Posts Tagged 'Motherhood'

Hurry Up and Relax

How about… just try and live your life in joy.

There’s this coffee shop I’ve been to a few times in Key West, since we arrived here a month ago.  It’s the place Mummy-gets-to-go-when-she’s-being-given-time-to-herself.  I go there every two days or so for approximately 20-60 minutes.  It’s my relaxing time – my time to get my writing done – it’s my time to myself – it’s my I-gotta-enjoy-this-time-cuz-it’s-all-I’m-gonna-get time.  If I’m not inspired to work on my script during my time at the coffee shop, then no writing will happen that day.  If I’m not able to relax during my time at the coffee shop, then no breathing will happen that day (for the most part).

There’s nothing quite like scheduling your peaceful time to take the peace right out of it.  It’s like “I gotta hurry up and get to my relaxing time or it’s never gonna happen, g*ddamnit!”

So what’s the secret?  In doing a lot of extra reading on self-help type books and meditative work lately, I’ve been seeing a lot of suggestions to take time in the morning to connect with the universe in the morning before you hurry about your day.  But how do you do that when every day starts with your lovely (however needy) 15 month old climbing up into bed with you, only to whine endlessly until you bring her downstairs to play?  Or they say that people (in America, especially) just hurry hurry all day long, and never get the chance to just be joyful… but how do you stop the hurry hurry when you’re chasing a 15 month old around all day, while trying to make money and further your dream career simultaneously?  Sometimes it’s all I can do to just put the TV on and zone out while the little Monkey dances to the Curious George theme song.

They say that the more you slow down, the more time will be created for you.  In other words, if you’re so stressed for lack of time, take time to rest, and your schedule will actually open up for you more.

Why did I include a photo above of the totally awesome “Try Jesus” bumper sticker I saw in a Target parking lot in West Palm Beach? First of all, it’s so totally awesome (insert snarky sarcasm) that some twenty-something woman I’ve never met would be telling me I’m living my life in accordance with the devil (so to speak).  But I guess it applies to this blog post (vaguely) because it’s about trying a new belief to try and better your state of mind.  And if it doesn’t work, you can always go back to your old way.

So I’m sitting here at the coffee shop, doing some writing while I wait until it’s time to head off to shoot a wedding.  It doesn’t matter what happens at the wedding – maybe I’ll be awesome, maybe I’ll screw up, maybe I’ll fall off the pier into the water – it doesn’t matter if I get to the babysitter’s at the time I said, or whether or not the Monkey will be sleeping.  Right now I’m eating a chocolate chip cookie, drinking Irish Breakfast tea, typing on my lap, listening to a bad Luther Vandross song on the radio, and taking a breath.

Oh wait- as I’m getting ready to publish this post, Endless Love just came on the radio.  Now everything is perfect.  Thank you, Lionel and Diana.


They Love Me! My Toys Really Love Me!

My 14 month old has recently begun playing with the Fisher Price Laugh and Learn Puppy.  It’s a great toy (and about half her size) and she loves it.  When you press its feet, it says, “Feet!”.  Or when you press its ear, it says, “Ear!”  You get the picture.  It also plays music.  Typical learning with fun toy.  But this toy dog does something else that I’ve seen a lot of toys do… it validates my child as a worthy member of the human race.

The dog is sitting on the couch, happily awaiting its next pressed appendage, when out of the blue it starts talking:

“You’re my friend.”

“I love you.”

“You’re lots of fun.”

Why does my child need a real friend when she has a stuffed dog that spits out stock loving and adoring statements at the touch of a paw?  And what does this teach my child about true compliments and validation?  Do we do a disservice to our children by teaching them that they’re lovable, fun, and can earn a best friend simply by whacking a stuffed toy against the floor to make it talk?

Granted, I like this toy.  I’m going to let her continue to play with it as long as she likes.  Maybe I’m just jealous.  I mean, where’s my toy that tells me my boobs and *ss are still just as hot, even though I’ve had a baby, hmm?

Quantity Time vs Quality Time (aka I’m busy – is it time for your nap?)

I thought that being a work-at-home mother would be ideal for everyone: I would get to continue pursuing my career and my little Monkey would get me home all day long… every day.

Did you see Coraline (i.e. the 2009 stop-motion 3D fantasy children’s film)?  In the movie, the main character was an only child stuck with a mother and father who were so busy working from home that every noise she made was a nuisance to them.  She goes into this other (fantasy) world where she has a mother who speaks to her adoringly and bakes her cakes, and a father who writes songs for her on the piano.

I don’t bake.  Well, I’ll do it if I have to.  And my hubby don’t write songs.  But we work from home, and are constantly struggling to keep up with our work deadlines.  The Monkey gets swapped back and forth between us (he in the basement, and me in the living room), depending on the type of work each of us is doing.  Toys adorn both rooms, so no matter where our little 14 month old is, she has tons of stuff to play with.  But it’s when the music is turned on and it’s “baby’s dance party” time, or when we run up and down the two flights of stairs with her, over and over and over and over again, that she is truly in a state of bliss.

She’s got all the quantity time in the world with her mummy and daddy.  But it’s the quality time that’s not always easy to come by.  When I finish my redraft of my script, I can check it off my to do list.  But I can’t check off “play with baby” on my to do list.  When hubby finishes editing photos for an event he shot, he can say, “I’m done” and go have a snack.  But he can’t take Monkey to the park and say “I’m done”, like it’s a task he’ll never have to return to.

So we take breaks.  We put the computers down when she comes to us with a book and we read together.  When she’s got that bored look, we take her up and down the stairs.  When she’s been cooped up inside all day, she gets a trip to the playground.

But sometimes she just has to play on her own.  Sometimes the work has to get done.  And in the end, it’s probably good for her that she does.

If not, well, there’s always therapy.

Sleep is for Pussy Cats

Monkey is 9 1/2 months old.  Monkey doesn’t sleep through the night.  Other people think Monkey should be sleeping through the night because “9 1/2 month old babies should be sleeping through the night”, but Monkey doesn’t want to. Mama is tired. Mama has bags under her eyes. Mama is greying much faster now than ever before. Mama’s ready for other peoples to shut the hells up, but most importantly, Mama is ready for a good night sleep.

The Monkey sleeps

Hubby is in Florida shooting weddings, while I’m in NYC visiting my parents.  And though I came here partially so my parents could help me out with Monkey, they’re busy people, and no I’m not about to ask them to lend a hand at 4 am.  As I’ve stated before, I’m not one for letting her “cry it out”.  Not my thing.  Perfectly fine for others to do it, but it doesn’t work for me.  This, however, could possibly be the culprit in my lack of sleep.  So I’ve found a sort of middle ground since arriving in NY four days ago.  Here’s the new plan, while in my parents’ house, and with no help from Hubby:

  1. Nurse baby to sleep (yeah, yeah, yeah, I know it’s a bad idea)
  2. Put her in crib (careful, careful, or you gotta do the whole thing over again)
  3. Go to bed (maybe try to watch The Daily Show with the volume just high enough to hear Jon’s chuckles)
  4. When Monkey wakes 2-3 hours later, let her cry for 5 minutes (she was actually able to calm herself back to sleep a couple of times, YES!)
  5. If crying persists, taking Monkey into bed and feed her.  (STAY AWAKE.)  When Monkey falls back to sleep, return her to crib.  DO NOT LET HER STAY IN THE BED THE REST OF THE NIGHT.
  6. Do the same thing over again next time she wakes up.

But let’s throw a new variable into the mix: Monkey has a cold.

Sick and crying Halloween baby

Her yucky cold that she’s had since we arrived here on Halloween has not done wonders for her sleeping, as she coughs and sneezes herself awake frequently. But last night, though still desperately wanting to follow my 6-step plan, I had to give into the cold…

Steps 1-3 worked wonderfully.  I even got to talk to Hubby on the phone for a few minutes.  But at 2:30 am, the magic ended.  I allowed her to cry for five minutes, and every minute, or so, she’d wind down and it seemed as though she had drifted back to sleep.  But after an encouragingly long moment of silence came the bellowing: the howling sobs of a truly unhappy baby.  I went to her, knowing the plan was crumbling beneath my wobbling feet.

I picked her up and found that she had not only spat up all over her jammies, but her face was covered in snot.  It was the most pathetic sight I hadn’t imagined.

I carefully pulled off the jammies (trying oh so hard not to spread the white goo anywhere else!) and took a number of tissues to her face.  Once dried off, and now wearing only a diaper, I rolled up in the bed covers with her and waited patiently for her to fall back to sleep.  It took an hour and a half.  And it was wonderful.

Whatever plans I have for sleep-training, or whatever all the opinionated judgies have to say about how much a 9 1/2 month old should be sleeping, last night was when my Monkey was allowed to call the shots.

I held my little girl all night, and we kept each other warm.  That is, until I accidentally spilled cold water all over when I fell asleep with my glass on my stomach, but that’s for one of her therapy sessions in the future.

How to Alienate Friends and Make People

When I first got pregnant, I realized I had no friends with babies.  Now that I have a baby, I sometimes feel like the only people I spend time with are other parents.  Some of these newer friends were inherited with my marriage to my hubby, who is one of the last of his friends to have kids, while others were hiding in the woodwork of my life until I got pregnant and began seeking them out (and was possibly sought out by them, as new parents, too!)

Most of my childless friends (a title that resembles an accusation, but is merely a matter of fact) have been wonderful about our new lifestyle with Baby.  They come to visit, they call to say hi, and they even still invite me places (though I don’t say yes as much as I used to).  But I would think that all new parents have those friends who mourn the loss of the friendship as it once was… and can’t accept the change.  There are those who are disappointed when you say you’re bringing Baby to the restaurant for dinner.  They don’t understand that (a) my baby is not a dog I can just leave at home, and (b) babysitters do not grow on trees, nor are they free.  Yes, my baby may freak out at the restaurant… yes, she may make a mess.  But for at least half the time, she will sit quietly eating her Cheerios, waiting for the next scrap of your dinner (yes, much like a dog).  The sad efficiency of the situation is that this lack of acceptance of your baby into the friendship quickly answers any questions you may have had as to the shelf life of this relationship.

Don’t get me wrong – bringing my baby to a restaurant is not my faaayvorite way to spend an evening.  Though I nurse in public, spend most of my time thinking about Monkey, and get angry when people don’t hold the door for me when I’m-pushing-a-stroller-for-heaven’s-sake-I’ve-got-a-baby-here!, I’m still fairly rational about the unappealing aspects to bringing Baby out on nicer social occasions.  So we stay in, and try to invite people over, instead of heading out for a night on the town with Baby.  (It’s hard to look nice going out anyway, when whatever necklaces or long earrings I put on will inevitably get yanked by the Monkey).

So we spend a lot of social time with our childful friends.  Food gets thrown, crying ensues, and most of the conversation revolves around neighborhoods with good schools or what little Bobby has been eating, now that he’s got four whole teeth.  It’s easy, it’s comfortable, and not a little bit messy.

But while I may say I have more in common with my childful friends, it’s my childless friends who are some of my oldest, closest, and dearest.

Okay, so here’s a slightly related anecdote: when I was unmarried, and some of my friends starting getting married, I noticed that they began hanging out almost exclusively with their married friends.  I thought, “What am I, a loaf of bread? Just cuz I don’t have a ring on my finger makes me less appealing to hang out with?”  I have a little more insight into their mentality now that I’m married too (the fact that there’s this need-to-have-date-nights-with-other-couples that you get infected with the day you say “I do”).  But I don’t want to be the mother whose childless friends say, “What am I, a loaf of bread?  Just cuz a baby didn’t inhabit my uterus makes me less appealing to hang out with?”

Loaf of bread

So here’s the deal – you forgive me for smelling like vomit and carrying around a 19lb crying ball of goofy smiles, and I’ll forgive you for getting a full 8 hrs of sleep and wearing whatever jewelry you want.

Starting over… in the 30-Somethings

Key West… here we are.

We returned to the US on the 5th, to be greeted by the humid Miami air.  Deplaning, while carrying 5 pieces of carry-on luggage, only to go find your 5 pieces of checked luggage, all while in a very different time zone, and carrying a 19lb(?) baby, can wear on one’s serenity.  But we succeeded, found ourselves a rental car, and drove to Palm City to stay with the friends we would be shooting weddings with a few days later in Key West.

After a great two week trip of work, family, and traveling around England, Wales, and Scotland, I was sad to leave, though I know hubby was ready for the next chapter of our journey.  If I had two lifetimes to live, I’d live my other one in England.  But we make choices, follow priorities, and have responsibilities that don’t always allow us to do things just as we want.  For example, if we moved to England, our Monkey would see her grandparents even less than she already does.  So we have chosen to make family priority over geography (hell, we already live in California, while my parents live in NYC, so we’ve clearly already pushed our parents past priority #1).

My father is from England, and my sister and I have dual-citizenship.  Though we were born and raised in the US, we have always felt like England was our second home.  When our grandmother passed in ’96, it wasn’t just her that we lost, but a connection to our second homeland that could only be slightly retrieved by making more trips across the pond than usual, and working to strengthen our bond with the more distant relatives.  Needless to say, this last trip over there was a great example of that.  Monkey got to meet her 97yr old great, great aunt, three of her cousins, and visit her great grandmother and great grandfather’s graves.  We have such a small extended family that I’m putting in the extra, extra effort to give her a true relationship with her England family.


Monkey wants to be a photographer too!


Shooting the Parkinson’s conference in Glasgow for our video production company, Little Feet Productions, is going to be a good addition to our portfolio, as was shooting an Indian wedding yesterday for N Johnston Photography, our other company.  Sometimes it hits me how sudden this new entrepreneurialship of ours is.  It was only last year that I was teaching 8th grade, while hubby was a freelance video editor for reality TV.  Now we are saddled with beautiful baby, and two companies that we started, and run, and are now traveling across the hemispheres for.  I don’t get up at the alarm clock anymore and sit through 40-min of traffic out of the Valley and into Santa Monica.  Monkey is my alarm clock, and I go to work on my computer to log content for the conference video I produced that hubby shot, or I try to find us new clients.  Hubby goes to his computer and edits wedding photos, or wedding videos, or promotional videos, or whatever it was he most recently shot.

And then comes the ego.  Starting a new career in your thirties is humbling at the least.  Having your talents outweigh your lack of experience is the hope, while stumbling and having to ask “stupid” questions is sometimes the reality.  Explaining to your friends of ten years that you’re flying to another country to engage in a career that they kind-of-remember-you-mentioning-once-before is odd-feeling.  Working a job at an international conference that is a notch above the comfort zone of your abilities is intimidating at best.

So you do better than your best, and you smile confidently to hide the fear.  You jump into it headfirst because you know you’re good enough, because you know your family needs it, and because (unless you believe in that kind of stuff) you only have this life to live, and you make choices, follow priorities, and have responsibilities that sometimes make you have to start over in your 30-somethings.


And a videographer...


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