Machine Men

Note: This week’s short story was 100% inspired by the Charlie Chaplin speech from the 1940 film “The Great Dictator.”

Spring Hills, Indiana
2015 

William grunted as he jerked the tubing of the fuel pump out the smoking gear wheel. He wiped his creased, wet forehead, leaving a streak of gray grease. The grease was meant to ensure the machine functioned fluidly. They rarely did. All around him, production had stalled. The other men on the line watched him, some with disgruntled expressions, obviously impatient to get back on schedule to meet quota. Some laughed and joked with their comrades, glad of the brief break.

And then there were those who stared blankly at their feet, no expression, no opinion, no soul. There was one in every bunch.

William swore and inspected the machinery now that it was free of the errant part. The tubes on the pump had somehow become snagged in the gears of the machine that was meant to click the wires into place. What the part had left behind was an obviously disjointed section of the gears where the teeth no longer met up, ensuring the machine would not complete its prescribed task. It would need at least an hour to fix.

The men around him all groaned irrespective of their opinion to the initial pause. They would be forced to stand around while he tinkered with the machine, falling further and further behind their production schedule. If they wouldn’t work twice as hard from then until quitting time, they would be forced to stay after. Though that meant overtime pay, it also meant an extra hour on already worn and aching feet, an extra hour away from families, friends, and an extra hour until they could eat their dinners.

They were already pulling 12-hour shifts, any overtime was both a blessing and a curse.

The men formed small groups and started to chat, settling into their regular conversational cliques whenever a machine broke down. William pulled a little light from his tool bag and shone it into the deeper part of the machine, checking the lines that connected the gears in the front to the larger mechanism in the back.

“Did you hear about that Trump feller, running for President?” one of the men in the group closest to him began.

“Isn’t he a billionaire? Why would he make a run for President having all that money?” another man replied doubtfully.

“He said he was, on the news last night. Called in and said he wanted to make America into what it once was. Rich, put everybody back to work, put more money into the military. Sounded pretty serious to me.” The man pressed, crossing his arms.

“Well, I’d like to see him try it. God knows Hillary Clinton won’t do a damn thing for us. We don’t need no elderly woman running this country. What we need is a man who is willing to stand up and speak out.” Another man chimed in, breaking into a wide grin. A chorus of agreement rose from the group.

William rolled his eyes to the machine. He’d heard that the reality TV host had announced a run for President as well. But he doubted his odds against the dozen or so career politicians he was up against in his party alone. And even if it did come down to Trump or Clinton, surely her past controversies wouldn’t make her lose to a twice-divorced, reality TV star.

His mind wondered away from their conversation as they dissolved into a competition of who could come up with the best Hillary Clinton insult, most of them primarily targeted at her gender. With three young daughters at home, he couldn’t really stomach the wording.

Another huddled group had a more pressing conversation topic. A rumor had started that the factory where they processed automotive parts for a Japanese car company was on the short list for relocation to Mexico. William had heard the gossip before but couldn’t help but clench his gut when he heard the words again. He didn’t know what he would do without this job. It paid well enough, offered health insurance with a moderately affordable deductible, and above all allowed him to live close to the town he had grown up in, where his aging mother still lived alone in an apartment and he could drive five minutes to help her whenever she needed.

His wife, Jamie, stayed home with their young daughters, all three were under five and childcare costs were astronomical for three kids and his wife had no training for a job that would pay more than what that childcare would cost each month. But it worked for their family. She was a damn fine mother and homemaker. He was proud of the work she put in each day, raising their kids, caring for their modest three-bedroom home, and making his commitment to financially providing for them as easy as possible. She was just as exhausted as him at the end of each day, if not more so. There was a woman, he thought, who could run the country and make it better than it was before. He smiled to himself.

“I’d have to move away, for sure.” One of the men was saying when William tapped back in to their conversation. “There aren’t any other options around here that pay as well. I hate to go but how can I afford to eat and keep a roof over my head on a minimum wage, part-time job?”

William feared that would be his only option as well. To sell the house, they had painstakingly searched for and brought three beautiful daughters home to, uproot them all to an unknown town, leave behind his mother who had no one else to help her, and start over probably making less pay and fewer benefits.

Their small town was already next to nothing, coming from humble roots as it was. They had a handful of fast food restaurants, the auto parts factory, and a dollar store. They could be wiped off the map, and nobody would care.

What would he tell his wife if the news came? His mom? How could he live with himself if he couldn’t find another job to support them?

The group echoed his worries, shoulders set in tense lines all around.

He gave a heaving tug on the gear that had offset, the metal ripping beneath his pliers.

“Shit,” William said aloud. “Sorry, guys, it’s probably going to be another hour.”

10 Miles Outside of Camp Dwyer Marine Base, Helmand River Valley, Afghanistan
2010

Sgt. Matthew Garrand lay on his belly along with two other tan camo-clad men on top of a craggy cliff face, hard soil and small rocks stuck painfully in his stomach, elbows, and knees but he did not move. None of the men in the group did. They each peered through their scopes, scanning the low road below. The sun, high and naked in the sky, burned down on their shoulders and helmets. Sweat poured profusely down their faces, over their eyebrows. They blinked rapidly to keep the salt water from stinging their eyes. Not that it helped.

The only advantage to the singing heat of midday was that there were no mosquitos buzzing around their faces or trigger fingers.

A tall, tarped truck rolled into view on the road below and they all tensed. Civilians, Garrand told himself. They were piled into the back, sitting one on top of another, some grasping sacks of food or other personal belongings. Small children sat on the back and floor of the vehicle’s truck bed, faces grubby with the desert dust. They all looked hollow, hungry, and dirty. Refugees, perhaps trying to make their escape for a better life outside of war-torn Afghanistan.

Garrand didn’t blame them. As soon as he was released from service he would never come back to this Hell on Earth.

Then a literal Hell ripped open below them. The force of the blow knocked them all back, Garrand, Staff Sgt. Tanner, and Sgt. Hatton. Only briefly incommoded, they sprang up, looking through their scopes for the source of the attack. There, under a partially concealed cliff, men poured out of the darkness, one in front cradling an enormous grenade launcher awkwardly as he ran towards the vehicle. Those who hadn’t been killed or knocked unconscious from the blast were running, away from the men swarming down on them.

Garrand had been wrong, he thought briefly as he took his stance. The heat had not kept the mosquitoes at bay. While Tanner called the attack in on over his radio, Garrand and Hatton took aim at the attackers, taking them down one by one. They weren’t fast enough, couldn’t be quick enough to defend all of the survivors.

The Taliban insurgents had their own weapons and meters of proximity of advantage over the soldiers above them. An elderly man fell, blood spurting from a gunshot wound to his back. A woman, an infant clutched in her arms, wailing then falling silent as she fell, a grenade catching her feet and blasting them to the afterlife, taking her soon after.

A young boy, the farthest ahead, no more than seven years old, was the last to fall. A man with a machete and a face wrinkled with hatred cut him down as the insurgents overtook the civilians. Garrand, face boiling and eyes bloodshot, put a bullet through the man’s head soon after, a bittersweet grin only briefly touching his lips.

The soldiers hadn’t saved anybody. They rarely could in these ambushes. But they picked off the insurgents like picking maggots off a rotting corpse. What was the point if they couldn’t save anybody?

Back up arrived, finally. An M2-M3 rolled into view over the horizon, moving heart-breakingly slow. Guns from the top of the vehicle boomed through the valley, striking the remaining insurgents.

The men in the vehicle whooped in victory when they drove onto the carnage. No one stirred from the mound of bodies and there was little differentiating between insurgent and civilian. There was only blood and bone and sand.

Capitol Hill, Washington D.C.
2018

Senator Joshua Brantley sat straight in his leather computer chair, his black tailored suit unwrinkled as though he hadn’t moved a muscle since the tailor snipped his last stitch. An email was opened on the sleek silver computer screen before him, the salutation greeting him as the “Most Honorable Senator Brantley.”

His eyes were not reading the words on the screen. They were glazed and red-rimmed from too much scotch. He mused to himself as he avoided answering his constituent’s email, probably just another request to not cut funding for elderly heat assistance or some other nonsense. His red cufflinks, which matched his red tie, clinked against the dark wood of his desk as he considered. His secretary sat opposite him, clicking away with her long, manicured nails on her own computer station. She was young, perhaps in her late twenties, with blonde streaked smooth hair coiled up on the back of her head and pinned. He eyed her long legs beneath her desk, uncovered in her pencil skirt and shapely, the calf muscles developed either from religiously running or strutting about all day on Capitol Hill in her 4-inch heels. Modest enough height with just enough of a hint at what lay beneath.

She looked elegant. A future politician’s trophy wife for sure.

Perhaps not his. He darted eyes at a framed picture on his desk, his wife, brown-haired and slightly rounding out, and son smiled back at him. They looked genuinely happy, and maybe they were. They had a lot to be happy about, living in a large house downtown, attending a private, nationally recognized school, sporting a 6-carat diamond ring on both hands. He snorted angrily and pushed his wife from his mind.

It wasn’t hard to do. Brantley’s secretary smiled up at him, and he grinned back, well aware of the dimple that he sported in one cheek and smiling crookedly to emphasize that feature.

He could have her, he thought, as she bent her head back to her work, noting the rose blush that colored her cheeks. He could have her whenever he wanted her. If he wanted her. He squinted again at his wife, older, heavier. They had been married for nearly twenty years, she had been with him through his entire political career, helping to catapult him to where he sat now as a member of the U.S. Senate. Together they appeared to be the quintessential American family, and he, the quintessential American Father, Hero, and Savior.

It would seriously harm his public image to divorce, no matter his urge to have a newer model to ride.

But a test drive could never hurt.

He leaned back in his chair and linked his fingers behind his head, sighing in satisfaction at his decision. A little proverbial grease on the hands and nobody would ever know. Outside his office, a group of small children awaited their meeting with their representative. Joshua Brantley, devoted family man, church member, and proud NRA A+ rated supporter.

He shifted in his chair, raising an eyebrow at the picture of White Jesus he kept over his door.

“Father, forgive me, but I know exactly what I do.” He smirked again and stood, moving slowly towards the girl across from him.

Heartless: Book Review

Heartless by Marissa Meyer

I need to preface this book review by admitting that I am an OG Marissa Meyer fan, meaning I have been reading her stuff since she was a writer on www.fanfiction.net, writing Sailor Moon fanfiction. I absolutely adore her and watching her achieve her dreams has been an absolute joy as a fan. She deserves every good thing to happen to her, and I will most likely never dislike anything she writes. I think this stems more from how insanely talented she is as a writer and a storyteller rather than any kind of bias or sense of nostalgia. She has been a standout writer since the beginning, and her success was inevitable in my eyes.

Anyway, back to the review.

This. Book. Broke. Me.

Oh man, I knew that an origin story of the infamous “Off with his head!” Red Queen would not end all roses and…well, there are roses, but I knew it wouldn’t end happily in conventional terms. But Marissa turned this story on its head and took complete ownership of the characters she borrowed from Lewis Carroll. Really, she did him an excellent service by humanizing this character and added so much depth to the universe of Wonderland.

This book is beautifully crafted. It starts out with a light-hearted, dreaming version of the Red Queen named Lady Catherine Pinkerton, daughter of the Marques of Rock Turtle Cove. All she wants to do with her life is bake. When we meet her, she is covered in flour, working tirelessly over a lemon tart around which her entire universe seems to center.

The character development of the Red Queen is just so masterfully done in my opinion. The description above of Catherine when we first meet her is so far removed from the image we came to the story with, the red-faced, buxom, mad Queen. But of course, we have to link that soft, version of the Queen with what she must inevitably become and that is quite a journey for a character to embark on. To transform one version of this character to the other, the author could have dived into some severe melodrama territory, but the change was gradual, logical, and heartbreaking. I never felt like she changed the character in an unbelievable way.

And Jest. Can we all just take a moment to mourn one of the most beautiful men in YA lit?

Okay, I will never get over his death, but I can fully sympathize with Catherine’s transformation after her extraordinarily tumultuous and star-crossed relationship with the Court Joker.

Also, I want to insert here that we NEED a prequel featuring Jest and Hatta and their lives in Chess. Please, Marissa?!

Jest was such a profound character, and I really appreciate the slow reveal of his personality and motives, so I felt like I was falling in love with him right along with Catherine, further aligning my sympathies with her in the end.

Should you read Alice in Wonderland before reading this book?

My advice is that you don’t have to have read the book Marissa based her story and characters on. She did an excellent job of creating this stand-alone novel that readers can appreciate all on its own. But really if you have any or no foreknowledge of the Red Queen from any of the Disney movies (animated or Tim Burton), etc. you can read and enjoy this book.

She succeeded in making me view the Red Queen in a whole new light.

4/5 Stars

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The Fiery Cross: Book Review

I have been listening to the Outlander series by Diana Gabaldon on Audible for nearly a year now. I began listening to the audiobooks when I started my new job to fill my long commute time. The audiobooks are long, 30-50+ hours each and the books are enormous. Each one, at least so far, is narrated by Davina Porter, who won an award for her reading of Outlander Book 6: A Breath of Snow and Ashes and has many audiobooks readings under her belt. She is a pro.

I enjoyed the first two books in the Outlander series immensely, and I have held the belief, which gets stronger with each subsequent novel after Book 3, that Diana Gabaldon probably should have ended the story of Jamie and Claire at the end of Book 2. But I am a sucker for a happy ending, and I feel like the longer we go, the higher the chance of a final tragic end for the lovers. However, this is an older series, the first book was published in 1991 which makes it 27 years old and there are eight books in the series to this point with a ninth one in progress, so I am a little behind. But I was born a year before the first book came out so I can be excused for at least the first thirteen or so years of the existence of the series, probably longer as the content is mature.

Regardless of this belief, I have committed myself to this series. Listening to the story of Jamie and Claire and their family nearly every day for a year has fully invested me in their stories, however, they eventually end.

I will say that I felt a personal connection to Claire and Jamie’s story because my husband was deployed when I first listened to this series and when they are separated before the Battle of Culloden, I felt Claire and Jamie’s pain very acutely. I think that connection also keeps me reading the series even though the height of Jamie and Claire’s romantic drama seems to have ended.

That is my segue into the actual review of Outlander Book 5: The Fiery Cross. I adore Jamie and Claire and their dynamic in this book. They are still in love, but they are finally able to be comfortable in their love and settle into a capital “R” Relationship. There are many real-life benefits to settling into this stage as a couple but far less drama which makes for less compelling reading. Ms. Gabaldon introduced Claire and Jamie’s daughter, Brianna’s relationship and all the excitement that comes with young love. Not that I don’t like Brianna or Roger Wakefield (Mackenzie)’s characters, but I started the series for the Jamie/Claire action and inevitably as they age that is winding down. They are sweet, but their love story is no longer front and center plot-wise.

To compensate for the lapse in romance, the author introduces mystery, action, and paranormal activity. And other romantic storylines but frankly since Brianna gave birth to Jemmy, her and Roger’s love story is not super impressive either. We all love the drama and excitement of new love, I guess, even as voyeurs. The mystery/action/paranormal activity has kept me on the edge of my seat, hands gripping my steering wheel many times through this book, notably the hanging and near death of Roger. I swore that if she killed Roger off, I was done with the series I was so into this scene. It was so dramatic, the author pushed me as a reader as far as I could go into hopelessness, Roger was definitely dead, I saw the corpse hanging from the tree, she pushed then pulled me bodily back from the precipice. It was terrifying to see what power she had over me as a reader.

There is no doubt she has a mastery of writing. And her settings and historical details seem to be spot on. I haven’t heard anything that pulled me out of the story and made me think that wasn’t possible for that character in that time. She has spent thousands of pages building her world, so I was already well established in the setting before starting The Fiery Cross which is the benefit of series, you can really dig deep into worldbuilding which is fun as a writer without sacrificing story and character development.

I guess my overall impression is that I love these characters she has created, and I am invested in their destinies, but for the sake of plot quality, I think this story, and its intentions as it began, has peaked. Every book after Book 3 just feels like a completely different type of book, if that makes sense.

I would very much like to read a different story by this author.

3/5 Stars

Writing Inspiration: How to Trigger Your Muse When All She Wants to Do is Take a Nap

That Muse is a tricky minx.

I have not made it a secret that I suffer from depression. I lived with major depression for years through high school and college. I was diagnosed with postpartum depression after the birth of my daughter.

One of my biggest struggles with depression, besides combating suicidal thoughts, is just feeling exhausted and empty all the time. This is particularly frustrating because I still manage to get these inspired bursts of creative energy and I will write a novel synopsis, a poem stanza, and then I just poop out. I rarely have the energy to follow these thoughts through to completion.

Since having a baby and starting work full-time, I have had to learn to just get things done, regardless of how I feel. Maybe this isn’t conducive to creative genius. Regarding wheels to the ground, buckling down work, I have found some ways to get my butt into gear.

Disclaimer: If you are struggling with depression, please don’t hesitate to seek help. Talk to your doctor, there are options for treatment. This post should not supplant any attempts to treat your depression, and one aspect of therapy may be taking some time to step back from things that are causing you excessive stress. You can’t always power through an illness and depression is as much an illness as any other chronic disease. 

Triggering the Muse: A List

  1. Sit at a desk. Having a designated workspace can do wonders for productivity. Having an area that is blocked off from the television or other distractions can help you focus on the screen or page in front of you. Facing a window might indeed be the only allowable distraction, and that is mainly because outside light can be useful for your mental health.
  2. Disconnect from the internet. Stay with me here, short of needing to conduct research, the internet is ace for distracting people from their work. Facebook, Twitter, Instagram (follow me on all of them!), YouTube, Netflix, Reddit, or whatever deep web site you fill your days with will only suck time away from the project you obviously desperately want to finish. Disconnecting the internet takes away that easy distraction and that few seconds it takes to plug everything back in, reconnect, establish that connection, etc. might be enough hassle for you to shrug it off and get back to your project.
  3. What if you are staring at your computer or notebook and you have no idea about what to write? I have gotten the writing urge many, many times in my life only to sit down and not have any concrete idea to start with. Just start writing. You will be inspired by your random musings as you begin crafting sentences and imagining characters and scenes. Putting pen to paper is often the hardest part of the process so don’t lose your momentum. Ideally, you should be writing SOMETHING every day (I admit this is advice I also desperately need to follow, even though I know better).
  4. Read books on writing. Besides being extremely useful for improving the mechanics of your writing, they also provide many valuable prompts for practicing these mechanics. I have squirreled away at least two novel ideas from Plot & Structure by James Scott Bell.
  5. Follow your favorite writers on social media and subscribe to their websites if they blog. The best kick in the butt sometimes is exposure to those who have found success doing exactly what you want to do. And they often post really sound advice for writing, storytelling, and publishing.
  6. Find somebody who supports your dreams. Whether this is a significant other, a best friend, an online group, a club, etc. find somebody who can lift you up when you aren’t feeling yourself. They should be willing to read your work and offer constructive criticism. My husband is my biggest supporter, and I tear up now just thinking of all the times he supported me when I wanted to give up on my dream. I am still working towards that dream, don’t get me wrong, and I may never really succeed in this industry, but I will always be grateful for his support.
  7. Look through old photo archives on websites like Library of Congress and New York Public Library. These photos may serve as inspiration for a stalling story or a character that you haven’t fully fleshed out yet.
  8. Create a Pinterest board for your story. This method is useful if you already have a general idea of what you want to write. For example, I am currently working on the first draft of a YA novel about witches in 1400s Europe. I can search for witch lore from that era and find things like the tools they may have used for casting spells, clothing, buildings, etc. The nature of Pinterest allows me to save these really random links and images to a single board that I can refer back to, both to reference and to be inspired.
  9. Participate in a writing competition like Writer’s Digest Your Story which runs every other month and is free to enter. They also host several competitions which you have to pay to join. NaNoWriMo runs two novel writing competitions each year, in which participants try to write 50,000 words in a month. The goal of the contest is to inspire daily writing in the belief that it is better to churn out the first draft of anything rather than slog for years on the first draft of a perfect novel, which still probably won’t be perfect. It is indeed an exercise in persistence and creativity. There is no entry fee, and the only reward is a finished first draft and a sense of accomplishment. But hey, isn’t that enough of a reward as an aspiring writer? Plus they have a built-in community of like-minded people, and this very well may be where you find your tribe. I will be participating in Camp NaNoWriMo this year, which is the April competition and is a little looser in structure, so participants are not restricted to the novel format (not that they are during the November competition). I hope to finish the aforementioned first draft about the witches during this month, so I can finally move on to the even more dreaded second draft.

My hope is that you can take something away from my advice, I employ many of these methods when I approach my writing, especially since I began blogging multiple times a week.

I Want to Hear From You!

Let me know in the comments if you were able to bust the writer’s block, what project you are working on right now. Or just shout-out if you are struggling with depression, but you’re still here, still working, and still trying to live your best life!

Appalachian Gods

This week, instead of doing a #flashfictionfriday post I felt more slanted towards posting a nonfiction essay I have been working on for some time. Enjoy and hopefully next week I will get back to the fiction stuff. 😉

 

I feel compelled to write about these mountains like there is a voice inside of me that isn’t my voice but wants to be heard. I am the mouthpiece or the transcriber as it is. It is my heritage, the mystique of Appalachia, and the strange mark it leaves on all who are born here that yearns to be written. A little stain on the history of this country, this world. Appalachia is beautiful, fierce, and lonely.

When the sun rises over the Appalachian foothills, there is a strange frenzy of activity. I have heard that the safest time to be in the woods is at night because, like people, animals seek cover in the dark and prefer daytime for hunting. But I think it is more than just an evolutionary preference. The darkness of an Appalachian night is heavy like there is more in the air than dew. It is heavy like the breath of a million souls exhaling at the same time. There are ghosts in the Appalachian Mountains. And if ever there was a time they revealed themselves it was during those black nights.

People rarely write about cities and suburbs with the same romantic notions as they do about nature. Nature is an enigma, an evolving mystery, consistently surprising and confounding those who observe it. These mountains are not like cul-de-sacs. Men own their cities, they know every inch, every culvert, all mapped and laid out like a science. No one owns the Appalachian Mountains. But they hold every soul born here. They are unconquerable. Even scarred and pitted from years of strip mining and clear-cutting, there is a refusal to surrender to the appetites of men. They still loom larger and make me feel more than anything man has built himself.

For the people born there, the mountains mean protection. As a child, I played throughout its valleys, swam in the streams that bubbled from its peaks, and explored the forests that populated the hillsides. I never felt alone. There are eyes everywhere in the mountains, whispers with inhuman voices, a language not in the conventional tongue of man. It is ancient. We grew up in the shadows of gods.

Spirituality was in the very water we drank. Everyone born in southeastern Kentucky knew of the power of the laying on of hands, speaking in tongues, serpent handling, whether they believed this to be a God-given talent or the overactive imaginings of religious radicals. My grandmother claimed to have the power to drive demons from people who were possessed. I witnessed one such attempt when I was eight years old. Our neighbor had been tied to a day bed with a leather belt around his hands, holding him to the trembling bars.

There was no moon that night, no stars, low clouds made the entire valley claustrophobic and damp. He hissed at my grandmother as she came through the door, a worn Bible in both hands held out before her like a shield of faith. He spoke, but he didn’t, not in words I could understand, a faint echo in his tone. It was otherworldly, eerie. I am not sure I believe in the existence of demons, at least ones that exist on the physical plane with humans, but what I was witness to that night, I will never forget. Belief is very strongly regarded. My neighbor believed he was possessed that night. My grandmother thought she could exorcise his demons. When she left, he lay limp, sweaty, and regular. Apparently, he thought she could exorcise his demons too.

If there are demons in the world, maybe they are more likely to follow those who believe. Guilt, faith, and God lay heavy on the hearts of Appalachian men and women. They can claim atheism but religion haunts their every action, they feel the weight of God when lifting a beer bottle, the chorus of angels in explicit, secular music. It is harder not to believe, to push beyond the wall of guilt and act against traditionalism. Akin to “Catholic guilt” the people of Appalachia, more often Baptists and Pentecostals (or some form of either), carry their religion like a family heirloom, their inheritance. They did not buy it or build it, but it has been imbued with too many memories to throw away.

Bed-Sharing: Not For You to Judge and Not For the Faint of Heart

My daughter has been co-sleeping since she was born.

I was ashamed of this at one time but choose not to be now. I know the safety concerns, the doctor recommendations, all of that. But still, I prefer to co-sleep, though we are, at 16 months old, trying to transition our daughter to her bed.

Why did I start co-sleeping? I suppose for the same reason other parents who co-sleep do it, we’re exhausted, and our babies refuse to sleep alone.

I tried. God knows I tried not co-sleeping. This was not our default decision. We had a nursery set up; we had the baby monitor, we had the crib with only a fitted sheet, a mobile, a nightlight. It was a nursery built for safety and sweet dreams, but our daughter had other opinions.

We then tried a bassinet in the same room but not in the same bed as us. This was also a flat out FAIL. No matter what we tried, and we tried multiple methods for soothing a baby to sleep, she would wake up again and again. To this day she is not a great sleeper, naps are short and sporadic and she usually only sleeps about 9 hours a night. I have spoken to her pediatrician about this but her development is on track, so there is no reason to be concerned.

The only place she felt confident and comfortable to sleep was next to me.

Perhaps I should have prefaced this post with this, but I exclusively breastfed my daughter since birth. Starting out I had to feed her consistently, at least every half hour to an hour. She gained weight well, but I felt like she was nursing nonstop for at least the first six months of her life. Obviously, this further complicated my sleeping habits and arrangements at night.

We tried for about three weeks to adjust our daughter to be able to sleep in her bassinet beside the bed, at the very least, without success before we gave up and began full-time co-sleeping.

The difference in the amount she slept, not to mention how much extra rest I got, was substantial.

I was devastated, but I didn’t know how else to handle the situation.

Two weeks later my husband, National Guard, deployed to the Middle East and would be gone for nearly a year.

Two weeks after that I started a new, full-time job as a Reference Librarian and Instructor at a community college.

I was exhausted all the time from solo-parenting, from working all day, then mom-ing all night. I was also suffering from post-partum depression which I still struggle with, and I was utterly overwhelmed. Co-sleeping and taking away at least one problem was probably the only thing that saved my sanity at the time. I got more sleep, able to just turn over and nurse my daughter back to sleep during her frequent night feedings. Co-sleeping also allowed me peace of mind when I was home alone all those months that in case of an emergency in the night I had ready access to my daughter.

Now, co-sleeping is not for everybody, and it requires some significant adjustments to how you sleep, from getting used to not using blankets, to understanding that you will probably not be able to sleep deeply. I am a naturally light sleeper, and I don’t tend to roll around a lot during my sleep, most nights I would fall asleep in one position and wake up in that same position. This was to my benefit when I came to terms with the fact that I would be co-sleeping. One of the few benefits of my husband deploying during this time is that there were not two adults co-sleeping with an infant, reducing the risk that arises from more bodies in a bed, though my husband is also a lighter sleeper and often slept on his back all night. Neither my husband or myself are overweight which is another factor which raises the risk of SIDS while co-sleeping with parents. Breastfeeding further reduces the risk of SIDS.

We don’t smoke. Our home’s air quality is good. We didn’t have pets at the time. We used a humidifier. We used a pacifier. We even bought a co-sleeper that can be placed directly in the bed which was useful for traveling when we didn’t want to lug her whole Pack ‘N Play w/bassinet attachment. But still didn’t provide the comfort level our daughter demanded when sleeping at night.

I read articles, I studied sleep training methods, but I could not change my daughter’s sleeping preference. Many of the articles I read which were published by major parenting sites like The Bump, WhattoExpect, and Parenting were starkly against bed sharing. But I know many people in the real world who were forced into an identical sleeping arrangement. It is almost like this secret club, shamed into isolation by more successful parents who managed to establish “safer” sleeping habits.

But a 2013 study by Colson, et al. shows that the percentage of co-sleeping parents has risen from 6% in 1993 to 13.5% in 2010, and at least 45% of parents admitted to sharing a bed with their infant “at least some of the time.” It happens, there are situations where it is just something parents do.

Whatever your preference for your child, where the intentions are obviously not malicious, where the parents are not going to bed drunk or high, or in other ways neglecting their child, you should reserve your contrary judgment of the parents who do share a bed with their infants. Bed sharing was a common practice at one point in time; my great grandparents shared a bed with their children when beds were a commodity, and many families were forced to share one bed.

There are obviously other considerations that must be taken into account when discussing infant sleep arrangements like sleeping position, does the infant sleep on their back, side, or stomach? My daughter usually slept on her back in my bed but would roll onto her side the few times she slept in the bassinet or crib.

I feel like there is a lot of online judgment towards bed-sharing parents, like most online bullying, there is a trend towards increased anonymous criticism vs. in-person criticizing. When faced with actual human beings who you can see love their child, want the best for their child, and work their butts off for their child, it is easier to, if not relate, at least sympathize.

I am not posting this to endorse or encourage bed-sharing. I am merely telling my story as a mom who bed-shared and presenting a narrative that I feel is needed in the conversation surrounding infant sleep arrangements. I hope my story makes somebody else out there who bed-shares feel unashamed, supported, and a little less lonely.

Do you bed-share? Share your story in the comments!

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What I Want You To Remember

You won’t remember the hours I spent rocking you.
You won’t remember the way I worried that you weren’t eating enough.
You won’t remember the time I spent baking and decorating your birthday cakes.
You won’t remember the tears I cried when you were sick.
You won’t remember the sleepless nights.
You won’t remember the pain I felt when breastfeeding.
You won’t remember the bedtime arguments.
You won’t remember any of that.
 
It isn’t your job to remember the work, the fears, the struggles of early parenthood.
I’m not doing my job if I place that stress on your tiny shoulders.
The things I want for you, the things I want you to remember, are only good.
 
I want you to remember the warmth of my chest under your cheek.
I want you to remember the lullabies that soothed you to sleep.
I want you to remember the taste of those birthday cakes on your tongue.
I want you to remember the tears of happiness that only you could inspire.
I want you to remember you were worth every sleepless night.
I want you to remember that your health meant more to me than my comfort.
I want you to remember the bedtime stories that taught you to dream.
I want you to remember that you were safe and loved.
 
I want you to remember we are your home wherever you roam.
 

Novel Ambitions: A #FlashFictionFriday Sneak Peek at My Current WIP

Changeling

Brief Synopsis (ATM): A princess, born with a large facial birthmark at the height of the persecution of witches in Europe, is switched with a servant child born the same night. The servant-turned-princess and princess-in-hiding grow up oblivious to the truth of their lineages.

Chapter 7

Viviane

Viviane brushed her hair, grimacing at the amount of straw collecting on her bedroom floor. The evening finally came, and she returned to her rooms for the night. Her mother was nowhere to be seen, no doubt the Queen had her sewing away in her chambers. Viviane diverted the princess but could never stand up to the Queen in the same way without facing retribution.
As more straw fell, Viviane allowed herself to feel mortified for the first time since fleeing the stables. Lord Christian found her sleeping in a horse’s stable, her hair tousled from sleep and not in the flattering way of Lord Christian’s.
More than that, she had not thought to hide her face, her mark, the evidence of some shortcoming within her soul. Her mask lay beside her in the stable, and she realized with a start she left it in her haste to escape his curious gaze.
She stared at herself in the slightly warped looking glass she and her mother inherited from a deceased castle servant in their small room. She plucked more straw from her long dark hair and gently ran a hand over her cheek in the low light of the evening. She did not often look at her reflection, she knew from the whispering and the way everyone avoided her that her looks fell far short of desirable. She was near a monster to many. She kept half the skin of her face masked, a carved wooden plaque worn smooth inside from the oil of her skin. It clung to her face using an earpiece and a strap wrapped around her skull under her hair. It became second nature to her to wear it, as much a part of her body as her arms and legs.
Viviane had been 12 and just begun her training as a servant in the castle when the mask was presented to her from Dianthe. Ever the intuitive one, though it had been far from subtle, she saw the glances, heard the gossip, noticed the sudden discomfort of the girl who lived in relative isolation and shelter by the other servants who sympathized with the girl, a visible representation of their own lack of freedom. She carved the mask from a fallen ash tree.
Ida frowned as Dianthe showed Viviane how to place the mask correctly over her face but said nothing. Viviane held back tears of gratitude, sadness, and relief as she saw her face for the first-time sans the mark, the wood becoming a blank, light brown plane on her face.
Viviane wore it continuously around the castle, easing the minds of the royal family who no longer noticed her under the mask. The only person who maintained suspicion was Friar Heinrich, a tight-lipped, white-haired priest left over from the Roman Inquisition to direct and dictate the religious lives of the royal family and their subjects. He watched her still, steadily, his eyes narrow slits as they followed her around whatever room she entered that he was in. He kept his cross clutched between him and more than once she had seen him muttering in Latin to himself, a prayer, she thought.
She would have to wait until darkness fell to retrieve it. For now, she was confined to her rooms, her chores for the evening delayed. No doubt she would receive a thrashing from the Mistress of Rooms for dodging her duties though the tenants of the castle would be unlikely to notice with the return of Lord Eden and his dashing friend, Lord Christian. The King demanded a ball for his son’s return, as though he needed an excuse to eat, drink, and make merry. The King’s well-known philandering was a thorn in the Queen’s side and the reason no doubt for the smell of whiskey that hung around her gowns Ida brought back to their rooms to repair.
Viviane fell back on the bed she shared with her mother and glanced out the window at the fading light. It was near dusk, perhaps going on seven. Her mother should surely return soon. Her ill health was well noted and the Queen, though demanding, did take care to not wholly exhaust her, allowing her a manservant to carry the garments she packed back and forth and to sit while making certain repairs or projects.
Everard brought by a tray of a venison stew, the soup richly thick and yellow and crumbling pieces of potato emerging from the liquid-like craggy rocks. No steam rose from the bowl so the soup was not fresh and the crusted ring edging the liquid meant it had remained untouched.
Viviane worried her lip, questioning whether she could leave the sanctum of her room, sans mask, to fetch her mother. She absently pulled her braid around from her back, so her hair hung over the marked cheek. She looked in the mirror, her vision obscured on one side, but the mark was hidden. If she kept her face down and avoided eye contact, she could probably pass unnoticed.
A cold sweat erupted on her forehead when the door eased open quietly, and the wisp of her mother’s figure slipped through the crack like smoke. Viviane sighed loudly in relief, and her mother jumped, panicked eyes catching her daughter’s.
“Oh, Viv, my love.” She placed her hand over her heart and sat down lightly on the bed beside her. “You startled me.”
Viviane looked her mother over worriedly. She had dark circles under her eyes, the lines deepened by fatigue, and she was pale. “Everard brought stew.” Viviane gestured to the tray on the table.
Ida visibly blanched before she schooled her features. “I had some toast with my evening tea.” She replied coolly. Viviane was not convinced.
“Please, Mother.” She whispered. Ida sighed and moved to the table, picking up the heavy silver spoon and bringing it filled to her lips. She sipped slowly, then took the bigger bits of stew into her mouth, chewing even slower. It was painful to watch. Viviane’s own stomach rumbled with her own healthy appetite’s demands, and she wished she could reverse her stomach with her mother. Ida ate two more spoons full before laying her spoon aside and leaning back wearily in the chair, her eyes on Viviane apologetic.

Chapter 8

Rose

The party for Eden’s return carried on deep into the night with no sign of ending as the sunset and the moon rose to take its place, full, bright, and high in the sky. Her father was well renowned for his events, the wine flowed freely like blood was a freshly slaughtered deer, and Everard’s delectable treats were scattered on large trays throughout the ballroom, mysteriously replenished whenever a plate was emptied.
Rose was weary. Her visions often exhausted her, and the one earlier had been particularly vivid. And terrifying. She drummed her fingers against the oak arm of the plush upholstered chair she occupied for most of the evening. She declined to dance with the myriad number of suitors who approached her, each going away disappointed and annoyed.
She had no patience for their frivolous desires tonight. Rose felt Eden’s eyes on her from across the room. Unlike her he constantly danced, flitting from maiden to maiden, no end to his flirtatious smiles. He did not see the red of his blood spilling from his lips, his eyes, his chest. He would not be haunted in his sleep with the knowledge that everyone he loved most was in danger. But he watched her, the worry always under the playful exterior. She knew she had to tell him about the vision. She needed his help to escape the castle, to reach the Sherpardess. It would be her only chance to learn perhaps, of the unseen threat that hung over her family like a storm heavy on the horizon, the static of the lightening prickling the air.
Rose sighed loudly. She looked towards the window, the moon visible in the high arch of the glass pane. It must be nearing midnight. She could escape the party without notice. The party attendees were heavy-lidded with drink and food and lust. King Alessandre was tucked away in one of the curtained cubbies with a young serving maid whose buxom figure was barely concealed under the gray grab all servants wore. Rose saw him slip away several hours ago and did not care to know what was happening beyond that. Queen Ursula had emerged briefly and retired to her rooms shortly after the King’s own disappearance, her face pinched with disapproval, without a single word of goodnight to her daughter.
Briefly Rose wondered if perhaps her family deserved the grisly end her visions portended.
“Ready to retire, sister?” Eden materialized at her side, offering his large palm to her. Rose smiled at him gratefully.
“More than ready.” She replied, taking his hand and rising stiffly to her feet. She was tall, nearly Eden’s height, or as near as any woman could be to his towering frame. He inherited that from his father, the King, another sign of his lineage that could not be denied as the boy grew.
Despite her father’s height, Rose always questioned her own inheritance of that trait. Her mother was slight, the shortest woman she knew, her hair dark. Rose’s curling, blonde locks were often a topic of speculation among the gentry and nobility and needed little incentive to gossip. Ursula wrote it off as a fluke of inheritance from a great, great grandmother who’d been fair-haired. Indeed, a portrait hung in the gallery of an ancient matron of her mother’s line with painted blonde locks, though it was stick straight and a slight dingy hue was washed into it. Rose’s blonde hair was nearly white in streaks and seemed to glow in certain light, especially the light of a full moon.
When pressed on this, Ursula snapped at Rose.
“If you are so undesirous of your place as my daughter and the Crown Princess, please feel free to find a serving girl to trade in your place.”
Rose had not questioned her mother since.
“So, what did you see?” Eden brought Rose back into her body and the chilled night air of the hall they entered from the ballroom.
“What else?” she replied. “I see death. Always.” Her voice was grim, her eyes sparkling with suppressed tears as the vision returned to her. “It must mean something. I have to try to prevent this.”
Eden glanced over his shoulder at the light spilling from the ballroom and the raucous noise with it.
“It must be tonight.” He said. “Under cover of the celebrations, nobody will notice.”
Rose nodded. Of course, it must be tonight. If she waited much longer the visions may cease to be an omen and become a reality. And the party was the perfect distraction for the guards who slipped some wine and maidens from the room and retired to their barracks where the noise rivaled the ballroom’s echoing screams and laughter.
Rose donned a dark roughly woven wool cloak Eden spirited from some unsuspecting servant’s quarters along with the traditional servants’ garb. She raised her eyebrow at him over the fabric, and he shrugged.
“The girl will not mind as long as it is returned by dawn.” He said.
Rose wondered which of his conquests he targeted for the theft. Like his father, he possessed the ability to merely glance at a maiden to capture her heart. Rose hoped this particular similarity to their father would phase out over time.
Dressed in the gown, the cloak over her shoulders, the hood raised to cover her white gold locks Rose could almost believe she was a servant. Almost. She stared at her reflection. She could do nothing about her bearing, the years of etiquette lessons, good food, and medical attention. She slouched her shoulders slightly and thought it would have to do.
Eden wanted to accompany her, but he could not be made to look like a servant, no matter how poorly dressed they could manage to make him. He was too tall, taller than Rose, with glossy black hair too similar to the King’s to mistake otherwise. He would be a target no matter the disguise. Rose would have to go alone. And if she did not return by dawn Eden would raise the alarm and follow. It was the best they could do.
The village lay five miles away, a small collection of stone cottages with thatched roofs, a skimpy market, a smoking blacksmith, and other small services. Many of the servants had family in the village and frequently were seen traveling back and forth to visit. Rose could be one more servant girl going to visit her parents, her sister or brother.
She would need a horse to make the journey and be back before dawn. Promising to be cautious, she left Eden in her rooms, a deterrent to anyone who may check on her in the night, claiming she was ill and would receive no visitors, and made her way quietly to the stable yard. The castle was indeed nearly empty of roaming individuals. The crisp night air bit at her cheeks and bare fingers and she almost reconsidered the journey based on the temperature alone. She was royal and soft, unused to the cold. Or discomfort. But the vision returned to her in full force of the slaughter of her family, and she pressed her lips together in determination. She had to do this, it would be a small price to pay to save them.
Eden told her to take Mariner, the gray-blue stallion favored by her father. He was the fastest and a war horse. He could protect her if threatened. Rose agreed but confronted with his size in person, and the prospect of climbing up that mountain of a back, lest of all having to guide his bulk was daunting. She wished she could saddle her quiet mare, a chestnut named Heather after her favorite flowers to nibble on lazy summer rides. But Heather was not built for speed or protection.
Rose reached out a hand to stroke the muzzle of the sleeping Mariner. His nose twitched at her touch, and he snorted himself awake, moving his feet nervously on the ground at being disturbed so.
“Easy, boy.” Rose coaxed. She patted his nose awkwardly, reaching for the harness hung on his stall door with her other hand. “We are just going to go for a quick trip.”
He whinnied loudly as her hand closed on the metal bit and she jumped back, wildly looking around for anyone who may have heard his cries.
“What are you doing?” A sharp voice cut through the cold night, and Rose squinted into the darkness.
“Who is there?” she replied. A slight figure, shorter than Rose and thinner dressed in the same servant’s dress she wore in disguise stepped forward, not realizing who she addressed, believing her to be another servant in the castle.
“I might ask the same thing.” The girl said, stepping into the low burning torchlight of the sconces. It was the seamstress’ daughter. The girl with the mark. Rose shrunk back, sure she would recognize her. “What are you doing with the King’s horse?” she repeated, her voice cautious but firm.
Rose desperately searched for an excuse to make the girl go away, but she could not explain what she needed Mariner for, why a servant girl would be in the stables past midnight at all. Except…
“I agreed to meet a beau here,” she blurted. She had not grasped the bridle. The girl need not know she intended to take the horse. “I merely was calming the beast who was startled by my presence. Perhaps her maidenhood would be enough to drive the girl away for fear of her own reputation.
The girl raised an eyebrow, glancing from her to the horse who was still snorting in agitation. “A beau?” she repeated cynically. She glanced behind her noting the empty stable doorway.
“Yes, a beau,” Rose replied defensively. She crossed her arms in defiance. Who was this girl to challenge her? She was a servant, same as Rose was pretending to be. Except Rose was not a servant. She was the Crown Princess, and all the authority of her birth was hers to command even in disguise. She stood to her full height and raised her chin.
“Should you not return to your mother? Why are you roaming the stables at midnight? Certainly not to meet a man yourself.” Rose said. It was cruel, and she knew it, regretted it, but needed the girl to leave so she could be on her way.
The girl, Viviane, she thought her name was, cringed visibly. She seemed to shrink smaller, and she tipped her head forward, so her hair fell more in her face to hide the deformity. “I lost something here earlier.” She said, her voice subdued. I only meant to fetch it and return to my quarters.”
The girl fell silent, her eyes on her feet. Rose felt her heart thudding in her chest in impatience. “Well, get it and be gone. I don’t want you here when my…lover arrives.” She almost choked on the word, images of the servant girl her father disappeared with flitting through her mind.
Viviane glanced up, her eyes darting to Mariner’s stall. “I left it in there, madam.” She replied addressing her as an elder though Rose believed they were the same age.
“In his stall?” Curiosity crept into Rose’s mind, and she squinted at the girl.
“Yes, I often spend time with him in my free time. The stables are usually warmer than the servants’ quarters as you know.” Viviane replied, moving forward slowly to slip by Rose and enter Mariner’s stall. Rose noted how he did not react to her presence as he had to Rose, turning to sniff her hair and clothing. Viviane pulled a carrot from her cloak and fed it to him before bending to sort through the hay on the ground.
“Of course, I know,” Rose replied. “That is why I decided to have my liaison here.” She started to tap her foot, watching the girl sift the straws slowly, searching in the low light.
Finally, she stood, a flat piece of wood clutched triumphantly in hand. She put it to her face, under the curtain of hair that shielded her, looping a leather strap around her ear and over her hairline. She turned back to Rose, the mask in place and smiled shyly, sadly.
“My apologies.” She bowed her head and exited the stall, stroking the gray hair on the horse’s flank as she left. He sniffled after her, attempting to follow but stopped but the stall door closing back on him. He shook his head and cried again, his voice shrill and panicked.
Rose jumped back again, annoyed, impatient, and scared.
Viviane looked back, noting Rose’s agitation with the stallion.
“Perhaps you should pick another location in the future. Mariner can be particular in who he trusts.” Viviane offered before bowing her head again and scurrying from the stables.
Rose frowned at her, the horse still whinnying shrilly in her ear.
“Please, beast.” She pleaded after Viviane’s shadowy figure disappeared down the corridor in the stable yard. “I need your help.”
Rose reached a hand out to his nose and attempted to calm him again, stroking the length of his nose. The girl gave him a carrot. Rose glanced around the stable and saw a bag of dried apple slices propped against a post. She picked up the bag and shook it at him, quieting the horse’s noises with the promise of more midnight snacking.
Rose smirked and grabbed the bridle, sneaking an apple slice into his mouth before looping the leather straps over his mouth and ears, forcing the cold metal bit into his mouth. He shook his head and rearranged his jaws to chew his treat over the bar, laying his ears back irritably. Rose worried that the horse would allow her to ride him past the castle gate, least of all ten miles to the village and back.
She managed to saddle him with bribes of apple slices and led him from the stable to the yard, leading him by yanking on his bridle and waving an apple in front of his nose interchangeably. In the yard, she turned a bucket over and took a deep breath.
“Alright, Rose.” She said to herself. “You can do this.” She looked up at the towering horse, crunching quietly on his final treat and then towards the dark farmlands surrounding the castle. The Sherpardess waited for her out there, an answer, perhaps the end to her disturbing visions waited for her. Having no other options, she blew out her breath and climbed on the bucket to hoist herself over the giant horse’s back, settling into the saddle and knocking her heels on his flanks as they took off on a trot into the darkness.

Baby Basics: Products I Swear By

If you are a new mama, the myriad options for baby basics can be overwhelming, and babies are expensive so it can be terribly tempting to just grab the cheapest option and run. Not all baby products are created equal. We went through several frustrating periods of trial and error of testing different products to see if our daughter would have some kind of skin reaction, especially to diapers, diaper cream, and soap.
Some babies may not have any issues with the products that caused our daughter’s skin rashes, but there was a definite difference when we found just the right one for her.
Here are my favorite baby basics.

Pampers Swaddlers to this day (my daughter currently wears a size 5 diaper) is our favorite brand of diaper to use. We have the least amount of leaks from this, and we have tried several other brands in comparison including Huggies and the Pampers Cruisers.
The primary concern was definitely leakage. The Huggies Little Snugglers were the worst for leaking, they pretty much did this every time she wore them. For newborn poop, this was a big no-no. We attempted the Pampers Cruisers, and they worked okay, except at night. Ten hours was just too much for the Cruisers to hold and after two nights of waking up soaked, we gave up on those as well. The Swaddlers are consistently quality diapers, they rarely leak, and they are comfortable, no thigh rubbing, no rashes. You can subscribe and receive a regular delivery of diapers based on the frequency you choose, saving you the multiple store-runs having a baby in diapers usually requires. You can find some really helpful charts that estimate how many diapers in each size you need to figure out a delivery frequency that works for you, and it is super easy to go into your subscriptions and change as needed.
Just as important for preventing diaper rashes as the diaper, we only wavered from the Pampers Sensitive wipes once when the husband accidentally bought the wrong kind. My daughter’s butt promptly broke out after one use, and we couldn’t even bring ourselves to finish the pack, let alone the box. These are super gentle and have a very light scent.
We use baby wipes for almost every kind of cleanup imaginable from cleaning the butt to wiping hands after eating, you will find that you literally CANNOT leave the house without baby wipes. Pro-tip: Always have a backup pack in the diaper bag. Poop explosions, vomit, milk/juice spills all require a lot of wipes to clean up.
Next up, Aveeno Wash & Shampoo. This works wonders on my daughter’s sensitive skin. Its Pediatrician Recommended, made from oat extract, and works as body wash AND shampoo. You have the option to subscribe on Amazon to receive regular shipments of this product, we used about one bottle every two months when my daughter was a newborn, and now we go through a bottle a month. Subscribing can save you 5-15% on price (depending on how many Amazon subscriptions you have, the more you subscribe, the more you save) and also save you the hassle of thinking about it when you run out.
You will find you think about the health of your baby’s skin nearly constantly. Is it too dry? Is that a rash? Why is her scalp so flaky?! Desitin is another excellent product for preventing and then treating diaper rash. The Rapid Relief works best for daily use while the Maximum Strength is most useful for treating existing rashes. Buy one in the tub to use at home and buy a tube for on-the-go use. Trust. You will appreciate the convenience of both. This is definitely another instance where you will use this product for so long it might serve you well to subscribe to the product on Amazon, though the tubs last a little longer than the tube and can be ordered less frequently, depending on how often you take your little one out. But if you are buying the product anyway, why not get the discount and get them delivered regularly?
Here is a product you may not have anticipated as a baby basic but I use cornstarch in place of baby powder. You might have heard about the concern of a  link between baby powder use and cervical cancer. In 2016, a jury awarded a monetary judgment in favor of a woman who claimed using Johnson & Johnson Baby Powder caused her cervical cancer. Medical studies have not reached a conclusive decision as to whether or not there is a link. The problem ingredient is talc, which is a mineral mined from rocks, technically natural but can cause irritation. I am not one to mess with risk, even when it may be small. I don’t feel like I want to take the chance on my daughter’s health if there is an alternative that may be safer and achieves the same end. Cornstarch dries the bottom as quickly as baby powder. Cornstarch also makes an excellent dry shampoo, is cheap, and can be bought at most grocery stores.
Finally, another baby product you will need to buy very frequently (if you are not breastfeeding) is baby formula. I breastfed my LO until she was ten months old before I started having production issues. Her doctor advised me to switch to a soy-based formula as it would be easier to supplement with the breastmilk without getting a baby hooked on the formula so that she would refuse the breastmilk I was able to produce. The soy formula was horrible, and my daughter hated it. She refused to drink it, and I was still not making nearly enough milk to satisfy her. So I switched to this formula, and it was like night and day. She took to this like a fly to honey AND would still nurse from me when I needed her to. At ten months we were able to move towards weaning and supplemented with the formula until she was a year old and able to switch to whole milk. She had no digestive issues with the switch and seemed to respond as well to this formula as my breastmilk regarding weight gain and immune health.
And those are my favorite basic baby products. Those are also the things that will drain your bank account at the end of every week so I highly suggest coupon clipping, Pampers has a great rewards program that allows you to accrue points. In addition to coupons, Amazon’s subscribe & save option is also a good way to save some money and is available on many baby products like diapers, formula, wipes, food, snacks, etc.
We are a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for us to earn fees by linking to Amazon.com and affiliated sites.

13 Mommy Facebook Pages You Need to Follow

Let’s face it, our Facebook timelines have taken a serious dive. I know mine has dissolved into a near constant state of fear, anger, and frustration. But there are still some bright spots on the platform, a few pages that the shadows have not overtaken.
And if you are new to this whole parenting thing like me, you are probably aching for some relating. I found some pretty awesome mommy Facebook pages you need to be following for advice, for support, and for some good old fashioned making fun of our crazy lives.
These ladies share uncensored Mom truths, hilarious memes, relevant topical stories from the news, magazines, other social media platforms, etc., recipes, accessible fashion advice, DIY, and even survival gardening.
Moms really can do it all and these Facebook pages show that the proof of that is in the content, served up homemade or from the microwave, no judgement.
Here are some of my favorite Facebook pages that brighten up my timeline.

  1. Scary Mommy
  2. The Drunk Mom
  3. Diary of a Mom
  4. The Typical Mom
  5. Hot Mess Mom
  6. CafeMom
  7. The Winey Moms (Disparaging remarks about people who receive government assistance proliferated this page after my recommendation. Steer away, I ended up blocking them there was so much hate.)
  8. Insane in the Mom-Brain
  9. The Survival Mom
  10. The Mom Edit
  11. The Mom Life Uncensored
  12. The Mom Truthbomb
  13. The Mom Life

Most of these ladies blog on a separate website so make sure you drop in on those and give them a follow, let them brighten up your inbox too! What else are you getting in there, another coupon for 10% off at a store you will never shop in again? (Looking at you Forever 21!)
And don’t forget to give A Bookish Mama a like and a follow if you want to see more posts like this!

Updated: 04/24/2018