Pregnancy Update: 20 Weeks

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How far along: 20 weeks

Total weight gain: 14lbs, 4 more than I gained by the 20th week during my first pregnancy. Although I started this pregnancy at a slightly lower weight so I’m still under where I was at this point last pregnancy. (Not sure that really makes me feel any better).

Maternity clothes: Yes! I’ve been rocking the elastic waist bands since week 10, and I’m not ashamed to admit it. In fact, I often donned my maternity jeans in between pregnancies because they are so dang comfy. (and stylish…?)

Stretch marks: No! Although I think this one has more to do with genetics than my healthy eating and exercise habits (which have not been up to my normal standards this time around). Don’t ask me about cellulite and varicose veins. Eek!

Sleep: Much better than expected. I wake up about every 90 minutes, toss and turn for a while, but eventually fall back to sleep. And that’s with all this horrible side sleeping business that I just cannot seem to master. My pregnancy pillow and I are still on non-speaking terms after the last round.

Fetal movement: A few kicks every couple hours, and they are growing in strength. The baby kicked so hard just this morning that I could see the movement from the outside. Although Brad has yet to feel anything because the baby stops kicking the second Brad touches my stomach.

Food cravings: Soup! Panera Bread is going to bankrupt me. Normally I don’t make it at home because Brad calls soup of “waste of stomach space,” but I’ve decided to play the pregnancy card and start making it for dinner anyway. If you have a favorite soup/chili recipe, leave it in the comments! Crock-pot recipes are especially welcome!

Exercise: Thankfully I came into this pregnancy in great shape having run the Toledo Marathon in April. I’m now conducting an experiment to see how fast I can lose all that fitness. Just kidding—sort of. Morning sickness was worse this time which kept me from exercising intensely during the first trimester. I’m finally getting back into the swing of things now though, but sadly no running.

Miss anything: Yes! I want an Angry Orchard hard cider…or a nice margarita…or a glass of white wine. I think there is a theme emerging. I find this odd since when I’m not pregnant I have at most one drink per week, usually wine. I also miss back sleeping, a bladder than can hold more than a thimble’s worth of pee, and running.

Feeling sick or queasy: Only if I take my pre-natal vitamins in the morning instead of at night.

Anxious about: The future. Brad is graduating with a PhD in computational physics in December and has been applying to jobs all over the country. We don’t know when he will land a job or where it will be. Thinking about moving eight months pregnant or with a newborn is daunting.

Excited about: The future. As anxious as the uncertainty makes me, we are ready for a change. Having more to live off of than a graduate student stipend won’t be so bad either!

Belly button: Dangerously close to being an outie, and that’s saying something since before my first pregnancy I had the Mariana Trench of belly buttons.

Best moment this week: Anatomy scan. Seeing the baby again is always exciting. We did learn that he has something called fetal pyelectasis (enlargement) in one of his kidneys so we will go back for a follow-up scan at 28 weeks. I was worried at first, but after a lot of googling, I’m feeling much calmer. I’m pretty sure that’s the first time a google search for a medical condition hasn’t convinced me that I have a brain tumor.

Dad weighs in: The last 20 weeks have gone incredibly fast. “I’m buggin’ out. Does anyone want to give me a job?” (Author’s note: I don’t think he is kidding about that. Check out his Linked in profile here: Hiring Brad Hubartt will be the best decision you ever made.)

Oliver’s reactions: Oliver knows there is a baby in my stomach, and that when the baby gets big enough he will come out. We told him he will get to hold the baby after he is born so now anytime you mention the “baby” he shouts “hold, hold, me.” And then my heart melts. Although not to be outdone by his little brother just yet, this is how he chose to participate in my 20 week photo shoot. Perhaps he’s trying to tell me something…

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Want a more in depth update? Check out the video below.

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?

Marathon Mom

Since becoming a mom in July, 2012, I’ve achieved personal records in the 5k and half marathon. In April, this sleep-deprived, busy mom ran the Toledo Marathon 35 minutes and 45 seconds faster than a 19 year-old me with no responsibilities.

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Photo Credit: Danielle McKay, my awesome best friend who waited for me at the finish line!

You think that is a coincidence?

Running 26.2 miles may be hard. But being a mom is harder, and it’s given me a competitive edge not matched by the best training program out there. You see, a standard training program can only tell you so much—when much to run, what to eat, how much to rest.

But that’s where it ends.

Anyone who has run a marathon knows that making it through training, and then the race itself, is as much mental as it is physical. This mental toughness isn’t something you can learn from a book though. It comes from lived experiences. From trying times when you have to dig deep, quiet your fears, and keep moving on.

For me, it comes from being a mom.

From learning the importance of trusting my gut to finding the perfect time to run (it is always after the baby poops but before your partner has detected the smell), read on to find out about all the things I’ve learned about running, and myself, from motherhood. Then leave a comment to let me know how parenthood has impacted your running!

1. Perfect runs aren’t born from perfect conditions

In the same way you don’t have to be a perfect parent to raise a happy, well-adjusted child, you don’t have to have perfect conditions to get in a great run. So it’s raining and cold. Or you’re tired and cranky. Or your favorite pair of shorts are in the dirty laundry (this one seriously happens to me all the time). It’s okay. Get out there and put one foot in front of the other. The way I see it is you either get a great run or a lesson in perseverance. Win-win.

2. Do it now. Later won’t come

My free time is precious, and with a toddler, there is very little to be had. If I don’t use my “me time” wisely, I’ll quickly end up with back log of dreams I wanted to pursue but never did. So when I commit to something like running a marathon, I commit to do it now. I set aside the time, and whether I’m feeling like it or not, I lace up my sneakers and hit the road. Because in Mommyland, it’s now or never.

3. Educate yourself, but always follow your gut

There is a lot of information out there about to properly raise a child. It’s up to you to pick and choose what works best based on your unique situation. Same holds true for running. The training plan that helped your friend reach a PR might have you sidelined with an injury before you make it to the starting line. Or the newest and best pre-race meal might send you to the port-o-potties instead of into the corrals. You know your body. Listen to it.

4. Sometimes the best thing about a finishing a hard run is that it’s over with—that’s okay

Just like the best thing about a tough parenting day is crawling into bed with a full Netflix queue, the best thing about a really hard run can be that it’s over with. Pat yourself on the back for surviving and don’t look back.

5. A few bad runs don’t make for a bad race.

A common inner monologue I had the first few months of my son’s life went something like this. “Oh no, this kid will not stop crying. He’s been crying all day. He’s going to keep crying all week. I think he might cry forever. This will never end. This is my life from now on. I can’t do this.” I’ve had the exact same thoughts while training for a marathon. A couple bad runs with tired, sore legs and I’m convinced I’ll never make it to the starting line, let alone finish the race. Surprise, I did. And you likely will too. Everyone has bad training runs. Plan on them. Work them into your training routine the same you would any other workout. View them as your mental toughness training, because that is just as important to build up as physical strength.

6. Don’t use Google to diagnose running injuries—ever. An achy knee is sometimes just an achy knee

I once convinced myself that Oliver had leukemia. Turns out it was something called Roseola. Had I waited for the doctor appointment instead of endlessly searching Google all weekend I would have saved myself a lot of grief. The internet can be great for gathering information, but it can also be great for freaking yourself out. If you’re really concerned, seek the advice of a medical professional.

7. Enjoying the process is just as important as the finish line

I don’t mean you have to love every single run. I don’t enjoy every day of being a parent. But if you can’t find joy in the journey, you are going to be miserable 99% of the time. Focus on what makes you happy about running—socializing with friends, getting outside, the strain of your muscles as you speed down the road. Because those are the things that are going to keep you going when the finish line is out of sight.

8. Flexibility is as important and preparation

In parenthood and in running, you can’t plan for every potential setback. Sometimes, unexpected things happen and your ability to adapt will be what sees your through. Instead of focusing on every problem that might arise, focus on developing a general problem solving strategy.

9. Don’t take yourself so seriously; it’s just running

Many parents have lots of high expectations for certain events—think 1st Birthday, Christmas, vacation to Disneyland. And when the inevitable hiccup happens, they loose perspective and freak out. The same thing happens in running. People fall short of goal times. Injuries spring up. It’s understandable (and okay) to be disappointed when you put so much effort into something. But after the disappointment fades, remind yourself what’s really important. Why did you start running to begin with? Chances are it’s not about the finishing time at all. If you can remember this, it will be much easier to laugh at yourself when the inevitable shit hits the fan….or should I say wall.

10. If you can raise another human on little to no sleep, you can also go for a run—doesn’t mean it will be fun

There will always be an excuse not to run. You get decide if that excuse is good enough to keep you inside. Sometimes they are, and that’s okay. But when I think about all excuses I had to step over on my way to making it through my son’s first year of life, I realize I am stronger than many of my perceived obstacles.

11. It will never feel like the right time to sign up for a marathon. Don’t let that stop you.

There is a common expression that says it will never feel like the perfect time to have a kid. That is so true. Ask any mother to be and she can probably give you at least one reason why it might have been advantageous to wait. Most of this boils down to fear of the unknown, of inadequacy, and of failure. It’s the same for running a marathon. At some point you just have to decide that your goal is important enough that you are willing to face the obstacles you are bound to encounter along the way.

12. The best time to go for your run is right after the baby poops, but before your spouse has detected the smell

You think I’m kidding, but I’m not. It’s scientifically proven that your running speed is positively correlated with the amount of poop your husband has to wipe off of the baby’s butt.

13. Whether or not stale graham crackers constitute proper pre-run fueling depends on what kind of day you’ve had

The baby is sick and has been up all night. The toddler just spilled the entire box of Cheerios and is licking them off the floor like the dog. Oh, and where did the dog go? He’s pooping on the carpet next to the crib. This is the day you grab the stale, stuffed in the cracks of the couch graham crackers and call it a win because you are managing to make it out the door.

14. Always remind yourself of the example you are setting

You are the first and best teacher for your child. If you’re having trouble finding motivation, think of the example you set by establishing a goal and sticking to it. Is it too early to sign him up?

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What would you add to the list?

Please Make Spot Stop Going to the Beach

DSCN5316Toddlers love repetition. When faced with new and potentially overwhelming environments on a daily basis, nothing is more comforting and predictable than reading the same book for the 100th time.

Unless you are that toddler’s mom.

Then it’s skin-crawling, blood-pressure raising, I want to rip out my hair I can’t stand it anymore tedious. Seriously, will someone please make Spot stop going to the beach? How many more times can I tolerate watching him build that sandcastle? Or what about that binge-eating caterpillar? I get it, you’re hungry. Do you seriously need to recount every single item you have ingested?

And then there’s Sam. That Sam-I-am. That conversation about green eggs and ham should have gone something like this:

– Do you like green eggs and ham?

– I do not like them Sam-I-am. I do not like green eggs and ham.

– Okay. No problem. You do not like them I can see. I’ll walk away and let you be. I will not pester, coerce or bug. I will not act like I’m a thug. Yes I’m respectful, yes I am Sam. You do not have to try green eggs and ham.

The end.

Seriously what lesson is this book teaching my kid? Bug, pester, and harass mom enough and I’ll get my way? I’m with the tall, yellow top-hat wearing character on this one. I do not like that Sam-I-am.

Beyond books my son has a lot of other ways to torture mom repetitive activities he likes. For example, the peek-a-boo from his baby days has morphed into a game I like to call “where’s Oliver.” In this game Oliver hides behind the SHEER curtain and giggles while I walk around the room shouting “Where’s Oliver?” (If I say this line like I’m Jack Nicholson in The Shining creepily yelling “where’s Johnny” the tedium can be delayed for a couple rounds).

DSCN5311“Hey Wiz (the dog) do you see Oliver?” I ask. Wiz looks at me like I’m a sucker. “Hey Mickey Mouse,” I direct my question to the stuffed animal sprawled on the floor, “do you see Oliver?” Pretending Mickey might actually answer my question is as ridiculous as pretending I can’t see a 30 pound toddler through a piece of see-through fabric. But I persist. Finally Oliver will pop out from behind the curtain, which is my cue to run over yelling “I found you!” and tickle his belly until he can’t stand it anymore.

And then there are the toys. The rings that he stacks on the post only to dump them off and stack again. The ball that he inserts shapes into only to hand it to me upon completion to dump them back out. That one song on his singing remote control that he insists on playing over and over and over again.

“I’ve got a remote and I’m ready to roll. Making things happen cause I’m in control.”

Yes Oliver, if I’ve learned one thing thus far it’s that you are in fact the one in control.

As much as I cringe at reading the same books repeatedly or playing the same games day in and day out, there is one thing I will never find tedious. There is one thing that makes all the repetition worth it: Oliver’s reactions.

Watching Oliver watch Spot go to the beach for the 100th time is like seeing it unfold for the first time myself. The way he gleefully points out the sandcastles and the birds and the ocean waves. They way he squeals with delight when Spot jumps out of the boat to take a swim in the water. “Puppy overboard,” I say. Oliver claps his hands like I’ve just read a passage from a Pulitzer Prize winning piece of literature. I may get bored with Spot, but that look of delight on his face, that never gets old.

Walking around the room shouting “Where’s Oliver?” is monotonous and mind-number at best. But then I hear Oliver laughing from behind the curtain. I watch him reveal his hiding spot. He has a grin spreading from ear to ear. His cheeks are flush with excitement. He happily runs toward me and I imagine if he could talk he would say something like, “Mom you’re so fun. This is the best game ever.” As he crumples up on the floor in a fit of giggles I think to myself, this game may get boring, but the smile on his face and the sound of his laughter, that never gets old.

Same goes for the rings and the shapes and the singing remote control. As boring as they may be, watching Oliver discover and play with them never gets old. When I shift my attention from my experience of the object to Oliver’s experience, I start to see everything in a new light. I may not yet enjoy the repetition, but through my son’s eyes, I’m learning to appreciate it. 

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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YouTube Channel Launch

What’s even cuter than a picture of a baby? How about a video of a baby? And what’s even cuter than a video of a baby? If you guessed a video of a baby playing with a puppy you’d be right!

With A Baby In Tow is launching its own official YouTube channel. To beg, plead, bribe, persuade you all to check it out I had to pull out the big guns.  That’s right, baby on puppy cuteness.

Here is a sneak peak of what you’re in store for just to wet your appetite.

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This isn’t what I meant when I asked you to get me camera ready.

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Yup, definitely not what I meant.

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Okay, seriously stop that. It tickles.

Because there are some things words alone can’t do justice.

Check out the youtube channel HERE 

Handprint of a 1-Year-Old

In my childhood bedroom there is a framed picture of my handprints from when I was little. Growing up, they hung ceremoniously above my bed, the clear focal point among the gaggle of teddy bears, troll dolls and Lisa Frank unicorns. While I don’t remember making the red-inked imprint, I do remember the daily game I’d play with them. Each night I would lean against the wall, reach up, press my hands against the smooth glass, and make note of how much larger, how much more “grown-up,” my hands were compared to the tiny girl that had made them.

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I loved those handprints. As a kid who was seldom aware of anything beyond the present moment, it was nice having that connection to the past. When a single bad day seemed to drag on forever, or I feared I would be stuck in the world of adolescent angst for eternity, I could hold my hands up to the glass and be reassured that time does pass, people do grow up.

As an adult, and especially as a mother, I have become acutely aware of how fleeting all things in life are. Time can’t slow down enough, and I often find myself wishing I had a pause button for life. Like my handprints that have remained eternally young, I wish I could take my son’s babyhood and frame it for safe keeping. His baby-tooth smile, his high-pitched laughter, his blonde ringlets, his chubby thighs and pigeon-toed walk. I want to preserve them all so that years from now I can look back and not only remember them but have something tangible to see, to touch. Something to press my hand against and compare.

When Oliver was born we received a gift that lets you make a yearly handprint of your child through the age of five.

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When Oliver’s first Birthday rolled around I eagerly pulled out the kit and got to work making the pasty concoction. According to the directions I mix the water and plaster, poor it into the provided tin, firmly press my child’s hand into the mixture, and then let it dry. Easy peasy. Right?

Wrong!

Nowhere in the directions does it say what to do if your child won’t straighten his hand in the plaster. What to do if he tries to scoop up a handful and squish it between his fingers. What to do if he tries to eat it. Or what to do if, upon finding it tastes awful, he flings it across the kitchen.

After several attempts, this is the best we could do.

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At first I was disappointed that I wouldn’t have the perfect imprint to remind me of his 1 year old hands. I was disappointed a year from now I wouldn’t be able to hold up his two year old hand in comparison. But sitting here now looking at this “handprint,” I’m starting to see all the things it will remind me of, all the secrets it will hold, that a normal, standard handprint never could.

It says, this is the handprint of an active boy. A boy who loves to touch, to explore, and to dig into his surroundings. One who isn’t happy sitting still waiting for life to come to him. It is the handprint of a curious boy. Of one who is always questioning, always learning, always dreaming, and discovering. It is the handprint of a boy who is tenacious and strong-willed. A boy who knows what he wants and won’t easily back down. It is the handprint of a playful, free-spirited, silly boy, who doesn’t need directions to tell him how to have fun.

So while you may just see a mess of plaster sitting in a tin, a tenuous outline of a hand at best, when I look at it, I see so much more.

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Have you tried making a handprint of your child? How did it turn out?