Monday, December 31, 2012

Year in Review

I answered these questions last year, so I thought I'd do it again. This year was a bit...quieter than last year, because I didn't, you know, have a new baby.  This is okay by me, though. Also, I deleted a few  questions I didn't feel like answering. Happy New Year!

1. What did you do in 2012 that you’d never done before?

Experienced all of Clare's firsts: crawling, walking, talking, her first birthday party. Went to a Packer game at Lambeau Field. Oh, and I ate sheep's testicles at the Minnesota State Fair. Never done that before. Don't intend to do it again.

2. Did you keep your New Year’s resolutions, and will you make more for next year?

Last year it was to be cleaner and more organized at home. I think I accomplished that, although my home is nowhere near as clean and organized as it was before Clare was born. I have learned to be okay with that, though. I do have some specific goals for this year, including the usual: eat less, exercise more.

3. Did anyone close to you have a child?

I had to wait until the last minute to answer this one: no, but several close friends will be having babies in the near future. The very near future.

4. Did anyone close to you die?

No. Thank God.

5. Where did you travel?

Fort Myers Beach, Florida. The Twin Cities. Chicago.

6. What would you like to have in 2013 that you lacked in 2012?

Date nights with my hubby. We finally started doing these, and I wish we had started sooner. It is so nice to go to a restaurant and not have to share my meal with Clare, or worry about keeping her entertained. Oh, and some alone time with Ben is nice, too.

7. What dates from 2012 will remain etched upon your memory?

June 9. This was Clare's first birthday party, and also the day that I fainted and fell into the shower, lacerating my lip and destroying my front tooth. I have since had a root canal to fix the tooth, and have lost feeling in part of my lower lip. Yay!

8. What was your biggest achievement of the year?

It is small, but probably just finding time for everything, and feeling like I finally have a good balance in my life with work, family, and myself.

9. Did you suffer illness or injury?

Countless colds - we have been the house of sick. Also, the previously mentioned fall.

10. What was the best thing you bought?

My new iPhone! I use it constantly. Also, I bought a bunch of Clare's clothes at garage sales, so I feel pretty thrifty.

11. Whose behavior merited celebration?

Voters in many states, including my former home of Minnesota. My family and friends have been wonderful as always.

12. Whose behavior made you appalled and depressed?

There are several, but I don't really want to dwell on that. I have shed many tears this year while watching the news.

13. Where did most of your money go?

Daycare. Baby supplies. Target really got a fair share of my salary this year.

14. What did you get really, really, really excited about?

Is it lame to say going to a football game? I was so excited for my first trip to Lambeau Field, and it didn't disappoint. Also, watching Clare grow and change over the last year has been a thrill. I am always excited to see her at the end of the day.

15. What song will always remind you of 2012?

The theme to "Elmo's World." Also, "Home" by Phillip Phillips. That song is freakin' everywhere.

16. Compared to this time last year, are you: a) happier or sadder? b) thinner or fatter? c) richer or poorer?

I don't think I am happier than I was last year, but probably not sadder either. So I guess the same. I am thinner, but not as thin as I'd like to be. I think financially we are about the same, too.

17. What do you wish you’d done more of?

Cooked! Now that I've come out of the fog of having a newborn, I really miss my old hobby of puttering around in the kitchen. Maybe I'll get to do more of that this year.

18. What do you wish you’d done less of?

Here is what I wrote last year: "Wasting time worrying about things I can't control. That is something I always do, though. I don't think it will change." And no, it hasn't changed.

19. How did you spend Christmas?

We had several different celebrations, including two Christmases with my side of the family, Christmas Eve at Ben's Uncle Pete's house, and Christmas Day with Ben's parents.  We spent several days in the Twin Cities after Christmas, and Clare got to play with her friends Archer, Alice, Adam, Ben, Gabriel and Jonah. (And Mom and Dad got to hang out with their parents!) She also had a great time chasing after her second cousins on Christmas Eve. She even shared her new Elmo doll. Who says she's a bad sharer?

20. What was your favorite TV program?

Same as last year: Parks and Recreation. The final season of 30 Rock has been brilliant, too. I also really enjoyed watching the Olympics.

22. What was the best book you read?

I read a lot of fluff this year, and wasn't all that excited about many of the books I read. I did manage to put together a top five, though.

1. The Tiger's Wife, by Tea Obreht
2. Gone Girl, by Gillian Flynn
3. Interpreter of Maladies, by Jhumpa Lahiri
4. The Night Circus, by Erin Morgenstern
5. Is Everyone Hanging Out Without Me? by Mindy Kaling

23. What was your greatest musical discovery

The Avett Brothers. The Lumineers. Regina Spektor's new album.

24. What did you want and get?

Taking the totally materialistic approach to this question, I got a new Coach purse.

25. What did you want and not get?

A house. I really want a house. We are bursting at the seams in our little place.

26. What was your favorite film of this year?

I didn't see many! I think I only saw four total in the theater. My favorite was Skyfall, the new James Bond movie. I also really liked Hunger Games and Friends with Kids.

27. What did you do on your birthday, and how old were you?

Ben and I went out to eat at the delicious farm-to-table restaurant Graze in downtown Madison. It was lovely. I turned 33. Wait, 34. No, 33. Yes.

28. What one [or three] thing[s] would have made your year immeasurably more satisfying?

Not having our super annoying cat wake me up nearly every morning at 3:30 a.m.

29. How would you describe your personal fashion concept in 2012?

Comfortable clothes. I did update my work wardrobe a bit - I got a few super cute new blazers.

30. What kept you sane?

Ben. Yoga, which I just started doing this fall. Conversations with my family. Martinis.

31. Which celebrity/public figure did you fancy the most?


No one in particular, but since I loved watching the Olympics I guess I'll say Michael Phelps, the U.S. Women Gymnastics and Soccer teams, and Bob Costas.

32. What political issue stirred you the most?

Since it was an election year, all of them! I am still so happy about the results. There are a few things that are currently pissing me off, but I am trying to keep this light.

33. Who did you miss?

All my girls in the Twin Cities. 

34. Who was the best new person you met?

Clare's new daycare teacher Tiffany. She is a sweetheart!

35. Tell us a valuable life lesson you learned in 2012.

There were several different events that happened this year that made me realize how lucky I am. I am going to try hard in 2013 to appreciate what I have - live in the moment more, and just be grateful for the health and safety of my family. I spend way too much time worrying about things that have happened in the past (that I can't change) or may or may not happen in the future (which I mostly can't control). I'd really like to stop doing this.

At the light display at the Rotary Gardens in Janesville.

Meeting Santa.

Reaction to Santa. She even refused his presents. (She opened them later and was thrilled with her Elmo stuffed animal and Fisher Price rotary dial phone.)

Playing her favorite game: "Wear Grandma's Glasses."

Her "I don't know" gesture. I think I asked her where her pants are.

Ripping open her presents on Christmas morning. This one was her favorite: an old-school push popper.

Helping Daddy with the Christmas puzzle that Ben's family puts together every year.

Yay eggs!


Thursday, December 20, 2012

Snowpocalypse Now

Yes, we are getting our first major winter storm of the season. I actually heard someone refer to it on the radio as a Snowpocalypse. I thought they were being slightly over dramatic, but I decided to stay home anyway. The road I travel to get to my office is rural, curvy, and especially dangerous in blizzard-like conditions. I did, however, get Clare up, dressed and off to daycare this morning so I could do some work from home. She was one of two children in the entire center. (Normally there are 100 kids or more there.) I started to question my judgment - why did only one other parent bring her child in? And now, sitting here, watching the snow fall outside, I am questioning it even more. Well, I am going to pick her up in an hour. How bad can it get between now and then?

Answer: A lot worse. (Bet you didn't see that coming!) I drove the two miles home at about 10 miles per hour, hands gripping the wheel, knuckles white, Christmas music blasting to try to drown out Clare's screams coming from the backseat. (She DID NOT want to leave daycare when I came to pick her up. She was deeply unhappy about the situation.) I didn't stop at a single stop sign, because I was convinced that if I did I would not be able to get going again. We made it, but I am still trying to unclench my teeth.

Now, staring out the window, all I see is white. The power has flickered on and off a few times, making me nervous. But Clare is napping now, and even though I have piles of laundry to take care of and Christmas presents to wrap, I think I'll take advantage of this bonus day off to lay on the couch and watch reruns of Friends.

I hope everyone has a Merry Christmas (assuming the world doesn't end tomorrow, that is) and a Happy New Year!

Clare feeding Big Bird some of her Advent calendar chocolate. She already offered some to the Cookie Monster magnet behind her.





Friday, December 14, 2012

She's Fine

I've been meaning to write a post all week about Clare's tubes procedure on Monday, but I just haven't been able to find the time. Right now, though, I am watching this horrifying news out of Connecticut and I can't seem to find the energy to do it. Before I had children, this type of news would have deeply saddened me, but now that I have Clare, I find it absolutely terrifying and devastating. I can't bear to think of something like this happening to Clare. I just can't even think about it. I am so incredibly sad for all of the people involved.

I hope we can find a way to offer more help to those with mental health issues, and to make guns less readily available. They are just too easy to come by in this country, and they seem to cause nothing but heartache. (I realize people use weapons safely for hunting. This is not what I am talking about.)

So I'll just say this for now: Clare is fine. In fact, she has been happier this week than she has been in months. I am grieving for the families in Connecticut, yet I am so grateful for her health and safety. And so worried about what kind of world she'll grow up in. What a confusing time.



Friday, December 7, 2012

18 Months



I don't know why I even bother with these pictures anymore. Note the fist full of bribe.
 The other night I had a dream that it was summer. I couldn’t figure out where winter had gone. Did we celebrate Christmas? What happened? Then I woke up and realized it was December and I was still suffering through my second head cold in as many weeks. It is hard to get in the Christmas spirit when you feel like your head is about to explode. I am trying to be positive, though. I know it will run its course eventually.

To continue the (seemingly) eternal saga that is Clare’s ear problems: she is getting tubes put in on Monday. It is a very common, simple procedure that takes three minutes, according to the doctor. Still though, she is going to be placed under general anesthesia,  and they are going to prick holes into her tiny little eardrums. SOB. It will help her in the long run, though. It HAS to. There is nothing else we can do for her at this point.  Do you think they’ll let her take Big Bird with her into the operating room? Ever since last Sunday, she has carried the Big Bird doll she got for her birthday from her Uncle Robby and Aunt Andri around with her EVERYWHERE. She could have cared less about the thing up until Sunday, but now she must have him AT ALL TIMES. We don’t let her take him to daycare, though. I feel kind of guilty about that, but Ben insists that we need to set boundaries and that she doesn’t really care, she is just mad that she is not getting her way. This might be true, I guess, but he isn’t the one who has to deal with the quivering lower lip when she is told that Big Bird has to wait in the car.

Anyway, Clare is 18 months old today! A year and a half. She is quite the little spitfire. She has attitude right down to her toes. I love all of her opinions, though. And she has an opinion about everything, even when it is clear she has no clue what I am talking about.  Sometimes, she’ll quickly revise her answer after she thinks about it for a minute or two. She is more honest about whether or not she has something in her diaper. She used to deny it constantly, even when my nose told a different story. She has added a few more words to last month’s list, including Tea, Pie, Milk, and Mine. Mine is a particular favorite of hers.  She also says "up" a lot, but usually she means "down."

With all of her illness lately, she has been extra clingy. She wants Mama all the time. My arm is getting tired from carrying her everywhere – I wish she were still small enough to hold in a sling! She definitely thrives on her morning and evening routines – so much so that if Ben takes my place for any part of it she gets upset. The other day, he was reading her a story before bed, but when she saw me she ripped the book from his hands and gave it to me instead. She does okay if she doesn’t see me at night, but in the morning she does not like it if Ben gets her out of the crib. Once she realizes her options are to let him get her out or to stay in there, though, she’ll let him do it.

I bought an Advent calendar –  one of the kind with little doors for each day of the month. There is a line from the poem “Twas The Night Before Christmas” and a piece of chocolate behind each door. Each night, I get down the calendar, Clare sits in my lap, and I read the lines of the poem that have been revealed so far. Then, we open the door for that day and Clare gets her piece of chocolate. At least, that’s how it happened on the first day, when there was only one line of poetry to read before she got her chocolate. Now, she impatiently digs her finger into each empty space behind previously opened doors, getting more and more impatient and frustrated (as if she’s been waiting hours rather than seconds), until FINALLY, she gets her chocolate. She takes it, leaps out of my lap, and runs to her Clare chair where she devours it.  Sigh. Well, maybe in a few years she’ll appreciate the story that goes along with it. Until then, I’ll just enjoy whatever amount of time she is willing to give me, even if it means my arm feels like it is about to fall off.

Friday, November 30, 2012

Random Bits and Pieces: November


Well, it is official. Clare has the decorating bug:





We decorated my parents’ tree the day after Thanksgiving. After a while, we got sick of it and played a game. Not Clare. She found that box of ornaments and kept right at it. She is certainly a chip off the old block. As you may know, I myself love holiday decorating, much to Ben’s dismay. (Every year, he threatens to throw away my decorations. What a Grinch!) It should be said though, that Clare also hung clothes hangers on our tree at home, so maybe she just likes to hang things up? I don't know. I am not here to judge anyone’s hobbies.

***

Clare had a great time on Thanksgiving. She was the center of attention AND there was delicious food to eat.  She inhaled about half a jar of black olives (which were one my favorite foods when I was a kid, too). Also, she loved the stuffing. I can’t blame the girl, that stuff is great. I was just happy to see her eating after being so sick the week before. Oh, and pie. We "shared" a piece of pumpkin pie, but Clare ate most of it, including the whipped cream. When she demanded more by shouting "Pie!" over and over again in her squeaking little voice, I couldn't resist. It is the holidays, after all.

***

Of course, her ear infection did not fully go away. We were back at the doctor on Tuesday for another round of antibiotics. The doctor said this is the last thing they can give her, so I think tubes are in her near future. We DID try the chiropractor, though. There was no cracking (thank God), just gentle massage. Clare loved it. The chiropractor said that Clare was pretty well aligned, though, so I am not sure it will do anything to help her ears.

***

Is anyone else feeling a little overwhelmed that it is (almost) December already? I always have big plans for cookies and homemade gifts and it never seems to happen. I don't think I am even going to pretend I am going to do that this year. Take a little pressure off. Luckily, Clare still doesn't understand Christmas so I don't have to do much for her. I did try to explain Santa Claus to her the other day and she looked at me like I was a crazy person. I am headed to Chicago tonight with my mom for an overnight stay - we are going to a German Christmas market and the Art Institute with my sister-in-law. Time for the holiday craziness to begin!

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Sick House

We are finally coming out the other side of the season’s first nasty cold. Poor Clare was out of daycare all of last week, and poor Mom and Dad had to juggle schedules, miss work, and then suffer through the cold ourselves. At least we can take Sudafed. Clare had ANOTHER double ear infection, so we have an appointment with an Ear, Nose and Throat doctor to discuss the possibility of tubes. I am also going to make an appointment with a chiropractor, because some of my more traditional western medicine-averse friends have suggested it as a possibility for helping with ear infections. Also, my Dad’s chiropractor said it can work to help drain the ear, depending on the child. Has anyone else tried it?

Then today, while dropping Clare off at daycare, one of her teachers informed me that Clare is a “bad sharer.” Really, what I am supposed to do with this information? She asked me what we do at home, and I said, well, you know, Clare doesn’t have to share at home so it isn’t really an issue. Also, she is 17-months-old. Are any 17-month-olds good sharers? She also mentioned her tantrums, which, yes, she does have those at home. And when she does, she does not get what she wants. Once she realizes her fit is ineffective, she usually stops. Also: are tantrums by a 17-month-old really all that unusual, either? She is just testing her boundaries. Please, someone inform me if I am way off base here. Or if you have any suggestions to help her learn to share, I am all ears. (Or eyes, as the case may be.)

Today is my last day at work for the week, so I am very happy about that. I plan to eat and drink my way through the rest of the week, especially on Thursday. Blood Mary’s and wine, here I come! (Oh, and turkey and stuffing and corn casserole and rolls and pumpkin pie and apple pie and, and, and….)

Have a very happy Thanksgiving, to all of you stateside.  To those of you not in the U.S., have a great week!

Glamour girl. (Her new favorite word: tutu.)

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Unbreakable Bonds

When we were kids, my sister Katie was well known for her tantrums. Her clothes, in particular, bothered her. She would tug at her shirt and whine, "This. Shirt. Is. Stupid!" So it seemed only appropriate that we print the saying on a T-shirt to celebrate the momentous occasion of her 30th birthday, which is today.


Here, you can see that my brother Robby and I both managed to spill beer down the front of our shirts.
We all got together in Minneapolis this weekend to celebrate. It was great to have everyone together. It doesn't happen nearly often enough. We even played a drinking game, at which I utterly failed and was forced to chug two beers. Seriously. The game's one basic rule was that you couldn't name people whose last names begin with "H" (we were naming celebrities). Two of my answers? Katharine Hepburn and Whitney Houston. Brilliant!

I've always been grateful for the close relationship I have with both of my siblings (although I suspect my brother has at times wished he had a brother rather than two older sisters). We didn't always all get along, but we've had more fun than fights over the years. When Katie and I were little, we found a perfectly flat, round piece of wood, and decided it would be our "Best Friend's Wood", on which we promised to be best friends forever and love each other forever.  It is pretty cute. We still have it somewhere. (Probably in my parents' garage, which contains several tubs of my childhood memorabilia.) And we've held true, even though we haven't lived in the same city since I moved away after graduating from high school. Katie is my best friend - we can talk about anything and everything, and do several times a week. We are each others' sounding boards for all of our worries, rational and not.  So, to my sister and best friend - I hope you have a very happy birthday. Thanks for always being there!

Wednesday, November 7, 2012

17 Months




Relief! Relief. I am so happy this battleground state went blue. The President won. Wisconsin elected our first woman (and the first openly gay person) to the Senate. Also: go Maine, Maryland and Minnesota! I am still running on adrenaline from last night, so I don't even care (much) that Clare woke up at 5:45 this morning. I was up until 11:30 watching returns. But no matter! It is a good day. It is also the 7th, which means it is time for my monthly Clare update!  Let's get to it.

Clare’s vocabulary has absolutely exploded over the last few weeks. (I, of course, had been worrying that she wasn’t talking enough, even though she communicates just fine. So yes, once again, I was worrying about nothing. I know. You are shocked.) Here is the list of words that she now uses correctly. I’ll get to the one she doesn’t use correctly in a minute.

Hi
Bye
No
Mama
Dada
Baba (Grandpa. I count this.)
Ball
Cheese
Apple
Sock
Shoe
Nose
Eye
Elbow
Belly
Teeth
Bubble
Elmo
Sandy (Her beloved daycare teacher.)
Night-Night
Uh-Oh
Baby
Pee
Pea (Yes, she differentiates between the two.)
Please
Yeah
Keys
Tree
Moo

So, lately, she has been running around the house screaming “Die! Die!” (or maybe it is “Dye! Dye!”?) at the top of her lungs. It is unnerving. I don’t know what she thinks she is saying, because I know she has no concept of death or the use of hair dye.  I wish she would stop, though.

When she first learned the word “eye” and where it is located, she went around her daycare poking all of the other kids in the eye, while announcing “eye!”

She has learned how to prolong story hour at bedtime. If she says she’s still thirsty, and asks for milk (using the sign for more – she still signs quite a bit), then she’ll get another story! Brilliant! It took her not-so-brilliant mom a few days to realize she was being manipulated.

For the past few months, Clare has been testing her boundaries. I always said (before becoming a mother) that I wasn’t going to give in to tantrums or other loud displays. It is so hard not to, though. Sometimes I just let her eat Rice Krispies for dinner, because it is easier than fighting with her about it.  This is something I need to practice. I don’t want her to learn that yelling and screaming about something will mean she’ll get her way. I just need to stick to my guns, even if it is exhausting.

Brushing teeth has been another frustrating endeavor. She just won’t let me do it. Does anyone have a secret to getting your toddler to let you brush their teeth?  I do usually let her try it by herself for a few minutes, because she wants to do EVERYTHING on her own. Which is great! Except when it’s not. 

Loud noises still scare her. She becomes hysterical at the sight of the vacuum.  My mom, Clare and I went out to dinner recently. My mom and I were laughing (quite loudly, I admit), at something. Clare stared at us, and then put her head down on the table and started sobbing. I don’t know if it was the loud laughter that scared her, or this glimpse into her future.

Overall, though, she is just so much fun. She really just sees everything (which is why I am very careful about the TV now).  The other day we were at Hobby Lobby, and we walked by a Nativity scene, complete with cows, sheep, etc. “Moo,” said Clare. Yes, Clare. Moo indeed.

And now, a photo essay demonstrating why the photo at the beginning of this post is somewhat less than fabulous:

Reaction to my suggestion that she sit next to T-Rex.

After several lackluster photos and an attempt to obtain the camera, it was time to explore her closet.

Shoe time!

I thought the shoe would  be a good distraction, but every time I asked her to smile she gave this impish smile, looking deliberately away from the camera. Stinker.

Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Random Bits and Pieces: October

Happy Halloween! Clare dressed as a strawberry this year. She looked adorable, of course. I had big plans to take all sorts of pictures of her at the Halloween at the Zoo event on Sunday, but then I went to the Packer game instead. All well. It was my first game at Lambeau Field, I couldn’t turn down that ticket! It was a blast, although many of the people around me were much louder and drunker than I was. I am okay with that. And the Packers won, even though they looked bad. Yay.




***

Clare did get to wear her costume a few other times, though. We went to two Halloween parties at her daycare center. At one of the parties, she got to eat an Oreo, which of course was the highlight of her life so far. She also went trick or treating at Grandma Jo’s and Babba’s (her word for Grandpa). She definitely enjoyed the chocolate she got there - at least the chocolate that made it into her mouth. (The rest was on her face.) She also discovered the jar of M&Ms I have out in our house. I let her have one, and she has not forgotten. She begs for one every time we walk past the jar. She hasn’t received a second one, because I realized they are probably kind of a choking hazard. Oops.  Luckily I will be putting that away with the Halloween decorations, so it will be out of her sight.

"Where's my candy?"

"I said, where's my candy, woman?"

After-candy. Also after a change of pants thanks to diaper leakage.
***

Those of you with small children: did you children ever go through a phase where they seem to eat absolutely nothing? (Besides Oreos, of course.) Clare is not eating much these days. She is still (ALERT: TMI AHEAD) pooping regularly, and doesn’t seem to be losing weight, so I think she is okay? I don’t know. She has had a cold for about three weeks, but her appetite has only been affected the last few days ago. Any advice will be appreciated.

***

I had to post some pictures of Clare in this adorable coat  and hat she got from my friend Chelsea. I wouldn’t mind wearing this coat myself, actually. Also: obligatory comment about time flying – can you believe it is the end of October already! What? How?


Tuesday, October 30, 2012

I Don't Know

We moved from St. Paul to Evansville six years ago. At first, when someone asked me if I wanted to move back, I always answered with a resounding yes. But something funny has happened. The longer we are here, the more comfortable I get. Yes, I miss my friends. I would love to have weekly (or at least monthly?) lunches or happy hours with my girlfriends. I’d love to see my sister more than every other month. (Although who knows how long she’ll be there.)  I’d love to take Clare to all of the wonderful places Minneapolis has to offer. (The zoo! The sculpture gardens!) Yes, Evansville is boring. But it is also peaceful. And my parents are just 10 miles away. I see kids outside, riding their bikes to the park and the library, and I think boring is what we need right now. A small town seems like the perfect place for Clare to grow up. (Although, if she is anything like her mother she will hightail it out of here the second she can.)

But. Ben is not happy at his job. He misses his friends. I want him to be happy, and to have opportunities to advance in his career. And those opportunities are not here. So then I think, well, maybe moving back would be a good thing. Then I think about my parents and feel guilty. I know they would be sad if we moved. And I know plenty of people don’t live near their families, but I see the people who do and think, “I want that.” I am jealous of my friends whose families all live in the same area. Ben and I will never be in that situation. Of course, even if we are in the Twin Cities, we are still in the same time zone as my parents, unlike my sister-in-law, who is not even on the same continent as her family. (Besides us, of course!) I am sure she would love it if her parents were only a 5 hour drive away.

So what do I want? I don’t know. Would I want to stay here if my parents weren’t here? Maybe not.
I know we need to make the decision based on what is right for our little family, and not what is right for anyone else. I have a hard time doing that, though. I always, always think about how at least five other people might react to this decision. And then I feel guilty. I need to learn how to make decisions based on what is right for me (and of course Ben and Clare), without influence from others.

How do I do that? And what do I want? I don’t know.

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Dance, Dance, DANCE

Has anybody seen the show Dinosaur Train on PBS? We watch it once in awhile, because it airs just before Sesame Street. It is kind of a strange little show, but I have learned a lot about various species of dinosaurs. I don’t think Clare has learned anything, other than that she likes colorful cartoons. Anyway, last week there was an episode that featured Mrs. Pteranodon (the mother in the family, whose name would be the equivalent to me being named Mrs. Human, but ANYWAY), singing a song about how she would always be her childrens’ mom, no matter how old the were, or how many miles away they lived, it would never change the fact that she was their mom. I just SOBBED. It’s crazy, isn’t it? A children’s cartoon is reducing me to tears.  It’s just, I started thinking about how I’ll always be Clare’s mom, and that made me so happy. And then I started thinking about how one day she might move miles and miles away from me, and that made me so sad. I don’t know. Motherhood has turned me into an emotional wreck.  (Although, when Clare hits her teenage years maybe I won't hate the idea of her moving miles and miles away? You never know.)

We went to a wedding last weekend in Willmar, Minnesota. I have never been out that far west on Highway 12 before, and it was interesting driving through all of the small towns. Of course, they didn't look much different from the Wisconsin small town where I live, except for perhaps fewer bars? There were lots of Dairy Queens, though, and some beautiful lake country. On Sunday, Ben informed me that we had driven through the town with the largest ball of twine in the world! (It’s true!) I was so disappointed that I didn’t know this then. I would have stopped! How often do you get to see something like that? Not that often.

The wedding was for Ben’s aunt, and she looked beautiful. During the ceremony, Clare applauded after all of the music. I eventually had to take her out because she was making too much noise, but she enjoyed herself while it lasted. And at the reception, she was ready to dance - not quite as energetically as some of her second cousins, but she has some moves. Sort of.

video

Yeah, she was out before her head hit the carseat on the drive home.

Thursday, October 11, 2012

My Two Jobs

I know I’ve mentioned before that I am only working outside the home three days a week. I am “off” on Wednesdays and Fridays. When I was leaving a few days ago, my co-worker said to me, “Well, at least you have tomorrow off! Enjoy it.” No. I am not “off.” I am still working. And the job I am working is many times more difficult, more tiring, and more thankless than my “career.” Oh, and I don’t get paid for it.

My days at home consist of many, many rounds of diaper changes, battles over breakfast, lunch, and dinner, loads and loads of laundry, dishes piled up in the sink waiting to be tackled, and schlepping a 16 month old who hates her car seat around town running various errands. I usually don’t manage to fit in a shower. If I am lucky, I’ll get a half hour to catch up on some TV. If I am very lucky, I might even page through a magazine for 5 minutes. My point: it is a day without breaks, chatting with co-workers, sipping coffee, catching up on articles online. My adult interaction is limited to small talk with the librarian or the cashier at Target. And at the end of the day, my house still looks like a bomb went off, despite all of my efforts to tidy-up.

Okay. Deep breath. Step back. It sounds like I am complaining here. I don’t mean to. (Well, I meant to complain about my co-worker, I guess. This is not the first time she has said this to me. I have heard it from many other people, too.)  I enjoy chasing Clare around. We play games and go to the park. We make silly faces at each other and laugh hysterically about them. I think she likes having time at home with me, too. I kiss her a thousand times a day, and I wouldn’t trade cuddling on the couch and reading books with her for anything. My point is, though, that it is still WORK. It is not a vacation day. I have very little time for myself. I think too often people assume that because you are not in an office or on location somewhere at your job, you are not really working.  I am usually more tired at the end of the day on my days at home than I am after a full day of working at the office.

I know the interwebs are full of people sniping at each other about who is the better parent – a mom who works or a mom who stays home. I don’t intend to get into that debate. I am a big believer that a happy mom is a good mom, whether working outside the home or staying home full time. Or doing a little bit of both, like I do. And I consider myself very lucky to have the option to work part time, because I know many people aren’t able to do that. I think we just need to remember that regardless of what path we choose or if there is a salary involved, ALL moms are working moms.

P.S. Since I am in a ranting mood, can I just say that November 6th cannot get here soon enough? I am so sick of all the lying liars and their LIES. Ugh. Okay, I am done now.

Sunday, October 7, 2012

16 months


 Clare’s vocabulary is starting to expand, but she remains very attached to one particular word. An example of a recent “conversation,” held because I was trying to figure out why she was being a fussbudget:

Me: Do you have a wet diaper?
Clare: No.
Me: Are you hungry?
Clare: No.
Me: Are you thirsty?
Clare: No.
Me: Are you tired?
Clare: No.
Me: Do you want to go the park?
Clare: No.
Me: Do you want to play with your ball?
Clare: No.
Me: Do you want to meet Elmo in person?
Clare: No.
Me: Do you want a trip to Disney World?
Clare: No.
Etcetera to infinity.

In addition to her words from last month, she now says: ball, elbow, bye-bye, nose, and night-night. She is very proud of herself when she correctly uses one of the words. The other day we were driving home from Milwaukee, and Clare was in the backseat saying “Ball! Cheese! Ball! Cheese!” Over and over and over. She has also started having extensive conversations with whoever I am speaking to on the phone. The other night she said, “Bye-bye Dada,” to Ben. It was pretty cute. She can correctly point to her nose, ears, head, cheeks, lips, feet and belly. She loves to show off her belly, when asked where it is she immediately pulls up her shirt.

Clare is very much her father’s daughter, in some kind of funny (to me) ways. She doesn’t like it when her hands are sticky. Dirty is fine, sticky is a major problem. She has an impish little grin, which she employs whenever she is doing something she knows she shouldn’t. (Ben smiles the same way when he is doing something to annoy me.) She is quickly frustrated if she can’t get something right away, like putting pieces in their correct spot on a board puzzle, and will have a bit of a tantrum. Yes, Ben does that too. (Especially with those board puzzles. They really stump him.)

She is up to 16 teeth. She doesn’t always use them, though. She spit an entire piece of ham into my hand the other day because she was trying to suck on it rather than chew it and she choked.  Speaking of food, my good eater is gone. She has gotten so picky! The other night she ate sour cream and corn flakes for dinner. Disgusting, but true. The next night, she just had an absolute fit when I set down her plate.  I tried to reason with her, which of course didn’t work. Then I gave her a fork. The tears stopped. She still didn’t eat much of her dinner, but at least I figured out one thing – the girl wants to eat with a fork, even though she can barely use it.  So much of dealing with a toddler is a guessing game.  I feel so proud of myself when I get it right! I should buy some stickers and give myself a gold star.

One night last week, she outright stole my dinner.


Yes, that is broccoli she is shoving into her mouth. Like I said, a guessing game. I never know what she will eat. I guess I can’t blame her, though. My dinner did look a lot better than this, which is what she was originally offered:


On Friday we went to the park. Clare played on the swings for a while, squealing with delight as I pushed her back and forth. We sat at the picnic table and had a snack, watching the cars drive by. I just wanted to bottle up that day.  Clare kicking her feat back and forth as she sat on the bench, eating her crackers (and feeding them to me), talking about the cars. Me telling her what is going on around her. Her slamming my phone out of my hand when I checked my email. I wish we could do that every day. And next time I’ll leave the phone at home.

We went to visit my grandparents in La Crosse this weekend. Here we were in the bluffs of Minnesota, overlooking the Mississippi and La Crosse.

With her "ball" aka a delicious Fireside apple.

Ready to take dinner out of the oven. Photo by Uncle Robby.
PS. I finished Gone Girl. I really liked it, but it made me tired and kind of angry. I was happy to read a book that I felt strongly about, though. I haven't read one like that in awhile.

PPS. The Packers apparently suck, and it appears the Vikings are good. Not just luck.

Sunday, September 30, 2012

Random Bits and Pieces: September

For better or worse, fall is here. I wanted it, then I didn't want it. I don't know what I want most of the time, so this is no big surprise. Anyway, it is here, and we have decided to make the most of it. This weekend, we took advantage of the absolutely perfect weather, and headed northwest to New Glarus, Wisconsin, to take in their Oktoberfest celebration, scarf some delicious brats and chug some cool New Glarus Brewery beer. Clare enjoyed the polka music.

We were going to visit the Brewery itself, but it was absolutely packed, so we decided to skip it. We stopped by Culver's for a pumpkin shake instead. This was deemed to be an acceptable alternative by all. And by "all" I mean me and Ben, because Clare didn't get any shake.

Today we had dinner at my parents' house because some family members from various reaches were in town. (Miami, New York, Chicago, Sun Prairie. Some came from farther away than others, obviously.) It was nice to see everyone, and Clare had fun showing off. We also watched the Packers squeak out a win. Question: are the Vikings actually good this year? It seems to be a distinct possibility.

***

I am currently reading Gone Girl. It is so good. It is the kind of book that I just want to sit and read straight through. That is what I would have done before I had a child. Now I am forced to sneak in time to read when I can - mostly after Clare has gone to bed. I have been staying up way too late reading. That is the curse of a good book.

***

We got a new car. Our friends moved to Ireland, and we bought their Prius. The Subaru went to my brother. I won't be writing any sentimental post about that car - I was happy to see it go. We drove the Subaru to my brother and sister-in-law in Milwaukee last weekend. Less then a week later, my brother called to say it wouldn't start. Oops. I felt bad. I think he figured out what was wrong with it, but I am not entirely sure.

***
Random pictures of Clare being cute:

Her new bath towels are so cute. Ignore the scary glowing demon stroller behind her.

Admiring her beautiful new bracelets.

Helping with the housework. When I first uploaded this picture, I was like "what is the horrible bug on the floor next to Clare?!?" Then I realized they are my keys. Gah.
Okay, back to my book!

Thursday, September 20, 2012

Matters of the Heart: Update!

Have I mentioned that Clare’s absolute favorite show is “Wheel of Fortune”? She likes it even better than “Sesame Street,” despite the fact that Elmo has yet to make an appearance. When you think about it, though, “Wheel” is the perfect show for little kids. There are all sorts of interesting colors and lights and constant noises: bells, clapping, cheering. It is totally innocent. No violence or swearing to be seen. (Or heard.) Although, I thought there might be some the other day when the contestant had the following puzzle in the bonus round and failed to solve it: Magic  _and. For shame! Have you never read Harry Potter? The contestants on the show always say a little bit about themselves, and it never fail to mention their “wonderful” husband or wife. They always use the same word. I wonder if they are coached. I told Ben I want to be a contestant and when Pat asks me about myself, I’ll say, “Well Pat, I have been married to my mediocre husband Ben for 6 years.”

This, of course, would be a lie. Ben is a wonderful husband, most of the time. I spend a lot of time one-on-one with Clare, partly because I am home two days a week, and partly because Ben has a lot of evening commitments. And I think I have it pretty well under control. When it comes to a big event or medical appointment or something of that sort, though, I am so grateful I am not a single parent. I don’t know how they do it.

We took Clare to see the pediatric cardiologist last week to discuss the results of her Echo. I was nervous, even though Clare’s pediatrician told me not to worry. (Ha! She obviously does not know me AT ALL.) Clare has two unrelated heart issues. The first is a heart murmur, which is nothing to worry about. It turns out about half the people I know have heart murmurs, and the cardiologist assured us it is no big deal.  The second issue is called a patent foramen ovale or PFO. This is a hole between the left and right atria (upper chambers) of the heart. Everyone has this hole before we are born. It allows blood to go around the lungs of an unborn baby, who doesn’t use its lungs while in the womb. It is supposed to close soon after birth, but sometimes it just doesn’t.  This condition is also not really a big deal, it turns out. It sounds a lot scarier than it actually is. The doctor said later in life Clare may have some restrictions, like not being allowed to go deep sea diving (shucks!), but for now there is nothing to worry about, unless she has some kind of other cardiac-related incident or illness. So she’s fine. But as a mother, you just don’t want to hear that your baby as ANYTHING wrong with them, especially their heart. This is where it helps to have a rational husband by your side: sometimes I need that extra confirmation, need to make sure he heard what I did, that I didn’t miss something.

So, fingers crossed, we are done with that for the next four years. Then she will repeat the Echo to see if the hole has closed. The doctor also said that recommendations in medicine change all the time, so it is good to check back in.  I just hope they have “Kung Fu Panda” playing next time, too. Although, Clare will be five by then: plenty old enough for me to tell her to just sit still for the love of God! I can hear it already.

"Just give me a computer and I'll be quiet, I swear."

Friday, September 14, 2012

Parental Concerns

The smallest thing can set it off. A list of parenting-related books on Goodreads that a friend is reading. An article online about how a child was incredibly successful because his parents made him practice piano an hour a day. My dentist talking about how she doesn’t allow her young daughter to have any screen time at all. Reading a blog post by someone who only feeds her children organic food. Seeing pictures on Pinterest of adorable, creative craft projects that other people are doing with their children. And then the little voice inside my head starts to wail, “What if I’m doing it WRONG???”

(Right now you are probably thinking that I need to stay off the Internet. And you would be right.)

A few days ago, though,  I came across this article in the Opinion section of the New York Times written by a clinician who has worked with children for 25 years.  I really like what it says about parenting, and finding the middle ground between being a helicopter parent, and being too permissive. The article says, "...the optimal parent is one who is involved and responsive, who sets high expectations but respects her child's autonomy."

My mom always says, “Never do for your child what she can do for herself.” And the author of the article agrees. She writes,  “The happiest, most successful children have parents who do not do for them what they are capable of doing, or almost capable of doing; and their parents do not do things for them that satisfy their own needs rather than the needs of the child.”

My mom learned this philosophy from my grandmother, a smart lady and great mother, who had no internet and I am guessing few child rearing-related books to consult when she was bringing up her brood.  She just did what her parents did, and what her gut told her was the right thing to do. It made me think. My parents were pretty good parents. I am doing what they did, most of which is just gut instinct. And I think I turned out okay, irrational worrying aside.

So here is my goal: now that I have a bit of a parenting philosophy written down here,  I am just going to be that parent. I won’t stay off the internet, because really, come on. But I am not going to let everything I read about what another parent or family is doing send me into a tailspin of worry. If it is something that interests me or that I think is a good idea, sure, I might adopt it. But I am doing fine. Clare is a happy, healthy, smart kid, and I shouldn’t feel guilty for taking 10 minutes to look at Facebook rather than play with her, or for letting her watch Sesame Street or eat Easy Mac for lunch.   Just because one person is doing things a certain way doesn’t mean what I am doing is wrong. And I’ll just make myself crazy reading everything I can to make sure I am doing things “right.” I know I won’t be a perfect mother, but I will do the best I can. I think Clare will turn out okay. 

And here’s to hoping she inherits her father’s calm, worry-free personality.

Friday, September 7, 2012

15 Months

I asked Clare to sit by T-Rex so I could take her picture. She listened, sort of.

We waited until Daddy got home to help. Would it kill you to smile, girl?

Oh, there's a smile! Yay! Now let's try to snap a few quick photos before she...

Crap.

Yesterday, Clare hit me in the face with her sippy cup and then laughed about it. I grabbed both of her hands and said in the sternest voice I could, “No! No hitting in the face.” She laughed again. She didn’t seem the least worried or put off by my scolding her. Is she too young to understand? Or does she just not care? She wasn’t hitting because she was mad or because she wanted to hurt me. I know that. To her it is all a game. At what age can you discipline a toddler? And what do you do to make them understand that what they are doing is unacceptable? You can’t reason with them. I know she understands much of what I say, because she’ll listen when I tell her to put something away or go get her shoes. Any advice on this subject would be much appreciated.

Anyway! 15 months! Here we are. Clare has added a few new words to her vocabulary, including shoes, keys, and cheese. Cheese has become the word she uses for all food. She actually doesn’t want to eat cheese much at all lately. She will eat tomatoes though. And eggs. And bread, especially spread with pumpkin butter. She’s really a pretty good eater, she just needs some convincing sometimes. She inhaled the watermelon at a recent picnic, and last night she gobbled down carrot sticks (and drooled carrot juice all over her shirt). She had her first brat on Labor Day, and seemed to like it. They revoke your Wisconsin citizenship if you don’t like them, so it is a good thing she did.  (Kidding! They let you stay if you show an I.D. to prove you are from Wisconsin. Or is that just so you can vote? It is so hard to keep track of which terrible idea is being put into law these days. There are so many! And while I am mentioned politics in this really long aside, this is pretty funny if you haven’t seen it yet: www.paulryantimecalculator.com.)

Clare got a set of bouncy balls from a friend of her grandma’s, and she has been enjoying throwing, bouncing, and catching those. She actually has a pretty good arm on her. She even played with the bigger kids (Adam, Ben and Mason) last weekend, and was not at all intimidated. She is a bit shy to warm up to strange adults, though, or even adults she knows well, like her grandparents. She is usually fine after about 15 minutes.

Clare had her first day in the Babbling Blue Room at daycare on Tuesday. As I left, she was busy making a call on one of the toy phones in the room. She was more than ready to transition. I think she’ll have lots of fun playing with the older kids and I think it will be good for her not to be the biggest kid in the room for a while.  Oh, and thanks to Uncle Andrew she now has her own cell phone (minus the battery). Lucky girl.

I’ve been taking Clare to the library once a week. She runs around, pulls books off shelves, and plays with the toys the library has on hand for little tykes just her size. It is a great free place to go. I loved going to the library when I was a kid, and I hope Clare loves it, too. She already loves reading books, and will sit in her chair with a book on her lap, reading aloud to herself. (Not really reading, obviously, but talking in her little Clare language.)

Clare has started giving hugs and kisses upon request. Her kisses are big and slobbery, and mostly consist of licking my face. It is just so sweet, I don’t care how much saliva is involved.

I am really enjoying my work/home balance right now. I am sure I’ve mentioned this before, but working three days a week is just about right. I get my adult interaction and time away from Clare, but I also get two days home with her – days that I really, really treasure. I am pretty spoiled.

Monday, September 3, 2012

Summer Wrap-up

Usually, by this time of year, I am ready for fall. I start craving apples and butternut squash, and look forward to cooking with my dutch oven and wearing jeans. Not this year. Despite the awful heat, the sight of the mums at the grocery store made me want to cry. I am just not ready for any of it. Summer, please stay. Please?

Well, if even if summer must go, at least I made good use of the last week of it by taking a much needed vacation. My destination was the Twin Cities, so it wasn't exactly exotic, but it was nice to have a break from the day-to-day routine for a week.

Before heading north, though, we celebrated my Grandpa's 90th birthday! August 24th was the big day, and we made the trip to La Crosse to join him for lunch and cake. I am so happy we could be there, and that he and my Grandma have gotten to know Clare. They have always been very important to me, and it is really special to share my daughter with them.

Clare with Great-Grandpa Bob.
Clare and I were on our own for the five hour drive to the Twin Cities, because Ben was camping with his dad and brother in Canada. I was dreading the drive. I had the front seat covered in toys, pacifiers, books, and snacks. I didn't really need any of it, though. She did great!

We spent the first part of the week with my mother-in-law. We took Clare to the Russian art museum in Minneapolis (and received some dirty looks from people for presuming to allow a child into a museum! God forbid!) We also took Clare to the arboretum, were she had a great time playing in the kids' area. Aunt Katie babysat one night so we could go to dinner with my future sister-in-law without a baby in tow. It was lovely. Clare was VERY happy to see her dad when he got back, though. She was pretty tired, so she just leaned out of my arms into his. When Ben left to take his parents to the airport two days later, she just sobbed. I assured her we'd see him again in an hour, but I don't think she believed me. We also got a chance to see a few good friends who we don't see that often, including some of the Lillie Crew (I wish I could see these friends more, it is always so much fun. And Clare loved playing with Adam, Ben, and Mason).

With Grandma at the University of Minnesota Arboretum.

Lazing around in Grandpa Steve's chair.

Walking with Daddy and Grandma in Minneapolis.

Enjoying her watermelon at Lake Nokomis.
We also went to the Minnesota State Fair. Clare was less than thrilled. I think she was disappointed that we kept her out of the swine barn.

She did, however, enjoy the mini donuts.

And part of a sheep that was quite gross.

She doesn't look very happy here, but she went right for them.
This is my favorite part of the Fair.


So long summer. You'll be missed. I am off to drown my sorrows in more cookies.