Update Update: New Blog!

I’ve decided to give all of my crazy mom thoughts a home of their own. Check out the ramblings over at mommishly.

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Home Sweet…Home?

I wrote once about how much I loved our House. The breezes that float down the hallways, the birds that are constantly chirping outside the very many windows. These things I still very much love; it’s part of this passionate affair that will never die. But now I have mom-vision, and I see so much of this house that I never saw before. The terrible location, with no sidewalks and no streetlamps. Where once I was amazed that owls nested in our trees, now all I notice is the cars that come speeding down the blind corner at all hours of the night. The privacy and quietness of this little offshoot of a street now feels trapped, with no ability to walk anywhere. I go two houses up, two houses down, during daylight hours only. Too far up the street and you hit the drug house with the litter of broken glass and used condoms in the dirt out front. Too far down the street and you hit one of the busiest roads in our little town. Full of car and bicycle traffic, but there seems to be no room for walkers or strollers, or sidewalks of any kind. Thanks to the mountains that we fell in love with, it’s even tough to cross this street – every corner seems to be a blind one. The clientele from the top house always park in front of our mailbox and loiter in the more shadowy parts of our front yard. When we’ve mentioned this to the cops the only response we got was “Oh, yeah, we know that house. It’s fine.” *Move on with your day, lady.* Meanwhile, the house on the other side of us rents out every bedroom to a different family, so we never quite know who is living next door. Between these two houses, the cops are on our street quite often, breaking up fights next door or cruising up and down the full length, very slowly rolling by the parked cars. Once, while sipping my coffee, I saw them unpack full riot gear from an unmarked van and go walking on foot up the hill. This consistent police activity makes me feel either very safe or very not. I’m in my garage a lot, since I have to drive everywhere, for everything. Every once in a while I find myself hurrying to get the door closed quickly at night, like some unconscious part of me thinks I might be robbed at my own threshold. There are good people on this street too, don’t get me wrong. We have wonderful neighbors across the way, and seemingly normal people on the other side of us. But since the baby came along, all I see is the danger of blazed drivers coming far too quickly down our little hill; their reaction time being very, very slow.

It’s the house too, though. Our decks, our wonderful outdoor living spaces – look like enormous fall hazards. Our myriad of hawthorne trees are almost buzzing their own tune they are full of so many happy bees. The staircase – the very heart of our home – is the biggest problem. Winding up an invisible tree, our staircase reaches three stories into the air with ease. The spindly honey oak railing is the only thing that keeps you from a tile floor 25 feet below. It’s not so much teaching her to be careful on the stairs that I worry about – it’s everything else. It’s having friends over whose kids maybe *aren’t* careful on stairs. It’s climbing two flights from the car to the kitchen to bring in groceries with an almost-mobile, squirming baby, and loading her and all her stuff down two flights in order to go out. It’s carrying her up and down the stairs in general; while she’s in our arms she is high above anything that could catch her fall if she were to throw herself out of our sometimes-necessary vice grip. It’s the idea of being pregnant again and doing all of that with a child and a belly, which seems very much impossible.

Hello, stairs.

Hello, stairs.

Because of the huge open staircase, our house is very loud. Noises echo up and down the floors, bouncing off everything like the symphony of life. It never bothered me until I tried to put my baby to bed while my sweet sweet husband decided to cook me dinner, banging pots and pans and making her eyes fly open at every little ting. We have to turn her white noise machine up so loud that sometimes I’m afraid we’ll never be able to get her to sleep in a quiet room again.

To be honest, this house is starting to feel exhausting. Are they all things that might be blown out of proportion due to mom-brain? Yes. Are they all pretty real reasons to at least give a few second thoughts? Yes. So what do you do, when the house you love so much starts to show its ugly side. Do you childproof as best you can and move on with life? Nothing is really all that big an issue, and we live in one of the safest neighborhoods around. Our “neighbors” are really nothing to worry about in the grand scheme of life. Suburban problems are not urban problems in any way.

Or do you bite the bullet and move somewhere less stressful and more accessible? Of course, it would cost more money, that’s a given. Where do you draw that line? When does it become worth the money, the hassle, the craziness of uprooting your life for somewhere new to call home?

Helmet Head

Have you seen kids with their very own crash helmets?

The infant helmet, also known as my rabbit hole of doom. I’ve been clawing myself out of this black hole of mommy blogs, message boards, and voices chattering on every tiny aspect of this topic. I’ve seen big red no-smoking sign images with the helmets in the middle of them, reading “STOP this Pandemic!” I’ve read stories about how helmets have changed the lives of little ones and their parents for all the better. Pictures of flowery, glittery, super hero-y helmets painted and customized crowned on smiling babies. I’m convinced I’ve read everything the internet has to offer, on pros and cons and general mommy-war-wisdom.

I’m still not convinced either way.

Our pediatrician took a long, hard look at our daughters head at her two month appointment, and told us to start re-positioning her, lest we end up needing one of those “$4000 helmets.” We, being data driven, type A, slightly compulsive people, started peppering him with questions about re-positioning. Is it better to keep weight off of her head completely? Or should we try to put pressure on the spot that isn’t flat? What happens with her crib? Can we put a small towel underneath the sheet to try and keep her from sleeping on the wrong side?

He looked at us, probably thinking something along the lines of “crazy first time parents” and took a deep breath. “You know, I don’t really know the answer to all of the specifics. Why don’t you call the specialists and I’m sure they can give you a ton of tips.”

And that, my friends, was when the chaos started.

We called, and it’s true that they gave us tons of tips. They also offered to have us bring her in, that they’d scan her for free and then we can at least have one set of data to see what we are working with. Again, being data lovers, we happily agreed.

“This child needs a helmet. You can wait and come back here in a month and I’ll still be saying the same thing. Maybe I’m wrong, maybe she’ll surprise me, but I’m really never wrong. And don’t start yourselves with the guilt story, it’s her neck – see the tilt?” She spat this at us without taking a breath. “If you don’t do this, she will have vision problems, jaw problems, hearing problems. See how her ears are misaligned? She will never be able to wear a bicycle helmet or have normal glasses.” This last part as she stared at me directly in the face, my pink and black plastic rims staring back at her in disbelief.

Tears welled in my eyes and I sat there in shock, feeling bullied and scared. My husband took over and I composed myself to quickly talk to her about some stretches that we could do to help the torticollis (her neck muscles on one side were tight, which in the end, was the cause of all of this drama), and practically ran out of there, being promised an email containing the full file of all of the scan results and measurements.

As soon as we got back to the car, I burst into tears, sobbing uncontrollably. I spit venomous words about how they were money hungry pirates and why on earth are the “specialists” also the ones who stand to make money off of the sales of their product.

Over the next few weeks I let things sink in a little more. We told ourselves we would go back and get a new scan in a month, and if there wasn’t enough improvement for us to see that she was on the right track, we would talk.

We went back, got a second scan. It did show improvement, but not very much. She was still categorized as “severe.” Meanwhile, I had been killing myself trying to keep her looking one way but not the other, celebrating victory when she layed down to sleep on her “tight” side, something we had to work for weeks upon weeks for her to be able to do. We talked to her other pediatrician about it, who said that yes, she could absolutely see the flat spot and the misshapen head, but that she was not concerned in the least. That she’d grow out of it by the time she was two, and that she’s never heard of that company NOT recommending a helmet.

So, that brings me to my internet data rabbit hole. Amongst all of the mommy chatter I did find some legit studies, both for (1, 2) and against (1, 2) these helmets.

My totally unscientific conclusion, taking into consideration all of the studies, all of the personal stories, all of the advice from our pediatrician and the specialists is that it will indeed, correct on it’s own. However, it could take years. The helmets seem to speed up the process, and what you get in 4-16 weeks with the helmet is what you would see in 2-5 years via nature.

Great right? We also decided that because of/in spite of this, we are getting the helmet.

I have a tendency to be compulsive, and I suffer from generalized anxiety. This has become my newest compulsion, and it’s just not healthy. Aside from that, unless we have a time machine (Doctor, I’m looking at you) we have no way of knowing if she will be one of the (very few) kids on the outliers of the studies who never does correct on her own. I don’t want to spend the next 2 years staring at her head and feeling guilty that I didn’t do everything I could for her when I had the chance. If it was my head, I could give a crap. But this is for her, and this is about setting aside biases to do what’s right for her. In the end, there’s no downside to the helmets aside from a sweaty, stinky headed baby. Are we happy about it? No. Do we feel like we are doing the right thing? Yes.

It's hard to photograph.

It’s hard to photograph.

I hope that in the future more research is done on this subject. It is far too easy to prey on a parent’s anxiety, and I fear that we are just another number on a sales form. Luckily insurance will pay for most of it, and as we are finding out, time passes so very quickly with a little one. It will be over in the blink of an eye, and all of us happier for it.

Finding Happiness

Today, one day before you are officially 5 months old, your great grandmother died. This makes me sad for a number of reasons, though maybe not the ones you think.

Grandma C was a very strong, independent woman. For years and years, she’d travel the world. It was never a surprise to hear “Oh, your grandmother is on safari in Africa.” or “Oh, she’s complaining about the shots she has to get for her journey to India.” She was a code breaker during the war, in the underground tunnels of London. I can only imagine her young and full of fire, shouting out commands to anyone unlucky enough to be around to hear.

Every summer I would see her, at a very special place called Twain Harte Lake. One day, I will take you there and show you the bench that is dedicated to your great grandfather. Someone I never knew, but always heard was a most incredible man. Here’s the thing. He was the key to Grandma C’s happiness. And from what I understand, when he died, a part of her did too.

She battled depression her whole life, and never did anything about it. No doctors, no drugs, no hope. Oh baby girl, there is mental illness in your family. So very much of it. And it scares me. Because I never, ever want you to have to deal with these things, and I know you probably will.

I have fleeting memories of seeing my grandmother happy. Swimming across the lake or watching me dance at my wedding. But many times, I remember her to be a very sad, very angry woman. She’d call me rude and tell me I was the worst child in the world. She’d ignore me completely. And the unforgivable – she’d make my mom cry.

I am sad she is gone – yes – nothing will change the fact that she was my grandmother. But I am also relieved that her suffering – physical, and mental – is over. I hope that Grandma C has finally found her happiness. That maybe the next life will be more fulfilling to her than this one was.

HNwed675

A happy day.

A New Path

I would be nowhere without Google Calendar. I use it to make tasks, set deadlines, organize life. I share one calendar with my husband, and we sometimes communicate solely through event updates. If one of us doesn’t come home, or leaves unexpectedly, the answer is in the calendar.

The calendar emails me reminders to do things. Buy birthday presents for nieces and nephews, make sure to do laundry for that upcoming camping trip. There’s a section for chores. One for bills. One for craft projects and blog ideas. One for work related items.

That last one? That one made me cringe today. It showed up in my email, an innocent chirpy notification pinging away on my phone. “Heather – Return to Work” with a light blue highlight.

Those little words have been bouncing around in my head all morning. For nearly five years, I have been pulling rabbits out of hats for my job. Doing the impossible, making things happen. My boss once joked that I would have nothing to do all day without Google, and to be honest, he was right. My job was to make curator’s dreams come true. To bring life to dusty old artwork, to create interaction with things that haven’t been touched by a real, un-gloved finger in hundreds of years. Most of the time this involved me saying something along the lines of “Yes, I can do that” and then going back to my desk, taking a deep breath, getting on Google, and figuring out how to make good on my promises.

In a way, this was really shitty. I didn’t have a team, I didn’t have a senior person who could show me the ropes. I had me, my proactive nature, and lots and lots of online tutorials that were mostly dubious at best. But it didn’t matter. Great things were expected of me, and I delivered. Now, if a “real” engineer were to look at my work I’m sure they wouldn’t say I made great things. But considering I would start out with nothing and end up with something – that was a great thing. It was enough. It was, in my slightly masochistic head, wonderful to consistently be expected do accomplish something that I had NO IDEA how to do.

So today, when the calendar notification popped up saying I should be back at work, it hurt. Because I’m not at work. Nor will I be – at least for that job. Because here’s the other thing about that job. It was a complete, 100% dead end. Project based activities might have furthered my skill set, but there was no future there for me. Not on a personal level, either, it was just the culture. Our HR director once said to a room full of employees that if we wanted to further our careers, maybe we should look outside the organization. I’ve never really felt the phrase “you could cut the tension with a knife” until that meeting. The atmosphere was so very cold, the employees so very hurt and angry.

I was raised by a hippie feminist who fought hard so I could live the life that I choose. I am a feminist myself. So when I had to make the decision about returning to work after Paige was born, I thought about the fact that the feminist thing to do would be to not put your career on hold for kids. Except where I was working – I was putting my career on hold indefinitely. (And isn’t the REAL feminist thing just the ability to have that choice in the first place? This is thought for another day.)

Hello and Goodbye.

Hello and Goodbye.

I am slowly looking for jobs. I have applied to one or two places that I would just die to work for – their philosophies, their goals, their very existence makes me happy – and also I am hanging out with my daughter, watching her explore the world. I am writing (much more than you see on the blog) and I am trying to take my time to find something that makes my heart sing.

And while day to day with Paige is so different, so exhausting, so overwhelming, it’s also quite a lot like what I loved so much about my job – consistently doing something that let’s be honest –  I have no idea how to do.

For my Husband.

It would be easy for me to tell you I love you. To say how much I care. But the truth is I could get lost among the mountaintops for endless seasons, trying to find the right words to describe what I feel.

I’ve been lost in my own head for hours, searching. Sometimes that’s the problem with words. Nothing that ends up on paper feels quite right. It’s not enough. It doesn’t dance and move, it doesn’t leap off the page and sit in your chest, the heavy feeling of love, and lust, and the knowledge of being just one half of two souls combined. You are my world, my color and light.

Today is the 5 year anniversary of our wedding day. Our sopping wet, freezing cold, dirty, muddy, white lace wedding day. I feel like we spent the first four years in utter bliss, adventuring around and hanging off ropes without a care in the world. Love will do that, you know. It will make you jump, hearts full of faith that there will be a soft landing on the other side.

So we jumped. I got pregnant and things were odd for a while. My body was no longer mine and I didn’t like the way that felt. But we found ways to smile and laugh and love. You always knew how to make me happy. We both grew to love the little kicks, the big hiccups, the ever stronger salsa dancing in my swelling belly.

When she was born I was suddenly thrown into a spin cycle on high. An unbalanced load, bouncing around and smashing into walls. I spiraled, the bottom fell out. You didn’t know how to make me happy. Neither did I. But I will always remember one thing. You never stopped being there for me.

Thank you. For being you, for being by me and for being my rock. When we got engaged I leaned on you to slide down a canyon wall. When we had our daughter I leaned on you to help save me from sliding any farther. And the knowledge that you were there – will always be there – is a true anchor in my life. You are my love, you are my passion. You are the greatest teammate anyone could ever ask for, and I feel eternally lucky that you chose me. For better or worse, we pledged to celebrate life on that rainy day 5 years ago.

We’ve had so very much of the better.

Celebrate life, forevermore.

Celebrate life, forevermore.

Thinking Things.

They say to write what you know. But what happens when you feel like you know nothing? I had a baby. She is made of moonshadows and stardust, and these things are completely unknown to me.

I’m sitting in a filthy living room, covered in cat hair and baby toys. I’m pretty sure if you shined a black light on any random part of the couch, you’d find milk. Digested, partially, not at all – milk everywhere. And on the middle of the floor in front of me, splayed on her belly like a starfish, lies my daughter. Sleeping happily on her tummy, which makes me a terrible mom, yes I know. Every once in a while she picks her head up, sighs and squeaks, and then faceplants back down on the floor. I count to five, and if she hasn’t moved her head to one side or the other, I go try and coax her to get some breathing room. Sometimes I’ll even pull the cat hair out of her mouth.

I wonder these days about work (should I go back) and passions (should I try to do them more) and her father (how much I love him so). I sometimes wonder about her (was this a mistake) and her future (she is so amazing).

She’s 11 weeks old. We count in weeks, us new parents. Don’t judge. 11 weeks and everything I’ve ever known about life and what I want, like, have, know, about anything, has disappeared. She is a tiny overlord, and I am a chicken with its head cut off, trying desperately to make the crying stop. (Everyone has tears always.) Slowly though, I’m learning. She is teaching me.

She recently learned to clasp her hands together. She wrings them in front of her chest like a little old lady nervous about the oncoming rain. Developmentally this is apparently a huge step. Visually, it’s cute as hell. I am more proud of this small thing than I was the day I graduated college. I never wanted to be a mom.

And there’s the bell, there’s the thing. I am not mother material. But I’ve been watching a lot of Gilmore Girls (judge all you want) and the main character (the mother) said something that has been rattling around in my brain for days. Weeks. She said “I’m great at doing the things I need to do. I’m terrible at doing things I want to do.” And this is me. This is me in every single way. At work I cannot even begin to describe my job, because I get everything I need to get done, done. Whether it’s my job or not. And that, my friends, makes me the multi-hat-wearer of the universe, the renaissance woman of the workplace, and prettymuch un-employable for most companies. Who wants to see a resume with 20 different technical skills on it and no real job title? Luckily my current employer uses my rainbow flowerpot of skills, and knows how much I kick ass. (Own it.)

But what about what I WANT to do? I’m talking about writing. I suck at this. I suck at getting pen to paper or key to finger and actually sitting down and doing it. Because I want it so badly that I am afraid to fail. So do I go back to my job with the TERRIBLE commute but that actually is fun some days? Or do I rock the mother thing for a while and try my hand at another version of life? One that involves writing and spending time at the park and watching my daughter wring her hands and smack her lips, tut-tutting the wild winds.

Whatever I decide, will I do it, and do it well? I’d like to think so. Because people, I get shit done. And sometimes I might even write about it.