Your son is super smart...good job.

Nice ass!


Your hair looks nice.


Looks like your core is toning.


He says he tells me stuff like this all the time but I only believe things I hear on Oprah or read in magazines (totally not true...well, maybe the part about him telling me nice things all the time). I guess he figured if he wanted me to hear him, he better speak to me in a language I would understand. I have to admit, the impact was much greater in writing. Especially on a day when I really needed to hear it.

No wonder my son is so sweet, he takes after his Dada.

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

Western hospitality.

Southerners know some things that folks from different parts of the world don't. I swear, when it comes to social etiquette, you're two steps behind if you weren't born and bred in The South. Four and a half years in Nashville and it still boggles my mind.

When you ask a few friends over to watch football, don't be surprised if they each show up with at least two bags of chips and a twelver of beer. Even if you're like, we've got stuff here so just come on by. Be prepared to spend a full 10 hours drinking beer and eating chips only to wake up the next morning to find an untapped 5 liter box of Franzia Chillable Red in your fridge. Just be grateful no one discovered it the night before.

I love everything about Southern hospitality except for the fact that it makes reciprocation a little tricky. I mean, if we're invited to say, a grill out, what exactly are we supposed to bring? Meat to grill? A dish to share? A case of beer? All of the above? I'm serious. If you are rolling your eyes like, Duh, isn't it obvious?, No! It isn't obvious! Please, just tell me what I should do!

And while you're at it, could you tell me what I should bring to a friend's house for dinner? And don't give me the old, just bring a bottle of wine, business because folks around here are way more creative than that. Some of the things friends have brought to my house for dinner include: a salad and a few liters of home-brewed cider; sausage balls, a big bottle of Jack Daniel's and two bottles of wine; a box of gourmet hot dogs and a six pack of beer; and a complete ice cream sundae bar. Once some friends brought over everything you would possibly need to make sushi. For eight. A friend came over to help us fix our computer and brought along a basket of homemade muffins. Are you starting to understand how this could get tricky?

I'm an outsider trying to navigate this terrain that comes so naturally to the natives. Things like, If y'all are around this weekend, you should come by, roll of their tongues leaving me grabbing my pocket translator like, When you say this weekend do you mean Saturday or Sunday? Or Friday night? Is this like an invitation to something and if so, to what exactly? Is there a time involved? Will other people be there? Oh, and uh (gulp), what should I bring...

I can't imagine how much we've missed out on just because the invitation got lost in translation.


Earlier this week we were invited to dinner at our friends' house for the very first time. We knew they were making chili so we wanted to bring something that would complement the meal. Cornbread is the obvious choice but I've done that before and regretted it. My Jiffy muffins were a pathetic offering next to a piping hot batch of cornbread made from a recipe that had been in our hostess's family forever. (Who could have seen that one coming? I thought everyone knew that Jiffy cornbread muffins are the undisputed champ.)

I talked to Bill about it and we decided on beer. I asked him to pick it up on the way home leaving the age-old dilemma of how much up to him. A six pack looks good, is easy to carry and seems appropriate for a weeknight. But really a six pack is only enough for one and a half beers each. If the beer we bring is the only beer and everyone is drinking beer well, you see how this could be a problem. But showing up to dinner with a twelve pack and a two year old on a week night seems a little, oh I don't know, lush?

To put myself at ease, I made some chocolate chip cookies to bring along for dessert. They're kid friendly, easy to make and don't require plates or forks. And who doesn't like chocolate chip cookies? (No one, that's who.)

I wrapped them up in a colorful take out container which looked cute and was easy to carry. Along with a good six pack, this felt like a perfect bring along for dinner with friends.

Take out container, World Market: $1.
Not leaving another dish behind to be lost forever: priceless.

Here's the recipe I used. It is what came up first when I googled easy chewy chocolate chip cookies. Thanks Cooks Country!

Chewy Chocolate Chip Cookies

1/2 c. butter
1/2 c. brown sugar
1/4 c. white sugar
1/2 tsp. vanilla
1 egg
1 c. plus 2 tbsp. flour
1/2 tsp. baking soda
1 sm. pkg. chocolate chips
1/2 tsp. salt
1/2 c. nuts (optional)

Mix well and bake at 325 degrees for about 12 minutes or until barely turning brown.

If you forget and bake them a little longer, they're crunchy, not chewy. I did a chewy batch and a crunchy batch - totally on purpose - and they were both good.

Monday, January 12, 2009

Use your words.

This morning, I returned from my 6 AM yoga class to find this:

Someone made my bed.

OK, it's not just my bed, it's our bed. But up until very recently, I was the only one who partook in the privilege of making it. Ever. This pissed me off, of course, as I'm sure it would most women who take on the lion's share of housework. Not that I'm one of those women. I'm actually really not. My husband makes dinner several nights a week and tends to notice the bathtub needs a good scrubbing before I do. But still, the bed. The bed!

This major injustice came to a head over the holidays when Bill had lots of time off work. After several days of waking up with Liam so he could sleep in and then spending the rest of the day ticked off that he expected me to make the bed he had abandoned, or giving in and making the bed with big, frustrated movements while sighing loud insinuations that went totally unheard, I started to lose it just slightly.

I mean, why couldn't he just make the bed himself? He slept in it too, didn't he? There could only be three possible reasons for his sloth like behavior:
  1. He has no respect for me and wants to make my life harder every chance he gets.
  2. He doesn't give a rat's ass if the bed is made or not.
  3. He tried to help a few times but I told him he did it wrong so he is staying the hell out of my way.*
I decided to confront him on it. Well, confront might be the wrong word. I decided to ask him for help in my most highly evolved, unemotional, "me statements" kind of way.

Like, "Babe, I was thinking? Maybe we could make a rule that the last person who gets up has to make the bed?"

"OK."

I left it at that, not going into the whole, because when the bed isn't made it makes me feel lazy and fat and like our house if falling down around us, bit. I even managed to leave out, when you don't help me with things like that it makes me feel like your hired servant and not your equal partner in marriage and that makes me feel sad and hateful. I just took his "OK" at face value and left it alone. I wasn't sure if anything would change or not but at least I didn't start a fight.

But things did change. Completely.

The next time he slept in, the bed was made before he left the room. And the next time, and the next time. When it was my turn to sleep in, I had to push myself to follow his good example instead of waiting until I was good and caffeinated to get around to it. I couldn't let him beat me at my own game!

As it turns out, the only reason he wasn't helping me is because I never asked him to. Well that and he didn't give a rat's ass if the bed was made or not and didn't want to hear from me how he was doing it wrong. But if I had approached the situation from either one of those angles, you better believe I would still be making the bed. It didn't have to be a big philosophical eruption about why or how the bed should be made; he just needed a straightforward, somewhat polite request.

Imagine how many years I wasted on telepathic expectations! I really did make an ASS out of U and ME.

Mr. Bird, AKA Baby Brother, enjoying the bed Billy made.

*A quick note about the right and wrong way to do things:

In Louise Hay's great book, You Can Heal Your Life, she uses the following quote when talking about stubborn people who are unable to be flexible in their thinking or see other points of view:
Virginia Satir, the brilliant family therapist, said that she did some "silly research" and found that there are more than 250 different ways to wash dishes, depending upon who is washing and the ingredients used. If we are stuck in believing there is only "one way," or "one viewpoint," then we are shutting out most of life.
So, let your husband make the bed! Or feed the kids or fold the towels. He might not do it exactly the way you would do it, but he certainly won't do it wrong. Just let it go, put him to work and spend your new found me time doing something other than breathing over his shoulder.

Thursday, January 8, 2009

I'm free! Let's go get some groceries.

Yesterday, after mommy-and-me Spanish and story time at the library, Liam and I drove all the way across town to get alphabet cookies at Trader Joe's. This is a highly unusual thing for me to do, squeezing three activities into one day. One morning, no less! Two is a lot as it is. Three? That's just crazy talk.

But I've been wanting to let go; to go with the flow instead of trying to control every last detail of my life. In the grand scheme of things, what I know and what I know I don't know pale in comparison to what I don't know I don't know (you dig?). Why hold on so tight if it just means steering myself away from all that is possible?

So when Liam said he wanted alphabet cookies, I went with it. Who cares if it was almost lunch time? So what if he was whining to go home before I even got on the interstate? I was not about to over think my decision; I was going with the flow. And it felt good to let go. So much more effortless than I thought it would.

Although, I wouldn't exactly call the leg kicking frog jump pose I did in yoga to liberate myself over the weekend effortless. Exhilarating, yes. Ridiculous, absolutely. But you don't end up face down on a yoga mat, panting like one of those hyenas on The Lion King with your tongue hanging out of your open, grinning mouth without a little effort.

The effort apparently payed off though because here I was on an unscheduled trip across town to get cookies after an already full morning. At lunch time! That's about as liberated as I've been in a long time.

And the thrills didn't stop there. Once we got to the store, we were treated to the best customer service I have experienced in a long time. In the six minutes we were there, three different employees went out of their way to be nice to us. Three! That's unheard of, even for a fantastic store like Trader Joe's.

The second we got inside a woman stopped to compliment Liam on his frog boots and listened intently as he randomly counted all his fingers. As soon as she walked away, another woman came over to ask Liam if he would like a small shopping cart to push around all by himself. It was pretty clear that he didn't but she insisted on going to get one "just in case she changed her mind." (I know he's got a pretty face but he was wearing a flight jacket and blue striped pants. A girl? Really?) Then the man at the check out counter asked Liam his name and offered him a balloon - a balloon with a string that had already been fashioned into a slip knot!

I was totally blown away. I didn't know if it was because I let go and allowed myself to be open to everything good the universe has to offer or if that's just what it's like to grocery shop in the suburbs (please don't tell me if it is...), but it was the greatest trip to a grocery store anyone has ever experienced ever.

When strangers are nice to my son for no reason, it completely warms my heart. Even when they think he's a girl.

Monday, January 5, 2009

Dinner is served.

Recently I received an undeserved compliment on my cooking. It wasn't that I didn't make the dish (because I did) or that it wasn't good (because it was), it's just that it was so easy I felt a little embarrassed taking credit for it. It was like bringing White Trash Dip (microwaved Velveeta and canned chili or salsa) to a Super Bowl party and saying anything other than, "Hell yeah it's good!" when someone says they like it. Without the slaving over a hot stove bit, it feels funny to get props for cooking.

Then again, it's not like Rachel Ray is reinventing the wheel or anything. Easy food can be just as good as the fancy stuff. Sometimes it's even better.

(Dammit if I'm not craving that dip!)

So, I have decided to share what will soon be one of your favorite recipes. It's super easy yet surprisingly impressive. Well, impressive up until the point you reveal the key ingredient.

Evidently, the guy who shared the recipe with my friend Charlotte (yes, a guy - I told you it was easy) tried using fresh vegetables and frozen vegetables and multiple combinations of canned vegetables until he just gave up and accepted that Veg-All is the hands down favorite. Who am I to argue?

Chicken Pot Pie

2 Cups Cooked Chicken (I just use all the white meat from a rotisserie chicken)
1 Can Veg-All (boo-ya!)
1 Can Cream of Chicken with Herbs
1 Package refrigerated pie crust
1/2 Cup Diced Mushrooms
1/8 Cup Milk
Salt & Pepper (to taste)

Preheat the oven to 350. Mix everything (except the pie crust) together; pour mixture into the bottom crust (obviously it should be in a pie tin or dish); cover with top crust; pinch edges; bake for 50 minutes (or until it's golden brown); cool for 10 minutes; ENJOY; accept compliments graciously (high fives work well).

Seriously, it's that easy. I really don't think it's possible to mess it up. If it was, believe you me, I would know. We've left out the mushrooms - delish; made it without chicken - still good; imperfectly doubled the recipe - no problem. We've tried it with refrigerator crusts and frozen crusts, both of which were equally good (Bill suggests tossing the bottom crust into the oven for a few minutes before you pour in the filling; give it a try if you're so inclined). We've even skipped the bottom crust altogether so we could stretch the ingredients to make two pies (twice as good!). Once we even ate some leftover filling on a crusty piece of bread. To die. Tonight I made individual pies because well, how fun is that?

Bill, Maggie & Liam. Oh, who am I kidding; L is for leftovers.

We bought the dishes when my sister was in town because she wanted to make us her favorite recipe: chicken pot pie. Her version was AMAZING but it better be after all the time she spent in the kitchen slicing and dicing and sauteing and cooking. When she asked us how it stacked up to our version, Bill summed it up best, "It's like apples and oranges, Moose. There's just no comparison."

*********************************

Edited to add:

Does burning count as messing up? If so, I may have slightly exaggerated about this recipe being fool proof.

That's what we get for buttering up the crusts and sticking them back in the broiler for just a minute. Not that you should let that stop you from using butter. Please, butter away! Just pay attention to the timer.

And don't worry about our dinner. It was not even close to being ruined.

Friday, January 2, 2009

Another new year and I'm ready.

Several years ago, we received a birth announcement from a dear friend and next to the picture of her beautiful baby boy was this quote by author Elizabeth Stone:
Making the decision to have a child is momentous. It is to decide forever to have your heart go walking around outside your body.
At the time that quote struck me as terrifying. I was childless and fancy free with my heart tucked neatly inside my chest where it belonged. I couldn't imagine making a decision that would change things so dramatically. I knew I wanted to be a mom someday but...whoa.

Fortunately, I came to discover that parenting is a much more gradual transformation than that quote lead me to believe. You don't pee on a stick one moment and suddenly find yourself thrust into the throes of motherhood the next. It takes a little time to get from here to there.

The pregnancy alone takes nine months (ten if you're the one who's pregnant) which is plenty of time to go from crying (not tears of joy) and wailing, Noooo! I'm not ready for this. I didn't know before but now I'm sure, I am NOT ready to be a mom! to saying all day every day as you waddle around in all 180+ pounds of pregnant glory, I am SO ready for this baby to come.

Trust me.

Then the baby comes and you momentarily freak out because the hospital discharges you and sends you home with absolutely no instructions (other than a thin pamphlet urging you to never, EVER shake your baby) or supervision (aside from your husband but, let's be honest, he's even more freaked out than you) and just expects that you know what you're doing. Just because you birthed the darn thing does not necessarily mean you have even the slightest idea what to do with it.

You stay in this perpetual state of overwhelmed awe until suddenly it hits you: all you really have to do is keep the baby alive. You don't need to teach it to talk or potty train it or pay for it's college tuition. Not yet, anyway. You just have to get the baby to eat and sleep and do your best to keep it relatively clean and happy. Do all that and manage to wash your hair once in a while? Mother of the freaking year.

Sure it gets harder (and harder, and harder...) but not all at once. And certainly not before you're ready. This is hard to believe of course but if the last few years with Liam have taught me anything it's that whether I think I'm ready for the next step or not, it comes and I handle it. I may not knock every pitch out of the park but I continue to step up to the plate and swing like I mean it.

And as hard as it would have been for the old me to believe it, I actually like having a chunk of my heart walking around outside my body. It holds me up to a higher standard and makes me feel accountable to someone I adore. Plus, it is a great way to get out of things without looking like a wuss.

Take New Year's Eve for example. Some crazy smart friends of mine hand crafted a hot tub* in another one of our friend's back yard (he moved and couldn't come back for New Year's so it was an evil genius way of getting back at him) and threw a kick ass bonfire party.

Now, I typically find a hot tub situation hard to pass up but when it's a hot tub that someone you know made, the urge to strip down and jump in is impossible to ignore. If I wasn't for the whole my heart is already up waaay past it's bedtime excuse, you better believe I would now be basking in the regret and humiliation that would naturally follow a post pregnancy skinny dip.

The old me - the one who feared losing myself and the ability to do whatever I wanted - could never have imagined how comforting it would be to give away my heart to someone I love.

But I also wouldn't have believed it was possible to balance a 30 pound toddler and a keg cup of champagne with style and grace.

Only time will tell what else I have to learn.

********************************

Some notes on the hot tub:

To be honest, I don't know how they pulled it off. It started the morning of New Year's Eve with breaking into our friend's house and a trip to Home Depot. They built the frame with plywood, covered it with a thick sheet of plastic and piped water from the bathtub out the window. Somehow a barbecue and drill press got involved (For heat? Circulation? I'm telling you, these people are crazy smart!). Then a fancy white tent with lights was placed over the entire thing for an ambient DIY grotto effect.

Tough to pass up...well, not that tough.