Hard Day (With Gratuitous Zoe Pictures)

For all of my gushing about motherhood so far, there are still hard days.

Today was one of them.

Last night, Zoe decided that sleep was a stupid, outdated tradition that she would no longer participate in.  David is out of town again so I was the only one available to soothe her, getting about 4.5 hours of sleep in the process.

Now: let me just say that when she was 2 weeks old, 4.5 hours of sleep was a GREAT night of sleep…but she’s been sleeping better for a few weeks and I guess I got spoiled.  Moral of the story: NEVER LEAVE THE FOXHOLE UNTIL THE WAR IS OVER.

Anyway, around 5:50 am I gave up my deluded quest for sleep and decided to just wake up with her.  I was nearing the end of my large cup of coffee when she decided to go to sleep.  She slept for the next 2 hours; meanwhile, I sat at the table in a daze, too tired to think but too caffeinated to sleep. Womp womp.

We took a nice walk with a friend, which boosted my spirits.  But by noon, I was dehydrated, unshowered (oops,) and EXHAUSTED.  I was even contemplating a nap (and that’s serious for me…I’ve taken 5 in the last year.)

Zoe, on the other hand, was ready to party.

Motherhood: it’s not about you.  AT ALL.

So we partied! I lay on the floor with her, sang songs to her, praised her when she batted at her buddies on her playmat (she gets SUCH joy from this–it’s precious…) and made all of her stuffed animals talk to her and kiss her.

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Then I did a dramatic reinterpretation of the Creation story (basically, I just walk around the house with Zoe opening all the blinds and saying “Let there be light!!!” in a booming voice, followed by my best “magical” sound effect) and took her outside to look at the flowers and trees.  We discussed this week’s episode of “The Bachelor” (Sean’s tears—real? thoughts? Zoe wasn’t convinced) and her monkey puppet told her about his quest for the missing banana.  We did tummy time.  We listened to our daily dose of Latin music (it’s good for brain development, plus I want a Zumba partner.  David came once and has refused to ever step foot into a Zumba class again, saying something about how I “tricked him.”  I told him that my hips don’t lie, but he just sighed.)  

This was a lot of partying for this exhausted mama.  Then I looked at the clock (FATAL FLAW) and realized that there were still hours until dinner time and another night alone with her.

I took deep breaths and reassured myself that PLAYING with my infant daughter was totally doable.  I mean, it’s PLAYING.  I gave myself a “this is your job” pep talk.  Then Zoe started crying, Java started whining, and I realized that a glass of wine sounded really nice.  It was 3 pm.

After another hour of this, my head hurt, my body hurt, and I was about to start crying when my phone rang.

It was my Nana, just calling to see how I was doing.  I mustered up the strength to say “good” because my Nana is the strongest woman I know and I wanted to set her mind at ease.  She asked a lot of questions about Zoe, and as I talked with her I realized a few things:

  • Zoe is only 7 weeks old.  That’s little! She’s going through some changes right now and she has been fussy this week, but the bottom line is that she’s a thriving and healthy infant.  That’s an awesome blessing!
  • I need to give myself a break and let myself have an extra cup of coffee when I need it. Caffeine detox can happen when she’s NOT 7 weeks old.  Same thing with a non-dusty house.  Take it easy, girl.  One chore at a time.
  • I used to always be able to understand and predict Zoe’s needs.  She is growing and changing and I can’t always guess her need correctly right away anymore, but I can still soothe her once I figure it out.  That means we’re a good team!
  • The days that I end up wanting to cry are the days when I try to rely on myself all day.  I have resources and the Lord…I shouldn’t EVER be solely relying on myself!

So after some thought and prayer, the main insight I’m taking away from today is this: this is my little girl’s face when she sees me.

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If she could talk, I don’t think she would say “I know you TRIED today, but let’s be honest…you’re a hot mess and you were just phoning it in.”

I think she would say: “mom! you’re doing great! Keep going!”

And that’s what I’m going to choose to listen to 🙂 Tomorrow is another day!

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Getting Pruned

When I talk with other parents, I hear this comment over and over again: “becoming a parent made me realize how selfish I had been before kids.”

All I can think when they say that is this: becoming a parent makes me realize how selfish I AM.  As in present tense.

For example…

Becoming a mom has made me realize how overly focused I can be on MY priorities.  

I’m a huge list-maker.  Most of the time my to-do list isn’t even fun; I just get a sense of relief and achievement from checking things off.  Historically, when I haven’t been able to finish the tasks on my list because people or life get in the way, I’ve been grumpy and difficult.  Sure, I justified it by saying “now our house is in shambles” or “I just can’t relax until these things are done!” but the bottom line is, I didn’t get what I wanted, and it irked me.  Why did people have to get in the way of my priorities?   

Now that it’s Zoe, and the things she wants are, y’know, LOVE AND AFFECTION, I see my selfishness and realize: instead of being mad that someone else is “hijacking my time” with their needs, I could choose to MEET their needs, and I could choose to do it with joy.

If I did this even a little bit more in my marriage, in my work with high school students, in my dealings with store clerks and other drivers and people that I interact with on a daily basis…I think people would feel greater love from me, and I would definitely feel a greater love for them.

Becoming a mom has made me realize how wrapped up I am in “me” time.

Again, I have the arsenal of excuses—“I’m an introvert!” “I work hard!” “I deserve this!” “This recharges me!”

But the bottom line is, sometimes I don’t feel like dealing with other people’s needs.  I want to focus on myself.  But when I’m looking at my baby’s trusting eyes, I realize “there’s no way I can check my email right now” or “there’s no way I can stop playing with her right now to do something selfish, even though I’m bored/want to watch TV/want to do xyz.”

Zoe will only be seven weeks old for seven days.  She will only be learning these things this week.  She will only be smiling this way this week.  “Me time” isn’t bad, but there’s a time and a place for it, and it’s when she’s asleep or when David is home and wanting to engage with her (and he needs “me” time too!)

Becoming a mom has made me realize how important it is for me to focus my efforts on my marriage.  

The last year was a great year.  David and I were busy, and we knew it was for a season, but sometime along the way I think I subconsciously started taking advantage of David’s kindness and understanding.  I started making excuses about why work was a higher priority than him at the moment “just for this season” and I started allowing him to do way more than his fair share of housework “because I was working more hours.”  (Which was true, but wasn’t fair to him.)  I stopped doing some of the things that make him feel loved and cared for because of my stress level and busyness from work, but I never expected HIM to stop doing those things for ME.

Marriage needs to be a partnership.  And it’s fine for one person to pull more weight for a season, but it needs to be a season.

When Zoe arrived, I took an honest inventory of who was pulling the weight in our relationship and I realized that this season of David pulling the weight wasn’t going to end unless I made some drastic changes.  And so I decided to stay home with Zoe, in part for her and in part for my marriage.

Now that I’m here, I need to remember that I was a wife before I was a mother and that I can’t be a good mother without being an engaged, loving wife.  David and I set the example for Zoe and together we create our family culture.  That means I need to save energy for him.  I need to save patience for him.  I need to pull my weight with the late night wake-ups and the tired days and the “I’ll let you go out and hang out with your friends” time.  And I need to pull my weight with the romantic gestures and the making time for fun too…it’s equally important to anything I would do for Zoe.

In conclusion, I’m not chastising myself or putting this out there in hopes that you will argue with me and say “you’re not selfish!” It’s not up for discussion, really. It’s what God is showing me and how He’s pruning me, and I’m grateful for it.

“And you have forgotten that word of encouragement that addresses you as sons: ‘My son, do not make light of the Lord’s discipline, and do not lose heart when he rebukes you, because the Lord disciplines those he loves, and he punishes everyone he accepts as a son.’  Endure hardship as discipline; God is treating you as sons…

We have all had human fathers who disciplined us and we respected them for it. How much more should we submit to the Father of our spirits and live! Our fathers disciplined us for a little while as they thought best; but God disciplines us for our good, that we may share in his holiness. No discipline seems pleasant at the time, but painful. Later on, however, it produces a harvest of righteousness and peace for those who have been trained by it.”  –Hebrews 12:5-7, 9-11

My Week Alone

David’s been out of town all week.  I have to admit, I have been DREADING this week.  The thought of being home alone with a 6 week old for 6 days and 5 nights terrified me.  Heck, the thought of being home alone WITHOUT a 6 week old usually terrifies me!

But David needed to take this trip, and so I decided to try being a solo parent for the week.  He travels for a lot of the summer, and I needed to see if I could do this or if I needed to start booking family members to come help me during his travel weeks this summer.

The conclusion?

Week With Zoe

Two tired girls

It was one of the best weeks of my life.

I had a total blast with this little girl.

I’m tired, but Oh.  My.  Goodness.

I love her more every single day.

It was such a special gift to have this week.  For the first time since her birth it was really just the two of us for days at a time.  No visitors, no “off” time where her daddy takes care of her—just the two of us.

I feel like I know and appreciate Zoe in a new way now, and vice versa.

Every morning this week I would get her out of bed and sing her a song like “This Is The Day That the Lord Has Made” or make up a new song like “Good Morning Zoe” (L.A. Reid will come calling any day now.)  She would smile at me with eyes of happiness and trust, and my heart would just explode.

This special time together, and the bonding that happened during it, totally confirmed my decision to be a mostly stay-at-home mom.  Having this special relationship with my daughter is what I am meant to do at this point in my life, and I couldn’t feel more blessed.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m very excited for David to come home tonight.  We’re going on a date, actually, so I’m doubly excited! But I’m not like “OHMYGOSHIT’SABOUTTIME,” and that’s pretty cool.

I thought this week would be about “surviving” and instead I got great gifts: a better relationship with my daughter.  Improved confidence in my ability to take care of her.  Confirmation in my decision to stay home with her.  The chance to “pause” in the midst of raising an infant and critically examine how we’ve been doing things (there are a few small changes I want to make after this week, and I’m so grateful for that perspective.)  And numerous soy lattes without guilt (the best present? I jest, I jest.)

How was your week? 

Three Things I Never Thought I’d Do

This post doesn’t need much of an intro: motherhood changes a lot.  Here are three things I never, EVER saw coming in my life.

1.  I never thought I’d purposefully sing horribly to my child.

I have a decent singing voice.  I grew up singing in show choir and concert choir and church.  When I pictured motherhood, I always imagined myself sitting in a rocking chair and singing to my baby while I fed him/her.  Our bond would be unbreakable, my music beautiful.

In reality, my voice puts Zoe to sleep immediately.

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SOOOO during our feedings, I have to sing to her like Gloria from “Modern Family” to keep her awake.  Here’s a snapshot:

Avoid our house at mealtimes unless you have ear plugs and an internal well of patience.  If you’re tone deaf, on the other hand, feel free to stop by.

2.  I never thought I’d drive with my newborn on the Interstate.

The Interstate is my personal nightmare. On occasion, I will very begrudgingly hop on, but the entire time I pray GODPLEASHELPMENOTGETHITBYTHESEIDIOTSOHGODPLEASE, maniacally sing songs trying to ignore my fear, and take deep breaths to try to stop my hyperventilating and sweating.  It’s a roller coaster ride for me, one I thought I’d avoid with my children.  Because generally, adults should seem calm and in control around kids, right?

But last week, I piled the tiny love of my life in the back of the car for an Interstate drive.  To pick up breast milk.

Yup.  You read that correctly.  We are supplementing Zoe’s formula-based diet with donated breast milk from two healthy friends.  One of them had her baby 9 days ago and messaged me when she got home from the hospital last week: I have about 10 ounces of rich yellow transitional milk. If you want it, it’s yours.

Of course I wanted this precious milk.  The only problem: our friend lives about 45 minutes away by Interstate, an hour plus by alternate routes…and Zoe eats every 3 hours.  If we wanted the milk…I had to face my fears.

So my baby and I set out on a terrifying Interstate adventure.  For breast milk.

Never thought I’d write that sentence.

It ended up going okay.  I sang Taylor Swift’s “I Knew You Were Trouble” over and over and over again, hoping Zoe couldn’t sense my nervousness as I defensively drove like our lives depended on it.  BECAUSE THEY DID.  (Florida drivers, would it kill you not to read the newspaper while driving 70 mph?!!)

3.  I never thought I’d become a stay at home mom.

I NEVER in a million years thought that I would claim this job title.  I loved my job and was thrilled to have the opportunities that I did there.  But having Zoe has changed so much for me.

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It’s you and me, kid.  Get used to it.

I could talk about this decision for hours (and I did.) But the main point is this: God led me to this decision.  

Staying at home was definitely not my starting point, definitely not in my plans, and definitely not something I really WANTED to consider, to be honest…so for me to even begin considering it was a miracle.  For me to feel peace and joy about it was truly God’s direction in my life, His gentle whispering of better plans than my own, His gentle question: will you surrender to me? 

The stubborn part of me would like to say I fought Him hard, but I didn’t. Instead, I followed his direction to think about the kind of mom I want to be.

I want to be present, non-stressed, joyful, and energetic—a mom who has time to answer all the “whys” and to play and to smile.  I want to be the one who teaches my child about God and how life works—because I don’t know if someone else will teach her what I want her to know. I want to be consistent for her, available to her—not just home for breakfast, dinner, bath, and bed.  I want to give Zoe rich experiences with her extended family—which is difficult to manage with two full-time jobs when none of our family lives within driving distance.

As I honestly surveyed my life, I knew that if I continued in my level of position, I would not have the energy or time I want to spend with Zoe or my family.  Many women can work full time and be great moms, but I care so much about my work that I end up sucking at managing my work-related stress and pressures and setting boundaries. David’s summer travel schedule and school schedule are not conducive to me working full time with a daughter.  Our family would have to sacrifice too much just so I could be “professionally fulfilled” and so that we could have a little more money.  Zoe deserves better.  David deserves better.  I deserve a better experience as a mother, and honestly, my heart yearns to be with her.

So last week, I resigned from my position.

Thankfully, my boss was open to me continuing with our organization in a very part time consulting role! So I will be working 5-8 hours/week, mostly from home, doing some public speaking/training, some program evaluation, and some grant writing.  This means I can obey the pounding in my heart, but still stay involved with the organization I love and keep my toe in the “professional water.”  I couldn’t be more pleased.

I was talking with a friend on Friday and she said she had been praying almost every day for six weeks for my heart to be open because she felt that I needed that prayer, whatever it meant.  I know what it meant, and I am just so thankful for the power of prayer, the loving act of people praying for me, and God’s quiet, gentle grace as He makes us into the people He wants us to be.

Motherhood has been full of fantastic surprises, and I’m excited for the next batch of surprises to come.

Blessings of 2012

In my last post, I said that I wanted to reflect on a few of the biggest blessings in my life in 2012.  Obviously, Zoe’s adoption was the biggest blessing of my year, but there were a few other quieter stories that I think will be fun to share.

1. The blessing of meaningful work.

I’ve been working for the same nonprofit for about 3 years.  I am very passionate about our mission, and I feel so blessed to get paid to do this work because I know that I am making a difference every day.  Still, I’m an “idea” person, and I kept seeing ways that we could do the work even better.

In January 2012, I was promoted to my dream job within our organization, which meant I finally got to put all the ideas swirling around in my head to good use! The last year has been an AMAZING year of professional growth for me.  I have learned a LOT about our focus area of social and emotional learning, managing people and organizational change, creating relationships and partnerships, program creation and evaluation, budgeting, and vision casting.  I’ve made great relationships and had some neat opportunities to travel, speak, and train others.  I am so grateful to God for the blessing of meaningful, energizing, pour-yourself-totally-into-it-and-love-it work.  It was exactly the challenge I needed for my 26th year of life.

2. The blessing of a crazy extravagant romantic getaway.

Since getting married, David and I have made it a priority to go on a “romantic getaway” every year.  We’ve been to St. Augustine, Savannah, and Amelia Island (I’d recommend any of them!)  We usually drive to our destination, stay at a budget B&B over a long weekend, make sandwiches for lunch, and eat nice dinners out.  It’s always really fun and special and we feel extravagant for 3-4 days.  Other than that, we’ve always always vacationed with our families, as I only have 2 weeks of vacation time and when it takes you a full day of flying and driving to get to your family, you don’t have time or money left over for a longer romantic getaway.

But this year.  Oh, this year!

First, I got a raise.  Then, my office closed for 10 days and my boss encouraged us all to “go have fun!”  David and I didn’t have to think twice—we knew this might be our last chance to take a vacation without kids.  We were going to fly somewhere, spend money, and have an adventure!

Enter California! We spent 10 glorious days wine tasting, hiking, biking, eating delicious food, and enjoying the beauty of California.  We didn’t know that we would have Zoe within months, but God did, and He blessed us with an unexpected opportunity to have extravagant FUN as a couple first.

3. The blessing of my sister.

When we found out that our baby would be joining us, oh, A YEAR earlier than planned, I kind of freaked out a little.  I knew I wanted to create a cozy, bright, gender-neutral space for our baby, but I am awful at decorating…and I only had a few weeks before the baby would be here!

Enter my fabulous sister.  Kelsey had recently resigned from her job and her husband had recently deployed.  Basically, she was bored and I was needy, so I asked her if she would like to “Trade Spaces” (except I wouldn’t do anything to her space…so probably there is a better show reference, but I don’t watch HGTV.)  Anyway, she said YES, convinced her husband of the dire need of this situation, and flew down for a week!

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IMG_0298I was kind of a wreck that week.  I don’t cope well with mess and disorganization, I had no artistic vision, and I was stressed to the max about my ability to get everything done before Zoe’s arrival.  Plus, I suck at crafts.  But Kelsey created “mood boards” for the room that guided all of our decision making, dealt with my stress and emotional outbursts, and stayed up til 1 am every night creating a lovely space for Zoe.

IMG_0007In 2012, I was SO blessed by my sister.  And every time that I walk into Zoe’s nursery, I think about how much I love you, Kels.  Thanks for blessing me!

IMG_0299Pausing for a picture in the middle of the creative process around 11 pm

4.  A broken toe.
I mentioned in another entry that I broke my toe during our second week with Zoe.  Though it was really painful, it’s actually been a blessing.  It has taken away any option of going to the gym (as tennis shoes HURT) so instead, I’ve been taking a walk with Zoe every day.  In the process, I’ve been able to bond with my baby, enjoy the Florida winter, stave off some “I’m in the house ALL THE TIME” crazies, and get in a great day-to-day rhythm with Zoe.  I’ve noticed that going outside improves both of our moods.  It’s been so fun to start each day wondering, “what pretty park should Zoe and I visit together today?”

So that’s it! A few of the biggest blessings of 2012.  What blessed YOU in the last year?