What is scarier than seeing this night vision eyeball pop up on the video monitor during naptime?
Hearing him whisper “I’m not sleeping” through the intercom.
This is a mom’s scary nightmare. Happy Halloween y’all!!
Ellis had to get his flu shot this week. Like most little ones, Ellis hates shots. The only thing he likes doing at the doctor’s office is watching the buses go by outside the window. I knew it was finally time to ride the bus.
Our normal outing looks like this:
But we went to the big city (Chapel Hill) and Ellis got to ride the bus for the first time. It was thrilling for him.
The city buses are free! (Thanks Chapel Hill). For a boy who loves all things that go, the journey is definitely better than the destination. So we rode the bus, hopped off and got some noodles … and got right back on another bus. Ellis could have ridden the bus all day. When we were walking back to the car he yelled “come back here bus” to each one we passed.
Parenting is a lot like riding the bus. It isn’t really about where you are going, it is all about how you are getting there. Before kids, getting a flu shot was just another quick errand.
Now, it is much more of an event.
First we have to drive to the thrift store to pick out a special toy (a rubber shark). We then have to pack back into the car. Use the potty. Arrive at the doctor’s office early so we can ride the elevator a few times. Sit in the waiting room and give pretend shots to the new shark and to baby brother for good measure. Go back into the exam room. Count the buses that go by out the window (3). Get the flu shot. Cry. Go pick a special toy out of the treasure box. Also get a sticker. Ride the elevator two more times. Go across the street to the grocery store to pick out the biggest cookie they have. Purchase said cookie and brag a little to the checker that Ellis just got his flu shot. Go outside to sit in the grass and eat giant cookie and watch buses go by. Wait two extra minutes to hear the bells chime.
That one little errand turns into a big production, but that is where all the living is with a toddler. Bus rides and flu shots are the big things of life lived with a little one.
Last Friday marked two years since the end of our first pregnancy. I hope some day to feel grounded enough in what happened to share the whole story but until then, I think it’s safe to simply say that there are moments in your life that create fissures. Tectonic plates that crack apart and shift who you are so violently that you can see that place across the divide but you can’t ever go back to where you were. That baby and that pregnancy marked who I am today so heavily that it impacts almost every decision I make.
Two years later and I have some distance on things, and I know for certain that all the things that resulted from that point aren’t bad things. In fact, some of the things I treasure most today are a result of our loss. So, in memory of the child that made me a mother, and in the spirit of showing Lucas that even when you face hard times you pick yourself up and find the good things in life, here are a few things I carry close to my heart that I wouldn’t have experienced otherwise.
Since sharing what we’ve gone through, I’ve talked to a number of women going through something similar. I know three who are pregnant again right now and I know how much they’ll appreciate each and every day with those new babies in ways they never could have imagined.
Two years ago, I couldn’t have pictured my life today. All I could focus on was taking a breath, putting one foot in front of the other, closing my circle and holding on so tight to those I loved. I wouldn’t wish what we experienced on anyone, but I know it’s possible to keep going and that eventually, the pain becomes part of your story and part of your life. And, if your lucky, a touchstone for gratitude and peace.
On Monday night the stars aligned. Ellis spent the night at Gram and Pop’s house, which meant that Adam and I got to cook together for the first time since Cal was born. We used to love cooking together. Sort of. I am all about the one pot wonders and Adam loves his mis en place. We have very different styles, but we make it work. These days one person is always child wrangling so we don’t ever get to cook together. We seized this moment.
I decided we should try and cook a meal using everything edible from our yard. We could still use spices and staples from the pantry but the homegrown elements should be the star (I have been watching a lot of Top Chef lately. Can you tell?).
I should preface this by saying we we are in no way master gardeners. In fact we are a little self conscious of our modest attempts to grow. We live between a very accomplished 88 year old gardener who can charm anything and everything out of the ground and literally a PhD of plants on the other side. Our yard looks very sorry in comparison. The theme song for Green Acres starts playing every time we pick up our shovels. When we first moved to the country we ate tulip bulbs thinking they were onions. I have also been known to still be harvesting melons in November because we always seem to be planting late. So this homegrown challenge was a tall order for us. This is the mish-mash we had to work with:
collards, parsley, sweet potatoes
a little lemon from my tree
Eggs from the ladies. Dinah was keeping these warm.
And some rosemary and garlic that I grew this summer. This was our total spread:
Through the magic of the internet (and cooking) we turned it into:
Garlic lemon collards. Rosemary sweet potato hash topped with a fresh egg and a sprinkling of parsley. Sweet potato souffles for dessert. It was super tasty. We crushed that challenge.
What is it about parenting that makes it necessary for you to eat your words?
From day one, Lucas wasn’t interested in any of the sleeping crutches that so many parents blissfully count on. He dropped the full swaddle while we were still in the hospital fussing until his arms were free. He was kicking so hard at night that he would unswaddle himself within moments. And don’t get me started on the pacifier…the kid wasn’t interested. White noise or no, it doesn’t phase him and he finds cosleeping as disastrous as I do, thrashing about and whining until we put him in his own space. We went through a phase when we was about 3 months where he would thrash about startling himself awake every half hour or so. Turns out the kid is a tummy sleeper and once he got to consistency rolling over, we’d get long stretches of snooze.
One of the pediatricians I work with comes by to see me regularly and asks every time if we’ve started sleep training. No, I proudly told him when I went back to work, we just don’t need it. Luke would wake up once a night around 2 or 3. I’d feed him and then he’d nod off to sleep. I must have spoken too soon because that was about all it took for Luke to start on a disastrous sleep regression. Lately the sandman had been avoiding our house and it was time for us to figure out why.
I’ll admit, sleep training sounded like a horrible prospect to me. Letting your child cry, I thought, would be gut wrenching and impossibly hard. The rub was though–as his sleep regression went on and Luke was waking every 2 hours, then every 45 and then only sleeping if someone was patting him gently–that he was crying as much if not more than he would during a few nights of sleep training. After Tuesday night punctuated by a two-hour session of screaming from 12 to 2 (sorry neighbors), we realized that something had to be done.
We decided a graduated “cry it out” approach would be best. The plan is, to let the child fuss for 3 minutes, then 5, then 7, checking in on them in between and reassuring them that they haven’t been left alone. The next night, you start with 5 minutes, and the third night, 7 minutes and so on. Everything I read promised a three day taper, but I’ve long ago learned that Lucas doesn’t read the same books I do.
Night number 1: he woke up around 11:15 and I spent the next 45 minutes going back and forth to his bedroom telling him I loved him and that it was time to rest. Eventually though, he dosed off and it wasn’t until 4 that he made another peep and put himself back to sleep. Could this really work? I was practically dancing when I got up in the morning and found him still snoozing.
Night 2: less than 20 minutes and Luke was back asleep.
Night 3: we never even made it into his room to check on him.
Night 4: the little trooper slept from 7-5, nursed, and went back to sleep until 7:30.
The improved sleep is amazing and I know in the long run it’s better for all of us, but I will miss cuddling him and rocking as he nods of so sweetly. I’m continuously reminded to not rule out a parenting decisions. You just never know what will work for you and your kid. There’s no panacea for any of this and we’re all just figuring it out as we go.
As of Monday I have been married for 7 years. Which feels like a really long time.
We don’t do presents for our anniversary. Instead, we have three anniversary traditions that I love:
1) We get away. Each year we go on a trip for our anniversary. Sometimes we go big (Italy, year 1) other times just sweet and simple (camping, year 2 and canoeing, year 6) but it is always a nice way to re-charge.
2) On our big day, October 13, we say our vows to each other and each year we write a new one that is reflective of the year past or the year to come. It is one of my favorite traditions. I like to imagine that when we have been married for 50 years that it will take all day to read our vows and we will have the sweetest trip down memory lane.
3) We have our “anniversary meal” which is just fancy wine, cheese, salami (for Adam) pate (for me) crackers, apple and fig cake.
This year we took our traditions to the beach house. It was very low key (or as low key as you can be when traveling with two boys). It was Cal’s first trip to the beach–or first trip anywhere for that matter–and he spent almost the entire time asleep.
One of the best thing about traditions is that you don’t have to reinvent the wheel each year. We get to pick a new spot, and the rest is a no-brainer.
I don’t care how long I live in Los Angeles, I will miss the seasons. I don’t need months worth of cooler days but I do need to feel the crisp air and smell the leaves or something in my soul just isn’t right. With temps in LA still hovering in the 80s and 90s, I knew we would need to make it our mission to find fall. With a quick look on VRBO.com and a shout out to some friends, we were off to Big Bear for a chance to see some fall color.
It wasn’t a particularly long weekend or even jam-packed with our usual adventures, but it felt like a great get away. It was an awesome test of Luke’s travel temperament. I’m thrilled to report that he was a trooper. Can’t wait to go on more adventures with my little bear.
Working for a health care organization, it seemed all anyone wanted to tell me were the advantages to “nature’s perfect formula.” Don’t get me wrong, I completely agreed and wanted to make every effort to keep our little guy EBF (exclusively breast fed) for the first six months but I simply had no idea what life would really look like when our hungry hippo was born. One thing’s for sure it most certainly doesn’t look like the beautiful stock art images of baby and mom quickly cuddled in the rocking chair. Most of the time it looks like there’s an octopus trying to escape from beneath the nursing cover. Breastfeeding was such a challenge for us, that I was actually looking forward to going back to work and pumping multiple times a day. Still I couldn’t have even started to imagine the shenanigans that would arise while I tried to bringing home the bacon and the milk.
My job entails driving to locations all over two counties and many times, I don’t know where I’ll have to be before the day is done. Add on to that a regular hour-plus commute and the early days of pumping were a nightmare. Within the first month I had pumped in exam rooms, private offices, in the parking lot at a local park, and while sitting in LA traffic. (Thank god for nursing covers and tinted windows.)
On my first day back, a coworker I don’t really know all that well asked me if I was expressing. The horror on my face was clearly evident as he quickly backpedaled saying how hard it was for his wife. I still can’t look him in the eye. The poor man sent be a baby gift because I think he was worried I was going to file sexual harassment charges.
There are 5 women who work on my floor who are nursing mothers and another 4 who are currently pregnant and due within the next 3 months. It’s practically impossible to find a moment in the sole lactation room at our company. And when I am there — I’m usually pumping, eating and answering emails.
Three months in, I’ve carried bags of breastmilk in my purse to a meeting because I didn’t want to leave it in the hot car. I’ve stood inside bathrooms at wineries, hotels and backstage at a convention center. A coworker offered to sit with me while I pumped so we had time for a meeting that was hard to schedule (I took a pass on that offer). I cried when I left a days work of milk on the counter overnight. As my pregnant friends and coworkers are about to embark on their own parenthood journeys, I’ve been passing out Mother’s Milk Tea and lactation cookie recipes like some sort of creepy evangelist.
Whether you’re breastfeeding or not, being a working parent takes some humility and negotiation. I can’t wait for the day when I don’t have to run into the office with my pumping bag in tow, but for now, I’ll take that horrid little whir of the machine because it is good for Luke, and it’s the only reason I’m able to fit in my pre-pregnancy clothes at this stage of the game.
One of the things I loved in Peace Corps was hearing all the possible “rephrasings” of English. Many Ugandans speak English, but just because we were using the same words didn’t mean we were always on the “same sheet of paper” (as one of the German nurses used to say).
Having a toddler is just like learning a foreign language. You thought you knew English pretty well until it goes through the mouth and mind of a two year old and then you have to relearn it all anew. Your ear gets tuned to the differences. I love listening to Ellis’ language in his sweet little voice
From the hilarious mispronunciations (“horse” sounded like “whores” for a few months) to the absurd statements (like the Aunt that he insists on calling “Uncle Brenda” ) to the so-sincere-they-are-profound-remarks (“I want to lay down and be happy with you”), listening to Ellis is usually the highlight of parenting for me.
Lots of times he may have mastered the pronunciation of a word, but he will redefine the meaning just to keep you on your toes. This conversation, for example, is on a loop two times daily in our house:
Me: Ellis it is almost time for sleep.
Ellis: No, soon.
Ellis says “soon” with such emphasis it is clear that he is really saying “never, not in a million years.”
I keep wanting to videotape all of Ellis’ chatting. The content isn’t that interesting on its own, but I don’t want to lose the tone and quality of his language, or the unusual toddler phrasing that I know is going to fade as he grows.
But in an effort to stave that inevitable process I don’t correct him anymore when he says “el-o-went” instead of elephant, because I don’t want to lose that word. I know one day he is going to pronounce that word the way the rest of us do and Ellis’ el-o-went will be gone. I am sure this is going to happen soon, sooner than I am ready. So I only wish that its Ellis’ definition of “soon” instead of mine.
When you’re pregnant, everyone tells you how fast it goes. And, you nod your head numbly because who hasn’t heard that a million times. Seven months in, Luke has left the newborn stage far behind and is creeping up on toddler-hood faster than I care to admit. I honestly feel like he was a little baby for about a week. Just this week he pounded through several major milestones and is looking more and more like a big kid every day.
Monday morning, as I was getting ready for work, Luke and Eric were hanging out in our bed. Watching me move back and forth through the room, Luke kept saying “ma, ma, mama” until I finally was finished and went to pick him up. We weren’t ready to mark it as the first word until late Monday night after we laid him down and we heard him calling “mama” from his crib. Talk about tugging on your heartstrings.
He’s also cruising through our living room like a small soldier on a secret mission. He’s army-crawling so fast that Foxy, our cat, has taken permanent residence under the bed. Fortunately, all of this extra exertion has led to some better sleeping for us all.
My personal favorite, though, is the very slobbery kisses that are now bestowed upon me by my little man. Thus far, he’s not sharing them with anyone else and it feels like amazing payoff for 9-months of heartburn and two hours of laborious pushing.
I know that he’s going to keep getting more fun the older he gets but I really wish I could bottle a little bit of him at this age with his giggles, tiny teeth and chubby baby arms that wrap so tightly around my neck.