Category Archives: Choose Happiness

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

Microblog Mondays: Signs of Spring

Last week we finally had a nice day (18 degrees Celsius and sunny).

After P’s morning nap I dragged her outside, set up the travel crib, poured in a bunch of easily washed toys, and plunked her in. I then ran around at top speed trying to cut back all the dead bits in the garden that I should have cut back last fall but didn’t.

In the forty minutes we were out there P. threw all of her toys over the side. She babbled at a neighbour who came over to say hello. She ate at least one pine needle (I fished three or four more out of the crib once I realized the tree that was providing shade was also providing unauthorized snacks).

I got two-thirds of the garden tidied up, filled a yard waste bag, and counted the crocuses (no yellow ones at all yet, which is an even worse result than last year).

I ended up with dirt under all ten fingernails (even while wearing gloves).

And I felt my whole body relax.

It’s time to play in the garden again.

Spring is here.

What (other than the weather) tells you that spring has arrived where you live?

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 Choose Happiness, Daily Life, Microblog Mondays

What the mirror doesn’t show

Take a look at the Mum and baby in the mirror. The baby is smiling- she loves looking at the baby in the mirror. The Mum is smiling too, because who can not smile when looking at such a smiling, happy baby? The Mum has big dark circles under her eyes and her hair probably could use a wash but her clothes are clean and they’re not pajamas.

The baby is, by any definition, adorable.

The Mum looks like she is doing a Good Job at being that baby’s Mum.

And she is.

The baby is healthy and growing. She is fed whenever she is hungry. She is cuddled whenever she needs a cuddle.

She is loved.

The Mum loves the baby so much she thinks sometimes her heart will explode. She didn’t think she could love anyone as much as she loves the baby’s older brother, but she loves this baby just as much.

But the mirror doesn’t show how the baby gets up every two or three hours at night, every night, and then won’t go back to sleep at 5 a.m. unless she gets to snuggle in bed and nurse (which means the Mum can’t go back to sleep because she is too worried about having the baby in the bed with her).

The mirror doesn’t show how the baby gets bored during the day and fusses and frets because she is still a baby and doesn’t want to be.

The mirror doesn’t show how the Mum gets bored during the day, even though she loves the baby so very much and couldn’t imagine not being at home with her.

The mirror doesn’t show how the Mum has to choose, every day, whether she will shower or sit down and have a cup of tea, because there is rarely the time to do both.

The mirror doesn’t show how the Mum has to read every label of every item of food she eats, how the baby’s tummy still isn’t quite right sometimes even though the Mum tries so hard to be careful. It doesn’t show how much the Mum misses her comfort foods. The Mum thinks she would probably dream about cheese if she wasn’t so tired she no longer remembers her dreams.

The mirror doesn’t show how the baby’s big brother is still struggling to adjust to the demands of school, or the meetings the Mum has had with the teacher, with a developmental paediatrician. It doesn’t show the question marks that have been raised about the big brother’s development, nor how much the Mum worries about him sometimes.

The mirror doesn’t show how much the Mum worries about her mother, newly widowed, or her father, still in the hospital, still paralyzed, still (and forever) unable to breathe on his own.

The mirror doesn’t show how sad and worried the recent election has made the Mum, how hard she has to work every day to keep from being overwhelmed by the reality of the world in which she has suddenly found herself living.

The mirror doesn’t show how worried the Mum is about her sister and the baby who is coming soon. The Mum tries not to worry but she can’t shake the fear that this horrible year has one last terrible outcome waiting around the corner. She does not think she will truly relax until she hears that the baby is born and both the baby and her sister are healthy and well.

The mirror doesn’t show how the Mum has a moment before she gets out of bed on the mornings where the baby has had a particularly bad night, having already been awake for an hour or two with no tea and no breakfast, where she wonders how she will be able to make it through that day.

She does.

She gets through that day, and then the next day, and then the one after that.

She takes the big brother to school and picks him up. She helps the baby to take her naps (because who wants to nap when sleep means you miss out on something). She gets the laundry done and the house cleaned (most of the house, most of the time). She makes dinner (some of the time). She makes snacks and reads stories and answers questions (so.many.questions). She changes the baby, and nurses the baby, and sings to the baby, and cuddles with the baby.

She tries to remember that her husband is also tired.

She tries not to engage in score keeping, but to instead notice and appreciate everything that he does.

She tries not to resent him for being able to use the bathroom when he needs to, for eating breakfast uninterrupted, for going to work and having adult conversations.

Some days she is better at all of these than others.

She is doing a Good Job.

But she is so very, very tired.

She knows that things will get better.

She knows that the days are long, but the years are short.

The baby’s big brother is almost impossibly grown up now. He is losing the teeth that the baby will soon be getting.

The Mum is reminded, every day, when she looks at him that babies are not babies forever. And when she kisses him goodnight and tucks him in one last time before she goes to bed, she still smooths his hair and marvels that he will now sleep through anything, even the crying of his baby sister who has been woken up by the sounds of her parents getting ready for bed, just like he once was.

Still. Some days are very, very long.

The Mum gives the baby in the mirror a big kiss.

The baby gives one of her full-body smiles, where she waves her arms and kicks her legs and wriggles around and beams with a wide, gummy grin.

This smile is not for the other baby. This smile is for her Mummy.

The Mum smiles back.

The mirror does show love.

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Filed under Anxiety Overload, Choose Happiness, My addled brain, P.- the first year, Sleep

On being (sometimes) a grasshopper

I’m sure everyone knows Aesop’s fable about the grasshopper and the ant, where the ant is industrious and works hard and stores food for the winter and the grasshopper flits about and has fun and doesn’t worry about tomorrow and then meets a bad end when the cold weather comes (largely because the ant won’t help it). The moral of the story is meant to be all about hard work and planning for the future, but the ant comes across as mean spirited and a bit of a killjoy.

Q. and I are ants, in that we live within our means. We bought the house we could afford, not the one we really wanted. We don’t keep a balance on our credit cards. When we do take on debt (such as buying a car), we pay it off as fast as we can.

My father is an ant.

My stepfather was, to a certain degree, a grasshopper.

My father, thanks to his ant-like tendencies, has the financial resources to pay for the extensive care he is going to need for the rest of his life. He will not have to live in some sort of institutional setting because he cannot afford otherwise.

My stepfather, thanks to his grasshopper nature, enjoyed more than a decade of retirement from his long-term career.

If my stepfather had been in my father’s accident, and my father had ended up with my stepfather’s cancer, their outcomes would have been even more bleak. My father would have died only eighteen months or so after retiring from his second career, and my stepfather would not have had the financial resources for private care.

But I feel like both of them are reminders that we should all channel the grasshopper, at least some of the time.

My father is 63.

My stepfather died the day before his 65th birthday.

Neither of them is going to get the decades of retirement that financial planners urge you to consider when thinking about the future.

They both made time to travel, to visit family, and to enjoy hobbies. They both squeezed a great deal into their lives.

But I can’t help but feel that they were both cheated of so much.

Being at home with a small baby, I do spend a certain amount of time wishing for the future. I can’t help it- I’m not a baby person. I love P., but I will enjoy her more when she is bigger.

At the same time, I find myself thinking a lot about my father and my stepfather and reminding myself to stay present, in this moment, in this life.

This isn’t a dress rehearsal.

This is all we get.

And when Q. and I are looking ahead, to places we want to go, and things we want to do, I am going to try to remember that we need to be grasshoppers too, at least some of the time.

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Filed under Blink and you'll miss it, Choose Happiness, Family, Grief, P.- the first year

Home

Last month, right before I set off on my holiday travels, I realized something.

This house, the one which Q. and I bought together, the one to which we brought home our E. when he was three hours old, is now the house in which I have lived the longest in my entire life.

Seven years and (as of this week) four months.

For most of my childhood I moved every year. After my parents divorced, my mother and stepfather eventually settled in the house that has always been “home”, at least in terms of “where I grew up”, even though we didn’t move there until the summer before grade seven. Up until that point there had been nothing else that could have qualified as “where I grew up” except for a list of army bases.

I left that house, seven years and two months after we moved into it, to go to university. And while it remained my permanent address for tax purposes for the next four years, and it was what I thought of and meant when I said “home” for longer than that, I never really lived there again.

In my undergrad I lived in residence and then in a big house with five friends and then in a smaller apartment with two friends (by far the best living arrangement, so I stayed there for two years) and, finally, in an even smaller apartment with my sister for one amazing summer.

Then I went overseas. Two years in residence in the U.K., then a few months in Q.’s rental flat before we moved to our own (rented) house, and then, a little over a year later, into our own house, which we’d bought for what seemed like an obscene amount of money at the time (and is laughable now when I look at current house prices).

We thought we were putting down roots. We both had permanent jobs. We had a car and a house. I had a horse.

We were settling in to make a home.

And then Q. got the job back home, which is how I thought about it, even though Canada manifestly was NOT his home, and I’d been away for five years.

We sold the car and the horse and the house (a year after we’d bought it). We quit our jobs. We moved to Canada and got married.

Again, we were without roots.

We spent two weeks in a furnished apartment in the heart of the downtown where the cats, traumatized by the  move, hid under the bed, and Q. went to work, and I sat on the couch and looked out the window and cried, repelled by this big, new, ugly city and homesick for the sunburnt country we’d left behind, a country that had never been mine but could have been had our lives spun down a different path.

Then we rented an apartment in a greener part of the city and I got a job and the cats came out from under the bed and sat on the furniture and looked pleased with themselves and things started to settle.

A year after we moved into that apartment we moved into our house.

And here, at last, we have stayed.

I didn’t go home for the holidays.

I went and visited both sets of parents in their houses, including the house “where I grew up”.

But it was at the end of that visit, when my sister dropped me off in front of our steps and I unlocked the door and let myself in and the cats came running over to greet me, that I came home.

 

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Filed under Choose Happiness, Daily Life, Family

Embrace the Force

Microblog_MondaysI am going ‘home’ for the holidays on Wednesday (in that I am going to what used to be my home but is now where my mother and stepfather live because where I now live has really, truly become home for me).

I really, really, really should get one more lecture written before I go.

I have a meeting this afternoon with the course director for the class I’m unexpectedly taking over in January.

Afterwards, I really, really, really should come home and write more of that lecture.

I’m going to go see Star Wars instead.

Life’s too short.

Remind me I said that when I’m writing that lecture in a frantic rush in about three weeks.

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 Choose Happiness, Fun, Microblog Mondays

Photography Goals for 2016

One of the blogs on my feedly is a lifestyle photography blog mostly directed at mothers who want to take better pictures of their kids. I’ve been reading it for a couple of years now and have definitely picked up some useful tips (although I am nowhere near as good as she is).

I noticed this fall that I largely stopped taking photos once E. started JK. I would still get the camera out for major events (like our cottage weekend over Thanksgiving), but when it came to our day-to-day existence, the camera was just sitting on the shelf. I recently (finally) uploaded the photos for the rest of the year to our online album that I share with friends and family and the photos stopped on the 21st of November. I didn’t take any pictures of E. in December before he left. I did take a couple of pictures of his (hilarious) letter to Santa, but I need help from my brother-in-law to blank out the address before I post them anywhere.

Q. is hopeless at taking pictures, partly because his family does not have a strong tradition of taking pictures, and partly because he just trusts I’m going to take far too many. I sent him down under with our point-and-shoot camera, and did try to stress the point that E. will not see these relatives again for AT LEAST eighteen months and maybe it would therefore be a good idea to get some photos of the family because E. and his two cousins will all look completely different by the time they’re next together, but I’m not holding my breath.

Anyway, thinking about our photos (or lack thereof) inspired me to set a couple of photography goals for myself for 2016. I didn’t have any formal goals for this year, but I did take the big step of switching my camera into fully manual mode. I’d been shooting in Av mode for about two years, where I set the aperture and monitored the white balance, but the camera set shutter speed and ISO, and I knew it was time to step out of my comfort zone. I’m still finding it a challenge, especially figuring out how much light I need. I don’t edit my photos or shoot in RAW, so I need to get it right in camera. But in general switching to manual has improved my photos.

This year I felt like I needed something a bit more specific as a goal in order to keep focused. Now that I’m not spending as much time with E., I’m going to have to make more of an effort to keep my shutter count rising. But that’s the only way I’ll continue to improve.

1. Use my new camera

In July (JULY!) I bought a new DSLR body. It is still sitting in a box on my desk. I am completely intimidated by it and I’ve been refusing to get it out because I know there’s going to be a steep learning curve and there’s always an occasion coming up where I don’t want to run the risk of not getting any decent photos because I haven’t quite figured out the camera yet. But here we are, six months later, and I still haven’t taken even a baby step towards using it. Enough. Q. bought me my old camera in 2007. The technology and the capabilities of the new body are incomparable. I need to just start using it and suffer the indignity of possibly having my photos look worse for a time before they look much more amazing.

2. Try a Project 365

I thought about doing this last year and then chickened out. I think because E. was so sick over the holidays I didn’t take any pictures until we were home again and by then I’d missed a few days and I therefore decided that there was NO POINT in even trying a 365 because I’d already missed a few days (there are times when I really hate my perfectionism). I need to learn to use my new camera, and I need to be better at taking pictures of things other than E., and I need to use my camera more consistently outside of the summer months, and this project is perfect for all three issues.

3. Get in the frame at least once a month

This is actually a goal of the blogger I follow, but it’s a good goal for me too. My sister pointed out when I did my huge update of photos that I was maybe in two of them. I know it’s a problem- I have a billion pictures of E., lots of pictures of him with Q., the occasional picture of all three of us, and almost no pictures of just E. and his Mummy. Again, not helped by the fact that Q. really doesn’t enjoy taking pictures. Also not helped by the fact I’ve put the camera on manual, as Q. doesn’t feel very comfortable using it, even if I set up the entire shot for him and tell him where to stand. And if I give the camera to someone else, more often than not the photo ends up blurry. I don’t have a smartphone, so I can’t just whip that out and take selfies with E.  I have been meaning for years to form a relationship with a photographer and pay for an annual session to get some gorgeous family shots, but that will only put me in the frame for one month out of twelve! This goal needs some thought, but it’s an important one.

4. Finish a photobook (ANY photobook)

Finishing a photobook was one of my goals for the summer with my Happiness Reset project. I failed miserably at this goal (although I did finish the summer much much happier than I’d started it, so overall the project was a success). It is the same problem I’m having with the new camera. I am paralyzed by the thought that if I make a photobook it might not be perfect and therefore I will regret having made it. What matters though is just getting the thousands of photos I’ve taken off my computer and into a format where we can enjoy them. I have seriously thought about just printing them out as 4x6s and putting them in an album the old-school way, but I love the layout options for photobooks (when I’m not finding the choice overwhelming). I really want to finish an album for E’s first two years before this baby comes so that E. can easily look at all the pictures from when he was a baby (my plan is to print two copies- one for us and one for E., so I don’t freak out if E. rips the occasional page or spills something on it). Sometimes (often) I need a firm deadline in order to get anything done, and you don’t get a much firmer deadline than a baby’s arrival, so hopefully I can find make the time to make this happen.

Those are my goals for 2016. Long term, I would like to be good enough by the time I turn 40 to submit an application to Now I Lay Me Down to Sleep (nilmdts), an organization that pairs volunteer photographers with parents who are experiencing the loss of an infant so that the grieving family has some beautiful photos with which to remember their lost child. This is something I’ve been thinking about for a while. I’ve known for a long time now that I wanted to find some way to give back to the infertility and loss community which has sheltered and supported me for so many years. I know I will never be a doula or a midwife or a counsellor. But this is something which I could do, and demand for nilmdts’s photographers regularly outstrips their availability (which is why they can only offer their services to parents losing a child at birth).

You have to be basically at a professional standard to be one of their photographers. Most of the photographers in my region run businesses specializing in maternity, newborn, family shots, with the odd wedding photographer thrown in. You have to be confident shooting in very low light conditions, using auxiliary lighting like a Speedlight. This is exactly the type of situation where I am least confident with my camera. You have to be able to edit your images, and I have resolutely avoided editing my images thus far. So I have a lot of learning to do. But I’m giving myself four years (almost) to practice and learn and practice and read and practice some more. It’s a big goal, but I think I’m up for the challenge.

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Filed under Choose Happiness, Fun