The Sling Diaries- Wisdom

This is my last Sling Diary entry and I’m so not ready for this to be over. I know what you’re thinking “oh like you’ll stop posting up #babywearing photos and talking about yourself any time soon Jill…pshht”. But it’s so much bigger than that. Over the course of this project, I’ve gotten to know the other writers as well as the readers.
The wisdom I gained as I look back on the past 6 months isn’t about self discovery. I’ve always been fairly introspective. Instead, I learned so much from reading about the real lives and thoughts of my fellow diarists.

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I often thought of other mothers as just statistics in some article shared on Facebook.  The 50% of moms who cosleep. Or the 3 out of 4 moms who start breastfeeding. At some point motherhood became a math and science to me where “this is the best for your child because this study says so and 65% of moms are now doing it”. But that’s not what my life as Lucy and Mila’s mother is really about.

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My days are filled with peanut butter and jelly sandwiches with the crust cut off. And giving in to a 5 year old’s pleas to go outside despite the fact that it’s raining and her little sister clearly isn’t so stoked on the idea. I fill bubble baths and sippy cups. I check my emails with a baby in my lap, who often hits send before I’m ready to. I drink coffee at 7am. More coffee at 9am. Then switch to tea once my stomach hurts from all the coffee.

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I gasp in amazement at Lucy’s artwork. I kiss mila’s hand which I frequently attack with wipies. I sing songs about picking up toys and about parties in their tummies. I scoop up Mila when she falls. And I’ve been known to bribe Lucy with popsicles.

We have days where the slings just stay hanging on hooks. And then days like this one Mila wants “ups” constantly, even bringing me her sling and trying to put it on herself. Having slightly limited arm use is worth the peace of mind knowing she isn’t about to find a staircase to climb up or a penny to put in her mouth.

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Being a mother is about loving my daughters and trying to raise them to be good people.  Its making memories worth holding on to and finding  joy in each day I am lucky enough to spend with them.  Its not a whole bunch of studies and facts and percentages comparing me to all the other parents out there.

Getting to read about motherhood outside of some brochure the pediatrician has handed me or some Huffington Post article about folic acid, has been so refreshing. So I thank this project for inspiring me to put down the parenting books and stay off those crazy message boards, and to pick up Goodnight Moon instead.

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This post was a part of the Sakura Bloom Sling Diaries 936133_470359789702880_970277169_n

The Sling Diaries: Kinship

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Mila’s first birthday is coming up in a couple days. When I think about just how badly I wanted this life and how long it took me to get it, I tend to get a bit mushy sentimental so bare with me.

There was a time when our family was just us two; myself and Lucy. I’d divorced her biological father when she was just 6 months old . I did my best to embrace my role as a strong single parent. But I have vivid memories of laying in bed with her on a mattress on the floor of our studio apartment dreaming of the family I have now. I watched her sleep, her super chubby cheeks smashed on my forearm, and I would think ‘this amazing little girl deserved so much more than just me.’

Falling in love with the heavily tattooed guy I met at the bar he was working at certainly didn’t seem like the most responsible choice for a single mom. I tried dating single dads like everyone advised me to. But it was my best friend Justin who made me laugh all the time. My mom said she always knew when it was Justin I was talking to because I’d have a huge smile on my face. He is so witty and thoughtful and kind that I knew pretty early on I would never be letting him go.

I’d be lying if I said the transition from dating to “hey wanna meet my child?” was an easy one. In between all the trips to the park and family movie nights were some mixed emotions. I imagine that it was hard for both of them to learn to divide the attention they were used to receiving from me. To this day, I still sometimes get frustrated and tell Lucy and Justin I cant possibly listen to both of them at the same time. But then I’d find them both passed out on the couch together after watching cartoons. Or I’d come home to them playing Candy Land. I got to watch their relationship grow and see them build their own bond.

It took us about a year before our family felt real. Like I could stop explaining our life story anytime someone at the park asked me if she looks more like her father. Or if someone questioned why our last names weren’t the same. I was finally confident to just give a quick simple response. And it was right around that time we decided we were ready to grow our family.

By the time we started trying for Mila, I was so ready to have a newborn in my arms again. I was ready for the baby bump and the late night nursing sessions. All of it. When the first and second pregnancy tests came back negative I didn’t think anything of it. I just adjusted in my mind when the baby’s due date would be. I’d think “well if I get pregnant next month we’d have a May baby. That could be fun!” Suddenly imagining a May birth turned to a summer baby. Then a Fall baby. Then I realized I was fast approaching 12 months of trying with no bump to show for it. 12 months is like some imaginary deadline. Every book out there says if after 12 months you still aren’t pregnant, talk to your doctor. Each negative pregnancy test felt like a slap in the face. And every time a friend announced their pregnancy it felt like a punch in the stomach. I wanted to be happy for them but it was only a reminder of what I didn’t have. We kept trying for 4 more teary months before throwing in the towel and accepting that I might not get the family I’d hoped for. But that the family I had was enough and that I was already so blessed. Of course, the month after giving up I got pregnant. Isn’t that always how it goes?

Bringing Mila into our family was such a surprisingly smooth transition. Not to say there weren’t “you don’t love me anymore, you only love the new baby” moments. But they were few and far between. The past year has only made us all closer.  We all genuinely enjoy each others company over all others. Justin and I put on records and watch the girls dance in the living room for hours. We used to lay a blanket on the ground for Mila and the rest of us would lay on our bellies around the blanket to see if she’d roll over or if we could get a coo out of her. When she took her first steps we were all there for it and Lucy cheered the loudest.

Sure the four of us might have 3 different last names. There are 6 grandparents. Your family might have 2 dads and 1 daughter. Or 1 mom and 3 sons. Another family might be a mom and a dad and 12 kids. And some might only include children of the furry variety (meaning pets). I’ve learned that just because we aren’t what I most often saw portrayed on TV or in movies doesn’t make us any less of a family. We didn’t follow the song about how first comes love then comes marriage then comes baby in the baby carriage. But it doesn’t mean I need to explain or make excuses for who we are. We laugh often and love unconditionally. We are a family in all the ways that matter.

This post is a part of the Sakura Bloom Sling Diaries Thank you so much to Ashley for taking these photos of my famly You can see more of her beautiful photography on her site Ashley Vos Photography. 936133_470359789702880_970277169_n

The Sling Diaries- Voice

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I was a painfully shy child. So much so that I cried if people even looked at me. I still feel a lot of anxiety when I know I’ll be in a social situation.  I fight through it, but by the time I get home I just crash because it’s so exhausting having to keep it together. Though, I learned early on that I couldn’t embrace loneliness. At a job interview or when I worked as a sales rep, my career depended on how well I could communicate with a stranger for 10-15 minutes. Losing control for even a moment and turning bright red or getting too fidgety could mean not having money to pay rent.
Mila is a woman of few words. To be fair she isn’t even 1 yet and her vocabulary is limited to “mum-mum” and “da da”. But, as I’ve mentioned before, she is an observer. Some babies have so much to express. But Mila is most often slung to my hip silently watching the world around her. We sit in the coffee shop, and she doesn’t fuss or yell or babble. Instead she quietly, gazes out the window and watches the city worker hosing off the cobblestone in Pioneer Square.

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When we take the Light Rail, we always keep to ourselves. Still strangers approach. They come up and begin to try and charm their way into Mila’s heart with something along the lines of “Oh hello little baby! what a sweet baby!“and are only greeted with a stern look and a raised eyebrow from Mila. She doesn’t feel the pressure to meet their energy and smile as big as they do. She hasn’t been taught social norms. So on her behalf I say something to imply she is either tired or fussy. When neither is the case. Mila is simply genuine.
I wish I could let go of the pressure to be polite. When a stranger says something rude or invades my personal space, I anxiously smile it off as to not offend anyone. I’m that sucker who gets caught on the phone with telemarketers for 20 minutes because I can’t bring myself to cut them off. If it were Mila, she would have just hung up the moment she got bored, thrown the phone and started chewing on the tv remote. Ok, maybe it’s unrealistic to be as carefree as an infant. But I’m sure there is a balance somewhere between the two.voice4a

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This post is a part of the Sakura Bloom Sling Diaries

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The Sling Diaries-Joy

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Being pregnant with Lucy was like being pregnant with a lion. Strong and spirited, her kicks made me double over. She danced into the world , practically delivering herself. Even the nurses looked stunned. We named her Lucy Luxx. Both mean light. And it fits her perfectly. She can light up even the darkest hour.  She made me a mother.

Being pregnant with Mila was like being pregnant with a kitten. The smallest flutters, her kicks felt like a gentle burrowing. We considered a few different names. She was almost Rosie Lee. We decided on Mila because it looks and sounds so dainty. And we chose Valentine for her middle name because I knew she’d be so easy to love. I was smitten the moment I heard her tiny heart go lub-dub. She completed our family.

 My girls are so different. One surprises me, the other comforts me. And while they both bring me the same amount of joy, it is in very different ways they both find joy in life.

Lucy is adventurous and expressive. She wakes up and runs to the sliding glass door and before she can fully greet us, she first greets the world. Soaking in the daylight, the first words out of her mouth are “can we go to the park?” She craves the fresh air and freedom.

Mila is precious and fragile. Nothing brings her more contentment then being held close to my chest. Or being wrapped in her fathers arms, warm and safe from the unknown. But it is watching her big sister that brings her joy. If you go through many of my photos holding or wearing Mila, you’ll notice she is smiling looking to the side. It’s Lucy she is smiling at.

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This post is a part of the Sakura Bloom Sling Diaries
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Father’s Day Sling Diary- Love

*This is a blog post from my husband, Justin.

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Love is one of the strongest motivating emotions one can experience in life. Love is a strong force. The lengths in which a person is capable of going for someone they love is quite remarkable.
A few years ago Jill and I decided that it was best for our family to have her stay home. Which meant I’d have to work a second job to make up for Jill leaving hers. But I rarely complain because it’s the love I have for my wife and daughters that makes the hours at work pass by so quickly. It’s my motivation day in and day out. Looking forward to spending quality time with them is what keeps a smile on my face when it’s 2am and I’m just starting to clean the bar. The love for my family is what makes coming home after a long shift worth it all.

This post is a part of the Sakura Bloom Sling Diaries

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Sling Diaries- Memory

I had one of those ideal childhoods. I grew up in Edmonds, a sweet beachy suburb just 20 minutes north of Seattle. I spent my summers writing my name in the sand, tie dying t-shirts at day camp, and playing with American Girl Dolls. We’d at least once a year go as a family to Cannon Beach or the Oregon Coast where my sister and I ran around collecting sea glass for my mom and ate salt water taffy we’d bought at an old timey candy shop. I feel so fortunate to have had the childhood my parents gave me.

I know there were bad moments hidden in all that joy somewhere. But those were never the memories I clung to. I have always looked back on, and identified with, the best times in my life.

Last week, we all went to the waterfront. I planned every detail. I had hopes of getting downtown early enough to miss the crowd getting on the ferris wheel, and then we’d ride the carousel and stop to watch the ships come in. Instead, it took us forever to find parking and Mila was super cranky when she woke up from her nap. Then Lucy got her heart set on some tiger stuffed animal in one of those machines with the claws and we didn’t want to spend $75 trying to win it. We threw in the towel and headed back home.

When we got home we were all famished and decided to walk to Dick’s Drive-In. Lucy already seemed over the stuffed animal crisis and was back to her usual spirited self. Frolicking and twirling around the trail as the rest of us walk.

As we sat there on the curb passing fries, Justin told us the story of the night Mila was born and how he came here while I was in labor and wanted everyone to “just leave me alone”. I then shared my own memories of being a no-good teenager coming here late at night with my friends as Lucy swiped bites of my burger. Mila manages to pop one arm out of her sling and starts grabbing at my food so I distract her with a straw to play with. I love when our family feels like a well oiled machine. Passing this, sharing that, and knowing exactly what to do to keep Mila content.

  These weren’t the memories I had planned on making. Still, I wont look back on this day and feel let down. I’m not going to remember parking lots or tantrums. I’ll remember laughing. And sharing. I’ll remember Lucy singing, loudly, as we all walked down the trail. And Mila giggling as I kiss her tiny hands. Instead of remembering our adventure to the waterfront, this day will be stored away in my memories as Mila’s first trip to Dick’s Drive-In.

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This post is a part of the Sakura Bloom Sling Diaries.
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Sling Diaries- Inspiration

Sometimes the line between where I end and Mila begins is blurry. She eats and sleeps nestled on my chest day and night. Her legs kick and splash me as I try and wash my hair in the tub. I bite grapes in half and give her the other part as she sits in my lap during lunch time. I have spent the majority of this never ending Seattle winter indoors with her. Not even sure what day of the week it was, just another grey day spent huddled in our safe apartment, soaking in every second with my sweet baby. And while I wouldn’t change a single one of these days, I also realize that since Mila is so closely attached to me, the only world she knows is the world I’ve shown her (so lots of Iphone, grocery shopping and 30 rock ). With reports that the day was going to be highs of 57 and only a 30% chance of rain, I seize the moment to venture out of our nest and reemerge into society with Mila along, sitting safely in her sling.

I’ve been dying to check out the Chihuly Garden and Glass Museum for months, though I hadn’t heard much about it. Sadly this is a city built on black coffee and snark, and too often these sorts of places aren’t utilized by the locals who chalk them up to ‘tourist attractions’. I went in with an open mind hoping to see something bright and fun to shake off the 8 months straight of grey skies. It isn’t long before I realize what I’ve just signed up for is so much more spectacular then I could have even imagined.

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When Mila is hesitant, she hides her face in my arm pit. Then she’ll look up again in awe. Then hide her face again. She isn’t the most outgoing baby on the block but she is observant. And pushes through her fears and continues to look and take it all in. As she gets more comfortable I can feel her little legs flutter in excitement.  She starts making those early coo sounds that I haven’t heard in months since she’s moved on to babbling.The return of sweet little “lllaaas” and “gaahhhs” makes my heart burst.

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It’s so hard not to just gaze in amazement at these massive, lit up, blown glass sculptures right in front of us. Transparent and glowing from within. But I’m lured away by the constant smiles from Mila, who has become surprisingly blissful. Not offended or scared in the slightest. Instead, just looks from a tiny being who has a new idea of the world’s possibilities. I can’t yet explain to her that this is someone’s way of communicating and expressing themselves. Just like she has so many times told me so much without words. For now I am just satisfied to have exposed her to something unlike anything she’s ever seen before.

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An afternoon like this has inspired me to continue to push out of my comfort zone and adventure through our city knowing,”Yes! Mila may cry in the car seat and someone may sneeze on her”. It’s so easy to stay in our sweats, and laze around the house letting the week just melt into the next week. But I’m glad we got out and showed Mila something truly breathtaking.

This post is a part of the Sakura Bloom Sling Diaries.

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