Wednesday, April 9, 2014

Wednesday Web Reads

Here's what I'm reading online today:

Why People Like Weird Artists: The Atlantic

Pixar: It's About the Story: Marketplace

Love Advice from The Golden Girls: The Date Report

Prince George! Vanity Fair

Tuesday, January 28, 2014

Some Thoughts on Breastfeeding

Breastfeeding can be a bit daunting, even though it's also convenient. I had mixed feelings about it when my daughter was about to be born, but I was determined to give it a fair try, even though I tend to shy away from anything that involves personal discomfort. :) I dutifully took a breastfeeding class and read up on tips and techniques for making it easier. Now, four months later, I'm still exclusively breastfeeding Ellie and I feel good about it. Here are some suggestions:

1. Definitely talk to more than one lactation consultant if you can. I met with two, and both were very helpful and had different suggestions. One was great at showing me I had to be quite authoritative to get the baby to latch. One had an excellent support pillow (My Brest Friend) to show me. I also talked about it with some friends who had experience. "The More You Know..." approach is very helpful. One friend said that breastfeeding is like learning to ride a bike. I'd agree with that analogy. It's challenging at first, but then it's not such a big deal after a little while.

2. Use lanolin like it's your new religion. I put lanolin on after every breastfeeding session/attempt in the beginning (so, about 10 times per day). I also found Medela hydrogel pads to be very helpful. The point is to stay ahead of the soreness and aggressively do everything you can to treat it. I also took a lot of ibuprofen at first.

3. Use about six pillows until you're more confident. It can feel like overkill, but sitting up with support really does help. For night feedings, I stayed in our bed to feed Elle, propped up on lots of pillows. It's cozy.

4. Get an electric breast pump and start using it fairly early on. I was really scared of my breast pump, but when I finally got over that and started using it every day (around 3-4 weeks after the birth of our daughter), my life improved. I can pump about five ounces each morning, which allows me to leave Ellie with her dad or with our nanny for several hours at a time. Don't wait too long to introduce that bottle!

5. On the rough days, remind yourself of the benefits. On days when I felt like breastfeeding was just too much, I would Google "Benefits of Breastfeeding" for a little refresher on why I had made the decision to do it. There really are a lot of benefits for both mom and baby. My favorite of these is getting to eat all those extra calories each day. Yum. I also enjoy not having to pay for formula and I like the convenience factor of always being able to feed and comfort little E.

Tuesday, November 26, 2013

Top 10 Reasons Tea is the Perfect Gift

10. It's healthy.
9. It conjures up memories of cozy evenings and good talks.
8. It's affordable, yet personal.
7. You can buy it from a small local retailer to support your community.
6. It's consumable, which is perfect in an era where we're all drowning in too much stuff.
5. There is a variety for every preference and always a new tea to try.
4. It warms you up.
3. It looks inviting sitting out on the kitchen counter.
2. It doesn't require complicated equipment.
1. Tea is the perfect accompaniment to a good book.

Friday, November 8, 2013

Birth story!

I wasn't sure if I'd share Eleanor's birth story publicly, but I've decided to do so because I very much enjoyed reading others' posts on this topic when I was nine months pregnant (and SO nervous about labor and delivery). Also, I think putting this story online is a good way to preserve it for Ellie as the years go by. :)

It all started Friday night, October 4 (which happens to be my mom's birthday...she was sure her granddaughter would be born that day, I was just hoping it would be sooner rather than later as the days ticked past E's Oct. 2 due date). Brad and I went for a late dinner at The Great Dane in our neighborhood and I didn't have any inkling that things were about to get interesting. I had a tasty turkey club sandwich and some tomato bisque soup. I remember feeling so huge and being grateful we found a place to sit down near the bar while we waiting for our table.

When we got home, I started having some weak contractions. I wasn't sure if they were Braxton-Hicks or not, and in retrospect I wish I had just gone to bed and tried to sleep through this early labor. Instead, Brad and I both went out to the living room to see if anything would develop. The contractions were pretty far apart (like 15 minutes), and I told him he could get some sleep. But he said, "Nope, I'm a storm chaser," and settled in on the couch with me and some DVRed episodes of The Mentalist. The contractions started getting closer together. It's funny, I had been so nervous about what contractions would feel like, but at this point they were unpleasant but bearable and very similar to the BH contractions I'd been dealing with for weeks. I tried to do some breathing exercises and I also sat on the yoga ball to cope. I think I also used ice packs and took tylenol. I was anxious about labor starting at night and neither of us getting any sleep before Go Time, but I realized we had no control over it and to just have faith everything would be fine.

We basically spent the whole night trying to decide when to go to the hospital (when it became obvious the contractions weren't stopping). My major fear was that we would wait too long and I'd have a very rough car ride, or difficulty during the part where they administer the epidural. A few people had mentioned it was possible to get to the hospital too late to receive the epidural and I was NOT going to let that happen to me. :) So, of course, we went in too soon.

The car ride to St. Mary's was very calm and even peaceful. It was about 4:30 or 5 a.m. and the beltline was almost totally clear. I had three contractions on the way and breathed through them, clutching the car door handle. When we got all parked and gathered our bags, I was able to easily walk to Labor and Delivery. It struck me as a little surreal, and I proudly announced to the security guard at the Information Desk, "I'm in labor!" It was so different than on television, where the woman is in a wheelchair and screaming. I think I even said so. I was calm because it was such early labor.

In triage, I think they wanted to send us home. The first nurse to check me felt that I wasn't even three centimeters. The exam hurt and I was a bit tearful about it, which turned out to be a good thing. When a second person checked me--a young male resident--I think he felt so bad about my (truly mild) distress that he gave me a pity centimeter, pronounced me four centimeters dilated, and admitted us. YAY. I'd had it in my head that the hard part was over and I'd be fine as soon as the epidural arrived. Still, I wanted to hold off just a little bit and make use of the gorgeous St. Mary's bathtub. I got in, had a few contractions, and realized the tub wasn't helping with the pain super-much. Epidural time.

They got me hooked up to the IV, which was unpleasant but not painful, and brought in the anesthesiologist. The epidural went in fine (no pain), and afterward I felt great. I could no longer feel my contractions, and I felt I could get some rest. Unfortunately, I decided to lay on my side to do so, and some of the drugs slid to my left side, leaving my right side less than totally numb. This was an ongoing problem throughout my whole labor, which ended up lasting about thirty hours. I wish I hadn't turned on my side that early on. We called the anesthesiologist back to my room three more times to either talk to me or dose me again. The nurses were great, and tried everything they could think of to make me more comfortable when I was in distress, including partially deflating a big yoga ball and putting it between my knees to keep my hips open (which really helped, as I couldn't get out of bed at all). I tried to eat some jello and threw it up. My system was working with little sleep and no food, yet somehow it powered through. Though the epidural wasn't quite as magical as I'd hoped, I was was still grateful for it as the hours dragged on.

Saturday evening was rough. I thought I'd be done by then! I cried and experienced the typical Transition phase self-doubt, saying "I can't do this." Fortunately, though this part was the most stressful for everyone (I call it the Dark Times), we had learned in birthing class that it was very normal. I got more drugs around midnight and the green light to push at 6:30 am on Sunday. Being able to start DOING something after lying around waiting for so long was awesome. I immediately gave it all I had and pushed hard. It was wonderful to hear the encouragement of my nurse and husband. Progress. Finally. The sun was coming up and the end was in sight. I finally felt all of the labor and delivery cliches...I felt fierce and like I could actually do it. Pushing made the lingering pain I'd been feeling recede and when people could see the head, it was a great feeling. I turned down the mirror, but I could feel the progress. I pushed for two hours, but it didn't feel that long to me.

Finally, when Eleanor was very close to arriving, the nurse called in a whole team to deliver her. A doctor, a resident, and more nurses appeared. It was exciting and I felt good. The doctor recognized Brad as the teacher of one of his kids, so that was an odd moment for everyone, but we got over it and focused on the main event. I pushed with all my might and Ellie was born! They handed her up to me right away and she was very slippery and gorgeous. Her eyes were open, and if she cried, it was only a little (I can't really remember). My first words about it all: "She's so big!" And she was...8 lbs, 4 ounces. My OB had guessed she'd be a seven or seven and a half pounder, so her size was a nice surprise. I shaded her eyes from the sun now streaming in the window and crying the happiest tears of my life. Brad also cried and we were SO HAPPY.

I felt pure adrenaline and joy. Partly it was the joy of finally meeting Ellie, partly it was joy at being done with such a long labor, and part of it was pride at having accomplished it all. I'd never thought of myself as the type of tough person who could handle pregnancy and birth with grace, but in the end, I did (more or less). And we have the world's most perfect, beautiful, and wonderful daughter. I feel so lucky. Welcome to the world, Eleanor. Your dad and I love you so much.

Sunday, July 28, 2013

Pregnancy for wimps

I am a wimp. I am also seven months pregnant. These both being true, it's been a bit of a challenging summer. I was asked yesterday for advice for the newly pregnant, and while my first instinct was to beg off (I am not the pregnant woman anyone would want to emulate), I've found that I do have a few things to say and suggestions to make. Overall, my pregnancy is progressing well and I'm in mostly good spirits despite telling anyone who will listen that turning food into a human is HARD WORK. So...here goes. Pregnancy for wimps:

1) Find a way to sleep on the softest mattress possible. I was having a hard time sleeping at night once my bump started to pop around month 4/5. I used to love my firm mattress, but it just wasn't working for me anymore. I switched to sleeping on our old and busted guest bedroom mattress and it has really helped. If you don't own an old, broken down, super-soft mattress, I recommend asking friends and family if anyone has one you can borrow for a few months, or, failing that, buying a sheet of that foam egg crate business to put on your regular mattress. You want to feel like your whole body is surrounded by pillows.

2) Sign up for a prenatal yoga class. Even if you weren't a yogi before, I highly recommend prenatal yoga. The class I found is relaxing and low-key, yet invigorating. It's great to be around other pregnant women--we have a half hour after class just to chat with each other. We also do some poses designed to help us get ready for Go Time. I love it. Despite my wimpitude, I enjoy it so much I'm beginning a second six-week series of classes beginning in this, my 31nd week of pregnancy.

3) Get a maternity support belt. The hardest week of my pregnancy so far was when I pulled a muscle in my lower ab. I wasn't being careful enough about my new girth (which is easy to do...living with compromised abs is so very strange), and I hurt myself. Go buy a belt before you think you need it. Trust me.

4) Think about joining the Y or a gym with a pool. I actually didn't do this, and I'm regretting it. I wish I had started a regular swimming or water aerobics class right from the start. I've been feeling more lethargic than I'd like lately, and I think some regular pool time would really help. As soon as it warms up a touch here in Madison, I plan to hit our public pool much more often (I prefer to swim outside if I can). The compression and buoyancy provided by water is wonderful for the preggers set.

5) Don't be too hard on yourself about taking tylenol. I asked my doctor and it is perfectly fine to take an extra-strength dose before bed EVERY night if you need to. By the end of the day, sometimes everything hurts and I've found that taking the tylenol helps me sleep better.

6) Dedicate yourself to eating awesome food. I've always been into good food, but now I've taken it to the next level. Gooey pizza, dumplings, stuffed croissants? Yes, yes, yes. I intersperse the rich stuff with lots of fruits and greens, but the point is, pregnancy is a great time to have lots of interesting food experiences. Make lunch dates and happy hour dates with your friends and create a project out of finding your town's best apps. :) This is one (somewhat satisfactory) way to cope with having to skip cocktails.

7) Take baths. Yeah, yeah, I know I need to be careful about overheating, and I am. The temperature of my near-daily baths is much lower than it was pre-pregnancy. I still find them very relaxing. That reminds me, I need to buy new fancy soaps...

8) Hit the garage sale circuit. I was feeling a little stressed about ALL THE THINGS new parents feel they need to buy when we went to register at Target. Baby gear is very expensive. Thankfully, our neighborhood had a huge garage sale weekend not long after and we scored most of what we'll need for less than a fifth of what we would've paid new. A Diaper Genie AND a high chair for $20? Awesome. Of course, we couldn't fit the changing table in the Civic, so my husband had to carry the thing five blocks, but it was worth it.

9) Target brand prenatal gummy vitamins are only $9 and pretty tasty. Yes, I am 34 years old and I like my vitamins in gummy fruit flavors.

That's all I've got for now, but I'll add to this list as things occur to me. Pregnancy is tough, but overall I figure if I can do it without completely freaking out, anyone can. I should also add that I feel lucky and thrilled at the prospect of meeting our daughter soon. :) Yay babies!


Tuesday, September 4, 2012

Fun facts about my wedding

Readers, I got hitched. It was a lovely Friday night wedding at Madison's performing arts center. We had delicious food and cake, and the bride (that's me!) wore a princess-esque gown. I really enjoyed myself, but part of me is also glad it's over. I'm not a natural when it comes to event planning, and I kept having trouble falling asleep in the weeks leading up to the wedding for fear I was forgetting some crucial detail. Even though my husband and I were determined to be as laid-back and cool as possible about the whole business, we also wanted everyone coming in from out of town to be well-taken care of.

The good news is all the details came together and the weekend was great. Here are some fun facts about our big day:
1) I ate at Ian's pizza on State Street right before getting my hair and makeup done.
2) My wedding dress cost $99, yet weighed as much as a Hyundai. :-)
3) We had three flavors of cake: vanilla, chocolate, and red velvet.
4) Our wedding favors included lavender sachets and tea.
5) The morning of the big day, my husband and I slept in and used the hot tub at our apartment complex, prompting a discussion about how many couples have had said their vows whilst IN a hot tub. Our conclusion was that surely there had been several...today. On a related note, having an evening wedding is an awesome idea, because it means you can sleep in on your wedding day.
6) I felt I was exempt from most of the chores of adulthood the entire week before the wedding. For example, I don't think I flossed once. Hehe!
7) Even though I don't really like that trend where grooms and groomsmen wear Chuck Taylors instead of dress shoes, I was quite enthusiastic about having some photos taken of us in full wedding regalia and aviators.
8) Our roses were from Costco, and they were very nice. I bought a ton of clear glass vases from St. Vincent de Paul several weeks before the wedding, so at the end of the night the guests could take bouquets home with them.

Thursday, June 21, 2012

Launch your very own freelance writing career in 6 easy steps

Okay, that's a very SEO-y title, and I apologize for it. :) I recently reached out to another blogger who had announced she planned to try her hand at writing full-time. I wanted to give some quick and easy tips for getting freelance curriculum writing assignments, as well as some general thoughts I have about writing fiction. After typing up my e-mail to her, I realized it might be a good blog post. Here you go!

Freelance curriculum writing tips
1. One of the best places to look is craigslist. Visit the jobs section of the major cities and scan for freelance and curriculum writing work. I got some good gigs this way. Another option is simply to Google "freelance curriculum writer" and see what comes up. Sometimes the smaller educational publishers will put job listings right on their websites instead of listing them anywhere. Google different combinations of the phrase. "freelance item writer," "freelance ELA writer," "freelance writing jobs," "contract curriculum writer," etc.
2. If you have any aptitude for writing multiple choice questions, you'll do well. Sadly, test writers are in huge demand. This depresses me, of course, but it is a fact.
3. Rework your resume to reflect any writing you've done and be prepared to send samples of your work. Usually 2-3 pages is fine; only send if requested. The cover letter is the most important thing. I kept mine short since you'll always apply for jobs via email.
4. Try this blog: http://educationwriting.blogspot.com/
5. Don't work for less than $25/hour. There are a lot of people trying to scam writers and it's not cool.
6. Publish your own curriculum materials at http://www.currclick.com for the homeschool market or at http://www.teacherspayteachers.com. I think that you have to write a LOT of material to break through on these sites; I'm still trying to figure it out myself.

Fiction writing
The traditional route.
1. You have to get an agent. This is a lot easier if you have a "high concept" pitch. For example, the YA writer Lauren Oliver broke through the noise by pitching something like: "it's Groundhog Day meets Mean Girls" when she wrote BEFORE I FALL. I got the attention of my agent with the pitch, "How about I turn the Facebook meme '25 Things About Me' into a novel?"
2. Good writing matters a lot, but the traditional publishers only offer nice advances to people who already have a fan base or to a book concept that is super fresh. THE NIGHT CIRCUS by Erin Morgenstern (sp?) is a good example of what was fresh last year. I have no idea what will be fresh next year.
3. A lot of people are saying traditional publishing is dead and ebooks are the wave of the future. I think both traditional publishing and self-publishing will do fine, but we're definitely in a time of flux. As William Goldman once said, "Nobody knows anything."

The self-pubbed route
You can upload your book(s) directly to Amazon via: http://kdp.amazon.com and to other websites via their own self-publishing platforms. I've done this and I like it. You have total control over your own work, you keep 70% of the cover price instead of 5% or 10%, and it's really fast. Promotion is hard, however. There is growing respect for self-pubbed authors and it's the route I'm taking with Planet Explorers. If you're curious about this, I'd recommend lurking on the Writers' Cafe at Kindleboards for a little while: http://www.kindleboards.com/index.php/board,60.0.html