And then she was six

It seems like yesterday (and also a lifetime ago) that I was staring, awe-struck, at the little person who’d been growing in my belly for the better part of a year. The baby I’d waited my whole life to have. I can still feel the weight of her in my abdomen, and the comparative lightness of her in my arms. So very tiny, so very perfect in every way — as a c-section baby, she didn’t have that squished head, and she emerged with nary a red mark, a pimple, or blemish of any kind. She was a porcelain doll of an infant.

Until she got angry — and angry she was. I had expected this, given her in utero punches and kicks. But I could not have prepared for the reality.

But mostly she was content. She laughed when she was four days old. She returned my gaze with wonder of her own. She studied everything, and absorbed it all.

I remember all of this, and more. The smell of her hair. The feel of her impossibly tiny fingernails. The soft weight of her cheek pressed against my breast. All of this is as clear to me as my most recent breath.

My angel face is a growing girl now (grown, she insists). She dances, and draws, and sings. She rubs my shoulders when I am tense, and rocks her little brother when he skins his knee. She lives fiercely, with everything she has. She is a force of nature, and I have spent the past 6 years swept up in her wake.

I can’t wait to see where we go next.

Loving:

Fall is coming. It’s not here, but I see it off in the distance. I’m so ready.

Reading:

More Goosebumps. I feel like I should create a reading ritual with Kai, too, so his books aren’t left out.

Watching:

Not much this past week. I’ve been swept up in wedding planning and birthday prep, and taking on extra work besides.

Listening to:

More Kesha than I ever expected.

Working on:

This week, it’s anniversary party time. My parents have been married 48 years. Forty. Eight. Years. Doesn’t leave much time to plan a 50th bash. But in the meantime, I have cake to bake.

Anticipating:

September. Fair season. I love September. Part of me really wanted to get married in September. But as slow as I have been in putting everything together, I’m glad I opted for November.

Making me happy:

I can fit into my wedding dress again. I don’t have to go wedding dress shopping! Such a relief.

Sunrise smile

This week marks the beginning of the school year proper. Anya will be going all day every day from this week on. Last week went very well; I even managed to make her smile upon waking both days. Here’s hoping I can continue that into this week, and beyond.

Loving:

Kai is growing. His hair is growing faster. He is growing taller, heavier. His feet are noticeably bigger. As are his ears. And he says a new word almost every day. This morning’s word was “Yeah.” He’s had “no” down pat for a while now, but today when I asked him if he was cold and wanted me to grab him a shirt, he thought for a moment, then said “yeah.” Like he’s been saying it his whole life. I miss my baby, but oh, how I love to watch him grow.

Reading:

Goosebumps. Anya has fallen in love with the series (how could she not, considering her parents?), and I read her to sleep each night. They’re cheesy as hell, but she’s a bit young for Stephen King yet. She’s happy to turn the TV off now, and pouts when she thinks she might not get reading time.

Watching:

I am all caught up on Jane the Virgin now. Revisiting Gilmore Girls for a bit; it’s comfort food for my frazzled brain. And, as always, I seriously envy Lorelai’s wardrobe.

Listening to:

Reading Chillout. Mellow, but not sleepy.

Working on:

I’ve signed up for a course on novel writing from Coursera, in anticipation of NaNoWriMo. I’m going to use some of my former blogging time to take it, then to write…things might get a little quiet around here. I’ll try to at least keep up with the Monday updates.

Anticipating:

Birthday girl turns six this Saturday. Six loves rainbows, and unicorns, and cake, and fun, so the weekend will be full of all four. Friday, there will be fireworks (a make-up show from the 4th), and snack time cupcakes at school (rainbow, of course, baked by yours truly). Saturday we’ll be having a rainbow unicorn party, complete with a rainbow layer cake (also baked by yours truly). And we’re going to putt-putt. And if we still have energy after that, we’ll stop by Dixon Gardens for their family ‘do. It’s a whole lotta partying (not to mention cake) for one weekend, but it’s not every day one turns 6.

Making me happy:

My calves are sore. I’ve not been pushing the ab exercises because I’ve had a lot of back/scar pain lately, but I’ve been sticking with my routine: 30 jackknives, 2-minute plank, 10 minutes of jogging. My abs get a little sore immediately after the jackknives, but otherwise are fine. However, my calves are sore. They feel more solid, too. Took me 40 years, but I’m starting to build some calf muscles.

The comforting aspects of change

My meditation practice, my dreams, and my thoughts seem to be returning to a similar theme these days: How everything changes. It’s gotten so I can’t even appreciate a good wallow, so soon do I return to hope. I’ve never been a hopeful person, so this is an odd mindset for me.  But the flip side to this realization is that the good stuff will also soon pass. Which is why I am no longer kicking myself for lingering in bed snuggling my babies on weekends. How many more weekends will I have like that? Not nearly enough. And honestly, nothing I’d get up early to do is more important than baby cuddles.

Loving:

My dreams have been quite informative lately.  Oh, there’s the usual detritus in there — fears and anxieties and triggers, random people I’ve not thought about in years making cameo appearances, and oddly specific details (the main setting of my dream last night was a three-story room wallpapered in a lavender-cream velour). But they’ve also taught me much about myself, sorted out conundrums effortlessly — while I slept, even! — and even given me a few pointers as to what I should be working on next. After so many years of restless and interrupted sleep, it’s nice to reach the point where I can not only dream, but that those dreams can be useful. Just imagine what I could do if I got enough sleep to feel rested.

Reading:

This post about apparently insane employers. Look, I work hard — some days, 18 hours. I am dedicated, and smart, and want to do a good job. But my personal time is off limits. If there is even the possibility that you’ll be asking me to drop everything during a family vacation and come to work, our relationship isn’t going any further than the interview. While I derive more from working than just a paycheck, my job will never be more important than my family. And quite frankly, I think that’s exactly how it should be.

Watching:

A little more Jane the Virgin. I’m sad about Michael, but she’s writing more now — that’s always a good thing.

Listening to:

I never listen to podcasts or watch online videos. I can read faster than you can talk, and skimming to the part I am interested in is far, far easier in print, so I don’t get the whole multimedia thing. I see how videos benefit my kids, who can’t read, so perhaps my experience is tied to the fact that I am such a hyperreader. But I did come across a podcast I wanted to listen to: Gretchen Rubin’s episode about dealing with a Rebel preschooler. (Gretchen talks about the Four Tendencies of people. It’s fascinating stuff, if you’re unfamiliar with the concept. I vacillate between being an Upholder and an Obliger.) And I derived some great tips I can’t wait to try out on Anya. (Kai is, to my guess, either an Upholder or an Obliger, like his mother. I know how to deal with him. Anya is without question a Rebel, to my pride/dismay. I’ll take all the help I can get with her.) But my god, is iTunes annoying. It took me half an hour just to set up the app and my account so I could listen to the podcast. I swore off all things Apple years ago, partly because I associate Apple products with an ex I’d just as soon never think about again. But as this podcast reminded me, he’s not the only reason — or even the main reason — I hate all things Apple.

(I’ll update later on about whether the tips helped me deal with Anya.)

Working on:

While I do enjoy rambling here, collecting my thoughts and waxing philosophical, it occurs to me that this exercise is another way to spin my wheels. In the near future (meaning whenever I figure out what my workload is going to be like for the coming weeks), I’m going to dial back the blogging and dedicate some of this writing time to work on my book(s).

Anticipating:

Fall. I suddenly find myself planning cooking and baking projects. More than back-to-school (which is still too new to us to be a trigger), this tells me fall is coming. Perhaps it’s the new August angst, this urge to bake. Maybe I’m responding to some subtle shift in the sun’s rays. Either way, I’m ready to roll up my sleeves and break out my Kitchenaid.

Making me happy:

Anyaisms of this week:

“Why you got such a cute face? You make me want to nuggle you, you so cute.” (Yes, that was directed at me.)

“When you die, I’ll remember you. Unless I die first. Then I wait for you, and we remember together.”

“When I grumpy, I need extra smiles.”

August (and everything after)

I find it hard to believe I’ve never used this blog post title before. The album was the soundtrack of a highly pivotal time in my life. But a blog search says no, so I’m using it.

Ahem.

August has historically been a time of reflection (oh, okay, and angst) for me. In August, I look hard at my life and identify lacks and gaps. I reminisce about the past, and think about people I used to know. I wallow.

Parenthood nipped that in the bud. Anya was born in August, so it’s really hard to get my nostalgia on when I spend pretty much the whole month celebrating the birth of my firstborn. Now she’s in school, so I have even less free time than ever. And this year in particular I have a lot of plates in the air.

It should prove to be an eventful few weeks.

Loving:

Anya’s summer art class is wrapping up; she will have her first art show this week. Next week, she’ll start her fall class. I also signed her up for Girl Scouts, though I don’t know yet when that starts. She starts kindergarten next week.

I’m only beginning to grasp how my life will change this year. Last year was just practice; this is the real thing, schoolwise. Kidwise. She’s not my baby anymore. I look at her and see what she will look like at 10, 15, 20. It’s wonderful. And heartbreaking. I can’t wait to go through all the milestones with her. I wish I could reverse time and inhale her baby scent just one more time.

Reading:

Not much reading this week. Unless you count WebMD. I discovered that my gyno now takes my insurance, so I made an appointment for my annual — this self-diagnosis stuff is for the birds. If the pain I’ve been having is just the result of crazy periods (72 days since my last cycle and counting), I’d like them to please give me the magic pill to start me so I can go on with my life.

If it’s not period related, I’m not sure what the problem is. There are several options. They’re all ugly. I’m tired of guessing; time to ask the experts.

I also have an eye appointment to get old people reading glasses; I might read more if I could see better.

Watching:

Still trying to get caught up on Jane the Virgin. But I only get to watch on weekends right now, and I usually fall asleep after one episode. So it’s slow going.

Listening to:

I set up a family account on Spotify, so I can de-pop my recommendations. But we still listen to mostly Kidz Bop in the car, so my Spotify is confused. I wish there were a “I put this on for my kids” toggle switch.

Working on:

This month’s fitness challenge, started yesterday because I start things best on Sunday, is The Abs of August. Given the whole back pain thing…we’ll see how that goes.

Anticipating:

I’m going to be starting a new workload in the next couple of weeks, as I will cease to be a fill-in editor and start editing my own newsletters, so my work schedule may also change. I’m looking forward to new challenges.

And, of course, Herself’s 6th birthday is in the offing. You’ll be hearing more about that as it draws near.

Making me happy:

My landlord had my house repainted. This weekend, we washed all the cars, and I hosed off the porch and put the toys away. I still need to work on the flower garden out front, but it’s looking so much better out there. Now to tackle the back of the house.

Ghosts of clothing past

Anya came into the kitchen wearing one of my favorite necklaces from my dress-up, office-working days.

“Why you have this necklace?” she asked

“I bought it to go with a suit I used to have. It was exactly this shade of blue.”

“But it too little for you now?”

No…actually, that suit would probably fit me perfectly now. It was huge on me when I bought it. “No. I just got rid of it. It was old. And my life doesn’t call much for suits these days.”

And that’s a good thing. But I do miss wearing pretty clothes. We took advantage of tax-free weekend to pick up some cute school clothes for Anya, but money’s too tight for me to feel good about buying clothes for me right now. Once Kai is older and less gooey (see this whole post), I shall make a point of acquiring more attractive clothing.

Loving:

Kai is a whirlwind of emotional expression these days. Which means I have to watch that I don’t get bitten when he’s angry, and must intervene with his sister when he starts pounding on her. (Didn’t see that coming. He was such a serene baby.) But it also means that I hear “I you” (which means “I love you” in Kai) much more frequently, and often without provocation. I also get loads of squeezy baby hugs, which are my absolute favorite kind of hugs.

Reading:

Last week’s favorite blog post award goes to this piece. Opened it for the clickbaity headline; stayed because the content surprised me. (And, if I am to be 100% honest, because the writing confused me at first. I had to read it a few times before I figured out what the author was driving at.) Makes a good point, despite the confusing style — a very timely point for me, at any rate.

I also enjoyed this post for the vivid throat-clearing image.

I can’t say I enjoyed this one, but I feel compelled to share it anyway. Perhaps because I am now middle aged, or because my parents are aging and unwell, or because I have small children and am thus inclined to take a big-picture view of the human experience, lately I’ve been thinking a lot about death. Not wishing for it; just ruminating on the topic. What it means to die. What it means to live. That sort of thing. Anyway, this Quora answer is beautifully written.

Watching:

I’m trying to work in eps from last season that I missed because…well, because I don’t have cable, or even basic TV (and there are limits to what I can watch online.) But it’s been a busy week, so I haven’t gotten many shows in. Which is fine; I’d rather do stuff than watch stuff. I did catch the first few eps of last season’s Baby Daddy. Boy, that show is dumb. Makes it great to sleep to. I also got back into Jane the Virgin, and stayed up waaaaaaaaay too late as a result.

Listening to:

A lotta lotta Kidz Bop. I am amused by how very much Anya likes the songs from Thriller. I was just about her age when that album came out, and loved every second of it. All these years later, the tunes hold up. I’d always thought that calling him the King of Pop was hyperbole, but apparently not — how many albums can you point to that bridge generations like that?

Working on:

My mornings. Specifically, my morning meditation practice, my morning tidying routine, and breakfast. I feel like I’d have a much better handle on my day if I could refine those three things. If I meditate first thing in the morning (uninterrupted, as I was not this morning), I start and stay more calm throughout the day. If I begin the day with an empty sink and a made bed, I feel less stressed about the house in general. It’s just a matter of doing those things.

Breakfast is another matter entirely. I’ve found, through trial and error, that eating sweets makes me eat more, more junk, and more often. So sweet daily breakfasts are out. I’ve been all about the Cheerios, but even then I’m hitting the pantry every couple of hours. (Especially now that I work at the kitchen table.) It’s not the frequency of my eating that’s the problem — it’s what I eat. Snackity snack snack. This past week, I’ve been experimenting with lunch as breakfast: eating my go-to quick office lunch (raw almonds and a glass of V-8) in place of my usual breakfast fare. The down side to this option is that I’m retaining way more water than usual. The up side is I’m less snacky. Once I’m through this bottle of V-8, I’ll try a low-sodium alternative. Ideally, I’d like to get back to my 2-3 meals per day plus a snack; it’s a lot easier to get a balanced diet that way.

In this vein, I am so pleased to finally have a workable food tracker again. Before Anya (so you might as well say “in my other life”), I used MyPyramid Tracker religiously. I liked how it would adapt my nutritional needs based on my physical activity and give me a personalized list of requirements. (Except when I was pregnant and in the early stages of breastfeeding, I’ve never been one to eat 2000 calories in a day.) When I tried to revisit the tracker after Kai was born, they’d changed it — not for the better, either. Well, I just checked back, and it’s closer to my beloved tracker. It even syncs with my FitBit! I’ve found that I’m better able to get a handle on things I want to improve if I track them religiously. (Except, oddly enough, my attempts to quit smoking.) So as I work on eating a healthier diet, I will be checking in with the SuperTracker daily.

Anticipating:

Anya’s birthday. Fireworks the day before (postponed from our rained-out 4th), a rainbow unicorn party, and a family putt-putt outing. Should be fun.

Making me happy:

My morning glories are growing! Now to get them into the ground.

 

Morning meditation

I’ve been working on my mornings. Instead of jumping right into email, I unload the dishwasher, drink tea, and meditate, then take a moment to update my goals and blog before starting work. I think of it as adjusting my oxygen mask: taking care of my stuff before dealing with everyone else’s. The practice is altering the face of my day; I’m less reactive, more thoughtful and deliberate. (At least until Unhappy Baby Hour — nap time — arrives.) I am also finding it easier to fit everything in this way; if I put everyone else first, my stuff never gets done.

Loving:

Kai has begun to pick up books, flip through them, and gibber. My little reader. We’ve missed Library Time these past couple of weeks; I’m hoping to make it in this week.

Reading:

I’m always looking for lists of things to do to live a better life. Most recently, I read this list. And it’s a great list. But I came away from it having learned nothing new. I know all that already, and am either doing it or not yet in a place where I can. I think I have a handle on the subject for now; all that’s left is the doing.

And I need to find a new topic to read about, I suppose. Move on to the next stage.

Watching:

I just discovered that this past season of Jane the Virgin is now on Netflix, so I sense a binge in my near future.

Listening to:

I have found that taking the earbuds out and playing the Spotify Focus lists so that everyone can hear them helps keep babies and mommies calm. (Most of the time.) Peaceful Guitar is our choice this week.

Working on:

The garden, still. Stupid raccoon broke my bird feeder. But my plants are growing like crazy in this humid July weather. Beans soon!

Anticipating:

It’s time to start thinking about Anya’s birthday. I already know what I’m getting her, but there’s still a party to plan. No Chuck E. Cheese this year, though. I’m still convinced that’s where last year’s Kid Plague started. I’ll just have to come up with some other fun activity for us.

Making me happy:

I am halfway through my jogging July, and have not missed a day. It’s getting easier, too, to jog for 10 minutes at a stretch. I think I’ll give it another month, then up the time to 15 minutes. I may yet become a jogger!

A Monday update!

It’s been a while. But I’m trying to get back into the MWF posting habit; bear with me while I blow the dust out of the cartridge here.

Loving:

I’ve been that mom lately; I have given Kai free rein with Anya’s tablet when he wakes in the morning, so I can work without interruption. The other day, I heard him talking back to the tablet. I found him watching a kids’ tutorial on colors and learning to say them aloud. Anya just watches unboxing videos and user-made music videos. Perhaps I ought to install Duolingo on there — maybe he’d learn a foreign language! (And then could teach me; I’ve been seriously slacking on my own lessons.)

Reading:

Nothing has come of it yet, but I am plotting.

Watching:

I finally got around to watching Room, and sobbed my little eyes out. It was great, though, as was the book. On an emotional level, I found it harder to deal with the movie, of course, as I did not have children when I read the book. And I scared the crap out of Kai, who awoke from a nap to me bawling and could not figure out what was upsetting Mommy. Despite all that, I highly recommend the movie. And the book.

Listening to:

I am loving the focus playlists on Spotify. Music for Concentration is another favorite.

Working on:

Jogging in July is going well. Ten minutes is enough to break a sweat, but not enough to make me feel like I’m dying. Once I get 10 minutes down, I’ll go for 15. Eventually I’ll go running outside. Maybe.

Anticipating:

I haven’t managed to get us to the splash park yet this year. Maybe this week.

Making me happy:

I started giving Anya an allowance to keep her room clean: $3 a week. And her room is cleaner, at least for now. She’s also gotten it in her head that I don’t want her to use the vacuum, so last night she vacuumed the whole house. I’m thinking I might forbid her to clean the tub next.