Resolutions and New Calendars

I love the new year. I love looking back on the year past, I love thinking about and making resolutions for a better me. I love the new, crisp calendar that hangs on my wall. I love the idea of starting fresh.

Looking back.

2011 was a hard year. I recently called it my hardest year, though it has some tough competition from 2008. Everything changed. I found out I was pregnant mere days after I decided I would never be pregnant again. I faced my worst fears. I lost control – of my body during my pregnancy and of my home during a remodel. I left a job and coworkers I loved to stay at home with my daughter, which threw everything I thought I knew about myself into a tailspin. I walked a hard path with my mom as she struggled with her health, visited countless doctors, and went through two painful and serious surgeries. I gave birth to a beautiful and sweet baby girl, who was literally taken out of my arms and rushed to the NICU. I spent five long, scary, painful days in the hospital with her while recovering from my own surgery. I saw my sweet little dog’s health fail and eventually make his life too much of a hardship to bear. I said a sad goodbye to him two weeks after my daughter was born, when my life was in that newborn chaos of sleeplessness, love, and disarray. I saw my grandpa’s health decline so far and so fast that I barely got a chance to say goodbye. I watched my sweet toddler struggle with her new sister, with being two, with growing up.

Resolutions for a better me.

2010 was a year about me. I focused on myself – mind, body and soul – and ended that year feeling the best I’ve ever felt. 2011, on the other hand, saw me giving my body over to pregnancy again. I feel lost inside this me.

I will find myself again. I will emerge healthier, happier, and in control.

I can be quick to judge. Being critical is easy. It can make you feel like part of the in-crowd, it can make you feel superior by casting others as inferior. If you’re gossiping, it’s easy to think that maybe no one is gossiping about you…but in reality, the opposite is true. Open the door of judgement, and you will be judged. On the other hand, kindness begets kindness.

I will keep an open mind. I will give people the benefit of the doubt. I will be kind. I will take the high road, even if it’s the harder road.

Leaving my job meant leaving work I was good at and skills that were valued. I’ve struggled with my identity since being home. Who am I now? What am I good at? What are my skills? Changing diapers, making lunch, reading books – it can be hard to feel important and skilled when your life is the minutiae of parenting. It’s a struggle to maintain independence when my job is to be someone’s mom 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. I love and cherish my children with my whole soul, but I still want and strive to be an autonomous person.

I will take time for myself. I will learn new things and continue to enrich my life outside of my children, while still working to be the best mom I can be.

Starting fresh.

I am ready and excited for the year ahead. I can’t wait to see every member of my little family grow and learn and laugh. I know I will stumble, and occasionally fall. But I will pick up, brush off, and keep going.

I am looking forward to a 2012 that is better, brighter, and happier than ever.

For me. For my family.

And for you, too.

– ALW

Yuletide

It’s December. The tree is up. The ornaments are hung and the lights are lit. There’s a wreath on our door with, at my daughter’s request, a big red bow. The gifts are purchased and the calendar is filled with plans for holiday cheer.

Growing up, Christmas was a magical time for me. My Grandma would announce the holidays with a jubilant, “It would be Christmastime!” We’d plan a family trip to pick out out our tree from a grocery store lot sponsored by our town’s Jaycees. My mom would play Christmas records as she decorated our house, and my sister and I would beg her to play French Jingle Bells just one more time. We still laugh about the made-up lyrics we used to sing along.

My birthday falls six days before Christmas, and as a kid, I’d pretend the world was lit up in red and green and gold just for me. I reveled in the cheer, in the kindness, in the giving and, of course, the receiving. I’d pick out cheap gifts for my whole family at my school’s holiday fair, and could barely stand the wait for Christmas day to hand them out.

I loved singing in my school’s Christmas program. I loved wrapping, sharing secrets of gifts and surprises, and getting together with family. I loved the tradition of making a family pilgrimage to remember the dear ones we’ve lost. I loved the snow, the joy, the music in the air.

When I got wise to the myth of Santa, I didn’t tell my parents for more than two years. One year, they finally took me out for a slice of pie and hot chocolate and asked me point blank if I still believed. I was the youngest in my family and I was so sad to close the door on what had been a lovely and magical and beautiful part of my childhood.

In this day and age, I know it’s perhaps a bit uncool to declare my love of the holidays. Christmas fatigue is strong, as stores start the season earlier than ever before. Black Friday is often a display of consumerism at its worst. The whole holiday can be marked by conspicuous consumption, which feels distasteful in these hard economic times. Big business competes to get bigger, folks sink further into debt, and forced togetherness can be stressful. Santa has fallen on hard times as many families wonder what, exactly, children can learn from a big fat man who breaks into our homes and brings our children material things.

Yes, Christmas can bring out the worst in us.

But to me, it’s so much more than that.

I want my daughters to have wonderful memories of the holidays like I do. I want them to sing carols and watch the night sky for Santa. I want them to feel kindness in their hearts as they pick out a gift for someone they love or give a toy to a child in need. I want them to daydream about a village in the North Pole where magic happens. I want them to know that magic can jump out of the storybooks and touch their lives. I want them to have memories of cocoa on cold nights, of hanging ornaments and making paper snowflakes. I want them to wake up in December to a festive house and twinkling lights. I want them to know the songs and the stories – the lessons of Scrooge and Bob Cratchit, the beautiful cadence of the Night Before Christmas read aloud, the sweet melancholy of Charlie Brown.

I want them to have one day each year where all their hopes and dreams come true in spectacular fashion.

I want them to know the importance of family, the importance of time spent together. I want them to feel the raucous, chaotic joy of a room of 60 people who, despite living different lives in different places, truly love one another.

I want to teach them that we can and should put aside our differences at this time of year. That perhaps those differences aren’t so big after all. And maybe – just maybe – if we can do it at Christmastime, we can do it throughout the year.

So, this Christmas season, you’ll find me shopping and sending cards and baking cookies.

My house? It’s the one with the big red bow. I’ll be singing “Jingle Bells” with my toddler for the 27th time today. I’ll be driving to see family, to have a drink with a friend or through the lights display in the park. We’ll be at the much-maligned mall, sitting on Santa’s lap.

Charles Dickens said it best. Although Christmas “has never put a scrap of gold or silver in my pocket, I believe that it has done me good, and will do me good; and I say, ‘God bless it.'”

– ALW

Giveaway Wrap-up

Our final giveaway closed yesterday morning, and per random.org, Marki was the chosen winner of Summer Pierre’s cheesecake tote. Marki said that she would carry her scrapbooking supplies in the tote. Tote away!

I’m happy to go back to writing words for a few people to read, but are giveaways something you’d like me to bring here from time to time? Let me know either way.

Limited Edition Print: Children's Books, by Summer Pierre

Before I sign off, a huge thanks again to Enid, Lily, Ellen and Summer for participating with their crafty wares. I really appreciate it, and I think the recipients will, too!

– MD

Cussing, Cursing, Swearing and Bad Words

I come from a fine line of people who use bad language. As a garnish, really, but hailing from East Coast Jews means that in addition to some situations being blown out of proportion – both good and bad – say, the freshness of shrimp in shrimp salad (I know, treif), or baseball – I heard a lot of cursing when I was little. I looked forward to the day when I would be allowed to use some of the same language.

I don’t have issue with Miss Red one day using curse words, as long as it’s at our house, and ideally, not directed at me.

So I ask you:
1. What terminology do you use – cussing, cursing, bad language, swearing?
2. Do you, or will you have any rules for your children in regards to the above?

– MD

Cheesecake Tote Giveaway, Courtesy of Summer Pierre

UPDATE: THIS IS NOW CLOSED – MD

Is anyone else out there ready to cry now that it is completely dark at 4:45 p.m.? This happens each year, and the turning of the tables on this time thing will change soon, but goodness gracious, hold me.

Thanks for those who played along with the upcycled knit baby hat giveaway. Using random.org the two winners were selected. Congratulations to Nina and Joeli! I will be in touch about your hats. Hope your girls wear them in health and warmth! Thanks again to Ellen!

Are you ready for my final giveaway? It’s pretty rad, and as I mentioned earlier, it comes all the way from New York City. For us Midwesterners, that’s a mighty big deal. Well, maybe not as much, according to this article. I can also throw some attitude, because I lived there, yo, when I was little.

Our final giveaway is a cheesecake tote. Not a tote made out of cheesecake, but a tote with a depiction of a cheesecake on it. Behold:

Cheesecake tote by Summer Pierre

Artist, musician, poet and mama Summer Pierre is kind enough to offer this. Summer and I met at a Lynda Barry writing workshop years ago at the Omega Institute in Rhinebeck, NY. I remember seeing a woman smiling and doodling on the chartered bus we took from downtown NYC to the Omega campus, and lo and behold, that fantastic woman was in my class. There was very much a camp-like feel to the process, but somehow we ended up sitting next to one another during meals, chatted, and have stayed in touch every since. It’s like real-life sleep-away camp and the friends you make from it FOR EVER.

Summer is the real deal, folks. She has made and sold CDs, run a successful Etsy shop, and published two books, The Artist in the Office: How to Creatively Survive and Thrive Seven Days a Week, and Great Gals: Inspired Ideas for Living a Kick-Ass Life, along with her Forgive Me zines, volumes 1-4. She does all of this, and more. Thank you, Summer, for offering this giveaway.

Here’s how you can enter:
1. Visit summerpierre.com and poke around.
2. Subscribe to her blog.
3. Visit her Etsy store, and add her to your favorites circle if you are a member.
4. If you are on Twitter, follow her feed @summerpierre.
5. Comment below on what you would tote around in your cheesecake tote.

The giveaway closes Wednesday, December 7 at 8 a.m. CST. One entry per e-mail address is permitted. One winner will be selected using random.org and announced on Wednesday evening.

Good luck!

– MD

The Rhythm

We welcomed our sweet baby girl into our world almost four months ago already. I can hardly believe how fast the time is flying by.

I find myself living between worlds constantly in search of my rhythm, my family’s rhythm. As soon as I think I have found it, we are off embarking on a new chapter.

*   *   *   *   *
Pregnant. Summer off. Home with toddler. Moving. New baby. Toddler back to daycare. Working from home. At-work working mama.

Dressing. Feeding. Cleaning. Drop off. Pick up. Playing. Loving. Off to bed. Exhausted.

Running around all day being mindful that my “work” hours are actually my most restful. Finding myself missing out on the sweetness that are my children as I’m rushing and stressing trying to get by. Maybe even on time.

*   *   *   *   *
Between the tears of getting our shoes on right out of bed, I almost missed my boy singing jingle bells as we walked out the door.

Slowing down. Trying to do it all. Finding new ways to enjoy the moments.

Smelling the evergreens

*   *   *   *   *
I find myself unsettled. Balancing my work and my family, not to mention myself, precariously between each other. Never quite able to feel satisfied in any area.

I am so grateful to have a job that I adore for so many reasons. I am challenged. I am rewarded. I am granted the flexibility every working parent should have. I am able to do work that is meaningful to me. I am grateful. And yet.

I so long to spend the days being a mama to my kiddos, with my kiddos.

*   *   *   *   *
Crafting and snuggling.
Singing and exploring.
Learning and doing.

Enjoying the rhythm that I found so natural.
Enjoying every moment of each of my children growing up.
So fast.

*   *   *   *   *
It’s different for me after my first child. Returning after my first maternity leave left me longing to snuggle and stare at my baby. The second return to maternity leave is different. I am longing to be with both baby and toddler. My heart hurts that I am missing out. And yet.

I wish I would be satisfied and satiated, as well as able, to be a stay at home mama. I don’t think I would be, but I don’t know. I wish I could know if it would be enough for me. Then it may not be so hard to go to work.

*   *   *   *   *
Today is day four back in the office. I can’t say that it’s any easier than the first. Perhaps even harder as I can identify the rough spots in my rhythm. In our rhythm. Thinking of the moments I’m missing, even when I’m there.

I try to find comfort in remembering the rhythm will always be constantly changing.  As hard as it is with so much on our full, lush plate, all I can do is welcome and try to enjoy the flow.

– NVC

December Giveaway from Ellen Carlson of Half-Pint Resale

UPDATE: THIS IS NOW CLOSED. – MD

December! December is here!

Aloha, friends. November wrapped up nicely, and while I didn’t make my daily posting goal of NaBloPoMo, I’m glad that I posted more and introduced giveaways from crafty mamas, in time for the holidays.

I’m also happy to announce that Polly is the winner of the Ten Finger Workshop teeny tiny clothespin people. Polly, we’ll be in touch.

Our next giveaway is from someone who makes a difference in people’s lives each and every day. Not only does she work for a non-profit, she also, ya know, in her spare time, co-runs the insanely awesome and amazing Half-Pint Resale. And sews and crafts and cooks like mad. I mean, the woman barely sleeps and always, and I mean always, makes time for her friends. I am also very lucky to count her as one of my closest friends, and her youngest son and Miss Red have a kindred friendship like none other.

A and Miss Red

So, thanks to Ellen of Half-Pint Resale and wearer of many other hats, our next giveaway is two, yes two, upcycled knit baby hats. They come in Size 0-3 months and 3-9 months.

Upcycled knit baby hats from Ellen Carlson

Miss Red wore them everywhere the first year of her life and I buy one each time a friend has a baby.

Miss Red in a hat by Ellen Carlson

They are completely unique and awesome. The photos above are examples; the two she will provide will be different.

Here’s how to enter:

1. Visit Half-Pint Resale’s Facebook page and friend them.
2. If you are on Twitter, follow their feed, @halfpintresale.
3. Check out Ellen’s personal blog for more information about her hats and custom shirts.
4. Comment below on who you would place the hat on.

Two lucky winners will receive one hat each! The giveaway closes Sunday, December 4 at 8 a.m. CST. One entry per e-mail address is permitted. The winners will be selected using random.org and announced on Sunday evening, when the final giveaway will be posted.

Good luck!

– MD

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