Let’s catch up…

Bonjour, it’s been a while!  I’ve been making myself feel guilty for not writing lately, because I don’t want this to become yet another forgotten hobby.  In truth I think this blog has helped me a great deal during my transition to (gasp) Floridian.  No, I joke.  I’ll never be a Floridian.  But I do have to accept being here, for now.  Here’s a bit about what I’ve been up to…

The last I wrote, I was stoked about a trip to NYC.  A weekend getaway for some girl time with my good buddy, and boy did it deliver.  Despite some difficult, panicky moments about being away from my little (gimme a break, it was my first time away, ok?), I delivered on my goals to eat delicious food, walk around the city, and experience parts of the city that are less-frequented by tourists.  While my husband and I did the full tourist experience two years ago – including all the top museums, memorials, and even a horse-drawn carriage ride through Central Park (his surprise to me, which while super cheesy was adorably sweet and fun) – Jenny and I hiked on foot to the West Village, SoHo, the Financial district, and walked along the High Line.  We ate true New York brunch in a hole-in-the-wall restaurant, ate amazing Italian food in an Italian indoor market, sipped cocktails on a rooftop bar, and I sampled macarons at Laduree and the Gansevoort Market.  I also bargain shopped at the fabulous Century 21 department store and scored some fabulous Tory Burch sunglasses.  It was divine.  But boy was I ready to get home to my little family!

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Before that, it was evident that I was having a difficult time.  I think my anxiety was coming to a head and I was finally, truly mourning the life we left behind in Washington.  Look, I’m never going to love it here.  It’s not my paradise.  I crave cities, culture, food, and the ability to be outside in the summer without melting into the humidity or getting eaten alive by bugs.  I just do.  But, I must accept my circumstances, and they don’t have to be all bad.

I’ve found some harmony with my choice f staying home with Claire.  We’ve discovered a plethora of activities to do on an almost-daily basis, and I’m even developing some mom friends that have nothing to do with being military wives (score!).  We’re not bff’s, but we have been getting together almost weekly despite Kindermusik classes being over for the summer, and I am developing some good friendships that I cultivated on my own, which is so important to me in this military lifestyle.

And most importantly, I made the leap to talk with a therapist about my anxiety.  And, I can’t articulate the ways in which it’s helped, but I know it’s helping.  I’ve been feeling lighter in my thoughts most days, and more accepting of my life right now.  Don’t get me wrong, it’s not all better or happily ever after, but it’s helping, and I can sense that.  So, I am grateful for that.

I even managed to dip into my professional pursuits lately.  A few months ago I volunteered to teach some French language classes at the county library, and they accepted.  But I had to wait several months to begin, so I kind of forgot about it for a while.  Of course that means the date snuck up on me, and before I knew it I had to plan a lesson for true novices.  Long story short, I found myself way more excited than nervous about doing this, and on Monday night when I showed up to a room full of sixty people, I was blown away by the enthusiasm and excitement of all of the “students.” It was so much fun, I barely slept that night from the adrenaline of it all.  The best part is that I had several inquiries about private lessons, and so far two of them have come to fruition.  I’m hopeful this is that little extra something I’ve been craving, to make me feel like an intelligent, educated woman again, as well as a devoted mom.  On verra, I guess.

So, onward!  I am looking forward to a four-day weekend with my family in which I want to experiment in the kitchen and make some yummy treats for us, as well as some day excursions to nearby towns (translation: shopping).  And in less than a month we will be going home for a two-week visit and I am getting more and more excited, mostly due to the free childcare that awaits us.

 

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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!

I’m pretty sure I’ve failed as a mother today.

Days like this always seem to come out of nowhere, have you noticed that?  After Claire went to bed last night, my husband and I were talking about how good she had been all day.  Pleasant, happy, charming, playful, and ate up all her dinner.  I woke up this morning, got my shower, and came out of the bathroom to the sounds of her crying on the monitor.  I should have known then that it was going to be a day.  She almost never cries when she wakes up anymore.  She will spend anywhere from 15 to 30 minutes babbling away happily in the morning before she gets a little fussy and I go and get her up.  And yeah, my kid likes to sleep in.  Usually I don’t get her up until around 8am.  This morning she was crying in bed at 7:30… Not complaining because I know plenty of kids who are bright eyed and bushy tailed at 6am, but it’s fair to say this is unusual for Claire.

No fever, no runny nose, no telltale signs of being ill.  I’m guessing it’s teething, as she has a few incoming teeth, but even that wasn’t obvious.  She was just pissed off.  Cried over having to wait for me to make her pancakes, cried over the Cheerios I gave her while she waited, cried at the fact that I was trying to address an envelope to stick in the mail while she ate said pancakes.  God forbid I don’t give her my full attention while she eats her breakfast.

Now here comes the part where I failed today (as a sidenote, I am in major PMS mode, so my level of patience is at an all-time low right now.  I’m not in a bad mood per se, but I’m also not feeling like a saint at the moment).  I couldn’t take all the crying, as Claire continued throwing a fit after I let her out of her highchair.  So I went into our spare bedroom, closed the door and sat on the floor; I needed a time out.  Claire is yelling “mommy!” “mommy!” throughout the house, and after about two minutes I open the door and let her come in.  She sits in my lap and snuggles me for a minute, and my heart melts and I feel instant guilt.

Until she throws tantrum #376 about fifteen minutes later.  As soon as I’ve gotten myself put together enough for the day, with an almost-toddler at my heels incessantly pulling at me and fussing while I do my best to ignore it, I decide we should go for a walk.  As I get Claire changed and out of her pajamas, fill up her little snack cup, get the dog’s collar and leash on, my dear child follows me around the house screaming and crying at me.  I can’t take another minute of it again, so I go into the laundry room, shut the door and sit on the floor.  Mommy needs another time out.  While I take deep breaths and try to count to one thousand (I made it to 11 I think?), I hear “momma!” “mommy!” “momma!” on the other side of the door.  Jiggle jiggle jiggle goes the handle.  I count to twenty.  Open the door.  See a very mad and upset baby looking at me.  I don’t say anything but walk through the baby gate, get the dog ready for the walk, get us all into the garage and we take off for the walk.  Claire doesn’t utter a single peep the entire time, so I keep walking.  And walking.  And walking.  And because I live in Florida, I start to get hot after a while and finally head home.

Luckily it is 75 degrees and sunny out today, so we played in the backyard until her nap and that also seemed to distract her from her crappy mood.  And I have to say, enjoying my back porch this morning helped to calm me down too:

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Now you might be thinking, that doesn’t really sound like a parenting failure to me, but believe me when I say inside I felt like an utter failure.  From pretty much the moment my daughter woke up, I wanted to bring her to her dad at work and take myself to the nearest day spa and pay for the most expensive mani/pedi I could get.  I keep envisioning handing her off to her father when he gets home so I could go shut and lock the bathroom door and take a bubble bath, or, you know, just lay on my bed staring at the ceiling and doing absolutely nothing.  I’ll be honest and say I wanted to scream a couple of times this morning, which made me feel like a monster.  Sometimes being a parent is just so, so hard.  And other times it’s the greatest gift, on days like yesterday when Claire was an absolute delight.  Ok, being a parent is always a gift (I still can say that even today), but it doesn’t always feel like it.  Let’s be real.  Today just feels like I need a solo vacation, with cocktails, spa sessions and absolutely no one that depends on me to feed them (that includes my husband).

So while I sit here typing this, eating my daughter’s Gold Fish crackers on my lovely back porch and praying Claire takes a three hour nap and sleeps off whatever funk she woke up in, I’m going to count to fifty (thousand) this time and push “restart” on the rest of my day.  If all else fails it is socially acceptable to start drinking in about four hours.