The Fourteenth Month

Dearest P.,

I feel like you grew up so much this month. Your face changed in a way that made you look so much older. I don’t know what caused it- you didn’t get any more teeth and your hair is still coming in at a snail’s pace- but your Daddy noticed it too. Your Grannie has been saying for months that you were going to be trouble- she has always maintained there was a lot of mischief brewing behind your big brown eyes. This month you made it clear that she was absolutely right! This month was a lot of fun, as I was home with you and your brother and we had a chance to enjoy the summer together, but it was also filled with days where I found myself constantly one step behind you, trying to keep up and predict what crazy thing you were about to do next.

This month you decided you were ready to walk. From the very beginning of the month you were able to take five or six steps independently, and you could take more than forty if you were holding my hand. Mid-month you were up to 11 or 12 steps, and then, almost overnight, you were suddenly walking more than you were crawling. I think the critical factor was you were tired of trying to carry something while crawling and you realized just how much easier and faster it would be to walk. By the end of this month you were getting much faster and much more confident on your feet, even when outside on uneven ground.

Along with your newfound walking abilities came something that caught your Daddy and I completely off-guard. You, my darling girl, are a climber. Your brother was not a climber as a toddler (and still is a cautious child), so we simply weren’t prepared for what you were going to do. Part of your motivation, I’m sure, was trying to keep up with your big brother, but I also think you’re inherently bolder than he was at this age. It started innocently enough at the very start of the month when you finally succeeded in being able to climb onto the couch (something you’d been working so hard to achieve last month) and onto the coffee tables. Less than a week later you figured out how to crawl up onto the cushions at the back of the couch to look out the window, and then two days after that you proved you could stand up and balance on the very back edge of the couch, just like your brother does. That day, in particular, was nothing short of a gong show: not only did I catch you standing on the back of the couch, but you also demonstrated you could climb into your high chair all by yourself (and stand up in it), you managed to push out one of the screens of the living room window and let our (indoor only) cat escape (luckily she was too confused to go far), you got your hands on your brother’s scissors, you pulled off the (small, total choking hazard) metal end of the drawstring of your Daddy’s shorts, did the longest stretch of walking we’d seen to date, and tried to pull the protectors out of the electrical outlets. To top it off, you ate more beef and potato pie at dinner than anyone else in the family! We were all exhausted by the time you went to bed, and your Daddy and I spent that evening setting up a new round of baby proofing.

Despite our best efforts, you keep finding trouble. Two days after the day you gave us so many new grey hairs I found you on the kitchen table- you’re still too small to climb up onto the chairs yourself but you pushed my backpack over next to a chair so you could use it as the first step. The day after that you climbed onto the top of your toy shelf (which required you to climb onto the back of a chair to reach it). And then you discovered how much fun it was to try to climb from the coffee tables directly onto the couches. At the end of the month we were visiting your grandparents and you spent the entire visit climbing in and out of every chair in the backyard. Climbing into your high chair when I wasn’t looking became a game, so we had to institute a new rule that the tray was washed before you were allowed out at the end of every meal, as you can’t get in when the tray’s attached (or at least, not yet). We also had to move your brother’s stool out of the kitchen as you would climb onto it to make yourself tall enough to reach the buttons for the washing machine (luckily you haven’t yet figured out which one turns it on).

By the middle of the month you’d succeeded in learning how to pull the covers off the electrical outlets, which you also thought was a wonderful game. One day your Daddy and I were both in the kitchen and you obviously felt we should be paying attention to you. You pulled both the outlet covers off from the outlet nearest the table and then came around the corner to where we could see you with a huge smile on your face. You brandished the outlet covers at us with a triumphant “Yah!”, knowing full well this wasn’t supposed to be something you were doing. Your Grandpa observed that you have a real cackle of a laugh when you’re intentionally being naughty. I hear it frequently when I’m changing your diaper because you love to try to reach down and grab the old diaper. If you’re successful you’ll then swing it around over your head, so I’ve learned to be much faster at getting it out of your reach!

When not rampaging around the house causing trouble, you’re communicating more and more with us each day. You absolutely hate to be told no, and you cry in frustration when things don’t go as you had planned (such as when your mean Mummy doesn’t let you play with the sunscreen bottle while you’re eating lunch). When you’re eating something you’re really enjoying you have a “yummy yum yum!” sound of appreciation. You never sign “milk” anymore, even though you’re still nursing frequently. You find it’s more efficient to just tap my chest or tug at my shirt. Since that was the only sign you’d adopted with any real consistency I think we have to acknowledge that baby signing isn’t for you. When you don’t want something you have a firm “Na!” with a head shake and a hand to push away the offending item. When you do want something you’ll wave your hand at it while chanting “Mee-ma, mum-ee, ma-ma”.

We went to the zoo this month and we ate lunch near the large water park. Your brother had a blast running around but we thought we’d managed to conceal it from you, as we wanted to make sure you ate a good lunch. After lunch, while we packing up getting ready to go see some more animals, you went over to the stroller and pulled out your spare romper and started putting it on your chest and fussing- it was obvious you wanted to wear it. I wasn’t sure what you wanted but decided to humour you. As soon as you had been changed you started trying to walk to the water park- you had thought the romper was your rash guard! Once we realized what you wanted we put you in your rash guard and you then had a lovely time getting absolutely soaked. I eventually had to remove you from the park, with you protesting mightily, even though you were shaking with cold.

Going to the zoo is always an interesting experience with a very little person, and I have to admit there were quite a few points where we debated getting you out of the stroller and ultimately decided to leave you strapped in because we didn’t think you’d be interested in what we were looking at (“You see that very large grey lump over there, P? Not that one, that’s a rock. And that’s a rock too. But THAT one? That’s a rhino. It’s asleep, so it’s not moving or doing anything at all to distinguish itself from a rock.”). With that said, you did really enjoy the giraffes and the penguins. It was great timing for a zoo visit as just this month you’ve started to become fascinated by animals. You point to all cats and dogs outside and have a “buh buh” noise if we ask you what a dog says (although you seem to think cats say it as well). You also have a “bur” noise for birds when you see them, and if we see a bird in a book you’ll point outside to show that you know we see birds outside. Your favourite books at the moment involve animals: Ten Little Ladybugs, I Am A Bunny, Doggies, Baby Woof Woof, the Bright Babies Animals book, First 100 Animals, and First 100 Words (which has many pictures of animals). This marks a big change from before we went to Australia, when your favourite books were Global Babies and Baby Faces Peek-a-boo. You started choosing your own books at bedtime this month. I put you down on the floor in your sleepsack and you carefully pull out the book you want to read, and then I lift you up into the rocking chair. The book that was chosen most often this month was our utterly battered copy of Baby Woof Woof (battered because your brother loved it so much at this age too). I’ve had to try to repair it with duck tape! You noticed our cat months ago but now whenever you see her you let out a huge high-pitched shriek of excitement (which means that the cat then vanishes almost immediately). The cutest change is you’ve adopted your stuffed koala, Fuzz, as a lovey. We put your blanket bunny, Arsinoe, in your crib last month, and you think she’s all right, but Fuzz you specifically asked to have in your crib (and you just as clearly rejected a stuffed bunny when it was offered). Whenever you see Fuzz you grab him and snuggle him up against your face. It’s adorable.

Once you were over the jet lag at the end of last month you settled back into a predictable routine. Your first nap is still close to 90 minutes long (sometimes it even cracks the two hour mark) and your second nap starts three-and-a-half or four hours after your first nap finishes. I’m a little worried about this as you won’t be able to have two naps once school starts up again- the timings for that second nap won’t work with your brother’s pick up schedule- but you’ve proven to be remarkably adaptable thus far and I can hope that will continue. I noticed this month that your eating has slowed down considerably- I thought at first you were teething, but no new teeth appeared, so it could be that you’re not in a growth spurt or that you’re just moving into the toddler stage of being too busy to eat. It’s especially noticeable with breakfast- you’ve gone right off oatmeal and anything else you usually only take a couple of bites before pulling off your bib and throwing everything off your tray. I’ve started experimenting with giving you your own plate, but I have to be careful to only put a little bit of food on it as the moment you get bored you flip it over (or throw it onto the floor if I’m really unlucky). We’ve also started to give you a spoon. You did really well immediately with a bowl of Cheerios and milk and with soup. Oatmeal and yoghurt have proven to be trickier, I think because they’re a firmer texture and require a bit more dexterity to get them on the spoon. You still nurse before both naps, before bedtime, when you first wake up, and once over night, and you often have smaller snacks in between, especially late in the day if you haven’t slept well. I love that you still get so much comfort from nursing and am in no hurry to wean.

This month saw your first fever- we’re still not sure what caused it, as it came accompanied by a very upset digestive system, which took a full week to get sorted out. The fever was high enough that I was planning to take you to the doctor the next morning when the Tylenol finally started to work. It was one of those rare times when I’m reminded that you only have one kidney because we’re not allowed to give you Advil, and I’ve always found that Advil is much more effective than Tylenol when your brother has a fever. Once the fever finally broke you were still up a lot in the night needing diaper changes and extra snuggles. It was wretched to see you feeling so miserable, but it reminded me how rarely you’ve been sick and how cheerful you generally are.

You spend a lot of time imitating us, and you want to do everything that we do. At the table you reject your sippy cups whenever possible and ask to drink from our glasses (you don’t want your own plastic cups either). If we have ice in our water, you want ice in your water. If we give you a cloth, you will try to wash your own face (although you mostly just rub it in your hair). You have this fantastic “I dunno” gesture where you hold out both your hands to the sides, palms up, and look at us with a quizzical expression. You tend to do this right after you’ve intentionally tossed your sippy over the side of the high chair- it’s like you’re pretending to be surprised that this happened. Your favourite thing to do in the mornings is wrestle with your brother. Usually you’ve woken up before he has, so when he stumbles down the stairs you make a beeline for the couch where he’s sitting. He just wants a few quiet minutes while he wakes up, but you’re too excited once you’ve seen him to do anything but jump on him while shrieking and growling with excitement. He occasionally flees to another room, but as long as he stays on the main floor you will toddle after him and start the game again- you are tiny but determined!

This month was bittersweet, as it was the last full month where I was home with you. All too soon you’re going to be spending three days a week with your nanny, one day a week with your Daddy, and one day a week with me. I know we’ll all get used to the new routine eventually, but right now I know I’m really going to miss our time together. You’re so much fun, and I don’t want to miss a moment.

Love always,
Mummy

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Filed under Letters to P., P.- the second year

The thirteenth month

Continuing my approach of “better late than never” when it comes to these…

Dearest P.,

This was a very exciting month, as it marked your very first time travelling to see your Daddy’s family in Australia. The exceptionally long flights and the resulting jet lag weren’t fun at all, but I’m afraid you’re just going to have to get used to it, as you’ll be making that trip every two years for your entire childhood. The flight there was during our usual night, so we changed you into pjs in the departure lounge while we were waiting to board the plane. You had a lovely time climbing all over the seats without incident, but you managed to fall off a heating duct near the window and get carpet burn on your forehead just as I was putting on the Ergo to load you up for the plane. The flight itself was very tiring: just like your big brother on his first trip you came down with a severe case of Mummyitis and wanted nothing to do with your Daddy. You were happy to nurse and sleep for much of the flight, although you got very manic when you were awake and tired. Mummy and Daddy were so relieved when the plane finally landed. Little did we know that we had a much worse ordeal lying in wait for us on the return journey. The flight home is a day flight, which meant that it should have been easier to entertain you as we didn’t have to worry about passengers sleeping nearby, the lights were all on, and the window shades were up. It was, your Daddy and I agree, the worst flight we’ve ever experienced. You couldn’t nap well and then didn’t sleep well when your body thought it was night. Our best guess is that you slept a total of seven hours, in four stretches, over a twenty-four hour period. The lack of sleep meant that, although you did have lots of periods when you were happy to play (and we were able to take advantage of the fact that we had a spare seat where you could sit), there was also a lot of crying. But, as I kept saying to your Daddy, we’ll never see any of those people ever again and we never have to take a toddler to Australia again!

The good news is you handled the jet lag much better than your brother did at this age. When we arrived you had a few mornings where you got up for the day well before 6 a.m., but you were mostly sorted out by the third night, which is pretty impressive. We took a hilarious video of you falling asleep in the high chair the first evening we were there. We were trying to get you through to a regular bed time and you were fading fast! (Your brother had already taken himself off to his room a couple of hours earlier “for a little rest” and passed out.) You also had a much easier time on the return journey because we’d learned from our mistakes when we’d taken your brother to Australia when he was a toddler. Instead of trying to establish bedtime first, we focused on getting a 12 hour “day” (even if that “day” started at 11 a.m.) and then gradually worked to align that “day” with our home time zone. You did have a few nights where you were up for an hour or so in the night, but you were content to snuggle and nurse before going back to sleep.

You had a wonderful time in Australia! Your relatives were so pleased to meet you. We had an official first birthday party where you slept through the main course and then refused to eat any of the cake your Aunty had baked for you (a yellow dump truck at E’s request), except for the strawberries. You loved watching your cousins run around (you were clearly very keen to run around with them, but not keen enough to start walking while we were there!) and you had so much fun playing on your Granny’s lawn. You also loved going to the beach. You were very good about not eating sand, although I did have to keep an eye out for pebbles- apparently they were tastier. We had gorgeous weather- one day you played in the rock pools only wearing a diaper, even though it was winter. We went to the Blue Mountains, went out on the family boat, took the train, ate Yum Cha in Chinatown (your favourite was the minced pork that came with the green beans), and did lots of hiking. You loved riding in the Ergo, but you wouldn’t nap well, and you also started trying to take off your hat whenever you thought we weren’t paying attention.

When you weren’t jet lagged, this was a pretty good month for sleeping. With the exception of a few days right at the end of our trip (explained by the appearance of tooth number 6 the day after we got back), for most of this month you consistently slept through until 4:00 or 4:30 before nursing and then going back to sleep until around 7:00. You still need two naps. The first one is usually around 9:30 or 10:00 a.m. and lasts for about an hour and a half, and then you’re ready for your second nap three hours after you wake up from your first. That second nap is sometimes only thirty minutes and sometimes an hour and a half- it’s much less predictable.

You made the jump this month from babbling to jargoning- you sound like a little creature out of Star Wars most of the time. You’re clearly speaking in full sentences, with syntax and emphasis, but we have no idea what you’re saying! The jargoning also started right after we arrived home, so it’s possible that the horrific homeward flight was largely a result of teething and a developmental leap. You started making a hilarious growling noise this month, which has meant we’ve started asking whether there is a tiger in the house (which you think is equally funny). You’re really not that interested in signing, unlike your brother. You’ve largely stopped using the milk sign and will just crawl over and tug at my shirt. “More” still isn’t consistent and you prefer to pull off your bib rather than using “all done”. If you want something in particular you make it clear through pointing and fussing. This month you developed clear interrogative “dere” and “dat” noises when you were pointing and wanted something identified (which is pretty much all the time). You also have a strong “na!” with a head shake for no, a “nigh nigh” for “night night” (with waving, although not consistent) and an “ah da” sound for “all done” that your Daddy and I belatedly realized was actually your first word as it’s the same sound you’ve been making since you were just under nine months old. Most exciting (for me) this month was the development of a clear “Mumm-mee” (as opposed to “ma” or “mama” or “mum mum”) when you want me. You have the sweetest little voice and I never get tired of listening to you chatter away.

You love standing and will walk holding on to our hands (something I swore I’d never do and refused to do with your brother). By the end of the month you were confidently walking around holding just one of my hands and were taking two or three steps independently. I know you’re going to walk soon, because it was clear in Australia you’re a FOMO baby- you hated watching your brother run around with your cousins knowing that you couldn’t crawl fast enough to keep up. You also wanted desperately to ride on their scooter and would try to climb on to it any time it was available. You are obsessed with your brother’s baseball cap and try to put it on your head whenever it’s left lying around. You also try to put on your own hat before we go out and put your socks on your feet- you occasionally meet with some success with your hat but the socks are proving to be more troublesome.

You can stack rings and fit three shapes into a shape sorter, but you get bored easily with both activities. You’re also still not very interested in sitting and listening while I read you stories. You’ll choose books from your shelf and hand them to me, but you tend to take them back and close them almost immediately (only to then hand them back to me again a minute later, and so on). You’re much more interested in mastering physical challenges: you’re desperate to be able to climb up onto the couch, and although you can get one knee up, you can’t quite manage it yet. You love to play games with people: while in Australia you started doing downward dog with your head right on the floor so you could look back between your legs. If I bent over to look back between your legs at you and said “boo!” you would howl with laughter. You try to catch the attention of everyone you see when we’re out. Even on the airplane, you were trying to make friends by peeking between the seats at the people sitting behind us (on the flight to Australia we were lucky enough to have experienced grandparents in that row who were more than happy to engage with you at all hours). When your plans are thwarted or you’re told no, you’ve now mastered a fake cry that comes complete with a monkey face where you push out your lips. It is very hard not to laugh when you do it, which of course only makes you more insulted.

You remain a very cheerful little soul with a very big personality. I’m so glad you joined our family- we can’t imagine our lives without you.

I love you very much, my darling girl.

love always,
Mummy

 

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Filed under Letters to P., P.- the second year

Make Time for Me

I am trying to find the positives in going back to work, even though at this point I really don’t want to go back to work.

It will be nice to have some time and space to think again.

It will be nice to have some quiet. I was home this summer with both kids, and while it was in many ways a lot of fun, it most certainly was not quiet.

It will be nice, I suppose, to think about my research again. Perhaps I will actually make the revisions the press requested for my book (two YEARS ago. Gah.).

Mostly I am looking forward to being able to make the time to exercise and to occasionally have lunch with a friend.

When E. was little, I found it hard to rationalize doing anything for myself that wasn’t work-related, because if I wasn’t home with E., that meant Q. was, and that meant Q. wasn’t working when he should have been. It felt inappropriate and frivolous to use my time away from E. for anything but the PhD.

This time around, it’s different.

Three days a week P. has a nanny. It is the nanny’s JOB to take care of P. She is not supposed to be doing anything else.

So if I want to use an hour of that time to go for a run, or to eat lunch with a friend, I shouldn’t feel guilty, because the only person whose work isn’t getting done at that point is me. In my view, life’s too short to work all the time, even if I’m supposed to be maintaining full-time hours in my research position and I’m already behind by choosing to stay home with P. one day a week.

I do better work when I make time to read for fun, when I make time to run, when I make time for anything other than sitting in a library staring at a computer screen with a pile of books stacked next to me.

This does not make me a particularly good academic, but it makes me a better person and a much better mother.

I don’t want to be back at work next week.

I would much rather still be at home with P.

I would much rather be the one picking E. up after school every day.

But if I’m not going to be able to do that, at least I can try to make sure that my time away from them is well spent.

And that means making time for me, not just for my research.

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Filed under A (Good) Day's Work, Anxiety Overload, Blink and you'll miss it, Butter scraped over too much bread (a.k.a. modern motherhood), Life after the PhD, Running

Not Ready

My first baby, who could have napped and nursed however he liked, quit nursing during the day at just over ten months and started trying to transition to one nap before his first birthday.

My second baby, at fourteen-and-a-half months, needs to nap twice a day. She still loves to nurse, not only before she naps, but throughout the day. She pats my chest or, if it’s more urgent, she lifts up my shirt or sticks her hand down the neckline. She nurses for anywhere from five seconds to fifteen minutes. If I’m sitting on the floor or in a chair she will often stand up on my thigh, making an inverted ‘v’ with her body, and wiggle her bum in the air. She uses her inside hand to grab my bra or shirt or stroke my free breast. Sometimes she reaches up with that arm and waves it around in the air. I call that “yoga nursing” because she looks like she’s doing the triangle pose.

She asks to nurse when I’m cooking dinner, and I hold her with one hand and stir with the other, with her wispy hair and her still-tiny ears curled in over my chest.

She asks to nurse on transit, in museums, while walking down the street, and, as much as I can, I say yes. I have mastered the art of nursing with her in the Ergo, something I never managed when she was younger. I have become an unintentional advocate for normalizing breastfeeding and know that my country supports my right to feed my baby wherever, whenever I choose. I have become almost immune to accidentally flashing strangers when she unexpectedly decides she’s had enough. The milky smiles make the potential embarrassment worthwhile.

She asks to nurse at night, and I still say yes, although if she wakes up too early in the night I send in Q. who tells her gently that it’s “sleepy time now. No milk. No milk. It’s sleepy time.” When she wakes to nurse closer to the dawn I sit in the rocking chair and hold her close and breathe her in. In those moments she is still, calm, content. I am still allowed to cuddle her, to smooth her one tiny curl and kiss her head

My nursing relationship with my son ended badly, much earlier than I had hoped it would.

And so, to my daughter, I say yes, as much as I can. Yes, I will hold you. Yes, I will cuddle you. Yes, you can nurse now.

She is my last baby, and I am in no hurry to wean.

She is my last baby, and my maternity leave is almost over.

She is my last baby, and so she does not get to have what she wants. She will have to nap only once, so her brother can be picked up from school. She will have to nurse less, because I will not be there.

She will adapt.

She will be fine.

I will be fine, too.

Going back to work is the right decision, on many levels.

But right now it doesn’t feel that way.

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Filed under A (Good) Day's Work, Anxiety Overload, Blink and you'll miss it, Nursing, P.- the second year

Microblog Mondays: Our House(s)

Both of my parents’ houses are up for sale.

They are for sale for good reasons: my mother wants to move closer to her children and grandchildren, and my wheelchair-bound father cannot get into his house and needs to sell it so he can move to the new house which will be accessible.

Still.

It is surreal to be able to look them up on MLS, to read how the real estate agents have described them, to watch the slideshows of the rooms I know so well.

My mother has lived in her house for twenty-six years.

My father has lived in his house for twenty.

Neither of those houses is “home” for me now, but I have a lot of memories tied up in both.

E. is also struggling. He’s asked both sets to take videos of the houses, “going through every single room so I can always remember what they looked like”.

Some change is good. Some change is necessary.

That doesn’t always make it easy.

This post is part of #MicroblogMondays. To read the inaugural post and find out how you can participate, click here.

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Filed under Family, Loss, Microblog Mondays

Microblog Mondays: (Not-Quite) Total Eclipse of the Sun

We’re all set for the partial eclipse of the sun this afternoon. There was no possibility we were going to be able to reach the zone of totality, but apparently we’re meant to get close to 75% coverage, so that should be enough to make things interesting.

I’ve spent the last two days with Bonnie Tyler’s Total Eclipse of the Heart and U2’s Staring at the Sun going round and round in my head.

E. has a pair of viewing glasses from Sky News magazine that his Grannie gave him last week. Q. is working from home today, so we’ll be able to take turns watching the eclipse and watching P. (who, at fourteen months, won’t have any idea what is going on and certainly will not understand the importance of not looking directly at the sun). After lunch he and E. are going to build a solar viewer (one of those pinhole projector types), so we’ll have two ways to watch.

And then I guess we’ll just be hanging out, waiting for the sun to partly disappear.

It’s rare for something to get all three of us equally excited. I wouldn’t have predicted that “partial solar eclipse” would be a major family bonding moment, but there you go. Astronomy for the win!

Are you watching the skies today?

This post is part of #MicroblogMondays. To read the inaugural post and find out how you can participate, click here.

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Filed under E.- the seventh year, Fun, Microblog Mondays

Microblog Mondays: Unwanted Houseguests

Ants are trying to move into our house.

Specifically, they’re trying to add our dining room to their territory. They come out from under the baseboards somewhere and then fan out to search for food.

I repeat: they’re in my dining room. You know, the place where we eat every.single.meal.

The dining room is carpeted (don’t ask me why- previous owners of this house did some crazy things).

I have two small children.

I vacuum after every meal and yet the ants always, always, manage to find something to keep them coming back.

I feel like I’m Sisyphus.

But, as I keep reminding myself, it could be worse. Back in November 2015, when we discovered that indoor cats can too get fleas, I was vacuuming the entire house every day, including all furniture and baseboards, while pregnant with P.

This too shall pass.

But they sure are a pain right now.

Any suggestions on how to get rid of ants when they’re in a spot where you can’t use a trap?

This post is part of #MicroblogMondays. To read the inaugural post and find out how you can participate, click here.

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Filed under Daily Life, Microblog Mondays