Baby Steps

Today is the day that goes in the books.

 

Elle took her first, teeny, tiny baby steps!

 

She spent today with my Mom and when I was there dropping her off, enjoying the last few sips of coffee, there was one step forward and an abrupt end to the standing, falling hard on her ‘bum’.

 

And then, there was the standing and the falling. She’s wanted so, so bad to move forward. She’s been standing on her own for at least 7-10 days.

 

There were a few more ‘was that a step?’ scenarios.

 

And tonight, together with Jon, my Mom and Trevor, we confirmed that today is THE day that goes down as “Elle’s First Steps”.

 

MY BABY CAN WALK!

 

Well, that’s a heck of a stretch. She will be able to walk. But she took her first steps toward becoming a bi-ped! How exciting is that?!

 

And before dropping her off at my Mom’s this morning, I FINALLY captured her nine month photos (now that she’s 9 1/2 months).

 

So I’ve got super photos to share of her BIG milestone day. Not only that, she scored a well-baby shot for her nine month status and we confirmed (after a hand-wringing issue with ‘school’) that she does NOT have hand-foot-mouth (different from foot and mouth, for sure).

 

A bit blurry, but we’ll take it to document the day!

While my baby girl IS happy MOST of the time, I don’t want you to think she’s not a turkey every now and then. This morning was a cranky moment for our girlie.

 

Isn’t it crazy? She’s a walker now – I can buy the ‘walker’ foods in the baby food aisle. I know I should be wishing that time would go a bit slower – and I do – but I am just SO excited for all the things that are around the corner for us, the things to look forward to – big and small.

 

It is remarkable to watch, though, how learning happens, to appreciate it from afar. I mean, seriously. She started crawling – heck, I don’t even know when, but let’s call it six weeks ago. And she started standing and moving along the furniture in the last 2-3 weeks. And today – today – she took baby steps. My baby, taking her very first baby steps.

 

How incredibly cool.

 

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On Being a Woman in America

Trust me, I know I don’t have it rough.

But, I’m battling how America views mothers and women more now than ever before.

I am beginning a new job in a few days and even if I were in a position to WANT to have another baby — I simply CAN NOT think about it until I’ve been with any company for at least four months – Family Medical Leave Act (FMLA) only covers you once you’ve been working at a job for at least one year. Do the math, and that means you’ve got 3-4 months that you can absolutely not get pregnant and keep your job.

And if you think it doesn’t happen – I WATCHED it happen to a co-worker. When she came back from maternity leave, and she’d only worked for the company for 10 months, she was offered a crummy job on third shift after formerly being my counterpart. It never did feel right and she obviously chose to pursue something else — which is what the employer wanted. So yeah, it happens.

I wasn’t sold on breastfeeding and I stopped after three and a half weeks. I was struggling with it, I was tired and I wasn’t enjoying motherhood and my child in the ways I wanted to be. So, I stopped. But if I’d had more time off work, that would be a different story. My friend in the United Kingdom had months and months off work (I’m not going to say it was a full six/nine/12 months because I’m not precisely certain). She did not have to worry about returning to work within exactly 12 weeks of birthing her child – she had at LEAST six months (the length of time the American Academy of Pediatrics suggests you should exclusively breastfeed). That would have given me a bit of relief. But, with just 12 weeks of leave (which I had to drain my entire vacation bank to get paid 80 percent of my pay) I wasn’t willing to battle breastfeeding’s challenges knowing I wouldn’t be able to pump and/or breastfeed once I returned to my travel-heavy career.
I’m all about the power and potential of women in every career field imaginable. I’m all for empowering women. But I will say this: we have it horribly, terribly wrong in this country.

J. Ronald Lally at The Huffington Post wrote this in May of this year:

“In the United States, 70% of working women are mothers, and yet we are one of only three nations (out of 181 studied by McGill and Harvard Universities) that don’t have paid parental leave. It’s a fact we don’t talk about very much, and through our silence, we’re failing families. It’s about time we stand up and advocate for a nationwide policy providing paid maternity leave in this country.”

(Read the entire article here).

And here’s one from kellymom.com that captures a quick math approach to what it might cost the U.S. to take on paid maternity leave.

And every site I’ve searched to find information tries to frame the conversation differently – that it’s really family leave INSURANCE – as it would be something paid for just like social security. Which may make it less attractive to others but…well…it’s just the direction this country has GOT to head.

Well, and here’s an actual scholarly, researched study that touches on paid leave. Yes, it’s from 2007, but I don’t think that there’s a ton being done to push this particular issue in any meaningful way. But let me tell you, it’s meaningful to me and all my mothering counterparts out there.
Here’s a little taste of what the study says ON PAGE ONE:

“Out of 173 countries studied, 168 countries offer guaranteed leave with income to women in connection with childbirth; 98 of these countries offer 14 or more weeks paid leave. Although in a number of countries many women work in the informal sector, where these government guarantees do not always apply, the fact remains that the U.S. guarantees no paid leave for mothers in any segment of the work force, leaving it in the company of only 4 other nations: Lesotho, Liberia, Papua New Guinea, and Swaziland.”

Yeah, I thought it said Switzerland at first, which made me feel like at least as an American I had some respectable company. And then I realized it said Swaziland. Not Switzerland. No offense to Swaziland but I had a discernable not so good feeling after that realization.

The report goes on to say that paid leave for childbearing and childrearing, “improves economic conditions of families by increasing the long-term employment and earning prospects of working parents, especially by eliminating the wage “child penalty” mothers often pay, thereby increasing job security and ensuring consistent income.”

Hmmm…this paid leave sounds like it’s a good gig if you can get it. But not to worry, in the U.S., you can’t. And probably won’t. Maybe if I try hard enough, my daughter could enjoy those benefits when she chooses to have children of her own. Or, we’ll go the way of Swaziland.

And you can get paid family leave – everywhere but here and those four other countries I listed further up the page.

I recall a time a few years ago when an employee called in sick because he had to take his daughter to the doctor. I do not kid when I tell you that he had to take the day unpaid because it wasn’t for HIS care, so it wasn’t covered by his sick days. He was told that the next time that happened, he needs to say that HE is sick so that he is eligible to use his sick days.

Sick.

And wrong.

More from the McGill/Harvard report:

“Globally, the most economically competitive countries provide, on average, longer parental leave, as well as more leave to care for children.”

Hear that nay-sayers (who ARE the nay-sayers to this – doesn’t this just make good practical, common sense!)?

THE. MOST. ECONOMICALLY. COMPETITIVE.

That’s not the United States, in large part. Not saying that paid leave would instantly make us more economically competitive, but it would make us a more attractive place to live.

Oh, and don’t get me started on the fact that I was NOT able to refer to my leave as ‘maternity leave’ but instead as ‘short term disability’. I’ve ranted on this before, but being pregnant, birthing a child, and being expected to then breastfeed that child hardly rates as anything nearing a ‘disability’ but instead proves the very CAPABILITY of women in this role.

Heck, the Bureau of Labor Statistics from the U.S. Department of Labor DEFINES short-term disability by stating it is “also known as sickness and accident insurance, short-term disability plans provide full, partial, or a combination of full and partial pay to employees who are unable to work because of a non-work-related accident or illness.”

So, the U.S. government defines pregnancy and the resulting child as an accident – at least the ways in which an employer must handle the paperwork? Classic. Just…classic.

Here’s one from Forbes.com opinion column why “Card Carrying Capitalists” should back paid family leave. From that article… “That means 42% of mothers and 86% of fathers with employer supported leave received no income at all.”

And here’s a great resource on moving the agenda forward in paid leave from Family Values @ Work.

I don’t know – I’m exhausted just thinking about how challenging it may be to move the needle on this particular issue. But it needs to be moved, and rapidly. It’s craziness. And it’s got to stop.
Pregnancy and childbirth should not be classified as short-term disability. Employers should have some sort of contingency plan in place for the development of families, right? It’s not like anyone is ever surprised that people want to have children – so why do employers not plan better for it? We as Americans should not be listed with Swaziland for any reason. That is an embarrassment. And we should certainly, if we want to make women feel guilty for stopping breastfeeding, make it easier and less pressure to accomplish that task.

 

That’s all from the soapbox.

 

 

 

The Downstairs: A Project

Well, I mentioned it yesterday, but I wanted to show you what I’ve been working on at our house.

See, now that I’m going to be home more regularly and be here at the end of each day from what will be a demanding role, I want it to be HOW I want to come home to, you know?

So, this is what our bi-level walkout basement looked like when we toured the house before we bought it:

There are more photos, but you get the gist…dark paneling, sports themed, etc. Great party room that walks right out onto the patio area (which you’ve read about here and here and here) but in need of some TLC. Notice the obvious burn marks on the fireplace. The University of Michigan (Go Blue!) everywhere and the ode to golf. We do live on a golf course. For the dark paneling, there is actually quite a bit of light supplied from the dual-slider that walks out onto the patio.

So, this is what it looked like in October 2011, when Elle came home from the hospital with us!

It was over-run with baby-stuff, and we ended up re-arranging the furniture over the course of the year, but for the most part, we had a sectional leather black couch and glass-topped tables. We had dark paneling. And few pictures. Because I’ve thought the space was horrible and ugly.

We discussed drywalling, but that didn’t happen and I wasn’t prepared to devote that kind of money to that project (lots of others we need to devote resources toward).

So, I undertook painting after doing some reading on pinterest here. I had to paint the paneling, and I had to make it look nice. So, I did my homework. I followed her advice.

When I began, it looked like this (forgive the awful settings on my iPhone):

Then, I primed. Twice. And it looked like this:

And then, I painted it a very light gray with two coats (see the tape on the trim?)…and it looked like this:

And, to show you what the nearing-complete downstairs looks like, here are some up to the moment photos:

I simply switched the furniture from upstairs and downstairs. I have taken a stab at cleaning the fireplaces (more to come on that front) and I still need to paint the mantel.

I love the cottage-y feel there now. I love that it feels like a room I want to spend time in, where I can fall asleep on the couch (haven’t done that in months and months, I swear).

It’s not done yet. I want to hang my photo shelves, look for a bit more decor, hang the coat hanger/cubbie I ordered, finish a built in bookcase/cupboard to the right of the fireplace, mount the tv above the fireplace. Change out the electrical sockets and switches to all white with white switchplates.

We’re well on our way – not there yet, but well on our way. I’m so happy with the way that my investment of $180 in paint/supplies transformed this whole room!

Found Musings: On Death and Dying

I’m in the process of cleaning out notes and wrapping up loose ends for my current job and stumbled across this from sometime in 2008 or 2009 – need to slap a datemark on things I jot down… (I’ve included the original text in addition to the scan):

“The day her skirt fell around her ankles in the baking aisle of Arnie’s craft shop in Houghton Lake, she chose not to cry. She would not cry to me for three more years, on the Sunday afternoon she told me she was dying. My sobbing drowned out only by hers. And five weeks later, I could only howl when the news came that she’d died 20 minutes earlier.
She laughed – a lot. With her whole body, her head thrown back in sheer enjoyment of who and where she was.”

Thought I’d share it – wish I could get the inspiration to write like that again from time to time. Just haven’t had the time to get inspired lately.

Anyway, thought I’d share.
Enjoy.

L

I’ve Been Remiss

I’ve been gone for a looonnng time, too long, from my blog.

I miss it.

I miss seeing the stats that tell me that people (even if it is just my Mom and Andrea) are reading my blog.

But – I’ve been busy.

With what? you ask…

Well, landing a new job, for one!

I’ve got just four days left of the gig with my current employer and a full week of vacation off before I begin this new journey!

I’m not going to get into nitty gritty details here – but my title went from District Marketing Manager to Assistant General Manager. I went from traveling out of state each week to commuting 4.3 miles from my driveway to my office (which is further than those days when I’ve stumbled across the hall into my office chair). I changed industries, so I’m diversifying my resume while still putting my already-honed talents to good use.

Suffice it to say, I’m absolutely THRILLED about what this means for my life – our lives.

I already signed up for a Monday/Wednesday Bootcamp at the gym to get un-fat. Because I now know that I will be IN TOWN each day. I don’t have to plan my schedule around wanting to take a Zumba class or swim lessons or…anything, other than my traditional working hours. Can you believe it?

I can’t!

So, how did this all come about…

Heck, I think that I first heard about the new opportunity back before Memorial Day. And I had an interview face-to-face. And then some time went by. And some more time, and some over the phone interviews. And…well…they offered me the position that I SWEAR was made for me.

I did, however, make myself a list to remember why I wanted to not travel anymore…so that when the new job becomes a bear a few weeks in and I want to wonder ‘why’ I did this (this is my Mom’s advice…which is normally pretty spot-on) I’ll have a reminder of why I went on a selective search for a job that allowed a bit more stability to my work/life balance.

Only good is going to come of this – I just know it.

So, I’ve been remiss. I’ve been busy finding a new job, scoring a new job, wrapping up loose ends at my current job, and painting the basement (that’s a different post though).

I will promise that I’ll write more. I’m excited to write more. I miss this outlet – it’s therapeutic for me in many ways. So, I’m back. I’m sorry I left. It wasn’t on purpose and I won’t do it again.

Love,

L

Dear Elle: Nine Months Old

Dear Elle –

Time flies, and it really has gotten away from me in the last few weeks. You’re nine months old, can you believe it?! And there have been so many changes in my life that are going to (I hope and believe) positively affect your life now and as you grow up.

I scored a new job! No more travel overnight and away from you, no more crazy sleepovers with Grandma’s and Grandpa’s — only for fun nights, not because your Mom and Dad are working! I can’t even imagine all the ways that this is going to make our lives better!

You are a busy, busy girlie. You are crawling everywhere you could possibly want to go, your Dad and I are learning how to say ‘NO’ a LOT and how to re-direct your short attention span (though, I swear, you can remember exactly what you’re NOT to touch somehow!). You’re pushing the little walker toy things around the house and you stand up very well on your own and often I’ll find you standing, not holding on to anything, because you haven’t realized you’re not holding on anymore. I think you’ll walk soon — but who knows.

Which brings me to teething — you haven’t sprouted any teeth, yet/still. Which is odd, I think. Nine months old and no teeth? But, you are trying more and more foods every day and the absence of teeth is ok by me. Soon enough, all these things will happen – the teeth, the walking.

You absolutely LOVE the water still — swimming in Clear Lake last weekend for the first time was something that you and I both enjoyed, together and it meant the world to me to be able to share that place with you. You love the bath, the bath tub, the pool, the lake. LOVE it.

It has been incredibly HOT this summer, which means that we’ve spent more time indoors than I would have liked thus far, but it’s SO HOT.

Your Dad just got a new job, too. He switches jobs a lot in his job, but now he’s working on building a wind farm, which is pretty cool too.

You are the funniest girl, I swear. You just crack me up. You think you’re funny, too, which just makes me laugh. I was thinking about it earlier tonight, and you are (and have been) such an easy baby. On a variety of levels – we haven’t ever really had to use diaper cream because you’ve never really had diaper rash (knocking on wood…). You don’t nap great, but you actually do sleep pretty well. You’re mild mannered, you eat anything we put in front of you. You love music and dancing and singing.

You’ve begun babbling in a more nuanced way, too. Lots of babababa’s with different tones. Lots of screaming at very high tones, too. Which isn’t great, exactly. We went out to eat at Tiffany’s in Frankenmuth last week with you Grandma Wendy, Dad, Uncle Trevor and Ashley and you sat in the big girl high chair and ate your puffs and Lil Crunchies (they’re just cheese puffs) and you would periodically scream. Which, I didn’t think a ton of, until we were walking down the sidewalk and a couple stopped us and said ‘oh, she doesn’t have anything to say now!’ and then I realized that they had obviously been at the restaurant with us and listened to your high pitch entertainment. Oops. 🙂

Right now you weigh about 19 pounds – I have no idea how tall you are. You seem so big – you’re learning so much every day – but you’re still really so little.

I just can’t believe that it’s been nine months already/it’s only been nine months. We’ve made so many memories already and there’s so much more to come, too!

I cannot tell you, girlie, how much I love you. You make my heart full.

 

Love,

Mom