Thursday, September 26, 2013

Upcoming: Workshops on Writing Your Personal Statement For College/Graduate School Applications

Are you or your child applying to college or graduate programs? I'll be leading two October workshops on writing the personal statement, an important part of the application. The essay is a chance to stand out from other applicants and share something about yourself. We'll discuss how to do this, from brainstorming and writing to editing.

Click through for more details:
Georgetown Neighborhood Library
Thursday, October 3
7:00 - 9:00 PM

Hill Center
Monday, October 21
6:30 - 8:30 PM

Can't make the workshops? I'm available for private consultations and writing coach appointments. We can meet in person in the Glover Park/Georgetown neighborhoods of D.C. or via phone/video conference. 

Tuesday, September 24, 2013

Multi-tasking and Ignoring the Clock

Beach living... 

I can't stop thinking about the nature of parent-time. I'm writing this blog post crunched in the corner of the guest bed in my son's room. He fell asleep sprawled on the bed while nursing and so I pulled out my laptop to read student essays. If I move him into the crib, he'll wake up. This is a partially selfish move (I can do some work if he sleeps) and partially thoughtful move (infants need a lot of sleep, so why interrupt his?) Meanwhile, the bottom half of my body is numb and my wrists hurt as I type in this position.

Parenthood is multi-tasking to the extreme. There are things I need, he needs, my relationship with my husband needs, the household needs and my many p/t jobs and volunteer work need. Meanwhile there are the sudden needs, like car trouble or an ant infestation. There are emails, phone calls, knocks on the door and errands to run. There are poop explosions to clean up and balanced meals to prepare and Breaking Bad to watch. There's also sleep and laundry to tend to, but if I keep listing everything that needs to get done, I might instead make a list of what to pack so I can run away to live on an island beach, alone and without any of these many needs. 

But I know that on the island, after a few nights of good sleep, I'd be lonely. I can't imagine life without my son or my husband or this career that I've carved out for myself. I don't want to have to choose. Maybe if we could all live on the beach... 

And so realistically, here I am on this guest bed, hoping I can stand on my numb legs when the baby stirs. Weekends, nights, mornings - it doesn't matter what day of the week it is or what time it is. Every day offers some random hours to get something done in the few moments that present themselves. 

Each day also offers time to notice how our son arches his back to stretch and throws his arms up over his head, as if to celebrate a victory. And how he smiles when he sees one of us right there to welcome him to this new, beautiful day. 

Thursday, September 19, 2013


Visiting the National Cathedral for a sunset bell recital

My sense of time has completely changed. When we are rushing to refill the diaper bag so we can leave the house, time zooms by. When it is the middle of the night and the bambino is crying, time stands still

I find myself both trying to carve out time and making the best of available time. When the bambino starts to vocalize sounds that will become words one day, everything else is put on hold. When I have a few hours to work, I settle right into the project and try to be as efficient as possible. No more breaks scrolling through Facebook statuses if I need to get through a pile of grading. 

Or rather, I do the best that I can. That's all any of us can do, right? 

Speaking of which, I should run. Until next time!

Thursday, September 12, 2013

Grazie, Nonni!

Nonna and the sleeping bambino

Thank you to my parents – the nonni – for visiting us in D.C. while my husband was away for a conference, and an additional thanks to my mom for staying a little longer. We all had so much fun together and my husband and I were happy to catch up on some work and rest. This hectic fall semester is going to test our multi-tasking skills, and so quiet moments all together – in various combinations - make it all seem possible to keep moving forward.  

With all of his smiles, our bambino seems to recognize his nonni (for more on when babies start to recognize others, click here), and of course no matter how quickly he grows and changes, the nonni recognize him. When they first saw him and reached for him while coo-ing, smiling and offering kisses, I couldn’t help but smile.

Three months or so after my son’s birth, I realize how much better I’m feeling. Not being pregnant or recovering from the birth, I can do all kinds of crazy things, like tie my own shoes and carry laundry up and down the stairs. The pregnancy and early months were tough. What a relief to be able to sit calmly and visit with my parents, and even leave the house with their grandson for some Washington, D.C. adventures. Any of that would have been hard to imagine doing back in early June when they were here helping us to acclimate to our new routine.

The nonni and I took the bambino met friends and their kids at Union Market for a tasty brunch before stocking up on Italian food at Litteri one block away. Union Market is spacious and easy to navigate, even for a fairly inexperienced mamma. While the crowded Litteri store is the opposite experience, the walls of olive oil bottles and large cans for sale made it worth a rushed visit.

Later, Nonna and I wandered around Hillwood Gardens with the bambino. He slept most of the time in the carrier and we were able to be outside and admire the formal gardens. He also slept through the bell recital one dusk evening at the National Cathedral; perhaps the fresh air and music influenced his sleep.

It was a treat to go on a date with my husband – twice! Sure, we mostly talk about the bambino whether he is with us or not, but it is good to spend some time together just the two of us. Oysters, gelato and being together make a fine, peaceful night out. That summer night, pumping before I went to sleep knowing there were three of us to respond to the bambino’s nighttime needs, I felt calmer than I have in a long time.  

Thanks again, nonni. A presto! 

Sunday, September 8, 2013

Breastfeeding: Lactation Cookies

I love having a reason to make time to return to the kitchen. 
Check out my food blog, Fare La Scarpetta.

Lactation cookies - cookies with ingredients that are supposed to increase your milk supply - aren't entirely guilt free, but at least eating them is both enjoyable and productive. And yes, I was really skeptical about the idea.

I really like this recipe. The cookies taste great and I've noticed an actual increase in milk supply. Ok, the increase isn't terribly noticeable, but the cookies are good and it seems like they are helping. No harm done, right?

The cookies contain brewer's yeast, oats and flax - all healthy ingredients. I've made some with the recommended chocolate chips and some with butterscotch chips. I also cut out the white sugar from the recipe (the brown sugar made them sweet enough for me.) The recipe suggests 2-4 tablespoons of brewer's yeast and I've been using the full four. The cookies taste just like regular cookies that I'd eat regardless of breastfeeding. Non-lactating male and female friends have tasted them and liked them (and didn't start to lactate, so no worries there.)

Lactation cookies sold in stores and online are crazy expensive. Two dollars a cookie is too much, especially when this is the time to save for basics like diapers. Sure, time is also short these days, but I baked a a few batches one afternoon and froze most of them. 

Thursday, September 5, 2013

Essentials for the New Mamma

Sure, there are endless things to buy for the baby (here are some things I recommend to help with infant sleep.) But what about the new mamma? 

I often find myself in a position where I can't move. It can take a while to feed the baby (who sometimes takes lots of breaks and falls asleep in my arms) or I'm pumping. I need to be comfortable and have something to read, listen to or look at. Sure, it would be nice to spend all of the time looking deeply into my baby's eyes while nursing or bottle feeding him, but he eventually closes his eyes.

I've set up a bit of a nest for myself in his room. On the (adult) guest bed in his room, I've piled lots of pillows (including a "husband" pillow for back support) and keep some essentials within reach on a breakfast tray:

Magazines, books and book light (great for keeping the room darker before naps or during night feedings)
iPad (also great for reading during nighttime feeding, streaming movies with the subtitles on and the sound off or listening to podcasts)
Easy to eat snacks (dried fruit, nuts, granola bars, etc.) and water
Nipple cream

Nursing releases sleep-inducing hormones (as if caring for a newborn didn't already take care of sleepiness). If someone is nearby to watch the baby and lets you nap after a feeding, have an eye mask and ear plugs nearby to ensure that you can sleep deeply and well for at least a short period. (Of course, don't wear ear plugs if you're responsible for baby.)

Nearby I keep a heating pad that can be heated up quickly in the microwave. It offers a great muscle relief. 

What tools helped to make you feel more comfortable?