A Creative Slump

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A funny thing has been happening recently… I’m feeling simultaneously eager to create and burnt out by everything I’m doing. I’ve long had a bad habit of being unable to let myself out of my own commitments to creative projects, and I’m in a bad cycle now. I feel like I’m half assing everything. Right now, I’m still slogging through my daily photos, trying to write here more, planning Project Life pages, printing photos for Ben’s baby album and updating a private blog for family with photos of Ben. I’m taking photos all the time, but I’m not happy with many of them. And then I’m using those half-assed photos over and over and over again – on instagram, in Project 365, on Ben’s blog, here, and in Project Life. I’m keeping up with it all, barely, but I’m not happy with much of it.

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I want to make time to take “real” photos again. I want to sit in my craft room and actually make some scrapbook pages with all these photos I’ve been printing. I want to finish crocheting the blanket I’ve been making for our newest nephew. I want to try NEW things. I want to make stuff to decorate our house. Oh, and I don’t ACTUALLY want to abandon any of these creative endeavors, either. I’m frustrated and I don’t know how to climb out of this rut.

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Obviously, I’m attempting to do too much (or feeling obligated to keep up with too much, for no reason other than that I started these projects and it makes me twitchy to think about abandoning them). I know that a lot of this frustration comes from the fact that any of this creating happens in ten minute bursts during Ben’s naps, or when he’s happily kicking in his bouncy seat next to me. Finding time for the “fun stuff” is still so hard, because there’s always laundry and dishes and bottles to make or clean when I have some time because Ben’s either sleeping or happy to chill for a bit.

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I don’t often allow for the fact that I’m still so new to all of this… still trying to fit the old Elizabeth in with this new one.

I know that a lot of this comes back to needing to define myself in this new role. Somehow, my brain is like “well you’re home so much now, there should be lots of time to do some crafts here and there!”. Except taking care of a little baby is a full time job, too. I wouldn’t expect to be fitting in crafts in the afternoon if I was still working in an office. So there’s obviously some sort of mental adjustment that needs to be made. And sure, I could use time in the evenings to do some of these things, but when Ben’s finally asleep, I want to flop on the couch (with a beer or two or three) and hang out with Dan.

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I’m not writing this because I want someone to tell me that my photos are still good, or anything like that. Mostly I’m just not sure how to figure this out. I debate giving up Project 365 fairly often, but I’ve got less than 100 days to go, and I’m taking photos all the time anyway. I waffle about giving up blogging (while also wanting to recommit to it). Ben’s sleeping and I’m typing when I could be putting Project Life pages together or making that fall wreath or editing photos or or or. I don’t know what the answer is. Am I looking for someone to give me permission to abandon some of these projects? Do I just need to give all of this a little more time, and be a little easier on myself? Would a weekend afternoon in the craft room while Ben hangs out with Dan help? Will it take me three days’ worth of naps to even finish writing this post? Your guess is as good as mine.

Ben’s Room

Since I left my job in May, I have been spending more time actually IN our house since we moved in a little over a year ago. Some of the rooms frustrate me, because all I see are un-decorated walls or the piles of crap in the corners. But Ben’s room is the happiest room in the house, and not just because it’s the only room I’d say was actually finished.

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I wrote about the before way back in February when I was pregnant, and we had just started painting. From the very start, I had very clear ideas about what I wanted the baby’s room to look like, boy or girl. Gray walls, white furniture, pops of bright, bold colors. It took time to collect and make and decide on all of the various pieces, but oh! am I happy with how it turned out. And even better? As Ben grows, I can tell he’s noticing things like the bold art and bright mobile (and, okay, I have to also say that the freaking ceiling fan is his favorite thing EVER) and that makes me so happy.

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Ben’s room gets great light, which helps the bright colors really stand out. We started with gray paint, white trim, and a bright yellow closet. The crib was the first thing we had in the room (other than the beloved red desk), and I like how simple it is. (I made the crib skirt out of pillowcases.) We ended up finding the dresser and night table at Target of all places, and they are made of actual wood (which is a lot harder to find – at an affordable price – than you’d think). We’re really hoping they last a long time. The glider is a bonus because it looks modern and cool but Dan and I BOTH think it’s comfortable. That orange ottoman was a last minute addition once the glider’s matching ottoman was out of stock, and I like the extra color it adds. My mom painted that tall bookcase white, and I can already tell we’ll appreciate having some extra storage. (Ben doesn’t even know toys exist yet, and they’re accumulating pretty quickly.) I spent a LOT of time trying to find the perfect rug… and this one is exactly what I wanted. (We’ve since bought two more in other colors/sizes for other rooms in our house-and so has my sister, because the price is insane for such a nice-looking, SOFT rug).

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I made the mobile using this tutorial, which I found on Pinterest. Hanging that mobile was by far the most difficult and frustrating part of this entire project, holy hell. It’ll be a looooong time before I attempt a project with fishing line again, and even longer before I’ll be able to convince Dan to help. But it looks great, and Ben loves it, which is so awesome.

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One of my favorite aspects of Ben’s room is the closet. We took the doors off and painted the inside of the closet bright yellow. (I was really nervous at first that the shade we picked was WAY TOO INSANELY yellow… but in daylight it is just right.) I think the lack of doors and the yellow make the room feel a lot bigger. The two little Expedit-like bookshelves are meant to be closet organizers, which meant they were cheap (and it’ll be easy to buy new canvas boxes to hide stuff away if we want to do that). For a long time, I was trying to convince Dan that we should hang a second rod for hanging clothes. I don’t know if it’s because we had a boy (maybe girls need more hanging storage for all their tiny dresses?) but that hasn’t seemed important since we’ve been using the room.

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I think I spent the most mental energy on the art wall, if I’m being honest. Countless hours on Pinterest bookmarking artwork, DIYs, gallery walls in other rooms. And I’m SO happy with how it turned out. The big poster print is a Conan O’Brien quote that I matted with bulletin board paper. I painted the four little canvases using washi tape and blue painter’s tape to achieve stripes (what else, I mean, really?). The balloon photo is one I took for a daily photo a few years ago, the letter b is from Anthropologie, and the whale print is from an etsy shop that I think has since closed.

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I like how the little square mirror echoes the black and white of the big poster, and Ben’s initials are painted in the same colors as the little canvases. I also covered his light switch cover in washi tape, because another little pop of color can never hurt.

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And in a way, the whole thing started with this blanket, which I began crocheting a month or so after I found out I was pregnant. I knew all along that I’d make my baby a blanket (it’s what I had in mind when I added “crochet a blanket I get to keep” on my 33 before 33 list, actually). I bookmarked pattern after pattern, and none of them felt good enough for my first baby, somehow. But I kept coming back to this pattern, and knew it would be a way to add lots of bright colors in a non-circusy way. Ben hasn’t needed it yet, but I’m hoping he’ll love it some day.

Putting Ben’s room together was really fun, and now that we spend so much time in there with him, it feels so perfect… not just because it feels complete, but because all the color is cheerful, and the gray and white are calming. It came together better than I could have pictured, and that makes me pretty damn happy.

On Working (Or Not)

The conversation about how we would handle child care started a long time ago, actually, way back when we were house hunting. It seemed crazy to be talking about day care vs staying at home when a baby was just a “someday in the future” hope, but it also seemed a bit crazy NOT to think about it, when we were about to sign up for years and years of mortgage payments. Our house hunt ended up having two main search areas: one that was closer to where I worked, and another area that was farther away, where we would think about a lower purchase price that we could afford on just one income, figuring that my commute would be pretty awful.

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We ended up finding our house in the latter area, and my commute was, in fact, quite horrible. It still felt crazy, and we knew we would have to think about things long and hard once a baby was a reality. And suddenly it was a very real reality, only a week after we moved into our house. We talked about it and then talked some more, and crunched and re-crunched the numbers. The (honestly shocking) fact was that my salary would barely cover daycare, without much remaining. Even when my maternity leave began in May, we weren’t ready to pull the trigger and say it for sure. But in early July, I told my boss that I wouldn’t be coming back to work. So it’s really real and officially official: I am now a stay at home mom.

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It’s a strange feeling, because I haven’t been in my office since May 2, so it’s not like other jobs I have left, where I had a last day, and I just didn’t go back after that. I’ve been home, both pregnant and waiting for Benjamin to arrive, and then with him, for four full months now, so my First Day as a Stay At Home Mom, The Day The New Era Began is hard to pin down, precisely. Truly, I’ve been doing it since Dan went back to work when Ben was two weeks old. It doesn’t feel entirely real, despite the fact that I’ve never had a break from working this long. Not being back for back to school made it more real, and writing this out makes it more real, but it’s so easy to get distracted and caught up in daily life with a little baby and not feel entirely connected to whatever “Real Life” even means anymore.

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I always hoped we’d be able to choose how we wanted to answer this question… but truthfully, I also always figured that I’d WANT to keep working. When I was younger, I imagined my life would play out neatly: first, I’d (finally!) figure out what I wanted to do with my life, and then I’d work hard to achieve career success. Somewhere in there, I’d find someone awesome, and we’d get married, and then we’d have a handful of kids with plenty of time before I got all 30 and old. Are you rolling your eyes as hard as I am? So obviously my life didn’t exactly pan out in that way. I wonder, sometimes, how a different career situation would change things… if I was on a path to advancement, or if I was still working as a librarian… but this decision was a lot less complicated than I always expected it would be, emotionally. Maybe that’s because I already abandoned librarianship, which was supposed to be The Thing.

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I worry that it’ll be difficult or impossible to start working again with a three? five? who knows? year gap on my resume. I worry about putting too much of a financial burden on Dan. I worry that I’m way too bad with money to be able to live as frugally as we now need to, that I’ll miss stupid shit like tossing a nail polish (or two) in the basket at Target for no reason other that I’m in the building, that big expenses like replacing my car or decorating/redoing rooms in our house or ever being able to go on vacation will be difficult or impossible. I worry that I won’t know how to make sure Ben is getting the enrichment and socialization and academic development he’d be getting in school. I worry that I’ll be bored and isolated, without any friends in our tiny new town. I worry that in a way, I’m taking the easy way out of my lifelong attempt to figure out what I should be when I grow up, by staying home instead of keeping at the quest.

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But also? Becoming a mom has clicked something vital into place somewhere in my head and heart. Even on the hard days, when he’s yelling in my ear and my brain is melting, it feels like I finally make sense, somehow. I’m so excited about all of the adventures we’ll go on together. I can’t wait until he’s big enough to go to the library for storytime and swing on swings at the park. I can’t wait for crafts and toys. Mostly I am just so, so grateful to be able to spend these days with Benjamin when he’s little. I know this time is truly a gift and the fact that being his mom is my primary job right now makes me feel so fulfilled in a way I haven’t ever felt before.

Summer Fridays

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One of my favorite posts last year was when I took photos documenting my path through a pretty normal summer Friday. And it may be the last Friday of official summer, but I really wanted to document what a Friday looks like for me now. Today was a good example of one of my more adventurous days (in that I left the house! Although I do try to get out a few times a week).

The day started with a very happy, chatty baby. He woke up on the later end of his normal range (around 6:30am) and I took over after Ben ate so Dan could get ready for work. We played a bit and worked on tummy time, and stared at the ceiling fan for a while. I managed to get him to fall asleep for a nap (30 minutes, as is the norm now) without too much trouble so I could take a shower. He ate again, and then we met up with my mother in law at the outlets. One of the stores there was having a pretty crazy Labor Day sale, and she offered to buy him his Thanksgiving outfit, so why not? We walked around a bit, and got some fresh air, which always feels good. (There are more days than there should be on which I just don’t leave the house and it is such a bad idea. It becomes so apparent when I go outside for the first time in too long, and the fresh air, no matter how hot or humid, feels like heaven.)

I stopped for a giant iced coffee (getting Dunkin Donuts is my treat these days) and then Ben and I went to the grocery store so I could buy ingredients for a side dish I want to try out for one of our BBQs this weekend. I even managed to keep the stroller moving at a steady pace while I was there so Ben stayed asleep. (I was hoping that I’d trick him into an extra catnap with the car trips there and back, and it totally worked. And then I realize how much of my time is spent strategizing naps these days and that… is just still so strange.)

When we got home, Ben and I both ate lunch, and then he kicked in his bouncy seat happily while I put ingredients in the crock pot for a new recipe I’m trying. I am feeling more accomplished than I maybe should for getting dinner going (an actual real meal! Not frozen pizza or take out or chicken on the grill! It’s been a loooooong time since we cooked for real.). And Ben can barely keep his eyes open playing with the monkey toys that hang over his bouncy seat, and falls asleep mid-swipe. He’s napping while I type this post (although 32 minutes in, he’s wide awake. It’s like he has a timer or something).

It’s funny; in some ways my Friday is exactly the same as last summer’s (I interacted with only a few people, I went on a walk, I got iced coffee…) and there’s some comfort in that. I kinda dig this new normal, though. Especially the part that’s snoring across the room as I type.

And just for fun, I leave you with this summer’s jam:

Just start.

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I am not sure that I know how to write here anymore, now that life is so different. But maybe I can figure it out if I just jump in. I’m typing this on my phone from the rocking chair in Benjamin’s room on a sunny summer Wednesday morning while he’s snoring softly in my arms. I know I need to start getting him to learn how to fall asleep on his own but once the overtired thrashing/nap fighting stops it’s nice to let myself just snuggle. I’ll probably regret these moments when he wakes up in a half hour, but… how can you regret sleepy baby snuggles?

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Time is fast and so, so slow. How are we almost done with August? But how, too, are weekdays so very long? (Of course, on the days I have big goals, weekdays can feel pretty damn short. Life now is just one giant contradiction, basically.)

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I drink a lot of iced coffee these days. Don’t ask about the totally klassy way I make it at home. All I want to do is work on my scrapbooks, but now that Ben is fighting naps so hard, it’s harder to find time. I am still limping through project 365, even though I hardly ever take out my dSLR. (Which is so bad. I miss it so much, and really need to break out of this photographic rut.) I’m trying to figure out how to start exercising.

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Benjamin at fourteen weeks old is just pure sunshine (except when he’s tired). He gets absurdly excited whenever we put him on his changing table (could the mobile I made be that much of a hit??) and spends a lot of time trying to get his whole hand into his mouth. He’s starting to notice toys, and is so chatty. I feel like he’s so close to laughing for real, although I admit I’m not sure how old babies are when they learn that. I’m sure I’m the millionth mom to say this, but I’m so excited for the next things – to hear his giggle and listen to what he has to say, to see if we’re right that he will be mobile before we’re ready – but I also want to completely stop time. He’s so stinkin’ cute now, and I don’t want time to go any faster than it already is.

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Life these days is slow and focused on a very little dude and truthfully? I’m just loving it. (It would be awfully nice if we could figure out this nap business, though.)

34 before 34

It hit me about a few months ago that I had completely forgotten about my 33 before 33 list. I suppose impending parenthood can sort of take over your life in that way. That list wasn’t a total bust, but because I forgot about it so thoroughly, I don’t think it’s really fair to consider it done. Some years, I plan my lists for weeks ahead of time, but today is my 33rd birthday, and I still want to do all those things I thought up last year. So I decided to start a new list for my new year. The first 19 items are from 33 before 33, and the rest are new or just slightly revised for this year. When I turned 32, I was a newlywed who had a lot of high hopes, and adding them to a list helped me feel a bit like they weren’t as crazy as they felt. Now I’m 33, and we bought that house and I had that adorable baby, and I need a list like this more than ever, as I’m learning how to be BOTH the new me who’s a mom and the old me who really needs to create. So here we are. And even if I forget about this list by January, I think it’ll be a pretty good year.

  1. go on dates with Dan
  2. host a party of some sort (dinner party, housewarming, football party) for more than 4 people
  3. shoot at least one roll of film each with the AE-1, instax, polaroid
  4. make a wedding album
  5. make wedding albums to give to our parents
  6. visit the ocean (at least 5 times)
  7. walk across a bridge in NYC
  8. visit a new local brewery
  9. make pom poms
  10. eat at Pete and Elda’s
  11. make quote wall art
  12. crochet a giant scarf
  13. get another tattoo
  14. hang a photo gallery wall in our new place
  15. go to a Patriots game with Dan to celebrate six years since our first spark
  16. make a new dessert
  17. get a sewing machine
  18. and sew something simple
  19. make a wreath for each season (summer, fall, Christmas, winter, spring) for our front door
  20. decorate the living room and the dining room
  21. write in a paper journal three times a month
  22. blog more
  23. learn how to be a mom
  24. try NOT to overthink things so much
  25. go on a photo excursion (by myself or with friends)
  26. thoroughly purge my closet (again)
  27. start building a new wardrobe
  28. collect more bracelets for an arm party
  29. grow out my hair
  30. plan an awesome first birthday for Benjamin
  31. eat healthy food and exercise (and okay, also lose weight) to really stave off diabetes
  32. keep up with Project Life and Ben’s baby album
  33. choose a positive outlook even when things are hard
  34. laugh more. feel the wind. go for walks. read books to Ben. savor the snuggles. tell Dan how awesome he is. love big. breathe deep.