Sunday, January 31, 2010

Hindsight is 20-20

The Nugget loves watching home videos, especially of himself or his friends. He got very distraught though, when he saw video of his first birthday. He watched in dismay and visible anxiety as his younger self squished a cupcake and tossed it on the floor without even tasting it.

He said, "Oh no! Baby Nugget, eat cupcake please. Eat with mouth. Oh no, baby Nugget squished it. Oh, so messy. No Nugget, no throw it! Oh, cupcake went kaboom. Oh no!"

It's safe to assume that cupcakes are appropriately savored now, frosting first.

Thursday, January 28, 2010

The Lazy Housekeeper - Laundry Edition

Lately I've been seized by the shoulders and shaken with the urge to clean and organize. Maybe it's the new year. Maybe it's a form of nesting for Lil Sib even though we have no clue when he/she might be arriving. Either way, I thought I'll do a post of my favorite cleaning products and strategies. As mentioned before, I am a lazy, lazy housekeeper, so I like to keep tricks and products that are simple and cheap. As always, I am not paid to endorse any of the following.

I think I'll pick a topic each week until we get around the house (by which time, the entire house will have befallen disaster at the hands of a 2.5 year old). How domestic! As always, please feel free to leave your own tips in the comments.

Today's topic - Laundry

1. Charlie's Soap Powder - works like magic, great on my boys' sensitive skin, HE compatible. It comes in such a cute little retro fabric bag, but you only need one tablespoon per load!

2. Imse Vimse Stain Removing Soap - I was a Shout spray and wash girl until I met Imse Vimse. Then I kicked that Shout habit to the curb, because I was buying a $4 bottle a month, and the bottle has all sorts of warning labels about it - eye irritant, skin irritant, keep away from kids and pets - eek. No more! IV is a block of coconut-based soap. Get the stain wet and rub til you see some suds. Throw it in the washer or the hamper, and the stain disappears. Works on poop stains, chocolate, grass, tomato, and wine. Has even gotten out some old stains that I'd learned to accept! I've had the same brick for 2 years, and it's got a lot of life left.

3. Mesh zippered lingerie bags. One for each machine - I collect all the Nugget's socks and mittens in here so they all come out on the other end.

4. Laundry bags - Our washer/dryer are in the basement, down an unfinished staircase. Walking up is fine, but I feel a little off kilter dragging full hampers or baskets downstairs. So I keep a laundry bag hanging on the basement door and collect the laundry there, then I can slide the whole thing downstairs on its own, while I walk my clumsy, accident-prone self down the stairs, holding the railing! Plus, unlike a hamper, they are easy to throw in the wash for cleaning, and the Nugget has a harder time emptying the dirty clothes when I'm not looking. Not that he doesn't try, but he usually only has one undershirt out by the time I catch him. When we used a hamper, the whole thing would be toppled and he'd be cavorting in stinky undershirts and rags in the time it took me to use the bathroom.

The Nugget's Menu

"Welcome to Chez Nugget. May I provide monsieur with a bib? Sir has a choice of green transportation or red farm animals. The red cow moo? Excellent choice, sir. Yes, you may fasten it yourself. Would sir please sit on his bottom? Not on your knees sir, on your bottom. On your bottom. I'm waiting. Thank you. No, not to pound your fork on the table, please. Please sir, the nose boogie is not an appetizer. Let me take care of that for you. Here is your napkin, and the chef will be serving you momentarily."

Beck-fist - served with a cup of milk
1. 2 nogurts
2. Oatmeal with cranbewies, bown sugar, and milk
3. Messin - still on the Prevacid for reflux
4. Fresh berries in the summer

Some snack - served with water
1. Kashi cereal bar or
2. Crackers and fruit

Lunch - served with a fruit of choice and milk
1. Annie's mac'roni or
2. Whole grain flaxseed toaster waffle with pea'butter and honey or
3. Pea'butter and jeh-wee on whole wheat bread or
4. Turkey hot dog on whole wheat bun with some ketchup mustard please or
5. Some soup with crackers

Some snack - served with a cup of diluted juice
1. Cereal with milk or
2. Whole wheat bagel with cream cheese or
3. Hummus and bread/veggies
4. Apple slices with pea' butter

Dinner - whatever we're having, but current Nugget favorite entrees/side dishes include:
1. Poodle noodles (spaghetti) and turkey meatballs
2. Snowman noses (steamed carrots)
3. Turkey tacos
4. 7 Layer mexican dip
5. Broccoli mac & cheese
6. Whole wheat pizza with pep'roni, pineapple, and extra garlic
7. Blueberry pancakes with ooooo-cream! (Reddiwhip) and bacon
8. Cornmeal muffins
9. Chicken parmesan
10. French potage

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

It's like a zoo in here

Sometimes I think that working at a zoo was pretty good preparation for parenthood. Not that anything can truly prepare you for the enormity of the responsibility, the love that you'll have for your kidlets, or the pure exhaustion of being "on" for the rest of your life. But I think zoo work came pretty close.

10. Hosing, shoveling, and scraping feces out of exhibits have pretty much rendered me immune to a dirty diaper.

9. I came into parenthood having witnessed the worst possible behavior of children. Wanna see kids at their worst? Go to the zoo, around 2pm. I harbored very few fantasies that parenthood was going to be all sharing dripless ice cream cones and skipping home hand-in-hand while strangers complimented my child's manners and spotless clothing. I saw the ugly red-faced crying over not getting a lollypop bigger than one's head, the knocked-down little sibling who was blocking the view of the belugas, the children with cotton candy inexplicably woven into their ponytails, the random abandoned single shoes kicked off by children in strollers, multiple parents carrying their offspring out of the park like tantrum-ing footballs.

8. It was physically demanding. I can't explain how physical parenthood is, but zoo work runs a close second. There are always buckets to lift, barrels to haul, aquaria that require you to lay on your stomach on a rickety board while you scrub the front window. Much like now there is always a toddler to lift, diaper bags to haul, and dropped puzzle pieces that require you to search on hands, knees, and stomach while you shove a broom handle under a piece of furniture.

7. Food prep stretches on into infinity. Now I only have Hubby, Nugget, and Doggie to feed, but I feel like I'm I'm trapped in a Mobius loop of food preparation, serving, and cleaning. If only they were as simple to feed as the manatees. We would just fling a whole crate of lettuce into their pool 3 times a day. You have never seen a happier animal than a manatee devouring a head of romaine.

6. The critters in your care don't appreciate your labor. Sometimes, we'd dive in the manatee pool to "plant" the lettuce heads into slit PVC pipes built into the rock walls. This is enrichment, meant to encourage the manatees to forage for food along the bottom, a behavior they'd do in their natural habitat. We'd spend about an hour putting the lettuce in, then they'd come along and pop the heads out like they found the whole process annoying. A little like the way the Nugget heaves a sigh when I bring him his PB&J and disassembles it immediately. I think he'd prefer it if I gave up the sham and just served him a spoonful of peanut butter, a spoonful of jam, and a slice of bread.

5. It was engrained into my mind to always secure the exits before leaving an animal area.

4. Lost children happen, no matter how carefully you watch them, or how good a parent you are. I am already starting to teach the Nugget how to find a person in uniform, and he knows our first names. I try to dress him in bright colors or patterns whenever we go into a crowded place. Also, lost children are usually terrified and want to be hugged (not screamed at by a frantic parent) upon reunion.

3. When you love what you're doing, deep in your gut, the grunt work, the exhaustion, and the low pay don't matter a bit.

2. Children see the world through different eyes. I heard so many parents at the zoo complaining that their kid got more excited over the squirrels and ducks visiting the zoo than the exotic species. Or I'd see parents hell-bent on hitting every attraction (getting their money's worth) while their children struggled behind, tired, teary, and overwhelmed. I could never say it of course, but after witnessing this day in and day out, I wanted to shout at some of them, "Get some ice cream and sit down together in front of your child's favorite thing." Maybe it's the sharks. Maybe it's the pigeon. Maybe it's the Nugget's favorite, the paper towel dispenser or the windmill. But that visual reminds me all the time to slow down and try to see what the kids see. If you can't get past the lost dollars, get the membership so you can spend a whole afternoon gawking at a squirrel without feeling like you're missing out.

1. No matter how much love you poured into caring for the animals and educating the public, many naysayers would verbally attack you for "doing it wrong". Now instead of strangers telling me that they think the wolves look too skinny or the elephants should have more space, I have strangers telling me that I should have potty-trained my son by now, that I should have him enrolled in underwater basket-weaving lessons, or that he should be wearing a hat when it's 50 degrees outside. My zoo training taught me well - smile and acknowledge the comment, but know in your heart that you are giving your munchkin the best life you can.

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Help please, no.

"Help please, no."

The Nugget uses this phrase about 30 times an hour, and we've yet to decipher its meaning.

Option 1: If you help, he screams and bats you away, stamping his tiny feet.

Option 2: If you don't help, he will repeat it more and more urgently, looking at you with plaintive puppy dog eyes, and a single tear will start to roll down his face. At which point, you are moved to attempt Option 1, which always ends badly.
My brother, the Nugget's Uncle J, called a few times yesterday with baby registry questions. The Nugget got very excited, stopped playing with the ceiling fan switch, and begged to talk to his uncle, "Talk Unca J please." When handed the phone though, he was perfectly silent. I prompted him, "What did you want to tell Uncle J?" His eyes lit up, and he proudly pronounced his important news, "The fan's stopping."
When hungry, the Nugget will now verbally request a laundry list of foods. "Some snack please. Some waffle, honey please. Some sandwich please. Some oatmeal please." If you tell him that that yes, you can have a waffle later, but we are waiting for dinner which is coming in just 5 minutes," the requests will go on and on. "Some crackers please. Some nogurt please. Some cookie please. Some hot dog please. Some mac'roni please." Heaven help us if he finds the big word book, the one with a 2 page spread full of (mostly junk) food. He'll bring it and point out the different options to the thick adult who is failing to provide him with sustenance. "Pizza! Cupcake! Candy!" (Seriously, I've got a bone to pick with Roger Priddy - I see your token photo of broccoli, but it is dwarfed by Joseph's amazing technicolor jellybeans.)
We've been using a new form of time-out with the Nugget. We cleared his room of furniture, save the crib and his Thinking Chair. When he starts to act Hulk-like, we tell him quietly that we can see he's upset but can't understand his screaming/crying, and that it looks like he needs a little Nugget time. We escort him calmly to his totally room, shut the door, and let him rant and throw pillows to his heart's content. We check in when the noise stops (usually just a minute or two) and ask if he's ready to talk calmly. Usually then, he will say, "Nugget sad because want to open door self/want pink nogurt/some other great injustice." It's been working really well, and often we don't even choose to give him what he wanted. He just wants to be heard.

Because we stopped framing it as a punishment and gave it the new name "Nugget time", sometimes now all we have to do is ask if he needs a little Nugget time. Often he'll answer in the affirmative and go up to his room on his own, then clomp back down the stairs with a big smile on his face, ready with a hug and a "sorry", and back to playing. A bazillion thanks to my friend L (who has a similarly attention-driven daughter) who helped me come up with this solution. I really like that it's a real life skill that he can use to calm himself down, and have been occasionally giving myself "Mommy time" when I'm overwhelmed too!

Sunday, January 24, 2010

The Gift Closet - 2010 kids' birthdays

Psst...I'll let you in on a secret! Here's what I'm giving the Nugget's friends for birthday gifts this year. A personalized cloth snack bag. They are handmade in the USA, out of cotton with a nylon lining. They close with velcro. They are lightweight so they will be cheap for me to ship. Best of all, they are machine washable! I am gifting them for ages 1-4 this year, girls and boys, because they can hold everything from Cheerios to hair clips to Matchbox cars to a sandwich. They are just a little something, but having it personalized makes it special. They straddle the line between fun and practical. And they can stand-in for Ziplocs, making them eco-friendly, which was a big selling point for me. I got one for the Nugget, and it's his "snacking in the car" container.

I made a master list of kiddos' birthdays and ordered them all at once to save on shipping. I also asked the seller to cut me a discount for the bulk order. I have worked with many Etsy sellers, and most are amenable to the bulk discount. She even threw in a couple of extra freebie bags that I use to pack Hubby's lunch.

Once they arrived, I organized them by month - Jan birthdays, Feb birthdays, Mar birthdays, etc. I bought a jumbo pack of flat manila envelopes for shipping. and put them all in a box in the office. In lieu of cards, I'll send limited edition Nugget artwork. Less money, more personal. I collect the Nugget's crayon drawings and paintings, and when a birthday is coming up, I ask him to pick one to send to his friend. I write a little message on it, and he adds some "writing" of his own.

One extra easy step I'm doing this year is sending out the entire month's worth of birthday gifts out together. Yeah, some will arrive early, but I think fellow parents will understand that multiple post office trips with a toddler can be hazardous to one's well-being. Plus, less chance of me forgetting to get one out on time.
Another birthday secret? My moms' group has a pact that we don't buy gifts for kids' birthdays. Surely some gift-giving happens, since some families have been friends for years, but it's done on the down-low. We take turns hosting monthly birthday celebrations, varying what we do. We hosted the July party in our backyard with a potluck lunch and cupcakes. We've also done picnics at parks and Chuck E Cheese in the winter. I know this won't last forever, but I'm glad we can all breathe a collective sigh of relief and save some least until our kids start preschool!

Saturday, January 23, 2010

Dear Birthmom

Dear Birthmom,

Will I have the guts to post this letter to you? I've tried to write it so many times.

People have often asked me if I want to search for you. The answer growing up was always a definitive, "No." Why would I go looking for you when, in my self-centered child's mind, you must not have wanted me at all? Why would I need you when I had a family of my own, one that fed me, clothed me, hugged me, read to me, nurtured me, wanted me? You were my incubator, and I was only begrudgingly grateful.

I didn't want to go to Korean school, didn't even want those stupid rubber shoes my parents proudly displayed. I wanted to be the same, to fit in. I wanted to be blond-haired and blue-eyed, freckled and fair. In my head, I was. I only remembered when I looked in the mirror and saw dark almond eyes and golden skin. I wondered if, in Korea, I would be considered beautiful.

Then, in Catholic school, I learned a most hateful word. "Illegitimate." I took it to believe that I was an aberration, a pox on the planet. That my existence must have ruined your life, made you feel shame. I shifted my blame for my adoption from you, onto myself. Seeds of doubt crept into my mind - perhaps my parents didn't really want me either - maybe they just felt sorry for me? I began to worry that I didn't belong, that I wasn't worthy. That had everything unfolded according to God's plan, that I shouldn't be alive. That maybe I was a product of the devil. Too frightened to talk about it aloud with my parents, I hid this grain of guilt and pain inside, covered it up, tried to deny it, tried so hard to be the perfect child, thinking maybe I could make up for my sinful existence by "earning" it through my goodness.

Occasionally, I would fantasize about you and wish that maybe you did love me after all. Maybe you were a princess or queen in a war-torn country and had to send me away to keep me alive. Maybe you died a tragic death during childbirth. Or maybe my birthfather died, and you just couldn't bear to look at me because I reminded you of him. My parents told me you must have loved me, and I wanted to believe them.

Later, I would even forget about you. When filling out college applications, my hands wanted to write "Ohio" in the birthplace box. I even had to white-out a few forms where I'd started the "Oh.", I felt so unconnected to you, to my birthplace, to my heritage. Who were you? Not someone who belonged in my life. You walked away from me? Watch me walking away from you.

When I turned 19, which is the age you were when I was born, I started to understand. I wasn't ready, not even in the slightest, to be a mother. You were in college, just like I was. You were trying to figure out who you were, where you would fit, how to find your talents and apply them to life. If I couldn't parent at this age, how could I expect you to have tried?

When I first met the boy who would become my Hubby, and fell in love, I began to remember you. I began to wish you knew that I was happy, that I had found love, that I was getting married. You should have been there. I never once wanted to give up my family for you and I would give you up for them in a heartbeat...but I wanted you too, even if I couldn't admit it aloud. I wanted you to claim me, to be proud of me.

When we started the adoption process, I gained a much greater understanding of the challenges you faced, creating my adoption plan. I witnessed firsthand the pain and love of many birthmothers. When the Nugget's Tummy Mummy waved a tearful goodbye as we tucked her most precious child into our car and he became our son, her heartbreak was so palpable that my tears were of joy to finally become a Mommy but also of pain to know what she gave so that the Nugget might have the life she desired for him. I have told her many times that knowing her, having her in our lives has healed me. I might never know you, but I live vicariously through her love for the Nugget. My birthmom loves me, I think, I hope, I know. You must have looked at me, held me for the briefest moment, the same way she held him. I hope that by knowing her, the Nugget might be spared the wondering, the pain, the guilt.

If the adoption agency told the truth, today you'd be 49. That's funny to me, because I always picture you as the 19 year old you were when I was born. Maybe you're dead. Maybe you're married with grown children, my birthsiblings, whom you were able to parent. Maybe your husband knows about me. Maybe I'm a secret, never spoken of aloud. Maybe you're a grandma.

So what do I have to say to you today? Thank you for giving me the gift of life. I'm sure it wasn't easy, and I'm sure you had to endure stares and whispers. I want you to know that I'm happy, that the life you gave me was everything you could have wished for or wanted. My family is incredible, I have had so many amazing opportunities and experiences. I can guess that had you chosen to parent me, our lives would have been filled with poverty and need. I have learned that Korea treats single mothers and their children as second class citizens, and I thank you for giving me a world where my voice would be heard. I thank you for all the genetic gifts you've given me - not sure which ones are from you, but maybe it's the straight teeth, the shiny hair, my artistic streak, my efficient hands, my speed-reading ability. For so many years, I deluded myself into thinking that you had forgotten me, but now that I know what it is to be a mother, I'll bet that I haunt your thoughts and dreams. I give you permission to be happy; no, I hope you ARE happy. You made the right choice for me, you put me exactly where I'm meant to be. I know now that I am meant to be alive, to make my mark on this earth. To be daughter, sister, wife, aunt, friend, and mother. I owe the person I am to my family. But I owe my life to you. Thank you.

I have a Korean name. I'm not sure if you named me or not. But it means "treasure". I hope you named me.

Friday, January 22, 2010

H.R. 213

I have a very important favor to ask of you, blog readers. Congress is going to vote on H.R. 213, which would extend the adoption tax credit.

The average adoption fees are $25,000+. No, you are not buying a baby, you are paying the many professionals (social workers, lawyers, counselors) who help both the birthfamily and adoptive family through the process. They must dot the i's and cross the t's to make an adoption street-legal. Each adoption takes many hours of labor, all of which must be paid for by the adoptive family. That's all fine and the way it should be, but it's a daunting amount of money for would-be parents without a trust fund. In my opinion, adoption should not be about the money at all, but it's a real part of the process, and a limiting factor. Without the tax credit, our 2 disruptions (both of which we still had to meet expenses) would have been the end of our adoption journey.

The federal adoption tax credit helps cut that in half for adoptive families, making adoption a possibility for the middle class. If Congress votes against continuing the tax credit, many adoptive families will have to withdraw from their waiting pools, and many other couples who were dreaming about adoption will have that door closed to them forever.

Besides hurting potential adoptive families, birthfamilies will then have a smaller pool of families from which to choose. If they cannot find an adoptive family that feels right for them, they may feel forced to parent, even if they don't have the means to raise a child. Or they may even feel the best remaining option is abortion.

As an adoptee myself, I am so thankful that my birthmom was able to give me life and that my parents were able to give me a home and family. If the tax credit is eliminated, this cycle is going to come to a relative standstill, leaving children in need.

Please contact your Senator or Rep. Email makes it so easy to do. Ask them to vote in favor of H.R. 213, which will extend the adoption tax credit and help build families. Use this link to find your representatives in Congress, and send them a quick email. Please make yourselves heard.

We, and the 10% of American families touched by adoption, THANK YOU!

Thursday, January 21, 2010

Buying in Bulk

This is a pretty random post, but as my big box of wipe-O's was delivered this week, I got to wondering what other folks purchase en masse. Perhaps it's telling, like going through someone's garbage or snooping in a medicine cabinet.

What does our bulk buying say about us? That we're mint-loving tree-huggers, I s'pose.

Here are our usual suspects:
1. 7th Generation diapers - our naptime and travel dipes
2. 7th Generation (did anyone else notice that they reduced the refills to 70 down from 80 for the same price? Lame!) or Earth's Best chlorine-free wipes
3. Dr. Bronner's Magic Peppermint Soap Bars - this stuff is frighteningly miraculous, takes off tree sap and Sharpie marker, but doesn't dry out the skin
6. Charlie's Soap Powder - my new favorite laundry detergent

What do you buy in bulk?

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

A housemaking triumph!

Friends, I am successfully averaging 6 home-cooked dinners a week! Up from my previous average of 4. I'm on about a 3-4 week rotation of recipes, so I'm always up for new ideas.

Hubby and I noticed that we feel healthier when we eat in, and after our weekly date night meal, as nice as it is to avoid meal prep and dishwashing, we nearly always have a touch of indigestion. I am philosophically against weighing myself often, but my pants are looser.

My attitude towards cooking tasks is also better now that I'm seeing the health and budget benefits. When I'm making a familiar recipe, it's almost meditative. Yes, I'd rather have a massage, but sometimes relative peace and quiet is good enough.

I don't know if anyone else could have used homemaking instructions, but I sure could have! Here's what's been working for me. Hubby is the cornerstone of the strategy, so when he's on business trips or when we have Lil Sib, I'm sure I'll need a new battle plan.

1. We have a new rule, when I'm cooking, Hubby and Nugget must be out of the room with the door shut and child-locked. Doggie stays in the kitchen with me and helps me clean up dropped food. It's really made a difference in everyone's stress level - I don't have to stress about the Nugget grabbing a hot pan, Doggie gets some toddler-free time with her clumsy Alpha who usually drops cheese shreds, and Hubby and Nugget get their man-to-man time without mother hen interrupting the couch jumping or whatever goes on in there. Not being able to step in has helped me reduce the gatekeeping and made Hubby much more confident with his parenting as well. God help me, sometimes I'm such the controlling micromanager I swore I wouldn't be! Gah!
2. My favorite tool that's really upped our veggie consumption over the last year has been this gem. Steamed veggies in 5-10 minutes flat! No boiling water, no extra burner in use.

3. I got a plethora of free calendars for Christmas this year, and am keeping one in the kitchen for the meal planning. I list the meals I plan to make (there's a lot of crossing out and switching depending on my food cravings that day) on each day and also add notes like, "Thaw chicken" or "Soak beans" if there's something that needs to happen for the next day's meal.

4. I try to prep what I can during naptime. It doesn't always work because some recipes just need to be created immediately before serving, but today I peeled and chopped some carrots, washed and dried dishes to maximize the counter space, filtered some water, and set out the pans and non-perishable ingredients I'll need to make the tacos.

5. I do our shopping on Saturday afternoons, leaving Hubby with a napping Nugget. I try to use the same store each time so I have the aisle down pat. I keep a list throughout the week and then rewrite it by store aisle to reduce the "double-backs". My current favorite store is Super Target since it has a combination of decent pricing, non-grocery items, clean restrooms, and several snack stations (you can't buy groceries on an empty stomach, dontcha know?!).

Please leave your own tips and recipes in the comments!

It's a Wonderful Life

You know that scene where Zuzu asks George to "paste it"? Lately, we've been feeling very George Bailey-like, because the Nugget is constantly breaking bananas, pieces of bread, cereal bars, etc. and begs us to, "Fix it please." Unfortunately, he is smarter than Zuzu and doesn't fall for the broken piece in the parental pocket con. When we fail to magically repair a broken mandarin orange slice, there is much despair. I've been trying to explain to him that 1.) We aren't magical deities, that we're just fallible people like him, only with more mileage and 2.) Broken bananas still taste ok. The Nugget regards both theories with suspicion.
Inanimate object du jour is a kid-sized chair that arrived this week courtesy of my best friend Amazon. Holy good deal, Batman! (I've been waiting for the PBK Hybrids to go on sale, but my miserly brain can't wrap itself around the concept that $100+shipping = sale.) The Nugget immediately dubbed it his "Thinking Chair", sat right down and tapped his fingers happily on the armrests. The Thinking Chair has taken up residence in his room, to replace the glider (with realistic finger pinching action!) that has moved to the nursery/guestroom. Anytime he sits down, he wants to sing the Thinking Chair song, which is pretty cute. This morning, I came into the Nugget's room, where he was happily carrying on a conversation with Thinking Chair.

"Wow! Whoa! Pound it, Thinking Chair. Pow, pow, pow!"

Sunday, January 17, 2010

The Windy City

We took a mini vacation to Chicago this weekend while the painter worked his magic on our dining room. I've been wanting to take the Nugget to Shedd Aquarium since we moved back to the Midwest, so I found a great package deal on a downtown hotel and aquarium tickets. I am proud to report that the Nugget added "pigeon" and "Zamboni" to his vocabulary this weekend. There are some things best learned in the city. The Nugget was surprisingly amenable, and here are the weekend's highlights from his point of view.

10. "I drink water" from a drinking fountain at Shedd.

9. "Squeezee nogurt" at Panera. Yogurt in a tube! So good.

8. "A sea lion splashing."

7. "I look for alligators. Alligators, where are you?!" - gotta check each sewer grate.

6. "I go wee down slide." - at the Penguin Polar Playzone in Shedd. About a zillion times. A penguin's life for me!

5. "I pwess elevator buttons." - at the hotel.

4. "I use key, open door." - at the hotel. This process is best performed SLOWLY if one of the parents needs to use the bathroom.

3. "I ride silver train with Mommy and Daddy 'gether. Some snacks please." Mommy carries better snacks when we're on vacation.

2. "I ride bus! I ride another bus. I ride different bus now." I want to know why we can't board every single bus in the city and find out where they go.

1. "Look! A spinny door!" I want one installed in my bedroom, stat.

Thursday, January 14, 2010

Mr. Independent

We seem to have reached a tenuous detente with the Nugget. The many tips and support I received from family and friends were so helpful! Thanks to each and every one of you for commiserating, sharing stories of your own battles with 2.5ers, and reminding me that this too shall pass. I think I was stuck mourning the 2 year old stage he was in, clinging to how much I adored it, instead of helping the Nugget plunge ahead and rejoicing in his new-found bravado and independence.

The Nugget is a driven child, strong-willed, and determined. He gets this from his Daddy, his Tummy Mummy, and his Gammi. He may not be on the pediatrician's timeline or be capable of doing what his peers are doing at any given moment, but when he decides he's ready for something, he is going to do it. To put it in running terms, he's a slow pacer with a big kick! Getting in his way is like trying to stop a stampeding rhino. This tenacity is going to really serve him later in life. He will win his battles - I pray and hope that he chooses to fight for the weak, to stand up for those without a voice. I know he is capable of making big positive changes in this world.

When I decided to let go of my silly adult agenda (getting out of the house each morning, wearing both socks, etc.) and let the Nugget grow and practice new skills, oh how he has blossomed. Don't get me wrong, we continue to enforce limits, but overall, we're embracing "I do it" this week. I am so humbled and thankful that God has put the Nugget in my life, has entrusted this little spirit to Hubby and me. As much as I am trying to teach him and help him grow, this little soul is the best teacher I have ever had.

For now, here are some of his latest accomplishments! After the paint chip incident, I am entitled to do some bragging!

1. Read/memorized his first book at 2.5! Peek-a-Who by Nina Laden.

2. Dresses and undresses (shirt, socks, shoes, bibs, pants, training pants, pjs, slippers) with verbal help only. Yes, it still takes forever, but he gets faster each time. Buttons seek to thwart him, but zippers, snaps, and velcro have succumbed to his nimble fingers. He has yet to conquer winter outerwear, which is why we are still mainly housebound.

3. Sitting in an adult chair, no booster, no highchair. I miss the straps, but he's gotten much better at sitting and staying put until the meal is over. My fabric-covered Ikea chairs are getting a little sticky but thank goodness for my Biokleen (we should have bought stock during the reflux days), it's just a couple extra minutes of cleaning.

4. Puts all dirty laundry in the laundry bag and trash in the trash can.

5. Opens and recycles junk mail.

6. Vacuums with a dustbuster.

7. Can serve himself a juice box (we like the pre-diluted Motts for Tots boxes for travel), meaning he can unwrap the straw, insert it, and drink it without a mess.

8. Likes to clean up his own messes. You can thank me later, future Nugget spouse.

9. Hosted a very peaceful playdate yesterday. It could have been a fluke, but yesterday he chose to share his toys, take turns, offer toys and hugs to friends, and even wave bye-bye without tears.

Dear Nugget,
I know it's been a rough few weeks, and I hope you will always find it in your heart for forgive Mommy and Daddy for their shortcomings. Being a first-born means that you are helping us learn how to be parents. We don't always have the answers, but we always, always, always love you. We are so proud of the person you are becoming. It is an honor to be -
Your loving Mommy.

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Parenting by region

Now that we're settled and into our second year in the Midwest, I have definitely noticed that life is different here. Here are some of my musings on how parenting is different by region. Neither is a parenting utopia nor cesspool, it's just different.

West Coast
1. We were first to hear about all the latest gadgets and innovations. And OMG, the clothes were to die for. Attending playgroups was like witnessing a children's fashion show. It's not that people there were necessarily wealthier or more materialistic, the shopping is just better.
2. Organic baby foods and "green" baby products were inexpensive and widely available.
3. Allergies and food preferences seemed to abound, and you had to shield your snacks at playdates. If a tot snuck a bite from another kid's baggie, occasionally there would be a parental freak-out. Before bringing anything to a potluck, we went through a laundry list of dietary questions..."Are you nut-free? Celiac? Vegan? Lactose-intolerant? Diabetic?"
4. Vaccination and circumcision are very controversial issues.
5. Fear ran high about the latest recalls. We were the first to hear the gossip and if you didn't immediately dump your BPA bottles, literally dozens of moms would tell you which stores were letting you swap-up for the safer versions.
6. Parenting was seen more as a career choice and hence, there were definitely more competi-moms!
7. There were a plethora of activities for children. Your choice of music classes, swimming lessons, indoor gyms, etc. I miss the options.
8. The weather doesn't vary too much, so there's not much use for snowsuits nor tank tops. A sweater and a hoodie will suffice for many NW winter days, and you better keep that hoodie in the car during the summer for the evening chill. Nature is just gorgeous and outdoor experiences are pleasant year-round, although summer was our favorite season.
9. It's a given that you don't allow your child to watch TV or eat sugar.

1. We're a few years behind on the trends which is aggravating when you want the latest gizmo, but also satisfying in that we are spending less money on the latest and greatest.
2. Organic options are limited and super expensive here.
3. Allergy rates are a lot lower - is this a genetic trend, something environmentally different, or are they just not diagnosed here? Either way, if someone brings crackers to a playdate, it's a happy free-for-all!
4. Vaccination and circumcision are "givens".
5. Folks are a little more laid back about the recalls and scares. They care, but without hitting the panic button.
6. Parenting is viewed more as a relationship, so while there is still the ubiquitous pressure to "keep up with the Joneses", the need to be the best is notably lacking.
7. It's pretty difficult to find activities or classes, especially those geared for younger children. They exist, but aren't heavily advertised, and often there is only a single option in the area.
8. Here it is necessary to outfit your children for every weather possibility - from snow to rain to sauna-like heat. This gets expensive quickly, as kids rarely fit into the same weather-appropriate clothing from year to year. There is a very real potential for frostbite or sunstroke. On the upside, most homes here are air conditioned, so no need to spend hours at the mall on sweltering July afternoons, just retreat to your own home! Here, fall is our favorite season - all golden, crisp, and a cool respite from the humidity.
9. It's a given that you allow your child to watch TV, and parents will recommend their favorite shows. That's really nice, because while there's no judgment if you don't let your kids have screen time, there's also no audible gasp when you can admit that you got a shower thanks to Elmo's World. It's also a given that you allow your child to eat sugar, so you can't expect Junior to attend a playdate without seeing cookies or cupcakes.

The overall feeling?

Parenting on the West Coast is more intense. The culture is about keeping on top of the latest studies, finding the ideal playgroups and schools, learning how to be the best parent you possibly can for your child.

Parenting is more laid-back in the Midwest. There is more of a general parenting camaraderie, as in, "This stuff is tough. Let's get through it together. You gotta do what you gotta do."

I think having experienced both cultures, I can truly take away the best of both worlds. I've been so blessed to have found such good friends in both areas, friends who support instead of judge.

Universal Truths:
1. All children scream the second they enter Target.
2. Fellow parents can be snarky or a God-send.
3. The kids are crankiest an hour before Daddy is scheduled to get home.
4. If the other kid has the same snack/toy your kid does, hers must be somehow better and your kid will go to any lengths to obtain it. Meanwhile, the other kid is hatching an identical plot.

Monday, January 11, 2010

A cautionary tale

My parents' generous Christmas gift was money to repaint our dining room. The previous owners of the house painted it with white, blue, and yellow vertical stripes. It's not horrible, but it's really not our style. Yet, it was always challenging to figure out the logistics of painting ourselves, when the project is going to require a coat of primer, 2 coats of paint, and moving heavy furniture away from the walls...all while keeping the boy away from the paint and heavy, unsecured furniture.

So thanks to my parents we can now hire a professional and skedaddle for the weekend, returning to a freshly painted dining room. I headed out today to get the paint chips. The Nugget was excited to "help Mommy pick colors" but was soon distraught when he was unable to buckle his car seat without assistance. Then of course the snack I brought for him was all wrong. Amid the crying, I realized that I had forgotten to grab the directions to the store and called Hubby. Hubby kindly pulled up directions for me and then misread them to me 3 times. So I drove up and down Ireland Rd. 5 times, the Nugget howling all the way, before finally finding the paint store.

The Nugget recovered for the walk from the car to the store, but immediately found himself unable to open the heavy door to Sherwin-Williams. When I assisted him, the bloodcurdling screams started again. I raced to the wall, grabbed all the paint chips I could possibly want, and booked it next door to get the Nugget lunch at Jimmy John's. I can't remember what set him off there - the piece of sandwich I ripped off for him was asymmetrical, or he wanted his own soft drink, or the wind was blowing west when he wanted it to blow east, but needless to say, I had to ask the clerk for a bag to tote the food home. I carefully counted all the paint chips and tucked them inside the bag, then headed out, with my miserable son in tow. It was an epic adventure getting him the 10 yards back to the car and securely fastened in his car seat, which involved carrying my 35 pound flailing child while being kicked in the shins by sturdy toddler snow boots, then throwing out my back while tussling him into the car seat. (There are many moments in my day where I feel like parenting a large toddler is quite similar to mutton busting or pig wrestling.) He railed loudly against the many injustices of life all the way home.

At home, I finally calmed him down, we ate our sandwiches peacefully, and I tucked him in for a much needed nap. I went to get the paint chips out of the bag...BUT THEY WERE GONE!


P.S. After calling Hubby in tears and having him pick up another stack of paint chips on his way home from work, Hubby walked in the house and immediately spotted the original chips. The ones I thought I dropped. They were facedown on top of the microwave. Somewhere, St. Anthony is laughing.

Banning the What-ifs

One of my biggest parenting flaws is dwelling on "What ifs?". The other day, as I waited impatiently for the Nugget to dress himself in the morning, I felt annoyed. "What if I were a working mom and he were in daycare? I wouldn't allow him time for this nonsense; I would have to help him get dressed or I would be late for work."

But the thing is, I'm a SAHM. There was no day-care drop off, and I'd even cancelled our playdate that morning so I could let him take his time.

Another example - I like to read to the Nugget during his mealtimes. I let him choose the story. Sometimes, he changes his mind, or I choose the story, he pitches a fit. I again catch myself thinking, "What if he had a sibling who wanted a different story? I should read this book just because I want to, despite the yelling, to prepare him for the times he won't get to choose."

But the thing is, we haven't been blessed with our second yet. As an oldest myself, I know there will be many more times when the Nugget will have to succumb to his younger sibling, that he won't get to do what he wants because the baby will need something else. His time as an only is limited, the days are numbered - perhaps ending this week, perhaps ending in 2 years, but whatever the case, it's a short precious window where he is the ruler of his universe.

I want to stop putting ourselves into these imaginary scenarios, to just be calm and enjoy the here and now. To coddle him because he's still so young and there's so much time for him to grow up. To know that while it may feel like an eternity while he's trying to get a sock over all those wiggly toes, someday I'll wake up and his socks will be bigger and stinkier than Hubby's. Someday he won't want me to read stories to him anymore. While he wants my attention, my input, my presence constantly today, someday he'll move out of this house and follow his own path to places unknown. And then I'll really miss these moments. I'll wish I hadn't wished them away or rushed him through a single morning of his childhood.

I hear him stirring, and in a few moments I'll help the Nugget greet the morning. For now, life is moving at a snail's pace. And today I am grateful. Lord, help me slow down, breathe, and savor.

Friday, January 8, 2010


2.5 is here with a vengeance! It rolled in with the demon cold, causing a perfect storm of senseless tantrums around the clock. I am so thankful for blessed sleep, which is my only respite for the moment.

The change is really hard to understand or describe. It's almost as if the Nugget has short-circuited or something. We had our routine down-pat, he was learning new things happily and successfully, we could communicate our feelings to each other, and he was even making happy progress on the gentle hands.

Now it's as if the world is too much for him to bear. A tiny frustration that he'd shrug off last month is all of a sudden a SIGN OF THE END TIMES AND WE MUST SCREAM! Instead of asking to take off his shoes by himself, he'll now react to parental removal by violently flinging the shoes against the wall and sobbing as if I'd beheaded his favorite toy. For a week now, he's sat with a tube of lotion in his hand, desperately trying to wrench off the cap between ugly gasping tears but refusing help. When I eventually give up and lotion him myself, I am battered by tiny slaps of rage. I'd heard of Piaget's theories before, that the half years mark a period of developmental disequilibrium. I'm living it now. My friend L tells me it's about a 2 month battle before life gets back "to normal". My mom says to forget the pursuit of my parenting ideals for now and focus on survival.

Survival Plan for 2.5

1. I'm going to take care of myself first. I need to stay hydrated, fed, and rested.

2. I'm going to pray for patience, calm, understanding, wisdom, and a sense of humor.

3. I'm going to pawn the boy off to Hubby for a break each evening.

4. I'm going to decrease the number of playdates we attend - fewer mornings on a tight schedule = more days we can live on a toddler schedule.

5. I'm going to get the Nugget outside each day and hope that a dose of nature helps soothe him.

6. Each night, I'm going to seek out and reflect on 3 happy things that happened each day, in between the tantrums. Last night, it was the Nugget singing the Mail Song from Blue's Clues while opening junk mail, feeding his new toy car a piece of wood "meat", and giving Daddy a big hug when he came in the door.

Battle plan in place. I hear the Nugget stirring from his nap - away to my battle station!

Tuesday, January 5, 2010

Cloth Diapers are easier than Rocket Science

To preface, this post is meant to be educational, not judgmental. Rock on, disposable diaper families :O) There are bigger fish to fry in the world of parenting.
Here is a long-overdue post about my beloved cloth diapers! 2.5 years after we started, I am so in love with them, and Hubby is too. Hubby even comes back from vacations and says, "I'm so relieved we're home and get to use the cloth diapers again!" I'd like to share why we like cloth for our family!

First of all, if you don't know me personally, I spent 5+ years working for zoos, which means 2 things:
1. I try hard to practice what I preached about conservation. If I didn't use cloth diapers, it would be akin to a personal trainer who doesn't exercise or a gourmet chef who eats TV dinners. That said, not everyone needs to use cloth, and I am vigilant to state that my using cloth doesn't make me a better parent or a better person.
2. Baby poop does not bother me. Human poop is nothing compared to kinkajou poop.

So when we were waiting for our first child, cloth diapers were just what we expected to do. We vowed to give them the old college try and if for some reason they were just terrible, we would switch to disposables. Our philosophy was that any time we could use cloth, we would, but that we accepted that we'd use disposables too. Just like we carried cloth bags into the store, but if we want to use a plastic one on the rotisserie chicken - no biggie. Every little bit would help, but we wouldn't guilt ourselves for the occasional Pampers backup.

Luckily, at the time we lived on the West Coast, where cloth-diapering is fairly common. (Now here in the Midwest, people look at me changing a cloth diaper like I've either mastered cold fusion or I have lobsters sprouting from my ears, which is the reason behind this post!) It was easy to find information and compare products. It was still hard to find them in retail stores, but you could usually find a local family using a particular product and grill them about the pros and cons. We settled on one of the most economic options - a prefold diaper and a velcro wrap. I decided to do the laundry myself to get the most savings.

Some benefits:
1. Eco-friendly - despite you having to use water and electricity to wash them, disposables, besides sitting in landfills, also take water and electricity to manufacture, plus fuel to deliver them to stores, plus your fuel getting the to store for diaper runs. So I don't take the claim that they're "equal" very seriously, especially since that big study everyone always cites was sponsored by Proctor and Gamble. I think that's a big conflict of interest!
2. Cost - conservative estimates are $1500 savings for the first child and $2000 for subsequent children. There is also a good market for used cloth diapers and covers, while the prefolds will get another life as cleaning rags after the kids are potty trained. Although we love feeling like the diapers are helping the planet, the cost is the biggest treat for us and the issue I point to most often when people ask me about cloth.
3. The Nugget knows what wet feels like, which I hope will help with potty training.
4. The Nugget has never had a diaper rash, which I realize could be coincidental.

But how hard is it?? It's super easy!
1. Fold diaper and lay it in the center of the wrap.
2. Bring the wrap up and fasten it just like a disposable! It takes just a teeny bit of practice (about a week) before you learn how to get it just right on a wiggly baby. THERE ARE NO PINS REQUIRED in the modern world of cloth diapering.
3. Wet prefolds go in a waterproof laundry bag, no rinse or soak necessary.
4. Dirty dipes get a dunk in the toilet or if you're squeamish, you can buy flushable liners, then into the same bag.
5. Wash in your regular machine. Today's laundry machines are totally capable of sanitizing diapers without special settings or bleach. If you want to run separate diaper loads, you can. There are some detergents that leave a filmy substance on cloth dipes that reduces absorbency, so check with your cloth diaper supplier before you pick a detergent. Our favorite so far is Charlie's. It's economical, works great on all laundry, is HE compatible, and is fragrance-free for our eczema-prone menfolk.
6. My mom made us some wet bags we use to tote our wet dipes home when we're out. If you're not lucky enough to have a seamstress in the family, here's a cute option.

When we use disposables:
1. Anytime the Nugget sleeps - a 7th Generation for naptime and a Huggies Overnite for bedtime. He's a heavy wetter when sleeping, and cloth just can't hold him.
2. When we travel to save on luggage space and laundry. Although this latest trip, we did take our small stash of hand-me down pocket diapers and used them with the pack of disposables we'd purchased.

Cloth won't work for you if:
1. You are grossed out to the point of nausea by dirty diapers.
2. You hate laundry

If you want to give cloth a try without dropping too much money or if you've had a bad experience with one cloth brand, here's a $10 trial (technically you put down a $150 deposit first to ensure that you won't take the diapers and run, but when you return them, you get $140 back).

Monday, January 4, 2010

Don't wake the bear

Dear Nugget,

At the end of our trip, you came down with a horrible cold, which you generously shared with your parents.

You are an absolute BEAR when sick. Nothing we do can please you. You cry for us to come help you, then you scream at us to leave when we open your bedroom door. Right now I'm typing this post while listening to you cry pitifully and yell "No, no, no," through the monitor. It takes every fiber of my being to not run back to you, but you made it abundantly clear that you were not ready to deal with me this morning and would much prefer to be left alone in your crib. You do not ask, whine or whimper - you scream. You are terribly, horribly angry at this illness and the world will know. You want your routine back desperately, but I can't give you routine when you sleep until 11am and spend 3 hours picking at your breakfast. I dare not take you out in public when I can't predict what will set off your epic meltdowns. I am trying not to take it personally and I want to nurture you back to health, but I miss my child of the sweet voice and hugs, so please give him back soon.

I write this post partially for your future spouse or partner. Take note, there will be no Florence Nightingale-type wiping of the Nugget's brow, no snuggling together on the couch while he recovers from a cold. Instead, I'd make sure the Nugget has everything he needs in arm's reach of his bed, and don a helmet if you are required to enter his room.

I love you, Nugget. Get well soon.

Love, Mommy

Sunday, January 3, 2010

Welcome 2010

New Year's resolutions are so cliche, so I'll call them goals instead.

1. In recognition of the simple fact that I cannot do it all, I will mindfully choose what I will neglect each morning. Today (and until I kick this cold), it is housekeeping. I hope that by voicing my limitations, I will remember throughout the day that though a woman's work may never be done, that's ok.

2. I will let Hubby parent on his own terms, even if that means stepping out of the room. If I feel that he needs help, I will ask first instead of just taking over.

3. I will ask for help when I need it. I will not be afraid to share my feelings with those I trust.

4. I will say learn to say, "No." To responsibilities I can't take on, to opportunities that will tire instead of fulfill. I will learn to acknowledge the guilt that follows, but I will not let it rule my life.

5. I will listen to my maternal instincts and trust in them. I will remain open to other points of view and read about other ideas, methods, and research; yet at the end of the day, I will believe in myself and trust that I know my son better than Drs. Spock or Sears. I will accept that parenting has been and always will be, trial and error. I will accept that I cannot be a perfect mother to my son, only a loving one. I will let glares and judgments on my parenting roll off my back, knowing that those who criticize are unsure of their own way. I will accept that the mistakes I make with him now could very well land him in therapy later, but I will also accept that I have always and will always do my best and love him with my whole heart.

10 has long been my favorite number. May 2010 be a lucky year for all of us!