Ode to Motherhood

I somehow did it. My very first and very rough draft is complete. When I think about loss, losing my mom ranks high. Becoming a mom triggered a whole slew of loss, lessons and love for the woman who made me. I’ve spent years writing about it. This Mother’s Day is no exception. For those who have been kind enough to send me feedback, please keep sending it my way. In the meantime, an Ode to Motherhood.

Chapter 13: WTF? I’m pregnant.

About 4-months after the adoption failed, I started training for a half-marathon. It was just after the holidays in which in typical fashion I had overindulged in food and put exercise aside.

By this point in life, I had been running for a few years. A funny thing happened this time, though. My boobs hurt. As in, really hurt. At first, I thought that I’d jumped into training too hard. But, as the days progressed and the spasms in my boobs grew more frequent, I knew something was up. I was broken.

It wasn’t just my boobs. I was exhausted. I was exhausted when I ran and when I didn’t run. I was tired all day long and had no desire to get up in the morning. Granted, it was January in northern Wisconsin. It’s hard to be motivated about anything during this dark, sub-zero stretch of hell we call winter. But this was different.

After several weeks of enduring this excruciating pain, I decided to take a break from running for a few days. I thought maybe if I reset myself and started over it’d get better. Only it didn’t. It kept getting worse. I didn’t know what to do anymore. I shared my discomfort with my husband. He looked at me perplexed and then asked a very simple but loaded question, “You aren’t pregnant, are you?”

Time stopped. He knew I was not pregnant. I would know if I was pregnant. After all, I’d gone through years of trying to get pregnant. I’d undergone countless fertility tests, prayed to higher powers and visited multiple doctors. While my diagnosis wasn’t dire, I clearly didn’t get pregnant. We had just gone through a year of paperwork and tests to get approved to adopt in the state of Wisconsin, only to have it fail. This was in fact an extremely loaded question. Of course I wasn’t pregnant. Or… was I?

My mind began racing. I had a stash of pregnancy test strips under the sink. It’d be quite simple to do a quick test and put this rumor to rest. But a big part of me didn’t want to get my hopes up. I started to do the math in my head. Yes, my period was late. If I were a gambler, I’d be broke if I bet on the dates my period would hit. Sometimes it’d be weeks, other times months. Plus, with the stress of the holidays, it’d make sense I was late, right?

After several rounds of inner conversation that was slowly making me crazy, I decide to take a test. I’ve got nothing to lose. At least then I can rule out this particular crazy notion. I take the test. After a few minutes I glance at the test strip. I see a couple of lines and dismiss the notion. I knew I wasn’t pregnant.

Later that night, while nursing my sore boobs, I suddenly found my heart racing. I return to the bathroom and dig the test strip out of the garbage. Two lines. Is it possible that meant I was pregnant? I dig under the sink for the directions. They’re missing. I start to panic. How can I not remember if two or three lines mean I’m pregnant?!?!?!

Before you consider me a very dumb blond, remember the circumstances. Factor in that I had purchased these test strips three years ago in bulk on Amazon. They didn’t come in a pretty box. These strips didn’t have smiley faces or pink lines. They were test strips with multiple faint lines.

I immediately turn to Google looking for answers. After finding the directions online, my life changes in an instant.

“Honey…”

“Yeah?”

“I think I might be pregnant.”

Silence.  I can hear my husband carefully formulating a sentence in his brain before speaking, knowing the next words he speaks count.

“What do you mean you think you might be pregnant?”

“Well, this test says I’m pregnant, I think.”

“You think? Isn’t it a yes or a no?”

“Well sort of. But I’m guessing this test is expired.”

Chaos ensues. My husband runs to our local grocery store, the only spot in town with tests, and asks the clerk for a pregnancy test. Meantime, I Google what can cause a false positive. It’d appear that a rare form of cancer and a lot of urban myths are the only options. The sparkling optimist in me becomes convinced that I have cancer.

My husband returns home. “Well, either everyone in town tomorrow will know you’re pregnant, or a rumor will be floating around that I’m having an affair.” The joys of small-town living.

I begin guzzling water. Lots and lots of water. Three tests later, I’m starting to come to terms with the idea that I may, in fact, be pregnant. My husband is beaming and totally convinced this is the only possibility. I’d like to believe this miracle is real, but the pessimist in me refuses. I need scientific proof. Luckily, I have an awesome doctor and work at a rural hospital that can do same-day appointments.

Less than 24 hours later, I find myself lying on an ultrasound table at work, hearing a rapid pitter-patter, for the first time. It turns out that there actually was a logical explanation besides cancer for the nagging pain in my chest. His name is Jacob William Probst. At the time, I was six weeks pregnant.

In an instant, life changes but everything stays the same. I look down at my paunch and realize there’s an alien-looking create growing inside of me. That every decision I make in the coming months impacts the creation of another human being.

I’m humbled and overwhelmed and scared. Let’s face it. This didn’t happen overnight. I had come to terms with the idea of never having a baby. I’m old… in childbearing age. Did you know that if you are 35 and pregnant, that’s considered a geriatric pregnancy?

I’ve never quite understood why the marketing of that. Adult pregnancy, mature pregnancy, but geriatric? It is very similar to wedding dresses being about 2-sizes SMALLER than your normal size. Because seriously, what girl doesn’t want to feel old when she’s pregnant (as if you don’t feel old already) or fat on her wedding day.

I face the facts. I’m a plus-size, geriatric pregnant gal who was not planning to get pregnant this year. I had abandoned the prenatal vitamins and hadn’t exactly been alcohol free over the holidays. Plus, the sugar cookies. So many sugar cookies. I had just booked a trip to Washington D.C. for March and now this?

I confide with a few co-workers. Those closest know what a toll the adoption took on me. They get it. As I’m telling them the news, it finally hits me. I am actually pregnant. This is exactly what I wanted.

Or, was it? My pregnancy would be plagued with complications. An achy back and an uncontrollable bladder eventually led to a more serious diagnosis of pre-eclampsia.  In rural Wisconsin, this diagnosis played out in a 75-minute ambulance ride with three strange men, no shoes, and a heightened hormonal state. Our destination – the nearest trauma center equipped with a NICU.

It resulted in one of the most undramatic, dramatic results in my life. I never went into labor. I stabilized. After two nights of monitoring and Steve eating delicious looking take-out in front of me I was allowed to return home with strict orders of bedrest. I’d spend the next two weeks anxiously awaiting Jake’s arrival while also questioning if I was capable of becoming a mother.

Motherhood is a pivotal moment that plays out over the course of years. I’ll be frank, when Jake made his overly dramatic entrance into the world during an emergency c-section that involved him not only wrapping his umbilical cord around his neck but also somehow knotting it, I didn’t feel an immediate sense of joy. I was in utter shock.

Moments later he was placed on me to nurse. Splayed out on the table, I felt like a unique combo of a milking cow and Humpty Dumpty being stitched back together. I just wanted a full fat vanilla latte with extra whip cream.

Staring down at the little alien creature, I knew I was witness to a miracle. I was torn between sheer excitement of this incredible creature I just brought into the world and scared shitless of everything I could do wrong. In that moment, I needed my mom. Not my best friend or my sister or even the man who helped make Jake.

I knew giving birth would trigger the loss of my mother. I just didn’t know how lost I’d feel those first few weeks. Hormones and sleepless nights didn’t help. Unlike some incredible women I know, motherhood did not come natural to me. It was awkward and uncomfortable and extremely complicated. I quickly learn, motherhood is messy.

Messy and memorable. Somewhere in those sleepless nights, something clicked. I suddenly understood what it meant to love someone so selflessly that you’d sacrifice everything for them.

There’s something to be said about a love that fierce. I grew up in a house full of grace. I now understand why. My mother’s love was built around the notion that I was exactly who I needed to be – not perfect – but enough. My mother never tried to change me and constantly gave me freedom to make mistakes. To learn and grow and evolve into a young woman.

When Jake was born, I felt an unbelievable pressure to not mess it up. To make sure I raise him to be an incredible man. I now understand that I am not raising a child, but rather guiding a human being through life. Jake is his own person and to think I can change that is hilarious. I can guide and steer and pray and love, but at the end of the day Jake will become who he is destined to be. That’s humbling and scary and awesome all wrapped into one. To love someone enough to let them become who they are meant to be – that’s the greatest gift I can give as a mother. One I learned from the best.

If I could tell myself just one thing, it’d be motherhood is the ultimate test in vulnerability. Lots of it. The thing with motherhood is loving someone unconditionally comes at a cost. It is an emotional rollercoaster of highs and lows. The more vulnerable and deep your love, the larger the tidal waves.  I never understood mamas who cried on the first day of school or became insomniacs in a quest to make sure their child was safe until I became one. 

I went into parenthood believing I’d be the best mother ever. As a perfectionist, I wanted to be a perfect mom, because I wanted Jake to have the best. What mother doesn’t? Here’s the thing, by day 1 I had failed on many fronts.

This seems obvious now but I didn’t know it then. I am raising a human. Humans are messy and complicated and contradictory. They make mistakes. They are frustrating and difficult and stubborn and that’s what makes them beautiful. Now, I just do my best every day to lead by example, love him, and set him free to be his own person. It is the single hardest thing I’ve ever done.

Is it perfect? Absolutely not. His teacher recently told us, Jake’s an incredible leader. He just sometimes leads in the wrong direction. I’ll admit, I was a bit embarrassed but bursting with pride and love.

Raising Jake has taught me, I’ll never be ready to parent a person but I was born to be a mom.  

Early Morning Resolution

Happy New Year! How are those resolutions treating you? I’d just like to go on record right now saying mine are slowly killing my will to live. Fourteen days ago, I started on a quest to factor me-time into everyday of my life to focus on wellness. My solution—wake up by 5:30 am everyday so that it wouldn’t cut into family, mommy, wife, friend or work time. On the flip side, the time once known as end of the day veg in front of Bravo time would go if needed due to being tired.

Let me backtrack one second and preface this resolution by telling you I am NOT a morning person. I cherish my sleep. I do best during regular business hours. The idea that I’d get up an hour early just to ensure I had enough time to hit the treadmill, lift weights, stretch or journal seemed a bit preposterous. But, last fall I started reading a lot by Brene Brown and this notion of creating habits to the point where the norm or your daily habit just is something you do versus something you think about. This theory resonated with me. After all, given how much I value sleep, I question whether I’d really get up early enough everyday to shower if it wasn’t something that had become part of my daily grooming routine.

In the past two weeks, I’ve hit the treadmill 8 times, completed yoga and cardio twice, completed a journal post and what I’m calling meditating once. To others, it may have appeared to seem like me staring at the wall in a zombie like stupor because I had stayed up too late the night before watching the Bachelorette but that’s neither here nor there. This mindful staring took place at 5:40 am. Today was the first time I missed my wellness time because I had an early morning work meeting. Surprisingly, I felt out of whack all day. And this excites me for a variety of reasons. If after a mere 12 days, not working on me in the morning seems unusual, imagine what will happen if I make it another week. Or, better yet, another month? I’m quite excited about the new found potential of this New Year’s Resolution.

Ultimately, I’d love for several things to happen with this experiment. First off, in 15 weeks from tomorrow, I’d love to finish the Journey’s Half-Marathon in Eagle River in under 3-hours. Second, in coming months I’d love to utilize some of this time to have a garden that doesn’t look like a Black Thumb Bomb was initiated within it. Finally, I’d love to write my way into closure on some lingering issues I need to just document on paper for my well-being and ability to live a more present and grateful life. Note, the goal here is to not lose weight. Obviously, this is another issue I come face-to-face with on a daily basis. But, I’m hoping that this experiment will help me understand how to form better habits when it comes to food. In other words, running my fastest half-marathon and creating a beautiful garden out of a pile of sand seemed easier in my mind than practicing portion control.

I share all of this with you just because I know by sharing this, I’ll likely continue on this journey. Or, at least that’s been the case with announcing blindly 5-years ago that I was going to run a half-marathon. If it hadn’t been for my very naïve public statement that I would do that, well I’m sure I wouldn’t have finished my first race and therefore never had the next five. So there you have it. A new year, a different me. We’ll see how that goes.

One last note…if you have 30-seconds, watch this ad. Then resume reading this post. (dramatic pause here).

In the grand scheme of things, this ad is a large online booking company trying to differentiate itself. I’m generally not a sucker for this type of marketing. But this ad, well it played on my first morning on my first day of getting up early. Before the tiger even came out, I was bawling on the treadmill. This might have been because of the early hour. But, I’d also like to believe that maybe, just maybe, this stupid commercial hit a heart string that many of my friends can relate too—the overwhelming love, sense of responsibility and desire to be an amazing mother. It sort of accompanies the bucket list of must do vacations with Jake before he’s too old and doesn’t think his mother is cool. This is a serious concern of mine. He already gives dad preferential treatment over me because I wipe his boogers and attempt to give him weekly baths. Anyways, at the end of the day, I think the underlining goal of this year’s resolution is that by finding me time and ways to improve the things that get me down, I can be a better mom. Now that’s something, I can get up at 5:30 am for daily.

 

The Gardening Bond

gardening The loon is back on Moon Lake. The snow is quickly receding. Soon, Hauser’s will be opening for their annual perennial barn sale. Spring is here. With that, comes the joy of planning and planting this year’s garden. I’m aiming for low maintenance this year. In part, because I hope to spend lots of time gardening with Jake. Last month, an essay I wrote about Jake and I gardening ran in Northern Gardener. I’m a huge fan of this magazine so I was pretty honored they ran my essay about like on Moon Lake. And today, I want to share it with you.

Gardening Bond

In theory, I love gardening. In actuality, at the height of muggy, mosquito-infested evenings here not too far from Lake Superior, where the weeds outnumber my harvest three-to-one, I sometimes find myself hunched over, silently cursing about putting myself through this misery.

Most years, the first glimpse of goldenrod yellow crocuses poking through the last remnants of dirty snow inspires me to plan, plant and harvest yet another year’s worth of bountiful blossoms and hardy vegetables. I am an enthusiastic gardener while the snow is melting and as the first crops green up. As the weather warms and my excitement fades ever so slightly, little treasures from the garden keep me coming back for more. There is that first, sweet crunch of a sugar snap pea. My senses awaken as the calm scent of fresh mint clashes with the intense garlic smell coming from freshly cut garlic scapes. Nearby, tiger lilies and hens and chicks multiply before my eyes, while hollyhocks and lupines shoot out luscious shades of purple that Crayola can only dream of re-creating. These are the gardening moments I live for.

Despite this beauty, as the summer lengthens, I find myself easily dismissing each of Mother Nature’s countless miracles as I swat the mosquitos and yank the weeds that aggressively choke out my carrots and overpower my asparagus. It is a constant love-hate battle.

Last year was no exception. Except that it was. I’m a new mom. In a heightened hormonal, sleep-deprived, angstridden world of motherhood, the burden of gardening weighed me down. In an attempt to manage expectations, I planned, planted and harvested substantially less. I looked away as the weeds dominated the empty spaces. As summer progressed, I found myself stealing early morning moments to do what little I could to keep the garden going. Those snippets of solitude energized me in a way I didn’t expect. It reminded me why I garden in the first place. It made me want to do more. And then the raspberries ripened. I tended to keep my son away from the garden in part because of his love for shredding, yanking and destroying anything in his path coupled with the random spots of poison ivy that seem to find their way within my garden fence annually. But, on a bright sunny day in early July, I noticed the first radiant red berries popping out of my raspberry plants. It was time to make an introduction.

I carefully carried my son inside the garden walls, checking for bees along the way because that’s what paranoid mothers concerned about allergies do. We approached the overgrown row of plants and, as I moved to lead Jake’s hand to pick that first ripened raspberry of summer, he had already grabbed it. A burst of red left him giggling as I watched yet another outfit get instantly stained beyond repair.

I tried again. This time, with my help, he guided the berry from plant to mouth. Jake’s eyes grew big as he discovered the sweet, delicate flavor of a freshly picked berry that no grocery store brand can replicate. He instantly wanted another. And another. This scene was played out time and time again throughout our summer. A season of firsts—first sugar snap pea, purple bean, crunchy cucumber, mouthwatering tomato and countless others.

With each harvest, a new memory for mother and son and a new reason to garden. By summer’s end, even the buzzing of mosquitos could not drown this newly discovered bond. For now, love wins again.

Dear Jake

Dear Jake,

I don’t scrapbook. I’ve discovered, despite my love for writing, I’m horrible at keeping up your baby book. But, like any new mom I managed to take lots of photos. I slapped them together in this video just in time for your birthday. I hope someday you can watch this and know you had an amazing first year surrounded by lots of people who love you.

It is crazy to think it has already been one-year. If I’ve learned anything this past year it is that I have no idea how to be a mother and that you have given me a new perspective on life. This past year you have taught me more than I could ever teach you.

A friend on Facebook (a social media tool that will be so old school by the time you can read this) recently posted a poem that came through on my feed this week that really hit home:

“Do not ask your children
to strive for extraordinary lives.
Such striving may seem admirable,
but it is the way of foolishness.
Help them instead to find the wonder
and the marvel of an ordinary life.
Show them the joy of tasting
tomatoes, apples and pears.
Show them how to cry
when pets and people die.
Show them the infinite pleasure
in the touch of a hand.
And make the ordinary come alive for them.
The extraordinary will take care of itself.”

― William Martin, The Parent’s Tao Te Ching: Ancient Advice for Modern Parents

By all definitions, your dad and I strive to live an ordinary, grounded life. But, there is no doubt in my mind that we live in an extraordinary place surrounded by extraordinary people. You are one of those people.

I have no idea what the next year will hold for us. What I do know is that the first time you grabbed my finger, I truly understood the sheer force of unconditional love. I look forward to many, many more birthdays with you my little munchkin.

Love,

Mom

 

Jacob Time

10484147_726996994028819_4369468032011984221_nJacob William Probst of Moon Lake here. I hijacked mom’s blog again. This is a big week. I turn 1. More importantly, I’ve been promised a chocolate cupcake. It’s all about perspective folks.

So much has happened in the past year. I’m not sure where to start. In a nutshell, we’re still operating on what I call Jake time. Life pretty much revolves around my nap and feeding times. I don’t mind. It has taken a while but I think mom and dad are finally adjusting to meeting my every need. Sometimes when I’m crying in my crib they pretend they don’t hear me. If I really want out, though, I let them have it. I always win!

Daycare rocks. I have lots of friends and I get to play all day long. Minus naps and eating which are equally as important. We do lots of crafts and there’s always someone available to push me on the swing. I do love swinging.

Mom and dad’s house is a bit more boring. But, I do my best to make the most of it. We go on a lot of boat rides, swim in Moon Lake, and wander aimlessly around town in my stroller. Mom and dad are constantly reading to me. I also have lots of toys. Mom calls it clutter. Dad laughs and dumps the boxes over for me so I can wander with the toys dropping them all over the house only to watch mom trip on them and say words I don’t think I’m supposed to repeat.

When mom isn’t around, dad sneaks me down to what he calls the workshop. I play with a lot of things that I don’t think mom would approve of or that are kid friendly. I also get very dirty which I love. To me, it is very similar to playing in a dirt box for kids like I have at daycare and that’s ok so why shouldn’t this be ok?

Mom tends to take me out and about to experience things. As in art festivals, parades, fairs, grocery stores, malls and other random places that generally involve her buying things. Then she makes me do embarrassing things like poising with machinery or animals so she can take yet another photo. I’m really to the point where I should start charging a commission. I mean, it is never too early to start saving for college, right?

I eat like a horse. When I’m full, or bored, I accidentally drop food on the floor. The pets love me. What can I say? I deliver. Especially if it is food I don’t like. Just call me a giver. I have a mouth full of teeth. I’ll admit, teething is unpleasant but I enjoy the fact that as I get more teeth I get to try new foods. Dad gave me my first haircut while mom was feeding me. It was a bit chaotic having sharp blades by my face but I guess he did ok. (They really only cut 2-3 pieces of hair off so I’m not sure what they were so excited about.) Speaking of hair, I’ve learned I’ll never be as furry as Joey, Lucky, Mischief and Chickpea. That said, I love eating their hair that I’m constantly finding on the floor (or pulling off their body but they really don’t seem to mind).

I’m also what mom and dad call mobile. This seems to cause a lot of angst at Moon Lake Estates. Sometimes for fun I climb up and down the stairs while watching mom and dad follow behind me. I haven’t quite learned how to walk yet but I do know how to crawl fast. And hurl myself over something mom and dad call ledges. I like doing that to get a reaction. It isn’t like I’d actually let myself fall. What, do they think I’m stupid?

Everyday is a learning day for me. I see new things, experience new places, savor new foods and push myself to do new things. Mom and dad say they are exhausted. Meantime, I’m doing just fine on Jacob Time. They really should tackle life the way I do – two naps a day whenever I feel like it and 12 hours at night. But they always ramble on about how they have to work to provide for me or something. As if.

I’m not sure what happens after I turn 1. If being 1 is anything like the past year, I’m ok with that. As mom always says, Life is Good on Moon Lake.

Happy Me Week!

Jacob William Probst

 

Eighteen Years and Counting

Dear Mom,

Today marks a pivotal moment in our relationship. Eighteen years ago, my life changed forever when I held your hand for the very last time. At just 18, I had no idea what would come next. Up until that moment, I had been busy planning my senior prom, anticipating high school graduation, fighting with my loser boyfriend and dreaming about my first day of college—all with your help.

Suddenly it all seemed so insignificant. Nothing really mattered without you by my side. Looking back, I’m still unsure of how I navigated through life those first few months without you. Each time faced with a decision, I sought your advice only to be met with unanswered prayers. But somehow, despite making poor choices at best, I seemed to keep bouncing back. I kept stumbling around, constantly moving forward.

Along the way, I longed for your confidence. Nothing ever seemed to phase you in life mom. I’ll never forget when my best friend dropped her pants in front of you. Most mothers would have been aghast. You didn’t miss a beat. “Show me something I haven’t seen,” you laughed.

I miss those moments. For months now, I’ve been dreading this day. It marks a time when I’ve lived longer without you. As the years go by, my memories of us start to fade. I find myself thumbing through pages of high school journals and photo albums trying to fill in the blanks time has erased.  As I look at the pivotal milestones I’ve passed over, I’m finding myself more familiar without your presence. A new normal I guess.

I wish you were here today to see my new normal. On paper, it is pretty amazing. I’ve checked a lot of things off the list that we used to talk about growing up. I graduated from college. I followed our dream of becoming a published writer, mom. Sure, I haven’t penned the next great American novel but I’m writing and sharing my stories with people. Despite numerous heartbreaks and kissing some serious frogs, I found an amazing man who loves me for me. I’m a new mom and you’re a grandma. I have a job I love. Awesome friends. I still find time to hike in the woods, read books and garden. I didn’t inherit your talent for canning cucumbers but I can make a mean flat jack just like you.

If you scratch a little deeper, you’d find I face battles similar to you mom. I hate my weight. I refuse to settle. I live life on my terms, even if people look down at it. Complacency scares me. I help others, even if it means hurting myself. I am stubborn. At times downright mean. But that meanness is often a defense mechanism to survive. Like you mom, I’m a survivor.

Eighteen years ago my life changed forever as I watched you take your last breath. For an instant, I thought time would stop. But it kept moving. And with it, so did I. You gave me no choice but to move on without you by my side. For years I was angry. Disappointed you weren’t here to share my life and answer my questions. Angry that alcoholism broke our family until at some point I had to learn to forgive.

This past year has been a game changer partly because as a new mom I’ve discovered something. You may not be here physically, but I cannot deny you are a part of me. You’re stubborn spirit and endless desire to plow ahead even with the cards stacked against you, now defines me.

In a few weeks I’m supposed to lace up my shoes and run a half-marathon. It will be my fourth race. As always, I’m nowhere near ready. It’d be easy for me to quit. But I’m a stubborn Fin who refuses to give up. I keep training in hopes that I’ll be ready come race day. Even if it means I come in dead last. I owe that to you mom. This race is just one of countless examples of you pushing to be better—to try harder—to continue to show up and play the game on my terms, not because that’s what people expect but because it is what I want to do for me.

I still miss you mom. I still wish more than anything you were here by my side. I wish I could have one more day with you, one more conversation, even share just one more moment with you. I wish that every single day. But I have also found comfort in that every milestone, failure or achievement I experience it is a piece of you shining through and reminding me of where I came from and what really matters in life. And for that, I’ll always love you.

Your baby girl

Celebrating 36 My Way

Token Selfie at the Apostle Islands Sea Caves
Token Selfie at the Apostle Islands Sea Caves

I turned 36 today. As of this moment, I’ve been an adult longer than a kid. I officially feel old. I thought this might kick in when I turned 30 but that was a breeze compared to today. Perhaps it is because I’m a new mom. Perhaps it is because I have now fully accepted I cannot start my day without a cup of coffee and that just seems like such an old person issue. Or, perhaps it is because I keep nursing a multitude of aches and pains resulting from a combination of training for my next half-marathon and just everyday life. Either way, I feel old.

To celebrate 36, I opted for solitude. These past few years I’ve really come to terms that despite being a freelance writer and public relations guru by day, I am in fact the world’s largest introvert. I love interacting with people. I love connecting the dots between friends and colleagues. But there is nothing more I love than disconnecting from everyone and everything and just being lost in my thoughts. Better yet, stick me with those thoughts alone in the wilderness with a camera.

I’m not sure if you had heard but the Apostle Islands Sea Caves opened up for the first time in 5-years. (Yes I’m joking). I’ve walked these hidden gems in the past. My first time was while living in Duluth. I ventured over the bridge to the unknown “south shore”.  This magical place felt like it was days away versus 45 minutes from Duluth. I was instantly in love, not just with the caves but also the hidden gems along the way. It was Lake Superior in all her glory but without the people.  That frosty mid-week morning I was the only one wandering through these majestic, ice adorned caves.

At the time, I never thought I’d end up living in Wisconsin. What little I knew about my future. Several years later I ventured out to the caves again, this time with Steve. We were dating at the time and despite claiming he was the great outdoorsman, he had never bothered to visit the caves. It was a day filled with laughter, endless picture taking and another affirmation that I had found the man I wanted to live with forever.

And today, I returned to the Sea Caves again. I know I’m a bit late to the game but my goal was to enjoy the caves alone. As each day passed that they were open, the numbers of visitors grew exponentially. I couldn’t seem to find a moment to escape my day-to-day responsibilities to beat the morning, afternoon, and weekend crowds that were coming from all around the world to see this wonder.

When the notice came out that the caves were closing, I realized time had run out. It was now or never. I woke at 6 am to arrive at the Sea Cave parking lot around 7. As day’s first light broke, I made my way down to Lake Superior to discover I wasn’t alone. But, alone enough given 125,000 folks have visited the caves in a mere two months.

At midnight the caves close. My birthday passes. All things considered, it was an uneventful birthday. But, it follows an eventful year of buying new land, becoming a mom, growing my freelance and returning to the streets to prepare for my fourth Half-Marathon. I’ve learned lots and discovered I really know nothing. I’ve made new friends, found new hobbies and grown as a person. I look forward to all 36 has to offer and sharing it with those around me, while embracing my quiet moments alone.  In the meantime, one final look at today’s hike.

Resolutions Suck

Resolutions. How can one simple word be so loaded? Resolutions often result in empty promises of losing weight, eating healthy, exercising and being an overall better person. It signals us highlighting our weaknesses and focusing on how what we are currently doing isn’t good enough.

Last year I attempted to buck the trend of setting resolutions by setting the bar low.  Guess what? I still failed. I have yet to publish my book. I backed off on volunteering in the community. I weigh a mere 4 pounds less this year than I did last year at this time. I had the worse garden on record. I continued to believe the best in people, despite discovering that some people don’t deserve this kindness. And, despite an incredible week long vacation in Washington, D.C. my 2013 list of places to see remains primarily unchecked.

By all accounts, this past year was a failure. Except it wasn’t. In mid-January, just days after setting my goals, I was handed a curveball. Remember this?

In an instant everything changed. My priorities changed. My goals changed. My resolutions became a distant memory. And, despite my best attempt at planning, I have since discovered that no matter how much I lower the bar, it won’t be enough.

So I’m taking yet another approach at setting goals. This year’s goal—expect the unexpected. Go with the flow. Recognize that the next year might be about survival. Life may revolve around changing diapers, teething, first steps and making the most of each moment with Jacob of Moon Lake.  And frankly, that’s pretty amazing.

This year won’t be about me. I won’t make major self-improvements. Instead, I will be reminded time and time again that I have no idea what I’m doing as a mother. And each time this happens, I will smile because the one thing I wanted more than anything in life has happened. I am in fact a mother.

Last but not least, I am setting one concrete goal. In April I hope to run my first half-marathon since having Jake. There I’ve put it in writing. I am running again. And guess what. I am scared to death. I am out of shape. I seriously question whether I’ll be able to finish. I’m not exactly sure how I’ll find time to train. Each time I step on the treadmill, my head is filled with self-doubt.

But, each time I finish a training session, there is a glimmer of hope. That little voice from the depths of my soul that whispers maybe I can, despite my head shouting I cannot. I don’t know who will win or what the future holds. But, I do know I’m going to try. If I fail, so be it. It’ll just be one more item to blog about.

Merry Christmas from Moon Lake

merrychristmaswebHello! It is Jacob of Moon Lake again. I hijacked mom’s blog again so I could send you my Christmas letter. I’m not sure how I feel about the photo but I’m guessing the ladies will dig it. What’s there about me not to love? Just don’t ask mom this question at 2 am when I decide to show my less happy side. Don’t hate on me. I don’t plan these growth spurts. And when I’m hungry, I’m hungry. Anyways, I digress.

Back to my letter. It is crazy to think of everything that has happened in the past year. You know a year ago, I was sitting in my mom’s stomach wondering exactly when she was going to acknowledge my presence. She kept making up these odd excuses. But frankly, I think she knew. Sure, she probably didn’t want to get her hopes up. Can you blame her? I wasn’t around pre-me (duh), but I have been around when she’s reminded me I’m her miracle baby and how grateful she is to have me in her life. I think that makes this Christmas extra special. But I have a hunch that every mom thinks their baby is a miracle (only I really am folks).

lovesantaI only mention this because it ties to my Christmas message of please believe. Believe in what? I’m not quite sure. I’m only 4-months old and am still figuring out the whole faith thing. But, I do know that I’ll totally believe in a fat red guy fitting down our miniscule chimney if it scores me presents each year. I even have a shirt to prove it. And, I don’t ever want to stop believing that someday we’ll live in a world where the milk flows endlessly, we alternate round the clock between playtime, nap time and dinner time, and no single kids goes without daily hugs and kisses from folks that love them to the moon and back again. We’re not there, yet. Not even close. And that makes it hard to keep believing. But, I’m going to try. And, I’m going to do my part to make sure it happens. I hugseven started by kissing the neighbor girl…and flirting with a gal at my first Happy Hour (Yeah, I totally have game). I hope you’ll consider the same (not kissing the neighbor girl but doing your part to make the world a better place). I know mom and dad try to live this way, even when it at times can be very, very discouraging. But, that doesn’t stop them from trying.

I wish everyone a very Merry Christmas. May you fine time to indulge in too many cookies (eat one for me, please), drink too much milk, laugh until your stomach hurts, stay up too late telling stories with those you love,remembering what matters most not only at Christmas but all-year round and finding a place in your heart to believe in the unbelievable.

Live life, laugh lots, and love forever,

Jacob of Moon Lake

32 Days of Jacob

Pretend this is in focus. I am too lazy to download pics off my actual camera so this will have to do.
Pretend this is in focus. I am too lazy to download pics off my actual camera so this will have to do.

Thirty-two happens to be my favorite number. Think Duke’s Fabulous Five and Christian Laettner. What can I say, some things from my middle school days stick. So, in honor of Jacob being 32 days old, I thought I’d share these 32 facts that many a mother has shared before me, but I didn’t believe until going through this myself. I write this one-handed as I rock him, nurse him and make a silent prayer that he takes an afternoon nap. Despite that, I wouldn’t change this for anything. Even at 32-days, he is still my miracle baby.

  • Newborns are extraordinarily resilient. Mothers (especially first time moms) are not.
  • Tears. There will be lots of tears. They will not be from your child. You think you can control them. You can’t.
  • Diapers. So many diapers. With so many various surprises that leave you talking a lot about poop. That is all.
  • Those first smiles – just signaling the need to use more diapers. It is not your child being a genius.
  • Breastfeeding is not this beautiful and easy part of motherhood. Your child does not make sweet sounds while you sit back and relax knowing you are nourishing your baby.  It is work.
  • You will make mistakes. Daily.
  • You will take shortcuts. The sooner you accept this doesn’t make you a bad mom, the better.
  • There is no such thing as supermom. Just being a mom, is frankly super enough.
  • Some friends will be annoyed by your constant baby talk or just check-out of your life. Guess what – they were never your friends to begin with. It has nothing to do with you changing. Life events should change you.
  • Raising a puppy is not the same as raising a child. Duh. Should have figured that out sooner.
  • You will be very tired. Very, very tired. Even if you sleep when he does. It doesn’t matter. Your very strong friendship with coffee will be reunited.
  • Stalking old friends on Facebook will be a regular occurrence during your endless feedings.
  • You will spend all day running around like crazy but get to the end of the day and discover you’ve accomplished nothing but surviving.
  • Life will be measured in ounces, number of wet diapers, and minutes sleeping. Everything else is just details.
  • You will quickly learn how to eat one handed while rocking. Those who can’t, will perish.
  • You’ll gain perspective on what matters in life. Guess what? It isn’t the new car you bought. (Even though I still do love my new Forester).
  • Car seat buckles suck.
  • Someone needs to invent an inexpensive solution to hands free pumping without having to change, create a homemade bra or sit hunched over like a cow being milked.
  • The overpriced swing that you thought you didn’t need—be really glad you have it.
  • The swaddle swoosh route will only take you so far.
  • You can never have enough burp rags.  But, you can in fact have too many newborn onesies that he will outgrow before he even gets a chance to wear them.
  • Your eardrums will learn to tune out or turn down your child’s moments of rage.
  • Your nose will learn to ignore the smell of sour formula.
  • You will learn to shower in under 10-minutes with one ear tuned in for crying. This will be the closest thing to “getting ready” you’ll do for a while.
  • Even the best baby in the world has bad days. Moms who tell you differently either have selective memory or are liars.
  • The good moments outweigh the bad.
  • You’ll find yourself obsessed with baby photos and overwhelmed with love for any and all of your friends who are having, had or thinking about having babies.
  • You’ll have a new gratitude for other friends who are willing to talk candidly about makeshift solutions for parenting.
  • The first time he grabs your finger, looks into your eyes and babbles to you, life will never be the same.
  • It is an overwhelming and awesome sense of responsibility to have someone so innocent rely on you for everything.
  • There is a special zen that happens every time he nestles on you, grabs your shirt and falls into a deep sleep. These are the moments you will never get back.

Despite every day being so incredibly long, before you know it, your little guy won’t be so little so take everyone’s advice to just cherish every moment – good and bad. It is a lot to take in, so quickly. But, like millions of mothers before me, this too shall pass. And, before I know it, there will be a whole new set of wisdom to acknowledge.