Life… and Among the Pumpkins

I couldn’t write a post last week.

I woke up last Monday morning to see the devastating news that there had been a(nother) mass shooting, this time in Las Vegas. Just a few hours later, friends started texting to tell me that Tom Petty had died. It was a gigantic bummer of a week, to say the least, and I just couldn’t come up with anything to say that didn’t feel trite.

As far as Tom Petty goes, I know that there are larger things happening in the world; things that affect people’s mental and physical well-being, things that have a far-reaching ripple effect, things that seem impossible to overcome. As a huge Tom Petty fan, however, I was very sad about his death. I was fortunate enough to see him in concert again in August, and it’s something I’ll always be thankful for – but I’m sad that my kids won’t get to have the same experience.

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Tom at Safeco Field in August

When it comes to the Vegas shooting, I remain short on words. It doesn’t feel like we are as shocked by these horrifying events as we used to be. I hate that they are as relatively commonplace as they are. I hate that I can no longer go to events like the music festival where it happened without the thought crossing my mind: what if. I hate, more than anything, the pointless loss of these lives, and that the families and friends of the victims have to find a way to go on without their loved ones.

I used to think tragedies like this brought our country together. Instead, it feels like they only serve to divide us further. Somehow, the conversations around them immediately devolve into political arguments.  I use the word “devolve” intentionally. When was the last time we had a meaningful and constructive discussion around how we all want to move forward as one body of people? When was the last time two people who differed in political viewpoints listened to each other with an open mind and heart? When was the last time people were able to persuade each other to think about things a little differently?

This goes without saying, I hope, but I don’t claim to know the right answers. I understand the level of complexity involved in these issues, and my network is made up of people who run the gamut in terms of political points of view. I just hope with all my heart we can find a way to unite our country again, and that it doesn’t take a tragedy even worse than this one to do it.

When things feel the most dire, kids really can be such a breath of fresh air. For better or worse, a 2-year-old’s patience level (or lack thereof) doesn’t allow for a lot of time spent dwelling on the bad news in the world.

September and October have thus far been gorgeous in Seattle, so we have been finding plenty of ways to get out and enjoy the perfect crisp and sunny weather. I know your Instagram and Facebook feeds are currently filled with pictures of people’s kids sitting in pumpkin patches, but you can do with a few more, right?

If you are in the Seattle area, you can find this year’s list of the best nearby pumpkin patches in Red Tricycle. It is a fairly long list with detailed descriptions of each patch, and is worth reading in its entirety. The farms vary widely in admission price per person, what activities are offered, and the age range they are most appropriate for. For example, some are decorated in a slightly scarier Halloween theme, whereas others are thematically more in line with a fall harvest. Corn mazes, farm animals for petting, even tractor and trolley rides – each one has a little something different to offer, and because most are a bit of a drive from Seattle, it’s worth figuring out the right one for your crew.

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Since we just have a tiny tot at home, our criteria for the right pumpkin patch included two things: plenty of animals Serena could get up close to and space enough where she wouldn’t be trampled by rambunctious older kids. We were also highly cognizant of the need for a midday nap and her limited pee-holding ability, so we couldn’t venture too far from home.

For us, that meant the Fairbank Animal Farm in Edmonds (actually closer to Lynnwood), north of Seattle, which opens to the public on weekends in October. Their setup is great for toddlers and preschoolers and it was only about a 25-minute drive from Seattle.

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At the door you are handed a small cup of food that can be given to “anything with feathers” – and there are plenty of eager takers! Walking paths take you to several mini-pastures with small flocks of ducks, chickens, pheasants, and peacocks.

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A small barn lets the little ones get right up close to ducklings, litters of noisily nursing piglets, and hatching chicks.

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Signs lead you up a small hill to the pumpkin fields so you can scout out the perfect party favor.fullsizeoutput_1075-e1507667888902.jpeg

Right near the exit is a little yard where you can hang out with the farm’s ridiculously mellow pygmy goats.

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For families with smaller kids, I highly recommend exploring Fairbank Animal Farm! There is plenty of space to spread out and ample opportunity for fall photo snapping.dsc_1847.jpg

And did I mention the super-mellow goats?

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Organically Confusing: a Cheat Sheet for What to Eat

Ugh. Grocery shopping is hard. Not a minor factor, the fact that you probably have a squirming, possibly screaming (and if not currently screaming, then soon-to-be-screaming), baby or toddler.

Also, I don’t even know why they put child seats in shopping carts. Are people’s kids willing to sit in those things? If I ever try to put Serena in one, she wraps her legs around my waist, boa-constrictor-style, and won’t let go. Eventually I give up and carry her through the entire store – and that is the more pleasant scenario! The other option, where I allow her to walk (free range) with me, is one I just can’t bear. *shudder*

Luckily, we live a few blocks from the grocery store, so I’ve started employing a technique that I’m sure thrills my fellow patrons to no end: I push S in a stroller while pulling a shopping cart behind. I could kiss on the lips the person that implemented the handing out of free oranges and bananas at the front of the store to help ease the burden on parents shopping with young kids. Somehow, the fact that she knows she is strapped in from the get-go means the girl will happily munch on a banana in her stroller while her mama moves on to solving the next inevitable grocery store dilemma.

Note: I’m assuming if you have more than one young child, these scenarios may not apply to you because it’s possible you have given up on leaving your house to run errands altogether. Thank goodness for Amazon Fresh, amiright?

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Organic, or “organic”?

Logistical nightmare aside, now you get to move on to deciding just how bad a mother you are if you buy the “natural” frozen pizza vs. the “organic” macaroni and cheese in a box. I feel relatively up to speed on the myriad definitions of growing quality out there, and yet not a single trip to the store goes by without that moment of hesitation. Especially since there can be a price difference involved that is significant enough to have me frequently questioning whether the benefits of buying organic outweigh the costs in the first place.

I’m assuming I can’t be alone in this, so in case you would find it helpful, below is the general methodology I use and some of the information that guides my decision-making.

First, let’s get a few definitions out of the way, as they currently stand according to the USDA and FDA:

Organic1:

  • For produce: the plants, and the soil they were grown in, did not have synthetic fertilizer or pesticides applied to them.
  • For meat: the animals were raised in conditions that allowed them to exhibit natural behaviors (like grazing), were fed 100% organic feed, and were not given antibiotics or hormones.
  • For processed/multi-ingredient foods: they cannot contain artificial colors, flavors, or preservatives, and the ingredients they contain must also be organic.
  • All genetically modified organisms (GMOs) are prohibited.

Natural2:

  • There is not a true legal definition of the term “natural” when it comes to government regulation. In broad strokes, it means that a food has not had artificial or synthetic products added to it.
  • This doesn’t relate in any way to the food’s production like the “organic” label does, so there’s no ruling out that synthetic fertilizer or pesticides were used in growing it, or that it was crammed into a crate without the ability to move for its entire life.
  • It also does not rule out GMOs.

So, okay. Natural in general sounds like a pretty good thing – most of us probably aren’t going to say that we want to give our kids more artificial ingredients. But how about organic? If you have a relatively high food budget, it’s easy enough to buy all organic, all the time. It’s a quick and easy way to ensure that the animals you are eating were raised humanely and that the produce you are buying had a happy, albeit slightly more buggy, life. Note: this does not mean that you are necessarily eating healthfully, which is not really something I’m addressing in this post. If you are reading an article about organic food, you likely know already that the more processed a food is, the less likely it is to be good for you. I’m not a doctor, so please stop looking at me like that.

It’s in the cost comparisons that things get a bit trickier. There can be a huge difference between the cost of organic vs. conventionally grown food, and it’s unrealistic to assume that we all have the resources to buy only organic.

My approach to grocery shopping generally breaks down this way:

  • Meat: Always organicAs an animal lover, I have great respect for the fact that an animal gave its life to feed my family. I view the higher cost as being worth the price of admission to ensure that the animal had a happy life foraging for bugs, grazing on green pasture, and eating only organic feed, which translates directly into what we eat. Meat is costly compared to fruits and veggies on a per-pound basis, so I mitigate some of this cost by prepping more vegetarian meals (and again, I’m not a doctor, but there is a wee bit of evidence out there that says a little less meat is good for you).
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Cows should eat grass, duh.

  • Dairy products: Mostly organic. We don’t drink a ton of milk around here, so this one is not a huge budgetary concern for me personally. Similar to my reasons for buying organic meat, I like knowing that the milk my family does drink comes from happy cows that are eating grass and other 100% organic feed (always under a sunny sky, in my mind), and that they were not treated with antibiotics. If budget is a consideration, perhaps because your family does drink a lot of milk, it is worth noting that the concerns about growth hormones and antibiotics in conventional milk may not be worth sweating over anymore. Most milk sold in the store these days is free of hormones (check the label for “free of rBST” to be sure) and even conventional milk is tested to be sure it doesn’t contain antibiotics residues above a certain level before being bottled and shipped.
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Ahh… fresh vegetables, without the pesticide on the side.

  • Produce, grains, other stuff that grows on plants: Mostly organic, but it depends. We eat a lot of fruits and veggies around here – as I mentioned before, partly to save money on more-costly meat, but also because we eat a largely Paleo-ish diet. Also, toddlers = fruit bats. If there is a large price differential, I look to the Dirty Dozen/Clean Fifteen3 to guide my buying decision. These two lists, actually two parts of one big list of the 48 most commonly purchased fruits and veggies ranked in order of number and volume of pesticide residues found, is put together by the Environmental Working Group or EWG (you may have used their Sunscreen Guide to decide what was safe to slather on your kid this summer). In a nutshell:
    • Dirty Dozen (buy organic when you can): Strawberries, Spinach, Nectarines, Apples, Peaches, Pears, Cherries, Grapes, Celery, Tomatoes, Bell Peppers, and Potatoes
    • Clean Fifteen (buy conventional if you need to pinch pennies): Corn, Avocados, Pineapples, Cabbage, Onions, Peas, Papayas, Asparagus, Mangos, Eggplants, Honeydew (side note: does anyone actually buy honeydew?), Kiwi, Cantaloupe, Cauliflower, Grapefruit

Wondering about the other things you buy? Check where they fall on the list and decide what your tolerance level is for buying organic vs. keeping your grocery bill in check.

One other thing I think is really important to point out is that it’s expensive for farms to get organic certification. It can be a long, intensive process, and for some small farms, it’s just not worth paying to get and maintain the organic certification. This does not mean they don’t use organic growing methods for some or all of their meat and produce. If an item isn’t certified organic but it is labeled with the name of a local farm, don’t be afraid to contact the farm directly to find out if they use organic methods. Farmers are usually pretty excited to tell you about how they grow their stuff, and you’ll know that way whether you are getting a hell of a deal on organic produce just because it doesn’t happen to be labeled that way.

This goes to another important point. Whether or not you buy organic, do try to buy local. Organic might be preferable in terms of growing method, but it still has a massive environmental footprint if it is flown and/or trucked in from Mexico, or Argentina, or any other far-flung locale. If a conventional food is near the bottom of the list in terms of “dirtiness” and is grown much closer to where we live than its organic counterpart, I will opt for that one every time.

Sources
  1. Organic 101: What the USDA Organic Label Means
  2. “Natural” on Food Labeling
  3. All 48 Fruits and Vegetables With Pesticide Residue Data

Learning Empathy through a Connection with Nature

I don’t know if our world has actually become more self-centered or if I am just increasingly aware of it as I’ve gotten older, but it seems like not a day goes by that I don’t encounter at least one example of someone acting selfishly. Sometimes these incidents are relatively innocuous, like not holding the door open for someone following close behind (okay sir, it looked like you were actually trying to pull the door closed behind you…), but I also see plenty of examples of someone’s self-centeredness negatively impacting their interactions with family members, friends, and strangers.

I know these concepts have to be simple when teaching them to kids – spend any time around the parents of toddlers and you’ll hear a lot of “thank you for sharing!”. However, I do sometimes wonder if parents these days are doing enough to teach generosity and compassion to their kiddos. I have personally been around surprisingly young children who remember (at least most of the time!) to say “excuse me” when they interrupt a conversation and will order a meal at a restaurant complete with “please” and “thank you”. Sadly, it seems like such good manners are more the exception than the rule even among much older children (and #sorrynotsorry, some adults).

As my daughter gets older and it becomes increasingly difficult to use babyhood as an excuse for bad behavior, my husband and I talk a lot about how to teach her caring and kindness – to put it more bluntly, that she is not the center of the universe. Spending time as a family on the Oregon coast last weekend helped bring into focus for me the idea that time spent in nature can be a powerful tool for teaching these types of lessons. Also, for lessons like sand is for playing, not for eating. You know, important life skills.

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Nature teaches children to be caretakers

If I spend enough time indoors with my kid, I can pretty easily convince myself that I actually gave birth to a wrecking ball. Take a look at my living room at the end of the day and you will be convinced of that, too. But get the girl outdoors and put a tiny insect or shell in her hands, and she is suddenly so gentle and caring that I fear not for the life of a creature she could easily crush with one movement.

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Checking out a sand dollar with alllll the senses

I marvel at how closely and respectfully she will examine an insect, even laying down on her belly to observe an ant carrying on with its busy life, without even hinting at interfering. Woe that she had such a long attention span during our trips to the grocery store.

Even something as simple as feeding a fish every day can be a great way for kids to understand that they have a responsibility to care for the animals, people and world around them.

Nature creates common ground through shared experiences

People here talk a lot about the Seattle Freeze, and I have to say I get it! Kole and I both hail from Idaho and it may sound like a small-town cliché but people there still say hello to strangers on the street. My own sidewalk experiences in Seattle have been more of the “avoid-eye-contact-at-all-costs-or-risk-catching-the-plague” variety.

I have seen that one of the quickest ways to establish a connection with someone is through some shared experience. One I find especially powerful is witnessing a natural phenomenon together.

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Easy companionship in the sand

 

Serena was still a bit too young to even see above wave-height at the coast last weekend, but I saw firsthand the heads of adult friends and strangers alike swivel immediately upon seeing several grey whales breach right off the beach, looking for someone to share the experience with. People that hadn’t even noticed each other were suddenly grinning and pointing, telling other strangers where to look.

Being a participant in an event like this, especially one not commonly seen, can be a great equalizer, as everything about a person is stripped away except the fact that they are as inspired by and appreciative of what you have both seen as you are.

Nature humbles through its incredible vistas

There is certainly an argument to be made that perspective is earned through life experience, age and maturity, but I am not too proud to admit that I need occasional reminders of how small some of my minor irritations are in the grand scheme of things.

Sunset

I have never walked away from awe-inspiring scenery being irritated that someone cut me off on the road that morning, or any of the other trivial annoyances that happen to all of us on a routine basis. There is immense value in being able to see and understand how we fit into the fabric of the world around us – it serves as a quick reminder of what is important… and more importantly, what is not.

Nature reminds us that waves are just a part of the ocean

It can be a delicate balancing act for parents of young kids to teach their children that disappointments and hurts are inevitable – we want to stop the crying as quickly as possible (especially since it is most often happening loudly and in public) but also know that we won’t always be able to rush in with a distraction for every little thing that goes wrong.

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Dads and their gals

Some people are more innately able to harness the idea that the bad times don’t last forever. For instance, after Serena had peed straight into my lap on a flight not long ago, Kole was quick to point out that I would eventually laugh about it. While I was equally quick to point out that he was not the one walking through an airport in peed-on shorts, I have to acknowledge his point – even circumstances that feel dire will often become a great story to tell.

Nature teaches this through the changing seasons – House Stark motto aside, spring and summer are always coming too. For children there is value too in teaching the understanding that while you may currently be riding a cresting wave, someone else may be in the depths – and need a hand up.

 

 

 

 

A Letter to My Girl on Her 2nd Birthday

Serena: a feminine name derived from the Latin word serenus, meaning “clear, tranquil, serene”

Oh, how the Fates must have laughed and laughed on the day that we chose your name.

From the time you were born, heaven help us if we tried to sit down or even hold still while comforting you. The word “serene” seemed to fit only while you slept – something you did precious little of for a very long time. I wore tracks into the floors of our postpartum room at the hospital and spent hours day and night bouncing you on an exercise ball – all to keep you moving when you were still too young to move yourself.

Now that you are mobile, not much has changed. Most of every day is spent following close behind you as you explore new and different ways to cause mischief experience the world around you. Just as when you were a baby, you tell us quickly and forcefully when you don’t like something – but now that you are a bit older, you also tell us just as quickly when you do.

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Which brings me to that smile. Our friends comment on how big it is: “Look how many of her teeth show!”, and even the most serious people will make a silly face just to bring it out. My wonder will never cease at how it can change the mood of a room. I hope that your smile is never slower in coming than it is today, and that you are always so naturally able to see the humor in a situation. I hope that you stay willing and able to laugh at yourself, even if your first instinct might be to cry.

The straightforward but intense love you possess as a toddler leaves me in constant awe. You love to give big kisses, sometimes when we are least expecting them, and even some of your most passionate fits can be halted with a simple hug (as long as we ask you if you want one first). I admire how naturally empathy comes to you and how your attention is so strongly and automatically drawn to others in pain. 

I know that hurt feelings are a part of the human condition and that I have little power to prevent you from having them, but I actively dread the middle- and high-school years of complicated friendships and early love interests. I hope that your fearless determination gives you the fortitude to weather the hurts that will inevitably come your way, and that you continue to be someone others seek for solace. One of your first two-word phrases was “hop up” – and I hope it’s one that continues to come to mind any time you feel a little low.

Lest you think that parenting you is all puppies and rainbows, let’s get back to those passionate fits I mentioned. From the time you were tiny, you were incredibly particular – you refused a bottle or pacifier, didn’t like being held by anyone but me or Daddy, and as I already mentioned, had to be in constant motion. It didn’t take us long to see that you possess a powerful motor and are quick to grow bored or frustrated without an outlet for your curiosity. I hope that you never let this spark go out – that you pursue with gusto anything that scratches your intellectual itch, and that you always surround yourself with people who give you the freedom to.

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Given a million guesses, I never would have said that parenting you would be like this; that my heart could be so full. I yearn for every future milestone and yet my heart aches for the ones you have already left behind – every single moment feels bittersweet.

We have loved seeing the world through your eyes and experiencing your every first, and we can’t wait to see where your strong will, cheerful demeanor, and boundless curiosity and energy lead you. We hope to teach you from an early age that your relationships are the wealth that matters most, and that surrounding yourself with a strong support system will give you the freedom to try just about anything.

 

We will always be here – waiting with bated breath to see what your next adventure will be.

 

Green Bean Pesto

I’m going to tell you something you might not know about Seattle. Or maybe you live in Seattle and it’s something you knew at one time but have forgotten because it’s currently 90 degrees out and your lawn looks like a just-harvested wheat field.

In Seattle, it rains a lot.

Winters here can feel eternal. By the time summer actually rolls around (on July 5th, the joke goes), Seattleites are desperate for sun, sand, and any fresh local vegetable which doesn’t start with “k” and rhyme with “pale”.

This is as true for me as for anybody else. My Idaho upbringing got me used to a slightly higher daily dose of vitamin D, and since moving to the Pacific Northwest I’ve spent more than a few springtime hours embracing my inner reptile, face tilted directly toward the sun.

Every April and May, I tell myself that THIS will be the year I will grow a vegetable garden to be proud of. I am so eager to be out-of-doors that even pulling weeds feels like a vacation. I get a child-like thrill from the smell of dewy tomato leaves and from watching squash and bean seedlings lift their heads from the soil like toddlers waking up from a nap.

And then, every August and September, without fail, my garden looks like a disaster zone. My best agricultural intentions are usurped by a powerful summer laziness. My once-orderly rows have become an impenetrable jungle, every leaf is brown and crispy around the edges, and if my zucchini were on tv, they would require a parental advisory.

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This annual pattern of mine has led to the accidental discovery of green beans as a magical crop. Because they are so easy to grow, I am admittedly a bit heavy-handed in allocating garden space to them, and despite my negligence, I always end up with a glut of beans that need processing in a hurry. Enter my green bean pesto!

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Like other legumes, green beans are a great source of fiber and contain some of the same vitamins as their color counterparts kale and spinach (K, A, and C). Aside from the obviously vegetal main ingredient, this pesto also packs a punch in healthy fats from the olive oil and walnuts, which are super important for brain development.

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However, all the good nutrition in the world won’t make a bit of difference if your kid won’t eat it, right? Luckily, my toddler’s natural revulsion for anything green in color is matched in intensity only by her draw toward condiments or anything else she can dip her fingers in. Sound familiar? This pesto is one of the few Trojan horses I have found for getting green vegetables through the door.

If you struggle like I do with getting your little ones to eat something besides cheese, yogurt, and fruit, try this pesto – worst case, they hate it and you get it all to yourself!

Green Bean Pesto

  • Servings: makes about 2 1/2 cups
  • Difficulty: easy
  • Print

This pesto makes a great dip for tofu or turkey fingers, or a tasty sauce for pasta or flatbread pizza!

Ingredients

  • 2 big handfuls fresh green beans, ends trimmed
  • 2-3 garlic cloves
  • 1/2 cup walnuts
  • 1/2 cup grated parmesan cheese
  • 1/2 cup olive oil
  • salt and pepper to taste

Directions

  1. Bring a medium pot of salted water to boil. Add the green beans and boil for 2-3 minutes, until bright green. Immediately plunge the beans into a bowl of ice water to stop the cooking.
  2. Toast walnuts in a dry sauté pan over medium-low heat until fragrant and golden brown. Note: This is not a great time for multitasking – the nuts will burn in a hurry!
  3. Pulse cooked green beans, garlic cloves, and toasted walnuts in a food processor 5-10 times, until finely chopped.
  4. Add cheese, salt, pepper, and about half the oil to the chopped beans and puree. While the food processor is running, add the remaining oil in a steady stream until pesto has the desired texture. 

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5 things I Wish I Could Tell My New-Mom Self

This post is dedicated to my dear friend Sami, currently enjoying the first days with her new baby. 

I realize there are approximately one million and one lists like this on the interwebs. Go ahead and check. I’ll wait.

The thing is, most of them are variations on the same general theme: you’ll never feel such a powerful love, yada yada yada. That’s not to say I disagree. “Love” becomes an inadequate word for the visceral and all-encompassing feelings you will have toward your child. But this is not that kind of list.

Once my daughter reached about a year old, I felt like a pretty seasoned hand at this parenting thing. Never really one to call the doctor at every little sniffle, now I (mostly) no longer questioned whether I was supposed to want to call the doctor at every little sniffle – or whether it made me a bad mom if I didn’t. I was finally in a place where I could look back and have a hard time remembering why I felt some of the worries and stresses that I did.

While I’ll never be completely free of that (I am a mom, after all!), there are some things, along those lines and along a few others, I wish I could have told my new-mom self – if only she’d have listened.

1. Step away from the Google (aka No, it’s not your milk).

This one is hard for me to write, as it’s taken some time to come to terms with my affliction. Just because I wasn’t prone to a desire to consult with a doctor about every little thing going on with my baby doesn’t mean I am not prone to a desire to google it. I am too embarrassed to list some of the things I googled in the early days, but not too embarrased to write that a good friend of mine (you know who you are), wondering why her newborn continually looked over her shoulder while he was nursing, googled whether babies could see ghosts.

When something is going on (or if I think something is going on), my natural tendency is to assume that something specific is causing it and to go in search of a solution. If your baby is exclusively breast-fed, one of the only things you have to wag your accusing finger at is your own breast milk. It is not a long road to complete insanity once you start feeling like you need to do an elimination diet and cut out dairy, wheat, nuts, fat, and anything else remotely resembling flavor.

If only she’d have listened, I would have told my new-mom self that there is such a thing as “normal for her baby”, and that her pediatrician will tell her the things that are worth stressing over. Also, to step away from the Google. It can lead nowhere good.

2. No, you do not need that baby gadget du jour.

Walk the aisle of Babies R Us or Buy Buy Baby for more than 30 seconds and you will be 100% convinced that you need a bottle warmer for your bottle warmer. The implication is that if you question needing (fill-in-the-blank) for even a moment, you obviously don’t care about your baby’s health, comfort, happiness, etc.

Manufacturers and retailers are very good at spotting opportunity – and preying on the worries of new moms is one massive opportunity! The truth is, when you bring that babe home you need very little besides your own body to keep it comfy. There are a few nice-to-haves which I’ll cover in a later post, but if you listen to the desperate cries of the grape cutter (you know, the super versatile knife that only cuts grapes…) asking you to take it home, someday you’ll find yourself collapsing under the weight of your own tears as you realize you have to dig a new tunnel from the kitchen to the front door again.

If only she’d have listened, I would have told my new-mom self to head immediately to the nearest secondhand baby store and pick up pretty much everything she needs at a fraction of the price it would otherwise cost her – all while avoiding the siren’s song of a mop for baby… to wear.

3. Being a new mom can feel lonely sometimes.

*Gasp*. I know. Naturally, as a new mother, you will be constantly over-the-moon in love. You will revel in every diaper change, lay awake in Christmas morning-level anticipation of your baby’s next nighttime feeding, and have endless patience with your partner as he or she searches for ways to help you navigate this holy-shit-what-have-we-done life change.

Oh wait.

I (mostly) never had bitter feelings toward K as he slept peacefully through every. single. nighttime feeding and diaper change in those first few days at home. But our daughter was a terrible sleeper for a very long time, and a combination of circumstances (our baby never took a bottle and I had the more flexible work schedule that would, in theory, allow me to take a nap if I needed it) meant I was on sole nighttime duty for months. There were many nights, after hitting my expert-level 10,000th hour of bouncing on an exercise ball in a futile effort to get my baby one (just ONE!) hour of sleep, where it felt like I was the only person on the planet – and not in a good way.

If only she’d have listened, I would have told my new-mom self that most of her desperation is a result of viewing the world through a lens of sleeplessness and that it will eventually get better. Also, to be honest with K, and herself, about how tired she was – that not only would he have welcomed the opportunity to be more helpful, he also would have appreciated being told exactly how to be.

4. You will not cherish every moment, and that is okay.

When you have a baby, people love to give you advice, whether you ask for it or not. I do understand this tendency – having been there, done that, parents of older children are generally pretty proud of how their kids have turned out. They are convinced that as a new mom, you don’t know what you’re doing (because, let’s face it, you probably don’t!) and that you can benefit from the implementation of their best practices.

One of my personal favorites is to cherish every single moment. You are granted this piece of advice in exchange for answering honestly the question, “how’s it going?”: you’ve been up for 43 consecutive hours with a colicky baby; you’re nursing around the clock and your nipples feel like you keep a cheese grater in your bra; you haven’t taken a shower in three days, etc.

The thing is, humans have an incredible ability to forget. It’s why some of us choose to give birth more than once. The well-meaning individuals telling you to treasure every moment – including, apparently, the poop-smeared ones – have simply forgotten how desperate things feel at 3 a.m. when you’re changing your twelfth poopy diaper of the night.

If only she’d have listened, I would have told my new-mom self that when someone other than her spouse, mother, or best friend asks how it’s going, they really do have good intentions. However, it’s best to just put a smile on and say “great!” The looks of admiration she gets in return might actually make her feel that way.

5. Yes, even THAT mom has spit-up on the back of her shirt.

You know the one I mean. You see her pop up on your Instagram feed and are immediately flooded with feelings of inferiority. Doing your best just to remember whether you put on deodorant today, you find it impossible to comprehend how she found the time to shower, put on makeup, and get what appears to be the most content baby on the planet down for a nap.

In the current days of Facebook and Instagram, the theory goes that it should be easier than ever to establish connections with other people going through the same things you are. You should feel free to express your deepest fears, secure in the knowledge that someone else not-so-far-removed from you is feeling them too.

Sadly, it seems as though we’ve managed to Facestagram ourselves right out of honest self-expression, and we’re all in a race to convince each other that it’s all roses, all the time. I think this has gotten in the way of helping each other cope with the hard times new motherhood can bring.

If only she’d have listened, I would have assured my new-mom self that no matter how perfectly timed – or edited – her pictures, even the “perfect” mom likely woke up with one boob hanging out and a shirt soaked with milk. I would have told her to just reach out, because even that mom would probably love to commiserate.

BONUS #6: You will never feel such a powerful love.

Ha! Oops. Turns out this is that kind of list.

It’s true what people say: being a parent is the best thing ever. Though every stage of parenthood has its tough times, the early days and weeks are the hardest. It sometimes feels like you are a slave without the rewarding feelings that those first baby smiles can bring. Sometimes it might feel like without caffeine you would become an actual zombie, and some days you might actually look like one.

But as the days go by and you witness your baby’s every first, and you start to string together a little more sleep, things feel a little less desperate and instead only like you desperately love your baby.

 

 

Welcome to Mom Genes!

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Hi and welcome to Mom Genes!

My name is Jen, and my husband Kole and I live in Seattle. My days are spent chasing our almost-2-year-old daughter Serena and running Diaper Stork, a cloth diaper service I started in 2014.

As a mom, I believe one of my most important roles is building a healthy and sustainable life for my family. Diaper Stork was started with this in mind, as a way to give families the opportunity to make a significant difference in the amount of waste they generate with minimal effort.

I’ve started Mom Genes as a sort of “offshoot” of Diaper Stork; a place where I can further explore these ideas and share some of the things that I experience and learn.

Why Mom Genes?

Now more than ever, it seems like we are surrounded by voices telling us the “right” way to parent, whether it’s a stranger in the grocery store or the seemingly perfect Instagram feed we can’t stop watching. I’ve been fortunate not to have these voices closer to home, but I know not everyone is so lucky.

My approach to motherhood is the basic belief that we already have the necessary wisdom residing within us – our Mom Genes!

Should I subscribe?

If you follow this blog for any length of time (and I hope that you do!), you’re likely to see that my interests vary quite a bit. Here are some of the things you might see here: some of my general thoughts on motherhood, healthy recipes and nutrition advice, tips for sustainable living, DIY projects, and a smattering of my other personal interests.

If there is something particular you want to see here, or would like to contribute in some way, please reach out! You can send me a note through the Contact page.

 

Photos via Jenelle Sellers Photography