Tag Archives: writing

Month Eight: Hints of Independence

E. is still living up to her nickname, Little Beast.
E is still living up to her nickname, Little Beast.

Last night E pulled herself up and stood without holding onto anything for a few seconds. Her dad and I stared at each other. We couldn’t believe it. Around six months she skipped sitting and went straight to crawling. Then last week she suddenly started kneeling. Because she was late to the sitting party, we didn’t expect her to be standing so soon.

This month has been about hints of independence. Suddenly other people can babysit her again (thank heavens!). She makes her own jokes and tells her own stories. She is eating all kinds of foods and insisting on feeding herself. She is becoming a kid instead of a baby, (even though I know there are still plenty of baby moments left).

As she is becoming a little person, I am regaining parts of myself, too.

She is also bonding with Daddy-- even spent three hours with him yesterday so I could drive across town to catch a yoga class... They ventured (successfully!) to the grocery store.
She is also bonding with Daddy– even spent three hours with him yesterday so I could drive across town to catch a yoga class… They ventured (successfully!) to the grocery store.

I am beginning to itch to go back to work part-time again. Her rediscovered comfort around others makes me feel better about leaving. While I won’t stop writing, I am also dreaming of teaching. Literally. Half my dreams have been about the classroom lately. I miss my old students. Even interacting with trick-or-treaters brought out that teacher part of me (much to the chagrin of the 11-year-old who tried to double up on the candy). Writing is great, but it fits into the time I steal for myself.

Maybe that is what needs to change, making time for myself instead of just stealing it when she is asleep. I am ready for someone else to take care of her part of the time. I am ready to get serious about work again, whether it is writing or teaching. I will finish the book I am writing first, but then maybe, just maybe, I will be ready to get out of the house and back into a classroom part-time.

Watching her get bigger is a bittersweet process. We are both gaining independence, but she will always be my sweet, cuddly girl. It is a big relief to know she will not need me close forever, even if there is also a whisper of sadness in this realization. Everything at once. Parenthood in three words. I don’t want to take a single second for granted, even if I am also excited for our future.

Hard to believe 8 months has passed.
Hard to believe 8 months has passed. I am having so much fun discovering the little girl she will become.

Maybe Co-Sleeping is Just as Much about Us…

More often than not, she is the little boss around here... thank goodness for naps!
Thank goodness the boss *usually* falls asleep on the job a couple times a day.

E. is napping in our bed. My fingers move quickly because I never know how long I have until she awakens. Some days I get hours, others minutes. The result is an inability to focus. Do I work on my novel? Do I blog? Do I catch up on sleep?

Undoubtedly, her eyes will open when I have settled into a rhythm on my own. I have learned to save everything we can do together, like eating and cleaning, for when she is awake. Generally, I cannot bring myself to nap. Time alone is worth the occasional deprivation.

This is possibly the hardest lesson of early parenthood. Everything cannot be done. Must prioritize. As much as I love yoga, it has become a once-a-week activity. Today my husband watched E. while I went to class. Tears streamed down my face as I lay in Savasana, thoughts of growing old and E. caring for me instead of the other way around. Life, cyclical and gone in a blink.

Back home, I cuddled her to sleep in our bed, lingering an extra twenty minutes, minutes I could have had to myself but were too sweet to give up. Choosing to sleep in the same space has been on my mind a lot lately. As with anything, not everyone gets it.

Sometimes I question our choice, too, on hard nights, when she cannot sleep and I am stuck beside her for hours to keep her calm. Then I remember like everything before, this will pass. The alternative would require “sleep training,” and I am just not willing to let her scream for long. Some babies go down with less of a fight and E. is called Little Beast for good reason.

Most importantly, when it works, co-sleeping is a beautiful part of our life. Moments together, close, savoring now. We don’t worry she will be in our bed forever. We know the time will come when either we will encourage her into her own space, or she will say “Peace, y’all.” Seeing as how she demands to feed herself already, I have a feeling she will be asking for a “big girl bed” sooner than we expect.

A recent parenting piece in the Washington Post struck a chord. Sometimes the path of less stress is better for everyone. Maybe we could teach E. to sleep on her own with a few nights of intense “training,” but for what? So I would have to get up to comfort her instead of just rolling over? So we could sleep without her in our bed? The truth, co-sleeping is just as much for us as it is for her. We crave the connection, too, her sweet little body curled between us.

When it consistently stops working we will find a solution. Until then, I am happy to watch her nap all snuggled in our bed while I sit in my big, brown chair and steal some minutes for myself to write. Nothing lasts forever. Part of me wishes it would. I cannot help but think back to all the nights I lay awake in bed, pregnant, talking to her in my belly as she twirled about. I already loved her intensely then.

The night we stop sleeping next to E. will be a bittersweet one.

Month Seven: Changing the Meaning of Home

We said goodbye to our first little home as a family this month, good thing the path ahead is so exciting.
We said goodbye to our first home as a family this month, good thing the path ahead is worthwhile…

It has been two weeks since we moved. Despite my excitement about our new adventure, I also had my worries. I did not know if two bedrooms would be enough. I was concerned we would miss our privacy. I feared I would somehow feel rootless, or homeless in a nontraditional sense, without an entire house to ourselves. Most of all, I did not want our little family to lose the intimacy of those precious moments shared just the three of us.

To my great relief, our first two weeks have made any trade-offs unimportant. So far, I do not miss a single item stuffed into our 1,500 cubic feet of storage, (and, yes, we used all 15 feet of vertical space thanks to my clever cousin-in-law). Nor do I lament the loss of the many items I gave away or sold. Life feels simpler with less. And, as it turns out, everyone else is so busy with daily routines that our little family of three is still a little family of three, just operating within a bigger family unit.

The bigger family unit is by far the best part. Household responsibilities are shared and I no longer spend my days obsessively cleaning. Instead, I write every second I can while she is asleep, trade nights on the dinner making, and generally can find someone eager to hold her for a few minutes when I need a break. As I made and cleaned dinner beside my sisters the other night, I felt at home in a soul-nurturing kind of way. When I got back from yoga on a different night and my husband was hanging out in the kitchen while one of my sister’s bounced the baby, another sister made dinner, and my nephew ate at the counter, there was this feeling of community I had missed in my solo days staying at home.

I feel so incredibly blessed to be with my family, in whatever setting life provides. Even if this is just a temporary arrangement, I am trying to make the absolute most of it. I have already realized my call to be a stay-at-home mom is not about baking or cleaning or decorating (which I know can be fulfilling for many). Instead it is about getting to be present for my daughter while also having the opportunity to pursue a piece of myself that would otherwise be lost in a 9 to 5 life.

This month, I decided to dedicate my middle grade fiction novel to E. Somehow, knowing she will someday read it, I am more motivated to craft characters I would want a 10 or 11 year-old to idolize, and in turn, feel much more inspired to finish it. Writing a novel for my daughter is pretty much the coolest project I have ever worked on. After all, she is the most important audience I will ever have.

Month seven has been about so much change, but I can tell it is the good kind because it has all just happened. Nothing has been forced. The house sold, we moved, each step has followed naturally by just putting one foot in front of the other. E. is changing every day, too. She is crawling, teething, chattering, climbing over pillows. As cliche as it sounds, she has shown me home is wherever I am with family.

How Much of Your Family do you Share on the Internet?

We all want to protect our kids on the Internet, but where do we draw the line? Photo Credit: Sean Malone Photography
We all want to protect our kids on the Internet, but where do we draw the line? Photo Credit: Sean Malone Photography

This is not a new question. Everyone has their own approach. Some of my friends share nothing, others share everything. As a blogger, I often get caught in the middle. On the one hand, sharing is part of what I do, on the other, I want to protect the stories of others, the stories that do not belong to me alone.

When it came to pregnancy, my husband and I were cautious about how quickly and how much we shared. Still, as time passed and we became more and more excited, more and more trickled onto the web. Then, when E. was born, I could not help but shout everything from my keyboard, pictures and all.

The reality is we live in a world where a lot of our connections are enhanced by technology. When I share pictures, it is not so the girl who sat four desks behind me in sophomore chemistry can tell so-and-so, “Guess who had a baby?” Instead, I share so my mom, mother-in-law, aunts, uncles, cousins, and close friends can take part in my joy, (and, it is a whole lot easier to post an album to Facebook than to try and email a batch of pictures. Trust me, I have tried).

So, this morning, I deleted more than 100 “friends” from Facebook. I went quickly, so I am sure some stayed who shouldn’t have, and some went who maybe should have stayed, but it felt good. Darn good. I only kept people who I see in real life, who I would love to see if they were closer, or who I have formed an Internet connection with because of similar-aged babies, etc. Everyone else went, including I am sure, some perfectly nice people who I hardly know.

While the Facebook cleanse was liberating, it still did not address the bigger question; how much of my family should I share on the Internet? Here is what I have decided:

1. Facebook: I only plan to share pictures for extended family/close friends. On that same vein, I am only accepting friend requests from people who meet the above criteria. While I get why some people want huge friend lists for networking purposes, I have decided my personal Facebook will be used to share my (somewhat) personal life. This still does not address the issue of how companies use Facebook to data mine for personal tidbits, but I figure if I use it more for pictures than for words, the better.

2. Blog: This is where things get trickier. I want to blog about motherhood but I don’t want to give away my daughter’s story without her permission, (and, let’s get real, she can’t give her permission for another seventeen and a half years…). My decision is to focus my blog more on my experiences as a mom than on her experiences as a child. Along that same vein, she will now be referred to as E. and pictures will be chosen very carefully, especially as she transitions out of babyhood. Eventually I plan to include no pictures of her face.

Phew. That’s a lot to decree and the truth is that I am still figuring it out. My generation is in a unique position as new parents because social media became a big part of our lives before our kids arrived. I completely get wanting to share more or less with this digital world, as I often feel conflicted myself. I would like to hear about your approach to sharing your family on the Internet. Where is your line of comfort? I realized I had been skirting along the edge of mine for months and it was time to take a new approach.

Living my Bohemian Writer Fantasy (a Couple Months at a Time)

The sale-pending sign hangs outside our house. This leap is getting real!
The sale-pending sign hangs outside our house. This leap is getting real!

Our house is in escrow. Half-packed boxes are scattered in every room. By all appearances, we are moving. Five years in one house is the longest I have lived anywhere. Ever.

It feels good to go through everything and make piles. Keep and give away. We own so much we never use. Going through it all is a good reflection on what matters.

I like stuff. Dresses, jackets, shoes, woven wraps. But I have more stuff than I use. More stuff than I stop to appreciate. More stuff than matters.

My favorite part of moving is finding the person who could use what we don’t. Baby swings, strollers, clothes. The list goes on. For most everything, there is a person in our life or sphere who will put the item to better use. It is like a puzzle.

I have always admired people who leave behind their worldly belongings to embark on journeys, both inward and outward. The story of Buddha fascinated me as a child. I wrote a novel about a couple that leaves everything behind. Maybe I used to be a gypsy. I admit some things are harder to let go than others.

Three years ago, I hoped my future would look like this, but had no idea how to pull it off. The lesson, we can shape the future but it might look a little different than we imagined.
Three years ago, I hoped my life would follow this course, but had no idea how to pull it off. Turns out we can shape the future but it might look a little different than we imagined.

I debated whether to share this story so publicly. Our decision to live with family for a couple months before reestablishing ourselves somewhere new. It is so counter to what most people in our lives are doing. Instead of expanding our square footage, we are shrinking into two bedrooms and a storage unit. It is the kind of thing people talk about in hushed tones, as though something has gone wrong.

That’s the beauty of it though. Nothing has gone wrong. While a baby and an abandoned job were catalysts for change, we have wanted to live somewhere else for awhile. The missing piece has been where. It was the perfect moment to sell our house but an uncertain one to pick what comes next. Add in a desire for a little more community and the bonus of some serious cash saved and it all felt right.

Something deep inside is also calling me home. It makes me feel like a character in one of my own stories, like some deeper, spiritual journey awaits, like having children does not mean your life has to take a prescribed course. Maybe that is all too romantic and in a couple months we will know exactly where we belong. Until then, I am excited to embrace the unconventional, to live my bohemian writer fantasy, to make the most of resources, to rejoin a family structure congruent with the ages… To be without quite so much concern about what comes next.

And, in this little way, I am inviting you along with me. Because I know at least one of you feels called to a life of less stuff, greater simplicity, and a deeper sense of community. A kindred spirit. And, if not, that’s fine too, we can still be friends as long as you refuse to talk about my adventure in hushed tones. After all, that’s the joy¬†of life, it is not one-size-fits-all.

Thank goodness for that.