Author: jennadays

My Halloween Renaissance

Baby Halloween brought back all of the magic and then some. First we had the fun of trying on different costumes. Would Nono be a fox? a chick? a bat?
I found what I had been searching for. A dinosaur costume with a delightfully fat tail to go on that rotund baby butt. We tried it on and it was a fit. (I also learned that baby Halloween costumes are like wedding dresses in that they seem to follow a completely different sizing scheme that has no resemblance to normal clothing sizes).
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Baby Halloween is also the jam because it goes on for more than just Halloween. There were Halloween events all weekend, Monday, and then Halloween. Given his limited ability to participate (just started walking) we didn’t go crazy and we just went to a Halloween event in the park and met up with another baby friend prior to the big night.

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I wasn’t sure how Nono was going to react Halloween night. How would he feel about it being dark out, all of these costumes, and Mommy and Daddy in costume too?
He truly is my son and loved it. He stood in the closed down street looking around him at the superheroes, fish, witches, dinosaurs, princesses, skeletons, and more that milled around him and a big grin appeared on his face. Earlier that night, when I came downstairs sparkling with a giant pink headdress on, he’d taken it in stride and when A. had met us outside wearing all sorts of plants from the backyard he hadn’t blinked. He was delighted by Halloween. The biggest issue we had was trying to get him to pick out a piece of candy. He stared at the bowl full of shining wrappers, confused by what we wanted him to do and not sure what would happen if he touched them. He finally cautiously touched them, but wasn’t sure about grabbing one and other kids kept coming in, expertly selecting their candy quickly and moving on while he stood there confused. Eventually, he succeeded and we deposited it in his little pumpkin.
He made Halloween magical again and now I’m counting the days until mardi gras so we can do it all over again with even more enthusiasm and coordination.
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He Gives Me Quiet

My relationship with Chris Cornell started post-college. I had heard him a bit as an undergrad, probably from A., but our relationship started later. It was with Audioslave and his beautiful voice that I found a way to cut through stress and release mental peace when I really need/ed it.

I discovered I had an anxiety disorder while sorting some medical articles at my summer job at a hospital library during the summer of my junior year of college. I knew I had some sort of depression, but I didn’t realize that anxiety disorders were a thing, anxiety was normal to me. My panic attacks had started in elementary school and when I compared notes with a classmate, she also experienced them, so I assumed everyone did. I came across an article on social anxiety and I was stunned. My number one reason for missing class in college were panic attacks brought on by being a couple of minutes late and not being able to face the idea of walking past my classmates to find a seat. In high school, I had struggled for years with walking through the locker room in the morning or during a break when it was filled with students hanging out. Anxiety was a frequent part of my life that I had no idea why or when it would strike or how to manage it. It managed me.

I started getting better after that discovery and now I can’t remember the last time I had a panic attack. One of the tools I used to help myself deescalate was recognizing when my head felt off. It came about from having a partner that didn’t suffer from anxiety or depression and needing to find ways to explain it without making it worse. Describing it emotionally was liable to make it worse and also didn’t really do it justice. It wasn’t that I was sad about something, it was that my brain had decided to behave in an abnormal way. I started thinking about anxiety and depression in a more physical way than emotional. When I was depressed my brain felt dense, foggy, and lethargic. When I was experiencing anxiety it felt like there were fireworks going off, everything was sped up and it felt frantic.

I discovered that sometimes anxiety could be managed through having an outlet. For me that was loud and intense music. I started listening to Audioslave when I felt anxious and hyper-stressed and a release takes place in my head. Listening to Chris Cornell wail against the heavy beats of “Like a Stone” soothes me. A wave of calm that feels physical goes off in my brain, and I feel much better. It feels like someone else is getting out what I feel inside and that’s enough for me to relax, I don’t have to keep it pent up, Audioslave is getting it out for me.

Chris Cornell has made my life better. He gives me calm when  I need it the most. Knowing his own struggles makes this bittersweet, but I am grateful for his artistry and the peace it brings me still. He will be missed and remembered often.

A First Mother’s Day

It’s my first Mother’s Day as a Mom. My son is 6 months old and we took advantage of that and went to a nice restaurant for brunch. I’m anticipating future Mother’s Days may lean towards activities that support a lack of ability to keep still.

My favorite thing as a Mom is to hear Nono’s giggle. It’s insanely adorable and I’m not sure there is anything I enjoy more on the planet, not even the GutterPunk coffee at Envie. (You think I joke, but talk to me about the combination of booze and coffee in-person and watch my face light up).

My favorite Nono book is the Pout Pout fish. Whoever gifted him that, thank you. I’ve turned it into the Pout Pout Fish rap, which I’m sure A. is grateful for. Nono has started getting interested in books beyond just eating them and I am delighted.

We do a lot of dancing and clapping right now. Nono hasn’t started doing either, but he really enjoys when we do. Hopefully, some kid takes pity on him and teaches him how to actually dance, otherwise he’s doomed with us as examples. But at least we’re having fun.

Nono’s favorite activity is smashing. I have a feeling this is phase that will last him quite some time. He’s just realized he can hold things in his hand and smack things with them, nothing can wrong with that right? Our friend’s 6 month old spent about an hour with us yesterday and her Mom said she wasn’t a smasher, well by the end of lunch she was. You’re welcome.

My Mom celebrated Mother’s Day by opening her very own garden shop, a longtime dream. I’m really proud of her and she continues to be a great example to me to not give up on dreams and continue to try new things. Someday I’ll write that book…

Thank you to my village of Moms. I appreciate all of the in-person, phone calls, emails, and Facebook responses to my many questions and moments of “OMG!” Some of you I’ve known most of my life and some of you I’m just getting to know, you’re all amazing and I am so grateful for your help and support. I know that Nono and I are both better for it.

Happy Mother’s Day.

The Last Day

Today was the last day of my maternity leave. Nono and I have had 12 weeks together and they’ve flown by. Tomorrow will be the longest that we’ve been apart since I first felt him move. I feel like my heart is breaking in two, but am also looking forward to the familiarity of my job and adult company after weeks of having no idea what I’m doing. This of course just makes me feel guilty and adds to more heartache. Being a Mom is hard.

I had no idea what I was doing in the beginning. In our first pediatrician appointment we had to be shown how to fold down the diaper top so pee doesn’t come flying out. This was day 5. Around this time I also read in one of my baby books how to properly breastfeed, since the lactation consultant at the hospital hadn’t done that. It turns out that breast feeding doesn’t have to be incredibly painful.

Recently I’ve learned that Nono can no longer be relied on to fall asleep when he needs to nap and that we need to keep an eye on him and plan for those nap times for him. This led to a night of me crying hysterically at what a bad mother I am to not have known this and how could I leave him when this is still in-progress. Being a Mom is hard.

I missed my Maid of Honor’s wedding. It was four weeks after he was born and I couldn’t leave him. He probably would have been fine, but I couldn’t handle leaving him for 36+ hours. I was a wreck about the decision, but just was utterly incapable of leaving him. I’ve also continued to miss get-togethers, including Thanksgiving, as I’ve been too tired or needed to stay with him. Thanksgiving I spent crying in the dark because I couldn’t get him to stop crying and A. had gone to get us leftovers at his parent’s and was gone a whole 45min or so. Did I mention that being a Mom is hard?

I also got to see his first smile. He was sitting in his baby swing and I was being silly and he smiled and my world changed again. He smiles more and more every week now. Nothing has ever made me feel as special as his smile when he sees me. Sometimes he smiles just at the pure pleasure of seeing me or A. It’s earth-shattering.

I’ve gotten to experience the day by day change from an infant who could only cry to communicate to a baby boy who seems to have new sounds every day. He even has a range of crying and the heartbreaking wail happens less and less. He’s gone from a tiny nugget that spent most of his time with his eyes closed to staring wide eyed at the world around him and beginning to interact with it.

I was terrified of how fast he’d change. I knew from other kids that the baby phase is fast and furious and you can blink and have a child instead of a baby. It hasn’t been like that at all. It’s gone by quickly, but each new accomplishment brings us closer together. His joy brings me joy. His accomplishments help us connect better as he holds my finger now and tries to talk to me. He usually has a thoughtful expression as he explains things to me in baby talk, such as the beauty of our curtains and the all powerfulness of the ceiling fan (we’ve named it Stanley). He finds me hysterical, but he also finds will just start laughing at seemingly nothing, just delighting in life. It’s contagious.

The things I hope for him are simple, I hope he is kind and that he enjoys life. I hope that he is curious and grows into a good person. My hopes for myself are much lengthier. I hope I’m a good Mom and that I get it right more days than I get it wrong. I hope I figure out how to balance friendships with being a Mom, especially the friends I have that don’t have kids. I hope I don’t overprotect him and that I’m able to help him challenge himself and experience life. I hope I’m approachable and we can talk through the things that bring him worries or confusion. I hope for years of memories and laughter and smiles and discovery.

Being a Mom is amazing.img_2586

My Bad Dog

Lola was my good girl/bad dog. My Mom and I brought her home as a puppy my junior year of college. I can’t remember why we picked her out of the litter of yellow lab/golden retriever puppies, but she was adorable. She was supposed to be for my high school aged brother, but Lola belonged to everyone. She didn’t play favorites.

I was moving to New Orleans for a few months for my junior winter, so I only had a few weeks with her as a tiny puppy. She cried in her kennel downstairs, a poor idea since she had just left her Mom and siblings, so she spent the night in my bed. She slept in my bed almost every night I was home. I’ve always thought those early weeks imprinted on her because although my time at home has been infrequent, she’s always greeted it with boundless enthusiasm.

Our first car trip I put her in a cardboard box to drive her over to my friend Maria’s house to show her off, but before long she wriggled out of the box and onto my lap. It’s not easy to drive stick shift with a puppy on your lap, but I managed. For twelve years my Mom and I have said “puppy in a box!” and laughed each time.

Whenever I’ve come home she’s gone ballistic. She runs around me in circles until she calms down enough to bring me one of her toys. As she’s gotten older and her arthritis has gotten worse, I’ve taken to sitting on the floor to try and entice her to my lap instead of her frantic laps. It’s had 50/50 success rate.

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She was full of love. When I’d go home to visit she’d continuously check my door to see if I was awake yet. It crushed me when I forgot to tell her goodbye one trip and my Mom told me that she’d waited outside my door the next morning. One of our favorite games was calling her up on the bed, she’d be so excited she’d jump up and roll around and them jump down and run around and then repeat 5-10 times.

Like any lab/retriever she was ball obsessed and she loved to swim. I taught her to jump off the dock at my parent’s pond. She loved me enough that after I had jumped off a couple of times and called for her each times, she eventually couldn’t take it anymore and followed me in. It was all we could do when she got older and more fragile to keep her from jumping off of it in her later years.

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She could have amazing discipline. She’d play tug of war with you and give it everything she had, including menacing growls, but as soon as you told her to stop, she’d let go and sit, waiting for you to tell her when it was play time again. She’d do just about anything for a treat. She also smiled a lot and often looked at you as if she were saying “isn’t this just the best?”

Lola lived to twelve years and she never stopped going in the trash or running off if she was loose for any length of time. She particularly liked to run up the road to my parent’s closest neighbor’s house and shit on their lawn. She also occasionally pooped in the dining room, she had quite a cover job going for a while with my parent’s other dog getting blamed and only got found out when Bogie passed away. She snapped at most of the cats and occasionally bit them if she was feeling particularly grouchy. She never really liked other dogs other than a few exceptions. But she loved us like crazy and she enjoyed every day of life like it was the best day she’d ever had. She was my good girl/bad dog.

Lola’s had multiple lives. She’s had leg problems for a couple of years, had some adventurous dining decisions, and has had some very close calls. I’ve said goodbye to her every time I’ve gone home the last couple of years because I knew each visit might be the last one with her and I wanted to make sure she knew how much I loved her.

Dogs are the worst. They make us love so hard and never live long enough for it not to be crushing when they go. She’s a piece of home that will be missing.

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A Milestone

Yesterday was two years from my last chemo treatment. The week before I had my oncologist appointment that marked two years. Two years is the highest risk for reoccurrence for the cancer I had. I made it.

Once I hit the 5 year mark I’ll really be kicking up my heels (next highest risk),  but getting to two years is huge. I’ll no longer have to see the cancer ward once a quarter, it’ll be down to twice a year. I can breathe a little easier. I can remember a little less.

Thank you everyone who has helped made this difficult road a little easier. See you in 2017.

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Some Days Are Awesome

Everyone tells you that the first 6 weeks are the hardest, and I am seriously hoping that’s true. Yesterday was a tough one with lack of sleep and fussiness. I also may have spent some of Thanksgiving sobbing in the dark because he wouldn’t stop crying and it’s really heartbreaking when that happens. Today is a good day though.

I took issue, before I had my baby, with people calling it a job, usually in the context of “the hardest job” or “hardest working” when referring to at home Moms. I understand better now why it gets the comparison, but I still don’t think it’s applicable or fair to either side. My baby is not a job, I know this because he can’t fire me and I’m not getting paid. I also don’t get time off right now. It was pretty rare that my job cost me a full night’s sleep. I could also call in sick to my job and take vacation.

Right now I am 24-7 Moming it. I’m breastfeeding so that means I’m the only source of food, so if he’s up, I’m up. We also don’t have any sort of schedule yet because he’s a newborn so I’m not leaving him for more than an hour, which I’ve done once in 16 days (but who’s counting). He’s made me happier than any job ever has and my last two jobs haven’t made me cry. At work anyways. I’m also pretty good at my job, I am a complete novice to baby care. I watch in awe as other experienced Moms can hold him and comfort him seemingly without any effort, while it’s more of a 40/60 success rate for me.

But today is a good day. Today is one of those awesome, I am so glad to be on maternity leave and not at my day job, days. Last night we managed to avoid any 2-hour awake periods, so I got sort of a fullish night sleep in my shifts. I was able to eat breakfast and coffee at a reasonable hour while he chilled in his swing. We had a secret project that we did this morning that went awesome. And we just went for a 45 minute stroller walk that got him to sleep and got me and Wallace some exercise, and one of my best friends called and I got to catch up with her while out and about. I finally looked at our insurance options and was able to make a decision on where to add him. And I ate lunch at a normal time before I was starving and desperate for food. Tonight my parents are coming and will get to meet him for the first time.

Today is a good day.

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