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Friday
Apr152016

Shame

Last weekend we went to a retirement party for Mike's stepmom. We were invited via text by his dad, who relayed the message from his stepmom's son. Mike's dad remarried only a few years ago, so we have only met her (adult) children once - at the wedding. But they were getting everyone together to celebrate her retirement, and we were happy to participate.

We showed up at the (casual) restaurant, walked into the room where our large party was seated, and realized we were the only ones who brought our children.

I was instantly mortified. Not just oopsies! that's embarrassing. Mortified.

We are not the couple who assumes that our kids are invited everywhere, but it never crossed our minds that maybe this was adults only. Mike's stepmom is Super Grandma, she lives for her grandchildren, and she has talked forever about getting all the kids and grandkids together. I guess subconsciously we assumed Super Grandma's party would involve children.

So dumb. I still feel so dumb. 

I spent the entire dinner talking to Mike behind a menu, trying to figure out how to get the hell out of there without drawing more attention to ourselves. I was so uncomfortable that I just wanted to escape. Now it should be said that everyone was overwhelming nice about it. Nobody even blinked an eye, and instead actually swooned over our adorable children. They weren't even overly nice to the point of overcompensating. It was mostly a non-issue to them. But I wanted to shrivel up and die.

Mo and Drum were angelic. Drum sat quietly the whole time, let others hold him, and played in his car seat while we ate. Mo colored, charmed everyone, and ate a mountain of rice. I took her for a walk around the restaurant, and I took Drum to a quiet corner when he needed to eat. We had to shush Mo a thousand times because she has one volume - bullhorn - but they were the epitome of well-behaved children.

So why was I so mortified to have them there? Why did I bolt the first second I possibly could? Why did I lay in bed that night wishing I could go back in time and ASK if kids were welcome?

I think it's two things. First: I hate screwing up. I'm by no means perfect - I'm completely OK with my daughter eating food off the floor that may have been there since last week, and I have no shame that my kids only get bathed once a week (if that). I know enough to let a lot of things go and to not sweat the small stuff. But I don't like making huge, public, social faux pas. I mean, who does? But a lot of people can shrug it off. Some people do it so often it's like a lifestyle. But I don't. My family loves to tell and retell embarrassing stories about themselves. Everyone goes around the room, tells their stories, and we laugh our heads off. Then it comes to me and we laugh at the fact that I have no embarrassing stories. And I don't. I go to great lengths to not embarrass myself. I hate that I do it, that I care, but it's how I'm wired. 

Second: It hit me while laying in bed that night that part of the reason I was so upset is that I was ashamed of my kids. Not exactly of them, but of the fact that they were there. These innocent, beautiful, carefree angels whom we dragged to a party for their grandma, whom were on their very best behavior, whom had no idea they were not invited. I wanted to hide them away, I wanted to get them (and me) out of there. And I was ashamed at feeling that way, and angry at any situation that would make me feel that way about my babies. That night I got out of bed and went to each of their rooms to stare at their sleeping cherubic faces, tousle their hair, stroke their cheeks, kiss their heads. I hope I never feel that way again.

Has anyone else committed the faux pas of bringing your kids to a non-kid-friendly event? Were you as mortified as me?

Tuesday
Apr052016

Monthly Drum Photo - Five

We have gone through quite a transformation this past month. I guess not we - Drum has - but it sure feels like we all have. Life is so much different than it was a month or two ago, and definitely easier than those first three months were. Drum is so much happier, so much more alert and participatory. We really enjoy our time as a family now instead of feeling stressed. OK there's still some stress. Plenty, in fact. But that's life with two kids.

5 months

I love that his onesie is all wet - it's so real life because he spits up all the time now!

Sleeping has been one of the biggest transformations. In the last month, we have gone from doing all naps in our arms to most naps in the crib. We have gone from nights swaddled in the cosleeper next to our bed to nights in a sleep sack in the crib (with a few weeks of naps and nights in a fancy Baby Merlin's Magic Sleep Suit). We went from waking up 2-3 times a night to eat to waking up just once. Usually. Last night he woke up 3 times, but then had a huge blowout so I think he had an upset tummy. I actually miss him sleeping in my arms, like I knew he would, but it has freed us up to be more productive and to spend more quality time with Mo. I hope he's not completely done napping on me though. I'm not ready to be DONE done yet!

Drum sleep suit

He has also figured out to move a little more. He really wants to sit up, and he's not quite there yet, but he can roll onto his tummy. He's rolled to his back a few times, but mostly he gets stuck on his belly and squawks until we rescue him. He'll get it soon. He also loves to bounce in his jumperoo or sit in his bumbo. He loves to watch Mo jump around the furniture and general be a maniac. I know he'll love joining her someday!

Drum jumperoo

He is also so smiley and happy. Daycare has commented several times about how much he smiles and how generally happy he is. It's a relief for everyone that his gas issues seem to be mostly resolved! However, he's still stingy with the laughter. He laughs more than he used to, but it still feels like an accomplishment when he cracks up at something I do. He loves his feet dearly and eats them all day long, and he's super drooly.

We finally got outside a little bit. Spring is refusing to commit - it snowed the first few days of April! But we've had glimpses of sun and we got to get the kids some fresh air. Drum has yet to feel the grass in his toes, but at least he got to see the sun. 

IMG_8624

My little Easter Bunny.

He's a big boy too. His stats are not official, but he's about 3 pounds heavier and an inch and a half bigger than Mo was at 5 months. He's almost outgrown his infant carrier, but we're not ready to move him to a convertible car seat yet. Until he gains a little more strength and can maybe sit up on his own, we like having the option to leave him in his car seat when we go places (ie: the grocery store). He's also in 9 month clothes and already starting to outgrow his sleepers!

5 months Mo & Drum

The other night after I laid him down, I paused and stared at him. I do this often, but this time it hit me hard how lucky I am to have him. How perfectly it all turned out. I really love having a son. He's still a baby and I don't think there's much difference in having a girl or boy at this age, but I love that this baby I was so sure was a girl turned out to be a boy. I would have loved two girls, obviously, but it feels so perfectly right to have a Mo and Drum. I'm so thankful for them!

Mo and Drum 2016 basket bumbo

Friday
Mar252016

Kin keeping: this is a thing!

I've always had a hard time articulating what I contribute to our household. Outside of child rearing, which is easier to quantify, I do a lot that never had a name. Mike and I split the housework, though he admittedly does more. I declutter and pick up, but he cleans - scrubs the toilets, mops the floors, etc. Our house would be tidy but filthy without him! He also does almost all of the yardwork. On paper, it looks really uneven. What the hell does Shannon do if Mike is cleaning and raking and changing light bulbs? I never knew how to articulate my contributions other than to say "everything else."

But recently my sister discovered a name for it: Kin Keeping.

The thing about kin keeping is that it flies under the radar. The tasks that make it up feel and sound simple and insignificant, yet it takes a great deal of effort. These are things that would likely not occur to Mike to take care of, and he would probably be just fine if most of them went undone, but in the end he and our whole family benefits from the efforts. As the article I linked to states, kin keeping is about "keeping families connected and emotionally supported." The tasks are "such an expected part of family life that they almost always go unnoticed and unacknowledged. (Unless, of course, you don’tdo them, in which case you’re likely to draw some negative attention and head shaking.)"

So what are these things that I do quietly? For instance, I...

keep track of family birthdays, anniversaries, and other milestones.

arrange a family photo, design a holiday card, and send them out each year.

take 95% of the photos.

organize all of our photos digitally and put together a few photo albums.

make a family yearbook every year.

keep baby books up to date, along with keeping a journal for each kid of milestones and other fun things.

do all the gift shopping for birthdays, holidays, weddings, etc.

keep our address book up to date.

keep in touch with relatives.

plan birthday parties. 

primarily plan and execute family vacations.

do valentines and other such things for the kids' daycare.

schedule all the kids' doctor visits. 

keep track of our social calendar.

maintain our physical and digital calendars.

do all the research about daycare options, school options, etc. and lead the way in making these decisions.

Not only am I the kin keeper in my small family unit, but I tend to be a kin keeper, in many ways, for my extended family, as well. I'd say my siblings often rely on me to initiate family get together, arrange joint gifts for our parents, take and make available photos from family events, among other things.

And here's the thing. I mostly enjoy these tasks and I'm good at them. If it didn't come naturally to me, I wouldn't do all of it because I'm "supposed" to. My point is not to suggest I contribute more than Mike, but rather that all the things I do to counterbalance his more obvious contributions are less visible. And that they actually have a name! Also,I should mention that Mike acknowledges and appreciates these things. I'm not sure that all partners of a kin keeper do, but fortunately my husband places value on these types of tasks even if he would probably not care to do many of them himself! 

So who does the kin keeping in your home/family/relationship?

Monday
Mar072016

Monthly Drum Photo - Four

Drum has turned a bit of a corner in the last month. We're starting to see glimmers of who he is and who he will be instead of just seeing a helpless, fussy baby. We've still been dealing with some minor gas issues, and he got sick for awhile, and he went through a sleep regression, but overall he's been happier, sweeter and more interactive.

4 month

Drum's smiles are big and bountiful, but his laughs are hard won. I think he's still figuring out how to do it, and when it happens, it's wonderful. He has been grabbing things like crazy - if anything comes near his hands, he can't help but grab on and usually pull it to his mouth. He loves to sit up. It's a bit frustrating for him because he can't actually hold himself up, but he hates to be reclined. Even in his car seat, he spends the whole time struggling against gravity and a 5-point harness to sit up. He also likes to stand with our help. 

happy Drum

He's been exploring textures lately, scratching his hands on anything around him. One day he spent 15 minutes playing with the tortilla chip bag I was trying to eat from! We finally got to get him outside for more than a walk to or from the car. The weather has been volleying between spring and winter, and when it got warm a couple times, we took the kids for walks outside. November babies are tough, they're born right at the beginning of winter, so Drum has spent his entire life stuck inside. I can't wait for him to breathe fresh air, to feel grass under his feet, to feel sun on his skin!

Family walk instagram

Drum has been doing better at daycare. He still doesn't eat as much as he does at home, and he takes short naps. But he's eating and napping, so that's something. The big difference is that he's not super fussy all day. And the other kids love him. They line up to hold him when he arrives in the morning.

Mo has been taking quite an interest in him lately. As I predicted, when he started to notice her and smile and laugh at her antics, she ate it up. She loves to give him hugs and kisses, to bring him toys, to play on his activity mat with him. She is proud to be his sister, and he is starting to be very entertained by her. I'm excited to wait their relationship grow. Mo calls him Bro, Brother, Baby Bro, Baby Brother. Only sometimes by his actual name. And as a result, we all call him Bro. Even when not referring to him in relation to Mo, we find ourselves calling him Bro like it's his name. 

Mo and Drum 2016 instagram

We recently moved him out of the rock n play at night, mostly because he was getting to big for it, but also as a way to start a transition to his crib. I don't really want to move him out of our room until he is sleeping 10-12 hours, but it was time to get him out of the rock n play. First we put him in a snuggle nest inside the cosleeper and inclined the mattress a bit. Then we moved it down flat, and finally removed the next. He's now sleeping flat in the cosleeper. Most nights we try to put him down in his crib first, and he sleeps there 1-3 hours before he wants to eat, and then we move him to the cosleeper. We were still swaddling him until a couple nights ago, but he kept getting his arms out and waking himself up, so we're now trying a Baby Merlin's Magic Sleepsuit. So far it has been good.

Here's the thing about his sleep patterns. He's a completely normal baby when it comes to sleep, and in fact, he does pretty good. He was sleeping 4-6 hour stretches early on, and for a long time I was only getting up once a night. He's been going through a sleep regression and waking up closer to every 3 hours, but still, tolerable. But we were so spoiled with Mo that we're still find it frustrating! Mo was tough for about 10 weeks, then we focused on getting her on a daytime schedule and bam, she started sleeping 10-12 hours a night consistently. And she's been amazing ever since. We tried the schedule thing with Drum and he didn't respond in the same way, and now we're at a loss. And we don't need to sleep train him because he's really quite normal, but we can't help but hope something will click soon because we'd really love more than 2-3 hours of sleep at a time.

Drum tummy time

And finally, an update on his health. At the beginning of the month, Drum had some major digestion issues still. He was gassy and grumpy and he was only pooping once a week. I finally took him in because life for a baby really shouldn't be that miserable, but they assured me everything was fine. Not what I was hoping to hear. I decided to cut down on dairy, and it did seem to make a difference. But I've been eating dairy again and he still seems fine, so I think his system is just maturing finally. And then he got sick. He had a really bad cough and vomited a few times. We kept him home for three days, which happened to coincide with when I got a terrible stomach bug, Mike got a horrible cold, and Mo puked. It was not a great week.

To end this on a happy note, Drum is wonderful. And beautiful!

beautiful drum eyes nose mouth instagram

Sunday
Feb212016

Having it all: I think I'm doing it wrong

I have much respect for stay at home moms. Truly, it is not something I'm programmed to do well. Even if I had the option to not work, I think I still would in some capacity because I'm not good at caring for and entertaining kids all day every day. When I was home with Drum on maternity leave, it was hard! It was exhausting and even soul sucking some days. I felt inadequate for the job, and I hardly ever found the energy to even get out of yoga pants. I started to think that going back to work would actually make life easier because at least I'm good at my job! But I had forgotten just how hard it is to be a working mom.

Now don't misunderstand me. Being a stay at home parent is a full-time job. It's meaningful, it's fulfilling, it's a great job for anyone who chooses it, and damn is it hard. But here's the thing. I think being a working mom is harder. At least for me. Apparently there are people who work and parent and do both stunningly well while also balancing everything else life requires with aplomb. That is not me.

And no, I'm not quitting my job to stay home with my kids. But I am really struggling with how to have it all. There have been a lot of articles floating around facebook lately about how having it all is not really a thing, and they couldn't be more timely for me. One piece I read (and now cannot locate) said that the feminist movement didn't intend for women to do everything without proper policies, legislation, and supports in place to allow them to do so sanely. Women wanted choices, but I don't think most women wanted to do all the things they weren't able to do while still doing all the things they already did.

The opportunity to take 12 weeks off was helpful, but it was not enough time, it was mostly unpaid, I came back to work with zero PTO, and many women don't even get those luxuries. Being lawfully able to take time to pump during the work day helps, but with no change in my workload, finding time to pump just means working harder and longer to get everything done. Daycare is a positive things for my kids, but it basically breaks the bank every single month, yet we don't make enough for one of us to stay home, save on daycare, and still pay all our other expenses. So while it's wonderful that women now have a legitimate place in the workforce, it's not great that having a family is not actually very compatible with having a job. For men or women.

Here's why I think being a working mom is harder than being a full-time mom (for me, not necessarily for everyone): 

1. I give so much of myself during the day at work, and then I have to pull from the reserves to give my kids what they deserve when I get home. My job involves an interesting combination of program management, people management, and counseling. I spend a lot of time caring about other people's problems and it's exhausting. Sometimes all I want to do is veg out in front of the TV or take a nap, but here come my kids and I haven't seen them all day and I want to squeeze every ounce of quality out of the time we have before bedtime. There is not enough of me to go around. After being an employee and a mother, there is nothing left to be a wife, a sister, a daughter, a friend.

2. Relatedly, I have no time or energy for a social life. You may have heard the adage "Family, Friends, Career: Choose Two." I've chosen family and career, and I can count my friends on one hand. I've often considered getting off Facebook, but that is the only way I stay connected with people I once hung out with. It's one of few social interactions I have, so as much as I hate it sometimes, I'm still there. The truth is, I don't even want to be social. I'm stretched so thing that it usually doesn't sound appealing. I have a dear friend who stays home with her kids (and she works damn hard at it, trust me), and occasionally she's able to sneak out in the evening to get a break. I used to consider joining her, but then I realized that I'm so spent by the evening that I can't wait to watch 30 minutes of mindless TV and fall into bed. Said friend and I do hang out with our families now and then, which helps. It's easier to be friends with people when you can combine friends and family time.

3. Working all day and spending quality time with the kids all evening doesn't leave much time for everything else. Because even after all that, there is still a lot of "life" to do. Bills to pay, calls to make, doctor's appointments to schedule and attend, houses (OK house) to clean, clothes to launder, oil changes to get, leaves to rake, groceries to buy, leaky faucets to fix. You get the idea. I don't think that those who don't work have all the time in the world to do these things. I mean, who can fix a leaky faucet when your children are asking for snacks all day and then crying because they suddenly hate the grapes they asked for? But even though it was close to impossible to get anything done when I was home with Drum, I did have the ability to squeeze something in when a free moment appeared during the day. Free moments at work are hard to come by, so all those little things that keep a household functioning have to compete with my job and my kids and my sleep. 

Now, despite all that I've said, I plan to continue to be a working mother. Frankly I have no choice right now, but also, I do get something out of working that I wouldn't get if I didn't work. (I'm not talking about money, but that, too.) The point is not that I wish I didn't have to work. The point is that I wish there were supports in place that would make it a little easier to simultaneously have a career and be a mother and be a functioning human being. 

Working mothers (or fathers): what say you? I can't be the only one feeling this way.