Wednesday, July 31, 2013

Work At Home Mom

I am at Starbucks, with limited time to punch out some work.  But I had to just stop, and once again hammer out my thoughts before I move on.  Unfortunately brain dumps come in packs.  It seems like once we let the dam down and the water flow, it just keeps coming and coming. 

So as I drive on to Starbucks this morning, a babysitter at home, Eleanor happy to have a fresh face to play with, I realize how excited I am to tackle my to do list.  I am nearly giddy with the anticipation of a full work day.  (A clean report at the dentist this morning only adds to that excitement!) 

I am trying to take stock of what I'm feeling lately.  It seems that I have lost a bit of direction in my life and I am constantly questioning my choices and decisions.  And so recognizing how I feel in every situation, I can only hope, will lead me to better decisions. 

Lately I have been questioning my role as a Work At Home Mom.  Guys, this is hard.  Balance isn't easy to come by when your working environment is your living environment.  And when you have the personal choice each day to pay for a babysitter, it is easier to force myself to keep her home with me and try to do it all simultaneously.  We know where that leads.  Nobody gets 100%.  Only a fraction of my attention.  Eleanor suffers.  Work suffers. 

And so I set out with the idea to find more structure.  Determine days that Eleanor would ALWAYS go to the sitter and therefore allow me to focus on Girls on the Run.  And then a curve ball came out of left field.  My wonderful, amazing, talented, dear babysitter has a new job.  She won't be keeping Eleanor any longer.  And so I want no one else to have her either. 

I have perused, Craigslist, Facebook and more.  I have toured day cares and researched preschools.  There are many options out there.  But I want Shannon.  Or nobody at all.  (Shannon, this is not meant to be a guilt trip, I promise!  I love you and I am excited for the new journey you are on!) 

So rather than guilt trip Shannon, I have guilt-tripped Alex.  Demanding to be a Stay-At-Home-Mom.  Not wanting the constant pressure of work combined with the constant pressure of being a mom.  (Jennifer, don't be alarmed, I am not leaving my job!)  By unleashing on Alex I try to displace the pressure I feel on to him.  There, let him feel the pressure and how hard it is! 

Of course, this isn't fair to him either.  He is an amazing husband, a wonderful dad, and a great provider.  He does so much for us.  And currently, our joint providing roles works really well for us.  Honestly, I enjoy the breaks I get from being a mom, even if those breaks are filled with Girls on the Run.  Also, Alex is such a great dad.  And we enjoy our time with him so much.  I don't think I would trade the time we have together for a bigger job and bigger salary. 

And yet, this desire to stay home and focus on Eleanor.  And my inability to find a caregiver that is worthy of time with my daughter.  Shannon was good.  She and I are so similar, I just knew that Eleanor was getting everything with her that I would have given myself.  I model much of my parenting after Shannon, so it made so much sense for Eleanor to be there.  Forgive me, because I'm selfish, and I just don't want Eleanor to be with anyone else.  (Ok, maybe one other person, if only she would take the job!)

Then, on the other hand, my work.  Girls on the Run.  How could I leave it?  I love it.  Even when the pressure is mounting and I feel stretched beyond my capacity, I am giddy to sit down at my computer and communicate with others about this amazing program.  I love to visit schools and see the girls and be encouraged by their beautiful spirits and amazing gifts.  I admire the volunteers that commit their time and I realize how much I truly enjoy the stimulation and fulfillment my position brings. To lose Girls on the Run would be to lose such a big part of my identity.  Not to mention a big part of our budget.

Practically speaking I am not sure that is a lifestyle I want.  I wouldn't be able to justify this Grande Cappuccino (although I purchased it with a gift card-- which actually was a gift for doing a giant project for International, so plainly speaking I wouldn't have if it weren't for my job after all).  I certainly wouldn't be able to justify the babysitter that I'm paying at home to spend some time at the coffee shop.  My job gives me "me" time.  Do I really want to give that up?

And now I discuss all this forgetting a very important factor.  What is God's will for our family?  Is it that we take a pay cut, that I'm able to be home with our child(ren)?  That we learn to lean on God for every provision, instead of banking on a paycheck?  Or is it His will that I am a working mom. Struggling-yes, but enjoying the benefits of being at home while also working for Girls on the Run?

This dilemma plays itself out in my head over and over each day.  Right now I know where I am and what I am doing.  This year I will be working and staying home with Eleanor, so finding a babysitter is inevitable, and I really should get on that.  But what does our future hold?  Where will we go from here? 

I feel dangerous typing this post out.  I know that members of our board of directors keep up with the blog.  Possibly even members of International.  I know that Shannon reads, and maybe even that other potential babysitter I spoke of before.  My husband reads.  My best friends read.  Coaches for Girls on the Run.  And more.  I don't want to sound ungrateful for my position, or that I don't love it in every possible way.  I do.  I love working for Girls on the Run.  I love my job and I cannot imagine another position more perfectly suited for me.  I am grateful.  But I am also exhausted.  Pressured.  And I need a babysitter.  And I just really needed to get these thoughts out of my head.

Now, to be productive with the time I have left here at Starbucks.  I am after all paying by the hour to be here!

Tuesday, July 30, 2013

Words, not photos.

I rarely get around to writing posts on the blog that aren't just recaps of our daily events.  Once upon a time I used to use this space for emptying the thoughts boggled in my brain.  Lately, I only use this space to empty the memory card from my computer. 

That's not to say that I'm not "writing" posts all day long in my head.  Only they never make it to the keyboard.  As I'm driving, running, swimming, biking I am constantly writing.  I am telling the story of me, to an audience of one...just me. 

I miss the sweet release of writing more.  I miss the dumping ground for my thoughts.  I wish I had the time and energy to sit down and capture my life better.  Not just the what, but also the who I am and how I think.  Bringing my mind out on the screen helps me to feel a little more sane, a little more real, and a little less stressed.  And thus I am inspired to type out thoughts today.  Not a reenactment of my day or weekend.  Not photos.  Just my mind. 

Lately I am struggling with who I am.  I think I want one thing but then I want the other.  I'm indecisive and unhappy with the decisions I do make.  I moan about not having enough time but then I do really unproductive things  like stalk Facebook and scan Pinterest.  It reminds me of the bible passage that reads:

I do not understand what I do. For what I want to do I do not do, but what I hate I do. (Romans 7:15)

Basically I choose to do something, but wind up doing the exact opposite.  I know what will make me feel better.  But I don't do it.  I know the things that will give me instant gratification and I choose that, over the things that will bring me lasting joy.  This pattern resurrects itself in all areas of my life:


I flounder and thrash.  And time and time again I make bad decisions.  And I begin to lose my confidence which leads to even more struggles.

There are some areas that I feel very confident, however.  Some things that I feel comfortable and secure.  

My friends.  I feel so supported and loved and surrounded by wonderful Christian woman who challenge and lead me.  When I am showing my weaknesses they build me up and encourage.  They are gifts from God.  

Being a mom.  Eleanor sure makes it easy.  Being her mom brings me so much joy and intense love.  When Alex got home from work yesterday we just snuggled her and played and I couldn't help but think over and over again how wonderful it is to be in our little family.  It makes me so cheerful.  It also makes me think about our little future, and hopefully many more little faces to fill our home.  I am content with Eleanor but I see how we could grow and be even more exuberant!

You see, my life is so incredibly blessed.  And yet I battle internal struggles all day long.  An inner dialogue that keeps me tipping on the edge of joy.  This is the life of a Christian.  I believe we are all hurting in some way.  The world tempts us and pulls us in ways unique only to us.  The enemy knows where we are weak.  I know I am struggling more now because my relationship with Christ is not good.  I think about the time and effort I put into my worldly relationships and I know God is jealous for me.  He wants me.  All of me.  Will I be courageous enough to give more?  

That's me.  And that's where I am.  As I am sure many of you can relate.  There is good and bad in each and every day.  I am fighting for the good.  And trying to make daily changes that will propel me into a life I want to lead while also maintaining a balance of fun and discipline.  

Finally, I must share how intensely I love the Bible.  For many reasons, but also for this: I just googled to see what the Bible said about discipline.  What is God's stake in this?  When deciding which disciplines to follow, I want to choose from the Bible, what God has willed for my life.  And so I read this section of scripture, Hebrews 12:1-29. Now how is it possible that a text written so long ago can be so applicable to my life today?  How is that these old words speak to me?  It is the Living Word and it touches deep in my soul.  And I am at once comforted and awed by the work of the Lord.  He teaches, He forgives, He loves.  He is a CONSUMING FIRE.  I just love the Word.  I wish that I would remember that more often and spend more time in it.  Remember my previous line:
I do not understand what I do. For what I want to do I do not do, but what I hate I do. (Romans 7:15)

Monday, July 29, 2013

Weekend Fun.

I promise that our lives are not just all fun and games.  In between the adventures and play there are snipits of normalcy.  Boring days and lots of work.  It exists.  But on the blog it is more fun to recap the fun.  So skipping right over Wednesday through Friday...we had an amazing weekend.  It included lots of friends and lots of cake!  You can't beat that!

Saturday was busy.  I started off with a bike ride.  (Finally back on the bike after a 3 week hiatus.)  Next Eleanor and I ventured down to Charlotte for Kelly's baby shower.  It was a beautiful nautical themed event and I loved every bit of it.  Including the cake. 

Saturday evening we attended the birthday party of two very special boys.  Ethan and Jonah turned two and our whole church family was there to celebrate.  And there was cake. 

Sunday we were up for church and after had a quick lunch before heading to Jordan's second birthday party.  It was a beautiful Minnie Mouse inspired party.  My cousin Lindsey got crafty and made all of the decor including a mouse ears lollipop tower.  So cute!

On to the main event of the weekend (as if all those parties weren't enough).  We drove down to Winston-Salem for Emily Vinez's wedding.  We missed the ceremony because of horrendous traffic (told you there were normal parts of our life that don't typically hit the blog...this one we won't get into because of my bad attitude).  We were just on time for the reception and enjoyed wonderful company with our church family, delicious food, and Whitney's amazing cupcakes. 

Here's a new trick we learned.  How to Eat A Cupcake:

Duh!  How have I never thought of this before.  Take the bottom of the cupcake, smush on the top and voila!  A cupcake sandwich!  Amazing!

We made it home by 11pm last night and crashed.  What an exciting weekend.  And now about all that cake.  Time to hit the gym!

Friday, July 26, 2013

Virginia Part 3

We have one final day to recap in Virginia.  On Tuesday my family all had to work so we decided we would make our way home on this day.  We wanted to do a bit of sight seeing before our vacation was over so we headed into Richmond.
While the morning was cool we decided to start our day with a walk along the canal.  It is about a mile down to the end and the walk follows the historic canal through part of downtown Richmond.  It was beautiful and scenic and by the time we made it back to the car we had all worked up a good sweat.

We drove to the other side of Richmond into Carytown, a cutesy district with lots of restaurants and shopping.
We parked strategically in front of this adorable kids consignment store.  I picked up a few treasures for Eleanor and for baby showers coming up this weekend.  Then we made our way down to the donut shop where a $5 minimum credit card order forced us into purchasing four of these devilish treats.
I had mine with a side of iced coffee and when we were cooled off enough we decided to walk to Maymont, an old historic family home that is open to the public for tours.  Everything at Maymont is free with a suggested donation.
The home is beautiful and immaculately preserved.  The family donated the home and grounds to the city and it has since been open for tours with almost all the furnishings original to the family and home.  It is a rare find and we had so much fun.  I am a sucker for old homes and nostalgic pasts.  I love to hear the stories of families and people from distant time periods.  I loved the horse-drawn carriages in the garage, the beautiful dresses and gilded details in the home.  I wish I could have lived there in the 1800s!
The owner, Sally Mae, designed pristine gardens, influenced by her many travels.  The gardens included this immaculate Italian landscape, as well as a Japanese garden pictured further below.
Touring these gardens was our last stop for the day, after a tour of the house, the children's farm, the nature center and a ton of walking.  We were exhausted but thankful we didn't miss this!
The couple who owned the home met after the Civil War and never had any children of their own, which is why the city benefited so richly from their deaths.  They left everything and I am so happy it has been kept nicely for us to enjoy.
In the heat of the afternoon, we were dog tired, but we kept going and going.  Everywhere we turned was a new, more amazing view point.  It is hard to believe that at one time this existed for the sole pleasure of one family.  How amazing to have this as your back yard!
My photos do not do justice to the landscape.  You must go see it for yourself!
I am just still so amazed by these beautiful gardens.
And by these two.  I couldn't stop taking photos of the two of them.  They were so sweet!

Eleanor was a trooper all day, napping in her stroller on walks and handling the heat.  After our day on the boat we tried to keep her out of the sun as much as possible, which meant she was strapped into the stroller under the canopy all day.  Down in the gardens we carried her around so we didn't have to maneuver the stroller.  I don't think she could have been any happier to be in our arms!
We had a wonderful day.  There is so much more to see in Richmond, but Maymont was so wonderful we didn't want to leave.  Finally around 3pm we were exhausted and ready to hit the road.  Also very, very hungry.  Donuts are delicious, but they just don't keep you full!  One last family photo and we jumped in the car.
Good-bye Maymont!

On the road home, we stopped for provisions at a grocery store.  Our favorite go-to meal is whole wheat pita with hummus and spinach.  It is a perfect little pocket, easy for eating while driving.

We decided to stop in Raleigh for some shopping at H&M before making our way home.  I love this store and we do not have one closer.  Finally at midnight we pulled into the driveway and our travel adventures were over.

Such a fun little trip.  It seemed much longer than 4 days! 

Thursday, July 25, 2013

Virginia Part 2

Continuing on...

On Sunday evening we drove down to Richmond to visit my uncle and his family.  He took the day off on Monday to take us for a scenic boat tour of the James River and some fun tubing on Lake Chesnin.
We were out of the house from 10am until 7pm and Eleanor was a trooper.  She napped in the car, on the boat and in our arms.  We kept her slathered in sunscreen and she did amazingly.
This life jacket was a little more comfortable than the last one, but she was still unsure at first.
Look at that face!

Soon enough she grew her sea legs and maneuvered around the boat.
We cruised the river all the way to downtown.  I love being on the river.
We stopped for a picnic lunch and a dip in the water.
Delicious roasted veggies, crackers and tofu salad, chips and nuts.
Before too long we were cruising down the river again.
Uncle Joey pulled the boat out of the water and we drove to the lake for more boating fun.  Eleanor snoozed along the way.
The water at Lake Chesnin is much cleaner and better for playing.
As you can see, I forgot to put my sunscreen on.  Luckily Eleanor was well covered.
Alex and I jumped on the tube for a bit, before my cousin and her friend took their turn.
Such an exciting, yet relaxing day.  We had such a wonderful time on Monday! I was exhausted.

One more day of adventures coming soon...

Wednesday, July 24, 2013

Virginia Weekend Part 1

We are home at last.  What a fun little whirlwind weekend!  My favorite part of blogging is the opportunity to relive all our memories before tucking them away in the past.  If you don't mind, let's jump right in to the very fun weekend we had.
We headed north to Winchester, Virginia to visit our friends Andy and Amber and their sweet baby girl Rose.  Alex and Andy met in college and we have enjoyed traveling to visit their sweet family whenever we get a chance.  They previously lived in Atlanta and now Virginia, so relatively close driving distances.
Rose is three months old and precious as can be.  We spent the majority of our time relaxing around the house.  Coordinating two babies' nap schedules for many outings is not very easy. 
Oh, make that three nap schedules.

When we arrived on Friday night it was late and strangely cool outside.  The breeze was blowing and once we put Eleanor down to sleep we sipped wine by a fire outside.  It was the perfect summer evening.

On Saturday we lounged.  Alex woke up early to go for a run, but otherwise it was a slow-moving morning.  We had ate breakfast leisurely and played with babies.  Somewhere around lunch time we had two happy babes and decided to venture out of the house.
We walked the downtown mall in excessive heat, stopping for fresh squeezed lemonade and creamy ice cream.
We popped in and out of store fronts to cool off in the AC before continuing our walk.
Is there anything better than sweet husbands pushing strollers? 
Ok, maybe just one thing...sweet babies buckled inside.
Andy and Amber are one of our favorite couples to spend time with.  They like so many of the same things we, entertaining, playing games, wine...and did I mention food?  They are probably equals to us in their passion and love of cooking and eating.  Amber and Andy did great to make sure we were well fed all weekend!
Saturday evening we sat at their beautiful home and relaxed even more.  I couldn't help but take a hundred photos of the sweet babies.
Only a few months separate the two and one day you will never be able to look and tell the difference amongst the two. 
True to their style, the hospitality came out and I enjoyed refreshing drinks homemade by Amber.
I loved this Mojito!  New favorite drink of choice.
The men manned the grill and before too long we had this feast:
Not pictured is the amazing homemade salsa Amber also made.  I couldn't get enough.  This veggie Ceviche was so delicious as well.

It was much hotter on Saturday evening than Friday night, but we sucked it up and ate alfresco.
And then played yard games until the sun went down.
For dessert we had a treasure chest full of decadent selections.  We took a slice of each and washed it down with red wine once the sun set.
Our Sunday was more relaxing, more fun.  Eleanor was a little under the weather so we skipped church in favor of board games and napping babies.  We played a game called Careers, a new favorite for us.

We had such an amazing time.  I can't say enough about how comfortable and welcoming Andy and Amber are.  And also how beautiful and sweet their new baby girl is.  Can't wait until the babies are big enough to play together! 

More weekend adventures to come!  Stay tuned.