A quick look back, before leaping forward

As Ryan and I sit here on the first day of 2018, my first thought is to recap and remember the past 365 days, before I jump into another whirlwind around the sun.

Our new tradition is to write down highlights of the year, so that in 10 years, 2017 doesn’t become a lost year of early parenthood fog. 2017 was a year to remember. Aren’t they all?

Maisley was the biggest single memory of our year. Watching this tiny human grow into a toddler who says, “bleshu”, “hi thilly” and her name, “Mayshey”, has been equal parts magical, challenging and unpredictable.

Two years of marriage to a man who defines the word selfless and loves unconditionally. Maisley was baptized surrounded by all of her family. We received the phone call you never want to receive, Michelle (sister) was in a bad car accident, but she was okay (thank you God). A bachelorette party in Austin. My best friend Lauren married her true perfect match.  Michelle lived with us for five months, during which I rarely unloaded the dishwasher and cherished having another “mom” and best friend in the house.

Ryan got the shingles. Maisley got the chicken pox (thanks Dad!). Rode the wave of postpartum with downs that would catch me surprise and take me down to crazy town.  A trip to San Francisco with Ryan, Maiz, Lindsey, Michelle & Brandino to explore and visit Lucy. Maisley turned one with the perfect Luau Beach Bash celebration. A camping adventure in San Clemente with little sleep, but lots of connection. Our first true family vacation to Napili Bay in Maui; seven days of bliss. The last day of breastfeeding Maisley and feeling life and energy rush back into my body. Freelance writing with the Challenged Athletes Foundation.

Concerts in the park, farmers markets, swim lessons, music class, gymboree, library days. Playdates with Maisley’s favorite “Cousin T”. New friendships grew, connections with old friends ebbed and flowed. Jordan became our nanny and subsequently a soul sister and part of our family. Lindsey said “yes” to Brandino’s proposal of forever and made us all the happiest sisters in the world.

Countless conversations about anxiety and mental health.

Maisley’s first In-N-Out burger.

The 2nd annual Christmas kick-back.

Chicago with Ryan.

Santa brought a ball pit.

Another baby girl, a sister, ready to make her debut in a six short months.

What a year. 


My intention for the new year is to live with more intention and purpose every day. Less zoning out on social media and more waking up early to meditate, pray and write. Days full of clarity and presence.

And to keep my car clean.

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Holiday Overflow

This week has been overflowing. A festive clutter of new toys and old, miniature body balms, and stubborn dead pines dusting the corners of the floor.

Things have been sitting undone for much longer than I intend. A messy car, the clean dishes on the drying rack begging to go home, and a laundry basket that doubles as a dresser. I haven’t taken the time for yoga or meditation. “Me” time has been spent on presents or planning or something that hasn’t fed my soul.

All the remnants of a season well lived and an emotional tank so fully empty, that I can’t quite take a deep breath.

The season has been beautiful, but something was missing. I was missing. Stuck somewhere between the pomp and circumstance of Christmas present.

I can’t quite pinpoint it, but it had to do with the overflow. Overtired, over pleasing, over driving, over committing.

With both of our families just an hours drive away, we were bouncing around during the week. Christmas eve there, back here for Christmas morning, Christmas day back up there. We truly enjoyed spending time with our families, who we couldn’t live without, but it never quite felt like we were able to create meaningful connections between just the three of us. Our family. A growing house that deserves traditions and memories of their own.


We did a gender reveal on the night before Christmas and when the tree lit bright with pink, my eyes saw what my heart already knew. Another girl. I felt like I had peaked at my biggest present under the tree before Christmas morning. A secret I shouldn’t know quite yet.

Two daughters. Sisters. What a gift. 

Ryan has been thinking out loud about how he can be a good dad to two daughters. Today he decided to raise girls who “will break your son’s heart”. The girl who doesn’t need a man for self assurance and will run confidently in the direction of her dreams.

The holidays are a work in progress. As are my 2018 goals. I mostly intend to create days overflowing with purpose.

Baby Two: Keeping it Real

I haven’t written in a while. Mostly because I’ve been spending my “free time” trying to escape my first trimester nausea reality, by replacing it with other realities, like Suits.  It’s been challenging to remain fully present, and enjoy the recent holidays and happenings when so much of my mind is occupied with baby two.

The only moment of clarity I can count on happens before I even open my eyes in the morning; a quick prayer of gratitude and acknowledgement for this new life growing in my now apple shaped uterus.  

I’m slowly starting to come out of the fog.  Emerging more pregnant, and with a far greater enthusiasm for household activities and holiday adventures than I can actually handle.  

While I’ve been here before, baby two feels different; a whole new person, a new family dynamic and unique emotions.  There are feelings of reluctance, “Here we go again….”, but also endless gratitude, “Here we go again!”

My diet is mostly one of gluten and meat. I think my husband was filled with more joy when I told him I was craving In n’ Out, than he was on the day we said, “I do!”.

I was number two in my sister lineup of four girls. And now I’m having my second. Something feels special about this one. 

But number one Maisley surprises me every day. Sometimes I get overwhelmingly sad that our time with just us is limited. My nanny recently likened her to a porcupine; cute as shit, cuddly, and wonderful, but just a little pokey sometimes.

Today is my 31st birthday and as I pulled her from the crib with arms stretched high, into my own, she squealed in delight like a true morning person.

I immediately had the thought that one day, I wouldn’t be able to pick her up with such ease, or maybe at all. And I held her closer than usual, rocking back and forth.

In that moment, she landed not one, but two unsolicited mouth kisses coupled with her signature sound effect, “mmmaaahhh”.  From the girl who holds her cards close, those kisses were like winning the lottery.

I worry with each baby that I will lose more and more of myself. But so far, I’ve only gained; more perspective, more love, and more insight into who I am.

That’s a reality I want to keep living in.

 

A Saturday Soul Party

Soul party; a gathering of likeminded women talking about real shit.

I had a few friends ask me what I did on Saturday. I was struggling to articulate the life and career coaching/personal development retreat I had experienced.

Was it like a church retreat? They asked.
Oh, a writing retreat?
A women’s retreat?

It wasn’t until a few days later that I realized what Saturday was.

It was a soul party.

Like any good party, there was an incredible spread of eats (more on that later), drinks and funky tunes.

But the real show stopper, the main event, was the conversation.

I walked into Kelsey Murphy’s Carlsbad townhouse, nervous to open my heart and thoughts up for discussion with complete strangers. I thought I might have a Glennon Doyle moment where I share a raw truth and the group looks at me sideways and I think, “Oh. We’re not doing that here.”

After warm hugs and introductions with the other eight women, we were met with buttery croissants, scones and perfectly fresh berries beautifully displayed by Anne, the chief hostess of the group. Signature chocolate-peanut-butter-with-all-the-healthy-stuff smoothies lined the countertops.

Within a few minutes of about me’s and storytelling, it became clear. We were doing all of that here.

We sat comfortably in an ocean view family room, sharing our current career status and latest obsessions. All honesty, no judgements.

There was a momtographer, a real estate agent, a freelance event planner, a copywriter, a nutritionist, a virtual assistant, a former paralegal and one woman who’s taking on field trips full time to find what lights her up inside. We were all there for different reasons; some of us looking for jobs we were more passionate about, others looking for relationships we were more passionate about.

But we were all there to connect.

Kelsey, the truth-telling, entertaining and skillful life coach, led our group in meaningful conversations about everything from particle physics to sacred friendships.  She asked the right questions, going deep into the heart of what each of was looking to get out of our time that day.  There was nothing fluffy about her approach; all actionable items to cultivate more meaning and intention in our daily lives.

She guided us through the skill of practicing confidence, discovering and exploring our curiosities (and saving the word “passion” for the bedroom), and finding and connecting with like-minded people.

As a mom of one and with one on the way, spending the entire day on soul work felt like taking the biggest deep breath I’ve had in months. I took the day to remember me; the things I love, and the person I want to be.

When all was said and done, there was writing, there were women, heck it was even a little like church with all that soul in the room.

It was one of the best soul party’s I’ve ever had.

And the best part? I realized I can have soul parties everyday, in every conversation; from the Uber driver, to my husband and every relationship in between.  

Locked and Bolted

The Vietnam War was one of the most notorious in American history and has affected the lives of countless veterans; my Uncle Bob being one of them. He is the most gentle soul I know and served honorably on the front lines in the U.S. Army during this conflict.

Like many veterans of this war, coping with the emotional aftermath after returning home from overseas became a battle of it’s own. In the 1980’s, he was going through a particularly difficult time in his life and turned to writing.

I feel deeply honored to share one of his beautiful, reflective pieces from this time:

Locked and bolted
And thoroughly revolted
The citizens huddle afraid
Beware of this syndrome that you call secure and know that it’s a mirror of your fear
Go out and feel the wind at your back
Life need not be an allergic attack

ONE

Maisley,

I remember the day you were born so vividly. I think about it all the time. I hope you don’t take the look of shock on my face when we first met as a bad thing. I was just so surprised that my body actually gave birth to you and that you were a real, live human.

You didn’t cry at first. We had to rub your back to get things moving. Now you sing and yell and say “mAma” with the bravado of an Italian woman.

We came alive when you came into the world, and every day since then I have thought about you more than anything or anyone else.

I’m trying to remember what I remember most about this first year of you. Ups and downs like any other years, but ups higher than the mountain tops, and downs that dropped a little below our comfort zone.

It was a bewildering year full of paradoxes and wonder.  I’ve never wanted something to stay the same, yet continue growing more in my life. Many of your early days resembled a tired, elated, blissed-out blur. Holidays, trips and milestones all punctuate the simple, yet extraordinary everyday happenings of your year. 

Some of them funny, like when Dada, in a moment of parental desperation, bounced with you in the ergo at 3am – in his birthday suit – while singing the Star-Spangled Banner just to get you to sleep.

I’m always asking my mom (Nonni) what I was like as a kid, so that I can understand my true self.  This is a snapshot of who you are now:

  • Your energy is magnetic. A trip to the grocery store with you makes me feel like a celebrity. 
  • When you spot Dada from across the room, you smile so hard at him. Your eyes carry a hint of sparkle and the usual amount of mischief.
  • You are independent, confident and fearless. When we walk together, you sometimes pull your hand out of mine, subtly saying, “I can do this on my own, Mom”. 
  • You have a mind of your own and you don’t care what people think; and people love you because of it. You are my greatest teacher.
  • You say our names now. What started out as “Mamika” and “Dikka” are more clearly Mama and Dada.
  • You stick your tongue out, point to your nose, raise your hands tall like a tree and say, “oooh ooh and aah aah” like a monkey.
  • You are always on a mission. To the kitchen! To the books! To Sammie’s water bowl!
  • You smile all the time. You make us the happiest people in the world, because that’s what you are.

As you grow into your second year of life, I grow more into Mom, more into me. 

Happy 1st birthday my sweet Maisley Moo.  I love you more than you know.

xoxo
mAma

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Waiting for Maisley

As I sit here on the eve of Maisley’s first birthday, I can’t help but think about what I was doing last year at this very minute and the days leading up to her birth; endless swells of uncertainty, joy, fear and excited anticipation.

Here are some highlights from my journal entries during the last 15 days of waiting for Maisley.

8.1.16 
Pinch and a punch to the first of the month no take backs. It’s Bean’s birthday month. August 1st raises the anticipation level to “go-time”!

8.2.16
My sweet Nonno went to Heaven today. We got to see him yesterday and say I love you one more time. He’s with his beloved Christina now and that makes me so happy. How ironic that he left and Bean will be coming into this world. They passed somewhere in the soul-space of the universe. I think she will be bold and strong-willed like him. After years of Alzheimer’s and physical decline, I’m trying to remember Nonno as his old self.

  • Cold cut sandwiches around the table in the mobile home
  • His jokes and constant humor
  • Slipping us hundies as we walked out the door of his mobile home
  • Teaching us poker with his trickster ways
  • The way he peeled his orange with a knife in a circular motion
  • His stories from WWII
  • How he always made sure everyone else was okay
  • How much he loved my Nana with all his heart
  • How he would say “tree” instead of “three”
  • His love of basketball
  • That he was a fisherman
  • He was frugal, but he lived and traveled the world

I love that he was there on Christmas eve when we told my family that our Bean was coming into the world. They are soul mates. He left and will guide her onto the earth. He is or angel. I’m so happy he is at peace; in Heaven where he deserves to be.

8.3.16 
How are we going to keep this baby alive? We aren’t prepared at all. The bassinet situation plagued my mind at 3am. Do we tilt it upwards? Does Bean just go in there at night? How do we know what Bean needs? I forget everything from Breastfeeding and Newborn 101. Where is my Solly Baby wrap? I need to wash it. Shit is getting real at almost 38 weeks. Sleeping? Tired. I feel pregnant. I love you though, Bean.

Happy 28th Birthday Brandino.

It was so good spending the day with my mom. She is so excited to meet Bean and I’m so happy to bring her that joy. Sammie, oh sammie girl and her sensitive puppy tummy. I think she is sensing the heightened energy and hormones, that anxious soul. Ryan woke up to a real treat this morning.

8.4.16
The elusive productivity felt good today. Bean is still feeling pretty high up.  Ryan said last night that this waiting game is like the biggest game of jack-in-the-box. We have been winding up for nine months…when will I pop?? Ever since then, I can’t get the song out of my head: do do do do do do do do do, do do do do do do do, do do do do do do do do do, pop goes the weasel! I hope mine’s a baby.

I swam for 20 minutes today per my midwife’s suggestion. It feels so good to let my belly float free and weightless. It’s so surprising how heavy everything feels as I walk up the steps out of the pool. It’s peaceful in there. I think Bean likes it too.

I’m happy to see Jackie and Nicole tonight with their little loves Juno and Greyson. Pretty soon I will also be a friend with a baby. I want to always be a friend, and have my baby. I want to remember to be me. I think Bean wants that too. As the days get closer to meeting Bean, I feel more ready and simultaneously freaked out. I think I am most nervous 1) for labor 2) how everyone calls those first months the dark days. Yikes. I want to stay positive. How do I not fall into the darkness? It almost feels like something out of my control that can happen to me, not come from me. I will say yes to help. We are strong and can do hard things.

8.5.16 
Bean, I had a meltdown tonight. I sat in our rocking chair in your dark nursery; meditated and chilled out. I said to Ryan that I just want to feel normal again. I felt bad for saying it, but I was having a moment. He was comforting to me in the moment, but later said, I feel so bad because I don’t think you’re going to feel normal for another year.

8.6.16
We gardened the backyard today and re-planted our succulents. It looks so refreshing and beautiful. It was mostly me directing and Ryan actually doing the hard labor (my day is coming, I don’t feel so bad). I’m a bit useless in that sense right now. We got this new peach colored rose bush. I normally hate roses, but today they were all I wanted. They remind me of my Grandma and as kids the “Rose Hotel” we would create for her and my Papa when they would stay with us. Maybe it’s Bean. Maybe I’m just getting older, but roses are somehow back in my flower game. I slept for 10 hours last night, we got breakfast and strolled the beach. Happy.

8.7.16
38 weeks has come slow and fast. It’s almost like my body has been waiting since I was 12-years-old to get the chance to do what it was made to do. My fears are many. How will I fight through the frustrations and hormones with grace? How will I not be a control freak? I want to be nice to Ryan. I don’t want to be the crazy person people say you become in labor.

8.8.16
We said “goodbye” and “see you later” to Nonno today. It was such a happy and sad day. It was hard to know that we won’t see him or hear his voice on this earth again. It was hard to see my mom cry during her eulogy. She did so great. Father Angelos spoke about how much love, faith and generosity my Nonno and Nana exuded; he said he wants to be like them. It was so powerful to hear him speak so highly of them.

It was a surreal experience being 9 months pregnant with Bean at a funeral. One soul gone, one coming. It’s the in-between phase where neither are out in the world right now.

I love my rose bush. I wonder if the symbolism is for my grandparents or me blooming like our labor visuals. It brings me a lot of happiness right now. I will carry ‘their’ hearts with me. All of these beautiful strong souls up in Heaven, they will all help me up this mountain.

We came home from the service and had the most joy-filled afternoon with my sisters and mom and dad. Dad seems to be doing a little better. Thank you God for this glimmer of hope. I hope he feels it too. He means the world to us.

8.9.16
I haven’t thought much about the pain of labor, until now, while my lower back feels like it’s breaking apart. Holy cow, this is real. Me and Ryan talked about our labor fears last night and any residual feelings. I said the intensity, but I also know this is what we have been preparing for. Our hypnobirthing classes, rainbow relaxation meditations, visualizations, everything. It’s the big race. I remember the night before my marathon so vividly. I thought I would be nervous and unable to sleep, but I was calm and woke up well rested, ready for the event I had prepared so hard for. And then it was over, it passed, and it went great. It was God. It was me.

I’m so fortunate to have Ryan. How could I ever tell him enough? The little and the big things. He is so good to me and never complains. I’m so happy it’s him and I’m so happy he is Bean’s dad.

Also, Bean, what are YOU?! We are so anxious to find out. I’m leaning towards girl, but I’m also 50/50. I can’t wait to share your name. I can’t wait to meet you. Waiting for you is so strange. I pray you have a beautiful, healthy birthday. When will you come? I feel it getting closer. I feel it in my heart…and my lower back. We have been reading you bedtime stories at night. Can you hear them? Dad is really good at telling stories, you’ll see.

8.10.16
I cried again last night. The full belly kind of cry I used to do as a kid. The cleansing, uncontrollable kind. I’ve been trying to be tough and not ask for help and it’s not doing me any good. I’m frustrating Ryan because he feels like he can’t help. We had a really good talk last night and I exploded out my fears; some real, some not. I guess that’s what fears are; even if they aren’t real it’s whatever you perceive them to be.

Despite all of our prep, I’m afraid of the unknown of labor. So many people everywhere are pouring their opinions and experiences on me, and while they mean well, quite frankly, I’m over it. I just want to stay in my own experience. I’m so tired of advice. Advice from the lady at Trader Joe’s, advice from the random woman walking her dog, from my aunt, from friends. It’s just so overwhelming and the words are spinning like a washing machine in my head.

Me, Ryan and Bean. It’s us. It’s going to be hard, but we will get through it.

What does “mom” me look like? Does she still have long hair? Is she patient or does she have a temper? I know these waiting days are just a blip in time, but they feel forever.

8.11.16
I love you Bean. I am sick with a bad cold. My back hurts, but I love you. I’m grateful for you. I met with a mom friend Devon yesterday. She gave me good advice. I wonder what my advice will be for a new mom. I’m trying to stay positive. Other people are feeling much worse. Other people are dying to be pregnant and feel what I feel.

8.12.16
I’m feeling so much better mentally today. Less sad and scared. More excited and ready. I got a good night’s sleep which made all the difference. 39 weeks tomorrow. At 6, I couldn’t imagine this would ever come. At 29, when we had the small hospital scare, all I wanted was for you to be full term. Here we are!

I think I said in my baby hunch prediction that you would come today. Will you? You can come anytime. We are ready for you Bean. I’m so anxious to meet you and catch your glance for the first time. To feel our outer-body connection.  To feel a love I’ve never experienced. What a weird feeling to wait like this for the greatest love of all time?

8.13.16
Well Bean, you’re still fluttering around inside my belly. I’ve been waking up around 3am thinking I’m going into labor the past few nights. I have this mild cramping feeling during the night, and then I wake up wondering if it was a dream or real. After a few nights of the same thing, I’m going to chalk it up to the wonders of gas and constipation.

You are all I’m thinking about, Bean. I can be briefly distracted, but any minute alone in thought is about you. How you will come? When you will come? What will it be like?Emotionally I’m feeling much better than earlier in the week. My nesting need is fierce, but I can barely do anything to help which is so frustrating!

Me and Sammie often cuddle and hang out during my morning routine. She sits between my crossed legs and listens to our prayers. Bean, you’re going to love Sammie. She’s going to love you.

The weather has been so warm and beautiful. Before getting pregnant, I had this visual of giving birth at the hospital when it was cold and rainy (add some drama to the scene). Now, I envision being in my bathing suit, laboring at the pool and then wearing a loose sundress all the way to the hospital. It will most likely be a bright, happy, sunny day when Bean comes into the world.

It’s so fun having the Olympics on right now. Watching people push their limits and work hard – what more motivation for labor could I ask for? The track started last night. It had me thinking of the 400 and 800 meter races. I learned through sports that my body is WAY more capable than I could ever imagine. I can push myself past the limit. My heart is strong, I am strong.

The labor snacks I bought at week 38 are slowly dwindling. I need to re-stock! We’ve been reading you bedtime stories every night. Dad gets really animated. It’s so fun to have that time with you.

8.14.16
“She believed she could, so she did”. Such a simple mantra, but it just stuck to my heart. Believing in someone else gives them so much power and strength. Believing in yourself is just as empowering. I can do this. I am stronger than I think. Surrender.

Bean, I told you this morning that we are ready whenever you are! We hung out at Pizza Port with Amy and Paul, the newlyweds, last night. It was so fun to see them. I always leave feeling better than before.

Ryan had the worst seven golf holes of his life today. Was it a sign from the golf gods that he should be at home with me? Ha! It was such a bad round that he quit at hole seven and put his clubs in the attic.

I was thinking this morning how lucky I am to have my mom. She calls everyday to say how excited she is and to see how I’m doing. We are lucky to have her, our whole family. I can’t wait to see our family’s relationships with Bean.

How weird it’s going to be to not call you Bean!

 

8.15.16
I woke up this morning around 8am with pink blood. I think that meant I lost my “mucus plug” (the two grossest words ever created). I started getting some light period cramping around 9am when early labor began. Me and Ryan both started doing random chores around the house, trying not to get too nervous or excited. We are going to meet Bean, but still don’t know when, just soon.

8.16.16
Maisley Christine Nienhuis
Born at 12:58am
7 lbs, 3 ounces, 18.5 inches long
Scripps Encinitas
Willow – Doula
Danielle – Nurse
Michelle – Widwife
Ryan – Dada

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