Tag Archives: motherhood

Day 24: Leave Pregnancy Books for Someone to Find

“I would rather make mistakes in kindness and compassion than work miracles in unkindness and hardness.” –Mother Teresa

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In previous posts I talked about how thankful I am for both my doctor and the nurses at the hospital where I gave birth. Well now I have a third source to credit for keeping my sanity intact both during and after my pregnancy: informational books.

When we found out we were expecting, one of the first things my husband did was go out and buy me the Mayo Clinic Guide to a Healthy Pregnancy. I think he was feeling overwhelmed and slightly frazzled by the news so finding a reliable source of information was important to him. When asked why he selected that specific book, he shrugged and told me, “I wanted a book that is scientific. I’m not falling for that pseudo-science nonsense.” According to my husband, the standard What to Expect When You’re Expecting is full of witch doctors midwives, voodoo water births, and magic spells hypnobirthing. We can’t all be enlightened…

Later I was gifted with a couple more books from my sister-in-law and aunt that really helped me navigate through the first year of parenthood. Having read each book cover-to-cover multiple times, I feel so confident in my abilities and knowledge that I thought it was time to pass on my books to someone just embarking on this journey. I took my four books and left them laying on tables at an OBGYN office. I attached a note to each one that read:

“I enjoyed reading this book. Now you can too! Take it home with you if you’d like. Pass it on when you’re done.”

For a little comedic relief I included a quote by Nora Ephron that says “if pregnancy were a book, they’d leave out the last two chapters.” I find that hilarious now, but I’m not sure I would have been laughing at 9-months pregnant. I’ll just have to hope whoever finds and takes the books is still coasting through that second trimester high.

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Day 17: Surprise a Friend with Diapers and Cookies

“How wonderful it is that nobody need wait a single minute before starting to improve the world.” –Anne Frank

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It’s a known fact that there is nothing pleasant about diapers. They’re a pain to change, they almost always smell, one “value” box can set you back $40, and the second you put a clean one on your baby, he or she is guaranteed to poop. It’s some kind of Pavlovian baby response. I’m convinced if it weren’t for the cute, smiling baby they put on the outside of the box, no one would buy them.

For my friend J who recently had a baby, changing diapers has become a way of life. Barring moving in with her and becoming her personal nanny, I knew there wasn’t much I could do to help on the diapering front. But I could help alleviate some of the expense.

Now giving your friend diapers is not the most exciting gift in the world. I think it falls somewhere below weight-loss DVDs but slightly above feminine hygiene products in the race for the worst gift. But when it comes to a practical thing to give a new mom, they are the clear winner. Second place of course goes to food, which is why I made sure to include some freshly-baked chocolate chip cookies with the diapers.

I used this amazing recipe here. Okay don’t really click on that link; it’s just a picture of Nestle break-in-bake cookies. That was all my baking skills were up to today. But I don’t think J minded. She seemed genuinely excited about the cookies. She liked the diapers too, you know, as much as you can like something that only slightly beats out tampons as a good gift. The best part of this random act of kindness though, is that it was preceded by adult conversation and a relaxing walk in the park with our little guys.

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Day 11: Donate Books to the Library

“The words you say mean nothing, the way you saw them means everything.” –Eileen Parra

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Back in high school I was somewhat of a nerd. I studied a lot, spent way too much time creating elaborate class projects, and read a lot. In fact, I read so much that in my senior year book there is a picture of me, book in hand, with the caption “biggest bookworm.” I’m not sure if it was meant to be a compliment or not, but I read it as “best, coolest, most awesome kid in the school.” Compliment accepted.

Unfortunately I don’t read nearly as much as I used to. Having a rambunctious 1-year-old will do that to you, but I do still utilize our local libraries as much as ever. It’s just instead of checking out sci-fi classics or chick-lit (nope not a book snob here), I’m now checking out Spot Goes to the Beach and the Very Hungry Caterpillar for the 100th time. Instead of browsing the DVD collection for a movie night, I’m singing the Itsy Bitsy Spider during baby story time. Ah, the life of a mom.

Libraries are great, but they are also vastly underappreciated by the majority of people. Where else in the world do you have free access to unlimited amounts of information? Want to learn how to garden? There’s a book for that! Want to learn about the migratory patterns of birds? There’s a book for that! Want to escape to a fantasy world of vampires or witches or flying cars? There’s a book for that! And if there’s not a book…well then there’s the internet. And it’s free too!

Walter Cronkite once said that “whatever the cost of our libraries, the price is cheap compared to that of an ignorant nation.” This quote couldn’t be more applicable in my hometown where the libraries are just starting to bounce back from budget cuts that saw reduced hours and programming. I thought it would be a great random act of kindness to give back to a place that has the potential to benefit so many people, especially at a time when funding is always under scrutiny.

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I went through my book collection and pulled out a couple dozen books. My sister then agreed to donate a few of her books left over from her pre-teen days to help diversify out collection. Thanks Erin! That made a grand total of 30 books! Going through these old books was a lot like flipping through a photo album, each one conjuring an old memory. Like the Painted Veil, which was given to me to read during a three month backpacking trip out west. Or Culture Shock: Spain, the book my worried mom gave to me before I spent a summer studying in Alicante.

Then there’s this book, which is only getting donated because I happen to have two copies. I left a small message in the front cover for whomever may check it out. It reads: “Hello fellow Xenite! If you’re reading this book it looks like we have something in common. Should you care to share your obsession with another person, please e-mail me at DanaPod@gmail.com and we can set up a Xena marathon. Sincerely, a fan.”

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Day 5: Surprise a Friend With Movie Tickets and Babysitting

“When I was young, I used to admire intelligent people; as I grow older, I admire kind people.” –Abraham Joshua Heschel

IMG_0348I met my best friend Danielle in the 4th grade. We were both the shy, nerdy kids in class, and quickly bonded over our mutual awkwardness. Many of my favorite childhood memories include Danielle. Bumbling through dance classes. Summer vacations spent climbing sand dunes and lounging on the beach. The weekend nights we dressed up as the Spice Girls or Gwen Stefani and rocked out to  “Wannabe” and “I’m Just A Girl.”

My high school and college years saw many friends come and go but Danielle and I have always remained close. She’s seen me through heartbreak, cross country moves, quarter life crises, graduate school drop outs, marriage, and the birth of my son. She has been my shoulder to cry on when life got hard and the first person to congratulate me when I found success. She has been one of the more permanent, steadfast fixtures in my life, and for that I am very grateful.

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Last January she welcomed her son into the world, and like all new parents, her priorities shifted. The time she used to spend focusing on herself became time she spent caring for her son. Date nights turned into family story and bath time. Late night movie marathon became late night feeding and diaper changing sessions. And meals out were traded in for plastic coated spoons of pureed carrots.

She is a great mother, and I know she wouldn’t trade parenthood in for anything, but as her friend it’s nice to be able to give her a couple hours of self-indulgence.

When I decided to gift her with movie tickets and babysitting I knew I wanted it to be a surprise. I contacted her husband who helped me coordinate a day and time to come over. He tricked her into thinking they were going out to run errands so she was all ready when I arrived. When I showed up and told her why I was really there she was pleasantly surprised. Afternoon movies always win out over running errands!

And as a bonus I got to hang out with this little guy for a few hours. I think we both came out ahead.

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Day 2: Give a Gift to the Playroom Staff at the Gym

“The true meaning of life is to plant trees, under whose shade you do not expect to sit.” –Nelson Henderson

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Ever since Oliver was six weeks old, I have taken him to the local gym with me. While I run, lift, cycle, and sweat out the frustrations that come with motherhood, Oliver hangs out in the playroom doing his own version of baby cardio. I’m told it is a combination of flinging toys, climbing on things he should not climb on, and exercising his lungs with a good old-fashioned scream when he is not happy.

This playroom and the amazing staff that works there have been a complete lifesaver. When Oliver was little (relative to his current ripe old age of 14 months), he cried. He cried a lot. As a new mother, I was often overwhelmed by the task of consoling a baby that seemed inconsolable. And to be brutally honest, I was also overwhelmed by the tasks of showering, eating, and remembering to put on clean underwear. I was complete mess.

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I can overlook the spelling since I love this place so much.

The staff at the playroom always made me feel completely comfortable with leaving Oliver for an hour so I could get in my “me time,” which in those first few months sometimes meant falling asleep in the sauna or reading a magazine in the locker room instead of actually exercising. Later it meant having the time to train for a half marathon and the time to create an identity outside of “mom.”

There were times I would show up with a crying baby, on the verge of tears myself, and they would happily let me hand him off. They always assured me they would come find me if he became too upset or didn’t settle down. Their calm presence assured me he would be fine. That I would be fine. That everything would be fine. 

I’m very grateful for the patience, compassion, and positivity of the gym staff and the relationship they have forged with my son over the last year. When I decided to do 29 random acts of kindness I knew I needed to include them. Today when I dropped Oliver off I left enough king sized Hershey’s bars for each member of the staff to have one. I attached a picture of Oliver with a short note of thanks.

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In addition, Oliver and I gave them a big bag of Dum Dum suckers, aka, toddler tantrum terminators, aka major melt-down mufflers, aka, scary screaming stoppers. In other words, bribery. They hand them out to the kids from time to time when they are having a rough day. I’ve walked in a few times to find Oliver smiling devilishly with a sucker stick hanging out of his mouth. I didn’t inquire what he did to “deserve” it. I was too busy feeling ecstatic that he was all smiles. 

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Here’s to hoping my small gift can put a smile on their faces too. 

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