Thursday, December 31, 2009

I Thank You, 2009

As I have said before, 2009 was a trying, stressful, amazing, wondrous and pivotal year for me. The end of a life-changing decade really. For it was in 2000, that I met Craze and the rest is crazy history. Here we are in our little house in Chicago with a gaggle of furry children and one real boy. Wow! Who would have thunk it?

This time last year, I had fallen head over heels in love with my Little Mouse, a barely-one-month-old cheerful, robust and amazing child with a broken arm (from his "I AM STUCK!" arrival into the world). We were broke yet cheerful. Unsure of most things but sure in the fact that everything would, eventually, be just fine.

"Everything is for the best in this best of all possible worlds," I kept reminding myself. And so it is.

The end of the year finds us richer in so many ways. . .financially better off, a stronger, more honest couple, parents who actually know what they are doing, warm and happy, looking forward to finding ways to better ourselves and our family in the year ahead.

I might not have won the MegaMillions, but I remind myself daily that in so many ways I have won the lottery. A handsome man I actually like hanging out with who makes me laugh often. A healthy, happy child born at my advanced maternal age. New-found career opportunities that have kept us out of the poor house (and, miraculously, allowed me to work from home and see my child almost all day, every day). A cozy and warm place to rest our heads. A wealth of blessings, indeed.

I guess that leaves me with only two wishes for the New Year. Firstly, that every child can be loved by someone as much as I love my child. And secondly, that those who are still suffering from the bad economy or other unhappy events, can share in some of my good fortune in the new year.

And I mean it when I say, "Happy New Year" to one and all.

Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Fast Approaching: The Great Purge of 2010!

While my mom-in-law may be losing it in the brain department, I, thankfully, continue to "lose it" in other ways. Having started Weight Watchers the week before Thanksgiving, I actually lost 2.6 lbs over Christmas, bringing my total loss so far to 8 lbs.

Hurray for me!

I have a lot to lose but I've decided that my goal is just 5 lbs. If I can lose 5 lbs (only 2 lbs more to go until I reach my second 5-lb loss!) again and again, that seems much more doable than trying to chip away at a giant number. And ever 5 lbs is a reason to celebrate. . .and then set a new 5lb goal.

My husband asked me my weight-loss goal today and I told him, "five pounds." He looked at me kind of funny and then when I explained my rationale, he told me that sounded pretty smart. I also told him that my ultimate goal is to be able to get up from the floor without feeling like I need a crane for assistance.

Yes, here it comes people, the GREAT PURGE OF 2010. We're going to be purging pounds along with pounds of miscellaneous stuff. Streamlining all around. And I'm pretty excited about it.

Let's see: 365 days, a big old bunch of weight to lose (100lbs+), and nine rooms, six closets, a basement, an attic and a garage full of stuff to sort, sell, donate, repurpose or toss. Can she do it?????

A 100 lb loss seems a little overly ambitious for one year (almost 2lbs per week, every week). But I'd be willing to commit to 50 lbs off in 2010 and all the unnecessary stuff gone.

That's a big job. Is she up to the challenge? Stay tuned to find out!

Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Christmas Was Challenging. . .

Christmas was challenging. Think mom-in-law might be losing it a bit. She's on new dietary restrictions that clearly mean that none of us are allowed to eat either. "I'm not making dressing or gravy for Christmas dinner." "Why do we need bread (i.e. a loaf of 100 percent whole grain bread I asked husband to pick up at the store)? I can't eat bread."

Uh. . .maybe because the rest of us would like a sandwich once in a while?

Oh, but while bread is OUT, it's ok to eat a big old stack of buckwheat pancakes with maple syrup. . .AND THEN just start eating MY PANCAKES while I am feeding the baby (and it should be noted, hadn't had the opportunity to eat anything yet, all day, and it's 2 in the afternoon!). I am so glad to hear that pancakes and maple syrup (as well as pancakes belonging to others) fit into your new low carb/low sugar regime.

"It's time for the baby to nap again? Well, will he sleep tonight?" Yes, he always takes two 1-2 hour naps each day. He'll still sleep tonight. "Well, I'm not sure about another nap."

Huh? Oh, I'm sorry. I've only taken care of him every day for the past 12 months and 26 days. How would I know what's appropriate napping for my own child?

"Maggie, do you want to go for a walk?" (After I got up early and took care of babe while every one slept in for two-three more hours) No, I just really want to take a shower and wash my hair and get dressed. "Don't you want to take a walk and then take a shower?" No, I really just want to take a shower. I haven't washed my hair in five days. I really want to wash my hair. "Oh, let's go for a walk."

I should also mention that it was 27 degrees outside and icy. No, I don't want to take a walk. This sent me a little over the edge. No walk was taken by me. I showered, laid down and took a three hour nap, leaving husband to deal with his mother and the baby.

She has also become anti-dog. "Are they going to get in the window, Maggie? Because I don't want them near my curtains." "The curtain looks slightly parted. Was the dog in the window?" To dog, "Get out of the kitchen, Bug!" (puts Bug in Living Room). Two minutes later. . ."What are you doing in the living room, Bug? Get in the kitchen!"

Poor dog didn't know where she should be. After a few days of this, the formerly stinky, big-headed former foster dog made a break for it and ran out the front door and jumped up to try and get into the car as if to say "Can we please go home now?"

Yes, Stinky Big Head, I'm right there with you. Time to go home.

(And it should be noted that the dogs have only once done anything bad chez inlaws. And that was when mom-in-law insisted that the two dogs be sequestered separately and Bug scratched at the door while we were gone in an effort to be reunited with Stinky Big Head. This Christmas, they were perfectly behaved. They just couldn't do anything right.)

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Making Hay While the Snow Falls

Pretty behind on all this Christmas stuff. Work finally wound down. Am planning to pass off store-bought organic cookie dough as homemade treats (don't feel the least bit guilty). More wrapping to do, bed to be made, oil in car to be changed for trip to inlaws, packing clothes, baby and dog stuff, some cards still unmailed. Yeah, yeah. . .getting to it. Not going to stress out over the whole deal.

Nanny is here, so plan to make hay (you know the rest). . .but in my own sweet time.

Sunday, December 20, 2009

So Much Time Gone By. . .

So much time has elapsed since my last blog entry that I actually forgot how to log into this thing again!

What to say? My little newborn is now one year and 17 days old. He is a funny, chatty, expressive little wonder. And I wonder daily what I ever did to deserve this amazing (and amazingly blond) little babe. (Said his dark-haired mother.)

I did finally get three job offers. I turned down the "big" job with a fat paycheck, fancy title and big office in downtown Chicago in favor of working 3-4 days per week for a consulting firm where I can continue to work from home. I think it was a great decision. I have a nanny now on my working days, but see my son often during my work day and never feel like I've missed something important. And my job doesn't own my life. I still own it.

Working more frequently while caring for a baby has been a big adjustment, but we are in a much better financial place now. So, much better than last Christmas when we were broke and I used my holiday gift cards on diapers and formula and prayed at Christmas that I would keep finding ways to scrimp, sell or earn in order to cover the mortgage.

Nevertheless, with our new-found income, we have continued to be pretty frugal. Paying down debt accumulated in leaner times and hitting the yard/garage sales like crazy this past summer. I'm still amazed at how well I can do buying lots of things second hand (baby stuff especially). Better financially and better for the environment. A real win-win.

We are still living in that little, sometimes drafty, almost 90-year-old house in Chicago. I'm still thinking of replacing the kitchen floor and redoing the downstairs bathroom and, lately, with a crawling-trying-to-walk baby around, thinking of getting the hardwoods covered with less injurious carpet. But none of the above has been done. My frugal nature insists that I get rid of remaining debt before incurring new costs. So, new kitchen floor and living room carpet in 2010? We'll see.

Craze and I are still going strong. Next June marks 10 years of togetherness. For a guy who seemed to have no interest in kids, he has proved to be a committed, funny and tender dad, who never shirks a diaper change and loves nothing better than the sound of his son's laugh and his beaming little face.

Our animal family is still here, too. Bug, who is mostly terrified of kids, loves Henry. She is so very good with him. The formerly-stinky-big-headed-foster-dog who became our dog is still here, too. He is, however, the most expensive dog of all time (at least in our experience) because of his hip issues and previous leg break (was hit by a car years before we adopted him), but we love him and he loves us and now, at least, I'm actually making some money to pay for his care. And who needs a beach vacation when instead you've got a 70-lb golden haired boyfriend who likes to try and sit in your lap most days? And the Alley Cat and Grey round out that little pack. Both are purring along, soft and sleek and lovable as ever.

I am still heavy. Yeah, I lost the baby weight, but was pretty big to begin with and it's all still there. I'm the frumpiest I've ever been, but mostly zen about it all. On a whim, I had a bunch of my long hair cut off a couple months ago into an impossibly high-maintenance hair cut that made me look like a scarecrow if I didn't straighten it daily. The bleach blond peek-a-boo highlights didn't help. Needless to say, I looked like a scarecrow post-cut most days. Thankfully, two months of growth and a ten-minute hair color session has made me look more presentable (no more peek-aboo!) and I'm looking forward to more hair (along with other changes) in 2010.

I joined Weight Watchers just before Thanksgiving and have lost 5.4 lbs in five weeks. Not bad considering this has included Thanksgiving, baby bday party (and homemade chocolate cake!) and run-up to Christmas. And frankly, while it would be nice to break out of the frump rut, I am more committed to just being in better shape. I would love nothing better than to be able to sit on the floor and play with my son and get up from said floor with ease. It's the "ease" part that I need to work on and Weight Watchers is a first step in that direction.

Not to mention, I have a cute, thin husband who still manages to love me even though I look pretty awful most days lately. Looking and feeling better certainly couldn't hurt in the relationship department.

And like myself, my house is sort of frumpy, too. Aside from the old, chipped kitchen floor, crummy downstairs loo and lack of living room carpet, the onslaught of baby toys and gear has made our clutter issues seem so much worse (and I think caring for a little one has made it a lot easier for the clutter to pile up and stay piled up). My wish for 2010 is that I can streamline myself and my stuff and make my home more livable and easy to clean/maintain in order. It's time for a big purge, all around.

All that said, 2009 was a financially stressful year and the lack of sleep from 7+ months of night-time feedings/baby not sleeping through the night made it harder. But at the same time, it was really an amazing, pivotal year in my life. Having birthed my babe last December, 2009 is the year when I really became a mother in caring for that little boy every single day. It has been the most amazing gift of my life. And even with no money coming in and sitting up for those 4 am feedings, I remember sitting in the dark in his room and reminding myself to cherish every moment. And I think I will remember those middle-of-the-night hours spent nursing and quietly singing to him, looking outside at the snow quietly falling or the shadows on the wall, wondering what this little person would grow to be, for the rest of my life.

And I have an overwhelming sense of gratitude. That my child is healthy and happy, tall and bright. That we still have a warm, cozy roof over our heads. That we find a reason to laugh at least once a day. That I have met new people who shine a light into my life through their own faith and selflessness. That I have founds ways to give back to others who have less.

So, I guess really 2009 was more about riches than anything. I may be frumpy, but I'm sort of fantastic as well. And I guess that's pretty great.