Monday, December 31, 2012

Growing Up

growing up

On New Year's Eve last year, Claire had yet to say her first word or take a step. She hadn't felt ice-cream melt sweetly in her mouth, nor had she crunched a slice of shiny red apple. She hadn't returned a hug or a kiss. She'd yet to make a joke that had us laughing together. 

She enters 2013 able to do all of these things and more. The new year holds such possibilities for her as well.

Just as 2013 contains potential for all of us. I wish everyone a year of growth like a child. I wish you the capacity to embrace change in 2013, to make new discoveries, and to lust for life in the way of a child -- curious, courageous and eyes wide open.

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Saturday, December 29, 2012

Guns: Getting Past the Fantasy

gun control

I've started thinking about how I'd like to talk to Claire about guns. The issue is a difficult but important one to confront -- up there with don't talk to strangers, where do babies come from and, down the road, don't have unprotected sex.

My parents weren't much for communication, and were silent on all of the aforementioned big topics. But guns were an every day event during hunting season. 

I remember admiring the colorful orange and shiny gold shotgun shells. I remember dead ducks being stripped of their feathers in paraffin. And the deer, how could I forget the deer with limp bodies, glazed eyes and tongues hanging out of their mouth. The gaping hole in their blood spattered sides. 

Guns killed, that's for sure. No denying this gory reality. 

Hunting mostly disabused me of any fantastic notion I might have had about guns. But, when I was about four, I begged for the best black and white cowhide Annie Oakley outfit. I was so proud of that getup, complete with red cowgirl hat. The shiny silver pistol with holster was basically an accessory to me. But, in case I had any doubt about its function, every time I picked up it up, I was told to NEVER, EVER point a gun -- real or fake -- at another human being. 

My brother begged for a BB gun at around age seven. That conversation was short…BB guns in the hands of small children do nothing but damage, either to humans, small animals or objects such as windows. End of story.

Because I was around guns and instructed about them, I learned just how seriously they were to be taken. I learned that guns had their place for some, and that there was zero negotiation about their use.

It's a different world for Claire growing up than it was for me. We live in Manhattan: no deer here (even if we did want to hunt). The stakes have risen so that assault weapons are a gruesome reality sitting alongside shotguns. My Annie Oakley fancy is being replaced by the fantasy of violent video games and movies. It's such a complicated mix of issues that even our sharpest pundits are struggling with the scope of influences contributing to senseless gun violence.

But I know that I want Claire to learn some of the lessons that my family taught me about guns. I want her to know that human beings are responsible for how they are used, and that this responsibility is not to be taken lightly. I want her to know that, while you can take back words and some actions, the damage that guns cause is swift, dangerous and, too often, irreparable.

I haven't figured out how the conversation should go after that. I would love to open up this discussion amongst mothers. In light of the recent tragedy in Newtown, I think it's important one to have. It's a dialogue in which moms can and should be taking the lead, for all of our children. 

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Wednesday, December 26, 2012

Father Daughter

"Get up!" my toddler, Claire, implores, as she tries to push me off the living room carpet.

Evidently, I'm not moving quickly enough, so she orders again, "Get up! Papa coming!"

Papa has arrived. My time as the sun, stars and moon in the eyes of my nineteen month old has ended. George is now the desired partner for the block building party.  It's not surprising that it took longer for the father/daughter relationship to blossom like it is now. After all, Claire and I got a nine month jump on her father. Perhaps, this is the beginning of "Daddy's Little Girl" that I've heard so much about.


Intellectually, I know three things about this recent shift in familial relations.

First, it's hilarious to see a toddler engage in exclusionary behavior worthy of a Mean Girl, even when the person she is giving the cold shoulder to is moi.

Second, watching the father/daughter relationship grow is such a gift. Claire and George play together so beautifully. Papa doesn't treat her like a baby; she's his equal. I've never seen two people make more meaningful towers of blocks together. I relish the opportunity to see what else they will build in the years to come.

Third, I know that this kind of early triangulation is a hallmark of individuation, a process through which all children must go. I'm glad that Claire feels safe enough in our relationship to reject me without fear that I will abandon her. 

My visceral reaction is a different story, though..."What am I, chopped liver, here?" I find myself on the outside, not a part of their exclusive, little club.

I feel a little sorry for myself too…"Nobody likes me, not even my daughter."

Then, I start to question my interpersonal skills, "She's right. I need to be more fun, like George." Now, I'm acting like an insecure teenager who's trying to figure out how to please a boy or get those Mean Girls to like her. 

But I'm not a teenager anymore, I'm a mom. So I remind myself that, if I were Claire, I'd probably prefer to play with George too. I love them both more watching them love each other.

And, really, I don't need to change. The next time Claire bumps her head or needs a hug, I'm sure she'll seek out mama. She's smart to play to our strengths.

Plus, Claire's cosmos clearly contains room for both of us. And so much more.

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Monday, December 17, 2012

The Wonder Weeks

Have you often wondered what's going on inside that tiny head of your baby? I know I have (especially when NOTHING seems to please her!) That's why I've visited the Wonder Weeks website often since Claire was born. I'm fascinated by the authors' contention that babies reach mental milestones at predictable ages that change the way they perceive the world. Who wouldn't want such a wonderful window into the world of babies? After all, babies do a lot of communicating, but what they are actually saying  often remains a big mystery.

The book's authors outline 10 stages of a baby's development called mental leaps. Each stage is often proceeded by a period of fussiness, as a baby learns to process her world in a new way.  At eight weeks, they contend that a baby starts to understand simple patterns such as "the way light displays shadows on the wall", or at 46 weeks, a baby begins to understand that there's an order in which things are done to reach a goal.
My daughter, Claire, is just past the 75 week milestone, a time when the authors suggest that toddlers begin to recognize they're part of a family, distinct from others.

This mental leap is clearly evident at our house. Claire is obsessed with family right now. She will point at us, back and forth, "mama, papa, mama, papa", over and over. Her friend Archie and his mother Elaine are referred to as the one-word contraction, "ArchiElaine". Of course, as with anything toddler, she tends to overgeneralize. She points to all kinds of images throughout the day, and calls them mama.

She calls me some things that are sweet.  Some of the things named "mama" truly make me wonder. I don't wonder what week it is, but, rather, what planet my daughter is from. Here's a sampling of the random things she has called "mama" from the last few days:

Adorable Mama:

super simple learning

Classical Mama:

greek yogurt

Holy Mother of God Mama (my personal favorite):

jesus and mary

Sex Change Mama (huh?):

labeled body

"Really? Should I be insulted? What's she thinking?" Mama

sandra boynton

(On second thought, I am rather frazzled. Maybe, my daughter -- and the Wonder Weeks-- is on to something.)

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Sunday, December 16, 2012

Newtown, Our Town

Newtown Memorial, 12/14/12

I want to look away, but I can't. I stare at the pictures. The light in the face of each little boy and girl reminds me of my own child's light. I read about their lives and cry, sharing in the devastation as much as I can. All that I am able to do is bear witness to the tragedy. My efforts aren't enough, though. I'm helpless to do more. So I sit here looking at pictures and cry. And I pray, because the families need our prayers.

Thursday, December 13, 2012

The Story of Us

couple kissing

"Well, I'm not sure if I can even have kids at this point, since I'm in my forties," I said.

The thought bubble over my head was saying, "Why on earth are you telling this man these things on your first date?! Not exactly fun and flirty dinner conversation!"

Another part of my brain was saying, "Oh well, if you're gonna scare him away, make it sooner rather than later, for everyone's sake."

My future husband replied, "I want children, but I'd rather end up with the right woman than worry about what our life should look like. I'd be happy adopting."

I tried to do my best first-date-nonchalant-nod, while inside my heart did a flip of wonder at the man sitting across from me. I don't know how we brought the conversation around to more pedestrian things after talking children and finding 'the one' in the first twenty minutes of our first date, but we did. We also ended up drinking too much wine and lingering at our dinner table longer than the waiter probably preferred. 

Claire was born two and a half years later.

I could take this post in a few directions. I could talk about the struggle to date in your 40's, when a large chunk of the male population has written you off as ready for pasture. I could share the story of how hard and easy it was for us to have Claire. I could detail the advantages and disadvantages of being older parents. 

But it's the fourth anniversary of that first date, so I want to tell my husband a few things. 

George, my first impression of you was that you put relationships above goals. Knowing you as I do now, I've learned that there is no other way for you to be. You have shown me how easy it is to embrace the unknown, when you are loved. You have taught me that hope isn't getting what you think you want, but being open to what you receive. 

I may have carried Claire for nine months. But she was born out of this beautiful spirit, which came solely from you.

Monday, December 10, 2012

Things No One Ever Told Me About Motherhood

Ah, gotta love (or hate) the mom blog list -- for thoughts that are too long for twitter and not quite a blog. I think I'm relying on this form too much, but that hasn't stopped me from sharing this latest list, "Things No One Ever Told Me About Motherhood":

1) Your bladder will never be the same. I've heard people say "your body will never be the same". I imagined this sentiment referred mostly to weight gain, stretch marks and varicose veins. Maybe people were being too polite to add bladder control. Maybe they didn't know how to break it to me that no amount of Kegels will assure that I experience an uncomplicated cough, sneeze or laugh now.

2) And speaking of bladders, you will never get to go to the bathroom alone again. Or anywhere else, for that matter. Your child will follow you wherever you go, as what you are doing is way more interesting than the toys that you spent your hard earned money on to get him or her to leave you alone long enough to do things like go to the bathroom (or write a post).

3) And speaking of entertaining a child, it's horrible realization that the only thing that your child finds more interesting than following you around is what's on television, a smart phone, or a computer.

4) Even if the television is babysitting, your child will cause great difficulty if you decide to talk on the phone for more than two minutes. You'd think I'd have known this fact, as I distinctly remember my mom yelling "I'M ON THE PHONE!" quite a bit when I was a child. My recollection is that she only had to give this warning once, and we'd leave her to her conversation in peace. I'm sure my mom's memory would be entirely different -- more in line with how talking on the phone is going for Claire and me now.

5) Babies find another thing entertaining --- your pain. They can be sadistic. I get it now. It's developmental. They really don't know they're own strength or understand they're hurting you yet. But it took me awhile to get used to being slugged in the neck, and then having my child laugh like bodily injury is great sport.

6) Your own entertainment takes on a different quality too. I get really excited about things that never would have interested me before -- like apple picking, an awesome swing set at a playground, or going to a tree lighting ceremony.

7) You get really excited about things that never would have interested you before. Your child shows no interest in these activities (like apple picking). Or he or she is interested for about 15 minutes and then is ready to go (like swinging on that awesome swing set). Or he or she is more interested in other things than the activity itself (like eating the hot pretzel you bought from the cart on the street corner instead of watching the tree lighting ceremony).

8) Numbers 6 or 7 show how boring you become after having a child. You morph into a more conservative person too, wanting to control the world in ways you never did before. When I had Claire, I walked out of the hospital and saw the world anew. Yes, our life seemed filled with possibility and I felt surrounded by a new glow. I was also surrounded by way too much trash on the ground and cars honking their horns loud enough to wake the dead. On the ride home, I wanted to kill all the aces in cars weaving in and out of traffic. All that happened before I had even gotten her home!

9) Numbers 6, 7 and 8 are examples that illustrate something I had heard before -- you will become your mother. What no one shared was the extent to which I get served this humble pie on a daily basis.

10) No one ever told me what the "hood" in "motherhood" stands for. I imagine it's called such because a mom is a safe place to call home. No one ever told me how hard it is to be that place for my daughter on a consistent basis (because of numbers 1-9, and because I always want to write a post). Like much about life that is challenging, I can always keep trying.

I'm sure there are more secrets that haven't dawned on me yet. Feel free to share them in the comments below. I wish I could say that a representative will be with you shortly to help you with your issue, but, unfortunately, you're on your own there.

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Saturday, December 8, 2012

I've been tagged and it's catching!

Being tagged by another blogger usually reminds me of chain letters and/or virus transmission, so I have a tendency not to participate. But I love the holiday season and Alicia at One Mother Hen. She tagged me to list five Christmas wishes and pass the honor/germs to five other fine bloggers. In the spirit of Christmas and/or economy, I'm going to do them both at the same time.

Santa, baby, put these presents under my tree:

1) A bowl of tiger soup. Not really; I'm a vegetarian. What I'd really like for Christmas is a brain that works like Sarah at Sadder but Wiser. She posted this picture, which is nothing less than diabolically inspired.

tigers in a bath

2) Some face time with Deb at Urban Moo Cow, because we've decided we are the same person (except that she runs marathons and I run on Dunkin'). Two words: Mom Clogs.

mom clogs

3) A button on my laptop that delivers an electric shock to anyone who follows then unfollows me on twitter. I'd like to give one to Lisa at Life Happens Then Write too, because she has her share of problems with social media as well.

dislike button

4) A marriage like Marcia at Menopausal Mother. Actually, I'm fine with my marriage. I'd really like some of their buttered rum and the antics that follow (no have to visit to her site to see the full majesty of the season).

5) The true spirit of Christmas that I find present every day in the photos on Rachel's blog, Finding Joy.

hands playing piano

So…Sadder But Wiser, Urban Moo Cow, Life Happens Then Write, Menopausal Mother and Finding Joy, you've been:

                                                      TAGGED FOR THE HOLIDAYS!

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Monday, December 3, 2012

The Mahna Mahna Phenomenon

I'm not sure whether the point of this post is to confirm George's paternity, or to show that my husband can act like a baby. Actually, it's more like a list of how father and daughter resemble one another. George and Claire both:

1) Get extremely cranky when they haven't been fed.

2) Function best with an afternoon nap.

3) Are either way too loud or completely inaudible.

4) Require face-to-face time with me at the most inopportune moments, like when I'm on the toilet.

5) Have an uncanny ability to make a giant mess out of limited resources.

6) Enjoy tinkering with computer wires and electronic equipment.

7) Crack up watching "Mahna Mahna" on YouTube.

8) Don't mind that I poke a little fun at them in this blog.

9) Love me very much.

10) Are loved by me immeasurably.

I've changed my mind. The point of this post is to thank them for #8. And to reiterate #'s 9 and 10.

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Sunday, December 2, 2012

Holiday Confession: I Hate Elf on the Shelf

You can divide the world into two camps in many ways. Coke or Pepsi, Lennon or McCartney, people who steal pens vs. those who lose them. During the holiday season, it's Elf on the Shelf lovers vs. Elf haters.

Oh, wait, according to Amy at "Funny is Family", 99% of Americans are pro-Elf! Alas, she and I find ourselves among the minority regarding the newest holiday tradition to sweep the nation. I'm emboldened by her recent post, I Hate Elf on the Shelf, to add my dissent...

Elf on the Shelf is nothing more than a snitch. He's a brown-noser looking to curry favor with Santa by sharing your deepest, darkest secrets. Just when he's lulled you into complacency by looking a little too cute, he stabs you in the back without blinking an eye. I want to wipe that disingenuous smile right off his phony face.

At any other time during the year, I wouldn't invite a spy into my house. The holiday season is no different. Isn't it enough that Santa's watching like Homeland Security? 

Look, I realize I'm new to the Christmas with kids game -- and motherhood, for that matter. My daughter is a mere 18-months-old. She doesn't get that Santa or the North Pole even exist yet. Right now, we don't require the perceived threat of a pint-sized weasel to keep our child in line. 

I'm humble enough to know that I have yet to encounter what I will resort to, in order to keep my child merry and bright during the holiday season. I'm open to changing my mind about the value that an extra set of tiny eyes can add to maintaining Peace on Earth.

But, until a clear and present danger is unequivocally established, Elf on the Shelf will remain a tattletale who is not welcome in my home.

Elf on the shelf haters unite

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Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Home for the Holidays? Bah Humbug!

Holiday travel is not for the faint of heart. Holiday travel with a child makes me want to send my regrets to those close to my heart. 

Before we even cross the airport threshold, I've questioned our holiday plans a few times. I'm squeezing one too many things into my rolly-bag, and I wonder how it's possible that a baby half my size can require twice the amount of stuff as me. In long-term parking, I consider the fact that it took an hour-and-a-half to get to the airport, yet we haven't even begun the journey. 

The security lines are extra long this time of year ('tis the season), which is lovely because, in case you forgot, I'm carrying a lot of extra stuff. Plus a baby the size of Santa's sack. Our fellow comrades in line are neither merry nor bright, because...well, because they're in line too. Homeland Security isn't bright and merry, because...well, because they're Homeland Security. 

Waiting at the gate, I have to supervise an overstimulated baby, who manages to find emergency exit doors, random buttons to push and her way into the crowd of people rushing to their gates. Travelers bop like moving targets; my toddler walks like a drunkard. It's a video game gone awry. 

Three hours later, we finally squeeze down the too small aisle to the thousandth row of the plane (in case you forgot: with stuff and baby). I feel some sense of relief when we are finally have all our paraphernalia situated, and I get the small consolation of resting my weary bones down on an unforgiving middle seat that's the width of one ass cheek. 

But, wait, travel still has not officially commenced!

I start to wonder if it's too late to turn back. Microwave popcorn and a glass of chardonnay starts to sound like a sufficient holiday feast to me. 

Sorry dear relatives. Popcorn might not be quintessentially Norman Rockwell, but neither is getting from here to eternity during the holiday rush. We'll plan our next trip over Arbor Day when things are a little less hectic. Maybe, we'll plant a tree instead of cutting one down!

Monday, November 26, 2012

How Does Your Garden Grow?

Claire liked Thanksgiving at her grandfather's house in Florida. She would run up and down the sidewalk in front of the house in the sun. "Moon! Moon! Moon!" she called out to the big sky, even though it was the middle of the day.

Then, a popping sound brought her to a dead stop. The quality of her voice changed. "Loud," she said tentatively, while her legs carried her backwards. "Pop…Pop…Pop, Pop," rang out in rapid fire. She raced to my side and cried, "Loud!" This time with more conviction. I tried soothing her, but she couldn't get used to the sound. Eventually, we went inside.

Claire was hearing a firing range about a mile away from our gated community. It seemed counterintuitive to say to her that everything was alright. After all, gunfire should be feared. But it was unsettling to see her so upset. There really wasn't any danger anyway. And I was angry that she couldn't continue to play. I wished that I could explain to her that it was ok to ignore the popping sound, like the rest of us do.

Just like I've learned to ignore that people fear their children dying everyday. The sound of the firing range began to feel real to me too. I tried to imagine what I would tell my daughter then. I pictured what a fear-filled life would look like. I envisioned my daughter's world shrinking to fit into a small, sheltered place. I thought of the unimaginable happening.

Oh, but I think too much; I went too far with the last bit. So I reminded myself that it was only a firing range, that we were free from harm behind gates and privilege.

I felt safer again. I felt thankful for our life.

But I had gone back to ignoring. And I felt ashamed of myself.

Saturday, November 24, 2012

Separation Anxiety

The rare night when George and I go out alone often overflows with conversation about Claire. Funny how that happens. We say we need a break from her, when we really can't get enough.

It's usually warranted for us to start off an evening with a back and forth about our daughter. Upon our exit, Claire acts as if we are abandoning her to a slow, torturous death at the hands of an interloper, who is clearly more fit for the role of Medea than care of a defenseless, 18-month-old child.

Or at least, this is how Claire seems to see it. She almost sells me on this angle, too. Hence the need for conversation that helps me shake off the mommy guilt of separation from her:

"Claire's certainly got a flair for drama from me," George (my actor husband) says. "I could hear her crying a thousand yards away from the door."

"Did you see the look on her face?" I say. "I didn't know such a tiny mouth could open that wide."

"Kind of like the Greek tragedy mask," George says, while getting on his smart phone..."Was it like this?" he says.

"No, the sides of her mouth went in more. I don't know how she contorts her little face like that," I say.

"How about this?" George replies.

"Even more melodrama," I say. George counters with: "This?"

"That's it!" I say, as we both lean in over the phone and nod.

If we sound flip about our daughter's pain, it's because we know that she will look more akin to the comedy side of the mask, once she shakes it off:

Or maybe that's what we choose to believe, since we really do need a break.

Monday, November 19, 2012


What day is it?"
It's today," squeaked Piglet.
My favorite day," said Pooh.”
― A.A. Milne

Teaching a child how to give thanks is important. At 18 months, Claire's a bit young, though. We won't be volunteering together or making a gratitude tree any time soon.

Anyway, she's a walking lesson in living in the moment. She finds wonder in all things great and small without any lesson from me.

I'm the one who's grateful to see the world anew through her eyes.

She hands objects to me throughout the day, a twig, a pea that's rolled under her highchair, sometimes something she's pulled out of her nose. I'm not sure if the objects are significant to her in and of themselves. Or if they become valuable out of the joy of discovery. Maybe, it's because she's given each one to me. Whatever the reason, I ponder each treasure closely in my palm and say, "Thank you, Claire."

About a week ago, I gave her a piece of apple. She looked at me and said, "Thank you, Mama."

I hadn't expected to hear these words from her for the first time then. She's not yet 18 months old, yet I have the great honor of witnessing a nascent sense about giving and receiving growing inside of her.

She is more than I ever expected on this Thanksgiving holiday. And every day.

Sunday, November 18, 2012

"F" is for Friend

A guy I know keeps a glass jar on the top of his refrigerator marked “Potty Mouth”. Whenever he curses, he puts a dollar in it for charity. I need one too, or at least a precocious eight-year-old thinks I do:

“You just said a bad word,” George’s little cousin says to me (with the intent of an interrogator).

“Shit,” I think, replaying the dinner conversation in my head....“What’d I say?” I ask with trepidation.

“You said ‘stupid’,” Mary Louise says.

“Phew, ‘not as bad as I thought’,” I think.

“Well,” I didactically explain. “I didn’t call a person stupid; what I did was call something they did stupid and that really isn’t that bad.” 

(I remember learning that somewhere as a youngster, right? Back me up here, folks!)

Mary Louise listens patiently. But she isn’t buying my backpedaling. She gives me the blank stare of an eight-year-old. The look says “my world is and will continue to be black and white until I’m well beyond a teenager, so don’t waste your breath”.

I feel about two feet tall. And speaking of two feet tall, Claire is now in the full-blown mimicking stage. 

“Un, do, tree, foo”, she says, sounding like Buckwheat (only way cuter), and having no clue that she’s actually counting….Hence the thought of a jar that penalizes you. 

Mary Louise made me realize how much kids are actually listening -- even when you think they’re not. So instead of thinking about Claire using the potty, I'm worrying about my potty mouth. Of course, I want to be a good role model, which means I'm minding my P’s and Q’s. 

And F’s! That’s my favorite one…the F word. It’s versatile -- can be used in a number of ways, as different parts of speech. I often use it as a modifier, replacing words like ‘very’. 

So F and I are breaking up. He’s a bad influence. It’s going to be hard for me. If you’ve read my bio, you know I am a mom of a “certain age”. The F-word has been a companion for a f-ing…oh wait, I mean, very long time. 

The good news is that some charity will be the benefactor of my bad habit. Let me know your favorite one. I just might consider writing a check ahead of time…

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Thursday, November 15, 2012

Heir Extensions

"Claire has a black eye!" I announce.

"What?" George says, trying to figure out what I'm talking about.

"See there…at the corner of her left eye…It's, like, all black and purplish," I trail off waiting for an explanation about how it got there.

"It wasn't there yesterday," George says, nonchalantly. "She probably ran into a corner of a door or something."

"Uh-huh," I say, half listening to him, half imagining my daughter running into a wall.

Thinking of my daughter hurting herself is horrifying by itself. Add to it the idea that no one was watching her closely enough to have witnessed what happened to her. Then I worry about how this disaster's going to reflect on ME.

"What's everyone going to think?" my mind races. "That bruise positively screams 'Mommie Dearest'. It might as well spell out the word 'ABUSE' in black and blue!" 

Just as quickly as I get myself worked up, I come to another realization.

"Wait, what's going on here? I'm more worried about myself than my daughter! 'Mommie Dearest' redux," I think. 

Now, I feel even worse. I imagine my daughter at the therapist's office circa 2040 talking about how she lived her childhood as an extension of her mother. Or worse, writing a tell-all book about it.

At this point…Claire has a black eye, I look like I don't take care of her, and an adult life on the couch awaits my daughter.  

"A triple crown day for me," I think. "Oh, wait. Reminder to self! It's not about ME…"

Monday, November 12, 2012

Victory over Sleep Deprivation

I have an announcement. I've waited a week to share it. I wanted to make sure it stuck first.


I want to shout from the mountaintops that the sandman cometh! I'm shamelessly giving myself credit for making it to the other side of midnight, since George is the only one giving me props for my long slog (Claire certainly didn't). I've been patient (most of the time) and we have persevered!

Another thing I want to shout is, "Sleep training, I told you so! Nah-nah-nu-nah-nah!" First, a qualifier, I have nothing against parents who sleep train. If this decision is right for your family or if it worked for you, great. I would never tell you what to do in your own household.

My target is sleep trainers. More specifically, the ones who sent the message to me that if I didn't get my daughter's sleep in order and pronto, I was doing irreparable damage to her in the form of lifelong sleep issues.

Their voices got into my head. I doubted myself and my decisions for my child. After all, they are called the "experts".

While I was sticking a pacifier back into my year-old child's mouth at 1AM, I was hearing the "experts" warn me that I would face an epic battle to pry said bink from her lips come kindergarten -- along with permanent orthodontic problems. (she gave it up at 14 months, by the way).

While I was rubbing my daughter's back deep in the night, the voices said I should be fostering independence in my child, because she needed to learn to put herself to sleep without my help (um…she did…at 17 months).

While I was breastfeeding her at 3AM, I was thinking about how my baby should be able to go seven hours without eating and of the plethora of advice about how to eliminate nighttime feedings.

It's not their fault the voices got into my head. I wish I had a better ability to believe in myself and have confidence in my decisions. I wish I could've trusted my baby's cues more. I wish there were more voices for me to look to for guidance.

There was one. It was Kelly's mom. Thank god for Kelly's mom.

I was sleep deprived and desperate, when the "experts" were telling me I was doing it all wrong (talk about adding insult to injury). That's when I turned to I wrote a post about it awhile back. If you are struggling with baby sleep issues, I think it's worth a look. A lot of it still rings true to me today:

Kelly’s mom flat out says don’t believe the hype. Scare tactics are usually designed to sell product of some kind or another, and the product in this case is sleep advice that is targeted at sleep deprived parents not babies burning the midnight oil. In essence, parents are the ones with deep pockets; babies have no pockets at all.

I think she’s right. It’s easy to be swayed by slick websites and offers of professional help when you are near insanity, with a child glued to your boob and have come close to dissolving your marriage in the middle of the night on several occasions. You are willing to consider depriving your child of food. And the business of baby sleep is counting on this fact. 

Kelly’s mom didn’t have a solution to offer, but she provided evidenced-based information that explained the developmental reasons for this grueling sleep schedule. I still felt insane with a child glued to my boob, but I breathed a sigh of relief that our not so normal nighttime routine was normal. 

I don't have a lot advice for moms, because I don't want to give advice. But I do have one piece of advice: Be careful about listening to advice.

Thursday, November 8, 2012

Opposites Attract

“Vee cole, vee cole,” Claire said repeatedly.

Translation: "Feet cold".

My poor little baby had cold feet for the first time in her life. Actually, I think it was her first experience with cold in general. It isn't hyperbole to say that it took me an hour to warm them up, rubbing each tiny foot over and over again in my hands. I don't know who was more traumatized, her or me. Actually, I take that back it was me.

You see my husband, George, had taken her for an impromptu THREE hour trip to the zoo in FORTY degree weather wearing ONLY canvas sneakers!

I was mortified. I considered being mad along with mortified, but I’m trying to be more philosophical since having a kid. I can definitely cut him some slack this time too. First of all, how great is it that Claire and her papa went to the zoo together? And, really, George doesn't mean to be reckless. He’s barely used to being married, let alone having a child. There's a learning curve to fatherhood, just like anything else.

Same goes for motherhood. While I'm a stickler for schedules and routines, George would probably say I'm an old stick in the mud. He puts up with my neurotic need to make sure she eats on time, always has a nap at the appointed hour and that she's never, ever cold.

In other words, that Claire has a boring mommy, who doesn't know the meaning of the word "spontaneous" and never does anything fun with her daughter.

I'm the yin to George's yang, the traditional to his untraditional. We compliment each other nicely. So Claire can go on adventures and explore with her papa, and then come home to the warmth and security of her mama.

(In the future, I will just have to be more careful that I supervise how my child is clothed more closely.)

Monday, November 5, 2012

Learning to Walk and Other Life Lessons

I barely remember a time when Claire didn’t walk. It’s been a mere two months, but the transformation could not be more enduring.  Sure, children start out with the struggle of the learning curve, but once they reach a milestone, they never look back. 

While Claire was learning to walk, I was learning about life. It was my first lesson in letting go. I wanted to help. I could hold her hand and cheer her on, but I couldn’t stop her from falling. I couldn’t show her how to find her equilibrium. I couldn’t take a step for her.

She had to discover how to stand on her own two feet and move through the world. Literally and metaphorically, isn’t this experience what we want most for our children? Why is it so hard to do?

Claire took it all in stride. She would find a tentative center and lurch forward. Her feet didn’t yet know how to keep up with her head and upper half of her body. She would stumble back down to the floor. Over and over again.

I was impatient.

Yet, falling was time well spent for Claire. She developed elegant ways to catch herself on the way down, crashing on her belly and looking up at me with a giggle. “How smart!” I thought. “She needs to know how to fall right, before she can walk.”

I started to feel in awe of her grace. I started to feel joy being in her presence and watching. I began to wonder about my own need to be right and to have things just so.

When do we begin to see our efforts as failure when what we really need is more practice? When do we replace the ability to make fools of ourselves with feelings of shame and embarrassment? When do we stop having fun in the moment and worry only about the end result?

Claire has no self-doubt. She shows complete faith in the process. She isn’t concerned about when the goal will be achieved.

The best self-help gurus preach about this stuff all the time.  They’ve got nothing on my daughter Claire.

Thursday, November 1, 2012

Life of the Party

I dared throw a party one time in high school, while my mom and step dad were out of town. It wasn’t my best decision ever. I spent the whole time sober, watching drunken people do stupid things.

The other night, Elmo landed on the floor in a way that suggested he'd had one too many.
I realized that inebriated teenagers and toddlers have much in common. 

Like living with a toddler, I witnessed lots of stumbling and falling down the night of that party. I cringed each time a heavy and/or breakable object was pitched in the air. The floor became a garbage can strewn with random debris. And people couldn’t seem to keep their voices down.

I felt like the “no” police spoiling all the fun. I repeated myself a lot. I expended way too much energy waiting for disaster to happen.

After the festivities were over, I was the sole person left to clean up the mess.

Thankfully, Claire hasn’t burned her bangs off trying to light a cigarette on the stove like Angie Shivle did that night.  Plus, I was this close to throwing everyone out. Things can get chaotic around chez Demas, but my love for my daughter always keeps me from cracking.

Most importantly, having Claire is my best decision ever.

Monday, October 29, 2012


I creep into the room to check on Claire.

The door squeaks.

Through the dim light, I see her eyes open. She looks at me without lifting her head.

“Mama," she says and smiles. Her eyes close again.

I feel fixed to my spot by the weight of my full heart.
A love this abiding. The sun around which a planet spins.  For each of us.

For Claire and me.

Saturday, October 27, 2012

Young Frankenstein

I spend way too much time pondering this toy: 

It’s a bug on human legs, two very long human legs, wearing very long circus pants. 
A triangle hole is the void where its private parts should be. A half bug/half man creature that has been castrated by its maker.

It came as part of a musical set. The rest of the instruments are normal enough.

Why does the bug stand out so from the others? Who made it and was his or her inspiration Mary Shelley? 

I wonder what it must be like to work for the toy maker. I imagine a place like Willy Wonka. 

Or an office in which 95% of the personnel would fail a drug test (I'm referring to a different kind of "doping"). 

The toy would definitely make more sense to me if I weren't so sober.

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Because I said so

We begin with the best intentions as mothers. Only to find ourselves, then, doing things we swore we’d never do.

I also lament the things that I don’t do…

“Oh, today looks like a lovely day to take Claire to the park…Ah, we’ll go tomorrow.”

Or…“My daughter looks like she can go another day without a bath."

It’s hard to admit. Makes me feel like a horrible mother.

Equally cringe-worthy are the things that I thought I wouldn’t say. I find things flying out of my mouth that a) are just plain ridiculous, b) make me realize I’m becoming my mother, and/or c) are probably over my 16-month-old daughter's head right now.

Indeed, she’s ignoring me anyway. But I often wonder what she would say if she had the words (my homage to ‘honest toddler’ on twitter, @honesttoddler):

ME:                                                            CLAIRE:

Why did you just do that?                         Because

Where does this go?                                  I’m guessing…on the floor?

That doesn’t go in that hole.                     Why? It fits.

Stop whining.                                            Don't count on that happening.

You’re too loud.                                         I don’t know the opposite of loud

Eat your food.                                            Maybe

Try it; you’ll like it.                                   If I don’t try it, we’ll never know.          
You're giving me a headache.                    And your point is?                                                                      
Calm down!                                                Why?

We don’t hit!                                               I just did.

I’m only going to say this once.                 That’s good.

You’re not listening to me.                         What’s your point?

What do you want?                                     If I knew, I’d tell you.

That’s not a toy.                                          And your point is?

I’ve just read over the list. It’s long! I’m embarrassed. And I’m glad I don’t live with an honest toddler.

Sunday, October 21, 2012

Hidden Treasure

toddlers housecleaning mess

Claire has turned our home into a scavenger hunt of sorts. An Easter Egg Hunt without the eggs, if you will.

When I find a random ball or blocks under a chair or table, it’s barely worth a yawn. I’m much more surprised when I open the door to the hall closet and happen upon a piece of apple. Or when I’m booby trapped by a trail of Cheerios crunch, crunching under foot, as I walk to the bathroom in the middle of the night.

I’m most intrigued when it seems that Claire has specifically placed things in certain spots…The half of a cracker that’s perfectly wedged in the small round hole of a toy… The square piece of cheese that has come to rest exactly in the middle of the metal coaster on the side table…The sippy cup straws and primary colored crayons that seem made to go together in a cup on her easel.

I have weighed the idea of keeping her in the highchair to eat. But then I would be more concerned about how I look as a housekeeper than Claire. Really, she’s a toddler. I’m  happy to get food in her, even if it means she’s on the run and food ends up elsewhere.

Plus, I remember reading the truism that the creativity of youth is rarely tidy. Her various hidings are evidence of how she engages with and transforms her environment. Her serendipitous, little presents are like interior decorating, toddler style.

On the other hand, I am less happy to find a piece of food that’s been hanging around for awhile -- like a desiccated old man calling out for cockroaches and/or mice. Likewise, my patience wears thin when she’s hidden my keys.

I draw the line at hiding keys. Unfortunately, like most toddlers, she remains completely undeterred by this line in the sand!

Thursday, October 18, 2012

Accidents Happen

I get hit with the astounding responsibility of having a child at random times during the day. My daughter doesn’t need to be with me either. A solo trip down slick subway steps summoned the terror recently. Behold my spiraling stream of consciousness below:

“SLOW DOWN! You’ll break your neck…

"What if I broke my ankle? I was single that time I sprained my ankle. I was ALONE then. NO ONE took care of me. But I did get to put my feet up and relax while laid up! I’m a mom now – FORGET the luxury of being laid up…

“What do injured mothers do?! It must happen EVERYDAY! Those subway steps almost got ME...

“WORSE, what about single moms? Or no family nearby? No safety net. I’d probably tie myself up in bubble wrap or something…

“There’s that Visiting Nurses Service. They visit old people when they’re hurt. How about a Visiting Nanny Service for moms? Same acronym, anyway. Insurance should cover it. Or the government! In Sweden, they’d pay for it…

I wish we lived in Sweden!”

By the time the C train arrives, I’ve imagined myself walking around in bubble wrap and/or living in Sweden. Any old irrational contingency plan helps keep my fears at bay. 

If I’m lucky, my plotting just might hold me for awhile…at least until the next chance happening occurs…

Monday, October 15, 2012

Soul Search

The Homage, Marc Chagall, 1972

I stare endlessly at my daughter and marvel. Her face is compelling, purely because she is mine. Sometimes, my purpose is to see how she’s grown and changed. More often, I simply wish to behold.

Lately, I’ve been looking for my father. I search for him in the shape of her eyes, the set of her mouth, the way she furrows her brow. No trace of my dad is evident there, at least not yet.

I don’t know which I fear more...that my daughter will never come to resemble him...or that I have lost the ability to recognize him altogether.

My dad died when I was eleven. I am now 45. Much of my life has been marked without him in it. I have come to identify more with his absence than his presence.

Sadly, this space only grows larger as I grow older. Tragically, I no longer miss my dad.

I long for him, though. I search for him, too. Lately, I’m searching for my father in my daughter’s face.

Friday, October 12, 2012

Underblog is Here!

I feel like Cinderella. Toiling away in obscurity at my computer, a few fairy godmothers have come and whisked me away to the blogger’s ball.

The fairy godmothers are the women behind Project Underblog, “a submission-based, collaborative writing project honoring the smaller voices in the blogging community”. It’s a cool idea, right? Cooler still is that my writing is featured on their site today!

Enough said. I’m trying to make this brief. I’m hoping that you will hop on over to the Underblog site and get some serious reading underway (the one and only time I will attempt to shoe you off of my site). Click here to have a look.

Thursday, October 11, 2012

Tales from Tinseltown

Kristin Cavalierri can’t wait to have another one. Jesssica Simpson changes her daughter’s outfits ten times a day. Guiliana Rancic is “loving every minute” of motherhood.

In the land of tinsel, postpartum depression and colic have been eradicated like Polio. Babies latch onto the breast with the greatest of ease. The Hollywood script says that sleepless nights only happen in Seattle. Or so the story goes. You rarely hear differently.

I want to hear how celebs would mother without nannies, assistants, personal chefs and trainers – kind of like seeing stars without makeup. And without their publicists serving up half-truths to the media and public.

Richness and complexity are missing in this fabricated fable of family.  Motherhood stretches you in unimaginable ways. Yes, it's a unique and special love. Also, a terrifying shock to contemplate the weight of responsibility for a small, fragile creature. Helplessness takes hold when you can’t stop your child’s cries, no matter what you do. Deep, in your bones exhaustion is brought on by the one-two punch of sleep deprivation and a baby who's still on the move like the energizer bunny. Just the beginning of the story, too.

I might envy the luxury of a celebrity’s life in the moment. When it comes down to it, I don’t. I've learned about myself by embracing some of the challenges of motherhood.

I am grateful for different things, like sitting down on the couch at the end of the day after Claire’s asleep. Or going out for dinner with my husband and having a conversation about something other than Elmo.

I’ve gotten over my bad self too. When I toiled in the kitchen making Claire an apple/sweet potato tart and she immediately spit it out, I moved on to the next thing. No applause there.

I’m not trying to make myself out as a hero here. I’m trying to say I’m an ordinary mom, ready to wear my triumphs and my struggles on my sleeve.

It's unclear whether celebrity moms really don’t have the same struggles as the rest of us, or if they're just keeping them under wraps. Either way, they’re making regular moms look bad. I don’t like that very much.

This post is featured as one of the Top Twelve Funny Posts of 2012.

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