When thinking about my goals for April and looking at some of the items I tentatively had on my list for May, I realized that my 6 goals can be pretty easily separated into 6 categories: house & home, crafty, Emma-related, health & wellness, something I’ve been putting off, and a freebie. With that in mind, it was pretty easy to finalize May’s list, and I think those categories will serve me well in the future!
Clean up the rest of my office. I shared a photo yesterday of how lovely my desk looks now that it’s clean. But the photo above shows the area BEHIND my chair. And believe it or not, 95% of that stuff was already there and in that disatrous state BEFORE I cleaned off my desk. (In other words, I didn’t just dump stuff from my desk onto the floor!)
Make a wedding photo album. Our 4th anniversary is approaching and I have yet to actually do anything with our wedding photos other than print two — one that hangs as part of a gallery wall in Emma’s room, and one that sits in a frame on our TV console. Ridiculous! If you have suggestions on a good place to get a high quality book done, let me know.
Write Emma’s birth story. I have rough notes that I want to actually put together into more of a narrative. And I need to do this before I forget everything. The little details are already starting to get hazy, 9 months later…
Schedule a regular cleaning service. Coming home to a clean house is awesome, but the act of cleaning itself is just so far down my list right now. I’ve hired a cleaning service twice now, both for a one-time cleaning. It was WONDERFUL. I’m ready to finally hire someone who can come on a regular basis, probably every 2-3 weeks.
Complete M.A. project outline. Baby steps!
Finish decorating the guest room. Remember how I planned to makeover the guest room before Emma was born? Hahahaha! I’m hilarious. The room is in a perfectly good state, but I still have the giant roll of fabric that I planned to turn into a wall curtain. This month I’d like to finish that, clean out a bit of post-baby clutter that has accumulated, and call the room done.
May goals are coming tomorrow. In the meantime, here’s how I did with my April goals.
Go to bed by 10:30 on weeknights. I tracked this goal using the “Way of Life” app on my phone, which shows that I was in bed by 10:30 on ~30% of “school nights” last month. That doesn’t sound great, but I’m calling this a partial success because my rate for March was more like 10%. Setting the goal was still useful because it made me more conscious each night of trying to be in bed at a more reasonable time, and of trying to get a little more sleep.
Make a Harry Potter paper-pieced quilt/blanket for Baby V. I’ll post the details of this in a few days, but this was the secret project that I didn’t give the full details of last month because it was a gift for my friends Katie and Andrew’s new son, Robert! He was born on April 15 and I think this gift may have actually arrived while they were still in the hospital! It’s a taggie blanket that I hope he enjoy as he gets a little bigger and learns how to grab at things. Too bad they live in Ohio; Robert would be another great little friend for Emma.
Let Emma play outside. We did a pretty good job of getting fresh air last month! We took several family walks, the weather in North Carolina was great, and now we’re doing swimming class! While Jose and I were on our “vacation within a vacation,” my mom even took Emma down to the park in Charlotte for her first time in a swing! She looks kinda skeptical, but I’m told that she enjoyed it!
Identify and scope my M.A. project FOR REAL. I did some quality thinking about this, and THEN I got an email from the department announcing a new option for completing the degree’s capstone requirement. Given the extreme difficulty/laziness I’ve had trying to get this project done, the new option may work out much, much better for me. More to come on that!
Clean up the surface of my desk in my office. I purposefully chose to clean just the desk surface because I thought it would be a more manageable first step, and it was. The entire surface was COVERED before, and now I have all kinds of space to spread out whatever I happen to be working on. On the left are all my cute photos and trinkets, then obviously my computer (and my work laptop is open in front because I had to finish up a presentation on Tuesday night when I took this photo). I turned two magazine holders I already had on their sides to serve as files for the stuff I need to take action on and they work ok, although I’ll pick up something a little more functional at Target the next time I’m there. AND I finally took my Silhouette machine out of the box! I ordered this as a present to myself last summer but didn’t get a chance to set it up before Emma was born. I still need to plug it in and install the software and figure out how it works, but at least it’s out!
Find a beach rental in Port Aransas for June. I looked some more but still haven’t reserved anything. I didn’t anticipate it being quite this much of a challenge!
I hosted book club last Friday night, and I picked Sheryl Sandberg’s Lean In. As expected, the choice led to good discussion and a lot of introspection. I may post more in-depth thoughts when I have time to actually put them in writing, but it also got me thinking about all the different things I have wanted to do with my career over the years. Here’s a list of jobs I have wanted, starting at age 5 (or so) through today.
GNC systems engineer
Education program coordinator
Social media manager
Public affairs/communications rep
It’s interesting that the job I currently have is not the final item on the list — not even close. It does happen to be the job I wanted when I was picking a college and a major and a co-op job, and it is therefore the job I am most qualified to do. But I’ve wanted more jobs AFTER becoming an aerospace engineer than I did before!
Fortunately, I am very happy in my current job; in fact, as I told my friends at book club, I’m happier in my job right now than I have been at any other point in my almost 15 years at NASA. Working in the world of Safety & Mission Assurance is not something that I anticipated doing and not something that I thought I wanted — so my satisfaction here has been a HUGE and pleasant surprise.
It’s nice when things work out that way.
Today is April 3, 2013. My little girl is getting bigger by the day. In 3 days, she’ll be 8 months old.
On April 3, 2012, I had my anatomy ultrasound and we found out that Emma was a girl. I remember it very clearly — the little ultrasound room at my doctor’s office, the cold goo on my stomach, the feeling of being poked and prodded with the sensor, the bubbly personality of the tech who told us we were having a daughter. Jose and I looked at each other with big smiles on our faces, and called both of our parents before we even left the parking lot. That afternoon after work, we went to Target and bought a pack of girly onesies to celebrate.
That was a really good day.
On April 3, 2011, I was in the emergency room. I remember that very clearly too — the rough hospital gown, the random late-night Cartoon Network crap eminating from the tiny TV, the deep fatigue of finding myself still awake in the wee hours of the morning, Jose’s hand gripping mine. I remember the doctor telling me in the nicest way possible, confirming what I already knew, that I was having a miscarriage. The day before, I had been about 9 weeks pregnant. And then suddenly, I wasn’t.
That was a really bad day.
I never wrote about that first, sadly very short pregnancy. Outside our immediate families, I’ve only ever told a small handful of friends, and not even then until I made it to the relative safety of my second trimester with Emma. It was one of the worst things I’ve ever been through, but I chose to work through the loss in my own way, on my own terms, and I’ve never regretted that.
But I was thinking about it again today, two years later, and it occurred to me that maybe I will always think about it on or around April 3. I don’t know. But I might. I have read so many stories similar to mine on other blogs and forums, and in the months before Emma came along, it gave me comfort to realize that I wasn’t alone — that other people had experienced losses, many far worse than my own, and still gone on to have plenty of happy, healthy kids. It feels like the right time to put my own story out there.
Last year I remember thinking about the bittersweet coincidence of finding out that my baby-to-be was a healthy little girl exactly one year after losing what would have been our first child. But we still had 4 months to go before Emma arrived, and I couldn’t help but be irrationally cautious about “tempting fate.” So I did my best to put it out of my mind, because it was supposed to be a happy day — and it WAS a happy day.
But this year I’m not scared of it anymore. I’ll probably always remember that horrible day in the hospital. But I now have happy memories of leaving that same hospital with my adorable newborn daughter just over sixteen months later. And April 3 is also the day I learned that Emma was going to be Emma. And it’s the day I’ll go home from work and watch her roll around on the floor as she learns to crawl, and open her mouth wide for a bite of yogurt or oatmeal at dinnertime, and giggle when I blow raspberries on her tummy.
I can think about Emma and about the baby we never knew, and I can be a little sad but mainly happy. Mostly, I’m just struck by how much has happened in only two short years. Life is…well, it has a way of keeping you on your toes, doesn’t it?
You take the good with the bad, or the bad with the good. But either way, there’s good.
First I had yearly resolutions. Then I switched to quarterly goals. That worked better, but I think for these to be most effective, I need an even shorter time scale. So instead of posting goals for April through June, I’m going to try setting some proactive (but also achievable!) goals just for April. To make it a little more fun — and to put them somewhere besides my blog in order to see them on a daily basis — I made a chart based on this cute post-it goal list from Cornflower Blue Studio and pinned it to the bulletin board next to my desk at home.
Go to bed by 10:30 on weeknights. This was an unwritten goal I had back in January, and I was successfully going to bed at a decent hour at least 3 or 4 nights a week. But then February and March were unexpectedly busy and I fell off the wagon. I’m so much happier and more zen about life in general when I’m well-rested. I’ve known this about myself for years, and yet sleep is the first thing I let go when things get hectic when it should be something I prioritize no matter what. That’s pretty typical of most people, I think. But I’d like to spend April getting back into the 10:30 bedtime habit.
Make a XXX paper-pieced quilt/blanket for XXX. I blurred out identifying details, but I have a project on the docket this month to be given as a gift. I don’t think the person in question reads my blog, but I erased it just in case. Paper-piecing is a quilting technique that allows you to make some really intricate blocks and I’ve been wanting to try it for a while — and I found the perfect block to give it a go.
Let Emma play outside. The way I wrote that sounds pretty funny, as if I actively confine her to the house or something. What I really mean is that I just want to make sure Emma is getting some time outdoors to sit on a blanket in the grass, feel the sun on her face and the wind in her hair, etc. We only have another month of so before it starts to get oppressively hot, so we need to take advantage of the weather now!
Identify and scope my M.A. project FOR REAL. This needs to be broken down into smaller bits if I have any hope of getting it done. By the end of April, at a minimum, I want to have my M.A. project 1) identified and 2) well-defined with an outline and timeline of work to come to finish by the end of 2013.
Clean up the surface of my desk in my office. This refers to my home office, which is a continual disaster area. I’ll go through a week or two where I start cleaning it up, but I never fully finish and stuff begins to pile up again. In April, my goal is to clean up the desk itself. If I can get that done, it’ll be a good start.
Find a beach rental in Port Aransas for June. We want to spend a week in Port Aransas or North Padre Island this summer to give us both a nice vacation and plenty of time with Jose’s family in nearby Corpus. We’ve done a little looking, and the prices are a lot more than I had anticipated! I think part of the problem is that most rental homes are set up to sleep 8, 10, or even 12 people — and $3000 for a week is a steal if you’re splitting it 10 ways. But we need something that sleeps maybe 4. With a price to match. They exist, but I need to set aside some more time to look.
And that’s that! My goals for April, along with a visible reminder of the six things I’ve chosen to work on this month!
And how’d I do for first quarter of 2013? Not too bad, actually.
Find a workout schedule that works — and stick to it. This goal led directly to buying a treadmill. Since then, I’ve run or walked at least 1 mile every day and plan to continue through at least mid-May. Realistically, my I know that my “streak” won’t last forever, but for now I’ve found a schedule that works to at least get me a modest bit of activity each day.
Make progress my M.A. project. Not so much. Hence breaking it into smaller chunks in a last-ditch effort to be successful.
Sew a clothing item with my serger. I made a diaper cover (blog entry to come soon) to match the smocked dress my mom made for Emma! And I’m still working my way through a Craftsy class that teaches basic serger skills to increase my confidence.
Read 5 books. Done! Woohoo! And I added a Goodreads widget to the sidebar to show my progress towards reading 20 books this year.
Take a “Mommy & Me” swim class with Emma. I decided to wait until a little farther into spring to start these, but I’m going to sign Emma up for classes at a local swim “academy” for the month of May.
Outsource undesirable tasks — and be ok with that. I get over any lingering guilt about not being able to maintain my own home every time I outsource something. Because they do it better! We now have a regular lawn guy, and have had the house cleaned a few times. We also scheduled a landscaper for next week to re-do our big front flower bed.
Paint my fingernails once a week. I was successful with this for the first month or so and then stopped because my nails got really brittle and kept breaking — and I am STILL having issues with breakage. I’ve never had strong fingernails, but this is different. Maybe my nails aren’t meant to be painted on a regular basis??
Last year instead of making resolutions for the whole year, I came up with smaller lists of goals for each quarter. I like that approach a little better than “resolutions” so I intend to continue it this year! So by the end of March, I’d like to:
Find a workout schedule that works — and stick to it. I HUGELY underestimated the amount of time I would have to run once I went back to work, especially with the sun going down so early since it’s winter. If I want to work out, I now realize that it has to be one of my top 2 or 3 weekday priorities — basically the first thing on my list after my family and my job. I’m 15 pounds above my pre-pregnancy weight, and those pounds are going nowhere until I get back in the habit of exercising.
Make progress my M.A. project. How many times can I list this as a goal before I give up? We’ll find out, I guess. Jose is tentatively planning to take a class this semester, and since he’ll be gone one night per week doing that, we’ve agreed that I get one night per week for my stuff. And by my stuff, I mean my SCHOOL stuff. I don’t want to tell Emma someday that I was one project away from a second Master’s degree and never finished because I got lazy.
Sew a clothing item with my serger. Jose gave me a serger for Christmas! I’d been eyeing one for a while but hadn’t been able to convince myself to pull the trigger. It’s a different kind of sewing machine that sews with 2, 3 or 4 threads to make stitches like those you see on a lot of clothes and store-bought decor items. In other words, it’ll make my sewing sturdier and look more professional. (It doesn’t replace my old machine thought; the two machines have different purposes.) I want to use it to make several things, including at least one decent clothing item for myself or Emma.
Read 5 books. I’m going to take another shot at reading 20 books this year, so hopefully I can get 5 read between now and the end of March. Like I’ve said before, I really do enjoy reading, but I too often let other things take priority. Part of the issue is that if I start reading something and don’t really get into it, I just stop entirely instead of just picking a different book and moving on. I know, it’s weird.
Take a “Mommy & Me” swim class with Emma. This is more for me than her, because I just think it’ll be fun! My local YMCA does parent/child classes starting at 6 month. Emma will be 6 months old in February, and they’ve got a session starting in March!
Outsource undesirable tasks — and be ok with that. There are a ton of housekeeping and home maintenance things that frustrate me when they don’t get done promptly, yet neither I or Jose has much time to do them. On top of that, let’s face it — they’re not always fun tasks. Still, I’ve always felt guilty about the idea of having someone else clean my house or mow my lawn. They just seem like tasks I should be able to handle. But this fall I got over some of that and hired a lawn guy — and guess what? The yard looked fantastic. Then the Friday before Christmas, I hired a cleaning service to do a detail house clean. Guess what? The house looked GREAT. It’s time to get over the guilt, thank my lucky stars that we have the resources to hire someone else, and outsource the stuff that I don’t want to have to spend my own time doing. (Next item on the list? Getting someone else to dig up the dead bushes in our front beds and re-plant.)
Paint my fingernails once a week. A nice, easy, self-indulgent goal! Painting my fingernails keeps me from picking at them, which helps them grow a little longer and makes them look nicer.
So that’s a pretty good start to 2013 I think!
And how’d I do for the last quarter of 2012? Read. My goal for 2012 was to read 20 books. I fell just short with 18, and 3 or 4 of those are baby books that I read in bits and pieces as needed instead of all at once. I did no reading — other than the baby stuff — for the first two months after Emma was born, but I rebounded and finished 5 books between October and December! Make Emma a Halloween costume and a Christmas stocking. Emma was an adorable Piglet for Halloween, and her cross-stitched Christmas stocking is underway, so I consider this goal accomplished! Train for the Houston Half Marathon? I wasn’t doing well, but was at least covering the bare minimum for a while. But then I injured myself at the beginning of December. My calf muscle seems to have recovered, but then I missed the opportunity for a weekend run when Jose and I both got sick. UGH. The half marathon is two weeks away. I have to decide whether I’m going to go, run a couple miles, and walk the rest…or whether I’m just going to skip it. Get our finances in order. We made really good progress on this. The only big thing we still need to do is make a will.
I looked at the calendar yesterday and was shocked to realize Christmas is less than two weeks away. Thanks to the three-weeks-and-counting of various illnesses in our household, I am so far behind!
Normally we’d have our icicle lights up outside, but it’s a two-person job that needs to be done in the daylight (i.e. on a weekend) and either Jose or I has been sick every weekend since before Thanksgiving. I actually went so far as to call a few different “light-hanging” services but their prices were a bit higher than what I could really justify.
We’d normally have our Christmas tree by this point also, but again, who wants to mess with a Christmas tree when you can’t breathe or hear because your head is so clogged with snot? We could go buy a fake tree, but I have a feeling the good ones are probably gone at this point. (And I’m a traditionalist. I love the smell of a real tree!)
On top of that, I haven’t bought a single present. Not even for Emma! And I haven’t mailed our Christmas cards yet either, because I haven’t even ordered our Christmas cards yet, because we haven’t been healthy enough to take a decent family photo to put on the cards.
Heck, we haven’t even figured out whether we’re staying here or going to Corpus Christi.
But. BUT! I did manage to decorate the mantle with a few Christmas-y items, including several holiday cards that we’ve already gotten from friends and family. I even managed to add a stocking for Emma, which makes me smile every time I see it.
And it finally got cold outside, which makes it feel a bit more holiday-like.
Hey, it’s a start!
Today is my last day of maternity leave. I go back to work tomorrow — two days earlier than I’m technically due back, but this way I can work 5-6 hours per day for a bit instead of having to jump right back into a full week. Emma gets to stay home with either Jose or her Grandma R for another week and a half since our choice of daycare wasn’t available until November 5, and I suspect I’ll be more anxious about that milestone than I am about returning to work. Still, the million dollar question, of course, is whether I’m ready.
So. Am I? Ready?
And also yes.
And no again.
The first 3 weeks of Emma’s life were a blur that I don’t remember very well. The next several weeks were hard, and I have to admit that I was not/am not a huge fan of the tiny baby stage. Emma was so needy, and gave nothing in return! But things have started to change in the last few weeks, and things have gotten pretty darn good. She coos! She smiles! She shows her curiosity! And when she cries, I usually know why. I feel like I’m finally starting to understand this little person!
There’s a saying that goes something like: the days are long, but the years are short. For me, that’s the perfect way to sum up maternity leave. There were days, especially at the beginning, where the idea of 12 weeks alone with an infant felt very long and rather overwhelming. But now that the end is here, I wonder where the time went and wish I had just a little bit more. It feels like just yesterday that we were bringing Emma home for the first time.
I often think about my own childhood when I imagine what Emma’s life will be like over the coming years, and I am struck by the realization of how her childhood will differ from mine. My mom left her teaching career for many years to stay at home with me and my siblings. On top of that, at some point my dad moved into a job where his hours were about 3 a.m. to noon, which meant he was home when we got home from school. Even when my mom went back to teaching, she had the same days and weeks off that we did. I went to pre-school and the occasional summer church camp, but I never went to daycare or after-school programs. Mom and Dad were always there.
On one hand, I’m sad that Emma won’t have the same kind of childhood that was made possible by my mom staying home, and by my dad’s weird work hours. On the other hand, I know that I’m doing what’s right for our family. I do want to have a career; I don’t want to stay at home indefinitely. I may be interested in pursuing part-time work in the future, but that’s a very nebulous “what if” thought for now.
Hi ho, hi ho, it’s off to work I go.
Still, I’m so thankful that I was able to have these 12 weeks with Emma. It was a wild and unforgettable ride.
Get ready for baby? I didn’t quite finish the nursery before Emma’s arrival (it’s still not done, but oh-so-close), but all in all I think we were as ready as was reasonably possible! (Is anyone ever REALLY ready for their first baby?) Read 6.5 books? My goal is still to finish 20 for the year, but I’m going to have to do a lot of reading in the next few months to make that happen. Start training for the Houston Half Marathon? In progress! I’ve been back to running for a few weeks now and it’s going pretty well. I’ll be doing the Space City 10-Miler on October 14 as a relay, which I’m excited about even though I will be slooooow. Finish the guest room makeover? This didn’t happen, not surprisingly. Ah well.
I go back to work in 3 weeks and obviously have a small baby now, so I doubt I’ll get too much accomplished by the end of the year. Still, here are a few goals to close out 2012:
Read. I really do want to have read 20 books by the end of the year. I know it’s an arbitrary goal, but it helps me remember that I do like reading — it’s just that I too often let other things take priority when I have down time. I’ve read 9 full books (and am almost done with the 10th) and large portions of several baby-related books. I’m not quite sure how to count the baby books, since I’ve been using them more like references. I don’t read them cover-to-cover, but I do read the portions I need! There are 4 main books in my current rotation, which would put me at 14 for the year if I count those. And since 14 is closer to 20 than 9, I just decided that guess what — they count! Ha.
Make Emma 1) a Halloween costume and 2) a Christmas stocking. The Halloween costume is for fun, because hey — I realize I only get 2, maaaybe 3 years before Emma will have an opinion about what she wants to be for the holiday. The Christmas stocking is because I don’t want her to have some plain store-bought stocking. My siblings and I all have beautiful cross-stitched stockings that my grandmother made for us, and I want Emma to have something similarly sentimental. Cross stitch takes forever, and stockings have a ton of stitching, so a better goal might be to have it ready for 2013 — but I can at least get started.
Train for the Houston Half Marathon. I use the word “train” very loosely here — really I just want to be ready enough to put forth a decent effort. It’s highly possible it will be my slowest half marathon ever and I’m totally ok with that. I know it will be hard to find time to run this fall, especially once I’m back at work. But I want to be able to do more than just walk the whole thing!
Get our finances in order. Now that Emma’s here, there are several things that need to be done — some small, some big. We need to review our budget now that it includes daycare and the increased premium of a family health insurance plan. We’re in the process of setting up a college fund. And now, more than ever, we need to get around to writing wills and making sure we have a reasonable amount of life insurance. There’s a little girl who needs to be taken care of!
I think that’s a pretty good list for the next 3 months!
Esther Royston Graybeal
My grandmother passed away last night. She was 92. Her health had been deteriorating for some time, so when Dad called and said “I have bad news,” it wasn’t totally a surprise…and yet somehow, it still caught me off guard.
Grandmother was pretty awesome. She grew up in the Georgetown area of Washington DC but ended up raising a family on a dairy farm in Pennsylvania. She was an amateur painter and is part of why I liked art so much, I think. She could play the piano and never complained when I picked out the same songs (badly) over and over again on her piano. She loved to take photos and document how the farm changed over the years. She was always up for a game of Rummikub, and last summer when I saw her for the last time, she beat me soundly at Scrabble — fair and square.
Love you, Grandmother.