In Support of Parental Time Outs

(I have a post up at All Over Albany about our weekend trip to Manchester, VT. Here's a little more about the reasons behind the getaway.)

Sometimes, the world of parenting in 2013 seems like it's just trying to make moms and dads feel guilty all the time. Part of the problem is information overload- for every topic you try to research you will find 38 points of view stating that their way is the best and any other way will scar your child for life. And then there's the blogs and the Pinterest images showing you all the ways other parents are more organized, more fun, more crafty, more creative, better dressed, etc etc etc.

If you're lucky, you'll find at least one friend who is also a parent and who will reassure you that you are doing just fine, commiserate when things get frustrating, agree that it's just impossible to keep a clean house with a toddler around, and encourage you to by all means to take a break once in a while- and don't you dare feel guilty about it. I'm here to agree with that friend: go! Take a break! It will make you a better parent. Really, it will.

It's hard to take a break from parenting, I know. Whether you work in the home or in an office, the demands on a mom or dad can be endless. And while it's a job that absolutely brings lots of joy and fulfillment, it can also be oh so draining. As a parent who works out of the home four days a week, I find it very hard to choose to be anywhere but with my child during any time off, whether it's evenings or weekends.   

For Christmas, Patrick and I decided that the time had come to take a break together. Rather than give each other gifts, we made a promise to book our first weekend away together since Evelyn was born and to do it in the near future.

Thanks to a Groupon and grandparents who were willing to babysit, we got that getaway last weekend, and it was amazing.

We shopped, we explored, we had adult conversations, we reconnected, we reflected on the life we were building together, dreamed up future plans, and ate good food. We drank wine with dinner and beer with lunch, we took our time browsing books, and let time get away from us without thinking about when it would be naptime or snacktime or bedtime.

Meanwhile, Evelyn was having her own awesome weekend with her grandparents. We split the weekend between the two sets of grandparents, and Evy had a blast. She played in the snow both days, took Grandma to music class, ate pancakes, played guitar with Papa, read books with Vou, and happily noshed on Italian bread and Nonni's freshly made tomato sauce.

I've had other moms proudly tell me that in six years of motherhood they've never spent a night away from their children. I give them lots of credit. For us, a weekend away in the dead of winter was good for all of us. As parents, we returned refreshed and recharged. Our daughter had a great time with her grandparents, and they loved having her around.

In 2013 I want to do a better job of making time for me and for us. I love being with my daughter, but I do miss making time to run, write, crochet, and have time alone with my husband. It was hard to do in the first year, especially with a breastfeeding infant, but with a toddler (and awesome grandparents nearby) it's so doable if we just make it a priority. I think it's important that Evelyn sees us beyond our roles as mom and dad, and that we show her how much we value our marriage. I want her to know that I have my own interests, and I want her to see me pursuing them.

So, if you're researching whether it's okay to have a weekend away from your little one(s), I'm here to say yes! Ignore anyone who says otherwise. Have a refreshing guilt-free getaway. Recharge and reconnect. Part of being a parent is doing your best to be the kind of person you want your child to be. I want my child to grow up to be an adult who gives to others and makes time to take care of herself, and I want to show her how that's done.


When you're expecting a baby, you prepare endlessly. There are birth classes, nursery preparations, gift registries, and doctor appointments. There is cloth diaper research, baby gear research, books about newborns and breastfeeding and happy babies, and a baby shower that brings unimaginably tiny shirts and socks to organize.

And then that baby arrives, and you're thrown into it- things you fully expected, things you didn't. Exhaustion like you never imagined. A love like you've never known.  Life with a newborn is bewildering. And then, your newborn is a baby. Then a toddler.

"It goes so fast" they tell you. And while you savor each moment, it's true: in a matter of weeks, those early phases that you spent months researching and preparing for are left behind for new phases. Most of the time there isn't a chance to think about or prepare for those next phases. There isn't the luxury of nine months of preparation as each phase begins without notice.

When someone told me that Evy's fussiness could be teething at 4 months I was stunned. Whoa whoa whoa. I don't think I realized until that moment that I wouldn't always have a newborn. I put so much focus on preparing for a newborn that I didn't think beyond that (teeth??). Now here she was, saying "That's nice that you're starting to figure out sleep and we're settling into a routine, but guess what? It's all about to change!"

Wait, what, I had a newborn and now she's teething? I had a baby and now she's walking? I had a sweet baby and now she's a strong-willed toddler? You figure it out on the fly. Parenting books and blogs are helpful, family members and other moms give great advice. You figure it out and then it's on to a new thing. Incredible.

The latest change in our house: we are done with diapers. Other than naps and bedtime, Evy is a potty-using citizen, out of diapers and into tiny little undies. We did months of research on cloth diapers, spent hours talking to each other and other parents about them, figured out diaper systems and routines. Now we are packing them away until the next kid. I'm glad we made the decision to use cloth, but with the amount of thought that went into it we clearly thought we were making a lifelong commitment.  In reality it was 21 months. And now, we're on to new things.


toddler moments

  • The way she calls oatmeal "opa-meal" and snuggles "huggles" 
  • Looking at a magazine together, she sees an ad for a mop. "Broom!" she says. "That looks a little like a broom, but it's a mop," I say. "Mop," she says. "Mop mop mop mop mop."  She won't let me turn the page, just keeps looking at the photo and saying "mop mop mop" with big ephasis on the p- "ma-puh!" Total joy in the discovery of a new word.
  • When I'm one place but she'd like me to be in another: "C'mere! Come on! Mommy c'mere!" and then little hands around my leg, pulling me to the place where she wants me. This should be annoying, but I love it.
  • She falls asleep singing and wakes up singing. This is not an exaggeration. The soundtrack to our lives these days is her little voice singing Old McDonald, The Wheels on the Bus, Itsy Bitsy Spider, Twinkle Twinkle, Over the Rainbow, the Hello Song, Goin' to Boston and whatever song they sang at school that day. Sometimes she makes up songs entirely, or plugs in her own lyrics to the tune of one or her favorite songs."Time to take a naaaaaap!" is a classic.
  • If you ask her the name of anything- a doll, stuffed animal - she will reply "Happy!" There is something so pure and sweet about this. All of her babies are named Happy.  I'll be sad the day her answer changes. 
  • I was sick on Monday and in an effort to protect her from my germs, I didn't see my sweet kiddo at all (big thanks to Patrick for taking care of both his girls). The toughest moment was around dinnertime when I heard her downstairs begging to "huggle Mama". The next day, after I picked her up from daycare, she held my face in both of her pudgy hands and said "Mama feel better? Mama happy now." And gave me a big smooch. 
  • The delighted way she greets us with "Good morning, Daddy! Good morning, Mommy!" no matter what time of day it is. Another greeting: "Here's Daddy!" as if we misplaced him somewhere around the house.
  • Words that start with L in English start with Y in toddler-ese:  Lap = yap, llama = yamma, love = yuv, light = yight. 
  • Her lyrics to Rockabye Baby: “When the bow breaks, the craisin will rock”
  • Typical Evy dialogue (monologue, really) "Mama hurt. Mama go boom. Mama hurt knee. Need ice. Evy get ice. I sowwy, Mama. Mama feel better now."  This is entirely made up- in most cases, no one has gone boom. The big moment is always applying "ice" to whatever injury needs tending.
  • I opened the front door to check the mail the other day, and it hadn't come yet. "Hm, no mail yet," I said. She looked around, spotted our towering pile of mail and said, "Here's the mail! Not outside, inside! Here's the mail, Mama!"  Silly silly me for looking outside when we have so much mail inside!
  •  The way she talks to the cat. "Hi Ca-vin. How are you?"
  • Her newest phrase: "Hi guys!" said, of course, with unbridled enthusiasm. 


Remembering Uncle Vince

Uncle Vince and Evelyn meet for the first time.
May 2011
On the last day of 2012, we lost my Uncle Vince. At 84 years old he lived a full and vibrant life.

On Monday, my sister Katie and I gave part of the eulogy at Vince's funeral. I'm posting it below so that I can easily share it with family members who requested copies.

I am grateful to have had such a wonderful uncle, and for everything he brought to our family.


Over the past few days, as we’ve talked about our Uncle Vince and everything he meant to all of us, we noticed a theme: Uncle Vince was always passing on gems of wisdom to the people around him. So in honor of everything we’ve all learned from Vince, we put together our list of

Top Life Lessons from Uncle Vince:

1.  Be the first one on the dance floor. He taught us to get out of our seats and dance. Uncle Vince was always the first one up and dancing at every family party and wedding, leading us all in the tarantella. He and I would dance at the Italian festas. Even well into his later years he led me in a tango that I will never forget. He was a leader of our family and could certainly take the lead in some of the most skilled dances on the floor.  -Katie

2. Family comes first. Our grandmother instilled strong family values in all of her children. As the patriarch of our family, Uncle Vince made sure we all remembered that family comes before anything else. Looking around today, it’s clear that the lesson stuck. Talking to everyone last night and today, that’s what comes through: Uncle Vince loved his family so fiercely, and we’ll continue to feel his love for the rest of our lives.  Now it’s up to all of us to carry on that legacy, whether we’re in Albany, Florida, Schenectady, Toronto, or Maryland. It’s all about “famiglia”. -Nicole

3.  Never put your sweater on a hanger. Uncle Vince was always the best dressed person in the room, and full of fashion wisdom- like, never hang a sweater. And he probably taught most of the men in this room how to tie a tie- properly. Through the men's fashion stores he owned and managed and his time as a Capital Region tv model for Spector’s, he was a fashion icon.  -Katie

4. The meaning of true love. Vince’s love for Carm was an example to everyone around them of a devoted lifelong marriage, especially for me as a newlywed- it is a wonderful model of love and loyalty. Who can forget the way he called her “dolly” and they way they cared for each other? -Katie

5. No one in this family really needed a lesson in this, but Vince reminded us: Mangia!  Whether he was showing us how to roast red peppers, preparing a Sunday dinner, or munching on a biscotti, Uncle Vince taught us to eat good food together. I’m sure we’ll have no problem living out this lesson.  -Nicole

6. Make time to enjoy the finer things in life. Uncle Vince loved opera, ballet, cigars, and tea in a china tea cup with a linen napkin. He enjoyed life's finer gifts and shared his passion with others. Whether it was lending me a VHS of “The Red Shoes” or talking about productions of Carmen - he taught me to appreciate and make time for the arts … and tea. -Katie

Uncle Vince and me.
May, 1984
7. Canna canna stoopali! All of us who grew up around Uncle Vince remember canna canna
stoopali and the giggle fits that resulted. I was told that “canna canna stoopali” meant “climbing, climbing the stairs,” but we’ve found no evidence of this in the actual Italian language. Maybe it was a Vince-ism or a silly family game, but it’s one that I’ve been thrilled to play with my own daughter - I’ve discovered Uncle Vince’s secret that this game gets the absolute best little belly laughs. -Nicole

8. Keep moving.  In the past few years, Uncle Vince went swimming daily, walked on the beach, traveled to Italy, visited California, came up to Albany several times, and cruised the seas. He was vibrant and full of fun -and sported a great tan- right through the end of his life. Grandma Andrews always said “never stop moving” and Vince was proof of the wisdom in this lesson. -Nicole

9. Live with love. Every one of us here feels Uncle Vince’s love. His life was defined by his love for his wife, his daughters, his grandchildren, his brothers, his sisters, his nieces, his nephews, his friends, and his family.  

Our duty now is to remember Vince and everything he taught us. Most importantly, our job is to live with love the way Vince did. (And, of course, to mangia!)