Magical Evening Alone

What would you do if you had an entire evening to yourself?
For some of you, this is not simply an elaborate fantasy: this is something you are lucky enough to choose on a regular basis! For others, this is something you try desperately to escape whenever possible.

For another group, however, an evening to oneself is a rare, elusive and dreamy thing. Hello, fellow mothers out there!!

It has been a loooong week. Baby fell asleep on our way home, at her bedtime. Perfect! and then, she did not transition into sleep in bed. She woke up full of more energy than is possible after a 10 minute (!) nap. Can someone please study this child and solve the energy crisis?

Husband is rescuing me (and baby, probably) from a mother melt-down and took over. They are currently out on a walk. I don’t know how long they’ll be gone for, but I am declaring this an evening alone. This is what I’m doing with my time. What would you do?

Shower!! Something I do not have enough time for lately. Plus, when I can clean myself lately, it’s often a lukewarm bath with baby as a way to entice her into the tub. Not the same as a hot shower, and not effective at all for my hair.

Picked my outfits for the week. It’s fast, it’s a little bit fun, I didn’t have time to do it last weekend, and it’s one less thing to think about over Sat/Sun.

Clean up. Yes, it’s true. My husband would encourage me not to, yet I can’t relax in a messy home. Oh fine, call me on that: I choose not to relax in a messy home because when I look at mess, I feel both stress caused by guilt and too many stimuli, and excitement (I love to make things neat and tidy!). Plus, cleaning with baby around is not easy. I gathered and put in a load of laundry to wash tomorrow; put away some dishes; did assorted tidying and recycling. I did NOT clean the sink/toilet or empty the dishwasher, though I was sorely tempted. People, you have to prioritize sometimes!

Make food. I’ve realized that, though I’m not an exceptional cook, I love to make food for myself. Sometimes for others, too. It’s one of the pleasures of being home and having some time to myself: whipping up something tasty to eat. I toasted some squash seeds we’ve had around, and have a batch of rice pudding cooking. Plus, of course, tea.

Blogging. You may have noticed a few days’ absence. That’s because I have noooooooooo time to myself to blog!! And if I’m not blogging, my mental list of blog topics and titles and issues I need to talk with someone about (even if it’s a one-way conversation) builds up too quickly. Blogging lets me get some perspective on life and connect in some small way with others.

So, what awaits after blogging? Still TBD. In my dream world, I’ll eat rice pudding, mend socks and watch tv. In reality, I also might do that. I’m resisting doing some computer work because, though there is a lot to catch up on, I’ve been a bit at the end of my mothering and being rope lately and that probably isn’t the healthiest choice.

I would love to hear what you would do with an evening to yourself!

Regime Change

Things are going to change around here.They have to.

We’ve had too many late nights, too frequent crying baby, not enough good food, and insufficient progress towards our goals.

Starting now: My new priorities.
1) Spirituality. Praying morning, evening + obligatory prayer each day. Doesn’t have to be long. Does have to be focused and sincere.
I’m going to add here the routines of connection we’re starting to build. Deep breathing and setting/discussing intentions with our meals; brief times in the evening when husband and I stop and connect. These are the heart of our developing family life.

2) Baby routines. Wake-up, potty, teeth, breakfast, play. Snacks. Lunch. Dinner. Bath at 6:30, teeth, potty, stories, nurse, bed by 7:30. Ab-so-lute-ly essential. Plus, of course, lots of love, cuddle, play, read and fun time.

3) Food. We need to switch to a gluten-free diet. We are also trying to save money. We have a great new cookbook thanks to friends. I will be studying this, making menu plans, buying the right foods and getting rid of the not-right foods.

4) Finances/Family Planning Priorities. I will support us in motoring through the creation of our new family budget, cash envelopes, tracking systems, wills, and the other priorities we’ve established.

5) Everything else??? The course I’m trying to finish teaching. Purging our possessions. Keeping the house clean. Starting new writing projects. Time with friends. On and on!

Hows are a big challenge for me. What does it mean if we make this list of priorities, but we have an entire kitchen of dirty dishes and piles of dirty clothes? Other things still need doing. Here’s how I think this might play out.
a) Spirituality first = getting the energy and focus to do what we need doing.

b) Keeping the vision in mind (Healthy family; happy daughter; moving out of this house and into better accommodations; financial independence; etc.) also helps to streamline my time.

c) No more facebook. At least for a while. SIGH. But, really, time is key and a few minutes here and there adds up.

d) Mainly: this new regime means doing the important things first, AND stopping doing anything else if a higher priority need comes up. I can purge to my heart’s content tomorrow, as long as I run through baby’s morning routine, and have lunch & dinner planned out and going.

Some of you may wonder where my husband – the male sex – fits in with this potentially gendered to-do list. Let me tell you! My husband is amazing. Truly loving, supportive and committed to equality in our family. Just one example: He does the dishes. Almost all the time, unless I sneak in and do them. He actively discourages me from doing them, because it’s something he can do to contribute, and because he wants us to approach chores in a non-gender-stereotypical manner. And yes, he cooks too. In fact, his meals are generally better than mine, in spite of all my talk and cooking effort! He is right now working evenings and weekends (plus weekdays) to finish off the renos on this house that we can’t wait to be rid of. When I say evenings, I mean frequently until 11 or midnight. And yes, dishes too. I can’t do the renos. He does them well and quickly. Maybe in a future fun project we will do this kind of thing together. We want to, and I’m sure we will. Right now? The strategy is divide and conquer, short-term pain for long-term gain. The least I can do is support us in changing our diet over to GF and taking the lead on baby routines and the budget. Which he is fully in support of.

So, that’s that.

It’s 11. I’m going to send a few quick emails and head to bed. Maybe, I might possibly finish reading “Oh the glory of it all” because it’s been consuming me and I”m almost done. Yes, I need to stop reading so many novels, too. At least for a while.

On time and motherhood

I’ve been noticing the last few days that I have a hard time slowing down and breathing. So often I find myself rushing to get places; holding my breath; making frantic lists in my head; all with the hopes of either getting back to be with my girl as quickly as possible, or maximizing the time I’m away from her or when she’s sleeping to get as many things done as possible.
I don’t think this is healthy. I imagine it’s releasing all kinds of unhealthy hormones. I don’t want to have a shortened lifespan because I’m not breathing enough.

I’ve also been noticing how some moments are just quite wonderful. Today (appropriately, on mother’s day) there were so many moments when I looked at my daughter in wonder and absolute love, so enthralled with this amazing little person who’s part of my life and family. She astounds me!

Of course, there are also moments when I want to swear with frustration, or when I really would just like a little bitty break to do something else.

There were other deeper things I wanted to say. But, speaking of time … it’s close to 10, baby’s sleeping, and I have applesauce and a movie waiting for me. Oh yay!

Happy mother’s day all.

Crock Pot Revelations

It’s 2:16 a.m. and I’m blogging. Hmmm.
Today baby and I got home at around the usual time – about 6 p.m. As is typical of late, she did not want to come inside but insisted on doing some work outside. “Dig dig dig!!” and puttering between the different beds, the plants she helped Dada plant yesterday, her rock collection (which includes dada, mama, baby, neen, wawa and nana), and bringing me along to watch and help retrieve fallen rocks. I did manage to make more of a dent in the dandelions, which was rewarding.

Husband got home around 6:30 so I was able to go inside; they followed a bit later after I had unpacked the bags. Dinner was fortunately ready: an edible crockpot creation that we put together last night. Baby loved the carrots though not much else.

Finally, bath and bed and I crashed with her around 9. Waking up at 1, with quite a bit of energy, I did some clean-up in the kitchen and had my revelation: If we are going to eat dinner on weeknights, we need to make it the night before or eat pasta. That’s it. Husband is working more and later and while he’s been great about making dinner over the past few months, that won’t be as feasible now. I get home by 6 or later, and baby will need outside time which requires me to be there with her. Any dinner worth eating will take at least 30 minutes to prepare – probably 45 or longer. Any bigger dishes will take hours.

I am therefore now a full fan of the crock pot. I put together a squash-quinoa thingie to cook up for tomorrow. We’ll add the coconut milk in the morning and leave to simmer. I’m inspired also by the idea of freezer crock pot meals: put together bags with all the ingredients, then just thaw and serve.

I’m hoping that these ideas get us out of our meal planning inertia (i.e., not meal planning, therefore not eating as well as we could). Plus, time and less stress – both possible valued outcomes!

 

Simple solutions to stressful problems

Those of you who read my postings (thank you for that!) may have noticed a certain stress in my tone lately. I know I’m feeling it. It’s not that my to do list is unmanageable; it’s that I haven’t even found the time to do a list so the to-dos are ricocheting around my head and (so it seems – I don’t have a list to check this) piling up. Physical space: a mess. Body: needs more rest. Menus: in need of work.
After some basic reflection, I’ve come up with a few little things I can/need to do to curb the mental and physical clutter that’s getting me down and free up more time to do important things like be with my family.

1. Stop shopping. I keep trying to purge our possessions, but if I shop, we may never made headway on this. I’ve been enjoying second hand outings a lot, and have found some great toys for Alya & clothes for myself. I still want some things to have a complete wardrobe; I still would love to have more and better toys for my girl. But shopping takes time, money and adds to the mess. For the next while: cut shopping and use what we have.

2. Make a list before checking it twice. I need to do a mind dump on paper (kind of Getting Things Done-ish) and then process the list to come up with an orderly way to approach my current tasks. As it is, the list is disorganized and has too many non-essential items rather than real to-dos. I look at it at the end of the day and don’t know what to tackle, so I read blogs. With a full list, in order, broken down to single tasks, I can get somewhere.

3. Stop multitasking. If I can. Maybe. We’ll see about this one, but I find baby-time more enjoyable if I”m focused.

4. No more facebook. For real. I’ll try. Though I’m not yet ready to cancel my account.

Here’s hoping that these simple solutions get me feeling closer to a manageable life.

Getting a Grip on Life

Also known as: something I think I need to do, but can’t seem to manage.
Life is good. It’s fine. We’re healthy, we eat, we sleep. Our house is not a complete disaster. I’m getting things done (some of them). But still: I just can’t seem to get on top of everything that needs doing, managing, attending to.

The house is one of these things. A mess, completely. My desk occasionally clears up, but is covered again within days. The kitchen – forget about it. Bathroom? Please! I change the sheets on the bed once a week, but that’s all the regular cleaning I can claim.

My work. Even if I have a slow meeting week, my to-do list does not seem to get shorter. I keep trying to wrap things up, but they unwrap themselves, scatter the pieces and demand attention.

Writing/teaching? Now we’re talking! Not at all ready to teach. Not at aaaaall. I’m reading a short how-to book for first-year college teachers, loving it, feeling inspired, and knowing it is so not happening for me because I do. not. have. the. time to do any of the essentials recommended in the book, much though I would sincerely love to. As for 15 minutes a day of writing: I bought the book. But haven’t found a minute in months to follow up. I will, I must, but when?

And parenting, aaah, my weak spot. So many musts that are undone. Embarrassing things, like struggling to comb baby’s hair or brush her teeth (honestly, have you met our baby? she is really remarkably resistant to teeth brushing). Feeding here: though she does eat, but still, I know there are a bazillion other dishes I could and should be making for her to max-out her nutrition. Strangely, in spite of my massive omissions as a parent, she seems to be doing well. She is happy. Healthy. Smart. Fun. Secure. How did we get so lucky?

This article came my way today (yes, on Facebook. And I’m swearing off it again) and spoke to what I was feeling. I’m not doing everything I think I could and should do as a parent, but I”m trying. And my daughter doesn’t seem to notice. She really does love and need me. I was running a few errands after work and husband called to check in. I heard a tiny, sweet voice in the background say “Mama?” and that was it. I wrapped things up and rushed home to be with the sweetest person I know. I want to remember that we make magic together, and to relax and enjoy it even if life is messier and less finished than I like.

On that note: two scenes from bedtime.

It’s getting near sleepy-time and she’s wriggling and cuddling and being silly. I ask if I can kiss her. She says “nyew” but smiles her little mischief-smile and leans close. I kiss her and she giggles. Repeat, repeat. Then she kisses the air repeatedly. I ask , “Who are you kissing?” Another mischief smile: “Nana.” (It’s true. Hope you enjoyed your bedtime kiss, mom!)

A bit later, more wiggling and wriggling. Bedtime is closing in. She’s been down and wiggled under the sheets, sat up, rolled, twisted. Finally, she tosses her body over me, snuggles her head into my chest, heaves a deep sigh, and settles in. She drifts off to sleep holding me close.

Acceptance round 3 or 4

Almost 2 months ago I started drumming again. My old teacher was holding weekly jam sessions for advanced students on afro-cuban drumming. I love that stuff, so I went, and was completely invigorated. As time has gone by, I’ve continued to enjoy the evenings often, but also dread them a bit. Finding time to practice has been … hard. Weekdays, it feels like go-go-go until late, and late at night, with a baby sleeping and tenants downstairs, doesn’t inspire drumming practice. In all fairness, I certainly could make it work. I could tap out rhythms on my thighs just to practice the patterns. I could work on clave, which doesn’t need to be loud. I could listen to songs while I drive (maybe – if I can work out the technology). And husband has been wiped out as well, so sometimes I don’t want to abandon him in the evening with baby. And we’ve been working on earlier, regular bedtimes with baby, which happen to fall right when I’d be at drumming.
Lots of excuses. If I really really wanted or needed to drum, I’d make it happen. I guess the difficulty is that I haven’t figured out how vital it is within the spectrum of everything else going on. You see, I also want to write. I really really want to get this next article drafted and submitted for publication. It’s been a long-term project and interest (Baha’i singles), I love writing, and I feel a strong sense of obligation and excitement when I think about doing that. The plan was 15 minutes a day of writing. For the past month or more, I simply haven’t found the time to get to that. So, if I am going to carve out 15 minutes a day for something of my own, what’s it going to be? Write? Drum? Yoga? Reading? A hot bath?

What actually happens: life has been stressful lately. I have felt stressed by life of late. Whichever way you have it, my ability to plan and strategize to make things happen has been minimal. It sometimes feels like I’m sucked into a whirl of do-do-do around the house (not melodically speaking, either) which has its own energy but doesn’t like to break for personal time. Cleaning is never-ending, as is food prep, as is laundry, as is paperwork. I struggle to pause and reflect and choose consciously how to spend my time. The physicality of home and family care feels vital and all-consuming.

And then there are the times I do slow down. I focus on baby, I go for a walk, I take some time. The weekends sweep by, not much is done, and I know it was good. We had family time. But: the home/family work still awaits, and the drumming/writing still didn’t happen.

And finally: when things feel stressful, when our family is trying to figure out what to do next (the house, the house!), when I’d rather be home with baby, the only thing I want to do is purge. Or shop. And then purge. Whittling our possessions down to only those things we love and use is one big way I deal with stress. Our possessions are controllable, though our house isn’t. Being able to grasp mentally what we have, to feel mastery over it, is a peace and security I crave. So again: I don’t write, I sort through the bookshelves yet again for titles to eliminate.

My husband offered today, when I told him about drumming: why can’t we find 15 minutes a day for you to practice? I said, I want to write. His comeback: so we find 30 minutes a day for you. My response: Then there’s blogging. That makes 45 minutes.

Anyone else sensing some resistance?

I accept that our lives are in a busy, stressful time right now.

I accept that caring for my family is really important to me.

I accept that having an orderly home environment is important for my peace of mind.

I accept that if I want to pursue my passions, I need to make them a priority.

I believe that I can make time for things I want to do.

I accept that right now, I can’t do everything I am passionate about.

I accept that creating order is a never-ending process and that only I can call a time-out.

I accept that right now, my energy from earlier this evening is fading and it’s time for bed.

Time and experiences

Today I had the gift of some time and time-free experiences. After a reasonable night’s sleep, girlie woke up at 6:30 to nurse. And went back to sleep! My alarm was set for 6:40 and I felt pretty awake after a couple of longer sleep stretches, so I got up.
Aaah, time to myself in the morning! I showered; dressed; hung up wet diapers; filled bottles for the day; made tea; made oatmeal; filled out an election ballot to mail; made a to-do list for work; prayed; packed up bags; and got some reading done for the paper I’m slowly working on. So delightful to have time to get ready for the day and feel that loose ends are tied up as I leave the home!

Baby woke up at 7:30 and nursed for quite a while. Nursing is turning into the most magical experience in my life right now. This sweet little person reaches out for me and relaxes at my breast. I hold her, smooth her hair, cuddle her, talk with her, love her. It’s our time together, and it’s the best in the world. I wish all mothers the opportunity to nurse, and nurse long – it is truly one of the greatest gifts of motherhood.

Baby fell asleep on the way home from work and I carried her in and put her to bed. I had a lovely dinner that husband prepared (thank you!!), then a fabulous hot bath with a book. So soothing! (reading “welcome to your child’s brain” – a great survey of brain research to date). Then, of course, baby woke up and husband brought her in to me. Once crying baby was in the bath and latched on, she calmed right down. She nursed and nursed on one side, then with a sigh, moved her head over and settled into my chest.

Oh … heaven. Sweetest baby softness resting herself over my heart.

She moved to the other breast then, sucking away for a long time, then back and forth. She was eating and also connecting, calming down, relaxing and having fun at the end of a busy day. She didn’t want to get out of the bath in the end, even after playing for a while, but we insisted as the bathwater was getting cold.

Now she’s awake, I’m exhausted, but very grateful for the time and moments that made up today.

Weekends

Another one come and gone. I do not intend to mourn its passing, however, but to reflect on the pace of life weekends of late have inspired in our home and what that might mean into the future.
This weekend we got a few things done around here – really, our usual weekend routine:

  • Changed sheets on the bed
  • A few loads of laundry
  • Grocery shopping
  • General house clean, not super detailed but neat

This weekend also contained many delightful things (not to imply that the items above were not delightful in execution):

  • Visits with two friends and some family.
  • Baking cookies (yum, more ginger cookies!! Tastier than before, if stranger looking)
  • Pancake breakfast at home
  • Morning magazine-flipping session
  • Out-time with family – part work (returns), part fun (family)
  • Reading! One.5 novels thus far.
  • Lots of baby time.

That last one is the reason I’d call the weekend a success. I didn’t worry about what got done or try to multi-task or ask husband to look after baby so I had some free time. Okay, I did a little. After all, I had some returns to do, needed a good shower, and had a few tasks I did with baby. But mainly, I slowed down and let myself enjoy my daughter. Boy, it was fun:

  • All the new things she’s doing. Suddenly, instead of throwing off the blankets in bed, asking us to lift them up so she (and her stuffies) can squirm underneath
  • Now willing for us to put clothes on her!
  • Boogeying to music, especially her children’s CD. I tried this weekend to play other world music, but she kept on shaking her head vigorously “no!” at every track until I switched back. Her little bum-bum dance is awesome!
  • New words and more talking! From her multi-syllable ones (gupta; mamoo); to active use of familiar ones (nana – points to the door, requesting a visit from her grandma – A’ya – points to herself); to new ones (up – “hap hap!”); to her noisy “yayaya!”, it’s a thrill listening to her
  • A lovely walk outside today, toddling all over
  • Nurse-o-mania: she couldn’t get enough of my boobs this weekend.
  • She fell asleep in my arms for naps each day this weekend. I held her for good lengths each time. Holding that sweet, sweet girl … heaven.

3 days of shifting my focus from productivity to being and loving. Not sure how I’m getting to acceptance of the priority of experience over completion, but I’m finding it at various points.

There still are things that need doing. Need, as in our family well-being depends on them, my writing (journal articles, ha ha!!! and other writing, like the short story I dreamed this weekend that begins “I came home two weeks early for the wedding.”) which my emotional well-being and potentially future career possibilities depend on. Somehow, I’m not judging me or my husband that things didn’t get done or that we’re behind the ball on certain projects. And I can even write that sentence without freaking out about “the list”! The omnipresent, controlling list. I believe in The List, but it doesn’t have to rule my life. Somehow, this weekend I had the kind of quality time with my family, yes, and particularly my daughter, that I’ve been wanting. Cause to celebrate. And reflect.

Pick a topic, any topic

Today was one of those busy days (with admittedly a good dose of procrastination) and tired evenings where, once I sit down to blog, all the interesting topics I thought of writing about today vanish from my head. Baby just went to sleep and the house is mainly clean thanks primarily to husband who did a lot of cleaning and planning ahead today. I did a round of clean-up while he bathed baby, putting away laundry, sorting the kitchen, putting diapers to wash, emptying the dishwasher. It’s amazing how much work can be left even after a reasonably thorough clean-up!
That train of thought leads me to a related observation: housework is never done. Perhaps not original, but particularly striking for me of late. We really have done a pretty good job of decluttering our things. No piles of junk, no newspapers, most extra clothes gone, books thinned, baby’s toys down to the ones she plays with. We pick up after ourselves. Yet by the end of a quiet evening at home, there could easily be 1.5 hours or more of housework to do. Astonishing!

This leads to a dream, goal, elusive state I pursue: to pare down our lifestyle so this excess work can be minimized. I think I’m chasing a chimera, but I’m willing to keep pursuing because I would really love more time to do other things. WRite, for example. Which I may or may not get to tonight, tired as I am. Reading an escapist novel seems more fun.

As I write this post I”m acutely aware of an article I read today about pronoun use and what it says about our psychological state. I wonder, does saying “I think” in the last paragraph (or “I wonder” in this one), project a lack of confidence or competence?

As I type I’m also comparing this experience with typing on my NEW WORK LAPTOP! Arriving just yesterday, the new Macbook Pro promises to be a sleek and enticing toy to use for minutes, presentations and that’s about it. Oh, if I’m lucky I’ll fit in a video editing seminar at work and then edit small videos for our website too :). It’s cleanness, neatness, ease of set-up (open and use … brilliant!) contrast with the slooooowness of my own laptop, now almost 2.5 years old. It probably just needs a clean-out, but it has been frustratingly slow for the past month or more. Long delays while surfing, even typing.

I missed bay more than usual today. I kept imagining her intense sweet face with those dark eyes staring out at me as I drove off to work. I had a conversatino with another woman at work today who returned to work from mat leave at about the same time. She is also feeling unbalanced (5 days a week, 2 kids) but without other options right now. The world just isn’t perfect. Moms and babies deserve more flexibility and support for the crucial first few years. I still am not settled on being a working mom, particularly with my baby the age she is. Yet I don’t have a lot of choice right now. So it is.

enough randomness. Good-night.