gratitudejournal, insert emoticon here, working mother

Chase joy

I have a friend whose family immigrated to the United States after fleeing from an authoritarian, genocidal regime. My friend just had a baby, and observed privately that  her mom doesn’t much care about the things we find joy in — hobbies, careers, simply living — but that the baby… “babies are life.” And her gift to her mother is that joy that we all take for granted, which her mom is finally finding in the baby.

Today as I dropped my baby off at daycare, and watched her run around like crazypants with her friend Max, and then show Audrey and Elaine her painting she made last night, and listening to her tell Miss Molly and Miss Elaina about how she had potato soup for breakfast… I wanted to cry. That’s life. Right there. And how lucky am I that I can go have the career I love while leaving the kid I love at a place where she is so incredibly happy?

Very lucky.

I stopped on the way out of daycare to tell Miss Lori that I was grateful, and nearly started to cry. I’m exhausted. Justin’s sick, Gwyn is 3, I need to work more than I am to stay caught up, the stupid Christmas tree is still up, the laundry is overflowing, my husband and I are sniping at each other because we’re both tapped out and then we’re sad about being jerks, and I have a migraine brewing. So I walked from Childcare to my office chanting “You can do this. You CAN do this.” Then I noticed a student ID card on the ground. I picked it up, and turned it in at the PACES office, thinking about how that student needs her ID to eat today. When I got to my office I emailed her, telling her that her ID had been turned in, because if that’s her lunch card, well. She needs it.

And that’s how I’m going to do it. I’m going to do it one small kindness at a time. Thanking Miss Lori. Returning the student’s ID. Nominating staff members for awards. Helping every student I can help. Raising my child. Loving my husband and building a home. Bringing joy where I can, and safety and comfort where joy isn’t possible.

Please do the same.

The Tiniest Capen, Uncategorized, working mother

9000 eternities

Time asleep before I was awoken: 4 hours? Maybe 5?

Time spent calmly talking about how it is nighttime and it is time for sleeping to a balls-to-the-wall hysterically screaming toddler who wanted daddy, a show, to sleep on the couch, Maggie, Daddy, and also another show: 45 minutes? An hour? An eternity? 57 eternities?

Time spent observing same toddler as she eats a bag of popcorn while staring off into space like a zombie: half an eternity. 

Time spent adjusting the zombie toddler’s sleeping arrangements to her satisfaction: 2 eternities. 

Time spent trying to remain calm and comfortable at the toddler’s bedside while she busily tries to stay awake in the face of zombie-level exhaustion: 7 eternities. 

Time at which I finally was horizontal on a soft surface in a silent house: 4 am. 

Two nights running. I can do hard things. I do hard things every day. So let’s do this hard thing. Thursday, watch the fuck out. I have eternities of practice patiently waiting out crazy. 

insert emoticon here, working mother

Hey, world. PSA for those looking for me this week, and wondering about radio silence.
Saturday I spend the day doing laundry, packing, and playing with my kiddo as much as possible. Saturday night I head to Montreal, and Sunday morning we fly to Santa Clara, Cuba, then we drive to Cienfuegos. I’ll be there for a week — coming home next Sunday. I don’t expect to have much useful internet access for most of that week.
I’m really, really excited.
I really don’t want to leave my daughter.
More from the other side.
The Tiniest Capen, working mother

Gwyneth started talking last week. I mean, she’s been talking — communicating verbally — for a year and change. But last week she started speaking English.

This morning Justin made an example of greeting the dog when he wandered out of the bedroom, and Gwyn repeated it perfectly: “Hi, Malcolm!”

And when I came out of the bedroom, dressed for work, she started saying goodbye to me. I told her I was going to get breakfast first, and she said “Mama breakfast first.” When I was done with my sandwich, she asked me if I had my shoes.
“And keys?”
“And a hat? “(No, thank you, mama doesn’t need a hat. Does Gwyn want a hat? “No hat Hen.” Okay then. No hats for anyone.)
“Bye bye mama!” (Then she retrieved my wallet from my purse and handed it to me. “Thank you mama!”)
“A hug?”
“And kiss.”

She’s like my own personal imp-powered organizer, a-la Pratchett and Vimes.

Sitcom life, The Tiniest Capen, working mother

episode 1

Today in my sitcom life, I spend the day walking around parking lots in 90 degree heat because I can’t remember what my mom’s car looks like, carrying what has become a total mom-purse, while looking for the perfect diapers in every store in town and failing to find them.

misc, working mother

Sunday list

Things I want to do today:

  • Work on a consulting project
  • Take a shower
  • Enjoy my kiddo
  • Make breakfast burritos for the freezer
  • Knit
  • Listen to an audiobook
  • Do 3-5 loads of laundry
  • Untangle my jewelry
  • Design a new leather bag
  • Or two
  • Spend some time with Justin

I’m confident I’ll get to the first three… All bets are off as to how far past that we go. 

gratitudejournal, insert emoticon here, working mother

Do not check your email.

Last night I listened as my daughter counted to 10, independently, by picking up 10 strawberries and naming the number as she put them down. Justin and I stared at each other in joyful amazement. What an awesome thing the human brain is. Of course, shortly after that she decided to run to the kitchen naked while getting her diaper changed for bedtime, and she finished her snack of strawberries and pears in the nude… and then peed all over the toddler tower. When it became annoying to her that there was a puddle, she put her feet out at the very edges of the platform and stood around it.  So we’ll get to potty training when she’s damn well good and ready, I think. Because right now she does not give a single fuck, and I have no extra energy to give to things she just does. not. care. about.

On that same theme, I had a fury breakdown at work last week. So mad I got up and left a meeting. Never done that before. But then I came back, and continued the dialogue, and we found common ground, and we agreed to a path forward, and our followup emails agree we did find common ground… it’s a good thing. I stood up and left, and walked the perimeter of my library, breathing and thinking, because I needed to let go of the emotion — release the thing I just do not care about — and find the core of strength that is my determination and confidence to accomplish the things I do care about. There’s a whole lot of negative energy flying around campus these days (the end of the semester is chaos time), and I need to release it from my head.

As part of that release, I went away from the real world this weekend — it was the May Kingdoms of Novitas event — and left my kid with her “brother” and extra parents. KoN is my home away from home. Those people are my family away from my family. That world is my world away from this one. I disconnected, I didn’t check my email, I trusted Gwyn’s happiness to Sam and Suzy, and I just played. I trusted that I can do this. That I am allowed to disconnect. That it’s okay if I don’t work — on housework, at my office, solving all the problems that were ever problems — every day, all day. And I played. LARPing is creative play for adults — and we always say children need play. I say adults need to play, too. And playing doesn’t have to involve drinking or sports with teams and rules… sometimes it can involve improv acting, storytelling, hiking, and hitting other adults with sticks. With rules. And teams. Some of them sort of mafia-like. But I digress.

I played. I hiked 5 miles. I told stories. I practiced my improv skills. I problem solved in a scenario where all problems had resolutions.  I ate a lot of grilled cheese sandwiches and hot dogs. I sat in the sun and laughed. I spent 36 hours with one of my families. I did not check my email. I did not think about whether my daughter talks enough, or when she’ll pee on the potty.

Worth it.


insert emoticon here, The Tiniest Capen, working mother

3:45: woke up to a screaming headache — a tension headache that was building toward a migraine. I tried to stretch through it.

4:00: give up on stretching, get up to take Tylenol and magnesium and get an ice pack for my head and a heating pad for my back.

4:05: return to bed to discover Steve is asleep on my heating pad and Jack is asleep on my pillow. At least they’re both purring, I think, and move them both aside and crawl back into bed.

5:00ish: fall back asleep, pain abated somewhat, and migraine averted.

6:30: turn off alarm.

6:45: turn off alarm.

7:00: turn off alarm.

7:45: wake up to my “get your ass out of the house now” alarm.

7:46: wake Justin and Gwyn, and ask him to please, I’m so sorry, I know I said you could sleep in today, but can you get her ready for daycare FAST while I take a quick shower?

7:52: as I fumble for a towel, I wonder why it’s so hard for us to keep clean towels stocked, and think maybe that, I dunno, WE COULD BUY MORE. (I think it’s been, like, 10 years…)

7:59: showered and dressed in the only clean pair of dress pants that currently fit me, I help hunt down shoes for Gwyneth. She has a dozen pairs of shoes, and only one pair at any time is actually a pair. But we find the second shoe! And it’s red, which is great, because it’s Red And Denim day at daycare for Halloween dressup week.

8:12: Finally pull out of the driveway.

8:19: Drop Gwyn off at daycare, which goes as smoothly as I could ask for, excepting the awareness that G really wanted me to stay and snuggle for a while.

8:29: Arrive 14 minutes late for my 8:15 appointment at Bodyworks. Discover on arriving that my zipper is down, and there’s a hole in the crotch seam of my trousers. Fantastic.

9:30: Leave Bodyworks with about 20% of my headache remaining, and call it a win.

Now. What was I going to work on, today?

#mightyifitkillsme, working mother

This morning Justin and Gwyn were comfortably ensconced watching parallel versions of Saturday Morning Cartoons (Fallout: New Vegas for the grownup and Curious George for the toddler), so I asked for an hour in the exercise room. I went down, flipped out my yoga mat, and pulled out the Yoga Studio app on my phone. I made a class called “Salute and Twist”, and filled it with all the blocks of twisting poses and sun salutations that the app has to offer. I threw in a standing balance block and a Warrior block for good measure.

Nothing I did was hard. I would say it was solidly beginner stuff — literally just sun salutations and warrior sequences and lots and lots of twists.

I hurt.

I hurt a lot.

Some of it is good hurt — muscles that needed to move, that needed to be used that way. My quads are going to tell me about those warrior sequences tomorrow, and my lower abs, newly loose, are telling me that they were the source of my low back pain this week.

Some of it’s not so great. A couple of nights ago I told Justin that I woke up and Gwyn had snuggled up to my back and was resting her face on my shoulderblade. And it HURT. I had a muscle spasming so hard that the pressure of a toddler’s snuggle woke me up. And so in the first five minutes of the 40 I did today, I felt that same muscle go. Now it’s just a dull throb, a low background notice that my body is not where I want it to be.

My friend Mary Carmen has been posting links to the videos her trainer shares on Facebook. Mary’s story is hers to tell, but after years of health issues and carrying two babies, she’s getting up every morning at 4:30 and doing a bootcamp workout at a gym before she spends the day parenting those two kiddos. And I am so proud of her. SO PROUD! Because I know how fucking hard that is. I know. Our mix of challenges is different, but I know. I get it.

Today Justin let me lie in bed and read for a couple of hours before I got up and went down to exercise. It felt like a gift. I’ve been either at work or doing a family thing or at LARP for every weekend since… forever. I am, in fact, typing this in my office on a Saturday afternoon. And that pattern is going to continue for the next several months. Next weekend I have to prep for a week of work travel. The one after that I have to work. After that we go to Rhode Island. Then it’s Halloween. Then it’s LARP. Then I have to work two weeks in a row. Then it’s Thanksgiving in Illinois. Then LARP. Then Christmas in Vermont.

There’s not much lying in bed in that picture, when you toss “toddler” on top of it all.

And there hasn’t been much exercising, either.

But I’m listening to my body today. I feel energized, and strong, and good. I have a dull throb in my  left shoulder and my quads are trembling with muscle fatigue, but I feel good. This needs to happen. I know who I want to be. I have to try harder to make myself a priority in all of this happy chaos that is our life.

Why walk when you can fly?

insert emoticon here, The Tiniest Capen, working mother

We’re in the middle of the 18 month sleep regression, so seeing 3 am, 4 am, and 5 am is common right now. Gwyneth is teething, and popped a tooth yesterday, and she’s about to pop on talking, too — her brain is working overtime — and keeping up with her just got hard and different again. We welcomed two new people into our home this summer, and changed our adult family dynamics, and Justin and I are still sorting that out. My cat is slowly dying, and I don’t know what to do about it. I’m overbooked on summer travel, and had to postpone visiting my grandmother, and I feel awful about that. And I work a lot, and have recently started feeling like I’m trying to move a mountain with a teaspoon, or tow a boat with just my teeth… the odds don’t seem to be moving in my favor on several of these projects and initiatives, but I’m trying to remain positive for the good of the institution and my people, putting on the best face I can while I fight for us in private. There are 7 ongoing summer construction projects in my main library, and several of those caused a lot of emotional, political, and power-dynamic disruptions that had to be addressed.

In short, I’m stressed. Right now, on a Friday night at 10:42, I’m sitting in my darkened living room, listening to Gwyneth wail as Justin tries to soothe her to sleep. She wants, depending on the moment, to do her bedtime routine again (stories! milk! teeth! snuggle!) or watch Curious George on one of our phones, and she’s frustrated and angry and sad and so are we… but she will sleep. Eventually. And our car is 90% packed, and in the morning after we all sleep a little we’re going to the Pennsic War in Pennsylvania, to camp with Sam and Suzy and Liam and a bunch of other friends for a week in medieval summer camp.

And that’s a good thing. I’m at the end of my rope. Today I realized that my tattoo hurts. All my scars itch. My joints ache, and my muscles are knots. I’ve been clenching my teeth all day and night. I can’t turn my head to the right because of a muscle spasm. I’m not sleeping, and I’m subsisting on carbs and cheese and coffee. A lot of coffee.

So this week I’m going to read books. I’m going to play with my kid. I’m going to wear medieval-esque garb and eat communal meals with my friends and sleep in a tent and nap during the day and tickle my baby until she giggles insanely and wander through the merchants and take some classes on arts and crafts and generally live differently for a while.

Because I need to reset. This is unsustainable. This is insane. This is not who I want to be. This is not how I want to live.

So I won’t.