Here we are. November 30. I didn't get a perfect 30/30 on my National Blog Post Month project, but 28/30 isn't bad.

This wasn't easy, and it certainly didn't bring about 28 beautiful posts. But it got me here, writing, and it helped me begin to figure out what my approach should be. I hope to stick around, but I'm glad to give up the every day posting for now.

What next? NaBloPoMo, despite it's terrible name, has pushed me to maintain this blog. Unfortunately spewing out a post every day has consumed time when I should be doing other things, like talking to my husband and working on Christmas gifts.  Every day is too much, but never is too little.  So, blog, let's make a deal. I'll see you 2-3 times a week from now on, ok? Cool.

Thank you to Heather for sparking my participation in NaBloPoMo


go mighty

Maggie Mason, aka Mighty Girl, aka one of my web heroes (I was pretty psyched to meet her at SXSW in 2006) has demonstrated again and again how the internet can be used to inspire, achieve dreams, and bring together like-minded people for good. See: Mighty Life Lists, Camp Mighty, and Mighty Closet for proof. 

She recently launched Go Mighty, a social site for working on your own life list. Based on her Mighty Life List project, the site is a platform to document your own life list, from progress made toward a goal, to funding a goal, to photos and stories about achieving the goal. I got an account when the site first launched, but I just started filling in my list tonight. It's made me realize that I need to spend more time thinking about my life list. Which is, I think, a good deal of the point.

A lot of shady stuff happens online, sure. But a lot of good goes on, too. 

Is anyone else on Go Mighty? Find me!

Just jumpin' around, being mighty.


drivetime downers

I am a big NPR/public radio fan. (Are you? You've made sure to watch Sh*t Public Radio Listeners Say, right?) So of course I have our local public radio station, WAMC, as the default on my car radio and listen for the 12 minute drive to and from work every day. Those 24 minutes are among the only time I'm listening to something other than our tolerable-but-still-kid-music Music Together CDs.

My commute apparently coincides with the time frame when the latest installment in that month's important but very depressing and/or gruesome series is aired. First it was the series on human tissue donation. It's a very important topic, needs to be known, but oh my word, the descriptions of tissue harvesting were too much at 8:20 in the morning. And 4:45 in the evening. Somehow the timing worked out so that every day for a week all I heard on the radio was the tissue donation stories (or, not really, because as soon as the descriptions of cutting ligaments started I changed the station).

And then last month it was the stories on polio. Again, important, should be told, of course. But somehow my commute worked out so that every morning and evening I heard a story about polio in Africa. It made for a tough start and end to the work day.

I'm a total snooty jerk for complaining about the timing of NPR stories on my drive to a job, I know. But look! I wrote something here!

So what's in store for my commutes this holiday season, NPR?



I wrote something tonight that isn't ready for prime time. So in place of any real writing tonight I'll share some links:

Neil Patrick Harris Dreams in Puppet

The amazing Maggie Mason's very wise Personal Dos and Don'ts



On these late November days the sun is setting fast when I arrive to pick her up from daycare. I get out of the car and head in behind a few other parents, all of us shaking off the workday, hurrying in to greet the little faces we love. I notice the bright moon that is rising, excited to show Evy when we leave the building together.

When I walk into her classroom her body wiggles and dances with excitement. She runs to me for a quick kiss before darting back to show me what she's playing with: today, a feast of fake food, "soup" in cups that she's serving her teachers and shares with me. Her sweet teachers (whose patience and enthusiasm is the stuff of heroes) tell me how she's been "cooking" all day and ask if she helps in the kitchen at home. They tell me stories about things she said and did during the day, she gives them hugs and blows kisses. She points to her artwork on the walls, studies the photos of her friends and tells me who they are - she can name all of her buddies, loves talking about her "frennns!"

As I gather her coat, lunch box, and report of the day's activities she sneaks in one more minute in the play kitchen area. I talk to her about going home, seeing Calvin, starting dinner, and Daddy coming home as I slip her arms into her coat and start the zipper, letting her pull it up to her chin. I put her hat on and we say goodbye to her teachers - she gives out more hugs and kisses. As we walk down the hallway she talks about the babies she sees, points out the art projects and photos on the wall, and waves bye bye to everyone we pass. They all grin, wave back, know her by name. She helps push the door open as we step outside. I lift her into my arms and point out the moon. She smiles, points, "moon! clouds!" and we walk to the car. When I buckle her into the carseat she waves bye bye to the moon.

Our ride home takes less than three minutes. We talk on the way- her language continues to explode, and this week she has started telling me stories about things before I ask. Tonight she told me about the play doh she played with, and about how cold it was when they went out to play.

There is always a part of me that frets about whether we're doing the right thing by sending Evy to daycare three days a week (or, truth: there is always a part of me that frets about everything). I wonder if there are other options, if this is what's best for her, if she likes it, if I should be home more, and all of the other doubts that fill the minds of parents everywhere.  

But for this particular kid, I think daycare is a great thing. She's done well there since starting at four months old. At eight months she earned the nickname "the mayor" - smiling and waving to all the teachers and kids, all day long. She's social and very verbal, and it's clear that she loves being with a group of friends all day. She spends her daycare days playing with a collection of fun toys and does more interesting art projects than we could do at home. She has fantastic playgrounds and outdoor spaces to explore. She does better with naps at school than at home. And she is with wonderful, loving caretakers. 

Daycare probably isn't right for every kid, and her needs will change as she gets a bit older and we start thinking about preschool (I have dreams of Montessori...), but at this point in toddlerhood it is a great thing - and that moment at the end of the day when I walk in the classroom door and see her face is pure gold.



Things I've Taken Away from My Toddler Today (And Why)

      Object                                               Reason for Confiscation               

  • Empty coffee container                  Standing on the top. Logrolling.
  • Rolling pin                                     Putting it in her mouth. Refusing to remove it from her mouth. 
  • Dry pasta                                       Sprinkling it over the kitchen floor, fairy dust style.
  • Armchair (closed via ottoman)       Standing/jumping on (very proudly).
  • Plastic shopping bag                      Attempting to put on head.
  • Reusable shopping bag                  "    " (forbidden due to the scary bacteria I'm told coats the inside)
  • My hairbrush                                  Throwing, boomerang-style, across the room
  • Dryer sheet                                    Attempting to wash face with it   
  • Cup/bowl/spoon/fork                     Banging punk-rock-drummer style on the high chair tray (new vocab this vacation: bang bang bang! Dad was doing demo and installing insulation in the attic...)

*thanks to Pat for inspiring this post!


hibernation vacation

I feel a little guilty that we haven't done anything very exciting with this four-day weekend. With some house projects in the works along with the cleaning/organizing that's always on the to-do list, we stayed close to home yesterday and today. Many of our usual playmates were busy with their own holiday weekend travel and events, so most of the time it was just us three.

Sunday morning, making apple pancakes.
Maybe Evy would have had more fun if we were out and about more. Or maybe she doesn't mind some time at home. For her, these days have been full of playing with her toys, reading her books, helping me cook, snuggling with dad, napping in her crib, coloring, playing in the yard, rediscovering her pile of stuffed animals, watching snow flakes fall outside the window, dance parties, eating apple pancakes, and spending hours in her jammies. I'm pretty sure she doesn't have any complaints, aside from the fact that we won't allow her to climb and jump on every surface in the house. I hope the wild dance parties have made up for any lack of couch bouncing or chair climbing.


new parenthood (not glowy)

Evelyn, 1 week old, giving her opinion on not being held.

March 26, 2011 kicked off my harrowing journey through being a first-time mom to a newborn. That experience transformed me in an unexpected way: I've become a cheerleader and supporter of everyone I know going through (or about to go through) new parenthood.

Before I had a baby I had this idea that the early weeks with a newborn would be cozy and glowing, full of napping and snuggling. All the photos I saw were of cozy sleeping babies!

Instead, I felt like I was hit by a truck.  I was crying at the drop of a hat as my postpartum hormones went nuts, I was sore, overwhelmed, sleep deprived, and wondering why the hell anyone would ever have a second baby.

At the same time, I was falling in love with my daughter. I loved the feel of her little body sleeping on my chest, I loved the moments when her eyes were open and looking around, I loved studying her fingers and nose. The emotional highs and lows were making me motion sick.

It was all very confusing and not one bit like what anyone told me it would be like, or what people seemed to think it was like. Even people who had gone through it said things like "Enjoy this magical time!" and "Isn't it so wonderful?"  No! It wasn't. It was hard, it was taking every ounce of my determination to get through. Establishing breastfeeding was tough. I was getting no more than three hours of sleep a night. I was recovering from surgery. It required a support team of an amazing husband and family to get through those early weeks. Eventually, the balance shifted and the wonderful moments came more frequently, the impossible moments became old hat, and little by little I slept more than two hours a night. But whoa. It was intense, for all of us.

And so I tell my new mom friends that it is totally normal to feel like new parenthood is insane, that it will seem glowy when you look back on it but in the moment it is full of constant nursing, worrying about poop, exhaustion, and crying on the part of everyone. And despite what people try to make you think: babies wake up a lot at night. That's normal. And for many babies, it's normal for many months. Everyone will ask how your baby sleeps at night, they've just forgotten that their own baby never slept either.

In the first weeks home with a baby I did a lot of reading books and websites- looking for reassurance of what was normal, what to worry about, and when things would change. I was determined to breastfeed, but the only person I knew who had recently nursed a newborn was my best friend in Michigan. I was lucky enough to get connected with the local La Leche League for some much-needed support regarding nursing. The support and help from our parents was incredible, but in a lot of ways my husband and I were going it alone - the first of our local friends to have a baby, we really didn't know what to expect.

Below are some of the best online resources I found for new parents seeking good information, support and reassurance (I'm writing this post mostly to give myself something to link to when emailing those new mom friends of mine):

  • KellyMom - In my opinion, this is the best breastfeeding website out there. Science/research-based, it covers all kinds of topics. This is the place to go with questions about the early days of breastfeeding, what's normal, when to worry, what to do about issues that come up, etc.
  • JanetLansbury.com - Janet Lansbury's approach to parenting is one that we've really identified with. I wish I'd discovered her sooner, as I really like a lot of what she has to say about parenting an infant. This site is a great resource.
  • AskDrSears.com was bookmarked on my phone in those early months. Lots of good stuff about soothing a newborn, babywearing, sleep, and breastfeeding.
  • Squint Mom and Science of Mom offer research-based info, which is reassuring in a world of not-so-researched-based opinions on parenting.
  • La Leche League - Every new mom should find their local group and attend meetings. I can't push this enough. A supportive community is so so key to breastfeeding success - these ladies will have your back, help you out, get you through. The website also has some good resources. If you're in the Albany area I highly recommend attending the East Greenbush group's meetings. They are welcoming, friendly, and the support is so crucial.
  • 12 Things Your Crying Baby Wants You to Know  This is the kind of thing overwhelmed new moms need to read.


gratitude- part 3 of 3

Thirty Things I'm Thankful For - part 2 of 3

  1. Today - dinner with not one but two wonderful, fun, and crazy families. A family walk outside on a crisp and sunny day, watching loved ones dote on Evy, being inside houses bursting with loved ones, catching up, sharing abundant meals, and getting down with toddler-led dance parties - it was a wonderful day.
  2. Tomorrow - another family day of home improvements, snuggles on the couch, walks, and maybe - just maybe - venturing out in public.
  3. Health - mine and my family's. Things can change so quickly. I'm thankful that we are all able to fully enjoy each day as it comes. 
  4. Carmex and Crabtree & Evelyn lotion for dry dry winter lips and skin.
  5. Wine and beer!
  6. Evy's laugh. Evy's hugs. Evy's kisses. Evy's songs. I could go on. Obviously.
  7. The opportunity to watch my friends find love, grow families, and create happiness.
  8. The internet for helping me stay connected with faraway friends, reconnecting me with old friends, introducing me to new friends, giving me a place to write, blogs that support/entertain/inform/are ridiculous, providing a way to share photos and stories between friends and family, and giving us all the gift that is awkwardfamilyphotos.com. 
  9. Family - today made me especially grateful for the family I was born into and the family I married into. I feel undeservingly lucky to be surrounded by their love and warmth. Watching our child beam (and dance) amid that love is a dream I've had for a long time. 
  10. All of it. I am full up with gratitude for this life. Thank you, universe. 


gratitude- part 2 of 3

Thirty Things I'm Thankful For - part 2 of 3

Next, the small pleasures:
  1. Lindt Intense Orange dark chocolate bars stashed in the fridge for little nibbles after dinner.
  2. Simon & Garfunkel's Concert in Central Park album.  I have memories of this album from every phase of my life, starting with very early childhood when my dad would put the record on and we'd dance to Wake Up Little Suzy.
  3. All Good Bakers' vegan cinnamon rolls. Eat them. 
  4. Eric Carle's illustrations - especially the ones of butterflies, peacocks, and walruses. 
  5. Fleece pants at the end of a long day.
  6. A pile of books by the bed. Piles of books everywhere - board books, cookbooks, parenting books, good books.
  7. The promise of flowers in bulbs buried beneath the cold November dirt - dear squirrels, please leave those hopeful bulbs alone.
  8. Lunchtime walks around downtown Albany.
  9. When it's my turn to sleep for an extra hour on the weekend while Pat gets up with Evy. 
  10. Cooking and baking cozy things on gray November afternoons, filling the house with yummy smells and warmth and taste testing straight from the pot or oven.  


gratitude- part 1 of 3

Thirty Things I'm Thankful For - part 1 of 3

The most important things first:
  1. Patrick. The love of my life and father of my daughter. The guy who makes heart-shaped pancakes, learned how to do pigtails in Evy's hair, tells me I'm beautiful even when I'm wearing sweatpants, compliments my cooking no matter what, puts his heart into family dance parties, spends Saturdays spiffing up our house, bakes a mean chocolate cake, and gives hugs that make me feel safe, strong, and alive. 
  2. Evelyn. Joy of my life. The toddler who has taken life by the horns, the strong-willed little girl who loves as fiercely as she refuses sweet potatoes, the girl that is full of hugs and snuggles and will tell you exactly what she wants. She dances with abandon, loves her family, friends, and babies, talks and talk and talks, is serious about helping, and can say 'no' better than anyone I know.  Every single day I thank God and the universe for bringing her to us. This is the child we dreamed of. 
  3. My parents. They are always there when I need them - whether with assistance on house projects, babysitting, or a bowl of chicken soup. Nonnie and Papa light up my daughter's world, and they are a living example of love. They taught me that family comes first, they provided a simple, secure and happy childhood, and they provide delicious Sunday dinners. Evy loves her Thursday Nonnie days, and Papa makes her laugh and laugh and laugh.
  4. Pat's parents. I couldn't ask for more amazing in-laws. We have the dream team of parents, and Evy has the dream team of grandparents. Pat's parents are always willing to help with whatever we need, always providing meals and support, always there to offer love and guidance. They raised a guy who does laundry, cooks, and is handy - I am thankful every day for that! They are caretakers through and through, and we are so lucky to have them.
  5. My sister (and Dean!).  Katie can make me laugh no matter what and is my lifelong fashion consultant (I am consulting with her on my hair as I write this). She's great, and she just married a great guy. Plus she finds the funniest books and toys for Evy AND can recite every episode of Friends. 
  6. Pat's brother. Michael is a fun and funny uncle to Evy, and she loves playing with him. He's always there with a smile and a joke when we ask for help on projects/moving heavy things/catsitting/any number of other less-than-pleasant jobs.
  7. Our friends. We have an incredible group of friends, spread near and far. I am grateful to the support network around us, for the way they have all taken in and loved Evy, for the check-ins, the pot lucks, the visits, the playdates, the old friendships and the new. They make me laugh, they inspire me, they build me up, and they make me proud. 
  8. Our home. I find things to wish were bigger/newer/different and rattle off a list of the twenty projects I want to complete, but it's home. We've made this place ours in all it's cozy compact glory. It has kept us safe, dry, warm, and protected. I love its nooks and crannies, the windows that fill it with light, the magnolia and the japanese maple in its yard, and the friendly neighborhood in which it sits. 
  9. My job. I am grateful to work for an organization that does meaningful work, with people that care about what they do and the people they work with, for an employer that values employees as well as their contributions, for a boss that has been one of my most important mentors, and at a place that knows when and how to have fun. I am grateful for the flexibility I've been afforded, and the circumstances that have allowed me to spend more time at home with my daughter than I thought possible.
  10. Bedtime (when it goes well...) Watching Pat give Evy her bath. All of us quietly talking, singing, kissing while getting her all ready for bed and into her fuzzy jammies. Snuggling and nursing in the chair while I stroke her impossibly smooth hair. Bedtime stories. Hugs and kisses. Watching her drift off in the crib, snuggled with her doll and her blanket. Watching her back rise and fall, hearing her sweet breath. Whispering a small prayer before leaving the room. 


My Daughter's Books: Global Babies (and her dolls)

Our friends Julia and Lindsay gave us Global Babies when Evy was just a couple months old. It's been a favorite for a long time. At a few months old she liked looking at the babies' faces. As she got older she liked pointing to their noses, mouths, eyes. And then naming each part of their little faces. And now she has the short sweet verse memorized, she imitates their facial expressions, and talks to each of them. It's a wonderful book.

Evy's love for and fascination with babies doesn't end with the book. She just loves babies. Our friends' infant is one of her favorite topics of conversation. She has a little cooing voice she uses to talk to babies. She has a couple dolls that are her favorite toys. When she's playing independently she always spends a good part of the time changing her babies' diapers, along with poor Noah from her Playmobil Noah's Ark set. She found a bottle kicking around one of our kitchen baskets and uses it to feed her babies, "baby cup!" she says, pretending to give them sips. She wraps her babies up in blankets and carries them around, puts them down for "night night", sings to them, and asks us to put socks and shirts on them. She just loves her babies.

This brought up a little conflict for me as I was adding some things to her Amazon Wish List. We've made an effort to stick to very basic toys that aren't overly gendered. We have a small house and I'd rather we have toys that she'll be interested in for awhile, that will last, and that won't take up a ton of space. The preferred toys in our house are blocks, balls, books, puzzles, and crayons. And babies. We're learning what activities Evy really enjoys, and what she's drawn to. And she is drawn to babies, clearly.

Evy with her baby (July '12)
So, now my dilemma: supporting that type of play and her love for it, without going overboard. I bristle at some of the dolls that are out there - both the price tag and the abundance of pink. When I first started thinking about whether we should buy her some more doll "accessories" for Christmas I panicked over the idea of a living room turned doll emporium.  After talking about it with some friends I feel better about getting her some simple things she can use to play babies with-- she clearly loves dolls, it's not like we're pushing this on her "because she's a girl". And, as my friend Julia pointed out, dolls are one of the most basic toys, which have been around since ancient civilizations made dolls of corn husks and rags.  We should probably get her something nicer than a rag doll, but it doesn't have to be a Disney Princess that comes with her own vanity.

I'm happy to nurture my daughter's loving care-taking nature and love of babies-  especially since we're also supporting her love for playing with cars, collecting pine cones, and banging on a drum.


a wedding toast

It is 10:00 p.m. After a great weekend with our friends in Northampton, I spent the evening doing some cooking -- butternut squash soup and roasted pumpkin with the last of our farmshare veggies. We gave Evy dinner, dealt with another extended bedtime routine, cleaned up the kitchen, did laundry, packed lunch and gear for daycare tomorrow-- and then I realized I have to bring something for a work potluck tomorrow.

So, tonight's post is something of a copout. I'm going to post the toast I gave at my sister's wedding -- tomorrow is Katie and Dean's one month anniversary.

Their wedding was full of fun and love. It was a fantastic day of celebration. It poured rain from morning until night, but we were warm with happiness for the newlyweds.

Katie and Dean!

I love you both very much and I am thrilled to be celebrating the start of your marriage today. Thank you for sharing today with all of us. 

For those of you I haven’t met yet, I’m Nicole- Katie’s big sister.

Katie and I grew up creating our own worlds. On any given rainy afternoon, our basement playroom became a school, an RV park for Barbie and Ken, a hotel, a grocery store, or - the favorite game of all little girls who grew up in the 80s- an orphanage (don’t worry, mom and dad, we weren’t dreaming of being orphans- we were dreaming of running the orphanage). 

Sometimes these games would bring on arguments, usually over who got to be the teacher that day, who would be the adoptive parent to the best-dressed doll, who got to use the cash register, or which one of us would be stuck with the ugly Barbie. We fought as only sisters can fight: with the words ‘no fair!’, occasionally with fingernails, and almost always with laughs in the end. 

Katie has always been the one person in the world that can make me laugh, no matter how mad or sad or upset I am. I’m so lucky that I’ve had Katie and her sunny outlook with me throughout most of my life. My sister has an incredible ability to find the humor and joy in every situation, and to share it with those around her. She can make me laugh to the point of tears no matter how hard I try to keep a straight face. Dean, if you haven’t experienced this yet, you will.

Katie showed me how to make those worlds we created joyful- even when that world was an orphanage housing nine dolls and a Pound Puppy.

As I’ve watched Katie and Dean grow their relationship, I’ve seen Katie’s joy blossom even more fully and I’ve watched her bring that big smile to Dean’s face during good times and bad. 

And since Dean and Katie have come together, I’ve seen Katie happier and sillier than ever. As a big sister, this is all I could hope for for my little sister: for her to find lifelong love with a truly kind, giving, person.  And it comes in handy that he can reach the high shelves that most people in our family need to climb on a chair for. 

Dean and Katie, I’m so excited for you to create your own world of joy and laughter as you begin your marriage. I’m excited for our families to come together and share in your happiness and I know that your ability to find joy together will bring you comfort, even in the tough moments. You have found the love that everyone seeks.

Please join me in raising a glass to Katie and Dean and the joy that they’ve found together.



We are traveling today and we were out late Thursday celebrating my mom's retirement. So, I missed Thursday, and this is all I've got for today.  On to a new day and a new week.


hold on to these moments as they pass

I read somewhere that parenting involves feeling nostalgia for moments even as they happen. I have found it so true. It's why I take zillions of photos and jot down things I want to remember about this point in time with Evelyn. I can't wrap my brain around the fact that she is changing by the day, and that words she mis-says one day, she'll say perfectly the next. (I would love it if she called hippos "hoppos" forever). Stairs she can't climb on her own in the morning are mastered by dinnertime.  Her facial expressions evolve constantly. And it's so hard to remember - I want to hold on to the memories of how she was at every stage along the way. I'm afraid of not being able to call up an image of what she was like at two weeks old, 6 months old, a year old. It is all so fleeting.

I try not to get caught in the "she's getting too big/growing so fast/slow down/ it's sad" stream of thought. Because it's amazing to watch her grow, to see her personality emerge, to witness her learning and changing. I'm honored to have this front row seat, and it's all happening the way it's supposed to-  not too fast or too slow. There's a bittersweetness in watching each stage pass by, but it seems silly to feel sad about her growing up. We're here to help her do exactly that, right?

I do my best to savor each day - to really feel her body in my arms when I carry her, smell her hair, listen to her, watch her, take her in. Even if I don't remember exactly how she was at 19 months old, I'll know that I paid attention when it was happening. And, well, took hundreds of photos to help with the memories.


feeding our family (part 1?)

This topic is huge. I could (might?) write several posts on it.

I was unprepared for the opinions that are out there about the best way to feed one's family. I just figured you'd do what was right for your family, I'd do what was right for my family, and that was that. But like every single other thing when it comes to parenting, there are many opinions and many people more than happy to share their opinion. This has been the case from the moment Evy was born.

I try not to worry about them and keep on keepin' on.

Our approach to food has been this:
Despite what some people we know have implied, this isn't a hippie diet, it isn't a bunch of crazy rules, and it is far from a fad diet. It's actually as basic and natural a diet as possible.  It is so confusing to have this approach be met with criticism. 

Ever since I became pregnant, I've become more intentional about what I eat. Nurturing a baby inside me, and then as a breastfeeding mom, made me think much more about what I was consuming. 

When Evelyn began eating solid foods my awareness was heightened further, and as a family we became much more intentional about what we bought, cooked, baked, and consumed. 

I began finding more resources to support our approach to food. Some of my favorites have been:
At this point we don't have to think too much about it. We don't stick to our guidelines 100 percent of the time, but the majority of the time we do.  I have felt healthier since we began eating this way, and my skills and comfort in the kitchen have improved, not to mention my speed (cooking during naptime or while entertaining a toddler has a way of turning you into a very efficient cook!).

We've had some odd reactions from others as I mentioned above, and some challenges here and there, but I'll write more about those in another post. 

The bottom line is that it's working for us. We feel good about eating a real food diet, Evy likes nearly everything we offer her, and special occasion treats are enjoyed even more because they are special.  For us, eating this way just makes sense.

*Confesssion: all these food photos are from pre-kid meals. Apparently I haven't taken any food photos since she was born... 


fear vs. joy

There is so much to be scared about as a parent. It would be easy to spend all day being scared, nervous, and frightened.
Of illnesses.
Of accidents.
Of strangers.
Of fire, disaster, war, flooding, or earthquakes.
Of burns on the stove, bumps to the head, fevers, colds, and chemicals.

Certainly, parenthood has turned me into even more of a worrier. Part of mom-brain is the ability to envision the worst case scenario - of every scenario, constantly.

Still I've tried, despite the danger lurking around every corner, to parent without fear.

My daughter is trusting and open, joyful, spirited, friendly and loving.

And while I would give my life to protect her, I refuse to hold any of her light back because of my own fears. I suspect that for the rest of my life I'll hide my fears from her (most of the time) - just as my own parents did with me.

My goal is to parent with joy. By no means do I get this right all of the time - I find it hard to be joyful when I have to fight to get Evy into her carseat, which as of yesterday she has decided is the devil. There are plenty of moments when joy gets lost. But many challenging parenting moments get easier when I remind myself to find the joy. We sing and dance through making dinner. I slow down, find patience, and let her help me whenever possible. We laugh and make faces at lunch. Mostly, I try to be more like her.

There's a line in Rent: "Why choose fear?"
It's a choice, every time.

Everywhere we look, there are things to be fearful about, whether we are parents or not. We can make wise choices, do the best we know how to do, and then try to let go of the worry. Get out of the house. Scrape our knees, get our hands dirty, and learn how to get back up.

Holding back fear will get harder as she gets older, ventures further from me, and tests her independence. I want to keep her safe, but I don't want to keep her sheltered. I want her to share her joy, explore the world around her, be confident in her abilities, and learn what she's capable of.

Am I going to be freaking out inside a little bit the first time Evy climbs a tree? Probably. But I spent my childhood climbing trees. I fell out of a couple, resulting in a scraped nose, a bloody lip or two, and plenty of bruises. But those trees are a part of me. If I close my eyes I can feel the bark against my palms, I can smell the leaves, those days spent sitting in branches are in my soul. I want that for my daughter.

For now I'll focus on taking deep breaths and letting her go when she ventures down the big slide at the playground or picks her way up and over rocks along a trail. Someday I'll be trying to keep myself calm  as I watch her climb a tree, walk on stage or try out for the swim team, learn to drive, and take the car out on her own. Can I parent without fear the whole way through? No way - but I can do my best to teach a bit of healthy fear while making sure we embrace life with joy.

Some outside resources on the benefits of risk and challenge in childhood:

  • Tim Gill, "Putting risk in perspective" - "Of course, it is absolutely right to be concerned about children's safety. But this concern has to be tempered by a recognition that exploration, adventure and uncertainty are at the heart of the process by which children get to grips with the objects, people and places around them."
  • Last Child in the Woods is a great book about getting kids back into nature and away from technology and ultra-managed environments.


lost time

I'm feeling low on energy tonight.

I had a beautiful holiday Monday with Evy. We had time outside to soak up this bonus warm day, time with my parents, time doing some necessary errands, time making music, and time to read and play. And plenty of snuggles and kisses. AND a 2+ hour nap for one of us (not me) while the other of us (me) was able to prep dinner. I'm so grateful for days like today.

But days like today (ok, days like every day, really) leave me drained in the evening, trying to keep my eyes open do some 'me' things in the hour or so between clean-up/next day prep and my own bedtime.

I end up losing a lot of this evening time to checking email/Facebook/Google Reader/Twitter/Pinterest/blah blah blah. I need some of that - some time to tune out. The problem is (and I know so many of us have this problem) that what feels like 10 minutes online can suddenly be an hour... or two. And what was accomplished? Usually not much. It all adds to my feeling of not reaching personal goals, even goals as simple as writing more, or finishing a crochet project, or reading before bed.

Being tied to NaBloPoMo has helped keep me on track with blogging.

Otherwise, I just need to be more diligent about cutting myself off after 30 minutes online. Eyes off the screen, hands on an actual project. Man, it's hard. Maybe I should start that 'project a week' thing again, eh?

And with that, my eyes are closing...


bedtime books

Evy's bedtime routine involves several books. Is five too many?

Daddy and Evy (9 months old), January 2012 
The current line-up:
  • Goodnight Moon - This classic holds up. By now Mama and Dada have it memorized, and Evy's recent renditions indicate that she does, too.
  • Sleepyhead - Pat found this one in our favorite local bookstore. The cadence and rhymes are very sweet and swaying, and the story of a little one putting off bedtime is all too familiar! The illustrations make me think of a child's dream. The premise is confusing if you don't read the back of the book, but you know- it's a 12 page board book so it's really not that complicated.
  • Llama Lllama Nighty Night - A simple story of Llama Llama's bedtime routine. Sarah introduced us to Lllama. The stories in this series are all very simple, but just the fact that they feature a family of llamas makes them awesome.
  • Little Quack's Bedtime - Widdle, Waddle, Piddle, Puddle, and Little Quack are pretty cute. This one also offers a comforting refrain, and a story about Mama Duck unveiling the truth behind the ducklings' fears. Evy was pretty young when she started flipping to the page with the owl to whoo whooo.
  • Time for Bed - This book features several baby animals with their moms (or dads - now that I think about it you can't tell for sure). In each scene the little one is being urged to sleep  through repeating but varied rhymes-  "It's time for bed, little deer, little deer, the very last kiss is almost here."  If someone read this to me I'd be asleep in an instant. 
Right now I nurse Evelyn before books, and Pat is the bedtime reader most nights. We switch off sometimes, and I love that cozy time reading as she gets sleepier and sleepier, snuggling in close. These days she chimes in, saying "hushhhh" along with the old lady, and narrating Llama Llama's bath until she's too sleepy to talk. 


library time

I've been rediscovering our public libraries since having a kid.  We've made the rounds trying out different storytimes, checked out the various children's rooms, and learned about cool reading programs (free books for reading every day!).

Today we went to storytime at the Albany Public Library's main branch. Silly songs, giant books, new buddies - it was a blast. 

The first time we went to the main branch's program I felt so silly for 1.) not knowing there was off street parking and 2.) having never visited floors other than the first floor. 

The Children's Room is great, the librarians are sweet, and there's a lot of programming. We always see some little buddies that we know from the local toddler circle. The crowd is, of course, far more diverse than you'll find at any of the suburban libraries.  I count that as a very good thing. 

We also love our neighborhood branch - it's so nice to be able to walk over, pick out some books and DVDs, check out the garden, and play with some toys before strolling back home. Not to mention the convenience of returns - in theory, it should save us from some late fines. In theory.

Evy loves the little chairs and reading spots at the library. After our visit today I found her trying to create her own little comfy spots in the living room. I am already dreaming up some ways to create a reading nook for her, full of pillows and blankets and coziness.

We'll be hanging at the library a lot this winter - meeting friends, reading new books, making a mess of the toys, and discovering every cozy nook.


work/life/balance (again)

When I was 25 I landed a great job in the advancement office at a private school. It was an incredibly family-friendly environment, the campus community was warm and inviting, and my office was in a renovated old house. It was a great place to work.

Some of my colleagues were mothers of young children. Some worked part time. Some were given flexibility for family commitments. To 25-year-old me it all just seemed a little unfair. Why shouldn't I get the same flexibility? I made assumptions about the education of the part-timers. I was not very family-friendly.

And oh how I offer profuse apologies to those women now. Profuse apologies, unending respect, and happiness that they found such a supportive work situation (with on-site childcare!).

The struggle with work/life balance as a mother hit me blindsided. I did not expect to feel so much constant concern about it, constant re-adjustment, and the amount of 'figuring stuff out' that goes into it.

And I'm one of the lucky ones. I went back to work 14 weeks after Evelyn was born. I had asked to start out at two-days a week before returning full time, which was a perfect way to ease back in. But my employer kept me at two days a week permanently. This was stressful financially and an unexpected slow-down in my career, but a blessing in terms of the time I was able to spend with my sweet baby. As hurtful and disappointing as the situation was, it made me realize that I had options beyond working full time and paying for full time daycare.

When Evy was nine months old, I took a new job and started at three days a week. This was the ideal balance. The paycheck was better, I still had time at home, and I had benefits- including more vacation time than I'd had in three years. I'm positive that having a part-time schedule for the first year of my daughter's life was a huge part of the success I had with breastfeeding.

This past September, when Evy was 16 months old, I upped my hours to four full days a week. This adjustment has been harder, but still: I'm grateful that our family can get by with me working less than full time. I'm grateful that my mom has been able to take on a day of babysitting, saving us another day of daycare expense. I'm grateful for a job in my field, with a great organization.

And yet. I find myself thinking about alternatives. I study other families to see how they've found the balance (or, more commonly, how they seek the balance).

This struggle is more than I ever saw from the outside, when I watched working moms juggle their family commitments. No one talked to me about this before I was a mom. Or maybe they did, but I didn't listen. I assumed I'd work full time, be an all-star mom, and magically it would all work out. You know, I'd have it all, because that's what they said was possible.

But once I was a mom, I started looking around at the moms I knew. And what I saw was as many different work arrangements as there were families. Teachers who worked crazy hours during the school year but had summers home. Nurses with schedules that adjusted as their family needs changed. Full time schedules crammed into fewer days to open up days home with kids. Stay at home dads. Part time working moms. Parents working nights in order to be with their kids during the day. Consultants and freelancers building their career around their family's needs. Work/life balances continually in flux were the norm. I had never seen it before seeking my own family's balance.

I've been so extremely fortunate to land in a situation that fits our family's needs. And I know that the balance will always be shifting. Sometimes working full time will be necessary and ideal. Other times it will be better to work less. It will change as our family grows, as our kids get older, as they start school, and on and on.  We are fortunate to have choices, fortunate that my husband has a good job, fortunate that we've dedicated ourselves to living within our means, and fortunate to have supportive families who are always willing to help out.

And to 25 year old me: Calm down. You'll see. Enjoy life as a 25 year old!


My Daughter's Books: At the White House

Tonight, with no prompting, Evelyn choose this book off her shelf and gave it to Pat to read to her: 

This book, which came from our friend Sarah, was of course fitting for today: The day our family breathed a sigh of relief that President Obama has been re-elected and will remain in the White House for four more years. 

This books is also pretty odd. I never noticed that about the Madeline books until reading them as an adult. This is by the grandson of the original Madeline author- so maybe it's odder still because of that. The president's daughter is a main character. Her name is Candle.  Candle! There is also a magician (who is apparently in other 'new' Madeline books) - he takes the form of a rabbit and sends the girls on a magic carpet tour of Washington, DC.  

I've started getting excited recently about the future family field trips we'll take. I imagine a trip to D.C. full of monuments and museums and stories about these past two elections. She'll ask us what it was like when every president was a white man, before gay people could get married, and when healthcare was a business. We'll tell her about the waves of change, the faith in moving forward, the fights and the hope. 

"I believe we can seize this future together because we are not as divided as our politics suggests. We’re not as cynical as the pundits believe. We are greater than the sum of our individual ambitions and we remain more than a collection of red states and blue states. We are, and forever will be, the United States of America." - President Barack Obama's victory speech


My Daughter's Books - Election Day: The Family Book

The Family Book was a gift to Evelyn last Christmas from our good friends Ryan and Janet.

On this election day, I'd like to assign this book as required reading for all of the politicians and leaders in our country. Start now, you'll be finished in three minutes (most of you). No time? I'll give you the big take-away: All families like to hug each other. 

This has been one of Evy's favorites for awhile now. She picks it off the shelf and brings it to us, "famee book! read!". 

When we get to the page below she likes to talk about Baby Judah, her little buddy who has two moms. 

We're watching election returns right now. Evy is in bed, but I was lucky to have today off to spend with her. We read this book a few times.

This election is important. To my family. To Baby Judah's family. To me and my daughter, my sister, my friends. But you know that.

No matter what happens, I'd just like America to remember what it really means when we say "family values":


My Daughter's Books

I'd already been doing a lot of thinking about how to frame this blog, and then Meg's comment about finding a lens through which to write pushed me further. I'm going to use this month to try on some lenses and see how they work for me. If I hit on one that feels right, I'll stick with it.

Here's one to try on: my daughter's books.

At 19 months, my daughter loves books. And I admit: I'm psyched. Before becoming parents, Pat and I both really looked forward to reading to our children. We're loving that she loves to be read to, loves looking at books, and has started "reading" books to us.

There are books that comfort her (Goodnight, Moon- a book that has comforted generations of sleepy kids). There are books that make her laugh and laugh (Potty, Hippos Go Berserk, Eight Silly Monkeys). There are books that make her happy (The Family Book), and there are books that just engross her (The Very Hungry Caterpillar).

She's destroyed her fair share of books, too (something about the Clifford book - she loves it, and she loves ripping pages out of it and coloring on the back cover).

Already, though, these books are a part of her childhood and a part of our memories. She's leading the way, letting us see books through her eyes, telling us stories, opening new worlds to all of us.

I think I have a lot to write about through this door.


day four: this is hard

Day four of blogging every day this month and I'm already feeling like I have no idea what to write about.

BlogHer has writing prompts for each weekday, but they haven't sparked any ideas for me.

I have some ideas for posts to come this month, but to write those I need more than the 30 minutes before passing out in the evening that I've been able to find for this venture.

Experienced bloggers: Where do you find writing inspiration? How do you make time to write?

This post is a total cop out, I know. But it's not nothing, and it counts.


kitchen plans

We moved into this house three years ago this weekend. It marked a return to Albany after three and a half years in Massachusetts, a kind of "settling down," and a rude awakening into the world of home ownership.

Making this place our own has been a mix of fun improvements and unexpected (often expensive) repairs - which, I'm guessing, is the way it is for anyone who buys a not-new house.

This afternoon, Evy hung with her grandparents while we went to Lowe's to begin talking a little more seriously about kitchen renovations- part of our plan for this house since the first time we saw it. We sat down with Art in the cabinet department to dream up ways to add cabinets and counter space and blow loads of imaginary money.

We changed the placement of appliances, added cabinets along the corner and back wall, saw 3D renderings and the bird's-eye-view, and imagined how it would feel to stand in our new kitchen. We opened and closed cabinets in several mock kitchens and looked at an overwhelming assortment of cabinet options.

After all that, it was somewhat disappointing to come home to find our kitchen exactly as we'd left it.


warming up

I've decided to do NaBloPoMo, if only to get myself to stick to the goal of writing more, no matter what that writing is. Every day this month, I'll put something here. It might stink. I'll probably worry about whether I should bother and debate whether blogging is for me. But I need to write more, and many of my future goals depend on doing just that.

So what am I afraid of?

I'm afraid that I don't have much to say.

That it's been said before.

That I don't quite have a niche topic, and will end up with one of those blogs that's just a diary that no one really cares about.

And what do I want?

I want to become a better writer.

To take some time for myself, even if it's just a few minutes on the couch at night, doing this thing just for me.

I want to get more of my writing published.

I want (someday) to (somehow) generate some income from my writing outside of a 9-5 job.

I know I've written a version of this post before, and that's where NaBloPoMo (I hate those abbreviations) comes in. For this month I'll write every day. It might be crap, but at least it won't be nothing.


be sure to wear some flowers in your hair

Last night, my 19-month-old daughter spiked a fever. At 1:00 am my husband and I were both up with her, taking turns snuggling, reading books, and applying a cool washcloth to her forehead. I worried about the way she was shaking and shivering- probably due to fever-related chills, but as a first-time mom these things throw my worry into overdrive.

As the ibuprofen kicked in and her fever came down, she started to get talkative and, well, demanding. First it was asking for hugs from all of the stuffed animals on the shelf: "Bear- hug! Mama- bear, hug! Dada - bear, hug!" the on to "Eh-phant- hug! Eh-phant- Dada hug!" and so on.

In the middle of all the hugging, she caught sight of the ribbon displaying her barrettes and bows and three Hawaiian flower clips brought back from one of Grandma and Vou's trips. "Evy- fower?" - She started out asking to wear a flower in her hair. And then: "Mama, fower?" I obliged- a flower in my hair at 1 am, mismatched to my bleary eyes, wild bedhead, and comfy-but-not-pretty pajamas. Lastly, of course, "Dada, fower?"

And so, there we were- the three of us, at 1am on Thursday morning, fighting a fever, with Hawaiian flowers in our hair. I have so much to learn from this girl.