Tuesday, January 31, 2012

etsy find of the day.

This is a totally uncompensated review -- but I'm in love!

(all images in this post from Parker and Posie's etsy shop)

Aren't these the cutest baby shoes? Plus, they actually stay on -- seriously. My cousin bought L this darling pair (from the fabulous Etsy shop Parker and Posie) last spring before her arrival and I can't get over how fantastic they are.

Not only do they come in all kinds of sweet patterns, but you can even get them custom made with your baby's name printed on them:

Considering how well made these are -- and how well they stay on -- it's no wonder Jaimie's shop is in "vacation mode" while she catches up on orders! When she's back in business, I'll be the first in line to place an order. Love supporting other crafty moms, too!

And speaking of Etsy shops...the target date for my shop to open is March 20th! More details to come -- stay tuned! :)

Monday, January 30, 2012

monday morning mixtape.

Hey there -- a happy Monday to you!

Something old, something new:

Lauryn Hill's "Doo Wop (That Thing)" (I still think this is one of the best music videos ever)

Common's "Lovin' I Lost"

Hope you had a fantastic weekend -- I did!

Friday, January 27, 2012

it's Friday: I'm in love.

Dear baby,

I don't care if Monday's blue -- Tuesday's gray and Wednesday, too. Thursday, I don't care about you (the day, not you, baby!). It's Friday I'm in love.

And despite my complaints to the contrary, it is always such a gorgeous sight to see you in the middle of the night.

You can never get enough of this stuff.

Love you, L.

(With gratitude and apologies to The Cure)

Thursday, January 26, 2012

this week's adventures in motherhood: who am I?

"In truth, nothing is more malleable than motherhood." That sentence, taken from a brilliant and troubling essay by Erica Jong, has been rattling around in my head lately. A good friend of mine emailed me a copy when I was pregnant and asked for my thoughts -- and this week I revisited what I said then because I was curious to know what a difference 8 months of parenting can make.

At the time I read it (back in November of 2010, when I had just announced my pregnancy), I didn't understand any of the pressures Jong talks about. Sure, I knew about all of the "breast is best" campaigning and the mommy wars over whether being a SAHM or a nine-to-fiver was harder/lonelier/more stressful/going to get you to heaven faster. But the immediacy of this -- the feeling that every little move I make as a mother has some kind of profound, irreversible impact on my child -- didn't resonate. That didn't happen until 4:22pm on May 24th.

There's so much to talk about in Jong's article, and I don't really want to get into a debate about third wave feminism or the political implications of mothering choices, at least not today (later, maybe!). But I do want to talk about me (who doesn't?) and my own choices as a new mother -- some that I made consciously and some that I didn't.


Before: Totally for it. Read several books, went to breastfeeding classes, watched instructional videos online, felt strongly that I would nurse exclusively for the first 6 months and would wean my baby at a year. Figured I would do semi-scheduled feedings, accounting for my and baby's needs.
8 months out: Hated every single second of it for the first three months. Thought about switching to exclusive pumping. None of the "training" prepared me for how difficult it would be and had to invent a breastfeeding position that would work for us when all of the football + cross-cradle + side-lying "standards" weren't working. Nurse on demand. No real plans for weaning -- no plans to nurse for years, either, but have sort of adopted a laissez-faire attitude about the whole thing.


Before: Determined to cloth diaper, despite the lack of a diaper service in my town. Extensive research into types and styles. Purchased AIOs to help my husband come to terms with it -- he's a crazy germophobe and the less handling the better. Figured we would use Seventh Generation diapers for the first month or two to get into the groove, then switch over.
8 months out: Still haven't used them. Feel guilty every single day.


Before: Baby will sleep in her own crib at times determined by us. "Crying it out" didn't sound like the best idea, but didn't sound like the worst either -- figured we'd do it if it would help her to sleep soundly.
8 months out: Baby was in our room in a bassinet until 5 months (and I was really sad when we moved her out). Co-sleeping during the first month or two when she wouldn't stop crying happened semi-regularly -- with me on the living room or nursery floor next to her, because my husband was so opposed to having her in our bed. A few bouts of "check and console" but definitely no leaving to cry (low-level fussing, however, I will ignore for long stretches). And regular nap times? You're so funny!

Personal lives.

Before: Thought I should probably take the summer off from my grad classes. Figured I'd be back in my church choir by August, would have my Etsy shop up and running in the fall, planned to join the local community orchestra, and thought we'd try to find a regular babysitter for date nights.
8 months out: You read this blog, right?

At first, the comparison between the before and after answers was really difficult for me. I'm such a by-the-book person -- it's hard to feel that I'm "breaking the rules" on what the experts say or even what I had thought I wanted pre-baby. I remember my husband saying to me at one point, "Just give me a book that says 'do this and everything will be fine' and, even if I disagree with it, I will do exactly what it says." I felt like that so much, too. And every time something failed or things didn't go as planned or I threw a previously-held belief about parenting out the window, it felt so massive: what if this ruins my baby forever?

But that's a great example of before and after thinking, too. 8 months out? We're doing fine. Jong's last sentences feel right to me: "We need to be released from guilt about our children, not further bound by it. We need someone to say: Do the best you can. There are no rules." I make mistakes every day -- oh well. I also make some great decisions, too. L is thriving, because of and despite my best efforts bumblings as a new mom. And flying by the seat of my pants has turned out to not be as scary as I thought it would be -- at least, not all the time.

Thanks for indulging my trip down memory lane with some early photos of L today :)

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Thinking Fast and Slow by Daniel Kahneman

I have a real problem with thinking that people are idiots. I'm working on it -- but in the meantime, here's a book by someone who kinda thinks the same thing but has research to back it up.

You've seen this video before, right?

Super cute kids trying so, so hard not to eat a marshmallow (because if they can hold out, they get two -- the agony!). But do you know much about the actual psychology behind this experiment? Daniel Kahneman's Thinking Fast and Slow explores the importance of the kind of mental processes that enable that darling kid from 2:50 to be a much more successful adult than that little redhead girl at 3:10. Seriously -- we can predict that just from this little video!

Kahneman isn't the guy behind this experiment, of course -- that's Walter Mischel. But Kahneman (he won the Nobel Prize in Economics, by the way) takes the Marshmallow Experiment and other psychological studies like it and paints a somewhat-scary picture of human nature. Remember when Rob Gordon (aka the always-great John Cusack) tells us, in High Fidelity, that his "gut's got sh!t for brains"? He wasn't far off.

Kahneman breaks down our minds into two basic systems. System 1 is our "fast" way of thinking -- our instinctive gut reactions based on emotional responses. System 2 is "slow" -- deliberate, logical, purposeful. Too often, we rely on System 1 (even when we think we're using System 2!), and this is what gets us into a whole heap of trouble.

Here are some examples Kahneman uses in his book. Some of these probably work a little better if I were to say them to you out loud rather than just having you read them, but so are the constraints of blogging! Ready for a pop quiz?

Tuesday, January 24, 2012


Have you been participating in the photo-a-day challenge? I found out about it from Cassie and jumped in on day 5 -- I've been posting my pictures to Twitter. Here are some of my favorites so far:

It's been an awesome way for me to practice with my new camera -- I am still very much a beginner but it's fun to play around with the settings and learn what works and what doesn't. I was really impressed with myself for figuring out how to take a cool sunburst shot -- until I looked at it on my computer and realized some crap had gotten on my lens.

Oh well.

I'm going to be using some of my new skillz (yeah, that's right) to take some pictures of L today -- it's her 8-month birthday! She's currently celebrating by singing and laughing to herself in her crib instead of going down for her nap, which is really too cute to be frustrated by. Almost.

Are you doing #JANphotoaday? Let me know so I can follow along!

Monday, January 23, 2012

monday morning mixtape.

Hey, all! Good morning!

I've been listening to Beirut's The Rip Tide while driving around town lately and can't get either of these two tracks out of my head:

"East Harlem"


p.s. update -- this just in: first track from Andrew Bird's new album, coming out March 6th! Can. Not. Wait.

Have an awesome Monday!

Friday, January 20, 2012

Friday roundup: this week's faves.

This week has been pretty amazing -- I feel like every single day was a great one, and I haven't felt that way in a while. If I could box it up to save for later, I would.

For today's Friday roundup (which I definitely didn't intend to be a weekly feature -- what happened?!), I thought I'd share the love by passing along some of my favorite posts from blogs you should totally be reading.

Amy's advice to her pregnant self.

Sara's post about women in the media.

Finley's all-for-under-$100, I-need-it-now outfit.

Mandy's awesome giveaway.

Kristina, PJ, Paige, and Carolyn have such cute kids! Plus, Kristina shares her vegan cake recipe from her daughter's first birthday party.

Everything about this blog and podcast. Wish I had known about it months ago!

This quote and sweet photos from Melissa. (Okay, more than a week ago -- but I still love it.)

If you stop by to visit, tell them I sent you. :)

I'm off to keep plugging away on the mini-makeover of our bedroom -- and to have one (or two, or three...) chocolate chip cookies we just got from a friend after a playdate. Score! Plus, the snow falling outside is soooo beautiful when you don't have to drive in it (another reason for my pro/con list?).

Oh -- and are we FB friends yet? We totally should be!

Happy weekend, all!

Thursday, January 19, 2012

this week's adventures in motherhood: decisions, decisions.

So while I'm steadily working towards my birthday resolutions, there's one really big one that I've been avoiding: deciding if I'm going back to work next year.

I've been employed as a teacher for 9 years, but I've really been a teacher for a lot longer than that -- head writing tutor in college, teaching assistant for my favorite class in high school as an independent study (yep, I'm that nerdy!), private violin instructor, swimming teacher, vacation bible school leader...all the way back to teaching my stuffed animals in the basement when I was 4 or 5. At an awards banquet my senior year of high school, I stood and listened to the presenter read a personal statement I had written in which I said that I hoped, in ten years, to be working on improving educational policy at a national level while the other students around me wished to be married with kids. Teaching is a true passion; I feel happy and fulfilled when I'm working with students, especially when those students are my fellow educators -- and my job as a literacy coach gives me the chance to do just that. Working with teachers to help them hone and perfect their craft to better reach and shape young minds? What could be better than that?

me, giving the commencement address at the school where I used to work

Even with all of that passion for teaching, I had always felt that I would quit my job if and when I had children, and I had planned to do just that, but my principal convinced me to apply for a year leave instead so that I'd have a chance to see how I felt once I actually had a baby. And now I find myself in a difficult position: do I stay home with L, or return to my job next fall?

I admit that I'm incredibly lucky I even get to make this decision in the first place. So many parents find themselves forced to go to work for financial reasons, and I am grateful every day that we planned very carefully so that, when we moved here almost three years ago, our mortgage and monthly expenses would be entirely covered by my husband's salary -- everything I made was icing on the cake and savings for our future. It's tight, and we have to budget and go without, but we can do it, and I'm very fortunate to have a husband who says "Do whatever makes you happiest."

with the co-captains of the amazing speech + debate team I used to coach

But what makes me happiest? I love who I am at work -- I feel confident, responsible, valued as an integral part of something that matters. I like getting dressed up for work, getting to check things off my to-do list, moving towards a goal with a purpose and a greater good. I like the thought of life-beyond-parenting, of having experiences to call my own, of interacting with adults and knowing that people care what I have to say.

At the same time -- this time with my daughter is fleeting. I will never be able to get it back. Having a child is the greatest teaching job of a lifetime -- why would I skip it to spend time with other people's children?

too cool for school!

Have you ever had to make a difficult decision? What helped you figure out what really mattered to you?

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Operating Instructions by Anne Lamott

It's really hard not to love Anne Lamott.

If you haven't read any of her collected essays, drop what you're doing and get to the bookstore now -- she's that amazing. Self-deprecating, brilliant, insightful, and spot-on with her musings on parenting, writing, faith, and life in general.

I was lucky enough to receive Operating Instructions, a book that chronicles Lamott's first year as a single parent, for Christmas this year, and I tore through it (but plan to go back and reread sections many times over like I do with all her books!). My only regret is that I didn't read it sooner: I think it would have been quite the salve for my tired mama soul back in the early days of non-stop nursing sessions and tear-filled sleepless nights. I love how honest she is in her descriptions of life with her darling son Sam -- one minute she's gushing about how she could lose herself in his big beautiful eyes, and the next she's complaining about how she just wishes he would leave her alone so she could have some peace and quiet. Here's an example of two short observations from a single page of her book:

"Real tears leave his eyes now. It is almost more than I can take. Before, he'd be sobbing but there were no tears. Now there are. It seems an unfair advantage. Between the tears and the cooing and his crazy drunken-old-man smiles, it's almost unbearable. There's so much joy and pain and love and wonder in my chest and behind my eyes that it's like The Unbearable Lightness of Being. It's like Patsy Cline's voice. [...] I just can't get over how much babies cry. I really had no idea what I was getting into. To tell you the truth, I thought it would be more like getting a cat." (page 66, Anchor Books 1993 paperback edition)

Haven't all new parents -- heck, any parents -- felt that way (multiple times a day)? I like that she is bold enough to admit not only her frustrations with parenting but her overwhelming love of it, as well -- it's easy to fall into the "I hate my kids" or "Having children is the most amazing thing that has ever happened to me" camps when the reality of it is, of course, somewhere in between.

There are so many amazing passages I want to share with you -- my book is already filled with tiny little slips of paper marking all kinds of words of wisdom and parts that made me laugh and paragraphs that sounded exactly like the voice in my own head. Here's one more -- Lamott and three-month-old Sam had just experienced the 1989 San Francisco earthquake, after which she realized with horror that her first thoughts were not about the safety of other people but about how the disaster would affect the sales of her recently-released novel:

"I know Sam will grow up and have all these terrible secret thoughts, too. His self-centered, petty, envious, conniving mule-stupid side will haunt him; he will be plagued by terrible self-doubts and fear. I hope I can remember to tell him then that on the night of the 1989 earthquake, I was trying to figure out how distributors would be able to get copies of my book into the stores, what with the Bay Bridge down and all. I guess he'll have to figure out someday that he is supposed to have this dark side, that it is part of what it means to be human, to have the darkness just as much as the light -- that in fact the dark parts make the light visible; without them, the light would disappear. But I guess he has to figure other stuff out first, like how to keep his neck from flopping all over the place and how to sit up." (page 77)

And that, my friends, is the best description of parenting I can think of: crippling fear and self-doubt, an overwhelming desire to protect your child, the uncomfortable knowledge that you will someday have to let them go, and then the relief that it's all just one day at a time.

Final verdict: ****

Don't forget to pass along your book recommendations -- I'm always looking for a great new read!

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

working towards a resolution.

My mom came to visit this weekend, so I got to spend a whole bunch of time working on my birthday resolution #6: purging my house of all sorts of things we don't need. I started in the kitchen and filled a huge box + a garbage bag -- it's embarrassing that our cupboards are still bursting at the seams, but it feels great anyway.  So far, haven't missed a single item. I also started tackling our bedroom in order to do an on-the-cheap remodel (check out my pinterest board for the inspiration!).

In the meantime, baby + "Gramma B" got to spend a lot of quality time together. As we learned at Christmas time, playing with empty boxes is the best! So is knocking down tall towers -- especially now that L can crawl (she's been perfecting her technique over the past week or so).

What do you think -- does it look like she had a good time?

Can't wait to post some "after" pictures once the bedroom makeover is finished!

Monday, January 16, 2012

first snow, and a new way to connect.

Already did my usual Monday post but desperately wanted to share two things with you:

L experienced her first snowfall this weekend -- she wasn't quite sure what to think of it.

Her "snow angel" looks more like a CSI crime scene outline -- maybe next time she'll be more into flailing about! Note to self: must buy gloves that still allow me to use the buttons of my DSLR. My fingers were so icy by the time we got back inside...

I also wanted to let you know that you can find me on Facebook -- stop by and say hi! :)

monday morning mixtape.

Good morning!

Tunes to start your week:

"Freedom Hangs Like Heaven" by Iron and Wine.

"Dusty Boxcar Wall" by Eilen Jewell.

Have a wonderful Monday!

Friday, January 13, 2012

a different kind of Friday roundup.

Earlier this week, Katie over at Lovely Lady tagged me to play a little game of 20 questions, blog-style. Well, 11 questions really. I've been looking to finish my FAQ tab up there at the top of the blog and figure these are a great place to start!

1. What's your favorite zoo animal? A tapir. I've always loved their long noses and how it looks like they are wearing diapers! My husband bought me a tiny stuffed one a few years ago for my birthday -- I named her Tabitha.

2. Baby Sitter's Club or Sweet Valley Twins? First of all, isn't it Sweet Valley High? Or does that show my age? Anyway, Baby Sitter's Club all the way. Mallory was on our short list of baby names and I kept thinking about those books even though it totally wasn't the inspiration in any way!

3. What's the worst gift you've ever been given? Hmmm -- I can't think of anything that I truly hated. One Christmas Eve my mom let us open one gift early (we are a Christmas morning family) and I was super disappointed to unwrap a pair of socks instead of what I hoped would be a stuffed animal. And one time my grandmother gave me some handmade doilies my great-grandmother had made, which seems lovely, but she decided to sew them onto a cheap, bright purple sweatshirt. I won a "worst gift" contest in high school with that one!

4. Floral or polka dots? Loving both in different ways, but my gut reaction was to say polka dots!

5. What's your No. 1 guilty pleasure song? "Escape" by Gwen Stefani. I do not feel in the least guilty about it, though, when I drive around listening to it at full blast.

6. Can you cook? I bake a lot better than I cook, but yes I can!

7. Have you ever done karaoke? Yes, during RA training when I was in college. Can't remember now what I sang -- but I remember laughing pretty hard at the sweet little hall director who got dragged up to the stage and forced to sing Jimmy Buffett's "Why Don't We Get Drunk and Screw."

8. What's one country you would like to visit? Austria (Vienna, to be specific!). My husband and I planned to travel there after he got his Ph.D. back in 2009 but finances got in the way and we ended up going to Alaska instead. Maybe someday...

9. Heels or flats? Heels! I got a lot of flak for wearing them pretty much every day of my pregnancy, but I love them. I just boxed up at least three dozen pairs in an effort to slim down my closet, which was getting completely out of control (I also filled three giant Sterilite containers with clothes!). Sob! Here's what I'm sporting today:

(similar pair here -- proud to say I got them for half this price!)

10. Do you have Bieber Fever? Not in any way. I can't even name a single song by him!

11. Coke or Pepsi? I don't drink pop (can you tell where I'm from now?) -- my parents didn't allow it in the house when I was growing up, and when I had it at friends' houses, I couldn't even finish a can on my own until I was in college.

The second part of the challenge is to name 11 random things about myself. (Are you still with me?)

Thursday, January 12, 2012

this week's adventures in motherhood: vacation.

My husband (aka The Professor) is still on break in between his semesters -- which meant we got to eat out yesterday at our favorite brunch place. Dining at a restaurant on a Wednesday at noon feels like skipping school somehow -- which makes the food taste even better than usual.

We haven't been there since before L was born -- it was awesome to be back. L spent the whole time staring at the ceiling fans, the orange juice machine, and another baby two tables over. I don't know why we were so afraid to go out to eat with her! I guess it's a carry-over from her early days when breastfeeding was so new and scary and I didn't feel prepared to do it in public. Now that I feel confident about when she wants to eat (not to mention that I feel confident about using my trusty nursing cover!), it's just a matter of getting over the "we're bothering people" worries. Though our town isn't necessarily a mecca for foodies, we are lucky that most restaurants are very family friendly -- which means we can start getting back to our old routine of a fun dinner out once a week.

The weather has been totally ridiculous, in a good way. The sign outside the bank said 54 degrees when we were driving back from brunch, so after L's really short afternoon nap we headed outside for a hike along the river.

It felt like spring, which was intoxicating and bittersweet, because they're predicting a major dumping of snow this morning and then the winter doldrums will set in. But we've been so lucky to have such a gentle start to 2012 -- I'm feeling awfully grateful even as I watch the flurry of snowflakes starting to drift down outside my kitchen window.

My mother-in-law has been in town this week, and my mom comes this weekend: more gratitude for dishwashers, chefs, dusters, vacuumers, and babywatchers other than me. If you're trying to find me, I'm hiding somewhere with a mug of tea and a trashy magazine or two -- don't bother knocking.

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

wedding-themed wordy Wednesday.

I'm super excited to be featured on another blog today -- I'm guest posting for Amber over at Educating Miss Amber, because she's off getting married! Hop on over there to check out her blog all about her little guy, Liam, who is just a tiny bit older than my L. My post is a DIY tutorial for an easy-to-make toy for your little one!

In honor of Amber and Craig's wedding this weekend, I'm back with a poem of the day just for them! Okay, two, because I couldn't decide. :)

Wear Me by Robert Kogan
I want you to wear me
as you would a dress
or the silver necklace that you wear
around your neck.
Comfortably, so that I am always
next to you:
but most important --
something you decide
each morning to select. (online source)

I Wish in the City of Your Heart by Robley Wilson
I wish in the city of your heart
you would let me be the street
where you walk when you are most
yourself. I imagine the houses:
It has been raining, but the rain
is done and the children kept home
have begun opening their doors. (online source)

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

girl, you know I do.

All of the Ryan Gosling tumblrs are totally cracking me up right now. Especially this one:

Someone I know posted a "Pay It Forward" handmade crafts status on Facebook, and I now find myself making something for two former students, a former colleague who lives in Guatemala, and the craftiest person I know in my hometown. I figure it's a good way to kickstart me into getting my store up and running, right?

Monday, January 9, 2012

monday morning mixtape.

Good morning!

Ben Kweller's "Nothing Happening." (bizarre video, FYI -- but since it comes up, visit here to learn more about how you can help the situation in Somalia!)

Ria Ritchie's "Where Did It All Go Wrong."

Happy Monday, everybody!

Saturday, January 7, 2012

january photo a day challenge

Hey all -- I don't normally post on the weekends, but I found out (late, of course) about the January Photo a Day challenge (thanks, Cassie!) and so I'm jumping onto the bandwagon over on Twitter. Check out my pics so far -- and let me know if you're playing so I can follow along!

Friday, January 6, 2012

Friday roundup: things that make me laugh.

I'm in the mood for a laugh this Friday -- hope you are too! Here are a few things that have me giggling at the moment (warning: if you are offended by profanity, take a pass on this post -- I'm not a big fan of swearing for the sake of swearing, and I don't do it on the blog myself, but these are pretty hilarious):

So, so true.

This should be hanging on the wall of our house. (Update: Joanna posted about this on her blog today just before I hit publish! Le sigh.)

Story of my life.

Have you seen this series? It was created by the sister of a friend of ours!

Shameless plug: this is my brother. But this parody that went viral a few years back never fails to get me laughing!

And lastly...this face.

Happy weekend, all!

Thursday, January 5, 2012

this week's adventures in motherhood: birthday resolutions

I turned 31 on Monday. I used to think that being in my early thirties would be unbelievably depressing because there was no way that I would accomplish everything I wanted to by then and, let's be honest, it's no longer cute to be "finding yourself" when you have obvious crow's feet.

(See them? Yikes!)

Having L has made my transition into full-blown, can't-pretend-about-it-anymore adulthood a lot easier to bear. And I'm already starting to realize how much she is changing me for the better. In previous years, I would never have been happy with the totally low-key birthday I had this year and was always bummed that people were too busy getting back to work the day after New Year's to do much celebrating with me. But this year? LOVED it. A few extra minutes in bed, snuggles with L, Indian food for dinner, and even getting to make my own birthday cake (which sounds terrible, but spending the afternoon baking was just what I wanted to do!) while my husband watched our daughter play in her new Jumperoo.

(poke and pour ginger cake recipe can be found here -- it is to DIE for!)

So one of my birthday resolutions (I call them that rather than New Year's resolutions -- I know, silly, but it matters to me somehow) is already accomplished (or at least I'm making pretty good progress towards it!). Take that, 2012!

1. Learn how to embrace the beauty and wonder of today rather than wishing it would hurry up and be tomorrow or somehow get back to what it was like yesterday. (okay, I can't really cross this off yet, but that felt soooo good.)

2. Start my Etsy shop. For reals this time. This means making a list of all of the minutiae that have been holding me back and then working my way through them -- and writing about it here to keep myself honest.

3. Figure out what in the world to do about whether I am going back to work next fall. (This might be a little bit of an unfair resolution, as I'm required to do this by February whether I like it or not -- but, again, crossing things off a list is so cathartic!)

4. Write a letter to my grandmother every week. She doesn't have a lot to look forward to each day due to her struggles with Lewy Body Dementia and she used to send me the most wonderful letters and packages so I want to return the favor while I still can.

5. Learn how to use my brand new DSLR so my blog looks the way I want it to. (Have I mentioned that my husband is super dreamy? Thanks for the best present ever, J!)

6. Purge our house of all of the things we don't need. Just like with #2, this is going to require a lot of smaller steps first, but I am determined to get it done.

7. Go on a trip with L that isn't just to our parents' houses. And go on a trip without L. (gulp!)

8. Make some meaningful connections in my small town and in the blogosphere.

9. Have a lot more moments like these.

10. ??? What else do I need to be working on in my life? Keep me honest and let me know!

Wednesday, January 4, 2012

on becoming the happiest mom on the block.

In my attempt to meet a few more moms in my town and to do something at least somewhat intellectually stimulating, I joined up with a meetup.com group that is starting a moms book club this month. First on the list: The Happiest Mom.

I really wanted to like this book, and there are certainly things about it that I do like -- cutest cover ever, fun layout, quizzes to take as you read, cheerful and upbeat writing style. But I guess it just seemed...fluffy. Each chapter is themed towards an area of your life and a general tip that supposedly will make you a happier mom -- great premise, right? But there is never much substance to explain why it works or what to really do to make it happen in your own life. "Make time for yourself." "Get organized." "Let some things slide." Yeah, I'm pretty sure I knew all of that already -- my problem is that I don't know how!

I guess I should have anticipated being frustrated by the book, since it is a publication of Parenting magazine and reads like a big collection of articles you might have ripped out from their back issues. Don't get me wrong: I am a subscriber to Parenting and I also have a giant binder of ripped-out articles I'm saving as resources! But I guess I was hoping for something more...scholarly? Deep? New? This just felt too surface-y and tired.

BUT -- I am pretty excited about getting to talk about it with other moms, because I have a feeling we are all going to have great stories to share about what chapter topics we're struggling with the most and what has worked for us in the past. And that's really the reason I read the book in the first place, so I can't complain about that part!

Daniel Gilbert's Stumbling On Happiness is a little bit more substantive and intellectual, though it doesn't focus primarily on parenting (it does come up, however). My husband and I have gotten some pretty great dinner-table discussions out of this one, and we've also enjoyed watching Gilbert's mini-series, This Emotional Life, as a companion piece. (It's available for instant streaming on Netflix if you're interested!) Gilbert's book is mostly about how to envision and understand your future self and make both You Now and You Future happy and satisfied. It's not an instruction manual in any way, but a mix of psychology, philosophy, and behavioral economics research into the human experience of happiness.

An instruction manual would be awfully nice, though, wouldn't it? Have any of you read The Happiness Project or Raising Happiness? I wonder if either of them would be more my speed...