2017 Was a Good Year

2017 Was a Good Year - Get To Work Book | kaileenelise.com

“And suddenly you know: It’s time to start something new and trust the magic of beginnings.”
(Meister Eckhart)

Without giving it much thought, I would say 2017 was a good year. The details blur together, but we found our groove as a family of three. As January approached, I found myself craving more clarity on what happened last year. So I went a cute cafe, ordered a matcha latte, and looked through my planner to examine how I spent my time in 2017.

I have tweaked and toyed with this post for weeks. Despite being extremely late to the “year recap” game, it feels luxurious to take a slow approach to reflection. Sifting through everything that makes up a year, I uncovered three themes for 2017: body + babies, travel, and creativity.

Body + Babies

2017 Was a Good Year - Bodies & Babies | kaileenelise.com

In the first half of the year, I completed a round of Whole30, returned to yoga, and found a Pilates teacher to help me rehab a severe diastasis recti (abdominal muscle separation that did not heal after my first pregnancy).

The early days of motherhood are so all-consuming that I didn’t realize how disconnected I was from my body. When my son turned 6 months in January, I was ready to focus on building strength in my new postpartum body.

In the second half of the year, I became pregnant with Baby Sues #2(!!) and my relationship with my body shifted again. This season of babies is a season of bodies. From newly pregnant to postpartum, nursing and weaning, there is a continuous flow of expansion and contraction, of miracles and magic. I am learning to trust my evolving body and appreciate all that she does.


2017 Was a Good Year - Travel | kaileenelise.com

In February we took our 8-month old to Japan. While we were there I learned a valuable lesson in perspective that I thought was about the contrast between life before and after baby. Now I see it was really about the importance of getting out and doing things… even with a little one in tow.

We applied that lesson to an extreme with family-related travel in 2017. We visited Arizona three times, North Carolina twice, and Ohio three times to see parents, grandparents, and siblings. While I’m grateful for the time with loved ones, the total volume of our travels surprised me.

I’m craving a balance between experience and stillness, tradition and adventure. Being everywhere for everyone is an easy trap. Trying to do all the things is tempting. There’s an appeal to proving that having a baby hasn’t changed the adventurous, go-anywhere people we used to be. The truth is: children change a lot. Better to cultivate those changes in the direction we want to go.


2017 Was a Good Year - Creativity | kaileenelise.com

I spent more time writing in 2017 than in the past several years. While there’s a tendency to feel like we’re not doing enough, I want to celebrate the effort I put in last year.

I published 13 new posts, an increase from zero in 2015 and one in 2016. I participated in The Year of Creativity, a writing workshop from Ashlee Gadd and the team at Coffee & Crumbs. With encouragement, prompting, and peer editing, I finally shared my son’s birth story and wrote an essay about the exhaustion of motherhood that was picked up by Scary Mommy: At The End Of The Day, I’m Too Tired For Anything But ‘Real Housewives’.

As a stay at home mama, writing is one of the rare things from my pre-baby life that I’ve kept doing. This website has been my space to share inspiration and ideas since 2009. I used to sneak away to coffee shops before work and on my lunch breaks… now I go in the evenings and the mornings we have childcare. Some things change, some things stay the same.

Writing slows me down, smoothes me out, and connects me to my inner self. It’s something I hope to do forever.

2017 Was a Good Year

2017 Was a Good Year | kaileenelise.com

This past year helped me see the love and beauty in my everyday. More and more, I’m realizing my biggest job is to sink into the wonder of this life and appreciate everything it has to offer. Thank you for being part of this journey, wishing you a calm, magical and uplifting 2018!







Birth Story: Our Surprisingly Quick HypnoBirth at the Hospital

Birth Story: Our Surprisingly Quick HypnoBirth at the Hospital | kaileenelise.com

“Giving birth and being born brings us into the essence of creation, where the human spirit is courageous and bold and the body, a miracle of wisdom.”
(Harriette Hartigan)

Whenever I tell our son’s birth story, I lead with the punchline. We got to the hospital at 4 am and he was born at 4:28 am.

My recollection of that day lives within my muscles and bones. The memories are choppy and out of order. Like a tidy stack of papers that have scattered across the floor, I clutch tightly to what’s in my grasp. As I pull each piece by crumpled piece, I find myself questioning if things happened as I remember?

The months leading up to our son’s birth are much clearer. I read books, listened to podcasts and made a project out of being pregnant. We hired a doula, took HypnoBirthing classes, and wrote out a birth plan. Our freezer was stocked, the car seat was professionally installed, and our hospital bags were ready.

My intention was to have an unmedicated, low-intervention birth. Being an athlete for most of my life, I was drawn to the physicality of labor and delivery. I connected with the idea that women all over the world have delivered their babies safely and that our bodies are designed to do so. I knew there could be reasons why an epidural, cesarean, or other intervention would be the best (or safest) choice. I was open to what would be while maintaining a fierce focus on what I could control.

I resonated with the HypnoBirthing program and followed it closely. The primary philosophy is that by practicing breathing, relaxation, and visualization techniques, mothers can remove the fear and pain that’s often associated with birth, and instead cultivate a calm, meditative state for birthing. I loved the simplicity of the approach and how it reminded me of my athletic endeavors. I knew my body was capable of astonishing things when I emptied my mind and got out of my own way.

When we discussed my desires with our doctor and doula, both suggested I labor at home as long as possible. That same advice was repeated in various ways throughout my pregnancy and I took it to heart. At the last prenatal meeting with our doula, I told her I wanted to show up to the hospital pushing… and that’s exactly what happened.

At our 39 week appointment, my OB brought up the possibility of an induction. The conversation took me by surprise, even though I should have seen it coming. She wanted me to be prepared, but I wanted to focus on the present. I wasn’t tired of being pregnant or dying to get the baby out. My only complaint was feeling like a deadline was looming and being unable to influence the timeline. I wanted to go into labor when my baby and body were ready, but the clock was ticking.

When I was 40 weeks and 5 days pregnant, I woke up at 5:45 am with a contraction (or “surge” as they are called in HypnoBirthing). As the sensation eased, my thoughts turned to the day ahead. I was looking forward to my prenatal massage and acupuncture appointments that morning. Both were attempts to coax labor into action and my last chance for self-care before the baby arrived. I rolled over and promised myself I’d go if things slowed down by 8:30 am.

As my husband got ready for work, I told him about my early morning wakeup call. We agreed I should keep my plans and kissed each other goodbye like any normal day.

Throughout my pregnancy, I thought of prenatal massages as a way to practice my HypnoBirthing techniques. Before a session, I would silently count down, 3… 2… 1… 0… and then sink deep into the soft pillows supporting me. While the therapist kneaded the knots in my neck and lower back, I took deep breaths and imagined my body as a mound of purple play dough she was smoothing out. Through any discomfort, I would tell my muscles to “let go.” Over and over, I actively released tension and maintained a steady breath.

If massage was a time to focus, then acupuncture was when I zoned out. After all the needles were placed, my acupuncturist asked if I’d had any contractions earlier. I hummed, “Uh huh,” and then turned my brain off. I left the appointment with a feeling of calm confidence and randomly decided to stop by the grocery store for dried apricots. Early labor or not, I was going through the motions and enjoying my day.

In the final weeks of pregnancy, I started having silent conversations with my baby and my body. I asked them to do as much work as possible without me knowing. They had already done so much – growing a tiny speck of cells into a wiggly baby in my belly. This was a collaboration I could only witness with amazement, so I set my chair on the sidelines to cheer them along and promised I would jump in when they needed me.

When my husband came home from work, we went for a walk around the neighborhood. Like so many other afternoons that summer, we dropped the distractions of our phones and to-do lists and talked about our days. We had spaghetti for dinner and watched an episode of “Bloodline” in bed. There were no major conversations about the baby or if the contractions I’d been feeling would lead to labor. We just flowed through our normal routine, comfortable and easy.

At 9 pm something shifted. The quiet and gradual changes that were happening in my body hit me all at once. I don’t remember saying much to my husband, other than that I couldn’t pay attention to the show. I needed to get out of bed and move. He kept cool and calmly went downstairs to clean the kitchen.

My memory of next few hours is a slow-motion blur of us moving from place to place, position to position, all in an effort to find comfort and rest. We talked through a possible timeline and decided it would be best to get some sleep, but every time we got me settled, another wave would crash. I was in and out of the bed, in and out of the tub, in and out of the bathroom.

Between 11 pm and 2:30 am, the intensity picked up in a way I never anticipated. The contractions went from mild ripples of discomfort to strong and powerful undulations. The calm laboring process I envisioned turned into white knuckles and desperate moaning. Despite our attempts to keep me focused and relaxed, I found myself wavering and wondering if I’d be able to hang on.

When I was pregnant, I spent hours reading in the bathtub. It was a simple ritual, a time to rest my body and soothe my mind. I read “Expecting Better” by Emily Oster, “Homebirth in the Hospital” by Stacey Marie Kerr, “Natural Hospital Birth” by Cynthia Gabriel, “Breastfeeding Made Simple” by Nancy Mohrbacher, and “Guide to Childbirth” by Ina May. Each book bolstered my knowledge of pregnancy, birth, and motherhood.

I saved Ina May’s “Guide to Childbirth” for last because I wanted the birth stories to be fresh in my mind when I went into labor. Whenever I read about a birthing mama who ended up laboring on the toilet, I hoped and wished that wouldn’t be me. Even though I knew it was a comfortable (and productive) place for many birthing mothers, I didn’t want it to be my story… and yet that’s exactly where I ended up.

At 3:30 am, I was sitting on the toilet when I felt my body pushing the baby down. It was a different sensation than the contractions, and it signaled a shift in the birthing process. My husband called our doula (for the first time). I didn’t want to talk, so he caught her up on the past few hours and she listened to me in the background. By then I was wailing through the most intense parts, so she suggested I try to groan and flutter my lips as I exhaled.

I was hunched over, with my arms folded across the bathroom counter when I heard her say we should meet at the hospital. I snapped to reality and asked, “Are you sure?” All along we talked about making sure we didn’t get to the hospital too early. It seemed impossible that it was actually time. But after managing on our own for the past several hours, we were ready to have someone else’s input.

My husband rushed downstairs to load the car and for the first time that night, I sensed his adrenaline. I listened to him buzz and clatter about the kitchen, diligently packing our “snack bag” with drinks and healthy eats, including the dried apricots I picked up earlier. At the same time, I stood in my closet and looked at myself in the mirror. As a sense of calm rushed over me and my contractions paused. I changed into a nursing bra and cozy black t-shirt dress, put my contacts in, and tossed a few final items in my hospital bag. Ready for whatever was next, I smiled at the girl looking back at me and knew things were about to change forever.

On my way to the car, I stopped in the bathroom for another contraction. My body was pushing with each wave and I could feel the baby moving down. Before I stepped into the car, I reached between my legs and felt my bag of water. It was slippery and firm, clearly not the baby’s head, but also very clearly on its way out.

Thankfully, we live a few minutes from the hospital. We tried calling my doctor’s office on the way over, but by the time we were speaking to an actual person, we were pulling into the emergency room’s late night driveway. My husband put the car in park and I climbed out. We held hands as we walked through the double doors and up to the intake window.

When I was eight months pregnant we went on a tour of the hospital, so that night we knew exactly where to go. The woman behind the desk was slowly entering my information into the system, and then told us we had to wait for a wheelchair. Instantly, I was prepared to protest. There was no way I was going to wait around or sit in a wheelchair! As I started to explain that we’d walk ourselves to labor and delivery, the charge nurse magically appeared.

She guided us down a long hallway and then up an elevator. When the doors opened to get off, I was stuck in my tracks, gripping the frame through another intense surge. I had to stop again on the way to our room, pressing my forearms and head into the wall. The charge nurse said something to the other nurses as she led the way, and when we made it to the delivery room, a rush of people followed.

When the nurse checked my cervix, I was completely dilated. When someone asked if I wanted to change into a hospital gown, I stayed in what I was wearing. When the doctor started telling me to push, I focused on my husband’s hushed voice. In HypnoBirthing there is an emphasis on letting the mother’s body guide baby down. I did everything possible to let go and trust that my baby and my body knew what to do.

The next chunk of time is hazy. I remember a peak of intense pressure as my son’s head was born. Then a quiet pause, and his squishy wet body being placed on mine.

Our doula was walking down the hallway when she heard his cry. As she came in, the nurses took our baby to support his breathing and I called out to my husband to stay with him. The doctor repaired a small tear and I was surprised how that was one of the more painful parts of the birthing process. I don’t remember delivering the placenta, but there was concern about how much I was bleeding. The nurses were on top of it, quickly giving me a shot, and then an IV.

Through the commotion of fixing me up, I watched intently as the pediatrician examined our baby across the room. Our doula snapped a few photos of dad and his first born son. After being separated for the first time in ten months, I was grateful when my husband placed our baby in my arms.

We stayed in the delivery room for a few extra hours while the nurses monitored my bleeding. When we finally made it to the recovery room, things began to slow down and reality started to settle in. Just like a punchline that’s delivered too quickly, I was caught off guard by how our lives changed in an instant.


It took me 14 months to write and share this birth story. For the longest time, I felt apologetic that we got to the hospital when we did. If people praised my fast labor and unmedicated delivery, I brushed them off. The whole experience was a shock and it took me a long time to figure out why.

After requesting my medical records and our doula’s notes, I started to piece together a memory of what happened. I didn’t recall telling our doula that I wanted to show up to the hospital pushing. I didn’t realize how much emphasis and focus I put on laboring at home. I had the birth I wanted, down to specific details, and the whole experience still took me by surprise.

No matter how our babies arrive, we are never truly prepared. Welcoming a new family member requires bravery and humility, honesty and trust. It cracks us open so a new, magical love can spill out. Birth is just the beginning of the journey, but it paves the way for relationships that will last a lifetime.

Photo credit: Angela Doran


My Pregnancy: A Tale of To-Do Lists & Transitions

My Pregnancy: A Story of To-Do Lists & Transitions | kaileenelise.com

“What is done in love is done well.” (Vincent Van Gogh)

My son turned ONE at the beginning of this month and I’ve been thinking a lot about my pregnancy, his birth, and the past twelve months as a family. I know this is just the start of our journey, but it’s hard not to be in awe of the time that’s passed so far.

I’ve never been great at transitions. I get cranky and uncomfortable in the spaces between one thing to another. Being pregnant is a state of constant transition. At first, you don’t even know your baby is there. By the end, all you can think about is what it will be like to have that baby in your arms. In the middle, there are months of growth and discomfort, excitement and expectation. With each passing week, your belly becomes a clear sign that life as you know it is about to change forever.

My first pregnancy ended with a miscarriage at 9 weeks. It was my first lesson in motherhood: even when we try to do everything right, so much is out of our control. Nothing is permanent or guaranteed. There are greater forces beyond us.

I always wanted to be a mama, but that loss deepened my desire in a palpable way. Within a few months, I was pregnant again.

On the Sunday morning of a 3-day music festival, I woke up before my alarm with a wave of intuition. I didn’t want to spend the day drinking if I was pregnant. I took a test just to be sure. It was quiet in our apartment, with only the soft sounds of the city humming below. I snuck out of bed and for an hour or so, I was the only person who knew about this very tiny, very exciting thing. A new transition was upon us. I snapped a picture of the positive test, crawled back in bed, and started to think. There would be doctor’s visits, blood tests, and ultrasounds ahead. I hoped it would all be okay this time.

I wore a flowy dress to the festival. As we swayed to the music, I imagined what I’d look like with a bump under all that fabric. I was exhausted by the time the headliners took the stage that evening, but grateful we got to spend the first day of this pregnancy in such a memorable way.

We didn’t see a heartbeat at the first appointment. The doctor said it was just too early, but I struggled to keep my fears at bay. Even a few weeks later, when we saw a strong reassuring flicker, I had a hard time believing everything was okay. I was stuck in the transition between being someone who had a miscarriage and someone who was excited to be pregnant again. On top of that, the strangeness of early pregnancy weighed on me. As my body worked double time to grow a tiny human, it depleted my resources and left me exhausted. I found myself holding onto my faith in magic and miracles, in bean and cheese burritos, and the hope that coffee might taste good again someday.

We traveled to Australia and Fiji during my first trimester, before we told our families. We celebrated our first wedding anniversary in Sydney at a fancy steakhouse. While I’d normally indulge in red wine and a nice filet, nothing sounded good to me that night. During that trip, I was texting with my grandmother about how I had a head cold. She replied by asking if I was pregnant!? I was stunned by her question, but I held onto our secret. We wanted to share the news in person.

I searched Etsy for ornaments, mugs, and t-shirts that we personalized for our baby’s soon-to-be grandparents and great-grandparents. When I was thirteen weeks, we traveled to Ohio for Christmas and surprised my husband’s side of the family. The next week we traveled to Arizona for my grandparents’ 60th anniversary party where our news added to the occasion.

When the New Year came, we talked about what it’d be like to live in our one-bedroom apartment with a small baby. We could make it work, but we also liked the idea of having more space. We dreamed of a nursery, a guest room for our families, a home office, a back patio and grill, a place to call home. Our search began on January 2nd and on February 16th we had our keys in hand. It was quick, but we found a new home that exceeded our criteria. We took the leap and made it ours.

Everyone copes with being pregnant in different ways. When I was in school, I perfected the art of procrastination, always waiting for the last minute to study and complete assignments. I knew I wanted to take a different approach with my pregnancy. I had advance notice, a growing belly and constant reminder of the changes ahead.

I quit my job at the end of February and became obsessed with two things: getting our house settled and preparing for birth. Each day I worked towards my goal of feeling ready. We took countless trips to IKEA, Target, West Elm, and Crate & Barrel. My husband built furniture and hung pictures, while I played on Pinterest and shopped online. When he was at work, I read, listened to podcasts, and immersed myself in the project of being pregnant.

I connected with women who helped me find comfort, strength, and joy in my pregnancy. My husband started referring to them as Team Kaileen. I had an acupuncturist / nutritionist who helped me cope with anxiety and headaches. I started seeing a massage therapist with strong, healing hands. We took HypnoBirthing classes from a chiropractor who aligned my spine and taught me how women’s bodies are designed to birth our babies. I deepened my yoga practice with a teacher who guided a room full of non-pregnant students while subtly giving modifications I could continue practicing into my 3rd trimester.

I made friends with other expectant mamas and found a doula cooperative with great prenatal classes. I went on neighborhood walks in the mornings, napped in the afternoon, and took baths at night. I did special stretches and exercises to help coax my baby into the ideal position for birthing. I practiced visualization, breathwork, relaxation techniques, and repeated mantras daily.

It felt indulgent to put so much into the act of being pregnant, but that was exactly what I needed. Through all of my effort and preparation, I manage to find ease in the transition. Each step of the way, I was saying a slow goodbye to my old life and giving motherhood the warmest welcome I knew how to give.

Photo credit: Angela Doran


It’s Okay

It's Ok | kaileenelise.com

“When you get the inside right, the outside falls into place.”
(Eckhart Tolle)

I was feeling down and disconnected, hungry and tired. Wanting motivation, but unwilling to search for it. I told myself it’s okay to be lonely even though my days are spent with a sweet baby on my hip. It’s okay to question my place in the world. It’s okay to feel like I’m making things up as I go.

I let myself be. Granted permission to sulk, snooze, simmer. Blamed my hormones and the past 11 months of sleep deprivation. Life is full of seasons and cycles, and maybe I’m just caught in a summer storm.

When I’m busy with the baby, my mind clicks and clatters with things to do and remember. When I put him down, all I want to do is collapse onto the couch and let the cushions cradle me to sleep.

The more I mother, the more I realize that taking care of myself is as important as taking care of my child. I instinctively listen for his every breath, cry, squeal, and giggle. And yet, I can barely hear myself think. This might be the way nature intended, but I need to start doing more to nurture my soul.

I wrote out daily mantras as a gentle reminder that self care begins with self talk. It’s impossible to monitor or manage the millions of thoughts that whirl and whiz through my mind each day, but I can look in the mirror every morning and say seven kind, affirming things to myself.

I revisited my goals with an almost-mid-year check-in. I dropped a few that weren’t serving me, crossed off the one I completed, and refocused what was left. I used a strip of my favorite washi tape, the one with gold polka dots, to post them up in my closet where I see them at least twice a day.

I committed to “daily-ish” writing, movement & meditation. These are not easy things to find time for in days filled with playdates and Target runs, laundry and nap schedules. But they are vital to my mental, physical, and spiritual health. They are at the core of who I am and who I aim to be.

So yes, it’s okay to feel the feelings. And then it’s okay to do all the things to get back on track.

If I sound like a broken record — like every thought I share and every post I write is a version of the one before — it’s because I am. Screeching, cracking, breaking with every repetition.

It’s okay.
You deserve this.
You need this.
You matter.

At the end of the day, when the laundry is folded and the baby is sleeping, whatever’s left of me needs gentle reassurance and calm support. My shreds of patience need time to heal, my frayed nerves need mending. My mama self needs someone to take her by the hand and tuck her into bed earlier than she wants to go.

And every time I question an act of self care, wonder if there’s time or space or money to do something for myself, I have to pull out my broken record and hit play once more. It’s okay.



The Reason I Write

The Reason I Write | kaileenelise.com

“The universe buries strange jewels deep within us all, and then stands back to see if we can find them.”
(Elizabeth Gilbert, Big Magic: Creative Living Beyond Fear)

I have been writing for as long as I can remember. In journals. In letters. In essays and poems. In newsletters and blog posts. I started kaileenelise.com in 2009 as an escape from my day job. I wrote from coffee shops before going into work. On my lunch breaks I scrolled through Twitter and read the archives of my favorite sites. I connected with women from all over who were also seeking creativity, inspiration, and a little peace in our everyday.

Writing has always been there for me. I like how it transports me back in time to revisit memories through a new lens. How it propels me into my future hopes and dreams. How researching an idea feels like swimming far below the surface. How sharing what I’ve written can feel like coming up for air.

When my hands are on my keyboard, or my pen is pressed firmly onto the page, the chatter in my mind slows down. When I’m searching for the thoughts, the words, the details and feelings, I take deep breaths. The kind that lift my chest, expand my rib cage, and expose my heart.

I write because it’s cheap therapy. I write because I like to hear myself talk. I write because it feels good to start at zero and end up somewhere else. I write because of the rare occasion when the words magically spill out onto the page or screen and leave me feeling like they came from somewhere else. I write because whenever I take a break from writing, my mind gets soggy and my heart starts to harden.

All of these reasons are insignificant compared to the biggest reason of all. And it’s the one I always forget about, like when you’ve seen a movie a thousand times, but aren’t quite sure what happens at the end until you watch it once more.

I write because revisiting my words – weeks, months, or years later – grounds me, roots me, connects me to myself and the universe in a way nothing else ever has.

A few days ago I was cleaning up my files and sorting through a dozen half-written essays when I came upon this,

My sweet Baby O is seven weeks and two days old and our lives as a family of three have settled into an unpredictable rhythm. We can count on the sunsets and sunrises to mark time. There are coos, smiles, diaper changes, cries for help, endless feedings, and moments when I stop to wonder how we got so lucky. They say having a child will change you, and of course I knew that the very second the pregnancy test was positive, but it’s impossible to know how.

I am so new at this. I don’t know what I’m doing or what’s around the corner. But lately I’ve noticed a voice within that is calling me to be better. Ground, calm, gentle, nice. These aren’t traits at the top of my list of strengths, but now that I’m this baby’s mama, all I want to do is shed my rough edges and be soft.

This, my dear friends, is the reason I write.


Too Tired for Anything but Real Housewives

Too Tired | kaileenelise.com

“There never was a child so lovely but his mother was glad to get him to sleep.”
(Ralph Waldo Emerson)

The dishes are done, the baby is down, and my bra is off. I slump onto the couch and a long list of “shoulds” rushes over me.

Soak the onesie in OxiClean from today’s experiment with beets. Meal plan. Write the grocery list. Catch up on months 7, 8, and 9 in the baby book. Order photos from the last three professional photo sessions. Unsubscribe from all the junk mail that’s overcrowding our recycling bin. Send those prints off to Framebridge. Clean out my closet. Start planning our summer trip. Finish reading that book. Finish writing this essay.

The “less than necessary” and “must be done” buzz and swirl around me like a busy bee. I swat them away and reach for my second glass of wine.

My bones ache. My muscles groan. My hair is falling out by the handfuls. I’m nearly ten months postpartum, but my body feels like someone else’s on a regular basis. And it often feels like I’m living someone else’s life… because I am.

All day I’m on his schedule. I anticipate his needs, decipher his cries from coos. When he wakes up, I spring into action. When I see him fading, I pounce into our “sleepy routine” and use Jedi mind tricks to lull him to sleep.

Dressing him is like wrestling a tiger. Changing diapers is like pinning an alligator. Mealtime is like feeding a snapping turtle. Motherhood, at this age, is a full contact sport and my battery drains hour by hour until my next cup of lukewarm coffee.

In the early days when my son was a cuddly little creature who didn’t know day from night, I found comfort in the stillness of 3am feedings. That was when I got a break from the “shoulds” and settled into a space that was just me and my baby. Even on the worst nights when I felt like I was the only mother in the world who was ever this exhausted, this confused, this overwhelmed… I knew the summer sun would rise in the morning. Each day was a fresh chance to do it all again, a little better this time.

As my son grew from brand new baby to infant, the seasons shifted. Winter came and with it a dark blanket of sleep deprivation covered me. After 5 or 6 months of not sleeping, it is no longer cute or sweet or darling to wake up several times through the night. I was exhausted, but staying up later and later. I was searching for that stillness from before.

One of those nights, I was lounging on the couch, scrolling through my Instagram feed, with the TV on and my glass of wine close by. As my husband headed upstairs for the night he asked, “Honey, why don’t you just go to bed?”

Because all day I’ve been living his little life. I get to live mine when he’s sleeping. And sometimes, most of the time, I’m too tired for anything but Real Housewives.


Being 31 & Becoming 32

Being 31 & Becoming 32

“We cannot become what we want to be by remaining what we are.”
(Max DePree)

I don’t remember turning 31. I don’t remember how it felt or what I was thinking. I was 27 weeks pregnant. I had a lot on my mind and on my to-do list. But I’ll always remember the gift my husband gave me.

He doesn’t know much about music. Actually, I think he prefers silence. I’m the one who runs the playlists in our house. So imagine my surprise when he gave me an envelope filled with concert tickets! On our pre-baby music tour we saw Delta Rae, Ben Folds, Leon Bridges, and Florence and the Machine. And one sweaty night in June, a week from my due date, we made it through four songs at Old Crow Medicine Show before I called it a birthday completely celebrated.

Looking back on 31, it was a year completely celebrated.

In April we had HypnoBirthing classes, maternity photos, and a home visit with our doula. We had new furniture delivered and worked hard to make our new house feel like home. May was full of love and family and friends. We traveled to my husband’s hometown in Ohio for baby showers and Mother’s Day. My dad and brother were in Austin over Memorial Day weekend. I settled into the final months of my pregnancy.

My due date, June 25th, was one of my favorite days of 31. My husband and I spent it together, doing things we love. We went for a long walk around Town Lake and had lunch at True Food Kitchen. We went to dinner at our favorite Indian restaurant, G’Raj Mahal. At the very last minute, we bought the only 2 tickets available to see Andy Cohen and Anderson Cooper speak that night. The seats we scored were front and center and perfect.

On June 30th, when I was 40 weeks and 5 days pregnant, my husband and I called a family meeting. We let our baby know it was time for him to join us. He was fully cooked and we’d done everything we could to prepare for his arrival. We were ready and excited to meet him. Like magic, we welcomed our sweet babe into the world the following morning.

The next two months, July and August, were a haze of cuddles, hormones, burp cloths, and reheated coffee. We had family in town from Ohio, California, North Carolina, and Arizona. It was comforting to have family close, but I struggled to navigate the newness of motherhood with a rotating schedule of guests.

Looking back, September was the only month from 31 where we had nothing scheduled. It was when we established our routine as a family of three. I started to find my way. I got more comfortable with leaving the house and began to connect with other mamas.

October brought our first adventures. We started the month by taking our baby to the Austin City Limits music festival. It was a huge learning experience, marked with sunshine, sweat, tears and small triumphs. The year before, on the last day of ACL, we found out I was pregnant. This year, Baby O turned 100 days old while the festival rocked on.

The rest of 31 is a story of travel. Between November and January we went to Dallas, Raleigh, Charlotte, LA, Napa, Ohio, and Arizona, all with our baby in tow. We started 2017 with a two week trip to Japan and on my 32nd birthday we flew to Ohio.

I’m already 1/12 of the way into 32 and have spent this past month thinking about the year ahead. How do I want to feel when I’m writing about being 32 and becoming 33? What changes, challenges and growth will I face? What wonders and magic will I encounter?

One thing is clear… I am craving stillness. Quiet. Simplicity. In the chaos of motherhood, my heart has cried out for calm.

I know it’s my responsibility to cultivate that calm for myself, my child, my marriage, my home. It’s hard to imagine us slowing, but I can pursue simple joys through the craziness. I can take a deep breath when I forget to breathe. I can care for my body when I am tired and hungry. I can soothe my soul when I’m feeling lost. I can write when my heart needs a voice.

Cheers to being 32 and becoming 33! I am grateful to have this space to reflect, dream, and share my journey. Thank you for being here with me.


Soothe Yourself

Soothe Yourself | kaileenelise.com

“The life of a mother is the life of a child: you are two blossoms on a single branch.”
(Karen Maezen Miller, Momma Zen)

I babysat a lot growing up. In high school I was one of the only older girls in a neighborhood full of young families. Any weekend I was free and wanted to work, I had a job. I loved playing with the little kids, but babies were my jam. I spent so many nights rocking sleeping babies and dreaming of what my life might be like someday.

When I imagined being a mama, I thought of soft blankets and board books, bouncing balls and towers of blocks. In my imagination, the diapers and messes, tantrums and late nights were someone else’s problem. In my imagination, I decorated the nursery and playroom while someone else handled the mounds of laundry. In my imagination, I cooked delicious, organic baby food. Someone else went to the grocery store and washed the dishes.

When I was pregnant, I did a lot to prepare for labor and delivery. I took classes, read books, and listened to podcasts. I went for long walks, did special stretches, and practiced breathing techniques. I hired a doula and wrote up a birth plan. I started each morning with positive mantras and went to bed each night visualizing a smooth birth.

I filled our freezer with home cooked meals, made postpartum baskets for the bathrooms, and stocked my closet with cozy clothes. I decorated the nursery to please myself… not my baby. It felt like a selfish indulgence, but this was a room I’d been dreaming about for years. I figured he’d eventually have opinions about these things. Best take advantage of being able to choose a theme of neutrals with pops of gold over a clashing mix of trains and trucks and PAW Patrol.

In college I earned my degree in Elementary Education. I loved organizing supplies, creating lessons and leading the classroom. I was good at breaking down big ideas in ways the little ones could understand. I didn’t have to teach to a test, interact with parents, or deal with school politics. Instead, I got to sparkle with the brilliance of a shiny, young student teacher.

Before becoming a mama, I had a secret thought about motherhood. I believed my babysitting experience and college degree were excellent preparation, advanced studies for the well-adjusted parent. I wiped poopy butts and snotty noses. I answered silly questions and commanded the attention of twenty kindergarteners. Deep inside, I was smugly confident I wouldn’t just be good at mothering, I would totally rock it.

These pieces of me float around my mind, each one trying to reconcile the other. All the things I thought I knew. All the things I imagined I’d become. All the stories from my past. All the dreams for my future. I never realized motherhood would bring about so much learning. I thought for sure I would be the one teaching my son, but now I see it’s the other way around. I’m clueless. I’m a beginner. There is so much I do not know.

When things are hard, I see myself trying everything to soothe my baby. I tell him he’s ok. I say it’s alright. I’m sorry your teeth hurt, that you bonked your little head, that the yogurt tastes too sour, that the grass itches your feet, that you are scared of that ball. I’m sorry I don’t know what to do, but I’m here and I’m trying.

As I bounce him and sing to him and try to soothe him, I find that I’m soothing myself. All those past versions of me line up and wait for a turn… for a hug, a kiss on the cheek, a bolstering up, a song to fall asleep to. And even though I am nearly 32, I realize that as I’m raising him, I’m raising myself.


Eating in Tokyo & a Lesson in Perspective

Eating in Tokyo & a Lesson in Perspective | kaileenelise.com

“Perspective is the way we see things when we look at them from a certain distance and it allows us to appreciate their true value.”
(Rafael E. Pino)

We got off the elevator on the 45th floor and I immediately remembered coming here for drinks the last time we were in Tokyo. It had somehow slipped my mind when we were booking the trip. I remember feeling out of place. We were two youngish foreigners, indulging in overpriced drinks to catch the city views from the fancy Ritz-Carlton lounge. My cocktail was some tea infusion served with dry ice that bubbled like a witch’s cauldron. After our first round, we went straight to Havana Cafe, a dive bar that’s known on TripAdvisor for having the cheapest happy hour in Tokyo.

We weren’t married. We were child free. He went to a conference during the day. We explored the town at night. We went to the Tsukiji Fish Market, a crazy place called the Robot Restaurant, and the Park Hyatt’s New York Bar from Lost in Translation. We visited countless shrines and enjoyed many delicious meals out. We had no clue we’d be back in a few years with our eight-month-old who would learn how to crawl in our hotel room.

This visit to Tokyo has been different, but that’s true of most things these days. As a rule, life is more exhausting, more surprising, and more sweetly amazing with our baby. Bringing him to Japan has given me a fresh perspective on a few things I did not know before he came into our lives.

Going out to eat was a major focus of our first time in Tokyo.

The morning after we arrived, we waited in line for 30 minutes to have sushi for breakfast at Daiwa Sushi. It was a shock to the system, especially for my husband, but a true sign that we had arrived. On our second night we went to a fancy shabu-shabu restaurant where we cooked strips of raw Kobe beef in a traditional Japanese hot pot at our table.

In a tiny basement restaurant named Agaru, we sat at the counter and watched our chefs prepare ten Kaiseki dishes, each more refined and delicious than the last. We also discovered our love for the simple, but satisfying combo of draft beer and ramen at Kyushu Jangara in Harajuku. Of all the places we tried, our favorite was a smoky neighborhood yakatori bar called Ganchan where we shared 13 plates and 2 rounds of beer.

During that trip I took pictures of all our meals. I ate with both hands and actually tasted my food. I was unencumbered… and unable to appreciate the simplicity of dining without a small person on my lap, grasping for my attention and the food on my plate.

Coming into this trip, I set my expectations low when it came to eating out. I tried to be realistic, knowing our days (and nights) of being foodies are on hiatus… at least until our travel companion can feed himself.

We continued our “first meal in Japan must be sushi” tradition at Sushi Zanmai. The fresh fish and draft beer were as delicious as I remembered. Seated in a small restaurant amongst locals, a familiar feeling rushed over me. We were again outsiders in a foreign place, but this time as a family of three.

When my husband was away at his meetings I skipped lunch or had a small bite at the hotel’s lounge. The idea of getting to a place and eating alone while managing the baby in a foreign city is overwhelming to me. Perhaps I should’ve put on a brave face and given it a try, but instead I ate through our stash of “emergency” Larabars.

Dinner was much less glamorous during this visit to Tokyo. Most days, I put the babe down for his afternoon nap at 3:30 or 4pm, only to learn that he was down for the night! Jet lag is a whole new beast with a small baby who has yet to reliably sleep through the night and can’t tell you what time of day it is.

Since going out to dinner was off the table, we resorted to takeout most nights. The Tokyo Midtown shopping mall was in the same building as our hotel, so the hubs picked up pho and curry after work. We ate quietly, sharing stories from our days while the baby slept. Fortunately, the bathroom in our hotel room was big enough to roll the crib into. Every night we put the baby to bed in his makeshift nursery so we could hang out with the lights on for a few more hours.

On our final night in Tokyo we managed to keep the baby up late enough to grab dinner at 5pm. On our walk back, I realized it was the first time I’d seen the city lights from outside our hotel room.

Being out of place and out of routine is disorienting. It is one of the things that makes travel hard. It’s one of the things that makes travel so wonderful. In these past 8 months of baby-raising, I have learned to cozy up with discomfort. I have nestled into the unfamiliar.

That youngish woman in the hotel bar would have smiled and nodded if I told her about our life in a few years. She would be excited, perhaps a little envious about the prospect of marrying the man she loved and raising a little baby together. She might even mention that it looks like “future me” has my act together. I would assure her that we’re all just making this up as we go along.


When We Flew to Japan with Our Baby

When We Flew to Japan with Our Baby | kaileenelise.com

“Life doesn’t happen to us, but happens with us.”
(Shefali Tsabary, The Conscious Parent)

As the plane prepared to land in Dallas, I looked over at my husband and said, “this has been our easiest flight yet.” We had only been in the air for 30 minutes. It seemed too good to be true and it was certainly too early to celebrate. I sent a silent thank you to the travel gods and braced myself for the rest of the trip.

Our baby has traveled a good amount in his short life. By the time he was 6 months old, we had been to 8 cities from California to Ohio. Still, it seemed crazy to take him to the other side of the world.

When we were on the fence about the trip to Japan, our friends and family shared their support. They warned, “it will only get harder as he gets more mobile.” They asked, “you want to have another kid, right? You should take advantage while you have just one.” They encouraged, “you have traveled a lot. You should go!”

While all of that may be true, I questioned if I was up for the task.

Before we had the baby, I worked from home and was able to join my husband when he traveled for work. We appreciated the unique opportunity to see the world without having to take PTO. When I was pregnant we went to Australia and we tried to imagine what it would be like to travel as a family of 3.

We took pride in packing light and only brought carry-on bags, even when we were gone for weeks at a time. We knew that would change. We made it a point to enjoy both fancy restaurants and dive bars. We knew that would change too. Yet, we dreamed of being the kind of parents who didn’t let a little baby stop us from traveling. If I’m honest, I think that’s why we went ahead and booked the tickets.

From home to the hotel, our total travel time was 22 hours… and the first 20 were a breeze.

Baby O snoozed during our layover, which gave me the chance to savor an iced coffee, play on Instagram, and update my Facebook status one more time.

I worried the baby would tarnish my love for long haul flights. Before he came along, one of my favorite aspects of travel was getting places. We usually fly business class and I cherish the hours of uninterrupted luxury. It’s pretty amazing to have a glass of champagne or wine (or both!), disconnect from wifi and cell service, and wake up in a completely new place.

The thought of spending hours on a plane with a screaming baby was horrifying. I worried about everything, but mostly that I would get claustrophobic, overwhelmed, and unable to manage the situation if things went sideways.

Since our flight was during daytime back home, the baby only slept for 4 hours. When he was awake, he received a steady stream of attention from the crew. One flight attendant even asked if she could, “carry the baby.” I found myself handing him over to a complete stranger who spoke to him softly in Japanese and bounced him on her hip.

Time went by much quicker than I expected. Our seats went completely flat, so I was able to share mine with O by sitting him in the back (where you’d put your head when sleeping), turning around to face him, and using my stretched out legs as a baby barrier.

Food, drink and entertainment helped make the flight more enjoyable. The hubs and I snacked on vegetable curry, had a few drinks (wine for me & beer for him), and indulged in ice cream and chocolates. The baby was satisfied with several rounds of breastmilk and the occasional teething wafer.

We suspended our parental desires to limit screen time and embraced the inflight TVs. The baby is too young to care about what’s on, but Mickey Mouse Clubhouse was a clear winner. I also downloaded this mini music box app and it’s been helpful in a pinch. I watched a few episodes of Girlfriends’ Guide to Divorce when he slept and the hubs prepped for his meetings.

All told, there were only a few times when the baby fussed. It was amazing and magical and so very lucky. We landed at 3:30pm local time, which felt like 12:30am for us. The baby was a trooper as we went through immigration, baggage claim, and customs, stopped by the ATM, and picked up our metro passes.

The Tokyo airport is outside the city, so we still had a 2 hour bus ride to the hotel. At first the babe cozied up and fell asleep, but then we hit rush hour. My sweet and quiet traveler turned into an exhausted, hysterical baby. I was wrecked myself and totally understood why he was melting down.

Our 22-hour journey was just about 2 hours too long, but we made it all the same. When we arrived, the hotel staff welcomed us and worked quickly to get us to our room. We were in bed by 8pm, up at 2am to unpack, back asleep at 3am and then up again at 5am… three bleary-eyed travelers, ready to take on our first day in Tokyo.


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