Virtual Life vs. Real Life

A few months ago, the New York Times ran a series called “Your Brain on Computers,” and I read a few of the articles and heard an interview on NPR with one of the writers.  As a teacher, I’d get so frustrated with kids’ lack of focus and inefficient attention span. I know every parent since the dawn of time has complained about this same issue, but it’s no doubt getting worse – in part because of our society’s obsession with technology.  The series in the NY Times spoke of this shift in America’s youth and also commented on a number of other tech-related issues, but the piece that I just couldn’t shake was this one on parenting without unplugging. It questions what effect your phone or computer can have on your family life and your parenting, and it’s hard to read without seeing at least a little of yourself reflected.  It leaves me wanting to set some boundaries.

It’s not just parenting though; I have to wonder how these devices interrupt our daily living so that we can keep up with our virtual living. Suddenly we can’t enjoy a delicious meal without telling hundreds of people about it instantly.  We can’t take a trip somewhere without uploading a  million photos as soon as we arrive home.  I’ve even read Facebook statuses of women updating while in labor, usually telling 400 of their closest friends about the measurement of their cervix or how lovely the epidural is.  The glories of handheld internet, I guess.  And before we think let’s put up the phone, it’s not just cell phones either.  We do these things at home as well, which to me is perhaps the more sacred arena.  We email.  We Facebook.  We Twitter.  We Flickr.  We Pinterest (which if you haven’t seen it yet, it’s awesome).  We blog.  We surf the net for some answer to a question and get lost on a recipe site or an online store for an hour before we realize how much time we’ve wasted.

Please tell me I’m not the only one who has ever done this. I hope I’m not implicating only myself here.

The internet is one huge black hole, but it isn’t always negative. I get so many ideas from online sources, improving everything from my parenting to my cooking to my teaching skills and lesson ideas when I was in the classroom.  I primarily use Facebook now to update family with photos of a growing boy, and I occasionally use it to communicate with certain people I wouldn’t converse with much otherwise.  My Twitter “followers” consist of just a few friends, and I love our daily updates and ramblings, whether it’s an embarrassing story of what happened to someone this morning or a recommendation for books or music.  It makes me feel closer to friends and gives me a priceless lifeline to adult conversation as I wipe a snotty nose or play with barnyard animals for the hundredth time that day.  But still, though I remind myself of all the positivity that comes from the internet, I can’t shake the feeling that this area of my life needs some serious work. I don’t want to sacrifice living for real because I am putting too much emphasis on living virtually. I want to be here, really be here, in a way that feels kind of lost lately.

So last year’s Lent sacrifice was to eat no fast food, and I thought it would be pretty easy because I didn’t eat it that often anyhow.  It was HARD, like really hard.  Turns out I ate fast food on my lunch break at work only once or twice a week, but those couple of times were a difficult habit to break.  I did it though, and although I am back to the occasional Chick Fil-A now, those weeks without it drew a focus to my eating habits in a way that was needed.

This year I’ve tossed around a few ideas for what I would sacrifice this Lenten season. I am certainly not traditionally religious, but I’ve found that observing Lent is a really valuable thing for me to do every year for a million different reasons.  I know I want to focus on my online time, but I couldn’t decide exactly how to go about doing it and what rules to make for myself.

I could give up internet all together.  But WE ALL KNOW THAT WON’T HAPPEN.  And really, it’s totally impractical and unnecessary considering we pay bills online, communicate important things through email, etc.

I could give up blogging, but I won’t.  Because I love it and because it has so many positive implications in my life.

I could give up social networking, and I really considered that one.  My only reservations are that I love my tiny Twitter circle and the little details we discuss all day.  I’m also excited to say that there’s an Etsy giveaway on here in a couple of weeks, and I know Facebook will be useful to spread the word.

I could give up social networking on my phone, give up internet-ing on my phone all together.  When Jude is awake, I never get to a real computer to do anything of value, but I do surf online or respond to a tweet or “like” a Facebook photo or whatever when he’s playing and end up feeling guilty about it later.

So this year isn’t a straightforward Lent resolution where I just give something up altogether, but I am putting a lot of boundaries on myself with all of this.  My rules for the next few weeks?  I’m generally abstaining from Facebook with the exception of my birthday later this week when I’ll check in to read the gazillion birthday messages from the people I haven’t talked to since sixth grade, say a thank you, and sign off.  When the Etsy giveaway rolls around in a couple of weeks, I’ll most likely use Facebook to share a link – since the point of all this is to bring some attention to the featured Etsy shop, and Facebook is an easy way to do it.  Facebook has its merits actually, but then there’s also a slew of people with whom I haven’t really spoken in at least ten years or barely encountered as our lives crossed paths somehow, and I somehow know what they had for breakfast or what their new favorite YouTube video is.  I’m ready to shed that clutter from my brain and my life for a while.

The second stipulation I’m creating for myself is that I’m banning internet while Jude is awake, which really means I don’t use the internet on my phone since I never get real computer time while he’s awake and busy anyhow.  This will be my hardest habit to break, but I’m thinking the brain power required for those two-minute email or Twitter checks might be more of a drain on my day than I realize.  If I follow these rules and find online time overtaking my naptime and evening hours, then I’ll reassess and see about setting other limits, but this is a good place to start.

I’m a little scared about this since I thought getting rid of fast food wouldn’t be that bad last year, and it was so much more difficult than I thought.  With this challenge, I know it’s going to be hard not to reach for the phone when the email alert chimes, not to sneak a peak at a news feed when there’s something else I should be doing that I’m procrastinating on.  But I’m excited. I’m ready to see what it’s like to be completely involved in one task at a time.  So when I use Jude’s naptime to write a blog entry, I’ll be all here.  When I sit down after dinner to check in on my email and return a message or two, I’ll be all there.  And when I’m playing in the floor with my son, I’ll be all there as well,  not wondering what’s going on with any of the virtual communities we all tend to have these days or checking in on my email inbox.  I want to be all here all the time.

Dry Spell

Usually I have a million things swirling in my head and no time to sit and write them down, but it’s been just the opposite lately.  Things are good.  Life is progressing.  But I can’t seem to find any worthy way to put much in to words. This page is really little more than my own journal, but lately I can’t seem to think of much that I would even want to read, much less all of you.

So let’s see.  It was incredibly warm and sunny in Atlanta this weekend. Yesterday brought us well in to the 60s here, and the sun was glorious.  If we have a day like this every couple of weeks, I just might make it to spring.  It was also Scott’s birthday, and we headed out for some bubble blowing and vitamin-D soaking.  I snapped a photo or two, and when I uploaded them this morning, I found this.

Can someone tell me who that is?  Because, ouch, that cannot be my baby.  I know everyone says this, but it goes so fast.  He still needs me for lots of things of course, but he’s showing his independence a lot these days as well, and it makes my heart simultaneously swell and break at the same time.  My only solace is knowing that I will have another child one day and there will be more newborn and baby time to come, but inside I wonder what women do without that crutch to fall back on.  I just might have a dozen babies.

Except not really; I’m as exhausted as I am happy.

I tend to think, oh I should do [insert necessary household chore here] or maybe this week I can finish [insert important unfinished task here]. And then he’s asleep at night, and all I want to do is somehow recover from chasing him all day which usually means reading some semi-trashy historical fiction or knitting some more.  I just cast on this handy bag, but it’s quite large in scale, so all I have is this so far.

Really it’s a little more than this now, but I’ve yet to upload a more recent photo.  It’s odd that I disliked knitting so much before and now I like it, but for now, I’ll just go with it.  It’s soothing and repetitive in away that relaxes me, and with a project like this, $20 will probably get me a month of entertainment because it’ll take me a while to finish.

So that’s about all I have to say today.  I chase a toddler by day who is just as tiring as he is delightful, and I cook and knit and read at night. I think I just summarized my life’s work in one very boring sentence.

On the bright side, girls’ night on Friday at what used to be our beloved weekly margarita spot and then a fabulous facial scheduled for Saturday!  This time of year, it’s the little things that get me through.

Thanksgiving is over, and you know what that means….

CHRISTMAS! I know.  I know….  Turkey Day deserves some attention as well, and that’s why I insist on waiting until today to put up the decorations, but I can’t take it much longer, so there’s Christmas music on the speakers here, and we are pulling out the boxes of lights and garland and wrapping gifts already.

I’m such a holiday fanatic, and Christmas is my favorite.  (Isn’t it everyone’s?)  Among all of the tasks that make me so happy in the month of December, I LOVE the tradition of Christmas cards.  Choosing them, addressing them, receiving them.  Love love love it. It’s so much fun to see how each card reflects the personality of the giver.

We’ve done photo card for a few years now, and I really enjoy looking at our past designs.  We’ve moved from a wedding photo to pictures of us with the dogs to photos of international travels, and last year I had the joy of sending out cards with images of a tiny, squeaky, squishy little newborn.  I can’t wait to weed through all the images we have of Jude and select and design this year’s card.   I’ve always used Snapfish for my cards in the past, primarily because it is linked with Flickr, but after the ASTOUNDING results and quality of  Jude’s One Year Scrapbook, I am sold for life to the great people over at Shutterfly.  I can’t wait to choose and send some adorable cards to wish our loved ones a happy 2011.

And with these incredible design options, I’m surely going to have a hard time choosing one.

Shutterfly has great folded cards, so you can personalize each one and have space to write to the recipients.  I especially love the subtlety and sophistication of monogram designs like this one.

Or how beautiful is this?  Simplicity at its finest with their holiday cards.

They’ve also got high-quality stationary photo cards that are printed on matte cardstock.  Gorgeous ways to update your friends and family on the progress of your entire year!  I love this little ornaments card. You can tailor this to say anything you want and really convey they heart and spirit of your own family.

Don’t forget they also have calendars, photo books, canvas art, and all sorts of perfect gift ideas in addition to a ton of holiday cards designs.  Be sure to check it out!  I’m off to wrap more gifts and design our cards and trim the tree and bedeck the mantle and indulge in all those cozy, happy Christmas-ing activities that only come once a year.   Mmmmm, leftovers and football and the beginning of  the holidays.  Is there anything better?

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Disclosure:  I am receiving 50 free holiday cards from Shutterfly in exchange for this promotion.  If you are a blogger and interested in doing the same thing, head here.

Book Love

Did you know it’s Book Blogger Appreciation Week?  Yep, it is.  Once upon a time, I considered myself a book blogger, but these days my content is far too varied and random to allow myself to claim that title anymore.   I’m always reading something, but it’s only fiction every now and then, so I never end up posting reviews anymore. There are some great book blogs out there, though.  Check out Estella’s Revenge for lots of fun things to celebrate this week.  Andi’s always got something good cookin’ over there.  She’s also got a million links to other book blogs if you want to start reading.  Or just see what everyone else is reading.

I’ve always been a book girl.  Always.  I remember my mother having to tell me to turn off the light and threaten to take away the book so that I’d stop reading and sleep.  I pushed through the years when it was uncool to be smart and stayed smart anyway, continuing to read.  I went to college as an English major with absolutely no plan except to read books for a few years and write about them.  I love to talk books, especially with friends and occasionally with strangers.  For years, I lived and slept books 24/7 in order to be a damn good teacher and maybe ignite some of that same excitement in my students.  I get excited when I walk in a bookstore, and I read anywhere…. in waiting rooms, on my couch, on my porch, on the beach, in my bed.  It’s a way to pass the time, yes.  But books are often far, far more than that to me. A home has no heart without its books, and I love my stuffed bookshelves.  I’ve learned a lot from books along the way as they have not only entertained me but maybe stretched my mind that little bit (or that big jump) that it needed to see the world a little differently than it did before.

So in honor of Book Bloggers’ Week and the book blogger I once was, I figured it was a good time to talk books.  Back in my teaching days, kids would always ask what my “favorite book” is, and we all know it’s not that simple.  There are some books that changed me for the better though, and I know everyone has a list – long or short – of those works that really affected you and maybe changed your worldview in some small way.  Not to be overdramatic and all this-book-changed-my-life, but sometimes that little tweak in your perspective is all you need to alter your view and become something better than you were yesterday. So here are mine, and I’m including a passage if I have the book handy to look it up.

  1. Ina May’s Guide to Childbirth –   Yep.  You probably want to stop reading right here because that sounds like the most boring book on the planet, but hold on a minute.  It’s the only nonfiction/informational book on this list, and I can’t not include it.   I read this book in the first trimester of my pregnancy, and it is no exaggeration that it changed my life. It allowed me to stop looking at childbirth as a problem and instead as something natural and even beautiful.  Without Ina May’s words and her included powerful narratives, I would never have pursued unmedicated childbirth, and I feel like that one decision put me on a road to other significant things as well – from breastfeeding to natural living and better health overall.  This is essentially the BIBLE for all midwives and doulas.  Some background: Ina May is the head midwife at a place called The Farm in rural Tennessee, and in an oversimplified nutshell, it’s a hippie commune that settled there in the 70’s and (duh – free love and youth) 9 months later, there were babies being born.  Ina May became the resident midwife, and she still is.  Her record is impeccable, and she looks at childbirth as a beautiful rite of passage, not just a means to an end.  Acknowledging that complications arise, she deals with the subject matter realistically but empowers women to see their role differently.  She tells the reader, “Remember this, for it is as true as true gets: Your body is not a lemon. You are not a machine. The Creator is not a careless mechanic. Human female bodies have the same potential to give birth well as aardvarks, lions, rhinoceri, elephants, moose, and water buffalo. Even if it has not been your habit throughout your life so far, I recommend that you learn to think positively about your body.” This was my mantra for my previous pregnancy when I would get nervous.  We all know how that turned out, and yet I know that when the next time rolls around, I’ll repeat her words again and again to remind myself of the power and beauty of the female body and the task before us.  Even aside from the subject of childbirth, her message continues to guide me.  So many women beat up on their own bodies because we aren’t skinny enough or tall enough or curvy enough or whatever.  Remembering our perfection and capabilities in spite of perceived imperfections is so important.
  2. Fair and Tender Ladies –  Oh, where do I begin?  This novel follows one amazing woman throughout her life, and it has all my favorite ingredients – a southern setting, epistolary form, surprising character twists, beautiful description, and a feisty, admirable female lead.  I’ve memorized passages from this book and reread it so many times that my copy is battered and bruised and marked. Ivy sucks the marrow from life in a way that inspires anyone.  She shares my love for carpe diem-isms and warns you, “The days seem to go faster and faster…the days whirl along like the leaves blowing off the mountain right now. I want to hold up its flight like you would hold up a train and steal what I can from each day…” How many times I’ve thought the same thing in those happiest moments or stages of my life.   When you depart from Ivy at the end of the book, it’s like turning the page on a friend, but she continues to inspire; “We spend our lives like a tale that is told, I have spent my years so. I have loved, and loved, and loved.” What better way to reflect on a life well-lived? Might be on my tombstone one day; I’m only half kidding.
  3. Wise Children – This work of magical realism focuses on twins Dora and Nora Chance, and it begins on their 75th birthday.  They spend much of the novel reflecting on their life which has been deemed marginal or illegitimate in so many ways.  Despite their challenges, they continually remind readers, “What a joy it is to dance and sing!” and this book reads like a carnival. It’s so inspiring and I finish it wanting to consume every last morsel of Life with no regrets.  There’s so much more I can say, but I’ll babble.  I love this novel.  I love Angela Carter.
  4. Eat, Pray, Love – Umm, yeah, this memoir is overdone.  It’s a movie and women flock to see it.  Oprah-lovers read it in their book clubs, and it is ubiquitous right now, but I can’t deny the power of one woman’s firsthand account of literally traveling the world to find herself and finally claim her happiness after years of living what felt like someone else’s life.  There are passages in this book that are pure magic and really, really worth something. I love that this work reminds me that you have to chase after the life you were meant to live, not fall lazily in to someone else’s. Every passage is quotable, so I couldn’t choose only one.  Plus my copy is upstairs at the moment and I’m lazy.
  5. The Bluest Eye – I read this in high school and then reread it years later.  I am white, middle class, and admittedly come from pretty sheltered beginnings.  It is only through literature like Morrison’s that I could experience the life of someone so different from myself.  Pecola obsesses about her eye color, but we all know that wouldn’t fix everything about her troubled, sad existence.  Morrison is such a master.  “It had occurred to Pecola some time ago that if her eyes, those eyes that held the pictures, and knew the sights-if those eyes of hers were different, that is to say, beautiful, she herself would be different.” This book is heavy, but I realize we are not all that different from Pecola….if only I had more money, if only I lived somewhere more exciting, if only I had a different career, if only I was beautiful, if only, if only…..All of us could benefit from the reminder that life does not hinge on one fact alone.  We are all beautiful. We are all meaningful.  Life your life as such.
  6. The Time Traveler’s Wife –  This is another one that might be overdone with a blockbuster movie and a prominent place at Barnes and Noble, but I can’t praise this novel enough. I am usually ashamed to read love stories, but this is an honest, unabashed, bold, and beautiful story that, at the heart of things, is really about the incredible love between two people.  I read it during a 3 week break from graduate school courses when I was planning my wedding, moving, and beginning my career; I relished this novel and did not want to turn that last page.  I love that it makes time irrelevant while also reminding the reader that time is tickin’ and you’d better be bold with your life and your love. “Time is priceless, but it’s Free. You can’t own it, you can use it. You can spend it. But you can’t keep it. Once you’ve lost it you can never get it back.” Such a sentiment we all need to hear.  And at the end of my journey, I hope I too can say, “There is only one page left to write on. I will fill it with words of only one syllable. I love. I have loved. I will love.” Oh, Henry and Claire.
  7. Billy Collins [Poetry]  –  I adore Billy Collins and have seen him read twice.  I even got his autograph – my claim to fame. I love that he makes poetry accessible for all of us. Do you love poetry?  Pick up a Collins book.  Do you hate poetry?  Pick up a Collins book, and he will change your mind.  The second time I heard him read, he stated that all literature “is about the same thing: Life is beautiful.  Then you die.”  I love this man.
  8. Keats [Poetry]  – Oh, my crush Keats.  Only a man who dies at 25 and knew he was dying for much of his life could affect us the way he does.  Go LIVE, now. he seems to say to me.  His work is nothing short of beautiful, and I could waste so much time just reading and rereading his poetry. I love that he values love and beauty, art and sincerity, knowing that in the end, not much else matters. “A thing of beauty is a joy forever: Its loveliness increases; it will never pass into nothingness.” The irony is that he proves that more than anything else.  Centuries later, we are reading his work when he only lived for a brief moment.

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So that’s my list, books that shape my life in many ways.  What are yours?  Is there a work that changed you?  A passage that changed you?  I’d love to hear.

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Busy Summer

It’s been a busy morning around here.  Actually, I lied.  It totally hasn’t.  The pace has been slow and leisurely, and we enjoyed some playtime on the porch this morning.  After last week’s soaking in all the gratitude for this new SAHM gig, I feel like I need to get busy and establish a routine for myself.  But, oh!  These are the days.  Sometimes I want to do nothing but play with this happy boy.

Memorial Day is sort of the unofficial beginning to summer around here, and Labor Day is the unofficial end to sweaty pool days and beginning to autumn.  As a teacher, I would begin each summer with absolute laziness and then panic some time around the Fourth of July when I realized that I had a to-do list a mile long and I had accomplished none of it.  While I don’t have the start of the academic year looming ahead this time, I do feel the need to get some A LOT of things done in the next 3 months.  Inspired by my friend Amanda’s list, I decided to write down my goals here so that I have to achieve them or else be shamed by my laziness.  So here they are.  Some big, some small.  I’ve tried to categorize them, but in that process I’ve realized that some of them are quite random.

    In the KitchenCook better food when Scott is out of town.  (I got this awesome book to help me.) – Overcome prior disappointment with dough that refuses to rise and successfully bake my own bread. – Master ten new dishes. – Make decent-tasting tofu dish. 

  • Craftiness – Get my Grandmother to reteach me how to sew. (I have a sewing machine and sewed often before graduate school and teaching, but I haven’t done anything on it at all since the fall of 2004 when I enrolled in Agnes Scott.) – Sew 3 fleece diaper covers for Jude’s cloth diapers. – Complete 25 pages in Jude’s digital scrapbook. I used to love paper crafts (scrapping included), but this AMAZING book made me want to do digital.  I’ve paid $30 for software and now need to get started. – Take more pictures.  Take better pictures. (I began a 365 project on Flickr that has me taking photos everyday and learning slowly but surely to use our camera to soak up those pretty little moments.) – Finish the jewelry organizer I started last weekend.  The window screening I’m using is being difficult, so I think I need to take another route and amend my original plans on that one.
  • Personal / Health – Drink more water. – Drink Kefir everyday. (This stuff does wonders for me; I just need to remember to drink it.) – Make time for reading again. – Start yoga again after not practicing for 7 months. – Partake in some form of physical activity for at least 20 minutes everyday, Monday-Friday.  (This makes me sound like an absolute lazy lard lump, but of course I am up and moving all the time – laundry, playing in the floor with Jude, wearing and carrying him all over town. etc.  What I haven’t done in about 7 months is deliberate physical exercise for the purpose of burning calories or toning myself.  This has to change.  My ass says so.)
  • Home / Organizational – Establish a housecleaning routine that gets the job done and works for me. – Organize our home office. (Y’all this is THE project around here.  The one that hangs over me and slaps me in the face every time I walk in there.  Scary, scary place right now.) – Clean out Jude’s drawers and closet, pack away outgrown clothes, get out new sizes. – Come up with at least 5 bags of junk to leave this house and take to Goodwill. – Pack up infant gear we have outgrown the need for. – Sell cloth diapers that didn’t work for us.  (Yes, people do this.  I have high-quality hemp BabyKicks brand prefolds and cute gDiapers that don’t work for me.  I need to make the money from them and get this out of this cluttered house.)
  • Miscellaneous Learn to can vegetables.  (My Grandmother is dying to teach me, and it’s a trade I’d like to know if I can get over my fear of the pressure cooker.) – Update this blog twice a week. – Visit the Alpharetta Farmer’s Market at least twice this summer. – Go on at least 5 real dates with my husband. (Real means make-up, sitter, dinner out, maybe even earrings.) – Pay off the Nissan so that we don’t have a car payment and can breathe a little easier with only one income. – Find 2 tutoring clients so that I have some spending money. – Keep my grocery bill at $75 a week and stay on our no-processed rule.  (This is HARD, y’all.  Why is unhealthy food so much cheaper?)

Whew.  It looks like so much when I write it all down.  Public acocuntability works for me though.  What’s on your list this summer?

Ten Reasons I Love Blogs

For more Top Ten Tuesdays, head to Oh Amanda!

I spent last Saturday evening at my supper club with some close college friends, and the subject of blogging came up.  We were talking about blogs we love to read and why we love them, and one of my friends just doesn’t get the blog thing.  Not that she was being patronizing; she definitely wasn’t.  But she just expressed an honest curiosity as to why people read blogs and what is it all about anyway.  On the way home, I was thinking about her questions, and they make sense.  I mean here we are writing about our [somewhat boring] lives and reading about each others similarly simple tasks.  So why blog and what is there to like?

  1. Gives Me Inspiration – Sometimes I get the blahs and look around my house or my life and feel pretty lackluster.  Then I pay a visit somewhere and suddenly I have a million ideas of things to improve my house and my daily life.  Feeling frazzled, overwhelmed, and disorganized?  I head to Small Notebook.  Wondering how to compile memories for Jude, I spent time looking at this fabulous photo book and left with a million ideas.
  2. Grants Me Validation – Parenting leaves you making lots of decisions, and God knows we all research and think and pray we do the right thing.  These choices are not the same for every family, and you have to do what’s right for you.  Sometimes our choices are uncommon.  From the big things (laboring unmedicated) to the little things (cloth diapering), I don’t always know a lot of people “in real life” who chose to do the same things as I do.  On the blogosphere, however, you are sure to find a person out there with a parallel view.  Deep down we know inside that these decisions, no matter how varied they are, are right for our particular families, but it sure is nice to hear someone else say, “I do that, too!”
  3. Presents A New Perspective – I tell my students at school all the time that the true value of literature is that it exposes us to perceptions we might not attain otherwise.  The world would be a lot better off with a little more empathy.  Blogging does this.  There are issues I have never experienced before, but thanks to blogs, I truly empathize and understand.  Dooce’s story of postpartum depression changed my understanding of the disease.  Kelle Hampton’s amazing birth story altered my perspective of birth and motherhood and special needs children forever.  Her blog actually expands my perspective all the time as she encourages me to be grateful for the things around me, and every single one of you should read it, but that’s another story!  The point is that there are a million different voices out there and a million different ways to look at life, and the internet is one huge shelf of autobiographies.
  4. Lets Me Chronicle Daily Life – Days become weeks.  Weeks become months.  Months become years, and life races past you so fast.  Even if it’s details of the seemingly mundane, blogging is a way to mark the way I felt and the things I encountered.  I know they are things I’ll miss one day, no matter how inconsequential they feel now.  I usually blog at night after Jude’s in bed and they day is quieting.  I look forward to this time as it allows me to write and reflect.
  5. Share Ideas and Advice – To say I don’t know everything is a ridiculous understatement, but I will say that I feel like I have learned A LOT since Jude came along last October.  When I was experiencing my own breastfeeding struggles, stories of women who succeeded despite similar challenges really encouraged me.  Now on the other end, it’s all I can do to hope that my breastfeeding story will do the same for someone else out there.  Sharing ideas and advice with other mothers is invaluable.  Blogs are like one HUGE parenting support group!
  6. Gives Me Product Reviews – If I am going to buy something, the best way to make a good decision is to hear reviews from other people.  Blogs are invaluable for this.  When I first decided to try cloth diapering, I was SO confused with too many choices.  The Cloth Diaper Report and The Cloth Diaper Whisperer gave me great ideas and shed light on all the options.  It’s not just diapers though.  There are honest reviews on everything you can think of.
  7. Enriches My Kitchen – You have not lived until you’ve spent a lazy weekend morning eating homemade sourdough pancakes with bananas foster sauce.  Would I ever have discovered this joy without blogs?  Nope! Scott and I are trying so hard to cut down on the processed foods and eat better.  Kitchen Stewardship and The Nourishing Gourmet are basically my online cookbooks I consult every single week when I plan my meals.  Passionate Homemaking’s advice for healthier living is simple and encouraging and allows me to feel like I can do it.
  8. Makes Me a Better Mom – I mean have you even seen the stuff at No Time for Flash Cards, Unplug Your Kids, or Impress Your Kids?  I can’t wait until Jude is old enough to do these things together.
  9. Provides a Sense of Community – This is where non-bloggers think bloggers are weirdos, but you really can find a community of people through the blogosphere.  The funny thing is that I’m finding that most of the blogs I read daily also read the other blogs that I read daily.  Does that even make sense?  You all seem to “know” each other and we read the same things.  Reading great blogs allows you to find other great blogs, too.  It’s a circle of women who all care and have some really great stories, ideas, and resources.  We can follow each other’s little happenings and everyday stories.   Andi and I met through book blogs, for instance, and we kept up via Twitter even after I quit blogging. I had a baby 6 months before she did and now we can commiserate through Twitter about our lack of time to take a shower or the funny things Greyson and Jude do.
  10. Lets Me Keep Up With Real Life Friends – I have a few real life (meaning before blogs) friends who blog regularly.  I love keeping up with Tami, Amanda, and Jenna among others.  Life gets busy, and when else would we see each other to share about that time we had to resuscitate a baby chicken?

So what about you?  What do you like best about blogging. If you don’t blog, you are obviously reading one.  Why do you like reading blogs?

Ultimate Blog Party 2010

For those of you who don’t know, the folks at 5 Minutes for Mom have put together an Ultimate Blog Party as a way for us to meet and greet fellow bloggers and even win prizes!  If you haven’t checked it out yet, you should.  If you found me from the links on the UBP site, here’s a little about me and my blog.

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I am a 29-year-old high school English teacher and mother to an adorable, laid-back, sweet little 6-month old boy named Jude.

Soon I can erase the first half of that sentence because I am turning the page to life as a SAHM in something like 43 42 days.  Not that I’m counting.  As I’ve said before, my days are certainly never boring and, for the most part, I’ve actually loved my job for the last 5 years, but I’m incredibly excited to give more of myself to Baby Jude in the coming months.  I find it really really difficult to balance 150 of other people’s children with just one of my own, and I think anyone who maintains sanity as both a teacher and a mother deserves serious praise.

I’m fascinated with natural living, and we do our best around here to be less wasteful, healthier, and more frugal whenever possible.  I’m not perfect on that one. (Where did all those Girl Scout cookies go?)  But I’m learning and enjoying the journey as I find new tips and ideas to better living.  We grow a little here and there, and I love using my own herbs and such in the kitchen

Let’s see, what else?  I love books (hence the title), but I won’t be posting reviews as often as I once did on my former book blog because I usually get, oh I don’t know, 14 pages in and someone decides to wake up from a nap or need a snuggle.  I’m working on making time for reading in my new life though, and he’s worth the interruption in my reading schedule for sure.

I began this blog as a way to chronicle my life with my son as I watch him grow and as I attempt to embrace the many challenges of motherhood.  I love that mommy blogs give us a sense of community to read anecdotes and hear experiences from a day in the life of what is, to me, both the hardest and most satisfying thing I’ve ever attempted.

Leave me a comment to let me know you stopped by and give me another place to visit!  I love “seeing” you from afar and learning about your families, challenges, tips, and ideas. I’ve only been at this for a few weeks, so there’s not much, but feel free to stay awhile and have a look around!

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There are some great prizes over at 5 Minutes for Mom, but if I were to win any of them, I’d love:

  1. A Guy and Eva Jewelry Necklace
  2. 2 year-long magazine subscriptions…one to Taste of Home and one to Simple & Delicious.
  3. New Momma Prize Package from the Pampered Chef including the Must Have Quick-Stir Pitcher and Twixit! Clips

If my top three prizes were taken, I’d prefer prizes number 12, 27, 31, 32, 38, 42, 44, or 51.

Ultimate Blog Party 2010!

We’re all invited to a party, and the fun lasts for 7 days!  The ladies over at 5 Minutes For Mom are planning a great way for mommy bloggers (and other bloggers too) to mix and mingle. There’s nothing better than a party, so come join the fun!

During the week of April 9-16, head over to 5 Minutes for Mom and take a look around.  If you want to participate, link up with the rest of us and take a look around at everyone’s bloggy home.  The idea is to read and mingle and comment as much as you can between the 9th and the 16th.  Oh!  And there are prizes!

One of the best things about blogs is certainly the sense of community we get when we read and comment on one another’s posts, and The Ultimate Blog Party at 5 Minutes for Mom is a great way to do this.  For new bloggers like me, it’s a great way to meet folks.  Some come on over in a couple of weeks and join the party!

Ten Things

Ten things about me.  Because you have to start somewhere.

  1. I’ve spent the past 5 + years of my life in a high school classroom.  I’ve only got a few weeks left before I turn the page to life as a SAHM.  While I am really excited about this opportunity to devote myself full-time to my son, I will miss my awesome colleagues and the hilariously ridiculous things that you encounter on a daily basis as a high school teacher.  I will also miss the opportunity to talk books all day.  Jude doesn’t understand the poetic beauty of Keats or Wordsworth.  Not yet anyway.
  2. I had a blog before and had a few readers during the period of time when I updated it.  I abandoned it eventually, but I hope to be better this time.  Writing is therapeutic and motherhood is challenging.  I figure it’s a good combination.
  3. I met my husband 10 years ago.  We dated for 5 years before we got married.  As evidenced, I am not an impulsive person.
  4. My husband, on the other hand, is quite the opposite.  He is spontaneous and goofy. He says and does ridiculous things quite often.  This is why I love him.
  5. I’ve always been interested in natural living (I grew up going to a homoeopathist and eating garden-fresh veggies), but having a child really put me on overdrive in that regard.  I think when you look at this tiny, defenseless little thing who is so new to the world, you get really protective and don’t want anything harmful to make its way in to that little body if you can help it.  I labored unmedicated (although – long, long story – delivered by Cesarean birth).  I cloth diaper.  I breastfeed.  I follow an alternate vaccine schedule. I make my own baby food.  I’m getting used to people assuming I am nuts.
  6. A few months ago, my husband and I saw Food, Inc. I’m not exaggerating that it completely changed my perspective of food.  We are gradually phasing out all processed foods around here, and we don’t eat anything with a processed ingredient we cannot pronounce. (And that’s A LOT of stuff on grocery shelves, people.)  Bonus: Those stubborn last seven pounds of baby weight fell off in only three weeks of eating real food.
  7. I love British poetry.  All poetry really.  But I can bore you for hours discussing British Romanticism.
  8. I was an English major and have an M.A. in English as well.  I love books and miss college.
  9. I love to read, obviously, but I don’t have the time for it that I used to.  I am trying to change this.
  10. This blog will be full of nauseatingly cute photos like this one.  I love my Jude.