Friday, December 5, 2014

Moms and Cupcakes

I sat in the planning meeting with some brilliant women, only two of us having young children. The other younger mother said, "We should do cupcakes because schools frown upon bringing a whole cake as a treat...all the cutting and serving. Moms do cupcakes."

I'd been at the food magazine for about two years and my daughter was just over six months old. I hadn't known that about moms and cupcakes.

The conversation continued along the lines of guessing at what moms make and want to make for their children's birthday treats.

I didn't contribute much. All I could think was, "I don't want to be here talking about what moms do, I want to be at home doing those things."

I couldn't shake it.

I have so much to tell you.

I can't believe I haven't blogged about it at length yet, but I left that job. I was an editor, and oh, man, was that fun. It just wasn't right anymore. It didn't work with my life as a mom.

It wasn't a job I could leave at the office, which is funny, because it wasn't like I was saving lives. I was providing entertainment (and recipes) to the masses. But every time I cooked, every time I thought about or talked about or ate food, I thought of work.

That didn't work with my life as a mom.

Everyone at the magazine was so supportive of my leaving. I was shocked. Many said, "You're so lucky to be able to work part-time." And this is true. And while I have a hard time taking credit for some things, I have to allow myself the credit of being brave enough to leave a full-time paycheck for a part-time one. I have to allow myself that because part of me still feels a little like I failed at being a working mom.

Just before my last day at the old job, I confided in my sister. "I'm scared. I'm worried about money. Would I be a better mom to bring in more money and security for my daughter or a better mom to be at home and spend more time with her?"

My sister laughed and said, "Don't even worry about it. If the math works out, you'll adjust. You just can't shop at Anthropologie anymore."

(I have to tell you that I only used to shop Anthropologie SALE items, but yeah, I have cut that shit out.)

I know some women who define themselves as stay-at-home moms who happen to have a part-time job. I know some women who work part-time and define themselves as working moms.

It's been said before because it's true: Every mom is a working mom. Yes, some have it harder than others. Single moms who detest leaving their babies every day and work through postpartum depression without a father in the picture have it incredibly harder than moms who choose to work because they recharge at work and feel they add value to their families and the world at large by working. And the mom who stays at home and doesn't have to work because her husband makes a lot of money and abuses his family? See? It's pointless to compare experiences of motherhood. I'm sick of even writing about this.

I'm making my life–and my motherhood–what I want it to be, or it least it feels like that today. And today, I'm going to hold onto that and I'm going to be happy.

Now, I'm working at a nonprofit balancing two departments on a part-time schedule. It's been working out great. It's closer to home, it abuts a nature conservancy which just brings peace to my heart when I look out the windows and see grassland and water and turkeys. And today, I heard back about a posting my new company had made seeking a proofreader. It seems they're all on board (fingers crossed) with my taking on proofreading responsibilities, which is oddly fun for me. It looks like I may be able to shape this job into something I love and am really good at. (I'm great at proofreading except when it comes to blog posts. I swear. Don't judge. It's a blog forcryingoutloud.)

I haven't made cupcakes since I quit, but I've been playing with my daughter, managing our budget, grocery shopping with the elderly in the afternoons and baking lots of bread and cookies. Does that count?

Friday, November 28, 2014

Sleep. Family. Turkey. Sleep.

I should be sleeping. You probably should, too.

I'm both alone and awake for the first time in over a week. I'm drawn to write. There's a pretty good chance I might currently be on The Walking Dead as an undead extra.

My husband, daughter and I traveled to see family all last week. I'm an introvert who lives 10 hours away from her family. Generally, it works. Long visits can be hard. I drink deeply of both the spirits and the intoxicating laughter that comes from being around my blood relatives. I stay up too late. I try to squeeze everything I can into our time together.

And then, I crash. I've never crashed this hard. I've never taken a 10-month-old on a road trip and then continued the family visiting with my mother with us on the way back, either. It's been so, so wonderful to have this extended time with family.

Gratitude is on everyone's tongues, if not their minds. I am grateful. But perhaps this Thanksgiving meant less to me because of the gratitude I try to practice every day. It's not a perfect practice but it is ongoing and it is intentional. I have the most to be grateful for this year out of any before, and I feel it so deeply. I feel it deeply every day.

My daughter was happy yesterday at my husband's family's Thanksgiving, for the most part, though overwhelmed by all of the new faces, all of whom wanted to meet her and squeeze her and make her laugh. My mother and I had to take her for a drive to get her the nap she needed so desperately.

The break from work has been so wonderful. This isn't to say anything bad about my work, but I have been defining myself too much by what I do (or don't do). I left my full-time job over a month ago and have been working at a new one part-time. It's been great for my personal life, but I'm still trying to define myself professionally. This long time off has reminded me to not define myself personally by what I do for work. That is a really, terribly hard thing for me.

How do you do it? How do you find balance between work and family and turkey and gratitude and relaxation, if any?

Hope you enjoy the rest of your weekend. Hug your family, for me, and try to get at least some sleep.

Wednesday, November 12, 2014

How to Feel Grateful for Everything You Have

Yep, I'm talking about material things here.

Maybe you're like me and you feel grateful pretty regularly for the things that really matter: your loving husband, your healthy children, your ability to laugh through the shit and baby food flung around your used-to-be-clean house.

And maybe you're also like me (and the rest of America, I think) in that it's never enough. I'm talking material shit here, people. There's always something more: the next piece of jewelry that's just classic and essential and why haven't you spent at least $1,000 on your solitaire earrings yet? The next wardrobe piece that you'll want to drop $350 on because you'll wear it, like, forever, with anything, but you won't because let's all agree you can find a knockoff deal somewhere. The next stainless steel appliance. The next tablet or iPhone or smart watch or whatever the hell they're inserting chips and internet connections into now.

I've found (sadly, this is revelation-quality shit to me right now) that I'm so much more appreciative of the things (people I'm being shallow today so get over it) I have when they're clean. I can knock off the voice that wants more when I appreciate everything around me.

The one stainless steel appliance in my kitchen looks awesome when it's not covered in tiny fingerprints and milk drippings. At least I think it's milk.

The 1998 Corian countertop still looks pretty bangin when it's glistening-white (when the lights are dim I can pretend it's quartz).

The proportionately large bedroom (large compared to the rest of our home) feels like a luxury retreat without the piles of laundry and diapers and wipes and books and hangers lying around.

The office/guest bedroom feels cozy and cerebral when the focus can be on the stuffed bookcase instead of on the piles of papers and holiday gift bags and envelopes I cleaned out.

Secret: I clean like a pro when I've had a glass of wine. Whatever.

It's all the same underneath; no major renovations up here on the main level. It's just clean. Appreciated.  Taken care of. It took me days of sneaky-quiet cleaning while my daughter naps to get to this point. It's not easy when you're responsible for a little person (or two or three) sharing your home, but it's worth it. I promise it's worth it.

Thursday, November 6, 2014

How NOT to Choose a Pediatrician

Not just anyone's going to have a privilege—nay, the joy—of dutifully caring for your baby at every visit throughout their young life. You've read all about getting a wonderful pediatrician for your baby, you may have even made a checklist for an interview (you've scheduled) already.

You make sure the doctor has admitting privileges at your hospital, you google his or her name to look for random reviews and comments online. You read his or her bio, you check to see if the office has a Facebook page and hours after 5 pm and on weekends. Who answers the phone, and when? How long have they been practicing?

Is this doctor a complete kook? Do any red flags go up?

Or maybe your options are limited—you live in a small town or your insurance will only cover a certain practice.


Here's a red flag: Does the doctor engage with you? Is he or she fully present while visiting you? Do you feel rushed?

Doctors are people. They're very busy people. They're very busy people with highly demanding jobs. But they are also caretakers. They are THE expert in your baby's health. They're the people you call when you feel a weird bump on your baby's head, the people you look to when your baby is teething and you're not sure whether it's OK to give him or her Tylenol on the regular (FYI—It is.)

You shouldn't have to pry answers out of them.

Yes, in any case, you should be your own advocate, or in parents' cases, you must be your child's advocate. You must ask every question you can think of, bring anything to attention you think warrants it, even if you sound paranoid (you do, and you're just like every other new parent out there).

You must speak up when the doctor's not answering your questions, you must correct them when they get the facts wrong about your child, you must, you must, you must.

I must find a new doctor for my baby.

I'd felt before that my doctor was rushing through appointments. I'd given him the benefit of the doubt—he's human, he's busy, etc. But it's to the point now that I feel as though if there were something seriously wrong with my baby, I wouldn't be confident that he'd catch it.

I had to ask a couple of times at Lana's 9-month appointment about appropriate teething remedies. The doctor seemed not to really care. The nurse didn't get her height correct. The manner in which everyone who touched my baby was rough and rushed. No wonder she hates it there already, at 9 months.

After a not-good appointment, I stood in front of the receptionist as she spoke on the phone, waiting to make my next appointment. After a few awkward minutes, she told the person on the line to hold and asked me, "Do you want to make an appointment or something?"

No smile. No nothing. I, and my daughter, were a chore.

Do I have to tell you here that we're looking for not only a new doctor, but a new practice? I'm not sure what's going on at this one, but it's not good. It's not the group of people I want to trust with my daughter's care. I felt as though my OB's office was so much more caring and attentive—why, why, why would you make sure you get only the best care while pregnant but half-assed care for the child you dreamed of and took prenatal vitamins dutifully every day and then went through labor for?

Anyway. Any suggestions? I only know how NOT to choose a pediatrician.

Friday, October 31, 2014

9 Months In, 9 Months Out

Yep, my baby's nine months old. (And I still haven't lost all the weight from pregnancy, but that's another post. And it's OK. I'm not that concerned.)

My blogging time (when Lana goes to sleep at night) has been dramatically cut short by the dreaded T-word.

She's teething. It's bad.

I'd been afraid of this phase because of horror stories my older sister told me about her daughter's teething, and rightly so. My baby who was such a wonderful sleeper, easygoing, great eater (both nursing and solid foods, basically anything you'd want to feed her), now screams through bedtimes, extending the ritual to three hours or more. She screams when I try to feed her and asserts her independence by grabbing the spoon and flinging pureed pot roast everywhere.

This is when I'm grateful to have dogs. They lick things clean--they get a little treat, I get a clean booster seat. We're all happy.

Except for my baby. We're going to try orajel soon, I think. I gave her baby Tylenol last night to help with the pain, and blissfully she did sleep from about 10 pm to 5:30 this morning. I may not get to blog as much, but at least I'm sleeping.

Oh. And she said "Mama" yesterday. I'MSOEXCITEDICOULDDIE.

And stairs. It's all happening so fast.

Saturday, October 25, 2014

What Keeps Me Zen: Washing Dishes

When I was a kid, a really little one, I wanted so badly to be tall enough to reach over the faux butcher-block laminate counter and into the kitchen sink (see? really little) just so that I could do the dishes and, therefore, be a mommy. That was the dream. The very early dream.

Though it would've been lovely to bypass the labor and delivery thing, by number of dishes done alone I'm sure I could be initiated into the mommy club. My dishes are on parade, like in Beauty and the Beast, except they're not getting washed. Just marching, dirty one by nasty one, into the sink, where they pile up and wait for me.
And I wait. I procrastinate, usually, when it comes to dishes, but an article about the zen in doing the dishes has encouraged me to embrace the chore. There IS something zen about the white noise of running water, the scent of the favorite dish soap I picked out as a little treat to myself (sad, but true, that this amounts to a treat in motherhood). Something zen about the fact that the phone absolutely cannot be near me, that I'm accomplishing something, that I'm getting the kitchen back to a clean state, in which I can cook anything.

Even if I don't cook everything.

Even if I'm scrubbing a 13x9 charred with the remains of failed French fries. (I totally sliced up a potato, popped it in the oven and called it a French fry. I even *almost* photographed it before it went in the oven, thinking, "oh yeah, this is going to be delicious." Nope.)

I scrub and stare at the yellowing leaves on the almost-ancient maple outside my kitchen window.

Even if I'm washing all of the clean pots and pans that have been sitting idle in the cupboard, on the chance that they were pooped on by the little mouse who took residence, and ultimately met his end, in the kitchen this week.

I know I'm not the only one who does her best thinking over a sink full of suds—the challenge is getting started. Finding the motivation to begin the task. Ultimately, though, I can't tell you how many blog posts could start with, "So I was washing the dishes, and thinking…"

I wish I could tell really-little me to slow down, that motherhood will come eventually, to enjoy the days of not being able to see over the sink. But I'll settle for telling my daughter.

Thursday, October 16, 2014

What I Learned About Kindness (a.k.a. getting knocked down a peg)

I'm working the last two weeks of my time as an editor at the food magazine I've worked for the last two years.

The word is spreading that I'm leaving. Someone from another team, who hasn't been here long, sent me a question about some work that I'm actually not supposed to be helping her with. It's probably the fourth time she's come to me instead of the other editor who is supposed to help her. I've corrected her each time.

So I responded, simply, with the answer she was looking for and a new reminder—that I actually won't be here in a week's time and she'll HAVE to go to the other editor then. End of email.

I nitpicked everything about her messages and wondered why they couldn't have filled her position with someone smarter.

And then, the Universe handed me a beautiful lesson. She responded to my short email saying how happy she was for me and how she'd miss me when I'm gone. And it was genuine. I know she meant it.

And there I was, bitchface cursing her ineptitude when she's a truly nice person who's got a lot of different (and complex) responsibilities.

A couple months ago, I overheard someone at a restaurant refer to their server as a moron. Angry, I'd told my husband, "I'd rather be a moron than a bitch."

Today, I was both.

I'm OK with having re-learned that lesson in kindness. I suppose I needed it. I need to fill my last two weeks here with kindness in order to leave the kind of legacy I should.

Thank you, co-worker, for being kind. Thank you, everyone, for making hundreds of choices each day to be, above all, kind.

Thursday, October 9, 2014

On Blogging (and New Friends)

As a clumsy, thoughtful and stubborn child with a home haircut that featured stunning blond bangs, I would run up to other children and get straight to the point: "Hi, I'm Liz. Do you want to be my friend?"

To anyone. Any age. Any gender. Anyone. Sometimes I wish I were more like myself as a child.


Today at my desk (at work), I threw my hands in the air and bounced up and down a couple times on the chair. I'd read that my post "won" the SHINE Blog Hop—it had gotten the most views out of 140 posts on the page.

Maybe this is just a small success, but I'm beginning to understand that even a small success at something you really put yourself into feels better than the huge success of something you're not personally invested in. I mean, really personally invested.

For a long, long (as in years) time, I debated whether to start blogging; I still question everything I post—every photo of my baby that I think someone could exploit or judge or overshare, every personal detail. But my urge to share and be a part of the online mommy-blogging community wins over.

And the reward—the sense of connection, the friends you make as a result of allowing yourself to be vulnerable—is so very worth any risk, real or imagined. I hope you, whether you blog or not, can allow yourself to be just vulnerable and open enough that love and friendship find their way in.


A new visitor (the wonderful DIZMOMMY) to the blog posted a wonderful comment just now, saying I'm her new friend. And I didn't even have to ask. 

Friday, October 3, 2014

Wave Goodbye to Baby Days

For the first time, my baby is sleeping on her lowered crib mattress.

Did you hear me? Lowered.

As in, she's standing up in her crib now. By herself.

I also moved the entire crib because I discovered that, once lowered, there was an electrical outlet Lana could now reach from the crib. I don't want to take my chances.

I was worried Lana wouldn't sleep as well, with the mattress lowered and the crib moved 90 degrees.

She's fine. Of course she's fine.

I, on the other hand, am sad and nostalgic and I just want her to wake up crying, needing me. My breasts ache. They're ready for her to need me.

This change, though. I can't handle this change. She hardly fits in my arms when I cradle her to breastfeed. And she doesn't spend as much time attached to me.

And every now and then, she waves. It's usually "hi" when I come into the room.

She babbles, she laughs, she coos, she's a king at eye contact. She's starting to use her pincer grasp, picking up pieces of cereal puffs and feeding them to herself for dessert. We're on to 3 solid-food meals a day now. I think that's helping her to sleep. I feel like she's getting what she needs. And, thanks to Target's reasonable prices and creepy targeted (get it) coupons, she gets organic stuff. Sometimes.

She sits up on her own. She practically did a sit-up from laying down on her back in my bed tonight. She's got a lovely personality; her own sense of humor. She still finds it hilarious to put her hands in my mouth. She also thinks it's really funny when I yell at the dogs (which is too often these days).

I love it all. This is why you have kids, really, to have this additional, wonderful family member who completes your unit. Who adds so much dimension and meaning to your shallow life. I love the developments but I'm sad that she's barely my baby anymore. She's my daughter now. And she waves.

I don't know if I'll ever be OK with the waves goodbye.

Monday, September 29, 2014

Being OK with PPD (even just a little)

I feel like I'm going to be OK.

I walked out of my office after doing a just a little work and said to my husband, "We have a nice little life."

I looped my arms around his waist and held on as he continued on making microwave nachos.

I feel like this is me. Me is not all postpartum depression sadness making me go to sleep as soon as the baby's down. Me is working hard at everything I do, and today I did. Maybe I didn't do it all perfectly, but I did it. And my girl is happy and sleeping and wonderful.

As I was cleaning the kitchen, I thought to myself, "So what's changed? Why am I feeling better?"

Nothing's changed. Because nothing had to. PPD is not about being sad because something in your life isn't right.

It's a chemical imbalance brought on (or made worse) by creating life and giving birth.

OK, so maybe one thing has changed: I sought out—and accepted—help. I'm not sure if I'm going to go back to my counselor. But I'm better. By a lot, most days. And maybe some of it's time, too. My baby's almost 8 months, and they say generally PPD doesn't go past the first year postpartum.

And I'm back in my home office, doing work. Not thinking ahead, not worrying about how I might have failed as a mother today (because I'm sure I could find something I failed at) but being here, now. Typing. Listening to Mumford & Sons, noticing the warm grain in the hardwood floor, the resistant clicks of the keyboard, the tang of the cheap zinfandel in the wine glass my cousin got us as a wedding gift, the all-too-good scent of Swiffer pads on my hands from cleaning.

I hope you're OK, too.

P.S. I made a button. I'm a super beginner at playing with Adobe Illustrator and wanted to make a reminder—whether to you it means "I have PPD and I'm OK with it," "I'm going to get through PPD," or "I love someone with PPD and it's not the end of the world," I hope it makes you smile even just a little.

Sunday, September 21, 2014

What Keeps Me Zen: Talking to My Plants

OK—this is crazy. And it certainly comes off that way when you're picking at a plant's dead leaves and softly saying, "Positive thoughts, man. You grow from positivity and warmth."

But you know what? It actually feels good to talk to your plants.

Some background: I've never, ever been good at keeping plants. I somehow fuck up the (supposedly) easy task of getting them the right combination of sunlight, water and...well, that's it. And now that I realize it's only two things (two!) I feel even sadder about it.

And I swear I'm not superstitious. But for our two-year dating anniversary, my now-husband got me a money tree. It was a sweet gift. I don't know why he chose the money tree, but they're pretty. They typically braid the trunk like bamboo and the rest grows green and lush if you're lucky.

I killed that money tree. Must've been either the water or the light. Right? I replaced the money tree (partially out of a mild belief in a superstition that our personal finances are tied to the well-being of this particular species of plant...keyword: superstition. Like I said, crazy.)

So what do I do? I talk to the money tree. Remembering something I read about saying happy words around plants, I tried to verbally coerce the money tree into being super healthy and robust in the hopes that we would be, in the words of Parks & Rec's Jean Ralphio, "Fu-luuuushh with caAaAayyysh."

But in the process I learned that really, saying things like, "You're growing, your leaves are beautiful, I hope you feel good today," to no one but a plant actually feels pretty good. Maybe with the right combination of sunlight, water and positive thinking, we'll all be alright.

Oh, and this plant? It's doing awesome.

photo credit: origami_potato via photopin cc

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 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.

Monday, August 18, 2014

Home is Where the Baby Sleeps

My daughter wouldn't fall asleep at my brother-in-law's house last night. We'd planned for her to go to bed there (around 7) while we partied on. I breastfed her, she was sleepy. She fell asleep—I mean, OUT—twice in my arms and twice I put her down in her pack & play. Both times, she freaked.

You know how babies open their eyes just a tiny, tiny bit when you're putting them down? Apparently it's just enough for them to notice, "Hey, this isn't my house. I don't know this room. Oh God oh God am I ever going home again how dare you put me down in this strange place are you ever coming back Mom is that the last I've seen of the boob? THE BOOB?"

And so the crying goes on.

I was sad I couldn't stay; my husband stayed. I drove my daughter home and she went to bed here without any fuss. She wasn't even asleep when I put her down. She babbled and cooed a little to herself in her room and then it was silent.

It's silent.

Even though our house is little and there's no front door (Yep. Don't worry, putting a front door on our house is next on our big, save-up-for-it to-do list.) Even though her room is small and there's no cohesive nursery theme to it. Even though the glider intended for her nursery has become a fixture in our living room.

She knows home. I'd like to say that she loves home, but all I really can tell is that she's comfortable here. She's happy here.

All I want is for it to stay that way, even though there may be times when she grows older that she wants to run away. Even though she may sneak out, or lie to us about where she's going. Even though it may not be our house forever, our home is where she's happiest.

And that's about the greatest accomplishment of my life.

P.S.—I told you the other day there'd be news to come. Well, the kick-ass women writers at are going to feature one of my posts! It has to be original content, so I'm hard at work (while baby naps) on getting something awesome and fresh ready to go. That's another little accomplishment. Good days. Little things. I'll TAKE it.

Thursday, August 14, 2014

You're Not Alone, Sister

I want to hug you. I want to hug every mom. Every single one of you.

Yesterday was a particularly low day.

I couldn't stop crying on my way home from work. I took the wrong exit ramp. I had to ask my husband, on the phone, where I was going. He asked me, "Do you remember Hawaii?"


"Wasn't it the best time of your life?"

"It feels so far away now."

What ended up actually helping me was his walking me through my surroundings: "Do you see signs for Howard Avenue? Just keep heading west until you get to the freeway, then you head..."

"I know where to go from there. I haven't completely lost it."

A funny choice of words when I lost myself on my way home from work, in an area I've lived in for three years.

I thought I'd had PPD this whole time, because there have been spells of weepiness here and there. Yesterday showed me that I haven't had PPD this whole time. It's hit hard now. It's made worse by bad days. External stressors make the internal struggle a wreck. A mess out of me. I took the wrong ramp. I almost didn't know who I was.

But I did know. There was sane, happy, regular old me somewhere. Taunting me, almost, with the promise of the fact that I know what a normal life feels like. That I can be present, that I can be smart, that I can be on the ball.

I continue to make jokes. I continue to laugh. I continue to pretend things are normal to the people who don't know, mostly for the fear of bringing them down. For fear of scaring the pregnant woman at work about what may be (1 out of every 8 moms, y'all) to come. For fear—that's been justified—that people just don't know how to handle this truth.
I continue to enjoy the beautiful moments. I toss my daughter in the air and I hold her so close I'm sure she can't stand it. But she does. There's not a second I'm with her that I regret. Not a second that her smile doesn't bring one to my face.

I'm not broken. I'm not weak.

I mean to say that despite the beautiful sunset rainbow I'm looking at as my baby sleeps, I am sad and conflicted. I mean to say that some people don't know how to handle someone with PPD. Or any mental illness.

But I'm grateful for the national conversation sparked this week about depression. Admittedly I am just now starting to consider it a physical illness. I hope that the paradigm is shifting. I hope.
I want you to know that most moms hate and love their lives. I want you to know that no one's Pinterest version of their lives is the whole truth. Behind the perfect-looking recipe is a messy kitchen counter and a sink full of dishes. You are not alone. Not a single one of us is perfect.

I want you to know that I made it home. And good news was waiting for me there, news that made my day, along with a long, long hug from my husband and playtime with my daughter. News to come.

For now, I'll try to rest. Another therapy session tomorrow. This time I'm looking forward to it. I like that.

Wednesday, August 13, 2014

How NOT to Make: Mini-Chip Cupcakes

Wanna make some of these? Uh-huh. Thought so.
Maybe just rather eat a few? Good news: they're easy. I made these little gems before church on Sunday, they cooled while we were out, and I whipped up the frosting when we got back. Half the batch was eaten by the end of the day.
I have to admit, I'm a little bit of a rebel when it comes to following instructions (especially if I don't see a point to said instructions). You can follow the recipe here, but I'd like to give you a little crash course in what you don't want to do* while making these pretty cupcakes. Learn from my mistakes.
*Whatever. They'll still be delicious. They're cupcakes.

 1. Lining the muffin tin.
Don't wait until your beautiful batter is sitting there, waiting to be baked into delicious glory, to fumble your fingers over the edges of cupcake wrappers, peeling them apart. No, no. Get it done while the oven is warming up.

2. Butter
Don't use salted butter, adjusting the added salt accordingly. Nope: Make sure you have some unsalted on hand so that you can best control your salt.

3. Filling the muffin tin
Don't use a teaspoon (too small!) to fill the tin while sitting on your kitchen floor in front of your baby, two dogs circling the batter like they've been watching too much Shark Week.
Go for a tablespoon and fill 24 regular-sized muffin cups about 2/3 full.

4. Frosting
Don't cut a really conservatively sized hole in the corner of a plastic sandwich bag. Don't be afraid: Make that hole as wide as your thumb. Otherwise, you'll get these little wormy tubes of frosting on top. 

Seriously, though, whatever you do, these are gonna be good. DO share them with everyone you love. I mean, really love. Not just like. You're better than that.

The Recipes

Mini Chip White Cupcakes
Yield: 24 cupcakes
1 3/4 cups +2 tbsp. all-purpose flour
3/4 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
3/4 cup (1-1/2 sticks) unsalted butter, room temperature
1 1/2 cups granulated white sugar
3 large eggs
3/4 cup whole milk
3/4 teaspoon fresh lemon juice
1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
Preheat the oven to 325°F. Paper line or grease 24 mini cupcake molds. Sift together the flour, baking powder, and salt. On medium speed, beat the butter and sugar in large bowl until light. Add the eggs, one at a time, beating well after each addition. Stir together the milk, lemon juice and the vanilla. On low speed, add half the milk mixture. Mix until well incorporated. Add the remaining milk mixture and the dry ingredients in the same manner. Add 1 cup mini chocolate chips to the batter and stir. Fill each cavity to the top. Bake on the middle oven rack for about 20-22 minutes or until a tester inserted in the center of the cupcakes comes out clean. Cool cupcakes in their pans for 10 minutes. Then unmold and cool on a wire rack. Frost the top of each cupcake and sprinkle them with the remaining ¼ cup mini chocolate chips.

From; I used half this recipe for 24 cupcakes. It was plenty. Also substituted whole milk in place of whipping cream.

Quick Vanilla Buttercream Frosting
Total Time:
12 min
2 min
10 min
Yield:10 to 12 servings

3 cups confectioners' sugar
1 cup butter
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 to 2 tablespoons whipping cream

In a standing mixer fitted with a whisk, mix together sugar and butter. Mix on low speed until well blended and then increase speed to medium and beat for another 3 minutes.

Add vanilla and cream and continue to beat on medium speed for 1 minute more, adding more cream if needed for spreading consistency.
© 2014 Television Food Network, G.P. All Rights Reserved.

Read more at:

Tuesday, August 12, 2014

Thank you, Robin

It seems slightly trite to write about Robin Williams.

But he's on my mind.

My brother called me last night and said, "Make me feel better about this."

For some reason, my brother felt that I was the only person who could relate to how he felt about Williams. You know what, I'm going to go ahead and refer to him as Robin from now on. I like to think he wouldn't mind.

My brother asked me if all young(ish) adults, of the twenty-something to thirty-something persuasion, felt this way about Robin Williams—that he was a fixture in their homes, and for some weird reason in our case, a father figure.

I get it now. Just now. In Mrs. Doubtfire, Robin played a divorcing father who would do anything to be with his kids. I read Scary Mommy's Facebook post about his courtroom monologue in which he pleads to not be separated from them.

And I'm willing to bet that the vast majority of us many children (at that time) who were experiencing their parents' separation or divorce never heard a monologue like that. How could we? The eloquence? The Hollywood timing? The delivery from an actor who no doubt knew pain and expressed it so well on screen?

For us kids of "broken" homes, I'll say thank you, Robin, for showing us (in whatever fictionalized way) that our fathers do care, for delivering those lines that we wished our fathers would have said, for showing us that we weren't being abandoned.

I don't think I'm the only one who can relate. And I don't think Robin would mind.

Monday, August 11, 2014

I Knew it Was Bad When Coffee Couldn't Make it Better

Though chocolate might make it better. I will take that kind of help.

It knots up my chest to think about telling my boss I have PPD. I guess there's no need for her to know. But it might help in explaining why I'm leaving work early every now and then (for counseling appointments) and I'm afraid it may turn into something bigger. I guess it can't hurt for her to know. There are times I feel like I just might break.

I hope this is PPD and not just motherhood. What if I go to my counseling session tonight and the therapist tells me that this is just what being a mom is? This constant state of feeling awful but loving your child so, so much? It can't be motherhood. It can't.

I mentioned the other day how I wanted to avoid medication if I could. The doctor offered Zoloft to me like it was candy. He said "This is a chemical imbalance, something with a very physical basis and solution." But I guess I don't agree with the solution part. I'm glad he's not my doctor (my doctor sent me to him because she was booked through the afternoon but wanted me to see someone right away).

I'm excited but also all up in knots about the appointment tonight. I'm taking my baby. I'm not giving up time with her for these sessions—I mean, it's counterproductive to my PPD to spend less time with her. And she's so well behaved most of the time that it won't hinder our session. I don't think. (Watch, I just jinxed it.)

I'll let you know how it goes. I hope the knots and the courage and the scheduling and the running around are all worth it. She's worth it.

UPDATE: Worth it. My fears about the therapist were unfounded. She did what she's there to do: Validate my feelings, encourage me to talk through it, give me hope that it will get better. She did even more than that. It's strange but I have to admit that I went there so full of hope, so excited that I would be making the best sort of friend—the kind that's paid to listen to you. Well, I don't think we'll be best friends but I believe this will be extremely good. In fact, I don't know what I would do without it.

My baby breastfed during my session, like the angel that she is. My therapist asked, "Have you been tired?"


"Trouble concentrating?"

"Extreme. I've never had that problem before in my life."

"Withdrawn from things you normally enjoy doing?"

Somehow, these words, when written, DO seem like a script. Like something unfeeling out of a textbook. And maybe they are. But I suppose it means she's either a really great therapist or I am desperate for some sort of help that I felt like they were the right human questions to ask. They're what I've needed to be asked, rather than all the unfeeling demands that surround life as a mother.

She's confident we can make progress without medication, and if we need that extra boost, we'll use it. I'm confident. And I'm confident any mother can do this.

We just have to be able to accept the help.

Sunday, August 10, 2014

CrabFest in Your Kitchen

I hardly need to write. Thank you, photos!
So, my husband had been craving crab legs since seeing all of the recent Red Lobster commercials on TV. So we decided to have CrabFest at home.

Go on, drool. Here's the recipe I use for these at-home Cheddar Bay Biscuits. (Shh, they use Bisquick.) I prefer the chunkiest shredded cheddar out there, so that you get a little cheddar bite. A little texture. They're so easy. You'll seriously never have to go to Red Lobster to satisfy that cheesy biscuit craving again.

I fed my daughter butternut squash for the first time while I was cooking. She was not a fan.

The only thing I did differently was to use whole milk and pre-minced garlic. Maybe a little extra salt, and pepper if you like. I suggest using the brightest, freshest red potatoes you can find at the grocery store. They're still a bargain.

This is when she took her bib off. Rebel.

Those legs... Maybe you already knew this, but I didn't: Crab legs are almost always pre-cooked (ON THE BOAT. WHAT) and THEN flash-frozen (also on the boat) so that they're super fresh. Don't be like me and ask the pimply kid working at the seafood counter if they have any uncooked crab legs. He'll laugh at you. And then you won't know why until you read up on cooking crab legs. Yeeeah.

Any reddish legs like these ones are already cooked. Yup.

Boil 'em in a big old pot. Just for a few minutes. Really, you're re-heating them. I added a big squirt from the lemon juice bottle to cut the fishy/salty smell and flavor.

Biscuits. Taters. Legs. Get outta here.

Oh, and that's just the biggest, tenderest, juiciest piece of crab meat I've ever seen. From a claw. At my house. Red Lobster, it's not you. It's me. And this crab meat.

Cheddar Bay Biscuits (from


 2 ½ cups Bisquick baking mix
 ¾ cup cold whole milk
 4 tablespoons cold butter (1/2 stick)
 ¼ teaspoon garlic powder
 1 heaping cup grated cheddar cheese

Bush on Top:

 2 tablespoons butter, melted
 ¼ teaspoon dried parsley flakes
 ½ teaspoon garlic powder
 pinch salt


1. Preheat your oven to 400 degrees.
2. Combine Bisquick with cold butter in a medium bowl using a pastry cutter or a large fork. You don't want to mix too thoroughly. There should be small chunks of butter in there that are about the size of peas. Add cheddar cheese, milk, and ¼ teaspoon garlic. Mix by hand until combined, but don't over mix.
3. Drop approximately ¼-cup portions of the dough onto an ungreased cookie sheet using an ice cream scoop.
4. Bake for 15 to 17 minutes or until the tops of the biscuits begin to turn light brown.
5. When you take the biscuits out of the oven, melt 2 tablespoons butter is a small bowl in your microwave. Stir in ½ teaspoon garlic powder and the dried parsley flakes. Use a brush to spread this garlic butter over the tops of all the biscuits. Use up all of the butter. Makes one dozen biscuits.
Recipe courtesy of Todd Wilbur, "Top Secret Restaurant Recipes 2," Plume Books.

Garlic Mashed Red Potatoes (from

6 ServingsPrep/Total Time: 30 min.


  • 8 medium red potatoes, quartered
  • 3 garlic cloves, peeled
  • 2 tablespoons butter
  • 1/2 cup fat-free milk, warmed
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 cup grated Parmesan cheese


  • Place potatoes and garlic in a large saucepan; cover with water.
  • Bring to a boil. Reduce heat; cover and simmer for 15-20 minutes or
  • until potatoes are very tender.
  • Drain well. Add the butter, milk and salt; mash. Stir in cheese.
  • Yield: 6 servings.
Nutritional Facts: 1 cup equals 190 calories, 5 g fat (3 g saturated fat), 14 mg cholesterol, 275 mg sodium, 36 g carbohydrate, 4 g fiber, 8 g protein. Diabetic Exchanges: 2 starch, 1/2 fat.

For the crab legs:

Boil pre-cooked (frozen or thawed) snow crab legs for 5-7 minutes, adding a tablespoon of lemon juice to water after it reaches a boil, if desired.

CrabFest at home! Save money and eat. Really good.