Newborns for Noobs Part I: New Parent Stuff

So I had a baby! Nearly 10 weeks ago now. What a whirlwind. No one can truly prepare you for what it’s like, though many will try, bless their hearts. They’re right though – it’s both the hardest and best time of your life so far.

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Please note: this blog post will be written from the perspective of someone who chose to breastfeed exclusively, because that is what I have chosen to do, that is what suits me and my lifestyle and my baby. I respect any and all choices that others make to feed their babies adequately, I truly believe that fed is best. Breastfeeding is what I chose.

Let me get this out of the way: breastfeeding is not easy. It is kind of a bastard of a thing in the beginning. You’ve just done this intensely difficult thing (whether you have a natural birth or a C-section, the act and the recovery are bloody hard in different measures) and now you and your broken body and tired, hormonally charged brain have to try to learn this intensely difficult skill that is SO, SO important literally to the survival of your baby. Ha! What a monster of a thing to inflict on a suffering mother. As much as childbirth and finally meeting your baby is so magical and wonderful, it’s also so hard.

Eamon had a period of ill health not long after his birth, which was extremely scary, but it also meant we missed some key breastfeeding time. As such, and just because of the inherently difficult nature of breastfeeding, we had a tricky time latching him and getting things working in that way. I’ll never forget when Ray had gone out to get me some lunch on day 3 in hospital (we stayed an extra day because of the health issues and latching issues, he lost a good amount of weight) and one of the wonderful RNs was trying to help me get him to latch in side-lying position so I could get some rest (carefully monitored) and I just lost it. He was crying, I was crying, poor Ray comes back in the room laden with sandwiches to me sobbing “I just need to not hear him crying right now, I can’t take it, he needs to leave for awhile or I do” and the kindly nurse saying “got it”, bundling him up and taking him for a little while to the nursery. I cried in Ray’s arms for quite a long time. It was so bloody hard and I felt like a failure and a monster.

Luckily he was fine and was back at his birth weight not long after we left the hospital. A week or so maybe. But those first few days at home were so hard too. We were trying to get him to sleep in a bassinet and he may as well have been on the moon, according to him. Poor little mite. NONE of us were getting any proper rest. We absolutely DREADED the nights. The sun would go down and our spirits would too, and as soon as we spotted light leaking through the windows in the morning (because of course we were, or at least I was awake for that. Of course.) things would feel a bit less scary and impossible. So we started co-sleeping (safely and with purpose, as a friend recommended, rather than in frustration and desperation which is what leads to SIDS issues) and things improved DRAMATICALLY. Side-lying is now my go-to bedtime position, and I enjoy it immensely, it’s so snuggly and I can read a book or whatever while he nurses and smooshes his little feet into my belly, just like he did when he was inside. It’s great.

Anyway, on to the point of the post. I wanted to write up some info on things that I found incredibly useful in the first few weeks. I’m sure there are tonnes of posts out here on similar things but these are what worked best for me and Eamon.

Breastfeeding Pillow

ABSOLUTELY ESSENTIAL as far as I’m concerned! I got the Boppy from lovely Corinne (you may remember her from such posts as the first preggo roundup!), it was on my registry, and it’s what we used in hospital. I still use it in bed, it is our bedroom pillow, and it’s great for multiple reasons – it’s quite snuggly, it’s the right height, it comes in awesome prints, cover is removable for washing and it can be used for tummy time when baby is a little bigger (not to mention to help them learn to sit up etc as well!). But the one that gets a bit more use when sitting on the couch is this one – the My Brest Friend pillow. I think because it’s flatter, it makes bub easier to position and means he doesn’t sink into the space between the pillow and my tummy (especially when he was really little). It’s nice and firm, and it actually secures around you with a buckle so you don’t have to hold it to you. I’ve even stood up while feeding him on it and gone to the bathroom or got myself a drink.  I do not recommend this. It’s hard. But you do what you gotta do in the moment.

Huge-ass Drink Bottle

It is absolutely unbelievable how thirsty you get while breastfeeding. And I mean “while”, literally. The letdown reflex (ie the time when your milk starts coming out) triggers a feeling of thirst like no other. I bought this awesome adult sized sippy cup with a straw as recommended on another blog. It is the best. I love how the silicone straw is really wide, enabling me to suck down a bunch of water really fast, which is a weirdly essential feature for this to have. The thirst cannot be underestimated. Nowadays, I have this one beside the bed and my daytime water containers are six quart-sized Gatorade bottles (btw, Gatorade is great in the beginning when you’re building milk supply!) because they’re really sturdy. I drink all six in a day. Sometimes more. It’s madness.

Silicone Bulb Pump

I couldn’t think of a better way to describe this weird silicone thing. It’s called the Haakaa (there are many knockoffs also) and what it does is collect the letdown on the other breast than what you’re feeding on. So it’s not a pump as such, it applies some suction just to draw out what is already being released by your natural letdown reflex. Please note – don’t make the mistake that I did and assume this won’t work for you if you don’t leak much if any breast milk. I never really leaked much and I still get around an ounce, sometimes two, each time I use this. So even if you’re not pumping, doing that a couple of times a day will allow you to build a little tiny bit of a stash in your freezer for in case you want to, oh, leave the house or go on a date or if you are on a medication that doesn’t allow for breastfeeding (these are few and far between, mind you, always check with a pediatrician you trust before you take advice to pump and dump from anyone else including pharmacists and other doctors. Sometimes they say that just to cover their butts. Same with drinking. If you can safely pick up bub to nurse, if you can drive, you’re probably fine to nurse. Not much booze gets in breast milk). Anyway, you just squeeze the bulb, suction it to your boob and you’re golden. You can’t dance a jig or go for a run with it on, but it has enough suction to stay on if you’re still. It’s an NZ product so Aussies might have an easier time getting it from a local source rather than Amazon.

Grass Draining Rack

If you are pumping or bottle feeding, you’re going to have a million tiny parts and drying them is a bastard. You need this product. Trust me. We had this on our registry because it was a recommended registry item and I totally get why. There are a few other interesting little pumping things like microwave steam sterilizing bags that I find handy but I don’t want this post to just be about pumping because I know not everyone does that. Plus, things like milk storage bags, bottles etc are really personal choice (your baby’s choice, tbh) so giving my opinion is kinda moot anyway.

Disposable Changing Pad Covers

We bought some of these based on a recommendation from my friend Leah. They have really come in handy. We use them when we go out, but their handiest use so far has been for when Eamon pees or poops on the existing changing pad cover which then has to be removed from the changing pad lest he roll around in it, but I don’t have enough hands to hold a baby AND put a new cover on it. I just grab one of these from the convenient packet, toss it over the pad and I’m good to go.

Diaper Disposal Unit

This is a bloody godsend, you guys. It not only keeps the odor (not that there is much odor at the moment, breastfeeding newborn poop doesn’t really smell IMO) enclosed, it gives you a way to secure dirty diaps from enterprising dogs for whom the smell might be just way too tempting. Gross I know but hey. Plus when you change the bag, you get this awesome diaper log that’s very satisfying to tie off and toss in the garbage. We are weird people, I realise this. We went with the Diaper Genie and we could not be happier. The refills are easy to install and it’s easy to set up and use.

Nursing Tanks

I love these! So handy for a bottom layer, especially the ones with a decent shelf like these from H&M. H&M nursing gear is honestly great and so is their babywear. They’re also great for wearing to bed if you (like me) find that most sleeping bras are not quite enough to contain The Ladies, especially when they’re full of milk. Which is pretty often. The Old Navy ones I bought are rubbish – the straps are too long (who the fuck has shoulders that tall!). These ones are great. Lots of people also swear by the “two shirt method” for going out and about and nursing without showing too much skin (and I’m not talking about “OOOH I WOULDNT WANT ANYONE TO SEE AN INCH OF MY BREAST” fuck that shit, I mean having to basically remove all your clothes to get to the boob). The two shirt method is pretty basic. Tank underneath, shirt on top. Pull shirt up, pull tank down or unclip, boom. Boobs. Baby. Put ’em together and everyone’s happy (especially the baby).

Bathrobe

I don’t have a preference here. I had one from H&M, and a fuzzy one from Target, they both do the job. Get whatever as long as it’s soft and comfy. It’s just great to wander around the house in a robe when your baby is cluster feeding and you don’t want to have to keep getting your boobs out. Just open up the robe, stick the baby on and you’re golden.

I am probably leaving out some stuff. Partly because I’m still pretty sleep deprived and partly because I didn’t need some things that others might find essential. For example I never really suffered from any nipple damage or leakage, so things like nipple balms and breast pads aren’t things I have strong opinions about. I got a sweet diaper bag but I’ve gone back to using my precious JW Hulme bag anyway. I didn’t have a lot of “downstairs damage” so apart from the first couple of weeks I wasn’t really in pain and during that time a squirty bottle of warm water to rinse with when I peed, and some numbing wound care spray were all I used and I got both of those from the hospital.

The next post will be more about things baby needs (needs is always subjective, you understand!). To tide you over, here’s some pics of my beautiful little bundle!

 

Thanks for reading! Until next time…

 

The Second Pregnancy Roundup – Indulgences & Non-Essentials

(NB: I wrote the majority of this in the week before I had my baby! next post will be about the first 2 months)

My last post was about things that I found pretty darn necessary for basic comfort levels during my pregnancy. I thought I’d write one up about some little luxuries and things that have helped but aren’t necessary for everyone. Hey, whatever takes my mind off the fact that I’m at full term but no sign of baby yet, huh? kill me

Maternity Clothing Subscription

Ok so this one is a particularly indulgent luxury, I thought I’d get it out of the way first. I LOVE LeTote. Basically, I pay $69 a month and I get boxes of maternity clothes and accessories sent to me as often as I want. A little less basic: I fill up my  “closet” with lots of cool dresses, pants, shirts, tops, blouses, scarves, bracelets, rings – you get the point – and they send a box containing 3 items of clothing and 2 accessories, curated from my “closet” by the LeTote team. They send you an email when your box is made up (typically, they send this within an hour of you lodging your free return bag at the PO), and you have a chance to replace items with other things if you have a particular event or anything like that. This is where it hugely differs from other subscriptions like Gwynnie Bee etc. I love this feature. Then they send the box pretty promptly. I don’t think there’s been a week that’s gone by since I joined up that I haven’t received a box in the mail unless I’ve taken longer to wear all the items. You can also opt to keep items if you want, always at a reduced price. I kept some amazing, thick leggings/pants with cool raised pleats over the knees that made me feel like a cool biker chick YEAH! I have kept a couple of really nice scarves and some jewellery as well. There were several dresses and tops I wanted to keep but it was hard to justify because they were relatively expensive and it’s maternity wear so I didn’t feel super keen on spending a tonne. You just keep whatever you want and when they get the bag back with your returned clothing they charge you for what you kept. Note: this is a really good way to spend a lot of money so be careful!

It also has a normal (non-maternity) range and you can get fewer items for a cost reduction. I just found this combo to be a good balance. If LeTote sounds like something you’d like to try, use my referral link and you can get your first tote free!

Jacket Extender

This is one of those things that you might not need unless, like me, you live in the frickin Arctic tundra and need to wear a huge puffy coat just to survive the lurch from car to front door. As your belly expands, unfortunately, most coats do not. Did I want to spend another $300 on a coat? No! I like the one I have! So I searched “jacket extenders” and found Make My Belly Fit! It sounded like exactly what I wanted. It requires a little bit of research – basically you need to check your jacket’s zip configuration and might need to order a zip adapter but I didn’t (thanks, North Face). I also bought a fleecy panel to go inside the extender and that was a decidedly excellent decision – it’s been getting down to -30C/-23F here and it’s only December! It’s a Canadian website but the shipping was really fast. The extender panel was $51 which is a bargain compared to buying another coat. You can use it after pregnancy too – right now the snaps are popped open at the bottom for my positively-planetary belly but soon they’ll be popped open at the top for wearing that sweet little bundle in a wrap under my coat to keep him warm. You know where else he’s warm? Inside my body right now, APPARENTLY, SINCE HE WON’T GET THE HELL OUT OF THERE, UGH, CHILD, DO NOT MAKE ME COME IN THERE BECAUSE GOD HELP ME I WILL well I won’t, but a doctor might. Ok I’m fine. I’m taking deep breaths.

Good provider/OBGYN etc

One of those most baffling things I encountered about America when we started talking about having a baby was that hospitals just have doctors and nurses. Midwives are still this kind of semi-controversial concept. The reasoning seems to be that you can be a “lay-midwife” ie have no formal training at all and just witness a certain amount of births and call yourself a midwife, but most midwives who work in hospitals or health facilities are “CNMs” or Certified Nurse Midwives. Anyway it was all a bit confusing to me as I was so used to labor wards with both midwives and doctors working together (not always in harmony but still).

The local hospital here doesn’t allow midwives on staff, nor do they allow doulas or extra support people in the birthing suites. I had some other issues too but this isn’t the place. LUCKILY, we had a lot of people recommending the amazing Porter Women’s Health to us, just a short 50 minute drive north in beautiful Middlebury. They have a combined staff of OBGYNs and midwives, and an amazing nursing staff too. They’re great. It’s exactly what I wanted. I barely need a birth plan because all my ideas run in line with theirs. They’re very women focused while still being research based and medically safe. The crunch level is low, which is my favorite level of crunch, but I have never felt condescended to and I love that they have you see all the different providers so that when you go into labor you aren’t seeing a strange face no matter who’s on call. Th

Anyway, this is just on this post because not everyone has a) the insurance or b) the proximity to places like this and I feel so privileged to have both of those things.

Pregnancy Massage

About halfway through my pregnancy, well no I guess it was about 26 weeks, I started getting back pain. Par for the course with pregnancy but I had been relatively comfortable so far, so the fact that I not only had aches in my back but also sciatica (nerve pain shooting down my right buttock into my right thigh at will) was quite a shock. It was pretty horrible. I’d been thinking about getting some pregnancy massage so I called a local lady that I know who I knew would do a great job – Christina at Vermont Vitality Studio. I turned up for my appointment and it was great, right from the start. We talked about what particular aches and pains I was having and she very carefully propped me up on the table with pillows to make sure I was comfy and my bump was supported. I was extremely relaxed by the end of the appointment – I did not realise how much my gait had altered until I could walk normally again. It was so nice.

I continued to get massages each month of my pregnancy, my last one was just a week ago. At about $80 for 50 mins it’s not cheap, but your insurance might cover it (it blows my mind that some insurances cover chiropractics but not therapeutic massage).

Amazon Registry

Registries seem to be kind of a contentious topic sometimes. In America most people have a registry. I hadn’t been to a lot of baby showers in Australia but the latest one I went to also had a registry. I think it’s genius because then you don’t end up with 5000 of the same thing. The only double ups I got were because people REALLY wanted to make sure I had this particular item that they found INCREDIBLY useful, and it turned out someone had already bought it from the registry so it had disappeared.

With Amazon you also get $150 worth of free diaper stuff (wipes included) when people spend $1000 on your registry which didn’t take long with my lovely mum involved! You also get a free ebook, and a discount of about 15% for Prime members on the remainder of your registry when your gift-getting time is over (ie after the baby shower for us).

You can add whatever you want to your registry – they have a button you can add to your browser to add anything from any site to your Amazon baby registry. Sadly there’s no way for Amazon to know if those things were purchased from the registry but still, pretty cool idea!

Right. I’m going to post this now because if I don’t, I never will, and I need to get on with the post-pregnancy ..posts. There will be those. Oh, there will be…

 

 

The First Pregnancy Roundup

Wow so yeah. Sorry. I really let things go by the wayside the last like 9 months or so. I’m nearly 39 weeks pregnant now and this pregnancy has really been characterised by one thing: exhaustion. It came in waves, but it was never not there. I’ve been super tired the whole time. It’s a symptom I’ll take over some less-pleasant others (nausea for example, from which I only suffered for about 4 weeks), but it has still been varying levels of debilitating and blogging just wasn’t a priority. I didn’t even post much on instagram. Turns out growing a human is hard, and with working up to 37 weeks I had stuff to do.

Anyway, I’m nearly at the end now (please god let it be over soon, kid is wrecking my shit) and I thought I’d run through a few things that I’ve found to be quite useful throughout the last three-quarters-of-a-year, in no particular order.

Pregnancy Pillow

I bought the LeachCo Snoogle Pillow. It’s great. I think I got it when I was about 12 weeks along, because my back and hips were already a little janky (though nothing like the absolute mess and tangle of bone and sinew that they are now, ugh) and the first time I laid myself down in its loving embrace, I was sold. It’s really great. It has a couple of drawbacks. One is that if you run hot throughout your pregnancy, as I did, you might find yourself being very comfortable but a little overheated, and you’ll kick it out of the bed anyway. Another is that it takes up quite a bit of room and if you have a queen sized bed or less, your partner may have a severely restricted amount of room. The last is something that I’ve just come across recently and that is that I can really only lie on one side for so long, so I want to turn over a lot (like, a lot, and seeing as how it requires a business case and strategic planning meetings to do that, it’s really annoying) and that is next to impossible with the Snoogle. So next time around I might go for something simpler like one of the bean-shaped pillows that just support your back and belly. But in saying that, the fact that you can really tuck yourself in to this pillow is lovely, and it does have the section that goes between your legs to help with hip discomfort. So I have no regrets. It’s even great for propping up a baby etc after it arrives, or so I’m told!

Maternity Bras

My boobs have cycled through various levels of intense discomfort. Sometimes they feel normal (they look huge but feel normal). I was recommended the Bravado Body Silk Seamless Nursing Bra and well let’s just say I now own four of them. Yes they’re expensive,  but worth the investment, I truly feel. Super soft, easy to put on, easy to un-snap for nursing (I’ve been practicing), nice and stretchy, all that good stuff. Are they the best support you’ll ever have? No obv, they have no underwire, but what are you gonna do in it, go for a run or something? Get over yourself.

Belly Band

These are a lifesaver for when you really want to wear something that still mostly fits, apart from the gaping hole at your abdomen because you are starting to show and that’s how physics works. My amazing friend Corinne actually gave me mine, but I’ve heard great things about this one. I really liked it and wore it all the time, particularly over shorts during summer. Gosh those days seem so far away now that it’s December in Vermont and below freezing. But anyway, grab yourself one of these. They even feel good with their support and their holding you in and whatnot.

A No-Bullshit Book

I absolutely loved Expecting Better: Why the Conventional Pregnancy Wisdom is Wrong, and What You Really Need to Know by Emily Oster, who is an economist at the University of Chicago. The beauty of Emily is that she’s not a midwife or a doctor (and she makes this very clear throughout the book) but she is someone who deals with numbers and statistics as part of her job and so what she does is takes what research and studies there are on things related to pregnancy (caffeine intake, alcohol intake, labor outcomes etc) and sees what they’re really saying. Of course, as she points out, it’s very hard to get definitively accurate information on pregnancy because performing studies on pregnant women is, at best, unethical (can you imagine? “Ok so you guys are gonna have 10 alcoholic drinks every single day and you guys are gonna have none. Cool?”). But she does her best with what there is, and the book really calmed my anxious brain. Well, a little.

Preggie Pop Drops

Ok it sounds silly because technically it’s just candy but for some reason these really worked for reducing nausea for me. They were another gift from Corinne and let’s be real she’s just the ultimate pregnancy fairy godmother and I can’t thank her enough for the box of goodies she sent me early in my pregnancy. Speaking of which!

Stretch Mark Cream

Everybody has different preferences, scent/packaging etc, but I really loved the bottle that Corinne sent me which was Palmers Cocoa Butter Stretch Mark Massage Lotion. Let me be clear: I fully understand that you can’t really prevent stretch marks in the vast majority of cases. If they’re coming, they’re coming, and it’s mostly genetic. BUT! I have a tonne of stretch marks from my previous life as a teenager whose boobs and curves exploded out all at once and since I used this stuff from very early in pregnancy I don’t have a single one. In saying that, a lot of people say that they appear right at the end. I feel like I’m right at the end now and I still haven’t seen a sign of one. If I get them I don’t care a single bit – the ones I have already on other parts of my body are super faded and silvery so it’s no biggie. Midwives and my doula have all commented on the fact that I don’t have any. Is it because of the cream? I honestly have no idea. What I’ve been doing is squirting out one pump of this and one pump of a little bottle of Palmer’s Skin Therapy Oil with Vitamin E that my friend Jaime sent me along with about a thousand onesies from my favorite brands in Australia. Then I mix those together between my palms and give my belly and sides a good rub. If nothing else, it feels good when the skin gets a bit itchy and dry, and it’s nice bonding time too. I often take that time to have a little chat to LB (our nickname for the baby) about whatever I want, this week’s subject has been “what if you didn’t mash your skull into my cervix or bladder at every opportunity though? Just work with me here.”

There are a few other things that are less tangible. An incredibly supportive partner who never judges you when you tell him you ate 4 packets of ramen, or who holds you when you cry hysterically about the fact that your landlord mowed the lawn so the woodchucks who lived under the patio now have to re-make their protective tunnels. Bonus if he agrees to read something like The Birth Partner by Penny Simkin and it totally changes his perspective on labor and suddenly you have your own built in at home prenatal doula.

Oh and that reminds me – a doula (if it is in your budget or covered by your insurance). A lot of people in my life will laugh at this because I was always a bit disparaging about doulas but you know what? I was wrong. Everyone needs a little extra help. Especially since my mum can’t be with me for the birth. It helps so much to know that she’ll be on my side, advocating for me, cajoling me when I need it and bossing me (and Ray) around when I need that too, because that’s bound to happen.

The last thing is, a sense of humour and a backbone. People are gonna ask stupid fucking questions, constantly. Your body is gonna do some weird shit. Some of it will be embarrassing. Some of it will be scary, and it’s ok to be scared. People who had perfect pregnancies or people who forget what it was like to be pregnant AND ESPECIALLY people who have never been pregnant love to tell you that whatever’s meant to be will be, that all you have to do is relax and enjoy the pregnancy, and that pregnancy is beautiful and wonderful and magical and natural. Those people appear whenever you have the AUDACITY to complain about some of the extreme discomfort, illness, fear, anxiety, body image issues that come with pregnancy. Where do they even come from!? Nobody  knows. Feel free to tell them to shut up. Other people who can shut up: people who tell you their horrible birth stories totally unprompted. People who act entitled to information about your baby, pregnancy, birth etc. People who tell you to get plenty of sleep now because you’ll LITERALLY NEVER SLEEP AGAIN EVER after the baby comes. People who tell you that if you don’t give birth exactly how they did you’re totally DOING IT WRONG. But there are people you should keep around, too. There are wonderful people who will help you every step of the way, who will never judge you, who will answer your stupidest questions, who will bring you your weird food cravings right when you need them the most, who will be there for you when you’re scared and sad and sick. There are people who have no idea what you’re going through but who will be there for you anyway. You keep those people close! Hold them tight and never let them go. Those people are golden. And so are you. You got this.

I think I’ll write another blog post about some cool but not totally necessary luxuries I’ve found useful as well so stand by for that. But this one is long enough, I think!

 

Style: Tidying Up – A Short Part II on Folding

So a few people wanted a bit more information on the actual nitty gritty of the “Life Changing Magic of Tidying-Up” process. Without reading the book there’s not much more I can tell you about the mental and emotional process but the physical side, I can offer some additional assistance for sure.

I really feel like this book is a good purchase for those who are interested (even if you think you’re only hesitantly interested, I recommend it) so I don’t want to give too much detail. Buy the book! It’s US$7.70 for the paperback! But I do want to go over some things that are hard to describe in words. Specifically, folding techniques. In her companion book, Spark Joy, author Marie Kondo mostly repeats herself to be quite honest but she also does have some moderately but not hugely helpful diagrams of folding. I thought to save your additional $10 I’d just take some pictures.

Now, I’m no expert. I’ve just started doing this. I’m new. So just … take all this with a grain of salt okay?

Her basic folding advice is to figure out how your clothing wants to be folded. In order to do this, you figure out how to fold it vertically in order to make it stand up more or less by itself (a note on this later), and to make the folds you’ve made “stick”. Let’s start small.

Socks.

One of the greatest revelations in the book is that socks don’t need to be folded over themselves to be kept together. Just fold them in halves or thirds depending on length, and line them up. Kondo says that this helps the socks to rest after the hard work of being between your foot and the ground or your shoe all the damn time, you monster.

Underwear gets a little bit more complex, and yet still very beautiful. Firstly can we talk about how much I love you all that I’m showing you my underwear? Not the fancy stuff. That’s for my husband’s eyes only. Deal with it. Here we go.

You want to fold the crotchal region up, then the outsides towards the inside, then in half again. Donezo!

T-shirts are a little more confusing and complex. I had a head start with this method because this is more or less how my husband has always folded his shirts (because his mum folded them like this, clever lady). Like the underwear, you want to make a rectangle then smaller rectangles (in fact that describes the majority of folding techniques in this method).

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Still with me? Okay so what about jeans & pants, I hear you say? Right. The key for pants is to tuck in the pointy crotch bit. ……………..

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Aaaaanyway. Observe! First, fold the legs against each other and fold the legs in half.

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Then – and this is key – fold the crotch point in. Sometimes I tuck it underneath the lower part of the legs but for the purpose of this photo I left the crotch point on top.

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Then you want to fold the jeans into thirds.

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I find that this is the number of folds to make pants and jeans the most stable. Depending on the fabric, length of legs and how you’re going to store them, this may be different for you. You might need more folds, or less (shorts would be fine in half, I think). It’s trial and error – use your judgment.

Same kinda thing for leggings, though you may find that they need additional folds for reasons described above:

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Tank tops are relatively straightforward – just make sure you fold the straps on the inside to keep things neat and to keep any fragile straps (which I don’t own, for huge boob reasons) protected. Again it’s just rectangles inside rectangles to make a neat rectangle.

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Now this next one is challenging. I am still working on getting better at these. The dreaded long sleeve shirt. Now, the basic method stays the same. Create a rectangle then smaller rectangles. It’s just hard because there’s more fabric. The key, I think, is to make the sleeves fold as flat against the first rectangle as possible. Like so:

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I didn’t bother taking pics of the rest of this, because it is mostly is exactly the same as the first shirt after this point. Fold one side of the shirt + sleeve in as usual then bring that sleeve back in line with the folded side. I hope this makes sense. Let me know if it doesn’t and I’ll try to take better pictures but I was running out of time (and space) at this point!

So, I wanted to also add a couple of notes about storage. The way you fold is going to be heavily influenced by how much room you have. For instance, if you have a long drawer and you don’t have enough stuff to fill the length of the drawer then you might have things falling over. These things should be posted with the “clean fold” up, and the open edge of the rectangle on the bottom of the drawer. That makes them more stable. But if they’re still flopping over the place and you don’t think they could benefit from different amounts of folds, then put them into boxes (shoeboxes work great for this) and put the boxes into drawers. Like I did with my pants and thermals:

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Kondo also talks about making your folded clothing into “bento boxes” – different folding directions and patterns can be very aesthetically pleasing 🙂 So I’ve been trying out different patterns with that too – including setting my tights on end like sushi rolls, lol.

I hope this helps with the folding technique questions!

I’m going to do a Favorites post soon, sorry I’ve been so neglectful but life has been fucking bonkers lately. I still love you guys I SWEAR! I’m going to try to be more organised for February.

As always, let me know if you have any requests for posts!

Love++
F&V

 

Life Stuff: The Role of New Friends in Reducing Homesickness

A few months ago, I wrote a post about being unbelievably homesick. I was in a pretty bad place. But all the incredible support I got following that post made me feel so much better. I got a few messages of solidarity that honestly were so touching and so affirming, like my feelings weren’t unreasonable and like the depth of my loss was not as outrageous as I secretly hoped it wasn’t. Phew!

So I’m insanely happy to tell you guys that I am doing way better. Life is feeling pretty good right now. And the major thing that changed is that we, and more importantly, I, made some fantastic friends.

When Ray started his job, we arranged a gathering of a bunch of the other law clerks and their partners. I worried that they wouldn’t like me, or that I was boring and that I wouldn’t fit in. But I needn’t have worried – they were so welcoming and as eager to make friends as Ray and I were, so that is what happened.

We started going to pub trivia every week and we have been moderately successful. Each night has a theme and some themes are more to our collective (or, indeed, individual, I’m looking at you on 90s boyband night LK & HR) strengths than others, but really that’s not the point. It gets us out of our apartment to somewhere that isn’t our respective places of employment.  We look forward to it so much. Our group is funny, smart and so much fun.

And that’s not to say that our jobs suck, either. I feel so fulfilled by my work, I truly love it. And I work with some incredible people who inspire me, crack me up, support me and teach me new things every day. The only reason we don’t hang out more after work is that they all have lil families they need to get home to, or second jobs. But I adore them so much.

The true nugget of this post though that I really want to dig down to, is how much I value the three girlfriends I have made within the group that started with Ray’s colleagues. The four of us all come from fairly different backgrounds, and have different jobs (even within the same vocation), and I love it. I love the intellectual stimulation, I love the hilarious stories about our families and the time to have, as cheesy as it is, girl-talk without partners around. I love the lack of pretense and the fact that we have all come to rely on each other for ways to stay sane in this small town.

I miss my girlfriends back home absolutely no less. I miss them like a big ol’ hole in my heart (… ahem.. excuse me while I pull myself together after typing that, it is unseemly to cry at the laundromat). But having a new group has been absolutely thoroughly crucial, absolutely key, to my (and our) newfound happiness in this sleepy little town in Vermont. It’s amazing how much more tolerable a previously intolerable situation becomes with some good, real friends around you. It turns out everyone was right: finding awesome friends DOES just take time. But even with that, I’m not sure everyone gets as lucky as I have been in this particular instance.

So in saying all that, this post is for you, CC. You know who you are. Thank you, from the bottom of my heart, for everything. You saved my sanity, and you brought the four of us together, and I may never be able to repay you. You opened my eyes and my mind to a lot of things I had never considered before (you Vermontified me a little bit!). And to the other 2 corners of our now-triangle: here’s to a 2016 of girls’ dinners, wine nights at Brix, maybe some snowshoeing? What even is that.. Tennis racquet shoes?! Hmmm. Anyway – I’m so excited and so grateful. Let’s do this.

Love+++
F&V

 

Life Stuff: The Grief of Moving Far from Home – #RUOK Special Edition

I have been see-sawing on posting this, and I still may not, depending on how it comes out. More later on why it has been hard to decide. But for now, I really feel like I have to get some of this stuff out of my head.

The last couple of weeks I’ve really been struggling with homesickness. Really, really struggling. I think what is happening at the moment is more than the short periods of sadness related to things happening back home or hormonal issues I’ve experienced since moving, and more of the beginning of the true grief of leaving behind my home of 30+ years. I’m mourning the life I thought I would have, even if it wasn’t that exciting.

There are a lot of things that seemed like sureties in my life that I’ve had to put to rest. For example, a few years ago I realized that I would never live in a city. I don’t like them. So, I dated a few guys from my home town and even though they weren’t The One(s) that was still my future, I was pretty sure. We’d get married and if we decided to have kids, I would have a baby shower and all my friends and family would come and it would be amazing and I’d see how many people were there for me and how much support I had, in the networks I built up over 30 years. My grandmother would be there, and my aunt who is one of my best friends, who I’ve known since I was born, would host it maybe. I don’t know. It wasn’t an actual fantasy in my head, because it was by no means guaranteed that I’d have kids, but if I did that is how it would have gone. I’ve been to my friends’ baby showers and that’s been how they went and it’s been lovely.

I’ll never have that. I’ll never have hand-me-downs or, should I have been so lucky, family heirlooms. I have to let go of it. I know some of you right now are knee-jerking into saying “YES YOU WILL, THAT KIND OF THING JUST TAKES TIME” and you’re of course right in a way, making friends does take time. But, it’s just not really relevant. I would have to be here for a very long time to build up the kind of support networks that I had back home. It’s not going to happen. That’s Not Realistic. Does that mean I’ll have a miserable, supportless pregnancy and babyhaving? No, hopefully not, but making friends as an adult in a totally new place is really hard. Most people make friends from childhood or university and keep them. Ray’s parents (and his lovely friends!) are absolutely delightful, and SO kind and good to me, I adore them. But they’re not my family, the people I grew up with, the people who have loved me for 30 years despite all my shitty behaviour. So that was just a really long example of some of the things I’m feeling grief and loss for at the moment. I’m processing. It’s hard.

I’m also really missing my friends. Lately I’ve found myself even feeling a little angry with them, and hurt, because I don’t really hear from most of them much. I’m saying this, not to make anyone feel guilty, but to respect and acknowledge my own feelings and work on processing them. Because of course it’s not fair to be mad at my friends. They haven’t done anything wrong! They have busy lives full of all the things that they had when I was still there – they were just more easily accessible to me then. But whether my feelings are fair or not, they’re still my feelings. I just miss them so much, and in the past when I felt like I missed them, I would just be like “bitch, I’m coming around for a wine, put that sauv blanc in the freezer stat” and we’d do that. Now I can’t do that. If I even want to talk to them we have to set up a time when we’re both awake and free. It’s kind of exhausting, not just for me I suspect.

See, the thing is, that they just lost me, but I lost all of them. I lost them, even if not literally, in a very real, very life-affecting way. My friends have long been my lifeline. They’ve dragged me kicking and screaming through some really tough shit, for many many years. Some of them since I was born. Some for more than two thirds of my life. Some since high school, and some in a shorter but no less meaningful span of time. I owe them so much. That is a hard thing to leave behind, no matter what the future looks like. I missed one of my best friends’ weddings over the weekend. That hurt. I should have been there. I cry all the time. I heard a few bars of Michael Buble’s song “Home” at the markets on the weekend and had to try to block it out – lucky I was wearing sunglasses.

Fathers Day was last Sunday and I wasn’t there to make dad an elaborate dinner. I always make him dinner. It was a hard day.

I loved my life in Australia. I didn’t realize how important it was for my identity to have deep roots in the community like I did. I knew it was valuable to me but I did not have any idea just how much value that sense of connection had to my sense of self. Here, I’m flailing. And I’m lonely.

And don’t get me wrong – I don’t regret moving to the USA. My husband, who I love more than life, more every day, has amazing job opportunities here and a fairly clear career path – neither of which I have or want, and neither of which he had access to in Australia. That’s really important, and I proudly consider my main role in life to be his supporter and head cheerleader. Maybe I’ll add mother of his adorable babies to that one day but right now and for the current foreseeable future that’s my life, and I love that life. I do. I love my husband and being with him is vitally important to my wellbeing. When he and I talked all this through at dinner on Tuesday night in an awesome pub in Montpelier, I felt my love for him fill my heart. He was so understanding, so kind, he let me talk and vent and he helped me process. He managed to put his discomfort aside (after all, it’s hard to feel like your spouse is unhappy in the country you’ve brought them to!) to be supportive and loving. And New England is beautiful! I don’t love the town I live in but the area is gorgeous. It has lots of positives. But it’s still hard to be so far away.

I’m lucky because I do have some fabulous friends in the USA and Canada, scattered over the country as they are, none of them nearby by most stretches of the imagination but it’s still great to know I’m not totally alone. I’m also very lucky that technology like Facebook exists so I can talk to my mum every day, and iMessage so I can text dad about silly things Americans do and what kind of shower curtain public transit map design he might like. And Skype so I can see people’s faces! So good!

So yeah, I am grieving. I am mourning the loss of my life as I have always known it. The shine has worn off The Big Move and reality is settling in.

And in the spirit of #RUOK Day, no actually, I’m not okay. But I will be, with time. I’ll carve out my new niche.

I want my beloved friends to know that this post is not about blame, or pointing fingers or anything like that. It’s really not. That’s why it was so hard to post this – I wanted to be honest about my own feelings while trying my best to protect the feelings of others. My friends back home have jobs, babies, families, and TONNES of stuff going on in their lives. I hold nothing, not a shred of any ill will towards them at all. It’s. Just. Hard.

Take care of each other. Ask the question, today and as many days as you can muster. Are you okay?

Love,
F&V