Last Week {via Instagram}

Yes I know it’s Wednesday already. How on earth?

On Monday I posted over on The Creative Mama (which has a beautiful new design, by the way!) about a day in my life recently. It’s a series we’re doing over there this month, and I challenged myself to use my “real camera” to document one of our days. It wasn’t easy, but was definitely fun and rewarding. I mentioned in that post that I’ve been too nervous to go much of anywhere with the boys on my own, but I am hoping to change that this week, even if it’s just the park. We get so stir-crazy staying home, and this week Manny works four 12-hour days in a row. Must. Get. Out. I think I keep thinking of the worst case scenario (this usually involves Seth defiantly running away from me while Isaac is screaming and I’m carrying at least two heavy bags…), but I feel like if I keep our first outings simple, plan for the right time of day, and prepare a lot, I can do it.

So, back to last week.

There was Easter, of course. We dyed eggs using food ingredients (I’ll try to write about that soon- even though Easter is over- because it was pretty cool). We went to church that morning with Manny’s parents, and later they hid eggs in their yard for Seth to find. (Yes I did indeed take a picture of camera’s lcd screen. I’m so behind on editing personal photos right now. It’s one of those things I can’t really do one-handed.) Overall, the holiday was simple and family-filled and very nice.

The remainder of the week included a trip to the zoo with some friends, a few artsy ventures (Seth loves to paint, and surprisingly enough it stayed on the easel this time), and lots and lots of baby snuggling for everyone.

Above right: coconut chicken curry in the crockpot. Recipe here. Delish. I’m trying to use the slow cooker more when Manny’s working, because it eliminates a significant amount of stress from my life. Do you have any favorite crockpot recipes I should try?

We went the farmer’s market as a family on Sunday. The local market season is nearly over, and I regret that this was the first one I’d been to since the season started in October. I kept telling myself I’d go, but somehow never did when the weekend came. I’m so glad we finally went, and we’re planning to at least one more time before they’re done. I got some beautiful swiss chard, an avocado and some kiwis- all locally grown. Next time, I’m planning to bring more cash and get all our produce for the week. Everything is so fresh and beautiful!

And more snuggling…

That last one was taken by Manny in his parents’ yard, and I just love it. There is nothing like cuddling with both of my boys. I am so blessed to be their mom, truly.

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This week {via Instagram}

Can I tell you something?

I love my D700. and my F4. love love love. My Nikons are the beautiful and reliable companions in my work.

But they are kind of big. and heavy. They stay at home during our regular outings because the diaper bag already weighs more than Isaac, and another bag would be too much to juggle.

Even at home lately, I don’t always grab one of the Nikons because there is just too much going on and I am so tired, and often the moment would be over too quick, etc, etc. I have been trying to make a point of shooting (with the Nikons) regularly since Isaac was born, because I want to capture this amazing time and because doing so helps me stay sane, but sometimes something smaller and easier to grab is just what I need to capture a moment.

So there’s this little app for the iPhone (and Droid, too now, I hear) called Instagram. It’s the sweetest thing- little square images, very fun filters (read: no post-processing needed), sends directly to Facebook and Tumblr to share with friends and family. It has made my phone my new method of documenting the everyday. It allows me to still take photos even in the craziness that is my life right now, and even though it is only a phone with zero technical knowledge needed, it gives me a bit of creative fulfillment. Of course I still crave my big cameras, and I still use them- nothing could replace that. But I love the moments I’ve been able to capture with this.

So I thought it would be fun to kind of recap each week (or so… I know better than to promise a weekly column of any kind…) using the Instagram photos I took. A glimpse into my days…

He turned 1 month old. In total denial (me, not him).

He prefers to sleep on me most of the time, and I’m completely cool with it. There are few things sweeter than a peaceful baby on your chest. Thankful for my sling and wrap carriers though!

It rained here and there, in between intense heat and sun. Yes, Summer in South Florida is on its way.

We’re potty training with Seth, which is happening, though a bit slowly. I made a chart with those little foil stars, and he gets a treat every 10 stars.
Yummy Earth lollipops have no high fructose corn syrup and no artificial dyes, and they taste better than the ones that do. win.

Also, you can see his new haircut in this picture. I’m not a fan of the way they did the front/bangs area. Actually, watching them do it made me want to try cutting his hair myself. It would save so much money and I feel like I could learn to do it they way I want it. Does anyone know of any tutorials for this online?

(By the way I never thought I would be trading treats for pottying. Motherhood tends to find you doing a lot of things you didn’t think you would. But it seems to motivate him.
If anyone has any magic potty tips I’d love them, especially for getting him to do #2 there…)

Isaac, at 4 weeks, still had some jaundice (not very bad, but still visible in the whites of his eyes). So he spent some time sunbathing this week, since the sun can help flush biliruben from the body.
Alas, it stayed and his doctor wanted to see him again yesterday. They took a vial of blood from his arm and I almost cried with him. I hate so much to see my babies in pain.

I finally got back into my garden this week, which was in desperate need of weeding. The basil, parsley, thyme and cilantro I planted seeds for a few months ago are doing really well.
I planted some more seeds this week, which are currently being watered by the rain. It felt so good to connect with the earth again and get my hands dirty. I’m sticking with herbs this season- they are easier for me than veggies, and I need easy right now.

I decided to take part in an Instagram photo challenge for the month of April, hosted by Paper Coterie. The theme is “my life”. It’s been fun so far.

For day 2: my handwriting. I’ve been journaling more again. I feel so much better when I do- it organizes my mind.

For day 4: my reflection- in the back yard, with Isaac in the mouna wrap. It’s his happy place.

One of my mother-in-law’s neighbors has one of the greenest thumbs I know of. She gave me these pretty zinnias from her yard.

Every day, many times a day, Seth asks to hold the baby. I’m so thankful that he loves his brother so much already. This makes my heart so full.

~~~~~~~~~

What did you do this week? Do you have any big plans for Easter weekend?

Also, if you’re on Instagram, what’s your username? I’m hmayophoto.

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One Month

Just one month, and our everyday reality has shifted completely. In this month, we have become a family of four- it still seems a bit surreal. Nothing feels normal yet, but I’m okay with that. I’m trying to just enjoy this time, live fully, be present, and give myself as much grace as possible on the harder days.

This “little” guy (he’s over 10 pounds already!) is busting out of his newborn-size clothes, and I already hear my heart yelling, “no, stop! don’t grow up quite so fast!” I want to savor every moment and bottle it up. My big boy, too, is changing, growing. As people said he would, he seems so much bigger to me next to his newborn brother. He is getting so mature, and communicates so well. Right before my eyes, he is crossing the line between “toddler” and “little kid”.

There are lots of terrifically challenging days and difficult moments, but I love being their mom more than anything in the world. I know I am incredibly blessed and could not be more thankful.

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Isaac {Your Birth Story}

Dear Isaac,

It was a month ago. Yet in my mind could have been just a week, or yesterday. The day a mother first sees her child is forever branded into the fibers of her brain.

Where do I start in telling this story? My labor began on Friday, March 2nd. According to our first ultrasound, that was our due date. The practice surges I’d been feeling all week started to come more frequently. (Note: Practice surges = Braxton Hicks contractions, which are painless tightenings of the uterus in preparation for labor. I felt them randomly from about halfway through both my pregnancies, and much more often near the end. Also, I call contractions “surges”- something I picked up from the birth class our midwife teaches. I find it helps me to think of them this way- surges of energy rather than contracting/tensing up. In labor and birth, the words you use and the way you think about things matters quite a lot.) By midday they were consistently 10-15 minutes apart and were getting pretty uncomfortable. This was how my first labor began, too- very gradually- and with Seth this early part lasted more than a day, so I wasn’t yet thinking “this is it”, I just knew that it would be soon. Your grandma Jackie had been saying all week that she thought you’d come on Saturday, and she tends to be right when she makes those kind of predictions. On Friday, though, I was really starting to wonder if you’d hold out that long.

Your dad worked his usual shift that day- 7am to 7pm. We talked in the afternoon and I told him what I was feeling, but gave no indication that I thought it was real labor (I wasn’t at all sure yet myself, and I didn’t want to get myself too excited since I knew it could still be days. I just wanted to be as normal as possible in every way until labor prevented me from doing so.) During our conversation, I mentioned a craving for Indian food from our favorite local restaurant, Indus, and he said “let’s do it!”. (He loves their chicken biriyani and will eat it any chance he gets.) So I brought Seth to play and have dinner at grandma and papa’s house, and then I came home to wait for your dad. In the car, I had to really put effort into focusing on the road during surges. This was when I knew for sure that they no longer qualified as practice surges- these were real. As I pulled back into our driveway, I briefly wondered if I even should have been driving, and resolved that if I was still pregnant tomorrow I wouldn’t drive myself anywhere.

By the time 7:05 came and your dad walked in the door, I’d decided to time the surges for a while. We were supposed to call Connie, our midwife, when they were 8 minutes apart or less, lasting 30-45 seconds or longer, for at least 30 minutes. They were currently ranging from 7.5 to 12 minutes apart, and lasting 20-30 seconds or so. Sometimes they were fairly uncomfortable, but having given birth before I was reluctant to yet apply the word “pain” to the situation. I knew I was in early labor, and your dad and I briefly questioned our dinner plans, but I wanted that Indian food. Besides, I figured, when would we next get a chance to go out for dinner- just the two of us?

During dinner, my surges continued to be about the same frequency, but gained some intensity. The food was amazing. I had my favorite, bagara baigan- eggplant in a coconut ginger sauce- with jasmine rice and garlic naan. I kept having to stop eating and breathe during surges. I’d love to know what the restaurant staff though of the very pregnant lady who was drinking so much water and kept this strange look on her face- maybe they thought I was nuts, or were nervous that I’d have a baby in their restaurant! We picked up your brother from grandma’s house and went to bed shortly after arriving home, unsure of what the night would bring.

The basic plan was to have the birth tub set up in our bedroom and have a water birth as I did with your brother. Over the recent weeks I’d carefully gathered and double-checked all the supplies listed by our midwife, and everything was ready. The tub would be brought while I was in labor. My mom would come down from Stuart (about a 40-minute drive) and be dropped off by my dad so she could spend the first night here with us, and grandma Jackie would be here for your birth as well. Papa was going to take Seth and then bring him back soon after you were born. My photographer friend April would come to document it all.

So… we went to bed sometime around 10pm, and the surges kept coming about every 10 minutes. I couldn’t sleep through them- they were much too uncomfortable- but I tried to get as much rest as I could in between. Sometime after 2am, they just hurt too much if I continued lying down. I went downstairs and drank some water and timed them, and suddenly (I’m assuming spurred by my walking around) they were only 3-6 minutes apart and much more intense. I called Connie, and she told me to keep timing and call her again in 30 minutes. I’d planned on having fruit and cheese available for the midwives and everyone else to snack on, but I hadn’t cut them up yet. This suddenly seemed very important, as it was the final thing on my “preparation for labor” list, so I found myself (somewhat irrationally) in the kitchen cutting up apples at 2:30am, stopping to lean over the counter for each surge, which were getting more and more intense. After I’d finished that, I went upstairs and nudged your dad to wake up. I called Connie again, and she could tell from my voice that things had really picked up and said she would be on her way. I told your dad that we needed to change the sheets and put the waterproof mattress pad on, to which he replied “that means I have to get out of bed, right?”. I still kept thinking (based on my first birth experience) that I still had plenty of time. I called my mom and your dad called his, and Connie was bringing the tub I’d rented from the birth center, so there was nothing left to do but wait for everyone to arrive. Your dad supported me during surges. Soon my mom was here, and Connie showed up minutes later. While she asked questions, took my vitals, etc, your dad and grandma worked on setting up the tub. I texted April, the photographer, to tell her it was time. That was probably the last coherent thing I was able to do- after that I was in “labor land”. Soon grandma Jackie and Connie’s assistant midwife, Kristen, were the room too. Throughout all of this my labor was intensifying, but even I did not realize just how fast at that point. I used pain-coping techniques I’d learned to help me through each surge. One I found effective was “non-focused awareness” (it’s discussed in Pam England’s Birthing From Within). It is basically allowing the mind to be aware of and acknowledge each individual thing around you, with all your senses, but not hold focus on any one thing. I remember even now some of the things I named in my mind during surges in that intense stage of labor… “carpet under my knees, sheet against my cheek, air pump for the tub, Manny’s voice, Mom’s voice, a hand on my back, air conditioner running, Connie’s voice, Sigur Ros playing from my iPhone…etc. I also used aromatherapy to help me relax and ease the pain. I’d done a little research on this ahead of time and had made a blend of lavender, clary sage, and jasmine oils, which your dad used to massage my back and shoulders.

I was more than ready for the warm water of birth tub, but it didn’t have any water yet. Connie suggested I get into the shower while waiting for the tub, and I figured any warm water would be great. While Kristen was starting to run the water, I had another surge and leaned on the bathroom counter for support. During that one, I began to feel a little “pushy”. It seemed the shower- and the birth tub- were out, but I don’t think anyone knew that yet but me, and I wasn’t able to communicate it. They tried to get the tub-filling efforts sped up, and we went to the bed to check my progress. Connie had asked me if I wanted her to this, as she doesn’t check routinely as doctors do, and I decided that I’d like to have a better idea of how soon you would be here. As I laid down, anther surge started and I rolled onto my side, and then my water broke. Then, I really had to push. My body was pushing for me- at this point in labor, there is no choice in the matter. The mind is a silent(ish) observer as the body takes over and does what it was designed to do. I was leaning over a stack of pillows, on my knees in bed. My mom was near my head, and your daddy was next to me. I could feel their love and support, but in my immediate conscience it was just you and me. In my mind, I spoke to you in between surges and pushing, something like “we’re doing this together, baby. we can do it. we’re going to meet face-to-face so soon…” Suddenly I heard Connie say the word “crowning” (and I felt that she was very right), and with the next push or your head was born. Another push (or a few? I’m not sure), and you were out. Crying- a healthy, clear and strong voice. Your daddy caught you behind me and passed you to me, and they helped me turn and sit down. I looked at you- stared at you. Soon you were nursing vigorously, and I couldn’t take my eyes off you. You had long fingers, I noticed. You were perfect, and I somehow felt I knew you already, that you were familiar to me in a very deep way. During my pregnancy I had I dream in which I clearly saw your face, and I think you look exactly as you did in that dream.

Later I looked saw Connie’s notes, and learned that I’d pushed for only 5 minutes. My active labor was 3.5 hours long. You were born at 5:52am on March 3rd- Saturday, just as your grandma said you would be. You weighed exactly 8 and 1/2 pounds, and were 21.5 inches long.

Your brother slept through much of this, and when the commotion did wake him, he watched Thomas the Train downstairs. He wasn’t worried, as I’d feared he might be. Your Papa was coming to pick him up, but you were born before he could get here. It ended up being so perfect, that you and your brother could meet so soon after you arrived. You must have just been ready to join us in our world, my love- you came before my mind had much chance to process what was happening, before a single drop of water was put into the birth tub, and also before April could get here with her camera. So there are no photos or videos of your birth. She did arrive about an hour afterwards though, and captured some of that first morning of us as a family of four- all snuggled in our bed. I’ll treasure the memory and pictures of that morning forever- so full of love and joy.

Welcome, my sweet Isaac. Your name means “he who laughs”, and already the joy you’ve brought us is beyond words.

Love forever,

Mama

all photos above, © April Milner of Coconut Circle Photography

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The First Weeks

This… is life lately.

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Kids, work, time & priorities

Our Isaac will be three weeks old tomorrow- my how that time has flown. It has been such a blur, such a change from our previous routine. I have found myself wondering if life will ever feel normal again- if I will ever manage to find a routine now that there are two little people to care for. For now, our days are centered around the most basic needs for food and sleep and lots of cuddling, and as any mom who has breastfed knows, nursing a newborn is basically a full-time job. Of course, it feels much different when there is also a three-year-old who wants grapes and a sandwich and to go to the park and a drink of water and help going potty… etc, etc. So the days really feel full and exhausting, but also full of so much love and joy.

We have spent much more time at home and indoors than usual, and I am itching to get out more but between the baby being so little still and me needing to not overdo it, we are proceeding slowly with that. I’m trying to simply enjoy the downtime and let myself just be in it rather than getting too antsy. These days have done so much to remind me how very precious my little family is. I feel so very blessed that it’s rather overwhelming. I think that at times I have forgotten just how important the job of mothering really is. Our society doesn’t acknowledge that very often, and in fact tends to look down on those moms who choose family over career. It has taken a few weeks of maternity leave for me to realize how influenced I’ve been by those views. As a mom who works from home, I have been far too distracted by work at times when my family should have come first. It’s pretty much always a time management issue- rather than saving work for designated times (when my husband is home, or after Seth goes to bed), I have often allowed it to distract me from being present during the day for my son. I think I have been subconsciously aiming to feel that I’d accomplished something tangible during the day- to feel like “more” than just a stay-at-home-mom. I hate that I’ve fallen into that mindset. I hate that my three-year-old knows and uses the phrase “I’m too busy.”

Seriously- screw society’s messed-up priorities. Americans are notoriously overworked, overstressed, and place far too little importance on family. There is no virtue in being too busy to enjoy life or to give your best to those you love. I really believe that there is no job more important than that of motherhood. The way we interact with our children in the first several years of their lives- the things we say and teach and the experiences we give them, will shape the rest of their lives and influence who they grow up to be. Stepping away from work for a while and taking time to really see my kids (wow- I now have “kids”- plural…), and to evaluate my own heart and attitudes, has shown me that my days have not often been a true reflection of my heart’s priorities. I’m not saying that my business isn’t important or that I need to pay less attention to it. Running my business from home is what allows me to be at home with my kids. I just need to be careful about when I pay attention to it, learn to be as efficient as possible during that time, and acknowledge that being a mom is a job too, and the more important one.
I love this quote from author Anna Quindlen, which comes up over and over in my Pinterest feed:

A disclaimer: it is absolutely not my intention to alienate anyone here. There is far too much judgement among mothers, and as far as I’m concerned, a good mom is one who makes the best choices for her family. Moms who work outside the home, or who are 100% full-time moms, or who work at home as I do… are all doing what is best for their families. None are less than the others; none are wrong. Just as is it awful that society looks down on those who choose full-time motherhood, it is just as awful for anyone to judge a mom who chooses to- or has no choice but to- go to work.
What I’m talking about here is that the time we spend on actively mothering needs to be focused on our kiddos, fully present with them. For me, that time is the majority of most of my days, but for others it may be each evening and weekend. What is important is that our kids get all of us in that time.

I’m making it a goal to place more separation between my roles as business owner and mom, to be more present for my kids, less distracted when I’m with them. Because they are only little for a while. It goes by way too fast, and later they will not need me so intensely (and at times may not even want me around at all). This time is just too precious to miss.

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Welcome Isaac

He’s here, my friends. Actually, he’s two weeks old already, which hardly seems possible. Time seems to be going by fast, and yet all at once I feel I’ve known him for all my life. He is amazing and has captured my heart in one of the deepest ways humanly possible. The last two weeks have been a blur of every emotion possible, mingled with sleepless nights, daytime naps, physically healing, lots of nursing, and generally soaking up all the newborn-ness.

I want to sit down soon and write Isaac’s birth story, and when I do I will surely post it here along with more pictures.

For now, here is our precious boy at 5 days old…

and one with Seth, who (most of the time at least!) simply adores his new baby brother

Isaac Manuel Mayo

born at home | March 3, 2012 at 5:52am

8lb, 8oz | 21 inches

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39 weeks {a letter}

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Three.

This boy. Smart and funny, full of wonder… has taught me so much in three years that have been his life.

I’ve had that feeling lately that every parent knows so well. Why does time seem to pass so quickly? How is my baby three already? Can I slow it down, just a little, please?

Last weekend our parents and siblings came and celebrated three years of Seth- we went to the zoo (which is a favorite place of his), and then home for lunch and chocolate cake (another favorite thing). At this point in my pregnancy, I wasn’t up for hosting anything bigger, but this was just perfect anyway.
One of his favorite gifts has been a “Kid-Tough” digital camera, and I love the way he goes around the house documenting his view of everything. He took well over 100 photos in the first few hours after opening it (though a fair number of the were of the floor). When he takes pictures of people, his composition is actually surprisingly good (person centered in frame, usually smiling). I’m a proud mama.

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36 weeks {a letter}


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