Is it too late for a look back on my 2013? Eh, too bad. It was a good year and I want to look back.
I started looking back at 2012 (I was so timely and on top of things!) and reviewing all the books I’d read the year before. Hmm. In 2013 I didn’t read nearly as many books, unless you could repeats of The Going to Bed Book and Dear Zoo. I do not. I hit the magical 35/35 when you are 35 weeks pregnant and have 35 days until your due date, and my friends threw me an amazing baby shower. I hit full term and I discussed the more serious side of having babies- maternity leave and working moms and making it work. I wrote my last blog post before having a baby! It was about the Dryer Monster.
Surprise! I had a baby! She came 8 days early, and since we didn’t know if we were having a boy or girl, we were equally thrilled to find out we had a girl, that we call Gracie. I hardly blogged in February (surprise?) but I did capture her birth story.
I didn’t blog a whole lot more in March…4 posts to be exact. I wrote my first letter to Gracie, I jotted down thoughts on essential newborn gear, and rehashed Gracie’s first two trips: a road trip and then an airplane trip. I really lived up maternity leave!
I went back to work in April (bittersweet) and poured out all my feelings about maternity leave. I wrote my second letter to Gracie (this…is a theme) and I mourned the loss of Dawn. I also did some crazy math (I broke out the Ti83 y’all) and figured out down to the diaper and ounce where you could get the best deals on diapers and formula. I talked about Mom Perfume and I wrote an extra letter to Gracie after I went back into the office after working from home for a month.
In May we moved so things got a little crazy. I wrote my letter to Gracie, deciphered Craigslist and mourned leaving our old, cozy apartment. I also discussed how people portray their spouses on social media.
Another letter to Gracie as we began settling into our new house. Around this time she started sleeping in her new nursery, which was hard but awesome. I missed hearing her snuffles…but I didn’t…you know? We had her baptism, which was lovely. I discussed baby items and things no one told me about pregnancy and babies. Gracie started eating solid food.
I bet you can’t guess how I started…oh wait, another letter. I shared my “famous” taco pie recipe. I talked about all the baby stuff I wish I’d known about. The baby started scooting around the house.
Another letter! I bet you didn’t see that coming! I talked about Gracie’s Christmas goodies, and ceramic Christmas trees. I talked about the books I’ve read this year (hint: not nearly as many as 2012) and Christmas traditions. I even managed to share our Christmas menu, and recap the big day.
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.
I have partnered with Grammarly to help promote their new plagiarism checker. I was compensated for my writing and have been enjoying a free trial of their premium software. My opinions have been and always will be entirely my own and I am not paid to publish positive comments. Anything that can help me polish up my writing skills is going to be something I endorse!
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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.