Atlanta: The Return of Aunt Pookie

Oh boy, oh boy, oh boy, it’s been quite a couple of weeks ’round these parts! Just a few weeks after our last visit, Penny and I made a return trip to my sister’s in Atlanta to participate in a whole slew of big honkin’ life events. As if the fact that Penny is 11 months old weren’t enough of a reminder of what a cruel thief time is, try throwing my nephew Alex’s first birthday AND my eldest niece Mia’s first day of Kindergarten into the mix!

WHEN DID SHE GET SO GROWN?! ::sob::

 
 
Penny had a grand ol’ time helping Alex with his smash cake after he started slowing down, hehe. And it also really helped whet her appetite — literally — for the donut smash photos that I took of her in preparation of her own upcoming big day!

More of those will be comin’ at you later — I am chomping at the bit to share them all right now but trying my darndest to save them for her actual birthday (just 2.5 weeks away!!!!).

Other great things that happened during this trip included plenty of quality time with my best gal (obvs), quality time with my best sister, working out 7/9 days I was visiting (ARE YOU NOT IMPRESSED?!), and even getting to spend a day at the pool!

 
 
Oh, right, and also that little thing where me and my 50,000 besties saw Taylor Swift perform. The show was PHENOMENAL — such insanely high production value! Whatever you might think about her or her music (obviously, I’m a big fan, but I know she is somewhat polarizing, lol), you cannot deny that she is a stellar performer.

 
And as a bonus? My Fitbit logged over 18,000 steps and more than 8 miles on the day of the concert! Gahahaha.

It was a great trip, and thankfully at the end of it I didn’t have to say goodbye for too long — my sister and her family will be coming up here in just a few weeks for Penny’s birthday party & baptism! I admit that I’m kind of glad to have all that solo air travel behind me… for the time being at least. Penny is a great flyer so far, and she very rarely gets fussy, but she is just sooooo busy and nosey and energetic that it’s pretty hard to keep her contained on flights nowadays. She doesn’t fall asleep too easily these days anymore either — except, of course, for during the final 10 minutes as we’re descending, lol. Thankfully, we had our row to ourselves on both flights!

 
Anyway, after so many weeks of being up, on the go, and busy as all get out, I was looking forward to at least a modicum of calm before Penny’s birthday but, as always, life has other plans. Alas, after successfully avoiding it for 30 long years of blissful, wise, toothy bliss, I finally have to have my wisdom teeth removed. Two of my wisdom teeth have erupted (turns out I only have 3 of them — #soevolved) but they are all impacted, and one started giving me some serious jaw pain last week. So my surgery is scheduled for Wednesday morning.

So if you’re not already following me on Instagram, I imagine that my Stories will probably be pretty entertaining that day, lol. See you on the flipside!

Penny: Eleven Months

Well, it’s hard for me to admit, let alone say aloud, but today you are eleven months old, Penny! We are officially counting down towards your very first birthday — the mark of us successfully having kept you alive for an entire year. Suffice it to say, I have a lot of feelings about it.

 
Cliche though it sounds (especially because I say it every single month, lol), the past eleven months have flown by in a total blur. Every day you continue to delight and awe us — even if sometimes it’s that we’re in awe at just how strong your will has already become or how loud you’re capable of being. 😉

You clock in at 29.5″ tall and 20 lbs, 13 oz (the 82nd and 74th percentiles). You’ve moved into 12-18 month clothing and we’ve got your big ol’ baby booty rocking size 4 diapers. You might be starting to lose some of that baby chub (cry!) but are definitely still our big girl!

One of the most exciting developments from the past month is that you finally (finallyyyyy!) have teeth! Both of your bottom ones, in fact, even though you only got your first a few weeks ago. And I’m pretty sure you’re working on your first top tooth now (or at least I hope that’s what’s been making the past two days so brutal!)

You’ve still got those beautiful light eyes, though more often than not, it’s hard to tell exactly what color they are! Blue, green, gray? A kaleidoscope of beautiful color, regardless. And they perfectly complement that head of flyaway red hair you’ve got going there. Man, I still just marvel at how unexpected and awesome your coloring is, my little ginger Whasian princess.

While you have yet to stand without leaning on something, you are a climbing, cruising, moving machine. You’re always in motion (as you have been for the past several months), and are fast as the dickens! Daddy thinks you’ll be walking by 1 but I’m not in any rush — you’re hard enough to keep up with as is!

Your latest talents include climbing up stairs, clapping, dancing, mimicking our words and actions, and trying to feed us everything you’re eating (thank you for sharing!). You’re SO verbal  — always chattering and babbling away, and your vocabulary just continues to grow and grow! You now regularly say: Mama, Dada, Bottle (Ba-ba), Dog (Daw), Hi, Bye, Puff (Puh) and More (Mo).

Is it any wonder that my chatty girl is also such a social butterfly? You make my life so easy since you’re basically the chillest baby ever anytime you meet someone new. You are totally fine whenever I drop you at daycare, bring you to a new playdate, or at the kid’s club at the gym. We’re so lucky!

 
I can’t wait for you to be able to meet and become besties with your brand new baby cousin Marjorie. I know that since you love other babies so much, you’re just going to be smitten with her — as we all are!

Speaking of being smitten, you are pretty much obsessed with your doggy brothers… although they’re still pretty much indifferent to you unless you’ve got food in your hands (which, granted, is often these days!) You’re an expert at extracting snacks from your snack cup these days, which has made life about 100 times easier. In general, you’re still just an awesome little eater. You seem to like pretty much everything and are always down to try new things. I hope it lasts!

Alas, your fervor for real food and zest for life in general has finally outmatched me in terms of breastfeeding. We had what I believe was our last nursing session three days ago. It’s obviously an incredible bittersweet thing — I’m so glad that you’re growing and so excited to explore the world and becoming such a big girl, but it is sad not to have you “need me” in that way any longer.

 
It is a freeing feeling, to be sure, but I’m just still feeling a bit mixed about it all. I’m trying not to feel disappointed that we didn’t quite make it to a full year (which I do realize was a relatively arbitrary goal anyway), instead trying to focus on how wonderful and full our breastfeeding journey was together. I mean, you really did some pretty great growing on mama’s milk, if I do say so myself.

We love you so much, baby girl!

A Routine Life

So, those of you who have been longtime readers or followers of mine have gleaned at least a little bit about my job. I work for Yelp as a Community Manager right here on the ground in Northern VA.

While it generally speaking falls under the umbrella of “marketing”, this role is pretty unique, even amongst jobs at Yelp. It’s a full-time job (sometimes more than full-time, if I’m being honest), but I work remotely (even with the recent opening of Yelp’s DC office since I only go in once a week…ish, hehe) which means I have the incredible luxury of making my work situation pretty much whatever I want it to be.

Am I going into the office? Do I want to squat in a coffee shop all day? Put my desk at home to actual use? Or work from my couch with Parks & Rec playing through in the background for the 40th time? (YES, NETFLIX, I AM STILL WATCHING.) This freedom also extends to my schedule — I am not beholden to the same 9-5 situation to which many others have to adhere. And every day looks very different.

I might pop open my laptop first thing in the morning, head out for an in-person meeting, meet a friend for lunch, have back-to-back conference calls, and then have to go prep for an evening event. Maybe it is a day when I need to go into the actual office. Or I might sleep in, go out for coffee, run some errands, and then settle back in at my computer and work until late into the evening.

Anyway, I say all this not to brag about my job (which is admittedly awesome and I know I am very lucky to have it), nor did I intend for this post to be a deep-dive into what my daily life looks like (though this does remind me that I’ve been promising to write up another Day in the Life post for a long while now, lol.) I just thought that explaining what I do in a little more detail would help illustrate the point that I am trying to get at, which is this:

Because my life has so much flexibility, it also lacks any semblance of routine.

For over five years, I have rarely had to set an alarm clock. I don’t have a specific bedtime. I don’t eat meals at the same time each day. I don’t have a laundry day, or a meal prep day, or a date night. Save for a few rare regularly scheduled calls, my calendar never looks the same from one week to the next.

And for the better part of five years, it’s been pretty great. There have been tons of benefits that I have heartily taken advantage of — taking care of errands and appointments during the day, sleeping in, regularly getting to see my friends, and, of course, getting to be around my daughter so much more than the typical full-time working mom.

But it’s a double-edged sword, right? Because with all of those perks also comes the burden of not being able to predict how a given day might go, not being able to slide into the familiarity or comfort of “your old routine.” Which, granted, hasn’t really been an issue until lately.

But lately, I’ve been feeling pretty down, and thanks to the prodding of some of friends, I finally took the initiative to find a therapist to talk to — something I honestly should have been doing for a long time now. I have only just started therapy, but already in our short time together she has helped me realize how frazzled and frantic and overwhelmed I am. And while I’m sure it’s really, really common, especially for new moms, it’s still not something I like to admit. I mean, who loves admitting that they no longer know how to handle just like, life? Especially given all of the advantages that I have — a perfect baby, a husband, close family, a decent salary, all that aforementioned flexibility… I know I have a really good situation overall. Which is why it was kind of hard for me to admit that I’ve been feeling depressed & overwhelmed in the first place — because it’s like, with all the privileges I am afforded, I should have no reason not to be happy.

(Sidenote: My therapist did tell me to stop “shoulding on myself” (heh.) Like, to stop saying things like “I feel like I shouldn’t even feel this way because I have it so good!”or “I should just be happy because there are other people who have it so much worse,” since my struggles are my struggles and my feelings are still valid. This is actually a rather difficult concept for me to digest, and one I think I’m going to need to let percolate a little more before I really try and dig into it, but I digress.)

I know I’m not the first woman to feel like she is being pulled in a thousand different directions and finding it hard to cope. I think we’re all trying to find some way to balance all of the various roles we have to play: mother, wife, homemaker, daughter, sister, friend, coworker, manager, employee — and that doesn’t even touch the roles we form around our hobbies and interests: writer, blogger, photographer, advocate, bookworm, crafter, gamer… and ten zillion more.

I’ve been able to identify that the loosey-goosey, whatever, whenever approach I’ve had towards work (and towards my life in general) is currently adding to my feelings of overwhelm…ed…ness? And that I’m actually craving some structure, predictability, and routine.

Penny has actually already helped in this arena, quite a lot. I mean, sure, in the beginning, she made things even more frantic and crazy and unpredictable. But both Sean and I recognize that we are supremely lucky to have such a good baby. She sleeps well, she eats well, and she has a strong internal clock that has given me at least a modicum of a routine when it comes to her.

But I have a lot further to go. I need to create boundaries — my work & home & social lives all kind of blend and bleed together, and even though I have what’s considered a “lifestyle job,” I need to realize that it’s okay for those things to be a little more separate. I need to figure out how to focus on one thing at a time, be mindful of my current task, and then allow myself to move onto the next one. When it’s time to work, I want to be able to focus on work. When I’m catching up with a friend, I want to be able to focus on my friend. When it’s time to be with Penny, I really want to be able to focus on feeding/snuggling/playing with Penny.

Basically, I just want to do less of what I currently do, which is hard to even articulate properly but is a little more like… this:

*opens laptop* Okay, time to answer these emails about the event I have happening tomorrow, and then I’ll do the ones having to do with next week’s event, oh, next week I’m also going back to Atlanta, I need to call Southwest and add Penny as a lap infant to my ticket *opens tab to Southwest.com* Hmm, do I have time to get a pedicure before I go, oh crap, by the time I come back my car registration will have expired, I need to get my emissions test done *opens tab to Google gas station’s inspection hours* okay, scrap the pedicure, I don’t need to spend the money on that anyway, it’s been a while since I’ve checked Mint, better see where we’re at with this month’s budget *opens tab to Mint.com* oh man, there’s the tab to my Nordstrom cart, the Anniversary Sale is ending soon and this is SUCH good deal on Baby Bling Bows, maybe I should check out — no! I told myself no more baby bows *closes out of tab* *finally sends one email*

Ahem. So, you know, that’s not great.

Anyway, my “homework” from my initial therapy session is a two-parter: 1) to start thinking of ways that I can create structure and routine for my daily life, and 2) to try (tryyyyyy) to be more mindful, focused, and in-the-moment as I go through the day. I definitely have my work cut out for me with the latter part, but I feel like I’ve already been laying the groundwork for the former. Especially as my recent health initiative has me embracing a kind of morning to-do list, made up of things I should have been doing ALL ALONG FOR MY ENTIRE LIFE like eating breakfast & taking vitamins.

 
Plus, like I mentioned, Penny has me following at least some kind of loose structure at the beginning of each day — it’s just get a smidgen more complicated because while we have a steady childcare schedule, it’s not consistent from day to day. So the mornings when she goes to daycare are different than the mornings when she’s with my parents or mother-in-law.

My idea to help overcome this is to officially integrate fitness into my routine (I almost said “back into my routine” but who are we kidding? I’ve never had a true fitness routine hahaha.) For like, the first time in my entire life, I’m actually feeling a kind of… dare I say… desire to exercise. (Ew.) I don’t know if it’s coming from my weight loss, or because my therapist suggested or out of my postulations that I want to get healthy for Penny (I’m particularly concerned about my longterm heart health right now — but mayhaps I’ll delve into that at another time), but whatever the exact reason, I figure I need to capitalize on this rare, completely-out-of-character motivation.

So I went online and signed up for a free pass to a nearby gym this morning, and am doing the same at another one on Friday. Both facilities have kid’s clubs and are close by, so my hope is that I’ll be able to create a morning routine where I go to the gym at around the same time every morning — on the days when Penny is in daycare, I’ll drop her off first, and on the days when she isn’t, I’ll bring her with me. The rest of my day might still end up looking like a trash panda straight-up ripped into the garbage bag of my life, but at least I’ll be starting each off day with consistency and on the right foot.

This sounds great in theory, of course, but my visit to the first gym today (Gold’s) unfortunately didn’t leave me with a great impression. Partly because their kid’s club was insane — there was 1 adult and like 25 kids in there — and partly because of my own insecurities and discomfort over a) working out at all, and b) working out in public. But while that gym would have been my first choice based on location (it’s suuuuuper close to Penny’s daycare), I have high hopes for the second one. And I’m also looking into non-gym alternatives like boutique fitness places that offer childcare and Fit4Mom Stroller Strides. As long as I can hodgepodge them together into some kind of cohesive, regular routine.

Anyway, so that’s the latest in Gretchen’s Journey to Self-Improvement & Sanity™. I’m still feeling pretty positive and optimistic about being able to make lasting changes, but I’m trying to remain relatively guarded about it as well. Knowing my tendency to jump headfirst into things, only to abandon them later, I want to make sure I’m making manageable changes, and for the right reasons this time. That way, I hopefully really will be able to say I’m making positive changes to last me a lifetime.

Go forth!

Feelin’ Positive

So if you follow me on the ‘Gram, you might have seen me getting a little heavy in my Stories last week. Well, since I’m not blogging as frequently anymore, I haven’t really gotten into it much, but I’d actually been feeling pretty low as of late. It’s not really due to one particular thing that I can identify, but moreso just the effect of my life overall these days — my self-confidence has been low due to body image issues, I’ve been hormonal (apparently weaning depression is a real thing!), and I’ve been feeling uninspired at work and just melancholy in general. Now, glum & humdrum is not really how I tend to roll, it’s it’s been a little bit of a rough road navigating all these feelings!

Thankfully, I seem to be getting over the slump (hopefully!).

 
Today, I woke up feeling optimistic and positive for the first time in quite a spell! Again, I think it’s probably due to a myriad of reasons — possibly it’s that I got more than 6 hours of sleep last night, or the expensive, fancy ass vitamins I started taking 11 days ago are finally kicking in, or that I finally freshened my hair back up with some new color, or that I am feeling good about my weight loss & health trajectory (13 pounds down so far!).

Don’t let this outfit deceive you though, I haven’t actually started working out again yet

I suspect that my hormones still have a lot to do with it, too — possible TMI, but I’m currently riding out my first real postpartum period and it’s been ROUGH. I actually thought my period returned waaaaay back in December, a week after I got my IUD inserted, but I think it was kind of a rogue situation because I’ve only had some very light, unpredictable spotting ever since. But this time’s been a doozy — it’s been a “real” period and it’s lasted almost TWO WEEKS so far. NOT COOL, BODY. I’m pretty sure it’s because I’ve officially stopped pumping (Penny just nurses first thing in the morning now) and that’s caused my body to go much further into weaning mode. Just my personal theory, but whatever the reason, I am READY FOR IT TO STOP. I’m super grateful for my uterus for, y’know, allowing me to create my perfect child, but I really did not miss this monthly reminder, I tell you what.

 
Anyway, aside from still being super irritated with my uterus at the mo’, I really am feeling pretty good about things. I’ve been trying to fill my cup since returning from our GA trip with quality experiences with my little munchkin, fueling myself with healthier foods, tackling my to-do list at work, getting in lots of social time with friends & family, and just trying to take care of myself again.

 
Which, honestly, if you read down that list, it is still a lot of different things to try and balance. Which is why I think self-care tends to get pushed to the bottom (it does come last on the list, after all!), and it sounds so cliche but when I do take time for myself (beyond just like, decompressing after a long day on the couch), I really do see the benefits.

So I’m trying to capitalize on this feel-goodery by being extra efficient in working hard today (my mother-in-law is on vacation, so I dropped Penny in for an extra day of daycare this week), getting all my ducks in a row for the week work-wise, and also pay it forward by being there for my brother & sister-in-law, who are expecting Penny’s newest cousin ANY DAY NOW!!

Of course, it’s easy to say all that, and I can’t guarantee that I won’t wake up tomorrow feeling burdened by these exact same things again rather than optimistic. That’s why I want to make more of a concerted effort to be open about my feelings and struggles as they happen, rather than try and internalize them all. All of the amazing comments and support I received on Instagram after posting about my recent body insecurities were so, so helpful and uplifting, and honestly, just the act of being open and transparent about things helped me too. Writing is, and always has been, an extremely cathartic and therapeutic experience for me. It’s just so hard to fit in regular blogging along with all the other things I have going on these days — so you’ll probably see me posting more stuff in short bursts on social media. Definitely still will be popping in here for the longer, more detailed updates though, of course.

And with that, I bid you adieu for now!

Time Marches On

Man, time just keeps marching on, doesn’t it? Even though it feels like I just posted Penny’s 10 Month update, it’s already been weeks! And a lot’s happened since then! Though she didn’t stay up to see the fireworks, we celebrated her first Fourth of July:

 
And the day after, she and I flew down to Atlanta for another visit with my sister, brother-in-law, and their three little munchkins!

Penny is becoming quite the seasoned traveler, and while she is really a very good baby on the plane, it just keeps getting more and more challenging for me. She is just soooooo busy, and soooooo nosy! She wants to be in everyone’s business, and I’m just trying my darnest to get her to stay with me. I mean, maybe just a tiny bit of stranger danger wouldn’t be such a bad thing, eh? At least on our flight back home she miraculously fell asleep for a portion of the flight. My arm went totally numb but it was worth it.

 
I had a great time visiting my sister, as I always do, but I gotta admit, coming back has been a bit of a bear this time around. Since traveling always makes time fly even quicker, and between our San Francisco trip & this one, I haven’t been able to really get settled back into a routine. So the days are kinda just whooshing past, and I’m just here like, okay, suddenly it’s mid-July. Penny is now ten and a HALF months old. I’ve got a huge slate of stuff to tackle for work before my next trip, for which Penny & I are heading back to Atlanta in a just few weeks for Alex’s first birthday (squee!)… and to see Taylor Swift (all my local DMV friends may have seen her show this week, but I bought the tickets for Atlanta a zillion years ago so my sister and I could go together.)

Whew. It’s just a lot, especially considering summers for my job tend to rocket past anyway. Plus, thinking about Alex’s first birthday being just around the corner makes me oh-so-very aware that Penny’s is as well (they’re only 3 weeks apart). Which means I need to start turning all of my many vast and unrealistic ideas for Penny’s first birthday party (just seven weeks away!) into an actually manageable checklist, lol.

Call it the burden of hosting events on the regular for my job, or just the fact that I am, indeed, a crazy Instagram mom, but I want this party to be the bomb-diggity! After all, it’s really the only one I get to do up completely and totally to my own whims, as something tells me that by next year, Penny will have opinions about what kind of party she’ll want, hahaha.

The other thing that’s been on my mind is that I haven’t been feeling very positive about myself lately. I’ve been feeling emotionally drained (Penny has almost completely weaned from nursing, and it hit me pretty hard last week especially), and have not been feeling confident or happy with regard to my body, my weight, and my health.

The hard truth is that I’ve let myself get out of control with some truly terrible eating habits (fast food in particular, sigh), and despite all of my best intentions and former proclamations (“I wanna get healthy for Penny! I want to be able to keep up with her forever! I want to set a good example for her!”), I hadn’t made any effort or taken any actual action to back up those claims. In fact, despite “knowing better,” I kind of kept doing, well, the opposite.

So, I just kinda stopped talking about it, and slinked quietly back into the shadows with my waffle fries. Which, I mean, hey, that’s fine, being fat is not a crime, it’s not really even an issue as long as you’re happy and feel good about yourself. Which I guess I kind of was, for a time? But I’d be lying if I said there weren’t cracks in my self-confidence, and slowly but surely, I started feeling less and less healthy, less and less good about myself, and less and less happy.

So, I finally hit my tipping point a couple of weeks ago. Sick of agonizing over my closet because my clothes don’t fit well anymore and being upset over how I look in candid photos and just generally not feeling good, I decided I don’t want to — and that I don’t have to — feel like this anymore.

So, I finally dragged My Fitness Pal back up from the depths of my iPhone’s app folders and hodgepodged together a plan. I’m cutting way down on sugar, trying my best to limit simple carbs (at least for this initial period — there is no power on Earth capable of keeping pasta from my life permanently), tracking everything, and, of course, eat mindfully & healthfully. And it’s working! I’m down 10 pounds already, which feels nice to say, though, the seasoned dieters among you know that’s mostly water weight. Plus, when you’re as heavy as I am, 10 pounds is also like, barely anything. But regardless, I’m feeling optimistic and motivated.

I do intend on adding fitness back in, as that’s obviously an important part of the health equation (though, as we also know, when it comes to weight loss specifically, it’s a much smaller part than what we eat), but I went to the gym for a step class with my sister while I was in Georgia and left feeling defeated and sad because I’m just so uncomfortable with my body right now. Also, I didn’t actually bring any real workout clothes with me, and I don’t think it helped that I was exercising in one of my regular tops, with two doubled-up nursing bras in lieu of a sports bra, hahahahaha.

So, baby steps. Literally. Carrying a wriggly, always-on-the-move, twenty-pound bundle of energy is my strength training right now, and chasing after her as she terrorizes the dogs is my cardio, lol.

And speaking of our little mischief-maker, we have an exciting new development… Penny finally (FINALLY!) cut her first tooth!

 
She is the Toothless Wonder no more! Which explains why she was shoving the local Georgia flora into her mouth incessantly during our backyard photoshoot, why she has been drooling up a storm lately, and also why she had a temperature the day prior to that little thing pokin’ on through. She’s got a real little chomper in there! (It’s her bottom left.)

And I think that just about catches us up. Here’s to looking at a brighter, lighter, happier, & healthier tomorrow (and the day after that, and the day after that) — as well as to getting these cutie pie cousins back together very, very soon! <3