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December 29, 2010

Addison’s Christmas gift to me

Filed under: Family, Motherhood, Personal — Tags: , , — llcall @ 4:00 pm

No doubt she was carefully plotting how to melt my heart, and decided that learning to say “mama” was the best way.

Of course, the only downside is that since Neal and I are in a frantic race to finish our consulting project and, in fact, spent a combined 16 hours working on said project on Christmas day, “mama” has thus far mostly been said in near-anguish.  Our little girl is none too happy to be daily turned over to my parents, grandparents, aunts and uncles for all-day care — especially now that she appears to have come down with the same illness(es) that has plagued me for the past couple weeks.  Poor little girl; I look forward to her adorable mamas when I can just cuddle and love on her all day.

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December 28, 2010

Taking my interests seriously*

Yesterday I mentioned my friend Jen’s recent blog post, “Mommies Dream Too,” but I didn’t say much more about why it has been on my mind.  So I thought I would point to one particularly thought-provoking section:

One of my favorite books, Well-Behaved Women Seldom Make History, makes the point that so-called “well-behaved” women are the ones who are forgotten easily, mainly because they don’t take themselves or their interests seriously. The author writes, “Most well-behaved women are too busy living their lives to think about recording what they do and too modest about their own achievements to think anybody else will care.” So what does the author argue makes “misbehaved women”? Those naughty women who dare to take their interests and passions seriously, regardless of the interest.

I can see how people in all different situations, women/men, parents/non-parents, could fall into the trap of not taking their interests seriously.  Often our society tells us that X isn’t practical enough to devote much time to.  Or you can’t make money doing Y and you need to make money to survive.  Or Z is not as valid a hobby as any number of other things (which is only true if Z is playing computer games, Neal).  I’ve been told something to that effect plenty of times by plenty of people about plenty of my life choices (although not really my parents; thankfully, they taught me the priceless notion that I could and should do anything that I love).

But despite those well-meaning cautions, this idea of taking my interests seriously has never been a struggle for me.  I’m sure a big part of that is that I was from a young age, maybe even in utero, endowed with a healthy sense of self-assurance/confidence/esteem, surety of my own opinions, thoughts, feelings, and choices (now, that is not always a handy trait, but it is true about me and I have spent a lot of time trying to understand where that came from and how that has and has not served me well in life).  So when I decided to exit a thriving career in non-profit management to . . . wait for it . . . work on my conceptual art and read more, I was unmoved by many pleas to rethink such a hair-brained scheme.

And when I decided that blogging was going to be an important part of my life, even at the expense of other things, I had my reasons and I never questioned that decision.  But because some other people have, wondering how I can devote the time I do when I have a thesis to write, laundry to put away, a baby to care for, etc. (I’m sure you can tell that Neal is one of these people since who else knows about my laundry, although paradoxically he  is also obsessed with checking my blog to see how many people have commented on each post, informing me when a post has fallen too flat to get comments, and requesting specific topics for future blog posts), I decided I would record my most important reasons for blogging:

  • It’s therapeutic for me.
  • It’s for keeping in touch with people, and letting them see our girl grow up no matter where they live.
  • It’s for Addison’s baby book — perfect since you can actually buy a book that prints out your blog.
  • It’s for our family history.
  • It’s for Addison’s adult self.

Perhaps the last one bears a bit more elaboration because it has become the most predominant for me.  I’ve obviously recorded a lot about my journey into parenthood from pregnancy and miscarriage, to labor/delivery and postpartum depression.  I also write a fair amount off the blog, weighing my decision about whether to stay at home full-time or give in to Neal’s lobbying to be the stay-at-home parent (writings, which I may eventually post on here, but are about such an emotionally-charged subject for me and others that it must be addressed carefully).  And all along the way I’ve had consistent impressions that these work-in-progress musings will be valuable to my little girl.  Whether her personality and temperament are like mine or not, there’s no doubt she will one day face many of the experiences and questions I am facing.  I have often thought, during my process of coming to terms with how I was raised (which everyone will do in their own way regardless of how fantastic or not their parents are), that I desperately wish I had some journal entries/records/scrap pieces of paper . . . just about anything that my mom wrote to help me better understand how she made the decision to have kids and when, when to stay home and when to work, and how she felt about those decisions as she was making them.  I’m grateful that I can talk to her about these issues now, but it’s never the same as the thoughts and feelings that are expressed in the moment, without the reevaluation that time inevitably brings.  So I write largely to leave that legacy for my daughter.  And it feels like a noble attempt regardless of how many loads of laundry need to be put away (and it’s about three right now, for the record, and it’s been three for about a week).

* Maybe too seriously, as Neal would say.

December 27, 2010

2011: Git ‘er done

Filed under: Happiness Project Wednesday, Personal — Tags: , , , — llcall @ 4:00 pm

Over the past couple weeks of illness, I took my Google Reader from about 200 unread blog posts/news articles down to 0.  (Paradoxically, this has saddened me because now I have less to look forward to during that precious internet time.)  But it has also stimulated my thinking about goals/dreams/resolutions as many people have been musing about these topics as 2011 approaches.  Two posts in particular have kept coming to mind: my friend Jen’s “Mommies Dream Too” and my wannabe-friend (she did once comment on my blog ;))  Gretchen Rubin’s “Choose One Word To Set the Tone for the Next Year.”  I didn’t set any goals or resolutions for 2010, which was wisely done since as I suspected, it was a quite a disorienting year of illness and new mommyhood.  But truthfully, I haven’t really ever been a resolution-type of gal, which is why the one-word theme resonates with me so much.

So that’s what I’m doing this year, picking a word to guide my efforts, but not setting rigid time lines or exact tasks.  And in honor of James, one of my interviewed men in jail whose interview I have been analyzing of late, I’ve chosen git ‘er done.  I know it seems like more than one word, but trust me, to him it’s one, all-encompassing word.

Like I said, it’s not going to be minutely detailed or rigidly planned, but I’m going to try to finish things I start as well as things I’ve started in years past.

Some things I hope to get done this year:

  • Thesis
  • Three in-process papers submitted to journals
  • Reading Getting Things Done (I’ve been in the middle of this book for about a year, and I desperately need to get some sort of system in place for organizing our chaos)
  • Rach and Todd’s wedding quilt (you got married in 2004, was it??  Ha!)
  • Finish or discard the 50-some blog post drafts I’ve started
  • Roll over 403b into Roth IRA (soon enough for it to be for tax year 2010)
  • Cross off two or three more states on my life list (although this may be superseded by a new plan to visit my friend Tara in China — she’s only there for two years on her foreign service post, so time is of the essence)

So a few questions for you:  Is there anything I’ve promised to do for you and never done?  Now’s your chance to remind me (thankfully, my parents don’t read my blog very often . . . their list would be way too long)!  Have you ever tried a theme for the year (one word or otherwise)?  Did it help?  How did you keep it in mind throughout the year?  What are you planning for 2011?

December 24, 2010

My Christmas gift to you:

Filed under: Personal — Tags: , , — llcall @ 3:40 pm

A maze of links, all telling one AMAZING story. Let’s see if I can make this intelligible.

I faithfully read the blog Get Rich Slowly because, in case you are late to the game (and I know I haven’t talked about it much lately), I’m a personal finance nut.  NUT, I tell you!  I read this stuff for FUN, to cheer me up!  But I digress.

So I was reading J. D.’s Christmas post and noticed a couple of comments pointing to another blog post, calling it a touching holiday tale.  At first, I wasn’t going to click over to it because, well, I’m busy, really, really busy with our consulting project (having lost this week to the horrid, horrid flu) and I don’t have time for touching holiday tales right now.  But I decided to have a quick look.

This post is what I found: it started out as a simple offer.  In a previous blog post, The Bloggess (I have never seen her blog before, and disclaimer, I can already tell that some of my friends will not appreciate certain other content at the site — but everyone with a heart will love the actual posts I’m linking to) offered 20 $30-gift cards to readers that were having a tough time making ends meet and couldn’t buy Christmas presents.  You’ll have to read the story to understand how it all unfolded, but in the end, almost 700 random donors got involved to give over $40,000.  The amazing part is how unplanned, unorganized, how spontaneous it all was.

I loved reading each update, seeing The Bloggess’ surprise at what was happening so unexpectedly.  But this part is what really got me:

I wish I could share all the emails from people who felt that this gave them the hope to get through the next year and the strength to keep looking for a job or a place to work because they now had faith that people cared.  There were even some who admitted later that they were considering suicide until this gave them hope.  Some of those people considering suicide? Were the donors.  Some felt isolated and depressed in the holiday season and being able to have someone somewhere count on them made them feel connected and less alone.

Heart. breaking. just. a. little.  But in a good way.

I hope you have found ways to make your holiday season truly meaningful.  I wish that for everyone and for myself, now and all year.

(And if that was altogether too many links to follow, you can also just go to the Washington Post blog for a summary.)

December 15, 2010

What a conversation with Neal is like . . .

Filed under: Family, Neal's writing, Personal — Tags: , , — llcall @ 8:07 pm

Just replace “Batman”

with

“climbing walls using only knives”

or

“ding-dong-ditching bags of flaming dog doo”

(How xkcd.com/Randall Munroe understands Neal so well, I’ll never know.)

December 14, 2010

Mommy update: 31 years

I learned a very important lesson this week: I should never, never write that I wish I had more time to blog.  I will undoubtedly end up sick and in bed within 48 hours.  At least Neal and Addison seem to be staying healthy for the moment.

So here’s your fair warning that I’m going to cover a lot of territory in this post.  Pretty sure a LONG POST ALERT is in order.

For starters, I’ve alluded to the fact that I am officially a “working mom.”  While I had technically been trying to work on my thesis since the summer, it was always in whatever time I could squeeze out during naps and playtime with daddy or grandparents.  But back in early October, Neal was approached by a tutoring company about designing an SAT preparation curriculum (if you didn’t know, Neal runs a small test-prep business, helping high school students prepare for college entrance exams).  Although taking on the project complicated our lives in numerous ways (adding a 350-hour project with a January 1st deadline to school and a baby turns out to be incredibly difficult) and required a crash course in business law, when you live on an irregular income as we do, you have to take the opportunities when they come.  We started looking into drop-off day-care centers so we could get some uninterrupted time to work, but it was definitely hard to take the leap from never having hired a babysitter before (only a handful of family members had previously watched Addison) to putting her in day-care, even part-time.  By chance, I was visiting my friend Meg one Saturday afternoon when she offered to watch Addison for us.  It ended up being the perfect solution!  Even though Addison does really well with new people and places, it gave me a lot of peace of mind to leave her with someone I know.  Plus Meg is a fabulous mom and her child-rearing philosophy lines up well with what I aspire to, so I feel like I’m learning some tips and tricks along the way.

Working on this project and learning to juggle baby care has turned out to be more of a prelude to the future than I expected.  Shortly after we signed the consulting contract, I was offered a 15-hour per week job for next semester.  Justin, the fantastic-PhD-student-turned-BYU-professor that I worked with in Illinois collecting my thesis data, asked if I wanted to work with him again on a research seminar, helping undergraduate students explore the data we collected in 2008 and hopefully get some publications going from it.  Undergrads + research on incarceration + finally polishing a paper that has been in limbo for a year and half.  Yes, please!

I’m not going to take the time now to address all my conflicting feelings about stay-at-home mothering vs. working/juggling (that is one emotionally-chaotic topic for me), but I can say that I am very excited about this research seminar and seeing what comes out of our data set.  And in an unexpected way, it has been a key part of finally kicking my postpartum depression to the curb.

In fact, I can even point to a specific date — 29 September — that a real breakthrough occurred.  I had gone to campus for the first time in months to meet with my thesis advisor and I ran into Justin as well, the first time I’d seen him since he’d started his professorship.  I was only on campus for about an hour and a half total, and during part of that time I was feeding and wrangling my baby girl, but it was long enough for me to feel a sort of renewal.  Suddenly I was talking about juvenile detention centers and economic socialization, and I realized that even though that part of my life had been mostly dormant for a while, the knowledge was all still there — and the passion too.  And on that day, I noticed something about my postpartum depression that I hadn’t seen before — that it wasn’t just about how hard it is to care for a baby, or post-delivery hormones, or struggling with the loss of autonomy.  It was like a cloud hanging over me, dampening my outlook on everything.  I spent months trying to figure out why I wasn’t making progress on my thesis, even when I enlisted my mom’s practically full-time help over the summer, and it never occurred to me just how much it was affected by the postpartum issues I was having.  I had conceived of them as more compartmentalized, but they weren’t at all.  They were affecting every part of my life, and shaking my confidence even in areas where deep-down I knew I had achieved a high degree of mastery.  I didn’t put all of it together on that day, but I remember feeling somehow more alive and awakened than I had for months . . . and by mid-October, around Addison’s 8-month mark, I felt that the postpartum depression was over and done.  Hallelujah!

Although that day of renewal was a key player in overcoming my postpartum depression, another element that happily coincided was Addison learning to crawl.  For some people, baby mobility complicates life, but for us it has undoubtedly made things much MUCH easier.  Carrying her around, constantly having to hand her toys that had fallen just out of her reach, watching her frustration as she wanted to move and couldn’t quite get where she intended was exhausting.  She still craves near-constant human interaction, but not having to hold her while giving her that interaction has been a lifesaver for me.  So crawling = awesome . . . but I’m still leery about the walking thing.  Hoping to put that off for a couple more months at least!

Still, there is one postpartum issue that still plagues me a bit.  It’s nothing new that I have intense and often disturbing dreams.  Since the baby was born, they often revolve around her: I’ve lost her; I’ve rolled over and crushed her (even though we’ve never slept in the same bed); I’ve let her fall off the bed; I’ve inadvertently used her as a pillow (these dreams usually terminate with me waking up patting and soothing my pillow).  I thought that by the 9 or 10-month mark my psyche would be adjusted enough to motherhood that these nightmares would cease, but apparently not, since just the other day I woke up to find myself in the funniest situation yet.  Picture me, sitting on the edge of my bed at about 3 a.m., leaning over my dresser drawer, shushing and caressing a t-shirt, which I firmly believed to be my baby.  [For the record, I did try to find a picture on Google Images to demonstrate, but appropriate search terms were tough to come by.  It’s probably better this way.]  Still, I’ll take these over my pregnancy dreams any day.

Speaking of pregnancy, I’ve been reflecting on it a lot, as last week marked one year since our pre-term labor/appendectomy/almost having a 30-week preemie extravaganza.  Our life would have been so so different if any number of things during those few eventful days would have gone just a tiny bit different.  Those days and their wonderful aftermath remind me just how mindful of us God and his earthly helpers have been over the past year.  There is no greater gift than such an unexpectedly healthy, roly-poly baby girl.  And we couldn’t have cared for her without so many family and friends stepping in to assist, both in-person and via long-distance encouragement.  Thanks for that.

December 13, 2010

Baby update: Nine months

Filed under: Family, Personal — llcall @ 4:00 am

Stats:

18 pounds, 5 ounces (she was 15 pounds, 13 ounces at 6 months)

26.25 inches (our baby finally grew [1.5 inches]!  Huzzah!  Maybe she’ll crack 4’11” after all.)

By popular request (read: my mom), we asked our pediatrician for her percentiles and they are, predictably, 40th percentile for weight and 11th percentile for height.  That’s our little fatty, shrimpy shrimp.  [Shrimp is among my most commonly-used nicknames for her, though today I unexpectedly busted out Rudy McCankles in honor of her adorable cankles — what do you think, should it stick?]

Likes:

  1. KIDS — we’ve been using babysitters a lot lately, and Addison especially loves the ones that have little kids to play with, though it’s better if the kids are older since she’s still a bit of a bully [latest story to come].
  2. Milk — this is me putting a positive spin on the frustrating fact that Addison virtually refuses to eat solids . . . pretty sure my milk must be laced with cocaine.
  3. Grocery shopping — she loves to sit in the cart, waving and smiling at everyone we pass.  What can I say, she’s the star of Smith’s grocery store!
  4. Grape tomatoes — as I mentioned before, this is the only solid food she will eat consistently.
  5. Removing hats, etc. — Addison pretty much thinks that things on people’s heads is the funniest thing ever, only made funnier by her removing them . . . over and over again.
  6. Being handed things, and then handing them back — over and over and over.  But beware her wrath if you fail to hand something back in a timely manner!

Dislikes:

  1. Solid foods — still.
  2. Diaper changes — about 50% of the time we see a bare bum crawling away from us as quickly as possible before we have the chance to cover it.
  3. Not getting her way — she’s still a sweetheart to be sure, but we are getting glimpses of stubborn toddlerhood headed our way.

Firsts:

  1. Crawling — this happened for the first time on 21 September, so around the 7-month mark, but since I haven’t done an official “baby update” since 6 months, it was due to be mentioned.
  2. Standing unassisted — she has only managed this for 10-15 seconds at a time, but still, it’s a little alarming how fast she is working towards walking . . . I mean, didn’t she just start crawling???
  3. Cruising — for those not into the baby lingo, this is when she pulls herself to a standing position and scoots along a piece of furniture or between multiple pieces of furniture; in other words, she’s really moving!  And she desperately wants to take those first steps, though thankfully, she’s not quite there yet!
  4. Kissing — she’s still a beginner (which means it can get a little awkward at times), but she will give us the sweetest little kisses on request.
  5. Waving — this was all the rage for about a week UNTIL she learned . . .
  6. Pointing — she just wants to make sure you see what she sees, so her index finger is almost always extended in the most adorable fashion.  Of course, it was a little alarming at first when, at church, she turned toward someone I didn’t know, pointed, and laughed.  Hopefully, they took no offense at an infant’s favorite gesture.  And for times when pointing isn’t enough . . .
  7. Double pointing — this has got to be one of my favorites; she bust outs the double point when she’s especially excited, usually accompanied by squeals of delight.
  8. Words — Neal and I were debating her first word, but I think he eventually agreed that she was using da-da to refer to him specifically.  Since then she’s added three more to her repertoire (although she’s asked me to note that she isn’t a trained monkey who will perform on demand — she gets that attitude from her dad, no doubt):

* Yeah (or yay or yea, I’m not sure how she spells it), only exclaimed while clapping

* Do — nose, her Great Grandma taught her about noses and she’s a big fan (especially in combination with the aforementioned pointing)

* Dodo — doggy, this one was really solidified in California since a number of dog-walking neighbors pass my parents’ house multiple times per day

This particular update took me a long time to finish (she’s 10 months this week as a matter of fact).  It turns out that the 6 to 9 month period is especially fruitful.  They learn so much and the adorable quotient just skyrockets.  If you haven’t seen our Rudy McCankles lately, you better get on that!  She’s changing every day . . . I can’t believe how fast they grow up (pretty sure I’m the only parent who has ever said that)!

Since I didn’t give you any pictures for the weekend, here’s a few to tide you over:

The Point

The Clap

The Crawl

The Smile

December 8, 2010

Lessons for a working mom: Day 3

Filed under: Motherhood, Personal — Tags: , , , — llcall @ 7:03 pm

1. Don’t leave your phone in the car overnight and not check it in the morning until you’re on your way to the babysitter’s house.  Our fabulous babysitter Meg has a poor, little sick boy, which I could have found out about last night if I weren’t so lame about phones.  Which leads me to . . .

2. Get dressed before leaving the house because sometimes you have to remake your kid plans on the fly, and you get looks walking around BYU campus in your pajamas.

3. Pack a snack in your purse so that when wandering around BYU at 9am in your pajamas you don’t have to eat a taco for breakfast.

You know what, scratch that last one.  Tacos should be breakfast foods.

Miscellany

Filed under: Personal — Tags: , — llcall @ 6:02 am

I wish I had more time to blog right now.  I’ve got a 9-month baby update in progress, a too-old-to-keep-saying-my-age mommy update in progress, and about 52 other post drafts waiting (unfinished) in the wings.  [Obviously, they’re all terrible fascinating and your lives would be instantly better if I could but finish them.]

But I can’t right now because I’m a working mom . . . and man, is it EXHAUSTING.  Neal and I are working on a big consulting project (more details to come when I have more time) and it is just hard to do anything else, as evidenced by the absolute tornado that is our house.

But here’s two quick things:

I’ve been having a little bit of situation with someone that I care about.  I feel like we have been miscommunicating, frustrating each other at times, just kind of . . . missing each other.  You know what I mean?  And it’s taken a lot of mental and emotional energy over the last couple of weeks to figure out how to proceed.  Do I keep trying what I’ve been doing?  Change my approach altogether?  Should I keep some greater distance in order to reduce the emotional drain that I’ve been feeling?  Then today while I was pondering, I felt suddenly overcome by love.  I do love him/her, and that is no small thing.  I’m still not sure how things will go forward from here, but it felt like enough of an answer for today.

Here’s two things I love, together at last:  Star Wars and Dr. Suess.

December 4, 2010

Pictures for the Weekend: California Magic

Filed under: Family, Personal, Pictures for the Weekend — llcall @ 6:11 am

On this last trip to California, we had the unparalleled delight of spending an afternoon with my BFF (since 3rd grade when she rescued me from endless bullying by inviting me to play Chinese jump rope with her crew, which, by the way, she has absolutely no memory of) Anne and her wonderful mom, Midori.  Their home was my second home growing up — and let me tell you, it is a magical place filled with fresh lemonade (my fave!), homemade wontons, perfect chicken teriyaki, fantastically-fun company, old-school Nintendo, strategically-placed mini-fridges . . . I could go on forever!  I feel sorry for anyone who didn’t grow up down the road from them.

This visit added yet one more magical element — apparently, Midori has lightning fingers because she captured as many of Addison’s cute smiles in an hour as I’ve been able to capture in 9 months!

More to come next week!

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