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.