To work or not to work or to kind of work

2 Apr

I’ve been doing some serious thinking about returning to a full time job next year.  I’ve been applying and not having much luck, but it seems like there is an opportunity on the horizon and I could have a difficult decision to make.  Should I stay home with the boys for a few more years or should I work?  Granted, even though I am staying home, I am teaching two courses online this semester at UF.  So, that is something.  I’ve really enjoyed working and it makes me think that I’d like to go back full time.  I’m torn because I want to be home with the boys.  It’s fun watching them grow and I like being the primary influence in their lives, but it can also be pretty frustrating, isolating, and at times, I wish I was doing professional work rather than cleaning toilets and doing dishes.  Hi, I have a PhD.  One of the good things about the field of education is that I would have a 184 day contract, so even if I am full time, that means I’m home with the boys half the year.  That makes me feel a little better about going back.  I’ve decided that it might help if I collected some “hard” data to help me make my decision.  Each night, before I go to bed, I’ll write down whether I felt like a rock star stay at home mom or if I would rather have been working.  Today’s data point: Work!

Survival Mode

31 Mar

For the past two days, Dan has been sick and I have had to take care of everything for the babies.  This is physically and mentally exhausting, but I’m seeing a bright side to survival mode.  When I have no expectations about getting anything done throughout the day, I never fail to meet expectations.  For example, I had no expectation that I would clean or cook, so when I didn’t and I threw something together for lunch and ordered pizza for dinner, it was just fine.  And when the boys didn’t nap too long, it didn’t matter that much, because I had no plan to get anything done at naptime.  It was actually kind of nice.  Not that I want Dan to be sick again (like ever), but I did learn that I should give myself a break more often.

Norovirus

29 Mar

Dan was up all night last night throwing up and feeling awful.  We took him to the doctor today and he has norovirus.  It’s contagious, so he has to stay away from the babies for a few days.  Needless to say, today has been crazy and exhausting and that’s all I can type right now.

The perfect nanny

28 Mar

I’d also like to put it out into the universe that when I find/create the perfect job for me, I would like to find the perfect nanny.  Yeah, I know, I’m getting too big for my britches.  But, here goes nothing.  I want a nanny that loves the boys, that knows how to play with them in a way that encourages their development and really enjoys doing it.  I want a nanny that has more experience than I do with 1-year-olds and supports me as a mother with helpful, unannoying, sound advice while at the same time respecting my wishes with regard to schedules, discipline, and the general raising of my children.  I want someone that sticks around until the boys are in kindergarten.  I want someone that likes to take them out to do things during the day, as their schedules permit.  I want someone that doesn’t mind doing laundry and cleaning and is kind of anal about keeping the house tidy.  And I want someone that gels with Dan and I and really becomes family.  That’s all.

My ideal job must exist somewhere

27 Mar

I’ve been thinking about my career a lot lately.  I love the field of education and, what I discovered in my official 6 months of not working, is that I like to work.  It gives me a sense of value, a different one than motherhood does.  And I think I need both.  But, I’d still like to be the main influence in Dominic and Leo’s lives during these early years.  Working as an online adjunct professor this semester has been fantastic.  It gives me a little taste of my career and I have a nanny come give me time to work one day a week.  But, we all know the trouble with adjuncting.  And, I’m yearning for more.

So, here’s what I’m sending out into the universe.  I want a legitimate, professional 3/4 time job that pays well.  I want to work out of the office 1 day a week and remotely 3-4 days a week.  I want my at-home work to be somewhat flexible, so that if I want to go to a playgroup with the boys during the day I can make up the work in the evening.  Importantly, I want the job to be in the field of education, in an area in which I excel, like technology.  I want the job to be one in which I feel that I am making a difference.  And I want the job to excite me.  Awesome coworkers would also be grand.  Did I mention an uninsulting paycheck?  Really uninsulting.  I worked very hard to earn a PhD.  I am smart.  I am dedicated.  I deserve this phantom job.  Tweet me if you happen upon it.  @LaurieAngelone

Having said that, I wish, at times, that I could think more like, I don’t know, an 80-year-old.  Right now, I feel harried.  I hate to rush, but I rush.  I rush from bottles to breakfast to naptime to chores.  I rush toward bedtime.  I stress about having an exact perfect day with the boys and then I stress about finding a job that will fulfill me and give me a break from mommying.  And a tape plays in my mind: Your career is going down the toilet with every passing day.  I am in a hurry to find a job that suits me.  I wonder when I look back on this time in my life, when I’m old and gray, if I’ll wish I would have just enjoyed it.  Will a year or two or three make that much of a difference on my career in the long run?  Statistically, I have a good 50 years left and I’ll probably working at least 30 of them.  In the grand scheme of things, this time could just be a blip.  Maybe I should take each day at a time, keep my eyes open, and wait for that perfect job to come along.  Worry is such a waste of time.

But, you know, if that job could come along by August, that would be okay too.

Our latest schedule

25 Mar

I need to write more, so why not start with our latest schedule.  I wrote this for my nanny who comes one glorious day a week while I work on my prof duties.  So if it sounds weirdly specific, that’s why.  Although, Dominic seems to be having a mini-sleep regression going on at the moment.  He’s moved to one nap and it’s only 1.5 hours AND he plays around for an hour at bed time.  Unheard of.  I hope it passes soon.

This is my life.  Enjoy.

Dominic and Leo’s Schedule

7:30-8 Bottles (6 oz. milk), diaper change

    -Leo gets his rubdown (Cetaphil, Aquaphor)

8:15ish Breakfast (grain/fruit pieces and water in sippy cup for Leo, Dominic gets 2 oz. of juice)

    -Play time, music, etc.

    -Change diaper and read before nap

9:30 Short nap/Independent play

    -Lay both boys down for 30 min to an hour.  Give both books/soft toys and turn on the paper lamp.  Don’t let them sleep for more than 45 minutes if they fall asleep.  After no more than an hour, get them up, change diapers, get dressed for the day and have some play time.

11:00 Lunch (table food, pouches, offer both water and milk in sippies)

    -Play for a bit

    -Change diaper and read before nap

12:30 Naptime begins (should be 2-3 hours; change diaper when up from nap; the boys can play for a while when they wake up)

3:00ish Bottles/Snack (6 oz. milk and snack in snack cups in high chairs)

    -Play time, walk, change diapers before dinner

5:00ish Dinner (table food, practice with spoons, offer both water and milk in sippy)

-Play time

6ish Bath on T/Th/Sa -Leo’s final rubdown

7:00 Bottles (6 oz. milk), change diaper to overnight diaper, jammies on, brush teeth, Leo’s rubdown if it’s not bath night, read a few books

7:30 Bedtime!

Baby Boot Camp

20 Jan

It’s a new year.  And I’m entering my 7th year of blogging.  Whoa.  But more impressively, I will very soon be entering my second full year of parenting.  My new year begins on February 12th, Dominic and Leo’s first birthday.  This year has brought more change to my life than… anything ever.  Ever.  I like to think of this year as baby boot camp.  Not that I know anything about the military, but my sister was in the Army and from the way she describes boot camp -being broken down and then built back up into a soldier- makes me think that it’s not so unlike this first year of being a parent.

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The first few days in the hospital were euphoric.  Yes, I was tired and I was recovering from surgery, but my sweet little boys were finally here and I could hold their tiny bodies in my arms, put cute hats on them, send them off to the nursery at night, and get a beautiful night’s sleep while trained nurses made sure my baby boys were safe, fed and changed.  This must be like the bus ride (is there a bus ride?) on the way to boot camp… all of the excitement and anticipation, making new friends, and looking forward to a new adventure.

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But then we all came home to go it alone.  For the first few days, though I desperately longed for the nurses to walk us through everything, the adrenaline kept us going. We fed the boys every three hours all day and night.  And since I was trying to breastfeed, I was also pumping every three hours all day and night, which meant the longest stretch of sleep I got was an hour and a half.  In the next few weeks, the adrenaline wore off, Dan went back to work, and exhaustion became me.  The boys slept in our room for the first 11 weeks and since they were skinny little preemies and it was winter (and we were new worried parents) we kept the room so warm that Dan and I would sweat and throw the covers off and not really sleep all that well.  Not only that, but we kept a low light on all night so that when I got up to feed the boys I could see.  These were not ideal sleeping arrangements.  This is the part where the soldier is broken down and most likely blind-sided by how difficult this is going to be.  This is where she thinks, What have I done?

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In the 12th week, we finally decided to put the boys in the nursery, that big beautiful room that we had decorated so nicely and then not used.  It was scary putting those tiny helpless creatures all the way down the hall, but oh how we slept.  The room was cool and completely dark and, on good nights, I was able to sleep for 5 hours straight.  Not only that, but we started to have a predictable schedule.  Let me tell you, I love a good routine.  Ours was challenging and not always perfect, but I started to feel like I could do this.  I wasn’t great at it, but I could get by, like a soldier must feel once they find a rhythm to the early wake ups and long, physically demanding days.

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By 5 months, I stopped breastfeeding and the boys started to sleep for 12 hours a night.  12 hours!  Not only did that mean that I slept like a normal human being, but also that Dan and I had some down time in the evenings.  We could rest and sit next to each other on the couch and just feel a little normal.  By 7 months, we took the boys on a successful beach vacation and by 9 months, Dan and I spent two nights away at a wedding while the boys stayed with their grandparents.  This is when the soldier starts to feel confident, when she starts to understand where she fits and that the world still exists off base.  But that’s where the analogy ends.  That’s where I wish being a parent could be a little bit more like being a soldier.  For soldiers, there’s no why.  There are rules and there’s a hierarchy and you don’t need to figure out why this baby won’t eat his solids and that one won’t take his second nap.  For a soldier, at least as I understand it, things are pretty cut and dried.  For a parent, you are never 100% sure and there’s no way you can be.  You just have to do the best you can do and hope for the best.  There are no tests to pass or ranks to climb or medals to earn.  Remember those schedules that I love?  I also love to know that I’m doing a good job.  I enjoy a good evaluation, an award, a diploma.  Sure, here and there I am reassured by family, friends, or the doctor, but there’s no right way to do anything and there’s no way to be sure that you aren’t completely screwing this up.

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Life as a parent has gotten easier.  I feel like I am starting to feel more like myself again.  Life has shifted, but it’s starting to resettle and I can wrap my mind around it.  I’m not just Laurie anymore.  I am Laurie and Dominic and Leo.  It’s taken this year of being broken down and slowly built back up into a mother to fully understand that they are, now and forever, a part of me.  And maybe in this next year, I can wear my one year badge with pride and rest a little easier.  Or maybe not.  Either way, I’ll keep doing the best I can because I’m a mother now and that’s what we do.

How Christmas Carolers Fix Everything

19 Dec

I am exhausted.

The past two days have been too much.  The boys and I are homebodies, mostly because I want them to sleep in their own beds for naps and also because I think it’s too hard to pack them up and take them places by myself.  I’m always weighing whether the amount of work it takes is worth getting out of the house and, if something doesn’t go well, if it’s going to end up being fun at all, for me or the boys.  Most of the time relaxing on the couch while they sleep seems so much better for all involved.  But, I would like to get out.  For the past few weeks, naps haven’t been very good.  They seem shorter and less consistent.  So yesterday, I thought I might try moving the boys to the coveted (by me) one nap schedule.  It’s a little early, but I thought they might get one longer nap and maybe that would be better for them and me.  Yesterday, it seemed to work.  I coaxed them into staying up a little longer in the morning and then they both took 2 hour naps.  But then we went to Dan’s parents’ house and tried to put them down for bed at the normal time.  It was very difficult to get Leo asleep (which never happens at night) and he cried until well after 8.  My nerves were shot.  The good news is that they both slept in a little this morning (after a brief wake up at 6:30).

Today, I had no choice but to do one nap because I signed up to go to a play date/Christmas cookie exchange in the morning.  Last night, I almost decided not to go, but what was I going to do with five dozen gooey chocolate butter cookies?  So, we went.  And I’m glad we went.  I met some cool twin moms and Leo really enjoyed himself.  My usually standoffish guy was all up in everyone’s business and so happy not to see a gate in site.  He hauled that tiny little butt all around the house.  He even borrowed other twin moms’ legs to practice standing.  Dominic wasn’t so happy about it.  He was a little scared and unsure and later I noticed that he is cutting a new tooth, so that might have had something to do with it too.  When we left, the boys fell asleep in the car.  I got them home and thought I would slip them into bed, but they woke up.  I fed them some lunch and then tried to put them down.  It turned into a two hour battle.  Leo kept standing up and he can’t get down, so every ten minutes or so I had to go in and gently lay him back down.  Dominic pooped, so I had to take him down to change him, then he leaked pee all over, so I had to do it again.  Leo finally slept for 45 minutes, but Dominic was crazed and couldn’t get himself to sleep and wouldn’t stop fidgeting when I rocked him.  I finally brought him downstairs and fed him a bottle thinking he might fall asleep while taking it.  He didn’t.  (I’m getting stressed again just typing this.)

As it turned out, Dan had to work late, so I was on my own for the rest of the evening and it was bath night.  Sigh.  I put them both to bed early and they fell hard.  I’m just hoping against hope that they sleep well and don’t get up early.  The best part about this whole (boring) story is that last week, I decided that I should really stop being stressed out if the boys don’t eat or sleep as much as I think they should.  I realized that whether I was stressed out or not, the same thing was going to happen, so I may as well not get stressed, right?  It’s a choice.  But, today, geez.  I really shouldn’t complain.  I have it so good in so many ways.  The boys are great night sleepers.  I was just reading a few old blog posts when I was excited that the boys were sleeping until 4am.  Ugh.  Plus, even bigger picture.  I have my boys.  I love these babies so much it hurts and I have so much guilt when I feel frustrated about being a mother.  But, guys, it’s really hard.  And the worst part is that there are no right answers.  Lots of guessing and hoping that you are doing the best thing, but no absolute right answers.  And you are so tired.  And you miss your independence.  Okay, I’m talking about me now.  I always thought it was so corny when people said it was the hardest job ever.  It’s so hard.  And you fail at something almost every day.  Okay, I do.  I fail.

So, I’m crying on Dan’s shoulder tonight, feeling so tired and so bad at this when outside we hear something in the distance.  We realize there are a bunch of kids on our street carrying on and half-singing Christmas carols.  Then, it gets closer… and closer.  Until they are most certainly at our front door.  My eyes are puffy and Dan and I just look at each other.  For a minute I think, maybe they’ll just go away.  But they get louder.  Then I think, what if they wake the babies?!  I look at Dan and he says, “You look fine.  Come on, let’s go listen to them.”  I wipe my eyes and we go downstairs and open the door to see a small group of adorable college students singing.  A little sense of peace came over me.  A gentle reminder of my favorite piece of parenting advice.  This is just a season.  Each season will pass and, from what I hear, they pass quickly and before you know it, your sweet little boys will be leaving for college and you will long for the days that they did not nap.  You will long for the days that you held their wiggly squirming bodies in your arms.  Okay, I will.  I will miss this.

Sleep in heavenly peace, little boys.  Mommy will be here for you when you wake up in the morning, no matter what time that is.

Emerging Personalities Update

14 Nov

Since the boys are 9 months old as of yesterday, I think it’s time for an update on their emerging personalities.

Dominic laughing

Dominic is our BIG boy.  He’s grown so much in the past few months and my little preemie baby is now in the 60th percentile for weight.  He still has those big bright eyes and he looks at me with the sweetest, most innocent expression.  Between that and his chubby cheeks, I just want to take a bite of him.  He’s a little sensitive.  He startles easily and he gets whimpery when he plays by himself too long, which I think is due to the fact that he’s not moving around as much as he would like to right now.  He’s turning both ways and he can get into things, but he doesn’t have any forward motion yet and I think he’s frustrated by that.  He’s sitting up pretty well and he loves slamming his hands down on our little baby piano.  He also absolutely loves his jumperoo, so much so, that we’re afraid he might break it sometimes.  He has no problem holding his own bottle these days, mostly because he wants to hurry up and get it in his mouth.  He also is great at shouting “dadada!” when he’s in a good mood.  The best part about our Dominic, though, is his big belly laugh (as you can see from the video).  The kid loves to laugh and he brings so much joy to our house.

Dominic’s current nicknames: Dom Bomb, Dommy, Bomby, Big boy

Leo playing peekaboo

Leo is our little active guy.  He’s growing just fine, and he might be smaller than his brother, but he’s learning to move like nobody’s business.  He just started to transition from army crawling to real crawling and he’s getting into everything.  He likes to practice crawling all of the time, even when he’s supposed to be napping and he’s trying to follow mama wherever she goes.  He will crawl across the room to knock down a tower, although he’s very gentle about it.  He tries to delicately take the top block off of the tower, but he always ends up knocking the whole thing down.  He’s still our little inspector and he cracks us up when he practically sticks his head in his toy fish bowl to take a look at the fish before he scoops them out.  When he gets excited, he makes the most hilarious throat clearing noise over and over again.  Of course, he’s also been known to make his mean face and snort when he’s not happy.  Leo also loves his baby piano, but he’s much more interested in turning the pages on the toy music book, back and forth and back and forth.  Leo loves to shout “dadada dididi!” and steal his brother’s binky.  The best thing about Leo is that he’s so interactive.  He makes you feel like you have a little buddy by your side.

Leo’s current nicknames: Mr. Leo, Leoman, E, Eo, Little boy

They are both sippy cup and puff addicts.  And I’m happy to say that they both LOVE books.  They listen very attentively when I read to them and they’re also starting to be interested in turning pages.  :)

Bugsi

11 Nov

I’ve been forced to clean out my office by painters that unloaded my ridiculously “organized” bookshelves.  This is a good thing.  It’s very slow going, but I think it’s probably time to throw away the first draft of my dissertation, the one my adored advisor required that I print out so she could make handwritten comments on it (Educational Technology, anyone?).  Although, truth be told, I set it in the corner to think about a little longer.  This is emotional stuff.  Some days I think I’m okay staying home with the boys and doing some adjunct work and writing on the side.  But then, I sort through old recommendation letters, notebooks full of ideas and books I never finished and I feel like all the potential I had on graduation day in 2011 has slowly been lost and stuffed away in a messy little room with a beautiful arched window.  This was the place where I was going to write my first book, grade papers and projects and Skype with colleagues in other parts of the state.  Instead, it’s a chilly room with piles of medical bills stacked on the desk, Christmas wrapping paper hanging out of the closet and a basket full of cards from my 30th birthday and graduation celebration in the corner.  And it’s not just staying home with the boys that makes me feel this way.  It’s really the last two years of rejection.  I found jobs, even jobs that I liked, but I wasn’t able to get that tenure-track holy grail that, as a PhD, you hope to get.  Yes, I know part of the problem is that I was limiting my search to Cincinnati and yes, I know that those rejections were their loss (or not), but at times, it still feels like I did all that hard work and then got stuck.  A case of academic arrested development.  And then my cousin Beth reminds me that because of my PhD and because I don’t “have” to work, I have possibilities.  I could legitimately create that nonprofit I’ve been brewing in the back of my mind for a couple of years.  I could still write.  And that excites me.  But I’m still torn.  The other day in my office, digging through emotional scraps of paper, I came across a pile of pictures that my mom found in her attic and gave me sometime during the newborn haze.  At the time, I set them aside, not able to process anything but my babies’ needs in the present moment.  This time I picked up the pictures and looked closely at this one:

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Cute, yes?  It’s my 6th birthday and that amazing cake, I’m sure, was made by my awesome Grandma Richards.  But that’s not what made me pause.  On my arm, in marker and in my Dad’s handwriting, is written BUGSI.  With an I.  Like this blog!  People, this is kind of amazing.  I know my blog is spelled with two I’s, but I only did that because the domain bugsy.com (the obvious spelling) was taken.  But, my dad spelled bugsi with an i.  My dad, the whole reason I named this blog after my old nickname.  I decided to take it as his way of telling me to get back to blogging and to remember that there was (and still is) somebody who believed that I could do anything, even when I didn’t.  My dad wouldn’t allow me to believe that I wasn’t smart enough or good enough for anything.  And because of that, I felt like I could do anything.  So, I’ll figure it out, Dad.  Whether I get the job I want in academia or middle school or I start a nonprofit or write a book, I’ll figure it out.  Because I’m good enough and I’m smart enough and I believe in myself because of the way you always believed in me.