Tag Archives: love

Our Number Two Turns Two


January 12, 2012  |  Mabel Claire Brunner


You, my dear child, were sent here by someone who really knew what they were doing. You fit into this family like a well-oiled glove. Nothing about you seemed to not belong. Your humor, your grace, your ability to get your point across using only your eyebrows and the tip of your nose…you were one of us from the get-go. And we welcomed you with open arms that cold January day.

Today you turn two. You’ve become an insanely talkative, playful and smart little bugger! Your dad and I could not be more proud of you and the person that you are. I almost don’t dread the 5 a.m. growling wake-up calls (“Moooooooooom”) from your crib anymore because, from the moment I turn on the hall light and you get a glimpse of who is coming to get you, our day starts off on a bright and joyful note. You have never failed to greet me with a smile and immediate conversation about the “guys” in your crib (and you will name them all before you can be removed…”Nemo, Mikey, Raph, Molly, Millie, Dorrie, etc. etc. OMG etc.”). When you wake up, we eat breakfast together. You like Special K with berries, but really you only eat the berries and leave the flakes (I don’t blame you much). If you can’t have pop for breakfast (which you can’t), you love juice. Usually during breakfast you will tell me about your family or whatever little bits you remember from the day before. This morning, I heard all about grandma and grandpa, your Sully cake and then we counted to 9 without the 3, 4 or 5, of course. We chased balloons in the living room and threw all the ninja turtles in poor Chloe’s dog bed before turning on Mater Tales and settling in to our Dora chair. Even TV doesn’t distract you for long (our best shots are Bubble Guppies and UmiZoomi) because you’d rather use your energy playing monster or running from room to room with your hands behind your back like Donatello, which is wonderful! 

Some days you go to Amy’s Daycare. Amy loves you and you love her, but we all know the real reason you adore her house – Noah. Don’t deny it, little girl. You’re smitten, and he’s cute 🙂 You play hard there with your buddies Georgia, Ella, Lula and Baby Mila and we are very comfortable with your days there. But, man, the days I get to spend with you? I tear up just thinking about them. Yes, they have their difficult moments. Nearly once a day, you and Coen get in some sort of brawl due to wanting the same toy, and my obvious pointing out of the six million other toys in this house goes unnoticed, so you both get to duke it out in the privacy of your own room. Your brother is patient with you and loves helping you learn. In your car seats, he will often have you repeat after him. “Mabel, say A. Say B. Say C.” Sometimes you jump ahead and you’ll say “D” before he prompts you, and I smile because I know you’re already smarter than he thinks you are, but it puts a small nick in his big brother armor. When you get frustrated, your default is to scream. And, you, my small one, are not quiet. You will do it in the middle of a restaurant, a grocery store, or an elevator. It is all tied to your independent and determined demeanor, which I love about you but definitely had to learn to embrace after raising that cool-and-collected brother of yours. You are just starting to try things on your own without fear. You’ve always wanted to – I could see it in your eyes. Just yesterday, you did the frog slide at the splash pad by yourself and only took a couple tumbles (shook yourself off…no tears…typical) and got right back at it. And similarly, but without the potential for accident, you will open the cupboard doors and bring out the snack bin over and over and over and over and over until you finally get one parent to open those darn Teddy Grahams. Determined, I tell you. And charm might have something to do with it too. But, that charm doesn’t always work, especially on your peers. When you play with your cousin Ruby, I am often reminded of the saying by Margaret Atwood: “Little girls are cute and small only to adults. To one another, they are not cute. They are life-sized.” Some day, you will be best friends – I promise. For now, you will do everything in your power to protect your space. I guess bullheaded could be added to your descriptive adjectives as well.

Things you enjoy: taking baths, playing monster, swimming, Ninja Turtles, Thomas the Train, the Peanuts collection, making pretend “pea soup,” greeting your brother in the morning (“Hi, buddy Coen!”), neighbor Kayla, sleeping in your brother’s bed, talking, and talking…and talking, being naked, blueberries and strawberries, sitting in the big chairs at restaurants, climbing (literally anything), fruit snacks and applesauce, watching home videos on daddy’s iPhone, plane rides, car rides, inserting tokens into games at Chuck E Cheese (but not actually playing the games), smelling flowers, dumping out puzzle pieces and refusing to put them back, and dogs.

Things you don’t enjoy: Carnival rides, snow, wearing coats, and cake. Yup. That’s about it.

You, our strong and beautiful Mabes Babes, have such a way of bringing joy into people’s lives. The way you use your comedic timing to make us laugh at the most unexpected times, the way you walk with such confident diaper butt that passersby point and giggle, the way you adore, replicate, and physically love your brother to the point that he needs to push you away, the way you talk. Oh my, the way you talk. We don’t call you “Pebbles” for nothin’. Everything about you, child – the good, the bad and the ugly – You are ours and we are yours. If that isn’t God’s work at its finest, I don’t know what is. 

Happy birthday, baby girl. May all your dreams come true.


January 12, 2014  |  Mabel Claire Brunner



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A Little Love Goes a Long Way

As a mother of two very loved children, I feel obligated to comment on today’s tragedy in Connecticut. Another school shooting. Another mass of babies dead long before their time. Another news-filled day of horrid images and painstaking emotions written on the faces of parents waiting to hug their children. It’s a shame that the word “another” can even be mentioned in this context, but sadly, it is just that…another.

I recall in 1999 coming home from high school and seeing my dad lying on the couch in our basement crying while watching news coverage of the Columbine shootings. I took a simple glance at the TV and went to my room. Today I took a very different perspective on virtually the same news story more than a decade later. Mabel was sleeping in her crib and I was glued to CNN, despite my despise of Wolf Blitzer’s total and utter lack of emotion. Coen kept asking me to play games with him, so I turned down the volume and brought his chalkboard into the living room and we sat and colored pictures of Christmas trees and sunshines and smiling, happy cartoon animals.  As I glanced from the TV back to my son, so full of energy and life, I kept catching myself sucking tears back into my eyes. There are parents who will go home tonight without their little ones. There are parents who will have unopened gifts under their tree this year because one hateful coward felt some sense of societal justice was being served through this massacre. There are parents who need hugs and love and prayer on this day more than any. 

Colleges, high schools, and now elementary schools…all have fallen victim to crimes such as these. What’s next? I cannot fathom a human being with a heart of any size entering a preschool with a weapon. But, then again, I cannot imagine this in any scenario, so I guess I’m just naive. As they interviewed Dr. Drew, he proclaimed that “This Must Stop!” How do you make it stop? Why does it keep happening? There are no tried and true answers, but he advised that we must form a sense of connection as a family, as a community, as a state, a country, and a world. But start small…start with the “as a family” part.

As parents, we all have control over this one. I am proud to see so many of my mommy friends on Facebook posting about how much they are looking forward to giving their children extra long hugs tonight, because this is where we must start. Form a unit of love within your home and it will be spread to the community, and then upwards. “Paying it forward” isn’t just an expression – it can be a community-builder, a life-changer, and a day-saver. Love is the answer. We can all contribute love. 

Kiss your spouse when they walk in the door. Let go of the frustration of a dirty house and play Candyland with your toddler. Let them fall asleep holding your hand. Eat chocolate ice cream before dinner. Give a couple extra kisses before bed and TELL them “I love you.” Use those exact words. Our babies take so much of what we teach them into their adulthoods. Let’s make our lessons good and valuable ones. And let the greatest of these lessons be love. 

I am not often one for quoting scripture, but this one seems too fitting on a day such as today:

“Train up a child in the way he should go; even when he is old he will not depart from it.”
~Proverbs 22:6

Thinking and praying for Sandy Hook Elementary today. For those committed teachers who daily gave their all to those kids for a small, unassuming paycheck. For the principal who had five of her own (who I can only assume are beautiful, based on her photo) daughters at home. For the parents and siblings of those precious, young lost lives. My heart is broken today, just as I’m sure my dad’s heart was broken when I walked past him 13 years ago on our couch. Same story, different day. Let’s do our part to make it stop. Love, people. Just give a little love.

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The Dandelion Debacle

The other day, Coen and I were playing outside before heading to the store. We were chasing each other around the yard when he looked down, paused and forcefully plucked a dandelion from the ground. He sprinted towards me yelling, “Mommy, Mommy!” As he got closer, he handed me the yellow weed and said, “I got you a yellow flower. Smell it.” I did, and it smelled like dirt and RoundUp. But, my reaction said it smelled like rainbows and unicorns. “Oh, Coen! This is the prettiest flower mommy has ever gotten. I love it so much, I promise to keep it forever and ever and ever.” What I really meant was, “That was one of the sweetest gestures my child has ever shown me and I want that moment to be engrained in my mind forever and ever and ever.”  But, that’s not what came out. And, that’s not what he heard. And that is all that matters.

I took my dandelion with me in to the car after pulling Coen up to his car seat and buckling him in. On the way to the store, I lodged the dandelion in the air conditioner vent below the radio and told him that’s where I plan on keeping it so I can look at it and think of him all the time. He smiled proudly and went back to loudly pointing out building colors outside his window. He didn’t mention it again for the rest of the night.

My pretty yellow flower

Two days later, I got in my car to drive to work and noticed my “pretty flower” looked like a yellow raisin. Definitely worthy of a garbage can. So that’s where it went – in to the garbage can. The next morning was trash day and off it went, to the city dump. An hour later, I packed the kids in the car to run some errands. I turned around to see Coen’s face drop in disappointment and, with a furrowed brow and wrinkled nose, he screamed, “Mommy, the flower! It’s GONE!” It was as if someone had decapitated Elmo right in front of his face. Something that meant so much to mommy three days earlier was now missing and that was not OK in the eyes of a two-year-old. He heard me say “I promise” and “forever and ever and ever” and those words really mean something to an innocent toddler. I threw that promise in the trash, sent it to the city dump, and didn’t think twice about it because, in my eyes, a dandelion is a dandelion and the neighborhood is far too full of them anyway.

When you become a parent, every sentence needs to be much more carefully crafted than they were sans child. Words need to be chosen with a (much) stronger filter for fear of repetition. What used to come out as “Christina Aguilera dresses like a homeless crack-whore” now needs to be expressed more delicately. “Christina Aguilera sure has an interesting taste in skin-tight, low-cut sequin bikini tops.” Then, to kill two birds with one stone, you can tack on your own “I hope” intro to subtly let your kids know your take on the situation. “I sure hope my daughter never buys clothes like that.” (I say it two inches from Mabel’s face in hopes that, even though she’s only three months old, she might pick up on my lecture.)

Every parent experiences that moment when you realize your kid is much more perceptible than you give them credit for. In my case, it could’ve been when I asked my pregnant nanny if she wanted to use my extra box of breast pads and Coen looked up from his morning toast and said, “You want a prest bads, Danielle?” It could’ve been when Aunt Julie (my role model sister) pretended to throw horse poop at Coen and he randomly shouted, “Mommy, there’s horse poop on your face!” in the grocery store. Or, it could’ve been when I scolded Coen for saying the word “stupid” and two minutes later, I told Nate something he said was “stupid” and…well, you can tell how this story of Mommy the Hypocrite is going to end.

The point of this story is that every parent does it, but the truly great ones feel guilty when it happens. Raising children is one of the world’s most accurate self-reflectors. We can all do our best to avoid cursing unnecessarily at crappy rush-hour drivers, tapping our dog on the butt when she barks during nap time, and complaining obsessively about your job on those truly horrible work days. A kid picks up on everything, including your behavior, your attitude, your temperament, and your phrases. Take the good ones as mini success stories, like when they drop an unsolicited “I love you” or add “please” to the end of “I want a cookie.” So, choose wisely. And always remember that accepting something as a lie is not an option at their age. If you say it, you mean it. A promise is a promise. Take it from me and my yellow weed…er, flower.

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(Please Don’t) Throw Mama from the Train

Mother: A unique specimen of female origin who births, protects, nourishes, guides, and worries for her young until her death (and probably thereafter).

This is not Webster’s definition of the word, I understand that. But, on this fine and beautiful holiday – a holiday that holds a special place in my heart – this is what a mother is. A protector. A worrier. A leader. A woman deserving of her own day…a warm and fuzzy day called MOTHERS Day. So, let me start out by wishing all the moms I know out there a VERY merry and relaxing, clean and inviting, breakfast-in-bed kind of Mother’s Day. You all know who you are, so do me a favor and pat yourselves on the back and know that I love your children (yes, ALL of them) and think you’re doing a phenomenal job in raising them. Lift a glass full of vino (the real kind – not grape juice, cheaters!) and be proud on this day. You’re surviving. You’re incredible. You’re someone’s superhero.

Speaking of superheroes, I’m going to touch on a subject that I’ve been avoiding in my writing for quite some time because I THINK I may have gotten past it. Maybe. My son is a toddler. He goes through phases. Spurts of likes and dislikes. One day he can’t eat his carrots fast enough and the next he finds more joy sticking them up his nostrils. One minute he is laughing hysterically at my rendition of Itsy Bitsy Spider, and seconds later it’s like a scene from Arachnophobia. I’m not asking you to explain toddlers to me. I know how they operate. That doesn’t make it less frustrating. But, every day Coen has the same superhero – his daddy. Nate is my best friend and as close a replicate of my own father as I could’ve married, so it’s no wonder I love him so much. He is sensitive and charming, funny and intelligent, and really freaking youthful. Which is EXACTLY why Coen is madly, truly, deeply in love with the guy! It makes perfect sense. And I can’t say I blame him.

Where my sadness sets in a bit (and this isn’t meant to be a pity-party…especially on Mother’s Day) is with this “phase” he’s been going through. First of all, phases don’t last 14 months, so I’m thinking people just call it that to make me feel better. Secondly, I am 99.9% sure I’ve never done anything to make him resent or fear me. But, for some reason, he has preferred his daddy for quite some time now. He’s the go-to for bedtime routines, book reading, bath time, and wagon rides. Sure, Nate pops wheelies with the wagon and makes a mean cup of milk, but I use sweet-ass voices when I read and my bath time bubbles totally make better Santa beards. It’s not a competition, this I know. I’m just proving the point that I do things equally as well, and for some reason, the boy prefers the man. And this might be how it’s gonna be. Maybe for a little while. Maybe for a long while.

Every time I convince myself that I’m over it or I don’t care and refuse to let it bother me, it simply eats away at me until I wind up crying in the bathroom because I sat too close to him on the couch and he screams and cowers into his father’s arms like I’m a 900-pound yeti who eats small dimpled children. Yeah, that’ll yank violently on some heartstrings. And of course, since one cannot share said emotions with a two-year-old, your marriage gets tested because you feel like something must not be written fairly in your parenting handbook to make him have such an obvious and dominant preference.

Mostly, the reason I cry is that I want him to WANT me. I want to be the one who kisses his owies and rocks him to sleep. I guess I just want to know that he needs me on some level. Not just to cut his spaghetti and fold his little sweatpants, but to do those things I defined above – protect him and guide him and beat up any poorly-raised punks that cause him harm.  It’s obvious his daddy would do all those things too, but we’re a team and we’re both here for him til death do us part. So, I try not to let it get me down, and every once in awhile I have moments – super-amazing Mother’s Day moments – that wash away any festering fears of neglect or favoritism.

Tonight Nate took us out for dinner to Tino’s Italian Cafe. We dined on spaghetti and meatballs and buttered noodles – a fine Mother’s Day feast. Now, I’m not sure what started this, but halfway through dinner Coen reached out and grabbed my shirt and pulled me towards him until I was nearly on top of the poor kid. It’s possible he was intimidated by the large and hairy goodfella behind the counter, or maybe he just needed a cloth napkin in the form of an expensive plaid Gap button-down, but my shirt was now greased up from little paws and I felt so very needed. I would pull away to try and take a few bites of my meal, and he would put his hand on my back and pull me back towards him. There was no way I was getting more than 3 inches away from this kid’s buttery head for the remainder of our dinner. And truth be told, I LOVED every MINUTE. He was slimy and he was mine.

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At that moment, he wanted me near him (like, tauntingly-“I’m-not-touching-you,-I’m-not-touching-you” near him, but near him nonetheless). Those moments during that meal erased all recent thoughts I’ve had at bath time, bedtime, story time or wagon time. This kid needs me. He loves me. He does know that I’m here for him. And, no, I couldn’t have taken down the mobster behind the counter should he have gone all “Godfather” on us, but Coen doesn’t know that. In his eyes, his parents are invincible and that is a standard to not be taken lightly. We are his protectors. His leaders. His role models. We are his owie-kissers and his wagon-pullers. We are his parents. And today, on this grand holiday, I was his SUPERMOTHER! I ate it up right along with my spaghetti and will never forget the fun we had.

And in case anyone was wondering, the actual Webster’s definition of the verb “Mothering” is:

Bring up with care and affection; look after kindly and protectively, sometimes excessively so.

Looks like Webster knows what he’s talking about. That guy should write a book.

Happy Mother’s Day, ladies! Live it up and enjoy the ride.

This post is fondly dedicated to MY beautiful mother, Dar Machler. Most kind-hearted soul this world has ever seen. Mom, Mother’s Day was made for saints like you. All my love.

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Cate and Coen sittin’ in a tree!

Caitlin Willow

Two Fridays ago, one of my besties continued my friend trend and popped out a baby girl. I have never in my life paced so hard as I did that night between the hours of 4 and 8 p.m. awaiting the call to find out health of mother and name of baby. FINALLY! A weary but proud Anna announced her 7 pound bombshell (and my future daughter-in-law) Caitlin Willow. As a sense of relief and excitement soared through my body, I was instantly transported back in time 7 months. I was the weary mom on the phone delivering the news with a noticeable high in my voice every time I said his name. I was the mom looking forward to maternity leave. I was the one complaining about exhaustion and converting my living room into four walls of worship (sponsored by Kodak and my shutter-happy husband).

It was very strange to hear someone else going through those same emotions, especially someone so close to me. The following day we were invited to the hospital to meet the new addition, so Nate and I got Coen dressed in his finest and headed off to play matchmaker. This was my first newborn experience since my own and I dove in head-first! Such a small human being – little wrinkly hands and the finest hair I’d ever touched. This is why they call it a “miracle” people! She truly was. And buried among the fatigue and fear in her parents was complete awe and anticipation for their new, bright, beautiful future together.

We came home that night and I had some thoughts. No, I didn’t have those cliche “new-mom-that-just-held-a-newborn” thoughts. In fact, the thought of doing it all again so close to numero uno made me a tiny bit nauseous and (no joke) gave me one solid week’s worth of nightmares. No. The thought I had came from holding my own little guy in the rocking chair, simply watching him fall asleep. I realized something: I know more about this particular person than ANYONE ELSE on the planet (Nate excluded). And that’s really sayin’ something.

I know exactly how long he will make sucking faces with his mouth after the bottle gets pulled from his lips. I know that he sleeps with his tongue sticking out (like his mama). I know what makes him shake with excitement. I know which PBS cartoons capture his attention and which ones he would love to see pulled off the air. I know just how much facial hair a guy can have before Coen will cry at the sight of them. I know the face he makes when he’s pooping. I know just the right rendition of Ave Maria to play for him when he’s fussing. I know his tickle spots. I know his sensitive spots. I know his bald spots. I know this kid like the, no, better than the back of my hand.

Then, I thought about Anna. I thought about the idea that Caitlin was probably still a bit of a stranger in her house. I tried to recall those first two weeks with Coen – trying to figure out sleep schedules, organizing an assembly line to prep bottles as fast as humanly possible, cleaning for company, googling poop to determine if “that was normal” – you are running on pure adrenaline. By the time you get your head above water, a month has gone by and you’ve subconsciously learned more about your child than you ever knew about yourself.

There is something special about that ability in this particular relationship. Maybe it’s the maternal gene rearing its ugly head YET again, but for some reason, you take pride in being the beacon of knowledge in your child’s life. After ten years, I know that Nate hates when his hair grows over his ears. He can’t sleep on a hard pillow, he sneezes when he walks outside on a sunny day, he can plow through an entire box of shortbread cookies in one sitting, he can’t buy anything without researching the living daylights out of it, and he doesn’t drink Root Beer. I know a billion other idiosyncrasies about my husband, but that doesn’t quite evoke the same feeling you get from your own child. Is it because we are their protector? Is it because we are their instructor? Or is it simply because we are their parent? I choose D. All of the above.

Upon further reflection, maybe I wasn’t happy for Anna just because I finally knew the baby’s name. I think we wish the happiest feelings upon the greatest people in our lives and there really isn’t a more spectacular emotion than a moment alone in a rocking chair with your very own tiny miracle. And, knowing you not only created that miracle, but you get to spend every day going forward learning more and more about her, is an eternal high.

It might not be tomorrow, but someday soon Anna will be the Yoda of all Cate Knowledge. What makes her tick? What makes her sick? What makes her laugh? What makes her cry? What does she look for in a boyfriend (hey, I can throw that in for personal reasons…it’s MY blog!)?

Anna and Steve – I’m so very happy for you guys! Enjoy the ride…


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Well, if Gandhi says so…

My son hit his 7 month birthday last week. 7 months. That’s more than 200 days… Almost 5,000 hours… Nearly 20 MILLION seconds my child has been on this earth. One might think after that long post-utero I would have a decent idea of the direction in which we are headed. Maybe have a loose grasp of regularity and order, or at least a better understanding of what our end result will be. But, alas, 7 months into this cockamamie adventure, I still find myself questioning, “Is this normal? Am I wrong? Did I just screw him up for life?”

It’s funny because I feel like we are constantly aiming to hit new moments (more commonly referred to in Mommyville as “milestones”). I remember crying at 4 a.m. when Coen was 3 1/2 months old because he woke up for the third time that night screaming bloody murder. I looked at Nate and yelled, “You said he would sleep through the night at 3 months.” Same situation at 5 months. “The internet doctor said he should be rolling over by now!” 6 months. “Where are his teeth? NATE, WHERE ARE HIS TEETH?” Ah, how my poor husband loves those moments of panic (more commonly referred to in Daddyville as “PMS”). He, along with many girlfriends-on-speed-dial, eventually got it through my thick, insecure skull: all babies develop differently.

So there you have it. My child may not crawl at 8 months like “What to Expect” says he should, but maybe that fancy author mom had thin, agile children dying to escape the evil clutches of their controlling mother. I like to think Coen just enjoys my hugs (and his food) so much that movement is not yet deemed necessary. When he cries at midnight, and again at 1:30, and YET AGAIN at 3:00, I tell myself it’s not because he’s needy (as claimed by pediatricians around the world). Rather, he simply had an amazing dream about green lions and purple puppies that form their own island of misfit mammals and he wants nothing more than to share it with me that instant in case I want to write these ideas down so he can publish his children’s book someday (i.e. he’s creative and forward-thinking). See? I can spin anything.

But, if I cannot control the pace he grows teeth or stands up or says “ma-ma”, what CAN I control? Some would preach “NOTHING.” I disagree. I can help form his character. I can mold his temperament. I can set an example. This motivation gets me through each day with a smile on my face. There is no better feeling than putting him to bed and night and wondering, “What do you think he learned today?”

It’s not easy to do this well every day. There are parents that could probably attest to this (see Alois and Klara Hitler, circa 1890). I know we’ve had moments of immediate regret already in the past 7 months. How do we really know what he will and will not remember? Will he recall that day when mommy had a glass (or two) of merlot before 10 in the morning? Did he hear the explicit behind-the-back talk surrounding the latest family fall-out? Will the day he decides to utter his first word be the same day mommy called daddy an ass? (Can you imagine his baby book… Baby’s First Word: ASS).

It’s a lot of pressure. No parent will disagree. But, if you make an effort and live by the words of Gandhi (“Be the change you wish to see in the world”), worry should fade away to nothing (also, much like Gandhi). Nate and I try to make a conscious effort to be this visible change for our son by repeating “please” and “thank you,” giving lots of hugs and kisses, and exposing him to the beautiful diversity this world has to offer.

We have been taking Coen to story time at the library a few miles away. We didn’t know it when we signed up, but this particular library is in a neighborhood filled with co-ops, dreadlocks, and vegetarian delis. Our first story time was a very small group which consisted of a lesbian couple and their daughter, Lily. Lily was an animated girl who would skip joyfully around the room and build Roman citadels with toy blocks. Coen watched her gleefully in hopes that someday he could be that full of liveliness and spirit. Yes, I understand that Coen wouldn’t know the partnering of two women from the partnering of a frog and a zebra right now, but my hope is that he will be raised with this exposure and maybe, just maybe, it will be old hat and Lily will just have “parents” with no footnotes or hidden clauses. The boy is growing up in a world with an African American President, for God’s sake! I’d say we’re setting the stage for change. Now, if we can just keep the ball rolling in our own personal examples, I’d say we should end up with a pretty patient and virtuous child, don’t you?

There’s a lot of room, and time, for error. Just because we’ve gotten through 5,000 hours guarantees nothing for the next um, well, however many more hours there will be until he hits 18. I’m quite positive there will still be moments, er, milestones, that bug the crap out of me because every OTHER kid could do it MONTHS ago. But instead of burning those frustrating books by Dr. NeverHadKidsButPreachesAnyway, maybe I’ll pick up “The Giving Tree” and do something productive with my time, like teach my kid how to be a good person.


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So, apparently, it’s mine.

Welcome back, friends. It’s been awhile. 16 weeks and 6 days, to be exact. Don’t be mad – just think of it as a summer vacation from school, only instead of going to the waterpark and playing baseball with my friends, I sat in a hospital bed for 4 days hopped up on bloat-inducing meds that were supposed to loosen all my woman parts so I could cry and scream and threaten divorce, get my stomach sliced open with a tool from the Paleolithic Era, and, oh yeah, bring home a baby boy. HA! And you used to complain about the mosquitoes at summer camp…rookies.

Well, there you have it – the new love of my life. His full name is Coen Jeffrey Brunner, born June 25, 2009 at 5:20 p.m., 22 inches long with a full head of midnight black hair. Nate and I became parents after a long and grueling ordeal, not surprisingly documented hour-by-hour on Nate’s social media sites. Apparently, my entire office was out of commission due to the constant “refreshing” to 42 Facebook pages. Sorry, boss. My bad.

Without going into too much detail, I was induced on June 23 with Pitocin and Cytotec and whatever else was flowing through the 900 tubes attached to my body. I got a catheter. I got an epidural. I got a lot of full vases from friends and empty promises from nurses. I got to 6 inches. 6 inches in more than 45 hours, and he took a wrong turn. My baby TOOK a WRONG TURN! Plan B: C-section. Sign me up, Scotty! A quick 15-minute surgery (in which I only accused one doctor of “never having done this before”) and out he came. Mr. Wrong-Way entered the world with a bright red face, scrunched little eyes, and dark black matted hair. My sister and Nate got to take him to the nursery to get him cleaned up and to be the first people on this entire planet to hold him. I, on the other hand, was more passed out than [fill in D-list, slutty celebrity name here]. But I knew, once I woke up, I was going to meet this new little being…the cause of all my trials and tribulations of the past 9 months.

Sure enough, he was everything I knew he would be. A good sleeper, a great eater, and one helluva smiler! Amazing how your life can do a complete 180 overnight. The life that once consisted of spontaneous happy hours, compulsive online shopping, and long stress-free bubble baths has turned into grabbing bites of cold pizza with your one free hand while balancing a bottle with your chin after having paid the nanny the money you had hoped could be used to buy that much-needed “transition” outfit since your old clothes still won’t zip and you need stuff to wear to work to hide the formula spit-up smells that are still embedded in the work outfit you wore yesterday since you haven’t had time to do the laundry yet. But, don’t worry – you’ll still get 4 quality minutes of solitude in the bubble bath until he starts to cry again. Hey, that 4 minutes is better than nothing! It’s a balancing act to which you are quickly forced to adjust. List-making becomes second nature. Deciphering cries becomes a sixth sense. And, what you used to consider “easy” may as well get comfortable in the backseat, because it’s going to be there awhile.

Every new mother has stories. Some mothers experience fear, some frustration, some happiness, some awe. If you’re a normal mother, you should have said “yes” to all of those emotions. I sure did.

…I remember looking at Coen in our hospital room the second night of his life. Nate was sound asleep on my bed and I was wandering around the room the best I could post-surgery. I had our little video camera and I spoke to him softly over his heavy baby breathing, “Baby, I don’t know what I’m doing. But, I’m going to do my best.” That was FEAR.

…I remember right around his 4th week, just when the body starts to recall how wonderful life was with uninterrupted sleep, I couldn’t get him to stop wailing for 45 minutes. At that point, you are undeniably the worst mother in the world (in your own head), and all logic and rationale floats right out the window. I screamed at Nate and told him I can’t do this anymore. Then, as if screaming wasn’t “6-years-old” enough, I took the baby and ran across the street to the neighbor’s yard, sobbing and staring at the sky wondering why God trusted me with this teeny tiny, and completely dependent, human being. That was FRUSTRATION.

…I remember the week Coen learned to smile and what a sense of joy that brought to both me and my husband. Finally, a sense of worth. All this feeding and changing and changing and feeding was paying off. Our little boy was happy! It was in the week that I had my first hysterical laughing fit, one-on-one with my baby. I heard some gassies going on in his nether-regions, so decided it was time to change a poopy diaper. Mmmm, every mother’s favorite chore. I set him on his changing table and took off his diaper. Yup. Mommy was right. He had pooped. Then, as I was sliding the diaper out from under him, Mount Coen erupted! Poop shrapnel fired everywhere! Nope. Mommy was wrong. He wasn’t done.  I dodged the line of fire, and when I sensed he was finished, I looked up at his face and there it was…the biggest dimple-filled baby smile I have EVER seen. How can you be angry at that? We laughed and laughed and laughed. That epitomizes HAPPINESS.

…Lastly, I remember just a few weeks ago…we had just laid him down in his crib and were doing our nightly routine getting ready for bed. Both of us, exhausted and barely mobile, looked forward to our heads hitting the pillows. I poked my head in to Coen’s room to make one final check before bed. I’m not sure if it was his new robot pajamas or the Disney lullabies in the background or the extra batch of post-prego hormones I developed that day, but something took my breath away. I couldn’t take my eyes off him. Then, I felt Nate’s arm around my waist and his head on my shoulder and heard him whisper, “This is our family.” Wow. AWE.

I have had more than 3 months to get my head around the fact that I have a family! Not a family I was born into, but a family that I created. (Well, if we’re being scientific, I guess “we” created.) Sometimes, I still catch myself looking out the window waiting for his mom to come pick him up. I am somebody’s mother. I have a son. Now that I am slowly getting over the shock of it all, I decided it was time to start writing again. So many times in the past 3 months, something has happened and I run a paragraph through my head and laugh out loud, but never had the time to actually put it down in print. The fountains of pee that regularly adorn the changing pad, the packing up of adorable outfits he never had a chance to wear, the interactions with his extended family (e.g. learning about the corrupted political system from his Uncle Brandon)…

There are so many moments his life has already created. It’s time to start (b)logging them. Mommy’s BACK!

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Adios, old life! Viva el amor!

I’m a bad sister. I woke up this morning with great intentions of calling my brother to wish him and his two-day wife a happy honeymoon before their flight left at 9 a.m. At 8:54, as I was sitting in my cubicle, I panicked and dialed the phones of both him and my new sister-in-law…no answer. Phones had been turned off. They were most likely seatbacked and tray-tabled up, comfortably seatbelted in on their way to Mexico. How could I forget to DO that? I woke up with that on my mind, and somewhere between applying my makeup and packing a lunch, I lost track of time. Ugh…is this a sign of things to come? I couldn’t help but wonder.


Brandon and Sherri


The whole family


Me and my bro

My big brother finally did it – he tied the knot this past Saturday. Brandon was so handsome and seemed to enjoy being in the company of family and friends, not to mention his hilarious groomsmen who flew in from Arizona, Hawaii, and France. Sherri looked like she stepped straight off the pages of Vogue magazine. My parents were beaming with joy and pride that their little boy had met his perfect match – something no one saw coming! My sister and I were bridesmaids. We wore lavender and got our hair and nails done, per the usual. The only difference this time was, though Julie still looked tan and thin and stunning (per HER usual), I was pale and round and squeezed into a size 16 dress, WITH additional fabric on both sides to ensure I had enough growth room, ya know, just in case I decided to eat the whole cake. I requested big hair, in hopes that it would detract from my belly becoming the center of attention, and did a little extra with my makeup, as if to say, “Hey, you look at my FACE when you’re talkin’ to me!” And, for all I know, it seemed to work.

Considering most of the guests were close family members, the kindness was well-attempted. I only got asked 14 times when I was due (I kept track, yes) and got really good at the phrases, “It’s a boy” (re: What are you having?) and “We’re not telling” (re: Do you have names picked out?). Other than that, I got through the day with only one rude comment from a relative who will remain unnamed. “That’s an interesting look,” she said. Hmm, funny. This “look” I was trying my damndest to pull off was not pre-planned the night before. I didn’t find it in a gossip magazine and go on a binge weight gain the week of the wedding to get this “look.” I wasn’t intentionally wearing a dress the size of a house so I could “look” more like my favorite red-carpet celebrity. So, I simply considered the source, cried to my sister for three-to-five minutes, and let it go. Today was a beautiful day and no one was going to ruin that for me, although honestly, part of me still wants to shove a fat fist up her nostrils.

Other than feeling like I was going to melt into a puddle of sweat on the ceremony stage, I got through the day like any other, but with lots more dancing, no shoes, and additional potty stops. My husband seemed to enjoy his last night of drunken freedom pre-daddy, trying to convince anyone and everyone that walked by the bar to take a shot with him. Apparently enough people bit, because by midnight, he had turned into a stumbling, bumbling, gurgling mess of a man who seemed to be on the verge of dimensia. I think he asked me 25 times if I remembered the camera before he hit the bathroom floor at home…poor guy.

As I sat in bed that night, unable to sleep in fear that Nate might knock his head on the porcelin tub and I wouldn’t know it til morning because I was the bad wife who slept comfortably in her bed while her husband was moaning in the cold bathroom, I had many deep thoughts. I thought about my brother. I thought about how my parents raised him. I thought about his incredible soul and his sensitive spirit, his love for comic books, his competitive personality, his knack to always be the cheapest person in the room, his adoration of his father, his respect for his mother, his patience with his irritating sisters, his ability to open his heart in times of need, his six-foot bear hugs saved only for moments that are truly hug-worthy, and his new bride. Sherri makes him happy, and to see him happy makes everyone happy. They are 30 years old, and someone took the time to develop them into the people that they are…the good, the bad, and the ugly. How does one do that? And, is it ever done without fear or room for error? Is there a secret guarantee-in-a-box you can purchase at the hospital for not screwing up your children? I know my parents are good people with great hearts, but was there ever a moment of “oops, what did I do?” in the raising of their first child? You wouldn’t know it if there was, based on the man he is now, but I’m assuming there were times of serious questioning…

I looked down at my stomach as I lay in bed and wondered what he will become in 30 years. Will he have a similar adoration of his father and respect (and patience) for his mother? Will he get married? Will he graduate from college? Right now, his only three-pound focus is on perfecting a triple axel that shakes my uterus wall so violently that it’s visible to the outside world, but soon he will be shaped by us. He will be in OUR hands. Everything we do, he will see – our goodbye morning kiss, his dad’s spitting, his mom’s toenail picking, scolding, fighting, eye-rolling, hugging…everything. And, these actions and surroundings will mold him into the person he will become. No pressure. Cripes!

I think these thoughts have something to do with the way I feel about this morning, when I remembered…then forgot…to wish my brother a fond farewell as he crosses the border into his new life. As a mother, a neglectful act like that will eat me up inside. I know it’s just one week, and many of you are probably rolling your eyes, but my maternal instincts are in overdrive and I can’t help but regret not getting in my goodbye phone call to this man I (patiently) watched grow up…even if it was just to tell him how much fun I had at the wedding and how proud I am to call myself his sister. If my son turns out to be even half the man he is, I will die happy.

Adios, Brandon and Sherri! Enjoy every minute. You deserve it.

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Home for the holidays

Nate helps Addi crack her egg

Nate helps Addi crack her egg

Today I celebrated Easter with my families. The balancing act of having both sets of families in the same town sounds so much simpler than it really is. Any couple knows the holiday frustration with trying to fit it all in in the span of 6 to 8 hours. You don’t want to miss out on your own family’s festivities, but you want to see your in-laws at the same time. You don’t want to let anyone down, but can’t be in two places at once. You know the second you leave one you’ll miss something hilarious or spectacular and will regret not having stayed 10 minutes longer when you hear the story from your siblings. Raise your hand if you’ve been there? Both of my hands are up, because I’m THAT serious when it comes to time management on these short memorable days.

My in-laws created a massive Easter egg hunt for our 2-year old niece Addisyn in their front yard – 82 eggs, all hidden in spots measuring three feet or lower. So, Nate and I did not want to miss that. We were sure to grab the video camera and got some great footage of this squealing little peanut excited by the grand Disney-like idea that such a generous bunny exists. Squeals of joy followed by squeals of frustration and overstimulation, followed by fussing and finally, naptime. Back to my house where we all lined up to get hair cuts, appetizers, and Easter baskets. Back to the in-laws to dye eggs. Back to my house to sing karaoke and catch up with Grandma. Back to the in-laws to eat lunch. Back to my house to eat lunch (again). By the end of the runaround, I thought my head was going to explode. I enjoyed every  minute, but it was straight-up exhausting. No doubt about it. We saw everyone and answered all the same questions a million times: “Can I touch your stomach?” “When are you due?” “Boy or girl?” “How are you feeling?” “Want some wine? Just kidding!” (haha…soooo funny!)

Although I felt relieved that we successfully survived another holiday, I couldn’t brush the feeling of anxiety from the noise and constant conversation, the movement, the dogs, the food, the sugar…the chaos. This year it felt particularly overwhelming. I don’t know if it was the hormones acting irrationally again, or if Baby Brunner was trying to tell me something (ie. “you’re bringing me into THIS!?”), but I just wanted to glue my eyes shut, turn my mind off, and sleep for the rest of eternity. Being pregnant makes everything a little more dramatic. Everything is dolloped with a little extra stress and a light sprinkling of frustration. Balance isn’t your strong point, noise levels seem to blow through the roof, and carrying on two to three straight conversations seems to be a feat of genius level. I wondered, how will this get easier when I’m not just carrying the baby, but I’m actually HOLDING the baby? He’s actually HERE!? He is officially a visible, tangible member of these families?  Will life actually  feel easier? Or will this sleepy, chaotic irrational feeling linger in me at every family function until his college graduation? I worry. Can you tell?

All this worry came to a screeching halt when I was walking 2-year old Addisyn up the stairs to tell Uncle Nate it was “happy Easter egg time.” I took her hand and we started our sloooow 2-year-old walk up the wooden steps. She was so excited to dye eggs and I swear, she was even more excited to announce it to Uncle Nate. The time was here! Let’s do it NOW! I know she was cruising as fast as her tiny legs would let her, but each stair required one foot, then two foot, breathe, rest, next…one foot, two foot, breathe, rest. The top of that staircase must feel like Everest to that itty-bitty girl, but that wasn’t going to stop her from her mission. Her eyes were huge and her mouth was in the constant shape of an O. You could just see the anticipation building in the way she took each step.

During this walk, I started to think…in one year, I will have my own baby. In two years, I will be WALKING my OWN baby up these very stairs. He will hold my hand. He will be excited to share the news of the Easter bunny with all who will listen. He will be my own little Addisyn. I looked down at her on step five, and had the most random mix of emotions all flood through my body at once. Fear, happiness, joy, apprehension, pride, wonder, distress, doubt. We worked our way up one more stair, and just as my  mind took me to that place it doesn’t like to go…that “what if I can’t do this” place…Addi looked up at me, both feet planted firmly into the step, and said “I love you, Nicki.” She said it, with no prompting, no repeating, and maybe no real strong understanding. But, she said it. She said it, and she moved on, determined to get to the top of that mountain. To her, it was just something she said that day. To me, it was the four powerful words that banished those “what ifs” from my head instantaneously.

I know there will always be chaos, especially when it comes to family. There will always be an element of drama, disappointment, disapproval, disdain, dislike, disagreement, and disarray. Holidays will be forever busy, there’s no getting around that. But, no matter the noise level, the company count, or the sugar-highs, there will always be love. Families come pre-packaged with love, and with each new member, it grows and grows and grows. So really, the more relatives you have sitting in your living room carrying on 19 different strange and irrelevent conversations at a volume you’re sure is heard in the southern hemisphere, the more love there is to go around. And, I ask you, why would I not want to bring a child into that much love?

Happy Easter, everyone! I hope yours was equally as beautiful.


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