Sunday, January 30, 2011

What We Learned: 3 Months

Our little man is three months old! According to the know-it-all baby development books, Bennett has left the fourth trimester and should begin to function more like a human and less like a needy blob of emotion, turmoil and poop. I suppose discovering your hands is the first sign of homosapien-ness, but even apes can use sign language. I remain skeptical.
Bennett learned he has two hands.
I learned that yesterday was the 29th.
Bennett learned to get his fingers in his mouth.
Rocky learned that we can still have dinner with friends.
Bennett learned if you accidentally hit things with your hands, they can come back and bite you.
I learned co-workers are kind enough to ignore the spit-up on your blazer.
Bennett learned that Atticus likes his hands too.
Rocky learned that seven hours of uninterrupted sleep is priceless.
Bennett learned that no matter how hard he tries, he can not fit his entire fist in his mouth.
I learned to accept that my baby is losing his hair.
Poor Bennett has two hands, ten fingers, two opposable thumbs and a long way to go.

Friday, January 28, 2011

Flashback Friday: Snowpocalyptic

Sno*poc*a*lypse (snoh-pok-uh-lips)

1. Noun

A weather condition in which the amount of fallen snow, while not really such a big deal, wreaks havoc on a city, effectively shutting it down and leaving its citizens stunned and unable to see any sign of hope or a return to normalcy. (Urban Dictionary)

In light of this week's icky weather, I would like to put things into perspective. This week's snowfall was laughable compared to the wollop that landed in Washington last February. Sadly, I wasn't feeling well and Rocky was left to do all the shoveling. Further adding to our plight, our kitchen was being remodeled and we had no room to store food and nothing to cook it with. It was peanut butter and jelly sandwiches for seven days.

Thursday, January 27, 2011

Every Thundersnow Has a Silver Lining

Washington was hit by a momentous "thundersnow" 2011's answer to last year's Snowpocalypse. Consequently, my commute last night was horrendous. It took me almost four hours to get home. This was a terrible way to get adjusted back to work on my third day. Miraculously, for all the time I spent on the road, I didn't see a single accident. Our guardian angels were working overtime last night, especially our poor sitter.

My first two days back were lovely. It was hard to be away, but I was enjoying the comparative calm at my office. But when I picked Bennett up on Tuesday, the babysitter said she had never had such a fussy baby. I was devastated. I knew he was needy, but even a professional seemed overwhelmed by his demands. I started analyzing alternatives, new daycare options, new work schedules, moves across the country.

I called her yesterday, letting her know I was getting off early. Big mistake. Four hours later, I pulled into her parking lot. I tredged through the snow for the next four blocks in my leather shoes, fearing what scene I might find. Would she be upset? Would the baby be crying, hungry or fighting sleep?

She was calm, the baby was napping and her own children greeted me with smiles. She woke Bennett, encouraged me to feed him, and got me something to drink. She told me to take my time, take a breath, no need to rush. We sat in her living room and she told me about her husband's work at the embassy, moving here from Japan, and Skyping with her family in Pakistan. Her college-aged son walked me to our car, carrying my cooing child through the snow. He assured me that Bennett would be happy here and he's just getting adjusted.

The white knuckles and the extra hours spent in the car were well worth the time I got to spend getting to know Bennett's babysitter. I was able to get a glimpse of the gentle, warm, empathetic caretaker that gets to spend her days with my baby. She got to see the scattered, nervous, novice mom that is responsible for raising Bennett without her supervision. If it takes longer for him to get adjusted, maybe she'll take pity on the nutty mom who is doing everything she can to juggle work, baby, dogs, a house and a very important blog.

Monday, January 24, 2011

Working Mom and Her Monkey Business

I know you have all been sitting on the edge of your seats, frantically hitting refresh, and begging for details since 9:01 this morning. It’s ok, mommy is here to fill you in with all the gory details and nasty bits of my first day back at work.

5:15 am-Bennett wakes up for his first feeding. He slept for 10 hours straight! If only I could have slept better myself, I wouldn’t have been begging for sleep since noon.

5:45-lay back down, fool myself into thinking I’ll sleep the thirty minutes until I have to hit snooze for the first time.

6:45-actually get out of bed, even though I finally fell back to sleep at 6:43. Spend the next forty-five minutes showering, dressing and taking a leisurely breakfast. The past twelve weeks prepared me to bathe and dress in record time, allowing me a cup of coffee and a large bowl of Honey Bunches of Oats with my old friends Mika, Joe and Willy. I missed you friends!

7:30-Bennett Boy up and at’em. Pissed. Angry. Screaming bloody murder. He’s a morning person. He must have been having a bad dream about getting dressed, or the evil gas monster, or the ceiling fan being turned off. His bad dreams become a reality when I make him wear the silly monkey shirt. He cries when I have the audacity to feed him. I assume he’s trying to make this easier on me by playing the role of Bad Bennett, not Cheery Morning Smiles Bennett. Then CMSB returns, pulling at my heart strings with wide mouth smiles until I strap him into his car seat and heaven help him, make him wear a hat.

8:45-Drop off goes well. He calms down when the baby keeper holds him. She repeats over and over that he’ll be ok here, as if trying to convince herself. I try desperately to ignore the two coughing children that will be sharing her attention.

9:20-I arrive to work, unpack my snacks, decorate my desk with snapshots and hide the new illegal mini-fridge under my desk.

9:24-10:12-catch up on the three months of work I missed.

10:13-4:00-Pretend to look very busy, not obsessed with my baby, ask every person that passes my desk if they’d like to see a recent picture. I have adult conversations. I eat lunch with both hands, and go eight whole hours without swaying back and forth or patting someone’s bottom.

4:00-5:00- Check the clock every thirty-four seconds. Prepare for my new self-imposed mommy-departure time. I didn’t ask for it. I just told them I would be present sixty minutes less post-baby. Victory is mine!

5:30-Pick-up the sweet boy. He's content and she doesn't tell me he can't come back.

6:30-Angel drops off dinner. She reassures me that it reheats well if we don’t get to eat until the babe goes to bed, must be a mom herself.

8:30-Bennett’s new bedtime. We’re hoping it will keep the sleep demons away and dinner warm.

Then we eat, wash bottles, clean the kitchen, set out our clothes and update the blog. One day down, two-thousand something to go until he’s in kindergarten and our routines get all jumbled up again. My heart hurts. My eyes are heavy.

In many ways it was easier than I expected. Yet, I wonder if it will get easier or is it chipping away at my gut like wood block, each cut makeing me weaker. She knows how to get my baby to nap, to take a pacifier, to eat 4 ounces in one sitting. Just knowing I have thousands of days more alone and distracted might break me.

Friday, January 21, 2011

Flashback Friday: My Baby Keeper

When I was teeny tiny myself, I went to Debs and Dorothy's house while my parents were at work. They lived on a farm in the boonies. We took long walks on dirt roads, made mud pies and played dress up with Dorothy's wardrobe.
I guess I've always appreciated that touch of mink. It complements the Cookie Monster slippers nicely.
They treated us like their own grandkids, giving us nicknames. They called me Bubber and we nicknamed Mary, Albert. I really wanted a brother.
They made lunch and sometimes dinner for us, promoting Mary's love for mustard by the spoonful and my appreciation for Five Alive.

Looking for someone to watch Bennett was very stressful. Around here, there are no farms for raising babies. I can only imagine how much easier it was for my parents to take me to the warm and happy home of my surrogate grandparents. I just hope that when Bennett gets older I'll be able to tell him as many happy stories about his experience as my parents have for me.

Thursday, January 20, 2011

My Feminine Mystique

I go back to work Monday. It took twelve weeks for me to feel ready. I have spent a lot of time feeling like I didn't want to go back, a lot of time feeling guilty for feeling that way, and a lot of time putting my baby's name on things.

There aren't very many women lobbyists, and even fewer are mothers. Even though I was adamant about returning to work, when I was seven months pregnant, a coworker asked me what my real plan was. He honestly couldn't believe that I would be back. I choked up when he walked away. I didn't think I wanted to come back, but I wasn't sure I had a choice.

The funny part is, being a daycare kid was good for me. In fact, when I was younger, I felt bad for the kids who's parents didn't work. I enjoyed my summers with the house all to myself. I could make grilled cheese sandwiches and dunk it in ketchup without judgment. I could watch soap operas without my dad telling me it would rot my brain. Those other kids had someone scheduling music lessons and educational trips to museums. I liked to spend the summers rotting my brain. If nothing else, it prepared me for maternity leave.
I've felt terrible for believing I belonged with my baby and not being a productive working woman. My parents made a lot of sacrifices to ensure that I'd have an education and a good job. They certainly didn't do it so I could stay at home and be a mom. I want them to be proud of what I accomplish. Now, I have a little boy to make proud too.

I used to picture myself as the evening news anchor or maybe even the first female President, but never a stay at home mom. All of that changed when I met Rocky. Suddenly, those kids weren't entirely a foreign concept. I knew who their daddy would be. I started to re-evaluate what I wanted in life and where I saw my career taking me. My priorities were changing.

Over the past eleven weeks, I have done a lot of crying. The thought of someone else getting to see him roll over for the first time sent me to tears. Knowing another woman would get to cuddle with him while I was stuck in a meeting broke my heart. I worry that he won't get enough attention, he'll be left crying in a chair, she won't sing to him.
I know there are some very good reasons to go back to work. For instance, in the past couple of weeks I started to think he might need a professional, a professional baby keeper. I ran out of songs. I didn't know the good games. How do you keep a three-month old entertained? He needs to learn social skills from other kids. He needs to learn to share adult attention and entertain himself from time to time.

I think Rocky might be glad I am going back too. He could only handle so many conversations starting with "today on Ellen..." I'm sure he agrees that it will be nice when I wear pants without an elastic wasteline. I want to make him proud of me for something other than picking out socks that coordinate with onesies.
This post is a jumbled mess. I'm a jumbled mess. I am going to miss Bennett terribly. I will miss cuddling with him in the mornings. I will miss those squeals when he plays in his chair. I'll probably miss those elastic pants too.

Friday, January 14, 2011

Flashback Friday: It's That Time of Year

When Vandy Girls are lining up in alphabetical order, baking caramel pie, and singing songs by candle light.

I have to admit that I chose Vanderbilt at least in part because the college seemed to promote a good academic and social balance. I also wanted to have the option of joining a sorority. Coming from "up North," sororities and fraternities had a negative reputation, but at a school like Vandy, it was different. Most kids took academics seriously and on a campus where more than half of students participated in a Greek organization, people who wouldn't have "Gone Greek," did at Vanderbilt. Houses were more diverse. The girls weren't all blonde chicks with daddy's credit card. If they were, they were also the high school Valedictorian and spent their summers volunteering in third world countries. There were date parties and mixers, but there was philanthropy and athletics and educational outreach too, all accompanied with matching self-promoting t-shirts.
When rush season arrived, I thought I knew where I belonged. Lucky for me, my newest bestest friend wanted to be one too. When Sarah didn't get the call that she didn't match, she knew she was headed for AOPi. It was my first choice too. So, when I went and opened my bid card, she stood with me. I opened the envelope and we both jumped up and down screaming. We were those girls. It was the most emotion I had seen from her in the four months I had known her. I guess she liked me, she really really liked me! We were corralled in a room where fifty-some girls donned matching shirts and learned our new songs. Then when it was time, we participated in a decades long Vanderbilt tradition, the Running of the Pigs. Degrading? Perhaps. But running to our house with my future friends, is one of those memories I will never forget. It was cloudy and cold. Shaggy was emanating from speakers. The newly-made frat boys were watching the festivities on their front porches.
I chose right. My new-found home introduced me to some of the most amazing women I have ever known. They are smart, kind, generous and funny. They stood by my side on my wedding day. We have cried together, laughed togher, danced together, and grown up together. And now we have another reason to love the panda.

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Adventures in Mothering

I have been very proud of my ability to get out of the house while on maternity leave. It is no easy feat getting us both clean, dressed and out the door. Yet, I have been able to run errands, meet friends for lunch, join a new-mom group, make the rounds introducing him to coworkers, doctors, and our church family. You would think that in our eleventh week, I'd have system down to a science.
Today, we had big plans to make it downtown for lunch and then attend a class preparing me for my return to work. I thought things were going well. Bennett was chirping happily at the animated monkey on his bouncer. I was showered. The dog was walked. Rocky even cleaned the snow off of my car. I should have known today there was a gray cloud following me when I couldn't find my favorite pair of jeans. The only presentable pair I own was fresh out of the wash and still damp. I was desperate to make it to lunch. So, what did I do? I wore wet jeans out of the house. In January.
I packed Bennett into his carseat wimpering because I had the audacity to put a hat on his hairy head. We made it all the way to the end of the driveway before I had to turn the car off. He was screaming. Even for a child who dislikes red lights, he was putting on quite the show. I thought I was going to have to cancel. I was having one of those "I washed my hair for this?" moments. I had to salvage my plans for my sanity and so I sat in the car patting his back until he calmed down and fell asleep. Somehow, we still managed to make it on time.
Other than smacking strangers with a stroller, lunch was lovely. Bennett napped through the entire thing. Unfortunately, he woke up when I tried to put his hat back on. The kid was red-faced and angry. Because we were downtown, there wasn't a sanitary, safe place to change his diaper and he was too loud and upset to feed him in public. I changed his diaper on my lap. In the backseat. Of course, as soon as I buckled him in, a loud noise eminated from his seat. There was no doubt he needed to be changed again. I just couldn't get a break.
When I went to pick up the car after the class, I realized not only had I lost the parking ticket, I couldn't find my cell phone. The valet held my baby as I dug through every pocket looking for the ticket. Bennett started crying again and the little old lady walking down the street asked me where my child's hat was. Did she not know putting on his hat started this disaster of a day? I wasn't going there again.
But just to prove my child isn't always a screaming, crying mess, I present to you twenty seconds of squeals. If only I could hire those swinging monkeys for car rides.

Friday, January 7, 2011

Flashback Friday: Ring a Ding

Five years ago today Rocky and I were engaged. I had wanted a ring for three years. Every birthday, anniversary, Valentine's and Flag Day I had hoped he'd be dropping down on one knee. That only made every birthday, anniversary, Valentine's and Flag Day a giant disappointment. When the little box was absent from the celebration, there wasn't a suprise, a dinner or a gift that would satisfy this greedy girl.

When Rocky planned a date night shortly after Christmas, I knew what was coming. All week, I tried to keep my suspicions a secret. Saturday morning, we went to the mall to take advantage of the post holiday sales. When Rocky stopped to buy chocolate covered strawberries, I just knew it had to be coming. Of course, I am a stinker and made plans with a friend to see a movie that afternoon. Nothing sets up a night of romance like watching the matinee showing of Brokeback Mountain with your girlfriend in Dupont Circle.

Afterwards, I met him for dinner downtown for a lovely meal. I was getting a little frustrated when it seemed that he hadn't made any after dinner plans and my heart was starting to sink that I was wrong yet again.

We headed to his apartment for dessert. When he opened the door and I saw the roses and the candles, I was floored. He presented me with a box of truffles and got down on one knee. It's just too bad we documented the momentous occassion with disposable cameras!

Thursday, January 6, 2011

Dolly Parton and I have something else in common

We are both singing 9 to 5.

That's right, Mr. Bennett slept from 9 pm until 5 am. What a gift! I have been trying not to get into the nitty gritty parenting stories here, but I need to brag on my baby for a bit.

We're trying to work towards a new schedule for when I go back to work. Bennett's still been eating every two hours, so this week we are attempting to stretch his feedings to two and a half hours. I was worried it could affect our night sleeping, but so far it has been the opposite.

The other tactic Bennett and I are trying to work towards is E.A.S.Y: eat, activity, sleep, your time. He had been moving in that direction on his own for a few weeks, but this week when he wasn't napping on his own, I was going through our night time routines to help him sleep. So far, it's worked like a charm.

I have already seen some big changes in his disposition. He's smiling more. He's crying less. He doesn't have a screaming fit to fall asleep. Maybe it is true that baby's like predictability. Maybe it is the extra sleep. Maybe it is just because he's getting older. But this kid is so much fun!

It is the best way to make a livin!