February 27, 2013

3 Months Old.

Yesterday Livvy was three months old. This means that the "fourth trimester," during which time she adjusts to life outside of my wild and wonderful womb, is over. It also means that around this time last year she was being conceived, thanks to booze and baby fever. Oh, and Nekos.

I love this little lady and this little age. I'm not a huge fan of the new newborn stage because it makes me anxious. This may sound strange, but I can't help but imagining how overwhelmed and freaked out newborns must feel, having been plunged out of their dark warm world into this crazy bright, cold place with people cooing all up in their faces and big sisters screaming and radios blaring. Just thinking of what that must have been like for Livvy kind of stressed me out. But now that she is more of this world, I feel more comfortable. Still, she seems like a stranger to me a lot of the time. But in the best sense of the word. I so anticipate this spring and summer with her, seeing her personality develop and watching her zip through some of those exciting milestones.

Here's what I do know about Livvy: She loves taking a bath more than anything. She gets in there and her eyes flare open in excitement and she kicks her feet and waves her arms in delight. And she takes lots of baths--one just about every day--because another thing she likes to do a whole lot is spit up. She doesn't spit up so much that I think she has reflux or anything serious, but she does it enough that everyone in our family has to change clothes at least a couple of times a day. I've read that spitting up peaks around 4 months and is usually gone completely by 6 months. Can't friggin' wait for that.

In just the past two weeks Livvy has started to love being put in her bouncy thing, which hangs from the doorway in our living room. She's never been a fan of her swing, so it's good to have a place to put her down for 15 minutes where she can play happily. This lil gal loves being upright and putting weight on her legs. She's really been like that from the get-go. Put her on her back and she's going to start giving you the quivery pouty lip right away.

As far as her sleep, she goes down in her crib without a fuss by 7:30 every night, then I wake her up to feed her before I go to bed around 10:30. She's usually up by 2:30 wanting to eat again, and then sometimes again at 5:30. But more often than not she's been sleeping until 7 or 7:30. I am hoping these stretches get longer and longer as she gets bigger. Right now she's a little over 12 lbs., which puts her around the 50th percentile for weight. She's in the 60th percentile for height.

Let's see ... what else? She is really close to rolling over. I feel like that will happen in the next week or two.

In spite of what a lot of mamas say, these first three months haven't flown by for me. She has changed so much, and our lives and schedules and sleeping patterns have changed so much that it seems like I gave birth to her so much longer ago. But things are starting to get easier, slowly but surely.

I wish the quality of these pictures were a little better, but I had to take them with my phone because Nekos has our camera. Still, they capture her sweetness and her kissableness. Too bad they can't express how perfectly sweet her milky breath is.

February 22, 2013

Will I Ever Feel Young Again?

Being a stay-at-home mom was the loneliest kind of lonely, in which she was always and never by herself. Days and days, hours and hours within them, and days within weeks, at the end of which she might not ever have gotten completely dressed or read any word larger than Chex, any word not ending in -os, formed a sentence or brushed her teeth or left a single footprint outside the house. Just motherhood, with its routine costs of providing a largesse, that outstripped her physical dimensions. from Barbara Kingsolver’s Flight Behavior

Will I ever feel young or carefree again?

Yesterday I had five hours without either of my girls. There for a minute I felt lighter and freer, even though I spent the majority of that time working at a coffee shop. I felt like me.

But after I got both of the girls back and all of their things loaded up and their little bodies strapped into carseats, as I was turning onto the interstate, our car swallowed by the rain and the dark sky and the silence, I felt suddenly angry about all the heavy responsibility I’ve invited into my life.

In my pursuit of children, I inadvertently eliminated “me” time and free time from my life. I cut out spontaneity and travel. And I feel bad about how happy I am when I have a small slice of time to myself. But it's true: These are often my favorite times.

I don’t have anything very inspiring or romantic to say about motherhood today, but I'm just going to write through it. This week I’ve been grumpy and short-tempered, resentful. I’ve been mourning my freedom. The vacations Nekos and I used to take, and the dates we used to have. Even the hangovers I used to sleep off. These days I don’t dare have more than a couple of drinks for fear of dropkicking my already exhausted self into delirium.

I’ve been told—so many times—that going from one child to two is hard, hard, hard—harder even than going from none to one or from two to three. I think this is true. I don’t know why really. Because my new baby is not one of those colicky assholes who understandably makes you dread your life. She is lovely. Cool as a cucumber. Smiley and sweet and a pretty good sleeper all things considered. I love her beyond measure. And there is nothing that I look forward to more than seeing who she will become.

But I am so overwhelmed by the responsibility of having two children to care for for-ev-er. Like some teenager flopped across her bed, I find myself wanting to moan, "My life is so ohhhhh-ver!"

And then there are moments like these:

Two nights ago, putting Tessa to bed, I snuggled with her in her twin bed, tucking my chin into her afro and folding my arms around her warm body.

“I don’t want you to grow up, Tessa,” I said. “I want you to be my little girl forever, just like this.”

“But I have to grow up, mama,” she said without hesitation. “I need to reach the soap in the bathrooms. And learn how to color my name like you color your name. I need to be big like you are big. But I will still be your little girl even when I’m big.”

And then my eyes got wet, and I hugged her tighter to me.

She lurched up suddenly, the way that toddlers do, and then came lurching back down, accidentally banging her skull against the bridge of my nose at full force. I cried then, really cried. Cried because it hurt, really hurt. Crumpled up my face and looked her in the eyes and wailed, "Owwww!" I felt like a kid myself when I went to Nekos to complain about my throbbing nose. I am still a kid—that’s the thing. What am I doing with these two kids of my own?

Two days later and my nose still hurts. And still I'm savoring that moment when Tessa told me she needed to grow up to reach the soap and "color" her name. Motherhood is the most bittersweet thing I know.

The irony is that kids are more carefree than any of us adults. If I can somehow be buoyed by my kids’ energy, Tessa’s especially, instead of letting the weight of responsibility drag me down, I know I’d be better off. I just don't know how to do that yet.

Last night Nekos asked me what might make me happier. I knew right away that the answer was more time to myself and more time to work on my hobbies. And I want to take a vacation again. I haven’t left the state of Tennessee—God love it—in almost a year.

So this is the plan: I’m going to start taking the baby to drop-in daycare at least one day a week when Tessa is at her mother’s day out program. Even though it's across town, and even though I might think I don't "need" the break. That's what I did for two hours this morning, and it was bliss. (Even though I felt bad that Livvy had a blowout all over the daycare worker, I felt OK that at least she didn't have a blowout on me, for a change.) And I’m going to use the childcare at the YMCA several times a week while I take pilates and thumb through fashion magazines and go brain-dead on the elliptical. And we’re going to start planning a road trip with the girls for July. We're thinking of taking a week and a half or so and hitting Asheville, Raleigh, Wilmington, Charleston, and Savannah. The road trip we took when Tessa was a baby still ranks as one of my all-time favorite vacations.

I want to know: If you’re a mom, how do you deal with feeling smothered by so much responsibility? What do you do to feel youthful, to keep spontaneity and adventure in your life?

I'm only 30, but I feel about 95. A good eye cream can't begin to touch the kind of old I feel.

February 18, 2013

A Ghost Story by Tessa Barnes

Tessa (who will be three at the end of next month!) is really into telling stories these days. First, she makes sure we're paying attention: "I'm going to tell you a story, OK? It's my turn to talk." Then she launches into a tale, one that she's clearly making up as she goes. She's also really into everything purple and pink, as well as ghosts and witches, so all of these things figure heavily into her stories. I love that my mom thought to write down one of them this weekend. It is so classic Tessa. It goes a little something like this:

"I was in my pink house, sleeping in my pink bed, and I was super tired, when I heard a noise. I thought that it was a witch. I got up and went into my pink kitchen and saw a ghost looking into my pink refrigerator. The refrigerator had a big spider on it, which the ghost chased away. Then the ghost began cooking lunch. He was cooking pasta. The ghost had black eyes. My daddy got magic markers and drew a pirate on the ghost. My mama came into the house and went into my pink kitchen. She scared the ghost away and it never, ever came back. Then we ate the ghost's pasta."

Also, one pic I really love of Tess and Liv:

February 14, 2013

My Minty Kitchen Remodel!

I did it! Painted our kitchen the color of a Jordan almond, taking it from a too-bright butternut to a just-right mint, like I've long been dreaming of. It wasn't so easy pulling this off with two kids in tow, even though Tessa did "help" with painting. Luckily, spilled paint wasn't too difficult to scrub off these floors. Probably will be best for me to take on less ambitious projects for now, at least until the baby starts sleeping through the night. Still, no regrets here. We are loving our new kitchen. Here are our before shots:

And our after photos: 

benjamin moore cool mint

I also removed the cabinet that was to the right of the sink, and we put up open shelves (that still need to be painted white). We didn't actually lose any storage because we moved the cabinet into our laundry room, which is just off the kitchen. I had aspired to paint our kitchen cabinets white, but now that the room is a different a color they don't bother me anymore. So this has at least been moved way down on my project list. 

benjamin moore cool mint

I cleaned up our chalkboard wall, too. Previously this whole wall was a chalkboard, but since we obviously don't use the very top, I used tape and framed it out in mint.  

benjamin moore cool mint

Another change we made was to move the refrigerator, making better use of the space we have. 
I also painted one wall the same creamy blushy color that's coming down our staircase, creating a cute little nook. And, again, paint has made such an enormous difference with minimal money. I spent about $60 on two gallons of paint (Benjamin Moore's "Cool Mint" and Behr's "Porcelain Skin") and about $30 in materials to build the shelves. Really, we've been working on updating this kitchen for a while now, considering that I painted this corner hutch with Annie Sloan chalkboard paint this past summer, and we added the kitchen island this past March after a trip to Ikea

behr porcelain skin
benjamin moore cool mint

Our kitchen is definitely the heart of this home; I'm writing this blog post at the kitchen island right now. We eat breakfast here every morning, and I usually eat lunch here, too. Friends tend to gather here during dinner parties. It's bright and sunny, and now it's more cheerful than ever. This space is totally me. Since Nekos is the cook in the family, I'm happy that he is obsessed with it, too. We keep walking into our "new" kitchen and saying, "Oh! Whose kitchen is this? Ours? Rad!" 

February 12, 2013

That Time I Tried to Go Back to Work.

I haven't blogged in a while because these past two weeks have been a roller coaster. Good news: I was offered a great part-time job at a newspaper I really respect here in town, and it would put me in an office with adults doing something that I love and that I'm good at. I'd get dressed every morning, and my co-workers wouldn't spit up on me, and I wouldn't have to wipe their bottoms. Bad news: I can't actually take the job because childcare costs so much that I'd pay several hundred dollars more for it a month than I'd actually take home.

I've been doing freelance writing and editing from home since Tessa was born in March of 2010. When she was a little over a year old, she started going to a Mother's Day Out program two days a week, and in August she started to go to another program, too, so that she now goes to "school" from 9 to 2 four days a week. (She loooooooves it.) Before Livvy was born my mama life and my work life had a nice rhythm. Basically, while Tessa was at school, I worked, either from home or at a coffee shop here in east Nashville, and then we'd spend our afternoons together. But since baby Livvy was born 11 weeks ago, I've had an especially hard time getting it all done the way I like to (tending to my freelance work, to the laundry, to my friendships and my marriage, to myself). I've felt unmoored, and I've been trying to just go with it, trusting that everything would settle down and that life would fall back into a comforting routine.

It hasn't helped that I'm exhausted from getting up two or three times a night to feed the baby and don't always get back to sleep easily after those feedings. Some days it seems like I never went to sleep at all because the sleep I'm getting is so spotty. That means the days bleed together, and I feel as if I'm just putting one foot in front of the other, eating too many peanut butter sandwiches and not drinking enough water and doing the best I can to cut myself some slack. What I haven't felt exactly is ... happy. What also hasn't helped is that we've been having a not so easy time making ends meet, and we only have one car. Not having as much money as I'd like and not having a vacation to look forward to, not having enough sleep, my life can too easily seem to stretch before me, a parade of sippy cups that need to be filled with milk and diapers that need to be changed and tangles that need to be combed.

I started thinking that a solution might be for me to go back to work in an office setting where I can get away from my kids and concentrate on my "career" and on contributing more to our checking account, instead of squeezing my work into the spaces that naps and bedtimes and cartoons allow. (I work about 25 hours a week right now, mainly for two clients who are so dear to me and who I appreciate so much for trusting me to tend to their blogs and their businesses and for letting me bring a newborn to every meeting.) Maybe working from home wasn't working out for me so well anymore.

So when a friend emailed about an open position with her company that sounded like a good fit for me, I updated my resume and wrote a cover letter and sent it off on a particularly crummy day with the kids, hoping this would be my escape hatch. I was asked to come in for an interview, and I went to Target and bought a pretty, interview-appropriate dress to fit my post-baby pudgy self. I took a Xanax and swallowed my nerves and went to that interview. But I left with a lump in my throat because even though this was a great job and it would pay great and put me in a bright, shiny office in a challenging role, I'd have to put my new baby in daycare for 50 hours a week. I just couldn't do it. I emailed the company the next day to take my name out of the running.

A week later I came across a job listing for a part-time position at a local paper that sounded right up my alley. Part-time! In an office! I applied for it, and heard back just a few days later: They wanted me to come in for an interview. I swallowed that same little white pill (anxiety is an issue for me, K?), put on that same dress, and went in for an interview. I survived that interview, and then they asked me in for another one, this time with different people. And then I waited. This past Friday my phone rang. It was a day when I'd only slept four hours the night before. I was drenched in spit-up and feeling super weary. I was holding a sleeping Livvy in my arms when the woman on the phone told me the newspaper job was mine if I wanted it. And then I was elated. I put down the phone and the baby and took a bubble bath and felt like a badass. But only briefly.

Then I started crunching numbers and plotting the logistics of where the kids would go while I was at work--who would care for them and how they'd get to and from there and how much it would all cost. The numbers weren't working, not any way I worked them. I'd be making less at this job than I am now working from home. And when I vied for a higher salary, it didn't go very well. Yesterday I had to turn down the job, a job that I would have taken in a heartbeat if I was 25 again, if I didn't have two little girls who look up at me with eyes brimming with trust. It has never felt so hard to be a woman, to be a mother. I've never been more aware of what that means.

So, here I am, adrift again in a sea of domesticity. Does that sound melodramatic? That's just how I feel. I'm mourning that nice job in that nice quiet office, quiet enough where I could hear myself think.

Things will get better. They have to. I'll get more sleep one day, and I'll hire a little bit of help with Livvy so I can get more work done, and I'll find myself again, buried somewhere under the obligations and bills. In the meantime, I'm going to fetch a beer from the fridge and take another one of those bubble baths and then put myself to bed. But not before I check one more time on my beautiful sleeping daughters.

February 2, 2013

Tessa Talk: 2 Years, 10 Months Old.

This footage is from a Q&A we did with Tessa last Sunday. I am pretty sure Tessa is going to die over these videos 20 years from now. I just love them. Thanks to Nekos for putting this video together. (This video looks about a hundred times better if you change the quality to 720pHD, which you can do after you hit play, down on the YouTube menu where there's a gear icon.)