Thursday, October 29, 2015

Baby hair.

It's funny, but it seems as though hair is rather important when it comes to babies.

I'm talking about baby hair. How much were they born with? How much did they then almost immediately lose? How much grew back? Is it blond? Curly? Long? Thick? Is your child basically Shirley Temple at 6 months old?

I mean, obviously, babies themselves don't care about this crap. It's their parents that lose or gain pride based on baby hair.

Rockin' the Donald Trump 'do.

Nobody would ever say that babies with more, longer, curlier, thicker hair are cuter (at least, not in front of moms of little baldies), but the amount of hair one's baby has seems to be a badge of honor. Whenever a picture is posted on social media of a newborn with thick locks, everyone oohs and aahs over how much hair this kid has. As though it's a real achievement. "Good job, Mom, you made a child with hair! Everyone else should probably stop reproducing because you have clearly created a perfect human!"

I guess this is the time to admit that my daughter doesn't have a lot of hair. It's thin and wispy and somewhere between brown and blond (in other words, neither angelically blond or exotically dark), and it sticks straight up. My niece told me she looks like a boy. (My niece is only 7, but still.)

Maybe I'm just jealous. Maybe I wish my daughter had longer hair.

But I have a little confession to make. When she was younger, yes--I did secretly wish she had more hair. But now, when I see babies her age with gorgeous Rapunzel hair, I kind of think that they look a little too old and austere. I far prefer my baby's little wispy hairs that stick straight up.

Hey, why not embrace this? I will rebel against a culture that thinks more hair is more beautiful than no hair! I will defy a society that spends outrageous amounts of money on products that claim to make hair longer, thicker, and silkier! Less is more! We are all beautiful!

Or maybe I just think my baby is the cutest of all the babies.

Well, whatever.

Monday, October 26, 2015

Personality clashes

Nine-month-old babies have no personalities. Right? Right.

I mean, that's what I thought before I had one.

Of course, I heard what people would say. "Oh, it's amazing how they have their own little personalities right from the start!" Sure, I would think. You think that. You're pretending your baby has a personality. But come on. It's a baby. They all want the same thing: to chomp on your hair and jewelry.

(Don't get me wrong: I've always loved babies. I could not wait for my own little personality-free hair-yanking child.)

But they were right. She really does have a personality.

And it's already starting to clash with mine.

Those of you who have met my baby are probably thinking, "Whatever, Emily. There is no possible way your good-natured little angel could ever clash with you." And you would mostly be right. (I'm not being sarcastic here.) I mean, she doesn't really get upset with me. She just gets a little exasperated.

(Yeah, babies can get exasperated. That's my story and I'm sticking to it.)

I can be kind of an intense person. I try to tone it down around other adults, because I don't want to seem like a crazy lady, but I let loose when it comes to my daughter. I mean, I've been waiting years to have my own baby to smother with kisses, and goshdarnit I'm going to kiss that baby! I'm going to kiss her all I want!

I can tell that, while there's not much she can do about my kisses, she's sometimes thinking, "Please, Mom. Just give me some space. I can't work on chewing this fascinating toy when you're smooching my adorable chubby cheeks."

It's a glimpse into her teenage years. I'll be crowding her, trying to cheer her on in everything and asking whether she's done her homework and giving her more chores to do to build her character. I will be obsessed with molding her into a wonderful human being, when she'd probably be wonderful all on her own if I would just let her be.

Call me crazy, but I think I already know what she's going to be like. She's focused, but quite easygoing. She already thinks about other people--since she was born, I've had the sense that she tries to be cheerful even if she doesn't feel it. Although I believe in firm discipline and character-building and whatnot, I can't help but believe (maybe just because I'm her mother) that my daughter is naturally a perfect person.

(Hey! You parents of older children--stop laughing!)

But I can't help it. I'm obsessed with her. As much as I believe in hands-off parenting, I can be a bit of a smothering mom. It's not because I'm worried about her; it's because I just can't stop myself.

I'm a bit of an extrovert, and when I'm cooped up in the house with a baby most of the day, a lot of my energy lands on the baby. My daughter, on the other hand, is a very low-energy person. She has plenty of excited moments like any other child, but she likes to play alone in her crib, she sleeps a lot, and she get overstimulated and overtired easily.

It probably doesn't help that her mom is constantly trying to make life more fun and get more stuff done and enjoy every moment with this darling little baby. I just can't leave her alone.

I never thought about this stuff before my baby was born. I just thought that she would automatically like me, because, you know, I'm her mom. But I have to consciously think about how to meet her needs and get along with her. I have to tell myself to take a step back every once in a while.

It's almost like she's a real person, or something.

Monday, October 5, 2015

Why making friends as a young mom is so hard.

Probably my biggest complaint about life these days is how hard it is to make friends.

I've never had a problem with this before. Since I was a kid, making friends has been easy. And why not? There have always been opportunities to make friends. I was surrounded by peers in school and in extracurricular activities, and those opportunities tripled when I went to college and all life was about was making friends.

The olden days, when I had friends.

My life now looks like sitting at home with a baby all day. (It doesn't help that we have only one car, and my husband usually needs it for work.)

I really do my best to get out when I can, and it's a lot easier now that Rhonda is older. But it's still tough to have my baby and husband as my sole company most days. It's a big change from college life, when I'd interact with dozens of people every day.

I've tried to find other moms to make friends with, but I seem to be the only person in my town who has this issue. A lot of other women are just busy, busy, busy. Everyone has jobs and kids and activities. People just don't have time for friends.

Sometimes I think, "Why don't I just do what they do and get a job or something?" The trouble is, I don't actually want a job right now. I want to take care of my baby and work on my writing. I can't even bear the thought of leaving Rhonda with someone else while I work, especially when we don't need the money.

I don't want to be busy, busy, busy. I know that I have a tendency to get too caught up in to-do lists and forget the most important things, and I want to take the time to savor the slowness of my life right now. I want to pay attention, because I can already feel this special time with my baby slipping away as she starts to grow into toddlerhood. I want to be involved in things that are important, but not at the expense of the things that are most important.

I guess I am a little jealous that everyone else is so busy. Sometimes it feels like the world is passing me by. It makes me want to get my hands dirty and get stuff done out in the world.

It would be nice if I had someone else around who was dealing with the same kind of stuff. Wanting more than anything to focus on raising her kids, but feeling the internal pressure to be more than just a mom.

I can't remember ever feeling left out in my life. I could always find a group of friends that liked me.

But I guess no matter how old you are, you can get the feeling that everyone has a life but you.

Wednesday, September 23, 2015

The joys of baby-proofing.

These days with Rhonda are quite an adventure.

I've already told you that she's started learning at double speed, which has emotional implications, but the physical consequences are a little more exhausting. 

The other day we were out on a picnic with neighbors and a woman put a plate of food down on the picnic blanket, not two feet away from where her newborn baby was lying. I could hardly believe Rhonda had ever been so helpless and immobile. 

Nowadays, she's all about ripping off my jewelry, pulling books and DVDs off shelves, tearing up magazines, and putting electrical cords in her mouth. It's exciting that she's so curious and clever (I'm trying to focus on positivity here), but it's all I can do to keep up with her.

Baby-proofing used to seem like a pretty simple task, consisting mainly of putting up baby gates, fastening child locks to doors, and putting those little doohickeys in electrical sockets. 

Not so, people. NOT SO. 

It started with my efforts to protect her from electrical cords, which are probably her favorite things in the world. (What's so exciting about a stupid cord, I ask you?!) Unfortunately, since my husband is an electronics junkie, we have cords lining every wall. My solution was to lay blankets on top of the cords, but I have no idea how long that brilliant idea is going to last. 

It only escalated from there. I've tried to protect the bookcases by putting various furniture and her old infant car seat in front of them. (It sort of works, but she's becoming quite deft at getting around the obstacles.) I tucked a blanket around a particular electronic that she couldn't leave alone, and it seems to have tricked her into thinking it's not there anymore. When I suddenly found her on the third step of our stairs, it was time for a baby gate--the first truly obvious solution to a baby-proofing problem. 

So my living room is a lovely mess of strewn blankets and caddywompous furniture and baby toys. 

It's not because I don't clean. It's because it's the only way to keep this child safe.

With an infant fast turning into a toddler, I'm starting to think that having a pretty house isn't within the realm of possibility.

Well, since becoming a mom, it's not like I've had a lot of time to decorate anyway. 

Monday, September 21, 2015

Making baby food.

I make my own baby food.

But before I begin on my baby food tirade, I want to say this: While I have my own reasons for making my own baby food, I'm not going to tell you that you should do it, too. Some people act as though you might as well feed your child poison as give them jarred baby food. You know, like with formula. What kind of a monster would give her child formula, I ask you?!

(Oh, yeah. Me.)

Anyway, moving right along. I don't care if you feed your baby carrots from a jar.

But can I take a moment to commiserate with my sisters (and maybe some brothers too) out there who are making their own baby food?

Whenever someone encourages you to make your own baby food--whether in person or in some book you read, if you're like me and read way too many books that make you feel guilty as a parent--they always talk about how "it's so easy!"

I mean, all you do is cook up some veggies, fruit, or meat, and toss it in the blender. What could possibly be easier? Why wouldn't you do such a simple thing that could give your child such wonderful benefits in both nutrition and taste?

Well, I've been sold on the nutrition and taste thing (obviously, since I continue to soldier on), but I would like some credit for the time and effort I put into this gig, thankyouverymuch. 

I mean, okay. Is it hard? No. You don't have to be a cook or anything. Do you know how to cut vegetables and boil water? Then you can make baby food.

But it feels awfully time consuming. If you're making anything that has to be peeled (carrots, beets, sweet potatoes, apples, etc.), then you have to spend all that time peeling. And then you have to cook it, which can sometimes take forever to get it to a puree-able state.

Oh, and by the way, people seem to have an awful lot of opinions about how to make your own baby food. All fruits and veggies must be steamed in order to retain the most nutritional value! (Really? I can't just boil it? It's not enough that I'm making the darn stuff from scratch, I also have to cook it in the perfect way?) Some people say to cook it into oblivion, while others say you should cook it to the same doneness you would for an adult, otherwise the child is losing out on all the wonderful flavor.

Plus, you have to be careful about which foods you give your baby. Some people will tell you that you can just take whatever food you're eating for dinner and whiz it in a blender. Wa-la! Perfect for baby!

BUT! You have to make sure it has no salt in it. (Of course, you should really eat less salt anyway, so while you're at it, you might as well cut all the salt out of your diet. Major lifestyle change? No biggie!) And no honey. And no nuts. And no citrus. And no egg whites!

Hey, here's an idea! Why not just make baby puree for the whole family? Easy peasy! And homemade baby food is just so darn delicious, anyway!


Anyway, I guess I don't mind making baby food too much, but one of the worst things about it is that you always think your batch is going to last longer than it does. It feels like you have just cooked up the world's biggest batch of carrots, and then it yields a woefully small amount of puree. Before you know it, your child has gobbled it all up and it's back to the drawing board.

You know, some days I actually kind of enjoy making baby food, which is probably one of the reasons I keep doing it. It's fun to try new things and see how they turn out as a puree. And there's a real satisfaction in knowing that I make all the solid foods my child eats and I know exactly what goes into them.

But most days, it's a chore.

This is why I don't judge people for buying baby food in jars.

That stuff is starting to look pretty good, man.

Monday, August 24, 2015

When we're not friends with our kids.

Remember when you were a kid, and you were playing with your best friend, and you said you wanted to pretend to be a magic unicorn and then she said she wanted to be a magic unicorn too, and then you told her not to be such a copycat, and she said, "If you don't let me be a magic unicorn, I'm not going to be your friend anymore!"

I feel like saying that to my kid sometimes.

I mean, outwardly I'm always very loving and patient and whatnot (obvs), but when I'm going downstairs to get a bottle ready at 4:00 am while my child whines mercilessly, I'm inwardly screaming, "I'M NOT GOING TO BE YOUR FRIEND ANYMORE!"

I love my daughter at every moment of every day, but I don't always like her.

Beets, not blood.

In the blissful, pre-teething days, I could hardly conceive of not liking Rhonda. She was so angelic nearly all the time, and slept so much, that I actually liked her almost all the time. Even when I was teetering on the edge of being a little sick of her doing things like sinking her little nails into my face, she'd go down for a nap, I'd get a little reading time, and we'd be pals again. No harm done.

But these days--although she's still probably sleeping more than most babies her age, for which I should be grateful--things can get a little tense between us.

I try to empathize, I really do. I mean, she basically has little razors poking through her gums. And she can't feed herself, and therefore has no proof that she will actually be fed when she's hungry (despite overwhelming evidence). Who wouldn't be upset about that? She probably cries less than I would in her situation.

But still. I'm kind of looking forward to the days when I can say, "I'm going to get you some food now," and she'll believe me and just sit quietly with her hands folded in her lap. And then eagerly chow down on a plate full of fruits and vegetables with her full set of teeth.

It's totally going to happen that way, right?

And then we can be friends again.

Friday, August 21, 2015

Learning in overdrive.

My baby is constantly surprising me these days.

It used to be that time could not possibly go by more slowly. I wished my baby could do something--anything--other than lie there and stare at me. I anxiously awaited the day she would first smile, the day she would first laugh, the day she would first hold her own head up, the day she would first roll over.

At some point, I came to peace with the things she couldn't do and started appreciating her babyhood.

It's a good thing, except that whenever she does something new, I'm met with a variety of mixed emotions. First it's What? No, she didn't do that. She can't do that yet. 

Denial transitions to pride: Wow! I can't believe you did that! Great job! 

Righteous pride dissolves into self-righteousness: I don't think most babies can do this at her age. She must be a genius! I must be an amazing parent! 

Comparing turns into tears: No! She shouldn't be doing this yet! MY BABY'S GROWING UP!!!

This happened a few weeks ago when she figured out how to get into a sitting position all on her own. It was a magical and confusing moment. I looked up from my book and saw her sitting up and said to my husband, "Wait--did you sit her up like that?"

"Nope," he said. "She must have learned how to do it on her own."

And unlike rolling over, which was a very slowly-progressing skill, she demonstrated her new abilities several more times for us that night.

A couple weeks ago, she learned to crawl, and it was the whole process all over again.

And then just a couple days ago, she started pulling herself up to standing. I'd notice some progress in that direction, but I hadn't expected her to actually accomplish it so soon. It's crazy how she learns things so quickly these days.

I love it.

But I hate it.

Tuesday, August 11, 2015

Should I protect my child, or should I challenge her?

This is a question I find myself constantly asking, as a new parent. Even though my baby's not even a year old, I still have to decide whether I'm going to give her the freedom to learn on her own or protect her from all the frightening and difficult things in the world. 

There are obvious benefits to protecting our children, whether it's from sharp knives or scary movies. We want our kids to grow up feeling loved and safe. We don't want them to get hurt. 

But on the other hand, it doesn't really help to try to protect our kids from everything. For one thing, we literally can't. They live in a world with hot surfaces and mean people, and it's no use trying to pretend those things don't exist. And even if we could protect them from everything, should we? We don't do our kids any favors by sheltering them too much. We have to give them some freedom to learn on their own. 

My daughter is only seven months old and I'm already asking myself every other minute, "Is this an instance where I need to protect her, or challenge her?" 

I mean, first off, she is a baby, so I usually choose to protect her (as well I should). Obviously, I don't let her play with dangerous things or leave her to play unsupervised. But I'm not talking about physical protection: I'm mostly talking about putting her in situations that are difficult for her to manage. 

One of the biggest issues for me (and for just about every mom of an infant) is sleep. I think that's why we can be so adamant about our own sleep philosophies (and so critical of those who disagree with us). Moms who advocate attachment parenting say, "We need to protect our babies! Anyone who lets their child cry it out is throwing their baby to the wolves!" Moms in favor of crying it out roll their eyes and say, "We need to let our children learn how to sleep! Anyone who rocks their baby to sleep is being a helicopter parent!" 

I mean, first of all, let's stop criticizing each other, but that's a conversation for another day. Those of us new parents who are trying to figure out what to do with our own children are pulled in two different directions, constantly wondering if we're "babying" our babies too much, or not making them feel loved and safe enough. 

Personally, I do let my own child cry it out because it's what works for us. But I also jealously guard her sleep times. My husband and I don't generally stay out past 8:00 pm, because we don't want to allow the baby to get too tired. I don't go out much during the day because the baby takes a lot of naps and I want to be sure she can sleep in her own crib. (If I do go out, I'll cut my outing short if the baby seems sleepy.) 

Some parents might see this as over-the-top. I usually see it as a way to protect my daughter, to show her that she's important to me. I want to protect her from getting overtired. I want her to feel that she can always sleep somewhere that's comfortable for her. 

But yesterday, my husband and I decided to challenge her. 

Our friends invited us out to a movie in the park. I immediately wanted to respond "no"--even though we hadn't seen these friends in a while and we'd been wanting to get together with them. The movie started at my daughter's bedtime, which meant we'd be out way too late for her and she'd be cranky. 

But my husband thought we should go. He convinced me that we'd be able to get the baby to sleep in our arms--and if she was really too tired and wouldn't sleep, we could always go home. So I agreed, with some trepidation. 

And guess what? It was completely fine. Yes, the baby had some difficulty when she started to get tired. But she also had a wonderful time playing in the park and seeing new people. And she eventually did fall asleep in my lap without much fuss. 

It was a situation she didn't usually experience, but she got a chance to prove herself. She got a little lesson in "the world doesn't revolve around you." My husband and I had a good time and we actually got to stay out past 8:00. 

I wouldn't want to do it every night, or even every week. But every once in a while, I try to remember that even a seven-month-old baby needs a little challenge in her life. 

Wednesday, August 5, 2015

My baby's seven months old and she's practically all grown up.

Lately I've started getting this weird feeling. It's something I didn't expect to experience until my daughter was at least 12 years old.

It's kind of a combination of my-baby's-really-growing-up and my-baby-doesn't-need-her-mother-anymore. My little girl can do all kinds of things now, like rolling all over the place. Also, she makes friends very easily, which is nice and everything but it kind of feels like she doesn't want to play with Mommy anymore.

I started noticing it when we went to visit my husband's parents. Everything was new and different, and suddenly Mom wasn't the most entertaining thing in the room anymore. Before, I could get her to giggle just by looking at her; at Grandma's house, where everything but me was exciting as all get out, I had to perform a circus act just to get her to crack a smile. Half the time, she wouldn't even look at me. (Grandma and Grandpa, of course, got all the grins.)

I know, I know. My child is seven months old, not fifteen years old. She still adores me (I was relieved to find, after we came home from vacation, that I could get her to smile at me again), and she still can't even feed herself. But I can't shake the feeling that my daughter is beginning to understand the world, and Mommy is more like a piece of the set than a primary character.

I'm actually starting to miss the days when she would do nothing all day but sleep, eat, and stare at me. The two of us would have thrilling, sleep-deprived staring contests, because we had nothing better to do. (At least, that's what I remember now that I've had time to romanticize things. At the time, I felt like all I was doing was watching TV, and gazing into my child's eyes was not as fun as I'd hoped.)

But there was one night at Grandma's that made things better. I was holding my baby and singing to her before putting her down for the night, and for the first time, she turned her head toward me and snuggled with me. She wanted to be near me.

So maybe I'm not the most exciting person in her life, but I realized that being a mom isn't about being exciting. It's about being a permanent fixture in your child's life--boring, maybe, but always there, always reliable. I don't want to be a busy, mysterious mom; I want to be a mom that my daughter can always count on. I don't want to surprise her. I want her to know, without a doubt, that I'll be at every sports game and piano recital, and I'll be there to comfort her when she skins her knee at the playground.

She can go out and play in the big, colorful, exciting world, but I'll know--and more importantly, she'll know--that I'll be there to snuggle with at the end of every day.

Monday, August 3, 2015

Things I loved in July.

1. Scribd. I tried a free trial of this service this month and it was really fun. It's basically all-you-can-read ebooks and audiobooks--read (or listen to) as many books from their database as you want for one flat monthly rate (it's been called "Netflix for books"). They don't have many brand-new books, but they have plenty of bestsellers from the past couple years and I found a whole lot to read. I concluded that although I enjoyed the trial quite a bit, I really prefer reading paper books to ebooks or audiobooks. (It doesn't have anything to do with "the death of literature" or any of that. I just prefer the paper book experience.) However, I did enjoy reading a couple of books there that I wasn't able to find in my local libraries.

2. Mystery Show. Every episode, spunky host Starlee Kine solves a mystery. Not huge mysteries, just the little mysteries of life (for example, how tall is Jake Gyllenhaal? I positively adored the way that episode ended). It's fun and if you like podcasts you should totally try it out.

3. Cazookies. Take some cookie dough and put it in a ramekin. Bake at 350 for 7-9 minutes. Put ice cream on it (vanilla bean is our favorite, but you have my permission to go crazy). Classy and delicious enough to serve to guests, but easy enough to eat it on a weeknight. We may or may not have eaten way too many of these this month.

4. Happier with Gretchen Rubin. Another podcast! (Sorry I'm such a hipster.) If you've enjoyed any of Gretchen Rubin's work (of Happiness Project fame), you'll like this podcast. (And if you've never read Gretchen Rubin, this is a really easy way to find out if you might like her books.) Rubin chats with her sister, Elizabeth, about happiness and how to get more of it. Even though I read both The Happiness Project and Happier at Home (and I plan to read Better Than Before, her new book about habits), this podcast is a good kick in the pants for me to actually put stuff into practice.

5. This dessert. Perfect with all the summer berries. And like cazookies, it's both easy and classy (and a little on the lighter side).

6. While I haven't followed all the recipes exactly, I've found great inspiration here for making my own baby food. It has recipes for both babies and toddlers.

Thursday, July 30, 2015

The person I was supposed to be.

I think everyone has at least one person they believe they were "supposed to be." Somewhere along the way in your life, you started going down a path (sometimes inadvertently), and then you got a sense that people around you were expecting you to just keep going down that path. And then you realized you actually didn't want to go that direction and you hopped over to a different path, but you still feel a little guilty that you never finished the first one. Like you're some kind of quitter.

Like I said, I think this is true for everyone, but I think maybe moms struggle with it the most.

There are lots of things moms can do in addition to motherhood, but once you have a kid, it's kind of like your motherhood becomes an addendum to everything else you do. "I'm an entrepreneur" says to people, "I own a thriving small business where I think creatively to solve the problems I see in the world." On the other hand, "I'm an entrepreneur who's also a mom" signals "I sell homemade pencil pouches on Etsy while my kids are napping."

(I'm totally not trying to knock moms who sell stuff on Etsy. Etsy is a magical place where dreams live and I adore it. But like most Internet stuff, it doesn't really get the respect it deserves out in the world.)

Once you're a mom, people will always and forever see you first and foremost as a mom. Personally, I don't think that's a bad thing, but it does mean I have no choice but to let go of some of my supposed-to-be's.

The one supposed-to-be I'm struggling with the most right now is the one I left behind when I graduated from college.

I was an English major, and I met lots of wonderful people who had read all the classics and always had intelligent things to say and had already published several thoughtful pieces in literary journals. They were involved in clubs. They had internships in the exact niche they were passionate about. (And they might even say, "about which they were passionate.") They knew exactly where they were going and how they were going to change the entire literary world.

I always felt I was going to be one of them. I wanted to be one of them. I thought I was destined.

But on my last few days of college, instead of going off to New York to work on an artsy magazine, I was in the hospital having a baby.

When I think about it intellectually, I wouldn't change a single thing about my experience. I love being a mom. In truth, it's what I always wanted--many years before I ever considered working for some artsy magazine. I was overjoyed to be having a baby instead of running off to write articles for someone else.

And I'm still overjoyed. While I think it's wonderful that many of my fellow students found professional success, I have to admit I kind of roll my eyes when I remember how they casually shared all the things they were involved in and everything they'd done. Good for you. I'm glad you're stuffing your life full of worthless things while I sit here with the most beautiful child ever to grace the planet, HA HA ON YOU.

Just kidding. I would never rub my successful family life in their faces. Of course.

So why does it feel like they're rubbing their successful professional lives in my face?

Even though I love the life I have, there's still a tiny part of me that feels like a quitter. Now, instead of reading Charles Dickens, I'm reading board books. Instead of writing intellectual essays about literature, I'm writing a goofy blog about motherhood. I love it, but there's a little voice that asks, What's wrong with me? Why couldn't I be that instead of this?

The truth is that the only supposed-to-be I ever truly wanted was to be a wife and mother. And I have it.

So why can't I stop looking back?

Wednesday, July 29, 2015

Why I don't like our new car seat.

Oh, guys, car seats are the worst. 

I mean, of course I'm grateful that we have the technology to keep our children safe in our cars (aka speeding metal pods of doom). But if there's any technology that needs to be developed further to make it more convenient and less horrible, it's car seat technology. So, technology research guys/ladies, please stop researching ways to make it possible for people to check Twitter safely while driving and start looking into the car seat situation.

Everything was fine while we could still use the infant car seat. That thing was a dream. We didn't even have to take the baby out of it; she learned to sleep well in it, so we could just take her places and never have to wake her up. We could even put her down for naps in the thing and get her to sleep with just a little bit of rocking. 

But I guess I should have known that the kid would grow way faster than I was ready for. Her little feet started sticking way out of the seat, which was pretty cute but I was always worried I'd break her toes against the side of the door. And the car seat got awfully heavy. It wasn't so easy to haul it into church or the grocery store anymore. 

So finally my husband and I agreed that it was time to buy a convertible car seat. 

Let me tell you something. Convertible car seats are absolute monsters. They are enormous. I mean, I guess the idea is that you don't have to get a new car seat every time the baby grows two inches, so that's good...but adults don't need seats that large. It hardly fits in our car. (To be fair, our car is just a little four-door sedan from the '90s. But still.) 

When we put the baby in the car seat, she got swallowed up in it. She looked up at us with an expression that said, "Um, guys? You do realize I'm a baby human, right--not a baby Bigfoot?" 

I just hope we don't have to drive anyone in the backseat of our car for the next two years, because I think the maximum amount of person we could fit next to the car seat would be a very thin 3rd-grade girl. (She might also be able to hold a pencil, but no guarantees.) 

But even worse than the space issue is the sun problem. Our infant car seat had both a sun shade and a car seat canopy, two wonderful inventions that both promoted sleep and offered adequate sun protection. There's no such thing with the convertible car seat. You must--for the sake of safety--turn the car seat facing straight out the back window, exposing your child to the blinding sun in the late afternoon, and there's not much you can do to protect her little eyes. (Those sun shades you attach to the window are an absolute joke.)

No wonder half the people in America wear glasses! We're burning our children's little eyes out before they can even read! 

Thankfully, my husband is an engineer, and he fashioned a makeshift sun shade for the baby using a blanket. (He also magically attached it so that the baby couldn't pull it down onto herself.) But heaven forbid I should ever have to drive her somewhere by herself. I guess I should start looking into baby sunglasses (but if I think she's not going to pull them off her face five seconds into the drive, I probably have another think coming). 

If you've solved this mystery, please let me know. I'm just an innocent, naive new mom who is, once again, freaking out over a very trivial problem. You know how it goes. 

Tuesday, July 28, 2015

10 things I'm good at.

1. Procrastinating.

2. Bingeing old favorite shows on Netflix.

3. Making desserts that are neither cheap nor healthy.

4. Sleeping. (When my child allows.)

5. Being so at peace with living in a messy house that I don't even feel the need to clean it.

6. Eating cookies.

7. Exceeding the grocery budget in a big way. (Go big or go home, I say.)

8. Being tempted by the train wreck that is "The Bachelorette" but NOT WATCHING. (Usually.)

9. Reading more mysteries instead of the wonderful historical novel my mom loaned me over a year ago. (Sorry, Mom.)

10. Loving my baby. That makes up for everything else, right?

Thursday, July 23, 2015

My advice for mothers-to-be.

This is for all the pregnant new moms out there, the women who are about to enter motherhood for the first time. Whenever I see a woman pregnant with her first child, this is what I always want to say to her:

It might be insanely hard at first. And when I say hard, I don't mean it's hard in the same way that other things are hard. I mean that you may not actually like being a mother.

That's right. You actually might not like it. Yeah, I'm talking to you, to those of you who are overjoyed to be pregnant and so excited to be moms they think they might burst. Women who feel that having a baby will be their crowning achievement and their greatest glory.

In the first hour or two after giving birth to the baby, you will probably feel this way. For me, the time just after I had my baby was magical. I felt like a serene motherhood goddess. It was even better than I'd expected it to be.

But after the exhaustion kicked in and I was sent home with my bundle of joy, things started to get a little hazy and confusing.

I felt a great weight of responsibility to my daughter--a weight that was almost crushing. I think most women expect this, but they also expect a lot of joy to come with it, so it kind of evens out.

I didn't feel a lot of joy.

I didn't hate being a mother. There were certain things I loved about it. But even the things I loved felt like they were going to crush me sometimes--like I loved them too much. Even loving my baby was agonizing in a way I really can't explain.

I could never quite put into words how I felt. It wasn't just that I was tired and frustrated with trying to take care of a newborn. I expected this, so it wasn't surprising. I was prepared to be physically exhausted.

It wasn't the doing motherhood that was the hardest part. It was the feeling it. It was knowing that my life would never be the same, and that from now on I would always have to put this other person first, above myself, whether I liked it or not. And I wasn't sure that I did like it.

In the first month or so after my baby was born, I would often wish I could go back to the days when it was just my husband and me. Those were the days, I would think wistfully. Of course, I knew that back in those days, I was always wishing I had a baby, but I believed that wishing for a baby wasn't as bad as actually having one.

Having a baby, I thought, was not worth it.

Now, my point here is not to depress you. I don't want any pregnant moms to read this and start doubting whether they really want to have babies. (Or more likely, thinking that I'm a terrible mother and they, of course, will never feel the way I did.) I'm not trying to "educate you on the reality of motherhood" and crush your dreams. By all means, keep dreaming of holding your sweet baby and imagine all the love you'll have for that little person.

Because I promise you, it will happen that way.

It just might not be right at first.

I mean, maybe it will be. I think there are some women in this world who really adore the first few weeks after their baby is born. You'd think it happened this way for everyone, from the way people talk. Some people act like this is the very best time of their children's lives and they wish they could go back to it.

How nice for them. I very, very much hope this happens to you.

One very sweet lady asked me, when my baby was a couple months old, "Don't you just love to look at her? When my first baby was born, my husband and I didn't really watch TV or anything. We would just stare at our little baby."

I said something vague and polite, but I was actually shocked that she would say this. This is what I was expected to do? Just look at my baby for hours on end? Let me tell you, I watched a lot of TV during this time. If I wasn't watching TV and I was just staring at my baby, I was probably crying and depressed over how amazing she was and how much I adored her.

I really needed TV. Whenever I wasn't watching TV, I felt like I was dropping off a cliff into insanity.

I felt horrendously guilty about it, although I tried not to. I thought I was going to curdle my baby's brain with all the TV she was hearing.

(New moms everywhere: Just turn on the TV and don't worry about it. Seriously. You have enough to worry about without feeling guilty about watching TV.)

But now let me give you the best message, the message I wish more people would have given me before my baby was born: Someday very soon, your life will be filled with all the joy you hear about. You'll feel like your heart is going to explode with love for your child. You'll be so glad you became a mom and you'll marvel over every move your child makes. The fantasies really are going to come true.

But it might take a little while. Don't worry. Be patient. You're normal, and you're going to love being a mother. I promise.

P.S. If these feelings are very persistent, and/or if you are concerned about your safety or your child's safety, please don't hesitate to talk to your doctor about postpartum depression. 

Tuesday, July 21, 2015

Why crying it out suddenly got hard.

Ever since my child was born, I've secretly prided myself on being a bit of a strait-laced mom. According to the Mary Poppins-type British lady in my mind, I "tolerate no nonsense whatsoever." If my daughter is overtired (which happens frequently since she's so sensitive to any kind of stimulation), then she gets to cry it out. There will be no rocking the baby to sleep for hours in this house, no sirree.

(I have nothing against attachment parenting when other people do it--it seems to work marvelously for lots of moms. But I know myself well enough to know that that kind of parenting style would drive me insane.)

When I was pregnant, some women insisted that even if I thought I was going to let my baby cry it out, everything would be different once I had the baby. I would want to run into her room at the slightest whimper. I would be powerless against my baby's cries.

There was a part of me that thought they might be right. How would I know, anyway? I'd never had a child of my own. Maybe I would want to hold her every time she whined a little.

But so far, it hasn't been much of a problem. I mean, lest you think I'm a neglectful parent, of course I don't let my baby cry for more than a few minutes (but a few minutes will almost always be enough).

However, in the last week or so, my "no-nonsense" parenting style has been seriously challenged.

I guess it was only so long before my baby started figuring me out. She finally learned to do something that would make me absolutely melt.

She started saying "mama."

At first I didn't even think about it; I assumed it was just babbling. But at a family reunion, two of my sisters said they thought she was really trying to call for me. And then I started hearing it. When I would put her down for a nap, in between whines I heard a plaintive little "ma-ma-ma!"

And I couldn't. I just could not. 

It used to be that when I heard her cry after I put her down for a nap (and by the way, she often doesn't cry at all when I put her down), I would just think serenely, "She's not crying for me; she's crying for sleep." But hearing the little voice crying "mama" changed the game. "She's not crying for sleep! She wants me! She's wishing her mommy would hold her!" I started thinking.

Suddenly, I realized that she has thoughts going on inside her little brain. She's not just always thinking about puffy clouds of glory and stuff. She is picturing my face. And she's feeling lonely. Her mother just left her all alone in this scary place (okay, technically it's her crib that she has spent more than half her life in, but still), to fend for herself! Will Mommy ever come back? How can she be sure?!

If I didn't have seven months of experience that has taught me that letting her cry herself to sleep is the best way for everyone, I would most definitely be running into that room before my husband could stop me.

I guess it's a good thing for me that she wasn't born with the ability to say "mama."

By the way, I'm trying to teach her how to say "dada." Let her pull at his heartstrings...

Friday, July 17, 2015

Fun summer reads, aka forgetting I was ever an English major. {Quick Lit}

Today I'm joining Modern Mrs. Darcy to share what I've been reading lately in bite-sized pieces so you don't have to read my long rants about books you don't care about.

1. Lemon Tart (and sequels) by Josi S. Kilpack: I'm getting super into this culinary mystery series. It's silly and fun and the writing is just good enough that I don't really notice it. (After being an English major, bad writing is too distracting.) It's not for everyone, but I've never tried cozy mysteries before and I'm really enjoying them.

2. Big Little Lies by Liane Moriarty: I don't know how a book can manage to be easy, light, fun, intense, dramatic, and important all at the same time, but Moriarty did it. Moriarty tackles big issues in this book, but somehow it still feels like a breezy summer read. It's a long book but I couldn't put it down and I got through it in a few days.

3. French Kids Eat Everything: How Our Family Moved to France, Cured Picky Eating, Banned Snacking, and Discovered 10 Simple Rules for Raising Happy, Healthy Eaters by Karen le Billon: First of all, when did it become the trend for memoirs to have ridiculously long subtitles? Anyway, this book changed a lot of my views on how to feed children. I want to try implementing most of Le Billon's rules with my own kids. (It was also an interesting read just as an expat memoir.)

4. I Capture the Castle by Dodie Smith: I had heard great things about this book, but I was disappointed. It's one of those books where I kept thinking all through it, "The way I feel about this book is really going to depend on the way it ends." Sadly, I did not appreciate the ending.

5. Is Everyone Hanging Out Without Me? And Other Concerns by Mindy Kaling: I may be the last person (and by person, of course I mean woman who is interested in celebrity comedian memoirs) to read Mindy Kaling's first memoir, but I'm not sorry. I'm listening to it on audio and it is hilarious. All I need to complete my life is her new book coming out this year which I'm hoping will have lots of behind-the-scenes details about The Mindy Project, because that's obviously all I care about.

Have you read anything good lately?

Friday, July 10, 2015

Why I don't care whether my baby learns to crawl.

Once upon a time, I believed that rolling was the First Great Step into my baby learning how to do stuff. (And proof that she is a baby genius, and that kind of thing.)

Little did I know just how true that would be. 

These days, rolling is all the rage around here. Rolling is the best way to get from Point A to Point B, according to my child. It's really quite amazing how fast she got into the rolling game. Only about a week ago, she had just barely learned how to roll from her back to her tummy, and now she can roll any way she wants effortlessly. She can roll from one end of the room to another in a matter of seconds (getting distracted by toys and boxes along the way, of course).

It's too early to tell, but she's so good at rolling that I think she may actually skip crawling, like some babies do. Why crawl when she's already so mobile? She's probably faster at rolling than other babies are at crawling, after all. 

I mentioned this to someone the other day and she said, "Oh, don't worry. She'll figure it out." 

My first thought was, "Huh? But she doesn't need to figure it out." 

And that's when I realized: 

I've come a long way from the days when I thought that the age at which my baby rolled over said something about her intelligence and would determine whether she would one day be flipping burgers or starting her own multi-million dollar company. 

Of course, even at the time I knew I was being ridiculous and that all babies would learn things at their own pace, but I couldn't help but think about it. And I'm still that way with a lot of things--I'm still a little too much of a helicopter parent, and I'll freely admit it. 

But I'm making progress. I now honestly don't care whether my baby ever learns to crawl. If she does, I'll cheer her on. If she doesn't, I'll be proud of her originality. 

I'm finally more interested in the things my baby wants to do, instead of trying to convince her to want the same things I want.

...Most of the time. 

Wednesday, July 8, 2015

Why I started making breakfast every day.

"Breakfast is the most important meal of the day!"

Ugh. I get pretty tired of hearing that. What does it even mean, anyway? "Important" according to whom? Somebody's grandmother? Scientific studies that have been warped through the grapevine and reduced simply to the word "important?" I'm sure there are people out there who could wax poetic about this bit of folk wisdom, but it's always seemed a bit senseless to me.

I've never been super into breakfast. In the past, I've often been one of those terrible breakfast-skippers. It's as if no one ever told me that breakfast is the most important meal of the day!

That said, settling down and becoming a mother has had an effect on me. I've started to feel that it may actually benefit us all if I made us breakfast once in a while, instead of buying and consuming endless amounts of cold cereal. (Not that the breakfasts I make are always healthier. A good waffle every once in a while never hurt anyone.) And reading French Kids Eat Everything: How Our Family Moved to France, Cured Picky Eating, Banned Snacking, and Discovered 10 Simple Rules for Raising Happy, Healthy Eaters by Karen le Billon convinced me that eating more meals together, even if my child is still too young to eat bacon, will ultimately benefit our family in the long run.

So, last week I decided it was time to start acting more like a real mom and cook breakfast every day.

(It's funny--I'm still so new at this mom thing that I keep feeling like I need to start acting more like a mom. As though I'm just pretending to be a mother. Even though I'll continue to be a mother no matter what I do.)

(And I don't know why I think "real moms" cook breakfast for their families every day. It's not like my own mother did. I know plenty of wonderful moms who have better things to do than slave in the kitchen at 5:30 in the morning. Things like, I don't know, sleeping.)

(Ooh, here's a thought--maybe I'm a 1950s housewife, reincarnated!)

So far, my Breakfast Initiative is going swimmingly. The best part is probably getting to make recipes that I've always looked at longingly but never really got around to making, like this and these.

But also, it's kind of nice to actually sit at the table with my husband and just talk in the mornings. No TV, no phones, no distractions.

(We're drowning in leftovers, of course, since there are only two of us and every breakfast recipe in the annals of the Internet is designed to feed an entire football team. Good thing we like leftovers.)

It kind of makes me excited to have a horde of children to feed. Someday, I may have four or even five kids swarming around the table gobbling French toast like there's no tomorrow, and I'll look down on them in satisfaction and rejoice in the breakfast-making habits that I cemented when my first child was still a baby.

Of course, when that day actually comes, I'll probably look back wistfully on the days when I could sit down to a quiet breakfast with my husband while our only baby was still asleep.

I've never been very good at living in the moment. But I think that somehow, it helps to make breakfast every day.

Monday, July 6, 2015


My husband and I have now moved four times in the two and a half years we've been married. Every time we're about to move, I get really excited. It's fun to think about upgrading into a brand-new place that doesn't have all the annoying problems of our current place.

Somehow in my mind I just sort of skip over the actual moving part. Now I'm in this old, crummy apartment, and soon I'll be in a shiny, glittery new house with tons more space and much better flooring! (The last time we moved, "much better flooring" meant hardwood floors. Now that we have a baby, better flooring means carpet. My baby has celebrated by scooting around all over our new carpet.)

But this time, I decided to make our move as seamless as possible. I created a Master Plan. Unpacking this time would not be a drag--in fact, it would be unbelievably easy! Never again would I spend two hours unpacking a single box, running all over the house with various mismatched items that each belonged in a totally different place than the last. This time, packing would be logical and unpacking would be mindlessly simple. The Master Plan was foolproof.

Except, of course, that it wasn't.

Apparently, I'm not the genius that I thought I was.

I'm not exaggerating about my obsessive planning, as you can see from these labeled pictures of every single storage space in our house.

There were a few flaws in the Master Plan (surprise). For one thing, I severely overestimated the actual amount of space in each storage area. I assumed that merely wanting to put a million things in a closet would mean that they would all fit there. Like maybe the closet would sense my desires and would expand just a little bit to accommodate my stuff.

Like maybe instead of moving to a small town 20 minutes away, I was moving to Narnia.

(Hey, you never know.)

Another problem was that I now have no idea exactly what is in each box. I was so proud of myself for labeling each box simply with the code I came up with for the storage area where all the stuff belonged--but when I was packing, sometimes I would decide to label a box after I had filled it up, just in case I changed my mind about where the stuff belonged (which, by the way, I never did), and then I would forget to label it at all. So yeah, I got out of spending fifteen minutes writing all over a single box detailing its contents, but it also took me five days after we moved before I found my hair dryer. And my living room is filled with unmarked boxes.

However, I do take a little pride in the fact that the Master Plan worked like a charm in one room of the house: the kitchen. I was so detailed about where everything belonged that my brother-in-law actually did some unpacking for me without any supervision, and I was perfectly happy with where he had put everything.

So yeah, my Master Plan had a few kinks, but I've already figured out how to fix them for our next move. The next move really will be smooth and painless. Right?


Wednesday, July 1, 2015

Things I loved in June.

1. TheSkimm. I feel it's my civic duty to read the news, but it feels impossible to keep up with. Plus, it's depressing. TheSkimm is a daily email that makes it easy and simple (and even fun) to keep up with the news. So now when people are talking about current events, I can be all, "Ah yes, I have a very strong opinion on the way the crisis in the Middle East is being handled because I totally understand it."

2. This mystery novel. Let me tell ya something. I have never in my life picked up and read a cozy mystery until this very month. And my life has been totally changed in the best way. It's totally goofy and the writing didn't blow me away, but it was the exact thing I needed to distract me from packing and unpacking this month.

3. Probably everyone and their dog knows about, but just in case a few of you have been hiding under an Internet rock, I need to tell you about it. This site is the only thing that has ever really helped me keep my budgeting act together for more than a couple of weeks. My husband and I have been using it as our exclusive budgeting tool for the last couple of months and it's roughly 246 times better than pen and paper. Embrace our digital age, guys.

4. Gilmore Guys. A podcast in which two dudes discuss Gilmore Girls in depth. And it is hilarious. I wouldn't call myself a hard-core Gilmore Girls fan (I've watched the whole series, but only once, because of life), but I do find this really funny and kind of interesting. (Oh, and if you are a hard-core fan, don't worry; this show won't make you defensive. These guys genuinely adore Gilmore Girls.) Word of warning: there is strong language.

Did you find anything you loved in June? Share your fabulous finds with the rest of us in the comments below.

Thursday, June 25, 2015

Why I gave my husband a $700 phone for Father's Day.

When the iPhone 6 came out last year, my husband knew immediately that he wanted it.

I was skeptical. 

Growing up, my parents taught me to be frugal in everything possible. I never had my own cell phone growing up, although when I was a teenager, most of my friends had cell phones. (Except, of course, for the monster pay-by-the-minute phone my mom had me carry around for safety when I was driving alone. The thing was so big it barely fit in my purse. Needless to say, I couldn't use it to text. I didn't learn how to text until I left home.)

I've only had a smartphone for about a year, and it's nowhere near the newest version. I've just never been interested in having the latest and greatest iPhone. Frankly, I don't care. I mean, I can actually use the Internet on my phone. How unreal is that?! I really don't get how I could ask for anything more.

My husband, on the other hand, got used to always having the newest smartphone in the years before we were married. As a bachelor who worked as much as possible, he had the money for it.  

But since we've been married, I've always talked him out of having the newest phone. To me, it felt like a game of "keeping up with the Joneses." (Or keeping up with the Kardashians. I mean, the iPhone 6 seems a little extravagant to me.) Why not just wait a couple years and then buy it at a discounted price? (I love me a good deal.) 

My husband agreed with all this in word, but he still spent a lot of time wistfully eyeing that new iPhone and crunching the numbers. (Unfortunately, no amount of crunching could take the numbers down to a place where I was comfortable with them.) 

This month, I was considering what I wanted to get him for Father's Day. Did I want to get him something nice, or save a little money this year? And then I thought, I know what he really wants. And as though a switch had been flipped, I finally gave up my endeavors to force my thriftiness on him and I knew it was worth it. 

The truth is, I still don't get why he wants an iPhone 6 so much. It doesn't make sense to me. But I love him and I know that it would make him really happy, so I'm not going to ask him to answer to me.

My husband always puts my needs and our daughter's needs above his own, and that's really not an exaggeration. In fact, sometimes it's been a point of frustration with me when I ask, "But what do you want?" and he'll answer, "Well, I know that this is better for you, so..." He can't even give me a straight answer because he can't think about his own desires without considering mine. 

When we got married, my husband gave up his nice phone for a crummy, cheap one. Even when he switched back to a smartphone, he recycled an old one of his, made sure our phone plan would stay cheap, and bought a smartphone for me, too. He honored my desire to be frugal since we were students and we really didn't have the money. 

But now he's graduated and working full-time on a good salary, and we can afford it. 

So I decided to stop nickel-and-diming my own husband and agree to buy the one thing he really wants right now. 

Will I ever understand his desire to have the newest iPhone? Probably not. But being a good wife--for me, right now--means letting go of my own thoughts on the matter and just being happy that he's happy. 

Wednesday, June 10, 2015

Why having in-laws is so hard.

Let me start by saying that I probably have the best in-laws in existence. And that's not an exaggeration. They're kind, generous, supportive, forgiving, and understanding. They're always there for my family, but they're never demanding. They see me as their own daughter. 

But all the same, getting used to having in-laws is a strange, uncomfortable experience.

I didn't expect that. Before I got married, I thought I would be the perfect daughter-in-law. I would call my in-laws "Mom" and "Dad." I would take their quirks in stride. I would be totally angelic. 

Yeah. You can see the problem here. 

First of all, it's kind of weird to try to treat people like they're you're parents when in actuality, you hardly know them. I think I saw my parents-in-law-to-be twice before I actually got married. Only twice. I've seen a cashier at the grocery store more often than that, and I'm not about to call him "Dad." 

So I suddenly had these people in my life that I was supposed to treat as equal to my own parents, aka the people that I've known intimately since the moment I entered this world. I was supposed to call my mother-in-law all the time in addition to calling my own mom. I was supposed to invite them to stay in my home and try to entertain them. 

(By the way, my in-laws have never actually had these expectations of me. I wanted to do them so I could be an angelic daughter-in-law.)

(Cue laugh track.)

It's just a little weird, no matter how wonderful they are. It's hard to treat someone like family when you haven't spent much time with them. (I'm not the only one who feels this way, am I?) I've been trying my best to do it, and of course it gets easier as I get to know my in-laws better. But I'm always wondering what they're thinking of me. Every time I say a word, I start thinking, "Did that make me sound dumb? Did it make me sound like a bad wife? Do they think I deserve their son?" And it's just a downward spiral. 

I know some people would say, "Don't worry about what your in-laws think. All that matters is that your husband loves you." That's true, but I mean, they are my husband's parents. He cares what they think. And they're pretty much in my life to stay, so I might as well try to start the relationship off on the right foot. 

My in-laws are great people, but when I try to be perfect all the time, it puts a certain strain on our relationship. When my husband and I went to visit last year, after a while my father-in-law asked me, "Are you okay? You've been so quiet the last few days." 

I'm not generally a quiet person. 

But when I'm afraid that everything I say will make someone think less of me, I'm a little less inclined to open my mouth.  

That's not good, y'all. 

(My husband is from the South, by the by.)

It keeps getting easier, the better I get to know my husband's parents. More and more, I'm beginning to honestly feel like they are my parents. I'm lucky to have in-laws who do everything they can to make me feel comfortable. All I have to do now is resolve my own insecurities. 

We're traveling to visit my in-laws soon, and this time I'm doing my best to get it through my head that all I have to do is be myself. Knowing my in-laws, they'll still love me. 

And my husband loves me, so that's all that matters. Right? 

Ha. Ha. Ha. 

Monday, June 8, 2015

6 things I learned from giving up sugar for 30 days.

I never thought I would do this.

It seemed like the kind of thing other people would do--like health-obsessed people who shop at Whole Foods. I wasn't interested in giving up my favorite foods, only in moderating myself so I didn't eat too much of them.

But after attempting to moderate over and over again, and failing every time, I finally learned from my mistakes and decided I needed to do something different. 30 days isn't too long, right? Just long enough to maybe slow down my sugar cravings, kick some bad habits, and make moderation a little easier.

Here's the clarification on my "rules" (feel free to skip this part if you don't care about the details): During the 30 days, my goal was to eat no refined sugar, including added sugars in pre-packaged foods. So yeah, I was checking labels and giving up things like salad dressing. It may not have been necessary to be that extreme, but I knew that if I give myself an inch then I would probably end up taking a mile. I didn't want to start giving myself exceptions and then just keep adding to the list. 

I did eat honey, although I know it's really not healthier than white sugar. But I couldn't start eliminating sugars that are naturally in food or I would really be crazy. And of course, I didn't eat nearly as much honey as I used to eat refined sugars.

Here are the things I learned from giving up sugar for 30 days:

1. I'm an abstainer, not a moderator. When I first learned about the difference between abstainers and moderators from Gretchen Rubin, I wasn't sure which one I identified with. In fact, it's something I've been wondering about for quite a while now. I started to suspect that I was part of a third class of people who could neither abstain nor moderate and instead could only try and fail constantly and comfort themselves by stuffing their faces with ice cream.

I finally realized that I was failing all the time because I was trying so hard to be a moderator. I thought I couldn't possibly give up my favorite foods, even for a little bit. But now I know that...

2. I wasn't ready to give up sugar until now. And I'm still not ready to give it up completely, although I can now see that happening someday. But before, every time I tried to give up treats, I was going into it kicking and screaming. I didn't truly want to succeed. I didn't have the motivation to see it through. This time, I finally went into this with determination. That said...

3. If it's not hard, it's probably not the thing you need to give up. Yes, I was determined to succeed, but it was still hard. My husband can attest that I whined to him every other day about wanting chocolate. (It didn't help that I knew he had hidden my chocolate in the house somewhere, per my request.)

And I finally realized something. You know how you hear about the people who stopped drinking soda and lost 30 pounds? Well, I gave up soda almost completely a while ago, and I never seemed to lose any weight from it. But that's because I never really drank that much soda. In fact, I haven't even liked soda for the last few years.

But I used to eat dessert every single day, sometimes more than once a day. My day didn't feel complete without a cookie or two. Part of it is that I like cookies, and part of it was just habit. Somewhere along the way, I just got used to eating a lot of treats.

After learning about food addictions, I know I'm not addicted, which is a relief. But I never want to become addicted. I want to change my habits while it's still just a matter of habit.

4. I lost weight. I guess that should come as no surprise, but I actually tried not to focus too hard on losing weight. I knew that if I tried to change too many habits at once, it would be too hard and I would crack. So I didn't worry too much about exercising or eating less or anything. I allowed myself to eat what I wanted as long as it wasn't sugar. But also...

5. I lost my preoccupation with food. I still love to cook and I love to eat, but I'm not spending half my day wondering what and when I'm going to eat next. I didn't think my preoccupation was primarily connected with sugar, but apparently it was. I guess when sugar is off the table, my brain decides that food isn't worth ruminating on anymore. I've actually had the brain space to devote to other things in my life.

But the most important thing I learned from doing this was...

6. I did this for my daughter. In the past, I've always had good intellectual reasons to break my bad habits with food, but I never had a good emotional reason. After my baby was born, I started asking myself, "Do I want her to start eating brownies just because she's bored? Do I want her to have the same habits I do?" And suddenly it was bigger than me. It wasn't just about losing weight, or looking better, or feeling better. It was about giving my daughter a healthy start to life. It was about setting her up in good habits that she will never have to worry about breaking.

I don't want my daughter to have to give up sugar. I want her to be able to eat a single cookie and be satisfied. I want her to have the ability, from the very beginning, to focus on things other than food. I want her to see treats as just that--an occasional treat, nothing more.

Giving up sugar, even just for 30 days, wasn't easy, but it was easier than it's ever been. As much as I would like to clean up my diet whenever I set my mind to it, what I really needed to do was set my heart to it.

Now, I'm going to try a moderate approach to sugar, but knowing that I'm an abstainer, I plan on doing another "sugar fast" soon.

Are you an abstainer or a moderator? Have you ever given up certain kinds of food?

Friday, June 5, 2015

Things I loved in May.

Today I'm playing Oprah and sharing a few of my favorite things with you!

1. This reading journal from Modern Mrs. Darcy. I've always wanted a reading journal but I would always be afraid that I would fill up parts of it faster than others. This is great because you can print it out and customize it any way you like. (And it's freeeee!)

2. These fruit and nut bars from Sally's Baking Addiction. Healthy, chewy, easy, and tasty. I didn't know such a thing could exist. 

3. The Emily of New Moon books. I read the series this month and wished I would have read these books as a kid. I'm excited to share them with my daughter when she gets older.

4. Dressing Your Truth. I have a little obsession with this. I'll probably post about it soon because I just can't help myself.

5. Texts from Jane Eyre by Mallory Ortberg. Be warned that there is quite a bit of strong language, but this book kept me literally laughing out loud. (And I'm not normally the laughing-while-reading type.) Just be prepared for a little irreverence toward the literary classics.

6. Find out what your name would be if you were born today. Mine would be Ava. Share your "today name" in the comments! (I made my whole family do this.)

Wednesday, June 3, 2015

Why I'm not interested in the life-changing magic of tidying up.

At my local library, there are 10 copies and 48 holds on the book The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up: The Japanese Art of Decluttering and Organizing by Marie Kondo. It's sweeping the Internet right now and I've been hearing about it constantly.

This isn't a review. I haven't read the book. And I don't plan to.

From what I've heard about this book, it tells you to get rid of things. (Surprise, surprise.) Like, a lot of things. Like maybe even a dish rack. (You can put your dishes outside on the patio to dry!)

Now, I don't want to criticize this book in particular, especially since I haven't read it. But its enormous popularity tells you something about our culture. A lot of us (especially us moms) are becoming preoccupied with decluttering and getting rid of things. Things, things, things! We Americans are so obsessed with things! Get rid of everything! 

I mean, yeah, go ahead and throw away the weird art project that your kid never even enjoyed. Give away the clothes you never wear. Good for you. I love getting rid of stuff I genuinely don't care about.

But the decluttering frenzy seems to be extending even to things that are a little more important, like books and heirlooms. People talk about "letting go," and allowing your peace to come from the inside.

Over the last couple years as I've been settling down, I've been feeling a cultural pressure to just get rid of it. I've been encouraged to be ruthless when I'm organizing. I've heard all kinds of rules, like, "If you haven't used it in the last year, get rid of it!" and "Only keep one shoebox of sentimental items."

Now, I know this kind of thing is making a lot of people happy, and I think that's great. If you honestly look into your heart and think that you'll get a lot of peace from giving away your grandmother's jewelry box, then I think you should do that.

But I'm not going to.

I like my stuff and I'm keeping it.

Now, I know that possessions don't create happiness where it doesn't exist. But I think some possessions can actually add to happiness

I have a lot of things that are special to me. I love my books. Yeah, I get rid of a few that I don't like every once in a while, but my dream is to have great books overflowing in every room of my house. (My husband is somewhat less interested in that dream.) In my home growing up, there were plenty of shelves full of books that I could peruse if I ever needed reading inspiration, and I want my kids to have that.

And then there are things that can't be replaced. Handmade things from my mothers-in-law. A doll I inherited from my grandmother. A carved wooden giraffe my parents brought back from Africa.

My mother-in-law gave my daughter a cross-stitched baby blanket that she'd worked on for months. It's completely impractical since we can never use it as a blanket, but I would never dream of giving it away.

When I was growing up, I loved my grandmother's decorations, particularly a certain doll with a crocheted dress. When she passed away and my family was deciding what to do with her possessions, I immediately asked for that doll, and I was overjoyed when it was given to me.

My parents have been in Africa for almost a year and a half as missionaries for our church. They sacrificed a lot to be there, but I had to sacrifice too because it meant that my mom didn't get to be with me when my first baby was born. My parents gave me an incredible gift by coming all the way from Africa to visit a few days later so they could help with the baby.

They gave us a wooden souvenir giraffe from Africa which will always remind me of that special time that they came to help with my daughter and give me their support. My grandmother's doll will always remind me of the happy days I spent at my grandparents' house before they got sick. And who knows what wonderful memories will be tied up in my daughter's baby blanket?

People say that you don't need things because you have the memory, and that's what really matters. But the truth is, memory fades. My memories from the time just after my daughter was born are already getting fuzzy just a few months later. My grandparents passed away when I was fairly young and I didn't get the chance to know them very well. Memories from childhood often fade, and my daughter will forget so many things from when she was young.

Yes, things are just things, but they help us remember. I don't want to fill my house with useless trash; I want to fill it with beautiful things that evoke warm memories from happy times.

To me, that's a lot more special than an empty closet.