Road Trip(s)!

Right after we got back home from the River House, Laurel and I took off for Charlottesville, VA with my mom. It was Laurel's longest road trip and she handled it spectacularly. The weather was beautiful on the way down and it's a really pretty drive, so my mom and I had fun, too. I got to introduce Laurel to some C-ville friends, and we (of course) ate lots of good food, prepared by Aunt Mary. Laurel finally showed some interest in avocados and bananas. When we got back to Pittsburgh, we headed straight back out to the Butler Outdoor Club Extravaganza, where we camped out and hiked and hung out with Caveman of Ohio.


Camping Out

Our hearts felt settled as soon as we rolled over the Laurel Ridge and found ourselves with gently rolling Pennsylvania mountains all around. We spent Friday and Saturday at the Riverhouse with Jack and Beth and Jack's parents. The Riverhouse is a special place for us. Aside from all the bonfires and bocce and fun over the years, it's also the place where M asked me to marry him, in a canoe, on the Juniata River. Laurel enjoyed her first camp out with an attentive surrogate grandma to cuddle her, and lots of birds to look at. She also seemed to like gazing into the fire. The tent was an exciting new place for her, with maybe a little too much room to roll around in (we borrowed my parents' huge cabin tent).

We came back Saturday afternoon in pouring down rain and Laurel slept the whole way in the car, until the very end, when she stopped crying after I reached around to the back seat and held her hand and stroked her fingers very gently. On Sunday M got up early with our little early bird and made her a sweet potato for breakfast. For us, more paratha and eggs fried perfectly. Then we took Laurel to her first baseball game, also accompanied by M's dad as a celebration of his birthday. And the Pirates won, with a home run as the very last play in the 10th inning. I can't say Laurel really cared much about baseball, though she did seem to really like two old guys sitting behind us. M's mom came over after the game for a cookout and Laurel ate more sweet potatoes and was happy to be entertained by Grandma Cake and Grandpa Curly.

All in all it was a good weekend and a grand way to celebrate birthdays and graduations. Right now I'm listening to M quietly pick a few Carter family songs while we sip on ice cold PBR. Laurel's asleep upstairs, the laundry is done, and I have a feeling that 31 is going to be a very good year for me.


Good Enough

I just read this article on "good enough parenting" in Mothering.com. This article really struck a chord with me, because as a first time mom, and something of a perfectionist, I don't want to mess my kid up. I want to be the perfect parent. I feel a lot of pressure from society to make the right choices. I've found myself side-tracked on several occasions in my quest for "sleep hygiene" or breastfeeding or starting solids exactly the right way. I buy books, scour the internet. I generally just follow my instincts, but then I get cold feet and do a lot of research to make sure my instincts are backed up by a pediatrician or research. I've worked with so many screwed up kids, that I guess I came into this thinking that it's really easy to be a bad parent and that screwed up kids are the result of bad parenting.

Laurel had a fussy stage. There was a good two months when I could not put her down without listening to agonizing wails. She wanted to be held and cuddled and nursed all the time. And so I did. Day and night and night and day. We got through that time, although it was taxing for me. But probably not as taxing as it would have been to listen to her cry all the time. Lots of people told me that I was spoiling her by holding her all the time. But in my heart, I knew that it was what she needed and that eventually she would grow out of it.

Last week, Prachi, Sarah, my mom and I took the babies to the movies to see Babies. If you haven't seen this movie yet, you really should. It follows four babies from different parts of the world through their first year. Lovely sound track, very little dialogue. It's mostly a condensed version of what I get to watch every day...human development unfolding before my very eyes.

She's becoming more independent, and we're starting to see glimmers of what she might be like as an older child. Fiercely independent. Highly observant. Outgoing and friendly. Like I knew that she would, she's starting to sleep better. All on her own, without any particular sleep training or method.

Having a child has been the single most positive influence on my life. Ever. It's not because parenting is so great. (Let's face it y'all, wiping up poo and being a 24 hour milk bar are not exactly fun ways to pass your time.) It's positive because I want to be a good role model for her. Teach her what she needs to know to be happy in life. But there's a tension there, because in order for her to really learn how to be a good human, she'll have to watch me make mistakes. Hurt people. Make amends. Move on. Her little eyes are taking in so much right now, and I'll probably feel even more pressure when she starts to talk and asks me the hard questions about what I do or say.

This idea about being "good enough" as a parent can carry over into other aspects of your life. Perfection is not required to maintain relationships. It has to be ok for us to screw up with our spouses, siblings, friends or colleagues. When you take away the drive to do exactly the right thing all the time, it makes it a little easier to relax and be yourself.

My birthday is on Friday. I'll be 31. Ten years ago, I think I imagined myself as a mom Some Day, but it seemed very far off. Now Some Day is Right Now. Where will I be ten years from now?


Six Month Check Up and Some Darn Good Indian Food

I took Laurel to her six month well baby check up. She's 27 1/2 inches long and exactly 15 pounds. Long and lean, as the doctor says. She had to get three shots. She's about a thousand times more wiggly than she was at the last check up so holding her down is a real trip. She handled herself about as well as could be expected. After the first shot, her cry sounded like, "ow!". After the second shot, it was more like "what the ^&*?". And after the third shot, it was a full blown "help! alert! pain! alert! stop!". She turned bright red and all her veins popped out. However, she regained her composure relatively quickly, and was pleasant for the rest of the afternoon, which was good, because I locked myself out of the house and spent the next four hours driving around to all the places we had been looking for my keys. Not having any luck at that, I eventually went to Oakland and picked M up after his physical therapy appointment (his fingers are getting much better, in case you were worried). Naturally, there was rain and wind and Laurel lost one of her socks, so I got a few judgmental stares as I was carting Laurel around. And then we found the keys in the front yard. I guess I dropped them when I was getting the carseat into the car.

Once we got home, we had to meet with a guy from the door company, and that's when Laurel sort of lost it. I gave her some peas and put her to bed, and I'm crossing my fingers that she'll sleep better tonight than she did last night, when she woke up at 12:30 all wiggly and smiley and ready to play. The best part of tonight was when M whipped up a batch of chapati, transforming our leftover aloo matar into a delicious meal. Now he's baking crackers and the house is all warm and savory smelling.


Weekend Bliss

I love the weekends, especially now that school is over. We can enjoy our family instead of the homework/diapers/cooking/laundry circus. Yesterday we actually accomplished a few projects around the house and even went to a barbeque at my friend Lindsay's house! I spent a good half an hour simultaneously cleaning the kitchen and playing peekaboo with her. She was literally screaming with excitement. Mark has been playing a lot of music with her, and we also discovered that the porch swing almost magically puts her to sleep.

And here's a side note on cloth diapers. Yes, we are still using them. (I am still using the original Indian unbleached prefolds that I got at my shower, although Laurel has moved on to some larger diaper covers. ) However, Laurel has recently started eating more food. Which means her poops have, err, changed. No worries, though. The sun does wonders for bleaching stains. And they look nice on my clothesline in this gorgeous weather.


Grade School Reunion

Laurel and I had a playdate with some of my old friends from grade school and their children. Angie and I were actually in the same kindergaraten class and I met Jenna and Mary Beth in sixth grade. Laurel was extremely excited when Angie and Mary Beth showed up at our house with their girls. Angie's second daughter Abigail is a year old and she seemed to connect with Laurel right away. Laurel was laughing out loud and grinning like crazy. We took the kids to the playground at Frick. I haven't done that too much because Laurel is just as happy with playing with a tupperware lid right now. But she seemed to really enjoy watching the other kids and took her first ride in a swing. Jenna met us at the playground with her little boy Luca, and the funniest thing was when he grabbed her camera and actually took some really great photos (and he's not even 2!).

I don't hang out with too many of my childhood friends. (Unless you count Mark. We hang out all the time.) I think I tend to think of my adolescence as a fiery pit of hellish memories. But seeing these girls reminded me of a lot of good times from my youth and it was really crazy to see us all looking pretty much the same, but loving our new roles as moms.

Now Mary Beth just has to move back from Chicago so we can do this all the time!




Mother's Day

Happy Mother's Day to all you moms out there. This year was my first Mother's Day as a mom and we had quite a good day. We started out by going to breakfast at my mom and dad's church. Then we visited Mark's parents. We made valiant attempts to get Laurel to nap all day, but she could not be convinced to sleep. So, we all went out for a jog. Laurel loves going fast in the jogging stroller. Not that I go that fast, but it's faster than walking. I have always said that I would run only when chased, but Danna has convinced me to start running. Today was the first day of my "Couch Potato to 5K" training regimen, and it did not kill me.

Here are some photos from the weekend.


It's a Hockey Night in Pittsburgh

Laurel chills with her aunts on the porch swing, while we get ready to watch the hockey game. Today is Laurel's six month birthday. Happy Half Year, Laurel!


Good Parenting Choices

A lady admonished me for not having sunscreen on Laurel the other day. Actually, what she said was "Bad mommy." I'm not kidding...that's literally what she said. Can you imagine going up to a stranger and saying that? Thanks to good parenting choices made by my parents, I know better than that.

My sister's in town and today she asked me if it was weird to be a mom. It's getting hard to remember what it was like to NOT be a mom. But I guess the weird part of it is the things that I think about. It's not even necessarily the things that are most important...but there's little ideas and fears that creep into my brain every day. One of the things I think about as a novice mother is whether or not I'm making good parenting choices.

Today I took Laurel to her pediatrician. She's been unusually fussy, particularly at night and when laying down, and she was grabbing at her ear. No fever, but when I called the office they said to bring her in, because the doctor always likes to see them in person if there's danger of an ear infection. Even though it was a busy day at the office, the pediatrician took his time with me, and more importantly with Laurel. He played a little game with his stethoscope before he listened to her lungs, and did the same thing before looking in her ears. Her ears turned out to be fine, and he reminded me that babies fuss for all kinds of reasons, but never once made me feel silly for bringing her in.

When I left the office, I enjoyed that feeling I get whenever I feel confident that I've made a good parenting decision.

By the way, Laurel normally wears a hat and is covered up by the stroller visor when we go out in the middle of the day. We were walking only a few blocks to the library for story time and I left her hat in the car by accident. It was very sunny that day, but come on...it's April in the northern hemisphere, and it's five minutes outside.

Not that I need to justify it to you, or that lady, or to anybody else.