Thursday, November 27, 2014

Happy Fakesgiving

I decided to skip Thanksgiving this year, not quite sure why.  Perhaps I thought I would have the willpower to watch it unfold on Facebook without getting physically involved.

Last year, with an 8 week old newborn I had the same mindset (and a solid excuse.)  As I stalked photos of my friends and skyped with my family I felt twitchy (more likely from lack of sleep and sore boobs.) Undeniably though, something was missing.  By Saturday I had obtained a couple turkey steaks, potatoes, instant stuffing and this gravy that comes in a microwaveable bag.  First year in the new house with our new baby.  I was going to start the tradition even if it killed me (and even if I had to nurse at the dinner table.)

I didn't realize it would be a tradition of me trying to ignore one of the last great holidays.  There are lots more excuses this year: We don’t have enough room in our house, Christmas is coming and I’m completely unorganized, it will be lots of work and I’m just flippin worn out.

Honestly now that I think about it- maybe it’s just plain ole homesickness.  Que head in sand.

My American genes must be stronger than I realized.

When I went food shopping Wednesday (see just like I would have if I were back home!) after days of scraping by on ‘cupboard surprises’ due to Lavinia being sick- we were filling up our shopping cart.  I spotted cranberry sauce on display- yay American products! Though I’m meant to be on a budget- I grabbed a jar without looking at its price tag. Nostalgia- gets me every time, a marketers dream.

And since I’m on a supermarket-chain, meat-boycott I purchased a little free-range chicken at the Butcher with no real plans for it. See what my subliminal mind was doing there?

I also happened to have a large, organic pumpkin left over from our Aussie Farmer’s Direct veggie box.  I could not possibly let another one go to waste just because my freezer is already full of pumpkin puree (Christmas prep, maybe I’m not as disorganized as I thought.)  See how all the elements of the perfect Faux Thanksgiving are coming together?

I even had stuffing mix in the cupboard (from last year) and contemplated using it because the expiration date is still one more year from now (that can’t be healthy, stuffing mix which has a shelf life of two years.)  Give yourself permission to take a shortcut I told myself....use the boxed stuffing or skip it altogether. But it’s been open for A WHOLE YEAR.  So no.  My toasted one inch cubed breadcrumbs had just come out of the oven.  You can't have Fakesgiving without homemade stuffing!!!

Could I help myself? No.  I could not.

Tired as hell, my 14-month-old, teething baby finally went down for a nap. The house was a mess, laundry needed to be done and I my hair had not seen shampoo since the weekend. Yet... let me make the most delicious gosh darn pumpkin pie you have ever seen.

No whipped cream or ice cream.  What ever shall I do?  How bout just whip up some coconut cream with vanilla extract and honey.  I’m as gangsta as Martha Stewart. 

By the time Matt arrived home from work I was spent. And a tad crabby.  But you know what?  Those smells coming out of the oven and the anticipation of that gorgeous pie....perked me right up.  The wine helped too. 

It’s a little sad that I cooked the meal all by myself but at the end of the day it was worth it.  I’m thankful for giving Thanksgiving its proper place in our family.

Tuesday, November 25, 2014

Taking Stock: A Bloggy Assignment

I was challenged to answer these questions as part of my blogging course. Even on a boring old day, there were some obvious big themes playing on my mind.
Sick Baby Snuggles

Making : A new and improved blog!
Cooking : Roasted beet and carrot risotto (getting creative with the remnants of last weeks veggie delivery)
Drinking : Lemongrass, Lime & Ginger Tisane tea (daydreaming about coffee)
Reading: 'Not that kind of Girl' by Lena Dunham.  She's a bit elitist for someone trying to glorify being a social outcast.
Wanting: A new watch to replace the one that Lavinia  'hid' on me over two months ago
Looking: Looking into natural remedies for teething
Playing: Thao & The Get Down Stay Down by We the Common
Deciding: What should I prioritize during this particular nap-time?
Wishing: I was in #Buffalo, shoveling and drinking hot toddies #Snovember
Enjoying: The online blogging course I'm currently taking
Waiting: To purchase a flight home....depends on a few things
Liking: Social Media
Wondering: When I will have more time to myself?
Loving: My daughter's voice and all her new words
Pondering: How to fill my time most productively
The Rare Quiet Cup of Tea

Considering: What direction to take with my writing
Watching: My video baby monitor.  Because technology
Hoping: That my little bug takes a looooong nap
Marvelling: That it's almost 2015
Needing: More time, better sleep
Smelling: Roasted Carrots, Beets, Garlic and Onion fresh out of the oven
Wearing: Sweats the color of cement...okay since it's a sick day
Following: So many cool new bloggy friends on social media
Noticing: That I'm not old but I'm not young anymore
Knowing: I'm okay with it
Thinking: All the things
Feeling: A bit cooped up since my daughter and I are both under the weather
Admiring: Published Writers
Sorting: Old blog posts-is this a thing even worth sorting?
Buying: (Should be buying) Christmas gifts.  Stress!!!
Getting: More tattoos please...My birthday is coming
Bookmarking: Techie things to assist my bloggy things (SEO, and analytics- Holla!)
Disliking: Springtime illnesses
Opening: A package of homeopathic remedies that arrived today from the UK
Giggling: When Lavinia does something naughty and yells "No!"
Feeling: Based on these answers, apparently homesickness but also gratitude
Snacking: Shapes Sensations Balsamic vinegar and sea salt crackers. Need to go food shopping....
Coveting: My gold plated necklace with the longitude and latitude of my hometown #Buffalo

Wishing: That my husband could come home from work early to hang out
Helping: With some surprises for a dear friend
Hearing: Music, silence and peace...for now.  Nap-time is nearly over....

Check out the author who came up with this list.  In her blog she shares a blank list of questions in case you want to Stock Take too! 

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

My Body and I Have Been Through a lot Together

9 months post baby, and 13 months post

When I sat down with Alisa I couldn't believe how ripped she was, and how immaculately presented.  She was tanned, makeup done, hair did and sparkly jewelry on.  She was quite pretty and feminine, redefining the stereotype of female body builders.

I think she was a bit shocked to hear that I did not come to her to get skinny.  My goals were to increase strength, get better sleep, build muscle and most of all increase my energy.  I could see her getting excited. “Can you please kick my ass?”  I said to her.

She gave me this look like- “you don’t even have to ask.”

I had never worked with a female trainer before so I was curious to see if she would let me off the hook or be even tougher on me to prove a point.

Just deadliftin'
A Cheeky 110lbs (50Kg)

Turns out that Alisa's point of difference is her huge heart.  She gives a shit- sometimes more than I do.  Her past made her tough as nails yet she remains positive and passionate.  And kick my ass, she did.  For the first time I uttered the words “I can’t,” during a PT session (very unusual for a competitive, people pleaser like myself).  She knew when to push me and when I was actually working hard. We felt like a team. 

Peace out Muffin Top

She wanted me in the gym three times a week which would mean my family would die of starvation on a sticky floor wearing dirty undies.  So I went twice weekly.  Sometimes once.  A few weeks, none at all (life, ya know?) 

We set a goal to check in at three months.  We took actual scientific measurements of my body and totes awks embarrassing photos that I’m sharing with you all right now.

I didn't change my diet but I did try to eat more consciously.  I was determined to use our entire veggie box each week and cut down on refined carbs (for the record, I will never give up carbs- they are delicious).  Matt and I gave up our Friday night tradition of pizza and french fries.

Wednesday, November 12, 2014

Me Time

Namaste Momma
Lately, I’ve been a little better at figuring out how to recharge.  This is important because I need maximum revitalization in minimum time.

I stopped using my ‘day off’ to clean, cook, write (with the remaining 15 minutes) or even to sleep. It's a myth that you can get ahead of household chores or caught up on sleep. Lavinia's five-hours of childcare absolutely flies and when it’s over I wonder why I’m still tired. 

Being selfish with my time has made me feel more human.  Not sure what that means about my inherent humanity but I’m okay with that for now.

A few weeks ago I decided to take a Bikram yoga class, grab lunch, and get a pedicure.  When I went to pick up my little girl, with lotiony feet and salty hair, it felt like I had been on a vacation.  The downside of these particular activities is they cost money.  Because it was an experiment I had to stick with what was sure to work.  I’ll find less-expensive ways to unwind- perhaps an idea for a future post!

Bikram was a love of mine pre-wife, pre-mother, pre-permanent-resident-of-OZ days.  It’s a practice I wander back to often in my life and has been sort of a constant for ten years now (wow I’m old).  It might be cultish and time-consuming but it’s as much a part of me as my Buffalonian accent.

My limbs felt rusty like the tin man's.  I could not stretch as deeply into the postures but they were familiar as an old friend.  That first class after a two year hiatus reminded me how to clear my head.  Bliss.

And the flow-on effect of my self-indulgence...I started reading during nap time...screw you laundry pile! Devouring the craptastic novel (Gone Girl) in one week. That's all it took for me to fill my kindle with all kinds of non-parenting related reads. Talk about a cost-effective escape! My weekly shower tally has dropped but I'm cool with this too.

The comfort of old interests helped connect my past to my present.  If I can find ways to fit more of them into my daily life I might just feel more sane, less fatigued and a helluva lot more relaxed.

Happy Mom, Happy Babe

Wednesday, September 10, 2014

Six Things I Learned in my First Year of Parenting

There is no way to prepare for being a parent.  You can read all the books, babysit, expect a ‘challenge’ but until you are leaving the hospital without instructions or a warranty.... you won’t ever truly know.  These are a few home-truths I’ve picked up this year that I thought might be helpful, or at least relatable, to parents both new and seasoned.

The Safety of the Hospital Bubble

1. The Newborn Stage Ends.

I promise.  I wish someone told me this when I was in it.  Actually I’m sure they did and I just didn’t believe them.  For a while it feels like you have Stockholm syndrome. You’re in love with your captor who also happens to be the new boss of the family- and is more demanding than Donald Trump.  Sleep deprivation takes your sanity and even your dignity.  It feels infinite.  This too shall pass and soon the memory will be fuzzy and even pleasant.

The Newborn Era- looks much more pleasant than it was.

2. There are Pro’s and Con’s to Waiting Until your 30’s to Have Children. 
I’ve traveled heaps, partied lots, slept-in and had few regrets (I tell myself this might be key to avoiding a mid-life crisis.)   After 30 I felt ready to ‘settle down,’ because sometimes a bottle of red and a good movie appealed more to me than going out all night.  The term ‘settle down’ implies relaxation and a slow pace of life.  They should call it- ready to ‘fire up’ for kids because you should train for it like you would a marathon.  With an 11.5 month old baby, I’m starting to feel more like my old self again and now there is this sudden pang of jealousy for people without children.  My shrink and I decided that I’m not jealous of the childlessness, just the freedom- especially now that I have the energy for freedom again.  Personally, I’m glad I didn’t have children in my 20’s or I would be even more jealous!  However I would have had plenty more ‘get-up-and-go.’

3. Gone is Spontaneity. 

Want to pop out and grab a coffee?  Yeah Right. You can no longer grab your handbag and go.  In fact, there is no longer room for your handbag at all.  I’m lucky to be able to shove a wallet, keys and Blistex in my diaper bag.  Plus there is other serious equipment to consider. Stroller or baby carrier? Extra clothes for baby, and yourself.  Bottles, meals, and snacks on rotation depending on the time of day.  Should you bring extra in case of delays?   Diapers, wipes and bum cream- oh my! Hat, sunscreen, and comforter. Plastic bags, nappy bags, garbage bags (handy for large-scale disasters) and toys...the surprising thing is that the smaller the baby, the more you need to bring.  Makes no sense.    

Camping goods sorted, then we have the nap conundrum.  Can it be timed so she sleeps in the car or the stroller?  Oh wait, the weather forecasts explosive poo, spew and or food spillage? Better grab an umbrella too.

After all this prep if the baby cries when we get there- we are going to turn right around.  Better to just never leave the house? Maybe

Coffee Date!

4. You have to Reserve Down Time.

When we first brought Lavinia home, we were inundated with company.  And it was lovely but also exhausting.  We were so proud to show off our little angel that we would invite two sets of visitors over each weekend day.  I’ve learned to say ‘we’re busy' and it's literally always true.   Even if 'busy' simply means that my husband and I have coordinated in advance and booked family time.  One weekend a month we decline all social engagements home or away because (see item 3) a coffee date could take up half the day.  Sounds totally lame but you know what?  It’s these weekends I look forward to the most.  So hard to say ‘no thank, you,’ but so worth it in the end.  Soon enough Lavinia will only want to see her friends, desperately trying to avoid her boring parents (which is ironic because SHE is the reason we are boring!)

Just a Couple Friends Blowing Bubbles in the Backyard

5. A Night Out is Almost Not Worth the Hangover.  Almost.

Sometimes you need a good blow-out to remind yourself you still have a personality.  Events must marry up perfectly with babysitters.  And keep in mind that come morning your baby does not give a flying F#$@ that you were out too late and drank too much.  The kid will be well-rested and ready to rock’n’roll at 7am (or sooner) regardless of whether you went to bed at 9:30PM or 2:30AM.  And I’ll tell you something from experience- it’s martyrdom to breastfeed while dehydrated.

So, sorry to all my friends for declining often.  Side note: Please keep inviting us anyway because we like to feel included.  And for the record, no, we cannot ‘just put the baby to bed in your spare room’ during your dinner party.  That’s just crazy talk.

Buddy Lachlan's 1st Birthday Party

6. The Most Supportive People in your New Life are Not Always who you would Expect. 

Your hospital room will be flooded with visitors, gifts, and loving glances.  But while your life has been turned upside down, it goes back to normal for everyone else.   And one day, you go to the hairdresser and find in her a soul-mate.  Lovely single girlfriends offer to sacrifice precious weekend nights to babysit so you can go to dinner for your birthday or see a movie with your hubby.  A sister-in-law spends hours on public transport to spend quality time with her niece.  A judgement-free and down to Earth mother’s group.  A mother-in-law who commutes four hours just so you can nap.  The kindness of people is both astounding and surprising.  And we are grateful.

After your first child life as you know it will never be the same, just like everyone says.  You can never ‘un-know’ what it feels like to be responsible for a baby you made.  Then the light bulb illuminates- this is how my parents felt about me- and you finally understand the depth of their love, and understand their imperfections.    

Then the second, more disappointing light bulb- this brand new human will not have a clue how much you love and sacrifice for them  until they have children of their own.  And that’s a damn long time to wait.  Which brings me back to point number one.  Patience.

Wednesday, August 27, 2014

Finding Value in Being a Stay-At-Home Mom

My first painting in about four years.

I should be going back to work this week but I took an additional 12 months maternity leave.

During my struggle with post natal depression I felt unable to make the right decision about going back to work.  So I did what any responsible adult would do... delay the inevitable.

My gratitude for this option abounds.  I’m grateful laws in Australia allow me to request a second year off and even more grateful that because I work at a not-for-profit, they granted it.

This additional time is, and has already been, a fresh start.  I am doing fulfilling things; writing, painting, cooking, exercising, visiting.  The more I do, the better I feel.

One of my weaknesses is that I have too many interests- both in hobbies and careers.  Because I wanted to live abroad, I never focused on one particular path.  I don’t know what it feels like to be obsessed with one particular thing and doing it every day to earn a living.  I leave that to people I admire.

As a result I have quite the’ well-rounded’ resume however I can’t shake the suspicion that I got off-track somewhere.  Specifically, because I would like to be doing something more creative.

Once again, with my daughter as inspiration, I see life is too important to waste on ‘working to live’.  I would like to know what it feels like to ‘live to work’- even if said work does not allow me to earn an income.  I recently read somewhere that the work you do in your spare time is the work you should be doing for a living.  It's a nice idea.  Even better if I had more of that coveted spare time....

Then there’s the guilt.  I’m taking these two years off when I know plenty of mothers who would love to do the same but cannot.  On the flipside I worry that I’ll lose my identity.  Suddenly I’m this child-centric husk who drives a soccer-mom van....only to be shocked back to life with a mid-life crisis once the kids move out.

Working mothers feel guilty about leaving their children, and stay-at-home mothers feel guilty about leaving their career.  Just because we CAN have both- does that mean we HAVE to? Does anyone really have it all anyway?

As an educated, feminist, woman, I’m grateful to have the choice at all.  I’m sure if someone told me I HAD to stay home, I would be clawing at the ceiling.   Alternatively if finances dictated that I MUST return to work immediately, I would be longing for the days at home with my daughter.

It’s seems as though when the choice is taken away completely, it’s much easier to justify.

Perhaps the real issue is that we feel judged for whichever we chose.  When someone innocently asks, “So when do you return to work?”...It becomes my responsibility to be comfortable and confident in my answer.  Rather than respond ‘I’m just a stay-at-home-mom,” maybe I should say, 'I raise humans and try to stay sane in the process.

In the end, what we do does not necessarily define us.  It’s who we are, and what we value that matters. Right now I'm okay with being the artsy stay-at-home-mom.

And in this moment while I’m learning to pass values on to a new generation I would like to improve mine along the way.

Thursday, August 14, 2014

The Beauty and Pain of Letting Go

"The moment a child is born, the mother is also born. She never existed before. The woman existed, but the mother, never. A mother is something absolutely new." ~Rajneesh caption

Every time I look into my daughter’s eyes I am mesmerized.  The beauty of her hurts, sometimes.

And when she holds my gaze for more than a moment, my breath catches because she looks back so intently.  There is more going on inside her than I ever imagined- so many lifetimes in that pristine 11-month-old body, in those deep blue eyes.  My child is wise.

I try not to be needy for her to look at me constantly- though I would be happy doing so all day long.  I try not to crave her affection- I can ask for a kiss ten times but she doles them out at her own particular discretion.

Almost one year since I gave birth to this precious little person- and she astounds me at least daily.  If I could start all over again with her, I would.  In a second.  This year has gone by twice as fast as any year before and I’m left with a beautiful, headstrong, intelligent little girl.  My baby, rapidly being phased out by a toddler.  I don’t want to blink because she will be a teenager.

Since her first days on Earth I have found that being a parent is a grueling lesson in letting go.  Something I keep reminding myself when I’m so hungry for her attention.  Someday I am going to have to launch her into this incredibly mixed-up, crazy world and keep my fingers crossed that I provided enough guidance and tools for her to thrive. 

It has been a long, long time since I looked forward to each day like I do now, and I will savor it.