The babyproofing arms race escalates

Happy Friday, everybody!

Just a quick, blurry photo to show you all a fun new trick my baby learned.

Babyproofing arms race
Oh, shit.

I spent the entirety of The Baby’s nap yesterday re-babyproofing our living area after he pulled this shit on Wednesday.

Did you know you can pull all the knobs off your stove and just leave one on the counter to use when you need too cook?

No need to buy knob covers. Which is great, because we have to save all our money to buy more drawer locks, furniture straps, baby gates and anti-anxiety medication (for me.)

In addition to reaching the stove knobs, The Baby can pull things off the top of our kitchen table, and has learned how to push his jack-in-the-box up against the wall of his play yard so he can climb atop it.

The babyproofing arms race continues to escalate. I’m still losing.

The babyproofing arms race escalates

A sneak peek at our family photo shoot

Just a quick update!

I mentioned a few posts ago that I finally got around to scheduling a professional photo shoot for our little growing family. Annie at Pulp Foto in Medina did an amazing job of capturing The Baby’s wild, gleeful spirit right in her backyard. (Not an ad, just super happy with my experience.)

Here are a few photos from the shoot I can share without breaking my own rules. (It’s so tempting!) You’ll just have to trust me that they all turned out amazing and my baby is beautiful.

🙂

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A sneak peek at our family photo shoot

Nine unexpected necessities for the first nine months of motherhood

9-monthsThe Baby is now nine months old.

Give or take a few days, he’s been on the outside for as long as he was on the inside.

That. Is. Crazy.

I’m starting to realize that sooner or later, he’s going to have to get a new pseudonym. (Suggestions welcome.) When I hold him and look in the mirror, I see myself hefting a toddler, not the compact, seven-pound newborn I inexplicably expected to exist in stasis forever and ever.

I could reflect endlessly on the breakneck passage of time with a child, but it’s been a long time since I’ve contributed anything in the way of potentially useful advice to the Internet of moms (not like there’s a dearth, but whatever).

So instead of trying to compose a poignant way to say, “Holy shit, my baby is getting older by the second and I can’t fathom how quickly time has flown let alone conceive of the tomorrows that lie ahead of us,” I’ve composed a quick listicle (does anyone else think that word sounds filthy?) for new moms and moms-to-be about, what else, “baby essentials no one tells you you’ll need.” (Again with the clickbait. But for real this time, I hope this is helpful to someone.)

These aren’t necessarily things you’ll add to any baby registry, but their value is real. At least in my experience.

Nine unexpected necessities that have gotten me through the first nine months of motherhood

1. A screen dimmer app for my phone

I keep talking about how I’m trying to be more present and less glued to my phone around my baby. That does not apply while I’m nursing The Baby to sleep for the third time in a day. (YES, I STILL DO THIS. I KNOW. MOVE ALONG.) I don’t get a whole lot of time to consume media, so if bedtime is the time I get to scroll through Reddit or Facebook or whatever, so be it. But that blinding bright light on my phone may as well be the search light on a helicopter. The screen dimmer has become one of my most-used apps.

2. A frozen pizza a week

I hit a sweet spot somewhere in the 4-6 months range where The Baby was immobile but self-sufficient enough to hang out without too much fussing in a bouncer or carrier for enough time that I could get a reasonably easy home cooked dinner on the table. Now, though, there’s always a night or two where things have gone completely nuts by 4:30 and there’s no way I’m going to manage to cook anything because the sink is overflowing with dishes and there are 60 pages of a magazine ripped to confetti all over the kitchen floor. On these nights, The Baby gets a smattering of healthy leftovers along with an apple, some cheese, whatever, and once he goes to bed, The Husband and I get to relive the good old days with a frozen pizza. Once I started to accept this and put one in the grocery cart each week rather than deluding myself that I’d make a mega batch of homemade pizza dough to freeze, proactively thaw and top with organic vegetables, things got easier.

3. Peanut butter

I promise, this whole list isn’t  going to be about food. (The first item was a phone app, if you recall). But I am still so hungry all. the. time. And peanut butter has been the fastest way to get calories into my tummy so I can crank out the milk. We’re very picky about our peanut butter in the TLMB household (Must be the natural you-stir kind. No hydrogenated oils and no palm oil. Must be crunchy.) and I’ve found Target’s Market Pantry brand is the least expensive that I have easy access to. Which is great, because we go through at least a jar a week.

4. A running group text with no-judgment mom friends

I think I’ve mentioned a couple times before that three of my IRL friends and I made a pregnancy pact got pregnant around the same time. We’ve had a group text running since we all were pregnant where we’ve been able to complain, ask for advice, share random baby product reviews, celebrate and commiserate without worry of judgment. We can also text at all hours of the night or day knowing that our fellow new moms are probably awake or will soon be. I may be a habitual Internet over-sharer, but there are some things even I can’t bring myself to say here (or…*shudder*…share to a parenting group on Facebook. Which sometimes seems like putting yourself in front of a firing squad.)

5. A fairly regular date night

While there are certainly pros and cons to living across the street from my parents, one undeniable pro is I have pretty consistent access to a babysitter. (Thanks, parents!) At the end of the work week, The Husband and I are desperate to drive around the corner to our disappointing exurb happy  hour spot to share a beer and strategize the next several steps in our endless home improvement journey. We’ve gotten really efficient at snapping out of our tired funk to make each other laugh and to have the deeper conversations we don’t get when there’s a baby in the mix. Reconnecting, even for just 45 minutes while somebody else feeds The Baby dinner and gives him a bath, has been vitally important for my sanity (and The Husband’s too, I hope.)

6. A uniform

I knew going into the SAHM gig that if I stayed in my pajamas all day I’d languish. So every morning I wake up and put on my go-to uniform: jeans or shorts and  a v-neck T-shirt. I bought a stack of shirts from my local discount big box store (rhymes with Schmarget), but for fall I think I’ll be hitting up my favorite consignment store. Either way, having a handful  of easy but not too sloppy go-to outfits that can be mixed and matched has made it really easy to get dressed in the morning, and because it really is just 5 shirts and 3-4 bottoms, when I wear them out or get them hopelessly stained with breastmilk, I can guiltlessly turn them into cleaning rags and go out and spend another $50-$75 on the next season’s uniform. I know this probably sounds really boring/depressing to more fashionable readers, but I’ve always been really lazy about clothes, we’re on a tight budget, and this is keeping me happily out of sweatpants and my ninth grade cross country T-shirt (yes, I still have it/wear it.)

7. A side gig

I’ve mentioned a few times before that writing is important to me. We could scrape by for a little while longer without my extra income, but having a side gig has been beneficial in a  number of ways: It lets me exercise my creativity and skills; it helps pay for groceries and Amazon prime purchases; and it makes me feel good to contribute financially to the family (reminder disclaimer: being a SAH parent is a full-time job and if that’s “all” you do, it’s plenty, and you should value it and feel valued by your working-outside-the-home partner!)

I’ve always liked working, and I wanted to have it both ways, and this is how I’ve managed to satisfy both sides. While having a looming deadline while I’m trying to clean up a poop blowout spend quality time with The Baby can be stressful, it’s really nice to hand him off to The Husband, shut the door and get to work when I need to. As one of my group text mom friends said about her experience going back to work full time, “it helps with the whole ‘motherhood’s complete annihilation of your sense of self’ thing.”

8. A daily photo/milestone tracker

They say, “Babies don’t keep,” and holy hell, that’s true. It’s hard to savor every moment as I’m frantic about trying to find ways to preserve memories of these moments. For me, having an app like Tinybeans (that I back up regularly just in case!) has been really helpful. I can track milestones, his growth, and daily photos/videos. So on those days I’m so exhausted I don’t know how I’m going to carry on with mothering, and then he goes to bed and I find myself missing him, I can scroll through the days gone by and marvel at the amazing little person he has been and is becoming.

9. An amazing co-parent

The Husband has been an amazing partner the last nine months (and the nine months that preceded it, and a handful of years before that, too.) Not only has he been incredibly supportive to me as I figure out this motherhood thing, he has made an impressively smooth transition into the weird, wild world of fatherhood. I can’t imagine having taken on motherhood without him by my side.

Fellow new moms: What are some things that have gotten you through motherhood?

Nine unexpected necessities for the first nine months of motherhood

This stinks.

Morning usually comes in waves at the TLMB house. The Baby will spit up/have a leaky diaper that wakes him up, a cat will get hungry, Louise, our dog, will scratch her neck to jangle the tags on her collar to let us know she needs to pee, and we’ll all gradually make it from horizontal to semi-vertical.

This morning at around 5:20, it was a noisy cat who stirred me from sleep. I went to feed him and shut him in the basement to avoid waking The Baby. Our dog followed me out of the bedroom and stood at the door to be let out.

The sun isn’t coming up until 7 a.m. these days, and usually The Husband is on morning dog duty. And usually, because Louise is afraid of the dark, he turns on a porch light that always makes me grumble from bed because I worry it will wake up The Baby. So I decided to leave the porch light off and assumed Louise would tentatively amble a few steps off the porch and pee before hurrying back to the safety of the house, as she usually does.

(We discovered her fear of the dark last summer when we took her camping and she tried to scratch her way into the tent after night fell. This girl does NOT like not being able to see.)

Instead, I heard a small ruckus that sounded like a snort on the far side of our garden, about 20 yards from the house. And then I smelled a stink. Oh, God, a stink.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA
Oh hi. By Ryan Hodnett (Own work) [CC BY-SA 4.0], via Wikimedia Commons
Because our bedroom windows were open and the porch lets off just near it, I was whisper-hissing her name and quietly clapping to try to find her without waking up The Baby. I went back in, found my boots, and wandered over to find her rolling around in the grass. This cat-loving doofus had gotten eyes deep in the business end of a skunk.

I sighed, resigned to  my fate of never, ever, ever sleeping in again and went to gather old towels and supplies. (A quick Google led me to the de-skunking solution that worked pretty well: hydrogen peroxide, baking soday and dish soap. Thanks, Mythbusters.) If a fluffy cat-like thing makes our dog forget her fear of the dark, a cold hose bath will remind her in full force that she hates the dark (and also baths.)

Four baths later (one of which was mine) and the household is wide, wide awake with only one more full hour until the sun comes up.

Happy weekend, everybody.

P.S. This week marks my descent back into coffee addiction after two years off the stuff. I have mixed feelings about this.

P.P.S. The Husband just walked by and sniffed me and gave me a 2/10 for skunk smell. Shit.

This stinks.

Hey new mom: Neglecting yourself? Schedule a photo shoot.

Blah blah blah, it’s been awhile. As I mentioned in my last post (and like every post, because I like to complain-brag about being the busiest mom everrrrr, even though I’m not, and complaining about busyness as a mark of superiority is just about the worst)… I’ve been hustling. Writing freelance articles. Babysitting once a week for a friend. Painting the living room. Clearing away storm damage. Flossing, occasionally. Fantasizing the plot to the novel I’ll never write write someday. Oh yeah, and coparenting The Baby with my superhuman husband.

So let’s skip over that part where I whine about not having enough time to blog and just check in about more interesting things.

Mandated self care

I’ve been following a local (we’re nearly neighbors) photographer on Instagram for awhile and scheduled a mini session for last weekend, something I’ve been wanting to do for months, which meant I had to address the growing list of sad, new mom atrocities going on with my personal appearance.

I schlepped The Baby out to Old Navy for a quick low-budget shopping session, as my day-to-day uniform, without fail, is a stretched-out V-neck tee from Target with a pair of shorts. Or jeans, if it’s not 80 degrees out. Or workout pants, if I’m taking a walk.  Since becoming a WAHM, my wardrobe has shrunken considerably and nothing I had was up to the task of making me look autumnal, maternal and sophisticated enough to warrant the cash we were shelling out to capture this moment in our life.

I wound up getting a dress, a cozy cardigan, and (of course) a baby sweater and pants.

Old Navy floral cami dress
This dress.

I also got my first haircut in 11 months. The previous salon encounter was a week or so before my baby shower. I was teetering into “enormously pregnant” territory and ended up getting a bob, which I opted for because my hair was greasy AF from pregnancy hormones. This time around, I left it long because it stays ponytailed at all times lest I lose it by the handfuls to my grabby, grabby monster baby.

Being really awkward at haircuts is sort of my thing. I get them really infrequently so I never have a go-to hairstylist to catch up with, I know nothing about hairstyles so my description of what I want is usually unhelpfully vague (and generally limited to an angled bob, or the light trimming of a very long, grown out bob), and I do almost nothing to help move the conversation along.

I’ll answer any question I’m asked, but it always feels weirdly intrusive to ask questions of the person I’m paying to groom me, so the usual back-and-forth of a conversation ends up being a lopsided exchange that fades into awkward silence. Helpful hint for fellow awkwards: Just have a baby, and get a stylist who also has children. The only lull in conversation this time around happened when she was blowdrying my hair.

I didn’t even feel particularly embarrassed to discover I had grey primer (wall primer, not makeup) on my face as I checked out my new (very conservative trim of a) haircut. Because motherhood makes it easy to utterly give up puts everything into perspective.

Finally, for the first time since a friend’s wedding last June, I painted my nails. (I was pretty paranoid about chemicals during pregnancy, so other than that one time, I didn’t bother. Also, I almost never bother to begin with.)

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My manicure as of yesterday, because the house painting never ends.

Yeah, this is about as low of a bar as I could hurdle in terms of personal grooming, but it’s higher than the bar I’ve set for myself for many months now, so I consider it a success.

So, new moms if you’ve been neglecting yourself terribly, put a non-refundable deposit down on a family photo shoot. You’ll take care of yourself if the alternative is spending money to forever memorialize your frizzy split ends, stained shirts and unibrow!

That’s it for tonight. The Baby is turning nine months old in a few days (what?!) I will be back soon, if for no other reason than to report back on how many babies he succeeded in poking in the eyes at tomorrow’s lap-sit story time at the library.

lilly-handmade-chocolates
People watching and eating some chocolate

Oh! One quick P.S. The Husband, The Baby and I traveled up to our old neighborhood to have brunch and indulge in a little wine and chocolate, c/o a raffle we won for donating to a friend’s Kickstarter. So there was some legitimate, non-mandated self care in there, too. Don’t forget to make time for eggs baked in cream, truffles and a stroll through your favorite city.

Hey new mom: Neglecting yourself? Schedule a photo shoot.

Embracing the hustle

embracing-the-hustle

First and foremost, let me say that the “just” in front of any reference to stay-at-home-mom (i.e., “I’m just a stay-at-home-mom”) diminishes what is a very difficult, very important job. Being a stay-at-home mom of one baby for the past five months is the toughest gig I’ve ever had.

So if you’re a stay-at-home-mom and keeping your children alive and fed and entertained is “all” you’re doing, it’s plenty. You’re killing it. Nothing I’m about to say is intended to diminish or denigrate what you’re doing. Okay? (And cut it out with the “justs!”)

So.

I really like writing. I also really like dabbling in the print design (desktop publishing?) I’ve been doing since I was editing my high school newspaper. Writing greases the gears in my brain when they seize up from all the breastmilk and high chair hose-downs and endless rereadings of Brown Bear, Brown Bear. For some people, self care is getting a haircut more than once a year or browsing their favorite store. For others, it’s typing, alone, over a bowl of ice cream while dad rocks the baby to sleep. Different strokes.

This blog has been a nice outlet for my creative pursuits when I find the time to put my thoughts together. However, we’re working with a pretty thin margin on my husband’s income, so freelancing has been an important contribution to my family since I left full-time work, too (and thus has had to take priority over blogging on many occasions. I just don’t have it in me to try to monetize a blog right now.) Freelancing also scratches the small but persistent entrepreneurial itch I’ve had all my life.

One of the reasons I was afraid to embark on parenthood earlier in my life was the daunting mountain of responsibility that children come with–I didn’t feel like I had enough financial security, even with nonstop full-time work with benefits–to hack it. The irony is, now that I’m home with the baby, living really frugally and making smaller change in weird spurts, I feel less of the suffocating anxiety I felt before The Baby arrived and more of the vastness of possibilities that lay before me.

In addition to money worries, I also feared that giving up my full-time career would mean losing the fulfillment and pride that came along with it, but I’ve learned to embrace the hustle that is gig work. It’s a tough juggle, but it’s also exhilarating to choose projects that excite me and to deliver good work to satisfied clients.

I’ve also started babysitting a friend’s baby one day a week (what a workout!), and today I visited an amazing flexible child care center where The Baby is going to spend a few hours a week so I can grow my business a little bit.

I have far, far less free time than I used to. But I’m also operating at maximum efficiency with the time I do have.

As many obstacles as parenthood throws out for us, The Husband and I are relishing the great privilege we’re realizing we have: We can build the life we want for our family, however we want. Being parents doesn’t mean that we are chained to the traditional gender roles of American families, nor are we condemned to both working 60-hour weeks and missing our kids in daycare all the time.

Yes, for the foreseeable future, The Husband is going to continue to work long hours and have a crap commute (and to come home and summon a second wind so he can bathe, chase and otherwise thrill The Baby while I catch a breath), and I’m going to pound out articles and design annual reports in the stolen 15-minute increments I can find during naps. But none of that is preordained and none of it has to be forever.

In the not-too-distant future, we will finally be able to pay off our student loans and start thinking about the real long term, now that we have a feel for what it’s going to be like. Maybe we’ll save up and start a small business. Maybe we’ll switch places and The Husband will stay home with the next baby while I go back to work. Maybe we’ll get really wild and go off the grid and become self-sufficient preppers. (Unlikely scenario, but it is an election year!)

I don’t know what the future holds, but five months after hesitatingly stepping into the SAHM/WAHM life, I’m so glad this was the choice I made.

Fellow moms (working from home-for money or for the satisfaction of keeping your kids alive, working out of the home, or whatever combination applies to you right now), how did parenthood affect your ambitions? Your perspective on your career? What greases your gears when they get locked up from the parenting drudge work?

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Embracing the hustle

Pear overload

Happy Labor Day weekend, everyone! Happy 28th birthday to my little brother (and to my mom, and to all the other mothers who are or have taken the name of this holiday quite literally to mean welcoming new babies to the world.)

This weekend we did a whole lot of cutting up fallen trees and felling damaged trees from the crazy storm that swept through our property. One very sad casualty was the 100-year-old apple tree right off our back porch that was crushed by a rogue locust tree the guys cut down. Their guide rope snapped and the tree ended up just brushing our gutter, but annihilated the apple tree. It was on its last legs, propped up with an old post, but we were hoping to keep it alive another season to try to graft it. It had been planted by my great grandfather.

Anyway, as it’s not particularly safe to operate a chainsaw with a baby on your back, my contribution to the storm cleanup this week was trying to preserve the windfall of pears that had been blown from our trees in the storm. They were slightly underripe when I picked them up off the ground, but at the same time almost universally bruised or cracked from their fall, so it was a race against the clock to get them processed.

I took zero photos and have no recipes to share with  you. The Baby has been napping for two hours (!!!) and is due to wake up any second, so here’s just a short list of things I made with the pears:

  • Pear sauce! Just like applesauce, but with pears. Organic and with no sugar added, this makes a great baby food. And the cooking helps soften and sweeten the harder, greener, most underripe pears. I froze a little under two gallons of it and with the other gallon or so I made…
  • Pear sauce bread. I adapted this recipe  based on what was in my pantry, using only whole wheat flour, not bothering to grind the oats, using plain full-fat organic yogurt rather than sweetened Greek yogurt, and using pear sauce that still had pretty big chunks of not-too-mushy pears in it. I also didn’t add in any extra fat (coconut oil or butter) since the yogurt was full-fat. I just adjusted the amount of yogurt so that the batter was the appropriate texture/wetness. It turned out pretty good, like really dense bran muffins but moist because of the pears. We’ve eaten two loaves and there are two in the freezer.
  • Pear pie with a bacon-grease crust and oat crumble topping. (This I made with the riper pears without pre-cooking them.) I’ve been straining and refrigerating our bacon grease for awhile now, and while I’ve done some vegetable sauteeing with it, I needed to use it up and have been considering it for pie crust for awhile. I did a little Googling and ended up just sort of eyeballing the flour-to-bacon-fat ratio with a tiny bit of ice water. It didn’t roll out great, but it ended up with a surprisingly nice texture. It definitely had a hint of bacon flavor, but with the pear filling, it was good! I adapted this recipe for the pie filling/topping.

All in all, I was able to save about 10 pears that were undamaged and could ripen and be eaten raw.

So that’s been my weekend. I find myself getting a little overwhelmed during harvest season, not wanting anything to go to waste but also not wanting to spend all waking hours blanching tomatoes and making pepper jelly (another thing I did this weekend), but it does make winters nicer to have access to this stuff, and it sure helps our budget while we’re living on one income, plus whatever I can earn freelancing.

I’ve got a little pear sauce left. Anything else I should try to make with it?

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The pears – after the storm, before I cooked them. (Or, in most cases, before the deer ate them.)
Pear overload