The days are long, the nights are longer, but the years are short.

As I begin to think about Shia’s first birthday, I realize how much has happened in his 10.5 months of life already and I never want to forget it once the memories become distant and fuzzy.

The idea to get back to blogging as a means of documenting my everyday ordinary life was inspired by my sister-in-law, Naomi…

After exhausting every effort to get Shia sleeping through the night since he never recovered from the 4-month sleep regression, I remembered how Naomi had such a difficult time getting her second son (my sweet nephew, Maddox) to sleep. This prompted me to go to her blog one afternoon. There, I found solidarity, encouragement, and entertainment as I devoured the words she wrote years ago, which felt spot on to my current reality.

It inspired me to begin documenting a recap of life by the month beginning in the New Year. 🙂

For today though, a recap of the last 12 months! Buckle up, it’s a long one.

2021

January  – I was pregnant with Shia and eager to meet him. I was doing my best to be present in our transitional time of introducing our big boys, Bear and Skittles, to their next and permanent home. E and I were waiting to see if our Chicago home would get rented out by good tenants so that we could move to Los Angeles; the timing of it all was unknown.

February – Valentine’s day we transitioned Bear and Skittles to their new family. It went so smoothly, but E and I were a puddle of tears. We checked into our hotel for a staycation where our friends had a big bouquet of roses, our favorite snacks, and a sweet letter waiting for us in our room. We were reminded that without community, the highs wouldn’t be as joyful and the lows wouldn’t be as bearable.

During our staycation, I felt a shift in my body. Shia wasn’t due for a few more weeks though. E and I were looking forward to a couple of weeks as “empty nesters” before his debut. I scheduled a nail and hair appointment, what I thought would be our final dinner date, and last minute to-do’s before our family grew forever.

During a massive snowstorm, I went in for a simple check-up that threw all of our plans out the window. Things went from 0 to 100 as Shia’s drastic decrease in movement and overall growth was concerning to the doctor. Just the mention of him being at risk for being stillborn made my heart stop beating for a moment. I was told I would no longer be going home until I had him. I called E, sobbing, which really freaked him out. He packed a bag quickly and got an uber to the hospital. I was induced, and in much less time than anticipated I had the delivery of my dreams. Shia Grace Carpenter was born on February 17, 2021 at 2:55am weighing 5lbs 3oz and 19 inches long. He was even more perfect that I imagined or hoped he would be.

March – This will go down as the month of snuggles and nursing. Breastfeeding was the most natural journey for us and I enjoyed every moment of “wasted” time just staring at Shia memorizing every detail of his face. We introduced him to his “siblings” and tons of our family and friends.

At 3 weeks postpartum, I led a yoga class for my girlfriends. It wasn’t until months later that I became aware of just how speedy my postpartum recovery was physically. Whether it had to do with him being born early and tiny or my dedication to working out every single day of my pregnancy, I’ll never know for sure. Perhaps a bit of both. I am just so outrageously thankful. 

April – We took Shia out a lot more this month. We went to Soul City Church for Easter Sunday (masked, of course), and to parks and restaurants as the weather grew warmer. Shia slept well, began teething, and grew so much this month!

We also had one visit with our big boys, Bear and Skittles, which made me so happy. I worried so much that they would think our love for them changed just because we had a baby. E and I committed to doing everything in our power to negate that narrative.

May – I started to feel even more like myself again as we got into more of a rhythm. I missed working so I picked up a light contract, but maintained my maternity leave otherwise. We had visits with Goof, Bear, Skittles, and Juju. We traveled to Indiana for Mother’s Day. Shia, now 3 months old, continued to eat well and be incredibly easy during the day, but toward the end of this month his sleep patterns shifted and nighttime became tough!

By mid-May, E and I found renters for our apartment, announced our move to Los Angeles publicly, and moved to Indiana to live with our parents very temporarily. In the same week, Shia joined me and most of the Carpenter women (Naomi, Rose, Cindy) for a trip to Magnolia in Dallas, TX.

Right after Dallas, Shia and I flew to L.A. with daddy so we could search for our next place to live. We found it in just one week! Then, I signed a new book deal – round two! I could not wait to be in our own space again as a family.

Despite everyone telling me that you won’t have a period while exclusively breastfeeding, mine arrived right at 12 weeks postpartum. The thought of getting pregnant again so soon after Shia absolutely terrified me and E both.

June – Shia and I traveled to northern California with my Granny and mom! It was such a wonderful and relaxing trip. Shia proved to be an amazing traveler again.

Then, we had our final dinners with family in Indiana and moved to Los Angeles on June 15th. E drove the U-haul across the country with his dad. Shia and I flew with my mom.

It was a fun month getting settled into our new home, exploring the beautiful West Coast, and searching for daycare so I could really get back into the flow of my own work. We had really good luck with finding a West Elm couch on sale at an outlet store and we formed quick connections with people who live in our building. Things were feeling hopeful and looking good for our new chapter in LA.

July – It was a beautiful month with more traveling! Shia flew with me back to Chicago so I could host a Soul Care Retreat without him starving to death since he still refused to take a bottle. Mom came solely to care for Shia, and I was able to host the retreat with brief pauses to nurse.

When we returned to LA, we tried a nanny who was amazing! We hired her and I began to feel excited as I could split my time between work and Shia rather than multitask and feel overwhelmed and frustrated.

We also celebrated E’s 35th birthday, which was a sweet, simple day together! I found a hairstylist and went towards my natural (now brown). My body shifted a lot and my weight returned to what it was pre-pregnancy. Constant transition in every area of our lives… some organically and some by our own doing.

August – Shia turned 6 months old!

We found a daycare for him simply because we needed more affordable childcare. He began sitting up, growing stronger and showcasing an even more giggly, playful personality. Our “chill” baby was starting to show signs of being a lot more curious and controlling. His trend of being a mama’s boy continued and his preference to breastfeed more than try new solids or take a bottle remained strong.

As a family, we did a lot of hiking, beach days, and tried many new restaurants and coffee shops. We worked so hard to get Shia to take a bottle, but he is stubborn. He would go 8 hours at daycare on “strike” and eventually cracked by drinking my breast milk from a sippy cup. At the very end of the month, the three of us flew to Indiana to care for Jacoby, Maddox, and Kendry (our nephews + Godsons) so their parents could take a vacation. Shia is so loved by his cousins and it was such quality time with them!

September – We had more visitors to LA, Shia continued to be the happy and playful boy that he is, and I turned 30! My birthday was really special. I began working on a contract for Housing for Health, and I’ve never worked in homeless services before. I got to have a coffee date at Laveta with E (Shia stayed at our place with my in-laws) where he gifted me a book of letters that tons of family and friends wrote me sharing things they appreciate and admire about who I am. Then, we ended the day exactly how I wanted: poke bowls on the beach for sunset in Santa Monica. I felt genuinely happy turning 30. I have everything I’ve ever wanted and more. In fact, God has given me a better life than anything I’ve ever dreamt about. This month was packed with quality family time.

October – October held an intimate rooftop birthday party for me with friends, quality time with some of our dearest friends (Caleb, Kristin and Teagan Scarth), a photo shoot in Malibu at El Matador beach (one of our favorites when we babymooned here), and so much more!

E and I launched “A Longer Table Collective” which is simply a more formal approach to what we’ve been doing organically for a long time: inviting people who have their needs met to give some of their excess away in order to meet the needs of someone else. It’s building longer tables rather than higher fences.

My best friend Jess and her newest (no. 4) baby, Baker, came to visit, and the time with her was so refreshing. I enjoy making new friends, but nothing is more refreshing than the ones who’ve known you and stuck by your side for over a decade. We even had a mom’s night out (E stayed home with the babies – cheers to willing and capable dads!) and it was one of the most fun nights I’ve had in a very long time. We drank multiple margaritas and rode a scooter home and laughed till we nearly peed our pants.

A day later, my friend Beth rerouted her travels to LA on a whim and we hosted her which was wonderful as well.

The fun continued when E surprised me with a camping trip in Temecula, CA… just the three of us. It was beautiful and E and I had some really vulnerable, necessary conversations over s’mores around the campfire. Shia was a champ the entire time until 11pm when he decided he didn’t want to sleep and this lasted through the night until we finally gave up trying to sleep around sunrise at 6am.

At daycare, Shia continued to do well, but I began to question if it was the best place for him since he would hardly nap there and we felt it was severely impacting his (and our) nighttime sleep.

Towards the end of the month E’s older brother, Nate, and my sister-in-law Naomi and their three boys (Jacoby, Maddox, & Kendry) came to visit! They are some of our favorite people to spend time with and I often dream of living next door to each other. If only I could get them to move to LA *sigh*.

Last, but certainly not least, our dear friend Jason (truly like a big brother to me) came to visit again. Uncle J is one of our most frequent visitors and we always have the best dining experiences thanks to him.

For Halloween, I ran a 5k in Ventura with friends and Shia dressed up as The Very Hungry Caterpillar.

November – Some highlights included seeing LANY in concert with E, spending a weekend in Santa Barbara with the Scarths, and going back to Indiana for Thanksgiving.

Flying back and forth is exhausting, but Shia truly does so well. He still doesn’t sleep well, but miraculously slept through the night 4 nights in a row at Cici and Papa’s (E’s parents) house.

Thanksgiving was delicious and relaxing per usual, but I was devastated that we couldn’t see my mom or stepdad because they had COVID. I am starting to wonder how long the lifestyle of mask-wearing, vaccination-debating, and quarantining upon positive test results will continue.

In other news, my final manuscript for Soul Care to Save Your Life was turned in and I sent it to a select few friends to read, which was both terrifying and exhilarating all in one.

December – We returned to LA, put up our Christmas tree, and made a difficult decision to withdraw Shia from daycare. This decision was mostly based on the fact that I have very flexible workdays and Shia doesn’t nap at daycare, which we believe might be causing his nighttime sleep troubles.

Since we have exhausted every effort to get this child to sleep at night to no avail (yes, we have done the cry-it-out extinction method, and more than once), I swallowed my pride and contacted a pediatric sleep consultant. We’ll see if this works when we get started, but I’m not holding my breath honestly.

December flew by with another flight to Indiana for Christmas. We loved being with our families and Shia seems to enjoy Eastern Standard Time for whatever reason. He is one loved little boy!

Soul Care to Save Your Life is receiving some incredibly kind endorsements and it’s making me feel a little less anxious about its debut.

My Housing For Health contract is going well and I am picking up some new responsibilities. For the season I am in, this gig is truly perfect and the financial gain is such a blessing for our family. 

There’s not a great way to summarize a year like this one, but words that come to mind:

  • Pandemic
  • Transition
  • Baby
  • Travel
  • Unfamiliar
  • New
  • Silly
  • Humbling
  • Family
  • Hope
  • Passion
  • Teamwork

10 random facts about Shia from this year that I never want to forget:

  1. Loves to kick his legs hard and fast while clapping his hands and squealing 
  2. Smiles and giggles all day long unless he has “stranger danger” and becomes Mr. Serious
  3. Teethed early and has 8 visible teeth, 4 on bottom and 4 on top (& appears to have swollen gums with more coming in again)
  4. Extremely attached to mommy, and always makes sure he can see me if someone else is holding him
  5. Says mama, dada, and baba. But mama was his first officially word 🙂
  6. Traveled SO much even in a pandemic – 16 flights total
  7. Favorite activities: splashing in the water at bath-time, sitting up and playing with toys independently for long stretches of time (45min), giggling at daddy’s ridiculous songs in weird voices (“Hello, I’m Bill…”) and being held by mama with your mouth wide open trying to kiss me at all times
  8. Super close to traditionally crawling with success, but meanwhile he gets around his own quirky ways (scooting, pulling up, army-crawling)
  9. Not a picky eater, but doesn’t eat much
  10. Favorite foods: peanut butter, sweet potatoes, puffs (I think he is going to turn into a puff)

I haven’t given much thought to what I want in the New Year, and I certainly haven’t spent nearly enough time in prayer. I’m writing this during our flight home right now (Shia’s 16th time in the air, WILD!)

I’ll be back for a January recap and report what resolution word, or thing I came up with for myself or we come up with as a family 🙂

Love from LA with an iced mocha in hand of course,

Manda

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Manda's weekly letters on faith, marriage, motherhood, soul care, social justice - and occasionally the collision of it all. 

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