Last Sunday, I went into Pittsburgh and came back with a beautiful head of dyed hair, probably my favorite we’ve ever done–but I’m aware I say that just about every time.

So last weekend was our weekend to stay put (mostly), and this weekend was our visiting weekend. We were trying to squeeze in a visit to Jacob and Katie to give Arlo a late Easter gift, but they were painting. Instead, we spent Saturday evening after work with my mom (and getting Vietnamese takeout) and Sunday evening with Paul’s family, where Charlie showed off his increasingly fast walking pace.

Today, we babysat Eliana–aside from me popping out to deposit savings bonds my mom has been holding for me and a few other errands, like a Starbucks run–so we spent the day wrangling two little kids, including some time outside. And then Paul went outside to cut the grass, and Charlie saw him from inside in his pack ‘n’ play by the window and for some reason, this was so upsetting to him that he got himself so worked up that he threw up everywhere, and that’s why the pack ‘n’ play is now in the yard.

For Easter, Paul’s mom decided to host on their side on Saturday instead of Sunday, which worked out nice–I can’t speak for Jacob, Katie, and Arlo, but it allowed us basically a full day with each side of the family and no going back and forth. So Charlie and Arlo had a nice Easter visiting with each other, as well as their aunts, uncles, and grandparents, and we hung around most of the day and ate and enjoyed the boys’ Easter gifts before heading to my mom’s to spend the night, rather than drive home and back out the next day.

And man, Charlie slept like shit. It could be that he takes after me and doesn’t sleep well in a different place–even though that hasn’t been an issue before, like over Christmas–but Paul’s theory is the expensive crib mattress I bought is just way better than the pack ‘n’ play he sleeps in when we travel. Which…fair.

Brandon, Kelly, and Eliana came over Sunday morning, and we had a nice brunch with more gifts for the kids. I bought Eliana’s (and Arlo’s) kind of last-minute–it was just a little Fisher-Price set with a baby and a bathroom with a potty, sink, and tub–but she loved it and played with mostly just that.

We ended up hanging around most of the day.

Monday, I was able to get vaccinated. It feels like such a great step forward.

That puts our families’ vaccine totals at my mom and brother fully vaccinated, one does each for me, Paul, and Kelly so far, and one dose for Paul’s mom and grandparents, although I believe their second doses should be soon. The kids still can’t get it, and I’m still keeping a close eye on news on that front. But at least most of the people around them have been vaccinated, especially with us and my mom watching Eliana just about every week.

My mom was pretty well knocked on her ass after her second dose, and Brandon reported being wiped out, too, although not as bad. I’m taking that as a sign that I won’t feel so great, either, so I took off work the day of the second shot–also because it’ll be my first Monday back from weekend rotation, which means a shortened weekend–and the following day. I didn’t really feel like waiting it out and either calling off or trying and failing to power through the day, and I have plenty of days to burn anyway. Here’s to hoping I’ll feel fine and will get to enjoy a nice, long weekend.

Paul was able to get his first COVID shot Friday evening. Even with one of us only being partially vaccinated, it’s a huge relief. At least now when he’s fully vaccinated, we’ll know that the chances of him bringing COVID home from grocery shopping or the occasional in-person classes he has to attend for grad school are very slim. He said he felt tired over the weekend but felt really good today, which he thinks is a mental thing. My mom said something similar–she felt super relieved to get her first dose and had had a rough weekend a week prior, and she thinks the vaccine helped alleviate that.

Paul’s grandparents all got their first round, too, and by chance, so did his mom. When she took them, the pharmacy had an extra dose, so she took it. The number of vaccinated people in our inner circle is growing, which is great. I’ve sometimes felt like even visiting every other week has been an unnecessary risk, so it’s nice to know that’s changing.

We went for a nice, long walk in the park on Saturday, then visited our parents Sunday, and it was a good thing we did it that way because Saturday was warm and sunny and Sunday was gross and rainy. The walk ended up being a little longer than I’d intended, just by virtue of the way the trail in the park is designed, and I’m still kind of feeling the effects of it. At least that means I’m on my way to being in better shape until I’m vaccinated myself and get back to the gym.

We had nice visits with our families, even though it was a rare day where various mishaps led to like two or three outfit changes for Charlie in a day. Everyone talks about how messy babies are, and it’s not that that’s untrue, entirely, but just a diaper leak or spit-up is rare enough for him that it’s not usually an issue. It’s a good thing I have multiple outfits on hand, even if it is in part because he’s so tall for his age and I want backups for the backups in case something suddenly doesn’t fit.

He had his nine-month checkup today, and he’s doing great. The pediatrician says he’s a little ahead developmentally, which honestly surprised me because with Eliana a year older and Arlo a few months older, we’ve seen babies at a similar age and I’m just feeling like he’s not where they were at the same age–but I concede that could just be a delightful combination of paranoia and the major pitfalls of comparison. After opting to keep crawling on his tummy for a little while, he’s finally decided he’d rather crawl on his hands and knees, he can grab and feed himself small pieces of food, he’s pulling himself up to stand, and he’s walking with (a lot of) help. We think we’ve possibly heard a few early words, too, but it’s tough to tell what’s maybe just a very well-timed babble and what’s something more intentional. It’s happened enough that Paul’s convinced it’s intentional.

He didn’t measure much taller, but the pediatrician attributed this to the difficulties of measuring a wiggly baby, especially considering he’s about to bust out of his car seat. My mom intended to buy him one for his birthday, but I really think he’s gonna need it before then.

My brother just started a new job not far from our house, so we’ve been tossed into the babysitting ring. I think he was afraid to ask, and I think there may be this thought–and not just from him–that asking us to babysit a near 2-year-old and wrangle our own 9-month-old is a bit much, but my mom suggested just one day a week, and I think we’re certainly capable of that.

We did a test run of a short few hours on Saturday, and it went well. The only issue–and this crept up again when she came back all day Monday–was Charlie wants to do whatever she’s doing, and they’re both too little to understand sharing. He ends up kind of following her around trying to play with whatever she’s playing with, and then she gets annoyed and tries to push him away. The silver lining is we think this’ll prep both of them for siblings.

With warm weather rolling in consistently, we also took trips to the park to walk and got some adorable pictures of Charlie.

I still have plenty of vacation time to kill, so I figured I’d use a day for our first time watching Eliana. And things went well! Charlie’s in the middle of a weird potential nap-dropping stage, so he’s been taking one nap instead of two most days or going down at a weird time, and he ended up taking a nice, long nap in the middle of the day–and so did Paul.

I wouldn’t say I have a not-TV rule for kids in our house, but I personally do not turn it on with Charlie in the room, with the exception of YouTube music videos that work magic to calm him down if he’s being difficult, and I really, really don’t want to just park Eliana in front of a TV all day, either. But we know she’ll stay glued to Daniel Tiger on PBS if we need a break, so we took advantage of that to get both kids quiet and stationary to get Charlie to take a bottle and nap. So Eliana would float between playing with toys and watching a few minutes of Daniel.

Charlie’s well-timed nap also allowed me to get her lunch and save his for when he woke up. I was worried two hungry kids and one high chair would be chaos, and some day, it may be, but Monday worked.

As the weather warmed up, we ventured out into the yard, which she loved. She got mad anytime she thought I was trying to get her to go back inside–usually, I was actually just trying to steer her away from potential poison-ivy patches or thorny bushes–and she’d go, “Nooooo! Walking’s so much fun!” If I did ask her if she was ready to go in, she’d say, “No thank you.” She’s the world’s most polite toddler. We finally did come in when Charlie got fussy, and we used a trick Kelly recommended telling her to say bye to the trees.

It’s gonna get super fun when the berries start coming in. Even when flowers start blooming, and we’ve already got some that might be ready next time she’s over.

Come to think of it, she could be fun to have around as we get the garden back up.

Over the last few weeks, our modem/router has started to crap out on us. I didn’t think anything of it at first, but our streaming services started struggling, and then two weeks in a row, it crapped out on me while I was working. Just one second everything was fine, the next, I’m stuck and can’t do anything, and troubleshooting was hit and miss. Sometimes, it would fix it and be fine for a couple days, sometimes it would make things worse, like the time it restarted and just had no WiFi capability for no discernible reason. The last time it went out, it was on a Wednesday. I got it working, then ordered a new one through my brother’s Amazon account to get here by Friday to keep on standby. The current router isn’t very old and I was very displeased that we were having issues with it, so the idea was to have a new one to switch out if I needed to during a workday. I made it through all of last week with no issues, and then maybe an hour into my shift this morning, the same issues flared up again and the go-to fixes weren’t working, so I did a quick swap and set up the new one. It’s been fine since. My laptop seems to connect to it much quicker, too, for some reason.

Speaking of replacing old things, we had a mishap with bottles, the details of which Paul would not appreciate me sharing, that led to a need for new ones, also ordered through my brother’s account. The silver lining here is the previous bottles were plastic and we replaced them with glass, which cost a lot more money, considering, but makes me feel better. Reading about microplastics as a new mom is…concerning. If I could have a do-over, I’d start with glass, but the other thing about being a new mom is you’re bombarded with options and information about what’s better or worse, and it can be overwhelming. On top of that, baby stuff is expensive and you need a lot of it, so you’re just kind of happy to take what you’re gifted with–it’s one less thing to pay for.

Our arrangement with child care is because I work at 7 a.m., if Charlie wakes up in the middle of the night, Paul takes him. He generally gets him in the morning, too, since he wakes up anywhere from about 6:30 to 7:30. Now, if Charlie wakes up, say, at 4:30 in the morning on a Saturday, I feel like I owe it to Paul to get him–but also that I owe it to Charlie and myself. Even with me working from home, Paul definitely spends more time with Charlie than I do. I never thought I’d be the stay-at-home-mom type, but if you told me I could quit my job right now, I would.

All this to say that I was up with Charlie at 4:30 Saturday morning.

Generally, I don’t want him watching TV or anything–I think there are much better ways to engage an 8-month-old–but Paul discovered he loves music, in particular music videos, in particular The Cranberries. It’s become our last-resort go-to if we’re having trouble getting him settled, and it’s particularly helpful at that hour when the goal is to get him to wind down and go back to sleep, rather than pulling out noisy interactive toys. He just sits and stares. Nothing captures his attention the same way. And so Charlie and I snuggled on the couch while he ate a bottle and fell back asleep. Not a bad way to spend a very early Saturday morning, even if I didn’t get back to sleep until after 6 and even if he woke up again a little after 7. Paul graciously took that turn.

We’re at about the one-year mark for coronavirus lockdowns, but in our family, that anniversary is noted for one other reason–Charlie’s cousin Arlo turned 1 on Sunday. He was born right at the start of all this, the very weekend our governor started shutdowns. I remember hearing that they weren’t allowed to have visitors in the hospital and feeling kind of bad for her. I was optimistic that it would end quickly in a way that feels naive now. And of course, when Charlie was born not quite four months later, our experience was pretty much the same.

If/when either of us has another kid, I almost feel like it’ll be weirder not to have COVID precautions in place. We have nothing to compare this to. I can’t speak for her, but for me, I can’t really say it was weird to give birth with a masked staff and no visitors because, I mean, that’s the only way I’ve done it.

Aro’s birthday party was on Saturday, and they opted to split it over two weekends, one party for each side of the family, mostly because of concerns about space in their house, but because of COVID, it was safer that way, too. We really didn’t interact with anyone that’s not already in our circle, and gradually, they’re getting vaccinated. My brother should have received his second shot today, and my mom was able to get one before the party. They’re the only two at the moment, but Paul’s mom is trying to get his grandparents theirs.

I find myself scrolling through Instagram or Facebook and seeing people going out or getting together and starting to judge, then remembering that I know for sure at least some of them are vaccinated.

What a weird place to be.

But Arlo’s party was nice, and it was the first time that Charlie was with both of his cousins at the same time–Eliana on my side of the family, Arlo on Paul’s. And as a refresher, this means that my brother and two of his closest friends from high school are raising their kids together and are sort of related by marriage. Paul and I met at their graduation, and, well, here we are, 10 years later, taking our kids to each other’s birthday parties.

We decided to go for a walk on the trail Sunday, but by the time we made it out there, it was probably too cold and we probably shouldn’t have. We had a string of warm days and were antsy to really enjoy it, but we did it too late.

I have found a great use for all of those vacation days I have to burn. I can coordinate with Paul’s schedule for grad school.

He had to drive about an hour away for an in-person session last weekend, meaning I’d be on my own with Charlie for basically the entire evening, which I can handle–we’ve both left each other to hold down the fort for a few hours at a time, and I had all of election day on my own when Paul worked the polls. But I knew I’d feel a little more focused and present if I didn’t work eight hours then go straight into an evening without help, so I took the day off and had a good day of alternating between taking care of and playing with Charlie and reading and watching Netflix and such.

We stayed home that weekend, doing little more than running errands.

This weekend, I headed out Friday night to pick up a gifts for a baby shower. I am still very much against people holding any kind of event right now, but a drive-by option was offered and I’d be sending a gift whether I took them up on that or not. So I made a trip for that, threw in an iced coffee, picked up Taco Bell for Paul on my way home, and that was that. That’s my version of “me time” as a new parent during a pandemic.

I should note, though, that aside from maybe a couple hours to read or stream something (Liar through AMC+ at the moment), I don’t feel like I need any alone time or a break or anything like that. I don’t judge those who do. It’s more like I don’t want someone to think, “Oh, how sad, running errands and getting Starbucks in the process is all she has for herself,” when not only is that not the case but even if it were, I’d honestly be okay with it.

The shower was Saturday, and we visited with Paul’s parents first, plus Julie, who made the trip down from Erie and made one of her favorite Hello Fresh recipes for us all for lunch. It certainly won me over. I struggle with figuring out what to eat for dinner, and I am more than happy to have found an easy, fairly healthy meal I can add to my week.

Part of the appeal of the drive-by shower slot was I felt comfortable taking Charlie, so he finally got to meet a few of Paul’s cousins, two of his aunts, and the other new baby in the family, and one of the aunts gave us a gift of a super cute raincoat and outfit for Charlie that’ll probably get much use next spring. Although we were there before the official start, we ended up lingering long enough that the official guests started coming in, and after being sent with haluski and cookies–plus taking pictures with the current babies.

We made a quick stop at the mall on our way home for some Snoopy planters my mom found online, and I happened to accidentally stumble upon a baby activity scarf in the process. My mom and I both have given them as gifts before, and I’ve been wanting one but don’t see them in many stores and even online searches didn’t turn up much. It’s a scarf with toys for baby on the ends, like a mirror, textured fabrics, and so on. It would probably get the most use if we were going out, like to restaurants or if we were churchgoers, but I still liked the option to have something like that to easily entertain him. And I’ve already gotten good use out of it at home.

On Sunday, we celebrated my mom’s birthday two days early with takeout, presents, cake, and, of course, time with both of her grandkids. It was a nice visit.

Meanwhile, I’ve been making progress on getting the house a little more in order. With new shelves in the side room, we’ve ditched the smaller ones. In their place, we’ve added a bench and shelves. The unit I found is a little smaller than I expected, but it’ll do what I want it to–it’s a space for people to sit and put on/take off shoes, with little cubbies for said shoes underneath and a small set of drawers on the left. The drawers are housing things like candles and wax for my various burners, plus winter gear like gloves and scarves. There’s an odd built-in shelf, for lack of a better word, mounted on the wall, and I say that because it’s sort of two intersecting squares that have absolutely no real function other than holding a few small knickknacks, but I think they look old and dumb and even though I have a few things on them, I don’t think they provide any real function. So at some point, they’re gonna come down, and I’m thinking of mounting a coat rack in their place. Floating shelves would be great, too, but I think I’m gonna have to pick one or the other. Both will look too busy.

It’s hard to believe, but my husband’s youngest brother, who was 8 when we started dating, is now 19 years old. We spent Friday evening visiting and having pizza and cake, then spent the night at my mom’s house.

With Brandon back from DC and having recently finished his master’s, we had something of a celebratory lunch at my mom’s Saturday afternoon, where she made a few of my grandma’s staple recipes.

In general, it was a weekend with family, and Charlie got to see both of his cousins. We also discover that he thinks my mom’s dog playing is absolutely hilarious. We’ve been able to tickle a few deep belly laughs out of him before, but nothing like what watching a beagle chase a ball does, apparently. And baby laughs are infectious and addicting–you always want more.

And since he works for a local hospital system sort of out of a satellite office, he’s eligible for the COVID vaccine and had his first shot yesterday. He’s probably the closest person to us that’s gotten it, but we do have other friends and relatives who have. Research is indicating that vaccinated people can still carry the virus, but it doesn’t spread as easily. It does offer some peace of mind knowing that more and more people we know have gotten it, especially since we’re not likely to get it anytime soon.

I had a hair appointment on Sunday, and that was as far as Valentine’s Day plans went. I’ve been a longtime Valentine’s Day hater, and that hasn’t changed, so it was just a regular day in our house.

This weekend, we intend to stay put. As much as we’re comfortable with seeing our immediate families–and with my brother now partly vaccinated–we still think weekly visits carry too much of a risk for all of us, so we’re aiming to keep it to every other week.

We’re already underway on some of our home-improvement projects for the year. A while ago, Paul’s sister Julie knew someone who getting rid of some large bookshelves, so we took them and his dad picked them up for us and installed them on Wednesday. I spent as much time as I could today filling them, taking some off built-in shelves in Charlie’s room and others off shelves in our living room. I ran out of steam, but there’s a chance there’s enough space on the new shelves to empty and get rid of the old ones, clearing out room in the living room and making the side room the new shelves are in basically a library and music room–it’s also housing an organ and our CD collection, and I’m wondering if we might as well throw the guitars and a record player in there, too, if there’s room.

I took Friday off again, and we spent Saturday visiting our families. Julie did come in but wasn’t feeling great, so it ended up being a visit without her. We then went to my mom’s, and we spent today tackling projects like getting the Christmas tree down, at last, and filling those shelves.

Moving forward, we’re trying to limit family visits to every other week. We’re not really going out and although my mom isn’t, either, she’s babysitting Eliana and Kelly’s a teacher, so there’s enough room for COVID to spread among us that we really shouldn’t be seeing everyone as often as we had been, especially since we’re gonna be last in line for a vaccine just based on how it’s being rationed. Kelly and Brandon can probably get it soon, but the rest of us not so much.

And so next week’s plans are staying at home, maybe aside from a grocery run. Maybe I’ll take Friday off again to burn those vacation days I have other use for. Who knows?

We had a close-but-not-really call with a possible COVID exposure.

Two weeks ago, on a Saturday, Paul’s parents visited his sister in Erie and stopped by our house on their way home. That Tuesday, his other sister came and stayed with us for the rest of the week through Saturday morning. She told us later that day that she found out their brother-in-law in Erie had COVID and had been sick, also since Tuesday. Now, no one actually interacted with someone who was sick, but the timing was tight and we were concerned there was a possible exposure. Technically, the CDC advice on quarantining didn’t apply to us, but we decided to play it safe. By the time we found out, though, it had been eight days since we’d seen his parents, and I figured that if they had it, between them, us, and Paul’s siblings still living at home, someone would’ve gotten sick. The possibility of that many people not showing a single sign eight days in seemed too unlikely, and I was right–no one ever developed symptoms in the few days after.

We were supposed to spend Sunday at my mom’s with some homemade potato salad, which she’d made ahead, and we figured we’d be extra careful and just stop over and pick some up and say hi, so that was our Sunday last week.

I took this Friday off again and we spent almost the entire weekend at home. I ran some errands, and we met up with Terra again at her brother’s pizza place to exchange our Christmas presents. Like last time, we left with takeout, this time with a cheesecake dessert pizza and a small order of BBQ seitan wings for me.

2021

Last year’s goals got kind of upended between COVID and pregnancy. Despite my intentions, pregnancy wiped me out physically much more than I expected it to, and COVID affected things all over the spectrum. Even with the arrival of the vaccine and our intentions to get it, we’re pretty much the bottom of the list–I work from home and Paul’s unemployed/started grad school online. So my 2021 goals are split into two parts, the second being contingent on either a vaccine or a significant drop in cases near us, and I’m operating under the assumption that that’ll take at least six months.

Make a plan for my vacation time. This year marks 10 years with my employer (!), and so as of the New Year, I have four weeks of vacation time with no intentions to do any significant travel. Ideally, just to make things easier to plan and to avoid a huge chunk of time left, I’ll use two weeks in the first half of the year. I took this past Friday off and plan to take this coming Friday off and I think I’ll probably just burn days like that, giving myself short weeks as often as possible, but I’d like to be a little more organized about it. And hey, if I use even some of it to just hang out at home with the baby, I call that a win.
Read 16 books. Last year’s goal was 15, and I just missed it. I also realized last year’s reading was uncharacteristically light–not even some depressing nonfiction political/current events read. As the baby gets older and doesn’t need quite as much attention, and with 20 vacation days to burn, I should be able to finish 16 books. Adding one more to my goal this year is a pretty safe bet, I think.
Create a proper, professional personal website. A bio, links to published works, that sort of thing.
Send writing out for publication at least once a month. At first, I was gonna set this as once a week, but I think that’s unrealistically ambitious with a baby.
Be more organized about tracking submissions. I used to be, and then I wasn’t, and if I’m intending on hitting it at a decent pace this year, I’d like to get back on it–a spreadsheet of pieces and where they’ve been sent, when, and if they were published or rejected.
Home improvements. Exactly what and when depends on COVID. I don’t want to do anything that’ll be an added monthly payment until our siding is paid off and I don’t want anyone coming inside to do anything unless we’re vaccinated, we know they’re vaccinated, or cases are down. I’d like to look into what little things we can do to add some curb appeal before we’re ready to take on landscaping, particularly around our little front porch, or maybe look into the cost of planting a few trees in the front yard for some added shade and privacy. I don’t like how wide open the yard is. The deck could also use restained, there are some stumps out back I’d like to remove, and like last year, I’d like to look into replacing our water heater with a tankless one, but that’s definitely a post-COVID project.
Spruce up the garden. With pregnancy and then a new baby, the garden kind of got away from us. I’d like to get it cleaned up and organized and plant more this year–cherry tomatoes, big tomatoes, add another strawberry plant, maybe look into something like peppers and try cucumbers again.
Organize the house. I currently have a tab open of a hanging rod to add another row to the closet that I intend to buy, and the baby’s room is still a a bit overrun with our stuff–clothes in the closet, random things that got shuffled in there because I don’t think Paul knew where else to put them. There’s a bag in there that’s been hanging around for God knows how long that’s almost definitely full of stuff to donate. We also have big bookshelves coming from his sister in Erie that’ll go in our side room, and hopefully we can empty out the smaller shelves and either get rid of them or more likely stash them in the attic in case we find another use for them. And if we’re doing that, I’d like to think about a small loveseat or something, basically make it a tiny library. The cats’ litter boxes are in there, too, so I’d like to hide those in something like end tables. Because I don’t want to spend a lot on furniture, that might get put off, and at some point, I’d like a new coffee table with a top that lifts up for more hidden storage. If we are able to empty the current shelves, I’d like to put a little bench in place of a set near our front door so that when people come over, they have a place to sit and take off/put on shoes and store them and purses and things. When those make their way here, we’ll need to clear the room out. It’s become another sort of holding area for miscellaneous things.
Knock out debt. We have some small balances we can take care of easily, and my car is on track to be paid off in October, sooner if I can swing it.
Be a kick-ass mom. I’m not perfect. I spend a lot of time alternating between feeling like I should be paying more undivided attention to him and acknowledging that when he’s playing, he’s fine on his own (I mean, I’m present and constantly glancing over) and it’s fine to crank out a blog or read or something. But I try to make sure he gets my complete attention a couple times a day–always at bedtime and first thing in the morning, if I’m off and am the one to get him, plus a few times throughout the day. Looking ahead, we have his first birthday in the summer, and I’d like to have a small party for immediate family at our house.

Post-COVID/vaccine, and there’s less than I thought:
Travel. Regardless, we’re not going to want to go far. Between Paul’s MBA program, money, and traveling with a baby, a big, extended trip more than a couple hours away is almost certainly out of the question. But if we’re comfortable with it, I wouldn’t mind long weekends away. There’s family to visit in Erie and D.C., and we can spend time as a new little family in Deep Creek or the mountains.
Concert photography. This is something I had on my list to do a year or so ago. I can’t remember if it was on my 2019 list and my dad got sick and died and I got pregnant shortly after, but something happened that put this way on the backburner. I’d like to buy a good, legit camera, get photo passes for some local shows, and start shooting. At first, it’ll probably just be for posts on Medium or something, but eventually, I’d like to ramp it up as a side hustle or hey, even a full-time gig, maybe.