Thursday, May 9, 2013
A good friend once confided in me that she didn't understand how women lost themselves in motherhood and had to find themselves again. As a mother she never felt like she lost her self.
I wish I could agree. I want to agree. But I'm lost.
Since having a baby I've been coming to terms with motherhood in layers. I keep thinking I will come to the end of it, that I will finally feel settled, but I peel back one layer only to find another layer there to be dealt with.
Lately I've had to redefine my own job description. I've always been overambitious and perhaps (a wee bit?) over optimistic about what I could accomplish. As a mom, my expectations of myself are much too high, leaving me disappointed, frustrated, tired and overwhelmed.
So I've re-written my job description. Literally. On paper. And pinned it up where I can see it everyday as a reminder.
I've cut out extras. I've eliminated fripperies and ridiculous egocentric aspirations. My expectations of myself, and for better or worse, my world, has gotten much smaller. I need to take care of Will, take care of myself, be nice to my husband, cook dinner (usually), and keep the house (sorta) clean(ish). That's the most important stuff. Everything else? Optional.
It's hard for me to admit this to myself. It's hard to admit that's all I can handle in this time of my life, with one, count 'em, ONE kid. I'm embarrassed. Humbled. But it is what it is.
I've had to "surrender". My same friend sent me a book called Surrendering to Motherhood by Iris Krasnow. Only now am I seeing what that means for me - letting go of my preconceived notions of what I'd be able to do, what I'd be like, how I'd feel, letting go of control, letting go of my desires, letting go of my ego. It means flowing moment to moment, in a symbiotic relationship with a needy little creature (who I adore, sometimes it seems to the point of pain). It means giving up the best of me with no paycheck, no worldly reward. Worth it? Yes! But I would be lying if I didn't say that it can be hard.
It is not a forever thing, and I know that. Sometimes it makes me sad to know this will pass, the smile on his face when I go in to pick him up from the crib, the way he plays with my shirt when he nurses, the way he hugs my neck. No, it's not forever. But for now it's so all-encompassing, that yes, I'm lost in it.
I want to do more. I want to write. Again. I picked up my pen and started working on a re-write of my novel. It came to me in a flash what I needed to do. So I picked up my pen, but it was slow going and felt incredibly awkward. My words were like a gawky seventh grader trying to write their first short story. But it's a start.
Maybe it's too early to try to find myself again, to dig out of this fleshy cocoon of motherhood. We'll see...
Early Happy Mother's Day, mamas. To those of you who have managed to do more than a load of laundry and a nap today, I salute thee.
Monday, April 29, 2013
Have you ever been drifting along in life, and then realized your life had taken a turn, you were heading in a new direction? That's happened to me. Probably not a surprise with the entrance of a baby. But, this is not about the baby, at least not directly.
I hardly considered myself a hoarder, but I've been amazed at how much I've had that is so inessential. How did it get this way?
It's about how I looked up and found myself becoming increasingly drawn to minimalism, which led to an intrigue with zero waste, then a less toxic lifestyle, then green beauty, green smoothies and a bunch of floaty hippy dippy lady bloggers. Yeah, that's a mouthful, isn't it?
So I'm going to do several posts to catch you up on the odds and ends I've been intrigued by lately.
Let's start with minimalism... (As I write I'm going to shower you with some photos that are my minimalist inspiration).
Six months ago as I felt an increasing need for simplicity and minimalism in my life. I've always had a minimalist streak, but it seems to be growing and overtaking my magpie tendencies now.
As my life has become so busy and full of child-induced clutter, I've wanted to cut back to the bare minimum. Will's occupation seems to be taking things apart and out and scattering them around the house - everything from items in pantries, cabinets and drawers to the contents of the recycling bin and trashcan and the miscellany in my purse. I let him scatter to his heart's content, but quickly try to re-order again (after all, he needs something to scatter - if it's all scattered about, there is no fun mess to be made). He's also reaching more and more, and there are few places in the house high enough to hide things from his reach.
So do I want knick-knacks and vases and decorative items and pretty books all over the place? Uh, no. I also want less to clean, less to vacuum around, less to break, less to get stained or peed on. Just less.
I've become drawn to spare interiors, to broad, sunshiney, nearly empty expanses of room that, like a quiet calm person, or a cozy cat, are content to let things be, without feeling the need to fill every bit of floor space with furniture and every bit of wall space with ornamentation.
So, the last six months I've been quietly minimalizing away, taking a trip to donate something to charity at least once a week. It takes time to be ready to get rid of things, even if they are things you bought inexpensively at a thrift store. It takes time to let go. I've felt like an archaeologist, excavating, peeling back layers of myself, layer after layer, trying to finally reach the core. I still have layers to go.
I hardly considered myself a hoarder, but I've been amazed at how much I've had that is so inessential. How did it get this way?
Well for one thing, I shopped incessantly at thrift stores. Things were cheap and I liked the idea of fashion and self-expression, so I bought whatever I wanted. I've had that "cheap" mentality - that "I can't spend any money" mentality, so I would buy lots of little things or junky things for little money, instead of saving up for a few nice things. Plus it was a hobby. It was fun to find things that were so cool that I could brag that I found at a thrift store.
I have a history of loving vintage and Shabby Chic! And oh my goodness, well that can lend itself to quite a collection (ahem, hoard) if you're not careful. Even though my tastes have evolved, I still had quite a few things lingering - vintage globes and postcards and bits of lace and whatnot - because it was still hard to let go of something I once treasured, even if I've moved on.
I still get the itch to shop at thrift stores from time to time, and I'm not saying I never will again. I believe in secondhand shopping and the things you can find are amazing. But I don't want to get caught up in that mentality of always needing a hit, a buzz, of finding something new, a new score. I don't want to shop for entertainment (well, not too often).
I don't feel done getting rid of things. I'm still peeling back the layers. And please, don't even go look in my garage. I've made progress, but much work remains.
I've been looking for other ways to simplify also. I've also been digitizing. Our music is all digital now. My recipes are slowly going into an app (Whoohoo, Recipe Box!) And I'm trying to push the envelope (heh heh) to see how far I can go with being paperless. I'm even getting rid of my filing cabinet!
(originally from Domino mag)
I've redefined the interior and exterior design aesthetic I enjoy. I like space. I like emptiness. Room to breathe. Everything doesn't need decoration. Put down the wallpaper and spray paint and take a breath. It's hard though, because I still love style and stylists like Emily Henderson and Rachel Zoe. I still love creativity and color combinations and patterns and fresh ways of putting things together. But when it comes down to my life and my living space, I want tranquility, simplicity and ease.
Even the way I look at my clothing and my style is different. I'm wanting more classics, more neutrals, and just a few statement making accessories that really show my POV (which still includes quite a bit of bohemian flair, of course).
I'm continuing to reconsider what I need. Do I need an arsenal of cleaning products? More than one pair of summer sandals? Physical copies of my favorite childhood books when I could get them from the library at anytime or download them on my Kindle?
I'm even rethinking minimalism in the kitchen, how I cook. Do I need 10 artisanal vinegars or kind of salts? Do I want to make complicated recipes or ones with hard to find ingredients I probably won't use again?
Why reconsider? Why cut back? Because less is more. Less is clear. Less is sharp. Less is clean. Less is iconic.
Less is luxury.
To me it is true luxury to open a closet and find it not to be stuffed to the gills with clothes I don't like anymore, to find just a few pieces that are ALL my favorites. It is luxury to open my refrigerator and find it neat and clean and to be able to see everything that's in it (guess what? I'm not there yet!). To me it is luxury to just have a lamp, a clock and a glass of water on my bedside table. To me it is luxury to have a clean desktop (still working on this too).
When I started going deeper in this, I felt conflicted about blogging because so many blogs are focused around consumption and things - wanting things, creating things, making things, crafting things, buying things, curating things. So much is about being trendy and cute and having the latest things. So much is about defining yourself, presenting yourself, through things.
Part of me wanted to rail against the internet centered around the latest trendy things that leads so many of us to feel continuously vaguely dissatisfied but unable to pinpoint why. But I didn't want to be raining on other people's parade - that wasn't my heart. So I stayed silent until I felt ready to talk about it, aka, until I felt ready to be honest, and become the most unpopular woman on the internet (haha).
For everyone who loves to go crazy pinning all the stuff they like and want and need on Pinterest, that's okay, Okay? (umm, yeah, cuz I'm on Pinterest now too) But it's good to have a little healthy self-awareness and make sure the internet isn't a treadmill of eternally new "I wants" that will never get you anywhere. That's my soapbox, and I will now step down.
So, in my next post, how my interest in minimalism took a detour in the Zero Waste Home.
p.s. Although I use the term minimalist, I don't use it as a label, exactly. Minimalism looks so many different ways. I'm hardly the backpack carrying, stuff-counting, living in an airstream, giving my kid zero toys for Christmas brand of minimalist. I actually prefer the term simplicity, as it feels more like what my heart yearns for.
p.p.s Although I have my own personal taste, I don't think minimalism is limited to a certain aesthetic - it can be classic, traditional, modern, boho, feminine, colorful, ethnic, whatever you like. It's more about a mindset and way of living.
Thursday, April 25, 2013
It's strange, how big he feels in my arms sometimes. Who is this child? This large child? This boy? Wasn't he just a fragile itty bitty thing only yesterday?
I cherish those moments, short and few, when he lets his body relax, leans his head against my shoulder, and he feels, again, like a baby.
And yet he still looks like a baby. He's tall, but chubby and his rounded proportions - his round cheeks and eyes and little belly - plus his very thin soft sandy blond hair - make him look even more so like a baby.
But he's feeling less like a baby these days. He still clings to me and his daddy, and often wants to be held. But often he tumbles and twists out of arms, eager to explore, intent like a little scientist. He still tends to be disinterested in toys, but likes to get into the real things that mama and daddy have - our bags and drawers and drinks and books and gadgets. When I bring out a pile of laundry and set it on the floor, he likes to roll around in it and drag the clothes around the house and destroy whatever piles I've folded. He loves me to sit down on the floor and be at his level.
His circles are widening. I have to stop him from going into the street now. And he wants to walk down our sidewalk, several houses past our own.
His walk is turning into a quick little trot, that will soon be a run. He runs most in the evening, when he gets excited, after dinner and before bed. We call it his manic phase. The long days of spring and summer will be difficult. Already his bedtime has shifted from 7:00 to 7:45 or 8:00. We go through times where he is sleeping through the night, where I imagine we have finally reached it, it... the end of night wakings and night feedings... And then... he will get sick or start teething or we go on a trip and the night wakings start again. Not too bad, usually just a short one, once in the night, but I am ready for that to be over. Still, it's in those night wakings, as I'm laying him back in his crib, that he leans his head on my shoulder, so still, so peaceful, and I almost don't want the moment to end.
Because he is rarely peaceful. :-) Happy, but rarely peaceful. Always in motion. Tonight I opened a kitchen drawer and found that he had stashed inside of it an old cell phone, a toy, and an apple with little teeth marks in it. He is reaching more and more things these days. There are only a few surfaces where I can hide things away from him. We are entering a new era and I'm not always sure how to navigate it.
Into new territory, we venture!
Wednesday, April 24, 2013
It's an unseasonably cold day here, a day for stretchy pants and hot tea. I feel bittersweet, melancholy and lazy. Will has a snotty nose and he's extra clingy. I'm listening to The Lion's Roar by First Aid Kit and it's perfectly matching my mood.
Now he's napping and it's hard to decide what to do. Writing this blog post means I'm not laying down, reading, napping myself.
I'm still trying to figure it out, what it means, this season of Stay At Home Momness. Most of my day is taken up with baby wrangling, wrestling, and snuggling, and mundane maintenance. The other part of it with resting, relaxing, trying to get my energy back before the next round.
In theory... I want to be doing so much more. Writing more blog posts, a novel maybe, make new friends and have IRL community, landscape my yard, grow a vegetable garden (someday), drink green smoothies, touch up paint the house, make more photo albums, finally have a system for managing my digital photos (ugh). And more, and more that I know is overambitious and won't be happening anytime soon, if at all.
And that's okay. I think. It's part of this season of life. This season is about slowness. About sitting in the floor and playing peekaboo. About just managing to get dinner together and always having a load of laundry running and a sink full of dirty dishes. About watching my share of silly tv and reading silly novels and having a Kindle full of parenting books. About wanting to find someone, to talk to, about the mundane that passes by, and often being alone.
That's this season. I'm still settling into it. I love so many parts of it, I just find myself wanting to do more, wanting to be in two places at once. And that just can't happen. I'm trying to figure out how to accept being in one place at once and letting this slowness be okay.
Saturday, April 6, 2013
Ahhh... before it seems too distant... before I have waited too long... I want to capture a few of my favorite images from Will's 1st birthday party.
It was a simple affair. Nothing to pin about on Pinterest.
Just family, cupcakes and love.
I used the cupcake recipe from the Back in The Day Bakery Cookbook and they turned out great!
Will didn't know what to make of it at first - the cupcake was the first real cake he's had and everyone in the room was just staring at him in his high chair waiting for him to eat it. But once he got a taste he went for it.
Will loved the balloons... His mouth dropped open the instant he saw them.
My little birthday boy!
Monday, March 25, 2013
The March Anthropologie catalog came with an enticing image of a Strawberry Mascarpone tart by Nigel Slater. You can find the recipe here.
Seeing as I had some mascarpone on hand (what are the odds), I decided to try it and since my husband was just returning from a business trip and it was Will's birthday, it seemed like the perfect excuse.
Here's how mine turned out:
I love that it wasn't hard to make it look pretty. (I'm terrible at food presentation. I need to learn to do better! Maybe I can take a class on it at a local coooking school or something...) But besides it's smoldering good looks, it was, more importantly, tasty.
It was easy to make (if you have a Kitchenaid, it helps). I didn't follow the recipe exactly. I didn't have a square tart pan on hand. (Who does, really? Pastry chefs?)
I didn't have enough mascarpone, so I used cream cheese too. I also added more sugar (I like it sweet!).
And for the crust, I did not have almond cookies, so I substituted half graham crackers and half slivered almonds and ground them up in a food processor.
I love the way it turned out!
And... so did Will! This was his "first birthday cake" before the cupcakes we had at his birthday party the next day. He looked at it curiously at first, but once he got a taste, it was on, baby. He ate every last bite and even licked the plate.
Friday, March 22, 2013
Happy first birthday, Ittle Bittle, Little Bo, Little Buddy, Biggie, Bubba, Bo... Will!
This month he's started putting things inside of things (like toys in a basket) instead of merely pulling them out. He still tries to get into the refrigerator and the dishwasher whenever he has a chance. He reached inside the refrigerator and pulled out an avocado, then toted it around the house, biting on it. He managed to bite through the skin and gnaw on the avocado flesh a bit. He likes to do this with apples too.
It seems like everyday he's reaching something new. It won't be too long before he's reaching doorknobs. OMG.
Yesterday he spent 30 minutes dragging and waving a mop handle around the house in absolute bliss.
He can open the trash lid and the toilet lid, both of which are quite annoying and anxiety provoking! Especially if he manages to get those little hands in the toilet and when he pulls things OUT of the trash and tries to eat them.
Recently there was a bright shaft of light hitting the floor and he stopped and bent over and tried to pick it up.
He still has his clingy days, but he has moments of independent play as well. He toddles around and then comes back to me for a moment of connection. He's become a good little snuggler and leans in for a hug. Oh, my favorite thing in the world!
Will's favorite foods are still pretty much the same, but I keep trying to expose him to new foods often. His favorites include: Eggs, oatmeal, yogurt, cheese (brie! Fresh mozzarella! manchego!), banana, pear, watermelon, ground beef, chicken tenders. He does not yet like cow's milk. Which fills me with some anxiety around the subject of weaning. But I'm reconsidering my plans for weaning at a year. He doesn't seem ready, I don't mind breastfeeding, and after doing some research I'm feeling open to it.
Up until this week he still only had 4 teeth! But a new one broke through on the bottom, so now he has five. The weird thing is, the morning I found it, I'd had a dream about it the night before. I checked his mouth - and there it was!
Will's favorite toys are everyday objects from our house that he totes around. I call them his treasures. His favorite treasures include:
- Empty starbucks cups, water bottles and coke zero bottles
- Glue sticks (lid on of course)
- Our keys
- Retractable measuring tape
- Stainless steel measuring cups
- Bag of dried cranberries
- Spray bottle
- Wet dishcloths
- Watering can
- Remote control
We take him on walks often, usually carrying him in the baby carrier. He is spoiled. Seriously. I don't think this (very heavy) baby has even seen the inside of a stroller in a couple of months. But stroller time will be coming soon. He's just going to be too heavy to take on a 30 minute walk.
Almost every day we have outside time which we BOTH enjoy. He likes to watch cars go by. When people go by walking their dogs, that will get him really excited. He starts "talking" and points and sometimes tries to follow them.
Pointing is his only gesture, even though I've been trying to teach him to wave and clap. We wave goodbye to daddy every morning, but he doesn't get it yet. He also doesn't have any words yet, but still babbles up a storm. In fact, he just starting saying "mumumum, mamama" and I'm getting excited to hear "mama" soon!
I cannot, CANNOT, believe it's been a year. It's been a blessed year and he's more fun and cute than ever. We love our little Bo!