Just Round to 40

The hubs is 4.5 years older than I am, and has taken great delight the past few weeks in taunting me with the fact that 35, my current age as of today, rounds up to 40. "Hey! When I turn 40 in September, we'll be the same age!" Not that there's anything wrong with 40, of course. I know many fabulous men and women in the 40+ category. Hell, my gym is full of over 40 women who look half their age. And I've never been one to sweat birthdays. What's one more year? Birthdays have ceased to be occasions for giant celebrations. I didn't even go out for dinner on or near my birthday for the last two years, although this year, the hubs and I were able to go out on Saturday for a pre-birthday dinner because mamacita was in town and babysat for us. I'm not a big celebration kind of gal anyway. So this year, I'm slipping into 35 quietly. I've moved into another race age group (35-39), which gives me better odds of placing in races since I'm at the younger end of the category rather than the older. My mother bought me wickedly expensive anti-aging lotion as part of my birthday gift. Based on the tired-looking hag that greets me in the mirror each morning, I'm thinking I should use it. Liberally. Permanent bags under my eyes notwithstanding, I feel good about where I am this year. My new job is awesome, and even though I am working crazy hours with a less-than-ideal childcare situation, it is exciting to be on the cusp of something innovative and exciting for my company. I'm still tired. I still sometimes feel that motherhood is swallowing me alive. I still need to at least try and achieve a work-life balance. But this year, I've taken a giant step in the right direction. So, 35? Bring it.

Hitting the Surface

Three-and-a-half years ago, I wrote this post about my decision to quit my full-time job to freelance. Six weeks later, when Isabella was 13 months old, I left the corporate world. I had been working full-time from home since she was about six weeks old, having cut my maternity leave short for my employer, since the person they hired to temporarily fill in for me while I was out turned out to be a flake.

I've freelanced (technical, marketing, and social media writing) and taught English and New Media online since then. I have been fortunate that the work has been steady, even in this economy.

But as anyone who holds a job and is also the parent to young children knows, it is very difficult to juggle work, family, and personal time. I often felt that I did neither of my "jobs" (motherhood and writing/teaching) very well. One always suffered because the other demanded my time. My office doesn't have a door. I was constantly interrupted. My childcare situation was basically non-existent. I worked 7 days a week, 7pm-midnight, and as much during the day as two sporadically napping toddlers would give me.

But beyond the time-management and logistical stresses of freelancing, beyond the fact that I had little-to-no time to run, to read, or just to veg out on the couch watching bad reality tv, was the fact that I was not enjoying my time at home with my kids.

The pressures of work existed simultaneously with the ever-present needs of my children. And while in my professional life I thrive on pressure and even enjoy it, I often felt like my kids were swallowing me alive.

And if I'm being completely honest (and if you're a long-time reader, you know that here, I always am), the transition from having worked full-time for 10 years to freelancing while staying home with first one, and then three children was really difficult. For me, motherhood is the hardest job in the world. I am not a natural mother.

Building endless block towers, changing endless diapers, and meeting endless needs are part of motherhood, but I had spent the 10 years prior to having Isabella working jobs that while not perfect, provided me with a sense of accomplishment and achievement. There are no accolades for a job well done in the motherhood. And while spontaneous kisses and hugs, cuddles, and stories told under warm blankets are awesome, I needed more than those could give me. Even though I freelanced and taught, I lacked that professional adult communication I needed. I lacked the feeling that I was contributing to something greater than a perfect peanut butter sandwich. I had abandoned a huge part of my pre-motherhood life, thinking that it was the right choice for me and for my family when perhaps it really wasn't.

Which leads me to this:

One of my freelance gigs is writing the blog for my health club and maintaining their Facebook page. They wanted to further develop their social media programs and asked me for a quote. A few weeks ago, they offered me a full-time job as the Social Media Director for the parent company that owns my health club and 10 others (9 in the U.S. and one in Montreal). It is an incredible opportunity about which I am ridiculously excited. There is some travel involved. I went to Montreal for one day a few weeks ago. In April, I'm headed to Chicago. I am engaging on a regular basis with really smart and educated people, who are eager to learn how social media can help their clubs. I'm at the start of something great that will hopefully change the way business and marketing is done in the clubs. The job marries my loves of fitness, writing, and new media. It's as close to perfect right now as it could get.

The job is remote, which means I can continue to work from home. They bought me an iPhone and an ultra-fast business-class laptop is on its way. I've finally, after so many years of winging it, hired a babysitter who comes in the afternoons, Monday-Friday. In the mornings, I either take the kids to my health club and work (or sometimes work out) there, or one of my relatives comes over so I can work. I still work many hours at night. It's not an ideal situation yet. I need more childcare help, and will hopefully figure out a better schedule soon, which will of course change again in the summer and again in the fall once school begins for the kids, but it's a start.

It's early days still. There are kinks to straighten out and adjustments to be made.

But I've long felt I would be a better mother if I worked full-time.

After several years of feeling like I'm drowning, I finally feel like I'm hitting the surface.

Isabella at 4 and a Half

Not a week goes by without someone commenting on how much Isabella looks like me.

We have the same facial shape, the same eyes, the same (unfortunately thin and limp) hair, and until I recently chopped mine off, a similar hairstyle.

The older she gets, the more apparent the similarities are becoming.

And the older she gets, the more I enjoy motherhood. Of course, all ages have their special qualities (just please don't ask me to name any special qualities about the age of two right now), but (dare I say it), parenting Isabella right now is fairly easy.

The kid loves her routine. Take away her morning viewing of The Fresh Beat Band or her CocoPop after dinner and her head is likely to spin around while vomit spews forth from her lips, but in general, I can reason with her. She is (mostly) kind and gentle with her brother and sister. She says sweet things like, "I love you to the moon and back" and "Thank you for making this delicious dinner, mommy."

I have no problem admitting that I enjoy parenting her much more at this age than I did when she was younger. Some people are baby people.

I am not baby people.

Shocking, to those who regularly read here. I know.

Isabella has developed some new interests. After 4.5 years of having zero interest in her clothes, she now wants to pick them out every day. And every day, she wants to wear a skirt or a dress, which coming from a little girl who is not girly, I find this new passion disconcerting.

Having recently finished Cinderella Ate My Daughter, I am now more aware than ever about her developing self-image, and I've asked her why she wants to wear just skirts and dresses. Her reply, "Because I look pretty in them."

(Head hits desk.)

I have made it a point to tell her that she looks beautiful or pretty no matter what she wears. In her pjs. In jeans and a tshirt. Covered with paint from one of her many ongoing art projects. I do not want her to believe that beauty is only tied to what she wears or looks like.

And I'm wondering where her belief that it is even came from. She does not watch commercial tv. She hasn't had exposure to the Disney princesses. So, where?

She recently finished her 10-week "Clay Play" class at my city's art gallery, which she adored. This summer, she wants to take a drawing class there, and I plan on enrolling her. Her summer schedule will hopefully be a busy one again this year, as she'll take more mini camps at our science museum, swimming lessons, a two-week camp at her preschool, and possibly one more camp, which focuses on multiculturalism.

Speaking of the science museum, we visited an awesome new dinosaur exhibit there a few weeks ago. Gigantic, animatronic, roaring dinosaurs, and (Isabella's favorite), dinosaur babies hatching from eggs. She was in her glory.

Next week, I'll register her for Kindergarten, and I'm wondering if at some point I'll begin to feel those pangs most mothers feel about their oldest going off to real school. But right now, I am so excited for her. I am very lucky to have a child who loves school. I think she will thrive in her new environment and I don't feel sad that she won't be around as much as she is right now (although since it's half-day Kindergarten, she'll only be in school 30 minutes more a week than she's in preschool each week now, but the bus ride will add extra time to her day) because where she's headed is going to be so much more fun than what I can do for her at home.
Hopefully, they'll allow her to build drag queen snowmen with glittered and painted rocks during recess.

Current Likes: Twin coercion, fashion, and building forts in the living room

Current Dislikes: Sleeping past 6:30am.

Luci and Nicholas at 28 Months

In many ways, these two are changing on a daily basis.

We're working on saying "please" and "thank you" (Luci is the more polite of the two). Potty training has begun (led by the hubs, who successfully trained Isabella while I had two infants attached to me 24/7) and both are regularly using the toilet when he puts them on it. And both are chattering up a storm and using complete sentences (although Nicholas is still ahead of Luci in this area).

But in other ways, we're still treading water. Nicholas is still a high-needs grenade who needs careful handling or else he will explode into an epic tantrum from which he cannot be consoled. Luci is still obstinate and an instigator. They fight each other every five minutes, and the screaming is still there. The screaming that is Dante's 10th Circle of Hell. The screaming that I can still hear long after they've gone to sleep for the night.

Luci and Isabella have developed a sweet relationship. Of course, the older sister uses the younger as her personal pack mule and maid-servant, but overall, the two play very well together. Favorite games include "cats," where they crawl around on the ground meowing, and then the variation, "Cat Mama," when Isabella is the mother cat and Luci is the baby cat who needs care and attention. They hold hands in the car and love to dance with eachother.

They also sit together on the oversized chair in the living room after dinner for their TV time and snuggle under a blanket. Luci wants to do whatever her sister is doing, which sometimes works, but often does not, especially when Isabella's much-loved art supplies are involved.

Luci is a good listener. When I'm trying to hustle the four of us out the door to the gym or preschool, she will do as I ask and wait for me where I ask her to. Her brother does not.

She loves to say, "This is delicious!" and to tattle on her brother ("Nickey eating off the floor!" "Put Nicky in TIME OUT!").

And she's mellowed. I can reason with her now, and while she still has an explosive personality when triggered, she does not spend the majority of the day crying anymore (unless she and Nicholas are fighting).

Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde is another story.

Nicholas is very smart, as Isabella was at his age. He can identify every letter of the alphabet, and knows the sound each letter makes. He speaks in complex sentences, sometimes 10 or more words long. He has a gigantic vocabulary. And he remembers events that happened months ago, and brings them up with no prompting on my part.

But he is so temperamental. Usually within 10 minutes of getting up in the morning, he's screaming. The shirt I picked out for him to wear isn't red. His breakfast isn't ready. His breakfast is not what he wanted. He doesn't want his diaper changed. He wants the brown shoes and not the blue.

His needs are crisises. All of them.

I feel like I am constantly walking on eggshells with him, scared that if I say or do something to tip the apple cart in his brain, he will explode into another of his tantrums, and I won't be able to stop the screaming.

And yet he is so sweet when he's not miserable. Multiple times a day, he will run at me, huge grin on his face, arms outstretched, and bear-hug my legs, saying, "I love you, mommy!" He gives spontaneous kisses (with more "I love you, mommy!"s) all the time. He tells me, "You look so cute!" and "I like your shoes." He charms the pants out of everyone he meets.

I'm hoping for an evening out of his personality very soon.

Nicholas is currently wearing 24 month clothes and some 2T. Luci still wears some 18-month clothes, but mainly 24 months. It feels (and I've been told) that there is a huge weight difference between the two. Nicholas is solid. When I lift him, it feels like I'm heaving a cement block. I can actually pick up Isabella easier than I can Nicholas (although she obviously weighs more), simply because the weight is distributed across a bigger frame. Luci is petite and practically weightless in comparison to her brother.


Current Likes: Wearing headbands, dancing, drawing

Current Dislikes: Bedtime and naptime


Current Likes: Bringing me play-food meals while singing "Happy Birthday," building block towers

Current Dislikes: Following directions, peace, calm, and quiet

Quick Snapshot:

  • 34-year-old writer and
    mother to a daughter
    born in August 2006 following
    IVF and girl/boy twins born in October 2008 following FET. Come along as I document the search for my lost intellect. It's a bumpy ride. Consider yourself warned.

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  • "All journeys have secret destinations of which the traveler is unaware." -Martin Buber

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