The Tiny Closet Challenge

I may be the only person to have this feeling, but I was a little bit sad to pack away my maternity clothes after each of my kids were born.

It was actually really nice being limited to such a small number of clothes that fit during pregnancy. I invested in a handful of decent maternity items and could clear out a good portion of my closet for a few months. Sure, it was frustrating at times, when nothing seemed to look or feel right (I think that’s just pregnancy), but if I stuck to my maternity staples, getting dressed was easy. Toward the end of my time being pregnant with Mara, I just resigned myself to the fact that I had about five dresses that I was going to rotate through until she was born. I don’t think anyone noticed or cared, least of all me.

When I pulled my normal wardrobe back into my closet, it was nice seeing some fresh items I hadn’t worn in so long, but it was also overwhelming. I am a clothes accumulator. It seems like no matter how many times I go through my closet and fill bags to donate, I still have so much that I don’t wear, yet I’m afraid to let go of it. And that can wear on me.

Starting June 1, I’m taking a minimalist wardrobe challenge. For six weeks, I’ll limit my entire wardrobe (including shoes, jewelry and accessories) to 33 items. You can read more about the challenge here. I’m going to blog about the experience for Fresh, the site I manage at work.

I don’t anticipate this to be a permanent change for me, but I think it will be a great opportunity to learn and grow, and hopefully make some positive changes to my wardrobe and life.

If you’re looking to simplify and think your wardrobe would be a good place to start, I’d love to have you join me in this! Here’s a form you can fill out to “officially” join the challenge. If you’re scared to commit… know that I am, too. But I think it will be worth it in the end (in fact, I’ve been told it’s worth it by several people who embrace a tiny wardrobe year-round).

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Baby #2: 30 weeks pregnant

I’m seriously in denial that I have not only entered my third trimester, but hit the 30-week mark.

This is pretty much the home stretch. It’s doctor’s appointments every two weeks now and I’m feeling every bit of 30 weeks pregnant.

Most people assume I’m so over the heat (it’s actually been in the 90s here in Milwaukee) and that I’m ready for this pregnancy to be over with. Actually, not at all. Maybe if I didn’t spend most of my day in an air conditioned office building I’d be bothered by the heat, but unfortunately I do. I’ve just been taking it easy when outside on the weekends and after work. Drink lots of water. Sit in the shade. It’s not that bad.

And I’m definitely not ready for this baby to come just yet. My due date coincides quite inconveniently with a big project I’m working on at work, so my growing belly is a constant reminder of the time crunch I’m under to get it done. Take your time, child. You have my permission to come a little late, even. But not too late.

Work projects aside, I’m eager to meet this little one. The first few days of Corban’s life were the most amazing days of my life thus far, and I look forward to experiencing that unmatchable joy again. And… boy? Girl? Which will it be? What will he or she be like? How will he/she fit into my heart and into our family? I can’t wait to know the answers to those questions.

30weeks

Yup. The belly is large. I swear, this happened overnight.

Physical ailments…

I think my feet are starting to swell a bit (last time they got scary swollen near the end), but I can still get my wedding rings off without a problem, so +1 for that.

I have the unfortunate luck this time of being plagued by the dreaded mask of pregnancy, a.k.a. dark spots on my face kind of like sun spots (they get darker in the sun, too). And, yup, on my upper lip. Awesome. And a little on my nose, which isn’t so bad.

On the plus side, my eyes haven’t been as itchy as they were with Baby #1. I do think I’ve developed a mild pregnancy-induced allergy to our cats, though. I thought maybe it was just general pregnancy congestion and sneezing, but it magically went away while we were on vacation for 10 days, and came back as soon as we got home to our kitties. Side note: when I was pregnant with Corban I couldn’t imagine loving any baby more than our fur babies. Now I can’t imagine how I possibly felt that way. The poor cats have fallen far in household hierarchy.

My energy levels were high for all of the second trimester, but not so much anymore. I’ve hit the point in pregnancy where every morning feels like a hangover, and no amount of sleep feels like enough. Getting out of bed is an undertaking, and I usually am short of breath for the first minute or so.

On the positive side…

This baby is active! I enjoy lots of kicks. Fun.

My skin has been much better this time around. It was really bad when I was pregnant with Corban – embarrassingly so. I don’t know if it’s just different hormones or if the fact that I started washing my face with a Clarisonic brush has made a difference, but I am so thankful that I haven’t had too many skin problems with this pregnancy.

My favorite pregnancy side effect this time is that I can go days without washing my hair… and it doesn’t get greasy. It saves so much time in the mornings, only having to wash my hair once every 3-4 days.

In other news…

We went on vacation to Branson, Mo., with Peter’s family over the 4th of July, and I encountered some of my first physical limitations of this pregnancy. We went to Silver Dollar City, a theme park – no roller coasters for me. Also, pushing a stroller around on those hills in the heat is brutal.

One morning Peter and I played 12 games of tennis. Bending down to pick up balls was not much fun, but otherwise it was great. Until the end, when I suddenly felt like I was going to either pass out or throw up.

And I thought nothing of signing up to play on a sand volleyball team in the bi-annual Sherwood family tournament (at their family reunion). Of course I would play. But the day of the tournament was 90+ degrees and sunny and, honestly, I wasn’t disappointed when I was told not to play. Sitting in the shade felt like a killer workout that day.

Time to come to grips with the reality that I can’t do everything I normally can. Although that probably won’t stop me from trying…. (tailgating at two Brewers games this weekend and planning to go camping and canoeing in a couple weeks).

Last pregnancy at this time…

At 30 weeks when I was pregnant with Corban, I had my first baby shower!

30weeks2

I think the bump looks smaller there than my current bump, but that dress can be deceiving.

Last time at this point, I had gained 18.5 pounds. I was up 16 pounds at my appointment last Friday, but I still think I feel bigger this time. Or maybe it’s just the heat.

Ode to the pump

Oh, breast pump. You have served me well.

You aren’t much to look at. Your black leather case has a broken latch and a mysterious white stain. Your knobs have some dust and dirt.

pump-00

You’re old – I’m not quite sure just how old. Your instruction manual says copyright 1996. I know you’ve had at least two previous owners: the friend who gave you to me and the woman she purchased you from on Craigslist six years ago.

pump-02

I would assume the woman in the photo was fashionable when this was printed.

But you’ve done your job well for the past year.

You’ve been by my side almost every day.  You’ve accompanied me to Washington, D.C., Chicago, Virginia Beach, Las Vegas and St. Louis. You’ve made it through airport security a half-dozen times – mostly without incident. You’ve allowed me to be with my best friends to celebrate weddings and bachelorette parties. You’ve allowed me to feed my baby bottles of nothing but breast milk for the first year (and counting) of his life.

pump-01

You’ve stayed by my side in loud hotel rooms filled with girlfriends, creepy airport bathrooms, tiny hotel bathrooms, a retreat center, the Chicago History Museum during a wedding reception and Corban’s dark nursery after each middle-of-the-night feeding while I was on maternity leave. How many times have I listened to your rhythmic ruuu-uuum, ruuu-uuum, ruuu-uuum while perched on a recliner in the lactation room at work? (Twice a day for about six months and once a day for another couple months.)

pump-03

um, yeah, I totally panorama-ed the lactation room*

 

You’ve helped me pump 2,561.6 ounces of milk (and that’s just what I’ve recorded in the Baby Connect app). That’s 320.2 cups, or more than 20 gallons of milk.

Despite your age, you’re a hardworking pump. You deserve a break.

Two days before Corban’s first birthday, we had our last fling (at least until Baby #2). I admit, I already kind of miss those calm moments when I could zone out to your whirring motor in the middle of my workday. But I don’t miss carrying you around with me, worrying about milk refrigeration, hunting for private electrical outlets in public spaces and hand washing your plastic parts.

So until next time, old friend, take it easy.

*There used to be this sweet 1970s-era (I’m guessing?) TV in the lactation room, but then we got someone new in HR (a mom) who cleaned the room up and cleared it out:

oldtv

10-month update

Ten months old! Eep! This year has flown by, and motherhood just keeps getting better and better thanks to this little guy.

Age 10 months
Weight: ~22 lb.
Clothes: 12-month and 18-month
Teeth:
Two more bottom teeth are coming in, for a total of six
Sleep:
Still not sleeping through the night, and still trying to figure out a plan for how to proceed, but he goes down easy at 6:45 or 7 p.m. and is up for the day around 6:30 a.m.
Naps: Two naps a day, and it needs to be quiet for them
Noises: Makes silly sounds all the time, and says lots of “da,” “ma” and “na.” Sometimes will try to imitate your sounds and words.
Nursing: No changes really – still nurses or has a bottle of breast milk 5 times a day. No formula.
Pumping: I’m starting to pump only once a day some days because it ends up being close to the same amount if I time it right
Solids: Three meals a day and loving it. Great eater.
Crawling: Everywhere.
Standing: Pulls up on furniture.
Favorite games: Bubbles, peek-a-boo, toy cars, playing music
Favorite books: “Bunny and Friends,” “Spot Says Goodnight,” “Goodnight Gorilla.” Loves lifting flaps, turning pages and petting touch-and-feel books.

I’m so impressed with how much smarter Corban seems this month than last month. Now he understands how books work and loves to be read to (especially interactive books), he is starting to problem solve and he knows how to use toys properly. Like this car ramp – he picks up the car and drops it down the ramp. If it gets stuck, he tries to push it through.

Peter and I noticed one morning that he kept pressing the button on his Baby Einstein music player to skip through the songs, but he would stop on this one particular song and listen all the way through. Three times in a row he went directly to that song and listened calmly. Apparently he has a favorite. It just overwhelms me that he figured that out (not that I think he’s a genius or anything… I’m just amazed by baby development in general).

Now that he’s fully mobile, Corban is into everything. Things like the central vac duct are fascinating (he plays with it every day, usually multiple times).

No more sitting on a blanket outside, content with a few toys. Now we take our eyes off him for a few minutes and he’s eating dirt.

Of course, that means I have to grab a few pictures before cleaning him up…

He is pulling himself up on furniture, so we had to lower the crib. As soon as I walked in one morning and saw this, I knew it was time:

Now I come in after naps and he is standing up against the side of the crib, ready to roll. On the flip side, if he doesn’t want to go down, he will stand up and cry. Not cool, C-man.

We upped Corban’s solids consumption this month, so now he eats three squares a day. It’s still mostly fruits and vegetables, with some toast and yogurt thrown in there, but I also started giving him more of what we’re eating as long as it’s healthy. He’s had lasagna, pork, squash soup and duck. He is an enthusiastic eater and hasn’t rejected anything in a long time.

We also introduced a straw cup this month. He drinks a little water at some meals, but hasn’t quite mastered it yet. Sometimes he sucks it in but just lets it dribble back out while he continues drinking more. It’s messy, but he’s slowly getting better, and he sure loves grabbing that cup.

We took a trip to Peter’s hometown in Missouri this past month for his mom’s 60th birthday, and Corban met his canine cousin, Forrest — not for the first time ever, but for the first time since he’s become more aware of the world around him. Corban was a little bit afraid at first – he’s a giant dog – but warmed up pretty quickly.

His true love is for the cats though. Basil stays out of range of little hands, but Biggles takes astounding abuse from Corban and doesn’t seem to be all that bothered by it. It’s kind of amusing what he’ll put up with.

I feel so blessed to have this happy little boy in my life. Corban’s incessant joy is infectious. My dad always says “it’s a party all the time with him” and that’s the truth. His laugh is the greatest sound, and I’ll do anything to hear it.

Working full time is a challenge, but we’re doing fine so far. Some days are really tough to be away from Corban (Mondays are the worst, after a weekend full of fun). Other days it just feels normal. One thing is certain, though: Anytime during the week when I’m home and Corban’s awake, I’m 100% focused on him. Our time is so painfully limited during the week that I forget about everything but him for those minutes (sadly not even hours most days).

Here are some of his current favorite activities:

  • Sorting the paper recycling (taking it out of the bin and putting it back in)
  • Smothering Biggles
  • Opening the central vac ducts
  • Splashing in the cats’ water bowl (we have to move it to the counter when he’s out and about)
  • Touch-and-feel books and lift the flap books — also loves turning pages of board books
  • Watching us blow bubbles
  • Splashing in the bath
  • Rinsing his hands in the sink
  • Drumming on anything
  • When you quickly zoom in close to his face
  • Grass, leaves, dirt, sticks

He’s almost always happy, except for…

  • The minute you first lay him in the crib
  • Lying still for diaper or clothes changes
  • Having his face or nose wiped
  • Being closed out of the laundry room (a.k.a. the cats’ room)

Hard to believe we’re only two months away from Corban’s first birthday. I want him to stay this age forever, but I’m also excited for what’s to come. I guess the only thing to do is enjoy each day.

Separation

My oh my, these past two-and-a-half weeks have been full! They’ve been full of fun and love and excitement, but there’s been another theme as well: separation from my baby.

After my first week back at work, in which I spent two long workdays away from Corban, I then proceeded to spend my first night away from him. That Friday I headed down to Chicago to celebrate my friend’s bachelorette party. The next week, due to some unavoidable scheduling issues, I worked three days in a row, Monday through Wednesday, then Friday night I flew off to Washington, D.C. for another friend’s bachelorette party. That was two whole days apart. And of course this week I was back to work – only two days, Tuesday and Thursday.

Yeah, quick transition from being together pretty much 100% of the time to being separated for workdays, then nights, then consecutive workdays and then consecutive nights!

As far as work goes, I have to admit that despite that first day of bittersweet nostalgia, I am loving being back. It took me about two days to get back into the groove, but now I am rocking out again with lots of fun projects on the horizon. Back in December in those final weeks of work, I was so ready for the break. The combination of the approaching holidays, the winter weather, my intense workload and being very pregnant caused a bit of burnout. But after nearly four months off, I am once again excited about my job. Surprisingly, when I’m at work, I can’t help but think part time isn’t enough. Then, of course, on my days off I find myself thinking being home part time isn’t enough. I guess I couldn’t ask for anything more if I’m happy doing what I’m doing when I’m doing it.

It is hard to leave these sweet cheeks every morning though.

As for my overnight soirees, I was really nervous about leaving Corban overnight the first time. I worried that I’d be thinking too much about him and feeling too guilty to have fun with my friend for her bachelorette bonanza. Fortunately, I was way too distracted by all the fun we had to be able to think too much about it. The worst part, however, was pumping – especially after leaving the hotel at 6:30 p.m. and not returning till 4 a.m. Not exactly comfortable (but a fun night).

The whole pumping issue made me even more nervous to be away for 48 hours the following weekend. I was convinced I had made a huge mistake in choosing to leave Corban at the wee age of four months. Thankfully, once again my fears were eased once I arrived in D.C. and enjoyed a really fun weekend with my college BFF and her friends.

Pumping was inconvenient, but didn’t really put a damper on anything. I’ll write more on that in another post.

Corban was fine with Daddy (though there was some bedtime drama both nights… bottle just doesn’t soothe like the breast does).

While being away overnight wasn’t ideal (and I don’t plan on doing again anytime soon), I’m glad I was able to celebrate my friends’ special milestones with them. I’m also finding that being away from C during work can be a good thing. It’s tiring spending all day taking care of a baby! Work provides a productive break and makes me excited to get to spend time with him when I get home.

This definitely is a new stage, but it’s one I’m enjoying so far.

The end of one chapter and beginning of the next

It’s here, unbelievably. My stint as a full-time stay-at-home mom is over and today I began the next chapter — the one where I’m a part-time working mom.

I really wasn’t sure what to expect from myself today. Last night felt like the night before the first day of school. I packed my lunch, picked out an outfit, made sure I had everything ready to go for the morning. I was nervous. Would it be hard for me to talk about Corban with my coworkers without missing him too much? Would I cry? Would I be able to fit right back in to my role at work? How would pumping go? Would Corban be OK drinking bottles all day?

Thankfully, it all went fine. I didn’t get overly emotional talking about Corban with my many dear coworkers as they welcomed me back. I kept busy catching up with people and emails and the like. I got into the lactation room and pumped twice without issue. Corban did fine. The overwhelming feeling I had all day at work wasn’t one of sadness or longing for my little boy. Instead, when I really stopped and thought about it, it was one of nostalgia.

The last time I sat at my desk was Corban’s birthday. It was a few weeks before Christmas, I was 36.5 weeks pregnant and I had no idea what was coming. Sitting back down there today, I felt the significance of four months’ time passed before my eyes.

These past (almost) four months have held so much – from utter elation after the birth of my son, to those terribly difficult yet incredibly sweet first few weeks of sleep deprivation and tiny cuddles. There have been road trips, visitors, holidays, days spent running around and days spent in my pajamas playing on the floor of the nursery. There have been times when I’ve wanted a break, but even more times when I’ve just wanted time to freeze. It’s been a sweet season of bonding with my little guy.

When I got home from work tonight, I nursed Corban, and then it was nearly bedtime. Peter went out to an event, I put C to bed and after a day spent feeling pretty darn good, I stood in our quiet house and teared up thinking about how little time I spent with Corban today. I felt off — familiarly tired after a day of work, but unfamiliarly emotional about what I had missed that day at home.

I’m confident this chapter of part-time work will bring a good balance to my life. But it’s also bringing an ending to that first chapter of my parenting story, the one where nothing matters aside from my little boy. I guess a few tears are appropriate on a day like today.

What does a stay-at-home mom do?

This is my last week as a full-time stay-at-home mom! Sniff sniff.

Although part of me is looking forward to getting back into the newsroom and getting into more of a routine, I have really enjoyed my four-month “vacation.”

A couple friends of mine have asked the question I’m sure any full-time working person (myself included, before C was born) wants to know: what do I [or any SAHM] do all day?

Before I went on maternity leave, I figured staying home would give me lots of time to pursue hobbies and get things done around the house that I simply didn’t have time for while working. While it’s true I definitely have more time for both those things without a pesky 40+ hour weekly commitment (plus commute – yuck) getting in the way, being a stay-at-home mom definitely isn’t the leisurely life one might imagine.

Within the first few days of bringing Corban home from the hospital, I emailed my friends and whined that sitting at my desk at work all day was WAY easier than navigating the uncharted waters of breastfeeding and convincing a newborn to sleep at night. That was true for the first few weeks, to put it mildly. Being a 24/7 buffet is exhausting. I remember feeling stressed that I couldn’t find the time for something as simple as taking some cute newborn pictures of him. Feeding, napping, feeding, changing diapers and feeding took up most of our time. It was rough.

[Not always this sleepy.]

Things have definitely since gotten easier. Corban is still quite time-consuming though. If we’re home all day, his awake time is spent feeding, changing and playing with him, which usually requires full attention and involves talking, singing, rattling things, walking around, bouncing or just making silly faces, but sometimes can just be him kicking his legs on his play mat while I do things around the house (he LOVES to kick), though I never seem to get as much done as I anticipate. He takes about three naps a day, usually no more than 45 minutes to an hour each, and that’s when I shower, eat, go for a run, do things online, do real chores, etc. I am so lucky to have Peter at home with me working from the couch most days. He provides a much-needed occasional extra hand and constant companion.

[Multitasking: making curtains while wearing napping baby. I am usually not this domestic.]

Most days we get out of the house for some reason or another, and Corban usually responds well to the change of pace. We go to a weekly women’s morning Bible study, a couple evening Bible studies, baby yoga, various appointments and meetings, occasional playdates (really more for mom than baby), out on walks, out on errands. It’s amazing how busy you can become without really trying.

[Baby yoga.]

For the past couple months, Corban has been going to bed around 7 p.m. most nights, so while daytime is Corban time, Peter and I have our evenings free to relax, cook dinner and do stuff around the house. I have to admit, even though C is sleeping relatively great, I have such a hard time making myself go to bed any earlier than 11. I could be getting a lot more sleep each night, but it’s so tempting to stay up during those hours of freedom, and I’m naturally a night owl anyway.

I try not to stress if I get nothing productive done during the day, knowing I’ll have a few hours at night, but it is hard not to feel guilty when I’m totally unproductive. On the flip side, since I know my time at home is limited, I also feel guilty if I don’t spend every waking second taking advantage of my time with Corban. So I pretty much can’t win, but I’d rather feel guilt over housework than bonding time.

But to succinctly answer the question at hand, a stay-at-home mom to a young baby – at least if that SAHM is me – focuses on Baby. Housework, hobbies and everything else just have to take a backseat. I have time for those things, but not as much time as you (or I) would expect. Maybe the fact that I am going back to work affects this thinking, but all other priorities seem less urgent when I don’t want to waste any time I could be spending snuggling my little guy.

Almost ready to return

For at least the first two months of my maternity leave, I did not miss work. At all.

I would occasionally peek into my work email account and happily revel in the fact that I was temporarily not responsible for any of the issues or requests that flew by. Delete. Delete. Delete!

Hungry babies, dirty diapers and erratic sleep schedules were enough work for me, and as challenging as that was, I was so happy to be fully engulfed in it and not have to think about anything work-related.

When I reached the halfway point of my glorious planned four-month leave, I panicked a tiny, tiny bit. I had no desire to go back to work. None. Yeah, the one who waxed on about how much I love the work I do and felt so committed to it now was convinced I’d be happy to never set foot in the workplace again. How was I going to do it when I actually did have to go back?

(Sadly the above is not an option.)

But I still had two months off, which seemed like a long time still, so I could easily revert to denial and remain perfectly content. I told myself not to have a bad attitude. It would just make things worse.

Then, the week after we returned from Florida, a little over 2.5 months into my leave, something changed. First, I got sick – probably from some expired yogurt I ate (I know, gross, but I tend to never believe expiration dates) – and spent a full day weak and tired on the couch. And I was so bored. I felt useless. Then later that week I went to a colleague’s going-away party and saw a bunch of my co-workers. And I realized I missed them. We talked about what was going on at work, and suddenly I found myself excited about it again.

Idle hands plus a taste of my old passion and…

I panicked a tiny, tiny bit because I suddenly wanted to go back to work.

(Now, I should add, a huge factor that probably made this possible in the first place was that Corban had started sleeping much better by this point, so I actually felt like a functional human again.)

It really is a blessing how my heart was changed like that. And now with just less than two weeks left of my maternity leave, I’m feeling quite torn. I don’t want to leave Corban, but I’m feeling good about getting back into my career – I really couldn’t ask for a better dichotomy. I’ll be working an average of 20 hours a week (2 days/3 days alternating) and I think that will provide a good balance.

Of course, I’m dreading my return to full-time in July, but that’s still far enough away that denial works just fine.

From house to home, and a Valentine’s Day wreath

Of all the things that have changed since we brought Corban home from the hospital, perhaps the most unexpected is my relationship with our house.

In the almost three and a half years that we’ve lived here, I don’t think I ever truly took pleasure in our home until I started spending a lot more time in it while on maternity leave.

For 3+ years, I woke up every weekday morning, scrambled to get out the door to work, rushed to the gym or another activity after work, perhaps making a brief stop at home to cobble together some sort of dinner, and then came home to crash in bed and repeat it again the next day. On the weekends, I spent most of my time at home undertaking cleaning or yardwork tasks — clearing piles of clutter, dishes, laundry, papers, etc. that had accumulated during the week.

That’s an exaggeration, but the truth of it is that my time at home was more often than not a pit stop between time spent elsewhere, which made our house a dumping ground, and therefore a battleground on which I constantly struggled to undo the mess that inevitably creeps up when your home is more a storage facility than a sanctuary.

In theory, I cared about making our home the place I wanted it to be — painting various rooms, decorating for different holidays, updating a few things — but in reality, it didn’t bother me on a daily basis that it wasn’t. I didn’t spend enough time there to care if there were pictures on the walls, curtains on the windows or even a Christmas tree.

When my pregnancy-induced nesting instinct kicked in, I finally checked a few things off my to-do list of home improvements. You may have read about some of them. But I still was rushing around — more than ever, actually — and home was the place where I slept more than anything else.

But now that I’m not working, everything seems different.

My job is to feed a hungry little boy who at times ties me to the couch for seemingly hours on end (this is getting better, finally), and I’m finding that I finally have time to get joy out of our physical home. I spend time just being here, and I look around and remember why we bought this house. I delight in the lovely open floor plan with lots of light. I look at the pictures I finally placed in the frames hanging in our family room, and I think, “how nice!” I start to get crazy thoughts about decorating for Valentine’s Day. I have a whole new perspective now that I spend most of my time here.

Sure, I still struggle with laundry piles and dirty dishes and the like (and I admit I have an ongoing battle with clearing the clutter), but those war zones aren’t my focus all the time now. I must say, it feels really nice to get pleasure out of our home instead of battle it.

***

On that note, I did actually do a tiny bit of Valentine’s Day decorating. I was shocked that I even had the urge, but I guess this nesting thing is no joke, and it continues well after the baby is born.

Inspired once again by Pinterest and saddened that our door was bare after finally taking down our Christmas wreath, I decided our front door could use a wreath for all seasons. I had a hankering to make one of those yarn wreaths that seem to be all the rage on the Internet these days, but create it in a way that I could update it for various holidays by switching out different colored felt flowers.

It’s a good thing I started this project mid-January, because wrapping yarn around an entire wreath is a time-consuming endeavor, and large chunks of free time are just not a part of my life right now. With spare minutes spent here and there wrapping, wrapping, wrapping white yarn around a wood wreath (still in the packaging — important to note!), I finished up last night. You could probably finish it while watching one or two episodes of “The Bachelor” if you don’t watch “The Bachelor” while nursing your infant.

My plain, white yarn wreath is a blank canvas for festive flowers. And festive felt flowers, as it turns out, are way easy to make!

I used this tutorial to make the roses, this one for the layered, bright pink flowers (except I cut circles instead of flower shapes) and this one for the fringy ones like the big red one. The bright pink ones were the most time consuming, but the roses and the fringy flowers (not sure how else to describe them) were a cinch. All you need is felt (24 cents a sheet a Michaels), scissors and a hot glue gun.

To make the flowers detachable, I used old bobbie pins (from my wedding day hairstyle, which had over 100 pins in it! I knew I was saving them for something) like this:

I bent the pins in two places for the small flowers and one for the larger flowers. The goal was to have a U-shape to hot glue onto the back of the flowers, with a tighter U-shape or simply the straight pin hovering slightly from the base. Pictures describe it better than words:

Then you can arrange the flowers on the wreath without gluing them permanently on. Just poke the bobbie pins through the yarn.

I hung it on our front door using ribbon…

…and tying the ribbon to a hook that was already on the back side of the door to hang holiday wreaths. A bow gives the inside of the door a little decoration and hides the hook.

I’m excited to make more felt flowers and transform the wreath for various seasons throughout the year. At least for a few days we’ll have some Valentine’s Day festivity though.

I ended up making a few too many roses, so the candles on our mantle got some dressing up for the season too.

Working folks, I’m curious to know, how much pleasure do you get out of your home? Are you like I was before maternity leave forced me to slow down? If so, how can you change that? That’s one thing I’ll be thinking about when I go back to work!

Finding a career/parenting balance

My entire life, I just kind of thought I’d stop working when I had kids. That’s what my mom did, and it seemed right. And I’ve always wanted to eventually devote myself to being a mom.

But then I ended up being blessed with not just a job, but a career at a major newspaper, and suddenly the future looks too promising to stop working at age 25.

Right from the start of my working life I had doubts that I’d want to end it by the time I wanted to have kids. I think that’s the difference between a job and a career. This isn’t something I just do to earn a living. When I think about the future, I want it to be a part of my life. And it’s not just what I do that I’m attached to. It’s the newspaper itself. It’s being a part of something that affects the daily lives of so many people. Beyond that, we’re at a critical time in the history of media. The things I (and my co-workers) do at work are paving the path for the future success (or demise, I suppose) of the newspaper industry. It’s actually thrilling.

Peter is a little more practical on the matter of staying home vs. working. His mom stayed home to raise four boys until the youngest (Peter) was in school. He thinks that’s great. But he also thinks earning (and saving) as much money as we can is important to our future and our kids’ future. I definitely agree, but if I hated my job, I’d probably rather make whatever cuts were necessary to our lifestyle in order to live on one income and stay home full time.

So I guess in my mind, I’m supposing money + fulfilling career = worth the difficulty of balancing motherhood and work, whereas money alone = not worth it unless absolutely necessary.

Don’t get me wrong, I still am a bit torn about this. Deep down, I still want to stay home and enjoy every moment of my kids’ development. But I also want to be able to devote myself to my career. I know it’s not possible to do both when you have young kids. I’ll be sacrificing in both arenas (and probably others too, like social life and personal sanity) to pursue motherhood and a career simultaneously.

So here’s how I’m going to attempt it, maternity leave-wise:

  • Nearly 4 months of pure staying home bliss, using 2011 vacation days, paid medical leave and unpaid FMLA leave. I want a long leave to focus as much as possible on Baby during this time.
  • Return to work part time. Work an average of 20 hours a week (alternating 2 days one week and 3 days the next) for 3 months, essentially using unpaid family leave to have half the hours.
  • Return to work full time. Maximize efficiency at work so I don’t end up working the long hours I have tended to work in the past.

The working part time part doesn’t really freak me out. I actually think that could be a nice balance for me to not get too burnt out at either parenting or work.

The working full time part does make me nervous. I found it tough to balance my work and life before Corban was in the picture, so I know this will be a huge challenge. This is why maximizing efficiency – in all areas – is going to be really important.

As for child care, right now the plan is to find a nanny to come to our house. Peter works from home, so this way he will be able to be around Corban but still get work done. The challenge will be finding someone good who is affordable. I’m open to recommendations if you know someone!

Stay tuned for that next big adventure…

In the meantime, I’d love to hear your thoughts on finding a career/parenting balance. Is it possible to do when working full time?