(TCBTB)

Wednesday, December 31, 2014

celebrate/resolve.

"Instructions for living a life: Pay attention. Be astonished. Tell about it." 
-Mary Oliver

This was a year worth celebrating.

I'm celebrating my baby. She's growing and thriving, changing and learning, laughing and loving.

I'm celebrating my marriage. J.J. and I haven't deserted each other quite yet, despite the exponential increase in batshit-craziness, directly correlated to the severe decrease in hours spent sleeping.

I'm celebrating my support system. I maintained connections with my biggest support as a mother (my new moms' group) and am starting to reconnect with pre-baby friends (harder than I anticipated).

And the biggest change worth celebrating: I listened to my heart and my soul, and I left my job to be home with my girl. And (bonus!) I haven't had to sell my home or possessions or body yet to make that work.


Taken during my first week home with her...can't believe how little she was.

What really amazes me is that if you had asked me on New Year's Eve 2013 if I thought ANY of this would happen, I absolutely would have said no. Sure, I assumed Rowan would keep growing and do reasonably well, but it's unbelievable to me that she is who she is these days - a sharp, empathetic, thoughtful, funny, helpful, and sweet toddler. As for J.J. and me, we're weathering one of the most challenging times in a relationship - becoming parents - and we're still standing. I can't say I was always the best version of myself, or that he was of himself, but we're here. Together. And I thought for sure that I'd lose touch with the dozen or so mamas I met through a new mothers' group a few weeks after Rowan was born, mainly because I always had to work on their designated play day - Tuesday. So wrong! We had plenty of Monday and evening gatherings early in the year, and soon enough, I was done with work and able to meet whenever - Tuesdays at the pool, Thursdays at the park, weeknights for pedicures or dinner or book club. Thank goodness, too, because I credit that group with a hefty portion of my sanity.

And, finally, I left my job. The least likely of all the unlikely things that happened in 2014. It's still such a shock to me. I can't pretend I'm not anxious about what the next step is, or when it will happen, or how it will happen...but I can definitely celebrate that I moved on. Against the odds, against my better judgement, against expectations: I moved on.

So I'm celebrating 2014 as a year of (good) surprises, gratitude, changes, and bliss. And if all these crazy-wonderful things happened this year, it's kind of hard to imagine what could happen in 2015. I guess I've learned that anything could happen.

...And, of course, my first instinct is to be cautious and not imagine what amazing things are coming my way. Because doesn't that mean that terrible things could happen, too? Yes. Absolutely. Which brings us to my first and only resolution this year: Let the pessimism go.

Let the pessimism go. Resolve to celebrate.

That's a huge challenge for me. Know why? Because I'm superstitious. Not Michael-Scott-little-stitious:


(www.theofficeisms.com)
No, I'm really superstitious. Super-duper-bordering-on-cuckoo-stitious. I'm afraid to celebrate. I'm afraid to be grateful. Because doesn't there have to be a balance? Am I just asking for the other shoe to drop? Haven't I seen horrible things happen to great people? Why would I invite karma to even things out? I think people operate on the spectrum of optimism and pessimism, and that temperament has a lot to do with which way you skew. But my pessimism? It's not serving me well. I find myself sitting on the couch in a fit of nerves because I just know Rowan is going to wake up early from nap and be grouchy all afternoon...when I have the choice to just roll with it, because who knows when or why she'll wake up? Or I find myself slipping down the rabbit hole of worrying about money, even though right now, things are managed. Or - you should have seen the tizzy I worked myself into when I realized my last day of work was Friday the 13th. That felt like a damn SIGN, and not a good one. Yeah...the negativity overwhelms me.

I remember thinking the other day, "What if I just weren't negative about this right now?" I think it had to do with the construction my next-door neighbors are planning - an addition to their house that's supposed to take months. I imagined all the different ways Rowan's naps would be demolished right along with their deck, and I panicked. I posted in my new moms' group on Facebook, asking for advice, and pretty much across the board, my friends said, "Some days it might suck; most days, it'll probably be fine." A light bulb went on. I don't have control over this. Whatever's going to happen will happen. The only thing I have control over is whether I'm negative or positive in my thought patterns.

So that's it. Let the negativity go. I'm familiar with all sorts of little cognitive-behavioral techniques to help me shift gears. The first and foremost one? Recognition. When am I negative? (Hint: all the time.) I'll need to become aware of triggers, of patterns, of barriers to positivity. And then I can start shifting - my internal dialogue, my magical thinking ("If I worry about X, then it won't happen"), my knee-jerk reactions.

The goal isn't to become a shiny, happy optimist (ahh, look, already tempering that positive attitude! lol). Really, though, it's just to release as much of the negativity as I can. It's hard to imagine doing that, but like I said before, think of all the things that happened in 2014 that I wouldn't have predicted. So let's say it could happen...that it will happen. After all, I know the happiness is there. I found it this past year, I felt it this past year. It's there for the taking. So I'm choosing to grab it. And to quote the great Michael Scott once again, "That's what she said."

Happy New Year. Here's to looking up.



(And don't think I don't have a fun little New Year's to-do list for the house - AKA, more resolutions - lurking around. 'Cause you know I do.)

Tuesday, December 30, 2014

re-re-reorganizing.

When we redid the kitchen, we (purposefully) ended up with empty spaces. Empty drawers, empty shelves, empty cupboards - all of which I expected would be filled with "baby stuff" when the time came.

Well, the time came...and stayed...and exploded everywhere. The baking cupboard became the baby cupboard (for baby food items, not...misbehaving infants), the pots & pans drawer became the baby-safe odds-and-ends drawer (think vinyl lunch bags as opposed to cast iron pots), and eye-pleasing, clutter-free counter space became the new baby-item drying rack location. Decorative bowls or baskets are either overflowing or have been removed to create more storage space for ALL THE BABY STUFF.


Jam-packed cupboard where I can never find anything...with the decorative addition of a never-
referenced conversion chart, empty hooks (for measuring cups), and a breast milk storage guide.



Former fruit bowl = current "I don't know, just stick that random baby item there" bowl.
(Also note decapitated giraffe-measuring spoon on ledge.)


It definitely doesn't bother me that our sweet baby girl has a lot of baggage, so to speak. We're lucky to have what we have. The problem is that our overall spaces are becoming less functional and more frustrating, primarily because I haven't been intentional with where everything is going. Sippy cups, bibs, food pouches, spoons, bottles...I've just been shoving them in a cupboard or basket and calling it good. But lately we've hit a new stage in feeding her, both in terms of moving to more sophisticated foods/food tools (good-bye, Baby Bullet; hello, insane variety of cups to try and then soundly reject) and in terms of breastfeeding coming to an end (time to pack away all the pumping items YASSSSS). Likewise, Rowan was apparently a very good girl this year, and Santa + ridiculously generous family members = more stuff. Stuff that we're excited about and grateful for, no doubt - but still stuff that needs to go somewhere, including some fantastic new art supplies.

So, it's time for some early spring cleaning! Solstice cleaning? What can I say, I love a good to-do list this time of year. Here's what needs to happen:


  • Sort toys. Rowan has outgrown some toys and has a plethora of new ones. The hardest part of this for me is deciding what can be retired for now. Her pull-to-stand activity table? Her push walker? Stacking rings? She still gets joy and entertainment out of these; are they worth keeping on the main floor, where they take up so much space? Parents - any tips on choosing??
  • Reorganize the baby food cupboard. Time to pack up the infant stuff and either move the remaining essentials (utensils, bowls, cups, food pouches, bibs) to a better space, or make the current space way more user-friendly. Glass baby food jars hopping out of the cupboard when I open the door is not what I consider "user-friendly."
  • Do some moving and shaking. I still need to switch our CD collection to a CD binder (we're not ready to go totally digital with our music yet) and make some tough ("tough") decisions about my tapes and records - all in the name of moving them out of Rowan's reach and creating more storage space for her toys. Our board game cupboard and TV cupboard could stand some consolidating as well, which might actually create space for Rowan's art supplies.
  • She doesn't use her magnet board for anything except removing all the magnets in one fell swoop. Fun as that is to clean up seventy-two times a day, there must be a reason she's not motivated to use the board. Location? Developmental level? The fact that I stopped letting her eat the magnets when they started splintering? Time to get to the bottom of that, especially if that space is going to be the art space, and figure out whether and where to keep the magnet board.
This space next to the pantry bugs me...not well-utilized at all.

I need to do some major Internet stalking and figure out how other parents organize kid spaces. I hate to take toys away just because I can't figure out where to put them, but I get super overwhelmed when there's not a spot for everything. Plus, Rowan's a helpful cleaner-upper right now, and having designated places for specific toys facilitates that big-time. My biggest question marks:
  • Puzzles - how do you store them so that they're accessible, but so the pieces don't fall out everywhere?
  • Stuffed animals - stupid */&#$ing stuffed animals are unattractive and take up space, but are sooooo loved (and therefore impossible to get rid of).
  • Bulky plastic primary-colored toys - the pull-to-stand table, a grow-with-me chair, a huge truck, an entertainment cube. She uses them often and likes them a lot, but some are ugly and all are too big to be shoved into a bucket, box, cupboard, or storage ottoman.
  • Toys she's clearly outgrown - the swing, the Exersaucer, the Rock 'N' Play: They're all piled up in our basement and probably growing rat babies and spider colonies. WTF do I store them?
Hoping I can get moving on these projects while J.J. is off work over the next week! I'm open to any suggestions from veteran parents...and by "open," I mean "seriously, tell me what to do before I panic and default to a cleansing bonfire followed by a philosophical shift to only playing with sticks and bedding." Whatever works, right?

Monday, December 15, 2014

plz & thx.

Dear sweet little baby girl who keeps waking up way too early (read: exhausted and cranky and intolerable for five full hours before bedtime) from her one and only daytime nap,

Please keep sleeping. Please keep sleeping. Please keep sleeping. Please keep sleeping. Please keep sleeping. Please keep sleeping. Please keep sleeping. Please keep sleeping. Please keep sleeping. Please keep sleeping. Please keep sleeping. Please keep sleeping. Please keep sleeping. Please keep sleeping. Please keep sleeping. Please keep sleeping. Please keep sleeping. Please keep sleeping. Please keep sleeping. Please keep sleeping. Please keep sleeping. Please keep sleeping. Please keep sleeping. Please keep sleeping. Please keep sleeping. Please keep sleeping. Please keep sleeping. Please keep sleeping. Please keep sleeping. Please keep sleeping. Please keep sleeping. Please keep sleeping. Please keep sleeping. Please keep sleeping. Please keep sleeping. Please keep sleeping. Please keep sleeping. Please keep sleeping. Please keep sleeping. Please keep sleeping. Please keep sleeping. Please keep sleeping. Please keep sleeping. Please keep sleeping. Please keep sleeping. Please keep sleeping. Please keep sleeping. Please keep sleeping. Please keep sleeping. Please keep sleeping. Please keep sleeping. Please keep sleeping. Please keep sleeping. Please keep sleeping. Please keep sleeping. Please keep sleeping. Please keep sleeping. Please keep sleeping. Please keep sleeping. Please keep sleeping. Please keep sleeping. Please keep sleeping. Please keep sleeping. Please keep sleeping. Please keep sleeping. Please keep sleeping. Please keep sleeping. Please keep sleeping. Please keep sleeping. Please keep sleeping. Please keep sleeping. Please keep sleeping. Please keep sleeping. Please keep sleeping. Please keep sleeping. Please keep sleeping. Please keep sleeping. Please keep sleeping. Please keep sleeping. Please keep sleeping. Please keep sleeping. Please keep sleeping. Please keep sleeping. Please keep sleeping. Please keep sleeping. Please keep sleeping. Please keep sleeping. Please keep sleeping. Please keep sleeping. Please keep sleeping. Please keep sleeping. Please keep sleeping. Please keep sleeping. Please keep sleeping. Please keep sleeping. Please keep sleeping. Please keep sleeping. Please keep sleeping. Please keep sleeping. Please keep sleeping. Please keep sleeping. Please keep sleeping. Please keep sleeping. Please keep sleeping. Please keep sleeping. Please keep sleeping. Please keep sleeping. Please keep sleeping.
Please keep sleeping. Please keep sleeping. Please keep sleeping. Please keep sleeping. Please keep sleeping. Please keep sleeping. Please keep sleeping. Please keep sleeping. Please keep sleeping. Please keep sleeping. Please keep sleeping. Please keep sleeping. Please keep sleeping. Please keep sleeping. Please keep sleeping. Please keep sleeping. Please keep sleeping. Please keep sleeping. Please keep sleeping. Please keep sleeping. Please keep sleeping. Please keep sleeping. Please keep sleeping. Please keep sleeping. Please keep sleeping. Please keep sleeping. Please keep sleeping. Please keep sleeping. Please keep sleeping. Please keep sleeping. Please keep sleeping. Please keep sleeping. Please keep sleeping. Please keep sleeping. Please keep sleeping. Please keep sleeping. Please keep sleeping. Please keep sleeping. Please keep sleeping. Please keep sleeping. Please keep sleeping. Please keep sleeping. Please keep sleeping. Please keep sleeping. Please keep sleeping. Please keep sleeping. Please keep sleeping. Please keep sleeping. Please keep sleeping. Please keep sleeping. Please keep sleeping. Please keep sleeping. Please keep sleeping. Please keep sleeping. Please keep sleeping. Please keep sleeping. Please keep sleeping. Please keep sleeping. Please keep sleeping. Please keep sleeping. Please keep sleeping. Please keep sleeping. Please keep sleeping. Please keep sleeping. Please keep sleeping. Please keep sleeping. Please keep sleeping. Please keep sleeping. Please keep sleeping. Please keep sleeping. Please keep sleeping. Please keep sleeping. Please keep sleeping. Please keep sleeping. Please keep sleeping. Please keep sleeping. Please keep sleeping. Please keep sleeping. Please keep sleeping. Please keep sleeping. Please keep sleeping. Please keep sleeping. Please keep sleeping. Please keep sleeping. Please keep sleeping. Please keep sleeping. Please keep sleeping. Please keep sleeping. Please keep sleeping. Please keep sleeping. Please keep sleeping. Please keep sleeping. Please keep sleeping. Please keep sleeping. Please keep sleeping. Please keep sleeping. Please keep sleeping. Please keep sleeping. Please keep sleeping. Please keep sleeping. Please keep sleeping. Please keep sleeping. Please keep sleeping. Please keep sleeping. Please keep sleeping. Please keep sleeping. Please keep sleeping. Please keep sleeping.

...Until, like, 2:30. Or 3:30. Please? PLEASE.

Love,
Mama

ETA: 2:30. I'll take it. She cried out at 2:02...literally the very second I hit "power" on the TV remote. Because somehow, she always knows when I sit down to relax while she's sleeping. HOW DO THEY DO THAT? Whatever. At least she woke up happy. (And after more than an hour.)

Monday, December 8, 2014

the dance of ambivalence.

I feel it at every turn lately.

The duality is maddening. I'm thrilled and thankful every single day to be home with my girl. I'm not exaggerating. Every. Single. Day.

But. A few things are eating at me. (Read: eating me alive.)

First, I did this - quit my job - without a financial plan other than scrimp, save, siphon from my savings, and get a different job at some point. We're doing all right overall; we're able to make the mortgage payments and put dinner on the table. Still, it creeps in here and there, the fact that I have no income. It's big things, like that I'm not contributing to retirement or a college fund for Rowan. It's also little things, which bother me more than I anticipated...like not being able to eat at my favorite restaurants or buy new clothes.

Second, the comparisons I'm making between myself and others are out of control. I'm jealous of my mom friends who work part-time at jobs they're passionate about. I'm jealous when my dad mentions that a sibling recently joined the "six-figure club". I'm jealous when my old roommate gets a hefty promotion. I'm jealous when I see families taking vacations...even just a weekend away. I'm jealous when I realize that my peers are crawling out of student poverty and jetting right to selling their starter homes and choosing country clubs.

Third, I'm just - ambivalent. It's the strangest feeling: I can carry on through an entire day feeling like I'm living my Oprah-approved Best Life, the very life I barely dared to dream of this time last year. I'm a stay-at-home mama. Unreal. But - and I knew this from the get-go - this. is. not. financially. sustainable. The obvious answer is to get a job...something part-time, low-key, with way less responsibility than my previous position. Just get a job! Duh.

And I can't. What the hell job am I supposed to get at this point? I'm thirty-four. My "career" crashed and burned, and it's doubtful I'll ever be able to salvage anything from that wreckage. I have no freaking clue what I'm supposed to do now. Obviously, there are things that my lack of talent or training preclude me from doing. I'm not going to be a math professor or a tennis phenom or a cancer specialist. What scares me is that I can't get my shit together to apply for the other jobs, the ones I know I could do. Office jobs, or something with kids, or...you know, whatever.

But I can't, because I don't want to. I want to want it.

And that's where I'm scared that I really messed up. I poured all of my resources into the fields I felt passionate about, and I burned out early. Now what? Do I just have to do something I don't want to do? Early childhood and social work - that's where my talents, training, and background are. That's all I've got. Without those...I don't know. I don't know myself anymore. Becoming a parent totally rearranged my identity, which was a mind-warp for sure, but leaving my career? I feel like that made me lose my identity.

If it's a matter of making ends meet, then you do what you have to do, right? Definitely. And I would; I will. But I can't ignore the duality: the fact that I'm so proud of myself for leaving a toxic situation and living my dream, but that I'm also so, so, so disappointed in myself. For succumbing to burnout, for giving up, for having to start from scratch, for having no direction. In the six months since I quit my job, the pride has mostly outweighed the disappointment. Lately, though, the fear and anxiety (and, fine, the jealousy) are surging. I need to know what's next, and it's a big fucking abyss of NO VIABLE OPTIONS.

Bed. Bed is the only viable option when it gets like this. And if you know of anyone who's hiring a Pinterest board curator or couch tester, do me a solid and let me know, k? Thanks.

Friday, December 5, 2014

"this is a camel", AKA picking up the dropped balls.

I love how sometimes you get that feeling of, like, "I think I'm pretty on top of things right now!" And then you are forcefully reminded that, nope. No, you're not. You are on top of SOME things, but never ALL the things. Despite all the articles out there asserting that "alive and fed" is sufficient when it comes to raising children - and despite my own beliefs in "good-enough" parenting - it's hard to feel like you haven't dropped the ball in at least a few places. For me, it happened yesterday.

I think we've done a good job when it comes to Rowan having a well-rounded routine. We've done music and baby sign language classes. We go to play groups, cousin play dates, swimming, bounce houses, library story times, playgrounds, and the children's museum (...science museum. Not a museum OF children). We play outside every day, we dance every day, she has structured play time and free play time, and the only screen time she gets is watching videos of herself on our phones (oh, crap, I'm THAT anti-screen-time parent).


Steam tornado at the children's museum.
Or, totally creepy horror-movie opening shot.

BUT. Then I remember...other stuff. Stuff that got lost in a fog of the stuff I DID remember. Stuff like...sippy cups, which I introduced too late in the game, so she hates them now and will use bottles until she's twelve. Stuff like baby-sitters other than Gramma, which I avoid because Rowan has such hardcore stranger anxiety. Stuff like home-cooked meals that go beyond cheesy quinoa or veggie burgers. Stuff like camels. Today we we saw a picture of one, and I'm pretty sure she heard the word "camel" for the first time, and I thought, shit. I FORGOT TO TELL HER ABOUT CAMELS. What else am I forgetting?!

Maybe it's a perfectionist issue, but my guess is most parents feel like they've dropped the ball in at least a couple places. Facebook is a great showcase of what your friends remember to incorporate in their kids' lives, which is how I realized yesterday that one of the balls I dropped is art. I know that, hello, there are worse things that could happen, but - I mean, not only am I a former toddler teacher, but my major in undergrad was arts-focused (Arts & Ideas in the Humanities...we'll chat about what that means some other time) (hint: it means being thirty-four and not having a job or career to speak of) (side note: it also means taking too few math classes to calculate if you're actually thirty-four when you start typing that out and it seems too old to be true).

Ahem. Anyway. I think the reason I haven't done much art with Rowan is because it's so inconvenient. We don't have art materials, other than crayons (AKA "delicious, delicious wax for with to color on cupboards"). We also don't have a good spot to do art, since it's going to be messy. And - yeah, okay, the mess is a big deterrent. I have a new appreciation for the parents at my former work who were totally upfront about the fact that they loved having their children do the messy stuff - painting and play-dough and mud puddles - at our child care center, rather than at their houses. In my head, art should be like books - available everywhere, not just in a specific "book spot" or "art spot". But in reality? Screw that. Me and my white rug are not quite ready for a free-range painting toddler.

So I'm looking around now to find a good spot to set up an art center.* I need a space that's somewhere in between "we only paint in the high chair" and "SCISSORS FOR EVERYONE"...a designated place that's her size, already set up, and has materials stored nearby - within my reach, but not necessarily hers quite yet. 

Next to the pantry in the kitchen is my first choice, since there aren't any rugs nearby and it's centrally located (easy to keep an eye on her, even if I'm doing other things), but I'd need to find a place to store materials. 


Terrible picture - but where that blue bin of toys is = spot for a table?
Also, then I could hang her artwork on the wall there...


Second choice would be in the front room, which is now a play room anyway...but I don't want to be anal about the rug in there while Rowan is doing something messy. There's also nowhere to store materials in the play room that isn't out of her reach. Hmm...


We already have the little table & chairs in the corner under
the window...would just need to scoot it over. And, um, use it.


Going to do some more brainstorming before executing any plans. In the meantime, we headed over to a drop-in arts and crafts session at our local family center this morning, where Rowan painted a snowflake ornament. For two seconds. Before painting her tongue. And then abandoning the craft to hurl baby dolls down the slide. Still! ART!


Like her angsty look after completing her art project today?
(BECAUSE ART IS NEVER COMPLETE, MOM.)

*YES, I know I could just throw some markers and paper out occasionally and call it good. But (a) I always go overboard, (b) I love the idea of having a little "art center", (c) I get motivated by new spaces, and (d) that's probably what will happen on most days anyway. So hush.

Tuesday, November 25, 2014

ask and you shall receive.

Sooo I DID seem to ask the universe what it would take for me to reach the end of my stay-at-hom mom rope. And the universe, she delivered. Hint: the answer is exhaustion.

Start with a few nights of broken sleep, akin to the newborn era. You know, the kind where you probably get about four hours of sleep total (not completely awful) - but those four hours come in chunks of an hour here, seven minutes there, a half hour on the chair while holding a sick, coughing baby. Then add in the fact that the baby won't sleep much during the day, thanks to the aforementioned cough, which not only compounds her crankiness (and yours), but also leaves you with additional hours during which you have to entertain that baby. Because she isn't feeling good, there isn't much that entertains her, either. Sprinkle in a stretch of days where you're more or less housebound, due to illness and FREEZING RAIN, aka the most depressing weather ever. And, of course, don't forget that you're pretty worried about that cough (especially after your husband is all like, "Huh, kinda reminds me of when I had that bout with asthma," and you automatically envision a life of nebulizers and inhalers and never sleeping again). You go ahead and take the baby to the pediatrician, even though she developed an intense phobia of the doctor's office right before her first birthday, which manifests in her screeching and clinging to you like a monkey from the second you step in the exam room until you leave. (Doctor was all, "I managed to get some good listens to her breath sounds...in between the screams.")

Finally, add in a vicious windstorm during the first nap she's taken in almost a week that has lasted more than 45 minutes. The windstorm will knock over your neighbor's trash cans and canoe, stored conveniently below the baby's bedroom window, and the baby will wake up crying and still exhausted and you'll remember that these same neighbors are starting construction on an addition to their house within a couple weeks which means the baby will probably just never sleep ever again and she'll also cough for the rest of her life because you are a negligent mother who is somehow missing the one antidote that would fix the cough and her sleeping and bad weather and everything and BAM! See that frayed, stringy mess right there? Is it your frizzy hair that hasn't been trimmed in countless months? No! It's the end of your rope!

THANKS UNIVERSE I GET IT NOW


<yawn>

And seriously, thank you, friends, for your helpful suggestions on how to soothe a cough. We tried all of them, including but not limited to: a humidifier, steamy baths, cold air, honey, homeopathic baby cough medicine, saline drops + Nose Frida, consulting the pediatrician, Vicks on her chest, Vicks on her feet, extra Vitamin C, extra fluids, no dairy, wedge in her crib, keeping her active, letting her rest, and sacrificing a small lamb. To all of these, Rowan's response was:


COUGH COUGH COUGH COUGH COUGH COUGH
(at least she learned to cover her mouth?)

The coughing has (maybe? potentially?) lessened over the last two nights, but I just can't believe how intense it's been - and how quickly I go from blissed out to raging monster, mostly due to the lack of sleep. I really underestimated how much that affects me. Not that I can really do much to change it while it's happening - seems like a situation where knowledge doesn't equal much power. Like: Yeah, I know I'm beastly when I'm tired, but I wouldn't be tired if it were at all possible to get more sleep! Just add it to the list of reasons why having a second child is mayyybe not the smartest idea (down the line, that is).

But that's a decision to consider when I'm a little less tired.

Monday, November 24, 2014

right now is right.

Three hours. That's how much sleep I got last Wednesday night, roughly, from about 3 a.m. to 6 a.m. My poor baby had (has) a nasty cough that reared its ugly head about a half hour after I laid down in bed. She only just got over a runny nose and cough that lasted almost two weeks, so when we heard her start hacking around 11:00, we both let it go for a while to see if she'd sleep through it, like she's learned to do. Every seven minutes or so - juuust as I'd drift back off following her last coughing fit - she'd start back up again. She finally started crying after about an hour, right after our whispered conversation in bed: Should one of us go rock her so she can be upright for a while? Can we assemble the humidifier without waking her? Does she need breast milk or honey or milk and honey together? We ended up doing all of the above, with J.J. rocking her in the glider for an hour or so. Being upright seemed to help the most...so, unfortunately, not too long after J.J. laid her back down, the coughing started again.

I am...shall we say...not my best self during middle-of-the-night parenting scenarios. When Rowan was teeny-tiny, I experienced my lowest lows during the midnight hours, swinging wildly between rage and despair. I now understand how that was related to postpartum anxiety, but had no clue at the time. Whatever the cause, J.J. (who has always woken multiple times a night, thanks to his Type I diabetes, and can fall right back asleep) took over as the default middle-of-the-night parent long ago, doing all of her nighttime feedings and the occasional sickie-cuddle session. But he'd already put in his time on Wednesday night, so when she woke up for real around 1 a.m., I jumped up (not difficult, considering I hadn't actually slept yet) and went to rescue her.

I'm so glad I did.

J.J. always claimed to love rocking with her late at night, just the two of them. Rowan isn't much of a snuggler when she's awake, so nighttime is the best time to steal some prime Rowie cuddles. I hear that, but pumping has made me the last one to bed and the first to wake up for 13+ months, and like I said, I turn into a crazy hell-demon without regular sleep. So I prefer to lull her back to dreamland as quickly as possible, leaving myself a sliver of a chance of Jedi-mind-tricking myself back to sleep.

But on Wednesday? Oh, there was just something about her. As soon as I lifted her from the crib (along with Bunny and a paci, of course), she melted into my arms. We eased into the glider; she shifted and sighed, staring contentedly at the nightlight and making a half-hearted baby sign for "light". I buried my nose in her silky hair, still smelling of her shampoo from her bedtime bath, and her eyes drifted closed. For the first time since she was - maybe three or four months old? - I watched my baby sleep. I watched grimaces and grins flicker across her face; I watched her eyelashes flutter. I dared to kiss her velvet cheek and hold her pudgy hand. I was amazed, all over again, at the fact that this human, this girl, my baby, grew inside of me and - exists. Her head was nestled near my armpit and her legs were bent like a frog, and I realized with a start that she was in her preferred in utero position. I placed my hand on her head and remembered feeling it through the stretched skin of my belly.

I didn't feel a super strong connection to my baby as a fetus, like some pregnant women do. I certainly loved her at birth, but I only fell in love with her gradually, as I got to know her. Some days, I can't believe it's possible to love someone as much as I love Rowan. That night, as I rocked her and sniffed her and snuggled her, the impossible happened, and I fell in love with her all over again, harder than ever before.

Nothing in this world makes me happier than watching my baby girl grow and laugh and learn and change. There was a Humans of New York Facebook post the other day featuring a man who voiced his regret that he had sacrificed his daughters' potential inheritance from him by staying home with them when they were little, and it sparked intense fear and guilt in me. How selfish am I being, putting my wants ahead of child(ren)'s future financial security? That fear tends to metastasize in the dark, cold hours of night. And yet, the other night, despite the hour, it was neither dark, nor cold, nor fearful. The weight of her love rested against my chest, and peace with where we are in life right now seeped into my skin and my bones. Right now, it is good. Right now, it is right.



Wednesday, November 19, 2014

here, eat some words, they're delicious.

WARNING: Read with caution. My TOTAL optimism in this post is like glitter or herpes...it's gonna get all over you and never disappear! (Wait, does that happen with herpes? *Consults WebMD* *Closes WebMD window after noticing adjacent customer in coffee shop frowning at my screen*)

Anyway.

I take back everything I said.

Turns out I only want to be a stay-at-home mom when it's over 50 degrees outside.

It's not even Thanksgiving yet, and there's already snow and slush and slippery roads, which are made more treacherous by the toddler whining in the backseat because she can't see through the back window because it's covered in snow because a good mom (and, um, driver) would clear the window before putting the car in gear but it's too damn cold to be a good mom right now so yes it's snow-covered and just look out the side window for the 1.5 miles between here and home, would ya?

Gone are the days of killing an hour here and a morning there by going for a jaunt around the block. It was the very best time-killer before afternoon nap or dinner or...everything. Now, I'm lucky if I can get the both of us dressed in our winter gear in under 20 minutes - and, let's be honest, I don't really want to go outside, anyway. P.S.: What was I thinking, as a former toddler and preschool teacher, not buying a one-piece snow outfit for her?! I think I thought it would be nice to not have to put the snow pants on unless totally necessary - but since it's apparently going to be 18 degrees from now until May, the snow pants will be totally necessary. Every time. Every day. UNTIL FOREVERRR.

I see us getting trapped in the house with increasing frequency.

I see our activity options dwindling, crushed in the rubble of my hatred of being cold.

I see her energy threatening to explode without the regular outlet that fresh air and sunshine provide.

I see all my Pinteresty ideas for crafts and light tables and sensory exploration disappearing into a vortex of winter apathy.


Face-down in a pile of pillows = exactly.

But, you know. Only four more months of this soul-sucking weather! Yayyy!

(Careful, you've got some optimism sarcasm on your screen. Yeah. Riiight there.)

Friday, November 14, 2014

in the tradition of traditions: First Snow Brownies.

Between J.J. and me, I'm definitely the tradition-sparker in our relationship. He may be the one who insists on Sunday daddy-daughter dates and remembers to make me birthday fondue, but I'm the reason we cut down a Christmas tree every year and have weekly photos of Rowan from her first year. I like cultivating family rituals - taking pieces of our own childhoods and weaving them into our adult lives, learning that most traditions are worth the work (hanging Christmas lights in 20-degree weather, anyone?), and gaining a new appreciation for the effort our parents put into creating memories for us.

An ex-coworker of mine posted something on Facebook last week about how it was the first snowfall of the year where she lives, and for her family, that meant baking a batch of cookies THAT DAY. How sweet is that? It's a nice way to take the edge off the inevitable approach of my least favorite season (winter) and remember that it's still one of my favorite times of the year (the winter holidays). Plus, you know, cookies.

I know better than to make myself commit to any tradition that involves baking or cooking, other than supplying a pumpkin cheesecake every Thanksgiving, so I didn't really think much of the cookie idea - until snowflakes started flying yesterday.

I had a really cute video to put here, but Blogger is being rude, so please accept this terrible photograph instead.

Now, shhh, I know we've had some rogue flakes in Ann Arbor already (like while we were trick-or-treating...bogue), but this was legit snow.


No, not a LOT...but it's there!

Aaaand to add some spice to our freezing cold day, my poor baby took a half hour to fall asleep for her afternoon nap, only to wake up about 15 minutes later in a coughing fit (she's been fighting a cold for about a week). I was cranky from alligator-wrestling with her at naptime (for god's sake, if you're so tired you can't keep your eyes open, then just GO TO SLEEP) and out of ideas for how to entertain her for All The Hours until dinner. As she stood at the window, cooing at the furious snowfall, I thought - you know what? Let's do it. Let's make First Snow Cookies. That meant both a trip to the store (because you know this girl isn't making cookies from damn scratch...come on), which is one of Rowan's favorite activities, and then a fun project - actually making the cookies.

Cookies turned into brownies when I spotted the mixes on the shelf, and, back at home, we got to work carefully measuring ingredients mixing the pre-made batter. I learned a couple things from my first attempt at baking with Rowan:

1. Yeah, mix the batter first, so it's not just chocolate dust and raw eggs when your toddler flings the wooden spoon out of the bowl.
2. If you don't want your kid to sample whatever you're making (like, you know, RAW freaking eggs), then...perhaps you shouldn't put him or her within arm's reach of the bowl. Duh.


Chocolate sock + Mama grabbing the spoon back.

Next time we bake together, I think I'll give her her own little bowl and spoon with something she can sample. But overall? Not too shabby results.


Two-thirds of those brownies are now consumed, less than 24 hours later.

There are other traditions I want to start or continue with my little family - driving around on Christmas Eve to check out all the lights, random overnight visits from the Cookie Fairy, Pizza & Movie Night on Fridays. It's a pretty honorable responsibility, isn't it? To be the Tradition Sparker for your children? I love imagining my kids both experiencing and reminiscing about our family customs - including the times that First Snow Cookies became brownies, thanks to product placement on the grocery shelves, or the year we got a fake Christmas tree instead of a real one to save money when Mom was too cool for a job (ahem, 2014). Those times are no less authentic, and while we cherish the routine of traditions, the anomalies are just as memorable.

And shopping for a fake tree will probably be more enjoyable for a certain little elf, who was thoroughly Not Impressed with last year's tree hunt...which came complete with a little-known aspect of the tradition wherein both J.J. and I forget - after we search for, argue over, and cut down a tree - that they only take cash or checks. And that the nearest ATM is about 15 minutes away.


Dec. 2013: THANKS MOM. LOVE THIS TRADITION SO MUCH.

No problem, baby. That's my job.

Tuesday, November 11, 2014

the beauty of the balance.

There's a balance in life.

Hence, you know...my last post vs. today.

I've been awake for all of three hours, and I'm just in a tailspin. Everything is wrong, although none of it is dire...which means I'm even more annoyed with myself for being upset. It started right from the get-go - my morning pump. I am so over waking up before anyone else every single morning, but also regretful that soon she won't be getting any more of my milk. Then, while I showered, I was overcome with jealousy thinking about friends I know who can make it on one income, and friends who are working their asses off to ensure their families' security. What did I do wrong to end up in limbo between draining a limited savings account while jobless, and not wanting to ever ever ever return to my career...or any job? While I put the dishes away, I knew I was supposed to feel grateful that J.J. washed them last night, but really, I was just annoyed that I had to scrape cheese residue from a glass bowl that he's "cleaned" twice already. Before Rowan's morning nap, she dragged ribbons all over the family room and dumped a bag of teeny-tiny plastic toys in the hall; she wanted her hat on her head, but not on her hair; her favorite CD was driving me bananas; and I could NOT make a decision on what to do with her today. There's a fun toddler program at the nature center this morning, and this is the last tolerable weather for about five months...but she really should take a morning nap today (...or should she? I don't know!), and her nose is flowing freely, and she just had a meltdown about - socks, I think? Neither of us is dressed, and she's clearly not in a nature-program mood right now. But I am, and she'd probably have a blast once we were there...


It is currently acceptable that the hat is on the hair AND the head.
(ETA: Please ignore the borderline-NSFW sock monkeys in the background.)

My last post is still true, and still real, but today my mind keeps drifting to places like envious and annoyed and unmotivated. And afraid. Because I don't want this to end, these days at home with my baby girl, but I know it can't last forever. Ugh, I cannot shake the negative vibe right now.

(ENTER NAPTIME)

All right. Forty-five minutes later. Now, there's a sweet baby upstairs who just coughed herself awake after a short nap, and she and I are going to get dressed and take advantage of 50 degrees and sunny. This is what makes being a SAHM such a healthy lifestyle for me: There's no time or space to indulge the tailspin, and during naptime - even a short one - things turn around, almost every time. (Doesn't hurt that I dropped my 9am pump last week, so I didn't have to spend 30 of her 45 sleeping minutes doing pump stuff.) This is the beauty of the balance of life - that a crummy morning can tip over into a decent afternoon. As easy as it is for me to remember the balance when I'm happy ("Better enjoy this now, since it's bound to go up in flames soon!"), my challenge is to learn to depend on the balance all the time.

Have to run. Gotta go see about a girl.



Sunday, November 9, 2014

owning the moment.

I keep waiting to hate this.

That's the rhetoric, right? That being a stay-at-home parent is overwhelming, lonely, and unfulfilling? That it's repetitive and relentless and smelly? That it's the hardest job there is?

So I keep waiting for those feelings to creep in. I poke around my heart cautiously, during story time at the library and walks around the neighborhood, to check for the negativity. I'm not optimistic by nature, so I'm used to searching for unhappiness until I find it. I'm serious: I keep waiting to hate this.

But I don't. I love it more every day.

The singular focus of "baby/household" is so much easier for me than splitting my heart and mind between home and work - which really required much more than devoting half of myself to home and half to work. In each setting, I was the manager of myriad tasks. I could multitask and delegate until the cows came home (and then delegate who would care for which cows), but the ultimate responsibility of quality task completion still rested on my shoulders. Not to mention that both were essentially thankless positions with escalating responsibilities but very little power; with deep ramifications for anything done wrong (or "wrong"), but almost no acknowledgement for things done well.


She's my instant gratification.
The truth is that this - being a stay-at-home mom - is far from the hardest job I've ever had. Don't get me wrong; I see how it could be. I'm telling you, I'm good at finding reasons why something might suck. Maybe if Rowan had a different temperament or had developmental issues, or if we weren't a good "fit". Maybe if J.J. didn't work regular weekday hours, or if he were less involved with her during his off-time. Maybe if I had more than one child. Maybe if I loathed housework - or young children (don't laugh - a lot of people realllly don't like the baby/toddler stages). Maybe if I didn't have regular breaks, courtesy of my mother-in-law, or weekly meet-ups with my new mothers' group. Maybe if I were still in that horrible sleep-deprivation stage, the one that eased up right when I quit my job and she started only waking up once per night (at nine months old). Maybe if (and this is a biggie) it hadn't been my choice. Maybe if I weren't coming straight from a field where burnout is ubiquitous, and a position where it didn't matter what I did, it was never enough. Conversely, I can hand Rowan carpet fuzz, and it's like gold to her - as opposed to my previous job, where I could hand out free ponies and inadvertently cause a mutiny because they weren't unicorns instead.

Maybe it's because I know there's an expiration date. I do the bills every month. I'm witnessing our financial freefall. I'm acutely aware that this SAHM thing is fundamentally unsustainable for us. But it's still not nearly as difficult as I thought it would be.

And maybe I'll grow to hate it, or at least be bored with it. Could this just be a honeymoon period? Five months...that's nothing, right? Hard to say. So far, every day - literally, every day - I'm grateful that my biggest stressors are that it's tricky to get her down for naps and that I'm sometimes low on activity ideas. In the end, though, she's just one person for me to focus on and to care for. It doesn't hurt that I'm madly in love with her. 


Because pigtails.
The last thing I want to do by broadcasting my satisfaction (which I'm superstitious about anyway) is to underscore someone else's dissatisfaction. This is not everyone's cup of tea. I get it. I mean - that's really why I'm surprised at how this is unfolding for me. But I'm not trying to brag or invoke jealousy. Remember? I'm not an optimist. I know nothing lasts forever. I know I could be living in the moment at the expense of the future. That's why I'm relishing this deep contentment while it lasts and really trying to own my happiness.

I'm fulfilled, I'm challenged, I'm busy, I'm happy. I'm happy.




My girl and I, we make a good pair. So I'm soaking it up while I can.




Monday, June 23, 2014

for right now.

Tonight, I'm just grateful.

Well, that might be an overstatement. I haven't been feeling grateful all evening long - mostly just at this moment.* But a conversation with a friend just now reminded me about gratitude, and made me realize the main gift that anxiety gave me. I know how toootally cheesy that sounds, but here's the thing: Because of my experiences with working through anxiety, I'm more likely than I used to be to purposefully and aggressively pursue happiness. Likewise, I'm more aware that happiness isn't something that just is, all the time, a constant. It's a series of moments strung together, flashes of contentment that might go unrecognized if you're not careful, and that might be minimized if you don't practice gratitude for them. (I know, I'm the first person EVER to articulate that. Bow down in my omniscient presence.)

Um. Anyway. Tonight? Right now? I'm grateful for:
  • My moms' group. More on that another time, but connecting with them regularly helps keep me grounded, sane, and in tune with what it means (read: how crazy it is) to be a new mother. Plus, omg, their babies are adorable.
  • Netflix, and binge-watching ridiculous shows. (Fuck you very much, Comcast cable.)
  • Cold water to drink. Mmm.
  • My breast pump.
  • My mother-in-law, Rowan's Gramma. They've spent three days a week together for the past six months, and I'm committed to helping them maintain their amazing relationship now, even though I'm not at work anymore. Which is another thing I'm grateful for -
  • Deciding to leave my job. Oh my GOD am I unmoored right now, and sometimes the weight of that pulls me under, but mostly I'm just reveling in my freedom. I'm not too focused on whether it's denial or faith that's helping me stay afloat at the moment. Hell, maybe it's just sleep-deprivation-induced brain fog. Whatever works; I'm just ridiculously grateful that my brain isn't being stretched in so many (too many) directions.
  • Hershey's Kisses.
  • This sweet-smelling, super-silly, looks-like-Chris-Farley-when-she-squishes-her-face-up-in-happiness baby girl of mine:


*HA. And right now, I am NOT so grateful that I hear that sweet baby girl of mine waking up in the room next door and kicking the slats of her crib, her warning signal that she's about to start yelling to be fed.  -_-  Sometimes after a gratitude session, it feels like things start unraveling reallllly quickly. Ah, well. Can't win 'em all. Going to bed to try to find my center again...

Sunday, May 18, 2014

biggest mistake of my life (take seven, or so).

What have I done.

If I listen to the voice in my head, I am:
  • an irresponsible mother who just put my wants ahead of my family's needs
  • an ignorant thirtysomething pretending that the future will take care of itself
  • a woefully inept financial planner, kidding myself about bank account capacities and capabilities
  • pulling the career ladder out from under myself
  • plunging into the abyss of financial insecurity
  • the family breadwinner, knowingly and selfishly putting our stability at risk
  • already shamefully behind my peers in so many ways...and just furthering that
  • scared, scared, scared, stupid, scared, and scared

But then the voice in my heart tries - really tries - to chime in, and to remind me that (also? instead?) I'm:
  • seizing the day and this ephemeral snap of time with my only first baby
  • soaring inside every time I imagine being with her more
  • trusting that other possibilities will reveal themselves once I'm living a life of love
  • following my passions, which have yet to steer me wrong
  • not taking the first - or last - enormous risk in my life
  • taking advantage of some hard-earned savings (ohgodpleasejustsomenotall)
  • teaching my daughter, by example, to follow her heart
  • brave, brave, brave, alive, brave, and brave

Biggest (potential) mistake of my life? I just quit my job. Where I've worked for twelve years. 

My only non-internship job as an adult. Where I've held seven different positions, some simultaneously.

My challenging and self-designed job. Where I get (got? oh shit) paid more than I'd make anywhere else in my field.

My job that I once thought was a pipe dream. Where I've given 110% for as long as I could.

I can't really tell you what I'm doing or why, and not because I'm being mysterious. It's because I really don't know. I DON'T KNOW. I can't even make conjectures or toss out ideas. 

But you know what I can do?

I can go to Monday music class, and Tuesday mommy group, and Wednesday swimming. I can live each day as it comes, which I'm blissfully forced to do whenever I'm with Rowan. I can have faith and courage...punctuated occasionally by breakdowns and fear. I can choose intermittent intense anxiety about the future over constant low-level dissatisfaction with the everyday. 

And I can tell you this: I'm a person of extremes. When it came to the point where it felt like leaving would be the biggest mistake of my life, but that staying would also be wrong, I chose in favor of my heart instead of my head. The last two times I did that...



...turned out pretty okay.

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