Saturday, December 19, 2009

It's December WHAT?!?!

Sooo, I knew that time would fly between Thanksgiving and Christmas. What with the remodel, move and all that comes with the two but I truly cannot believe that we are heading back to Minnesota in 3 days for Christmas, and of course, Ainsley's first birthday (better known to the world as Christmas Eve). I just can't believe it.

So much has been accomplished in the past few weeks. We may still not have the dishwasher hooked up or the sink plumbing in place, but other than that things are pretty well put together. Cabinets up, new floor down, paint on the walls, countertops and sink in. After figuring out how to put up a backsplash, put down some toe kicks and mount handles on the drawers (a seemingly simple task that is proving IMPOSSIBLE!) we are home free.

Even with the kitchen not quite finished we have settled so easily into our new home. The calm of being in our own place, doing the laundry when we want, jumping around to loud music when we want, having quiet when Ainsley is napping and sleeping, going to bed without the roar of late night television blaring through the floorboards, is priceless. Ok, maybe not priceless, but definitely worth the price. I am already envisioning the vegetable garden in the backyard this spring and traipsing with Ainsley up the street to the park and pool. Every morning we sip our coffee and watch children scurry off to the elementary school 3 blocks away and business people bundle up for the trainride downtown while Ainsley tells us all about her dreams "dadathethismama". It's quite the life, I must say.

But in my blinding love of our new house and life I have slacked off in the past week and am paying the price now. I was WIPED and I do mean WIPED out after the renovation and move. After the essentials were unpacked, main living spaces and Ainsley's room suitable for use I shut down. Ainsley and I spent a week going for short walks in the cold, getting really well aquainted with the living room, and eating meals from boxes from the freezer. Not my proudest week. But I think it was good to take a break in the midst of the madness and let our new house comfort us and relax us until we (and by we I mean I) were ready to take action again.

This weekend has been and will continue to be filled with laundry, packing, shopping, and do-it-yourselfing. I work best this way. A few days off, a few days of madness.

I am SO excited to go home for Chrismtas I can hardly stand it. I love that we own a home now in Illinois and I still call Minnesota home.

I can't belive that my baby is going to be 1 in less than a week. A year ago I was huge as a whale praying that she would come either before or after Christmas and of course, being Ainsley, she chose to come when it was most convenient for her. I've loved trying to think of ways to make her birthday special and not just another Christmas Eve. Birthday brunch was the fruit of my labors. I am most excited for the three layer mini cake I'm going to make for her to smash and the presents that I've worked so hard to make for her that I know she'll pass over for the wrapping paper. She is growing up so fast and I try so hard to cherish every day.

I am so blessed with a wonderful family, a comfortable home, and lots of reasons to celebrate. Merry Christmas and Happy Birthday Ainsley!

Tuesday, December 1, 2009


So...we closed on our house last Friday. Luckily a friendly real estate agent loved Ainsley and watched her while Ian and I signed oodles of papers. It really was a fun experience. Great people, free coffee, lots of checks to write and lots of KEYS. All in all, a good experience. Then we drove to our new house (Ahhhh!!!!!), double checked that all of the locks were in place and drove straight to St. Paul, MN for our first stop for Thanksgiving break.
We had a great Thanksgiving. 9 whole days of family, food, and more food. Ainsley is really coming out of her shell. She is "talking" ALL the time and almost running now she walks so fast. I can hardly believe how big she is getting, right in front of my eyes. She is, in general, happy, active and oh so sweet and cute. I just love that baby and am so proud of her.
We are so blessed that our two families get along. Ian's family came to mine for the big meal and we had a blast. What could be better than turkey, potatoes, stuffing, gravy, rolls, pie, and Cranium with hats? Oh, and the Carol Burnette show.
We came back to IL on Sunday, unpacked, went to bed, and the mayhem began. yesterday I spent 3 hours with Ainsley at our empty house getting a ridiculously high estimate for a relatively minor heating duct job and the delivery of our IKEA cabinets. My parents arrived in the afternoon (in case I forgot to mention my amazing parents are driving 7 hours each way just to work their patooties off in our house and watch Ainsley for the next week+) and we proceeded to pack some boxes and make a Home Depot run with my dad.
Today we woke up and had a normal morning until my parents arrived with bagels to start the day of demolition. In ONE day we have accomplished SO much. The cabinets were demo-ed in minutes and are presently in the garage awaiting pick up. The cabinets are assembled minus doors, shelves and dawers (to be completed tomorrow). The kitchen is spackled, caulked, sanded and painted ready for re-assemply and everyone is in good spirits.
I am on cloud nine. I have been so nervous about this whole kitchen remodle, pretty much since I realize that we were going to do one months ago. But now it is all coming together and I know that at the end we will have a beautiful, functional, AMAZING kitchen that my family and I put together. Cross your fingers that the rest of the week goes as smoothly as today!

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

More Nostalgia

Okay, this has to be brief because Ian's waiting for me to proofread his grant that's due tomorrow (even though I assured him that while I was an English major proofreading was never my strong suit) but I want to write something nonetheless.
I was just sitting here knitting, watching a show, and was struck with the memories of childhood triumphs.
Let me back up a bit. One of the hardest things about being a mom, for me, has been the lack of acknowledgment, no that's not quite right, the lack of esteem that I get from my daily activites. In college if I worked really hard on a paper (or didn't) and got an A it felt great. I felt accomplished, smart, a bit proud even. It's been a long time since I've felt that way. I miss feeling GOOD at something.
Going back to childhood, some of my proudest moments were (hold back the laughter) dance recitals. I played sports (petrified of batting and never scored a goal) and took piano lessons (my hands shook at recitals) but dance was the one real thing I felt I was good at. Now mind you I was not good. Once it got past the point where just memorizing the routine qualified you for the front row and fuetes became more important I got the shaft, but when that music came on something just felt right when I moved. I knwo how bizarre this all sounds, but I miss that feeling. Waiting in the wings all dolled up, smelling a fart because some nervous girl had poofed (never me of course). Then the previous number exits, the lights go low,the audience quites in anticipation as we prance out to our spots on stage. Then the music comes on and...MAGIC.
It's strange now how someting that used to bring me so much joy has left my life completely. I miss that feeling. Taking a bow and knowing that you did the best that you could, and you at least didn't look like a fool.
I always feel like a fool now. I've worked my whole life to be good at certain things, and now none of them matter. All that matters is that I take care of this little beautiful kantankerous baby girl, keep her alive, and happy. It sounds easy, but it's the hardest thing I've ever done. I never know if I've done enough, if I've gotten an A for the day, or heck, a B- would be good most days. There's no one to tell you that you did a good job, that you're doing the right thing. I miss that certainty. Perhaps I should take up math as a hobby. There's always a right answer there.
We close on our house in two days. I can hardly wait!

Sunday, November 15, 2009

Oh Happy Day

Dear Blog,
I am feeling joyous, thankful, blessed, and inspired. A rare, and, of course, welcome combination of emotions. In 5 days Ian and I will own our first home together. We can paint the front stoop whatever color we chose and plant a flowering tree in the backyard (just for you Ian). I can hardly wait.
I love Sunday nights. I know for most it is a night of trepidation preparing for Monday and theworkweek ahead. For me it is a night filled with my favorite TV shows (I'm not ashamed to admit) a glass (or two) of red wine and a couch shared with one of my two favorite people in the world.
Perhaps it's the wine, or the ever emotional and talking-to-my life Brothers and Sisters ( I love this show, so reminds me of my own family minus the hot French boyfriend and the gay brother), but I am feeling rather nostalgic tonight. While I love my life today and yesterday and tomorrow, I do miss days that have passed. Pajama dressing races with my sisters and dance parties before bed. Christmases when I still believed in Santa Claus and that my dolls came to life when I put them to bed at night. College and the friends that I made there. I am reminded tonight of sitting at my computer writing endless English essays praying that Bil would come distract me or Sara from next door. I remember walking across campus to meet John for dinner and always a fun night out and of course Ian and his quirky ways. It's amazing how life can change in a few short years.
The other night Ian and I went out for our first evening date since Ainsley was born. I know, you think it's pathetic, but I'm a stay at home mom with no need (or money) for a babysitter and with the closest family members 45 minutes away by car the opportunity just hasn't presented itself. We were sitting in the car on our way out to the St. Albert's Day dinner honoring all Loyola Science grad students and faculty trying to recall how our lives were before Ainsley, and having a hard time remembering.
I felt so proud of Ian last night. I always do, in the back of my mind behind my pride for Ainsley and myself that I was able to clean the toilet AND make dinner in one day. He is truly amazing. I was sitting there listening to the speakers talk about the importance of scientific research in adding years onto peoples lives and improving the quality of the years that we have and I was taken aback. This is my husband that is doing these amazing things. While I am changing diapers, singing the Itsty Bitsy Spider on round and playing at the park, Ian is changing lives. I am proud of my husband.
As for Ainsley, I am of course proud and in awe. I have felt so stressed out lately with all of the things to do in regards to moving and she has kept me grounded. I look at her little sweet face and I can't help but forget the troubles of the world. My one main regret with her thus far is that I don't feel that I apprecitate her enough. Somedays I am just trying to get by and go from one hour to the next without going crazy. I neglect to notice her new sound or newfound confidence in walking. She is getting so big, not just physically but in the person that she will someday become. It boggles my mind to think that just months ago she was an adorable baby blob needing only food, sleep and cuddling to survive. Now she has opinions and a temperment and a voice that needs to be heard. I wonder who she will be in one year, two, five. Will she have an odd obession with horses, or outerspace, or sparkly things. Whil she want to be an illustrator like her mom or a scientist like her dad, or most likely, something completely of her own design.
Goodness, I am so blessed in my life and while this week will prove to be chaotic and overwhelming I can only hope to keep my eye on these many blessings.

Sunday, November 8, 2009

Before I Go To Bed

It's after 10 and Ainsley went to sleep at 6:30 so writing a blog post is definitely NOT what I should be doing right now. But my heart is racing and I don't think I can fall asleep just yet.

Life has just been one thing after the other lately. Marriage, moving to a new city, new job, new apartment, baby, new house. I wonder if this cycle of "newness" ever ends? I suppose new is good, but I have never been one to deal with change well. When I was feeling overly anxious after Ian and I first got married people chuckled when I gave my response to "has anything changed in your life?"

While it's normal to feel anxious and on edge at times of change, it doesn't make me feel any less so. I feel like I've just started to get used to how life is and then BOOM. Ainsley starts walking, we find the perfect house minus a dishwasher so what would be a simple kitchen upgrade turns into a complete re haul. I feel like life has just gotten more and more complicated, which is the exact opposite of how I want to live. I am mostly stressing out right now about not having a kitchen for a good month when we first move in, right before the holidays no less. We hardly eat out once a month let alone every meal. I seriously may lose sleep over this tonight.

And the physical moving aspect could just put me right over the edge. Last week I went in search of free boxes and while somehow managing to collect 10 while simultaneously pushing Ainsley in the stroller it hit me...this is going to suck. Big time. I can't pack even one box without Ainsley trying to crawl into it, or stand up on it, or my personal favorite, pull everything that I just packed out of it. Now yes this is a bit cute and funny, ONCE. But over and over? I may go insane. And now that our precious 10 month old baby girl has decided that she not only needs a mere one nap a day, but that nap will be NO longer than 45 minutes I officially have time to perhaps eat a sandwich and change the laundry around before she decides it's play time again.

On top of all of this I am just anxious for the change. I know that I love the house and that we will be so happy there. I just can't imagine getting through the next month and actually being there. I know that it will happen. I just don't know how sometimes.

Off to bed or I'm really going to regret staying up this late (yes 10:16 is late, I've been up since 5).

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Great Moms

What a great day. FINALLY a crystal clear blue sky crisp air fall day.

It's actually been a great string of days. I can't exactly describe it, but it's as if a cloudy veil has been lifted from my eyes. I've been trying to figure out what it is exactly, the return of my energy and optimism, general zeal for life. I have to say I think I'm finally getting the hang of this whole "being a mom" thing.

Don't misunderstand me, I still have my moments of complete despair and overwhelming-ness at life and the responsibility that being not only an adult but a mom brings, but in general I am feeling so much more like the person, the mom that I want to be, and less like a misplaced impostor.

Thus far in my life I have abided by the "just take a deep breath and dive in" rule of thumb. This namely has been applied to college, finding a job, getting married, and now Ainsley. I just knew that these were all things that I wanted so I did them and figured that the details would work themselves out. I think sometimes in life you have to trust your instincts and take a leap of faith. This has always worked in my favor until recently. Getting married to Ian was something that felt so natural to me that it truly didn't feel like this huge life altering thing, but more a natural and wholey pleasant progression in my life. I blindly assumed that having a baby would be the same way.

Being pregnant with Ainsley was the easiest thing. Sure I had to pee more and tums were my new best friend, but even the 3 weeks of bedrest flew by with my attentive husband and family by my side and endless Christmas movies and knitting to attend to. When Ainsley was born I think I was seriously in shock for not just hours, but weeks. I loved her dearly but I don't think it was until she was almost 2 months old that it finally started to sink in that this little sweet screaming baby was here to stay.

I laugh now looking back at how frantic I was. Going to the grocery store was the BIGGEST deal! Today we were out for 3 hours with nothing but a sippy cup and my running spandex and it was glorious.

What I'm getting at is having Ainsley has completely jarred my life in ways I never thought possible. I know I've written about lack of privacy in the bathroom, amongst other things that have changed in my life, but it's more than that. Up until this point I have been living for me, and I guess Ian too...but now I am Ainsley's mom. Wrapping my mind around that has been more overwhelming that I could have ever imagined.

I think the reason behind my seemingly sudden burst of energy and motivation is that I'm finally ready to truly take that challenge on.

I have the best mom. I realize it more every day that I am alive. She is strong and wise and warm and kind. I never thought that I could be her, and I can't, because I'm not. I'm just me, an introverted, crafty, whiny, cheery, talkative, active, neurotic, homebody girl/wife/mom. I'm learning to start taking what makes me great and use it to make me great as a mom.

It's hard doing crafts with a 10 month old, but we're working on it. Ainsley sure does loves pulling apart my box of crayons. That's a start.

Babies are such a test, well at least Ainsley is. She brings out the worst of me and I hope, the best. I love that little girl more and more every day. Sometimes it aches to put her to bed. I just want one more look, one more brief (because it's all she'll allow me) snuggle. I am so blessed to be able to be at home with her every day, watching her grow and learn, especially now that I feel so empowered to be a great mom.

Thursday, October 29, 2009

The Motivation Station

I don't know if it's due to Ainsley sleeping through the night again or just a general change of heart, but this week is going infinitely better than many previous ones.

I think I was almost paralyzed by all that we had to do in regards to the house, moving, holidays, Ainsley's first birthday. I just couldn't bring myself to start anything. It was all just too overwhelming. How do people EVER move with a baby? I have 3 hours a day to myself (naptimes) if I'm lucky and to be quite honest, using my precious free time to pack and organize is not good for my sanity.

Lucky for me I discovered that Ainsley is quite happy to play while I organize. She LOVES when I pull out a box of old baby clothes that she can rip apart and crawl around in. Today I discovered a baby sized lawn chair that we hadn't used this summer because she was still too small. I believe it's her new favorite toy.

So I've resurrected the morning routine of getting down to business from the get go. While still in our pajamas Ainsley and I tend to be the most productive and then it sets the tone for the rest of the day. I still spend her naps watching a movie or show on the couch while continuing to knit her behemoth Christmas stocking. (Aside - My brilliant plan to felt a Christmas stocking means that I need to knit one 3 times the normal size so that when it felts it IS normal size...not so brilliant) Other than that though, we've gone through most of the major areas to clean and organize and I'm actually thinking of looking up moving boxes (any ideas on where to get free ones?) and starting to pack some of the lesser used items in our home.

This whole process still seems to surreal to me. I've dreamed of owning a home from the minute Ian and I got married. It had been borderline painful for me not to be able to paint rooms and change light fixtures. I am all about the little details in a home. Funny that in our new home we will have to forgo most of these details to fund a kitchen redo. At least the option is there. We will be painting some rooms, but that's about it to start. In the spring we are hoping to have a enough money to do a little landscaping, or at least plant a small vegetable garden. The possibilities are so exciting.

Now to just get this whole apartment organized and packed. One day at a time!

Monday, October 26, 2009

Another gray morning. Ugh. At least I have a valid excuse for why I'm still in my pajamas at 9:30 in the morning.

After a few weeks of dropping the "self soothe" ball with Ainsley, Ian and I let her cry herself back to sleep last night. It took over an hour for her to settle down once she woke herself up at 12:46. Double ugh. I hope she remembers quickly how it used to be.

We are so consistent for weeks and then we go on a trip or someone comes to stay with us and everything gets all messed up. She'll be sleeping through the night just fine and then when there is ANY change in her schedule she flips out at night. She's also had a cold for a while which doesn't help. I can't let her scream herself to sleep for an hour when we're staying with family or family is staying with us. Can I? Any advice would be helpful.

She's down now for a morning nap. Here's hoping it's a long one!

Sunday, October 25, 2009


I'm laughing as I read my last post, and now it's been almost a month again before I wrote. Uff da. Well, serves me right for making a virtual promise.

A lot has happened in the last month. Ainsley is, of course, one month older. She took her first steps at 9 months, 4 days old and can now motor across a whole room without falling on her hiney. Her newest sound is either "Th" or "s". It also sounds a bit like a speech impediment sound. Speech pathologist Aunt Julie will have to advise at Thanksgiving.

We are buying a house in Oak Park. One came on the market after about 3 weeks of nothing great. We saw it, we loved it, we made an offer. One very stressful attorney review period later we're just waiting to close! We went on a family trip to IKEA this morning to look at kitchen cabinets. It's the one area that we want to rehaul in the new house. I'm mostly just excited now with only about 5% left of nerves.

The sun has finally broken after days of gloom and rain. Perhaps we'll get a few good days of fall left. I'm going into the winter painfully aware of how limited my activities with Ainsley are going to be. Any good ideas for things to do with an almost 1 year old?

Both Ian's and my mom came to visit in the past weeks. I am lucky to have a mother in law that I truly enjoy the company of. It was actually on a walk with her that we muttered the phrase "wouldn't it be great to live on this block?" as we walked by the cul de sac street ending at the best park in Oak Park. Lo and behold we will indeed be living on that block. My mom visited this past weekend and we spent the majority of the time up in Winnetka with her parents. I did get to show her and my sister our house and was reinthused after a long and painstaking home inspection the week before. She brought Ainsley her first snow suit! Along with adorable overalls that she sewed and her trusty sewing machine to help me with the waldorf doll I'm making for Ainsley for Christmas, or her birthay, I can't quite decide yet. I love that "I'm " making Ainsley her doll when really I ordered the supplies and my mom will be walking be through every step. I'm a knitter, aspiring to branch out into other crafts.

Tonight is my favorite tv show night. I'll get to sit for 2 whole hours and knit Ainsley's ginornous Christmas stocking watching abc. That is if Ainsley will go to bed early enough to let me. Considering she didn't go down for her afternoon nap until 3:15, it's not looking good.

I'll update again soon..that is NOT a promise.

Wednesday, September 30, 2009

A Day in the Life

I've been inspired to change my blogging ways. While the bi-monthly heartfelt pour-out-my soul entries were satisfying in some sense I've realized that I want to get more out of this process than just temporary venting relief. I vow to write more frequently with more well rounded question posing entries. I will start with a detailed account of a day (today) in the life of me, a 25 year old stay at home mom.

I woke up at 6:24, not to the sound of Ainsley but from the need to pee and the satisfaction of a night well slept (which has been more the norm lately). Lo and behold, 6 minutes later I hear the sweet coo of our nine month old baby. I slip on my bathrobe and acorn slippers (the right one is encrusted with do you wash slippers with leather bottoms?)

Let me tell you, there is nothing better than waking up to a happy baby standing up in her crib with a big smile on her face pounding away at the rails. It always puts me in a good mood. As she's not crying, she's not ravenous so we move to the living room floor to play after a quick good morning snuggle. Thanks to all of my babycenter emails and updates I am officially paranoid about Ainsley's hand/eye coordination so we play more "purposefully" now. I filled her puzzle box with pieces of fabric and showed her how to remove them one at a time and then replace them. She quickly reminded me of how stupid this game was when she decided to remove all of the fabric at once and then eat the box.

After Ian emerged shortly thereafter and made the required cups of coffee to get us going we sat and continued our morning routine; Ian on his iphone checking the news, Ainsley investigating the living room, and me taking it all in holding my hot cup of coffee (Ian once told me that research shows that people are happier when holding a hot drink in their hands...think about it, are you ever SAD when you're sipping on hot chocolate, tea, or chai? I didn't think so) After changing, making Ian's lunch and sorting the laundry to be washed Ian was out the door. I fed Ainsley peaches and oatmeal which she actually ate better than normal until she kicked the bowl out of my hand ending the meal.
As a morning nap still seemed far off I piled her into the car after changing a disgusting diaper (this is the only time I lament using cloth) and proceeded to the grocery store.

Ainsley LOVES grocery shopping. I think it's a combination of the smells and colors, and people that aren't me, coupled with sitting up in a moving cart. What an adventure. As I'd already done the bulk of grocery shopping this week my goal this morning was to buy junk food to fatten Ian up and a few missed staples. I NEVER and I mean never buy junk food. I guess the occasional bag of kettle cooked chips, dark chocolate bar, or container of TJ dunkers may find their way into my shopping cart but as a rule, both for health and our wallets, I steer clear of the junk food isle. This morning I was reminded of why...I have no self control when it comes to junk food. I can't buy just one bag of chips or one kind of reeses peanut butter cup candy, especially when EVERYTHING is on sale. AND all of the Halloween candy is out included my favorite all time, pumpkin shaped reeses pb cups. Out of control. To top off the crazed junk food spree I bought 2 donuts and somehow managed to eat a mere 1.5 of them. Then I opened the chilli cheese fritos and ate a handful while starting this blog. Uff da.

After arriving home and putting down a very sleepy baby I warded off the temptation to watch the Rachel Ray show and started to clean up the breakfast/dinner last night dishes, clean the bathroom, and switch around the laundry.

Ainsley woke up after a mere 45 minutes which left me virtually no time to get anything done, as per usual. After feeding her a bottle and changing her diaper we were off in search of a Homegoods to buy 2 new lamps for the apartment. This is one of the greatest challenges of where we live. Chicago traffic is ridiculous! Just about everything is within a 5 mile radius of us, but it can take anywhere from 15minutes to over an hour to get places depending on the kind of traffic that you run into. Enter my new favorite computer application, google maps traffic. I can at least check traffic before we leave somewhere so that I don't get stuck with Ainsley in the car, but on the way home I'm on my own, unless Ian is with us with his iphone. We lucked out today and a mere 25 minutes later I'd found the new (to us) Homegoods and found 2 lamps, a new toothbrush holder and soap dispenser AND two board books for Ainsley. She again did fantastically both in the car and at the store. For being such a fussy new born she continues to amaze me with her patience sometimes. I found a new non-highway way to get home which truly was the highlight of my day.

We got back, ate some lunch (chilli for me, yogurt for Ainsley) and both went down for a nap. We slept for 2 hours! I never nap with Ainsley anymore because as much fun as I think it'll be in the end neither of us sleep as well as we could. I used to nap all the time when she was napping in the first months of her life but lately I've tried to take advantage of the time to knit or catch up on emails or just NOT have a baby to look after for a while. Today I was glad for the nap though. Something about the crisp fall weather makes me sleepy. I woke up, again minutes before I heard her do the same. After another bottle and diaper change we were off to the park. Ainsley LOVES the park. She cries when I put her back in her stroller to go home. She loves swinging and the big sandbox. I've started letting her crawl around in the tot park area and occasionally take her down a slide. She yaks and talks the whole time. Did I mention she LOVES the park?

We headed home all too soon for Ainsley to start making dinner. Tonight I made beef bracciole from a Boston North End cook book that my sister gave me. This book has the best italian recipes in it. I never buy canned/jarred sauce anymore and just make the simple marinara. It's cheaper and better.
1 - 28oz can crushed tomatoes
1/1 - 1/2 c. olive oil
3 - 4 crushed garlic cloves
pinch each of mint, basil, and red pepper flakes

Get the oil hot in a pan, add the tomatoes and seasonings and let it simmer for 10-15 minutes...amazing every time and SO fresh tasting.

Beef bracciole is simply pounded steak rolled up with parmesan, parsley, garlic, and salt and pepper. It was better the first time I made it, presumably because this time I used skirt steak instead of flank. Stick with the flank, the skirt was too tough, even after being browned in oil and simmered for an hour.

Ainsley usually does pretty well while I cook. I just block off the doorways in our kitchen and let her crawl around. Unfortunately her favorite places in the kitchen are the pantry (where she's knocking over the sugar and flour) the garbage can, and the recycling area. If I give her a spatula and direct her to the tupperware cupboard it usually buys me a few minutes. When she was a bit smaller I used to to put her in my hotsling (best baby product out there!) and cook with her in it. She would still love it, but I fear my back would give out, even though she's a mere 17 lbs. (25% for her age).

Ian came home around 5:30 as per usual and surprised Ainsley by sneaking up on her like she likes. The smile that she gives him when she sees him melts my heart. She sure loves her dad. We hung out in her room and played while I attempted to straighten out her drawers and changing table, only to have Ainsley throw everything to the ground as soon as I'd finished. I switched out the book that we had out in the living room and her bedroom for new ones, you know, to spice things up and then went to change the laundry around, do a quick bathroom clean, and take out the recycling before dinner was ready.

Ainsley had minced pork and pear with nutmeg courtesy of the baby food cook book from her grandma Amy, and peas and rice. She ate moderately well and munched on some shredded cheese at the end of the meal. After cleaning up and switching the laundry again it was Ainsley's bedtime. Ian put her to sleep while I folded laundry and watched So you think you can dance and glee. I am also working on a new knitting project for Ainsley that occupies most of my evening time. It's a hooded sweater/jacket with four buttons. The hood is taking FOREVER but I'm excited for the end product. I'll post pictures when it's done. I'm anxious to get it done so that she can wear it this fall AND so that I can start the knitting for her Halloween costume. No spoiler here, you'll have to stay tuned to see what she's going to be.

Now I'm sitting here with a glass of wine after consuming far too many pieces of chocolate (thanks again junk food run) feeling pretty good. As Ian told me earlier "this is that one day a month you're in a REALLY good mood." Thanks Ian, I am.

Sunday, September 20, 2009

So Happy Together

Okay, so it's not the next day and I know, don't make promises that you can't keep. But I'm thinking that terrible stomach flu counts as a legitimate excuse for breaking a promise. After recuperating for 4 solid days I finally feel ready to make good on my promise to write a happier blog.

It's odd that the hardest moments in life always bring out something good. I truly thought I was going to die on Thursday. Both Ian and I were laid out on separate couches, with poor Ainsley entertaining herself in her playpen for hours at a time. I was delirious with fever, wailing that I was a terrible mother for not having the strength to pick up my baby, or put her shirt back on when she kept taking it off, or comfort her when she kept getting annoyed for being "caged" for so long. It got to the point where I was convinced that Ian and I were dying of some foreign flu and Ainsley would be left to fend for herself until someone realized that we were dead and she was alone. And that we hadn't written our will yet so she'd go to the state and pretty much all hell would break loose. Of course we did not die and at the end of the day I realized there is no one I would rather be vomiting with than Ian.

These are those moments that they talk about when they say "in sickness and in health" during the vows of marriage.

Life is really an amazing journey. You go through your childhood years blissfully unaware of most pain and suffering, hit puberty when it seems like the world is crashing down on you, finally find yourself and your direction and then you meet someone, and even though you haven't known them before, you feel like they are home. Then you start a family and it is the most bizarre amazing experience of your life. By "your" and "you" I obviously mean me and mine.

I am constantly amazed by Ian. He surprises me and makes me laugh every day. In college we dated but kept our own circle of friends and I think that is why we ended up where we are. I am still me with Ian. I have never lost who Becky is (although previous posts may suggest the contrary). He lets me be who I am and loves me anyways...faults (and there are many) and all.

Just today we were on an outing with Ainsley and I was getting anxious over ludicrous things as I tend to do (where are we going to park, what if it starts raining, what if Ainsley flips her shit?) and he was right there, calmly suggesting that I "chill out". Of course he did not use this phrase because I would have spanked his face, but in so many words he got the point across. He knows me better than I know myself sometimes and I am constantly reminded of how much I love him.

Now we have this baby. This amazing, crawling, laughing, cooing, attitude-laden baby girl. We made her. It is the most incredible miracle that I can imagine. I know that Ian would scoff at this reference but I can't help thinking of the Stevie Wonder song "isn't she lovely".

Isn't she lovely
Isn't she wonderfull
Isn't she precious
Less than one minute old
I never thought through love we'd be
Making one as lovely as she
But isn't she lovely made from love

Isn't she pretty
Truly the angel's best
Boy, I'm so happy
We have been heaven blessed
I can't believe what God has done
through us he's given life to one
But isn't she lovely made from love

My faith has grown and grown over the years, but having a beautiful perfect baby girl is the greatest confirmation of the presence of God that I can think of. How else can you explain an otherwise simply romantic moment between two people resulting in a baby, a human person, with thoughts and feelings and a personality right from the get go.

Ian and I often ponder Ainsley's demeanor and have concluded that she was who she is from the start. Kicking away and deciding to come too early and then waiting for Christmas Eve to make her grand debut. This little girl has a personality and it's big and it's hers and we can only hope to tame it into submission before the terrible twos. I love her and I love Ian and I am so blessed that I can't even stand it sometimes.

So, there's nothing happier than a happy baby sleeping, a happy dad listening to an interview with Robert Caro on the couch, and a happy mom taking it all in on a quiet rainy Sunday evening nearing the end of September, is there? I thought not.

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Oh Bother

It's 10:21pm and I'm still up, not even sleepy, well, not really. It's been one of those bummer of a days. You know the ones. We all have them. Those, what is my purpose here, I've accomplished nothing so I'll eat 3 desserts and sit on my bum all night kind of days. The irony is that then you only feel worse. You go to bed depressed, wake up with a stomach ache, and it's that much harder to make tomorrow a great day with an iffy start. I hope I'm right in assuming that we all have these days, if not, I'm in big trouble.

When I started this blog I envisioned it more as an update tool for family and friends, to keep everyone abreast of life here, and particularly of Ainsley's developments and antics. I've been surprised to look back and see that most of what I write is about me, inner turmoil, all that good stuff. Even now as I thought of sitting down to write something with my last burst of energy for the day, I find myself gravitating towards topics I've already touched on. Perhaps it's because I feel this is what my life has become, a sad broken record player. When the song switches you have momentary relief and anticipation of change and greatness, then you realize you've heard it before and it just gets worse each time you hear it.

Wow that sounds depressing. I assure you I'm not sitting here with droopy eyes and a half empty bottle of wine. I have a beautiful baby sleeping in the next room and a tuckered out husband hogging the covers in the back of the apartment. Life could be a whole lot worse.

I just feel stuck. Lately I've been so fatigued that I'm starting to wonder if there's something physically wrong with me. Granted I do have a ravenous almost 9 month old baby that's been waking me up lately for 4am growth spurt feedings, but even with an extra cup of coffee per day, B vitamins, and the occasional nap, I can't seem to shake this chronic sleepiness. I think it's the stuck-ness that's dragging me.

Life with a baby is bizarre and wonderful but I'm starting to remind myself of how I was with my first boyfriend. (Stay with me here) 15 years old, completely in love, losing my identity in being his girlfriend. When we broke up 2 years later it took me months to remember who I was without him. Pathetic I know, but that's what being a mom is. I have completely lost myself in Ainsley. When Ian got home from work today I was trying to start up a semi-intelligent conversation about a bit I heard on NPR and could barely form a coherent sentence. He had to jump in and save me because on top of being a neuroscientist he somehow manages to stay current with all of the news that I struggle to comprehend.

To be honest, I've never been a big news girl, I never used to mind not knowing things or stumbling over my words, but that was when I had something to back it up with. "No, I didn't hear that the world economy is collapsing, I was too busy writing a kick ass paper on Eugene O'Neil." "Nope, I don't know that Afghanistan is the new Iraq, I spent 8 hours straight painting in the art studio, listening to independent artists, expanding my creative mind." No more. I have no excuse, at least not a good one. The truth is, I have started feeling a bit lame being a stay at home mom. I have succumbed to the pressures of society. I have guilt that I don't make money or do anything besides change diapers and go for pathetically short walks. (I do more than that, it just sounds better to only list two things)

Most of all, I miss human contact. Revise that, I miss friends. I miss you Bil, and John, Lisa! Everyone. I miss you all. I so crave sitting with a good old friend that knows me and loves me. No pressure or awkward searching for words. The life of a stay at home mom is rather lonely. I think I'm gearing up for a long winter, with a wonderful daughter, who unfortunately doesn't talk back to me.

I guess that's why it's been a rough day. My mind has been plagued with all of these thoughts of things that I miss, lamenting what I don't or can't have. I'm confident that it will pass. It always does, especially when Ainsley does her crinkly face smile. You can't be sad when seeing that face.

I'll make a promise that I'll write again tomorrow and I'll try my best to make it a much better, fruit for dessert, productive and active, smile on your face as you fall asleep kind of a day.

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

House Woes

Our house is gone. Well, not literally, it's still standing there, with all of its front porch complete with swing cuteness mocking me every time we walk by. But it's gone nonetheless, off the market, out of reach.

After my last post we had a whirlwind of a week. Going to open houses on the weekend, spending 2 hours one night looking at 7 homes (Ainsley did amazingly) and then making an offer on one this past Saturday. I had it all planned out. Where all the furniture was going to go, what colors we would paint the rooms, how we would spend our new homeowners government stipend (ceiling fans and energy star appliances). It was literally the perfect house.

Oh well. I guess they always say "if it's meant to be it'll be". I find this phrase to be both infuriating and true. I was so conflicted about buying a house here, I still am. I was looking for a sign or direction anywhere I could. When the light bulb in Ainsley's closet began emitting sparks when we turned it on I was sure we were being pointed in the direction of homeownership. Now, I'm not so sure. After crying on and off for about an hour yesterday (mostly triggered by the realization that my dreams of a dishwasher and dog-poop free yard had been dashed) I actually feel pretty good. People have gotten by with less than a great 2 bedroom apartment in Oak Park...I think I can make it work.

The hardest part for me remains entangled with motherly guilt. I want a house for Ainsley so badly. I want her to frolic in the yard and eat the grass without worrying if that's one of our flatmate's cigarette butts that she has in her mouth. I want to put up a swing in the backyard and decorate for holidays and go to bed as early as we want without being awoken by the blaring television or video game playing below us. I'm just DONE renting.

Again, oh well. I am not good at letting go of things that I really want. I just can't accept that this isn't going to work out and that I really have no control over how long we're in Oak Park, and to be fair, neither does Ian really. I am so proud of him for all of the hard work that he is doing and the connections that he's making. At the same time I know that the longer we're here the harder it's going to be to move eventually, for both of us.

I'm only going to be a new mom once. I've made connections here, have a great doctor for Ainsley, know where to shop for anything, and who to call if I don't. If we move back I'd have to start from scratch all over again.

Clearly this to move or not move issue is a big deal for me right now as I've written two of my seven posts about it. I have no control anyway so I don't know why I'm agonizing over it. I wish so badly that I was one of those people that could just accept a situation and roll with it. I am not a rolling kind of gal. I need plans and projections and I don't deal well with the unknown.

On the plus side it's fall, my favorite season. I'll keep myself busy with knitting and cooking and, oh yeah, raising Ainsley, and hopefully before I know it it'll be time to move on, one way or another. At least this year I'll get to spend the holidays not on bedrest or in the hospital, but with my sweet baby girl and my wonderful husband. I have a lot to be thankful for. House or no house.

Thursday, August 27, 2009

Home for Good

After a summer filled with trips to cabins and relatives, the local pool and L.A., fall is finally in the air. While sitting in the front room of our apartment for the second rainy day in a row I spotted the first fall leaf on the big tree in front of the house. It's cool enough at night to wear a sweater and leave the windows open and still be able to put the quilt on the bed. I love this time of year, perhaps more this year than ever.

To start, Ainsley did amazingly in L.A. for Adrian's wedding. I was so worried about this trip (not for the nuptials, the couple is wonderful) but for the 2 hour time change, 4 hour flights, and hotel room accommodations with an increasingly mobile and opinionated almost 8 month old. She slept for half of the flight there, immediately adjusted to the time allowing me to fully enjoy the rehearsal dinner and the wedding and reception the following evening. Even our hour long wait to check in at LAX didn't seem to phase her. The only real hitch occurred when both Ian and I had the great idea to pop some Dramamine on the plane and simultaneously conked out just as Ainsley was waking from her brief nap ready to be entertained. She even slept through the night our first night home and has been ever since. What a good girl.

I truly feel like Ainsley has turned a corner, and I have too. While Ainsley continues to astound me with her growth and development (standing on her own, squawks sounding more and more like words, crawling with speed and determination, becoming more and more independent every day) I have surprised myself by the changes in myself in the past month. I know I just wrote a whole post about how being a mom has changed me, but this has nothing to do with being a mom, no offense Ainsley, and everything to do with growing up just a little bit more.

To explain this I need to start at the beginning. Ian and I have always planned on moving back to Minnesota after he finishes grad school. We love it there. Our families are there, most of our college friends are there. It just made sense. Then this summer happened. Every time I went home I had a great time. I love Ian's family like they're my own and seeing my family was of course wonderful. But every time I came back I'd slip into this complete funk that would take me increasingly longer to get myself out of. I finally decided that I needed to figure out what was going on. And then it hit me, Oak Park has never felt like home. Whenever I left MN and came back to OP it felt like I was leaving home and coming to some place that merely resembled what I wanted for my life.

Don't get me wrong, there are a lot of things that I love about Oak Park. The old houses, cute neighborhood shops, amazing thrift stores, and environmentally conscious citizens. But I despise that store staples that I used to rely on are never stocked and significantly dingier than in MN or an hour drive away in Chicago traffic. Speak of the devil I CAN'T STAND THE TRAFFIC! and the crazy drivers. I miss Minnesota nice and bike paths and lakes that don't resemble dirty oceans.

But this all is beside the point because Oak Park is my home right now, this was my grand realization. This needs to be my home because mentally, I can't handle it not being so. In light of this and for many other reasons, Ian and I are starting to look for a house in Oak Park. It is absolutely terrifying and thrilling at the same time. I can't wait to paint walls the colors that I want, update a bathroom if it needs it and replace gross carpeting...ooh and the prospect of a dishwasher and disposal is just about more than I can handle.

Two months ago if you had asked me about moving here I would have laughed in your face and then had a panic attack, but now I can hardly wait. I am excited to make roots here for the next few years at least. Give Ian time to do the research that he needs without worrying about where we'll be next year or what we'll do if we have another baby (and NO I'm not pregnant). Once we have a house, we're here, and we can hopefully, finally, relax and enjoy our lives.

A lot of people my age are buying homes right now. I know we all say that it's because of the great market, low interest rates, and government incentive, and in truth it is a little. But I think it's more because it's time. It's been a few years since college, changing dorm rooms or apartments every year, then graduating and moving around as our jobs and salaries dictate. It's time to feel settled again. I crave stability. Knowing where we'll be next Christmas and Easter three years from now. Going to the library and feeling like it's yours. Knowing exactly where every item on your grocery list is as the store. I'm excited to finally have these things with Oak Park and so thankful and fortunate to be able to have them in a home all of our own.

I'll keep you posted on the house hunt.

Saturday, August 15, 2009

On the Radio

I finally started a painting! I am aware that this is not a proper topic sentence, but the heck with it. It's Saturday night and I'm living large. (If living large means going to bed before 11 with perhaps one beer in my system). I decided to motivate myself while Ian took Ainsley for her first trip downtown, on the El no less. Apparently Ainsley is more bold than I am. I always prayed she would be. Anyways, I put on my "painting playlist" that I made sophomore year of college for watercolor. This was necessitated by the fact that Wendell (my amazing if not eccentric and fashion challenged college painting professor)only kept cassette tapes of Van Morrison in the studio. Now despite the fact that I was raised on Van (oh the Rogers family pajama dance party memories)I can only handle so much, especially when crunch time rolled around and I would be in lock down mode for hours at a time. As if by magic the melodies of the indigo girls and feist shot creativity through my veins. Granted at the end of my hour or so spurt Ian asked "are you in a green phase?" Little does he know the grand plans in my head for scrolling landscapes of texture and color. So what if right now my two 2'x 2' creations consist of greens blobs of paint and the occasional sporadic brush stroke. It's a start, and it feels oh so good.

While I'm sure my venture back into the world of painting is fascinating at the least I had another thought that crept in my mind while washing dishes for the THIRD time today (no Ian, I'm not complaining, you took Ainsley on a 2 hour vacation from me, if I were you, I'd think I was owed dishes for a month). How has being a mother changed me. I know, BIG question. But I thought it, and I want to explore it, so here I go.

I think I have been most surprised by how motherhood has not changed me. I still whine, a LOT Ian would say. I still cry for no good reason. I am still petty at times, and cranky, and hopelessly lazy. For example, the other morning I argued (ok, more like bantered) with Ian that I should be allowed to call in sick. "Hello, Ian? Yes, I'm not feeling so well today. I'm going to have to lie low and recover. Please call in my sub." Then I would proceed to lie on the couch in my pajamas eating junk all day and watching new episodes of Kendra and HGTV that would magically appear on our non-cable television. It's only fair right? Wrong, apparently. While the rest of the word gets to call in sick, us stay at home mom's get to work through the pain. By this time I'm supposing you've concluded that I am not in fact sick, just plum tuckered out and in desperate need of a break, which brings me to how motherhood has changed me, or at least my life.

Let's take a slice of a day in the life for example.

I pee with Ainsley sitting on the floor next to me, occasionally having to clench and lunge after her as she tries to climb into the tub. I shower with her sitting in her tub seat at the foot of the bath, again, trying to climb over the tub. I check my email with her standing up holding on to my thigh, attempting to eat the power cord that is of course plugged into the wall. I eat lunch frantically trying to keep my sandwich away from her grasp only to discover she somehow found a handful of her leftover o's and is now choking on them. After I smack her back a few times and the o's present themselves I put her down for a nap which lasts, if I'm lucky, 45 minutes. Just long enough for me to watch an episode of Felicity and knit 10 lines of a sweater for Ainsley for the fall until I hear the sweet cry of awakeness. These are the moments that I hadn't imagined pre-mom. It never crossed my mind that I would share bathroom time, that I wouldn't be able to take a nap when I was exhausted, that after not napping or sleeping the night before I would then go for hour long walks just to get Ainsley to stop crying.

Everything that I do, ok 90% at least, is for that baby. And I mean that in the best way possible.

Before Ainsley (we'll say B.A. for short) motivation was wanting at times. I had to be living in squalor for a good week before I'd clean my dorm room, out of socks for days before doing laundry. This may seem like small beans, but now, laundry is a regular activity staple of the Vaagenes household (especially since starting the use of cloth's not so bad, really), and I've actually begun cleaning to the point of mild OCD status. For example, today when getting out of the shower I noticed that the walls were covered with dust and I could hardly see my reflection in the speckled mirror. 1 hour later you could have eaten out of our toilet. Ok, I still wouldn't recommend that, our bathroom is one of those "vintage" deals that always looks filthy no matter how much you clean it, but the thought (and bleach) was there. Most of my guilt comes from not cleaning enough for Ainsley, especially now that she's crawling. If I see dirt on her knees at the end of a good on the ground play session I feel the urge to say a few hail Mary's, and I'm not even Catholic. Perhaps I'm being dramatic, but drastic shift in me from B.A. to now in the cleanliness department warrants it.

More than just cleaning, I've had to grow up a lot. I never realized how selfish I used to be B.A. I don't say this so much negatively, as observantly. I think most early 20's people are, and rightly so. There's only you to think of, why not? Even after I got married, while I obviously love Ian, I don't know that I ever really rid myself of that part of me that was all for me. While I still definitely have moments of frustration that I can't just do what I want when I want to, I realize that there is something so much more important than writing an email RIGHT NOW or being able to finish just one 10 minute segment of pilates without Ainsley trying to crawl up my leg. I am raising a person. Well, Ian and I are raising a person. She is this little crawling, cooing, sponge that soaks up all that we do or say. While we still have the occasional rainy day when Ainsley is educated more by Ellen and PBS than I would like to admit, I take pride in the fact that I keep that little girl busy. No matter how tired I am or "not in the mood" I motivate for her.

It's amazing how much you can find to do in one little Oak Park apartment. We sings songs about objects in the room, take trips to the back and front yards, play with kitchen utensils and traverse pillow and blanket obstacle courses.

I never thought I could spend so much time with one person and still remain so completely in love (no offense Ian, you know we'd kill each other if I sang you songs about lamps and tables). I think the love that I feel for her is what has changed me the most. But it wasn't as sudden as I had expected. Perhaps it's the whole being huge and pregnant for 9 months, giving birth thing that keeps the love from swelling immediately, or perhaps it was always there and just more gradual to unearth. Ian had this moment of "aha" love when Ainsley was born. The santa-hat wearing midwife placed our little bundle on my chest and she yawned, and Ian cried, or so I'm told. I was too busy worrying about the afterbirth and if she had all her fingers and toes. I had guilt about this for a while, until I realized that this is what being a mom is all about. Feeling the love all along while simultaneously freaking out about at least 3 other things.

The one thing that I am completely confident of is my love for Ainsley.

While painting today a Regina Spektor song came on that struck a chord.

And then you take that love you made, and stick it into some, someone else's heart pumping someone else's blood, and walking arm in arm, you hope it don't get harmed.

I realize this song was written about a lover, not a child, but I think Regina may have gotten it wrong. While Ian has my heart, it is in a very different way that Ainsley has mine. I made a choice to love Ian, with Ainsley I have no choice, I love her, it is fact, and all I can do is raise her the best way I know how and hope, and pray, that she grows up to be a strong, independent, loving, caring woman.
I live for her, I breathe for her, I clean the bathroom floor for her. She has my heart. This little 16 pound person who is not me. It is hard, excruciating at times, but I would have it no other way.

Friday, August 7, 2009

Now that it is officially bordering on too long between posts I am forcing myself to write something.

Sometimes I wonder how I ever made it through the English major.In starting this blog I have been reminded that I
have to be in exactly the right mood to write. Freshman year of college getting in the mood would require a sojourn to the pit in the library with a black coffee to make me feel even more scholarly. Once I secured a job at the local coffee shop I made it a point to upgrade my location to Blue Mondays and drink to a macchiato cubano (If you haven't had one and like sipping espresso try it, you won't be disappointed). Granted the amount of quality writing that I produced was minimal but I was at least inspired by the other studious patrons around me. Senior year if I didn't have a glass of wine in me to get going, forget about it.

Come to think of it, most things in my life, that are at all successful at least
, must be inspired. Painting, cleaning, organizing, working out, crafting, reading. Let's take painting. I have been attempting to start a new painting for about 6 months now. I could blame my now crawling and pulling herself up to stand 7 month old but that would be lame. I could find time. I just can't find any inspiration. I was at the mercy of the St. Olaf art major for so long, doctoring my style to fit what I thought was required that I'm afraid I've forgotten what made me want to be an art major in the first place. I plan to buy some chocolate pudding, strip Ainsley down to her diaper, lay out a big piece of finger painting paper and see if she can't help remind me what I love about creating art.

I have been surprised by this hesitancy of mine to create. I think I had this idea that once I became a mom, that would be enough, that I would stop craving external sources of accomplishment. As good as I feel when Ainsley crawls over to me and lifts her arms up to be held, or snuggles her head into the crook of my neck or looks me right in the eye as she fills her pants, I still have a need to grow and learn outside of, or at least with my new role as a mother.

I want to paint a spectacular watercolor that does not include "figurative images" or shelters. I want to write a story that isn't just pages in my diary. I want to knit a ridiculously amazing Christmas stocking for Ainsley and have time on the side to finally master Ian's grandma Ruth's pot roast and perfect a recipe all my own.

Perhaps just writing this all down will be enough inspiration for me to actually do it all. If not, I at least accomplished writing one more post.

Sunday, July 19, 2009

Sunday Sunday

I love Sundays...well to be fair weekends in general, and mornings in particular. Life rarely gets more simple or perfect after about 8am. Sitting with a warm cup of coffee in my hands, watching Ainsley laugh and play, talking with my husband out in our shabby (I'd insert chic here but that would be a lie) back porch is the epitome of happiness for me. Even the birds frequently diving into the not-so-clean-so-why-can't-they-see-them windows and plummeting to their occasional death, can't dampen my morning glow. Everything is possible in the morning. Everything is new and fresh...except for my breath and Ainsley's diaper.

For instance today I plan to tackle
August/September birthday presents, plant a window box, clean the entire apartment, go for a 5 mile jog, and teach Ainsley how to make the sound "Mmmm". I assure you it is possible, all of it is possible, because it is the morning and I am not quite lucid enough yet to realize that I will in fact complete 1 of these tasks, 2 if I'm lucky and have one more cup of coffee.

Perhaps this is another issue of mine. I constantly set myself up for failure. Every morning I wake up with dreams of supreme productivity. I WILL do everything on my mental to-do list and possibly solve the issue of world peace while Ainsley is napping, and then subsequently find a way to let Obama know so he can execute my grand plan. It's possible right?

No. It is in fact NOT possible and herein lies my flaw. Perhaps it IS possible for someone. It must be, right? If there aren't supremely productive, maniacally multitasking people in the world we are all in big trouble. I sure hope someone figures out world peace at some point. I'm just guessing it's not going to be a 25-year-old stay-at-home new mom who uses cloth diapers and needs at least one nap a day.

What I believe I need is a dose of reality. You'd think being put on bed rest at 34 weeks pregnant forcing me to leave work a month early and giving birth in a tub on Christmas Eve would make me realize that life, at times, is beyond my realm of
control. I guess I'm still blocking this instance out as I can't seem to get it through my head that I can't have life just the way I want it. Sure, I'd LOVE to say that I workout everyday, weed my garden religiously, go to church every Sunday, live spontaneously and fully. The truth is most days consist of one outing to the grocery store, a pitifully short walk, and a lot of play time on the floor. Some days it's all I can do to make one phone call to a friend or family member, clean the toilet, let alone a whole room, and keep Ainsley's myriad of toys and clothes in "neat" piles. I'm hoping I'm still in an adjustment period, even though Ainsley's pushing 7 months old and I'm afraid I can't claim this for much longer.

It used to be different. In college I was nearly always on my A game, juggling 6 hour morning coffee shop shifts with classes, a full social calendar, and, during junior year, t
raining for a half marathon. I would hesitate to write this for fear that it sounds like boasting, but we live in a society and culture where this is the norm, if not expected of the general population. If you aren't doing a million things at once, you're a failure. Especially, I've come to learn, if you're a mom.

I've recently joined a playgroup and have
seen first hand the effects of the outrageous expectations place on mothers. If you're not teaching your child how to read by 3 months old, having them listen to stimulating music at all hours of the day, and getting them to sleep for at least 10 hours a night, forget about being invited to be a member of the "acceptable mothers" group. In addition to these small feats, btw, you should also hold at least a part time job, remain socially active, workout obsessively to maintain a size 4 figure, and sustain at least 2 hobbies, you know, in your spare time. WHAT?!?!? I for one was convinced that these expectations were an urban myth. Furthermore I was sure that if I was presented with these issues I would remain unaffected by them. While I must say the rather "granola" mothers in my group remain relatively impervious to the "mom pressures" present today, and I am thankfully still somewhat naive to them, we all recognize their presence.

Thankfully, I was brought up believing in the virtue of simplicity. You choose one, maybe two extracurricular activities, are in bed by 10pm, and observe a mandatory quiet hour on the weekends. At the time I'm sure I was annoyed by these limitations. I wanted to be one of those high school girls who did know the ones. In retrospect I am thankful for my one or two activities. I remember vividly cross country practices followed by a family dinner at the table and the occasional dance class or piano lesson in the evenings. I valued each activity and learned the importance of commitment, something I feel is lacking today with most children. Coaches should understand why their goalie is absent for half the games, they are after all involved in three other sports and take a family vacation once a's not THEIR fault. Of course it is, and the fault of the parent's even more so for allowing their child to spread themselves, and most likely THEMselves as well, so thin.

Perhaps my greatest hope for Ainsley, and subsequently Ian and I, is to continue to live simply, even when society is screaming at us to fill our lives to the brim with nonsense. To fill our lives instead with activities and events that matter, meaningful relationships and experiences, and memories, lots and lots of joyful memories. After all, what could be more important than sitting on the porch on a lazy Sunday morning, listening to my baby laugh, talking with my husband, and dreaming about all that the day could hold? Not much, except perhaps a day filled with hope and an evening of satisfaction.

Thursday, July 16, 2009

Second Wind

I almost forgot to say HAPPY BIRTHDAY to my amazing mom. I wish I could be in Minnesota to celebrate, and because I want to move back.

I've started looking up real estate in Minnesota. I'm open to suggestions for where to look.
Ian is set on St. Paul while I am mostly interested in good schools and large-ish lots, meaning no city streets with matchbox backyards. Perhaps I was spoiled growing up in the "burbs" of Minneapolis but I need trees, water, and a bike path dammit!

I'm concerned about the real estate market for numerous reasons, one of which is where it will leave us in 2+ years when we're looking to buy something. Is i
t wrong to secretly hope that the market won't improve TOO much so we can afford something nice?

I found three places in my search online. Ian says this isn't healthy to look so far in advance but it helps ease the homesickness to stay focused on the future.

The two in St. Paul were beautiful and older. One was literally spitting distance from the Minneapolis VA, where Ian hopes to
work someday. The third is in Edina and it's beautiful (pictured here). I can't help but fantasize about living in a house. Our own backyard, garden, clean basement, no smokers with loud TV's living downstairs. I know it could be so much worse. But it could be better too.

When I was little I could spend hours playing with dolls, pretending that I was this alpha mom who had all the answers, and the ability to save my brood from the evil neighbor boy by hiding out in the tree house with hoards of clothes and plastic food. I realize now how important that imaginary play is, and how in some ways, it never stops. I no longer play house (unless you count the occasional relapse into SIMS world) but I do imagine my life ahead. I even find myself imagining life now and how it could be different, improved. Some people may see it as a flaw to never be completely satisfied with life. I see it as motivation, to spur on change and improve oneself.

I watched my fair share of Oprah this winter and spring and I have to say I agree that there is something to this "best life" campaign she has going on. While I am beyond tired of hearing about her battle with weight (stop eating cookies or shut up about the extra pounds) I am fascinated by the idea that every person has the ability to be something, someone great, in whatever capacity your life allows you to be.

I think that is perhaps what I am struggling with the most now. Who is my best self? My whole life I had imagined her as a mother, a wife. But where I am in that title? And I am NOT the best wife and mother, as both Ian and Ainsley would attest to. So where does that leave me? For now I strive to find my best self in little things. A successfully executed new recipe, a perfect batch of cookies, completing a whole pilates video and folding a load of laundry during one short Ainsley nap, finishing a novel in less than a week, going for a run when all I want to do is curl up and sleep, being on my A game for Ainsley all day. Perhaps these things seem trivial, and in truth they are, but they are small successes that on a daily basis remind me that I am capable and worthwhile.

Whew. I see how this blog thing can get addicting. I'm sure there'll be more soon. There always is.

I Never Thought I'd Do This

Ok. Maybe that's a lie. I have considered starting a blog more as an outlet for myself than anything else. I'm hoping that it will help decrease the amount of time I spend daily talking to myself. While Ainsley's a great listener I can't pretend any longer that she's really hearing me, or that she might respond in a verbal way. So here I go.
I'm going to try to keep this as un-diary-like as I can although I have to say that this may be difficult. I've always written and it's mostly been in diary form, or ended up that way. Perhaps if I keep it to specific goings-on this won't be an issue.
Today was a good day. At least a 7 out of 10, which is good considering the number of 4's and 5's I was dealing with upon returning from vacation. I spent the morning with playgroup ladies and babies. It is always refreshing not only to talk to other adults that aren't Ian but also to see other mothers in action. For example, one mother not "falling for it" when her almost 8 month old whined and cried for no apparent reason. Good to know that I'm not the only one that thinks that babies start forming manipulative (this word seems harsh but I'm having a hard time finding another one) behaviors early. I remember the first 4 months of Ainsley's life when her cry shot daggers through my heart. While I still have visions of her getting her head stuck in the rungs of her crib when she cries at night (which I hear from other mom's is completely normal) for the most part I no longer assume the worst during daylight hours and find myself more annoyed than upset by her cries.
I will write more tomorrow pending a good nap from Ainsley. I just wanted to get the ball rolling here while I had the motivation.

Warm Wishes.