Friday, December 30, 2011

Reading around

I read a lot of blogs. Some are linked over to the right in my sidebar. Many are not. I read them for a wide variety of reasons-- they're interesting, or entertaining, or infuriating, or eye-opening, or or or. There are lots of reasons to read blogs.

I've mentioned one of them before. There's the blog with the mother who's a fabulous and gifted photographer, but she goes far over the top with what she does for her kids. She doesn't do anything simple; everything's beribboned to the point of (my) exhaustion.

I should say here that it's absolutely her right to do whatever the hell she wants for her children. If she wants to make homemade labels for the bottles of root beer at her daughter's birthday party, more power to her. They were adorable. But I'll be the one throwing cans of pop in a giant garbage can full of ice, thanks.

She's been blogging lately about how she is admittedly obsessed with making amazing holiday memories for her kids. She's done this in a variety of ways, most up at the level of the homemade root beer labels above. Some of the ideas are charming. Others I just don't get. It's her family, so she's choosing how she wants to create the holidays for them; it brings her joy, and that's fantastic.

Someday, though, I hope her kids don't feel like they're failing if they can't achieve that level of heavily-ornamented, highly engineered holiday shenananigans for their own families. (And I bet you a dollar that most of the moms in her 'hood want to bop her over the head with one of her crafty gifts.)

I have wonderful memories of holidays in my own family. Thinking about them, my memories primarily revolve around being with family and friends, and having a sparkly Christmas tree. That's pretty basic. Those are things I can do for Elle-- I've been doing them already, for both of her first two Christmases.

What does it boil down to? We all parent in our own way, and we parent in the way that is right for us. Elle doesn't need glitter on her driveway to know that Christmas is special, and that she is loved.

Whatever works for that mom, great. Whatever works for me, great. I just have to remember not to judge myself against someone else's standard.

And-- maybe even more importantly-- I have to remember not to judge her for the choices she makes, either.

Wednesday, December 28, 2011


We're taking a break from swimming lessons in January-- somehow, the logistics of wet toddler-wrangling in the middle of a Midwestern winter seemed like too much. We'll resume in the spring.

But I really liked having that one night a week where we didn't do our usual routine. (home/dinner/bath/stories/bed.) I liked having a more structured activity with Elle.

So, since at this age children are stuck with activities that reflect their parents' interests, I've found a local place that does music classes for kids and parents. They have age-appropriate classes that sound fantastic, and even segue into actual instrument lessons when the kids are older. There's a toddler class that sounds so right up my alley I could just pop.

Now, I know perfectly well how to turn on music and dance around with my daughter. We do it frequently. But I like the idea of a more structured process, with the bonus of interacting with other kids her age.

It's tough to find after-work classes. The time window is so narrow for toddlers-- the class has to pretty much be at 5:30 or 6:00, and that's it. In the little suburb I live in, there are thousands of daytime opportunities for the SAHMs. Great for them, not for me. So I was thrilled to find this class and am really looking forward to it.

So Elle will now have had classes in swimming and music, decided upon by her former swimming and currently singing mom. If she gets into soccer, I'm in big trouble.

Sunday, December 18, 2011

Holiday cheer

People keep asking what I'm getting Elle for Christmas. Hello? She's 17 months old. I could give her a plastic-wrapped disposable spoon and she'd probably go mental with joy.

That said, I do have a few small things under there for her to unwrap, and I suspect my parents will show up with a U-Haul full of plastic toys that make noise. (They think it's funny. Having asked them multiple times to look for toys that require more than pushing a button, I don't find it quite as hilarious.) I did give them a list for her, trying to guide them a bit, so we'll see how that goes. Some books, mostly, and maybe a little chair that's sized for her. She spends a lot of time sitting on the bottom step, looking cool, so I think a chair would suit her well now.

(I feel like she's still a bit young for a kid-sized table and chairs set. That's for sometime in the coming year.)

Depending on how much they show up with, I am planning to tuck a few things away for long winter weekends when someone needs a little distraction!

My parents will be here for a week. There's a lot to do in that week, so I'm not as bothered by their presence in my small house as I might be otherwise. We're actually taking Elle to daycare one day that I'm off work and going out as adults-- as much as we all adore our resident toddler, it's possible to have a much more relaxing outing without her once in a while. We're having a friend to dinner one night, I'm taking Elle to the choir Christmas party one night-- for a while, anyway-- and we're even having Elle's sitter over for dessert on Christmas day.

It's a busy week. I guess I should get my house decorated!

I feel a little odd going to the choir Christmas party-- I've only made it to one rehearsal since the season started this fall, and haven't sung a single Sunday. I still see many people at church in general, and the choir director knows that for Elle's first couple of years I won't be around much, so I guess I shouldn't feel that weird.

When she's a little older, I'll just take her to rehearsal with me. A number of people do that; there's an anteroom where kids play while grownups practice. I hope there will be other kids around her age then-- at the moment, there's a whole mess of them in the 5-10 age range, but Elle's alone in the younger set. That may, and probably will, change.

I double-checked that a toddler would be welcome at the party, and got the response that it would be completely unacceptable if I didn't bring her. "After all, she's OUR choir baby," said the hostess indignantly.


Thursday night Elle stayed over at her sitter's so I could go to my work holiday party. I didn't get home from the city until 8:30, people! Crazy!

Of course, I came home and did laundry. Wild, that's me.

I could say that I didn't sleep well with Elle not there and try to impress you with what an awesome sentimental mom I am. Sorry-- I actually slept like the proverbial log, then made all kinds of noise the next morning when I could get up and shower without worrying about disturbing her. (The day where Elle's old enough to leave unattended while I shower will be a very good day.) Part of the joy of having a sitter I trust and a daughter who seems to be remarkably adaptable (except for the carseat) is that I really don't have to worry much unless I want to.

It was good to see her Friday night and listen to her babbling about her day, but if I know she's safe and loved, I'm apparently fine. If my parents lived closer, I know I'd be fine with her staying over periodically. I'd love to have her do that with them.


Online time is likely to be minimal at best in the next week or two, so if you celebrate Christmas, merry Christmas! If you celebrate Hanukkah, happy Hanukkah! If you celebrate Kwanzaa, happy Kwanzaa! And if you don't celebrate anything but just enjoy having a bit of time off work, enjoy your time off work.

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

S times 2

I was just thinking the other night about two friends—they share the same first name, but they are very different. Yet they were both critical influences in my path to single parenthood.

The first S (we’ll call her S1) is a friend through work. She’s actually one of our vendors; she’s been in the business for years and I’ve worked with her for ages. We’ve always gotten along and chat about almost everything but business when we’re together. We’ve compared dating woes and lamented single life (and celebrated it, more than once).

S1 has a beautiful daughter, now 5, who she adopted from Viet Nam as an infant. She did this as a single parent. When S1’s daughter was about a year and a half old, we went to lunch. I was honest: I wanted to pick her brain about being a single parent. She was so excited to share her experiences.

At that point, I was planning to adopt. I even went to an orientation at the agency she used. At this lunch, S1 talked candidly about surviving the first year of her daughter’s life (and make no mistake—the first year as a single mom is primarily a test to see if you can keep your child alive and not lose your mind. But that’s another blog post, I think). She talked about how her life had changed, for better and for worse. She talked about her daughter. She answered any question I posed to her honestly.

It was enormously helpful.

I remember in particular one thing. I asked S1 how she knew she was ready to take that step. Because, let’s face it: When you choose that path, you’re tacitly admitting that another path isn’t possible at the moment. Sure, many single moms end up dating and marrying and even having more children. But it’s not likely to happen for at least a little while, simply due to logistics. When you choose single motherhood, you’re de facto delaying other choices.

S1 said she just knew. And she looked at me and said “When you’re ready, you’ll know it too.” We talked about how, then, I wasn’t ready.

Fast forward to New Year’s Eve 2008. Out to dinner with friends to ring in the New Year, my friend S2 mentioned that, in 2009, she was going to talk to her doctor to find out how to move forward with getting pregnant. We were with other friends, and all of us were excited for her, and we talked a little bit about it, and moved on.

At that point I’d attended a couple of adoption orientation sessions and had researched international adoption possibilities. I had also learned that I would not be receiving a sum of money I’d been expecting. That was the money I had planned to use for adoption expenses, and it would have covered the large majority of them. With that money out of the picture, I was looking at draining my savings in what was an increasingly more risky economy.

So when S2 mentioned getting pregnant, I though “Huh. I should really look at what my insurance covers. It wouldn’t hurt to ask about it, would it?”

And here I am.

For the record, S2 never made it past the starting gate on getting pregnant. That’s fine. Everyone does different things and takes different paths. But I might not have looked into it without S2 bringing it up. Or I might have waited too long-- those of you who've been reading for a while might remember that due to my company being acquired and insurance changing, I lost coverage for fertility treatments at the end of 2009. Three months after I conceived Elle. If I hadn't looked into it when I did, I might have run out of time and money.

It's a funny world.

Our lives are a series of events, of choices, of steps and missteps. Funny how things work out. Both my S friends had a part inthe life I have today, along with a dozen or a hundred other people, a dozen or a hundred other choices.

It's a funny world.

Sunday, December 11, 2011

My posting vacation has not been due to anything other than normal life craziness. All continues to be well.

Elle is a full-fledged toddler now, with all that entails. I shouldn't find tantrums so entertaining, but (usually) I do. Does that make me a bad person?

I haven't seen this yet, but according to her sitter, when she does into FULL-blown tantrum mode, this is how she does it:

  • Lowers herself carefully to the floor.
  • Rolls onto her stomach.
  • Has a tantrum.
  • Looks up periodically to make sure you're paying attention.
That's my girl-- no flinging herself down randomly for Elle! You might get hurt if you do that, after all.

We went to a single mom holiday brunch today which was so, so much fun. The hostess has multiple floors, so she set up the kids on the first floor with babysitters, then the moms (and babies, and toddlers that refused the basement) on the second floor. I left Elle down there a little tentatively... and she stayed the whole time. (Which only ended up being about an hour and change, since it was midday and I needed to get her home for a nap at some point.)

Other moms coming up and down let me know she was fine. Eventually I went down, and she was very happy to see me, came over and gave me multiple hugs (this is my favorite thing ever, by the way), and then sat in my lap so I could read her a book. ("Reading" right now involves her pointing at things and telling you an involved story, none of which makes any sense. Fine by me.) The sitters who were watching the kids (and man, they should get hazard pay) said Elle was so good-- friendly with the other kids, happy, laughing, adaptable.

She's fabulous. Not that I'm biased, or anything.

Saturday, November 19, 2011

Giving thanks ( a little early)

While Elle's napping on this grey, chilly afternoon, I thought I'd pop in and update. Apologies for the lack of regular updates-- it's been an incredibly busy few weeks, with colds, coughs, and developmental changes. Blogging isn't just taking a back seat; it's dragging behind the car hanging onto a rope for dear life.

We have walking (unsteadily), we have even more talking, we have desperately wanting to see what Mama is doing in the kitchen AT ALL TIMES. We have the increased clinginess/neediness/whining that comes with major developmental changes. We also have the amazing leaps in growth and comprehension that make the clinginess/neediness/whining easier to bear-- her receptive language comprehension grows exponentially every day, and her spoken vocabulary continues to develop. Maybe I should say it continues to become more comprehensible? I feel like she's been saying many of these things/phrases forever, but just hasn't been articulating them to the level where I can understand them. Mama is slow sometimes.

Elle is a joy, every day, even when I'm tired and sneezy and wish I could crawl into bed without obligations, like I did before I became a parent.

This Thanksgiving, I am thankful for my amazing daughter. I am thankful my tiny family is healthy, barring colds and sneezy. I am thankful for our friends, who continue to be in my life despite how my life has changed. I'm thankful for my good job and my excellent health insurance. I am thankful for the roof over our heads, the food on our table (even when it gets flung to the floor), and the clothes on our backs. We have been given so many blessings; I don't want to take a single one for granted.

If you celebrate it this week, happy Thanksgiving. If you don't, have a great week.

Sunday, November 6, 2011

Danger! Danger!

I'm told that the toddler aversion to trying new foods is actually a protective measure that's built in-- it stops them from eating potentially dangerous/toxic foods. I guess if you're living in a cave, it's good to have instincts that stop you from eating whatever random things you find growing on a bush, hm?

Given that Elle is not exactly finding random food in random places, the look of deep suspicion she gives to new foods I put on her high chair tray makes me laugh. One would think that avocado is made of green toxic alien brains, for instance. She almost took a bite of it tonight, then thought better of it, flung it back on her tray, and rubbed the remaining bits of it all over her face. (This must be how people discovered avocado facial masks! Ha!)

I keep putting new food on there, periodically, with the idea that it will eventually work. It did at lunch today, shockingly-- she willingly ate several slices of mandarin oranges, which has expanded her group of "fruit she'll eat without it being hidden in applesauce" exponentially. I've been putting it in front of her off and on for weeks now; she's eaten a piece or two, here and there. Today was the first time she ate it with purpose and enjoyment.

I'm glad-- she needs all the vitamin C she can get, as do I.


We had our first playdate yesterday at our house-- it was complete and total chaos but fun, and smart to have it the night before we fell back for daylight savings time. Elle was so pooped that she woke up at pretty much her normal time on the clock this morning, though of course it was an hour later than her usual waking. Naps were borked today and she was asleep within minutes of me putting her down-- and I put her down early, which I will probably regret. But baby girl was tired.


In other news, with Halloween over, candy corn will not be easily available in the stores. THANK GOD. I, and my butt, are grateful.

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

So close

I've been reading the Tumblr for the 99%-- I can't possibly keep up with every posting, but I scan them periodically. What strikes me most is that these are (generally) not people living stupid lives; they're people who've done what middle-class people have been doing in this country for generations, and now have no way out, no help, no health insurance. The middle class of our parents' generation is fast becoming a memory.

There are some that hurt more than others to see. There are a good number of veterans on there, barely surviving. There are parents not knowing how they will pay for clothing for their babies. There are parents who eat one meal a day so their kids can eat three. There are people who can't afford medications and/or treatment for conditions that are easily helped with one or both of those things.

It's common for Americans to scoff at people like this. It's their fault. They made bad choices.

I don't think it's that simple any more.

I'm by no means the 1%, but I feel like I was one of the last generations that got to grow up with health insurance (thanks to my father's job), go to college, and have my loans paid off within a (somewhat) reasonable time period of finishing school. I even had much of my grad school paid for by companies I worked for, which is also going the way of the dodo. I bought a home that, while it's not worth nearly what it was, at least isn't underwater; if I had to sell, I'd come out OK.

I am very lucky. I wish other people were so lucky.

I am also acutely conscious of how little it would take to put me in the category of the unemployed, the uninsured, the foreclosed, the repossessed, the terrified over how to make ends meet.

Anyone who thinks they're safe, that somehow it couldn't happen to them-- well, it could. It can.

Unless you're part of the 1%, it could always happen to you. At any time. And as a single parent, this is even scarier than it is for those who have another income (or at least the potential for another income) to rely on.

I look at Elle's curls, at her rosy cheeks, and know I'd do anything for her. So would any parent for their child-- well, almost any parent, I guess. I try to imagine how it would feel not to be able to meet her basic needs. It is an absolutely terrifying thought.

** **

I lost a co-worker (and friend) this week. It was a terrible accident. We'd just talked the evening before it happened, laughing over some silly situation in her office. The next morning, I sent off several e-mails to her, not knowing that she was already gone.

If we're talking about absolutely terrifying thoughts, let me add this to the list: not living long enough to take care of Elle. Not living long enough for her to remember me.

Rest in peace, my friend. Rest in peace. Your daughter is in my prayers.

Monday, October 24, 2011


Rhetorical question of the day:

How is it possible to love someone so much, yet want nothing more than a few hours away from them?

(I know it's possible; I've felt that with some of my relationships in the past. "I love you! I want to smooch you! Then leave me alone!" This is one of the many, many reasons I'm single.)

I have a friend coming over Saturday to hang with Elle, and I've got two hours to myself. I'm not going to do anything particularly thrilling, but it will be nice to have some much-needed time away.

I need to get on finding a weekend sitter. No luck so far. It will be easier when Elle is slightly older-- I'll be fine with a high school kid-- but when she's this small and (relatively) non-verbal, I want a sitter with a bit more maturity.

With the exception of actually walking (she's sooo close), Elle is now a full-fledged actual toddler, moods and all. This is apparently the time where they're figuring out that they're a separate person from mom, and realizing they can exert their own will over things/situations. Elle being Elle, she figured that out a while ago-- long before she'll figure out how to walk. My girl has a very strong personality, and very definite ideas of her own.

I've had to stop making eating any kind of a battle, for instance. If dinner is a saltine and three bites of cheese, that's dinner-- and she doesn't seem to be waking up in the middle of the night hungry, so clearly she's getting what she needs.

Sunday night dinner was about eight blueberries, five or six yogurt puffs and around 14-16 ounces of milk. (No, I'm not exaggerating. Literally, close to three sippy cups full, and they're six ounces each.) I think she had some American cheese, as well. Apparently she's craving calcium? She didn't want water, she didn't want food. She wanted milk.

So, anyway. I send a wide variety of nutritious foods with her to day care, she eats well there, and I can't kill myself over it beyond that. She will rarely try new foods right now, and I remind myself that's normal. Toddlers will eat when they're hungry, and it's been proven that they get the nutritional variety they need. Eventually.

When she will deign to acknowledge some new food that's been placed on her tray, her new method for testing it out is to squish it with the tip of her finger. She did this to a lima bean this past weekend and laughed delightedly when the outside of the lima bean came off, like a snakeskin. She eventually tried the lima bean and ate maybe one more; I'll keep trying.

One suggestion on a mom website was a bit of garlic salt-- they like the salty flavor and it gets them to try something new. Unfortunately, another toddler suggestion is to let them dip their food-- i.e. dip their bread into hummus, or their fruit into yogurt. This gets them nutrition, as well as gives them control over how they're eating. Sadly, Elle doesn't like combining foods. She doesn't even much like butter on her bread. She's a purist at the moment.

She did dip a saltine into applesauce tonight. Hm. Baby steps? Weird baby steps, anyway.

Elle has never been the most snuggly or affectionate baby. She's always been so busy doing other things and/or keeping an eye on the world; cuddling is time away from what matters. This means that when she is loving, I treasure it all the more.

This weekend I was sitting on the floor, slouched over (bad habit), and she scooted up behind me and hugged my back, resting her cheek on me for just a moment. She did it again a few minutes later.

Those are the moments that make it all worth it.

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

15 months

Dear Elle:

You are 15 months old. That doesn't seem right. I saw a baby today at work who was about six or seven months old, and that seems like the right number. 15 months feels too far along.

You are right on the brink of so many things: your one-year molars (two down, two to go), walking, complete sentences. There is not a moment where you aren't looking around for something to get into. You are a nonstop blur of activity; in fact, I'm having trouble getting clear pictures of you these days, even on the good camera. You have Things To Do.

These Things To Do are often hard on you. Molars are painful, and you don't understand why your mouth hurts. You are so good, really, even though you hurt. Walking is still something of a mystery to you, though you're figuring it out more each day. Language-- well, I'm not worried about that. Your vocabulary and receptive language are both exceptional. I don't understand all of your babbling, of course, and feel bad about that-- you sometimes look at me as if you're thinking "Lady, could I be more clear? Why don't you know what I'm saying?"

Sometimes, I feel like I'm just in your way. You have never been the snuggliest of babies and that has continued into toddlerhood. You are so alert and interested and independent; taking time to nestle into my shoulder probably seems like energy that would best be spent planning on how to destroy the dining room. So the rare moments when you wrap your hand around mine, or lean against me, or rest your head on my shoulder, are moments I treasure. It's also one of the ways I can tell when you're truly tired-- if you rest your head on my shoulder, I know you're really ready for bed.

We've started saying prayers at bedtime, as part of the routine. Nothing fancy-- we sit in the rocker and ask God to bless the people we love, ask for good dreams and a good night. Sometimes we'll say a more formal prayer, but it's usually just a few words before our last lullabye. You seem oddly attentive during this time; I think you recognize some of the names I list off, and maybe this short addition to the bedtime routine is already familiar and comforting.

I don't want to underestimate the power and importance of routine to you. Routine, especially for children, gives you something to hang on to. It's a structure that's part of your world. That lullabye (which has been the same since you were born), no matter where we are when I sing it to you, is always the same lullabye. All these tiny things, woven into your life in different ways, are things I can do to reassure you how much you are loved, and that you are safe.

You may only have one parent, but I will always try hard to be the best parent I can be. Sometimes that will mean getting out of your way. Sometimes that will mean holding your hand in mine as you toddle awkwardly across the floor. Sometimes it will mean holding you as you scream for no reason at all. Always, it will mean loving you.

Your mom

Sunday, October 9, 2011

If it's October, shouldn't I be able to pack away my shorts?

We are having strangely summer-like weather here in the middle of the country. I can't even call it a proper Indian summer-- it's summer, plain and simple.

I know it's probably related to global warming and doom, but it's kind of nice.

Elle's sound asleep right now; on the video monitor I can see her sprawled on her back, her little polkadot skirt all up around her waist, her hair tousled, her cheeks rosy. (It's a black and white monitor, but I know they're rosy.) Seriously, she's adorable. And I'm not at all biased.

When she gets up we are going out. OUT. Well, there will probably be a snack first (she's not eating much this weekend, again) but then we are going out to drink in every bit of this beautiful day. There will probably be a visit to the park in there somewhere, as well. You can't waste a day like today, after all.

No big updates, really. At the end of it, life-- whether you're single, married, a parent, or childless-- isn't always about the big updates. It's the little day-to-day things, good and bad, that make up the fabric of your life. Right now, they're mostly good things, and I count my blessings every single day.

Monday, October 3, 2011

City living

An unexpected day off today (my sitter was sick) ended up being a (mostly) lovely day. We're having sunny beautiful weather here in the middle; if you['re going to have an unplanned day off, might as well be able to get out.

Someone didn't want a morning nap, so we headed out to the library story hour, which is followed by open play. It's geared towards babies up to 15 months, so it's a nice time, and there were clearly a lot of moms who knew each other. There were a few I recognized, too, which made me feel good.

(One is a woman I go to church with; her girls were baptized the same day as Elle. She never seems to recognize me, though we've met more than twice, and doesn't make eye contact. Since she seemed not to make eye contact with anyone there, I'll say it's because she's shy, not because she hates me. But she probably hates me. Heh.)

Finally got Elle settled in for an afternoon nap, and was able to sit in on a conference call for work. As the call was winding down, about an hour later, I started hearing noise out behind my place. Sawing, of some kind. A quick glance at the video monitor told me that Elle wasn't moving; thank goodness. She needed that nap. She's a good solid sleeper; some sawing isn't going to bug her.

Within a few minutes, any hope of the nap going longer than an hour was gone. Because they started using jackhammers. Literally right under Elle's window.

She woke up crying and disoriented, and I gave up hope on both the nap and on getting any more work done and got us the hell out of there. The noise was so loud that there just wasn't anywhere to go in my house to get away from it, so we escaped entirely.

Again, thank goodness for the beautiful day-- long walk, a bit of window shopping, playing in the park (oh, we love the swings, yes we do). Really lovely end-of-summer day, and Elle was remarkably sunny all the way to bedtime, given her sleep deficit. She was out within about two minutes of hitting her crib. My poor girl.

She'll probably sleep most of the day at her sitter's tomorrow!

This is such a great age for her. I want to freeze her here, but I don't. I just have to enjoy every minute as much as I can. One of the hardest things about parenting is being truly present when you're worried about other things (bills, taxes, what's for dinner).

That stuff doesn't matter, really. What matters is your little girl holding a book up to you with an expectant look on her face, and dropping whatever you're doing to read it to her. That's what's important.

Thursday, September 29, 2011

Free Time

I e-mailed someone (who had posted to a local list saying she wanted babysitting jobs) about possibly babysitting; no response. How is it so hard to respond to my e-mail and say "Sorry, not interested"? Young people these days. Get off my lawn!

Getting exercise into my schedule is (as I've mentioned before) not as easy as it used to be. Sure, I could still go to the Y, but I leave Elle for 11-12 hours a day, five days a week, and I'm really not in the mood to add several hours a week on top of that. So I've gotten more creative. I use my much-loathed exercise bike, I've started the 200 situps challenge, and there's a yoga class once a week near my office. (I don't get to the class every week, not by a long shot, but an occasional yoga class is better than no yoga at all.)

The problem is-- and there's always a problem, isn't there?-- that the only time I reliably have to myself is after Elle goes to bed. Most of the time she's a good, sound sleeper, so when she falls asleep by 8 p.m.-ish, I have the evening.

Which sounds luxurious, doesn't it? No other kids to wrangle, no spouse to talk to. Just me.

Except it's me and all the dinner dishes, and then getting food ready for the next day. It's me and the bills. It's me and checking my e-mail. It's me and work I brought home. It's me and exercise.

Given that I should really be IN bed and on the way to sleep by 10 p.m. at the very latest, which therefore includes pre-bedtime ablutions, that's really not much time.

And it doesn't exactly work in any down time.

I was feeling really whiny about this the other day-- I need "me time," and always have. Being a parent, though, means that "me time" is last on a long list of things that matter. My time away from work, right now, is important as it relates to parenting Elle-- not as it relates to me having time to laze about on the sofa eating Cheetos and watching Law and Order reruns.

But sometimes, couch time is really appealing, and much-missed. Gym time, too. (I really loved the gym.)

I've been turning this over in my head the past few days, and what it's really come down to is that yeah, right now I have little or no time to myself. But given how quickly Elle's first year of life has gone (and it has gone so quickly that I can hardly believe it), the next 17 or whatever years will probably go by just as fast, if not more quickly. (And once she's older, even when she's still living at home, my time will of course be more flexible.)

In other words, the fact that right now I can't be as lazy as I'd like to be is just not a big deal. It's the blink of an eye, and she'll be out of the house before I know it, and I'll desperately miss the days where I was necessary. I'm pretty confident bad TV will still be around in 20 years, after all.

I think the same thing, really, about the various difficult developmental phases we've gone through-- yeah, it's awful for a day or a week or even, in some cases, a month. But then it ends and they're on to the next thing.

(NOT looking forward to the seemingly endless resentful teenager phase, but I'll cross that bridge when I have to.)

So yeah. By the time I finish up my nightly tasks and exercise it's well after 9. If I only get twenty minutes or so to myself, whatever. It's more than nothing, right? And my little girl is upstairs sleeping, and I can see her little dark head on the video monitor any time I want to. She is safe and sound, and her food for the next day is waiting for her, and her mom is in the basement hoping that an annoying exercise bike will keep her healthy enough to be around for many years to come.

My whiny need for down time is a first world problem, indeed. And I wouldn't trade Elle for all the bad cable TV in the world.

Now, if you'll excuse me, the exercise bike is calling.

Monday, September 19, 2011

Toddler Haiku

Why do you oppress
Me with your vegetables?
I want a cookie.

Sometimes I think you
Have fun while I am napping.
That is not allowed!

Why can't I pull all
The pots out of the cupboard?
On the floor is best.

If I throw myself
Off the sofa, I know that
You will catch me. Whee!

Sunday, September 18, 2011


I may have said this here before (I'm too beat to check) but a friend told me, back when I was pregnant, that as a parent time flies-- but sometimes days feel like they go on for years.

It didn't make sense to me until, eventually, it did. Today was one of those days.

I just keep repeating to myself "Something big is coming up developmentally. Something big is coming up developmentally." Whenever there's upheaval in sleep, eating, and temperament, something's coming down the pike. It could be more teeth. It could be more words; even at her tender age she's already so frustrated that she can't tell me what she wants. It could be walking-- she's trying so hard to stand; she pulls up on things and cruises OK now, but she's trying hard to stand up from the ground and can't quite get it. I also think she's starting to transition to one nap.

Whatever the hell it is, please let it happen quickly. I am tired.

Even with today being rough, it was actually a good weekend. Elle is a terrific toddler, really. She's still fascinated with books and (when she's not half-dead with exhaustion) can entertain herself for a good fifteen minutes with her various board books, paging through them, putting them on and off the shelf, etc. I don't have a lot to compare her to, obviously, but she seems to already be a pretty self-sufficient little one who can entertain herself pretty well. This, of course, is awesome.

I think she's finally asleep now. Thank goodness. My little muffin really needs a good night's sleep; let's hope she gets one. Let's hope I do too!

Sunday, September 11, 2011

Not my call, truly

The single mom gathering today was nice. I didn't know anyone there but if you're in a group of moms and you all have young children, you usually find something to talk about. Even if it's diapers. (Still not interested in cloth diapers, thanks.)

The single mom group I've been part of since before Elle was born, however, is made up of different people than this one. The group I've been in for ages is made up entirely of women who actively chose to become mothers, whether through artificial insemination (anonymous or known donor) or through adoption. It was a proactive choice.

With the group today, while I didn't find out how everyone became a mother (I'm not going to ask, after all; if it comes up, it comes up), the people I did find out about had all been involved with their child's father and the father left when he found out the woman was pregnant. In some cases, the father is involved (to widely varying degrees) in the child's life. In some cases, not.

I got to thinking on the way home, and later as I put together dinner (BTW, the pot roast was a complete failure. Boo! I've made this recipe a dozen times and never had it turn out this poorly)-- what is better? What is worse? Is it better to know who your father is but know that he has little or no interest in being in your life? Or is it better that you don't have a father, but you have a donor, who has no option for involvement?

I mulled this over quite a bit today. As I was cleaning up after Elle went to bed, I realized: I can't answer the question. The answer is probably different for every child.

And the child is the only person that can answer it for themselves.

I can do this

There are days when parenting feels impossible. Overwhelming.

And there are days where it feels OK. Like today. There's a pot roast in the crock pot (whether Elle will eat it or not, who knows). The mess in the house is at a manageable level. The laundry is done. Not put away, but done. We've read a couple of books together and played and had a pretty good breakfast (FYI, today strawberries are EVIL. Despite the fact that she'll eat them at the sitter's house. Whatever). We have a single mom picnic later today, and it's local-- I don't have to schlep into the city, even. The sun is out and maybe we'll take a nice long walk later. She's winding up her morning nap now.

I am blessed. Tired, but blessed. On this day, especially, I give thanks.

Friday, September 9, 2011

My little bookworm

Elle's new favorite thing: she likes to "read" to you. Great long unintelligible strings of consonants and vowels, with inflection and pauses and emphasis, and even checking for understanding. She turns the pages, and the story she's telling you changes with each page.

This can go on for 20+ minutes. Per book, and she likes to read multiple books.

It is ridiculously, ridiculously adorable. I need to get it on video (although she spots the camera and whoosh, short attention span theatre!).

Clearly, she's a genius.

I just love the age/stage Elle's at right now. Verbal, inquisitive, friendly-- she's just a treat every single day. But I looked at a very recent picture of her and thought "Holy crap, she's a full-fledged toddler." There's no baby in there any more, at all.

Twice a year, there's a consignment sale that benefits a local charity. I sold some of Elle's things there last spring and am planning to sell stuff this fall, as well. You don't make a ton of money, but it's something, and it goes straight into Elle's tiny savings account.

They sell stuff on a seasonal basis, so last night I pulled out Elle's outgrown clothes from last winter so I could start tagging them. Oh, my goodness. Oh. Those little six-month sleepers; I doubt she could even get one of her legs into them now. How is it even possible? How does it go so quickly?

This morning she was standing up in her crib, smiling and talking to me a mile a minute, and I just had to go over and kiss the top of her head over and over, breathing her in.

Don't grow up too fast, baby girl. Give me just a few minutes to drink you in as you are today, before you go off changing into someone new.

Thursday, September 8, 2011

Whoop de doo

Last week, a friend (not someone who reads this) posted on Facebo0k about how she made it to a store with her baby all by herself, and the baby was good the whole time. Apparently, going to the store alone with an infant is something to be celebrated.

(To be fair, she was also celebrating having found something on sale*, but the feel of the status update was definitely more "ooh, I did the store all by myself with the baby and no husband!")

Well, welcome to my life.

I love when friends want to go shopping with us, but 95% of the time, it's me plus an increasingly squirmy toddler strapped into the cart, moving as fast as we can. Elle likes shopping, sure, but the toddler attention span is (in)famous and not to be messed with. Our regular checker at the Tar.get knows to quickly scan whatever item she's entertaining herself with and GET IT BACK TO HER, in order to avoid Drama.

Being a single parent means many things, including getting things done with a little one in tow. You just... do it.

I guess when you don't have to "just do it," it's something to celebrate?

Saturday, September 3, 2011

One of the best parts of being a parent is seeing the world through their eyes. Elle is absolutely delighted by so many things-- things that are completely ordinary to those of us who've been around a while.

Here are just a few of the things that make her incredibly happy:

- Me, coming into her room in the morning when it's time to get up. Somehow, I birthed a morning person.

- Putting on socks. (She's already trying to put them on herself. Clearly, she's brilliant.)

- Asking her "do you want to brush your teeth?" She loves this. I think it's because she uses the kid toothpaste and it tastes like bubble gum, but it still cracks me up when she breaks into a huge smile after you ask the question. I should really get it on video.

- Fabric. She finds something-- a cloth napkin, a t-shirt that missed the hamper, anything-- and whips it around. Puts it on her head. Wraps it around her neck. She just loves playing with it; the drawer with napkins and a table runner in it is way more fun than 85% of her toys. This makes folding and putting away laundry a very non-straightforward process, but I've discovered I don't really care. She has so much fun-- I can put the laundry in neat piles later.

Simple pleasures. But watching how much fun life in general is for my girl, it's not so simple after all.

Thursday, September 1, 2011

Shake that booty

I'm about two years late to the party, but Lady Gaga's "Bad Romance" is one heck of a fun song. I have no interest in her or her persona. I just like to dance around every now and then.

Elle will shake her booty, too, depending on the song. It's so cute. Once she's walking (still not, though she's standing and pulling herself up, so she's on the way) I hope it continues.

I have a terrible weakness for Bollywood movies and music, as well. In our house, the item song "Sheila Ki Jawani" is cause for lots of laughter and booty-shaking. I don't need to know what the singer is actually saying; I'm all about the beat. And Elle thinks it is HILARIOUS; the chorus, in particular. Probably because I ham it up.

When I have some spare time (ha! ha ha ha HA!) I need to sit down and put together a dancing playlist on my IPod. I will love it so much if we are a dancin' kind of family, and I'd like to encourage it however I can.

I'm thinking Abba, maybe some Michael Jackson. Bollywood. Lady Gaga. I'll have to look through what I have. Suggestions welcome!

Sunday, August 28, 2011

It's funny. I really need a break. I need time to myself. I have always needed this; I recharge best alone.

But when I get a break, I spend most of the time thinking about getting back to Elle.

Everything changes, indeed.

(And I still need a break.)

Friday, August 26, 2011

Elle is not great at sharing. Yet. I believe this is typical for just-over-one-year-old toddlers.

Apparently this week at the sitter's, the sitter gave another little girl a cracker. Elle leaned over, smacked the little girl's hand, said "No," and took her cracker.

"Where did she learn that?" the sitter asked me.


Well, she learned that from me. Except for the stealing the cracker part.

Let me explain. No, there is too much. Let me sum up. (Gratuitous Princess Bride references always welcome in my house.)

Elle has a tendency to hit at my face-- not hard, but more flail-y kind of hitting. 99% of the time I take her hand, enfold it in mine, and say sternly "No. We do not hit Mama. We are nice." And then I take her hand and demonstrate "nice" face touching. Which she thinks is hilarious. I have no idea if she's actually learning anything from this, but it's how I respond almost every time.

A couple of times, though, I have tapped my fingers firmly on the back of her hand, said the same thing, and shook my head. It is not by any stretch of the imagination hitting her, but it is physical contact.

But she has clearly retained what happened and is duplicating it in her own social interactions. Something that has happened to her only a very few times-- and she's doing it herself. There are probably a zillion other things that have happened to her, and she's not duplicating them; this clearly made an impression on her.

I do not plan on using any kind of corporal punishment. (I am pretty sure, however, that I'll slip up and there will be the occasional swat on the butt.) No face slapping, no spanking, etc. It's not what I want to teach Elle. I was spanked and turned out fine, but those memories are not ones I want to duplicate with my daughter. I think every family needs to make their own choices, but I just don't think corporal punishment is necessary for mine.

It would be a stretch to say that Elle's memory of a back-of-the-hand tap is damaging or unpleasant for her, but again, it clearly made an impression. These little things that we don't even think about are soaking into children's brains and coming out in what they say, do, and think.

We are their role models, for better or for worse. Getting that lesson this early is sobering and (to be honest) scary.

She learned that from me. May the next time I see that happen, it be something better and more positive.

Thursday, August 25, 2011


My parents visited this past weekend. They adore Elle. She adores them. She will have precious little (blood) family as she grows up, so I want her to spend as much time as possible with her grandparents for as long as she can. My parents are not young, so all these moments are precious.

They don’t live in the area, unfortunately. I never thought I would want my parents nearby, but now I do-- for Elle, not for me. While they are still healthy, I’d love for them to be able to spend time with her. They talk about moving but just haven’t done what they need to do; some of that is because of the economy, and some of that is that I think they are in a bit of denial about the fact that, if they want to really know Elle, they will need to live in a major metro area that they (well, my dad, at least) doesn’t much care for. I'm not leaving anytime soon. This is where my support network is, and barring some kind of relocation relative to work, this is where I’ll be for a while.

(Someday, I’ll be in Colorado. But that’s a long way away, and my parents will be gone by then.)

What is funny is that when I talk to one of them about it, they each blame the other. And they believe it. Heh.

So they come, and they adore Elle (in their own ways, anyway; my confusion with how my mother interacts with her is a topic for another post). And I end up doing all the heavy lifting to enable them to spend time with her.

I guess that’s my role, maybe? I guess I don’t feel like they’re guests, exactly; they’re family, and I’m used to pitching in when I’m a guest in their home. That same thing doesn’t happen here, although my mother will usually cook at least one meal, which is nice.

I do wish I'd had a child when I was younger. I wasn't ready, though. And if I'd done this five years ago, I wouldn't have Elle; there's a reason for everything. Another advantage of younger parenthood is that my own parents would have been younger, around for more of Elle's life, and probably able to do more with her.

Regrets are natural, but a waste of time in the long run. You can't go back. I don't want to, anyway.

Friday, August 19, 2011

I would give you the moon

We’ve been taking swimming lessons at the local Y. (“Swimming lessons” consists, at this age, of splashing around singing. Elle loves it, and so do I.) I’ve enrolled us in both summer sessions, and just went to enroll in the fall session.

The price for fall went up by about thirty bucks. Thirty bucks. That's half again as much as it was. The session’s a couple of weeks longer, yes, but not that much longer.

I am not poor by any means, but I hate the way I feel when something like this comes along: there’s a moment of “oh, crap” and I have to think quickly about whether or not I can swing it. This is important to me, so I make it work.

But I wish I didn’t have to think about it. I wish thirty bucks wasn’t a big deal. I wish I could give Elle everything and anything, because she deserves it.

Quality parenting does not equal "giving the kid everything they want." I know that. But I also know that kids are smart, and if their parent(s) is constantly worrying about money, they figure that out early. I wish Elle wasn't going to have to figure that one out.

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Will you be my friend?

I am on Facebo.ok, along with half the universe. I post the bare minimum of personal information on there. I don’t even post pictures, because I don’t trust it. (I have been told by someone in the know that while they call themselves a social networking site, all they are really there for is to gather your personal information whenever they can and then turn around and use it to sell you to marketers. I believe this, and nothing that they have done throughout all the various privacy issues has caused me to revise this opinion.)

Anyway, I enjoy it for keeping up with other people’s lives. It’s kind of like people who post pics of their kids on the internet—I don’t do it myself, but I get a huge kick out of OTHER people doing it. Double Standards R Us! I’ve reconnected with some people from my distant youth, and am able to keep in touch much better even with some of my local friends. It definitely has value, especially if you’re careful how you use it.

One thing that consistently causes me agitas is the whole friend request thing. If you were my sworn enemy in high school, why the heck do you want to friend me now? If we had a bitter, painful breakup, why in the world would I want to keep up with your life? If we barely knew each other, you are trying to friend me... why?

Now, some people collect friends like they’re going to get a prize for the highest number. That’s totally fine. Me, I try to have people on my friends list that I actually like, and would like to keep in semi-regular contact with. After the early days of my FB involvement (where I friended at least a couple of people I regret friending), I adopted what I call my no guilt policy: if I don’t want to friend someone, I hit “ignore” and feel no guilt. No "obligation" friending, thanks.

I had someone from college send me a friend request this week. This was someone I always liked and wanted to be friends with, but she was much cooler than I could ever be. So we were mostly friends by association-- through another person, D. D and I are no longer friends and haven’t been for ages, so seeing the friend request from this third party felt a little odd. We weren’t really friends, after all.

I thought about friending her, then hit ignore. I probably take the whole thing too seriously, but I figure as long as I’m consistent, it all works out OK in the end.

I must admit I’m glad I grew up in the days before FB and e-mail and all that. It’s never easy to be a kid, but it was certainly simpler before you had to be “friends” with everyone in your high school class. Oy. I suspect having a no-guilt policy is difficult, if not impossible, when you’re 15.

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Scenes from a life

  • Elle, sitting in front of the gate that’s over the stairs to the basement, each hand gripping a bar and shaking with great force and intensity. All she needed was a tin cup, really, and you’d have one heck of a prison movie.
  • The other evening, she didn’t want to leave the playground, so she howled all the way home. And it’s a considerable way home. Of course, if she saw a dog or people, she stopped yelling long enough to check them out, then resumed the noise once they’d passed on by.

    While it may have sounded like I was torturing her with a hot poker, periodic checks over the sun hood of the stroller made it clear that she was absolutely fine. She was being a Drama Mama.

    Girlfriend has very definite opinions, and if she’s not getting what she wants (already!), she lets the whole world know about it. Ditto this morning, when I wouldn’t leave the pantry door open so she could pull everything off the bottom shelf and fling it across the kitchen floor.

    I am SO MEAN. She needs to get used to that. Hee.

  • Monday, no afternoon nap at the sitter’s meant by the time we got home Elle’s eyes were little more than bruises in her face, and everything that happened was trauma. She got a second wind after dinner and a bath, but wouldn’t drink much of her before-bed bottle even though her dinner wasn’t much (as usual).

    She crashed hard a few minutes before her regular bedtime, and I heard her wake up at least once in the early evening (rare these days). About 10:30, she woke up, and her crying wasn’t that angry come-get-me-now crying so much as it was a pathetic, things-are-not-right crying.

    She doesn’t wake up often, and when she does, I generally don’t go in unless I’m worried something is wrong; she'll fuss herself back to sleep. But something about her crying last night was different, so I got up and pulled her bottle out of the fridge.

    She was warm and soft and sleepy. She was also hungry, and after a few ounces of milk, some cuddling with mama, and a diaper change, she went back into her crib and fell asleep for the night without another peep. My sweet girl.

    I’m fine with cry it out. Sometimes, though, it’s nice to hold your baby in the night, when she’s a warm, barely-moving weight on your chest, and her hair is soft against your cheek.

(And yes, she still has a bottle before bed. I don’t put it in the crib with her, ever. We brush her teeth after the bottle and before bed. She puts herself to sleep just fine; goes into her crib awake and plays until she falls asleep, and the only thing she reaches for as she goes to sleep is her dolly. She drinks from a sippy cup or a regular cup during the day, not a bottle. She doesn’t use a pacifier.

It’s another case where “they” tell you there should be no bottle after one year. I’m so tired of “them” telling me about my baby. She still needs that evening milk. Eventually, she won't.)

Monday, August 15, 2011

If I add vegetables to the Easy Mac, does that make it OK?

Feeding toddlers: a total nightmare, or a total nightmare? YES.

Today, I'll eat blueberries! Tomorrow, I'll act like blueberries were sent straight from Satan and smell like dirty feet. I will whip them off of my tray as fast as you put them on it, so don't even TRY.

Today, I think chicken is disgusting. Tomorrow, when you don't make any for me, I'll eat all your chicken off your plate and whine when there's no more.


Processed crap YAAAAAAAY.

I used to get all judgey towards parents who gave their children lots of processed food. Now I know why they do it: they can get the kids to eat it, and at least they're taking SOME nutrition into their bodies. It may be swimming in fat, nitrates, and preservatives, but at least there are some calories and perhaps a vitamin or two.

When Elle was about six months old and venturing into solids, two mom friends both shook their heads and told me the same thing: the first year is so easy. You throw a jar in your diaper bag and poof, that's lunch. You don't have to do much outside of finding jarred food your baby likes.

(I'm aware that there are lots of moms who make baby food from scratch. Good for them, and I mean that. I did it sometimes, but not consistently. My mantra as a parent is "no one gives you an award for doing X," and that applies to everything from cloth diapering to making baby food. If buying a jar of healthy baby food saved me time in the kitchen, yay. If I had time that day to make and freeze sweet potatos, yay. Whatever works for you as a parent. If you're looking for judgey, there are plenty of other blogs out there that will give you judgey.)

At a year, magically the baby is supposed to give up bottles, and get all their calories from food they feed themselves. As usual, Elle is taking her own sweet time with all of these milestones, and I'm fine with that. She's always had a good appetite, but it's less predictably good now. "They" say you have to introduce new food to a toddler many, many times before they'll accept it, and I'm here to say: yes.

I thought I was all set because Elle was willing to eat anything I put in front of her, but I didn't realize that just because she was willing to eat it once, that didn't guarantee she'd eat it twice. Or ever again. My fridge is a graveyard of leftovers, some of which have no chance in hell of ever being consumed by this toddler. My dinners have often become whatever bits of food Elle doesn't eat (which is not contributing positively to the size of my ass, that's for sure).

The biggest challenge is getting vegetables into her. Fortunately, I'm not the only parent who's had this challenge, so there are lots of helpful hints out there. This is why I'm still buying baby food and using it. The other night, I stirred squash into her macaroni and cheese. She thinks it's funny to eat from those squeezy pouches, so I buy the Happy Tot pouches that are fruits + vegetables-- there's one that's pears/peas/green beans, and another that's apple/carrot/sweet potato. Having tasted them, I can say they're pretty darn yummy. And she will EAT IT, giggling as it gets squeezed into her mouth. It’s hilarious, I guess.

Sweet potatoes in general are pretty OK with Elle, and they're healthy. This week, she's willingly eaten butternut squash as well; I found one of those microwave steam pouches that was butternut squash in a cinnamon sauce, so I'm pretty sure she thinks it's dessert. I do not care. She ate it.

Carrots (unless cooked to mush in red sauce), green beans, broccoli, corn, cauliflower, tomatoes-- none have yet met with her approval. But I'm giving it time, because she's a toddler, and she's going to do what she wants to do whether I like it or not. I do need to try feeding her some veggies I don't like. Just because I dislike lima beans and brussel sprouts doesn't mean she will too-- after all, she likes mac and cheese, and I think it's gross. (I know, I'm weird.)

Fruit can be iffy, but she'll almost always eat that freeze-dried fruit you can get in pouches. It's not the most cost-effective fruit out there, but for now, it'll do.

Those toddler meals they sell are pretty disgusting, I think, but I have a few on hand as backup. And I have some frozen meals as well, for nights when I'm in a hurry. But I am trying, when I can, to give Elle relatively simple, fresh, healthy options to choose from.

She eats better with her sitter (she'll eat what the other kids are eating), and I can almost always get her to eat yogurt, cheese, crackers, freeze-dried fruit, Cheerios, Goldfish, pizza, and oatmeal (and I stir fruit into the oatmeal). That's not a bad array for this age. I can think of at least one SMC whose daughter barely eats anything due to severe feeding issues, and I'm sure she'd be ridiculously happy if she could say her daughter ate even half the things on Elle's list. So I shouldn't be too crabby about it, I guess.

As a friend told me: don't think of balanced meals. Think of balanced days. Sometimes, think of balanced weeks.

Hard to do, when it seems like an entire day has gone by and your toddler is subsisting on milk, two slices of banana, and a handful of Cheerios.

Now, if you'll excuse me, I'm going to go look for crock pot recipes that might feature vegetables hidden in some kind of Elle-approved sauce.

Saturday, August 13, 2011

There is nothing wrong with you

Since becoming a mom over a year ago, I’ve been regularly surprised by the things that you don’t know, regardless of how much you read or how much you talk to other parents. I was luckier than some—I knew that breastfe.eding wasn’t always a walk in the park, for instance. I had a pretty good idea of some of the common challenges.

But one of the things that’s represented in nearly every movie and television show I’ve ever seen, and is certainly something my own mother told me over and over, is how the minute a baby is born, you (the mother) are transported away by a love that’s nothing like you’ve ever known. It’s magical! Nothing matters! You forget the pain of labor! Blah blah sparkles coming out of your eyes! Every moment is perfection!

I know that may be the case for many women. I'm so glad for those who get that. However, if it isn’t the case for you, please know: there’s nothing wrong with you. You are not a bad mother, nor are you a bad person, if you are not transported by ecstasy the moment you give birth.

I’m not talking postpartum depression here. For a frank, helpful discussion of PPD and how one woman is dealing with it, visit Erin’s blog. I’m talking about those of us that certainly love our baby (or babies) right away, but are waiting for the Hollywood soundtrack to start playing and... it doesn’t.

34+ hours of labor and a failing epidural meant that by the time they had to take Elle, I was absolutely toast. And she was born in the morning, so there were a lot of hours to go before I could rest. And if you’re bfeeding, they leave the baby in-room with you overnight-- which I understand and totally agree with, but as a single parent with no one else to take Elle and let me get some sleep, I maybe should have asked them to put her in the nursery that first night.

(Also, when you go into labor, TAKE A SHOWER. Immediately. This is my advice. I didn’t do this right when my water broke, and ended up not being able to take a real shower for one hell of a long time. It was gross. My postpartum photos are not exactly attractive—I know they aren’t always, but had I been a little cleaner, it couldn’t have hurt. Also, eat something. There. That’s my advice for women about to have a baby: shower and eat. I’m nothing if not practical.)

We parents don’t do anyone any favors by being less than honest about the parenting experience. My mother may have been ecstatic every moment of her mommyhood—but I doubt it, and conveniently “forgetting” the tough patches means I feel less than when she says something that invalidates a rough patch I’m going through.

And that’s why I’m being honest here, and I’ll refer back to an old entry in this very blog: I loved Elle from the moment she was born. It took me a while longer to fall in love with her.

There’s nothing wrong with you if you don’t bond instantaneously. Some women do. Some women bond on the second or the fourth or the twentieth day. I know one mom who’s very honest that she really didn’t feel bonded to her son until he was six or seven months old. It probably happens even later than that for some people.

THAT IS OKAY. It is all okay. It’s going to be different for all of us. There’s no template for mother love. Anyone who tries to tell you otherwise is full of it. Each path is different; let yours unfold however it unfolds, don’t compare yourself to anyone, and take it day by day (or hour by hour) if you need to.

I still don’t hear that Hollywood soundtrack. That’s OK. That’s not how I’m wired. But I feel a powerful, protective, often overwhelming love for my daughter, and I would do anything—anything—for her. I think she's awesome.

I’m pretty sure that’s the point.

Friday, August 12, 2011

Downward what?

When I went back to work after my leave, I was skinnier than I'd been in years. I was still kind of strung out in terms of lack of consistent, predictable sleep, and was still breastfe.eding; I could eat pretty much anything, any time, and it didn't matter. Nervous energy and providing food for Elle-- however minimal my production was-- apparently took care of my weight issues.

Right about 12 weeks, when I went back to work, was when Elle's sleep schedule normalized (mostly) and when I stopped breastfe.eding (not by my choice; the girls just gave up the ghost, and I wasn't in a position to work hard at upping my supply). And my weight issue holiday was over.

Let's just say that I am no longer skinnier than I've been in years.

I'm not at my heaviest weight ever, but... I'm far closer to that than I'd like, and a good 15 pounds heavier than my usual resting point has been. A desk job + stress eating + no longer able to get to the gym have all combined to put me at a weight where I'm simply not comfortable any more. Not to mention I'm going to need to buy new clothes if I don't lose weight now, and that's just not in my budget.

I realized I've become really out of touch with my body. Pre-Elle, and even during pregnancy, I was far from a gym rat. But I was at the gym at least a couple of times a week, regularly, and I liked it. During pregnancy, I was a regular at my weekly prenatal yoga. I walked regularly with my little Vertigo Dog for many years, summer and winter. So while I'd never make the cover of Shape, I was certainly healthy and active.

Now, even when the weather's good, I have so little time when I get home from work that I don't necessarily want to spend it strapping Elle into a stroller. I do sometimes, but in the 1.5 - 2 hours I have when we get home at night before Elle's bedtime, she needs dinner and a bath, and we both need a little time to decompress. (And play. Always play.) And then when she goes to bed, I have another 1.5 - 2 hours in which to do all the things around the house I need to do, including cooking and cleaning up the kitchen. Plus, Mama needs a little time to screw around on the internet, go through her mail, and maybe (SHOCK!) read a book or watch a movie.

There's precious little time in there to exercise.

I did mention that I have an exercise bike now, and I am trying to use it. I just don't like the bike very much, so it's not motivating. (If it was an elliptical, now...) I can watch a movie while I cycle, so that's something.

The other night I decided to pull out an old yoga tape. Yes, tape. Not even a DVD! After ten minutes, I was completely exhausted, and went upstairs feeling like a complete failure.

My goal now is to up the yoga time by ten minutes each practice until I can do the entire tape (which I believe is about 40 minutes). Once I can do the entire tape, my goal (of course) is to simply improve in my practice each time. Hopefully, if I alternate the bike and yoga, I'll help both my heart and my flexibility... not to mention my state of mind.

Ten minutes. Seriously. Pathetic.

Thursday, August 11, 2011

Baby's first vacation

My sitter had a few days off, so rather than get someone else to cover, I took the time off as well. It was a treat! For three of those days (two nights) last weekend, we went with friends to a little beach town about an hour and a half away, not far over the border to a certain mitten-shaped state that we're close to.

It was lovely. My budget doesn't allow for a lot of vacations, but this was ideal-- not a long drive (Elle HATES car rides at the moment), a nice casual town (i.e. not upscale and pricey), and a BEACH.

Because baby girl is still on two naps a day-- and hoo boy, she still needs both of those naps-- it definitely made the schedule more awkward, but we had a good time regardless. We wandered around the town, hung out at the beach, and lazed around on the porches at the lovely B&B.

The B&B was ideal for several reasons. It was right in town, had the aforementioned porches, and best of all the room I was in had a little separate room, with a door, for Elle's pack and play. This was terrific, because it meant we didn't all have to go to bed when Elle went to bed. The first night, after Elle went down, we hung out on the front porch (attached to the room, so within hearing distance) drinking whiskey lemonades and talking. Quietly, but talking.

The second night, my friend's husband stayed with Elle while the girls went out for a drink. We were still in bed by ten-- beach living is tiring, man. Also, I'm old.

Elle loved the beach. Loved it. When I put her down at the edge of the water, and the waves rolled in, she immediately started scooting towards the waves, even when they were big and splashed her. That's my girl.

We spent a lot of time under a little canopy, playing in the sand (I managed to forget her hat, so no matter how much sunscreen I lathered on her, I wanted to limit her amount of time in direct sunlight), which was also big fun. She dug in the sand with her sand shovel, and especially liked it when her bucket was filled with water and she could splash in it. Also, dump the water out. Over and over. And over. The only thing she didn't like was when sand got stuck on her wet hands-- she'd hold them up and look at me and whine. Cause and effect, sweetheart. Cause and effect.

We're definitely going back. One of the friends who went on the trip is already researching places to stay and houses to rent.

I should also note that I feel very lucky that I have friends who not only don't mind going on vacation with a toddler, but who really enjoy said toddler. At this age, there's almost no way I could do this kind of trip solo. The gear alone is more than one person can really handle. And, until Elle is better in the car, it was nice that one of my friends sat in the back seat with her for the latter half of the drive home. (On the drive there, she just lost her mind for the last 25 minutes or so, and I grimly drove as fast as I safely could. NOT FUN.)

I've lost some friends since becoming a parent, absolutely. But the people who've stuck with me are amazing. You really do learn who your friends are when you set out on the single mother journey, and I couldn't be more blessed.

Saturday, August 6, 2011

Kids are smart

When Elle came along, I’d been alone and single for fortymumble years. All of a sudden I had a roommate with poor communication skills who didn’t contribute a dime towards the rent or the (considerably increased) utilities, who left her stuff all over the place, and who didn’t care much about what time it was when she wanted to make some noise.

My daughter is fabulous, but like it or not: it’s an adjustment.

There are many reasons why it’s better to be a partnered parent than a single one. One big reason is that, theoretically, with a partner, there’s someone to pick up the occasional slack. If you’re sick, or in a terrible mood, or just don’t feel like you want to engage with that noisy little roommate at the moment, you can (hopefully) look at your partner and ask him/her to take that on.

Not much of an option when it’s just you.

By the time Friday night comes around, sometimes the last thing I really want to do is have to entertain a toddler for a few hours before she goes to bed. (Hopefully, she goes to bed.) And there’s no way to punt that to someone else.

If anyone wants to post “Honey, you signed up for this, so don’t complain,” feel free. But you know what? Just because I signed up for this—and I did—doesn’t mean I have abdicated my right to whine occasionally.

What struck me the other day was the thought that I hope Elle never feels like she’s a burden. I hope my tired face at the end of the week doesn’t somehow communicate to her that I’d just rather not engage, or that she’s anything but a blessing. I’m not much of a poker player, and children are far smarter and more perceptive than we often give them credit for.

“Tired on a Friday night” does not equal “too tired for you” or, God forbid, "tired because of you." It just means that as she gets older, maybe Friday night we watch movies and have pizza, and it’s a way to be together that’s lower-maintenance.

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

Travel, not leisure

I was out of town on business last week. It was my first time away from Elle overnight, and I went two full days without seeing her; I left for the airport before she got up on day one, and I got home after she went to bed on day two. I had great support from friends on the front and back end, and she stayed overnight with her regular sitter.

For her, really, it probably didn't feel all that different. When I came into her room the morning after I got home, she was as happy to see me as she usually is in the morning-- no more, no less.

She is a happy, adaptable little thing, who is clearly secure in the fact that she's loved and well-cared-for. That's exactly what I want her to be, so I ignore the intermittent pangs that I would like her to be slightly more dramatically attached to me. That's just feeding my ego; that's not what's best for Elle.

At the end of the day, I'm her mom. And it's far more important that I raise a happy, social, well-adjusted child than it is to raise one that feeds some occasional need for validation.


While I was out of town, I was able to use the little hotel gym. It was decently set up, and featured my favorite exercise machine of all time: the elliptical.

I can't possibly explain how much I love the elliptical. I love it so much that I should be skinny and muscled. Sadly, I can no longer get to the Y (yes, they have childcare, but I leave Elle for 11+ hours each day; I'm not going to get her home and turn around and leave her with yet another sitter several times a week), and there's nowhere in my house that has high enough ceilings to accommodate an elliptical.

I did recently get a used exercise bike, and have been doing at least a few miles on that 4-5 times a week. This is significantly better than nothing at all, but not nearly as much fun as the dearly beloved elliptical. (And I'm watching season three of Slings and Arrows while I'm on the bike, a Canadian series that has not gotten nearly the attention it deserves. Highly recommended if you like theatre, Shakespeare, or Shakespeare and theatre.) So getting to exercise at the hotel was, believe it or not, a huge treat-- I even gave up additional sleep to go exercise that second morning, before I showered and checked out of the hotel.

It felt wonderful.

There are two questions I get, fairly often, as a single parent. One is if this is what I expected, or if it's easier or harder. The other (often from other single women) is asking what I miss about my single non-parent days.

I answer, honestly, that there's very little I miss. The two things do I miss are:

1. Being able to go to the gym
2. Being able to stay in my pajamas all day and sit on the couch and watch movies and be lazylazylazy.

That's not really much to miss, is it?

The nice part about it is that both those activities can return one day. Someday, Elle and I will do pajama days together (I hope we have the same taste in bad movies!). And someday, I'll get back to the gym on a regular basis.

Meanwhile, there’s plenty of other stuff to do.

Sunday, July 31, 2011

Blog Envy

I read a lot of blogs (only some of which are linked on the sidebar). Some single mom blogs, some mom blogs, some dad blogs, some blogs that have nothing at all to do with children, some blogs that are just photography, some food blogs. I may have issues with some things about the internet, but I am and have always been a nosy chicken, so blogs are just a way for me to look into other people's windows. So to speak.

I have to be very careful, however, to just read the blogs... not to take anything in them to heart, in either direction.

I shouldn't feel superior to anyone else because of something they say that I disagree with. On the flip side, I shouldn't let other people's lives make me feel less than. Someone lives in a fabulous house with a pool? Good for them. Someone spends thirty hours a week teaching their child to (insert skill here)? Wow, that's awesome. Someone has a ginormous birthday party for their daughter and even has personalized labels on the root beer bottles? Damn, that's cool.

That last example, by the way, is for real. At the time I was still planning Elle's first birthday party, and I truly had a couple of days of completely feeling like some kind of derelict parent because I was planning a potluck picnic at a park, rather than a party with cleverly-named food, personalized party labels on the root beer, elaborate goody bags, and a pony. I truly thought, for a little while, that clearly I should not be a parent. A pony! Why the hell was I not having a pony?

(Because a pony is overkill for a one-year-old, that's why. Arguably, it may be overkill for a four-year-old, but that's not my call to make.)

So I was feeling like roadkill about how my daughter's first party was going to be crap on a stick, and I shared that particular blog entry with a friend. The friend shot me an e=mail, the gist of which was "Holy crap, that's cute. But seriously, who has that kind of time? Please."

And I felt better.

It was a really good lesson. I'm going to be the parent I'm going to be. I'm going to be better than some parents, worse than others. Richer than some, poorer than others.

It's not a contest.

But I still reserve the right to be dreadfully jealous of the gorgeous, gorgeous photography over at Peonies and Polaroids. I wish they lived just a touch closer than Scotland. Also that I could afford to have them take pics of Elle.

By the way, Elle's first birthday party was terrific. There was a huge crowd of people who love her. Everyone enjoyed all the food and the cake and the playground and the sunny day.

And not a single person asked why there weren't custom labels on the soda.

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

365 days, plus a few

My little Elle is now a year old. That seems completely impossible, but it's true. This time last year I had an infant and was in the throes of figuring out sleeping, eating, and bathing (for me, not the baby!) Now I have a one-year-old with chubby arms and legs, wispy curls at the end of her hair, and very, very Definite Opinions on many things. She has a mind of her own, that's for sure, and I love it.

She's still not walking, but she scoots around like a pro. I'm a little concerned that she's still not pulling up, nor can she get into a sitting position from lying down (she gets the concept, and tries hard, but can't do it without help), but her pediatrician says give it a few more weeks before we are officially worried. I know kids develop at different paces, and her overall health and disposition are so good that I try to take it easy. (Unless my parents start harping in on it and get me wound up. I try hard to not let them wind me up.) She just needs to find a compelling reason to walk, I think. Why walk when you get what you need from scooting?

Her scooting is fast enough that I've finally babyproofed and installed a good, strong gate at the top of the stairs. No more leaving her on the bed and walking away; she's moved to the floor, where she does her best to get into everything she shouldn't.

She doesn't have much of a vocabulary yet, but her receptive language seems to be on track and she babbles all the time with a wide variety of consonants (unless she's around people she doesn't know; she gets quiet then). She can identify specific toys, and when you ask her to give some love to Dolly, she'll squish Dolly to her face and love on her. She knows her own name for sure. She knows "no" and REALLY doesn't like hearing it (see above re: mind of her own)-- she'll do this little scrunchy face thing when you tell her no, which is hysterical. Several times lately I'm pretty sure she's repeated a word after I've said it; her enunciation isn't great, so for a while I thought I was imagining things. I wasn't!

She loves her Dolly. She loves stacking things and knocking them down. She adores books (that's my girl). She likes things that make noise. She turns into a zombie if the TV is on (again, that's my girl). She's fascinated with handles on drawers, and especially likes the handles that swing up and down and make a clanking noise when you pull them up and let them drop. She likes to open and shut drawers, over and over and over. She has a tendency to go after shoes to play with them, which I'm trying to discourage. She likes the swimming pool and isn't bothered by being splashed, and has even started kicking. She enjoys baths.

When she goes scooting off on one of her little adventures, she always takes a toy along with her (once, it was a mini box of Raisin Bran; clearly, she's not picky). Often, she'll take the toy, throw it out in front of her, then scoot to catch up with it. Repeat as needed. She talks to herself along the way-- she has a whole narrative going on-- and it's obvious that she has Very Important Things to Do. We just don't understand what those things are, you see.

She feeds herself, though I'm still giving her some baby food as well. She loves blueberries, bread, cheese, yogurt, bananas, graham crackers, cherries, hummous (on bread), and pasta. We're still working on finding veggies she likes outside of purees-- that's part of the reason I'm giving her baby food. It's the only way to get vegetables into her, so far. She's not big on meat, outside of purees, though she'll eat a bit. She doesn't care for peas, strawberries, or tomatoes (though she's fine with all three if they're pureed!). She'll try anything you put in front of her, though she'll always go for the cheese and blueberries first. She's OK with eggs. I'll probably also give fish sticks a shot, since those are a quick and reasonably healthy dinner.

After many years of single eating, the contents of my pantry, fridge, and freezer have undergone a radical transformation, that's for sure. And I need to remember the cardinal rule of feeding kids: the parent decides what food will be offered and when it will be offered; the child decides whether they'll eat and, if so, how much. If her dinner consists of three bites of chicken, four pieces of rotini, and two cherries... well, that's her dinner.

She uses a sippy cup, although she sometimes doesn't remember you have to tilt it up to get the actual liquid, and she'll slurp away at it looking very confused. She has no interest in holding her bottle, and we're phasing that out over the next little while anyway. I think her night bottle will probably be the last to go.

She's incredibly curious-- her head and most of her body are on a swivel when you're out in public with her. She loves people and faces and conversation, and is happiest when she's playing in the midst of a group of people talking. She's fine if they're not talking to her; she just likes the company. She doesn't miss a thing.

She is not a cuddly toddler. But then, she wasn't a cuddly baby, either; she hasn't fallen asleep on me since she was a couple of months old. When she's very tired, or doesn't feel good, she'll tuck her head down on my shoulder. Sometimes, if I ask her to give mommy a kiss, she'll press her head to mine-- she knows how to give a kiss with her mouth, but her current means of showing affection seems to be the press of the head.

She is a happy, healthy, even-tempered baby. Sorry-- she is a happy, healthy, even-tempered toddler. I am blessed beyond words with this beautiful little girl. When I'm tired, or when I (unfairly) compare her to other little ones her age and wonder why she's not doing X yet, or when I just want some alone time, I look at her face smiling at me from around a corner and realize I don't even remember what I did with my life before she was part of it.

Happy birthday, baby girl.

Friday, July 15, 2011

Still here

Apologies for my absence of late. It's not because my life is dull and I have nothing to say... more like I need to find time to say all the things.

(shoutout to Hyperbole and a Half, which if you haven't read, you totally should. Try "The God of Cake" first. Or any of her dog posts.)

Anyway, I have a post about Elle turning one. But it's on my work computer. I promise to track it down and post it Monday. Or possibly Tuesday.

FYI, Elle is now one whole year old. There's too much to say about that, truly, so I'll just say it and then toddle off to bed. See y'all next week.

Sunday, June 19, 2011

Practically Perfect

It was one of those weekends where (almost) everything comes together well-- time with Elle, time to myself, time with good friends. The few bumps in the road were minor and not really a problem.

I even got out the invites for Elle's first birthday bash.

Yup. Her first birthday. I'm not entirely sure when that happened. It's amazing to me how quickly it has gone, and continues to go. It is also, to be honest, terrifying-- if the next 17 years go this quickly, she's going to be in college (hopefully) in about a week and a half. Or at least it will feel that way.

When we're having a rough patch, I remind myself of this. It won't last. It isn't forever. I have her with me for such a very short time, in the scheme of things; I need to savor every moment. Even the rough ones.

Here. Have a baby foot picture. I'm not exactly a great photographer, but baby feet are darling no matter what. And they fit right in with "No way am I showing my daughter's face in public, thanks" mantra.

From one

She's pretty cute, for an old almost one-year-old. I think I'll keep her.

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Go ahead. You can tell me I'm crazy.

One of the things I try hard not to regret is that I waited so long to start trying to become a mom. It doesn't do any good to regret it-- I wasn't ready for a hundred reasons. And if I'd started earlier, I wouldn't have Elle, and clearly Elle was meant to be here.

But sometimes, regret breaks through. It's doing so now because, had I done this sooner (and presumably had similar luck in terms of conception), there would be some chance of being able to have another child.

I know! The very thought is crazy. Insane. But with Elle nearly a year old, the knowledge that she is an only child with a practically nonexistent family feels like a weight on my chest. It's not news, of course, but I can still wish it was different.

Of course, it's impossible. At my next birthday I'll be 45; conceiving Elle at 43 was a miracle in itself. Even if I wanted to give it a shot, I no longer have the insurance coverage that made my IVF possible. And if by some miracle I had another child, the daycare costs would kill me. (Not to mention I have no desire to ever be pregnant again.)

If I had embryos on ice, I just might say what the hell and give it a shot-- why not try a FET, if you've got them? But I don't. I was on massive quantities of drugs and only produced five eggs, and all four that fertilized were transferred. One of them is my beautiful Elle; there were no spares. That's probably a good indication that now, getting on to two years later, the likelihood of viable eggs is pretty low.

So I have all these rational reasons why it's just not possible. Right now, though, there's a part of me that doesn't care.

I guess I'm just mourning the possibilities.