Category Archives: My addled brain

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

On sleep, work, the baby, and balance (or haven’t I been here before?)

I find myself reminded on a daily basis that sleep deprivation is a form of torture.

I am functioning, but only just. It isn’t even that P’s sleep is all that dreadful, more that she’s up twice every night so the sleep I do get is always fragmented into three blocks, compounded by her for the last week or so getting up for the day before 6 a.m.

Every morning I find the last line from Samuel Beckett’s novel, The Unnamable rolling round and round in my head (“I can’t go on. I’ll go on.”)

I can remember being in a very similar stage at a very similar point during E’s infancy (I wrote about it here). The situation wasn’t identical, of course, but it was eerily familiar: I had a baby who was waking up to nurse twice a night, guaranteeing I couldn’t get a block of sleep longer than four hours, and I had a looming academic deadline. In E’s infancy it was the first chapter of my dissertation. This time around it’s the first draft of the book chapter for an edited volume.

We’re running a workshop for the volume in mid-July and all contributors are meant to have the first draft of their chapter available for circulation by the end of May. Given I’m one of the editors (and Q. is another- the book project is really his baby), there wouldn’t be serious consequences were I to miss that deadline. But that’s certainly not ideal.

When we first organized the workshop and mapped out the deadlines, I can remember thinking (this was before P. was born), “No problem. I’ll start reading and collecting sources in March and then I can write the chapter in May.”

I didn’t seriously believe, you see, that I could end up with TWO babies who would get up twice a night to nurse in the second half of their first year. Surely, I thought, by the time P was eight or nine months old she’d be sleeping better than E was. And then she was such a good sleeper for her first two months that she lulled me into thinking she’d be an easy baby.

Ha.

So here I am, with an academic deadline and a brain that feels like mush, and what really gets me is the whole thing is just so.damn.familiar.

Last time around, when I was assessing the impact of my long-term sleep deprivation, I noticed this:

I’m breaking things.

In the last month, I’ve smashed at least four things in the kitchen- a glass, a port glass, a plate, a bowl. I don’t think I’d broken four things, total, in the previous ten years. They were dumb accidents too- I’d reach for something on the counter and knock something else over instead, or I’d pick something up and drop it on something else. They were dumb enough that each time I remember standing there amidst the shards of glass or pottery, thinking, Really? I just did that?

Yep. I’ve started dropping things or being unable to properly hold them when I go to pick them up. It’s like I’m losing my hand-eye coordination.

And there was this:

I forget things.

I forget everything now, if it isn’t written down, and half the time I still forget it even if it is recorded somewhere. Given I’ve always been the memory of this family (Q. being a very clever man but a very absent-minded professor), this is quite disturbing. It makes me feel weak.

Yep. I forget appointments, plans, ideas, even words. A normal conversation in our house now looks like this:

Q. (wrestling with tangled cables): “We should set up a charging station for the mobile phones.”
Me: “Yes! I want to get one of those…things.” *gestures helplessly* “You know! The things with all the things that you can plug in.”
Q.: “A power bar.”
Me: “Yes! Fuck. I want a power bar for my desk downstairs so I can have a charging station for the iPad and my phone and my laptop.”

I have these kinds of conversations with E. all the time. My FIVE YEAR OLD fills in my vocabulary gap when I can’t remember challenging words like “gate”, “streetcar”, or “upstairs” (these are all real examples).

I invited some of E’s friends and their parents to come on a nature walk with us a couple of weekends ago and got the start time wrong. Luckily it was a beautiful day and the family who came didn’t mind being there thirty minutes early, but still.

I had to take P’s passport application in twice because the first time I went to submit it the nice lady behind the desk had to tell me that not only had I forgotten to sign it (which was easily rectified right there in the office), but I had neglected to get Q. to sign it as well (which was not).

I cannot emphasize enough how NOT LIKE ME these types of things are.

My sense of my innermost self is built on a foundation of BEING ORGANIZED.

I am the one who is always on time for everything. Always. Even with two kids.

I remember appointments.

I fill out forms correctly.

If Q. is the absent-minded professor in our family, I am the steel trap memory.

I know the sleep deprivation is temporary- E has taught me that much.

But its effect is enormously difficult for me to cope with, not just because it makes me bleary and fuzzy and short-tempered each day, not just because it means I cannot imagine how I am going to maintain the needed focus to do the research for this book chapter, let alone actually write the thing, but because it fundamentally erodes a not insignificant part of who I believe myself to be.

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Filed under Life after the PhD, My addled brain, Nursing, P.- the first year, Sleep, Writing

Grey

I am struggling a little bit right now.

It’s a combination of a whole bunch of things:

  • As I said in my last post, introducing P to food hasn’t gone all that smoothly. It’s been a stressful couple of weeks.
  • Adding in pumping sessions when P naps has been great for my supply and helpful in terms of always having milk for her oatmeal, but it’s eaten into my ability to do anything else. There are a few things I can do while pumping but many more things that I can’t.
  • P is back to consistently getting up twice a night- usually around 11:30 and then again around 3:30 or 4:00. This is fine, especially when it means she goes back to sleep until 6:30 or so rather than waking up for the day before 6:00, but I’m realizing that the shorter stretches of sleep are starting to wear me down. I’m getting enough total sleep but not a long enough stretch to feel refreshed.
  • I had been worried about P because she has a very dominant hand. I first noticed this ages ago but it became really obvious when she started army crawling. She does all of her reaching/pulling with her right hand and the left arm is just dragged. She also doesn’t splash with the left arm in the bath, prefers to reach with her right, only bangs objects held in the right hand, etc. She can use the left but the disparity is very obvious. We had a head ultrasound, which came back clear, and the neurologist squeezed us in yesterday to get a look at P. He can see the asymmetry but didn’t feel it needed further investigation at this point. In his words, “She looks too good to have had a stroke.” Huge relief, but until yesterday it had been taking up a lot of mental energy.
  • E is still struggling with going to school. He would be a perfect candidate for homeschooling were it not for the fact that I would go crazy. He has made a friend, which is wonderful, but we still have a LONG way to go. His inflexibility at school and at home can be both problematic and exhausting. Q. had to drop him at school the other day because I had to take P to the hospital for her scans and it was a huge issue. Being on mat leave has not been good for him because he’s now accustomed to me being around to do everything.
  • My mother is doing something that I think is hasty, ill-advised, and foolish. I don’t have the mental space or energy to worry about her but it is impossible not to.
  • The weather sucks. Grey, grey, grey, day after day. It is not cold, which is good for getting out with P on the school run, but the parks are a sea of mud and there is no snow at all for E. I badly miss the sunlight.

I am not sure where January went (other than nursing, pumping, feeding). There are so many things I should be doing and they all just seem to be too hard right now. I don’t even know what I’ve been doing in the evenings between when I get E. in bed and when I go to bed myself.

Q. had a birthday this week, a major milestone one, and I really dropped the ball on being ready for it.

I have to submit paperwork to the university to keep my place in line for teaching contracts for the next academic year. I’ve been meaning to sort this out for three weeks and still haven’t done it.

I have a bunch of friends and family I should email and/or Skype and I haven’t found the energy to do that either.

I want to write P’s seven month letter but haven’t started it.

I’ve been focused on my baby, but there are other people who need me too.

I’m tired and I’m worried and I feel like I’ve been both those things for months and months and months and I just don’t know when that’s going to change.

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Filed under Butter scraped over too much bread (a.k.a. modern motherhood), My addled brain

Procrastinate no more!

Microblog_MondaysI am a creature of habit.

I am also a creature of to-do lists.

Nothing helps quiet my mind better than lots of lovely organized planning. With lists full of items I can cross off.

I like crossing things off. I have been known to add things on to a list that I have already done just so I can cross them off.

For years now I’ve been using the same annual diary/agenda/planner: the Moleskine 12 month weekly planner, large, black, soft cover. It is absolutely perfect for me because one side has the days of the week and the other side has a ruled page for “notes and ideas” (according to Moleskine). I use it for my to-do lists:

This was my week starting the 29th of February 2016 (right in the middle of semester):

2017-01-10-11-28-01

This was my week starting the 6th of June 2016 (so the week before the week P was born):

2017-01-10-11-27-35

Q and I use Google Calendar (we have a joint calendar plus separate work calendars), and there is a paper calendar hanging in our kitchen (usually train-themed, as chosen by E), but these little black books are my brain. I would be completely lost without them. I keep them all because I like the idea that I can look back at these snippets of my day-to-day existence.

And yet, EVERY YEAR, I have the same argument with myself.

They’re not cheap- $25.00 on Amazon or in the stores. And I know that they get discounted once the next year starts. So every year I debate in December whether I should buy one at full price or wait to get a discounted one.

The thing is, the discounted ones are never easily found online. I have to physically go search the stores. Some years I luck out. Other years I have to buy one that isn’t quite right- it’s the pocket version, or it has a hard cover, or it’s the 18 month planner.

This year was no different. I quibbled and delayed until they were all sold out and the best match I could find online was a green one (GREEN! THE HORROR!) that was hard cover AND pocket-sized AND still full-price.

I don’t have time to scour the shops to save 50%. So I ordered the green one and it was finally the straw that broke the camel’s back.

I love my planner and I want it to be exactly the same every.single.year.

It gets more use than probably 90% of what is in our house.

So I swear that this year will be the last year where I have to buy the wrong product because I’m too miserly to buy what I really want.

Do you have a yearly planner you can’t live without? Do you also try to play the waiting game to get it on sale?

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), Microblog Mondays, My addled brain

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

Transitions again

Hello readers (if you are out there). So life with two while still teaching is, um, different. I am keeping my head above water but the whole “I’ll just finish the course before going on maternity leave” decision makes a lot less sense this side of things than it did before P. was born. I know it is still the right decision, but oh man I am SO GRATEFUL she stayed in as long as she did because if she’d been born any earlier I would have been screwed. As it stands I wish I’d somehow found time to write all the lectures, because P. is over two weeks old now and I have written exactly one. Only three left, but writing them in snatches of fifteen minutes here and there is really hard.

Some thoughts on the first couple of weeks (in bullet form and written over several days because that’s now how I roll):

  • How to know you’re a second-time parent: I was in the shower, with P. in the bouncy seat in the bathroom. I heard a sound that made me think she was spitting up. Looked out- sure enough, milk everywhere. How I assessed the situation: 1. Is she choking? (No.) 2. Is she upset about being covered in milky vomit? (No.). I finished my shower!
  • I had my first round of solo bedtime at the weekend because Grannie was out picking up Q. at the airport. It included sitting on the toilet nursing P. while E. was having his bath; lying down on the bed nursing P. while having “snuggle” time with E. as he read books and leapt around the bed occasionally pausing to bestow kisses on P’s head; and then trying to moderate my discussion forum while also keeping P. from screaming (she was not having a great evening) while E. kicked the walls of his room and sang at the top of his lungs that he liked to eat yoghurt and bananas.
  • That particular evening aside, P. is already showing signs of being far more laid back than her brother was. Whether this is due to her personality or due to my second-time approach to parenting (read: it’s ok if the baby is not immediately on a predictable routine) is yet to be determined. But it’s a nice change regardless of what’s caused it.
  • E. still having school for eight days after P. was born was the best thing ever. Then we had Grannie here while Q. was overseas, and Q. is taking this week off and then next week E. is in day camp. So I will only have two weeks left in the course when I have both of them home with me full-time and hopefully we will survive and it will be a bit easier to leave the house.
  • Packing to leave the house for any length of time now feels like setting out for the base camp at Everest. Gone are the days of “Got a hat? We’re good!”. I knew this would happen but it has still been a big shock.
  • E. thus far has been great. He asked me the other day how old P. was. When I said she was twelve days, he said, “I’m already getting quite attached to her.” He is starting to notice how unavailable I am and was getting tired of Grannie as a substitute. But he loves getting books that I can read when I’m nursing, and he loves giving P. kisses on her little head.
  • Nursing was really hard in the first week (poor latch when milk came in and I got engorged led to a lot of pain) but things are much better now and have been for a while. P. gained a whopping 7 oz between Day 3 and Day 5 (and was 3.5 oz over her birth weight by Day 5) but then only gained 5 oz in the next week. This is above the minimum but only just, so I’m going to take her back in this week for a weight check just for peace of mind. The midwives are not worried, but of course I am.
  • P. is sleeping really well at night. I feed her around 10 p.m. and then swaddle her and put her in the bassinet and she’s been known to go fairly regularly through until 3:30 or 4 a.m., and will then go three hours before waking again, which gets us past 6 a.m., which I then consider morning as far as I’m concerned. So I am getting a reasonable amount of sleep. I still feel like my head will float off my shoulders around 4 p.m. though.
  • I survived driving P. down to the midwives for her two week appointment (at 12 days). All of my anxiety about parenting this time around seems focused on the car, because we never had one before and Q. has done most of the driving in our big city. P. was happy on the way there (fell asleep) and then screamed like mad on the way home, only calming down when I sang an invented “We’re ok, P.” song (she loathed my efforts with the Wheels on the Bus).
  • We took P. and E. out to see labmonkey and Pea on the weekend, but Grannie did the driving that day. P. was again really good on the way there but did a lot of screaming on the way home. She was superb while out though- happy to just fall asleep in the carrier when we went out to a park. E. was great and would give us P. reports: “Her eyes are open! Oh, they’re closed again!”
  • I need to buy one of those mirrors to mount on the seat so I can actually see her when we’re driving as if I don’t have E. to give me reports I find it extremely stressful.
  • P. is the NOISIEST baby ever. The only way to describe it is she breathes over her vocal cords, so there is this near-constant hum of noise when eating or sleeping. It is a testament to how much less anxious I am this time around that I am able to sleep right next to her with that racket whereas with E. I was still sleeping in the basement at this stage (and then using earplugs for the rest of time he was in our room).
  • Physically I had a much easier recovery, although I’m still having trouble with bleeding because I don’t spend enough time resting (curse of the second-time parent). My midwives spent a lot of time in the hospital making the point that my body had worked very hard even if I didn’t think it had. Emotionally and mentally it’s been much easier too. I’m just in a much better place than I was at this point with E. I’m prepared for all the newborn madness and I’m genuinely enjoying the snuggles. I’m already finding it hard to balance the needs of my two children, but I knew this would be the hardest part for me.
  • I am happy. So very, very happy. She is safe, and she is here, and my family has the piece that has been missing.

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Filed under E.- the sixth year, Joy, Me? Pregnant?!, Midwives, My addled brain, Nursing, P.- the first year, Siblings

Happiness Reset Sphere #4: Self

For the reasons why I decided to put myself through a happiness boot camp, see here. For the first three spheres in my boot camp, Parenthood, Marriage, and Work, see here, here, and here.

I knew from the outset that SELF would be one of my spheres. I am not good at taking time for myself, or prioritizing things that are good for me but not necessarily immediately useful for the family.

I have a great life. I needed to work on my attitude to make sure I could see that.

My three resolutions for SELF are:

  • Make Time for Exercise
  • Be Mindful of How I Eat
  • Act How I Want to Feel

Make Time for Exercise
I completely fell off the wagon when it came to running. Stopping for the FET in late October meant I never properly restarted when it got dark and cold. And then it was dark and cold for so long.

I originally thought of making a resolution regarding running, but I don’t know what’s going to happen over the summer. If we do decide on one last round of IVF, that will certainly interrupt things again. So I opted to keep it general. This will probably make it harder to keep, but I figured that any level of exercise (above and beyond the daily walking I do when I’m out with E.) would be an improvement. I can always tweak it in the coming months if I find it’s not working. I’m thinking of borrowing a pedometer from the library to see how many steps I take in an average day.

To keep this resolution, I have to make time for exercise four days a week.

Be Mindful of How I Eat
I’ve lost count of how many of my friends have aggressively changed their diets over the last couple of years. I have friends who have gone paleo, gluten-free, and vegetarian. I have other friends who have embraced a low-carb/ketone diet, or have given up grains, or sugar, or processed foods.

Many of them have been thrilled with their new lifestyle and with their results. And I’m happy for them that they’ve found something that works.

When I sat down and looked at my diet, I kept hitting one stumbling block.

Nothing I can eat or not eat is more important to me than family dinners. And a family dinner, for me, is one where we all sit down together and we eat the same food.

E. has been eating the same food as us since he first started eating solids (one of the advantages of baby-led weaning). He’s come out of his pickiest stage (we are also pushing him a little bit more to make sure he at least tries everything) and is becoming, if not adventurous, a solid eater.

So some nights we have pasta, because E. loves it, and some nights we have pizza or a meat pie, because Q. loves those, and some nights we have a vegan stir fry, because I don’t want to eat meat every night.

On the whole, I think we have a pretty good balance. We eat meat probably three or four times a week, and the meat we buy comes from our farmers’ market, so I know it’s from pastured animals. We eat only whole wheat pasta. We do most of our baking with whole wheat flour (although not all of it). And 95% of our food is homemade. We make our own bread, salad dressings, pizza crusts, soups, curry pastes, pasta sauces, sausages, etc.

I don’t want to give up anything that’s going to require me to eat differently from my husband and my son at supper.

So I didn’t set myself any strict food rules. I decided instead to be mindful, because a lot of the time my eating is mindless.

I don’t need to go back for seconds. I’m in the habit of doing so because everything Q. cooks is so delicious.

I don’t need to buy sweets or treats. If Q. makes something, I will eat it, but there’s no reason to be buying candy, cookies, pastries, etc. from shops.

I don’t need to eat cookie dough when I’m baking cookies with E. (This is a super tough habit of mine to break.)

I don’t need to make lunch in five minutes or less. I have enough time, given I’m at home, to plan a menu. Just because E’s having a tuna melt doesn’t mean I need to as well.

I don’t need to finish E.’s leftovers, or eat a snack just because he is. I’ve reached my adult height.

I know I feel better when I don’t eat much sugar, but I’m not willing to cut it out entirely. But I know I can be much more conscious of when and how I eat it.

Act How I Want to Feel
A number of books I’ve read, including Rubin’s, have discussed the idea that if you want to feel more affectionate towards someone, the key is to just start acting in a more affectionate manner. If you hug someone more often, you’ll have warmer feelings towards them. The same can be applied to most emotional states in your life.

The night guard is making a huge difference. My jaw hurts so much less and it’s much more obvious to me now when I start clenching it during the day. But needing the night guard in the first place was what made me realize I needed this resolution.

It’s too easy for me to act stressed when I’m not really stressed.

Stressed and slightly frustrated seems to be my default mood of late.

This resolution is meant to help me change that pattern.

I’d like my default state to be calm, loving, relaxed, even if E. is driving me crazy and I’m having trouble with the dinner.

I’m tired of bottling up tension.

This will be a tough one for me, but I know it’s worth it.

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