Sometimes I look at the date and am surprised by it. Like my circadian rhythm is permanently set to another timezone. It’s summer, but I don’t really know what time of year it is. The sleepy postpartum fog takes me out of everyday life. It’s hard to make normal conversation with even close friends and family, let alone the chummy cashier at Trader Joes. I stare into space more than I should. My mind feels sporadic and consumed by feeding schedules, diaper changes, sunscreen application, laundry…August 20th. My mind goes into a quick panicky review: Is it someone’s birthday? Did we miss preschool orientation? What have I forgotten? Who is awaiting a return text or call? I always wonder the best time of year for having a baby. As if there’s a certain season that is better suited for turning your world upside down in the best and hardest way. Summer is nice because it’s warm and there’s always something happening. It also makes me feel like I’m not doing enough and too much at the same time. The fourth trimester is coming to a close, but I’m not ready to jump back into being “normal”. And what is normal? Normal has shifted again. I need more time to piece our new life together. Maisley’s constant whining feels like tiny ice picks to the brain, amounting to the loss of our minds. As Ryan so astutely observed, if I even look at cheese right now, Coura becomes an explosion of gas and fuss. Tomorrow I will look at my phone and it will be a new day. This too shall pass.
You are now at the age adults refer to when calling someone (of any age) out for irrational behavior. “Stop acting like a two-year-old!” or “You’re acting like a two-year-old!”
While your strong-willed tantrums give me a front row seat to the two-year-old stereotype, there is a whole, vibrant person starting to emerge from your tiny body that makes this age – like every age so far – one I never want to forget.
The other day I saw a shirt with a smirking condiment bottle on it that read: Bet you can’t ketchup!
That shirt defines you at two; one step ahead of us and always traveling at top speed.
I will never forget you running down the cul-de-sac, leading the flying v of five older neighborhood kids chasing after you; your top knot bouncing in the wind.
Your toes are always dressed with a Finding Nemo bandaid and your knees scraped up or bruised, which makes me proud. It tells me you’re living.
We tried to keep you contained in your crib by putting you into a large sleep sack, but somehow you still found a way to fling yourself out like a gymnast on the pommel horse.
While I love how active you are, I don’t love that we’ve now lost two out of your three perfect leg rolls. You are becoming less and less of a baby everyday.
When you were first born and babbling nonsense, I remember wondering what your voice would sound like and what you had to say. Now that you’ve discovered some words, it’s as entertaining as I could have imagined.
I hope I never forget the cheeky way you say, “Oh my goodness gracious, that’s insane!”. I love that you confidently say, “Sooooo cute!” every time you get dressed in the morning. And your sweet I love you mama’s make you easy to forgive; even when I’m on the brink of quitting motherhood.
You ride the highs and lows of every day with reckless abandon, vulnerable to the present moment.
Before becoming a mom, if someone had told me that their two-year-old was compassionate, I probably would have rolled my eyes in disbelief. Now I’m that mom because you are truly bursting with empathy and compassion, always making sure that everyone around you is okay.
So today, I say act like a two-year-old. Dig your hands into the sand, run around naked, drink the hose water and eat all the “popcorns” you can. You’re only here for another year, and then onto three. Might as well make the most of it!
I love you more than you’ll ever know.
“Would you do it all over again?”, asked my youngest sister. My mind quickly recounted slamming my hands into the mattress in a sleepless fury, while yelling, “I can’t do it anymore!”. And then I flashed to our self-guided nighttime walking tour through Rome, gelato in hand, engulfed by the romantic magic of a brand new city full of monuments older than Jesus.
Like life at home right now, traveling to Europe with an infant and a toddler was hard. And it was magical.
We had been planning for our Italian family reunion for the last year and also loosely planning our second baby around it too. September was our last month of trying where I wouldn’t be too pregnant or have too young of a baby to go.
As you might have guessed, I got pregnant. Our little seed of hope turned into a little baby girl and our family became four just two months before we would take off.
I was pretty anxious leading up to the trip; there were a lot of unknowns about how our independence-seeking, runaway two-year-old, and fresh into the world two-month-old would react in a new country. Germs, logistics, passports, schedules and other fear-based obstacles took turns making me question the plausibility of this trip.
There’s a Mark Twain quote that goes something like: when you look back over your life, you’ll regret more of the things that you didn’t do, than the things that you did.
So we went. For Mark Twain’s sake and for that vow we made to each other when we got married; to see the world together.
My mom dropped us off curbside at LAX’s Tom Bradley International Terminal. She kept saying how brave we were for going. Brave, or stupid, I kept thinking to myself.
I reminisced briefly on the last time I was in Italy. I wore an SDSU college sweatshirt, drank gin and tonics, and traveled spontaneously around with nothing but an oversized backpack. Here I was 10 years later, returning a slightly different version of myself. I wore Birkenstocks, drank beer (and also electrolytes) and traveled with four backpacks (and that was only our carry-on luggage).
We reserved the bulkhead seats and didn’t have too many annoyed eyes staring at us just yet. After a few hours of airplane food, Daniel Tiger, Fancy Nancy and sticker books, Maisley reluctantly fell asleep on her makeshift bed below our feet. Coura took turns sleeping in her bassinet and wrapped to one of our chests. It definitely wasn’t relaxing, but also wasn’t as crazy as I had imagined.
We stayed in Rome for the first two nights and then took a NASCAR style ride out of city and into the countryside of Tuscany, settling into a farmhouse outside of the small hilltop town of Cortona.
28 of Ryan’s Dutch, American and Russian family members ranging from ages 5 to 75 all met us there for a week of family bonding, site seeing and gelato eating.
The first few days were an adjustment. I had that “out of my comfort zone” pit in my stomach, coupled with jet lag, cranky babies not sleeping, and 4th trimester surging hormones. Things that helped me get through those first days: time, meditation and focusing on my breath, talking and connecting with Ryan, sleep, prayer and staying present.
We went on a few day trips to surrounding hilltop towns, organized a fun game of water polo with all of the cousins at the farmhouse pool, and ate countless pizzas, all under the 100-degree tuscan sun.
Maisley had a blast playing and swimming with her dutch cousins. She even learned how to say her favorite word in dutch: nee (pronounced nay). She can now refuse us in two languages!
Coura slept, cried, smiled and drank her way through our Italian adventure, seemingly growing from a newborn into a baby during our 11 days abroad. “Unique Places I Breastfed Coura” is probably a blog of it’s own, but two highlights were the refreshingly cool floor of St. Peter’s Basilica at the Vatican and hilltops with expansive views of bright sunflower fields.
Ryan and I took turns losing our mind, so that at least one person remained positive and calm at all times. We were saved by kind people at the airport who lead us to shorter security lines, quiet drives with napping babies, afternoon thunderstorms, and an amazon fire tablet holding our mini savior; a tiger in a red sweater.
After 20 hours of return travel, we arrived home with thankful hearts and extra tired eyes. We asked Maisley to tell us her favorite part of the trip. She replied with, “Sleeping on the airplane.”
While neither of the girls will remember this trip, it will forever be part of their essence and one Ryan and I will never forget.
We gained far more than we lost on this trip, and I’d do it all over again every time (although probably waiting until all kids are old enough to hold their own head up before we go).
In Maisley’s Backpack:
Under the Sea & Zoo Sticker Books by Usborne
Traveling pack of Fancy Nancy books
Amazon Fire Tablet full of Shaun the Sheep, Daniel Tiger and Moana
In My Backpack:
doTERRA – On Guard Essential Oil Protective Blend
No Jet Lag Homeopathic Jet Lag Remedy
Bach Flower Rescue Remedy Drops (for anxiety)
Lavender essential oils
Cozy airplane socks
Ultima Replenisher Electrolyte Hydration Powder
Other Secret Weapons:
Mother and father-in-laws
Family members who can calm your crying baby
Snacks, so many snacks