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Moving Day: One Year Later | nextlifechapter.com

Tim in front of our rowhome, right before we left for the airport, our van in the foreground

Today is May 2–exactly one year ago today my husband and I woke up from a night spent sleeping on an air mattress in an otherwise empty bedroom. Adelaide too slept on an air mattress in her bedroom, mattresses borrowed from friends who lived around the corner. The girls and I had a flight to catch, but we first had to return the mattresses at our friend’s house and say good-bye. I knew it would be hard, the last good-bye in what seemed like an endless stream of them over the six weeks since I got the job and we decide to leave Philly and relocate to Tallahassee, Florida to be closer to Tim’s family.

Tim took us to the airport and finished cleaning up the house we had called home for nearly six years. The house we returned to when both of our daughters were born. The only home they had ever known. He cleaned, made one final trip to the recycling center/landfill, and somehow managed to fit the rest of our belongings in our minivan before locking the door and heading out on the Philly-to-Tally drive. Our POD left the day before with all our other earthly belongings and would meet us at our final destination once we determined where it was we’d be living.

*    *     *

Here I am one year later sitting on the couch in our new apartment having just returned from a two-mile run (something I couldn’t have done without stopping a year ago), and it all feels surreal. It’s feeling more like this is our home, but it still seems so strange that it’s been an entire year. I don’t love it here. Not yet. (For some reason, on Instagram I can’t bring myself to use the popular hashtags #ihearttally or #iheartFL because it feels inauthentic.) But, the days are getting easier and we’re into a routine, for better or worse.

The good things:

  • My girls like their preschool/daycare. We really lucked out with a great place for Adelaide to spend this year preparing for Kindergarten. It was hard to leave the school she had been at since she was 12 weeks old, but we found a school in Tallahassee where she could continue to grow. Juniper started daycare in January and has adjusted nicely as well.
  • Daycare costs are less here and by living near family, Junie was able to spend weekdays with her grandparents from age four months until right before she turned one in January. It was a blessing to have this cost savings, and (I think) the bonding time between granddaughter and grandparents was mutually beneficial. Papa and Gram, it was fun, right?
  • I like my job. I took a pay cut in moving here and sure, I wish I was paid more. Plus, I don’t know if there’s much room for advancement (at least within my department), but I like my co-workers and what I’m doing on a day-to-day basis. That’s more than a lot of people can say.
  • I’ve made some good friends and am continuing to find “my people.” Making new friends as an adult is hard. I joined a knitting group and am slowly getting to know them and meet others through activities and friends of friends. It’s an ongoing process that will take time, but I’m proud of the strides I’ve made in “putting myself out there,” letting people get to know me, and deepening relationships with the few I already knew here. I’m thankful that I have an understanding husband who knows friendship is something I value and has supported me in making this time for myself.

In addition to friends, the things I thought I’d miss most about big city life were the cultural opportunities–the children’s museum, the zoo, art museums, theater. It’s definitely different here, but we’re making the most of what’s available. I am proud to say that just in the month of April Tim and I saw Jason Isbell play at an outdoor amphitheater, I got free tickets to a conversation with James Franco at FSU, we took Adelaide to the FSU Flying High Circus (no animals, just Cirque du Soleil-style acrobatics), we went to the beach and to the Gulf Specimen Marine Lab (where we are members), and Tim and I saw a production of “Once” the musical at the civic center.

There are many other good things about moving here–the weather (in the winter at least), the gulf coast beaches, the pool at our apartment complex, family support, public schools–I know it was the best decision for our family. It’s the beginning of our second year in Tallahassee, and I’m wondering what this year will bring. What will I be thinking next year as I look back on how far we’ve come?

Moving Day: One Year Later | nextlifechapter.com

Selfie on the plane to Florida, May 2, 2015

Moving Day: One Year Later | nextlifechapter.com

Girls enjoying the pool at our apartment last Sunday, May 1, 2016

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She’s here!!

Newborn hospital photography  |  nextlifechapter.com

Photo by Helen Horstmann-Allen

I’d like to formally announce the birth of my second daughter, Juniper Love. June was born at 3:01 am on Tuesday, January 13. She was a surprising 9lbs 4oz and 20.5″ long. (Birth story coming soon!)

She looks like Adelaide’s twin as an infant, with the exception of a lighter hair color. Big sister is doing well. Adelaide was a little apprehensive when first meeting her at the hospital, but she’s now full of hugs and kisses. It melts my heart when she calls her “sweetie” or “sweets” (pet names I often use for Adelaide), and “my June.”

We’re completely exhausted in the newborn survival haze, but I’m trying to enjoy the newborn snuggles and squeaks and sighs. June is nursing like a champ, and she not only gained her birth weight back but she’s now up to 9lbs, 8oz–gaining 13oz just this week! (Makes me feel less guilty about those biscuits and gravy I had for brunch today.) Since we’re nursing on demand, I’m constantly at the ready and not spending much time in front of the computer. If it was easier to create blog posts from my iPhone I’d be posting more, but for now I’ll settle for checking email, Instagram and Facebook, even if in the middle of the night.

Tim’s parents have been visiting from Florida for the last week and have been very helpful in entertaining Adelaide and keeping us well fed. I know we’re in for a lot of changes in the upcoming months, but I’m feeling so blessed for our family of four. I know it’s cliche, but I feel as if our family is now complete. It’s incredible how even a full heart can expand when a new love enters your life.

Newborn hospital photography  |  nextlifechapter.com

Photo by Helen Horstmann-Allen

Newborn hospital photograph  |  nextlifechapter.com

Photo by Helen Horstmann-Allen

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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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CityKids logoFor those of you in the Philadelphia area, South Philly’s CityKids Consignment Sale is tomorrow Saturday, September 13 from 10am-5pm and Sunday, September 14 from 10am-2pm. Many items will be 50% on Sunday, so come by early on Saturday to get all the really good stuff, and come back on Sunday to see what 50%-off steals you can find.

The non-consignor proceeds benefit the South Philly Parents Resource Center, so it all goes to a good cause. The SPPRC offers educational programming, new moms groups and other support to parents, and we recently received our 501(c)(3) paperwork. We are officially a non-profit organization! (And I’m Vice President!) This is only our second sale, but we are expecting over 6,500 quality, gently used toys, gear and clothes for your children, as well as some maternity clothes. The fall sale is appropriately dedicated to fall and winter clothes, Halloween costumes and other holiday items. Our spring sale is coming April, 2015.

The sale is free to enter and free to park! Thousands of name brands. Join us at Neumann Goretti High School on 11th St. between Moore and Morris.

SPPRC-kids-shirt_smAlso available for sale at this weekend’s CityKids Consignment Sale are the SPPRC fundraiser t-shirts designed by my talented husband Tim. The shirts come in three styles:

  • YO SOUTH PHILLY KID (toddler t-shirts – turquoise with black writing + onesies – black with silver writing)
  • YO SOUTH PHILLY MOM (dark gray with silver writing)
  • YO SOUTH PHILLY DAD (dark gray with silver writing)

The t-shirts will be on sale for $12 and the onesies are $15. We are running low on some sizes and will be making a new order soon. So, you may also sign up for a shirt you want and “pre-order” a sold-out size or size we didn’t order the first time around.

Check out Tim’s digital print designs on his etsy shop: Brothers Pannell

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InspiredFamilyLogo

On March 22 I attended Inspired Family: A Mindful Parenting Conference. According to the website, “Inspired Family aims to give parents the space to dialogue with experts and each other on the topics that matter to you, from your pre-natal experiences through infancy and toddlerhood.” It was billed as, “48 workshops, 40+ vendors and resources, swag bags and giveaways.” And in full disclosure, as a blogger I received free admission.

The morning’s keynote speaker was Carla Naumburg, PhD, a clinical social worker, mother and writer. Her book, Parenting in the Present Moment: How to Stay Connected, Sane, and Focused on What Really Matters will be released this fall. Although “mindful parenting” was part of the conference title, I have to admit that until I heard the keynote, I wasn’t familiar with mindfulness as a practice. I mean, I knew mindfulness in the dictionary-definition sense: “aware of something that may be important.” I thought it was about being present in the moment and about making parenting choices with purpose. I didn’t understand that mindfulness is a meditative practice and you can take trainings and study it with experts. In fact, after further research following the conference, I learned Philadelphia has a Mindfulness Institute at Thomas Jefferson Hospital, the region’s leading provider of Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction (MBSR) programs. The following is a description from their website:

Mindfulness is about paying attention. It’s about living your life in the richness of right now, not being lost in memories of the past or overwhelmed by the worries or projections of the future. It’s a simple practice that strengthens the mind’s ability to stay focused on what is happening right now and to be open to experience — meeting the present moment with kindness and nonreactivity.

Reading that was an “a-ha” moment for me. I’m actually dumbfounded that I hadn’t discovered this practice before. A mindfulness-based stress reduction program sounds like something I could really benefit from. And learning how to overcome the worries or projections of the future and not let them overwhelm me is something that could have been helpful during the last six months as I’ve grieved my miscarriages. As I’m sure is true for many people, it’s hard for me to let go of things that are out of my control. Staying focused on the present is something I’ve been trying to do, but I didn’t have a name for it.

This discovery was my big takeaway from the conference. I attended many of the workshop sessions and tried to absorb as much as I could. I left feeling a bit overwhelmed by all the information I was given. I still have my swag bag filled with papers I want to go through and notes I want to review. But, I left feeling extremely positive and thankful that my husband watched my daughter and allowed me to have an entire day dedicated to self-care and learning.

The day’s workshops were split into five categories: Prenatal, Infancy, Toddlerhood, Self-Care, and Family. I spent most of the day in the Self Care and Family rooms. I was interested in some of the Prenatal workshops, but since I’m not actually pregnant yet, I only attended one of those sessions.

“Five Legal Documents Every Parent Needs to Feel Secure” was the first session I attended. I was looking for coffee so I got there a little late. Still, it rightfully scared me and I now feel the necessity to create a will and other legal documents. The lawyer running the session didn’t mention cost. I know expense is what would be prohibitive for me setting up the documents, but his examples convinced me of their importance.

I had a tough time deciding between “Taming the Toxins: Creating Better Health through Simple Changes around Your Home” and “Pregnancy after Loss: A Creative Arts Based Model for Loss and Life.” I chose the later because it was the only session that mentioned pregnancy loss. It was lead by Heidi Lengel from Interlude Music Therapy Services. Heidi is also a Certified Birth and Bereavement Doula (I didn’t even know Bereavement Doulas were a thing!). Only a small group attended the session and it was just perfect. I have to say that I was moved to tears by the song Heidi shared. I was glad to sit in the back of the room by myself, and I felt touched by her understanding and hopeful words.

Since I missed Xandra O’Neill’s toxins workshop, I attended her second session titled, “Taming the Myth of the Super Mom for the Mom You Want to Be.” I think the toxins workshop would have been a better fit for me, but I still enjoyed her inspiring words and she was kind enough to give me the handout from her previous workshop. I was already familiar with Xandra and her Womb to World Wellness business because we are both members of Philadelphia Social Media Moms. Since the conference, I’ve participated in Xandra’s Creating Fertile Ground Virtual Conference, and I don’t know that I would have joined in without having met her in person at Inspired Family.

I also attended a session on natural oils (something I know nothing about and am now intrigued to learn more), a work-life balance session, and one on mindfulness titled, “Anchored Parents: Creating Positive, Mindful and Happy Families.”

As a first-year conference, there were a few kinks that need to be ironed out. I was hoping for coffee and maybe bagels or some kind of light breakfast in the morning. Nothing was provided. The 45-minute sessions didn’t have built-in breaks in between. There was also no break for lunch. I would have loved maybe 10 minutes between sessions to run to the bathroom and get settled, and an hour for lunch. I didn’t want to miss any of the sessions, so running out to get lunch at the nearby food trucks was a bit of a chore. I ate during my session and felt rude. Plus, a lunch break might have allowed more time for the Marketplace. The room of vendors seemed to have a lot to offer, but I didn’t want to miss the sessions. I’m glad the Marketplace was open for an hour prior to the keynote, but I could have used more time.

The conference tried to be inclusive of the entire family and although it was heavily attended by women, I did see several dads or dads-to-be. The only session I wish was broken up by gender was “Wanna do it?… Not ever?! Having Sex after Baby–Will It Ever Be the Same?” For me, it was awkward to discuss such an intimate subject in a group full of strangers. It would have been fine for a presentation, but for an interactive workshop I just felt uncomfortable and left to check out a different session after the first 15 minutes.

Overall, I had a wonderful experience. The organizers were two moms with young children, and I was really impressed by the variety of offerings and all the work that clearly went into making the day a success. I feel lucky to live in a city with so many family-focused businesses. The conference was a great way for me to get a lot of information up front. Now I just have to take the seeds that were planted and follow-up with research of my own.

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A few weeks ago I attended a workshop organized by the South Philly Parents Resource Center called Minimizing Motherhood Madness. The workshop was facilitated by Cristina Higgins from Strategic Mama whose tagline is “Less angst. More Joy. Simple Strategies to Reinvent Modern Motherhood and Thrive.”

The workshop was interesting. We talked about how our expectations and reality as moms differ, what “the perfect mom” is to us, what we want our children, friends and spouse to say about us on our 80th birthday, how our pre-baby self and our post-baby self differ (or are the same).  It was an interesting way to analyze ourselves and our expectations and to strategically construct ways to make things a bit easier (even if it’s just a matter of letting go of that unrealistic ideal). Anyway, you can sign up for Cristina’s mailing list on her website at strategicmama.com. A couple of weeks ago I received one of her email updates and with her permission I wanted to share it with all of you.

 strategic mama logo

“Last week I went to the Museum of Motherhood conference in New York City.  For 6 hours, I listened to academics from all over the world share their fascinating research on how the experience of motherhood impacts women’s lives. There was Prof. Patterson (New Zealand) who spoke about the experience of single motherhood and Prof. Tropp (US) who discussed the marketing of pregnancy and Laura Tropp (Canada) spoke about the theme of Mompreneurship just to name a few.

The presentations were great but it was a brief conversation I had with the Russian professors that really hit home.

Over cocktails, I asked Prof. Bagirova and Prof. Shubat (Russian Federation) about the role of guilt in Russian motherhood. They shook their heads and said it wasn’t a big issue.  What??

Then I asked them about how the role of experts (sleep experts, parenting experts, etc.) play for Russian mothers in terms of learning how to mother? They said, well, we mostly just learn from our own mothers and friends.

And, then, and this is the million-dollar question, I asked them about this idea of being a good mother. “You know”, I said, “what does it mean to be a good mother in Russian?”

They looked at me a little funny and said something like: What did I mean good mother? We don’t think about good vs. bad mother, just mother.

Wow. Just mother.  Can you imagine? If just by being the woman and mother that we are, that is enough.  Revolutionary idea I think for us in the US.

Now, I know there are more complexities to the role of mother in the Russian Federation.  But, for now, I am mulling over this idea that being Mom might be enough.  Not good or bad, just enough.

So, this week, as you go on with your life, I invite you to consider this idea that you, the Mom that you are, is neither good nor bad.  You are simply, Mom. And everything you are as Mom is enough.”

For those in the Philadelphia area, you can join Cristina for her next workshop on Wednesday, June 12 from 7:15 – 8:45pm at Mama’s Wellness Joint.  I’ll be flying to Illinois that day to see my actual mama so I won’t be able to attend, but I’m sure it will be an insightful workshop.

As moms, it’s important to take care of ourselves and sometimes that means taking a few hours out of your day to connect with other moms who understand how you feel.

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