Category Archives: Blink and you’ll miss it

Microblog Mondays: Thankful

It was Thanksgiving here north of the border a couple of weekends ago. Q. and I opted to rent a cottage for the weekend, rather than making the drive to see my parents, partly because we couldn’t face the idea of driving in holiday traffic in both directions after the abject horrors of said drive the previous year and partly because we realized that we hadn’t gone anywhere without friends or family since August 2014, when E. was three.

It felt both wrong and right to put my little nuclear family first, even though we found another weekend this fall where we could go to see my parents (E. has the Friday off from school and we’ll pull him out on the Monday as it’s not feasible to do both houses unless we have four days) and there’s the possibility that my father might be actually moved into his new house by mid-November. Gaining an extra five hours to visit (instead of sitting in traffic) and avoiding the horrors of visiting in the ICU with a toddler in tow seemed like a no-brainer, but I still felt guilty knowing that my sisters had made similar decisions and this meant that all the parents would be alone over the holidays. Our family is not in extreme crisis any longer, but it would be a lie if I said either situation was easy at the moment.

When asked if I was looking forward to the cottage, I said that I expected it would be not remotely relaxing but that it would be a nice change of scene, and (surprise, surprise) I was right.

There were some excellent moments (E. learning to kayak, discovering a tree castle on an island in the middle of the lake that E. could climb, watching the storms blow in and blow out again, E. catching tiddlers off of the dock, P. sitting up on the big outdoor benches eating her lunch) and some less than perfect ones (having both kids screaming within ten minutes of going outside because E. had fallen off a wooden swing and hurt his tailbone and the swing had then swung forward to smack P. in the head, not going hiking with our friends because the car couldn’t get back up the driveway that I had told Q. on arrival I didn’t think we should drive down, but which Q. thought would be fine, and then taking two hours to get said car up the driveway, breaking a taillight in the process). P. struggled with the slope of the ground between the cottage and the lake (read: fell down a lot), and tried to throw herself (or any toys within reach) off the dock at every opportunity.

E. had a blast.

Q. and I each managed to get in a bit of solo kayaking, and Q. even braved the lake for a (very) brief swim. I didn’t get much time to play with my camera, but I did what I could.

 

 

 

A cottage will be easier next year, when P. is older, and even easier the year after that, but I am trying not to wish away the phase of life that is my present. Two years ago we went to another cottage with friends for Thanksgiving. I had learned I was pregnant the day before we left. We didn’t yet know how it would turn out, but now, two years later, here was P., giggling and smiling and climbing into the kayak when she thought we weren’t looking.

I am so thankful.

How do you balance vacation time between your immediate family and your extended one(s)? Does anyone else find this incredibly difficult?

This post is part of #MicroblogMondays. To read the inaugural post and find out how you can participate, click here.

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Filed under Blink and you'll miss it, Choose Happiness, E.- the seventh year, Microblog Mondays, P.- the second year, What were we thinking? (aka travelling with small children)

Accountability- September

Today is my last day of work for September, my last day of work in my first month back from maternity leave.

What have I accomplished?

  • I have written just shy of 8,000 words of the first draft of a chapter for the edited volume which Q. and I are editing. The chapter is meant to be no more than 10,000. I will be over this in the first draft, but I am not worrying about that at this point.
  • I have entered all of my evidence into my giant spreadsheet, which means I no longer have a million post-it notes in several books, left over from the reading I was able to do in the spring. I’ve also read a few more authors and have added their evidence too. I am not finished collecting evidence, but I’m far enough along with the project that my argument is clear and it makes sense to write at the same time as I read.
  • I have read and provided feedback on some of the other chapter drafts for the edited volume (although not as many as I feel I should have, since our co-editors aren’t doing their work and the lion’s share has landed squarely on Q’s shoulders).
  • I am 25% of the way through the fall semester of my class. I have taught the second half of this class before, but the first semester is new to me, so there is a lot of prep work. I am enjoying the teaching and my anxiety about teaching has largely dissipated now that I have a connection with the students. (I am a very good teacher but I always feel sick before teaching a class, especially in the first couple of weeks. I think it’s a form of performance anxiety. I’m so introverted that even though I genuinely love teaching I have to consciously prepare myself to do it.)
  • I have managed a daily (almost) writing practice on work days. Four days a week, I sit down first thing in the morning with my laptop and write for ninety minutes (or two hours if it is going well). The morning is my most productive time by far and I have fiercely protected my writing time from teaching prep, marking, reading, email, life admin, etc. I have always been an academic writer who think and thinks and thinks and then writes and writes and writes. I wrote my dissertation by not writing for weeks or months at a time and then writing 1,000 words a day (or more) for a few weeks when it was time to produce another chapter. This wasn’t a form of procrastination- it was just how I operated. I thought about my ideas for so long that when it was time to write them up the first draft needed very little to be changed. It worked well with the dissertation, where probably 85% of the finished product is identical to what I first drafted, but it meant I hit a hard wall when it came time to think about making revisions for the book. Admittedly, with this current chapter, I have been thinking about it for months, but I can certainly see a difference in the way that I’m writing. My hope goal is that when I get the draft finished I will be able to just start tinkering with editing the book manuscript, since I will have established writing and rewriting as part of the daily routine. I love to write and hate to edit. I’m trying to change that as it’s become abundantly clear to me that I will never publish if I don’t.
  • I have found places I like to work, particularly a little room on the second floor of one of the smaller libraries of the university that is not mine (but at which I have borrowing privileges).
  • I have completed the first three weeks of the C25K running program (and started week four this morning). That is the most consistent running I have managed since I last completed the C25K program, right before our final FET in the fall of 2014. I have run three days a week every week for three weeks. That should make a habit.
  • I have read five books for fun and am well advanced on a sixth. That is the most books I have read in a month since December 2015.
  • I have mostly stayed on top of our life admin. I have figured out how to pay our nanny; booked a cottage holiday for Thanksgiving; ordered hot lunches for E. at school and signed both children up for activities (swimming lessons and an after school science class for E., music with her nanny for P.); read emails and (mostly) answered them; had my eyebrows waxed and my bangs/fringe trimmed; visited the dentist (twice in two weeks since I am someone who needs to go every three months and I hadn’t been in nine).
  • I went out for lunch with Q., the first of our monthly lunch dates that Q. packed into my tin lunch box on our tenth anniversary, even though we didn’t actually go to the restaurant he had planned as it was so unseasonably warm I insisted we find a patio. I went out for lunch on two other occasions with dear friends whom I never get to see often enough.
  • I ended my work day early once to go and sit in a cafe and drink tea and eat cake and read a book. It was so lovely I had to promise myself I would only do this once a month.

There are still things I am working on. I haven’t quite figured out the best way to use my time in the afternoons when I am tired from the writing and the reading and the deep work but it’s still too early to pack it in for the day. I haven’t solved the problem of how to get up from my desk frequently during the day, particularly since I have to bring my laptop, phone, and wallet with me wherever I go. My original plan was to walk over at lunch time from the small library to the big library, but it turns out I don’t like working in the big library all that much.

I do not feel like I am being a good mother, at least not to the standards to which I hold myself. I am not getting enough sleep because P. is up more than she should be at night and she gets so angry and sad when Q. goes in to try to settle her that it is just easier for me to go in instead and give her the cuddle and the milk that she wants. I am sure I would be better at managing this if I were home more during the day and did not feel as guilty. I am convinced she wakes up because she is missing that connection with me, but it is probably teeth or developmental or habit.

I am not as patient with E. as I would like to be, which is a constant battle made worse by the fact that I feel like I should have so much more patience for him since I now see him less. I have a lot of patience, but there are many days where it is not enough.

I do not always manage to have a real conversation with Q. rather than one about logistics and timings and schedules and house needs and kids needs. This morning I volunteered to take E. to school since I was going to be ready to go at about that time anyway, and then E. took a very long time to brush his teeth so I ended up bundling him out the door and forgot that I hadn’t said a proper goodbye to Q. or given him a kiss.

I still think Q. is doing too much of the housework, but every time I suggest an alternative he restates his position that he thinks it makes sense to just get it all done in one morning. He certainly is doing too much of the cooking, but I have to admit that the nights when I need to cook from scratch are frantic and stressful as it turns out there are very few meals you can cook from scratch with a toddler on your hip who is usually trying to nurse. My idea of “easy weeknight dinners” is not the same as Q.’s, so if he wants to do most of the prep on the weekends, I think I should just gracefully accept.

I am still not sure this is what I want, but I do like having the time and space to think about my research and I can see how difficult it would be to build momentum if I had any less time in which to do that. It’s also extremely difficult for me to rationalize taking any time for myself if I’m working less than four days a week, as I feel that if I’m not with the kids I need to be working, especially if Q. is at home with them.

I am still taking it one day at a time, but, on balance, I think this month has gone well.

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Filed under A (Good) Day's Work, Blink and you'll miss it, Butter scraped over too much bread (a.k.a. modern motherhood), Choose Happiness, Life after the PhD, My addled brain, Nursing, Sleep, Who am I really? (Career Angst), Writing

Microblog Mondays: Don’t Rock the Boat?

“I love [Nanny’s name] days,” E. told me one day last week.

“That’s great!” I replied. “What do you like so much about them?”

“She always has so many great ideas for what we can do after school.”

“Of course she does,” I said. “She doesn’t have to worry about cooking dinner or cleaning the house or all the other things. Her whole job is to have fun with you.”

P. & E. are happy with the new routine. In fact, they’re thriving. P. loves her new routine so much that she gets cranky if I don’t do things the same way L. (our nanny) does.

Q. is enjoying his day at home with P. and is somehow able to do the grocery shopping, clean the entire house, and get most of the laundry done, all between dropping E. off at school and putting P. down for her nap. Apparently P. just potters around next to him and has a nice time rather than attaching herself to his leg and screaming until he picks her up, which is what happens when I try to do any of the above.

All of which raises the question: if everyone else in your family is happy, is it selfish to want to change things just because you aren’t?

I still miss my baby.

I miss my big kid.

But they don’t miss me.

This post is part of #MicroblogMondays. To read the inaugural post and find out how you can participate, click here.

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Filed under Blink and you'll miss it, Butter scraped over too much bread (a.k.a. modern motherhood), Microblog Mondays

Make Time for Me

I am trying to find the positives in going back to work, even though at this point I really don’t want to go back to work.

It will be nice to have some time and space to think again.

It will be nice to have some quiet. I was home this summer with both kids, and while it was in many ways a lot of fun, it most certainly was not quiet.

It will be nice, I suppose, to think about my research again. Perhaps I will actually make the revisions the press requested for my book (two YEARS ago. Gah.).

Mostly I am looking forward to being able to make the time to exercise and to occasionally have lunch with a friend.

When E. was little, I found it hard to rationalize doing anything for myself that wasn’t work-related, because if I wasn’t home with E., that meant Q. was, and that meant Q. wasn’t working when he should have been. It felt inappropriate and frivolous to use my time away from E. for anything but the PhD.

This time around, it’s different.

Three days a week P. has a nanny. It is the nanny’s JOB to take care of P. She is not supposed to be doing anything else.

So if I want to use an hour of that time to go for a run, or to eat lunch with a friend, I shouldn’t feel guilty, because the only person whose work isn’t getting done at that point is me. In my view, life’s too short to work all the time, even if I’m supposed to be maintaining full-time hours in my research position and I’m already behind by choosing to stay home with P. one day a week.

I do better work when I make time to read for fun, when I make time to run, when I make time for anything other than sitting in a library staring at a computer screen with a pile of books stacked next to me.

This does not make me a particularly good academic, but it makes me a better person and a much better mother.

I don’t want to be back at work next week.

I would much rather still be at home with P.

I would much rather be the one picking E. up after school every day.

But if I’m not going to be able to do that, at least I can try to make sure that my time away from them is well spent.

And that means making time for me, not just for my research.

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Filed under A (Good) Day's Work, Anxiety Overload, Blink and you'll miss it, Butter scraped over too much bread (a.k.a. modern motherhood), Life after the PhD, Running

Not Ready

My first baby, who could have napped and nursed however he liked, quit nursing during the day at just over ten months and started trying to transition to one nap before his first birthday.

My second baby, at fourteen-and-a-half months, needs to nap twice a day. She still loves to nurse, not only before she naps, but throughout the day. She pats my chest or, if it’s more urgent, she lifts up my shirt or sticks her hand down the neckline. She nurses for anywhere from five seconds to fifteen minutes. If I’m sitting on the floor or in a chair she will often stand up on my thigh, making an inverted ‘v’ with her body, and wiggle her bum in the air. She uses her inside hand to grab my bra or shirt or stroke my free breast. Sometimes she reaches up with that arm and waves it around in the air. I call that “yoga nursing” because she looks like she’s doing the triangle pose.

She asks to nurse when I’m cooking dinner, and I hold her with one hand and stir with the other, with her wispy hair and her still-tiny ears curled in over my chest.

She asks to nurse on transit, in museums, while walking down the street, and, as much as I can, I say yes. I have mastered the art of nursing with her in the Ergo, something I never managed when she was younger. I have become an unintentional advocate for normalizing breastfeeding and know that my country supports my right to feed my baby wherever, whenever I choose. I have become almost immune to accidentally flashing strangers when she unexpectedly decides she’s had enough. The milky smiles make the potential embarrassment worthwhile.

She asks to nurse at night, and I still say yes, although if she wakes up too early in the night I send in Q. who tells her gently that it’s “sleepy time now. No milk. No milk. It’s sleepy time.” When she wakes to nurse closer to the dawn I sit in the rocking chair and hold her close and breathe her in. In those moments she is still, calm, content. I am still allowed to cuddle her, to smooth her one tiny curl and kiss her head

My nursing relationship with my son ended badly, much earlier than I had hoped it would.

And so, to my daughter, I say yes, as much as I can. Yes, I will hold you. Yes, I will cuddle you. Yes, you can nurse now.

She is my last baby, and I am in no hurry to wean.

She is my last baby, and my maternity leave is almost over.

She is my last baby, and so she does not get to have what she wants. She will have to nap only once, so her brother can be picked up from school. She will have to nurse less, because I will not be there.

She will adapt.

She will be fine.

I will be fine, too.

Going back to work is the right decision, on many levels.

But right now it doesn’t feel that way.

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Filed under A (Good) Day's Work, Anxiety Overload, Blink and you'll miss it, Nursing, P.- the second year

Microblog Mondays: Firsts and Lasts

My first baby had his first sleepover this weekend.

He was excited and nervous and worried about saying goodbye to me, which basically sums up E.’s reaction to most new things.

Q. and I weren’t sure if we were going to have to go and get him, but he had a fantastic time.

My last baby is in her last week of being a baby.

Every time E. does something new I’m reminded, again, that we will get a second chance to experience those firsts.

And every time P. does something new, I am reminded, again, that her firsts are also my lasts, for she is, truly, our last baby (despite E.’s insistence that we should have a third child because he’s “not done being a brother”).

She is the baby we never thought we were going to have, so every one of her firsts brings with it this complicated mix of emotions.

Gratitude. Grief. Nostalgia. Anticipation.

I am excited, so excited to see the little person she is in the process of becoming.

But it is bittersweet.

This post is part of #MicroblogMondays. To read the inaugural post and find out how you can participate, click here.

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Filed under Blink and you'll miss it, E.- the seventh year, Microblog Mondays, P.- the first year

Microblog Mondays: Pearly Whites

Last week I took a photo of E.

It’s nothing special- just a head shot of him smiling, staring off to the side. I took it during lunch.

I’m not always good at picking up my big camera these days, but sitting there, in that ordinary moment, I felt a sense of urgency.

You see, E. has a very loose top tooth. He lost the two middle bottom teeth last fall and this top tooth has been wiggly now for months. It’s at the stage where we’re all surprised it hasn’t fallen out yet, and E.’s frustrated with it (but not frustrated enough to ask us to pull it out, for which I am extraordinarily grateful because the idea of yanking out a tooth creeps me right out).

And as we were sitting there, eating our lunch, laughing about something which I’ve already forgotten, it suddenly struck me.

E. is never going to have that smile again.

He will still smile, of course. There will be gaps in it for a while (probably a long while), and then his adult teeth will fill it in.

But it won’t be that smile, because losing those top teeth will change it irrevocably.

Some of my friends have older kids. I’ve seen just how BIG their top middle adult teeth are.

E. will be six next month.

He’s almost finished kindergarten.

He is simultaneously impossibly grown up and still so little.

I don’t usually mourn the passing of time with him. I love being the mother of a (sort-of) big kid.

But I’m going to miss that smile.

This post is part of #MicroblogMondays. To read the inaugural post and find out how you can participate, click here.

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Filed under Blink and you'll miss it, E.- the sixth year, Microblog Mondays