Sunday, December 11, 2016

Baldwin Babes: Winter 2016 Edition

It's been such a long time since writing that I can only provide highlights. Will is done with his last Trauma rotation. Will has job offers. The children are extra busy. I am (still) learning to handle challenges and, when I find myself having a good day, can hardly recognize myself from a bad day.

I am still teaching. I am cleaning out our house. I am laughing that my office has been such a wreck since I started tossing papers... oh well. Comes with the cleaning out territory, I suppose.

Today I fixed soup which I give a B (I need to work on salting better... terrified of over-salting); oatmeal chocolate chip bars which I give an A-; graded; cleaned the downstairs again; took care of the children; took care of the sick husband; reminded myself to get to bed "earlier than usual".

So, hi again. Happy Advent. Here's what we've been doing for the past month...

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Sunday, October 30, 2016

#write31days: The Art of Not Asking Questions

My grandmother is sick. She was sick for years before I found out; years before she told anyone.

When I first heard this, I went through different stages of grief. She is, after all, the only grandmother I've ever known. My paternal grandmother died before I was born.

My maternal grandmother is classy and reserved; easy to laugh and has a quick wit. She likes playing cards and once asked me if the margaritas I was helping make on a family vacation were "for the kids" - I did not add enough alcohol, apparently.

I never really understood, until recently, why she did not tell anyone. Even now, when I call her and ask how she is doing, she always answers, "Just fine, thanks!"

My dear grandmother, I understand now.

I understand that you're not fine - but I'm not the person you want to say that to.

I understand that you're not in the mood to be constantly discussing the state of your health.

I understand. I love you.


A hard part about having a child with special needs is that too many questions revolve around her therapy and her progress.

It is, honestly, draining.

To the outside person, it is a simple question. What is she doing? How is she improving? 

Every day, it's different. Every day, I try to balance typical expectations for a three year old while recognizing that she faces different challenges. She cannot use her right hand. I have to help her get dressed on her right side; I have to remind her to use her hand and arm too; we practice opening and closing her hand. We practice her standing on her feet evenly.

She has many therapists whom I am in constant communication with; she sees 5 therapists/week + 2 consults per month. I keep up with various doctor appointments. I have to be consistent about her - stretching and massage, putting on her braces, pushing her to try, try again.

It can break a mother's heart. You just want to see your baby not struggle. But she does, and that is okay too. She is a vibrant, loving, talented three year old. When I am having a hard day, I'll tell her. She says, "I hug you mommy. I kiss you."


In this family, we struggle. We forgive. We try, we laugh, and we dance.

I know there is a natural curiosity about cerebral palsy, different therapies, and even how postpartum depression manifests itself... but we humans are all processing. I am still processing my daughter's diagnosis. I am still processing my own diagnosis. Some days I think I am overreacting; other days, I want my bed to swallow me.

I'm not writing this to shut people out - this is a free country. People may ask questions. I am saying that people do not have a right to information. There is no Freedom of Information Act for your life; to the contrary, plead HIPPA, or the 5th Amendment. Too often, we don't want to offend people by saying, "No thanks. Not in the mood to discuss this with you." I am guilty of this. I'd prefer people lead with, "When you're in the mood to discuss, I'd like to hear about ___."

But Julie! You are writing this on your blog, a public forum! Isn't that an invitation for further discussion?

Yes, I am. That is my prerogative. The same way I talk about my postpartum depression. I even found myself mentioning it to people at a party last week, because I am a fun person.

In the same vein, Grace is my daughter. I'm happy to discuss her favorite colors, her favorite dress-up options, the funny things she says, et cetera. I want people to know Grace for who she is, and not her diagnosis. She's not an inspiration. She's a warrior princess, just like her sister Laura.


So, people of the world: let me bring it up.

Or begin by saying, "I'd love to hear at some point"... yes, I will register your request. And thank you for giving me the option to say "no" and "not now"! It shows thoughtfulness, as it's personal for me. I have more hard days now, or maybe they just feel harder. More often than not, questions feel harder too.

I cannot apologize for struggling. I am not a robot. I am a human, living this glorious experience.

As I've mentioned before, the best question to ask is the non-question. The best messages I receive are the ones of neutral support. I love talking to family and showing them the kids via FaceTime. I like catching up with friends (usually by text, if we're honest) and hearing about daily life. I like hearing about hobbies, adventures, trips and ideas. I don't like dwelling on things I can't change.


We live in uncertain times, though the days are patterned. I find myself pausing more and meditating on love. There are four types of love. There are five types of love languages. My husband is not verbose like me; I wrote him hundreds of letters, and talk to him about everything. He shows me love - he shows me that I am whole, when I feel broken. He shows me potential when I feel distress. Will is the calm in my storm. He and I have accepted that we will never know why Grace had a stroke, and we both agree that nothing changes the way we will always do our best for her, as we will do for all our darling children.

I find comfort in love, messy as it is; I've been re-reading lines from Mary Oliver's poem "Rhapsody":

"If you are in the garden, I will dress myself in leaves.
If you are in the sea I will slide into that
smooth blue nest, I will talk fish, I will adore salt.
But if you are sad, I will not dress myself in desolation.
I will present myself with all the laughters I can muster.
And if you are angry I will come, calm and steady,
with some small and easy story.

Promises, promises, promises! The tongue jabbers, the heart
strives, falls, strives again. The world is perfect.
Love, however, is an opera, a history, a long walk,
that includes falling and rising, falling and rising, while
the heart stays as sweet as a peach, as radiant and
grateful as the deep-leaved hills."

Let us ask about what concerns each of us - our life in the spirit, our joys, our doings, and our thoughts. We are more than our sorrow.


My "rules" for this series are short (especially before commenting): this topic is personal and I am currently living in it. This is not an abstract for a dissertation. I do not have 20/20 hindsight yet. I don't need any medical advice, as I keep in close communication with my own PA + Dr., as well as being married to one. My husband and I practice many different types of coping mechanisms as well, which I will write about too. My situation is 100 percent unique and I am writing only about myself. These posts are directed at no one, and still, I am opening myself up to share my experiences. If I can help one person, it will be worth it. Please respect this adult conversation at face value.


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Monday, October 17, 2016

#write31days: PostPartum Depression and Romance

This past weekend, Will and I had just a really hard time. I was struggling, and he was struggling with my struggles.

And this is where we should be honest about why most of us get married: we want to be with the person who is going to put up with our shit every single day.

Marriage isn't easy, people coo. I hated hearing that, especially when I was dating Will - even though I knew it was true. So I planned and we talked and we came to the same conclusions, and thus, engagement was natural. Marriage followed. Babies happened, and so did unhappiness. The growing pains of marriage are natural, and those who wish to ignore the root causes are apt to be unhappy that they will never be resolved until you take a shovel and dig them out. Claw if you must, but the longer you let ills grow, the harder it is to eradicate the problem.

I've seen it in too many marriages, and I tried to avoid it in my own. But one cannot avoid human nature. Humility is often the antidote.

So, this past weekend, we talked about my struggles, his struggles, our struggles. He was gone for most of the past week, and that's always a hard adjustment for us both- we work better together, and when we're separated, neither is the best version of ourselves. Add in my postpartum depression, and it's a mountain we're both climbing together.

And after two hard days, we had a beautiful Sunday together. In our Catholic marriage vows, we pledged, "I promise to be true to you in good times and in bad, in sickness and in health. I will love you and honor you all the days of my life."

This is what is hard. How do you honor each other? Not making side comments. Gossiping about your spouse. Being direct. I wanted flowers from Will. I was feeling more like the maid than the wife. So, what did I do? I asked for them.

Will took the girls to Target and Wegmans, did some shopping for me, and bought me tulips. Win-win situation. I told him, and he followed through.

It's too easy to blame your spouse. I tried to last week. He bounced back what he had done. Grumble grumble. FINE BUT...

We talked about frustrations. He hates the way I do the laundry. This is no secret. In fact, this is probably what we "fight" about the most. Oh, if that's the worst you fight about, then you're fine, some people sigh. But it's how a person fights - it's not the topic. If you are constantly right and your spouse is constantly wrong, then you are wrong too. If you belittle your spouse and get passive aggressive and dismissive, you are part of the problem too - even if you are right or justified on principle.

If you want real romance in your marriage, you have to handle tough situations together, as a team. There are no winners and losers in marriage. There cannot be a right and wrong for a marriage of true minds. We must sanctify each other. We must hold each other accountable.

Romance is the intimacy of allowing your spouse be who they are. It's saying "I'm sorry"-- and he's sorry too, and you two hug. Will's biggest romantic gesture is the absolute patience and kindness he shows me when I am struggling through the day.

And surprise tulips.


My "rules" for this series are short (especially before commenting): this topic is personal and I am currently living in it. This is not an abstract for a dissertation. I do not have 20/20 hindsight yet. I don't need any medical advice, as I keep in close communication with my own PA + Dr., as well as being married to one. My husband and I practice many different types of coping mechanisms as well, which I will write about too. My situation is 100 percent unique and I am writing only about myself. These posts are directed at no one, and still, I am opening myself up to share my experiences. If I can help one person, it will be worth it. Please respect this adult conversation at face value.


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Saturday, October 15, 2016

#write31days: PostPartum Depression and Poetry (Wendell Berry)

"Breaking" by Wendell Berry

Did I believe I had a clear mind?
It was like the water of a river
flowing shallow over the ice. And now
that the rising water has broken
the ice, I see that what I thought
was the light is part of the dark.

Having a tough few days; not looking for sympathy, and that's why I am not writing every day. 


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Tuesday, October 11, 2016

#write31days: Fulton Sheen on Value

“Let those who think their work has no value recognize that by fulfilling their insignificant tasks out of love of God, those tasks assume supernatural worth. The aged who bear the taunts of the young, the sick crucified to their beds, the street cleaner and the garbage collector, the chorus girl who never had a line, the unemployed carpenter – all these will be enthroned above dictators, presidents, kings, and Cardinals if a greater love of God inspires their humbler tasks than inspires those who play nobler roles with less love." - Archbishop Fulton Sheen


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Monday, October 10, 2016

#write31days: Are You Depressed Because You Have Three Kids Under Three?

This is the big question. I feel this is often an underlined in conversations, if not specifically mentioned.

My opinion is NOPE.

Three under three means I have less time for socializing, need to organize more and maybe definitely affects how scatter-brained I am.

But these kids actually keep me sane because I love them so so so much. Maybe that is not the way for everyone, but it is for me. If anything, I am more contemptuous of anyone else who discusses my kids or my parenting in ways my brain perceives as vaguely condescending.

(Perceives, of course, is the key word.)

It's the most favorite phrase I hear: "You have your hands full!"

I usually reply that, I have one hand free (chuckle, I'm so clever), or, I'm baby wearing!, or, UP YOURS. (Sort of kidding on the last one.)

A better reply: Hands full, heart full! 

If you can't believe that you're seeing a person who has one to multiple children, here's what you can say:
  1. She/ He/ They're so beautiful!
  2. You are a lucky mama!
  3. Just smile and say nothing. (Because you don't have to say ANYTHING, since you usually do not know the person in the slightest.) 
What then? Say nothing, yes; instead, practice acts of mercy. Few people are interested in unsolicited opinions. How are your actions going to reflect love?

My friend Maria just sent me a couple of weeks worth of dinner. Praise the LORD. I'll only have to worry about the kids, which is easy enough. I am still in awe at her thoughtfulness. I've had a few friends send me cards to say Hi, I love you. That's it. That's what I need - support and love.

We Catholics have a moral obligation to participate in the Corporal Works of Mercy and the Spiritual Works of Mercy. I know for me, I am especially practicing "bearing wrongs patiently" these days... I am often impatient. It stings me to recognize how impatient I can be, but the self-awareness which comes from my healing is a blessing indeed.

Many cases of depression swirl around the idea that the mother is not enough; and in some ways, this thought is right - no one person can *do* enough. But each person has the intrinsic value and dignity of *being enough*. We all must show through our actions and words that this is the case, and try to undermine the false demons.

Favorite things to mail new mothers:
1. Anything  aden+anais (e.g. soft bibs, blankets)
2. Starbucks gift card
3. Any type of gift card involved in expedient purchases
4. wipes + dipes
5. a little luxuries box - this is much more individualized, but: a new water bottle, nail polish, easy breakfast options, a good pair of socks, flavored sparkling water, a favorite magazine, a Netflix gift card (or Hulu!), a box of tea/ bag of coffee... really, anything you feel a mother would enjoy. {I'll write more on creative gift ideas soon. This is a favorite activity of mine!}

The same goes for the depressed mother. I like to send belated gifts because once the routine has set in, it's nice to receive something to know I remember that they have a baby at home and I am thinking of them. I tend to send mother-centric gifts, because she needs to know that people care, even when she feels alone and overwhelmed. Babies are need love, feedings and changings, and the emotional energy is going 24/7.

When in doubt, if money is tight, just send a card.

It really is the little things.


My "rules" for this series are short (especially before commenting): this topic is personal and I am currently living in it. This is not an abstract for a dissertation. I do not have 20/20 hindsight yet. I don't need any medical advice, as I keep in close communication with my own PA + Dr., as well as being married to one. My husband and I practice many different types of coping mechanisms as well, which I will write about too. My situation is 100 percent unique and I am writing only about myself. These posts are directed at no one, and still, I am opening myself up to share my experiences. If I can help one person, it will be worth it. Please respect this adult conversation at face value.


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Thursday, October 6, 2016

#write31days: Dancing in the Dark

I get up in the evening
And I ain't got nothing to say
I come home in the morning
I go to bed feeling the same way
I ain't nothing but tired Man
I'm just tired and bored with myself
Hey there baby, I could use just a little help


You can't start a fire
You can't start a fire without a spark
This gun's for hire
Even if we're just dancing in the dark

~ Bruce Springsteen, "Dancing in the Dark"


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Wednesday, October 5, 2016

#write31days: PostPartum Depression and the Worry Machine

Somewhere in my brain is a worry machine. It is old and loud and creaky, but I can't find it. I want to pull the plug, or oil the hinges or anything to make it quiet down.

I worry about screen time.
But then I hear Grace talking along with the show, or Laura singing, and they're both dancing/ running in circles. I don't care any more.

I worry about feeding them healthy food. I spend hours looking up recipes.
But then then my kids only eat the same two dozen foods, so I start to lower my expectations. 

I feel that the house is a mess AGAIN.
Didn't I just clean it? Is it as bad as I feel it is? 

I'm not exercising anymore. My routine is gone.
How will I get it back? Too tired. 

When should I go to the grocery store?
We have nothing in the house. We have so much in the house, but not what I want/ need. First world problems. Just deal. 

I'm tired.
Why did I sign the girls up for swim lessons? 

There is a line where people wonder, What is normal and what is PPD? With postpartum depression, your entire body is shutting down. You cannot cook. You cannot clean. You're just scraping by with what must-must-must happen. Every day, Will and I decide the one thing I will accomplish that day. Just one. If I do more: hooray! If I don't- all good. My anxiety lessens.

I'm learning to ignore more. As the stress rises, crashing like waves on both sides of me, I focus on my brain's recording of Will's voice saying, "It doesn't matter."

(I should embroider that on a pillow.)

It being the worry. The manifestation of a false demon. The dilemma forming in my brain, clouding my sight, my mind. Worry is intrusive. Worry isn't welcome. I can't stop it, but I can combat it.

Julie and Will's coping mechanisms for worry:
1. Breathing (deeply)
2. Perspective (what is actually happening right now)
3. Stress scale (is this being exacerbated by something else, including sleepiness?)
4. What can I do about it? (Practicals, plans, and pursuit)
5. Get enough/ more sleep.

Speaking of which- off to bed. Tomorrow is another busy day.


My "rules" for this series are short (especially before commenting): this topic is personal and I am currently living in it. This is not an abstract for a dissertation. I do not have 20/20 hindsight yet. I don't need any medical advice, as I keep in close communication with my own PA + Dr., as well as being married to one. My husband and I practice many different types of coping mechanisms as well, which I will write about too. My situation is 100 percent unique and I am writing only about myself. These posts are directed at no one, and still, I am opening myself up to share my experiences. If I can help one person, it will be worth it. Please respect this adult conversation at face value.


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Tuesday, October 4, 2016

Monday, October 3, 2016

#write31days: Postpartum Depression and Poetry (Mary Oliver)

“I want to think again of dangerous and noble things.
I want to be light and frolicsome.
I want to be improbable beautiful and afraid of nothing,
as though I had wings.”
― Mary Oliver, Owls and Other Fantasies: Poems and Essays


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Sunday, October 2, 2016

#write31days: PostPartum Depression and Eating

One of the most important things a lady can do while depressed is to watch the kind of food consumed by the body. I have the tendency to eat a lot of sugar. It's not every meal - it's just the constant snacking, and mindless eating - especially when I am feeding the toddlers, but not myself.

My new sport is meal planning. I spend time deciding what kinds of food I want for the week, and I try to balance all the food groups.

  • In the morning I need coffee and protein (in some capacity, does not have to be meat). I try to add in fruit every day as well.
  • For lunch, I need a non-sandwich which gets me through class + raw fruits and vegetables. I am trying out salad bags - I literally load spinach salad, walnuts, dried cranberries, feta cheese and anything that isn't wet into a sandwich bag. Wa-la! At lunch time, it's ready to eat. 
  • For snacks, I need something un-heavy and hopefully resembling a vegetable. I like plain greek yogurt with honey and walnuts too, or smoothies with spinach leaves.
  • For dinner, I want a meal which appeals to my husband and two toddlers... this is my greatest challenge. Possibly deserving of another post...
  • For dessert, anything that can pretend to be healthy.

Among the many different ways that I am learning how to be the best version of myself (even when it is trying) is to watch my diet. I am definitely affected by sugar, and though I will not cut it from my diet wholly (hello, coffee creamer, you old minx) ever-ever, I think that it is important to make sure I am not filling up on gummy bears meant for potty training, or pretending that cereal is a competent dinner plan.

My favorite cookbooks:

  • The Feed Zone // written for athletes, and works for people looking for fast, healthy foods
  • The New Best Recipe // if you ever wanted to know the "why" behind the recipe, this is the tell all book. I've never made a bad recipe from this book.
  • Mad Hungry: Feeding Men and Boys // so many ideas, especially since my husband is all about the meat + grain. The oatmeal chocolate chip cookie recipe is my favorite, though.

My favorite websites:

  • The Kitchn // my favoritest website; anything you have ever wanted to know about the kitchen and cooking basics/ secrets can be found here.
  • Minimalist Baker // 10 ingredients or less? Yes please.
  • Budget Bytes // affordable and creative meals.
  • The Lemon Bowl // delicious and nutritious eats!

What are you eating? Can you tell how your diet affects your life?


My "rules" for this series are short (especially before commenting): this topic is personal and I am currently living in it. This is not an abstract for a dissertation. I do not have 20/20 hindsight yet. I don't need any medical advice, as I keep in close communication with my own PA + Dr., as well as being married to one. My husband and I practice many different types of coping mechanisms as well, which I will write about too. My situation is 100 percent unique and I am writing only about myself. These posts are directed at no one, and still, I am opening myself up to share my experiences. If I can help one person, it will be worth it. Please respect this adult conversation at face value.


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Saturday, October 1, 2016

#write31days: PostPartum Depression - How Did You Know? // Introduction and Rules of Engagement

Last October, I attempted #write31days but without a serious mindset... quantity really- I wanted to write more. And I did! It was great. Today, I am starting this challenge over with a more guided topic. Postpartum depression.

I discussed ideas with a few friends, and this topic came up multiple times. How do you handle PPD as a Catholic women? How do you handle it with residency? How do you handle it with multiple children? What does it feel like? What should others know about PPD? The questions went on and on...

My "rules" for this series are short: this topic is personal and I am currently living in it. This is not an abstract for a dissertation. I do not have 20/20 hindsight yet. I don't need any medical advice, as I keep in close communication with my own PA + Dr., as well as being married to one. My husband and I practice many different types of coping mechanisms as well, which I will write about too. My situation is 100 percent unique and I am writing only about myself. These posts are directed at no one, and still, I am opening myself up to share my experiences. If I can help one person, it will be worth it. Please respect this adult conversation at face value.


How do you know you are depressed (PPD) and it's not just the baby blues?

This is the number one question many women ask. I am on baby number three in three years. Shockingly to many, this is not the cause of my depression. My depression has to do (mainly) with external factors in my life which I do not have [much] control over. I mention this because I have bonded with my third child wonderfully, just like I did with my other two.

I mention this because many women dismiss their feelings because they do not fall into the normal realm of what depression looks like. If you are taking anything your baby does personally, that should be a warning sign. A baby is for cuddling and feeding. A baby wants love and affection, and cries because something is wrong - or nothing is wrong! All three of my children spent the first month or two of their lives crying "just because"... baby wearing, baby swinging, and being okay with crying.

My main symptoms are anger and irritability. Everything bugs me - but what sends me over the edge is the perpetual whining of my three year old. Grace repeats herself constantly, and this is normal! There is nothing wrong with this! But for me, it was nails on a chalkboard. Combine this with anxiety if the house descends into madness (thanks, Laura); if I've forgotten something I am supposed to do; if I watch time tock by, paralyzed by what I should do...

This is not a normal response to stress. This is, at the very least, a reason to talk to a medical professional. If you have a feeling something is off, your intuition is probably right. Don't ignore it.

I knew something was wrong when Grace began whining and I just had to leave the room; I wanted to punch the wall repeatedly. I called the phone nurse at my OB's office, and as I told her my symptoms, I started sobbing.

I am currently taking medicine, which I will address in another post. Medicine combined with exercise and other coping mechanisms for healthy living is key - we cannot expect medicine alone to "fix" my feelings, anymore than we should think "natural living" is enough for women to cope.

With my first two children, I would feel sad and overwhelmed and stressed from time to time... with Stephen, there were times when I wanted to leave the house. I wanted to punch the wall; I wanted to cry and yell; I wanted to curl up in a ball and ignore everyone. These are not normal response to stress. My medicine is only 20 mg, but it is enough. When I hear whining, I can respond calmly or ignore it. I can find order in the chaos and I can laugh. I am 110 percent a better mother taking medicine, and I feel much more like myself.

And this is really the most telling part of depression - I didn't feel like myself. I didn't know this version of Julie, and I didn't like it. I love my family and I wanted to enjoy these young days. This is why I sought help and now, this is why I am writing about postpartum depression and anxiety. The only thing to fear is *not* accepting help. Don't try to rationalize your feelings or dismiss them. If you need help, ask for it. This is scary, and that is okay.

Before Grace's eye surgery; when I had first started medication

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Friday, September 30, 2016

Bless Us O Lord, and These Thy Gifts, Which You are About to Grade...

What would you do if you could NOT fail?

Absolutely NOT fail.



When my students and I study history, we're studying what happened - mistakes, humans, innovation, power grabs, glory, false pride and unbearable arrogance; then again: virtue, peace, honor, loyalty and adventure. There is plenty of failure in history - failure to understand, failure to compromise, failure to integrate, failure to say "enough"... we study history so as to not repeat the failures, hopefully, among other better reasons.

Then, I'm out of the classroom and I'm just Mom. I'm fixing dinner and fixing hair.

That's life; there is no failure possible. There is no timeline, there is only now. If there is any failure, it's failure to love - failure to be kind, failure to be patient. Lately, while I have not been blogging, I've been meal planning (my new sport), re-arranging our house, massively purging, too much laundry, and backing out of over-commitments. It's been very refreshing. I've also been bowing out of time commitments, including being editor in chief of Ignitum Today. It just was not a good outlet for me, and life is too short to overcommit. I'll keep writing and editing a few people, but I'm lowering my expectations of output into the world. I'm taking a break from graduate school; some days I wonder if I should even be there. My home base matters the most.

I'm not the boss of my house. I don't run my house like a company, and I certainly lack the organization to even claim non-profit status. Ever since Laura dumped out all our Very Important Papers (shame on me for leaving the lid unlocked one day), I'm re-arranging and re-organzing everything. I like it. It's a slow process, and I like learning how I like things as I go along.

I was telling my dad how I almost signed up for a painting class. As I embrace my avocation as an artist, and start to branch out more regularly into my art, a class seemed like a natural next step. Then I laughed. The girls are in swim lessons right now, and I'm still in the beginning of the school year. I need to let myself wait for another season, and just play around with my paints and ideas for now.

It's natural to want to master something, and everything. Have the right opinions, know everything already. Maybe that is why I like being a teacher - you realize that there is always something to learn. There is nothing wrong with being a novice, perhaps perpetually. It's that learning curve we're all chasing.

Well, I'm done running. After life, at least. The greatest advice I ever got (thanks Meg!) was to jump off the hamster wheel, because when you have a child with special needs, everything changes. Mostly,  hard-earned joy. I love having a reason to say NOPE WE'RE DOING IT OUR WAY. Because of Grace? Sure. And Laura, Stephen, Will and me too. We all have different needs, and that's how we direct our family. As we reach the end of residency, I cannot dismiss the life Will and I lead before he gets a "real" job. Our life isn't defined by his employment. Our worth isn't wrapped up success. We love each other because we belong to each other, as a family.

So no, I can't fail at being a mom. I might be running late or ignoring the pile of boxes from Amazon or [fill in the blank], but IT HAPPENS. Will overcooked the spinach ravioli and we both rolled with it. Grace refused to eat her birthday dinner but devoured her birthday cake. Laura wrecks the house again? Doesn't mean I did not just clean it. Stephen gets up multiple time during the night so I'm yawning in class? Yep. Who knows what is next, or even the plan this weekend? Not this girl. That is a win in my book.


I've heard from a lot of friends that they are "failing"... but to fail in my history classes, you don't show up to class and you don't do the work. No matter your vocation in life, few people do neither. Way to go, you! God only asks what is possible.


"And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love Him, who have been called according to His purpose" (Romans 8:28).


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Thursday, September 15, 2016

Happy Life, Messy Wife

A few nights ago, I felt upset. It's hard to distinguish, sometimes, between burn-out, postpartum depression and exasperation. Our babysitter cancelled, Will was half-awake after a night shift and dinner was not made. Laura dumped out all our shoes again. I had cleaned the whole house earlier and felt so good... Then the girls did not nap; then no relief; then no time to prep for the next day's lesson; then up too late. I was falling down and only a zillion chocolate chip cookies (which we had none) would numb the pain. But then Will said something and, as uninspired as it was, it was the kick that told me: messes come and go. You matter. Messes don't.

I'm listening to The Happiness Project by Gretchen Rubin on Audible. I like it so much that I sent it home and told my Dad that the family should read this together. The Apple blurb says,
Gretchen Rubin had an epiphany one rainy afternoon in the unlikeliest of places: a city bus. “The days are long, but the years are short,” she realized. “Time is passing, and I’m not focusing enough on the things that really matter.” In that moment, she decided to dedicate a year to her happiness project. 
In this lively and compelling account—now updated with new material by the author—Rubin chronicles her adventures during the twelve months she spent test-driving the wisdom of the ages, current scientific research, and lessons from popular culture about how to be happier. Among other things, she found that novelty and challenge are powerful sources of happiness; that money can help buy happiness, when spent wisely; that outer order contributes to inner calm; and that the very smallest of changes can make the biggest difference. 
The biggest part about happiness is the necessity of growth and pushing one's self outside our personal comfort zone and accept failure (and embrace the fun of failure!) as a necessary part of living. Building habits, asking for help and scale back on obligations. All of these experiences she discussed came with a head nod... yes, mm, yes. But action is harder.

I am (also/still) listening to a podcast my art history teacher recommended to me. (Pro tip: stay in touch with your favorite professors/ teachers. They will continue to enrich your life with their love, wit and wisdom!) It's called Magic Lessons by Elizabeth Gilbert, and it is all about the creative life and the creative process.

I miss my creative process. I miss the ability to stay up late and write and re-write and laugh and talk and color and write letters to friends and re-write... my creative process has been replaced by a need to re-organize my house and regulate toys and re-arrange our schedule and meal plan and lesson plan and

no wonder.

no wonder I am just so tired when the evening hits that I don't finish post after post after post.

I am a creative soul, and my cup is dry.

But my heart is hopeful.

I bought acrylic paints and canvases a few months ago because I saw them on sale.

I thought, I took Studio I-III and Mixed Media in high school!

I thought, It's been too long.

I thought, I'm scared to open them.

I thought, I'm ready. 


In the meantime - here's to more messes.

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Sunday, August 21, 2016

A Day in the Baldwin House

Chandler graciously invited me to share my day; here's to the challenge! 

My name is Julie Baldwin. I am a part-time online United States history teacher who is still on summer break/ maternity leave for a few more weeks. My husband is an emergency medicine resident, which adds variety to our schedule. We have three children under 3 years old, going on four years of marriage, and living far away from our respective home bases. For better and for could-do-better, no day is the same...

Friday - Casa Baldwin - PA, USA

At some point in the morning, I wake up to feed Stephen (3 months). It is still dark out. I peer into his face and his eyes are open. He's hungry! I grab my phone and text my husband Will, who is working overnight in the surgical ICU. He's typing up notes before rounds. Stephen falls back asleep and I plop him into the rock 'n sleep one more time...

The light wakes me soon enough... I fight the urge to ignore reality. I am content to stare at this little pudding pie drowsily.

7-8 a.m.: Get Grace (3) and Laura (1.5) up from their cribs; they are wide awake and done relaxing once I enter their room. I'm lucky they've learned how to stay put/ not scream before 7 a.m. I change diapers, feed Stephen again while the girls run around and play upstairs, test my fertility + chart, take my PPD medicine and move the party downstairs for breakfast.

8-10 a.m.: Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday are therapy days for my daughter Grace, but this morning, we are relaxing and waiting for Will to come home from the hospital. Breakfast varies based on time and willingness to exert effort. The girls are enjoying half a breakfast burrito each, a banana, milk and raisins. We read the morning prayers and Scripture from my August issue of the Magnificat.

After breakfast, we play inside in the front room and outside on the porch. Grace is very into coloring; I also stretch her limbs out. Laura likes reading, sliding, and building with + dumping her blocks. We hear the “choo choo train!!!!!”. I am listening to The Fellowship of the Ring while working in the other rooms.

I'll clean up the kitchen, eat my oatmeal and focus on drinking my coffee. Few things more important than my coffee intake at this point [in my mind].

Will comes home early before we leave for our appointment, and is immediately greeted by his girls with hugs around the legs. I go high for a kiss and a hug, after which he says he got no sleep and is headed straight to bed. This month is really tough on all of us. I go back to cleaning my desk off and preparing for us to leave the house.

Breakfast: maple cinnamon steel oats in the crockpot, coffee, milk, bananas, breakfast burritos,

10-11:30 a.m.: Today, we actually went to the chiropractor for the first time! I was nervous... but no need. The only thing I had to fear was the insane amount of paperwork needed (times two). Grace has cerebral palsy, which mainly affects the right side of her body. She has been complaining of knee pain, and I am hoping this will help.

The doctor immediately identifies problem areas and was really fantastic with her. I am duly impressed. I was even more impressed at how calm we both remained while 2/3 of my children cried as my appointment started. Grace subsided when the doctor asked her to hold my hand; he meant it for her, but it really did help me as well. Mothering + desk job means more chiro appointments in our future. I thought he was killing me with the number of cracks I heard in my neck, but a lot of tension is gone and there is less tingling in my arms.

I would almost say that this random appointment is normal for us too, since we are always dancing between different specialists - pediatrician, neurology, eye, OB/GYN and coming soon--ortho! This visit was delightful.

11:30-12:30 p.m.: Grace falls asleep in the car, so I put her down for an early nap. Laura stays up with me and we eat lunch. I feed Stephen again; put Laura down for a nap.

Lunch: chicken breast over spinach salad with tomatoes, feta and balsamic vinegar; Laura has mozzarella cheese stick, grapes, goldfish

I love this one-on-one time with my third wee tot! I have had so many interesting conversations with fellow moms about breastfeeding and my advice is always... Do you. For me, that usually involves a weird angle and not covering up in the cape style. I have a muslin blanket that is perfect for extra coverage and any sprayage (or spit up), but I won't totally cover up any more, as I felt compelled to do with Grace. Why? Because breastfeeding is normal. There is nothing gross about it; it's actually miraculous, when you look into it scientifically. It is not lewd (baby covers the nipple, people. That's the feeding part). If it makes you uncomfortable, look away. If you'd rather use a bottle or need to supplement, go for it. But there is no room for prudish behavior towards a mother feeding her baby because it is an absolute act of love. It is hard, it is a commitment and it is beautiful. Stephen is my third breastfed baby. I wanted to quit within the first month because it was so hard with him. But I stuck with it, and it's one of my favorite times of the day now - relaxing into the couch, feeding him and helping him achieve Hulk status.

12:30-3:30 p.m.: This is magical. Laura skipped her morning nap and since Grace fell asleep WAY before her normal nap time (between 2:30-3 p.m.), so I have the house to myself. I try to do my favorite postpartum work-out video; it's the effort, right? I decide to fold the three piles of laundry I washed yesterday while watching Elementary. After an episode, I work on school prep. (I start teaching online again in less than a month!) Then, I get super tired and I take a rest/ nap till someone wakes up.

3:30-4:30 p.m.: By someone, I mean Laura. This child! We play and I continue to clean up a bit. I wanted to fix zucchini bread, but it's still really hot and I cannot imagine turning the oven on right now. Stephen wants to be fed again... Not sure how many times a day I feed him, honestly, but it is way more than I am writing down.

Mini nap time for us post-feeding.

4:30-5:00 p.m.: Grace is awake and ready to play again; we practice walking down the steps while I hold her right hand. This is a big deal because a) she used to never let anyone hold her right hand, let alone trust anyone who did not also hold her left hand and b) she boycotted walking down the steps earlier this year and we are FINALLY returning to Grace being okay going down (and not just up). We think part of that is because of her eye surgery in July- we're hoping her depth perception improved.

5:00-6:00 p.m.: I start to plan dinner. It's Friday, and I try to serve meatless meals.  The kids color outside on the patio, which is closest to the kitchen.

Dinner: salmon (cooked in a foil packet), brown rice + quinoa, red peppers

6:00-7:00 p.m.: We eat out on the porch tonight. We've been having a lot of picnics lately, and it's just easier to clean up. Will wakes up at some point and comes downstairs. The girls are excited! They climb all over him and forget about dinner.

7:00-8:00 p.m.: More playtime, but we've moved the girls upstairs for a bath. They love it, and they love splashing Will. Jammies, teeth brushed, books read and prayers said.


8:00-9:30 p.m.: Oh yeah. Stephen is still awake. Will and I discuss possibilities for the evening. We clean together, and then he goes upstairs to his computer. Stephen helps me fix a quiche.

Quiche: pie crust, cooked sausage, eggs, heavy cream, milk, shredded cheddar cheese - cook at 400 Fahrenheit for 40 minutes

We do more cleaning. (No, really, when does it stop??) I feed Stephen again and relax into the couch.

9:30-11 p.m.: I take my vitamins and melatonin. Will comes down and we watch two episodes of The Wire, season two - really excellent. Gritty; superb in every respect - acting, story lines, writing, production. For those who have not heard of it, it's considered one of, if not the best television drama ever. (Available through Amazon Prime video!)

11 p.m.-12 a.m.: I try to get to bed before midnight every night. It's my work in progress, as a night owl. I am always trying for 11 p.m. but 11:30 is my current record. Will changes Stephen's diaper, and I feed him again, if necessary. I get ready for bed, we talk about what Will should study (pulmonary something was the verdict) and other related topics, and we say night prayers. Will goes up to his office for the night, so his body will stay adjusted for his next night shift. I settle in for the night/ until Stephen wakes again for another eat. Sweet dreams!

. . .

Read more:

A Day in the Armstrong House
A Day in the Fink House
A Day in the Howard House
A Day in the Smith House 

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