Advice (Unsolicited)

Last week I visited the hospital where Judah was born exactly two years ago. As I drove home, along the same winding route, I found myself flooded with emotion as memories of that first year came rushing in.

The drive home from the hospital two years ago wasn’t so hot. It was my idea that Isaiah (then a mere 16 months old) should be with us to bring home the new baby. Unfortunately the timing coincided with his lunchtime and naptime. Isaiah banging on the metal bassinette as the cranky hospital nurse went through her endless discharge directions. And because I was holding a newborn and had a fresh C-section, I couldn’t physically restrain him. Although I tried anyway, sure I was ripping my stitches.

The drive home wasn’t any better. Both babies were screaming and crying. Not only was this a shitty moment, it went against all of my expectations for what the drive home with a new baby should be (and we all know our expectations of how things should be will always set us up for failure). I think it was on this drive when I had the first taste of that miserable anxiety. Wanting to either scream or get the hell out of the car.

Unfortunately this was only a foreshadowing of what was to come for the next 9 or so months.

So what would I say if I could go back and whisper something in my ear that day, two years ago?

That day when I was so tense and edgy and cagey and nervous and mad and tired and sore.

What would i say?

  • take a deep breath and let it go.
  • don’t be so testy. don’t worry about the rules. don’t find so much blame. so it was the wrong move having isaiah come with us. let it go. give him a snack. give him what he needs. and try to give the baby a reassuring hand.
  • i’d say get as much sleep as you possibly can. for real. because every ounce of your health starts with getting sleep.
  • leave the f*&^ing housework
  • get grocery delivery for gods’ sake. it’s worth every penny.
  • have martha, my angel of a housekeeper, come over. (actually, i hadn’t met martha yet.) find a martha–someone who will come over and spread their touch of joy around my house. someone who will see what needs to be done. catch me up on the laundry. bring groceries. hold the baby for me.
  • find a baby holder. because this new baby cried every single time i put him down for months.
  • god forbid find a different way than trying to get isaiah and judah up the steps after daycare every single day. i had all kinds of hangups about having a nanny, but in retrospect, it would have been so much easier.
  • get on medication for postpartum anxiety sooner. talk to someone who would help me see that I had postpartum anxiety, something I had never even heard of.
  • stop being so angry and find out what the root is. figure out what i need.
  • don’t be so judgmental to my spouse about doing everything “the right way.” the newborn days are not about doing anything right. they are about survival.
  • let it go.
  • i’d go back and just give myself a hug and say just enjoy this time.
  • find the joy in this moment and revel in that. 
  • find other moms. such trite advice but so helpful to see how others are coping and to laugh through tears.
  • get out of the house more. that winter was brutal.
  • stop having so many people over! why were we having people over every weekend? those visits that never seemed to end. Isaiah and their kids going crazy from being winter housebound. Me just wanting to go upstairs, put on pajamas and sleep w/ my baby.
  • what if i just admitted to everyone that i was a total wreck? why was I so afraid to let that show? trying to keep up appearances was exhausting. i’d go back and say to all those visitors. “i’m a wreck. what day can you meet me at the driveway to carry these babies up the steps?”
  • breathe. let it go.



Let's spend christmas this way! And not in a hospital!

Last year I offered up “5 Mistakes I’ll Avoid Next Christmas,” in which I vowed to not wait until December for all my Christmas to-do’s.

If you share that goal, here are a few things to do before it gets too crazy.

1) Organize your photos

Each year I like to send out a photo calendar to close family members. I also like the idea of giving each child their own “best of 2011” photo book (not sure whether Christmas or birthdays is a better time for this, but we have a holiday-time birthday boy, so I’d need to get this organized either way).

  • Round up all the photos (your computer, anything that needs to be dowloaded from the camera, your iPhone, your partner’s iPhone, etc.)
  • Import everything into iPhoto
  • Put together a “best of” folder and upload to Shutterfly (This is the most time consuming step and I suppose you could always just skip iPhoto and upload everything to Shutterfly or whichever photo storage/printing service you use.)
  • Bonus: Start putting together the annual calendar and photo books

2) Plan your holiday card

Those superfamilies down the street are all booking photographers to come over and do their family photo for their annual holiday card. As much as I’d like to roll my eyes at this, we had professional shots done last November and it was well worth the time it took to plan it.

  • If you want a pro photographer, book now. (But remember this is not completely necessary, especially if you only plan on sending out a photo of the kids.)
  • Brainstorm some photography ideas, including wardrobes. (No khaki pants on the beach!!) Flip through Tiny Prints or Minted for some updated, gorgeous ideas.
  • Update addresses and add/purge people to/from your holiday card list.
  • Here’s a novel concept: Schedule a deadline for sending them out so they don’t arrive mid-January, like most of mine did last year.

3) Think strategically about gifts

During my children’s first couple of Christmases, I couldn’t wait to add all the loot to our playroom. We were new parents starting from scratch. Now we have an overflow room in the basement of toys. I want to think strategically about the “stuff” we bring into our home.

  • It’s a great time of year to do a toy purge, which will also help you assess what your children have outgrown and things you might like them to have more of (art supplies, anyone?)
  • Not everyone loves these, but I think Amazon Wishlists are a brilliant way for you to collect your thoughts about things you’d like your children to have–and hopefully their grandparents will agree. If anything, it should give them a better idea of the kinds of things your kids are into. The trick is how to GET them to the Wishlist…
  • Where do you stand on the volume of gifts you give to your family? If you want to do things a little differently this year, what criteria will you use?
  • I love this idea I read on Simple Mom (I’m still looking for the direct link): Each child gets 5 presents: Something you want, something you need, something to wear, something to read, and something to eat. Not sure if I could be this disciplined, but I love the concept and it could be a great model for giving to a spouse.
  • I wrote last year that this Christmas, I won’t let extended family members get away with not telling me what they want. (Maybe that’s the way to get them to our Wishlists–have them create one for themselves!) I’m even thinking about suggesting we draw names so everyone gets one quality present they really want. (Instead of leaving them in our guest closets like my parents did when they flew home!)
  • Decide now how you’ll keep an inventory of things you buy along the way. Will you store everything in a little-used room in the house or basement? Keep a Google spreadsheet or list on Evernote? Don’t make the mistake I did and find stashes of little gifts hidden away–in January.

4) Decide what holiday activities are most important to you

And how you’ll make time for them in the midst of your already full family life.

Last year we didn’t go to a single Christmas event. Not one!

This year, I’d like to:

  • Be more plugged in to what my community is up to (the lighting of the village Christmas tree!)
  • Attend a church concert (how I love Handel’s Messiah)
  • Make at least a handful of the amazing crafts and treats I’ve pinned on Pinterest
  • Stroll down Fifth Avenue at night to admire the holiday windows (Bendel! Bergdorfs!)
  • Do an Activity Advent Calendar with the boys
  • Go to church at least a couple of times (first must find a church)
  • And a whoooole bunch of other things…But if I don’t look at the calendar and start blocking off some time, I know my family would just as easily stay home in front of the fire in our respective “comfy pants.” Which isn’t always a bad thing.

What else? What helps you prepare for the holidays?

Leave a comment here!


Image: US National Archives

The other day a friend asked me what I’ve been reading, and I was somewhat surprised to realize they’re all by bloggers.

Here are my top picks. Check them out and then let us know what you are reading!

Bringing Order (and Joy) to “Mommy Days”

Steady Days

The bookSteady Days: A journey toward intentional, professional motherhood by Jamie C. Martin of Steady Mom 

In a nutshell: “If we don’t love what we do as mothers, our children notice quickly. Our attitudes, positive or negative, influence them in a matter of minutes. How can we convey our love for them? By choosing to enjoy the daily tasks we perform, embracing the moments that will never be back again.”

This book is full of concepts and strategies to loving the work we do as mothers so we can embrace more moments.

Favorite tip: The idea of life seasons. As in, there are a million things I want to do but cannot—right now—because this is the season of me as a mother to very young children. Thinking about the difficulties I am facing as a season helps tremendously, and also helps refocus and “ground” me.

There are also tons of helpful resources like daily routines for moms with children of different ages, and completely do-able tips like “Ask yourself, ‘What one area would improve my life and my children’s lives if it had more order?’ Start there.”

As I look back through my long list of Kindle highlights, I realize I need to re-read this, and often.


Getting it together (all of it)

One Bite at a Time

The bookOne Bite at a Time: 52 Projects for Making Life Simpler by Tsh Oxenreider of Simple Mom

In a nutshell: As the woman behind Simple Living Media admits, trying to live a simple life can be pretty complicated. Here, she draws from almost 900 blog posts to present bite-sized tips on how to get everything in your life in order, from your finances to your digital photo library. Beautifully designed with tons of suggested resources for digging deeper, this is an ebook I’ve actually printed out and put in a 3-ring-binder so I can reference it often.

Favorite tips: How to make your own composting bin for $15 or less (stay tuned for a look at mine!). A series of questions to help you articulate your annual goals. And how to organize your photo collection.

On Blogging


The book: Simple Blogging: Less Computer Time, Better Blogging by Rachel Meeks from Small Notebook

In a nutshell: Learn how to blog better, faster, without taking time away from your two biggest priorities: your kids and your sleep.

Favorite tip: Don’t try to come up with blog ideas during your (teeny tiny window of) writing time. Instead, come up with ideas when you are washing dishes, driving, etc. Make quick lists about what you want to cover in your next post. That way, when you finally get the time to sit down at the computer, you are ready to write. (And no checking Pinterest until your post is published!)

On Stepping it Up

30 days of twist and pin hairstyles


The book: 30 Days of Twist and Pin Hairstyles by Christina Butcher of Hair Romance

In a nutshell: For the first time in years, I can feel my hair on my shoulders. This is also where I always whack it off. So to help me get from here to there, I’d love to start doing fun things with it. And thanks to this lovely Australian blogger and her step-by-step instructions, I just might have long hair again one day.

Favorite tip: Your hair is your best accessory. You should have fun with it.


How about you?

What books by bloggers (or otherwise) are you reading? Post a comment!

toddler working

The little patter of footsteps racing toward your bedside the second they wake up.

When their grandpa asks, “What things do you really like to do?” they answer, “Play with my mommy and my daddy.”

They love work. They absolutely love it.

Their time-standing-still magic of showing them something new, like roasting marshmallows, or the stomp rocket.

Picking out their food, clothes and friends.

Their idea of a great time is when you chase them around the park in front of other kids.

Effectively shielding them from people, places, and things you don’t care for.

It’s a given that they’ll take your side, like when that “bad man” yelled at me in the parking garage. My 3-year-old  still talks about how that bad man is in jail.

When they proclaim, “This is so much fun, mommy!” after you present them with two bowls, some beans, and a pair of tongs.

That they play with their pink dollhouse with no sarcasm or irony.

The absolute absence of sarcasm and irony.

If given a choice of apples or candy, most of the time they’ll choose apples.

How they want to go everywhere and anywhere with you, whether it’s hunting for autumn leaves or taking out the trash at the office.

The softness of their skin, the sweetness of their smell, and their little slobbery kisses. (Totally sentimental but I couldn’t resist.)