Sunday, August 6, 2017

How to Create a Bad Ass Mom Squad

When we first started seriously considering trying to start our family, among my many concerns was navigating motherhood with no family around. All of our relatives are out of state, so we knew going in there would be no help with sick kids, no last minute date nights, no one to call for pick up if we had to work late,. I don't mean to sound like our families aren't wonderful, they just live hundreds of miles away. If our kids need something, which they often do, it's on one of us to provide it.

I've found that there's only one way to survive this situation. You need to have friends that become family.

It's just essential.

I've mentioned before that my friend Kristin came and picked me and Dalton up to take me to the hospital when I was in labor with Royce. When we had stomach flu earlier this summer, my friend Liz dropped Tylenol on our porch. Eric and I forgot we had an evening event one night and had to work late, and our friends Carrie and Bobbi took both our kids, fed them, entertained them, and did it so well they didn't even care that we weren't there. It's kind of a big deal to find people to watch two very young children, in addition to their own young children.

You get the gist - it's essential to have a kick ass mom squad. I've been all over social media posting about how I just went on an out of the country, no kid vacation with my mom tribe of 5 (me, Carrie, Bobbi, Liz and Hope). They aren't just mom friends, they are true friends, and even our husbands had a great time without us, smoking cigars at the pool bar. While I can't say for sure, I would imagine it's just as useful even if you do have family living close by.

I had never met any of these ladies prior to giving birth. We didn't attend each other's baby showers, we didn't even know each other pregnant. It's crazy to think of now. So here's my best tips for creating your own mom squad.

In Punta Cana with my tribe!
  •  Mom support groups

If I've said it once, I've said it a thousand times - the new mom support group run by my hospital is amazing. You don't even have to have delivered there, they truly welcome everyone. It's run by a nurse and every other week an LC is there, so you have the option for professional advice.While that is certainly helpful, the true gem is meeting other mothers who just had their own baby and are trying to figure this nonsense out alongside you. I first met Carrie and Hope there when Dalton was not even a month old and just beyond tiny. I attended again with Royce, and one of the women I met there dropped clothes on my porch when I said I didn't have anything warm enough in newborn sizes for the unseasonably cool weather that May.

  • Get out of your comfort zone

Carrie and Hope invited me to go get sushi with them afterwards, and I texted Eric all excitedly "I MADE FRIENDS". I was so nervous, like it was a first date, and it even ended up being the first time I nursed in public, since they were, I went for it! I had been super nervous taking my brand new baby out to a restaurant for the first time with people who were practically strangers, but I'm so glad I did.



  • Always be on the lookout for potential friends. 

I'm an introvert and just as socially awkward as any blogger, I even have witnesses who will provide a statement confirming that. When I first moved to my current home, Baltimore, from upstate NY where I had previously lived my entire life, it took me years to make friends. Years! Obviously we all know your time becomes a lot more limited once those babies arrive, so I couldn't afford to dilly dally with mom friends.

I met my friend Liz when she came to my old apartment on one of the coldest days of the year to get some formula samples I didn't need that I'd posted in a local FB exchange group. We started chatting and realized we both had biracial baby boys born just 9 days apart! Long story short, on another crazy winter day, in the middle of an ice storm, I went to her house to stay with her (bigger) baby boy after her water broke and she went to the hospital!

If you meet anyone anywhere that seems even possibly like someone you would want to hang out with, awkwardly invite them to a playdate and hope for the best.

  • Internet

I just got together with my friend Kandi, who I originally "met" when she tweeted me that her baby was born after reading my blog. We quickly became actual, IRL friends and survived the #twoundertwo experiment together.

It's 2017! Time to internet mom date.

  • Mobilize existing resources
Just convince the friends you already have to join you in the family way. If you're a basic bitch like me who turns 30 and starts spitting babies out, it will likely happen anyway. You even might reconnect with people you had kind of lost touch with, because nothing brings women together like pregnancy and babies. Sure, you might unfortunately lose a friend here or there if it turns out she's a sanctimommy, but for the most part it's a likely win. IF you follow the below advice.

Friends since middle school, babies born a week apart!
  • Don't be a judgy asshole. This one is the most important.

I know a lot of moms, most of them have kids close in age to mine, so I feel fairly confident in saying that finding a mom tribe of women who do things just like you is unlikely. You know all those super duper life changing parenting decisions you make when your kid is a baby? We all did them differently. Holding out for someone who wants to do everything exactly like you? Ain't nobody got time for that.

Our kids are all either 3 or dangerously close now, and I promise you cannot tell who formula fed, who breast fed, who co slept, who cried it out, who had purees, who was baby led weaned, who stayed home with their mom, who went to daycare while their mom worked, who walked early, who walked late, etc, etc. Our 5 kids all run the gamut with all those mommy wars items listed, and now that they are older, we are still going to have our differences in how we parent them.

What we bond over is that we all love the crap out of our kids, and we all have moments where they annoy the crap out of us. And we all vaccinate. That's the one area I will draw the line and judge you.

Here's the difficult part: You can't go around acting like your way is the right way, and make disparaging comments about your friends do things, couched by disclaimers like "oh but it's all right for you". Phrases like "I would never" should, actually, never cross your lips. Because kids are constantly changing, you might have another one who's totally different, so what you would "never" do in that moment might suddenly become a really appealing option. Or, maybe you truly will never do it. Unless it's giving a kid ecstasy or just throwing them in the backseat of the car with no carseat, 50s style, get off your high horse.

It's easier said than done, because when we are trying to figure out how the hell to parent these children, you never really know what you are doing. Drawing lines in the sand and vilifying the "other" way is a surefire way to make yourself feel better about your own choices. The problem with that is, it makes you a jerk and then you'll likely never have a true mom tribe. When things don't go as planned and your ZOMG FOODIE BABY LED WEANED little cherub refuses to eat vegetables when he turns two, you really need friends to lean on.

It's simple really. Try out all the stuff I listed above, don't be all smug and holier than thou, and vaccinate yo kid.

Monday, July 31, 2017

Who knew age 1 was hard? Apparently not me.

I realized recently that there's been a shift with our kids. Since his birth, Royce has been the one who is "easy". Not based on personality, although he is very chill, just based on their ages. When he was a tiny baby, in that convenient stage where you just set them down and they can't move, Dalton had just discovered life with words, and realized he could use them to voice his opinions. Even once Royce started crawling, his newfound mobility was nothing on a potty training two year old who was determined to have a say in things.

When we were getting ready for our Fourth of July BBQ, we did our usual divide and conquer, and each took one kid with us to our respective shopping locations. I took Royce, Eric took Dalton. Royce hated it. While I still, and may always, think of him as my little baby, he's now solidly a toddler who wants to toddle around the store, touch all the exciting colorful things, and really didn't appreciate me putting him in the cart to just sit there and watch everything pass him by. He was pretty pissed. I tried letting him down at the Dollar Store, and holy crap, how does he move SO FAST? He hadn't even been walking a month at this point, and he was running all over the place. I would reach over to grab something off a shelf, and he would be GONE.

That adorable little bum moves so fast.

Meanwhile, Eric was peacefully picking out rubs for his burgers with Dalton walking alongside him, helping out, and discussing what he saw in the store rather than desperately trying to grab and eat it. Not to mention the fact that I still needed to grab the diaper bag to go out with Royce. Dalton is at the age when he can just hop in the car! It's crazy! He's like a real person.

I either don't remember or didn't realize the first time around with just one child, but one is a challenging age! At the moment, certainly harder than two. It's fun for sure - we hardly have any pictures of Royce smiling, because he just constantly walks around with this look of intense concentration as he examines everything and tries to figure out the world. But I definitely forgot how things are with the intense curiosity combined with the total lack of awareness and understanding. Of course, Dalton is still busy and also figuring out the world around him, but he has language as his main tactic by this point. If he sees something new, he will just ask us what it is and listen as we answer (usually). Royce absolutely will not rest until he has touched it all over, licked it, bit it, and probably thrown it. Keeping him from falling to his death and messing up whatever Dalton is playing with, it's quite a full time job. That I would be fired from if it was an actual job. He currently has a big lump from falling into the street. Yeah.

Constant smiling, rarely captured smiling!
Of course, this age has plenty of positives as well. I completely forgot how amazing the drunken toddler waddle is, and seeing it all the time is seriously the cutest. I could watch it all day. He's not talking, but is communicating more and more - walking to me with his arms up to be picked up, consistently signing more and all done, pointing, clapping, waving, and my current favorite, playing peek a boo. Every time he's in the bath he hysterically laughs while "hiding" behind the shower curtain then peeking out, over and over. On dry land, he loves being chased and cracks up while I chase him, or, his absolute favorite, while his brother chases and catches him.

And, while he's almost constantly on the move, occasionally he will let me get some cuddles in.

He's super in to his independence these days. He refuses to eat unless he has his own fork, and god help me if I try to borrow it to help him spear his food. I have to place it on the fork while he's holding it. Then he will deign to eat.

Double fisting.
Our family is currently in the best ever situation. For real. Both parents off work, full time childcare available. Of course, that means we are bleeding money on something we don't need, but we have to pay year round to keep our spot. We've used the same in home sitter since Dalton was 3 months old and we don't consider it a waste of money at all, because she's amazing and it's worth it to pay for a few weeks a year we don't need. Just the other day, at a birthday party, I heard a kid singing the ABC song, and I was impressed a kid so young knew it, and then I realized it was MY KID. Who do you think taught Royce to sign more? Not this slacker mom who lets him fall into the road. Daycare for the win.

It's been nice to have the option to send them each day, but more often than not, we end up texting her telling her they won't actually be coming that day because we are busy doing something fun, like the trampoline park or seeing the Sesame Street planetarium show at the science center.

Or just getting as messy as humanly possible.

We took a day trip to Sesame Place. 

Dalton was excited this year to see the characters, and talked about it, but when we actually got there, he only cared about the rides.

Looooved riding all by himself.
The next day, he had his own celebrity sighting at the beach: an actual dump truck, dumping dirt.

Absolute fascination
He also got to help Eric fix his brakes. I've never seen this kid so excited and proud. I tried to get him to come in for dinner and he was all "I need to help daddy fix his car!" with the urgency I can only imagine is usually reserved for doctors dealing with life or death situation.

We separated here and there to each have some solo time with one of the kids. I took Royce for a baby date to the science center. I met my friend and her son, but attempting a picture of a 10 month old and 14 month old is basically impossible. Just look at her blog, (I recently linked to her mommy wars post) it's fantastic and her kid is really cute, trust me.

Dalton and I joined some friends and took another day trip to Washington, DC, this time to see the National Building Museum.
He likes to run just a little bit.

Cutest kids ever, on the train

We've taken a break from our adventures to lay low while Dalton and I recovered from random fevers yesterday. Turns out getting sick and having a sick kid is a LOT less stressful when you don't have to deal with work. You can just binge watch Mickey and not drown in guilt and sub plans. I don't really subscribe to the mommy wars and I love being a working mom but I'll admit that during the school year, the panic of a sick kid is one time I'm jealous of SAHMs. 

That's been our summer so far! Luckily we still have a few more weeks, it's still July, even if summer is flying by way too fast, as usual.

Tuesday, July 25, 2017

Pregnant and Post Baby Running Thoughts

Before I had children, running was my hobby. It's kind of crazy that I have a whole different life now, not just the day to day, which has obviously changed, but I have a lot of new friends that never even knew me like that. I used to be almost constantly in marathon or ultramarathon training. I would have to look up how many marathons I did - it's not a crazy number, maybe 12? But enough that I've lost track. I used to spend every weekend doing open water swims, long bike rides, and double digit runs. The last race I completed before I got pregnant with Dalton was a 50 mile trail race that I ran in somewhere around 11 hours.

Somewhere in the middle, probably between miles 3-40

Some women are able to jump right in to that once they become mothers. Of course, there's no way to predict how motherhood will affect you. However, I had a sneaking suspicion that, despite people telling me I would be one of those women, that I would absolutely not be. I wasn't planning to leave racing entirely behind forever, but I didn't see marathons and endurance events having a place in my life post baby.

I was right.

Newborn pics can't stop won't stop #4daysold

I got back to doing regular exercise and short runs once I was healed from delivery, and that went a long way to make me feel like "me" again, not this new, strange, sometimes uncomfortable mommy role I wasn't used to. But distance running? Nope.

I think running and races get romanticized and there's a feeling on the internet that the lady with the noticeable baby bump in a "running for two" shirt running a race is somehow morally superior to her counterpart who's eating ice cream on the couch while reading birth stories on the internet. That's just not true. Pregnancies are so different. It's a wild card and there is so much luck involved. So much is out of your control.

It's great that some people feel good, and if you are having an easy pregnancy and enjoy running and exercise, cool. Get out there. But let's not assign it some deeper meaning. I had that pregnancy with Dalton, I was on the treadmill the day I went into labor. It was helpful in the sense that doing something I enjoyed made me happy and helped keep me sane during a time when a huge transition looming can make anyone go a little batty.

It was not helpful in the sense that it put me in better shape post delivery, or, as many people like to think, set me up for an easier labor and delivery. LOLOLOL. That's not how it works, because the baby runs that show and baby don't care how many miles you logged in your running for two tank top (spoiler: zero for me because I don't spend $50 on tank tops). I've actually had people say they are surprised I wanted the epidural because I had run so many races. I never really know what to say to, yes, I did races but I didn't do any running in labor, so, those weren't helpful? Like, at all? I enjoy a good romp through the woods with friends, I don't enjoy excruciating pain for hours (and days, in Dalton's case) on end when there is a (somewhat, if they let you in to the hospital) easily obtainable solution that almost instantly stops the pain and makes everything magical and happy. And as far as exercise preparing me for labor and delivery that's another LOLOLOL because literally nothing could have ever in a million years prepared me for that. I've heard rumors it can prepare you for pushing. I can't comment personally, since my first kid was like "Cool, you went to how many spin classes pregnant? Oh wait, don't care, imma drop my heart rate so you can have a fun race to the OR to cut me out and save me".

That's how he rolls.

So yeah, running was my hobby. I look at it like any other hobby. No one out there is claiming knitting or scrapbooking or coin collecting helped them be a superior baby pusher outer, and my hobby falls right in line with that. I just did it because I enjoyed it. And when I was pregnant with Royce, I was tired AF and barely exercised at all. Baby still came out, I was still able to start back up again when I was healed, not exercising didn't really matter a whole lot. I get that it's part of a healthy lifestyle, but I'm not talking about that. I walked and stuff and ate vegetables occasionally with Royce. I'm talking about the going above and beyond, racing, that sort of thing.

Random pic because why not?

After Royce, I was ready to tackle a longer race. It turns out having a baby was a lot easier for me when I'd already been there done that. Plus, I had my training buddies back after a out of state work hiatus for each of them. I trained for a half marathon, and it was great.

Limited stroller running. It's fun, but too many stops for real training.

While this touches on a whole other topic, I would like to note that I think I was in decent shape, enough to run 13.1 miles when Royce was 5 months old, anyway. However, that didn't mean I'd lost all the baby weight. I still wasn't fitting in to a lot of my pre-pregnancy clothes, and while I definitely wanted to eventually, I surprisingly wasn't that concerned about it. I was only 5 months out, Royce was still exclusively breastfeeding round the clock, I was trying to adjust to a new job on top of being a working mother of 2, and there was a convenient fashion trend towards leggings. So, I threw money at the problem and bought leggings.

That was essentially an unnecessarily long preamble to share that I am finally ready, and I'm training for a marathon! On race day, I'll be more than 3 years into this crazy ass motherhood journey. I have some good training buddies alongside me, and most importantly, they watch Game of Thrones so we currently have plenty to discuss.

After the half last fall

My approach to training is pretty different than it was in the past. I used to print off training plans, and diligently do every single run, following the plan to the letter. Now, my friends and I outlined the long runs, and the "plan" is basically to add distance weekly, with some step backs, to get to 20 miles, then taper for race day. My week day goal is two runs, one strength workout. My friend Jackie and I are also doing a weekly track series, coached by a local running store, and, um, it's intense. Let's just say I better be faster at the end.

Training was going really well. I was up to 12 miles for my long run. This past weekend, I got 5 miles into my 14 miler and was felled by heat stroke. It was crazy! I've done ultra marathons in July and never had a problem. I was suddenly covered in goosebumps and shivering, doubled over with stomach pain in the 90+ degree heat, and everyone was like yeah you're done go home. Old me would have gone straight home to the treadmill until I hit 14 miles. New me is like, well, try again next week.

That being said, even though it's double the distance, and clearly my body is rejecting Maryland summer, training is so much easier this summer than last, when I was training for the half marathon. The main reason being Royce is weaned. That means I can devote my body to just running. I don't think I fully appreciated at the time just how tough it was to demand my body train for a race while also being the sole food source for a whole other person. Aside from the physical demands, it's just a lot easier to be able to come and go as I please and not have to add time for pumping, be worried about getting back in time to nurse (or, god forbid, more pumping), storing milk, bringing all the parts, etc, etc. Additionally, my kids sleep through the night, and sleep is helpful to training, to say the least. And I just feel settled. Last summer was so much fun, but it was a huge transition in a lot of ways. This summer, make no mistake, it's a chaotic hot mess of crumbs, yogurt smears and tantrums, but I'm used to it. It feels normal.

So, fingers crossed, I'll be attempting the big 26.2 come October 21st, at the Baltimore Marathon, and hopefully bringing home a new toy to my kids (because, as Dalton has informed me, my half marathon medal is his now). Just call me #motherrunner!

They care so much about my running accomplishments.

I'd love to hear other people's thoughts on pregnant exercise: Did it prepare anyone for pushing/labor/delivery? How soon were you ready to return to running/exercise/whatever you consider normal life after childbirth?

Also! My friend Rachael (like real life friend, we got to experience/survive the hell that is pregnant teaching together) just wrote an excellent post on the Mommy Wars, not running related, just general mommy wars, I highly recommend it (plus, unlike me, she knows how to be concise). Read it!

Wednesday, July 19, 2017

A first timer's thoughts on leaving the babies

This past weekend, I had the honor of celebrating two wonderful people becoming husband and wife! Our friends Hope and Bobby tied the knot on the beautiful beaches of Punta Cana, Dominican Republic. Yes, that's right, this overly attached mother not only left both my babies, I took my husband with me, AND we didn't even stay in the USA!

"Men of Punta Cana" calendar will be in stores near you any day now.

This post brought to you by the incredible talented and generous grandparents who were kind enough to not only travel to our house and watch a 1 year old and 2 year old for five days, but to also at least pretend they had fun doing it! Sure, they are obviously the cutest children on earth, but those ages are a handful to say the least!

They also sent us pictures to calm my nerves the whole time.

When I was on maternity leave after Dalton was born, the first time I left him for more than a quick run or coffee break was to see Mockingjay, Part 1. As a huge Hunger Games fan, I saw all the movies opening weekend, and had been looking forward to this since the previous movie was released.

Any excuse to post a newborn photo.

I went with a big group of friends. I clearly remember sitting there during the previews, secretly eyeing my friends who were mothers themselves, both with slightly older children, wondering why they seemed so...fine. I couldn't enjoy myself, and felt sick being away from Dalton. I wasn't worried, since he was home with Eric, I just felt wrong. Even though on paper, I was doing something fun, something I'd looked forward to for at least a year, surrounded by friends, I was choking back tears and just wanted to be home with my baby.

We all know that with social media, the pressure on new mothers these days is at an all time high and growing every second. There's an obsession with doing everything right, except the only way to make sure your way is right is to put down any other way as wrong, which I could write a whole separate post about. In retrospect, I am realizing the pressure goes even beyond feeding, sleeping, bonding, etc. - even the little "me" time we get as new mothers is subject to scrutiny. The message is: You must take time for yourself! You must have date nights! You must hire a sitter and get away from that baby leeching all your energy!

I liked this guy. But I wanted no date nights.

Of course this message comes from a place of love and support. No one is trying to make new mothers feel bad, quite the opposite, people are just trying to help. I don't mean to sound ungrateful - I truly appreciate so much all the friends who offered, and especially my friend Kristin who babysat Dalton for our first two solo outings!

Arriving at the resort and SO EXCITED.

From what I hear from friends, many, if not most new mothers do feel that way. In my experience, when I was already struggling to adapt to this new life and questioning every little decision I was making, it was just one more thing that made me feel like something was wrong with me. I didn't want a date night away, I didn't want an afternoon away, I certainly didn't want a night away as people insisted I should try. And since it seemed everyone else did, it felt like I was somehow falling short, yet again.

Insert random beautiful picture of the paradise we visited.

That was an extremely long preamble to say that I got there in my own time. Just like babies meet milestones when they are ready, I left my children when I was ready. I may have needed a little push, which I got in the form of a good friend who decided on a destination wedding. I'll admit, my first reaction to hearing her wedding would take place out of the country was something like how wonderful! I'll send a gift and take you guys out for a drink when you get  back.

But, slowly, I got there. My mother and stepfather readily agreed to come down and stay with the boys. The bride to be is one of our mom tribe of 5, and one by one, each of my friends booked their travel plans. We unexpectedly came in to a little bit of extra money (ok, Eric won it in Atlantic City). Plus, the wedding was the weekend before our 9 year anniversary. Not the big 10, but close enough. It kind of seemed like the universe was telling me that it was time.

Caribbean dancers on the beach side dance floor - you just can't beat that.

 All I know is, that's one gorgeous bride.

Somewhere along the way, I started to focus less on my irrational fears of the plane going down and my children growing up without parents, of my kids destroying my parents' will to live (ok, that one was strong the whole time), and more on the image of laying on a beautiful beach, surrounded by my husband and friends, drinking a fruity cocktail.

This. 24/7.

When we first arrived at the gorgeous resort, I did have a bit of a tearful moment, missing the kids. But that's the great thing about traveling with my mom tribe - we just staggered our mini meltdowns so we could all get each other through.

We may not all look at the same camera, but we still look good.

Shortly after that, I finally got enough cell phone reception to check in with my mom, and everything was going really smoothly. In fact, the boys did wonderfully the entire five days wee were gone. For Royce, it was out of sight, out of mind, as I'd expected, and he was a happy camper. Dalton is old enough to understand which is helpful, but I was worried he would be really sad and upset, and act out, since he hasn't mastered using words to express his feelings just yet. It was a non issue though. He had so much fun with Grandma and Grandpa and didn't miss us at all, which sounds sad but was quite the opposite, it was perfect.

We missed them. They...did not care.

With that knowledge, I was able to completely relax and thoroughly enjoy my vacation.

Two minutes before, those coconuts were still attached to the tree.

 I had my iced coffee daily in these pool chairs and it was just as relaxing as it sounds.
Lots of lying on the beach, chatting with these lovely ladies.
Sunset selfie game on point.

If I could go back in time and give myself advice as a new mom, I would say just stay home with the baby if that's what you want. You don't have to go on a date night just because your friends love them. Do what feels right for you. While I knew we were all going to make different parenting decisions, I needed to know that we were also going to all feel differently as parents, and that's ok.

I'm so glad both that I am now able to enjoy some kid free time, and that I waited until I was truly ready to take that time.

We love play dates with these guys, but we all got to know each other in a whole new way with a few days of adult only time.

Condensed version: I missed my kids like crazy but it was worth it a million times over and we had so much fun. 10/10, would recommend.