Tuesday, October 27, 2015

Counting Blessings

One of my favorite things about being self employed is that not being able to fall asleep is actually kind of pleasant. No longer do I have to lay awake wondering if I made a mistake on a job. Is that carpet going to ship on time? Is someone going to chew me out today for something I have no control over? You would think I would still find things to worry about, but no. This morning I fed the baby at 4 am and had a hard time falling asleep again, but I was happy as a clam under my down duvet in my drafty old house, thinking about how fortunate I am.

One of the things you hear over and over when you have a baby is "enjoy every minute. It goes by too fast." I was thinking this morning that I'm so grateful to be self employed, and to enjoy my work, because it really does allow me to treasure every day. We only plan to have one child, so I take a moment every day to remind myself that there is never going to be another day like today. I think that if I still had a stressful job, if I still had to be at an office at 8am Or Else, I wouldn't have this appreciation of the small things like early morning snuggles, the way she sticks her butt out and grabs my neck like a baby monkey when we go down the stairs, and her bright eyes intently studying my face.

I was telling Francis the other day that I nearly always cry when I hear Mumford and Sons song The Wolf, even though it has been on the radio every two hours for six months now. It's always this part:

Leave behind your wanton ways
I want to learn to love in kind
Because you were all I ever longed for

Hold my gaze love, you know I want to let it go
We will stare down at the wonder of it all

And I-I will hold you in it and I-I will hold you in it

I don't like to get into the meaning of lyrics, but I think that I get so emotional when I hear this song because my brain deeply associates it now with all the emotions leading up to Lilly's birth, and then the other side of it, actually being a parent and having this baby that I stare at in wonder every day. The bridge of the song is a crescendo that feels like Marcus's heart is exploding, and that really resonates with me right now.

Sunday, October 18, 2015

4th Trimester: Officially Over!

Dear Lilly

Today you turned 3 months old! I wasn't sure what to say about this month, so I stared at the screen for a bit before taking a break to feed you. That was when your dad said to me, "You're so good at this." He did not know I had started this letter, and I started laughing. This was the month where I doubted everything and didn't feel like I was good at anything.

At the beginning of this month, I suspected you had lost some weight, which is hard to guess at when you only weigh 9lbs. Typing out the whole saga would ultimately be pretty dull, so the nutshell version is that we've had four weight checks with the pediatrician and two meetings with a lactation consultant in the past month. For whatever reason, my milk supply had dropped, and we spent most of 3 weeks at home trying to solve the problem. Two days ago was the first time Dr Kebler was ok with waiting two weeks for the next check, and today was the first day where I was fully confident that you were getting enough milk again without frequent pumping and supplementing.

Through it all, Dr Kebler said that you were perfectly healthy and hitting all your milestones. You have been happy and smiling and even started laughing this month. Everyone thinks you are adorable and the lactation consultant asked how I ever get any work done when you are hamming it up. You might just be a skinny kid, and that's ok! It does make it tricky to find pants, though. 3m size pants fall off your skinny butt and newborn pants, if we can even find them, are too short.

I never thought that I would care either way if I couldn't breastfeed, but those hormones are crazy. There were points this month where I wanted to give up, but at the same time my brain was telling me that was not an option, and woe to the person who said "formula" to me. I still think that moms should not feel like they have failed if they can't continue to breastfeed, but now I understand why it is sometimes so upsetting for them. You just can't help it.

Of course, I have selfish reasons for wanting to exclusively breastfeed. It's so much easier to go on adventures! Even though pumping and bottles kept us at home more this month, you still went to two vendor shows with me, we got a Zoo membership and made new friends, we went to the Drive-In to see Gremlins, Hotel Transylvania 2, and Rocky Horror Picture Show, and we spent an afternoon at John G's again. We will always find ways to have fun, no matter what!


Monday, October 12, 2015

This morning during Lilly's 4am feeding, as I was browsing Facebook on my phone, I came across a post looking for crafters for an event at the Waldorf School in Webster Groves, which led from one private school website to another, thinking about all the options available to Lilly, and the staggering tuition that goes with them. This early morning jaunt around the internet coupled with a conversation I had with my sister in law last night got my brain spiraling out of control, and I finally got up at 6 am to get the laptop and purge some of it.

The convo with Sarah was about one of the major obstacles in my life in the past year and a half, which requires me to begin with a Stuart Smalley moment: I am good enough, I'm smart enough, and gosh darn it, people like me! I am an open and honest person who enjoys connecting with people and helping them, and I won't be shamed for sharing my experiences, which I am going to do now.

At my last job, our household income was solidly upper middle class. A tuition bill of $1,000 a month would have been within our means. That job also meant 50+ hours a week at a company where everyone was bullied by one of the most unprofessional people I've ever worked with.  Monday morning meant you were going to get chewed out, and people trying to work in the conference room in the middle of the office were frequently pushed into conversations about race, religion and politics that were completely inappropriate for the office. I took a Xanax every Sunday night to fall asleep. There were less than 25 employees, and the turnover rate in the 27 months I was there was 30%. I didn't witness any unprofessional exits, but the ones who put in their two weeks did so only because they were staying in the industry and were smart enough not to burn bridges. They all quit for the same reason. The same person.

Here's a visual of Fall 2013. The Before picture was taking September 10. Francis and I had just returned from a trip to Disneyland for our anniversary. I had worked 70 hours a week from the day I returned from my honeymoon in May until this day in September, trying to manage $5 million in projects inherited from one of the aforementioned people who quit. I was docked the equivalent of a day's pay from my SALARY for that 3 day weekend, because I used my 5 (yes, only 5) vacation days on my honeymoon. You can see that I look pale and sick, and Francis looks pinched. Shortly after this photo was taken, I got pregnant, and then had a miscarriage. Low progesterone from the constant cortisol spike of being ambushed every day.

That short paycheck was the beginning of my new life. The two Disney trips in one year gave me the idea of becoming a travel agent and Disney specialist, which I did. I also read an article about how young people are turning to direct selling as a source of income in a difficult job market, and around that time I discovered Jewelscent on Facebook. That article opened my eyes to the idea that direct sales is the same as any other sales job, and that it's quite similar to a turnkey business or franchise. You buy a kit and you build the business you want. Eight months later, waiting in line for Aquaduck on the Disney Dream, I told Francis I was quitting my shitty job when I got back to St Louis, and I did. My last day was in June, and the "After" picture is September 10, 2014. As you can see, we were looking PRETTY HAPPY at the end of that first summer of freedom.

When you are self-employed and run a business, some days it is really, really tough to get around the haters. Some days it's not even hate, it's just a complete lack of support. It's even harder when you are working in two misunderstood industries and even "friends" say one is dying and the other is a scam. But at the end of the day, or rather, in the wee hours of the morning, I know my husband is happy and proud of me, I have a daughter who wouldn't even exist if I hadn't taken this road, I have made so many amazing, entrepreneurial, supportive friends, and I can always justify a Disney vacation. These days, Monday is my favorite day of the week.

Monday, October 5, 2015

Can You Escape The Beast?

I don't know if you heard, but being smart is fun and cool these days, as evidenced by the popularity of trivia nights and now escape rooms. We were offered the chance to try the Beast Escape Room last week, and like many people I have talked to, I was a bit apprehensive. For some reason "escape room" seems to conjure up images of those extreme haunted houses, especially this time of year, maybe because the first one we  heard of in St Louis (Can You Escape?) involves a zombie chained to the floor. So let me first say this: escape rooms are family friendly! It is not scary (unless you are claustrophobic) and escaping simply involves working together to solve puzzles. I have considered inventing a company just to do corporate team building ropes courses, so once I heard "team building activity", I was all in.

Our adventure started at a little office park off 159 in Glen Carbon, IL. You may think you have the wrong address, but it really is in the office park. When I saw the keypad on the front door, I checked my email to see if we had to start by figuring out to get into the building. The answer is no, the door is open. We went inside and met the owner, Kyle West, who gave us a run down of the rules, many of which are the result of previous teams' behavior. Some of the current ground rules include:

1. Everything you need is within arms reach and you don't need to stand on anything to find clues.

2. You do not need to unscrew anything.

3. There is nothing in the electrical sockets and you don't need to plug anything in or stick anything in the sockets.

The story of this escape room is that an alien race has taken over and all but a few humans have been captured. Half of your group has to get the other half out of a dungeon, and then you all have to work together to escape. Amy and Kevin were locked up in the "dungeon" and Francis and I (along with Lilly) were locked into a sort of lab/office. There is a TV screen in each room counting down to the Beast's return, and you are given absolutely no starting point whatsoever. You can talk to your friends through the connecting door, and you just have to start exploring and looking for keys or clues to unlock all the locks in the room.

One of the first things we said, as we were describing the room to each other through the door, was, "Do you think we can pass things under the door?" And Amy said, "I think that would be breaking the rules."  Kyle can give you hints on the countdown screen, and a message came across that we could exchange anything that fit under the door, so I'm not giving anything away. Just ask yourself, "Would I do this if I was literally trying to escape a dangerous beast? If they answer is yes, and it doesn't involve breaking things, climbing on things, or sticking a knife into an electrical socket, you're not breaking "rules".

I'm afraid that if I describe too much more of the experience, I will inadvertently give away puzzle hints, and there is no fun in that. I wish I could forget everything I saw so I can do it again, so the last thing I want to do is give you hints! I will say that we did NOT beat the clock, but we were really, really close. We knew what we needed and just needed to finish, so we only went over by about 5 minutes. There was no scary beast banging down the door when the clock ran out, just Kyle asking if we wanted to finish.

Family Friendliness: I have had a lot of people ask a lot of questions, trying to gauge if this is appropriate for their kids. As I said above, I did have Lilly, who is 11 weeks old, and I would call this "advanced baby wearing". I only brought her because I know she can sleep in the sling in any level of noise and light, as well as with me bending down, sitting on the floor, and getting up again. If your baby is not a hard sleeper, then no. Children who are between 1-9 would probably require too much supervision and would find the puzzles boring or frustrating. Ages 10+, it depends on the kid, but I think it's worth trying! Just remember that no matter the age of the kid, you will want them to be able to focus for an hour. All four of us have different skills and came out of it feeling like we had contributed in a meaningful way, so there's no particular type of intelligence required.

The Beast Escape Room is $25 per person and you can make reservations on their website. Have you tried it or any other escape room? I want to hear your reviews!