My idea of what counts as relaxation has changed

Arm flab that appeared out of nowhere. Chin flab that appeared out of nowhere. The ability to change the diaper of a squirming 20 pounds of poop-covered pudge without  painting a poo mural on the furniture or the walls. A lot of things have changed since becoming a mom.

One of the changes that’s been more amusing to me — which doesn’t involve body fat or feces — is my newfound ability to full-on, totally and completely, absolutely and utterly relax in the most unusual of situations. Ok, maybe they’re not unusual. But they sure as hell weren’t what I’d consider my moments of zen in pre-mom days.

First of all, I never knew how precious time alone in the car could be. A drive without anyone else in the car is what I consider “me time” now. I can blast Lady Gaga. I can listen to podcasts. I can drive in silence. Ah, driving, you complete me.

The grocery store is a pretty close second to the car. Oh em gee, do I love leisurely pushing a cart around, winding through the produce — hellooo pretty lemons and limes and blueberries and raspberries — and the bakery — get in my belly, delicious donuts and danishes — and aisle after aisle of lovely food. I stroll up and down those aisles with a sense of calm once achieved only from a massage table.

But probably my favorite of all: reclined in the dentist’s chair. I legit want to fall asleep every time I got to the dentist, as the hygienist gently reclines the chair back and back and back some more, until I’m lying down, staring at the ceiling. Never mind the fact that she’s using instruments that look like torture devices in my mouth. Between the reclined position and the low hum of various dental instruments, I’m nearly lulled to blissful sleep every. single. time. It’s fabulous.

Yep, you could say life is a little different these days.

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Things I’m Currently Extremely Thankful For

Once upon a time, the list of things I was thankful for went a little something like this: Sleeping in on Saturdays. Sales at Banana Republic. Really good hair days.

Since having a baby, my thankful-for list looks a little different these days. The following are things that have me throwing my hands in the air like my fav praise-hands emoji.

  • Changing tables in bathrooms. Never before have I been so thankful to see the cartoon face of a Koala before. Otherwise, the search is on for anything that can improvise: a low wall, a car trunk, a large lap. Whatev.
  • Family restrooms. These are like magical potty palaces. Mommy, daddy and baby can all go potty together. Weeee!
  • Changing table straps. Once V started rolling, it was game over. She’s like Michael Scott trying to houdini out of a straight jacket.

(Apparently much of what I’m thankful for revolves around going potty. And also, apparently I say “going potty” now.)

  • Toothless smiles. She looks like a little old lady who’s lost her dentures, and it’s the most beautiful thing ever.
  • Third cups of coffee. Cue Handel’s “Messiah.” And praise hand emojis (again).
  • Sleep. I get to sleep about seven hours every night. Every. Night. Remember those early days after bringing baby home when the most I could sleep was maybe four hours at a stretch? Yeah, I don’t remember them either. They went by in a blur of sweat pants and reheated pizza.

Am I officially in the Mom Club now if the things that make me feel warm-fuzzy-thankful are all currently baby-related? Ok, fine. I still really like sales at Banana Republic and good hair days. I’m not a robot.

Mother, May I?

Being a mother is the best thing I’ve ever been. And not for the reasons you probably think.

Not because my daughter “completes” me or makes me whole or brings me some sort of elusive happiness that was hovering on the periphery of my life, just out of grasp. 

No, being a mother is the best thing I’ve ever been because every time I look at my daughter, I know with conviction that courses through my blood and bones that she brings something good to the world, that she is a light and a hope. I’m sorry if that sounds cheesy or simple-minded. I don’t mean for it to. But in a world full of evil and hate and uncertainty, the knowledge that she is love in human form softens even my jaded, hardened views.

I was never certain I wanted to be a mother. I wasn’t the little girl who played with baby dolls or that teenager who babysat all the neighborhood kids and couldn’t wait to grow up and start her own family. I always worried I lacked maternal instinct. When acquaintances had babies, I was always so unsure of myself around them. Do you hold them this way? <awkward shifting> Or more like this? What if I drop him? What if she starts screaming, what do I do then? Before V came along, I’d never even changed a diaper.

I also worried about whether I could be a mother. Would biology cooperate? My body laid some obstacles in my path, and I wasn’t sure how serious they might turn out to be.

And then, on top of everything else, is the fact that when it comes right down to it, I’m pretty selfish. I wish I weren’t, but I really am. I love “me” time. I love to travel. I love buying fun, new things. 

Was I really cut out to be a mom?

Yes. The answer, the beautiful, unequivocal answer is a resounding, echoing, ringing-through-the-ages yes. 

The minute V was born, everything changed. I looked at that squirming, cooing little human and, like the beloved Grinch, my heart grew three sizes. I couldn’t believe we had created this magnificent tiny creature so full of possibility. And I think that’s what I’ve loved most: I feel like she is the best thing I’ve ever done and that she has the power to do so much good. Honestly, I feel she already has. She helps me to see the good in the world, in others, in myself. 

If I helped bring into the world an extra beam of sunlight, an extra smile, an extra heart to care for those who need it, then I have done something real and something right. Something worthwhile.

13 Things This Pregnant Lady Wants You to Know

I appreciate fully and completely when you hold the door for me. I judge you when you don’t.

I do not, under any circumstances, want to hear about the thing that went wrong or almost went wrong during your birth. Keep your episiotomies, three-week labors and 15-pound baby woes to yourself.

I look tired because I am tired. I don’t sleep anymore, because apparently my body is cruelly preparing me for baby’s arrival.

Related: wipe that judge-y look off your face when I go to Starbucks the next day and order a coffee. I SEE YOUR JUDGE-Y FACES AND I WILL GO PREGNANT ROGUE ON YOU.

Bending over is hard.

Related: thank goodness for shoelace-less shoes.

I officially have five shirts that fit. You’ll see me wear them repeatedly for the remainder of my pregnancy. Don’t comment on this. And really, don’t talk to me about fashion at all. I don’t want to know what’s in style. I don’t want to hear about your cute new heels. I just want to wear a Snuggie to work and for it to be socially acceptable.

I’m a little bitchy these days. Sorry.

If you see me wearing one of my 6’4″ husband’s shirts, just smile and tell me I look pretty.

Yes, I really am keeping baby’s name a secret. No, I will not tell you just because you begged nicely. Although I did like the begging. Now give me some chocolate.

Exercise now consists of walking briskly from the garage, down the driveway to the house.

Don’t make me laugh too hard because I’ll probably pee myself a little. But don’t worry too much about this one, because I’ll probably pee myself a little at some point during the day regardless.

But seriously, give me some chocolate.

Sweet Summertime

Even though I’ve lived in Wisconsin a little more than four years, it’s still tough for me to remember how slowly summer rolls in. Taking its time. Slow and steady. During the months of April and May, I find myself missing the South more than usual.

I miss the certainty that by Easter, you’ll be able to show off your fancy new Easter dress. You might need a cardigan, but you’re guaranteed to be able to twirl  about in your latest floral find.

I miss feeling the temperature inch up with each and every April rainfall. And oh, do I miss Southern thunderstorms. The air’s so thick and humid, you could slice right through it with a knife. Rain drops fall and daffodils and tulips come right up. By May, you’ve definitely retired your winter jacket, (Coat? Pssh. No need for a coat. A jacket’s been just fine, thanks.), and you’ve transitioned to shorts and skirts and sandals.

And those sandals. I miss seeing sandals everywhere in the springtime. Hearing the thwap as they hit the pavement. I miss being surrounded by men, women, boys, girls and – yes – babies wearing Rainbows, the signature Southern footwear. Those buttery leather flip flops go with anything and everything: your favorite pair of jeans and your best dress.

I miss knowing that by the time my birthday rolls around on June 1, it will feel like full-fledged summer. My birthday parties growing up were always outdoor picnics and adventures and once, I was even lucky enough to have a slip and slide. (I’m thinking I might need to revisit this. You’re never too old, right?) No, you never had to worry about June. By then, temperatures are firmly in the 70s and 80s.

I miss nighttimes that don’t really cool off. Temps dip down just enough so you can enjoy rocking on the porch swing without breaking into a sweat.

I miss those balmy Southern nights intensely. The sound of cicadas chirping. Lightning bugs flickering. Breezes whispering in the trees. There’s just nothing like the sweet, sweaty warmth of spring and summer in the South.

After It All, Delta Rae Continues to Delight on Stage

Madison’s Majestic Theatre was an aptly-named venue for lucky music lovers at Delta Rae’s show there Saturday night. The band’s performance of “Bottom of the River” was one of those magical — you could even say majestic — moments that only live music can deliver. The pulsing rhythm, the eerily lovely vocals of Brittany Holljes. Yes, it was one of those moments where everything else fades away. Where time disappears and the music takes over. That song was the perfect magic trick, the sleight of hand to make you feel you weren’t just listening to the music. You were the music.

Delta Rae’s Eric Holljes told those in the crowd Saturday night that their enthusiasm was reenergizing the band, one month into a tour to support their sophomore album. It was clear they, too, were doing some energizing. The crowd was electric.

Brittany Holljes was a sprite of a temptress lighting about the stage unleashing her signature vocals, soothing lullaby and haunting hymn all wrapped in one. Fellow vocalist Liz Hopkins showed off strong soaring notes — powerful, beautiful. Their harmonies were the stuff of legend. Add to that Eric Holljes’ keyboard, Ian Holljes’ guitar, Mike McKee’s drums and Grant Emerson’s bass – along with touring violinist Claire Wellin – for a musical blend truly all their own. The highlights of the show Saturday night were the ballad “If I Loved You,” “Chasing Twisters” — which calls to mind wide-open Western skies and riding horses on open roads — and new tunes “Scared” and “Cold Day in Heaven” off their recently-released new record.

With a slow and steady build of excitement around their debut album “Carry The Fire” – and even a studio collaboration with rock royalty, Fleetwood Mac’s Lindsey Buckingham – the bluesy rockers from North Carolina have been gaining momentum and accumulating fans with each live performance they deliver. After Saturday’s performance, it’s easy to see why.

While their second full-length album “After It All,” released earlier this month, contains fewer of the powerhouse, anthemic showstoppers as “Carry The Fire,” it’s a solid rock album — in a day and age where those are on the brink of extinction. And in Madison, on a cool spring night in April, Delta Rae proved they remain a force to be reckoned with when they take the stage.

Greg Holden, cowriter of Phillip Phillips’ radio hit “Home,” opened up the night. He got his set going with the crowd-pleaser “Save Yourself,” before a string of nice but slowish tunes and ending on a high note with his single “Hold on Tight.”

But the real magic, the star dust, flew from the mouths and the instruments of Delta Rae, one song after another. After a setlist that mixed tunes from both albums, they closed the show with a cover of Sia’s “Chandelier” and a rousing rendition of “Dance in the Graveyards” – infused with a taste of Whitney Houston’s “I Wanna Dance With Somebody” thrown in the middle.

Delta Rae’s sound is haunting, hopeful, a glorious collision of country, blues, rock and soul. They’re rhythmic, swaying, and with the kind of from-the-gut vocals that infuse every particle of air in a room. They’re tight, they’re talented, they’re alive in the biggest sense of the word when they’re on a stage. If you get the chance to see them perform, do it. And get lost in the magic of their unique sound.

Bridge Over Troubled Weather

I don’t know about you, but these last few weeks have almost been harder for me than the 9-degree, snow-covered days from the heart of winter. Because summer is so close I can taste it. And yet, it’s still just doing it’s tip-toe dance of peekaboo. Hiding behind clouds and broken promises.

While I long for days filled with sunshine, sandals and skirts, I’m doing my best to bridge the time between winter and summer and to make the most of this in-between, this weather purgatory.

Home improvement projects
I painted a room. A room with a brazen shade of blue walls that’s been taunting me ever since we moved in. It was time to send it to join its gaudy brethren in the annals of Walls of Questionable Decisions Past.
Over the week I painted, most days were warm enough to pop windows open and let in some fresh air. And it felt so good to be accomplishing something on my never-ending household to-do list.

Take a class
I signed up for a sewing class with the rec department. It was such a great distraction from the tiny tears shed each time I put on my coat. I loved finding a fun new creative outlet to unleash some of my pent-up energy. And I figured this was better than a bonfire of coats in the back yard.

Put that spring fever to good use
I started my spring cleaning. Because why not? What better way to get amped for spring than to start going through the motions. Although, I would argue you shouldn’t go through all the motions. Your toes will hate you if you bust out your flip flops right now, and windburn from patio-sitting too soon is an affliction best avoided.
It’s a huge cliché, but I love spring cleaning. (Judge away.) I love the excuse to go through closets and weed out barely-worn clothes and to organize the basement. So join me in packing up those boxes and bags for Goodwill!

Get outside!
I’ve started walking/jogging outside again. It’s not summer yet, but man 40s and 50s feel a heck of a lot better than the frigid temps of winter. My legs are thanking me for remembering they exist. Pretty sure my soul is whispering sweet nothings to me as well.

It may be a while yet before warm weather finds its way to Wisconsin, but join me in pre-gaming. Here’s to summer(ish)!