Forging friendships: advice from a military spouse.

Hey y’all… It’s been a minute hasn’t it?  I’ve been letting life take over for a while and have not taken the time lately to write my thoughts.  For starters, we went HOME for two weeks, which was what I had been needing for oh so long.  I breathed in that crisp Northwest air every time I walked outside, I basked in the non-humid summer, and I ate all.the.things.  I came back feeling refreshed mentally, larger physically, and motivated to do more creatively, including coming back to my therapy blog sessions.

I’ve been doing a lot of thinking about the couple of friends I’ve made here finally, and how grateful that makes me feel, and how GD difficult it is to make solid friendships when you move every three years.  And how it seems like in the military lifestyle, there is this pressure to make friends with absolutely every military wife you come into contact with, or whose husband works with your husband, so you can all be apart of the same club or something.  Being friends with everyone, or having 900 Facebook friends, is just not my style, and for the last eight or so years of living this life, I have let it make me feel insecure about my ability to “fit in” with these cliquish women and my lack of shared interests (read: lounging on the beach in Hawaii in my bikini all goddamn day, every goddamn day).

But not anymore.  I accept that I won’t hang with the “crowd” here (or anywhere, probably), and that I only need a few good friends to get me through.  Because two or three solid friendships that foster mutual empathy and love is so much better than being one in a group of twenty.

So what’s a normal girl gotta do to make friends in this way of life?  Hell, I have no idea.  I fumble my way through it, as evidenced in all my posts about feeling hopelessly lost in this god forsaken panhandle of Florida.  All I can do is share the wisdom I have gained by my fourth duty station (which means my fourth move, third state, and fourth group of women whom I feel I have nothing in common with).  So here it is:

How to make friends as a military spouse in yet another new duty station:

DON’T EXPECT TO KEEP THE “FRIENDS” YOU MEET AT THE VERY BEGINNING

When we first moved here, my husband hit it off with his base sponsor who was (and is) a really nice person with a hilarious sense of humor, and I met his wife a few weeks later and thought she was great too.  We hung out with them a few times here and there and even started this “brunch club” where we met for brunch a few times and wanted to make it a regular thing.  Needless to say, it didn’t happen.  His wife seemed to hang out with other diver wives that I didn’t know (and wasn’t invited to join), and they lived kinda far away so nothing ever really worked out.  Now, we all still enjoy each other’s company from time to time and I have nothing against them, but I’ve realized that they aren’t going to be our best buddies here, and that’s okay.  I’ve moved on, too.

This is something I’ve thought about a lot, not just since having moved here.  Every time we are somewhere new, and we meet our first couple who seems to jive with us, or group of people we think we could maybe get along with, and we hang out a few times, I think “ok, so these are our friends here.  Cool.”  And I’m usually wrong.  I don’t know why, and it’s probably not always true for everyone, but for me I think I’m in such a hurry to make human contact and meet people I deem “normal” as soon as we get to our new home that I don’t really see that a) they may not be interested in having new friends or b) we don’t have as much in common as I thought.

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MAKE FRIENDS ON YOUR OWN TIME, IN YOUR OWN SPACE

I have always said that I can not be besties with military wives just because both of our husbands serve.  I mean, really… Think about it.  Service members come from all over the country, from all different backgrounds and experiences, and in the military there are almost an endless number of jobs they do.  So why would I automatically be your bff because our husbands sort of know each other?

Now, don’t get me wrong.  MOST of my friends are indeed military wives, but this is not the reason we are friends.  I have had co-workers, classmates, graduate school friends, and mom group friends that have become my friends because of the activities we both engage in, which foster a natural kind of friendship over a shared interest.  Here in Florida, since I have not held a job it has been very difficult to make friends.  One of the girls I knew in Hawaii and contacted after we got settled here has turned out to be a very sweet person and generous friend, and I am very grateful for her.  And yes, our husbands used to work together.  But I maintain this friendship because we are both new-ish moms, live near each other, are both Virgos, love yoga, and have a lot in common.  And my other good friend is a mom I got to know by taking Claire to her weekly music lessons and has no military affiliation.  Win!

Though I can not control my life as far as the military allows, I can control the ways in which I acquire friendships.  I don’t have time for superficial friendships of convenience; this leaves me feeling unfulfilled and not cared about.  I choose to make a few friendships that are meaningful and that I like to think I will take with me when we leave this place.

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YOU MUST MAKE EFFORT TO FORGE FRIENDSHIPS WHEN YOU’RE THE NEW GIRL IN TOWN.

This has been the hardest lesson to learn.  And it seems to simple!  My girlfriends back home from high school still hang out with each other regularly, and that’s just wild to me.  I’ve been all over this damn country and have had to start over so many times, that those easy, effortless friendships just do not exist to me, for very long anyway.

When I was a newly wed and at my first duty station with my husband, I had zero friends.  I watched all the “Diver Wives” (tiny little blonde things) sit around and tell each other how pretty they were, how many times they went to the beach that week, and which mall was their favorite on the island (For. Real. I wish I was joking), while I studied my LSAT prep book and scoured the internet for professional jobs.  I knew I had nothing in common with these girls, and I had been so out of practice at making new friends that I just kind of was paralyzed with fear.  Once we moved on from there, I realized it was going to take effort on my part to meet people that I actually had anything in common with: I had to put myself out there, ask for phone numbers, stalk them on Facebook, and suggest get-togethers.

And so I did.  And it isn’t easy, especially when you have to keep doing this every time you move.  But it really is the only way to meet people you want to spend time with.  And it does get better, because it gets to be routine to put yourself out there.  And I have to say – maybe it’s because I’m in my 30’s and give less of a shit these days, or because I’ve gotten used to this – I feel more confident putting myself out there in some ways than ever before, and I have made some good friendships by doing so. The risk is worth the reward.  Usually.

~*~

So that’s it, my friends.  Some helpful tips if you are relocating somewhere new for any reason.  Or if you just feel like you need some new friends.  I can’t say it’s fool-proof, but it has certainly worked for this friendly introvert who very much loves her comfort zone.  Sadly, we never stay there for long.

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I’m a city girl at heart.

Last week I found myself thinking about my friend, also named Jenny, who is an Army wife and preparing to move to Germany in the next month or so.  Jenny and I were fast friends when we met in grad school in Hawaii.  She is a spunky, firey redhead with an Alabama accent, and we share a mutual disdain for stupidity.  She is perfectly snarky and sarcastic, and upon meeting her I knew she was my spirit animal.  We spent most weekends (and many night classes) together for the entirety of our grad school program, and our husbands ended up being good buddies too.  When I think of my time in Hawaii, she is one of the best memories I take away.

Of course, as a military wife, you quickly learn that even the best friendships are forced to separate in just a few short years.  We moved to Washington, and she moved to the desert of California with her husband, and had a baby boy a couple years before I had Claire.  Anyway, we always stayed in touch and talked about meeting up somewhere in the country ever since we moved apart from one another.  This last Christmas, we did end up meeting her and her family in Orlando for a quick but wonderful Harry Potter experience at Universal Studios.  The park was great and our inner Harry Potter nerds were sufficiently pleased by the trip, but the best part was reuniting with our friends, babies in tow, and picking up right where we left off, as if we hadn’t not seen each other in almost four years.  Those are the kind of friendships you know will last.

Flash forward to last week, as I was thinking about Jenny moving, and a wild and crazy idea popped into my head.  As they are currently stationed in upstate New York for another month or so, I texted her late at night asking if she’d be free for a girls’ weekend in New York City – one last hurrah – before her big move.  I have a TON of airline miles burning a hole in our bank account.  The more I thought about how amazing a weekend like that would be – no kids, plenty of time for girl talk, leisurely meals at fabulous restaurants, no toddlers trying to run free around the place or nap times to worry about – the more excited I became.  I waited almost a whole day in agony before she texted me back and accepted my proposal!

So in two weeks’ time, I will get to fly (in a plane….by myself) to the Big Apple, see a Broadway show, eat at delicious restaurants, and walk and shop the city with one of my best friends.  I am absolutely ecstatic.  Sean volunteered to take a day off of work, and will stay home with Claire so I can have an escape, and I am so grateful.  I know he would love a few days in New York too, but he knows what a hard time I’ve been having lately, all the sadness I’ve been working through, and I just feel so lucky to have a compassionate and supportive husband… who is going to let me go party in the big city without him!

This will be my first time away from both my husband and my daughter since… well, since my daughter was born.  I know I am SO ready for some time away, but I also know I will miss them both.  I’m just not good at being away from Claire.  Do you know any moms who seem to be so good at being away from their kids?  Who don’t ever seem to have a single worry when they are apart from their little ones, and can let loose and be themselves?  I envy those moms.  I don’t have that gene (yet).

Don’t get me wrong, I love nap time – it’s my favorite time of day – and I have a lot of interests and hobbies I try to indulge in when I have time to myself, but as for being able to be away for days on end, or even daycare situations, I haven’t gotten good at relinquishing her to the care of others.  I worry.  And I feel guilty.  And I count the hours until I can pick her up.  And I convince myself it’s good for her, even if she cries and I feel terrible.  Which, for the record, I know it is good for her, but I still feel terrible about leaving her in someone else’s care when she cries for me as I walk away.  Does that ever get easier??

I ran into a mom friend last week who has a daughter a month younger than Claire.  We were talking about the Mother’s Morning Out program that I’ve written about before, and she asked me if I had enrolled Claire in the pre-(pre?) school program for next school year.  I just looked at her blankly and said no, I had no idea what she was talking about.  It’s basically a preschool for two year-olds a few days per week.  I walked away from that conversation feeling kind of stupid for not knowing that Claire should be in preschool already, and confused as to why she should be in preschool already because she is only 20 months old!  For crying out loud.

The more I thought about it, the more I realized I was definitely not ready to put Claire in anything remotely resembling a “school.”  While the alone time would be nice, I can still use the Mother’s Morning Out program without having to enroll her in a school at two years old.  If I am going to stay home with my daughter while she is so little, I want her to be home with me for most of that time at least.  There is so much time ahead of her where she will have to be in school, probably even starting the following year, that I can’t bring myself to be ready for that stage yet.  She’s still my baby.

Motherhood is a constant inner struggle of feeling guilty for literally everything, wanting freedom and your old life back, and also wanting to keep your babies close to and dependent on you, forever.  I’m always tired and confused and wanting “me time,” and then when I have it, I miss my baby.  The old me would not recognize the new me, I am sure of that.  But I’m also cool with that, because despite the exhaustion and constant struggle, motherhood is simply the greatest gift.

So, in two weeks when my inner Big City Girl is basking in the one true Big City, I will remind myself of the gift that this free time is, and force myself not to feel too guilty.  Life has been a bitch lately, and I deserve some rooftop cocktails and shopping in Soho.  Hell, I may not ever come back.  🙂

 

Tuesday really is my least favorite day of the week.

Happy Tuesday!  I have had so much going on, I don’t even know where to start.  So I guess I’ll make this a catch-up post and maybe that will get all the things swirling around in my brain to stop, well, swirling.  I’ve heard exercise can really help with that, but seeing as how I’ve worked out EVERY DAMN DAY for the last nine days, I’m not sure it’s true.  Or maybe it would be so much worse if I hadn’t?!

Sometimes I don’t know how I have so much going on, when I don’t even have a job.  Maybe that’s why.  I know, I know… never say a stay at home mom doesn’t have a lot going on.  You’d think I would know that by now, being that I have a near 20-month old.  If I was bored to tears everyday, I’d have gotten a job by now.  But I digress.

Back to the marathon workout routine: my friend in Japan (Hi, Amber [she sneakily got ahold of my blog website even though I haven’t shared it with anyone, so I know she’s now reading this]) got me into following this fitness expert on Instagram, who is hosting a free 14-day challenge to follow her 20 minute workouts everyday for 14 days.  Then she will draw a winner and give them $1000 for completing the challenge.  Now, I’ve never won anything in my life, and I’m not about to starting believing I could win this one, but the challenge was FREE, which is my favorite thing in the world… Plus, I’ve been needing a different approach to working out, just to shake things up… Plus, it’s 20 minutes a day, which means I can workout, shower, and still lay around OR be productive during nap time.  Basically, it works perfectly with my schedule.  So Amber and I keep each other accountable everyday via Facebook messenger, and I’ve made it through day 9 so far!  If you want to look into it, go to http://www.loriharder.com.  She hosts these freebies every so often.

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What I think I look like while working out…..

I have combined this with focusing on what I’m eating the last two weeks.  My jeans were starting to feel a bit tight, and I went to the doctor two weeks ago and was a little surprised to see the number on the scale when they weighed me, so I decided I need to reign in my eating… Namely, my sweet tooth.  I can eat sugar like a champ, and I LOVE candy.  Always have, and I’m sure I always will.  So I have been eating pretty clean, and the only “sweet” things I’ve allowed myself are Kashi cookies, yogurt, and the occasional small handful of dark cacao chips.  I gave myself a break over the weekend because I firmly believe one can not deprive themselves of all the good things in life, so on Saturday I shared a bowl of popcorn with my husband while we watched a movie, and Sunday night I was too tired from experimenting with more macarons to then cook dinner, so we ordered pizza.  But on Monday I was back on track (although I did sample one of my new macarons, you know… for science).  Wednesday I will have to take a break from the clean eating because it is my husband’s birthday, and he has requested my grandma’s baked zitti for dinner…and chocolate cake.  There’s basically no hope for me tomorrow.

Claire is teething yet again, and the last few months have led me to believe that the “Terrible Two’s,” which I’ve been told can come at any time during the second year of life, not necessarily when they are actually two, are just a result of never ending teething.  Wouldn’t you be grumpy if you constantly had these huge mounds of pointy teeth poking their way through your flesh?  The poor dear seems to be grumpy every other day, constantly chewing on her fingers, and fussing for no discernible reason.  I’m trying my hardest to be patient but sometimes the fussing just makes you want to lock yourself in a padded room.  What’s worse is that we seem to have lost the amber necklace we have her wear when we have no more tricks up our sleeves.  I’m not entirely sure they work, but it’s my last resort, and now I don’t have a last resort.  So if you need me, I’ll be scaling the walls of my house by my fingernails.

And lastly, we are giving back our Volkswagen to the dealership today.  We bought our beloved Jetta wagon in 2015 when I was quite pregnant, thinking it would be a good family car…. Which it was, until the VW diesel emissions scandal broke and we learned we would have to give back our car eventually.  Well, today is that day, and I’m a little bummed about it.  Yes, they are going to give us a check for basically what we paid for it almost two years ago, and yes, we’ve already purchased a new vehicle, but it has been a stressful situation and we are a little bitter for having to go through this process.  It will feel good to finally give it back and move on, as it was just one other ball of stress from the last six months of moving and settling and hemorrhaging money.  So, goodbye, faithful car.  I hope wherever you end up (probably somewhere like Africa or Asia or India) is full adventure.

Well now that does feel a bit better.  Now say a little prayer that my sweetie takes a three hour nap.

When you’re a mom, freedom never feels totally “free.”

So here I am… a fresh latte next to me… The sounds and smells of a bustling Starbucks infiltrating my senses.  Just me and my laptop.  I feel like I’m missing a limb.  Why?

I did a very difficult thing today.  I dropped my sweet baby girl off at “Mother’s Morning Out.”  They have her until noon if I want- the possibilities of what to do with my time are endless, so naturally I will probably just sit here at Starbucks and think about all the things I could do with my time, without actually getting up out of my chair.  I’m literally paralyzed with freedom and choices.

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Is is normal to want to call the nursery every 5 minutes to see if she’s ok?  I’ve blogged a lot about how attached to me and shy Claire is.  That is part of the reason why I finally decided to give this program a try- not only does Claire need to learn to be taken care of by people other than myself, and not only does she need some independent socialization time, but also… mama needs a break.

I went back and forth all last night about whether I would go through with it.  She’s still my little baby, it’s okay if she’s attached to me!  Which for the record, it totally is ok.  I selfishly love that she wants and needs me above all else.  But lately it’s gotten intense and because my husband works such long damn hours, I don’t get a ton of help until dinner time, so I really need a little bit of time to myself.  I’ve been assured it’s a healthy thing to need for oneself.  Currently it just feels like mom guilt.

So, after getting a pep talk from my best friend (all the way from Japan, might I add), I decided to not think too much about it and got us out the door by 8:45 and drove to the church.  The facility is excellent and full of happy little kids, which put me more at ease.  The women running the baby room were extremely nice and not worried at all about dealing with separation anxiety (I warned them several times it might be rough).  They had an electronic check-in system where they print you a ticket and will not let anyone pick their child up unless they have the matching ticket (which also was very reassuring).  I had been explaining to Claire all morning that she was going to go “play with other babies” and that mommy was going to leave but then she’d “be right back,” to which she’d reply “be right back.”  She’s very smart for her age so I thought she would in some way understand what I was explaining.  So then I snuck out while she was being distracted by one of the caregivers.  I waited out of sight in the hall to hear if she would be okay, and when I didn’t hear any crying after a minute or so, I decided I should leave because if she did melt down, it would be even harder for me.

So I walked out, sat in my car… And called my mom for reassurance.  I’m such a cliché.

I’m also in no way the kind of mom I always told myself I would be – you know, the career mom who sacrifices nothing about herself to accommodate her children.  HA!  How stupid I was.  Now that I have a daughter, not only do I know that working moms sacrifice just as much as stay at home moms, but I also learned that I’m a total softie, an emotional blob when it comes to babies and children, and I would sacrifice everything if it were in the best interest of my child.

Which is why it was hard to drop Claire off this morning.  I knew it would be hard for her and she would probably cry (and I might too), but I also knew it would be good for both of us for different reasons.  And it would only be a couple of hours, one day a week or so, and if we both hated it I wouldn’t have to do it again… Although let’s be real, I hope she does great so that I feel like I have a resource at my disposal when I need a break, have appointments, etc.

So now that this if off my chest, I hope this caffeine fuels me enough to get me out of this Starbucks and do something with the next two hours.

If the coffee doesn’t get me out of here, the sound of the man next to me who keeps sniffing back a nose full of snot probably will.  So gross.

I’m a mess, and I’m ok with it.

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.

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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.

Nap time productivity series

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?

Jumbled thoughts from a jumbled mom-brain. Sounds about right.

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!

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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?

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  • 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.

À bientôt.

 

 

 

 

 

Pump the brakes.

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.

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Stop and smell the… Lavender (my personal favorite)

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 plight of staying home

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?

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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.

Help, my toddler needs social skills.

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….

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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?).

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Stock photo – not my class but this was very similar!

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!