Pregnancy + Babies

I’ll admit, when I first got pregnant, I didn’t really think I would travel all that much after the baby was born. Well, at least not for the first year or so.

It’s not that I thought I would suddenly stop wanting to see new places — I just wasn’t keen on schlepping eight million baby accoutrements onto a plane or across the country.

Then I was reminded that babies fly free for only the first two years of their life (and so does their carseat and stroller and apparently all the carry-on liquids you want). And after that, we would have to start budgeting for flights for three. On one full-time salary and one work-at-home-mom salary.

HAHAHAHAHA.

Needless to say, I now don’t really think we will travel all that much (at least by plane) after the baby turns two. Well, at least not until she’s old enough to remember where we go.

The point is, we’re trying to get our free flights’ worth while we can. So as our fifth wedding anniversary approached, Joey and I started making plans to visit the place where we got engaged.

Now, those of you keeping score at home may remember that I actually got engaged in Vancouver, so WHY AM I TALKING ABOUT SEATTLE? Well, if you were a true long-time reader, you would also remember that the vacance d’engagement* began and ended with a few days in Seattle, whereupon it became one of my favorite cities. So simmer down.

*not a real French term.

The point is, we began our anniversary trip in Seattle as well. We only spent a couple of days there, but I thought it might be helpful to share our favorite spots (new and old) that are also baby friendly, in case you are considering a trip with a little one.

NOTE: I am not calling this “The most original list of things to do in Seattle.” These are simply mom-tried-and-true places where you won’t feel out-of-place or unwelcome when you stroll in wearing a Baby Bjorn. Just wanted to clear that up before someone gets all snarky and superior in the comments. It’s Seattle; I know you’re hipper than I am.

We begin our adventure with dinner on our first night after touching down around 5:30 p.m….

Get dinner at…Ba Bar.
Vietnamese street food gets an upscale twist in this cozy haunt. The food is fresh with Pacific Northwest ingredients, the drinks are fresh-as-heck versions of your favorite classics, and the atmosphere is noisy enough to accommodate a fussy, jet-lagged baby while still intimate enough to make you feel like a cool mom out with her friends.

After dinner, go to bed. It’s after midnight your time. (Probably.) The next day…

Get breakfast at…Top Pot.
I’ll be honest, this is not where we got breakfast. We got breakfast at this place called Ludi’s that Yelp told us was really good. But, I’ll be honest, Yelp and I are on tenuous terms after that recommendation. Because it was fine, but not somewhere I would recommend for a vacation breakfast. You know what I WILL recommend? Doughnuts. And maple bars. And other magical breakfast confections you can find at Top Pot. Go there. And, for the love of sucrose, get something with sprinkles and take an adorable Instagram photo with your baby.

Then wander…Pike Place Market.
Yes of COURSE it’s cliche, but hear me out: The market is a fantastic place for babies. They can be as loud as they want (a local fishmonger is guaranteed to be louder), there are tons of things to look at, and you will never find someone more fascinated by the gum wall than an ankle-biter.

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Get lunch at…Matt’s in the Market.
To me, a trip to Seattle without a stop at Matt’s is sacrilege, so there’s no way it wasn’t going to end up on this list. Fortunately for you, trusting reader, it really and truly is a good place to take a baby. (Who knew??) It’s got a buzzy atmosphere that won’t be broken up by a few tiny shrieks (noticing a pattern here?), and the waitstaff is pleasantly patient with littler guests. There are also a ton of windows, which is a plus if you’ve got a baby who needs lots of things to look at or she gets bored and cries. Speaking hypothetically. The one flaw? No changing tables in the bathroom. (What’s up with that, Matt’s?) But there is a counter where they put the hand towels where you can set up shop without too much fuss.

Then visit the…Seattle Great Wheel.
Relax, I’m not recommending you take your baby on to some wobbly wheel of doom. The Great Wheel really is pretty great, with each seat actually being a little pod/room that you can get all to yourself if you want. The ride around lasts about 15 serenely quiet minutes, perfect for sneaking in a nursing session or a nap. And the views can’t be beat.

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And while you’re there, head left to the…Seattle Aquarium.
Um, hi. Why did no one tell me how perfect aquariums are for babies? Here I was, all like, “Babies can’t appreciate science.” When, in reality, they don’t have to. (And, actually, they probably can.) All they have to appreciate is looking at cool stuff. And aquariums are PACKED with cool stuff. They are already designed for kids, so everything from running to touching to getting raucous is actually ENCOURAGED in most areas. The Vivster could not have been more charmed by every single creature she met. Still not convinced? Consider this: Those giant walls of fish? They look exactly like TV screens, meaning your baby’s eyes will be drawn to it like a magnet. Except your mom group isn’t going to secretly judge you for letting your kid stare at one for an hour. Everyone wins.

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Get coffee (and charge your phone) at…Seattle Coffee Works.
Honestly, you can get coffee anywhere. This is Seattle — it’s all pretty decent. I’m only including this particular spot because it also had outlets and bench seating where, if you spread a blanket, a particularly obliging baby could spread our and catch a few Z’s. This is not true of every coffee outlet. (Lookin’ at you, Starbucks across the street.) And if your baby won’t sleep here, grab a latte, plop the kiddo in a baby sling or carrier, and hit up a few shops on 5th avenue (Seattle-version). If your kid is anything like mine, she’ll be out like a light in no time.

Then grab dinner at…Local 360 Cafe & Bar.
When you first walk into this place, it won’t scream “baby-friendly” to you. (That would wake the babies. YUK YUK YUK.) The main floor is all bar and tiny tables packed pretty close to their neighbors. But never fear! There’s a whole second story, where somehow all the noise seems to blend into a pleasant hum of conversation (even if your baby’s contribution to that hum is just a lot of whining). Plus, the wait staff LOVES babies. At least, everyone we encountered did — and nothing makes you feel more comfortable than that. Plus, the actual food? To. Die. Do not skip dessert.

Now, go home and put that baby to bed. You’re both jet lagged, remember?

The next morning, get brunch at…Six Seven Restaurant at the Edgewater Hotel.
I know you probably didn’t actually sleep in (you have a baby), but let’s call this breakfast “brunch” just so you feel like a semblance of your pre-baby self, shall we? This gorgeous hotel might feel a bit formal for an infant, but if you book an earlier reservation (we started around 9:30 a.m.) you’ll avoid a rush of people looking for an adults-only meal in favor for a mostly empty dining room and spectacular views you can enjoy sans judgy eyes. Tip: Order any egg specialty with crab in it, feed your kid a squeezy pack, and high-five your fellow adult for scoring a grown-up meal. After breakfast, take a jaunt along the coast to work off the food and get you all some fresh air before you head out.

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So, technically that’s two days, right? Feel free to mix and match the recommendations to fit your own timeline.

Did I miss your favorite baby-friendly place? Share it in the comments. And happy trails!

 

For some reason, I always looked forward to Vivian being six months old as a sort of distant parenting promised land. Especially when we were in the thick of the “fourth trimester,” when so much of my baby was unknown and scary and messy. I knew (or at least, had been assured) things would improve at three months, but the 6-month mark had been especially heralded as a turning point in development that would make both of our lives a lot easier.

But at the same time…it seemed like a really long way off. Especially when the infant in my arms was vomiting without cause at almost every meal or refusing to sleep despite being exhausted. 

That probably sounds naive, thinking that something a mere six months off would take forever to get here, but what can I say? Babies make you dumb.

The point is, the day finally came: Vivi is six months old! And while I can’t really say there was this marked shift overnight (and, let’s be honest, she really is a pretty good kid overall), it is making me reflect on how much smoother life is now that she has a few more months out of the womb under her tiny little belt.

 

Vivi’s six month brought quite a few milestones, including her first and second teeth. (Both within the second week. Yes, I do accept your condolences.)

She’s sitting up for a handful of seconds at a time, and can even stand while holding onto something for a while before plopping back down on her tush. As for crawling, she’s just now showing an interest in it, and even leap-frogged a couple hops on all fours yesterday. And while the thought of this whirling dervish being mobile is already a bit exhausting to think about, it’s also terribly exciting to see her changing in literal leaps and bounds.

 

Most of all, though, it is such a joy to see her little personality continue to shine through. Because, Vivi, you are so much sunshine. You are brave and kind, the two things I wished most for you. You love so hard, whether it’s your family, honorary family, or just another baby you happen to meet. You smile so easily, and nothing brightens my day like one of your cuddles or when the mood will suddenly strike you to gently lay a hand on my cheek and kiss my chin.

I am so, so grateful that I get to be your mama.

So, what I’m saying is, six months lives up to the hype. And I hear even better things about nine months.

Let’s do this, Vivi Bean.

 

Post-race cuddles

Post-race cuddles

You know how some people like to go for therapy? Or paint? Or stare at the horizon as if searching for answers?

I like to work out.

That probably comes as no surprise to those of you who have spent any time on this blog or with me in person, but I have to say, I didn’t truly realize how important physical activity was to me until after Vivi was born.

I wasn’t always this way. I started exercising in high school when I went through that tumultuous phase many teen girls go through of thinking I was fat. (Vivi, I know I probably can’t keep you from having those feelings, but let’s hope I’m able to help you handle them better than I handled them on my own!) Going to the gym was a punishing experience that I didn’t really look forward to except in that it would help abate my own guilt and self-loathing.

FUN, RIGHT?

As I got older and started to let go of some of the adolescent nonsense, I started running and even signed up for a few races. In running, I found a solace I had never experienced before. Yes, I was burning calories, but I also found that my mind was a littler calmer, a little quieter with every footfall and every quickened breath.

By the time I worked up the courage to sign up for my first half marathon, I knew I was on to something much more important than my jeans size.

A couple of years ago, a series of injuries pushed me to expand my workout horizons, and I started delving into fitness classes ranging from spin to pilates to boot camps. Where I had previously shied away from such public displays of fitness (one of the best parts of running is the quiet time you get with yourself), I found that the group environment had its own slew of benefits, from an accelerated atmosphere to extra motivation in the way of competition. Plus, classes offered variety, which is arguably the number one thing running tends to lack.

By the time I was ready to start trying for a baby, I was in the best shape of my life. I felt strong physically but also emotionally. I wasn’t the lightest I had ever been as an adult, but I didn’t even care about that anymore as long as I was able to crank out a dozen burpees and demonstrate a reasonable amount of flexibility.

As I’ve mentioned before, my then-doctor recommended I cut back on workouts when we started trying to get pregnant. I down-shifted to less strenuous options, but I knew I couldn’t stop completely. After all, exercise was sometimes the only thing I felt was keeping me sane. I was thrilled when I got pregnant fairly quickly and was able to return to more regular workouts.

And, as you know, I worked out my entire pregnancy. I feel very fortunate that I was able and felt up to working out right up until my 39th week (yeah, that last week? not happening), and I went into labor feeling strong and capable of handling whatever this little baby threw at me.

And then…I had a baby.

Suddenly, my life revolved around the needs of this tiny, desperate creature, and, honestly, I didn’t even think about workouts the first few weeks. I was exhausted, often starving (thanks a lot, breastfeeding), and, quite frankly, had some bigger things on my mind. I’m sure it helped that, because I hadn’t gained a lot of excess weight during pregnancy, I lost the baby weight in the first week or two. I know myself, and I know this whole experience would have been more mentally difficult if I was also dealing with my insecurity demons.

But as the weeks went on (and the flush of happy hormones started to level out), the insecurities did come creeping back. And while I was ironically lighter than I had ever been as an adult, I started to crave that feeling of strength and capability I had come to count on.

By the time I hit my 6-week mark and got the okay to exercise from my midwife, I was itching to do something active. Fortunately (or unfortunately, depending on how you look at it), I had agreed to run a 10K with a girlfriend months prior. That experience was…difficult. (Running six miles after not running for almost a year? Sure…let’s do that…) But it also felt good to hit the road again.

After that, I was determined to keep up my momentum. The problem? It’s really hard to find time to exercise with a 7-week-old baby. I decided to start small, which, honestly, was probably a smarter move since my body was still in healing mode. Since I was mostly looking to tone up and regain strength, I started scouring YouTube for exercise videos. I had to keep the workouts short (between 20-30 minutes) to fit them into Viv’s nap time, but you would be surprised how many options are out there. (Jillian Michaels and GymRa are my two favorites.)

As Vivi got older and started being able to entertain herself, I was able to workout while she was still awake. I would even incorporate her into the workout as a weight if she started to fuss, which satisfied us both. Working out with the baby also freed up her nap times for my freelance work, cleaning house, cooking, etc.

And I’m happy to report that it has only gotten easier to fit in fitness as Vivi has gotten older. Not only am I now able to leave her with Joey for the occasional spin class, she’s also big enough to ride in my jogging stroller for jaunts around the park. (I call her my personal trainer because she starts to fuss if I slow down to walk. It’s very motivational.)

Now I’m even training for another 10K in June — and Vivi will be pounding out every training mile with me.

The biggest difference between now and then, though? Now, I’m not just keeping fit for me. I want to be healthy so I can keep up with my daughter as she grows. I want to set an example of health and fitness for her now, and maybe even have the opportunity to run with her when she’s older. I look forward to our runs as bonding time because we always take a break to sit in the sunshine in the park. And I love to think that by setting a pattern of health now, I’m maybe saving her from some of those negative adolescent feelings later.

Let’s hit the road, baby doll.

I think it's pronounced "yogging"

I think it’s pronounced “yogging”

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I think, like most people, I had an idea of what motherhood would be like before I became a mother. (I initially wrote “a very specific idea,” but, if I’m honest, I think I knew on most levels that I probably had no idea what I was getting myself into.)

And, before I get into the subject of this post, I want to confirm that I think I’ve made it pretty clear how much I love being a mother. We’re on clear on that, right? I feel obligated to reinforce that I do before I say what I’m about to say next.

Because sometimes being a mother makes me sad.

Whoa, whoa, WHOA, you say. Motherhood is the greatest thing that can happen to a woman, right? How can you possibly not love every second?

Well, I’m really sorry to be the one to tell you this, but, besides that statement being entirely untrue for some people, it’s also impossible for it to be true for every single woman every second of the time.

And I’m not even talking about postpartum depression, which, I’m told, is a whole other bear. I’ve been fortunate thus far that I haven’t really dealt with that, at least not in full force. My sadness is rather run-of-the-mill, I’m afraid. So sorry.

But whether or not it requires a diagnosis, my sadness is just as real. Because, even though I love being a mother, it is not always easy.

Being a mother means giving up a lot of yourself. It always makes me think of this line from The Bridges of Madison County:

“You don’t understand, no-one does. When a woman makes the choice to marry, to have children; in one way her life begins but in another way it stops.”

Because, you guys? That is IT. And even though it’s not always a bad thing, there is always a level of mourning when it comes to letting a part of yourself go.

And besides the existential struggle, there are parts of being a mom that just kind of suck. Your time is not your own. Your body does weird things. You can’t do everything you want to do. You often have to go into hiding to breastfeed. You can’t eat whatever you want to eat. You are almost always tired. You are more often than not covered in some kind of bodily fluid. You get screamed at (a lot) by a tiny, irrational dictator despite your every attempt to please them.

The good part is that your baby usually finds a way to make it up to you (those smiles and sweet coos are life-affirming at times), but the fact remains that often those sucky moments still just suck.

But wait, you say, isn’t this a blog post about joy?

YES. But more than that, it’s about the choice of happiness.

Remember almost four (!!) years ago when I decided to stop being unhappy? That sounds silly, I know. I even acknowledged the silliness when I said it. The Happiness Project was less about truly never feeling unhappiness and more about make a concerted effort whenever possible to choose joy. It probably wouldn’t work for everyone, but I’ve found the more you practice mental discipline, the easier it can become over time.

I’ve found this practice helpful in a lot of areas of my life, from friendships to marriage, from running a marathon to having a baby. I’m not sure I would have been able to enjoy pregnancy as much as I did if not for my previous practice in seeking the good.

And now I find myself putting it into practice again as a new mother.

Before Vivi arrived, I would spend a lot of time thinking about when she was finally here. And I made a promise to myself: I promised to enjoy everything, from the lack of sleep to the discomfort to the frustration.

Because this was my parental rite of passage.

These were the things that bonded millions of parents across time and space. These were the moments that plenty of people who wish to have a baby would give anything to have. So who was I to take my baby’s 3 a.m. shrieks for granted? Who was I to bristle at irrational tantrums when she hasn’t mastered a new skill? Who was I to throw up my hands in frustration after the sixth spit-up and subsequent outfit change of the day?

And besides, who would I be helping if I did any of those things anyway?

So, instead, I shifted my focus. I learned to live in the moment when things were good and to look at the progress when things weren’t. I learned to appreciate the fact that even the worst moments will make for a good story some day and to tell my war stories with a laugh and an eye roll — my baby might be trying to kill me…but at least my tiny tyrant is adorable!

I also think it helped that I was mentally prepared for struggles. I expected frustration and exhaustion and tears (hers and mine). I expected to feel at some point that I had made a terrible mistake or, at the very least, to mourn my less-tethered childless life. What I’m saying is, I deliberately kept my expectations low. But I’m very grateful that I can honestly say I’ve loved every stage of getting to know Vivi. I expected to grit my teeth through her newborn-ness and to tolerate her fussy infant months, but the fact is that I daily find myself in awe of something about this wonderful little person I get to raise.

Maybe she really is just that wonderful (I mean, I know I think she is). But maybe I’ve just gotten better at focusing on what’s wonderful about her.

Because, most of the time, being a mother is the greatest thing that has ever happened to me.

I get to watch her tackle new challenges and develop an ever-sunnier personality. I get to revel in first smiles, giggles, babbles, and kisses. I get to celebrate her new milestones and soothe her pint-sized frustrations. I get to discover the world again through her big blue eyes. I get to wake up every day and be Vivi’s favorite person. I get to be Vivi’s mama.

And, for me, there are few greater joys than that.

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Joey, Vivi, and I just got back from a long weekend in Lake Placid for a hockey tournament, and I’m looking around my apartment thinking, “MAN, do I have a lot to do!”

So what do I do first? Write a blog post, of course. #priorities

For a while now (let’s call it three months), I’ve been meaning to do a blog round-up of my favorite must-have new baby items. It’s a rite of passage for all mommy bloggers, and I actually found them useful when I was creating my own registry for the Vivster. Because, as we’ve discussed, there’s a lot o’ baby crap out there. A mom’s gotta be choosy.

While there are plenty of baby products I could list that I actually did use, here are the five that made the biggest difference in Vivi’s first three months of life.

5 Things New Moms Need in the First Three Months

 

1. Beluga Baby Wrapbelugababy.ca
I’ve already gushed to the moon and back about how much I love this bamboo cotton wrap from Beluga Baby, but it was especially helpful during Vivi’s “fourth trimester.” During the first three months, babies are still adjusting to life outside the womb, so anything you can do to mimic the uterus (white noise, movement, swaddling, etc.) helps to ease this transition. Now, the wrap is especially helpful when Vivi isn’t feeling well or just needs a bit of help calming down from a tantrum. (Plus, you can still get 15% off of your own wrap with code STOPME — the code is good until February 15th. And due to the exchange rate — Beluga Baby is a Canadian company — U.S. shopper can get an additional 25% off right now. So get on it!)

2. Mommy’s Bliss Grip Waterdrugstore.com (also available at most drugstores)
Honestly, if I could make this products 2 through 5, I probably would. Our little girl had a tough time with gas and reflux, especially in the first three months, and this stuff made a world of difference. I like that it’s made from food-based products (fennel and ginger extract, primarily) because I’m as cautious about over-medicating my kid as I am over-medicating myself. Vivi actually really liked the taste, which made the process even easier. I can’t tell you how many times we were able to cure her hiccups or get an especially difficult burp out. (Oh, the tiny successes of parenting!)

3. Keekaroo Peanut Changing Pad, giggle.com
I purchased this changing pad after hearing my friend Madison say repeatedly that it was the best thing they had ever purchased for her daughter. And let me just say, it lives up to the hype. Not only does the rubbery surface make it super easy to clean if (and WHEN) your baby blows out a diaper or doesn’t wait for a new diaper to go to the bathroom, it’s also super comfortable and doesn’t slide around on the dresser we decided to use as a changing table. And now that Vivi is a bit more mobile, the raised sides keep her in place during changes.

4. Puj Flyte Compact Infant Bath, target.com
I debated quite a few baby baths before ultimately deciding on the Puj, and I’m so glad I did. Not only does it quickly turn any sink into a tub for Viv, it’s also incredibly lightweight and folds or hangs up for easy drying and storage (ideal for those of us in tiny apartments). Now that we’re traveling with the baby more often, it also makes it easier to pack so Vivi can get her bedtime bath anywhere.

5. Deluxe Sit-Me-Up Floor Seat, burlingtoncoatfactory.com 
Vivi has always been the kind of baby that wants to know what is going on around her. The only problem was, she was too little to sit up herself, meaning we either had to hold her all the time (including during meals) or let her cry while she would lie on a blanket on the floor. Even her swing seat was too reclined for her to be able to see what we were doing around the apartment. Then my mother-in-law got us this soft chair. And, can I just say, we use this reclined seat at least four times a day. Vivi loves that she is sitting up like a big girl and can watch me move around the room and kitchen, and I love that she is comfortable and can keep herself occupied for a few minutes with the toys on the tray. Seriously, this one was life-changing.

I feel like as soon as I hit publish, I’m going to remember at least three other must-have items that I forgot to include on this list (oh, mom brain!) but I can definitely stand behind these five products.

So tell me, what did I miss? What were your must-have items with a new baby?

If you had asked me two years ago if I ever thought I would be a full-time freelance worker, I would have answered unequivocally “no.”

It wasn’t that I didn’t see the merit of leaving the office behind — setting one’s own schedule, prioritizing work I actually enjoy, working from home…the list goes on.

What always held me back, though, was the fear that I would never be able to make it work for real — or that the anxiety of whether or not it was working would crush the joy of freedom. I liked knowing that I had work to go to every morning and a paycheck coming every two weeks without fail.

So, I would have said no, and I wouldn’t have hesitated.

When Joey and I had discussed our work plan post-baby, we talked a few options, but rarely did we discuss the option of me staying home. I made good money, and, more importantly, I liked working. I like what I do for a living. (Most of the time.) I like working on a team, and I’ve even liked a few of the office buildings I’ve worked in. Me working full-time was something that made sense in my brain.

Then I got pregnant.

And from the moment I saw that second line on the pregnancy test, I knew things were never going to be the same again. With every sonogram, every inch my belly grew, and every feisty little kick, it became clearer and clearer to me that there simply would be no going back to work for me.

Which isn’t to say that my decision is somehow better or more noble than anyone else’s. Parents choose to go back to work for a variety of reasons — and in some cases it isn’t a choice at all. For me, though, there just wasn’t an alternative.

So, quietly at first, I started to toy with the idea. And as Vivi’s due date drew closer, the possibility and the options I actually had in front of me became more real and ever more likely every day.

When I first put my hands around that tiny baby, I forever let go of the idea of leaving her to go back to work.

Every time she looked at me, Vivian steeled my resolve to find a way to make this work-at-home-mom thing a reality. A month into my maternity leave, finding and applying for remote and telecommute jobs, as well as reaching out to everyone I knew who might be hiring freelance writers, editors, or social strategists, became my full-time hobby.

By the time my “return to work” date rolled around, my mind was fully made up and I turned in my official notice. (For the record, my boss could not have been kinder and more understanding of my decision. We even discussed the possibility of my freelancing for the team in the future.)

And then, quite suddenly, my dream-turned-plan turned into a reality. And I felt…well, I’m still not quite sure. I’m completely happy with the decision and what it means for Vivian and me. But when you have defined yourself by your career for much of your life, it’s weird to suddenly change course.

Fortunately, I’ve learned to handle these changes better than I did five years ago (remember this?)(also, remember when I thought I was leaving journalism for good? lol), so I’m not panicking or even all that worried. I’ve learned that life is rarely finite decisions. Instead, it goes in seasons, and right now, I’m just in a new one.

I’ve had a tendency in the past to throw myself completely into things, only to later wonder if I had given up too much of myself for this new self. But this feels different. I think, with a baby, you really are made over new in almost every way. So even though I’m so different than I was even a few years ago, it doesn’t feel like something I’ve put on so much as something I’ve become. I don’t feel like I’m really giving up any part of myself.

In a lot of ways, I feel like I’ve had some kind of metamorphosis into what I was always meant to become.

That sounds deep and heavy. It also sounds kind of silly or overly poetic. But, regardless of all that, it feels right now that I’ve finally put it into words.

So, for now, I work from home. I ignore the slight flutters of nervousness over this new, less certain career path. And I revel in every second I get to spend with my daughter, watching her become who she will become.

And that office life? Wouldn’t ya know, I don’t really miss it that much at all.

Vivi and Me