Monday.

I haven’t kept up with the things I’ve been meaning to keep up with here. For example:

  • The new recipes we tried in May and June through the haze and hubbub of downsizing, moving, unpacking, and conference travel.
  • The races I ran back in April
  • The toddler’s latest obsessions
  • The books I’ve been reading (because I’ve actually been reading!)

I don’t have time or head/heart-space to do most of this justice right now, but I can do a quick mid-year check in on my 2017 resolutions:

  1. Eliminate credit card debt.
    Done. We hit our savings back in February to make this happen, and have been paying off balances each month. We’re still using our cards more than I would like, and are repaying our savings more slowly as a result, but we’re making it happen (and earning some travel points along the way).
  2. Take action every week.
    No, and I feel terribly guilty about that. At some point the many-times-daily asks for money overwhelmed me, and lacking an immediate way to prioritize, I shut down. I’m trying to get back in the swing of things.
  3. Finish Brain Pickings book club list.
    This has been so much fun so far! I don’t expect that we’ll read all 16 books, but that’s just fine with me.
  4. Incorporate professional development into my schedule.
    I’ve gone to conferences, but that’s about it.
  5. Finish weaning.
    We’re in the final throes of night weaning right now. We had planned to do this months ago, but it didn’t happen, and then we were moving and didn’t push it, and then it sort of organically happened around my work trip. Progress!
  6. PR at any distance.
    destroyed my 5K PR back in April, then ran a painful half marathon the next morning. A PR at both distances was within reach, but I have no regrets about letting the second one go because the first one was so huge for me!
  7. More regular visits with family.
    This one is happening! We’ve seen my family about once/month, including a trip to Iowa for my grandma’s 99th birthday in May.
  8. At least two blog posts/month.
    I managed to keep up with this until last month. Not bad!
  9. Try at least four new recipes/month.
    We’re still doing relatively well at this one. My parents gifted us with a Blue Apron gift certificate to help take some hassle out of moving meals, so that’s been a nice infusion of ideas. (We have free meal codes if anyone wants to try the service.)
  10. Make time for monthly dates.
    Thanks to the extreme generosity of our friends and my mom, we’ve been able to go out a few times, though definitely not every month. It’s progress!

This is what is different.

Today is the end of my second week back to work. Now that the holidays are over and everyone is back in the office, I’m being asked regularly how it is to be back, how we’re managing, what life is like as a working mother.

I’ll tell you:

There’s all the normal day-to-day stuff from before: waking up with an alarm, making coffee, hunting for parking, endless meetings, trying to avoid ordering take out at the end of a long day, wanting to watch another episode of something but giving into sleep instead.

Add to that a layer of baby activities: nursing before getting out of bed, changing two diapers in the hour before work, keeping the baby entertained while trying to make coffee so that Nicolas and I are both a little more awake before I leave, rushing home to happy snuggles and more nursing, hoping the baby doesn’t fall asleep for the night an hour after I walk in the door.

Also add the angst of separation. And the weirdness and frustration of needing to fit 2-3 pumping sessions into an already busy work day. And half a dozen photos or video of the cuteness (and crying) happening at home. And the constant calculation of whether anything extra – a doctor’s appointment, stopping for groceries, a workout – is worth the extra time away from the baby.

It’s amazing how quickly your priorities change. I was told this would be the case, but I didn’t understand it until I experienced it.

We’re in an incredibly fortunate situation: I like my job, and my salary is enough that Nicolas can be home – full time and indefinitely. We don’t have to bundle the baby and all of his accouterments off to daycare in the morning. Nicolas is great with the baby and also isn’t subject to the sort of cabin fever that would be killing me right about now. Pumping is easy for me. My employer is supportive of families and has a very flexible leave policy. I get to work from home one day/week.

It’s hard to be back. But it’s also good to be back. And there’s not a damned thing that will get between me and the door at the end of the workday now that there’s a sweet little boy who needs his mama waiting at the other end of my commute.

This is what maternity leave looks like.

This is what maternity leave looks like.

 

I go back to work on Monday after 3 months at home with my little family. To say that I have mixed feelings is putting it lightly.

I’ve always wanted to have a family, but for a variety of reasons, it didn’t happen in previous relationships. For the last decade, my career was one of those reasons. I could NOT imagine being happy as a stay-at-home parent, and I could NOT imagine giving up the career I’ve worked pretty hard to attain, and I could NOT imagine  (or afford) putting my child in daycare. And so in those relationships, we chose to not have children. That changed with this relationship, obviously.

Family leave in this country is ridiculous in comparison to pretty much any other developed nation, so I feel incredibly grateful to have had as much time as I did: 6 weeks paid, 3 weeks cobbled together from vacation, personal, and holiday time, and 4 weeks unpaid. I kept my benefits during this time, and was able to space out the unpaid weeks so as not to break the bank. We are very fortunate.

But I find myself at the end of my 13 weeks at home with a cooing baby on my lap, wondering how to make it all work. It physically pains me to think about leaving him next week to go to the office. I’ve been crying about it every day for weeks. While it’s been very hard at times, I’ve so enjoyed this time at home with my guys, and I can’t imagine what it’s going to feel like being away from them all day, particularly with the baby growing and changing so quickly.

I haven’t suddenly had a change of heart about being a stay-at-home parent, but I have missed work a lot less than I expected. It’s been a wonderful gift to just turn that part off for a few months. I’ve been checking my email, but haven’t had to really think about it for a long time – which has been good because it’s not like I’ve really been able to think all that much. While I’ve been home, we’ve spent a lot of time talking about what we’d like our future to look like, and where we might go next, and I’m excited about the directions we’ve plotted out together, however far off they may be.

On Monday, there will be a new normal, one that doesn’t allow for extended mornings in pajama pants or cuddled up post-nursing naps. No long walks to the park, or mid-afternoon coffees before a trip to the lake or the zoo with a sleeping baby in the carrier on my chest. It will be hard. But it will be OK.

2013 Resolutions in Review

Now that it’s firmly 2014, let’s look back on last year’s resolutions:

1. No pants in public.
DONE. For a while, I took daily photos of my tights to prove that I was toughing it out through the Chicago winter. Then I got bored with that, and then the weather got nice, and not wearing pants didn’t seem like that much of a challenge. Then it got effing cold again, and I resumed the countdown to the end of the #yearofnopants. There were days when I desperately just wanted to throw on jeans, and there was at least one occasion of layering yoga pants over tights under a dress because I was freezing and didn’t have any other clothes available to me (thanks, unseasonably cold and rainy May weather), and there were several times when I ran errands immediately after a workout and so didn’t change out of my running kit, but I made it from Jan 1 – Jan 1 without leaving the house in pants of any non-workout type. I suspect that I will wear pants every day for the next week, and then I’ll go back to wearing skirts most of the time.

2. One really big race: either the Chicago Marathon or a triathlon.
NOPE. But I did do 7 half marathons and a 5K, and destroyed my PR at both distances, and did my first true destination race. I also plateaued halfway through the year, making each subsequent race an exercise in discomfort and frustration. I wish I’d done better, but have accepted that I didn’t.

3. Ride a goddamned motorcycle.
NOPE. No matter how often I ask the internet, no one wants to give me a motorcycle ride. Maybe this year I’ll just man up and take my colleague’s motorcycle class.

4. Get out of debt.
NOPE. But I did make progress, and committed to monthly financial accountability, and feel good about the progress that I’ve made.

5. Leave the country at least once.
DONE. Karen and I went to the Bahamas in February, and Nicolas and I went to Canada for the afternoon in May.

6. Run 1,000 miles and bike 2,000 miles.
NOPE. I ran 783.66 miles and biked 1030.84 miles. The running distance wasn’t unreasonable considering the number of races I did, but between sickness and injury, I had to cut way back in the last 3 months of the year. Had I biked as much all year as I did in the last 3 months of the year, I would have made the distance in spades, but I didn’t, and so am happy with the distances I did log. In 2014, I’d like to do more of both, but I’ll be happy with whatever ‘more’ ends up meaning.

7. Figure out this career stuff.
DONE. Well, sort of. I spent a lot of the year wracked with work/life balance angst, a lot of which resulted from a loathsome commute. I made and continue to make my peace with it, and am resolved to stay where I am for at least another year or two – which is further out than I’ve ever felt like I’ve been ready to commit to any job in a while.

8. Keep living with my heart wide open.
ONGOING. Much of the year required trusting my gut and doing my best to say yes to whatever the universe decided to send my way. It’s not easy, but it’s worth the work.

9. Be more like Leslie. Always.
ONGOING. Forever.

Posts and Pages in WordPress

I spent a couple of hours yesterday puzzling over a WordPress mystery: how exactly a static page could, without being told to do so, display a series of posts.  I found several ways to make it happen with custom templates, custom functions, and custom fields – but of course, none of these were what was happening on my site.  I was told to “perturb the environment” in an attempt to break the behavior, but with no luck.

That is, until this morning, when the combination of a quick email and a file changed to “THE BLOG 2: Electric Boogaloo” caused me to notice a feature whose existence I had been searching for all afternoon:

Can I tell you how dumb I felt? Pretty dumb. But also pretty smart! as I’d figured out and tested several other ways, one of which being the way we’re going to actually implement this feature.

So, in case you’re interested, this is how you make a static page display posts:

  1. First, create the page you wish to have display your post content.
  2. From the WordPress admin screen, select Pages then Add New. Create and publish your page.
  3. From the WordPress admin screen, click on Settings then Reading.
  4. By default, the Your latest posts will be selected.  This will result in your posts being displayed on your homepage, which is standard blog behavior.
  5. If you would, instead, like your posts to be displayed on a particular page on your site – replacing the content of that page, select A static page, then select the page you’d like to use from the drop-down menu.
  6. Specify the number of posts you would like your page to display, then scroll to the bottom and Save Changes.
  7. Et voila, a page of posts!

Rob Brezny gets me

I started my new job on Monday, and so far I feel really good about things! I already have responsibilities, meetings on the calendar, projects to work on – such a change from my last job, where I spent a year feeling totally stagnant. For maybe the first time since leaving Illinois, I feel like I really want to be here, and that’s a really good thing.

As a result, yesterday’s Free Will Astrology really rang true:

CAPRICORN (Dec. 22-Jan. 19): In his parody music video, “Sickest Buddhist,” comedian Arj Barker invokes a hip hop sensibility as he brags about his spiritual prowess. Noting how skilled he is when it comes to mastering his teacher’s instructions, he says, “The instructor just told us to do a 45-minute meditation / but I nailed it in 10.” I expect you will have a similar facility in the coming week, Capricorn: Tasks that might be challenging for others may seem like child’s play to you. I bet you’ll be able to sort quickly through complications that might normally take days to untangle.

Friday this and that

Things I’m into right now:
1. Essential Mixes have been carrying me through long workdays of literature reviews and conference prep.
2. THREE DAYS left at my current job! I start here on 28 February.
3. I’m in desperate need of a pedicure. I might treat myself after tomorrow’s seven mile run. (OMG, running seven miles)

Things I do not like:
1. The weird faces in reddit rage comics.
2. Brak, at least in his appearances on Space Ghost thus far.

Things that do not exist as far as I know, but really should:
1. A website that shows you all of your available transit options between two locations, including schedules and pricing. One-click booking would be ideal. Use case: I want to travel from DC to NYC. My options include several bus lines, flights from three nearby airports, the Acela, car rental, etc.
2. A website that lets you input your price range, then shows you your flight (or, ideally, all transit) options. Example: I want to spend up to $300 on airfare for my upcoming vacation. Where can I go if I book my tickets today?
3. A coffeeshop along the lines of Aroma, Kopi, or Paradiso. Adequate coffee, free wireless, and affordable lunch options. As far as I’m concerned, these things are essential to grad school success, and are woefully absent in A2.
4. Even better, I would like the above in my neighborhood. Or any kind of cafe within a few blocks of my house.