Sunday, December 3, 2017


My sweetest Ellen girl -

NINE sounds old. Big. Real kid stuff. Next year, I'm sure the double digits will throw me for a tailspin. But - the thought that we've had you under our roof for HALF of your "under the roof" time already is just mind boggling. And sad. I'm acutely aware that our family time with you as a child whom we can make decisions for is increasingly short, even without throwing the teenage mayhem smack in the middle.

All this to say that I'm trying to soak in every minute of you. You are delightful and thoughtful and smart and curious and talented and persistent and brave. You also most definitely have moments of angst (some real, most not), poorly timed acute deafness (pick up your shoes!!), sister pestering and drama drama drama. All of it comes with with the package of being a real, dimensional person and I'm (almost always) glad we get to come along for the ride.

You've made so many strides this year with your ukulele and singing and people keep asking where this musical talent comes from?? We are very unsure. Nevertheless, you expressed interest in uke on a whim (thanks, America's Got Talent) and I was willing to give it a go, fully expecting it might fizzle out. Well - here we are about 18 months later and it seems to come so easily to you. You sing All. The. Time. I love watching you hear a song, look it up online and start playing it pretty darn well within minutes. I almost never have to remind you to practice, which is a sign of how much you really love it. Your confidence in being on stage and learning what those stomach butterflies feel like are life skills that I know will take you so far.

You also stretched yourself this year with skateboarding. You enjoy watching our neighbor skate and were totally on-board with a class this summer, but had MAJOR jitters when we pulled up to a skate park full of relatively experienced boys. I pushed you into an uncomfortable situation, knowing that you might storm off in tears, but again - you rose to the occasion. And loved it and learned so much. I hope you know that I've always got your back, but sometimes that means pushing you forward.

Dad and I loved traveling to NYC with you this Fall. I couldn't have been more excited to see Hamilton with you and I hope it's a memory you always have. We had the most excellent trip and you were such a good traveler - helpful and flexible and excited about all of the exciting things. You are so mature and, truly, a great conversationalist - I love sharing "vacation mom" time with you.

You continue to do well in school and I can increasingly see you challenging yourself and noticing how you are doing in comparison with others. I'm doing my best to funnel that competitive spirit in productive ways. Your classmates elected you as a Student Council representative, which was such a nice honor. We talked a lot about what it looks like to be a leader and I hope you hold those lessons close. You have an excellent class this year and have made even more nice friends, all while doing a better job of navigating the normal girl drama.

I can't wait to see what the next year holds for you. I love our little chats and the quick rides to and from lessons are often times you'll pipe up and say, "I wanted to talk with you about this ...". Or, "when we get home later, I have something I want to talk with you about". I do my best to open my ears, really hear you, and give you some perspective on the big picture ... Is this worth discussing? Is this our business? How can we show kindness here? What is the lesson we've learned?" I always, always want to hear what you have to say and am so happy you feel comfortable sharing.

I love you so, so much!

Wednesday, November 1, 2017

She's Five!

Georgia, my dear …

FIVE. Five is a big deal. It’s one of those birthday that just smacks you in the face, most certainly not the birthday of a baby or a toddler, but of a real big kid. You’ve been telling people for months that your birthday is coming “after Halloween”. More precisely, the day after. It’s hard to remember a time that was “pre-Georgia”, but I also still have really strong memories of being in the hospital with you as a newborn and can’t believe 5 whole years have passed.

You are a sweet, generous, delightful child with a blossoming sense of humor and the ability to fall ill or tired at the precise moment you don’t want to do something. Don’t like what we’re having for dinner? Tummy hurts. Don’t want to go to bed? Too tired to walk upstairs. It’s amazing – it’s like all the bones in your body turn into noodles.

You love to color and make art projects and will do it all day long if allowed. Cutting and gluing and coloring all over your hands and the table and everything else. Also, it’s a common excuse for why you don’t need a shower – your hands will just have marker on them again! You are very precise and I love to hear your elaborate descriptions of what you’re making. You continue to love packing small items into small bags or purses and then often losing them. I found your fidget spinner the other day after many months of it being lost – it’s like we all won the lottery! You love to play outside with Ellen and are very fast on your scooter. It’s so fun to see you right in the mix with the big kids, very reluctant to ever be left behind.

We are reading James and the Giant Peach right now and recently finished The Witches. Reading Roald Dahl books with children is one of the very best reasons to have kids. You found The Witches a bit spooky, but persisted in finishing and now you like to play “pretend take your wig off”. I love this snuggle time with you. I wish Ellen could always join us, but the truth is that her evening to-do list is increasingly long, and it makes me want to hold on even tighter to this sweet bedtime ritual.

You are so excited to join Ellen at Briarwood and I teasingly tell you every time that you are going to be homeschooled because I can’t bear to miss my Mommy-Georgie day. When Ellen started 3rd grade last fall, I was pretty ready to have you join her. Now, though, I just see the time racing by. At bedtime last night, I reminded you that you only had one day left as a 4-year-old. You said, “It’s OK. I’ll still come to Mommy-Georgie day, but only until I start Kindergarten”. I had to fight back the tears. And then you called out 4 more times – “Mommy! I need to tell you something!” – which really means you need to ask me something, and it’s always way out of left field, making me realize we haven’t left all of that amazing toddler randomness behind just yet. 

You continue to have trouble with describing people as “older” vs. “taller”. You, darling, are now both. You are my favorite errand-running companion. I love the funny faces you make at me in the rearview mirror. I love your passion for doing things yourself. You are kindhearted and generous, often sharing without hesitation, even with your sister who may drive you crazy. You are the worst at hiding in your room before bedtime, but I love watching you try to disguise yourself under your covers. Strangers continue to stop us most anywhere to comment on how beautiful you are. Yes, of course you are, but you are so, so much more than that. Don't ever forget it!

So happy to celebrate you this year!
Love you,


Thursday, April 20, 2017


Today was a good one, Ellen.

I started the morning volunteering at school, sorting books for a book fair. The mom of one of your classmates joined me and told me that you and her daughter were becoming friends and that her daughter came home the other day and said "Ellen is a good friend". There has been an exponential increase in girl drama this year in 2nd grade and we've had so many discussions about it, with many more to come, I'm sure. I was so proud of you. I stopped you when you walked in the door after school - often in the way I do when I have something serious to talk to you about - and told you about the comments and how proud I was. You beamed. I reminded you that grades and achievement are important to me, but that your kindness and ability to be a true friend are the things that will always make me the happiest.

You proceeded to tell me that you worked on some graphing and designing today in class, preparing the butterfly garden. The concept of spacing plants was challenging and you were able to help some classmates figure it out. You said that Ms. Cunningham approached you at recess and told you that you would make a great teacher someday. You were so proud of yourself!

Your first ukulele concert is tomorrow night. I've taken you to almost every lesson since you started in September and today you did such a great job practicing. It seems to come so naturally to you and I'm so proud of your hard work and commitment to seeing it through. I know you are nervous, but can't wait to see you shine on stage.

In the pre-dinner / emptying dishwasher / supposed to be showering stage of the evening, you came downstairs and told me you had figured out the meaning of life. (I'm not exaggerating here - those were your words. This is something you've struggled with for months - wrapping your brain around human existence and the world and the purpose of it all and what happens when we die. Those are big thoughts for a little person, but real ones that you express and struggle to describe). You said "Everyone matters. I think you're supposed to be good and kind so when you die, other people can see the good example that you set". I told you that I thought that was pretty perfect.

We discussed tonight that it's good to recognize the times that you're really happy. I read this once, as a new mom, and it's increasingly true as you get older and so many things compete for your time and memory. Recognize your happiness in the moment. It may last days or hours, but perhaps it's even more fleeting. Nevertheless, it's all important. I told you to save those memories up in a bank for the inevitable days when we don't feel quite so happy.

I love you so much. You are a terrific kid that makes us proud every day.

Saturday, December 3, 2016

Eight is Great!

Sweet Ellen -

Eight just seems like a really great age, doesn't it? I've been telling people for the last few months that I have an "almost 4-year-old and an almost 8-year-old", which then morphed into a "4 and 8-year-old", so I actually had to check myself the other day: you are still 8, not 9 quite yet, though you act more like 16. In fact, we shared your birthday treats with the school office staff yesterday and one of them said, "Oh! You do look older!" and you replied, with perfect timing, "and definitely more mature".

That's you, in a nutshell. Hilarious, either loudly or quietly, with perfect timing. I love watching you in a crowd and am proud of how you find your place, something that does not always come easily to me (though your father? Yes - just the same as you). I am also trying my best to funnel that spark into appropriate behavior, as you walk that fine line in most cases.

This week, for some reason, I keep seeing glimpses of your baby face as you make certain expressions or say things in a certain way. Much of it has been when you've been telling me stories or describing something you learned at school - I think it's that sense of wonder I see in you as you figure something out. You are so curious and love learning and I love to watch you learn. You are a reading machine and I hope you always treasure that as a nice way to find some time for yourself.

Despite your independence, you still are very snuggly and DEMAND hugs and kisses, even if I've just given you a hug and kiss downstairs. You stand in your doorway and wave goodbye to me and say, "have a good night!" as I walk down the stairs after putting you to bed. As we read (all Harry Potter, all the time), you generally are as physically close to me as you can get. Sometimes I feel like I'm in a snake pit, with all the arms and legs everywhere. I'm also acutely aware, now more than ever, that the day is coming when you won't want anything to do with me. So, I'll take these snuggles and add them to my memory bank for later.

You started ukulele lessons this year and have been really enjoying it, as have the rest of us! I am somewhat surprised your interest has stayed strong, as you tend to jump from interest to interest quickly, but the performer in you shines. I am proud of you for singing and playing in front of groups - something I would never feel comfortable doing - and pushing through, even when you feel nervous. In fact, our lives are FILLED with music, as you are constantly singing, humming, tapping your hands or feet, even when (especially when) it drives your mother crazy. I'm intrigued to see where this passion takes you in life.

We've started to navigate the world of "girl relationships" and I will do my best to guide you. My close girl friends are one of the most important things in my life, some of whom I've known since I was your age! By the same token, girl friendships can be fraught with drama. I'm doing my best to instill in you the importance of kindness, inclusion, honesty and integrity.

I was so impressed with the interest you took in the elections this year and couldn't have been prouder to have you voting with me. I was, and remain, shocked and sad about the outcome, but I cried real tears imagining how I would tell you what happened. My fear about the impact on our community at large is buffered by my hope for our family. You are getting to be old enough to understand some of the harsh realities of the world we live in, but also old enough to participate in change and that, my friend, is exciting.

I can't wait to watch you do great things this year!

Love you so much!

Tuesday, November 1, 2016


Darling Georgia -

Does it seem like time passes so quickly to you, too? You are now the age that Ellen was when we brought you home from the hospital, which just seems impossible. Your baby days do actually seem like they were a long time ago - I remember it all pretty vaguely - but it's more that I can't believe Ellen is four whole years older, too. Funny how time does that.

You continue to be a delightful, spirited child. Also, quite beautiful, as all parents think of their children, but people stop and tell us that about you all the time. In fact, I want to say to them, "Yes! Of course she is pretty. But she's clever! And you should hear her laugh when she's tickled! And her favorite food is cheese!" There are so many more interesting things about you than how you look and I hope you always believe that.

You are very much a momma's girl. In fact, not long ago, we were walking somewhere hand in hand (always, with you) and you just kind of whispered, "you're my favorite". I told you that wasn't very nice and I knew that you loved Ellen and Dad, too, and you corrected yourself and said, "oh, of course I do!". :) Your preference for all things MOM does occasionally drive the rest of us crazy, but I know this time will pass. We do get each other, you and me. Cut from the same cloth.

Your interests these days are very similar to Ellen's at your age and, well, Ellen's now. You love her so much and follow her around and would do most everything with her (if she lets you). You are the best of friends and can, just as fast, push each others buttons and both end up crying. In fact, Ellen is always wanting to give you a hug and a kiss goodnight and you often refuse her - asserting control in your world, a one that is a little less effusive than your sister's. I think you two are at the sweet spot of sisterly friendship where you still have similar interests. I know this will wax and wane over the years, but I will do my very best to keep your tether to each other strong.

You could spend all day coloring and cutting paper into tiny pieces and hoarding small objects into some type of small container. SO SO many treasures, it's hard for me to keep track. You are just starting to enjoy being read to, something I love to see as I was pretty sure we had ruined your interest in reading as a 2nd child whose parents were too tired to read to her as much as the 1st.

My favorite things about you these days are your attempts to order the world (counting / days of the week / how many people at each place). We often use a hand to count down to some anticipated event - "Mom! My birthday will be on the pinkie!". We've been telling make believe stories at bedtime and I like to make funny faces - surprised, sad, angry - and I love to watch your face mimic mine unintentionally. You love to snuggle, but there are fewer requests for "uppy" these days - much happier to do it yourself, as long as we're holding hands, of course. You are sensitive, oh so sensitive, and cry with the least insult (maddening), but also cry when others are hurt or sad, so all is forgiven.

I can't wait to see what the next year holds for you. Just this week, as we were all standing at the bus stop in the morning, I almost just pushed you right into the group of kids boarding the bus. You seem to be a part of the crowd and like you're almost ready to be there. In fact, it's quite a long time until you start kindergarten, but I know it's really off to the races after that. I'll cherish this time of you figuring out you. Thanks for letting us be a part of it.

Love you to pieces, my Sweet Georgie.

Wednesday, December 2, 2015


My sweetest Ellen -

Seven? Really? I find this almost impossible to believe. Seven is the age of a real, true child. Not a baby. Not a toddler. Not even a novice in elementary school. A real KID. Tonight you filled out your birthday survey on your own for the first time (My favorite color ... my favorite food .... etc). When I suggested that you do it yourself, you paused and flashed the biggest smile at me, clearly proud of yourself. And you should be! I also remarked that you were able to read every "favorite" on the list, when I know you couldn't last year, and you even wrote all of the answers yourself with very little help. You've come so far and we are so proud of your hard work.

You are a super funny and super challenging child, sometimes at the exact same moment, which makes me want to throw my hands up in the air and tear my hair out. While cracking a smile that I can't contain. It's tough.

Your friend's parent commented to me the other day that being with you is almost like being with a peer at times. You do have this wise air about you, and a really mature sense of humor with excellent timing, and a big vocabulary to boot. Your Dad and I love spending time with you and comment to each other on the side how funny you are. Like, just today, you texted Dad from Papa's phone: "I'm just helping Steve. What are you up to?" Oh. My.

With this maturity comes a lot emotions that seem too big for your body. You FEEL a lot of things. I'm an emotional person, too, and I see a future of us stubbornly pushing back at each other. I do my very best to calmly explain the WHY behind the anger and want you to learn how to process all of this, too. And to know that you can always be angry with me and dad and that we will always love you, no matter what.

For your bedtime book last night, you picked all your monthly baby books off your shelf and we looked at all the pictures again. At the end of it, with your first birthday pictures, you said - "Oh, you really loved me then." Yes, I said, of course. And I love you even more now. "Because you know me better?"


Thank you, sweet girl, for making us parents and continuing to let us practice with you. I think the first seven years have gone remarkably well. Can't wait for the next 7 and the 7 after that and after that ...

Love you!

Tuesday, November 3, 2015

She's Free!

My sweetest Georgie girl -
A couple days late with your birthday note, which I fear is how most things end up for you. Not enough time / not enough energy / too many other things going on. In the face of all of this, though, you are thriving. You are funny and charming and determined (OH SO DETERMINED) and changing every single day. It's a joy to watch you grow into your own person and I am proud of myself for recognizing and appreciating the feisty little girl behavior - you are our last, so we relish the fun (and frustration).

People, friends and strangers, often comment to us about what a beautiful little girl you are. Your Dad and I agree, of course, that you and Ellen are pretty much the cutest and sweetest girls of all time. I do hope these folks, though, look past your striking sun-kissed blonde hair and your round blue eyes, to see your sweet smile, your ornery smirk, and the lightbulb in your head that I see all the time when you figure new things out!

You continue to follow my temperment, as much as Ellen follows Dad's - head strong, organized, liking things 'just so', a night owl - but I am starting to see more and more glimpses of Ellen in you, which delights and terrifies me. Just the other day I heard you singing in another room and it sounded just like Ellen at your age - I loved it.

Your most favorite song of the moment is the Star Spangled Banner, thanks to Ellen singing it on repeat, trying to get the words just right during the World Series (Go Royals!). You idolize your sister and the two of you can be the best of friends, in a heart-melting way, and you can bicker like crazy, which makes us all crazy. Having a sister is one of the best gifts in the world and I try to remind you both of this all the time.

Your speech is not as advanced as Ellen's at this age, so I do a lot of interpreting for you, but I love the way you say things just the same. And I see the wheels in your head turning. In fact, just the other day we played a rousing round of "Animal Guessing Game" in the car and you guessed hippo, very appropriately, when Ellen couldn't figure it out. You were so proud of yourself!

You are a sensitive little soul and very much dislike the word "NO" or anything that resembles discipline. You feel justified in outright ignoring my requests, very content to do your own thing on your own timeline. If you do get in trouble, I can pretty much count backwards from 5 and am guaranteed that your will have a red face, the saddest little pout you've ever seen, and tears streaming down your face. It's so cute that it's hard to stay mad at you. Again, clever.

You are a cuddly, loving child - much more than I remember Ellen being. You frequently ask for a "huggy" or to be carried ("uppy") and I most always comply. Just the other day I was telling someone that I often treat Ellen as my peer and you as my baby, which clearly will be a problem in the not-too-distant-future!

I delight in our "Mommy-Georgie" days and feel so lucky to have the time with you, even if it's not all footloose and fancy free. I love to see the pride in your face as your learn new skills. I am proud of your independent streak and hope it serves you well. Dad, Ellen and I all giggle about the funny things you do and I feel certain that our family wouldn't be complete without you.

Love you so much, sweet girl.
Happy 3rd Birthday!


Tuesday, December 2, 2014

Six. Six!

My sweetest Ellen girl -

I sit here, late on the night before your birthday, and can hardly believe I almost forgot to write this. I think it's a reflection of the current phase of our lives, commonly referred to as BUSY. You are busy, we are busy, Georgia is along for the ride. It's mostly a happy, lucky, fortunate kind of busy, but nevertheless, it's sometimes hard to remember in the moment.

I've been cleaning every nook and cranny of this house, trying to prepare for the onslaught of shiny new things for birthday and Christmas, and I keep coming across old pictures of you with that sweet baby face. Where did that baby face go? I now see a growing girl, one tooth lost to the Tooth Fairy, with 3 more following in short order. Everyone says it, but they say it because it's true: WHERE DID THE TIME GO?

Dad and I sat in the new parent orientation at your school mere weeks ago and listened to your very experienced principle describe how he saw the biggest jump in achievement and growth and maturity in his daughters between the start of Kindergarten and Thanksgiving, and then again during their first year of college. As Dad reminded me, this has been entirely true for you. I knew you would do well in school and I knew you would love it. Sure, there are rough spots from time to time, but I'm proud of you for finding your way and working so hard. You were reluctant to read with me over the summer and I couldn't get you to focus, and now you are reading books and sounding out words and writing stories on your own. I love to watch your accomplishments.

You have made some nice friends and have been able to do a lot of fun things this year. You are a fun-seeker, like your Dad, and I think find yourself bored around here with the daily activities I like to call "being a productive citizen". Your energy level has significantly increased since you started Kindergarten, I think as a byproduct of sitting and focusing all day, and you can't stop jumping over / leaping on / bouncing off of the furniture. It drives me batty. I used my angry voice the other day, which led to you storming off to your room (not uncommon around here) and when I came to calmly talk to you, there was heavy drama: "I just FEEL like something is MISSING in my life!!!" Oh, really, almost 6-year-old? Like what? "I don't know. Like a hamster. Or a roller coaster." Are you trying to tell me you would like to have more fun? "I guess so." Well - you and me both.

I struggle with this: a job worth doing is a job worth doing well the first time. This is important to me and is a lesson I want to teach you and Georgia. And, at the same time, one person can't do everything, no matter how much she tries. I would hate to look back and regret the opportunities we missed. More than anything, I hope you and Georgia continue to help me with this balance and learn from my missteps.  

Speaking of your sister, she is your biggest fan and you are hers. It is adorable to watch. And occasionally maddening as the decibel level reaches higher and higher the closer we get to dinner time. Georgia wants to show you all the new things - "yook at dis, A-yen" - and you long to give her a hug and kiss before bed, even when she turns you away, then comes running when you act like your feelings are hurt. If your Dad and I have done anything right in the last 6 years, it's helping this sister relationship to grow.

I feel so lucky to be your Mom. You are special and interesting and strange and hilarious and maddening and challenging and smarter than I know how to handle at times. I am mildly fearful of the growing pains to come with you, but also thrilled to be a part of it. You are just unique - there is only one Ellen - and people comment on that to us all the time. I guess that's the best birthday wish any of us could have: to be appreciated for exactly who we are.

I love YOU.


Friday, October 31, 2014

Sweet Georgie Girl

Dearest Georgie ...

It's the eve of your 2nd birthday and I've been mulling this post around in my mind for days, yet I find the nature of two children ... in the fall ... preparing for a holiday ... there just aren't enough minutes in the day. In many ways, I feel that this is your life - I very much underestimated the level of "busy" that two children bring. Much of it is a joyful kind of busy, and quite a bit of it is a necessary kind of busy, and some if it is the tear-your-hair-out kind of busy. I feel guilt that your first 2 years have been different in many ways than Ellen's, but in the face of it, you are thriving. You are happy. You are funny. You are increasingly chatty. You are stubborn. You are determined. I feel that you and Ellen are both pretty independent girls, which I need and want you to be.

You and I had a bit of an adjustment period when Ellen started school. You missed her and I missed her and I missed her playing with you. I feel like we were finally given the one-on-one time you deserved and, while it took some time to adapt, I've loved to watch all those little intricate, hilarious parts of your personality. Your speech has exploded and you surprise me every day with things you say. You love your sister fiercely and it doesn't hurt my feelings that I wake you from your nap early every time to pick her up from school, but you couldn't be happier to hop in your stroller and head to get your favorite person. You miss her more than anyone.

At the same time, I feel like you have finally opened yourself up and recognized that you are part of a family and, even better, a family of people that you enjoy! You were kind of a reserved little gal - didn't laugh easily or hug easily and just kind of took it all in. Lately I've noticed that you ask about everyone's whereabouts - even if someone is just around the corner - and especially if it's time for bed, just checking to make sure everyone is where they are supposed to be. You are a mama's girl AND a daddy's girl - the best kind. You shriek with delight and pride when one of us picks you up from school ... MY mama, MY dada. And even to Ellen, just reminding her - these are my folks, too.

I used to think that you were more "me" and Ellen was more "dad". In many ways that is still true, but I've heard more and more comments lately that,"Oh! Georgia does have a little bit of Ellen in her!". Your like to assess situations (me) and then tonight fought me to get out of my arms just so you could dance to the background music while we were trick or treating (ellen and dad). You are funny and charming and obviously use your charm to get what you want. You have the sweetest "NOOOOOO" I've ever heard. Mostly I laugh and give in to your whims because, this is 2.

You have a determination that I'm simultaneously proud of and fearful of. Ellen certainly always had a plan, but would mostly verbalize it. You just formulate a plan in your head, proceed with exactly what you want to do, and don't feel any need to involve others. If we attempt to divert you? No good. As your communication skills continue to improve I think we will be able to navigate the world together.

It's amazing to reflect back on life 2 years ago - I remember vividly the Halloween eve of your birth. I remember the scurrying and double checking and waiting and wondering. I remember (most) of our stay in the hospital with you. We watched videos tonight from the time Ellen met you in the hospital and she still had her almost-4-year-old baby face and you were the tiniest, dark-haired peanut. Neither of you look the same and it is a tiny bit heartbreaking, but mostly wonderful. I remember the hours I sat on the couch with my feet up and watched the colors on the leaves change to a flaming yellow, and then you helped Dad and Ellen rake those leaves last week and jump in the piles.

We love you. We are proud of you. Your crinkly nose when you ask a question delights me every time. You've brought more laughter and joy to our family than we could have ever hoped. Happiest Second Birthday to you, sweet girl.


Wednesday, August 13, 2014

On the eve of Kindergarten ...

Sweet, sweet Ellen -
Here we are. The night before this huge, huge change. So big, in fact, that I really can't wrap my mind around it. I've been "nesting" for weeks: organizing, and purging, and sorting, and sharpening pencils, and planning for lunches, and buying hooks for things that need hanging. She who controls the clutter, controls the world! If only that were true.

Such a milestone: we have successfully cared for a child for 5 3/4 years! Said child is bright and eager and funny and raring to go! We couldn't ask for more. In many ways it feels that our whole world is being turned upside down, yet really, you will only be 8 houses away from us. Probably a 4.2 minute walk, yet might as well be hours. The number of items I've added to my calendar in the last several weeks, before you've even set foot in the school, confirms my suspicions that the planets of this household will revolve around you, the sun, for quite some time.

I'm thrilled for you and this experience. As your principal said this evening, reflecting on his experience raising 5 daughters (bless him), he saw the most marked change in his girls in the first semester of Kindergarten and not again until their first semester of College. My greatest hope is that you make friends, fall in love with learning and feel that you find your place. Really, I think most adults would say that those three things make for a satisfying life.

I'm happy for Georgia to finally have time for the one-on-one attention she deserves, yet I know she will miss you like crazy. Her language and personality have been in over-drive lately and I will miss you, my pal, who I can always count on to laugh at her antics with me.

You seem so grown up to me at times and it's easy to forget that you have the normal fears and worries of any child going through a transition. As much as we can talk and talk and talk about all of this - there are just a lot of feelings, too. You charged through the halls at Village today boasting, "I'm not nervous! Not one tiny bit!", yet you've cried each day on the way home about missing your sweet friends. You crawled in bed tonight and expressed that you WERE nervous and worried. About what? I asked. "Oh, just everything, I guess." Me, too, babe.

Last Sunday morning I suggested you spend time playing with Georgia because it would be your last time home together for awhile. As much as we've talked about this, I think it finally sunk in. You cried and cried and cried - couldn't understand how the day came so soon. "Usually in preschool, if you need a hug, you can just go get one from your sister, but in Kindergarten she won't be there!" (tears tears tears) I suggested she could get a hug from her classmate and friend, Addie, or her teacher. "I know, but it's just not the same!"

No, it really isn't. I promise to give lots of hugs every morning so you can store them up for the day. I will do my best not to be frustrated with the bad/unusual behavior I expect out of you the next few weeks during this transition (I learned from the Emerging Vegetarian Experience of 2013). We are so proud of you and so happy to embark on this adventure with our very favorite 5-year-old.

Love, love, love -

Friday, January 10, 2014

Been awhile ...

Long time, no blog!

Hope all of you survived the holidays. Well, in fact, I hope you did more than survive - ate, drank, laughed, enjoyed, relaxed - but I will settle for survived. Two-fourths of our household (the adult half, thanksverymuch) was stricken by a GI bug and we limped through the end of December and into the New Year. I will say, however, that an unplanned (and not wholly enjoyable) lack of eating for 5 days sure kicks off the 2014 weight loss plan. And, I didn't have a drop of alcohol on New Year's Eve and finally woke up hungry and clear-headed. If that isn't the best way to start fresh, then I don't know what is.

This will be a notation of my random thought patterns, as most things are these days.

A few Christmas notes: we have joined the land of American Girl Doll. It's an OK place to be, but I'm still reserving final judgement. Interestingly, while Ellen was THRILLED to get Saige from Santa, she doesn't play with her much. I don't think she knows HOW, which sounds weird, but I think is true. Dolls really aren't my thing, so I don't quite get it either. Also, Santa just brought Saige and nothing else, so again, she didn't know what to do with her. Thankfully our wiser family members gifted Ellen a doll bed and some gift certificates for accessorizing, but I think some doll playdates are in our future. Santa also brought a DVD set of 'Where On Earth Is Carmen San Diego?' that has been a big hit, along with a really cool Atlas from Grammy. Ellen's stocking had a wireless mouse and mouse pad so she could start learning how to use a mouse on my laptop as we don't have a standard desk top computer at our house. I'm glad someone mentioned it because it is a skill she will need in school and she is having great fun with it. Santa brought Georgia a new table, a little bigger than our old one, with 4 chairs for dining with friends. He was even more clever and got one that was a gray-brown color that wouldn't show every pencil and crayon mark. They were both gifted many more great things - maybe I will get my act together and post about some of them.

On occasion I will wake up during the night and not be able to fall back asleep and then my mom-xiety sneaks in. I don't really have generalized anxiety, but I think all moms (parents) have those things they worry about at the most random times. Recently, it was fire safety and escaping our home. The next morning I marched Ellen around the house and made sure she knew how to open all of the doors and the garage door and how to use the cordless phone to dial 911. I feel (mildly) better.

A few things I've saved to share:
Two posts from Girl's Gone Child on teaching your kids about strangers, something I still struggle to do well. The Mother Co and Staying Safe Without Fear and Talking To Strangers.

A(nother) article on car seat safety from the New York Times: Strapped In But Still At Risk. Georgia finally moved up from her bucket to a convertible, rear-facing, seat and Ellen is still in a 5-point harness, but is probably at the weight limit for kid + seat under the new LATCH guidelines, so I think we need to re-install her seat with the belt. Ugh.

And just something interesting about Music Education: Is Music the Key to Success?

I am finally weaning Georgia now at 14 months. We are leaving town at the end of the month and it just needs to happen. She has only been nursing in the morning and before bed for months now and I haven't pumped in many months, so it is just so easy. She enjoys it - smiles and claps her hands before she nurses! - and I honestly could just keep going. It's sad as she is my last, but all good things come to an end. She didn't really bat an eye when I dropped the before-bed feeding - we just replaced it with extra books and cuddles and teethbrushing. We'll see how the morning goes ... I'm sure it will bother me more than her.

And, on a related note, I feel very fortunate that weight loss has not been an issue after having Georgia. I actually weigh less now than at any point since I had Ellen. I attribute this some to nursing, mostly to my near-constant activity level on my 4 days at home, and the fact that we never eat out and I take my lunch to work to save money. Also, I never ate tons of fast food, but I almost never do now because there isn't time or I have the kids with me. I do need to replace the calorie burn from nursing, though, and am trying to wrap my brain around some form of exercise. I am not athletic and have never formally exercised. I know I need to do it for my health, as well as to firm up some post-baby areas. I'm thinking one of these 7-minute Apps is a good place to start and Ellen might even join me!

Tuesday, December 3, 2013

On your birthday

My dearest Ellen,

What. A. Year. You are a real, live, kid. Not a baby, not a toddler, but a KID. The kind that will go to Kindergarten. And grow up. And move away. Yes, I'm getting ahead of myself, but I recently I told you that I wanted you to live here forever and never move away because I would miss you too much and you said, "But, Mom. I have to go to college and grow up." I guess we are doing something right around here.

I think year 4 to 5 was quite a bit easier than the previous years. You had your moments, of course. I guess we all did. But we have watched you grow so much and it just amazing to be a part of it. This was your first year having the job of Big Sister and it is a job you take seriously and are so good at. You are sweet to Georgia, always trying to take care of her and keep her safe. You almost always help me when asked and often help on your own. Many, many times I think how much harder it would be to have two children if you weren't the first and I feel so very lucky.

You continue to surprise us with new things you've learned, concepts you understand, words you use correctly. You love the process of learning and are so inquisitive and you soak things up like a sponge (many times when we aren't paying attention). I think you will love school and can't wait to see it.

We can usually talk our way through "disagreements" and there are far fewer lost privileges and pout-a-thons. On occasion, though, we will have an issue and I am often surprised by your response: true tears and sadness, I think because you are taken off-guard and disappointed in yourself and disappointed in making us angry or upset. It makes me sad, but is a sign of your maturity and developing empathy and we can usually hug it out.

You love to watch videos of yourself as a baby, and we often compare what Georgia is doing now to what you were doing then. I love to go back and see that baby version of you - things I couldn't see or didn't appreciate at the time, but now cherish. Your little voices and funny faces - things that are so "Ellen" - that I still see glimpses of now and then. I check on you every night before I go to bed - generally tucking your legs and arms under the covers, or moving one of the seven different things in your bed to give you more space. You are usually snuggled up in your Boppy, arms clenched around the animal of choice. One night recently I came in and you were sleeping on a real pillow, all tucked in, no friends or blankets in bed. It almost made me cry to see your wild head of hair spread over that pillowcase.

Turning 5 seems monumental: this next year will really change everything that we've known and how we've adapted to work as a family. It is a challenge I know you will help us meet. We couldn't be more proud of you. We love you so much and genuinely like you, too. You make us laugh, you challenge us, you sometimes make us crazy, but at the end of the day, it's all worth it. A million times over.

Love you, my favorite Big Girl,

Friday, November 1, 2013


Sweetest Georgia -
I still see you and think of you as the baby, and perhaps always will (apologies in advance). I find it impossible to believe that you have been part of our lives for a full year, though the idea of you had been present for much longer. I won't say that you completed our family, because I feel our family was very special before, but you have added a certain something that makes everything, well, better.

You are, mostly, a delightful little girl. You were a terrific baby and, while I have only fleeting memories of your early days, I guess that is in part due to the fact that you weren't all that demanding. (Also certainly due to the sleep deprivation, however brief it was). I think you liked to snuggle more than your big sister did and, in fact, are coming around to it again - you know that we think it's cute, so you snuggle with us to get a big show of affection. Smart.

You are not very communicative with words - grunting of varying tones is your preference - but you are nonetheless quite expressive and can certainly get your point across. You do this snorty pig nose thing that is impossibly cute and it seems to mean "look at me and/or I like that". You sign "all done" (quite forcefully at times) and even use it when I ask you if it's time for night-night ... yes, darling, I too feel that way at the end of the day. You have started to sign "milk" and "more" and "please" and there is nothing greater than the big smile on your face when I cheer you on for doing it correctly. You use a "thhhh" sound for "paci" and I watched you this morning with not one, but TWO, pacifiers in your bed and your excitement could hardly be contained. I hope you are always as easy to please.

On the whole, I think you are a better sleeper than Ellen ways, or perhaps I just worry about it less. You do tend to sleep later in the morning (hallelujah) and I love coming to get you in the morning: I turn on the light in your room, you squint your eyes through your mop of hair, adjusting to light from darkness. You then generally proceed to roll around in your bed with your dee-dee and animal friends, if Ellen has thrown them in. So happy. I pick you up and typically you stretch your arms to the ceiling and try to shimmy out of my arms, ready to start your day.

You are easily amused, but do not laugh at just anything. Kind of like me. It takes serious tickles or roughhousing (flopping on pillows is your favorite) to get a cute little laugh, or, really, any goofy thing that Ellen does. You can generally keep yourself busy with something, but from the time you could really crawl, you flock to some loose cords that you know you aren't supposed to touch. (Yes, we should just cover them up). You do it Every.Single.Day. You get close to them, catch my attention, and look at me with the most ornery grin. I worry about you as a teenager.

Though we spend more time with each other than anyone else, it warms my heart to see that Ellen is probably your favorite person. You can hear her from a mile away and you twist and contort your body in the most uncomfortable-appearing ways, just to get a peek at what she is up to. You like to play with her toys more than your own, of course, and she is kind and generous with you. I hope you are always so sweet to each other.

More and more you are at the age where I can see the wheels turning in your head as you figure things out. We have been going back and watching old videos of Ellen at your age and I just can't believe the changes that seem to happen so fast. I am eager for the next year - to learn more about your personality, likes and dislikes, strengths and weaknesses. What a gift to the three of us - to watch you grow up - we are so lucky.

I love you, sweet girl -

Wednesday, October 9, 2013

Links to stuff

As Georgia approaches her first birthday, I think I am having flashback nesting or something. I cleaned and purged all the cabinets in our bathrooms last week and re-folded all the towels in our linen closets. Wha?!?

And, I also purged my Inbox again - feels so good. :)

Ellen started soccer this Fall - not because she asked to, but because there was a Pre-K team for our local school and we thought it would be good to meet some people. Nice folks, Ellen couldn't care less about it. Oh well. This article has been making the rounds and I thought it was perfect: Best Parenting Tip Ever. I didn't play sports growing up, yet I still find myself talking through her games with her on the ride home. No more.

Your Kids and Money: Teaching the Value of a Dollar - this is from NPR, had a few good pointers I thought. We really don't have a formal system at our house, though Ellen has been more interested in helping with extra chores (folding laundry mostly) and she gets paid a bit for that.

You Should Make Your Own Baby Food - I hesitate to link to this because GUILT, but I think she has some good points. I must say that I find the ease of baby food pouches SOO nice for when we are out and about, or when we are rushing back to the house from errands or something and Georgia is due to eat lunch, like, 12 minutes ago. I otherwise make all of her food, yet I find the older she gets the more complicated it becomes, when it seems like it should be the opposite. I want to make sure she is getting a good balanced diet and, while we eat mostly very healthy meals around here, it's not always easy to have the right mix of leftovers in the fridge for her. So, more cooking and freezing it is (I am still loving the Nurture Baby recipes - most recently lentils, baby lasagna, chicken florentine and southwestern beans and rice).

Caught my eye: Kid Edition - some parenting links on 320*Sycamore's blog

The six ways we talk about a teenage girl's age - not news, per se, but still an interesting approach to this topic and scares the bejeezus out of me, of course.

Saturday, October 5, 2013

Have Baby, Will Travel - the beach edition

This makes it sound like we just got back from the beach when it was, in fact, 1 month ago. In some ways I feel like I'm just finally recovering and in other ways it feels like forever ago. In my head I was mentally packing and preparing for that trip from the moment we booked it until the night before we left, which was probably like 10 weeks, and it takes awhile for that mental energy to drain away. Just me?

A few things I thought may be helpful:

We rented a house in Watercolor, Florida through VRBO and it was just perfect for our group of 3 families with 5 young children. Our friends are very familiar with the resort and pushed hard to get us close to the beach and pool, which was KEY. I didn't anticipate how many trips I would make back and forth in the stroller with Georgia, but it was a lot. The older kids rode in trailers on bikes with the adults after the first day of everyone walking wasn't super pleasant / efficient, but I couldn't really do that with her.

We were so lucky that the house had 4 bedrooms and 4 full bathrooms, giving everyone as much privacy as you can get on a beach vacation. In retrospect, the only thing that would have put the house over the top would have been an extra room / nook for alternate child sleeping arrangements. We put the 3 bigger kids in a bunk room together and figured the first night would be rough and then they would settle in. Not so much. Would have been nice to have an air mattress and a separate place to put someone. Next time. (The closets were big enough for babies in pack n' plays - hooray!)

Speaking of Pack n' Plays, I didn't want to travel with ours and looked into renting one through a local baby gear rental place, but it was actually cheaper to buy the bare bones version at Walmart and pick it up when we got there. I had it shipped to the store for free and the Walmart was like 10 miles away. Perfect.

We ended up booking a shuttle from the airport to our house as we were leaving a day earlier than the rest of the bunch and there really wasn't a car big enough for 4 adults / 4 kids in car seats anyway. It was a little cheaper than a rental and (mostly) more convenient. I hemmed and hawed about the car seat situation and, in the end, rented seats from the shuttle service since it was just the trips to and from the airport. Again, similar to my previous experience with renting car seats, it was mostly a shit show. The drivers, though nice as could be, had no idea how to properly install a car seat, which left me fumbling with a strange car seat and installing it rear-facing for Georgia. Ugh. And, though I requested a high-back booster for Ellen, she had just a regular booster, which made me nervous as she is still in a 5-point harness in our cars. I just held my breath and thought lots of good thoughts while we were in transit, but it wasn't great.

We booked the trip in June, but didn't travel until Labor Day, so I watched Target and such for sales on their pool and sand toys and bought some cheapie things, along with some $1 activities and mailed a big box ahead of our trip for pick up at the local UPS store. It had pool/sand toys (I didn't know what would be at the house, but there were quite a few things when we got there), a box of crayons, a big roll of coloring pages that was a big hit, glow sticks, a few card games, and food for Georgia. I also picked up a cheap mesh laundry bag at the dollar store to hold all the beach toys, an inflatable pool that I thought G could sit in on the beach (never opened) and a floaty pool thing for G (which she did use).

I was trying to avoid getting to Florida and spending our first day (or days) at Walmart and the grocery store, though turns out we pretty much did that anyways. We talked about planning meals ahead of time, though I guess had too much other stuff to think about, so we just did it when we got there and also had some aimless wandering at a strange Walmart. If we go again, I will try to plan a little better in advance, though you are always at the mercy of a strange kitchen and that can make cooking your "go to" easy meals kind of tough. Of note, I did intend to take a Sharpie to put names on plastic cups, but forgot it and we scrounged one up half-way through the weekend.

We packed pretty compactly, but still brought too much. We had laundry at the house (again, KEY) and multiple loads ran everyday. The kids just pretty much rotated between swimsuits/cover-ups and PJs, so didn't even make it through the limited number of outfits we brought. Also, that tip about rolling clothes really is a space-saver!

As for the beach, neither of our girls were into it. Georgia was newly crawling - no bueno in sand - and Ellen didn't like the feel of the sand very much and far preferred the pool. Huh. I did get some pictures of them (most expensive pictures of 2 girls in swimsuits of all times), but we hardly spent any time there. Also, this particular beach is white sand and gorgeous, but almost no shells - I think that would have entertained the older kids a bit more.

Speaking of pictures, if you intend to get some family pictures on vacation, try to do it earlier in your trip. I kind of realized the day before we left that we really didn't have a good sibling pic of the girls or any documentation of the 4 of us together. Tried to squeeze that in with showers / cooking dinner / fantasy football drafts and, well, you can see all of that in our faces.

The flights were actually great. We had a short-ish layover on the way down and little longer on the way home, but I think I almost prefer that to a 2-3 hour continuous flight with small children. The older kids were entertained by coloring and electronics and Georgia didn't sleep at all, but ate for entertainment (unlike our trip to Austin). I had read a tip to bring blue painters tape on the plane for entertainment and the older kids didn't care, but surprisingly Georgia was really into it. And, could be used for baby-proofing at your destination!

All in all, it was so fun to see the girls have so much fun. This was not a "vacation", but rather a "trip" as our friends said. It was not relaxing for us, but I'm glad we did it. I think we may even attempt it again someday??? And, next time, we are instituting the "buffer day" when we get home - one more day off at home to get your bearings. Jumping right back into work /school is tough.

Wednesday, August 28, 2013


My Inbox is swallowing me alive. I used to pride myself on having no more emails in my Inbox than I could see on one screen. In the last few weeks, however, it has gotten completely out of control for reasons that are still unclear. I've been filing things away in my "blog to do" folder for that elusive day when I have time to blog. So, I'm just going to purge and link to a lot of things here that you may or may not find interesting. Or may or may not have time to read (I'm voting on "may not" - you won't hurt my feelings). Is it bad that cleaning out my Inbox feels like cleaning up my  house?

So, some reading for your relaxing Labor Day weekend plans at the pool. Wait ... are you doing that? Take me along.

What Should a 4-Year-Old Know: I think this is kind of viral on the Facebook, but was timely for me as I'm trying to restrain myself from worrying about Kindergarten ONE YEAR AWAY. (And also, a few concrete guidelines that help reign in my craziness).

Why I Am The Perfect Mother. God bless "average".

Child Safety: Stranger Danger Warning Needs Updating - I know I've posted about this before, but it is a conversation I need to keep having with Ellen. I like the ideas about teaching safety as a value, just like kindness and honesty and whatever else. Also, adding "Did anything happen today to make you feel uncomfortable?" to your standard questions about the day. And teaching about acceptable strangers.

"If my son wanted to dance, I would kill myself" - can't remember where I came across this, but nice story about celebrating the interests of your children.

Similarly, How Do You Teach The Beauty of Different - good tips.

The Last Time - also went kind of viral, but sweet and tear-inducing. I find myself compulsively documenting Georgia's sweet quirks these days, knowing that in the midst of all these developmental milestones, so many things will fall by the wayside.

How To Teach Kids To Say Sorry - We haven't really used "time out" for Ellen in years. On rare occasion when she is out of control, I do ask her to sit in a chair and calm down before coming back to talk with me. Most of the time, though, we talk things through and I explain why I am upset or frustrated with her behavior and I ask her how she could make a better choice next time. It works pretty well for us. The biggest AHA! I had lately, though, is that for your children to really learn the importance of apologizing, you need to apologize to them when appropriate. Not long ago, I lost my temper with Ellen during crazy-after-work-dinner-hour. I raised my voice and I don't think she expected it and she sulked away to the couch and cried quietly. I felt, in a word, terrible. I sat down for a snuggle and really apologized to her and explained why I had acted that way. Made us both feel better.

My Daughter Went Away to Camp and Changed - I've been very nostalgic for my days at Summer Camp lately. This was a nice article about the importance of activities that belong solely to your children and the happiness that comes with that freedom.

We Need To Talk About Race and How Do You Talk To Kids About Race? - I think a lot of good points here. This is something I fumble through with Ellen in our very homogeneous community. I mostly remember a part of the Nurture Shock book that  talks about the "being blind to color" approach and how it doesn't really work. You need to talk with your children about race and not let them draw their own conclusions. Another area in which I feel ill-equipped to be raising a responsible human being, but I will try my hardest.

Raising Safe Swimmers and Here Comes the Sunscreen (gallery of pics of parents putting sunscreen on kids). Summer's over? How? When?

Well, if you have a kid who started back to school, check this out: Crayola Starts a new Recycling Program

This Morning I Yelled - I've linked to Dash and Bella before, good recipes, great writing

 Great Artist Mom - fun blog by a gal who developed an art program for elementary students. She has good ideas for encouraging artistic behavior, and practical tips on supplies, and nice videos here and there on drawing. A little advanced for Ellen, but she likes to watch me and then color in my drawings. One big take away that we use: "You are the artist of your own paper". I'm trying to get Ellen to not be such a perfectionist with her art ... wonder where she gets that?

Three Huge Mistakes We Make in Leading Kids - Again, I see this so many places, the importance of specific praise for children, not just platitudes.

A reminder to Get In The Picture With Your Kids! We just had our latest round of family pics with our favorite photographer. I wanted to document Georgia as she has changed so much from December, but also to have pictures of me with the girls. I spend most of my days with them, yet have little documentation of that.

I bet you do this anyway - narrate your day to your baby - but this reinforces the importance! The Power of Talking to Your Baby.

Nice series on Slate: How Babies Work - lots of interesting articles on babies, American vs. other, and some science behind infant development and such.

Friday, August 23, 2013

12 times a day

On my days at home, I calculated that I am feeding myself or someone else 12 separate times a day. What the what. Georgia is still nursing 4 times a day and then eats solids 3 times a day, though her "dinner" really stretches from 5-6:30 in spurts to keep her happy while the rest of us eat. Ellen eats the typical 3 meals, and generally 1-2 snacks which I didn't even count. I eat breakfast and lunch somewhere after I've fed both girls, then prep dinner so we can all sit down together for 9 minutes. I need roller skates.

Speaking of roller skates, my "advanced" age and the last pregnancy really did a number on my feet. I feel like a seriously old lady hobbling around all day. I haven't worn heels in almost 5 years and my feet still groan. I finally got some silver Gizeh Birkenstocks because I was trying to avoid a specialist visit and orthotics (told ya - that's an old lady word). I think they are working and - BONUS - it appears that Birkenstocks are all the rage in Paris this summer. Trend. Setter.

Georgia finally dropped her 3rd nap just past 9 months. It makes bedtime much more predictable - she is generally so exhausted she goes straight to sleep - but it also means that her last feeding needs to start at about 6:32pm. If it's 6:40pm she might start melting. It also means that the witching hour of 5:00-6:00pm really requires lots of song and dance to keep G happy. As I tell Ellen (frequently) - "The name of the game is Keep Georgia Happy". It's not that she isn't happy ... in fact, she is generally very happy, but I like to keep the status quo.

And, speaking of beds, one Sunday night I sat Georgia in her bed while I was picking up some things in her room and I just thought, "Huh. She looks like she could just throw herself out of bed, if only she could sit up on her own." I told Erik we needed to move her mattress lower and put it on the to-do list. The next morning I found her sitting up in bed. Mommy instinct. We moved her mattress down that night, and then she was clapping and crawling within 2 days. Spurts in development are amazing.

Back to food, we are on a good mix of spoon foods (fruit and yogurt for breakfast, some kind of veggie for lunch or lentils or cottage cheese, and usually a meat of some kind for dinner) and finger foods. The latest finger foods are string cheese cut up into tiny cubes, frozen mixed veggies or broccoli that I chop up, and random veggies or leftover eggs from our meals during the week. I also got frozen organic blueberries at Whole Foods and they are the little tiny wild blueberries - perfect size for G. Admittedly, I'm a little too OCD to let her mash them all over the place, but she loves them straight out of the freezer and still a little slushy. Also, I got a pack of small whole wheat tortillas at Whole Foods that don't have a lot of weird ingredients and I cut them in fourths and spread them out on a sheet to freeze them individually. I can pull one out, zap it for 10 seconds in the microwave, and then tear it up for her. She eats an unreal amount of food. I also got her to start drinking from a straw. I thought it would be easier for our upcoming trip and just got a Playtex sippy cup with a straw lid. We practiced for a day or two and I could squeeze the cup to get the water to come up through the straw so she knew what was happening. In contrast, it took Ellen a long time to figure out the straw - I think she was older.

And, back to nursing. (My thought patterns are like this all day - scattered scattered scattered). My milk supply continues to drop, but I want to keep nursing G through our vacation as it's just so much easier. I finally had a lightbulb moment and switched the breast shields on my pump back to the smaller size and it has increased my supply - maybe an extra 1-2 ounces each time I pump, which isn't a ton, but certainly something. I gave G her first bottle of formula today at home just as a test to make sure we had a back up for vacation and she sucked it right down - no problem. In fact, she looked so proud of herself laying down and drinking the bottle all by herself. Thanks a lot.

Friday, July 26, 2013

Feeding, Breast and Otherwise

I feel like if I had a third baby (not in the plan) I would really get this nursing / pumping thing down. I'm like the Goldilocks of breastfeeding - too much, too little - and I haven't quite gotten to the juussstt riigghhttt part.

With Ellen, I've come to the realization that I had a SERIOUS oversupply of milk. When you see how much milk was in my freezer, I think you would agree, but it didn't occur to me at the time how unusual it was. I started to wean her at 9 months, she was fully weaned at 10 months, and she still had breast milk through 12 months. Not exclusively, but most of her feedings each day were breast milk. Crazy. And, that was after I had purged about 600oz of milk shortly after I went back to work for lack of freezer space. That's all fine and good, except it also reflects the fact that I pumped every morning after I nursed her (literal time suck), and many times during the day if she didn't nurse well, and I leaked when she was due for a feeding almost every time for 9 months. No bueno.

So, with Georgia I was trying to reach a happy medium. I ordered 6 boxes of freezer storage bags before she was born and have barely cracked the second box. I have a little bit of milk in the freezer, but probably only a week's worth, and I find myself thawing some each week to make up the balance of her bottles and not putting any back. I think any time spent breastfeeding is worthwhile and I know 9 months is an accomplishment, but I have an unrealistic standard for myself based on the first go-round and I'm a little stressed about my supply.

I stopped pumping after the first morning feeding around the time I went back to work because I just couldn't make it fit with the morning (harried) routine. But, I think most breastfeeding moms will say that they can pump the most milk in the morning and sometimes relatively little late in the day. I would always pump if Erik gave her a bottle, but if that was the last feeding of the day, I wouldn't always pump an equivalent amount. So, it's kind of a vicious cycle of chasing your tail. I was pumping enough at work to make her bottles, but that has slowly tapered down (and probably accelerated when she was sick for 2 weeks and feeding poorly) and now I'm not. I know it's not a big deal to give her formula, but I would like to avoid the cost if I can. Also, if I'm being really honest, I'm just not ready to wean her. She isn't disinterested in nursing at this age like Ellen was. It's fast and easy. It burns calories! So, we'll see how much longer we can hang on ...

Finally, in reading about pumping and supply and such, I've come across a few things about the motor on your breast pump wearing out. I'm not sure what Medela would say, but I've seen a few posts from moms who exclusively pumped about their motor wearing down. Not that it would quit, but was just less effective. I didn't exclusively pump the first time, but sure pumped A LOT, and I wonder if that may be contributing? Too late for me to get another pump, but might be worth investigating for someone else and I think many insurance companies cover the cost of pumps under the Affordable Care Act.

So, moving on to solids. Again, unrealistic standards I set for myself. I've decided that part of the reason I cook most of the food for my babies is because that is one of the ways I show people I love them. I like to cook, and generally find it kind of relaxing, but also I think I'm good at it. Not gourmet and not an expert, but cooking doesn't scare me. I'm not the best mom at taking my kids on adventures or reading all day long or playing sports with them, but cooking I can handle.

That being said, I spent 6 hours in the kitchen last Saturday (Ellen was gone which is the only reason it was possible) cooking for Georgia and I wondered at the end of it What.The.Hell.I.Was.Doing. I used to make the argument that it was cheaper to make your own baby food and I think it can be if you are strategic, but for me it always involves a trip to Whole Foods (with some extra things thrown in the cart, OF COURSE) and then 1+ hours cooking. Maybe (maaayyybbee) I break even if compared to organic food pouches.

But, I like knowing exactly what goes in her mouth and I love that she eats it up. Seriously - this girl can EAT. Hasn't turned her nose up at a single thing! We are venturing into meat and chunkier textured foods and I still find that the recipes on Nurture Baby are some of my favorite. I made the pork with apples and sweet potatoes last weekend in the crockpot, and the chicken soup (minus pasta, stirred cooked brown rice in after I pulsed it up), and the turkey and white beans. For all the recipes I strained the solids out and pulsed in the Cuisinart until tiny chunks, but not smooth.  I figured out the easiest way to freeze it is to use a small ice cream scoop and freeze single scoops on a foil-lined baking sheet, then move to a plastic freezer bag. We are stocked for 1-2 months and maybe then she'll be on mostly finger foods. Phew.

Finally, on the feeding front, I've wised up and realized that baby puffs are just an expensive thing to sweep up from the floor. Georgia really wants to have some kind of food to eat while we have dinner, so puffs kept her happy, but I've switched to puffed brown rice from Whole Foods. It comes in a plastic bag in the cereal aisle and is about $2 and lasts forever. They have all kinds of puffed grains, but rice seemed about the right size to start with.

And, just a health note of sorts. In the midst of Georgia's two week respiratory junky awful-ness, she was found to have an ear infection and we started amoxicillin. About a week later I noticed she had a little rash on her back, which progressively worsened over about 5 days. It conveniently started the day she first had wheat (pasta) and was worse the next day when she had wheat again. So, I took all wheat out of her diet, stressed about a wheat allergy, and racked my brain about what she could possibly be eating that would make her rash worsen. I took all sorts of stuff out of her diet (I had really just been giving her anything and not keeping track of what/when) and it was super annoying. We've come to the conclusion that she has the relatively common amoxicillin-associated rash, which I guess isn't a true allergy. It just didn't occur to me that the medicine would be the culprit because the rash started about a week after we started the medicine, but I guess that is how it typically starts. Sooo ... if your kid starts a new medicine, maybe be more mindful of what they are eating and not starting any new foods to save yourself a lot of time Googling "nightshade family allergies".

Friday, July 5, 2013

Summer schedule?

Guess I'm taking a not-planned, but clearly obvious break from this here blog. I find that the recovery from all things involving two small children takes, like, weeks. I wouldn't say we've been all that busy, but we were out of town for a long weekend, followed by a week of swimming lessons every evening, followed by a sick baby and, well, I know you get it. Harried is an understatement.

A couple of updates:

One, Ellen's bedtime had degenerated into a mess. Georgia is so easy these days, but Ellen's bedtime routine just required from both Erik and me at the time of day it was hardest to muster. So - new plan. We have two "tokens" (random pieces of wood I dug out of her treasure box and labeled 1 and 2). We do the regular brush teeth / potty / PJs / book / bed and try to move it along. She has 2 tokens to start the night. She can leave her room for "free" to potty as long as she gets back in bed by herself. If she needs to talk to me or Erik she can spend a token to do so, but only has 2 passes. If she keeps her tokens, though, in the morning she gets 1 or 2 stars on her ice cream chart. (I drew a picture of ice cream and filled it with little circles where the stars go). When her chart is full, ICE CREAM! I do randomly give her a star during the day if she does something especially good without prompting, but it's mostly a bedtime thing. I've also taken away stars for especially bad behavior. One time I was going to take away a star and forgot and I told her later she was lucky. "Well, too late now, Mom. HA HA!!" So, I then I erased one for sass. It has actually worked pretty well - we will see for how long. She did ask Erik to come up and scratch her back the other night - "It was worth a token, Dad."

Georgia was sicky, sick this week - same usual respiratory crap. Pro tip for the future: if you own a nebulizer machine and have the meds at home, take it all with you to the doctor's office visit. You can use all your own stuff and save yourself the $$ of getting it there. DUH. I'm sure we will be back ...

And, some stuff I've come across:
Good Guard, Bad Guard - how to know if your lifeguard is doing a good job. Ellen took swimming lessons for a full week and made great progress, but is still not swimming. She is almost LESS safe in the water because she feels confidant, but doesn't yet understand about quickly going into deep water and such. I was watching her and within seconds she took a few steps into the deeper end and was underwater and panicking and my friend had to jump in and pull her out. Not good times.

Similar to the emergency link last time, tips on packing a Go Bag. We haven't done this and, truthfully, I kind of glaze over when I think about it because it seems so monumental. I have a goal of becoming much more paper-less with our important things, which fits nicely with this. A high school acquaintance recently had a bad house fire, which makes all of this feel more important. And, makes me feel that Ellen really is old enough to start talking about this stuff. Again, glazing over ...

Some of my best friends are germs - really interesting article in the New York Times about the microbiome. Well, interesting for you science-y folk. Most fascinating part to me? There are compounds in breastmilk that babies can't digest, but they are specifically intended to nourish good bacteria in the baby's gut. Amazing.

Why Women Aren't Crazy - interesting article, with a take-away message of using caution in how you address your children, girls in particular. I find myself often telling Ellen - "you are so dramatic!" and over time, I think it becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy. I'm trying to be more aware of what I say to her or how I describe her actions.

Finally, there was a nice article in Parents magazine this month about encouraging kindness in your children - teaching it as a skill, just as you would responsibility and independence and such. For those of you who have time to read, it lists two interesting-sounding books: Raising Happiness: 10 Simple Steps for More Joyful Kids and Happier Parents, and Becoming the Parent You Want to Be. It basically talks about listening to your kids - is their complaint about a tummy ache or hurt toe masking their desire for an extra snuggle or some special attention? Also, cultivating a culture of cooperation - helping your kids pick-up. Essentially, if there is a situation where you would normally like some help for yourself, do the same for your children. I must say that I'm probably not good at this - it would be kinder of me to offer to help Ellen at times, and then hope my example encouraged her to do the same for others. And, being kind to yourself - taking time to do nice things for yourself is part of taking care of your family.

Thursday, June 6, 2013

Summer safety

I feel like every time it gets warm I put something on here about water and sun safety. So, consider me a broken record and settle in for a similar read. I am hyper about water safety - it is probably one of my most anxious-making kid tasks. We are FINALLY getting some real swim lessons this summer and I have high hopes. I also have terrible guilt about the sun exposure I had myself as a child / teen - how could I have been so stupid? By the time you are old enough to realize the error of your ways, TOO LATE. So - trying to start my girls off on the right foot.

The New York Times - The New Rules for Sunscreen

And, this article has been everywhere,  but it's a good one, so just in case: Drowning Doesn't Look Like Drowning

And, while we're at it, from Rookie Moms - Safety Tips I Learned From My Village.  Do you have a family disaster plan? A fire escape plan? Do you practice? These are other things that keep me up at night.

Also, sort of related, a random tip to get in the habit of smelling your child's liquid medicine when you pick it up from the pharmacy. Especially if it's something given for a long period of time, like Georgia's Zantac. It is flavored with a peppermint flavor and smells kind of minty / medicine-y, but she really hasn't made any faces about it since she was bitty. She gets it twice a day and it is no issue now. Well, one day recently she flat out REFUSED to take it. Like, after 5 attempts - no go. I had recently refilled the bottle, so I smelled it and it smelled horrible - like minty, rotten food. I called the pharmacy to make sure it wasn't expired or anything and it wasn't, but they checked the bottle and agreed something was "off". They replaced it with a different brand and there hasn't been an issue since. So strange and NEVER would have occurred to me.