#mightyifitkillsme, insert emoticon here, The Tiniest Capen, working mother

Things lost in our house right now:

  • Two of my four Lightning cables
  • Justin’s multitool
  • My work keys
  • My wallet
  • The Otterbox for my iPhone
  • Two of our three hairbrushes
  • The pitcher we use to fill the water filter
  • Two of the three new pairs of wool socks I bought myself last month
  • Malcolm’s squeaky frog
  • My big steel mixing bowl

My current office productivity boosters:

  • A State holiday that means hardly any staff are in the building
  • A closed office door
  • Taylor Swift’s new album
  • A Venti cappuccino with an extra shot of espresso

Things I’m shaking off, per Tay:

  • My frustrations about the project I want to control but can’t
  • My feelings of dread about the state of our house (see list of things Lost In It)
  • My bewilderment at the array of contradictory opinions I got about the carpet for the library
  • My generalized exhaustion
  • The fact that a chipmunk family is living in my basement
  • My soul-deep awareness of everything that needs to be vaccumed in our house
  • This nagging feeling that I really do have a head cold but I’m unwilling to admit it
  • My basic set state of anxiety about everything ever

Things I’m holding close:

  • Justin’s graceful and loving reaction to my freakout about the house last night.
  • Taylor Swift makes really good pop music, and I also have the new Miranda Lambert for when I want to change gears.
  • The sweet cuddles and big smile I got from Gwyneth when I woke her for a diaper change and clothes before I took her to daycare.
  • I was only 7 minutes late for my 8 am meeting!
  • The fact that I ate breakfast, packed my lunch, planned my dinner, and am comfortably within my calorie goal while eating well. I got this, yo.
  • This morning’s realization that I never had any muscle pain or strain after my last kettlebell workout. Rock the fuck on, body.
  • My base confidence that I can handle the 51 red flagged items in my email inbox
  • Anticipation of an evening with Michael and Amy, who are coming over for dinner. Cooking is an act of love for me, and I love these people with all my heart.
  • My faith that all of this? It’s all going to work out.
  • My cappuccino.


#mightyifitkillsme, working mother

This afternoon as I was chairdancing a bit to Some Nights by Fun., I realized I need a new exercise mix, something that’ll get me running on the treadmill and into a good rhythm on the heavy bag. But that means clearing space on my phone, which is perennially clogged with photos, videos, audiobooks, and apps.

It’s a pretty good metaphor for my life right now. I’m doing a lot of clearing space.

Space to exercise.

Space to cook.

Space to clean.

Space to enjoy my husband.

Space to work effectively.

Lots of clearing space, emotional, temporal, and physical. And it feels great. It feels right. It feels like progress.

So now to make a new mix for exercising, and clear space for it.

#mightyifitkillsme, working mother

Last night as I lay in bed, looking at my calendar for today, I decided I’d get up in the morning and get back to exercising. Finally. I visualized it all, to make it easier to realize when I woke up: I’d get up, put on the black cropped yoga pants currently draped over the shoe rack, and my black exercise top, then brush my teeth, fill a water bottle, take a hit off my inhaler, and go downstairs to the exercise room. I’d put on my FiveFingers, do two quick sun salutations, and then move to the treadmill. After 20-30 minutes there, I’d work my arms and shoulders on the heavy bag with practice swords until I hit muscle fatigue. All doable, all satisfying.I felt good about it. I set my alarms.

And then I slept right through them.

Tomorrow I need to be at daycare dropoff at 7:45, so I’m not sure I can make it happen tomorrow morning… but maybe tonight. Or Wednesday. Or tomorrow night.

Because I have this great vision, and it seems a shame to waste it.

insert emoticon here, The Tiniest Capen, working mother

Things I am happy about right now:
  • I can get a doubleshot cappuccino in my library’s cafe.
  • I got six uninterrupted hours of sleep, with no crying baby and no coughing fits, and when the baby did wake up crying, I was able to get up and tend her without doubling over coughing first.
  • I’m wearing a second pair of pre-baby jeans, and they also fit.
  • I still love Doc Marten oxfords, and have a pair that fit me like a glove.
  • A challenging meeting yesterday ended well for all involved, and I got good feedback this morning.
  • Good friends are making us dinner tonight “and all you have to do is show up and hang out” because I’ve been so sick and they want to do a nice thing.
  • My job is flexible enough that I could hang out in my kitchen and feed Gwyn her breakfast rather than rush off to work.
insert emoticon here, The Tiniest Capen, working mother

Last year around this time I noted that it was silly to plan a wedding at the end of August when you’re an academic administrator. This year I would like to note that I was much more reasonable, and planned to be home over our anniversary weekend/the first week of classes. Except we went camping last weekend, and Gwyn got sick with her first fever and head cold immediately upon returning home, and so we’re still unpacking from camping and there’s miscellaneous crap strewn about our entire house (and garage, and cars). And did I mention Gwyn got sick? So she couldn’t sleep because she couldn’t breathe, so that meant we couldn’t sleep… and then both Justin and I got sick, because he has the immune system of an angry mouse, and I’m so bloody exhausted my immune system is hiding in a corner yelling things at angry mice.

So this week was kind of a bust. And there’s a lot I intended to do. Things like “my job” and “housekeeping” and “general personal hygiene”. (Taking a shower with a congested baby is not actually taking a shower, for the record. It gets you wet, but you don’t feel clean.) I successfully ran a 4-hour staff retreat in the middle of the sleepless week, and prepared for a pitch meeting for a big idea project, and generally tried to not fail at being Librarian Queen, but I was holding on by my fingernails, and I took a pile of sick leave anyway. And at home, I just wanted to be me, at home, doing the things I do at home. I was going to do my weekly weekend cook-a-thon. I did manage to get my hair cut and go to the grocery store in preparation for cook-a-thon, but then we ordered Chinese takeout last night because cooking a steak and some vegetables seemed like too much work. (We ate the steaks tonight.) Mostly I spent the last 10 days wishing I could sleep, playing video games with one hand while tending the sad baby, and … I don’t even know. Breathing. One after the other.

But then it was Labor Day. And the first day of classes. So not really Labor Day. Except Justin and I had the brilliant idea that since Gwyneth missed daycare last week due to fever, and  neither of us got anything done because exhausted, sick, and tending to the sad baby, we should see if they could take her extra days this week and Justin could recoup some of the work time he lost. So at 8, she went to school and we, the grownups, DID NOT. He went back to sleep, and I had a “no responsibilities” brain break. Totally worth the $47.

However, because nothing is ever clean and easy around here, I woke up with stage two of this virus from hell, a sore throat — like someone was attacking me with burning sticks every time I swallowed — and so like a sane person who cares about her own well-being, I asked a colleague to please handle the hour of open house talking I was scheduled to do today (because cheerfully greeting graduate students and delivering three talks when you have metaphorical burning sticks in your throat sounds like misery), and instead worked from home this morning to really great effect. I got a pile of work done from 7 to 9:30, I soothed my sore throat, and I went to the office at 10. When I did, I wore jeans. MY JEANS. My pre-pregnancy jeans. Because they fit now. Which is amazing, and made me feel like I’m really me again, for the first time in a very long time. Jeans and a boatneck tshirt and cute shoes? Yes. That is who I am. Finally. Again. Me.

And, because it’s the first day of classes? Hey, guess what? The printers were down! First day of classes! Yay!

I had lunch with Gwyn at noon, and she was okay… not awesome, but okay. They had 6 babies today, and three caregivers, and she was overtired (see the aforementioned sick and exhausted and sad baby), and she was overstimulated (see 6 babies). But they are lovely people and she will adapt. Part of adapting is that she doesn’t want to eat while she’s there. She’s distracted, she’s uneasy, she’s tired, whatever — she, apparently, was eating a few ounces and falling asleep when they fed her. So I nursed her at noon, but given my supply, that’s probably a few ounces at best. Then I came home, and, magical!, I took a nap for 2 hours, with no concerns that Gwyn would wake up, Justin would need my help with her, or anything. And then I worked more, until Justin brought Gwyn home.

When she got home, man, she was starving. And after the first two ounces, a bottle was unacceptable. What was acceptable was a full ounce (two or three tablespoons) of sweet potato, and an ounce (another tablespoon and a half, or so) of oatmeal cereal made with formula. Om nom nom nom. She ate everything, plus half a roasted carrot stick (because if you give her finger food to play with she’s far less likely to steal the bowl and spoon). And then she drank her bottle. And then she nursed. And then another half a bottle. And then our first attempt at bedtime. And then another half a bottle. And then finally passed out. So we’re going to have to find a way to cope with this no-eat-at-daycare thing… which may just be feeding her a solid food breakfast before daycare, and solid food dinner when she comes home. We’ll see how she does this week.

And so now she’s asleep, at 9:30, and I’m trying to do all the things I was gonna do when she went to bed at 8… just faster, and a little more blearily. Bathroom garbage needs to be emptied. Clean up mess after dinner, put away leftovers. Check catfood. Fold diapers. Start a new load of laundry. Fill out G’s passport application. Read some stuff for work (HA! NO!). Or… sit down and chronicle a tiny piece of our life before I lose it to the blur of blurriness.

In short, we’re all exhausted. Somehow, summer is over, and it’s now September, and I don’t know when that happened. Hell week got the better of me again, even though I tried much harder to be a smart academic administrator this time around. Baby fevers can sukkit, and my kid is pretty cool, even when she’s sad. I suspect this is my new status quo. I’m adapting.

insert emoticon here, The Tiniest Capen, working mother

I’ve been reading parenting boards, looking for perspective and ideas. But I’m seriously annoyed by how often, when women ask for help with bottle or formula feeding, they are told how to breastfeed or pump better, instead.

I asked my first and last question about formula feeding in one group — G was getting constipated as we had to increase her supplementation with formula, as I returned to work and found I was unable to maintain my breastmilk supply at a level high enough to meet her appetite — and got two or three comments on how to ease constipation in an infant. I got 3 times as much feedback on how to augment my milk supply so I could stop giving her formula. I ran out of polite ways to say “I’ve tried that, I’m doing yay, that one didn’t work,” and stopped myself before I said “and does anyone want to answer the question I actually asked? Because my husband and I are fine with our choices and you aren’t helping me.” They all meant well. Much of it was good advice. But it wasn’t the help I asked for, or the help I needed.

Another woman, on another board, asked for advice on transitioning her breastfed infant to bottles and formula, as she was returning to work and knew that pumping would be complex and likely unsuccessful. All the replies were about how breastfeeding would be better, with three people who wrote variations on the theme that she should petition/complain/sue her employer for failing to make breastfeeding and pumping easy for her per the law, or she should extend her maternity leave, or she should find a new job. No one offered advice on transitioning to bottles and formula. Essentially, because she had the audacity to admit publicly that it’s hard to be a working mother, and she might not succeed with breastfeeding with her personal constraints, she was told she should try harder, and that her solutions were wrong, and no help was offered.

There are all these lovely essays about how motherhood is hard, and we’re all doing the best we can and we need to be kinder to ourselves and acknowledge that our choices and instincts about what is right for our family are valid and worthy. And then there are all these people who seem to just be waiting to tell you exactly how wrong you are when you follow those instincts and make those choices.

Justin is often confused because I say I don’t want to be part of big and expansive communities, that I don’t want to invite multitudes Into my life. He sees that as a weakness: you have less support when your community is small. But, man. I just… Parenting isn’t actually making me reconsider that feeling of mine. This is really a big part of why I prefer solitude: when no one knows what you’re doing, no one can judge you.

More than that, I wish motherhood wasn’t social competition, and that we trusted each other to make the best possible choices for our own families. But we, apparently, don’t.

The Tiniest Capen, working mother

  • A beer-and-cheese party at Michael and Amy’s house
  • A church during a funeral
  • Assorted rest stops, and a few side-of-the-road and random-parking-lot locations
  • Albany airport
  • Las Vegas airport
  • Philadelphia airport
  • Cruising altitude over, I don’t know, THE ENTIRE COUNTRY
  • Mesa Grille at Caesars Palace in Las Vegas
  • Harrah’s breakfast buffet in Las Vegas
  • That little restaurant on the north side of Tupper Lake, where I had a lovely chat with the waitress about the challenges of breastfeeding as a working mother
#mightyifitkillsme, food, The Tiniest Capen, working mother

Today I gave myself a pile of small luxuries.

I blocked off my calendar (defensive calendaring for the win!) and so I have no scheduled meetings today. This makes the rest possible.

So because I had no time I had to be in my office, I didn’t set an alarm, and got up when Gwyn got up, which was about 7:15. After I fed her, I handed her off to Justin for her second sleep, and dressed in workout gear.

And then I spent an hour in the basement, on my yoga mat, listening to an audiobook and moving my body in intentional ways. I did 30  minutes of yoga, mainly focusing on mobility in big muscles and opening my hips and balancing my feet and lower legs. Then I ran through my arm and abs apps — 30 knee pushups, in sets of 5 and 7, 80 crunches in sets of 15ish, and 50 reverse crunches in similar sets, interspersed with the crunches.

Then it was time to feed the baby again, because babies are hobbits and second breakfasts are awesome, and when she was fed, I chilled with Her Cooingness for a half an hour before I got myself ready for work.

I’m wearing new-to-me clothes that fit courtesy of Sarah’s closet, I’m making peace with my postpartum hair, and I have lovely new makeup via Karla’s garage sale. Small pleasures.

I put a container of chicken breast and another of mushroom-quinoa casserole into my totebag, made all the simpler by the fact that I had pre-packed both things on Sunday. I made my breakfast (sausage and cheese on toast), I put two oatmeal raisin cookies into another bag, and I made myself a bottle of seltzer in the SodaStream, then packed my Trinity travel mug for coffee at work. Good food easily at hand.

And now I’m at work, at 10:00, which sets me up for my very favorite workday: 10-6. I love 10-6. I am functional and at my most clever and energized from 10-6. Most days, my work requires that I be here at 8 or 9, and that I sit in meetings for much of my day. Not today. Today I get to work 10-6, and I have no meetings, and I am going to knock this to-do list out of the damned park.

Because I gave myself small luxuries. Exercise at my leisure. Small material comforts and vanities. Useful, tasty food. Satisfying working hours.

Because I deserve them. And today I’m also going to earn them. Watch out, endless tedious to-do items. You’re next.

insert emoticon here, The Tiniest Capen, working mother

This last week? This was not a good week.

We endured a metric shit-ton of long-distance emotional drama. Gwyn is teething. I’m trying to move through the endless stream of bad news at work with some semblance of grace. I haven’t slept well in, I don’t know, maybe a year? And Justin is currently losing his battle with migraines and sensory and emotional overload.

But tonight, despite losing my co-parent to another vicious bitch of a pain spiral around 4, I successfully made a mushroom-quinoa casserole and packaged it for this week’s lunches, I baked a bunch of chicken tenders for dinner and for sandwiches, I did a load of dishes, and I not only kept my baby alive and relatively happy, I in fact got Gwyn to sleep by myself, half an hour before her usual time (as per our decision that we have to move her bedtime back to about 8, for my sanity), and I’m lying on the couch watching the baby monitor out of the corner of my eye while I surf the web and listen to the Elizabeth Moon’s latest Paksworld novel on audio.

It’s not an ideal life, right now. Some parts of it are, in our own household parlance, totally balls. But it’s a good life, and it’s ours, and it’s full of love even when it’s insane.

Here’s to tomorrow starting a better week.

misc, working mother

Well, that was a trip. Three days that turned into four, a funeral, a barbecue, lots of thoughts of fathers, dead and alive, an unexpected car repair, and a baby who is awesome and demanding and adorable.

We are home, we have pizza, all the living things are alive if not totally content, and the Pook is wearing clean jammies and a cloth diaper and sucking on her fingers and talking to Iron Man.

I’m wiped out. I said, as I parked the car, “can I be done now, and collapse? Oh, no, I can’t, because I HAVE TO GO TO WORK TOMORROW.”

SUNY Potsdam, you’re on notice: I’ll be there. But I make no promises about my seriousness, my efficacy, or my ability to process language.