Ten Months Old?! or Where did October go?

I haven’t blogged in for-fucking-ever. No really, it’s been weeks. This has happened before (hello, new baby!) but normally I’m obsessively thinking about blogging. Every time something happens I think that’s a post! Blog it! That’s still been happening, but…pretty minimally.

I’m not sure where the mental shift began. I just started living in the present which feels pretty positive except I’m not taking the time to reflect on it. That sounds hippie dippy, I’ll admit, but I like taking my time and working out my feelings on life in a blog post to be read by approximately 12-25 people. It’s how I shared my travels through Australia. It’s how I made it through my twenties in Austin and it’s how I make the transition into being a mom.

Being in charge of someone else’s ability to survive on this planet initially felt like quite a shock. Everyone describes it as this burst of uncontrollable love but I definitely approached it with more caution. The weight of Haines’ entire world resting on my shoulders felt, as it should probably, immense. Now, I’ve built up my mom muscles. My shoulders feel stronger, ready to help his world rather than suffer under the weight of it. I know they’ll only get stronger as his needs become more complex. (At least I hope they do.)

Still he’s past the ten month mark and things barely feel normal. Being a parent is just starting to seem routine – making decisions for another person, providing their needs, scheduling my life around them, etc. I still can’t help but think, “There’s more to this?! Oh, dear.” If you’re the parent of a grown child (or I am your grown child) you should rightfully say, “You ain’t seen nothin’ yet.”

This October has been BUSY. I took Haines camping sans baby daddy which was… difficult. Pro parent camping tip: bring a pack n’ play. Don’t think your baby will sleep soundly on a sleeping pad. That’s a lie you’ll regret telling yourself. It was also hotter and more humid than I was expecting so my patience was thin for all things.

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First ones up at camp!

But Tyler and I also went camping sans baby for one night to celebrate our anniversary, which was amazing. My mom drove up for the weekend and watched H while we went out to eat Friday night and then while we camped. We were only gone for about 24 hours but it was so relaxing. Sure we tried to take a boat through low tide in the world’s most shallow waterways and had to drag the boat a long ways but there was also reading on the beach, cocktails in plastic cups and listening to the ocean while we fell asleep. And baby H was safe and sound with his Nana.

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Admittedly the next morning I was almost immediately ready to go. It was a struggle to enjoy the sunrise when I wanted to get home so badly. Next month we’re taking another trip sans baby for two nights- hopefully we can enjoy it!

To top the month off we visited one of my very first friends in life in Charlottesville. She hadn’t met Haines and I hadn’t met her newest, Miss Maebh (pronounced Mave). It was so incredible to see actual hills and fall colors and feel crisp, cool air. I love my life in Wilmington but if I could just move our house, jobs and friends to the mountains, I wouldn’t hesitate.

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In another news, H is full on walking now. He can also climb stairs (ah!), clap his hands and give kisses. So, it’s been a month.

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Baby’s first Halloween: Skunk!

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How to Handle the Scariest Part of Baby Life AKA How to Clip Your Infant’s Fingernails

I’m not exaggerating when I say handling your baby’s nails is the worst. It’s terrifying to do but also painful to avoid. It seems to take about 15 minutes for my baby’s nails to go from freshly filed to talons of death. For several weeks this summer I’ve had a scab on my nose where some little dude took a chunk out. And by “several weeks” I mean it happened several times.

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The only safe hands are covered hands. (How was my baby ever this little??)

What’s worse is when he does it to himself. More than once we’ve gone to the crib to find a baby whose attacked himself in the night. Haines gets over these things in a flash but it’s normally the last straw for me. I’ve put it off  until all I can think about when I see Haines is his demon claws.

At this point it’s time to use my demon claw survival techniques.

  1. Keep nail files in every room. I have one on the end table in the living room, one in the bathroom and one in the nursery. There’s also one in his diaper bag. Haines will only tolerate a nail or two being filed at a time but I do that over the course of a day or two I can knock out a lot.
  2. Attack nails during nap time. When HEB was an itty bitty and he would fall asleep feeding on the Boppy I could easily get a hand done at a time. Now that he’s bigger he falls asleep in his carseat a couple times a week on the way home from daycare. This is the best time to knock out several nails at once.
  3. Focus on filing, not clipping. Clipping is more likely to wake them up if you’re doing during a nap and also doesn’t get rid of the dagger aspect. Filing gives your face maximum protection.
  4. If you have a ticklish baby, and I do, toenails are a particular struggle. The moment that clipper or my hands near his tootsies he starts to wiggle and wake up. I’ve found though that if I use a burp cloth to hold onto his foot, I can get some damage done.
  5. If all else fails just tape socks to his hands. Right? Nope, just me then…
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Next step, teaching this bunny to stop biting me with these chompers.

Working Mom Blues: Daycare Jealousy

As Haines goes through phases I’ve found I do too. This past week he learned to wave, give high fives and fist bumps. We’re also working on doing “choo-choo” when we pretend we are a train running around the kitchen. This was all adorable until he practically leapt out of my arms to high five his teacher at daycare. I’m sure you can see where this is going.

When I first when I back to work, the build up to that first day was an emotional roller coaster. I cried for hours about other people raising our child and how we were terrible people and so on, even though I like my job and I had really struggled staying at home most days during maternity leave. We had never been able to get on a nap schedule (because you know, 12 weeks old!) and the lack of structure and unpredictable nature of baby life was hard for me to get a grip on. Still I grieved going back to work.

Once I got back to my job and realized I had placed my baby in very capable hands, I felt pretty good. I hate that Haines is at daycare for so long each day but he’s also really happy there. It makes things much easier. This past week was the first time I started to struggle with these feelings again.

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It’s a good problem to have. It’s good to have your child love their teacher so much you get a little jealous. She’s not some crazy person manipulating him into thinking she’s his mother like some Lifetime movie plot. She’s just good. She sings him songs, and teaches him to wave. It’s just when the teacher is the one who tells you what his favorite song is, your heart breaks a little. I didn’t know Haines could recognize Twinkle Twinkle Little Star, let alone request it (apparently there’s a hand gesture for this).

This week when she asked if she could feed him some of the foods the other kids are having at daycare I once again felt like she was telling me something I didn’t know about him. She was also taking away the one thing I contribute to his day- the food I make for him. It’s a minor thing. I like making his food but often the week feels like it gets away from me and sometimes it’s a pain. It will be easier when I have one less thing to bring for him.

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Pick-me-up flowers from a good husband

All the same every day this week I’ve felt heartache over our daycare situation. It’s the kind of thing I couldn’t imagine getting worked up over pre-baby life. I’m not quitting my job though. One, I don’t think we’re prepared for the financial changes we’d have to make and two, because I don’t think that’s who I am. Mentally, it would be very difficult for me to not have something of my own to go to each day.

I follow a lot of mom bloggers and Instagram accounts these days. I try not to get swept in by those who make parenting look picturesque and search out ones who honestly depict their lives. Stay at home, work at home, or work away from home- all of these are great and difficult. Each have their own challenges that sometimes don’t have a fix. You just have to get through.

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Grocery Strategy: Making Food Budgets Stick

Tyler and I have often said that if we didn’t like to cook so much, we probably wouldn’t have made it together. He likes death metal, I like folk music. He likes skate boarding, I like bicycling. He wants to go fishing, I’d rather read a book. We worked around all these things. I don’t listen to death metal but I will listen to punk. I spare him from my guilty pleasure country pop tunes (most of the time) and he’s open to hearing talented musicians of any genre that’s not jazz. Tyler used to take his skate board when I wanted to go for a walk (much harder to do with a baby and a dog) but will gladly ride bikes. I’ll happily go along fishing as long as I can bring my book. This may sound lacking in romance but what I think we really enjoy is each other’s company and we can do that outside over food then all the better.

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Hiking!

One of the downsides though of life with a tiny baby is cooking has been more functional than fun. We’ve struggled to be prepared at come meal time with ideas, food and the energy to accomplish actually making a meal. We’ve gone to bed without dinner in the last 9 months more than we have in our 7 years together. And yet our refrigerator is never bare. Between the downtown farmer’s market, our weekly Produce Box and general grocery shopping, we are much more likely to let food spoil and go over our food budget while we fall asleep at the dinner table. Our stomachs may be big (I blame baby- how long can I do that for?) but our eyes are bigger, at least when it comes to shopping.

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I’m not giving up our trips to the farmers’ market (mainly because it gets me out of the house) or our Produce Box (because local and love it- use my referral code to check it out!) Finally we’ve started to use meal planning to help us get things on track. We don’t use an app at this point (although I’d love some recommendations!), because Tyler is fairly anti-technology. This is our kitchen board with our meals for the week, our grocery store and Costco lists. I’ve also started putting what’s left in our grocery budget and alcohol budget (priorities!) on the board to help keep us in line. We’re about 3 months in and we’ve yet to make our budget.

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All the Stores

We utilize Costco primarily to stock up on organic meats, drinks and paper products as well as dog food. We bought a chest freezer from Better Than Never and use that to always keep meat on hand. If it came in jumbo packs, we use our vacuum sealer to keep it fresh and in reasonable quantities. Harris Teeter is our go-to for almost everything else. Like everyone else I, too, love Trader’s Joe’s but it drives me nuts that all their produce seems to be wrapped in plastic and there’s always something you can’t get there. Same with Aldi (although the cost savings is worth the extra trip). Tyler has been doing a lot of off-shore fishing and crabbing so we’ve been able to have a fish or crab night almost every week. In the colder months we’ll swap in oysters for crabs. Beach living has some serious food perks!

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Holding Ourselves Accountable

So basically every month I set what should be a realistic budget that we won’t possibly meet, even though we rarely eat out. What does this mean? We’re not actually using our budget. The very last thing I want to do is make us miserable or feel like a budget nag so instead I’m creating more touch points throughout the month. I tend to be in charge when it comes to money but if Tyler doesn’t know where we are, then it doesn’t help either of us. Basically, he just needs to be using our YNAB account more (YNAB is my the answer to everything.Use my referral code to see for yourself!) so he can see where we are in real time. (Okay, also sometimes I shop hungry and ruin this all on my own.)

When in doubt, freeze it.

There is always a point each week where I start sizing up the likelihood that our leftovers, produce, etc is going to make it much longer. Instead of shutting the fridge door, I’ve started to drop it in the freezer. Most items freeze well, even if you do need to repurpose them. Frozen tomatoes- great for cooking pasta or pizza sauce! Frozen leftover herbs- freeze in water or oil and drop in soup or sauce! Equally important is remembering to use said items. Checking the freezer before I start meal planning isn’t my strong suit but I’m working on it!

Make a plan, Stan.

We’ve made great strides in creating a meal plan each week. Before Tyler goes to work on Saturdays we hash out ideas while taking turns checking the fridge for needed items and running to stop Haines from pulling down the floor lamp. (Anyone else battling how to have light in your house without a baby knocking themselves unconscious?) Tyler wasn’t wild about meal planning initially but now we each pick a couple meals to organize so that it’s not one-sided towards one person’s preferences. Now we always go to the store with not only our grocery list but the meal list as well. The next step will be better incorporating ingredients across the week so we don’t end up with extra random items like cabbage, which we never know what to do with. (FYI green cabbage in your smoothie- no. Purple cabbage, yes.)

With our powers combined we’ll eat healthy, delicious meals every day and stay on budget. Next up, world domination!

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A Bad Case of Jealousy

I will start with the requisite disclaimer: I really like my life. I have a great husband, a happy baby, a sweet dog, a cozy home and a good job. I am undeniably one lucky lady. But…sometimes I get a case of overwhelming jealousy.

Over the last couple weeks friends near and far have gotten new jobs, visited old friends, explored far away lands, and so on. And I feel a little…stuck. Neither babies nor corporate jobs lend themselves to lifestyles of travel. Every tiny thing in baby life is new and yet each day is mired in repetition and routine. Every day Haines shows us a little bit more of what he is capable of. He gets more food in his mouth. He imitates and repeats our actions. He stands on his own two feet a few seconds longer, a tiny balancing person.

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Each little thing he does makes my whole body feel lighter. I actually can feel the physical sensation of joy filling me up. It’s so much more than I ever could have imagined.

And yet… it doesn’t negate the feelings of jealousy. I still am at a point where I am:

  • Figuring out how to make our routine fit my needs too. Every morning we try to find that perfect mix of play and get shit done. Each evening we try to unwind while keeping Haines entertained and hopefully giving Clara some attention too. When we break away from our routine for some social occasion it’s worth it but we often pay a price. Weekends are more fun now that Haines is more interactive, but still each day follows a fairly strict schedule. We wake up at the same time bright and early and follow the most important rule: fit nap time in whenever possible. When I can get a few minutes of Haines playing by himself or napping I work in vacuuming, baby food making, writing, bathroom cleaning and other things that aren’t particularly exciting. Still they’re essential for mental health.
  • Learning how to incorporate adventure into our lives. We don’t have the funds or the time to plan a European trip but we are finally starting to travel with baby HEB. We’ve visited all our parents (minus one that lives overseas) and have a trip to Charlottesville in the works next month. We’re even going to take our first overnight trip sans baby which is nerve wracking but incredibly exciting. When I feel downtrodden I don’t venture out as much but I know to stay upbeat I need long walks outside on the beach or in the park and so forth. I’m working on making outdoor, physically active time a required part of the weekend.
  • Reevaluating my career. This is easy to do being a new mom back at work. I have struggled over the last 6 months to feel confident in my abilities as a professional. When you are sleep deprived and feeling completely blinded in your home life, it spills over into your work life. Still even when I am feeling confident as a contributing member of my workplace, that often means I feel as though I’m taking away from my time or my focus at home. I don’t plan to leave my job or stop working but still I find myself changing the way I think about work and how it adds value…or doesn’t… to my life as well as I add value to my work.

One of my friends recently learned she’s pregnant and while she’s over the moon elated she also expressed feelings of apprehension, fear and general “what have I gotten myself into”. Everyone gets this idea that you can’t be both grateful and scared, happy and doubtful all at the same time, but every day I’ve experienced so far since becoming a parent is somehow a mix of total elation, frustration and a little jealousy.

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Yesterday Haines was asleep when I picked up from daycare and laid his head on my shoulder as we walked to the car. I could relive that one simple moment all day, with his soft chubby cheek on my shoulder, his sweet baby smell right next to me, his body normally wiggling, finally quiet. So I may, from time to time, mourn freedoms I used to have but I couldn’t imagine being anywhere else.

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Postpartum Baby Fever

Somewhere around 6 months postpartum baby fever hit me. I felt weirdly intense about my friends’ new babies and pregnancies. I followed another million mom Instagram accounts. I started to think about Haines as my first baby rather than just my baby. I sized up our guest bedroom for bunk beds. WTF.

If I’m perfectly honest, I’ve never had baby fever before. Don’t get me wrong, I have always loved babies. I love their tiny features and wispy hair and baby smell. I like babies that look like old men (90%) and ones with outrageous fat rolls (sadly, not mine). I have never not wanted to hold any baby I’ve encountered, but I’ve pretty much always been on the fence about actually birthing one. So, when I was struck down with baby fever after recently learning what it was like to birth a baby (without pain medication no less), it was particularly shocking to me.

I started to think about all the new baby things we would need for a second baby, as if we actually needed them. Two babies in cloth diapers- was it possible? As if we actually had another baby on the way. I asked all my coworkers about their children’s age gaps. Planned/not planned? Too far apart or so close together it makes you want to jump off a cliff?

Finally, over one of these conversations I fully fessed up on my baby fever status. My coworker said, “Oh, of course you have baby fever! You were pregnant and then you had a baby and all these things are happening. It’s all so exciting but then it’s just stops. Everything becomes normal.”

At first I thought this was insane. My life isn’t normal. There is a baby here! I have become a parent! He keeps teething and getting bigger and now he crawls at an alarming speed. How is that possible?! The last 18 months (pregnancy + baby) have been a huge whirlwind.

But, I guess this is my new normal. I am a parent…of a baby…who will become a child.

 Unknown Adventure

Pregnancy is so incredibly exciting. Even when it is agony, it is exciting. There is this unknown adventure growing inside you. It is easy to spend much of your time in disbelief that your body is capable of this. No really, this is how babies are made.

At the same time, everyone is talking to you about the baby, the belly, the future. This can be the most annoying thing ever, especially if you do not like to be the center of attention, but it also adds to the excitement. Either way, the dynamic has shifted. There is always something to talk about- you. This is handy because while you’re pregnant your world feels especially small. It’s hard to move your brain past the excitement but also the practical aspects of a new person. So, how exactly is this going to work? Today we are two people, but tomorrow we are three?

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Kindness

Most of the time people are also extra generous and kind to pregnant women and new parents. They stand up so you can have their seat. Your friends stock LaCroix at their house so you can have something to drink. When you birth that tiny person they even bring you food so you don’t starve to death. You are in fact so tired you would probably starve if someone didn’t just straight up hand you food.

But then these things start to come to an end. You start to put adult beverages back in your life and eventually the meal train stops. You also just start to adjust and your baby (hopefully) stops torturing you with needing to eat every 25 seconds. Eventually everyone sleeps and you’re able to go to the grocery store and buy snacks that you can eat one-handed. (Even if your baby isn’t feeding, he’s still most likely on your body in some way.)

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Some people even come from other countries to meet your baby.

Baby Steps

Everything is a total novelty. Every day someone asks me how Haines is and I wish I could explain the new thing he has learned that week but unless you are where I am, it doesn’t mean much. I could tell you that he has started jabbing the air in little punches when he is excited which is adorable but also dangerous because he also sometimes catches himself in the face. I could tell you that this weekend he started standing by himself for several seconds in a row which is a huge step for him.  I could talk about how he’s able to get way more food in his mouth when he feeds himself at dinner time but let’s be honest, last week he was getting like every 8th pea in so there was a lot of room for improvement. It’s baby stuff. Unless your baby has also just learned to eat peas with his or her tiny fists, it’s just not that exciting to you. That’s okay, though. I want you to be more interesting than that, too. (I’m working towards it.)

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#2

I’m not trying to say that people who have babies back to back just want to keep all the baby excitement in their lives going. People want their kids to be close in age. People want to knock out all their sleepless months in one stretch. I get that! But if you have recently had a baby and been struck down with baby fever (severity may vary) there is a chance that you are also in the same spot as me.

There is a chance that you are also caught up in a whirlwind  of everything new and everything cute. Realizing that for me was what finally freed up my mind from bunk beds and new baby names. Now I’m just enjoying a baby who will be 9 months next week and I have the space to figure out what might be the right time if and when that baby needs to become a big sibling.

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Schedules, Defining Success and the Internet Doesn’t Always Suck

This past week has been a crazy mess. I had to leave week early twice and work from home once because little HEB couldn’t keep his lunch down and has a double ear infection. Also, teething. Oh, and there was an eclipse. I didn’t really get to watch it because again, teething and ear infection, but I have glasses that prove it happened.

I’m between books right now so I’ve been spending a little more time surfing the web (for like 15 minutes before I fall asleep at 9). I don’t normally post what I’ve been reading but sometimes things come into your life at the right time.

How to Stop New Parent Attrition: I subscribe to a lot of HR sites but rarely read the articles. It’s hard to stop in the middle of the day and read about why everyone hates HR or OFCCP audit assistance. (You’re jealous of my job now, right?) To be honest, I skipped the part of this that offers helpful tips for your business. The author’s description of returning to work just hit me hard. So many working moms describe how difficult it is to go back to work but no one really talks about the insecurities they feel around their performance. Sometimes the internet makes me want to unplug my life and move to the woods, but this gave me just what I needed.

My friend Chrissy recently wrote a blog post about Learning to Live with Intention recently which has been on my mind quite a bit. Specifically, it was her focus on schedules and how structure gives us freedom. I’ve struggled with how pregnancy and parenthood has drastically changed my schedule, but now that our nights are mostly uninterrupted I’m starting to see the beginnings of scheduling time for myself regularly. I don’t want to get my hopes up but the fog seems to be clearing.

One of the key ways I want to free up my schedule is stop wasting so much time on my phone. It’s gotten better little by little but I still find myself on autopilot checking my Instagram or Twitter. I don’t need the news as it comes out. I listen to NPR on my commute and inevitably someone will tell me all the terrible things going on regardless. I don’t need to see it in real time. In this age of anger, it feels as though people are staying on their phones just to keep that level of fury going. Maybe that empowers some, but it disengages me. Just a bunch of things I’ve been doing to be more creative/focused/productive (and to spend less time screaming into the abyss) pretty much summed it up for me.

I spent years discovering the simple tactics gurus like Oprah, Einstein, and Buffett used to become successful—here they are: This is a stupid name for an article. You can feel how quickly it might insult your intelligence if bother to read it. And yet I did. My boss shared it with me knowing me both needed a bit of a pick me up. These tactics are really reminders that the way to success, in whatever way you define it, is about thinking, reading and communicating. It’s not about busting your hump in a dead-end job or even a good job. It’s about the things you care about. I come from the kind of family where you are encouraged to go to college to learn to think, not facilitate a career. This article was a reminder to get back to that attitude. Life is about learning to think, learning to communicate and sharing with those nearest or dearest. How easy it is for us to forget.