So there goes the year. And here comes another.

Cheers to you, friendos! (Maybe a haircut should
be one of the 2013 goals...)
Last year at this time we were headed to Cape May for a couple of days of reflection and resolution-making. This year's theme, Values'12, set a solid footing for our family but I also like to set a few goals and resolutions for myself. Let's see how those played out.

1. Submit a short story to be published. Nope. This one was a fail. I did do some fiction writing, but nothing solid enough to submit anywhere. 
2. Surprise someone. Check! Skersh got a sweet bday cake.
3. Learn to prepare 3 dinner recipes by heart. By heart is a tough one, but I have definitely expanded the repertoire of the dinners I can cook confidently.

1. Keep in touch with family. Yes! I feel good about this one. I saw my parents once a month this year and we are pretty much constantly texting and emailing since Noah was born.
2. Set small goals for myself at work so I can track how I'm doing. I was at a weird spot last year at work, which is why I set this resolution. As things do, my role evolved and the itch to feel successful was scratched. Was a good year.
3. Socialize outside of work. 
Yes, totally yes. I feel like I saw non-work friends more often and for a while I had a weekly standing "dinner with a random friend" date. I also wrote more letters, which helped with this connecting. Plus running NIFW ended up being awesomely social!

Not bad. All in all these goals and resolutions matched what I needed during the year and I feel happy that I set them. So what's next?

2013 Goals
1. Offer classes through NIFW for at least 3 months.
2. Travel on a plane with Noah.
3. Rework our bedroom so it's a relaxing space for me and Chris.
4. Run a race.

2013 Resolutions
1. Practice gratitude. 
2. Socialize. Despite the baby. 
3. Be active about tracking our finances.

In case you haven't noticed, I've used the impending end of the year as motivation to bang out a few posts that I've been meaning to write and publish. There are a couple more coming; the beginning of 2013 is shaping up to look quite different than I expected and I'm looking forward to sharing some changes with you. 

Chris got me a journal for Christmas and I am jazzed to scrawl random thoughts in it. Do you have a journal? Check out this blog post that I stumbled on... I like the questions and am hoping to answer them sometime before midnight tonight.

Happy New Year, buddies!


Clearly Shutterfly should have sponsored this post.

One of the things I like about reading other blogs is that people post the best ideas, which you can then copy or tweak and make your own. Example numero uno is an idea posted on Feeding the Soil. Sara, the blog's author, writes about sending printed photos to her son's grandparents every month. She mentions in this post that she gave this as a gift to the grandparents one year for Christmas. Genius!

Since we were trying to take a more relaxed approach to gift giving this year (for financial reasons, among others), I decided to create something called the Noah of the Month club. We ordered custom photo frames from a shop on Etsy and promised all sets of grandparents that we'd send them some printed photos of Noah every month in 2013! Boom. Every grandparent's dream.

Here's how it worked:

Step 1: We hired a local photographer to do a newborn photo shoot at our apartment when Noah was one month old. We were on the fence about this because of the cost, but since we knew we'd use the photos for Christmas gifts, it felt like an investment and in the end I'm so happy we did it!

Step 2: We found this lovely Etsy shop that makes custom 4x6 frames and ordered one for each of the sets of grandparents and a few other family members as well. They came out SO nicely!

Step 3: Once we got the newborn image files (and died a thousand times of cuteness!), I ordered a set of prints from Shutterfly for each set of grandparents and some extras for family.

Step 4: We'd been using a service called Treat to make special cards for family and friends since Noah's arrival, so I printed up special "You're now a member of the Noah of the Month club!" cards for the grandparents. We chose a photo for each frame, threw the extra photos in the greeting card, and wrapped the whole thing up.

Step 5: Now the trick is to not post every photo we take of Noah on Facebook so that we can save some for the monthly photos! Once a month I'll upload a few images to Shutterfly and have them mailed to each set of grandparents.

It'll be a little work once a month, but it's totally worth the time and everyone loved them. I can't say enough about Treat and Shutterfly... we love their services and they send out so many coupons for free stuff and discounts that it gets addictive.

OH! One other little gift idea for the way out...

Speaking of free coupons, I had one for a free photo book from Shutterfly so I made a little book for Noah called "Noah's Family." I grabbed photos of all of his aunts, uncles, grandparents, godmothers, etc and organized them in a simple 20 page book. I figure that this will be a fun way for him to always remember his family members, even if we don't live right next door to them. I imagine pointing to each page and saying "Noah, who's this?!" when he's old enough to talk. Fun, right?!


Team 2013

Something strange has happened to me since becoming a mother: I can't stop seeing people and wondering what they looked like as babies. The neighbors, the teller at the bank, the homeless man sprawled out on the sidewalk. I look at these people and I think "this person had a mother." I look at these people and want to say, "your mother wiped your ass and kissed your cheeks and hoped for you to live a beautiful life."

That's where we all came from - from moments of overwhelming love. Even the most broken of homes must have had several intense moments of a parent's love. What a unifying feeling for us all, to know that our diapers were changed by someone who hoped for our best.

Regardless of politics, religion or race, those are our foundations.

We have been embraced by the world this year. Our collective community, near and far, held doors for me as my belly swelled, sent handmade gifts for our boy, held us through tears when parenting was too intense. I will never forget the doorman who walked alongside me as I made my way out to the cab on our way to the hospital; he walked slowly next to me, his hands held out as if to support me the whole way. I bought used baby items from moms in Brooklyn, women who took a few minutes to recommend pediatricians and play groups on their front stoops in the summer sun. The breastfeeding support group I've been going to has brought me to tears every single meeting, when another mother inevitably breaks down and cries, admitting how hard this all is or how much they need a shower or how lonely they are. 

In the sweetest way possible, I have been parented by the world this year, preparing to become a parent myself. And oh, I am grateful for such community. In the face of recent tragedies, I can't do much else than hold tight to these pillars of support and believe in the good of people.

This must be my foundation.

I am more drawn to spirituality since giving birth, since watching our boy grow. Yes, he is flesh, but he is also soul. He's a little someone in there, emerging a little more every day. What an honor to parent such a sweet little soul. 

And what of my soul? And of my husband's? I discovered a band a few weeks back called The Hunts, specifically a song called Lifting the Sea. "It's amazing, it's amazing," the female vocalist sings, "isn't it crazy, isn't it crazy that you and me are both in this world?" 

This is how I feel about having coincided on this planet with the souls of Chris and Noah and everyone else we love.

And if there is a god, She must be a woman. If I am moved to tears thinking about the baby we created, She must be bowled over every moment by the magnitude of love She has for the entire world of her creation. Such is the love of literature, of religious promises, of decrees and testaments and belief systems. The love of a parent: the foundation of everything the world religions believe. Powerful stuff.

From the Dave Eggers interview in the Harvard Advocate that inspired No Is For Wimps
"Do not dismiss a book until you have written one, and do not dismiss a movie until you have made one, and do not dismiss a person until you have met them. It is a fuckload of work to be open-minded and generous and understanding and forgiving and accepting, but Christ, that is what matters."

A few weeks ago my sister said something on the phone. "Everyone has their own burden," she said. "You just might not know what it is."

One of the things I want most for Noah is to afford others the benefit of the doubt and to consider the burden that others around him are carrying. I cannot expect this of him if I am not an example of this myself and so I'm committing myself to finding the good in people in 2013. It is so much work to be everything that Eggers says, but that's how we make our world better and that's how I can give back when I've been given so much. That's how I can encourage my son to grow up with as little judgement in his heart as possible.

We're all on the same team. If anything, the shootings in Newtown confirmed that, leveled the field where we all agree that no child deserves to be shot at his elementary school. We have that in common. So let's go from there.

Next year's theme is Team '13 and I'm excited to appreciate, marinate in and hug lots of people. Happy New Year, you lovely, lovely friends. I am so very grateful for you. xo


Les livres de 2012: round 6 (FINALE)

My in-laws built a Little Library for their yard!
Things slowed down considerably since el bebe was born, but I have a few more books that made it under the wire by the end of 2012. Here goes:

44. The Age of Miracles by Karen Thompson Walker
No! Don't read it. The premise is interesting - time gets all funky when the earth starts rotating slower and slower every day. But man, was this book dull. The characters are thin and I kept feeling like I was kept at a distance from actually getting to know any of them. Also, this might be categorized as a Young Adult book because the characters are adolescent? I'm not sure. Either way, skip it. There are better books to spend your time on.

45. The Happiness Project by Gretchen Rubin
Loved! Loved. I think I loved Happier at Home more, but probably just because it's easier to wrap my head around a more focused project. I read both on the Kindle via the library and would like to buy both in paper at some point to have at home so I can flip through and underline, add sticky notes, etc. They feel like workbooks to me and I would love to take some colored pens to those pages.

46. The Giver by Lois Lowry
"You never read anything I recommend!" Chris said last week. This is not true, but when he said I could probably read The Giver in 15 minutes, I figured I could throw him a bone. Based purely on the cover of this book, I always thought it was about a homeless man at Christmastime. (What? Who knows.) Turns out it's not!

I liked this book; it read like a short story, something science fictionish but also sort of like a fable. The premise is a society in which everything and everyone is safe and the community is pretty perfect. When they reach age 12, children are assigned an area of expertise to study. Our hero becomes The Receiver of Memories and inherits the memories of the world. Interesting stuff. I can see that it would be a good choice for students in school to read and discuss.

47. Help, Thanks, Wow by Anne Lamott
I forget where I heard about this little book but I scooped it up at the library today and finished it in a few hours. I loved it so much; I am definitely planning to buy a copy. It's a book about three simple kinds of prayers to offer up to the universe (Help, Thanks and Wow) and was so lovely in spirit and thought-provoking. A perfect final book to read for the year! I highly recommend and warn you that this is not heavy-handed in terms of religion. Fear not! It's perfectly sane and inclusive of all types of thinkers.

And now here's the whole 2012 reading list with stars next to my favorites...

1. The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins**
2. Catching Fire by Suzanne Collins
3. Mocking Jay by Suzanne Collins
4. The Feast of Love by Charles Baxter

6. Learning to Bow by Bruce Feiler
7. An Object of Beauty by Steve Martin
8. Kitchen by Banana Yoshimoto
9. Tokyo Vice by Jake Adelstein**
10. Woman on the Other Shore by Mitsuyo Kakuta

11. Bringing up bebe by Pamela Druckerman
12. The Marriage Plot by Jeffrey Eugenides**

13. Olive Kitteridge by Elizabeth Stout

15. 50 Shades of Gray by E.L. James
16. Loving Frank by Nancy Horan

17. Preemie by Kasey Mathews**
18. It's a Boy! by Andrea Buchanan
19. The Devil in the White City by Erik Larson
20. Ina May's Guide to Childbirth by Ina May Gaskin
21. How to Rock Your Baby by Erin Bried

22. Tolstoy and the Purple Chair by Nina Sankovitch
23. Ready Player One by Ernest Cline
24. Super Sad True Love Story by Gary Shteyngart
25. Your Inner Fish by Neil Shubin
26. Hypnobirthing: The Mongan Method by Marie Mongan

27. Natural Hospital Birth by Cynthia Gabriel**
28. A Wrinkle in Time by Madeleine L'Engle
29. Divergent by Veronica Roth
30. Ramona Quimby, Age 8 by Beverly Cleary
31. Insurgent by Veronica Roth
33. Natural Hospital Birth by Cynthia Gabriel

34. A Visit from the Goon Squad by Jennifer Egan
35. The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern
36. The BFG by Roald Dahl
37. Happier at Home by Gretchen Rubin**
38. An Inconvenient Wife by Megan Chance
39. Leaving Church by Barbara Brown Taylor (earlier this year, not sure when!)

40. A Widow's Story by Joyce Carol Oates**
41. Peace from the Broken Pieces by Iyanla Vanzant
42. Is Everyone Hanging Out Without Me? by Mindy Kaling**

43. Wild by Cheryl Strayed
44. The Age of Miracles by Karen Thompson Walker
45. The Happiness Project by Gretchen Rubin**

46. The Giver by Lois Lowry
47. Help, Thanks, Wow by Anne Lamott**

Want to read more book reviews? Check out the posts tagged Book Reviews.


Make a beautiful corner: Christmas edition.

We didn't get a tree this year. It came down to one Saturday afternoon, way too many things to get done, and the realization that those needles and the extra vacuuming would drive me insane.

Is it even Christmas without a tree?! Answer: yes. I ran out to Paper Source and bought a few supplies to make a wreath and some Gingerbread Man garland, then decorated the apartment with wrapped gifts and Christmas cards. It isn't Rockefeller Center, but it's nice and we'll get to share my parents' tree when we get to their house later today.

Obligatory baby in reindeer jumper shot:

I have tons to post about the way we approached gifting this year, but obviously I will wait until they are opened in a couple days. Wooo Christmas! I sure do love this holiday.


Random acts of kindness.

Last night around 3am when I was feeding Noah and checking my email, I read one that was forwarded by an old friend. She doesn't normally forward things like this, she said, but she was touched enough as a teacher herself that it felt appropriate to send along.

What she sent was this article by Ann Curry about the idea of doing random acts of kindness in honor of the victims of the Newtown shootings last week.

I love this idea, but I specifically love all of the ways people were reporting back about the good they'd done. People put money in parking meters, bought lunch for others, baked cookies for the fire department, took a dog on a walk so that new parents could get some sleep.

I believe in karma and in "what goes around comes around" and the golden rule and all that jazz, which is why it feels particularly good to set some random acts of kindness in motion in the world. This morning Noah and I wrote Christmas cards to the first responders to the shootings. We picked up a sign for the local candy shop that had blown over and went in to let them know that it's pretty windy out there today. We bought a holiday gift for our neighbors and for the children of a friend who lives far away. We tipped at the bagel store and bought the woman behind us at Starbucks her drink.

"Have a good day," I said to the woman as we headed for the door.
"I will because of what you did!" she exclaimed and I teared up.

I don't think we need more guns in the world. I don't think we need to arm elementary schools with bodyguards. I think we need to chill out with the guns before everyone needs a nuke in their basement and the whole country exudes an eye for an eye in the worst way possible.

But I do think we need more random acts of kindness. And maybe by posting about this, you'll feel inclined to make someone's day too. xo


And still it was awful.

Last night before bed:
"This weekend was kind of awful."
"It was awful."
"Even though we tried!"
"We did try. We tried so hard."

Then we rolled over and turned out the lights and fell asleep until the baby cried again and we stumbled around changing his diaper and feeding him and hoping the velcro on his sleep sac didn't wake him when we put him down. 

Maybe it was the irregular schedule over the past week, two nights with babysitters and his first overnight trip to my parents' house. Maybe he sensed my mini-breakdown Saturday night, away from Chris and our normal routines and the normal place we keep the diapers. Or maybe he's a baby and he was just pissed.

All day Sunday we rocked, we swayed, we changed his diaper, we tried to burp him, we sang songs, we took him on a walk. We did all the things you're supposed to do and still it was awful.


In the background, it was a weekend of horror. I have barely watched any of the news about Newtown because I can't emotionally go there right now. My mom texted me that the memorial service was starting last night and I turned it on, heard three beats of the piano playing the prelude and turned it off right again. 

I don't know what to do with Friday's events. I don't know how you can put all this work into parenting, all this intention into your family, all this energy into loving and someone can steal everything away in four seconds. I can't think about it for too long or I will fall right over and be unable to stand upright for weeks. 

I've been to Newtown; I have friends from there. Newtown is your town and it's my town and it's every small, sweet place on the planet. They do all the things you're supposed to do there and this weekend it was awful, awful, horribly awful.


This complex, blurry space is what parenting is to me. You are incredibly grateful for the opportunity to raise this tiny boy AND you are resentful that you have done nothing for yourself in three days AND you know others are so much less fortunate AND your boobs hurt because they're backed up. Acknowledging gratitude while mourning a life you used to know… it's messy. But I have never been one to see the world in black and white and in this way, parenting is literature. It's black and white and gray and fuzzy and swirly and when you are ready to break, your son grins at you and suddenly you can hold on another five minutes. And when you get too big for your britches and think you can bake cookies AND visit Santa AND spend quality time with your family in the same day, reality swoops in and reminds you that you can't do it all. Not even close. 

So that's where we're at. It was an awful weekend, but it was beautiful too, and I suspect it will keep being awful and beautiful over and over again for the rest of our lives.


The first evening out.

The bottle-hater himself!
We're leaving Noah home with a babysitter (my friend Sarah) tonight for the first time. We've had little mini-dates before but we've never left the borough without him. Tonight is Arc's holiday party and Etsy's is Thursday; we've had sitters lined up for weeks and then just last week he started refusing bottles. And pacifiers.

It has been a stressful week trying to get him to take a bottle again. Finally yesterday he drank some when I switched between me and the bottle (ha! trickery!). I know, logically, that he'll take it if he's hungry enough. But there's some kind of PTSD going on in my brain because of how tough it was when he wasn't eating ANYTHING for the first couple of weeks and we were all in a bad place. I hate messing with what's been working.

All that said, I really need a night out with my husband. I just wrote out the infamous "List of Emergency Contacts" that every parent I've ever babysat for left for me back in the day. How relaxed I was back then about such lists! "Yeah yeah," I thought, "I'll figure it out." I had no idea the parents in question were freaking out about every little detail the way I am currently describing scenarios on this paper.

If X doesn't work, then use AB and if AB doesn't work then try a little C-D-E and if all else fails, JFKLMNOP. And if All else fails, just text us and we'll be in the next cab home!

I told Chris to bring me a latte on the way home so I can stay awake past 9pm. Ah, this new life of mine.

Fingers crossed. Here goes nothing!


Weights, Waits and Measures.

I had an appointment with the midwives this week, a 6 week check-up, where I found out my weight for the first time since before Noah was born. Something that used to cause me a decent amount of anxiety has been put in its place.

"Do you know why women get butts and bellies when they're having a baby?" our lactation consultant asked us when we met her last month. I shook my head. "Because you are going to need to be comfortable nursing your baby for many hours a day. An ass like a Kardashian is going to help you sit and a little pillow belly is going to cushion the baby while he nurses."

Biology trumps vanity. I'm finally grateful for birthing hips.

Noah hit 10 pounds this week. His thighs have rolls and dimples. His belly swells after he finishes eating and he's growing like a weed. Our weight scare early in his life make me grateful for every ounce he gains and much less irritated about the ounces of extra padding I'm sporting.

Weight means health. That's good to remember.

After six weeks, any semblance of schedule is beat out of you. When I stopped resisting the insanity of the unreliable number of hours he slept or the unpredictable amount of time I'd have free per day, things got easier. I feed him when he squawks. I sleep through his grunts. I chop things for dinner a little at a time in-between fussing and then I wait until I have a decent stretch of time in the late afternoon to prepare it. I've stopped getting angry when he's STILL hungry or pees on himself AGAIN or fusses nonstop. Now he gets fed, changed or stuck in the stroller for a walk so he can fall asleep.

This has been an exercise in zen, in letting go of the control over my days. It took a long time to beat it out of me, but now here I am. Feeding this kid while typing this blog post and eating dinner with the same hand. I'm patient now.

I used to think I was patient, but that wasn't patience. That was the genius of distraction disguised as such.

I started running again on Wednesday night. I'm taking it slow, redoing the Couch to 5k plan. I was dressed and ready to go when Chris got home that night so he could tag in and take the kid while I hit the streets for my first run. I turned the music up so loud that it was impossible to think about anything but the task at hand. Who needs a vacation when you can get so far away by just listening to music? (Me. Me, I will need a vacation in 2013, for the record. That was just a poetic thought.)

Tonight I did the second run; I get such pleasure from moving and zoning out! Running isn't about losing weight this time. It's about motion and music and finding myself again for 20 minutes on the dark streets of Cobble Hill.

And maybe that's one of the best things that has personally happened to me in becoming a parent. Tasks that were stressful chores before, things like exercise or cooking dinner, mean something different now.

Now they mean freedom.