Archive for August, 2013

I bought a baby book last week with the intent of starting early and writing a thoughtful note to our child before he or she is born. But words keep escaping me – I want to lavish the baby with love and affirmation, with hopes and dreams for his or her life, but I’m just not there yet. Sounds silly, I know, but I’m still having a hard time fully comprehending that this belly bulge is actually our child. I love preparing our home for the baby, I love feeling all the wiggles and kicks, I love seeing Shane eagerly anticipate fatherhood, but that deep sense of maternal love I see on the faces of my friends as they cradle their little ones in their arms is just out of my reach. I’m still in this place where baby Schnell is a fuzzy image on an ultrasound screen. And that’s ok – I don’t doubt the “I love you’s” will fly from my mouth once I lay eyes on him or her. In the meantime, while my vision of our child is still hazy, I’m clarifying my vision of myself as a mother, forming aspirations for the woman I hope to be.  No doubt, the parent gig can be hard, but I’ve also seen first-hand that it’s an opportunity to stretch and grow and be your very best self. So to the future Mama Schnell:

Be flexible. Even if that means being inflexible. Of course, you and Shane want to be those free-flowing, easy-going parents that are always down for anything. Dinner invite on a Friday night? Sure, you’ll be there – the baby will tag along and sleep in the car seat, or stay up late and sit at the table with you. Camping? You’re game. Afternoon BBQ during nap time? Eh, you can skip nap for the sake of hanging with friends. Flexibility at its finest, right? But I suspect the true test of flexibility will come when you find that you need to make sacrifices in order to let the baby get the best rest possible, or to allow yourself some much-needed sleep, or to establish that restrictive but oh-so-necessary routine. Don’t be bitter or resentful over the way your life has changed. Don’t feel sorry for yourself when you miss out on a party because the sitter cancelled or the baby is sick – keep in mind that parenthood is a package deal, often weighted with limits or sacrifices, but also bursting with incredible joy.

Care more about exploration and play than you do about keeping clothes or floors or hands clean. Put the to-do list away and spend an afternoon splashing in mud puddles at the park or finger-painting in the dining room. Remember your dream house? You’re about to move into it, and it will be lovely, crumbs on the floor and all.  And don’t forget to be silly – put aside any self-consciousness.  Sing songs in your horribly off-key voice.  Make up games that have no point.  Shoot, put a bowl on your head, pump up the Elli Goulding, and dance in the living room – revel in the opportunity to be a total weirdo with someone who won’t think you’re weird at all.

Let stuff go, and don’t hold grudges. There will be moments, or even entire days, when the kiddo is cranky and unreasonable and inconsolable. It will be tempting to check out until the brattiness has passed. Try, try, try to stay engaged. Be persistent in your affection. The passive-aggressive silent treatment you use to coax remorse or an apology out of Shane won’t work on a toddler. So when you’re in the middle of the grocery store, dragging a wailing kid with noodle legs through the produce section, grab an extra carton of Ben and Jerry’s on your way out, mow through half of it when you get home, and then spend the rest of the afternoon cuddling with the little one (hopefully the tantrum wore him or her out). I realize this sounds kind of impossible, but it’s worth your best effort.

Here I sit, in our quiet, clean house, realizing (but probably not really realizing) yet again that I’m about to relinquish so much of the control I daily take for granted. Most of life right now is about what I’m feeling, how I want to spend my day, what I think is important. Who will I be when life is less about me and more about someone else? Will I be the tired, frazzled woman standing in the checkout line in her pajamas, clinging to three cartons of mocha almond fudge ice cream? Or will I be the mom that’s making goofy faces and babbling like a fool, because the sound of her baby’s laughter is so irresistible?  I suspect it will depend on the day – I’m in for a wild ride.  Bring it, baby!

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I have missed being in the print studio since my class ended in the spring, but the impending arrival of baby Schnell was just the kick in the pants I needed to get back in there and make some art.  I spent several hours in the studio on Saturday and walked out with a couple of things for the nursery walls and a few additions to the baby’s wardrobe.

This screenprint was taken from a photo of Rue St Martin in Paris (shot from the balcony of the Pompidou), with a couple of hot air balloons thrown in for, you know, whimsy’s sake.

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Good-looking gender-neutral baby clothing is hard to come by, so I left all the duck-covered onesies at the store and made my own.  This giraffe is my fave.

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I have a couple of prints that are still in progress – assuming all goes according to plan, I’ll head back to the studio at the end of the month to finish them up (so hang tight, kiddo!).

37 weeks today!  I am officially full-term.  And I’ve got the beach ball belly to prove it.

Shane and I have been snapping photos throughout the pregnancy, and today was a fun look back over the past eight months.  I can remember remarking how big I was getting at week 14, when my pre-pregnant jeans became too tight to wear.  And then telling Shane at week 20 that I was really popping out.  By week 28 I couldn’t imagine how I could possibly get any bigger (silly, silly me).

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There’s a part of me that longs for the days when I can lay on my stomach again and expand my wardrobe options beyond elastic-waist pants and side-ruched tank tops.  But there’s also a part of me that will miss this big ol’ belly.  It makes a great built-in tray for bowls of ice cream and glasses of sparkling water.  It has released me from my uncomfortable instinct to suck in my stomach when I’m standing in front of a crowd or posing for a photo (trying to appear thin is obviously futile at this point).  And so many strangers have been incredibly kind, encouraging me to keep on as I huff my way around the park, telling me I look great and inquiring about the gender of the baby as they bag my groceries.  A man at the bakery told me yesterday that my pregnant silhouette was absolutely beautiful, which I’m realizing now sounds a bit inappropriate, but in the moment, it made me feel like a million bucks.  Sure, there was that teenage girl who turned to her friends when I walked past her at Jefferson Park last week and said (rather loudly), “damn, that lady was huuuuge!”, but I’m willing to let that comment slide.  After all, she’s right.  I am big.  I’m round.  And I walk a little funny.  Because hot dang, I’m having a baby in roughly three weeks!

I thought we had settled in for a stretch of quiet weekends at home. But then Jason and Nancy told us they were heading to the Hood Canal to do some camping on Friday, and although I couldn’t muster the will to spend a couple of nights sleeping on the ground, Shane and I were game for getting up early on Saturday to spend the day enjoying the great outdoors with our friends. We rolled into their campsite along the Duckabush River around 10:00 and set out with the gang for an easy hike to Murhut Falls.

Shane and J were feeling a little envious of Brian’s skin-baring tank top, so they gussied up a bit for a pre-hike photo op. These boys…

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The falls were full-flowing and gorgeous. The adventurous ones among us scampered down to the base of the falls.

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And then across the falls…

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Jason was even bold enough to strip down and walk through the falls. I usually love seeing Shane in “play-mode” with his buddies – I could tell from a distance that he was reveling in the thrill of exploration. But man, he really tested my anxiety threshold yesterday! In between photos, I paused to pray that those rocks weren’t as slippery as they looked.

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Meanwhile, Nance and I played the role of the sensible mom and mom-to-be and hung out along the trail with the kiddos, at a safe distance from any hundred-foot drop-offs. I kept my “that was dangerous” comments to a minimum when our thrill-seekers returned, but I certainly breathed a sigh of relief when we were all together again.

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We spent the rest of the afternoon back at camp, lounging along the river.

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Or, in Shane and Belinda’s case, in the river. Now this is how I prefer to see my husband position himself in regards to moving water…

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Isaiah channeled his inner adventurer as he climbed on a fallen tree trunk.

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While Stella toddled along the bank, picking up stones and tossing them in the river.

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Gryffin took a quick dip in the freezing cold water (and sported a super-cool mohawk afterwards).

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We circled our chairs back around the firepit in the evening, and Shane squeezed in one last bout of pre-bedtime cuddling with his best buds.

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Belinda was kind enough to get the fire started a little early, so that I could indulge in one round of s’mores before we hit the road. This woman is a maniac with her fire-starting ability. Seriously impressive.

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We shared a good meal together, I got my chocolate marshmallow fix, and then Shane and I pointed the trusty Civic back toward Seattle. I was a little bummed to miss out on the late-night campfire chat, but the feeling of waking up late in our own comfy bed this morning affirmed our decision to take a break from tent-time. Maybe, hopefully, fingers-crossed, we’ll be back at it next summer, mini-camper in tow.

We managed to squeeze in one last weekend getaway with the gang before settling in at home for this final stretch of waiting for the baby to arrive.  Three glorious days at an amazing house on Vashon Island with 14 of our best buds – our kid-free days are ending with a bang.

We arrived at the Vashon Lavender Farm on Friday evening, poured ourselves a couple of cold drinks, and kicked back for a weekend of eating, lounging, and laughing.

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We passed hours upon hours on the house’s spacious porch that weekend – we ate our meals out there (dang, our friends know how to eat), we read books out there, we caught the morning’s rays and the evening’s view of Rainier out there.

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I use the term “kid-free” lightly in reference to the weekend, as we were joined by three kiddos and three new babies (we’re in the midst of a baby boom!).  Initially I wondered whether Shane and I would be overwhelmed by the presence of so many littles, but my fretting was in vain.  I completely forgot – I’m married to the baby whisperer.  And these just happen to be some of the sweetest children on the planet.

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And check out these proud poppas, with baby O (3 months old), baby N (2 months old), and baby W (one month old, napping in his little green floor cushion next to Jon).  Shane will be in good company come September.

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Our all-day porch lounging was interrupted only by brief rounds of soccer or bocce ball, and a short trip to the nearby beach.  This is where I could wax poetic about the perfection of Pacific NW summers, but I think I’ve already done that on this blog.  A few times.

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The lavender was free for the taking, so the ladies spent a few minutes on Sunday afternoon doing some harvesting.  It smelled a little like heaven out there.  And Jess’s lavender-infused cocktails and mocktails tasted just like summer.

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We took one last stroll through the lavender field on Monday morning, pausing to soak in the sun and snap a few baby bump pics.

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And then it was time to catch our ferry back to Seattle.  So long, Vashon…

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We’re already making plans to return next year, with three more babies in tow.  A few of us were talking on Sunday about what it will be like in 10 or 15 years, when we’re planning these weekend getaways with our teens and pre-teens.  Will they groan at having to spend so much time with mom and dad’s friends?  Or will we need to keep an eye on any budding adolescent romances?  Will they hole up inside and play video games, or still want to throw the Frisbee around with Shane and Jason?  How will they all fit on that little green couch for the obligatory group photo?  Joking on that one.  Kind of.  I can hear it now:  “Geez, Mom, another photo?!”

Speculation aside, it’s a blessing to grow older with these people, to continuously build up our memory bank with laughter-filled meals and long talks around the firepit.  Looking forward to years more of these easy-going adventures.