Archive for October, 2013

I’ve had lots of quality time with my Kindle during Juliette’s middle-of-the-night feeding frenzies, and I just finished reading Glennon Doyle Melton’s Carry On, Warrior.  In her book (and her blog) she chronicles the ups and downs of being a wife and mother.  One of her most famous essays is “Don’t Carpe Diem“, in which she describes the pressure placed on parents to enjoy every single moment of their children’s lives, as it all goes by so quickly.  But the reality is that parenthood is often wrought with trials and tantrums and tears, and it’s unfair to expect moms and dads to spend all day, every day in a state of parental bliss.  Some days, the best you can hope for are just a couple of precious, fleeting moments with your kids.

Spot on, sister.

We had some bumps in the road today, with bouts of fussiness, stubborn resistance to naps, and hoped-for outings left undone.  I wanted to take Juliette to a Halloween party at my office, but the cute mo-hawked rockstar outfit I had planned for her fell to shambles, as she ended up looking more geeky grease monkey than punk rocker.  And I could tell she was tired and on the brink of a meltdown as I gathered our things to go.  I knew I was pushing it, pushing her, and it wouldn’t end well.  So I sighed, washed the coconut oil from her hair, and settled in for another marathon bounce session to get her down to sleep. And man, she fought that nap somethin’ fierce, with wailing and writhing and then the notorious naptime fake-out, acting all snoozy and limp-limbed only to pop open her eyes the second I put her in her crib. We were both at our wit’s end by the time she fell asleep (and four hours later, she’s still sleeping! that girl must have been zonked).

But let’s not forget the good stuff.  Like, hey!  Jules rolled over today!  She was in the midst of her morning tummy time session, lifting her head like a champ, when she leaned a little to the right.  And then she leaned a little farther, and a little more, and whoop!  She was on her back!  You’d think she’d just received her first college acceptance letter for all the hootin’ and hollerin’ Shane and I did.

And dang, this girl is flashing us some good smiles these days.  These aren’t “I just made a big poop” smiles.  These are “Hey!  Mama, Papa, you’re funny!” smiles.  As she laid on the floor after her morning snack, kicking her feet and waving her arms, she gave us a little smirk, which was all it took to throw Shane and I into a complete tizzy of silly songs and dance moves and smothering kisses, all the while coaxing bigger and bigger grins from our girl.  This feeling that she finally sees us, knows us, that we’re no longer just a bouncing robot and a milk machine – it turns us into a couple of giddy idiots. Joy runs deep when your screechy monkey sounds elicit a smile from your most favorite little person.

It wasn’t a perfect day. In fact, there were times when this day made me want to pull my hair out and hand Juliette off to the first trick or treater that came to our door. But those smiles. Sweet Jesus, those smiles! Best, brightest silver lining ever.

20131031 juliette1 sm

20131031 juliette2 sm

20131031 juliette3 sm

20131031 juliette4 sm

We’re in the midst of Autumn’s finest hour here in Seattle – brightly colored leaves, pumpkins on porches, and cool, crisp afternoons. We pulled our sweaters and scarves out of the back of our closet on Saturday and got our Fall on with a visit to Carpinito Brothers pumpkin patch in Kent. I have been getting together with a number of new moms from our church each week and had fun sharing the day with them and their families. Juliette is the newest little tot in the group – I asked her to stand on a pumpkin and smile for the camera, but she wasn’t havin’ it…

20131026 pumpkin patch5 sm

Photo by Jon Brenner

Clearly, pumpkins aren’t her favorite.

20131026 pumpkin patch1 sm

20131026 pumpkin patch2 sm

It wasn’t quite the carefree family outing we’d imagined, as Shane spent much of our time there doing the shush-bounce-walk among the pumpkins while Juliette wondered where on earth we had taken her. Turns out missy was super-tired – she dropped off to sleep within minutes of being tucked into her stroller.

20131026 pumpkin patch4 sm

20131026 pumpkin patch3 sm

Once our hands were free, I picked out a couple of perfect pumpkins and handed them to Shane to take to the pay station. He later told me that as he was standing in line, he caught himself absent-mindedly bouncing and shushing the pumpkins in his arms – oh, the things sleep deprivation will do to you! I giggled the rest of the day, imagining my husband soothing a squash.

On Sunday we gathered with friends at Emily and Daniel’s to carve pumpkins and eat dumplings and admire the kiddos in their sweet little costumes. I didn’t snap a single picture. Or carve a pumpkin. Or eat my usual fill of a dozen dumplings. Different priorities this year, I guess. But dang, that was some good cuddle time Jules and I shared on their couch…

We took advantage of yesterday’s sunshine and got out in the afternoon for a walk through the arboretum. The trees were donning their very best October outfits, in gold and orange and bright red.  I still maintain that Summer in Seattle can’t be beat, but days like today make Fall a very close second (I might be singing a different tune in November, after we’ve had 27 straight days of rain, but I digress…).

20131028 arboretum1 sm

20131028 arboretum2 sm

20131028 arboretum3 sm

20131028 arboretum4 sm

20131028 arboretum5 sm

Juliette dozed off and on in her stroller, waking every so often to look up at the leaves with her wide, curious eyes. We’ve had a couple of challenging outings this past week, so we were thrilled to see her hang tight on an hour-long walk.  We even coaxed a smile out of her near the end!  We thought she was being all sweet, saying “Thanks for the walk in the park, Mom and Dad!”.  Now I know there was actually quite a bit of mischief behind that grin – turns out she was saying “Get ready, folks – I’m going to scream like hell on the car ride home!”  Oh, child…

20131028 arboretum6 sm

Car seat tantrums aside, it’s been a pretty glorious October with this little pumpkin.  Whether we leave the house or not, every day is an adventure!

I have known for a very long time that Shane would make an amazing father, but I’ll admit that I initially questioned how comfortable he’d be with the newborn phase.  He’s like a magnet for toddlers and bigger kids, with his willingness to crawl around on the floor to play cars, or to toss a ball back and forth for hours on end.  But babies typically haven’t been his specialty – he was always shy about holding our friends’ little ones, unsure he had the proper head-supporting technique or spit-up damage control.  Diaper-changing was foreign, unnerving territory.  Newborns were fragile and intimidating and unable to speak Shane’s love language of “play”.

And then Juliette was born.

Sweet Jesus, this guy is a natural.  From the moment he first took her in his arms when she was less than an hour old, his ease and grace as a father was evident.  It took all of 2 days for him to become a diaper-changing pro (though he did panic a bit when that first big blow-out left him with a poop-streaked t-shirt).  He’s king at soothing her when she’s really fired up, bouncing her on our exercise ball and crooning his silly made-up songs (Juuuuuuliette, is on the ball, bouuuuuuncing, up and down…).  And damn, he’s just really, really good at loving her.  I’m seeing this different kind of tenderness in him, this knows-no-limits selflessness and vulnerability.  When Juliette was just a few days old and waking from one her epically short naps, I watched Shane on the baby monitor as he lifted her from her bassinet, and the softness of his voice murmuring “hi baby, it’s okay…” was new and heart-achingly sweet.  Sometimes I sit and stare at the two of them together, him shushing her quietly and stroking her hair while she drifts off to sleep in his arms, and I want to laugh and cry and fall on the floor under the weight of all our blessings.  So cheers, dear papa!  I know that Juliette isn’t old enough yet to understand just how lucky she is, and I know that some days you feel like a big bouncing robot as you desperately try to get our daughter to sleep, but remember that every minute spent on that dang exercise ball, every goofy song you sing, every sweet word you whisper – they’re all forming the little girl that will one day experience the comfort and confidence that comes with knowing she is fiercely, fiercely loved.

20130924 papa sm

20130929 tummy time sm

20131002 juliette sm

20131014 papa sm

My hope is that I’ll chronicle each of Juliette’s monthly milestones with a few notes on what she’s currently loving/hating/learning.  But seeing as how I was busy wandering the parking lot of Southcenter mall on her actual one-month birthday, I’m a little late on this one.  Nonetheless, this is what we’ve figured out about our little girl thus far:

She is really stinkin’ cute when she sleeps. She’ll cycle through several different facial expressions as she dozes, first furrowing her brow and pouting her lips, then suddenly turning that frown into a smile and quietly chuckling to herself. And her arms are often stretched out straight in front of her, like she’s conducting an orchestra in her dreams. Thank god for these angelic moments of rest – they have offset some pretty intense bouts of fussiness.

20131012 juliette sm

20131018 juliette1 sm

She likes the shower – Shane or I bring her in with us every morning to hose her down, and she seems soothed by the sound and the feel of the spray of warm water. But ho-ly cow, this girl screams when you take her out. I have tried everything to ease the transition, drying her off and dressing her in the warm, steamy bathroom, but to no avail – my eardrums were vibrating this morning with the sound of her post-shower shrieks.

Her hair gets crazier (and cooler!) every day.  When she’s really cranky, Shane blames it on a “bad hair day”.

20131014 juliette sm

Shane is convinced that she loves Coldplay.  When she’s really fired up, he’ll sway her in his arms while singing along to X&Y.  And I’ll be danged, it works.  Once she’s mellowed out, we turn on the Yo Yo Ma to keep her cool.

She still really hates her car seat. We had barely made it out of the driveway this morning before Shane threatened to turn the car around. Juliette called his bluff and yelled even louder. Our friends tell us this is just a phase, but sweet Jesus, make it stop.

She’s a girl of many faces.  And these days, that face is flashing us more and more smiles.  Be still my beating heart.

20131015 juliette2 sm

20131015 juliette3 sm

20131015 juliette4 sm

20131015 juliette5 sm

I know, my last couple of posts have been syrupy sweet with new mama bliss, so allow me to present…the flip side.

Some days, this gig is rough. Yesterday was one of those days.  It was Juliette’s one-month birthday, and I had high hopes for the day – a photo shoot of our sweet little babe, a walk in the park, maybe a long nap…  Things got off to a rocky start with a bout of morning fussiness.  She wanted to be held constantly, which I don’t mind if it involves a cuddle session on the couch, but she wanted to be held and bounced.  Lord help me, the incessant bouncing…  We (meaning primarily Shane) have logged hours upon hours on that dang exercise ball, soothing the baby into a full-on, knocked-out, limp-limbed sleep, only to have her wake the second we stop to give our aching backs a rest.  We played this bounce/sleep/fuss game for a couple of hours yesterday morning before she finally conked out for a late morning nap.  Success!  She woke up bright-eyed and bushy-tailed around noon and I rushed her up to the nursery to snap a few pictures while she was alert and content, but she was less than photogenic, just staring at me blankly while I cooed and babbled.  My little song and dance eventually resulted in frustrated tears, for both of us.  I know, she’s a newborn, not a trick pony, but throw me a bone, girl!  I put away the camera and we spent a relatively quiet afternoon at home before deciding to get out and enjoy the sunshine.  I bundled her up and strapped her into her carseat for a ride to Jefferson Park.  She whined a little in the car, then cried a little as we walked the park’s loop, and began to wail as I took a detour to enjoy the fall foliage.  Back to the car it was, then.  The ride home was the longest five minutes ever – you’d think her car seat was lined with shards of broken glass, to hear her screaming.  Shane went for a quick run to decompress after I assured him I could handle her madness, but by the time he got home 30 minutes later, I was on the brink of a meltdown.  I was tired, and discouraged, and having a hard time finding the little girl I love inside our moody, red-faced monster.  Shane urged me to get out for awhile, so I grabbed my coat and flew out the door before he could utter the words “retail therapy”.  I found refuge in the mall, overwhelmed with my options now that I can shop outside of the maternity section.  I’ve still got some pregnancy pounds to shed, so finding the right fit has its challenges, but the break did me good.  By 8:00, I was ready to go home and make amends with my baby.  I headed out to the parking lot after making a quick stop at the Clinique counter to snag my bonus bag, but didn’t see the car outside of Macy’s.  Wait – had I parked outside of Macy’s?  I thought so…  I walked up and down the aisles of the lot three times before going back inside the store, to see if I could retrace my steps.  I completely drew a blank – I had absolutely no memory of walking into the mall.  I went back outside and walked the lot, again.  I started to panic.  I called Shane and really began to panic as I wondered aloud if our car had been stolen.  He was obviously helpless, at home and car-less with a sleeping baby, but he did his best to talk me off the ledge and then asked me to call a friend for a ride home while he looked into the protocol for reporting a stolen vehicle.  I called La Verne, doing my best to put on my calm and collected voice as I asked if she was busy, but she saw right through my guise and left her dinner guests immediately to come pick me up.  Is this who I’d become?  A lost, crazy lady wandering a mall parking lot in the dark, crying into her Jamba Juice?  As I was waiting for La Verne, I walked over to the adjacent Nordstrom parking lot, just to check, and…voila!  I have never been so happy to see our beat-up Civic.  I’ve also never been so embarrassed to call a friend and say, “Uh…nevermind.”  (Thanks, anyway, La V!)  I called Amanda on the way home, wanting to share my brush with insanity with a fellow mother, and as I told her that I felt like a total basket case, she kindly assured me, “You’re not crazy, Kel.  You’re just a sleep-deprived, hormonal new mom.”  True that.

Thankfully, the tides have turned today.  Juliette has flashed us dozens of smiles, as if she’s trying to make up for yesterday’s grump-fest, so we’re on speaking terms again.  I guess we both just needed a day to flush the crazy out.

20131015 juliette sm

I turned 32 years old yesterday.  In my card from my parents, my mom asked, “best birthday ever?!”  Hmmm…  There’s some stiff competition for the title of best birthday, as October is typically a pretty stellar month for the Schnell clan.  Last year at this time, Shane and I were frolicking around New England, pairing platters of fresh oysters with crisp glasses of white wine.  Two years ago, we were in Amsterdam, ringing in my 30th year with cheese fondue and a canal-side stroll.  Yesterday, I ventured only as far as the neighborhood diner for a late breakfast with girlfriends, and the neighborhood pizza joint for a casual lunch with Shane and Juliette. How times have changed…

Shane arranged for me to go out with Nance and La Verne yesterday morning, so that I could have some “time off” from the baby. Feels ironic, that his gift to me was time away from Juliette, when I think about the longing for a child that hung like a cloud over those previous two birthdays.  I remember being terribly disappointed when my monthly cramps set in two years ago as we arrived in Lyon after visiting Amsterdam and Bruges; I sat on the bed in our tiny little hotel room and shed a few tears as I relinquished the fantasy that we’d be celebrating a positive pregnancy test on our European tour.  I remember the fragility of my emotions this time last year, as we began talking about fertility treatments, wrestling with the idea that a baby might require more physical/emotional/financial investment than we’d imagined.  Those trips also held dozens of beautiful memories, but they took place during a time in my life when I so fervently hoped for more.

And now here I am, celebrating my first birthday as a mother.  Even in the midst of my brokenness, my bitterness, my envy, and my impatience, even though we already lived a life rich with so many blessings, God gave me more.  Because God is such a generous gift-giver.  His timing is mysterious, his presents often wrapped in unlikely packaging and delivered via circuitous routes, but I have been reminded this season that he doesn’t just give us what we earn or deserve (too often I deserve a lump of coal or a bag of sour grapes). Instead, in his infinite grace, he lavishes us with joy, peace, love, hope…

I enjoyed getting out with ladies yesterday morning for a bite at Geraldine’s.  I was due for a break from the baby, particularly as the little gremlin in Juliette has been making an appearance between the hours of 7 and 11 am.  But dang, it also felt good to spend a quiet afternoon at home, to scoop Jules up in my arms and feel her eagerly nuzzle against me (even if that nuzzling is usually out of hunger more than love…).  There were no big sights to be seen, no extravagant meals to be had, but still, the day exceeded anything I could have dreamed of a year ago.

So yes, Mom, without a doubt.  Best birthday ever.

20131009 bday1 sm

20131009 bday2 sm

I saw one of our church’s pastors yesterday, and as she gave me a congratulatory hug, she asked if Shane and I are thriving or surviving in this early phase of parenthood.  No doubt, we felt like we were in survival-mode those first couple weeks, doing whatever we could to maximize sleep and minimize tears, for Jules and for us.  But the tides seem to have turned this week, as we’ve enjoyed several days of thriving as an active, (relatively) well-rested family.

It helped that my parents were here to lend a hand with all things house and baby.  Delicious home-cooked meals every night, a spic-and-span kitchen, and obliging backup every time Juliette needed changing or soothing – Shane and I were livin’ large during their visit.  And it was such a blessing to watch grandma and grandpa fall in love with their granddaughter, to listen to my dad sing his off-key nursery rhymes while he bounced her on the exercise ball, to watch my mom’s face light up when I put Juliette in her arms each morning.

20130928 grandpa sm

20131002 grandma sm

My dad headed back to Oregon last Sunday, but my mom stayed on to help out while Shane returned to work for a week.  We ventured out each day to run a couple of errands or enjoy a little fresh air, patting ourselves on the back during those meltdown-free outings and taking turns with any jiggling or shushing on those one or two occasions when Juliette fell to pieces.  I’m training my daughter early in the fine art of cafe dwelling – she dozed through our coffee dates at the Columbia City Bakery and the Essential Baking Company, soothed by the whoosh of the milk steamer.

20131003 bakery date sm

20131003 arboretum sm

My mom left this morning and I shed a few tears as we said our good-byes.  We grew closer these past few days, as we now share this common ground of motherhood and this common love for Juliette.  Plus, I’m really, really going to miss her cooking.

20131005 ladies sm

And now it’s on Shane and I to keep this boat afloat.  Thankfully, we seem to be on our way to finding a rhythm.  We’ve made great progress in the sleep department lately – our first couple of nights at home with the baby, we were taking turns sleeping with her on the couch in one-hour shifts, as she fussed each time we put her down.  We quickly became zombies under this routine, so we moved her into our bed, but stopped swaddling her, as we thought she was waking herself up as she tried to fight her way out of the blanket.  A week ago, we brought back the swaddle with more success, and on Wednesday, despite my skepticism, Shane moved her into the previously unpopular pack ‘n play next to our bed. And dang it all, I guess father knows best, because that girl logged five straight hours of Z’s that night, went right back down after I fed her, and then snoozed until 7 am!  Despite the unsettling dreams I had that night that someone had kidnapped our baby (I suppose my subconscious was trying to make sense of this long stretch of silence), I felt fabulous on Thursday morning.  We have yet to recreate that blissful five-hour stretch, but she’s been sleeping in three-hour chunks since then, and getting up around 1 am and 5 am feels doable for now.

We’ve heard that newborn sleeping and eating patterns can turn on a dime, so we’re far from believing that we have it all figured out – I suspect I haven’t experienced my last new-mama breakdown.  But for now, we’re soaking in the sweetness of this sleepy little face.

20131005 juliette sm