The Annual New Year Recap, Sundry -style

1. What did you do in 2009 that you'd never done before?

Birthed a 10 lb. 11 oz baby and lived to tell the tale.

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

I wisely didn't make any last year, thank goodness because there is no way I would have had any follow -through.

3. Did anyone close to you give birth?

Me! Me! ME!

(and I can't help but note: some of you! YAY!)

4. Did anyone close to you die?

No, though we've sure been talking a lot about death around here.

5. What countries did you visit?

Does day dreaming about Greece count?

6. What would you like to have in 2009 that you lacked in 2009?

A sense of connectedness to my new life here in VA. A really good friend here who I can call up and cry/giggle/kvetch with.

7. What dates from 2008 will remain etched upon your memory, and why?

Inauguration Day.

May 19, 2009. E's birthday.

8. What was your biggest achievement of the year?

E's birth.

9. What was your biggest failure?

Not weathering this cross-country move better. Not being present, adult and patient enough with Z this summer.

10. Did you suffer illness or injury?

Sometimes my body has felt both ill and injured but that's because I birthed a 10 lb 11 oz baby (How many times can I bring that up? Let's count. We're up to 3, I think.).

But, otherwise, thankfully, NO.

11. What was the best thing you bought?

Not these.

12. Whose behavior merited celebration?

I have to give my husband a HUGE pat on the back here. He was a STAR during E's birth. He was our family's rock this summer when everything felt like it was falling apart around me. He moved us, pretty much single handedly, across the country. He deserves a National Day of CG celebration (with chocolate covered pretzels and crisp pale ales and a very long nap)

13. Whose behavior made you appalled and depressed?


Famous people who rallied behind Roman Polanski.

Jon and Kate.

My own, on occasion.

14. Where did most of your money go?

Mortgage, insurances, moving expenses, Target.

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

Inauguration night, though it seems a very long time ago.

16. What song will always remind you of 2009?

When I was preparing to leave CA, a friend, someone with whom I was just getting close, made me a CD mix. The first song is "Miles Away" by Madonna. All fall, Z and I listened to it every morning when I picked her up from preschool. It reminds me of my old life in CA and reminds me of how far we've come this year as we are now a family of four (4!) living in a small town in Virginia (VA!).

17. Compared to this time last year, are you:
a) happier or sadder? Can I just come out and say that I HATE this question. I'll just say: 'bout the same.
b) thinner or fatter? Hate this one too. I'm "thinner" because last year I had a baby in mah belleh.
c) richer or poorer? Combine this year's financial melt-down, Z's expensive preschool and me not working with CG's new, impressive salary and.... I have no idea.

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

Here's what I said last year: "Danced. Cooked. Gardened. Hugged. Written letters. Made phone calls. Reached out."

Still true that. Double true.

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

Lost my temper. Curled inward instead of reaching outward.

20. How did you spend Christmas?

Here, in our new home, with my parents, watching Z dive into her mountain of presents and trying to keep E from chewing power cords.

21. Did you fall in love in 2009?

I'm sorry CG and Z, I still love you desperately but.... this year has been all about E.

22. What was your favorite TV program?


23. Do you hate anyone now that you didn’t hate this time last year?

I don't really go for the word "hate".

24. What was the best book you read?

I can barely remember what I read in the last month, let alone the last year..... Well, I loved The Help by Kathryn Stockett and right now I'm reading Bird by Bird by Anne Lamott and I am enraptured.

25. What was your greatest musical discovery?

my very own Beyonce.

26. What did you want and get?

My big, beautiful, healthy baby girl.

27. What did you want and not get?

My dad to be completely clear of cancer by this Christmas. Fucking cancer.

More sanity post-partum than I had pre-partum. (I blame the move.) (I'm working on it.)

28. What was your favorite film of this year?

Did I see ANYTHING this year?? All I can think of is "I Love You, Man" which is a sad statement on how many date nights we've had this year.

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

I turned 37 this year, the Saturday after Thanksgiving and we had a lovely day with CG's family. I had a delicious breakfast, got a pedicure with my sisters-in-law and mother-in-law and had an awesome 4-course meal date night where I didn't have to wipe anyone's spills or fetch anyone more milk.

30. What one thing would have made your year immeasurably more satisfying?

Daily massages and a night-time nanny.

31. How would you describe your personal fashion concept in 2009?

Wear whatever isn't too stained, too stinky or too maternity.

32. What kept you sane?

Dark chocolate covered ginger. My husband. Every scrap of exercise I could beg, borrow and steal time for.

But most of all, this blog, and you all, kept me sane. I've always written, needed to write to stay relatively sane. I've never written and had so many people support, encourage and acknowledge me. Thank you.

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

Can I just say that I LOVE the word "fancy" in this context? It makes me feel like a British pop star in an interview.

Ummmm... I have a little thing for Paul Rudd.

34. What political issue stirred you the most?

Marriage equality.

35. Who did you miss?

Oh, Lady California. I miss our lemon tree. I miss our backyard (aka. our outdoor play room). I miss my friends.

I miss my pre-partum boobs.

36. Who was the best new person you met?

E, bar none.

37. Tell us a valuable life lesson you learned in 2009.

I just read this passage last night in Bird by Bird by Anne Lamott and circled it and read it aloud and cried:

"Perfectionism is the voice of the oppressor, the enemy of the people. It will keep you cramped and insane your whole life, and it is the main obstacle between you and a shitty first draft. I think perfectionism is based on the obsessive belief that if you run carefully enough, hitting each stepping-stone just right, you won't have to die. The truth is that you will die anyway and that a lot of people who aren't even looking at their feet are going to do a whole lot better than you, and have a lot more fun while they're doing it."

38. Quote a song lyric that sums up your year.

"Where are my keys? I lost my phone, phone (.....) Just dance, gonna be okay"
- Just Dance by Lady Gaga


The Clueless But Hopeful Mama (and also Earnest! and Gullible!) goes shopping

Sometimes when I go shopping, I forget to bring my critical thinking skills.

Exhibit A
: Last month I bought these:

(I mean, really.)
Because.... regular wipes aren't good enough! They're too harsh on my baby's nose! (Or something.)

Exhibit B: I'm regularly buying this baby cereal. Whoever markets this stuff is totally aiming for ME.

Because....oh where do I start?? On the label, from the top down:

"Happy Bellies"- Aren't we all convinced that world peace would spring to the fore if only our babies' bellies were just a little bit happier?
"organic baby cereal"- Ahhhh, the environment is improved because of what I am choosing to buy from Target.
"DHA"- The latest in nutriceuticals for babies: don't let your baby be stupid! Give them DHA for smarter brains! (I jest and yet....)
"probiotic immunity support"- Maybe other people's babies will have unnecessary belly problems, but not mine. I'm not just feeding her, I'm supporting her immune system. Go ME!
"Dr. Sears recommended"- This makes me feel guiltily good, like even though I don't co-sleep or nurse around the clock, I've got Dr. Sears patting me on my hunched-over, sleepless back, an Attachment Parenting gold seal of approval.
And don't forget, at the very bottom: "BPA free"- Thank goodness! I assume they mean the packaging is BPA-free??? They can't possibly be insinuating that other baby cereals have baby-brain-melting plastic INSIDE them, can they?

Exhibit C: Ever wonder who falls for those free sample inserts in your Sunday newspaper?

That'd be me.

"Pantene Pro-V Restoratives Time Renewal Conditioner."
"Years of highlights, blow-drying, perms or even pregnancy have fatigued your hair"

(They have? They have! OH NO.)

We got this free sample a while back and I think their marketing is truly brilliant. Middle-aged (O. M. G. I'm pretty sure this is me) upper middle-class (Don't we all think we're somewhere in the middle class? Am I? Hmmmm.) ladies! We all love Pantene, right? And we all want to restore our hair (to some former youthful glory?) and most of us highlight our hair. (Nope, not me, not any more. Too chemically for a pregnant or nursing ANXIETY ridden mom like me.) Or at least, we blow it dry. (Nope, not me either. Who has the time?) And okay, WHO perms their hair these days? WHO?

I can see the marketing round table discussion trying to widen the target demographic: Let's see.... who haven't we covered here..... I know! Pregnant women! Let's throw that in there!

Bang! They got me!


On a not-totally unrelated note (yup, that's what passes for a transition- wheeeee!), I promise I will still be friends with y'all when I become a millionaire (leaving the middle class or upper middle class or wherever I am that allows me to buy all the crap listed above): you know how they make doggie toys that look like the human things dogs love to chew, like a rubber newspaper and a squeaky plastic shoe? Well, I'm going to sell baby teething toys in the shape of doorstops! and power strips! and heating grates!

Because that's what my newly mobile and completely stubborn baby is obsessed with.

(I want you to know that I thought long and hard about trying to take photographic evidence of her latest obsessions but decided against it. CPS, you got nothin' on me.)

All I have to do is make sure I appropriately label my adorable Chewy Power Strip (TM) (STEP OFF MAH IDEA): "Made with- Capital O-Organic rubber!" "BPA-free!" "With added DHA!" "Don't let your baby be stupid!" (Okay maybe not that last one.)


Holiday flotsam and forehead smacks

Late on Christmas Eve, our advent calendar was completed and our stockings were hung by the chimney ..... left on the floor with care.

We plated up some cookies and milk for Santa and carrots for all the reindeer. Plus we left some spiced nuts for Santa with explicit instructions for him to share with Mrs. Claus.

Magically, Santa left a present outside of Z's door. Even more magically, Z didn't wake up until her clock turned green at the appointed allowed hour of 7 am.

My parents were here for Christmas to help us overeat our parade of cheeses, the never-ending supply of Christmas cookies and the melt-in-your-mouth Harry and David pears. Plus, they put in some serious time holding a teething baby and listening to a whiny preschooler.

It was actually a lovely Christmas all around. No one was sick (a Christmas miracle!). For all her whining, Z was gleeful about everything Christmas and not TOO grabby about her presents. For all her teething, E is just so delicious I have a hard time not chomping into her for an extra dessert every evening. But I've been a bit strung out this holiday season. There is the usual "I didn't get the right things for people" stress-out that I always go through. Then there is the usual "eating too much sugar which tends to make me grumpy" situation. Lastly we have the usual "a toy store puked in my living room and what's with all the plastic twist ties?" lament.

But mostly I think my poor mood is a result of the fact that my dad has to start chemo again, and this time with radiation. Fucking cancer. My parents were just starting to recover from his first round of chemo last spring and were looking forward to a sunny vacation and some time spent getting stronger and moving forward. No such luck.

I'm not very good at compartmentalizing things. My dad's cancer feels like one of those mysterious refrigerator stenches that won't go away. Every time I inhale it's there, if only just a little. And I'm a little too scared to really look at it.

So I have to sit with it beside me (we'll move away from that stench metaphor right now THANK GOD), to know it and still truck along, doing everything else that is my life. It feels unfair to have had this holiday (like last years) overshadowed by a dark CANCEEEERRRR cloud. Not to get too Pollyanna-ish but I do find it helpful to think about how lucky we all are that my parents have good health insurance and the means to pursue all treatments recommended to them. I can't imagine how much more stressful and difficult all this would be if that weren't the case.

So this is my current personal project: to move forward with positivity, even in the face of the usual cluelessness and imperfection and the fucking cancer. To do the little things that make a difference. To focus on the big, good stuff (and not let things like the fact that our basement just flooded after our last rain storm make me totally bonkers with stress).

To finally get Z's prints (from etsy) hung on her wall after framing them four months ago (and to immediately let go of how long it took to get them hung).

To receive and enjoy the gingerbread man ornaments for Z and E the day after Christmas (and immediately forgive myself for not realizing that they had to be shipped from the Netherlands. Etsy! It's international! *forehead smack*)

To find continuous inspiration in the openness of this face (and find a deep well of understanding for how hard it must be to have those blunt little suckers poking up through her gums)

To make the trek up to New Jersey next week to see my parents again as well as my grandfather, brother, sister-in-law and niece (and not grumble once about lost naps or messed up schedules). Because family is what it's all about.

Feel free to smack me on the forehead each and every time I forget this.


From our Clueless But Hopeful family to yours

(Three out of four family members smiling at the camera passes for a successful family photo!)

Happy Holidays to you and yours!


The downhill slope

Dear E,

Today was officially the shortest day of the year. We were still snowed in from the Snowpocalpse of Aught Nine and we spent most of the day indoors as snow was still 18 inches high and the wind was howling something fierce.

It would have been a perfect day to curl up with a mug of tea and the Sunday Times (HAD IT EVER ARRIVED) but you were having none of that nonsense.

You are on the move.

You are suddenly camo-crawling and it is a both exhilarating and terrifying to me as your mother. You see, your big sister was content to be immobile for a long time and never really crawled; she finally did what we called the "monkey shuffle" around 10 months old and then pulled up and started cruising and that was the end of that.

You are charting your own course here. And we feel woefully unprepared.

In a room strewn with your safe baby toys, you make a beeline for tucked away power cords and hidden dog toys and, inexplicably, the cracks in the floor boards (where there might be some stray dog hair that you haven't yet tasted?).

And, OH YES, you're pretty much sitting up now too which makes you immensely proud of yourself. As well it should.
I love watching you explore your world with newfound independence and skill.

But today, when it was our darkest, shortest day, all I wanted to do was curl up and stay still and you wouldn't allow it. From the moment you woke up, you were raring to go, with a huge growling grin, immediately taking big fistfuls of my hair and trying to shove them down your throat. WELL HELLO TO YOU TOO!

Every nursing session was a struggle. Your legs had to thrash around while you guzzled down your breakfast, your fingers had to pinch randomly for loose flesh (of which there is plenty, AHEM). When you were done, you were done, arching your back, trying to dive for the floor: ENOUGH WOMAN! I'M DONE WITH YOU.

When all I craved was quiet stillness, you couldn't bare to be still.

Today we begin the slow downhill slope toward summer. Toward long, warm days. Toward sunshine and bathing suits and flip flops.

We still have a long winter ahead and you are still a little baby.

But I know that we are on the crest looking at the downhill slope.

Toward summer.

Away from your babyhood.

And all I want to do is curl up and be still.


your Clueless But Hopeful Mama


Snowpocalypse and grumpy holiday meme

I'm little grumpy at the moment since I found out that Z's school has been cancelled for the rest of the week due to the Snowpocalypse. I was counting on her school time to do some more shopping and get all the wrapping done. Not to mention KEEPING MY SANITY.


I went to Target last Friday, needing dental floss and TP, and I laughed at all the crazy people stocking up on milk and bread for the coming Snowpocalypse. I mean, REALLY people. CHILL OUT.

Then today, after shovelling 18+ inches of snow off our driveway, I had to put on my gaiters and my snow pants and wrestle some polar bears on the way to the local gas station/mini mart to get some MILK AND BREAD.


Since I'm not going anywhere, any time soon (18+ inches!), let's do a holiday meme! Stolen from the incomparable Swistle, who stole it from someone else.

Eggnog or hot chocolate? Any drink that includes the word (OR THE FOOD) "egg" should be outlawed. Seriously. And what exactly is a "nog"?? NOTHING I WANT TO DRINK, THAT'S WHAT.

Plus, hot chocolate has chocolate. NEED I SAY MORE??

Does Santa wrap the presents or leave them open under the tree? Leave them WHA under the WHA???? Were you people raised by wolves?? Santa and his happy little elves wrap each and every present and place them under the tree. I can only imagine the crazy child present orgy that would happen if all the presents were just laying there NEKKID.

Colored lights on a tree, or white? Colored ones on the inside tree. But white ones outside. And I just can't do icicle lights. That sh!t just ain't right.

Do you hang mistletoe? Not anymore. When I lived in San Francisco with three girlfriends we usually hung some mistletoe over a door but those swinging single days are LONG PAST. WOW THIS IS SAD. (NOTE TO SELF: BUY MISTLETOE NEXT YEAR.)

When do you put your decorations up? I'd love to be so on top of things that I could say they always go up immediately after Thanksgiving but it usually takes a few weeks to get a tree, locate the ornament box, find the time to set it all up, and rearrange the ornaments after Z puts every single ornament on three total branches.

What is your favorite holiday dish? CG's family makes this "cranberry salad" that is supposed to be part of the main meal but considering the fact that it's made with cranberries, sugar, whipped cream, walnuts and halved grapes, it's pretty much a dessert that you get to eat with dinner. What's not to love?

Do you open a gift on Christmas Eve? I've never heard of such a thing! Do people do this?? How can you do this? Does Santa come early??? Or is it just the presents from other people?

How do you decorate your Christmas tree? In CG's family, every kid gets an ornament each year, so he and his siblings have their own boxes of ornaments from their childhoods. We're doing that for the girls too. Our tree is a total hodge podge of family ornaments, gifts from people and a box of sparkly balls that I bought from Target our first Christmas together when we had exactly two other ornaments.

Snow: love it or hate it? I'm loving it so far. Here in VA, we've had two big snow storms both of which had large, pretty snowfalls that happened on Saturdays when we didn't need to be anywhere. Talk to me after it gets all icy and dirty. Talk to me after I spend the next two days alone and completely housebound with the two girls since Z's school has been cancelled. Talk to me in March.

Can you ice skate? Technically? Yes. Practically? I would most likely hurt myself and/or someone else very, very badly.

What is your favorite holiday dessert? Growing up, we always had this dark, boozy steamed English pudding that my mom would hide in the basement for a YEAR, periodically soaking it in booze before decorating it with holly and lighting it on fire. Gross AND bizarre! BUT! With it you got to eat "hard sauce" which is basically sugar and vanilla and butter. And I would just eat the hard sauce with a spoon.

What is your favorite holiday tradition? When I was a kid, my brother and I used to wake up at ungodly early hours on Christmas day. So Santa started a tradition of leaving one present outside our doors for us to open as early as we wanted. The gift was supposed to keep us occupied for an hour or three so that our weary parents could sleep in after being up all night wrapping. There was one unfortunate year when Santa messed up and left us both a t-shirt. So there we were at 4 am, staring at our t-shirts like WTF SANTA?.

Poor Santa got an early wake up call as a punishment.

Candy canes: yum or yuck? Eh.

Favorite Christmas show? Since the children's ballet company that I danced with growing up had the presence of mind NOT to do the Nutcracker (Instead, every December we did an adaptation of the Hans Christian Anderson story "The Snow Queen"), I actually LOVE the Nutcracker. I'm hoping next year Z has the patience to sit through it because I'm dying to go.

Wow. Doing this meme made me less grumpy! How nice!


Be careful what you start (part 2)

CG, groaning as he sits on the step to put on his shoes: I'm getting old, Zo-

Z, cheerfully: -and then you're going to die!


Z's been talking A LOT about death lately. I am met at least once a day with questions I'd rather not entertain over my bowl of shredded wheat: Can you see anything when you're dead? Do bees bother you when you're dead? How do you know the exact day you're going to die?

It happens so often these days that these questions are no longer startling. But try as I might to be matter of fact - Death! It's just a part of life!- they will forever make me catch my breath, just a little.


Z, apropos of nothing
: When you die, Mommy, I'm going to miss you SO MUCH!!!!

CBHM, momentarily stricken mute: ..........Me too sweetie, let's talk about that after we pick out a nice loaf of bread here at the grocery store, m'kay?


When she started asking us questions about death and dying, it seemed like a passing fancy, a circumstantial inquiry. We drove by a cemetery and she asked what it was. After a moment of wondering if I should just tell her it's a park with lots of stones sticking out of the ground, I gave her a simple, honest answer. I thought that might be the end of it but, um, NO.

Are they lying down under there? Do they have a pillow? Can I have a sleeping toy when I'm bewweeeed?

CG and I try to answer her all her questions as simply and honestly as we can, and so these questions are no different. We try not to talk down to her, we use the real words for things and our real answers to the hard questions (which, for us heathens, means a whole lot of I don't really knows and some people think blah blah blahs and What do you think?s). But we also try to remember that she's THREE. And we don't want to scare or confuse her. So we keep it simple and try not to get too philosophical.

But her questions, and my answers, linger in my head for hours afterward. I've found myself ruminating daily over what I really think happens after we die (There's nothing like pondering life's little questions right before you go to bed, let me tell ya!). I wrestle with how to explain to her some cultural and religious perspectives along with my own personal ideas (Life is short and what we do here matters! Every action, every word spoken, every footstep has a rippling impact on our world! We all live on through our impact, our relationships, our love! We came from the world when we were born and we go back to the world when we die!).

I confess: more than a few times I've wished I told her it was just a park with a whole lot of stones in it.

Be careful what you start (part 1)

The stories started sometime this summer. Z got very interested in what things were like when I was little. While we were in Vermont, in the middle of our cross-country move, with a band new baby E throwing us all for a loop, Z and I struggled and battled and in desperation, I started telling her stories. Often used to keep her patient or OK FINE I'LL SAY IT bribe her to do something I wanted, these stories were also a way to keep us connected at a time when we both were coming apart at the seams just a little. If you sit on the potty before we get in the car, I'll tell you a story. When your tantrum is over, come here, sit on my lap and I'll tell you a story. I know you're having a hard time sleeping....... Once upon a time......

A lot of the early stories were true, or at least as true as I could make them with my Swiss Cheese Brain. They starred me and my best friend growing up (we'll call her Janie) and the lessons we learned along the way. Z likes the ones that are a little bit scary BUT NOT TOO SCARY and she always watches me with rapt attention when I'm talking. (This alone is worth it, I think.)

They are all entirely made up at this point, because, well, because there have been 856,387 of them so far.

They always start the same way:

Z, sweetly: Mommmma??

CBHM, knowing what's coming: Yes, darlin'?

Z: Could you tell me a story? ActuallyhappenedandalittlebitscarybutnottooscaryandithasyouandJanieinitandithasFOURSCARY PARTS?

CBHM, sometimes with smile, sometimes with a grimace, always with: Yes, sweetheart. Once upon a time there was a little girl named --


CBHM: and I had a best friend named--


CBHM: and one day-

Z: -Did this actually happen? When will the scary part happen?

Now the telling of these stories is a part of our daily routine, so ingrained in our lives that I wonder if I'll be telling her these stories when she's a teenager. And, of course, I realize I will not be. Soon enough she will not care what actually happened when I was a little girl. She will not stare at me with rapt attention when I speak about anything.

And so I tell her stories. Even though I sometimes shudder when she starts asking, exhausted before I even begin, and sometimes I rue the day I started this.

I still tell her stories.

(But Z? Most of them didn't actually happen. I'm sorry about that.)



Baby 2.0 and Mama 2.0 try to sleep

When embarking on Baby 2.0, CG and I had a bit of an overconfidence about us. We were deeply convinced that we would never make the same mistakes with our second child that we made with our first. After all, we were no longer green-behind-the-ears rookies. With our first try at baby-tending, there had been much serious study and, when that failed us, trial and error, and when THAT failed us, we threw up our hands and covered our heads till it got better on its own, resolving to do better, to BE better, next time.

Through it all, we felt we accrued some knowledge that would surely help us next time around. We had learned.

(Or so we thought.)

Last week found us back in the land of a non-sleeping baby. Specifically a 6 month-old who used to sleep really well, got a cold and didn't sleep, got better and still didn't sleep. It had been a couple of months of increasingly poor sleeping and I started to fall asleep sitting up. At the dinner table. During dessert. CHOCOLATE DESSERT.

We've been here before. The exact. same. thing. happened with Z when she was about the same age. We hoped it would get better on its own. It got worse. I took her to the doctor, sure that she must have an ear infection. Clean bill of health. I read the No Cry Sleep Solution book and applied its ideas. It got worse. We all were grumpy and miserable during the day, with Z yawning and pawing at her ears half an hour after waking up. So I read Healthy Sleep Habits, Happy Baby and we decided to let Z cry it out.

The day we started, we put her down awake for her naps and she fell asleep without a fuss, just like she normally did. We put her down awake for her bedtime and she fell asleep without a fuss, just like she normally did. Then the waking started. CG checked on her, assessing that she was dry, safe, not too hot/cold, not being eaten alive by rabid jaguars. Then he patted her back for a few minutes to calm her and left. And we all cried.

It took two nights. Two LONG nights. By the third night, Z was no longer waking up at night and was much happier during the day. We declared it a success. We wished we had done it sooner. I swore to friends that it was best decision we had ever made.

We also swore we would never let "the next baby" get to that point again.

And here we were, last week, facing yet another round of "crying it out" with E, the "next baby".

I fought CG on this for weeks. She'll go back to normal soon! Every once in a while she sleeps great! Clearly something is wrong on those nights when she cries and then stops as soon as I pick her up. SHEEEE NEEEEDDDSSSS MEEEEEEEE. MAMA BEAR RAAOOOAAARRRRRRR.

Finally, her naps dropped to 20 minutes or less, she was waking almost every hour, every night, calming only when held, eyes popping open the moment her head hit the crib mattress. It soon became obvious that I had somehow trained her only to sleep in my arms, in the rocking chair. I don't blame her for finding it a preferable arrangement. But I have to say, my sleep is in all our best interests and her preferred arrangement WAS NOT MINE. After a check up with the doctor- who said she was fine - CG finally impressed upon me that it was not going to get better on its own and I couldn't go on this way much longer. So I reluctantly agreed to a mild, checking-on-her-often version of crying it out.

And she stunned me by adjusting quickly. Just like with Z, it took two nights. The longest she cried was 15 minutes. The rest were all 5 minute cries that may have even been in her sleep. By the third night, we didn't even need to check on her at all. She was back on track.

Then, I made a big mistake: I Googled "effects of crying it out" and came up with this press release out of Harvard. (It turns out Mama 2.0 has the same darn bugs as Mama 1.0. Can some software engineer somewhere fix this Late Night Googling bug??) Since it's three years old, I'm sure you all have read about it already but it was new to me. The researchers (and all the secondary news sources) basically link "crying it out" with panic attacks and PTSD in later life. Besides the NO DUH headline about babies needing to be held and touched,- REALLY? CAN'T I JUST POKE HER WITH SHARP STICK?- they claim that unnecessary crying as an infant changes one's brain to be more sensitive to later trauma. HOO BOY. Who wants to define "unnecessary crying"?? Anyone talk to moms of colicky babies about this one?

Then I fell down this Google Hole and read more about crying-it-out than I ever thought possible.

Mama 3.0 better include some GOOD FIXES for Late Night Googling.

After all I've read, I'm still convinced we did the right thing for our whole family. We are more on the "independence" side of the parenting sleep continuum and I understand that to some people this seems harsh. But I firmly believe E knows she is loved and cared for. And now she can (once again) sleep well in her own bed.

Oh darn....

.... it's baby hat weather.


What happens to you when your mother was a psychology major

I distinctly remember reading about the marshmallow experiment in college. In Walter Mischel's famous experiment, children were led into a room empty except for a marshmallow on a plate. They were told that they could have that single marshmallow now or, if they waited, they could have two. The experimenter then left the room and the child's internal struggle began. Some ate the marshmallow right away, others found ways to resist the temptation and earn the promised, delayed, reward.

Mischel's long term study of these children found correlations in the ability to delay gratification and higher SAT scores. So-called "low delayers" were more likely to have behavioral and drug problems in later life.

Clearly, we all want to raise our kids to Not Eat The Marshmallow.


So there Z and I were last week, baking gingerbread boys. As always, I promised that cooks get to sample ingredients as well as finished products. So she sampled flour (one would think she would get tired of this but ..... no.) and she sampled sugar. A sample of molasses almost shut down the whole project. But! We recovered and spent serious time cutting and decorating gingerbread big sisters, little sisters, mommies, daddies, stars, fish, hearts, houses etc. etc. HIDE SOME OF THE COOKIE CUTTERS NEXT TIME etc.

When they finally came out of the oven it was later than I thought, so close to dinner time that I realized Z would ruin her dinner with the huge gingerbread house-with-a-big-sister-sitting-on-the-roof (A classic Christmas cookie shape, right?) she was eyeing. So I gave her a choice: she could have a small heart now and no dessert after dinner or she could wait until after dinner and have the big house/big sister for dessert.

E chose this exact moment to explosively poop, inadvertently setting up the next, crucial part of the unintentional (I swear!) experiment. I ran upstairs with E to change her and left Z alone on her stool by the cookies.

I mean, which would you chose??
(Original cookies eaten already. Luckily there were several "big sister sitting on the house" cookies!)

When I came back down, Z had put the cookies away in the tin and announced to me from her perch on the arm of the leather chair that she would wait for dessert.

Of course, she wasn't totally alone in the room without any other distractions like the actual test subjects (and I'm resisting the temptation to repeat this experiment more.... experimentally).

Still, I'd call this a success! My child is brilliant and will excel at life! Or at least understand the vital, truly life-determining concept of MORE COOKIE.

Now if I could just get her to wipe her own bottom.....


Next up in applying my poorly-remembered Psychology studies to child rearing! The Milgram shock experiment!


Maybe the Snow Mommy and Snow Daddy get some sleep?

I could post about the misery of a non-sleeping baby (still) and the internal battles over possible versions of sleep training. I could post about the preschooler's food peculiarities or our never ending hand wringing over her school or the precious "winter concert" at her school or our cul-de-sac's holiday progressive dinner. I could post about how awesome it is it be driving distance from my parents so that they can come here after just a few hours' drive to babysit for big events.

Or I could just post about the glorious sight that greeted us when we woke up on Saturday morning.

Our first SNOW!

Yes, let's just post about the SNOW!

It started falling in the morning and kept going all day, big fluffy flakes that melted at first before sticking and staying. Perfect for a day at home decorating the house for the holidays.

Z tasted it (from the sky only OF COURSE) and proclaimed it "WET!".

We built a fire and, unlike in Pasadena, we actually needed its warmth.

We improvised some waterproof gloves for Z.

We built a "snow family", complete with Daddy, Mommy, Big Sister, Baby Sister and Dog.

Z had her first taste of hot chocolate (and, given all her lip smacking and enthusiastic "do we get to have this every time it snows?", I'm pretty sure it won't be her last.)

By the end of the weekend, we may not have decided on a strategy to sleep better or settled on Z's preschool or figured out how to get Z to eat anything other than cheese and cookies or properly thanked my parents for babysitting a non-sleeper and a non-eater two nights in a row but WE DID decorate a Christmas tree and BOY HOWDY we enjoyed the snow.



My labors

When I pushed out both my babies, it felt right that it took 3ish hours and wrung me out till there was nothing left, not a drop. I slumped into a sweaty exhausted heap in between each push, eyes rolling back, mouth slack, muscles spent.

I have no judgements of women who chose early pain management in labor but it's not what I wanted. I wanted a drug-free, vaginal delivery. I knew there would be screaming, blood, inhuman levels of pain and exertion.

I wanted that. I wanted to feel it all. I wanted to labor.

I wanted to start my babies lives without drugs in their system. I wanted to feel connected to women throughout the centuries who have done this incredible, goddess-like thing. But also, there was a tiny part of me that wanted to push through something like punishment. To emerge from a difficult trial victorious. To prove to myself that I could do it. If I could handle it, I could handle anything.

If I could do it, I deserved to be a mother.

I've thought often that labor and delivery was my version of doing a marathon. A trial of will, spirit and flesh. Due to injuries to my feet and knees from dancing (not to mention a pesky, passionate hatred of running), I could never do a marathon. Never.

But I could labor.

I do feel like I proved something to myself, especially with E's delivery. I felt triumphant and the glow of her birth lasted for a long, long time.

The daily labor of being a mother is something else entirely. It can be grinding, exhausting, thankless. There is no cataclysmic moment at the end where flesh opens, people cheer and you clutch a brand new person to your breast. There is just another day of more labor. Another night of unknown amounts of sleep. There is no end.

(*Here's where you all start composing your kind, concerned comments - have you considered psychotherapy? how about anti-depressants? - in your head*)

I find the suffering from lack of sleep that is currently my labor to be one of the more difficult in motherhood. To lay my head down at night (and again, repeatedly, in the wee hours of the morning) and have NO IDEA how long I will be able to sleep is so unsettling, so miserable, it defies my usual simple solutions for sanity and mental health (Get more exercise! Try a little deep breathing! Have a piece of dark chocolate!)

After an impressive start with long stretches of uninterrupted sleep as an infant, E's sleep has been a mess for .... a month? Three?

(I broke her, didn't I?)

About twice a week, E sleeps for 11 hours without a peep. Hurrah! She is cured! Whatever I did today I will make myself insane by trying to completely replicate in its entirety tomorrow!

About twice a week, E wakes once or twice and falls back asleep with a little paci help or maybe one rocking session. Fine. Just. Fine.

About twice a week, E wakes every 1.5 - 2 hours and insists on being held and nursed indefinitely. O. M. G. I WILL NOT SURVIVE THIS. On these nights, I emerge not victorious, not triumphant, but spent, exhausted, confused. I cannot find this trial of body and mind and spirit to be a great test of my will, a proof of my power as a woman. I find it only crushing, draining, dispiriting.

(Any other synonyms left in that thesaurus?)


It helps just a little that I am not alone. That I am once again connected to the centuries of women, of mothers, who've come before me.

And those -you -who walk beside me.



Oh hi! I suppose I could post something on this here blog.

I know! The weekend! The holiday! (What's that you say? Everyone posted about that, like, THREE DAYS AGO? And has moved on?? Really??)

Well, there was a turkey, see?

No wait, not that turkey.... where was that one hmmmm.... almost as tasty........

Yes! There it is! SO delish! I love turkey!

Almost as much as I love pie and whipped cream!
(I personally take my whipped cream with a side of pie.)

Then some doofus had a birthday and made her own birthday crown (but apparently didn't feel the need to use a hair dryer! I'm just in from warm, dry California! Where hair dryers have only one purpose: to serve as expletive inducers when they fall on your foot as you rummage through your bathroom cabinet at 3 am looking for the extra TP. I, personally, don't ever turn mine on. Who has the time? I'm too busy making a BIRTHDAY CROWN for myself! Priorities!)

How old am I now? 36? 37? I forget, because that's what happens when you get old. But also? That's what happens when your little 6 month old turkey decides to WAKE UP THREE TIMES A NIGHT LIKE SOME KIND OF NEWBORN, uh, TURKEY. HAPPY BIRTHDAY TO ME.

Then we tried to take a family holiday photo. They pretty much all look like this one.

At least Sweet Dog was cooperative. (Either that or she's planning her revenge.)

I'm sure I'll have more to post.... someday..... when I get more sleeeeppppzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzz.

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