I couldn’t help myself.
I used to never cry at movies (My Girl being the one exception). I prided myself on it – I just didn’t get that emotionally attached. Then, I met Tim and fell in love and it all changed. I remember crying during The Pianist so much that I couldn’t finish it. I literally could not watch it. I made Tim send it back. Over the years, Tim has learned that there are certain movies he can watch without me.
And it’s gotten worse since my friend Amy died of cancer and since Adelaide’s been born. I don’t want to watch movies about children dying or a parent dying and leaving the child alone. I don’t like to watch movies about spouses cheating, or children missing, or really anything about death in general. (I did not do well with The Descendants.) I like comedies and action movies. And that’s about all I can handle right now.
In some ways, the issue I have with sad movies, makes me feel totally lame. When we were in LA on vacation last month, I had brunch with old friend from college who was an acting major. He had recently moved to LA after a successful acting career in another large city out west. He said he had done about as much as he could do acting-wise in that city – that the people there produced good plays but took out anything that would be controversial or make anyone feel anything. I got the sense that he moved to LA to take risks and make artful productions again.
Now when I have a hard time watching a movie, or just avoid it in the first place, I hear his voice in the back of my mind. What? You can’t feel anything? You can’t watch anything that makes you have an emotional reaction? It’s artful. What’s wrong with you?
Motherhood has changed me in ways I couldn’t have predicted. I think differently about family now. I think differently about the world – I think more about what’s in the food I eat, what’s going on with our public school system, gun control, bullying, the environment. The list goes on and on. With the birth of my little girl, I became a mother (and some might even argue before that). My heart has spilled open. My insides ache with love. I cry tears of joy and tears of fear and worry. I am vulnerable to the world and all the things that are out of my control. I have so much to lose. I think the reason I don’t enjoy such highs and lows when watching movies is because I am already feeling so much.
I am still discovering the ways motherhood has changed me, but I wouldn’t have it any other way.
Happy Mother’s Day.
We found out on Wednesday that our next-door neighbor, Marie, passed away on Friday. She was elderly (in her 80s? 90s?) and lived alone. I overheard neighbors talking about it. Apparently, she died on Friday but no one found her until Saturday. When I heard the news, I felt a pit in my stomach. As neighbors, we weren’t as good to her as we should have been.
We live in a small South Philly rowhome on a tiny street. For those who aren’t familiar, that means we share a wall on each side with our next-door neighbors. South Philly rowhomes also have a small patio, or as we call it “outdoor space” (patio might be too generous). We share the entire west side of our house with Marie, and our back patio is directly next to Marie’s – separated by only a chain-link fence.
When we first moved into this house in August 2009, we had a housewarming/one-year anniversary of adopting Hu go party. When we were out back using the BBQ, Marie came out to introduce herself. Then, an hour later she came back out with some lemon cake she had made for us. It was such a sweet gesture. It reminded me of something you would do in a small town. I remember my mom taking over baked goods to welcome new neighbors when I was a kid.
We were so appreciative and made sure to say so, but we never properly thanked her. We never wrote her a thank you note. In fact, we still have the plastic plate she used when she gave us the treat – we never returned it and I feel so guilty. I think part of it is that we thought we would see her more often. Aside from the day we met, we very rarely saw her out back and we only saw her a handful of times in the nearly four years we’ve lived next door. She kept to herself, but we saw family come and go, visiting her on weekends and checking-in on her.
Tim and I are often complaining about our neighbors. Many of them are “old school” Italian families who have lived here forever. They haven’t been very friendly or welcoming. After I learned Marie had died, it made me feel as if we aren’t any better than they are. (Okay, maybe we are better than some of them – we don’t sell and/or use drugs. We don’t yell as our normal conversational tone. We don’t cuss out our family and friends in front of our children. We don’t throw trash down the storm drain and think we’re “cleaning up.” We don’t have hair pulling, drag-out fights on the front porch and regularly have the police at our door. To be fair, it’s not all of our neighbors. It’s one house in particular and the general mindset of several others.) Still, why didn’t I go out of my way to extend a helpful hand and be more neighborly to Marie? The row houses in South Philly are so close together. Marie died just a few feet away from us on the other side of our wall. It just makes me sad to know she died alone. Although I know she was loved by many, in that moment, she was alone. I hope she didn’t suffer. I hope she knew how much it meant to us that she reached out to us when we first moved in.
One of my favorite mom blogs is Dear Baby by Melissa Jordan. I discovered it before I was pregnant with Adelaide, shortly after Melissa’s daughter Everly was born. I liked it so much that I went back to the beginning and read each entry in chronological order. It took me several weekends, but it was like reading a memoir – a peak into this woman’s most intimate moments of pregnancy and childbirth. The Jordans have two kids now – Everly is three and their son Arlo is almost two. Every so often Melissa will post “Everly Says.” They’re humorous or poignant musings of the child mind, something reminiscent of “kids say the darndest things.”
Although Adelaide is not yet putting together poignant musings, I thought I would follow this practice and start posting things Adelaide says.
Recently, Adelaide has begun to understand a little more about numbers and letters. When you ask her how old she is, she’ll hold up one finger and say “two.” A couple of weeks ago, I was giving Adelaide a bath and she was playing with the foam letters and numbers Aunt Gina gave her for Christmas. They stick to the sides of the tub and the tile on the wall and in combination with the squirt toys Aunt G gave her, it has made bath time much more pleasant. So, I was playing with Adelaide in the water and she held up the number two and said “two.”
“Yes, that’s the number two,” I said. I was so impressed.
Then, Adelaide held up the letter F and said, “two.” Ah yes, apparently every number and letter is “two” right now. Oh well, she’ll get it some day. And if she sticks to this convention for another three months, she’ll actually be right when someone asks her how old she is.
Although she doesn’t yet know it, our daughter is middle named “Fen” for the Back Bay fens of Boston. Although it’s the same fens for which Fenway Park was named, we chose “Fen” instead of “Fenway” because we wanted her to be named for the city and not just a baseball team or ballpark.
Tim and I sometimes joke that we see Boston with rose-colored glasses. It was just so good to us. Boston is the city where we met, where we shared our first kiss, where we fell in love. It is also where nearly four years later, while visiting from Philly over a long weekend, we were engaged. The city of Boston will always have a special place in our hearts.
Although I didn’t know anyone injured in last week’s marathon bombings, I felt touched by the events in a way I may not have if they had occurred in another city. I went to graduate school just six or seven blocks from where the bombings went off. We still have several friends in the Boston area. And in fact, one couple lives in Watertown and they were giving us play-by-play updates on Facebook during the tense day on Friday. Their home was searched by a SWAT team and a lot of the “action” was happening right outside their door. I had a pit in my stomach all day, and had a hard time getting work done. I kept flipping back to the internet between projects to see if there had been some kind of update, some kind of resolution.
I just wanted to go home, un-plug myself from the world and go to sleep. I wanted to put my daughter in a big bubble and protect her from all the bad in the world. Although I don’t want to live in fear, to let the few change the way I live my life, this week I had second thoughts. I wanted to stay inside and never go out in public again.
Friday night after baking pizza, Tim wanted to watch our NetFlix movie. The disk had been sitting untouched for a while — we haven’t been getting our money’s worth this month. This was shortly after watching the evening news where it was announced to Bostonians that they could once again leave their homes, shortly after the gunfire and the boat incident. So, to escape the movie-like drama unfolding on television, Tim tried to make me watch Zero Dark Thirty. I couldn’t take it.
We stopped the movie and instead watched the news coverage and the apprehension of the second bombing suspect. I was surprised and relieved they were able to capture him alive.
Saturday, Tim was working all day so Adelaide and I had a girls day out. We drove to Tim and my old stopping grounds in West Philly. We stopped by the farmer’s market and went to Go WEST! Craft Fest, a craft fair in the corner of the Woodlands Cemetery. It was breezy and a bit chilly, but it felt good to absorb the sunshine and breathe in the blossoming spring. Adelaide and I shared a cup of Weckerly’s carrot cake ice cream and although it wasn’t necessarily my intention, we got there in time to experience an interactive music performance by Jay from All Around This World. Adelaide enjoyed watching the other kids as much as Jay himself, but she had fun with the musical instruments too. It was such a big departure from the stresses of the week. It’s exactly the type of crowd I needed.
A while ago I posted about my talented friend Erin Parker. I thought I might make it a regular series by posting about my many other talented friends. Only 20 months later (haha), it’s now time for installment number two.
I met my friend Suzie in 2006 — shortly after I moved to Philadelphia. She’s part of the knitting group I’ve spoken highly of here. Suzie is an awesome singer-songwriter and in the few years she has pursued music, she has received many awards, including “Best of Philly” Music Talent by Philadelphia Magazine. Her first full-length album “Heartstrings” was released in May 2011. It’s a favorite around my house. Suzie’s story is unique in that she hasn’t been a struggling musician all her life. In fact, Suzie is a trained medical doctor and when she’s not writing songs, performing (or knitting with friends), you can find her working part-time as a cardiologist. I know, right?
Well, Suzie is presently in Nashville recording her second album with Oliver Wood of the Wood Brothers fame. It was her dream to work with him, so she just “called him up” and asked him to produce her next album. To her surprise, he said yes. You can join me and support her new record by pledging on her PledgeMusic site (it’s like Kickstarter for musicians) — there’s only 24 days left! Once you’ve made a pledge (as little as $10), you get exclusive access on her PledgeMusic page (such as behind-the-scenes video footage and updates).
I heard a few of her new songs when she performed at Philadelphia’s Tin Angel last month, and I’m really excited about the new work she’s producing. Check out Suzie’s website and follow her escapade’s on Facebook. I’m proud of all my talented friends (please, you’re all talented in some way), and although I recognize the brilliance surrounding me, I want to be better about sharing it with the world.
Suzie’s official video for the song “Heartstrings”:
We’ve been back from vacation for over a week, and it’s been go-go-go ever since. We took a red-eye flight home on Tuesday night and left LA at 9:40pm. We landed in Philly at 5:30am (2:30am California time). Wednesday was a complete waste-of-a-day as we slept and recovered from the red-eye flight and time change. I took the day off work, but I still thought I might get a little done. Nope. I was a mess. I was so tired I felt as if I had been drugged. I was thankful Tim was around to help me with Adelaide because I could barely function.
On Thursday I went to work and then to knitting. I tried to catch up on stuff for my class Friday and Saturday nights (after a week away I was many an essay behind). We went to New York City on Sunday to see friends who were up visiting from Austin. It was a great day trip and so energizing to re-connect with old friends and their new(ish) son. Felix is just a little over two years old, and it was fun to have him and Adelaide together for the first time. As Tim and I walked back to our van (free street parking in Chelsea on Sundays!), we thought about how exactly one week earlier we were walking down Hollywood Boulevard and here we were walking down Avenue of the Americas in New York City. What cultured travelers we are!
Monday night I worked on my class, Tuesday night I taught my class (only one week left until the end of the semester), and then Wednesday night I went to hear Anne Lamott speak about her new book Some Assembly Required: A Journal of My Son’s First Son as part of the Free Library’s author series. I’ve admired Anne Lamott since I first read Bird by Bird: Some Instructions on Writing and Life back in 2000 or 2001. I’ve reconnected to her after I picked up Operating Instructions: A Journal of My Son’s First Year when I was pregnant with Adelaide. More recently, I discovered Traveling Mercies: Some Thoughts on Faith, and I have enjoyed following her on Facebook (especially during the election). I have very few examples of Christians who are also liberal activists, so I enjoy her view on things. I was definitely one of the youngest people at the reading, but it was great to hear her speak. It was almost like stand-up comedy, but also inspirational. It was a treat to have a literary evening out by myself. It feeds the soul in a way that’s hard to explain.
Now, I’m in the process of uploading the hundreds of photos from our trip. Tim gave me a hard time for taking so many photos. I’ve weeded through most of them but still have a ways to go before I’m ready to share the highlights here. Stay tuned.
Back in the grind of the day-to-day, I did take the time to make a new screensaver on my work computer monitors. Now when I look over I see this face and am reminded of the beach breeze and salt air. Happy Monday.
We’re going on vacation tomorrow. It will be a six-hour flight from Philly to LA with Adelaide on our laps. We have armed ourselves with many snacks, books, stickers, coloring books, new toys, and yes, even apps and videos on my new Kindle Fire. Adelaide loves to look at books and have us read to her. I’m hoping the book worm inside her kicks in and not the I-want-to-get-down-and-walk-around fussy monster. Wish us luck. We’ll need it.
Sometimes I’m a bit hesitant to write about breastfeeding on this blog. I guess I shouldn’t be. Being a working mom living in an urban environment and breastfeeding are some of the reasons I think my “Mommy Blog” and my personal experience is different than so many of the other blogs out there. Many Mommy Blogs, even some of the favorites I follow, are written by moms who stay-at-home during the day. Many of them live in suburban areas with houses and big back yards. Many of them do breastfeed. However, breastfeeding and extended breastfeeding seem to be easier, at least more convenient, when you’re around your little one all day. I come from a different point of view. I work outside of the home and returned to work after 12 weeks of maternity leave. Breastfeeding and exclusively breastfeeding (no formula or any food aside from breastmilk) for the first 6 months were important to me, if possible.
Having said this, I like to think of myself as free from judgment. I know there are lots of superiority complexes out there, especially on the internet, when it comes to parenting. “Mommy wars,” as it’s often called, is a real thing, and much of the debate centers around subjects such as breastfeeding, co-sleeping, crying-it-out etc… It’s hard to be completely free of judgment when you have opinions about these topics. But, I only know what works for me and my family. And that might be very different from what works for you and yours. I try to keep that in mind.
Sure, I am an advocate of breastfeeding. I try to educate people I know about the benefits for both mommy and baby. However, I know breastfeeding is not always as easy as it was for me. And sometimes women aren’t able to nurse for as long as they had hoped, and I know that can cause a lot of mommy guilt. I can see that. Mommy guilt is a real thing. Unfortunately, wanting the best for our kiddos and making that happen is not always easy, so as mommies, we’re often too hard on ourselves (dads too).
I have a friend who didn’t know if she even wanted to breastfeed. She wasn’t breastfed and neither of her sister’s breastfed their children. She just didn’t have any breastfeeding examples in her life. She tried it and breastfed for three whole weeks before throwing in the towel. I was so proud of her! She tried it and her daughter got an unmeasurable amount of nourishment and benefit from those three weeks. That’s a success story in my book.
My hope was to nurse for at least a year, but I set 6 months as a mini-goal. I didn’t know how pumping would go at work, if I would be able to keep up my supply etc… Six months came and went with little to no problems, so we kept going. Then, a year.
I thought it seemed strange to just stop because some arbitrary date had passed on the calendar. I had made it to one year. Yay! But now what? I’m lucky in that I have a supportive partner. I know that can be one of the most significant barriers to successful breastfeeding. Tim was willing to let me make the call. I got the sense that he didn’t think it was necessary for me to continue breastfeeding, but the more I read and the more I shared with him about the benefits of “extending” past one year, the more he seemed to agree that it was about my relationship with Adelaide and we could just go with the flow and decide on our own.
So here we are. Adelaide is now 19 months. We’re still breastfeeding, although it’s really only twice, maybe three times a day. I nurse her in the morning and when I first get home from work. I would be fine with just in the morning and right before bed, but Adelaide seems to prefer right when I get home from work over right before bed. She does nurse before bed too, but not very much – just a little comfort nursing (the fact that my supply is dwindling and she just nursed an hour and a half earlier are probably contributing factors to why the before bed nursing session is no longer a significant one.)
I thought it was important to nurse Adelaide through the winter. From things I had heard and read, this would be the best way to get through the cold and flu season. Often when kids are sick they get easily dehydrated and nursing is one of the only ways they will accept fluids. I was reminded of the benefits of nursing beyond one year that I wrote about here. Plus, the World Health Organization recommends nursing until age two at the minimum. I just didn’t see any reason to stop if she and I were both happy with the way things were going.
January 15 was my last day of pumping at work. It wasn’t really a conscious decision to stop that day. If it had been, I think I would have posted here – a celebratory blog post patting myself on the back while shouting “Hallelujah!” – instead, it was just that January 16 was a really busy day at work, and I didn’t make time to pump. Then, on the 17th, I just decided not to do it anymore. Adelaide turned 18 months on January 28, so I was planning to stop pumping at work around that time anyway. What a relief! Pumping is just such an annoying hassle. I can hardly believe I did it for as long as I did, but I made it 15 months – first pumping three times a day when I first returned to work, then two times a day since Adelaide was around 6 months (I think) and then once a day since around a year. Not having to worry about cleaning my pumping supplies and packing them every morning has been so nice. Freedom!
This is a shot of my breast milk freezer stash this time last year – four bags full of 2.5oz bottles. When Adelaide was around 12 months, we introduced cow’s milk, and I went down to only pumping once a day at work. The stash became just one bag and we sent a combination of both whole milk and breast milk to daycare. We finished the last of our stash two weeks ago, and I’m sure Tim is grateful for the extra room in the freezer!
It’s been eight weeks since I’ve eliminated pumping at work and things are still going well. I’m sure my supply has decreased and that’s okay. If there’s not much milk to be had, Adelaide will slowly wean herself. And, I feel much more comfortable letting her slowly wean on her own than having to say no and deny her the comfort she has known since only minutes after she was born. Slowly weaning as she moves toward her second birthday feels right to me. And if she’s not quite done by two, I’m actually okay with that.
These were taken last month, on January 26. It was a Saturday morning and although we only had an inch or two of powder, we got Adelaide bundled up and out to experience snow for the first time. We carried her down a few blocks to the “lawn” at the local public high school. We live in South Philly. No one has yards and the closest park is a little further than we wanted to walk. Knowing last winter was so mild, we decided not to shell out the money for snow shoes and a waterproof snowsuit this winter. Looking at these photos though, she looks pretty goofy. A friend of mine in the neighborhood took plastic bags, wrapped them around her kid’s feet and tied them with twine. I saw photos she posted on Facebook — I guess we weren’t the only ones making a fashion statement.
When we first put Adelaide down in the snow she just stood still and didn’t even want to move in it. She didn’t want to walk unless Tim or I were holding her hand. When she fell, she wasn’t very happy about it. I think it was a texture thing. She seemed to have a good time overall, and we didn’t stay out for long. Most of the snow had melted by the afternoon, so I’m glad we took the time to go out and experience it.
To the disappointment of my dog and my husband, it’s really the only snow we’ve had this winter. I would have liked a little more of the white stuff myself, but I don’t mind the more mild temperatures we’ve had the last two months. It’s been cold, but we haven’t had many days where it’s been, as Tim says, “stupid cold.” It’s not yet March so technically there’s still time for more snow. I’m not holding my breath. Still, I decided to take the opposite approach for next year. Last night I took advantage of an end-of-season sale and went ahead and bought snow boots for Adelaide to wear next winter.