Rebranding…again

I’m taking a second attempt at rebranding.

The last time I did this, I was gearing it towards something that was taking over my life, but not something I particularly enjoyed. Writing about being a travelling executive mom meant having to deal with the fact that I was doing something that gave me a tremendous amount of anxiety and guilt. Neither of which are easy to process publicly.

Now?

I bought a new lens for my camera last summer and I’m taking pictures of my kids. I’m reading more. We are spending more time together outside as a family. I wrote the first draft of a novel in November.

I’m painfully introverted, and the antenatal depression I had with our second baby has come back as postpartum depression. The world is a frightening, overwhelming place right now, and as it turns out, I’m not in a position to don a pink dress (or blue duster, or modified kimono, or green cloak, or–) and set out to save the world. I have very young kids who need me. I frequently collapse under the weight of the depression and find it difficult to get out of bed, much less lead a revolution.

But I can call my representatives in congress. I can make sure I am raising children who are inquisitive, who love learning, who treat others with kindness, and who respect the natural world.

I can Make Good Art.

And that’s what I intend to do.

The Moving Post.

My Daughter's Gonna Be A Super Villain!

“Have you noticed that [everybody else’s] stuff is s**t and all your s**t is stuff?” – George Carlin

I own a lot of things.  They aren’t big things or important things, they’re just… things.  Bottle caps, ticket stubs, pens, cigar bands, random arcade tokens, etc.  Basically, an assortment of miscellaneous odds and ends that I’ve managed to gather over the course of my life thus far.  None of these items have a use any more beyond nostalgia for a life I’ve since grown out of and bragging rights for some event I can’t remember the details to.

I have nineteen empty bottles that I’ve been holding on to because I like the labels.  Nineteen.  Four of them are special in that I will never be able to purchase them again, but the other fifteen?  They have gargoyles on them.  That’s it.

That’s just one example, but it’s a good one…

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Re-branding

When I started my new job, I had the idea to rebrand this blog. A lot of the ideas I had for entries seemed to focus more on my family than on vague philosophies about finding The Way. About a month ago I even changed the format and added a header. And a few days ago I thought about creating a completely new blog, with a new URL and everything.

I have no idea if I’m going to do anything with this place, or just continue to use it for those times when I have thoughts I manage to string together in a marginally coherent fashion. Either way, I needed a change. And while I originally thought I’d write a post on the idea of branding, and what it means from a personal standpoint (and not, I might add, a flatiron standpoint), and then, as the new year approached, thought I might write on the new year (though not, perhaps, as optimistically as I did three years ago).

But instead I want to write about Kairi, and the end of a journey.

nursing

I always planned to breastfeed. I have nothing against formula-feeding moms and know that for many, formula is the reason their babies are still here. Or the reason that mom’s sanity is still here. Or some combination of the two. But for me, breastfeeding was just what you *did,* and as long as I had milk and Kairi wasn’t born with anything that would have prevented her from being able to latch, she would nurse.

This isn’t necessarily a post about our breastfeeding journey, because we really were very lucky in terms of that. She latched for the first time about 30 minutes after birth, and never looked back. I hated pumping but managed it well enough to keep her fed while I was a work, and while I had a pretty severe dip in supply when she was about 3 months old, from a combination of travelling, me getting sick, and going back to work full time, once I got that under control we were fine. I even had some frozen milk leftover I was able to donate to another mama after Kairi’s first birthday. The hardest part of nursing for us, was that she wanted to nurse All. The. Time., and in short sessions, which made it hard to do anything when I was home, and ensured she woke up multiple times a night to nurse. And because she loved nursing so much, she loved sticking her hand down my shirt and twiddling (if you’re not sure what that is, it’s exactly what it sounds like and just as annoying). There were a lot of frustrations on my part, but not a lot of actual difficulty.

By the time I started travelling overnight for work, we were down to one nursing session per day, at bedtime, and only on the nights I was home. My supply dropped, and dropped. And around Thanksgiving, she was losing interest in nursing at night entirely, so I decided I would pick a day that would be The Last Day, so I wouldn’t miss it. And I had a few days in mind–Christmas, New Year’s, or her 18 month birthday (which, spoiler alert, was today).

Then Christmas came, and she got sick and wanted to nurse more. And last week she was mostly better, but still very determined to go back to her old habits, and between being sick and getting her molars, bedtime in general was being a nightmarish (see what I did there?) experience, and not the way either of us needed to say goodbye to nursing.

And then…tonight.  I brought my phone upstairs on a whim, since I didn’t feel like going into the bedroom to grab my book. Bedtime was way too late and I expected a battle and figuring I wouldn’t get much reading in, anyway. We sat down. She lifted my shirt, and smiled at me before latching on. And for the first few minutes, she went back and forth between the breast and her sippy cup (again–almost no supply anymore), and at one point tried to put both in her mouth at the same time. And eventually gave up and just…nursed. She popped off one more time to drink from her sippy cup and I switched her to the other side, and she nursed–comfort nursed, rather–with her eyes half-closed and that perfect, peaceful look babies have as they are drifting off, until she fell asleep at the breast and let her head drop beside me.

It was perfect.

So my rebranding isn’t about my blog, or what I want people to think of when they see me, or even what I want out of the new year. It’s about me and my daughter. And that for the first time since she was conceived, we now exist entirely as two separate people. Tomorrow I’ll wake up and drive to Lynchburg, and she’ll wake up, fully 18 months old, with no idea that anything is different. And while nothing will *really* change from this, we both had one last, beautiful moment as one.

sleeping niblet

Goodnight tiny bug. ❤

Happy Birthday to Me

[Originally written on 10/7/14. How time flies.]
Tomorrow is my 30th birthday. And while being married to somebody over a decade your senior gives you a fairly “meh” attitude towards the actual number of your age (I actually forget how old I am quite frequently…), I’ve thought a lot over the last few months about my 20s, where I am now, and what it means to be successful. Seeing as I am going to celebrate 30 by waking up alone in a hotel room 150 miles from home, the lead in to writing about my 30th birthday almost writes itself.
I don’t remember my 20th birthday. I didn’t realize this until just now, when I tried recalling it as a point of comparison. I remember 19, which was a really incredible birthday. I was a freshman in college, and my roommate and boyfriend at-the-time threw me a surprise party. It was in the study lounge across the hall from my dorm, only had chips and soda for refreshments, but there were *so many people* there. Back then I was far more extroverted, but no less a stranger to compartmentalizing my life, and there was a crossover of those compartments that my roommate (one of the biggest extroverts to ever extravert) managed to track down and get into one place, if only for an hour or so. I felt so amazingly, wonderfully, loved. And skipping ahead two years, whlie I don’t remember 20 (it *might* have been because we combined it with a Halloween party? I remember a Halloween party that year at least….), 21 was another year marked with the various social circles I kept–my work friends one night. My family. My work friends from the job I had recently left. My school friends. With my birthday falling on Columbus Day weekend, I had a five day long celebration, and while many drinks were purchased, never got truly drunk once.
And now, a decade later, I am sitting in a hotel room, drinking beer, eating sushi and tempura delivered right to my room, and listening to music playing on a cell phone app, and the sound of a serious thunderstorm. Alone.
But this is not a lament.
I actually got the general idea of this almost two years ago, right after I announced my pregnancy at work. One of the other managers was asking me about my feelings on becoming a mother, and mentioned that she was older than I was, but I had a house (even if we rent), a husband, and now I was going to have a baby. She wasn’t being deprecating, more just congratulating me on what is, I feel, a very white, suburban measure of success (particularly as she isn’t white–and yes, that is significant, as that white, suburban dream rarely takes into account the fact that other cultures don’t share the same dreams, and aren’t afforded the same opportunities to achieve it even when they do.).
Graduate. Get married. Have a baby. These are the things you do in you twenties. These are the things I see friends who have already turned 30 joking about if they don’t have, congratulating themselves on if they do.
My response to my coworker was that success is subjective, and then to point out the numerous trips overseas she’s taken, trips she wouldn’t have been able to take as easily if she was married (traveling together is awesome, but vacations do tend to double in price, especially if airfare is involved). Trips that people who do get married young later can wish they’d found a way to do before they settled down. She brightened a little at that, and began reminiscing about some of the things she has seen. In her 20s. She’s so well-travelled–and that is successful.
I have another friend, a close friend, a friend I admire endlessly, who is just older than me, and is not married and does not have children. We worked together, years ago, and left that job around the same time–where I moved back home and ended up getting married, and finding a job in the same mall I worked at when I was in high school even if in a vastly different role, she has been touring the world on concerts for people you may -may- have heard of. Like Ricky Martin. And Beyonce. Not too long ago her job took her to New Zealand, and while it was for work and not pleasure, my jealously over that cannot be understated. She is successful.
So why, at milestone birthdays, is there such pressure to measure ourselves? Why in general? Why is success ever anything other than subjective?
For what it’s worth–I consider myself successful. I am a wife, and a mother. I recently took a job that allows me to support my family financially. I might not be home as often as I would like, but I have given my daughter the gift of her father, and given her father the gift of time to pursue his dream. I am writing fairly regularly. Maybe not anything that will ever be published, but it is a constant, creative outlet. I bought my first brand new car last month. I have roots. As nomadic as I thought I was, for as long as I spent yearning for the greener grass, I have a solid network of friends, and a city I love and am proud to live in. And I am not sad to wake up tomorrow, alone. It is a side-effect of a life that is different than I ever would have imagined, but one that I am happy with.
And time flies. Ten years ago I was reluctantly pursuing a college degree, ready to drop out to either take a full time job in theme park entertainment, or to be a military wife–whichever opportunity presented itself first. Would 20 year old me be satisfied, that I haven’t been to New Zealand? Would teenage me be anything other than disgusted to learn that she grows up to be a Suit? Because despite this ridiculous measure of white, suburban success, it’s also a white, suburban cautionary tale: don’t give up your dreams for the stable job with benefits, lest you end up with a body that won’t cooperate, remembering everything you *meant* to do. Right now, it’s what we are supposed to want. In 30 years, it will be something I compromised on.
Maybe.
Today, I am happy. Today, I measure success differently than I did at twenty. And I’m sure differently than I will at 40.
Tomorrow, I will start a new decade. And it will only be as different as I make it.
[I should note, here, that I woke up around 3am violently ill from the aforementioned Chinese food, and that sense then I have gained weight, found more grey hair, and an old knee injury is coming back in force. So maybe my 30s suck a little more than I thought they would on their eve. But it doesn’t change the fact that even though the idea of doing a Middle Earth tour is more and more a fleeting dream, I have a happy, fulfilling, sexy, and loving marriage, a healthy daughter who is full of joy and laughter, and a successful career, and that while I might not be protesting in D.C., or chaining myself to Redwoods, I am learning more ways to create private influence within my own life…)

Work-Life Balance

About a month ago I read a  blog post about being a working mom. Or so I thought. Being a working mom myself I got excited, because so many of the posts that tend to come my way are written by SAHMs, and I can only relate to those so much. There are challenges that SAHMs face that I do not, and challenges I face that they do not. Not to say one is more difficult that the other, but I was looking forward to a post about something more specific to my situation. Instead, work meant work-at home, and talked about the difficulties of that–which are, to be fair, immense, if my imagination and the internet are in any way accurate. But as this night I was feeling particularly stressed about working long hours and then coming home and being a mom, I thought I would just write my own post about it. Then the mom job kicked in before I could write anything and I didn’t get to it that night, and then the next day I found out about a promotional opportunity at work.

And I decided to hold off writing my post until I knew if I would get that job (I did!), since it adds an extra dimension to being a working mom. I’m now a working mom who will be working longer hours, traveling overnight 1-2 nights a week, and will take phone calls and answer emails from home. I will travel out of state for meetings periodically. I will spend a significant amount of time during the week away from home. I will miss many bedtimes, will wake up in a hotel half a state away from my family, and will no longer be able to go home and see my daughter on my lunch breaks.

In return, my husband is taking fewer hours at his job, and we will gain weekends as a family. Not all weekends, but far more than we have now (which is none, unless we request them off).

But for my original point–what is it that makes working outside the home hard?

Leaving in the morning. When she’s being cute. When she’s upset and just wants mommy. When it’s a beautiful day and we could go to the park. When it’s dreary and perfect for hanging out inside and playing with toys. When my friends are having play dates. When I pass her off to daddy, or grandma, or our family friend who babysits her once a week, and she cries because she doesn’t want me to let go.

Coming home at night. When she’s in a good mood and I missed it all day. When she’s in a bad mood and I’m exhausted and just want to sit for a few minutes but can’t even take the time to pee to try and unwind from work because she’s trying to climb into my lap, or unravel the toilet paper, or pull all of my earrings out for the drawer she got tall enough to reach since that morning. When I’m hungry and can’t make dinner because she didn’t take her afternoon nap and needs to go to bed so dinner has to wait. When I have an errand to run I can’t put off and we get home after bedtime, and the only chance I even get to cuddle with her is when she’s nursing, and I look at her and just want to cry that another day went by that she didn’t get to see her mommy.

When I see her do something new during the time I do have with her, and when I tell Billy, he already knows because he saw it happen earlier in the week.

When I have one day off and I need to buy groceries, run errands, make phone calls, catch up on paying the bills, do laundry, possibly squeeze in a visit with my friends to remind them that I exist, attempt to cook a real meal, clean up the gambit course she’s created during the week from her toys, and mow the grass, and at the end of the day I feel like I’ve spent about as much quality time with my daughter as I do on a day that I work. When I get annoyed with her for wanting my attention because this is my only day to take care of everything else, and then feel guilty for being annoyed with her because it’s also my only day to spend with her, and all those cutesy memes on the internet about how you can have a clean house when your kids are old because they’re only going to be little once flash through my mind.

When I just want time to myself.

The mix of guilt and exhaustion and yes, resentment, that comes in the time after work, after she has gone to bed, when the only thing I can do for myself is write or watch tv or sort laundry (hah!) because my craft room is a bunch of fabric shoved into a corner in the same room as her crib, and Billy is at work for another three hours so I can’t even take a walk.

So why take this new job? Why add longer hours, less time to do anything during the week, and more time away from home, when it’s already such a source of stress?

Because Billy gets to be home more. He can take on more of the household chores so I don’t have to spend every Saturday morning at the grocery store. Because, by being home more, he can have Billy time, as our babysitting needs will be reduced by necessity so we might be able to take advantage of Grandma to give him a few hours each week to take care of himself–write, get a haircut, even take a nap, which will make him a happier, healthier person.

Because I get alone time. I might spend most of it working, but I get one night in a hotel room every week completely by myself. I am not looking forward to going to sleep without my husband. Or to knowing that when Kairi wakes up wanting mommy I won’t be there. Or to have to say goodnight to her via Skype and not being able to kiss her, or see her smiling at me first thing in the morning. But I will have time to take a shower without worrying that I’m either missing her crying for me when she wakes up early from a nap, or trying to climb into the tub with me despite dad’s best efforts to entertain her. I will be able to pay bills, and make phone calls, and catch up on emails. I might even be able to write. And if nothing else, I get to spend 3 hours in the car each way listening to music, rocking out, and clearing the junk out of my head.

Because for the first time in our entire relationship, Billy and I will get to spend time together on the weekends where we don’t already have other plans. We’ll have days off that aren’t devoted to going out of town, or being social, or running errands. Kairi will get to spend time with both of her parents, instead of us taking turns the way we do now.

Because I’m trading an hour a night during the week where Kairi and I don’t get quality time anyway for weekends where we do.

I’m not fooling myself that it will be hard, or that all of the reasons I listed above that make being a working mom hard will become even harder, or that there are going to be times when I completely regret this decision and want to go back to the old way. But parents are constantly told we have to take time for ourselves. And taking this job has given me a chance to not only get a little bit of time to myself, but that will allow Billy to take time away for himself as well, and that will ultimately give the three of us more time together. And hopefully, the times when I’m not at work, and when I am Mom, I can be mom fully, and without distraction.

“No matter what people tell you, words and ideas can change the world.”

We are cynical.

I hesitate to say that the internet has made us cynical, because it hasn’t–cynicism has always been there. But social media has made it easier to find other cynical attitudes and build upon them.

There are two ways I see it happen most frequently.

The first, is whenever a tragedy happens. A school shooting. Violent conflicts in other countries. Natural disasters. As soon as breaking news hits, there’s a race to be the first person to post about it on Facebook. And then once it’s out there, there’s a competition to be the most sympathetic to someone else’s plight. Who can make the most poignant comment about the deaths of children? The most profound statement about an act of war?

And almost immediately, there are the cynics. Someone who posts the everyday statistics of gun deaths followed by “why do we only care when it’s a mass shooting?” Someone who links to places you can donate money to help organizations in the trenches, fighting to make change when nobody is watching, with a smart-aleck comment about how sad Facebook messages aren’t going to change anything. The people who post off-topic conversations and then draw attention to how they aren’t caught up in the trend of talking about [said tragedy here.]

I’ve been both. More often than not, the cynic.

I think it’s all a search for authenticity, personally. That’s a much broader topic than I care to cover here, but ultimately, no matter your social media response, I think it’s a desire to express to the cyber-aether that you know something has happened in a way that isn’t just parroting what the person before you said. Maybe because what happened is too horrifying. Maybe because you feel helpless. Maybe because you don’t really care all that much but don’t want to appear heartless. (Or maybe because you don’t really care and want to make that known). But the sympathetics and cynics alike are all trying to acknowledge awareness, in whatever way seems best for them at the time.

The other cynicism I see isn’t as much a product of social media, but of academia, and that is the idea that pop culture is the numbing of society, and that if you’d rather play a video game than read a history book, watch a tv show than spend time in a research library, that you’re–whatever it is they say. Weak-minded. A drone. Something about False Idols.

I haven’t been there as often. But I have. Sometimes. It’s okay to obsess over a TV show, but only a smart TV show. I’ve struggled to make peace between the fact that I am a raging fangirl and the fact that I read non-fiction for fun, grow some of my own food, and look up to people in academia who dismiss fandom as trite and unenlightened. I have frequently referred to the “____ and Philosophy” books as ‘Pop Philosophy,’ and admitted they are enjoyable reads, but dismissed them as having no academic merit.

Maybe it’s a way of shutting millennials out of discussions about climate change, terrapsychology, philosophy. Maybe it’s a hipster thing, for millennials who want to sound like they are above their peers who go to see movies on opening weekend, and flock to twitter after a season finale to flail about a fictional world. That discussion is also for another time though–a time that talks about Jung, Lewis, and Campbell, about archetypes and myth.

This discussion is about Robin Williams, and the complete lack of cynicism I’ve seen on social media since the news broke of his passing.

I haven’t seen people clamoring for the best eulogy, or trying to break the news in an authentic way. I haven’t seen the predictable commentary on the cause of death (unless you count the outpouring of support for mental illness, the genuine messages of hope and love for people fighting a similar battle, and the links to places to find support). I haven’t seen the cynics, mocking people for getting upset over the loss of somebody they never knew, while children are dying in the streets overseas.

I’m not saying those posts aren’t out there–but they’re not nearly as vocal as they normally are.

What I see, are people talking about the impact his movies had on their lives. People bonding over which one of his films were their favorites. People remembering the laughter he brought to their childhood. People connecting.

I remember, back when I was in college, defending Theatre as my major. I remember having conversations about making the world a better place, and feeling a degree of shame that here I was, learning lighting design, and costuming, and how to create art, while elsewhere in the world there was genocide, deforestation. That bees were dying and the oceans were rising, while I climbed up and down ladders dropping colored gels into lighting instruments that cost more than a huge number of American families make in a week. A month. My defense was always: people needed to escape. They needed to smile. They needed to feel. That art as a craft might not do much for world hunger, but that it served humanity, and that it might bring humanity to the people who could do something about world hunger. That if I could be a part of something that made people smile, they might go back to their lives a little more willing to focus on something bigger.

It felt like an excuse. And maybe it was. Maybe it was my own way of justifying my disappointment in myself that I wasn’t protesting in the streets, or joining the Peace Corps, or focusing all of my energy into research that would help people on a more quantitative level.

But if anything, I think the response to Robin Williams’ death shows how important art really is. That no matter who we are or where our priorities lie, that no matter the helplessness, heartbreak, or cynicism we might feel at things out of our control, that we need those things that unite us, connect us. That we need common ground. That we need to laugh.

The world is so divided. Politically, culturally, idealistically, financially.

But one thing we all have in common is the amazing depths of emotion we are capable of. And art brings us to that.

And today we lost an artist who could tap into that, and remind us that whatever else was going on that it’s okay to cry, but especially that it’s okay to laugh.

Invisible Mileposts

I live by invisible mileposts. Or at least, I did.

Maybe it’s a complete indecision about what I actually want to do with my life–I have a broad, overall idea of how I want my life to go, but ultimately, there are so many things I want to do, to study, to learn, to influence, that trying to narrow that down makes me uncomfortable. What if I choose the wrong one? What if I choose too soon and miss an opportunity? Why can’t one person do everything?

So, I look at short, achievable goals.

Make it through to the weekend.

Just get to the con.

Get through this month and finances will be a little better.

At work I’ve lived this way for a long time. I worked seasonally for a very long time–working in theme parks, there was always an end date to my job, so no matter the stress, the drama, the financial strain, the whatever, there’s been an end point.

It’ll be easier at the end of the summer.

The season is almost over.

Or —

The season starts in just a couple of weeks.

And the same went for my off-season jobs: I worked in theme parks for the majority of the year, and looked for seasonal work in the winter. As a result, my early employment history is very variegated. I have stage management, retail, administration, and…laser quest? All within a few years of each other. So as an adult, once I graduated and got a “real” job, there’s been a sense of impermanence about it the whole time I’ve never been able to identify.

This is a good job until I go back to school.

This is a good job, until I get to a strong enough point in my research to feel comfortable contacting industry professionals.

Then I got promoted. Then it was a good job, until we decided to start a family.

And then that opened up a whole new set of variables. I never planned to be a working mom, so now the milepost was, work until we were financially stable enough for me to not work (or at least, to work part time) so we could have a baby.

Then we decided to have a baby anyway.

So then it became–just make it until the baby’s born.

Going back to work after my maternity leave ended was one of the hardest things I’ve ever done. I like my job. And I don’t think I would be a very good stay-at-home mom. But those first few months were an impossible adjustment of learning to balance two things that require 150% and don’t make compromises, and learning to be at peace with only giving about 90% to both, and learning to accept the reality of that.

But I was also out of mileposts. We weren’t–and aren’t–planning to have another baby for another couple of years, so I didn’t have a family change/maternity leave to set as the light at the end of the tunnel. I all but abandoned my research within my first year in my current position, so I didn’t have the “one day when I’m published” goal. What I had, was my husband’s goal of a promotion in his job, and the knowledge that once that happened, I could reduce my hours to part time. But without a clear timeline for that–it’s always been one of those situations that could happen in five months or five years–I couldn’t segment my time.

So I latched onto Kairi’s first birthday. The whole time, the whole struggle at figuring out how to be a working mom, has been about making it through that first year.

Why?

Billy says, as a joke-that-isn’t-a-joke, that it’s about being able to celebrate keeping an entirely dependent human alive for a full year. I think that’s partly true–the fear of SIDS was a huge source of anxiety for me, at least at first, and crossing that first birthday definitely reduces a lot of that stress.

Regardless of the reason, Kairi’s first birthday was an invisible milepost for me. It was the thing I told myself I had to make it to when I felt like I was drowning–at work, at home, as a wife, as a mother–if I could make it until she turned one, things would get easier. I didn’t know why–I would have the same job. Billy would have the same job. But something inside of me was utterly convinced that things would get easier once we made it through that first year.

And the thing is…they have.

For no reason.

Billy and I still work opposing schedules and usually only see each other at night. Our finances haven’t changed. I still see Kairi for about an hour a night on workdays, and our weekends are still filled with errands. I don’t have time for my hobbies, I don’t have the energy for mommy-and-me projects like I wish I did, and family outings are things that require advance planning and time-off requests that still usually fall through.

But things are easier. Lighter. Happier.

True, as she gets older, Kairi is better at keeping herself entertained. I can set my purse on the floor and she will amuse herself tearing through its contents long enough for me to do the dishes. I can leave the pantry open and every bag of tea I’ve ever owned might be strewn across the kitchen, but I was able to make dinner. If I wear her, she’s content to hang out on my back while I do whatever it is I’m trying to do. But what is the difference between the week before her birthday, and the week after?

The only reason I can come up with, is that I don’t have an invisible milepost anymore. I don’t have a great what-if (A Great Perhaps, if you will), that will be a change from whatever difficulties I’m facing in the Now. And when you remove that “I just have to get to ___” mindset, what’s left is finding balance in where you are. You’re no longer rushing through your current experiences, already living with one foot past the present.

It doesn’t work for everyone. And a few years ago, it wouldn’t have worked for me. And it’s not about a lack of goals–Billy and I both still have goals, but we’re not basing our present actions around an endpoint once a certain goal is met. We’re not waiting for a current situation to end so we can move on to the next one. We might be working on future goals, thinking about what is to come, but not defining what we’re doing now by the moment that it will end and we can start focusing on another end point. (Okay… I say both of us, but this really isn’t news to Billy. He’s always been better at living in the moment than me…)

Without a point of expectation for when things might change, the present is the definition of the experience.

And it makes it so much richer, and so, so much more fun.

Destination: Dirt; Camping with a Crawler

We took Kairi out camping for the second time last weekend. The first time, she was only five weeks old, which made her a pretty easy camping buddy. The trip was definitely different with an infant, but she didn’t require a lot of extra work at that age. Now, she’s 9 months old, crawling, and very curious, so we knew we were going to have our work cut out for us. Still, camping is a big part of our family life, and we both really needed a trip out into the mountains, and we figured we may as well get her started early so she grows up with camping being a normal activity.

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Kairi’s first camping trip. She got the relaxing part pretty quickly.

We went to Sherando Lake, which isn’t my favorite campground normally, but it’s really the closest, and it’s the least rugged (if you can call campgrounds with flush toilets “rugged”). This turned out to be a good choice as we cut the trip a little short, although despite that I consider it an overall success. I found a lot online about taking babies and small children camping, but I found there wasn’t as much about crawlers, or babies at this particular age. Maybe I should have taken that as a sign–that you really should just skip the time between when you can lay them on a blanket and when they can walk around, but we went anyway, and now that we have, I don’t think it’s a time that needs to be skipped at all. Difficult? A little, but not surprisingly so. Here a few of the things we learned:

-Babies eat dirt. I knew this. I knew it without anyone having to tell me. I knew it because every website I visited and parenting group I asked for tips in said, be prepared for baby to eat dirt. So I was. But knowing still doesn’t really prepare you for exactly *how* much dirt she would eat. And we were mostly okay with it. Leaves and rocks we tried to keep away from her, and then once she got interested in the fire ring where the dirt was more ash than anything it became a challenge, but yes. She ate dirt. I’m pretty sure she’ll eat worse as she gets older.

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Oooh, what’s this stuff? I bet I can eat it!

-You really don’t need as many toys as you think you will. Kairi doesn’t have a lovey yet, so we just brought a bag full of the toys she’s been playing with the most. The first thing we did was lay down a tarp and empty her toy bag onto it, which distracted her for all of about two minutes before she found the dirt. I don’t even know if a lot of toys will be more useful as she gets older, when she gets better about not putting everything in her mouth, since there are so many natural “toys” all over the campsite. This might not be the case for every baby, but ours was pretty content to explore all the new stuff. The only things she wanted with any consistency were her sippy cup and snack bowl.

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This taken just minutes before the above shot of her crawling right off the tarp.

-You do, however, need as many clothes as you think you will. And probably more. We were well prepared for this and ended up bringing more than we needed, though I think if we’d stayed the second night we would have had just the right amount. She got messy. Not just dirty, but with her food as well. We didn’t bring a bib, but it wouldn’t have mattered, since she managed to stick her hands right into my plate of lentils and then smeared them into her hair, her pants, and all over mommy. The next morning she got eggs all over her shirt. And then there’s just the weather. We had a temperature range of over 40 degrees from night to day, so we needed a lot of layers to keep her comfortable, especially at night, and then to strip down to something lighter as the day got warm. On a longer trip I would have been fine rinsing her clothes out and letting them air dry, but for a short trip like this bringing half the clothes she currently fits into turned out to be a good idea.

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She looks ready for a day in the woods!

-Sleeping trouble is amplified. This is the reason we ended up going home late on our second day, rather than staying the second night and packing up that morning. This was also the only problem Kairi had the entire trip. She isn’t the easiest sleeper at home. We co-sleep at night, which I figured wouldn’t be an issue camping since we were used to it, and it would give her something familiar. But she really, really struggled at night. Granted, it got down into the mid 30s, so even Billy and I were not at our most comfortable, but Kairi would not fall asleep unless she was suckling, which made things very uncomfortable for me, and she would cry if one of us shifted and she fell off the breast.  However she also had a hard time taking naps, and it was rather warm during the day, especially in the tent, so her trouble was not entirely temperature-based. We didn’t take the pack and play because we figured we didn’t really have room for it in the car, and we didn’t expect to actually use it. We wouldn’t need it during the night, and during the day we figured she would only fuss if we had her in that while we were walking around where she could see us. But it turns out, we really could have used it for nap time. We think the openness of the tent made it really hard for her to fall asleep, so she would only nap if Billy went in there with her. Which was great for him–daddy naps! But it meant we couldn’t take advantage of her napping to have some quiet time where we could talk or just sit together, and it also meant that at night when she got tired well before we did that we couldn’t go ahead and put her to bed. She wouldn’t even fall asleep if we were wearing her–on a three mile hike, she sucked on her fingers and rested her head against my back but never actually went to sleep. I don’t think there is anything we could have done differently on this one. If we’d had the pnp she probably would have napped, but it wouldn’t have helped night sleeping. All I can think is that in this regard, maybe she really wasn’t ready for such a radically different sleeping situation, and we should save our next trip until she’s sleeping through the night, or at least doesn’t need as many daytime naps.

Image He’s definitely not complaining about the napping situation.

-It’s a lot of fun. It’s different–very, very different. Gone are the days of opening your first beer at 10am and spending the entire day reading and lazying about, napping (amongst other things) whenever the mood strikes, and sitting up with a bottle of wine while you watch the fire die. It’s all about baby. We never expected it not to be. You have to manage your time differently, particularly when it comes to nighttime, and make sure everything is cleaned up and ready for the night before the sun goes down. You can’t help each other as much, since someone has to make sure she doesn’t climb into the fire pit, crack her teeth on the rock she just picked up, or go tumbling down the steps leading up to your campsite. You need to have more of your day occupied (this one actually suited me just fine–I love taking hikes, while Billy is more of a “finish 3 books in one day” sort of camper, so the extra walking I only found to be a benefit!). But seeing how absolutely happy she was to just be outside with her two favorite people easily makes up for the changes. We might try again next month if she’s sleeping better, but if not we’re definitely going to when we go visit my parents up in Canada this June, and then at least once more towards the end of the summer/early fall.

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“Reading” one of her bath books in front of the fire.

I’m not unprepared for the possibility that as she gets older, she’ll hit a point where she doesn’t want to camp with us. Whether that happens when she’s a toddler and doesn’t want to leave the comfort of her own home, or when she’s a teenager and is too cool for camping with her family, I know it will happen at some point. Until then, we’ll keep going. We’ll let her eat dirt, and play with sticks, and “help” with setting up the tent, and with any luck, she’ll continue to love it as much as we do.

ImageReady for my turn to tend the fire, mom!

 

Guidelines

Today was a challenging day. I had to be at work an hour earlier than normal, and it was an exceptionally busy day once I got there. I found out my husband did *not* get the time off request he put in for next week despite requesting it a month ago, which throws a wrench into our plans. He got a ticket for his car inspection being expired, which is an expense we now have to budget for.

And Kairi would not go to sleep.

It’s interesting timing that she picked today to have a bad night, as I read this article earlier, and did a thing I try never to do on the internet: left a comment (granted it was on a fb page where that article was linked, but still). My comment was not inflammatory as it was just defending the author for stating on work days she only spends two hours with her son, because honestly, I would love a two hour average with my daughter on days I work. Instead, I usually don’t even get to the babysitter’s until between 5:30 and 6, and then I stay and chat for a few minutes (considering our primary babysitters are actually Billy’s parents, it would be kind of rude to just show up, take Kairi, and leave without a short visit). If I can go straight home, this allows me just under an hour before I need to start her bath. Less, if she didn’t take her afternoon nap, a little more if we can skip a bath (which has become increasingly difficult as she has learned to nonverbally ask for one) and she took a late nap.

But I rarely get two hours. The one night a week I work late I come home at bedtime, and have, on a couple of occasions, gotten home after she goes to sleep. If I have any errands to run at all, she goes to bed late, because I just can’t bring myself to take her from the car, to the bath, to the bed, and getting home that late usually has her too hyped up to go straight to sleep anyway.

I’m getting off track–my point isn’t to complain about how little time I get as a mother with a full time job outside the home, though that is an easy topic to go on about. But my point, is about the comments to the above article, and how (predictably) horrible they got.

In the things that happened to make this a less-than-ideal day, I am allowed to complain about all of them, save one.

I write my own schedule. Therefore, I knew I had to get up an hour early today. If I was going to complain about it, shouldn’t I have thought about that before writing this day in? Never mind the fact that it’s part of my job to be there early on days we open early–and for that matter, shouldn’t I have thought about that before accepting this job at all? Once I made that choice, I forfeit my right to wish I could sleep in from time to time, didn’t I?

My husband also works in retail. Therefore a time off request is never more than just a request. Therefore I have no right to get upset that his request was denied. After all, that’s part of the package. Didn’t I know that? I should have considered that before making plans. Retail schedules are unpredictable, if I’m going to try to plan events in advance, I should be prepared for disappointment when things don’t work out. Who am I, to be bummed about this?

And the car. Oh, the car. The sticker is right there on the windshield. Nobody ever has any excuse to miss a state inspection. If you forget, or just got busy with everything else going on, you deserve everything you get, and you better not complain about having to pay a fee, because you made that decision. 

See how absolutely ridiculous it sounds to say you can’t get upset or frustrated over something just because the outcome is a result of a choice you made?

So why is it, when you get frustrated with the challenges of parenting, the internet feels like it’s okay to tell you they feel sorry for your children, that everyone knows parenting is hard and you’re an idiot if you thought it would be otherwise, and you should always push back the frustrations you feel because you’re just a monster if you get annoyed with your baby.

I get annoyed with my baby. I stood in my kitchen at 8:45 tonight after going back and forth more than once trying to console her, after turning the heat off on the water I was trying to boil for pasta for the third time, after letting her comfort nurse for half an hour, after giving her a bath she didn’t need just because it was one of Those Days where we didn’t have much time together and bath time is bonding time, and just closed my eyes, and whispered “please shut up please shut up please shut up” over and over and over again, with varying degrees of language added in. (Spoiler alert: she didn’t.) So I put dinner on hold yet again, went into the bedroom, and soothed her until she fell asleep, and put her to bed.

I get frustrated. I get so frustrated that I send my husband texts stating I’m going to stab myself with a steak knife if she doesn’t let me eat–and then I take a deep breath, go into the room, and pick her up and rock her, and sing to her, and speak to her in a soft voice. I do my very best not to show her I am frustrated (although I fail at that as well sometimes), and as soon as I can I pour a glass of wine and think about how silence really is an amazing sound.

Maybe someone else would have kept going with dinner, and let her cry it out. Maybe that person didn’t feel frustration, because babies cry, and they accept that part of it, and steeled themselves long before not to let it bother them.

Maybe on a different day I would have continued to go back and forth and it wouldn’t have bothered me, because my day would have left me with more patience.

Maybe a million other people would have responded a million different ways, because every child, parent, and situation is different.

In customer service, there is a culture of rewarding people for venting their frustrations on total strangers who had nothing to do with the situation that initially upset them. But in parenting, you not only are not rewarded for expressing yourself over a situation that you find frustrating, but you’re ostracized for daring to admit you got frustrated in the first place.

We obviously don’t have a problem with misplaced anger. We don’t have a problem with people getting annoyed–even angry–over situations that honestly do not warrant anger, and that we entirely brought on ourselves. Billy could vent about his ticket online and have people tell him the cop (who was just doing her job) was an ass who should have let him off with a warning, rather than admonish him for not getting the inspection taken care of. And yet, if you are brave enough to admit that parenting is anything other than magical every second of every day, your character is called into question. Presumably because babies are involved–they can’t help themselves, after all, and they don’t mean to upset us. But the cashier you just spent half an hour screaming at wasn’t even working the day you had bad service, and yet, it’s socially acceptable for you to walk out of the store with a coupon after your horrible behavior.

Getting frustrated is a lot different than taking your frustration out on somebody. Hurting your children? Bad. But loving them, taking care of them, and giving them a safe place in the world–and then exhaling everything you pushed deep down until your kids’ needs are met in a place they aren’t exposed to? Not so bad. And probably pretty healthy.

So why is that something nobody seems to be allowed to do? 

Sessions

WeddingsFamiliesMaternity and Newborns
Backyard ceremonies, elopements, and destination weddings are where I love to work. Your wedding should be about you, and if you want that small, intimate feeling where your scenery is one of the guests, I want to be there with you to capture the memories.As moms we all love that one posed picture with everyone smiling–but that’s rarely real life! I want to take pictures of your kids chasing bubbles, hiking on your favorite trail, or snuggling with their grandparents in the backyard. More than photographing families, I want to document the love, the emotions, and the reality of your family.Celebrating a new baby–or babies–is a hard time to think about photography with everything else going on, but having these memories frozen in time to look back on will be important long after the labor pains and sleepless nights are over. I want to capture these times as they are–outside, in your home, or in the hospital.