Sometimes I wake up before my kids and sneak in a little personal time. This morning, I sat in my favorite corner to meditate. Then I picked up a notebook and did some brainstorming, and planning. I didn’t even notice when it started to thunderstorm.
Then I heard little feet pattering across the wood floor. Evan, in his summertime shark pajamas, caught a glimpse of me through two doorways and hurried to my lap. He was excited about the approaching storm and pointed out, correctly, that thunderstorms don’t usually happen first thing in the morning.
We snuggled and listened for a bit. Then he remembered the science experiment we did last night and said we should check on the celery.
We ran to the dining room to find our celery stalk in its beaker of blue water (colored with food coloring), drinking it up into its plant veins. Not as much as I thought it would overnight, but we marveled at it for a moment before we heard another pair of feet pattering across the wood floor.
Chloe appeared around the corner, with wildly curly hair and a droopy diaper. She pointed to the window and said “it’s raining!” (“sraineen!”) and then hurried to my lap for shay-shay. She paused from nursing to say, “funder, mama!”
It got extra dark and we watched the rain pour down.
We moved into the kitchen for breakfast which is where my snapshot clicked: Chloe in her highchair and Evan beside her in the eating nook. I was handing over cereal, eggs, toast, grapes, tomatoes, cups of water, I opened the window and a cool, rainy breeze gusted in as I poured steaming hot water to make my coffee, the sound of pouring rain, the thunder, the giggles and squealing, the kitchen crumbs under my bare feet, the zing of salt and pepper on my fried egg and toast, the humidity on my skin. And then, “ALL DONE, MAMA. ALL DONE, MAMA. ALL DONE, MAMA”- Chloe’s alarm went off and we moved on to getting dressed, brushing teeth, skipped sunscreen due to the rain, shoes on.
We ran, screeching laughing, through the rain to the car and off to school.
(unrelated summer snapshot because I didn’t take an actual photo this morning)
I got Evan a betta fish named Yellow for Christmas and we were enjoying him a lot. Two months later, the heater malfunctioned, taking the water to 95 degrees, and he died.
I’ve spent more mental energy, time, and money on this than I would have expected. Obviously I wanted his first pet to be a good experience and these fish can be sensitive to all kinds of factors. I very much wanted him to live a long life. So I spared no expense on a lovely 2.5-gallon tank, filter, heater, gravel siphon, food, thermometer strip, test strips, and treats. We were in a good groove with Yellow and it wasn’t his fault (or our fault) that the heater cooked him, but I still feel sad about it, especially that he had to suffer.
I cleaned the tank, moved it to a new location where I could plug the (newly researched and ordered) heater directly into the wall so there would be no extension cord to potentially cause overheating. I treated the water, tested it for 5 different levels using special (expensive) test strips, got it to the perfect temperature, ran the filter for 24 hours. On Friday night, we were ready to pick up our new betta.
E picked a blue one, probably twice the size of Yellow, with big, flowing, shimmery turquoise fins. He named him Blueberry. We brought him home and put him in his new tank. He swam around actively, even lay on his special leaf for a bit. By Saturday night, though, he was moving less and never did eat what we fed him. By Sunday morning, he was dead.
WHAAAAAAAAAA?! (not sure if this is a wah wah cry or a WHAT??? but sort of both)
I was the first to get up and checked him and he was upside down sort of stuck to the filter. No. No. No!!!
OK, guys, this is a little fish we’re talking about. We just had salmon last night for dinner for which I paid significantly more money. (maybe he was horrified as he watched us from the tank’s new vantage point off the dining room?) Still, it makes me sad.
Admittedly, his little bowl was very dirty when he got him at the store. When I called them today, the woman who answered the phone said, “yeah, seems like they’ve been dying more recently, I wonder if we got a ‘bad batch.'” She also mentioned that they didn’t get a new shipment this week (they do most weeks) so Blueberry might have been in that little dirty bowl for two weeks. (Yep, I’m done with that fish store.)
In that case, he was probably sick and it was nothing to do with our setup. Maybe I helped him be more comfortable in his final days?
Anyway, this is surprisingly hard for me. E is stoic. I was heartbroken (and crying) when I told him that Yellow died. I watched him process this info, first wondering if he could be just sleeping… but he had more curiosity about it than anything. We had a ceremonial walk to the toilet to flush him down. He wondered if we could get a lizard now (no). When I told him about Blueberry (not crying this time since we didn’t have time to get to know him), he was OK. It was even kind of funny that we couldn’t even keep him alive over a weekend. We had another walk to the toilet.
What’s hardest for me is this lesson: we don’t control everything, even when we do our best. It’s one of the hardest lessons there is.
For now, I’m glad that we’re assigning this lesson to something as small and not-cuddly and non-communicative as a fish, as I imagine this would/will be WAY harder when we someday get some genre of cute mammal. The life lessons of having a pet are real.
RIP Yellow and Blueberry
And you know I’m going to insist on a #3. (Maybe not today though.)
On MLK Day, I lost my water bottle. It was a Christmas gift from Evan, a bright coral Corkcicle high-end perfectly-designed water bottle that I’d apparently been waiting for all my life. I was loving everything about it- until it vanished from my life.
That day, the last time I had a Monday holiday off of work, I definitely had it with me at the gym. I couldn’t clearly remember if I’d left with it… Afterward, I’d gone to a café with the fam, and after that to another café to work by myself. I called the gym. I called the first café. Both checked their lost and founds but no dice.
At the second café, I remember being on the phone with my parents, regretting that I must have left my bottle in the car, and getting a cup of water at the water stand by the door. Why would I get a cup of water if I had the bottle with me? I never called the second café.
I proceeded to spend almost a full week in distress over my lost water bottle. My brain could not let go of replaying my movements that day. It was my perfect water bottle, a gift from my son… And yet so ridiculous to be in distress over a replaceable and relatively inexpensive object! Jorge called me over the weekend to let me know the bottle wasn’t coming back. I admitted he was right and ordered a new one. The same exact one. It arrived, and I was placated and moved on to worrying about other things.
Today, on President’s Day, I again reserved some time to myself to work from the café. I ran into my friend Isaiah who works there often. Sometimes I hurry off to my own table but today got pulled into a conversation and ended up sitting at the community table next to him, facing the cash register. I ordered a banana chocolate chip muffin and a latte and pulled out my computer and my notebook. I put my bright coral (Corkcicle wrongly calls it Off Red) water bottle on the table next to me.
After a little while, the woman working behind the counter said, “Excuse me,” and Isaiah said, “Me?” and she said, “No, her.” I looked up and she said, “Is that the first water bottle like that you’ve had or did you have one and lose it and order a new one in the same color?” I smiled in disbelief and said, slowly, putting it all together, “I lost it and ordered a new one in the same color!” And she pulls out my original water bottle from a lost and found shelf to the left of the cash register, where she’d been looking at my lost water bottle for the past month. The visual cue of my identical water bottle sitting on the table in her sight line lead her to put it all together and ask me precisely the right question!!
Her name is Christine. I ended up giving her the original water bottle because of her kindness. I showed her how I wrote my name and number on the bottom of mine so I won’t lose it ever again and she took a Sharpie to the bottom of hers, writing “From Katie, 2/18/19.” She said, “I love a good story.”
I mean. That was cool!!! What does it all mean? I don’t know!
Chloe looks at it and says, “aya aya aya aya aya aya” (agua)
(kiddos in taxi cart photo thrown in just because)
I was scattered this week. Trying to push forward on too many fronts, I was jumping from one task to the next thought to the next incoming request… very much in reactive mode. It didn’t help that my phone started malfunctioning over the weekend, randomly crashing and then going into a reboot/crash cycle for hours at a time. Then I lost my water bottle.
The water bottle was a Christmas gift from my son Evan, a gift he thought up and purchased via my sister. It was a 25oz Corkcicle in Off Red, really more of a bright coral. During the month that I had it in my possession, I was in awe of its functionality- a textured surface that allowed for good gripping, a flat edge kept it from rolling, great insulation, and a rubber ring on the bottom to keep it from slipping. It was really the best water bottle I’ve ever had. And then it disappeared on MLK Day, somewhere between the gym and the car and the house (and maybe a café). My scattered brain could not deal.
In between calls to Apple Care, I meditated on my every step of that Monday, trying to recapture every detail of my movements in case there was clue as to my water bottle’s whereabouts. I called the lost and found of the gym (and the café) multiple times. I wandered around my house peering into nooks and crannies, as if a giant, bright-pink water bottle could be camouflaged in the clutter (after seeing a photo of it, J texted me “I’m sorry but how the F could you lose that thing???”). Someone on a local FB moms page posted a “Post your first world problems here.” I posted, in an effort to let it go. It was bothering me that it was bothering me… I mean, water bottles (and phones) are replaceable. Fortunately, it wasn’t bothering Evan, who said, “I’ll get you another one!” (my sister had paid)
On Wednesday, I picked him up early for soccer class and the three of us stopped at a local supermarket for dinner since class ends at 6 and I didn’t want to start cooking after that.
In the supermarket, I felt tired. I realized I should always get a cart to put the wiggly (and heavy) baby in, even if I”m only buying one thing. Evan wanted spaghetti and Pirate’s Booty and I didn’t have energy to insist on a vegetable. I got myself a chicken burrito to share with Chloe, and a kombucha. We paid and headed to the seating area.
As the TV blared Fox News, I stripped off all of our winter gear and set the food up at the table. Chloe didn’t want the highchair and fortunately, blessedly, she wanted to nurse, giving me the chance to eat.
Then there was a moment, as I scooped my unwieldy, loose, dripping burrito up to my mouth with my free hand, when I made eye contact with the mom who had just arrived with her two boys at the table next to us. She gave me the warmest smile. I mean it made time stop.
I suddenly saw my messy, tired self through her eyes- hunched over, nursing a squirming one-year-old, trying (and somewhat failing) to feed myself, while my 4-year-old ate a pretty darn unhealthy dinner and alternated between watching disturbing news and… climbing anything climbable.
And she was so well put-together, with calmer, older kids in colorful, expensive-looking ski-jackets, one quietly eating chicken soup and the other quietly eating sushi.
They were sitting close enough to us that I would normally strike up a friendly conversation with this other mom. But, in that moment, I let her smile validate my tiredness, my scatteredness, and her implicit message: that I am squarely in a season of little ones and I’m doing a good job and someday I will get back to using two hands for eating and buying myself a new pair of jeans that fit and I’ll have two civilized eaters and I’ll smile at the crazed baby mama with the wild hair at the next table over.
I’m rounding the corner. I ordered a new phone. And my new, same water bottle arrived yesterday! I Sharpied my name and number on the bottom.
I also started meditating every morning. It’s helping. xoxo
I created this blog during my first two week wait, back in April of 2012, almost seven years ago. I did a lot of inner reflection on the name, wanting something that could carry me well into the future. I discussed many possibilities with my sister Beez, sitting on a bench next to a serene, goose-filled pond at he SF Botanical Gardens, a moment I’ve thought back to many times. I chose “The Solo Mama Project,” reasoning that it was open-ended enough to apply to whatever happened next, for many years into the future, and I was right.
I don’t remember coming up with the tagline, “one baby step at a time.” I think it came to me in a creative flash as I sat at my laptop building the blog on WordPress- so clever! A double meaning: I was trying to have a baby (thus all steps would be baby-related steps) and, also, the more common meaning: you have to break big projects down into baby steps. Although my younger baby is on the verge of no longer being a baby, this one magically still applies as well.
The giant life lesson here, which I continue to learn over and over, is: Every giant life goal needs to be broken down into steps. Baby steps, to be precise. I’m reasonably sure there are no exceptions to this!
When I created my blog, I was in the midst of managing a million and one details around the fertility process: charting my cycles, choosing a donor, getting tests done, managing my finances, researching insurance, building a community, and keeping my inner circle up to date. Women who start thinking about becoming an SMC have no idea yet about the daily fertility-related to-do list of an active tryer- you mostly feel overwhelmed by the weight of the decision and alllllll the questions. Once you make the leap into actually trying to conceive (a giant psychic leap not to be underestimated), you realize that your life is now dominated by a calendar of steps. Today, the way I put my intention toward having a baby is by calling UCSF to ask if it makes a difference what time of day I pee on a stick to see if I’m ovulating. Tomorrow, I’ll be trying to have a baby by researching how to transport sperm from the sperm bank to the location of my IUI. The next day, I’ll be having coffee with a new SMC friend who is pregnant to compare notes. There is SO much waiting and so many steps seem incredibly distant from giving birth, but they all added up to… giving birth!
As we walked in to an ultrasound appointment to see how my follicles were developing in the lead-up to IVF retrieval, my sister met my nervousness with pure calm, “Picture yourself having the baby.” I wasn’t even pregnant yet! It felt so far away, almost unrelated. I was so fixated on the sub-goal of having enough follicles developing eggs. I had my baby boy under a year later in 2014.
Beez started sending me books about writing books in 2016 and 2017. She knew I had a book in me and that I didn’t know where or how to start. One day, I looked at one of them, a self-published book by a friend of hers called Published. It provided the structure I needed to get started- essentially: define the topic of your book, freely brainstorm notes on every topic related to your topic, organize the topics into chapter topics, create a detailed outline, then devote some chunk of time every day to writing it from start to finish. It was so much easier to write once I had a plan, until I got pregnant again and was too sleepy to wake up early…and I fell off the wagon.
Then, early in 2018 while I was on maternity leave, my friend J started inquiring about my book and whether I could work on it a bit while I was off of work. It sounded crazy but I decided to start writing for five minutes a day. I got into that groove. I found a writing accountabilibuddy, childhood friend Wig. We promised each other twenty minutes of writing per day. We checked in and gently chastised each other for missing a a day. I finished my first draft at the end of 2018. (It’s rough, it needs a lot of work… but it is written. And now I don’t know what the next step is so I’ll be taking my own advice here.)
Believe me, I am in shock that I accomplished this given current demands on my time. But it’s ALL because of baby steps. It’s the ONLY way to give birth to any big idea: writing a book, running a marathon, buying a house, starting a company, or accomplishing any of the other big life-changing, bucket-list life experiences and dreams we all have. It’s so hard to remember this- like, where do I start?
Start with five minutes a day. Start by brainstorming some initial steps. Make one of the steps info-gathering. Break that down into sub-steps like internet research, informational interviews, and joining an online community… I mean- those first five minutes are going to determine some exciting future five-minutes, which will lead to something else great. Always holding the vision of your end goal- it feels so freaking good to do these little steps, no matter how teensy. You’re on your way.
I write all of this as I try to move forward on a million fronts all at once… Once you get a taste of how incremental progress adds up, it’s hard to keep focused! Today, it was blogging. So there ya go.
And with that, I’ll wrap my Saturday morning at the gym and trudge hope through the (massive amounts of snow) to the products of all my past to-do lists- my sweetest kiddos. xoxo
Last night, I took a mental snapshot to write about later. We had just fed our pet betta fish, Yellow, three tiny pellets of fish food and we were sitting on the floor, watching him dart around the tank. I can’t believe how fun it is to watch him. Soothing. Chloe was in my lap in a poofy little white dress with springtime floral pastels and thick white tights, a tiny ponytail sprouting on top of her head, repeating the intonation from high to low (but not the words) of “Hi, Yellow!” Evan had already changed into the pajamas he feels make him look more like a cheetah (named “Jack”), which are actually a blue, black, and white pattern with red trim. Evan was busy making cheetah lairs out of pillows around the bed. I realized I was actually watching the fish like it was TV. Chloe pushed herself to her feet and did her wide-stance stepping over to my desk to start pulling on my mouse. Evan saw the opening and flopped into my lap. I told him that Yellow is a really cool fish, he picked a good one (he was the least colorful one at the store but very active). Evan said, “When we were in the store, he looked at me. So I knew I would take him home.”
So, you know, nothing really happened in this snapshot. And yet… it contains everything.
I try to take in these moments, as time flies. The baby is in that phase where I wonder how much longer I can call her the baby. She’s tall and walking, which I’m pretty sure is the definition of a toddler. Yesterday she slept later than we did, and made her morning appearance on foot. Evan started soccer one day a week. We’ve done soccer classes before but this is the first time he threw himself into it with full gusto. Every time the coach said, “Ready, set, CHEERIOS!” or “Ready, set, TWIZZLERS!”, Evan reliably laughed out loud. The class is at an elementary school which reminds me that kindergarten is right around the corner.
I read an article last year about how time actually does appear to speed up as we get older, something about how our brains ignore more and more of what it already knows. I would try to find it but I hear some restless tossing and turning in the other room and I might be about to have a munchkin joining me. I have to write fast these days.
I set the alarm for 5:30am this morning, but the baby wouldn’t let me get up until 6:15. She doesn’t wake up all the way, just starts giving protest pre-cries, threatening the full cry, while scrabbling her arms and legs, trying to find me (and the nipple), settling only once latched on. Once she’s in a deep sleep, I can unlatch. Today, I did the things that are hardest to do when she’s awake: shower, write, and enjoy my coffee.
I wonder how your New Year intentions are going thus far? Will you let me know? Mine are a bit all over the place because there’s so much I want to do with so little time. Choosing one task means postponing all the others. But I did have a revelation that I need to plan differently for daily practices vs. to-do items. Writing, like running, need to be regular, and the rest can be scheduled in here and there. I’m also open to evolving my goals. Last weekend, we were at the Museum of Science and Industry (or, as E called it initially, the “Museum of Science and Interesting”), and amidst the throngs of Sunday museum-goers, I ran into a guy who teaches an amazingly fun strength training class at the Y. He remembered me from two years ago when I was going to his class before getting prego and dropping out. I take this as a sign that I need to get back to that class.
I had a New Year’s resolution creep in on its own, without my setting the intention at all, and I’ve been enjoying it thoroughly: unsubscribing from just about everything that comes in to my email. My incoming email had gotten so out of control that I was missing important personal messages. So, now, every day, while on a call or to cleanse my palate between tasks, I bop over to gmail and unsubscribe those mofos. Feels amazing. Recommend!
Here comes the taller munchkin. “Is it OK if I post your Jack the Cheetah picture on my blog?” Small, sleepy voice, “Yeah.” Have a wonderful weekend, friends xoxoxo
HI GUYS! Happy 2019! I didn’t post on here for eight months. I knew it would be challenging to find the time once I went back to work as a mom of two, but honestly that hiatus was pretty much unplanned. I focused on other writing projects (my book!) when I had a free 20 minutes. But I missed the blog format which is where I can run free. And I missed you!
How are you doing! We are great. I have so many thoughts flowing as always with any New Year. The last half of the year was so packed with nonstop work deadlines, many baby milestones, celebrations, travel. Our national sales meeting, which for 100 years has been the first week of January, was moved to the middle of December. At the time, it was nuts. I brought the whole gang (both kids and our au pair) to Florida. In retrospect, though, now that it went beautifully and is behind us, it was a brilliant idea. I rounded the corner at the end of 2018 feeling… spacious. Nowhere to fly, no massive deadlines on the near horizon. I finished the first draft of my book (a self-help-y memoir) on December 31 and I’m ready to blog again.
With holiday downtime, I’ve moved my child care hours around so that I have 9am-noon covered for the last two Saturdays. I run on the treadmill at the gym listening to podcasts (today it was The Daily from Jan 2, highly recommend). Then I head over to my fave café where I write with earbuds in. Today, just before arriving at L!ve, I noticed that Eva Jo had posted a link to a free playlist: “1200 Years of Women Composers: A Free 78-Hour Music Playlist,” which is now streaming into my earbuds. When I run and write, I am the best version of myself.
It’s clear and sunny today, with a high of 50 degrees. It’s January 5. My baby girl turned one on December 11. Just as all humans are, she is incredible, a little flame of eagerness and warmth and desire and learning, with an edge of fiery frustration. She hugs you by leaning her head against your head. She has a lot to say, most of which hasn’t taken the form of words. She has a unique giggle reserved for her big brother. Her ice blue eyes came out of nowhere. Her emerging curls were predictable. She’s walking with more confidence every day, and crawling is almost over (sniff).
Big brother is tall. He’s strong and sensitive and visibly working at managing big emotions which I can see as his eyes change from sad to frustrated to OK again to mad in the space of 10 seconds. He’s moved on from fire trucks into a solidly dinosaur and superhero era. He’s very into science. He’s starting to notice the difference between boys and girls. He said yesterday, “I’m not super into girls, but I am super into Kiera.” He wanted a pet for Christmas and we ended up getting a pet betta fish named “Yellow.” The three of us gather around the tank at dinnertime to give Yellow three pellets of food. It’s exciting and he’s brought a lot of joy (ask me again once we’ve attempted our maintenance of the tank later today). We have a calendar on which we put big X’s whenever we’ve fed the fish, plus a sticker if morning and bedtime routines go smoothly (right now we’ve remembered the fish every day but the stickers are two out of three).
I started this with “New Year, More Me” because the “New Year, New You” concept has increasingly bugged me over the last few years and I’ve been thinking about this a lot. With kids, many of us work to separate the behavior from the person, i.e. we say, “Thanks for putting your dirty undies in the hamper!” instead of, “Good boy!” When someone thinks their self-worth depends on certain achievements, they feel like a deep failure when those achievements don’t or can’t happen.
So- why should this be any different with grown-ups? We all have desires and goals and yearnings to pursue happiness and fulfillment and accomplishments. But our struggles are not ourselves. We are all perfect and beautiful as we are now. And there is beauty in the struggle too; it simply doesn’t have to define us. Believe me, I am ALL ABOUT goal-setting and aiming high. Yet I never want to confuse my successes and failures in that department with my nonstop awesomeness as a human being. I share this as a way to reassure you of the same- YES: set New Year’s resolutions and dream big! And do not beat yourself up or feel like a dolt if it doesn’t go the way you planned, or if the house is still cluttered or if you went ahead and ordered the cheesecake or if you write every day for 10 days and then miss one. You can always reset. Or you can enjoy things as they are and skip the resolutions. The essence of you, there from your conception, is still here! That’s comforting to me. You can change behaviors, which can be brutally hard and ultimately super fulfilling. You can’t change who you are. We do not want a New You.
We want More You!
These were the thoughts in my mind as I sat down to scribble out a few ideas with 10 available minutes on the afternoon of December 31. How can I be the me-est me? Be truest to myself and my own individual strengths, wishes, dreams? Get in the flow, follow my path, insert all the metaphors here.
My friends have so many different (inspiring) approaches to this, from an annual slogan to an annual word to a set of well-considered goals. I love the resolution of one of my friend J: to memorize a new song in a different language once a month. My friend Wig said she just wasn’t in the mood this year. All approaches valid and approved.
My goals are a work in progress. As my kids are now 4 and 1, there’s a teensy bit more space for me, in which I begin, with baby steps, to emerge from the family cocoon to exercise, write, spend time with friends, consider the future. There are big ideas brewing. A lot depends on running and writing. I feel fortunate to be here.
One solid intention for the New Year, obvious and organic in its formation, was to pick up my blog again. In the interest of setting myself up for success, I won’t put a specific time increment on this… so let me just say: see you again soon! xoxo