Checking in: Books and TV Shows

Hello, friends. It has been some time since I checked in on here. Our daughter, Nora, joined us on February 3, and since then, life has been what I like to call “survival mode.” They say “the days are long but the years are short,” and they (whoever “they” are) are not kidding. Most days early postpartum I sat on the couch, holding my baby in-between feeds and watched a lot of television. A lot of television. I am now close to entering month 3 of my 4-month maternity leave and I am wondering where all the time has gone.

Nora is an extremely easy baby. She’s a great eater and sleeper. When she was born, however, I expectedly got diagnosed with postpartum depression and anxiety. I immediately began treatment, but it has still been a harrowing journey. I plan to write more about my experience with PPA/PPD, but for now, I wanted to share what I have been reading and watching since I last posted!

What I read

I am happy to share that although I am still making the time to read when I can. I expected that I would have been reading nonstop once Nora arrived, but the first few weeks were too exhausting to concentrate on books. I simply existed, and that’s it. Once I found a groove, I started to read more while I fed my baby or pumped at night, and I’ve read a few books. Here they are:

The Fourth Trimester: A Postpartum Guide to Healing Your Body, Balancing Your Emotions, and Restoring Your Vitality by Kimberly Ann Johnson

This was an interesting book all about the trimester that no one talks about … the fourth trimester. There were some chapters that I skipped based on personal beliefs, but overall, I enjoyed the main premise and tips on how to take care of myself during one of the most challenging times of my life.

House of Sky and Breath (Crescent City #2) by Sarah J. Maas

Well, it’s safe to say that my time reading books by Sarah J. Maas are at an end. I finished this one extremely disappointed (and not at all “mind-blown” like other fans). Such a bummer.

How Long ’til Black Future Month? by N.K. Jemisin

I was extremely excited when I found out that N.K. Jemisin wrote short stories, so I downloaded this on my Kindle as soon as I could. There were definitely some stories that I liked more than most, and I am glad I read this insightful collection.

The Huntress by Kate Quinn

Kate Quinn has become an auto-buy author of mine, so I went into The Huntress with high hopes. It was … in a word … “okay.” The Huntress wasn’t her best and most interesting book. It was super predictable, and the characters were flat. I do look forward to downloading her new one, The Diamond Eye, once I am done with the Darker Shades of Magic trilogy!

What the Fireflies Knew by Kai Harris

I was really looking forward to this one … but it was too linear and boring. The main character was flat and there weren’t many dimensions to the plot.

The Ex Talk by Rachel Lynn Soloman

My goodness did I love The Ex Talk! It was funny, quirky, romantic, and not to mention, filled with NPR/public radio nerd references! An easy 5 stars from me!

What am I reading now?

I am currently reading The Circus Train, a novel by Amita Parikh. It is a historical romance, coming-of-age story that was just released the end of March. It is giving me major The Night Circus vibes (not in a good way, seeing as how the titles are so similar), but I really appreciate the novel’s attention to disability. I also just started A Darker Shade of Magic by V.E. Schwab, one of my most anticipated fantasy series. To be continued …

What I watched

While I nursed my baby, burped my baby, and held my baby … and pumped milk for my baby, I watched a LOT of television. I am usually a big habitual television watcher. I will watch the same movies and television shows (lookin’ at you, Gilmore girls) just for comfort. But, since I have 4 months with my baby, I figured I would watch shows that I’ve been meaning to get to, but never had the “time.” So, here’s what I watched since February (in bullet form):

  • Seinfeld (Netflix) – A classic rewatch. I haven’t seen some of the episodes before, so it was nice to have a quick laugh during the darkest days of postpartum.
  • Love is Blind S2 (Netflix) — A hot, hot mess. Loved it.
  • Emily in Paris (Netflix) — Terribly terrible, yet entertaining.
  • Inventing Anna (Netflix) — VERY good.
  • The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel (Amazon Prime) — Amazing.
  • The Office (Peacock) — Rewatch!
  • Parks and Recreation (Peacock) — First time ever. I know. But guess what? I already want to watch it again.
  • Ted Lasso (Apple TV) — Really good.
  • The Ultimatum (Netflix) — GAH. Awful. But so good.

What’s Next on TV

  • Once Upon a Time (Disney+)
  • The Mandalorian (Disney+)
  • Downtown Abbey (Netflix)
  • Outlander (Netflix)

Any recommendations? Feel free to share in the comments!

What to pack in your baby hospital bag

I am 4 weeks away from having this sweet baby, so it’s time to pack my overnight hospital bag!

As a first-time mom, I had no idea what to pack, so I reached out to my awesome community on Instagram and received some really great tips. I wanted to share a bulleted list of the top “must-haves” that I received from my pals, and then share what I am packing in my bag!

Here are some of those “must have” baby hospital bag items:

  • Change of clothes: Your comfiest pants (dark pants) and a shirt that is easy for breastfeeding
  • Dark robe and nightgown for post delivery. Basically, just pack as comfy as possible!
  • Slippers (slip-ons) with enough room just in case you have swollen ankles/feet
  • Warm, fuzzy socks
  • Your own pillow for comfort
  • Hair ties
  • Chapstick (didn’t think of this one!)
  • Extra long phone charger(s)
  • Dry shampoo
  • Face wash/face wipes
  • Headphones for Netflix/audio/phone calls
  • Noise cancelling ear plugs
  • Throw-away panties with pads
  • Baby swaddles with velcro
  • Going home outfit(s) for baby
  • SNACKS! This was the biggest one. Everyone said to pack lots of snacks.
  • Water bottle with straw so partner can just hand you the bottle and you can sip.
  • Your own preferred hygiene products (I already put in an order for this)!

AND … for your partner/support person:

  • Phone charger
  • Pillow and blanket
  • Snacks
  • Change of clothes
  • Toiletries

Everyone was so helpful, and I can’t thank them enough for all of their advice.

Here’s what I am packing in my hospital bag:

  • Slippers (with enough room to put my feet in … my ankles are getting swollen!)
  • Flip flops for the shower
  • Black, button up nightgown (long sleeved)
  • Comfy maternity joggers
  • Maternity shirt
  • Maternity bras (2)
  • Fuzzy socks
  • Manual breast pump
  • Toiletries:
    • Inhalers, other medications, night guard (adorable, right?)
    • Face wash
    • Chapstick
    • Lotion
    • Hair ties
    • Frida Postpartum kit
    • Always disposable diapers

Then, for the baby:

  • Name sign
  • Blanket
  • Pacifiers
  • Velcro swaddles
  • Going home outfit
  • Additional going home outfit (just in case)
  • Hat, gloves, and booties (She’s a winter baby in New England!)
  • Car seat and base

My husband’s bag:

  • Change of clothes
  • Pillow/blanket
  • Snacks
  • iPad/charger
  • Toiletries

I can’t believe how real this is getting. Tell me — am I missing anything? Experienced parents: Please share!

2022: The Year of Embracing Joy

This particular blog post has been tough to write because let’s be honest … I am having a very hard time welcoming a new year right now. I think we all are, right? With the new variant spreading across the world and its existence impeding on the safe and happy arrival of our baby, it’s hard to stay positive … especially when I decided that my theme for 2022 is “Joy.”

Cliff, Adventure, Above, Hiking

What I am trying to achieve in 2022 is very similar to this picture here. We are all at the top of this hill looking down at a vast, dark, impossible void. While I don’t want to pretend it’s not there, I do want to take moments and turn towards the sun, stretch out my arms and welcome some light and positivity where I can. I write this very carefully. I don’t want to lose sight of where we are in the world and how much work we have to do. I am luckier than others, I know this. I want to play a role in making our world a better place, but I also recognize that I cannot be an active member of society if I do not take care of myself. It’s a privilege, and I struggle with that awareness.

The world just feels heavy again. I thought we were moving in a positive direction, but now another variant is making me afraid. I am afraid to leave my home again; I am afraid to get sick; I am afraid to get my loved ones sick; I am afraid that my baby will get sick. How can I find joy in so much darkness?

I think that’s why joy is the right theme for 2022. I am determined to find some light in this darkness. My daughter’s arrival in 6 weeks will be the ultimately light, and I don’t want that to dim. I want to also be a positive light for her and most importantly, a positive light for myself.

If you’ve been around for a while, you know that each year, I choose a theme. Back in 2015, I took some advice from Gretchen Rubin and decided to form habits rather than create resolutions in the new year. Since then, I have purposefully stuck to my themes to live a happier life. And it’s worked.

In 2021, my theme was to spark creativity, particularly in my writing, my home, and my music. Looking back at this year, I met my theme in many ways. While I wrote an entire Master’s thesis this spring, I also updated my blog regularly for the first time in a long time (yay!). I also participated in NaNoWriMo and started my first book! We have continued to add our own special touches to our home, and this year, I discovered a love for gardening, a new creative outlet. I learned new songs on the guitar, and I even posted a few singing videos and participated in virtual cabarets with my friends. While I didn’t start my own online bookmark store (oops), I am proud of what I achieved this year.

2022: A Year of Joy

As I enter a new chapter in my life, I aim to live as joyfully as possible. I’d like to embrace and experience joy through many outlets in my life, and I’d also like to spark joy for others, whether that is through my writing, performing, or charitable acts. As a mother, I believe that if I am taking steps to feel happiness, my daughter will also feel that joy through me.

When I think of a year of joy, I imagine adopting a few practices:

Meditation and Yoga: As a new mom, I want to make time for myself to feel grounded and calm. I plan to mediate for 10-15 minutes per day (with the help of the amazing Calm app), and practice yoga at least twice a week. While this may be difficult with a newborn, I am grateful that I have a partner who can help push me to meet these goals.

Practicing Mindfulness and Gratitude: While these are somewhat synonymous, I do want to break them down separately to explain my intentions with both. I recently read in Breathe Magazine (highly recommend) that it’s important to pause during your most mundane routines and find joy in those moments. Whether it is making a pot of tea or feeding my baby on the couch, I want to teach myself to stop and be mindful of the simplicity and peace in those routines. Meditation and yoga will help with mindfulness, and being mindful will help me feel gratitude, an emotion that I aim to focus on every day to help boost my happiness. (See this post).

Exercise: As someone who regularly combats anxiety and depression, exercise has always been a lifesaver. This pregnancy has been a little rough with round ligament pain and sciatica. I’ve been advised to avoid rigorous activity, and now at 34 weeks, walking is a painful task. Once I am healed after giving birth to our daughter, I aim to slowly get back into exercising, working out 2 times a week and increasing that to 4-5 times a week. I miss my Peloton, and can’t wait to get back in the saddle (literally).

Planting: I mentioned that I discovered a love for gardening this past year. In 2022, I want to continue plant and beautify our outdoor space. I am excited to bring our daughter outside, breathe in the fresh, spring air, and get my hands dirty. Planting seeds and watching them grow throughout the spring and summer will bring me joy, and it will also help spark mindfulness and gratitude. I love feeling connected to our planet.

What about you?

What are your goals/habits that you’d like to form in 2022? Please share in the comments below.

Happy New Year to my readers. Be well. Thank you for being here. Thank you for being you.

My favorite Christmas songs

Christmas, Background, Flat Lay

Admittedly, I’ve been listening to Christmas songs (or Christmassy-like tunes) since mid-November. Cut me some slack though; we are still in a pandemic and I was feeling very nostalgic and excited this holiday season.

As someone who loves to sing, Christmas songs are my jam (pun … intended, I guess?). I wanted to share a non-exhaustive list of my favorite Christmas tunes to listen to/blast throughout the holidays. Let me know if you see any you love or any you’d add. Also, check out my friend’s list! Great minds, Cecilia!

O Holy Night – Andy Williams

O Holy Night absolutely ranks as my top Christmas carol. It is my favorite song to sing, and it really does fill me with a “thrill of hope.” Why Andy Williams? Not sure. Whenever I hear it, I picture my little hands putting ornaments up on the tree, so this version must have been played a lot in my childhood home.

The Christmas Song – Nat King Cole

As if there’s any other version to listen to. Classic, warm, wholesome. The first 5 seconds of this song immediately puts me in the Christmas spirit.

A Holly Jolly Christmas – Burl Ives

Rudolph vibes! This song slaps. You can’t help but dance when this one comes on.

Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas – Judy Garland

This one has hit home the past two Christmases – particularly during this challenging time (although “next year all our troubles will be out of sight” didn’t really come to fruition this year). Let’s hope for next year?!

Ave maria – Christina Perri

Christina Perri has a hauntingly beautiful voice, and I love her Christmas album “a very merry perry christmas.” The title is clever. This version is also very easy to learn on guitar, which I have yet to record and post!

Santa Claus is Comin’ to Town – Frank Sinatra

… Along with the entire “Christmas Songs by Sinatra” album and every Christmas song he’s ever recorded.

Christmas is A-Comin’ – Bing Crosby

The crooner himself. Bing Crosby’s entire Christmas album is a household favorite. I just love the lyrics in this one, particularly “Christmas is a-comin’ and the egg is in the nog.” Gets me every time. Special shout out to Christmas Is Here to Stay.

Sleigh Ride – The Ronettes

Ring-a-ling-a-ling-a-ding-a-ling.

O Tannenbaum – Vince Guaraldi Trio

Anything by those three really…

Mele Kalikimaka – Bing Crosby and The Andrews Sisters

While my idea of Christmas is a snowy one, I do enjoy the song’s vibes and The Andrew Sisters harmonies.

Silver Bells – Dean Martin

Another classic. I like the slowness and easiness of this one.

Man With the Bag – Jessie J

Pop-tastic. Feisty, fun, playful. I love it. Jessie J is one of my favorite vocalists and I love blasting this one in the car and pairing it with some impressive shoulder dancing.

Where Are You Christmas – Faith Hill

I love Dr. Seuss’ How The Grinch Stole Christmas almost as much as I love impersonating Faith Hill’s voice while singing this song.

What are your favorites? Happy Holidays!