Friday, December 5, 2014

Moms and Cupcakes

I sat in the planning meeting with some brilliant women, only two of us having young children. The other younger mother said, "We should do cupcakes because schools frown upon bringing a whole cake as a treat...all the cutting and serving. Moms do cupcakes."

I'd been at the food magazine for about two years and my daughter was just over six months old. I hadn't known that about moms and cupcakes.

The conversation continued along the lines of guessing at what moms make and want to make for their children's birthday treats.

I didn't contribute much. All I could think was, "I don't want to be here talking about what moms do, I want to be at home doing those things."

I couldn't shake it.



I have so much to tell you.

I can't believe I haven't blogged about it at length yet, but I left that job. I was an editor, and oh, man, was that fun. It just wasn't right anymore. It didn't work with my life as a mom.

It wasn't a job I could leave at the office, which is funny, because it wasn't like I was saving lives. I was providing entertainment (and recipes) to the masses. But every time I cooked, every time I thought about or talked about or ate food, I thought of work.

That didn't work with my life as a mom.

Everyone at the magazine was so supportive of my leaving. I was shocked. Many said, "You're so lucky to be able to work part-time." And this is true. And while I have a hard time taking credit for some things, I have to allow myself the credit of being brave enough to leave a full-time paycheck for a part-time one. I have to allow myself that because part of me still feels a little like I failed at being a working mom.

Just before my last day at the old job, I confided in my sister. "I'm scared. I'm worried about money. Would I be a better mom to bring in more money and security for my daughter or a better mom to be at home and spend more time with her?"

My sister laughed and said, "Don't even worry about it. If the math works out, you'll adjust. You just can't shop at Anthropologie anymore."

(I have to tell you that I only used to shop Anthropologie SALE items, but yeah, I have cut that shit out.)

I know some women who define themselves as stay-at-home moms who happen to have a part-time job. I know some women who work part-time and define themselves as working moms.

It's been said before because it's true: Every mom is a working mom. Yes, some have it harder than others. Single moms who detest leaving their babies every day and work through postpartum depression without a father in the picture have it incredibly harder than moms who choose to work because they recharge at work and feel they add value to their families and the world at large by working. And the mom who stays at home and doesn't have to work because her husband makes a lot of money and abuses his family? See? It's pointless to compare experiences of motherhood. I'm sick of even writing about this.

I'm making my life–and my motherhood–what I want it to be, or it least it feels like that today. And today, I'm going to hold onto that and I'm going to be happy.

Now, I'm working at a nonprofit balancing two departments on a part-time schedule. It's been working out great. It's closer to home, it abuts a nature conservancy which just brings peace to my heart when I look out the windows and see grassland and water and turkeys. And today, I heard back about a posting my new company had made seeking a proofreader. It seems they're all on board (fingers crossed) with my taking on proofreading responsibilities, which is oddly fun for me. It looks like I may be able to shape this job into something I love and am really good at. (I'm great at proofreading except when it comes to blog posts. I swear. Don't judge. It's a blog forcryingoutloud.)


I haven't made cupcakes since I quit, but I've been playing with my daughter, managing our budget, grocery shopping with the elderly in the afternoons and baking lots of bread and cookies. Does that count?


Friday, November 28, 2014

Sleep. Family. Turkey. Sleep.

I should be sleeping. You probably should, too.

I'm both alone and awake for the first time in over a week. I'm drawn to write. There's a pretty good chance I might currently be on The Walking Dead as an undead extra.

My husband, daughter and I traveled to see family all last week. I'm an introvert who lives 10 hours away from her family. Generally, it works. Long visits can be hard. I drink deeply of both the spirits and the intoxicating laughter that comes from being around my blood relatives. I stay up too late. I try to squeeze everything I can into our time together.

And then, I crash. I've never crashed this hard. I've never taken a 10-month-old on a road trip and then continued the family visiting with my mother with us on the way back, either. It's been so, so wonderful to have this extended time with family.

Gratitude is on everyone's tongues, if not their minds. I am grateful. But perhaps this Thanksgiving meant less to me because of the gratitude I try to practice every day. It's not a perfect practice but it is ongoing and it is intentional. I have the most to be grateful for this year out of any before, and I feel it so deeply. I feel it deeply every day.

My daughter was happy yesterday at my husband's family's Thanksgiving, for the most part, though overwhelmed by all of the new faces, all of whom wanted to meet her and squeeze her and make her laugh. My mother and I had to take her for a drive to get her the nap she needed so desperately.

The break from work has been so wonderful. This isn't to say anything bad about my work, but I have been defining myself too much by what I do (or don't do). I left my full-time job over a month ago and have been working at a new one part-time. It's been great for my personal life, but I'm still trying to define myself professionally. This long time off has reminded me to not define myself personally by what I do for work. That is a really, terribly hard thing for me.

How do you do it? How do you find balance between work and family and turkey and gratitude and relaxation, if any?

Hope you enjoy the rest of your weekend. Hug your family, for me, and try to get at least some sleep.

Wednesday, November 12, 2014

How to Feel Grateful for Everything You Have

Yep, I'm talking about material things here.

Maybe you're like me and you feel grateful pretty regularly for the things that really matter: your loving husband, your healthy children, your ability to laugh through the shit and baby food flung around your used-to-be-clean house.

And maybe you're also like me (and the rest of America, I think) in that it's never enough. I'm talking material shit here, people. There's always something more: the next piece of jewelry that's just classic and essential and why haven't you spent at least $1,000 on your solitaire earrings yet? The next wardrobe piece that you'll want to drop $350 on because you'll wear it, like, forever, with anything, but you won't because let's all agree you can find a knockoff deal somewhere. The next stainless steel appliance. The next tablet or iPhone or smart watch or whatever the hell they're inserting chips and internet connections into now.


I've found (sadly, this is revelation-quality shit to me right now) that I'm so much more appreciative of the things (people I'm being shallow today so get over it) I have when they're clean. I can knock off the voice that wants more when I appreciate everything around me.

The one stainless steel appliance in my kitchen looks awesome when it's not covered in tiny fingerprints and milk drippings. At least I think it's milk.

The 1998 Corian countertop still looks pretty bangin when it's glistening-white (when the lights are dim I can pretend it's quartz).

The proportionately large bedroom (large compared to the rest of our home) feels like a luxury retreat without the piles of laundry and diapers and wipes and books and hangers lying around.

The office/guest bedroom feels cozy and cerebral when the focus can be on the stuffed bookcase instead of on the piles of papers and holiday gift bags and envelopes I cleaned out.

Secret: I clean like a pro when I've had a glass of wine. Whatever.


It's all the same underneath; no major renovations up here on the main level. It's just clean. Appreciated.  Taken care of. It took me days of sneaky-quiet cleaning while my daughter naps to get to this point. It's not easy when you're responsible for a little person (or two or three) sharing your home, but it's worth it. I promise it's worth it.

Thursday, November 6, 2014

How NOT to Choose a Pediatrician

Not just anyone's going to have a privilege—nay, the joy—of dutifully caring for your baby at every visit throughout their young life. You've read all about getting a wonderful pediatrician for your baby, you may have even made a checklist for an interview (you've scheduled) already.

You make sure the doctor has admitting privileges at your hospital, you google his or her name to look for random reviews and comments online. You read his or her bio, you check to see if the office has a Facebook page and hours after 5 pm and on weekends. Who answers the phone, and when? How long have they been practicing?

Is this doctor a complete kook? Do any red flags go up?

Or maybe your options are limited—you live in a small town or your insurance will only cover a certain practice.

Whatever.

Here's a red flag: Does the doctor engage with you? Is he or she fully present while visiting you? Do you feel rushed?

Doctors are people. They're very busy people. They're very busy people with highly demanding jobs. But they are also caretakers. They are THE expert in your baby's health. They're the people you call when you feel a weird bump on your baby's head, the people you look to when your baby is teething and you're not sure whether it's OK to give him or her Tylenol on the regular (FYI—It is.)

You shouldn't have to pry answers out of them.

Yes, in any case, you should be your own advocate, or in parents' cases, you must be your child's advocate. You must ask every question you can think of, bring anything to attention you think warrants it, even if you sound paranoid (you do, and you're just like every other new parent out there).

You must speak up when the doctor's not answering your questions, you must correct them when they get the facts wrong about your child, you must, you must, you must.

I must find a new doctor for my baby.

I'd felt before that my doctor was rushing through appointments. I'd given him the benefit of the doubt—he's human, he's busy, etc. But it's to the point now that I feel as though if there were something seriously wrong with my baby, I wouldn't be confident that he'd catch it.

I had to ask a couple of times at Lana's 9-month appointment about appropriate teething remedies. The doctor seemed not to really care. The nurse didn't get her height correct. The manner in which everyone who touched my baby was rough and rushed. No wonder she hates it there already, at 9 months.

After a not-good appointment, I stood in front of the receptionist as she spoke on the phone, waiting to make my next appointment. After a few awkward minutes, she told the person on the line to hold and asked me, "Do you want to make an appointment or something?"

No smile. No nothing. I, and my daughter, were a chore.

Do I have to tell you here that we're looking for not only a new doctor, but a new practice? I'm not sure what's going on at this one, but it's not good. It's not the group of people I want to trust with my daughter's care. I felt as though my OB's office was so much more caring and attentive—why, why, why would you make sure you get only the best care while pregnant but half-assed care for the child you dreamed of and took prenatal vitamins dutifully every day and then went through labor for?

Anyway. Any suggestions? I only know how NOT to choose a pediatrician.

Friday, October 31, 2014

9 Months In, 9 Months Out

Yep, my baby's nine months old. (And I still haven't lost all the weight from pregnancy, but that's another post. And it's OK. I'm not that concerned.)


My blogging time (when Lana goes to sleep at night) has been dramatically cut short by the dreaded T-word.

She's teething. It's bad.


I'd been afraid of this phase because of horror stories my older sister told me about her daughter's teething, and rightly so. My baby who was such a wonderful sleeper, easygoing, great eater (both nursing and solid foods, basically anything you'd want to feed her), now screams through bedtimes, extending the ritual to three hours or more. She screams when I try to feed her and asserts her independence by grabbing the spoon and flinging pureed pot roast everywhere.

This is when I'm grateful to have dogs. They lick things clean--they get a little treat, I get a clean booster seat. We're all happy.

Except for my baby. We're going to try orajel soon, I think. I gave her baby Tylenol last night to help with the pain, and blissfully she did sleep from about 10 pm to 5:30 this morning. I may not get to blog as much, but at least I'm sleeping.

Oh. And she said "Mama" yesterday. I'MSOEXCITEDICOULDDIE.

And stairs. It's all happening so fast.



Saturday, October 25, 2014

What Keeps Me Zen: Washing Dishes

When I was a kid, a really little one, I wanted so badly to be tall enough to reach over the faux butcher-block laminate counter and into the kitchen sink (see? really little) just so that I could do the dishes and, therefore, be a mommy. That was the dream. The very early dream.


Though it would've been lovely to bypass the labor and delivery thing, by number of dishes done alone I'm sure I could be initiated into the mommy club. My dishes are on parade, like in Beauty and the Beast, except they're not getting washed. Just marching, dirty one by nasty one, into the sink, where they pile up and wait for me.
Image: disneyscreencaps.com
And I wait. I procrastinate, usually, when it comes to dishes, but an article about the zen in doing the dishes has encouraged me to embrace the chore. There IS something zen about the white noise of running water, the scent of the favorite dish soap I picked out as a little treat to myself (sad, but true, that this amounts to a treat in motherhood). Something zen about the fact that the phone absolutely cannot be near me, that I'm accomplishing something, that I'm getting the kitchen back to a clean state, in which I can cook anything.

Even if I don't cook everything.

Even if I'm scrubbing a 13x9 charred with the remains of failed French fries. (I totally sliced up a potato, popped it in the oven and called it a French fry. I even *almost* photographed it before it went in the oven, thinking, "oh yeah, this is going to be delicious." Nope.)

I scrub and stare at the yellowing leaves on the almost-ancient maple outside my kitchen window.

Even if I'm washing all of the clean pots and pans that have been sitting idle in the cupboard, on the chance that they were pooped on by the little mouse who took residence, and ultimately met his end, in the kitchen this week.


I know I'm not the only one who does her best thinking over a sink full of suds—the challenge is getting started. Finding the motivation to begin the task. Ultimately, though, I can't tell you how many blog posts could start with, "So I was washing the dishes, and thinking…"

I wish I could tell really-little me to slow down, that motherhood will come eventually, to enjoy the days of not being able to see over the sink. But I'll settle for telling my daughter.

Thursday, October 16, 2014

What I Learned About Kindness (a.k.a. getting knocked down a peg)

I'm working the last two weeks of my time as an editor at the food magazine I've worked for the last two years.

The word is spreading that I'm leaving. Someone from another team, who hasn't been here long, sent me a question about some work that I'm actually not supposed to be helping her with. It's probably the fourth time she's come to me instead of the other editor who is supposed to help her. I've corrected her each time.

So I responded, simply, with the answer she was looking for and a new reminder—that I actually won't be here in a week's time and she'll HAVE to go to the other editor then. End of email.


I nitpicked everything about her messages and wondered why they couldn't have filled her position with someone smarter.

And then, the Universe handed me a beautiful lesson. She responded to my short email saying how happy she was for me and how she'd miss me when I'm gone. And it was genuine. I know she meant it.

And there I was, bitchface cursing her ineptitude when she's a truly nice person who's got a lot of different (and complex) responsibilities.



A couple months ago, I overheard someone at a restaurant refer to their server as a moron. Angry, I'd told my husband, "I'd rather be a moron than a bitch."

Today, I was both.



I'm OK with having re-learned that lesson in kindness. I suppose I needed it. I need to fill my last two weeks here with kindness in order to leave the kind of legacy I should.

Thank you, co-worker, for being kind. Thank you, everyone, for making hundreds of choices each day to be, above all, kind.