Holiday Hubbub!

Hi and hello there! I hope everyone is having a fantastic lead-in to Christmas week! This month has been a complete and utter whirlwind so far, but in the best possible way! I’ve been staying really busy with work, family, time with friends, and gearing up for our trip to my sister’s for Christmaaaaas!

Somehow despite the craziness that everyone is dealing with, we found time to ring in my brother Ben’s 35th birthday with a little family dinner celebration. Marnie is so flippin’ cute! I can’t wait to see her experience her first Christmas.

Other festive celebrations included getting together with a group of my wonderful mommy friends for a playdate and surprisingly successful cookie decorating party!

Not quite as successful was the attempted group photo of the kiddos, but, hey, at least we get points for trying?

And since we’re doing Christmas with my family again this year, we also had a little mini Christmas dinner with Sean’s family last weekend. We’ll also be seeing them again for Christmas Part II when we get back, but Sean’s mom had a couple of gifts for Penny to open (she still doesn’t really “get” opening gifts, but I had fun opening them! Haha), and we had a damn fine dinner. Plus, the Foxes always have their house decorated so perfectly for the holidays!

It hasn’t all been sunny and positive and fun festive things, though. Unfortunately on Monday Harry had an accident where he tore one of his toenails off, and apparently doggy foot wounds bleed a LOT (it seriously looked like a murder scene), so I totally flipped out and rushed him to the pup ER. Luckily, he’s okay but has to wear the cone of shame for a while so he doesn’t continue to mess with it. My poor old man dog!

But back on the positive side, I also had the opportunity to attend our very first Yelp Holiday Party with the new DC office! My fellow community managers and besties, Mike, Kimberly (and our boss Tara), have always had a little lunch celebration of our own in years past (and we did so again this year), but it is kind of a cool perk of having a “real” office here now that we also get a “real” holiday party!

My final work events are officially done with for the year, so this week has been primarily about wrapping up the year and getting ready (and mentally prepared) for the road trip down to Atlanta! It’s going to be Penny’s longest (by FAR) car trip yet, plus we’re taking all three members of the Schnauzer Squad…. should be an adventure!

 

I asked for tips on how to survive the trip on Instagram, and got some amazing ideas, so THANK YOU if you’re one of the ones who responded. We’re going to try to do it one go (with contingencies and backup plans, lol), so I got a bunch of new toys and books to offer Penny throughout the trip, and we will be loaded up with sooooo many snacks… it’s gonna be fine, right? RIGHT??

Honestly, I’m not even sure why I’m so nervous about the trip. It’s not even like I’ve never made this drive before! I’ve done it with my sister and HER kids (and even her dogs once or twice!), but for some reason now that it’s gonna be with Sean and Penny and my gaggle of high-strung terriers, I’m feeling pretty anxious.

But hey, it’ll all work out, right? I mean, just look at this face! And, of course, I’m really really looking forward to being together with my WHOLE family for Christmas again this year. Bring on the gingerbread house and cookie decorating and present wrapping and eggnog drinking and all the general holiday hubbub! Also, my sister and I are running a 5K on Christmas Eve so, you know, if you’re gonna be sending good thoughts into the universe for our road trip, please add a couple extra ones for that, lollllll cry.

I hope that you all have the very happiest of holidays, a very merry Christmas, and an absolutely wonderful New Year if I don’t make it back for another update before then!

Mouse in the House!

Halloween is almost here! For Penny’s first Halloween last year, I was so excited to get her all dressed up and show her off, but let’s be honest: she was basically just a lump in a unicorn costume. So THIS year, as she’s old enough to walk around, enjoy the attention and take in all the hubbub, I’m really having fun with it!

 

Yesterday we got our first taste of Halloween goodness, as the Yelp DC office was hosting a kid’s Halloween party! So I got my little mouse all dressed up and we drove into the city so she could have her first taste of office life (and candy, hehe.)

 

Sean’s working on a new construction site that’s downtown as well, not too far from the Yelp offices, so he was even able to join us!

Yelp’s employee demographic skews preeeeetty young, so there actually aren’t a ton of parents working out of this office. Which means there were really only like, five kids at the party, haha. But luckily one of them was my work bestie‘s adorable daughter, so they got to bond over shared Goldfish from the snack station in the kitchen, and then went trick or treating around the office. Penny loved all the attention! She’s such a people person (wonder where she gets that from?)

 

Not a bad way to kick off the Halloween season, that’s for sure! I’m really looking forward to taking in more fun Halloween activities as we get closer to the actual holiday, too. Her daycare is having a little trick or treating festival tomorrow evening, and then in the weeks to come there are Mall-o-weens and Ghost Trains and all kinds of fun. I love this time of year!!!

Weekend Update: Birthday Party, OTF, and New Teeth!

Happy Monday, friends!

I hope you all had restful weekends! Well, those of you who were in the path of Hurricane Florence, I can’t imagine you’ve had much rest, and I hope you and your homes are all okay! We thought we were in for a major drenching this weekend, but storm ended up shifting south and it was actually very mild (if humid) up here.

  

On Saturday, Penny and I went to celebrate the first birthday of our little friend Jonathan! I met his mom Anna through the Peanut app (which is basically like Tinder for Moms), and we became fast-friends. I’ve had tons of luck making new friends on both Peanut through local Mom-groups on Facebook — I went in pretty hard trying to meet other mamas with similarly aged babies when I was on maternity leave — and feel super lucky that I now have such a strong little tribe of amazing new moms to celebrate, panic, and generally commiserate with. 🙂

Of course, along with having similarly-aged babies, comes the fact that we’ve pretty much got a first birthday party to attend every Saturday from August through October, gahahaha. Guess this is the new normal I should start getting used to though, huh? I’m sure it’ll only get more crazy once Penny’s in school.

Aside from all the birthday party fun, I also hosted a Fitness event for Yelp this weekend at Orangetheory Fitness. A few of you had recommended I look into OTF when I started working out, and I see why! It was a hard workout for sure, but a lot of fun and there was a lot of camaraderie in the workout. My favorite part was definitely being on the floor doing the weight training, since that’s what I’ve been into at the gym myself, but the parts on the treadmill and rowing machines definitely pushed me way harder in terms of cardio, which is probably something I should be making more of an effort in regularly.

The science-y aspect with the heart rate monitors and everything was very cool to see, also. I actually just upgraded my old Fitbit Flex 2 to a Fitbit Alta HR so that I can have heart rate monitoring too, so that I can not only see if I’m exerting appropriate effort for maximum results, but also so that I can just keep a pulse (pun intended) on my ticker! This is the kind of stuff I so did NOT care about before, when working out and eating clean were both just a means to get smaller, but now that my goal is less superficial (at least, it’s not wholly about lookin’ good anymore, haha) and more, like, to make sure I live long enough to see my grandkids and stuff, heart health suddenly matters a lot more to me! Go figure.

In other news, Penny has officially sprouted both of her top teeth! So that brings our total tooth count up to four! And also explains why the past week has been hell on wheels in terms of sleep disruption, her appetite’s been a little off, she’s been fussy, and, you know, just all that fun stuff that comes with teething.

 

 

We’ve been doing a lot of cuddling (which, okay, I feel bad for her but also she like, never wants to cuddle with me anymore so it’s been kind of amazing?!) and watching The Furchester Hotel on Netflix (Penny’s fave). She’s also been snacking a lot over the past few days (hasn’t been as patient sitting down for her meals), which means the dogs are actually paying attention to her.

And that catches us up on the weekend! I’m headed into the office today, and my poor sleepy, teething baby (who may also be going through a growth spurt and/or maybe is getting sick? lol) slept from 7 to 8 last night (!!) so I woke up before her (for once), and was able to do my hair AND makeup this morning! Like a real human!

I’d also made time this weekend to get an eyebrow wax for the first time in months, so I’m def feeling myself right now, hahahaha. And with that final little burst of vanity, I’ll bid you adieu. ‘Til next time!

Weekend Update: Old Friends, Yelp, & Fitness

Oh hai there! I meant to get this posted this morning, but you know, Mondays.

This past weekend was a perfect blend of super busy and super chill — my favorite kind! Sunday we basically did nothing and that happens so rarely, I really soaked up all of the laziness. Saturday, on the other hand, was an awesome blur of meeting up with old friends, working a local festival for Yelp, all with my favorite little sidekick in tow!

Penny and I headed to one of my favorite Korean restaurants to meet up with my friends Megan and Steph — we all went to high school together in Taiwan! Steph lives in NYC and was in town for a friend’s wedding (Megan is local so we see each other more often), and it was such a pleasure catching up. Though, I dunno, I don’t really think we’ve changed that must since high school, do you?

After our delicious meatsweat-inducing lunch (wherein Penny ate ALL of the sesame beansprout banchan), we headed to a local festival where we had a special Yelp area set up inside of an empty storefront. Unfortunately, the glum and rainy weather made the festival a bit of a dud, but our room was pretty hoppin’ at least! And Penny was very popular as our unofficial Yelp mascot.

And before any of that even happened, we had a bit of an exciting morning (well, exciting for me, at least), as Penny seems to really be mastering being able to stand independently!

It takes all of my willpower not to scream with delight every time she stands, because when I do so it scares her and she immediately sits down. Hopefully (?) walking is right around the corner!

 

In other news, I had my first official personal training session at the gym last week, and she ran me through the ringer. She taught me some new moves that I’ve never done before, like goblet squats, and also gave me variations on old moves, like dumbbell curls and presses with one leg up, deadbug crunches, and stuff like that. She also encouraged me to use heavier weights than I ever do on my own, and I was surprised by the weights I was able to use!

I did the workout again this morning and somehow managed to push myself even harder than I did when working with my trainer (probably because she was taking the time to teach me the moves, versus me just running straight through the set), and I’m almost ashamed to admit how sore I already am. Maybe I really was lifting too heavy? I usually am most sore on the 2nd day, so I don’t even want to think about how I’m going to feel tomorrow… and the day after. -_-

I wanted to get in a couple more days of working out in before the hurricane potentially hits us later this week, but I’m not sure if I’ll be able to much more than wince and stretch, lol.

Speaking of the weather, it’s been rainy, wet, and gloomy for the past several days, and it certainly doesn’t look like that’ll be letting up anytime soon thanks to impending Hurricane Florence. I went to the store ahead of the crowds and stocked up on some staples — I used to make fun of the people buying up milk before big storms because I just didn’t get why you would prioritize milk! But now I get it. Those people have kids. Penny goes through milk SO quickly now that we’ve transitioned her to whole milk, it’s insane. Saving money on formula but at the cost of our fridge space, haha.

 

Natural disasters aside, Autumn is my favorite season, so I’m definitely not upset with the cooler temps. I am just a little wistful that I still have so many cute summer outfits for Penny that she has yet to wear! I’ve still been putting her in them and then just throwing a hoodie over top, hahaha.

And that pretty much catches us up! I’ve been feeling really tired lately, so I’m worried that I’m on the verge of getting sick, which is not something I can afford right now. Between all my travel, and then Penny’s birthday and party, I really feel like I’ve been slipping work-wise, and so I’m trying very hard to put my nose to the grindstone and reprioritize that. Life as a working mom is a constant balancing act, and there really never do seem to be enough hours in the day! There’s probably a whole other blog post in that single sentence though, which if I’m already complaining about not having enough time, I certainly don’t have the time to dig into it right now. So I’ll save that for another time and, for now, bid you adieu!

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!