12.31.2013

2014: it's electric!

I spent yesterday dreaming and planning for 2014 in the office of a friend of a friend in Times Square. I've never worked in Times Square and from time to time I'd look down at Broadway below where tourists and New Year's enthusiasts circled the block with warm coffee and souvenirs. I was in the center of the city and yet in my heart I felt very, very far away.

2013 has been an intense year for us and as I worked my way through this 2014 planning exercise yesterday I realized how much it was truly a year of rebuilding. Well, first it was a year in which my entire identity was leveled by parenthood. And then from the gaping hole that was left behind, it was a rebuilding project in which the basement and foundation of who I am are now built to code, built not based on outside approval but rather from within myself.

And that, my friends, is no small victory. I tear up as I write this because I didn't even know that was what was happening while I was in it. If I had realized, I would have made a project plan to efficiently move through it. But that is the difficulty in depression or confusing times in general - we who enjoy paved roads and street signs are left scratching blankly at the cold wilderness.

I've learned so much about myself this year, that I'm a massive perfectionist, that I rely so much on external validation, that all I want to do is make other people comfortable. All of this to avoid prioritizing myself.

Last year about this time I did some journaling about the future 2013 and when I reread my answers to these questions yesterday I nearly fell on the floor with shock. Nearly every single thing I had written had come true. I knew deep down what I needed to work through, but was unable (or unwilling?) to deal with it head-on. Well, CAREFUL WHAT YOU WRITE IN A JOURNAL, FRIENDS. Had I known that the year would have been as insane as it turned out to be, I'm not sure I would have been so grandiose in my predictions!

The Team '13 theme came true. The team showed up. Sometimes it was a friend, family member, babysitter, or colleague. Sometimes it was a book. Sometimes it was getting myself to church or in front of the TV to watch the Oprah network. For about 6 months the team included a therapist. I include chai lattes and two cats on the team as well. Blog readers and strangers who held the door and my ever-supportive husband and my turkey of a son. Every day I needed something different and every day it showed up, meeting me until I was able to give back myself. I will always be grateful for the support this year, truly.

So where in the hell does one go from here?

From a year of rebuilding, we move to a year of POWER. I'm set straight. I'm poised now, ready to move forward with a full heart and a solid foundation. And this time I'm acutely aware of my energy - both when the tank is empty or what to do when I've got tons to spend. I'm getting better at saying NO when I need to and doing it UP when I want to say yes.

The only thing that held me back all these years was me. It's time to work with my energy instead of against it.

Welcome to the theme for next year, friends... 2014: it's electric. I can't wait to write all about it here, with you, for you. And for me.

I'll end with a story.

Two weeks ago I flew to Toronto for the day for Plucky work. As I walked through LGA on my way home that evening, I caught a glimpse of myself in a window and the whole thing just dawned on me. I was living the life I literally dreamed about. Foreign travel? Independence? A loving family at home? Running my own project? Supporting myself and my family with my work? CHECK, EFFING CHECK.

The photo above is from that day, when I saw my stuff on the chair next to me and wanted to high-five myself because of how far I'd come in 2013.

All I hope for you, dear readers, is self-high-fives as often as possible in 2014. Thanks for reading... and happy, happy new year.

11.24.2013

Wills and Ways.

My son can walk. His legs are sturdy and his sense of balance is strong enough and his desire to get places is there. He took a few steps earlier this month and now he regularly takes a few if we set him up between us and catch him as he gets close.

But he doesn't know he can walk yet. So he doesn't.

I've been thinking about this lately, about the fact that he can do something but does not yet believe it, and so he cannot. I've been wondering what types of scenarios exist for me like that.

I've been wondering.

*

Plucky is an exercise in mind over matter, in believing, in realizing that all of the old adages about manifesting what you want are true. Where there's a will, there's a way. The hard part isn't executing on what I want, it's figuring out what I want. I've now signed a few contracts and am actively working with small companies, helping them find their way. It's taking me to new cities and it's revealing itself to be a worthy enterprise, indeed.

Sometimes Chris will be listening to me practice a presentation in our living room and he'll stop me and say "can you believe Plucky is a thing? Can you believe it's your work and it's real?" And it really is the craziest thing. It's like all I needed to do was line up my talents with my vision and *poof*. It showed up.

Lest I be selling the difficulties short, they exist. It's hard work finding the confidence and backbone to charge rates for your time and not feel like a phony. Sometimes I publish a blog post and immediately want to crawl under the desk for the next 26 hours, anxious about what "they" will think. (Who's "they"? I don't know. Rude people at their own desks, I guess...)

My worst fear is that someone says "who does she think she is?" It's not about much else, honestly. It's about someone wondering if I have outreached my limits, if I do not deserve to go where I am going.

But then, you know, this whole thing is about reaching and going! And I can already see that these bouts of worrying about what others think are less and less frequent. I'm not so obtuse as to believe they will ever fully go away, though. Fear can be healthy if it's not the star of the show; sometimes fear can mean we're standing right in the heart of interesting.


*

How do you know when it's time to pull the trigger on the thing you've been daydreaming about, whether it's a job or a person or a city you want to live in? That's tricky. I think it requires action inspired by moments of clarity. There are moments in your life when you can see what you really want... but often what you want requires change and money and possibly breaking someone else's dream for you.  So it's very easy to backslide.

If you backslide, that's alright. There's no shame in it because one day soon another moment of clarity will come knocking at your door. And then? Then you might be a little closer to making the leap.

I'm pretty sure that life is made up of periods of working up the will to do something, followed by ACTION. Sometimes those periods will be short (i.e. I really want ice cream right now! Let's leave and get some). But other time those periods will take weeks or months or years of simmering, waiting for you to get ready. Leaving my old job was like that. Moving to Paris was like that. Dating Chris was like that.

And the whole trick of the game is waiting for your head to catch up to your heart. That's it. As soon as it happens, you act. You move. You write the book. You build a house. You pick up the guitar. You ask for the promotion.

You can do it because you no longer believe that you cannot.

10.03.2013

Vulnerability, all up in this piece.

WELL. It has been a big week. Huge, in fact.

On Monday, we launched www.beplucky.com, which is Plucky's official site. I also got my new business cards in the mail, fresh from the designer who created my brand/identity over the past month. That was pretty exciting.

On Tuesday, I got up before the sun and drove to Boston, where I spoke at a conference for the first time as Plucky. Prepping for that conference was anxiety-inducing, but it was perfectly timed with starting the new business because I had to really think about what I was pitching to the world. What was Plucky about? Why does it matter? And how could I translate some of those thoughts into a slide deck and 30 minute presentation to other people in the industry?

It went well, though I had a vulnerability hangover for the entire 4 hour drive home that night. Some of it was due to the immense public presence I'd had to maintain for the previous few days... but some of it was fresh from the cocktail hour after I gave my talk.

I was introduced to a guy, the leader of a small product firm. "Hi!" I said. "Would you like a fresh business card?" I was being kind of funny, but also just myself.

"Sure!" he said, and then he took my card and looked at it. "So do you want to know what's wrong with this card?" he asked.

Slightly thrown off, but still friendly, I said "sure."

"Well what is this, in the middle of the P? Is it a lightning bolt, or...?"

"Yeah, I think so," I said. "It's like, a spark. Like energy."

"It looks like a crack to me."

"Ah," I said.

"And these cards are too shiny, I can't write on them. What if I wanted to write 'wow!' to remember that we had a great chat? I couldn't do it with a normal pen."

"Ah," I said again. "Well, thanks for the feedback."

Luckily someone stood up to announce the winner of the conference's drawing and interrupted us before he could tear into my soul a little more.

I thought about that guy a lot on the ride home. I wondered what was going on in his life that he had to greet someone who had just launched a business with such random criticism. I wondered why that energy was threatening to him, why he had to tear it down. It's not that I'm against feedback, but he'd had no time to build trust with me before he leaned into me. I realized that most of that conversation wasn't about me or the card... but probably something he's going through instead.

Don't get me wrong, though. I'm glad he couldn't write "wow" on the card. Because I could write on his card. And "wow" was not the word that I used in my annotation.

*

This morning I was emailing with a publication about writing an article for them. The editor asked some questions about my topic, prodding me for more details and questioning some of the core concepts I'd be writing about. It was so hard to read those questions.

It was hard to read those questions because they are questions that I, myself, am afraid of!

Does culture really matter at organizations? Is making a nice place to work really the right way to run a business? And on and on. She was challenging me, asking me to think through the proof of these assertions. I could have let it bury me, could have let it defeat the project.

Instead I came to a cafe and ordered a coffee and opened my notebook. I wrote two pages of things that I'm afraid of, things I'm afraid are not true, things I worry will end me and Plucky. I have no paycheck at the moment. NO MOOLA. I'm a woman who watches Oprah religiously and is trying to apply the psychology of vulnerability to organizational development. HELLO CLICHE! Does my message boil down to, simply, "be nice to others"? What is this, church?

What a rush to see everything I'm afraid of staring back at me! Instead of a list of fears, it looked like a "to-do" list! My message is SO MUCH MORE than "be nice to others." I know that using vulnerability and coaching in an organization changes the way people produce work and work together. Now, the job becomes proving these things -- through writing, through speaking with others, through speaking at conferences, through research.

What a surprising way for that to end up.

*

People have been so supportive of Plucky's launch. A friend told me I'm "good at new adventures"; another emailed to ask how I do it.

The truth is, I'm afraid. I'm so afraid of all of it. But I feel like a pathetic sap going through life being afraid. I feel like a loser when I let things that make me afraid run my life. So I muster up whatever I have and I apply it to that which means something to me. At the moment, that's Plucky.

Thanks for the votes of confidence, here and on Facebook and in my email inbox and when you run into me on the street. It means so much. It helps keep this vulnerable operation in business one day longer and my hope is that it'll be one more day at a time until I'm earning a living at it.

Fingers crossed, we'll see how this goes.

9.28.2013

The Plucky Plant

You know me. I like plants. And I especially like marking important life events with plants. I'm three weeks into running Plucky (site coming soon!) and have been thinking about the kind of plant that could celebrate the beginning of a business.

Chris is building out my site today, so Noah and I spent a few hours out on the town. We ended up at Dig, which is where I got Noah's birth plant last year. I swear I could spend thousands of dollars in this store... and boy, wouldn't Chris be surprised when he got home from work and we lived in a JUNGLE?!

Anyhoo. I got a Plucky plant today. I told the shop owners that I wanted something funky and courageous and striking and worth talking about. I think they nailed it with this Croton Paintbrush:



Here it is at home on my desk, my cozy corner of the world lately. I think it looks BAD. ASS.





Also, they let Noah pick out a dinosaur and they stuck it right in the middle. Will have to think of a great name for him.



And finally, here's my shopping partner. He was really into all the plants; as soon as we walked in the store he was pointing at the ones hanging from the ceiling. Small green thumb? Only time will tell.



9.03.2013

Feel the burn.

Some nights when I can't sleep or while I make the long walk between Noah's room and ours, I think about this blog and how to write a few posts about some of the big changes going on in our lives. If I keep waiting for the perfect time, the post won't get written, so here's the imperfect post describing it all.

I'm leaving my job. I've got two more days this week and then I'm out.

The reasons I'm leaving my job are complex, but at the end of the day they have to do with a thousand pounds of introspection and hours of journaling which revealed that I want to own my own business.

Say what? I know. Just as things had settled into routine, as Noah got used to daycare and I got used to commuting and balancing work and life... But sometimes it takes a calm before a storm and sometimes it takes a quiet moment before your water breaks. And, metaphorically speaking, I think my professional water just broke and it's time for me to start hustling.

On Monday, September 9, I won't ride the train to work. Instead, Chris will leave the apartment with Noah and I'll sit here at my desk and labor through the work of starting a consulting business. Over the past 5+ years in my current role, I've learned more about people and the way they work together than I can say. I'm going to consult with small agencies and start-ups about their talent, to encourage them to find ways to communicate better, to wade in and get messy in employee handbooks and the challenge of managing people and, ultimately, I will help people work with people.

(DOESN'T THAT SOUND AMAZING? I mean, please. Dream job!)

I feel so deeply in my bones that this is a NEED in the world that it has driven me to leave my current job, a job I adore and am weepy to leave. Learning more about starting a business, as well as coaching humans through the trials of running their own, has me excited beyond belief. I'll share more here as things come together, but I'll also have a new channel of writing once my site is up. Stay tuned.

If I had more time, I'd have written a long post called "Anatomy of a Big Decision." I might also have created a playlist called "Songs to Decide By" or a reading list called "How To Figure Things Out." The last two months have emotionally stretched me far beyond what I found comfortable, but now I find a soft place here, between the creaks and the aches, and it no longer feels like pain. Now I'm feeling the burn.

7.30.2013

There is more joy than this in the world for you.

In a hunt for stationary this morning, I ran across a few old notebooks that I used to carry around and write in. Here's an excerpt from an entry in March 2011:

Because the truth is, I am amazed by life and by people's stories and by the possibilities that we all have. I am amazed that I run 10 miles a week because I wanted to! I can't believe that I lived in France and traveled to India. And sometimes I am so tired, exhausted even, because it is exhausting work finding as much joy as you can muster. But it is worth it.

As I'm writing this, there's a boyfriend trying to sweet talk his ex nearby... and I just want to tell her NO. You don't need this dude. There is more joy than this in the world for you.

Hoping that all of you are finding the joy you deserve on this July morning. xx

6.25.2013

Growth, lately.

We spent last week in Arizona. It was our first cross-country trip with Noah and he did great on the flights and as expected with the time zone changes. Arizona is hot as the surface of the sun these days, so there were some pros to starting our days at 3am: namely darkness. We took him swimming and showed him desert jackrabbits and funny-looking birds whose heads reminded me of the guinea hens at the farm where I used to work. He slept in several new places and each time it took a nap or two to get him comfortable. But in the end he had an awesome week and though we're exhausted, so did we.

This morning I started with a mountain of laundry and unpacking. I got Noah dressed and realized that the 9 month clothes are snug. Later I went through a basket of toys that he got for Christmas and realized that, suddenly, he's old enough for them. Suddenly he wants to play with balls and blocks and maybe even the fire engine. Before our eyes, he's grown.

That's how growing works, right? It's most noticeable in babies, the constant progression towards The Next Step. Size of clothes, complexity of toys, chunkability of new foods. All these things happen quietly in the background and you can never put your finger on when, but one day you wake up and they've happened. You're in a new place.

Noah's growth coincides well with some growing that I've been feeling lately too. One day recently I woke up and felt more adult than ever. A good portion of it might have to do with some writing I did recently and some of it also has to do with the conference in Phoenix and work stuff I've been reading. Yesterday morning I woke up and felt very full with potential. It has been a long time since I've actively felt that, definitely before Noah was born, maybe even years ago now. Yesterday morning I woke up and I was ready for more complex toys and my clothes might have even fit differently. Good feeling.

6.11.2013

Somewhere beyond self-help.

I've been dancing around this blog post for months, pretending that I didn't need to write it, wondering if I should post edited book reviews in which I don't fully share everything that I'm reading. This is unlike me; historically I've found that sharing what is going on with me will always connect with someone and so the anxiety of putting myself out there is somewhat relieved because of it.

But religion - and spirituality - is a completely different ball of wax.

One Thursday afternoon in mid-January, things were bad. I was in the thick of new baby exhaustion, had spent several days crying on and off, and found myself standing next to Noah's crib, rocking him and willing him to sleep. I just felt awful. "This family would be better off if I wasn't here," I thought, and then I let that thought hover in the air for a moment, repulsed and fascinated by it. I wasn't a threat to myself, I wasn't going to hurt myself, but I did contemplate leaving. I saw myself on a train, heading somewhere where no one knew me and no one expected anything of me, leaving Chris and Noah to a more peaceful existence without someone who was clearly not so good at mothering.

I called Chris at work and asked him to come home. He knew it was serious, so he left immediately and told his team he wouldn't be back the next day either. In the 18 minutes it took for him to walk home, I stood at the crib, rocking, ashamed that I was having these feelings, stupefied that the beautiful life I had led up to that moment was resulting in such shambles.

What does one do when they've reached the bottom? For me, the answer was surprising. Back in January I was months away from discovering Anne Lamott books... but the truth is that I started to pray. To whom, I have no idea. And it wasn't a complex or religious prayer either... I stood at the crib, I rocked Noah, and for 18 minutes while I waited for Chris to come home, I prayed.

My prayer was this: "helphelphelphelphelphelphelphelphelphelphelphelphelphelphelphelphelphelphelphelphelphelphelphelphelphelphelphelphelphelphelphelphelphelphelphelphelphelphelphelphelphelphelphelphelphelphelphelphelphelphelphelphelphelphelphelphelphelphelphelphelphelphelphelphelphelphelphelphelphelphelp."

We called the midwives that afternoon and I was diagnosed over the phone with postpartum depression. We made a first therapy appointment for the next week and got the ball rolling so that our family could do whatever we needed to do for me to find my way. Later there would be a trip to the Bahamas for the sunshine and forming a mom's group and baby classes. But back then, for a few weeks, we were quietly and carefully constructing a plan. It was lonely and it was difficult and every time that Noah would wake up in the middle of the night, I would feed him and then I would pray:

"helphelphelphelphelphelphelphelphelphelphelphelphelphelphelphelphelphelphelphelphelphelphelphelphelphelphelphelphelphelphelphelphelphelphelphelphelphelphelphelphelphelphelphelphelphelphelphelphelphelphelphelphelphelphelphelphelphelphelphelphelphelphelphelphelphelphelphelphelphelphelp."

Now it's June and we are well past the difficult moments of January. The past six months have probably been the most maturing and growing that I've done in my entire life. Part of that is Noah and learning to be a mother, but an enormous part of this is all of the reading and studying and thinking and reflecting (and yes, praying) that I've done. Because something in me snapped that day back in January when I realized that I needed help, that I cannot do this alone. And by this, I mean life.

*

I am allergic to religion. It is so polarizing, so political these days, that I have not had a taste for it. I grew up Christian but somewhere along the way I realized that I did not want to support anything that did not welcome gay people. I had loved the community and the kindness that I grew up with, but the academic side of my brain saw religion (all of them, not just Christianity) as strange, cultish type places whose intentions were not good.

So it was surprising to me when suddenly I decided to start church shopping in March. I found a church a few blocks from our apartment, a nice little place where the diversity is amazing and the music is wonderful. Most Sundays I attend church and I leave Noah in the nursery, where he flirts with everyone he encounters. I am actively practicing NOT JOINING, something that is very difficult for me because sometimes it feels like I sneeze and I'm signed up for 1500 extra-curriculars. Instead of joining, I show up at church and I sit for 60 minutes and I listen. Some of the stuff resonates with me and some of it doesn't, so I just let it float over my head.

My church doesn't feel like a cult. It feels like nice and thoughtful (and intelligent) people getting together to sing a little and think. It feels like old ladies who remember my name and pinch Noah's cheeks and give me the gift of exposure to an older and wiser generation. It feels like relief.

*

If I were to write the recipe for how I arrived here, June 11th, from mid-January, it would sound like this:

  1. Stop taking care of anyone but my son.
  2. Be really, really kind with myself and use the little energy I have at the end of the day to connect with things and people who make me feel great.
  3. Find communities (church, moms, and otherwise) where I can just show up, showered or not.
  4. Read lots of books, most of which were written by people who have appeared on Super Soul Sunday with Oprah.
  5. Even though it is sososososo hard, ask for help. Ask neighbors, ask friends, ask family, and ask the universe.
  6. Add mysterious magic. 

It's the mysterious magic that fascinates me these days. I still don't know what I think; I don't know why praying the word "help" made me feel better or why I cry most Sundays in church or why I am reading four books at a time and keeping up with them all. I feel great - amazing, even. I'm curious about the world and everything beyond the world. 

It is a very fruitful time in my life, which feels like a miracle given where I was six months ago.

*

Here are the books I've been reading. If you are having a tough time or wondering about mysterious magic or finding yourself with a long summer ahead of you without a book list, then maybe this will be inspiring. I've finished most of them, but there are a few that I'm still working my way through slowly, in the background. (* means I'm in the middle)
  • Operating Instructions by Anne Lamott
  • Traveling Mercies by Anne Lamott
  • Some Assembly Required by Anne Lamott
  • Plan B by Anne Lamott
  • Grace (Eventually) by Anne Lamott
  • Help, Thanks, Wow by Anne Lamott
  • This is Not the Story You Think it is by Laura Munson
  • Proof of Heaven by Eben Alexander
  • Down Came the Rain by Brooke Shields
  • A Three Dog Life by Abigail Thomas
  • Mom & Me & Mom by Maya Angelou
  • Preemie by Kasey Mathews
  • The Things That Matter by Nate Berkus*
  • Many Minds, Many Masters by Brian Weiss
  • Daring Greatly by Brene Brown*
  • Miracles Happen by Brian Weiss*
  • The Four Agreements by Don Miguel Ruiz*
  • Meeting Jesus Again for the First Time by Marcus Borg*


*
I made this offer a few posts ago and got a few really powerful emails from people wanting some perspective, so I'll make it again. If you need someone to talk to, if you're having a tough time, or if you're wondering about all this stuff (aka life?) too, then please shoot me an email. Others have given me a hand in times of need and I'm very, very happy to pay that forward.

6.01.2013

How to prune.

There are lots of things to learn from plants. The ways plants direct energy, for one. When I make the time to prune away the dead leaves, our plants look so much better. Freed up from the dead weight, they direct energy to growing new, fresh leaves. Recently I watered a neighbor's plants while she was away and I spent a while the first night clipping old and dead leaves. (This, by the way, is really meditative...) A few days later that plant had a new lease on life - it looked great!

We visited Wisconsin last week and I noticed that Chris' stepmom clips flowers from her yard to display in vases around the house. I love that. Yesterday I pruned the geraniums on our balcony and clipped the flowers that were just starting to go. Now they have a happy little spot near the soap in our bathroom:



What (or who) do you  need to prune from your days? How can you best direct your energy? It matters.


5.28.2013

Raising a baby in Bococa

See? Parenting = easy. (Haa!)
So now I do this thing. When I meet a mom with a little baby in our neighborhood, I ask immediately how she is doing. I'm probably overstepping (which glides so easily into oversharing, probably!) but I feel the need to bring these thirsty moms water. When I was wandering the 'hood like a zombie only a few short months ago, I was dying for a drink of experienced momdom. I really just wanted someone with a slightly older baby to tell me it was going to be okay because anyone who did NOT recently do sleep training or have sore boobs did not qualify.

Anyways, now I just overshare and I take people's email addresses or phone numbers and tell them to call me ANYTIME (no really, anytime) and I also promise that I'm going to send them a list of Things That Will Save Their Lives. So here goes; now I can just send them the link to this blog post. Donezo.


THINGS THAT WILL SAVE YOUR LIFE (when you are raising a little baby in Brooklyn):

  • 61 Local - a bar with lots of room for strollers, a killer ricotta-honey-toast situation, and almost always at least one mom wearing a baby and drinking a hard cider.
  • Vered's music class (so, so, so, so good!)
  • Andrea Syms-Brown- Lactation consultant extraordinaire. 
  • Breast-feeding Support Group at Gumbo- led biweekly by Andrea Syms-Brown; this is where I made so many mom friends. It is an incredible group and a perfect place where your baby can eat, sleep, play, whatEVER while you connect with the other ladies in the circle.
  • The library! I always have books on hold to pick up, which is a great excuse to leave the house.
  • Cobble Hill Park- Also known as the Ted & Honey Park because it's nearby. 
  • PetSmart on Atlantic and Court has a changing station in the women's bathroom! And it is awesome.
  • Cookie's on the Fulton Mall - This is a super-cheap place to buy pacifiers, bottles and general baby supplies. Unlike the little shops on Court Street that are crazy expensive. 
  • Baby swings at Pierrepont Playground and Van Voorhees Park
  • Every park down at Pier 6

When in doubt, send me an email. For real, I am happy to help anyone going through the tough first few months!

P.S. I also have a list of therapists who specialize in Postpartum issues, so definitely drop an email if you'd like that.

5.11.2013

On Mother's Day Eve.

This is the first year that I have a child who calls me mom. The past seven months have revealed life to be more complex and more sweet than I ever knew it to be. For that, and for the continuous process of evolving as a mother and a woman, I am very grateful.

But I have mothered before this year. I've comforted and encouraged and listened and guided and smiled and chided and provided for and loved loved loved many people in my life. Maybe you have too. And so tomorrow is a day to appreciate the mothering and nurturing that women do for us when we need it most.

Pinch someone's cheek tomorrow. Hold someone's hand while crossing the street. Bring someone a napkin or a glass of water or their favorite socks when their feet are cold. In doing these things, we're honoring all of our moms in the very best way.

5.04.2013

Gone Fishing.

I have wanted to write on this blog over the past month, but the truth is that I have been hanging out in parks instead. You truly don't care that your apartment is only 10 square feet when you can easily put your baby in a stroller and spend the day hopping from park to playground to coffee shop to book store to library to park again.

All of this outdoor time in a city reminds me so much of my time in Paris, when I could literally spend the entire day eating baguettes in a park with whoever was around. I had no other responsibilities, nothing that I needed to be doing in the background of everyday life. 401k accounts and grocery lists for the next week and moving clothes backwards in the closet... none of these background life activities are required when you are living abroad, a year at a time.

So I've been trying to go with the flow of this. (Clearly my memoir of this time will be called Don't Leave the Park on Time So You Can Vacuum.)

We are having a great, great time. I - I- am having a great, great time.

*

Right now my husband is in DC at a conference where he is having 1,000 ideas per minute and I'm at Starbucks in Yorktown while my mom is hanging out with Noah. The normalcy of this stuns me. When you are in that first period of a baby's life, a period that I lovingly call HOLYSHITWHENDOESTHISKIDGOHOME???, it is literally impossible to imagine that one day you might be allowed to have 1,000 ideas per minute or write a blog post. I am so grateful that we are past the most intense part of that. Most nights I get in bed and can't wait to wake up so that I can drink a cup of coffee and snuggle my son. 

I still have stress dreams, though. Most of these involve tiny, tiny babies who I've forgotten to feed or accidental pregnancies that have us going through the ringer again later this year. The short answer to "do you want a second?" is probably - but not until it sounds like a great idea. Right now we are enjoying the one we have.

*

And this all brings me to the mantra that Chris and I have agreed on: "Do what works for as long as it works." Right now working 3 days a week is perfection. One day it may not be, but it's not worth spending energy solving problems that don't exist yet. I am in a period of intense non-planning and sometimes it makes me want to breathe into a paper bag for a few hours (because PLANNING! Love it!). But I got to the end of the road with the planning, the perfectionism and the peace-keeping. Now I make the time to sit in the sun and think slow thoughts.

On that note, closing this laptop to drink my chai in the sun. See you back here soon, friends.

4.08.2013

Towards.

I leave my building and get The Lumineers singing "Hey Ho" going for my walk to the subway. An upbeat rhythm, a singalong chorus: they help get me excited for the day. They help me lift my eyes from the sidewalk up towards the new spring sky.

It is my ritual of walking towards work in the morning, not away from my son.

If time rolls on whether we like it or not, why not decide to face it with our heads lifted? Let's choose to walk towards our mornings instead of away from something difficult to leave, be it our babies or a warm bed or a tough past that threatens our future.

Happy Monday, friends.

3.30.2013

Les Livres de 2013, round 2

Love me some library books.
I haven't had the energy to sit down to write something meaningful in a while and we're headed out tomorrow morning to the airport for the Bahamas. But I did want to just check in here before we left to say hi and how's it going and to share that we are doing really well!

I also wanted to share the books that have gotten me through this month... I don't have a ton of time to write as much as normal, but here's what the past few weeks have looked like:

6. A Casual Vacancy by J.K. Rowling
This was the first NIFW book club selection and I'm so, so glad I read this along with other people. I didn't love this book, but it's worth a read (particularly because I love Rowling's Harry Potter world so much). There weren't many lovable characters, but there were lots of twisty storylines and if you're inclined to look for connections while you're reading, this is a decent book to get ahold of.

7. The Heights by Peter Hedges
ACV was the only book I read in February and I hit the ground running in March to make up for lost time. I'd seen The Heights in the local bookstore for a few years; it's about the neighborhood we live in. This was a fun little book about a marriage - the couple lives in Brooklyn Heights and it was cool to read about the streets and businesses that we know so well. I'd recommend purely for the local connection if you live nearby but I'm not sure anyone else would get much out of it.

8. Operating Instructions by Anne Lamott
Ok. People, I'm about to admit to craziness.

I had seen this book in the parenting section of the bookstore a few times but it wasn't until early March when I decided to buy it. After flipping through the pages I knew that the author's voice was funny and smart, but it was the fact that this book is a journal of her son's first year that really sold me. I have a son! It is our first year together! Boom, connection.

AND THEN I READ IT AND FELL IN TOTAL LOVE WITH ANNE LAMOTT. How funny she is! How wise and yet irreverent! How good-hearted! I loved her voice and I loved reading about her first year with Sam. This is a total must-read for new parents.

9. Traveling Mercies by Anne Lamott
So I mention to the Sarahs that I'm loving this book by someone named Anne Lamott and they both look at me, wide-eyed and say "Wait. You have never read Traveling Mercies?!?"

There are not many books that both Sarahs recommend wholeheartedly, so I immediately went on the library's website and reserved, oh, every book by Anne Lamott. Traveling Mercies is a book of essays about Lamott's journey towards (and in and out of) her faith. It was the equivalent of finding Eat, Pray, Love several years ago. It is so, so good. If you're going through a rough time, pick it up.

10. Some Assembly Required by Anne Lamott
I gave myself a short break from the faith essays and breezed through this, the follow-up to Operating Instructions. This is Lamott's memoir of becoming a grandmother, when Sam becomes a dad at the ripe old age of 19. It is HILARIOUS. I would buy it for new parents, old parents, grandparents or people who have no children at all. I'm going to hear Lamott read from this one in a few weeks and I am so excited to meet her in person. (I mean, obviously, since she is basically my new Liz Gilbert).

11. Plan B by Anne Lamott
12. Grace (Eventually) by Anne Lamott
Right. Back to the faith essays. I can't remember specifics about these two books, but they were filled with fantastic perspective on figuring life out. Lamott walks this wonderful line of being a liberal Christian who hates George Bush (and isn't afraid to bash him whenever she has a spare sentence). She is a delight.

13. This is Not the Story You Think It Is... by Laura Munson
And finally, a memoir of a woman whose husband tells her their marriage is over - and what she does to process the news and remain even-keeled through it all. I found the writing style REALLY irritating at times (her sentences are so. choppy. and. they just. could really use. commas. instead of. periods.), but I enjoyed the story. At the end there's a long list of books that she referenced during this difficult time in her life... it seems worth reading if only to get your hands on that awesome list.


And that's where I'm at. Obsessed with Anne Lamott, reading books about people's struggles and how they found faith and how they figure out their next steps. I've got my Kindle loaded up with a few books for next week and I'm really looking forward to a couple of lighter fiction pieces (though I honestly could keep reading Lamott for another month, I have enjoyed her voice so much!).

Feel free to share recommendations in the comments, per usual. And see you all post-Bahamas!

3.24.2013

Learning to find relief.

We were invited to a first birthday party for a friends' son, scheduled to happen this afternoon. I've been looking forward to it for over a month. But last night during a 2am feeding, I logged into our Zipcar account and canceled our reservation. I was achy and congested, but on top of that I felt the weight of Sunday To-Dos. Noah and I spent yesterday up at my parents' house, which was awesome. But having visited them, we hadn't done laundry or vacuumed or grocery shopped or or or or or or...

It was worth it, don't get me wrong. But there I am at 2am in the rocking chair thinking about how we're possibly going to start the week off with milk for coffee and a clean sleep sac for the baby if we spend a good chunk of the day at the birthday party. Sometimes I feel like we're on a train that's going 100 miles an hour and we're totally handling it, not getting dizzy from the view whizzing past, until we go over a bump or need an emergency pit stop. And then, the pausing of the 100 mph, well that's what makes me carsick.

I knew canceling the car was the right thing to do. It sucked, though in a way it was also a relief. 

*

This probably warrants its own post, but I WENT TO WORK! I did two days last week and I'll do another two this week. 

Can I admit something, Internet? 

IT WAS SO AWESOME AND I WANTED TO STAY THERE FOREVERRRRRR. 

Well, not forever. I did want to go home and squish my baby and eat takeout with my husband. But I was so, so happy to be back. You know that feeling when you're staying at home and you feel like you spend all day doing things but don't have anything tangible to show for it? Well, work is the opposite of that. Work is busy and there are 40 people who want to talk to me and there are HR issues to deal with and I have to pump 3 times a day, but it is all PREDICTABLE. And as such, I am able to get a rhythm going, to enjoy the 100 mph ride, to do cartwheels while the train is moving at top speeds.

A huge (huge!) reason I'm able to focus on a million things at work is because I do not worry about Noah back at home. Our friend Sarah (YES I KNOW, EVERY SINGLE PERSON IN MY LIFE IS NAMED SARAH.) has agreed to be our nanny and she is a pro and we trust her. Sometimes she sends me a text that says Noah is taking a nap and I am so damn happy he is sleeping without me that I go into my next meeting with 1000 extra pounds of energy.

He's alright. Though his mom left him with a nanny so she could go to work, he's more than alright. And this? This is such a relief.


Jumparoo. Sans jumping so far.
Now it's nearly Sunday evening and I have to admit that it was the right choice to cancel the car and bail on the party. I slept in, Chris napped, we did laundry and errands in the neighborhood and we even had some time to experiment with Noah in his latest gadget. We're in good shape for this next week.

I know that we can still be spontaneous sometimes, but things run easier when we have food in the fridge and clean sheets when the baby pees through his pjs at 4am.

I interpret this responsibility as true adulthood. And so it was particularly sweet to experience the opposite during my commute on Friday morning. A homeless man was sleeping on one of the benches and most of the people in the train had moved away from him. (He was pretty stinky.)

I looked at him and thought about the banana in my bag. I approached him.

"Hi sir," I said. "I'm going to leave you this banana." I placed it on the bench next to him.

It was a very pure moment for me because there were no stakes. I didn't have to take on the reasons why this man was homeless or wonder where he'd get his next meal or get riled up about the government and handouts and setting precedents by giving bananas (what a nation of sloths! what if everyone starts expecting free bananas?!).

It was a simple gesture - one banana for one hungry person - and that was it. He was no longer my responsibility.

And that feeling? Well, it was such a freaking relief.

3.07.2013

Love the struggle.

During a long walk the other night, I started thinking about going back to work and what I'd bring with me on that first day. A picture frame with a Noah pic sounded like a good idea and I idly daydreamed about where I might buy a frame and what kind of frame it might be.

My favorite picture frame in the house (though there are not many to choose from) is a simple blue one, woven from some kind of reed, that my sister brought home from Africa for me several years back. I'm sure she would be surprised to hear that, but it's true. It does the job of being a frame without bringing much attention to itself - in it, I have a blurry photo of my sister and me laughing on a trip to France - and the photo is highlighted because the frame is so simple.

There are lots of frame choices for new parents. Tiny feet and hands dot the landscape; words like "my sweet angel" and "our little blessing" frequently appear. All of that makes me feel uncomfortable. It's like, in those frames, a photo of my baby could be replaced by a photo of any other baby in the world... and despite the face inside the frame, it seems to be whispering one thing:

All babies are the same. And, by extension, all mothers are the same.

*

Let me back up here.

Although I didn't realize it was an anxiety before I gave birth, I now recognize that it was there, the onslaught of pressure about how becoming a mother will change you. There is a lot of verbiage flying around out there about how it will become the defining aspect of your identity, how it will become your primary purpose in life, how you will sacrifice everything for those ten tiny toes, those ten fingers.

After I gave birth to Noah (which was CLEARLY a defining moment in my life! hoo boy.), I waited. I waited to be hit with the rush of chemicals that would send me online shopping at the Hallmark store. I waited and I waited and they never came. I never became someone who wanted a "world's greatest mother" mug (except maybe in cheeky irreverence).

And about three months in, I realized that I was waiting for something that was not coming.

Because I was already sensitive about mothering (Noah's early weight issues and a tough time breast feeding and the like), I let the lack of attraction to these Mom objects convince me that, hey, I shouldn't even BE a mom! If I couldn't get my baby to sleep easily, if I didn't want to drink from the Mother Dearest mug, then I had clearly misstepped. I cried all day for several weeks, astonished that I had ruined my life (and my husband's!) by having a baby, a baby whose fussiness seemed to confirm my lack of talent in the baby arena.

How easy it is today, with slightly more sleep in my system, to see that my decline into Post Partum Depression could have also swung the other way. Instead of believing I was the world's worst mother, I am now so reassured to know that I am still, quite simply, me.

I DIDN'T GO ANYWHERE! I'm still here! Underneath the story of labor, underneath the transformation of boobs to a feeding factory, Jen exists. What kind of mom am I? I'm a Jen mom. Put THAT on a mug.

The massive transformation that I expected (and feared) never happened. Oh, I'm not going to pretend that life isn't different. Life is different. But my identity is still very much in tact.

What an effing blessing THAT is.

*

Yesterday was our last day at breastfeeding support group for a while. Since Wednesdays will be one of my work days, we won't be able to attend any longer, but that's ok. That group was the pillar of my calendar for nearly 5 months. I left blood, sweat, and tears in that circle (and probably a bunch of baby puke too). By the end, I felt very much at home with those women, many of whom have become friends.

Last night as I lay in bed, I thought about what people had shared yesterday. I thought about how lucky I was to find women who are able to and are interested in discussing the complexities of becoming a mom, the ups and the downs.

I also realized that, if breastfeeding hadn't been an issue for us, I never would have met them.

You know what? I'm HAPPY that it was hard. I'm HAPPY that it hurt, that breastfeeding and mothering has been a difficult transition for me. It made me grittier, it made me less concerned with perfection and more willing to drink a beer over my kid's head. Ultimately I believe that will make me a better mom - and a better Jen.

How effing boring is perfection? It's the struggle and the stains that draw me to people. My favorite stories are those of triumph, of overcoming conflict and of making something meaningful out of the dirt.

Love the struggle. Scrape your knees. Hang up the blurry photo because it expresses a true moment in your relationship with your sister. Let the baby cry in his crib for a few minutes while you compose yourself in the other room.

He is going to be fine. You are going to be fine. More than fine. You are a fighter.

Put THAT on an effing mug.

3.05.2013

Anticipating spring.

This afternoon after baby class I had a couple phone calls to make and so I bought a chai latte and sat on the benches outside the book store in the sun. It's supposed to snow for the rest of the week (or, if not snow, at least be cold and grouchy and awful out), a fact that made the bench in the sun SO much sweeter. Even after I was off the phone, I sat and let the sun warm me. I sat and sniffed the warm air that you can just tell is coming one of these days and I was so damn warm and happy. Noah woke up and I held him on my lap and the two of us just sat there watching the passerbys, smelling for spring.

Dude, where's my yogurt?
Afterwards we came home and shared a blueberry yogurt. So far in his life, Noah has tasted banana, lentil soup, vanilla pudding and yogurt. Yogurt wins. I practically have to put him in a straight jacket because of all the arm-flailing once he sees me get the container. He's like "HEYHEYHEY THAT YOGURT! I WANT SOME!" and I'm like "Dude, MOVE YOUR ARMS, what do you think I'm trying to do with this airplane noise?!"

Then he gets some on his tongue and he smiles this huge grin and gums it for a while and makes all kind of squealing noises. It is ridiculous.

*

A few weeks ago we realized that we haven't gone on vacation since our honeymoon. (This, by the way, was incredible to me -- I am SUCH a traveler! No wonder I have been feeling bummed!) We've traveled to see family and for work stuff, but nothing is the same as going on a bonafide vacation where you eat new foods and relax. Sometimes I think we should have gone to Japan last year like we planned, but too little too late. Instead, we are taking Noah to the Bahamas in early April for five nights and we cannot wait.

Our new travel mode is pretty much the opposite of what I used to do. Instead of off-the-beaten-path hotels and hole-in-the-wall restaurants, we chose a large chain hotel that has room service in case we cannot be bothered to leave. I'm excited to swim in the pool (and the ocean!) and to see the multi-colored buildings, but honestly I am mostly looking forward to not bundling the baby up in four hundred layers. I can't wait to sit outside in a tee-shirt and drink a smoothie in 85 degree weather.

In many ways, I could not have imagined even researching this trip a month ago. Noah is an entirely different person - more routine, a slightly better sleeper, a vastly happier boy. Giving him new experiences sounds like fun instead of like hell, which is what it would have felt like a month ago.

And then, after vacation, it will be spring and I am going back to work. Three days a week, I will put on work clothes and ride the subway and be in an office for eight hours working with people who can feed themselves. Noah will stay at home with his nanny and Chris will go to work and we'll all reunite in the evening.

This, too, feels like a new season. I know that it will be messy and complicated and I'll be annoyed with pumping, but I also know that I am dying to be back at work. Just as the decision to go back felt premature in January, it feels just right in April.


Babies, man. It's never-ending change.


*


Sometimes I make him give me smooches and he doesn't know what to do so he licks my cheek. Sometimes he is so happy to see his dad at the end of the day that he screeches and screams, incoherent to everyone but himself. Sometimes I look at him and think "were you reincarnated? WERE YOU ABRAHAM LINCOLN???" because he just seems like he's been around the block a few times and like he's just waiting for us to get in line with our parenting so that we can all be a mighty family together.

What a joy this boy is.

2.26.2013

Peeking out from the clouds.

Lots of people talk about how fast babies and kids grow up. "It goes so fast!" they mourn. "They'll never be this little again!"

And while I think I will feel tinges of this, I also think that these statements are traps. They set you up for the same feeling that you may have had when people told you college would be the best time of your life, that the frat parties and keg-stands and all-nighters, well, it was all downhill from there.

I mean, really?

I have to believe there is a way to remember tiny fingers and toes fondly and yet feel grateful that some of the infantness about my infant is no longer. Noah has recently emerged as the sweetest baby on the planet (like, I kind of expect him to crap rainbows any minute) but he was an angry piece of work during his third month on this planet. There are many theories about why 3 or 4 month old babies act like the devil's spawn; sleep regression seems to be the one that checks boxes around here. And so, should you be in the vicinity of a 3 or 4 month old sometime soon, just hang in there. Rainbow-filled diapers are probably just around the corner.

*

Though we are not particularly religious, we had Noah baptized this weekend. I had two main reasons for this:

1. I wanted Noah to wear the baptism outfit that my brother wore 25 years ago. See here:



2. I wanted to officially designate some godparents for Noah. Way back when we were pregnant, we asked our friends, the Sarahs, if they would be Noah's fairy godmothers. The Sarahs have been such wonderful friends; they flew up this weekend to meet Noah and serve their godmother duties. UM, SUCH GOOD CHOICES. I might list them on Yelp and write a review in which I give them 5 stars and recommend them to other people who are looking for kind, soft, loving, smart, talented godmothers. See here:



My godparents are aunts and uncles of mine and Chris doesn't have godparents, so our choice did feel like a departure from the history of our families. But here is what I will say about designating non-family members as part of your new family...

Have you heard people say they're afraid that they don't have enough love to love a second kid as much as the first? And yet when the second is born, they realize that their hearts expanded SO MUCH larger than they thought was possible and that they completely love their second just as much?

I think hearts, when used properly, are meant for this kind of expansion. Adding members to the family does not dilute the amount of love to distribute; rather, the heart expands even bigger and the love expands with it. I stood on the sidelines of the church during the sermon and swayed Noah to sleep and when I looked at the people sitting in the front pew of that church, Noah's dad and grandparents and aunt and uncle and godmothers... well, I'll just say that Noah is very lucky and I think that he will have a huge, huge heart filled with a metric ton of love.

*

And so it goes with friends. On October 13, I had as many friends as I needed! And yet over the past four months, I have grown to need more. I needed mom friends and I am happy to say that I feel like I have a few now. A small group of us have started getting together on Monday afternoons at a local bar. Our babies cry or sleep or lay cooing on the table and we talk about TV shows and vacation spots and what jobs we may or may not be going back to. We compliment the babies on their chubby thighs and head control and laugh about their budding romances. These women are the closest things I have to colleagues at the moment; it's as if we all got selected for a crazy-ass internship with REALLY demanding bosses and we get together once a week to bitch and to bond.

My heart has expanded. I feel like I'm using it well lately... and like Noah's sunny disposition might not only be a result of getting past his growth spurt. I think he might be getting some of it from me.

Finally, finally, I have enough sunshine back in myself to rub off on someone else.


2.21.2013

Growing scabs.

I've had a stretch of great days lately, to the point where I believe I might have the day-to-day stuff down. I love my kid. He's hilarious and adorable and even when he's a grouch, I can let it go. Something clicked the other day when we had an awesome pediatrician appointment; I felt like we were on track for the first time since he was born, like we had made it out of the woods. (Or... the current woods. I suppose there will be woods and woods to come all life long...)

Yesterday I actually thought the sentence "I feel DELIGHTFUL today!" and it was true. Full of delight, I visited friends and then saw new friends at support group and had chocolate chip pancakes for dinner. I felt a lightness that I had not recognized for months, something that felt like myself.

Today I caught up with my sister on the phone and, as one does with sisters, we talked about things a bit deeper than the day-to-day news. "You seem defeated," she carefully observed and our conversation led me to confess that I don't believe in the world the same way I used to. I have a hard time seeing how my future is bright, how we're all headed some way other than those terribly pessimistic movies that I never let myself watch like Revolutionary Road or Blue Valentine.

The magic that I was always able to conjure up for myself and my future has been unmasked and diluted, like my life will end up "okay" at best. Even writing this, there's a tiny flame that ignites when I write these thoughts, a flame that scowls at the pessimism and wants to prove it wrong.

Deep down- deep, deep down- I just really do not want to settle for ordinary.

2.17.2013

Nat Geo Live.


Hunting a wild Noanie from Jen Epting on Vimeo.

Something fun.

I really love playing board games, but YOU try playing against someone who is a genius in all things math and logic-related. I get schooled so badly that I get mad and pissy and THERE GOES MARITAL BLISS!

Board games, however, are perfect things to do in the evening when you have to be at home to watch the sleeping baby. For Christmas I hit up the local board game shop and asked about two-player games... the dudes there recommended Carcassonne. It is SO FUN!

We always take a pic of the board after we're done.
Ignore those ice cream sandwich wrappers.

It's so hard to find a fun game for two players, but this is great. It's different every time and though Chris usually still wins, I kind of don't care. We recently got one of the expansion sets (Inns and Cathedrals) and love that too. 

Just a quick rec for those of you chained to your house lately (due to snow, infants, broken legs, whatevs...) and looking for something fun.

2.15.2013

Chin up, future self.

Last night Chris and I made it out to the movies and although we really wanted to see Identify Theft (for the sheer ridiculousness of it), we got the times mixed up and instead we watched Bruce Willis crash huge cars for two hours in the billionth Die Hard. It has been years since I've gone to an action film and HOLY CRAP the previews are different. After the first one, I not only needed a hearing aid but I turned to Chris and said "WOW GUNS ARE AWESOME, LET'S GO TO WALMART AND BUY SOME!"

Is this what some people are watching at the movies? No wonder these clowns are arguing for assault weapons in Kindergarten classrooms!

Anyways, Die Hard was so horrific that it was awesome. I was in charge of concessions and so we sipped our Sprecher's Root Beer (yay Wisconsin!) and ate apple slices and M&Ms while we watched Bruce defy death five hundred times. Sometimes we laughed out loud and afterwards wondered if there was anyone in that theater who wasn't laughing ironically. It was a great time.

Then we got home and relieved my mom (who was tending to The Noanster) and talked about the daycare that called us yesterday with an open spot. We're taking a tour next week and suddenly last night I fell into a sopping mess just THINKING about leaving Noah in a random building in the financial district while the two of us go to work. (Good lord, I am so sick of the hundreds of ways we can guilt ourselves as parents... can I just put out an open "GOOD JOB!" to all the parents out there? Cause I'm sure there are 10,000 ways you're convincing yourself otherwise daily.)

I didn't get much sleep after that, just lay there and thought about how tough every decision feels lately and wondering if this is just how life will be now and forever. I feel like I'm doing better and then I have dismal thoughts like that and then it occurs to me that maybe this depression is so much deeper than I thought... like realizing you're in a diving pool instead of the 3 foot kiddie section.

I'm hopeful that one day I'll wake up and I won't feel like this (even though it's hard to believe sometimes). And no matter what, I want to remember that I tried so hard. I've been pulling out every trick in the book to snap myself out of this, Oprah and seeing friends and reading books and snuggling cats and dance parties with the baby and baking and bubble baths and funny television shows and saying something I'm grateful for each day and more. I think it's easy for us to look back and say "you know, I really should have XYZ'd and then it would have been much easier," but I'm telling my future self to let it go. You tried hard, you've been trying, and you're clawing around trying to save yourself every minute of every day.

You did good.

2.13.2013

Finding balance.

Last night I went to an info session for a daycare in our neighborhood. Because we live in NYC, there were pregnant ladies at this info session. Most daycares have a waiting list of over a year and when I heard about that while I was pregnant I got so irritated and annoyed that I bailed on the whole project of finding one... so now I'm the woman in the audience with a 4 month old kid asking about how often people drop off the waiting list.

NYC, you kill me sometimes.

I'm slowly starting to assemble a plan for getting me out of the house. Some days I'm ready to grab the first person I see and say "HERE STAY WITH THIS BABY SO I CAN GO TO WORK" and other days I don't feel so frantic about it. I had such mixed emotions during the session last night (which was crazily impressive). While I don't know that I'm the right person to spend all day everyday with Noah, it is so hard to sit there and imagine him spending nine hours with someone else!

It reminded me of the feeling I had when my brother went to Kindergarten. I distinctly remember him talking about some of the things they did on his first day of school and realizing that my brother was going to know people and do things that I knew nothing about. Up until that point I had known his whole world... now he was going to have parts of it that were private. He was beginning to write his own story and that's how I feel when I think of Noah spending some of his days at a daycare too.

Even though I had that slightly gut-wrenching feeling, I also was completely in awe of what this daycare was proposing. Play time and science time and art time and music and a billion other awesome fun things to do with new friends. I could never give all of that to Noah - firstly because I'm not a childhood education person, but secondly because that's not my role with him. I'm his mom and there will be some things he'll always need from me, but he will also need wonderful teachers and funny friends and people whose passion is caring for tiny people like him.

It helps me to think of the long game sometimes. When I imagine the relationship I'd like to have with Noah when he's grown, it's one in which he can come to me for advice or support, but that I also get to learn things about what he's studying or hear about the friends he's made or the places he's traveled to. It is my huge dream that Noah thrives in the world he makes for himself (one is launched from the structure we provided him with in the first place) and inherent in that is that he has experiences and relationships that do not involve me (or Chris!) at all.

This whole thing is a process, a complex and difficult balancing act.

Incidentally, the scene in the most recent Downton Abbey episode when the grandma talks about having to spend an hour a day with her children while they were growing up, made me laugh out loud. Thank god for other centuries, man. Keeps things in perspective!

2.12.2013

Money shot.



After ten days of Tummy Time Olympics, we have a champion! It has honestly been fun to do little exercises with Noah -- it especially gave me something tangible to do with him throughout the day (since he is not yet ready to debate politics or conjugate French verbs or help me dice onions).

Today's a good day.


2.07.2013

Reunions.

Reunited in DC last week... there's nothing like sibs.
This morning, after almost 10 years of not seeing each other, my freshman roommate arrived at our door to help me start planning our college reunion. We're co-chairing the reunion, which I think works out really well... though we had different interests and activities while at Muhlenberg, deep down we are both responsible and grounded and motivated. Those seem to be decent ingredients when organizing such a shindig.

Leave it to seeing someone after a decade to provide a huge dose of perspective. I caught her up on everything that's happened since 2003 (which, let's just say, is a lot). Noah's fussiness this week seemed a mere speck on the map compared to the big life things that have happened. And it was equally fascinating to hear what's been going on with her, what dreams she's persisted in following and how everything has shaken out.

We need friends of all kinds in our lives, those we see daily and weekly and monthly and yearly and every 10 years. Because with a healthy mix of all these things, we remember who we are - and who we always have been.

*

It is always so wonderful to hear that someone has been reading my blog. I know it can be slightly awkward to put it out there (often people admit reading this blog by saying that they feel creepy or weird or the like), but let's just ignore those feelings because there's no need for them. I write in this space for myself and to keep up with friends who live far away and to make new friends who have joined my book club or Creative Summer Camp last year or who just drop me an email to say hello.

And so it has been particularly wonderful to receive emails lately from lots of random people from my past who have stumbled on this blog somewhere along the way. Hi, hello and here's a hug to you, old friends. I'm so happy to hear from you.

Not to mention the fact that most of these emails have been short (or long!) messages of support to me and my little family as we get through our days. It means a lot to receive those messages and I am having a hard time staying on top of writing meaningful words in return, but I promise to at least drop a line of gratitude in response when I can.

*

I'm doing okay. My bedtime is earlier these days, which helps. I've been making a lot of soup, which helps. Therapy is helping. Having a hard cider at noon with another mom every so often is helping. Bubble baths and chai lattes and reading and new episodes of Downton Abbey help. 

And a little boy who is growing... he, too, is helping. From one day to the next he is learning; we can see it and it feels like progress. Regardless of how fussy he can be, he almost always wakes up deliriously happy to see us, as if he can't imagine his good fortune, as if to say "You?! Again?! I am so lucky to hang out with these funny people!"

Ditto.

2.05.2013

Bright spot.

I don't know how it happens, but somehow while we're sleeping my optimism returns. Every morning I wake up ready to face the day, ready to do better, to try again. This resilience amazes me and this morning I am so grateful for it.

There are so many posts I've wanted to write recently, all in a desperate attempt to write through the sludge and process the bad, bad days. For whatever reason, none of them have come together here and so I leave this short little one as a positive remembrance of this period of our lives. We are really having a tough time over here, but most mornings we wake up believing we can still do it. And that's not nothing.

2.02.2013

The Tummy Time Olympics

Do not even think about putting me
on my stomach, mom.
If you have not heard of it, "Tummy Time" is a term used by pediatricians to describe time you should spend putting your baby on their stomach each day. I forget what age they're supposed to start this (maybe a month or 6 weeks?), but once they get the all-clear from the doctor, they're supposed to start this exercise for a few minutes each day and work up to lots and lots of minutes each day.

Most babies hate Tummy Time. Noah does. Our pediatrician recommended getting him lots of tummy time at our last appointment, not only to develop his neck muscles but also because he had a slightly flat head. I cannot tell you how often I lay awake at night worrying about this. I also cannot tell you how many people say "Tummy Time? We didn't need no stinkin' Tummy Time back in the good old days!" (Yes. Agreed. Because babies did not always have to sleep on their backs back then. Now good day to you, sir.)

 I feel about Tummy Time the way I feel about flossing my teeth: massive guilt that I cannot motivate myself to do it.

Since Noah gets Very Angry when we try to put him on his stomach, I am loathe to ruin any good moods he has by trying it. And if he's not in a good mood, well, it's not a great time for it either. But now we have his 4 month check-up looming in 17 days and I am terrified that our pediatrician is going to say "Here's your kids' helmet. Flat head and disastrously weak neck muscles. Way to go, stay-at-home mom."

So I am trying something new. I am calling it the Tummy Time Olympics (sounds fun, right??) and I am posting about it here in case you are scared of Tummy Time too. Maybe it will help you sleep a little better.

The gist: Rotate through an assortment of exercises that encourage the muscles that Tummy Time works… and time your kid to see how long they can stay in the positions. Rotate through the list each day and write down their best scores. Get excited when they have personal bests! (Disclaimer: it should be obvious that I'm not a doctor and you should only do this if you think it's the right thing for your kiddo. These are compiled from pediatrician suggestions, the baby class we attend and the Internet.)

The 13 poses: 

Mini-pull-up
Baby is laying on the floor. Gently hold his hands and pull him until he's sitting up, then lay him down again. Do as many as you can.

Upright shoulder walk
You walk around with baby's neck higher than your shoulder. Talk about all the interesting things the kid is seeing. Hold as long as you can.

Superman
You lay down on the floor with knees tucked and lay the baby on your legs; make funny faces at the baby. Hope he does not puke in your face. Hold as long as you can.

Stare out the window
You sit in a chair or on the couch in front of a window. Put baby against your shoulder so he can contemplate the world. Hold as long as you can.

Get on the same level
Baby goes on his stomach and you get down there to sing songs, make noises, make faces. Could be on the floor or your bed. Hold as long as you can.

Changing pad massage
After bath, rub some lotion or baby oil on baby's back while he is on his stomach. Hold as long as you can.

The Cliff
Put baby so he is (carefully) peering over the edge of the bed or couch. Sit so you are eye-level with him. Hold as long as you can.

Naked time
Waterproof mat on floor. Baby is naked and on stomach. Hold as long as you can.

Roll to the left and stay
Roll baby to his left side and let the weight of his top leg fall over his bottom leg (so he's essentially rolling to his stomach himself). Hold as long as you can.

Roll to the right and stay
Roll baby to his right side and let the weight of his top leg fall over his bottom leg (so he's essentially rolling to his stomach himself). Hold as long as you can.

On your chest
Lay the baby on your chest - or start on your side with baby facing you on his side, then roll him onto your chest. He has to hold neck up to look at you. (Beware engorged boobs if this is an issue for you!) Hold as long as you can.

Sitting forward
Sit baby on your lap, leaning forward. Put one hand on his chest and the other on his back. Talk to him about what he's seeing. Hold as long as you can.

Bumbo seat
Put baby in Bumbo seat. (If his thighs are too fat for the leg holes, be careful getting him in and out. Noah The Chunk has this problem.) Hold as long as you can.

---
If you make it through all thirteen poses for a minute each, that will get you a great start. I will check back in on this in two weeks after we have our pediatrician appointment… good luck, little Olympians!

1.26.2013

Quick poll: what series should I consider reading?

Hey! Hello there. It's Saturday night and I am putting the finishing touches on the NIFW Book Club prep for next week and getting all jazzed about reading. (Reading! Oh, reading. Wherefore art thou, reading?!)

Quick question for all of you - I feel very in the mood to get invested in a solid fiction series, something following the same characters over the course of several novels. What have you read and liked lately? I am in the mood to INVEST in some characters.

Side note: there are a few spots left in February's book club. We're reading the new J.K. Rowling book and I cannot wait to start it and have a glass of wine post-baby-in-bed and sit at my kitchen table with my laptop and dish with all of the people in the club. If you're so inclined, register here.

P.S. The most confusing thing about PPD is that some days are terrible and other days are excellent. The past two days have actually been awesomesauce and I felt kind of weird about dropping the PPD bomb on this blog and then being like "HEY GUYS! CHECK OUT THESE INSPIRATIONAL QUOTES I FOUND" the next day. So... I guess what I'm saying is sometimes there will be inspirational quotes and sometimes stories about crying.

Such is life these days.

P.P.S. Some days there will also be cute baby pix. Here, for example, is a censored baby in the bath:





1.24.2013

Winter.


I watched Oprah’s interview with Drew Barrymore the other day. Barrymore had a baby around the same time Noah was born and she was talking about how happy her daughter Olive is in the mornings when she wakes up:

"I get to wake her up and she's so fun and always smiling and doesn't have this history of all these thoughts you wake up with as an adult, going "oh my god, what did I say" or "I have that thing to do..."

“She’s clean,” Oprah suggested. What she meant by this was that Olive hasn’t yet had experiences that have caused her to lay awake at night or to examine herself, why she is who she is, what role she plays in life. 

What a beautiful notion, and yet how intimidating to think this about the child that you're in charge of. 

*

Yesterday at Breastfeeding support group, the leader picked up on something I said about having moments of not recognizing myself.

“That makes sense,” she said, “because you’re not the same person you were a year and a half ago. That person is gone… and you get to figure out who this new person is.”

This reminded me of something I wrote late in my pregnancy, about how much I was looking forward to the rebirth I predicted I would experience once Noah was born. There is, however, one slight difference -- I was using “rebirth” as the concept of returning to my old life of running and traveling and buying bananas. I guess I’ve been subconsciously measuring the dips and crests of life as a mother against life as a pre-mother… and when she said that yesterday, it finally clicked.

I get to figure out who this new person - me, redefined - is. 

*

I started seeing a therapist on Tuesday night in a first step towards treating the Postpartum Depression I was diagnosed with at the end of last week. (I’ll write more about that journey soon.) One of the things my therapist and I talked about was the notion that parenting is almost always in conversation with how we were parented. This is not just “how do I avoid doing something my parents did that I didn’t like?”… in many ways it’s actually very positive. How do I do what my parents did successfully? How do you replicate it? And how do you raise a child in a way that both echos how you were parented and allows for the ways that you are different from the family you came from?

This is not all conscious by any means; it took some digging to get there. But here’s what’s interesting to me: the  notion that I am a product of two people who parented me, the fact that I had a life for 31 years in which I played certain roles and not others… well, all of that is in direct conflict with the massive life event that has just reset the measuring stick back to zero. And here I am trying to grasp for straws in an effort to be GOOD at something I’m new at… I reach for memories from my own family, some sweet and some stressful, and I try to mimic or reject, depending.

And holy, holy shit, IT IS NOISY in my brain lately because of all this.

When I heard Drew Barrymore talk about how clean her daughter’s brain is when she wakes up, well, I felt so in awe of that. I had not been able to splice out what I’ve been needing lately, but that surely is it. The ability to wake up with no preconceived notions, no expectations, no career horizon or plan or syllabus or obligation… (And if I am very, very honest on this here blog, the ability to wake up in the morning without the forced reality of caring for someone who cannot yet care for himself… I had not realized how much this was weighing on me until just this moment.)

I don’t know how much longer Noah will wake up with a clean slate. A few years probably, though we are carving tracks through the fresh snow of his little brain every day. So far those tracks are limited to bath and bed routines and funny noises that elicit reactions from him. I sit here and know that I will make mistakes, that we will make mistakes, and that he will not live a perfect life. (I mean, obviously!) 

But even knowing that, I guess I still find it very difficult to know how to tread on freshly fallen snow.

*

And now, full circle. There was an enormous snowstorm in the wee hours of October 13 that blanketed everything that came before it and I, too, am looking out at a new beginning. This is both exhilarating and annoying. How well I knew those paths! How easy it was to fall into a routine, to ignore some of the larger questions of life because I was comfortable in my ways! I miss my job and my pre-baby life most on the days that I am afraid at home. I reach for something familiar, something I know I am good at, because I do not really feel good at mothering some days. 

(If this were some kind of reality TV show, I feel sure that someone would force me to finger paint right now just to prove that messy and imperfect is good.)

But I guess what I hope for myself is that I do not retreat back to the comfortable only because it is so. I hope that I do not grab my snow shovel and start digging out the paths according to where I remember them existing. I hope that I can find the strength to, even for a few moments, appreciate the beauty of the snowy lawn before me.