we come from the land of the ice and snow.

I can’t believe our girl is nine months old. Look at her! She’s nearly an adult. The milestones are coming fast and often. She pulls up on anything she can grab and stands up for pretty long periods of time. She turns the pages in her favorite books. Today she brushed her teeth for the first time, and yesterday she stacked the rings for the first time ever! I’ve been trying to get her to do it for months and usually all she wants to do is eat them. But yesterday she just put them on the little pike and we both clapped after she got each one on. She only does it in order if I hand her the rings in order, though. Come on, give her a break. She’s a baby.

So, it’s been a little while since I last updated. I usually take the opportunity to update blogs whenever I’m on evening rotation and have a free morning, and Morella’s at daycare. But it’s just worked out that the last several evening shifts I was on, it snowed and daycare was closed, so I had to spend the hours I would normally spend on this and other household stuff on taking care of Morella.

It has snowed more frequently than I ever remember it snowing before. I’ve always wished for more snow, and of course it had to come in the year that I have an infant in tow, so I can’t enjoy it as much as I would have liked. No sledding at dangerous speeds for baby.

We’re into a rhythm of getting up, getting her fed and ready for daycare, and getting out the door to go to our respective workplaces. Then after work, I usually pick her up from daycare and get some manner of (very simple) dinner on the table so we can all eat together before we have to clean her up and get her ready for bed. It’s a rushed day, and it’s been dark outside so early that we haven’t taken the walks we used to take in the summer and fall. Even on the weekends, it’s been almost entirely too cold to go on a quick hike or to do much adventuring.

And our little girl has been sick too, sniffling and sneezing through winter like the rest of the babies in town, so we’ve spent a lot of time at the pediatrician’s office. Babies are little germ buckets. And of course when she’s all sniffly, I don’t want to take her on playdates or to the church nursery or anything, so there are even more places we haven’t been able to go much.

But we’ve had our share of perfect days too. One morning I put Morella in the car and she napped while I drove around the neighborhood taking pictures in the snow. I let her hang out in the snow for a minute too, but she got over her initial curiosity about it when she realized it was freezing, and just wanted to be picked up.

Another day, we went to Ashland to check out Scotchtown (one of the few historical house tours we haven’t been on anywhere near here), and had lunch in what I can only assume they call downtown. It’s a couple of blocks of shops and restaurants slam up against the train tracks, so that the train runs down the middle of the street at full speed. I thought Morella would be excited about this as I held her up and we watched the train go by, but she’s a baby. She was probably like “Add this to the million things I see each day that are new to me.” In the restaurant, she ate half my beef stew and charmed an elderly couple sitting nearby, who could not stop cooing. That never bothers me though. I love having Morella admired just as much as I’d love a quiet lunch with my family. Bring on the “Isn’t she darling?”s.

At an antique store, Morella had been out all day and was kind of losing it, and an older guy came up to her as she fussed in her stroller and said “That’s right! You’ve got some powerful lungs, and you’re just letting everybody know about it! Don’t let them try to stop you.” There isn’t much that’s cuter than the elderly communicating with babies. Babies are so little that they haven’t yet learned that weathered faces aren’t as wonderful as smooth, young faces, and all the other garbage that our culture feeds us about aging. They just see a new face and are genuinely intrigued by it, as much as any face. And the elderly see some of their kids in every baby they see, at least that seems apparent from how many of them comment with some comparison to their kids or grandkids. And probably they feel like in a world of swirling, unrelenting change, a baby banging her spoon on a restaurant table and chirping loudly (as millions of others have done before her) is a universal symbol of stability.

One interesting part about motherhood is how differently people treat you and react to you when you have a baby with you. Besides her legitimately being my favorite accessory, I also just love the conversation she evokes as we go about our business. People seem to offer up commentary way more easily, and to speak to me as familiarly as if they had always known me. I think it’s just that when I’ve got a baby on my hip, there’s already the context necessary to open a conversation, so they feel comfortable addressing me. This took a little getting used to. I was like “Why does EVERYONE have to say something?” and then “Oh yeah, my baby is waving at them” or whatever. I know I certainly used to make all kinds of faces and coo at babies in the grocery store before I had my own. And I daresay this is another place where there’s been a change in me as well. I always nod and smile at people as they pass me on the street, but my general posture has always been a protective one, probably unconsciously from years of walking alone in a city. You know, head turned slightly downward, shoulders squared, walking briskly toward my destination and not really lollygagging around much. And now that I’ve got this huge bundle (my kid), there’s no way to really walk like that. There has to be lollygagging. And stroller-adjusting. And stopping to un-pry Morella’s hands from something that’s not hers. Etc. And some level of anxiety about bothering other people with a loud or squirmy baby. So I think I am just more aware of others in general, and more open to chatting or to having nonverbal interactions like smiling at a stranger in line somewhere who’s clearly entertained by Morella.

One day in Carytown, this Mom walking with two teenage daughters was like “Better enjoy it! Pretty soon you’ll have one of these on your hands.” I loled but I thought it was pretty mean of her to say that right in front of her daughters. Haha. They’d probably been giving her hell all day though, who knows?

But enough about important stuff like how motherhood is changing me. Haha. Let’s talk about work. It’s been full and productive and hectic, as usual. I went up to NY in February to go to a leadership training with other managers from the company, and it was a little nerve-wracking because it was my first time away from the baby overnight. I knew I would miss her so much, but it wasn’t too bad because the trip was such a whirlwind. I was a little sad at the end of the night or early in the morning, just thinking about her and wondering how she was doing. But other than that I was just super preoccupied with work.

The whole visit started off really well in the first place because while I was in the taxi on the way in to the office, I got a text from Megan saying she had set up a little station with a chair, table, and blanket for me in one of the women’s bathrooms, so I could pump comfortably. When you’re stuck with the laborious and annoying task of pumping, it makes such a huge difference that someone was thinking of your comfort and wanted to make sure you were all taken care of. I feel like some of my nervousness and missing the family ebbed away right then because it made me remember that my NY colleagues are family too, I just don’t get to see them as much.

The training was really good. It was focused on different techniques for setting goals and for communicating with others, and for doing all of those things clearly. Having to think about this stuff for a couple of days affected me both professionally and personally. I do like “taking things by their smooth handle,” as Jefferson would say, but I’m sure I overdo it sometimes by wanting to avoid unpleasantness or having to tell somebody something they don’t want to hear. This training was all about straightforwardness, so it was really challenging from that perspective. It was also lots of fun getting to know some of the managers from other departments in the company. A day and a half passed by very quickly.

On the first evening I was there, Joe, Thomas, and I had a wonderful dinner at Barbounia bursting at the seams with all the let’s-get-to-the-bottom-of-this work talk that you would expect. It was just really good to level set and to bring together our fully different perspectives, and continue picking apart our work challenges with the new knowledge we’d offered up. I love these two guys and could probably spend hours every other night just yakking with them, so it’s a shame we don’t get to do it much. Even when we were like “Okay, after this, no more work talk” we would totally just continue talking about work. And laughing. There was much laughing.

The next night it was Adam’s going away thing, so everybody had pizza and drinks at the office. I got to hang out with lots of people I hadn’t seen in quite a while, and we all traded stories about the various long cons we’d been perpetrating upon our colleagues. Again I could have sat there all night and I had the distinct feeling of wishing I could spend more time with all of these folks. Eventually Thomas and I were starving and ducked out for dinner at Gramercy Tavern, his favorite haunt and always a delicious meal for us. It was a treat for us to get to hang out kind of quietly and catch up together, which is hard to do when we’re at home surrounded by our respective teams.

The hotel we stayed at (Hyatt Union Square) was really nice. The staff bent over backwards for me, and the place was just super clean and peaceful. Probably my favorite part about it though was the breakfast we enjoyed at the restaurant, which is called the Fourth. Fennel-sage chicken meatballs and an araucana poached egg over creamy grits and tomato fondue. Sounds weird, tastes amazing. The perfect, comforting breakfast in a cold, slushy NY.

I enjoyed my time at the actual office more than ever before, and I think it’s because there’s actually a dedicated place where Support lives now, and I was able to just seamlessly join them there and participate rather than sitting with whatever team happened to have an empty desk. They are on a beautiful newly-renovated and decorated floor, and though the NY office is always a thousand times more hectic than ours, this floor seems maybe a little more relaxed. I got to know a few of the folks I work with directly and who I hadn’t gotten a chance to meet in person yet, and I had some quality time with the other former Richmonders that I already know and love. Also it’s always fun to just notice the little details that I’m curious about at HQ, like what snacks they have and what’s up on the walls and all that jazz. Witnessing an all-team meeting from HQ instead of watching via livestream is always great, too. I took a bunch of pictures and some of them ended up on the Staff blog, which was fun to see.

On the last day my flight got cancelled, and Bryana was amazing and got me on a train to Philly and a flight from Philly to Richmond that night, so I was still able to get home around the same time. Phew.

In other news, all my friends are going blonde.

As I’ve mentioned before, I’d like to do some short hikes this spring, and even if the weather isn’t perfect at least do some walks around local parks. We’ve been buried under snow and slush but last weekend it was briefly gorgeous, and we went on a long walk at Belle Isle. Morella wasn’t super into it, probably because she hates wind. But things should warm up soon, and hopefully she’ll enjoy the outdoors as much as I do.

Dan’s going to be out of town for work a lot over the next several weeks, so I’m going to be walking the ridgepole that is single parenting, but I’m not that sketched about it. Morella’s getting bigger and is more fun to hang out with all the time, and I feel pretty capable of taking care of her on my own and have had lots of practice doing so. Still, it can get really frustrating really fast when you’ve got no one to lean on. My only goal is to survive, so that should take some of the pressure off. And surviving these days is a pretty cute task. I mean just look at that laundry. Even though I do tons of chores for a tiny ungrateful person, I can’t complain when the mess is so adorable.

If you don’t hear from me for a while, it means I’ve got one hand on a wiggly baby and one hand on a wipes dispenser. Or a pile of clothes. Or a mixing spoon. Or a camera. Or something like that.

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