Thursday, April 18, 2013

Do Over

I’m sure plenty of other people feel this way, but it’s been a shit week all around, and it feels like we should start over.

If only that were possible.

With regards to Boston, as a person who started a blog about running many years ago, I guess I feel like I should say something before I go on with business as usual, so I'll say this: The running community is one I’m proud to be part of, and I’m keeping the victims and the city of Boston in my thoughts and prayers. The whole thing makes my stomach turn.

I know I’m supposed to take away from Boston that there is so much good in the world--so many people who ran toward the blast instead of away to help others; the outpouring of love and support to a city from a country in shock--and those things are true. But between this, Sandy Hook, the Aurora theater shooting, et al., (to name a few horrible incidents of the recent past), I'm left wondering how one raises a child in the current state of our country. How do you take a child to public places, community events, movie theaters, malls, anywhere really, much less allow them to go to school? And the Senate’s inability to pass even the most duh-worthy of gun control measures doesn’t leave me with much hope.

I realize these aren't necessarily the same thing--school shootings and terrorism--or maybe they are, I don't know. And I know this sentiment is not unique--every mother everywhere has wondered this. I just want my kid to grow up in a world where you can safely attend school, go to the movies, and cheer on your dad who's running a marathon.

Friday, April 12, 2013


OK. I’m calling it. I’ve stayed a bit too long at this pity party. I’ve done my fair share of bitching and moaning, and now it’s time for action, for solutions.

Motherhood comes with all kinds of changes, and not all of them are as cute and lovable as my sweetpea Emme. I can spend all kinds of time pinpointing exactly what it is that upsets me or makes this whole parenting stuff difficult. And I have struggled with many a change. But the only way forward is acceptance.

Right now, I cannot change my job situation. At least not right this second. I cannot force my boss to make a decision on my timeline. And I can’t quit my job without MM and I putting a little more thought and planning into what comes next.

And I cannot do everything. I can’t even do most things. Maybe at some point I’ll be able to take on more, but right now, I need to prioritize, and I’m pretty sure that after the babe, my health is what needs the most attention. Right now, I need to feel better physically, which I think will make me feel better mentally and ultimately, provide the clarity needed to make some of these larger decisions.

The number one thing I need is more sleep. Now, I can’t completely control whether or not Emme makes it through the night (sometimes she does and sometimes she doesn’t), but I can control when I go to bed. And, if I stopped bringing my laptop or iPad to bed with me, I’d actually start going to sleep at a decent hour. So, that’s where I’ll begin. No more electronics in bed--at least not for awhile.

Next, I need to make sure we are eating healthy. I need to set aside time for meal planning, build up our freezer stock of dinners, and stop ordering out several nights a week. I think that would go a long way toward helping both MM and I feel less lethargic.

I’m not going to focus on my weight. I have to stop beating myself up for not losing weight right now when I still need to produce enough milk to feed my kid. Some people lose weight breastfeeding; some people do not. I have to accept where I am for now.

I’m also not going to focus on organized exercise or setting goals in terms of the number of times I make it to the gym. This doesn’t mean I’m never going to work out. I am. I’m going to keep going to my favorite Zumba class each week because I enjoy it. I’m going to do my best to get outside and walk with Emme as soon as Chicago realizes that it’s spring. Once I am feeling closer to 100% health-wise, I’ll think a little bit more about my exercise goals. Or maybe I won’t. We’ll see.

So that’s where I’m at--in a better headspace and ready to move forward with some realistic (hopefully) expectations for the next week.

Thursday, April 11, 2013

Leaning Out

I’ve always chosen to stay away from being too specific when it comes to writing about work on ze blog (said in a French accent). While I don’t actively attach my full name to this blog or go around promoting it to my co-workers, I also don’t hide it, and I’m smart enough (dumb enough?) to know that it can be found. And really, it’s just good sense to not bitch about work in a public forum like, um, basically all of the Internet. The repercussions aren’t worth it.

Anyway, I’m not here to bitch. I’m just here to tell you what’s up. Three weeks or so ago, I presented my boss with a proposal to switch to a part-time schedule.

I’m lucky that The University has some pretty generous work-life balance benefits, including the option to go part time for an extended period without losing your full-time status. I am also lucky to work in a division of The University where work-life balance is valued. My boss, as well as many of my superiors and peers, are the mothers and fathers of young children. They get it. They know it's hard. No one is watching the clock. No one is working 12-hour days. Time off is never questioned. Flexible work arrangements are often granted. The general attitude is “as long as your work is getting done.” As far as workplace cultures go, for a new parent, it’s pretty close to as good as it gets in our country.

The problem with my request is that it comes at a time when my department is in flux. We acquired some new positions. We have had a couple of people move on. And my boss has the opportunity to reorganize. I knew this when I asked, but no plans for our department had been finalized. I figured this could be a great time to be asking (not really), or a bad time to be asking (yup).

I also knew that making this kind of request would remove any chance for a promotion or step up in responsibility that a reorganization could make possible. And, when I finally sat down with my boss, my suspicion that something to that effect was on the table was confirmed. In other words, when I should have been “leaning in,” I was asking to drop out.

Yesterday, I mustered the courage to gently inquire as to the status of my request, and the response was basically no response. This was the source of my anxiety last night.

Maybe, my boss wants me to quit.

I can be a bit melodramatic (say what?), so I’m sure this isn’t the case. My boss is, in all likelihood (if past precedent is any indication), attempting to make it work. And I hope it does work out because going part time at my current job is sort of the easy answer (and maybe a bandaid?) to one of the two major issues I keep coming back to. The first-- wanting to spend more time with the babe and having a better balance at home--is the one I’d like to address right this very minute, and the second--trying to figure out what I want to do what with the rest of my life--is the one I tend to avoid. I go part time, I get more time with the babe; I keep avoiding the question of what's next. Status quo achieved!

But if it isn’t an option, and it doesn’t work, where does that leave me? MM and I have already begun the discussion of me quitting and possibly attempting to start a freelance business. But straight up quitting scares the shit out of me, and rightfully so, for all of the above reasons plus the major leap of leaving the workforce for a lot of unknowns, like money, future job prospects, possible current job opportunities, and the big question, “Can I even hack it as a full-time stay-at-home mom?” because if you’ll remember, I really really really wanted to go back to work.

Ultimately, I know that being scared does not equal being the wrong decision. I also know, at this point, that I’d like to keep one foot in the work world--whether that means staying at The University or not. It’s a lot of decisions to make and while none of them are easy and they all come with unknowns and fears, I realize that there likely isn’t a right answer (and flip side, there also isn't a wrong one). But at some point, one will have to take a leap of faith.

Wednesday, April 10, 2013

Sick and Tired of Being Sick and Tired

They say the first year is the hardest. You have a kid, and if you send that kid to places with other kids, they get sick and then you get sick. Factor in a rough and rather long cold and flu season, a lack of sleep and therefore compromised immune system, and a disease outbreak for good measure and you’ve got yourself one ugly winter (and now spring).

It hasn’t it been that bad.

OK. It wasn’t that bad until Monday, when MM and I were knocked down fast and hard with what I’m guessing was norovirus, and we spent all night taking turns in the bathroom like we had been out on all-day-all-night drinking binge. Thankfully we didn't wake the babe. More thankfully, the babe has stayed healthy (fingers crossed). Prior to that mess, we had just been hit with your run of the mill colds that put us in bad moods and made daily life just a little bit harder.

And this is just life. I get that. It’s not us; it’s anybody with a kid--maybe anybody in general. But lately, I feel like every time we make some progress toward a better routine, some healthy habits, some balance, we’re knocked down and I find that it’s so hard to get back on track after these minor (or major) disruptions. Produce withers and dies in the fridge, the gym membership goes unused, and mom is running to Target at 9pm on a weeknight when she should be getting into bed because daycare is out of baby food and she forgot to pick some up over the weekend.

I promise this blog isn’t going to turn into “Lou bitches about her life every few days,” because the truth is, I have all the parts and pieces needed to make a great life--they just aren’t fitting together right now.

I’m trying to get to the point where I feel 100 percent before any major decisions are made. But, I (and we, as the in “the family”) need to make some decisions. Figure out priorities. Reassess. I am hopeful that a change for the better is coming.

Monday, April 08, 2013

On Working, Being a Mom, Having a Social Life, Nursing, Pumping, and Taking Care of One’s Self

Oh hey, have you heard the one about how moms are supposed to take care of themselves? About how that’s as important, if not more important, than taking care of everyone around you? Because if you’re not taking care of yourself, you’re doing a disservice to the whole family.

Har har.

Good one.

I’m still a new mom to one wee babe, making me neither seasoned nor wise. And, as mom who is co-parenting with an involved and capable partner, who has solid financial resources, and who has a strong support network close by, in the grand scheme of moms everywhere, I actually have it pretty easy.

And yet, I seem to be stuck in a rut where my entire life seems to be crumbling down around me constantly.

I was under the impression that “having it all” was something that people who had careers that they cared about tried to do. And that’s not me. I go to work; I get shit done; I leave before 5pm; and I don’t waste another second of my brain space thinking about the office once I’m off the clock. As long as I didn’t care about climbing a corporate ladder, I figured that I wouldn’t get caught in the trap of "trying to have it all.”

But apparently, a more accurate description of “trying to have it all” is “attempting to function like an adult who wants to feel good mentally and physically and generally have a nice life while holding down a job and not completely missing out on everything her kid does.”

Oh hey. That looks a little more familiar. That right there is my dream--loosely.

It’s not about me wanting to have a fancy “career.” It’s about me trying to pick up where I left off pre-baby, only now I have this 18-pound sack of love firmly attached to my boob. In other words, what is now considered "trying to have it all," was previously known as "having a life."

I regularly lament to my friends about how I “can’t get it together,” and because of my failings as a human being and modern mother, I am doomed to be tired, unorganized, overweight, unhealthy, generally a mess both mentally and physically, and ultimately, unhappy. But what I seem to be unable to accept is that it’s not me who is failing, it’s the expectation that I can work a full-time job, exercise several times a week, get enough sleep, cook dinner every night, make my lunches every day, nurse my baby for a whole year, pump enough milk while I’m away, keep up with friends, say “yes” to social engagements, have date nights with the hubs, be active in our community, spend quality time as a family, meet other moms in my neighborhood, grocery shop, clean the house, do the laundry, continue to participate in hobbies I enjoy like blogging or gardening or running or reading, and still have time to watch the season premiere of Mad Men, which happens to be two hours long.

Something has to give. And regardless of the obvious varying importance of many of the above items, I don’t want to let any of them go. But I have to.

Maybe it’s time I accept that regular exercise isn’t going to be a part of my life again until I stop nursing, and maybe I’ll stop mentally beating myself up each week for only making it to the gym once or twice. Or maybe I need to stop pumping and wean Em before a year, and use that extra time and freedom to take care of myself a little better. Or maybe I need to be more serious about protecting my time on the weekends, say no to social events, and concentrate on making sure the errands are run, the groceries are bought and the house is clean. Or maybe there is a better work/life balance to be had.

I don’t have the answer. I don't actually have any answers. Not for myself, not for the larger question as to how we found ourselves in this social conundrum.

Thursday, April 04, 2013

Creamy Pasta with Fennel, Kale and Chicken Sausage

I’m feeling pretty behind on life these days. Last week, my sister and her family moved halfway across the country to Chicagoland, which is awesome, but also meant we spent a lot of time hauling boxes and getting them settled in their new apartment. Then on Saturday, I ended up with a cold that got worse, then better, then worse again yesterday, and now, (I’m hopeful) better. Factor in wanting to spend extra time with the babe during holiday weekend, and cooking, eating right, and generally taking care of myself fell by the wayside, to say the least. We ordered take out every single night last week.

Instead of making the time for a grocery trip, I decided to order a box of produce from Door to Door Organics. I’ve tried this once or twice before, but now as I struggle to find a balance between taking care of Emme and taking care of myself, I’m wondering if this isn’t one of many answers to the perpetual question, 'how do we save more time.'

The box arrived yesterday, and there is a ton of produce--kind of an oh-shit-how-are-we-going-to-use-all-this amount of produce.

This is maybe half of it.
So, I got started right away. While I had been trying to eating more protein, right now, I need to just focus on eating at home, so I’m doing whatever I need to do to make that happen. And often, that means pasta.

Creamy Pasta with Fennel, Kale and Chicken Sausage
Adapted from a Door to Door Organics Recipe
Serving: 1

2 oz. whole wheat pasta
1/2 TBSP butter
Half a fennel bulb, sliced thin
Half a yellow onion, sliced thin
1/2 cup kale, chopped
1/2 TBSP orange zest
Juice of half an orange
1 link Trader Joe’s chicken sausage (any variety), chopped
1 oz. goat cheese
2 TBSP parmesan cheese

1. Cook pasta according to package direction, drain and reserve approximately 1/2 cup of pasta water.

2. In a saute pan, melt butter over medium heat. Add onions and fennel and saute for 7-10 minutes until soft. Add kale after 2-3 minutes. Add chicken sausage after 5 minutes. (Note: Trader Joe's chicken sausage is already cooked and therefore needs only a few minutes to heat through. If you're using uncooked sausage, you'll want to remove it from the casings, saute it first, then remove it with a slotted spoon before adding the vegetables to the pan).

3. Add orange zest and the juice of half of an orange. Saute for one additional minute

4. Add 2-4 TBSP of pasta water, goat cheese, paremesan cheese, and pasta to the saute pan and mix with sausage and vegetables.

This was quick and easy and made me feel like I was getting way more nutritients than the typical pasta + bottled sauce combination. The sausage also helped make it really filling. Goat cheese is my favorite, and adding it and pasta water created a creamy sauce with a hint of orange. I will definitely be making this again. Probably tonight.

Tuesday, April 02, 2013

Eight Months and Counting

When Emme was born and people were all, "Treasure every moment, it goes so fast," I was like, "Whatever, get me out of this prison of my own making."

Easter Sunday.
But now, NOW, I get it. I'd still be OK with skipping those first six weeks or so, but now I'd like to slow down time because Emme is racing toward that one year mark, and her seventh month was a big one.

Look at those eyes.

We went through some rough patches with her sleep this month, but right as things normalized again (though I don't even know what normal sleep is anymore), she hit some big developmental milestones. Our biggest leap this month was that Emme started crawling. After a solid four weeks of alllllllllmost crawling, she finally got the hang of it midway through this month. She also started pulling herself up to a standing position. She's doesn't do it all the time, and depending on what is there for her to hang on to, she sometimes doesn't make it all the way up. But she's getting there.

St. Patty's Day.

Solids are going well. I don't think she's actually rejected any food outright (she is her father's daughter). This month we added yogurt and a little bit of chicken to the mix.

She's my hot mess.
I got better about keeping Emme on her daycare schedule while at home. The one area where we are really struggling is the third nap. She's kind of dropped it--though once in awhile I can get her to do a brief catnap on the weekends around 4:30pm--but now that she is crawling and expending so much more energy, this bug is barely able to stay awake for 15 minutes once we get her home from daycare. It's nearly impossible to feed her dinner and nurse her (she typically falls asleep nursing before 6pm, sometimes she barely makes it to 5:30). This means she's waking up hungry around 4am, which is not cool. I'm planning to talk to daycare to see if they'd be willing to give her solids in the afternoon around 4pm when she has her last bottle.

Nursing went well this month, and I've dropped my evening pump, which has been very freeing, and made me less angry about pumping overall. While we're using some freezer stock, I am able to replenish some of it by pumping once in the morning on the weekends. We're definitely on track to make it until 9 months, maybe longer exclusively with breastmilk. Depending on where we're at, I'll probably drop from pumping three times a day to twice around 10 months.

Spring time in Chicagoland.
Mostly though, Emme has just been a lot of fun. Her smile makes my heart feel like it's about to burst, and she's easily amused by mommy and daddy. It makes me sad to see the weekends go by so fast, and I feel like I'm just not getting enough time with her. But I guess that's how every mom feels.