For This Father's Day

Dear B,

Sometimes I find myself amazed at the type of father you've become.  And other times, I'm not surprised in the least.  I always knew you'd be good at this.  I always knew you'd be fun but tough, loving but cautious.  

Henry idolizes you.  You can see it in his eyes.  Always wanting to know where you are, if you'll play with him, and his giggles are the loudest when he's with you.  I hope that he grows up to be just like you.

If there is something that I've learned in the last three years as a parent, it's that the person you're parenting with makes all the difference.  I cannot imagine our life any other way.  You make each day happy.  You go out of your way to see Henry and I smile.  You are everything a father is supposed to be - but so much more.

Thank you for giving everything you've got to our family.  Thank you for making personal sacrifices to give something back to us.  Thank you for doing the dishes and the laundry and the yard and the trash and cleaning the bathroom.  You are the rational glue that holds this whole operation together and I'm so happy that Henry and I have you to do life with.

We love you.

Happy Father's Day.

It Could Be the Last Time

He's heavy in my arms.  My back strains to lift him into the air and onto my left hip where he's been perched since he was born.  His right arm immediately snakes around to my back where he plays with my hair, rubs my back, or grasps tightly to my shirt.  I breathe in deeply to smell the little boy scent on him.  It's a mixture of sweat and grass - the perfect scent of a toddler.  We walk and after awhile I struggle under the weight of him until it becomes too much and I have to put him down.  I catch a glimpse of disappointment as I let go once his feet are solidly on the ground.

A few minutes later, he'll lift his arms high to me and I'll pick him back up.  Repeating the process all day.

-----

It's naptime and though I'm desperate for a nap myself and know that the quality of nap I'll get next to him is greatly reduced, I can't help myself.  "Do you want to take a nap with me in my bed?"  It's a rhetorical question at this point.  He always says yes.  We climb in my bed, snuggle underneath the fluffy gray comforter and lay on our sides, facing one another.  We tell stories and jokes, he tries to stay up longer than he should until I grab him and pull him close to me, my right arm underneath his neck, supporting his head.  I draw him closer to me draping my left arm over his toddler belly that isn't protruding the way it used to, the baby fat nearly gone.  It's then that I feel his body relax, his eyes flutter close, and his breathing slows until he's asleep, right in the safety of my arms.

I don't dare move him for fear of waking him, and I try to get a quick nap in myself, throughout the squirms and kicks of an active toddlerhood nap.

-----

"I want to sit on your lap, Mommy."  We're at the restaurant waiting on our food.  I tell him sure, but only until his food comes.  He immediately climbs over resting his bony butt onto my lap, his suddenly long legs hanging down over mine.  I wrap my arms around his waist and squeeze him tight, kissing the soft blond hair on his head.  

-----

"Let's go for a walk!"  We walk down our dark driveway out into the quiet, tree-lined road.  His tiny hand reaches up and grabs for mine.  Whether out of habit because he knows he has to hold a hand in a street, or because he genuinely likes to hold my hand, he squeezes it tight as we walk.  "I like holding your hand, Henry."  "I like holding YOUR hand, Mommy."  And we walk together, hand in hand up the hill towards the stop sign.

-----

I am a human jungle gym for him.  My body welcomes his, just as it did for the first nine months that he was forming.  I don't know when he'll stop coming to me for comfort, or he won't want to hold my hand. I don't know when he'll be too heavy for me to pick up and hold.  I don't know when he won't fit snugly in bed with me anymore.  So until then, I'll pick him up, I'll hold his hand, I'll take a few bruises to the side while we nap.  Because when those last times come, I want to be sure I have the memories of all of the times before stored up.  To remember when he was my little boy and I was his world.

Having a Boy

"I like your shirt, Mommy.  You look so pretty."

It's things like this that make me swoon these days.  The unexpected notes of encouragement from an otherwise fairly self-obsessed toddler can turn an entire day around.

I love having a boy.  When we first talked about starting our family, I told Brandon that I wanted a boy.  There were a lot of different reasons for this, but the main was that I had always heard what a special relationship boys have with their mothers.  

Since Henry was first born, I could feel that bond we had.  Whether I would've had that with a girl, I'm not sure, but I do know how strong this bond has felt since.  As he's gotten older, is able to verbalize his feelings, and show his love, it's only gotten stronger.  Henry is through and through a Mama's boy (at least for now) and I love it.  He runs to me for comfort, snuggles close to me, gives me plenty of unprompted hugs, kisses, and "I love you's", and is always reaching for my hand to hold.  His simple words of "I'll protect you, Mommy" or the disturbed look on his face when he believes Brandon has wronged me never fails to make me smile.  

I love the imagination and bravado that putting a cape on does for him.  I love the dirt under his fingernails after playing outside.  I love the adventure and explorative nature.  All of these things I'm sure apply to girls as well, but for now, this is how I think of my little boy.  With the dirt on his knees and the grin on his face.  I love being a boy mom, and if they're anything like Henry, I'd take a bunch more.

How Old Am I?

There are some days where I look in the mirror and see my sixteen year old self looking back at me.  And other days, I see the dark circles, the wrinkled skin, the tired eyes and I realize I'm not quite as young as I sometimes think I am.

---

A joke from my brother in law has stuck with me recently.  He said that he felt he could pass for a college kid most days but then when he actually SAW a college kid, he had realized just how old he had gotten.

---

The saying goes that you're only as old as you feel.  Most days, I still feel pretty young.  Until I wake up and stretch my tired muscles, or I realize that 10:00 on a Saturday night is really pushing it for me.  No doubt some of that is due to life with a toddler, or working a full-time job while also running a magazine "on the side".  No doubt this season of life is just tiring and my body is reacting to that.

But I still think about it.  I think about being 34 and being much, much closer to the dreaded 4-0 than I am to the young 21.  I think about the fact that my youngest brother is nearly 30, and what does that say about me?  Mostly I think about the fact that if we have a second baby, I may fall into the "high risk" category and will I have the energy to deal with another non-sleeping newborn.  

---

Still, other days I'm happy with this stage of life.  This age.  34.  It's young and it's old.  And yet, I've also come to the point where I understand where my life is headed, what I want, and who I am.  I don't have all the answers yet, but (hopefully) I have plenty of time to figure out the rest.  The dark circles might be there to stay, but this age has lead to more confidence and fulfillment than at any other time in my life.  And that's a pretty great thing.

 

The Good Dads

I can hear the laughter through my closed door, over my music.  It's that kind of guttural belly laugh that makes people stop in their tracks, a grin spreading across their face.  Because you can't NOT smile at a child laugh.  It's so innocent, so completely pure, so in the moment that it takes you back to your own childhood.  That's the sound I hear coming from the living room as I'm settling in for an hour to work.  And I'm immediately grinning.

---

I married one of the good guys.  You know the ones, you see them out in public, completely attuned to the needs of their wives, their families.  From the moment we started dating, I knew Brandon was one of the good ones.  My friends knew he was one of the good ones.  My family knew he was one of the good ones.  There was never a question of that.  I lucked out.  I married a man who puts my needs above his own, who does everything in his power to make me smile, who kisses my forehead every morning before he leaves for work while I'm still sleeping.  I never wondered if he would be a good husband.  It was just a known fact.  Brandon is a good husband.

Parenthood can be a different thing, though.  Suddenly you're not catering to a (mostly) rational human being.  You're dealing with a child.  And children scream, cry and get angry for seemingly no reason.  They are wild, unpredictable, and a lot of work.  But I still knew in my heart that Brandon would be good at this, too. 

---

When Henry was born, things were hard - as any new parent will tell you.  He had reflux that originally went undiagnosed, he was constantly sick from daycare, he had ear infection after ear infection, he didn't sleep through the night for the first 13 months of his life.  He was tough.  He was a smiling, happy baby.  But he was still tough.  

It was tough on Brandon and I.  I think we had more fights during that first year than we ever had.  But it was more out of frustration and just not knowing, than about anything else.  We were both struggling through lack of sleep, lack of knowledge, and it felt like there was no end in sight.  But even through all of that, Brandon continued to be a good husband and a good dad.  

He got up in the middle of the night nearly every night - even once he went back to work - just so that I could get extra sleep.  While I nursed, he asked what he could do, or what he could get me.  He fell asleep with Henry on his chest in the rocking chair more times than I can count so that I could have a little peace to take a shower or get some much needed rest.  He fed him, he changed diapers, he cleaned up vomit - all of those things a parent should do, he did, and it was never a question that he wouldn't.  I've had girlfriends whose husbands assumed that was all "women's work", but that was never a thought that passed through Brandon's head.

Brandon is a good man.

---

And these days, as Henry has gotten older, the good dad has turned into a great dad.  He's chasing Henry around the house with a blanket tied around his neck, fashioned like a cape.  He's sitting on the floor putting together puzzle after puzzle.  He's encouraging Henry to be brave when Henry throws himself off the couch into Brandon's arms.  He's teaching him how to stand just so to really knock that baseball off the tee.  He's praising Henry as he swims to him in the pool.  And he's comforting him when Henry's three-year-old-ness catches up with him and he has a meltdown for no reason.  He is there for all of it.  Through all of the really high highs and the really low lows of parenting, Brandon is there for it.  He is a great dad.

We've been trying...

There's something that's been weighing on me for awhile now and I think it's been blocking me from actually being able to come to this space that I love and write.  Because it felt like I wasn't being honest about life or about what's going on with me.  And now, I've made a promise to my pal Mia that I was going to get back to writing.  Writing for me, and if anyone is interested in reading my words, writing for you, too.  But it feels like I can't do that until I'm honest about where I'm at.

The thing is, B and I have been trying to get pregnant with baby number two since last August.  

It feels good to type that out.  To admit it.  Especially when I haven't admitted it to many people in my life.  A few of the people who ask us when baby number two is coming have gotten the honest answer that "we're working on it", but I haven't said much more.  But now it's starting to weigh on me, especially as the creator of a magazine that is all about honesty.

So I wanted to admit it.  I wanted to get it out there.  I wanted to tell you that I'm frustrated and sad and frustrated some more.  

---

We got pregnant with Henry within three weeks of me being off birth control.  He was definitely planned, but we didn't quite expect it to happen that quickly.  Especially since doctor's always tell you it can take awhile for the birth control to work itself out of your system.  So he was still a surprise to us.

This time we weren't ready, and we weren't ready, and we weren't ready.  And then one day we were ready.  I stopped birth control at the end of July 2016.  I didn't expect it to happen right away, but I figured by the end of the year we'd be pregnant.  But it didn't happen.  And then it continued to not happen.

March came around and I turned 34 and that month I was convinced I was pregnant.  So convinced that I wanted to have a "last celebratory glass of wine" before I took a test.  I was so convinced that for the first time when I got my period, I was very sad about it.  And that's when we decided to actually start trying.  Before we had just been going about our business, assuming it would happen and not putting any thought into it.  

But now, I'm starting to do those things that the doctors tell you to - tracking ovulation, watching what I eat, all of those things that are supposed to help you get there.  But month after month, it's still not happening.  And now the frustration is kicking in.

---

We've had the "what if Henry is the only one" talk.  And my answer is, I'm okay with that.  I so love our family of three.  But at the same time, I can't help wondering what life would be like with four of us.  I know Henry would be an amazing big brother, and I want that experience for him.  And truth be told, the more time goes on, the more I want to see him in that role.  

When we had Henry, I didn't think he would be our last, so I didn't take those mental snapshots that maybe I should have.  I didn't take that snapshot of the way his little head fit so snugly into Brandon's hand.  Or the endless nights of rocking him back to sleep when all else was quiet in the house except for the squeak of the chair.  Or the last time that he fell asleep on my chest, as I rubbed his back.  Those are all things that I want to experience again.  Just one more time.

So now I'm putting it out there.  We are trying.  We are trying for baby number two.  And maybe letting go the burden of not admitting it out loud will allow it to happen.

Henry-isms, Vol II

Life with a three year old is both amazing and frustrating.  He certainly shares my independent streak which makes me want to scream - but then, how can I blame him?  But the other thing about life with a three year old?  It's so fun.  I laugh hysterically every single day at the things that he says or does.  Watching his mind and creativity develop is absolutely incredible - something I could only have ever dreamed about.  A few of my favorite "Henry-isms" as of late:

While searching for a weekend movie for us all to watch, he spotted Ghostbusters (the new one):
Me: I don't know buddy, I think that will be too scary.
Henry: Don't worry Mommy, I'll protect you.
For the record, he loved that movie and didn't get scared at all - maybe it really was me who was the scaredy cat.

After an "incident" when he was playing with his friend Jackson who was in tears and said Henry hit him, Brandon asked Henry if he did hit him and he said no.  So then, we set out to explain the difference between "true" and "not true":
Me: If I say that the wall is blue, is that true or not true?
Henry: True
Me: If I say that my shirt is black, is that true or not true?
Henry: Not true
Brandon: So Henry, did you hit Jackson?
Henry: Not really..........
Me: Henry, if I say that you hit Jackson, is that true or not true?
Henry: True
Me: If I say that Daddy's shirt is red, is that true or not true?
Henry: Let's just keep eating *goes back to his chicken nuggets and gives us the cold shoulder*
Lesson learned?

While on vacation, we took him to see a dolphin show at the Georgia Aquarium.  The trainer for the dolphins explained that dolphins don't have noses and that they breathe through their blowholes.  A few minutes later:
Me: Look buddy, do you see how she is riding on that dolphins nose?
Henry: Dolphins don't have noses, Mommy.
I figured he didn't understand the part about them not having noses.  Shows what I know.

After being a crazy three year old, Brandon grabbed Henry to calm him down and told him to look him in the eyes when he was talking to him.  A few minutes later when Henry got frustrated with Brandon for something:
Henry: LISTEN TO MY EYES!
Along the same lines, Henry has recently started telling Brandon he has a bad attitude.

While sitting at dinner, I was trying to explain something to Henry:
Henry: You shouldn't talk with food in your mouth.
Yes, sir.

While eating dinner last night:
Me: What'd you have for lunch at daycare today?
Henry: Nothing. I starved.
Might need to have a talk with daycare?

Something I say often, and should probably quit is "calm your shit".  That is now Henry's catch phrase.  And sadly, he knows how to use it correctly as he's told both Brandon and I to "calm our shit" when he's mad at us more than once.  We've explained to him that he is not allowed to say that to anyone else, but I'm waiting for the call from daycare.

Also, while on vacation, he managed to "pick up" an older girl by waving his new Star Wars book in her face.  They then went to sit down together and read it.  I don't think any man has ever picked up a woman by talking about Star Wars.  And yet...

The Reality of Daycare

Henry was three months old when he first started going to daycare.  It was agony, especially in the first couple of weeks.  I was a mess.  A ball of nerves.  I was convinced that they were letting him lay on a cold floor, screaming in pain and hunger, while the teachers were standing outside smoking and laughing and basically encouraging a Thunderdome inside between the kids.  It's what the media lead me to believe.  Daycare is a bad place for kids and only parents who don't really love their kids send them there.

The reality of daycare looks quite different.  Or, at least, the one that Henry goes to.

Each morning we use our special code to get into a locked front door.  We sign in with a thumbprint and then head to his room to hang up his coat and hat.  And then we go back down to the room where everyone gathers in the morning before they all separate out into their own age groups in different rooms.  He sees his friends and after a quick hug and kiss for me, goes running to play.

On one particular day, we go back to daycare after Henry has been out sick for a week.  The minute I open up the door, one of the teachers (who doesn't directly teach Henry yet) says, "Henry! Where have you been?!  I missed you!"  He goes running to her and she scoops him up in a hug and kisses his head.  It's in that moment that my heart bursts because I know that he is truly loved and cared for here.  I smile and quietly back out of the room and text my husband as soon as I get into the car to let him know what just happened.  He's as relieved as I am.

Just last night I got a Facebook Message from one of Henry's direct teachers.  It's the picture above.  She explains to me that they were learning what happens when clouds fill up with rain and she was so impressed by how well he did with the activity.  This message stops me for a second because I am truly impressed, yet again, at what he is learning at daycare.  I thought he might learn to count to ten, learn how to say his ABC's, and have a smattering of songs that he could recite.  Instead he counts to 30, knows the days of the week, is learning to recognize letters and numbers, can talk to me about carnivores and herbivores, knows what happens when rain comes, and so much more than I can remember.  

The point is, he is actually LEARNING at daycare.  He's learning more than I recognized that he was capable of learning.  To me he's "only three", but to daycare he's just "three" and that means he is smarter than I've given him credit for.  And they take advantage of that and really teach him.  I can't help but wonder what he would've learned by now had he been at home with me, the way I wanted him to be.  I can guarantee it wouldn't be this much.

From the beginning of his time at daycare, I've been immensely impressed with the care that they put into their kids.  The genuine warmth from the women who work there, the curriculum's that they learn from, the willingness to go above and beyond to allay my fears.  In the beginning, his teachers would text me daily pictures to calm me at work and let me know that Henry was doing just fine.  And even now, if I'm having a bad day, I can text the daycare manager and ask her to sneak me a picture if she has time.  

I've dropped in from time to time if I've forgotten to bring something, or if I happen to be in the area and just need a hug.  And every single time I wonder what I'll walk into - but it's always the same thing.  Kids playing and laughing and learning.  As a parent, it's such a relief to know that when I drop him off in the morning he is going to have a day filled with fun, learning, and most importantly, be surrounded by people who truly care for him.

SHBLOG

In the Night

He was stealth-like.  I never heard him coming.  The soft pad of his footsteps felt like they were inside my head, a part of my dream.  Until I felt a soft brush on my arm and a quiet voice whisper, "Mommy".  I looked down from my bed to see him nearly eye level with me (when did he get so tall!).  "Mommy, I have to go potty."  His whimper hurried me along quicker than I normally would've at one in the morning.

We rushed to the bathroom.  "Close your eyes, baby, the light will be bright."  We both squeezed our eyes shut tight, but it was still blinding.

After he hopped down and he looked at me with his wide blue eyes.  I knew what was coming next.  "I want you to lay with me."  So we crawled into his squeaky twin size bed, he curled his little body into mine, and was instantly asleep.  I lifted myself out of the bed as quietly as the wood slats allowed me to and tip-toed out of the room to climb back into my own bed.

And then I tossed and turned and turned and tossed.  An hour later, I was still awake.  So I grabbed my tablet and trudged out to the living, careful to not step on the creaky wood planks on the floor so I wouldn't wake up my husband, my son, or my mother-in-law, all sleeping in separate rooms along my path.

An hour of engrossed book reading flew by when I heard it the first time.  I strained to listen.  Nothing.  All is quiet.  I went back to reading.  Five minutes later, I hear it again.  Louder this time.  I closed my book and got up off the couch and tiptoed to Henry's room.  I pushed open the door quietly in case I was imagining the noises.

But there he sat, upright, looking at the door with tears streaming down his face.  And that's when he let out his loudest cry and screeched "Mommmmmy, my earrrrrr" while clutching his left ear.  I immediately hopped into bed with him and scooped him into my arms to try and stop the crying, to let him know I was there and it would be okay.

At the same time, Grammie came into the room to see if he was okay.  I handed him to her so I could get up to get the medicine.  When I came back, he was calm, gently rocking on her lap and she held him tightly.  I gave him the medicine and the three of us sat quietly for a few minutes.  "Are you ready to lay back down?" Grammie asked.  I asked him if I could lay with him, knowing he wasn't quite ready to drift off just yet.

So I climbed back into his squeaky bed and Grammie handed him over to me.  My baby that isn't so much a baby anymore.  I pulled him close to me and asked if he was feeling better.  He nodded and rolled to his side so I could tickle his back.  Within a few minutes, he was softly snoring again.  I made the move to get up and his head popped up.  He stuck his two pointer fingers in the air and whispered "two more minutes".  So I laid back down and smoothed his hair and kissed his cheek and said, "I'm right here baby."

And that was all he needed.  He fell into a deep sleep, and I just laid there watching him.  Thinking about how even though I had to be up for work in just two short hours, and he was hurting, that I truly love laying there with him.  That I have the power to comfort him and ease his pain.  

This mothering gig is pretty amazing.

5 Things

A few things that have a smile on my face lately.

1.  Feeling like a kid again.  On a whim last night I decided to drag Henry to the store with me to pick out some board games to play.  We came home with Don't Break the Ice (Frozen version, much to my dismay), and Cooties.  When we got home we immediately played both with Brandon and my mother-in-law, Lynne.  It was so fun to take myself completely out of real life and just enjoy time with my little guy.

2.  Superheroes.  Henry is super into wearing his Batman cape these days and insists that I wrap a blanket around my neck to play, too.  We run around the house or yard chasing ghosts and saving the kitty and I love watching his imagination come to life.

3.  Spring issue of Holl & Lane.  On Monday I sent the spring issue of the magazine off to the printers and I've never been so excited about an issue.  This one is all about mental health and I think it's something that is so needed in our world.  You can preorder a print copy of the issue at a discount until Sunday if you want in on it.

4.  Wireless earbuds and an app full of podcasts.  I go through phases where I want either nothing but music, or nothing but podcasts.  Right now, I'm on a podcast kick and I listen all day while at work.  Because my headphones kept getting wrapped around my desk chair, I finally purchased wireless earbuds and I'm FREE!  A few of my favorite podcasts: My Favorite Murder, Strategy Hour, Up and Vanished, Beautiful/Anonymous, Call Your Girlfriend.

5.  Random travel.  I told Brandon that I wanted to make this a year of more travel.  There's so much I want to see in this world so I wanted to put ourselves in positions that would allow us to pick up and go more often.  After finding a great deal on a flight and a hotel in Savannah, GA, we've decided to make a trip there in mid-April just for the hell of it.

Bonus: Good friends.  We've made good friends in our town recently and it makes everything feel a little easier.

A Snapshot of Three Years

Each year we take the day off to celebrate Henry's birthday and take him somewhere new.  It's a tradition that I've come to really look forward to, especially as he gets older.  This year it was to Skyzone (a trampoline park) followed by cupcakes at home, and bubbles somewhere in between.  That weekend my brother came to visit so that we could take Henry to the Carnegie Science Center in Pittsburgh.  It's little things like these that I'm trying to capture, remember and hold onto and save for him in the future.

Dancing with his own skeleton.

Reach high, little monkey.

Onboard a submarine.

NASA shirt necessary for a science museum.

My husbands new favorite picture.

Henry: 3 Years

Dear Henry,

Today you turn three and suddenly I can't see the baby in you anymore.  The chubby cheeks are gone, the adorable belly is flatter, and even the diapers are discarded (though that I'm thankful for).  It seems over the past few months you've really become your own person.  For better or for worse, really.  The two's were some great months, but the three's are shaping up to be something new - frustrating but beautiful.

These days you go from one extreme to the next within seconds - the sweetest boy in the world to hating life, and then back again.  Your easy-going nature is still intact but is also supplemented with wanting to be completely independent.  Your hilarity comes with an edge of knowledge now.  There is nothing I love more than our 10 minute drive after daycare where you tell me about your day with excitement and new stories.

You're fascinated by animals and airplanes, light and sounds.  You love fiercely and strongly.  You fight even stronger.  Your tantrums are epic, but you're quick to recover.  You give us our biggest laughs and our most beautiful hugs.  You're empathetic and quick to help others feel better.  And you remain the best part of our every day.  Watching you grow has been the most amazing journey of my life and I am so proud of the kind, sweet person you've become.  

We love you Henry,

Mommy and Daddy

See how he's grown, here!

A list of our favorite things at this age:

  • You are so damn sweet
  • You are so damn fiesty
  • You are so damn stubborn
  • You are so damn smart
  • You're developing an imagination and we love to listen to you play by yourself
  • You have "best friends" and talk about them constantly
  • You count to 30 (even if you skip quite a few numbers between 20-30)
  • You say "thirTEAM, fourTEAM, fifTEAM"
  • You sing your favorite songs loud and proud
  • You tell me you miss me and seem to really mean it
  • You ask me to turn on "usic", pick you up and dance with you (I never say no)
  • You're potty trained!
  • You run SO fast
  • You love being tickled
  • You still love to read and will choose a book over a toy any day
  • You're cautiously adventurous and love to explore
  • You've learned to be nice to the kitty
  • You know your birthday, my birthday and mostly your Daddy's birthday
  • You still can't fit into size 3T clothes
  • Your bright blue eyes have darkened a bit to more resemble mine
  • You love playing on Snapchat and turning yourself into a bunny
  • You love telling people they have stinky butts
  • You'd exist on peanut butter and jelly and fruit snacks if we let you
  • Paw Patrol is your favorite show
  • When you say the words "Paw Patrol" together, it always comes out "Paw Atrol" no matter how many times we practice
  • You know what a carnivore is and regularly say words like "velociraptor and pterodayctl"
  • You get excited to try science experiments
  • We always hear from strangers about how well you talk
  • You say "hmm" and "maybe" and "I think" on a regular basis and it never fails to make me laugh
  • You love wrestling with Daddy
  • We ask each other "how much do you love me", spread our arms as wide as they'll go and shout "THIS MUCH!".  It's always followed by "whoa, that's a lot" and "I know"
  • You seem to love taking pictures, will pick up our phones, turn on the camera and say "Say Cheese" and then giggle
  • Trains are still your jam, but your current favorite toy is the Paw Patrol lookout from Gramma
  • You adore playing with your cousins and I only wish we were closer so we could do it more often
  • Your Gramma and Grammie are your favorite people
  • Even after all this time, when I walk into daycare to get you, you scream "Mommy!" and run at me full speed

Judging Those Toddler Meltdowns

You can feel it coming before it's started.  The way they look at you, their little wheels are turning and they're preparing for all out war.  The hurt and anger on their face, the way their fists ball up, and then they get very still just before it all lets loose.  A wave of madness, anxiety and tears.

Toddler meltdowns are epic.  

They're so full of passion and fury and hurt feelings.  And most of the time, it's all I can do to not start laughing.

Yes, toddler tantrums are awful and they're unfortunate, but in the comfort of your own home, they're mostly manageable once the toddler has calmed down.  It's the public ones that are SO. MUCH WORSE.

The crying and the screaming and the kicking and the hitting?  It's all amplified when there are other people watching.  Every time Henry has a meltdown (thankfully not too often), I can feel my cheeks turn red and hives explode across my chest.  I'm immediately thinking about what an awful parent I am and that surely others are thinking the same thing too.  

Why can't she handle her kid?  What is his problem?  Why is she such a horrible mother?

---

During a toddler meltdown, if you happen to catch the eye of another parent, chances are she's going to smile at you with that all knowing "yes, I've been there, you're doing great, it'll be over soon, just keep holding on".  But then there are the other looks.  The ones from the people without children, or the parents whose toddlers somehow never throw tantrums.  Those looks are enough to make you want to run and hide.  To make it feel as if you are doing everything wrong, when in fact, it's just a part of parenthood.

I've experienced both of those looks.  One of them leaves you feeling like you're a part of a community of people just trying to survive each day as a parent.  The other makes you feel like everyone has things figured out except you.

---

As Henry is now just a week away from being three (!), his tantrums have gotten louder as he becomes more of aware of his perceived injustices.  And I've become more adept at dealing with them.  I get down to his level and talk to him and tell him that I understand why he's mad.  Sometimes it helps, sometimes it makes him more upset.  But I'm trying.  And at the end of the day, that's the best that we can each do as parents.  

Next time you see a parent trying to handle a meltdown, give her a knowing nod.  Let her know that life happens and toddlers don't get it.  Let her know you aren't judging her and that she's doing great.  It'll make all the difference in the world.

Finding an Entrepreneurial Tribe

On Friday I'm flying to San Diego to attend the Boss Mom Retreat - full of inspiring entrepreneurs who are, you guessed, it, moms.  I've never been to a conference before or attended any sort of meet up full of other entrepreneurs.  But this one felt different and having connected with many of the women who will be there already has made it feel like a safe space I can join.

When you're an entrepreneur, it's not just the business part that is really hard.  Relationships are really tough, too, because unless you've started your own business, you most likely won't understand what we're going through.  I can talk to my husband all day long about how hard it is and what it's like but at the end of the day, he still won't really get it.  I've seen time and again women talking about not having the support of their friends and family in their journey and it kills me.  I can't imagine not having the support of the people who love you most.

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Most people don't understand entrepreneurs and why we're so passionate about this one particular thing.  But, you see, it's not just a fun hobby for us.  No one would put themselves through the entrepreneurial journey unless they really wanted it.  The disappointing sales, the hours of unpaid work, the sleepless nights wondering if you said or did the right thing, the time missed with family.  It's hard.  And yet we do it.  Following these passions often doesn't feel like a choice to an entrepreneur.  It's just something that we can't imagine NOT doing.  

In the past when times have been hard with Holl & Lane, I've been asked "why don't you just quit?"  It seems so simple, that question.  Something feels impossible, so why not just give up on it.  But for me, it's simply not an option.  At this point in my life it feels like this magazine is what I was meant to do.  I'm meant to help people by sharing their stories.  And to think of stopping that, no matter how hard a day is, is agonizing.

There have been many days where I've broken down crying, thinking that I'm never going to get to where I want or need to be to make this magazine successful.  And each time my husband asks me "how would you feel tomorrow if you quit?"  My answer is always the same - miserable.  More miserable than whatever the particular hardship is that day.  Because at the end of the day, I've started something that I believe in with my whole soul.  I've found that thing that makes me feel alive and that has me looking forward to working on it.  Even the things I don't like about running a magazine are ten times more fun than any other job I've had.  This magazine is in my bones.  

---

So when we, as entrepreneurs, find a tribe of other women (and men) who understand, we cling to them.  They become our second family, our counselors, and our friends.  Together we can have those moments where we scream "I JUST WANT TO QUIT", and for them to give us a reassuring nod of the head, knowing that we won't actually quit but that maybe we just need a step back and a listening ear.  Because, they've been there, too.  They get it.  They know.

To those of you who are out there doing it on your own - I get it.  I understand.  Find your tribe.  Join the meetups, or the Facebook groups.  Seek out those who will know what you're going through day in and day out.  The entrepreneurial journey will feel a little bit easier.

The Mexican Fisherman

The American investment banker was at the pier of a small coastal Mexican village when a small boat with just one fisherman docked.  Inside the small boat were several large fin tuna.  The American complimented the Mexican on the quality of his fish and asked how long it took to catch them.  

The Mexican replied, "Only a little while."

The American then asked why he didn't stay out longer and catch more fish.

The Mexican said he had enough to support his family's immediate needs.

The American then asked, "But what do you do with the rest of your time?"

The Mexican fisherman said, "I sleep late, fish a little, play with my children, take siesta with my wife, Maria, stroll into the village each evening where I sip wine and play guitar with my amigos.  I have a full and busy life."

The American scoffed.  "I am a Harvard MBA and could help you.  You should spend more time fishing and with the proceeds, buy a bigger boat, and with the proceeds from the bigger boat, you could buy several boats.  Eventually, you would have a fleet of fishing boats.  Instead of selling your catch to a middleman, you would sell directly to the processor, eventually opening your own cannery.  You would control the product, processing, and distribution.  You would need to leave this small coastal fishing village and move to Mexico City, then LA, and eventually NYC, where you will run your expanding enterprise."

The Mexican fisherman asked, "But how long will this take?"

To which the American replied, "Fifteen to twenty years."

"But what then?"

The American laughed and said that's the best part.  "When the time is right, you would announce and IPO and sell your company stock to the public and become very rich; you would make millions."

"Millions?" asked the fisherman.  "Then what?"

The American said, "Then you would retire.  Move to a small coastal fishing village where you would sleep late, fish a little, play with your kids, take siesta with your wife, stroll to the village in the evening, sip wine, and play guitar with your amigos!" - Author Unknown

---

This story was featured in Erin Loechner's new book Chasing Slow and it is something that has stuck with me since i finished reading it.  As an American, I seem to be hard-wired to believe that we have to make millions of dollars, and I have to make it RIGHT NOW.  Recently I've been feeling like there is so much noise out there that it is beginning to drown out my own voice.

---

I've never been the person that needed to be a millionaire or to become an overnight success.  But then suddenly I became an entrepreneur who needed to make money in order to continue on with my business and the noise took over.  I was reading all of the "Learn how to make 5 figures by lunchtime" blog posts and e-books.  I was taking courses that I thought would make Holl & Lane an overnight sensation.  And I was essentially driving myself nuts because I wasn't suddenly a millionaire - when I didn't even want to be one in the first place!  

It all came to a head at the end of the year when I felt broken and lost and unsure of how to move forward.  I was stuck in a pattern of feeling like nothing I was doing was good enough, like everything I had built to this point was a waste of time.  So I finally sat down and took stock of why I was feeling that way.  It was easy to figure out - it was the noise.

---

With a renewed sense of focus for the year, I've been putting on my metaphorical earmuffs and tuning out the noise.  I'm listening closer and harder to the voice inside of myself.  I'm remembering that it's so much more important to me to be happy than it is to be rich.  I want to wake up and enjoy what I'm doing for a living.  I don't want to wake up and wonder how much I made overnight.

Money is a necessary evil to make a business thrive, but it doesn't have to steal joy.  So now when I hear the noise coming at me in a tidal wave, I think back to this story and the Mexican Fisherman and I ask "then what?"

The Fear That Keeps Me Silent

"How is the magazine going?"
"It's going well.  But tell me about you."

That's a normal interaction I have when someone asks me about Holl & Lane in person.  They ask me to tell them about it, I change the subject.  They ask me how it's going, I deflect back to them, with hives creeping up my neck.  I can talk about the magazine on the Internet all day, behind the safety of my screen.  But ask me in person, and I clam up.

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I have this fear of being embarrassed, called out, ridiculed for things that I'm passionate about.  I have this fear of public failure that I can't seem to get past.  So the less I talk, the less people will know when I eventually fail, right?

But that's a horrible way to run a business.  You can't grow a business without talking about it.  You can't expect your friends and family to get excited about something they don't know about.  But in my head, it's safer that way.  There are less expectations, less questions, less possibility for negativity.

---

I'm not sure when or why or how this fear started.  My business coach recently asked me what I'm so afraid of, and asked me what the worst that could happen is in my mind.  It took me a minute to really think about it, but there are two things I'm terrified of.  First, someone saying, "The magazine is awful, why are you wasting your time on it?  What a stupid idea."  Second, it's the fear of talking and talking and talking about it only to have it fail and then to be embarrassed that something I am so passionate about didn't survive.

Her responses to both of these fears were simple:

1) If someone says that, they probably aren't really Team Sarah anyway and I don't need them in my life.

2) The magazine has already succeeded.  I'm nearly two years in and it's still going.  Even if it takes a different form down the road, it's still succeeded.  Even if I've helped one person, it's succeeded.  Even if I had only done one issue and then quit, it still succeeded because I put it out there.

---

So this year, I have made it a personal mission to talk about it more.  To explain my passion and why I do what I do and what it means to me and why.  To let others see my excitement and get excited with me.  I want to stand up to this fear and know that what I'm doing is enough and that I'm enough.  And those that truly love me and support me will always be standing there with me.

 

Header image by Genesis Geiger for Holl & Lane Magazine

The Rule Follower

If there is one trait that my son has developed from me, it's his need to follow the rules.  Sure, he's a toddler so he might not always follow them, but overall, they are his guide.  

As far back as a year and a half I noticed this in him.  I'd tell him I was going to take a shower and that he should just sit in the living room and "be a good boy".  I'd get out halfway through, panicked that he was getting himself into trouble, only to poke my head around the corner and find him sitting on the couch reading a book.  Other times, I'd open the shower curtain to find him sitting in the bathroom with me reading.  When he plays, if we give him guidelines of what is and isn't acceptable, he sticks to them.  When we introduced the "Ok to Wake" clock (a genius product all parents should have), I was told it might take him a few tries to get adjusted.  But at the first setting of it, I told him, "Make sure you stay in your bed until your clock turns green", and he did - and continues to. 

I think he gets this instinct from me.  I've always been a rule follower.  Never one to be overly adventurous, or to go against what I've been told.  I like rules and guidelines and it's clear that he does, too.  

So over the weekend I decided to try an experiment and play on his instincts.  Henry will be three in just a month (cue my tears) and I know he's smart enough to be potty trained.  He just chooses not to be.  So I took a different tactic.

I put him in "big boy underwear" and told him that he cannot pee or poop in his underwear.

That's all.  We reminded him of this frequently.  We didn't repeatedly ask him if he had to use the bathroom, we didn't take him to the bathroom every thirty minutes just to try.  We simply told him he couldn't pee in his underwear and to let us know if he had to go to the bathroom.

And he did.  

And each time he used it, he'd look at B and I and say "You're so proud of me".  And we'd get excited and dance and reward him with Smarties (his candy of choice).  We even took him out shopping and then to dinner on Saturday night, just putting a pull up on him, and let him know that he should tell us if he had to use the bathroom.  I fully expected he'd have peed in his pullup by the time we got home 4 hours later, but he didn't.  And instead went on the toilet as soon as we got home.  

We had some false alarms where he'd tell us he had to go, only to sit for thirty seconds and want to get down, but I'd much rather go through those than have an accident.

It's only been three days now so I'm cautiously optimistic, especially once he goes back to daycare tomorrow.  But I'm proud of him and excited for the possibility of being done with diapers.  We haven't yet tackled the nighttime but one baby step at a time for us.

Focus

I'm not normally someone who chooses a word, sets resolutions and plans out huge goals for the new year.  Mostly because I tend to do that throughout the year.  But 2016 had me feeling lost in more ways than one so I figured that being a bit more intentional wouldn't be a horrible place to start.

This year, I want to focus.

I have ideas all the time.  I'm an idea machine, really.  And I'm incredibly impulsive.  Which means that when these new ideas pop into my head, I want to act on them immediately.  I don't often think them through, I don't make a solid plan to get them going, I just act.  And while that has sometimes served me well (such as with starting Holl & Lane), it's also lead to me feeling a bit scattered.  So this year, I sat down and created a marketing plan for H&L, and I set new boundaries for myself, and I made actual, realistic plans.

Focus is defined as "the state or quality of having or producing clear visual definition".  

And the word for me takes on many meanings.  For H&L, it means that I want to focus on growing the magazine which is the heart behind it all.  I have big dreams and goals for the magazine, but until the magazine is at a place of profit I can't do them, so why not place my focus where it should be?  

For my personal life, it means being more intentional about focusing my energy and time.  I'll be reducing the number of nights that I work on H&L and instead spend time really focused on my husband and son.  I'll only do shipping for the magazine two nights a week so that I am not constantly feeling pressured to be GOING.  

And I'll also be focusing on where I'm at in life rather than where I want to be.  This is the trickiest of all for me.  I'm a forward-looker.  I always see that place in the distance I want to be and I get so laser focused on it, it's hard for me to see where I am RIGHT NOW.  Plus always looking forward has the problem of me always feeling like where I am isn't good enough and that simply isn't true.  This season in my life, when I stop to think about it, is one of the best I've been in.  I've created a business that is growing and that I'm passionate about, my son is at a super fun (and super frustrating) age, and my husband and I are learning how to be partners again rather than just parents.

Focus, for me, is about acceptance as much as anything.

And once I put my focus on those things that I really love and believe in (my family and my business), I truly believe they will grow and thrive in the ways that I desire.

So here's to a new focus, a new resolve, and a new acceptance of this stage of life.

Shoo? Oh, Shoe!

Shoooo?  Oh, shoe!  That's where toes go.  I loooove toes.

His voices pitches higher and lower as he says it, inflecting his excitement.  Towards the end he'll move towards me holding his hands out in a tickling motion.  He's already grinning from ear to ear.  

He reaches forward and begins to tickle me, in what is really more of a poke all over.  I pretend to giggle and scream and run away from him.  I hear his little voice starting to say it again, giggling just as much as I am.  We chase each other around, taking turns saying this line from our new favorite book.  Over and over again, giggling and giggling again.

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It's moments like these that I don't want to forget.  Because there are days, more lately than there used to be, that I question if I'm still a good mother.  It's no secret that Holl & Lane has taken up my time.  It's no secret that I'm struggling in my roles of employee, business owner, wife, and mother.  And lately it seems like I'm struggling more than I used to, that I'm less present than I once was, that I'm drowning in a sea of failures.  What kind of mother chooses time to work on her business over time with her family?

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I'm sitting at my desk in the basement, working for the fourth night in a row.  Editing, designing, preparing, deciding.  It's a circle that I go through every single day with a to-do list that is growing larger no matter how much time I spend ticking off the boxes.  Above me I hear screeches, running footsteps, followed by more screeches.  I hear yells of "Watch this Daddy!" and can picture Henry throwing himself off the couch into Brandon's arms as they wrestle each night.  I can feel their bond getting tighter while my own bond with Henry and with Brandon feels as if it's slipping away from me. But still I continue to work.

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I'm told to think of the little things in life, remember what I'm doing all this for, remember why I'm so exhausted.  So I think about the wrestling, and I think about sitting down to play a puzzle, and I think about cuddling up to watch the same show for the tenth time in a row.  I think about those things and tears come to my eyes because they are incredibly important to me.  They're the reason I feel as if I'm killing myself day in and day out to create a life that allows me to have those moments every single day, not just on the weekends.  And yet, what am I losing in the meantime?

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My business coach tells me it's okay to feel the feelings and to feel sad and frustrated and angry and sad again.  So I feel them.  I allow them to rush through my body until the tears prick the corners of my eyes.  And I wait to feel better.

---

"Again", he says to me, already scrunching up his face, preparing for the tickling.

"Shoo?  Oh, shoe!  That's where toes go.  I looooove toes."  I pause life and say this line over and over again.  Giggling and giggling again.  Waiting to feel better.

Henry at 2 years, 10 months

I wanted to take stock of Henry at this point and see what he loves, what his favorites are, and what he's looking forward to.  So I asked him a bunch of questions and thankfully he obliged me.  And by the way, I swear I'll be around more in 2017.  I'm working on my schedule with Holl & Lane so that I have more time to do what I love - write.

What is your favorite color? Red

What is your favorite toy? Car

What is your favorite TV show? Paw Patrol

What is your favorite game? Duck duck goose

What is your favorite snack? Animal cookies

What is your favorite animal? Giraffe

What is your favorite song? Wheels on the Bus

What is your favorite book? Secret Life of Pets

Who is your best friend? Daddy

What is your favorite thing to do outside? Play with my bike

What is your favorite drink? Juice

What do you like to sleep with? Judy Hopps (stuffed animal)

What do you like to eat for breakfast? Waffles

What do you like to eat for lunch? Chicken and fries

What do you like to eat for dinner? Chicken and fries

What do you want to be when you grow up? Judy Hopps