15 September 2018

Gak is Not Forever

Last week Livia started preschool, a 2-year-old program three days per week at a nearby church. We chose to have her stay for lunch and nap to give me more time to get some work done. (I have picked up a very part time writing job at a local magazine, but we decided to do the 9-2 hours from Minneapolis thinking we could always change to 9-12 later.) So far she is LOVING school, and staying for lunch (from her "womey-womey," aka Wonder Woman, lunch box!) and a rest/nap has been a treat for her.

We were down to one nursing per day, just before her nap. And on Monday 9/10 I nursed her for the last time before that nap. I didn't KNOW it would be the last, but I suspected it, and the tears began flowing. After school on Tuesday (when she didn't actually sleep at school), I asked if she wanted "gak" when we were home. She said yes, but then we got distracted by a Daniel Tiger episode (then carpool to get Jane -- half my day is spent in the car it seems!), and she just didn't nurse.

She didn't ask Wednesday or Thursday either and I didn't offer, and my emotional stability bottomed out. I cried throughout the day, at night and have been short-tempered (even more short-tempered than normal). I got into it with a teacher at the preschool carpool (to be fair she stuck her finger in my face to point to where she wanted me to go next time, but I did NOT react well or really safely given that I was driving a huge vehicle!), and I haven't been my best dealing with all the range of emotions and first-grader upsets that came my way.

Liv DID ask for gak on Friday when we were together again for nap time, but I told her the gak is all gone. (It really is, sad as I feel about it.) She said OK, and we rocked and sang. She eventually went to sleep in her crib (and she slept Wednesday and Thursday at school -- I think the trick is to let her take her shoes off!).

So we made it to 29 months of nursing, and when combined with the 26 months I nursed Jane I was a breastfeeding mom for four and a half years. (My blog post about nursing Jane ending is Num Nums are Not Forever -- funny that the girls had different names for nursing).

Nursing mama was a role I have played for more than half of my motherhood so far. I know it is a brief season in the scheme of it all. But it was so treasured, and I'm definitely grieving the end of it. I'm proud of myself for nourishing my girls in this way. They're both healthy and growing, and I have plenty of mothering left to do. But I still feel hollowed out from the transition.

11 August 2018

Review: Stretched Too Thin

Stretched Too Thin: How Working Moms Can Lose the Guilt, Work Smarter, and ThriveStretched Too Thin: How Working Moms Can Lose the Guilt, Work Smarter, and Thrive by Jessica N. Turner
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Although I'm not a "working" mom like Jessica I did get a part-time job the day I received the book. This book is geared for "working" moms, and it has lots of good insight and tips. I think stay-at-home and part-time working moms would find value in it too. We can ALL get stretched too thin even without outside employment being one of the stretchers!

I've been a follower of Jessica's blog and online channels for several years, probably since my first daughter was born more than six years ago. I like The Mom Creative, her blog, and think Jessica is an inspiration in the mommy blogging world as she's transitioned as the Internet has changed and her children have grown. She's still got a full-time, regular day job and three kids, so she's definitely the right person to write this book!

Stretched Too Thin is not overly religious, although there are some comments about prayer and faith plus the social aspects and benefits of attending church. I share Jessica's faith, but I don't think someone of another faith would be put off by it. The book is written from a place of privilege and wealth, so some might not relate to that.

I liked the organization of the book and the helpful information and empowering phrases. As a nosy person who loves the voyeurism of blogs/online personas I especially liked the memoir-ish parts of the book and learning how Jessica and her husband met. It's not heavily memoir at all, but she does include anecdotes from her own life plus those from other women who responded to her survey. (I can't remember if I responded to the survey since I'm not "working," but I probably did back when she asked people to.)

I listened to this audio book via an ARC. I rarely listen to books because I don't have much occasion to be on my own in the car and headphones while around my kids don't work especially well either. But I liked making the time to listen and hearing Jessica's voice, which I know from her videos. I don't know if I'll do the journaling exercises, but I will go download the resources once available.

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21 July 2018


We are back in Baton Rouge, in our house, our home. Home is where my girls and Shawn are, but it's nice to be back with all our stuff. Jane is especially looking forward to seeing her friends and church family again. She actually said she's READY for school to start again, so maybe the short, two-month summer break isn't a bad thing after all.

Things I Missed While In Minneapolis:
  • Our bed -- an iComfort with high thread count sheets
  • Separate space for Livia to sleep
  • Our laundry -- full size and fully vented so clothes are washed and dried in a SNAP
  • My desk -- a dedicated place for my computer to live, with a comfortable chair and space for my accoutrements
  • Covered parking right at my kitchen door -- in Minneapolis we parked on the opposite side of the building and one floor up, so door to car was an elevator ride and a block width away. Not ideal for toting groceries (or toddlers)
  • My full range of kitchen utensils and appliances. I had to make a 2nd birthday cake without a mixer, and we only had small skillets that were hard to clean
Things I Did NOT Miss While In Minneapolis
  • This stinky, steamy weather. There was a bit of warmth and humidity in MN, but it would dissipate after a few days, leading back to tolerably warm temps and lower humidity. The local weather there always talked about the humidity levels -- they don't even bother to mention that in the BR weather reports.
  • The monotony/smallness of Baton Rouge and how weird I feel here.
  • The lack of pools in Baton Rouge -- we are scheming to get invited to pools and deciding where we want to join to go to a pool. In the Twin Cities metro area we had our choice of splash pads and affordable pools/mini water parks to cool off (even when it wasn't THAT hot).
  • Most of our STUFF -- I missed a few pieces of clothes and shoes, but I definitely didn't miss all the books and papers and TOYS that clutter our house. Of course we acquired a lot of things while in Minnesota, so it's a losing battle no matter where I am living.
This is just a quick, off-the-top-of-my-head list. And I'm sure I'll think of others!

21 June 2018

No Baby Jails

If you're like me you've been deeply upset and shaken to the core by the news in the last week or so. I mean, the news has been bad for the last 18 months, but this was a new level of anxiety and terror and upset.

The Administration's "zero tolerance" policy for people coming to our border to be charged with a crime and jailed. Those traveling with children have the kids taken away and also jailed. There are CHILDREN IN CAGES who were put there by the U.S. government.

I've scrolled Twitter reading in horror and even seen a few posts on Facebook (my FB feed trends neutral since most people I know IRL are conservative to right wing and I've blocked most of their propaganda posts). I've had agitated conversations with my husband (just the awfulness/not that we disagree).

I know people in my life applaud the "zero tolerance" policy and separating families, and I honestly don't know how to reconcile that. It's been bad enough being family with people who celebrate white supremacy, bigotry, racism, sexism and hatred. Child abuse wasn't something I was expecting. How can you convince someone that other people matter?!?!?!

I do plan to gather the girls and take them with me to a protest next Saturday. I'm not sure how to explain this to Jane or what's really appropriate, but I also know we need to stand up for what's right. And this policy, even this backpedaling that's happened, just is not right. Families belong together (and NOT in jail for seeking asylum)!

Here are some of the tweets I've liked or retweeted over the past couple days:

And this one, which is so true in my experience as a full-time caregiver I can feel it in my teeth:
And basically this:

14 June 2018

Goodbye Fitness Tracking?

I really like my FitBit. I never connected with anyone on the app (I wasn't sure if other people could see my sleep patterns or weight inputs, etc.), but I thought it was fun to have the data and compare to myself, trying to motivate more movement.

I got the FitBit Flex as a gift from my mom in December 2015, just before Livia was born. It was exactly what I wanted and I loved it. I even wore it while in labor, to track my steps ... but it died. It OFTEN died, and there was never any warning or battery level indicator unless I connected to the app, which I didn't regularly do. So that was a negative, but I if charged it a couple times a week, it was enough so that it was usually working.

But the charger was not great. I complained on Twitter and got a replacement, but it wasn't any better. The design is just terrible. The actual FitBit doesn't fit snugly into the charger -- there's a tiny gap that prevents it from making contact with the charger without pressure. So I could push it in, hold it and it would start flashing that it was charging. But when I'd remove my hand it would lose the connection and stop. I would tap it in the charger and eventually get it to start charging, but it was always a several minute annoying routine.

I went through three of the plastic/rubber holder bracelets, and it was fun to order new ones. You can get knock off ones that work just as well as the more expensive FitBit branded ones. The connection for the bands is kind of weird -- a small metal piece that connects the two ends but is actually separate. So if it falls out (and sometimes it did) the band just comes off. I always noticed when that happened, and it didn't happen often, but just a weird design flaw.

I could connect to a FitBit app on my computer with the USB dongle. I liked that a lot, since I don't have the best phone (low memory and old/slow), although a phone connection was possible. I had to have WiFi for it to show me the steps even if it was connected via Bluetooth.

One of the deal blogs I read posted about a fitness tracker available on Amazon, this Wesoo Fitness Tracker. There was a coupon code so the tracker was only $20. (I know my refurbished Flex was more than that!) On paper it checked off a lot of boxes: the charging was direct USB -- just take the tracker off the band and plug it in, it showed the time (so I wouldn't also need to wear a separate watch) and had a battery indicator on the face of the watch, so I knew when to charge it. And its charging time was quick. The watch band works just like a normal watch, with the pin in the holes, so less likely to fall off.

The watch face was a great feature. It would come on MOST times that I moved my wrist in a "look at the time" motion. But I could not view it when in full sun, which happens more than I thought, since I have play group, field day and playgrounds, etc. So that was a drag.

The step count on the Wesoo was much higher than the FitBit. I'm not sure which was actually accurate. I know the FitBit will track "steps" when I crochet or rock, but it won't do steps when I'm pushing a cart or stroller (often), so I thought the Wesoo *might* be more accurate by counting the stroller steps, but some mornings the Wesoo would have steps counted before I got out of bed. (Up to 100!)

Another negative was that I couldn't connect it to my computer. The app on my phone worked OK, but as soon as I installed it my phone wouldn't connect to my car anymore to play music. I uninstalled and still couldn't make it work. It wasn't until I uninstalled the fitness app and re-installed an Android Auto app that I got the phone and car talking again. But that was the end of my use of the fitness tracker, since there's not a way to view my steps or data over time.

Maybe I will try again when I get a new phone, or maybe this is really goodbye to fitness tracking. I really need to get back in a gym routine with weights and cardio...

10 May 2018

Read: Inspired: Slaying Giants, Walking on Water, and Loving the Bible Again

Inspired: Slaying Giants, Walking on Water, and Loving the Bible AgainInspired: Slaying Giants, Walking on Water, and Loving the Bible Again by Rachel Held Evans
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

A new book from Rachel Held Evans? I'm in! I've read all her previous work, and I can't remember quite how I first heard of her writing. Probably through her blog.

This book approaches a lot of questions I wrestle with about the Bible (genocide, slavery and submissiveness for women to name a few). There are answers and more questions, but I'm especially drawn to the memoir parts, where Rachel writes about her life and faith journey. This book is so much more than that with lots of research and sources that could keep a person reading for ages! (Relate-able line in the book: "I know I can’t read my way out of this dilemma, but that won’t keep me from trying.")

"Inspired" is organized around different Bible story types, including familiar stories rewritten from various perspectives that are really engaging. The final chapter addressing Paul and his writings was particularly meaningful to me, but they're all, well, inspiring.

I would recommend "Inspired" to anyone wondering about the many contradictions in the Christian Bible and how to hold those while maintaining faith in a loving, good Creator. The Bible is a collection of stories that together point to an overarching story, a story that I cannot quit or dismiss. A story around which I try to build my life and in which I'm raising my girls.

I finished the book in tears (maybe because of the dedication to her family and son), and looking back at my blog about reading her previous books it seems that's a theme: crying my contacts out when I finish an RHE book! (Still waiting for a truly motherhood-focused book, although I'm sure I'd cry the entire way through that one!)

I received an Advance Reader Copy of the book from the publisher. The book will be released June 12. (I also bought myself a hard copy that will come next month!) You can pre-order here: https://rachelheldevans.com/inspired.

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23 April 2018

Lego Crayons: Treasure from Trash

A family who was also visiting "the U" left earlier this month and passed along some things they had acquired: crayons and books. The books were from a Little Free Library, so back there they will go. But the crayons were ROUGH, and we already had multiple bags of crayons, including a new box that we got at the Crayola Experience (so much fun). I had never seen so many broken crayons -- in this whole big bag I found three that were intact. The family is three boys (2, 4 and 12), but I was still surprised that most were snapped entirely. I knew my girls wouldn't use them, but what to do, what to do?

I'd made melted crayons before, when Jane was littler, and had just used a muffin tin. They'd turned into chunks that Jane played with as cookies and weren't that useful for coloring. It was a failed attempt at reusing old crayons. But after seeing the fun shapes we could make with melted wax at the Crayola Experience (bull, ring and car), I did some more googling and Amazon shopping and got some Lego-shaped silicone molds to give it another try. I did the first batch on my own, just to make sure it would work.

To unwrap the crayons I found that soaking them in warm water with dish soap worked best. I tried X-acto knife, but it wasn't as effective. Crayons from the Crayola Experience (with custom labels) wouldn't let go of their labels -- they were sticky all the way around, and normal labels are just sticky on the parts that touch the rest of the label and came off easily. So I had to trash some of the crayons anyway.

I separated the crayons by color and snapped them to fit into the molds, overfilling to allow the melted wax to fill the mold. I put the molds onto a cookie sheet for ease of in-out of the oven. The second batch I put foil on the pan to keep it clean. Important step!

I started with a low oven, about 200, but later found that higher, 250 or even 300, gave better results (and faster). It took about 30 minutes, and the smaller ones melted and filled faster than the large Lego guy (who is the favorite plaything!). I checked every 10 minutes, and stirring with a chopstick helped the last bits melt for the big guy. I let them cool completely -- I put one in the freezer and it definitely speeds things up but you need to pull them out of the freezer and let them come back to room temperature before you unmold because they're too old and will snap. (Ask me how I know... although I re-melted that guy in the next attempt and he was fine.)

Even Shawn was impressed and has been trying to think of whether we could make our own molds. We've taken what's basically trash (nubs and scrubs of crayons that we'd never use) into treasure, or at least some toys the girls will play with. They've "built" with the Lego bricks (they don't snap together since they're flat on the bottom) and had adventures with the little guys. They've colored with them a bit, mostly to smooth out the feet and make them more even. I think trying mixed colors and watching carefully before they swirl would be fun. We have a TON more crummy crayons at home in BR, so that's one more reason to look forward to going back! These would be so fun as birthday favors or just give-aways to classmates.

Edit to add: Washable crayons don't work as well. They work, but the washable part will separate and float to the top, leaving a milky top layer that won't color at all. We have a few guys with that on their back, and Jane's solution is to shave it away (in theory ... we haven't done it yet).