The Busier, the More Productive

Have you ever noticed that when you’re busier, you’re more productive? That is definitely the case for me. Right now my days are packed. I get up at 5:30am and am out the door by 6:15am at the latest. At school I have a list of tasks to complete in the 20 minutes before my zero period kids arrive and then another set of tasks to complete in the 10 minute break before first period. Then I teach straight through until 12:07pm and by 12:17pm I am in the car on my way to pick up Monito. Sometimes I try to squeeze in a quick errand (like today I grabbed wart remover at CVS–I know, gross) on my way to my in-laws. I’m always there by 1:15pm and I’m home with Monito by 1:45pm. After a diaper change and bottle he goes down for a nap and I have 90 minutes to eat lunch and do whatever else I need to get done. I keep a running list of To Do’s in my reminder app and if I’m not working out during Monito’s nap, I immediately open it and get to work. That 90 minutes is so precious, I absolutely can’t squander it and the knowledge that there is just no other time to get these things done makes me use that time very wisely.

Monito is usually up by 3:40. I try to give him at least 10 minutes of my undivided attention before I keep working on chores or quickly run an errand before walking to pick up Osita (she really loves when we walk home so I’m trying to do that now, while the weather is still warm(ish) and the days are still long). Little brother and I arrive at her school around 5pm, right when they are coming off the playground (if I get there earlier she doesn’t want to leave) and we head home, munching on snacks while we walk. We take our time trekking back and we don’t get to the house until around 6pm most nights. The three of us hang out for 15 minutes and let Monito burn off some energy crawling around/wreaking havoc/tearing through the house before I put him to bed. By 6:45pm I’m making Osita dinner, which she takes 30 some odd minutes to eat (ah mealtimes, always a power struggle). By 7:15pm we’re having “Osita Time” (more on this soon) and then it’s bedtime for bonzos. Of course bedtime takes at least an hour so I’m not out of her room until 8:30pm most nights and I’ll be back in there intermittently until at least 9:30pm which means I don’t get much done in the following hour. By 9:30 I’m already puttering around the house getting things ready before bedtime and by 10:30pm my head has hit the pillow and the lights are out.

I definitely have less time right now than I ever have before and yet I’m getting more (of the things that I absolutely have to do) done than I usually do. Knowing my time is extremely limited and feeling the pressure to honor commitments means that I don’t waste a minute of the time to do my things. I’ve actually managed to stay on top of a few on going, unrelated projects right now, and I’m pretty impressed with the fact that I haven’t let any balls drop, at least not yet.

Of course this also means that the things I used to do during those off hours are getting swept aside (ahem, blog writing, reading and commenting). I basically have to think ahead, at the beginning of the week, about what I want to write and then schedule it in somewhere or it won’t get done. (I still haven’t figured out when to read or comment on blogs, but I will I promise.) I’m only writing this post now because I’ve pushed back a copyediting assignment until tomorrow (probably not the best call, but it’s been made).

As of today, I’m making this new schedule work but I wonder how long I can keep this up. If I were ever to have an unproductive day (or god forbid get sick) the whole house of cards would come tumbling down and already aspects of my life are suffering: my house is a disaster zone, I’m perpetually exhausted and my tension headaches are coming back. I keep telling myself that if I keep this up for a few more weeks I can get on top of some things and I’ll have a little more wiggle room but I have the sneaking suspicion that that is not actually the case.

I could worry more about that right now but instead I’m going to marvel at how much I’m getting done and how well my reminder app is keeping me on task during the extremely limited time I do have. I always suspected that I got more done when I had less time, but now I’m certain of it.

How do you handle very busy periods in your life? Do you find you get more done when you have less time?

In Someone Else’s Words

I’m still not over my feelings of anger and sadness about how my second, and last, attempt at breastfeeding failed.

It still hurts me to read about successful breastfeeding relationships.

It still feels like a slap across my face when readers are urged to keep trying, because it does get better and it’s so worth it to stick it out (and I absolutely KNOW that no one is slapping me across the face with that message, it’s just what it feels like when I read it.)

I still wish, every day, that I had that ultimate bonding experience with my son. That I were still enjoying it. That it were a part of our lives.

I think it will get better when he’s older and I can assume we would have stopped anyway, but at nine months, I think we’d still be going strong, had we ever got going at all. So the pain lingers.

There is never a day where I wish I’d kept pumping, but there is also never a day where I don’t regret that we didn’t get to breastfeed.

Sometimes it’s hard to articulate, how and why this hurts so much, why I feel like such a failure.

Then I read a post like this one and I feel such overwhelming gratitude that SOMEONE is able to put it into words so much better than I ever could.

I want to write about this more, hopefully on my public blog–because this is something I’d love to speak about publicly–but I’m not sure if I have the time for it. In case I don’t get my own message out there, I wanted to at least write this here. And link that that article. Because it says everything I wish I could say, better than I could ever say it.

Comparing Parenting

When it comes to my abilities as a parent I think I have a pretty realistic understanding of where I stand. I recognize both my strengths and my weaknesses and I neither judge myself too harshly nor give myself more credit than I deserve. I know there are some things I excel at (setting and enforcing boundaries, providing consequences, requiring politeness, apologizing when I make mistakes) and other things I don’t do well at all (keeping my frustration in check, losing my temper, providing well balanced meals, listening intently when my kids speak to me). There are some things I’m specifically trying to improve, like putting my phone away to be more present with my kids. I recognize that I am a human being and human beings are fallible and parenting provides countless opportunities to stumble and fall, the important thing is that I pick myself up and learn from my mistakes.

Man have I made some mistakes. I’ve made some pretty epic mistakes. And yet, I don’t consider myself a failure as a mother. For the most part I think I’m doing a decent job, and I know that every day I’m at least attempting to do better.

Most of the time I’m pretty confident in my role as mother. I’m not always proud of how I do the job, but I can genuinely say I’m doing my best. I rarely hold myself up to other mothers and find myself lacking (at least not in my all-around qualifications as a mother, though I do find myself lacking in specific areas of motherhood that I find particularly challenging). After this week though, I’m wondering if that is less a result of my overall confidence in myself and more a consequence of my relative isolation as a mother. Maybe I think I’m a decent mom because I don’t spend much time around other moms and so I don’t have the opportunity to compare myself to others.

This past week I’ve spent a great deal of time with other moms of kids my kids’ ages. My cousin has a daughter almost exactly Osita’s age and a son ten months older than Monito. My cousin and his wife have a two year old daughter and are expecting their second child next month. I’ve spent entire days with both my cousin and my cousin-in-law and both are incredible moms. I’ve watched them excel at so many of the things I struggle with and I haven’t witnessed them falter on even one occasion. Meanwhile they have seen me get frustrated and lose my tempter with my daughter on multiple occasions. They’ve seen me looking at my phone while I could be engaging my son. They’ve seen me hand my kids off to my mom so I can take a much needed walk alone with my book-on-tape. Meanwhile I never witnessed either of them lose their temper, or look at their phone or even request some time a lone, let alone actually take it. When I compare my own mothering abilities to theirs (and it’s hard not to when we’ve shared such close quarters this week), I find my abilities seriously lacking. For the first time I’m doubting my general status as a decent mom.

Maybe I’m not such a great mom after all. Maybe I’m right when I suspect that other mothers–the ones whose lives I witness via social media of various kinds–are just inherently better at this mothering thing than I am. So many women seem to do it all so effortlessly and seem to enjoy it more than I do. Maybe I’m not actually cut out to be a mom, at least not a good one.

I don’t know, it may sound silly to say those things, but sometimes I wonder… I thought I’d be a good mom, it was all I wanted to do with my life when I was growing up, and there are some things I know I do really well, but there is so much I struggle with and there are so many things I absolutely fail at every day. I used to think all mothers failed at some things, but watching my cousins made me wonder if that is actually true. Maybe some mothers don’t fail at anything. Honestly, after a week witnessing my cousins in action, I couldn’t name one weakness of theirs, while I’m sure they could mention plenty of mine.

I know comparison is the thief of joy, and I honestly believe that to be true, but I don’t feel like this is that kind of comparison. I’m not looking at what my cousins have and wishing I had it. This isn’t about envy or jealousy of a feeling that something is unfair. This is about watching other women who are damn good mothers and not ever seeing them falter and wondering if the fact that I do falther makes me a bad mom, or less-than in some way.

I guess in the end it doesn’t really matter if they are “better” moms than me. I am a mother and my kids are stuck with me, for better or for worse, and all that really matters is that they’ll be fine at the end of all this. Surely there are other women out there making fewer mistakes than I am, just like there are women doing a shittier job than me. In the end none of that matters, all that matters is what I believe about my own parenting abilities. My belief in myself has clearly been shaken and I have to figure out how to regain some of the confidence I have lost. Too bad I have no idea how to do that.

Do you feel confident in your abilities as a parent? Has that confidence ever been shaken?


I know I’ve written before about the gratitude I feel about having a second child and how happy I am that our family can finally feel complete. But I would be lying if I said it isn’t hard sometimes to walk away from the idea of a third kid. I don’t know where it originally came from–I only have one living sibling so it’s not like I’m trying to recreate the kind of family I grew up in by having three kids. Maybe I’m trying to have the family my parents wanted but didn’t get. My mom wanted four kids and my dad wanted two so they settled on three. But then my sister died and my mother had three stillbirths so they stopped when my only living sister was born. Maybe I wanted three kids because they couldn’t have three themselves.

Three kids is not in the cards for us. And honestly, a lot of the time I’m totally okay with that. A lot of the time I actually think it’s what’s best for our family. We live in an expensive city. The only way we survive here financially is through the very generous help of family, family we can’t depend on forever. It would be selfish of us to ask them to help us with a third child and without their help, we absolutely couldn’t afford childcare for three children.

We can’t afford it, my husband doesn’t even want it, and our fertility issues make it all but impossible. Not having a third child isn’t even a choice for us. It isn’t meant to be. Our family is complete. And yet… it’s hard sometimes. It’s hard to let go of that original dream. It’s hard not to wonder… what if?

I think it will be hard for me, when people I know start having third children. I almost asked my friends yesterday, the ones who have kids close in age to our own, if they were planning on having a third child (they have initiated the conversation in the past, which is the only reason I would ask now). I know they originally wanted four, but then decided that was too much and even said once that they might be done at two. I’m guessing they’ll have three. I’m guessing my cousin will have three. Probably quite a few of our friends will have three. It’s something I have to be ready for, people expanding their families while ours stays the same size. I will be very happy for them, but it will be hard not to consider our own family size and not think of my original dreams. Watching someone do what you can’t, but wanted to, do is difficult, even when you know in your mind that what they have isn’t what’s best for your family.

Our hearts are stubborn forces. I wish our minds held more sway over them. I wish all the rational thinking that helps me know it’s right for us to be a family of four could keep my heart convinced.

There are other feelings swirling around this issue too. One is the immense gratitude I feel that we even have two children. I really didn’t think we’d get to have a second child and then we did and he’s amazing and I am so thankful. There is also guilt, because I have TWO children and so many people want a second child, or any children at all, so who I am to want a third? And honestly, I know this isn’t a popular sentiment in this community but I truly believe that I SHOULD be grateful, JUST grateful for what I have when I know so many people who have less. I get that we all want what we want and we have our own dreams for our family and we can grieve those dreams. I get that, I do, but I also think it’s kind of selfish of me to wish I had more when so many people have less. This is just how I feel about myself, it’s a deeply personal expectation (as in, I don’t expect others to feel that way, nor do I think they should) and most of the time I live up to it, but sometimes I falter.

Like when Mi.Vida talks about scheduling his vasectomy (have I mentioned how much Mi.Vida DOESN’T want to have another kid?) and the finality of that action settles like cold stone in my stomach. I feel that tight weight when I get rid or something from Monito’s infancy, like the co-sleeper and bouncy chair I recently sold.

And then there are moments, like yesterday, when I pulled out the baby food ice trays and I thought, “When I stored these away I wasn’t sure I’d ever get to use them again. I can’t believe how lucky I am that I’m pureeing carrots for a second child.” In those moments I am flooded with this warmth of gratitude, I literally feel it wash through my body like a wave, emanating heat from deep within me. It’s an incredible feeling, one I can wrap myself in for week, and even months, at a time.

The feeling of wishing I could have a third child is murkier. It’s more distant, like a memory of something that happened in the distant past. It’s not usually a visceral reaction, like my gratitude, it’s more like that tingle you get in your jaws when you think of eating something sour. It’s intense for a short moment, but it fades quickly and then you barely even register that it’s there.

That is where my wanting a third child is now. Just a tingle in my jaw when I read a post, or see a family that might be announcing their third pregnancy. It’s a very dully ache that I can’t quite place and that disappears before my mind can linger on it.

I’m sure I’ll oscillate between these two feelings a lot in the coming years, as those we know build their families while we do not. I just hope that I swing to the side of gratitude and acceptance more than to the side of envy and wanting, because I do have so much and our family is so very lucky.

What is your experience with infertility and family size? How do you feel about it?

Memory, Change and the Deceptive Mind

I bought the audiobook of Liane Moriarty’s What Alice Forgot the day I read Mel’s post about it. The minute she mentioned that there was a storyline involving infertility and loss I knew I wanted to read it. I will read ANYTHING with an infertility and loss storyline, and I will most likely enjoy it.

I also found the main premise of the book intriguing. A woman hits her head and wakes up having lost the last ten years of her life. She thinks she’s newly married, madly in love and expecting her first child when in reality she has three kids and is in the middle of an acrimonious divorce. I thought that idea was fascinating and I knew I wanted to read the book.

I listened to the 13 hour narration in less than a week. I was obsessed. I created reasons to listen to it–one day I did all the dishes, even though they are Mi.Vida’s job (he had gotten behind and there were A LOT of dishes) and another day I took Monito on a two hour walk. I was chomping at the bit to get into the car or go for a walk or fold laundry, ANYTHING where I could put in my headphones and listen. (The awesome Australian narrator did nothing to quell my obsession.)

As I read the book I spent a lot of time wondering what it would be like FOR ME to wake up in ten years and not remember a huge and significant portion of my life. What would I do if one day I were suddenly on the verge of turning 44, with a 14 year old daughter and a 10.5 year old son (at least I would have known them, can you imagine NOT KNOWING your own children?!) and in the middle of messy divorce proceedings? How would I wrap my head around it? I just can’t fathom.

One of the themes of the book is how much life can change us. I don’t want to give too much away, but I feel like I can say that Alice has a hard time recognizing the person she’s become. She’s like a stranger to herself, physically, emotionally and socially. She spends much of the book trying to figure out not only who she is, but how she got to be that way.

As I read What Alice Forgot, I wondered if it were common for people to change so much in such a short period of time. I mean, I know parenthood can do a number on a person’s life and marriage, but can it change a person so much that they would be almost unrecognizable to their former self? Will the forty year old me, with a 10 year old and 7.5 year old, recognize the woman who was so grateful to be pregnant on the eve of her thirtieth birthday, and yet so scared that something might still go wrong? Will the woman who committed to having children with my partner recognize our relationship after another half decade of parenting? These first years have been so grueling, what will six more like them do to us?

On the one had, Alice’s transformation seemed extreme, but on the other hand, I accepted the narrative of each part of her personal evolution easily. Maybe we can change that much in only a decade. I doubt there is another decade during adulthood that is more life changing that the first ten years of raising children–the rigors of child rearing test our assumptions about ourselves and mold the ways we interact with those around us. Already my life, my friendships, my marriage, and my attitude toward my job, have changed so much in the last four years. Maybe they will keep changing as time marches on.

Reading the book only furthered my commitment to living intentionally. I want to spend the next six years determining what is most important and making decisions–both big and small–accordingly. I hope that by doing that, I will be pleasantly surprised by my future self, that I will be proud of the person I’ve become and not flabbergasted by my life.

As Alice uncovers the details of her “future” life, she is both delighted and horrified.  As I read the book I thought back to my 24 year old self. What aspects of my new life would delight me? What would horrify me? How would I see the man I’d fallen in love with? How would I feel about our pregnancy loss and secondary infertility if I didn’t have to experience it? If I read this blog, and experienced those tragedies only via my words, would I understand my own devastation? Would our ectopic pregnancy and our diagnoses of DOR and MFI not matter as much if I knew I ended up with two healthy children? I honestly don’t know.

Interestingly, Alice doesn’t have any personal written record of the ten years she has lost, so she has to depend on others’ accounts to fill in the blanks. Reading the book, I felt immense relief that I wouldn’t be so completely dependent on others to describe my own life for me. I would have my own words, hundreds of thousands of them, ready and waiting to educate me.

Of course, I also wondered what I would think about my own life if I only had this blog to read. Would I understand that only certain aspects of my life were discussed here? That the tedium and joy of every day life hadn’t been captured in these pages? I suppose the photographic evidence would have given me a clue as to how happy I was, but I wonder if that would be enough. Either way, I take solace in knowing that this written record exists. I already return to it to remember the last four years with a clarity that be impossible without these words. Already so much is lost, even without a head injury.

The final theme of the book was memory, and the importance of having access to both the milestones and minutiae of our lives. Right after I finished What Alice Forgot, I started a Great Courses on critical thinking called “Your Deceptive Mind.” The whole first five hours has been about human perception and memory and how flawed it is and how easily we forget, except we don’t realize we forget because our mind confabulates to fill in the missing pieces. So much of our memory is simply made up, a construct our mind creates to fit with our preconceived expectations and understandings. We think we remember things clearly, when most times our recollections are not accurate at all.

I’ve found that to be true for me, and I’d never know it without this blog. There are things I misremember, things I completely forget, and things I seem to fabricate without realizing. If I couldn’t go back and read these words, I would have no idea what the last four years were really like.

It’s actually quite terrifying, when I think about it. Without this space, without photographic and video evidence, so much of my life would just fade from my memory. We don’t want to think we can forget these important, life defining moments, but we can and we do, without even realizing.

I’m not sure where I’m going with all this. It started out about change and then morphed into something entirely different, about memory and its inherent weaknesses. I suppose they are intertwined. Maybe we don’t notice how much we change over the years because we don’t accurately remember who we were. It’s like how we don’t notice the changes in a picture right in front of us, if it flashes when the change is made. Even after ten or more significant changes, we think the picture looks the same, because each change happened independently, and the flash made us miss the moment of transformation. Maybe our lives are like that, and we don’t perceive the changes because they are happening every day, in big and small ways.

I guess I just hope that if I’m living intentionally, I’ll be pleasantly surprised by the new picture that I find when I wake up one morning and realize I’m almost 45, and half of my life has passed me by.

What would the you of ten years ago think about your life today? Do you think you’ll change much in the next ten years?

The Left Hand Column

Yesterday Monito had his six month well visit (almost a month late–he will be seven months on Thursday). At Kaiser they ask you to fill out a questionnaire while you’re waiting to be seen. It has about 30 questions that cover safety in the home (Have you turned the water heater in your house down? Are all cleaning solutions and medicines locked away?), milestones (Does your baby sit with back support? Does your baby pass objects between his hands?) and health issues (Is your baby allergic to any medications? Have their been any hospitalizations in the family since you were last seen?) The questions are almost all yes or no, but the answers are arranged so that the “right” answer is on the right and the “cause for concern” answer is on the left. So sometimes “yes” is on the left and sometimes “yes” is on the right. I’m assuming it’s set up this way so that the doctor can quickly scan the questionnaire and easily determine if there is anything she needs to talk to you about. Any checks in the left hand column warrant a follow-up discussion during when you’re finally seen.


I remember filling out my first of those questionnaires when Osita was just a few days old. I was frustrated that the yes’s and no’s kept switching sides–I was sleep deprived and in pain, why were they making it so hard for me?! By the two month well visit I had figured it out, and I was marking the page accordingly. I didn’t want to get any of the answers “wrong,” so even though I sometimes turned my back on my two month old baby (who couldn’t move an inch in any direction) to grab something while I changed her, I dutifully checked the “no” in the right hand column. I mean, I KNEW I wasn’t supposed to turn away from her, even for a second, so it was okay if I fibbed a little.

Later, there were other questions I hovered over, unsure how to answer. Sure my daughter wasn’t crawling yet but I was sure she would be soon. Did I really need to talk to the doctor about it? Should I be worried that she hadn’t hit that milestone yet? If it was on the sheet, and my answer was in the left hand column, was it cause for concern?

By the time Osita could walk and talk, I wasn’t all that concerned about where my checkmarks fell. Sometimes I said my daughter was eating veggies on the reg and sometimes I had the conversation about how I was trying, but she just wouldn’t eat anything green (or any color really, except for white and cheese). I knew that my daughter was thriving, and I wasn’t worried about whether or not I could answer every question “correctly.” The questionnaires stopped with the free well visits, when my daughter turned two.

Now, with my son, I find myself back in the waiting room, filling out the questionnaires. It’s amazing how easy it is to get sucked back into that insecurity, that need to mark the right hand column, all the way down the page. My son is seven months old, but he’s not eating three meals of solids a day. In fact, I don’t think he’s actually swallowed a piece of solid food yet. I know this isn’t an issue, it’s not something I need to be concerned about, and yet I find myself wanting to lie and mark “yes.” Why is that? Why do we want our babies to fit under the umbrella of “normal?” Surely no mother can avoid the left handed column forever.

I get the point of these questionnaires, they are a quick and easy way to educate both parents and doctors. Parents might need to know not to put their baby in bed with a bottle, or they might need a reminder to put Poison Control into their speed dial (ahem–me). And while my doctor wasn’t concerned that Monito isn’t eating solid foods now, she will be if he’s still not at nine or twelve months old. The point is to keep our children safe, and intervene when something isn’t quite right.

“Normal” looks different for each baby and while the questionnaire doesn’t know that, my doctor does. Usually, when I mark something in the left hand column she assures me that every thing is fine and there’s nothing to worry about. And even though I already know that, it’s always nice for a professional reassure me. As parents can use all the reassuring we can get.

Does your doctor’s office have something similar? How do you feel when you have to answer in the “left hand column?”

Cycles of Struggle

I was about to write a post about how things have been going really well lately. And quite literally the day I started drafting it in my head, shit seem to hit the fan here. Osita is having a really hard time. Again. I was really hoping that the farther out we got from 3 1/2 years old, the better things were getting. And they were for a while. Then it all went to shit again. LeSigh.

I find, during these times, that I don’t want to write much. Part of it has to do with the fact that I don’t feel all that comfortable talking about specifics when it comes to Osita anymore. But I think really what it boils down to, again, is shame. I feel very alone in the struggles with my daughter. I just don’t read about it on other people’s blogs. And I certainly don’t hear much about it in real life. Sure people can relate to a specific situation of defiance, but with very few exceptions, no one seems to be dealing with these things over and over again, or to the degree that we are. And while we certainly don’t deal with them constantly, we cycle through these difficult times more frequently than I’d like to admit, even to myself. I would say we spend more, if not most of the time, reacting to really difficult behavior, than we do enjoying the tranquil times.

It’s hard to discern why there is shame around this for me. It’s not that I think she has diagnosable issues that require professional attention (I think if that were the case I would feel less shame). But I also don’t think that what we deal with on a daily basis is necessarily “normal.” Can both be true? Is there a grey area between where most people experience parenting and where those with “diagnosed children” parent? Is everyone dealing with these same challenges, and I’m just totally incapable of navigating them?

Because sometimes these issues just feel so overwhelming. And I feel so wholly unprepared for the task. I literally feel like I can’t do it. That’s a horrible thing to feel as a mother, because I have to do it. I have to figure out a way. Except I don’t know what that way is. And it’s isolating. And it’s frustrating. And it makes me feel inadequate and inept.

And I guess that is where the shame lies. In the fact that I feel incapable, and in the suspicion that others are dealing with the same thing, and are MORE capable than I.

Anyway, I was hoping that by putting it out there I’d feel better about it, but honestly? I don’t really. My poor girl is having such a hard time and I don’t know how to make it better. I don’t know how to help her through it. And I don’t know if what I’m doing it improving her difficult experiences or exacerbating them.

And the idea that we’ll be doing this, in some form or another, forever, is… well overwhelming doesn’t really seem to suffice.

Maybe, the whole point of this is that sometimes you can’t know what to do. Sometimes there isn’t a right answer, and you can’t make it better, and in those situations, being a parent is just about loving your child unconditionally, no matter what they are going through. Maybe right now my biggest job is to just be here for her, even when she’s angry at me, or upset that she has to go to school, or overwhelmed by her own emotions and what little control she feels she has in this big scary world (at least on that point, I can absolutely empathize). I know what the hard boundaries are, the ones it’s absolutely not okay to cross. I can hold those boundaries. The rest exist in various shades of grey, and it’s okay if I muddle through that part of parenting.

At least I hope it is.