(Found this saved in my drafts - I shelved it there, declaring it "not quite perfect," and promptly forgot about it.  I should have published it, so I am now.  It's not Advent anymore - we're barreling through Lent - but the sentiments still ring true for me.)

"Today, I will be calm and patient," I breathed to myself, watching my perfect little one sleep in the crook of my arm. The article promised I'd be unflappable, as long as I believed the truth I said aloud. Calm and patient, all day long. I was awake before Betsy for the first time in ages - I had time to set an intention for the day, for crying out loud. Perhaps that was the problem - I didn't say it loudly enough.  

Today has not been calm, and I have not been patient. We are four weeks into a 7- week kitchen remodel, which means we are currently cooking and eating out of our upstairs bathroom. Betsy thinks it's awesome. Done with your sweet potatoes? Just toss 'em in the tub. I'm slightly less enthused with the prospect of living off a dorm-sized fridge and toaster over until Christmas. 

Today, I've cleaned pee off the floor, poop out of the tub, and thrice sopped up the contents of a sippy cup that has never before leaked a drop. We missed an appointment because my keys went missing amidst the construction craziness. I found them three hours later, in the pocket of a coat that was shoved under a trunk in the playroom. Are you kidding me? 

The cleaning lady cancelled. The water from the tap tasted funny and so I was thirsty. Betsy is getting her first two molars. All I want for Christmas is a goddamned break.

I prayed at the beginning of this season that I wouldn't treat Advent as something to be gotten through, wishing away the days until Christmas. And yet our kitchen is slated to be functional by December 23rd, and all I can do is count the days until we are no longer living like nomads.  Because then it will be better.

Isn't that always how it works? That's how I think about things, anyway. Our days will be better once our kitchen isn't in our scary, not-fit-for-company bathroom. Motherhood will be better once this tooth breaks through, once Betsy can walk, once she can talk, once everyone gets just a tiny bit more sleep. Our marriage will be better once we learn to communicate, once we get a vacation, once we finish this pint of ice cream. Once once once once once. These things come, their arrival is heralded, life changes -- but hard things are still hard. 

These days, life is feeling an awful lot like Betsy's favorite bear hunt.  "Oh-oh! A hot mess!  A swirling, twirling hot mess! We can't go under it, we can't go over it.  We've got to go through it!"  Oh oh, indeed.

Life looks so very little like I thought it would sometimes.  

I took the top picture right before Betsy's nap. It's been a doozy of a day, and the only thing I could think of to cheer myself up was putting her in elf pajamas. It worked, for a few minutes. And when I look back on today, that's what I'll remember. I'll remember her rosy cheeks in these days before Christmas. I'll remember that missing our appointment prompted me to pull out the art supplies, and that Betsy got to paint for the first time. (She did more gnawing on the paintbrush than anything else, but I treasure her first masterpiece just the same).  We used up every sticker in the house and I smile just thinking about her little face twisted in concentration, trying to unstick the star from her finger and affix it to the paper instead. She works so very hard sometimes. 

What you don't see in that picture is that she has cried every time I've put her down today and my back is sore from hauling all 24 pounds of her around. The picture doesn't show you that I snapped at her minutes later for unplugging my iPhone and throwing the white noise machine on the floor. It doesn't show you that I'm not confident in setting boundaries right now, that toddlerhood is testing my limits and that  Betsy has feelings big enough for the two of us, feelings that make me almost as uncomfortable as they make her. The picture just shows us smiling. It's how I want to remember this. It's how I think it's supposed to be. 

It was almost three by the time I ate lunch - an Amy's frozen burrito bowl, hastily consumed over the sink of the kitchen-bathroom-trainwreck, trying not to drop any on the sleeping head tucked just beneath my chin. I sat down in the rocking chair and my morning's intention came roaring back. Calm and patient?  More like anything but.  "I wish I could tattoo BREATHE on my inner arm," I thought. I wasn't sure how much clearly I could remind myself. I looked down at my wrist, where moments before I'd flicked off an errant star sticker and thought of Thomas Merton's great prayer. 

My Lord God,

I have no idea where I am going.  I do not see the road ahead of me.  I cannot know for certain where it will end.  Nor do I really know myself, and the fact that I think that I am following your will does not mean that I am actually doing so.  But I believe that the desire to please you does in fact please you.  And I hope I have that desire in all that I am doing.  I hope that I will never do anything apart from that desire.  And I know that if I do this you will lead me by the right road though I may know nothing about it.  Therefore will I trust you always though I may seem to be lost and in the shadow of death.  I will not fear, for you are ever with me, and you will never leave me to face my perils alone.

Thomas Merton // Thoughts in Solitude // Abbey of Gethsemani


I was not calm today, and I certainly was not patient. But I wanted to be. That has to count for something.  




Help Me, Rhonda

It's been quiet here -- too quiet. A reflection of too much noise in my day-to-day. Nate is suddenly traveling a lot and our amazing nanny just started a new full time job as a chaplain at the children's hospital (I mean, really).  I didn't realize how much I'd come to count on those hours away from Betsy to renew myself and create this space. 

So about ten minutes ago, I took a deep breath and began the search for a new person to help us out. I've got mixed feelings about that but for now - I needed help. I asked for it. I'm proud of myself.  

I have such big plans for this space and I'm excited to get back to posting when I can. In the meantime, I'd love to catch up with you on twitter and Instagram - I'm @lizzieboaz. 

Happy september, y'all! 


Second Bedtime

Betsy has had trouble staying asleep lately. I nurse her to sleep or sometimes wear her in a wrap before transferring her to our bed, then scurry out for some kid-free time with Nate and Netflix. The past few nights, we've watched on the monitor as she wakes up, sits up, claps for herself (of course) and then either cries for us to come get her or busies herself in pursuit of the ever-elusive iPhone cord. Doing bedtime *again* - thirty minutes after I declare her "definitely asleep for the night" - is really, really rough. 

We've noticed that Betsy is trying to put herself to sleep - and put herself back to sleep, as well. This is huge for a kid who usually needs to be nursed, rocked, walked, worn and lullabied for every nap and bedtime. We want sleep to be something that she welcomes - not something scary or anxiety producing. While it's exciting to see that investment start to pay off, it is hard to be in the thick of it. I keep reminding myself that "never" is a really unhelpful word when it comes to parenting (like, "if we don't force Betsy to sleep in her crib, she will never sleep through the night") and that I don't know any college freshman whose moms wear them in a woven wrap to take a nap. 

So last night, six minutes into an episode of The Office ( our latest netflix obsession. Man, that show was so good) - Betsy sits up and starts waving at the video camera. Deep breath, big sip of water, and back to our bedroom for Round Two. I hoped that she might quickly nurse herself back to sleep but that just wasn't what she needed. She is making huge motor developments right now and babies often wake up to practice their new moves -- so we did. Stand up, sit down, stand up, sit down, stand up, sit down, with one hand on her back and both eyes struggling to stay awake. I can only speak in soothing tones for so long before I start to make myself sleepy. 

Ever so slowly, she started to wind down. Her coordination wanes as she gets tired -- she would sit down and stay down, and occasionally rest her head on the bed. Ever the imitator, Betsy began the process of settling in to sleep - tossing and turning, rolling on and off her pillow, closing her eyes and then squeaking to cheer for herself.  

It is so hard for me to sit and watch this, and so, so important. I want her to sleep like the baby I imagined I would have - tightly swaddled and out for the night, early to bed and late to rise. Teaching Betsy to sleep has been a lesson in getting to know my own child. She likes long pajamas even in the summer but hates having a blanket cover her feet, just like her dad. She snuggles for a moment and then crawls across the bed to get some space - rolling back to me whenever she needs to feel safe and secure. On the days when I'm completely touched out, it is so good to remember why she holds onto me so tightly.  

Teaching Betsy to sleep is also an exercise in patience, and in grace. I certainly don't fall asleep the same way every night -- it's strange, then, that I would expect that of my eight month old. As someone who often struggles to fall asleep and whose husband often encourages her to "just relax," I know that's easier said than done. The more furiously I grumble "Betsy, go to sleep!" the less likely it is to happen anytime soon. Having patience with her, and grace for my sleepy, grumbling self is the only way through. 

Always always, no matter how tired I am - I fall completely in love again as I watch her sleep. My big girl, who is growing and changing so fast, tackling an ever-expanding world while holding tight to my finger, just in case she needs me.  


There is little to say about the loss of Robin Williams that hasn't already been said, and said better than I could. Unsurprisingly, I think Anne Lamott says it best of all - but it's only been twenty- four house since his death and I'm sure more beautiful things will be shared in the days and weeks to come. 

What I want to add - as someone who struggles with mental illness and loves so many others who do, as well - is to ask you to please, please say something. Speak up. Ask for help. Wave the white flag when someone asks how you are and the honest answer is "not okay." 

It can be so hard as mamas, when our job is taking care of others.  When we don't want our babies to see us crying.  When we are constantly told to soak up every moment of these best days.  When we are completely enamored with these little ones -- to listen to that small, nagging voice that persistently cries that something is just not right.  

You are not alone.  You are not a bad mom.  You are not a bad wife.  You are not a bad friend.

You are loved.  You are wanted.  You deserve help - and it's out there.  Asking for it is often the hardest part.

Postpartum depression is something that is (finally) being talked about a little bit more openly.  My struggle was most acute during my pregnancy, which isn't discussed as frequently.  Although I can and do laugh about it now - at the time, my anxiety felt anything but funny.  The Emory Women's Mental Health Program literally gave me my life back.  I cannot say enough good things about the phenomenal team at work there - and there are places like this popping up all over the country.  Finally, finally, we are saying that mamas deserve care, too.  So if you need it -- please, please ask.

I'm posting in the middle of the day because this needs to be talked about all the time - not just when the lights are off.

Fifteen Minute Chunks

I was talking this week with my coach, Elizabeth, about how I feel like I live my life in fifteen minute chunks. I was lamenting the loss of long, unstructured time to really sink myself into a piece - whether writing my own or reading someone else's - and how I feel like there are tons of things I don't want to start doing because there is no way I'll ever finish. If the things I want to write take over an hour, there is no sense in even starting -- or is there?

Lately, Betsy naps best when she's sleeping on me. It's a tough trade off that I make two or three times a day -- do I want a short nap and alone time, or a long nap with her on my chest? Like many mamas, I absolutely crave alone time in this season of breastfeeding,  baby wearing and teething (Lord, the teething).  But Betsy needs rest and so do I.  Sitting and rocking her is a time of stillness for both of us, time I'm trying to embrace particularly as she becomes more mobile. 

Betsy napping on me means I spend a lot of time with Nate's nemesis - my iPhone.  More specifically, the Facebook app on my iPhone. I am more caught up on the lives of acquaintances than ever before - but, like so many studies have shown, I end up feeling lonelier as a result. I certainly don't feel relaxed and refreshed after I scroll through my feed, and yet I spend an awful lot of time doing it. 

I think Facebook can be a really fun thing - this post isn't about that. Rather, I'm trying to be more mindful about how I use my down time. It turns out there's a lot I can get done in fifteen minutes. For instance: 

-I can write a short blog post, or at least a part of one. I really enjoy writing on my phone (who knew?) and I feel great when I'm actively creating.  

-I can read something wonderful. Instead of thirty status updates, I can read a vignette from a favorite author and come away with a new perspective on things.

The books I'm reading have changed in this season. I sat down to read Sense & Sensibility and actually got through seven chapters in a weekend -- but I kept getting the many Mrs. Dashwoods confused, and I could never pick up the story easily without having to go back and reread a chapter.   

Some of my favorites lately have been Home Game by Michael Lewis, Seven by Jen Hatmaker and anything by Anne Lamott.  

-I can meditate. I finally remembered to bring headphones with me when I nursed Betsy to sleep today, and I'm excited to find a moment of stillness on this Friday afternoon.  I love anything from Health Journeys and I also really enjoy the app Meditation Oasis.

What are your favorite naptime activities? 

Someone Else's Child

I've always loved other people's children.  I was the preschooler who hauled her baby sister around long before I could make my own bowl of cereal. I loved my summer camp as a kid but found a home there as a counselor loving on my campers.  After a disastrous stint at McKinsey, I became a pediatric nurse because the only thing I love more than someone else's child is said child when they are sick.  Sick babies are my jam.  And on the days when Betsy is driving me nuts, I manage to delight in the antics of our friends' kids, if only because I know I get to give them back soon.

We've already established that I'm a worrier.  It probably doesn't come as a galloping shock to anyone that when I'm not worrying about Betsy, I'm worrying about someone else's child.  I worry that Azalea needs to sleep (and her sweet mama does, too).  I worry about Aidan, who fell and busted his lip last week.  I worry about Ellie becoming a big sister, even though she's the bravest little girl I know - and even as I know that my brother and sister are the greatest things my parents ever gave me.

What I didn't expect in becoming a mom is that I would start to worry about children I didn't know, too. 

And so these days I'm worrying about girls in Rwanda who don't have the systemic protection they need to keep them safe.  Not to keep them healthy -- not to get them to school on time -- to keep them safe.  Dear God.

I worry about kids down the street who don't have enough to eat at night, or a safe place to lay their heads.  We got word from our pastor that a local organization turned away twenty children on Thursday alone because they don't have enough foster homes. Twenty.  

And my heart is completely torn up by the children arriving in droves across the border in Texas and Arizona. I think about if that were me and Betsy - alone in a foreign country, with no home, no money, no phone-a-friends.  Even more chilling, I imagined if this were an improvement over our current living situation - if the place I'd called home for my entire life was so dangerous, so destitute that taking Betsy and leaving - or, worse, sending Betsy by herself - seemed like my only viable option.  

The words we use in this situation scare me.  That's not an alien crossing our border - it's someone else's child.  And we're mamas.  Motherhood sits at the core of our identity, the presence that exists once class and power and nationality are stripped away.  No matter where I go or what I do, I'm a mama first. If these were American children walking by themselves across a Target parking lot, we would already have called the police, found them some graham crackers and organized a community meeting. 

I don't know what to do, and my mama heart aches over it.  I'm wary of any quick fix, too familiar with a long history of jumping in, "solving things" and leaving a wake that's more painful than the initial problem.  But I'd be lying if I said I hadn't contemplated hopping on a plane to Texas and coming home with as many of these sweet babes as I could carry.  

More broadly, it makes me think hard about words like "plenty" and "enough."  On a morning when I woke up to a sink full of dishes, a pile of diapers to wash and a shower that's leaking into the apartment downstairs - I woe-is-me'd through my cheerios, my steamy shower, my snack of locally grown organic plums.  I'm blessed beyond measure and I don't even notice.  



Falling Down

I worried a lot when we were expecting Betsy.  A lot.  I worried about whether I was eating the right things, and sleeping enough, and whether the exercises I wasn't doing were going to make or break my birth experience.  (Answer: They would have helped.  But babies come out anyway).  I drank an Arden's Garden juice one day and a friend casually asked if the royal jelly and bee pollen were safe for pregnant women.  30 minutes later, I threw it all up in the dog bowl.  At least my intestines had an outlet for their concern, disgusting as it was.  The rest of me just sat on the couch, reading and fretting and occasionally patting the dog.

I've worried about having a child in middle school ever since I left the damned place.  As Anne Lamott writes in Operating Instructions, "The seventh and eighth grades were for me, and for every single good and interesting person I've ever known, what the writers of the Bible meant when they used the words "hell" and "the pit."  It was Lord of the Flies.  Springtime for Hitler, and Germany. So how on Earth can I bring a child into the world, knowing that such sorrow lies ahead."

What I didn't count on was worrying in between now and, say, nine years old.  As I envisioned parenthood, it went something like:  Hard, beautiful labor.  Bring home healthy baby.  Baby doesn't sleep much.  Baby sleeps a lot.  Cruise until first grade.  Begin parenting in earnest.

At no point did I imagine Betsy as an older infant, a toddler or a preschooler.  I guess I expected her to morph overnight from neonate to running with scissors.  A conversation with Mary confirmed that I'm not alone in this regard, although perhaps the two of us are just unique in our neuroses.

When moms talk about how they "kept their children alive for 24 hours," I never really know what they mean.  Children are incredibly hardy - they have to be, for the survival of our species.  2 years as a nurse in a pediatric ER confirmed that the majority of kids, even sick ones, are actually just fine.  And then my own baby got sick.

Betsy managed to get roseola on top of her ear infection, and her second tooth just came in.  I promise I'll start writing about something else soon, but I have a ways to go before getting over the injustice of it all.  I was pissed, in the Biblical sense of the word.  

Mine is perhaps the happiest baby in the history of the world, and all she did was cry.  Even when she slept, she whimpered.  Nate is the designated weeper in our family - but Betsy crying brought me to tears on more than one occasion.  I preached the fever gospel to almost every parent I encountered at Children's but she was so hot it hurt to kiss her forehead, and I was scared for my child.  (Blessedly, I managed not to puke in the dog bowl this time).  

I paged the on-call service at our pediatrician's office three times and brought her into the office twice, always with the sheepish grin of a Medical-Professional-Who-Ought-To-Know-Better.  I know fevers aren't bad.  I know rashes look scary but most of them aren't.  I know there is zero correlation between the number of a fever and the severity of illness or the likelihood of a febrile seizure.  Turns out it's really hard to be a nurse for your own child.

Nate and Betsy were playing on the floor last night.  She is learning to stand and loves to pull herself up on everything - the more dangerous, the better, it seems.  Nate spotted her as she tugged on the leg of my desk, and I marveled at the strength in her chubby little legs.  After a few seconds she wobbled and sank to the ground  with a well-practiced thud, her cloth diaper padding the fall.  Nate's hands were beside her the whole time.  She quickly switched her focus to his baseball cap, another treasure of endless fixation.  As she tried to scale his broad chest, he kissed the top of her head and said, "Betsy, I'm not always going to be able to catch you when you fall.  But I will always, always try."

My throat caught unexpectedly.  Without knowing it, he'd so succinctly verbalized my struggle these past few days.  I'm used to being Nurse Mama, who knows exactly what to do and how to fix it -- but there was no fixing Betsy, there was just sitting and rocking and holding and crying.  

I can't protect Betsy from everything, and I'm probably not supposed to.  In fact, I know I'm not.  To shield her from all that would disempower the bravest, funniest little girl I know.  Our world needs children who can face the heart of life.  It needs mamas who can do that, too, I suppose.  

So I'm sitting in this space, trying to figure out how to parent from here.  I haven't learned to let go gracefully yet, so I'm following close behind with tightly clenched fists, trying always to catch her when she falls.


About ten days after B was born, dear friends came over to visit and drop off dinner. Janet was my mom's college roommate and introduced my parents - she and her husband, Brian, adopted me when I moved to Atlanta. They came bearing wine, homemade caramels and (seriously) a monogrammed chicken pot pie - this is the South, after all 

My family had just left the day before, and Nate and I had completed our First Day of Solo Parenting. We were brimming with pride, not just at our girl but at our own accomplishments. We were Doing Awesome, we exclaimed. Betsy was a terrific baby. We were navigating our new roles easily, without friction or argument. The diapers practically changed themselves. 

"Honestly, I heard so much about how hard it was to have a newborn, but I really don't know what everyone is complaining about," I boasted, with the wide grin of a kindergartener who rode the bus to school and declares herself an expert on the intricacies of public transportation. "This is really not that bad."

Hubris is a real bitch.  

You know, of course, how this story continues to go. Because parenthood is hard, babies eat all the time and adrenaline can only take you so far. We ate standing up in the kitchen, taking turns shoveling food into our mouths while the other one bounced Betsy, who screamed loudly from 4-7p everyday (I can only assume at the indignity of having been born to such inexperienced parents).  Originally, we alternated who got up with the baby - a terrific plan in theory, except that Betsy was always, always hungry. Then we decided that Nate would handle everything but food - the diapers, the swaddling, the shushing her back to sleep. Nate is made of stiffer stock than I and so this division of labor quickly fell apart once it was clear that I could not stay awake to feed Betsy - I simply fell asleep in the rocking chair. And that is how we came to be a bed sharing family, which is a story for another time. 

What I loved most about Janet and Brian's reactions was that they didn't say anything. Some things just have to be experienced. They loved on us, they left the pot pie, and they  checked in a few days later, when things were predictably rough. 

Betsy is finally on the upswing after 6 miserable days.  We are so very tired. So grateful she is better, so grateful it is over, but mostly just very very tired. We forgot what it was like to wake up every 2 hours. While I was waxing poetic after our first night, by day two I was over that shit -- and I had four more to go. Nate and I marveled that we used to do this all the time - Betsy turned eight months on Sunday and the newborn period felt very, very far away.  Janet and Brian had us over for dinner in the midst of it.  They rocked our baby while we ate and served bracing gin & tonics, the only cure for what ailed us.  And Brian shook his head - yes, it's miserable.  Yes, it gets easier.  Yes, they get sick - and then, they get better.