Dear maternity leave,

I write this with a heavy heart because you have ended. These last 12 and a half weeks have been nothing short than magically, sprinkled in with breakdowns, tantrums, boo boos but filled with lots and lots of hugs and kisses. I am extremely lucky to have spent the last three months with the greatest newborn and the sweetest little boy. All day long it was the three of us navigating through activities and playdates and each other.

Yes, there were rough days and days with lots of Little Einsteins and Mickey Mouse and Lightening McQueen but there were wonderful days with lots of trips down the slide or pushes on a swing or towers made out of blocks and lots and lots of matchbox cars zooming around the house. There were trips to the zoo, to the apple orchard, to the playground, to the pumpkin patch, to so many playdates, to the library, to the grocery store, to another playground to southwest Virginia and to upstate New York. I made sure to jam pack as many experiences as possible into those days. Selfishly for myself to remember this time but unselfishly to expose Mallory and Peyton to things I can’t do now that I’m back at work. Sure, they won’t remember a lot of it, but I will.

We learned numbers and letters and painted and made messes but most of all we learned to cherish every day and every “little trip.” There was always laundry going and maybe times it sat in the basket waiting to be folded just a little too long because we were having too much fun to worry about it but I’m ok with that because looking back, I won’t remember the laundry, I’ll remember listening to Peyton count to 10 for the first time or watching Mallory push herself up for the first time.

Our entire family hit milestones during that time. Peyton turned two years old, mommy turned 32, daddy turned 33, mommy and daddy’s marriage turned five and Mallory learned to smile and giggle. And during the very last weekend, both Mal and Peyton were baptised being surrounded by more than two dozen family and friends. That weekend was the greatest conclusion to a fantastic leave.

I didn’t want to accept it was coming to a close and even now, sitting at my desk at work two weeks later, I haven’t fully realized that it is over. I was so so blessed to have that time off to watch my children grow and just hug them a little more in the middle of the day. I know the most important job I will ever have is being their mom and even if I don’t get to do it for as many hours of the day as I’d like, I’ll take it.

Now I must cherish those short hours in the morning and after work even more because even the long days go by too fast and before I know it Mallory will be walking and Peyton will be in kindergarten. I will look back on the thousands of photos I took during those 12 and half weeks as a reminder of just how lucky I was to have that time with them. That is irreplaceable and worth more than any paycheck that I will receive.

Sincerely and so thankful,

Kelli

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Dear my two-year-old,

It’s hard to believe this was you on Aug. 23, 2011 and we just celebrated your second birthday!

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My sweet, sweet Peyton, where did these last two years go? I think back that they’ve gone by so quickly but then I think about how much has changed during that time with you and with our family.

I look back at your newborn pictures and I hardly recognize that little one. You look so different now. Your eyes aren’t blue anymore but a greenish/hazel, just like your daddy. Your hair is getting lighter and your eyebrows are still hardly visible, another daddy trait. Actually the older you get, the more you look like daddy. There is no denying you are his and I love that he has a little mini me running around. You are still petite, just like you were the Tuesday when you arrived at just 6 pounds 9 ounces, but you are strong. The doctor said even though your size has always been in the lower percentile you are solid and I’m reminded of that every time I lift you up. Those 25 pounds feel so heavy.

Since having your sister around, you look even bigger to me. A bigger body and just a bigger boy who is now completing sentences, using his manners, testing his independence, scrapping his knees at least once a day and always, always snuggling with me first thing in the morning.

The best part of my days are when you are playing independently while I feed your sister and you stop and come running just to hug my leg and say ‘hi.’ Those hugs, while all your hugs, are so heartfelt and it feels like you squeeze with everything you have! I know those days won’t last forever and pretty soon I’ll be the mom dropping you off at school begging for a hug or a kiss before you jump out of the car.

– Yes, Peyton I’m saying it now. I’m going to be the annoying mom who loves on her son, in public. I apologize now for embarrassing you but I’m warning you too.

I am so blessed that I will get 12 weeks with you at home everyday and not going to work. I have loved every minute and even those trying days when I count down the minutes to your nap time so I can get a breather are worth it.

We celebrated your second birthday with all the things you love. Pancakes and strawberries for breakfast, a play date with your best friend at the park, mac and cheese for lunch, spaghetti for dinner and a movie night watching a new Cars movie with your new favorite snack, popcorn.  You got a new train table that you already adore! Most of your days are spent around that table running all your toys with wheels up and down the hills.

The day was perfect and we sang to you when the clock turned 4:28 p.m. Daddy even made sure to be home from work.

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Peyton, you are wonderful and these last two years have been so rewarding and fulfilling. I have loved watching you grow into the little boy you are becoming. Here’s to year three and probably so many more changes. As long as the snuggles and hugs don’t end yet, I’m ok with what’s to come.

I love you so much P-Pod,

Mommy

Dear Waterloo,

I spent so many days and the last part of high school dreaming of the day that I would move far away from the small upstate New York town that I called home. Small is an understatement when I was one of only 5,000 other people who lived in the town with two stop lights. And who cares if there was a corn field at the end of my road, I would argue with anyone that I didn’t live in the country. Hubs still reminds me of the corn every time I say I lived in the village.

I did move far away from that town the moment I got the chance. I picked a small, I’m seeing a trend, liberal arts college in western Virginia, a good 9 hours from home. I was so excited and looking back it was the best decision I’ve ever made. I moved far out of my comfort zone. I learned how to do my own laundry, cook my own meals and learn to live with people from all over the country. It took a little while to understand the southern accents but I embraced it and even found best friends who were Yankees just like me. The same girls stood by my side when I got married, along with some southerners that I still call friends.

After graduation, I had the opportunity to move to a ‘big’ city and I jumped at the chance. Anything was better than moving back home, I thought. So after 10 years, I’m still living in that city but my impression of Waterloo has changed. Maybe it’s my age but I have so much more love for that little town than I ever expected.

Now it’s eight hours away and I try to make the trip a few times a year. Little Miss Mallory made her first trip up north with mom and big brother in tow for a week long vaca at Mimi and Packa’s (Peyton gave my parents their names) house. Both kids were angels on the drive up and they spent the week visiting with so many family members, aunts, uncles, cousins, friends who are like family and their GG (great grandma). We visited all of my favorite places, including a drive in restaurant that looks the same as it did when my parents ate their 40 years ago. They still only take cash (like many places in the ‘loo) still have the same hand painted menu and still have the best, I repeat best, root beer floats I have ever had. Peyton loved it and Mal slept through it so it was a successful outing.

The kids also experienced the benefits of living by the lake in the summer and knowing friends with a boat. Looking back, I don’t understand why I didn’t take more advantage of the water. Now the first thing I want to do when I get home is head to the lake.

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It was such a great week and as always it went way too fast. Now having kids, I appreciate that everyone lives only five minutes away from each other and that having all your family around is amazing, not annoying.

I love Richmond and that’s my home now and that’s where my kids will grow up but Waterloo will have a special place in their hearts too, I’ll make sure of it. Who cares if there’s a corn field at the end of the street, I’ll show them one day where I learned to drive on those back country roads that I may or may not have gone into a ditch on my first time.

It was a great vaca though and until next time Waterloo, I’ll miss you. I wish the eight hours was just a little closer.

Sincerely,

Kelli, a small town girl at heart

Dear single parents,

I don’t know how you do it, I really don’t. I got my taste of single parenthood for three days with two children and I didn’t like it. It was hard to be the only one all day and all night caring and attending to their every need, boo boo or cry. My three-week-old is up every two to three hours at night so it didn’t give me much time to rest and my rambunctious  (almost) two-year-old is just that. Almost two! He is testing his independence but also still adjusting to have to share my lap with his sister or my attention. If he is in a mood, he doesn’t like that either.

While hubs was out of town for work, I gave in and probably showed a few too many episodes of Little Einsteins while Mal was eating. But it worked and Peyton was happy and distracted for those 30 minutes. Even though I’m with the kids all day alone while hubs is at work, I know that relief is coming when dinner time hits. Even if he’s just watching the kids while I make dinner, change a load of laundry, take a shower or hell even go to the bathroom, it’s worth it. Parents understand that that isn’t even private anymore and most likely Peyton is in there with me.

Also, the companionship after the kids go to bed is something I yearn for. A warm body next to me while I sleep or another set of hands sharing a bowl of popcorn. Parenthood is hard regardless and we do what’s best for our children and make each day work. But going into it with a partner by your side is priceless and I wouldn’t want it any other way.

So to all the single parents out there, you are my heroes. You are probably the strongest and most resilient people and I hope you are using yourself as an example to teach your children. To my friends who are going at it alone, or who have done it in the past, I’m here for you to bring you dinner, change your laundry or watch your kids while you go to the bathroom. I know that quiet, alone time is needed!

Thank you, thank you, thank you! I’m sure you don’t hear it enough that you are doing a great job.

Sincerely,

Kelli

Dear my one-month-old,

In an instant, my precious little Mallory hit your first milestone (and so did the rest of us). You are now officially one-month-old. Hubs and I have made it through the first month as parents to two children under that age of two! And I must admit, we’ve done a great job thus far, including Peyton. He adores his baby sister some days and could care less others. His cars and trucks sometimes takes priority over you.

But not to worry those cars and trucks don’t for me. Little Mallory, you are wonderful and just a blessing to our family. I know we are still in the newborn phase but I also know it won’t be that way for long. Before I know it, you’ll be three months, then six, then a year, then sneaking out of the house in clothes that your father wouldn’t approve of. In just one week you look so much older to me. Time, please slow down and please don’t get big too fast. Some of your newborn clothes are becoming a little too tight for comfort and we are going to have to retire them to the attic pretty soon.

You are just starting to smile and I don’t care if it’s just gas, I’ll take it and tell you later that you smiled at just three weeks old. Speaking of gas, girl you are stinky and loud! You’ll be embarrassed later that you mamma is talking about it, but it’s worth mentioning. You can clear a room with that diaper and sometimes just the gas alone makes me run to change you only to realize there is nothing there. Your little tummy has been very upset lately though and that’s caused many, many hours of crying and screaming. Trust me, your mommy and daddy want to take away that pain for you if we could. You pouty lips and sad faces break our hearts.

Everyone always asks how you are sleeping and how tired we are. Well little one, I don’t want to jinx anything but you are a good sleeper at night, only getting up once and at the most twice. That is much different than your brother who was up all the time and so angry each time. You wake up and eat and then typically go back to sleep so peacefully. I hope this continues but really it’s only been a month so who knows what could change.

So let’s slow down a bit, shall we. Please continue to furrow your brow at me throughout the day when you don’t like something or when we forced you to go to Wal-Mart for the first time. Trust me Mal, we didn’t like that either but we just needed to pick something up that we ordered for your brother. And speaking of your brother. He loves you so so much. He constantly wants to give you kisses and share his toys with you. Please realize that he doesn’t quite understand that you don’t want his cars on your head or that your body isn’t his race track. He’ll learn soon enough just how delicate you are but in the meantime, he’s roughing you up a bit. One thing is for sure is that we love having you in our family and I love not being outnumbered with your dad and brother.

Here’s to month two, where you will experience so many other firsts, including your first long car ride to New York to visit all of mommy’s family. Most likely you’ll also visit your first winery on that trip and your first experience of the Finger Lakes. I’ll warn you now that the water will probably be cold but it’s beautiful and you’ll love taking yearly summer trips there throughout your childhood.

My dear, dear Mallory, Mal, Mally and Mal Pal, I can’t wait to watch you grow and see how our family adjusts even more in the weeks and months to come. You are wonderful and I love you so much.

Love,

Mommy

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Dear Mallory Carrington,

Well, well, well! You have officially been a part of our family for exactly two weeks and I still can’t believe it. A little girl. I’m still in disbelief that I have a little girl. And it’s true, my heart has grown tremendously since July 11 at 7:45 a.m.

Yes, that’s right Mallory. You arrived on your own schedule, on your own, on your due date. I had fully anticipated being in labor more than 24 hours and you not arriving until the weekend after I posted about being pregnant for way too long. A few hours after posting I started having some pressure and pains in my lower stomach. I didn’t think anything of it and headed to bed. I was excited for the next day because I was going to sleep in, grandma and grandpa had just arrived from New York to watch Peyton, clean up the house, make sure the hospital bag was packed and then have lunch at one of my favorite deli’s. Then daddy and I were heading to the hospital that night to start your induction. But you had other plans starting at 2:30 a.m.

For the last few weeks of the pregnancy, I’ve been scared that I would wake up in the middle of the night to my water breaking. I was so paranoid that every time I felt like I had to pee I would run to our bathroom to try not to ruin our bed sheets. Because of this I didn’t realize the sporadic pain was contractions not just the urge to pee, even though I did pee every single time i got up. For the next two hours, I was up from bed every 10-15 minutes. After finally timing them, I knew something was happening for real. I really wanted to wait until Peyton woke up at 6:30 a.m. so that I could say goodbye but the pain was coming much quicker and much more intense.

Finally at 4:30 a.m. I decided to wake up daddy. The 10 minute drive to the hospital felt much longer as contractions were now about five minutes a part. I was hurried by wheelchair into a room and I don’t think I could have asked for an epidural any quicker than I did. The nurse reassured me that I was in fact in labor and I was already five centimeters dilated. I was shocked because I hadn’t started to progress on my own at all two days before at my last doctors appointment. And I hadn’t progressed at all without pitocin the first time around with Peyton.

I wanted to make sure I could still get an epidural before it was too late and the nurse indicated that the anesthesiologist was extremely busy and he only had small time frame for me, so short that I had to refrain from peeing one last time, which I can tell you was not fun. But the pain and contractions were so strong at that point that I needed that numbing drug more than relieving myself.

Once it was in, I felt much better and the rest of the labor was easy peazy, Mal. Daddy and I then just hung out in the room and waited until the 7 a.m. shift change. At about 7:20 a.m. my water broke after a single cough and apparently you started to arrive at that point as well. The doctor (not mine because she didn’t make it in time) and the nurse instructed me not to cough or push until the room was set up. Once it was ready, it only took 15 minutes and three pushes before we met you.

At 7:45 a.m. on Thursday, July 11 you arrived weighing just 6 pounds 5 ounces and were 19 inches long. When the doctor told us you were a girl, we didn’t believe it. Your daddy and I were convinced you were a boy and we would be adding another car loving member to our family.

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But we loved you immediately and your daddy loved having a girl the minute he looked at you. I have a feeling he’s going to have a hard time letting you go when you get older. Mal, he’s already wrapped around your tiny little fingers. Not only will you have daddy looking out for you but your big brother Peyton. In just 14 days, he absolutely adores his ‘baby sister’ and I have lost count on how many kisses he gives you. He even shares his cars with you and let me tell you, that’s a big deal. We only had one mishap so far with your head and a race car and army truck. I don’t think he meant it but you were tough and I have a feeling that won’t be the only bump you receive because of your big brother.

So Mallory Carrington, after only a short time, you have stolen my heart. I cannot wait to see what you bring to our new family of four.

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I love you.

Sincerely,

Mommy

Dear week 40, day 280,

I really didn’t think Thursday, July 11 would come and I still wouldn’t be able to see my toes. Or that I would still would be feeling kicks and punches in my belly instead of holding a little baby in my arms. I wouldn’t have believed you if you told me I would go until my due date and possibly longer.

Peyton was born at 39 weeks exactly so this 40 week business is new. Aren’t second babies supposed to come early? I have stopped believing every old wives tale or pregnancy prediction thus far. If a reflexologist, Mexican food, pedicures, walking, a car accident or very close fireworks don’t get Moses moving then all of those stories are just that, stories from moms who happen to go into labor after doing one of these things. Thanks for the tips friends, and strangers, who assure me walking up stairs will induce labor. I think I’ll let my doctor tell me when it’s go time.

But baby Moses, today is not only your official due date but it’s the start of your eviction. Daddy and I are headed to the hospital tonight to get the process started. You will be entering the word with a little push and kick start from the lovely drug Pitocin. I would love if you decided that was unnecessary to make an entrance but based on the previous few weeks I think I’ll need an extra dose to get you moving.

So this time next year, a few extra weeks for you to cook will seem like nothing. Maybe you are as sweet as your big brother and wanted him to have a little extra time as an only child and to be spoiled with attention before you arrived. Maybe July 12 was always the day you wanted as your birthday. Let’s just make sure it’s not July 13 or 14. Emotionally I’m not sure if I’m ready for two or how Moses will impact our tight family dynamic of three but physically I’m ready to be more comfortable. I’m ready for the pregnancy pains to go away and the occasional pee every time I sneeze or cough. Moses, that’s not fun, trust me.

So next time I write I will either have two little boys or a little boy and little girl who will call me mom. I’m pretty sure my heart size will have doubled and most likely so will my chest but those feet and cankles will surely decrease soon.

Here’s to 40 weeks and to 10 months of pregnancy! Now if only hubs can have a big glass of red wine ready when you arrive, I’ll be a happy camper.

Sincerely,

Kelli

Dear beige colored sedan,

I know you couldn’t tell the driver to your right was nine months-plus pregnant, actually 38 weeks, 6 days to be exact. I know you couldn’t tell that my increasing belly is uncomfortable with the seat belt pressed against it. I know you couldn’t tell that I was having a stressful afternoon at my job and stressing that this baby was going to make an appearance while his/her daddy was away on business for the night. I know you couldn’t tell any of this or hear my horn because you didn’t see that four-door white car, driven by the blonde at 5 p.m. on interstate 95 at all!

Last nights commute home was the scariest that I’ve ever experienced thanks to you. And thanks to you for not stopping. I saw you put on your brakes when I landed against the guard rail but then keep going. I only saw you long enough to give a vague vehicle description to the insurance company.

I’m just thankful there was no car immediately to my right as I flew out of control into that lane and back while trying to make my way to the right hand side of the road. I’m thankful it was just me in the car (well plus Moses in utero) and I hadn’t picked up Peyton yet. I’m thankful the damage on the surface isn’t that bad. The impact to the guard rail alone seemed much more jarring and well as the emotional shake up afterwards to me.

But a few deep breaths to keep Moses in tact and a relaxing evening with cartoons and Peyton helped ease my mind. He was especially loving to his sore mamma.

And wouldn’t you know Moses stayed in tact overnight and hubs will be back in the same zip code in just a few hours. One crisis averted.

I know one thing is for sure though. If a car accident won’t send Moses heading for the exit, I’m not sure what will. I’m thinking I have a very stubborn little person in there waiting to test my limits for the next 20 plus years.

After further inspection of my car this morning, you did hit me and I wasn’t going crazy how my car just instantly became out of control by my own account. I did learn how to drive  during an upstate NY winter and know how to get off of ice safety, thankyouverymuch! I hope you have some white marks from my car as well to remember me.

If I do go into labor today or tomorrow, this will be the story to tell Moses. Peyton already has a story how the earth literally shook upon his arrival. I guess his brother or sister wants something similar.

Sincerely (and sore),

Kelli

Dear Moses,

I haven’t formally addressed you yet and I apologize for that. With your constant kicking, punching, moving and forcing me to pee every 15 minutes, you’d think I wouldn’t stop thinking about you.

Well that part is true.

I haven’t stopped thinking about you since Nov. 10, 2012, when those two pink lines appeared on the pregnancy test that I took at 3:30 a.m. the morning of your daddy’s first half marathon. I sat and watched the two lines appear almost immediately and placed the test on the sink counter. I wanted to surprise daddy when he woke up a few hours later and saw the results for himself.

That seems like so long ago and now here I sit, waiting for your arrival. It could be any day now. The doctor thought today might have been the day, three weeks early, but you surprised us and the fluid surrounding you increased to a normal level. So your birthday hasn’t been planned right now and I’m sure you already have a plan in mind of the date you wish. And your heart rate jumped up to 168. It surprised me too, even though that’s the range your brother’s remained throughout, because yours was always around 140.

I have a feeling that those are only the beginning of surprises that you are going to have when you make your grand appearance. Right now, I’m told you are little. Five pounds based on the ultrasound. Tiny and strong. I can see it now. Your big brother was only 6 pounds 9 ounces when he joined our family but he let his independence be known early on that he was much stronger and resilient than he first appeared.

Your big brother Peyton has been playing with all your baby toys and testing out your crib mattress on a daily basis to make sure it’s good enough for you. Don’t worry it’s perfect for jumping up and down.

I don’t know what the future holds as we become a family of four but I have a feeling it will be filled with surprises. First being if you are a boy or a girl. Either way you are loved so much already. Right now, three weeks from the due date, mommy and daddy don’t have a name for you if you are boy. We are working on it but we can’t agree on what will fit you perfectly.

Don’t worry, Moses is not in the running.

I love you so much already and so does daddy and your sweet and funny big brother Peyton!

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Sincerely,

Mommy

Dear Memorial Day weekend,

Thank you, thank you, thank you! Your three day off arrival was much needed. Even though the weekend weather started off slightly chilly for the end of May in Virginia, you ended with sun, blue skies and many hours spent on our screened in porch.

My little family of three was able to head out of town for a night to Wintergreen, which to my surprise was only about an hour and half away. I wanted to make sure to get in an overnight trip somewhere new before the baby arrives and our tripod dynamic is ruffled. We had a great time and Peyton loved our room, even though he didn’t sleep well, and ‘roaring’ at all the bear paraphernalia around the resort. Hubs and I had a great time too exploring the area and I would love to go back there and spend more time.

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The final day was spent with our fantastic friends from California who drove down from Northern Virginia for the day with their precious, precious 14-month-old. Finley and Peyton had so much fun together and it was great catching up with old friends who we don’t see as often as we’d like. But that’s what 2,000 miles will do and living on opposites sides of the country.

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All in all it was a wonderful long weekend and I feel like we’ve tried to give Peyton as much only child time outside the house as possible before his world is rocked upside down in a handful of weeks.

And it wouldn’t be the norm if I didn’t throw in a mention of my hometown of Waterloo, NY being the birthplace of Memorial Day. Shout out to the ‘loo!

Sincerely,

Kelli