June: A Time for Balance and Reflection

This month has been a total whirlwind. It’s been pretty stressful and incredibly wonderful.

June has brought:

The realization that I can’t do everything.

I ended up having a wee little breakdown at work somewhere around the time my managers realized they’d given me too much to be responsible for. I’m working on delegating things more proactively and prioritizing more appropriately. Some things will just have to wait.

Similarly at home, I’m attempting to be a bit more relaxed about things. Contrary to my family’s beliefs our messy, often dirty home does bother me but by the time the baby goes to sleep it is hard for me to care. To be honest, it’s hard for me to remember. In the evenings I often think, what is it I said I was going to take care of tonight? I can’t remember it until way later. (Dear sleep, please come back.) I’m at the point now where I’m behind on birthday gifts, thank you’s, letters, cleaning, yard work, meal prep. The list goes on. In fact, I don’t think it’ll ever stop so I’m trying not to stress about it.

Adventures with baby

HEB turned 6 months on June 14th and every day it seems he has learned something new. This month he has found his voice and babbles or makes noises nonstop. He’s also found his tongue which is always sticking out now. We’ve started to introduce food and he’s on the verge of crawling. Our house is desperately in need of baby proofing!

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Nectarines should be worn as well as eaten.

Haines also took his first flights this month. We traveled two weekends in a row by plane which was totally stressful and honestly not that bad. He slept at least 50% of the time as it’s hard for him to resist a snooze in any mode of transportation. We were prepared the rest of the time with toys and our best funny voices. I don’t think any passengers hated us.

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We survived the Atlanta airport!

Quality family time

We don’t see any of our family nearly enough. Our closest family member lives only 4 hours away but we haven’t visited in over a year. Our other parents and siblings all reside in other states or countries so our visits definitely aren’t frequent. This month we got in two visits though which made June a pretty awesome month.

Father’s Day weekend Haines and I traveled with my mom, sister and her girls to Oklahoma for a long weekend. The newest member of our family got to meet my aunt and uncle on my mom’s side as well as several of our cousins. We were celebrating the life of my grandfather who passed away in October. It would have been his 99th birthday that weekend! While a sad occasion, I loved hearing the stories about PopPop- some familiar, some new to me. Our family is hardly ever all in one place so it was hard not to feel overjoyed at the chance to be with everyone.

Last weekend all three of us flew to Florida to be with Mum-Mum (Tyler’s mom). Unfortunately our reason for gathering was another sad one as Mum-Mum’s husband passed away a few weeks ago. He was truly a unique soul and I got to learn so much more about him during his celebration of life. We chatted with friends and family and saw so many great photos of Eric through the years! Just as the weekend before, the feeling of being together dominated. We hadn’t seen Tyler’s mom or his brother and girlfriend (BFF extraordinaire Natalie)  in several months and the reunion was much needed!

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 Time for reflection

We spent a significant portion of the month with family celebrating loved ones we can no longer be with. There is an obvious silver lining to this. We were reminded how important those individuals were and are to our lives as well as how grateful we are to have wonderful people in our lives. I have a healthy, growing son, a supportive husband, incredible friends all across the world, and a loving family from my parents to my siblings to the cousins, aunts and uncles I don’t often get to see. We’re a lucky bunch!

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Camping with Babies

One of the number one things I looked forward to in moving back to North Carolina was camping. In Austin we camped every month that Tyler was in town, but one of the things we’ve done the least since moving back has been…camping. In the two years we’ve lived in Wilmington, we’ve camped 4 times. To our credit it’s been in 4 different places.

We went with friends to Croatan National Forest two Easter weekends ago. After we got Clara we took her to a small island accessible by boat only. In September of last year, around the end of the second trimester I took Clara to join friends to camp at Neuse State Park.

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Camping while pregnant was… not as bad as anticipated. Drinking a beer around the campfire is one of my favorite parts of camping so abstaining did take a bit of the fun out. I laid on both sleeping pads for extra cushion and by some sort of magical force I only had to get up once in the night to pee. I wasn’t far enough long that my walking was affected so it was pretty fun!

This past weekend I took the next step in camping- camping with a baby. Natalie was in town and we took Haines and Clara to Carolina Beach State Park along with friends. It was a very busy weekend at the park but with the exception of one truck full of yelling partygoers the campsites were relatively quiet. We walked the nature trails, played games, roasted s’mores and journeyed to the neighboring brewery. You really can’t beat a state park next to a brewery. So this trip I got to drink beer around a campfire and at a bar. Major improvement on the previous camping experience. IMG_3269

Even though everyone chipped in helping with Clara and Haines, camping with both a 4 month old and an easily excited dog is stressful. Clara was somewhat well behaved which isn’t saying much. Other dogs typically hate her and this trip was no different. Haines didn’t mind being outdoors all the time. He also tolerates being carried in the front pack better than I tolerate carrying him.

As it turns out he does not tolerate sleeping on the ground in a sleeping bag very well. This is fair as many adult humans do not either. I made him a palate out of blankets and swaddled him in a muslin blanket inside a thin sleeping bag that also had a hood. He wore a knit hat which also didn’t help with the sleep issue. I had intended to pack his fleece sleep sack but failed to remember it.

I ended up feeding him 4 times during the night which is on par with the feeding schedule he had during his newborn nights. This was partly because I could never find his pacifier in the tent when I needed it. But a boob I could find so we went with that. He only woke the campsite up once around 3 am so that’s pretty good, right?

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In case you can’t tell that’s two friends, one dog and a baby. 

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Those two beautiful hours that Haines slept.

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Wrapped up against the morning chill!

Next time we camp I will:

  • Figure out another sleeping option for him (suggestions welcome!)
  • Stuff 10 pacifiers in my pillowcase so I can pull them out throughout the night
  • Bring along a chair/seat for Haines so I don’t have to hold him the whole time
  • Also put the flashlight in there so when I run out of pacifiers I can find more

I also am going to be on the lookout for another baby carrying device. I love the free aspect of our hand-me-down Chico carrier but it doesn’t fit me well and it hurts my back. Time to do some research on different options because the hiking and camping won’t be stopping!

 

Hear Our Voice: Standing Together

Yesterday thousands of women across the world gathered together and stood as one. Some marched for reproductive rights, some marched for equal pay, some for justice, environmental protections, education, LGBT rights, some in solidarity, some to just be heard. These are just a few. Many (most?) also marched against the new administration.

I have to admit that I had mixed feelings about the march. This may be as surprising to you as it was to me. I didn’t vote for Trump. You probably already guessed this. The number of concerns I have about him cannot be listed. I don’t need to because you already know them all. Even if you don’t agree, you’d have to be living under a rock to have not heard what concerns others have. But I am a person that is driven by hope. The anger and fear and negativity that is the obvious response to the election does not fire me up. I do not feel emboldened as so many of my friends do. I feel crushed under the weight of it.

Once I would have felt differently. I would written endless letters to newspapers and congressmen. I would have confronted strangers and annoyed friends. The same person who was once an outraged college freshman, flabbergasted that Bush had won a second term, is now much quieter. Is this the result being tired from pregnancy and a newborn? Is it related to having a partner who is more conservative than me? Or is it the unavoidable stream of negativity that is my Facebook feed, my NPR station, my morning news?

I haven’t been able to find hope in places in the external sources I’m used to. Instead I’ve had to pull away in order to see the good. This didn’t start with Trump’s presidential campaign, but long before. I can’t discuss a lot of national issues I should be familiar with for this reason.

When I first heard about the march, I was hesitant about unifying against the Trump administration. I don’t want to spend my time being against anything and anyone. Even if that’s how I feel, I want to work towards good. I want to build bridges. My extra energy, the energy I have after nursing and caring for a newborn, after my marriage, after myself, after work, after caring for the relationships that are important to me- that’s the energy I wants to spend working towards something.

 

The Women’s March gave me that. In a time where our country feels isolated, women across the globe in 55 different countries, stood up for us from New Zealand to Kenya to South Korea. Even Antartica rallied. In a time where our country is angry at Washington D.C., women flocked there with over 500,000 people in attendance. In a time where our country is not just divided but fractured/shattered/broken, marches were held in all 50 states and Puerto Rico.

We need community. We need to remember why we love our friends and neighbors. That we loved them between election years and why. We need to work together to build up those that need it- those that haven’t been served well enough in the past, those that we fear will be mistreated or forgotten in the next four years, those that need us and we need them.

OUR MISSION

The rhetoric of the past election cycle has insulted, demonized, and threatened many of us – immigrants of all statuses, Muslims and those of diverse religious faiths, people who identify as LGBTQIA, Native people, Black and Brown people, people with disabilities, survivors of sexual assault – and our communities are hurting and scared. We are confronted with the question of how to move forward in the face of national and international concern and fear.

In the spirit of democracy and honoring the champions of human rights, dignity, and justice who have come before us, we join in diversity to show our presence in numbers too great to ignore. The Women’s March on Washington will send a bold message to our new government on their first day in office, and to the world that women’s rights are human rights. We stand together, recognizing that defending the most marginalized among us is defending all of us.

We support the advocacy and resistance movements that reflect our multiple and intersecting identities. We call on all defenders of human rights to join us. This march is the first step towards unifying our communities, grounded in new relationships, to create change from the grassroots level up. We will not rest until women have parity and equity at all levels of leadership in society. We work peacefully while recognizing there is no true peace without justice and equity for all.

HEAR OUR VOICE.  -womensmarch.com

Yesterday I rallied with men, women and children in Wilmington, NC. I felt proud, inspired and encouraged to be with them and to hear their voices. It was the reminder I needed that change is attainable and we can all make a difference.

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Reflection: Growing Pains

2016 might be the most hated year ever. (It’s hard to say though since I’ve only been around for the last 30. Surely the years of the black plague top this.) Despite that I’ve heard many writers online say that while as a whole 2016 was the worst, personally it was a great year. For me, I would describe it as a positive year but overall it was a year of growth.

First off, I literally grew a person. It’s not often you get to use “literally” correctly but I really did. I have the traumatic childbirth memories to prove it (plus a baby).  Growing baby Haines was challenging in unexpected and totally predictable ways. The physical parts are trying- the fatigue, feeling physically weak, being sore in the third trimester, the discomfort of your organs moving to new places in the first. I hated having to slow down my lifestyle and feeling like I couldn’t do the things I enjoyed. Having those few months of discomfort and living in a body in which I felt little control taught me to be more aware and have empathy for those who deal with these issues on a daily basis.

I was surprised to find the social aspect challenging. While I loved discussing pregnancy and parenting with friends, answering overly personal questions to total strangers was frustrating and monotonous. And it didn’t help that many of my friendships have always included a shared love of beer. When one of your favorite social activities is visiting breweries and you’re pregnant, you’ve just damaged your social life.

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My last drinks before we knew about Haines.

Emotionally I struggled with bridging from a pre-pregnancy lifestyle to parenthood. As brain mushed from hormones so did my desire to be creative or try new things. My interest in the world narrowed severely as our little household began to feel like more than I could handle. Even now I have a hard wrapping my brain around all that is going on. Then again, I don’t think I’m the only one.

Second, I became a parent here in the last few weeks of the year. Childbirth followed by a taking a 2 week old to the ER were growing pains that I don’t need to repeat for quite some time. (Of course now baby Haines is teaching me how to handle his first cough/cold which I’m also not pleased to learn about.)  As an unexpected consequence of becoming a parent I’ve also learned that this little guy gives me strength I wouldn’t expect. No, I don’t sleep through the night now but surprisingly, it’s okay. Our trip to the hospital was terrifying, but also, it was okay. As long as Haines is here with us, everything seems doable. Even when it’s terrible.

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Professionally, I also evolved. For the first time I was in a position where I was speaking with high-level executives professionally on a regular basis. After years of experiencing anxiety with public speaking, I became my company’s Toastmasters club president, an organization dedicated to my top fear. It is with that same new confidence that I forged relationships and created programs that I’m proud of. It is also what allows me to feel comfortable taking 12 weeks leave to be with Haines. Thank goodness for that.

I expect 2017 to also be a year of growing pains… and perhaps every year going forward. We are still learning to get through the day and before I know it I will have to learn how to go back to work. I don’t have any resolutions for 2017 but I hope to learn about balance, who I am as a mother and a partner and my son.

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Photo credit: Zachary Sprague

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Post-Vacation Blues

I think of myself as a pretty good traveler. I’m relatively low maintenance. If we need to stay in a ten-person dorm to make our trip happen, then by all means let’s do it. I can spend all day walking around a city or trying new food or meeting new people. No itinerary necessary. I love it all! Recently I’ve discovered; however, that I am not a good person for coming home. Many people rejoice at the idea of sleeping in their own bed and being able to just grab something from their own fridge. That’s all good and well but that coming home slump is unavoidable for me. Even at 32 weeks pregnant when I really need my own bed and walking around a new city is more tiring than exciting, coming home is still tough to handle.

The last day of our honeymoon, a road trip back to Texas from our wedding in Virginia, Tyler woke up eager to get the long 8 hour drive out of the way. I cried all through breakfast and most of the way home. Sunday when we came home from a wedding in Georgia followed by a one-night “baby moon” I sat at the kitchen counter staring at my to-do lists just sinking into my disappointment at being home.

It’s not so much being home as it is being back in real life that gets me every time. It’s meal planning and no longer being able to buy things with the exclamation, “Who cares, we’re on vacation!” It’s setting an alarm for 6 am but hitting snooze and feeling bad for not walking the dog. Work days just aren’t nearly as exciting as vacation days. Bah.

We set out for Milledgeville, GA last Friday to see one of Tyler’s best buds get married. When they weren’t fishing on salmon and halibut boats he and Rex lived in a trailer together in Alaska on a 9-hole golf course. They worked and lived together for 7 seasons. Every year that Tyler and I were dating, I would go up for a week and stay with them. It was awesome to see them together again after these last two years apart.

Unfortunately we encountered several delays on our way to GA and the during the day before the wedding was a rainy mess so we really didn’t get to explore the town. We drove by Andalusia (inspiration for many a Flannery O’Connor story!) and walked into a couple cool shops. The rest of our time was spent watching one of the Steve Jobs biopics in the hotel and doing wedding activities.

Being sober at a wedding is not something I’ve ever wanted to experience, but I’ve now done it twice this year. It’s not so bad when there’s really good music! We were treated to a Motown-style band from Atlanta that truly killed it. They did an awesome job and while my dance floor time has been severely reduced I have managed to create a pretty sweet belly dance. Don’t be jealous.

The day after the wedding we met the bride and groom with some of their friends for a late breakfast at IHOP before heading down to Savannah. Flooding and downed trees had made the inland journey to GA pretty difficult so we opted for the coastal route back with a stop to celebrate our 2-year anniversary!

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We stayed at a very basic, but totally adorable place called the Thunderbird Motel. It was decked out in retro colors, super affordable and right on the edge of everything. We would have stayed in an Airbnb but we couldn’t find anything with that didn’t require a multi-night minimum without a pricey cleaning fee. Next time we’ll just have to stay for longer! Regardless, we weren’t disappointed. Our room came with 2 RC colas and 2 Moonpies. Um, amazing.

This was an incredibly short trip (less than 24 hours) so we saw the slightest peek into Savannah. We were able to walk the river area (pretty touristy), through Colonial Cemetery and down to Forbush park. So beautiful! Later I read a guidebook in our hotel room that informed me of the numerous dead bodies under the sidewalks surrounding the cemetery (apparently they needed the cemetery to be smaller- why not just pave over it, right?!) and the yellow fever victims buried in Forbush Park. Next time, I definitely want to do a ghost tour! I love learning about all that kind of stuff.

The houses and parks were incredible. It seemed like there was a small, green park with beautiful live oak trees every few blocks. While it would be hard to trade our yard and quiet street in I was definitely pondering whether or not it’d be worth it to live in an old home in Savannah where you could walk everywhere.

Savannah is also a food destination and I feel like we hit two awesome spots. We stopped for an appetizer at Public to fuel us up for the evening. I broke the rules and shared a salmon bruschetta with Tyler. We’re talking soft, lightly toasted bread with Boursin cheese, fig jam, smoked salmon and caramelized onions. Holy moly! I wanted it to last forever. Unfortunately our appetizer really set the bar too high and dinner didn’t compare. We ate dinner at Jazz’d, an Americanized tapas bar. Meh. I won’t waste time on it here.

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Breakfast was another story altogether! We splurged on a fancy breakfast at the Collins Quarter. Totally worth it! The owner is Australian so he offered coffee drinks like the flat white and breakfasts that included grilled tomatoes and baked beans. It’s been quite a while since I’ve seen a menu like that! We sipped on a vanilla milkshake with espresso (not me) and homemade chai (yes, me!) while raving over our meals. Tyler ‘s breakfast was buttermilk biscuits with a link of chicken apple sausage, a smoked bacon gravy, fennel-apple slaw and poached eggs. The weirdest part? It didn’t leave him in a food coma. My meal proved the impossible- vegetables are for breakfast too!  I ate squash and broccolini, ya’ll. For breakfast. And I loved it. It was braised short rib over potato hash cakes with avocado smash and sautéed squash topped with over easy egg and chimichurri. There was broccolini on the side as well. Life-changing.

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It was a wonderful trip. We got to see two incredible people get married, explore new areas, eat incredible food and be all lovey-dovey all over the place. And now that we’ve been home a few days, it turns out it’s pretty nice to be home again after all.

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I know I’m biased but he’s a pretty cute date. 

A Little Trip to the Lone Star State

This past week I got a chance to travel for work. It’ll be last non-local travel until I’m back from maternity leave so I had to take advantage of it. I’m not often given the opportunity to travel outside the state (but when I do it’s dangerously close to my due date and I have to refuse- er!) so making the most of each trip has been key.

This time I was being sent to Fort Hood (Killeen) Texas for a career fair. In case you don’t know that’s delightfully close to Austin. To make the most of a trip to Austin you must do two things. 1. You must eat very well. 2. You must go swimming. Otherwise you may not survive. And you just don’t know what you’re doing.

Austin Eating:

Snooze-

Snooze is a relatively new “A.M.” eatery which basically means it’s a breakfast/brunch place. I thought it was delicious and adorable but my eating companions did order various types of eggs Benedict and they were all- tiny. So just don’t get that.

Black’s BBQ-

Eating BBQ was a priority for me this trip. After an afternoon of swimming we weren’t interested in driving all over the countryside. Luckily since I’ve left Austin some of the best hill country restaurants have opened up locations in town, including Black’s! We all ordered way too much food and ate until our eyes bulged. It was totally worth it. This is the BBQ way.

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Juiceland-

So many delicious smoothie and juice options in Austin! Why don’t we have this in Wilmington?

Kebabilicious-

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Sa-ten-

I worked here one afternoon and really enjoyed it. By chance, my brother-in-law was also working remotely there. I sampled his lunch and it was insanely delicious. I have to figure out how to recreate it.

Vera Cruz-

We ate from the Vera Cruz food truck at Radio during bluegrass night which was delicious but didn’t rock my world or anything. The music and beautiful outdoor area there is awesome though.

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So glad I didn’t leave Austin without a ladies night out dinner with Via 313. I would have certainly regretted it. That is a pizza with balsamic reduction and PROSCUITTO. Get overwhelmed.

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Swimming:

McKinney Falls is a nice, although more expensive alternative, to Barton Springs. We weren’t prepared for the line or the crowds so we headed east instead of into town for this swim time. I’ve gotten a little spoiled now that my swimming life is almost entirely in the Intracoastal Waterway or the ocean but this dip saved me from insanity. Texas, you are too damn hot.

Baby Love:

The best part of my trip? I experienced my very first baby shower as a mama-to-be! It was incredible. I can’t express how loved I felt.

There were peanut butter chocolate cupcakes, baby rubber ducks floating in mocktails, only ONE game and it wasn’t embarrassing in the least AND it was co-ed. Perfection.

I wish Tyler could have been there and that I could have spent more time with everyone who came. It was incredibly special.

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Like a Kick in the Gut

I think it was around 17 weeks that I started feeling kicks. They weren’t real kicks yet since presumably the baby still had little t-rex arms and itty bitty legs. They were flutters. A friend said it best when she compared it popcorn popping. It is a gentle burst of movement. The movement is brief, light and airy but undeniably there. Although I had been nervous about feeling like there was an alien inside, I cried when I when I felt the first movement. I felt totally overwhelmed and without words.

I have not yet reached the stage where a kick is clearly a kick or I can recognize an elbow from a foot. Munchkin is still small enough to do somersaults which are a move that stops me in my tracks. I hold my breath until it has finished, unable to do anything on my own. Equally there are kicks and stretches and what feels like drum practice. I watch my belly move now. I spend time picturing a baby inside so I don’t focus on this scene too much.

 

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I know, gross. Sorry.

 

When I was in high school (or earlier?) I read Summer Sisters by Judy Blume over and over. This is one of Judy Blume’s adult books and it focuses on two friends. It’s a story I am more familiar with now and recognize in other books. There are two girls- one is more outwardly wild, obviously beautiful, mysterious and attracts all the boys while the other is quiet, always watching with strengths and beauty she had to work to recognize. The teenage girls become adults, wives and mothers. I can’t remember what became of the quiet friend, what her hardships were as an adult or her successes. The wild one sticks out in my mind with her affairs and her gypsy life. She became a mother but in name only. Her lack of connection to actual mothering and the lack of relationship with her children stuck out to me then as it does now, like a song I can’t get out of my head. It is a terrifying idea- that you might have children but never commit to the job, never connect with your children, never really get it.

Among the many fears I contemplate- some irrational, some not- this is one. It’s not one I put a lot of stock in. I compare it more to fearing ghosts or something else that could totally be real but probably won’t affect me. Still it is the change in kicks that is the most reassuring. At first every kick was a curiosity but now it makes me laugh. Watching my belly move and feeling so many little movements immediately throws me into the giggles. I try to hold my breath to not miss feeling everything but I am too tickled to be successful. Tyler has missed many a good kick because I can’t stop laughing long enough for him to get his hand on my belly. 14 more weeks y’all!