books + reading · parenting

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

One day when Edgar was just a few months old, I looked up to find Tamara reading him Victor Frankl’s Man’s Search For Meaning.

Now, when you’re reading to a very young baby, it’s more about the sound of your voice than the subject matter of the book. So Tamara and I took advantage of that stage and just read our own books out loud to Edgar until he was older.

However, I found that Man’s Search For Meaning – which is a beautiful and inspiring book about a man who survived the Holocaust – was a step too far. TOO INTENSE FOR A BABY. And, to keep that from happening to others, I decided to make a list of the books Edgar has loved the most throughout his first two years. Edgar has had specific favorites from the time he was four months old, so this list will be produced in segments according to age.

Recommended reading from 6-month-old Edgar:

Peek-a-Who? by Nina Laden. Sweet, simple, and (spoiler alert) a little mirror in the back so our narcissistic babies can gurgle at themselves on the book’s last page.

Some Bugs by Angela Diterlizzi. Tamara is SO GOOD at wandering around bookstores and picking out children’s books. She found this one, which is really colorful, rhythmic, and sweet. When Edgar was crying in the car, I would read this book out loud (from memory, of course) to help him calm down.

The Itsy Bitsy Pumpkin by Sonali Fry and Peter Rabbit’s Halloween by Beatrix Potter. I don’t know if this is a foreshadowing, but tiny baby Edgar loved Halloween. He was always drawn to books with pumpkins and Halloween costumes. Toddler Edgar is pretty skeptical of actual Halloween so far; he tends to look around at all the school-aged kids in costumes like WHAT IS THIS MADNESS.

Sherlock Holmes: A Sounds Primer by Jennifer Adams. It was easy to understand why Edgar loved this one – it was all spooky noises, and what babe doesn’t love that?

First Farm Words. Edgar loved books with really clear pictures labelled with their name. “Tractor. Corn. Farmer. Harvesting.” They are scintillating to read, let me tell you.

Today Is Monday by Eric Carle. Every year when my mom’s kindergarten class graduated, they would sing the song “Today Is Monday” at their celebration. I’d always sing this book to Edgar, and the singable books were big hits at this age.

Edgar hopes that you (and your baby) enjoy!

mindfulness · parenting

Surprises

So many things have surprised me about becoming a parent.

I was genuinely surprised by how much it affected my life at work. I’ve felt very discontent with jobs since Teddy came home, and I know becoming a parent has to do with that. Suddenly, my time at work was also time away from my kid. The stakes got a lot higher, and it became harder to find the kind of work that is engaging and satisfying to me.

I was surprised by how much it energized me in my quest to become a writer. I’ve decided that the reason for this is pretty simple: I want to show my kids what it looks like to believe in yourself and work hard to make your dreams come true.

I’ve been surprised at how hard it is for me to be away from Teddy. It’s getting a little easier as he gets older, but I really feel the happiest and the calmest when I’m with him.

And, finally (for now) – I’ve been surprised at the ways it’s helped me with mindfulness.

I love mindfulness. I recommend mindfulness to others. I utilize mindfulness in my psychotherapy work.

But in my down time? My ability to be mindful varies. I’ve always been a “do your homework while watching TV” kind of person. I listen to podcasts while doing laundry. I listen to music while I’m running. I listen to audiobooks in the car. I rarely do one thing at a time, fully, even though that is almost always my goal.

And then, there’s my 22-month-old son. We spend our weekends wandering around the farm. We visit the lawn mower, the creek, the tractor, the ‘slide’ (a bit of concrete that slants downward toward more concrete), and the chickens. He doesn’t need any distractions, anything to accompany our meandering. He’s completely present.

At least once during the walk, Teddy will stop everything he’s doing, point up at the sky, and say something that sounds like “PLUUUHN!”

Because, of course, a plane is flying overhead. He never misses it. I would never notice it – I’m usually too caught up in my own thoughts, or listening to a podcast so can’t hear it. But Teddy hears it. He’s tuned in.

When we have moments like this, it reminds me that I want to be tuned in, too.  I want to have awareness of the world around me, not just the thoughts inside my head.

I’ve found that I still do a lot of multi-tasking as a parent. I listen to podcasts while we’re meandering around the farm, or I listen to an audiobook while we’re doing dishes together. (Sorry – I meant while I do the dishes and Edgar dumps cups of water on his head.)

But there are moments when parenthood has brought me fully into the present. Like when I’m reading to Edgar, and we’re cuddled up together and I’m completely tuned in to what we’re doing. We have some great books we’ve read together that are actually meant to teach kids about mindfulness. My two current favorites are Baby Present by Rachel Neumann and I Am Peace by Susan Verde.

Those moments are magic.

I have a feeling that multi-tasking while parenting is going to get increasingly difficult as Edgar gets older, and I’m glad. I want to be as present as I can be – as a parent, and in my life overall.

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image from elephantjournal.com
parenting

Mom’s So-Called Social Life

The thing is – socializing as a parent is HARD.

One of my current goals is to build up my community – to feel more connected to my neighborhood and to the people around me.  I’m an introvert and a homebody, so building my community without becoming completely exhausted is a challenge.

It’s going pretty well. I’ve been maintaining a decent balance of time at home and time socializing with others. One of my mini-resolutions has been to accept as many invitations as I can. (I have a tendency to decline invitations to hang out and then whine about not having any friends, which is ridiculous.)

HOWEVER –

Trying to be social while also being a parent is tricky.

There are a few different reasons why this is tricky, in my life.

The first is that I’m a working parent. I’ve found it extremely difficult to be a working parent, which was a genuine surprise to me after Teddy came home. I’ve always worked, and our family’s plan was always for me to continue working. But once Teddy was here, I found it really hard to be away from him, and I found myself wishing for more flexibility with my employment.

The end result of this is that it’s extremely difficult for me to spend any time away from Teddy when I’m not working. Meeting a friend for coffee? Sounds awesome – and I bring Teddy along. That way, I get my friend time, which I love, and I don’t sacrifice time with my kid. It’s not perfect, but it works for me. This was a pretty good deal when Teddy was a baby who slept all or most of the time and was confined to his car seat or someone’s arms the rest of the time.

Now – I have a toddler. Once I started socializing with my son THE TODDLER – it was a totally different story. A few months ago, I had a brunch date with my friends, with Teddy along.  It was disaster. I tried hard to focus on my friends, on catching up, on listening to their stories – all while Teddy fidgeted and stood up and fell down and just existed as a toddler in the world. He required attention – attention I couldn’t give to socializing. I simply could not stay present and focused with other adults – half of my brain power is always focused on what Teddy’s doing and what he needs.

Simply the logistics of socializing as a parent can be difficult, too. I’ve always taken pride in being pretty easy-going and flexible when it comes to planning. “I’ll be at the coffee shop all day,” I’d tell someone. “Just stop by whenever and we’ll catch up.” No timeline – no big deal.

But now? Sometimes, I want to meet a friend for coffee. And it HAS TO BE exactly at 10 a.m. Because of naps, and food, and car rides, and crankiness. And, as much as I want to be flexible – I find that I have to be honest about what will work for me and for Teddy. (Because when I try to adjust things, brunch is DISASTER.)

I have ventured out, on a handful of occasions, without Teddy. I am careful about when I do this – for example, NOT on Sunday night when I’m already cranky about the work week starting on Monday.  Once I went out to meet up with friends at around 7ish, right before Teddy’s bedtime – Tee took care of bedtime and I didn’t miss too much of my Mommy-Teddy time. That worked.

I’m hopeful that as time progresses, it will get a little easier for me to socialize without Teddy.  I’m not sure if my reluctance to be away from him is typical or not; maybe it’s something other working moms feel, too. Someday, hopefully, the math of my work life will change – shorter hours and more time at home.

And then, maybe it will get easier to allow myself time with friends sans kids. Because it’s refreshing to have that – a time when I can completely focus on others and myself, without having to ensure the safety and well-being of a dependent little person.

But also? I’m trying my best not to feel bad about not wanting to be away from my kid. We get so many freaking messages from the world. We are often told what we need. I personally am often told that I *need* time away from Teddy. And maybe I do. But I should get to determine that for myself, thankyouverymuch.

There are so many obstacles – finding a go-to babysitter (still working on that), and just plain finding mutually free time to connect with a friend in our always-busy culture.  But I’m working on it, and like everything else in my life, the key is BABY STEPS.

AND becoming more comfortable being the hostess.  Because then your friends come to you, and your son can run and play in his most comfortable environment.  WIN-WIN.

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parenting

Mom Goals

I am definitely a resolution maker, an intention setter. I like to look at my life, evaluate, and make goals for how I want to do things differently.

Most of the time, these are personal goals. However, since becoming a parent in July 2016, I’ve been thinking about different kinds of resolutions – things I want to do because I want them for my children and my family.

These resolutions – maybe they should be called Mom Goals – will benefit everyone in my family, including me. But they didn’t really occur to me before becoming a parent. Or maybe I wasn’t able to follow through on them without a larger purpose being involved.

Anyway, this is my number one Mom Goal – giving warm greetings and farewells.

Tee and I are pretty good at doing this with each other, but I am not always the best at these in social settings. I have a tendency toward Irish good-byes. I have no idea why they’re called Irish good-byes, but an Irish good-bye is when you just sort of disappear from a party without saying good-bye to anyone there.

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And, I mean, really – saying good-bye to EVERYONE at a party can take an extra hour and a lot of energy. However, I really want to foster warm and loving transitions for Teddy and any future kids. I want them to give hugs and kisses, if they feel like it, and at the minimum I want to walk them through the motions of saying hello and good-bye.

Sometimes as an adult, I meet people who just seem to radiate warmth and sunshine. They’re aggressively friendly without being overbearing. I love these people. I am not one of them, and I probably never will be, and that is okay. But I do want to give my kids the gift of regular rituals of hellos and good-byes. For Teddy right now, it involves blowing kisses, giving hugs, or an awkward wave, depending on his comfort level.

This is not something that comes naturally to me. But when I stop to think about it, my family has always had good-bye rituals with each other. When one of us was piling in the car to drive away on a trip, we’d stand in the driveway or on the front stoop and wave as they pulled away. I did this with my dad as he got in his car to drive back up the East Coast after visiting me at an Extended Stay America in Miami. I stood by the front door of the hotel, waited patiently as he got situated, and I waved until he drove around the side of the building and out of my sight. I’m so glad I did that. It was the last time I saw my dad. He died less than six weeks later.

The ways that we say hello and good-bye are so important. It’s why we always want to visit new babies, even though a lot of us think new babies are funny-looking and boring.  (Just me?) We want to greet them – we want to welcome them warmly into the world, and we want to welcome their parents into their new role.

So, when we have guests who are packing up to leave our house, I gently scoop Teddy up and he, Tee, and I walk our guests to the door and give them good-bye hugs. And if we’re at a party, even when I really want to scoot out the door unnoticed, I show Teddy how to say thanks and we blow good-bye kisses. He knows the routine now, and he gets a kick out of the reaction he gets from others when he says “Mwah!”

Anyway – good-bye, readers! So nice to see you.  Mwah!

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parenting · podcasts

So Many Podcasts

So I’ve been busily and happily listening to podcasts lately. This is interfering with my reading game somewhat, but c’est la vie – four years’ worth of archive episodes of The Girl Next Door weren’t going to listen to themselves.

Now that I’m done with the GND archives, I’ve moved on to some other podcasts, and the category I’m most into right now is parenting podcasts – more specifically, podcasts that talk about parenting but also talk about how to do other things (creative projects, working, self-care) while also parenting.

I’ve been doing some soul-searching about what I want to do next, career-wise, and I’m really interested in hearing how other people have developed their freelance careers or monetized their side hustles – WHILE PARENTING. Because that part is key; I have career goals, but my number one goal is being a present and peaceful parent.

I’m also motivated to listen to podcasts and audiobooks on parenting toddlers; Teddy is starting to have some tantrums, and any and all tips from podcasts and books have been welcome.  I’m really interested in behavior management and parenting theories, but the thing is – during the adoption wait, I couldn’t really consume parenting books. It was too hard. I was thinking about the adoption all the time, and trying to distract myself from the difficulty of the wait. Reading a book about parenting would have been a constant reminder that I was oh-so-ready for something that was not yet happening for me.

I’m playing catch-up now, and podcasts are a little easier for me to digest than reading entire parenting books. I love reading fiction so much that I rarely want to take a break from it to read nonfiction. Listening to nonfiction audiobooks and podcasts is preferable for me.

My new favorite podcast is The Mom Hour – just two moms talking about all things parenting and otherwise. Super fun.  Happy listening!

 

adoption · parenting

Adoptive-Parent-In-Waiting: Part Two

I figured that this month, since I’m focusing on parenting topics, it would be a good time to check in regarding Part Two of my stint as an Adoptive-Parent-In-Waiting.

Tee and I are back on the adoptive parent waiting list, waiting to have a second child placed in our home.

This is exciting. This is HUGE.Worth_the_Wait_wm__63681.1496380714

But also – this is a COMPLETELY different experience, for me, than waiting for Our First Baby was.

We let our friends and family know a few months ago that we were back on the list, waiting for Baby # 2. And now, periodically, friends will check in with me, seeing how the wait is going.

And it is going well. Way, way better than Round 1.

Because I am already a mom. I think that’s the main reason.

Before Teddy came home, I was desperate to be a mom. Desperate. It was the deepest wish of my heart. It was so painful to want to be a mom and to not be able to have that happen.

Now, I have that identity. I AM a mommy. I love being a mommy.

Having a second child will be amazing. But it won’t make me MORE of a mother. I’m already a mother.

And, as much as I want Teddy to have a younger sibling, I am just FULL of love. When a new baby comes, I know my heart will expand. But for now, every bit of it goes to Teddy, Tee, our families, and our friends.

So – it’s different.  It’s a way different feeling. AND I think I learned some things the first time around, since I did pretty much everything wrong with Adoption Wait # 1. Someday, I’ll write a book about everything I did during Adoption Wait # 1, so that other APIWs know what not to do.

I still get butterflies. It’s still challenging to live in a constant state of not knowing if they’ll be a tiny baby in our house tomorrow or if it will be another two years of waiting.

But now – for Adoption Wait # 2- I have a lot more patience and a ton more faith. That makes a big difference.

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adoption · parenting

Good Enough Mom

Ever since Teddy was born, I’ve been planning out his Lifebook in my head.

A Lifebook is a keepsake often associated with adoption. When I worked as a social worker with children who were placed with foster families, one of the first things I did was to find out if they had a Lifebook, and create one for them if they didn’t already have one.

The simplest way to explain it is to call it a scrapbook – a book of photos, words, letters, mementos that tells the child’s life story. For children who are placed with foster families, the Lifebook can be a constant – something that follows them and tells their story, which is especially valuable if they don’t have an adult who is a constant in their life to help them to understand their experiences and their memories.

Teddy’s Lifebook would be a little different. It would basically be a book containing his origin story – a book explaining how we came to be a family. Tee and I have had beautiful plans for his Lifebook. I bought a navy blue braided photo album and farm-themed scrapbook paper. I started plotting out the words that we’d write on sticky notes. I ordered some baby photos from Shutterfly.

And then I stopped.

The thing is – I’m not great at scrapbooking. I enjoy it, in theory. I might even like it, if I were at some sort of scrapbooking party and could work on it while chatting with friends. But when I’m home on a Saturday afternoon, enjoying my two hours of down time while Teddy naps, the absolute LAST thing I want to do is make a freaking scrapbook.

Teddy loves being read to, and I am finding that my favorite way to prepare him for upcoming experiences is through books. We read books about adoption day, Christmas, the potty, mindfulness. It’s amazing to watch him make connections, to see how reading a book  about the potty has helped to prepare him for toilet training.

I knew Teddy would love reading his Lifebook – just a simple story, with pictures of him, me, and Tee, explaining how we came to be a family. And I kept feeling increasing pressure that I HAD to get this book made, so that Teddy could read it with us and start to understand his story. We tell him his adoption story regularly – we’re completely open and honest and joyful about how we came to be a family – but I knew that reading a book together repeatedly would be way more impactful for Teddy. Also, kids go through stages. Maybe in a year or so, Teddy won’t even be into books as much as he is today. (Hard to imagine, with me and Tee as his parents, but it could happen.)

So I felt super stressed and overwhelmed, and the Lifebook still wasn’t getting done.

Then, a couple of weeks ago, I made a decision: I would make a not-that-great Lifebook.

I would do a sub-par job. I would half-ass it.

Someday, I would make a perfect Lifebook for Teddy. But today, I’d make one that was just good enough.

I picked a day, and I sat down that evening to look at websites. I flirted with a few websites that allow you to self-publish a simple children’s book, and then I abandoned them to use Shutterfly. I’ve created books on Shutterfly before – our adoption album, the one that was shown to prospective birth parents, was made on Shutterfly – and that would be the simplest path to take.

I uploaded a bunch of photos – that took basically an entire evening. The only photos I included were photos of me, Tee, and Teddy. If I included extended family or friends, I’d be worrying about balance and including everyone and where the hell is that one photo of Teddy with all his grandparents. NOPE. Not doing any of that. Keeping it simple.

The next evening, I put the photos in place and I typed out the text. I had Tee read it and she gave me some feedback. I proofread it one more time and ordered it.

DONE.

I felt amazing for days after I ordered the book. I was so excited for it to arrive, and I was relieved to have that stress off my shoulders.

That task had been on my to-do list for almost two years. All it took was me deciding that I would settled for “good enough,” and it got done.

And you know what? It’s more than good enough. It’s wonderful. Teddy loves looking at his baby pictures and sitting on my lap listening to the story – his story. 

I’m a recovering perfectionist, and it’s a relief when I give myself permission to do B+ work. Especially when it comes to parenting. Because it’s all about showing up. Admitting that you won’t be able to do any of it perfectly, and showing up anyway.

It’s hard. But worth it.

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