It was my birthday on Monday (woohoo, twenty-four!) and with my birthday comes the annual awesomeness of the Amazon gift certificate from my aunt.

Usually, the gift certificate is divided between a couple of books, maybe a CD, and then some other miscellaneous items or things for E. But this year I had a huge backlog of books I wanted to buy and finally made good on it.

So, here’s what I got:

1.) The Whole Brain Child: 12 Revolutionary Strategies to Nurture Your Child’s Developing Mind, Survive Everyday Parenting Struggles, and Help Your Family by Daniel J. Siegel
I don’t really own any parenting books, and while I’m slowly starting to form my own philosophy regarding what kind of parent I want to be, I’m of the school that there are always resources out there that can further inform your outlook on life. Whether it’s personal experience, family and friends, discussion boards online, or a solid book. I also enjoy books that give you a set number and kind of strategy to use. I’m a bit formulaic, and while I understand no idea is one size fits all, it’s nice to have something to start with.

2.) The Successful Child by William Sears
I heavily consulted The Baby Book by Dr. Sears when E. was little and really agreed with what he had to say. I’ve been meaning to pick this book up for some time, but never seemed to have the extra cash. It’s been sitting on my Amazon wish list for a while! I’m curious to see if he sets it up similarly to The Baby Book and how he sees the continuation of attachment parenting with older children.

3.) Girls Will Be Girls: Raising Confident and Courageous Daughters by Joann Deak
I read this quite some time ago, having borrowed it from the local library. I got either right before or right after E. was born and remember thinking, “Jeez, I’ve got to get this book and hang on to it!” It provides wonderful insight on how to ensure your daughter embraces herself and role in society.

4.) Death Comes to Pemberly by P. D. James
A purely for fun book. (And you saw the other books I’ve got on here, I deserve one!) It takes place at the Pemberly of Elizabeth Bennet and Mr. Darcy, where they are living as a married couple and find that someone has been murdered in their home! *Gasp!* The horror!! I’m so excited to read it!

5.) Space Chronicles: Facing the Ultimate Frontier by Neil deGrasse Tyson
First of all, if you’re not familiar with Neil deGrasse Tyson, the world’s dreamiest astrophysicist, go google him or something, or check out his podcasts, or look at old NOVA episodes on PBS’s website or Netflix, or even Monday night’s episode of the Daily Show where he was interviewed, because he is so cool and makes space even MORE awesome (as if that’s possible). As a kid I went through a stint from about 5th to 8th grade where I really, really wanted to be an astronaut and then a physicist…and then I found out you would need to be able to do math – and I hate math – so I decided reading about it could be just as effective. Neil (we’re on a first name basis here), makes space just that more interesting and awesome.

6.) Taking Charge of Your Fertility: The Definitive Guide to Natural Birth Control, Pregnancy Achievement, and Reproductive Health by Toni Weschler
Supposedly this is a bit of a Bible for anyone who is looking to try natural birth control or is looking to get pregnant. While neither one of those are on my plate at this moment, I’ve found that the more in tune I am with what’s going on with my body, the better I feel and the more easily I can manage lady…stuff. I’m looking forward to digging into this!

7.) Parenting from the Inside Out by Daniel J. Siegel
I think it goes without saying that I went a little nuts with the parenting books, but…you can never be too prepared, right? This book is by the same author as The Whole Brain Child but the focus is more parents rather than children. I think it’s good to look it how you’re raising your children from multiple perspectives and obviously the perspective of the parent him or her self is pretty important.

8.) Street Gang: The Complete History of Sesame Street by Michael Davis
I started reading this over the summer, but the book had a tragic accident and I couldn’t continue. If you have any love for the muppets, Jim Henson, or Sesame Street, chances are you’ll find this book pretty intriguing. I love having loads of useless historical knowledge about things I enjoy (like Sesame Street), so this book is right up my alley.

9.) How to Be a Domestic Goddess: Baking and the Art of Comfort Cooking by Nigella Lawson
Oh, Nigella. How much do I love this woman? She is as beautiful as she is talented (which is very) and I love, love, love her cookbooks and the food that comes from them. I’ve read (like, from cover to cover read) two of her cookbooks and have been itching to get my hands on this one to add to my collection since it was mentioned by a professor during one my classes a couple of years ago. Reading one of Nigella’s cookbooks is more than checking out hundreds of recipes. It’s reading someone’s philosophy on food, taking a peak into her life and culture, and giving you a chance to think about how you view cooking and food. For some, I know, this would be a total bore, but for those of us who would love to be foodies and decent home cooks, it’s immensely interesting and even important.

I’m getting really excited about these books (writing about them hasn’t really helped) and have been checking Amazon and my e-mail obsessively to see if they’ve shipped yet. They’re not due to arrive at my doorstep until March 6th at the earliest, so it’s going to be a bit of a wait, but hopefully worth it. I do plan to review at least a couple of the parenting books and Nigella’s cookbook (though I can kind of already tell that it’s going to be awesome), since those directly correlate to a lot of what I write about here. I’m hoping I’ll feel as though they’re all good buys by the time I’m done reading!!

What was your most recent (or exciting) book purchase?

and are two massive parts of my life, but those are areas that change a great deal over time. There will come a day, many years in the future, when my children will be gone and while I hope to still offer them something as their parent besides cash, the everyday duties will diminish significantly. And, though it currently feels highly unlikely, I would like to retire at some point down the road, so my career may, at some point, become a fond memory as I go down other roads (travel, anyone?).

This leaves me with my passions. What will I carry on, in some capacity, after my children have left the nest and my job is no longer my job? After much thought, research, and, admittedly, some prayer, I’ve decided I want to get the ball rolling on becoming a . It’s a longish process, but one that I look forward to. I’ve begun by doing some reading, which is suggested by DONA International (the organization that certifies doulas), which is only adding to my desire to work with expecting women as they work towards the most life-changing event they’ll ever experience – bringing a child into the world.

I am continually in awe of pregnancy and the process that occurs during birth, and though I currently have little desire to go back to school for my medical degree (but who knows, perhaps I will at a later time), I feel that I could be a comfort and help in the delivery room (or birthing center or even someone’s home). Any material, text, audio, and video, regarding birth is something I suck up with fiendish desire, with a fervor that used to only be reserved for Harry Potter and Lord of the Rings novels and films. It’s one of those knowledge bases that, once absorbed, stays in my mind and I can’t shake it off, even if I want to, and become a walking encyclopedia on the subject (again, very similar to how I can be with Lord of the Rings or Harry Potter). I have been thinking about pregnancy and birth constantly for several months, and not only in the context of my own possible future pregnancies, but in the context of being that “helper” to the mother as she brings forth new life.

I find something incredibly honorable, yet humbling, about working with women and their partners to bring about the best possible situation for the birth of their child. Pregnancy and birth are the most beautiful and natural processes a woman can experience in her life, and I love the idea of being able to promote that beauty amongst other women. I think in these modern times, where there is so little left that is truly untouched, it’s important for all of us, female and male, to realize that we are still so capable of doing incredible things like making new life.

The journey has begun, and while there will be a lot to do ahead of me, thankfully they are all things I truly look forward to doing and are things I will be able to do while still working my regular (awesome!) job. I plan on completing the initial required reading over the spring, applying for DONA membership this summer, and then taking either a breastfeeding or birth course over the summer as well.

I know I may be the only person who’s really excited by this, but trust me, I’m really, really excited by this. A lot.

It feels good to be following through with dreams.

Just when I thought we might get an early spring for sure, this happened:

I guess that’s what I get for living in Maine. Poo.

The following post is based on a writing prompt from :
Capture what’s it like to spend a day or moment talking to your kiddo.

Scene – I’m standing at the sink, washing dishes. E. is upstairs playing.

Me: E.! Can you come downstairs and feed the dog?

Silence.

Me: E.! Come downstairs!

Silence.

Me: E.?

E.: I’M NOT E.!! Don’t you know my name?! I’m you daughter. You’re a terrible mother!

Me: Did I miss something?

E.: Sighing loudly, with annoyance I’m Angelina Ballerina. You’re my mama, Mrs. Mouseling. Sighs loudly again

Me: Oh, sorry. Erm, Angelina, could you please feed the dog?

E.: That’s not how my mama sounds. You need to sound like Mrs. Mouseling.

Me: Oh. Um. Speaking in a very bad British accent Angelina, daaaarling, could you pleeeeease feed the hound?

[Note: Apparently when I use a British accent I think I'm Mary Crawley of Downton Abbey. By the way, wasn't the season finale amazing?]

E.: Yes, mama, I will!

[Note: Interestingly, E. doesn't have to use an accent when she's pretending to be Angelina Ballerina.]

Me: Thank you, Angelina, dearest.

The rest of the day is spent in the imaginary company of Miss Lily, the ballet teacher (who I get to be occasionally), Angelina Ballerina’s little mouse friends, and random ballet dance moves.

It should be mentioned that we’ve actually recently moved on from Angelina Ballerina and on to Martha Speaks. Before Angelina it was Arthur, and before that it was Caillou. I’ve been mothers, teachers, fairies, bad guys, and daycare providers, rarely every myself. Honestly, I know the Oscar nominations have already been made and votes have probably been cast by much of the academy, but really, I think I ought to be awarded a prize for my constant, unexpected role changes every time I open my mouth and speak to my daughter.

This whole imagination thing is starting to get a bit out of hand. ;-)


(E. as Mrs. Pillowhead)

I mentioned in an post that I was going to write about what has been working for us in the realm of parenting. These are fairly recent developments, but I was so excited to finally feel like I was doing something that was actually working, that I had to share.

Of course, I am coming pretty late to the game in a lot of this, and I’m not giving anything new, so you may read this and go, “Yeah…duh…”, but keep two things in mind: One, I write this partially for me, to remember that at one point I felt like I knew what I was doing, when, you know, E. is a rebellious 16 year old with a nose ring. Two, I also write this for commiseration. There are other parents who are sometimes floundering in a sea of parenting information, yet feel completely immobilized when it comes to handling their child’s less than savory behavior.

Also, in E.’s defense, she’s a really great, easy going kid, but as any kid does, she’s developing some…interesting…behaviors that I’d rather nip in the bud now, rather than let them stew and become worse.

Laugh it off.
I can be very uptight sometimes, especially when I’m getting tired and E. is reaching that phase of little kid exhaustion where it’s like being with an especially intoxicated person. There’s only so many times you can ask a kid to put her underwear on and be told to, “put it on your face, Mama!” *cackle, cackle*. It’s times like these where I have to give myself the mental reminder of: She thinks she’s being REALLY funny. Just go with it.

Silly behavior in little kids is not coming from a place of rudeness or from a desire to mess things up for you – they’re just trying to have fun. And while I may not always feel like getting in on the laughs, I’ve at least started to relax and realize the undies are still going to get where they’re supposed to go (not on my face).

Is it worth it?
This section could also be called pick your battles, because that’s basically what I’m doing. When I’m finding that I’m getting annoyed with E. over something and am getting ready to go into pissy mommy mode, I ask myself, “Is it worth it?” Is it worth getting upset, getting E. upset, and potentially throwing off a good day over whatever it is I’m having a problem with? Naturally, sometimes E. is behaving in a really not okay way and something has to be said or done, even if it’s going to get those involved upset. But other times I have to wonder if it’s really the behavior or if it’s me. Once I give myself some perspective, it’s easier to decide whether or not I want to get into it with E., and I find we’re battling less, enjoying each other more, and some of those behaviors I wasn’t so keen on before, they recede or go away completely.

Eliminate the negative by accentuating the positive.

We’re trying this new “thing” amongst all the other approaches we’re taking with E. Above is a picture of two rather unassuming jars both with some of those glass stones you see filling vases with flower arrangements. Those are E.’s “stones” and she is currently trying to fill the smaller of the two jars in order to earn a reward (in this case, she wants to bake a treat with me).

E. earns stones by showing good behavior and being helpful without being prompted. For example, E. really struggles with transitions. When she does successfully transition from one thing to the next, I reward her with a stone. Or, today, E. volunteered to pick up her toys off the stairs without my asking, so I gave her a stone to put in the small jar. I don’t give her a stone every single time she does something good or that she’s supposed to do (though we do use a lot of positive language); we mainly focus on the areas that she struggles with the most (so, transitioning well, staying calm when she’s frustrated or mad, picking up her toys without being asked or prompted a lot).

Time and choices work wonders.
I don’t know what it is about counting that gets little tushes to move, but when I start saying, “One…two…” she’s moving! On the occasion when I get to three and E. hasn’t stopped doing what I’ve asked her to stop or hasn’t come to me when I’ve asked, then I will get up and move her. Sometimes to a time out spot, sometimes to where I asked her to go, but most of the time, one, two, three gets her going.

I think giving her a few moments to think and decide for herself if she’s going to do what I asked helps. It gives her some sense of control over her actions, which is something I think all parents of 3-year-olds can agree is important to them. And, in this vein, I do try to give her control over what’s happening as much as possible. A choice means she is more likely to at least do one thing that I need her to do and she will feel good about doing it, rather than put upon. I’ve also had to realize that I can’t expect what I ask her to do to be done immediately or exactly the way I want it. Giving a little extra time is just fine.

Mommy time outs are more effective than kiddo time outs.
At our house, time outs for E. can frequently end with a red faced and tear stained little girl pouting on a flight of stairs (this is where we send E. for time outs). Sometimes they are effective and give her a chance to cool off (I don’t usually set a time for E. to sit on the stairs, but instead say that she can come back and talk to me after she is calm and has taken some deep breaths), but most of the time it makes little difference in her behavior. In reality, when I send E. for a time out, I’m the one who really needs it.

Sometimes you’ve just had enough. Their behavior is bad and yours isn’t so hot either and sometimes it’s better to just step away. If the hubs is home, I might go out for a walk. If not, I make sure E. is in a safe place and I step into my bedroom or even the bathroom, and just chill for a little bit. If I can, I’ll try to read a few pages from a book, or, at the very least, take a few deep breaths. It helps a lot to be able to go back into a troubled situation with a clear mind, making me more receptive to E.’s needs.

Okay, so I’ve written this all out, and I’m feeling pretty good, because this is, on a whole, what I do with E. and it’s been working well for us. But, please know, that there are also times when you can find me nose to nose with my little girl, hashing it out, choices, mommy time outs, and stones be damned. But, on the whole, what we should look for as parents is progress, not perfection, because we’ll never be perfect parents (or, at least, I never will be). And being able to utilize what I’ve written about above? That, my friends, is progress.

Don’t think I’m a mean parent for pointing this out, but you know that British guy who was married to Katy Perry, ? Totally E.’s long lost twin…or at least hair twin.

Last week I wrote about a , or, at least, that I had had a revelation. I mean to add more to that this week (thank goodness for vacations – it means I actually have time to do stuff), in regards to what I’ve changed in my parenting and what we’re doing in the home to help reinforce E.’s good behavior. But that comes a bit later (like, maybe later today or tomorrow). For now, I want to reveal  my second revelation.

I do not think it is every day that you are struck with what you believe you ought to be doing with your life. It is more than just what I want to do, but I believe I need to be doing.  So, I’ll start this with an open letter to several groups that are around our state, in particular the .

To all those who advocate for families and children:

When I was 19 I found out I was pregnant. It was not planned. I had just completed my freshman year of college. Thankfully, I was engaged to, in love with, and happy with the father (now my husband of nearly four years). But we were completely clueless. Because I fit in that demographic of young and poor, I was provided with a lot of services, from WIC to a visiting nurse to free childbirth classes. I was also introduced to Debbie, a home visitor from the Children’s Task Force, and her intern (whose name I can’t remember, but she was a total sweetheart).

Debbie came to our apartment once a month from the time I was roughly five months pregnant until last May, when my daughter was three years old. Each visit brought information on how my child should be developing, fun activities for us to do, loads of information on local services and events, and lots and lots of love, respect, and encouragement. While I was lucky enough to  have supportive parents and in-laws who were always there to help us, they were also a good hour and a half away and busy, Debbie was one more person I knew was in my corner, plus, the other support figures in our life wouldn’t have had access to the same information and resources Debbie did.

I often say there are a lot of contributing factors as to why I was able to graduate from college, and there are, but I truly believe that my ability to graduate would have been seriously hindered if not for Debbie and the services she provided. Instead of worrying about exams, papers, and books I needed to finish or read, I would have had to worry about transportation to doctors appointments (I had no car), money for food, housing, and healthcare, how to find a daycare, and, honestly, if I was getting of this parenting stuff right. Debbie offered all the information I  needed and reassurance that I was doing okay. She made me feel good about balancing school and raising my daughter. What she offered, a mix of practicality and kindness, gave me a boost towards success that I might have otherwise never gotten, resulting in a much different life than the one I have now (which is wonderful).  

Simply put, Debbie and those who do her job are amazing.

Thank you, very sincerely, from the absolute bottom of my heart,

Someone’s who’s life has been changed for the best.

And after being on the receiving end of that support and love for over three years, I’ve realized that I need (and very much want) to be on the giving end. I realize, to some extent, that is what I am doing now with my work (which is what happily propels me to work each morning), but I look forward to doing more as the years go on. While I can’t hope to be the person Debbie was for me to someone else, I’d love to make a go of it.

It’s something I think I could do well.

We don’t have T.V.

Well, I should clarify. We own a television (actually, a couple of televisions), but we don’t have cable or satellite and thereby don’t watch a ton of T.V. and we never get a chance to watch the news. I found out Whitney Houston died via Facebook.

Anyway, because I don’t watch a lot of news I listen to it on the radio, mostly NPR. And yesterday I was listening to (a show out of Boston) and they were discussing a really interesting concept: .

Now, you’ve probably heard of and a cash mob takes on the idea of a group of people coming together to pseudo-spontaneously participate in an event and combines it with the idea of something like – except you don’t have the deep discount. The idea, according to the “founder” of the cash mob (Andrew Samtoy – here is a to his blog), is that you are supporting local business partially for the sake of supporting local business, not looking for a discount at every turn. In his interview on Here and Now, he said something like, for the things we want (versus the things we need), we should simply spend the money, not look for a discount every chance we get.

I tend to agree.

Maine is a place that is notoriously unfriendly towards business (ranked 50th in business friendliness according to ), but as someone who has grown-up here, it often feels that one of the few ways for people to make money in this state is by having their own business (if they’re not in education, law enforcement, or health…or all three, with their own business on the side).

We moved from a town that had, I felt, a booming little downtown area, which was helped by the fact that there was a university right there, to a town that has a lot of potential, but isn’t quite the same. I’d love to see that change.

The idea of a cash mob really appeals to me, because, for one, I love to buy local, when I can, and for two, I’m extremely proud of the area we live in, and would love to give a boost to the local economy, even if it’s small.

So, while I didn’t come up with the idea of a cash mob, I think I’d be interested in getting one started for our town/area (our town isn’t very big and there are lots of businesses in the general area that could benefit). I’m not one of those people who particularly revels in getting groups of people together to take on big tasks. While I’m talkative and friendly, I am dead shy when it comes to this sort of thing.

But, when something means a lot to you, you give it a go. I’ve got some friends in the community, and they’ve got some friends, who have some friends, who have some friends. And amongst those friends, there might be some folks who are interested in doing at least one cash mob.

This blog entry is my start and I’ll post it (per usual) on my Facebook page. You know who you are: locals, if you read this and you’re interested, let me know, either here or on Facebook!

As for the rest of you, check out the links I have above or let me know if you have been or will be involved in a cash mob.

Another Valentine’s day has arrived and I am left feeling like a very lucky lady. I would never say that my husband isn’t romantic, because he really, really can be…but it’s not an every day occurrence. And I’m not the sort of lady who needs a lot of grand, romantic gestures to know her hubby loves her a whole lot. The hubs is pretty good at letting me know in little ways, from his kisses goodnight or good-bye, to his cute little notes on the front door white board, even the way he demands a sandwich at ten o’clock in the morning (a really awkward time to be eating lunch…or breakfast…in my opinion) and says I make the best because I make them with “love.”

Here’s a small display of our Valentine’s day gifts to one another:

Some years we go pretty big (like, every couple of years or so I’m lucky enough to land a piece of jewelry), but others we’re more low-key and there is more emphasis on the notes we write each other in the cards. I’m really excited to share what my husband wrote in my card this year. I love his style :-D

Aren’t the little annotations cute? I love it.

We also did a bit of decorating, though nothing too fancy. Remember, for example, that heart I was working on a few weeks back? Well, here it is hung on our stair bannister that overlooks our dining area:

And we had a few lights hanging by the french doors:


(Sorry for the shoddy picture quality, the camera’s on the iPad 2′s aren’t fabulous, gotta say.)

But, the most exciting thing about this Valentine’s Day is that E. had a Valentine’s Day party at preschool and we got to make Valentines…well, I got to make Valentines. We found idea for “origami” hearts with candy , from Martha Stewart. Following is a brief tutorial of how we did it (though the steps on Martha’s site are pretty good, too!)


We printed the template provided by my good friend Martha (link above) and used some kid and Valentine’s Day friendly scrapbooking paper I bought at Wal-Mart ($5!) as our “wrapping” for the candy hearts I picked up at the grocery store.

I taped the template heart to the scrapbooking paper each time I wanted to make a new heart (I made about 15) and cut around it. This worked well for me since I seem to have bad luck tracing things. I also feel like it took less time than tracing and the hearts came out a little nicer than they would have if I traced.

So, once you cute out your hearts you have a bunch like the first picture shows, Then you’ll take the template, place it over the scrapbook paper heart and fold along the four lines using something with a straight edge. Martha suggests a ruler, but surprisingly, I found out we do not own a ruler., so I used a row of paint chips. Worked just fine!

After I had done the initial folding of the scrapbook paper heart, I taped a candy heart to the center of the paper. I then folded the sides of the paper heart in over the candy, then folded in the top and bottom, tucking the point of the heart into the little pocket that the top of the heart makes. I then taped it closed (totally should have a picture of that…tutorial fail :-( ).

The finished product, at least as it was handed it out, looked like this. After we folded in the candy hearts, I took some glitter glue and made hearts on each little “package.” I really loved the idea of the kids getting these little packages that don’t look like too much, then opening them up and having these pretty little hearts with candy in them!

I’m probably way more excited about them than the preschoolers are, but they were still fun to make and Lizzie loved picking out each heart for her friends. It was fun to see who she decided to give each differently patterned heart to.

And so the day comes to a close and I’m completely pleased by this totally arbitrary, commercial excuse to gorge on candy and give and get fun little gifts and cards (and I sort of feel like we beat the system a tiny bit by not buying Valentines for E. to hand out to her friends). And while I don’t save all my love and romanticism for one day a year, I can revel in the fact that I have the best Valentine’s in the world.

The last two days have been, for a lack of a better word, monumental for me. People looking outside of my head might not understand why, because nothing obviously earth-shattering has happened.

But somethings have happened and my perspective on how my life has drastically shifted and it feels completely amazing.

I’m going to share the first part now, because it’s the best part.

This is my kid:

She’s amazing. Brilliant. Beautiful.

It’s not that I haven’t realized before that I have been blessed with a really, really great kid, but lately I’ve found that I’ve really been able to tap into the fact that I am parenting her. Maybe this is the aftermath or side effect of actually sitting down and writing and reading my , but I finally am starting to sort of feel like what I’m doing with my daughter as her mother is consciously clicking into place.

I’m not saying I suddenly have all the answers, that I’m doing it perfectly, that I’m a great (or even good) mom, I’m just saying I finally, for the first time, don’t feel like I’m going to ruin my child for life.

In the next couple of days I plan on posting some of the strategies we’ve deliberately have enlisted to help that connection between what we’re doing as parents and who are child is become more alive. I’m really excited to share, even if it’s old news to most parents and possibly reveals my huge faults as a mother. I just want to put it down because I am so relieved I’m finally feeling like I’m kind of getting it (and by “it”, I mean how to finally engage myself as a parent, not how to actually parent correctly…if that makes any sense…because I’m still clueless there).