Becoming Mother

A book and a blog for first-time mothers

Tag: creativity

Summer Healing

Child care.

A silent house.

Wildflowers.

A long run.

A quiet mind.

And this.

Summertime.

PoP # 13: Songs for Women who Burn the Candle at Both Ends

Someday, things will get easier, right?

Until then, here’s a playlist of recent songs that I’ve enjoyed while running

at Early Hours when No Human Should Need to Wake Up Just to Have Some Time Alone

 

“Lex” by Ratatat

 

“Snow (Hey Oh)” by Red Hot Chili Peppers

 

“Help, I’m Alive” by Metric

 

“Lake Michigan” by Rogue Wave

 

“Secret Garden” by Bruce Springsteen

 

“Rivers and Road” by the Head and the Heart

 

“Let’s Be Still” by The Head and the Heart

 

“Growing Up” by Run River North

 

And always,

“Mhysa” by Ramin Djawadi

 

PoP # 11: Where Do All My Hair Ties Go?

“It needed a seat belt, Mama.”

 

Pieces of Parenthood # 5: Sock Plinko

You know the saying, “It’s always the things that aren’t toys that they play with the most?”

Yeah.

In that spirit, I give you, “Sock Plinko.”

For ages:

  • 0+

Time: Variable

Items needed:

  • Sock
  • Shoe rack

 

 

YouTube is Our Third Baby

In the last few months, I’ve started getting the You guys thinking about having a third? comment more frequently. Maybe because several of our friends have just had their third–or fourth–baby.

Um, no.

Emphatically, no.

This is it.

The baby has finally started sleeping a glorious, GLORIOUS, twelve hours at night straight, partially thanks to the four nights of Crying It Out that I stomached. Nothing worse than listening to your baby screaming at full volume for 40 minutes while you paw silently at the door, on the verge of tears yourself.

He’s okay. My God, he had seven, SEVEN!, bottles today. He’s not hungry.

He’s okay. He’s 6 1/2 months old.

He’s okay. He’s 22 pounds. 22 POUNDS! He’s a Monster Baby, for the love of God.

He’s not going to die.

He’s just really, really pissed.

He’s got the eat-sleep association.

You’re not a bad mother.

Oh God… Will he EVER stop crying? Is this damaging his vocal cords?

Repeat that several more times on the first night.

But he did. By the fourth night, Done.

(Can I just say, sure, you love your baby. But man, you REALLY, REALLY love your baby when he doesn’t bother you from 7:00 p.m. to 7:00 a.m.)

So no.

Two is enough.

family

***

In the first two weeks postpartum, I went over the numbers in my head and made a list of reasons for or against having a third child. Yeah, yeah. We said we’d only have two, but LOOK AT THIS FACE!!! Oh my God. Babies are incredible. I could totally do this again.

But then, we’d be looking at a minivan.

And I’d be 37? 38? 39? And pregnant? I remember how I felt being 35 and pregnant. I don’t think it’s going to get any easier. This body has been through enough. (And you’re welcome, Offspring.)

And another three years of full time-daycare ($33,000 total at today’s rate)?

I think it was the cost of daycare that was really the deciding factor.

***

We were talking the other night about just how much “free time” we had before children.

I mean, duh, right? Of course we had more time. In some ways, it was great. Coming home from work and relaxing. Nice. It was “the life.”

Of course, we did other things. I wrote a novel. Doug volunteered extensively for our church, cooking meals for 100-200 people weekly. We hung out with friends. A lot. And it was fantastic. We went out to eat. We entertained.

We also worked more than our fair share at our jobs. I worked about 50-60 hours per week at four (yes, four) jobs. Doug often worked more than his required 40.

But from my perspective now, I look back and think, God, imagine what we could have accomplished for this YouTube channel if we had started doing this before we had kids. 

But that was years before YouTube’s currently capabilities and reach.

So here we are.

Instead of having a third baby, we have a YouTube channel.

It’s got his hands and my eyes.

It really is a combination of all of our talents together in one creative outlet.

We’re so proud.

Making YouTube Cooking Videos = Actually a Lot of Work

Silly me, I thought we’d just set up the camera and start shooting whatever we were cooking.

Okay, maybe my husband would get out the little photography umbrellas and some lights, but that’s it.

But oh.

We are really in it now.

***

This is how we started out.

set

I thought this was kind of a lot of equipment.

Oh, sweet naive me.

Here’s where we are at now.

IMG_20170721_215342

 

What you’re looking at is the second version of this handmade mounted mirror (much lighter than the first one.) You’ll also notice that we’ve added more lighting on the countertop… and around the cook top in general.

That pot is about to undergo some intense interrogation.

(Not pictured: We also have a fan mounted to the cabinet while recording–to keep steam from condensing on the mirror.)

Why a mirror? The idea is to record the cooktop from above, without getting steam and gunk in the lens of the camera. Thus, the mirror. Then, once I import the video into our video editing software, I can flip the image vertically so that your brain doesn’t feel like something is off as you’re watching us cooking.

All this rigging has taken a lot of trips to Menard’s, Lowe’s, and Home Depot. (And sometimes back to Menard’s ten minutes before they close.) He’s really put a lot of time and effort into this.

But anyone who knows my husband knows that when he does something, he really does something.

Like this.

garden_1

garden_2

That’s the joint garden that we share with our neighbors–all built in the last few months.

Because. You know. He wanted to have a garden.

Notice the gate on the right side. And where he’s standing, there is a removable portion of that fence–so the truck can back up to it and dump the wood chips directly into the garden.

Hey, it makes him happy. And Felicity loves, loves, loves getting in the dirt.

***

So it’s taking some time.

In the meantime, I’ve been figuring out and articulating our workflow for making the videos.

workflow

I’ve also been building my video editing skills (I’m using CyberLink’s Power Director–a solid program.)

Which leads to this conversation that we had last Thursday night.

Me: “I don’t know why but the preview of the video is really choppy.”

Him: “Once you render it, it should smooth out.”

Me: “Hmmm…”

Him: “Your computer probably isn’t fast enough.”

Me: “Hmmm…”

Then Friday, I call him at 5:00 to see if he’s picking up the kids.

Him: “Yep,”

I hear him giving someone his name and address.

Me: “Okay. Where are you?”

Him: “Cincinnati.”

Me: “Um, okay.”

Him: “I just bought you a computer.”

Me: “Right. I think I saw that coming.”

Him: “It’s so badass.”

Then later, after the kids are home and dinner is finished, we pick up the conversation again.

Me: “So when is the computer getting here?”

Him: “Already got it.”

Me: “Oh. Where is it?”

Him: “In the car. I still have to put it together.”

Me: “What? I thought you said you bought a computer.”

Him: “Yeah. The parts. It won’t take long to put together.”

Then later, he starts bringing in the boxes.

Me: “Two monitors? You bought two monitors?”

Him: “You got to have two monitors.”

Me: “Oh my God…”

Him: “Go big or go home, Sweets.”

Kid in a candy store.

IMG_20170728_210320

***

So when can you expect to see some videos?

I think in the next two weeks.

We have some good footage of making steel-cut oats (although we’re figuring out color balance and how to filter background noise). We wanted to produce some egg videos, but we’ve got to wait until our egg supplier is back from vacation. We also ran into some problems with our lighting. Apparently, we’ve been using too much light and it’s washing out the color of the food. So we’ve got to re-shoot everything. Bargh…

Like any creative project, this one has thrown us some curve balls.

But it’s still been fun.

It has given both of us chances to work in our favorite creative roles.

Him: Woodworking, cooking, photography

Me: Writing, storytelling, video editing

And I guess I can add “directing” to that list now.

Felicity director

The Big Summer Project: A YouTube Channel (and some baby pictures… and a baby on a motorcycle)

For six weeks in the summer, we continue to send the kids to daycare and I finally have time to sink my teeth into a big, creative project.

In 2014, that project was writing my first book.

In 2015, it was publishing my first book.

2016 was a bit weird. It was mostly riding the roller-coaster of early pregnancy, dabbling in writing a short young adult novel, and (admittedly) watching a lot of Netflix.

This year, the big creative project is a new YouTube Channel, featuring instructional cooking videos.

Not recipes. Think techniques.

For years, I’ve watched my husband make simple, delicious, and healthy meals. And he can do it without covering everything in butter, cheese, and ranch dressing. He cooks a large meal on Sunday night. It’s usually a huge pot of rice, some vegetables, and grilled, baked, or roasted meat. Then, he portions it out into containers that we take to work.

I cannot tell you how many times I’ve heated up a meal that he makes and my co-workers have been like, “Mmm… What’s that?”

This guy is talented. The food is delicious. And he understands food chemistry and can give the best advice about how to prepare food. (And did I mention that another one of his hobbies is photography?)

But he’s not great at the storytelling aspect (although, I think he’ll learn easily).

Oh. And he detests social media.

So that’s where I come in. (And did I mention that I’ve got experience with video editing?)

I remember one night when we had a group of Doug’s friends over at our apartment for a dinner party, probably six or seven years ago, and someone said, “Doug should have his own YouTube channel!”

Our response was mostly, “Ha ha. Someday, maybe.”

“No seriously. He should have a channel.”

“Yeah, okay. Not right now.”

But have you seen YouTube lately? It’s integrated with Google now. It’s getting incredibly easy to get started.

I don’t think we can put it off anymore.

So that’s what I’m working on this summer. I have never done something like this before.

But hey. That’s never stopped me before.

Also on the summer dockett:

  1. I’m hoping to release Henry’s birth story as a Kindle single, probably for $0.99 to help me recoup some of the time spent on writing it. It’s a powerful story, but nothing book-length. Stay tuned for more on this.
  2. I also have three academic publications that are in the works right now. All of them are related to an intercultural communication program that I helped design and facilitate with our university’s Department of Teacher Education. One will be published on University of Dayton’s eCommons. One will be in the TESOL Intercultural Communication Interest Section Newsletter. And the last one will (hopefully!) be with the on-line, peer-reviewed journal, Dialogues: An Interdisciplinary Journal of English Language Teaching and Research. 
  3. I seriously need to go through some boxes of old photographs and letters that my mom gave me two years ago. I’ve been dubbed the designated family chronicler, so I’ve got to make some decisions about what stays and what goes. I know the boxes are sticking in my husband’s craw.

And hey, Henry is now officially in the sweet spot of babyhood: post-newborn and pre-mobile.

June 2017 3

June 2017 4

Baptism 1

June 2017: Baptism (Doesn’t look too thrilled)

June 2017 1

 

June 2017 2

It was Splash Friday at daycare. Thus. the swimsuit.

And how about a baby on a motorcycle?

 

So hang on to your Harleys.

It’s going to be a busy summer.

 

I Took a Nap Today

nap

I don’t think I can overstate the importance of this title.

Guys, listen up: I took a nap today.

I’m not exaggerating when I say that I have been going, going, going since Monday, March 28th. It’s my own damn fault for saying yes to too many good opportunities to develop my career and my writing. Everything just kind of converged into one hot, continuous mess for the past three weeks. As I mentioned in a previous post, I knew I would feel better once I had gotten past these last few weeks, but I’ve forgotten how wonderful sleep can feel when you’ve been going and going and going for weeks on end.

As I’ve been planning and traveling and conferencing and networking and teaching and grading and mothering, I’ve realized that a huge source of stress comes from my introverted nature.

As an introvert, I’m happiest when I have time to process an experience. I thrive on having a bit of downtime to make sense of conversations with people I’ve just met or interesting presentations that sparked an idea. I like the experience, but I also like the time to process. And now that I’m a mother, all that time that I used to have within my reach to power down and process… It’s pretty much gone.

My thinking is now done in the car. On the way to work. On the way to daycare.

It’s done in the shower.

It’s done during that blessed hour or so of nap time on the weekends. (How will I survive when she drops her nap? What will I do when we have two kids? Thoughts for another time I guess.)

Parenting when you’re an introvert feels like you’re constantly trying to come up for air before you’re pushed down under the current again. And as an artist, I’m especially prone to feeling this way, as Kim Brooks explains in her fantastic essay, “Portrait of the Artist as a Young Mom.”

Today, I’m breathing deep. Grateful for the air. And ready to keep on going.

The Next Book

About a year ago, in the middle of January, I was trying to fall asleep and out of nowhere, a sentence came to me.

Just one line. A line of dialogue.

It tugged at me. It kept me up.

Who said this line? Why did they say it? Where were they? What were the stakes?

In his book, On Writing, Stephen King compares the process of writing a good story to the process of unearthing a fossil. You see part of the story peeking out of the ground–then you unearth the story by asking the right questions. You don’t imagine a bunch of independent, isolated pieces lying on top of the earth and then try to fit them all together.

You start with one piece–then you see what’s already attached to it.

So that’s what I did. I got out a notebook and I started answering those questions.

And a story emerged.

long story.

Long enough for three books.

I stared down at my notes and thought, I don’t have time for this. I’ve got to finish this book I’m working on right now. When am I going to find time to write another book, let alone three? I’ve got a job. And a toddler.

writing

Still, the story wouldn’t go away. As I drove to work, the plot, the characters, and their motivations took shape. As I listened to music in my car, and I could see critical scenes playing out before me as I drove, much like a movie trailer. One morning while on a short vacation with friends, I got up at 5:30 and spent two hours writing out the first five major scenes.

But then I got stuck. I couldn’t see past a major conflict. I couldn’t figure out how to resolve the conflict in a way that fit with the characters.

So I put it away. I finished the book I was working on. I learned how to publish, how to market, and how reach new readers. I spent time blogging and writing essays to submit for publication elsewhere.

But the story wouldn’t go away.

***

My husband put several books in my stocking for Christmas this year. One of them was Elizabeth Gilbert’s Big Magic.

big magic

I wasn’t ready to read it at first. I was still working through the grief of miscarriage. But within a week, I decided it was time to allow myself to cultivate my creativity again. It was my creativity, after all, that had saved me, time and time again.

In Gilbert’s book, she articulates a belief that ideas come to people, almost like a kind of spiritual possession. And if the person doesn’t try to bring forth the idea to the world, it will move on, seeking someone else to bring it to light.

What a bunch of mystical bullshit, I thought.

But I kept thinking about the story that I had told to wait. I couldn’t deny that it was still lingering there in the deep recesses of my brain. It was like a puzzle that I couldn’t figure out.

So I dug out my notes about the story and the twelve pages that I wrote a year earlier and I read them.

As I moved through the pages I was swept up in the story that my previous self had written. Whose voice was this in these pages? Who wrote this? I know I did, but this doesn’t sound like me at all. It truly felt like I was reading someone else’s great idea.

But I still couldn’t figure out how to resolve the major conflict.

***

This last week, I had coffee with a good friend, Cate. She asked me if I had any desire to write fiction again. I rolled my eyes and shrugged, “You mean besides that one book that I can’t figure out?”

“What book?” she asked.

It occurred to me that Cate was a fresh audience with whom I’d never shared the concept of this book.

I told her everything that I knew. She listened, her eyebrows lifting in interest in all the right places. I had to backtrack a few times to clarify plot lines and motivations, but she stuck with me the whole time. As she asked me questions, I could feel the gears clicking into place again, the story starting to open up and move.

As I drove home, I started to re-imagine the story. What if this… What if that… 

I jotted some more notes down in a new notebook. I scribbled out the plot arcs for all three books. Oddly enough, the most logical and motivating place for me to begin was with the second book.

And so that’s where I’ll begin.

***

After this experience, I can’t totally write off Elizabeth Gilbert’s premise, that ideas knock on our doors, asking for us to bring them to light.

Because where did this first line of dialogue come from?

I have no idea.

While I can rationalize the experience of unearthing the fossil of this story question by question, I cannot rationalize where that first spark of curiosity came from. I can attribute my own imagination as the source that fleshed out the answers to all the questions that surrounded this line of dialogue.

But where did that first line of dialogue come from?

I know it didn’t come from me.

Damn you, Elizabeth Gilbert.

But also bless you, for convincing me to not give up on the idea that wouldn’t go away.

Now the hard work begins.

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