Tuesday, January 17, 2017

I Write So Much About Sleep Because I Am So So Sleepy

stress and stars blog motherhood

Audra has decided naps are for the weak.

Oh, don't get me wrong, she's never been what you'd call a good sleeper. While sleep training did wonders for so many of my friends' babies, my own first child stubbornly insisted on being awake whenever she damn well pleased, ignoring our own desperate need for more than three hours of sleep at a time. Luckily, she was at least cheerfully awake and therefore much easier to handle than if she'd been the sort of child who cried all night.

Oh no no no.

My child just wanted us to look at her at 2 o'lock in the morning.

She's a restless little thing in her bed, flipping and flopping all night long. There are occasionally slightly worrisome-sounding thumps and bumps audible through the wall and she ends up in a tangle of toddler legs and blanket, all of which are on her tiny toddler bed and precisely none of which are actually touching her somehow.

We used to rely on having the three of us just sleep in one big bed when staying at hotels, and discovered that her ninja-kicks never stop while she sleeps, they just end up being unconsciously aimed at the kidneys her parents need to live.

The part where we expect her to nap in her room, that palace of just-for-her toys, books, and interesting rocks she sneaked in when we weren't looking? The temptation to do anything but sleep is just too great.

On Saturday, she declared, at least to herself, that there would be no napping today. Oh, she went willingly and cheerfully enough into her room. Then she embarked on a campaign of doing whatever it took to avoid closing her eyes.

First, she screwed around with her night lights until we made her stop. Then she found some neat shoes to move around the room. A package of diapers just begged for inspection.

She sang to herself for a while, then talked when she ran out of songs.

Eventually, we realized she had been in there for more than an hour and a half and the nap just wasn't going to happen. I went in there and got her back out, figuring she'd had some quiet alone time, if nothing else, and put on a movie for her to watch with me. She wiggled and wriggled her way off the couch, picking this up and moving that, restless and exhausted.

Within forty-five minutes, she laid her head down on my knees and said, "I want to snuggle just for a minute."

I picked her up and held her in my lap, all 35 pounds of her, half as tall as I am and all diamond-sharp knees and elbows.

She fell asleep about thirty seconds later.

So I threw a show on Netflix and settled in for a very long snuggle with a sleeping two-year-old who rarely stops moving long enough for me to hold her like that anymore. It was a good reminder of the tiny six-pound infant we first brought home in 2014, who would sleep and sleep on our chests but nowhere else for so long, those long first eight weeks where I watched Frasier and Cheers and Friends in their entirety on Netflix while she breathed.

Ellie is even outgrowing that early stage, too, and it's nice to get the reminder to occasionally sit back and enjoy an ever-changing child just wanting to curl up with you for a while. Sooner or later, the next time she can't sleep until she's holding me is going to be the last.

I try to remember that reminder when she wakes us up at 3 AM because she needs a hug after a bad dream. I really try to remember that when the 3 AM wakeup is followed by her being up, cheerful, and thrilled to start her day before six.

After the Great Nap War of Saturday, I followed up on Sunday by just taking her into Jason and I's room and curling up in the bed with her. She fought as hard as she could, giggling and talking and murmuring and eventually just silently thrashing, for a good half an hour before she fell asleep.

Then she rested her head on my shoulder, snored in my ear for about an hour and a half, and I finished a book I've been trying to read since shortly after Ellie's birth.

It was a pretty wonderful way to spend a Sunday afternoon.

Thursday, January 5, 2017

My One Word for 2017

One word for 2017

I've really enjoyed watching other bloggers do the "one word" trend, where you choose a word to sort of center and represent your year. I've followed Natalie Freeman over at Natalie Creates for a couple of years, and watched how her "word" for the year kind of rolled itself out for her even if it wasn't exactly how she expected it to.

In January 2016, I chose the word Nurture to represent my year. It's kind of funny in retrospect. I wasn't pregnant with Ellie yet when I wrote out that post, but nurturing is basically all I did all year long! Between having to sort of nurture myself through a second pregnancy that left me reeling from feeling intensely fatigued and sick all the time for nearly five straight months (I actually lost almost fifteen pounds in the first two trimesters), to taking care of a newborn and a toddler at the same time, to dealing with the way that this second baby wildly changed my body even more than Audra did, to working hard to maintain a marriage that puts us and our identities as people and spouses alongside our identities as parents, not behind them... I definitely can say I nurtured the hell out of 2016.

For 2017, I've given it some thought, and I've come up with:

In 2017, I want to focus on appreciation.

I am too prone to seeing something and wanting it — whether it's new clothes or a coffee drink or new books or or or or, I tend to fall into a trap of wanting.

This year, I'm going to focus on appreciating what I have.

I have a family, near and far. I have my two babies, already wildly different individuals in their own right, that I need to focus on. I have my husband. I am the undisputed queen of conjuring amazing soups out of literally anything I can scrounge up in the fridge when our pantry seems empty.

I have piles of books in my house I haven't had time to read, or have only read half of, as parenting tends to leave me so wiped out that by 7:30 when Audra goes to bed, I don't have much brainpower left to do anything but brush my teeth.

I have plenty of things. I don't need new things.

But I could stand to look into picking up a new state of mind.

Not that I'm going to stop buying coffee, books, or clothes.

I'm pretty sure I am not physically capable of that.

I'm just going to push myself to a renewed focus on appreciating the coffee in our cupboards, the books on my shelves, the clothes already in my closet. To considering, when heading out to a bookstore or the mall or downtown, whether or not I actually need anything or if I just want to buy to have something new.

I don't know if I'm starting my Year of Appreciating Things on a high note, exactly, since I literally just showed Jason a new dress yesterday.

But you have to start somewhere, right?

As one of my favorite bloggers, Allie over at Wardrobe Oxygen, says, "If today you take one more step than you took yesterday, that's still progress."

2015 and 2016 have been hard years for my body, my emotions, my household, my family, and my country. 2017 is likely to be hard, too. All of adulthood is hard, one way or another. That doesn't mean there isn't anything there to be appreciated, to be thankful for.

This year, I'm going to appreciate the life I've worked to build. I'm going to take time to really pay attention to my daughters, to the way my body has grown stronger even as having two babies close together changed it, to the food we cook and eat, to the household we've put together, to the fortunate way that the downsides of 2015 still led to Jason and I being able to spend way more time together now than we could back then.

What's your word for 2017? Did you make any New Year's Resolutions?

Friday, December 30, 2016

Five Things: The Grieving, Giving In, and Greenville Artworks Edition

What Grieving People Wish You Knew At Christmas

1. This post from Desiring God on What Grieving People Wish You Knew at Christmas. This has been a hard year for so many of us — either hte grief is new or it's simply getting a bit sharper with time. This post speaks very honestly about how holidays can be intensely bittersweet when you're grieving.

Dad died over a year ago, and the first Christmas without him was one where momentum largely carried us through it. We barely stopped long enough to let ourselves think about it.

This year's different. This year, we've had plenty of time for it to settle in. This year, my brother and I weren't able to come back to Illinois like we normally do, so the holiday wasn't quite so full for any of us.

This year, I have friends who are mourning babies they don't get to hold, I have family mourning. We're missing something.

This blog speaks well to how it feels, to what we want people to hear from us even if we can't say it out loud. How you can want to say, "I don't want to talk about it" even when you're aching for someone to understand just why you don't want to talk about it.

This Christmas, to be honest, has been harder.

It's harder to have a Christmas with two babies, one of whom my father was never able to meet (although I think he had his hand in her arrival, anyway). It's harder to have this Christmas without being there with my mom, my sister's family, my brother and his wonderful wife. It's harder to miss Christmas in Illinois while missing my dad.

And it's comforting to read people who 100% understand what I mean by that.

Kate Whitley Little Things Studio

2. This lovely print (and all of her other lovely prints) from Kate Whitley over at Little Things Studio. Her prints and designs are gorgeous, and the quotes that she chooses range from hymns to more secular quotes like that above.

I suggest just clicking over to her shop and kind of wandering through everything. Even her abstract designs are beautiful.

I ordered her 2017 Hymn Calendar as part of our Christmas present for my mom and ended up ordering one for myself as well. Just beautiful.

 The Season of Giving In

3. This perfect post from Tue / Night on The Season of Giving In.

To be a parent is to live in abject chaos 365 days a year, and nothing gets more chaotic than the holidays. Pressure is added to buy presents and get them wrapped and prep for Santa and just do everything on top of the everything you're already doing.

The post talks about the difference between "giving" everything to your children and "giving in", and how the latter is what allows you to really make the most of the moment.

We read the phrase "giving in" as a negative one, as succumbing to something, as giving up. But to say this is the season of "giving in" is really just another way to say we'll make this the season of "saying yes". Of giving in to the moment. Of living in the right now, the way that our kids do.

Seriously, the post is lovely. Go read it.

Fall in Greenville by Meredith Piper

4. This encased wall hanging by Meredith Piper, entitled "Fall in Greenville."

Meredith Piper is a local artist I just stumbled onto while scrolling the #yeahTHATgreenville hashtag on Instagram. It's the "official hashtag" of our city here in South Carolina, and I really do love just scrolling through it to see what everyone else here is up to.

I ended up seeing a really pretty work Meredith had done and clicked through to her shop, to find this, which is essentially my favorite colors in one place and put together in a really interesting way.

Check out her shop here on etsy, she has more traditional paintings as well. 

5. To end things essentially where we began, I guess... this beautiful post from Sarah Bessey: A Prayer for the Broken-Hearted at Christmas.

If Christmas was hard for you, whether grieving a death or a different kind of loss or hardship, Sarah Bessey's prayer is for you.

 Sarah's one of my favorite writers (I own both her books and I'm a pretty shameless fangirl waiting for her third), and she writes about Jesus and faith and the difficulties surrounding life as a Christian with beauty and enthuasiasm, someone who knows you can be full-hearted for God and also balk at the way Christianity tends to present itself these days.

Her prayer for the broken-hearted is beautiful, and painful, and wonderful.

It seems the perfect post to end with.