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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.

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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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knitters 2015

The knitters and me at the going away brunch they threw for me in April.

Moving is hard. Yep. I said it.

Moving to a new city and state as an adult pretty much sucks. The only way I know it will get better is because I’ve done it before.

When I graduated college, I moved from Southern Indiana to Portland, Oregon with Erin, a friend from school. I had just turned 22 and it was a huge period of transition for both of us. We didn’t know what we wanted to be when we grew up. We felt lost without our circles of friends from school, but at least we had each other. Well, at least for the eight months before Erin left me and moved back home to Illinois.

After Erin left I was forced to leave my comfort zone, find new roommates and make new friends. When I made the cross-country move to Boston for grad school four years later, I had created community in Portland.

The first few months in Boston were tough. I missed the life I had in Portland and although I knew I needed a change and I was excited to go back to school, I was starting over again. Fortunately, being a student automatically put me in situations to make new friends. I met Tim, my now husband after living in Boston only three weeks.

Three years later, after finishing grad school, Tim and I moved to Philadelphia. We wanted a fresh start and had heard good things about Philly. The cost of living was better than New York City, and it had an emerging arts scene that made it extra appealing. Moving to Philly we were forced to start over again. I don’t think I loved Philly at first. Finding a job, meeting new people, and navigating a new city is stressful. I had Tim, but the transition was tough. It took a while before we felt at home, but fast-forward eight and a half years and I had a fulfilling life. We were married, we adopted a dog, we had a three-year-old and a new baby. I had a job that I liked (and had worked at for over seven years). I volunteered in my community, had close friendships, and a city I knew well.

We’ve been in Tallahassee now for almost six months (what!?! how did that happen!?), and I’m still mourning my Philadelphia life. I miss my girlfriends tremendously and am moved to tears every few days whether by things I see on Facebook or an email I receive from a friend. Sure, on a moment-to-moment basis I’m doing fine. I’m settling into my new job, meeting new people, and finding activities to do with my family. We have the loving support of my in-laws and that’s been great, but I still feel homesick. Philly feels like home to me, and I don’t know when I’m going to get to visit again.

I think it would be easier for me if I had a Philly trip planned. If I knew I would be going to Philly over Christmas or even next year, I think it would be a easier for me. I could say, well, I’ll see you in May. But now, we have no plans to return to Philadelphia. It’s expensive and our Christmas holiday will be spent on pricey flights to Central Illinois to see my side of the family. Then, in April we’ll be flying to LA for my sister’s wedding (again, an exciting trip–yay, Gina!–but it’s not Philadelphia). Tim’s whole family is going to Key West next August and there’s just not enough time (or money) to do all the things I want to do.

Sometimes I daydream of just taking a long weekend trip to Philly for a girls weekend. I’m sure I could make it work financially if it was just me, but part of the reason I would want to go to Philly would be for my friends to see June and how much she’s grown. Plus, I would want to take Adelaide and have her get together with all her little friends.

It just breaks my heart to think that Adelaide won’t see her friends again or that by the time we do get back to Philly they won’t remember each other. I don’t know why that’s so hard for me. One bonus of moving Adelaide when she was only three-and-a-half years old was that she would be easily adaptable. Still, I hadn’t considered that she may one day completely forget her time in Philly–a time that was so important to me as a new mom and young family will likely just be the shadow of dream for her one day.

Tears stream my cheeks as I write this. I wrote it in two separate sittings and still, both days, tears.

My brain knows that I’m doing the right things–putting myself “out there” to meet new people, explore my new city and make new friends. I feel blessed to have made such good friends in all the places I’ve lived. (Otherwise, leaving wouldn’t have been so difficult.) I remember when I first met Tim and he said I talked about Portland all the time. I’m sure I did. Portland, Portland, Portland. Now I feel I do that with Philly–especially at work. I catch myself doing it. In Philly this and in Philly that.

Somedays when a Philly friend sends an email or comments on Facebook and says that it looks like I’m doing well or adjusting well, I cringe a little. Yes, sure. I guess I am. Right? But hell if it isn’t hard, and boy do I miss Philly.

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The following is a post I wrote last October 15th, shortly after discovering it was Pregnancy and Infant Loss Remembrance Day. I wanted to publish this post then, but I chose not to. Part of me wanted to share what had been going on with me and I’m a big believer that raw, vulnerable writing is powerful writing. However, raw, vulnerable writing isn’t always good writing. I guess I just decided to write about my experience on my own terms and not post just because it was some internationally recognized day. As this post sat waiting in my drafts folder, I wrote about loss a couple of times on this blog. Still, I never shared the details of what happened.

Since this October 2013 post, I went on to have another early miscarriage in January. And then, my much anticipated current pregnancy. I’m almost 28 weeks pregnant now, and everything seems to be going well. I feel so blessed, and in some ways my losses seem like bad dreams. Still, I worry. I will worry until I hold this baby in my arms (and then I’ll continue to worry for other reasons). I’m glad people are sharing their stories on this day and every day. Here’s mine:

pregnancy loss

October 15, 2013

This morning on Facebook I discovered that today is Pregnancy and Infant Loss Remembrance Day. I guess it’s a good thing, but boy if I didn’t have to close my door at work so I could cry for a few minutes. You see, the end of summer was a tough one in the Pannell household. When we should have been sharing the news of a new pregnancy–a baby to arrive in mid-March, I was instead telling the few we had shared our happy news with that it wasn’t going to happen.

At around 11 weeks, at my second doctor’s appointment, the midwife couldn’t find a heartbeat. Later that day, from an ultrasound, it looked as if the gestation sac was empty–as in, the embryo didn’t grow beyond a few weeks. I only had five weeks to get used to the idea of bringing a new baby into our family, but I was making plans, getting excited, talking myself into the idea that a March baby would be perfect, that he/she and Adelaide would be the perfect age difference. I bought a winter maternity coat (although used and very inexpensive), I was planning the way we would announce the news to our parents.

The day we found out was an awful day. When I replay the day’s events in my head, I just feel sick to my stomach.

I wasn’t expecting to get pregnant so quickly. I was thinking three years apart would be good for us, but I was kind of hoping to be due a little earlier than July/August so I wouldn’t have to go through another hot summer being eight months pregnant. I thought being due in May or June would be perfect. I figured it would take a few months of trying so we started trying in June. I got pregnant right away and was due March 15 (the Ides of March). When we were due in March I really worried that the kids would be too close together. I had wanted them just shy of three years apart and they were only going to be about 2 years 6 or 7 months (depending on whether or not this second kid was early like Adelaide). Anyway, I had spent those five weeks of being pregnant convincing myself that this March due date was perfect. I thought about a maternity leave in March/April/May and how nice the weather would be. I thought about how we would all have our own birthday months and wouldn’t have to share a joint birthday party. At first I was worried that I had so many summer-ish maternity clothes, but then I bought that winter coat and just planned to wear leggings and cardigans with my summer dresses.

People who are due right around the time I would have been due are now announcing their pregnancies on Facebook and coming out of the woodwork. It sucks because we would have been making the same announcement to all our family and friends and people don’t even know that I would feel sad about it because very few people knew I was pregnant. (And of course, I’m happy for them, just sad for us.) This whole experience has made me more empathetic. My friend H has been struggling with infertility for years now. She finally got pregnant and then had a miscarriage at around 11 weeks. I remember her saying how hard it was as the due date approached. I totally didn’t get it then, but I understand more now. I also understand more now how hard it’s been for her to see so many pregnant women around her all the time (including close friends and co-workers). She’s a great sport and has been supportive, but I know she is hurting too.

I had only known I was pregnant for five weeks, but I was simply heartbroken. I was really starting to get used to the idea of adding that fourth someone to our family.

For two weeks I went through tests (they wanted to make sure that my hormone levels were going down and that the pregnancy wasn’t just much earlier than I thought). I waited for something to happen naturally. On Tuesday, September 3, I had a D&E.

After the procedure, things started to get a little better every day. I still got waves of sadness when I thought about the “what ifs,” and I was still bleeding a little from the surgery so that was a constant reminder. I so wanted to have it all behind me so I could start looking forward to the future. Of course, my head told me we would try again soon and I knew everything would be okay. My heart felt differently some days.

I immediately told my sister and we told our parents (although we hadn’t even told them yet that we were pregnant). I told a few close friends who hadn’t known I was pregnant either. I had to tell a few people at work because I was missing days and closing my door when I got calls from doctors and needing to cry and just not being myself. I’ve received a few nice text messages checking in with me and a couple of cards (thanks, Mom!), but after a week or two had passed it was just like everything was supposed to go back to “normal” when it really hadn’t for me.

At knitting I saw myself making jokes and talking to people about what had been going on that week and it was almost like an out of body experience. Only a couple of people actually knew what was going on, and I didn’t really feel like talking about it with the whole group. I didn’t want to be Debbie Downer, and I didn’t just want to sit and cry in front of everyone. I came home feeling like I had been so fake because there was this HUGE thing that was going on with me and I was just pretending to be okay. Tim was super supportive throughout the whole thing, but he just grieved in such a different way than me. And I think a big part of it is that since it was early in the pregnancy, it wasn’t as “real” for him in the first place. It very much felt like something that happened to “me” and not to “us.”

Now that a month has passed, I’m feeling a lot better and I’m excited for what the future may bring. I’ve leaned on a dear friend who has also experienced loss, and I’ve felt empowered by talking it out with her and doing a little reading on the topic. I thought I might wait to share my story until after we were pregnant again. I didn’t really want to break the sad news until after we had something new to celebrate.

However, I’ve also been reading a lot of personal blogs lately and like with memoir, I am the most touched by the writing that is so very real and raw and honest. I tell my students to make themselves vulnerable in their memoir writing, and last weekend I felt ready to share my story on the blog. I didn’t get around to actually writing about it–sometimes it’s hard to force yourself to bring all those feelings back to the surface when you’ve been doing so well to keep them at bay. Then today, seeing that it was Pregnancy and Infant Loss Remembrance Day, and seeing other people post articles like this one from Dear Julesy about what not to say to someone who is grieving or this one from Kathryn Catalino, I was motivated to share my story.

I know that first trimester miscarriages are unfortunately common, but I don’t hear many women talking about them. I guess it’s in part because we don’t know what to say to one another. So, for a weird day of remembrance (there’s a day for everything isn’t there?), I’m glad to share my story if not to just help one other person feel less alone. I’ll take the opportunity to break the silence and stand together to honor and acknowledge all of the lost babies and the wounded parents left behind.

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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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Amy headshotI can’t let today pass without mentioning my friend Amy who lost her battle with cancer four years ago on Wednesday. Today would have been her 38th birthday. I miss her dearly and think of her often.

She was the staple of our weekly knitting group, but I’m proud to say that we have continued to meet the last four years. We’re going on nearly 9 years now.

I wrote the following essay a few months after she died. It was part of the First Person Arts Museum. The project demonstrated how personal objects can carry memories and stories for the people who own them, and cherished objects can help us remember the loved ones we have lost.

 

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Amy's sock

A single sock. It’s not a rare thing, a sock without a partner. But this sock’s partner in crime wasn’t lost in the black hole combination of washer and dryer; it was never created.

On June 18, 2010, my friend Amy lost her battle with lung cancer at the age of 33—only three days from her 34th birthday and 15 months after her original diagnosis. Fortunately, due to successful early chemo treatments, she was able to return to some sense of normalcy for several months. She went back to work as a nanny, moved back into her Center City apartment, and rejoined our weekly knitting group.

When I first moved to Philly in 2006, Amy was just a friend of a friend who I was told to look up once I got here. “You should call her,” our friend Scott said. “You two would totally get along.”

I did. And we did.

Amy invited me to come to her knitting group although I didn’t even know how to knit. “I’ll teach you,” she said. “Or, you can just come and eat and drink and socialize.”

After the first week of eating and drinking a little too much, I thought it would be best if I had something else to keep my hands occupied. Amy took me shopping and helped me pick out my first knitting needles and the yarn for my first scarf. She taught me to knit and purl and follow a pattern. I made scarves, hats and blankets, and she walked me through my first pair of socks—red socks for my husband, the RedSox fan.

Amy was the heart of our knitting circle. She was the uber knitter—she even lived above Loop, the yarn store on South Street. She knit sample products for them to display in their front windows. She listened to knitting and fiber podcasts and even had a gig knitting sweaters for an artist who had sold a line of sweaters to Anthropologie. We joked that she was the underpaid sweatshop worker as she slaved away to complete two sweaters a week.

Although Amy disliked social networking sites such as Facebook because she didn’t want everyone knowing what she was doing all the time, she was one of the first members of Ravelry, a social site for knitters. Amy tracked all her knitting projects on Ravelry, found patterns, made friends with far away kindred spirits and posted on discussion boards.

When Amy was diagnosed with Stage IV lung cancer, it of course, came as a shock to us all. But Amy kept her quirky, sarcastic sense of humor and demonstrated so many inspirational qualities until her final moments. In her last year Amy’s mantra was “Life is short. Learn new things.” She created a “hit list” of things she wanted to do, of things to learn, new skills to obtain.  She took an embroidery class, a sewing class, a quilting class. She started a blog and finished some of the books she’s always wanted to read, but had always put off until later.

I feel fortunate that I got to see Amy in the hospital the day before she died. She even mentioned a knitting project she was working on, but said she couldn’t talk about it because it was a secret. After her death, a little digging on Ravelry revealed it was a baby blanket she was knitting for a friend. On Ravelry I also found a finished baby blanket Amy labeled ICCKMA Blanket. I clicked on the project and in the Notes section she had written, “in case cancer kicks my ass blanket–so my yet to be born nieces and nephews will have something from me :)”

In the week after her death, Amy’s family went through the things at her apartment. Overwhelmed by all of the yarn, knitting books, other knitting supplies and unfinished knitting projects, they gave most of it to the knitting group. We were encouraged to take something to remember her by, to use her yarn to knit hats for preemies or blankets for cancer patients, to knit something for ourselves that we would enjoy. In the pile of unfinished projects I found this bright blue sock. I later found it on Ravelry titled “My Tumor Shrunk Socks. Yay!” She started it in June of 2009 when the chemo was working well and the tumor in her lung got smaller. My Tumor Shrunk Socks. Their intricate knit looks almost like lace. They are well above my skill level, but I took them home anyway. They are Amy’s challenge to finish a pair of socks without her. To always be learning new things.

Amy's sock2

 

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Adelaide turned two last Sunday. It was a great weekend. We had a Sesame Street-themed party for her on Saturday at Herron Park Sprayground here in South Philly. She loved it.

Sesame Street Birthday Party | http://nextlifechapter.com

Tim designed the invitation – notice his added touch of the Philly skyline reflected in her glasses.

Back in June I was trying to decide what we wanted to do for Adelaide’s birthday. She loves animals, so I was thinking of something with a circus theme or a zoo theme. I didn’t want to do a bash quite as big as her Moustache First Birthday party last year. That party was really more for us than for her, so we just invited all our friends. This year, we wanted to primarily invite the kids from her class at “school” and their parents, as well as other families we know with kids around her age. With a birthday at the end of July, I knew it would likely be a hot day. Still, I wanted to invite quite a few kids and knew we didn’t have enough room to host it at our house. I tried to find an inexpensive air-conditioned room to rent within the city. I looked into the local parks and thought about having an afternoon BBQ. Finding a park that also had a public restroom was a challenge, and although Adelaide is not yet potty training, I knew several of the kids her age would need a restroom nearby.

Then, when we were in Illinois visiting my parents in mid-June, I saw how much Adelaide loved the Miller Spray Park outside the Miller Park Zoo in Bloomington. During our week vacation, we went there three different times. Back in Philly, a friend mentioned Herron Park and how she thought they had restrooms. So, our first weekend back from vacation, Adelaide and I made a scouting trip to the sprayground to check it out.

I thought it would be perfect.

A few days later I was looking through the book of birthday theme cakes at the local grocery chain when I saw one fitting for an animal theme. Then, we passed a cake with Elmo and Big Bird on it. Adelaide went berzerk yelling “Elmo, Elmo!” I looked to Tim. “I think Adelaide wants an Elmo party.” So, Sesame Street theme it was. Adelaide picked.

Sesame Street Birthday Party | http://nextlifechapter.com

This cake from BJs Wholesale was nice because the plastic cars are something Adelaide could keep and continue to play with later.

We invited everyone from her class at school, everyone from my Saturday playgroup and a few other friends. Including Adelaide, we had 11 kids attend (ages three years to 19 months, most right around age two), the total group including parents was right around 30 people. Several people RSVP’ed late, so I was proud of how smoothly everything went.

I picked up some Elmo plates and napkins at the local party store and the party favor bags of Elmo, Cookie, Bert and Oscar were adapted from something I saw on Pinterest. The project was more time consuming than I had expected (I’m a bit of a perfectionist), but they were a big hit and I think it added a nice personalized element to the party. I filled each bag with a little container of bubbles (also from the party supply store) and a pack of Elmo alphabet cards I found online (using my free one-year trial of Shop Runner for free shipping).

Sesame Street Birthday Party | http://nextlifechapter.com

I think Bert was my favorite.

Everyone loved the location, and I’m glad we brought the tent Tim uses to cover his booth for craft fairs. It provided a little shade for the table with the cake and fruit and for our guests sitting on blankets. The playground is newly renovated so the trees are young and don’t provide much shade yet.

The weather cooperated splendidly. (Did I just write “splendidly”?) It was in the high 80s, but not too hot and not rainy or cloudy. Having the party from 10 am to noon worked out really well too. It maybe was a little strange to eat cake at 11 am before lunchtime, but having the party in the morning meant people weren’t expecting a full lunch and the party didn’t interfere with all the different afternoon nap times. It also meant the sprayground wasn’t yet over crowded. It was pretty perfect if I do say so myself.

Sesame Street Birthday Party | http://nextlifechapter.com

I can hardly believe I’m the mother of a two-year-old.  The terrible twos. The terrific, giggling, twirling twos.

Happy Birthday, my sweet girl.

 Sesame Street Birthday Party | http://nextlifechapter.com

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Today is the six-year anniversary of the day Tim proposed. He probably doesn’t even remember the exact date. In fact, he’s probably upstairs right now annoyed that I haven’t yet come up to bed – that I spend too much time on devices and the Internet. Little does he know that I’m writing about an important date in our relationship history and digging through my email archive to find original emails where I gush about the news to my family and friends.  Here’s one I found:

Hi guys,

It’s been a while.  How is everyone?  I just wanted to let you know that Tim and I got engaged!  At the beginning of June, Tim and I made a quick trip to Providence and Boston for a long weekend.  On the last day of our trip, in Boston Public Gardens, Tim proposed!  And I said yes!  Tim and I have been dating for what will be 4 years in September, he’s my best friend and I knew he was the one I wanted to marry.  I guess I thought we would probably get engaged in the next year or so, and I can’t say I wasn’t aware of the fact that our Boston weekend would have been a perfect time.  Still, I really didn’t think it was going to happen right now, and I was genuinely surprised.  We’re thinking a Summer ’08 wedding here in Philly.  I just wanted to share my happy news.

Hope all is well with you.
Love,
Beth

 

After he proposed, I asked a couple walking by if they would take our photo.

the bench couple

I took this image to capture the view from the bench.

the bench view

We sat there for a while enjoying the view of the city where we met. We talked about our future together. Then, as we walked away, I snapped this photo of “our bench.”

the bench

We walked up to Faneuil Hall, sat at the outdoor bar at The Salty Dog (the restaurant where I worked three summers earlier) and toasted ourselves with a celebratory beer.

On the drive home to Philadelphia, we stopped back in Providence at the restaurant where I had worked there. We told the news to several friends who were working and our friend Evan, the bartender, surprised us with complimentary glasses of champaign. Then, we made the drive home and took turns driving and calling our parents and siblings and friends. It was a Tuesday night, so it was knitting night and I knew all my Philly girlfriends would be in one place. I called my friend Amy and she put me on speaker phone. That was the fastest roadtrip. The time in the car just flew by.

And here we are, six years, one marriage and one 22-month-old daughter later. I’d say “yes” all over again, and I do every day.

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I found out late last night that a dear friend of mine lost her baby. She was 7 months pregnant and expecting a boy. I can only imagine the heartbreak she and her family must be feeling.

I received the news in a message from my friend’s sister-in-law who asked me to pass the word on to the other women in our knitting group. Apparently, my friend hadn’t felt the baby move in a few hours so she went to the hospital. They couldn’t find a heartbeat so they induced her and she delivered the next day. There were no obvious signs of trauma to the baby, the cord or the placenta and they have no explanation as to why this happened. They don’t know what happened, which I’m sure makes it even harder on everyone. My friend’s family has already had to deal with so much over the past few years, why this too?

I can’t begin to wrap my mind around such loss. It’s just so tragic. I am devastated for her. Living several hundred miles away, I don’t know what I can do that would possibly help. No parent should have to endure the loss of a child. I remember a line in Anne Lamott’s Operating Instructions that said if she could have one wish, it would be for her son to outlive her. She didn’t know how she could possibly survive his death.

Somehow we do. Humans survive the unsurvivable all the time. But I don’t think the pain ever disappears.

On this Memorial Day, I am thinking of those who served and lost their lives in service. I am also thinking of all our lost loved ones and the families they’ve left behind. I’m especially thinking about my dear friend, her husband, their 20-month-old son, and the son they lost yesterday. I just want her to know that she is loved by so many.

I’ll be hugging my little girl a bit tighter today.

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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”:

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In my previous post, I mentioned the article 10 Great Ways to Be An Unhappy Mom.  Number two on the list is “Compare yourself to other mothers.”  It’s hard not to compare myself to all the mommy bloggers I see online.  So, I’m trying to keep this in mind when I consider Adelaide turns 15 months old today, and I have yet to publish my post for her first birthday. To my credit, I started the post just days after Adelaide’s birthday on July 28, but it took a while to get all the photos together and it’s been sitting in my “draft” box ever since.

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I started brainstorming ideas for Adelaide’s first birthday several months before the event. I knew I wanted to have a party — more for us than for her — but I also knew that with a late-July birthday, it was likely to be hot and humid. My parents were planning to visit Philly and help us celebrate the day, but we don’t have a lot of space at our place. We don’t have central air either. If we wanted to invite a size-able group of people for a party, our house was out. An outdoor party at a park was an option, but not very appealing in the heat and with the possibility of rain.

I asked around and searched online for an inexpensive room we could rent for a few hours. I didn’t have much luck. Places were either more than I wanted to pay or couldn’t have us until “after hours”–not appropriate timing for a one-year-old whose bedtime is 7:30pm. Fortunately, my friend lives in a condo building that has a fantastic community room on the second floor. It was exactly what I needed. A large air-conditioned space easily accessible to public transportation, and it was only $50 for 5 hours. I’m not sure the space is usually open to the public, but since my friend booked the room, it wasn’t a problem at all.

Several weeks later on Facebook I stumbled upon a photo a friend from college posted. It was from a formal party, but he and his wife were hamming it up and holding moustaches on a stick. “I could make those,” I thought to myself as I immediately started Googling “moustache on a stick tutorial” and “moustache party.” Soon, I had a new board on Pinterest dedicated to all the cute party ideas I was finding.  Apparently, moustache’s are really in right now.

Tim was on board with the party theme, and as the designer in the family, he volunteered to create our party invitation.


I used this moustache-on-a-stick tutorial from the blog Simply Modern Mom, and I found this fun recipe for a moustache cake on the blog Paisley Jade. It’s a circle cake that’s cut in half with a swirl, like a yin and yang symbol. Then, one side is flipped upside down to create a somewhat even moustache shape. I iced it in chocolate frosting. Also featured on this table were the party favors, Adelaide’s special individualized cake and the moustache cookies my friend Kathy made for the event.

 

Along with the moustache-on-a-sticks I made, I bought several packs of stick-on moustaches. I thought they would be easier for the kids, but the adults liked them, too.

Adelaide’s friend Genevieve came in the “facial hair spirit” by wearing the beard her mom crocheted for her. Her orange beard matched her dad.

 

 I also bought a couple of fancy bendable moustache’s like these especially for Tim and me. I thought they looked quite natural.

I’ve been taking monthly photos of Adelaide so I wanted to print out one from each month and display them at the party. This banner was perhaps my most favorite party decoration.

When it came time for Adelaide’s cake, she wasn’t so sure about it at first. But once we cut into it for her, she got the hang of it. I love the mischievousness in her eyes of this first photo.

At the end of the party, Adelaide and I opened presents together. She got many generous gifts from friends and family, but as is true for most kids her age, she was more interested in the paper, bows, boxes and ribbons. Happy 1st Birthday, baby girl. We are so happy to celebrate you, and your first year of life in this world. Whether they could be here to celebrate with you in person or not, always know there are so many who love you.

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