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...


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:

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.