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Wednesday, January 20, 2016

thoughts on motherhood (7 months)

I procrastinated writing this post for weeks, eight weeks to be precise.  The further I get into motherhood, the more normal things feel and the harder it seems to put my reflections into words.  Here's my best attempt to stop procrastinating and reflect on this period of motherhood:

- Baby T has had a lot of firsts since my 20 week reflection: he flew on a plane, he visited a mountain, met his great-grandmas, cut his first two teeth, and started crawling.  Come to think of it, maybe that's why I haven't posted about motherhood for eight weeks.  

- It's crazy how fast he's developed.  His body can do things that he wouldn't have dreamed of a few weeks ago, and he has no words to describe or process all the things that are happening to him.  So many things are new to him all the time.  Remembering that helps me be more patient with him when he cries for seemingly no reason or gets frustrated about something I think is silly.  If I went through that much change and transition, I would be cranky 24/7, but for the most part, he's such a happy, relaxed little guy.  

- After our move to St. Louis, Paul and I decided that I would stay home with Theo for a while.  Decided is actually maybe too strong a word.  I put off my job search until after the holidays because nothing was jumping out at me, then I realized more and more that I was putting off the job search because I didn't want to leave Theo.  Financially it's a wash to have me work and have Theo in daycare, so SAHM it is for your truly.  It's been a big adjustment, and I've been challenged in ways I didn't expect.  I don't think I'll stay home forever, but it's working for all of us pretty well right now.  

- I've realized that to be the best mom I can be, I need to find ways to stay personally fulfilled while being a SAHM.  Recently that included buying myself a planner (not a ton to plan, but writing my to-do list makes my tasks feel more legitimate) and making a resolution to sketch everyday.  Small things like that have made a difference in my self confidence and overall life satisfaction level.

- I started thinking of other stay at homes as my co-workers.  Making efforts to see other moms and babies during the week has been great for both me and Theo.  

- Before Theo was born, I promised myself I would start exercising again at six months post partum.  If you remember, I was doing roller derby before I got pregnant with Theo, but I wasn't quite ready to jump back into something like that.  I started a mom stroller class that I thought would be a nice, easy transition back into exercising.  Yeah...not so easy.  That class makes me sweat almost as much as derby used to.  Not quite the chill work out I thought it would be, but I love it because I've surprisingly come to crave a good workout.  I also love that Theo can come and crawl around on the floor with everybody else's kids.  

- We're currently living with my parents which has been a big transition.  We don't have our own space anymore, but my parents have been super hospitable and have been great with Theo.  It's pretty amazing to have live in babysitters.  I know I'll look back at this time with so much nostalgia remembering how special it was to see Theo play daily with his grandparents.

- Yesterday, Theo knocked one of his plastic eggs against one my mom was holding.  I knew he could knock two together when he was holding them himself, but it took another level of problem solving to play with the one my mom was holding.  I didn't even know that was in the realm of possibilities for something he could do!  I immediately felt guilty that I wasn't encouraging Theo to fulfill his full potential.  And then luckily I gave myself a break pretty soon after.

- That situation had me thinking how easy it is for parents to coddle their kids or not challenge them.  Theo (and other babies and kids) develop so fast, and half the time I'm just trying to catch up with whatever new thing he's doing.  When I finally get used to where he currently is, I get emotionally connected to it, but he's already ready for the next step.  Parenthood feels like I'm trying to constantly keep up with my baby boy.   Meanwhile he doesn't know where he's going, he just wants to GO.  Parenthood is about constantly evolving and trying to allow your child to be whoever he needs to be.  

- My life involves way more poop and spit up then it ever has before

- I got puked on - full out puked on - for the first time.  Right down my shirt.  Surprisingly, it barely phased me.  That more than anything showed me motherhood has changed me.  

- I've been trying cloth diapers and making my own baby food.  It's extra work, but I like doing a little extra work for something I feel is better for the environment.  There's also part of me that wants to justify being a SAHM by saving us a little extra money and showing other perks to having me home with Theo.  I'm assuming other SAHMs do things like this, but I haven't received official confirmation.  

- Sometimes Theo eats the dogs bones.  I had resigned myself to it since he is growing up with four dogs, and it looks hilarious, so sometimes I might let it go on a little too long. 

- I've been a mom long enough to develop routines.  We didn't have routines for a long time, because I found that being a "go-with-the-flow" parent was the least stressful method for me, Paul, and Theo.  But the older Theo gets, the more he seems to fall into routines naturally and to like having a rhythm to our days.  Our bedtime routine may be my favorite as it involves nursing and a super soft blanket that Theo likes to cuddle up in (that orange one in the picture above).  It's one of those things that feels no normal and mundane it's not even worth mentioning, but things have changed so quickly the last seven months, I know that our current routines won't last forever.  Knowing that I won't always put Theo to sleep after relaxing in the nursing chair is kind of heart breaking (though also a relief because what mom wants to rock her 17 year old son to sleep?  That's weird Game of Thrones material.) 

- More of Theo's personality comes out everyday.  Each day we seem closer to him looking up at me and telling me what's on his mind.  I think he's going to have some pretty funny things to share.  

- People continue to be so kind to us.  It makes me so happy to think that Theo will grow up seeing the best of people, knowing that people are basically good at heart.  Our interactions over the past seven months has renewed my faith in humanity.  

For not knowing what I would write, that post turned out to be a lot longer than I expected!  Thanks for reading and following along on my journey.  

Thursday, December 31, 2015

best of 2015

What a year.  This year I worked at a job I loved, had an amazing artist in residence experience, became a mother, and moved home to St. Louis.  Looking back this year feels like a complete blur.  I read through some of my blog posts, and I barely remember writing them, especially the ones written after Baby T was born.  Maybe because I was so fully immersed in so many moments this year, being needed immediately so often by Baby T in such an intimate way.  Whatever the reason, it's true what I had heard about being a mother to small babies - this season of your life flies by like a blur.

                                                    T O P   F I V E   P O S T S

These are the top five most read posts from 2015.  Funnily, it reflects my top nine Instagram posts - they all have to do with pregnancy and baby Theo.  Other cool things happened this year like like being asked to paint a portrait of James Foley, taking trips to Portland, a JVC reunion, a vacation in Michigan, and moving to St. Louis.  But the highlight was most definitely becoming a mother.
F A V O R I T E     B O O K S
I read seventeen books this year and rated them all on Goodreads.  These were my favorites, and seeing that the list is pretty short is making me want to read a lot more good books in 2016. Listed in order starting with my favorite, but I would recommend all of them.
  • Big Little Lies
  • All the Light We Cannot See
  • Station Eleven
  • Operating Instructions
  • The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks
  • Oryx and Crake (I went through a big apocalyptic kick at the beginning of the year)
  • Bringing up Bebe
  • The Life Changing Magic of Tidying Up
F A V O R I T E     M O V I E S
In no particular order - and not necessarily released this year, just new to me.  I know I liked more movies than this in 2015, but these were the only ones I could remember.  Probably because they all connected to Theo in some way. 
  • Avengers: Age of Ultron (last movie I saw in the theater before Theo - went to the bathroom twice)
  • Selma (Theo jumped about a foot in the bomb scene)
  • Driving Miss Daisy (Somehow I had never watched this movie before 2015)
  • The Naked Gun (we watched all three of these right before Theo was born)
  • The Man from Uncle (the first movie we saw in the theaters after having Theo!)
  • Inside Out (watched after Theo fell asleep on New Year's Eve)
F A V O R I T E    T V     S H O W S
  • Orange is the New Black
  • Wet Hot American Summer (Netflix)
  • Master of None
  • Bob's Burgers
  • Brooklyn 99
  • The Walking Dead
  • iZombie
  • Great British Baking Show
  • This Old House
  • Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt
H A P P Y    N E W     Y E A R !

Sunday, December 13, 2015

st. louis and christmas trees


It is so nice to be back, in more ways than one.  After one of the craziest months I've had in years, I'm back in St. Louis and back to blogging.  Blogging is usually the first thing to go when life gets busy, but I really miss how it roots me.  It's been a great outlet for me, and a good motivator to try new projects, set goals, and push myself creatively with my photography.Now that life is slowly getting back to a new normal, I'm hoping I can blog more, but we'll see how it goes.  

It's also amazing to be back in St. Louis, my home city.  Settling in is taking some time, which is only natural for taking on such a big move with a family.  But I've got a feeling this is going to be a great, fresh start and ultimately a really good home for us.  It's a dream come true to be back here. 

Not only is it great to be with my family, but it's great to see Baby T with people who love him just as much as me and Paul do.     

Since being in St. Louis, we've had time to go on a couple Christmas adventures.  Like chopping down a Christmas tree!!  Last weekend we drove out to Meert Tree Farm Nursery to chop down our tree.  And then when we got there, we let my dad and brother do all the actual chopping.  

We picked out a really beautiful one that fit everybody's requirements (price range, height, freshness, good trunk).  We have it up in the house, but it's not decorated yet.  Which is oddly similar to how my life feels like right now -- a lot of stuff going right and being patient with things taking a little extra time to get all set up.  But it'll get there.  And it'll be pretty beautiful when it does.  

Sunday, November 8, 2015

thoughts on motherhood (20 weeks) + an announcement

First, the announcement: we're moving to St. Louis!  This decision has been a loooong time coming.  Like seven years coming.  Paul and I have been trying to figure out the best city to settle in, and with Theo's arrival, we were pushed to finally make a decision.  Paul found a good job in St. Louis and that helped confirm it was the right choice for us.  We move very soon and have lots to do before leaving Milwaukee - people to say goodbye to, jobs to wrap up, things to pack, favorite restaurants to go to one last time.  It's bittersweet to leave a place that's become home and people who have become like family, but I think it's the best decision for us right now.  With all the craziness of this move, I haven't been keeping up with the blog well (there's always something!), but here are some recent thoughts on motherhood.  I keep learning some wonderful lessons and gaining wonderful gifts thanks to my sweet boy. 

- Theo's done a little sleep regression and gets up about twice a night lately.  I can't complain though since overall he's been a really good sleeper.  One good thing about getting up in the middle of the night: when I walk him back to his room, he rests his head on my shoulder until I lay him back in his crib.  So simple, so wonderful. 

- Other notes about sleeping.  We take an afternoon nap together most days after work, and I love the excuse to rest and to cuddle.  We've also got more of an evening bed routine going now.  We sing songs as he gets his pjs on, we read a board book, then he gets kisses, and we turn out the light.  Nothing fancy, but I have a feeling I'll remember it my whole life.  

- He's such a good blend of us: Paul's eyes and nose, my mouth and cheeks.  I hope it continues, and with things that aren't as obvious as our facial features.  

- There is so much happiness and laughter in our house.  We were happy pre-Theo, but there's a marked difference in the amount of outright laughter and joy in our house.  I'm so grateful for the gift of Theo in our lives.

- Part of the reason for all the laughter is that Theo *cracks up* at Paul.  All he has to do is look at him, and Paul gets a smile out of our boy.  I got a little jealous that Paul could make him laugh so much more easily than I could, but I got over that because it's just so fun to see my husband and my son having so much fun together.  

- I had a conversation with a friend last night about how I'm still struggling with my new mom body.  Lots of people say that whatever they go through in pregnancy and post-baby are "worth it," and I totally agree that to get Theo here everything I went through was worth it.  But if I had my choice between my pre-baby and post-baby body, I would hands down pick my pre-baby body.  This is something I'm still struggling with and hopefully will eventually make peace with.

- Relatedly, it feels like motherhood is slowly rubbing off more of my rough edges.  Loving so much and sacrificing so much for another person helps you become a better person.  And maybe embracing this part of motherhood will eventually help me make peace with the sacrifices I made to bring Theo into the world. 

- Even though motherhood is awesome, it's hard.  I've noticed that I'm a better mom with lots of support from family and friends and little breaks for myself.  When I feel like I'm going stir crazy and slightly suffocated, a quick fro yo break or walk around the block is surprisingly just enough to make me feel like myself again.  It's good to know that breaks and me-time don't make me selfish, it makes me a better caretaker and a better person.  

- Nursing is one of the coolest parts of being a mom.  It doesn't hurt that it helped me lose my baby weight while eating pretty much whatever I've wanted.  It's going to be tough when Theo moves to non-exclusive nursing right around the holidays.  Cue time for a new exercise plan.

- This Halloween was the first time in years that I've enjoyed the holiday (not counting the year we spent Halloween in Salem, Massachusetts).  I always procrastinate picking out a costume, and then I'm disappointed it's obvious I put together an outfit at the last minute.  But this year was so fun to dress Theo up as a little lion (a hand me down costume from a friend) and take him to a few houses.  I bet next year will be even better since he'll be able to collect his own candy.  

- Time is flying by.  Theo is rolling over and getting closer and closer to crawling.  I look back at pictures from even just a few weeks ago, and he's so different.  Sometimes he changes way too fast for my liking.  I want the sweetness of this time to last forever, but it seems like each new stage has a specialness of its own.  More incentive to actually remember to take pictures of my growing boy!!

Thanks so much for reading.  And thanks for sticking with me with me during my spotting posting!

Friday, October 30, 2015

hand made baby gifts

Life with Baby T has reminded how blessed and loved our family is.  People have been so thoughtful and have gone out of their way to show us how loved Theo is.  Perfect examples of this are all the handmade gifts he's received.  Handmade gifts just feel like getting wrapped up in love.  These are the booties, bibs, blankets, and sweaters Theo has been lucky enough to receive over the past few months.  

Booties from Grandma.  The ones on the left fit him for about a week and will get to live on his bookshelf as a testament to his short lived newborn size.  The ones on the right were made after we found out how big Baby T was.  When he wears them they look like little elf shoes.    

Bibs from a friend's mom.  Baby T just started eating some cereal (pediatrician recommended it for mouth motor skills), and so he got to wear these for the first time.  They are absolutely adorable, they cover up his whole body so food doesn't get on his clothing as easily, and they're machine washable!  They're also durable so I'm thinking we can use them again if we have any more kids.  

A beautiful quilt from my aunt.  I cried when I opened up the package the quilt arrived in.  My aunt is so talented, and to think that she spent so much time on a gift for our little baby - one that he'll hopefully hold on to for a very long time - is so special to me.  

A knitted blanket from Grandma.  My mom sent me a picture of this a few months before Theo was born, and it made his arrival seem much more imminent and real.  She also correctly predicted his sex and added blue to the blanket.  We use this blanket almost daily, and with any luck Theo will use it as his blankie in coming months and years.  

A knitted sweater from a family friend.  I also cried when receiving this at one of my showers.  I may have been a slightly emotional pregnant lady.  

And one last knitted sweater from Grandma.  My mom was finishing this present up during the week she stayed with us after Theo was born.  The stitches are absolutely beautiful, and I wish I hadn't miscalculated Theo's size and missed the window of opportunity for him wearing it.  Crossing my fingers for baby #2 having more time in it.  

Thursday, October 22, 2015

maybe next year porch garden

And I'm back from a long blogging break!  The last time this happened I was experiencing really bad morning sickness.  Not so this time.  I just spilt curry on our computer keyboard, and we had to send it off for repairs.  <face-palm> 

Today in an effort to be better about sharing all stages of projects I begin, I'm posting about the end of my porch garden season.  It doesn't look nearly as nice as I would have liked, but I think there was some joy to be found in it even in its imperfection.  

I started the season off with gusto, but with having Theo in mid June, the garden really didn't stand a chance this summer.  Between spending my extra energy on my baby and making half hearted attempts to clean our apartment, I severely neglected the garden.  Pedro and Diego tried to make up for my lack of effort, but their gardening attempts usually involve eating lots of dirt and green tomatoes.  Even in these dire circumstances, some of my nasturtiums bloomed, the oregano survived a couple of weeks of no watering (oops), I harvested a cucumber, and the wildflower mix gave me a couple of flowers.    

Pedro, the gardening beagle.  Notice the lack of lettuce growing in the bed behind him.  That's what happens when beagles try to garden.  Eating dirt > letting lettuce grow.  

Maybe next year we'll do better porch garden.  

Wednesday, October 7, 2015

finding joy in tidying (final check in)

While enjoying delicious curry a couple weeks ago, I dumped a bunch of sauce on our computer keyboard.  And then half the keys stopped working.  <groan>  While the computer is being repaired, I recycled an old photo.  Thanks for understanding my necessary awkward blogger move. 
It's been a little over a month since I read the Life Changing Magic of Tidying Up and began to organize our apartment.  I didn't finish everything within my allotted month (didn't really expect to), but I made really great progress.  Our apartment feels lighter, it stays cleaner, and I enjoy spending time in it even more.  My mind feels less cluttered in our house.  

I've been continuing to clean stuff out, but I lost a lot of my momentum when I got to the tougher things.  Papers were exhausting to go through, I realized I have a big emotional attachment to lots of my old mixed cds, and things just stopped feeling straight forward to clean out.  But I found this list of stuff to get rid of and that has been helpful for making a game plan for the rest of the apartment.  

Here's the final list of things I cleaned out/organized during my month of cleaning: 

- All my clothes (in closets, dresser drawers, and storage under my bed)
- My accessories, jewelry, shoes, jackets
- Our pens 
- Our towels and linens
- All of our books (including cookbooks)
- Some papers (including all my financial, student loan, and medical papers)
- Front closet 
- Pantry
- Tea
- Movies
- Art supplies (what a task!)
- Night stand 
- Dishes and serving stuff 

Marie Kondo says that you should clean stuff out in a specific order: clothes, books, papers, miscellaneous, photos/memorabilia.  I learned in this challenge that "miscellaneous" is way too big of a category, and if you don't have a list of things to go through in a specific order it's really easy to get stuck and give up.  She has some things in her miscellaneous category, just not enough for me.  Because as this challenge taught me, I have waaaaay too much stuff!!  

A few other thoughts about tidying up since my last update: 

- Embarrassingly I noticed that I have duplicates of some things because I bought things I already had at home.  I just didn't remember I had them because I have too much!  How unnecessary.  I'm hoping that keeping things organized will help me remember what I have so I don't buy and consume unnecessarily.  

- I realized I had a similar problem with grocery shopping.  I would buy things we already had, then waste one thing or sometimes even both because I didn't have a plan for using them.  This challenge has surprisingly lead to less food waste, more effective grocery shopping, a better meal plan, and using stuff from our pantry.   

- One challenge of getting rid of stuff is actually getting it out the door.  I had gone through some stuff before Theo was born, and it's still sitting in a box in our basement waiting to be donated.  With this month's challenge, I've been more intentional about following through on tasks liking dropping clothes off at the shelter.  If I hadn't, boxes of donations would probably be gathering dust for another year until they just ended up in the garbage - or just as bad - coming with us to our next apartment. 

- Our house is staying cleaner (other than the donation boxes hanging out in random places).  My clothes are staying organized, and my bedroom and bathroom are actually less cluttered because i don't let my dirty clothes pile up.  Our mail also doesn't pile up as badly.  Overall our apartment just feels more awesome. 

 If these posts have inspired you to clean up your own space, yippee!  My recommendation is to have a game plan and to tackle your stuff in a specific order.  Set aside an average of thirty minutes a day for at least several weeks.  This helped me tremendously.  I don't think I would have made as much progress as I did, and I don't think my changes would have stuck if I had just done a little here and there.  Committing to it as a project was a big part of my success.  And finally, don't be afraid to just jump in.  The work I've put in as paid off ten fold in the level of enjoyment I experience in our house.  

Good luck!  And thanks for reading!

More reading: Finding joy in tidying up (first post), Tidying check in #1