A Trip to the Apple Orchard

Oliver likes to pick things. The specific sippy cup his juice will go in. What vegetable he’ll eat feed to the dog during dinner time. The shirt he’s going to get dirty before we leave the house. Even his nose from time to time. And much to my husband’s dismay, Oliver loves to pick the not-quite-ripe tomatoes and peppers off the plants he spent all summer nurturing from little seedlings.

We can’t seem to shout “Nooooooo” fast enough. One second the little red tomato is sucking up water, blowing in the breeze, the next it’s flying over the balcony as a smug 2-year-old laughs from above.

So what to do with an overly zealous picker of fruits and veggies? Take him to the one place where he is allowed to pick all the apples he can carry, which turns out to be quite a lot when it’s daddy carrying them in a half-bushel sized bag.

When we proposed the idea to Oliver, he instantly caught on to what we would be doing and ran around the house shouting “pick apples” over and over. This is where we learned our first lesson. Don’t propose any idea to a toddler until you are about to do it. Or better yet until you are doing it. There was a week lag-time between when we suggested going and actually went, which meant a week of listening to Oliver say “pick apples” in the whiniest toddler voice he could muster.

Yea, I guess we deserved that.

The day of the apple picking trip was all blue skies and sunshine. We headed out early in the morning to beat the crowds and had almost the whole orchard to ourselves—a good thing when your toddler’s preferred method of picking fruit also involves chucking it through the air the second it leaves the tree.

Other interesting things I learned about picking apples with a toddler:

1) The apples out of his reach are inevitably the ones he will want to pick the most (thank goodness for a tall husband!)

2) Toddlers do not discriminate between large, perfectly shaped apples and tiny, spotted, brown ones.

3) Instead of placing the apples in the designated bag, it is much more fun to toss them on the ground and watch mommy and daddy retrieve them.

4) Eating apples is just as fun as picking them.

5) But not as fun as eating the homemade donuts the orchard also sells.

6) And any trip to an orchard can be improved by a subsequent trip to the park.

We left the orchard with enough apples to make every apple recipe ever found on Pinterest, assuming the apples would stay fresh through December. (And I possess a Martha Stewart level of craftiness). Thankfully, Oliver’s unique picking style is also matched by his unique eating style. He takes two bites from an apple, hands it back to mommy and demands a “new one.”

Maybe those apples won’t be lasting so long after all.

Are there any fall activities you like to do with your kids? Looking for a great mom-approved apple recipe. We tried and loved these cinnamon apple muffins by Rachel from Add a Pinch.

Oliver’s To-Do List

If Oliver were to make a daily to-do list, one that covered all the most important aspects of his day, it would look something like this.

1) Watch as many episodes of Daniel Tiger as I can get away with
2) Poop
3) Play with mommy’s I-Phone
4) Hide mommy’s I-Phone to maximize play time later
5) Eat suckers, two at a time
6) Move all the toys in my bedroom to the living room floor
7) Do dishes, inadvertently wash kitchen floor
8) Poop #2
9) Eat popsicles, mine and daddy’s
10) Play baseball
11) Drink milk from special milk cup
12) Decide which cup is the “special milk cup” after mommy makes milk in wrong cup
13) Pee on carpet after daddy removes diaper for bath time
14) Take shoes off repeatedly throughout day, bonus if it’s while in the car
15) Make mommy sing Wheels on the Bus for minimum of one hour

When I make Oliver a to-do list, it looks a little more like this:

Because if there is one way to feel like you’ve accomplished a lot, it’s to make a to-do list of things you have already done. Yup, that’s parenting at its finest. And if Oliver helps and cooperates with new baby care as well as he cooperated when making this video it will only take about three hours to change a single diaper. That’s the magic of editing—not to mention a husband willing to play personal assistant (read wrangler) to one demanding toddler actor!

Keeping the House Clean With a Toddler: The Sisyphus Problem

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Ready for your Greek mythology lesson of the day? Once upon a time there was a king named Sisyphus. Because of his deceitfulness, the gods forced him to spend all of eternity pushing a large rock uphill, only to have it roll back down again. Sound familiar? I’m pretty sure in the modern telling of that story, Sisyphus could be played by an parent who has a toddler, and cast in the role of “rock,” any toddler.

So is it possible to keep your house clean when you have a toddler? If you asked me, the answer would be a resounding NO. Although, I’ll be the first to admit, I wasn’t too great at keeping the house clean before I had a toddler either.

When Brad and I had company pre-baby, cleaning meant a quick sweep of the house to gather all the clothes, dishes, and personal effects that had found their way to the living room. (Code for we dropped them there and never bothered to put them away). I’d pick them up, push them into the bedroom and close the door. Our visitors were none the wiser.

But with a toddler, there isn’t a bedroom large enough to hold the deluge of toys flooding our floor. Nor is there, to be quite honest, as much of an incentive to pick them up. You see, when you spend an hour organizing, it would be nice to get at least that much time where the clutter stays off the floor. With Oliver on the loose, I’m lucky if I get five minutes.

Cleaning up after a toddler is a lot like trying to bale water out of a boat with a hole. Only the hole is a size of a bowling ball, and I’m stuck with a thimble instead of a bucket. By the time the last block gets tossed in the basket, the container of crayons are littered across the floor. By the time the crayons get put away, the cheerios are crunching their way into the carpet.

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It’s never-ending.

I turned to the internet for advice once and came across a website where the blogger suggests dividing your home into cleaning zones. She then goes on to suggest an order to clean each zone for maximum efficiency (read—hair pulling insanity) and a list of extras you should try to tackle at least once a week—you know normal things like dusting the top of your refrigerator, rinsing off your plants, and cleaning the upholstery on the couch. Huh.

Normal people, do you really do these things?

Because really, when I’m having trouble keeping the sink and laundry basket from overflowing, I have the time to think about the top of my refrigerator.

Before coming to my senses, I tried to follow the advice for one whole week (Note: don’t ask my husband for confirmation as he wouldn’t have noticed, see boat analogy). You know what happened? I spent a lot more time with the bucket of cleaning supplies than I did with Oliver. And while I’m for fostering independent play, my primary goal as a stay-at-home mom is to spend time with my son, to get out and experience the world through his eyes, to do things and go places that will stimulate his imagination.

Not crawl around on my hands on knees with a sponge and a bottle of Clorox.

So I made up my mind—housework will always come second….or forth when I really think about it. Having time to spend with my husband and “me time” also trump cleaning.

I was a little worried when I decided to throw in the err…sponge, that I would spend the day fretting the dreadful state of my apartment. That all that clutter would leave me feeling like my life was in shambles. After all, I’ve read enough articles to know that the state of your bedroom reflects the state of your mind. Or is it your car? I can’t remember.

Thankfully, whether room or car (and yes both are fairly messy at times), my life seems to churn on like the organized chaos that it is. The absolute essentials get taken care—we have clean dishes to eat off and dinner and underwear to put on in the morning. And the rest, we get to when we have the time. So the floor looks like a mine-field of Legos. So the windows are covered in mini handprints. So the top of the refrigerator is dusty.

None of these things are as important to me as spending time with Oliver, my husband, or when I’m tired and need the break, my personal Netflix queue. We all decide what we will prioritize in life. What works for me may not work for you.

Over time I’ve come the conclusion that it makes me happier to spend my time living with the mess, than living to clean it.

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Want some (Not So?) helpful hints for keeping your house clean with a toddler. Here are my favorites that I’ve read and my take on them.

1) Clean while your toddler naps.

You know how I said I prioritize spending time with Oliver over housework? Same with “me time.” I mean when else would I find the time to re-watch every episode of the X-Files. And this blog surely doesn’t write itself. Is it selfish? Sure. But so little of what we do as parents is so I take advantage when I can.

2) Get your toddler to help alongside you.

This one is nice in theory but horrible in practice. Take doing the dishes for example. Oliver loves doing dishes. But for Oliver, doing dishes means splashing in the water for a minute or two and then dumping cup after cup of water onto the floor. Which means for me, doing dishes means getting soaking wet, wiping up puddles from the floor, changing Oliver’s clothes, and then maybe if I’m lucky, washing an actual dish. I still encourage him to help me clean up as I think it’s an important lesson to learn, but you can’t expect a toddler’s methods to be comparable to your own.

3) Contain the mess to a single room.

Sure, if you live in a large home this one may work. But in our apartment, the single, central living room has no other choice than to serve as the living room, dining room, office, and play room. I’ve tried moving all of Oliver’s toys into his room, but you know what happened? It became a game to carry each bin out into the living room and dump it on the floor, thereby spreading the mess out even more. Once he’s older this might work, but in toddler world, contained messes are as rare as unicorns and leprechauns.

4) Clean as you go throughout your day.

I can see picking up the occasional food item or dirty bowl, but this seems like a classic case of spreading yourself too thin. Besides, how am I supposed to notice Oliver getting ready to do a belly flop off the couch if I’m focused on cleaning up the latest mess he’s made.

5) Get up before your kids and clean

Um…no. I need to amend my earlier statement. Cleaning is not forth on my list of priorities, it’s actually fifth. Without enough sleep I turn into a moody, weepy mess that make Oliver’s tantrums look tame.

What other advice have you heard that had you shaking your head? Have you found anything that truly works for you?

If You Have a Facebook Account, This One’s for You

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If you’re a Facebook account wielding woman in her late 20s, chances are your newsfeed has recently been invaded by an army of chubby-cheeked, diaper-wearing little ones. I know mine has. And I’m not going to lie. I LOVE it.

Watching people you knew way back when—the same people who pushed you on the swings at school or told you boys had cooties—grow up and have kids of their own feels a little like coming full-circle. Not to mention, giant, toothless baby grins and toddlers in oversized overalls are a lot more fun to look at than the drunk college party pictures that once dominated the screen.

But to all my fellow Facebook moms and dads, I have one small problem with all the pictures you post. It’s a problem that is entirely MINE, and not a fault I find in YOU. Let’s clear that up right away. But I think it’s a problem that a lot of people have, so in talking about it, I’m hoping to provide a possible remedy.

So what exactly is my problem? Let me set the scene.

It’s nine o’clock on a Friday night, and I am sitting in bed performing my compulsory internet browsing. You know the drill—Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, favorite blogs, Weather.com. (I know. I know. I lead an exciting life.) As I surf through the latest round of too-cute kid pictures, I find myself fluctuating between enchantment and envy.

This is the point where I usually turn to my husband and say something ridiculous along the lines of, “why can’t Oliver be as well behaved as all these other peoples’ kids.” Note that well-behaved could easily be replaced with numerous descriptors—happy, calm, easy-going, giggly…and the list goes on.

I’m rolling my eyes at myself as I type this. It seems so absurd now. But it didn’t when I said it.

At the time I was thinking, come on moms and dads of Facebook, where are all the pictures of your kid splayed across the floor mid tantrum because you wouldn’t give her a cookie? Where are all the pictures of red-faced colicky infants? What about the toddler screaming to get out of his restaurant high chair five minutes after sitting down?

Clearly because you don’t post images of these trying instances, they never happen. Right? Sounds silly, but that is the exact thought process I used to go through. I’d look at your happy, smiley baby, compare her to the fuss ball clinging to my leg, and end up feeling like I must be doing something wrong.

I know I’m not alone in making these kinds of comparisons. There is a whole psychological theory that delves into the intricacies of why we do it and it mostly boils down to determining personal and social worth. In other words, it lets us know how we measure up against others and in doing so, solidifies our identities.

In the Facebook era though, this presents a real problem since the images we use to make comparisons usually only represent the highlights of parenthood. These ideal moments set the bar artificially high, making it easy to feel like you are falling short.

The turning point for me came when I started to sift through the pictures I post of my own little guy. The first image showed Oliver grinning ear to ear during a trip to zoo. Another picture showed Oliver laughing, his face covered in bubbles. And then there was a rare picture of him sitting nicely in a high chair, quietly coloring.

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On and on it went, one smiling picture after the next. In fact, out of the hundreds of pictures I have posted, there are only a couple that show Oliver less than exuberant. I am as guilty of only posting the happy moments as the next person. And why not? These are the moments that bring the most joy. They are the moments that make me feel like a confident and competent mommy. Most importantly, they are the times that reassure me that the hard times never last forever. The next smiling, happy kiddo picture is just around the corner.

When I realized the problem lay in my perception and not myself, I decided to take action. First, I recognized that the images I see on Facebook represent a single moment in time, likely one of your best. For every smiling baby picture that you post, I’m sure you could have posted another of your little one crying.

Next, I focused my efforts on limiting comparisons between Oliver and other kids, especially within the context of social media. Comparing my three-dimensional, lived experience with a two dimensional image is not the way to foster happiness.

The last thing I did, and possibly the most important was to choose to focus on joy. So maybe Oliver does cry and whine more than the average toddler. Maybe his tantrums are more epic. Maybe. Maybe. Maybe. It doesn’t matter. By downplaying the struggles of parenthood and emphasizing the joys, I find that I am a happier mom, no matter the circumstances.

These are lessons that took me awhile to learn. They are ones I sometimes still have to remind myself on my worst days. But I’m getting there.

So Facebook moms and dads, keep posting those smiling little faces. Keep sharing the laughter and the fun. And maybe every once in awhile, post a picture of your kid screaming his head off. I can promise you that if it shows up in my newsfeed, I will be one of the first to like it.

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Hello My Name is Oliver, and I’m a Bottle-aholic

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Oliver has been hitting the bottle hard lately, often consuming up to five drinks in a single day. What started as a harmless recreational habit has morphed into a full-blown, wake mommy and daddy up in the middle of the night screaming for more addiction. And as his sleep deprived, I’ll do anything to get you to go back to sleep mother, I often give in to his demands.

For the longest time I told myself it wasn’t that big of a deal—he’ll grow out of it eventually, right? At twelve months old, that white lie was somewhat believable. At eighteen months old, it’s morphed into straight-up denial.

Since admitting the problem is the first step toward solving it, I’ll say it. Oliver is a bottleaholic. And I, his mother, am his bottle-wielding dealer.

A few weeks ago, my husband and I came close to weaning Oliver off the bottle for good. After scouring the internet for weaning advice, we made a valiant one-hour stand, replacing his milk bottle with a cute, animal-adorned sippy cup, but were met with so much screaming that we decided it was easier to shamefully facilitate his addiction than intervene.

If you think the mother-child bond is strong, it’s nothing compared to the level of attachment Oliver has for his bottle. If that thing could also cook his lunch and change his diaper, I’m pretty sure I’d be out of a job.

After our first failure, I began searching for other like-minded, bottle-feeding mommies. Sitting in bed at night, my computer perched on my lap, I would read a message board comment to my husband. “See, this lady said her kid is five and still drinks out of a bottle.” Or my favorite, “this person says that your baby is only a baby for a short while and we shouldn’t be so quick to make him grow up.”

Meanwhile, Oliver’s dependency on his bottle just got worse. Shortly after recovering from his month-long illness, which in a previous post I fondly referred to as Coldmagedon 2014, he started to demand his bottle more and more, especially in the middle of the night.

A few nights ago, as I lay in bed on the brink of tears, listening to Oliver cry for what must have been the thousandth time that night (no exaggeration on that number), I thought to myself, so this is what it feels like to hit rock bottom. But then I remembered the other half at that expression—you can only go up from here. I’ll amend that to say at least it can’t get worse, because at the moment I wasn’t really sure how it was going to get better.

The next morning my husband and I mutually decided that we were going to go cold-turkey on the bottles. We were just done. No amount of screaming, hitting, kicking, whimpering, whining, or cute little scrunchy faces was going to get us to change our minds. I gathered all the bottles, tucked them away in Oliver’s closet, and drove to Babies R’ Us where I proceeded to clear the store out of every sippy cup style they had to offer.

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When I handed Oliver his milk-filled sippy cup later that day, he looked at me like I was handing him a cup of poison and angrily pushed the cup away.

“But Oliver,” I said in my sweetest, most nurturing voice possible, “this is a special big boy cup just for you. Yum. Yum. Yum.” I pretended to take a sip.

Oliver grabbed the cup, screamed, and threw it on the floor. I grabbed sippy cup model number two and tried again. Then number three. Then number four. And so on until the kitchen floor became a mine field of sippy cups waiting to spew their milky contents from their questionably “spill-proof” lids.

After freaking out about Oliver’s hydration level, calcium and protein intake, caloric needs, and my inability to comfort the screaming being in front of me, I did the only thing I could. I decided to give it time. I’d give Oliver a week to adjust to his new bottleless existence and then reassess.

The following week felt like a scene from a bad Western film—Oliver and I facing off, guns drawn, waiting for the other person to flinch. Neither of us was willing to surrender. By week’s end, with no progress made beyond a couple sips he took one day during a moment of weakness, we called a stalemate. I wasn’t willing to give him a bottle. He wasn’t willing to drink milk out of anything other than a bottle.

And who can blame him really? This was the first real loss his 18-month-old self had really experienced in life, or at least the first one he was cognizant of.

The interesting thing about weaning Oliver is that in the end, it was a lot less stressful than I imagined it to be. Yes, there was some screaming. Yes, there were tears. Yes, there were some nights he probably went to bed a little thirsty. But at week’s end he was still a happy, thriving toddler. In fact, he was a toddler that was eating more actual food, waking up less at night, and having a lot less digestive issues. And here I thought I’d be dealing with a starving kid who would never ever sleep again without his trusty bottle.

Could it be I was more attached than him?

Maybe Oliver will eventually waive the white flag and drink milk from a cup. Maybe he won’t. Luckily for me, I’ve come to realize that milk isn’t the Holy Grail of toddler nutrition, and I can still meet all his nutritional needs with a balanced diet.

For now I’m counting this as a success! Goodness knows I’ll need this win under my belt when round two, mommy versus binky begins.

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For those wishing to replicate my weaning tactics, I give you my 12-step program.

The 12 Steps

1) Admit your child is a bottle-aholic!
2) Admit your child is a bottle-aholic because you facilitated it.
3) Sulk for a few weeks and deny the problem.
4) Allow the problem to get worse.
5) Scour the internet for ways to wean your child.
6) Fail at your weak first attempt to kick the habit.
7) Become overwhelmed and scour the internet for other people to commiserate with.
8) Allow the problem to get worse.
9) Hit rock bottom.
10) Go cold-turkey.
10b) (Added per my husband’s request) Spend an entire day telling your husband you aren’t giving him bottles while you secretly give him bottles because weaning is hard. Feel guilty about lying, come clean, and actually go cold-turkey the following day.
11) Live through a week of tantrums, but stand your ground.
12) Celebrate! Your child is no longer a bottle-aholic

After completing the 12-step program:

1) Kick yourself for not going cold turkey to begin with.
2) Realize your child has a bunch of other bad habits your should work on breaking.
3) Return to sulking and denying—let’s deal with one thing at a time.

In Sickness and in Hell

Warning: The following image will make you simultaneously tear up and say “awe.” Much like the dogs and cats in those ASPCA commercials, add a little Sarah MacLauchlan, and you’ll be whipping out your checkbooks to contribute to my ‘Oliver is sick’ fund.

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No?

Okay so maybe it just makes me tear up a little, mostly because I know how miserable Oliver was this past week while fighting a nasty cold. For anyone who has ever had a sick kid, you’ll understand what I mean when I say it’s just as rough for the parent as it is for the child.

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First there is the fact that watching your child suffer, for whatever reason, is torture.

I may not be the one with the fever but boy does my head pound when I realize there is little I can do, Tylenol aside, to bring it down.

I may not be the one hacking and wheezing and dealing with a constant stream of snot dripping from my nose, but boy does my chest tighten up when I realize that, besides cranking up the humidifier, I can do little to ease his cough.

Then there is the rarely admitted fact that dealing with a child who is suffering takes that torture to a new level. Like if watching him suffer is the physical equivalent of getting punched in the gut, dealing with that suffering child is equivalent to getting punched in the gut during a WWE cage match with The Rock. (Note: superfluous wrestling reference for my husband’s sake; translation: really really hard).

I may not be the cranky, irritable one dropping to the floor in a fit of rage because mommy handed me the wrong colored sippy cup, but I am secretly wishing I could throw a fit of my own when Oliver does it.

Is it okay to admit that? Does it make me bad a mom?

I’m going to throw this out there, having a sick toddler requires a black-belt, Zen-master level of patience and nurturing. I’m only a yellow-belt on my best days. Despite knowing Oliver’s increased irritability and clinginess were a direct result of feeling lousy, I was barely hanging on to my sanity by the end of the week. If you ask my husband, I might have actually let go.

When the crankiness finally hit the tipping point, I pulled out all my tricks to try and calm him down. I tried hugs. I tried distractions. I tried ignoring the behavior. I tried talking to him, rationally explaining his feelings and the appropriate reaction (Seriously, don’t even waste your time with this one). I tried falling head over heels to accommodate his needs. He’s sick after all I told myself. But nothing seemed to quell the tears—his or mine.

In order to fortify myself against it, I had to admit that, like his fever and his cough, there was little I could do to control it. Once I let go of the expectation—once I learned to embrace the tears instead of fighting them—I was able to stay much calmer and, subsequently, so was Oliver.

Now on the other side of Coldmagedon 2014, with my happy, bubbly baby returned and my own blood pressure back down to a solid 120/80, I can pass on the wisdom I learned from this experience.

1) Set Aside Routine. I’ve discovered over time that as much as Oliver thrives with a solid routine, so do I.  I look forward to his regularly scheduled naptime. I like to be able to predict the order in which our daily activities will occur. There is a comfort there. When you have a sick toddler though, forget about all that and just run with whatever makes you and your sick kiddo happy in the moment.

2) Indulge in “Lazy Day” Activities. You know what I’m talking about, those things we all love to do—watch TV, curl up with a good book, lounge around doing nothing—but feel guilty doing too often. When you’re toddler is sick, you and he have a free pass to do them as much as you want. If he is too distracted by Mickey Mouse cartoons to remember that he feels sick and, subsequently, scream at the top of his lungs for hours on end, that is a win in my book.

3) Pretend You Have a New Born. Remember when your toddler was an infant and everyone told you things like 1) sleep when the baby sleeps 2) forget about keeping the house clean 3) ignore the advice of others and go with your instincts, 4) make time for yourself, and 5) let go of perfect and just be good enough. All these things once again apply, so embrace that middle of the day nap!

4) Accept Help. I want you to go beyond accepting help; I want you to ask for it. Reach out to anyone and everyone, and shamelessly beg for assistance. Even the strongest will is no match for a sick toddler—you’re going to need support.

5) Tell yourself This too shall pass. Repeat as needed.

What would you add to the list?

Vacation From Mommmyland

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Best part of leaving your baby for a long weekend: 3 days away from baby.

Worst part of leaving your baby for a long weekend: 3 days away from baby.

My mom and I recently had the opportunity to visit my sister in Florida for a long weekend. We left on a Friday afternoon and were back home in time for lunch on Monday. Total time away from the baby: a glorious 72 hours. Or was it a heartbreaking 72 hours? How am I supposed to feel about this again?

Thankfully Oliver was left in the very capable hands of my husband and dad. Surely the two of them together could equal one of me in sheer parenting awesomeness. No? Brad, who often only sees Oliver for a couple hours a day during the week was looking forward to his father/son bonding time. I, who sees Oliver for almost every hour of every day during the week, was looking forward to spending some babyless time with my sister and mom. The fact that my sister lives in Miami is an added bonus.

Before having a baby I viewed traveling as a means to an end, an annoying but necessary step to get me where I wanted to go. After baby, I’m beginning to see it in a different light. What’s that? You want me to spend half the day sitting on my butt, relaxing, reading magazines and snacking on peanuts…without any interruptions? Woo hoo! You might as well be sending me to a spa with how rejuvenating that sounds.

It took a whole five hours before “I’m away from the baby bliss” gave way to “I’m away from the baby sadness.” When the plane landed and I turned my phone back on, a picture text of Oliver popped up on the screen. He was standing in the kitchen, sippy cup in hand, surrounded by every single pot and pan we own. Normally this “game” has me sighing in resignation once I remember it is much easier to clean up than lunch toss, another of his favorite games. But this time it brought a smile to my face. How cute, I thought. I wonder what other sorts of mischief he’s getting into.

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Over the next day, by request, the picture texts kept coming. I’d be lounging poolside with my mom and receive an image of Oliver riding on the back of Brad’s bike. Or I’d be walking along the beach gossiping with my sister and see a picture of Oliver playing with an empty milk carton he’d fished out of the recycle bin. While eating brunch, it was a picture of Oliver sleeping in the car seat after a morning at the zoo.

Two days into the trip I called Brad for our daily check-in and he said something that simultaneously melted and broke my heart.

“Oliver said mama today.”

“He said what?” I asked, unsure if I heard him correctly.

“He said mama. In fact, he’s been saying it all day.”

I couldn’t believe it. Of all the days over the past 14 months he could have chosen to say “mama” he picked one of the few days I wasn’t there to hear it. I looked out over the ocean. I listened to the sound of the waves lapping against the sand and the wind whipping through the palm trees. It was a beautiful sight and an equally beautiful symphony of sounds. But what I wouldn’t have given to hear Oliver say “mama” for the first time instead.

Brad must have sensed my disappointment. “He’ll say it again when you get home. Don’t worry.” I knew he was right. I’d get to hear him soon enough. But that didn’t mean it wasn’t still disappointing.

“Enjoy your mini vacation while you can,” he added. “Because in a weeks time you’re going to want to trade in his endless refrain of mamas for the sound of the ocean.” I knew his was right about that one too. Sometimes my husband is too smart for his own good.

That’s the bittersweet part about time away from your baby. Leaving behind all the unpleasant parts of parenthood also means leaving behind all of the joys. Trading in screaming and crying for adult conversation also means missing out on baby giggles and coos. Trading in sticky fingers and pureed carrots for dinner out on the town means no laughing at spaghetti covered smiles.

And if you’re like me, experiencing the first uninterrupted night of sleep in months means not experiencing the first time your baby says “mama.”

The day we got home I was worried Oliver wouldn’t say “mama,” but from the time I walked in the door until the time he went to bed at night he said it on repeat. And then he kept saying it the next day. And the next day. And the next. And you know what? Hearing it for the first time wasn’t any less amazing because it wasn’t him saying it for the first time. In fact, I think I found it more amazing because my time away gave me an invaluable perspective.

Instead of getting caught up in the up-close, day-to-day struggles of motherhood, from a distance all I saw was the inherent joy and beauty in it all. And when I got home, my experience of motherhood might have gotten a little messier, a little louder, and a whole lot crazier, but with my refreshed perspective, it was all still beautiful.

Yes, even moments like this…

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