First Day

27 Jul

First day at the new job! Eeeeee!

Will first days EVER stop making me a bundle of nerves?

By the time this posts, I will be in the midst of my morning commute. Y’all wish me luck!

My Social Media Addiction

26 Jul

Before the new job thing, I had actually taken some steps toward changing one major issue in my life: my social media addiction.

I don’t use that word lightly. I think many folks picture addicts as salivating idiots, desperate for a hit of their drug (or technology, as it were) of choice. It’s entirely possible to be addicted to technology or social media, especially, I think, if one is prone to addiction anyway. There have been a few addicts in my extended family, so I imagine I’m predisposed to it.

A few months ago, I had a hard realization: I was paying more attention to my phone, iPad and computer than I was to my kids. It was an escape, a brainless, mind-numbing toy for the end of hard days. I think it started when I was on maternity leave last fall and often sitting in a dark room holding a sleeping baby for hours on end; it was a way to pass the time and stay connected. By the time maternity leave ended, I was pretty well hooked.

I’d always been a heavy social media user, but this was more extreme. I checked my phone constantly throughout the day. I left Facebook running in the background while I was at work, justifying it in my mind because I was in charge of a Facebook account for my employer. Every time a notification would pop up, I clicked over, and it wasn’t unusual for me to realize 10 or 15 minutes later that I’d been reading through my newsfeed without ever having intended to do so.

I decided I would quit. I had big plans of leaving my iPad at work, putting my phone on the charger as soon as I got home, sticking to a regiment of 45 minutes of work and 15 minutes of play (which I’ve read somewhere is a good habit?). That lasted a few days. I would even lay in bed and read on my phone. If I woke up in the middle of the night, I checked Twitter, Instagram and Facebook.

It was not healthy.

The kicker was when I was in the room with my kids and could completely ignore them in favor of whatever hot topic was trending. Or how I would spend a large amount of time capturing the perfect photo to show all my “friends” online how great things were.

Smoke and mirrors. That’s all it was.

Because as I was taking pictures of my kids, they were pleading for my attention – and not getting it. I would snap at them for daring to interrupt me while I was clearly doing something else.

I read something online (I think it was shared on Facebook, actually) about how parents who are heavy users of technology interact with their children. A study found that they were much more likely to be short-tempered and impatient because they felt like there were being constantly interrupted.

So I decided to do something about it. I had good motivation. I logged onto eBay and bought a used flip phone. I sold my iPhone. Bobby actually hopped on board and got a flip phone, as well. I culled my Facebook friends list from about 1000 down to around 250. I left a Facebook group that, while it was an awesome and supportive group of moms, was taking a lot of my time and attention. I left several other Facebook groups and hid many other groups and pages from my newsfeed so I wouldn’t mindlessly browse them. I also culled my Twitter list, though it wasn’t quite so extreme.

I wouldn’t say these changes have completely solved the problem, but they have helped significantly. Bobby has commented when we’ve been out and about with the kids how much more fun it is for me to be engaged with them instead of trying to post photos to Instagram. I sit on the floor and play with them instead of looking at pictures of other people’s kids on Facebook.

Over the summer I took a class on communication, culture and technology, and it was really helpful in being able to remember the good of technology. It’s all about balance. I love technology, and I don’t anticipate ever leaving social media completely. The decisions I’ve made in recent months have been decisions that were right for me and my family; they might not be right (or necessary!) for others.

When I start my new job, the company will be providing me with a smart phone. It’s going to be a test of willpower not to simply lapse back into old habits, and I hope I’m up for it. If nothing else, I am at least aware of the problem.

Ch-ch-ch-changes

25 Jul

So I got a new job.

After four years of working at a public university, I’m diving into the private sector. I will admit to being a little (OK, more than a little) shocked at the salary difference. The position is a step up, too, so of course that helped. (For anyone who is curious, I will be part of an internal communication team for a large company. I’m not going to name my new employer here.)

This change has such potential for our family. We have debt. We have some bad habits that we would like to change.

We are moving, most likely into an apartment. We’ve picked out a new day care for the kids, and we are incredibly excited about it (it’s a Primrose School — look them up if you haven’t heard of them, they are amazing). I’m in the process of upgrading my wardrobe, which I am admittedly rather clueless about. I got a haircut that may be my favorite haircut I’ve ever gotten.

A lot of stuff will be happening before the end of the year, which is when we plan to make the move to the bigger city where my new job is, about an hour from where we live now. We own our current home, and with the help of our Realtor friend, we are planning to rent it out rather than selling. Regardless, we have renovations that need to be completed first, and we have a basic game plan for that.

We also are realizing how much stuff we own, so we are planning a yard sale in October, and I’m selling at our local children’s consignment sale for the first time next month.

Our budget gets a lot easier now, and if we aren’t total idiots with our money, we should not be living month-to-month. We are hoping to save $5,000 by the time we move (half of which we anticipate using for moving expenses). We also want to start paying off our debt.

It’s a big opportunity for our family, and we are looking at it as something that will hopefully be a starting point for other life changes, like healthier eating and regular exercise.

I’m excited about what’s coming.

In for another round

9 Oct
Riverwalk

Out for a walk with the baby

I hate that I’m one of those people who constantly struggles to make healthy choices. I’ve thought through the reasons before, and ultimately they don’t really matter that much. I know what to eat and do to be healthy, but finding excuses is much easier.

I had a baby about eight weeks ago. Last week I went in for my postpartum check-up, and I was down a total of 49 pounds — 25 lighter than when I got pregnant.

Great, right?

It’s almost identical to what happened after my first pregnancy. I lost the baby weight (and then some) easily. I felt good about it. And I stayed right around that same weight until I started gaining again. I weighed almost exactly the same when I got pregnant with my second child as I did with my first.

In thinking about my motivation to get healthier, I know I need to do it for me, first and foremost. It’s easier to think in terms of doing it for others, of wanting to be around to see my boys grow up and to enjoy grandchildren and retirement one day. But if I don’t care enough about myself right now to treat myself better right now, then I’m not going to succeed.

One of the interesting revelations I’ve had recently was that even though I claim to want to do this, in part, for my children and my husband, they are the easiest excuse NOT to do it. I think about how I’ll have to give up spending time with them to exercise or how I’m too tired to play or read a book or paint if I have to cook a healthy dinner at the end of a long work day.

I have to stop using my family as an excuse. It’s not fair to anyone.

I don’t have a great plan for getting in shape this time. I’m just trying to set small goals for myself while also keeping my eyes on the long-term benefits of exercising and eating better.

The fight’s not over, and I’m in for another round.

Dark chocolate walnut banana nut muffins

29 Sep

I really love to bake, so even with the craziness of having a fairly new baby, I made a little time this past weekend to whip up some muffins for breakfast.

My mom actually made a version of these based on this recipe when I was visiting her, and I mostly wanted to recreate them, but I kicked them up a notch by adding Ghirardelli dark chocolate chips and walnuts (both of which I bought HUGE bags of from Sam’s Club with the intention of making cookies for my OB’s office and the nurses at the hospital — haven’t done that yet, and six weeks in, hate to say it, but it’s probably not going to happen).

So here’s my recipe for these (seriously delicious) muffins, adapted from the recipe linked above:

Banana nut muffinsDark chocolate walnut banana nut muffins

Makes: 12-18 muffins

Ingredients:

3 very ripe bananas, peeled

1/3 cup melted butter

1/2 cup of sugar (you could probably substitute honey)

1 egg, beaten

1 tsp vanilla extract

1 tsp baking soda

Pinch of salt

1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour

1/2 cup walnuts, chopped

1/2 cup dark chocolate chips, chopped

Directions:

Preheat oven to 350 F. Mash bananas in a large mixing bowl. Add butter, sugar, egg, vanilla extract, baking soda and salt and mix well. Slowly mix in flour, then mix in walnuts and chocolate chips. Scoop into lined muffin tins, filling each about 2/3 of the way. Bake for 20 minutes or until toothpick inserted into center of muffin comes out clean.

On enjoying maternity leave

27 Sep

One of my biggest anxieties early in this postpartum period was how I would manage 12 weeks of maternity leave. When I went down to visit my mom, I literally cried on the phone to Bobby about how I should have only requested six weeks. I wanted to call S’s day care and see if they could start him earlier. I thought about dialing up the HR office at work and having them change my return date.

Now I’m glad I didn’t do that.

Like I said in my last post, having a newborn is hard work. But I’m honestly learning to have fun on my maternity leave, too. My list of personal maternity leave commandments (and a short explanation of each) is below.

Baby nap time = Me time

I know most folks say to sleep when the baby sleeps, and I do sleep or rest when I feel like I need it. But mostly I’ve implemented a rule that I will do something I enjoy while the baby naps. I also, with few exceptions, will not do any sort of housework while he sleeps (unless, like yesterday, I desperately need to wash bottles). And the other part of this “rule” is that I will not feel guilty about it. On my maternity leave with N, I felt so pressured to do everything perfectly, and that if I wasn’t cleaning and cooking I wasn’t doing my job. I’m taking it easier this time, and I’m much less stressed.

Baby awake time = Chore time

Admittedly, I spend a good amount of time feeding and holding the baby, but he also is usually pretty content to chill in the Mamaroo or Rock and Play for 20-30 minutes of his awake time after his bottle. I try to come up with one or two tasks that I want to get done around the house every day, and I focus on those while he’s awake and content. Yesterday, my task was to wash and change out all the bedclothes (in Bobby’s and my bedroom, on N’s bed and in S’s crib). This was a fairly small job, but it was so nice getting into bed with clean sheets last night, and Bobby commented on how much he appreciated it. Breaking the housework up into more manageable pieces helps me feel like I’m accomplishing something without feeling overwhelmed.

Get out of the house

With the exception of Tuesday, which was just a pretty horrendous day after not getting much sleep Monday night, S and I have gotten out of the house for a little while every day this week. Wednesday and yesterday, we took lunch to Bobby at work and did some shopping afterward. Last time I was so anxious about taking N out of the house by myself, but this time I am embracing it, and it’s much less depressing and tiring than sitting around the house all day. It’s actually pretty fun, because I have time to do some things that I normally wouldn’t while I am working.

Connect with friends

I’m making an effort to maintain friendships rather than putting them on hold until the baby’s older/sleeping better/is in day care/etc. This also helps sometimes with getting out of the house, like yesterday when S and I went to visit our friend Natalie and her two daughters at their house. It was fun and fairly stress-free, and spending time with a friend made me feel happier.

Get back to ‘normal’ life

I told Bobby a few weeks ago that even though it might be difficult, I really wanted us to get back to our ‘normal’ routine as quickly as possible. Obviously it’s going to change somewhat with the addition of a new, very small and needy family member, but it allows us both to have time away from the kids, time with our friends and time to do things we enjoy. On Thursday, Bobby hung out with some guys from our church group while I stayed home with the boys. Today (Saturday) during N’s nap time, I’m planning to have a few hours to myself (probably going to go get a pedicure!).

 

These are just things I’ve found helpful so far. I’d imagine the same would hold true if I was staying home full-time after my leave. For me, I think it would be easy to get so lost in taking care of the kids and the house that I never did anything for myself, and I think that’s when I would get overly stressed, anxious and, honestly, angry. So keeping these “commandments” for myself in mind is helping me be able to really enjoy maternity leave.

Becoming ‘Mama’ again

25 Sep

Becoming Mama for the first time was admittedly rough on me.

As time has passed, I’ve realized more and more how ridiculous the set of circumstances surrounding the birth of my first child were. Tough labor, a NICU stay, my illness, my dad’s death and the April 27 tornado that destroyed half of Tuscaloosa — all within the same month. It’s really not surprising that I developed postpartum depression and anxiety following all that, though of course chemical and hormonal issues played a role, too.

The second go-round has been drastically different, starting with the birth. No going past the due date this time; my water broke at 38 weeks and 2 days. I labored for several hours while hooked up to Pitocin before receiving an epidural — not the med-free birth I’d hoped for, but it was still empowering because I felt in control, as if the experience was really mine. I maintained a calmness and peace that wasn’t present during my first labor and delivery experience (heck, Bobby and I were having a mini dance party between contractions at one point thanks to Spotify on my phone), and I was certain of myself when I asked for the epidural.

I pushed for mere minutes before baby S was born. The doctor literally had called the nurse’s station to tell them I was about to start pushing and then had to call back to let them know he had arrived because they hadn’t come to my room yet to assist. He didn’t cry when he was born (the cord was actually wrapped around his neck), but he was completely alert. The doctor handed him to me immediately, whereas with N (my first child) they whisked him away quickly due to the amount of meconium and “breathing problems.” I pretty much felt an immediate bond with S thanks to this, whereas that was delayed with N. I cuddled him and rubbed in the vernix that was coating him, and we were able to attempt to nurse almost right away.

The postpartum experience has been different, too. I didn’t have any tearing or other complications from the birth, though I did almost pass out the night I had S because I got up and about too soon. I’ve felt some anxiety, but both Bobby and I have been more on top of managing it, and I started a low-dose anti-depressant pretty early as a precaution. The hormonal issues haven’t been as bad, either.

Another difference is that I was able to rely heavily on my mom for help. She came up for the birth and stayed several days, and I spent about 2.5 weeks at her house so she could help me through some of the toughest parts of the newborn phase. I can’t really describe how meaningful this was and how much I enjoyed being there. The transition back to being home has been tough because I don’t have that persistent help day and night, but it’s still very little like the first time.

Whereas last time I had such great anxiety that I literally couldn’t sleep, I am actually sleeping, at night and occasionally during the day. Last time, I felt incredible rage and desperation when N would cry, and it felt like he never stopped. Now it doesn’t panic me; I know I can deal with it and that, no matter what, it will stop eventually. Last time I wanted to run away, my depression made me want to leave N on the floor and escape. This time I actually enjoy holding S, most of the time. It was so frustrating loving our first baby, that we truly wanted and planned for, but not being able to back that up with my actions. Because I did love him, but I didn’t like him at all, and I was in over my head.

Things are far from perfect. Having a newborn is incredibly hard work. I’m not wishing time away, but I am looking forward to days of better sleep. We are right at six weeks, which I’ve read is when crying peaks, so every day has its challenges. But I don’t feel like I’m drowning.

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