Thoughts from a distracted momma: The other day I hadn’t showered, was still in my “mom uniform” when my husband came home: yoga pants and nursing tank that I’d worn probably three days in a… More
Happy Monday! I’ve been cooking up some great things in the kitchen this week that I plan to share once I get all my images loaded, but in the meantime I thought I would share this post I wrote a while back, as I continue to deal with accepting my lot in life these days. I know many, many military spouses or anyone who has had a huge life change can identify. I’d love for you to share your thoughts…
On Friday I received some perspective from the most unlikeliest of sources. Seriously, I never would have expected this person to offer me some food for thought that would actually leave a lasting impression on me, and that I’ve been thinking about ever since. It led me to some pretty profound conclusions I am making about my life, namely the acceptance of what my life is, despite my willful denial.
My husband had this boss back in Washington who was always a bit of a challenge for him. They had a constant personality clash and while they got on and worked together fine, Sean was never quite sure how to read his boss. I was friends with his wife, as we had babies about 5 months apart, and several things in common such as a graduate education and professional jobs/goals. Still, I was never able to feel close to his wife for much the same reason that my husband was never in his boss’s club of favorites.
Anyway. This former boss of my husband’s was in town for work, and we were chatting at a social function. I think Sean had informed him that I was having a hard time settling in here, because one of the first things he said to me was “So you know, there are a ton of fun things to do here in Florida.” I sarcastically replied, “Oh really? Are you sure?” (I’m snarky like that). And then he went into all the fun things he and his wife used to do when they lived here a while back. I appreciated the input and really do plan to make the most of this place, when I’m ready, but I also told him I just really belong in Washington and I hope we can go back there soon.
To which he replied with the aforementioned profound perspective that I was not expecting. He said to me, “The way I see it, you guys moved back ‘home’ to Washington after being in Hawaii for five years, and that really pressed ‘reset’ on your life as a military family. You got all settled in close to your family and everything familiar, and moving to Florida was like ripping you out of your comfort zone again and reminding you that you actually are a military family. It will just take time to realize that.”
I played it cool and acknowledged that that was indeed true, all of it, and that I was sure I’d get used to it in time. But as we left that evening, I couldn’t stop thinking about what he said. This guy had maybe said three sentences TOTAL to me in the past 3.5 years, and here he was giving me some advice I had never heard from anyone, and which had directed my thinking in a completely different direction. I like to say I am so much more than a military wife, and I am, but I have to acknowledge that being a military wife is part of me too, and I am who I am today in large part because of the last eight years of my life.
It was easy to acknowledge being a military wife in Hawaii: I was a newlywed, living in paradise, and therefore excited and proud to be living that lifestyle. But I also had just graduated college, and had goals that had nothing to do with being a military spouse. And I met a lot of spouses who seemed like their only goal in life was to be, well, a military spouse. I was married to the man I love who also happened to be in the military, I wasn’t in love with a military man. If that makes sense. Then when we moved to Washington, I was back home. Everything was familiar and comfortable, and though Sean traveled constantly, my life felt like it went back to normal and it was easy to forget that I was even a military spouse at all. Heck, all my family lived three hours or less away.
And then we moved to Florida. And all I do is complain about my life. And everything is an adjustment again, this time with a small toddler in tow. And my goals have changed a lot since then, many of which can not be achieved while we live this lifestyle. And all my family is 3,000 miles away.
And so I struggle.
So I’m having a long and hard think on all this. I appreciate the perspective and admit it was deeply profound, but it also doesn’t make the transition any easier. My stepmom, who is a mindfulness coach, explained to me a few weeks ago that this is where I am meant to be, because this is where I am. Sounds pretty zen, doesn’t it? But maybe that’s the simple truth of it: despite my wishing I wasn’t here, it is indeed where I am. I am here with my husband who doesn’t have to travel for the next 2.5 years, my sweet daughter, and sunshine.
So much sunshine.
Maybe that will have to be enough for a while.
You guys… I’m sitting in a salon with my hair painted various colors, all of which I’m hoping are the opposite of the end result. And I’m waiting and staring at the walls. So I thought I’d do some writing instead.
I’ve been thinking… I’ve never shared why my blog is called Café Geneviève, or why I am the Francophile I claim myself to be.
Well, it all started in high school. I was accidentally assigned to a French class as a freshman and decided to give it a whirl. Long story short, I fell in love with language, and discovered I had quite a talent for learning language. Fast forward to the summer of my junior year when my class took a 10 day trip to France, and I fell deeper in love with this glamorous, sophisticated culture that praised beauty, art and delicious food. Who can’t get on board with that??
In college I continued on with French, testing into senior-level advanced courses as a freshman. After a bad breakup, I decided I needed to “see the world” and applied for my university’s study abroad program. By the next fall I found myself having a panic attack in a hotel room in Paris with my best friend. We were all alone, jet lagged, and I had five months of living with a French host family looming ahead of me. What had I done to myself?! Though I yearn for adventure and travel, I am also a creature of comfort and resistant to change. I’m quite a conundrum, aren’t I?
The next five months were filled with frustration, frequent episodes of being lost in translation, adventure, so much travel, self-learning, overcoming fears, growing in confidence and a mastery of a language I was deeply in love with. As I sat in my host mother’s kitchen on my last day in Nantes, having a full conversation with her entirely in French, she pointed out just how far I had come. Wonderfully, miraculously, full circle.
To this day, though my life has been full of many other hurdles, arguably as challenging as this, it is the greatest personal accomplishment of my life. My own fears and lack of confidence almost got in my way of achieving an experience I wanted even more than how heavily my self doubt weighed on me. I overcame a great fear and I believe it made me into the woman I am today.
So, two years of graduate school later, I am armed with a teaching certificate I haven’t been able to use as intended. Being a military spouse hasn’t exactly landed me in areas of high demand for French language teachers. A variety of experiences in teaching has taught me, however, that my desire to indulge my passions will be better accomplished in other ways.
When my family is settled in one place, I have big plans. Until then, my dreams are under construction. I am learning and developing my goals so that I will be ready to hit the ground running with my business. It is often that I feel frustrated by my limitations of our nomadic lifestyle lately, but my husband recently pointed out that I have the gift of time to hone my plan and to learn as much as I can so that I will be successful when my time does come.
And I think the first step was reminding myself through this medium of who I am, what I’ve already accomplished and where I want it to take me.
Do you have dreams you may have had to put on hold at first? How do you keep the passion burning?
One things for sure, I’ll have a fabulous hairstyle when my time does come.
Once upon a time, I prided myself on not being emotional. Not even seeing “Titanic” or “The Notebook” in theatres could make me shed a tear. I had an iron lock on blubbering: I was tough and confident, and nothing could bring me down.
That was because nothing hard had ever happened to me.
Until it did.
I don’t need to give you a laundry list of difficult crap that I’ve been through, because we all have our problems, but I chalk it up to my parents’ very difficult divorce, a brother fighting a war and coming back not so okay, long distance relationships where my fiancé was deployed to the middle east, and a bunch of other crap I don’t care to divulge. It’s life. Like I said, we all have hard stuff and mine is not exceptional.
However, these experiences tapped into my lock on my emotional self, and let’s just say the tears flowed more freely after my late adolescence. I could have a good cry at a sappy movie with the rest of them.
But it was nothing – I mean NOTHING – compared to becoming a mommy. Oh my goodness, one smile from my infant daughter had me blubbering like a fool. I remember, when Claire was very teeny, watching commercials about puppy chow and bursting into tears (hello, breastfeeding and fluctuating hormones). Ok so maybe that was due to postpartum craziness, but these days I have no excuse, as my hormones seem to be back in a normal rhythm and I am no longer breastfeeding.
So what’s my excuse now, when I take Claire to story time at the library, and watch her get up the courage to walk away from me and dance while waving her arms in the air, and I choke back sobs? Or when I am playing music in the kitchen and she starts to wiggle her hips like I taught her and smile up at me while she dances? And why do I cry when I turn on “Daniel Tiger” for her and watch lessons about how to be a good friend, and how being with family means you are safe? Or when I open the car door to get her out of her seat and she just looks at me and says, “hi mommy” with a smile.
I can’t help but hold back sobs (and sometimes I even fall short of that) at the pure innocence of it all. They are the most beautiful, ordinary moments of my daily, boring life, and yet I know I will remember them forever.
Challenges and hardship can often make us into better and more rounded people. I am glad I am not a “rock” of emotional strength anymore. I want to cry happy, ugly tears at my daughter’s innocence. It is the greatest blessing of my life.
Ahh, nap time. The holy grail of being a stay at home mom. Even on the most crazy-making of days, you know you have a 1-2 hour (sometimes 3) window of time in the middle of the day, where you can do whatever the hell you want. Chores? Tv? Stuff your face with all the things you don’t eat in front of your toddler because they’ll want it too? The options are endless!
I had an idea while I was not doing my workout during my 2 hour break while Claire naps. Maybe I will share from time to time what I do during nap times. If you’re like me, I try to get some productive things done that require my full attention (which obviously means I can’t really do them while my tiny monster is running around demanding at least half my attention).
Pay bills, make phonecalls, plan dinner, clean bathrooms, dust, fold laundry, do a workout…. shop online, eat chocolate, watch tv in bed, take a nap. It can vary from day to day. Usually I try to do a few productive things and then let myself relax for an hour, but sometimes I’m on a roll and I’ll work for the whole 2 hours doing chores and whatnot.
So, today I had to make a phone call, pay a couple bills, and I wanted to do a workout.
I did make the call, paid one bill, then was inspired to research family resorts as my husband and I are wanting to start saving for a weeklong getaway. I realized time was getting away from me, so I changed to do my Barre3 workout, and got 16 minutes into it and gave up, laid down on my yoga mat in “corpse pose” (making it sound yoga-y makes it seem like I was still working out), closed my eyes and…fell asleep.
I snapped awake 30 minutes later, changed my clothes, grabbed a yogurt and sat on the couch.
Clearly today my body was just not up for a workout. I can usually mentally push through even if I’m not feeling it, but not today! So basically this was not the most productive nap time for me, but hey it’s only Tuesday. Plus I feel more refreshed after my snooze so hopefully my patience has been restored for the rest of the afternoon.
What kinds of things do you accomplish (or don’t accomplish) during naps?
I need to wake up earlier in the mornings, to get my thoughts into writing more often. I hate how I wake up, get in the shower and have all of these thoughts and ideas during the day (does that happen to you in the shower? It’s like Owen Wilson says in “Midnight in Paris” – you get all those “positive ions flowing” in the shower. For me, anyway), and then by the time I put Claire down for her one nap and sit down to write, my mind goes blank. She exhausts my brain so much some days that I literally go sit in my bed, pull a blanket over me and I stare at the ceiling for a good twenty minutes before telling myself to get up and exercise. Or clean. Or eat. You know how it goes.
I love my morning time to myself, and almost on a daily occurrence I tell myself that I should wake up earlier tomorrow, so I can sit and drink some coffee in bed, take a longer shower, and do more blog posts. Usually I get up in just enough time to get a shower and put half my face on and sip some coffee for maybe 10 minutes before I hear the inevitable fussing on the monitor. Time for the day to start!
Anyway. That being said, I had a bunch of inspired ideas this morning and can maybe recall two of them? So I thought I’d bullet point them today, to get them out of my brain. I’m going to start carrying a notebook around with me wherever I go. You know, for science.
- I’m starting to meet some other SAHMs through Claire’s activities at the library and Kindermusik. It’s really been nice. This morning Claire was driving me nuts with asking for things, and saying things over and over (and over and over) again until I acknowledge what she says (if I don’t she starts to scream at me. It’s just a phase, right?) that I was starting to get a little short with her, which always makes me feel like mom of the year. So I finally stuff her into the car seat and get to music class, and she is her usual painfully shy self among all the other littles. But I started talking to the other moms a lot more than normal today, and it felt so good to have some adult conversation! So it made me think, maybe (probably) her little baby activities are as much for me as they area for her. I found out about a few more weekly activities through these moms, and at least one of them includes me dropping her off for three hours while she plays and mommy gets some sanity time. I’m scared Claire will freak out judging by how she acts at music class, but with time I think it would be good for her.
- My dad is coming to visit us this weekend – in fact, my husband will be picking him up at the airport in about 2 hours, so I better finish cleaning. He and Sean are going to build Claire a playset this weekend, and I just know she will love it. I am not loving spending all the money on it (have you ever shopped around for one? Insanity!), but we got some donations from the grandparents so hopefully that softens the blow a bit. Which brings me to:
- We have had a lot of expensive things happen to us ever since – and just before- the big move. Crazy expensive car fixes, the cost of moving, buying a new oven in our new home because the one we got with the house decided to die, various home repairs, and a couple of repairs at our home that we own and lease out in Washington. We have always been good savers so it hasn’t ruined us or anything but it is so hard to watch our money go to stuff like that. I’m hoping our bad luck has almost run its course, but this year has taught me that Murphy’s Law is in full effect so I better be careful not to talk in absolutes.
- For that reason, I am starting to look a lot more closely at our monthly expenditures. I feel like we have a comfortable monthly budget, my husband makes good money, yet we always feel like money is tight. So I started looking at what we spend money on every month, and I realized after just a quick analysis yesterday that I am spending a TON of money on groceries. Groceries! The last thing I thought money was being wasted on. It’s true that I am always experimenting in the kitchen, and that our daughter is an eating machine, and that we rarely eat out anymore because we have been trying to reign in our spending, but even given all of that we are spending too much. Maybe I should become one of those crazy couponers. Thoughts?
- How I wish I had time to post about the home/design projects I’ve been doing around the house. Nothing major, but little touches can make such a big difference. I have several (dozens) of photos in my phone and on my fancy camera that I am dying to post on here, but I never feel like I have the time to do it justice. I need to have Sean keep Claire occupied for a few hours on the weekend so I can sit down and do it!
- Lastly, we have started talking about trying for another baby. We only want one more, and I’m starting to feel like we should start trying and then I don’t have to think about when to start trying anymore! Sounds weird but I don’t want to wait forever- for the most part I feel like we should just have a second baby (God willing) and then our family is complete and we can move on from that phase of life. I kind of feel like I’m in this in between limbo period of raising a family, and I literally think about it every day. These days of just me and Claire have been and are so special, and I do cherish every single one of them. But I feel like a year or so from now would be a good time to welcome another blessing (again: God willing), and that gives me another year or so alone with Claire. That, and I’m surrounded by military wives who seem to be baby factories and I kinda think it’s rubbing off on me. Help. When do you know when the time is right?? I really don’t want to rush on this.
I better get back to cleaning before my dad arrives. Pray for me – we haven’t always had the best relationship, but in the last year or two he has really tried to be a part of my life and so I have tried hard too. It might be a little awkward at first. I promise to report back.
That moment when you’re flustered as Hell, crying a little on the inside and completely exhausted…And then your husband walks in the door and without hesitating asks what I would like for him to cook for dinner.
Yeah, he’s a keeper.
Eighteen months is an exhausting age. I’m just now figuring this out. Claire is so busy, so full of words, so interested in the world that she tries to do everything all at once. And asks for things nonstop, because she can. And throws mini tantrums when she can’t have what she is communicating. I swear I sit on the couch for maybe five minutes and then I’m up chasing her around, cleaning something, fixing something, sweeping up something, changing a diaper. It never ends.
So my plan of attack has been to get us up and out of the house as much as possible. I take her to story time at the library, we run errands, and she has Kindermusik class once per week. We go to the park, we have appointments, we go to the store and window shop just because. And in truth I think I’ve been over doing it. I’ve also had a bunch of doctor and dentist appointments on my end because I’m getting established with a new doctor, had to do some routine testing, had a couple cavities filled (story of my life), and then came down with an ear infection of all things. I’ve been exhausted, grumpy and not very patient lately, and I couldn’t figure out why.
So today Claire and I stayed home. I didn’t go to the store or run errands, we didn’t go to the park, I didn’t have any appointments or obligations. I was able to actually get some things cleaned and organized, play in the backyard with Claire, and take care of some lingering phone calls and emails. I really needed today, and I know I will be more ready to take Claire around town tomorrow for music class and to make a nice dinner for a friend coming from out of town, and do a workout, etc. But I had to stop stretching myself so thin. It’s all about the eternal quest for balance, am I right?
I read a blog a while ago (forgive me for not being able to find it) whose sentiment stuck with me. The author is a stay at home mom also, and the message of her post was about gentleness. Gentleness for mommas who spend their days raising their babies. Don’t expect so much of yourself, do what you need to but don’t make yourself crazy… Some days you just can’t do more and that’s ok. And that has resonated with me ever since, because I am a type-A, motivated and hard-working person. Yes, I stay home with my daughter and spend a lot of time reading books and playing with her, but I also have to feel like I’m constantly productive. And on days (weeks) when Claire demands so much of me, I have to learn to give myself license to slow down and be gentle with myself, so that I can be gentle with my daughter.
So thank you to my husband for coming home to a frazzled, disheveled wife and seeing that she needed him to take control of things for the evening. I realized I needed to slow down just a little, and because of that, Claire is happier and more relaxed today too, which makes my job a lot easier. Instead of running from this store to that appointment, we sat on our back patio and played with sidewalk chalk, and snuggled on the couch and watched “Sesame Street.”
And today I am totally okay with doing that and nothing else.
The truth is, I’m struggling lately. Not with accepting our new home, or dealing with the emotional trauma of moving across the country (although yes I am still working on accepting these things as well). I’ve been having a bit of an existential crisis lately, and I’m just not sure what I’m doing with my life these days.
I know, I know. I’m a mommy, and that’s no small feat and it’s certainly not “nothing.” But I’ve been asking myself for some time now whether that’s all I want to be doing right now. And I’m still not sure. Some days, I feel so happy to be home with my daughter, soaking in every moment with her, developing that bond that I’ve always wanted to have with a little girl of my very own. I am so blessed to even have the option to be able to stay home with her.
But on other days – not as often, but still with some frequency – I feel like I need more. I need mental stimulation, I need to be working toward some goal, and I wouldn’t mind some extra money in my family’s bank account. But the very thought of finding a job, and the routine that would necessarily follow that – waking Claire up super early, getting her fed and out of the house, dropping her at daycare where she would have to vie for attention with a room full of other toddlers, and then only seeing her for a few hours in a day after work before she goes to bed – scares me, a lot. I know TONS of moms who do it every day, and I know it’s totally possible and sometimes scary and hard things are worth it, but I don’t know if I want that something more that much.
And I don’t know how to figure it out. Part time work maybe? Or do I just need to utilize a babysitter more often? How do I achieve that balance in my life where I feel like I have time to myself or where I’m thinking about something other than my daughter, even for just a little bit? Does anyone ever feel like they’ve achieved that balance?
On that note, my husband and I did have a triumphant moment last night. We haven’t found a steady babysitter since we moved here, and I’ve never had anyone but a grandma put her to bed while Sean and I went out for a date night. A couple of weeks ago we met some neighbors on our street who are former military and have a sixteen year-old daughter. Long story short, we met their daughter who is sweet as can be, they invited us out to a honky-tonk bar for live music and drinks (when in Rome, right?), and I was so flustered and in such desperate need for a break that I decided I just had to go for it and hope Claire behaved for a babysitter. And guess what? We did it! Claire played with her sitter and went to bed relatively easily, we had a great time with our new friends, and I had a few too many drinks which was exactly what I needed after a very busy week. And the best part is we now have a babysitter two houses down from us and we have decided a once per month date night is in our future. That’s definitely a step in the right direction…
Sometimes I think (hell, I know) I take life too seriously. I worry over everything. Am I interactive enough with Claire? Is she learning everything she should be at her age? Does she know how much I love her? I take her routine too seriously and I never embrace chaos. Chaos is my enemy. But as I’m learning how to be a mom and accepting what my life has become these days, I feel like I want and need more chaos in my life. More than that, I want to not be ruled by fear of everything that could happen. I need to do right by myself and let Claire figure out how to be away from me from time to time because it’s good for her and it’s very good for me. Sean and I hadn’t had a date night in ages because finding a sitter and hoping Claire doesn’t freak out while we’re gone and worrying over if she’ll go to bed ok without us literally scared me away from even trying. But I have to try. I have to go for things because otherwise I get in a rut and I’m unhappy and dying for a break that I won’t allow myself to have. I have done and been through some seriously difficult things in my life…More than I even care to list here. So why is allowing myself to be away from my daughter every so often feel like one of the hardest?? Life is so weird.
So if you need me, I’ll be browsing the job ads and trying to decide what I really want for myself… More of a regular break from the daily grind? Some sort of job where I can use my talents and skills more frequently?
How do YOU get yourself out of a rut? I’d love to know, especially from moms who are home with their littles all day.
I realize it’s almost the new weekend, but I’ve had some thoughts from the previous long weekend I wanted to share. I haven’t had a lot of time to sit down and churn out a post this week because I have a very cranky and irritable little girl who is pushing out a molar…Not fast enough. On top of that I’m fighting off another cold so yet again this household is a bit of a mess.
Anyway, last weekend was super productive for my little family. We are continuing to let all the dust settle in our new house. I don’t recall it taking as long to feel this way when we moved last time, but that was probably because last time we moved “home,” and this time, well, I hate Florida. I know, news flash!
Here’s a confession of sorts: I have literally painted the walls of every home I’ve ever lived in with my husband (and really as a kid, too). I hate painting, but love the effect, and so I do it. I painted walls in our crappy military issue house in Hawaii that had no natural light and no backyard, just to cheer myself up about being lonely on a small island while my new husband was deployed. I painted the walls of our second Hawaii home because it was a lot nicer and I wanted to make the space feel like a real home. When we moved to Washington, I went crazy and painted a ton of walls and even did a striped wall in the first home we ever purchased. And now in Florida, again to cheer myself up and because I’m more experienced and know the house needs some warmth and depth, I’ve started the process over again.
After taking several weeks to decide on a color, and investing in four different sample colors and painting them up on our wall (which I NEVER do- I usually have an exact color in my mind and when I find it, I go for it! Not this time), I finally painted an accent wall in our bedroom.
Our bedroom is quite large, with a big beautiful picture window that looks out onto our backyard, and vaulted ceilings with crown molding. The walls were the builder grade “greige” (grayish-beige) color they were when the house was built fourteen years ago. I know for a fact this home has had two owners, and I can’t understand why no one would want to paint this big, plain, blank slate of a room. It really is a pretty space but needs a little warmth and a little dimension. And because I don’t have the time or energy to paint the whole thing, I painted the wall behind our bed as an accent wall. Voila!
Painting the wall the bed sits against really anchors the room to this one feature wall, and draws the eye to it. It is a warm, muted gray from Lowe’s called “Bleached Shadow,” and I just love it. I also love the contrast of the wicker wall decor (that I spray painted from a bronze color once upon a time #crafty) above the bed, as well as the light upholstery of our headboard against it. I am now in search of some more wall decor because I’ve realized this wall is HUGE and needs some subtle art to really show it off. I’m also on the hunt for new lampshades, as I’ve had the current ones forever and I’m on a crusade against beige these days. But despite the improvements I still plan to make, thanks to the painting I feel like the room has more purpose.
The process of painting really helped my anxiety, too. Lately I’ve been having spells of anxiety where my chest feels super tight and I have a hard time taking deep breaths, and though I realize my life is still in upheaval despite my best attempts to settle into our home, I can’t pinpoint one specific thing that would cause me anxiety. So last week I started working out a bit again, and I also knew that there were several things I wanted to do around the house that have been nagging at me for a WHILE, so I decided to throw myself into a project since I didn’t know what else to do. And this week I have to say, my anxiety has been a lot better. Maybe I was just yearning to express myself creatively in this house finally. And also maybe I really needed to workout. Like really.
Now I’ve got the bug again and have several little projects I plan to do:
- Hang bathroom shelves in the master bath room (I already did this promptly after finishing the wall but am saving that for my next post)
- Finish hanging wall decor
- Rip out the much hated vertical-blinds and slowly replace them (that will be its own post too- I can’t wait to describe to you how much I truly hate verticals. Like a lot).
- Paint sun room and create a true play room for Claire
- Add curtains to sunroom- if you don’t know what to do with a room but feel like it’s missing something, I beg you to hang some curtains. You don’t have to spend a fortune, and it adds instant drama and warmth.
- Paint kitchen table and chairs- I have chalk paint and materials at the ready, I can’t wait to get started!
- Plant bulbs in planters and cheer up the front and backyards with Spring flowers.
Who knows, maybe we will cross some of these off the list this weekend! Until next time!
I am taking on a new endeavor in my life as mother, and indeed in Claire’s life as toddler (though I am loathe to admit she’s a toddler yet): socialization. Ah, the perils of being a stay at home mommy, and therefore, a stay at home child. Especially when you’re the first child and have no other play companion than mommy (reason enough right there to try for two kids, if you ask me…).
It became abundantly clear to me last week that Claire needs to be around other children, and yes, away from mommy. I signed us up for Kindermusik classes, which I had heard good things about and since Claire is obsessed with nursery rhymes and loves to try and sing along with me, it felt like a natural choice in activities for her. I knew I needed to get her (us) into something to get her out of the house and maybe even meet some other moms for me to befriend. I said before that even though I’m a mil spouse, I like to make my own friends on my own terms, not always because our husbands happen to work together. But that’s a topic for another day….
We arrived for the music class and it was adorable and full of babies exactly Claire’s age. The other kids had obviously either been to these classes regularly before, or maybe had siblings or something, because they were running around the room, dancing and playing their little musical sticks and chasing each other. It was really quite cute and entertaining to watch all their different littler personalities.
But not Claire. Nope, she was stuck to me like super glue and had this wide-eyed look of being completely overwhelmed. The poor thing had no idea what was going on, and wouldn’t lose touch of me for one second.
Towards the end of class, which I spent encouraging her to stand up and wiggle, play with her little instruments or sing the nursery rhymes I knew she knew, she warmed up a little bit, but was still very silent and wouldn’t wander far from me. I considered it a success when she walked up to the basket (many steps away from me) with all the other littles to put her toys away. She was also upset that I wouldn’t give her her snack cup, because she’s used to getting that any time we are out, which I now realize is something I need to work on not doing (but hey, it keeps her content so mommy can shop. Feel me?).
So after this experience, I have my new mission. We are going to Kindermusik every Thursday, and because it’s a little pricey and I don’t want to pay for any other activities, we are starting to go to story time at the local library every Tuesday morning as well. This is a similar experience, except far less structured, but full of other babies nonetheless, which is what she needs.
It’s so funny that I never considered that being social will take some work and lots of exposure on her part, because she is so silly and full of personality at home. When we are around other people though, she turns into a clam! I know it will just take time to get her comfortable, and I’m glad I started doing this now, because I don’t know how long I plan to stay at home all day with her, and I don’t want going to day care to be a huge shock to her system. Besides the possibility of going to work, I also want her to be used to being cared for by someone other than me or her dad so that we can have date nights that start earlier than after her bedtime.
On that note, I found a very inexpensive gym just down the street from me that has childcare that a friend told me good things about. I think this is a good way to expose her to a new caretaker, while also learning to be around other babies. Plus I have been yearning to get back into working out, so it’s a win-win (I hope). I told my husband that I was really reluctant to do the gym thing because just the thought of leaving Claire at day care and knowing she will panic and be upset at first stresses me out so bad, and he pointed out that I am already stressed and full of anxiety lately anyway (partly due to the fact that I haven’t been exercising, so there you go), so I may as well have something to actually stress about, if I’m going to do it anyway. Huh. Maybe he’s right. I know she needs this, and I know I need an exercise routine to deal with my anxiety, so I gotta do it. But I’m scared.
Either way, it is hard exposing my daughter to things I know will stress her out a little, but I also know it’s very important to do so in small doses, because it will make her a more well-adjusted child. I also realize this is only the beginning of teaching my daughter to grow in healthy ways, and it will only get more difficult from here! So I try to put that into perspective when I think about dropping her off at the gym day care and the melt down I assume will ensue shortly afterward. No matter, I’ll go sweat out my anxiety in spin class.
If you like the sound of Kindermusik, you should know they are a nationwide program! You can find one in your area by going here.
Here are some other ideas for activities for little toddlers, if you’re dying to get out of the house and want someone else to entertain your child for a bit. I plan to try a few in the near future, too:
- Gymnastics class- check your local gymnastics studio for “mommy and me” classes for toddlers. There is one near me and that’s next on my list to check out!
- Story time at your local library (FREE)- I may hate Florida, but the library here is great and has a huge children’s section with separate rooms for story time and activities.
- Swim lessons – back home we had a phenomenal YMCA that we were members of, and they offered swim lessons as part of the membership. Here, not so much. I have heard of infant survival swim classes that teach babies how to float, etc. in case they fall in water, plus it’s never too early to start basic swim lessons! At Claire’s age, most of them are “mommy and me” which would be a fun bonding activity to do as well (or send dad to the pool and you go get a pedicure. Both are excellent options).
- MOPS (Mothers of Preschoolers- usually FREE) – this is a Christian-based mom’s group for women to meet up and socialize/bond over being a mom of little ones. I have never been to a meeting but have heard great things. They are also a national organization, and you can find a group here. If there’s not one in your area, you can even start your own!
Think about, for a moment, all of the things or people in your life that you rely on for services. Do you have a regular person you go to for a haircut? One who knows just how you like it cut? Do you have a great doctor who knows your medical history? How about maybe a chiropractor, who knows why your neck is literally bent the wrong way, and also knows just how to adjust you to relieve that chronic ache you get?
Back home, I had a gal who knew never to cut my hair too short, because if I asked for it short she knew I’d end up crying and feeling like I looked like a boy. I had an OB who delivered my daughter, and who knew exactly how much damage that wreaked “down there” (she should, she stitched me up after all); she also knew the ins and outs of my pregnancy experience, and brought my daughter into this world (one day I’ll tell you her birth story, and why I think my doctor is literally an angel). And yes, I had a chiropractor because of my bent neck and he knew just where to adjust me that gave me instant relief. I also had a dental hygienist who knew why I have gum issues (its genetic) and who did an AMAZING job cleaning my teeth. I trusted her endlessly. Really, she was my bff because she basically saved my teeth. That sounds like I don’t brush or floss my teeth, but I promise you I take better care of my teeth than anyone I know, even you!
I have been in Florida for almost four months (which I can NOT believe), and am just now starting to feel like I almost have all my ducks in a row. I never gave much thought to how much a person relies on various services to keep them running healthfully… But I guess now that I’m 31 and actually need to see doctors every now and then, and have to pay extra attention to my teeth, etc., I am painfully (pun intended) aware of how hard it is to find people you can trust for all of these things when you are in a new city, all the way across the freakin’ country. Here’s a little checklist of all the services I’ve had to locate since moving, just to give you an idea:
- General practice doctor
- Hair stylist
- Pediatric dentist
- Gym/yoga studio
Not to mention a great place for a pedicure, which I have yet to find. Or an eye doctor if you’re most people (I still have great vision but I’m sure that’ll be an issue one day too). Or the perfect coffee shop or favorite restaurant. We have found a Chinese takeout place that is better than anything in our little town in Washington, so I guess that’s a plus.
Anyway, up until this week, when I finally got an appointment with a general practice doctor, I felt like I was flying blind, listless in the wind because I didn’t know who to see to clean my teeth, or where to go for a pap smear, and so on. I have slowly been finding all of these services since we moved, but only recently found an OB/GYN whom I LOVE (without any recommendation, too! Score.), a good dentist (though I’m not yet convinced they are as good as my previous one) and a doctor for Claire. And because you probably never thought much about all of the doctors and services you need in your life, you probably have never considered what it feels like to not know who to go see if you’re sick, or have a tooth ache, if your baby is sick, etc. I know I never did.
(I know, I know: first world problems. I promise I am not complaining- I am very aware that my family is so very lucky to have these services available to us through insurance and Sean’s job. I would never complain about having these options or even paying for them. I believe it is everyone’s right to have these types of services but that is a different discussion altogether. I’m just trying to express that it’s difficult to constantly change everything every three years, just when you start to feel good about your choices.)
I can tell you, it makes you anxious. Unrooted. Like you have no support system, and you don’t know where to go if an emergency occurs, God forbid. And it’s hard to find all of these people and trust them at the same time. You’re new in a city, you don’t know a lot of people, how do you know you can trust all these doctors? It takes a lot of work finding ones who seem to actually listen to you.
Luckily, I knew one gal from our time living in Hawaii, who lives here now with her husband and baby. She has been a life saver- she pointed me in the direction of my chiropractor, Claire’s pediatrician, and told me about a great yoga studio. She also connected me to some other Navy wives who have told me of other good places to go for various things. I discovered a great park only ten minutes from our house thanks to her, and Claire absolutely LOVES it there.
As much as I like to call myself the anti-military wife, I have sure relied on her for help adjusting to this place… Hey, just admitting that is progress for someone like me, who thinks they can do everything themselves (and tries to). Have you tried finding a doctor based solely off of a list on your insurance company’s website? How are you supposed to choose from a random list of names??
So I guess my advice to you, the military spouse moving somewhere new and far away, is to think of anyone you might know from your past who might live in your new duty station. And if you can’t think of anyone, search Facebook for a military spouse’s group in your new city (I guarantee you there is one). Maybe you do know someone based off of that group’s members… And if you don’t, post on that page and ask for any recommendation for anything you need: daycare, groceries, the best fro-yo in town, whatever. Even someone like me, who is fiercely independent and likes the challenge of figuring everything out on my won, reads every post on my local mil spouse groups, and has asked for numerous recommendations for things. It can also go a long way in making you feel less isolated and alone. Seeing new people join the groups, and others moving away reminds you that it is a constant cycle and there are many many other wives out there feeling everything you are feeling.
You might even make new friends that way- this gal I’m speaking of was only really an acquaintance in Hawaii, but now we’ve gotten together for several play dates with our little ones, have done a girls’ night and have another one coming up next week. Without her I’d still be so lonely! One friend is better than none!
In all my lamenting and indulging in loneliness, I will say I am thankful for the way in which military spouses are so willing to help each other out. The more I live this life, the more I realize how important it is to lean on each other when you can. And that folks, is hard for me to admit, but there you have it.
Now that I have a doctor, I can check all those things off my list. I even found a hair stylist a month ago who gave me one of the BEST haircuts I’ve ever had! I am feeling much more at ease, knowing I know who to take my daughter to if she gets sick, knowing I have a trustworthy chiropractor to help with my chronic neck pain, and where to get my annual physicals at a fantastic OB clinic.
I’m not ready to admit to liking it here yet (I’d still move home at the drop of a hat), but finding all these services definitely has me feeling more settled.