The Sitz Bath Diaries

2015 July 10
by Jennifer

We have officially entered month two of life with a newborn, so allow me a moment to reflect on month one.  Let’s go back to the very beginning…

There was joy! There was love! But humm, how should I put this? …the first week home from the hospital was downright rough.

The miracle of childbirth did a number on my downbelow, so each trip to the ladies’ room took an entire CVS aisle of paraphernalia. My boobs grew two cup sizes overnight, which is not as sexy as it sounds since it comes with an immense amount of pain and a little leakage. And the night sweats. Why does nobody talk about the night sweats?

To make things exciting, the baby had her AMs and PMs completely confused so each day felt absolutely endless. She would sleep all day and be wired, wide awake and absolutely starving all night, so there was not much sleeping for me. Sleep when the baby sleeps? Ha! Arguably worse than not sleeping at all is finally falling asleep once the baby is quiet, only to be woken mere minutes later by a screaming newborn. Over and over again.

And holy hormones. Man did they play some tricks on me and my mental stability. One minute I would be fine and the next I was a puddle of tears, dreading what would surely be an entire lifetime of sleepless nights and endless feedings. I remember walking by the dishwasher in a sleep-deprived hormonal stupor, wondering if I would ever EVER have enough time or energy or desire to empty it. True story.

That was week one. But week two…

Week two was better. Physically I was on the mend, so my “free time” wasn’t spent on the sitz bath. The baby sorted out her days and nights so everyone was sleeping more, and praisethelord and thankyoujesus the wacky hormones night sweated their way out of my system. The question “how are you doing?” no longer brought me to tears. Victory!

Week three was actually pretty great. We went out for dinner and saw friends and went to the pool and the park and out on a date. On multiple occasions I even managed to get everyone fed, clothed, cleaned and out the door and to our destination practically on time. And there were even days when both girls took long naps at the same time. Mission accomplished, right?

By week four I saw glimpses of something resembling solid sleep for me and something resembling a smile from Hallie.  Be still my heart. I even felt up for dipping my toe back into the working world, mostly just to prove to myself that I could do it. So what if I had to mute my conference line to ssh and soothe a SCREAMING baby.  The others on the call were nonethewiser. I totally got this thing. (Mostly)

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Oh…am I making it look too easy breezy? You are catching me on a good day after a full night of sleep. So there’s that. Not to mention the illusion of the internet–hiding the cast of characters, conveniences and comforts that have helped me get to this point:

caffeine, my parents who live 10 minutes away, under-eye concealer, my awesome neighbor friends who make me laugh while our children entertain each other,  my hands-free breast pump bra, the MealTrain deliveries that make me so excited about not cooking dinner every night,  Harper’s bevy of summer camps that keep her out and about and entertained from 9am-1pm most days, occasional supplementation with Earth’s Best formula, Netflix streaming service, and especially My Man who is ALL IN.

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I feel like we are over the hump and doing more than just making it through the day. Things around here are actually pretty dang good. Tiring, but good. Maybe it is because this go round I know that this stage doesn’t last long– a perspective that helps me grin and bear it when I feel overwhelmed and exhausted, but also gives me the desire to appreciate and soak up this sweet newborness that will be gone so so fast.

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The Story of Her Birth

2015 May 31
by Jennifer

This is my birth story. It will not include the words dilated, cervix, placenta, perineum, mucus plug, sutures, or amniotic sac. You’re welcome. There are plenty of those on the world wide web, but I wanted to document the less graphic, family-friendly version for posterity. If you want more details, I’m happy to send you a copy of the video.*

*Aren’t I funny on four hours of sleep?

Off we go…

My contractions started on Saturday night, while attempting to do some semblance of dancing at a wedding. At 40 weeks and 4 days pregnant, I was beyond ready to get the show on the road so I was delighted when they began. Weeks before, I had a few little moments where I asked myself, “was that a contraction?” I was reminded that night the answer was no. You KNOW when you are having a contraction, if you have to ask it doesn’t count. I spent the night tossing and turning in between painful contractions, excited and anxious knowing this could be it. I finally gave into not sleeping and got out of bed at 4am. I went downstairs and laid on the sofa, timing contractions and excavating treasures on the DVR as the sun came up and the rest of my family slept upstairs.

It is a crazy thing to be at the precipice of such a huge life change, to know and hope and pray that what you have waited for and wanted for so long is soooo close to happening you can taste it…but to not yet know the outcome, if all will be well and the baby will be healthy. My anxiety and excitement increased the closer I got to my due date, but that morning I felt a sense of peace.

I took those hours before the house woke up to write a letter to each of my daughters. I wrote one to Harper telling her all sorts of things about what I loved about her, prayed for her and hoped for her and what she meant to me. I also wrote one to baby #2– a letter telling her about how badly we wanted her and telling her how loved she already is. It was something I had wanted to do for a while, and that Mother’s Day morning, the morning after Harper’s third birthday and the day my youngest daughter would be born seemed like the right time.

I was happy to hear Harper call me in the morning when her light turned green, knowing it might be her last day of being my only one. I went into her room and told her today was the day she would become a big sister. She was SO excited, and bounced in her bed saying “today? Really? Today!?”

Harper ran down the hall and into our bedroom to wake up her daddy to tell him the news. When I told him my contractions continued all night, he slightly panicked and said we should go to the hospital.  I said we should go out for breakfast. Priorities.

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The three of us carb loaded for the day ahead, using a contraction ap between courses to see if my contractions were getting closer. They were. Yowza! Pancakes helped with the pain.

After breakfast we hurried home to pack our bags. My parents came to pick up Harper and take her back to their house and My Man and I headed to the hospital.

Once we were at the hospital, we settled in and it was confirmed that yes, I was in actual labor. This I knew, but the doctor had to check and see for herself.  The pain was getting intense.

((As I lay there trying to get a camel to go through the eye of the needle, My Man complained of a recent golf injury and buzzed the nurse for an icepack and some Advil. Hummm. ))

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Meanwhile, I outlined the intricate and extensive details of my birth plan to the nurse who recorded it on the whiteboard in our hospital room.

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It took what felt like fooorrreeevvveeerrr for the epidural to get administered and activate, but once it did, we could all breathe a little easier. Before the wondrous meds worked their magic, I felt like I had been flying cross country, bouncing around with the cargo. Getting the epidural upgraded my flight to coach, perhaps even business class. I was still very much a part of the flight and I arrived at the same destination, but I was able to enjoy the view and have polite conversation with my travel companion.

My travel companion (AKA my birthcoach AKA the baby’s father) got off WAY easier once I was medicated than he would have if he had to talk me through each contraction—getting his circulation cut off by hand squeezes and perhaps being the scapegoat for pain-induced verbal assault. Instead, we actually enjoyed the time together in that hospital room as we waited for things to progress. We listened to some great music, rested, read, prayed, and discussed some possible names for baby girl. It was actually pretty special.

It wasn’t long before I started feeling some moderate pressure and called the nurse to see where things stood. After a quick check the nurse immediately said, “freeze! Don’t laugh, don’t cough! Let me get the doctor.” Six minutes later, she was here!!

jdh phone 452 Experiencing the LITERAL MIRACLE of life and holding our healthy warm baby on my chest is a feeling I will never forget. There were tears.

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Big Sister came to visit me in the hospital and meet her baby sister the next day. I had picked out a dress for her to wear and envisioned a magical moment when the two would meet for the first time. Things didn’t quite go as planned. Harper was like a bull in a china shop that day. She busted in, thrilled to meet her baby sister, but got really frustrated when we wouldn’t let her hold the baby allbyherself, or carry the baby allbyherself, or poke the baby’s eyes or take the baby’s clothes off. Her love, in those first moments, was slightly aggressive but entirely sincere. A good foundation for a best friendship, I think. This is the best we could do for a photo of the magic moment.

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The baby didn’t have a name till day three. This drove My Man and I both crazy and was not the least bit amusing to our family and the friends who kept asking. We weren’t trying to be dramatic, but naming a person is HARD. We had it down to four names going into the hospital, then down to two after she was born. Seeing that sweet angel face did not help make the decision for us. Brand-spankin-new babies, on the whole, look more like aliens / velociraptors / old men, and not quite like Julias and Mollys and Kates. In the eleventh hour, we finally we signed the official papers and named our little girl Hallie. We think it is precious and will serve her equally as well as the CEO of a fortune 500 company and as an Olympic athlete as it will as America’s Next Top Model.

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And just like that, our family of three is now a family of four. Bringing home our second daughter and placing her all healthy and bundled in her crib made our joy complete.

 

 

She’s Here!

2015 May 26
by Jennifer

It is with great joy that we announce the birth of our daughter Hallie. She made her grand entrance on Mother’s Day. What a gift!

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More details to come, but pictures will have to suffice for now. Putting letters together to make words and then form sentences is a high-wire-act when running on so little sleep…

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…but so much love.

 

Currently…

2015 May 5
by Jennifer

Currently…

Wearing: Snoozies. These slippers are like putting your feet in butter (or…uh…so I’m told). And in my current condition, comfort is king. I am most comfortable whilst wearing my loosely fitting cuddle duds and my generously proportioned loungeabouts and these cozy slippers complete the look when one has no intentions of leaving the house.

Doing: Some SERIOUS Nesting. Something about compulsively cleaning carpets and washing things in hypoallergenic unscented detergent makes me feel more ready for baby girl. I suppose these little things are the only things that I really have control over in this whole baby making, baby baking project—so I am clinging onto them for dear life. No closet or junk drawer has escaped my magic manic touch and you could seriously eat a meal off the floor in our garage. The before & afters would blow your mind. Now I know people (Hi Mom! Hi Sis!) who live their lives constantly decluttered, sorted, stacked, sanitized and color coded, but I am not one of them. There’s certainly something to it–it feels good. Let’s see how long it lasts…

Endorsing: Folex Instant Carpet Stain Remover. Yep. I’m at an age and stage of life where I want to tell the world about a carpet cleaner. College Jennifer is rolling her eyes.  Anyway, the nursery rug was in a bad way and making it less scary looking was top of my nesting to-do list. I did a quick pole of some trusted friends and the internets and the resounding responses far as carpet cleaner was concerned was Folex. Y’all, this stuff works. Stains gone. Instant gratification.

Eating: Cereal. Crispex has snuck his way back in the rotation and I have a feeling it’s here to stay. And somehow a box of Golden Grahams ended up in my grocery cart.  It’s a real whodunit. Um, delicious.

Reading: The Girl on the Train (Suspenseful. Page turner. If you liked Gone Girl, read this.) The Opposite of Spoiled (Important.) Praying Through Your Pregnancy (One week left then onto the baby books). The Rosie Project (Just finished it. A true delight.).

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Watching: Madmen, Meet the Press*, House of Cards, NewsHour**, Better Call Saul,  and Face the Nation***

*actually BRAVO hits like Real Housewives of New York City and Southern Charm

**translation: Newlyweds: The First Year

***more like the TLC classics 19 Kids and Counting and Brides by Design

harper face Loving: Harper. That child cracks me up on the daily. A few recent exchanges:

Me: “Harper, will you help me make this bed?”

Harper: “Mommy, you are a big girl and I think you can do it alllllll by yourself.”    Then she clapped for me when I finished and said,  “See, I told you that you could do it.”(It seems that the student has become the teacher).

—-

Me: “Your daddy couldn’t meet us for lunch today because he had a meeting with clients.”

Harper (a few minutes later, after some deep thinking): “Mommy? Do you think the lions daddy is meeting with are nice lions?”

—-

Harper (said very matter-of-factly): “Boys need a little more booty.”

Me: Silent. Completely silent.

What a relief to know that she is learning these key life lessons from top-40 radio songs.

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Wondering: When will this baby come? Will I go a week past my due date like I did with Harper? What will it be like to juggle two children? Will she look like Harper? Will I remember how to do it? Will my heart really expand to fit all the love?

Big Girl Bedroom

2015 April 22
by Jennifer

Parents learn quickly that our own excitement and enthusiasm are two of the most effective tools to deploy when we are trying to sell things to our children and/or get them to do what we want them to do. If I’m excited about it, Harper can much more easily get on board for whatever it is.  I can be quite convincing.  Recent examples include:

Big girl panties!

Naptime!

Your babysitter is here!

Broccoli!

Most recently, I did the whole excitement and enthusiasm song and dance (literally) to prep Harper to make the move from the crib in her nursery to her New! Big Girl! Bedroom! I hyped up her new big girl room and I wanted to make her first night in there a grand event. My plan was for a recent Saturday night to be night one in her new room. You see, I didn’t want to start mid-week in case there were issues that disturbed our precious sleep and I didn’t want to start Friday night because we had a babysitter coming.

Around 11:30 that Friday night we were wrapping up a super fun dinner with friends and I happened to look at my phone. I had a missed call, voicemail and text message, each left four hours earlier, from our sweet babysitter asking me which bedroom Harper slept in. Apparently Harper had duped the sitter into believing that she had already made the move out of the crib and into her new room. Lies! I came home to find her sound asleep in her brand new big bed like she’d been doing it all along.

I hardly slept a wink that first night because I was worried that she would wake up at 4am wondering where she was, fall out of bed, splash in the toilet, take a swig of Clorox, open the door to the porch, and jump off the balcony. In that order.  Fortunately, my worrying and worst-case-scenarioizing was for naught.  Harper slept like a rock and woke up the next morning at her usual time, truly delighted by her independence and maturity.  Needless to say, I did what any modern mother would do when things seem to be going too well, and put some eyes on the situation.  I deployed the Super Secret Spy Cam to see what really goes on in there.

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It’s been a few weeks now, and so far the transition has been pretty dang seamless…though not entirely uneventful.

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It took her one week to figure out that she could get out of bed by herself (darn) and it took another week for her to realize that once she got out of bed, she could open her door and walk down the hall (daaaamn). That move demanded a serious conversation threatening major loss of privileges if she left her room again. She hasn’t pulled that stunt since. Overall, so far, so good. Now she just screams, “Mommy and Daaahhdy, it’s time to wake up now” until one of us comes and gets her in the morning. I’ll take it.

Here are a few pictures of her New! Big Girl! Bedroom! It’s a work in progress, but it is such a sweet happy place that I hope will be filled with joyful memories and lots and lots of peaceful slumber.

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Parenting with Minimal Effort for Maximum Credit

2015 March 24
by Jennifer

The first trimester of my first pregnancy took me down. The exhaustion and constant nausea wrecked me so I did the best that I could to take care of myself. I rested and relaxed with my feet up and my Sea-bands on until I started to feel like myself again around week 12. The first trimester of this pregnancy was way worse and the ickiness lasted at least a month longer. I was more exhausted, more nauseous, and instead of getting to focus on taking care of myself, I had a two-year-old to deal with to lovingly parent.

In the throes of my morning sickness, I had to find ways to just get through the day. Would you believe me if I told you that I discovered great ways to keep the little one entertained while also managing to sneak in snippets of rest and relaxation for myself? Trust me. There are ways to receive full credit for amazing mothering while totally phoning it in. If you find yourself in a family way for the second go round, please put the methods outlined below to use:

Hide…and Seek

Tell your child to hide and take your sweeeeeeeeeet time finding her.

When it’s your turn to hide, really hide.

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Eye Spy Fetch

Here’s how it works: Mother sits comfortably on the porch and eye spies an object way far away in the backyard. Child then has to find the object, go physically touch it, and then run back to mother resting on the porch. High five. Rinse and repeat.

Party Bath

When I felt like crud, there were days when those hours between the end of naptime and the beginning of bedtime felt like they would never pass. On those days when we needed a little afternoon entertainment and weren’t fit to leave the house, we would have a party bath. I would set Harper up in our big bathtub with toys! and bubbles! and cups! and play the Frozen soundtrack. We would sing summer songs and pretend she was swimming in the pool. She would happily entertain herself in there until she was pruned from head to toe. This gave me at least an hour to lie on the surprisingly comforting cold bathroom floor. Win win.

Duh.

And what’s the best way to entertain a child—the way that requires minimal effort on your part and guarantees maximum enjoyment on theirs? Television OF COURSE! I know in some circles television may be frowned upon in the same way as formula feeding and high fructose corn syrup are, but ya gotta do what you gotta do.

To my immense credit as a fully devoted and wholly attentive mother, Harper didn’t watch much TV until she turned two. She didn’t have the attention span for it and it just wasn’t a part of her world. These days, she would probably watch six straight hours of infomercials en Española if that’s what was on. She loves to watch damn near anything so it is important to me that when she does watch something, it is quality programing. And I’m here to say, there is legitimately good stuff out there.

During my first trimester, I was phoning it in. And you know who stepped up and did most of the heavy duty parenting in my place? My husband. Daniel Tiger.   Daniel Tiger’s Neighborhood is hands down, my favorite show for little ones. Daniel is a sweet and wholesome little cartoon tiger who, when confronted with the trials and challenges of being a little tiger in a big world, learns a catchy song and the appropriate way to behave. If you are having an issue with your child, I’m willing to bet that there is a Daniel Tiger episode to address it.

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Does your child have trouble sharing? There’s a Daniel Tiger for that. Does your child loose it when it’s time to leave the playground? There’s a Daniel Tiger for that. Does your child act like a barbarian at restaurants? There’s a Daniel Tiger for that. Picky eater? Afraid of the dark? Afraid of green vegetables? Irrationally impatient? Freak out when left with a babysitter? Only want to wear a tutu? There’s a Daniel Tiger for ALL of that. I literally look at the episode descriptions, find one addressing our most pertinent issue at the time, press play, and let Daniel do the talking. The show’s songs are short and snappy and outline the appropriate way to act. My Man and I often sing them when Harper needs a gentle reminder to “think about how someone else is feeling” or that “that was fun but now it’s done.” Classics like “if you need to go potty, stop and go right away. Flush and wash and be on your way” and “you can take a turn and then I’ll get it back” replay on a constant loop around our house.

The show Super Why is a great intro to learning letters and reading, and Peg + Cat provides a fun look at numbers and basic math—but Daniel Tiger’s Neighborhood has my heart as far as teaching children about character and how to act like a decent human 101. So turn on the telly and let Daniel do the parenting while you take a nap. You deserve it.

And since necessity is the mother of invention, I know this list will grow as our family expands in the next few months. In fact, I have a feeling it’s going to get downright desperate up in here when I am trying to keep both children alive and entertained.  So please let me know what you do to entertain your little ones on an energy budget. Any games or toys that really go the distance? What TV shows do your kids watch that you love?  I know I will need all the help I can get.

Hello Again

2015 March 13

Tap tap. Is this thing on?

Life is whizzing by so I figure now is as good a time as any to revisit this little cobwebbed corner of the internet with a post about what has been going on lately in my world.

One big thing comes to mind. We are expecting baby #2 in early May. That is less than two months away! Whoa Nelly.

Onto some FAQs:

Girl or boy?

The week before Christmas, we took our sealed ultrasound envelope to an adorable baby store and picked out a girl and boy outfit. While we ran some errands around town, they opened the envelope and wrapped up the appropriate outfit. The box sat under the Christmas tree giving me a mixture of excitement and mild anxiety until we opened it Christmas morning.

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I was nervous! You know why? Because I wanted this little baby to be a girl SO bad.   Before we found out, I skipped the “all I want is a healthy baby” pleasantries and cut right to the fact that “all I want is a healthy baby…girl.” I was literally shaking like a leaf when we opened the box containing a little PINK dress on Christmas.

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It’s a girl!! Harper will have a little sister and I am absolutely over the moon. My sister and I are BFFs and I pray that Harper and this little chickadee will follow suit. Sisters are the very best.

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Do you have a name picked out?

No. Naming a human person is not easy. We have a list of five or so that we like, but there is no clear frontrunner. There is no name that feels quite like The One just yet. No inspiration to be found in the names of our ancestors. Maternal and paternal grandmothers were named Beatrice, Roberta and Betty, none of which have made the short list. Suggestions are welcome and encouraged!

What are you most excited about?

Meeting this little baby girl. Seeing Harper become a big sister. Holding a sleepy newborn. Smelling a newborn. Those tiny little feet. Newborn sneezes. Sleeping on my stomach again. Sushi. Wine (full glasses in public without judgment).  Matching sisters.

What are you most afraid of?

I confess that I am a tad anxious about the transition from one child to two. Going from zero to one rocked my world, so I don’t think adding another to the mix could be more jarring—but time will tell. We have it pretty dang good at the moment and I hardly remember what it’s like to be the round-the-clock physical embodiment of a bed & breakfast. I admit that those early days of sleepless nights are not my favorite. (Oh, and Harper told me the other day that was “so excited to feed the baby snacks.” Now I am envisioning Harper trying to force-feed the toothless infant child goldfish when I’m not around. Um, mildly concerning and representative of a whole new world of potential danger that I didn’t initially consider.)

What are you doing to get ready for this baby?

Harper doesn’t know it yet, but she is about to be evicted from her crib and the comforts of her nursery so that the baby can move in. She loves her crib and I love the fact that it acts as a cage of sorts that CPS and DFCS approve of. If I had my way, Harper would probably stay in a crib for at least another 5 years year if there wasn’t another tenant in line to take her spot. And she maaaaay be outgrowing it…

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The clock is ticking, but I’m waiting on a few final pieces to arrive for Harper’s big girl room before it will be ready for her to move in. What kind mother would I be if I moved my precious child into a room without custom made blackout shades and coordinating lamps? See what I did there…I think they call it procrastinating. I’m of the ‘if it ain’t broke, why fix it’ mentality so this change is not one I’m looking forward to. Hopefully it won’t totally mess up her textbook sleep routine and hopefully I won’t wake to find her attempting to use the Ginsu knives in the kitchen in the wee hours of the morning. I bought this clock and this child-proof door lock juuust in case.

Any cravings?

An all-expense-paid trip to somewhere tropical. A foot massage, new episodes of Mad Men, pineapple and popcorn.

Anything else you’d like to share?

I read a lot of these “’I’m Pregnant” (and the undoubtedly more annoying “We’re Pregnant”) announcements online and assume that everyone in the world gets pregnant on their first try. From the outside looking in, it all seems so easy and effortless for most people, so I want to pull back the curtain a bit on our road to baby #2. The honest truth is that we started “trying” when Harper turned one—so it took us a whole heck of a lot of “trying” before I finally got the plus sign on the ClearBlueEasy.

After a few months of ya-know-whatting on the reg with no news, we doubled our efforts and with each cycle that passed I added something to the mix to hopefully aid my fertility. You name it, I tried it. Acupuncture, hippie herbal supplements, a big bitter cup of apple cider vinegar each morning, legs in the air, raspberry tea, more exercise, less exercise, pure queen bee pollen, ovulation predictor kits, and charting my temperature, just to name a few.

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After all that homeopathic S, I turned to modern medicine. I tried a few rounds of the fertility med Letrozole and one round of Clomid and still nothing.   The final straw was an $800 consultation with a reproductive endocrinologist (AKA a fertility doc) to scare my ovaries into ovulating. I found out I was pregnant a week before I was scheduled to begin her recommended (AKA OMG $$$) course of treatment.   My Man and I couldn’t believe the good news. And we were in disbelief that it happened on its own, without any help from the hippies or the medical professionals.

There are a lot of lessons in there about waiting for something, and wanting something, and desiring control and releasing control, but the moral of our story is that God is good.   We know we are the lucky ones. We have close friends whose road to conceive their first child has been a hundred times longer, more emotional, invasive, exhausting and expensive.  ALL babies are miracles.  We can’t wait to meet ours in May.

Two

2014 August 15
by Jennifer

Travel back in time with me for a moment to May–when my baby (my BABY) turned two…

I never thought I’d be one of those mothers getting weepy because tear, tear, I have a two-year-old and tear, tear, the time is going by way too fast. But here we are. I am apparently that kind of mother. I get teary just thinking about how much I love her and love this age and want the whole thing to just slow the heck down.

I am also the kind of mother that felt the need to seriously celebrate the occasion of my little one turning two. Her first birthday went by without any fanfare but two was thoroughly celebrated. She is old enough to sing happy birthday to you and she is most certainly a birthday cake enthusiast.

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It wasn’t a grand affair, but I would venture to say that two-year-olds and their mothers have never dined better on a Thursday afternoon at Beaverbrook Park. It was a low bar, but I think we crossed it.

The menu for the little kids included a turkey or PB&J sandwich, string cheese, an applesauce pouch, cheddar bunnies and grapes.

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Harper decorated the lunch bags while I did some cooking and crafting of my own.

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Oh haaaaay, Pinterest.

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The menu for those over the age of five was roasted vegetable orzo, fruit salad, seedy crackers and chocolate chip cookies.  I portioned everything out into takeout containers and  assembled bagged lunches for each of the ladies which made serving everything at the park a breeze.

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Many a mother has asked me for the orzo recipe, and I have to credit the Barefoot Contessa with that one. I followed this recipe for Roasted Vegetable Orzo virtually to the letter except for a few minor modifications: I used half as much oil as Ina calls for (because whoa she can be heavy-handed with the good olive oil), omitted the eggplant (couldn’t find it) and the pine nuts (too expensive), and squeezed an extra generous dose of lemon juice on top before serving. The whole thing can be made in advance and served at room temperature which makes it ideal for picnicking. So so SO good.

Harper was totally the hostess with the mostess, and by the time she left the park she was sweaty and watermelon stained, bruised and scraped. When we got home she took a cold shower and passed out on the floor. College.

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But it’s not all Pinterest butterflies and cupcakes around here. I now have a two-year-old, and studies have shown that two-year-olds are a particularly challenging kind of child.  At two, she has OPINIONS and in a single minute she can demonstrate the entire spectrum of human emotions.  Don’t believe me? Then you be the one to tell her that we don’t eat cookies for breakfast or that she can’t wear her pearly white church shoes to the muddy park. Now be her total hero by blowing bubbles while singing “I’ve Been Working on the Railroad.”  Her ability to create real tears then immediately turn them off is truly Oscar-worthy.

I definitely caught a little glimpse of the terrible twos, so  figured it best to tighten the reigns before they came to stay.  That meant that Harper’s summer included some time spent in obedience boot camp…at our house with me serving as head counselor.  Until recently, Harper thought “come here” meant to laugh and run in the opposite direction. It is a work in progress, but she is beginning to catch on to the fact that I am the boss.  Progress! Now I only have to ask six times and threaten time-outs and corporal punishment to get her to do as I ask . Kidding. Sorta.

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Harper is always testing the limits and learning what will fly. Thankfully, she got over the desire to stick her fingers in electrical outlets months ago. But recently she hasn’t been touching the outlets with her own fingers, but holding out her baby doll’s little hand to touch them. Then she looks up at me innocently, as a bit of a challenge to see what I will do. I am afraid that she inherited my penchant to creatively interpret the rules.

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Harper is totally her own little person these days and I adore her spunky little independent spirit. She speaks in sassy little complete sentences and I really never know what she is going to say. (Hashtag no filter.) If she isn’t talking, she is singing.  Most days she is an absolute delight, though some days certainly require more wine patience. But every day she makes me laugh and every day I am beyond grateful for my joyful little bunny.

On the horizon for Harper: moving out of the crib into a big girl bed and potty training—and at the rate I update this blog, drivers-ed and senior prom.  Stay tuned.

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The Naughty List

2013 December 11
by Jennifer

My Mom and I took Harper to see Santa last week.  After the epic display of tears last year, I figured I better put in some legwork beforehand to prevent such an outcry this year.  I spent the week before our Friday visit showing Harper pictures of Santa online, pointing out his likeness when we saw it around town in holiday decor, and cranked up the volume when a song about him came on the radio.  On cue, she would answer my questions: Me: “What does Santa say?”  Harper “Ho Ho Ho!”  (And in an attempt to not completely muddle the Reason for the Season:  Me: “What are you going to tell Santa when he asks you what you want for Christmas?”  Harper: “World Peace!” )

The day of the big visit we were ready.  Harper looked absolutely adorable and we were uncharacteristically punctual for our 1:30 reservation.  (Yep. You read that right. Santa takes reservations now).   She was all smiles and giggles and ho ho hos until she saw him.

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Her tears turned into a full-on shots-at-the-doctor’s-office cry when I put her on his lap.

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And then, as if to spite me for forcing her to snuggle with a creepy old bearded stranger, she gave me the finger.

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I have seen her cry and I have seen her put her finger up her nose, but never at the same time.  Behold, the Magic of Christmas!

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As we left the North Pole that afternoon, I got a nod from one of Santa’s elves, the same elf that put the hard sell on me to pre-commit to a pricy professional photo package. Something deep inside told me this was not the year to spring for Photo Package C with a 16×20 print, a dozen wallets, and a DVD video of our visit.  Maybe next year.

Life Lately

2013 November 12

 

Well, Harper just turned 12.

Not really, but it has been eons since I updated ye old weblog.

Since last we spoke, we have traveled to Hilton Head to visit family, the North Carolina mountains with friends, Lake Rabun for a surprise engagement celebration, and to Nashville to see my sister and her man.  We also took day trip to the Pumpkin Patch and Harper started preschool. Man oh man do I wish I had taken the time to chronicle each of these events, but life moves way too fast. (And truth be told we started watching Breaking Bad which is pretty time consuming. Late to the game, I know, but daaamn.)

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Our October began with a week at the beach in Watercolor Florida.  This time it was just the three of us: My Man, That Baby and me.  My Man and I take vacation very seriously and aim to squeeze all the resting, reading and relaxation from our time away.  Before baby, that meant hours sitting on the beach while reading and listening to music, long bike rides, late breakfasts and leisurely dinners.  With baby, our beach vacation looked a little different. There were zero point zero minutes where My Man and I sat side by side poolside.

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That Baby is fearless and never stops moving and therefore needs a fully-attentive chaperone at all times, especially when surrounded by open water.  We worked in shifts and alternated who was on bunny patrol (suicide watch) with who got to sit in a lounge chair and sip sweet tea.  Whilst on vacation, Harper even developed a taste for sweet tea.

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The weather was perfect and the beach was empty. We took long walks, bike rides and  afternoon naps, ate seafood dinners, built sandcastles and played boardgames.  Vacation is the very best–even, and perhaps especially, with The Bunny in tow.

Now for an update on Harper, the hairless wonder:

see-saw

Harper’s little personality is becoming more pronounced every day.  She is an independent little extrovert who knows what she wants and is officially able to tell us.  Don’t ask her a question unless you want the hard truth.  She tells it like it is.  Me: “Harper, can I give you a big hug?” Her: “No tank you.” Me: “Harper! Did you just stick your hands in the toilet?” Her: “Yeah. Uh-oh.”  She says new words every day and our conversations have expanded well beyond me quizzing her on the animal sounds and the location of her body parts.  And she has recently started to string together sentences like a little foreign exchange student.  “Go see MiMi, yeah?”  “Me go park, yeah?” She can even sing a version of The Wheels on the Bus that would make anyone opt for  public transit.

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Our little lady also makes persistent song requests from the back seat as we drive around town.  Like My Man, she likes to hear her latest favorite tune on repeat over and over again until it’s worn out.  Her current favorite is Hello Everybody, the mildly annoying, sing-songy first cut from the Music Together CD.  She loudly and frantically shouts “Hello plees, hello plees plees plees” from her car seat until I finally acquiesce and cue up the track.  Then she relaxes into it, smiles, and exhales like a junky who finally got her fix.

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They say boys are all over the place and into everything, but I can’t see a little boy being any more hands-on than Harper.  She is fast and fearless and unfortunately quite injury prone.  I have a collection of signed incident reports from the gym childcare, preschool and the church nursery describing Harper’s accidents– noting the location of the bump, the presence of blood, and whether or not ice was applied.  I have to sign them because I think they are worried that we will file a lawsuit. Just yesterday she ran full speed ahead into a wooden column.  She is a human pinball.  Good thing she has extra padding and bounces back fast.

And what kind of parent would I be if I neglected to post Halloween pictures of my costumed child on the internet?  I’m pretty sure that is the reason for the season.

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Harper was a strawberry for Halloween.

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Aaaaaand she was also a chicken.

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Certified free range organic.

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For the second year in a row, I pulled a pageant mom and had multiple costumes for my child.  It is not that off the wall to have options considering she attended no fewer than five (5!) costume parties in the week leading up to Halloween.  Boom. Justified.

And I can think of no better way to end this long overdue blog post than with a picture of That Baby in a backpack.

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Happy fall, y’all.

Inside Edition: Motherhood Year One

2013 July 17
by Jennifer

When a mother of a newborn or eensy-weensy infant cheerfully says that she is “having the time of her life” and  has “loved every minute” of motherhood, part of me is jealous of her (and her means to employ a staff of maids, nannies, night nurses and round-the-clock-caregivers) and the other part of me rolls my eyes in disbelief. While I have loved my precious baby every minute, I did not love love love every minute of our first weeks and months together.  I could go on and on about the good stuff, but allow me a moment to reflect on the realities of this motherhood gig that don’t make the Lo-Fi-filtered Instagram photos and the warm and fuzzy Facebook status updates.

The first month of motherhood was particularly hard.  I knew my life would change but I didn’t know how much.  Finally she was here, and no books or baby shower or Bradley class could prepare me for what to expect when the one I was expecting arrived.  In those first few weeks I felt immense joy and gratitude for the blessing of a healthy, beautiful baby girl. I also felt…tired.  And emotional.  Totally par for the postpartum course.  I loved Harper like crazy from day one, but figuring out the complex Sudoku puzzle of a newborn baby is serious business, especially for first-timers.   The haze of hormones and exhaustion had me convinced that that the rest of my life would be lived in three hour cycles and at best, my nights would consist of a string of two-hour naps. And I know I’m going to get fined for saying this, but I sort of most definitely missed my old life. I had it really good.

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My outlook improved once the hormones left my system around week two or three, but I still wouldn’t have used the word “fun” to describe my day-to-day scenario. I was eager to reclaim some sense of order to our days and sleep to our nights. Sorry hippies, but I was not okay with breastfeeding on-demand a zillion times a day and throughout the night. Though I have always thought of myself as a go-with-the-flow kind of gal, having my baby on an eating and sleeping schedule became the Holy Grail.  I heard rumors of 8-week-old babies who slept 12 hours at night and I was desperate to have my baby be one of them. I envied those babies’ mothers with the same awe and wonder I’d previously directed towards gorgeous houses with fine furnishings, my sister’s perennial tan, and Italians with 42 days of paid vacation. Harper’s consistent daytime and nighttime sleep was a priority to me – for her sake and for mine.  But mostly for mine.  I asked my mom friends a zillion questions, read books and blogs on the subject, and trusted my instincts.  I got down to business when she was just a few weeks old, and soon enough that baby got her AMs and PMs sorted out. The first time she slept till 7am we threw a parade in her honor.  The first time she till 8am we decided to keep her.  Soon her naps became consistent and I was actually able to know when to plan things based on her eating and sleeping schedule.  What a luxury it was to be able to tell a friend a time to come over for a visit when my shirt would be on!

That’s a perfect segue to the next topic.  Before we dive in, I encourage the two men who read my blog to kindly reroute to ESPN dot com.  It is about to get national geographic graphic up in here.

Ladies, circle up and let’s talk about it. Breastfeeding.  These days the pressure is on to do it and love every minute. Otherwise, there’s a hundred percent chance that your child will be an obese biting asthmatic bed wetter forever in the slow reading group. I went to the classes and read the books and was delighted when things clicked and Harper was a good eater from the beginning.  But breastfeeding is hard, even when it’s working well. Nursing is, at the very least, incredibly time consuming. In the early days that baby was eating at least 8 times a day, 30 minutes a feeding. That adds up to a whole lot of time spent topless. For some mothers breastfeeding can also be painful and frustrating if the logistics aren’t panning out and there are latch and flow issues.  To be physically needed by your baby is both beautiful and incredibly intense.  I was the only one who could meet her needs.  Sure I could have someone else give her a bottle, but I would still have to pump it.  And pumping is a whole other level of awkwardness and pain that can be filed under “the things we do for our children” and “the things that repulse and confuse our husbands.”  Breastfeeding can also be pretty isolating for those of us who don’t feel totally comfortable baring it all in front of friends, fathers-in-law, dinner guests, and mall patrons.

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On the plus side, I had breasts Real Housewives pay big money for.  Double D’s y’all. But on the minus side, they were achy and purely utilitarian.  You know your relationship has turned a corner when your man comes home from work to see his woman is sitting topless on the sofa and he doesn’t even bat an eye or do a double-take.  In the old days that would have been an invitation to get frisky, but not this time. Carrying on regular how was your day, traffic was terrible, what’s for dinner, do we need anything from the store conversation while one of us was half nude takes it all to another level.

Despite my occasional gripes and constant questions, (is she getting enough? Does she have reflux? Should I cut out dairy? Will I pop a button if I wear this shirt?) there were certainly moments of sepia-toned wonder where I felt like a winged radiant earth mother.  It is amazing to be able to provide all the nourishment your baby needs. And holding a drowsy milked-up baby is pure pleasure.

I (mostly) happily nursed Harper for a grand total of seven months. In conclusion: Glad I did it. Glad I’m not doing it anymore. I’d definitely do it again.

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Fortunately, those memories of the hard and less glamorous parts our first few weeks and months together are all but forgotten, tucked away with memories of the physical pain of the whole event, and upstaged by sweet thoughts of holding that tiny baby in my arms and becoming a family.  Nonetheless, aspects of motherhood can be (and will likely continue to be) confusing and isolating and disorienting and exhausting.  But those feelings have been in short-supply compared to the deep feelings of joy and pride and purpose and grace that I have felt this year.  Life is different now, but I can say with complete certainty that it is even better than it was before. So much better.  I love being a mother and not a day goes by that I take the gift of my little girl for granted.  Watching Harper grow and change and learn every day has been incredible. And watching My Man take to fatherhood so naturally has made me have an even bigger crush on him. No one in the world loves Harper as much as we do and we are obsessed.  Sharing her and loving her together is the very best. We freaked out (and continue to do so) with every new development. She grabbed a toy! She rolled over! She babbled! She climbed up the stairs! She walked! It’s all gravy. I am caught somewhere between wanting to freeze time so she stays this little and chubby and adorable forever and anticipating the excitement of the next stage.  Talking! Hair!

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Before I go to sleep, I sometimes quietly open the door to Harper’s nursery to sneak a peek at my sleeping baby.  There is nothing in the world sweeter.   In that short 15 seconds of my day, I feel a deeper sense of pure resounding joy than I have ever felt in my life. There are no words for that kind of love.

So to you new mothers of newborn babies, perhaps reading this post by the light of your iPhone during a 3am feeding: I am here to assure you that it not only gets better, it gets fun. Right now you are in the trenches. Running on adrenaline—surviving and making sure your little Giga Pet is fed, watered, swaddled and rested. You may have seen glimpses of the good stuff, but it is headed your way in buckets.   One day oh so soon you will catch yourself laughing at and loving your little bitty human and wonder how on earth you got so lucky.

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Currently

2013 April 4
by Jennifer

It’s been a while since I checked into to my little nook in the blogosphere, so I figured I’d catch us up on what has been going on lately.

Watching…

HBO.  We recently switched our cable service from Comcast to AT&T.  (Side note: Take that Comcast! That’s what you get for refusing to lower our rates. We are with AT&T now. Those were not empty threats!) To sweeten the deal AT&T threw in three months of free HBO. Commercial-free movies? Yes please. Girls and Game of Thrones on-demand? Don’t mind if I do.

Wondering… 

why we didn’t join the public library sooner? I confess that until recently neither me nor My Man had been in a library since college or shortly thereafter.   Joining has been a total revelation. You guys. At the library you can borrow books and movies and audiobooks. For free!  It’s all there for the taking and you can even place holds for your desired goods online with the click of a button. Instead of going to Amazon to buy the next book on my list, I go to the Atlanta Public Library website and reserve it and check it out.  Just like that. Totally free.  I know some of you are thinking “no duh” but if we have been missing out on the wonder that is the Public Library, I believe at least one of you loyal readers may be missing out too. Go there. Whisper.  The librarians are still as loopy and meticulous as you remember.  And the place smells exactly the same.

Reading…

Driving…

an electric car. You heard me right. Electric as in needs no gas to go. No gas at all. This, my friends, is the future.  We got rid of My Man’s decrepit gas guzzler and added this one to our fleet.  And the government gave us free money in the form of a tax credit for being so environmental.  It was a steal and My Man is a tad obsessed with his new ride. I call him George Jetson.

Listening to…

NPR programing stream on my computer. I try not to have the TV on much when Harper is awake so that means that I don’t watch the morning news like I did pre-baby…that is if you consider The Today Show news which is highly debatable. So now I listen to it in the morninsg while Harper eats and plays and tries to put fireplace ashes into her mouth and  attempts to stick her hands in the toilet to splash the water around. It’s like a delightful morning commute without the traffic.  Once I have my fill of current events, I turn on the All Songs Considered 24/7music channel.  It is a great way to discover well curated new music.

Eating…

my very favorite scores from a recent trip to Costco: Angie’s Sweet & Salty Kettle Corn, Sheila G’s Brownie Brittle, and Homestyle Sweet Picked Beets.

Ya heard me. Beets!  Don’t knock ,’em ‘till you try ‘em.  If you like beets, which you should because they are colorful and delicious and do magical things for your health, then you’ve got to try these!  The best way to enjoy them is in a salad with all the fixings. Recipe as follows:  Greens (kale and/or spring mix lettuce) + Beets +apple + celery + green onion +avocado +dried cranberries + pecans + cheese (Gorgonzola or Goat or Feta) +dressing (Balsamic or Trader Joe’s Champagne Pear Vinaigrette)

Beets not your thing? Gurl you crazy.  The good news is that this salad will still be delicious without them. Add some chicken or salmon and you’ve got dinner. Brownie Brittle for dessert.

Looking forward to…

a visit from my friend Marie and her baby Henry this weekend! My Man will be out-of-town whooping it up with his college friends so Marie and I will be housebound with our wee ones. Last time we saw each  other we were both pregnant.  You better believe we plan to take dozens of those adorably clichéd naked babies in the bathtub photos.

I’m also looking forward to a baby-free trip to New York next weekend to visit my friend Emily.  Shopping! Shows! Wining! Dining! Good times ahead.

Loving…

my little one.  Obviously.

God gives parents an amazing gift in that everyone thinks their own baby is awesome and wonderful and adorable and hilarious.  It helps us get through the early days of round-the-clock feedings and the loss of personal freedom resulting from being housebound for naptimes and early bedtimes. That love helps diaper changes not smell as revolting as they ought to and helps us cope with the fact that no baby gate, play mat, or exersaucer will ever match our interior décor.

These days I just want to nibble those chubby cheeks and thighs and hug her tight. That girl is my heart. She cracks me up as I see her little personality emerge more and more every day.  She laughs a lot and gets a total kick out of being chased around the house and crawling up the stairs the second I put her down.  Harper is constantly on the move and finds pleasure in the simple things: plastic cups, spoons, blocks, books—and unfortunately can’t resist the lure of computer cables, outlets, open toilets and the entry table I constantly tell her not to touch.

The sweet ladies in the nursery always comment on how happy and easy she is, but recently the report has been something along the lines of, “Harper sure knows how to take care of herself.  You won’t have to worry about her.”  This was a euphemistic way to tell me, her mother, that my sweet round daughter is something of a bully with the other babies.  Apparently my little bald brute is a hair puller.  I guess it is human nature to want what we don’t have.  We’ll work on it.

 

The Baby and The Bear

2013 February 27
by Jennifer

I looked at Harper the other day as she was sitting on the rug, babbling at her bellybutton book and it hit me: She is becoming her own little person.  Until a few months ago, I knew all there was to know about her.  My body met her nutritional needs, I knew when she needed a meal, a nap, a cuddle, and a dry diaper. But suddenly she is becoming this adorable little girl whose tastes, preferences and personality is beginning to emerge. Every day I am discovering more and more of who she is but this I know for sure–she is a round mound of pure joy.

Here are a few tidbits about That Baby these days that I wanted to document.

Nine Month Milestones: she had her first taste of ice cream, she got her first black eye, she clapped, she waved (at herself, but I think it still counts), she now gives heart-melting slobbery kisses when asked.

Harper Likes: ceiling fans, red heads, Pat the Bunny, bananas, cornbread, mirrors (just like her daddy), putting leaves in her mouth, baths, watching the washing machine, cereal (just like her mama), when My Man plays guitar, appliances, other babies, electrical sockets, and her teddy bear.

 

Harper Dislikes: Carrots. Having her nose wiped.

I Like: when Harper laughs, reading to her, naps, Infant Tylenol. (The motto around here is “when in doubt, medicate.” You can pre-order my parenting book on Amazon.)  The Nosefrida The Snotsucker Nasal Aspirator -Those Swedes invented the very best device to clear up infantile congestion.  It works and it is more addictive than blue corn tortilla chips and the first season of Homeland.

I Dislike: Harper’s not-so-charming habit of blowing spit raspberries all the time: when she is playing, when she is eating, and when there is food in her mouth. Hoping this is just a phase she’ll outgrow. by tomorrow.

Things People Say: “She sure eats well, doesn’t she?!”  “She looks exactly like her father.”  “Look at those cheeks”  “Hey there little fella.”

Nicknames: The Bunny, The Bunns, Agent McBunny, The Agent, That Baby

What Harper is Up To: She is crawling now and has been for the past few months. That Baby is curious and loves to explore new places.  She is great at playing by herself and can happily lose herself in her books and blocks and kitchen utensils. Harper hasn’t met a stranger and doesn’t have separation anxiety when I hand her over to other people. (I try not to take it personally.) She can stand independently for a grand total of seven seconds and I am in no rush for her to start walking. Chasing a crawler to prevent her from putting her fingers in electrical outlets and stop her from putting fireplace ashes in her mouth keeps us plenty busy.

The first nine months have flown by. And I definitely have moments where I want her to not grow up so fast, to just stay this portable and joyful and adorable forever. I see why people have more than one.

In conclusion, the Oscar for Best Documentary Short Subject goes to “Harper Goes Nuts: A baby FREAKING OUT at her bear”

 

And how convincing is My Man’s bear impression..?!

Seriously Delicious Chocolate Cake

2013 January 23

 

Tell your health and fitness related New Year’s Resolution to step out in the hall and do some crunches while you and I have a word.  Come a little closer and let me whisper in your ear.

Chocolate cake. Like seriously delicious chocolate Cake.  Make it. Eat it.  Find an excuse to make it again.


My Man’s birthday was last week and it was only fitting that we celebrate with a dinner party and a super special dessert.  I scoured the internet for recipes and recommendations and salivated as I scrolled through Pinterest pins of sweet delights.  Then I happened upon this recipe for Barefoot Contessa’s chocolate cake.  She says that of all the chocolate cakes she’s ever had (and between us, I think she has had quite a few) this remains her very very favorite.  I have actually seen the episode where she makes this cake for one of her high-rolling gay Hamptons friends and it looked delicious and totally doable.  My Man deserves the very best, and if there ever was an occasion to dust off the KitchenAid Stand Mixer, this is it.

The following recipe created the best homemade chocolate cake that I have ever had.  Though I may not have eaten as much chocolate cake as Ina, I have had more than my fair share.  This one meets my VERY high standards and will be heretofore my go-to chocolate cake recipe.

Double-Chocolate Layer Cake

from the Barefoot Contessa

Time: Prep:40 minutes Total: 1hour 30 minutes

Cake Ingredients

  • 1 3/4 cups all-purpose flour
  • 2 cups sugar
  • 3/4 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
  • 2 teaspoons baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1 cup buttermilk, shaken
  • 1/2 cup vegetable oil
  • 2 extra-large eggs, at room temperature
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1 cup freshly brewed hot coffee

Frosting Ingredients

  • 6 ounces good semisweet chocolate, coarsely chopped
  • 2 sticks (1/2 pound) unsalted butter, at room temperature
  • 1 large egg yolk, at room temperature
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1 cup plus 1 tablespoon confectioners’ sugar, sifted
  • 1 tablespoon instant coffee powder

Instructions

  1. Preheat the oven to 350°. Butter two deep 8-inch or 9-inchround cake pans and line them with parchment paper then butter the paper. Dust the pans with flour, tapping out any excess. (OR spray liberally with PAM)
  2. Sift the flour, sugar, cocoa, baking soda, baking powder, and salt into the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with a paddle attachment and mix on low speed until combined.  In another bowl, whisk the buttermilk with the oil, eggs and vanilla. With the mixer on low speed, slowly beat the buttermilk mixture into the dry ingredients until just incorporated.  With the mixer on low, add the hot coffee and stir just to combine, scraping the bottom of the bowl with a rubber spatula.
  3. Pour the batter into the prepared pans. Bake for 35 minutes, or until a cake tester inserted in the center of each cake comes out clean. Let the cakes cool in the pans for 30 minutes, and then turn cakes onto a cooling rack to cool completely.
  4. For the frosting: Chop the chocolate and place it in a heat-proof bowl set over a pan of simmering water. Stir until just melted and set aside until cooled to room temperature. (OR In a microwave-safe bowl, heat the chopped chocolate at high power in 30-second intervals, stirring, until most of the chocolate is melted. Stir until completely melted, then set aside to cool to room temperature.)
  5. In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with a paddle attachment, beat the butter at medium speed until pale and fluffy. Add the egg yolk and vanilla and beat for 1 minute, scraping down the side of the bowl. At low speed, slowly beat in the confectioners’ sugar, about 1 minute. In a small bowl, dissolve the instant coffee in 2 teaspoons of hot water. Slowly beat the coffee and the cooled chocolate into the butter mixture until just combined.
  6. Set a cake layer on a plate with the flat side facing up. Evenly spread one-third of the frosting over the cake to the edge. Place the second layer on top, rounded side up, and spread the remaining frosting evenly on the top and sides of the cake.

*A few recipe notes:  Um, this recipe has over 1600 five-star reviews on the Food Network site. That’s sayin’ somethin.’  It was also printed in Food & Wine magazine wherein they recommend refrigerating the cake for at least 1 hour before slicing.  Consider it optional as the Barefoot Contessa didn’t do this when she first printed the recipe and served it to her clique of eccentric Hamptonites.  I also used two 9 inch pans because my 8-inch pans were too shallow.   Made ahead, the frosted cake can be refrigerated for 3 days. Let stand for 1 hour before serving.*

The cake is dark and super moist but somehow very light and airy. Overall the cake came together quite easily.  The only high-maintenance aspect of this recipe is that it calls for hot freshly brewed coffee.  You don’t really notice the coffee except that it magically enhances the flavor of the chocolate.  And you have to beat the butter in the icing for a long time to get it fluffy. But OHMYGOODNESS it’s worth it. This is hands down the best homemade chocolate cake that I have ever had.

Served with vanilla ice cream, this cake is a revelation.  Make it for you and/or someone you love.

 

Twas the Night Before the Night Before Christmas

2012 December 23
by Jennifer

Dream:  Our family gets all bundled up and heads to the snowy hill country to cut down our own Christmas tree.  On the way we drink hot chocolate and listen to Christmas tunes. We trudge through the snow to select that perfectly shaped fraser fir to take home and decorate for the holiday season.  What joy! What memories!

Reality:  Trees at Costco are 27.99 plus tax. That’s half the price of a tree from Big Johns or Home Depot and half the hassle of cutting down our own. Sold.

But here’s the catch. It’s a bare bones operation. You don’t get to walk acres or isles of trees to choose the most full and perfect.  In fact, you don’t really get to see your tree at all before you buy it and get it home.  You simply present your receipt to the man standing by the large truck in the Costco parking lot and he takes out up to three wrapped trees from the hundreds he has in the truck.  You have to pick one of the three.  It’s kinda like a gameshow.  The trees are bundled tight in their mesh wrapping, so we used our best judgment to *hopefully* pick the best in the bunch.  No unwrapping allowed.

This is the second year we have gotten our tree from Costco, so I guess you could say this is our family tradition…? Only last year, they tied the tree to the top of the car. There must have been some lawsuits or something because this year we had to do it ourselves.  The tree truck man said he wasn’t even allowed to help supervise or offer tying tips.  Eeeks.  So I nominated myself for the job of tying the tree securely to the top of the car because I’d recently watched an episode of the Barefoot Contessa wherein she ties a stuffed pork tenderloin with butcher’s twine. Honestly how different could it really be?

Apparently very different.  We were barely a mile away from the Costco parking lot when the tree started moving. So we opted to take the slower scenic route home and took turns reaching out of the sunroof to hold the trunk.

Fortunately, we made it home without losing any branches or causing any collisions. Once we got home, it was time to give the tree a fresh cut to even out the catawampus stump (they don’t help you out on that one either). It’s harder than it looks but my woodsman took care of it on the front porch while I put the wreath on the front door.

Then, as they say on HGTV, it was time for the big reveal. My Man cut the mesh while I waited nervously whispering, “move that bus. Move that bus.”

A solid 8 out of 10. Points deducted because she is a little thin and narrow.  Nothing that couldn’t be fixed by lights, a few ornaments and the magic of Christmas.  Behold the magnificence.

In other December happenings, we took Harper to see Santa.  I couldn’t resist dressing her in a dress that I wore when I was little bitty.  It was hand-smocked by my grandmother who lovingly made a matching dress for me and each of my girl cousins.  That Baby looked absolutely precious and was all smiles until we handed her off to Santa.  She looked at him with a mixture of confusion and who the hell are you, took a tug of his beard, and then lost it.

Maybe next year she might understand more of Santa’s connection to gift giving and their time together will be tear-free.

She likely won’t remember her first Christmas tree, the tumble she took of the sofa while we were decorating it, or her first visit with Santa, but we will.  And the best is yet to come. It’s only Christmas Eve Eve Eve.  

What joy. What memories.

 

Babies Be Shoppin (baby gear: the first 6 months)

2012 December 6
by Jennifer

All that babies really need is food, sleep and love.  Aaaannd apparently a whole bunch of other stuff. This is America after all!

When I was pregnant I asked a bunch of my mom friends for their must-haves.  I wanted to drill down to the stuff that we really needed…and learn from the mistakes of the mothers-to-be who bought wipe warmers and the like.  I got lists and links and spreadsheets full of favorites that were really helpful as I navigated the aisles of infant paraphernalia.  Now that I am a mother I have a list of my own.  This is the stuff we really use(d) that I consider must haves–the items that made our first six months happy for both mother and child.

Play Mat (Fisher-Price Rainforest Melodies and Lights Deluxe Gym) : Starting at around four weeks, when her depth vision exceeded 12 inches, That Baby began her love affair with her play mat.  She would lay there with a grin and happily stare at the purple butterfly for hours.  A few weeks later she discovered the dangling toys and then learned to grab them.  Her first 360 spin and first roll happened on that mat. Milestones, people, milestones.  Because she is so content to play and roll on that little mat, I am free to do the things I need to do without a baby in my arms.  Independent play time for my child equals independent play time for me, her mother. Holla.

When we came to pick her up after her first stint in the church nursery, the kind nursery caregiver told us that Harper was “such a happy baby!  And just as happy as can be playing by herself.”  I took it as a compliment.  Then I felt guilty because omygosh maybe I’m not playing with her enough? What does this mean? Am I neglecting my child? Do I not hold her enough?  Didn’t she miss me at all? Then I took it as a compliment…a compliment made possible by her good training on the Fisher-Price Rainforest Melodies and Lights Deluxe Gym.

Additional selling points: The dangling toys can be  moved around and re-purposed–we attached one to her car seat. And I didn’t even turn on the lights and sounds until a few weeks ago and now she goes crazy for them.   It also folds up real nice and goes into the closet when That Baby goes to bed, allowing us to reclaim our living room.

(And just like that, I wrote 314 words about a play mat. A play mat.  If my college self could see me now…)

Walking and Jogging Stroller (BOB Revolution SE Single Stroller) : If our house was burning down and the fireman said that I have 30 seconds to go salvage one (1) baby item from the flames, I would get the BOB.  I didn’t know it was possible to have a love so deep for a stroller. The BOB is pretty much the Lexus LX570 of strollers.  It costs as much as your dad’s first car but it’s worth it and we use that thing almost every day.  It corners like a dream and Harper is so cozy in there that she usually falls asleep while we stroll.  I walk with it on the reg and My Man runs with it and he loves it too.  Simply put, it is the best.  I did my research so save yourself the trouble.

White Noise Machine ( Conair SU1W Sound Therapy) : Apparently the womb was pretty noisy, so newborn babies are particularly comforted by the sound of white noise.  Now that she is no longer a newborn, adults in our house are particularly comforted by the sound of white noise.  We crank it up in her nursery and close the door, allowing us to have loud dinner guests and dance parties while Harper sleeps soundly.  Thanks to her noise machine, That Baby doesn’t hear a peep.

Baby Seat (Fisher-Price My Little Lamb Deluxe Infant Seat and ) : Unless you are of the babywearing ilk, you need to have somewhere to put your baby when you need to put her down and the floor just wont do.  At six months, Harper is still quite content sitting in her bouncy seat chewing on her Sophie and watching the action. (Though I turned around the other day and she was headed for the door.  That’s one adorable little escape artist. So I would recommend using the straps once your baby becomes mobile).

The vibrate setting was particularly useful to settle her down when That Baby was little bitty.  Aesthetically speaking, the colors of this seat are nice and neutral and not quite as abrasive as the playmat and other themey baby gear. So if, if, Martyn Lawrence Bullard or Mary McDonald were to come to call, they wouldn’t have a total conniption if it were out in the living room.  (Thank God Andy Cohen that Million Dollar Decorators is back for season two.)

BabyBjorn (BABYBJORN Baby Carrier Synergy)   On the subject of babywearing, there is a certain school of parenting thought that promotes round the clock baby holding and wearing, and there are forums and chat rooms and even an online association dedicated to the practice.  Apparently it is a way of life/parenting philosophy akin to co-sleeping and attachment parenting. That is not really how things go down in our house, but there are some serious advantages to having a hands-free way to carry your little one.  I don’t strap Harper on when I’m in the house, but when I am out and about running errands, strapping her in and wearing her like a little kangaroo pup is the easiest way to get things done.  Thanks to the Bjorn, I have both hands free to put things I didn’t know I  needed into my cart at Target.  And because That Baby isn’t quite sturdy enough to be able to sit in the grocery cart just yet, I always use the Bjorn when I go to the grocery store.  In fact, I just used it the other day when we went to Whole Foods.  Hippies at Whole Foods and the natural food store love love love to see you wear your baby.  They practically clap for you as you walk down the aisles and shower you in organic quinoa and hemp milk.

Breast Pump (Medela Pump in Style Advanced Breast Pump with On the Go Tote ) :  If your husband wasn’t traumatized enough after watching his precious wife birth an eight pounder, seeing this contraption in action will do the trick. I don’t really need to explain the logistics of this one, but needless to say, it gets the job done.  Though I’m still not sure where the “style” part comes from.

Miracle Blanket Swaddle (Miracle Blanket Swaddle) : Harper slept longer and stronger when she was bundled up like a burrito in the Miracle Blanket.  We tried the velcro swaddle and the aiden and anais swaddle blankets but this was the only one that she didn’t bust out of.  Our swaddle days are over now, but I would recommend that any mother-to-be buy a few of these.

Pack ‘N Play (Graco Pack N Play Playard with Bassinet) : That baby slept in her pack n play for a week at the beach and regularly goes to sleep in it when we are over at friends’ houses.  This simple model was a consumer reports favorite and it gets the job done quite well.

Babywise (On Becoming Baby Wise: Giving Your Infant the GIFT of Nighttime Sleep) :  The book should actually be called “Giving YOURSELF the Gift of Nighttime Sleep.” I wouldn’t have had the first clue about how to get That Baby on a schedule without this book.  It taught me the basics like how much sleep babies need, what to expect at what age, and how to “troubleshoot” things that might come up like acid reflux and teething. Baby Wise presents an infant care program which the authors say will cause babies to sleep through the night beginning between seven and nine weeks of age.  That means no middle of the night nursing and a baby who learns to self soothe. It emphasizes parental control of the infant’s sleep, play and feeding schedule rather than allowing the baby to decide when to eat, play and sleep.  I didn’t and don’t follow their schedule to the letter, but Harper started sleeping through the night at around seven weeks and we have Baby Wise to thank for that.  This blog , Chronicles of a Baby Wise Mom, was also wonderful at filling in the gaps.

Car Seat (Chicco Keyfit 30 Infant Car Seat): Obviously you gotta have a car seat to take your baby home from the hospital. Allegedly it’s the law. We chose the Chicoo Keyfit 30 based on Consumer Report’s strong recommendation.  They put that thing through the ringer and it came out on top.

Sophie Teether ( Vulli Sophie the Giraffe Teether) : I don’t know what it is about the international sensation that is Sophie the Giraffe, but this is Harper’s go-to teething toy. We seriously don’t leave home without it.

In-town, loving (free) babysitters– Man oh man. My parents have been so amazing and are ohsovery willing to take care of That Baby when My Man and I need a night on the town. Such a gift. Unfortunately they aren’t available for purchase on Amazon.  Maybe check eBay.

So that’s the short list of the things we couldn’t live without for the first six months.  Mothers out there–what was on your list?  Anything I need for the next six?

Go forth and multiply.

Harper’s First Halloween

2012 November 5
by Jennifer

I have no choice but to share a few photos from Harper’s first Halloween.

Dressed as a little chickadee, she was all smiles and none the wiser to the moderate ridiculousness of her barnyard getup.  She happily wore the chicken suit to party #1 with a group of our friends.  Their neighborhood hosts a HUGE pre trick-or-treat party at a nearby park, complete with a parade, pizza and a DJ. Yes, a DJ. It was chaos and the kids were adorable but running amuk in anticipation of the delectable frenzy that would transpire later in the evening. The parents drank from their spiked solo cups and watched their hyperactive ninjas and princesses dance to Gangnam Style and Call Me Maybe.  If I had to take a fleet of 7-year-old sugar-high superheroes door-to-door for hours in the cold, I’d be drinking too.

Standing back and taking it all in, I had one of those surreal “oh my…this is my life now…I’m really a parent” moments.  But since That Baby is not of trick-or-treating age just yet, I make the calls on costume(s), and I don’t have to brave the elements to aid her quest for candy, I figure I’m just dipping my little toe into the waters of (holiday) parenting.

I pulled pageant mom and insisted on a quick costume change before heading to our second stop of the evening.  My little chickadee magically became a pumpkin for the Halloween extravaganza in our neighborhood.

Good Times and Butterfingers were had by all.

Beach Trip

2012 October 17
by Jennifer

We’ve just returned from a week at the beach.  This was our first vacation with That Baby and it was a little different.  Great, but different. This trip I foolishly and ambitiously packed three books and a waist-high stack of magazines and brought the entire stack of untouched New Yorks, Vanity Fairs and Verandas back home with me. Apparently there is not much time for pleasure reading with an infant in tow.

Though the days spent beach cruising, lounging, resting and combing through hundreds of glossy pages may be in the past, we tried not to let That Baby cramp our vacation style too much.  Harper is on something of a schedule but we decided to let the schedule slide whilst on vacay because we didn’t want to be home-bound for naptime and in early for her Atlanta bedtime.  Instead, she napped in the stroller or by the pool or not at all, and stayed up late so she could join us for half-priced glasses of wine and raw oysters at happy hour. We took long walks together to ogle at the gorgeous houses and made shady beach-side oases to keep pristine baby skin burn free.  ((A note about the photo below: Harper was all, “Mom these glasses totally clash with my swimsuit.”  And I was all, “I know baby, but they were the only ones I could find in your size.”  Harper’s hoping Santa brings her a pair of baby wayfarers just like her archrival Blue Ivy Carter.  Kids these days.))

Though we let the schedule slide on vacation, there is one thing I hold onto for dear life at home and away.  You see, Harper wakes up for the day between 7:30 and 8am and then goes back down for a long nap right after she eats and plays a bit. We are talking at least 2 or 3 hours of solid peepless baby sleep.  So most days on vacation, when the little one took a morning nap, so did we.  I don’t know how long this blessed season will last, but My Man and I are enjoying it.  Leisurely mornings are my love language.

We shared a house with my parents at Watercolor the first half of the week.  They were delighted to have so much quality time with Harper and were willing babysitters so My Man and I could play tennis, do some mild gallivanting and have a night or two on the town.  My parents (Buzzo and Honey to Harper) are absolutely over the moon in love with That Baby and it became even more evident after our time together at the beach.  My mom took great delight in being the “naptime hero,” the one who gets Harper out of her crib after a nap.  Then there was the time when my mom woke me up from a nap to see if she could wake Harper up.  I was taking a flying first class style nap with ear plugs and an eye mask and was in a deep sleep when the overzealous grandmother knocked on my bedroom door to see if she could go wake up That Baby.  Needless to say, that didn’t go over well.  That day Honey learned that waking a sleeping mother is arguably worse than waking a sleeping baby.

The second half of the week our little family of three rented a house of our own a little ways down the beach at Seagrove.  We rolled the dice and went for a deal we found on VRBO.  The house was juuust fine. Cons: loud 1980s beach décor, really uncomfortable beds, and lacking the Watercolor charm we had grown accustomed to.  Pros: amazing water pressure, cranking up the AC to my heart’s content on the owner’s dime, and being at the beach.

The week went by way too fast and before we knew it we were on the road back to Atlanta.  Harper did better than expected on the 5+hour drive each way.  She did a good bit of sleeping and babbling and fortunately her tears were few.  However, about 20 minutes away from home, tears lead to screams and screams lead to projectile vomiting the entire contents of her stomach over the back seat of the car. It seems she’s learned young that vacation is amazing and reentry to the real world can be rough.

 

Milestones

2012 September 29
by Jennifer

Between working, taking care of that sweet baby, Pinteresting and watching Downton Abbey, there is time for little else—hence the neglect of ye olde blog. But it’s high time I caught you up on what has been happening.

First of all, I celebrated a big birthday.  A lady never reveals her age but let’s just say that my twenties are officially in the rearview.  Because my birthday fell on an anti-climactic Wednesday this year, it meant we partied in high style all week long and I got to bookend the Big Day with celebrations both weekends. My parents were sweet enough to volunteer to look out for the little one all day Saturday so My Man and I could have a day-date to ring in the new year.  We have had a sitter and been out for dinner sans-baby plenty of times, but what I craved was a whole entire day of quality time with My Man and—no judgment—without our little love child.  The day would have been a totally typical day in our life pre-baby (what we affectionately refer to as our “single life”), but it felt special to just get out and go without the thought of schedules, swaddles, naps, nipples, diapers and feedings.  So what did we do with our day of freedom? We went for a long walk on the trails, had a leisurely lunch, did some shoe shopping, hit golf balls at the driving range and ran some errands.  Ring-a-ding-ding, right?  Maybe I should have requested something more lavish, but it was so nice to spend more than three hours out of the house and with my shirt on.  It was a happy birthday indeed.

Last year on my birthday, I made a very specific wish when I blew out the candle on my cake…

It came true!

My little birthday wish reached a major milestone in infant development a few weeks ago.  Wait for it…wait for it…she rolled over.  I think I’ve got a real Gabby Douglas on my hands. The endorsement deals are already piling in. Of course we freaked out, took a movie, and called both sets of grandparents immediately.  The enthusiasm we demonstrated when Harper started babbling, grabbing toys and rolling over was previously reserved for Major Life Events like promotions, raises and engagements.   Who knew that My Man would clap for baby coos and overdue bowel movements with the same conviction he exhibits when he cheers for the Braves.  (And that’s sayin’ somethin’.) Geesh. First-time parents.

Every day I fall more in love with my little girl. I seriously have to hold myself back from taking a nibble from those chunky thighs.

(I had to censor the picture above so she can’t use it as ammunition to fuel her future teen angst.  But seriously. With all that chub, it’s hard to tell what’s what down there.)

You may recall that in the early weeks of my new life as a mother, I was sending tearful exhausted texts to friends begging them to tell me it gets better.  Well, shortly thereafter things got really good—and somewhere along the way it got great.  Having baby indubitably turned my world, my life and my heart upside down, so naturally it took me a minute to recalibrate and get my barrings. We definitely have our days, days where she wont take take an afternoon nap and days when I could really use one, but I think we are hitting our stride.   I am totally wholeheartedly digging my new gig.

Operation Whittle My Middle

2012 July 19

It’s an unfortunate truth that (most) every woman can name at least one part of her body that she isn’t happy with. Post-baby I can say that that area is my mid-section. Pregnancy, to state it gently, shifts things around a bit.  I’m pretty sure Jessica Simpson would agree.

Two months postpartum, things aren’t quite as taught and trim as they used to be.  Now I’m not complaining—and I think it’s important to marvel at the Big Picture here. I am amazed that my body knew exactly what to do to for 41 weeks and in the end we were blessed with a perfectly healthy baby girl. It is seriously amazing what a woman’s body is capable of—and I am so proud of my body and beyond blessed that I got to experience the miracle of childbirth…

…but let’s get back to the small, more self-absorbed picture.  Sweet Baby Harper, not the wobbly bits around my middle, is the only visual evidence I need of that miracle.

Walking is my preferred form of exercise but unfortunately it is prohibitively hot outside.  With temperatures holding steady in the mid-90s, putting baby girl all covered up in her car seat in the stroller creates an incubator-esque situation for her.  I took her for one walk in these conditions and she lasted for a total of 10 minutes before screaming hysterically. When I got her out of the stroller she was soaking wet with sweat.  Not fair for her to suffer for my sake. (Oh, the sacrifices we make for our children!)

And I am a member of gym that offers childcare BUT I am a skittish first-time parent and not yet ready to put my child in that germ factory while I take a joyride on the elliptical.  I’m sure I’ll get over it, but currently there isn’t enough Purell in the city to alleviate my fears of her picking up the bird flu or the whooping cough from a total stranger’s stinky snot-nosed child.  No thanks.

So that leaves me at home with brief interludes during naptime to tackle the matter at hand. Enter the workout DVD.

Here are a few of my go-to videos that I have collected over the years–videos that have collected a lot of dust over the past year:

After taking it easy for six weeks post-baby and not doing a single pushup or sit-up for the better portion of the past year pre-baby, I practically felt the burn after my first march in place warm-up.  I was tempted to give up and settle into mom-jeans and skirted swimwear until I had a breakthrough.  Here is the secret to my (pending future) success and the thing that keeps me energized, inspired and going back for more:

Once I have done a video a few times, it is easy to get the gist of things, especially with Jillian who does two sets of each exercise.  I simply put the DVD in my computer, mute the bossy lady barking commands, and turn on the TV for some real entertainment.  When I am working out I can freely indulge in all the Bravo, Style Network and Retro MTV shows I please.  Knowing my DVR is loaded with such quality programing motivates me to break out the mat and the arm weights and get crunching.

The assortment of Reality TV Gold currently on my DVR includes The Hills, Giuliana & Bill, the Real Housewives of NYC, The Real Housewives of Orange County, Tia and Tamera, Shark Tank and HGTV Design Star.  ((I obviously watch The Bachelorette primetime. With My Man.  Don’t tell him I told you.))  Watching these shows is the real incentive because I try not to give in to such mindlessness just sitting still. And I guess achieving muscular definition akin to that of my team of personal trainers is pretty dang motivating too.

 

I’m not going to post before and after photos but I will say that after three weeks of committed DVD workouts whilst watching the telly, I’m not dieeeeing after a set or two of bicycle crunches.  I definitely have to thank Bravolebrities and Lauren Conrad for any progress I’ve made thus far.  Odds are I’ll be bikini ready by summer 2013.  But I’m guessing Jessica Simpson will be rocking the skirted one-piece until at least 2016.

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