NaBloPoMo: what I’ve learned

Photograph: Capture +/Alamy
Photograph: Capture +/Alamy

Well, I’ve got one more post to write for NaBloPoMo and this is it. Endings can be bittersweet and this is no exception, though I think there’s more sweet than bitter in this situation. I’ve always been a 3-4 posts a month kind of person, so daily posting proved to be quite a challenge for me. There were definitely times when I wanted to quit, but then I’d tell myself, Suck it up, ninny! You’ve gone this far. Finish something in your life already!

So, I pressed on.  I posted some things I’m proud of and I posted some things that I may be tempted to go back and delete later on.  But I posted every. single. day.  I definitely learned some things about blogging in the process.

I have no idea where I want my blogging to go.  I have reflected on this quite a bit over the past few months, and even more so during November.  Sometimes I think it would be great to build my blog as much as I can and try to earn an income with it.  Other times, I see it as just a hobby and a way to document the everyday mundane stuff that only my family would really want to read.  At this point in time, there is no way that I could devote the kind of time needed to really try to make it take off.  I prefer to write things I really care about, use a few small strategies to publicize what I write, and if it gets attention, that’s great.  All I know for sure is that I don’t want this to feel like a job.

Daily posting messes with my creative process.  Ideas for great posts come to me when I least expect it.  The words pour out when I am really passionate about what I am writing.  I don’t really have control over when I will be inspired.  Posting every day feels forced and insincere to me.  I found myself writing half-passed posts that could have been much better if I had allowed myself more time to reflect rather than feeling the pressure to post something, anything.  Going forward, I will probably try to post 2 times a week.

A little fluff is ok.  While I wish I could write something profound every single time, I know that there are times when I just don’t have much to say.  It’s fun to write lighter pieces when I don’t have much to offer and it keeps readers engaged and lets them know I’m still here.

I love/hate to explore other blogs.  I do love to see what other people are doing with their blogs.  At the same time, I tend to compare myself to others and it does get overwhelming when you start to realize just how many blogs are out there and how easy it is to get lost in the sea.  I have to just remind myself to be who I am and try not to be too hard on myself.  I think that the most important thing is to be sincere and write about what you love and what you know.

Overall, I’m glad I did this.  I’m proud of myself for completing it, but dang, I’m glad it’s over.  Especially considering the time of year.   I have a lot of crap to do, folks, what with Christmas and a very special birthday coming up…

gift ideas for toddlers

I’ve never been a Black Friday shopper.  I dunno…something about standing in line in the cold to fight huge crowds for junk that will be forgotten in a few weeks just doesn’t appeal to me.  Call me crazy.  So, while the masses are packing themselves into the stores like cattle, I will be sleeping in, sipping coffee by the fire and munching on Thanksgiving leftovers.

I really enjoy doing a lot of my shopping online.  I never seem to find exactly what I am looking for in the stores anyway and with a birthday and Christmas quickly approaching, I have been working on a brainstorm list of possible gifts for my almost 2-year-old.

Ok, I actually purchased this one already for her birthday.  I can’t wait for her to see it.  Then she can cook in her own kitchen when we are cooking in ours.

kitchen

 

And along with the kitchen, she’s going to need all the essentials.

 

pots and pans

 

She’s really into dress-up and pretend play right now and, like no other child I’ve known, she likes going to the doctor.  She has a real stethoscope that a nurse gave her during our stay in the hospital and she loves to play with it, but it’s kind of difficult for her to use.  I think a small one would be much easier for her.

doctor kit

 

I think she would really like these tools to use with her home made playdough.

 

playdough tools

 

Time for some big girl panties.  With her second birthday approaching, I am hoping to start potty training pretty soon.  Maybe these cute fruit prints will add some motivation.

 

panties

Can I just say that I am so glad that expensive, electronic toys are not even on her radar yet?

I guess if I am going to order online, I had better make my choices soon so everything can be delivered in time.  Are you finished with your Christmas shopping or just starting?

Happy Thanksgiving!

Happy Thanksgiving from my family to yours!  I hope your day is warm and fuzzy. 🙂

Today, I’m especially thankful for early morning snow angels, great food with great people, and lots of new visitors to my little blog.
 

20131128-135642.jpg

Thanksgiving

20131126-221556.jpg

I don’t usually participate in the daily declarations of gratitude during the month of November.  I don’t know…it just seems overdone to me.  I don’t have a problem with the fact that people do them, but I have to admit that I usually skip right past them on my facebook news feed.  It seems to me that if you live in this country and you have the luxury of posting about your daily life on facebook, you probably have a lot to the thankful for and most of those things are going to be pretty similar from person to person.  But, I imagine people post their blessings more for themselves than for their audience and I can definitely get behind the idea of self-reflection and positive thinking.

It’s not that I’m not grateful for a million things.  I really, truly am.  I thank God for many things on a daily basis and I have recently begun to model this for Evelyn when we say our bedtime prayers.  We thank Him for each other, for our family and friends, for our health, for a safe place to live and food in our bellies.  We are truly blessed to have all of these things.

Thanksgiving has always been kind of a quiet holiday for me.  Well, actually, I have a pretty loud family, so it’s not that quiet, but it has always lacked the glitz and glamour of other holidays.  I like that about Thanksgiving.  It’s quiet but meaningful, simple but profound.  It’s warm and inviting, like a comfy sweater or a long hug.

This year, Evelyn and I will travel to be with my dad’s side of the family on Thanksgiving day because Michael has to work all day.  I don’t usually spend Thanksgiving with that part of my family, so it will be a welcome change, even though Michael won’t be with us.  I am grateful that he has a job, so we can make accommodations.  We will celebrate with my mom’s side of the family on Sunday with my most of my siblings and all my little nephews who just adore Evelyn, the “baby” (and only girl) of the bunch.  We will consume far too much food and probably nap.  Yes, there will be napping.

I wish you all a safe and happy holiday.

 

birthday cake

Last year I was planning Evelyn’s December birthday in July.  This year, not so much.  It’s not that I am not excited about her birthday.  Actually, I am super-excited.  I just don’t have the energy for a big bash this year. Still, I have been lurking around Pinterest, searching for some cute cakes and simple decorations.  This year the plan is a simple dinner at home, followed by ice cream and cake.  Grandparents and perhaps a few Aunts, Uncles, and Cousins.  Whoever is available to stop over.  December is a difficult month for birthdays, with so many other celebrations going on, so we’re just going to play it really low-key.  I’ll probably wait until she turns 5 to have another big party and by then, I think Michael and I will have to decide what kind of birthday traditions we’d like to establish for her.  We always said we wanted to keep her day separate from Christmas and special on its own, so coming up with some little traditions that are all about her is really important to me.

I’ve been really talking to her about her birthday…even more than I’ve talked to her about Christmas. We’ve talked about the fact that she will be two years old and we’ve been practicing holding up two fingers. She’s learned how to sing Happy Birthday and I’ve told her that we will sing to her and she will blow out the candles on her birthday cake. She always giggles when I tell her that. The first time I mentioned cake to her she said, And ice cream? I think I’m almost more excited about her birthday than she is!

Check out all these cute cakes.  Even if we have the most lame-o party, I really want to bake my own cake. Hmm…which one should I try?

frustration

Well, I had a lovely post all set and ready to go. It included pins from Pinterest, which I had to first learn how to embed into the post. Then I somehow managed to navigate away from the page and lost all my hard work. Since I am beyond frustration at this point, I have only to offer this photo that Michael took this evening. I’d say it an accurate depiction of how I am feeling right now.

frustration

 

Is is wrong that I am counting down the days until NaBloPoMo is over?  (It’s 5, by the way.)

makeup simplified

I used to have quite an addiction to cosmetics and beauty products.  I’ve collected tons of it, but I’ve realized that I only use about 5-6 items consistently.  So, today it was time to purge.  I thought it would be harder than it was, but I basically just picked out the things I use on a daily basis (and a few lip colors that I actually like) and I just dumped the rest in the trash.  Most of the items were eye and lip colors that I didn’t like once I had brought them home and tried them on.  Ugh…it’s kind of sad to think about how much money I have wasted on colors that didn’t look right on me.  But, since I’ve experimented with so many, I know what works now so I just have to stick with those and avoid the temptation of new products.  Here is what my makeup drawer looked like before the purge.  I could barely open and close the drawer.

makeup before

And here it what it looked like when I finished.  It feels good to get rid of things that are weighing me down.  I’ve narrowed it down to 3 eye color palettes, a mascara, mineral powder foundation, one eyeliner, and a small variety of lip colors.

makeup after

 

Hmm…now that I’ve downsized my makeup drawer, what can I purge next?

best of fall 2013

I suppose we still have about a month of fall left, but since the holidays seem to be approaching so quickly, the leaves have all fallen, and the days are so much shorter now, it’s feeling more like winter to me.  So, it’s time to sift through the pictures in my Fall 2013 folder and pick out the best of the season.  I have to say, this fall was extremely busy for us and since I was on my own, it was a lot harder to get really great pictures.  Remembering to take pictures when you’re schlepping an almost two-year old around is quite a task.

Michael was out of town for 8 weeks this fall.  His first week away happened to fall on the day I scheduled Evelyn’s long-term EEG monitoring.  I haven’t really talked about that experience here, but I thought I’d share a few photos and maybe I’ll post more about it at a later time.  It definitely wasn’t a pleasant experience, but it was something major that we went through this year.  Evelyn and I were trapped in a tiny hospital room for 4 days and she was hooked up to electrodes and wires during the entire stay.  There were moments during those few days that broke my heart and made me question myself as a mom.  It was an experience I hope to never have again.
EEG

 

On a happier note, one of our first outings in October was a trip to the Pumpkin Patch to go on a hayride, get lost in the corn maze, and choose a pumpkin from the field.

Pumpkin Patch (42)

Pumpkin Patch (30)

Pumpkin Patch (16)

Pumpkin Patch (6)

 

A few weeks later we carved our pumpkins on the weekend when Michael was home.  My nephew, Noah, was with us.  Evelyn could have spent hours playing in the bowl full of water with pumpkin seeds floating in it.

Pumpkin Carving (18)

Pumpkin Carving (12)

Pumpkin Carving (9)

 

A trip to the park on a cool fall day…

Belles Springs (11)

Belles Springs (4)

 

Later in October we went on a Fall Foliage train ride with some friends.  The 2 hour ride was a bit much for Evelyn, but we had fun overall.  We got to sit in a dining car and she and her friend, Maria, played, had snacks, and gazed out the window together.

Bellefonte Train Ride (15)

Bellefonte Train Ride (11)

Bellefonte Train Ride (4)

 

This is just a cute iPhone shot of Evelyn on one of our evening walks.

sweet

 

I’m kind of sad that this is one of the only pictures I got of Evelyn in her Halloween costume.  By the time she was dressed up, it was too dark outside for pictures.  She had a blast trick-or-treating.  We only visited a few close neighbors, but she loved walking all by herself and talking to people as we went door to door.  We trudged through the rain for about a half hour before Michael called and needed us to pick him up.  He got stranded along the interstate on his was home from training.

Halloween

 

 

After 8 long weeks, Michael finally returned home from training for his new job.  I walked in the living room one evening to find them like this.  They have such a special bond.

daddy's home

 

More park play…

October 20 (49)

October 20 (4)

While we had a lot of fun, this fall was a little stressful for us.  I can honestly say I am glad to put it behind us and I am looking forward to what’s ahead…

4 posts I wish I’d written

I’ve been dealing with some serious writer’s block over the past week or so of this NaBloPoMo and I’ve been spending a lot of time reading other blogs for ideas and inspiration.  In my search for interesting topics, I stumbled upon several blog posts I wish I had written myself, mainly because I completely relate to the content.  Here are four that caught my attention this week.  Enjoy!

What are You Talking About? by Elizabeth Comiskey of Lazy Hippie Mama

I often find myself thinking what the…??? or shaking my head thinking I just don’t get it.  Fortunately, I am not alone and Elizabeth states it oh so eloquently without being offensive.

10 Simple Strategies for a Clean and Organized Home by Sarah Kooiman of Arena Five

Are you up to your eyeballs in laundry?  Are your closets overflowing?  Sarah has some awesome (and hilarious) strategies to help you out.

Ten True Things About the First Year of Parenthood by Karyn Thurstonof Girl of Cardigan

The first year of parenthood can be overwhelming and lonely and amazing.  This is a very touching post to read over and over.

If You Shop on Thanksgiving, You are Part of the Probelm by Matt Walsh of Matt Walsh Blog

I don’t think anyone could have possibly said it better.

 

parenting for educated dummies, lesson 1

It occurred to me recently that I’ve become that parent.  You know the one that gives her child too many choices and over-explains things? Yep, that’s me.  Guilty.

I had a particularly stressful day, one where I had myself convinced that I would never be able to leave the house again and that my little monster was plotting to slowly drive me insane.  I ended up on the receiving end of a phone call from my mom in which I was reduced to a sobbing heap on the couch.

My mom hasn’t given me a lot of parenting advice along the way and I don’t know exactly why.  I don’t know if it’s because I am an older first-time parent and I have spent a lot of my adult life working with young children.  Maybe it’s because she is afraid to be a prying mom or afraid that she will upset me.  Or maybe it’s because she’s still the awesome mom she’s always been and she allows me the space to figure things out on my own (I think that’s the one). Mom’s always been good at the art of reflective supervision. It’s a practice that I use in my work, but it can be used and applied to so many areas of life. It’s being able to listen to someone going through difficult circumstances and ask thoughtful questions that allow that person to reflect, come to their own conclusions, and make decisions about how to move forward, without offering unsolicited advice.

So, really, my mom didn’t have to point out my weaknesses. I already know what they are. It was just nice to have someone listen as I talked my way through it. When I was pregnant and during the newborn phase, I read a lot. I was online constantly trying to learn as much as I could about what to expect. My mom would always gently remind me that sometimes knowing too much can be a burden and of course, she was right. I have worked in the field of Early Childhood Education for almost 10 years. I know a lot about child development, more than the average bear. But everything I know goes right out the window when my adorable little blondie cries and tells me “Evelyn do it. All by myself.” I know that children her age are longing to be independent and it’s great to give them choices like Would you like to wear your green diaper or your purple diaper?  Would you like yogurt or cheese for your snack? Choices like these allow children some power and control and the choices can be limited so that they are acceptable to the parent. But, there are some rules that have to be decided upon by the parent and are non-negotiable. They will vary from family to family, but for us it’s rules like sitting in the cart at the grocery store instead of walking around “all by myself” and sitting in her booster chair at the kitchen table whenever she’s eating instead of running and hopping around with food in her mouth. Lately, she’s been testing the boundaries of my non-negotiable rules and I’ve been negotiating a little too often, which has led to confusion and frustration for both of us.

I attended a session at a conference a few years ago and the topic was child guidance. The presenter handed us a list of about ten rules that we were to read, memorize, and then recite back to a partner. They were silly rules like, You can’t jump on the couch except when it’s early in the morning and I haven’t had my coffee yet. The point of the exercise was to illustrate how inconsistent adults can be with their rules and how important it is for children to know what’s expected of them.  I think everyone in the room had the same reaction that was basically, Well, crap, haven’t we all done this?! Yes, we have. It’s hard to enforce rules when you are tired or in a hurry or just frustrated, but you can see where the confusion comes in for children.

Ok, so after my conversation with mom I’ve decided that I need to be a little more consistent. I still think it’s important to explain the reason for rules, but I try to keep it simple. For example, Evelyn wants to walk all by herself to the car when I pick her up from daycare. I explain to her that she can walk by herself but she has to hold my hand because there are a lot of cars and I want her to be safe. If she refuses to hold my hand, I will have to carry her to the car. Sometimes she complies, sometimes she throws herself down in the middle of the parking lot.  But either way, I have to follow through with the two choices I’ve offered, which might result in having to pick up a limp toddler while she screams, No, mommy, no!  Not nice!  It’s ok.  I’m sure this won’t be the last time I am a big, old meanie.

Sometimes everything I know just flies right out the window when I let my emotions get in the way.  They weren’t kidding when they said, It’s different when it’s your own kid.  

Thanks for the call, mom. 🙂