Wednesday, December 7, 2016

Work-Life Balance.

Does anyone have the answer to what work-life balance really means? I'm striving (unsuccessfully, thus far) to find it. I work full-time for a software company, plus I do freelance writing for two different companies. When I started freelancing in 2009, I had just graduated from college and was desperately trying to make ends meet in my first taste of actual real life (paying rent). I had a brand new English degree and some debt I'd accumulated while in school, so I searched craigslist for jobs that would supplement my income. I sent my resume to hundreds of faceless addresses, so I was surprised to hear back from one, especially when they wanted to schedule a phone interview.

In hindsight, I'm lucky that I wasn't taken for everything I have (which wouldn't have been much). The company asked for my bank account information for the direct deposit and hired me on the spot. I naively handed it over, but thankfully, they were legit and I've been working for them ever since. In the beginning, the assignments were sparse and the topics were strange. I remember writing articles about poker tournament winners and why gift cards make great holiday gifts. In the first year, I probably made a total of $500, but that was still exciting. For the first time in my life, I was getting paid to write. And that was something.

In the second and third years of freelancing, work was spotty and I'd be thrilled every time I got some. The company started a Facebook page for the freelance community, and the top question asked was "how can I get more work?" Writers dwindled and before long, my plate was filling up with assignments. I made a habit of never turning down work, unless I was on a marked out vacation, because I always wanted to be one of the top writers who received the assignments. I'm not actually sure if this helped, but now I get so much work, I am often swimming.

At some point, I hope to transition from a full-time employee to a full-time mother, but I want to keep one foot in the career that I love by continuing to freelance. But at this point, I feel like I'm working more than I realized I would. When I get home from work, I pick up my daughter from day care and we have a few hours to spend together. Part of that time is spent making dinner, part of it is spent doing some exercise (a necessity for my mental health), and then she goes to bed around 7:30. Weekends offer more time to spend together, although I find that I am less patient because I'm still learning what she needs when she screams or how to get her to eat more than two bites of a meal.

And with so much work coming in, much of of the "free time" I have in the evenings and on weekends is spent writing. If you've ever clicked on an article with "Top # Places to Eat" or "The # Best Nissans for Families," there's a good chance I wrote it. Other businesses request content on specific topics to post on their websites, blogs, etc. and I write that content. I also write car reviews for models I've never even seen and describe entrees at restaurants in state I've never visited.

I've gone down a rabbit hole with this post. My overall message is that I don't have a good balance because I work a lot. And I'm afraid that my daughter is suffering for it. But I'm not sure how to change it right now, because work is what keeps us stable and comfortable, with food on our table and warmth in our home.

Wednesday, August 17, 2016

Summer Love.

I LOVE the summer. There are so many things about it that make me so happy- swimming, long days, barbecuing everything we eat, having picnics outside, and lots of ice cream. It's always a little bit of a heartbreak when it's coming to an end, because I feel like I didn't do enough to take advantage of the summer. Last summer was really different because I had just had T at the end of June so I was recovering from the c-section and not really wanting to take her out to pools, water parks, etc. So this summer was a lot more fun!

Last weekend we went to Cowabunga Bay, a local water park, and had a blast. Chris' parents joined us and loved seeing Thea splash around. She is such a little water baby now, which is crazy because when we first switched her into the full-size bathtub, she screamed and freaked out for a couple weeks straight. Now she can't get enough, splashing and playing and crawling through the shallow parts. We took her on one slide and it scared her, but hopefully we can squeeze in a couple more trips to the water park to get her more used to them before the summer is officially over.

We haven't gone to any parks with her yet, but she's finally at the age now where I think she would have fun. Our neighborhood has a little playground within walking distance so we will plan to take her there so she can crawl and climb to her heart's content. She also loves to swing!

T is also talking up a storm these days! A lot of what she says still is hard to understand, but my heart swelled with pride when she learned how to say cat! Now she says it over and over when she sees Caesar or Sully and it is honestly one of my absolute favorite things she has ever done. She still doesn't want to walk- although when we were on vacation last weekend with Chris' family, his mom and sister said she took a couple steps on her own while we were gone shopping. So that is crazy, and it could be here before we know it. Other words she says are: wow, uh-oh, no (that's a fun one, especially when I'm trying to get her to eat), and this.

We have loved our current child care situation for while C and I are working, but unfortunately it didn't quite work out as well as we hoped, so we found a new one and she will start there on Monday. She went there for two days in July when my babysitter was out of town, and it went really well, so I'm hoping it will be a smooth transition and the last time we have to switch her care provider!

Tuesday, July 5, 2016

One year old.

   Pregnancy seems to last for a long time. Between morning sickness, feeling tired literally all. the. time., aches and pains, an expanding belly, and not being able to sleep by the end of it, it seems to take a lot longer than 40 weeks. 

   Once the baby arrives, it seems like the exact opposite is true. At the beginning the nights seem very long when you aren't getting a lot of sleep, but the weeks fly by and all of the sudden you have a one-month old, two-month old, etc. Now I have a one year-old and it is absolutely crazy to me. I remember the day she was born so vividly. I also remember the amazing things she learned to do (her first smile, her first giggle, the first time she said "Dada" and "Mama", when she rolled over, and the first time she crawled). 
   We celebrated her birthday with a zoo-themed party, which was a lot of fun. We ate sandwiches, lion veggies, cheetah chips and dip, kangaroo kabobs (fruit), and camel cake and cookies, and drank jungle juice and water from the watering hole. (I am not this creative. The ideas all came from here). A lot of our family and friends were able to celebrate Thea's birthday and we had a fantastic time. We hosted it at a pavilion in Murray Park and gave bubbles and finger puppets as favors, which the other kids in attendance loved.

   We also had the 12-month check up!
  • Weight: 17.2 lbs (4th percentile) – working on giving her more protein and fat (avocado, butter, peanut butter on bread/crackers, etc.)
  • Length: 29.2 inches (44th percentile)
  • Wearing all 9 month clothes, finally! Her feet are still really small and she is only just getting into 3-6 month shoes. But baby/kid shoes sizes are very confusing.
  • Size 3 diapers
  • Her hair is very light and coming in thicker. It's long enough in the back for pigtails but she isn't fond of us trying to wrap an elastic around her hair.
  • Six teeth! Two on the bottom and four on the top!
  • In the last week she has struggled to go to bed at night. We follow the routine (bath, books, bottle, brush teeth, bed) but she screams for a few minutes when we put her down. I usually go back in a couple times to give her the rest of her bottle and rock her and sing to her and she'll go to sleep. Once she's asleep, she will usually stay asleep for 10-11 hours.
  • Loves almost all food we give her. She spit out Thai masaman curry (her loss) and kidney beans from a three-bean salad but likes pretty much everything else.
  • She can almost walk on her own. She does it really well if we hold her hands, but she still walks on her tiptoes.
  • She was getting too long for the baby bathtub so we transitioned her into the regular tub with just a little bit of water and lots of toys. She screamed the first few times because she seemed scared and unsteady. She now lays down on her tummy in the tub and kicks and plays with toys and is much happier. We also started playing music for the first part of her bath as she gets used to being in there, which helped a TON.

Tuesday, May 24, 2016

Changing times...

In preparation for my office moving downtown, I started looking for someone who could take care of Thea a little closer to our home. I was driving about an hour each way to take her to my mom, mother-in-law, and sister-in-law, so it made for long days for both me and Thea. I found a woman who lives down the street from us who is a stay-at-home-mom of four and was interested in taking care of Thea during the days. We had dinner with their family a couple of weeks ago, and they are fabulous! She is sweet, loving, and nurturing, and her three daughters are all older than Thea and were immediately interacting with her and making her laugh. The youngest is a boy and is a few months younger than Thea.

Both Chris and I felt good about the change, although it was bittersweet because T was in such good hands with our family. But adding another 1/2 hour to the commute each way was going to put us in the car for three hours a day, and that just didn't seem fair (or fun) for Thea. So we decided to move forward, and started with the new family on May 16. The first week went very well, but this week has been a little tougher. She started crying when I drop her off, which is absolutely breaking my heart. I feel awful when she cries and reaches for me, and there isn't much I can do other than give her a hug and a kiss and promise her I'll be back soon.

There are a million reasons why she could be struggling. Change is hard on babies, not just adults. She has three new teeth poking through on the top. Maybe she's having a growth spurt, which is why she is so tired all the time. I wake her up every morning to go to their house. I even read about developmental changes that occur between 9 and 12 months where babies experience separation anxiety because they haven't yet learned that the people they love will always come back.

There are things I can do to hopefully ease her stress. When we play, I can play hide and seek with her toys so she learns that they do come back. I can talk to her every day and every night about the plan for the next day, getting her more used to the routine. In my mind, because she doesn't talk yet, I think she doesn't understand me. But this isn't true, because when I give her a warning about doing something I am trying to teach her not to do (like hit the keyboard on my laptop), she looks and seems to know what I am saying. So I can reassure her multiple times a day that I will always come back.

It's not a trust issue with the babysitter. I know she is wonderful and that this is more of just a difficulty with change than anything else. Thea is also used to having 1:1 attention from her caregivers ,while this mother has several other kids pulling her attention in different directions, so I imagine that is hard on her too. But I also think that these things are good for her to learn, as it helps her understand sharing, patience, and other important values, even at such a young age.

I wish that the solution could be for me to stay home full-time. But with Chris in school for at least another year and a half, this just isn't an option for our family. It's hard every day to leave my sweet baby in the hands of someone else. But I am thankful for people that I trust and who give her love and care when I have to be away from her.

Thursday, May 12, 2016

I am exhausted.

It has been absolutely crazy for me during the past few weeks. My coworker went out on maternity leave, so I have been doing a lot to help cover for her. She is the coordinator in our little marketing department and we have all felt her absence, but I am glad she gets to have some time away with her new little babe. Oh, and we also have four major events in a 1.5 week period, and she is the main event coordinator for everything we do. So I have been learning a LOT about event planning, which has been crazy, stressful, and overwhelming, but also a good learning experience. Things I have learned:

-Never use a vendor that requires daily phone calls to stay on top of orders.

-Don't assume that things are done or that people got your emails/voicemails/both.

-Accept that fact that no matter what food you order, some people won't like it. Related: there are a LOT of gluten-free vegetarians in the world.

-When you think something is finalized, plan to keep working on for at least three more rounds of edits.

-Don't take on any freelance work when you are in the middle of four big events at work.

I'm sure there's more, but my brain is so fried that I can't remember what day it is.

Thursday, April 28, 2016


It really is amazing to me how these little babies come into a world that is filled to the brim with technology. I am a huge fan of technology. I use my phone to stay in touch with friends and family all over the country (FaceTime is the actual best thing ever), I am able to work remotely because of my laptop and internet connection at least one day a week and spend more time with my baby, and even can keep myself entertained while exercising or in my downtime.

Thea is fascinated by technology too. At first she didn't really get it. We went to San Diego last month and took a later evening flight in hopes that she would fall asleep, but that was not the case.

(Side note: babies who are in good sleep routines and have good habits are GREAT until you try to shake up their routine, like take them on a plane or to church, and they can't sleep in a dark room in their cribs. But anyway,)

So in a desperate attempt to keep her from screaming, we pulled out Chris' iPad to see if she would be distracted by Baby Einstein videos or anything....and all she wanted was to put the whole tablet in her mouth. So that didn't work.

But she does love music (as mentioned in my previous post), especially The Wheels on the Bus song. So one day when we were on the way home, I had just picked her up from one of her babysitters after work, she was screaming and we were stuck in traffic. I found a version of that song on YouTube and she was riveted. She instantly stopped crying and was quietly listening all the way home.

I also love to work out, and I have both an elliptical and treadmill in my basement. She used to sit in her swing and be entertained by that, but now that she is getting bigger and busier, she wants to be down and crawling. I know that regular exercise helps with my mental and physical health, helping me to be the best mama I can be, so I make it a priority. If Chris isn't home to watch her, I let her watch one of these nursery rhyme/singing videos on YouTube while I work out.

In the last couple of weeks, she has also become fascinated by the TV remote, my phone, and my laptop that I use for work. When I'm working from home and she is crawling around the family room, she comes right to the ottoman where I have my computer and starts trying to "type" on the keyboard (AKA hitting it and adding a bunch of extra letters to whatever I'm writing :) ) She also will find the remote if we have left it within her reach.

I'm certainly not against TV, as both my husband and I watch quite a bit of it, but I do want to limit how much she gets every day. I also think it is also a balancing act, ensuring that she has plenty of interactive toys and books so she isn't driven by TV or playing on my phone at every chance she gets.

It will be so interesting to see how her fascination with technology grows and changes along with the industry.

(Side note: I am sick with a cold today so she has watched more than the average amount of nursery rhyme videos. Thank goodness for those when I need to get a work task done while coughing and generally feeling blah.)

Tuesday, April 19, 2016


I really love music. If I am in the car, as the driver or a passenger, I immediately turn on the radio and bop along to whatever music is playing. I used to attend a lot of live music shows, although that has changed since having T. I also love to sing, and music is my absolute favorite part of church. It is nearly impossible for me to hear a song I like without immediately singing along.

So while I was pregnant, T heard quite a bit of music while in my womb. My favorite genre is folk rock, although I have quite a broad range. My playlists include lots of Ingrid Michaelson and Joshua Radin, with a sprinkling of oldies and emo songs (leftover from my high school days). During the holiday season, I play Christmas music nonstop, especially the Carpenters album.

I remember a day before I was pregnant that I was driving in the car with two of my sisters and my nephew. We got stuck on the freeway behind a really bad accident on our way to meet up with the rest of the family to eat sushi. My sister's son was hungry and she was nursing him with no pumped milk available. So he was screaming and screaming, not understanding why the car wasn't moving, or why he wasn't eating. She told me that "his song" was a new church song in the Children's Songbook, so I immediately pulled up a video of kids singing it on Youtube. We played that song on repeat for at least an hour until traffic cleared and we could get to the restaurant. She recalled what each of the "chosen songs" were for her other two children, and we laughed about it.

T's chosen song is The Wheels on the Bus. Hands down, no question. I have played hundreds of other songs for her when she is upset, but nothing quiets her the way that song does. If we are stuck in the car for longer than she would like, all we have to do is start singing that song and she goes completely silent. I found a video of kids singing it on Youtube as well (for some reason, every version is British kids) and she will sit absolutely still for the extent of the video, listening to the words and the tune.

She also has a little toy bus that sings the first line of the song at certain intervals, and when she hears that, she stops what she is doing and listens. Occasionally she will even dance.

No other song has this effect on her. I have tried other church songs, pop songs, classic rock songs, oldies songs, and everything I can think of, but her song is The Wheels on the Bus.

Monday, April 4, 2016

Finding her voice.

Before T was born, Chris and I would sit on the couch after work and talk about what she might be like. Chris' cousin has an adorable little girl with the sweetest, high-pitched voice and we wondered if T's voice would sound like hers, or how she would giggle. Now that she has been with us for nine months (!!) we still like to talk about what activities she will like (swimming or running like mama, soccer or music like Dad?) and envision ourselves sitting in the stands at her matches/meets/games/events and cheering her on. We also wonder what her voice will sound like. She makes a lot of noise, and started saying "dadada" and "mum" pretty early on, but most of what she says is in her own language. This past weekend, she really found her voice and started making growling and roaring noises at her toys, her toes, and everything else in her sight. This brings back a memory of my nephew, James, at a grocery store or Target or somewhere with his mom. She is telling him, "we do not roar at people." I feel like I understand this more than ever before. Thankfully, yesterday was our church's general conference, which means that we get to stay in all weekend and listen to our church leaders on TV instead of going to church. Trying to control those roars and growls in the quiet of sacrament meeting probably would have been near impossible.

In the last week or so, she has also drastically amplified her need for independence. When she sits in her high chair at the table while we eat dinner, we give her puffs and other finger foods to snack on. If we try to feed them to her, she turns her head and closes her mouth. But place them on her tray, and she will dive right in, even making excited "mmmm" noises as she eats. Except yogurt drops, which she turns down with great disdain.

She had her 9 month well check last Friday, and is very healthy and happy.

  • Weight: 15.75 lbs (5th percentile) – the pediatrician did mention that her weight gain isn’t quite as rapid as he’d like, but isn’t too worried. He just said to start adding chicken and other foods to her diet, since she won’t gain much weight with what she is eating now (fruit and veggie purees J )
  • She still wears some 3-6 month clothes (mostly onesies) and all 6 month pants. We have tried a few 9 month clothing items on her, but they are always really loose. Most pants are too short on her, which makes us think she is tall. But she is 24.5 inches long, putting her in the 18th percentile for length
  • After our San Diego trip (where she had 2 blowouts and wet through five diapers) we moved up to size 3 diapers during the day, size 3 overnight diapers at night. Putting her in the next size at night (or overnight-specific ones) has been a real game changer and she hasn’t wet through one since.
  • Her hair is getting longer and lighter! Her cousin KK always asks, “when do you think it will be long enough for pigtails?"
  • She has two teeth (bottom front). Gma thought she felt a few more poking through the top, but we haven’t seen them yet.
  • We hit a bit of a sleep regression, which was tough. The night before Easter was the worst because she woke up 10 times! Every time I went in there, she was standing in her crib and was very sleepy. From what I have read, this seems normal because of developmental changes, but that doesn’t make it any easier! She is doing better now, although she is fighting going to bed lately. She immediately stands up and starts crying, especially once I leave the room.
  • She loves to eat real food, and will say “mmmm” while eating. This is especially pronounced when I give her little tastes of my frozen yogurt or other treats. She isn’t too picky, although she hates yogurt drops (I have even tried multiple flavors!). She gags and chokes a little bit when I try to give her pieces of food, but hopefully she will get the hang of it
  •  Loves to crawl and stand up to EVERYTHING (even things that aren’t very stable, like her swing). If you are holding her, she will wiggle until you put her down. The only exception is if you are reading her a book – she will hold totally still and turn the pages
  •  Her bath seat had a little hammock thing that suspended her kind of above/in the water, but she seemed to be getting too long for it so we took it out. Her first few baths without it have been a little questionable, and it seems like she feels unsteady so she holds on to the sides.

Wednesday, March 23, 2016

Enjoying the moments.

As a working mama, I feel guilt. Every time I hand my precious baby to one of her grandmas or her aunt and head to work, my heart aches a little bit. The first day I went back to work after maternity leave was the absolute hardest, and every minute I was at work felt infinitely long. Since then, it has gotten easier (especially since I found a job that I am much happier at), but I still miss her. I hate that she is laughing, playing, making her little sounds, and trying new things without me there to experience it.

I am grateful for my sister-in-law, my mom, and my mother-in-law, who are so willing to care for her with love. She couldn't be in better hands, except that I want her in mine. My office will be moving downtown this summer, which means my commute is about to double. I am considering all of the options and figuring out what will be the best for our family. The thought of taking her somewhere else, where she won't have her cousin Andy or other familiar, loving faces makes me feel afraid. But keeping her in her car seat for an extra two hours a day doesn't seem like a welcome alternative.

When I first went back to work, I thought a lot about getting my "pre-baby body" back. Not that I was some kind of model for fitness, but I certainly had gained some weight in pregnancy. I also could never run during pregnancy because of swelling, dehydration, and other ailments, so I was looking forward to getting back to that. I would leave work, pick up Thea from whomever was watching her that day, and go to the gym. Day care workers would care for her for an hour so I could work out, although most of the time, they ended up calling me to come change a diaper or console my crying girl.

My gym membership expired in November, and I decided not to renew. I spent that money on a used elliptical I found on the online classifieds, and Chris and I somehow managed to move it to our new house. Now when I get done with work, I can focus on the moments I get with my sweet baby. She jumps in her bouncer while I make dinner, and I can listen to her talk and babble. I get to give her baths and watch as her tiny body continues to grow and develop. I can get my exercise in after I put her to bed. Before I go to bed, I take a few moments in the quiet darkness of her room to listen to her breathe, and tell her how much I love her.

I am learning. Motherhood is a million things at once: exhausting, terrifying, exciting, magical, wonderful. I always get to be her mom, even if I don't always get to be the one providing her care. But when I get home, I make it about our time. Even in the car on the way home from the babysitter, I talk to her and sing to her, so she always knows the sound of my voice.

I remember my sisters telling me, "it's easier when you are pregnant because the babies get to be with you all of the time." I get that now.

Monday, February 29, 2016

An update

There was this time where I thought I would be better at blogging, and it would help me remember what was happening in my life as a mama every month. But here it is, February 29, and I haven’t posted since November. What a slacker.

Life for us has been unbelievably busy in the past couple of months. We sold our condo and moved to a townhouse in Murray, and we have about two boxes left to unpack so we are slowly making progress. It is a lot bigger and has another bedroom, plus a full finished basement, so we are loving the extra space. I am coming up on six months at my new job, and so far everything has been great. I really like my team, and I have learned a lot. Chris is still loving his job on a construction management team, and we are nearing the countdown of the end of school….(three semesters, I think?) So, progress!

Thea is still just about the sweetest baby I know. She is now entering a little bit of a shy phase, where she hides her face when she doesn’t know someone super well. She still is fine going to people, although we don’t interact with a ton of strangers. I think the fact that she goes to both of her grandmas and her aunt’s house every week while I work is helping her not be afraid, although it’s hard to say. She lights up when I pick her up every day and that is the absolute best part of my day. I also work from home every Friday, so I love having an extra day with her. 
Hanging out with Mama on Friday
Weekends are our favorite, since we can hang out together as a family as much as possible. Since the weather started getting nice, we love going for walks on the river trail near our new house. Thea loves being outside, as long as it doesn’t interfere with her mealtime.
Hanging out in the stroller
She likes most foods and is getting better at eating. When we first started she pushed everything out with her tongue, but now she gets excited and tries to grab the spoon. She also likes puffs, yogurt drops (kind of), and we gave her an apple chip at Costco over the weekend, which she seemed to like. I get nervous feeding her new stuff because I’m always afraid she will choke. She also has two teeth (front bottom), and getting those in was a little tough but she was a champ. We are still using the amber necklace, and it’s hard to say how much of a difference it makes, but people always comment on how cute it is, so win-win. I make most of her purees with the Beaba Babycook, and the only thing I’ve made that she didn’t like was green beans. They are really hard to get totally smooth though, so the texture might have been the problem because they made her gag.

Thea is also still pretty small, and 3-6 month clothes fit her well. 6 month pants tend to be the right length, although they are a little baggy in the legs, but they work. She also still wears 0-6 month socks and shoes. She is currently wearing size 2 diapers during the day, and size 3 overnights when she goes to bed. She loves to sleep on her tummy and will turn over as soon as I put her in the crib.

She is a fantastic sleeper at night. Lately she has been getting tired earlier, so we put her down around 7 p.m. Her nighttime routine is a bottle (between 4-8 oz, depending on when she last ate), bath (every other night), and a bedtime story or two. Then I lay her down in her crib with her kitty paci, and she goes right to sleep. The only time she cries is if she hasn’t gotten enough formula, in which case I’ll give her a little more. In general, she naps very well too, although sometimes she cries for a couple minutes before falling asleep.

Just after waking up from a nap after church
Her favorite toys are things she can put in her mouth. She likes teething rings, key-type teething toys, and bath books that she can chew on. She also loves books and will sit very still while we read to her. Otherwise she is usually wiggling to get down and crawl. 
Stacking bowls that she loves to chew
Yes, she can crawl! She started when she was about 7 months old, and has gotten really good at it in the last month. Before I know it, she will be across the room and trying to climb the stairs, chase the cats, etc. Sully is very patient with her and will just sit there while she tries to pet him or grab his tail, but we always show her how to “be nice to Sully” and “be soft to Sully” while guiding her hand gently on his back. Caesar is not interested in her and takes off when she gets too close.

We better learn how to climb stairs soon...
 We also got to spend some time with Lis and the Nilsson family when they came in February for Charlie’s baptism. The baptism was wonderful and we got to take Thea swimming, which she only thought was medium fun.
She smiled when we got out of the pool.

Overall, life is great in the Blackham household. We are looking forward to the spring and summer so we can spend as much time as possible outside, and have longer evenings to take walks on the parkway trail. Things are busy, since I am still doing freelance writing for two other companies along with my full-time job, but I love having the opportunity to keep writing.