Every year, I write a New Year's Eve post that's kind of a "greatest hits" list of the past year. There have been a lot of hits, I must say.


2010 is the year I grew into motherhood. It snuck up on me slowly, during sleepless nights and long summer days. Sometimes it doesn't seem real, especially when I am away from Laurel...and then I look down at the everpresent milk stain on my shoulder, or feel the pull in my back where it's always tight from scooping up the squirmiest 20 pound toddler I know.

I earned my master's degree in reading education. And then got a job teaching math.

I made new friends. People I met as new mamas, but who turned out to be interesting, engaging, fun women who are up for anything. On a 90 degree day in June, three of them joined Laurel and I on an 8 mile hike, and I never heard one complaint even when Teddy and Niam got tired of their carriers and insisted on being held the last mile and a half. We celebrated first birthdays all through the fall and into December and now our babies are toddlers.

I ran my first 5K and 10K, had a blast, and then promptly stopped running.

M learned to bake bread. Really, really good bread. He got a new job and turned over a new leaf. We started a business. He joined the East End Food Co-op board of directors and finished 9th in the 35 mile Rachel Carson Challenge. He powered through another few graduate classes.

Laurel learned to do any number of new things that children learn to do in their first year of life. Most recently, she's learned to climb the stairs upright and unlock the windows (uh oh). She's weaned from breastfeeding but not from taking milk from a bottle. She sleeps for 7 or 8 hour stretches. Her mood is either extremely happy or extremely mad. She's never still, even when she sleeps.

We have hundreds of photos from this past year and instead of documenting extraordinary places around the world, we documented extraordinary moments in home life. I will remember 2010 as the year we were tired as hell, but still managed to get it done.


Post-Christmas Quiet

We waved goodbye to Aunt Mary and Sadie yesterday, and the house is quiet again after the holiday frenzy of visiting and visitors. I have to admit, Christmas was a lot of fun with a toddler around. Laurel still gets excited every time she walks into the living room and sees the Christmas tree with all the lights on it.

Now I'm in that period of post-Christmas bloat, in which you can't help but think about New Year's resolutions. I'm not much for dieting, but I have been thinking a lot about reducing our family's waste. Our garbage production has slowly snuck up over the past year (funny thing about having a baby), and we're buying more disposible products and prepared food than ever before. In the chaos between Thanksgiving and Christmas, we didn't do a very good job of prepping our compost pile for winter, and now it's frozen and I'm throwing away a ton of organic matter.

I've been reading this blog, for a while, but it wasn't until this recent guest post by another blogger that I started to feel a real pull toward reducing plastic or getting our garbage under control a little bit. The guest poster is a regular old mom who ended up changing a lot of her family's habits by collecting their plastic waste and weighing it, the way that Fake Plastic Fish blogger Beth Terry does. But like the guest poster, I've been reluctant to actually take this step because I know it's going to be an embarrassingly large pile.

It really is about taking some small steps, though. If we could remember to take jars over to the co-op, we could eliminate using plastic bags for the bulk foods. If we kept some clean rags handy in the kitchen, maybe I wouldn't reach for so many paper towels. And how much trouble is doing a load of cloth diapers every 2 or 3 days? These are all baby steps and well within our reach.

We plan to compost our Christmas tree and if you live in the City of Pittsburgh, you can do it, too! Here's a link to the City of Pittsburgh Christmas Tree Composting.

I also just bought this book, Worms Eat My Garbage. I think composting with the help of some worms might be just the answer to my winter weather composting problem.

So what are you mulling over the new year? Anybody have some idea of what you want to do in 2011?


Our Family

What has become of M and K, indeed! Even though Laurel officially arrived in 2009, I think her presence defined 2010 for me. Today was a full day of entertaining. We ate at two restaurants and walked a dog and went to the shoe store. When Aunt Mary goes home tomorrow (with her little dog Sadie) Laurel is going to look around our empty house and demand more entertainment than I can provide her myself. It will be just the three of us again. Incidentally, I think this is the only photo we have of the three of us.


Holiday Traditions

I've written about holiday traditions in the past here and here. This year, my mom carried on the tradition of having my cousins and Laurel over for a pre-Christmas Eve sleepover. Matt, Cassie and Kelly are now the "big kids" and we have a new generation of little kids.

While L was at my mom's, M and I got lost in the new toy store in Bakery Square. In addition to some goodies for Laurel, we also came home with three new placemats for us...one is the periodic table, one is a map of the United States and the third is pictures of all the presidents and years of service. Yes, we're dorks like that. We also went to D's and had some beer and bar food. And of course, we slept all night without interuption, which was pure bliss.

My Aunt Mary and her dog Sadie arrived last night, and will be staying with us for the holiday. Naturally Laurel is completely fascinated with the dog and Sadie is being a pretty good sport about have a toddler pet her constantly. This holiday season has been so hectic and I really feel like I've dropped the ball on a bunch of things...no Christmas cards, no stockings hung up, no cookies baked, etc. However, with christmas carols playing on the radio and a gentle snow falling outside and good smells from the kitchen, and just enough presents under the tree for Laurel makes me think we're doing ok.


Snapshot: 13 and 1/2 months

Yesterday some of the teachers had their wives or husbands and babies come to the school for the potluck. One of my colleagues has a baby who was born on November 13, just a week after Laurel. He toddled up and down the empty hallways with boundless energy. He looked like a little peanut to me, which reminded me of how tall and lanky Laurel is. Right now she's meticulously wiping down the dining room floor and picking up little bits of cheerios and cheese and bringing them to us. Wiping up is her current favorite activity. I don't know how many teeth she has. They are sharp, so I don't make a habit of looking into her mouth to count. I do help her to brush them now, with a special tiny toothbrush and baby toothpaste. I think she really likes the taste of the toothpaste, as well as the feeling of the brush on her gums. Her hair is long enough to be styled into a barrett or a tiny pigtail. For some reason, she recently started sucking on a pacifier. I decided it was probably helping to ease the transition during weaning, so I'm not too concerned about it. My friend gave me a good piece of advice for breaking the pacifier habit down the road, so I'll deal with that one later.

Last night I took her to Lindsay's house and Matt hung out with her while we went to a Zumba class with this crazy little dance instructor. I sweat my buns off and looked ridiculous doing it, but it was pretty fun. I brought Matt a beer for his trouble, but when we walked in they were sitting in a chair reading and looked pretty happy. Matt said, "We read all the books!" And I can totally see that...Laurel bringing over each and every book, one by one. I'm grateful to have friends who are up for anything and flexible enough to make it happen. I'm glad Laurel seems to be able to handle being away from me. And I definitely love the babysitting swap.

Last year at this time it was me and Laurel 24-7. And while I wouldn't trade that time for anything, I am definitely enjoying chasing after a toddler more than spending hours upon hours bouncing on a yoga ball with a vacuum cleaner blasting in my ear, holding a swaddled baby who refused to sleep without the aforementioned accommodations.

M just got his grades from graduate school this term, which of course were A's. Spring term classes don't start for a couple of weeks, so it will be nice for our family to have some time to spend together, since there were many days in the last few months when we barely saw each other.

As for me, I think I am finally getting used to life as a working mom. Luckily I work with awesome people, who are everlastingly supportive, who brew extra large pots of coffee on days that I come in with out a lot of sleep, who slip me thank you notes and chocolate when I need it the most, who compliment me on the classes that are going well, and remind me that I have some of the most challenging students in the school in my other not-so-great classes. The secretary can find someone to cover for me in the blink of an eye if Laurel gets sick. My co-teacher is wonderful combination of laid-back flexibility and competency. I have nice people to eat lunch with. If I had tried to do this working mom thing at any of the other schools I worked at over the past ten years, I think I would have crashed and burned.

As it is now, life gets totally out of control in the blink of an eye. Last night I accidentally washed a disposible diaper with a load of laundry, so all that gel crap from inside it got stuck to everything and I had to wash the load three times to get it out. I didn't really do any dishes since Tuesday afternoon, so the kitchen is a total nightmare. My aunt is on her way to stay with us for the holiday, so there's a million things to clean up and put away. But Christmas music is on the radio and our family is together and nobody is puking or coughing or having a temper tantrum, so by 13 1/2 month standards, we're doing just great.


Holiday Fun

Tomorrow is the last day of school before break. Other than listening to my students complain about the injustice of actually trying to learn something instead of watching Chicken Run, I will also be attending the faculty holiday potluck. And then, sweet, sweet winter break. I definitely need some time away from my students. I want to hang out with my little munchkin and forget about lesson plans and grading and writing detentions for being tardy.


Laurel Cleans

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Finally, she does something to contribute to the household! Just kidding. But seriously, she has a track record of generating indescribable messes. But now she has a talent. If you give her a wet rag and point to a spot, she'll scrub it until it's clean.


Once Upon a Mountain

Don't know why I'm thinking about this today, but I am. Maybe it's end of the year musings? Life seemed very carefree at the time this picture was taken, not like it is now. Even when we are spontaneous, somebody still has to remember to grab an extra diaper.

Oh Holy Night...wait, no...here we come a'wassailing...

I like a good holiday party. There should be ugly Christmas sweaters and tables overflowing with delicious but messy potluck contributions. Don't forget the beer. And throw in some slightly off-key caroling. Seriously, there is nothing better than hanging out with friends, drinking mulled, warm wine, and occasionally breaking into song. It's been a rough couple of months for me, and even more so for some of my friends, and it was so nice to just come together and laugh and eat and chat. I didn't go too overboard...I made some chili and macaroni and cheese and bought some cookies from Costco and crossed my fingers that our guests would show up with delicious food (which they did). My one special contribution to the the party this year were the luminaries that I lined the sidewalk with. I wasn't sure how they would turn out, because we live on a pretty well lit street. However, you could definitely tell there was a party at our house, and there's something kind of magical about candlelight.

The holiday party tradition started a million years ago when M threw the mother of all college holiday parties and introduced us to wassail (we were skeptical at first. we were definitely keg stand people back then). Up until this year, the holiday party was always fun, and we looked forward to it, but to be honest, the people that we saw at the party were usually the same people we had seen the night before at the bar. (we used to hang out. a lot.) This year, it was an opportunity to actually reconnect with people I hadn't seen in ages. Another change this year was the "baby convention". Our party this year started out with toddlers galore...roaming underfoot, trying to climb the stairs, reaching up onto the table to grab cookies, fighting over sippy cups. It was beautiful and chaotic and joyful. Then, the babies got tired and went home with mamas and papas who wanted to stay, but were secretly glad to be going home and to bed, because that's what parents of one year olds are. Tired most of the time.

Then, there was a second wave of holiday revelry. Grown ups without babes in tow arrived. We put Laurel to bed and drank more wassail and broke out the drums and ukeleles and sang a very long rendition of the Twelve Days of Christmas, and a very muddled version of Happy Christmas War is Over and a very off-key version of White Christmas. And then we drank more wassail and stuffed ourselves with gobi manchurian and savory cheesecake.

I can't wait for next year's holiday party.


You Know When Life Gets a Little Away from You....

....but you are too exhausted to do anything about it, and life turns into a series of exercises in survival? Yesterday Laurel was up at 2:30, and did not go back to sleep until 5:30, which is when, of course, I have to get up. And then teach math to grumpy teenagers.

But today...the most holy of altered teaching schedules..the Two Hour Delay. The roads don't look bad, but it's only 11 degrees outside. I'll be teaching pre-algebra at 9:00 am, a perfectly reasonable time for that subject.

I will enjoy a cup of coffee in a non-travel mug and maybe even eat breakfast.


"Does vinegar kill Christmas trees?" and other pressing problems in our current life....

I accidentally watered the Christmas tree with vinegar this morning. Now we thought we'd be all green and local by going to Construction Junction and getting one from the local farmers, so this was a $50 tree. $53 to be exact. Which I am happy to spend to support local agriculture, but I'd like to enjoy the tree for more than a day without killing it.

While M was fixing the situation, by unscrewing the tree from the stand and dumping out the vinegar water, he discovered that someone, and I'm not naming any names here - but I think we can all guess who- popped the trunk to our car last night, which was parked in the driveway. In icy rain. All night. $#*!

Sleep deprivation can be fatal, did you know that? I had the double whammy of sleep deprivation and insomnia last night when after the 1:30am poop-splosion I could not fall back asleep. I had to watch a whole episode of Secret Life of the American Teenager to distract me from my anxiety. Then before I knew it there was more crying and rocking and fussing and then I woke up at 6:30 nursing Laurel. Oops. (We were supposed to have weaned this week.)

I'm going to have another go at the No Cry Sleep Solution by Elizabeth Pantley. I pulled this book off the shelf last week and in paging through it I can see a lot of her ideas might work better for Laurel now than when I initially read it at the peak of colic.

All I can say is you better pray for a two-hour delay tomorrow for me, because I am not ready to be teaching math to cranky teenagers at 7:00am.

M put Laurel down for her morning nap, and I drank a cup of coffee, uninterrupted, and browsed through blog entries over the past year. And my heart dipped and leapt and then settled into contentment as I thought about how utterly, freakin' amazing it was. Thank you, Life.


A Sequence of Events

Baby gets sick.
Mommy does laundry.
Baby gets more sick.
More laundry.
Baby is better?
Mommy gets sick.
Baby is fussy.
Daddy has a final project for graduate school.
Mommy gets really sick.
Baby is tired but refuses to sleep.
Mommy and Daddy are really tired.
Daddy stays up all night long working on his project.
Mommy gets really, really sick.
Mommy is up all night long.
Baby is up all night long.
Mommy and Daddy call for backup from Grandma.
Grandma saves the day.
Baby is sick again.
Grandma takes Baby home.
Baby is fussy and doesn't sleep.
Now Grandma is tired.
But Mommy and Daddy get lots of rest.
Mommy takes Baby home.
Yay! It's the weekend. We survived.

Uh oh. Daddy is sick.


When it all goes to...

I want a do-over on this week.

We've had funny noises from the cars and too many meetings at school and Laurel was sick and threw up all over me at the neighborhood holiday potluck. (Quick...what do you do when you and your child are both soaked with vomit and are in the unfortunate position of having walked 1/2 mile from your house in frigid weather?)

Last night it all kind of came to a head when I was stricken with Laurel's stomach bug. M came home ready to work all evening on his final project. However, this was darn near impossible with a sick mommy and a fussy toddler.

I wanted to be left alone, as I slept on the bathroom floor in between some seriously intense puking sessions. There is really nothing more pitiful than sleeping on the bathroom floor, but I was literally too tired and achy to get up and walk 10 feet to my bed.

Laurel, for whatever reason, refused to sleep. M rocked her and fed her and patted her, and still she kept popping up every 20 minutes. She cried in her crib and cried out of her crib. She cried when we held her. We gave up trying to get her to sleep and she wandered around the house, bleary-eyed. We gave her tylenol and rubbed her belly and took her to the window to look at traffic. Nothing worked. Eventually she passed out lying face down on across my knees, gnawing at her hand and whimpering. I think a molar is coming through. (Have I mentioned how much I hate teething?)

M worked on his project until 4:30 in the morning. I started to feel better pretty quickly, although it took me about a half an hour to navigate the relatively simple call-off procedure to get a sub for the next day. Finally, we climbed into bed, bringing still fussy Laurel with us, who inexplicably took off her shirt before settling down next to me. That's weird on a few levels. When did she learn to undress herself?

When we woke up, we knew we needed intervention. The house was trashed and had a funny odor. My mom came to the rescue. She entertained Laurel while I got some rest this morning. Laurel is in much better spirits since she got to see her "Yia Yia". My mom cleaned up the disaster in the kitchen.

At least tomorrow's Friday.


My Fake Christmas List (Part II)

Ironic Christmas Present #2.

There is nothing that needs to be said about this item. Just watch the video.


My Fake Christmas List: A Series

Ironic Christmas Present Idea #1

We technically live in a very nice part of town. Walking distance to shopping, parks, a couple of decent schools. On a bus line. Big houses. Neighborhood organizations. Everything you want in urban living. However, there is a price to be paid for that kind of convenience, and if you can't pay the full price, you can just move to the very, very edge of the nice part of town. Here, you still can enjoy all the convenience, but in addition, have the added excitement of prostitution, drug dealing, and robbery. And you pray for gentrification. And spend a lot of time talking to the 911 dispatchers in the middle of the night.

Most people think you should reserve 911 for true emergencies, things that involve blood or screaming. However, when we had our free security screening from the community liaison police officer, he told us to always call if something seems weird, because 911 call logs are how they determine patrols. I can tell you from experience that getting calls like "There's a man standing on the corner across the street and a dog is barking like crazy at him" tend to annoy the 911 dispatchers. They, and rightly so, get a lot of calls that involve blood and screaming, and don't want the lines to be tied up by the crazy lady who is inexplicably up at all hours of the night calling 911 on people not obviously committing crimes. Nonetheless, they humor me and the police usually show up, shine their bright lights around and occasionally arrest someone. But usually the shady character takes off as soon as the cop car is within sight, and that's all I wanted anyway. Go away.

A Target is already under construction a mile down the road, and I won't need that silly door mat at this time next year, just you wait.


Laurel wants YOU....


Laurel and Sadie

Laurel and Sadie getting to know each other in Charlottesville over Thanksgiving.



I like Fridays. Instead of dashing about the house, cleaning bottles and cooking dinner and tripping over a toddler clinging to my leg, we can just play. Just sit. Just dance to the CD that Sarah made for Laurel for her birthday. Spend a half hour sitting on the great big radiator in the living room staring at cars going by outside.

Laurel's new favorite past-time is to gather random objects from around the house and bring them to me. "Deesh!" she says, as she proudly hands them to me and waits for a reaction.

I won't do anything special tonight. I won't stay up late or hang out with friends or go to a restaurant. I'll watch tv and go to bed early. And not set my alarm for 5:15.

And it will be awesome.


Happy Thanksgiving

A year ago, M and Laurel and I sat around the table with Jack for Thanksgiving dinner. I knew that I was supposed to be thankful for Laurel, but at the time she was this red-faced fussy little baby attached to my boobs 24-7. Not cute. Not quiet. Not easy.

This year is different. Gratitude smacks me upside the head several times a day. Watching Laurel toddle through the kitchen while I do dishes. Brushing our teeth together in the morning. Feeling that end-of-the-day sigh push out of her as she drapes her arms around my shoulders and lays her head down, ready for bed. Life is good, because of Laurel's presence. She doesn't make me happy, but she makes me pause and take stock of my life all the time. And when I look around, I realize that whatever teaching catastrophe or house repair or traffic jam is irritating me in the moment is largely inconsequential next to the nights out with my mama friends, and good food from our farmer, and an always-interesting husband. And of course a certain small human scampering around the house leaving a tell-tale path of destruction in her wake.

We have to post our photos from our Thanksgiving Charlottesville visit, but at the moment I can't find the CD they are on. I'm waiting for the plumber, and making calls to City Council about the abandoned property next door, and getting ready for the neighborhood holiday party and trying to remember what discrete math is. And radians. (Did I skip that week in tenth grade? I have zero recollection of some of these math concepts.) And that's a day "off" for a working mom.

The things that remain undone on my to-do list crush me like an avalanche. Some are minor and could be easily done, if only I had a spare 15 minutes (hem curtains on staircase window, schedule the last two IEP meetings at school, capture all remaining stinkbugs). Some are critical and should have been done ages ago, but require too much decision making and so they remain undone (write our will, pull down ivy from garage). Most fall somewhere in between and will probably be done by me in my mad dashings around the house after Laurel goes to sleep, but I still worry that I'll forget (feed the cat, plan dinners for the week, vacuum cheerios off living room rug). I compulsively write and manage lists on my smart phone. I do think that I am more productive because of it, but there's always more to be done. I never get to Done.

Other people do this, I know. And they probably have something better than peanut butter for dinner.

And so, I think that this year, what I am most grateful for are the things in life that melt away my anxiety. On our way to Charlottesville we pass through the Front Royal and just north of Shenandoah National Park. All I need to see is one 2"X4" white painted blaze on the side of the road to remind me...just keep walking...this little crap doesn't matter. The journey is the destination. That phrase appears on a lot of AT t-shirts and I used to think it was corny, but it's become a bit of a mantra.

M and K and L are going to be just fine if the stink bugs keep circling our living room ceiling. Peanut butter is plenty nutritious. Life will just keep happening whether I check things off or not.


A Peck O Dirt....

So, Laurel dropped her sandwich cracker on the ground at the playground and then picked it up and put it in her mouth. It definitely had some of those blue rubber pieces on it. Another mom (whom I did not know) saw The Incident, as I shall call it, and most definitely raised an eyebrow. Did I feel slightly judged? Yes, I did. I thought about shouting, "it's organic!" but decided that was besides the point entirely.

My friend Elaina sent me a link to this article about overparenting. I especially liked reading some of the comments. I mean, does crack cocaine hurt a fetus or not? And is whether you drank during pregnancy more or less of an impact on your kid than whether you hover over their homework?

I was thinking about this as we were doing our nightly post-bath-pre-bed-hide-and-go-seek fest on my bed. You see, Laurel recently learned to somersault on the bed. And last night she took a tumble off the bed and conked her head. I felt quite neglectful, as a parent. However, the room is carpeted and the mattress is on the floor, so perhaps she just learned a good lesson without suffering a concussion.

My dad always says you gotta eat a peck of dirt before you die, so I'm just going to chalk the dirty cracker up to that.


Mini Vacation, Musings and an Exciting Announcement

I took a couple of hours off on Saturday afternoon to do absolutely nothing related to wiping someone else's nose or butt, laundry, dishes, or the never-ending emotional counseling that ninth grade girls seem to require in order to learn math. (OMG. Lots of boyfriend drama in the ninth grade this week.)

Instead, I half-watched a couple of DVR'd episodes of Grey's Anatomy and drank a beer. It felt quite indulgent at 2 o'clock in the afternoon.

Periodically I page back through my blog entries, and it's notable how my tone changes over time.

Here's a funny one from '07...
Now it's time to get a job and a place to live. But don't worry...this won't turn into a blog where the answer to the question "what has become of m and k?" is "they moved to the 'burbs and now their only entertainment is paying HOA-violations for leaving the trash can out too long.

Nope...just way too much information about what cute thing my kid did yesterday!

And then there's this entry, about listening to hippos on the banks of the Nile River. What??!! I went to Africa? That seems like a lifetime ago.

Anything I wrote before Laurel's birth is in such contrast to how Laurel's birth actually went. In an entry from July '09 about our hospital tour, I liken Magee Hospital to the Hampton Inn and write:
I was greatly relieved to hear that they really do promote a natural approach to birth, and that unless I specifically request it, my labor need not resemble a bad episode of TLC's Birth Day. That is, I will be free to walk around, sit in a jacuzzi, and drink when I am thirsty. There won't be a crowd of doctors and nurses yelling "push!" - which was seriously my worst nightmare since we found out I was pregnant. I wish we did not have cable then, because I watched a lot of Discovery Channel and they really make labor and birth look truly awful.

Ha! I had no idea what was coming my way.

Life...then and now. There's a scene in Away We Go, where one of the friends they're visiting talks about parenting and love and how it's awesome, but you blink and it's five a.m. and you know you are going to be tired all day, all week, the rest of your life. I agree! And yet, life seems so much richer with Laurel around. Even though we're going around the block, instead of to Africa.

Anyway, while I was sitting there, I started thinking about Christmas and traditions and I thought, gee...I would really love to brew up a giant pot of wassail and chat with all my favorite people over the delicious smorgasboard that always appears when we have a party (we have some amazing cooks among our friends and family).

So, December 18. Starts at 5. Come one, come all.



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Laurel says "baba" when she wants something to drink, presumably meaning bottle? She figured out how to drag her pull toys around without tripping on the string. Her favorite game is "put this thing in a box and then take it out". As I type this and sip my coffee on a Saturday morning, I just watched her take her favorite book (Foil Fun ABCs) over to the sofa, climb up on the sofa with book in hand and then lay back on some pillows and start to page through it. I love that she can entertain herself.

And have I mentioned the potty? She pees on it several times a day. Even pooped in it a couple of times.

There were many times over the past year where time seemed to be moving very slowly. I thought it would always be 3 am and I would always be tired and Laurel would always be crying. But then I woke up one day and she was a toddler and the three of us were giggling in bed together on a Saturday morning.


Dear Staples Customers and Staff,

I'm sorry.

When I brought my newly-walking one year old into your store today, I did not anticipate that her eyes would light up like I had taken her to the circus and she would pull down every single one of your 1/2 inch binders and lay them carefully on the floor.

I had no idea that she would move on to the packages of brightly colored tabs and select two of the packages that I did not wish to purchase. I did not know that she would resist all attempts to direct, and then distract in order to get her to let go of said packages. I did not know that forcefully removing them from her tightly clenched hands would cause her to howl and shriek so loudly my ears rang.

I probably should have anticipated her insistence in holding my debit card, and her loud protests when I had to borrow it for approximately 7 seconds in order to swipe it through the machine. Now I know that she wishes to walk herself and not be carried and will contort her body in some mysterious way that makes her not-quite-twenty-pounds feel like a hundred and twenty.

And I will now be better prepared for escapes across the parking lot. I'm getting good at balancing purse, keys and a bag of groceries while capturing a tiny, running human, and then wrestling that tiny human into her car seat. To all the customers in the parking lot at Staples....I can assure you that a DNA test would prove this child is my own flesh and blood, lest you think that I was trying to kidnap her. She was definitely giving off a HELP!-ALERT!-NO!-NO!-NO! kind of vibe.

And most importantly, I vow to now carry plenty of Trader Joe's cinnamon flavored alphabet cookies in order to bribe my precious daughter through the mundane errands of daily life.


A Tired Mom


How to Feed Your Baby

There is a lot written on baby care. You may remember my frustration with the sleep books. Food is another hot topic in baby care. As in the case of all things baby, people have very strong opinions, so I think it's best to take the literature (and the websites) with a grain of salt. The way baby books and websites and message boards are written, one would think that you could permanently damage your baby by accidently feeding her strawberries before her first birthday. And while food allergies can be a serious matter, I think feeding, like sleeping, is another area where it's best to pay attention to your baby's cues.

Laurel has teeth now...7 in the front and a couple of molars in the back. I have been working on weaning her since I went back to work and now I generally only nurse her two or three times a day. We pack bottles of formula for her to drink at daycare, but she will usually only drink one or two 4 oz. bottles. Compared to her baby friends, she has always eaten a lot less solid foods. She shows a lot of interest and wants to try what you are having, but until very recently, so little would end up in her mouth that I could hardly worry about the nutritional value of it. Things are changing. She's getting better at feeding herself. She used a fork (kind of) at my mom's house last week! It was a very small fork, and she mostly used it for stirring.

So far, we know that Laurel loves cheese, bread, sweet potatoes, carrots, peas, yogurt, mango, and pasta. She loved eating rice with a peanut-y Thai curry sauce this weekend. She ate bowl after bowl of minestrone soup last week. Naturally cake is now at the top of her list, with all the birthday celebrations lately. I am incredibly paranoid about choking hazards, but obviously from this picture, Laurel can handle lots of "big people" foods. She ate the whole slice.
Cold Pizza

So far, she's pretty much a vegetarian. I give her tofu and eggs for protein. I tried to give her some cow's milk, which she absolutely hated. I think she almost threw up, actually, she was gagging so hard. So maybe we'll try soy milk. At this point, she's eating pretty much what we eat. If it's too hard for her to chew it, we grind it up in the baby food mill.


When does a baby turn into a toddler? And, will she one day be a teenager?

Laurel is looking very girl-like these days. Her baby cheeks have melted away and her hair is starting to grow longer.

Yesterday we went to the playground to meet Kai and Sarah, and Sarah's sister and nephew, Oscar, who must be about 6 months older than Kai and Laurel. No longer can we leisurely chat and sip tea while babies roll around and coo ...instead we shout at each other over the slide and have piecemeal conversations while scooping up runaway toddlers about to dive headlong off the jungle gym. Sarah is one of those people who always seems absolutely delighted by babies. She sings and laughs and chases and cuddles and looks thrilled to be doing so. (Not that I'm a baby hater or anything, but I had a kid who yelled for the first 3 1/2 months of life, has slept through the night exactly 4 times, and had 3 ear infections in the last four months. Delight is not always on the forefront of my mind when I think of babies. It's not exactly been a Gerber commercial.)

Anyway, hanging out with Sarah reminds me to take delight in Laurel, because of course, there are many things to be delighted about.

1. Walking. I bought her a pair of shoes. They were ridiculously expensive, and I am slightly embarrassed by the purchase, but dang, does she look cute in them. She toddles around the house barefoot most times, but it's cold outside, and often damp, so I wanted to give her something that would keep her feet dry in the park.
2. Eating. She ate a piece of pizza for breakfast. We went out to dinner the other night and she went to town on a bowl of lentil soup and pita breads with baba ganoush. No more baby food for Laurel...she wants the good stuff!
3. Pooping. Ok, not in and of itself. I don't care what they say about not being bothered by your own kid's poop. It's still nasty. You just do it because you have to (like getting up in the night...never gets easier, but you stop thinking about how life was before.) We bought a potty chair a couple of weeks ago and she likes to sit on it sometimes. And yesterday she pooped and peed in it! Not that she's anywhere near potty trained, but she was really excited about it.
4. Music. Laurel loves to jam out on the piano and guitar. Now that she can stand up, she does funny little bouncing dance moves. I love watching her dance while M plays the guitar.


She's feeling better!

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Ear Infection!

Poor Laurel has a pretty nasty ear infection. I have to say, I was not surprised, although she wasn't really showing signs of ear pain until last night. Ear infection means yet another course of antibiotics, and this time it's stronger, chalky white, and clearly disgusting. Yay. I can't wait to wrestle Laurel twice a day for the next 9 days.

Last night was awful. She was up every hour, didn't want to lie in her bed. Or our bed. Or sit in my lap. She took tiny spoonfuls of ice water and cried and cried. By my best calculations I think I slept for maybe two hours all night. Total. And not in a row. The weird thing was that the fatigue didn't really hit me. All day at work I was thinking, I should be more tired. I crashed on the couch the second Laurel went to bed and slept hard all through the Steeler game. I woke up oddly refreshed around 11:30 and caught the last 40 seconds. (It was exciting. We won.)

Tomorrow I'm going to stay home with her, which is why I am ok with being awake at 12:52 am. Napping is definitely in my plan, although I will also work on reigning in the chaos that descends upon one's house when there is illness. Clean laundry piled up on every flat surface in my bedroom. Bedsheets in need of changing. A bathtub begging to be scrubbed.

Watching your kid get sick is one of the worst things about parenting. I hated holding Laurel while she whimpered through her fever this weekend. Usually picking her up is the cure-all for anything that makes her cry. This time I couldn't make her feel better without an array of bottles of sticky liquid medicine, and even that wasn't so effective. Having a sick kid makes me want to quit my job immediately. It's hard to remember that although daycare can be a hotbed of germs, it's also not the only place for germs. Even if I stay home with her, she could -and would- still pick up something at the park, the library, the grocery store...riding on the bus, etc.

Before bed tonight, she played with her birthday presents and we had an exciting game of hide and go seek. Her impish little grin appeared on her face again. She ate some cheerios. I would love it if this would be the last ear infection, but this is number three in four months, so my guess is that we have a visit to an ENT in our future.


Birth Day Musings

Laurel's birthday was exactly the way her whole life has been so far...which is to say, what happened is not what I expected. We had planned a party. Nothing outrageous, but I imagined her playing with some of her baby friends, while us adults mingled over wine and seven-layer dip, and laughed about the funnier moments of the last year. We were going to bake pumpkin cupcakes. There would be a tasteful number of balloons and perhaps some party hats.

None of that happened, of course. Miss Sue called me in the middle of teaching a lesson on absolute value and subtracting positive and negative integers with the news that Laurel had a fever of 102.5. And it just keeps getting worse. Today it was 103.2. She's absolutely miserable. We bundled her up in the stroller and took her to toy store in Squirrel Hill so she could at least pick out her birthday present. She picked a set of maracas, by the way, despite M's efforts to get her to choose a set of fake wooden vegetables. She actually seemed to enjoy that and we hope that will become an annual birthday tradition. We took lots of naps during the rest of the day, and decided that we might try singing the birthday song tomorrow, because she was in no mood for it today.

It's going to be another long night.

In a way, it sort of sums up the past year. Sleepless nights, change in plans. Endless hours of rocking, bouncing, soothing. M said to me that he felt very sad about Laurel's birthday turning out this way. Disappointed. Even though she doesn't really know what a birthday is yet, much less that it's hers, it would still be nice to have the cake-smashing photos.

Despite all that, we spent a large part of the day enjoying time together, just the three of us. We looked at photos from the past year with Laurel, and explained what a birthday was, over and over. She showed off her walking skills and shook her new maracas with great enthusiasm.

In a way, it's my birthday, too. But motherhood was not something that happened to me suddenly on November 6, 2009. I eased into it during the course of the past year, and now it's a part of me that I'll never shed, no matter how old Laurel gets. Three words that sum up this past year? Patience. Stamina. Joy. I never knew I could sleep this little, and still wake up happily to a 6:00am tickle-fest.

One Year


Halloween 2010


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Happy Birthday, Laurel

An unexpected call from Miss Sue from daycare yesterday led to me skipping out of work early to pick up a feverish Laurel. We decided to cancel the birthday party so as not to spread her germs around to all her friends. But first birthdays MUST be celebrated...so we bundled her up and walked to the toy store so she could pick out her birthday present. She picked maracas and the book, the wheels on the bus go round and round. Once she's feeling better we'll sing and eat birthday pumpkin pie.

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Laurel plays piano

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Labor Day

A year ago today I felt the first pangs of labor. I was already over a week past my due date, so it was a great relief to feel something. I was tired of hearing the endless advice to eat-spicy-food-drink-wine-walk-like-a-duck-have-sex. We had been to the midwives and Emily scheduled my induction for the following Monday. I had a procedure done called "sweeping the membrane" (you don't want the details on that one, trust me). I had an ultrasound. I was hanging out in M's office when I felt a shift from general crampiness into rhythmic contractions. He drove us home. I remember the mood as being celebratory. We played MarioKart and ordered a Salvatore's pizza. Almost 3 days would pass before we would see Laurel face to face, but those first few hours were exactly how I always pictured labor to be....M massaging my back, hot showers, quiet music, and the most energizing feeling of anticipation...a thousand Christmas Eves all at once.


Halloween Pictures

Trick or Treat!

We only had about 20 trick or treaters this year, down from about a hundred last year. I think the cold weather and Steeler game kept a lot of people closer to home. Only one of our trick or treaters was an actual panhandling grown man, which is pretty good for our 'hood. Anyway, I've never been a huge fan of Halloween. I don't really like dressing up, and I spend too much time with ungrateful children during the work week to want to see them lined up outside my door begging for candy during my free time. M called me a curmudgeon more than once this weekend as I voiced my opposition to this holiday.

However, after tonight, I must officially change my stance. Halloween is awesome.

M's mom (the infamous Grandma Cake) was born on Halloween, so she came down to our house for birthday cake and to pass out candy. We dressed Laurel up in her Eeyore costume and she toddled about the house. We didn't really have a plan for trick or treating, since she's too young to eat candy, but once she was dressed up, we couldn't resist showing her off to some of the neighbors. M took her to a couple of houses and they came home with a small bag of loot, and Laurel was gripping a Milky Way that she refused to let go all evening (it got really warm and mushy and I threw it out after she went to bed.) Laurel thought dressing up was fun. She couldn't figure out why our doorbell kept ringing, although she did wave to the trick or treaters. She loved walking around the house, and liked walking in the leaves even more. And man, did she like that somebody gave her a Milky Way.

Stay tuned for another blog post about the Rally to Restore Sanity, and we have tons of pictures to share. For now...here's a video of our almost-one-year-old on Halloween.


Not one picture?

I must ask you to imagine a two and a half foot tall human gleefully finding herself upright, of her own volition, for the first time in her existence. (I do have a video of the historic event, don't worry. However, it's stuck on my phone and I don't know how to get it off and my precious computer time is better spent on the Plato Learning Lab Praxis software, since I need to take my math teacher certification sometime in the next six months.)

Laurel is walking! Today M helped her walk into daycare and she was greeted by cheers! (This is how I know we have a good daycare.) He said she seemed very proud of herself, and it must have done something to her disposition, because she was pleasant at daycare all day and even took two naps. Yesterday she discovered grilled cheese at Big Jim's in the Run, while we were treated to an unexpected visit from Caveman of Ohio. Danna made a ridiculous amount of pumpkin roll this weekend, and there's still cups and cups of pumpkin leftover. I see a pie in our future, if Laurel doesn't end up eating it all for lunch this week.

We also neglected to take a single picture of a very nice party to celebrate M's grandparents in Saint Marys, PA. Hopefully the cousins will post some photos.

I'm beat tired and feeling the end-of-the-grading-period slump. I had a very unproductive conversation about subtracting negative integers with Period 7 today. I do not look forward to ten thousand conversations with parents who will suddenly be concerned about their offsprings' avoidance of homework completion, and who will, no doubt, argue with me about 1. My syllabus (which is why it's intentionally vague), 2. The grading policy (determined by the district - not my fault!) or 3. My accommodations of special education students (thoroughly and lovingly documented in color-coded detail...I did my part to ensure your child had access to a Free and Appropriate Public Education.)

Anyway...hot cider on a cold and wet autumn night, with a baby sleeping upstairs and a husband quietly studying in the other room is awfully comforting. There's no place I'd rather be at the moment.


Working Mom, Part 2

A lot of the blogging about being a working mom is on the negative side, and I will admit that I've been in a this-job-is-stupid-and-I-want-to-quit kind of a funk for the past few days. But today, I was thinking about all the good things that have been added to my life since I started working.

Nothing beats the way Laurel greets me at the end of the day when I pick her up, and I'm surprised at how good it feels to have other adults get to know her. Watching her daycare teachers figure out her personality and hearing them talk about her first steps or learning to wave with a sense of pride boosts me up a little each day. Miss Sue and I are currently bonding over our shared struggle to get Laurel to sleep.

M and I are starting to get organized. We lived something of a carefree life before Laurel joined us, and while I wouldn't trade those experiences for anything, we did feel a bit scattered from time to time. Getting organized is more than just knowing what's for dinner. We know what needs to be done in a day (even if we don't always get it done). Nobody runs out of underwear. My car always has enough gas in it. (That never happened before...I used to drive so infrequently that I paid no attention to the gas gauge and ran out of gas on more than one occasion.)

M and I are also starting to live more purposefully. We have an idea of where we'd like to be in a few years. Putting Laurel in daycare was not an easy decision for us, and we didn't want to do it unless it was actually going to make things better for our family. Going to work is more than just getting a paycheck, every dollar I earn gets us closer to a better life.


That's a lotta candles!

My grandpa just turned 81! We went down to Rices Landing and had dinner with him and grandma and my Uncle Tom and Aunt Donna, and of course, the mayor, Ryan. (My cousin Ryan inspired me to get a little civic-minded myself, so I just decided to run for the board of my neighborhood association. Seriously. Ryan is not even out of college yet, and has taken the initiative to clean things up in his town. The least I can do is volunteer a little bit in my neighborhood.) It was a really fun afternoon and Laurel entertained us all with her "walking"...also described as "controlled falling". We watched the Steeler game and ate birthday cake and looked at Grandpa's tomatoes. Even Danna was with us, so the whole family was together, which is a rather unusual event. Happy Birthday, Grandpa!

Today was the birthday of another grandmother, Norine. She died in February of last year, but I remember her every time I sing Laurel's middle name. Today, I was also thinking about salada tea and sitting at her kitchen table.

And in another couple of weeks, we'll be celebrating a birthday with ONE candle! That's right, Laurel is almost a year old!


She said WHAT???!!!

I totally want to write a post about a parent phone call I received this week. However, as I am a professional who takes seriously her obligation to protect the confidentiality of her students, I will refrain.

Instead I will tell you about a story that involves sleep, beer, blood and a pumpkin patch. My weekend so far.

My mom offered to watch Laurel overnight and I finally took her up on it. Of course Laurel was fine and actually slept for an eight hour stretch. I had a very nice dinner cooked by my sister, who is in Pittsburgh visiting right now, and then we all went out for a few beers and to watch the hockey game. But the best part was that when we came home, we went to bed and slept. And slept, and slept and slept. I slept in until 7:30 and dang, it felt good.

The blood part came when Laurel slipped and hit her mouth off the coffee table. Nothing is worse than seeing your kid's blood. She's fine, but has a big fat lip. Laurel has been a real dare-devil, pretty much since she started moving and I have a feeling I'm going to be experiencing a few more heart-stopping moments like this. She's on the brink of walking. She'll cruise along the furniture and occasionally take a step or two in between holding on to something. But she has absolutely no fear of falling. Today she started scampering up the steps, not crawling, but by standing and hanging on to the spindles on the banister! We had a visit from Grandpa Curly today, and he can attest to Laurel's mischievous ways.

Anyway, we celebrated fall by going up to Sorgel's Farm, which was predictably a madhouse, but still fun. We picked a pumpkin and sampled nuts and bought some cider and apples. Laurel was impressed by the tractor but not the horses. I don't think she understood the corn maze. The weather was beautiful and Danna took some photos that I hope to post later.

The weekend is only half over, though. What other fun and excitement will come my way before it's time to head back to the land of school bells and detention slips?


walking in autumn

Love this weather!
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Working Mom

Laurel...well, let's just say she's experimenting with asserting herself. This involves a lot of screaming. Diaper changes become wrestling matches. Bathtime is a battle to keep her from standing up and subsequently falling down (I tried once to just bathe her while she was standing up, but this resulted in too much slippage for the baby and near-heart-attacks for the mama). She insists on feeding herself, so she finishes every meal with food smeared all over her face and hair. She roars and gnashes her teeth and clenches her little fists and shouts. I can only imagine what words will come out once she's more verbal, although perhaps language will help her to feel less frustrated and she won't feel the need to race around the house yelling like a banshee.

Of course, she's still a little baby at heart, so she tends to want to crawl up in my lap for a hug moments after she's given me the baby equivalent of the finger.

I'm not sure I really have this Working Mom thing under control. We coast along pretty well as long as everything goes according to plan. But one unanticipated meeting or sudden illness or plumbing problem and it all goes to hell. I guess I should be happy that everybody is well fed and we've not run out of clean underwear, but let me tell you when I fell down the basement steps tonight while I was scurrying around to get the garbage out to the curb, and coffee grounds spilled all over the place and I banged my forearm and twisted my back, I just sat there and cried...stunned and defeated. I probably would have sat there and cried for a good long while, but my sister happens to be in town and when she came to see what happened we both just started laughing, and she swept up the coffee grounds and everything was ok again.



Loud. Food. Hugs. Beer. Laughter. Joy. Siblings.
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Game time

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Grandpa Curly and Grandma Cake (And Aunt Mary!)

We went to visit M's family yesterday, since our planned visit last weekend didn't work out on account of Laurel's ear infection/cold/general malaise. She's feeling much better, although she has a troubling cough. Troubling to me, that is. Our pediatrician, Dr. Carl, reassured me that babies get colds, colds take a few weeks to clear up, and it's all perfectly normal.

This latest bout of illness, along with some teething has made for sleepless nights for M and me. However, as Laurel nears her first birthday, which is just over a month away, I am confident that she will start sleeping all night. Any day now. The good thing is, I work with high school students, who are also very tired during the day. We get along great.


Anyway, it was a beautiful drive out to the country where they live. The leaves are starting to change color. On the way there, we saw a half dozen turkeys meandering through a corn field. Laurel was extremely interested in Mary's cat, Belle, who is the tiniest cat I've ever seen. Belle was fairly accommodating and let Laurel pet her.

Laurel had a great time playing with the blocks that Grandma Cake brought out, and Grandpa Curly fed her cheese and crackers. Mary got her some cute Halloween socks, although Laurel promptly took them off. We ate some delicious zucchini, and headed home just as the sun was setting.



Prachi hosted an Iron Chef dinner party and the secret ingredient was...eggplant.

It was a long week. A very long week. I had to work late two nights, Laurel didn't sleep too well, and she bit me. It kind of sucked, actually. There's something about getting up from a sound sleep two or three times a night that eats away at your sanity. (And your ability to do math...not good for a math teacher.) As for the biting, well, infant teeth are really freakin' sharp when they first poke through. Laurel drew blood. We're obviously trying to teach her not to bite, but consider yourself warned; if she looks like she's coming in for a kiss, she may have other intentions.

Funny how eggplant served twelve ways can make you feel better about everything. Or maybe it's the fellowship with other moms. Or cuddling another baby. Or wine. Who cares? Whatever it was, it made me feel good. Good enough to run a 10K tomorrow? I certainly hope so, because I am registered for the Great Race.

The food was absolutely delicious at this dinner party. Eggplant was featured prominently in everything, but oddly, I was not tired of it by the end of the meal. There was the noise and chaos that comes along with throwing together lots of small children, just a little too close to bedtime. Mark worked all afternoon stuffing eggplant with couscous. Enjoy the pictures, but be warned...they may make you hungry!

baby fort

Here's a couple of almost toddlers.
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It's been really hot here this week, but Autumn is definitely in the air and crunchy colorful leaves are underfoot. Saturday morning brought some cooler weather and my curtains are billowing in the breeze. That's one of my favorite things...billowing curtains. Living on such a busy street means we often keep our windows closed up. No billowing. But today is Saturday so the traffic is light.

Yesterday we did one of my other favorite things and hung out with some babies and mamas. At one point Andrew, Laurel and Noam crawled into the "baby fort" i.e. behind one of the living room chairs and it hit me all of a sudden that the baby stage is ending and toddlerhood is just around the corner.

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testing, testing, 123

I'm trying out my new phone to blog. I' m not a fan of the touchscreen keyboard for blogging purposes, but otherwise it's pretty cool to have the internet everywhere I go. Next I need to figure out how to post images because Laurel's new toothy grin is totally awesome.

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More Updates, Less Posts?

Tomorrow M will start his new job. Since he is losing the perk of having a cell phone from work, we had to get him a new one. You are probably saying, "why M and K, that sounds like a perfect time for an upgrade." Well, that's what we told ourselves anyway. Although our hearts were set on iPhones, we ended up with HTC Evo's. This is the most gadget-y, high-tech device I have ever owned. In general I am opposed to spending large sums of money on devices that will be rendered useless if accidentally dropped in the toilet, especially with a ten-month-old around. However, I actually think the Evo will simplify my life. I can check my personal email from anywhere, share calendars with M, keep a shopping list, check my bank account, and probably a dozen other practical tasks I haven't discovered yet. I know a lot of you have been doing these things from your phones for several years, but all my previous phones, as my sister put it, barely made phone calls.

These phones also take pretty amazing pictures and videos, and I can upload them right from the phone. I have less time to write actual blog posts, but you can expect more video and photos now that I don't have to drag out USB cables and a computer to upload them.

School is going pretty well. I'm busy, but not stressed. It's challenging to be working with special education students, teaching a content area that I'm not familiar with, and writing a new curriculum. But I have helpful colleagues, a supportive administration, and plenty of resources.


Not quite morning...

The schoolbuses are chugging through the intersection outside, and I am somehow dressed and ready to go already, waiting on the coffee to brew. Is it morning if it's still dark? I prefer a life that follows the sun a little more closely. Laurel woke up at 4:55 today, making it to within 20 minutes of my alarm. In a few minutes I'll be in the car on my way out of the city, travel mug in hand. (You may recall that I once pledged to never again live a life where travel mugs were necessary part of the morning routine..."I'm finishing my coffee...")

There will be papers to grade and detentions to write. I will probably have at least one moment of panic at the whiteboard where I think I've forgotten how to calculate the mean, and then will realize that it's all fine and everything up there makes sense. My days at school pass quickly, I think because I have a really nice schedule. Teach four classes, lunch, prep, teach, prep, teach, go home. Laurel and I will be reunited and hopefully we'll go for a run this afternoon, since I'm signed up to run a 10K in two weeks.

Coffee's done!


Saturday Brunch

Man, I love these babies and mamas. I know I've said this before, but I don't think I would have survived the first few months of motherhood without these ladies. Not that Mark wasn't helpful, but sometimes you just need to sit around with some other women and chat over tea. Or have somebody else cuddle your fussy newborn while you go to the bathroom. Commiserate over sleepless nights and celebrate joyful milestones. Yes, it is very helpful when a half dozen babies are born right in your neighborhood within a few months of each other.

Babies Now and Then

They actually play with each other now, compared to the first time we arranged them on the couch and they looked like little lumps. Well "play" might be a stretch....they mostly just snatch toys off each other, while competing for attention from us by doing incredibly cute things.

And when the dads get involved? Well, it gets a little crazier...

It's fascinating to watch your own child develop, but it's even more amazing to watch a whole gang of babies grow up. Their personalities are so distinctive, and I can tell who is crying from another room, just by the sound of their voices. A couple of the kids are already walking and they'll all be there before we know it. Gone are the days when we could just line them up on the couch or floor while they dozed. When we all get together now it can only be described as chaos. Even if everything is going pretty well, one baby is falling on something, another two are play tug-of-war over a toy and the rest are either whining or babbling. It's impossible not to smile.

Constant Motion
If there was a theme to life these days it would be constant motion. The babies, us chasing the babies, us trying to get stuff done when the babies are sleeping, etc.

Laurel "Walks"


Laurel's "Stats"

We took Laurel for a well-baby check up today and she is doing great...29 1/2 inches long and 18.4 pounds. That's 90th percentile for height and 30th for weight, which makes her one long and lean baby. She was fairly well-behaved (can ten month olds "behave"?) at the doctor's office, but pulled her usual antics when getting into the car seat today. We made her appointment for her one year check up and I just couldn't believe that we are coming up on that milestone.

A year ago I had no clue what was coming my way. (For the record, I still have no idea.) I think the most interesting thing about parenting is that the game changes so often. Once you think you have a system figured out your kid goes and changes somehow and needs things to be done a different way. We get by through trial and error. Today I discovered that a drowsy Laurel can be turned into a sleeping Laurel by playing some Ol' Dirty Bastard. Now, who would have ever guessed that? I think I'm going to make a CD compilation of all the crazy songs that lull my crazy little baby to sleep.

Laurel's sleeping a lot better these days, on account of the less restful napping that she gets at daycare. I might be concerned about this except for the first time she's consistently sleeping for 11 or 12 hours at night and waking up only once or twice. This is a remarkable improvement from the "9 month teething related sleep regression" which was basically a continuation of the "4 month sleep regression" which was actually a lot better than the "2 month colicky-don't-sleep-at-all phase". I think it will take me a couple of months to really recover from the level of sleep deprivation I have been suffering. And once I do, I think I will write a book about all the things no one warns you will happen when you invite a small human being into your home.

Not that it's all bad. A lot of it's hilarious...like watching her trying to grasp slippery bits of kiwi from her high chair tray, or eavesdropping on guitar lessons with daddy. Some of it is heart-warming...I love, love, love that we have story time every night in our house, snuggled up together with Laurel carefully turning the pages of board books that are already wearing down in places. Every day is action-packed...Laurel is constantly attempting to dive off some high surface, or finding rocks that look like cheerios that somehow escaped the vacuum cleaner. Jumping is her favorite activity and yelling while jumping is even better than just plain old jumping. Life is good in a whole new way that I could have never imagined.


Daycare and Weaning and Weekends

It's nice to have a three day weekend following the first week of school. There have been so many changes lately, and it was nice to just hang out with my family for a few days. However, it raised a new question for me...do you keep the work week schedule on the weekends? It's more a problem for breastfeeding than for sleep. Before I started working Laurel was fed on demand. She was kind of a snacker and would nurse for short periods of time every hour or two. Obviously this worked because we were together all the time. Now, she eats larger amounts, a great deal more solid food, and nursing has been reduced to perhaps 4 times in a 24 hour period. But this weekend, I found myself falling back into old habits and nursing her a little more. We also slept in (woot!).

So my question is...do you try to keep your weekday and workday schedules the same? Or do kids learn to adjust back and forth between them?


First Fridays

Today was the first Friday that was really a Friday...you know, the kind of day that you long for all week, and it has a celebratory nature when it finally arrives. First Friday means a concert at the Frick Mansion, where we picnicked with a gaggle of babies and their accompanying parents. Kai is walking. Niam is crawling. Teddy is looking cuter than ever. And Laurel took delight in the whole scene and kept trying to steal somebody's sandwich. We barely noticed the music, but that was hardly the point. The telling comment of the night was "we'll never get them all in one photo again."

My first week of high school reminded me a lot of well, my first week of high school. Why anyone thinks it's a good idea to wake teenagers at the crack of dawn and gather them in large numbers in windowless buildings is a mystery to me. And why we require them to get up and move in great mobs through the building every 40 minutes is an even greater mystery. But I digress.

So far, this job is the best job I've ever had, which says loads more about previously held jobs than this one. They were so compliant. They follow directions. They abide by social norms. I witnessed no fights, was not threatened, and none of my property was destroyed.

Of course, they can also be a tad sassy, a bit chatty, and question absolutely everything you do. But that's the charm of teenagers, after all. We're still feeling each other out. What I love about school is the time apart. You get them for 40 minutes and then have a whole day to sort out what you learned about each other, or maybe a whole weekend.

I have a feeling that I will really look forward to Fridays from now on, even as much as a I enjoy the rest of the week.


The Fantasy of Good Night Moon

Parents love Goodnight Moon. I think a lot of people of my generation (and many before me) remember it as a first book, and it's one of the first things we read to our own babies. I read it to Laurel almost every night when she was 2 or 3 months old. She would sit propped up in my lap and really looked like she was paying attention. Then she started to wave her arms at the pages, and eventually learned to turn them. Now she has tons of books and when she's playing by herself, she often pulls her favorites off the shelf. She's pretty good at turning the pages all by herself!

We're getting used to this crazy new schedule we have. In addition to me starting work this week, M also started graduate school, and has class at night once a week. Normally he is the one to read to Laurel and rock her to sleep. Tonight, after her bath, she crawled to the top of the stairs and stood up next to the gate and called for her daddy. It was one of the cutest things I've ever seen. Luckily Laurel is pretty adaptable and let me read to her tonight. I picked Good Night Moon because so much in our lives is new and changing and uncertain.

While I was reading it, I realized that I love not just the calming patterns of the rhymes and the illustrations that grow slowly darker as the book goes on. I love the idea of an old lady whispering hush. It rings of days gone by when middle class folk like myself could afford Help. Someone to rock down the baby in the evening while parents had cocktails and played cards with friends. (Or hell, maybe just did a load of laundry. Or ate something more than bread and cheese for dinner.) I was reading a Sue Barton book at my mom's house the other day and Sue had a live-in cook/nanny kind of lady who loved her children and sometimes brought her breakfast in bed.

Now I know way-back-when was not really like that for everyone because my grandmother raised five kids born in rapid succession without much help, as far as I know. Maybe she read Good Night Moon with a similar longing for an old lady whispering hush.

This week the topic of night weaning has come up with my mama friends. Laurel wins in the category of Most Night Awakenings (for nine months straight - way to go Laurel), but all of them battle this in one way or another. It depresses me that many children do not sleep through the night until 15 months, or later and this is totally normal!

Anyway, she's sleeping peacefully right now, after a very long day filled with lots of excitement and friends at daycare, and then a walk in Frick Park and some romping with Kai. Maybe tonight my Good Night Moon fantasy will come true and we will all sleep soundly until morning.


So close to standing....


Sunday, Bloody Sunday....

Ok, that's being a bit melodramatic. But Laurel did suffer her first major boo-boo while visiting my grandparents today. She smashed her mouth on the coffee table and got a split lip. Luckily, she was soon distracted by the dozen or so battery-powered toys my grandmother had scored at yard sale. (Seriously though, M and I later agreed that both our hearts skipped a beat when we realized she was bleeding.)

We had a lovely visit in Rices Landing, and snapped a few pictures. I'm trying to take some video of Laurel's attempts at standing - she's daringly letting go and balancing on her own for a few seconds. However, I don't have anything good yet, so stay tuned.


I did it!

I ran my first 5K race today and I rocked it. Not by going fast, which I am not, but by nicely pacing myself and pushing a little at the end. I feel good about achieving a very tangible goal and am grateful for M's encouragement, and also to Grandpa Curly and Grandma Cake for babysitting L during the race.

Now it's the weekend and we already did things like take a nap and eat giant omelettes with Margaret's eggs and homemade salsa. Tonight we may venture out to see some friends. Tomorrow we're going to Rices Landing to visit some family. In between all the relaxing and visiting, I'm hoping to get a few things put together for Monday, and chop down that weird tree that is growing out of the garage (this home ownership stuff has some weird jobs from time to time).


"If you aren't ready, just fake it."

That's what my principal said to us yesterday as we had one final faculty meeting before freshman orientation. What he meant was not to worry if your bulletin boards weren't finished; they would be too excited/nervous/terrified to notice. And you know what? He was right.

This whole going-back-to-work thing happened suddenly. I'm faking everything these days, because I'm just not ready. Not ready to teach algebra, not ready to leave my baby for eight hours a day, not ready get up every day at 5am. And I'm definitely not ready to run my first 5K race tomorrow morning! Whew! What was I thinking?

Laurel is moments away from standing on her own. She's been pulling herself up for a while, but she's getting a little more daring and letting go for a few seconds. She's eating up a storm, especially if M seasons her food or gives her things like goat cheese. And prunes. Boy does she love prunes. (As the person who launders the cloth diapers, I am not so much in favor of them, however.)

Come Monday morning, I'm going to have a full schedule of ninth grade math. Laurel will start daycare. M is starting a new semester of graduate school. All of us may be faking it a little bit to get through the day. But life is moving in a generally good direction.


Guitar Lesson


I Miss It Already

Or, possibly, I'm afraid of change. My tenure as a stay-at-home mom is ending. Like tonight. I'll be reporting to my new job tomorrow at 7:30 am. My new job is high school math teacher, which is just weird, but I'm kind of excited about it anyway. I like math. Or I did back in 1998, which was the last time I took an advanced level math course. I thought I got an A, but I had to gather up my transcripts for the HR department, and it turns out I got a B.

I had all but given up hope of landing a job for this school year and was really starting to settle in as homemaker. Not that I'm particularly good at it, but we always have toilet paper and the floors are swept on a regular basis. And Laurel seemed happy. But there are property taxes and an aging roof and the prospect of private school tuition looming in the rapidly approaching future, so off I go. Not to mention an advanced degree and a talent for teaching that ought to be used.

When M and I first got back from the AT, he got a job and I spent the days at his parents house, crafting a memoir I never published. My heart ached for him all day long, because for over a year we had spent most days and every night within physical reach of each other. Laurel and I have a similarly close physical relationship at this point, and I'm packing tissue in my purse, because I know I'll be crying for her in the bathroom shortly after the 10am coffee break.

Laurel will likely be fine. She's going to spend the day with my Uncle Bob and Aunt Cathy and my cousins. She'll probably be thinking, "Wow this is great, no more boring mommy, and having to ride around in the backpack while she does housework."

Wish me luck!


Summer Produce

This is why I am glad we get our eggs here.

We are eating so much delicious food these days. I was always unenthusiastic about tomatoes. I would take them off my sandwich before I ate it. I think it's because it's easy to get a mealy, pink, anemic tomato in a lot of places.

The tomatoes we are eating now are amazing. Big, meaty, slicer tomatoes that go perfectly on a fresh, home-baked baguette with smoked gouda and tempeh.




Laurel has her first ear infection! I don't know if I should feel bad for her, or if I should feel bad for me. She spent all last night yelling loudly unless I held her upright in my arms, while walking around the bedroom. This is very exhausting work for a mama who wanted a good night's sleep before a big job interview. Luckily, M took a half day and took Laurel to the doctor's, so I could properly primp myself. Now we have to hold Laurel down twice a day and squirt a vile, pink liquid down her throat. Naturally, she loves this even more than the saline nasal spray that we were using on her over the weekend for her runny nose.

Hopefully she'll be on the mend soon, and I can resume my night weaning efforts.


Money, Stuff and Happiness

I had a job interview yesterday, and during the course of discussing my accomplishments and experiences, the interviewer jokingly said, "So you aren't the kind of person who stays home on Saturday and watches tv."

I came across this article on spending habits in the New York Times this morning and was pleased to find this quote:
One major finding is that spending money for an experience — concert tickets, French lessons, sushi-rolling classes, a hotel room in Monaco — produces longer-lasting satisfaction than spending money on plain old stuff.

Sometimes I want more or better stuff. But mostly I'm happy with sacrificing a night of sleep so we could see Neko Case in Tucson, or walking away from Teach For America after my two years to hike the Appalachian Trail.

And here is a photo of one of the best experiences we've collected so far...

This is wild-haired Laurel after a night of feverish fussing (103.3 at its highest!). She seems to be more or less back to normal today, although she doesn't have much of an appetite for solid food and wants to nurse 24 hours a day. (Ouch!)


How Much Do You Need to Live?

I couldn't believe this story on CNN this morning. Thirty thousand people showed up for public housing applications. Officials weren't expecting more than 10,000 people, and the scene quickly deteriorated into a mob scene, with 20 people hospitalized as a result of the crowds and the heat. To qualify for a voucher you can make no more than half the median income of your area, which in this case was about $16,000 a year. What does this scene remind you of?

I also recently discovered this living wage calculator, which helps to put into perspective what kind of income you need to actually make a decent living. Hint...it's far, far greater than what the government income requirements are for food stamps and medicare. Check out the stats for your area and see how you are doing.

There's a big leap between welfare and middle class-dom. A lot of people are stuck someplace in the middle, qualifying for no services, but not really making enough to afford necessities, like dental care or life insurance policies or enough to save a nest egg in case you have a family emergency. Those are not the kind of people who camp out for three days to get a Section 8 housing voucher. But are they really better off?


One Little Monkey, Jumping on the Bed


Adventures of the Sea Turtle

Mark had the brilliant idea to drive through the night to get to Ocean City for our first family trip to the beach (and I’m not being facetious at all… we hit no traffic and made the trip in a record six and a half hours). We decided to go to the Yo La Tengo concert at Hartwood Acres before we left, which was another brilliant move. Yo La Tengo was Laurel’s favorite band during her fussy newborn stage. I cannot tell you how many hours I spent listening to I am Not Afraid of You and I will Beat your Ass while vigorously rocking the stroller back and forth in the living room and praying that she would fall asleep, or at least stop crying for a while. Anyway, she still likes Yo La Tengo, and she totally rocked out during the concert and then fell asleep and slept most of the night in her car seat.

Vacationing with a baby turned out to be a pretty good time. Laurel loved the pool, loved the ocean, loved the sand, loved the ceiling fan in the condo, loved the boardwalk, etc. The second we put her down in the sand she turned and crawled headlong into the ocean. Seriously…right into the surf like a sea turtle returning home. She even fell into a hole on the way, but scrambled out and kept going. She loved watching the waves wash in and didn’t seem to mind when salt water splashed in her face. She squished sand castles and spent a good long while watching sand fall through her fingers. When we put her in the pool in her float, she immediately started kicking like mad and jumping up and down. She blew bubbles in the water and I dunked her a face times to teach her how to hold her breath. It was so fun to watch her explore new things.

And frankly, even if she had hated the beach, it still would have been worth it, because she looked so darn cute in her bathing suit.

We spent the first four days pretty much doing regular stuff, and by regular stuff I mean playing with the baby and cooking good food. (We may be the only family in America that packs its sourdough starter for a trip to the beach. ) On Thursday, we were joined by some of M’s relatives. One of the highlights was a family dinner on the porch followed by a trip to Dumser’s Dairyland. M’s aunt taught me how to eat crabs and Grandma Cake spent hours in the pool with Laurel. There was enough card games and Red Stripe for the grownups to feel like a real vacation. But it's nice to be home.