Category Archives: photos

All Boy From Here On Out

This morning I came face to face with the reality that I have a boy not a baby on my hands.

We were on our way out the door. I need to put the stroller in the car, so I set the not-so-wee one down in the driveway while I started folding down the third row of seats in my car. I figured he’d maybe toddle into the garage and annoy the dog for a minutes. I got one seat down, popped the stroller in the back of the car, and turned around to grab the baby to hoist him into his car seat. My dog was standing right next to me, but no baby. A little panic flared up, but I quickly convinced myself that he hadn’t gone far.

Turns out he had wandered over to my mom’s little shade garden. No biggie. And actually he looked kind of cute playing in among all the plants. But as I looked at him, something wasn’t right. His hair was soaking wet. I took two more steps closer to him and realized that it wasn’t just his hair; both his jacket and pants were soaked. My child–yes, the one that just a half hour before had had a bath–had found the sprinkler.

But it wasn’t just that his once-dry clothes were now sopping wet. No, just sticking his hands and face into the sprinkler wasn’t quite enough. A medium sized pool of mud and dirt had collected around the base of the sprinkler and my child was sitting, splashing in it. Of course that looked like loads of fun, so the dog jumped in.

I’m totally running late, so I run over and grab the kid, taking him far, far away from the sprinkler. He was covered in head-to-toe mud, so I started stripping my just-bathed child down in the middle of the driveway. I took off his jacket and threw it on the ground. I started shimmying off his pants when the dog stole the jacket and ran circles around me with it hanging out of his mouth. So now I’m chasing the dog around the driveway and my filthy offspring is toddling around behind me, one thunder thigh still in his pants and the other bare. Somehow he wriggled his one leg free of the pantleg and took off toward the house just as I nab the jacket from the dog. Looking for more fun times, the dog bounded toward him. The kid basically turned right into the dog, losing his balance, and face planting into the cement garage floor.

I collect my bawling child, tie up the dog, and head to the car; I am 20 minutes late at this point. I put my kid in the car seat– soakied onesie, dirt-filled shoes, and all–and realize that with his tumble we’ve now added blood to this mix of dirt and water. His cheek was swollen and crosshatched with scratches. I couldn’t believe he’d already stopped crying.

Needless to say, hot mess pretty much sums the whole ridiculous situation up. The one redeeming part was that I fortunately had a set of dry clothes in a diaper bag stashed in the car, so I was able to change him in the church parking lot. (Classy.) And I was able to clean up the blood and dirt on his face with a baby wipe. But there wasn’t much I could do about the dirt caking his feet. It’s safe to say this little boy is definitely all boy.

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Filed under boys, daily life, moms, pets, photos

My First Stroller Derby

One of my summertime projects has been to get back into running. See, I signed up to run the Army Ten Miler this fall with a group of mommies like me who have wee ones and soldier husbands. Our team is called the “Military Mommas” and to motivate us through those 10 undoubtably painful miles, we’re raising money to support the Fisher House Foundation, which provides housing for military family members while their soldiers undergo medical treatment. (Click here if you’d like to donate.) While the charitable fundraising is helping pump me up for the run, it’s not doing the work for me, so I decided to sign up for the Save the River 5K last week as a fun way to log some miles.

This particular 5K is a little event–about 300 participants–and anything but competitive. It’s one of those small-town events where it’s ok to walk, kids and grandparents are totally invited to participate, and strollers are more than welcome on the course. I used to be a runner, but it’s been a good five years and change since I could last call myself one, so this low-key event was so my speed (or lack thereof). Given the baby-friendly set up, I decided to take the wee one along for the run and fun.

I run with baby and the buggy from time to time, but this was my first baby-in-tow race and I definitely learned a few things about being a mom on the run:

  1. Learn to be loud. Chances are you’re not going to be the first up at the starting line–stroller pushers tend to wind up near the back of the herd–so find your stride becomes first about just finding a clear path. You don’t realize how much extra room you need to maneuver when you’ve got your front traversing wheel locked into a stationary position for a better ride, so moving through the crowd becomes a little more difficult, especially when the people ahead of you are doing their own thing. Many thanks to my friend Eva who was clearly a good 30 seconds faster than I and was alerting people to watch out behind them that a stroller was coming through as she passed them. I actually heard someone call her a bitch for doing it–mostly because she passed them, I think–but I thought she rocked because as much as I wished my Baby Trend Jogger had a horn, it didn’t. And god knows I didn’t have enough breath left to do my own shouting–on your left!
  2. Don’t run alone. Misery definitely loves company, so I count myself lucky enough to have a couple of friends do the race with me because I think I can officially say it would have been rough to do it alone. Somewhere into mile 2, I know I definitely looked at my friend Lesley and said, “This sucks.” But having a running partner (or two or three) was a lot of fun, too. I know as Lesley and I came into the last half mile we decided to pick up the pace and as we were sprinting toward the finish, our heavy breathing was definitely punctuated from time to time with encouraging words to each other like, “We can do this.”
  3. Water breaks are for sissies. There were two water stations along the course. I wasn’t thirsty when I ran past the first one, but when I saw the second I was dying for something at least sort of cool. I let go of the stroller handle to grab a cup and as soon as I did I realized that there was no way this water thing was going to happen unless I stopped. Not only was water splashing out of the cup, but I felt like I could barely steer the stroller. And seriously, stopping was not an option because I was never going to get the baby rig going again if I did. Next time around I’ll definitely have a water bottle with a squirt top stuffed into the cup holder.
  4. You’ll make insta-friends. When you’re working a stroller at one of these races, you automatically start picking out other stroller runners and kind of naturally gravitate toward each other. I had seen two mommies with their strollers before the race that sort of caught my eye, mainly because they had the same stroller as I did, their babies looked to be about the same age as mine, and they looked like they could tear up some asphalt with three wheels. (Turns out one was a half marathoner and the other was a triathaloner.) As I headed into mile 3, I saw the two of them up ahead of me. They got hung up at the water station, so I ended up passing them. But after the race, the two mommies wheeled over to me to congratulate me on my finish. I was kind of blown away–my face was too red to have made my finish look easy–but I thought it was really cool of them. Turns out we had more than just the strollers in common–their husbands too are military–so it was a fun way to meet some new people.
  5. It’s more fun that you think it’ll be. I set out with no goal other than to finish. But just being with the crowd on a nice day on the River turned out to be quite a bit of motivation. I ended up finishing in the top quartile–if you want to check out the rankings, you can find them here–despite what during my running heydey would’ve been an embarassing time. But out of all the fun runs I’ve done over the years, I definitely won’t forget this one because it felt awesome to hear someone yell, “You’re the first stroller!” as I ran over the finish line. Of course I would’ve felt even better about my final results had there a 1 minute handicap, but it was enough to know I at least finished in front of the only dad I saw with a stoller at the start line.

So, it was a lot of fun and just what I needed to help me get a little closer to be ready for the big 10 mile trudge in the fall. Many thanks again to my running buddies–definitely couldn’t have done it without you–and to Save the River for organizing such an awesome event. Definitely signing up for the stroller division next year!

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Filed under activities, babies, baby travel, daily life, fitness, health, military families, mommy care, moms, photos, strollers, workouts

Dads on Duty

Today is Father’s Day and being as we’re a military family, I can’t help but think about all the military dads (and boy do we know a lot of them) who didn’t get to spend today with the people who most love and adore them–their kids.

Every day I am lucky enough to be able to see my baby’s smiles, hear the patter of his hands and knees as he crawls across the floor, make him giggle, and hold him close at night. How far away those simple pleasures must seem to those deployed dads when they are in places where it can often be hard to see the good in things or people. I bet some days a diaper blow out or two sounds way better than anything they’ve got to deal with.

During the past two years, my husband has been gone a lot for military-related activities. He missed out on a lot of my pregnancy, a lot of the new baby lovefest, and a lot of baby’s firsts. It’s definitely been frustrating for him at times even though it doesn’t exactly come as a surprise. I mean, missing out on birthdays, holidays, and other special occasions is pretty much in a soldier’s job description.

But despite all that he’s missed out on in the name of duty, he has still managed to grow so much as a dad. He lives more deliberately, with a greater sense of purpose. He’s simplified his needs and reshuffled his priorities. He’s learned to celebrate some of the littler things in life. And his emotional range has expanded to include new varieties of joy, pride, and heartache. In some ways, you might say he’s become a better person. All because of baby.

He never needed to change for me, but it’s been interesting to watch his transformation. It’s clear that he’s had an idea in his head of what kind of dad he wants to be and has been working very hard to deliver on that despite the challenges and limitations that come part and parcel with being a soldier. And for that, I am grateful.

So, with that said, my thoughts go out to all the military dads who inevitably had a pretty lonely today, as well as their families who miss them so much. Here’s to their ability to be as good of dads on the home front as soldiers in the field. Happy Father’s Day!

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Best Birthday Ever (Almost)

My sweet bundle of boy is definitely more of a boy and less of a bundle now that he’s turned a year old. I have been a bad baby momma and not been terribly on the ball in getting any images of this major milestone up to share. So, I’m hoping this post will rectify that situation.

I had debated not doing a party of any sort for the wee one–just a little cupcake and candle action at dinner with me and Mimi, perhaps–but then I gave in. I realized that if hubby was able to be around for baby’s big day, he would most certainly have made a much bigger deal of it than I was planning. So, I really decided to have the party for him and less than baby because he was missing it, if that makes any sense at all.

At any rate, I am so glad I did, although it was a lot of work for just a couple of hours. That’s about as long as any of the mommas could stay, as babies would begin early stages of meltdown at around the 90  minute mark. And meltdown was definitely the word of the day, given the temps of 90+ degrees. (Thanks to all the moms and kids who came and sweated with us to celebrate a very special first birthday!)

Baby was well prepared for the event. We had done some pre-birthday cupcake tasting (which was good because neither Mimi nor I remembered to give him one at his party–whoops!) and also given him a long overdue haircut. He also got a new outfit to let everyone know it was his big day, although that got dirty and thrown into the laundry before the party even began. (He was less of a fan of costume No. 2.) But he totally enjoyed seeing all his little buddies crawling and toddling around with him, turning my living room and back deck into a Gymboree session. And then once the last guests left, we finally opened presents  (there had been way too much going on during the party to tackle that fun) and spent the rest of the afternoon beating the heat with cold drinks, popsicles, and sprinkles from the hose.

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Needless to say, it was a near perfect day. The only thing missing was dad. But that just means next year’s baby birthday bash is bound to be better than ever because he’ll be in charge of planning it.

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My First Mother’s Day

I had a friend yesterday wish me a happy first Mothers Day. My first reaction was, this isn’t my first Mothers Day. And then I remembered that I was just very (very) pregnant last year at this time.

But how interesting that in my head I had already switched from just being

A year ago things were good...

me to being mom before baby had even arrived. I mean, it’s hard to just feel like you when you’re pregnant but when you’re pregnant for the first time you don’t know exactly how your life is going to change.

It’s hard to capture the extent of those changes because, on the one hand, life changes super drastically and then  you sort of get into the groove as a new parent, so the changes don’t seem as huge anymore. And then there are the moments you’re never sure how you lived without.

Last night I watched the Ed Burns movie The Groomsmen. While there’s definitely a reason its an instant download on Netflix, there were some good laughs and a few sort of deep reflections. The story line is simple–the main character, Paulie, played by Ed Burns, is freaking out days before he’s marrying his already-pregnant girlfriend, played by Brittany Murphy–so there are lots of good, fairly humorous “guy” scenes and dialogue exchanges.

But for all the cheap laughs, there are also some pretty insightful moments that held up like mirrors to things I have experienced. For example, there’s a scene where Paulie and his girlfriend get into an argument after he sets up the crib because she also wants him to paint and he doesn’t want to. That leads to a whole meltdown where she finally yells at him that it would be nice if he would just once bring her flowers, make her breakfast in bed, or give her a foot massage because she takes care of everything else.

That scene played out a number of times between my husband and I during my pregnancy, as he tried to squeeze as much into the last of our “free” time and all I wanted was to slow down and enjoy the fun of expecting baby.

But this whole concept of so-called free time before and after baby  is worth a visit. My husband and I have always been a couple constantly on the go, and post-baby, that really hasn’t stopped. We don’t go out as much at night any more, but our days our definitely very full. In fact, I’m not sure when I’ve ever been busier than now.

But the amazing part is how productive I have become. Part of it is the not

...but they are even better now

going out as much at night, which gives me a pretty big block of time after baby is in bed to do everything from pay bills, clean, and of course write. And the not going out as much at night means I get up earlier on the weekends–Saturdays and Sundays tend to feel a lot like any other day of the week–which gives me some hours in the morning to do things with baby whereas I would’ve normally been sleeping in or otherwise having a lazy morning.

It’s like this other scene in The Groomsmen where Paulie is talking to his friend Dez about his fears about becoming a father and losing his freedom. Dez, who has a couple of kids, says to him, “What were you doing with your free time anyway? You were watching TV.” And that’s really it. The free time that I had pre-baby was really just a lot of wasted time.

And while being busy means that I often find myself fairly exhausted at the end of the day, I like it. I would be lying if I said I didn’t wish for a day to sleep until noon uninterrupted or an afternoon spent at a bar watching football without keeping track of my babysitting tab, but, for the most part, I feel like I contribute more to the world now than I ever did before.

The responsibility of having a baby is sometimes meltdown-worthy, but for me, having a baby was like adding a rudder to my life. I have direction every day; my goal is to make baby’s day the best day possible so that he can sleep happy. Sometimes I fall short in that goal, but lucky for me I get a chance to get up and try again the next day. So, tomorrow I’m going to celebrate Mother’s Day by just being a mom. In my book, there’s no better way to spend my day than doing that.

So, here’s wishing every mom the best kind of Mothers Day–one spent with her kids.

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Filed under babies, daily life, family, first year, infants, moms, newbie parents, newborns, photos, post-pregnancy

First Photo Shoot

I’ve been busy this Saturday night going through some old photos of baby with the idea of putting together a photo book for his papa. I know it’s a far cry from my old Saturday nights, which often really began at Saturday brunch. But it’s nice to enjoy a glass of wine in my pajamas in front of the television and not have to worry about a hangover tomorrow.

At any rate, I came across these shots of baby taken this fall by our photographer-friend Jessi Ringer, of Five Rings Photo, and they are just too cute to resist posting. (I know, spoken like a true mom.) Enjoy!

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Picture This

I’m one day past my expiration, I mean due, date, so I guess I have to write about something other than Baby Pienik’s birth weight and length.

I have a list of things that I’d never thought I’d do but I ended up doing. On that list are things like bungee jumping and marrying a “Drummie.” (That’s what we called the military guys who were stationed at Fort Drum, near where I grew up. Well, I added something new to that list the other day, and although it’s not nearly as adventuresome as some of the other things on my list, I’m glad I did it: I got belly photos taken.

I never thought I would sign up for something like maternity photos because I never really put myself in that spiritual momma category. You know the kind of mommies-to-be that I’m talking about. The ones who  believe pregnant bodies are always beautiful, only subscribe natural childbirth methods, and breastfeed until their kids are almost three. More power to these mommas, but that’s just not me.

In fact, I’ve always been sort of horrified at some of the ways people try to chronicle their pregnancies. Take belly casts for example. Basically how it works is mommy-to-be slathers herself and her round belly up with a casting mix–paper mache or plaster or whatever–lets it dry and ends up with a mold of her body that can then be decorated and (theoretically) turned into art. I don’t remember how I ran across this phenom, but I was so intrigued–and sometimes flabbergasted–by the end results that I do know I spent a good afternoon at work (it was a slow news day) surfing the Web to see if I could find a good execution. I did find a couple–mostly ones where the mold had been dipped in bronze–but generally the results were, shall we say, less than sophisticated. No offense intended to those mommies-to-be who tried it out; I just think I would’ve been a bit disappointed with the end result, if mine  turned out something like this (and quite frankly there are definitely scarier ones out there):

Or this:

Again, apologies if you’re a mommy-to-be who went down this road. Like I said, it’s just not for me.

So, needless to say, maternity photos, particularly bare-naked belly ones, sort of fell in this category for me. That is, until I had dinner with one of my oldest, dearest friends about a month ago. I had stopped by her house to pick up some maternity clothes–she had a huge selection of really cute stuff appropriate for pretty much any season that she so generously offered to let me borrow. We were sitting in her kitchen, eating Chinese food and drinking diet soda, when somehow we got on the topic of pregnancy regrets. Topping her list was that she didn’t have more pictures of herself pregnant.

At that point, I hadn’t really considered that I might miss being pregnant once baby arrived. But it makes sense. For the better part of a year, your wee one is always with you, experiencing whatever ups and downs your day may bring. Every little flip or turn or wiggle or kick is a quiet, private reminder that you are never alone–and you grow to count on it. Or at least I have.

So, I thought to myself maybe I should just go ahead and do it. If I hated them, I wouldn’t have to show them to anyone. But if they turned out great–or even just good–then what a great gift for my husband, who has pretty much missed the better part of my pregnancy because he’s been doing military training in North Carolina for the past year. And what a fun gift for the new grandparents.

I won’t bore you with the logistics of how I found Jessi Ringer–if you’re really curious ask me and I’ll tell you–but I basically took a look at her Web site, 5 Rings Photo, and thought, “Hey, this could work.” The added bonus was that I needed it done quickly–I had already hit the nine month mark, and was worried that I’d miss my opportunity if baby decided to debut early.

When Jessi showed up at my house at 7am, I was nervous–about what to wear, how I looked, how the photos were going to turn out. I didn’t really know what kind of maternity shots I wanted. Fun or reflective? Bold or sweet? Cute or sexy? She was so flexible, so we tried a whole bunch of different outfits, styles, backgrounds, etc. And I’m very pleased with the results. I’d say about the only regret is that I didn’t get better sleep the night before. I can tell I’m tired in the photos, but I’ll get over it.

Feel free to check out Jessi’s highlight reel here. I’ll post more samples once I get the actual photo files. In the meantime, I’ll share this one with you.

Me, baby, and Joey

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Filed under maternity, newbie parents, photos