Tiny Teething Toddlers

I'm hiding from my toddler right now. Yes, you read that right. Literally hiding where he cannot see me because every time he sets eyes on me he screams.

He's teething. I hope.

If he's not teething, I don't know what the problem is because I ran the full parental diagnostic and came up with nothing.

Today, more than ever, having a child reminds me of being a teenager. I remember those highs and lows. Moving seamlessly from giggles into tears.

Of course, if I thought I had it bad as a teenager, but I assure you this side of it is worse. Because now I have logic and I watch this mini human flailing his body around, as his face crumples into tears for the umpteenth time today, and I know NOTHING IS WRONG!

At least as a teenager I could feel all the self-centered angst in my soul and I knew I was troubled and misunderstood. Now I'm just observing it wondering what the hell is going on.

And, as an adult who has struggled her way into some semblance of emotional stability, it is HARD to maintain that equilibrium when my tiny human seems like he hates me and hates the world. So I'm getting some echo of those wild emotional spikes. "Oh good, he's giggling. All is right in the world!" "And now he's screaming again. Aghghghgh, shoot me now!"

I don't like it. I've occasionally felt a sense of wistfulness at not experiencing the highs of teenagerdom. The excitement leading up to trips, the sheer joy of confiding in a friend who "gets it", the thrill of finding an awesome outfit at the mall.

But ultimately it was worth it to not feel "joy" at a good pair of shoes when I could also skip the utter misery that accompanied every activity that didn't line up with my idea of a perfect world. I had settled for content and serenity and quiet happiness in calm moments. Like sleeping babies, family walks, and talking to my husband about goals and dreams.

So no, I don't like this. I don't like the resurfacing of the emotional turmoil I remember all-too-well from high school. I don't like feeling the echo of a teething toddler's emotions, and I don't like all the leftover frustration with nowhere to vent other than my husband or dogs. And the inevitable guilt that follows when I yell at a dog whose worst crime was being physically present when my child is driving me crazy.

Is calmness a skill? Is there some sort of trick I can learn to let his baby emotions slide off me? I'm rubber, he's glue???
Blogger Tricks

'Allo, Neekee!

Just when I think this blog is well and truly dead, Sister3 mentions it and I think, "I could write a post." Why not? After all, I'm sitting here waiting for a ridiculous plugin called "WP Bulk Smush" to finish hulk smashing its way through my images.

So... life. I've been doing my morning routine, and setting priorities when I begin the work day, and not working after 6pm when Orion gets home from daycare. And it's totally and utterly cheesy, but as I was walking the dogs last week during my 1pm break, glowing from a morning of unprecedented productivity and designs that had simply flowed out of my brain in a wash of beatific harmony, I thought, "I'm living my best life."

That's right! All those inspiring quotes that I alternate between pinning to my boards on Pinterest or rolling my eyes at, and I feel like I'm catching on to something. It feels like a secret the world is sharing with me. But it's not a secret at all, and it just took my slow-learning self about 20-some self help books to finally find a version that works for me.

It's not one thing. It's an amalgam of all the advice you read in lifestyle blogs. It's your own creative mashup of 20 different self help books. For me it's...

  • A morning routine of exercise, reading, affirmations, and breakfast with my baby
  • Setting priorities before I get to work, monthly goal-setting and goal-evaluating days, and finding purpose within my business
  • Taking a break at 1 to eat, walk my dogs, and warm up my frozen toes which have forgotten how blood circulation works
  • Dinner with my family, watching the baby play, and quitting on the day right after he goes to bed because I have nothing left to give anyone
  • Realizing that that's ok, even if it feels like a "waste of time" to sit around and read fantasy books from 8 to 10pm every night
  • Scheduling client projects further out so I can plan my next couple of weeks without constant feast or famine
  • Boundaries and raising prices and talking to my business bestie when my confidence is low
  • Trying new things and stretching myself and putting in the work during working hours, knowing that I get a break at the end of the day
  • Constantly reassessing and tweaking and finding even more harmonious balance between the different areas in my life
I probably wrote about this, but someone said to me, "You must hate your life" after I explained my system of goal setting.

Far from it! There have definitely been low periods, especially in the first year of having a baby and all the adjusting we needed to do. But I love my life and I love goals and I love the strength and resilience that allowed me to overcome those obstacles and troubleshoot myself to where I am now.

I'm happy. And it feels good.

New Horizons

I watch the snow swirling around outside. Yesterday the sun shone, warm and hinting gloriously at spring. My husband and I walked and talked and looked forward to the beginning of many more family walks in the sun.

Yesterday was my "last day" at my part time job. Of course, I'm back there today, finishing up because my final project is one of those horrendous maps that I truly dread doing.

I'm plowing through it. I'll confess, my productivity hasn't been what it could have been the last couple years here. I was bored with the repetition. Repeating the same, mindless tasks, on the same maps, year after year.

But today I have a goal, a vision, and a finish line.

Today I depart, for real, and I will leave my key, and my work email, and the reliable paychecks behind.

I am thrilled! I am excited. I am terrified.

This is it. It's now or never. I have my chance to chase my dreams, make a go of my business, take it from a side gig to the real deal.

I like to run through worst case scenarios when I'm afraid or anxious or stressed. I'm very fortunate that I'm able to pursue this opportunity AND that the risks are so low. If the business doesn't make it, I'll have to find a job. It might take a few years for my finances to rebound. It might add some tension to my marriage.

But I'll survive and we'll figure it out. And if I don't fail...

I get to run a business my way and make all the decisions. I get to donate part of my proceeds and make ethical choices in my company. I get to provide work and pay for other entrepreneurs or potentially employees one day. I get rewarding projects that make a difference outside of my little, personal sphere.

I dressed like I was going to a networking event today and yesterday. I wanted to make that clear distinction. Yes I can work in yoga pants most days. But out in public and interacting with people, this is my business persona. This is who I am and who I'm growing into.



Thoughts About...

...Health


Sometimes going for health goals feels a lot like losing. Like deprivation and missing out. "Giving up" alcohol and sugar and junk food and tv and gossip and on and on and on. I'm trying to focus on the good things and the enjoyable things that I gain. I'm trying to set up accountabilibuddies so I have people to hang out with and make the workouts go by faster. I'm trying to force myself to actually attend a fitness class because I think I'll enjoy it once I get there. I'm trying to remember that running feels good. I'm trying to enjoy some of the weird, new foods that Ryan brings home.

I'm trying.

I've "given up" sugar, which means not binge-eating, which for an abstainer like me, means not eating anything that might trigger cravings. I'm on week 5 and I feel as good and resolute about it as I did when I gave up alcohol. It feels good and I'm proud of myself but I don't want to try many other things right now because...

...Overwhelm


I'm sticking to modest goals for now because I feel so overloaded and overwhelmed with life. The smallest things throw me off and when I need to do 3 things at once, like get my car fixed, set up medical appointments for the kid, and replace my glasses, forget it. It takes weeks to handle these 3 seemingly inconsequential tasks.

To be fair, I ended up going to the eye doctor's 3 times because they closed absurdly early the first time I tried, they couldn't fix my glasses the 2nd, and the 3rd I had an appointment to actually get my prescription. It makes me feel so frustrated when I can't cross the thing, whatever it is, off my list after the first attempt. I feel almost thwarted, like life is laughing at my feeble attempts to keep up.

At the current moment I've got Orion's next doctor's appointment scheduled (this'll be his 3rd or 4th for the same ear infection - I've lost count but fingers crossed his poor ears are finally better), a mechanic ordering parts for my car and hopefully calling me tomorrow to set up an appointment to put them on, and glasses ordered (hopefully they fit and don't hurt my eyes - I ordered them from Zenni Optical and I did more guesstimating than is probably wise).

So on the one hand you could say everything's handled. But at the same time, things actually being resolved is a little out of my control at the moment. It's all waiting to hear back from other people, or hoping that things resolve themselves.

Did I mention I hate not being in control?

I'm a control freak anyway, but feeling out of control tends to awaken the beast...

...Mom Brain


I think I've got this mostly squashed down. I'm getting better at silencing that internal voice that tells me I'm not good enough. I purposely don't worry about Orion's development and whether we're reading to him enough. I don't google things we "should" be doing. I wait until there's something to actually be concerned with and then research the appropriate amount. Like biting. I need to teach him not to bite. I don't need to teach him to never drop food off the highchair tray. The dogs will clean it up anyway.

Something I'm working on is removing the word "should" from my vocabulary. I'm literally going to scan this post right now to see if I've already used it because I've gotten so bad about it (just once - changed it because I need the practice). I'm constantly telling myself how I should be better and what I should be doing instead.

Other people have pointed this out. My coach, my counselor, my friend. "Why should you?" "Who's telling you that?" "Don't listen to people who tell you what to do."

But it's not someone else saying it. It's me. It's all me.

I think in the past when I felt too much pressure from school or to not let people down, I'd crack and I'd do it on purpose. Not finish the project, skip a few days, avoid seeing whoever it was. As an adult, I'd take the occasional mental health day and read all day in bed.

I can't do that now. The stakes are too high. I care too much.

I will build a business that pays the bills. I will raise a child who has minimal parent-induced trauma and can function in society. I will, I will, I will.

...Lowering My Standards


There are certain things that non-negotiable. If it has a direct, detrimental effect on my child or my business, it's not happening. But there's definitely room for flexibility in other areas.

My pediatrician wants me to read to Orion twice a day. I tend to beat myself up over that after every visit and every reminder. How will Orion know that books are fun if I don't read to him? He'll struggle with his schoolwork!

But you know... given 5 minutes of free time, I will read. I don't read as much as I used to before having a child, but I'll listen to audiobooks (or podcasts), and I read books or on my Kindle whenever Orion's not physically pulling it out of my hands. If there's a consistent theme to the things I do around him, it's going to be: work, books, and phone.

I'm less proud of the last one, but let's be honest. Every child born in the information age is going to learn that phones are fun. They're going to play stupid phone games and be on social media too much and then, eventually, they'll grow up and learn how to moderate their usage and still, somehow, get things accomplished in spite of this toy they carry everywhere.

So maybe it's not that big a deal if my baby wants to play with my phone. Maybe it's not that big a deal if I don't read to him exactly twice every day. Maybe it doesn't matter to anyone other than myself if we don't have a sit down meal every single day or if I don't cook more often than twice a week.

We still eat. It's mostly nutritious. The baby's weight is proportionate to his height for the first time since he was born.

...Good Enough


Ryan used to sing to him, "It's a good enough bath" whenever he bathed Orion because he'd basically splash some water on him and call it good. I was thorough. I wanted to develop a nighttime routine, so I bathed him every night. And then... Orion developed a rash because getting a bath every day strips the oils out of your skin and I was drying him out too much.

Yesterday we realized we hadn't bathed Orion for a week and a half. Ewww, dirty baby! But you know what? His skin looks good. No crazy rashes or irritations. Maybe a little dirt is ok.

I'm not saying we want to neglect our child, but maybe straining ourselves to be perfect is more harmful than good. Maybe a stressed out version of me that cooks dinner every night actually does him less good than a relaxed, happy version of me that makes a peanut butter sandwich one night and orders pizza another. As long as we eat a squeezy pouch of vegetables first, who cares?!

I told Ryan at lunch today that whenever I seem "chill" about our child, like not worrying that he's not walking or talking at 13 months, it's very intentional. I can feel the underlying concern, and even panic, if I let it well up. So I don't. He's fine and every baby matures at a different rate. He'll do it when he's ready.

It's an intentional chill. Sometimes even a little forced. But it works. And I think I can start applying this to other areas as well. Like feeling stressed and sometimes barely functional. Instead of feeling like an utter failure, I can be intentionally chill about it. These things happen. It's a bad month, not a bad life. It'll pass. I'm not a failure, I'm just struggling a little bit right now. And even though I'm struggling, I'm still kicking ass in a few different areas!

...Self Validation


Sister2 and I talked about this years and years ago and it's a lesson I have to relearn every so often. If you feel sad and tell yourself it's ok and just ride it out, you'll be much better off and recover faster than if you beat yourself up, tell yourself you have nothing to be sad about, and then start feeling stressed and panicky that you can't get rid of this emotion that shouldn't be there.

So that's probably my number 1 priority right now. Yes, lots of other things are important, but the world will survive if I don't do them perfectly right at this instant. I might not survive if I don't give myself some self love.

Shonda Rhimes said we're all constantly failing. Which sounds negative but it's comforting to know that women who publish popular books and write TV shows and raise kids and seem like they "have it all" feel the same way that I do. You can pick an area or two to do well in, but you have to give yourself slack everywhere else. We're all constantly failing at something, but we can choose what to be succeeding at right now and what to pull back from and we can rotate through the different life areas that really matter to make sure they all get some attention from time to time.

...Life Design and Optimization and Famous People


I like optimization and it definitely helps. I like having a smaller wardrobe and not having to spend time putting together outfits on the days that I'm rushed but need to look professional (every single morning networking event or client meeting). I like having a routine and structure and defaults to fall back on when it's time to make a decision so I can save my willpower for more important things.

But I think I thought life design was a magic answer. Surely if I just optimized enough, like President Obama and his only one kind of suit, then I would have time and feel calm and life would be easier.

So part of my overwhelm and stress and even sadness has been waking up and realizing this is just life. Life is as busy as you allow it to be. And if you want to accomplish goals and raise a family and do more than 1 or 2 things, you're going to be busy. You're going to feel stressed and less than put-together sometimes.

5 Things

"No one has time for 5 things!"

This was said to me by a mom friend after explaining to me that her pediatrician (or maybe it was a friend? advice article? something) had told her that to build a bedtime routine, you need to pick 5 things and then do those same things every day at the same time.

I agreed.

No one has time for 5 things EVERY SINGLE NIGHT! I can't even manage to cook every day, or pick up my dirty clothes, or get 8 hours of sleep. I started brushing Orion's teeth regularly with this little rubber thingy you can slip on your finger and it worked great for 2 weeks. Then he got tired of it and wouldn't let me put it in his mouth. Now we don't do teeth brushing anymore.

Don't freak out. We'll figure it out. At some point. Hey, it's just baby teeth!

My pediatrician has been getting on my case because I cracked and admitted that I don't read to Orion twice a day. "It's important," he says. "Kids need to learn that books are fun, so they enjoy schoolwork, and go on to do well academically."

I know, I know.

So I'm trying. Tonight I put Orion to bed and as I wormed him into his pjs, I remembered something I had seen on Instagram earlier. I got my phone out, figuring I'd take a peek while he finished his bottle. After opening the app I caught myself, put the phone away, and picked up my baby to hold him while he finished off his bottle.

This was bedtime, not phone time.

Then it hit me.

We DO have a bedtime routine!!!

It doesn't feel like it because it's not big things that seem like a routine. I don't bathe him every night because when I did that he got a rash. But I do make a point to just enjoy being with my baby and not get distracted by life and phones and everything else. Not for these 20-30 minutes.

Every night we:
  1. Change into PJs
  2. Go into his bedroom, close the curtains, and turn on the white noise machine
  3. Chug a bottle while rocking in the glider
  4. Play with a book (I couldn't properly call it reading, but he at least chews on it and plays with the pages and sometimes I even read them all in sequential order!)
  5. I give him a kiss on the cheek and say, "Goodnight baby. Mommy loves you." Sometimes 2 or 3 times because it's hard to say goodbye, even for just one night.
Boom! 5 things.

It's not so hard when you let go of your expectations of what those 5 things "should" be.

What Would You Do If You Weren't...

Afraid?

  • Take a business loan
  • Hire a marketing strategist
  • Quit my part time job


For me, overcoming fear is less difficult than other obstacles. I'd spent almost a year thinking about what my biggest fears were and specifically doing things to trigger them. Still, fear is pervasive and as often as you're alive and making decisions, you'll find new things you're afraid of. I'm super excited that, as of today, I've checked off all three of these!

Tired?

  • Exercise
  • Cook dinner
  • Smile


These are harder because they're ongoing, rather than things I can easily check off of a list. However, I know I can make solid commitments to my schedule because Ryan and I have done that with Friday night date night. It's our time to be a couple, resolve issues, and remember why we married each other. So if I just apply that resolve to my workout schedule, I'll be able to make that happen. And I know from experience that working out regularly decreases my stress, gives me more energy, and generally makes me a happier and more fun person to be around. Not to mention that the consistent element in the routines of busy, successful people is exercise. No matter what other weird stuff (affirmations, journaling, email, snorting Kombucha) top CEOs and innovators do, they almost always have some sort of workout in their morning routine.

Short on Time?

  • Pursue new friendships
  • Start a Meetup
  • Learn new skills


Time is by far the trickiest obstacle to overcome. At some point you just have to admit something is not a priority and stop whining about it. I'm trying very hard to prune back and just keep the basic priorities I need to be happy so that I can do a better job at them (family, business, health) BUT I also think some of these can be squeezed in with a little bit of creative engineering. For example, learning skills by myself through classes wasn't working. But I can hire an expert to teach me one-on-one and I'll learn faster, without having to skip through fluff that doesn't apply to me. New friendships are harder, but my ongoing friends have begun scheduling our next hangout before leaving the current one and that helps immensely. I might try to implement this among all my social groups. And starting a Meetup might remain a wishlist item for now. I love the idea of it, but it really is time consuming and I know it's not a priority.

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Home is Where...

...the dogs are.

...you stop sucking in your gut.

...bare feet don't feel like a risk.

...you can walk around in the dark without bumping into furniture.

...the decor has become invisible.

...you can let your guard down.

...the water doesn't taste weird.

...you can sleep naked.

...the messes are your messes.

...you can finally relax.
Jenn signature graphic | Optimization, Actually