parenting · simplifying

Infant Care 101

When we arrived at the hospital to meet our new adoptive son, the hospital staff we met would do this thing.

They would start to tell us something about infant care – diapers, circumcision care, feeding, burping – and then they’d stop themselves. “Oh, you already have a child?” they’d say, remembering that we already had a two-year-old at home. “So you know all this already.”

At which point, I would politely encourage them to continue. Because in my head I was screaming, That was two years ago! I remember nothing! Please do not send me home without some reminders if not some sort of infant care graduate level course.

It really is strange, when you think about it. I have to be recertified in CPR every two years, and I have to take 40 hours of training every two years to maintain my social work license. But to take care of an infant – which many would say is one of the most important, challenging, and serious jobs in the world – I can walk out of the hospital after a quick chat with the doctor. (Oh, and after watching about 45 minutes of infant care videos, which Tamara and I watched absent-mindedly while also excitedly texting family and friends with the good news that our family had a new adorable member.)

And now, we’re home, and we’ve been “home” with our new son for two weeks today. And you know what? It is easier this time around. We know how to do the basics – changing diapers, making formula, cleaning baby bottles. When our first son, Edgar, came home, I was terrified of making formula. It sounded complex, like it would require concentration and precision, neither of which I had much of as a brand-new mom.

This was a myth, one I created all by myself, because making formula is more like mixing some Crystal Light iced tea that anything else. And this time around, I knew that already. Though I maintain that calling it “formula” makes it sound way more complex and intimidating than it needs to be.

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I’m off from work for six weeks, and we’re starting to settle into a nice routine during our days. There is something about newborn care that really helps me to be mindful and present. There is a simple rhythm to my days with J.J. – he eats, I change his diaper, he plays, he sleeps. While he sleeps, I wash bottles, make new bottles, straighten up around the house, try to tackle some simple acts of self-care. (REAL simple. Like, I might take a shower today.) When Edgar gets home from school, either Tamara or I take him outside to play. There are simple things that need to get done, and there’s not much time to do it all – so only the most basic and most important things get done.

I love this rhythm. I would love to carry it with me as J.J. grows and as our lives move back into more of a regular day-to-day routine. For now, I am thankful for the simplicity, rhythm, and joy that come with this sweet and special time of life.

 

goals · writing

No Matter What

Never, not once in my entire life, have I been described as neat.

When I’m writing, I try to be aware of using words like always and never. Extreme words like that are rarely true. But the above statement is: I have never in my life been described as neat. My messiness is pervasive; it is associated with every aspect of my life.  My car is messy – my office is messy – my house is messy.

Now, as an adult, I feel more motivated to keep my spaces tidy than I did as a child. But being more motivated does not change my messiness; I’m still messy. I’m just more inclined to tidy up after the mess has been made, because I do find that (a la Gretchen Rubin) outer order promotes inner calm. In other words, I feel better – more creative, more productive, more mindful – when my space is orderly and pleasantly arranged.

That is not the case in my house right now. We are happily adjusting to life as a family of four, and that means there’s less time for dishes and sweeping and following my toddler around cleaning up toys as he does his absolute favorite thing with every container of toys. (“Dump!”) However, I’m not writing this post right now because I’m trying to develop strategies for keeping the house more neat.

I’m writing this post because I’m trying to focus on my writing even when my house is a disaster.  

For me, an easy way to procrastinate is to do something productive that is NOT THE THING I AM SUPPOSED TO BE DOING. Maybe I’m supposed to be paying bills, but I decide to do dishes instead. Maybe I’m supposed to be doing the laundry, but I decide to clean up Edgar’s toys (with his toddler version of help) first. It’s not that what I’m doing is bad – it’s just not what I intended to do with my time, and one of my life goals is to be more intentional with how I live my life and how I spend my time.

The goal is to write – because it’s the thing in my life that I most want to cultivate, other than being a parent, a wife, and an all-around good human being in the world. I don’t have any goals about getting better at doing the dishes or tidying. My personal and professional goals are about writing – doing it more, and getting better at it, even when the house is a disaster.

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books + reading · parenting

Edgar’s Faves (Best Books List For 22-Months-Olds)

I love these books posts, but I am mostly writing this one today because there’s a lot going on and I want to keep the blog consistent! Keep it simple – that’s one of my mantras this week.

Edgar had a sleepover at his cousins’ house recently, and we sent some of his current favorite books with him as a comfort. I love that – the fact that books are a comfort. They certainly are for me. We had a last-minute overnight trip recently and I packed ten books. TEN! And I needed every single one of them.

Recommended reading from 22-month-old Edgar:

Caps For Sale by Esphyr Slobodkina. Edgar loves the silly monkeys who mimic the cap seller in this book. It’s a winner with me, too.

Hug Machine by Scott Campbell. Edgar loved this book, eventually, but it started out as an obsession of mine. I purchased it as a gift for many of the toddlers I know, and reading it is such fun. Plus you get to give lots of hugs while you tell the story!

The Little Mouse, The Red Ripe Strawberry, and The Big Hungry Bear by Audrey Wood. Oh, my goodness – cutest book ever! We first read this at Tamara’s parents’ house. This might be one of my absolute favorites. It has an adorable plot, but Edgar loved it even before he understood the plot. (Honestly? He still might not get it. Go read it – it’s kinda meta!)

Baby Present by Rachel Neumann. I can’t remember how we stumbled upon this book. It actually reads like a short meditation. The text starts like this: “Breathe in, baby. Breathe out. You are perfect just as you are, sitting in the here and now.” When I read it to Edgar, I feel like I am taking a moment for myself, a moment of meditation and quiet mind. Those moments are few and far between when you’re caught up in the chaos of parenting young children, so I have appreciated this book oh-so-much.

Bringing The Outside In by Mary McKenna Siddals. A nature lover’s dream book!  So sweet and lyrical. It follows a group of kids playing outside throughout the seasons, and uses rhyme and repetition beautifully.

If You Give A Mouse A Cookie by Laura Joffe Numeroff. A classic! I love this book and its counterparts, If You Give A Pig A Pancake and If You Give A Moose A Muffin. 

Hairs by Sandra Cisneros. A children’s book by the author of The House On Mango Street! This is a beautiful and poetic book. I was actually surprised when Edgar started to love it so much! There are few trucks. The moon doesn’t make an appearance. For some reason, he just loved it.

Edgar and I hope you enjoy!

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goals · writing

Finished

One of my Summer Sabbatical goals was to finish the freelance writing course I was taking with Chaunie Brusie, and I did!

The course was great. Unfortunately, I realized that the kind of writing I want to do isn’t the same as the freelance writing Brusie does, so some of the lessons weren’t as relevant as I’d hoped – but I learned a lot, and I found resources I can tap into throughout my writing life.

It’s gotten me thinking about other ways I can educate myself about the writing world, and about the craft of fiction writing. I wrote a post on the #AmWriting podcast’s Facebook group asking for recommendations for online fiction writing courses, and I got several suggestions. (That group is AWESOME; if you’re a writer, you should get in there!  So supportive and knowledgeable.)

Life’s been a little crazy for the past week or so, and my fiction writing has taken a backseat to journalling and blogging. That’s okay; my writing life is seasonal, and this is a season that is slower, less fruitful. But – I’m still here, showing up to my computer, typing as much as I can as often as I can.

And – I finished my course!  Goal ACCOMPLISHED.

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books + reading · parenting

Edgar’s Faves (Best Books List For 18-Month-Olds)

Edgar’s new favorite thing to do at bedtime is ask about what he’s going to dream about that night.

I know. It’s too cute.

I’m not even sure how it started. But now, his routine is three books, a song, and his dream telling. Whenever I mention bedtime, he says “Dream!” Then we talk about what he’s going to dream about – usually something connected to his day – and then I lay him down to sleep.

These posts about Edgar’s books fall into a different category than most of my other blog posts. They are sort of becoming a scrapbook of little moments and memories from Edgar’s babyhood and toddlerhood, and I think blogs are great for that. They can be a way to capture these little magical moments in time. And for a non-scrapbooking mom like me, that is extremely valuable.

Recommended reading from 18-month-old Edgar:

Good Night Good Night Construction Site by Sherri Duskey Rinker. Really, anything and everything trucks worked for 18-month-old Edgar.

Knuffle Bunny by Mo Willems. HOW CUTE IS THIS BOOK? I love it. If we’re going to read a plot-based children’s book, I want the plot the be simple and sweet. This one is. Edgar loves it so much.

All The World by Liz Garton Scanlon. Tamara is really good at finding awesome children’s books by just browsing around a bookstore. She found this one at Main Street Books in Davidson, NC. We didn’t buy it there, just glanced through it and then requested it from the library, then bought it online later when we realized how much we loved it. (Now that I’m reflecting, I really wished we’d bought it at Main Street Books!)

Corduroy by Don Freeman. This was one of the first plot-based books that Edgar liked. I loved it at this age because it had a plot, but wasn’t really long and verbose, so it suited his attention span well.

The Snowy Day by Ezra Jack Keats. Edgar’s favorite part – and mine – is when the show drops on Peter’s head, PLOP!

From Head To Toe by Eric Carle. It is so cute how much Edgar likes this book. It prompts kids, asking them to raise their shoulders, bend their neck, kick their legs, stomp their feet. I only wish I liked it, even a little bit. To this day, I will agree to read this book exactly one time before referring Edgar to his other mother for a second or third or twentieth reading.

Edgar and I hope you enjoy!  🙂

 

 

 

mindfulness

Staying Present

I have a long-sleeved maroon hoodie that I got at Target. It’s lightweight and it says STAY PRESENT across the chest.

I love this shirt. It’s comfortable and cozy, and I love anything that helps me remember to stay present in my everyday life, rather than getting caught up in yesterday and tomorrow.

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Our family spent a few days at the beach this summer, and I was wearing this shirt while doing a crossword and chit-chatting with a group of people. My father-in-law asked me what my shirt said and what it meant. I explained, and then meekly put down my crossword. Because, while I strive to be present always, I am often not present. I am often multi-tasking, worrying, regretting, and doing a crossword or crocheting a blanket while also talking to a room full of people.

When you have a fresh start, it’s a good chance to set a reset button and start anew. And I have several major fresh starts happening in my life at the moment. I thought about that today; I was expecting a visitor, and I started to fret a bit, about how to entertain, what we’d eat. what we’d talk about. And then my visitor came – and I was completely in the moment, totally present. We talked and we laughed and we cried. I didn’t say everything “right” because there is not a right and wrong way to say things most of the time. I was just – present. 

When I really stop to think about it, I realize that it is rare for me to be fully present in my life. I worry about the future and I fret about the past. I do two things at once, doing neither of them in a really mindful way.

And now, after spending an afternoon with a friend and my family, just being in the moment and accepting every moment without judgment, I wonder – can I do this? Can I try to live totally in the moment? Can I worry less? Can I try to not have such high expectations of myself and everyone else? Can I try to just BE? Scratch out the TRY – can I just be?

One of my favorite quotes is from a song called “Another Day” in the musical Rent. 

There’s only us

There’s only this

Forget regret

Or life is yours to miss

No other road

No other way

No day but today

There are so many moments that I miss because I’m worried about being perfect, about doing everything the right way. I desperately want to be present. I want to be fully present in each and every moment of my crazy beautiful life. I know I can’t achieve presence and mindfulness the way you can get an A on a test. But – I can pray. I can hope. I can just BE and forget the rest.

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books + reading · mindfulness

Happiness Is An Inside Job

This summer, I crossed a few books off of my Slow Jams Syllabus. This was a list of books that were in my To Be Read pile for a long while. They survived many episodes of thinning out my book pile, and I can be pretty ruthless about getting rid of books that I know I’m not going to read. The thing was that I knew I wanted to read these books someday.

I set an intention of making these Slow Jams a priority during my Summer Sabbatical. I mostly accomplished this by downloading the books via Audible and listening to them during my many road trips. I often listen to podcasts (or, let’s be honest, toddler jams) on road trips, but I realized that one of the books – Happiness Is An Inside Job by Sylvia Boorstein – was only six hours long, audiobook-style. That’s one round trip to my mom’s house in New York. I’ve crossed only two books off of the list so far, but I’m planning to use my commute to work on many of the others.

Here are my takeaways from Happiness Is An Inside Job:

-This book is based largely on the Buddhist concepts of Wise Mind, Wise Effort, and Wise Concentration. I’ve really enjoyed reading more about Buddhism; one of my favorite books of all time is Buddhism Plain And Simple, by Steve Hagen. I’m going to read another book by Hagen to follow this one up since I am back in this groove.

-Radical acceptance. The idea of saying, “This isn’t what I wanted, but it’s what I got.”

-Boorstein writes about signs that people have attained some enlightenment. One of the things she talks about is the difference between people who say, “A terrible thing happened. Why me?”, and the people who say, “A terrible thing happened.Why not me? These things happen.”

-That lofty word, equanimity. The definition, according to my internet search, is “mental calmness, composure, and evenness of temper, especially in a difficult situation.” There’s not supposed to be a goal when it comes to Buddhism and meditation, I don’t think – I think you’re just supposed to be, and accept your circumstances. But if the stillness, the meditation, and the acceptance bring equanimity – well, that sounds pretty great.

This wasn’t my favorite book – I enjoyed one of Boorstein’s other books, It’s Easier Than You Think, much more. But it was a good read for me in this moment, when I am setting the intention of being more present. (More on that to come.)

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