My First Dance Mom Experience

26 Jan

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When I reflect on Emilia and Caroline’s first ballet experience last year (2018-2019), I feel mixed emotions. Watching the girls dance each week was the obvious highlight, the piece I’d repeatedly remind myself how blessed I was to be able to be present for thanks to our family decision for me to be home with our kids. But the details of it all, well, it was very intense, to say the least.

From hunting down tights, missing shoes and the repeatedly mislain leotard EVERY SINGLE WEEK — TWICE since they attended classes on different days — to convincing an exhausted 3-year old to even attend when she was in a mood and not up for it whatsoever, to wrangling a baby who never sat still in a tiny waiting room during Emilia’s 45-minute class, after waking her early from what was usually her longest and most needed nap of the day, (unless I could find a sitter to come be in our house with her for the 35 minute overlap from the class start to the finish), committing to ballet for two children three and under, one my own, for most of winter is the stuff of saints! 

That said, I would do it all a thousand times over to experience the look of pride and excitement on E’s face when she showed me her recital outfit for the first time. It’s in those precious moments especially that I really understand what it’s like to feel like my heart may actually burst with love. To have the honor of witnessing those “first” moments with my girls — it’s absolutely everything I love about being a mother. The wonder, the magic, and the excitement.

As they grow, I want to be cautious that they’re doing these activities because they want to, while recognizing that sometimes, kids need a push to continue, as I did when I wanted to quit violin. I remember quitting ballet quite young — not because I didn’t love it, but because I developed a terrible opinion about how I looked in a leotard — I thought I was fat at 7 years old! My teacher wouldn’t let students take just tap, so it was tap and ballet or nothing, and so, sadly, that was the end of my ballet career. Thinking back on it now, I wish we’d have found another dance studio, but it wasn’t in the stars I guess. Later, when my sister took Irish Step Dancing, I remember sitting out for that too, because I thought my calves would look to enormous in the thick, knit step dancing socks you’re made to wear.

It’s painful to reflect on these topics, but I think part of motherhood is coming face to face with your own childhood experiences and being able to view them through the wizened lense of experience, and move forward with whatever you can take away from that, and, hopefully make a better go at it for your own children.

 

So long January, I’m OUT

25 Jan

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I’m ready to say goodbye to January 2020 with the same anxious impatience that I bid farewell to Christmas. I’m just OUT. The winter here in New England has been unbearable and partnered with what I’m fairly certain was a week of the flu in both kids and Brian’s unbearable bark-like coughing throughout that week, this Mama is ready to fly somewhere warm and tropical and sit in the sun sipping something with a LOT OF RUM IN IT.

In desperation last week, at the absolute height of all of this, I dragged myself to a spin class. I’d been in bed early the night before — from sheer exhaustion — and felt more mentally depleted caring for two sick kids solo than I’d ever felt back when I was both working AND caring for my newborn. The next day, desperate for more mood-lifting endorphins, I decided I needed yoga. Finding a class proved difficult though.

Since moving to our new town, it has been a hard go finding a studio I like, nevermind love. I was incredibly fortunate to have casually practiced at Inner Strength in Watertown, MA for the seven years we lived there. I loved that studio. We benefitted as a suburb of Boston with incredibly talented and experienced teachers for far less than you’d pay in Cambridge or the South End. There was one teacher in particular, Rebecca, whose Thursday night class I attended religiously before I got pregnant with Emilia. It was a heated class which is a no-no during all but the earliest stages of pregnancy, so long story short — I haven’t been back to a “real” yoga class with any regularity in almost five years due to pregnancies and then utter exhaustion and the life pace of trying to survive with a newborn and then a toddler and a newborn.

Anyways, Rebecca set the bar for me as the teacher I look for when I step foot in any new class. Only I’m afraid she set the bar so high, I might never enjoy another class again.

Still, I was desperate and felt relieved when my gym happened to have something that night. Slow flow — not my favorite — with a focus on restorative postures. Blegh. Double not my favorite. I did learn my lesson this past summer when I picked up the best tip ever as far as my yoga practice is concerned, during the very type of class I just dissed — “Restorative” or whatever. Blegh again. What can I say? I am a die-hard Vinyasa Flow devotee.

This is a tangent, but I think the snow was melting in late April last year before I finally begrudgingly admitted that maybe I did like hip hop yoga. I started taking the class in Back Bay with my sister Vicky in January.

Anyways, I scraped myself up off the living room floor, got my yoga mat, and ran, protests and cries of “Mama, don’t go!” slamming behind me as I pulled the front door shut and the 19-degree-evening chill stung my face. The class was great. Nothing spectacular as far as the meditative part, but just being back in a room, tuning in to my breath and moving was absolutely everything I needed. I slept so well that night.

The next morning was another spin class and, I’m excited to report, marked the first class in TWELVE years of sporadic attendance in which I had actual finally had the special clip-in shoes to wear. It was brutal. Absolutely brutal. My mind was everywhere but in the class: exhausted from the kids being sick, mentally drained from seeing the same cluttered rooms of the same house I’m stuck inside 24/7 during the school year, and all the other same-old stressors that plague people of a certain age — credit card debt, to do lists involving doctor’s appointments to schedule, piles of laundry to fold which were quickly becoming sky-scraping mountains, and concerns that my husband will never be able to match in effort what I give to our family nearly every waking moment of my life.

OK, I’m going a little dark here, but this is what lack of sunshine does to me. I need Vitamin D! I’m a girl who has to add a daily to do reminder to “get 20 minutes of sunshine” or things get dark and serious pretty quick.

I should also mention that this last month has also been my cold turkey come down from a year of medication to help manage the crushing postpartum depression I experienced after I had Caroline. This last month has been a gigantic case study in setting low expectations and just accepting that things can be just “OK” on a day-to-day, basis and that that doesn’t mean this is a bad life.  I have tried to focus a lot on small tweaks to make things more bearable: Showering. A yoga class. Maybe reading a book for five minutes. They don’t need to be gigantically pivotal things, like a going on a yoga retreat or having a regularly planned “date night.” Maybe next month, but for right now, just being OK with not getting to planning out any 2020 resolutions or goals until this, the third week of January, and not stressing out over the Christmas (and Halloween) decor still covering many of the surfaces in our home, has been freeing.

I’m also finding that time alone is crucial. When you take care of children solo all day, adult conversation might be welcome you’d think, of course, but what I’ve craved more than anything is just time with myself — the space to think and just be alone with my thoughts. I particularly love to walk after an especially intense day. Movement is so important!

Still, I’m ready for the clean slate of a new month so, for a quick recap of this month before we bid farewell — both what happened, what we did, what was on my mind, and what I was thinking about, here is a quick rundown, for posterity’s sake:

  • Saw Star Wars, The Rise of Skywalker in theaters

    I get very into movie marathons during the break between Christmas and New Years. There is something very hygge about cozying into blankets and watching classics like Star Wars — plus I’m dying to introduce the girls to Harry Potter. So I caught up on this last installment after a quick marathon with #Reylo. Holy Adam Driver. Going to have to add a re-watch of all of HBO’s Girls’ after all that sexual tension in the elevator in TLJ. Anyone want to hand me a cigarette?

  • Diaper Pooping

    I could write a comprehensive book about parenting solely based on my Google history. This is the “Mom” stuff that I end up handling solo a lot of the time because — maddeningly — my husband’s Google history and phone screen shot list is reserved largely for “Best of 2019 Films you Missed,” “Books to Read,” and “Best Albums of 2019.” Give me a ring if you want to hear about Montessori activities for toddlers or how to introduce new vegetables in non-threatening ways to your kids, but if you want to hear about anything interesting, Brian is on deck.

    This is where we are with potty training Caroline and I’m actually starting to feel some terror creeping in, honestly. I am going to be the one on the front lines at home teaching her out of this situation.

    Straight from Jamie Glowaki of Oh Crap, Potty Training:

    “I want to state this very clearly because it can come up in this kind of night pooper. DO NOT PUT A DIAPER ON YOUR CHILD IF THEY REQUEST ONE TO POOP IN.  So, if your child is doing great and is asking for a diaper just to poop in, it can seem like there is no harm to this. THIS CREATES A MONSTER LIKE NO OTHER.  I consider myself a “real world” potty trainer.  We can work with and around almost any circumstance, BUT NOT THIS ONE. Putting a diaper on a child just to poop in is the ONE thing, in all my experience that is a true DON’T, DON’T, DON’T.I can’t beat this horse enough. Don’t.

  • Tossed the bottles

    I think this is purely a case of second child symptom but I was obviously asleep at the wheel for the last 9 months because HOW did I let it go for so long that Caroline should have been off a bottle??? I know what it was…. the bottle is easy for me. Taking it away would have been work and I wasn’t ready for it. So I’m not going to beat myself up over it. We’re here and I’m doing my best.

    I was looking something up about tooth decay in toddlers and happened to read a line that extended bottle usage after age one can sometimes affect speech development. [WHAT?] I must have suspected this and just gone looking for the answers because I’d noticed that Caroline’s speech hadn’t smoothed out in the same way that Emila’s had by around this same time — just before age 3. She talks a blue streak, but I struggle to understand her clearly even now, and I’m home all the time so there shouldn’t be too much I’m missing, like the context of what she might be sharing. In horror, I decided immediately that day that we were done with bottles and have been working on encouraging her to sign as she talks and to slow down and enunciate a bit more when I struggle to catch what she wants. A couple interesting developments: “Guk” is “milk,” which is quite odd, since she’d been correctly pronouncing it before, but also “fork.” It can also be “book” which makes for a lot of fun figuring out which she wants, but thankfully, she will sign milk along with it.

  • Investing and spousal IRA account

    Personal finance has always been a subject that interested me which makes the staggering amount of credit card debt we have between Brian and I so horrifying. In my conversations with different financial gurus in my role as a feature writer for Global Girls Give last year, it finally struck me that I don’t have any more time to wait — what we spent out of my retirement account to buy our first home should have been replaced, so I’m looking into something called a spousal IRA. Ideally, I want to go with a Roth so growth grows tax-free, since I imagine I will be back to work at a point in the future and we’ll hit income maxes for a regular IRA. So — better to take advantage of a Roth and get at that tax-deferred growth aggressively, and early.

    So that’s where things are and hopefully, things will continue moving to a positive place come February. On the horizon we have a family trip to Florida during which we’re going to try a re-do on our family Disney trip, Emilia’s 5th birthday party, and hopefully, a massive home organization and decluttering project ahead of this spring. For Valentine’s Day, Brian and I are planning two separate experiences each, with the goal of planning a day that the other person will love.

I’m also very excited to get our house back. It has been a very long year without the use of the upstairs for a separate designated “office” space, so we’ll be maneuvering around a lot of our living arrangements in the next month. What are you planning for February?

 

 

So long Summer

20 Sep

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This summer felt more “SUMMER” than any summer before. We went to the beach, we lounged by the pool, and really DID all the things, if you  know what I mean. Maybe that’s why I’m so ready to barrel into fall. I actually decorated outside the house yesterday — mums, a Salem witch flag, scarecrows, pumpkins and all that. It’s only September 10th! I think the girls’ ages contributed to feeling like I came alive again this summer. Sharing the best of summer with the girls with no schedule to follow or places to be — it was bliss. We could finally do things without being overly tied to multiple naps or nursing and not having school to contend with was an unexpected perk. Both are old enough to entertain each other, too, so the notion of a beach trip with them on my own wasn’t crazy. The summer overall was a complete success.

We visited the girls’ grandparents’ beach cottage, we did a day trip to York for all the old favorites, we had a girls beach day at Duxbury Beach, hosted Brian’s brother Scott’s family for the local 4th of July parade — a favorite annual event in our town. We even finally did the town’s huge bicycle parade (we’ll go bigger on decor in the future), enjoyed the local library’s programs, “Construction Zone” in particular was a huge hit with both girls, had playdates with old friends and new, and enjoyed some art en plein air, during which Emilia covered her entire body in paint.

 

Brian and I enjoyed a luxurious 24-hour day trip away to Sturbridge, brilliantly scheduled the day BEFORE a good friend’s wedding so we could relax and lounge around and get ready for the event stress-free, and with minimal travel. (Possibly one of the highlights of the summer.) We dined on BBQ, lounged and drank wine and read magazines, and I took at least a thousand photos of the gardens surrounding the Publik House.

I met my sister in Boston for yoga and drinks a few times, we saw Luke Bryan perform at Foxborough, I enjoyed a completely relaxing and restorative girls weekend — complete with yoga — with my best college girlfriends, and started a side-hustle as a dog sitter. Something I never dreamed I’d love, but do. Not only have we been able to test drive what having a pet would be like, we’ve been able to see how the girls are with various breeds and we’re learning so much about what we would ideally want in our future family “dream” dog.

 

IMG_4210This summer also marked the first big trip alone for Brian and I. His work brings him to some desirable destinations, but I haven’t been able to tag along on anything since Emilia was a baby until recently. And thanks to a very generous connection, we were able to not only stay at a Disney hotel, but go to Disney as well. It was was absolute heaven. The trip kicked off on a high note too, because we spent the first night of the trip being wined and dined (while floating in their pool no less) by one of my best best best friends and her husband — and got to finally meet her beautiful baby girl which was just the icing on the cake of a fabulous start to our time away.

img_4074Over the course of five magical days, I inhaled deeply. I slept in. We did Disney. And Mickey’s Not so Scary Halloween Party. We dined on beignets daily. And we toured the Polynesian Village Resort before a deliciously luxurious lunch at Kona Cafe. It wasn’t Ohana, but it had all the ambiance and the air actually smelled like flowers, just like it did in Maui on our honeymoon. It was absolute, complete bliss. I have to remind myself this wasn’t even technically a vacation — Brian was working for a lot of the time. I can’t even imagine what the two of us would have been like if we’d have five whole days to devote to parks and pools and dining.

When we returned home, it was wonderful to be reunited with the girls.  They’d missed us but had a blast with their Nana in our absence. They’d done every fun thing under the sun, were tanned and exhausted and happy to see us and thrilled to see the treats we brought home for them. All in all, a summer so great that for once, I didn’t feel any regret or longing as we rounded the corner into September. We spent Labor Day weekend at MiMi and PaPa’s beach cottage, then returned home and got prepped for the first day of school. There was a haircut. There was a trip out to restock the school snacks. A lunch box was purchased, and then we eagerly announced to September: fall, we’re ready for you. So long, summer!