“These Are the Days” is one of my favorite songs by Van Morrison. I’m pretty sure I’ve used it as a post title before. It refers to the good days, but lately, I find myself thinking “these are the days…” from so many different angles. Sometimes, like tonight, when Alida is happily asleep while it’s still light, Jonathan is home and we are having a peaceful evening, these are the good days. Other times, when I’ve had oatmeal flung on me, Alida is pitching a fit because she can’t have my phone, and Jonathan won’t be home for 3 more days, these are also the days, but the days of learning patience and practicing love.
The feeling is subject to change three times before lunch/nap time, but regardless of the oatmeal and the fits, I know they are the good days. The days of having little lips offered without me asking, of watching as she pours water on a mirror in wonderment and feeling this other little girl growing inside of me. They are also the exhausted days, the achy days, the “this house is such a wreck” days. You can’t have one without the other.
I spent most of today looking for a hotel room in Boston. We were gifted a pair of tickets to the Red Sox game this week. To say Jonathan is a fan would be the understatement of the year. We are both really excited to be going. Not just to see the game at Fenway, but to spend some time away together and enjoy some New England fall weather. I waited a long time to get a room because we didn’t know what his schedule was like, but now it’s working out so we will get to visit friends and see the game.
Since writing my post about balance and boundaries, I have, for the most part, kept my laptop upstairs in the “office.” It helps me separate my Alida time and my work time. It also means that I don’t work while she is awake unless Jonathan is here, but knowing that has helped me focus my energy while she is asleep. Most of the time anyway. Sometimes I just veg.
I’m also learning that some things just don’t fit into my life right now – whether it’s because of time or because I have a little bitty and/or because I’m pregnant. I still overdo it sometimes, but it’s been a relief as I practice saying, “I can’t do this at this point in my life.” There are others who can and will and I need to leave it to them. (Evidently, doing anything quickly has become one of those things that just doesn’t fit right now, but that’s a whole other topic.)
Every week, I get an email that tells me what’s going on in my pregnancy. It was a little unnerving to get the 30 week one, and I’ve hardly even read it and now I have the 32 week one. As I watch other friends go from big bellied to carrying little babies, she becomes more real. I feel her move and see their little ones and realize there isn’t very much difference at this point. I try to imagine what she’ll look like, but as with Alida, I know I will never come close and she will be more amazing than my grandest imagination.
Seeing the clock tick closer has also made me realize how much we need to do. We don’t even have a name picked out. Fortunately, we have most, if not all of the gear we’ll need, but it would probably be a good idea to locate it at some point (preferably before I go into labor.) I still don’t think Alida knows what is about to happen, but she has started to reach for my belly when we ask where the baby is (though she did touch her own chest once recently.)
I hardly have any pictures to post these days since we are trying to ward of an iPhone addiction with Alida. Every time I get it out, she stops whatever cute thing she is doing and MUST HAVE IT. Hope you can enjoy this just being black and white for now.
I’ve noticed lately that there is a direct correlation between Jonathan being gone and me writing. Earlier this month when he worked 11 out of 13 days, I wrote 3 times. Since then, he has been home 9 out of 13 days, and I haven’t written at all. I’m not surprised, after all, I’d rather spend my evenings with my husband than looking at a computer, but I don’t like it.
This feast or famine type schedule is not unusual in the airlines. Yes, the “typical” schedule is four on three off, but that rarely actually happens for us. Because of this, I intentionally avoid planning things the first day he’s home so we can spend time together. Regardless of what day it is, his first day off is our Saturday and I like to treat it that way.
The problem we are running into is that amid all this craziness, there are things we want and need to do on a regular basis – as a family and as individuals – that aren’t getting done.
I think making time for our individual activities is complicated by the airline life, but I know it’s an issue for a lot of people. I’m also sure that being parents adds yet another layer of complication to this. I can’t think how many women I know who have taken over a decade-long hiatus from their work/writing/music/art while their children are young. I know independence within a relationship varies greatly according to the relationship, but I admire couples who are able to maintain their distinct interests and activities. We’ve taken baby steps in that direction (Jonathan played softball this summer and I’m in a book club), but honestly, separate social activities is the least of my concerns right now.
The hardest part for me is when we are both (finally) at home. Neither of us are inclined to say “I’m going to work on X project for an hour and I need to not be disturbed.” We happen to enjoy doing things together and would still do most errands together if it didn’t mean dragging Alida along. So intentionally not hanging out together feels wrong and a little mean – especially if Alida is awake.
But we are both realizing how much we need it. It isn’t just about me writing more or him running again – though those are both important. It’s about us gaining structure and a little personal independence within our home. I want to be able to take on projects that aren’t family related and know exactly where they will fit and how I will get them done. And as much as I love having him take over with Alida when he’s home, I know he needs to be able to be on his own at times (though sitting in a hotel for 19 hours does count a little toward that.)
I’m not sure exactly how we are going to make this happen, but I have some ideas. I believe that getting our office set up will be a step in the right direction. It’s easier to say “I’m working” and get into that mindset when we can close ourselves behind a door. Otherwise, I sit at the kitchen table and Jonathan can’t tell if I’m just surfing or if he needs to keep Alida away for a little bit. Not having a designated work space also allows the lines between work and family to get blurred and I end up getting frustrated with Alida because I’m trying to do something when I should actually be playing with her. I’m also hoping that knowing I have, for example, only one hour alone will encourage me to be more productive with that time.
Exercise is also something that we both need to reincorporate into our lives and I have a feeling it’s going to mean getting up earlier in the morning. I don’t like this. I want to sleep as much as my babies and my body will let me, and I like feeling like every day that Jonathan is home is Saturday. But, it isn’t mentally or physically healthy. I don’t like when the “weekend” is over and neither of us have anything to show for our time, and I feel better when I’m physically active.
I know that in addition to busy summer flying schedules, we have had a crazy summer in general. I keep reminding Jonathan (and myself) that this has been a season of upheaval and we have to give ourselves grace when we don’t do the things we want to do. We have to be realistic with what we are dealing with – crazy work hours, buying a house, moving, pregnancy, caring for another baby – and not get frustrated when we can’t do what feel like normal, basic things. Lately, even when he is gone and I have some time to myself, I’ve just been too tired to write (hello third trimester.)
But as the end of summer nears and empty packing boxes outnumber full, I am feeling the need to get a healthy rhythm going.
Regardless of Jonathan’s schedule, Alida and I will have a few things to provide consistency. We’ll be attending BSF every Wednesday morning, community group on Wednesday nights, and she’ll be attending a parents morning out every Friday morning. We signed up for the PMO when it was about 10 minutes away, but even with the drive now, I think it’ll be good for us. She’ll have structured learning time with other kids and I’ll have a few hours to myself.
Hopefully this week we can get our work space organized and maybe come up with a schedule for separate activities. Beyond that, I’m curious to know how the rest of you maintain your own interests and meet the needs of your relationships and families. Also, I know some things have to be put on hold during the little kid stage, but how do you know what is realistic and what needs to wait?
PS. Sorry there aren’t any cute or interesting photos on this post. I’ve given this all the time I can afford and I need to use what energy I have left to do a little tidying before I sleep.
I mentioned a few weeks ago how this pregnancy has been easier than the first one. I haven’t gained as much weight, so for a long time, I was able to fit into most of my regular clothes as long as they were long enough or had a little give. Between my usual clothes and a busy life/brain, I’ve been kind of surprised in the last few weeks by this large obtrusion on the front of my body. Suddenly, I am undeniably pregnant. Well, I say undeniably, but yesterday I still tried on a whole bunch of regular dresses thinking surely they would fit. They didn’t.
Alida’s favorite place to avoid sleep lately is on my front – belly and all. She puts her head in the middle of my chest, her arms down by my sides and acts like a rag doll. I love it, especially since she isn’t a snuggly girl at all. Last night, I was sitting there with her and her little sister was squirming against us both. I loved feeling how close the three of us were, but if Alida noticed, she didn’t let on. Sometimes I wonder if she realizes things are changing. I don’t expect her to understand the concept of a baby or a sister, but I feel like it would be underestimating her to think she wouldn’t even pick up on the disappearance of my lap.
(I think this photo is a good representation of my life right now. Things feel grainy, are covered in baby fingerprints, and I’m still surrounded by storage boxes.)
The week that we bought this house, it dawned on me that had I not miscarried in December, I would have been giving birth around then. In reading back over what I had written during that time, I realized that I had left some loose ends. I had ended the post saying how I felt relieved, and I did. Even to this day, I don’t feel like I lost a child because of the type of miscarriage (blighted ovum.) I’m not sure if that’s accurate. Maybe it’s just how I coped, but I think it was more the loss of a dream at the time.
A week or so after it happened though, I remember being at a Christmas party and it hitting me that I wished I was still pregnant. I cried and was sad for a little bit. That happened to me several times over the next few months, especially when I’d meet people who were due around the same time. I felt like saying, I was supposed to be due too. It was like joining a club and then getting kicked out. Instead of feeling glad that I could have a cocktail at a party, I secretly wished I was still in the abstainers club.
One thing that really helped me, though, was the advice to allow myself to feel whatever I was feeling. Grieving doesn’t always follow the rules. Don’t feel bad if you aren’t sad. Don’t be surprised if you are sad at unexpected times. There’s no right or wrong way to feel. Just take it as it comes. So I did.
I feel good about everything that happened. God gave us a little more time between babies. Alida learned to walk before it got difficult to carry her. I was able to nurse her past a year. We were able to find and buy a house before the second one arrived.
But I can’t say I would feel so good if I had been farther into my pregnancy. If a little life had been lost instead of just never starting. Or if I hadn’t gotten pregnant again so quickly. Once I had been pregnant and embraced having another child, I wanted to be pregnant again so waiting even a couple of months was difficult. The days slowly crept by and the question of whether I was pregnant again was never far from my mind. It gave me a pinhole glimpse into what it’s like for women who wait these long, slow days every month for years and never get that positive test. It heightened my burden and respect for those who can’t get pregnant or have dealt with loss (especially multiple losses.)
So I guess this is the PS. to my miscarriage post. It wasn’t as easy as I thought it was going to be, but it wasn’t as hard either. And I think it’s a pretty awesome PS. as I feel baby girl squirming and kicking inside of me.
It’s Sunday night. I finally got most of the dishes done and am listening to some classical music on NPR. I took a nap this afternoon which I really needed, but that means I can’t even attempt sleep for a couple more hours.
As I hoped on Thursday, the days have gotten progressively better. Friday was still a little rough, but two different friends and their children visited us which was wonderful. Then, I got through yesterday knowing that Jonathan would be home in the evening. I love that I still get excited for him to come home. I know part of it is that when he is home I am not solo parenting anymore, but I also know that absence really does make the heart grow fonder. To celebrate him coming home (and to use up the rest of the peaches), I made a peach pie and also made a banana pepper frittata. I cheated and used a store-bought crust which kept falling apart so it isn’t very pretty. Fortunately with pie, it’s what’s on the inside that counts.
We saw Claude again on Friday. This time I bought a jar of pickles, four big, beautiful tomatoes and boiled peanuts. He gave me his last two cucumbers as well. (Alida ate half of one of the cucumbers, and we both ate all the boiled peanuts before I could take a picture.) He liked Alida’s smile and kept talking about how much their chihuahua would like her.
I have a hard time following what he says, but he told me something about his daughter being born in 1952 before he went to Korea. He had asked me if Alida was walking and it seemed that the gist of the story was that when he came home, he felt something on his leg and looked down and his now-walking daughter was holding onto it. This was good for me to hear. It keeps the weeks where Jonathan is gone a lot into perspective.
Jonathan came home last night, and as we should’ve expected, was sent right back early this morning. He was scheduled to get back around 2pm, but they managed to keep him overnight. He has had a regular schedule for the last few months, and it has spoiled us. He is back on reserve now, and I think we are both realizing that we have to find a healthy way to get through these times. I’m not sure what the key is, or if it’s something that will change from day to day, but I think a big part of it to not let it make us angry or disappointed. It’s easy for us to feed off each other when it comes to negativity towards scheduling. I tend to push him to fight things, when sometimes it’s better just to go with it and not get emotionally involved.
And, as much as I really hate to admit it, this is part of what he/we signed up for. Getting extended is part of being on reserve which is part of being a captain right now. They have the right to schedule him up to the very last minute of legality even if it seems unfair or is because of someone else’s mistake. As frustrating as all of these things are, flying people around is what they are paying him to do. And I love having a husband who believes in doing his job.
So, for now, Alida and I will continue to be thankful for having a yard. Thankful that we can be outside in the grass and the sun and not cooped up in an apartment. Thankful that we have friendly neighbors who stop by and chat. Right now, Alida’s outside play time generally revolves around the hose/swimming pool, her city girl sandbox (a flat tupperware box full of sand), a little climbing set/slide that I scavenged off the side of the road a few days before we moved, and pointing at every airplane that flies over. Since she usually goes to the water first, she spends most of her time naked. I love her innocence and freedom.
(It’s a little blurred because she thought she was being so big standing on the slide but started slipping right when I took the picture.)
The longer we live here, the more friends we learn live close by. Tonight, one of our friends we knew from our time in Vietnam with came over. Evidently she lives less than two miles away. She brought some of her garden’s excess which was a wonderful bounty of basil (Thai and Italian), jalapenos, green tomatoes, and a Japanese eggplant. I’m really excited to cook and eat these. Also excited to one day have lots of tasty things growing in my garden.
Since I moved out of my parents house to go to college 14 years ago, I’ve moved between 13 and 18 times (depending on whether you count places I lived for a month or so.) I’ve lived in 11 cities in 4 countries. Needless to say, this doesn’t allow for much rooting. I lived in Morrow and Fairburn for the longest stretches, and neither of those places or where I was in life (college student and flight attendant) were conducive to making a community around you. Vietnam was the first place I actively tried to get to know the people living and doing business in my area. In some ways, it was all I had to do, but besides that, it was much more exotic and interesting. Even then, between traveling and the language barrier, I can’t say I got to know them.
As I wrote about last time, we’ve just recently settled into the suburbs. In many ways, I fought it. It’s not cool. It’s far from everything. Blah blah blah. But I’m realizing that there are some perks to settling down. Perks to accepting and embracing where we are in life right now. It is the first time in my adult life when we can talk about things a few years down the road and (God willing) know where they will take place. We can invest our energy and money into this house and garden and be around to enjoy it. We can get to know our neighbors without feeling like what’s the point, we’ll be leaving anyway. I don’t think I’ve fully realized this yet, but it’s starting to sink in.
Last week, I drove by the local hardware store. I noticed there was a pickup truck parked out front with an umbrella. We all know this means they are selling produce. I didn’t get to stop that day, but stopped the next day and met the man with the truck. His name is Claude and he is 82 years old. He was selling tomatoes, cantaloupe, a few different types of pickles his wife had made, and boiled peanuts. He parks there every Friday and Saturday and has for the last 15 years. He told me how he had worked at a dealership down the street for 40 years, but didn’t get a pension, and mentioned working at the hardware store part time. I didn’t understand half of what he said, but it did sink in that I should pay attention, because hopefully, I’ll be seeing this man on a weekly basis for a long time.
As we left, I realized that though I am living in suburban USA, some things aren’t so different from Vietnam. I can still meet interesting people right around the corner. I should still get to know the people who sell fresh produce. I might be able to recognize what he is selling and there isn’t quite the language barrier, but there will still be cultural differences and crazy accents to be reckoned with.
I’m also pleased to discover that our little ‘burb, and even our neighborhood has a lot more variety than I expected. There doesn’t seem to be a dominant race, which I like. A couple days ago, I met an Indian lady, her twin 7-month-old daughters, and her mother while they were out walking. They live around the corner and she also stays at home.
Today, I met Miss Jean, our one-house-down neighbor who seems to be the eyes and the ears of the neighborhood. By the time our conversation was over, Alida and I had gone into her house and Alida was playing, fully clothed, in her whirlpool bathtub with some rubber ducks. Alida also gave her a kiss! I know that she lives alone and she knows that we are alone a lot. We can look out for each other, and that makes me feel better. I was also pleased to learn that when this house went on the market, the neighbors were saying (or she was telling them) how nice it would be to have a baby around here again. Hope they still think that in a year.
In other news, all the peaches have been either canned or are chopped up in the refrigerator. Since last weekend, I made 6 jars of blackberry-blueberry jam, 10 jars of spiced peach butter, and 6 jars of peach-plum jam with a hint of ginger (I didn’t have enough ginger on hand.) In the next few days, I’m going to attempt peach-jalapeno jelly and peach muffins. I’m very thankful I only bought one case of peaches.
My in-laws were here for the last week and were a great help with the house and Alida. On Wednesday, everyone left me and it was back to the reality of aviation-induced single parenting and a really messy house. As much as I don’t want to be the person that pretends life is all sunshine and roses, I hate when people complain about having children. I need to be honest, though, that some days, I’m impatient and Alida is squealy. She’s learning she has a free will, and I’m struggling to learn how to parent well and manage my own free/ornery/selfish will. I vacillate by the moment between frustration at her refusal to acknowledge to me/obey what I tell her, awe at what a beautiful, innocent creature I’ve been given the privilege of caring for, and guilt for getting frustrated. I believe this is normal. I don’t believe that any one of these feelings on its own is accurate – if that makes sense.
I don’t say this to complain. Parenting is a privilege, and I’m thankful God has given her to me. But I do want to be honest and transparent. We don’t have some idyllic life. It’s not always cute naked babies running around in a gardenia-scented yard. I also have to remind myself that before I had a child, before I was married, before any other people so directly affected my happiness/well being, I had bad days.
Today was better than yesterday, and I trust that tomorrow will be better than today. Hopefully, I’ll get to see Claude, and maybe I’ll try his wife’s pickles this time (in addition to a quart of boiled peanuts, of course.)
Some days, I couldn’t string words together if you paid me. Other days, the ideas come, but they need more work than I have energy for. Today, I decided to just jot some things down.
These are not necessarily in order of significance. They just need to be noted since it’s been so long since I’ve written.
I’m 25 weeks pregnant with our second baby girl. She’ll arrive sometime in November (due 11/9.) I always thought being pregnant and having a little child would be really hard, but in many ways, this pregnancy has been much easier than my first. I don’t have time to obsess about pregnancy and child birth. I don’t have energy to worry about the future (having gone through it once before helps that too, of course.) I can’t leave the house most evenings so if I crave junk, that’s where it stops. I spend way more time bending, squatting, crawling, and lifting than I ever have in the past. Because of all this, I’ve gained significantly less weight, am much more mobile, and am also less achy.
Next, we just bought and moved into a house. We moved OTP (outside the perimeter) to the ‘burbs. I had a small cry about it, but I know that the Lord helped me set my mind on what was best for our family and I’ve been able to focus on the benefits of living out here. Some of my favorites right off are having a yard, a garage (no more carrying Alida, groceries and pregnant belly up two flights of stairs in the rain) and having a separate baby room and guest room. It’s quiet, we have a nice yard with blooming gardenias, and I have a garden space complete with three raised beds and a little fence to keep the bunnies out (we have those too.) Also, I can no longer stand in one place in my kitchen and reach every cabinet. We are still living in relative chaos, but it’s getting better by the day.
Alida is now 15 months old. For those of you who don’t read life in months, she’s one. She’s amazing and beautiful and very often makes me have that feeling where you don’t know if you should laugh or cry from happiness. She walks and climbs on everything. She is very independent, though the last few months have brought a surprising bout of clingyness and separation anxiety. She eats nearly anything and prefers feeding herself. I don’t mind this now that she isn’t eating over carpet. She doesn’t talk yet, but she started signing somewhat out of the blue a few months ago. I had started teaching her around 9 months, but she didn’t seem to get it. About 4 months later, she pulled a sign out to tell my mom she wanted more. She still doesn’t use the basic ones in a practical way (eat, more, milk), but she can tell you if there is a dog a mile away, if she sees or hears a bird, when she wants a bath, and sometimes when she’s all done. I know that she has learned so much and love when it comes out. I’ve been talking to her her whole life, but lately she will actually respond – especially if it involves getting her back scratched :-) (Can’t blame the little lady.) Her cousin, Joaquin will be a year in September, and they are finally getting to the ages where they take note of each other and sometimes play together. He is one of the few people she has voluntarily kissed and the only person she has ever hugged. It makes me happy.
In other news, I bought 25 pounds of peaches today. I also have a bunch of blackberries and blueberries in the refrigerator. (My friend has a guy who sells produce outside of her office building. Yesterday, I bought 4 pounds of blueberries, maybe 3 of blackberries, a huge bag of green beans, and a bunch of cherry tomatoes for $9.50! I think he gave me a great deal because the berries were on their last leg, but still! I’m a fan.) This weekend, I plan to ignore the mess, and make a bigger mess – I mean, some berry jam, peach butter and several other peachy things. I made my first jam in June (blueberry) and some peach butter a few weeks ago. My sister Christine gave me a canning set, so it’d really be wrong for me not to use it. I spend a lot of time reading recipes. If that makes me a nerd, so be it. I also spend a lot of time reading about planting things, redoing ugly pieces of furniture, and making houses look pretty and interesting without spending a ton of money.
This is my life these days. It’s taking baths with Alida because for some reason she is scared of the new bathtub (Jonathan will say it’s the turquoise walls.) It’s having pregnancy-induced insomnia some days and pregnancy-induced passing out in bed some days. It’s lots and lots of rain and humidity. It’s amazement that 2 years ago today, I didn’t even know I was pregnant the first time. It’s love for a man who is so right for me I could never doubt that God chose him for me. It’s jam and sore feet and thankfulness for family and friends.
Thanks be to God.