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Friday, January 1, 2016

2016 Reflection on 2015 Intentionality

I love to write, but I just have not practiced it for a few reasons. I honestly have felt that I don't have anything unique to offer to the world through my writing right now. There are so many blogs that represent the many subgroups and issues that I identify with, and while I think each person's experience is special and of course, unique, why put in Cyberspace if not for the benefit of others? Another reason is that my time as a mommy is taxed. There is no "time off" from mommy-ing, coupled with teaching full time, investing in my marriage, community, and friends, there's not much time left over. I've had the itch though, and if for nothing more than reflection on my own thoughts and growth, I decided to break the dry spell.

The last two weeks have been interesting. Eventful. Extremely eventful. Although it's been filled with more drama than a telenovela, I've really enjoyed it. Unbelievably, the very first night of my Christmas break, I received a phone call from a desperate sounding mom who informed me that my son's birth certificate--which had disappeared exactly a year ago to the date--had been used to apply for a passport. Her son's application was placed with my son's birth certificate. So many questions. How did my son's birth certificate even wind up in a US postal office when we had never applied for a passport? Who's had it for a year? Who took it once the order was placed with the city office that provides birth certificates? I felt scared, vulnerable, and confused. I won't go into the details here (other than that stealing a birth certificate is a class 4 felony), but we did contact several offices, wrote emails, and completed a police report.  What a way to start a break.

The highlight of the trip was a train ride on a sleeper car with Bobby and the boys. They had so much fun, and though they are probably too young to retain the memory, I found tremendous joy in watching their fascination with the train's movement through the landscape, looking for the moon out the window, and pushing buttons and eating in the dining car. We also had a beautifully refreshing and inspiring time with my siblings. I adore my siblings. I'm so proud of the people they have become, and I'm very grateful to my parents for their consistency, structure, intense love in raising us. Time with Mom and Dad was mixed. As always, they went out of their way to give the prepare the best--the best of food in a beautifully clean and organized and bright house, thoughtful gifts for the boys, etc. We had some relational challenges, however, that are still very difficult for my siblings and I to process. I've been reflecting a lot on what it means to age well and to pass through the seasons of life well. It's definitely one of my goals.

I feel good with the intentionality of my choices this year. Although, my choices seemed more like reflex or instinct as opposed to thoughtfully driven by intention. I lost my father and grandmother within weeks. I lost my uncle. It was a very hard year emotionally, but I feel settled and confident in how we invested our time and money to be with family in Detroit to show respect and love. The Christmas trip to Cincinnati on Amtrak was expensive, but I feel confident in the investment that yielded beautiful family memories with Bobby and the boys, deep conversations with Bobby, and sweet, sweet memories with my siblings. I am reaffirmed in my value and commitment to invest my greatest treasures in building with people and the relationships that are most important to me. I am encouraged by the boys' growth. The Lord has really blessed them. They both have such developed language, show such tenderness to each other, and they continue to learn worship songs.

We have many paused conversations and thoughts about Chicago and what it means to live here. How will justice come? What is the future for black men here? Will there ever be victory over the violence? Where are we supposed to be connected and living? Are we living in purpose? How will my career evolve? These are the things we will carry into 2016.

Wednesday, December 31, 2014

The Intentional Life

It was our first trip with two babies and a teenager that pushed me over the edge. This Christmas, a 4 hour trip to Detroit turned into 6.5. My poor brother--a young bachelor jetsetter who joined us for the drive--looked like he wanted to scratch his eyes out every time we had to stop to nurse the 2 month old. It was hard on all of us. The hotel experience was even worse. We stayed at a 4.5 star hotel, but I couldn’t enjoy it between nightly feedings and my 19 month old screaming to get out of the white crib that looked like it was from the set of Rosemary’s Baby. I was horribly sleep deprived, half of us were sick, and the little energy reserves we had were spent socializing for a few hours with lots of family members.

In all honesty, I felt stuck. I questioned my life choices--and seriously. What had we done? I felt I was mourning my independence at a deeper and new level. So many things I wanted to do that got shot down by what felt like a chain and ball for each foot—one weighing 30 pounds, and the other, about 12 pounds. The plans to go on a date with my husband in my birth city. Scratched. The plans to get a spa service in our nice hotel. Deleted. The plans to hang out with cousins who I rarely see. Shot to the moon. I had been feeling this way with the aching bones, the sleepless nights, the oozing, blistery, bumpy, bloodied fingers cause by the case of dyshidrotic eczema (which started shortly after the birth of my first son), the incessant nursing and pumping of milk, lesson planning while putting a crying toddler to bed, but the trip shoved me right over the cliff.


As we drove back on the return leg of the trip, I felt dazed, confused and unhappy.
I also felt ungrateful-- and guilt for the lack of gratitude. Here I was, blessed with an emotionally generous, uncannily patient, wise, engaging husband and two healthy babies in less than 3 years. What was wrong with me?  Living in Chicago, I heard many reports of violence that left families truly shattered this holiday. I had everything to be grateful for, yet I felt so unhappy and unfulfilled. Why? My hunch after some reflection: my lack of intentionality and wonder for the “mundane”.
As I head into the New Year, I am posturing myself to have a greater awareness of the beautiful mysteries, grace, and blessings of doing life and just being. I am substituting the “I get to”s for the “I have to”s.  I am fixing my soul to be in a perpetual “Downward Dog” and my mind to be “present” in every action. I am committing myself to the Intentional Life.


When I awoke this morning, I drank 12 ounces of water slowly and with intention. I felt the slightly cooler than room temperature wetness smoothly move down my trachea. Though I wanted the sweetness of the oatmeal cookie from the batch my mom made for my brother, I chose the green juice that I pressed last night. No mindless and quick shoving of food into my mouth before the babies awakened.  When my 19 month old stirred and fussed, I fixed my heart on compassion (instead of being annoyed that he was interrupting planned devotional time) and prayed with him. I then carefully chose a book to read to him. I read the pages, animating each character’s voice differently. I chose to feel grateful for him in those moments instead of rushed, annoyed, and interrupted. I slowed down to text a friend about her pregnancy. I carefully chopped onions for an omelet and intentionally invited my husband to stop his preparations for work to eat with me for a few minutes.

I thought about the fleeting season of dependence my boys have with me as I changed their diapers, and that made Solomon’s change more bearable (we generally have to chase him down or pin him down to change him, and it is exhausting!).  I looked deeply into Elias’ eyes as he nursed, instead of thinking about the next thing I had to do. I chose to be present. I thought about the nutrients that no science can perfectly match that came out of my body to sustain my baby boy. I gave thanks for that milk instead of being frustrated that it stains my shirts and bed sheets. I gave thanks that it flows abundantly. I’m thankful now as I write about it.

This state of “present-ness” has made this day almost blissful. But I’ve done nothing new or “exciting”. I’ve been a mom, a daughter, a wife, a friend, a teacher, a writer, a housekeeper, a planner. I made no plans to travel to another continent. I have no exciting New Year’s Eve plans.  In fact, I still can’t fit any of the clothes that I might wear to a NYE celebration. We’re not buying that really cool Honda Odyssey or moving into a bigger home. Yet, I am content. Perhaps, even happy.

As I write these reflections of my day, it sounds as if I were moving in slow motion. It’s not always practical to stop and read my son a book when I have to be at work at 7am. I generally move with intensity and urgency, and I will probably continue to do so as a function of personality. Yet, I now aim to fix my heart as intentionally present and gratefully check off each chore I “get to do”.

Sunday, September 29, 2013

The Flu, Vaccinations, and a 5K..In That Order

I'm eating Saltines and drinking Gatorade as I type. One of my besties, N, brought them over after we finished our community's annual 5K yesterday and when I realized that what I thought was a bad cold was actually the flu. It hit hard on Friday afternoon with a headache and coughs, but Friday was all about Solomon's 4 month vaccinations. It was a rough afternoon. Bobby and I were bickering about nothing I can remember right now, but I can say that vaccinations are rough on us. Bobby hates to see Solomon in pain from vaccinations,yet it doesn't phase me much because I've watched and discussed my share of polio and smallpox videos with my science students. Bobby looked like he was in physical pain watching his baby boy receive two shots to the hip. I was mildly annoyed by what seemed like hypersensitivity. Now, I'm grateful that I have such a compassionate and empathetic husband. Definitely one of his best qualities.
My "Tiffany blue" nails checking out Solo's injection spots

Fridays are my day. I encourage every mother of small children to pick a day for just herself and be faithful to it. I leave Bobby with bottles of pumped milk and go out alone or with friends. So though I was coughing and not feeling well, the body and head aches didn't start until my mani and pedi with S and N (I'm feeling nasty, but I must say, looking at these Tiffany blue nails makes me feel a bit more cheerful ). We enjoyed an evening out eating appetizers, dessert, a hot drink for my congestion, and talks of career and faith to reach for more.
first day of flu

Though I've been in bed all weekend, I am logging the efforts for balance and emotional health. Being a working mom is really hard. As a younger woman, I praised the sacrifices of women in my family, citing, "I've never seen her go out with friends for a cup of tea or a glass of wine." "She never took time for herself, always making sure there was dinner and time to check on our academics." While I am deeply grateful and quite frankly, in awe, of the sacrifices my mother and grandmothers made, I think that spending time AWAY from the never ending duties of being a mother and wife will ultimately make me more emotionally and spiritually healthy and honest about the gamet of feelings I experience--and make me a more present mom and wife. So leaving Solo and Bobby for a few hours for a mani, pedi, and appetizers makes me a better me! For moms who don't have a line in th
eir budgets for these kinds of outings, a walk or bike ride with the hubby or good friends or alone serves equally well. I've even gone to Target and "splurged" on a $2 cup of coffee for my "me time".

Solo in his first Lawndale 5K!
The 5K was also a "milestone" to my come back. I loved running before pregnancy, but with opposite spousal work schedules and sleepless nights (Solomon wakes 2-3 times a night STILL to nurse), and a work start time between 7 and 7:30am, working out before work hasn't been a good option. I hooked up with many friends yesterday morning; it felt like a reunion! So many beautiful faces with years of history with me made my morning. Bobby had pumped the jogger tires up for us the night before. It was the first time I used it, and I felt that I could run 10 miles with it! I did a fast paced walk with friends and then ran the last quarter miles. My joints her. Now I'm not sure if it was "pregnancy joints" or the flu. At any rate, Solomon and I finished our first 5K together!





Thursday, September 5, 2013

"Don't cry over spilled milk" and All Things Milky

So, this old adage finally means something to me, a woman who has been distanced from the wisdom of this vintage saying through modern comforts like refrigeration and a seemingly never ending supply of milk at Jewel or Target or Whole Foods. I couldn't find a place to pump, so I pumped in the closet like faculty bathroom on the 2nd floor, and in the awkward coordination of taking the storage bottle off of the suction cups, my baby's milk spilled all down my leg and onto the nasty faculty bathroom floor. I started to sob, but quickly pulled it together. It was gone. "DON'T CRY OVER THAT SPILLED MILK, TIFFANY. TEARS WON'T BRING IT BACK." I had to return to a meeting, looking like I had just peed my jeanie pants, smelling like sweet, sticky breast milk,but that was the lesser concern.I started strategizing how I could pump more milk even though I was feeling maxed out.

 Solomon's sweet breakfast was on the floor. What was he going to eat the next day? I felt panic. I had to move into decisive action, not succumb to tears, which would be an unfruitful distraction at this point. I grieved silently, but was resolved to get Solomon some breakfast for the next morning. Milk is serious business. It has even surfaced vices like MILK ENVY. Yes, I have had milk envy, and the object of my envy is the sweetest, coolest colleague. I really like her and wish we had more time to develop a friendship outside of work. She's really intelligent and has helped me both personally and professionally. I don't really feel envy, but I did feel like a bit of a failure when she told me she has volumes on top of volumes of stored milk. How in the...? She told me she can pump 30 ounces a day. What the...? How is that possible and why do I work so hard to squeeze out every drop I can get for just one day's supply? I so desparately want storage so we can take advantage of babysitting, but when we can only provide one bottle at a time, we can only leave Solomon for a short amount of time.

 All of our bodies are different, and while I eat very healthfully, read every kellymom.com article I can get to, drink water, and am faithfully taking my Mother's Milk and Fenugreek supplements to increase supply, results aren't where I want them to be. It's improving though. It all takes work and effort. My goal is to have lots of joy in the midst of the work. I'm doing something really special for my son.

I'm up all night...NOT to get lucky

I'm up all night...sanitizing; and catching up on the many chores that can't be done while Solomon is awake. At 18 weeks, Solo has his first cold. He's handling it like a champ. He's pretty stuffy, but otherwise, in good spirits. My mother bought us one of those innovate Swiss "snaut suckers" to pull out the nose phlem. Shameless product plug here. It's great. My mother got ours at a Cincinnati pharmacy, but I've seen them at Whole Foods as well. Solomon takes the suction bravely. Now, he certainly resists like all babies, but without all of the drama. It takes both of us to hold him down, and he did snatch it and pull it apart while I was doing the do, but he doesn't really scream or cry, and wants it's over, it's over. I woke up around a quarter to 3 (in the morning, that is) to sanitize our vaporizer, which I've read can help with a baby's discomfort when suffering a cold. I then moved on to sanitize and store bottles. I then realized that I fell asleep without completing my evening routine, which can pretty much ruin my life the next day. I'm not sure if that statement is an exaggeration. Being a mom and a high school teacher is very, very stressful. I aim to be at school between 7am and 7:15 to set up my lab, check emails,make copies, log grades, follow up with parents, etc, so this means that my morning, which starts before 6, has to go on without a hitch. If I don't have my lunch packed and clothes set out the night before, my whole teaching day can be thrown off. There's no time to leave the building with a 25 minute lunch, and if I don't eat, I not only don't have enough energy for my responsibilities, but milk production is negatively affected. So, after the sanitizing, I finished packing food for the day and got the coffee station ready. And now, I hear stuff nosed Solomon stirring again. It's 4:15 am. I have to be up for the day in an hour and 15 minutes.

Wednesday, August 28, 2013

Celebrating the Small Things

Bobby and I biking the Milwaukee waterfront. Phew. Sleep training is NOT FUN. Solomon: 2, Mommy:1. He's slightly ahead, but I'm gaining on him. This entry is not about sleep training and schedules, but it's kind of consuming my life right now. I've actually been trying to document what I'm considering "victories" in this new and challenging phase of my life. As a new mom, it's easy to feel like I'm doing nothing but being an Oberweis cow--just a milk supplier. Additionally, I'm a new wife;I got pregnant 3 weeks into my first year of marriage. We don't even have time to argue about dishes! Though these new developments are blessings, they've been a shock to a woman who was single and doing her own thing until age 36. In one year's time, I became a wife and a mother, and my days of backpacking alone through Mexico feel like a distant memory (though I used to dream of backpacking with a baby tied to my chest--hopefully, we'll be back on the travel scene soon). During the first two weeks of Solo's life outside of the womb, I was documenting things like "I took a shower and did my hair!" I've had to adjust my expectations a lot about what "productivity" is and looks like. I thought I'd get a lot done this summer because "newborns sleep all day". What I failed to realize is that they sleep on you! I've found myself to be really frustrated, feeling like I'm not "accomplishing" anything. What I'm coming to realize is that my greatest accomplishment since May 1st will be fully and unconditionally loving my son Solomon. However, the purpose of my writing today is to celebrate that which I've been able to do since May 1st. 1) I survived breastfeeding and my child is still exclusively breastfed (after working with 2 lactation consultant and very special lactation specialist--thanks, Shelly!) 2) We beat thrush! 3) We made it to my cousin Miranda's wedding in Detroit when Solo was only 4 weeks old 4) We did an overnight without Solomon for our one year anniversary! We did our favorite thing--riding Amtrak--to Milwaukee for the Summerfest, stayed in a vintage suite, cycled the Lake and parts of the city, had great coffee, and heavily caloric food! Apparently, an "overnighter" is quite a feat. We learned from some friends that they haven't had a night alone since the first child (years for some folks!) Admittedly, it was hard. I teared up expressing my breastmilk into the sink 5) I'm biking and running again 6) We attended Silver Room's Block Party--our meeting anniversary spot 7) I see friends weekly for exercise, talking, advice, laughter 8) I cook dinner almost every night! 9) Bobby and I still have a pretty regular date night!Sushi! (Thanks Pastor Ted and Shelly!) 10)Coaching the boys from my block in our community basketball league 11)Hosted 4th of July family gathering; "heart to heart" with my brother Doug was a highlight of my summer 12) Bobby and I building a bookcase 13) Worked on hopefully my last leg of work for National Board Certification--took a crazy Chemistry exam 3 weeks postpartum 14) Alternatives to Violence trainer training! 3 weekends! I'm celebrating evidence that though my life has a different focus, I'm working to keep my own identity as a woman with interests, as a wife, friend, daughter/sister/niece/cousin/granddaughter. Really important stuff. The advice veteran married couples give over and over is "Keep a date night!" We plan on it!

Friday, July 26, 2013

Rice or no rice? That is the question.

Chico is under the dining room bench snoring. Bobby is passed out in the bed. Solomon, wrapped like a mummy in his SwaddleMe (one of our favorite products, by the way), is catching up on all of the sleep that he lost from 10pm until 4:30 this morning. YAY, for me! Yup, I've been up since 4:30 to get all of the things done that I can't do while my very alert and precocious 12 week old is awake. I've always been an early riser and have never had a problem with sacrificing sleep to reach a goal. Goals these days have drastically changed. Brush teeth. Go to the bathroom. Put on clothes. It's that bad. Having a baby is as the cliche says: Truly life transforming and it's wonderful, but I was not prepared for how seriously challenging it is to change ALL of my priorities and expectations. Knowing her overly ambitious daughter, my mom warned me, but no words could prepare for this. Another--and more lofty goal--is to keep up with my blogging. I love writing, but it's really challenging to maintain as a teacher, and now as a new mom. Perhaps it comes down to discipline, and maybe sacrificing another 20-30 minutes of sleep to get my words on the screen. I'm particularly interested in documenting my son's amazing growth and having a way to keep memory of the dozens of thoughts and observations I have a day. More about his growth later. The purpose of this blog was to air out a debate for which the score is: Mother-in-law, 1. Tiffany, 0 (ZERO, GOOSE EGG, NADA). The debate is about rice cereal. Every time I see my mother in law--and this is no exaggeration--she says I need to give "that baby a bottle" and that "he doesn't seem to get enough from the breast" and that I "need to add rice cereal." After the last few nights, I'm starting to feel weak like SWV...like I need to give in...throw in the rice. Solomon was an awesome sleeper for a few weeks, so much so, that he work up dehydrated twice during our Chicago heat spell. He slept through night feedings, and that proved too much for his little body. The good sleep, however, came to an abrupt ending about 2 nights ago. He's been up asking for a feeding every hour and a half between 11pm and 5am. Hence, why I've washed and cut my hair, fed the dog, pumped 4 oz of milk, prepared 3 bottles, swept, and stored tupperware all since 4:30am. (and I've also been texting my FAVE 5 girlfriends, roping them into the rice cereal debate. They're pretty awesome, smart, and well read, and I like to bounce things off of them--they're great mommies, too). My mother in law, mother, grandmother, and a host of other black mommas who have raised STRAPPING, STRONG, BIG, HEALTHY men all swear by rice cereal. However, research seems to point to allergies and obesity down the line. I'm tired of not sleeping, which leads me to feelings of desperation and confusion, so I'm not sure who to listen too. Do I listen to the elders, with great anecdotal evidence that has never been subject to peer review, or to the "professionals" who have studied journals and published? I want the best for Solomon, as my mother in law, mother, grandmothers wanted for all of their children (26 amongst the four of them!). At this time, I'm just going to double up on the feedings and keep reading and try to listen more carefully to my mother's intuition.