And Then, There Was Four

And Then There Was Four

I could have gazed into her eyes forever but she yawned, squeaked, and slowly drifted off into the most peaceful of sleeps.


It was quiet there in the birthing center at the hospital. The lights were dimmed and nurses were rounding in hushed tones. Across the hall I could hear the familiar thumping of a fetal heartbeat on a monitor. Sometimes I could hear the shuffling of a laboring momma, walking the halls, just like I did a few short hours earlier.


I looked back down at my daughter. She was just over twelve hours old. I hadn’t slept in 24 hours and I couldn’t have been more at peace. How else was I supposed to feel? I was holding a dream come true.


A squeak and a yawn and I was brought back to my bed, in the very room that we welcomed our second daughter. In the room where our older daughter helped to coach me through contractions. In the room where my mom timed the waves that would eventually bring her a fourth grandchild. In the room where I fell in love, all over again, with my husband, as he fed me my turkey sandwich while I held our minutes old baby.


I took in the calm. The past 24 hours had been a whirlwind. I went from being a 37-week happily pregnant, albeit uncomfortable, person to a new mom, all over again. The tiny girl in my arms was, just a few hours earlier, nudging my ribs with her toes and getting into position to be born.


All the day before I had been having contractions. They were not painful; they were just the contractions I had struggled with for so many, many weeks previously. The difference was that now, at 37 weeks, the baby was able to thrive on the outside. I had just started to let my guard down, find peace in the last remaining moments of this pregnancy, one that would almost definitely be my last.


By bedtime I was exhausted and my back was achy. I jokingly asked my husband if he could take Monday (the next day) off so we could have one more day of weekend. “Only if you go into labor!” He joked back. I laughed. That day had not felt like the day before labor would start. I remembered the day before our first daughter was born. I just knew she was on her way. That day, Sunday, was not that day. I said good night and headed to bed to start my nightly tossing and turning.


Somewhere around midnight I had finally drifted off only to be woken two hours later to my tiny inhabitant doing barrel rolls in my belly. I laid in bed, staring out the window at the tree in my neighbor’s yard. Half of the leaves had fallen off and the remaining ones were shifting from brilliant yellow to a subdued brown. I had been watching this tree for weeks, knowing that once the leaves had all fallen, our baby would be coming. A small but very distinguishable popping feeling very low in my abdomen interrupted my foliage filled thoughts. I knew instantly that my water had broken.


The next two hours were filled with excitement and fear, phone calls and last minute house prep. Eventually our small car was filled with a very excited family, everything we could need for the next couple days, and a whole lot of love and anticipation. Off we went to meet our newest family member.


We had just decided a week earlier to include our daughter at the hospital. Originally, she was going to stay home with Grandma. After talking with friends, each other, and my midwife, we decided to bring her and my mom with us. You would have thought we had told her she was headed to Disney to meet the entire Frozen cast, she was so overjoyed. We realized, after making the choice, that it was the only thing that made sense for our family.


As we settled into the room where I would deliver, I could not have been more confident in our choice to include my mom and our daughter. I was at ease and not the least bit anxious, exactly what I had dreamed for this birth. My labor and delivery with our first was filled with fear and anxiety. So much so that it ended up clouding my memories and making the entire experience a blur of incoherent moments. I vowed to stay present this time, to be in control of my experience instead of just a fearful victim of the pain.


By morning my labor had not progressed much, I was still in very early labor, my pain was barely worth mentioning. The decision was made to fully break my water (the pop had been the product of a small leak that set off labor but did not allow it to progress). It wouldn’t be long now; we were going to meet our baby.


I took to the halls of the second floor, walking and chatting in between contractions. My husband, mom, and daughter all took turns walking with me. My husband would hold me through the pain, rubbing my back. My mom and I shared moments between the breathing, finding great amounts of gratitude for each other’s presence. My daughter would hold my hand and quietly stop when I did. She would remind me to breath by taking slow, deep breathes next to me, gently squeezing my hand.


“Good mommy! Good breathing!” She would say, defying her mere four years. When the pain threatened to take over my control, when it threatened to take me from being resent, I would look into her eyes. I would ask her to give me a kiss, or just breathe with me. I found strength in my family. They, whether they realized it or not, gave me the ability to have the birthing experienced I so desperately yearned for, one that I so desperately needed. Their calm and reassuring presence got me through labor.


The last phase of labor went very quickly. We decided to have my mom and our soon to be oldest daughter go for a walk while I delivered. Within a few minutes I was holding our tiny new child. I did it. We did it. Our dream had come true; my personal dream of a positive birth experience had come true. Overcome with gratitude and love, I held our baby and my husband and I cried.


We are a family of four now. Our oldest has slid into the roll of big sister in a way that we could have never anticipated. My love for my family has grown more than I thought was possible. My respect and adoration for my four year old is immeasurable. My gratitude and adoration for my mother is at a place it has never been and I could have only hoped for before this experience. I am humbled by my amazing husband; I adore him with every fiber of my being. And, our new baby, the center of it all; the missing piece of our puzzle. She completely completes our family.


And you. My readers, my supporters, my friends. You all rode along as we experienced this journey. I will forever be grateful for the emails and Facebook messages. The congratulatory words and hugs when we crossed paths at the grocery store. You have all kept me believing in the light when the darkness threatened to take over. Thank you.


As I finish typing this up, I feel a tiny hand touch my leg. Our three-day old baby is napping on our bed next to me. As soon as she felt me next to her she let out a content sigh. I wonder how much more my already overflowing heart can handle. Then, my four-year-old comes in, climbs onto the bed and kisses her sister and says good night.


“What was your favorite part of the day?” I ask her, like I do every night.


She looks up from her spot next to her sister and smiles, “Spending time with my whole family. All FOUR of us.”


And Then There Was Four


Exposing A Costume Conundrum

Exposing A Costume Conundrum

It is that time of year again! Fall is in full swing and everything I love the most about living in New England is in great abundance. October is my favorite month for so many reasons, one of which being Halloween.


Many of you may remember that last year at this time I wrote a little rant about inappropriate kids costumes. For those of you who didn’t catch it, here it is in a nutshell: While perusing the Halloween aisles of a local department store I stumbled across a costume that was a size 2T-3T. (For those of you without kids, that it approximately the size a 2 or 3 year old would wear.) This costume was a leopard, aimed at little girls. Sounds innocent, right?


It wasn’t.


It was a knee length purple and black dress with short sleeves and a headpiece with pointed ears. No big deal. Except it was a big deal. It was a big deal because this costume didn’t have a speck of leopard print and on the package it was labeled as a “NAUGHTY LEOPARD.”



I will let that sink in for a minute. I know that last year (and this one for that matter) my daughter’s only definition of naughty was (and is) impish behavior. Breaking the rules. This costume did not imply any of that. It implied the other, much more grown up, definition of the word.


Remember what size it was? 2T-3T. What in the WHAT?!?!


So, that was last year’s disgusted rant by the mother of a young daughter, sick and tired of the sexualization of our girls. I demanded we put the creepy back into Halloween. Or at least take away the sex. I don’t care if it sells I am not buying it.


Now that you are all caught up, here we are. 2014. A full year later. I am still a ranty mother to a young daughter but this year I have another daughter on the way. Hormones and momma-bear fierceness have taken control of me. I feel another rant a-coming and you all are going to be privy to it.


I am (as of the morning this will be published) over 8 months pregnant. As you can imagine, I am quite round. My due date is right after Halloween but due to my history and current contractions, our newest little lady may just be here before the spookiest candy fest of the year arrives. My older daughter is ALL about dressing up. Mommy and Daddy are not exempt. Have you ever tried to change the mind of a 4 year old? Yeah, that.


So, I found myself, during the wee hours of the morning, mid insomnia battle, searching for costumes that will fit a very pregnant body AND a post-partum body. It may be easier to find a leprechaun, riding a unicorn, at the end of a rainbow, guarding a pot of gold, than it is to find a costume for me. Apparently since I am a grown woman looking for a costume for Halloween I must obviously want to be a sexy something-or-other.


Every costume I have found will expose more of my lady parts than even my midwife sees. That may be acceptable and desired for some women out there but let’s not forget, I am about to give birth and if she is born before Halloween, I will be mere moments post-delivery. As much as giving birth makes me feel gorgeous, NO ONE WANTS TO SEE THAT.


Then it dawned on me; maybe I should search for a costume that no one could possibly make sexy. I thought of the perfect character with a forgiving body shape. Animated, wholesome, adorable, hilarious, and ROUND! He was my cartoon doppelganger. I quickly grabbed my laptop and typed in my Google search:


Women’s Olaf Costume.


Let us take a moment again, for those of you out there without children or televisions or radios or any contact with the outside world. Olaf is the summer loving, magical snowman sidekick in the little movie called Frozen. Heard of it?


Anyway, back to my Google search. I entered those three words and hit enter. There it was. An Olaf costume for grown women, just like me. Well, sort of just like me. Just like me except not pregnant or post-partum. Ok, it was an Olaf costume for women just like me if I was a Barbie doll.


Somehow, costume manufacturers and designers who should turn in their sewing machines out of shame had sexified Olaf. A snowman. Three round lumps of snow with a carrot shoved through his head and buckteeth. Sexy Olaf. I was in shock.


The costume was simple. Too simple. It was a hooded mini dress. Pull the hood up over your head and Olaf’s face was printed on it. The dress was printed to resemble his body, minus the actual shape. I feel like I should really emphasize the MINI part of mini-dress.


The good news? If I was still pregnant and went into labor, I could deliver the baby, fully costumed. THAT is how short this dress was. Pretty, right?


I eventually gave up. Clearly the sexy Halloween costume trend has reached an all-time low. There is no sign of it slowing down either. Until we stop objectifying women of all ages and trying to convince them that their worth lies in their sex appeal, I am afraid the trend will stay put.


And, in case you were curious as to what I will be wearing come Halloween, I have decided to don a cape and be the very best role model I can be for my daughters. I will not show the world my body and instead will be grateful for what it has given me and respectfully keep it clothed. I will also be sporting a giant baby belly or a tiny newborn, either way I will look incredible. Not because of my 3 inch hemline, plunging neckline, or exposed midriff, but because of the little girl, dressed as Batman, holding my hand and looking up to me.


Exposing A Costume Conundrum



My husband is my confidant, my best friend, my backyard pumpkin harvester, my biggest fan, my partner in crime, my everything.

Being on bed rest is hard for me but I can’t imagine what it must be like for him. Just today he has had a makeover while working from home, saved our house and cable lines from a tree branch, checked on the pellet stove he installed yesterday, comforted me, made meals, took care of dogs, washed and folded laundry, cleaned the house, and is currently at our daughter’s dance class with her. Not a moment of complaint. Not even a hesitation. This is what he does.

20140914-_MG_0051Tomorrow is our anniversary. I have no gift to give to him as I am home bound and a procrastinator. What I can give him is a family that ADORES him and a wife that respects and looks up to him. I am in constant awe of him and the life he has helped to build. It may not be perfect but it is perfect for us.

And love. I can promise to love him more than he can imagine or conceive of.

Eight years ago I recited vows while fighting back tears of immense joy. They were the most important and life changing words I have ever uttered.

I, Michelle, eight years ago, took you Zachary, to be my husband, to have and to hold from that day forward, for better or for worse, for richer, for poorer, in sickness and in health, to love and to cherish; from that day and every day forward until death do us part.

1377364_10201196314603919_1500175689_nThank you, husband, for the best eight years I could ever ask for. For two daughters, a warm, safe home, for constant laughter, love, and support. Thank you for putting your family above all else without sacrificing yourself or your dreams. Thank you for being more than I could have ever imagined that sunny day that I handed you the keys to my truck. Thank you for being everything. Thank you for being you.

So, this is what happens when dreams come true. IMG_3750.JPG


Seeking Sympathy (Guilt Need Not Apply)

seeking sympathy

As my pregnancy winds down, the discomfort increases. At my last prenatal appointment I mentioned the increase discomfort since my last full term pregnancy wasn’t even close to being this uncomfortable. My midwife nodded knowingly. She agreed that being four years older the second time and having a little one to care for absolutely creates new issues and discomforts.


What she did not do was judge me. She let me complain quietly. Nodding her head in agreement or at the very least, in sympathy. She didn’t remind me of my blessings. She didn’t rub in the fact that I repeatedly said that I would give and go through anything for another child. She just listened. She reassured me that it was very typical. She just let me talk. This seemingly small act had a huge impact on me.


Most people around me know our story. They were by our sides during our multiple heartbreaks. They saw me slip into a depression and struggle with what I presumed to be our fate. They also witnessed our hard decision to stop trying to conceive. They saw my husband and I slowly come to terms with our only child status and eventually embrace our tiny family.


They were there when we announced our surprise baby. They held their breath with us as we waited to see that itty-bitty heartbeat on the ultrasound screen. They exhaled along with us at our 11-week scan, when we saw a healthy baby. They have been there and we are eternally grateful.


Most have been so supportive. SO supportive. But, there have been a few people who have unintentionally said some less than supportive things, disguised as support.


Sometimes, I need to complain. I need to sit down with someone I am close to and whine. Pregnancy is TOUGH. Yes, it is amazing and miraculous and beautiful but it is also painful and uncomfortable and hot. It is queasy and achy and exhausting. Even though the life inside of me is an enormous blessing and will never be taken for granted, the process of growing her is taking a toll on my mid-30’s body.


I am in my third trimester now, about a month away from meeting this little squirming person we created. And you know what? I hurt. Physically. Sometimes, when asked how I am feeling, I may mention the sleepless nights and searing back pain. It does not make me less grateful.


All the gratitude and blessings in the world still do not make 20 plus weeks of extreme nausea any more bearable. It doesn’t take away the discomfort of 15 weeks of pre-term contractions. It doesn’t make sciatic pain or pelvic separation any more enjoyable.


What I do not need is another well-meaning person to say, “Yeah but it’ll all be worth it!” Or, “Just remember what a blessing this is!” Or, “Be grateful you get to go through it, you thought you never would.”


These words may have all of the good intentions behind them that the world can hold but it does not make them sting any less. Ever been in pain and exhausted and not sure if you’ll make it to the end of the day without collapsing in a weepy pile only to be told to count your blessings? It is a super guilt inducing feeling and it is not something I want to be feeling.


What I need is more nods of understanding. More sympathetic ears. Maybe even an “I have been there” belly rub.


I spend 90% of my time counting those blessings. I talk about them, I write about them, I take photos of them, and I breathe them in. The people who try to remind me of them inadvertently make me sad. They should know how grateful I am. It is insulting, frustrating and hurtful.


It has led me to not share how I really feel. I fear coming across as taking for granted the very dream I held onto for so long. So, instead, I focus on the good and let the guilt over the less-than-stellar build. And build. And build. Until I end up crying myself to sleep, wondering if I really am just ungrateful. Maybe if I could muster more gratitude, the discomfort and pain would be more bearable.


One look at any drug store aisle of analgesics and the answer is clear. There is no bottle labeled, “count your blessings as needed for pain.”  I am not ungrateful I am human. I am a human growing another human while caring for a small human. It is ok to complain sometimes. It is ok to admit moments of weakness. It is all part of my truth and I cannot deny that or let it make me feel guilty any longer.


I would have loved to have a picture perfect pregnancy. One with no swelling, little to no pain. One where I glowed for 9 months while our miracle baby grew inside my belly. But that isn’t real life. Well, maybe for some, but not for me.  All-day morning sickness and crazy Braxton Hicks contractions are my reality. Swollen fingers and expanding feet are what is happening. I may be glowing but that is mostly because today is 80 and it is supposed to be sweater weather.


All of this is totally ok. It is perfect because in the end, I will have my second daughter. I will get to hold her and look at her and eventually the memories of the pain and discomfort will fade. They will never fully disappear though, as they shouldn’t. The memory of them will perfectly balance out the immense feeling of gratitude that will wash over me as I lay eyes on our new baby.


So, if you hear me say I am sore, haven’t slept in days, or feel so nauseous I might scream, please do not remind me to count my blessings. You can rest assured that I have counted and recounted them. I have talked about them, written about them, photographed them, and breathed them in. No, I do not need to be reminded of all I have to be grateful for. What I do need is to be allowed to express my feelings, my truth, without fear of guilt or judgment. I need a sympathetic ear and a smile.


A donut and belly rub wouldn’t hurt either.


seeking sympathy

I See A Fly On The Wall



Some days we get up, get ready, and Go! Go! Go! Other days, more so recently, we stay home. Our pajamas are our uniforms and the television our entertainment. These are the days we talk the most, snuggle the most, laugh the most. Normally I would feel the twangs of mommy guilt but instead, I enjoy these days, just her and I.



IMG_3422Sometime around her 2nd birthday our daughter decided that when we get coffee, she would as well. She grabs a small to-go cup and asks us to fill it with milk from the self serve coffee station. A lid goes on it and she sips her “coffee” alongside mommy and daddy.

Last week she and I stopped at our local food co-op to get coffee. She grabbed her cup and I filled it for her. I watched as she carefully sipped it while strolling through the store, stopping to say hi to the (many) people we saw who we know. Once we got to the register she carefully placed her cup on the counter and announced that she had a small coffee. The cashier smiled knowingly and handed it back to her after ringing it up. My girl held it in two hands, once again carefully sipping it.

We made our way into the car and I buckled her into her carseat. I placed her “coffee” in her cup holder. I turned up the stereo and we drove off. At the stop light I reached up to adjust my mirror. In it I caught this moment. There she was. My little girl, sitting in her seat, legs crossed. She was happily singing along to Katy Perry and sipping her beverage. It was a moment anyone else may have missed or not noticed. But I did. In that moment I saw my baby girl, growing fast. I saw her as a kid. Her very own person, yet with so much of me.

I caught her eye and quickly snapped this photo. She giggled and went back to singing. These moments are exactly what it is all about.



IMG_3419I woke up to tapping on my house. Not my window but on the wood siding of my house, right under my bedroom window. I got up and went over to investigate. I was greeted by this little woodpecker and her mate. They apparently heard that our house was an all-you-can-eat buffet of sorts. What they didn’t hear was that the owner of said buffet is heavily pregnant and exhausted.

I tried to stay nice as I asked (demanded) that they leave. In response I got the mail trying to fly INTO my house. I give up. This place has gone to the birds.



IMG_3358It feels like yesterday that I took the test that FINALLY said I was pregnant. And now, here I am, looking like I am trying to smuggle a basketball in my shirt. In a few (short) weeks we will welcome our second daughter. It still feels like a dream.

It is amazing how long the days can be but the months have flown by. Here in New England fall has started to take hold. I couldn’t be more happy and more excited. Every nudge and roll, every hiccup and kick is one more reminder of what is to come. I CAN’T WAIT!!



IMG_3278We have a tradition every night at bedtime. After stories and before hugs and kisses we all ask each other, “What was your favorite part of the day?”

This ritual started over a year ago when my husband was away for work. He was gone for four weeks and it was the first time we had ever been apart. It was hard on all of us and I needed to stay focused on the good in our lives, even if it was a tiny detail.

Every night my daughter and I would talk about what our favorite part of the day was. Recalling the fun we had would make going to bed without our favorite guy a bit easier.

Daddy came home later that month but nearly 16 months later we still ask. Her answers vary, depending on our day. Recently though, her answer has remained the same.

“Spending time with my whole family.”



Fly on the Wall

This post was part of the Fly On The Wall writing challenge. A group of bloggers all write and post on the smae day, sharing snippets of their lives for you to read, as though you were a fly on our wall. Please do check out the other writers. They are an amazing group of bloggers.                           Baking In A Tornado                                The Rowdy Baker                                Just A Little Nutty                                         The Momisodes                       Spatulas on Parade                               The Sadder But Wiser Girl                          Follow me home . . .                  Stacy Sews and Schools                             Menopausal Mother                                        Go Momma O                                     Dinosaur Superhero Mommy                         Someone Else’s Genius                               Battered Hope



One School, Two School, Home School, Public School


For the past couple weeks, every time I log into Facebook, my newsfeed is inundated with adorable children, freshly scrubbed and smiling. Some have backpacks, some hold signs. Some look excited and others a bit nervous. Each photo makes me smile and then a wave of anxiety washes over me.

Like so many things in parenting there is no right answer when confronted with the question of where your child will be educated. The options are as limitless and your time and funds allow. Public school, private school, charter schools, home school, unschool. When going over our options it feels like I am reading from a Dr. Seuss book.


One school, Two school, Public school, Private school,
Charter school, Home school, Old school, New school.
This one you get to by car.
This one isn’t very far.
Say! What a lot of schools there are.


We knew that eventually our musings and idealistic conversations on the topic of our child’s education would have to focus and become a real decision making process. But when you are up nursing a six week old or helping your one year old learn how to walk, it seems like a far-flung reality. No rush. Right?


Kind of. We dragged our heels. In our defense, we were renters up until last year when we made our house officially our home and signed those really scary and exhilarating papers. We lived our lives one 12 month lease at a time. We had no idea where our next adventure would take us, leaving school a hard choice to make. We didn’t know where we would be living. No idea on what town, or even state. We tossed around the idea of home schooling our daughter. That way, it wouldn’t matter what our zip code was.

As we settled into our house and it became clear that we were going to buy it, our discussions became more serious. Were we still going to home school? Or would we send her to the public school that was nearly in our back yard? We checked out private schools but I couldn’t justify the expense. We paid taxes. A lot of them. For school, one that I could see from my kitchen window.

Our daughter turned 3 and we decided to wait on pre-school for another year. I worked from home and made sure her days were full of play and friends and hands on learning. Maybe next year, we said.

As the winter turned to spring and pre-school registration arrived we decided to tour the program, get on the waiting list, and see what happened. A month later we got the acceptance letter. Now, we really had to make a choice. She would be four this summer. This was our last chance to send her to pre-school. We weighed the pros and cons. We talked to her. We further explored our options. I searched for the owner’s manual that I was convinced she HAD to have been born with. (I had no luck finding it….)

After weeks of conversations we decided to hold off on formal pre-school and instead become more active in the local home schooling community. We saw this year as an opportunity to test the home school waters. Would it work for us? Would it work for her? Both my husband and I were happy with our decision and our daughter was excited to not have to go to school every day.

Then, the back to school photos started rolling in. The school behind our house woke up from it’s summer slumber and the sounds of laughing children filled our yard every noontime during recess. I started wondering if we had made the right choice. Our daughter started asking when she would be able to join the other kids at school. Our confidence in our decision faltered. Had we made the right choice?

That is the thing with parenting, life even. There is rarely a right or wrong choice. When you find yourself standing at a fork in the road, there is no way of telling which turn will work best for you. All you can do is make a decision and hope you had enough information and gumption to have made the best one.

We are sticking to our plans to home school this year. As kindergarten registration comes up next spring we will revisit them. We will have more discussions and we will tour the school. We will talk to our daughter and together, as a family, decide what will work best for us.

In the meantime, I am resuming my search for that owner’s manual. It has GOT to be around here somewhere. Right?






I am still in shock at how close we are to the arrival of our second daughter, the baby we never though would be. Even being seven months into this pregnancy, I have days that I wake up and only open one eye, cautiously waiting to feel those morning jabs in my belly, half expecting that it was all a dream.

photo 1

My incredibly talented sister painted this for me. I had no words, just tears of disbelief and gratitude.

It was a dream. One that we have been blessed to have come true. It is amazing.

Last weekend my mom and sisters threw us a baby shower. The theme was rainbows, in honor of our rainbow baby. We were surrounded by love and laughter. Even far-away friends were there in spirit. It was perfect.

photo 2

Since Saturday more than a few people have been in touch, sad that could not attend. They sent their love our way but wanted to do more and have been asking about registry information. And then, there is the relentless crew of INCREDIBLE people over on the Juicebox Confession Facebook page who have been nudging and begging asking me to throw a JbC virtual shower of sorts.

I have dragged my heels about it. Felt too weird to be asking people to buy a stranger (with emphasis on STRANGE) gifts. Then, a wonderful reader said this:

“We have all followed your story. We cried along with you during your losses and celebrated along side you with your joys. We have been through it all with you and want to be able to celebrate with you.”

After I stopped sobbing and collected myself I realized that I am forcing no one to buy anything. It isn’t about that, it is about CELEBRATING!! Happiness and gratitude and joy and love. Who am I to get in the way of all that?

So, I am sharing our two registries. No obligations, no expectations.

We are registered at TARGET and AMAZON


This is the card that Full Metal kid gave me. I ADORE him.

Also, did you know my good friend, Chrissy over at Full Metal Mommy, is expecting her third baby a month after I am due and IT IS A GIRL?!?! She has two boys (the eldest is one of my daughters oldest and best friends!) and is beyond excited to have a little girl. If you feel so inclined, she is not registered anywhere but wouldn’t say no to gift cards, baby girl clothing, and Starbucks. You can mail it to her c/o me at the following address and I will make sure she gets anything sent her way. Why should the celebrating be limited to just me? SHARE THE LOVE!!!

Where do you send all of the baby bounty? I would be crazy to give out my home address and since I have the teensiest bit of sanity left, I am using my hubby’s work address. Here you go:

Michelle Stephens (In-Sight Photography)

45 Flat Street Suite 1

Brattleboro VT 05301


I love you all. Big.

Guilty(less) Pleasures

photo 4

After an extraordinary amount of peer pressure missing Sunday Confessions, I AM BACK! I contacted Ash over at More Than Cheese And Beer to see what this week’s prompt was.

“Guilty Pleasures,” she responded.

photo 1

I nearly chocked on my peanut butter M&M’s. Could that prompt be any more perfect? I am 30 weeks pregnant, laying on the couch, eating candy and watching a  Keeping Up With The Kardashian’s marathon on Hulu Plus. I was a walking, talking, breathing guilty pleasure.

photo 2

I started taking notes. PB M&M’s, bad reality TV, caffeine-free Coke (from a can only), wearing pajamas all day, chocolate chip cookie dough Ben & Jerry’s ice cream, my bed, fudge, tabloid magazines, jelly donuts, fashion magazines, red lipstick, more jewelry than any one girl needs, NAIL POLISH, Caramel Macchiatos from Starbucks, baby shoes. These are a few of my favorite guilty pleasures.


I read my list. I read it again. And again. Then I got a snack because it made me hungry. Then, I started thinking. None of these things make me feel guilty. None. They make me super happy. Sure, some are not the healthiest snack/food/beverage choices but, SO WHAT? I don’t dine on candy and ice cream for dinner every night. Usually. I tried to find the guilt in my guilt pleasures.

photo 4

There was none.

No guilt. Just a list of pure awesome that makes me beyond happy. I had been convinced that these things should be guilt inducing because they don’t help to squeeze me into a mold. They don’t go along with my love of whole foods and healthy eating. The surely are not the choices of a so-called “natural parent”. Clearly these are things that should leave me feeling riddled with guilt, right?


I don’t need to fit neatly into some box with a label on top that sums up the contents. It is more fun to do and be whoever and whatever makes me happy. Some days it is relaxing by the river while my husband takes photos and my daughter frolics, naked in the water. Just soaking up the sun and breathing in the air provide me with all I need. Other days, it is a reality TV marathon, jammies and my BFFs Ben & Jerry.

No mold, no box, just me.

My confession? My guilty pleasures bring me absolutely zero feelings of guilt.

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Have something to confess? Head over to the More Than Cheese and Beer Facebook page and let it all out. Interested in participating in next week’s Confession? Click HERE for all the details.


Requesting Relations

Requesting Relations

I have tried. I have fought against every particle of my being and tried. I have swallowed an immense amount of anger and tried.


But this, this one thing that should be meaningless, this one thing that should not have any effect on me. This one was the final straw.


Our relationship began rocky. I was a seven year old girl who had never had a father, at least not that I could remember. Then my mom introduced us to this guy. I heard her say she loved him. I heard they were getting married. That we were moving away from the only town I ever knew, away from my family. Not far, but far enough.


I didn’t know how to feel. I was sad. And angry but she seemed happy. He was ok. I never felt especially close to him. He was my mother’s husband. I could comprehend that. Then they said he would adopt us. My sister and I would be his daughters. He wouldn’t be our stepfather. He would be our dad.


I watched from our car as my absentee father, a man I did not know, signed the papers to allow the adoption. I cried silently, never letting anyone see my sadness. I had a photo of him. Taken before I was born. I would spend hours staring at a man I had an uncanny resemblance to but didn’t even know his birthday. My emotions were jumbled. Hatred and love coexisted. I longed for what I never knew.


The adoption was finalized on March 7, 1989. Everyone seemed so happy. So, I did my best to be happy. I had a chance to have a father. I was a little excited and a lot terrified. I didn’t know what it meant to have a dad and I was pretty sure he had no idea what it meant to have a nine year old daughter. I daydreamed about us figuring it out together.


As the years went on, we did not figure it out. He would bark orders and make arbitrary and rigid rules. I would rebel and scream. He would yell and swear. I would dream of leaving. Nine years after becoming father and daughter I did the best thing I could for our nearly non-existent relationship and I left. I moved out, never to look back.


With the lack of literal common ground our paths hardly ever crossed, only a few times a year at family gatherings. Maybe a random phone call. We had nothing in common besides a last name and even that was just on paper. Conversations were awkward at best. I had nothing to say to him, he seemed to be forcing himself to speak to me. I asked him to walk me down the aisle on my wedding day, he on one side, my maternal grandfather on the other. Our only commonality was about to end at a ceremony he escorted me to.


My daughter was born a few years later. I had my own family now, one without tension. One I loved unconditionally, something I could never give the man who became my father 21 years earlier. I watched as my daughter and her father fell in love. I shed tears of joy and tears for my own longing for something I would never have.


Eventually the phone calls stopped. We stopped exchanging niceties at family gatherings. The silence that stood between us was a relief to me. I no longer had to push away feelings and offer an olive branch to him. I no longer had to play the role of adoring daughter when all I wanted was my birth name back. I found comfort in his absence. I had my own family.


Then, one day while checking out Facebook I saw that he had created an account. I saw that he had listed my siblings as his children. The familiar yearning for family, for a father washed over me. I didn’t hesitate and I clicked “Add Friend” and waited. Days turned to weeks, weeks to months. I still waited. I saw him interacting with my mom, my siblings. Conversations with the rest of my family that I was not involved in. I was on the other side of the digital window looking in. Maybe he hadn’t seen the request?


I waited. It has been over three years that I have been waiting for him to approve my friend request. I am done trying. There is only so much a person can take before it takes over them. Clearly family is more than a shared name and common relatives, more than bloodlines and heritage, more than a common address and parental rights.


A family is about unconditional love.


I will no longer wait for him to accept my request.


*This post was originally written and posted on December 8, 2013. It took me over 8 months to submit it to become one of my weekly columns in The Reformer. Thank you to More Than Cheese And Beer and her Sunday Confessions for allowing me a platform to write this.

And Then, She Was Four

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**This post is part of the Use Your Words Challenge. Participating bloggers each submitted 4-6 words or short phrases for someone else to turn into a cohesive post. The one rule is that all words must be used at least once. Each piece will be unique, as we all write in our own voice and style. The fun twist is that we do not know who received our words, until now! Keep reading to see what I did with the words Crumpets and Bollocks submitted. The words are: banana, dream/dreamed/dreams, hugs, lavish, pearl clutcher, and facetious. Enjoy!**


“Happy Birthday Mommy!!!!”


I could barely blink but managed a huge smile. It wasn’t my birthday, it was hers, but she insisted on wishing her daddy and me a happy birthday anyway.


“Happy birthday sweetheart!”


I couldn’t think of a better way to start my day than with smiles, giggles, and, of course, birthday hugs. I slowly sat myself up as she bounded out of my room. Blinking the blurry sleep out of my eyes, I rubbed my tummy. The tiny baby growing inside met my hand with a nudge.


By the time I made it to the kitchen a what-to-have-for-breakfast discussion was well underway. Usually cereal, toast, or a banana were her options but today they didn’t seem quite special enough for a newly turned four year old. My husband and I looked at each other and smiled, sending our daughter to the other room to sit and wait. The first of her birthday surprises was about to be unveiled.


I slid the silver platter out of our refrigerator and my husband grabbed the lighter. Four tiny dinosaur candles were lit. Their flickering flames bounced off the hot pink sugar that decorated the tops of the cupcakes. As we rounded the corner, singing “Happy Birthday” to her, it was clear that she thought we had been being facetious when we said she could have cake for breakfast. It was a Stephens’ family tradition, cake for breakfast on your birthday. One I personally looked forward to every year.

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While our sweet girl ate her cupcake breakfast we brought out her presents. It is the one time of the year we get to lavish her in all that she loves, even if it is on a small scale. Every gift she opened was met with squeals and smiles. My heart nearly burst as she thanked us and declared the day, only 1 hour in, her best birthday ever.


We spent the next hour playing with her new toys and introducing them to her existing entourage. Occasionally she would stop and thank me. I would fight back tears and tell her how welcome she was, knowing she would never comprehend how much I adore her. This little girl and her tiny sister, napping in my belly, were our dreams personified. Birthdays were a big deal for us. The anniversaries of having our dreams come true.

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Eventually we put the toys away and got ready to head out on our next adventure. As I was getting dressed I glanced at the clock, 8:49am. Two minutes until the moment she would turn four. I announced the two-minute countdown, much to her delight. As the time neared I did my best pearl clutcher impression, pretending to be shocked when I asked her how old she was going to be.


“FOUR, Mommy!! I am FOUR!!!”


I smiled at our amazing little girl. Four of the very best years of my life stood in front of me with giant, sparkling blue eyes and a grin that could melt the most hardened of hearts. I rubbed my growing belly and took a second to breath in the immense amount of gratitude I had for that moment, every moment that had led to me to this one, and every moment to come. As I exhaled I glanced at the clock. 8:51am. And then, she was four.




Please check out the other challenge participants:                                            Baking In A Tornado                          Spatulas on Parade                                                  The Momisodes                                Confessions of a part-time working mom                      Evil Joy Speaks                             Follow me home . . .                             Someone Else’s Genius                           Crumpets and Bollocks                         The Bergham’s Life Chronicles                                    The Sadder But Wiser Girl