Thursday, August 30, 2012

Rearranging my time

A few weeks ago, the third trimester BLERGH finally hit me.  I'd look forward to a little crafty time after putting T to bed, only to realize by 7pm *I* was also ready for bed.  And then I figured I'd get up early and grab a few hours before she wakes up, only to sleep well past 7am, thanks to a hubby who's an early bird and usually gets T ready in the morning.

I'm taking the prenatal vitamin, iron, and vitamin D regularly so I doubt it's fixable.  It's just that being the size of a planet takes its toll on one's body, I guess.  Which is a bummer because I was late to the OMG AWESOME second trimester energy party thanks to whatever ick I picked up on our way to Ireland back in April.

I'm coming to terms with the idea that my productive hours are severely limited to morning/afternoon now and trying to work *with* that rather than against it.  I've shifted easy things like showering and reading blogs or fiction to the evenings since they don't take much energy. 

I try to "seize the day" as soon as I get out of bed to attack my to-dos.  I get dressed and ready, grab some crafty time, make phone calls on my huge list (which is decreasing!), do the brain-intensive work tasks like writing and reading technical docs, etc as early as I can in the day without setting an alarm to get up at an ungodly hour.

Not a perfect solution because I feel like I've got less time overall to "get stuff done" but I have to come to terms with that sooner or later.  Baby X' is going to force the issue in a big way, so the sooner I can get used to that, and start being gentler with myself about productivity, the better.

Tomorrow T is going to spend the day with my mom, so I'll have a little extra time to get some things done while I'm not completely exhausted.  But I also have another doctor's appointment (sigh). 

one of the list items - T's birthday invitations - CHECK!

On the list for tomorrow- tackle some financial tasks.  I've set up an auto-payment to pay my credit card bill automatically each month, but it's not the full balance - just enough so I don't get charged a late fee.  I just need to get in there and pay the darn thing.  For some reason I hate this task with a flaming passion.  I probably just need to stop using that card and only pay cash/use my debit card instead.

The second thing is to call the credit card company and block charges by Northridge Publishing so they can't sneak in any more extra charges.  It's ridiculous that I have to do this but in the long run it's more work to keep an eagle eye out and dispute every charge (there have been 3 unauthorized ones so far!).

Totally doable but too much to think about now at the late hour of 8pm.  So I'm going to curl up with my Kindle, and be asleep before 9.  Such a glamorous life!

Sunday, August 26, 2012

New kid in town

We have a new baby in our house and she is pretty much the perfect baby-  quiet, is ok with being left unattended for long periods of time, and doesn't have (real) dirty diapers:

multitasking momma and new baby

T has named her Baby Beluga and has also suggested the same name for "the baby in Mama's belly".  She arrived at our house after a long trip from Florida, and a very knowledgable set of Facebook friends who identified her for me when T found a similar baby doll at the kids' hair salon.

Baby dolls typically creep me out.  The "lifelike" ones never look real, they just look scary.  The run of the mill cheap ones you find at Target or Wal-Mart are just ugly, and I don't feel much better about the expensive American Girl baby dolls either.  But Baby Beluga is super cute - very cartoony looking but I don't freak out when I see her lying on the floor.

I hate the gender implications - most baby dolls are dressed in pink and marketed towards little girls specifically.  I don't buy T any toys I wouldn't buy for a son and I usually avoid the "pink" versions of things unless I've asked T to choose and she picks it.  Unfortunately while the original Baby Beluga at the salon had a purple outfit, the only one I could find to buy was pink.  I can live with that.

T still loves her stuffed animals, though.   She's got far more animals than dolls (by design) and I'd like it to stay that way.  I'm uncomfortable about the idea of being deluged with baby dolls, or worse, Barbies, and all the pink accessories.  It's not the things themselves (I have other issues with Barbie and her proportions/coloring) but that I don't want to reinforce the idea that T can (or should) only play with "girls' things" or that there exists a separate world of "girls toys" and "boys toys" like Target seems to believe.

I'm not stressing about it (yet!) because as far as I can tell, when given a choice, T doesn't always gravitate to the "just for girls" thing.  She picks what she likes.  I'm sure we'll go through a "girl stuff only" phase and it'll drive me nuts.  But for now, I'm trying to focus on complimenting things other than how cute she looks, giving her all sorts of different toys, and letting her choose clothes and shoes from both the "boys" and "girls" sections.

It's a long road ahead.

Friday, August 24, 2012

So much more than good enough

I've come across this Voltaire quote recently in several different places and taken it to heart:
The perfect is the enemy of the good.
As a Type-A perfectionist, it is extremely hard for me to settle for "good enough", or "just git 'er done" as I imagine Mater might say.  (We've been watching a LOT of Cars around here lately.)  But with 45+ things still on my list before Baby X' arrives, I don't have time for every single one of the items to be done perfectly and double checked.

As I mentioned before, I wanted to corral the huge stack of papers and artwork from BabyT's daycare, which she attended from Sept 2010-March 2012 and combine it with the binder of stuff we got from her toddler group at Bellevue College, since that was also within that time period.

The toddler group folks put together a nice binder for us with photos and the weekly written observations we did, but the daycare stuff wouldn't fit into it, and I wanted to use a nicer, more "scrapbooky" binder anyway.

I ordered this American Crafts D-Ring Cloth Scrapbooking Album in 8.5 x 11" size from Amazon since nearly all of the papers were letter sized.  Funny story - I was going to get the bright green one instead, and then looked at the "You Might Also Like..." section and noticed that the Cardinal Red colored one was only $5.80, including Prime shipping, compared to $17 for the green one.  For $11 less, I can live with red, and it was a screamin' deal so I put 3 in my cart and checked out.

A few days later, the red ones were back to $17 on Amazon.  I wonder if I caught a pricing glitch, or just randomly happened upon some sort of special deal?  Just lucky, I guess.

I had a huge box of letter-size plastic page protectors from an ill-fated attempt to organize my scrapbook stickers and die cuts into binders, so I was glad to be able to use those for this project.

Now I was at a crossroads.  I could get all hyper-crafty and do awesome 8.5 x 11" scrapbook pages for all of the photos, half-sheets of observations, and small art projects.

Or, I could just get my Voltaire on, and get this thing done.  Most of the papers from daycare and the toddler group were full sized letter sheets.  The toddler group folks had chosen some photos of T, captioned them and pasted them on letter sized paper.  The big art projects were on construction paper, which for some unknown reason is just slightly bigger than letter size.

I sorted the pages by date, and started filling the page protectors with the full-sized documents I had.  I trimmed the artwork to fit.  This step got me to halfway done and didn't take more than an hour.

After that, I was left with some smaller sheets of observations from both the toddler group and daycare, and a bunch of smaller photos from the bulletin boards at daycare. 

I grabbed an unopened pack of coordinating Martha Stewart "crafting paper" which is just solid colored cardstock, and got to work arranging the notes and photos.  I limited myself to two styles of Martha Stewart labels from Staples - the teardrop-shaped stickers and the long labels, both in several shades of bright colors that matched the paper I chose. 

And that's where I stopped with the supplies.  I could have gotten out my fancy colored pencils, glitter glue, stickers, stamps, blah blah blah, but I knew I'd get into decision paralysis on each page and never finish.  I also find that limiting supplies makes for a much more cohesive end result.

click to see a larger version of The Good Enough Scrapbook
For her last 6 months at daycare, her teachers put the photos for the year on a private website and I had downloaded them but not done anything with them.  So I went through those and made a couple of photo collages in PhotoScape, and printed them letter sized on my fancy printer.  Those went into a page protector at the back of the album.  Again, I could have made separate scrapbook pages with lots of journaling, but I knew I'd get hung up on the details, so it was just easier to print 5-6 photos per page.

For the title pages, I copied the blog post I had written on the Wobblers class into Microsoft Publisher with minimal editing.  I wrote a short summary of her time at daycare, and used one of the standard included "newsletter" templates to format everything nicely.  I printed these on nice bright white acid-free cardstock and stuck them in a page protector.

The last step was to create a small 4x4 insert for the front cover to label the album, which took me 10 minutes in Microsoft Publisher.  I stuck with two fonts from the Silhouette Online store, and one of the standard simple templates in Publisher.  Easy-peasy.

This whole project took me about half a day.  I could have decided that nothing but "perfect" was good enough, and I'd still be messing around with the album, and probably would *never* finish.  Now I have a hefty completed project I can proudly share with T.  Since the design is so simple, it leaves the focus on *her* artwork and photos.

Sometimes "good enough" is actually better.

Thursday, August 23, 2012


Dear Coworker,
No, I am not willing to send you the FREE item I'm giving away via internal mail as it requires me to find an envelope, find your address and drop off the envelope in the mailroom.  FREE, remember?

Dear Coworker,
No, it is not amusing for the 65th time to see you imitate me waddling down the hallway. And no, I don't want to have a heartfelt conversation about why I suddenly snapped and told you to stop.

Dear Amazon Vendor,
I ordered a $2 cable from you a month ago and it never arrived.  You said you sent the replacement last week and it's still not here.  Really??

Dear Google,
While I appreciate you updating your software, when it causes my phone to lose all mobile network connectivity, I get a little twitchy.  It seems like I *should* be able to check email when not connected to wireless, right?

Dear Northridge Publishing,
Your magazines are gorgeous but your billing practices and customer service suck.  $200 of random charges on my credit card and it's not renewal time?  And when I inquire about it, no response?  WTF?

Dear Dentist's Office,
I realize it's been over a year since I last came in, but why did it take 4 phone calls to figure out I was an existing patient?  Because we need the dentist visit to be *more* unpleasant?

not impressed.

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

I love it when a plan comes together

Art by T
As if my long list wasn't enough, in the past week I also added another huge To-Do - transition T from her current preschool to a new one.

We had already told her current preschool she'd be returning for the school year (it runs year-round but summer session and school year are separate), and I really wasn't planning to make a change.

Here's the hard part -for me no school situation will ever be perfect.  I'd like to take on homeschooling, but as an only child, T needs to spend time with other teachers and kids and honestly, she does really well in a group environment.

When we switched her to Montessori preschool from daycare 6 months ago, I knew it would take some getting used to.  She was going from a much smaller class and ratio at daycare to a larger one at preschool.  There was more structure, and some academic work.  T enjoys it.  She comes home with knowledge I don't even have, like what the colors of the Olympic rings stand for.  (Seriously!)

But I just never got completely comfortable with it.  They're a lot more focused on academics, even for the 2.5 year olds, than I thought.  She'd get worksheets for "homework" which apparently other parents were requesting for their 2 and 3 year olds (!).  She's now learning how to read and write 3 letter words and her name.  All fine and good, and I know she's capable of it, but I feel like it's too soon.  She's got 3 more years of preschool before she's eligible for kindergarten.

I know, this sounds very anti-intellectual from someone who laments about how our society really doesn't value education.  But in my mind, preschool when you're 2 and 3 should be about making friends, learning about social interactions, and learning through play.

I love Montessori materials because T sees them as toys.  Learning about science, letters and numbers through the actual materials is cool with me because she gets to choose her "work".  The writing exercises don't seem quite as age-appropriate.

The other issue we were experiencing was due to the long school days.  Her current preschool runs from 9am to 4pm, and she was supposed to nap there, which became very hit or miss, and at most she'd nap an hour.  At home she easily naps 2 hours, and usually 2.5.  By the time we'd pick her up at 4pm, she was a hot mess, and it was like juggling a ticking time bomb for the time period between school ending and her bedtime, which had to be moved up to 6:30 (!) because she just couldn't keep it together any longer.  I felt like we were losing a lot of time together, especially on my work days, because those evenings were just around behavior management and getting food into her before she collapsed into her bed.

Last week on my way to work, I noticed the preschool down the street had an Open House sign and a new name.  I had spoken to them a year ago and discarded them as an option because they had a schedule that DID NOT work for us (5 half days?!), not to mention they only accepted potty-trained kids who were 3 years old before September.  (no, no, and no.)

At the Open House I met the new owner and director, and quickly learned that they offered a variety of half day schedules (we pick), it's Montessori (yay), Spanish immersion (OMG YAY), newly remodeled (yay), they work on potty training (woot), don't have a strict date cutoff, and is much less expensive than our current preschool.

At first I thought the half day schedule wouldn't work for us AT ALL and was really bummed.  But then I realized that soon I'll be off work for 5 months, TJ is home for another year or more, and the half day schedule will actually work fine because when we pick up T and bring her home after lunch, she will go straight to napping (for as long as she continues to nap, anyway).  Which gives TJ a nice chunk of time to work on his stuff, or care for Baby X', etc.

This also means T won't be a wretched mess every afternoon, and we can save some cash while our income is reduced.  And (OMG) T will be learning Spanish *every day*. I can't tell you how excited I am about that.  She'll also have time to play outside, and 2 circle times, plus music class, with less of a focus on traditional academics.  Exactly what I want for her now.

I had a bit of apprehension when I filled out the registration form, left it at the school yesterday, and then didn't hear from anyone there.  Today I got a call from the director.  Turns out she had sent us three emails yesterday and today, and got concerned when we didn't reply.  Sure enough, they had all gone to spam.  When I recovered them, I also found out they're offering us an extra discount for starting early (yay!).  So far, they are responsive and deal in email, which makes that a good fit for us too!

I know it's early to make a change again, and we want to find her a school where she can be for a long time and really settle in.  But I've got to listen to my intuition.  Before we even thought about having kids, I imagined that mine would go to this preschool - we'd walk down the street together (of course I always imagined glorious weather too!).  So I love that this is all really happening, in a way that works for our schedule, goals, and finances.

I've got my fingers crossed that it'll work out.

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Operation Ducks in a Row

I was just telling someone the other day that I was sleeping well, surprising for the 3rd trimester of pregnancy.  Of course this resulted in me waking at 2am the last few nights and not being able to get back to sleep.  For now I can enjoy that there's no one yelling at me for food and a new diaper, I guess.

I used the time wisely to create my list of Things I'd Like to Finish Before Baby X' Arrives.  And I'm calling this project "Operation Ducks in a Row", because it needs a catchy title, right?  Also because I was up at 2am.

Candy Ducks in a Row
Ducks in a Row (of course) by gdjewell on Flickr

I started with about 65 things on the list on Friday night and have crossed off 9.5 of them already.  Not too shabby. 

I won't bore you with the contents, but they include buying things for the new baby, getting T's birthday party and Halloween costume planned, preschool paperwork since T is changing schools, attempting to get both baby books in a decent state, and a lot of baby laundry.

I'm a list maker.  The problem is that I like to make lists on a new unblemished sheet of paper, so I have lists in random notebooks and single sheets everywhere, and a hard time keeping them together. 

I hate electronic lists.  I don't get the same satisfaction entering items, and definitely not crossing them off.  I've grudgingly moved to an electronic shopping list app for my phone (Out of Milk), because it's easier to regenerate recurring items and make sure I actually have the list with me, but for to-dos, I like my handcrafted lists.

In graduate school, a colleague introduced me to the idea of creating a task list for the day ahead.  He did his the night before, so he could hit the ground running the next day.  I loved that, and refined it a bit more after reading ZenHabits, to make my list of 3 Most Important Tasks for the day - things I absolutely need to accomplish.

I usually do this at work on a sticky note and then I've got this collection of Post-its with half the items crossed off.  (I said I like lists, not that I'm great at completing them!)  So I bought myself a cute little Moleskine notebook and try to put my daily tasks in there.  That's helped the clutter, and also helped me see what tasks were left undone and need to be moved forward, or just dropped off the list because they're not important enough.

At a work conference a few years ago, one of the speakers made the bold statement "You will never get everything on your to-do list done."  As a young, ambitious single person, I scoffed at the idea, but now have come to realize she's right.  There's always *something* and it's up to me to prioritize whether that's more important than the other things I like to spend my time on: hanging out with T and TJ, crafting, working.

And this is why my Operation Ducks in a Row is so long, and why I look at it as things I'd LIKE to get done, not HAVE to get done.  The "have-tos" are already done - we have diapers, wipes, clothes, a crib and a car seat.  The end.  The baby will be just fine with those items and not much more.

But I know our life will be crazy while we figure out 2 kids, newborn sleep foo, and breastfeeding for hours again.  So I'd like to front-load some of the tasks now, like finding T and X' the perfect ladybug costumes and getting through my photo backlog.

Thanks to this list, I finished the lower priority but fun item of getting T's daycare and toddler group papers, photos and artwork into a (simple) scrapbook album.  I've wanted to do this since March when she left daycare with a deluge of papers detailing her development over the past 18 months, every art project she ever did, and some cute photos of her daily activities.   But it never bubbled up the priority list.  Finally, once I added it to The List, I decided to tackle it this weekend and the happiness and satisfaction I get from seeing the completed album on our kitchen table was totally worth it.  I can't wait to go through it with T.

Tomorrow I've got to work, and am hoping to cross off a few more items, maybe even 4 or 5.  Woot!

Are you a list maker?  What good tips or practices can you share?

Friday, August 17, 2012

Parental Leave Checklist, Part I: 2-3 Months Before

hooray for babies!
I am about 6 weeks away from starting my maternity leave, if Baby X' arrives on her scheduled birthdate.  For the past several weeks I've been thinking about how to wrap up projects at work and what other little tasks I need to complete before disappearing for 20 weeks.   The parenting email lists at work had some fragmented recommendations on things to do before your leave, but I wanted to build The Mother Checklist of everything and share it here.  This is for maternity leave, paternity leave or really, any lengthy leave of absence from work.

I'll also caveat this by saying I have an office job in a huge company with good parental leave benefits.  Your company's benefits and procedures will be different so your list will be too.  But I tried to make this generally applicable.  Some items will likely not apply to you at all and I will have completely missed others. I'd love to hear about those, so leave a comment.

I consolidated what I could find from coworkers and added my own Giant List.  It's a pretty long list so I'll do a series of posts to cover each time period.  I'm starting with the stuff I've done already, 2-3 months or more before my leave begins (which at my company is the day the baby is born).   I focused on work-related tasks, not 'getting ready for baby'.

2-3+ Months Before Leave Begins:

  • Notify your manager and team about your pregnancy and leave timing - this is a personal choice.  Both times I did it around 12 weeks, when we announced the pregnancy publicly.  With the advent of social media, it's harder to keep "secrets" like this from your boss or coworkers. You may also want to be cognizant of timing around annual reviews, promotions, etc.  It shouldn't matter, but we all know that sometimes it does.

  • Decide how much leave you are planning to take and when - some companies let you start your leave before the baby is born, which is awesome for those last few weeks of sheer discomfort.  Others let you split up the medical portion from the "bonding/parental" portion.  Some companies let you break it up so you can take just a few days a week, which may be good for transitioning back to work.  Read up on the policies, talk to your partner, and make a rough plan.

  • Submit request for maternity leave  - my company has a form that needs to be filled out.  Yours may require special meetings with HR or your manager.  When you've got your timing figured out, fill out the paperwork to get it out of the way.

  • Begin working on a transition plan for your work with your manager - this is really important and shows your dedication to your team.  List all your projects and figure out who might pick them up.  Talk to your coworkers about it.  Maybe you can work out a "trade" - you pick up something they're doing now, in exchange for them taking some of your work while you're out.  On my first mat leave, I was lucky that my team hired a contractor to cover for me.  She turned out to be excellent, so we kept her on after I returned, and this allowed me to work part-time.  Win-win!  Figure out the solutions yourself as much as you can instead of just dumping this on your boss.

  • Document processes and tasks for others to pick up - write up detailed documentation for things you do - meetings you run, processes you own, tasks or reports that you do regularly.  Even if there isn't a specific person who will pick it up, document it so anyone can do it.  This helps if your replacement is only identified after you leave and your coworkers will thank you.  It will also help to keep them from calling you when you're out.

  • Sign up for any benefits that will expire - this is very dependent on your company and its deadlines, but take care of anything with a deadline that's possible to do - signing up for the next year's benefits, getting transportation passes and any other benefits you need to sign up for by a certain date.  This will ensure you have continued coverage while you're out and is one less thing to worry about during your leave.

  • Review any benefits available to new parents through your job- companies may have surprising benefits for new parents.  Mine has free classes about breastfeeding, taking care of newborns, transitioning back to work and more.  My husband's company had a "meal card" that new parents could use for groceries or takeout meals.  There may be local childcare discounts as well.  Read your benefits documents and ask your coworkers who are also parents to find out about these cool things.

  • Complete any required training courses for your job- we have a couple of yearly online training courses we need to complete so I get these out of the way early.  Even if you're on leave, you don't want to be "the one who didn't do it", if it's at all possible to get it out of the way.  In addition, you may want to try to earn as many Continuing Ed credits as needed for your professional certifications so that you don't have to worry about those expiring, or scrambling for classes with a newborn.

  • Figure out your schedule/location for the “endgame” based on your due date - Babies do not arrive on schedule.  Most do not show up on their due date, unfortunately, so you have to make sure your ducks are in a row as early as possible.  My plan both times was to start working from home about 2 weeks before my due date, because I don't want to go into labor at work.  Coordinate this with your partner as well, especially if you are far from each other during the work day or need to arrange care for your other children.  Figure out if you're going to start your leave early or take a few vacation days to relax before you think the baby might come.  This is hard to do since you really have NO idea when your baby will arrive, but having a firm plan is helpful for your team, and for you to get most of your tasks done.

  • Explore child care options near your work or home - this depends on how long your leave is and demand in your area.  I live in an extremely high demand area for full time licensed child care, so the options are few, expensive and BOOKED.  Most people "get on the list" before their baby is born, and we have a generous leave length.  If you are going to use relatives for child care or a nanny, you will probably have more time to arrange this, but you may want to use your pre-baby time to get started on a search as life with a newborn is hectic (and sleepless!).

I'll post the next section shortly, which is Things to Do 1-2 Weeks Before your leave.  I created a handy downloadable checklist for the whole thing, for the impatient folks out there.  It's my first experiment with Google Drive for shared downloads.  Let me know if you have trouble accessing the files.

Parental Leave Checklist Downloads:
Download the Word version (.doc)
Download the PDF version (.pdf)

If you find this helpful, please contribute to my Starbucks chai fund :)
Thanks in advance!

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

Just you wait

soon she'll be driving!
One of the questions I've been getting a lot lately is whether we'll have T potty trained before the new baby comes.  If there's anything that makes me break out in a cold sweat it's the idea of getting T to a milestone before some arbitrary date. NOT.GONNA.HAPPEN.

Last fall when we were scoping out preschools for her, we looked at one that required potty training, and since we weren't planning to enroll her for another 6 months, I figured that was a reasonable timeframe to make that happen.  I am *so* glad we eliminated that one for other reasons, because I can't imagine the pressure to get her trained before she started.  That was nearly 6 months ago, and she's still not close.

I'm definitely in the minority of parents around here - most with daughters have them at least day trained by the time they're 3.  Her preschool does a great job of helping with this, and the peer pressure definitely works in our favor.  While she doesn't stay dry all day there, she's doing pretty well at telling her teachers when she needs to go and participates in the group potty breaks.  She clearly knows what she needs to do and has demonstrated she *can* do it.

But at home?  No bueno.  She refuses.  Pitches a fit.  DOES.NOT.WANT.  It's clearly a control thing, and not a battle I want to join.  So we have a few regular potty times (this girl loves her rules and routines), she (mostly) changes her own wet pull-up diapers and we're waiting this one out.

For the record, she says when her new baby sister is born, THEN she'll use the potty all the time.  It would not surprise me if she keeps her word.  She decided 2 months ago she wanted to be a ladybug for Halloween and hasn't wavered since.  She said in June she wanted a Pocoyo-themed birthday and is sticking to it.

This is the same child that didn't walk until 19.5 months, and she got good at it in a week. One day I think she just decided it was time and started walking on her own.  Now she runs and even jumps (which she also did on her own schedule, not the one on BabyCenter).  The same was true of dropping that last night feeding at 14 months, switching to a straw cup, and sleeping in her own Big Girl Bed.  When *she* was ready, it just happened.

I think this is the Universe's way of teaching me patience, which is definitely not my strong suit.  There is nothing I can do to speed up her development or make her *want* to do this.  I've finally learned just to wait and see.  She'll work it out.  We'll continue to offer to help and give her the choice to try it out, but with no pressure.  As a project manager who likes deadlines and completed projects, this is painful.

But not forcing the issue takes away the pressure to "just get it done already", and doesn't create a power struggle between us. Obviously I don't want to wait forever, but it's too early to get stressed out about it.  Even a lab rat can learn from past experience, right?

So yeah, for a while, we're going to have 2 kids in diapers.  I can live with that.

Tuesday, August 14, 2012

Finding my tribe and writing for me

I've been posting less frequently lately, partly because the third trimester has finally caught up with me (hello 7:30pm bedtime!), but also because I'm still annoyed by what went down in these posts, plus the subsequent huffy anonymous email and snarky call outs on other blogs I (used to) read.

Many of the blogs I read are very similar in outlook.  I thought I had found "my people", so to speak, and added a bunch of blogs to my reader.  I'm not religious, lean towards attachment parenting but am not dogmatic about it, work outside the home in the tech industry and am firmly upper middle class.  It's nice to reach out to people "just like me" via the Internet, and read others' interesting and usually relevant thoughts without getting all agitated about it like I would if I frequented blogs written by people who strongly advocate against vaccination (to choose just one irksome issue).

But, as it turns out, I don't think I chose the right tribe.  I've been reading things with a more critical eye lately, and find that on AskMoxie, my usual go-to parenting resource, some of the comments that espouse views that I agree with are the ones getting vehemently shot down as being "judgmental" which is apparently Really Bad if you choose the specific hot button things to be judgmental about (and are on the "wrong" side). 

When I look at my closest friends in real life, the parameters are a little different from those of the bloggers.  Most of them have taken time off from work or rearranged schedules to stay home with their kids, several homeschool and with the exception of a lone few, none are laser-focused on their career growth.  The ones who work seem to have the same attitude as I do - it's mentally interesting and financially good for the family, but not something that competes as a Top Priority.

My two "Mama Role Models" to whom I reach out for advice are moms who stay home and homeschool (and incidentally, went to college with me too, which likely says something about why we get along so well.  Geeks unite and all that.)  One of them told me that finding a group of like-minded parents was more important than finding parents with kids the exact same age or living in the same place.  I totally get it now.

The Internet is a leisure activity for me, so it makes no sense for me to read things that aggravate me. I blog for leisure too, so I don't want to stress out about writing something someone else considers "not nice".  I'm opinionated and I'm going to write what's on my mind.  If that causes people to unsubscribe, so be it.  I'm not blogging for social change, peace and understanding, or cold hard cash (hah!) so there's no need for me to stifle what I really think for a higher purpose.

I guess that's as close to my blogging manifesto as I'll ever get.  Now I'm off to find my people in that great big world out there.  Feel free to direct them my way.

Saturday, August 11, 2012

Project Life: July 2012

A few weeks ago at the Studio Calico papercrafting forum, I posted my dilemma about journaling in my Project Life scrapbook.  For those who are not papercrafty, "journaling" is just a fancy way of describing photo captions, explanations and any other memory-capturing text that one adds to the page.

I find myself drawn to clean, symmetric, neat designs - check out Cathy Zielske's Project Life (she's a professional, so her pages look amazing).  It looks like a magazine!  I love it.

So I thought maybe I should switch from handwritten to printed journaling.  A few weeks ago, I printed some captions on decorative labels from Martha Stewart's line at Staples and they look awesome.  But it was a hassle to download the template, get everything set up correctly, then go down and print them on my fancy printer.  I'm not sure spending *more* time on the computer is what I need.

I also think that having my handwriting in the album is more personal since we so rarely handwrite *anything* anymore.  So for now I've decided to do some printed journaling and some handwritten captions.  Click each photo to see a larger version.

July 2-8: My Mondo Beyondo Dream Lab, cake fail and art projects

July 9-15: Good Dog Carl park, Zeek's pizza, TJ's ride to Mt St Helens

July 16-22: Baby Beluga joins our family, lots of art projects, Red Robin for dinner

July 23-29: Road trip to Portland

I'm proudest of the Portland layout.  I used the Studio Calico Elmwood Park kit so it has a more cohesive look.  I'm definitely going to try to use more coordinated papers for the rest of the year.  I also love how the computer journaling looks.  It was a pain to get it formatted correctly in Microsoft publisher, but a snap to print on my fancy printer.

Detailed view of Week 4 crafty bits

I love the 9-slot page protector from We R Memory Keepers that I got as part of a multipack. The slots are the perfect size for Instagram photos if you print them 4x4".  I like to print them a bit smaller so I can fit some craftiness around them.

TJ pointed out that the rest of the year is not going to fit in the binder I bought to store my pages, so I've decided to consolidate to 2 weeks per 2 page layout.  Which will be a little less stressful when BabyX' arrives, anyway.   I'm also working on a separate mini album for our Portland trip since I took a lot more photos than I've put in that week's layout.

As you can tell, I'm all fired up about craftiness right now, which is great.  I just wish it extended to things like organizing BabyX's clothes or room...

Thursday, August 09, 2012

To (co)sleep, perchance to dream

Prior to having a child, I had these dreams of being a super crunchy (but vaccinating!) granola mama who coslept with her baby in this awesome "family bed". I imagined lazy mornings where we were all snuggly and stayed in our PJs till noon.

Um, yeah. Well, I guess the last part was true because I couldn't find the time or energy to get dressed in the morning with a newborn. But the family bed thing never happened.

I bought one of those Snuggle Nest things for our bed, but we quickly realized it took up too much space, and it made my new mama light-sleep even worse to have the baby RIGHT THERE. TJ also didn't sleep well with her in our bed, and I think we were both scared of rolling or jostling the cosleeper. Without it, we were even more worried about her getting squished or stuck under the blankets, etc.

Not to mention The Baby only liked to sleep in her vibrating bouncy seat for most of the first couple of months. So we finally just put that bouncy seat in her crib so she could sleep there at the foot of our bed. After she outgrew the bouncy seat, she slept just fine in her crib and waking up to happy baby noises was actually pretty awesome.

So we continued that way for 13 months, when we finally moved her crib down to her room. She's been a pretty great sleeper, for the most part, with some notable regressions, so we don't mess with The System.

After our Ireland trip, we moved her into her own Big Girl Bed, and she sleeps even better there (mostly). So I've given up the dream of cosleeping.

Until we went to Portland for the weekend. She is too big for a Pack N Play and our hotel room had just one king sized bed, with plenty of room for both of us.
She slept great snuggled under all those blankets. Me, not so much. I woke up to find her feet in my belly, her feet on my face (seriously?!), and tiny hands on my cheeks, with her face two inches above mine, asking "are you awake, mama?" In fact, I was not, until just then. But it was fun for the weekend.

Long term, I am just fine with our non-co-sleeping arrangement! We'll see what Baby X' has in store for us.

Saturday, August 04, 2012

Eating for Two Sucks Sometimes

One of the annoying things about pregnancy is the barrage of information about what I'm not supposed to be eating. I picked up a SELF magazine at the doctor's office yesterday and even they were telling me what I shouldn't eat. Then again, they're famous for telling everyone not to eat, period. I haven't read a women's magazine in ages, so it was pretty surprising how clear the messages are to young women that being skinny is the Most Important Thing Ever. Sigh.

Most of the pregnancy restrictions are no big deal - we're not big drinkers so I don't miss alcohol, though being at Canlis without a glass of wine just feels weird. I do admit a touch of envy yesterday when my fine colleagues were prepping a vodka-soaked watermelon for a late afternoon Happy Hour, but for the most part, I'm fine doing without.

Sushi is another story, though. We have a conveyor belt sushi place that we hit up weekly because it's perfect toddler food - fast, relatively clean, and a reliable way to get protein into BabyT. My choices are very limited now since I am begrudgingly staying away from the raw stuff. I miss salmon the most. Only 8 more weeks, though, and by the last few uncomfortable weeks, I'll probably get all crazy up in here and get a little sushi.

The other thing I realized I can't do any more is make my own mayonnaise. I use fresh eggs, but again, it's a risk/reward thing, and it's just not worth it to me that I *might* get sick. So we're back to storebought mayo for now. T is oddly fascinated by it, but won't try it even though it's non-dairy.

She was enraptured by the non-dairy whipped "cream" at breakfast today. Our waitress thought it was so sad that T couldn't get a whipped cream smiley face on her Mickey pancake so she took the initiative to check on it and then asked us if it was ok. How awesome is that?

This week I am dedicated to avoiding added sugar, in my attempt to S-L-O-W-L-Y get back to a Paleo diet. Giving up the wheat is going to be harder, so I started with something easier for me as I don't have much of a sweet tooth. I was sorely tempted by the cream puffs at the sushi place, but am proud to report I let them go by (many times!) without grabbing them.

But overall, I can't complain.  I passed the gestational diabetes test (by just a tiny bit), and Baby X' is growing well and bouncing around.  I can't believe she'll be here in less than 2 months (yikes!).

Wednesday, August 01, 2012

And the winner is...

BabyT helped me pick the winner for my first ever giveaway, of 3 rolls of washi (and washi-like) tape.  I punched circles from a piece of scrap paper (our hotel receipt from our Portland trip), wrote everyone's name on it, folded them into quarters, and put them in a big purple bowl from IKEA. 

T caught on pretty quickly about her job, picked one, and asked me to read the name.  Smitha is the lucky winner, which is awesome since I'm always using the free Project Life printables that she designs. 

Thanks to everyone who entered!  I had 11 entries counting Smitha's double entry for Tweeting about the contest.  Not too shabby for a first one!

Also, in case you can't tell, I am LOVING Instagram.  I know it's overdone, and crazy that we are using all these filters to make our photo quality worse, but it's so fun.

They make Project Life a little easier too, because I've already chosen the good shots (or good enough) and processed them.  So all I need to do is print them and stick them in the album. 

I also found a great deal on 4x8" Canon photo paper, so I can now print two of these Instagram shots on one sheet instead of wasting part of a 4x6" sheet. 

I still use my regular camera a lot, but love the flexibility of Instagram, especially since I always have my phone with me.  I'm so glad they decided to release an Android version!!

sharing is nice

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