Category Archives: Butter scraped over too much bread (a.k.a. modern motherhood)

Microblog Mondays: Planning Ahead

I’d been doing really well with Microblog Mondays until September arrived and my new academic year started. I think I’d only missed one or two in 2017 before Labour Day. Since then it’s been a struggle, as evidenced by the fact that I’m writing this on Tuesday morning in the spare fifteen minutes I have before meeting with my postdoc supervisor (for the first time since the postdoc started on 1 September- we’re pretty relaxed about the whole thing and she recognizes I don’t want to drive the 90 minutes it takes to get to her university any more often than I have to).

It’s a combination of being home with P. on Mondays (and thus having very little time to myself), teaching on Tuesday nights, and trying to keep teaching prep and marking from eating into my regular working hours on Tuesdays. This means I spend P’s nap on Monday and Monday nights frantically making a PowerPoint, creating an answer sheet for the exercises from the chapter(s) I’m teaching that week, adding grades to the spreadsheet, etc. I should also spend Sunday nights working on the course as well, but I’m usually so tired by the end of the weekend that I opt to watch something on Netflix with Q. instead.

All that to say I think I need to start writing these entries on Fridays.

Have you had to suddenly change up your routine this fall? How do you figure out what needs to change and where you can fit it all in?

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 Butter scraped over too much bread (a.k.a. modern motherhood), Life after the PhD, Microblog Mondays

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

Microblog Mondays: Cake-tastrophe

E turned six today.

He requested, just like last year, a train cake (although with a few modifications).

I am not what you would call a Pinterest-worthy mama. The train cake last year was a stretch, but it turned out surprisingly well. So I wasn’t too stressed when I woke up this morning and still had to bake and decorate said cake.

By 11:03 a.m. I was sitting on my kitchen floor sobbing because absolutely NOTHING was working with the cake. It stuck in the pan and broke when I tried to get it out; it crumbled whenever I tried to cut it; the icing glued to the crumbed edges and broke them off; the jelly roll sitting on top of a flat slice of cake looked nothing at all like the oil tanker of my imagination.

The cake was completely, utterly, fucked, and I no longer had any time in which I could fix it because I was out of cake mix and out of icing and P. was soon going to wake up from her nap.

And although I knew it was JUST a cake, when E. had woken up that morning he had been disappointed because he had thought that all of his presents would be out and wrapped just like at Christmas and when I’d taken him to school he’d said to me sorrowfully that “this hadn’t been how [he’d] imagined [his] birthday would start” and the thought that I would have to pick him up that afternoon and tell him I hadn’t been able to make him the train cake he wanted, the train cake that he’d picked the decorations for when he went with me to Bulk Barn, the train cake that he’d asked for months ago, just broke my heart.

So I sat on my floor and cried.

And then I called in the cavalry.

My youngest sister turned up with a slab cake and more icing (AND helium balloons including a giant silver E) and my mother turned up with one of those icing nozzle things and together we fixed the cake.

And E. loved it (except for the fact that I directed my mother to put the boiler too far away from the cab of the steam locomotive).

Some days it really does take a village.

What was your worst baking disaster? Were you able to fix it?

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 Butter scraped over too much bread (a.k.a. modern motherhood), E.- the sixth year, Family, Microblog Mondays

Life Tetris

I’ve always liked how Karen uses the term Life Tetris whenever she posts about trying to balance everything that is going on, so I’ve freely borrowed that from her while also mixing my metaphors, because I still think in terms of juggling.

Balls I’m Still Keeping In The Air:

  • Being a Good Daughter (in that I’m still researching potential new apartments for my mother and have arranged to go and see some of them with her when she is here next week [scratch that, Mum hasn’t been able to come yet because she is being a Good Daughter and looking after her mother who possibly has pneumonia] and I’ve been making contacts with Airbnb hosts to find out if their “wheelchair accessible” rental will actually allow my father to come and visit for an afternoon if we stay there)
  • The garden (in that I’ve weeded the front to within an inch of its life, so I probably have four days before I start to feel like it’s getting out of control again; the beds in the side yard still need attention are all tidied up too)
  • The car (in that I called to make the appointment to get its winter tires taken off after Q. didn’t manage to find the time to do it for six days in a row)
  • The back/side yard landscaping project (we wanted to do this last summer but 2016 happened. I have spent hours over the last three weeks researching potential contractors, meeting with them, getting quotes, clarifying quotes, comparing quotes, negotiating, asking questions, etc., and I finally made the decision to go with the same company who did the original landscaping in the front (which makes me feel like I’ve wasted all of those hours but if we’d just gone with them again we wouldn’t have felt confident it was the right decision as they are mainly landscapers and a big chunk of the project is converting an asphalt parking pad to interlocking brick))
  • Buying groceries
  • Doing laundry (including all of P’s latest hand-me-downs which appeared on our porch over the weekend)
  • Remembering we have a cat
  • Organizing car seats for our upcoming trip down under
  • Organizing E’s birthday and birthday party for friends
  • Keeping our main floor safe for P to explore (this is a constantly moving target at the moment as she keeps learning how to do new things (I can climb stairs! I can reach tables! I can haz keys!))
  • School forms, permission slips, and classroom requests (E has a centipede, an unidentified grub, and a June beetle larva in a jar to take in to school tomorrow after his teacher asked for “little critters your kids find” and he helped me weed the garden)
  • Managing the household finances (I even did our taxes really early this year)
  • Being a Good Mum and a Good Spouse (I debated whether or not to write this down. Was it self-evident? Was it presumptuous? I am not perfect but on balance I think I am doing ok.)

Balls I’ve Dropped:

  • Getting ready for warmer weather (we had a fluke hot day last week which made me realize that I have no idea whether P has any spring/summer clothes at all as I gave most of her current size away to an Australian cousin in 2012 and I need to completely reorganize the bins downstairs to figure out what she has for 12-18 and 18-24 months; also I think this year we probably have to admit that E should not still be wearing his size 3T shorts even if he can get them on; I did order sunglasses for both kids (E broke his last year; his baby pair we gave away a couple of years ago) and sunhats for E (he lost his only hat at school last week, which is incredibly unusual for him, but he needed new ones anyway as he’d been wearing it for two years and it was getting small))
  • Cottage vacation in August (I have not booked a cottage; our usual rental company has no suitable cottages for our current phase of life (read: probably newly walking toddler) available when we’re available because I should have done this in January
  • Mulch (we swore last year we would never again go a year without ordering and spreading mulch…)
  • The front railing (it is rusting and needs to be stripped and repainted)
  • The front door (our storm door gave up the ghost a couple of weeks ago and Q. has done the work to determine he won’t be able to easily fix it, which raises the issue of whether we even want a storm door or whether we should buy a new properly insulated front door; this is a decision I don’t have the bandwidth for at the moment)
  • Getting the ducts and the windows cleaned (looooonnng overdue; I want to finally get them organized and done while Q. is away as a surprise)
  • Cleaning the house (we vacuum and clean the bathrooms every week but any aspect of “deep cleaning” (washing baseboards and kitchen cupboards, cleaning the stove (and behind the stove), washing walls and floors, dusting) is, let’s face it, never going to happen
  • Looking after me (see previous post re: exercise, hair cut, dentist)
  • A joint birthday party for P and E for family (There is one weekend between early May and late June where we’re not out of town, hosting relatives, or organizing some other event like E’s friend party. I put this in the too-hard basket. We will make P. a cupcake on her birthday and sing to her, but it will just be the four of us #secondchildproblems)

Balls That Are About To Be Added:

  • E needs 15-20 minutes a day spent working on various activities that will make printing easier for him by the time he starts Grade 1 in the fall (which means I need to organize what I need for all the activities and plan out how we will approach each day, etc.)
  • It’s May tomorrow, which means I really need to start writing my chapter for the edited volume
  • I’m sure there are more but Q. left yesterday for an overseas conference and today I took both kids on a major excursion to help make up for the fact that my Mum hasn’t been able to come and E. is bitterly disappointed and my brain is just fried.

I have always been busy, but the single biggest difference I’ve noticed from going from one kid to two is how unrelentingly out of control I always feel. It’s not even that P’s arrival has increased the life admin by that much (yes, there’s more laundry, and yes, I have more bins to sort through when the weather changes, and more doctor’s appointments, etc., but it doesn’t seem especially onerous), more that the amount of time I now have in which I can tackle life admin has shrunk.

When I feel that my life is getting messy, I get anxious. But you can never cross off everything that *should* get done on your list.

Muddle through. One day at a time.

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Tipping Point

I am hitting a wall over here.

  • P cut back her nursing about a month ago and I immediately gained a bunch of weight. It’s not a large amount in the grand scheme of things but it’s enough that some of my clothes don’t fit as well as they should. I have an equilibrium weight that my body likes to sit at and I’ve strayed far enough away from it now that I feel even more sluggish and tired than I would from the sleep deprivation alone.
  • The last time I had my hair cut was back in August, a “get ready for the funeral” haircut. That was also the last time I had my eyebrows tidied up.
  • I have yet to do any form of exercise beyond chasing my children around and walking E. to and from school.
  • I need to go to the dentist. I normally go every three months because my gums are problematic but my long-time hygienist had a baby in February and is on maternity leave and I haven’t made the phone call to change to the dentist closer to our house where both Q. and E. go. I also can’t remember when I last had x-rays done and I’m worried my teeth are full of cavities because P. sucked out all the calcium.
  • I started eating dairy again because P. seems to be able to tolerate it in my diet now and as soon as I had any real milk my face broke out. This coincided with the drop in nursing and the weight gain so there might be a larger hormonal shift happening as well.
  • It’s really starting to be spring outside which means I’m not swathed in my usual winter jacket and sometimes P. is eating sand on the ground at the park which means I don’t have her in the carrier, and I need to stop turning up in ancient yoga pants and an ill-fitting sweater (especially since the last time I did that we ran into E’s best friend and ended up having a spontaneous pizza dinner at their house with two other kids and their mothers, whom I’d never met before, and who were appropriately dressed in skinny jeans and flattering tops and cardigans).

I don’t feel good about myself.

I feel fat and ugly and tired and old (and really, only one of those is true).

I hit the same wall with E. at about the same point. There’s something about the nine month mark, where you realize that your baby has now been out of your body for longer than s/he was ever inside and that s/he’s closing in fast on that first birthday, that makes me take a step back out of the chaos and take a good, hard look at myself. (And yes, P. is ten months now, but this post has been percolating for a few weeks. See the above comment about chaos.)

With E. I joined a boot camp with two of my mum friends.

Right now I’m just desperate to make some time to run. I want to start the Couch to 5K (again, sigh). I know I need to start from the very beginning.

I miss running. It is good for my body, obviously, but it’s also really good for my mind. Nothing else has ever helped as much to manage my anxiety.

I need three sessions a week.

One can be on Friday afternoons when Q. takes the kids.

One can be on Sundays at some time that works.

And then the third needs to fall on Tuesday or Wednesday.

Mornings are out. P. is totally unpredictable with when she wakes up (except this week it’s been 5:30 a.m. or thereabouts every morning, which is really getting tiresome).

Daytime is out, as I sold the jogging stroller I bought (and NEVER USED) when E. was a baby.

But it’s light enough now that I think I could get P. to bed at 6:30 p.m. and then go for a run while E. and Q. were eating dinner. I’d have to eat dinner after them, and Q. would need to put E. to bed that night (it’s not that he would mind, more that we’re in a rut where E. fights tooth and nail if his father does anything- he wants me to do it all), but it could work.

I need to make some space for me.

Anyone else in the same boat?

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Filed under Butter scraped over too much bread (a.k.a. modern motherhood), Choose Happiness, Mirror, Mirror (Body Image), Running