Archives For On a Personal Note…

Nick and I tied the knot five years ago tomorrow. Where does the time go?

Charlotte and Nick Wedding

I was only a few weeks out of grad school and, to be honest, a little scared. What if I was making the wrong decision? There are no roadmaps in life and it’s scary for someone like me to just follow my gut. I’d had my heart broken before–what if it happened again? It was hard for me to make such a big leap without a healthy dose of terror.

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But what I’d underestimated was just how steady this man is. He will keep showing up, and he won’t make a big fuss about it.

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We are truly partners in life and in parenting. I can trust him to always be there, and I know that though times have changed many fathers are not as involved as he is. Jack thinks he hung the moon.

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Like most, our marriage has not been without its challenges, but every year it gets better and stronger. We’re both still growing together–learning to be honest and kind and considerate while still maintaining our own identities. Happiness is hard work.

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From an anniversary post two years ago:

I think I got really lucky when I met Nick. After a series of poor dating decisions throughout high school and college he came along the summer after my junior year and made a fabulously bad first impression. It was so awful that it even merited a spirited post on the personal blog I maintained at the time. I won’t go into the details, since he’s perennially embarrassed when I tell the story, but let’s just say he came off more as drunk frat boy than sweet and sensitive future husband. He must have known better than me, though, because he spent the next several weeks chasing me down and asking for dates before I finally conceded. Turns out he was the perfect fit for me, and almost exactly three years later we were married. I’ve never once regretted it.

This is probably the last installment I’ll do in this series, seeing as Jack turns two this month and will then be considered a regulation-sized toddler, but this second year has been one of transition and until recently he still seemed more like a baby than a toddler to me. I pride myself on being a smart shopper–I research and read reviews and agonize over what the best choice is before almost every purchase. The world of baby gear can be overwhelming, but I’ve found a few things that are really pretty great. If you’ve got younger ones be sure to read my recommendations for the first six months and 6-12 months. This list is much shorter than the previous two because toddlers (thankfully) don’t need nearly as much special equipment, though they do amass toys and books at an alarming rate.

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Fisher-Price Brilliant Basics Boppin’ Activity Bugs**

It took me what seemed like forever to find a pop-up toy that didn’t have lights and sounds. Simple, battery-free toys are getting harder and harder to find these days, but this one is great. It’s inexpensive, baby-powered, and one of Jack’s favorite toys.

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KidKraft Vintage Kitchen**

I got some serious side-eye from a lady in the grocery store when I told her that my son was getting a play kitchen for Christmas. The idea that boys should play with boys’ toys and girls should play with girls’ toys is a bit outdated, in my opinion, and I really wanted Jack to have a play kitchen. For big toys like this looks are important to me and this one is so beautiful it actually inspired me to make some improvements to my real kitchen. Jack plays with it every day, even six months after Christmas. His favorite thing to do lately is to put something in the “microwave,” stand back for a few seconds, and then take it out.

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Sugar Booger Kiddie Play Back Pack**

I got this backpack about a year ago when Jack briefly attended a Mother’s Day Out program, but it wasn’t until recently that I really came to appreciate its function. Now that he can walk really well I’ve outsourced the diaper bag responsibilities to him. I keep a diaper, some wipes, a few small toys, and maybe if I’m super organized a change of clothes in there and he wears it on his back when we go out. I’m not sure I would recommend this particular backpack because the straps are just a little wide for his shoulders, but it’s adorable and Athe idea of a baby backpack is solid.

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Rody Inflatable Hopping Horse**

I read somewhere that these are popular with physical therapists because they help build muscle tone, and while at almost two Jack still struggles to balance on Rody’s back more muscular kids may have more luck. Even though he doesn’t “ride” him much, Jack loves Rody. He treats him like a pet, giving him hugs and kisses and sometimes even dragging him around the house.

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If you’re going to get a ride-on toy, you might as well get one that can hold over 200 pounds, am I right? Nick and I have definitely competed in timed trials riding this thing around the house after Jack is in bed. He’s had it since Christmas and is only just now figuring out how to use the steering wheel to propel it, but can get around just fine by pushing with his feet. Warning, though, it’s suggested for ages 3 and up. I carefully disregard those warnings if there aren’t any small parts I can see, but I didn’t assemble this one myself and should have taken a better look. You see that yellow circle in the center of the steering wheel? It’s about the size of a milk gallon cap and covers a metal bolt. Jack removed it once and nearly choked. Luckily Nick was nearby and was able to sweep it out with his finger, but it was scary. We kept the Plasmacar but the offending piece of plastic went into the trash.

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Prince Lionheart weePOD Basix**

And last but not least, as we near Jack’s second birthday potty training has become a thing. This potty seat is easy to use and clean, inexpensive, and helps Jack feel secure and comfortable. If you prefer a stand-alone mini potty, I recommend the BabyBjorn Potty Chair** (we have one in our upstairs bath).

Overall as Jack gets older I find that he only needs the most basic stuff–balls, books, dolls, stacking toys, etc., as well as an endless supply of clothes. It seems like every shirt gets stained after just a few wears.

**Amazon affiliate link. If you make a purchase after following that link I will receive a small portion of the proceeds at no additional cost to you.

This is what I looked like two years ago this week. I was so hugely pregnant that I couldn’t go out in public without being stared at and talked to by strangers. It was like being a very uncomfortable celebrity. And I kept getting bigger for another three weeks after this photo was taken!

As you may have guessed, my body has not bounced back. I was back to my pre-pregnancy weight almost right away but things were not the same. My abdomen looked like a war zone. Two years later the stretch marks have faded but my skin is still loose and laced with a web of faint lines. Me pre-pregnancy weight was technically overweight but I still felt comfortable in a bikini. These days–no way. I think this is hard for me because I don’t have any visual references to compare my post-pregnancy body with. There are lots of images in our society of women being confident at varying weights but not of loose skin and stretch marks. I don’t understand how these celebrities get to look so normal after having kids. No amount of diet or exercise is going to fix the skin on my abdomen, and maybe that’s part of why I’m not really motivated to lose weight, even though I know intellectually that a healthy weight is more about health than aesthetics.

Every woman’s body responds differently to pregnancy. Some women gain a lot of weight, some don’t. Some get stretch marks and some don’t. Some women feel fabulous while carrying a tiny human in their abdomen and some…don’t. I seriously felt like I was walking around with 100 extra pounds strapped to my body, even though I only gained about 25. I ached with every step and I even passed out a few times. For a long time when I heard women talking about how much they loved being pregnant I felt guilty, like my love for my child is reflected by my experience of pregnancy.


There’s no point in comparing my pregnancy or my body to those of other women. My body will never be the same as it was before Jack, and that’s okay. My life will never be the same either! That’s kind of the point. Maybe my next pregnancy will be easier and maybe it won’t, but I have a feeling I’ll be much happier if I learn to just accept whatever the future holds (stretch marks and all).

I have been tearing through some books lately, y’all. I’m behind on all my favorite blogs and TV shows but it feels amazing to be immersing myself in one world after another through literature. Reading was my favorite pastime through childhood and adolescence but all the reading required for my English degree kind of took the fun out of it, then I was really busy through grad school and my first few years as a social worker and then I started a blog and had a baby and only now, ten years later, am I finally diving back into books with the kind of enthusiasm I once had.

I’ve had The Mad Scientist’s Daughter on my list for a while now and decided to download it to my Kindle for our beach trip. I quickly became obsessed and picked it up every chance I got. I’m actually re-reading it now that I know more about Finn’s background and how the story ends.

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A robot love story could easily stray into silly or tacky territory, but this is more like Her than Mannequin and I found myself rather enthralled. The gist of it is that Cat’s father, a robotics expert, brings home a startlingly lifelike android to live with them. Finn is the first and only of his kind and the circumstances surrounding his creation are unclear through much of the book. We spend what feels like a lifetime with him as Cat grows from a young child into an adult. The story takes place in the not-so-distant future, but despite the dystopian setting and element of robots I wouldn’t call it sci-fi. The outside world is background to what is really a study of Cat’s very flawed character and the affection she feels for Finn. It raises questions about whether self-determination is a right or a privilege, the future of feminism, and civil rights in the age of artificial intelligence, in addition to themes of metamorphosis, mortality, modernity vs. decay, and nature vs. sterility. The challenges of Cat and Finn’s relationship could even be compared to those of same-sex couples, especially prior to the changing attitudes of recent years.

What The Mad Scientist’s Daughter lacks in prose and a relatable protagonist it makes up for in Finn. As weird as a handsome android robot sounds I couldn’t help but be charmed by his thoughtful and unwavering nature. In fact, I wish the author had spent more time with him, especially near the end.  I hope this book gets made into an awesome movie just so I can see his character fleshed out a little more. The juxtaposition of a human who is too much like a robot and a robot who is too much like a human was fascinating, and the issue of age difference reminds me of The Time Traveler’s Wife with a dash of Edward Scissorhands.  Fair warning: there are some sexual scenes and quite a bit of profanity, so I wouldn’t suggest it for sharing with your pre-teen who’s recently taken an interest in robots. The next Twilight this is not. But if you’re into romance or character studies give it a gander.

**Amazon affiliate link. If you make a purchase after following that link I will receive a small portion of the proceeds at no additional cost to you.