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.