Mini-Post: Post Secret Gets It

Please tell me you know about PostSecret. If you don’t, vacate the rock you’ve been living under and get on this!

I read the updates every Monday morning. I love them because the secrets shown remind me that we all have things we struggle with, we all have hidden joys and sadnesses. It is a lovely, humanizing way to start a week.

A few from this week’s post hit home for me, as they likely will many of you.

Now go follow PS. Like now.

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In-Law Angst, in Pie Charts

You guys… I’m having a moment. I’m not sure if I’m over-reacting. I feel like I might be, but at the same time I find that when I am over-reacting to one thing, it means I’m actually reacting to something else entirely. I swear that makes sense.
Let’s dive in, shall we?
We asked my in-laws to baby sit Chick tonight. They’ve done this before, and it has gone mostly without incident. They usually pick him up a few hours early from daycare, drive over to our home, play, eat, then put him to bed. We’re often there around meal time, and walk them through any changes to his schedule or habits. Then we head out for a few hours to be grown-ups.
Yesterday, Mr. O mentioned he would be home when they arrived because his work schedule shifted. No big deal, just meant that they didn’t need extra keys. This was when they let us know they had no plans on taking him back to our house. Instead, they were going to drive the hour back to their house, play, eat, etc. there, then drive him to ours for bedtime.
This ruffles my feathers. I shall explore all the ways.
1) What the hell is wrong with my home?! It’s clean (ish.) It has all his toys. It has his high chair, a changing table, extra sets of clothes, pj’s, his lovey… You know, all the “stuff” that makes looking after a tiny person less crazy. We’re not in a bad part of town. We’re near parks that they could play at. I repeat: what is wrong with my home?
2) What the hell is so great about their home?! There house is… okay, I’ll say it and sound super judgey… cluttered. I’m 99.9% positive Mr. O’s dad has hording tendencies, so it’s sometimes really difficult to maneuver their space. Their house is also not baby proof. That’s fine because they don’t have a baby- I’m not expecting them to cover every single damn outlet. But then why are you bringing my highly mobile, curious child over to your house?
3) What the hell is wrong with Chick’s home?! It takes him a while to warm up, that’s even when Mr. O and I are with him. He is being picked up by two people who aren’t his usual caregivers, then being taken to an environment that is still fairly new to him. (He’s been over there perhaps a total of 6 times since birth.) Perhaps I have mentioned it, but Chick is a bit reserved. As in, when he is in new places, he hangs back a while until he is comfortable. I think this whole thing will stress him out and I worry about how he’ll react. I just do, okay?
4) This strikes me as just plain stupid. Why are they driving a hour out of the city, only to drive an hour back into the city on a Friday night? That’s a lot of car time for Chick in one day. Not to mention that he’ll likely fall asleep on the car ride home, then they’ll have to attempt to transfer him to his crib which may or may not result in a baby waking up and not going down for another hour while he cries and thrashes around because he is tired. (Aside: I’ve always found it amazing that tired babies don’t just go to sleep, but you know… babies be crazy.)
5) When were they going to tell us that this was their plan? The only reason Mr. O and I know about this is because he called them to say that they wouldn’t need a key. Otherwise I don’t think we would have known at all. This bothers me. If you’re going to be doing something that falls outside his or our normal routine, I would like to know first.
6) My hunch is that they are going back to their house because Mr. O’s dad has developed pretty serious social anxiety problems. If it isn’t in his house, he is not comfortable. If we don’t go out to eat in one of a handful of restaurants he approves of, he is not comfortable. And he usually expresses his discomfort by generally being a sour puss and lashing out at others. Look, I’ve struggled with anxiety myself, so I know that this shit is real and hard and disruptive. But at the same time, you can’t allow one person to control an entire situation. This feels like yet another way that his love and support comes with conditions. He’ll look after Chick as long as it is under his terms– not Chick’s.
That’s a whole lot of feelings. They are not, however, all created equal. In order to weed through “all the feelings”, I provided myself you with this handy data visualization. Because that’s what I do.
my-feelings

Nerdy? Perhaps. But also remarkably clarifying. 

Now that I’ve spewed a bit, I assure you I haven’t gone complete rabid-mama-bear on the situation. They are doing us a big favor by baby sitting. They aren’t doing anything I think is unsafe or dangerous. Which is why I didn’t freak out and say “Heeeelllll noooo” to this plan when I heard about it.
But…
It all just sits with me wrong, you know? I am starting to realize that I need to articulate my expectations to them for when they care for Chick. Any of you had luck navigating the grandparent-baby sitting minefield?

20 minutes and counting…

I have 20 minutes between meetings, and I will not spend that checking emails or planning out the rest of my day. No, I will spend it attempting to update you all on my liiiiiiife.

Here’s what’s been going on:

  1. Last weekend I threw a 25 anniversary party for my in-laws. To abbreviate a very long story, Mr. O and I were emotionally blackmailed into throwing this and I did 90% of the work. (Nope. Not bitter. Not one tiny bit.) I spent the last month or so running around picking up decorations, planning the menu, and other logistics. It went off okay (because TRAFFIC meant we got there after everyone else and were setting up while every one stood around watching.) I thought it was nice, and almost all the guests who attended said we did a lovely job. You know who hasn’t said that? MY IN-LAWS. The same in-laws who refused to help with our baby shower. Sometimes they baffle me.
  2. I have stopped pumping at work as of Monday. I tapered like a pro, I think in large part for myself than for Chick. Because I am a weirdo, I brought my pump equipment “just in case”, and it sung its demented siren song on my desk ALL DAY. But I resisted the urge and I now have massive chunks of my day back. Is it strange to say I miss it? Not the pumping (flanges can f*ck themselves!) but I do miss taking time out of my day every day to think about something else, or just breathe. Or binge watch Netflix shows.
  3. Good friends who have been trying to get babied for almost 3 years are pregnant with twins. My heart swells with joy for them. I wonder if this is what healing looks like, as I have felt zero pangs of sadness/envy/any of the other icky feelings I used to feel about pregnancy announcements.
  4. Got into it big time on Facebook about gendered baby clothes. A friend got pissed that the Ghostbusters shirt for boys was just the logo, while the one for girls said “In Training.” #lame Of course, this got me all ranty about how gendered clothes for kids are and I went a little nuts… See,  if you dress a boy in a pink shirt, people get hella uncomfortable. I do think we’ve taken some strides (some tiny teeny strides) at allowing girls to like pink and also dinosaurs. If you put a little boy in something blue with unicorns on it? Wait…. I can’t find boy t-shirts with unicorns on them. As a feminist raising a feminist, this annoys the SHIT out of me because we’re implying that it is okay for little girls to blend being feminine with traditional masculine traits or interests, but boys can’t do the same because being “girly” is bad. Or literally not an option. I don’t mean to imply that the crap going on in the girls clothing departments of America is the same. Systemic sexism is a real thing and it disproportionately impacts women from the day we are born. [shakes angry fists in the air] To combat that, we need to attack this problem from both sides, allowing girls and boys to be brave, kind, and courageous. No one gender should corner the market on those traits. I do worry that my tendency to frame this up as “What Sucks in Little Boys Fashion” takes away from the real bullshit in girls choices. I don’t want to co-opt the conversation, but at the same time I find the challenge of raising a feminist son real and one I wasn’t entirely prepared for.
  5. Chick took his first steps! He is 14 months, and of course I was just starting to worry that his relative lack of mobility meant *something.* As usual, he took his first tiny leap forward just as I was about to google. Chick still prefers crawling since it is a lot faster, but still… he is on his way. I revel in watching him grow and learn new things. It’s like magic or something.

And like that, my 20 minutes are up. The whirlwind of life continues.

Requiem for a Breakfast Sandwich

This weekend…

It was baaaaad, y’all.

I suppose you could say that it all started Friday afternoon. I’m fortunate enough to work on a team that has something called “Summer Fridays” where we leave around noon every Friday until the end of August. It’s lovely. In my previous non-baby days, I would get an iced coffee and stroll. Maybe get home by 3:00 and take a nap.

So far this summer I have spent them manically doing whatever it is that I can’t manage to accomplish during the week. These things include cooking, cleaning, putting away Chick’s old clothes, dropping things off at Goodwill… you get the picture. By the time dinner rolls around, I’m exhausted and twitchy.

This Friday was no different. I mopped the floors, sorted through some of Chick’s baby things to donate to a local family, and made dinner. Perhaps there is some lingering resentment because I remember how carefree these afternoons used to be. But I was not a happy ostrich by the end of the evening.

We put Chick down, and I read for about 20 minutes before falling asleep. At 4:15 am, Chick woke up crying. No, make that wailing. So I went in, reacquainted him with his pacifier and lovey, and went back to bed. This kid knows how to self-soothe. I’ve seen it with my own eyes, so I had no idea what his damage was. And yet, the crying continues. On and off for TWO HOURS. Either Mr. O or I checked on him periodically to make sure nothing horrible was happening. At 6:30 am, I said “Screw it.” and took him into bed with us where he thrashed around for another hour until we admitted defeat.

I was a zombie the whole morning. I bitched out the utility worker who asked me to move my car because he needed to do construction, and proceeded to bitch out every living creature I came into contact with. In a fit of frustration, I actually punched my breakfast sandwich. That happened.

On our list of to-dos that morning were going to the farmers market and opening a checking account for Chick– we needed somewhere  to officially put his birthday money, rather than just hiding it in our mattress.

The farmer’s market was hot and sticky. We got a late start, so missed the baby-friendly drumming circle at 10. Though I love our farmer’s market, I also sorta hate the process because I’m usually doing the actual shopping. Mr. O sits back with Chick in a stroller while I decide what we’re eating for the week and (wo)man-handle the produce.

After this, we go to the bank to open the account. I will spare you the gory details, only to say that this took an hour and a half to do. At first, I was pleasant with the banker since it was her first time setting up an account for a minor. Then Chick started to fuss. Then she kept trying to get me to sign up for ancillary services I didn’t need. Then Chick freaked the f*ck out. Then I became surly.

Once at home, we all ate lunch and then all took a much needed nap. (Aside: There are few things sweeter than napping with a baby.)

In the afternoon, we installed Chick’s new car seat and did a few other home-related stuff. I harrumphed a little because the day felt like such a let down. Mr. O felt it was a success because we “got shit done.”   

The next day was a little better. We went to a fellow one year old’s birthday, where there was a pool. Chick was the most adorable, loved playing in the water with a bright red ball. For that fleeting 30 minutes, I was light. Watching his little face light up when we tossed the ball toward him, or when he splashed in the water… I don’t know how to explain it other than to say I was grateful to that family for inviting us to their kid’s birthday so we could have a few minutes as a family just being happy.

Idyllic.

And then we went back to reality.

Folks, I’m just going to come out and say it. I’m not happy. I don’t get how other people do this. Why can’t I just hold on to that 30 minutes at the pool and build my life around that? Instead, I feel the collective weight of the dirty floors, the chores, the inept bank tellers, the meals that need to be made, the unending cycle of the STUFF that needs to be done or our little family can’t function.

Earlier, I picked a fight with Mr. O where I was nitpicking what he spends money on each week. It was a total dick move on my part. I don’t know where it came from, but it wasn’t a color that looked good on me. After we cooled down, I sat in the living room crying because I just don’t enjoy anything anymore.

I feel like I’m drowning. In the last few weeks, I’ve had trouble eating. I’ll be in the middle of a meal, and I’m all of a sudden just off my food. I kept thinking that this would go away once I was past Chick’s first birthday and a big project launch at work. But that was weeks ago, and I still feel like I’m on an hamster wheel.

I punched a sandwich, for Christ sake. Not everyone resorts to abusing breakfast foods because they’ve got shit to do.

The Circle Game

Recently, Chick has started to recognize shapes. If you point to a triangle in a book, he can pick them out on the page and point to them. His favorite shape ( if that’s possible) is the circle. Ever since this discovery, I have found myself absent-mindedly singing songs with the word ‘circle’ in them.

And the seasons, they go round and round

And the painted ponies go up and down

We’re captured on the carousel of time

We can’t return, we can only look

Behind from where we came

And go round and round and round in the circle game

Chick is one year old. I have found myself thinking back to where I was a year ago, to where we were in the circle. I point to things and places, and say “You were here when you were just a few weeks old.” When I look down at him, completely unimpressed with his year over year progress report, I have a hard time imagining him as the 5 pounder I brought home.

I do, however, remember with vivid detail the raw madness of being a new mother. Waking up every two to three hours to pump while Chick was at the hospital. Taking the elevator up to visit him, desperate to see him again but worried about any potential setbacks that might delay his coming home. And then the day when the doctors cleared him, feeling sure that *something* would happen in the last 5 minutes and we’d be in NICU purgatory for another week. I was in shock when we walked out of the hospital with our exceptionally small baby snapped into his car seat.

As if to rub it in, Chick has been on a growth and developmental trajectory over the last few weeks that I can’t begin to recount. It’s like he was cramming for some mythical 1st year baby exam. He most certainly had a growth spurt– clothes that barely fit him one day were snug the next. (Literally, ONE DAY. Cue panicky online clothing purchase.) He is crawling like a pro, pulling himself up and getting back down with relative ease. This week, he figured out how to crawl upstairs. And for better or worse, he is getting much better at expressing his likes and dislikes. He expresses approval with a “Na, na, na.” Disapproval is a more…er… full-body experience.

While Chick is in his crib asleep, I find myself looking at photos from a year ago. They are almost all of him asleep as if the act of being outside in the real world were just too exhausting. I’m not exactly wistful… more that I am still in shock that this exceptionally small baby has turned into an exceptional little person.

The funny thing about babies is that they don’t get nostalgic. They barrel forward into the future to the next step, the next great leap while we sigh at photos of their former selves.

Panic in the Mother’s Room

It all started innocuously enough.

It was an ad.

As I was feeding Chick breakfast and listening to the news, I heard an ad announcing that a very large company will be moving to my city. It will take a few years– 2018– but they’re relocating their entire headquarters. My first thought was “Man, housing prices are going to skyrocket.” My second thought was “Man, I either need to buy now or get out before it happens.”

As you all know, I’ve been seriously thinking of leaving the East coast. I’ve been looking at a few cities. In typical fashion, I created a spreadsheet comparing said cities with an Ostrich Quality of Life Index (patent pending.) I like to make informed decisions, and this process helped me quickly eliminate some options and zero in on others. Using my proprietary formula (factoring potential income, average commute time, average cost of a 3 bedroom, and average cost of daycare) I quickly tossed out San Francisco. LA would be possible, but Seattle was looking like the very best alternative. I shared my findings with Mr. O and started to dip my toes in the Seattle waters.

Mr. O had been rather silent. Not entirely out of character, but in retrospect I should have known better. You see when Mr. O doesn’t want to do something, he ignores it. Pretends like it just isn’t happening. And because this Ostrich abhors a vacuum, I fill the silence with whatever I *think* he thinks. And I thought silence was complicity.

With the dawning realization that Very Large Company is coming, my urgency to leave kicked into high gear. I went to work and started looking at how to make this move West work. The trouble was, I couldn’t. Even with all my spreadsheets and research, the three places we were looking at weren’t working out. The logistics were wrong, the cost of living one I can’t support, or commutes I can’t bear. I have been working on this relocation puzzle for weeks, and no matter how much I tried I couldn’t make it fit.

I started to spiral. I couldn’t breathe. My chest felt tight. Cue panic attack! So I ran to my one refuge at work– the Mother’s Room.

While trying to get my shit together, I tearfully called Mr. O because I really needed to talk. More specifically, I needed someone to talk me down.

ME: I’ve tried and tried, and I can’t figure out how to make this work. I’ve looked at all the pieces, all the variables…

 

O: You’re putting too much pressure on this one decision. You need to slow down. Why don’t we just move and see what happens?

 

ME: I can’t do that. I want a home, Mr. O. I want to settle down with our family. I don’t want to move across the country, only to pick up and move again because we can’t afford it.

 

O: Maybe we need to compromise on somethings. You’re not going to find everything you want in one place. Maybe it will mean a longer commute…

 

ME: I know, but there are somethings I won’t compromise on. I want our own home, and I want to be with our family. Chick is growing up so fast, and I don’t want to miss that because I’m driving two hours in a car everyday. That matters to me.

 

O: …

 

ME: I’ve tried and tried, but I can’t make San Francisco work. I know that’s where you want to be, but I can’t figure it out-

 

O: Well, I don’t want to move to Seattle.

 

ME: … What?

 

O: I never wanted to move there.

 

ME: I can’t make California work, Mr. O. I don’t know if we can move at all.

This, it should be noted, triggered more crying and chest heaving. Because I realized that when Mr. O said he wanted to move West, he really meant he wanted to move to San Francisco. There is a part of me that feels this is totally irrational on his part. It’s like a kid who says they want to live in Disneyland. That’s charming, but completely unrealistic.

69025388This is where our partnership typically hits the skids. Mr. O is the dreamer, the kid who wants to live in Disneyland. I’m tethered to reality. It isn’t like we don’t know this about ourselves– we even have a joke about it. This dynamic first came to light when we went on vacation together for the first time. Mr. O doesn’t plan anything and just likes to let serendipity take over. I have to plan everything because… well if I don’t, who will? Thus Vacation Ostrich is the planner, while Vacation Mr. O is the free spirit.

(That makes me sound like a total kill joy, but if it weren’t for me we quite literally wouldn’t have places to stay. Mr. O doesn’t even want to pick a hotel because “Let’s just see what happens…” I’m not okay with just rolling into town without a bed booked because I did that in my 20’s with very poor results. This is not my default mode- you can tell because I looooathe the planning process. In fact, I’ll admit I even resent it. But I’d rather that than sleep on a park bench, literally or metaphorically. Yes, I am justifying my behavior. It’s my blog. Deal.)

Anyway… Where was I? Ah yes… panic attack in the Mother’s Room. I was crying while mumbling “I can’t make this work, I can’t fix it, I can’t fix it…” when Mr. O told me to stop and breathe. And made the radical suggestion that we swap roles. He will be Vacation Ostrich and I will be Vacation Mr. O, at least for a few weeks. We come at problems differently, but we’re not going to go anywhere unless we meet some kind of middle ground. For the next few weeks anyway, I have agreed.

Since then, I’ve been trying to define what being Vacation Mr. O really means. It isn’t so much that he isn’t realistic, but that he sees possibility. I’m trying to broaden my perspective a little bit, even opening myself up to staying where we are.

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What do me and Donna Reid have in common, besides a love for home appliances? No really…

I’m also trying to sit back and figure out what is important to me and why. It’s been a good clarifying exercise so far. In the midst of my sweaty panicky freak out, I blurted out the two most important things to me: Home Ownership and Family. Smack me with a wet noodle, I never thought I’d say those things. It’s just so damn Leave It to Beaver, but there you have it.

Family… okay, yes. It isn’t uncommon for a mother of a small child to want to spend more time with said small child. As much as it was a surprise, I wasn’t really shocked by that response. The specificity of home ownership? Yeah, that seemed weird. While I was driving home from dinner with friends last night, it dawned on me where that is coming from.

Since my mom died, my father’s mortality has become more real. No, he isn’t going anywhere any time soon. (Hopefully. Seriously, Universe, if you even think of screwing with me like that right now, you and I will officially have a smack down.) But I’m also keenly aware that he will die some day. When that happens, my family home will be gone. My siblings and I will have to sort through ~40 years worth of our collective identify, and decide what to keep. At that point, I will be without a mooring… Unless I moor my goddamn self.

There are other things here that need unpacking, like the realization that my income is what keeps my family afloat. I am the head of the household, which wasn’t really a role I was prepared for. With that comes responsibilities I haven’t even started to grapple with. You’d think Vacation Ostrich would relish that, but I don’t.

Mr. O and I have agree to regroup in a few weeks to see what this Freaky Friday swap yields. Until then, I will do my best to dwell in possibility.

There Ain’t No Easy Way Out (of the East Coast)

(Pardon my use of poor grammar. Blame Tom Petty.)

Blaaaaagh.

I’m being a total weirdo right now. But if you can’t be a weirdo on your own anonymous blog, where can you?

So.

If anything good has come out of my interviewing for the best job I will never have, it is the realization that I’m ready for something new. I’m fairly certain that something new is a drastic change in scenery. After 18 years as a Southerner and almost 20 as a Northerner, I’m ready to move West. This isn’t wholly arbitrary– Mr. O and I have visited various western cities over the last few years and really love it out there. Besides… why the hell not?

Now that Mr. O and I have pretty much agreed on a move being vaguely in our future… I agonize. Did you know that “West” is a pretty large portion of the country? We’ve narrowed it down to “Somewhere in California” and “Generally Seattle.” I start googling, feel nauseous, then google pictures of puppies in order to avoid any real decision making.

Because this is the only way I can tackle large problems, here is my list of criteria:

  1. Mid-sized city with a few larger employers. I tend to bounce every 3-5 years, so there has to be another game in town for me to rationalize moving there.
  2. Decent standard of living. I would like to be able to buy a modest house wherever I live next. No McMansions, just a nice lil’ bungalow with room outback for a smoker. (Cue my dream of smoking my own meats.)
  3. ~ 30 minutes commute time. I would rather spend time with my family than in traffic with thousands of my closest over-worked and over-tired friends.
  4. No hyper-conservative local governments. Look, I spent my entire childhood in a state that is currently under travel advisory by the UK because of its idiotic policies. I’m not subjecting myself or my family to that level of inanery.

Other considerations… I would like a good-ish school system, but I’m not above sending Chick to private school. I would love to send my kid to the public school system, but ultimately I’m okay with being bourgie if I have to be.

That makes it sound soooo easy, right? I want there to be some form on the interwebs where I can plop all this information and it will give me a list of the top 5 cities for me to focus on. But the best I can come up with are useless Buzzfeed quizzes that tell me my spirit animal is Wyoming or something else equally unhelpful.

Regardless, I need to come up with a plan to escape the east. Any thoughts, recommendations, or pictures of cute puppies welcome.