Monday, September 15, 2014

5 Misconceptions About the Mom Haircut

I chopped my hair at the end of July (literally chopped it, myself, which is another blog post) and I've been loving it. It's so easy, my daughter can't pull on it (for the most part) and it looks better than the stupid bun I wore every day while my hair was long.

I've gotten compliments, though I'm sure the misconceptions about what having a mom haircut means are still out there. I'm here to put them down.

1. You're boring.
If you count being in my daughter's nursery by 7 every night, rocking her to sleep after a bedtime story... well, yeah. Starting over.

1. You're lazy.
I prefer to look at my lack of desire to dry and style 17 inches of furry softness on my head as NOT motivated by laziness but by a need to be doing approximately 132,410 other things at every moment.

2. Your sexual orientation is related to the length of your hair.
(Just no. Get with it.)

3. You've given up on your appearance.
It's a matter of priorities. Showering and the whole ritual used to center around looks. Now, it's more about getting the stink out when I have a second to clean something other than the kitchen, the high chair, diapers, the diaper genie, and of course, my baby.
That, and making sure I don't have mashed bananas in my hair (which is, like, statistically much less likely when you have less hair).

4. You have to be thin to pull off short hair.
Ah, the old "long hair lengthens your fat face" myth. Don't carry around extra hair that you don't care for just because you think it slims your face. It doesn't.

5. You can find me in the mom jeans.
Ahem, it's yoga pants now. They're the new mom jeans, and I am totally proud to be a part of this mom generation. I wear them happily, as if I were going to work out (good one), because every day as a mom is a workout. Fact.

If you've thought about taking the chop and getting rid of hair that's (literally) weighing you down, do it. The deciding factor for me was a conversation with my kick-ass mother. Thanks, mom. Hope you didn't take offense to the mom jeans thing.

Wednesday, September 10, 2014

Save Money on Decor: DIY


Seriously. This happened.
(This never happens.) You can do it, too.

Step 1: See this piece of art at Target.

Step 2: Want this piece of art from Target.

Step 3: Tell your husband you want it and then realize you've been spending way too much money at Target.

Step 4: Walk away.

Step 5: Find a crate. Any old crate.

Step 6: Tear apart the crate. Carefully. (I started trying to take this crate apart with a jigsaw. Ha. It scared me, all vibrating and whizzing and sharp and all. I put the jigsaw away. Then I stepped on one part while pulling another part away. This worked. I was not injured.)

Step 7: Staple pieces together with a staple gun.

Step 8: Paint the back side for practice.

Step 9: Paint the front for reals.

Step 10: Love and hang. (I haven't finished the "hang" part yet, but I'll update when I do.)

And you just saved $30. That's a lotta baby food.

A few notes about the lettering: I used the end of a flathead screwdriver to paint the lettering. Not sure I'd recommend it, but it works in a pinch.
See the yellow post-it there next to "most?" I used that bad boy as a kind of ruler for size reference, so that the block lettering would be an (almost) uniform size.

Now go on, get crafty! What phrase would you paint on something like this?

Friday, September 5, 2014

I'm Sorry, Other Moms

A friend had her baby today, three weeks early.

Baby is having some breathing problems. I'm nervous and waiting for photos. I'm hoping. I'm praying.
And you know what? She and I are not even that close.

I feel bad for having told her about how (relatively) easy my labor was. For telling her it would all be good.

I've felt bad all day. And I just realized why: I used to be proud of myself for how my labor went.
I'm embarrassed by this. I don't even know why I'm telling you this.

In some private, closed-off place, I felt that I'd done a good job at having a baby. And maybe I did—but I was working with what I was given. Factors wayyy outside of my control allowed me to do as well as I did. Even though I know that I had nothing to do with how well things went, a little secret part of me has probably thought that I am extra-good at having babies. As if it's a skill. And while going through postpartum depression has been (suuuper) humbling, I still held on to that sly little bit of smugness. I'd done it. And I'd done it well.

Today, and all the mamas I know whose babies are or were breech or early or just flat-out refusing to enter the world on mom's terms, has made me realize that I am nothing more than lucky. Blessed. Lucky to be blessed.

Maybe that's why we gave our daughter the middle name Grace.

Grace—(in Christian belief) the free and unmerited favor of God, as manifested in the salvation of sinners and the bestowal of blessings.

This is my apology to those I've shared my labor story with and seemed proud of myself. It was, simply and truly, grace. Unmerited, undeserving, incredible, powerful grace.

While we all should be proud of ourselves for surmounting the incredible challenge of giving birth, we should be equally proud. No matter how things went. Whether baby was breech, delivered by c-section, whether we got (and loved) the epidural, whether we needed pitocin or our waters broken, whether we felt weak or strong or mostly just angry at our partners for ever convincing us this was a good idea.

This may be as religious as I get on the blog, but please pray for my friend and her little family, and while you're at it, say a prayer to the Big Guy in the Sky for all the new mamas and brand-new babies out there who could use a little grace.

Thursday, September 4, 2014

4 Insane Things a Mom's Body Does

New, wonderful symptom of postpartum depression: Hands tingling.

It got me thinking about all the insane things my body's done since becoming a mom. Everything it does without needing your mental permission; without you needing to say, "OK, body, have at it."

After it's done building life out of sperm and egg, then pizza, pickles and ice cream, prenatal vitamins and lots of water (that goes out as quickly as it goes in) into a baby ready to take on the world, it gives life. Which is its own (several) blog posts. Then...then? No one talks about what happens then. Here's a couple nutty things.

1. It makes your hands tingle. 
This was further confirmation to me that postpartum depression (and mental illness, in general) is not simply psychological. It all has a physical basis. My body is doing some crazy shit right now, and apparently sending the proper amount of blood and sensation to my hands is pretty damn low on the list of priorities (see #2).

2. It feeds life.
Last night, I pumped after my daughter went to bed. Of course, because of this, she un-characteristically woke up as I was trying to go to sleep at 10:30. I had no milk. But she latched on and persisted. A minute or two of that, and I felt the let-down. And I heard her gulping. Ask for milk, milk you receive.

3. It tells you what it needs.
When I was first home from the hospital, all I wanted was chocolate. Dark chocolate. And as it turns out, chocolate can help your milk supply.* I wish I could say I'd known that, but really I was just listening to my cravings.
After the sweets bingeing was (mostly) over, I craved meat. This from a woman who would order "just fries" or cheese sticks from restaurants as a kid to avoid having to eat burgers. From a woman who was vegetarian for years. My grocery cart was now regularly filled with whatever meat was on sale. This time, my doctor told me I was likely craving meat because of how seriously depleted your body's iron stores are after birth. WHATTUP.
Sometimes it's hard to listen to your body, sometimes it's not. Listen.

4. It gets you by on very, very little sleep.
Last week, standing by the stupid decision to move our living-room furniture into our just-finished basement rec room ourselves, my husband and I removed the latch from our exterior entry door to fit it all through. At 1 AM, I went upstairs to put the latch back on the door. No dice. Seems the anti-jimmy hooziwhatsit bullshit trigger switch had flipped, never to work again.
I drove to Wal-Mart instead of leaving a gaping hole in our door for the night. I slept less than three hours and expected to call in sick to work the next day, thinking I'd be useless. Nope. I felt the same the next morning as any day as a mom (which is not to be compared to any day pre-motherhood). I drank my coffee and went about things just as I would had I gotten my now-normal 5 or 6 hours of sleep.
Thanks, body, thanks. Thanks for making sleep the ultimate luxury and no longer a necessity or even an expectation. I really, really appreciate that, buddy. Chief. Pal. Friend.

And through all this, we wonder how new moms aren't always exactly feeling their best? Now if I could just get rid of this hand-tingling shit.

*I tried to find a source verifying this, but really, all I've got is my sister-in-law saying this is true. Good enough reason for me to keep eating chocolate. At least my love of chocolate is consistent with pre-motherhood me.

What would you add to this list?

Friday, August 29, 2014

Should I Do a Maternity Photo Session?

That's my beautiful sister and her cuter-than-words daughter. She's not quite 2. Melanie blogged about her 2-year anniversary session over at her photography blog.

Just wanted to share a few of her photos. You know, I was hesitant to do maternity shots when I was pregnant (the bloat, the discomfort, the generally feeling un-photographable) but I'm so glad I did.

I mean, for real, your belly might be huge, but at least while you're pregnant it's huge with the pressure of a little (or big) growing life. These days, my bloat is due to morning donuts and not enough water. I'm not posing for any photos unless my daughter is in them.

And maybe you don't think you'll want to display a big canvas of your ballooned self in your home for all to admire. A.—You might change your mind about that. B.—Even if you don't, you can use your maternity shots in the context of photos of your baby, as my sister did in the grouping above. Oh, you thought this was about you? Ha. Hahaha.

For me, the option of returning to the same spot every year for anniversary photos is OUT. December. Outside. Wisconsin. No. No no. But maybe I'll have my sister to take some photos that time of year inside, in front of a warm fire, with my daughter. And maybe I'll frame them with my maternity photos. And as our family grows, so will our collection of photos and memories.

Expecting mamas: Pose for all the photos you can. It's so temporary. All you want now is to hold that beautiful child in your arms, but somehow, once you become a mom, there will be times that you wish your baby could crawl back inside your tummy and stay with you always.

I never said it made sense.

P.S.—For reference, a photo of me the same day, not taken by my photographer sister. Hello, bloat. At least I look happy. I'm standing with my wonderful friend, Heidi, who you can find at

Saturday, August 23, 2014

My Day as a Stay-at-Home Mom

I thought I was going to roll my eyes a ton.

I thought I would feel catty and jealous.

None of that.

Wednesday, I took .75 of a vacation day after working from home for a couple of hours. I went back, for the first time in three months, to the mom/baby connection group at the hospital. There's usually discussion, a speaker, that's about it. Moms talking to moms, some breastfeeding, some bottle-feeding, babies napping, babies crying, moms laughing, moms crying. It's beautiful.

The discussion leader asked everyone if they had anything to say about depression. The room got quiet. I weighed in my mind whether I wanted to speak up or not. I raised my hand (regressing to grade school) and said, "I've gone to therapy."

And then I just kept talking. I said what I wanted other moms to know: "It's not some big, scary, awful thing. They're not going to lock you away or take your baby from you. You talk to your doctor, then you talk to a therapist, and then it gets better. Just do it if you need the help. Don't waste another minute wondering if you should. If you're not you, if it's not getting better, if everything's OK but for some reason it's not—do it."

Then another mom volunteered that she's been on Zoloft and it's made everything better. That she hadn't been herself. She held back tears.

Then the discussion leader herself said that she'd been to counseling.

I wondered if anyone would've said anything if I hadn't.

There were about 18 of us in that room. Three of us acknowledged our experiences with PPD. Three of 18. Even more than the one in eight that studies show. One in eight of the moms you know have struggled through PPD, maybe more. Maybe it's you.

And even if it's not you, it's hard. Babies are a blessing. They're the biggest, greatest, most wonderful blessing a family can wish to have. Lean on whomever you need. Love them, too.

Stay-at-home moms, working moms, part-time working moms—all moms, we're all working hard to make our children the best little people they can be, to give them the best lives they can have, to make things better for them than they may have been for us. We're raising a generation, all of us. And we all deserve to have each others' backs.

We all deserve to have mom friends to sit by the pool with every now and then, we all deserve to talk about our labor stories and laud the wonders of the epidural together, no matter what our choices have been since we painfully, blessedly became mothers. We deserve the support, the help, anything that helps us to be better mothers to our children. We deserve hobbies and blogs and nights out. We deserve a long bath and a glass of wine. And by being kind to ourselves and to other moms, we'll pass that kindness along to our children.

That's an incredible gift.

P.S.—Lana went swimming for the first time, at the pool with the other moms and babies. It was all I could do to keep her from diving in completely. She loved it. I loved it. We're lucky ladies.

Wednesday, August 20, 2014

How to Make the Best Chocolate Chip Cookies. Ever.

First of all, it helps if you have some pretty adorable faces to make them for.

And by adorable I mean fun. And/or goofy. And/or hungry.
These are my husband's cousins. They love our baby.

They wanted to know how to make the best chocolate chip cookies ever, and I told them it starts with Alton Brown's killer recipe. But it changes.
You do the whole wet and dry thing, creaming the unsalted butter with lots of brown sugar and a little white.

Then the egg, +1 yolk, milk and vanilla. 

Then the easy, easy list of dry ingredients.

Tablespoonsful. 325 degrees. Ten to twelve minutes.

You can refrigerate the dough before baking, or just plop em on right away. Depends how hungry you are.
Mike and I used to freeze the dough and bake them on demand. Fresh, gooey goodness whenever you want it.

The white chocolate chip cookie is for my crazy husband who prefers white to dark. (What? It's not even chocolate, you say? IKNOW. TRYTELLINGHIMTHAT.)

In the good ones, I use three different kinds of chocolate chips (2/3 cup each): 60% dark, semi sweet and milk. I like to say it gives them a more complex chocolaty taste. But really, it's an excuse to buy all those kinds of chocolate and keep them in the house.
Either way, it's amazing. Get to baking.

I adapted my recipe from Brown Eyed Baker's repurposing of Alton Brown's The Chewy recipe. Here's what I did:
Makes about 3 dozen.

Best Chocolate Chip Cookies Ever. 
2 1/4 cup all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon kosher salt
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, melted and cooled slightly to room temperature
1 1/4 cup brown sugar
1/4 white sugar or baker's sugar
1 egg
1 egg yolk
1 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 tablespoons whole milk
2/3 cup each: 60% dark chocolate, semisweet and milk chocolate chips

Preheat oven to 325 degrees.
Combine first three ingredients in a small bowl.
Cream butter, brown sugar and white sugar together over medium speed in a mixer.
In a small bowl, whisk together egg, yolk, vanilla and milk. Add to mixer and beat over low speed.
Gradually add dry ingredients to mixer over low speed until combined. Do not overmix.
Add chocolate chips to batter, stirring until just combined.
Drop by tablespoonsful onto a cookie sheet and bake for 10-12 minutes or just until golden brown.

Devour. Share. Wipe the chocolate off of your face when you're finished. Or not.