Alcott and High

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Category: Relationships (page 1 of 4)

Fitz’s First Birthday: Part 3

The first birthday party was a success!  Read Part 1 and Part 2. We have been cleaning up in phases and are still finding crayons under cushions and smears of frosting at baby level.  Friends and family came to celebrate,  eat delicious tacos made by Marcos, and enjoy Jungle Juice.

Marcos and I somehow got Fitz to sleep before the party and he awoke to a house full of friends. All his little friends who were wiggly tiny babies last January charged through the house and took turns with all of his new toys. They were not a fan of the scary looking wild animals.


We (Marcos) devoted time to making delicious food and I was busy cleaning, decorating and baby-proofing.  I ended up picking up Fitz’s cakes last minute at Whole Foods. They just happened to have perfect first birthday cakes and a cookie cake I impulsively grabbed. I guess this cake is a regular thing at Whole Foods so SCORE!

The atmosphere was lively, loving and fun. Fitz smashed his little fingers in the icing but I don’t think he actually had any cake because I was like, Nah.

A friend pointed out that the holidays have a super nostalgic feel now that our babies birthdays are mixed in with this time of year.  All winter I couldn’t help but reflect on this time last year, and how wonderfully different things are now.  I feel incredibly close to the friends who supported us during our biggest adventure yet. My tribe of mamas has been a gift.

At twelve months Fitz has two top teeth, many opinions, drools for days, stands without support, and continues to be the best little person I know.

Fitz’s First Birthday: Part 2

By Shannon

I was sluggish about planning a party for Fitz’s first birthday.  Read why here. I think it all felt too huge. I kind of just wanted to get a Negroni at Dio Mio,  our favorite restaurant and the place where Marcos timed my contractions before we headed for the hospital last year.

Timing contractions at Dio Mio

I ended up pulling it together because I wanted to bring together the community that supported us during this monumental year. I wanted to celebrate Fitz with all his little baby friends. I wanted to throw a party for me and Marcos because we made it a year!

The theme for the party is kind of animal/jungle/zoo. Here is the  front of the invite sent via paperless post.

The birthday decor is going to follow the invite. I am not huge on specific themes and colors so the invite will reflect the vibe of the party: bold, fun, and wild. We have some jungle animal decor and I found these awesome tassels on sale at Pottery Barn Kids that I can reuse in his room.

We are going to have animal coloring pages for older kids, stickers, and a baby bar with cut up fruit and vegetables. For the adults we are going to have some grown up Jungle Juice and appetizers. Marcos is going to make the cake.

I have leaned in to this whole first birthday. I mean it’s the first birthday! Part 3 I’ll let you know how the party turns out.

Fitz’s First Birthday: Part One

By Shannon

I’m in a discombobulated state when it comes to  Fitz’s first birthday. On one hand its this major milestone and cause for celebration. We made it a year! So, let’s throw a party for Fitz! (But really, for ourselves ;)) On the other hand its accepting that my infant is entering toddlerhood. That the foggy newborn days are behind us (Thank God!) but also OH god HOW?! Its knowing that I don’t need to pump four times a day, including in the car. I won’t be the bag lady at work, carrying the pump bag plus my laptop to every site, and rushing home to deliver milk for the nanny. The immense grounding that has come through the struggle of these new parenthood routines and the letting go of those same routines makes me feel sad.

As I watch him turn off light switches, feed himself with a spoon and dance I can’t help thinking that last year at this time he wasn’t even earth side. Can’t I freeze how it feels to have his chubby cool check against mine?  At the same time, how does every phase become more entertaining than the next? How can so much development for a  child and for a family happen in twelve short months?

My friend said the other day that the one year experience reminds her of Stockholm syndrome in that you have this little captor and at first your are freaked out. Then you spend all this time getting used to them and the rest of your life trying to let go of those crazy scary days that bonded you together always.

Later this week I will share the rest of my thoughts on Fitz’s first birthday, including what we are going to do for the party and how I’m going to try and not be a sappy mess.

Our First Christmas Tree with Fitz.

Last week Marcos made mulled wine and homemade pizza.  We turned on cheesy Christmas music and unwound strings of white lights. I forced Fitz to take pictures with me. I love Christmas and I was feeling mushy and sentimental putting the tree up as a fam. It feels special sharing this tradition with my child.

Fitz loves his house and was a bit uneasy about the tree taking up so much valuable play space. I love the ritual and nostalgia of putting up the tree.


This year we have a little man who loves to eat everything so the bottom of the tree was left minimal. Its incredible to think about what  a difference a year makes! Last year I was so pregnant around this time.

This year, we have our greatest gift, our Fitzgerald.



How to NOT be a Grinch

The holidays are my favorite time of year. I get all mushy for sweets, white twinkling lights, and Christmas movie marathons. This year as a new mama that is working full time, I get Grinchy (grouchy at Christmas) after a long day of work or when the Christmas lights are tangled. Here are some things that instantly lift my mood.

  1. Drinking more water-I can’t survive on just coffee alone. If I drink two water bottles throughout the day, which is still not enough, but better than nothing, I am much more sun-shiney. If you add some cranberry juice to your water it is so much easier to drink.
  2. Eating protein- Protein is gold. I am like superman ruined by Kryptonite when I eat only carbs. Some greens and protein help me feel happy and healthy.
  3. Get outside. A walk around the block is fine. Fresh crisp air is an instant mood booster.
  4. Staying present. I have started putting my phone aside for 1-2 hours at  time with Fitz and Marcos at home. When I am in the moment I am more grateful for all that I have and my cold Grinch heart grows three times its size.

What do you do to beat the holiday blues?


The Birth of a Mother

I recently read this article The Birth of a Mother in The New York Times.  On the Eve of my first Mother’s Day the words of  psychiatrist Daniel Stern resonate with me. He explains  in his books “The Motherhood Constellation” and “The Birth of a Mother,” giving birth to a new identity can be as demanding as giving birth to a baby. 

The process of becoming a Mother is jarring and fast and all of a sudden, no matter how much you read and prepare, it’s game time. You go from being just a regular person to a Mama–which carries a huge weight that is paired with this idea of  perfection in our society.  It’s like starting a new job, totally unprepared, and being expected to excel without on the ground training.

I think most things with birth and baby toys and all the baby things  are focused on too much and used to occupy time headed towards the big  B-Day.  Sure, the color of the nursery and the perfect glider are fun to plan but what about spending time on how you might feel if the dream you have of Motherhood feels more like a nightmare?  Shouldn’t we seriously think about that— in a way that we don’t feel judged? Before we had Fitz Marcos and I talked about what we could do if we were feeling stressed and what friends we could reach out to.  This type of conversation was so helpful to have before our little man arrived.

The lack of attention on the Mothering part is largely skipped over.  Why don’t we spend time focusing on the mama, the mental health, the relationship with the partner? If I could give any advice to a Mama to be or New Mama, it would be to try and spend time with yourself and take care of your needs, and let people help you. Not before the baby arrives, but after, and always. Not because you need to prove that it’s okay to ask for help, but because it is necessary.

So this Mother’s Day I am feeling good.  My new identity as  a Mother is fitting well, it feels nautral. My Son has stolen my heart (and head!)  It’s another part of who I am, who I am becoming, not all of me. This Mother’s Day I want to give a shout out to all the mamas. A new identity is a process, and a gift, and while you are an amazing mama, you are also an amazing you.

Photos by Manzanita Photography




My Birth Story

7 weeks ago my husband posted an update on Facebook that read  ” So, after 40 hours of labor this little guy showed up in the operating room. Mom was amazing and is recovering well. He’s a voracious eater whose favorite foods are 1) milk, 2) fingers, 3) wrist. Pretty sure his name is Fitzgerald, aka Fitz.”

I just reread that post and the beautiful messages from friends and family that followed the birth of our baby boy. I just finished looking at all the images from my labor and c-section. I just told my full birth story to my friend, for the first time, yesterday. Before my birth maybe I had imagined posting pictures of us all smiling on the hospital bed or writing something sweet but I learned, with my birth, that birth will happen not always the way one plans, or wants, but the way it needs to.

My birth story started 7 weeks and two days ago. I went into the labor naturally, the day I was scheduled to be induced.  It was snowy outside and  Marcos timed contractions starting at 3 minutes, two minutes, then 90 seconds apart as we enjoyed walks, brunch, lunch, and labored at our favorite restaurant over dinner.

(Marcos timing my contractions at Dio Mio)

We texted family and friends with updates and were  giddy and nervous thinking our baby boy may come within a few hours…we didn’t plan on a few days.

We took a peaceful nap in our room and packed last minute items in our hospital bags. I still remember laying in our quiet bedroom and feeling close and cozy. We went to the hospital and ended up having to stay the night because it had been several hours since my water broke.

(Arriving at St. Joes)

I labored through the night and as the sun rose the next morning. We walked around the hospital, outside, and even home because we live ten minutes from the hospital. My Sister, close friend Gina, and Mom came in the afternoon. They took turns rubbing my back, walking with me, using essential oils, and breathing along with me. They said I was doing an amazing job, they added more Beyonce to my playlist, they laughed and cried with me.  We labored on.

I used Nitros gas, the robozo, a birthing ball. I dialated, but not enough. We used Citotec to get contractions started, then pitosin, then the jacuzzi tub and finally, after 36 hours, an epidural.

Marcos, was as close to an extension of myself as a partner could be. He held my hand as I squeezed his through painful contractions. He counted with me, he made me a hospital mix with “Cheery Music.” He got into the tub and held me as I moaned in pain.  He whispered over and over that he loved me and was so proud of me from the first hour and as we approached the end of my second day of labor. His words kept me breathing and hopeful.

At hour 43, our midwife held my hand, while Marcos held the other. She explained that while my contractions were strong the baby was showing signs of distress in the birth canal. I was not dilating and the risk of infection and further complications was increasing. The thing I wanted to avoid was a c-section and the next step, for a safe delivery, was a c-section.

The surgeon sat by my bed and with a bright and peppy voice listed off the risks that could occur during surgery, including the removal of my uterus or death and if yes, I was giving permission to go ahead…Sure. !

I remember I had to take off my gold earrings and give them to my Sister and also  that I was SO thirsty. As they wheeled me into the operating room I was shaking and Marcos held my shoulders still. I kept licking my lips and just wanting it to be over so I could drink a gatorade. They pinched me and asked ” Do you feel this Shannon?” I did. They said “Really?” Then they pinched further down… “Does this feel the same as this?” The two pinches felt the same. I felt the blade of the knife and it hurt. Eventually it numbed but it was more than a little pressure. I just kept staring up at Marcos.  Then, quiet.

The baby was having trouble breathing. They were about to take him to the NICU and then… he took a big breath of air and was breathing on his own. No NICU. I heard laughter and I saw relief in Marcos’s eyes as he brought me our baby.

Fitz had so much hair and they laid his body haphazardly on my chest while they finished stitching me up.  I was shaking and when they laid him on my chest I calmed.  His feet and lips looked exactly like Marcos. I remember the Dr. saying “Shannon, we are just putting your uterus back.” I didn’t love this real time update but was relieved it was over and the baby was actually here. I had started to doubt he would ever come out.

The sweetest moment was when they were wheeling us into recovery. My baby was nestled beside me and he confidently grabbed my fingers, like “we got this.”In that moment I felt like we did it together, and we were fine. I felt proud for bringing him here, and strong, and a huge cloud of relief surrounded me.

In the recovery room Marcos held our baby while I rested. We had both been up around 46 hours. I heard grunting and movement like Marcos was trying to wrestle a bull or something. The baby wanted to nurse and was trying to latch onto Marcos. Marcos brought the baby over and his little body melted onto me.  He was instantly quiet. Marcos kept saying “Wow, that is what you were looking for. ”  He was looking for his Mama… and he found her.

Your birth story is not one that you get to write ahead of time, I think some people go into it with that idea. The story unfolds the way it needs to. The process is where you find you are stronger than you ever imagined. The best part was the end, when I met, finally! my beautiful baby boy.

Letting Go


Last week we had a speaker in our prenatal group that said parenting is a continual process of letting go. He said “Moms, your baby will never be closer to you than he is right now” You are going to have to continually let go, and for that, I laude you.”

Carrying a baby is like putting all of your most important possessions, hopes, and dreams into a little package and swallowing it. It’s a huge responsibility emotionally and physically. It’s an exciting time of waiting and hoping. Then, when the baby comes, in a way he is not yours anymore, but in the world…not inside of you.  I wonder how that is going to feel. For now, I’m enjoying his kicks inside, feeling him grow, and the not letting go.

Photo by

A Hope-full Marriage

Like many people, this last week has been pretty rough in the McQueen household.  We met on the Obama campaign and the timeline of our marriage  follows Presidential terms. Our one year anniversary was the inauguration of Obama in January of 2008. We moved to Japan and voted absentee in January of 2012.  This year, our first baby boy will be born in January, 2016.  We had hoped he would join the world just as Hillary was being sworn in, but it didn’t work out that way.

We are going through the stages of grief  from the results of this election. One way we are moving forward is is channeling our disappointment into action and positive change.  Our marriage is based on the shared principles of equality, justice, responsibility and hope. That will not change, regardless of who our leader is. We plan on getting involved locally, nationally, and donating to causes that we believe in. Some of the organizations that we strongly support are below.

Planned Parenthood


Black Lives Matter


So it goes, here we go!

Me and Marcos when we first met in 2007 working on the Obama campaign




Perspective from my Baby Boy


Lately, I have been feeling pretty stressed. My everyday also includes a little buddy kicking and reminding me to keep in all in perspective. It’s the oddest feeling carrying a little man around inside me. I walk my kids to the bus and they say “goodbye Mrs. McQueen and little baby!”I love that he can hear all my “other” kids voices. When I start getting stressed, the baby kicks, like “chill out Ma!” It’s a constant reminder that I am not alone.

For a few weeks I was starting to feel clausterphobic sharing space with this new moving belly bump. The responsibility, along with my body, was literally feeling heavy. I felt like I wanted to just take the baby off and grow him like houseplant in another room, not in me.

Now, I am starting to feel comforted by his presence. My active baby boy is a constant reminder of what is really important. My health, his health, my family, my students. It helps to melt away the negativity happening outside of that realm. The baby is helping me change my perspective. His tiny presence reminds me to focus on important things and his kicks and jabs help me decide, for the both of us,  what energy I choose to put into the world –or take in.