Things I’d Like to Remember about Right Now

How good the sun feels after the seemingly endless winter we endured. Last weekend Tabitha and I sat outside on a pink blanket knitted by my grandmother, and she smiled and opened her mouth every time the wind started to blow, as though she could catch it on her tongue. And wind chimes! She can’t get enough of those.

Such a doll baby!!

Such a doll baby!!

How much I enjoy an old fashioned doughnut from Starbucks with my venti, one-tea bag Awake. It’s the little things that make my city mornings worthwhile. (Judge not and all that…)

guilty pleasures

guilty pleasures

How much I love those last few minutes each evening when I cradle Tabitha before putting her to bed. Our routine is bath, books, nurse, sleep. I know “they” (“they” being the endless pile of parenting books stacked on my bedside table) say it’s not good to associate food with sleep, but this is a pattern that works for us at the moment, so I’m not changing it (and she has definitely fallen asleep without nursing, so I don’t think it’s a crutch.) Regardless, she inevitably falls asleep as we’re nursing, and I’ll just sit back for a few minutes and put my feet up and cradle her. The poor little thing has had one cold after another and now might be struggling with allergies, so she sleeps with her mouth agape. Those few minutes are absolutely the highlight of my day.

Evening cuddles

Evening cuddles

How incredibly lucky I am to have such an amazing daughter and an amazing husband. We don’t have it all figured out yet (far from it!), but we seem to be having a good time so far, and that’s all that matters.

HAPPY FRIDAY!

(Giving credit where credit is due…I stole the idea for this post from the gorgeous hithertodc!)

Sealed with a Kiss

I’ve always been somewhat obsessed with letters, and am sad that the days of beautiful stationary, postage stamps, ‘air mail’ stickers and carefully weighed words are quickly coming to an end. Texts and emails simply aren’t the same–what we gain in efficiency and immediacy, we lose in thoughtfulness and romance. I always get excited when I see excerpts of letters; here are a few favorites…

I’m in love with brouhaha’s letter to her daughter. It is both hilarious and heart-breakingly tender.

“The main thing is just to try to be nice. You already are – so lovely I burst, darling – and so I want you to hang on to that and never let it go. Keep slowly turning it up, like a dimmer switch, whenever you can. Just resolve to shine, constantly and steadily, like a warm lamp in the corner, and people will want to move towards you in order to feel happy, and to read things more clearly. You will be bright and constant in a world of dark and flux, and this will save you the anxiety of other, ultimately less satisfying things like ‘being cool’, ‘being more successful than everyone else’ and ‘being very thin’.”

And there are always great letters from fathers over at brainpickings; here is an excerpt from John Steinbeck’s letter to his son, upon his confession that he is in love.

“First — if you are in love — that’s a good thing — that’s about the best thing that can happen to anyone. Don’t let anyone make it small or light to you.”

Here’s a priceless, illustrated letter from J.R.R. Tolkien (as Santa Claus) to his children.

“It all happened like this: one very windy day last November my hood blew off and went and stuck on the top of the North Pole.”

And here’s a lovely quote from Vladimir Nabokov to his wife Vera. Forgive me for not posting a link along with it.

“I love you, my sweetheart. Try to be cheery when I come back (but I love you when you’re low, too.) If it weren’t for the two of you–I have felt this perfectly clearly–I would’ve gone to Morocco as a soldier.”

(get a kick out of reading other people’s mail? Have at it with the upcoming Letters of Note: The Book!)

How To Create Blog Content Using Five Easy Steps

Although some people may think blogging was so five years ago, I have to admit it’s one of my favorite hobbies at the moment. I enjoy reading, but in the evenings, I prefer something a bit more productive. I love writing drafts or making lists or figuring out what it is exactly I’m trying to say with all of this. In anticipation of the Blogging 201 challenge, and thanks to a lull in the office, I decided to put myself through an exercise to determine what exactly Next Page, New Chapter is. Not necessarily what I want it to be (although that’s the next step!), but what it is right now. In a short period of time, I had a couple of visual aids that prompted upcoming posts and series. Here’s how I did it:

Mind Map, v1

Mind Map, v1

1. Brainstorm. It all started with a mind map. I grabbed a piece of paper and a few pens and got to work (in the future, I want to keep colored pencils on hand. The process is much more fun when lots of color is involved!) I put the title of my blog in the center and went from there. What do I write about? Parenting was the first word that popped out at me, and from parenting I was able to move in multiple directions (life changes, relationships, baby milestones, work & mothering, etc.) After that, writing popped out as a second major theme. In addition to the periodic creative non-fiction or poetry pieces, I love reading about and thinking about writing (and blogging, which is considered by many to not be writing, but whatever. I’m not trying to argue semantics.)

mind map, v2

mind map, v2

2. Analyze. The first draft of my mind map made it clear that I like to talk about all things parenting and writing. There were other areas, such as reading and fitness, that didn’t produce many daughter topics during the brainstorm. Yes, I’ll be running the Marine Corps Marathon in October, but it’s my fourteenth marathon, and after a while, all training is the same—run miles. Lots of miles. Hopefully fast. It’s a part of my life, but not a huge part, and I don’t think it provides much fodder for posts. It seemed to make more sense to have a broad, “other pieces of me” category for the random one-offs, such as a training run recap or book review.

3. Compare. Once I figured out what I like to write (and where most of my ideas come from), I looked at my blog stats to see which posts were more popular. As luck would have it, the posts with the most traffic happened to be creative writing posts or posts about parenting. Funny how it all works out!

4. Plan. From there, I decided to make a plan for the next month or so. I like the idea of discussing parenting topics on Mondays (with a nod to A Cup of Jo for inspiring the idea!), and discussing writing/blogging topics on Wednesdays. I hope to include more pictures and images. For example, pictures of journal entries with a few excerpts, pictures of brainstorming/planning exercises (like this!), etc. I also hope at one point to write more creative nonfiction, but I’m up against a bit of a writer’s block at the moment. And then sprinkled here and there throughout the week will be some fun, miscellaneous things—another how-to post, for instance, random mommy confessions, my quest to figure out the color of my parachute, etc.

5. Revisit. In June, I’ll re-do this process to see if I should make any changes. Do people not care about the parenting posts as much as I thought they would? Am I having a hard time writing them? Are there summer specific themes or series I might want to try?

Other blogging resources:
one cool site
Problogger (I tried out some of their tips on writing awesome titles for this post!)
How to create mind maps
18 places to generate great blog post ideas

 

World’s Toughest Job

Have you seen this video yet? Yes, it’s an advertising schtick, but a mighty damn good one that put tears in this momma’s eyes.

(Although I’m still breastfeeding, so pretty much everything makes me cry.)

There are so many things I strive for as a mother. I want so badly to be a good mother to Tabitha. I want to give her the warmth, structure and support she needs to grow into a kind, confident, capable woman. I want her to grow up in an environment full of mutual love, trust and respect, and when she’s out on her own, I want our relationship to remain strong.

I’ve been blessed with the best little girl in the world, and my goal is to be the best mother I can be to her, because she deserves nothing less.

How to Get Ready for Work in Ten Minutes

How to Get Ready for Work in Ten Minutes!

 

To say my “city” mornings are hectic are an understatement. Typically, we wake up around 5:45 and leave the house between 6:50 and 7. (And then some mornings, like yesterday, we forget to hit snooze and wake up a little later…) Within that hour, both Neal and I take showers, Neal will prep Tabitha’s bottles for daycare while I feed her, she gets changed, and we have a little bit of playtime. I want to show up to work looking somewhat presentable, but I don’t want to take away from my morning time with Tabitha to worry about eyeliner, blush, etc. I keep it simple.

(Truth be told, I’ve always kept it simple, but mainly because I have no clue how to use make-up and I’ll always choose a few extra minutes of sleep over more time in front of the mirror.)

It all starts with a good base,–I use the Dermalogica Daily Microfoliant in the shower and LOVE LOVE LOVE it. I started using this a few years ago and feel it is absolutely worth the price; when I stop using it, my skin starts looking dull. (Vogue agrees that the fresh face, aka the “I’m too busy/lazy/tired/whatever to put on make-up” face is in, and suggests some fun products to make your skin look so fabulous you won’t even need make-up. I’m especially intrigued by this gold-leaf lip balm from Barney’s.)

Once I’m out of the shower, I’ll slap on BB cream (and this one has an SPF of 25–bonus!) If my face needs a bit more brightening, I’ll also throw on a coat of Bare Minerals (I’ve tried liquid foundations in the past, but they are always too cakey for my tastes and can make me break out.) An eyelash curler takes away the need for mascara (this was a tip from my bestie who helped me figure out my wedding make-up, and I now use my eyelash curler almost daily!) And finally, some tinted lip balm. I love lipstick, but I also love kissing my daughter, and don’t want her to have lipstick stains all over that adorable little head of hers. So, tinted lip balm it is.

Throw on a dress, grab a pair of shoes and BAM. I’m ready for the day. (Once I get my coffee, that is…)

Saying Goodbye to Breastfeeding

I’ve mentioned breastfeeding on this blog before. It hasn’t always been easy. The first few days were hell until we saw the lactation consultant who literally changed my life (I’m not kidding. I need to send her a thank you card with a picture of the Sweet Pea.) And even once we found a good rhythm, it was not without its challenges. It’s tiring. There are plugged duct issues and engorgement issues and don’t even get me started on the issues that happens once your baby has four teeth and has figured out how to use them.

Ouch.

The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends breastfeeding for a year. The World Health Organization recommends breastfeeding for two years. But here I am, eight months in, trying to figure out whether and when and how to wean. I feel horrible about it–I really do. If I were able to stay home with Tabitha, maybe I could manage to breastfeed for a year plus, but pumping at work is a pain in the ass, and I have a lot of things going on at work that will make pumping nigh impossible. Apart from the difficulties that will be posed by my employer’s move to an open office concept, I have a few conferences coming up in May and I really don’t feel like hauling my pump back and forth.

For now, I will begin to reduce the frequency with which I pump at work. About a month or so ago we added in one bottle of formula a day and Tabitha didn’t seem to notice, so I gradually reduced from pumping 3 times at work to pumping twice, and now I’m at about once a day. My goal had been to cut this last one out entirely last week, but I just couldn’t bring myself to do it.

I know formula isn’t bad, and Tabitha has been receiving one to two bottles of formula on the weekdays and has adjusted to them quite well. However, I feel pressure from both internal and external sources to keep going. Tabitha’s incredibly well-meaning daycare providers continually laud the benefits of breastfeeding, and one day a week or so ago when Tabitha didn’t eat well, they mentioned it must have been because she didn’t want the formula bottle. When she was sick, they assured me she would get better much faster since we’re still breastfeeding. I don’t think they care one way or the other whether I switch to formula entirely or keep up this current combination, but those comments make me perceive a bit of judgement.

And then of course there’s the internal pressure (which is always worst of all.) I think in addition to the guilt I feel in regards to working, I also still struggle with feelings of failure regarding the birth. Yes, it was eight months ago. Yes, Tabitha emerged perfectly healthy and happy and all’s well that ends well. But I still look back periodically and think about all of the things I could have done differently. If only we had waited to go to the hospital and walked around the neighborhood a bit more. If only I had refused to have the doctor break my water. If only, if only, if only.

So in a way, I think I want to be a champion breastfeeding mom to make up for it. Ok, the birth didn’t go according to plan, but look! We’re still breastfeeding!

But unfortunately, it is looking increasingly unlikely that I will make it to the magical year mark. I’m going to see how long I can keep up with the evening/weekend feedings, but I have a feeling we’ll be finished with those in a month or so. I’ll miss it. Despite the periodic inconveniences, we had a pretty easy time with it overall, and it has truly been a precious bonding experience.

I’m a little disappointed in myself, but given the challenges with my commute, I’m proud I’ve made it this long.  Tabitha is being introduced to more and more solids, and I feel this is an ideal time for us to make the transition from breastmilk to formula. If my body cooperates and can figure out the whole no milk during the day/milk in the evenings concept, then we might have a few more months in us. If not, I’m happy with what we’ve accomplished, and I look forward to this next phase with my Sweet Pea.

Mommy Confessions

Ok, so remember how the other day I got all cocky and was like I KNOW EXACTLY WHAT BABIES NEED AND IT ISN’T MUCH? And I claimed that you only need two sheets for the crib?

Turns out, I was wrong.

See, Tabitha must have had some tummy troubles last night, and when I went to check on her at around 2am, it turns out she had vomited. Now that we’re introducing more and more solids, gone are the days of yore when vomiting meant lightly colored spit-up. Nope. Now it’s green (damn peas.) It was on her sheet, on her sleep sack, on her pajamas, in her hair (poor sweetness.) But wouldn’t you know that her one other sheet was in the laundry hamper? We had just changed it yesterday, and I was going to save the laundry for today.

I’m sure you can guess where this is going. It was 2am. We had to strip the baby, put her in clean clothes and rinse her off to the best of our ability (she was completely oblivious to the puke on the side of her head, but it kind of made my stomach turn.) So…I told Neal to take the vomit-y sheet off of her mattress and slap on the dirty one from the laundry hamper.

Now before you get all judgey mcjudgerson on me, the sheet wasn’t really dirty. We had actually just washed it a few days earlier and I only stripped it yesterday because I knew I’d be washing linens today. Plus, it was in the baby’s hamper, which is almost always empty and even when there are clothes in it to be washed, she’s a baby, so it’s not like they’re smelly or anything (any soiled clothes go directly to the laundry room to be pre-treated!)

So, yeah, mom of the year.

But you’ll be happy to know that this morning when she woke up (all smiles!) she got a nice warm bubble bath and a shampoo, and now BOTH sheets are in the wash.

(To be on the safe side, though, I might buy a third sheet…)