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Wednesday, February 26

A Cardio Room, or Pool, of One's Own.

Hi. I still have a blog. It hasn't been put out of its misery yet, not quite.

I hate writing drafts and not publishing, reading all my favorite blogs and feeling newly inspired but not quite knowing where to begin again within my own space. This blog and I used to have a very rich relationship, before I had a baby and walked out on it. But I'm trying to kindle the fire again.

So I guess I'll start by sharing a recent realization: I need space.

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All my life, I've been a talker. I like to gab, to chat, to connect, to laugh, to ask questions, and to share my often unsolicited opinion about everything (I'm working on it).

For a long time, that chattiness made me think I was an extrovert. But a few years ago in a psychology class, I realized that's not me at all. We learned the real meaning behind introversion and extraversion-- introverts draw energy from quiet alone time, while extroverts feel energized by groups and gatherings. Obviously those aren't the technical definitions, but hopefully you get what I'm saying ;) And knowing that, I knew that I am an introvert at heart. A chatty one, and one who likes a party now and then, but still. 

I need quiet alone time. I feel a million times better when I have it. And I'm getting more of it these days, which is making all the difference.

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I've often heard fellow stay-at-home moms say that it can sometimes be isolating, and I understand why. But I really, really like the complete silence when Jack is napping. I don't turn on the TV or music. The only sound is usually the pecking away on my keyboard while I work or the running water as I wash dishes or do laundry. I can hear birds chirping outside lately (SPRING!!!!) I notice the small creaks and groans of floorboards and beams. It's very restful.

But he doesn't take very long naps, so the rest is often short-lived.

As my bunny is getting more vocal, I'm enjoying his babbles and sing-songs so much. He even makes little jokes, like trying to snort when I make the pig noises that he loves. But the pre-toddler, pre-word shrieking he's also started was really wearing on my nerves lately (while desperately Googling "solutions," I have even come across the phrase banshee baby to describe this apparently common challenge). And nearing the tail end of what feels like the longest, coldest winter on record, the shriek-echoing walls started to feel like they were closing in.

We joined a Mother Goose story hour, which is wonderful. Not relaxing, with 25 infants and toddlers running around, but lots of fun.

We started going out on more walks once the worst of the polar vortex spell passed.

All of this helped me feel better -- more energized, more balanced, more relaxed. But nothing helped like what we did last week.

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We finally joined a gym. I am not really a gym person, but we joined the Baierl Family YMCA last weekend, and I am already in love.

They have a nice pool that isn't frigidly cold.

They have a ton of ellipticals, which are the only machines I really like.

They offer tons of classes -- yoga, Zumba, pilates -- plus "swim lessons" we can take with Jack. Not to swim, just to splash around, which is all I want for right now anyway. Plenty of time to perfect that flutter kick later, kid.

Most importantly for me and my wee one, they offer Child Watch. I was very hesitant about it, but I know it's important for Jack to get comfortable around lots of little kids, other caring adults, and without me for a few hours. 

Plus, it's important for me to get my butt back into shape. And not just my butt, but other parts of me too. My arms are the only toned bit right now (thank you, 25-lb Hoss baby). 

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So for the past four days, we've gone to the Y after his first nap. I take him to the room and, after humoring my request to stay for a few minutes the first day, they hustle me out of there. The room is a bonanza of toys and books and other little kids. Most are at least one year old, but there have been several infants younger than Jack too -- they all hang out together, or on the hips and in the arms of the very kindly older ladies. The staff comes to get you if your baby cries for more than a few minutes, and it's a 90-minute maximum. So far, we're sticking to 1 hour. He's doing really well. He does cry a little bit each time, but he's easily consoled and he plays with other kids and toys too. They haven't had to come get me. I'm really proud of my little guy!

I'm proud of myself too. It was (and still is) a little hard to leave him, but once I got into the pool or on the elliptical, I felt like a new person after a few minutes. I just count laps or look out the window in the cardio room. Having that time all to myself -- not for Jack, or work, or chores -- just me and my thoughts and my atrophied muscles... it has made a huge difference. Sometimes I even sit for a few minutes in the sauna or steam room afterward, and it is absolute bliss. 

I don't feel burned out in the late afternoon now. I am more patient with the little pre-toddler hiccups, and (I like to think) more fun too. He is also miraculously taking longer naps -- the bigger babies are tiring my Jack Attack out! He is babbling more on our drives home, newly inspired by the wizened toddlers he's hanging around. He waves goodbye to the caregivers and then sits on the table in the lobby with me, looking at the pool, smiling at people sitting around us, eating his arrowroot cookie and drinking his favorite juice.

It's a special treat for both of us. So even though the bone-chilling temperatures have returned, my outlook is so sunny these days. Spring is coming pretty soon. I've had lots of time lately to think about it :)

Wednesday, January 1

A Fresh Page.

There is something so hopeful about the start of a new year. It's bright, crisp, and clean.

2013 was one for the books. At the end of my life, when I'm (hopefully) wrinkled and gray, I'll look back and laugh at the sheer folly and force of our dreams and decisions this year. A baby, a move, a job change. I love my life, and it has become immeasurably better over the past 12 months, but by God, from now on I aim to tackle one major milestone at a time.

I'm not even rehashing my resolutions for 2013. Many of them were met, but probably more were missed. That's okay. I learned and changed a lot over the past year, and that's what really counts anyway. If we all keep learning and changing -- growing toward the sunlight, so to speak -- we'll turn out all right in the end ;)

My goals for 2014 are very simple.

Be healthy (more sleep, better food, less wine, more walks)
Be present (more wonder and appreciation, less mindless internet and phone browsing, less worrying)
Be kind (less spoken and unspoken judgments and criticisms, more patience)
Be strong (advocate for Jack, be honest no matter what, avoid negative people and situations)

Cheers, friends!


Monday, December 2

A Fighting Chance.

Still here. In body, if not entirely in mind. I think I lost that a few months ago, actually, along with any remaining shreds of dignity or pride ;)

There's a good reason for my radio silence. It happens with babies, I suppose. But I didn't realize just how hugely it changes your day to day life.

Jack is on the move.

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Around the "mom blog" world, there are a million acronyms. One set signifies your work/childcare arrangement -- you're a SAHM (stay at home mom), work out of home mom (WOHM), or WAHM (work at home mom).

From what I've seen, the first two are the most common. Either you leave your job and spend your day taking care of your child(ren), or you return to work and someone else watches your wee one(s) from 8-6, or part time, or whatever. Both are hard hard hard. Counting my three-month maternity leave as stay-at-home momdom and my two-month return to the office as working out of the home, I have brief but real experience with either arrangement.

Moving into my fifth month of working part time from home, though, I think this might be the toughest assignment yet. The best, certainly, at least from my perspective. But also the toughest. At least lately. I think WHAM makes more sense. Not as an acronym, but as a way to convey how I feel at the end of the day.

There is literally almost no down time. No blog browsing. No cubicle visits. No napping while the baby naps. No coffee breaks. No daytime TV. No happy hours.

Even commuting sounds appealing, if only for the chance to just sit down and not worry about anything for an entire 45 minutes.

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Working part-time from home has wonderful perks, not the least of which is that I spend all day with Jack and in yoga pants. I do the things I dreamed of doing when I was at my desk: trips to the play area at the mall, walks throughout the neighborhood. But lately, I do those things so he is confined and I get a "rest."

(Yes, you read that right. A rest in the children's section at the mall, shrieking hotbed of chaos and pandemonium. Or while I huff and puff around the block. You know, exercising. I never would have called that rest in my former life!)

Here is a hugely detailed typical schedule these days:

  • Wake up when he wakes up, around 7:15 AM.  Give a bottle, change a diaper, pick an outfit. 
  • Take him downstairs, plop him in the playpen with a toy, and feed the dogs (yes, we still have two of those as well!) 
  • Let them outside to run around, start the coffee in the kitchen. Kyle is usually downstairs with Jack.
  • Bring down coffee and let the day really begin. Watch him while he crawls around, try to drink some coffee but mostly crawl after him to prevent head-into-brick-fireplace scenarios. Some time in the jumper too. That's usually when I check my morning work emails.
  • First nap is between 9-10. This is usually when I make myself halfway presentable, unless I've been extra ambitious with an early morning shower, or there's a big project at work and no time for cleanliness! I also make the bed, start a load of laundry, unload the dishwasher, and let the dogs back in. And if he's still asleep after all that (rare), I get a second cup of coffee and try to put on some makeup.
  • He is awake again by 10:15  for his next bottle. This where the day gets more chaotic.
  • Sometimes we follow his second bottle with what could generously be called "brunch." Some cereal with pears or apples and cinnamon, perhaps. He has no idea what to do with a sippy cup, and mostly just bangs it around. I don't encourage it yet. I'll get around to it. He usually likes his sweets for brunch. We don't always do brunch though. Real food is, ahem, messing with his digestion. So, yeah, we're moving slowly (pun intended).
  • Back to more crawling and jumping and pulling and "exploring." My knees are starting to crack, and it's not even noon yet!
  • Late morning trip -- a walk or venture to the mall. If I haven't been able to do any makeup yet, I do it in the garage once he's in the car seat or in the parking lot once we've arrived at our destination. I check emails on my phone then too.
  • Walk around the park or the mall. Let him crawl if we're in a child-friendly area. Talk to other moms who might be walking/crawling around.
  • Bottle at 1:15. Second nap is usually between 1 and 2. Lately it's even been about 12:30 to 2:30, which makes me worry that he's dead but really just means he's taking a better nap.
  • I work, work, work during this second nap. So much media coverage to review, so little time!
  • He's awake between 2-3. 
  • Crawling around his nursery or downstairs. Visiting with the dogs, who he adores. Practicing "standing" in the playpen. Reading a few books. Jumping in the jumper. I pretty much crawl around after him or heave him to and fro for a few hours.
  • Bottle at 4:15. 
  • "Dinner" around 5. If Kyle didn't work from home, we usually go outside around 5:30 to sit on the front steps and watch for his car. Jack loves to be outside, and I love to sit down and wait for someone, anyone else who might hold him for a few minutes.
  • We try to start his bedtime routine around 6. Bath, lotion, jammies, book, saying goodnight to all his stuffed animals, turning the lights off and the sound machine and space heater on, and giving his bottle in the rocking chair with a few songs (Scarborough Fair, The Parting Glass, Sweet Baby James, and Twinkle Twinkle Little Star). Lately he's also been falling asleep around, like, 5:45, which is insane and means we only have time for the basics of that routine, but he typically conks out by 6:30. Also, he didn't fall asleep until 9:30 last night, so there are definite deviations to this schedule.
  • At the end of the day, I get a glass of wine, maybe make dinner, and watch some TV. Then I start on more work. I gather and analyze media coverage for public relations reports, so it's a lot of searching and reading -- which I enjoy, actually.
  • I'm usually in bed between 11 and midnight, which is stupid. I should go to bed earlier, and I think about that every time my cracking limbs sink into the mattress. 
I am definitely more sore these days than I ever was while pregnant. Looking after an even slightly mobile baby all day is no joke. I'm seriously afraid for him to really get going, both for his own safety and the longevity of my joints.

He's 24 pounds now, so that certainly has something to do with it.

He also still has "fists of fury" -- he is almost always wiggling or jumping or swinging or kicking or bouncing. We call him Crazy Legs Stevenson. He's lot of fun, but for a person (like me) who's always been a little, um, dainty and not very physical, he is literally and figuratively a huge handful.

He's the best!!!