Friday, December 31, 2010

Morning light

I woke up this morning to light in my bedroom. As in sunshine. Outside the windows. And although I’m well aware that the sun will, indeed, come out tomorrow, I don’t usually have the opportunity to awaken to it. My Nate, you see, is an early riser. We’re fortunate these days that we’re more often than not seeing a six on the clock instead of a five (or a four!) when we first hear him through the monitor, but he still likes to throw in an extra-early rising now and again, just to keep us on our toes.

But back to this morning. The sun. It was disorienting, and I had a brief and shining moment during which I thought that Nate was still asleep. I often wake before him at 5:45 or 6:00, and then spend a few minutes trying desperately to get myself back to sleep before I hear his little voice. But awakening before the baby when winter sun is already peeking through the window blinds? That, my friends, is something I could handle.

I turned my head toward my nightstand, where David plugs in the baby monitor when he goes to bed, after I’m already asleep. Usually, it’s bright with tiny lights—the power indicator, plus all of the various “noise indicator lights,” which are perpetually lit on Nate’s monitor from the white noise we run in his room. Today, though, it was all dark. Off. As in, not on. As in, holy heck, my kid could be in there crying right now, and could have been crying for an hour, and I wouldn’t hear him over the white noise running in my own room.

[Sidebar: When Nate was first born, we undertook an experiment in discontinuing the white noise in our bedroom so that we could just hear him from his room and not through the baby monitor. The experiment was an epic failure of sleeplessness (on my part), culminating in advice from another mother that, if your husband is a snorer, just use the dang monitor and run the white noise already.]

I threw a little prayer heavenward as I reached for the power button, holding onto the tiniest glimmer of hope that my earlybird would still be asleep at 7:15 a.m. Alas, it wasn’t to be. His image brightened the screen and I saw him pacing the crib in his fleece sleep sack.

[Have you ever seen a toddler walk in a sleep sack? I mean, one without the foot holes? It’s actually pretty cute and hilarious.]

He wasn’t crying, though, and his face wasn’t puffy or tear-stained when I picked him up. I don’t know whether he had been awake for five minutes or forty-five, although I suspect it wasn’t for too long, as he does tend to get agitated after a little while if no one comes to free him from his crib.

He’s been playing happily since we came downstairs, and now he’s scarfing down apple tea bread like breakfast is his job. I’m still a little freaked out by what-ifs, but clearly he’s no worse for the wear.

I suppose I’ll just be grateful for a good night’s sleep. But I’m still going to ask David about the monitor when he gets up.

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

I know I should stop him, but it's just too cute

Is there anything you let your child do because you find it adorable, even though you know you'll probably regret it later?

We have these beautiful curtains in our great room. I can't take credit for them, except insofar as I thought to include them in our purchase contract for the house. The previous owner had them made, and I loved them when we looked at the house.

An almost identical set of custom-made curtains was actually included in the October issue of Better Homes & Gardens--what a surprise to see a feature on another house in Alexandria with the same drapes in a different color! Same fabric type, same style, same trim; boy was the previous owner annoyed when I showed her the article. I think she had picked out the trim herself, and then her decorator had gone and used it for another client.

I didn't try telling her that imitation is the sincerest form of flattery. I know how much that adage annoyed me as a kid when my younger sister would copy me.

But today Nate has decided that he loves hiding in the curtains. I feel like I should get him to stop, lest he someday ruin them with sticky hands or a too-enthusiastic tug. I just can't right now, though, because it might be one of the cutest things I've ever seen. So for today, at least, I'm letting him have his fun.

Friday, December 3, 2010

Seven Quick Takes

1. I was in the car last night when the radio DJ told what she apparently thought was a hilarious story about her grandchildren being terrified to get in Santa's lap. Then, a few songs later, I heard a commercial announcing that the same station was holding a contest for the funniest photo of listeners' children scared or crying during a visit with Santa. My immediate reaction was: How is this funny? Kids are scared of a lot of things that we know there's no reason to fear, but that doesn't mean their fear is less real. Seriously, if your child is scared of Santa, why in heaven's name would you force him to sit on Santa's lap, anyway? I just fail to see how this is funny. Am I crazy?

2. I found a charming book for Nate the other day that I couldn't resist. It's a pretty hardcover book with a short story (one page per day) for every day from December first through Christmas. I know he's too young for it this year (although that didn't stop me from trying to read him the first story on Wednesday), but I thought it would be a nice Advent tradition in the coming years. It's something short and simple, and seemed like a nice thing to add to the advent wreath and calendar.

3. My old Yahoo e-mail account got hacked yesterday, which sucks. And somehow the hacking spread to my gmail account, which shut down. Even though I was able to get the gmail account restored, all of my contacts have been erased. It's infuriating.

4. I think we've settled on Nate's Christmas presents. He already has a lot of toys, and he's likely to get more from our parents and siblings for Christmas. (Which I'm in favor of! I think I enjoy his toys as much as he does.) We wanted to get him something "big," but not a big toy, so we've decided to get him one nice toy, plus an Anywhere Chair and a child-sized wooden table and chairs. I think it would be nice as he gets big enough to color and do little projects for him to have his own, small table and chair. For his Saint Nicholas Day present, I got him two sets of these egg-shaped shakers. He loves them in music class, and I can't wait for him to see them on Monday.

5. I got two pots of paperwhites this week for my kitchen windowsill. I've always wanted to force paperwhites during the holidays, but I always think about it too late. But I happened to see them already forced and in pots at Whole Foods on Wednesday, so now I can enjoy them all month! (Incidentally, when I told Arwen that I'd bought paperwhites, she thought I'd said "diaper wipes" and didn't understand what all the fuss was about.)

6. Poor David (and his dad) tried to install magnetic cabinet locks last weekend, and they didn't work. It's a total bummer, because I've been making do with rubber bands on the cabinet handles for months. The cabinet below the TV--where we keep the modem, wireless router, and printer--doesn't even have handles, so I've had to shove a chair against it. (Nate can move the chair, by the way, so it's only a semi-successful deterrent.) I don't know whether the wood is too dense, or whether one of the locks was a dud, but I'm afraid to try to install them if we're not confident they're going to open when we need them to open. So I guess we're going with these simpler ones instead. I'm pretty sure Nate will figure out how to open them eventually, though.

7. I'm looking for a good book to read. I had been reading Endurance, about Ernest Shackleton's ill-fated expedition to cross Antarctica, but I've gotten a bit bogged down. I mean, it's amazing that they all survived and everything, but reading about them eating blubber and having to kill the dogs (sad!) is getting old. I've heard great things about The Help. Any other recommendations?

More quick takes at Conversion Diary.

Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Yours, Mine, and Ours

David and Miriel are sitting at the kitchen table, talking finances. David put Miriel on a budget when she started her job, and he's excellent with money. He takes care of ALL of our finances, a fact which makes me inordinately happy. Perhaps it's because I have vivid memories of my finances during law school, when I was so poor that I had to borrow money from my church to pay my rent at the first of the month one August, because my scholarship check wouldn't be available until classes started in mid-August.

We get a lot of questions about how we handle finances, and I remember someone a long while back asking about it in the comments. I think it's a great way for married couples to deal with money, if they can handle the multitude of accounts it involves.

In a nutshell, we have:
  • A joint checking account,
  • A joint savings account,
  • My checking account,
  • My savings account,
  • David's checking account,
  • David's savings account, and
  • A money market account.
When David gets paid (and back when I used to get paid), David transfers portions of the money into the various accounts electronically. All of our household expenses, including the mortgage, utilities, car payments, groceries, gas, and insurance, as well as things like restaurant meals together, church tithing, and everything related to Nate, are paid out of the joint checking account. We also have a larger chunk of money--a few months of living expenses--in the checking account as an emergency fund. (It's in the checking account because it's an interest-bearing account with a large minimum balance.) (Also! I didn't even know it was in this account until David just told me. I thought it was in the money market account.)

Much, much smaller amounts of money go into our separate checking and savings accounts. Out of our separate accounts, we pay for things like our own clothes, makeup, books and magazines, haircuts and color, separate restaurant meals, gifts for each other, and so forth.

The joint savings account is where we stick extra money until we need to use it to cover things above and beyond what's in the joint checking account. It's also where we pay for holiday gifts and other gifts for family. This year, with the move and all of the associated expenses, there's pretty much nothing in the joint savings account.

Not to worry, though! Because the real "savings" account is the money market account, where we save up longer-term, bigger-ticket items. For example, this is what we use to pay for travel and large home purchases (like furniture or appliances). It's also the home for our tax reserve. Because David is a partner now, he is "self-employed" for tax purposes. This means that we have to pay estimated quarterly taxes; they aren't taken out of David's paychecks automatically. We have to set aside the money ourselves--and David told me to tell you that if everyone in America had to set aside money and write a check to the government several times a year, we'd all be Republicans.

The drawback to this system is this: It's pretty complicated. Clearly this isn't a drawback for me, considering that David handles all the finances himself.

But here's the upside: It's easy to know who should pay for what. Joint expenses come out of joint funds, instead of some convoluted division in which the husband pays Bill A and the wife pays Bill B. And yet! We still have our own money to buy each other gifts, which is nice. And David never gets bent out of shape about how much I spend on my hair, and I never get bent out of shape about how much he spends on his clothes--because it's our own separate money. This was a really important thing back when David had time to play golf or go to Vegas or Atlantic City with friends--expensive activities that I might have frowned upon if they were funded with money I'd wanted to use on, say, a new sofa.

I don't think anyone needs to have quite as many accounts as we have to make this idea work. The basic concept is just Yours, Mine, and Ours. Everything for the household and family is paid out of Our money, but You and I still get a little bit of separate money to spend or save as we see fit. I wonder how many money fights could be avoided with a little bit of separate money for each spouse.

So that's it: Yours, Mine, and Ours. I highly recommend it. Of course, I also highly recommend suckering your spouse into doing all of the finances, especially if you're fortunate enough to have one who is as good at is as mine is.

Monday, November 29, 2010

Christmas Novena

Two years ago, Arwen told me about a novena she'd prayed three years earlier. She had been trying to get pregnant for two years at that point (ironic, isn't it, that she'll have FOUR children next summer?), and she was turning to this special, powerful prayer.

I knew, of course, that she got pregnant with Camilla less than two months after the novena was done, but I'd be lying if I said I didn't have any doubts that it would "work" for us. I mean, I know that God answers every prayer, but I also know that the answer isn't always the one we'd hoped for. We'd been waiting over three years for a baby by then, and I had only one fallopian tube, and I was ten years older than she'd been when the novena worked for her, and . . . let's just say I was hopeful, but hesitant.

But pray we did. As did the rest of Arwen's family, and less than a month after Christmas we found out I was expecting Nate.

Needless to say, then, I'm a big believer in this novena. We'll be praying it again this year, starting tomorrow, on the feast of Saint Andrew. The prayer is recited fifteen times per day from November 30th through Christmas. It's a lovely prayer and very easy to memorize.

If you'd like to join in, make sure you choose a good intention. This is one powerful prayer!

Hail and blessed be the hour and moment
in which the Son of God was born of the Most pure Virgin Mary

at midnight in Bethlehem, in piercing cold.

In that hour, vouchsafe, o my God!

to hear my prayer and grant my desires
,
through the merits of our Savior Jesus Christ

and of His Blessed Mother.

Amen.

Sunday, November 28, 2010

I have a feeling that thinking about decorating isn't really how I should observe the first Sunday of Advent

I'm trying to decide when we should put up our Christmas decorations. I know that a lot of people put them up this weekend, and some even put them up before Thanksgiving-- the horror!

We've tried over the past few years to observe Advent better, and not to let ourselves automatically get swept into Christmas. In 2008, we waited particularly late to obtain and put up our tree, refraining until the fourth Sunday of Advent. As a result, we almost couldn't find a tree at all! It was stressful and frustrating.

Last year, my mother was visiting earlier in December, and we put up the tree while she was here so that we had an extra set of hands with Nate during the decorating!

It's hard to strike the right balance. I'd always been a fairly early decorator. And although I fully understand the reason for postponing the Christmas merriment, it's very difficult to do. I love, love, love listening to Christmas music on the radio, for example, of both the sacred and secular variety. The radio stations, though, drop the Christmas music as early as the day after Christmas. If I don't listen early, I feel like I miss out on part of the seasonal fun; listening to my own few Christmas CDs in the car just isn't the same.

Even though I love keeping my own house decorated at least through Epiphany, if not through the Baptism of the Lord, the decorations are long gone almost everywhere else--save for church, of course.

And, of course, there's something in me that feels a bit Grinch-like in protesting early celebration too much.

So I'm trying to figure this out. The fourth Sunday of Advent was definitely too late for the tree purchasing, but perhaps the third Sunday would work. I'm thinking perhaps we could put up some of the non-tree decorations next Sunday, put up the rest of the non-tree decorations and buy the tree on the weekend of the third Sunday, and decorate the tree on the fourth Sunday.

Anyway, the internet is no longer working for some reason, so I’ve copied and pasted this into a Word document to finish it. I might not be able to post tonight, but at least it’ll be all ready to go as soon as we’re back online.

Saturday, November 27, 2010

Too excited to sleep!

We actually did it. Yesterday we pulled the trigger and booked our trip to Disney World.

I am thinking of little else. I go to bed feeling like the family in this commercial--too excited to sleep. (How hilarious is that little boy, by the way?) David and I have been reading The Unofficial Guide to Walt Disney World and The Unofficial Guide to Walt Disney World with Kids and reading passages out loud to each other. We've been scoping out the Disney website and various unaffiliated sites for information.

We found a hotel on the property that offers "villas"--we'll be staying in an actual one-bedroom condo with a full kitchen, in a building that's adjacent to the Contemporary resort. (Hooray for being on the monorail line!) I don't think we'll cook, but it will be good to be able to eat breakfast and keep refrigerated snacks and drinks in the room.

We're going in early February, which makes me happy. Not only will we be escaping D.C. during the worst of winter, but it's truly the off season at Disney. I do not like the heat and would not want to have to push Nate around in 95-degree weather, and I really, really don't like crowds. I grew up outside Atlanta, and we'd go to Six Flags Over Georgia for church youth group trips or as a family. My very favorite visit to that park, though, was in college, when I went on a 50-degree day in March. There were no crowds, no lines, and no blazing sun. We practically walked onto every ride; I don't think we ever waited for more than ten minutes. If we liked a ride, we went from the exit straight back to the entrance to ride again. It was terrific. I don't expect Disney to be as sparsely attended, even in the off season, but it's got to be better than the peak times.

We're also planning on taking a couple of days at each of the parks we want to see. We're arriving mid-day on Sunday and leaving the following Saturday, so we got a six-day pass to the parks. (Did you know that after you reach three days, the incremental price increase for each additional day is only around $5--or less!--per day? The price for an adult three-day pass is $233.24 right now, but it's only $246.02 for a six-day pass--less than $13 more for three additional days! We figured it was worth having passes for the day we arrive at that price, even if we just go to dinner in Epcot or something.) Obviously we won't be able to hang around the parks all day with Nate, so I'm glad we won't be cramming everything into one day per park. We're totally taking Maggie's advice and doing the parks as soon as they open, lunch, naptime in the room for Nate, then back to the parks for a parade or dinner or more attractions.

At Patti's recommendation, we already have a reservation for dinner at 'Ohana in the Polynesian resort, and we made a reservation for breakfast at the Crystal Palace with the Pooh characters. I'm quite confident that Nate is too young to appreciate any of the characters, so we're not doing any other character meals, but we wanted to give it a shot.

And that's it for plans so far. I want to make more meal reservations and figure out whether I can squeeze in at least one spa treatment during Nate's afternoon naps. I just don't feel like I've been on vacation unless I go to a spa.

Did I mention that I'm excited???

Friday, November 26, 2010

Nate Walking

This isn't a good video AT ALL, but it's the first we were able to get of Nate walking. Every time we pull out the phone to record him, he drops to his knees and scuttles over to it as fast as he can; he's much faster crawling than walking.

As you'll see, he loves seeing himself in the camera phone. (I had it flipped around so that it was recording from the camera on the front side, which amused Nate, but which made it really difficult to see what we were recording later on.)

He's been walking a little more and more every day, though he still prefers to crawl. It's so much fun to watch it click for him, though. I think watching him learn new things is my favorite part of being a mom.


Thursday, November 25, 2010

Thankful

David fell asleep sitting up on the couch after dinner, so I'm declaring it a success. I took video, but I don't think he'd be very happy if I shared it here.

Everyone said the food was delicious. I have to say that I agree. When I told one of my neighbors yesterday that we were brining the turkey, she informed me that after she'd had her first brined bird, she decided she never wanted to have turkey any other way. She was completely right--it was that good. And maybe it's because we bought a fresh Amish-raised turkey from the local butcher instead of a frozen Butterball, but, lands, was that a flavorful bird. I'm already looking forward to the leftovers.

And! And! I successfully made from-scratch gravy. And it wasn't lumpy, and it thickened up properly, and it was hands-down the most delicious turkey gravy I've ever had in my life. I know I'm totally bragging here, but you would be too if you'd made this gravy. The gravy was the one thing I was affirmatively worried about, because it's notoriously finicky, but it all came together in the end.

The only casualty of the day was our instant-read meat thermometer, which I've learned can't stay stuck in the bird while it's in the oven. (Is there some thermometer that goes into the oven with the turkey? Or is that my imagination?)

And now I am just . . . so . . . tired. The dishes are going to wait until tomorrow.

But I won't sign off without saying that I'm so thankful. I'm thankful for the most wonderful husband anyone could ask for. I'm thankful for our beautiful, hilarious, precious little boy. I'm thankful for family and friends who love me. I'm thankful for a comfortable home, plenty of food to eat, and warm clothes. I'm thankful that David's job lets me spend every day with my son.

Most of all, I'm thankful for the gift of faith, and for a Church that holds fast to what is true and beautiful despite unceasing pressure to change. And I'm thankful that the Lord of all creation somehow sees fit to love a creature like me.

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Really, aren't baby butts cute either way?

I have a shameful secret: I've been using disposable diapers for the last month, and I'm loving it.

We switched Nate to cloth diapers back in January, after the breastmilk poop fought the Huggies and won a few too many times.

I generally have never minded using the cloth. They're adorable, they really aren't that much of a pain to wash, and they allow me to feel a tiny bit of that smug superiority that environmentalists all seem to carry around with them.

Our new house, though, has a front-loading washer instead of a top loader, and a somewhat old one at that. I'm sure front loaders have improved in recent years in their ability to get clothes really clean, but this one totally sucks. Within a couple of weeks of moving into the new place, I started to notice that Nate's wet diapers would get a strong ammonia odor that they'd never had before.

I'd always been perfectly happy with the diapers before just by running a cold cycle with no detergent, then a hot cycle with a small amount of Charlie's Soap, then an extra rinse. I'd been trying the same routine here, but I just can't get enough water in the machine.

I tried stripping them (running them through the wash multiple times without detergent, in order to remove detergent buildup), but there was no improvement. I also switched to a different brand of detergent that is supposed to rinse out of diapers particularly well. It hasn't worked.

And then, last month, Nate got a horrible yeast diaper rash. It took days and days and a ton of Lotrimin to get it cleared up, and we had to use disposables while using the cream on him. In the meantime, I ran the cloth diapers through multiple hot cycles with bleach to kill the yeast.

The day I put him back in the cloth diapers, he started to get a rash again.

That was the last straw. I told David that I wasn't going to use the cloth diapers any more until we could get a top-loading washer that would make me feel confident that Nate's diapers were getting clean. At the time, I felt kind of bad about it. I'd been using disposables in the diaper bag and when we traveled (I learned on our first trip to see my family in Georgia that traveling with cloth isn't worth the hassle), and I always felt a little guilty when I had to throw a diaper away.

I have to admit, though, that over the past month I have not-so-secretly been enjoying the disposables. I decidedly do not enjoy the smell, which can be awful--we don't have a Diaper Genie or anything similar, and a few poopy diapers in the nursery trash can (which is a really nice Simple Human can with a lid, not something with an open top) can make things really foul really quick. But I had come to dread dumping Nate's diapers into the toilet, using the diaper sprayer (which seems to get water everywhere), and trying to keep Nate from either grabbing the diaper or sticking his hand into the dirty water before I could get everything flushed away.

Here's the thing: Everyone who uses cloth talks about how easy it really is. And it's true. Using cloth diapers is a lot easier than you'd expect using cloth diapers to be. Before Nate started solids, it was really a cinch, because I didn't have to dump and rinse poopy diapers.

But the fact that it's easier than you'd think does not mean that it's easier than using disposables. And so even though I'm feeling slightly guilty at the sheer number of diapers I'm putting out with the trash every week, I can't say I really mind having to take a hiatus from cloth. I'll still go back to the cloth when we acquire a new washer, both because it seems silly to have invested in a nice cloth diaper stash and then use disposables unnecessarily, and also because I really am susceptible to guilt from the tree-hugging types.

For now, though? I'll take easy.

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Thanksgiving Plan

The linens are ironed. The table is set. The wine is purchased. I picked up the turkey from the butcher today, and David and I braved the grocery this evening.

If all goes well, my in-laws will arrive in town tomorrow evening, so that they can watch Nate during Thursday's cooking. Regardless, tomorrow will be the day for turkey brining, potato mashing, and pumpkin bread baking (for Bobby Flay's pumpkin bread pudding). David only has to work in the morning, so I practically feel like the holiday has already begun!

I really don't want the cooking to get overwhelming on Thursday. Our friends are bringing two of the side dishes, so that makes things easier. Getting the potatoes done is also huge; peeling and dicing potatoes the day of stresses me out. (Arwen told me a great tip for reheating mashed potatoes: The crock pot! Who knew!)

I probably need to make some kind of detailed list so that I don't forget to do something on Thursday.

Okay, this officially wins the award for the most boring post ever, but it's 10:15 and I usually go to bed at 9:30 and Nate will not be sympathetic and sleep later if I stay up trying to craft a better post. So I'm hitting publish and promising better things for tomorrow.

Monday, November 22, 2010

Veteran

I have a distinct memory of attending my Bible study only a couple of weeks after Nate was born. I was taking him with me, of course, and was one of several women sitting around the table in my small group with an infant along. At some point I needed to do something with my hands, so I crossed my left ankle over my right knee, creating a little triangular bed for Nate, and laid him in my lap for a few moments.

It was a move I hadn't tried before, but I'd seen Arwen do it plenty of times. It must be kind of a veteran mom move, though, because the woman sitting next to me immediately asked me how many other children I had. She was surprised when I told her that Nate was my first. I guess I looked like I had things under control.

It's funny that I remember that moment, because looking back at the first several months of Nate's life, it seems like a blur of being entirely out of control--and not in a healthy, "go with the flow and just meet your kid's needs" kind of way. More in a "sleep-deprived haze punctuated by yelling at my husband for no reason" kind of way. In other words, it was ugly.

I remember the way Nate would always poop or spit up on his outfit just as we were ready to leave the house. I remember feeling like it was almost impossible to go anywhere, because he was just going to need to nurse again in less than the time it would take to run an errand. I remember absolutely loathing that stupid infant carrier, which was heavy and awkward and never did fit properly in a shopping cart.

I remember crying--a lot--and wondering whether I would ever feel like I had this motherhood gig down.

I'm not sure when I turned the corner. Maybe it was when Nate started sitting up on his own, so that he could play a little bit by himself. More likely it was when he finally started sleeping better. Regardless, I wish my earlier self could see me now. I actually enjoy taking Nate on errands or to restaurants. I'm completely happy to let him play on his own for as long as he'll be entertained. I know what he wants and needs--usually--and I'm just good at taking care of him.

I'm beginning to feel like that veteran mom I was mistaken for over a year ago. It feels really, really good.

Sunday, November 21, 2010

Vacation Magic

I think we're really going to do it. All of your positive comments about taking toddlers on vacation have emboldened us, and we're pretty much decided that we're going to go to Disney World next year.

The challenge (well, not the only challenge, I'm sure) is in the timing. It turns out that going in March, when we'd initially wanted to go, is "peak" season--with peak prices and, one can assume, peak crowds. April is out; my sister is getting married early in the month, and David's firm's partner retreat is later in April. I don't want to go during the summer, because walking all over several huge theme parks with a toddler in tow doesn't sound very magical to me. And yet we think we want to go sooner rather than later.

Google tells me that the average high temperature in February is right around 73 degrees, with the average low around 50. Even though it would be a bit of a bummer not to be able to take advantage of what are apparently pretty amazing pools at a lot of the resort hotels, that weather seems basically perfect for walking around the parks.

That doesn't actually give us that much time to plan, but I figure if A'Dell can head to Disney on four days' notice and still have an amazing time, surely we can pull it off in a few months.

This is SO preliminary right now, and yet the thought of going somewhere fun as a family makes me SO excited. And it seems like a good idea to have something fun to look forward to during the depressing, stir craziness-inducing time that is post-holidays winter. (Though after the blizzards last year, you'd better believe we'll be purchasing travel insurance.) I'm buying this book tomorrow, and I see ton of internet research in my future. (Item #1: Which on-site hotel offers suites with an actual separate bedroom?)

It feels kind of crazy, but I'm counting on crazy turning out to be lots of fun.

Saturday, November 20, 2010

Coaster Nate

This video isn't from this weekend, but I hadn't had a chance to share it yet.

There's a playground a couple of blocks from our house that is officially called Beverley Park, but everyone refers to it as "The Pit." It's actually in the location of an old gravel pit, and it's terrific because the sides slope up all around it, making it really easy for parents to keep an eye on their kids. It has all of the standard playground equipment--swings, sandbox, climbing areas, slides--but it also has something kind of unusual. There's a big cement pad where parents leave trikes and ride-on toys that their kids are no longer using. The toys will disappear once they are broken or otherwise unusable, and new (well, new to the playground) toys will appear in their place.

Several weeks ago, one of these roller coasters appeared. It has been the toy for all of the kids ever since then, but I'd always been afraid to put Nate on it. Of course, the first time David saw the thing, all he wanted to do was let Nate try it out. So we did, and of course Nate loved it.

Here's the video evidence.

Friday, November 19, 2010

First of all, I'd like to thank David for stepping up last night and posting for me after I got into bed and realized that I'd forgotten to write anything. Way to keep NaBloPoMo alive, honey!

* * * * *

Y'all, I am on the ball about Christmas this year. I've always dreaded shopping in years past and so I always put it off . . . and then I dread it even more because it's so late and I still have so many presents to buy and OMG I'm never going to be done with it all so why don't I just go sit in a corner and complain about how Christmas is too commercialized anyway.

Up until last year I had always been working, of course, or in school dealing with finals, and then last year I had a small, frequently angry baby to contend with. I didn't want to face the crowds at the stores, and yet the longer I waited to head out, the worse the crowds got. It was a vicious cycle.

But this year! I have already selected our Christmas card and uploaded the proper photos. I have a decent idea of what we're going to get most of our family members. I even know what I'm getting for David, who is notoriously hard to shop for, because (1) he just goes out and buys everything he wants, and (2) if he hasn't bought it yet, it's because it's insanely expensive and more than you want to spend on a Christmas gift. I'm totally psyched to see Nate experience Christmas this year, because I think he's actually going to enjoy seeing all the lights and hearing the music and opening presents. (Regardless, it has to beat last year, when David and I ended up taking turns eating Christmas dinner while the other one held Nate in an upstairs bedroom.)

I am going to get our shopping done in a timely manner, so that it doesn't overtake the season for me. And with the shopping done, I'll have time to do some of the things I've been wanting do do in seasons past, but haven't had time for:
  • Drive around our town playing Christmas music on the radio and looking for the best light displays
  • Watch It's a Wonderful Life and White Christmas--both of which I've never seen (I know!)--while eating popcorn popped on the stove and drinking hot chocolate
  • Go see The Nutcracker
  • Visit the National Christmas Tree
  • Walk around Old Town to see the lights on King Street and the decorations on the old rowhouses
  • Find someplace to hear a performance of the Christmas portions of Handel's Messiah
What about you? Are there any special activities you're looking forward to during the Christmas season?

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Vanity - All is Vanity

I have a strange fascination with vanity license plates. I appreciate it when someone comes up with something clever, like a creative description of the car to which the plate is attached. Living in Washington, DC, we also see a fair number of political license plates, like this:

Can we guess the driver's party affiliation?

The ones that leave me scratching my head, though, are the ones that are just so, well, vain. You have to wonder what possesses someone to go with this:

If true, do you need the vanity plate to proclaim it?

There's also the trend, perhaps peculiar to women, to adopt vanity plates that tout the driver's physical beauty or other supposedly desirable attributes. You know, plates like "2CUTE" and "SO HOT" and "DIVA." (Actually, there are lots of variations on diva, which leads me to conclude that not everyone understands that term's connotation.) Or plates like this:

If you say so.

Sometimes I'll see something a little different, which amuses me for a moment. Then I wonder what the person is compensating for:

Only in his own mind.

My all-time favorite, though, is the woman driving a Lexus RX300 I've seen several times on I-395, though I've never been able to score a photo: LEXY LDY.

Personally, if I were going to get a vanity plate, I might try for something like "NRCISSUS." But I'm not sure I'm really that vain.

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Today was a less than stellar day.

It started off well enough. Nate actually slept until 6:00 this morning, a significant improvement when I'm used to seeing a 5 or even a 4 on the clock when he wakes up. David and I were in good moods. Nate was in a good mood. His morning nap and music class were great.

And then, the afternoon hit. He refused to sleep at all this afternoon, and consequently was fussy and clingy until after dinnertime. The dog was barking her head off all afternoon and driving me up the wall. David had to cancel our date night when one of his clients asked for a conference call involving one of his firm's offices in Asia.

So I decided to improve my evening. Miriel, God bless her, went to the grocery for me when we no longer needed her to babysit. David was at home to take the conference call, so I decided to take myself out to dinner. I went to a Cajun restaurant just down the street from our house and settled into a booth in the bar with my December Real Simple. After a glass of wine, an order of crawfish and shrimp beignets, and a bowl of she crab soup, I'm feeling much better about the world.

* * * * *

I also wanted to say thank you for all of the vacation advice. I think that once Nate is well and truly down to one nap a day, giving us a chunk of time early in the day to get out of the room or condo or whatever, we'll just suck it up and brave it. I'm impressed that so many of you took or are taking big trips with babies and young toddlers! You're inspiring me to be brave and give it a go!

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

. . . had to get away

I have vacation on the brain.

It's probably because we haven't taken one since Nate was born, and we won't be taking one for the foreseeable future. We've gone to Georgia to visit my family a couple of times, and I took Nate to Michigan once to visit Arwen and her family, but we haven't done an actual vacation. And after those trips, I'm not sure that it's really do-able.

Ever since we sleep-trained Nate, he really has to be in his own room to sleep. The last time we were at my parents' house, we tried a night in the same room with him. He fell asleep fine, because we weren't in the room at that point, and we were able to creep into bed silently later on. But once he woke up and realized we were in there with him, he wanted us.

I think this pretty much means that we can't go anywhere and stay in a hotel. Of course, that would have been problematic even if Nate would sleep in our room; what would we do, go to bed at 7:00 when he goes down for the night?

I know we could go and rent a cabin or a condo somewhere and give Nate his own room, but between his early bedtime and his naps, I feel like we'd be really limited in what kind of sightseeing or activities we could do. And, of course, my preferred vacation activity--lying beside a pool with a book and a cocktail--isn't feasible with a one year old in tow.

There are so many vacations I am eagerly anticipating taking with Nate and, God willing, any more children we have. I can't wait to take him to Disney World. I want to play with him on the beach at Kiawah Island and go kayaking through the marsh, looking for dolphins. I want to take him sightseeing in New York. I want to show him the Grand Canyon (and see it myself!). When he's older, I want to take him to Rome.

But how do you swing vacation with such a little guy? Until he's weaned, a trip away from him for any longer than a weekend is pretty much out of the question, and frankly I'm not sure I'd be ready to leave him for longer even if he weren't still nursing. So it's either bring him along or stay home.

Have any of you had successful vacations with a one year old? Where did you go? What were your accommodations like? Did you go with family or friends who could help look after the little one? Did it seem like your kid(s) enjoyed themselves? Was it all just more trouble than it's worth?

Monday, November 15, 2010

An evening walk

I walked around our neighborhood this evening in the fading light, pushing Nate in his stroller. We were both content to be outside, looking around at the trees and the houses with the leaves crunching in our path.

I love walking around in the evenings, as the houses light up from the inside. I love to catch little glimpses through the windows, glimpses that are hidden in the bright sunshine. Everything seems so snug and cozy as the rooms are bathed in warm lamplight, with bookshelves lining a wall or flowers gracing a tabletop.

The early evening darkness of late fall is justifiably unpopular for many reasons: Kids have less time to play outside with friends. Workers emerge from their offices into the already-black night. The exhaustion the accompanies the end of a day creeps in too early and steals away the evening hours. The cold settles in quickly as the sun's rays fade away.

But peering at the welcoming squares of light, I appreciated the dusky blanket falling over our neighborhood. And then, as we breathed in the chilly air and shuffled through the fallen leaves, Nate and I made our way back to our own warm home, where our windows, too, glowed in welcome.

Sunday, November 14, 2010

Apple-icious!

So remember how I said yesterday that Nate was obsessed with an apple during the photo shoot? Here he is just before the shoot, when we discovered that he would, in fact, devour an entire apple. (I need to remember next time to turn my phone the other way when shooting video. Sorry the picture is so skinny!)

Saturday, November 13, 2010

Photo Fail

Oh, y'all. We had professional pictures scheduled for 3:00 this afternoon. I had been looking forward to getting these pictures taken for weeks; we haven't had any done since Nate was only a week or so old, and I was excited to get some new photos to display around the house and to get a nice photo for our Christmas cards.

Now I am just praying that any of them turn out well. Nate was beastly. He hasn't been himself lately, but today was particularly bad. He woke up at 4:30 this morning and wouldn't go back to sleep. He took a good morning nap, but refused to sleep this afternoon at all. (Remember that whole nap transition thing I mentioned? Well, the one-nap situation lasted for all of two days. On day three he was cranky and yawning at 9:00 a.m. and more or less demanded a nap. He's been back to two ever since, although for the past few days the afternoon naps have been really short or--like today--nonexistent.)

As a result, our usually-smiley, easygoing baby was surly and touchy. He basically refused to smile at all, showing teeth only when David tickled him. He squirmed and crawled away every time we tried to sit with him in one of our laps for a family shot. He consistently turned away from the camera when we tried to do more candid shots with him. At some point we decided to give him an apple we'd brought along, because he was eating one earlier today, and it was pretty cute. He refused to surrender the apple for the rest of the shoot, wailing every time we tried to move it away for a picture. I swear, that darn apple will be featured prominently in any shot that turns out at all.

And I felt so badly, because our photographer was an absolute joy. She's several years younger than we are, but, like me, she's a southern girl who went to law school and now stays at home with her kid. Her daughter is less than a week younger than Nate. She clerked for a federal judge after law school so she must have done really well--but still gave it up for motherhood. And she is totally adorable and was so friendly and patient. I seriously want to become mom friends with her.

I love the work she shows on her site, so I'm hoping that by some miracle she managed to capture Nate's adorable side despite his cloudy demeanor today. And don't even get me on how fussy he was at dinner, a dinner we'd had planned for weeks with friends who we never get to see. We probably should have canceled, but we felt like it was too late to back out (and besides, we really wanted to see our friends). Instead of getting good time to catch up with us, our poor friends--and fellow dining patrons--were literally subjected to Nate screaming in the restaurant. Again, something he never does.

He's asleep now, having passed out more or less the instant he went into the crib. And I'm pondering whether to drown my mood in a glass of wine or just go straight to bed. I have a feeling bed is going to win out.

Friday, November 12, 2010

Holidays

So I realized this week that Thanksgiving is a mere two weeks away. In fact, as of today, it's less than two weeks away. Last year we spent Thanksgiving at my dad's house here in town, and so we had no responsibility--a good thing considering we had a baby who was only a month and a half old. This year, though, we're hosting David's parents and some good friends of ours, and we'll be doing most of the cooking. I've never cooked a Thanksgiving dinner before, so I'm a little nervous. One of my projects for next week is to create a detailed list of what I need to accomplish each day leading up to the big event, so that I don't have to worry about getting out the china or figuring out a centerpiece on the same day I'm trying to roast a turkey. I'm excited, though, to start a tradition of holidays in our new home. Frankly, it's what I've always wanted.

Even with Thanksgiving still ahead of us, though, I'm already looking ahead to Advent and Christmas. I am determined this year to get my shopping done early. I have a tendency to put it off because I dread going out and facing all the commercialization head-on, and then I end up stressed out that I haven't finished. It too easily ruins my Advent and pulls my focus away from higher things. How do you tackle your shopping without letting it take over the season?

Here's my other big Christmas question: How do you handle Santa in your family? We've decided that we're not going to "do" Santa in our house. David and I both had "Santa" bring us gifts, and I honestly don't have any memory of the point at which I found out Santa wasn't real; it must not have been traumatic. Nevertheless, I had been dubious about doing Santa for Nate when a conversation with Arwen sealed it for me. She explained that her parents had never told her and her siblings that Santa was real, but that Christmas had always been magical anyway. As she grew up and her friends learned the truth about who was bringing them gifts, she saw Christmas lose some of its luster for them. Meanwhile, it always remained as special as it had ever been for her.

That means a lot to me. I don't want Christmas to ever become less special or less wonderful for Nate. More importantly, though, I want Nate to trust David and me, and I fear that if we basically lie to him about something like Santa (even with the lovely intention of giving him a fun experience), there will come a time when he wonders what else we are lying to him about.

I have two big worries about this arrangement, though. First, I wonder how we will explain to Nate that he cannot tell other children that Santa isn't real. I certainly don't expect other parents to make the choice we're making, and I don't want my son to the the one to burst any child's Santa bubble. I figure, though, that this question could very well come up even if we were telling Nate that Santa was real, if he happened to be among the first of his friends or classmates to find out the truth.

Second, I worry that there's a chance that he'll resent not having the Santa experience if all of his friends believe in Santa. I hope that he will have enough other special traditions around Christmastime that he won't miss the guy in the red suit. I can guarantee that the child won't lack for presents, and we still plan to give him a stocking--he'll just know who the presents and the stocking actually came from. We also want to do small celebrations--probably including small gifts--for Saint Nicholas's feast day and for Epiphany. And, of course, we want to try our best to keep the focus on Christmas as a religious celebration, so that he doesn't think about it as a day that's primarily about getting gifts.

I know we can get away with not thinking about this again this year; after all, Nate will only be fourteen months old. But a friend of mine sent an e-mail this week with information about a local store that was offering free photos with Santa, and I had to explain that Nate wouldn't be sitting on the big guy's lap. It's been on my mind ever since.

Did Santa bring you presents growing up? How did you react when you found out he wasn't real? Did you learn from your parents or from a friend? How are you handling this in your family? If you're not doing Santa, have you gotten any pushback from other family members about it?

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Beautiful

As I put on my makeup this morning, I peered into the mirror with disdain: My pores. They were just so large. I've struggled with my skin since I was a teenager, resorting in high school to painfully drying Retin-A creams and various other potions. Things have been better since then, naturally, but I still experience what I consider to be unfairly frequent breakouts. I look gross, I thought.

* * * * *
Do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit within you, which you have from God? You are not your own; you were bought with a price. 1 Corinthians 6:19-20a
* * * * *

Earlier this week I had lunch with a good friend who happens to be objectively stunning: Blond and thin with gorgeous features, always stylishly dressed. We lamented the state of our midsections following our respective Cesarean births, wondering whether our bodies would ever be quite the same again. I can't speak for my friend, but I know I was focused not on the miraculous way my body had carried and nourished an entire new person, but on the pouch that now makes its way over the top of my low-ish cut jeans.

* * * * *

Thank Heaven--literally--that the lesson in my Bible study this week was about cultivating inner beauty and seeing ourselves the way God sees us. How many times do I need to be reminded that external beauty is fleeting before I will stop obsessing over it? Why is it so much easier to see myself through the lens of a beauty industry that wants me to focus on my flaws--and buy their products to "fix" myself--than it is to remember that I am a precious, beloved daughter of the King of the universe?

I think of how I love Nate, and how I want him to view himself as he grows up. I don't want him to be prideful, of course, but I wish for him a quiet confidence and the sure knowledge that he is loved and treasured. How much more than any earthly parent does our heavenly Father love us and want us to feel certain of that love? How much more hurt must God be than any other father or mother when we turn our noses up in disgust at our faces and our bodies--the very faces and bodies that He created especially for us?

* * * * *
Man, though made of body and soul, is a unity. Through his very bodily condition he sums up in himself the elements of the material world. Through him they are thus brought to their highest perfection and can raise their voice in praise freely given to the Creator. For this reason man may not despise his bodily life. Rather, he is obliged to regard his body as good and to hold it in honour since God has created it and will raise it up on the last day. Catechism of the Catholic Church 364.
* * * * *

May we ignore the voices that tell us we aren't good enough or pretty enough or thin enough or young enough. May we all look in the mirror and see instead the beauty of God's creation, giving thanks for our perfectly imperfect bodies--pores and pouches and all.

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

One of my very least favorite questions is, "What are your hobbies?' Because the fact of the matter is that I really don't have any, and haven't since college. In high school I was involved in theater and chorus, both of which I loved. In college I took up ballroom dancing for a time, and performed with my university's then-newish Ballroom Performance Group. But since then? Meh.

Sure, I read, but I don't read enough to really consider it a hobby. I feel like to say you read as a hobby, you either need to have a specific focus (biographies, maybe, or young adult fiction, or historical novels), or you need to just be a very broad reader. I don't think chick lit plus the occasional memoir plus child-rearing books counts.

I refuse to call television a hobby, no matter how much of it I watch.

I I like wine, but I can't imagine being sufficiently interested in it to make it a hobby.

I'd like to be one of those people who enjoys cooking and baking, but truth be told my current least-favorite four words are, "Hon, what's for dinner?" When it comes to feeding us after I get Nate to bed, my only concerns are how long it will take to cook and how long it will take to clean up. (I truly do hope this changes as Nate gets older and doesn't insist on pulling everything out of the lower cabinets as I try to do anything in the kitchen.)

This state of affairs simply cannot continue. I am, therefore, making it my mission to decide before the end of the year whether I'd like to try to learn more about photography, sewing, or knitting. I want to do something that gives me tangible benefits, and these three choices fit the bill. Whether it's making Nate's Halloween costumes or knitting us scarves and hats or putting together nice albums, each of these hobbies would give my family something special. Each one also seems, for lack of a better word, attainable; I feel like I could quickly get to a point at which I would be successful with simple projects, which would help give me the motivation to continue.

Now I just need to dig around online to see where I could take a class or lessons for any of these activities, and how much the classes or lessons cost. I also need to think about materials cost. Buying a decent sewing machine, for example, seems like a biggish investment up front.

What do y'all think? Do you have hobbies you love? Am I crazy to want to take something up with an almost-toddler underfoot? If so, can I claim that my hobby is watching Glee?

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Tuesday

I wasted Nate's entire afternoon naptime today trying to come up with a way to accurately and adequately describe last weekend at the Blathering. I failed miserably.

Nate was fussy all afternoon, even during his playdate.

I think the switch from Daylight Saving Time, coupled with traveling to Chicago, has made me unreasonably tired. I've been fighting to keep my eyes open all day.

I made myself a cup of tea and never got to drink it.

I neglected to make any dinner at all for my poor husband, even though he was coming home from a business trip.

By all accounts, it should have been a crappy day. But this afternoon Nate decided to take four steps, smiling and reaching toward me all the way. And suddenly the rest didn't matter.

Didn't matter at all.

Monday, November 8, 2010

Only a week late, a few photos from our Halloween festivities. This year was so much more fun than last year, when Nate was still just ticked off to be outside the womb. This year we were able to take him to the pumpkin patch, stroll briefly in the (huge and crazy) Del Ray Halloween Parade, and take a be-costumed Nate to see my family and some friends in our old neighborhood. We also had several dozen trick-or-treaters at the new house, and David and I enjoyed a terrific adults-only dinner with friends the night before Halloween.

I'm trusting that Thanksgiving and Christmas this year will similarly top last year. Considering that we spent much of both holidays last year holding a crying baby, the bar is set pretty low.

Hope you and yours had a spooky and spectacular time!

Visiting the pumpkin patch.

On the way to the Del Ray Halloween Parade.

Walking in the parade.

Showing off his fighter pilot costume.

Halloween night.


Sunday, November 7, 2010

A snuggle beats a welcome wagon any day

Miriel and I got home from Chicago this evening, and not a moment too soon, as Nate made it very clear today that he was dissatisfied by my absence. David says he was fussy, clingy, and generally unhappy all day. He's like that with me on rare occasion, if he's not feeling well or has had a really bad night of sleep. Normally, though, he's a pretty happy kid. Something was definitely up, and David is convinced Nate really wanted me.

I'm not glad Nate was unhappy today, and I'm certainly not glad David had to deal with a fussy baby. But I have to admit that it feels good to know that he really did miss me. When David comes home, he kicks and waves his arms and just looks like he's thrilled to see his Papa. Because he sees me all day every day, though, he never gets really excited when I walk into the room.

I didn't get kicking and arm waving today, either. But I got a huge smile and very eager nursing and a warm little baby falling asleep right in my arms, letting out what almost sounded like a sigh of relief.

I think that means he was glad I was home. And I'll take it.

Saturday, November 6, 2010

Chi-town

So, I don't feel like our neighborhood is truly suburban, and we obviously don't live in a small town or in the country. But when a come to a true city, a city like Chicago, I really do love it. There's an energy here that is unlike anything in any other environment.

I feel it a little bit when I'm in downtown DC, but DC is a strange place. For one thing, you are always as likely to run into tourists as you are to run into actual city-dwellers. And DC, in my mind, lacks the soul of a city. It is beautiful, no doubt, but there's not that same awe that comes from looking at the skyscrapers.

As we walked around, I was looking at the parents with small children in strollers, bundled up in bunting and hats and mittens. I found myself wondering what it would be like to raise a child in the city. Is it more convenient because you rarely have to deal with a car? Is it a hassle to store gear in a small apartment or navigate a stroller through crowded sidewalks? Is it easy to make friends with other parents?

We're not even going to get a chance to see the wonderful neighborhood-y areas of the city, which is a shame. It's the problem with visiting any strange city, right? It's hard to have an opportunity to really experience the place like a local. And there's not much we can do about that, given that we can't exactly move here for a few months.

I love where we live, but the problem with choosing anyplace to live is that you necessarily give up then opportunity to live any of the hundreds of other terrific places you could call home. So I will just satisfy myself with a fun visit to this terrific town, and look forward to coming back again.

Friday, November 5, 2010

Seven Quick Takes

-1-
I am at The Blathering, and so far it is nothing short of awesome. So terrific to meet these ladies who I've "known" through their blogs. Can't wait to meet everyone else!

-2-
I don't think I had ever appreciated how wonderfully simple it is to fly without a baby in tow. When the flight attendant told us to "sit back and enjoy the flight," I didn't mentally roll my eyes the way I do when Nate is with me. I read my book, played with the iPad, and talked to Miriel. Bliss.

-3-
David has already tweeted that he is completely exhausted today. Heh. Welcome to my world, honey.

-4-
The nap transition is not going so well so far. Nate took one nap on Monday and one on Tuesday, but Wednesday morning he was crabby and exhausted around 9:00. I decided to put him down and give him 15 minutes to fall asleep, figuring that if he wasn't tired enough to fall asleep quickly, I would get him back up. He was asleep within five minutes. He was also tired yesterday. David gave him only one nap today, but he is definitely acting tired too early for a proper bedtime. Aha, so THIS is why everyone says that transitioning stinks.

-5-
Speaking of baby sleep, does anyone have advice for dealing with the impending time change? I am lucky in that I won't have to deal with Sunday morning, but I have no illusions that next week will be a piece of cake. I will admit that I have been dreading this for weeks. He is already such an early riser, and I have fears of 4:00 a.m. wakeups. Repeated 4:00 a.m wakeups.

-6-
Tried a decaf pumpkin spice latte for the first time today. Mmmm. Now I see what all the fuss is about. This could become a dangerous habit.

-7-
Our view? Is amazing. We are on the 33rd floor of a condo building on Michigan Avenue, looking out over the lake and up toward the Magnificent Mile. We can see the Sears Toweer (though isn't it called something else now?) and the Navy Pier. I really do like Chicago.

More quick takes at Conversion Diary, http://www.conversiondiary.com/. (I am posting from my e-mail account and can't create a word link. Darn!)

Thursday, November 4, 2010

Okay, posting three days in a row should be evidence that something is afoot around here. I'm attempting to participate in NaBloPoMo--National Blog Posting Month, during which bloggers post every single day all month long. I am perplexed as to why this event always occurs in November, as opposed to, say, February or March, but I'm not in charge.

Today's post will be nothing of note, sadly. It's past my bedtime, and I spent Nate's naptime packing to go to Chicago for the weekend. Can we talk, though, about that? This will be the first time I have truly been away from Nate, and it's making me pretty nervous. I am confident that I'm going to have a great time, but I'm afraid I'm going to miss him desperately. Tell me that it will be okay?

I am excited, though, that David will get to spend the entire weekend with Nate. I think he's a little worried about it right now, but he is a terrific father. Seeing that he can handle Nate all weekend can only build his confidence in that regard. He's even got a playdate planned! Nate also completely adores David, so I think he's going to be thrilled to have Papa all to himself for three whole days.

If you don't mind, though, please say a little prayer for all of us this weekend? I want everything to go smoothly here, and I don't want my missing Nate to dampen my fun. Because let's face it; mama needs a break sometimes.

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Winners and losers

David arrived home last night giddy with anticipation about the election returns. He was armed with a veritable score card--some pundit's predictions about key races--and we turned on CNN and ordered pizza. (Yes, we're Republicans and even we can't stand to watch Fox News.)

Obviously we're pleased with how things turned out. Oh sure, I would have loved to see Barbara Boxer and Harry Reid go down in flames. But as someone who believes the country is likely better off when the federal government is doing less, not more, I'll take a divided Congress and hope for the best in 2012.

But here's the thing. I remember going to work the day after the 2006 and 2008 elections. It was awful. And I don't mean it was awful because I was a Republican who was upset about the Democrats' gains--though I was. It was awful because in those office buildings with me were staffers who had just lost their jobs.

It was weird in the weeks after to see pallets of boxes out in the hallways, marked with a Senator's name and ready to be moved . . . somewhere. Back to the home state, sometimes, or off site for archiving, depending on the type of records. Reminders that someone is headed out the door, and taking dozens of staff members with him.

So I'm thinking today in particular of some of my committee counterparts. Their boss lost last night, and I'm wondering what they'll do next. I generally didn't agree with their boss, and I generally didn't agree with them, but I do hate it that my preferred outcome in the election necessarily causes such immediate turmoil in my former colleagues' careers and lives. It's the nature of the beast, of course, and I trust that they'll all land on their feet. But still.

It's a little thing that gets lost in the breathless twenty-four hour news coverage and the endless commentary. But as a former staffer, it's not lost on me.

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Finally! A breastfeeding rant!

I've been thinking an awful lot lately about . . . boobs.

I never thought I would become particularly passionate about breastfeeding. I knew I'd want to do it; it's convenient, free, and proven to be the healthiest option for babies. After struggling so long to conceive, though, and after ending up with a c-section at 42 weeks, never having gone into labor, I felt desperate for my body to do something right. I cried when Nate lost more than ten percent of his body weight in the hospital and it looked like we might have to supplement. I rejoiced when he nursed five ounces in the pediatrician's office the next morning and didn't need formula.**

Nearly thirteen months later, he's still nursing. I'm still happy about it. And I'm increasingly annoyed at a society that thinks it's fine and dandy to have breasts on display for men's enjoyment, but that nursing is somehow gross or shameful and should be hidden away from public view.

A few weeks ago, on a Sunday morning, I was scrolling through my facebook news feed when a status update caught my eye. It was from someone who is a friend of a friend, not someone I'm at all close to. "OMG!! I am sitting in church and the woman next to me is breastfeeding her baby -- and I might add with NO blanket to cover them -- ugh!!"

Immediately, I felt my blood pressure rise. Let's leave aside the fact that I have a strong feeling God is a lot more offended by facebooking in church than by nursing in church. Posted from church or from Starbucks, I was just completely offended by her comment.

The way she'd phrased it, "and might I add with NO blanket," made it perfectly clear that she would have been disgusted even if the mother had been nursing under cover. Her friends' follow-up comments did the same: One girl, for example, said that the noise babies make when breastfeeding was really what creeped her out. Am I missing something here? Does a baby sucking on a breast actually sound different from a baby sucking on a bottle? Because I have a feeling no one would have any qualms about a baby taking a bottle during church, sucking sound or not.

I left what I think was an appropriately rant-y but not over-the-top comment, noting a mother's right to nourish her child and asking whether she'd be equally offended by a woman showing excessive cleavage in public. I may also have said something about Mary nursing Jesus.

Here's the kicker, though. I had read her status and left my comment on facebook's main page, which I now realize only shows a cropped version of members' profile pictures. When I later clicked on her profile page to read follow-up comments, I saw her full profile photo--with full cleavage. As in, my husband was embarrassed to look at her photo-type cleavage.

And that's what really gets me. I would be shocked if the nursing mother who so offended my acquaintance in church was showing anywhere near as much skin as my acquaintance was displaying on her facebook page. Yet I'd be willing to wager that far more people will accept the public cleavage over the public nursing.

I don't think I'm crazy to believe that this confusion stems, in large part, from our hyper-sexualized culture. Boobs can be sexy, sure. But it seems to me that their sexiness should be reserved to the bedroom, and their functionality should take precedence wherever a baby needs to eat. As a society, we've got it backward in thinking their sexiness should be on display, while their functionality should keep mothers confined to the nursery.

Seriously, Mary did nurse Jesus. But you know what she didn't do? She didn't wear a low-cut top on facebook.

** I certainly don't want any of this to sound like I have anything against mothers who feed their babies formula. Formula-fed kids turn out just fine--David and I are two examples of that fact! I have friends who have had to formula feed due to breast infections or contra-indicated medications, or who simply couldn't deal with the hassle of incessant pumping upon returning to work. I think we should support all mothers as they do their very best for their kids. I just don't want nursing mothers to feel ashamed about feeding their babies wherever their babies need to eat.

Monday, November 1, 2010

Transition

I think it's official: Nate is transitioning from two naps per day to one. Last week and over the weekend, he was taking forever to go down for his naps. His afternoon naps were awful if he'd taken a good morning nap, and he refused to take a nap at all on Friday afternoon. I have been dreading the arrival of this day, not because I think one nap is so awful, but because I hear the process of moving from two to one totally sucks.

Don't get me wrong, though--there's a lot to miss about that morning nap. Nate still gets up between 5:30 and 6:30 most days (or 5:10 this morning; dear Lord make it stop). He would nap around 8:30, so I was always just able to push my own breakfast and getting ready to his naptime. No more, friends. Now it's scarfing down a bagel while feeding bites to a clingy one year old, and blow drying my hair while he empties the bathroom drawers. Good times.

I've read a lot online from moms who moved the morning nap back by 10-15 minutes at a time, until eventually it was in the middle of the day and was the only nap. I don't think I have the patience for that, so today is Day One of my cold-turkey approach. We simply skipped the morning nap altogether, got out of the house for distraction, and then I put him down just after noon. He fell asleep almost immediately but woke up after only 45 minutes. Then, miraculously, he went back to sleep after about 15 minutes of mild fussing.

Who knows how the rest of the day will go--or the rest of the week, for that matter. He didn't get too fussy this morning, and I managed to get myself both fed and presentable while he was awake, so I am declaring success.

Any advice for dealing with this shift? Any reason to be hopeful that it will make things better? Is there even the slightest chance that sleeping less during the day will allow him to sleep later in the mornings?

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Time

Time likes to sneak up on you and sucker punch you when you're least expecting it.

For days I've been going through old photos of Nate and compiling them into a slideshow. I looked at them over and over without much thought, and certainly without sadness or longing.

And then today I was looking for a box of sweaters of mine that had been misplaced in the move. I'd noticed several of my favorites weren't in my closet, and I was hoping they were in a box we'd neglected to open in our rush to make the house presentable back in July before my parents came up for a visit.

I found the sweaters in the cedar closet in the basement storage room. Nestled in with my clothes, though, were a handful of Nate's fall and winter things from the coat closet. I'm not sure how his outerwear from the old entryway made it into the same box as my sweaters from two floors above, but there you go. There were the tiny hat and fleece-lined cable-knit cardigan sweater we'd run out to buy when the week he came home turned out to be unseasonably cold. The orange fleece cap with adorable little ears on top that he'd worn all fall. A cozy plaid fleece snowsuit that was too big last winter, and that I fear will be too small now.

As I turned them over in my hands, I felt the breath get sucked out of me. I've been so caught up in celebrating his first birthday and in looking at how far he's come that I've been able to push aside the concurrent melancholy at his babyhood slipping away. But this morning, in the silence of naptime, time sprung up at me from a box of sweaters. And now my heart is aching just a little.

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Better Late Than Never

We've been pretty busy around here with our anniversary and Nate's birthday and awesome houseguests and Nate's party and . . . in short, I'm woefully late in posting a birthday video for him. But here it is, finally.

What a difference a year makes.


Nate's First Year from Lauren Petron on Vimeo.

Music: Somewhere Over the Rainbow/What a Wonderful World, by Israel Kamakawiwo'ole

Sunday, September 12, 2010

Kindness in the Air

Nate and I are in Michigan for a few days, keeping Arwen company while Bryan is out of town for work. We flew in yesterday, because it would be easiest to fly on Saturday, and the rates were far better, and there was hope for a relatively empty flight-- a huge plus when you'll have an eleven month old on your lap.

I saw them as I was leaving the ticket counter: a middle-aged Arab man and his wife. The wife wore a floor-length dove grey tunic, with a soft pink scarf about her head and shoulders. Only her eyes were visible, though I avoided contact with them, scurrying away toward the security gate with my son in the Ergo and my stomach slightly clenched; after all, it was September 11th, and I'd be lying if I said the sight of this obviously Muslim couple in the airport on such a somber anniversary didn't give me pause. I was flying into Detroit, and I knew that, with the substantial Arab population in the surrounding area, there was a good chance they would be on my flight.

Nate and I breezed through security (although did you know you have to remove even a baby's tiny shoes?), and I found myself wondering whether the Muslim couple would raise eyebrows with the TSA folks. I didn't know whether their undergoing a more stringent check would make me feel better or worse, so I pushed the thought away and headed for Gate 16.

I unstrapped Nate from my chest and let him crawl around near the huge windows. The gate was mercifully uncrowded, signaling a very sparsely filled flight, and within a few minutes the Muslim couple had joined the few of us waiting to board. I hung back until the other passengers had disappeared down the walkway before scooping Nate up and making my way to the boarding door.

We had three seats to ourselves, directly across the aisle from the Muslim couple. In between trying various Nate-amusement methods, my pure nosiness led me to pay them far more attention than I would have paid to your average American couple.

They carried on a lively conversation, albeit in Arabic (I think). When Muslim women's veils cover their mouths, I always get the impression of a certain muteness, as if keeping their lips out of sight somehow keeps them silent, as well. I was pleasantly surprised, then, at what sounded like a husband and wife each genuinely interested in hearing what the other had to say.

The flight attendant came by with the drink cart. He ordered coffee. She, cranberry juice.

Nate was largely content during the flight, but he'd taken two poor naps and had a bad night's sleep, so I was pulling out all the stops to keep him quiet. As I fed him snacks, produced various toys and books, and eventually pulled out the iPad to amuse him with "Peekaboo Barn," I wondered whether I looked like a stereotypical materialistic American spoiling her child.

Eventually Nate's wriggling had its intended effect, and I dropped him down to let him stand between my knees. This was insufficient freedom for him, though, and he immediately crouched to the floor and scurried out into the aisle, making a beeline for the husband's seat and reaching out to pull up on his armrest.

"Ooh, sorry," I quickly murmured, reaching down to pull him back toward me.

But the husband waved me off. "Oh, he's fine," he said, turning his attention to the baby.

I'm never one to rebuff anyone's efforts to amuse my child, so I sat back in my seat as Nate stood up triumphantly across the aisle, one hand on the man's armrest and the other patting his knee. The man reached down and gently pulled Nate into his lap, much to Nate's delight. His thick black mustache was, of course, irresistible, and Nate tugged on it with glee. The man cooed and leaned in for more; clearly this wasn't the first time he'd played this game with a little one.

"You're very kind to be so patient with him," I said, truly meaning it.

"It's nothing," he insisted, "I love children."

"Do you all have children?" I asked.

"We have three daughters, one son," he replied, as Nate giggled and marveled at this strange man and his fuzzy upper lip.

His wife leaned forward in her seat to peer around him. "Is he your only child?"

"So far," I answered. "We'd like to have more, but, you know, it's not really up to us." I gestured heavenward. The woman nodded, her eyes revealing an understanding so often absent from my secular friends and acquaintances, the ones who believe in taking hormones to prevent babies when they're inconvenient, and hormones to make babies when they're slow in coming.

After a couple more minutes, the man passed Nate back across the aisle, complimenting his sweet temper.

The short flight ended uneventfully, and I sent up a quick prayer of gratitude. I do so at the end of every flight; I mean, hurtling safely through the air from City A to City B always seems like a minor miracle.

Yesterday, though, I was grateful to have my prejudices challenged, and my presuppositions proven wrong. On the anniversary of the worst of Islamic terrorism, I was grateful for the kindness of this Muslim couple, who must feel the weight of subtle wariness like mine every day. I pray that as Nate grows up, all he sees are the people behind the fuzzy mustache and the pretty pink scarf, and that his stomach never grows nervous at the sight of them.

May we all get there someday.

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Talk to me Friday morning when I'm stressing about what to wear

Thank you for your comments and suggestions! I hope it didn't sound like I don't want to be friends with working mothers; that's not the case at all. I have quite a few friends from my old job who are now moms, and I only wish I got to see them more often! I just don't want to make a commitment to a regular weekend meeting/playgroup with Nate. David gets so little time with him that I don't want to take away from that, and I really just want activities to fill those weekdays.

I also wouldn't mind hanging out with a mom who was also working as a nanny, of course. I don't know if our area is unusual, but the vast majority of nannies around here are immigrants from El Salvador. (We have a huge Salvadoran population here. When David and I taught CCD a couple of years ago, 10 of the 13 kids in our class were Salvadoran.) I'm always friendly with these nannies when I see them on the playground or out at Barnes & Noble for story time, but I feel like we're just coming from very different places. Frankly, I'm not sure they'd want to hang out with me. There's a language barrier, and we don't have the same cultural references, and we just lead very different lives.

The library is a great idea. During the school year, they had a sort of sing along/story time for babies, and there were a lot of nice moms there. Unfortunately, I didn't learn about it until late in May, so I was only able to attend a couple of times before it broke for the summer. We will definitely be going back in the fall, though. One of the librarians told me that the story time for one year olds is very crowded, so we'll have to see how that goes.

I may also pick back up with a yoga or Pilates class that includes the little ones. I'd attended a mom and baby Pilates class earlier on, but because the class was for moms with pre-crawling babies, I've had to give it up as of late. I think there might be a mom and tot yoga class at the same studio that allows older babies and toddlers. The only problem is that the classes are pretty expensive, whereas playgroups are, you know, free. Free is very good in my book.

But most importantly, an update! Despite the initial request from one mom for a weekend group, it looks like things are working out for our potential playgroup to get together for the first time this Friday. Huzzah for weekdays! One of the moms is someone I've met before at the local playground and liked. Another of the moms has a baby Nate's age and nannies for a toddler, so she's bringing both her son and her charge to the group. I think I might have met her at my previous attempted playgroup, and she seemed very sweet.

Anyway, we're meeting at lunchtime, so everyone is bringing a dish to share. I'll be contributing pasta salad. I'm sure my subtle combination of penne and Italian dressing will win everyone over and make them want to see me again. Right?

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Playgroup good grief

I should have known it would happen as soon as I saw the e-mail.

I subscribe to an e-mail listserv for parents in my area of the city. It's been useful for various things: getting rid of our moving boxes without resorting to throwing them away, getting recommendations for classes, and the like. What it has not been useful for--and this is a surprise--is finding some small playgroup for Nate. Okay, let's be honest--finding some small playgroup for me.

At age not-even-eleven-months, Nate just isn't that interested in playing with other babies. He's happy to watch other kids, especially bigger kids, and he doesn't mind being around other babies. His actual play, though, takes place alone. I think all the experts say that, at this age, babies will play beside each other, but they won't really begin to interact in their play for several more months.

But still, I would love to get together with other moms to socialize, and just let the kids play. And I do get together with a couple of different moms on a pretty regular basis, just one on one. There's nothing scheduled or regular, though, and I sort of wish there were. What can I say? I like predictability and routine.

So yesterday when an e-mail came through the listserv from a mom looking to start a playgroup for her eleven-month-old son, I replied.

You'd think it would be a fairly simple thing to get a few moms together with their kids on a semi-regular basis for an hour or so. But there are a couple of risks involved in responding to these sorts of playgroup-formation e-mails. First, someone is always a working mom who wants to meet on the weekends. This does me no good whatsoever. On the weekends, I can already hang out with other adults, and with my husband in particular. The last thing I want to do is take away from the little bit of time that David, Nate and I can all hang out together by committing to some regular weekend playgroup.

(I would be a lot more sympathetic to the request for weekend playgroups if we were talking about older kids. Who actually, you know, play together. But I don't think baby playgroups are really for the babies themselves, but rather for the moms. And if you're a working mom, don't you already get plenty of adult interaction at work?)

Second, someone always wants to set something up during the week, but wants to send her kid to playgroup with the nanny. Again, no big deal if we were talking about lessons or team sports or something that's really and truly for the kids, but it just makes for an awkward situation when it's a small playgroup meeting in people's homes for a handful of babies who are just going to sit around and bang their own toys.

Oof. I realize how completely spoiled and snobbish this must sound, as if I don't want to hang out with working mothers or, worse, the help, but that's not it at all. What it really comes down to is this: Being a stay-at-home mom is often really lonely and really isolating. I want, nay, need some regular adult interaction during the week with people I'll enjoy talking to. Instead, my last two playgroup attempts have resulted in weekend meetings or suggested weekend meetings or offers to send a tot over to my house next time with his babysitter.

Seriously, how do you just find a little group of other moms? I feel like I will be asking for trouble if I put my parameters in a request to the listserv, but I don't know what else to do, short of crossing my fingers and hoping a small clutch of moms-of-nearly-one-year-olds falls into my lap.

What would you do?