Category Archives: Choose Happiness

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: A decade from “I do”

Q. and I celebrated our tenth anniversary this week. The traditional gifts are tin and aluminum, because a marriage that has lasted a decade has had to be both strong and flexible. Q. bought me a tin lunch box with envelopes in it with menus for restaurants in our neighbourhood, along with the promise to take me out to lunch at one of these restaurants each month. I riffed off of Love Shack (the “tin roof, rusted”) and promised to buy him (and me) new pillows once we get home.

We left both kids with Granny and one of their aunties and escaped to a restaurant with a spectacular view and amazing food. We drank an entire bottle of wine over lunch. It was wonderful.

Earlier in the week, we’d been woken up at midnight to the sound of E. vomiting. We went in to discover that he’d been sick all over his room- his floor, his mirror, his sheets, his duvet, his pillow, his favourite stuffed animal. And we fixed it. I stayed with E. while he threw up again (in the bathroom this time) and then cleaned him up. Q. dealt with the linens. And then I washed his stuffed animal (repeatedly) in the bathtub while Q. mopped the floor and remade E.’s bed. Then I got into bed and snuggled with E. until he fell asleep and Q. disinfected the bathroom. Finally, Q. and I crawled back into bed, wondered aloud to each other what had set E. off, and then fell asleep, until we were woken up a couple of hours later by E. vomiting again (thankfully this time into the bucket we’d left in his room after the first round).

It’s that night I keep coming back to when I think about why our marriage is still so strong, why we’re still so happy. It’s not about the fancy gestures or the creative presents. Ultimately, what it boils down to is respect, kindness, a willingness to compromise, and the knowledge that when our child is covered in vomit in the wee small hours, we’re both going to get up to fix it.

We’re a team. Always.

(Although the occasional really amazing lunch doesn’t hurt either.)

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, Joy, Microblog Mondays

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