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.