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When I first started this blog, I named it “Next Life Chapter” because I was starting the new chapter of motherhood. Plus, I liked that the blog could grow with me. There will always be a next chapter.

I started a new chapter in January with the birth of Juniper, our second daughter. However, that chapter will be titled “The fourth trimester,” and it will be superseded by another exciting new chapter that’s about to begin.

Philly LOVE necklace  |  nextlifechapter.com

I gifted myself this special “LOVE” necklace as we prepare to leave the City of Brotherly Love.

Tim and I have been thinking about moving to Tallahassee, Florida for a while now. Tim’s parents are there, and with the arrival of Juniper we’ve dreamed of being closer to family. It’s a huge decision, but we are officially moving! I have accepted a Communications Coordinator position at Florida State University, and Tim is interviewing as well.

We told Adelaide last week, and she seems excited. Since I’ve accepted a new position, things are happening fast! The idea of moving to Florida has always been just that, an idea. It’s all happening much more quickly than I imagined. I’ll be starting my new job on May 8, so we’ll be leaving Philly on May 2. I’ll still be returning from maternity leave next Monday and working for two weeks. My official last day at work is Friday, April 24. Then, we’ll have a final week at home before heading out. (I’m flying down with the girls this time. We drove down when we went to Tallahassee to interview, and I don’t want to make that road trip again anytime soon.)

There’s so much to do and sort and pack. I go back and forth between feeling excited and feeling overwhelmed and sad about leaving. I’m going to miss my Philly friends immensely, and I feel dumb/scared/crazy for quitting a job that’s been good to me for the last seven and a half years. I know part of it is just the fear of the unknown. I’m comfortable in my job here and at a time when I’m trying to navigate the waters of being a new mom of two, starting from scratch somewhere else is a lot to bite off all at once. I’ll miss being so close to NYC (although we don’t take advantage of it as much as I’d like), and I’ll miss all the culture and opportunity that comes with living in a large city. Tallahassee does have a better cost of living, but it’s not THAT much better.

It’s all so bittersweet. I have to remind myself why we’re doing all this, and there are a lot of factors. One being that Adelaide will start Kindergarten next year–what!?!–and the Philly public schools (at least in the neighborhoods we can afford) are struggling. Plus, putting two kids in daycare is ridiculous. Tim’s parents are going to watch June this summer and then there’s the possibility they will continue to watch her two days a week into the fall and winter. It’s also going to be nice to have a free babysitter once in a while when Tim and I just need a date night. I think this will be really good for our marriage as well as our girls growing up near some of their extended family. Hopefully not having to travel to Tallahassee will allow us to visit my side of the family in Illinois more often–or *gasp* dare I say, take a vacation that doesn’t involve visiting family.

Overall, I know it’s a good move for our new family of four to be closer to Tim’s parents (they’re newly retired and ready to help), and the sunshine won’t hurt either.

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$250 Amazon Gift Card Giveaway

 

$250 Amazon Gift Card Giveaway

This week, 24 friends and I have been sharing our best recipes, printables, crafts, decor and holiday traditions. If you missed the posts, check them out below! Then scroll down to enter the giveaway.

 

My friend Steph, from A Grande Life, gathered a group of us together for a fun round up of Christmas recipes, decor, printables, crafts, traditions AND an awesome giveaway! We are giving away a $250 Amazon Gift Card! Who’s feeling lucky? Join us for ‪#‎25BlogsofChristmas‬ and who knows YOU may be the lucky winner of the Amazon Gift Card! Good Luck! $250 Amazon Gift Card Giveaway

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instagramI just finished a fun “Bloggers Get Social” Instagram challenge. (Find me on Instagram @nextlifechapter.) It was a lot of fun trying to create or find a photo to represent the daily prompt. They’re doing another one for November, but I’ve decided to sit this one out. Instead, I’m going to try a blogging challenge.

The goal is to post every day this month, but I’m realistic enough to realize  that may be a little too ambitious. However, we have a new baby coming soon, Adelaide is now 3.25 years old and there are SO many things I’ve been meaning to write about–so many things I want to record before moving into our next life chapter. So, please consider subscribing to the blog, or follow me on Facebook or Twitter for new post updates. I’d like for this to be a place of conversation, so please feel free to comment, ask questions etc… I read every single comment and appreciate them all.

Happy November!

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end of summer 2014_watermarkSummer is coming to a close. Can you believe it? Back in early June, when I was in early pregnancy, I wished the summer away. I felt nauseated all day every day and looked forward to the second trimester of more energy and just all around feeling better. We don’t have central air conditioning, and I dreamed of the cooler fall days.

Fortunately, this summer hasn’t been extremely oppressive. That’s not to say we didn’t have our fair share of hot days. Still, thinking back to the awful heat waves of last summer, where we holed up in our bedroom in the cool of the window unit, this summer was no comparison.

I guess I got my wish because June, July and August have flown by. It was filled with a lot of family fun–a visit from my in-laws in early June, my parents visited for Adelaide’s birthday in late July, and my sister was here to help celebrate my birthday two weeks ago.

I’m now 21-weeks pregnant, over half-way through my pregnancy, and returning to the “real world” of 5-day work weeks and a “normal” schedule.

From a blogging perspective, I have several things I’d like to share here. I want to write about Adelaide’s 3rd birthday party, her first trip to Sesame Place, our new baby’s gender reveal (!), Adelaide’s potty training in one very long week back in April, and my feelings coping with this new pregnancy after two miscarriages. I want to write about my over-night birthday trip to NYC to see Hedwig and the Angry Inch staring Neil Patrick Harris, and our beautiful experience at Diner en Blanc Philadelphia. I want to write about my experiences at Blogger Bash–an amazing conference I attended in NYC in June where I learned about new toys coming out this fall, won an amazing Joovy double stroller and got to meet other blogging moms.

I don’t know that September will necessarily bring more writing time in my schedule (I’m scheduled to teach a Continuing Education creative non-fiction course starting at the end of the month), but it may bring more structure that will hopefully be more conducive to writing. Stay tuned!

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Something nobody talks about  |  nextlifechapter.comThe American Pregnancy Association reports, “Women who are 35-45 yrs old have a 20-35% chance of miscarriage.” That means that for a woman my age, up to one in three pregnancies end in miscarriage. Yet, for something that affects so many women, it seems like nobody talks about it.

Have you heard about this “new” podcast “The Longest Shortest Time”?

I think I first heard about it on This American Life. Those who know me well know I love This American Life. I try to see Ira Glass (the show’s host) in person any chance I get–I even saw him read stories during an experimental dance performance last year. And, for several semesters I’ve taught a memoir class where we use stories from the This American Life podcast to guide our discussions on truth telling, dialogue, interview, answering a question etc… (It’s part of the University of the Arts Continuing Education program and if anyone is interesting in taking this course or a future writing course with me, comment here or email me and I’ll add you to my special writing class email list.)

Anyway, I love This American Life. The TAL website used to include an essay by Hillary Frank about how to pitch them with a radio story. At least one semester I printed it and shared it with my class. A few years ago I learned that Hillary Frank had moved to Philadelphia, the city I was then (and still am) calling home. I even emailed Ms. Frank to see if she would be interested in being a guest speaker during my class. I didn’t figure she would say yes, but I didn’t think it would hurt to ask. (She politely declined.)

So, when I heard about Hillary Frank’s new podcast and when I heard it was about that short time that seems to go on forever when your baby is an infant, I thought it would be right up my alley.

Listening to recent episodes in the car on our Christmas road trip, I learned that Hillary had just finished a Kickstarter campaign (oops–totally missed it) and was turning the podcast into her job. As of January 2014, the LST podcast would have a new episode every two weeks.

A couple weekends ago, I finally got around to downloading the new 2014 episodes. For some reason, I started with the February 5 podcast titled “The Longest Longest Time.” In that episode, Hillary interviews Lisa, a woman who struggled with pregnancy for over a decade. I was washing dishes (as I tend to do when I listen to podcasts) when about half-way through the podcast Lisa said, “I have to say, until I had a miscarriage I don’t think I appreciated what miscarriage meant.”

Hillary followed-up by asking what, exactly, miscarriage means to her. I stopped mid-dish and listened to their conversation, which I’ve tried to transcribe below:

“…it feels like much more of a life-affecting moment or event than I had been able to perceive,” Lisa said with pause. “Do you relate to that at all?”

“Totally. And it’s something you can’t, or we don’t, talk about publicly so it’s not like mourning a death of a person that’s outside of you. You know, that we talk about and it’s understood that people are going to be distracted from work and all of that, but to have this big momentous loss from your body, that’s not something we talk about.”

“Right,” Lisa said. “And especially when it’s early like that, you know, 9 weeks. Nobody even knew you were pregnant.”

“And that’s why we don’t tell people, right? Cause just in case.”

“Exactly. Right. And then the flip side of that is nobody knows you went through it and not talking about it makes you think–you really shouldn’t be that upset by it.”

 

I stood there, greasy dish in hand with adrenaline pumping. “Exactly,” I said out loud. “We don’t talk about it.”

So, I’m here to start a conversation–to say, I had a miscarriage. In fact, I’ve had two miscarriages in the last seven months. It’s been tough. I’ve been distracted at work. I haven’t felt like myself emotionally or physically. I’ve been grieving.

As a memoir writer, I consider myself a truth teller. I want to share my story in hope that someone reading this can relate. The next few weeks I plan to post a series of miscarriage-related posts. This may seem depressing to some, and I understand that reading about such things is not everyone’s cup of tea. However, miscarriage is so very common. Maybe you’ve experienced it yourself. Maybe you will in the future. I imagine many women you know have experienced it, whether you were aware of it or not. We don’t live in a bubble. It’s okay to talk about it. It’s okay to share our stories.

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blogging life  |  nextlifechapter.com

It’s been a fun ride so far. Now what?

Now that 2014 has arrived, I’m trying to decide what to make of this little blog. Last semester I took a Social Media Overview course through the Continuing Education program at the University of the Arts. This was in part to help me in my day job, but also to help me in the work I do with the South Philly Parents Resource Center and of course, with this blog. As I learn more and more about social media marketing and best practices, I get more frustrated with my blog and the gap between what I want it to be and what it is currently.

Number one, I need to write more regularly. I know that one of the best ways to gain more readers is to post good content and to post often. I need an editorial calendar and I need to stick to it.

Last year around this time I paid $12 for the 2013 version of this Ultimate Blog Planner from Click it Up a Notch. I really like the blog and the pdf could have been totally worth it had I used it to keep me organized and help better my blog. It’s a year later and while I didn’t really use the pdf, it did help me discover a great community of women in the Philly Social Media Moms. (In fact, I’m excited to check out this 2014 organizing planner from Zoo Cutie Printables–she gave PSMM members a free download code.)

The PSMM group ranges from experts to hobbyists, with many variations in between. These women are great resources, but in many ways I don’t feel quite ready for them. I know a lot of what I should do, but don’t have the time or energy to make it a priority. I’ve considered letting my blog fade away. I’ve considered just keeping things status quo–writing when I can, trying to post once a week and more likely posting only every fee weeks. I’ve considered the other spectrum too–devoting more of my “free” time to the blog, buying a new WordPress theme so the blog would have a fresh look with a more trendy and professional feel, setting up a strict editorial calendar, turning off the tv when I feel like watching New Girl or The Voice and composing the blog posts that often sit half written in my draft folder or only the spark of an idea in my head.

Tim and I have been doing a lot of thinking and talking through what the future might hold for us. Whether that means a new job and new rental here in the Philly area or a big move to a new community in a new state, I feel change is in store for our family within the next couple of years. Part of this conversation has been to brainstorm entrepreneurial opportunities and business ideas. What do we want to do with ourselves and our professional lives? Where do we want to raise our kids?

Where does my blog fit into all this? Where does creative writing? And photography? Where does my interest in work-life balance and supoport for breastfeeding early parenting fit in?

I don’t know that I have an answer yet. I wish I were here as the second post of a new year to make an exciting announcement, but I’m not there yet. I’m still trying to figure out what I want to be, and I guess this blog is too.

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Several weeks ago I was named one of the Top 100 Baby Related Blogs to Follow in 2013 by Coupon Audit. I mean, I’m listed as number 99, but at least I made the top 100. Haha!

Top 100 Baby Related Blogs

 

An infographic by the team at CouponAudit

 

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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!

Breast milk freezer stash | nextlifechapter.com

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.

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I’m blaming it on Downton Abbey. The weekend of the Season 3 premiere, Downton Abbey was all the buzz. My Facebook feed was filled with friends updating their status in anticipation. Friends mentioned it in person, too. “Do you watch Downton Abbey? Oh, you really should. You’d love it.” I had to admit that while I had yet to see an episode, I had heard good things. It was on my list.

Season 1 is available on Netflix Instant, and on more than one occasion I asked Tim if he wanted to start it.

“We can’t start another series,” he said flatly.

True, we had started The Wire, Breaking Bad and Mad Men and weren’t anywhere near making it all the way through their multitude of seasons.

“But this one is different,” I pleaded. “Only two seasons have passed. We can catch up and watch the new episodes.”

It wasn’t working. Then, Tim gave me permission to go ahead and start watching it without him. I was kind of bummed that it didn’t want to see it with me, but I was willing to forge out on my own. I figured I’d probably enjoy it more than him anyway – it was a soap opera period piece after all. But, unlike the spring, summer and fall months when Tim works on Saturdays and I have the house to myself (with Adelaide) for most of the day, he’s home all weekend in the winter. When was I supposed to watch it without him?

One Sunday in early January I sent Tim upstairs (he had work to do anyway), and I started Downton Abbey by myself, with a cup of coffee and my knitting. And yes, I was hooked. I spent the next couple of weekends watching an episode here and there, and now I have just one episode left in the first season.

So, after being out of town for two weeks for the holidays (read about our 16-hour drive from Philadelphia to Tallahassee with a 16-month-old and a dog here), I spent my weekend blogging time catching up on the first season of Downton Abbey, instead of updating the blog. Guilty as charged.

If I had been blogging, I might have written about how Adelaide loved the Christmas tree at her grandparents’ house. How she learned to say “Santa” and loved to point out all the animal ornaments on the tree.

I might have written about visiting with good friends, going to the playground to play with their kids, and then having Mommy and Daddy nights out to the movies (what a luxury!) and out to dinner with friends.

I might have written about going to see a light display with Adelaide in her PJs, or the Christmas Eve service, or my sister flying to Illinois on a red-eye from LA and arriving on Dec 22 only to drive to Florida with my parents on Christmas Eve. They arrived at my in-law’s house shortly before dinner on Christmas evening.

I might have written about opening presents Christmas morning and how Adelaide was still too young to really understand the concept and that it was okay to rip up the paper. How she got tired very quickly and we saved a few presents for her to open later in the week. I might have said that we opened presents from my parents at their hotel room the next day, and that Elmo likes to Rock ‘n’ Roll.

I might have written about touring the Goodwin Plantation with my parents (the site where Adelaide’s aunt and uncle were married when she was still in Mommy’s tummy). Or, about touring the Tallahassee Museum with the entire clan.

I might have written about how special it was to see both sides of our families for the holiday, including Adelaide’s 90-year-old great-grandmother and how hard it was to say goodbye knowing that it will be several months until we see them all again. I might have written a lot had I not been watching Downton Abbey.

Here are a bunch of photos from our Florida trip…

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Busy

There was an interesting article being passed around on the internet this week called 10 Great Ways to Be An Unhappy Mom. It was on mothering.com, and I thought all 10 items were worth remembering — more of a “10 Great Ways to Be An Unhappy Person” (the mom part was secondary). For some reason, the link to the article isn’t working now, and the only one I can remember off-hand is #10: Allow “busy” to become your default answer to, “How are you?”

As I was rushing to leave work today, I couldn’t believe how fast this week flew by. I guess that’s a good thing, but I seriously can’t believe it’s Friday again already. There were so many things I didn’t get done this week, and as I made a mental list for Monday I just left feeling stressed rather than relaxed and ready for the weekend.

This is a very busy time for me at work. I had a cold last week that spilled into most of this week (knock on wood – I may actually be getting better now). One day in particular I felt like calling in sick, but I didn’t dare for fear I would be that much further behind at work. I haven’t dropped any balls yet, but I have so many in the air I’m just racing around trying to keep control of each one.

I’m also teaching a class this semester. It’s the first semester I’ve taught since Adelaide was born and it’s just one class, but part of me wonders if I’ve taken on too much. I really enjoy teaching, and it feeds my creative soul in a way that is so different from the writing I do at work or blogging. I like talking about writing with others who like talking about writing. It’s fun to share my knowledge with students who are actually interested in what I have to share.

This semester the course I’m teaching is a “hybrid.” It’s a 10-week Continuing Education class, but instead of meeting every week in person, we only meet in class four times. The rest of the work is done online. There are weekly assignments, but the students are free to work on them any time throughout the week. It’s kind of nice to not have the weekly commitment of an in-person class. I still get to see Adelaide in the evenings and help put her to bed most every night. Still, there is A LOT of prep time involved each week. I wouldn’t say it’s “easier” to teach this way. In some ways it’s harder. It’s definitely different. I think we’re offering the same course again in the spring semester, so after I’ve already taught it as a hybrid once, it should be easier the second time around.

I haven’t posted a blog entry since October 1, and I feel guilty about it. I have all these things hanging over my head. There are emails I need to respond to, friends I need to call, blog posts I need to write. I feel “behind” in life, and that’s not a good feeling. Hell, I haven’t even finished the post I drafted to summarize Adelaide’s first birthday (nearly 3 months ago), let alone the first haircut she had last week, or any of the other numerous blog ideas I’ve had.

On the plus side, this week I tried on a skirt that I haven’t been able to wear since before I was pregnant and it finally fits again, I hosted knitting last night so my house is significantly more clean than usual, and I bought a pretty (dare I say sexy) nursing bra today that I’m pretty excited about.

I’m behind on life and busy. How are you?

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