I had to pop in to let you know that we did it. We hosted our first family Thanksgiving and I think everyone left feeling full of gravy and gratitude.
Here is a quick rundown, by the numbers:
- 2 turkeys, one smoked one roasted
- 8 side dishes
- 6 miles walked in circles around my own kitchen
- 3 delicious desserts
- 12 sticks of butter
- 2 kinds of potatoes
- 5 children, 3 with teeth eating at the kids table
- 1(minor) head injury to one child (mine)
- 2 bottles of bubbly and way more than 2 bottles of wine
- 9 adults sitting around the dining room table
- 18,263 hours spent doing dishes
- Amillion things to be thankful for
As the last guest walked out the door, I closed it, exhaled…and started singing this.
It’s officially snuggle season. This time of year, there is nothing I love more than putting on my loungeabouts and my new slippers, turning on (I mean building) the fire, and cuddling up with some quality entertainment. Here are a few of my recent reads and watches that I think you’ll enjoy as you hibernate for the long winter ahead.
- Friday Night Lights. Did you know that our beloved TV show was based on a movie and that movie was based on a book and that book is a true story? Me neither. Author H.G. Bissinger spent a year profiling the town of Odessa, Texas and their heroic high school football team, The Permian Panthers (AKA Dillon Panthers). The book won the Pulitzer the year it was published and it was a truly fascinating read. They just published a 25th anniversary edition that checks in on the Panther players and tells you what has come of them since the book came out.
- For the Love: Fighting for Grace in a Word of Impossible Standards. Jen manages to be honest, vulnerable, and funny, while also hitting on deep spiritual truths and insights. Her theology is practical and her expression of faith is accessible and attractive. Each chapter stands alone making it easy to read in small snatches. I was laughing, learning and nodding in agreement saying “amen sister” along the way.
- Why Not Me. I love Mindy Kaling. She is one of the (many) celebrities that I feel like I would be friends with in real life. It was such a quick and delightful read and now I love her even more.
- 112 Weddings. Years after filming their weddings, a wedding videographer checks in on couples to see how it went since they said I do. In the words of the filmmaker, “this is a film about the mystery of marriage. What we enter marriage thinking it will be and what it turns out to be.”
- Going Clear: Scientology and the Prison of Belief. This is a documentary about the history and mystery of Scientology. All I can say is that this sh*t is BANANAS. Such a fascinating watch and I’m still thinking about it. (Side note: Shortly after watching Going Clear I stumbled upon the doc There’s Something Wrong With Aunt Dianne . Whoa. If you happen to catch them both, there are some striking similarities between the two seemingly unrelated films that we need to discuss.)
- Tig. I first learned of comedian Tig Notoro when she was featured on This American Life. I loved her unique style of comedy and her candor and humor when confronted with cancer among other major life events. This a film about her life and comedy the year after her cancer diagnosis. It is so very watchable in the very best way.
Now it’s your turn. What’s worth reading and watching these days? Specifically, what should My Man and I watch together next? Ideally something that can be streamed on-demand on Netflix or Prime because who has the time or patience for anything else. To give you an idea of our shared tastes, the past few series we watched together were Bloodline, Broadchurch, Narcos and The Killing. As I type those out, I’m noticing that we tend to mutually gravitate towards murderous serial dramas. Whatcha got for us to watch next? Bonus points for British accents. Go!
Buying a house, refinancing a mortgage, and having children were all small indications that I may be en route to becoming a real grownup. But nothing has made me feel like more of an adult than hosting this year’s Thanksgiving festivities.
In a few short days, both sides of the family will be coming over to our house for turkey and all the fixings. HELLOooo DRAMA! Kidding. The in-laws get along swimmingly. The only drama will be trying to pull off the highest-stakes meal of the year with a single oven and a smile.
If there was ever a time to
hire a caterer polish up Mema’s silver and unbox the fine china, this would be it. Honestly I can’t quite remember what my china looks like since I added it to my wedding registry eight years ago, but I’m crossing my fingers that I had the good sense to register for something tasteful and timeless.
There’s a lot to do between now and then, and according to Pinterest I’m already way behind in making preparations for Thanksgiving 2018. Though I haven’t quite nailed down the entire menu, I have made two key decisions:
- I’ve outsourced the preparation of the turkey. (I’m extra thankful for you this year, Dad.)
- I’ve planned out which desserts to bake and serve on the big day…
Now this may be a tad scandalous for my first Thanksgiving, but I can tell you what won’t be on our Thanksgiving table: Pumpkin Pie. In its place, I’m serving THE BEST PUMPKIN DESSERT EVER, Pumpkin Gooey Butter Cakes. I posted this recipe years ago but it bears re-posting because it is so dang delicious. I brought a batch to a Friendsgiving celebration a few weeks ago and have received multiple requests for the recipe since. Be a holiday hero and make these for you and yours:
Pumpkin Gooey Butter Cakes
- 1 box yellow cake mix
- 1 egg
- 8 tablespoons butter, melted
- 1 (8-ounce) package cream cheese, softened
- 1 (15-ounce) can pumpkin puree (NOT pumpkin pie filling)
- 3 eggs
- 1 teaspoon vanilla
- 8 tablespoons butter, melted
- 1 (16-ounce) box powdered sugar – equivalent to 3 3/4 cups (reserve 3 Tbsp for dusting)
- 1 teaspoon cinnamon
- 1 teaspoon nutmeg
Preheat oven to 350° F.
Combine the bag of cake mix, egg, and butter and mix well with an electric mixer. Pat the mixture into the bottom of a lightly greased 13x 9-inch baking pan.
To make the filling: In a large bowl, beat the cream cheese and pumpkin until smooth. Add the eggs, vanilla, and butter, and beat together. Next, add the powdered sugar, cinnamon, nutmeg, and mix well. Spread pumpkin mixture over cake batter and bake for 40 to 50 minutes. Check on them after about 35 or 40 minutes so you make sure not to overbake them. The center should be set but a little gooey. Let the pan cool completely before you cut the squares. You could even pop the cooled pan in the fridge before cutting them to get extra clean cuts. Dust them with powdered sugar to make them extra pretty before serving them. Enjoy and prepare to be praised.
The other desserts that I’m making are the Fresh Apple Cake from my mom’s vintage copy of the Tea-Time at the Masters Cookbook and a Chocolate Chess Pie. It tastes like the best brownie ever but in pie form, and like most desserts, it is best served warm with ice cream. That recipe hails from an old issue of Southern Living Magazine:
Chocolate Chess Pie with Pecans
- 1 packaged uncooked refrigerated pie crust (like this)
- 1/2 cup butter
- 2 (1-oz.) unsweetened chocolate baking squares
- 1 (5-oz.) can evaporated milk (2/3 cup)
- 2 large eggs
- 2 teaspoons vanilla extract, divided
- 1 1/2 cups granulated sugar
- 3 tablespoons unsweetened cocoa
- 2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
- 1/8 teaspoon salt
- 1 1/2 cups pecan halves and pieces
- 2/3 cup firmly packed light brown sugar
- 1 tablespoon light corn syrup
- Preheat oven to 350°. Roll pie crust into a 13-inch circle on a lightly floured surface. Fit into a 9-inch pie plate; fold edges under, and crimp.
- Microwave butter and chocolate squares in a large microwave-safe bowl at MEDIUM (50% power) 1 1/2 minutes or until melted and smooth, stirring at 30-second intervals. Whisk in evaporated milk, eggs, and 1 tsp. vanilla.
- Stir together granulated sugar, cocoa, flour, and salt. Add sugar mixture to chocolate mixture, whisking until smooth. Pour mixture into prepared crust.
- Bake pie at 350° for 40 minutes. Stir together pecans, next 2 ingredients, and remaining 1 tsp. vanilla; sprinkle over pie. Bake 10 more minutes or until set. Remove from oven to a wire rack, and cool completely (about 1 hour). *Extra delicious served with ice cream.
I figure as long as there is good wine, good music and good desserts, everything that happens in between will be forgotten or forgiven.
Having my first child three years ago turned my world upside down. Suddenly I was responsible for this crying, screaming, not sleeping barnacle baby feeling like I must be crazy because strangers in the grocery store were telling me to love every minute. Of course I loved many of the minutes, but definitely not every single one. For me, those first few weeks and months were full of joy but not much fun. The sleepless nights and topless days made me miss our DINC pre-child life (what we lovingly call our “single” life) which at that point was not such a distant memory. I fantasized about the old days when we woke up in the 10s on a Saturday filled with possibility, discussing things like whether we should play tennis before or after brunch. I missed the luxury of untethered spontaneity and mourned the end of the getting to do what I want to do when I want to do it era. I craved having time alone or time just with my husband—something that was once in such steady supply that I hardly noticed it was there.
Thankfully it wasn’t long before I got my bearings and began to embrace and enjoy my new normal. I fell deeply in love with that baby and delighted in watching her discover her world. I lost track of time just staring at her and marveling at her squishy-ness and the tiny little dimple on the top of her cheek. Then I blinked and that baby grew into a hilarious adorable little person who makes me laugh every day and whose round little face I just want to squeeze because it is my absolute favorite face in the world.
We were in such a great groove with only child Harper before Hallie was born and as much as we wanted #2, I worried that the birth of our second child would turn everything upside down again. This time strangers in the grocery store were warning me that two is waaaay more than twice the work and telling me to buckle up because going from one to two is when your life really changes. I feared I would experience the same whiplash that happened when I first became a parent and I braced myself for the impact…
But you know what? Going from one to two has been really really good. Actually, it has been great. For starters, knowing what to do with a baby is a skill I already have so I got to skip most of the asinine Googling that went down round one. This time I am not constantly wondering if I am doing it right and giving myself heaps of grace when it comes to things like breastfeeding which certainly threw me for a loop as a brand new mother. Because this time I know a) what I’m doing(ish), and b) how fast it goes, I have been enjoying each day with the baby for what it is and soaking up these sweet days while my littlest is so so little.
And my world hasn’t been turned upside down because that already happened three years ago. We are firmly planted in the world of naps, parks, playdates, diapers, Daniel Tiger, timeouts, chicken nuggets, car seats and sippy cups. And I am surprised and delighted by how much I love it here. So adding another little one to the mix isn’t as big of a lifestyle upheaval. Obviously going from one to two hasn’t made my life easier or given me more free time or improved the quality of my sleep or deepened the grooves between my abs, but it has been pretty dang awesome. Our family life is richer and I am already getting small glimpses of what it will be like for those sweet sisters to have a relationship. The more the merrier. Seriously.
That being said…
The other night My Man was putting the finishing touches on Harper’s (12 step) bedtime routine and I was in the nursery bundling Hallie up and putting her down for bed. Lights off, sound machines on, doors closed. At the same time we walked out of their respective rooms, met in the hall, and high-fived as we walked downstairs together to begin the adults-only portion of the evening. Did you catch that? Instinctively we high-fived.
Bedtime with two children fees like crossing a finish line. No matter what we are doing, those divine hours between their bedtime and ours feel precious and sacred. Kicking our feet up and relaxing on parallel sofas is a well-earned luxurious indulgence. I treasure that unstructured time in the evening with just My Man when no one needs me. Ahhhh, to be single.
But sure enough I can’t turn it off. Each night before I go to sleep I go peek in on my sweet sleeping children. I re-tuck Harper who has managed to fall asleep coverless and apparently in the middle of a game of Twister, her appendages strewn awkwardly between the wall, the bed, and the floor. I kiss her sweet dimple and simply stare at her. Next I go in baby Hallie’s room, pick her up out of her crib and let her sleep in my arms for a few minutes before putting her back down. I breathe in her smell and say a silent prayer of gratitude that she is mine. Then I get into my own bed, my heart so unbelievably full it could burst.
Two is definitely better than one.
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)
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.
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.
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.
The three of us carb loaded for the day ahead, using a contraction app 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. Yeeeep. ))
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.
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 AKA the one with the”golf injury”) 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!!
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.
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.
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.
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!
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…
…but so much love.
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.).
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
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.
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?
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:
Tell your child to hide and take your sweeeeeeeeeet time finding her.
When it’s your turn to hide, really hide.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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…
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Harper decorated the lunch bags while I did some cooking and crafting of my own.
Oh haaaaay, Pinterest.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Her tears turned into a full-on shots-at-the-doctor’s-office cry when I put her on his lap.
And then, as if to spite me for forcing her to snuggle with a creepy old bearded stranger, she gave me the finger.
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!
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.
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.)
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.
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.
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:
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.
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.
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.
Harper was a strawberry for Halloween.
Aaaaaand she was also a chicken.
Certified free range organic.
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.
Happy fall, y’all.
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.
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.
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.
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!
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.
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.
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.
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.
- To stay current: New York Magazine
- To stay in touch with the past: The Old Testament
- To prepare for the future: On Becoming Pretoddlerwise: From Babyhood to Toddlerhood
- For kicks: The Family Fang: A Novel
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.
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.
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.
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.
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..?!
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
- 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
- 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**
- 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)
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.)
- 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.
- 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.
**Edited to add one more ingredient note: I recently made this delicious cake and used Starbucks VIA Ready Brew Coffee instead of the instant coffee powder that the icing recipe calls for. I learned the hard way that those are NOT the same thing and are therefore not interchangeable. While the icing was still delicious, using the VIA made it taste like strong coffee icing instead of chocolate icing. No one complained because the cake was still quite tasty and complaining would be quite rude, but I was kicking myself for botching that part. Lesson learned.
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.
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.
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.