Archives for category: Baby

The weather folks said it was going to be 91 degrees that Saturday morning. I had visions of our guests sipping coffee and sweating, while humidity swirled around. Fortunately that dismal scene did not happen. At 10am it was very windy and slightly cloudy, which made perfect cozy breakfast party weather.

menu:

+ granola with steel cut oats, dried apricots and lots of seeds. yogurt (Brown Cow), raspberries, and blueberries.

+ three frittate: kale, swiss chard, new potatoes.

+ maple blueberry muffins.  One baker friend brought apricot and sage scones, and one thoughtful friend brought Flour treats. Flour treats are the best hostess gift of all time.

+ bacon doused in maple syrup, baked, and cut into triangles.

+ two containers of coffee from Starbucks.

The great thing about this menu was the leftovers were easily incorporated into our week. (people never eat as much at parties as you expect, right??) Lux loved the frittate which is a discovery for me because they have more chopped greens packed per square inch than anything else I make.

Everyone showed up at different times via bikes or just finishing up a morning walk. Lots of the girls wore dresses; I love it when that happens. Strangers walked by with bemused smiles, eyeing the bundle of balloons blowing in the wind and the giddy babies chasing their toys.

I met Ellie and Lena at the library when the girls were five months old. Our babies were rather immovable and barely participated in the playtime, but we noticed they were around the same age and quickly struck up conversation. We survived the winter by getting together every week. Friends like them were so important to my first year as a mom, and I’m so grateful for their companionship.

And of course we all had that moment. That moment of “why don’t we do this more often?” When you realize all it took was the promise of coffee and a few blankets to get people to the park. When you look around and see other families having parties too, and realize, “this is what the park is for!” I hope we do it again this summer, but for now a baby’s birthday was the excuse we needed.

This extreme heat combined with Lux’s approaching first birthday has the early days of motherhood on my mind. The sticky floor in our kitchen, the faint hum of a hundred air conditioners through the window, the smell of baking bricks has triggered a wave of memories I’d forgotten in the last few months. I know several of my readers are expecting babies soon! I thought I would share a few things I would have loved to know in the first month or two.

Lie about your due date on Facebook. Smudge it a little starting two or three weeks beforehand, no one will notice. Majority of first births are late, up to two weeks! To keep the dear friends and family at bay during those endless last days, give yourself a little leeway.

Ask for food instead of gifts. If you have friendly neighbors and hopeful friends, tell them you would love for some hearty food in the weeks after the birth.

A doula might be a bit expensive, but it could be the best money you’ve spent. It could save you the cost of an epidural and c-section! And be enormously comforting to you and husband. It isn’t an indulgence, it is a wise investment. If they do postpartum visits and help, all. the. better.

Sleep with a favorite bed companion for your baby before they arrive, and infuse it with your scent.

Never post about how well your baby is sleeping on Facebook. Nothing marks a new parent more than this boasting, and unfortunately, it can really hurt some friends’ feelings who’ve had more difficult babies. Stay savvy and avoid this topic.

Things that are easiest when the baby is smallest: day trips, plane trips, eating at loud restaurants, and evening adventures.

Nap when she naps. Truly truly truly. If you can do this as much as possible, you’ll feel way better about the bizarro sleep patterns.

Avoid sleep training until three months. Do not spend hours googling methods when they are two weeks old. Your hips have to learn to sway, your mouth has to learn the comforting noises, your baby has to stop being a foreign alien to this world. It takes time, and no one’s cheap tricks will help.

 

Here’s what the hours of Googling inevitably results in: yes other babies do it. No, no one knows why. Yes, it will stop soon.

The sooner you can quiet the fear of your own intuitions, the sooner you and your baby will feel confident in your decisions.

Three questions you might ask yourself and will later look back and wonder if you were insane: Is little Lux getting enough stimulation? Am I keeping her from learning? Am I being a “good” parent at all times?

*Do you have bits of advice you whisper to new moms? I’d love to hear them, please share. Please ignore these until (..if ever) they are useful to you. : )

There have been at least twenty discussions about birthday parties around here lately.

Here’s a few of the themes we circle around:

Is it weird to call it a birthday party if Lux will have no awareness that the party is for her?

How much alcohol can you have at a party that’s technically for children?

How do we emphasize that we are actually celebrating the crazy year we just had?

Obviously we can’t not memorialize this enormous life change we just went through, right?

Finally, bored out of our minds with this all this adult talk, we decided we wanted it to be on the Esplanade, the lovely park that coils along the Charles River and is full of playgrounds, benches, clean sidewalks, and beautiful trees. So Saturday morning we went location scouting and visited our favorite nooks, to see how they would do under party scrutiny.

The bridge over to the Esplanade is just up the street from us. You cross over four lanes of traffic, and can smirk with pedestrian swagger as you cross. Or you can focus on how the bridge is climbing up into the trees before it swoops you back down to earth among the sailboats.

Lux particularly liked this spot for duck watching and practicing her sideways bench walk:

We settled on this little triangle of grass:

a small pond on one side:

and shady trees all around!

Now that I’ve started thinking about children’s parties, I’m remembering all fantastic things kids get to count on: cake! scoops of ice cream! goody bags! random streamers everywhere, bringing a gift for your friend that you hope they love, musical chairs, and eating too much candy. This is one of those scenarios where kids really get the good stuff, right?

Frequently I wonder what my children in the future will think of my internet presence now. If my mom had a blog, I wonder, would I find it and go back through the archives, reading all of it? Would I ignore it? Would I be embarrassed by what she shared there?

So I was delighted to read this bit from Sam Lamott, whose mom Anne Lamott famously wrote an entire book about Sam’s first year of life. In the preface to their new book (about his son, Anne’s grandson), he writes how he feels when reading the last book:

To this day, that book is the greatest gift anyone has given me; I have a very special relationship with it. When I read any of my mom’s books, I hear her voice talking as if she were in the room right next to me. But when I read Operating Instructions, I hear and feel my mother’s love for me, her frustration and dedication, her innermost feelings and favorite moments of my first year with her. I will always cherish these memories of our funny family and our friends, and I will always be able to come back to them even when my mom is too old to remember them herself.

a great tribute to the possibility of blogs, right?

The cake I baked yesterday was nearly the antithesis of this quote. I began baking it—setting the espresso pot on the stove, melting the dark chocolate in the double boiler—around 5pm. Anyone who has cared for a baby for 24 hours will tell you never, ever attempt to do anything two hours before bedtime.

Oh, but dense, rich, five eggs ‘n many sticks of butter cake sounded like it would solve so many things. Betty and I were on the same page, this cake would be transformative…except I was baking the cake for myself and would not be stopped.

Joe came home to a kitchen with cake-in-progress written all over it, leftover chicken pot pie burning in the oven,  a crying baby, and a wife who had forgotten how to say, “Welcome home!” and instead said, “Why can’t you come home before 7pm???” And the cake tasted like Betty Crocker’s dismal red cardboard box legacy because fatigue and anger came to eat at the table too. (I know this sounds like a bad rendition of a poorly remembered Bible verse, but I promise it was the case. It was a sad scene.)

Fortunately for the recipe‘s reputation, it was still here today. After glaring at it, I cut a slice and added the leftover raspberries from brunch this morning. And shared it with Joe, who had graciously accepted my apologies for nearly sacrificing our family’s weekend on an alter of chocolate. It was dense and nearly-bittersweet with chocolate and had crumb and yet somehow fudgey…..all the things I hoped it would be and this time I could really taste it.

If I get that urge again after 3pm, I’m buying a snickers bar.

Anyway, check your cake baking motives, friends. And once you have, take a look at this beer & wheat flour & maple syrup cake recipe. I think I know what I’m doing next Friday morning…

quote from Domestology (click to see her lovely stitched art!), found via 101cookbooks favorites list.

I like to have my first cup of coffee after Lux wakes up from her first nap. This nap is a retreat from the world that became too tiring almost immediately after she woke up, two short hours of liveliness: pulling back the curtains and peering out the window at the gray dawn, cackling next to Joe until he opens his eyes, poking at the bookshelves until a book falls on her face, looking in all our mirrors and joyously admiring her toothless gums.

Lux falling alseep on her own is absolutely clutch to our system. Once I’ve laid her down in her crib and left the room, she shouts, she makes little cursing noises, she grumbles like an old man. A little stuffed seal that keeps her company often takes the brunt of her frustration, usually ending up on the other side of the crib. After a few minutes of noisily documenting her progress for me, listening from the next room, she silents falls asleep with her arms sprawled in front of her and the flannel blankets piled around her.

Many mornings after she falls asleep, I sneak back and take a nap of my own on my bed, just across from hers. A fan blows and hums from the corner, the white curtains are still closed against the drippy black Beacon Hill rooftops outside. She wakes from her nap completely refreshed, of course, and crows with glee to see me asleep in front of her. And that’s how I awake, like the blearly unexpected host of a surprise birthday party, with my honored guest animatedly gesturing for us to begin.

Depending on who you’re talking to and how old their kids are, there are conversation trends among new parents.

First, of course, it’s how much sleep you managed to get. Then there are delighted crows when you’ve slept well for a week. Then there are concerned conversations about “sleep regressions,” regressions being bad changes from what just started happening a few weeks ago. When you meet someone new, you find out how old their baby is and pick an appropriate topic. Just got your immunizations? Dreading teething? Rolling over? Smiling all the time?

It’s like the collage days when you had a least three questions ready for anyone you met–major, dorm, professors, sports. I like it. It’s nice to have easy things to talk about with new friends again.

Anyway, you mark off very short periods of time with large markers. This week, after five months, we’ll mark off “cloth diapering.”  We used a cloth diapering service because I don’t have my own washer and dryer. I paid them $20 a week, and they picked up our bag of dirty diapers (and cloth wipes!) and dropped off a fresh set. I loved the idea of not throwing anything in the landfill, and it was nice that Lux never got any diaper rash. We’re stopping because we’ll be traveling, and mostly because in our small apartment the stink of seventy wet diapers after a week, is bit intrusive. Especially now that it’s cold and we don’t keep our windows open.

My favorite part was this big fresh stack diapers that came every Tuesday, seventy of them. I’ll miss this pile of newly washed, green-trimmed linens.

damn this is good baby photography.

all photos of Maxx and Lucy from Maxx & Lucy (click over there just to see their header, cause it’s good looking). Some photos by Christopher Kuehl.

My blog friend E. started a conversation about homeschooling over at her blog. She shared what happened to her, setting the bar pretty low and opening up the discussion, but then confessed she still thinks about homeschooling her new baby. It’s resulting in a great conversation in the comments, and if you’re interested in the topic at all, I think you’d enjoy it.

Many of the commenters are public school teachers who are disturbed by the current system and don’t want their own future kids subjected to what they’re seeing. That always reassures you, doesn’t it?

My fearlessly pioneering mother homeschooled all seven of us, back when it was officially illegal in Michigan, sending us in to the system when we felt ready. For my sister, that was sixth grade, for my older brother, it was ninth, for me, it was eighth. I consider myself a success story. I learned to read really late–like age 10. I wanted desperately to read, I was absolutely greedy to read books, but I could not get it. My mom wasn’t worried—she had read and believed that some kids just needed more time to grasp certain concepts. But I know if I had been at school, I would have finished out that year feeling like a hopeless idiot; and possibly even been transferred to a special school for the “problem.”

Then one day, I just got it. I started to blow through the early readers. Then the series books. Within three months, I tested at my grade level. Within six, I had far surpassed it. I started reading and never stopped. I still remember the joy of being able to pick up any book and devour the story, a type of freedom I experienced again when I got my driver’s license. Devour stacks of library books, any ones that I chose. Instead of becoming something I was self conscious about, reading was my signature activity. When I finally got to school in eighth grade, I was stunned to meet kids who didn’t like to read. They perplexed me. Didn’t they need companionship on long car rides? What did they do during the endless summer afternoons?

On top of that, I was stunned by the sheer incuriosity of my peers. Sounds cliche, but these kids just did not care to learn about something they didn’t need to know about for the test. I was considered weird for bringing up “conversation topics” at the lunch table. I wanted to hear what people thought about things. Nobody else did. I felt many of the kids acted like drones in the classroom. They waited to be told what to do. A certain downside of homeschooling is that once you enter the system you will be bored by the many wasted minutes that litter the structured schedule.

But Joe is skeptical. He loved his public school education (which was in, admittedly, a wealth suburb school rich with resources). I’m sometimes jealous when I hear about the field trips he took with his class, or the experiments he did in science class. We both think Montessori schools sound like a blast, even if they do cost as much as our college tuition did. And we all know, so let’s not even go there, what stereotype everyone imagines when they think of the “homeschooled kid.”

I was lucky. I had six siblings to teach me to share, socialize, be quick with my jokes and fast on the uptake, get over myself and be open about my flaws. (speaking of, my handwriting isn’t great. I’m a pretty terrible speller. And yet: I love to write.) I had wonderfully imaginative friends who were also homeschooled, and we spent afternoons creating get-rich quick schemes like ice cream stands instead of ol’ lemonade stands, and finding out what happens if you fill a trampoline with water balloons and start jumping. Because we were the only students, “classes” only took up the morning hours, and we had the rest of the day to spend as we liked. We explored the woods behind our house, naming the gulches and building communities of forts. We went for long bike rides, or spent the rest of the day sledding. Most of all: we read, picking up knowledge we never realized we’d find useful later in life.

As someone pointed out on E.’s blog: there’s a big difference between when a parent homeschools for the kids’ sake, and homeschools for their sake (I think the latter type, usually control freaks, are responsible for most of the stereotyping).

For now (she’s an infant for pete’s sake!) I plan to see what our options are when the time comes. Finger’s crossed for a free Montessori style school taught by volunteers from the community.

all images from the amazing illustrator Amy Jean Porter.

 

 

I love clicking around the internet home of Kiosk because they’ve got literally the best collection of things you never knew you wanted. and so clickable….

This past weekend we were given two baby gifts from them and now I like them even more: they include little explanatory tags with each item, describing where the item was from and why they liked it. Nice red tape corners too. It’s the details, amiright?

This xylophone, made of wood and metal, is from Germany. Look at that handy carrying handle for when Lux is busking around Boston!

Things I’m doing a lot more of since the baby came:

writing lengthy update emails to my friends, most of them probably inadvertently functioning as birth control for them.

sitting in the park.

video chatting with my family in Michigan:

writing desperate text messages to my fellow new moms.

Reading entire long articles and blog posts that I save in a crazed browsing hurry via InstaPaper and then read one-handed when I’m trapped under a sleeping baby with my Kindle. The Kindle is the best for this. (I’m girlpolish on there if you make an account and want to see what I’m reading.) I <3 the guy who created Instapaper, and need to actually give him some money.

Eating amazing meals dropped off by generous people, some whom I barely know.

Calling friends in the city and making plans to walk the city parks together.

Sounds suspiciously nice, right?

Let’s be clear here: I wasn’t working while I was pregnant. There was no reason for me to not being writing friends, calling family, sitting in the park, except that I was too busy making up fake stuff to do all day. The baby takes everything I’ve got on a regular basis, and builds only a litte bit back in, a teasing amount of encouragement and energy; these tiny moments of connection here and there. And that’s just wiped out all those fake things I used to do.

I wish I could claim no one told me it would be hard, but literally everyone did. Even as you read that, you stopped reading it, because it’s so cliche.

Apparently when that happens, you don’t feel like reading bits of news on Gawker, and Facebook-stalking semi strangers. You want to commiserate, laugh, share, and sigh with other people. Hmm and it’s awfully nice to have things simplified to that.

Last week Joe tucked Lux under his arm, I packed a suitcase full of wrinkled tank tops and stretched out shorts and we slipped onto a plane (Lux sleeping like we drugged her….thought about it) to Northern Michigan.

My five younger siblings were there to meet us. It was astounding to watch my younger brothers who I still associate with noisy fights, violent wrestling, toy gun obsessions and entire summers spent wearing the same pair of shorts, fall over themselves to hold Lux. (They are now 22, 20, 18, and 15. But still.)

Between the heat of the city and recovering from the c-section, Lux and I have been relatively cut off from society these past few weeks. As a novice baby whisperer, I love to admit that I have no idea what I’m doing when she cries. Other people will take her into their arms for the first time and try something new that calms her that I had never thought of. Cheerful burping. Rhythmic murmuring. A gentle sway-cum-swing. Frequently I would hand her off to one of my brothers when she was fussing, and look over ten minutes later to see her blissfully asleep on their shoulder. Frankly I was a little jealous of their touch.

 

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