Friday, March 30, 2012

Spread the Word

It’s no wonder Em isn’t sleeping so well these days. First of all, her teeth seem to have conspired against her, deciding to push through her gum line all at once. Poor thing. She looks like a little rabid lap dog (especially when I put barrettes in her hair), practically foaming at the mouth and constantly gnawing on something hard or chewy and plastic-y.  
Second of all? Em’s going through a major verbal explosion. Her brain is reeling. New words are popping out of her mouth, left and right, right and left (accompanied by teething drool). It’s mind blowing, honestly. This morning, as we made our way down the driveway, she said “goodbye flower” to the flowers blooming on our front yard tree. It was absolute poetry to my ears.
She’s had other gems. When I heard her say the word “heart” for the first time (she LOVES her toy stethoscope, and tries “listening” to her parents heartbeats at least twice a day), I nearly burst into tears.
And last night Em asked me to read her one of her favorite books, Ten Little Ladybugs. Only she wanted to stay on the first page so she could count to ten, over and over and over again.
Her counting sounds a little like this: “wuuuuuhhh, twooooooo, fraaaaay, faaaaaaah, flaaaaaaah (five is not so great), feeeeeeeeeh (six isn’t so hot either), enefelahhhhhh (seven is a TOTAL FAIL), eighhhhhhhh (she reels it back in with “eight”), nayyyyyyyyyyyy (way to go, Em!)…. and then she refuses to say ten. She pauses, and waits for me to say “TENNNNNN!” with over-the-top excitement, as if there is NO NUMBER higher or better than ten.
Em’s enthusiasm for words is contagious. Each time she says a new word, it’s like a little miracle. I love not knowing which word she is going to choose to say next, and the randomness of the words she chooses, like “sweatshirt” and “chicken” and “outside” and “off”. Each time she says a word for the first time, I feel like a whole new world has opened up to us, like “oh, now she can tell us when she wants to go outside," (which is always) or “now she can tell us when she is too hot and wants to take her sweater off" or "now we will know when she wants us all to dance like crazy chickens." Every word becomes a tool that Em can use to more easily communicate her needs and frustrations to us, which makes parenting a lot less of a guessing game. Yayyyyyyy.
Of course, this also means that C and I are going to have to be more conscious of the language WE USE, because our little 18 month old sponge will be picking up on EVERY WORD WE SAY. No more careless cursing in our household (not that we do much of it anyway, but I’d kinda hate for Em’s thirty seventh word to be a**hole). Soon enough, like millions of other mamas and dadas, we are going to have to begin to spell out certain taboo words to each other, like c-o-o-k-i-e and b-a-b-y-s-i-t-t-e-r. Who knows, we may even have to develop a secret code language, or hand signals (which could be kind of fun, actually).
The best part of this whole word boom? The thing I look forward to the most? I am hopeful that one day, maybe pretty soon, I am going to be able to say “I love you, Emmy,” and she is going to be able to understand those words, and say “I love you, mama” right back.
Do you have any stories about your kid(s) and their words? Please share - I'd love to hear from you!

Thursday, March 29, 2012

For My Poppy...

with much love and thanks for all your hugs, and the times you played Tinkerbell to our Peter Pan and Wendy.


Movin' On Up

So today was the second day I have dropped Em off at daycare without a single issue. No tears. No tugging at my pant legs. No facial meltdowns as I backed up slowly toward the door. No need for Em’s teacher to scoop her up and whisk her off to try and find something to distract her from my departure. It was awesome. I mean sure, I felt that sad pang of “my daughter doesn’t even care about me anymore!” but I was also overjoyed to not be leaving a crying, panic-stricken Em.
It has taken us three and a half months to get to this point. While other new kids seem to adjust to daycare within a week or two, Em’s adjustment has been a(n achingly) slow burn. I attribute her resistance to the fact that we only bring her to daycare two days a week, and to the fact that she has had more sick days than she has had well days this winter, which has resulted in her attending daycare twice in the last three months (ok, slight exaggeration, but that’s what it SEEMS like).
I also am fully aware that Em is a slightly-hypersensitive kid. She gets easily overwhelmed by all the little bodies running around in her classroom, hooting and hollering. Her best days are the days where she can be the first to arrive in class, and can therefore “rule the roost” for a short time before her classmates start trickling in and joining her in the play area.
But overall, Em’s come such a long way since her first days at daycare, when she would spend the entire day crying, holding on to her friend the giraffe, and sucking furiously on her pacifier. Nowadays, Em hardly ever uses her pacifier in class, and seldom needs her giraffe as a daycare companion. She seems to (finally!) genuinely trust her teachers and her friends, and looks like she is actually having a pretty good time.
So wouldn’t you know it, just when the dust is finally settling, new daycare regulations mandate that Em is going to need to switch from her current “waddler” room to a “toddler” room by her 18 month birthday. Which is THREE.. WEEKS.. AWAY. *Gulp*
There are of course very positive aspects of this transition. Em’s “waddler” room is a little young for her, with kids ranging in age from 12 – 18 months.  Some of Em’s classmates are still getting their “sea legs,” spending half their time crawling on all fours. On occasion, I’ve caught Em crawling around at home (usually in the evenings following daycare days), and I’ve thought about how great it will be for her to be in a class with bigger kids, where she will be influenced by bigger kid behaviors.
But Em’s new toddler classroom has kids ranging in age from 18 months to 3 years old, which is kind of a WIDE spectrum of developmental stages, no?  And according to her current teacher, the room is more crowded (10 kids rather than 8) and “quite active” (I have begun getting used to this mysterious teacher language, and I know that her words mean that the room is full of pretty rambunctious kids). Not to mention that Em will have a whole new group of teachers and teacher aides to get used to and learn to trust.
 Is the anxious quiver in my voice translating to this font I’m using?
Tuesday was Em’s first “transition day,” where she spent about 30 minutes in the older classroom. I was so nervous that for Em, entering a room with big monster-truck sized kids running all over the place and  unfamiliar teachers would push her right back to where she was when we first began her at daycare. I had visions of her once again clinging on to her giraffe and sucking on her pacifier for dear life, as she sat in a corner with tears streaming down her face.  I could hardly bear the thought of putting Em through this whole emotional process of adjusting once again.
But you know what? Em proved me SO wrong. Her teacher told me that she did amazingly well during her visit with the older class, and didn’t seem to get freaked out by all the new people and the new environment. She played, painted, and went to the gym with the “big kids” without a single fuss.
Color me impressed. And relieved. And totally thrilled to see my little girl movin’ on up in the world, without any tears or trauma.

Wednesday, March 28, 2012

A Garden of Our Own

One of my favorite childhood memories is of helping my father with backyard gardening chores. I loved pulling up weeds (yeah, I’m a little weird), digging holes for seeds, and of course watching the itsy bitsy sprouts grow into big, vegetable-producing plants. Finding a juicy red ripe tomato hidden among tangled vines was such a rewarding feeling (I didn’t even LIKE tomatoes as a kid. I actually kind of DETESTED the quasi-fruit, but harvesting them was a whole different story).

Ever since Em’s birth, I have been eagerly anticipating the time when Em and I could begin working on a garden together. Maybe because of my own fond memories, I’ve always envisioned gardening as an amazing parent/child activity. I have fantasized about showing Em how to dig little holes with her plastic spade, guiding her as she pours the seeds down into the dug up holes, and teaching her how to care for growing herbs and vegetables with a little water and a lot of love and patience.

But sad truth be told, I’ve never been a “green thumb” kind of a gal. Actually, as much as I love the IDEA of gardening, I’ve been a notorious houseplant killer. Really. Philodendron quake with fear whenever they see me approaching.

When I got pregnant with Em, I was actually quite scared that my lack of ability to take care of a houseplant would translate into my being a very unfit mother. I was seriously worried. I mean, if I couldn’t even remember to water a few plants once or twice a week, how on earth was I going to remember to feed and change my daughter multiple times EVERY SINGLE DAY??

Needless to say, I’ve managed to do a better job at mothering my child than I have ever done caring for a spider plant. Through parenting, I feel like I’ve matured into a more responsible human being, and have developed a much better sense of caring for other people AND various other living objects. Ok, sure, sometimes I still forget to water our houseplants, but I’m a heck of a lot better than I used to be.

So this past weekend, I decided to challenge myself, and give this whole mama/daughter gardening thing a whirl, despite my not-so-glorious plant-y past. Of course, I didn’t want to overwhelm either myself or Emmy with a daunting project. I figured it best to start small-scale, and if we were successful in our endeavors, we would expand upon our successes.

My plan? We would build a little 4 foot by 4 foot raised bed garden. I figured even Em and I could manage a plot of land that teeny.

Early Saturday morning, Em and I went to the gardening store, and purchased a raised bed kit (interlocking planks of cedar wood that can easily be expanded with the help of additional kits). As I grilled the woman behind the counter with lots of Gardening 101 questions about which vegetables were easiest to plant and how deep the soil had to be laid down to ensure an ideal growing environment, Em got busy rearranging all of the store’s colorful seed packets (don’t worry, I put them back in their proper places afterwards). I decided that for this year, with our theme being “low maintenance, low expectations,” I would only choose vegetables that could be sown directly into the ground, not those that would require initial indoor germination followed by transplantation to the garden bed outside. As much as I really wanted to plant tomatoes (they are now of course one of my favorite veggies), I recognize that choosing complicated, high-maintenance vegetables would have doomed our little garden to sure failure.

When we got home, Em and I went immediately to the backyard, where I assembled the raised bed kit while Emmy played nearby with her Little Tikes waterpark (Hello, GODSEND! Em LOVES her waterpark. I feel like I owe Little Tikes a huge favor)! I then got to work shoveling up dirt, inviting Em to join me. Emmy enthusiastically participated, bringing her little plastic shovel over, filling it with dirt, and pouring the dirt into her waterpark pool (oyyy). Em quickly became covered head-to-toe in muddy water, but she was enjoying herself so thoroughly, and seemed to be taking her dirt removal job so seriously. I wasn’t about to rain on her mud parade.

Lugging six forty pound bags of soil from the garage to the waaay back of our backyard wasn’t easy, but Em helped mama “drag and dump” to the best of her ability (a.k.a, holding on to the bottom corner of the bag, trying to bite it open with her teeth). It was a team effort, of sorts. And after all the soil was laid down within the confines of the raised bed’s 4 foot by 4 foot parameters, Em and I patted the dirt down with our hands, singing a little song as we worked.

At the end of the morning, with dirt stuck deep under our fingernails, and with our clothes and shoes encrusted with soil and grime, Em and I said goodbye to the beginnings of our little garden. We went inside our house for a well-deserved, long, hot shower. The whole process was far more exhausting than I had imagined, but also far more exhilarating. As I had been working with Em on our little outdoor project, I started getting this “I want to do this ALL THE TIME” feeling. And I’m pretty sure Emmy liked it just as much as I did.

The whole gardening experience was so much fun that after Emmy woke up from her nap that afternoon, we ran out to the store to buy ANOTHER raised-garden kit. I know! What was I saying about “low maintenance, low expectations”?

Baaaaaah, Em and I have got this whole gardening thing IN THE BAG. I wouldn’t even be surprised if one of my thumbs start turning a greenish hue.

Do you have any tips for the first time gardener? Have you had success with a raised bed garden? I am open to any and all suggestions that will help our garden grow (as long as they aren’t too complicated)….

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

A Serious Case of SAHM Envy

I’m just gonna put it out there. Sometimes, I am just OVERWHELMED with Stay At Home Mama envy.

I am sure I’m not alone. I’m sure there are plenty of working mamas out there who would give their right arm to be able to stay home and watch their kids all day, every day. I just didn’t think I would be one of them.

When Em was first born, I told myself I was one of those people who NEEDED to work, just so that my brain would be stimulated by activities other than diaper changing and walks around the park. I thought that if I stayed home with Emmy all day (because apparently I was under the impression that SAHMs just locked themselves in the house and never took their kids anywhere fun or exciting) I would get cabin fever, and would just ache for adult conversation and imposed deadlines and the kind of structure that a workday provides.

In retrospect, I know that I was just trying to convince myself that those were my reasons for needing to work. I should have been honest with myself, and admitted that the real reason I have to work is to help support our family financially. I’ve come to accept this truth. I have come to accept the fact that I am not working because I LOVE to work. I am working because I have student loans that are MY responsibility to pay off, and honestly, if our family were to try and “make it” on my husband’s income alone, it would put A LOT of stress on C’s shoulders. I don’t think that would be fair to him, and I don’t think it would be good for our family dynamic.

So I work, not because I want to, but because I feel I HAVE to.

This past summer, I made a switch in careers to help better accommodate our family life and mommyhood. I found a job that requires a lot less travel and time away from my family than my previous career did, at an academic institute that is generous with vacation days and generally very family-friendly. It’s a GREAT mommy job, and I am much happier than I was at my previous workplace. And yet…

You see, last Friday, due to my husband and mom-in-law’s simultaneous illnesses, I got to play SAHM for a day. It was SUPER fun. In the morning, Em and I goofed around in our pajamas for a while, and took a little walk around the neighborhood. Then I took Em to one of the local playgrounds, where I quickly found myself immersed in a foreign environment. It took me two seconds to realize we were in the Land of the Stay at Home Mommys.

All around me, little pockets of two or three moms chatted away about all things baby and toddler while their kids played in the sandbox and climbed on the jungle gyms. Everybody knew somebody, and their children all knew each other, too. If one woman needed to go to the bathroom, she would simply ask her friend to watch her children for a minute. Snacks were being shared. Play dates were being arranged. Everyone was acting so friendly and so helpful to one another. It seemed so darned blissful.

I really tried NOT to feel lonely. I really tried NOT to feel envious. I tried to just focus on pushing Em in her swing, making funny faces at her, and enjoying our one-on-one time for what it was. But my ears and eyes kept straying, listening for little bits of SAHM conversations, watching SAHMs interact with one another, and absolutely wishing I was one of THEM.

Of course, my wish to be a Stay At Home Mama is not just for the camaraderie of other moms. I long to have the ability to watch Em as she develops each and every day. I want to be there when she utters each new word for the first time. I want to be the one who helps her learn to sing her ABCs. I want to be around when she first learns to hop. I want to be able to watch as she makes new friends with other kids her age on the playground, or in a playgroup setting. I want to eat picnic lunches outside with Em on glorious weather weekdays, and build indoor fortresses with her when it starts randomly thunderstorming on a Thursday afternoon.

My weekends with Em are of course wonderful, but sometimes it seems like they are really just moments, you know? Fabulous little bookends to the rest of the long work week. Spending three uninterrupted days with Em last week made me realize how great it would be to have more than just the weekends with Em. It made me wish I was an every day, all day mama.

I know being a SAHM can be totally exhausting, and I am sure it has plenty of other down sides, too. I know that in my mind I am probably idealizing the experience, and the reality of the SAHM lifestyle is as tough as it is rewarding.

But here I am, sitting at my office desk on a Tuesday morning, wondering what Emmy might be busy doing or saying at daycare, and wishing like crazy that I was with her, at the park, in the Land of the Stay at Home Mamas.

Are you a Stay at Home Mama who wishes she could work? Are you a working mama who wishes she could stay home? Or are you a mama who is perfectly content with your status? I'd love to hear your perspective.

Monday, March 26, 2012

From Baby to Big Girl

So this is what toddlerhood is all about. It’s about the many transitional moments where my child is no longer a baby. My baby is becoming a big girl.

On our way back from a morning visit to the park this weekend, Em and I stopped by a grocery store.

I should mention that I love the way our grocery stores are becoming more child-friendly. Some have shopping carts with little cars attached to the fronts of them so kids can pretend to drive all around the store while mama or dada shops. Others, like the store we visited this weekend, have little mini shopping carts that kids can wheel around and fill with groceries while their parents are distractedly thinking about the week’s menus. I love that grocery stores have made a commitment to families by making shopping a FUN TIME for everyone, and not just a chore that children are dragged along to.

So on this particular shopping trip, I got Em one of those little mini-me sized carts. I was skeptical at first, because a) even though Em has been walking for over 7 months now, she doesn’t exactly have what I would call a “command” of the pedestrian arts, and b) I was afraid she’d lose interest in the whole cart idea after about 30 seconds, which would leave me bent forward, pushing a teeny weeny munchkin-sized shopping cart up and down the aisles while strangers stared at me like I had lost my marbles.

But you know what? Emmy ACED the whole grocery shopping experience. She wheeled that little cart around like she’d been doing this for ages (“no big whoop, mama. Pffffff. I could do this with my EYES closed”). I would hand her various objects (a cucumber, a carton of hummus, a bag of yogurt melts) and she would drop them in her cart, and continue on her merry way.
Complete disclosure: Em DID get a little excited about the yogurt melts. She may have forgotten about her shopping cart responsibilities for a minute or two while she struggled to figure out how in god’s name to open the package of delicious (and seemingly-very-astronaut-friendly) food. But after a quick little nudge from mama, she regained her composure and ventured on, again pushing her pint-sized cart.

At the checkout line, I didn’t even have to tell Em what to do. One by one, Em took the food objects out of her cart and handed them (with mama’s help) to the checkout lady. She made sure each object was scanned correctly and made sure nothing was left in her cart. And when it came time to pay, Em took mama’s money and handed THAT to the checkout lady as well (she didn’t immediately stick the bills in her mouth, as she has been apt to do so many times before. Holy miracle)! I encouraged checkout lady to hand Em the change, even though I knew it wouldn’t all fit into her small palm, and a few coins would fall to the floor. Em took the change that she COULD hold on to, and stuffed it back into my wallet.

Checkout lady was thrilled with Em, and I showered my girl with praise. “What a big girl you are! You were SO helpful to mama,” I said. And then I begged her to slap me five. Twice.

I wish you could have seen it. I swear, Em had the biggest, goofiest grin on her face. She KNEW she had been a big girl. She was really proud. And so was I.

Friday, March 23, 2012

A Day Will Come...

I know a day will come when Em will no longer find my funny faces very funny
And I know a day will come when she no longer wants to hold on tight to my finger when we visit the playground
And I know a day will come when Em no longer hugs me with her entire body
And I know a day will come when her chicken costume will no longer fit
And I know the day will come when she will understand all of the words I speak
And I know a day will come when peekaboo will be passé
And I know a day will come when she no longer wants to sing along with me in the car
And I know a day will come when Em no longer puts bowls on her head and pretends they are hats
And I know a day will come when she tells me she is too big for lullabyes
And I know a day will come when Em no longer finds bubbles to be completely fascinating
And I know a day will come when Em won’t need me to push her in the swing
And I know a day will come when our hands will be the same size
And I know a day will come when she won’t run to me each time she bumps or bruises
And I know a day will come when Em will think of dirt as dirty, and not as so much fun
And I know a day will come when she will outgrow my lap

I try not to ask for a lot, but please, please, don’t let these days come quickly. I am loving THIS day too much.

Thursday, March 22, 2012

Be Careful!!

When we became pregnant with Em, C and I had some long heart-to-hearts about our parenting philosophies. We agreed on a great deal of the essentials: we’d try to breastfeed, we wouldn’t spank as punishment, we would cloth diaper (ok, that didn’t happen, but we THOUGHT we would be able to do it), etc.

We also agreed that as parents, we would try as best as we could to avoid overuse of the word “no”. It’s not that the word “no” was to be BANNED from our household by any means. We just thought that rather than saying “Emmy, no!” whenever she tried to do something unwise, like stick her hand in the toilet, we would EXPLAIN the situation and try to reason with her, a la “Emmy, toilet water is stinky. If you stick your hand in the toilet, you will get stinky too!” or we would OFFER AN ALTERNATIVE, a la “Emmy, rather than sticking your hand in the toilet, why don’t you stick your hand under this running faucet of fantastically sparkling clean water?” Our general fear was that if we overused the word “no,” Emmy would become immune to it, which could eventually get us into parental hot water.

I have to say, I think we’ve done a pretty good job at using our “no”s with discretion and caution. *Pat, pat, pat.*

But I was TOTALLY unprepared for the massive amounts of “be careful!”s that have been streaming out of my mouth like hot lava for the past several months.

The other day, I decided to try and monitor how many situations a day warrant my saying “be careful” to Em. What I discovered wasn’t pretty. It went a little something like this:

6:30 AM: “Emmy, BE CAREFUL getting out of bed. Scoot your tushy backwards and climb down. That’s right. Good girl!”

6:45 AM: “Emmy, BE CAREFUL with that hand! Mama is changing you and if you put your hand down there it is going to get full of poopy! Be careful, Em. Careful! Emmy, BE CARE… ugghh…”

7:30 AM: “Emmy, even though Mommy lets you walk around the yard before getting into the car, it doesn’t mean you can run into the street. You have to BE CAREFUL!”

8:45 AM: “You have to treat your books nicely, Emmy. We don’t THROW books, we read them. You have to BE CAREFUL with your books” (honestly, the word “books” in this last sentence could be replaced with one of many words: dolls, food, clothes, blocks… you name it. Em is knee-deep in an annoying throwing phase.

10:00 AM: “Em, please BE CAREFUL with your crackers. Don’t stuff them all in your mouth at one time. You will choke and then mama will be sad.”

10:15 AM: “You have to BE CAREFUL coming down the stairs Emmy. You can’t just run off a step like you are Wylie Coyote. Do you know what happens to Wylie Coyote? He goes SPLAT! I don’t want you to go SPLAT!”

11:00 AM: “Em, we have to BE CAREFUL not to eat dirt. We PLAY in dirt. Even though dirt sometimes looks like crushed up Oreo cookies, we should really not put it in our mouths, ok?”

11:45 AM: “Are you going to feed yourself? Ok, that’s great. Just BE CAREFUL not to put the spoon in your ear… or your hair, Emmy… awwwww, too late! The spoon is on your head. Guess we’re taking another shower..”

12:30 PM: “Em, BE CAREFUL with that toothbrush. You keep gagging yourself because you stick it all the way back in your mouth. Why do you do that, you crazy kid?!”

And that is a portrait of only HALF of our day. By the time dinnertime rolled around, I’m pretty sure I used about 837 “be careful”s. If there was a charge associated with using these words, I’d have some SERIOUS debts to pay off.

My fear is that, if I keep up this verbal habit, the words “be careful” are going to lose their sense of gravity, and Em will start ignoring them. So what do I do? Do I stop using these words?

Maybe I should mix it up, and say “Be wary, dear Emmy” or “Caution, little one!” or “Thou art engaging in dangerous behaviors, my sweet petunia,” even though saying these things will make me sound like I work at a Renaissance Faire?

Or maybe I should come up with a hand motion that signals “be careful”? But if I use the instinctive fingers-together-and-palm-facing-forward technique, Emmy will just slap me five, and mistakenly think I am encouraging whatever it is she is doing.

Or maybe I should just start saying “no” more often??

Sigh. This mothering business is so very COMPLICATED.

Any suggestions from mamas out there? Have you overcome an acute case of the “be careful”s? Looking forward to hearing from ya.

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

What’s On Your Lullabye Playlist?

I’m not a major music buff or anything but, like pretty much everyone else on earth, I have playlists for a wide variety of occasions. I’ve got a playlist for exercising, a playlist for long road trips, a playlist for getting ready to go out on a Saturday night (haven’t heard THOSE tunes in a few years.. meh), a playlist for my eventual funeral (see here)… just to name a few.

When it comes to putting Em to sleep at night, I’ve got a playlist for that, too. Ever since Emmy was a tiny little baby, I have lulled her to sleep with my best renditions of songs I love. And because she is a tiny tot, with limited verbal communication, she cannot yet yell at me and tell me that I am ruining a classic, or subtly put her hand up against my mouth and tell me to “shush”.

So my current lullabye playlist includes Cyndi Lauper (True Colors), Coldplay (Fix You – I dare you to try singing this song to your baby without bawling into their hairy little head!), Peter, Paul and Mary (Michael Row the Boat Ashore, one of my mom’s favorites), Joni Mitchell (Circle Game – another one my mom used to sing to us girls all the time), and the Beatles (Black Bird). I’ve also fallen in love with EVERY song sung by Elizabeth Mitchell (wonder goddess of children’s tunes), and thus have added I’ve Got Peace Like a River, Three Little Birds (well.. this is actually a remake of Bob Marley’s beautiful hit), and Little Bird, Little Bird to my mix (hey, self, what’s with all the bird songs?).

But because my lullabye playlist consists of only about ten songs, its starting to feel (and sound) a little stale. So I am turning to you for inspiration. Can you suggest songs that are lovely and meaningful for me to sing to Em? Be kind, cause there’s NO WAY I can do justice by Whitney Houston, Barbara Streisand, Luciano Pavarotti, or anyone who has the vocal chords of a heavenly being.

I look forward to hearing from you…

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Begrudging Breastfeeding

In the past 17 months of breastfeeding my daughter, I have not ONCE said to myself “what was I THINKING when I decided to breastfeed??”

At least not until this past Saturday.

Let me make this clear: I am a TERRIBLE sick person. I am so envious of the folks who can walk around with a monster-truck of a headache, totally plugged nasal passages, and a whooping cough, and play it off as if it’s a “whatever”. Unfortunately, I’m NOT one of those people. If I get a headache, I immediately assume it is being caused by a tumor. Nasty nasal congestion? My immune system is obviously fritzing due to something much BIGGER going on inside my body. And when I develop a cough, I am sure I’ve come down with tuberculosis. So yeah, I guess you could say I’m kind of a hypochondriac (but not the no-shaking-hands-a-la-Howie-Mandell kind, just the I-feel-ill-therefore-I-must-be-dying kind).

So on Saturday, I got a whammy of a cold. Emmy had been kind enough to share her nasty germies with me. It was the super trifecta of illness: body aches and fever, congestion, and one of those please-kill-me-now dry coughs. My body felt like it had been run over by a bulldozer, and my head felt like it had gone deep-sea diving. I didn’t have the energy to do ANYTHING... other than complain about my body’s sudden rebellion.

And complain I did. I complained to Emmy. I complained to my reflection in the mirror (“who the hell are YOU? And where did you put my healthy happy face??!) I complained to the box of aloe-infused tissues (my new BFF). I complained to the local news reporter on the television who was talking about what a glorious day it was outside (“you want GLORIOUS?? I’ll give you GLORIOUS… cough.. cough.. blaaaaaah).

And throughout all of my beautiful rants, Em was right by my side, wanting to nurse. Because she too was terribly ill. Poor babe. She had all the same symptoms as I did. She needed comfort. She needed to be nurtured. Most of all, she needed breastmilk!! Every. Fifteen. Minutes.

Of course, Em didn’t give a hoot that I could hardly lift my pinkies because it hurt too much. She didn’t mind that a fever made my whole body sweaty and icky. Au contraire, mon frère! My state of utter disgustingness seemed to make me even more appealing to her (“Woo hoo! Mama’s woozy and coughing up a lung! It’s feeding time!”)

And what was I gonna do? Deny my sickly child her only source of nutrition (she refuses to eat anything else when she is sick)? Of course not!

More than anything, I just wanted to have a few hours “off duty”, you know? I needed a little time to myself, so I could heal and feel semi-normal again. Mmm… that didn’t happen. My hub tried to help and distract Em, but she cried and cried and could only be consoled by one thing: my breastmilk. And so I did my mama duties, and fed Em. Much to my achy, breaky body’s dismay, I breastfed on demand, giving Em as many of my delicious antibodies as she wanted. Not so lovingly, or so willingly, I’m sorry to report. But I fed her nonetheless.

I wish I could say that I was a trooper about it. But the truth is, towards the end of the day, I broke down and just BAWLED to my hub because I felt like I just couldn’t do it anymore. My body was thoroughly exhausted. I had nothing left to give. I had no more “nurture” in me. And maybe I didn’t say it out loud, but I know that my tired mind was definitely muttering “what in God's name was I THINKING when I decided to breastfeed??”

And then, after crying a couple of times and taking a hot shower (or two, or three), I kinda got over it.

So here I am. It’s Tuesday. I’m still not healthy, per-se. My throat feels like it’s on fire and I have to fight the nagging urge to remove my tonsils with a pair of rusty scissors. I am still complaining to anyone or anything that crosses my path (“Oh, hey there car! Have you heard about how terrible I feel? No? Well, let me tell you…”).

But THANK GOODNESS, the moment of begrudging breastfeeding has passed. I’m done ruing my decisions. And while I acknowledge the validity of my 24 hour not-so-gung-ho mama attitude, I’m so happy that my body is back to feeling like its nurturing self again, and I once again love breastfeeding just as much as Em does.

Have you gone through a similar situation? Have you ever begrudged breastfeeding for more than 24 hours? I would appreciate any feedback that would make me feel less guilty about my horrible attitude. :)

Friday, March 16, 2012

The Best Parenting Invention EVER

Emmy just got her 82nd cold of the season. The poor little bugger was up most of the night coughing and choking on her own mucus (which meant I was up most of the night trying to get her body in an upright position so she could sleep better). This morning her face was just a mess of teething drool and runny nose, and I couldn’t tell what was what. It was slightly funny, and also terribly disgusting.

Judging from this past winter’s illnesses, Em’s germs are going to behave like college students on spring break, and will bar hop from her body to my body, and then on to my husband’s, and my in-laws’. And then I, being the generous woman that I am, will come into work and touch all of my co-workers’ doorknobs , spreading the little germies throughout my office (unintentionally, of course). Because why keep the joyful celebration of a cold to limited to my immediate family? Why not give EVERYONE a reason to stay home and use their Neti Pot?

It’s not that I don’t take precautionary measures – I do! As soon as Em shows signs of sickness, I start scrubbing my hands like Lady Macbeth. But let’s face it. When Em is sick, I have to wipe her nose about 429 times a minute, and I can’t wash my hands after every wipe. And so it is that in the battle of mama vs. germies, the germies have come out victorious about 99% of the time.

Which is why, as I lay awake in bed last night, listening to the snorts and wheezes of my adorable girl, I came up with the idea for this invention:

I call it THE TISSUE BOX HEAD and I believe it is going to revolutionize the entire parenting experience.

The minute your child begins to sniffle, you strap this hard hat on to their head and secure it tightly. For the duration of the cold, you sit back, relax, and read a novel while the mechanical arms take care of all of the dirty work. Back and forth they go, grabbing a tissue, and wiping your loved one’s teeny but oh-so-lethal snout. The adjustable speed control allows you to choose how many nose wipes your child receives per minute, so you don’t have to worry about keeping up with endless flow. Your fingers remain germ-free and happy! It’s a miracle!

And just think of how popular your child will be at daycare, when they show up with a contraption like this sitting on their head. All the kids in their class are going to want one! Soon every child around the globe will be wearing one, and VOILA(!) the germ warfare that we are so used to in daycare settings will once and for all be conquered. Parents worldwide will be able to MAKE AND KEEP their vacation plans.

Now, I know you are thrilled beyond belief at the prospect of buying THE TISSUE BOX HEAD for your own child, but unfortunately you are going to have to be a little patient. There are a few little “kinks” I have to work out before I apply for the patent. For instance, the prototype I have come up with weighs in at a mere 80 pounds (I’d like to try to get it down to 60), and the mechanical arms keep trying to poke my daughter’s eyes out. But once I DO get all the glitches worked out, I’m taking this little wonder hat straight to the Shark Tank. I know at least a few of those business moguls have kids, so it’s hard to imagine I would walk away without a deal.

Thursday, March 15, 2012

From Bibbity Bobbity to Bowm Chicka Bowm Bowwwm

I don’t know about other new parents, but for me and C, finding time to be romantic with one another has been SUCH a challenge since the birth of our daughter. I mean, between the diaper changes and the breastfeeding and getting applesauce off of the couch, our lifestyle doesn’t exactly “set the mood,” you know? The smooth tones of Barry White have been replaced by Barney’s goofy drawl, and the general vibe in our house is much more “bibbitty bobbity boo” than it is “bowm chicka bowm bowwwm”.

To be honest, we’ve kind of hit the “snooze” button on THAT part of our relationship for the past seventeen months (e-gads). My husband and I have continually spoken about reintroducing the romance in our lives, and how we really need to get our collective mojo going again. But despite our good intentions, we’ve spent most of our Emmy’s-asleep-NOW-what-are-we-gonna-do hours either watching t.v. (holding hands) or engrossed in our own reading, writing, etc. (not holding hands).

Em’s sleeping habits have become more consistent these last few weeks, and we can (FINALLY) rely on her STAYING asleep for at least 2 to 3 hours before her first nighttime waking. So the big excuse that we used to use, which was “what if the baby wakes up while we are ahem aheming?” is no longer valid.

The thing is, come 8:00 p.m., C and I are both EXHAUSTED. We are mentally, physically, AND emotionally depleted from our workdays, from getting chores done, and from caring for Emmy. We’ve got nothing left to give. We’ve turned into amoebas. And as much as we’d LIKE to spend some quality time with one another, it is hard for an amoeba to feel hot and frisky.
But rather than making up NEW excuses, and despite the fact that I feel like a one-celled organism, I find myself wanting to overcome all the obstacles. Dang it, this amoeba needs to get her FREAK ON.

I want my husband back. I want to know him again, not just as the guy who does a great job chasing Emmy around and cleaning the kitchen and raking the yard, but as the guy who is a great kisser, and the guy whose arms I love wrapped around my body. I want to spend less of our limited time together talking about how many poops Emmy had, and more time DOING ANYTHING more romantic than talking about toddler poop.

So I’m making efforts. But it’s not easy. Even when we dim the lights, and draw the shades, and put on some sweet music, it takes me quite a while to switch gears. When my husband and I start kissing, I’m still thinking about what I am going to pack for Emmy’s lunch the next day. And the shopping list. And whether I’ll have any clean clothes to wear to work. I’d say it takes a good five to ten minutes of face sucking (sorry, I’m trying not to be vulgar here but some subjects warrant a bit of vulgarity) before I mentally get out of my mommy headspace.

But when I DO manage to get out of my mama head? It’s blissful. In my husband’s arms, I can slowly forget about the chores, and work, and all sorts of other mama drama. My worn out self is taken over by love and energy, and I just live in the moment. Yayyyy.

Breaking old patterns is kinda difficult, but I’m hoping that by making a concerted effort to make our alone time more special, it will get easier and easier for my husband and I to fall into a NEW pattern that encourages closeness, rather than separation. I know that rekindling our romance will make other aspects of our partnership better as well, and may even make parenting easier in some ways.

Have you and your husband hit the same “snooze” button as we have? Have you found ways of getting over the amoeba-like feeling so that the romance could sneak back into your lives?

I’d love to hear from you.

Dinner and a Show

As the saying goes, “You can pick your friends, and you can child-proof your house, but you can’t child-proof your friend’s house”. Or something like that…

If you ever want to find out just HOW unsafe your house is for children, give me a call. I will gladly send Em over to give it a test run, and within 15 minutes you will know all about your abode’s hidden danger zones.

Our family was invited over for dinner last night by a friendly and daring, eventually-planning-to-have-children couple. I was THRILLED to get out and socialize, and was ecstatic that my girlfriend told us we could bring Em along. Yes, the thought of “Holy crow. They don’t know WHAT they are getting into,” crossed my mind a few times, but I remained optimistic that Em would be on her best behavior, and that we wouldn’t get kicked out of our friends’ house before the dessert course was served.

Truthfully, we had a REALLY good time, and Em WAS on her best behavior. She didn’t throw any fits, sat on my lap through most of the actual meal (squirming, but at least she wasn’t screaming), and she even occasionally tried to join in on the conversation, saying an over-exaggerated “wowww” whenever I said “wow”. It was super cute.

But of course, Emmy IS a toddler. And being a toddler, she took it upon herself to open every drawer, attempt to climb up on every piece of furniture she could, and try out electrical devices wherever available.

I swear I was watching her. Maybe not like a hawk. Maybe more like a mommy who hasn’t socialized in seven months and was finally enjoying the company of other adults. But I was watching her.

And yet, during the course of the evening, Em was “caught” doing the following:
• Taking all of the artwork off of the couple’s refrigerator
• Throwing fragile-seeming coasters around the room like they were bean bags
• Rolling around on a doggy pillow like it was HER bed
• Discovering four electrical sockets
• Nearly tipping over the floor lamp
• Trying to remove the tablecloth (and all plates, glasses and silverware on top of said tablecloth) from dining room table
• Making origami sculptures out of a deck of cards (ok, my friend kind of encouraged this, so it wasn’t COMPLETELY Em’s fault)

And ah yes, the piece de resistance… Emmy somehow managed to turn on the couple’s electric fireplace. Because if an object has buttons or switches, and is at toddler eye-level, you can bet your sweet bippy our daughter will figure out how to turn it on and make it work. She will wait for that one moment where my head is turned in the other direction, and then BAM! Switches on, fire ablaze, and toddler in potential deep doo doo.

Our friends were amazingly accommodating and actually seemed to be somewhat enjoying Em’s antics. But as I said to my husband in the car on the way back home, “I wonder if they are just looking at each other like ‘Yeesh. Thank heavens that’s over! What in god’s name were we thinking? And maybe we should rethink this whole parenting thing, ok?’””

I love that Emmy is smart, curious, and daring. I really do. But I also think that the NEXT time we are all invited over to a friend’s house for dinner, I will come prepared with plugs for the electrical sockets. And maybe a cute, stylish straightjacket for Emmy.

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

Do As I Say, Not as I Do

I really do try to set a good example for Em. I look both ways before crossing the street, say “please” and “thank you,” somewhat consistently, and obey the speed limit (or at least stay within 10 miles of the limit, most of the time). But there are certain habits of mine that I kind of hope Emmy will NOT adopt. Just to be on the safe side, I’ve created the following top ten list of “Do As I Say, Not As I Do”s, for Em’s future reference:

• Do not climb up on the kitchen counters just so you can reach something on the top shelf of the cupboard. Yes, like me, you are a short-limbed but limber lady. You should still just go get a step ladder. It’s much safer. The reason I catapult myself onto the kitchen counters is because I want to make sure that, should I decide to leave my current job in order to join the circus, I will have a little experience under my belt.

• Do not chew your nails, or paper, or anything that is not SUPPOSED to be put in your mouth. I know you constantly see me chewing on something odd, and it looks like fun. Trust me, it is no fun. It hurts my jaw like nobody’s business. I only chew on weird objects because if I don’t, I will have a panic attack. And nobody wants mommy to have a panic attack.

• Don’t count on the rain to wash your car. If you do this, you will find your vehicle covered with lots of little “wash me” love notes left by perfect strangers who care more about your car than they do about your feelings. Of course, you should know that the minute you DO get your car washed, the skies will open and there will be a torrential downpour of muddy water. That’s just life’s way of telling you a knock-knock joke.

• Don’t get sucked in by the undertow that is called “The Bachelor”. Yes, I believe that everything that happens on reality television is true, but that is only because I have been brainwashed by Chris Harrison. You are better than me, and should clearly recognize that the television shows I watch are complete fluffernutter. I recommend you watch PBS, or NOVA instead. People will honor your opinions, and won’t give you strange looks when you try to engage them in water cooler conversations about “who got a rose”.

• Even though your pajamas are really REALLY comfortable, it is best NOT to wear them to the supermarket. People don’t look kindly upon a woman who wears bunny slippers and flannel pants while shopping for produce. They hate that you are so comfortable, and they won’t let you cut in line, even if you just want to buy a pack of gum. Trust me on this one.

• Back to the car. I would highly suggest that when parking, you only take up one space, and try as best as you can to park between the lines. I have lost many potential friends because of my regular habit of positioning my car at a 45 degree angle between two parking spots. I don’t do it on purpose, I just have no depth perception. I have tried to convince your father that we need to hire a driver so that people don’t hiss at me when I get out of my vehicle, but he hasn’t caved. Yet.

• Do not think that ketchup is a food group. I KNOW you’ve seen me dousing everything from French fries to broccoli to beans and rice in ketchup, but that doesn’t necessarily make it RIGHT. It just makes it delicious.

• While we are on the subject of food, don’t fill a bowl with whipped cream and hot fudge and call it “dinner”. To be considered a meal, there has to be SOME nutritional value in what you are eating. So add some ice cream, caramel, and nuts, and THEN call it dinner.

• Don’t be like mama and wait for the laundry elves to show up and fold your laundry FOR you. I have waited and waited and waited and they still haven’t shown up. And as I’ve learned, if you leave a shirt in a heap of other clothes for three and a half years, it ends up being pretty wrinkly! And then you EITHER have to iron the shirt, or ignore your co-workers looking at you like you just rolled out of bed. Either way, it’s doesn’t make for a happy day.

• Let’s go back to the whole car thing again. I know you see mama take both of her hands off the wheel all the time, but that is only because she is singing “The Wheels on the Bus” and she HAS to do the “Round and Round” motion in order to fully entertain you. Similarly, she has to use both hands to make the itsy bitsy spider crawl up the water spout, because he won’t do it with just ONE hand. I would highly suggest that when you become old enough to drive, you keep both hands on the wheel, and not sing songs that require hand movements. Especially when you are taking your driver’s test. Of course, I also hope that you do not have a baby in the back seat of your car when you are first learning to drive. Know what I’m sayin’?

There are probably many, many other ways that Emmy should not follow in my footsteps, but I think I should stop here. Admitting all of my bad habits is kind of making me want to go find some paper to chew on.

Sunday, March 11, 2012

A Tale of Two Playgrounds

Although its been a mild winter here in the northeast, today was the first Sunday since Fall of 2011 that temps managed to peak beyond sixty degrees. While this kind of weather may still require Angelinos to wear their uggs and/or floor length capes, around here it inspired Capital Region residents to dig their tank tops and sandals out of storage. You could hear a collective sigh of relief as Albany recognized that the worst of the winter is officially over (unless there is some freakish April Fool’s Day snowstorm, which is totally possible). This means our heating bills will go down and there is less likelihood that we will have a power outage, at least for the next three months or so. A true cause for celebration.

OUR family celebrated by spending most of the day outdoors. While I had only anticipated ONE nice, hour-or-so long mid-morning visit to a playground, I simply couldn’t deal with us being indoors on such a gorgeous day, so I took Em for a second post-nap visit to another playground in the afternoon. Em is a HUGE fan of the outdoors, and especially of playgrounds, so she didn’t put up any resistance.

Our two playground experiences were so vastly different.

Our morning excursion was to a beautiful all-wooden castle-like playground I have been admiring from afar ever since I was pregnant with Em. Its one of those playground which happens to be on the grounds of one of the area’s public schools, so I haven’t been sure if it is actually LEGAL for us to be on the premises. But as hubby put it, the worst case scenario would be that some Scrooge would tell us to get off the monkey bars. Big whoop.

When we got to the playground, it was empty (at 11:00 o’clock! On a beautiful Sunday!) but there was no gate preventing us from accessing it, and no sign that said non-students were to keep out, so our family rushed in like it was opening hour at Disney World.

The playground is A-MAZING. It totally lived up to my heightened expectations. It has toddler-appropriate swings, lots of slides, tons of climby things and SO MANY little nooks and crannies just waiting to be discovered. And because it was just the three of us there, we were able to OWN the place. We played hide-and-go-seek, slid down the slide about 87 times, and climbed until our knees gave out on us. Even though hubs and I were both absolutely spent after being at the playground for an hour and a half, it was with a heavy heart that I left. I kind of want to LIVE there permanently. I could totally be the troll under the bridge, or the princess who lives in the castle turret…

Oh, yes, and Emmy enjoyed it too.

A few other families finally showed up, which made us happy, knowing we weren’t breaking any rules (or that if we were in fact breaking rules, we’d be scolded along with 4 other mamas and dadas, and 6 other children).

(SIDE NOTE: As we left the grounds, a little boy ran towards me, his arms wide open, practically jumping into my arms. With my mama instincts going full-throttle, I kneeled down and hugged the little one before I even had any time to think. His grandma approached and said “that’s what scares me about him.”

I laughed the awkwardness of the situation off, but it really made me kind of sad. Of course I know that it is NOT smart for little kids to run up to strangers and give out free hugs. I should probably NOT have encouraged the boy by hugging him back. But I’m just not the type of person who turns a cold shoulder to a child. And like I said, my body acted before my mind had time to intervene. It makes me upset that a child’s friendliness and willingness to hug a stranger should be seen as scary or nerve wracking, but of course I understand the grandmother’s reasoning. I just wish the world weren’t so screwed up, so we wouldn’t have to go around being so freakin’ scared all the time.)

Post-nap playground was a whole ‘nother ball o’ wax. Em and I visited our “go to” playground, located in a pretty popular and conveniently located town park. My word, it seemed like EVERYONE and their mother, cousin, dog, and dog TRAINER were at that playground. To see it, you would have thought that all of Upstate New York has only one playground to share. It was simply out of control. Moms were searching for their lost children. Big kids were running around knocking over small kids. Sand was being thrown. Intergenerational arguments were breaking out left and right.

Emmy and I stood at the edge of the playground, observing the chaos like it was Ringling, Barnum and Bailey (it really WAS a circus). And then Em said “no”, and turned around, leading me with her little fingers to the field of grass that surrounds the play area. There, in the relative calm of a less congested environment, we rolled around in the dirt, drew pictures with sticks in the ground, and made ourselves grass moustaches. After that we walked around and said hello to the birds and the doggies that were hanging out around the perimeter of the park. So we had a great time, we just never actually played ON the playground. To do that would have been madness.

All in all, it was a marvelous day. It was the kind of day I have waited for all winter. And the best part about it is that there are three seasons of days like this ahead, and we won’t have to have a playground-less weekend for months and months to come.

Friday, March 9, 2012

To “Me Time” or To “We Time”? That is The Question.

This weekend, my husband will be going out on Saturday night and Sunday night to socialize with his friends. He will also probably go to the gym for an hour or two at some point on Sunday. Me? I’ll be no more than two feet away from Emmy, for the 60 plus hours that stretch from Friday night to Monday morning.

But don’t read resentment in the tone of that statement. There honestly is none. The fact of the matter is, my husband asked if I wanted to hire a babysitter so I could go with him on Sunday night, and I said no. My husband would also be MORE than happy to watch Em if I wanted to take a break and go join a Zumba class, or take a walk, or just go lie down for an hour or so.

So what’s my issue? It’s simple. I have an acute case of the “working mommy guilt complex”. I just can’t let go of “we time” in order to grab some well-deserved, much-needed “me time”. It’s crazy! I get jealous whenever I overhear other women talking about their plans to get together with their friends for dinner and drinks, or go see a show at one of the local theaters. But if one of my girlfriends calls up and tries to make plans with me, I start stuttering and pacing around, coming up with lame excuses as to why I can’t join in the fun.

This is how my inner conversation goes, every time I consider going out SANS Emmy on the weekend:

Non-mama self: Hey, mama! So, going out to dinner and a movie with the girls sounds like a GREAT TIME, doesn’t it?

Mama self: Yeah, that sounds terrific! Let’s do it!! (Pause)Um… except…

Non-mama self: Oh lord, here we go again…

Mama self: But I only have 60 hours to be with Emmy before I have to go back to work again! I have to make the most of EVERY frikkin' minute!

Non-mama self: By the time the evening rolls around, Em is going to be sleepy and cranky anyways, so you aren’t going to be missing out on much “quality time," you know.

Mama self: But I’ll miss feeding her dinner – it’s so much fun feeding her dinner! And what if she learns to say a new word, like “pasta”, and I’m not there to hear it? I will feel SO bad. Oh, and getting Em into her pajamas while she is screaming bloody murder? That’s always tons of fun. I wouldn’t want to miss that.

Non-mama self: Seriously, don’t you MISS the parts of you that are not defined as “Emmy’s mama”?

Mama-self: Well, yeah, but I get a break from being “mama” 35 hours a week!

Non-mama: That’s called work. That’s hardly a break. You NEED “you time”! If you don’t get “you time”, you will begin to begrudge Emmy for requiring all of your energy. Plus besides, your friends will start to hate you for not hanging out with them.

Mama-self: But I don’t begrudge the time I spend with Emmy. Sure, I’d like to get to the gym, and hang out with the girls, and work on my art projects again, and go on more than a once-a-month date with the hubster. But if I don’t spend the entire weekend with Em, I’m worried that I will get to the office on Monday, and feel like I didn’t get my entire “mama fix” satisfied. I’ll have to go through another FIVE WHOLE DAYS before I get another opportunity for REAL one-on-one time with the little one.

Non-mama self: You’re crazy. I give up. I’ll come back when Emmy is twelve, and SHE doesn’t want to spend any time with YOU. Maybe you will want a social life THEN.

This debate happens ALL THE TIME. Every once in a while, the non-mama part of me will win the argument, and I WILL go to the gym, or on a date with my husband. But most of the time (by quite a wide margin), it’s the mama-self that wins.

What about you? Do you go through this same (or a similar) inner battle of “me time” vs. “we time”? Who wins, your mama-self, or your non-mama self?

And yes, I am totally looking forward to being told I am crazy by all the working mamas who still manage to have a social life and an active gym membership, who feel guilty about nothing.

Thursday, March 8, 2012

I Need a Little Magic Wand

I had one of those moments again this morning, where I just wanted to freeze time with a little magic wand.

The 6:30 sun was peeking out from beneath the curtains in Emmy’s room, creating dancing light patterns on the walls. The birds were chirping their daylight tunes in the quiet of the morning. And my little girl was cuddled in my arms, looking at my face, smiling and saying “mama”.

Em’s little cozy, snuggly body, her breath on my face, her saying my name, her beautiful smile. The dancing sun. The sound of little bird songs. It was a soft collision of perfect parts. It was wonderful. It was full of wonder.

I love these moments. And I hate them.

I love them for being so simple in their elegance, so gentle in their touch, and yet so mind-blowingly special. I love them for stopping me in my tracks and opening up all my senses, requiring 100% of my presence. I love them for giving me a glimpse of life’s pure meaning.

But I hate the fact that these moments are so fleeting, that I can’t hold on to them for more than a minute or so. Emmy will start to squirm away and a plane will fly overhead and an alarm clock will start to go off and my brain and body will have to start multi-tasking again. A brilliant moment is once again forced into the past.

I need a little magic wand.

Wednesday, March 7, 2012

Purim: An Easy Holiday for Interfaith Families to Enjoy

As the Jewish half of an interfaith couple, I totally look forward to the Purim holiday, which we will celebrate this evening. After all, Purim is sort of “Judaism Lite”, a holiday that doesn’t take itself too seriously. While other Jewish holidays require my peeps to fast, or refrain from eating bread, or pray for hours upon hours in order to remember past persecution, Purim’s motto is more Judaism-meets-fraternity-house, a la “Eat, drink, and be merry! For a couple thousands of years ago, some evil dude tried to get rid of us, but looky here! We survived! Woot! Woot! Down the hatch, bro!”

As a child, Purim was definitely my favorite holiday. I loved it even more than I loved Hannukah, even though it doesn’t involve eight nights of gift-getting. On Purim I got to see my serious, hard-working, stressed-out father get D-RUNK and act super silly (he is not a drinker by any stretch of the imagination, and he weighs about 30 pounds, so he’s a bit of a lightweight). You see, the whole aim of drinking on Purim is to get so loopy that you are no longer able to distinguish between your friend and your enemy (leave it to my peeps to turn drinking into a cerebral exercise). My father was known to achieve this goal with one drink :). I also thoroughly enjoyed dressing up in costume, parading around the synagogue, and goofing off without being told to quiet down or behave more maturely.

Now, I don’t ask my husband to accompany me to synagogue for any of the major Jewish holidays. Holiday services are generally very looooong, very serious, and recited in a language my husband doesn’t understand, so I don’t think he would GET MUCH out of participating. But Purim is a whole different ball o’ wax. Purim services are just about an hour long (requiring the same time commitment as an episode of ‘Top Chef’). Adults and children come dressed in silly costumes, which just adds to the fun-times factor. And even though the bulk of the reading is still in Hebrew, as a congregant you only REALLY need to know one word – “Hamman”, the name of the bloke that tried to persecute us back in the day. When his name is mentioned, all of the congregants are encouraged to boo, hiss, stomp their feet and twirl their noisemakers. Because Hamman’s name is mentioned fifty-four times, and with all the crazily costumed folk in attendance, the whole service ends up looking and sounding a lot like an Occupy Wall Street protest. Only much more fun.

At the synagogue we attend (where interfaith families are thankfully welcome), there are even more perks to Purim services. All congregants get a goody bag full of chocolate, fruit, and nuts at the beginning of the services. It’s a smart move, because as we all know, “Happy bellies, happy Jews”. The rabbi circles the congregation during the readings, giving out shots of whiskey (only to those of us “of age”, of course). By the end of services, the kids are running around on sugar highs, many of the adults are tipsy, and only a few people are REALLY paying attention to what is being said. My husband fits right in.

The first time I took my husband to Purim services, I warned him that it would in no way resemble any kind of Jewish service he had experienced in the past. Even with my forewarnings, I think he was a little shell-shocked by the experience, but pleasantly shell-shocked (if that’s oxymoronically possible)? Emmy was just a teeny baby, so she slept through most of the madness (though how she managed to sleep through the debauchery still dumbfounds me). This year, Emmy will be old enough to wear a costume (woo hoo! I LOVE dressing her up like a chicken), eat candy she really isn’t supposed to eat, and be an active participant in the festivities (she loves stomping, and booing, and making lots of noise). And I’m hoping that Purim becomes one of HER favorite childhood memories , and a family celebration that we will enjoy together for many many years to come.

Monday, March 5, 2012

I’m Just Gonna Ride it Out

You know those crazy folks who, despite knowing well in advance that some sort of natural disaster is about to completely LEVEL their home, insist upon staying put rather than getting the heck out of dodge? They’re the ones who you overhear telling news reporters “I’m just gonna batten down the hatches and ride it out,” while everyone else is packing up their precious belongings and running for the hills, screaming. I’m not sure if these crazies are on a suicide mission, or if they are under the impression that the hurricane/tornado/volcano/typhoon is going to miraculously stop at THEIR door and go “whoops! Can’t ruin this guy’s house!” I hate to pass judgement on complete strangers, but I always have to resist the urge to throw something at my television set whenever one of these loonies is being interviewed pre-storm.

But then, this past week, I WAS one of those stupid people. I ignored the all-too-obvious signs that danger lay ahead. I kept saying to myself, “I’m just gonna ride it out. How bad could it be?”

First sign of the natural disaster I like to call “Hurricane Emmy”? My daughter started sticking her thumb and fingers wayyy back in her mouth, gnawing on them like they were meaty, juicy ribs. Her poor little fingers looked like chewed up, shriveled hot dogs, and she didn’t care. DANGER! DANGER!

Second sign? Em started drooling like a rabid dog, all over her clothing, her chin, her toys, our furniture, my face… if it was in our house, it was covered in teething drool. WWWOOOOoooooooooowww WWWOOOOOOoooooowwwww (that’s my impression of an emergency siren)!

In light of the warnings that molar teething clearly lay ahead, I probably should have created an evacuation plan. I should have packed my bags and lied to my husband, telling him that I suddenly had to take a business trip to some far away island (if you knew my line of work, you would understand that it would be very difficult for me to make this lie believable, but I should have at least TRIED). OR I should have dug myself a bunker in the backyard, and filled it with all the necessary provisions for a few days of refuge (a blanket, my laptop, and dark chocolate). That way I could have at least been safe from harm.

But, no. I did none of these things. I chose instead to be a good and loyal mommy, and just “ride it out”.

And so this weekend happened. And I, being the crazy loon that I am, stood my ground as my daughter slowly but surely transformed into a howling, crying, temper-tantrum-throwing, category five “Hurricane Emmy”. I did everything in my power to keep Hurricane Emmy at bay. I fed her Tylenol. I distracted her with fun activities, like a trip to a children’s expo (how I managed to make it through that madhouse without losing my daughter or being trampled on is a complete miracle) and a trip to the playground. I fed her frozen bagels. In desperation, I almost bought her rawhide to chew on (once, while shopping at the grocery store, a random woman came up to me, observing that Emmy was teething. She told me that if I was a decent mother, I would buy my daughter rawhide to chew on, claiming that it was the only cure-all for her teething pain. I of course ran home to my husband and told him of this suggestion, who then googled “rawhide teething pain” and advised that the nice opinionated lady was full of crap).

Despite my efforts, the nights were still sleepless and restless, with random bursts of high pitched screaming, and the days were full of cantankerous, crabby, and clingy behavior. There were moments of calm and happiness, of course, where the hurricane winds would die down and we could all breathe. But those moments were few and far between, and most of the weekend was, to put it mildly, a topsy-turvy, tumultuous toddler tempest.

So here I am. It’s Monday. I walked into my office this morning, feeling like a tattered and tangled survivor, kind of hoping nobody would ask me about my weekend. I’m afraid if they do, I might lose it and start bawling uncontrollably, despite my strict “no crying in the workplace” policy. I’ve decided the best thing I can do, when co-workers ask what I did to relax and have fun, is to simply respond “I rode it out.”

Just for the record, I know that "Hurricane Emmy" is NOTHING compared to an actual, real-life natural disaster. I really do. I honestly don't mean to make mountains out of mole hills (or mountains out of molars, as the case may be). But I'm exhausted and delirious, and being dramatic is about the only thing I can do well at this point.

So forgive me, but when I get home this afternoon, I’m gonna build myself a bunker and/or buy myself a ticket to a faraway island. Cause, holy smokes, folks, we’ve still got four more big old teeth waiting to erupt.

Saturday, March 3, 2012

Pay Attention, Tom Ford!

While we are on the subject of Emmy's unique style choices, I just thought I should share THIS photo. I believe this is going to make some serious waves in the world of fashion design.

Friday, March 2, 2012

100% Polyester Lovin’

Do you have a shirt that you really love,
One that you feel so groovy in ?
You don't even mind if it starts to fade,
That only makes it nicer still.
I love my shirt, I love my shirt,
My shirt is so comfortably lovely.
- Donovan

At first I thought Em was just beginning to express her own sense of style.

But I was wrong. She doesn’t care what I dress her in. I can put her in a potato sack, a shimmery gold jumpsuit, or a chicken costume and it doesn’t matter, as long as she ALSO gets to wear her pink and gray striped, totally cheaptastic, don’t-hold-it-too-close-to-a-fire-or-it-will-melt, 100% polyester hoodie.

I’m more than slightly aghast. Over the past 17 months, I have presented her with numerous viable options for a “security object” that I thought she would take a liking to: a soft blankie with smooth edging, a little cotton worm (trust me, its far more adorable than it sounds), a bear that has a hot water bottle inside it, a lamby that makes lulling, soothing sounds, just to name a few. Em has resisted attachment to all of these perfectly wonderful companions. It seems that she has been holding out for a far more unlikely, far more oddball source of comfort.

Seriously? A polyester hoodie? Every time Em wears it (which is pretty much ALWAYS now), her hair balloons into an orb of static electricity, making her look like a half-pint-sized Art Garfunkel. On the rare occasion that she is NOT wearing her hoodie, Em holds it, squeezes it, and does a little happy dance like she’s just been reunited with a long lost friend.

My husband thinks it’s so cute, this love of such an unassuming object. I agree, I really do, it’s totally adorable. But come on, Emmy. Polyester? Really?

Em’s wardrobe is full of beautiful, 100% cotton hand-me-downs from my sister’s children (which I am eternally grateful for). They are the epitome of comfort in clothing – organic, slightly worn in, and completely non-itchy. If Em has to be the weird kid (which she does, because after all she is MY child), why couldn’t she have at least chosen to emotionally bond with a slightly less offensive material?

I myself was totally attached to a blanky through many of my early (and not-so-early) childhood years. Rumor has it that as a baby I started dragging a full-sized blanket around with me everywhere I went, until my mother had the wisdom to cut it into blanky-sized quarters. It was a smart move on her part; each blanky piece had a shelf-life, and would be retired after it started to “show its age,” only to be replaced by a newer but nearly identical blanky.

I still remember my blanky with incredible fondness. It was pink, super fuzzy (highly pilled from its overuse), and had a ribboned edge that I loved holding against my face, especially at night. I swear, if I close my eyes now, I can almost feel the memory of it rubbing against my cheek…

Oh, crap.

I’ve just realized.

I’m quite certain my blanky was 100% polyester. Or acrylic. Definitely NOT 100% cotton.
Ok, Em. I give in. You can love your little hoodie. Mama gets it now.

Thursday, March 1, 2012

Let it Snow!

Today the world gave me a gift in the form of a snowstorm. As a working mom, I’m over the moon whenever I’m given a “free pass” to spend the day with my daughter. The fact that the roads are far too dangerous to drive on (especially with a kid on board) and the tree limbs are threatening to down power lines doesn’t bug me. I’ve gained a precious eight hours that I can spend playing, talking, dancing and laughing with my girl. Woo hoo! It’s our first snow day together!

After breakfast, Em and I got bundled up in our snow gear and headed outside. At first Em seemed slightly overwhelmed and confused by our backyard’s transformation into a winter wonderland , but she quickly figured out what fun snow can be. It’s a toddler’s dream come true: you can throw it, eat it, make it into a ball, and fall down in it without hurting yourself!

Our family inherited a child-safe sled from our former next door neighbors. To say Em enjoyed herself on her “one horse open sleigh” would be a vast understatement. Even though I was moving at a zippy speed of about 0.5 miles an hour, Em squeeked with delight and sang happily as I pulled her along. Each time we completed a loop, and approached the finishing line, she yelled “more!” and waved her hands in the air. How could I let her down? Panting and cursing myself for not being in better shape, I completed as many loops as I could before my legs actually threatened to give out on me.

No snow day is complete without the making of snow angels. I tried showing Em what to do, but I’m not sure she fully grasped the concept. I think she just thought I was being a lazy goofball, lying on the ground flailing my arms and legs around. When I laid Em down on the ground and told her to flap her arms, she just laughed at me, and then said “Hepp. Up!” and rolled over so she could eat more snow. We’ll have to revisit snow angels next year.

Back inside the house, we stripped off our wet, cold layers, took a warm shower to help thaw our toesies and fingers, got dressed in nice warm clothing, and had one of our epic mother/daughter dance parties. We twirled, whirled, and shook what our mamas gave us until we collapsed onto the living room floor, totally spent.

Em’s now napping in my arms, after a lunch of chicken, applesauce, and snow cone (snow, milk, maple syrup). And I’m basking in the exhaustion of a beautiful, snow-globey day, completely thankful to the universe for surprising us with a March storm.

Let Me Count the Ways... Part Deux

I'm going to keep counting the ways I love my daughter. One of which is the fact that Em is perhaps an even bigger fan of dancing than I am, which I didn't think was even possible.
She's got some killer moves, too..

Future candidate for "So You Think You Can Dance?"