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On social media this week, there is one issue where my liberal and more conservative friends found some common ground. Convicted rapist Brock Turner should suffer consequences for his actions.

This video explains the “no means no” mantra in a new way.

‘Maybe they were conscious when you asked them if they wanted tea, and they said “yes”. But in the time it took you to boil the kettle, brew the tea and add the milk they are now unconscious … Don’t make them drink the tea. They said ‘yes’ then, sure, but unconscious people don’t want tea.’

You can find more about the video in this Metro.co.uk article.

nextlifechapter.com

Today is our Juniper Love’s first birthday. I’ve spent much of the last month reflecting on what I was doing at this time last year. I remembered the weekend we had a birthing class refresher, the afternoon Adelaide had the “big sister class” at the hospital. I remember how sick I was around Christmas and New Year’s last year, the awful cough that caused me to pull a muscle on my right side. I spent the two weeks I had off work for Winter Break just sitting in one spot on the couch. I watched a lot of TV, kept my feet propped up, and felt miserable.

When Adelaide was born, she surprised us at 37 weeks 5 days. I thought (hoped) June would also come earlier than her 40-weeks due date on January 9. When I left work for our Winter Break on December 19, I was prepared to go straight into a maternity leave. I had done the math and for this pregnancy, 37 weeks 5 days fell right on Christmas Eve. I worried that I would have a Christmas baby or that her birthday would be super close to Christmas. Friends joked that we should have her before the new year so we could get the tax break.

When Monday, January 5 rolled around, I reluctantly showed up at work. I didn’t want to take time off before the baby arrived because I didn’t want to “waste” the sick and vacation days I had banked to get me through my 12-week maternity leave. Most of my projects had been handed off, but I spent that week finishing up little things and answering questions. My due date arrived that Friday and still no baby.

I remember wanting to meet her so badly, knowing these were our final days as a family of three, but not feeling well enough to do much to appreciate them. I remember Tim saying “it will be nice to have a baby around again,” and feeling it hard to believe that in a matter of days we would indeed have a tiny baby in the house. I would be breast feeding again–I could hardly remember what it felt like–and up in the middle of the night again. It all seemed surreal.

I remember going in to the midwife practice for my 40-week check up on Monday, January 12. The midwife said she didn’t think I would make it another week, that I was “ripe.” She said that if I was brave I could try castor oil, and I vowed to give it a try if the baby hadn’t come by say, Thursday or so.

I went to bed Monday night. Almost exactly one year ago as I type this. I didn’t know that it would be THE night, but it was. Cramping woke me up, and my water broke around 1:45am. I immediately awakened Tim and told him to call his brother and our sister-in-law who began to make their way in from the suburbs. The contractions came strong and fast, and I knew we needed to get to the hospital. We called the midwife on call and told her we would be headed to the hospital soon. It even crossed our mind to just leave Adelaide there asleep. She was safe in her room and Ben and Adrienne would be there soon. We waited for them to pull up in front of the house and did a quick “hi/bye” as we hopped in the car. It was 2:30am and we made it to the hospital in about 10 minutes only to find the front doors locked. I remember the pain, standing there in the cold, and the security guard slowly getting up to let us in. The quiet hospital, the elevator, the quick visit to triage where they attempted to put in an IV and monitor the baby’s heart beat with a belt.

“She doesn’t need all that,” the midwife said as she sent me to the birthing suite.

Juniper was born at 3:01am. In the same room where Adelaide was born nearly three and half years earlier.

I don’t remember feeling quite so sappy about Adelaide’s first birthday. Maybe it’s because this has been a particularly hard year with a cross-country move and that celebrating this milestone feels like the bookend to our big year. Maybe it’s because June is baby #2, and I know how fleeting this all is. Or maybe it’s because I know our family is complete and I won’t be doing this again.

This weekend we will have a small party for June, and while I realize first birthday parties are more for the parents than for the kids (yay! we kept her alive an entire year!), I’m looking forward to celebrating my little blondie, her scrunchy-nose smiles, her giant appetite. I’m looking forward to the next year as she begins to walk and talk and her personality develops even more. Happy Birthday, Junie. I’m so glad I get to be your mom.

 

Tuesday afternoon, about 12 hours after June’s birth, Uncle Ben and Aunt Adrienne brought Adelaide to the hospital. Tim is behind the video camera and our friend Helen was there to capture the photographs. This is a video of Adelaide meeting her sister for the first time, and I’m so thankful to have it documented.

 

Reflecting on your birthday  |  nextlifechapter.com

Me at Adelaide’s age, my 4th birthday.

 

Yesterday was my birthday. With birthdays often comes reflection. Where has this year taken me? What do I look forward to in the year ahead?

I can’t argue that my 37th year was a memorable one. This time last year I was four months pregnant and celebrating with my sister, having just spent my birthday in NYC on an overnight trip to see Neil Patrick Harris perform in Hedwig and the Angry Inch during his closing weekend on Broadway.

A year later and I have a beautiful seven-month old daughter. I’ve moved to Tallahassee, Florida to start a new life with my family, and I have a new job. Whew! This year will always be one defined by before and afters. Before June was born. After we moved to Florida.

I have a few of those clearly defined years in my head. The year I graduated high school. The year I graduated college and moved to Portland, Oregon. The year I left Portland and moved to Boston for grad school. The year I graduated from grad school and moved to Philly. The year I got married. The year Adelaide was born. And now, 2015. The year June was born. The year I moved to Tally. The year I turned 38.

Last night on the phone my dad reminded me that he was 38 the year our family hosted a foreign exchange student. I was in 7th grade then. Sometimes when I sit and think about the passing of time I’m blown away. Time really is a crazy beast.

I’m nearly certain that last year my birthday wish was a healthy baby. After two miscarriages, I concentrated all my positive energy on a healthy pregnancy. This year, as I faced the cupcake candles, my wish didn’t come as naturally. The possibility is wide open.

A new year. A new start. Today, today I feel hopeful.

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Moved.

POD

When the POD arrived and we saw how small 16′ actually was, we thought there was no way all our stuff would fit. But it did.

Life has been really crazy the last few weeks–returning from maternity leave, packing up all our physical belongings, saying good-bye to good friends and a city we’ve called home for nearly nine years, moving to a new city and state, starting a new job, looking for a place to live, living with my in-laws, supporting my husband in his job search, balancing my personal stress through all the change while still showing an “excited” exterior to my daughter. It’s been a lot.

We will be moving into our own apartment this weekend, and while I’m looking forward to having our own place and finally being able to feel settled and at home, I’m definitely going to miss the convenience of having two extra adults around to help with the girls. (I’m still not sure how we’re going to handle the new morning routine with drop-offs now that Adelaide has started preschool.) My in-laws have been great roommates–not only do they clean after themselves, they clean after us too. Plus, they cook for us and often take us out to eat. We’re really appreciative of their generosity.

No one said packing up our family of four and moving 1,000 miles away would be easy. And there’s good reason for that–it’s so hard! I guess I knew the move would be hardest on me. The girls are young and resilient, and Tim is moving home. He hasn’t lived here for 12 years, but it’s still home to him, familiar for better or worse. I had a lot to lose by leaving Philly–a good job, a fantastic group of friends, a community I valued. I found “my people” in Philly. I’m sure I’ll find that here too, but it will take time.

I hope to pick up this blog again once we get settled and I get a new laptop. I didn’t realize how much having ready access to a laptop directly correlated with the ease of my blogging life. I have a lot to say about life as a mom of two. I hope to share it here soon.

Next life chapter, indeed.

Christmas update  |  nextlifechapter.comWe had a great day spending our first Christmas in Philly and our last Christmas as a family of three. Tim’s brother and sister-in-law came over in the afternoon for dinner. It was a relaxing day, and Adelaide had a great time playing with her new toys, reading books and wearing her new Elsa dress.

For those of you on baby watch, no news yet. I’m officially off work for two weeks while the University is on Winter Break. We have been getting ready for the holidays, and unfortunately I’ve had a cough for weeks that’s caused me to pull a muscle on my right side. I want to use this time to nest and get caught up on some projects around the house, but I’ve been feeling very tired and not up to as much as I had hoped. I’m only 38 weeks as of tomorrow and I’m hoping baby girl holds out a few more days, but I’d love to meet her soon.

Merry Christmas!

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Pickle Ornament Christmas Tradition  |  nextlifechapter.comChristmas 2007 was my last Christmas as an unmarried person. Tim and I became engaged that summer and although we had already taken turns spending the holidays with each other’s family, we decided that for our last Christmas as single people, we would be apart. Tim flew down from Philly to see his family in Tallahassee, Florida. I flew to central Illinois to spend Christmas with mine.

While visiting home, my mom took me to the C.H. Moore Homestead in Clinton, Illinois. I vaguely remembered touring the historic mansion in my youth, but it had been many years since I had been there and touring historic homes was a mother-daughter activity we had always enjoyed. While visiting the home, I remember our guide describing the Victorian-era tradition Americans had adopted from Germany of having a pickle ornament on the Christmas tree. The way I remember him explaining it, the parents moved the ornament after the children had gone to sleep on Christmas Eve. Whichever child found it first on Christmas morning got to open the first present.

Pickle Ornament Christmas Tradition  |  nextlifechapter.com

C.H. Moore Homestead as decorated for Christmas during my 2007 visit.

I came home very excited to introduce a pickle ornament to the holiday traditions of my newly forming family. When the next Christmas rolled around, I looked for  pickle ornament knitting patterns (the only ones I could find looked a little, how should I say this, un-picklelike). However, the girlfriends in my knitting group knew I wanted one, and I received a traditional pickle ornament in our gift exchange that year.

Recently, I tried to research the origins of this tradition and everything I’ve found has be inconclusive. In fact, the tradition may not have started in Germany at all. Also, different accounts say different things about the child who first discovers the pickle ornament on Christmas morning. Some reports say the child is given an additional present, or is just said to have good fortune for the next year.

Fast forward to 2014 and our daughter is now three years old. I think this is the first year she’s old enough to understand the concept of looking for the pickle ornament before opening presents on Christmas morning. Since she’s an only child (at least for a few more weeks), she won’t really be rewarded as the first to open presents–she’ll likely be the first to open presents anyway–but I look forward to introducing the Christmas pickle ornament tradition for years to come. “Hiding” it on the tree is a little something fun for Mom and Dad on Christmas Eve, and I hope our children will enjoy searching for the pickle on Christmas morning just as I imagined the children of the beautiful C.H. Moore Homestead doing so many years ago.

25 blogs of christmas button 2Looking for more Christmas ideas? Over the next week, 25 bloggers will be sharing their creative ideas with you for recipes, decor, crafts, printables, and holiday traditions. Each day 5 new posts will go live so make sure you come back to check them out! At the end of our 25 Blogs of Christmas, we will be hosting a HUGE giveaway for a $250 Amazon Gift Card!

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As promised in yesterday’s gender reveal post, here is the video of us telling Adelaide she’s going to be a big sister. As a child in the two-year-old room at school, Adelaide started to notice that all of her friends were “getting babies.” I had noticed it too. One-by-one nearly all the moms in Adelaide’s class started showing increasingly big bellies. One-by-one they started bringing babies home from the hospital.

“I want a baby Silas like Gwen,” Adelaide told us one day. She called her baby doll Silas when playing with him. At this point we were already trying, and I told her, “We’ll have to talk to Daddy about it.”

Then, a several weeks later when Colin’s mom delivered a baby girl, she told us she wanted a girl baby like Colin. We already knew we were pregnant by this point, but we didn’t yet know the sex and we hadn’t shared any of the news with her (although I did make her pose for pictures holding up my positive pregnancy tests–she had no idea).

“When you get a baby you don’t get to pick whether it’s a girl baby or a boy baby,” I explained to her while walking home from school one day. “Having a boy baby would be fun too.”

“No. I want a girl baby like Colin,” she said.

“Well, Silas is a boy baby and Gwen loves her baby brother. If we get a baby we will love the baby if it’s a girl or it’s a boy.”

I don’t think I convinced her. We decided to wait and tell Adelaide our good news until after we saw and heard the heartbeat, after the genetics testing came back okay. We told her just a couple of days before our wedding anniversary where we opened the card that revealed the baby’s sex. We tried to control Adelaide’s expectations and since she has no concept of time, we told her the baby wasn’t going to come for a long time. The baby still had a lot of growing to do, and it wouldn’t come until after Christmas, when it got cold.

Big Sister Announcement from nextlifechapter on Vimeo.

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Although I had good intentions of posting every day this month, alas, it’s already a week later and I’m off schedule. I blame the fact that my in-laws are visiting so we’ve had exciting things to do.

Adelaide is growing up so fast and I was again reminded of this as I looked through Halloween photos from the last few years. Adelaide is only three, but she’s had four Halloweens already. The last three have been spent in part with her little girlfriend, Evan.

This is the first year Adelaide’s had an opinion about what she wanted to be for Halloween. I knew this day was coming. The first year she was only three months, so we dressed her as a banana. Our dog Hugo was also a banana. So, the following year, in order to dress Hugo as a banana again and have “matching” costumes, we dressed Adelaide as a monkey. Last year she was a little owl.

This year, Adelaide wanted to be a “princess fairy.” Then, it was “Elsa.” We put the kabosh on the Elsa pretty quickly–I’m just not ready! When I saw this cute Tinker Bell costume at the fall CityKids consignment sale for $7, I knew Tink was the winner. Adelaide didn’t really know who Tinker Bell was when I bought it, but it fit within her “princess and fairy” request. We introduced her to Tinker Bell, and she got excited about the costume quite quickly. Adelaide is still asking for an Elsa dress, but we’ve decided to ask for it for Christmas.

How old were your children when they wanted to choose their own Halloween costume? Did you ever try to talk them out of one of their ideas?

Halloween 2012, age 1

Halloween 2013, age 2

Halloween 2014. age 3

MommyCon Philly 2014  |  nextlifechapter.comTomorrow I’m attending MommyCon Philly at the Philadelphia Convention Center. It’s not too late to get your ticket! Check out the schedule and get your ticket at mommy-con.com. Here’s some conference info from their website:

MommyCon is a boutique style convention dedicated to bringing modern parents and mothers-to-be together. Our focus is on natural and organic parenting methods and timeless tidbits as we journey through parenthood together. Our seminars and workshops include babywearing, birth, breastfeeding, cloth diapering, car seat safety, natural health and medicine, baby gear, childproofing and so much more! We end our day with amazing giveaways and each attendee gets a gift bag from our sponsors.

At 10:30am they’re also hoping to break the Babywearing World Record they set with 1,003 baby wearers at MommyCon Los Angeles last year. You can participate in the world record even without attending the conference (click the link above for details).

Larisha, a fellow Philly-area blogger from the blog We’re Parents has promo code WEREPARENTS for a 10% discount on tickets. They’re only $35 so 10% isn’t much, but every bit helps. If you’re not in the Philadelphia area, check out the MommyCon events calendar to see if they’re coming to a city near you. And if you do attend tomorrow’s conference, please come up and say hi if you see me.

A few years ago I started a “Talented Friends” series and featured my friend Erin Parker. She is a friend from college, a roommate during those early angst-filled months post-college, and many years of friendship later, the officiant at our wedding. Now, she is in the final week of a Kickstarter campaign to launch her debut album with MAS Nashville. I’m so proud of my talented friend that I wanted to share her inspiring story of how getting off your butt and making things happen (instead of waiting for opportunity to come to you) can result in the unexpected.

See Erin’s guest post below and please consider supporting this amazing group of women artists for their campaign, MORE MAS – Our Debut Album…And MORE!

MAS Nashville Kickstarter  |  nextlifechapter.com

Erin is second from the left. Image by: Anthony Matula


What the heck is MAS?!?
Chances are, if you don’t live in Nashville or aren’t a Facebook friend of any of the MAS members, you haven’t heard of us, so let me give you some basic “about us” info. MAS is a Mutual Admiration Society of five female performers who bring music, comedy, cleavage and class to live productions in a “cabaret-meets-concert”style. What we do is irreverent, funny and sincere. You might laugh and cry at our shows. Heartstrings are pulled. F-bombs are dropped. Standards (and heels) are high. Necklines are low. We aim for beautiful AND bawdy all at once. I think the best description for what we do is “Celtic Women meets Sex in the City.” If you visit the “who we are” section of masnashville.com you’ll find the official scoop, but here’s my personal back-story:

About three-and-a-half years ago (while I happened to be visiting Beth in Philly, coincidentally) four of my girlfriends in Nashville and I were dreaming up a little show via email communication. I had been talking (yet not doing anything) about putting together a cabaret-of-sorts for years, but a desire to do everything “right” (or fear of doing something “wrong”) held me back. That need/fear has paralyzed me into inaction more than I care to admit in my life, but around that time, something in me finally clicked. I just didn’t care about doing something “right” anymore. I felt that the only way I could fail was by not trying. I don’t know if it was a shitty breakup that I had gone through the year before, the confidence (and cash) I had gotten from recently being awarded a grant as a theatre artist, or the fact that I was going to be leaving town for a long-term job in the near future (or a combination of all of those things), but I was ready to stop talking and start DOING. So I reached out to some awesomely talented girlfriends whom I thought might share my enthusiasm, and we hatched a plan.

We called ourselves “MAS”–an acronym for “Mutual Admiration Society”…which also happened to sound like “más,” the Spanish translation of “more”–and we loved that. More! There’s always room for more, so why not throw something out there! It was to be a cabaret-type-thingy that we hoped we could rope 10-20 of our friends into watching–maybe on a Wednesday night at a coffee shop. Perhaps we could get some feedback from our pals. We could do some fun group numbers, solos and string it together with witty banter. We would have fun building a show together, and then we would high-five each other and take that knowledge into whatever ventures we tried out next.

But that’s not exactly how it played out. Something kind of magical happened. The stars aligned. Or maybe it was shot glasses that aligned–not stars. I don’t remember. Anyway – instead of 10 people showing up, there were over 100. This group of five over-achieving women put on a show that sold out, got rave reviews and turned into something we still do on a regular basis (as our crazy-busy schedules allow) over three years later. Which leads us to this Kickstarter.

MAS is aiming to make an album of our “greatest hits,” as well as get ourselves “official” by creating a company. We also want to get a leg up on our upcoming holiday show, so we decided to ask for help and see if there were people out there who would be interested in backing us. Every time we do a show, people ask, “Do you have a CD?!?,” so we thought we’d give them a chance to get in on the ground floor and get that music as a reward.

Asking for help has never been my forte, but we’re all flabbergasted at the generosity and support we have received so far. We still have a ways to go though, so THANK YOU BETH, for helping us spread the word! We have a YouTube channel  if you’d like to check out some videos. Just keep in mind that at least a few hundred of the Firework views are Beth listening to it on repeat… 😉

It can be hard to follow your dreams, and it can be hard to ask for help, but we hope you’ll consider supporting five gals who are doing their best to raise the standard, demand more of themselves and each other, and create more cool stuff. MAS is all about working hard, laughing harder and inspiring others to follow their own hearts, so please join us and help us do MAS!

Thanks for reading!

Erin

MAS is comprised of these five essential pieces: Melodie Madden Adams, Megan Murphy Chambers, Cori Anne Laemmel, Laura Matula, and Erin Parker.   Links to everything MAS-related can be found at masnashville.com.

Mas Nashville_performance

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