We’ve started to find our day-to-day groove with a larger, wilder, messier family. Some days certainly come apart at the seams more than others, but patterns are emerging. Here’s a little entry to process and reflect.
Life with two littles, wow. Some days are smoother than others, but the teacher in me would probably never give me an A on parenting. It seems like just about every day I wish I’d done better in some way – that I wouldn’t have resorted to so much screen time, that I would’ve had a longer fuse, that I would have remembered to check that the diaper bag was fully stocked before going out for a nice long walk when we’re a few days overdue for a poop explosion. I have plenty of good excuses – I’m trying to fit too many other things into life: getting back in shape, working from home, preparing for a move. My attention is split, energy drained, pulled in multiple directions. But, really, all of us moms are just doing our best, and we’ve all got jam-packed lives. I can’t expect to be perfect, and I don’t.
But the thing is, when I am just completely and wholly engaged it’s great. When my butt is on the floor playing cars with my toddler, I swear he’s got to be the sweetest, smartest, most well-behaved toddler in the world. It’s when the dog has just puked up grass all over the floor and the baby is crying and I’m quickly jotting down some urgent item that I’ve just realized I need to add to the to-do list (right now or it’ll be gone!) that our toddler decides it would be a good time to vie for attention by coloring on the TV or something.
So, I don’t play cars with him nearly as much as he’d like, but still we manage to get out quite a bit — scenic walks with the dog, play dates, hula shows and shopping trips, more ambitious destinations when David’s around. Sometimes these excursions are just what the doctor ordered for everyone. Sometimes the only one not miserable is the dog. You never really know which it’ll be until you’re in it. The best you can do is keep everyone fed, hydrated, rested, and DO NOT F#@K WITH NAP TIME. I generally opt to plow ahead and get out, even when I fear it might be a catastrophe. I figure practice makes… well, something.
But what I’m afraid I haven’t iterated well is how over-the-top in LOVE I am, despite the challenges. Oh my God, N’s smiles! He is just the sweetest, most perfect little smiley sack of sugar two month old. And he coos and is starting those early little giggles. And I swear my heart is just going to burst seeing him smiling at M. And M’s sweet little voice, and how sincerely and joyfully he plays. He re-enacts scenes from Cars, and throws his arms around me and says “I love you” out of nowhere. For all the challenges of this stage, we surely must be experiencing the sweetest, purest form of love that we ever will in our lives.
Exercise and Diet
I know I know I know to be kind to myself about post-baby weight, and just weird shifting of things and all that. Cognitively I know this. I remember from the first time that it’ll go back into place (more or less) eventually. Key word, eventually. Still, I gotta say, when you bust ass all day (and night) for your littles, it’s kind of a slap in the face to finally have a peaceful moment to yourself to take a shower and you accidentally catch a glimpse in the mirror, and the image is barely recognizable. What HAPPENED to me? I mean, I know what happened, but holy hell! Side note: with C-sections come the cutting of all the abdominal muscles, so not only is there all that stretching, but added challenge getting tummy muscles to do what they’re there for.
I’ve learned throughout the years that resolutions are best kept when they are realistic and attainable. Keeping that in mind, I’ve adopted a work out system that actually worked for me while I was pregnant: one day work out, the next day take a long walk (with kiddos and doggy). It works great for me, because I’m not setting myself up to fail as much as trying to work out every single day – a goal that I’d probably quit altogether the first time I missed a single day. Yet it still encourages movement every day. On my work out days, I alternate between treadmill runs, yoga, work out videos. I started this routine six weeks postpartum when I got doc’s go-ahead, and shockingly haven’t missed a day yet, though there have been some days cut short with interrupted naps. No matter how in-the-zone I feel, I force myself to stop at 30 minutes – no more, no less. As much as I’d love a nice, long run, there’s just too much else going on.
Then there’s diet. I’m really happy with our morning routine: smoothie jam-packed with whatever fruit and veg we’ve got on hand, typically spinach or kale, berries, bananas, lychees this week, almond milk, coconut milk, and ginger. That, and a piece of whole grain toast with almond butter. Eggs on the weekends. Lunch and dinner have been overall healthy and home-cooked, with my fair share of lapses. But the biggest challenge is portioning. With exclusive breastfeeding comes the bottomless pit feeling – for me even more than when I was pregnant. Of course I care more about feeding our baby than losing weight, but it still takes effort to know when enough’s enough.
The school year starts up again in a few short weeks! Since May, I’ve been plugging away little by little at planning the two online courses I’ll be teaching. When I say plugging away, I mean virtually daily, sometimes for an hour or more, sometimes for only ten minutes, whatever the day allows. My original goal was to get at least three weeks ahead in planning. It looks like I’ll be at least ten weeks ahead, though some of what I’ve done may need some revising, and I’ve just decided to add video of me each week for a more personal touch, and to benefit auditory learners. I’m proud of this accomplishment. I managed this without daycare (though my mom helped me get a lot done in the month of May), while still fitting in work outs, and managing to get the babes out and playing.
As far as how I feel about the curriculum that I’ve designed, I’m….satisfied for now. Though I’ve taught 14-15 year-olds online lessons before, they’ve always been supplements to a face-to-face course. I could check in with the students, get to know how they worked in person, answer questions, and follow up in a classroom setting. Next year will be entirely online. I’m finding I’m designing less project-based and more traditional “read and answer questions or take a quiz”-type things, which isn’t usually my style. However, knowing they’ll have very little face-to-face support, I want to set them up for success, which seems like a more predictable format would do… I don’t know… it’ll be a good learning experience for all involved. It’s tough for that age group to be self-directed on schoolwork, and I really want to find the right balance: setting them up for success while finding the right level of rigor.
I’ve recently made an effort to reconnect with people I fell out of touch with, catch up with faraway old friends with phone calls, and make time for friends who are already part of our life. There are still a few people I’ve been meaning to reach out to and haven’t, and others who we keep sort of missing each other. In order to prevent future neglect I am writing down “Call So-and-so” on my calendar every so often weeks in advance, including my parents every Sunday. (I’m ashamed to admit that I am typically terrible at calling my parents with regularity, which seems unfair since we look forward to our Sunday dinner every week with David’s dad.) It feels good to finally prioritize the nurturing of relationships that I value, even in small ways. It’s definitely a luxury of having more flexibility with my time.
One of the most exciting developments in life right now is the construction of our home, projected to be complete in August. Of course, buying a new home is always thrilling, but this feels extra sweet — it comes after YEARS of heartbreak with regard to prospective home-ownership (broken contracts, tireless searches, missed opportunities), it is on the property of David’s dad (real roots and ohana in the true sense of the word; no one with any plans to go anywhere), and we got to make all the decisions (Color, light fixtures, Let’s add a foot to the walls! Let’s add a skylight!, Why not outlet in this closet?, Hey, could we do this, could we do that? Oh, by the way, could you add a gate? Stairs here? A window? Sure!) We didn’t just see something we liked, we got to IMAGINE something we’d like, and watch it materialize before our eyes. Don’t get me wrong, we certainly have a finite budget, and quite restrictive county guidelines due to this being the second structure on a three-quarter acre property (700 square feet restrictions, so we’re bordering on part of the tiny house club). But it’s new, it’s ours, and we didn’t just choose it, we chose every detail of it. I got to see it today, floors in and cabinets being installed, and, heart feeling very content, I told David that though I’m not sure it’s quite my dream house for a family of four simply because of the size, one day David and I might find ourselves in it alone, and for that it will be the perfect fit. For the time being, the size will only encourage us to be mindful of possessions and to spend more time outdoors (and it’s the perfect property and the perfect location for that). Plus, we’ve got a nice, generous deck where we plan to eat meals as the sun sets over the ocean below.
Anyway, August can’t come soon enough. Our temporary rental has served us well. We shared a very special chapter of life living with my brother, who has got to be the world’s best uncle. We had a freakishly affordable rent in a rental market that is bordering on insane (ranked 3rd in the nation in percent income spent on rent). And we enjoyed some million dollar sunsets with our ocean views. But, this time of year there’s been no escape from the sweltering heat (which interferes with Baby’s sleep), the neighbors are constantly setting off the dog or doing loud work right next door (which interferes with Baby’s sleep), and I’m amazed at how unfazed I’ve gotten about insects that only the tropics could produce. The other day I casually informed David that there was a man-hand-sized spider in the corner, and he praised my stalwartness.
Reading and Writing
I recently replaced Facebook time (which happened primarily one-handed during breastfeeding) with reading actual books time, and what a difference! Although I’m sure I’m missing some big news and probably excellent shared articles and numbered lists ;), overall I feel like my time is being spent in a more valuable way. In the past six weeks or so I have devoured three novels and one self-helpy kind of thing, and feel generally more inspired to keep reading and writing. I was also invited to join a book club, which could not have come at a better time. I really enjoyed the first gathering, the prospect of adding more friends and talking about books (something my students previously helped me to scratch that itch).
As far as writing goes, since I’ve decided to accept PT teaching work, I’ve abandoned the writing project I was so excited to undertake this year. Gotta say yes to the stable paycheck, and besides I genuinely look forward to trying out online teaching. However, I’m afraid the bigger writing projects I had envisioned may never get completed, at least not in this season of life.
So, for now I content myself with 10 minutes/day in this blog. In case you’re wondering, no, I do not write these posts in one sitting. Far from it. I just whittle away at each post, 10 minutes/day until it’s finally done. I aim to finish one per week. I don’t always share them to Facebook or even to WordPress, because sometimes they seem way too boring, self-indulgent, or just pointless.
What I Miss
Although I am settling in nicely to this chapter of life, and absolutely adore many things about it (the warm feeling of home, the intense love of motherhood, the deepening roots, the growing friendships, the goals and progress toward them, the peace of knowing that I will never have to go through pregnancy or childbirth again, the excuse to be goofy, etc., etc.), there are also a lot of things I miss about the previous chapters (pure freedom and independence, the space and capacity to have more intrepid adventures — the crater hike that David’s been meaning to do for years will have to wait a few more, more time and intimacy with just David, more flexible income, long carefree workouts, long carefree anything, tranquility, going out, tidiness). But, I know, to everything there is a season. I remind myself daily to appreciate the treasures and treats that come with this season, because I know that in the big picture of my life they will be among the very sweetest.