On Life, Lately.

It is one of those slightly ironic tragedies to find myself too busy to find the time to write, since it is only in writing that we have the ability to stop time. I watch my children turning into these wonderful, amazing little people, and in the back of my mind, the empty page haunts me.

I think too, though, that I would rather live in the moment and be truly With them, than observing and taking notes in my head and only be with them. I suppose this is what I signed up for too, I knew having babies so close would mean giving up my body for a few years – what I didn’t account for is giving up my time for a few years even longer after that. But even so, I’m able to carve out moments alone – perfect ones like this one, when the morning light is soft, and the heater is on to take the chill away – when everyone is asleep and the house is, magically almost, quiet. These are moments that get shattered in an instant, so I’ve learned to live in them – to soak them up and to let them fill me for days to come.

My daughter is a whirlwind, a firecracker, a total smartass sassafrass comedian. She makes up words to her own songs and dances and races around the house performing her musical ballets at the top of her lungs. She loves dirt, isn’t afraid of the big slides, or the big kids, and stands up for herself. She’s incredibly kind to her friends and impossibly loving with her little brother, who, with his short list of play skills, must be the least interesting thing to a 3 year old. She’s also sensitive, emotional, and gets upset about surprisingly deep things, like “growing.” She cried in my arms 3 nights ago at bed time, telling me she no longer wanted to grow. She had recently outgrown a pair of sandals – pink ones edged in bright green and covered in charcoal watermelon seeds – and it was like the weight of time and life hit her when she realized she no longer fit into her beloved sandals. Suddenly she possessed the knowledge that she would grow and change and have to leave things she loved behind. I told her that just this once, for tonight, she could stop growing. Because what is childhood really, if it doesn’t have a bit of magic. Magic is worth clinging to. And for what it’s worth, I’d buy a hundred pairs of those sandals if I could, in every size and then some – if it meant making her happy, keeping her safe from the heavy moments of clarity in life. Because that’s what (the heartbreak of) parenting is all about. But one thing I’ve realized since becoming a parent – nothing in life is worth doing if it doesn’t have the potential to break your heart.

My son is very much still a baby – drooling and goo-ing and haphazardly trying to move his body in ways to control those ever-flailing limbs. He is almost crawling and can scoot pretty well if he has something to grab and pull and push with his little toes. But even at this age his personality shines – another sensitive child for sure, but also the happiest, giggliest soul you’ll ever get the chance to meet. I’m convinced he wakes up every day in wonder of the world around him, excited to see what new knowledge will open up to him next. It’s hard to label a still-squishy being who can’t talk or walk and is really barely beginning to communicate as “positive” but oh – he is the very definition of it. I can’t wait to see the wonderful little boy he turns into. He claps and claps and claps, and giggles and claps some more. All while having a wide open, gummy smile that can (I dream, quite) literally light up a room. Especially if his sister is in it. He loves her so wonderfully, so openly, so encompassingly even when she is having a toddler-grade meltdown in his tiny ears. He is the calming water to her wild storm, and they are perfection together.

Let’s not forget my husband, the rock to which this family clings like moss. He is the center of the universe for the kids, he is the driving force behind the rotation of the whole house. He keeps us together, he is the perfect partner, the loving husband, the absolutely incredible father. He cooks, he cleans, he listens to endless, rambling stories about sandcastles and shushes middle-of-the-night cries. He is my everything. And to the kids, I think he’s even more than that. He is the universe.

 

All this to say, that lately – I feel incredibly lucky.

 

 

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Dex.

Not everything is a moment. Most of life, I’d argue, is made up of running and laughing and enjoying oneself to be sure, but not moments. There is something about a moment that hits you. Your brain says “this is a moment. remember this.” And somehow, the universe lights up, the stars align, and words and images and smells all come together to etch their way into your grey matter, to burrow down and echo around for a while, only to pop back up again when you least expect them.

I am in my childhood bedroom. I came in here with my infant, shushed him to sleep in the pack and play sitting in the void of this room, where there used to be things – my things – but none of which I can specifically remember. I remember many things about this room – the light in here, the paint on the walls, the way it smells and the sound of the heater coming on in the winter. But not my things. On my old desk against one wall is a hutch full of books. My old books. I look back to my baby – my second-born – who is sleepily thrashing his head around and daring me to open the squeaky door and crash this oncoming train of sleep. With him, things have proven to go quickly – too quickly – the toddler keeps our pace of life almost painfully fast. I cannot believe that he is nearly four months old. So every chance I get, I spend a little extra time with him. Watching him sleep or smile or cry, trying to remember every line in his face, with the knowledge that I will look back one day soon and not understand how he grew up so fast. I choose to stay, to sit on the floor in the semi-darkness, while my baby falls asleep listening to my breath nearby. Mama’s here. Every parent has done it. I took a book off the shelf, a neon pink paperback that I recognize as a beloved childhood story that I couldn’t today tell you anything about. I curl up on the soft carpet and take another look at my baby – he’s settled now — and decide to start reading anyway, stay for a few more minutes. Little did I know that this would become a moment. Sitting in my childhood bedroom next to my sleeping child, reading a story that proves to be a poetic narrative about time, and how sometimes while you get ready for dinner, entire universes can be saved. That time isn’t always linear, that a moment can feel like a lifetime, and you can live a lifetime in a moment.

Dexter Miles MacMillan was born on March 3, 2017 at 1:30 in the morning. After nearly 40 hours of labor, two different drugs, countless walking loops around the hospital wing, and literal blood, sweat, and tears, he finally decided it was time. 20 minutes later, he was born.

I sat down here to write his birth story, but now I’m realizing that that’s not what’s important here. I could talk about how scared I was of pre-ecclempsia, how after he was born I passed out from blood loss (a new, and rather interesting cognitive experience…), and have vivid memories of all of the L&D nurses taking turns to jab their elbows into my gut trying to figure out where the blood was coming from, or how I was lucky enough to have him on a Harry Potter Movie Marathon weekend on one of the hospital cable channels (heads up, Hogwarts, we’ll wait for his letter), or how the 30-something hours leading up to the moment he was born were some of the hardest, most emotional, scariest hours of my entire pregnancy and beyond (somewhere around the 30 hour mark, the nurse came in the room to check on me and I just looked at her and started sobbing uncontrollably because I was legitimately, irrationally convinced I would be pregnant forever)…or finally, how my doctor gave me the “Longest Labor of a Second Time Mom in His Entire Career” Award, but what’s important is Dexter’s story. And so far, it is beyond beautiful.

He is a living, breathing moment. And every day, I feel so lucky that he has entered our lives, balanced our family, and filled the hole that I didn’t even know was there. We are complete, we are perfect, all thanks to him.

Not everything is a moment. But sometimes, it hits you. This is one.

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2016

The late year. The year of saying yes.

A practiced skill continues to improve; when ignored it fades.

I’ve been ignoring writing lately, and I hate that. It’s certainly taken a back-burner to the rest of life that has been happening as of late; I still need to tell you all about 2016 and write my tardis entry for the year. Seeing as it’s almost March I am incredibly tardy; but I hope that once I can manage to put together an explanation, it will be understandable.

The main unit of measurement here is exhaustion. Happy exhaustion to be sure, but exhaustion to the point of coming home and watching Master Chef, not coming home and using more energy to write.

So, feeling like a bomb that’s about to explode (we’ll get to that later) – here I am, to write about 2016 before I am exhausted in a way that not even glassy eyed viewings of Master Chef will be able to cure.

**January** may have been the beginning of the Master Chef/Reality TV priority shift, as Neil and I finally started watching the incredible train wreck known as The Bachelor. It’s amazing, it’s terrible, it’s exactly what we needed. We still watch. In other, more important news though, January was when Paige started walking! I cannot believe this now as I’m looking at her running and jumping and riding her bike, but it was just last year that she took her first very wobbly steps. She is a bundle of energy, a bundle of joy, and is the absolute light of our lives. It shows in the photos that we took at the end of January for my mom’s birthday – I remember spending most of the time not in front of a camera chasing Paige down the warehouse studio as she tried out her new, faster movement abilities.

**February** brought a wonderful magic show at the Pantages for Neil and I’s anniversary. (6 years! and 10 together!) I also started my own little side gig, building wordpress designs with the intention to sell templates to local mommy businesses. I was also taking job interviews (and had been for a few months), but being incredibly picky about location and hours, so I decided that if I hadn’t landed anything solid and up to my standards by the end of February, I would dive into my own business full time for a while and see what happens. With this knowledge, we enrolled Paige in daycare for three half days a week to start, and I was immediately floored at what I could accomplish with a little time just to myself – something I had forgotten in the previous year spent at home with her. We also had another big milestone with Paige – and washed her last bottle ever in Februrary. Again, looking at her now – I have a hard time believing this was only a year ago. It’s incredible.

Per usual when I set myself any sort of deadline, the universe aligns (or, ya know, maybe it’s just my own hard work), and things fall into place. The last day of February I got a job offer for a local company full of enough interesting people that I decided to give it a shot. In **March**, I started as a digital producer for a just-crazy-enough place that the only thing I can really say without a doubt that it stays interesting. As of today, I am still employed with them. I am a bit sad about my wordpress company falling by the wayside, but as noted above – it’s been a wonderful, exhausting year. We switched Paige to full-time daycare, which to sum up quickly, was as hard as everyone says it is. Very luckily for us, we had found a wonderful place for her, full of loving teachers and an owner who really cares. The knowledge that she is being loved by so many makes those long days just a bit easier. Also – I should note that as the requisite social butterfly born of two introverts, she LOVES it, and has since day one.

**April** was quiet. It was mostly spent adjusting to being a working mother, a working family. Neil and I had to figure out new routines, and I am happy to say that we, as usual, make an awesome team. Weekends were spent on local hiking trails or at the park, evenings were for walking and catching up with love, life, Paige.

**May** stayed par for the course, we had a lot of fun weekend adventures with Paige, including going to the local teaching zoo! She loved the monkeys until they started making noise, and then they were less trustworthy. It was a great weekend that I think we will refresh quite a bit. Neil treated me to a spa day at the Four Seasons for Mother’s day – he spoils me rotten. Then he went mountain biking on Memorial Day weekend, and for the second year in a row, injured himself. It’s now a blackout date, we’ve all agreed he’s not to do anything except possibly BBQ in future years.

**June** found us a Saddle Peak for Father’s day, which Neil loved, (score!) and at a wonderful weekend barnyard wedding up in Northern California for a good friend. I should mention here that it was a wedding with an open bar. An open bar with fancy bride and groom and farm themed cocktails served in little mason jars tied up with string. Adorable. And I had exactly zero, because the morning we left for the airport I decided to give in to the tiny voice inside my head (mostly so I could enjoy my unending stream of mason jar cocktails in peace) and take a super-early-result pregnancy test. Which apparently, work really well. I came out of the bathroom and flung it at Neil. We had been planning on this, but it was still a shock that it happened so fast. He grinned at me. “That was easy.”

**July**┬ástarted with a wonderful Big Bear trip, and then the rest of the month came and went as long summer days do, with a beach day, our first doctor appointment, and oh – tearing part of the roof off our house to remove an enormous beehive. It was around this time that the reality of bringing another newborn into our house (link) started to set in, and the questions in the back of our heads became poundings at the front. I’m not sure exactly when we decided to start looking for new houses, but being newly pregnant, sick, and reliving all of the realities of how difficult it was to live there with tiny humans certainly had me looking somewhat longingly at open house listings.

True to our “get shit done” MacMillan nature, by **August** 10 (which happens to be my birthday) we had put in an offer, gotten it accepted, and listed our current house. I was plugging along with this pregnancy, feeling okay (not great, but not nearly as sick as with my first), and we were getting our lives in order to take advantage of making things as easy as possible for everyone. Which meant moving. Moving to a house where you could bring in groceries without training for Everest, where you could walk with a stroller to a local park, where there are sidewalks and streetlamps and people who walk their dogs and say hello. A cookie-cutter suburban neighborhood. Call us sellouts, but we love it.

August also brought a miniature family reunion in the form of my dad’s 75th birthday. All of my brothers and sisters flew in and we spent the weekend at a beach resort not too far from here, but it felt like a wonderful mini vacation. This is also when Neil and I finally spilled the beans on the new pregnancy; there’s no way I would have gotten away with not getting sloshed with my sister without someone figuring it out. It was a great memory, and I hope to do something similar again in the future.

By **September** we had closed on the new house, and Neil’s sister painted Paige’s new room as a wonderful meadow, and as of **October** we moved in. We completely, massively, enormously, devastatingly, underestimated how difficult it would be to sell a house with a thousand stairs, and so these month proved to be stressful. From living there and trying to keep things perfectly clean with a toddler, to packing while pregnant and trying to carry things up and down, to just the knowledge that we were very quickly going to be facing two mortgages. There were many tears and even more tears that there couldn’t be many, many glasses of wine on my part. But the new house has proven since day one, to be so worth it. The first weekend we were in we walked to one of the local parks for a festival that was happening, where Paige got to pet (amongst other critters) an owl! She is fearless. I love it. Just a few weeks and a trip to a working farm/pumpkin patch later, we hosted a small birthday party for her, and seeing everyone gathered around our new kitchen island, sitting in the backyard, and being so comfortable made our hearts triple in size. Like the grinch, we had finally found the love that a workable home can give. (As a selfish aside, I also finally have my amazing deep soaker tub that I thought would only ever be a pipe dream.)

**November** brought the usual chaos of the upcoming holidays, this year including election day, which I am choosing to ignore in this entry for the sake of small ears and my own general sanity. We also got Paige her first “real” haircut (we had been trimming her bangs for a very long time but this was a full style – and she hated it with a firey passion. We’ll see when that happens again. Oof. Neil and I also got a treat from my parents and got a date to see Hedwig at the Pantages – it was a great (and very wet!) afternoon. Somewhere in this time period I also had a gestational diabetes scare, (everything is good), a total and utter breakdown about the two houses that we owned, politics, and a general feeling that the sky was falling.

Not long afterwards, we got an offer on the house and were able to save a few more bucks by selling it as-is. By **December** it had closed, and all of the toppling dominoes in life could be organized again. I like to say that I deal pretty well with stress, but as I told my boss somewhere around this time when they offered me a promotion, I can only handle so much at once. This said, December proved to be a beautiful balance back to the way life should be. We took Paige to see Santa (EPIC FAIL) and baked gingerbread cookies, and finished the year with Neil and I puking our guts out all of Christmas day. Oh, what? Yeah.

2016. It was like that. So much, so dumb. So hard, so epic-ly, wonderfully good.

1000 Words on Working. None of them particularly Useful.

For the first time in weeks (months, even), I am staying home all day with my baby girl. My baby girl who is not so much a baby anymore but a self confident toddler who throws herself on the floor with the intensity of a tornado touching-down, and then instantaneously turns into a wet, moppy rag doll so you can’t pick her up off said floor. She giggles at my lame attempts to get her to stand in between screams of frustration about whatever it was that caused the floor-drop in the first place (she wasn’t allowed to pull the cat’s tail; she couldn’t stick her finger in the electrical outlet; I gave her an apple instead of a banana; the sky is blue.)

I’m home, sitting in silence, watching her on the monitor as she sleeps away a terrible fever. This, such a short time ago, was my every-day, my life, my focus. Now I am stretched and commuting, I am snuggling her at 5:30 as I pick her up from daycare as if I haven’t seen her in a week instead of a day, I am so tired and so refreshed in totally different yet very basically the same ways.

I have more patience with her than I used to. Instead of being thinned out over the hours (which can feel like years sometimes) I get a short window of time for her to scream at me because she is hungry or tired, to throw herself on the floor, to giggle and take a running leap into my arms (my very favorite one). We read books, we eat snacks, and then she is done for the day and rubbing her eyes and I feel like I just barely got to see her.

I have more drive and energy than I used to. The routine is good for me; for my anxiety-riddled brain, that, given enough down-time, can spiral into darkness and chaos. Getting up every day and driving to a place in which there are expected things that I do, and do well, is calming to those shadowy creatures of habit in my gut. I find that outside of work I am trying to make better use of my time; having less of it for myself – and while this is absolutely nothing new to me (I always worked best in school when I was scheduled up to the gills) it is also something that is much harder for me to enjoy. I feel like I am missing out – missing her smiles and chatter, missing the very raising of my child.

40 hours is a lot of time. Before I was a stay at home mom I worked a job that had an alternative schedule – every two weeks you would get one extra day off, giving you 3 day weekends every other week. It was glorious. I was there for 5 years. My point in saying this is that I haven’t worked at 40-hour week full time job in over 6 years. My stress-induced eye twitch is back in full force. Have you ever had an eye twitch? It is one of the more irritating harmless-body-things that I’ve dealt with in life. It happens when I do too much, when I am moving forward at an unsustainable rate. When I’ve lost track of the pace car; barreling downhill. I barely have enough time on the weekends for all of my laundry, you can forget driving an hour each way to see friends on the other side of the city. I want to write, I want to exercise, I want to cook dinner. All of these things feel like the last domino, like it’s just too much. These are the things that make me happy in life. I may be okay now forgoing these things, but what about 6 months from now? A year from now? Will I still be happy with so little time for *anything else* in life?

I’ve never defined myself as what I do. Some people say “Hello, I’m Ashley. I’m a teacher.” They say this because it is part of their identity, their very being. This is their passion, their love, their life. I have had dream jobs. Except for my stellar resume, I didn’t advertise that I had them. I’ve always defined myself with other parts of my life. It wasn’t until I stayed home from work to be with the little girl that I started doing things like calling myself a writer. A developer. A creator. Because for the first time, when I was doing these things for myself, on my own time and by my own rules, that I had pride in my work. Pride with what I was doing every day. I say this because I have yet to disclose to almost anyone where I am currently working, what I am doing. I have fallen back into the “it doesn’t matter” camp. And while I don’t necessarily feel negativity towards this, it is an interesting thing to note. It simply is what it is.

I guess my point here is that if I can be 5 years old for a minute, I’d really, truly wish, that I could have my cake and eat it too. There are a lot of good things that have come out of me going back to work – namely, organizing my headspace and giving me something else to focus on, something to make use of my “curse of competency.” But I’m not sold that I can sustain a 40-hour in-office old-school dress-code type of job without those balances tipping back into the direction of “not worth it.”

I’m just not sure. I’m not sure of much these days. All I know is that my little girl is sick and I am worried. It makes me think, this worry, think about what is important in life and what is the responsible choice for our future, and how those two things don’t seem to coexist very well. I wish society was structured differently; that I could keep one foot in the workforce without jumping in completely. I wish a lot of things.

I make responsive and beautiful, flexible websites. Isn’t it fair to want that sort of flexibility for the analog realm as well? I need to sit down and wireframe life.

Web Development Using a Chromebook.

I’m about to get all techy up in here, which I understand is SO not the right content for this blog. However, due to some recent projects, this is something that has been on my mind quite a bit, and in the end, Ultra-Pink is more about what is happening in my personal life than any other blog that I write. Maybe one day I’ll start a tech only blog and repost this there. But for now, get your nerdy thinking caps on and follow along, or go check out this dancing cat video and come back for messy motherhood posts another time.

I use a Chromebook. (Specifically, I have this model.) They are affordable, user friendly, and 90% of the time, they do 95% of everything you’d ever want to do on a computer. Unless you are creating super-enormous high end graphics or slinging some seriously processor heavy code, you can very easily use a Chromebook as your daily machine. But what happens when someone like me (who loves to tinker) wants to get back into some light web development? It’s taken some research, but it indeed, can be done.

Firstly, because this is my personal machine, which means I also want to look at Facebook and cat videos, I use OneTab. OneTab is a plugin that reduces memory usage (something that the Chrome browser is notorious for hoarding, and unfortunately I can confirm that it is no different on the Chrome OS) and also, almost more importantly, organizes your links in a friendly, focused way. I *am* that person with 56 different tabs open at once who then complains that her computer runs slowly. OneTab fixes this. I have a set of tabs that I open for when I am doing web development, and I can add or remove things from this list at a whim. I also have a different set of tabs that is meant more for the time I putz around checking email and reading TMZ. (Just kidding. I read stupid things like The Smithsonian’s Blog. Nerd Alert.)

I’ve found that Caret is a simple code editor, (I like ones that don’t have too many bells and whistles), and sFTP is great for uploading to my server. Yes, there’s the catch – I don’t actually have a local development environment, nor can I make one without doing serious things to my poor little laptop (like a dual boot.) However, even with a heavy need to rely on my FTP client, it still seems to be working out nicely. This will change once I push my current project site public and hand out the link to everyone, but for now while I’m learning, I’m quite happy.

Canva and Pixlr Editor are awesome graphics sites and they also do 90% of what you need 95% of the time. (Bonus, Canva makes you look like a design genius.)

I’ll probably update this entry as time marches on and I change my mind or find new/better ways of working. (Let’s be honest, I’m mostly writing this entry as a way to organize my own workflow.) I’ll get some real writing in soon too, but for now, this is where I am putting in some extra effort, and hopefully it will pay off for me in the end.

31 – A Brand New Kind of Life

It’s been a while that I’ve written about my own life, mainly because I am not sure that I think about my own life all that much anymore. Now, don’t take that the wrong way – or maybe, yes, do, but either way, my own feelings and problems and general reasons for doing the things I do are on the back burner. Have been for a while now. Mostly because I have had bigger things to worry about, in the form of a small human. For this reason, and all the reasons that go along with it, 30 has been a rather rough year for me.

bigstock-Birthday-Candles-9116729

I don’t do well with change – we already established this when I spent the first 2 months at UCLA convinced they had made a mistake in accepting me and that I wasn’t actually smart enough to be there – when I spend the first 2 weeks of every new job I’ve ever had convinced that I will never figure out what is going on and how to function within that company – and even when I spend the first 20 minutes of every new place, shop, meeting, anything really – panicking that I won’t find a parking space, that I will be heinously late or embarrassingly early, and that everyone I meet and/or talk to will turn out to be jerks and it will have been all a huge waste of time, so why bother leaving the house in the first place.

This is why 30 has been hard. Wonderful and joyful, but not necessarily always happy.

Because with a track record like that, bringing home a brand new, strange person who is screaming at me, biting me, and generally making me cry on a daily – if not hourly basis, was something that I was not equipped to deal with in any way. I went into a tailspin shortly after she was born and as I am climbing back out I am realizing that all of my hopes, dreams, and passions got left behind somewhere deep in that hole. I miss my job, I miss working out. I miss being creative, and having time to myself. The scary part? I’m just now feeling like I can tackle these things. Like I have a handle on the baby situation enough that these are things that I might just be able to fit back into my life without shattering all over again.

But here’s the big secret folks. I wanted to go back to work. I resigned because I felt like I literally, physically and emotionally, couldn’t. It wasn’t for months after my supposed “return to work” date that I started feeling halfway human again, that I wasn’t using my shower time to cry incoherently into my loofah. I could barely hold a conversation with a good friend without tears streaming down my cheeks, I felt like I was walking around in a strange dream world. I remember being at a mommy group therapy session just a week before I was supposed to go back, sobbing all over my daughter’s head, while 12 other moms looked on, nodding their approval and giving me hugs.

The good news is that it took 30 for me to feel the way I do today. I am so much more confident in myself. Confident in dealing with change, and being able to find that elusive balance. My baby may have made me cry in those early months but she was teaching me lifetimes worth of patience, understanding, and flexibility. I am much less easily ruffled these days, I can leave things open ended and I have gotten used to being late or early. I happily meet up with relative strangers, who turn out to be wonderful people, for play dates at places I’ve never been to before.

I’ve adapted in beautiful, life altering ways.

So now I’m looking for another job, a better job. Maybe it will look different in hours or content, maybe it will be my own creation. I don’t know yet. And I’m being creative, I’m writing much more. And I’m even trying to start moving my body in ways that don’t just involve crawling around after the baby. And all of these reasons are why 31 will be a great year. Because 31 is going to be about taking care of me again, with a brand new kind of life.