I use Grammarly’s free plagiarism checker because I’m a lawyer…you know we follow the rules, and copying isn’t cool. It doesn’t hurt the checker also helps me with my abuse of commas and dangling prepositions.
It isn’t a secret that I love reading, the holidays and gift giving. Much like Joey-loves-Rachel’s-Trifle (What’s not to love?) I figured I’d mash them all together into a little holiday gift giving guide for everyone on your list (or yourself).
For the Reader
So your friend likes to read and you want to give them something they’d enjoy – and you don’t want them to think your tastes are pedestrian. Wrap up one (or two) of these and rest assured they’ll be thrilled:
This book won the Pulitizer for fiction and you guys, it is just a fascinating tale. It is well written, compelling and makes you want to find out what happens next. The book is divided into two distinct parts, and when the first one ended I was so sad- how could anything top that? Luckily I kept going and I discovered the second half, while totally different, was worth my continued perserverance.
The first of a trilogy (the hottest new thing in literature, amirite?) this book reminds me Stephen King in the The Stand and some of his earlier writing. A little gory, suspenseful, long passages that keep you interested despite the extra words. A well written tale that leaves you wondering what will happen next- and ordering the second book despite the length of the first.
Love history? Love sweeping sagas, historical fiction, well written tales of love, adventure, war, heartbreak and more? Yeah, you’ll like this. Scratch that, you will love it. Ken Follett (author of the wildly popular Pillars of the Earth) began this novel as World War I was kicking off. It is the first of a trilogy (drink!) this book will leave you sad that the third book isn’t released yet.
For the Chef
Everyone has the friend who loves to cook or bake and if you would like to continue to be on the receiving end of delicious food, look no further:
Ah, Smitten Kitchen. She writes an awesome blog and her cookbook is divine. It has become a go-to for me when I’m preparing dinner for two or having company over for dinner. The mustard milanese is the stuff of dreams.
This is for the baker in your life. Your homemade pizza is about to become legendary. The photography in this book is gorgeous, the recipes are mouth watering. My boss gave this to me last year for Christmas and it was the best work gift I’ve ever gotten.
For the Parents
Maybe your friend is about to become a parent, or you have a cute kid in your life that you want to send a holiday package. These books are cute for kids, fun for adults.
This awesome box of books contains a family favorite, “But Not the Hippopotamus” and other fun reads. Boynton’s books are cute, funny and short. Kids like how they sound, parents like that they don’t take a year to read.
This boxes set of books (written by a local Chicago author) are amazing. Little Hoot (an owl who just wants to go to bed!), Little Pea (he just wants some veggies for dessert!) and Little Oink (why does he have to be so messy?) all want to be like their friends…but their mean parents are forcing messy rooms, late bedtimes and candy for dinner on them. Sure to bring a smile to your face, and the artwork is adorable.
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I know things have been quiet around here. You might not know (or care, or pay attention) but I feel the need to address it. Maybe in a few years I’ll scroll through my archives and wonder about the blank days, the words unsaid. Were things bad or terrible or not worth discussing? Hardly, so I want to at least capture why I haven’t been putting the pen to paper.
The number one reason things are quiet is that I’m busy being a Mom to the coolest little girl ever, and while I find her antics and smiles and stories of “firsts” interesting, I try to contain that to my monthly letters. I recognize not everyone wants to hear about everything, and frankly, if I wrote about her every day, after so many days of “awesome!” and “loves Cheerios” and “trying to crawl!” we’d be left with the not-so-pleasant things like diapers and the cost of formula and how many times can I hear the hippo song without wanting to smash the hippo in the face…and yeah, you don’t need that in your life. Especially the hippo song. So I try to keep my enthusiasm for Gracie in my emails and texts to people who care (or pretend to care) such as her grandparents and my like-minded Mama friends. I’m certain most of them hate the hippo too.
The other thing worth mentioning is that work is crazy busy. This is a good thing (hi, remember when the economy failed and our government shut down and the debt ceiling and….) so busy is good, but I’m slammed and I try hard not to have my computer out during my hours with Gracie so I’m often working again in the evening after she goes to bed and…I don’t blog about work or coworkers out of respect and privacy and ethical reasons and not wanting anyone I work with ever to find something I wrote that was negative and wonder if it was about them. I can’t handle that kind of drama, so I just avoid it in its entirety (professionalism!) and so when work is consuming it makes this place pretty dull.
That said, things are great. Last weekend B and I went (away!) to a wedding and his parents watched the wee one and the furry one and we went to Wisconsin where we drank wine and roasted hotdogs (fire pits outside the reception venue with DIY hot dog grilling stations!) and lit sparklers and generally enjoyed some down-time. It was just what we needed. No dog walking or baby monitor adjusting or cleaning up the kitchen before bed. We came back ready for family time and renewed ability to listen to the hippo song and give unlimited belly rubs and chin scratches and help the baby to stand, stand, more standing, help her stand!
The ultimate take away is there are not enough hours in the day, but so long as the proportion of good hours to bad stays where it is, I’m happy.
Even when I realize that much of my “life job” consists of making sure we don’t run out of diapers, dog poop bags, wipes and baby formula. *Most exciting ways to spend money, ever*
As a working Mom my day to day life is filled with a lot of Point A to Point B moments. Getting out the door, getting home, getting dinner started, getting the baby taken care of, keeping the house clean, making sure everyone has clean pajamas and underwear at the end of the day. While I’m by no means an expert, because B and I have “different” schedules and we partipcate in a nanny share (sometimes G is at our house, sometimes we are responsible for getting her to the other family’s home) I’ve started to master the art of surviving this low level chaos. Here are my thoughts on being a working Mom and still getting in quality time with all the members of your family from young to old and human to canine.
The only way I can survive it and make it all work is with organization. While I admit some weeks are better than others, the weeks where I dedicate time on Sunday and a few minutes every evening to getting things ready to go for the upcoming week or day are the weeks where we get where we need to be on time with everything we need.
On the family/house end of things, I menu plan within an inch of my life. On Sunday I jot down what we are going to eat each night, picking the easiest things for Mondays and Thursdays (days I go into the office and get home late) and the most difficult thing for Tuesday (when I tend to have plenty of energy to get it done). On Sunday I try to make something that yields leftovers so when I work from home I have something for lunch. When I know I have a busy week ahead, I’ll prep things for the weekly meals, and sometimes I’ll make something ahead of time for Monday night (lasagna, chicken spaghetti, homemade pasta sauce) so I can just put it on the stove or in the oven when I get home. I tackle laundry every other day, one load at a time, and B and I have divided up a lot of the household chores that we each get to on our own.
Another huge key to getting people where they need to be with what they need is packing the night before and using luggage tags. Every bag that has to get out the door has a luggage tag attached to the handle, but instead of flipping it over and finding a name and phone number, you’ll see a bulleted list. My work bags are pretty simple (wallet, phone, iPad, work laptop, MiFi device), although when I was pumping at work there were more bags and the lists were a lot longer and more detailed. Gracie has her own diaper bag as well, and she has a similar tag on hers, listing out what she needs to spend the day with our nanny at the other family’s home. This list means that any able bodied adult can pack a necessary bag the night before and get everything in it that needs to be there. Bags get lined up by the door and can leave with the appropriate person. Gracie having her own dedicated bag is quite helpful, and she can carry a change of clothes, a few favorite toys, her iPod (with her whit enoise app), her notebook (to keep track of her food/milk intake), and anything she has run out of at the other home.
None of these tips are particularly groundbreaking I know, but my biggest take away is that if I want to spend time with Gracie after work, I have to walk in the door ready to dedicate my time to her, and in order to do that, typical “night time” activities have to be carefully planned and acccounted for. Now that she is a little older she does enjoy sitting in her high chair with a toy while I take care of small things in the kitchen, which means we can have some girl time while I make a salad and she plays, before I feed her solids and we start the bath/bed routine. And while I hate to admit it, because Gracie has us up by seven on the weekends, I do find more time then to take care of things around the house, by virtue of being up and at it earlier than my pre-baby days.
Being a working Mom can be difficult, but I’ve also found that it feels pretty normal now that we are in the midst of it. Having great childcare and a husband who is a hands on parent that views “household duties” as more of a 50-50 task is certainly a huge reason for our success, but with a little organiziation, I think anyone can be a good employee and a good parent.
It isn’t the first of the month (that is tomorrow) so it isn’t time for my three month letter to you, but this letter isn’t about birthdays and milestones. At least not your milestones.
Yesterday your Mama went back to the office, leaving you alone all day with the nanny. I’ve been working from home for the past month, but on Monday my alarm was set for 4:45 in the morning and you were still sleeping as I slipped into the shower. I’d spent the previous 24 hours crying intermittently- your hair should have a perfect beachy wave after all the salt water I dripped on it as we snuggled- and the train ride into the office was spent carefully wiping the trickle of tears off my face. Words simply cannot express how hard it was to get out of the car and walk into that train station this morning.
What words can express how much all my bags weighed. Being a commuting, breastfeeding Mom is no joke, and I am nothing short of a lactating pack mule. But if anything this is a lesson in the selflessness of Motherhood which is the only explanation for how I managed to get out of bed this morning while my infant snoozed on. But this post isn’t about sacrifices because everyone makes those every day, and I’m not doing anything many other Moms haven’t done before me.
But oh did I underestimate how hard it would be to kiss your sweet cheeks and leave you at home while I went off to work. All day I wondered what you were doing- were you napping or playing or walking through the park- and the last part of my trip home was spent in eager anticipation on the edge of my seat, like a little kid who can’t wait to pull into the parking lot at DisneyWorld. I just wanted to soak you up, to sniff your sweet baby smell, to push your chin a/k/a smile button and see the edges of your lips curl up with glee. And you complied- waking up sleepily from a nap and seeing me and smiling made everything, the whole day- the early wake up, the planes trains and automobiles in, the trek to the pumping room and eating lunch at my desk so I can leave earlier, the heavy bags and ice packs- all if it was worth it for that smile.
There are a lot of reasons why I work- emotional, practical, financial- but I hope, more than anything you having a working Mom provides you with an example of a strong woman. I want you to follow your dreams wherever they lead you, and I want you to see me follow mine. I always wanted to be a mother, but I also wanted to be a lawyer, and I hope when you look back on your childhood you think of someone who did both. Whatever your dreams are- lawyer, painter, stay at home Mom, banker or musician- they are yours to chase, and I want you to remember a Mama who chased her dreams too.
I want you to know that leaving you that sunny Monday morning was, without a doubt, one of the most difficult things I’ve ever done in my life. As the famous poem says…..I carry your heart with me, I carry it in my heart.
i carry your heart with me(i carry it in
my heart)i am never without it(anywhere
i go you go, my dear;and whatever is done
by only me is your doing,my darling)
no fate(for you are my fate,my sweet)i want
no world(for beautiful you are my world,my true)
and it’s you are whatever a moon has always meant
and whatever a sun will always sing is you
here is the deepest secret nobody knows
(here is the root of the root and the bud of the bud
and the sky of the sky of a tree called life;which grows
higher than soul can hope or mind can hide)
and this is the wonder that’s keeping the stars apart
i carry your heart with me(i carry it in my heart)