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It’s been a while since I’ve posted a mini-history lesson, and today, the 150th anniversary of Lee’s surrender at Appomattox, seems a worthwhile reason to provide one.

The Beginning of The End

For a good year before Robert E. Lee decided it was time to surrender, the Union and Confederate armies were essentially locked in nonstop combat. Consider the opposition: Ulysses S. Grant’s campaign in Virginia through the spring of 1864; Phil Sheridan’s cavalry actions that would later be known as “The Burning of the Shenandoah”; Sherman’s drive to capture Atlanta and the subsequent “March to the Sea” that marked the summer and fall of that same year.

The odds were seemingly stacked against an army that suffered from a lack of food and ammunition. There were no more reinforcements. Many civilians had had enough. The only thing the Confederate army really had left was guts and determination.

But by April 1865, Lee knew he didn’t have many options left. Johnston was still fighting in North Carolina, and in the far reaches of the Confederacy, armies were still holding out. But in Northern Virginia, Grant was closing in. Petersburg had fallen. The Confederate government had fled Richmond, destroying records and supplies as they went.

The Confederate army continued to make valiant stands through those early days of April, including a battle at Appomattox Courthouse itself. If they could get to the Appalachians, many believed they could continue fighting for years through what we would today term guerrilla warfare.

Lee made a tough decision.

He decided was time to ask Grant for terms.

Meeting at Appomattox to Discuss the End

There’s a lot of legend surrounding the meeting of Lee and Grant at the MacLean house in Appomattox Courthouse. Yes, Lee did wear his best uniform. Grant did ride up and sit down with the famed Southern general with mud splattered boots. Whether or not Lee planned on surrendering that day is up for debate, but once he saw the terms Grant offered, he agreed to them.

Lee Surrenders to Grant at Appomattox

Grant did offer very generous terms, given the bitterness of the past four bloody years. While military equipment had to be given up, officers and enlisted men alike were paroled. Officers could keep their sidearms, and any man who owned the horse he rode could keep it as well.

Both armies were tired. It was time to go home and resume the business of being Americans.

Contemporary accounts state that the meeting between these two generals was respectful, and the surrender is sometimes referred to as “The Gentlemen’s Agreement.” Certainly Grant, and definitely President Lincoln, wanted to avoid the terrible Reconstruction years that would follow Lincoln’s assassination.

But Not Quite The End

Lee’s surrender at Appomattox is usually considered the end of the War Between the States, though it really only dealt with one army in one corner of the South. Perhaps the proximity to Washington is what made the Army of Northern Virginia’s surrender so important, why history marks April 9, 1865, as the official end.

But Lee wasn’t the only one still fighting.

Remember that in 1865, there was no television or internet. There was the telegraph, which was extensively used by the Union, especially in those final months between Lincoln and Grant. But generally word traveled slowly on a good day, and in the war-torn south it traveled at a snail’s pace, or slower.

Other standing armies in the Confederacy eventually got word that Lee had surrendered. Johnston surrendered to Sherman on April 26th, near Durham, North Carolina. May 4th marked the surrender of General Richard Taylor’s army in Alabama, and Confederate Cherokee forces in what is now Oklahoma surrendered on June 23rd. The last Confederate victory of the war actually occurred on May 13th, at Palmito Ranch, Texas, before word of the end of the war reached the army there. And the last Confederate naval vessel to surrender was the CSS Shenandoah, which continued to harass Yankee whaling ships in the Pacific well into the summer. It wasn’t until August 2nd that the CSS Shenandoah’s captain accepted a report about the Confederate surrender (up to that point, the news had been dismissed as rumors), and it wasn’t until November 6th that the ship surrendered to British authorities in Liverpool.

The exact casualty rate can only be estimated, especially since the standard number of those killed between April 1861 and April 1865 (long set at about 620,000) doesn’t usually count civilians, enslaved blacks or those who freed themselves by escaping to contraband camps, or those who died after the war from disease or wounds. Even the official numbers of Confederate dead can only be estimated because many official Confederate records were destroyed when Davis and his government fled Richmond ahead of Grant’s army. Current estimates now place the death toll around 750,000, though there’s argument that it could be even higher.

And the toll of the war would continue to be seen in the millions of men left invalided by disease and crippled by horrific wounds, the result of Napoleonic tactics fought with modern weaponry.

Still Not The End

Lincoln wanted the Southern states to return to the Union as soon as possible, and for the entire country to get moving forward as one piece again. But after Lincoln’s assassination, all hope for a peaceful restoration of the Union went out the window. Radical Republicans had control of the United States government, and many wanted to punish the South for the past four years.

Enter the Reconstruction Era: nearly a decade of what many termed (and still term) a military occupation of the South by the Union army. Former Confederates were bitter. Their homes were ravaged by war and privation.

Black men were enfranchised by Federal law, but those in the South would effectively be disenfranchised by Jim Crow laws. Slavery was made illegal in the United States, but well into the 20th century, blacks in the south still existed in a state of slavery as they became sharecroppers, often to the families who once owned them and their ancestors.

Reconstruction was a violent era as well, spawning the birth of the Ku Klux Klan and many other paramilitary groups who sought to reestablish what they believed was the South as it once was. Supreme Court decisions like Plessy v. Ferguson paved the way for segregation laws, which wouldn’t be overturned until the Civil Rights Act of 1964 – 99 years after Lee surrendered to Grant.

Bitterness and hatred continue to plague us, even into the 21st century. Our country has come a long way in the past 150 years, but we’re nowhere near the ideal of equality and freedom we often believe the Founding Fathers envisioned for the United States. We’re still divided along lines of race, as well as gender, religion, and sexual orientation. But many of us are trying to figure out how to erase those lines, and understanding the outcome of the Civil War is an imperative piece of understanding who we are as a nation.

On that April day in 1865, Lee probably wasn’t thinking about the decades of turmoil yet to come. He was probably just thinking about his soldiers – starving, worn out, determined to go on if he just said so, even though they were running on empty.

It’s left for us to understand the aftermath, to learn from it, to make our country a better place for the sacrifices that were made – on both sides.

For more information about Appomattox, check out the Civil War Trust’s interactive learning site.

So… remember how I’d submitted the Chick Lit Romance to a couple small presses back in December? And how I got requests for fulls?

Well, I am now officially signed with Soul Mate Publishing for that manuscript…

excited

…as well as…

excited2

…subsequent titles in a series!

squee-o

 

No release date yet, but you can bet your buttons I’ll keep you all updated.

This past week has been something of a comedy of errors around here. Babycakes has been suffering through her very first cold (at least we made it six months without any illnesses at all), which has included a fever and such bad post-nasal drip that she’s gagged and thrown up four times and has had a terrible time sleeping, even after we elevated the head of her crib mattress.

Whether it’s due to my own lack of sleep or just first-time mom with baby’s first cold jitters, I’ve been having a series of mom-fails that have included gagging my child with Tylenol (that was the first puke-fest), jamming a nasal aspirator too far into her nose (because she decided to flail at a most inopportune time), dripping saline drops into her eye because she does not want to have them put into her nose (again, flail), and, perhaps the worst, sitting her on the bathroom floor so I could get her ready for her bath, only to have her faceplant on said bathroom floor.

INcredibles Baby

And like the saying goes, when it rains, it pours. Among all the other life stuff going on, I’ve heard back from both of the editors I submitted the chick lit romance to back in December. One asked me to revise and resubmit, and the other is interested outright.

omg gif

Sometimes, in the midst of being a stay at home mom, I forget to think about myself and the goals I have for my writing career. My family, the hubs especially, is so supportive. But finding time to devote to writing is often the biggest challenge. I know it’s important to find that time somehow, and now that Babycakes is older, it is getting easier.

But it’s times like this, as with that nap transition/sleep regression crap we went through a few weeks ago, that I get so wrapped up in seeing to her needs, I forget to prioritize myself.

Or anything else, for that matter.

It’s only ridiculous luck that I heard back from both editors within a couple weeks of Babycakes getting sick and needing extra attention.

But I need to remember what I’m doing here.

Being on maternity leave has not made me stop being a teacher.

It has not changed the fact that I am on my way to being a published author.

Somehow, I can and will find a way to balance everything. It’ll be hard, and some days I’ll probably want to run screaming into the night.

But I can do this.

It’s hard to believe that Babycakes is six months old on Saturday. I mean, where did the time go? Six months ago and some change ago, she was just this wiggly little Someone in my not-so-little baby bump, and now she’s an actual person! Watching her grow and learn and change has been amazing, and I can’t wait to see what the next six months brings.

Some curious and interesting things have happened to me (and my husband, really) since entering this state called Parenthood. I doubt every new mom has experienced everything on this list, but in my house, these are some pretty standard realizations.

  1. Giving a baby manicure is only slightly easier than neurosurgery. If you’ve never tried to trim a baby’s fingernails, you really can’t empathize with the difficulty level the task entails. I’m sure someday, Babycakes will love having me fuss with her nails and will probably ask her father to give them a coat of bright pink polish, but right now, any attempt to trim even one fingernail is like expecting someone to perform the most delicate brain surgery with naught but a pair of tiny scissors. I’ve talked to other moms about this. Babies generally don’t like having their hands held perfectly still while you attempt to cut something from them with a pair of razor sharp scissors. A lot of people recommend attempting this while baby is sleeping, but I’ve never had success at this (poor angle, bad light, etc.). The times I’ve actually managed to trim Babycakes’s nails were during long pre-nap nursing sessions when she’s beyond relaxed. It’s probably like when people sip daiquiris during their pedicures or something. So far I haven’t nicked her, but I’m sure the day will come because she won’t always be nursing. And baby pedicures? It’s a week long process because I can only ever manage about two toes a day.
  2. Almost all adult conversations eventually work their way around to discussing poopy diapers. Yeah, sorry that’s kind of a gross but sad fact. But it happens, especially when the conversation participants are other parents. My husband and I discuss our daughter’s dirty diapers so often, especially since she’s started solids, I’ve come up with an acronym: the FACCs (frequency, amount, color, consistency).
  3. Pregnancy and labor eventually do unexpected things to your postpartum body. I’m not talking about the belly pooch or the hormonal fluctuations. I’m talking about the weird things that happen to parts of your body that have nothing to do with pregnancy or labor, or at least don’t come to mind when you think of pregnancy and labor. Every mom will have a different list of these. But for me, here’s the rundown. During pregnancy, I had periodic flare-ups of my bilateral rotator cuff tendinitis, which after giving birth got so bad that just about every nursing position resulted in physical torture as I silently prayed Babycakes would unlatch herself before my arms completely popped out of the sockets, leading me to need physical therapy (again) and the acquisition of a TENS unit to use at home. Similarly, the extra thirty pounds I carried around during the last weeks of pregnancy wreaked havoc on my knees, especially the right which I tweaked pretty bad during an exercise session a couple years ago. The pain returned several weeks after Babycakes was born, to the point where I had to use the TENS unit on them despite it being purchased for my shoulders. And lastly, perhaps the most unexpected thing was unbearable pain in my tailbone. Turns out back labor (which I had for 12 hours) can bruise your tailbone, and hours of sitting to nurse were ridiculously painful until I purchased one of those special cushions that have a space cut out to relieve pressure on your coccyx. Also, for no apparent reason, I’m also no longer lactose intolerant.
  4. The definition of “me time” changes drastically. Before becoming a parent, alone time involved reading a book for hours, watching romantic comedies, and treating myself to a mani-pedi-massage package at a local day spa. Now, “me time” involves going to the grocery store by myself or, at the simplest, taking a shower while the baby sleeps. For a while when Babycakes was between 3 and 4 months old, the most relaxing thing I did was go to my physical therapy session (see above), where I could lay down for a while in a dim room, listen to music, have heating pads wrapped around my aching joints or over my stiff back, and then get something of a massage as part of the therapy treatment. Lots of times, I’d stop and get a cup of hot chocolate and a donut from the Tim Horton’s I’d pass on the way there. Now that I’m not going to PT anymore, I kind of miss that hour of time when I could just lay down without worrying about somebody crying over the monitor. I also miss having hot chocolate and a donut two to three days a week, but it’s probably better for me in the long run.
  5. Physical hygiene tasks happen at warp speed, if they happen at all. Before having a baby, I would take long showers followed by a somewhat prolonged moisturizing routine. After having a baby, I shower so fast it’s questionable whether I even get wet. Even brushing my teeth is rushed, which probably isn’t good. I usually forget to put moisturizer on my face, and I’ve joined the ranks of moms who can’t remember if they brushed their hair that morning. And sadly, even after weeks of not being physically able to do so, I tend not to shave my legs unless a) we have to go somewhere that requires us to look sort of dressed up, or b) I realize I can see the hair and it’s approaching a quarter inch in length.
  6. Mom hands. As a kid, I remember my mom complaining about how dry her hands would get and how she’d get painful splits in the skin around her fingernails. I never understood exactly why that was. I just knew that my mom’s hands were ridiculously comforting. They were cool when I was to hot, and warm when I was too cold. But mom hands are a thing that happens. I think it’s because you wash your hands so much more often, not to mention doing baby dishes that can’t go in the dishwasher and giving baby a bath. No matter how much lotion I use throughout the day, my hands are a mess. Like, dry to the point of cracked and bleeding knuckles. This has happened to me in the past during the winter, but winter skin and mom hands combined? Sometimes the lotion actually burns. I only hope the curious but awesome temperature anomaly is happening, which I believe is the result of biofeedback.
  7. Phantom crying is a thing. I’m constantly hearing Babycakes crying when she’s not. It’s even happened during the handful of times I’ve been home alone while the hubs took her for a walk when the weather was nice. The sink in our bathroom has some sort of weird frequency it gives off that sounds exactly like a baby crying over a monitor and through a closed door. Freaks me out. I also sometimes hear the little musical giraffe Babycakes sleeps with, even if it’s not playing.
  8. Obsession over some aspect of baby’s well being is also a thing. For me, as I’ve mentioned, it’s the sleep thing, particularly the nap thing. For some moms, it’s the feeding thing. Or a temperature thing. Or the FACCs (see #2) of baby’s dirty diapers. The people around us eventually learn to just smile and nod when we get going.
  9. Oversensitiveness about noise will make all sleep times an exercise in your slow motion and/or ninja skills. I know, and every other mom knows, that you can’t shut out all noise during the day, no matter what you do to try and make nap time as similar to night time as possible. It’s even recommended that, while you don’t want to blast music at top volume, you shouldn’t try to mute the daily activities you tend to while baby naps. And I’m sure, like most new parents, I underestimate my baby’s capacity to sleep through noise. But even so, I’m ridiculously oversensitive about every noise that anyone makes in my house during naps, probably because the odds of Babycakes getting in a solid nap are kind of crappy most days. Inevitably, no matter how hard I try not to clang pans when preparing dinner or ban the flushing of all second-floor toilets at night, somebody at some point is going to make a loud noise during a sleep time. The hubs and I, however, have become quite proficient at miming stuff to each other and watching T.V. with next to no sound.
  10. There’s a Mom Uniform. I’ve always been a proponent of yoga pants (or in the winter, fuzzy pants, because where I live it gets dang cold from December through February) for comfort. And they’ve really come a long way. I remember once standing in a sporting goods store, looking at some yoga pants in a bootcut style, and wondering if anybody at work would notice if I wore them rather than my usual dress pants. But now that I’m a mom, I’ve joined the ranks of everybody who throws on yoga pants, an easy-access-for-nursing top, and a hoodie for day to day wear. If I’m wearing jeans, it means I’m not only leaving the house, I’m going somewhere “special”.

So, moms of the world – what have you realized since your baby was born?

I really can’t complain too much about how well Babycakes sleeps. I’ve mentioned before that she’s always been a bit of a crappy napper (other than the three days we were in the hospital), but besides the first night home when the hubs and I had no clue what the hell we were doing and Babycakes spent the majority of the wee hours screaming her poor little face off, she’s really had great night sleep. By three weeks she was doing a consistent 6 hour stretch, and by 12 weeks was hitting the 10-12 hour mark every night. We had a bit of a sleep regression…thing around Thanksgiving, and since then she’s been back to waking anywhere from one to three times a night to eat. Additionally, while she was taking four pretty solid 45-minute naps a day, she suddenly started resisting naps at the beginning of January and then transitioned to three naps. She might be on the cusp of another transition down to two naps, but I’m not sure yet.

We’ve also been working on an earlier bedtime. When she was still room-sharing with us, we’d all head to bed around 9:00. This started getting a little tricky once she began sleeping those monstrously long stretches. Babies make noise in their sleep, which disturbed me, at least. And it’s kind of hard to keep from disturbing baby when you’re snoring, or tossing in bed, or getting up to go to the bathroom, whatever. That was the main reason we decided to move Babycakes to her nursery once she hit the 3-month mark. Doing so also meant we could work on putting her to bed earlier, like by 8:00, and still have a little time to be adults before heading to bed ourselves (which for a while was still close to 9:00, at least for me). Granted, that “adult time” tended, and still tends, to consist of cleaning up the kitchen from bath time and doing baby dishes and maybe finally checking some email and, occasionally, watching a TV show or that Netflix that’s been sitting there for two weeks. We have a great bedtime routine in place, and have for a long time, and the sleepy sweet spot seems to be pretty consistent between 7:30 and 8:00. (Seriously, there’s a sweet spot. Too early and it takes forever for her to fall asleep on her own. Too late and there’s the chance, if she doesn’t completely conk out while nursing, it’ll take forever for her to fall asleep, and then she has a wakeful night. I tested this last night. It was a little rough until about 1:15.)

For quite a long time, I’d say since she was at least a month old, Babycakes hasn’t been completely lights-out when I set her down after nursing. She’d be all swaddled up, full of milk, and nice and warm, and when I laid her down in her cradle, she’d do this little resettling thing before truly falling the rest of the way asleep. Even when we moved her to her own room (and went cold turkey on swaddling because she managed to accidentally flip herself on her tummy that evening), I’d lay her down, she’d do a little stretch, then settle for the marathon sleep session.

Suddenly, sleep training started to creep into the conversation. “She’s old enough now to learn to go to sleep on her own.” That’s usually how it’s phrased. And this was something I’d known for a while, long before any relatives mentioned it, or before the baby development books brought it up in force. I think she was already kinda doing this, but I wasn’t laying her down wide “awake but drowsy”, which is what sleep training basically requires them to be. Nursing to sleep is very appropriate, especially for newborns up to 3 months of age, but even beyond that if it works. And I think it’s important to really tank Babycakes up before bed. Plus she really only eats well when she’s going to sleep, not after she’s woken up (which is why the eat-play-sleep routine during the day hasn’t worked for us, at least not yet).

I’ve been a little obsessed with her sleep for a long time, particularly once we moved her to her nursery and she seemed to settle into a predictable routine revolving around her waketimes and naps. But after Thanksgiving, I felt like I was being bombarded by so much information – and let’s face it, a little bit of pressure from a lot of different sources – to start working on sleep training. Since the beginning of December, I’ve been gathering as much information as I can get my hands on about sleep training methods. I’ve read everything from the Ferber Method (also known as the dreaded “cry-it-out”), Elizabeth Pantley’s “No-Cry Sleep Solution”, the Sleep Sense program by Dana Obelman, Nicole Johnson’s Baby Sleep Site, and many others. Even the American Academy of Pediatrics has weighed in. I won’t deny that there are babies out there who need sleep training so that everyone in the house can get a full night’s sleep. I’m talking about the babies who wake up every two hours or less. So yeah, there’s definitely a time and place for sleep training, if it’s what the family needs, right? Otherwise, why would there be so many pediatric sleep specialists and sleep consultants out there, promising personalized sleep plans to help your baby learn to fall asleep and stay asleep for that magic 12-hour night?

No one method seems to jive with our parenting goals and ideals, and while I can cull a lot of suggestions from each that, altogether, could make a method that’ll make me, the hubs, and Babycakes happy, it’s so overwhelming and confusing, I’m not even sure if it’s something we should systematically attempt at any point. They all contradict each other. One resource says to start working on sleep training at night, another says to do it first at naptime. One says to respond quickly when baby cries in the night, another says to set a time frame that you’ll wait (sometimes as long as ten minutes or more!) before responding if baby doesn’t go back to sleep on her own. Some say to keep baby alert during breastfeeding (have the “experts” ever actually tried doing this?), others say that because breastfeeding is so relaxing for both mom and baby, it’s an acceptable way to get baby nice and drowsy. Some say to keep baby fully awake during night feeds, even if it means changing the poor little one’s diaper in the middle of things, while others say to keep it quick and simple, not to change the diaper unless it’s a stinky one, and not to worry if baby falls asleep while nursing (though a lot of night feeds in our house happen when Babycakes isn’t even fully awake to begin with).

I recently shared a humorous but oh-so-true new mom’s take on the whole sleep training thing that illustrates how ridiculously all the expert advice contradicts itself. And here’s what I’ve determined about all the “rules” of sleep training:

guidelines

I’ve been a big proponent of following my own maternal instincts when it comes to our daughter, and while I know I’m obsessing over how much she sleeps, how well she sleeps, how she falls asleep, whether she can effectively self-soothe when she wakes up in the night, etc., she’s really doing awesome at the sleep thing. I know that.

Plus, there is stuff out there that basically says not to worry about sleep training at all because it’s more of a societal thing rather than a developmental need, it doesn’t really work, and baby will figure it out when she’s ready.

See why I’m debating with myself over this?

For now, we’ll keep doing what we’re doing. Babycakes generally is well-rested, happy and healthy. I’m sure at some point, we’ll have to decide on a game plan for our own version of sleep training. I do miss the nights when she was sleeping 11 or 12 hours (and waking up between 7 and 8 rather than 6 and 7, as has been the case the past several mornings), but overall we’re not desperate for sleep.

Now, if you’ll excuse me, it’s time to put Babycakes down for a nap.

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