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Happiness Project

January 2, 2013

After reading the book, The Happiness Project, I decided I could use a bit more happiness in my own life.  I’m fairly content, but I wouldn’t say that I’m happy at any given time.  One of the book’s mantras stuck out to me, which was that everyday, you must actively choose to be happy.  When I really thought about that statement, i realized that on most days, I was actually actively choosing to be unhappy.  Why?  Why would someone choose to be unhappy?  Well, it’s easier, to start.  It’s much easier to find the negative in everything than the positive; much easier to complain than to change.  As I continued reading the book and being all introspective and what not, I came to realize that a lot of being unhappy is in my nature.  I was raised to be negative.  I was brought up to find the bad in everything.  My entire life had been based in criticizing even the most trivial of matters.  And so, as I finished the book and decided to start my own Happiness Project, I also realized I had a much bigger hurdle to overcome.

As suggested by teh book, I thought about everything that makes me happy and everything that makes me unhappy.  Nothing was left off the list.  At the very least, considering what makes me unhappy helps me to acknowledge it and then figure out a plan.  And in rough patches, I would need my happy list for a jump start.  After considering everything I want to change about my life, I was able to break it into 11 categories: Health; Organization; Creativity; Caring About Others; Caring About Myself; Dan; Family; Being Present; Relax; Job; and Ryan.  While overall I will try to be a better person all year, each month I will focus solely on tracking my progress in one category.  I’ll use December to reflect.  And I chose the months based on rather arbitrary means: March is Ryan’s birthday, so that month is for him; April is Spring Cleaning, so organization got stuck there; I’m off in July, so I can afford to be more creative then, and so on.  And I’m a rule baby, so with each category I considered various ‘rules’ to follow.

January’s focus is Health.  I have five major goals under this category:

1. Exercise more.
2. Eat healthier.
3. Aim to become vegetarian.
4. Do more yoga.
5. Sleep more.

With each goal, I thought about the obstacles in my way, the best ways to achieve my goals, and set forth a plan to at least aid in my attempts at success.  I’ll be back with those tomorrow; since one of my ‘rules’ is no computer after 8:15, it’s time for me to log off. 🙂

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July 15, 2012

So, it’s been 3 months.  Let this be a picture laden update on all things going on in our life (hint: all those things revolve around Ryan).

Speaking of our pint-sized devil, he’s been a busy bee.  Walking wasn’t efficient enough for him, so now he runs…sort of.  He learned to walk backwards (which he often does) and to march and walk on his toes.  He enjoys rearranging our furniture by pushing things around.  He still doesn’t talk much (only a few words, none of which are ‘mommy’ or ‘daddy’, but do consist of other important staples like daddy, ball, and, most importantly, uh-oh).  He loves to dig in the dirt and be outside (when he can’t be outside, he stands at the door and whines.  It’s simultaneously irritating & endearing.).  And he babbles all the time now, which we love.

Now, some pictures:

Bathtime!!!

Working hard at daycare:

Mother’s Day 2012 – First time at the beach!!!

Cheering on Cousin Cody at his state soccer game

 

Trip to Boston to see Godmommy & Godpappy before the twins arrived!

Hanging out with his friend Viv and going to the park!

 

Oh, yeah…he’s learned how to climb.  It’s awesome and will most certainly not lead to a trip to the ER before his 2nd birthday.

Reminders

April 2, 2012

A few months ago, someone recommended this blog to me, bissingfamily.com.  The mom writes about her sons – she has a 3 year old and a set of boy triplets – and the devastating and unexpected loss of one of the triplets.  I sat there for hours one Saturday, reading through this woman’s grief.  I couldn’t stop myself, even though I was crying so hard I gave myself a headache.  When Dan came home from a bike ride to find me sitting in the same place I’d been when he left, tears streaming down my face, he asked me why I read things like this – things that I know are sad, that I know are going to make me cry.  Why put myself through that voluntarily?

While reading about the Bissings today, she wrote about another family, the Carpenters.  THIS family had a 4-year old son who died from an undiagnosed heart condition during soccer practice eleven months ago and then lost their 2-year old daughter from the same condition last week.  Both their babies, gone in under a year.  The thought of it takes my breath away.

Dan’s words rang in my head again – why DO I read these things?  They make me sad, they break my heart.  And I’ve decided that I read them to remind me of what I’ve got.  Today I felt terrible all day – like I had the flu, though I’m sure I was just run down.  And in the worst part of the day, the part when I was so aching and tired I could barely stand without feeling dizzy, Ryan decided to become fussy and clingy.  It was frustrating and hard and I felt like I was going out of my mind.  And then I read about the hardships of these women and realize that at least I have a baby to fuss and cling.  I am sure they would give everything to get their babies back to cuddle, hug, fuss, yell, and throw tantrums.  I am grateful.  I am lucky.  And sometimes I need the reminder.

Unattached Parenting

April 1, 2012

Towards the end of my pregnancy with Ryan, a very good friend said to me, “Don’t feel badly if you don’t feel attached to him at first”.  Because there is no better parent in the world than the one who is not actually a parent, I smiled politely and inwardly doubted her words.  What did she mean, I might not feel attached?  This baby was intentional; we had planned for him, we were excited, there was no way I wouldn’t feel anything but unabounding and overwhelming love for this child.

Then he was born, and I learned exactly what she meant.

For months, I vacillated between resentment and indifference for this tiny creature who entirely upended and ruined my life as I’d known it.  No one completely understands the phrase ‘a baby changes everything’ until said baby actually arrives.  I didn’t neglect my son – I fed him and bathed him and rocked him to sleep – but those actions were born more out of obligation than any kind of warmth or love I felt for him. I did not feel that deep seeded love and adoration that so many mommies speak of.  I did not miss him when I left the house; I was only annoyed that I would have to return by a designated time to nurse him again.  While my husband couldn’t wait to return home from work to be with Ryan, I couldn’t wait for him to get home so I could escape.  Escape the house, escape the baby, escape my life.

I recently spoke with another friend who put it perfectly: I loved Ryan, but I was not IN love with him.  I loved him because I was supposed to, but I did not feel that love for him.  And I was so ashamed of that feeling.  I was convinced that there was something terribly, terribly wrong with me – I mean, what kind of mother doesn’t adore their baby?

I write about this today because at some point during this dark, dark period, the advice I received during my pregnancy popped into my head and I realized that I’m not the only one who feels this way.  In fact, I bet there are many more mommies than we know about who feel like this.  And it’s not something to be ashamed of.  When you really think about it, when baby arrives, he/she is essentially an unbearably needy stranger who cannot communicate in any way, shape, or form.  It is incumbent upon an incredibly sleep-deprived you to interpret every cry, sigh, yawn, eye rub, fist clench or any other movement unique to your baby to tell you what he/she needs.  There’s no handbook that tells you exactly what your baby needs so he stops crying for the fifth hour on end – it is process of elimination at its best.  For the first several months of Ryan’s life, he would scream and scream from 4pm-7pm, and every night it was the same routine: rocking, singing, swaying, diaper changing.  And every  night he needed the same thing: to eat.  And every night, we would forget that this was the solution.  Parenting is an incredibly overwhelming task not for the weak-willed.

It took eight months for me to fall in love with Ryan.  Part of that can be attributed to taking forever to seek help for post-partum depression and anxiety.  And don’t get me wrong – there are still times where I consider trading him on the black market for a good bottle of wine and some dark chocolate.  But now, I understand what other moms mean when they describe how they feel about their babies.  The love that I thought I was missing is there.  The only thing I wish is that more moms were open and honest with each other about our feelings – that we didn’t feel the need to hide them from each other, that we didn’t get the ‘inferior mommy’ look from others when we admitted them.  Then maybe we’d all be super moms :o)

First Anniversary of Parenthood

March 26, 2012

…otherwise known as Ryan’s first birthday.

Our little 6 pound, 8 ounce tiny man turned one year old today.  I think the most common statement is something along the lines of, “Can you believe he’s a year old?  Did the time fly?”  Yes, I can believe he’s a year old and no, the time did not fly.  It was a long, hard year, full of LOTS of ups and downs.  Quite frankly, I think there were a lot more downs than ups.  I felt every day of this first year.  I felt the minutes dragging by like hours and the hours feeling like days.  I felt the nights that seemed to never end and the mornings that were oddly reminiscent of my sorority hangover days – only without the fun of the night before.  I felt every moment of the last 366 days (not a typo – it’s a leap year).

I felt it all and I would feel it again.

This year challenged me more than anything I have ever done.  I have never worked so hard at something in my entire life.   I quickly learned that the role of mommy is not glamorous or gratuitous.  It’s just hard, dirty work that seemingly never ends.  There were days that Dan would come home from work to find both Ryan and I in tears of unhappiness and frustration.  There were mornings that wound up simply being extensions of a sleepless night.  Each day blended into the next to the point that often I can’t tell you what day of the week it is, let alone the date.  Parenthood is a hard, thankless job…or so I thought.

As I sit here today thinking about the last year, I don’t remember his first three months.  At all.  If there weren’t pictures, I wouldn’t believe it happened.  Then months 4-6 were full of sadness and anxiety before I realized the time limit on baby blues had long since passed and perhaps it was a little bit more than just a funk.  Months 7-10 consisted of my favorite time of year – Halloween, Thanksgiving, Christmas, New Year’s – and I barely realized they were here before they were over.  And then, suddenly, we arrived at March 25, Ryan’s first birthday, and I feel sort of sad, like I wasted the year being unhappy and ungrateful.

And then I realize that it wasn’t a waste at all.  As a person, I’ve grown incredibly during the last 12 months.  Things that kept me awake at night before Ryan don’t even faze me anymore.  I’ve learned who in my life I can truly count on and who I can’t, and I’ve come to realize that I can’t change people, no matter how hard I try or how much of myself I give.  I’ve started to shrink my inner circle and remove people from my life because of how they’ve treated me – it’s more important to put that energy into my son than into a dead-end relationship.   I’ve also found some wonderful people in some unexpected places.  I’ve become a stronger, more assertive person because I now realize that I set the example for Ryan in how I allow myself to be treated.  In the same token, I’ve taken a lot of time to evaluate myself, my behaviors, and my actions, and to really work to change the things that aren’t so great so that my son grows up knowing that he is not the center of the universe and that his actions do affect others.  I’ve learned that I’m made of more than I gave myself credit for.

I didn’t get here alone.  I am so lucky to be surrounded by some wonderful people who, at times, literally held me up this past year.  For this, I will be forever grateful, because there were definitely times when I didn’t think I could make it through the hour, let alone the day.

I find it interesting that we spend so much time focusing on what we can teach our babies – to sleep through the night, to feed themselves, to sit up, to play nice, to speak, to stand, to walk – but if we sat down to think about it, our babies teach us more about life and ourselves in the first year than we ever knew.  We learn that priorities are ever-changing, that one day can make all the difference in the world, and that no matter what, tomorrow will come.

With that, no, I am not sad that Ryan’s first year is over because really, I feel like everything is just beginning.

Getting in the Holiday Spirit

November 30, 2011

Dan and I were speaking last week about our recent tendencies towards self-indulgence and self-obsession.  In a previous life (aka “Before Ryan”), we volunteered our time, money, and resources to a variety of different causes.  We’ve gotten away from thinking about someone other than ourselves, and we don’t want to raise Ryan in a home like that.  So we thought we’d take the holiday season to get back to giving back.

Advent calendars are popular this time of year amongst the Christmas-celebrating set.  I’d been planning to make an Advent calendar that we could use as our kids grow older to countdown the days until Christmas.  Then, on Pinterest (do you hear the angels singing?) I found an idea that focused more on doing things rather than getting things, which I thought was fantastic since I love experiences more than gifts.  With that in mind, I created an advent calendar that keeps in the spirit of giving instead of getting (though there ARE one or two exceptions):

1. Call our local animal shelter to find out what they need and make a donation
2. Adopt a classroom in need
3. Visit Santa – bring cookies to the hard-working elves
4. Buy toys for kids in need
5. Deliver something yummy to library employees
6. Send hats/mittens to a shelter
7. Collect canned goods for pantry
8. Leave a gift for the mailman
9. Christmas movie night with treats! Donate movies to pediatric ward of St. Peters
10. Buy and decorate the tree!
11. Have breakfast at a diner
12. Leave gift for the garbagemen
13. Gather items for expectant moms in need
14. Open annual Christmas ornament
15. Send cards/packages to servicemen/women
16. Buy hot chocolate for bell ringers
17. Go to NYC to see the tree!
18. Drive around to look at lights
19. Daddy’s work party! Donate items to local women’s shelter
20. Surprise a new mommy with a mani/pedi & day to herself
21. Unwrap a book for bedtime. Donate books/magazines to the hospital
22. Donate office supplies to a non-profit office
23. Bring lunch for the nurses on the maternity ward where Ryan was born
24. Go to church, have a special snack, and wear new PJs to bed. Donate some pj’s to a children’s shelter
25. Bring meal/beverages/dessert to police and firemen working today

So we will be busy in December in the very best kind of way! How about you guys?  What are you up to this holiday season???

Month of Thanks – Day 10

November 10, 2011

Today I am so thankful for our problems.  When I think about the issues that other families are dealing with: illness, poverty, loss, I realize that we are so lucky that our biggest problem right now is deciding whether to have Ryan photographed this month, next month, or both.  We work hard, but we are fortunate in ways that money can’t buy.  And I am so glad for that.

On a side note, Ryan is all smiles nowadays, except when we take something away from him.  Then he gets laughingly angry with us.  He is frustrated because he wants nothing more than to move, but can’t seem to figure out how to crawl and isn’t quite ready to walk.  We are also waiting for him to babble his first words, and have been working on the ‘b’ and ‘d’ sounds with him (and by working with him, I mean reciting every word we can think of that begins with ‘b’ or ‘d’ and emphasizing the sound while he looks at us like we’re nuts).  He’s so cute and awesome; we just adore him!