Friday, September 19, 2014

Feelin' 25

Last weekend my little sister came home from college for a visit (which was much too short! We miss her!!!) and she spent Saturday baking delicious things at my parents' house to take back to her dorm.

I was hanging out with her while our youngest sister played music for us... which, since she's 10, was mostly Taylor Swift and the Frozen soundtrack on repeat. At one point the song 22 came on, and my sisters asked me, "Did you love this song when you were 22?"

"Actually, the song I really loved back in the day was Hilary Duff's Sweet 16," I said. "That was totally my jam when I was 16. Lillian and I used to sing it all the time."

So my sisters pulled up "Sweet 16" for me and started playing it. "Aw, does this bring back memories?" they asked.

I closed my eyes and remembered Lillian and me blasting that song at full volume in our little lime-green VW Bug, windows down, singing at the top of our lungs. (We were reeeeeeally cool.) "Yeah," I said, smiling, "it totally does."

Then I gasped as I did a bit of mental math.

"Guys. I just realized that it's almost nine years since I was 16."

Yep, today I turn 25. How is that even possible? I still feel like that so-very-cool (ha!) 16-year-old inside, yet here I am with a baby and a husband and job and apartment, totally faking my way as an adult (at least that's how it feels sometimes!).

So far the birthday has been just perfect—pretty flowers and the traditional cupcake from Frank (red velvet, my favorite!), a coffee date with a friend and our babies, dinner with the family at my favorite restaurant tonight, and the baby has taken two very long naps. Yes!!

It's so weird to think I'm in mid-twenties now, but I'm also really excited about it. I think that, as I get older, every year gets a little bit better. My twenties are more awesome than I ever could have imagined at 16. So don't be surprised if you hear me crooning "Sweet 25" to myself over here... 'cause that's the way it feels right now. :)

Thursday, September 18, 2014

Mothers' tea and community in the real world

Last week I invited a bunch of my mom friends over for lunch so they could all meet each other. I couldn't resist pulling out the nice tea cups I got as a wedding present and borrowing my mom's tea pot for the occasion. I mean, how often in life do you get the chance to host a proper tea party?

The lunch was so much fun. There were five babies between the ages of 2 months and 5 months old, five nursing mamas, and endless topics to cover in new-mom world. We tried to make the babies notice each other and laughed when they cluelessly grabbed each other's shirts or tried to lick each others' hands. Babies, man. They provide endless entertainment.

We held each others' babies and tickled them and bounced them and made them laugh, and then handed them back when they needed their diapers changed. We took turns using my changing table and putting our babies down to nap on our bed and in Frankie's bassinet. It was the best kind of solidarity and fun and support.

One baby is invisible because he was sleeping in the bedroom and his mom didn't want to wake him for the picture
This is something I'm trying so hard to work on—building community offline. It's so tempting to turn exclusively to the online world for community, with a wealth of blogs and Facebook groups and forums to engage. But none of those sources ever present the whole person, in all our messy imperfection, and ultimately they come up short. While I appreciate the online community, especially in a day and age when real-life community is not that easy to find, I am working hard to invest more of my time and effort into building relationships with the real people whom God has put around me, right where I am. This is why I love Auntie Leila's idea of forming "pockets" of supportive friends, and why I joined the "pocket" for Chicago. Are you in the group? If you are local, come join us!

After my friends left, I sank down on the couch to just sit for a while, wondering if motherhood really has made me an introvert, as I suspect it has. I still love socializing as much as I ever did, but it takes more effort than it used to.

Frankie had been awake since 4:30 and it was nearly 7:00, so I knew he was well overdue for a nap (generally he only stays awake an hour or two before getting cranky). I tried to put him to sleep and he melted down. Alright, then. Outside we went to stand for a while, since that always calms him down, and then I put him down to play on a blanket while I cleaned up from the party. Around 8:00 I tried again to put him to sleep. He melted down again at the suggestion. I left him in his bassinet looking at his mobile while I went back out to the kitchen.

I was tired and in no mood to deal with Frankie. I considered texting Frank, who was still at work, that I was on the verge of selling Frankie to the gypsies (my standard nonsensical threat when he starts to drive me crazy). I considered calling my mom: "Frankie hasn't slept in four hours and Frank is still at work and I'm tired! Come save me!" In the end I did neither of those things but instead had the inspired idea to rock Frankie in the rocking chair while praying the rosary. The soothing motion and repetitive words kept him quiet until Frank got home around 9:00.

Oh boy! Dad's home! Frankie is already his dad's biggest fan, and he started kicking and giggling as soon as Frank walked in the door. Luckily Frank was up for some fun and games after a very long day at work, so he took Frankie off to play and before long they were both lying on the floor, facing each other and laughing at each other's silly faces. We joked about our little athlete's mini-push-ups and Frank played the Rocky theme on his phone, which made the baby laugh even harder. I lay on the couch watching them enjoy each other, and all I could think was, "Life holds no moments happier than this." It's incredible the way that bringing a baby into our union multiplies the love a million times over. It makes me think of this darling picture of her kids Grace posted recently—in a loving family, each new addition only adds to the happiness of the others.

These little ups and downs—the lows of cranky babies and long work days, the joyful highs of gathering with friends and watching your son and husband play—that's what makes the good life, isn't it? I love it.

Wednesday, September 17, 2014

A day in the life of a work-at-home mom

Recently one of my single friends asked me, "So... what do you do all day, exactly?" I thought that was a great question. I tried to explain the simple rhythm of my days but I felt like I just left her more confused than when I started.

Last week, I tried out tracking Frankie's naps for a few days to get an idea of his schedule. His sleep continues to be all over the place, and also I wasn't able to stick with it for more than a day, but I did enjoy recording how exactly we spent the day and seeing how much I actually got done.

I realized that by writing down everything we did for a day, I had inadvertently answered my friend's question. So here it is, for my friend, and for anyone who is curious about what exactly one work-at-home mom's days are actually like—and for myself to remember, when these days are long gone.

Sunday, Sept 7

9:15pm Frankie went to sleep for the night

11:45pm He woke up to nurse, fell back asleep

Monday, Sept 8

12:10am He woke up, diaper change, nursed back to sleep in our bed

4:50am I woke up, realized Frankie was still sleeping next to me, and moved him to his crib

6:00am He woke up, nursed back to sleep in our bed

7:30am I woke up and attempted to move him back to his crib, but instead I woke him up, so I moved him back to our bed so we both could get more sleep

8:45am He woke up in desperate need of a diaper change, so I dealt with that situation and then we both got up for the day*

*The baby and I usually sleep in on Mondays because we're recovering from our busy weekends, which tire us both out!

9:00am I put Frankie in his bouncer seat while I made myself breakfast and put away dishes from the drying rack. My breakfast is usually either oatmeal, toad-in-a-hole, cereal, Greek yogurt with granola, or a smoothie. I like variety so I rarely make the same thing two days in a row.

9:13am I put Frankie down for tummy time on the floor while I make myself a cup of tea. Obligatory.

9:23am I join Frankie on his blanket and read him two board books (one in Spanish, and his favorite Sherlock Holmes) and then sing some songs (the Itsy-Bitsy Spider, You are my Sunshine, Pop goes the Weasel... you know, the classics).

9:30am He's had enough of tummy time so I pick him up and nurse him for a few minutes. After that I de-snuff him (that's what we call it when we use the NoseFrida on him, since before that his nose sounds snuffly). We play for a few more minutes (for a 4-month-old, that means giggling at each other, bouncing him on my lap, helping him pull up to a sitting and then a standing position, showing him his face in the bathroom mirror, making silly faces and noises... just anything to make him laugh).

10:00am He's acting tired (no longer interested in playing) so I nurse him to sleep in my bed. Naptime! Yes! My motto for his naps is, "You know not the day nor the hour" when the Frankie will emerge from his slumber, so I work quickly to get as much done as possible. I do dishes, throw in a load of laundry, take out the trash, get dressed, and throw a freezer meal in the crockpot (we are using this awesome system right now). Woohoo!

11:00am He wakes up in a good mood. I can hear him singing to himself in the bedroom. A few minutes later my mom comes to visit (she comes over about once a week) and together we give Frankie a bath. After that she plays with Frankie while I work a little.

12:50pm Frankie nurses to sleep after much fussing—he got cranky before this nap. My mom and I eat lunch and she leaves. I hang a load of laundry on the clothesline outside and then work.

1:40pm Frankie wakes up grumpy. I take him outside to calm down, since he loves being outside. We sit on the balcony and I point out to him Daddy's vegetable garden and the elevated trains going past. When he feels better, we come back inside and I attempt my culinary experiment of the day: homemade mayonnaise, using a recipe I found online. It emulsifies beautifully, but tastes disgusting. I'm very disappointed, especially since I used a lot of olive oil in this recipe, and olive oil ain't cheap. I question my judgment in doing these sorts of culinary experiments. Then I figure that usually they turn out a lot better than this one did. (I try a new receipe aka "culinary experiment" every few days and usually they turn out delicious.) Grumbling internally, I throw away the ruined batch of mayonnaise. I get dressed to work out and set up my yoga mat in the living room. I attempt to put Frankie down for a nap. Frankie rejects the nap so we play for half an hour.

3:13pm Frankie is overdue for a nap so I put him down in his bassinet and leave. I expect to be summoned soon so I kill time with Facebook and email.

3:17pm I can hear him singing to himself. Happy baby!

3:20pm I hear him crying. Called it.

3:21pm I go get him. He is overjoyed to see me and greets me with smiles and ecstatic kicking. I have to laugh. It's hard to get frustrated with someone who laughs and kicks with excitement every time he sees you!

3:23pm I put him down for tummy time on my yoga mat.

3:29 I notice Frankie is trying to eat my yoga mat. He starts crying so we attempt a nap again.

3:39pm He's asleep! I get back to work and also have a snack (probably a fiber bar or fruit).

5:30pm He wakes up and joins me in the living room while I do my Jillian Michaels DVD. WORST. Why do I do that to myself??

6:00pm Frank gets home. Yay! We decide to go to Trader Joe's before bedtime, so I can pick up some things for a lunch I'm hosting the next day (normally Frank does all our grocery shopping). I shower quickly and we head out.

8:17pm We're back from Trader Joe's. I put Frankie in his sleep sack and nurse him to sleep. Frank and I eat the crockpot stew for dinner. I start work again.

9:10pm He wakes up grumpy. I change his diaper and nurse him to sleep again, then continue working.

11:03pm He wakes up, nurses back to sleep. Frank and I head to bed.

This day isn't totally typical, in that we often get together with friends during the day for lunch or walking outside, and I go grocery shopping very rarely, but I think it gives a general picture.

If you made it all the way to the end of this super boring post, congratulations!! You deserve a medal!

What does your normal schedule look like? How is it the same and how is it different from this one?

Monday, September 15, 2014

Joke's on me / Mom's group experience?

So right after I penned my heartfelt thoughts on how motherhood is getting to be really easy and how much I love it, Frankie decided to test my limits with an awful new phase of waking up every two hours all. night. long. and generally being really grumpy about sleep. It's been going on almost two weeks and is frankly worse than the newborn stage as I expected him to be over this by now. It's just occurring to me that maybe he is teething?? Seems a little early for it at just over 4 months, but I ordered some natural teething remedies online just to be on the safe side. Argh. Motherhood, always throwing you a curveball right when you think you've got everything under control. But wait, that's just life, isn't it? Anyway, if you have any experience with or thoughts about 4-month sleep regressions or teething or babies who are making their mothers' heads explode, please send them my way—I'm all eyes!

In other news, I've been talking to our awesome pastor about starting a group for young moms at our church. Tomorrow night I'm meeting up with another young mom from the parish to brainstorm ideas and make a plan. The one tiny hitch is that I've never been in a moms' group before and don't really know what should be included in one. If you've been in a moms' group at church, what would you recommend to do or not do? Favorite activities, events, outreach, etc.? And if you haven't been in a group, what would you want to see in one? What kind of moms' group would you want to join? Thanks ladies!!

Saturday, September 13, 2014

10 great deals for kids at IKEA right now

Frank and I went to IKEA on Sunday and were beyond impressed with some of the useful and crazy inexpensive baby/child products we found there. I was especially impressed with the selection of wooden toys, which I hear kids tend to prefer to plastic (and they supposedly last longer!). Also, not that I'm a professional to be making official recommendations, but I believe a lot of their kids' toys are Montessori-compatible, if you're into that sort of thing.

This post is most definitely not sponsored—I only WISH that IKEA was offering me free stuff—but I wanted to share some of these great deals with you guys in case you need of any of these things!

1. The cutest, cheapest mobile - $4.99

We had wanted a nature-themed mobile for Frankie for a while, but the cheapest ones I could find were in the $30 range. We scored this darling one for a cool $4.99! And the little man loves it.

2. The super-comfortable Poang chair in miniature size - $29.99

Frank calls this "the most comfortable chair in the world" and he and I have matching ones in grown-up size. When I saw that IKEA now carries a children's version, I wanted to buy it on the spot! Frank restrained my enthusiasm (it is a bit of a splurge) but promised we can get it for Frankie once he starts walking. Maybe for his first birthday?

3. A sweet, simple walker wagon - $19.99

These are supposed to be a staple for babies learning to walk, so I'm hoping to get this one for Frankie when he hits that stage.

4. 12-piece train set - $9.99

Frank immediately pinpointed this as something he can't wait to get Frankie for his birthday/Christmas once he's old enough to enjoy playing with trains. I'm pretty sure you couldn't find a better price anywhere. If you want to go really crazy with your trains, you can add 10 more pieces for $6.99.

5. Cooking utensil set - $3.99

Frank and I have this exact set of utensils for adults, so we loved finding it in miniature size. We're looking forward to teaching Frankie to cook once he's old enough, and I bet he will LOVE getting to use the exact same kind of utensils as Mama and Daddy.

6. 7-piece baking set - $9.99

As you can see, teaching our kids to cook is a big priority around here. :) We loved how functional this little set is, and again the price is unbeatable.

7. Multicolor coffee/tea set - $9.99

I love the prettiness and simplicity of this little set. A lot of kids' tea sets are kind of obnoxious-looking, but this is the rare one that I wouldn't mind taking up space in my house.

8. Cloth vegetable set and fruit basket - $7.99

These are so cute for play cooking and grocery shopping, and much more aesthetically pleasing than the plastic ones we used as kids.

9. Antilop high chair with tray - $25

Weirdly, this product isn't listed on the IKEA website, but we saw it in the store. Several mom friends have recommended it as super easy to clean (no corners!) and taking up minimal space. I love the minimalist, modern aesthetic of it too.

10. The coolest city rug for their toy cars - $12.99

I remember my first-grade classroom had something like this and I thought it was the greatest thing in the world. I can't even imagine how excited I would've been to have one at home. You can even get a 3-pack of vehicles to go with it for $9.99

I could go on to list pretty much every item we saw in the kids' section of the store, but I'll restrain myself and end here. The point is, if you're looking for some great and inexpensive toys, get thee to IKEA! And remind me to take my own advice come Christmastime, wouldya?