Bright Spots: Birthday Celebrations

Your special day was more subdued than I envisioned.

I suppose “subdued” is what I should have expected, though, in the midst of a global pandemic and a regional directive to shelter in place. There’s only so much you can do when restaurants are closed, nonessential traveling is discouraged, and gatherings of 10 or more people are essentially banned.

Truthfully, I had hoped to throw you a huge shindig. Not necessarily in terms of the guest list (because I know you prefer to keep things intimate). But definitely in terms of energy. A party full of laughter and beer and burgers and donuts and all the people that you like to have in your corner.

I’m saddened that I couldn’t give you that celebration this year, especially since this is a milestone one for you. Amidst all this craziness going on in the world, I recognize that my reaction is selfish, probably a little misplaced. After all, there are bigger things going on in the world, right?

But after yesterday, after our “subdued” birthday celebration at home, I would have to say: no, celebrating you on your day — just the five of us, with the empty takeout boxes piled on the counter, with Henri whining for crumbs or potentially a big bite, with the boys’ chubby faces lighting up to sing you “happy birthday” and devouring their pieces of cake and ice cream — is the biggest thing going on in the world for us right now.

So, happy birthday to you, love. Thank you for being you. Thank you for weathering this storm. Thank you for always thinking about what’s best for me and the boys. On your 30th birthday, I hope we were able to give you the best, too.

Motherly Confessions: I Like to Be Away from My Kids

Harsh truth time: I’m a mom who likes being away from her kids.

I came to this realization when I was a little past the halfway point of my maternity leave after I had my second son Noah. I was one of the lucky few people in the U.S. whose employer offered a generous maternity leave (i.e. paid and longer than a few weeks): in all, I had roughly six months total of paid time off both to recover from childbirth and to bond with my newborn baby. And throughout that time, I had an opportunity to reflect on my motherhood style.

I undoubtedly cherished every minute of my leave (and, for the record, I would never exchange that time off for anything in the world, and I fundamentally believe that: one, this country needs to mandate paid parental leave for all types of parents, and two, we need to destigmatize parenthood, particularly pregnancy and motherhood, in the workplace… but I digress, as that is a topic of conversation for another, much meatier blog post). However, I realized during that time that I’m a better mom, a better wife, a better head of household, and, in truth, an all around better person when I spend some time away from my kids.

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Happy New Year: 2020 Goals

Ah, here we are: at the start of a new year.

It’s funny: thanks to my favorite feature on my Day One Journal, my end-of-year journal entries automatically resurface through an “On This Day” recap, and I’ve had an opportunity to read through all my new year sentiments from the past six years or so.

There definitely were common themes.

I haven’t accomplished everything I’ve wanted to… but I will next year. I’m going to lose that weight. I’m going to get healthy. I’m going to write more blog posts. I’m going to be happy. I’m going to take care of myself.

Forgive me, but this blog post is also going to be filled with some of the same stuff… We’re creatures of habit after all, right?

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Raising Two Boys: What I Hope to Teach My Sons

A little under two months ago, I gave birth to my second son.

It’s a funny thing because, while I’d always envisioned myself as a mother, I’d never thought that I’d be the mother of two boys. I guess I’d always assumed I’d have at least one daughter (not to say that isn’t an option in the future; I’m just not really thinking about another baby anytime soon).

As a modern-day woman — and one who had grown up in a household with a 2:1 female-to-male ratio —, the thought of raising a daughter always seemed a lot more straightforward. I knew from direct experience the lessons I wanted to impart on her, the gender expectations I wanted to sidestep.

But a son? Let alone two sons?

There is a lot more gray area for me to navigate — and a basic lack of understanding of the modern male experience. Raising boys always seemed like an intimidating task to me.

Thankfully, I have an amazing partner who’s had his own experience navigating harsh expectations of what it means to be a man. And he’s been so integral in helping us prioritize how we want to raise — and, ultimately, define some key lessons that we want to impart on — our boys.

My three guys.

So, here are our main hopes in raising two boys.

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A Letter to My (Unborn) Second Child

Dear Baby Bean #2,

First off, I apologize if Mommy and Daddy seem a bit preoccupied. Days, weeks, and months pass by, and I realize that I haven’t so much as read you a book or sang you a song or gave you a gentle love tap through Mommy’s growing belly.

I assure you: it’s definitely not because there are more important things going on in our lives. And definitely not because we don’t think about you or have forgotten about you.

That’s the furthest thing from the truth.

It’s nearly impossible for the days, hours, minutes, seconds to pass by without you, Little Bean, entering my thoughts. Especially because you never let me not think about you, with your constant kicks and dances.

I’m so grateful for how much you move. Every movement helps me to learn about you a little bit more and more. 

I can tell you’re going to be a bit of a firecracker, which both warms my heart and terrifies me to no end.

Daddy and I would be kidding ourselves if we didn’t acknowledge that you’re going to keep us on our toes. It’s an inevitability.

When I think about your pending arrival, I get nervous. Not because I’m scared to meet you. Not even because I don’t think that Daddy and I will know what to do (not that we’re professionals — I just know that when I meet you, I’ll be able to figure out what you need).

No, I think I’m nervous because I know that I will love you so much.

My heart has already been full.

With gratitude and joy and unconditional love for the life I’ve had over the past few years. For the people that I’ve been fortuitous enough to surround myself. Especially your daddy and your brother and your fur-brother, your aunts and uncles and grandparents and cousins. There are so many people that I have given so much love to; it’s hard to imagine having the capacity to love anyone or anything else at this point.

But I know that’s what will happen: my seemingly already-filled heart will inevitably expand a bit more to accommodate how much love I’ll undoubtedly feel about you.

That much love is hard for me to comprehend.

So, I’m just writing to let you know that I’m anxious to meet you. I’m eager to meet you. I’m counting down the days, Little Bean (but also, selfishly, crossing my fingers that you’re cozy enough in my womb that you’ll wait those five more weeks until you’re “supposed to” make your grand entrance into this world).

We’ll see you soon. And we can’t wait to love you — with all our bodies, minds, and hearts.

Love,

Mama Bean

New Year, Who Dis?: My Commitments for 2019

Dear Readers,

Another year has come and gone, and I inadvertently abandoned this “beanbrain” blog about a quarter into 2018.

My apologies for that one. I hate making excuses as to why certain goals, especially my creative projects, fizzle out as the year progresses. But I’m just going to put my justifications out there. And you are welcome to pass judgment (or not).

  • Work became insane. I actually went through a pretty tumultuous professional year shortly after returning from maternity leave last January, which resulted in my moving into two different jobs throughout the course of the year. Both roles within the same company, both ultimately great moves for my long-term professional career — they just made my day-to-day schedule (and managing a blog) a little more challenging.
  • I found out I was pregnant again. Yup. I’m actually about 33 weeks along. I’ve been growing steadily larger and becoming more and more tired. And Reggie and I are just counting down the days until our little family grows a little bit bigger. So, of course, managing a second pregnancy and taking care of an increasingly rambunctious toddler leave little room to blog (and also made my fitness and weight loss goals pretty much nonexistent).

But…

It’s a new year. And I’ve committed to making 2019 my year of no excuses.

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Mother’s Day 2018: A Quick Ode

It’s my first Mother’s Day. And while the weekend was both low-key and eventful (main highlights: a lot of downtime at home with my three best guys and an emergency visit from the paramedics when Micah had an allergic reaction to formula), it’s also given me an opportunity to reflect on motherhood in general and, specifically, what that means within my life.

Today, on Mother’s Day, I want to recognize that who I am as a mother has only come to fruition because of a few notable individuals around me. So here are a few thank-you notes to a few important people in my life…

On my first Mother’s Day, I can’t help but feel extra grateful for everyone who has helped shape me as a mother — especially my baby boy.

 

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Bright Spots: Discovering the Ocean

This past Saturday, Reggie and I took Micah on a day trip to Monterey and Carmel. Reggie had a beachside engagement shoot scheduled with a couple of clients that evening, so he asked if Micah and I wanted to spend some time together on the beach while he worked.

I happily obliged: I can never pass up an opportunity to walk barefoot in the sand.

When Reggie and I separated so he could get to work, I strapped Micah to my belly, took off my shoes and socks, and paced the shoreline as the sun slowly but surely dipped toward the horizon. I savored the coarse sand on my soles, the biting ocean water lapping over my toes, the cool breeze on my face.

Close to sunrise at Carmel Beach…

 

And, after much longer than I probably should have realized, something dawned on me: this is the very first time Micah has seen the ocean.

And I immediately shifted my focus from the distant horizon to my wide-eyed son. And I smiled at the pure wonder and curiosity on his face. “That’s the ocean,” I told Micah. I explained to him that this was the home of all the creatures we saw earlier at the aquarium. I pointed out the waves, coming and going in a steady rhythm; the kelp scattered around the shoreline; the seagulls gliding overhead.

But, mostly, I tried my best to simply observe him. How, as I walked along the shore, he turned his head from side to side in order to keep a close eye on the water. How he kicked his feet in joy as dogs raced past us in the sand. How he craned his neck and reached his chubby little fingers toward the trees above us. How he blinked rapidly and stuck his tongue out at the ocean breeze, maybe to feel the wind on his tongue, maybe to taste the salty air.

This is the first time Micah has seen the ocean, I realized. And I am so grateful that I am with him right now.

Because, in the midst of all the chaos of first-time parenthood, I sometimes forget that I have the privilege of witnessing a little human being experience the world for the first time. And that is an awe-inspiring thing.

On Finding a Rhythm (or, Rather, NOT Finding a Rhythm)

I apologize for being MIA for the past couple of months. Once Micah got sick with the flu, Reggie and I, unfortunately, couldn’t get back into a life rhythm. So, understandably, my writing fell by the wayside.

And that’s what I want to focus on in today’s blog post: that struggle for new parents to find a rhythm. More specifically, a rhythm for self-care and self-love.

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Dealing with a Sick Baby

Micah hit an unfortunate milestone this week: his first sickness. More specifically, his first bout of the flu. Which has made for a very tumultuous past few days in the C.B. household.

Looking back, it’s simultaneously funny and miraculous how we even discovered he was sick: it was because our DVR malfunctioned. For whatever reason, my recording of Sunday’s post-Super Bowl episode of “This Is Us” was botched. And, because I couldn’t bear to go to sleep and wake up to spoilers all over my Facebook and Twitter feeds, I re-activated my Hulu account and waited until midnight for the new episode to pop up on the streaming service.

And thank God that happened. Because, while waiting to watch the new episode, I realized that my sleeping baby was sleeping a lot longer than usual and was making an odd whistling sound while snoozing.

So, for whatever reason, Reggie and I decided to take Micah’s temperature. And lo and behold — he had a 104º fever.

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