Simple Girl is Simple Mama now. New site here, come and see!
I’m starting to get the tiniest itch. An itch I swore I’d never get. I’m starting to think that maybe I’ve got this stay-at-home mama thing locked up, and with a few weeks to go, I’m getting scared for it to end. Please, please take a picture of you rolling your eyes and send it to me- I deserve it. I’ve complained for six months about how I struggle with the lack of structure, how I miss adult interaction. I’ve spent years talking about the energy I have to summon to shower without a workplace motivator. And now I’m FINALLY in a groove. I’m definitely not the world’s most perfectly groomed person, but I could answer the door to turn down a solicitor without dying of embarrassment. I can swing a last minute trip to Target.
But we’re not even going to Target that much. I’ve been following through on my plan of super gently home schooling Milo this summer, and we are so busy. We have activities, books, puzzles, and special snacks, all organized around a weekly theme. We’re going on play dates and meeting up with friends. We have a weekly trip to the farmers market and a weekly field trip somewhere special. Elliott has doctor’s appointments and Milo has speech therapy. And I’m managing it. I’m a little baby centered, and I have lots of help (teacher friends on break, family members), but I’m having fun. A lot of fun.
Now I’m gearing up to slide back out of this skin I finally got comfy in, and switch roles. I’m required to be independent working mother who IS going to do it all: finish grad school, teach first grade, support my school on extra committees, spend quality time with my family, eat fresh and local food from farms, get regular massages/pedicures/haircuts, have girl’s nights, date my husband, and blog about every step of it with a smile on my face.
I never realized how important it is to absolutely adore the work you’re doing if it’s taking you away from your kids. With Milo, there was enough of “me” leftover after work, so I never really had to evaluate whether anything was worth it. He was also tiny and you couldn’t really DO anything with him. I came home to a sweet little drooler, and I got my exercise from a brisk walk while he napped, we did swimming lessons on Saturdays, and I replenished diapers for daycare once in a while, and I thought “I have this DOWN!”
Now our family is bigger, and I love it more. I love my life more now than I did then. My love didn’t grow in relation to the small size of our new extra person. It exploded- I love Elliott, but I also love the way Milo laughs when Elliott makes eye contact with him, and I love the way that Ben looks when all the babies are snuggled up in his arms, and I love the way the words “my sons” sound when I say them. That’s a lot more love. That explosion of love is also an explosion of work. It’s not just an extra bath and some extra laundry and an extra car seat. It’s balancing two creatures who need my attention, who need different levels of affection, who eat at different times and sleep at different times and can hurt each other if I’m not careful. It’s Ben being really tired, and me being really tired, and not really being able to give each other a break, and we’ll have even LESS of a chance to help each other once both of us are working full time. Our new life is crowded and messy and I really do love it more than I’ve loved anything earlier. I guess because I love it more, it’s harder to give up this time.
There’s no real question- we can’t afford for me not to work any longer than the break I’ve already been lucky enough to have. I do love teaching, and I love the team I’m going to be working with next year. I have childcare arranged and even partially saved for, in a home across the street with a family who I like and trust and who love my children. I’m lucky and grateful to have those things. This is definitely a first world problem, a thought that’s crossed my mind when one of my kids gets hungry enough to cry (not that I would get distracted enough to let that happen…no…), and I think, “What if I couldn’t make those tears stop right this instant? What if there was no food?” It feels horrifying and spooky and then my emotional battle about which face my kid sees most often becomes a little less crucial.
It’s not a problem this week, or next. I have a solid month and change before I need to switch gears and give up my 24/7 SAHM love fest. Until then, I’ll just keep scraping play dough out from under my fingernails and having company on trips to the bathroom. It’ll be over before I know it.
“None of this is as big or difficult as you think it is. Do you want to know what the main thing is that keeps me from my writing? Do you want me to tell you THE NUMBER ONE OBSTACLE TO MY ART? Is it fear? Is it depression/angst/motherhood/wifedom/the paralysis of exposure? No. It’s not. It’s House Hunters International. And maybe ice cream. It’s that decision I make to stay up an extra half hour to watch strangers walk through houses and wolf down more Rocky Road…STRUCTURE LIBERATES. Give up what you want right now (BRAVO AND HGTV AND FACEBOOK and DOUBLE CHOCOLATE FUDGE!) for what you really want (LOVE. To give it and to get it.)” –Glennon of Momastery
This is a TRUTH that speaks to my soul. The emphasis is mine, because it slapped my face. I’ve spent years blaming my inability to get things done on tons EVERYTHING under the sun- being too busy at work, not having enough money, not having enough support, having a kid, HAVING TWO KIDS…but that’s not true. At all. It’s the Today show. Good coffee creamer. Instagram. Musings on homemade baby food, checking Pinterest for a playdough recipe, spending 25 minutes choosing a movie to put on in the background while “do chores” (plan and list about chores).
None of this is new; I talk about my insanity ALL THE TIME. But this quote just reminded me. I love this lady. I found her blog through another blog, but then realized that I had heard a TED talk she had given when I finally googled what a TED talk is a few weeks ago. I think the Universe is telling me I need to listen to her more closely. I want to write and write and write and write and write and document and write some more. Even if everything else falls to shit, I can’t put off writing anymore.
Milo’s speech and attention skills are still mystifying me. We’re working with therapists and reading and researching, but I still haven’t unlocked the puzzle of what gives him a great day. Going to daycare is a great help to me and I know he likes playing with his friends, but I’m starting to think that he needs even more structure than a daycare can provide. I’m looking forward to the summer and really diving in to his rhythms.
It’s funny, when I first suspected that his speech was delayed, it was almost like I was humoring myself. I didn’t truly believe in my core that there was THAT BIG a problem. Then his evaluation highlighted sensory issues and attention problems and I thought “Oh no, you don’t really know my child.” Now I feel like I’m the one who doesn’t know him. All the tips and tricks from the therapists have changed a lot about how I view my day with Milo. I’ve always loved that he is a huge ball of energy, but I now recognize that his bouts of silliness can spiral into a lack of control that he dislikes. He can be screaming and kicking and I’ll hold him tight, strap him into his stroller, and I’ll watch him literally sigh in relief. I’m recognizing where he wants me to reign him in.
I’m reading a lot about speech delays and “typical” development for kids his age. Pinterest has pointed me to a few blogs written by speech therapists with young kids, and I checked a scary book out of the library called First Words: A Parent’s Step-by-Step Guide to Helping A Child with Speech and Language Delays. I know that I need to honor all his ways of communicating, and give him more. We use about three signs in the house right now, and I think Milo can’t get his point across with just those, so I plan on ramping up with new signs majorly over the next few months. Our awesome therapist also suggested giving Milo more picture cues to help him communicate, focusing on rooms of the house, favorite snacks/toys, and even places we go. Milo keep falling into the “more” trap- he can sign and say more, but more can mean literally ANYTHING to him (start eating, get picked up, watch TV, move to the playroom, get his Monka) and it’s lost meaning as a good way to communicate. I had felt that using pictures was a good idea, but I also felt silly, like I was playing school with my little babies. I need to trust my gut.
I’m going to “homeschool” this summer. Milo is on a list for a twice-a-week playgroup for speech delayed toddlers, all run through my amazing state’s Early Intervention program, and if he gets in, he can stay in, with transportation included, even into the school year. But I’m not going to sit waiting for that. We have a great start of a playroom on the back porch, and I’m going to beef it up (we need fake food, a small table working at, a “comfy spot,” etc.) and make indoor/outdoor specific play part of every day. We also plan on taking advantage of the Free Fridays this summer, and I’m going to plan out our weeks with a loose theme that leads up to the Friday field trip- animal games, animal books, animal sensory play, and animal puzzles all before we go to the zoo on Friday, for example. We’re going to practice nursery rhyme songs and fingerplays. We’re going to have snack and nap at a set time. And I’m going to keep track of what Milo does in his binder where I store his therapy notes.
This feels kind of over the top (I dwell on the word “silly”) but I know in my heart that this structure and plan will help me a) keep my sanity and b) help Milo learn topics in a categorized manner, which is what all my reading has pointed to as a key to success. The book reminded me that typically developing kids will get most of this stuff naturally, as a byproduct of living. And some kids need more deliberate experiences. I can give him that.
So that’s where I am right now. I don’t have even a fraction of the answers, but I have a few tricks to try, and we’re going to make it really fun. I can’t wait to see what clicks and mostly, I can’t wait to hang out with my favorite little friends all summer long.
I don’t have a ton of pictures from this weekend, because I HAVE NO PHONE. Early Thursday morning, while we were rushing around before speech therapy, Milo decided that dunking my phone (repeatedly, like a cookie) in my coffee would be cute. I was in the shower and Ben was in the bedroom- we were both just steps away, but he had enough time to destroy it. We tried shaking it off and wiping it off and plunging it in rice…but RIP, cell phone. My constant connection to the adult world. I miss you dearly. The replacement should arrive today, but it shocks me how naked I feel without it. I used a digital camera at Farmland this weekend. Seriously.
-We got our season pass to Davis Farmland on Tuesday, and have already gone twice. I managed it easily with both boys by myself, and then we took Ben, my parents, and Laurel on Sunday. This works out really well because both boys are free, so we just got a season pass for one adult; however, I think Ben will want to go often on hot Sundays and Mondays, and if I can offer free admission to friends I’m dragging along this summer, I’d be pleased. So we might add an additional “guest” adult to the pass. Between farm animals, dramatic play in huge sheds, tons of playgrounds, and the spray park, I’d say we’ll be there twice a week.
-It’s now almost too embarrassing to weigh in at Weight Watchers. Since I weighed in after the stomach bug ( a solid month ago), my weight has gone up every week. The fact that I stopped breast feeding Elliott goes into that, but I also pretty much do what I please Friday-Monday, and then start trying to get back on track around Tuesday…my math isn’t adding up. I keep rededicating myself because I simply want to weigh less, fit into the clothes I already own and like, and want more energy. I’m not going crazy or beating myself up. Just saying, “do better.”
-Ben kicked ass and helped me completely clean the back porch (again) last night. We vacuumed 7 million spiders and 10 pounds of cat hair, moved furniture around to make more running room for Milo, and Ben bought a play kitchen at Salvation Army that we scrubbed to glory. We haven’t even bought the fake food yet, and Milo already loves putting things in the microwave, closing the door, and hitting the buttons. After we said “beep beep beep!” a couple times, he makes beep noises now, which is a big speech milestone! He also loves to chuck plastic Easter eggs and run so they scatter at his feet. I’ve been reading about the “types” of kids (childhood personality types) and I definitely think Milo is “The Determined Child.” He needs physical activity, autonomy, and parental support; having the space in the back made for such a happy kiddo. This morning before daycare he asked to play on the porch instead of watching cartoons. Maybe that’s a humblebrag but maybe I like it that way. Now my eyes are peeled for a water table, a grocery cart, and some good fake food- I’ll buy almost everything else used, but Milo will definitely eat the fake food all the livelong day, so I better get something fresh.
-Yesterday, by allowing myself to revel in my filth and stay in my pajamas all day, I managed to get a huge amount of work done on my top secret awesome sauce project that I love. It’s homemade and scrappy, I’m remembering the tiny bit of HTML that I learned to spice up my livejournals in 2002, and its going to be yet another outlet for me to listen to the sound of my own voice. What could be better?
-We’re eating a shit ton of popsicles over here. I found these ones called “mighty minis” that are literally Milo sized and he can eat them before they melt and it looks like someone shrunk a real pop so cute. Ben brought home the GOOD thick freeze pops and he loves those, too. Also, despite my love for good craft locally brewed beer, I’m remembering that there is little more refreshing that Bud Light Lime in the summer time, particularly following ANY type of physical labor. It’s lawn-mowing beer. I don’t care, I love it.
Coming up this week I’ve got some work on my June bucket list, getting back into Couch25K with the return of my phone, park time now that the heat has broken, and cheering Laurel on at a race this weekend. Have a good week!
For a lot of people, anything after Memorial Day is summer time. Everyone starts talking about the beach and school finally being finished. Those people don’t live in Massachusetts, where snow days pile up and the last day of school is somewhere in the June 27th range. For all my teacher loves who aren’t on leave, I feel you. I need to come and bestow spray bottles, freeze pops, and iced coffees upon your hardworking heads. For my maternity-rocking self, this means I have one more month of childcare before I need to be ready with a solid summer routine. This is a wishlist of things I want to do while I can still send Milo to his air conditioned funworld across the street.
1. Finish the boys’ nursery.
All the big pieces of furniture are in place, but there are a few more things I want to do to cozy up their little space. I need to hang artwork and a shelf I painted, find some valences that are colorful, and I’d love to repaint the windowsills.
2. Set up a work space for myself.
I need a better place to organize my papers, hang a large calendar, and keep my laptop. I have some projects that I’d really like to buckle down on, and I have no idea if a dedicated work area would be helpful, but I’d like to try. This should be a one day project, tops.
3. Buy a domain name, build up the aesthetics of my new project, and generate some material.
I’ve been thinking really hard about a project that I want to roll out for the beginning of July. It’s something that I think I have the talent for, but I need to prove to myself that I have the drive and follow through. Setting up a work space and possibly work hours might help me towards achieve this. This is my greatest hope for the month of June.
4. Take Milo and Elliott to cool places before the school k ids take over.
There are a few museums and play places I want to spend time in before the summer crowds ramp up. In the early weeks of June, I hope to keep Milo home at least once a week and head out on a little adventure.
5. Summer Routine!
I’m really excited about this summer. It’s the winding down of my long stretch as a stay-at-home mama, and my first experience being home with both boys completely full time. With Milo’s speech therapy work and Elliott getting old enough have tiny windows of focus, I’ve toyed with the idea of writing out plans for our day, highlighting the skills we need to practice. I’m always happier with a plan, but it seemed too insane to do just for my own little family, until I found this amazing article that gave me permission to run my home like a daycare this summer. There is always a piece of me that says “we deserve a day to kick back, watch TV, eat snacks, be chill,” and those plan-less days are the days where we are all crying and desperate by 3pm. So I’m going to have a planning template for days when Ben is at work, and we are going to rock this summer.
June also brings Father’s Day and our 6th wedding anniversary, and I’d like to organize myself to give some end-of-year gifts to the teachers who have supported our family this year. It’s going to be busy and wonderful and hopefully, super productive. Do you have any big plans for this summer? Tips for carving out a work space for yourself? Ideas that will occupy tiny babies during the hottest days? Happy June, lovelies.
It’s okay to go slow. It’s not a failure if you’re not going fast. Don’t use slow as an excuse to get frustrated, or quit. I’ve been chanting this to myself when I’m running (jogging…hobbling…) and when I’m tracking my weight watchers points and when I’m looking at our shabby front yard and a pile of outgrown baby clothes that need go in the correct containers in the basement. I get stuck, my thoughts are literally like mud, and I think “You’re awful. You can’t stay on top of chores, how could you possibly think you could run a road race, you’re home all day and you barely play with your kids, you’re never going to lose weight, if you don’t speed up, you’re not going to get out of this and your effort isn’t going to be worth anything.” It’s really yucky. And it’s a knee-jerk.
But it’s okay to go slow. It’s okay to go up and down and take a month to lose 5 pounds. It’s okay to get out of breath quickly, to wait for the walking intervals, and every day doesn’t need to be your best pace. It’s okay to throw away the decorative evergreen boughs in May, to let the newborn onesies sit in a basket in the hallway to the 5 month mark. Everything will get done. Trust me, it will.
I’m always on the hunt for more efficiency and productivity tips. I really do want to run fast, and lose weight, keep a clean house, and complete more projects. My head is absolutely bursting with the things I want to do. I want to write and paint and cook and document and print pictures and create content for the world to see. My ambition is so great that I get in my own way. I slow myself down, get angry at myself, beat myself up, and stop. I usually stop. But lately, I’ve been giving myself permission to go slow. I’ve been telling myself that it’s okay to go slow.
I wanted to run every other day and go Wii Fit and Yoga on the opposite days. That was my plan, and it never happened from day 1. A lot of times I didn’t get a run in while someone was watching the boys. Other times, I would goof off during naptime or one of the boys would get sick or I would just miss my chance to get a workout in. But I have been consistently doing SOMETHING a few days a week for over a month. I’ve been going to weight watchers since March, and my weight goes gently up and down. But it’s lower than it was when I started. And it will keep going down. I look at certain projects (pictures to be hung, clothes to be stored, papers to organize) and tell myself, “You won’t move away before you get to this stuff. It’ll happen.”
I hope you can be forgiving to yourself. Let yourself go slow. When you reach your goals, you won’t care if it happened in 3 months or 3 years. It’s okay to go slow.