Happy!

9 Apr

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There are a lot of things going really well for us right now (as well as continual drama), and I think it is important to remember the little happinesses that occur every day. So here’s some of the things that are really, really good around here:

N is learning at a rapid rate–every day is a new adventure with him! He’s learning new words and new things (like his alphabet) and he’s always curious!

I’m not teaching this quarter!!! And yet I’m being paid for it :) This is the great benefit of teaching a double load last quarter. My key task for the next 2 1/2 months is to collect data for my dissertation (an instructor focus group, student survey, student focus groups, follow-up individual interviews, and analyze the curricular materials and some essays from the course i’m studying). No biggie.

I really like my dissertation topic. It’s concrete yet connects to many of the important debates in my field right now. It’s easy to talk about and I think the things I’m studying and talking about are readily applicable to virtually all classrooms. This is a great thing for when I go on the job hunt (the “market”) this fall.

Can you believe it? I’m going on the market this fall?! I’ve had a lot of anxiety about it (Because of the lack of publications, lack of much on my resume for the past year or so while my personal life melted down) but after settling into a new pace (and getting some new things on my resume), I’m feeling excited about it. Which brings me to my next point…

In March I went to 2 conferences and it was a GREAT experience! The first I got a grant to attend, but didn’t have to present anything, so it was a stress-free way to learn about my field. It’s the main conference for what I do, so it was really wonderful to make connections across the field and prepare for next year when I really do need to be contributing. It was also fun to fly to Indianapolis and see a new city (not amazingly impressive, but what city is from the perspective of a conference hotel?).

One of the key things I learned is that I’m one of a few people who does what I do. In fact, one of the top research universities in the US was looking to hire someone just like me last year and couldn’t fill the spot (because they’re waiting for me, I’m sure). So now I have a target in mind and I’m already beginning to work on my job materials for this fall.

Sunshine and spring weather is here – we’ve had weather in the 60s and sunshine, which warms my soul. Today, N started “developmental preschool” which will include his speech therapy and also some special education which should help him get caught up on some of the skills where he’s a bit behind and work through some of the emotional stuff related to his dad. It was new to him so there were some rough moments with the new place and new expectations, but he had a blast playing in their indoor gym. He’s kind of a daredevil–when he first learned to go down the slide, he went head first. Well, today, he learned how to swing on a little trapeze and LOVED it!

We also went to the zoo today. I renewed my membership so we can go weekly while my schedule is open and flexible. I’ve quickly realized that its really difficult to entertain him all day for days on end. He’s SO energetic and he hasn’t even been napping well recently. We both do better if either a) he goes to preschool or b) we have a busy day of fun plans. So I really need to plan outings into our schedule. We need to enjoy this time because, fingers crossed, in just over a year I’ll have a full-time real job!

I’ve been cooking a lot again and I started running! I ran with N in the stroller on Sunday morning and it went ok – I can run 3-4 min straight before my heart rate goes up and I can’t exactly breathe. So I’d run, then walk, then run, then walk so that I can slowly build up my endurance. Although we walk a lot, it’s amazing the muscles you use if you run–my thighs were sore, my back was sore.. . . so hopefully this will help me burn more fat and tone my body more. It’s nice to build up my my physical strength. Tonight was a shorter run, but even short runs are important for building endurance :)

So, many things to keep me busy and happy! After 6 months on our own, we are thriving :)
And, now some pics from today:
Preschool

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Zoo!

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2.5

7 Apr

IMG_0213N is now two and a half, and I can’t let this milestone pass without an update. He’s made so much progress with speech in the last 6 months. He is growing up to be the sweetest boy, shy and observant in new places, wily and gregarious at home. March also marked 6 months as a family of two, and although the drama is ongoing, we’ve settled into a happy little life together.

I’m gonna be posting a lot tonight (mostly because posting happens in fits-and-starts) but it’s better to get things written than leave them ignored since this is the chronicle of a childhood.

So, N at 2 1/2!IMG_0370IMG_0247Nicknames: Angel, Muffin, buddy

Temperament: We’ve reached a nice balance between tantrum-land and not really speaking up at all. N has opinions and he vocalizes them, but he’s getting much better at using words and gestures to communicate. Even his preschool has commented on how sweet he is and how much he’s grown in the past 6 months. He really is growing up! Running, climbing, and wrestling are still his favorite games. By far, he prefers to be outside and doing something. We LOVE the wildlife area right by our apartment where we can walk and look at birds and water. Despite this physicality, N is getting better at playing with cars and trains quietly by himself. As usual, when he’s fussy or cranky, there’s a reason behind it.IMG_0174IMG_0153What we’re eating: I’ve been trying to sit down and eat dinner with N every day because I think it’s a good routine and model of healthy habits, how to use utensils, etc. BUT N doesn’t really like real food :) He still prefers carbs and proteins to fruits and veggies. He is getting more curious, so he’ll try some new foods sometimes. Likes sweet potatoes, blueberries, bagels, waffles (fa-fa!), eggs, chicken (sometimes), veggie burgers, raisins, cereal, graham crackers. .. anything with peanut butter & jelly or nutella.

What N’s Saying: Happily, the word list is getting longer and longer! He mimics a lot and he’s picking up more complex words. He’s also putting multiple words together for meaning (awa-off means “water off” – which to us, means that the fountain he really likes to visit is turned off right now). Tonight, we learned ice cream (aye -ee). He now says hi to people we pass on the street, bye at stores to strangers, and points out airplanes, birds, tractors, etc. He often drops the beginning or end of words (awa, not water) and doesn’t pronounce a lot of consonants. But he’s getting the idea of speech and we have our own little language :)

He spent the last few weeks with grandma and grandpa and he does so well with them! I think he just loves being the center of their attention :) He always picks up a lot of words when he’s with them–and they understand him too, so that’s a good thing!IMG_0335Playing with his kitty!IMG_0233Meeting “Dubs” our university mascot

Things I Could Do Without: 8am wake-ups? Now that I’m not teaching this quarter (in order to work on my data collection), I’d love to sleep in just a bit. Maybe in a few weeks we’ll settle into a later routine. More than that, N is SO energetic, but it’s taxing to be moving at his pace all day. Right now he’s obsessed with playing outside at all times, and he loves to play outside the apartment. But we’re right next to a parking lot, next to a busy street, so I have to constantly monitor what he’s doing so it’s difficult to get anything done. He is going-going-going all the time and is even taking shorter naps, so I find that I’m using all my energy just to keep up with him, never mind cooking, cleaning, or getting my own work done. Tomorrow’s a preschool day, so it’ll be a nice break.

Things I Love the Most Right Now: N is my little buddy, my little shadow. I love his personality, and now that we can communicate better we do fun little things together–like going out for ice cream before bed, hiking, chasing ducks, climbing trees…IMG_0283IMG_0282Item/Toy N Loves The Most: Choo-choos! He currently really loves trains: we watch Thomas on Hulu, play with train sets, and my mom even found my brother’s old train sets to play with while visiting. He has a choo-choo blanket he sleeps under and enjoys sleeping with his trains. Or airplane. Or car. IMG_0408IMG_0365Silly uncle Mike!

The past couple months have been busy. We went to a protest in support of Ukraine together & Mama was on TV speaking about Russia’s involvement in Ukraine. IMG_0142 IMG_0141Little patriot! 

We drove out to visit the grandparents, exploring practically every rest area along the way. Every day is an adventure!IMG_0328Hiking in my hometown. At Christmas we made it only a short hike. This time we went with Uncle Mike, and although N went most of the way on my back, he definitely enjoyed playing in “Devil’s kitchen” at the end.IMG_0450 IMG_0449 We have many more adventures planned: Wednesday we’re starting developmental preschool through his speech therapy school. Since our schedule is more flexible, there’s no harm in getting a little bit more support (and another activity on the calendar–for free). I’m also going to renew our zoo membership so we have another place to go as the weather gets nice. I’m considering swimming lessons, but I’m not sure if the logistics will work out. I’ve started running with N in the stroller, and we plan to run/walk a 10k with my bro & daddy-o in June, so we’ll be spending plenty of time outside.

I want to model a healthy, active, adventurous lifestyle for my son. Not just say it, but do it every day. I’m not perfect–most of Feb and March I ate quick freezer meals and N lived on “fa-fa” (waffles), but bit by bit, we are living better and living happier. And with the drama that still flitters in and out of our lives, that in itself is a victory :)

Celebrate!

4 Mar

I have a lot to celebrate this week – over the past week or so, I’ve gotten a lot of academic work done: I’ve finished my dissertation prospectus (research proposal), submitted proposal to a major theoretical conference in my field, completed an application for a TA-ship in a different–related–program for next year, and co-wrote a fellowship proposal with a faculty mentor.

Over the weekend, I got an email confirming that I have a spot teaching an annual month-long (very well paid) awesome course (that also happens to be the site of my dissertation research), and not only will I be teaching, I will be a lead instructor. Hooray! I’m finally being recognized for being capable and smart!

Today, I successfully “defended” my research proposal to my committee. It wasn’t so much a defense but a fun meeting with 4 of my favorite people/mentors talking about the academic work I will soon be undertaking. I’m left with new ideas to ponder (and the realization that now I have to actually DO the research. Ugh).

So I have a lot to celebrate! I’m on the brink of finally doing my dissertation research! I have a really exiting project that my mentors say is really offering something to the field! I’m getting my confidence back in my academic abilities and I’m really on a roll–connecting to a national conversation. And I love that my proposals are GOOD – not the half-assed crap I’ve put together in the past because I can’t get my act together (or I have life-drama intervening). It is so nice to be able to work and focus.

BUT

Despite the fact that I hit a major milestone today (over a year in the making!), I’m sad that I don’t really get to celebrate it. My family is happy for me, but they’re far away. N was so tired from a full day in preschool that he took a ‘nap’ at 6pm and hasn’t woken up. We went to the store, thinking I’d grab some treat or yummy food but nothing sounded good/was worth the money/calories. It was actually nice to acknowledge that I don’t need to celebrate with food, but it’s really sad to not be able to mark the occasion. Pop some bubbly, right? So that’s the slightly depressing take-away.

So, instead, I caught up on Ukraine drama, re-heated some yummy salmon & spaghetti squash, graded some papers, and soon I’ll curl up with my book on Stalin. But before I end the night wallowing in misery, some pictures of the fun we’ve been having over the past couple weeks:

IMG_9880 IMG_9891 IMG_9913 Valentine’s PartyIMG_9906 Cute kissing, umm, tropical animal. I forgot what it is, but it’s sure cute :)IMG_9926 Teaching N the culinary delight of french fries in ice creamIMG_9963 IMG_9975 IMG_9992 IMG_0001 IMG_0011 IMG_0098

In the Silence

7 Feb

The past few weeks have been pretty dramatic around here… Not really by my choice, but by the ex doing his usual manipulation and preying on my good will. After returning from Montana over Christmas (which I still haven’t blogged! Gotta get on that!), the he wormed his way back in to my apartment/life by slowly staying longer, making excuses, and well, by being nice. I had a pretty sweet deal: he washed dishes, bought food, and watched N when I needed to run errands. He got to work in peace during the day where all his equipment was stored (and not have to haul it around) and occasionally sleep on my pink couch.

But, in very short order it became clear that he was back for good–pretty much moved in to the center of my living room with no plan to get out. Any money he had was blown on alcohol, cigarettes, gas for his f’ing car, clothing and fancy food products. Meanwhile I’m paying his car insurance, car loan, and putting a roof over his head? To make matters worse, he started to cycle back into the abusive behavior. First, the friends he was “staying” with decided to divorce so he appeared at my door one night at 3am ‘lost’ and feeling awkward. So thats how he got back in. Then he told stories of how crazy they are–impulsive plans, crazy parents, the wife wanting him, playing her off me, etc. and then when I told him he ended to start paying for his expenses (not to mention rent) he started the yelling. Honestly, I don’t remember what triggered it, but last a couple weeks ago I kicked him out.

That didn’t go well–he finally packed his things and was out by 8pm. I had a glorious evening by myself (I cleaned. Everything around him turns to shit, including my housekeeping, but that’s because he’s an inconsiderate slob AND he sucks up any peaceful time when I might actually be in the mood to clean). And then, at 1:30am he was back. This process continued for another week. He’d be nice, I’d kick him out, he’d be back. Finally, after one rough night when he was back to his old self (berating me for hours on end for perceived evils – like a chihuaha – yip! yip! yip!), I had enough. I got up the next morning and told him I wanted him to leave that afternoon, forever, so start packing. I went to campus for a meeting and ran into a friend/mentor and when she asked how I was doing, I cracked. I spilled everything.

She took one look at me, brought me back to her office and instructed me to get him out now. To get family housing on the line and have them help me. To contact my university’s police department to back me up if he doesn’t comply. So I cancelled my meetings and headed home. I told him to pack and he did. At that point, he didn’t know that I had backup, but he still went willingly. After he left, I talked with our community advisor and with the PD to explain the situation.

He was gone for almost a week, when, after a week of building up lies about how crappy his friend’s couch was, he decided to show up here again in the early morning. I guess he was crazy all night (bitching to the friend) and packed his things at 6am. She texted me to say he was coming, and he knocked right around 8am.

I ignored him and he went away. At 8:40, when he knew we’d be up and heading out for school, he knocked again and N immediately ran to the door. I had to let him in, but I immediately informed him that he couldn’t stay. He said he wanted to stay for a couple weeks. ‘Till he had some money. ‘Till he could get his own apartment. I said no. He beat on doors and yelled at me. N started throwing things. It was not good. Somehow I managed to get N dressed for school and out the door, while the ex followed us and helped put N in the car. When I drove away, the ex was standing next to his car and was on the phone.

I was shaken and mad, but I had a plan: that day I had a meeting with the victim’s advocate with the PD to discuss options, so I just had to get thru one class then I could deal with the situation. When I arrived at daycare, I saw that it was closed due to lack of heat in the cold building. Frustrated and out of options, I cancelled class and drove down to the PD to get this sorted out.

I was able to immediately meet with the victim’s advocate and we got an officer to head to my apartment to see if he was there. I figured he’d be in the parking lot, but come to find out, he was inside. Even though he doesn’t have a key, he unlocked the door as he followed us out. He had made himself right at home, bringing bags in and making himself tea.

The officer kicked him out and I had to go back, with the advocate, to check that he hadn’t stolen anything. I will forever hold the image in my mind of the man I married standing in the middle of the parking lot with two police cars and 4-5 cops surrounding him. I guess he was compliant. I didn’t talk with him. I confirmed that nothing was missing and left.

I haven’t seen him since.

After this incident, he seems to have gotten the message that I am serious: we are divorcing, I won’t put up with his treatment of me, and I am no longer supporting him. He has been banned from the family housing territory (as in if he shows up, he will be arrested). So far it seems like enough, but if he has even one misstep, I’ll get a domestic violence protection order through the courts.

We have had some correspondence via email and he has talked with N. Tomorrow we’re meeting him near his place (with a friend) so he can spend some time with N and wrap up some business details.

But back to the title of my post: In the silence…

Without him, things are silent. Even more silent than when he was abroad (because he still harassed me from there). In the peace and quiet, I am getting so much work done. I have almost completed my dissertation proposal and it is exciting work! I have hired a lawyer (well, legal intern via my student legal services) to represent me in the divorce. I’m making arrangements for N to start a preschool at his Early Intervention center (we think with everything going on, he could use more support for speech and development). I’m almost done filing taxes (the last time ever with his self-employed bullshit!). I have a proposal out for a fellowship. I have made travel plans for two conferences (Oregon! Indiana!) and am working on proposals for others. I am making my career happen and it feels good.

In the silence, I dream. I have always aimed high, always having a plan A, plan B, plan C. I have been incredibly fortunate in this life, but a lot of my fortune and adventure come back to the fact that I’m always reaching out and pursing opportunities. This bad marriage shut down my dreams, and it is really wonderful to get this part of me back. In the silence I can think. I can dream. I can take care of myself.

Muscle memory

7 Feb

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This week has been crazy and eventful and I need to blog it for a lot of reasons. But for now, just a fleeting thought.

Today I had to go to campus for a couple errands and the sun was shining on a very cold day. I thought it would be fun to get some fresh air, so I loaded N onto my back, tossed my book-bag w/laptop across my chest and set out. It’s a quick 10-min walk down a road, across a huge parking lot and up a ton of stairs to get to my building on the top of a hill. It was amazing to move my body, breathe in the crisp winter air and to feel the snuggles of my baby on my back.

And that’s when the memory hit–I felt the burn in my legs and the dull ache between my shoulder blades of a pack a bit too heavy. As I juggled the straps of a backpack with a cross-body book-bag: this felt like life 10 years ago when I was free and traveling across Europe. First Western Europe (and Australia) as I studied in The UK for a year, then Eastern Europe as I did the Peace Corps. It felt the same way as when I was young and free and had all my worldly possessions on my back.

Instead of bringing me down and reminding me of all the problems of this week/month/year, this realization, this muscle memory, reminded me that it will all be ok. Today, too, I had all my world on my back and even now, I am FREE!

Peace and Quiet

31 Jan

Since December, life has been crazy. It’s been a combination of fun-crazy (Christmas in MT with the fam), busy-crazy (teaching 2 writing classes and doing dissertation stuff) and crazy-crazy (the ex.).

I don’t want to go into the play-by-play of it all, but I’m finally settling back into a calm, peaceful routine. I *think* I’ve worked everything out with the ex where he respects my space/boundaries while also being in N’s life. I have built enough structure into my classes so that when life gets a little crazy, I don’t look crazy and unorganized to my students (case in point – my fall teaching evals were some of my best yet and my life was falling apart). We’ve had a stomach bug roll through and a cold that is verging on bronchitis (for me), yet we’re still doing ok. Professionally, things are going really well. Really, really well. I feel like the end is in sight, even if it’s still a year and a half away, I can see how to reach graduation, job, etc. Boy, am I going to celebrate!

I also found out about legal services at my university where law students give legal advice for cheap, so I’m most likely going to go that route to actually get divorce filed. It’s hanging over this relationship where the ex still hangs on because nothing is official. . .yet I’m so done that I’ve actually been on a couple dates. Once it’s filed, I think he’ll finally ‘get’ it and I can truly start moving on.

I’ve been thinking a lot about moving on. It was fun to go on a couple dates (though both were duds). It was good to a) see that there are other fish in the sea b) see that I’m desirable and c) talk to other human beings, who aren’t toddlers or crazy. I also realized that I have a lot of stuff to work out before I go back out to date for real. The amount I talked about the ex was atrocious, so I need to learn to talk about myself and relationships without talking about him. I wear my heart far too much on my sleeve and I think I need to figure out boundaries. . . that is, I open up too much and then I’m a total bitch when I shut down. I need to learn how to equalize my openness and my emotions so that it’s not one or the other. Luckily, it’s pretty much pointless to date over the next year since I need to work overtime to finish my PhD, find an amazing job, and get the hell outta here and build a new, amazing life wherever it is that i’ll be working (Academia is so weird that way…). Once I know what that life will look like, I can think about finding someone else to share it with.

For now, more than anything, I am so thankful for peace and quiet. N thrives in routine and kind love. My academic work comes from calm thought. The ex and I are toxic together and it has been a really difficult process for him and me to get him out (both in September and more recently, after he returned back and figuring out where boundaries needed to be set). So for now, I am savoring the calm and hoping that this balance keeps.

N at 28 months

17 Jan

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My little boy has been so delightful lately – he seems like such a little grown-up with so much personality – that I can’t help but post an update for posterity (and for his next baby book).

Nicknames: Snuggle-bug, snuggle-puppy, muffin, angel

Temperament: Alternates between being a really sweet, curious boy and being a cranky frustrated boy. As he develops his own mind about things, it is becoming clear that N is really easygoing and happy, but he has strong opinions about things. Sometimes he just wants things a certain way, and if you don’t do it (or know what he wants) he’ll scream, cry, or best of all, throw himself on the ground. He’s also very physical in his feelings: when he’s excited he’ll run up to you with open arms (or if you’re holding him, he’ll hit you in the face or bonk his head in joy. It’s great he’s so excited but can be painful) or if he’s mad he’ll thrown himself on the ground, biting the thing that offended him. He also takes his anger out on mama, by grabbing my hair or sticking his fingers in my mouth. When he’s really mad, he’ll knock chairs over or throw the toy that frustrated him. Such big emotions for such a little boy!20140117-230811.jpg

But these things are few and far between. Most of all, N is a happy delight! And when he is frustrated, I usually come to figure out that there’s a reason behind it: he’s not feeling well, he wanted something I couldn’t figure out, he was hungry, etc. And once I figure it out, he’s back to being my little sweet angel.

What Baby’s Eating: He loves bagels, raisins, cheese!, waffles (with syrup), graham crackers, blueberries, spaghetti, sometimes chicken & other meats, chocolate milk, and sweets. He likes one specific kind of veggie burger so I keep that in the meal rotation quite often. He also likes sweet potato tater tots and meatballs. Loves Chicken McNuggets, is so-so on other chicken nuggets. He also likes Thai noodles and Indian dishes (as long as they’re not TOO spicy. His instincts are definitely not towards the most varied and healthy diet, but I think I do an ok job of keeping it varied and healthy.

What Baby’s Saying: As I posted previously, we’re finally getting our language explosion! Hooray! Most of his sounds are related to ba and sha. He has great intonation: he says baby and bye-bye perfectly. He says bath-time as kind of a ba-sha that rhymes perfectly. Open is ba-ba but it rhymes with open. Hard to explain (or decipher) without knowing, but once you hear it, you know exactly what he’s saying.

Since he’s raised with Russian, I think his great sounding fricatives (sh, fa, j) come from that exposure. He definitely needs more sound diversity, but we’ll get what we can take :) He also still prefers function words (doesn’t say a lot of nouns, more verbs and prepositions) but he’s kind of an all-business kind of guy.

Things I Could Do Without: The mysterious crankiness and tantrums. It’s hard to be 2! But as I said before, they’re usually caused by something–tiredness, hunger, thirst or a communication breakdown.

Item/Toy You Love The Most: Hmm, this is tough. For the first time in your life, you have too many toys :) I say this in the best possible way – we’ve always limited toys because you have always been happy with a few simple things. But now that you’re getting into pretend play, I want to have more toys to support that.

You love driving cars around, especially this old, broken hand-me-down car that makes noises. You love driving that, and other cars, around the house, under-foot. In the bath, you love pouring water from cup to bucket to watering can. You also love driving cars in the bath (with a small bath ‘shelf’ used as a ramp).

You love your stuffed animals, especially a duck puppet, a fox mom and baby, a stuffed sock monkey and your baby. And your seahorse that plays music and glows. You’ll often wake up in the morning or from nap with your arms full of your babies.

Things I’m Loving Most Right Now: Your personality! You’ve really grown into a person. I think I see it so clearly now that your dad is around again. Since he hadn’t seen you in 3 1/2 months, he knew you as someone else. I can really see your growth reflected in his eyes.

I think what stands out the most is your independence and your sweetness. You climb steps on your own. You know who you want to play with and when (And if it’s not your turn he’ll say bye-bye and walk you out of the room). You love kisses and I’ve seen you kissing animals on TV and at the store. When you said goodbye to grandma and grandpa after our Christmas visit, you gave them lots of kisses all on your own. When you saw your papa after missing him for over 3 months, you immediately said “hi” and kissed him. You are so deeply, genuinely sweet and your independence only makes it sweeter. 

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