Thursday, July 07, 2011

What Happens When You Turn Off The Television?

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“I worry that our daughter watches too much television,” my husband said. We were clearing the dishes off the table after dinner and Story was using the fork she found on the floor as a microphone to sing the theme to Sesame Street.

My first feeling was defensive, my second was guilt.

“I know. I worry too. I turn it on in the morning while I make breakfast and clean the house, but then I want to check my email and do some writing and she’s playing so nicely in front of the tv." I stacked the plates together and put them next to the sink, sighed and lowered my head.

"I usually turn it off by 9 but then sometimes she wants to play with the iPad in the afternoon so it’s really only like ….” I had to think for a moment, “Three hours or so ... Oh my God! Three hours? Holy shit. I hadn’t even really thought about it. Oh my God. I’m a terrible mom. Remember when we said our daughter would never watch tv?”

“I know it’s hard,” he said and came around to hug me from behind. He says that, but he has no idea. I am my daughter’s main source of entertainment from the moment she wakes until the moment she goes to bed. We sing songs in front of the mirror, we blow bubbles on the playground, we do tea parties, we cut out stars and make them into holiday banners, we cook meals, we dance around front of the mirror in our underwear, we play dress up, we have screaming contests, we go grocery shopping, we do puzzles, we read books, we go to the library, we play monster, we make forts out of the bed sheets, we bake cookies, we go for walks, we make balloon animals, we make up songs. Sometimes I just run out of ideas, and sometimes I just want a moment for myself. I rationalize that I only let her watch educational programs, and that the three hour break from being my daughters full-time court jester is necessary to my sanity. But the truth is that Toy Story 2 is not educational, and teaching my daughter to play quietly on her own in her room would provide the same relief to my mental health.

“I’ll do better,” I said.

So today I woke up determined not to turn on the television. For the first fifteen minutes of the day, she cried every time I looked at her. Before 9:00 AM, we read Curious George, Goodnight Moon, Clickity Clack Moo, and the entire Biscuit series compilation. I could hear my email buzzing through on my phone but I didn't look at it. We made eggs together, ate breakfast in silence, and then we stared at each other making funny faces. Most days, I turn on the television for her while I take a shower. But today I covered the floor with her blocks and took a shower in fear of what I would find as I emerged.

I emerged to silence. The kind of silence that means she is into something that she shouldn’t be. I found her in her bathroom , the garbage turned over, a dirty q-tip hanging out of her ear and my laptop open and powered up on the floor with four keys picked off. I tried to clean it up while I heard her pulling over the breakfast dishes in the other room. I missed my morning ritual of coffee and facebook and blogs and it made me kinda cranky. I told myself that a television is not supposed to be a babysitter for my child.

We got out of the house ASAP and went to our babysitting commitment at the church down the street. The rest of the day was easy with a play date at the park, a picnic outside, a nap, bubbles in the courtyard and Daddy to the rescue by 7:00.

“I need a meeting,” I told him. “I’ll be back in an hour.”

I soaked up the car ride. I marinated in the spiritual conversation of the meeting and felt serene by the time I parked the car back in front of the house. I didn’t realize how hard a day without media would really be, how much pressure it would put on me to entertain. But the day was victorious. We did it. We made it an entire day without tv or the radio or an iPad. I told myself that like most of the true parenting moments thus far, it’s only hard for a few days and then it will get easier. I’m learning that the actual “parenting” part is usually not easy. I’m up for this challenge. I walked in the door feeling triumphant, and found my husband in front of the television with the baby on his lap watching “Baby Signing Time.”

He jumped a little when I swung open the door. "It's educational," he said,unable to erase the guilty expression from his face. I just shook my head. Tomorrow is another day. And we can start the challenge all over again.

Tuesday, July 05, 2011

Best Fourth of July Ever

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Dear Story: Monday was your first participatory Fourth of July. I am all too aware that you will probably not remember this beautiful day so I wanted to write it all down to capture the memories.

We threw a picnic in the courtyard and invited all your playground friends. It was a sunny California day with a light breeze in the air. Shereen and Emann came over in the morning to help mommy cut out stars and sew them into a long chain to hang from the trees. Tal’s husband blew up thirty bright red and royal blue balloons and tied them together with a silver string to make a balloon chain. We covered the tables with blue and red tablecloths and covered the table with jam jars filled with red and blue straws, ribbons, American flags and silverware. The kids table had Fourth of July hats, leis and silver bowls full of fruit and candy.

Mommys friend Vanessa helped her spread blankets in the shade of the cherry blossom trees. Daddy put out our camping chairs to make a circle in the shade. Brian helped me fill the water guns and balloon bombs because daddy wanted no part of getting wet.

As the neighbors arrived, the tables filled with food. There was fresh coleslaw and homemade hummus, Doritos with corn salsa, warm chocolate chip cookies, watermelon, and fruit salad. Miles daddy started the grilling with ribs glazed in a cherry sauce. Shereen and Emann’s mom Hannan grilled a whole chicken. Tal’s husband made chicken and beef skewers and Mr. Matt grilled Argentinean skirt steaks. I threw our hot dogs, hamburgers, and ginger chicken into the line of marinating meat. Daddy says that every time he turned around you were eating something new.

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You were dressed in a red, white and blue outfit from Nana and you held hands with Charlotte under the slide. You played with little Ms. Alma and Edan, Ori, Ido, Ronis, Cassidy and Miles, announcing each name with great clarity. “Alma,” you said, pointing at sweet Alma in her pretty pink bonnet.

“Did she just say Alma?” Alma’s mom asked daddy.

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Ms. Heathers baby held hands with Ms. Vanessas baby and they squirmed together on a blanket in the shade. Mommy announced it was time for games and tied Roni and Shereen’s legs together with one of daddy’s socks. We did three legged races, wheelbarrow races, and water games. Hannan brought out buckets of water and sponges, daddy blew up the toddler pool and we tossed a few water balloons.

Then mommy brought out an angel food cake covered with Coolwhip and fresh strawberries from the Santa Monica market. We sang Happy Birthday America while the sun dipped in the sky and filled the courtyard with a golden glow. Story, you and Charlotte ate an entire bowl of hummus. You began with carefully dipping hummus chips, you ended with messy hands thrust into the bowl and then into your sticky mouths. You ate ribs and sausages and chicken, you sucked your first lollypop, you ate an entire bowl of strawberries, half a bowl of hummus, a piece of lasagna, three of Ms. Kate’s chocolate chip cookies, six Doritos and half a plate of curly red pasta.


When daddy put you in your swimsuit, you jumped in the frigid pool and started kicking and splashing and squealing. Daddy and “All y’all Mama’s” laughed and laughed and laughed and laughed, while you and the girls got in and out of the pool exchanging screams and throwing water onto the hot asphalt pavement.

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As the dark ascended, we packed up the party, put on sweaters and met Judi, Chuck, Payton and Ella to walk over to the firework show. As we walked through the Culver City streets, the crowd began to swell. We formed a line and entered into a stadium pumping old school rock, the smell of Kettlecorn mixed with honeysuckle wafting in the evening breeze. Families in festive hats overflowed from beach blankets. You danced on the race track with Ella and Payton until sweat formed at the back of your neck. Between the sugar and the raucous laughter and dancing, I thought you would never sit still for the fireworks.

But then the music stopped and the lights dimmed and daddy lay down on the blanket and made a spot for mommy’s head on his chest under his arm and you laid your head down so sweetly next to mommy. You went completely quiet when the first shot rang out in the sky and you pressed your whole body against mine. We all lay on our backs looking up in the sky and you didn’t move once the entire show. I thought perhaps you had fallen asleep, but every time I poked my head up to look – your eyes were wide with amazement and wonder as you stare into a sky filled with exploding stars. Daddy squeezed me tight and I held you with all my strength, feeling your little heartbeat quicken as the show burst on. I tried to remember the first time I ever saw fireworks but it felt like so long ago.

We walked back in the crowd of happy neighbors and daddy and I let you fall asleep before we got home. I carried you into the house, your little limbs curled up against my chest, your head tucked under my chin. I buried my nose in your hair and you smelled like sunshine and sunscreen and strawberries and youth. I closed my eyes and tried to seal the smell in my cavern of memories. Perhaps you wont remember this perfect Fourth of July, but I will never forget.

Much love – Your mommy

Sunday, July 03, 2011

Friday, July 01, 2011

When to Start Thinking About the Next Baby

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There it was on the bottom of my monthly “What to expect” hospital newsletter, written in bold hyperlinked type, “Time to start thinking about the next baby.” Just reading the line made me gasp. At this point in the game I feel like I’ve passed a threshold, a pitstop on the hike, and you want me to think about going down to the bottom of the hill and starting again? Are you freakin crazy? Better women and moms than me have done it before. But really? By choice? Can’t I birth a three year old, or an eight year old? Do I really have to start over at the beginning with the sleepless nights and the breastfeeding and the oatmeal cereal and the reflux? It was fun the first time around, but I didn’t know what was coming next and how much more fun and exciting it all got. And now I do.

This morning, Story and I made scrambled eggs together. She pulled over a kitchen chair to the butcher block and helped me crack eggs on the side of the bowl. We heated the pan on high while we cracked four eggs and one yolk, we added a little half’n'half and gently beat the eggs. Then I held Story over the pan while she sprayed the butter. We poured the eggs into the skittle and she said, “Oooh” while it crackled. We used a curved spatula to keep the eggs moving and then we adjusted the heat to low and dragged the spatula through a few more times. Story said, “Cheese”, so we added a little cheese. And a little salt. And then we sliced a few strawberries and made up two plates. Story carried her own plate over to the table and we sat for breakfast. She used her fork and scooped the eggs towards her lips. And then she did something adorable that I will not soon forget. Just like Daddy does when the mac’n’cheese comes out of the microwave, she leaned over the forkful, and she blew.

“Hot,” She said, blowing on the eggs and then gingerly scooping them into her mouth. She cleaned her plate and I watched her with a heart overflowing with love.

My husband is afraid to have another child because he thinks he couldn’t possibly love another child as much as Ms. Story. But I have no worries about that. I believe the heart has no limit on how much it can love – it just expands to hold more. I have no doubt I would love another little baby with all my heart and soul. I worry more about losing the very precious freedom I’ve finally acquired as a mother of a growing toddler. You see, like my heart, my selfishness knows no bounds.

I worry more about how much longer it will take for me to get my waistline back, my breasts back, and my career back. I fear a new baby is the end of my dreams and my ability to make my mark on the world as a professional. Am I wrong?

Thursday, June 30, 2011

Tips For Traveling With a Toddler

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When my husband I decided to go back East for a vacation, my first thought was how we were going to take a mid-day five hour flight with a 25 pound toddler on our lap that couldn’t sit still for more than eight minutes. My second thought was how I would do the entire trip by myself on the return. So overwhelmed with fear, I turned to my Facebook community for advice from friends and family and guidance to careful pre-planning. Here is the best of what I solicited:


PRE-FLIGHT ADVICE

  • When booking tickets, select non-stop flights only. The extra cost is well worth not having to lug baby on and off an airplane or deal with more than one take-off or landing.

  • If traveling with a partner, book a window and aisle seat towards the back of the plane. If your child is under 2 then you are well within your rights to travel with the baby on your lap. Airline policy is that if there is an empty seat on the plane you can take an FAA approved car seat onto the flight and place your child in the empty seat. Not buying a seat for baby is a risk you may not be willing to take. We are cheap, so we risked it, and it paid off. But had we been forced to experience a five hour flight with baby actually on our laps, I'm certain it would have been the last time we didn't spring for the empty seat. We booked an aisle and a window towards the back since middle seats towards the back are the last to go. When we arrived at the gate, I explained to a member of the flight crew that we were traveling with a baby and wanted to be certain that someone wasn’t sitting in the middle seat between us. The crew member was able to put a hold on that seat. Turns out the flight crew prefers babies in car seats too!

  • Don’t travel on busy days and avoid the mid-day crowds, leave early on a Saturday morning or later at night on a weekday – but don’t do a red-eye. That’s just mean to you. Our flight flew from Los Angeles to Philadelphia, one way, leaving at 7:30 AM PST on a Saturday. This was risky because it meant waking baby to depart and then being idle for one of her most active periods of the day. But when flying west to east, you want to arrive with enough time to enjoy the destination – so we risked it. Turns out that waking baby early meant she was tired earlier as well and we managed to get a solid nap out of her towards the end of the flight. On the way back, I flew out at 8:45 PM EST on a Tuesday night. Our flight wasn’t full going over or coming back – so we had no trouble bringing the baby seat on board. And being able to have baby in her car seat meant she was way more likely to sleep.

  • Make a trip to the dollar store and present new toys on the flight. I spent $12 on toys for the flight. I bought stickers and coloring books, crayons, a barrel of monkeys, a few race cars, a magnet game and couple of plastic fish. Story had never seen or played with any of these things before, so it was a total novelty and kept her entirely entertained for many legs of the journey. I waited until after take-off to present one toy at a time. She wasn’t sure what to do with the crayons – except nibble the tips. But stickers entertained for over an hour. We put them in our dollar store books, on the back of the seat in front of us, on Daddy’s face while he slept for five hours straight, on Mommy’s arms, and a few even made it into the coloring books.

  • Get a NEW movie on the iPad. I downloaded three new movies before we departed and Story watched them with no sound on the iPad much to my delight. She is a pro with technology, she can unlock the screen, pause the film, adjust the volume and switch between applications. Plus, when she finally fell asleep I was able to play solitaire. Having new movies held her attention for much longer.


DAY OF TRAVEL ADVICE

  • Bring an FAA approved car-seat. Gabe and I arrived at the airport two hours early with two carry on pieces of luggage, a baby bed, and an FAA approved car-seat. For 14.99, we bought this Traveling Toddler Car Seat Travel Accessory and hooked it to our carry-on luggage. When you travel with a child on your lap, they make you do the check-in in-person. They also scrutinize your carry-on luggage, so I just had Gabe stand off to the side with our carry-on bags while I checked through with baby on my back in the ERGO. They let me check one baby item for free on the way over, but they made me pay for it on the way back. Fuckers.

  • Avoid the clunky pack’n’play and buy a BABYBJÖRN Travel Crib. This sucker is light weight and has a little room on the sides to pack extra diapers and load in any heavy baby books. This bed sets up in two minutes and fits everywhere, even in our tent. Story loves sleeping in it and that matters even more. I highly recommend it if you travel often.

  • Don’t bring a stroller. Buy or borrow an umbrella stroller when you arrive. There is nothing more awkward then a stroller at the airport. Story rode in the back pack of the ERGO and I liked having her as close as possible when we went through security. I was able to get a friend in Philly to loan us an umbrella stroller that served all our east coast cruising needs.

  • Use the family security line. LAX has a special lane for people traveling with kids and it was much faster than the others. It also allowed me to bring on 4 oz. juice boxes and 4 oz. milks. Milk is very important because they don’t have it on most planes. If you can’t get it through security, be sure to buy it before you board the flight. And pack lots and lots and lots of snacks to serve as you begin take-off. I bought breakfast and lunch for everyone in the food court before we boarded, and thank goodness because there were no in-flight meals provided or available for the flight. I could have sold my french fries for $1 each :-)

  • Use your early arrival time to let baby run silly. We made it through check-in and security in about twenty minutes. For the next ninety minutes I chased Story through the airport, around sleeping passengers, down corridors, through food courts and crowded bathrooms. I made her walk from security to the departure gate and did all I could to exhaust her by the time the flight attendants called for people traveling with kids. We boarded early and secured the baby seat on the window seat of our row. Of course I still feared an unexpected passenger showing up to sit in Story’s seat, and I didn’t breathe until they closed the doors. Luckily, we were able to get an empty seat going both ways, letting the flight attendants know the deal before they start boarding is key.

  • Use the aisles and let passengers and flight crew entertain your toddler. Once the plane was in the air, I let Story walk up and down the aisles a few times and visit with any other babies or children. This helped her feel comfortable and independent. Mommy bought a few extra gossip mags for the flight crew and sent baby back with the bag of goodies. Of course the crew just loved Ms. Story and went out of their way to make our trip comfortable. Story made it both ways without a tantrum or restless moment. We flew back on our own and while I was scared, we made it with no trouble. Helpful crew and passengers were key to our success.

It’s always a gamble when you fly with a child – sometimes you win and sometimes you lose your shit completely. We got off easy this time, but following the tips really helped and I hope it helps you too. I thought the trip would have its struggles, but Story was a champ for the entire experience. She waited until we got home to torture us, and boy did she make me suffer upon return. But that’s another story for another time.

Happy Travels!

Saturday, June 11, 2011

Away

Forgot to let my blog audience know i'll be eating, dancing, and shaking my maracas for another few days...


Thursday, June 02, 2011

Tonights Prayer



Now I lay me down to sleep,
I pray to lord my babe to sleep,
all through the night without a peep,
for this I pray and just may weep.


If I should wake before five,
I will be quite sleep deprived.
So please o lord, if you exist, can you just grant me this one wish?
Let me sleep and dream in bliss.

Amen

Wednesday, June 01, 2011

A Typical Morning


Over on Dear Baby, Melissa is asking her guest writers to tell give you all about a day in their picture perfect life. Well, here’s mine:

7:05 am: “F#@kity, f#@k, f#@k, Story you are up two hours early this morning. Really?”

Since the weaning, she wakes up screaming, and today is no exception. I make my way across the dark room to her crib, tripping over the foot rest of the glider and chipping a tooth. She screams harder. I run my tongue over the rough tooth and try not to cry. It’s too early to be crying already. I pick myself up off the floor and reach into her crib.

“Shhh, shhhh, sweet girl,” but she is screaming and grabbing at my shirt.

“Want milk? Want milk. Want milk.” I try out my Happiest Toddler on the block technique to only louder screams and the addition of head butts. One hits me square in the nose and I let out a squeal and feel the tingle spread up my face.

I breathe and collect myself, “Story, No head butting mommy. We hug, we don’t head butt.

She is thrashing in my arms and I have no idea what to do with her precious little body so I lay her on the floor to finish her tantrum.

7:25 am: I fill a pink princess cup with cold milk and bring it to where she is on the floor. She stops crying immediately, removes the cup from my hand, giggles maniacally, says “Milk”, and begins to drink. I pick her up and carry her over to the couch where we both sit. Story loves to sit next to me on the couch and to show her approval of the situation, she leans her head on my arm. I rub my hands over her face to wipe away her tears. I drift a few fingers through her hair and give her head a little squeeze. She takes the milk out of her mouth and smiles.

“Mama. Mama.” When Story finishes her milk, she tosses her cup on the floor and skootches off the end of the couch to start playing with her toys.

8:00 am: Story follows me into the kitchen to help me cook breakfast. We pull out eggs and cheese from the fridge. I turn on the burner and crack the egg right into the skillet, whisking it lightly with a spatula to break up the yolk. I’m lazy.

I serve the scramble a little wet and sprinkle freshly grated cheese over the top with a pinch of salt. I slice a few strawberries and lay them on the plate to make it pretty.

While I am doing this, Story takes all the spices off the shelf and throws them on the floor. She pulls all the bowls from the cupboard and takes out each individual Kleenex and lays it on the floor.

8:15 am: Story sits in her high chair, eats eggs and drinks water while I clean up her mess.

It’s not even 9:00 AM and I’m already exhausted.



...to be continued

Sick



Mommy, daddy and baby girl are all sick tonight, cuddled in a bed surrounded by used Kleenex. Baby just wants mommy to hold her tight, daddy just wants mommy to stop moving the bed, mommy just wants to be able to swallow without wincing. But I'm in the middle of a blogger challenge and determined not to let a day pass without a blog. Tomorrow is a new day...

Monday, May 30, 2011

Words!


My genius child has been communicating words to me since she was thirteen months old. In the last month she began understanding me well enough to fulfill my requests, get something for me, put something away, select the pink shoes from the shelf, pick up the cheerios off the floor. She even seems to get a modified version of “time-out” that I tried this week, putting her in a chair that faces the wall and counting to 30. She actually stayed in the chair the third time I tried it. I explained what she did was wrong and asked her to say sorry. She looked at me and rubbed her closed hand on her tummy in a circle.

“Sorry,” she signed.

She uses a combination of sign language and one syllable words. My husband and I try to brainstorm all the words she knows, but we lose count. Here is what we can remember:

GENERAL
Dad*
Ball
Mama
Mimi
PawPaw
New
Day
Night
Star
Watch
Please
Sorry
Moon*
Baby
Signing
Time

ANIMALS
Dog*
Frog
Giraffe
Lion
Bear
“z-raffe”
Horse
Bird

CLOTHING
Shoes
Socks
Sleep Clothes
Hat!*

FOOD RELATED
Drink
Food
Juice*
“All Done”*
Finished
Water
Cracker
Milk
More, More, More*

MODES OF TRANSPORT
Bus*
Train
Car

ACTION
Swing
Happy Dance*
Bath
Play

Boobs**


*denotes a particular favorite

Saturday, May 28, 2011

Three

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Today, Story had a day long play date with two of the most delightful neighbor girls. The six year old brought her coloring books, her make-up case and her pink flower purse. Her younger four year old sister wore a skirt over her pants and pink princess flip-flops. The older one begged to feed Story her lunch. The younger one climbed up into my lap while I was checking my email. At one point, we all cuddled on the couch watching Monsters vs. Aliens, the older nudged into my right side playing with my hair. The younger one rest her head on my shoulder and drew shapes on my hand. Story sat on my lap and pressed her head back into my chest. I sighed. Heaven.

It got me thinking about what a home with three little children would look like. And I was lost in the reverie until I heard the ominous voice of my husband, “you could end up with boys.”

(Image via Ohdeedoh kids room tours)

Friday, May 27, 2011

Make Believe is a film about the work and the passion it takes to follow your dreams

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This week, I had the honor of attending the premiere of the documentary film Make Believe. The film profiles six teen magicians as they prepare for the Teen World Championship. Some awkward, some shy, some controlling and some overbearing, all of these kids feel different then their peers but all have found a place to belong in the world of magic. These passionate kids spend hours preparing their acts and sitting alone in their bedrooms with decks of cards. Some of these teens practice magic six hours a day, seven days a week to get ready for the competition. This is a film about the hard work it takes to follow your dreams and all the support you need along the way. I expected to see Tiger Moms cracking a whip to motivate these kids. Or even to see a few moms worried about the amount of time their child spent alone in the basement. Instead, the movie presented thoughtful and loving parents, moms supporting, cheering and aching alongside their babies.

I thought I would have to be a Tiger Mom, forcing my daughter to wet herself on the piano bench in order to push my child to achieve her best. But this movie is proof that when a kid finds something they are passionate about, you don’t need a whip, you only need love, support and discipline.

In one poignant scene, a South African mother sits next to her son in a sparse kitchen with a dirt floor and tells us that her friends have to worry about their children out at night abusing drugs, drinking and getting robbed at knifepoint. She paints a picture of crime and poverty in her village that can’t help but make you feel fearful for the future of her young son. But she looks over at her smiling boy, “But not my son”. While those other boys are in the street, she tells us that hers is in his room practicing his magic. And when he shows off his skills in the village, he is a beacon of confidence and hope.

Tonight in Los Angeles, at the Laemle 5 on Sunset, four teenage magicians walk the red carpet of a movie about their very own lives. The awkward teens tell stories and giggle and even perform a trick or two for the reporters. Standing behind the red velvet rope, holding back tears of pride, are their moms.

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Blogger Round-Up

Tonight I attended my first movie premiere and it was pretty awesome. I promise to tell you all about it later. In the meanwhile, please enjoy the links below, written by women far wittier and better rested than me right now.

  • People are always asking me to recommend baby gear and I've been trying to put together a list but this lady beat me to it. Of course, I totally disagree with most of her recommendations, but she is pretty entertaining to read. Just proves that no one else can really predict exactly what your baby is going to need.
  • One of my favorite lifestyle bloggers is pregnant and showing it off in some totally cute maternity gear by Isabella Oliver. Where were all the hip maternity clothes when I was preggos?
  • This hilarious blogger reminds me why I love being married.
  • I love a good breastfeeding story, especially one that finds clever ways to talk about boobs and uses the word hooters.
  • This fashion post by Girls Gone Child made me want to get pregnant again, just for the cool clothes. She totally rocks the pregnant look.
  • Behold! My next craft project.

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

So in love


This morning, I woke up to my little lady crying for her Daddy. But it was Daddy’s day to sleep in, so I warmed some milk in a Disney Princess cup she picked out on our last trip to CVS and we sat together on the couch. She drank her milk, I drank my coffee, she pushed her entire little body into mine, resting her head on my chest.

When Daddy emerged from the bedroom, she pointed across at him, broke out the toothy grin, hopped off the couch and ran towards him. “Dah-dah, da-dah, da-dah,” she buried her face in his shins.

The two of them disappeared into Story’s bedroom while I cleaned the kitchen. I could here them giggling when I came around the corner carrying a cup of black coffee for my husband. They were in the little tent I bought at Ikea, my husbands long legs stretched out across the floor. Story waved her hands around as she tried to explain something important to her Daddy. He was patient and responded to her with soft words. I watched them playing together. He helped her stack a few blocks.

“Now you do it,” he instructed.

She touched his shoulder, looking up at him, smiling with delight at her latest accomplishment. He poked her belly and made a high whooping noise and she fell back on a pillow in a fit of raucous laughter. This little girl is so lucky. This little girl will never have to wonder if her Daddy loves her. She will not have a Daddy that freezes her out should she ever disappoint. She will never know a Daddy that gives up on her or stops trying to understand.

I’m so in love with my husband today. Not just because he is an amazing father and a giving husband. I’m so in love with my husband because he continues to grow and change and better himself.

This morning my little girl woke crying for her Daddy, but she didn’t have to wait long to feel his love.

Monday, May 23, 2011

To wean or not to wean, is there really any question?

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It was hard. And not for all the reasons I thought. I thought it would break my heart to lose the intimate ritual with my little girl. It did. I thought I would be overwhelmed by my daughters whining and tears. I was. But the hardest part of all, the part no one warned me about, was the hormonal ups and downs and the depression. That was the hardest part of all.

I wasn’t really ready to stop, but it was time. My sister-in-law (the baby whisperer) reminded me that Story should be getting rid of her nightly bottle soon and I couldn’t imagine getting her off the breast without a bottle to suckle. Then there were the books that warned me that the closer my child got to the dreaded two’s, the harder it would becomes to wean her. But it was two pivotal scenes that finally convinced me the time had arrived. 1) While paying for my groceries at Trader Joes, Story unbuttoned my blouse, stuck her hand in my bra and delicately removed my nipple to the shock and awe of the cashier. 2) A recent viewing of HBO’s Game of Thrones featured an eight year old boy King suckling at his mother’s teat and my husband kind of looked over at me and raised an eyebrow. The time had arrived.

I had already narrowed Story’s breastfeeding sessions to once in the morning and once at night. I asked Gabe to put Story down for three nights in a row with a bottle while I hid on the other side of the apartment. Then, when Mother’s Day weekend arrived I told my husband what I really wanted for Mother’s Day was to wean our little girl. He took over the morning and evening ritual and replaced her breastfeeding sessions with a bottle. We tried a cup, but she wasn’t having it. One vice at a time, I told myself.

By day three I was ready to go back to sharing Story's morning and evening ritual with my husband. At first, everything seemed fine. But then the crying and tantrums began. Our once peaceful little girl woke up screaming and kicking. She went to sleep in much the same way. Staying firm through the crying, and kicking and screaming and whining was hard. But this is what parenting is all about. And just like with the sleep training, I knew we would get through this and feel like awesome superstar parents when she finally got it.

By day five, my confused hormones began torturing me with moments of real darkness. Everything felt personal. My husband could do nothing right. One minute my husband had left his dishes in the sink, and the next I felt trapped in my marriage, contemplating divorce and daydreaming about abandoning my family. This was a first, and I’m not proud of it. Some might call it post-partum delayed. Fifteen months delayed. I was totally unprepared for it.

It’s been about two weeks now and the depression has lifted, I feel like myself again. I just sort of had to wait it out while being careful not to isolate or act on any of my irrational thoughts. My hormones stabilized in time to save my marriage. Baby is still fussy in the morning and night, but we have found that a new bedtime ritual has helped her soothe herself to sleep. We always had a bath time, book time, feed time and then into the bed sort of thing. Well now we do bath time, book and cup of milk time (that’s right! I got her off the bottle too!). We dim the lights one by one and go around the room saying goodnight to every toy and object. By the time we have said goodnight to the talking tea pot she is limp and leaning back in my arms begging to be placed in the bed. I lay her down on her crisp cool sheets, pull up the blanket and she hugs her little “z-raffe" with a newfound interest. I turn off the final light and tip toe towards the door. She calls out when I reach for the door knob.

“Buh”, she says.

“Bye,” I say. “Goodnight sweet Story.”

And just like that, another big parenting moment has passed.

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Red Velvet Cupcakes



My husband gave me a night off last night. “Go do something for yourself,” he said and shooed me out the door. I got in the car and for a few minutes I felt free and played the radio really loud. But then I wondered: What do I do with myself? What do I even like to do?

Has it been so long since I had time to myself that I’ve forgotten what makes me happy? I mean, don’t get wrong, I love being with my little girl and husband and this makes me extraordinarily happy. But there was a time before these two, a lot of time, when I was deliriously happy without either. I had a packed schedule every night. What did I do with myself? And where is that woman now?

Driving down Sepulveda Blvd. on a Tuesday night, I pledged to dig deep and drive until I could think of things that make me happy and things I enjoy doing. And this is what came to me:

  • A bargain
  • Shopping for a bargain
  • Design Magazines with photos of colorful kitchens
  • Pretty plates
  • Anthropologie
  • Craft stores
  • Craft fairs
  • My sewing machine
  • Learning how to use my sewing machine
  • My baby girl
  • Looking at baby clothes for my baby girl
  • Shopping for overpriced baby toys from Europe
  • Strolling through quirky gift shops
  • Farmers markets
  • Watching foreign language films
  • Planning a trip
  • Taking a trip
  • Men with accents
  • My husband
  • Bookstores
  • Strolling through bookstores with an overpriced coffee, collecting a pile of books, finding a corner and sitting down to read my pile
  • Strong women with loud voices
  • Coffee shops with friends
  • Loyal and loving friends
  • My sisters
  • Family dinners
  • Cooks Illustrated
  • Making dinner from a recipe
  • Baking red velvet cupcakes
  • Wrapping Christmas gifts
  • Making Christmas tags
  • Decorating for Christmas
  • Christmas morning at my parents house
  • Rearranging the living room furniture
  • Board games
  • A good book
  • A good movie with popcorn and Red Vines
  • Comedy shows
  • Improv
  • Laughing
  • A musical
  • Dancing to eighties music
  • Museums with things you can touch
  • Disneyland
  • A good story
  • Storytelling
  • Writing
  • Having written
  • Posting a new blog

I’m not sure why this list was so difficult to make. I can take care of my baby, my husband and my household, so why have I lapsed on nurturing my own creativity. Why is it so hard to remember what I like and like to do?

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Nine Months Old



My dear sweet Story, oh what an amazing month!

Between eight and nine months you quickened your crawl, started standing straight up from a squat, learned to wave bye-bye, turned the pages in the book by yourself, stopped eating baby food, spontaneously began a game of Peek-a-Boo in the back o f the car with your Daddy and took your very first tiny step. Are you exhausted? I am.

It started on a sunny afternoon, mommy typing emails on the couch while you played on the cow hide rug. You squatted, your legs covered in striped legwarmers that mommy bought at the The Mini Social sample sale. Then suddenly, without any hesitation, you stood straight up, turned your head and smiled at me. What might you have been thinking at that moment Ms. Story? What drove you to rise up and explore the world upright? Perhaps you were bored?

After you learned this trick, you began to add little flourishes like holding your stance for three minutes or hopping with both feet off the ground. Mommy watched with wonder as you experimented a little more each day. And then, it happened. You just simply shuffled one foot in front of the other and remained standing. I grabbed the camera and followed you around the house waiting for you to do it again. You added a few more steps that looked more like you were trying to break your fall as you leapt into my arms. But to my trained mommy eye, it looked a lot like walking.

When Daddy got home from school tonight, you fell to the ground and crawled across the floor like a monkey at the zoo when the trainer drops a carrot into the cage. You whimpered and wrapped yourself around his legs, pulled yourself up to his knees and raised up your hands over your head.

“Daddy’s home,” he said and picked you up to rest you on his left hip. Ms. Story Brynne, you smiled your toothless grin, hugged your Daddy tight and tried to bite his face. Then you laughed and clapped your hands, waved at me and said, “bye-bye”. This might be your first word.

You like to say it when you are ready to get out of the high chair. This morning I made you some toast strips, cut up a slice of turkey with some scissors, and left some scrambled eggs on the side of your tray. I was able to make myself coffee and a bagel while you happily fed yourself. You smacked your lips, made sucking noises and sang loud nonsensical songs between bites. When I tried to give you a bite of oatmeal you pursed your lips and turned away as if to remind me, “Mommy, I feed myself now.” To let me know you were done, you threw all the remaining toast on the ground, twisted your wrist and opened and shut your hand while you said, “bye-bye”.

Daddy and I took you to the mall last weekend for Asian noodles and there were a ton of screaming pre-teen girls at the Millions of Milkshakes watching a live concert by Dylan and Cole Sprouse. We wheeled you past the chaos and I poked Daddy in the ribs, “There is our future.” His eyes got a little misty as he no doubt imagined taking you to your first annoying pre-teen concert. My eyes got a little misty as I realized that you are going to grow up. At your current rate of growth, your Jonas loving days are right around the corner.

Slow down little lady. You have lots of time to be a big girl and only so many years left to be little.

Today you are nine months old. I still can’t believe how much fun you got in month eight, what is in store for month nine? It’s like your personality was born the moment your muscles flexed enough to hold your body upright.

I love you so much it hurts,

-Mommy

Thursday, November 04, 2010

What is in your diaper bag?

I used to watch them in the park. I sat quietly on my bench, eating a flakey croissant, managing not to get any of the flakes on my pristine black skirt. I watched them pass with their strollers, huge, covered in bright and colorful patterns. Fat. Ugly. Loud. I couldn't stand the sight of them. I dabbed the crumbs from my lips, I smoothed my hair, I tossed my napkin in the trash. I rubbed my swollen belly and vowed, I would never carry one of those over-priced hideous diaper bags.

I carry a $10 handbag that I bought at a street fair. It's covered in owls, has two side compartments and enough room inside for everything I need. Seven months into my pregnancy, my husband asked my father if he had any advice for fatherhood, "Always keep your diaper bag packed and ready to go."

My diaper bag is always packed and ready to go. It carries everything I need to get through a long day with my baby.

Here is my bag.

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Inside, I keep several smaller bags.

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The most important bag is a large Ziplock filled with three extra diapers, travel wipes and a small garbage bag to carry dirty clothes or an extra dirty diaper.

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Also very important is a complete change of clothes, a sweater in case of cold and a pair of socks.

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In addition to butt wipes, I always carry boogie wipes. These are great for runny noses and sticky fingers.

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I never leave home without two bottles, already filled with four scoops of formula. I buy the small 8 oz. water bottles from Trader Joe's and always pack one alongside my bottles in case of an emergency.

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Another must is the solid food emergency pack. It contains a disposable bowl already packed with two tablespoons of wheat oatmeal, a disposable spoon, a disposable bib and a pack of Trader Joe's Apple Carrot Crushers.

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Some times I can't get the food into her fast enough and I need to buy time with a snack cup full of puffs. This cup keeps the little squirmer on the table after swim lesson.

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Another essential item is the stroller blanket. I use this blanket for quick changes, to block the baby from afternoon sun and to warm her little legs on a cool fall night.

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The final bag is filled with Mommy's essentials. A hair band, a nail file, hand lotion, breast pads and chapstick.

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Toss my phone in the outside pocket, throw in a few loose toys, pack in my wallet, and baby and Mommy are ready to go.

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When we get home from an outing, the diaper bag is immediately replenished, repacked and placed next to the door. Ready for the next adventure.

You can't be a new mom and avoid carrying a diaper bag. You just never know what's waiting for you outside that door. What's in your diaper bag?

Got pictures? C'mon Moms, lemme see...

Wednesday, November 03, 2010

Your First Halloween!!!!

Dear Story,

This year was your very first Halloween and I wanted it to be special. We started off the celebration with a Saturday morning trip to the local pumpkin patch/Trader Joe's.

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Once we had the perfect three pumpkins, we headed home to host a carving party at the house. You had over a few of your friends and mommy and daddy had over a few of theirs. Between seven adults, four kids, and seven pumpkins, we only managed to carve one pumpkin. Can you believe it was mommy's? I'm kinda a freak about these holiday things. After all, I have a tradition to uphold. Your mommy has hosted a pumpkin carving party every year for the last ten years, but this is the first year with children present. Next year I promise to get daddy to actually carve a pumpkin! Here are some pictures of the carving party.

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The next day was Halloween and we dressed you up in a monkey costume and took you out with some friends for your first experience with Trick or Treating. You loved it!! Here is the evidence:

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We came home and put you to bed, then mommy and daddy answered the door for all the late night Trick or Treaters. We cuddled on the couch, watching tv and thinking about how full you have made our lives and how very much we love you.

I love you little monkey. And I can't wait for next year!

Mommy


Thursday, October 28, 2010

Crafting!

BEFORE

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Dear Story:

Your room needed some color and we both needed a creative outlet. So we sat down on a rainy afternoon and rummaged through our box of special paper. We used scissors, twine, and the heart shaped hole punch that worked over time for Mommy and Daddy's wedding. It was simple, fun and effective. The result is that your room is much more reflective of the lady that sleeps in it, bright and happy!


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AFTER

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