Whoa, Nelly

One detail that I didn’t mention in my blog post comparing this pregnancy to my last one is the fact that I’m really making an effort to go about some key behaviors differently. Before, I figured that as long as I wasn’t in pain or bleeding, I could take over the world with my baby bump. I had no qualms about climbing ladders to paint, moving furniture, or lifting light to moderate weight boxes. I was also standing for about six hours total to teach four days a week while in my second trimester, so I was pushing it. It wasn’t until a doctor hooked me up to a fetal monitor and showed me that I was having regular contractions that I knew anything was wrong. This of course led to my hospitalization at 30 weeks, and being placed on bed rest for weeks 30-35 before giving birth to Kennedy at 39 weeks 2 days. This may very well be my last pregnancy – not because I don’t believe I can ever be pregnant again, but because I’ve only ever really desired to have two kids – so I owe it to myself to go a different route this time. Even though I work from home for my job, I still have to pace myself, know when to take it slow, and give myself adequate time for rest so as to avoid having the same perils with my son.

This is hard for a woman like me.

If I need a box moved, I don’t like asking someone else to do it and then waiting for that person to move it. I’d rather just move it.

I have standards for how clean I like to keep my home, and that usually entails vacuuming the floors at least once a week, mopping once every two weeks, cleaning toilets and showers every two weeks, and dusting furniture weekly. I try to dust our ceiling fans once a month.

Laundry gets done weekly, and I do usually ask my husband to haul that over to the machine for me because sometimes it’s just way too much to try to carry, or even kick/scoot across the floor.

I grocery shop weekly, which means groceries are hauled in from the car weekly, though if he’s home when I come back from the store, my husband will also do this.

But in addition to these chores, I’m also cooking meals daily (which requires standing) and doing shopping (which requires walking on hard surfaces).

I got to learn the hard way this past weekend that I don’t have as much energy to go around for these things as our son grows and grows. I spent Saturday morning shopping, the afternoon at the play area with Kennedy, dinner at Red Robin with Kennedy, and then sat through a movie (and millions of previews) with Kennedy. It was a long day, and I was burnt out by the end of it. My husband came home to find me seated on the couch under a throw blanket watching Mean Girls with a glazed over look on my face. I told him about my day and how exhausted it had made me. I also told him about how Kennedy’s attitude (typical of a three year old) had also worn on me.

I think all parents try to be the impressive, fun person their kids want to hang out with all the time and share fun memories with. Where reality balances this dream is that we can’t always do everything our hearts aim for. Some of us would love to take our kids to Disney every weekend, but time, money, or geographical constraints stop us. We would love to be able to buy them the hottest clothes and greatest toys and coolest gadgets, but certain factors prevent us from that, too. Eventually, we want to be able to send our kids to Ivy League schools with a full ride, but that’s not practical for everyone, either. I had this lesson handed to me as I tried to be everything mom while also being expecting mom – it just doesn’t work. And while my daughter surely loved me for taking her out to play, and to dinner, and to a movie, and for all the awesome new clothes I surprised her with that day, she would’ve also been okay with a trip to the park, dinner at home, and maybe a Redbox movie on the couch with homemade popcorn. I don’t have to (and in my current state, really can’t) wear myself out to make her happy, because I alone can be enough. More importantly, I don’t need to place such expectations on myself in order to feel like I’m succeeding as a mom or a wife or a person. This last part is the trickiest for me to master.

It’s hard for me to sit back and relax and let others do things for me.

I don’t do well at waiting on others. Perhaps it’s impatience? I don’t know.

I’m a woman of action. I have a vision, I put it in motion, and I get things done. Taking a more docile approach goes against a lot of what I’m about.

 

…but the cost of not doing such is far too great right now. I’m setting aside my selfishness – which is equal parts ego and need for purpose – and erring on the side of nurturing our baby boy right now.

 

Check on me in a couple weeks to see how this is going. 😅

 

Mommy, AF.

I love the fall season. It’s the coziest season of all where temps are low, but not uncomfortable, trees are changing colors, fun smells come back out of hiding, and there’s a slew of fun things to do with family. Similarly, I love the nesting/maternal feel that kicks in during pregnancy. Truth be told, it’s always there, but pregnancy hormones put me on a whole other level of mommy. This second pregnancy has elevated me to a new level of mommy that I love.

For starters, I’m taking better care of our home. I’ve never been a poor housekeeper, but I’ve also never really had much of a knack for decorating, sprucing up, or building environments. In my first home, I was just so focused on having a place to drink and play video games that I owned that I didn’t put much thought into choosing accent furniture or wall art. The rugs and few wall pieces we had were out of necessity. They were cute, but nothing was deliberately put together to create a full ambiance. I was too much of a rookie to do that.

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Comfy selfie in my cozy living room. I would’ve posted a room pic, but I blogged this at night and the room photographs better in the daytime.

I also only had a child for the last year that I lived in that house, and regardless of what any home stylist might say, having a family that includes small children adds to your sense of urgency for making your home comfortable. Growing up, my mom always dressed the walls in family portraits. Yes, some were cringe-worthy photos of the Olan Mills variety, but regardless of whether they were from Sears, a cheap Polaroid, or done at a professional studio, they were our faces and faces of people close to us, related to us, whom we loved. I grew up with a strong sense of family identity because of that. As I got older, my mom took to adding family achievements to her walls, such as copies of my diplomas, her diplomas, my dad’s diplomas, and my grandfather’s flag, folded into a triangle as it was presented at his funeral. It’s important to me that Kennedy and her baby brother grow up with the same sense of feeling like they’re loved and part of a family that cares.

I used to always think that well decorated environments required lots of money – not true! In fact, you can improve the look of a room with a few simple changes, I’ve learned (thanks, Pinterest, and overall general Internet). I am not Mrs. Moneybucks. I’m in frugal, stash money in the savings account mode right now, so I’m definitely not picking furniture off the showroom floor for delivery. But for just a little over $100, I gave my couches a facelift, decorated my walls, and added pops of color to my living room with accent pillows. A living room that my family used to hate to sit in has been transformed into our favorite place to hang out on Sundays.

Similarly, Kennedy’s room has been an anomaly since we moved in. She’ll go to sleep there, but won’t always stay in there. She hardly went in there to play on her own. I wanted her room to become her sanctuary, but I knew I’d have to create a cozy environment for such. She’s a girly girl, so dialing up the pinks and frillies was a must, but with a toddler, that’s easy to do with inexpensive florals, fun wall decals, and more affirming wall art. My plan is to add a few family photos to her walls too, after I find frames. With the new facelift, Kennedy loves her room again. I’m over the moon to do the same for our son before he arrives.

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The dragonflies were in our living room at the old house. Now they fly among flowers on Kennedy’s wall.

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Not the best photo, but you get the idea. Thank heaven for little girls.

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Grey, white, and pink with toys about.

Aside from decorating, I’ve also been taking to the kitchen more, cooking up family favorites and trying new recipes. Having a bun in the oven makes me happy to stand by the stove, I guess. I’ve also been playing with essential oils to create allergy-fighting blends for Kennedy and Fabian to stop all the sneezies and sniffles around my house. I’m not a medicine woman. I’m not even an essential oil expert (I just read). But keeping our home as close to chem free is a priority for me and has been since I entered motherhood. Together we’ve chosen cleaning solutions, shampoos, shower gels, detergents, and everyday health remedies that are paraben, hormone, and animal cruelty free. Note: This isn’t a smug nose upturn to folks who choose to clean or bathe with commercial products. Like everything else in life, it’s a choice. But in my own house, I like to stay as natural as possible because it makes me feel better, and my family agrees.

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Seventh Generation, Trader Joe’s laundry detergent, Method all purpose, and The Honest Company bathroom cleaner. All are our favorites.

Decorating, cooking, keeping the family well, and of course, baking this baby bean are all making me feel like mommy to the max. I used to fear that being this into motherhood meant sacrificing who I am as a professional and as an individual. I’ve had over three years to learn that this isn’t true. I’ll clock in tomorrow and contribute to building new curriculum for the university I’m employed with, and then clock out and be Antoinette out of the office again. I must say, the more 2016 wears on, the more I love who I am.

Sullen Girl

“Is that why they call me a sullen girl? Sullen girl…
They don’t know I used to sail the deep and tranquil seas.
But he washed me ‘shore, and he took my pearl and left an empty shell of me.” –”Sullen Girl” by Fiona Apple

Anxiety sucks. I’ve only recently become acquainted with just what this feeling is that’s hovered over me in much of my adult life past age 27. If I had to come up with a metaphor for what this emotion feels like, I’d say it’s probably similar to what Sri Lankans felt like on December 26, 2004 as they watched the ocean menacingly encroach upon their habitat, helpless against the raging onslaught of water that would devour their homes, places of business, streets, cars, friends, and family. Anxiety washes over me like a tsunami, and all I ever wanted to do was bask in the sunlight or sail peacefully with the wind in my hair.

It’s typically been my nature to be open and inviting to others – I’m not this way anymore. I used to enjoy social settings, meeting new people, and putting myself out there. In place of those things I’ve been busy building walls, withdrawing from relationships, and trying to patch up really old wounds that I thought had healed. I always thought that when I reached a point like this I would find myself sad about the shift in my attitude and behavior, but I’m actually really comfortable being this way because it minimizes my amount of emotional risk. I used to scoff at risk before, but now I refuse to take risks. I don’t want to be vulnerable to anything or anyone anymore.

The only place I feel truly safe and calm is at home. If I could lie in bed and eat yummy food and watch Netflix all day without consequence, I would. But someone has to let the dogs out. These papers aren’t going to grade themselves. I don’t want to be arrested for child neglect. Eventually, the groceries in the fridge will run out and I’ll have to go to the store to get more.

When I can’t sleep, I like to sneak into Kennedy’s room, grab her from her toddler bed, and lie down with her in the futon guest bed – there’s something so comforting about getting to snuggle with my baby who isn’t really a baby anymore. I’d do the same with Fabian, but since his body is bigger, he controls the cuddling. I can just grab Kennedy and snuggle with her and she’ll fall asleep no matter how we’re tangled up. Plus, I enjoy the tickle of her soft curls against my chin and nose. I want to soak up these moments now because one day she won’t want me anymore. When she’s a rebellious teenager, she’ll probably tell me she hates me because I won’t let her dye her hair pink or stay out ‘til 3am with her boyfriend. I just hope that by then I’ve found something else to comfort me that isn’t cocaine or excessive drinking or heroin or PCP.

Now, I know that the Christians and religious folks probably wonder, “Why doesn’t she just hand these troubles over to God? Why doesn’t she pray more? Doesn’t she know Jesus can save her?”

My answer to that: I do pray. I do read The Word. I do have a relationship with God and Jesus – a strong one. It is naïve to think that just because a person is going through troubles, they must be lacking in faith. Trials like these are where faith is tested. So-called good Christians are not free from troubles. Don’t look at someone else’s life and assume that everything must be okay just because that’s how it looks to you.

As with all stages in life, this one will pass too. Perhaps it will be in a few months, or maybe it will take me decades to dig out from under. Until then, the walls, distance, and mistrust remain. I’ve been so burned and shit on and it’s finally all catching up to me. I almost wish I could go back in time to 1992 or so and warn little young, bright-eyed, hopeful, friendly Antoinette that she should probably just stop it now, because it’s only a burden to have to keep up later. When you’re the person who is good at offering an ear to listen and a heart to care, all anyone is going to let you do is listen and care; they won’t return the favor. When you’re upbeat and lighthearted, nobody will allow you to be downtrodden or serious. Nobody ever asks the friend who’s a good listener if they have anything to say. Nobody ever reaches out to the girl who’s constantly reaching out to everybody else. Don’t exhibit strength or power in overcoming obstacles because then you’re never allowed to be weak. Helping make someone else’s bad days good means you’re never allowed to have bad days.

“You make this look so easy…”

I don’t like to talk on the phone, but today I got to connect on the phone with a really close friend of mine who is a lot like my little sister. She updated me on how life’s been since we last spoke, and when I explained to her how things were on my end she asked, “How do you do all of this? I have a hard time handling my own responsibilities, but you do so much more.”

It’s the echo of what many people have asked and said to me in the past seven months, and as I near the anniversary of my departure from California, I see clear evidence now of just how much my life has changed since I left there. I will always have a California soul right down to my core, but I’ve grown a lot since August 25, 2014.

I do manage a lot. As a wife, it’s my job to stay on board with my husband with regard to finances, parenting, caring for our pets, caring for our home, etc. As a mom who works from home, I juggle my responsibilities to work with the joyful obligations I have to my daughter and her well-being. I’m also a coach and fitness motivator through Beachbody as well as a full time MBA student, so I study, I connect with people, I work with my growing team of coaches, I hold myself accountable, and I work hard every day to boost my business. I also try to make time to do the things that really keep me going such as keeping God first, exercising, dancing, making music, and even being all around lazy on the couch or in bed with Netflix. I maintain this lifestyle and I love the life that I have, but it’s not easy…

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When you’re a new business owner, everything falls on you. Vacation time? Sure! You can take as much time off as you want, but don’t get mad when your profits reflect the lack of effort you’ve put into your work.

Sleeping in? Pretty much a luxury at this point as your child will likely be up around 7:30 or 8am, and I’ve learned as a parent that it’s just easier to wake up before your kids do.

I work a lot. From the time that I wake, until I fall into bed to zone out to The Boondocks or American Dad at night, I work. It’s often a 10-12 hour day, despite my attempts to keep office hours, because even when I’m not “open for business,” I’m still doing business stuff like posting grades or setting up challenge groups. I’ve forced myself to embrace being a morning person so that I can get more done. I don’t leave the house, but I put in hours just like any commuting, office chair occupying, conventional employee at a typical firm.

My jobs pay me back in much more than just paychecks or benefits. It’s a balance, but I like that I can rock a sleeping toddler in my arms and also read over student work. I like that I can set up shop in the living room as Kennedy plays with blocks not even a foot away from me. It makes me happy that I can have breakfast, lunch, and dinner with my family on days Fabian has off. My very full life also has very positive perks, and for that I am so grateful.

I get to make some more room on my plate come February, as school will be over for me then. Until that date, I’m just going to keep going. It may look like it’s a breeze, but I promise it’s not. What it is, though, is a very full, very fulfilling and blessed life.

Pictures in Frames

I just caught myself rockin’ out to Franz Ferdinand in the kitchen of our new place. Not too hard – Kennedy’s asleep upstairs. But just enough to get a “whoo!” from my neighbor across the way who saw me through my window that I didn’t realize the drapes were pulled up on.

We moved just after the first of the year, and settling in has been difficult. We moved from California into my parents’ guest room. We stayed there just long enough to accumulate a few more items, and then we moved again. We compounded our moves. Unpacking has been a nightmare. I opened one box labeled “Kitchen” and found speaker equipment that had clearly been packed by my husband. I won’t harp on him too much, though. After all, he did have the task of completely emptying out the California house by himself in the week after Kennedy and I left. Oh, and he drove all of our stuff across country, too. I digress…

Yesterday, one of our pictures got damaged as we shuffled furniture around, so today I decided it’d be best to put our art onto the walls to prevent further casualties. I’d say this act was the symbolic breaking in of our new residence. I spent a good hour and a half arranging photos and art onto wall space just as I had done three and a half years ago when we bought the California house. Little did I know then that I’d only be there for a short stint. When I moved in there, I was queen of the castle. I thought I’d never leave, and if I did, it would be for something bigger and better.

In the months since the move, I’ve thought back on that house every day, remembering the things I loved about it, what I miss most, what I hope to have again in my next home purchase, etc. We certainly didn’t move on up when we settled on the 1200 sq ft townhome we currently live in, which is about one bedroom of living space smaller than what we had in California, and a little under one half of the price per month. However, as I happily bounced around in my kitchen this evening, cooking my dinner as Kennedy ate hers from her high chair, I realized that my pictures and mirrors and clay-tile-discounted-at-Kohl’s-art were making me feel like myself again – my whole self. It’s as if my grandparents are happy to be out of the box and back on the wall again. And I feel so relieved and normal and comfortable and Antoinette again seeing their faces gaze over my living room once more. The point I’m getting to with all of this delayed imagery: it doesn’t really matter what the abode is. You can live in a 600 sq ft apartment, in a farmhouse on four acres of land, in a 1400 sq ft house in the neighborhood you’ve dreamed of living in since you were a teenager, or in a penthouse – it’s what you bring there that makes it home. The walls don’t comfort and hold you. Your memories, treasures, and keepsakes do.

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Welcome home, everyone.