Wednesday, November 29, 2006

Tea Tangent

This post was originally posted on Blog Mamas on October 24th, 2006.

I need to rant about tea today. Tea doesn't have much to do with being a mama except that I am a mother and I really like tea. I'm having a hard time readily find good tea and I'm ticked.

Let me clarify a few details. First of all, I like iced tea best. Fresh, crisp, clear cold tea with lots of ice -- ALL YEAR ROUND. People drink cold water, iced sodas and frozen frapp-a-doodle drinks so I don't want sassy comments about my preference for cold tea. Secondly, I like my tea UNsweetened. I don't care if other people want to add aspartame or sugar, but I believe that tea should be available in it's pure plain brewed form and additions should be optional.

Seattle is a coffee town and tea lovers are treated like second-class citizens. I'm shocked by the poor quality tea I have been served; no coffee drinker would accept coffee that is 3 days old, bitter and murky so why do restraunteurs and baristas assume that treatment is okay for a tea customer?! And enough with "fountain tea." That stuff is NOT tea - it is nasty yuck and should be banned. Again, would you drink your coffee from a spout on the coke machine? Noooo, I didn't think so.

Good tea is pretty easy. Take some decent tea leaves and cover them with really hot water. Serve as is or cool slowly and add ice. The end. Not difficult. At work I often buy fountain cups filled with ice and pour my own brewed tea over the ice to make delicious, fresh iced tea. But I shouldn't have to carry my own tea bags as I go about town! Starbucks offers an iced black tea all year round, but when I order it, I have to specify no syrup (which of course I do) and more than once I've taken a big slurp a few miles from the drive-through only to taste the tell-tale slickery sweetness of sugary syrup. Ugh.

When in Chicago for work recently, I fell in love with ArgoTea, a local tea cafe that is hoping to become the "Starbucks of Tea". I'm thinking of writing them a letter about opening in Seattle - maybe I'll promise them I'll run their first store here. Until then, I'll keep scouting out places that offer a decent glass of iced tea. And I think I'll tuck some tea bags in my purse… just in case!

Monday, November 27, 2006

The Sippy Cup of My Dreams

This post was originally posted on Blog Mamas on October 5th, 2006.

Okay, so there is a ton of baby gear out there and some I like, some I love and lots I could do without. But lately I've been dreaming of a couple of things that, as far as I can tell, do not yet exist. So I'm calling all savvy parents and/or you inventor types to help me get my hands on two imaginary items.

The perfect bibI believe that infants and toddlers learn a lot from food. The journey from tray/plate/bowl to mouth is an educational one that develops the mind and many motor skills in addition to the palate. But it is also one of the messiest adventures ever! And most bibs are not up to the challenge. The perfect bib must be:

Big enough to cover the mess. I'm not sure I want long sleeves, but I'm tired of gaping neck holes and barely-to-the-bellybutton coverage. If I have to change his clothes after he eats, then why am I bothering with the bib?

Repellent or at least resistant to liquid. Many bibs keep chunks of food at bay, but still allow liquid to soak through. Those bibs may save me a few stain-fighting seconds, but I still have to spend way too many minutes changing his clothes and washing the wet ones! Not good enough.

Easy to wash and dry. Although I might consider one that rinses under the tap, the perfect bib can be tossed in the washer and dryer (and still repel liquids). Another feature that is affected by wash-ability is the bib closure. Velcro can be quick, but it doesn't hold up very well in the wash so I would prefer a button, snap or tie closure.

Small, light and hip. Babies eat everywhere so a bib needs to be portable and packable. And a cartoon character print or cutesy-cute won't do. The perfect bib works well and looks cool.

The perfect cup
Sippy cups have saved the sanity of many parents. At my son's Montessori daycare, they teach the babies to drink from tiny tumblers which is so adorable and very amazing but the reality is sometimes a kid needs to drink on the road. So the sippy cup of my dreams would:

Be easy to drink from but not leak! Okay, so I learned the difference between sippy and tippy and Jeeper has the sippy kind so they shouldn't leak, right? Wrong! Even if they don't leak out of the spout, they leak out of the screw-on top. I'm tired of wet seats, laps and diaper bags. Argh!

Not have a handle, but still be easy to hold. I especially loathe the kind with the removable handle because it is one more thing to lose. But there should be some shape or curve that makes it easy for little fingers to grip.

Keep the drink tasting good. This is my hugest gripe. Grab your little one's sippy and take a good long swig. You'll join my revolution! That foul, plastic taste does not seem healthy.

Now that you know how I spend my spare moments imagining improvements to baby gear, I'm hoping someone out there has recommendations that will make my dreams come true!

Sunday, November 26, 2006

Checking, Savings, Trade School, Taxes

This post was originally posted on Blog Mamas on September 28th, 2006.

Although Jeep is only 15 months old, he receives an allowance. He has been getting a weekly allowance since I saw two pink stripes on a certain plastic stick. It isn’t a trust fund or inheritance nor do we have buckets of money – I just wanted to start a healthy money habit early.

Jeeper gets one dollar a week. In quarters. I put one quarter in each of the antique Bell jars that I bought when I was pregnant. The quarters aren’t for decoration although they do sparkle in their glass banks. I use quarters because it makes the math easier. You see, I distribute his allowance into four accounts: Checking, Savings, Trade School and Taxes. The money is for Jeep – and it is his to spend – within the boundaries of each account.

Checking is the NOW money. The “gum in the checkout line” or “poorly-made, over-priced toy in the gift shop” money. As soon as Jeeper’s brain can handle the logic of demand and supply, he can spend the money in his checking account as quickly or slowly as he likes. But he will also learn that Mama and Daddy won’t buy the gum or the toy for him (I can’t guarantee that Grandma/Grandpa or Nana/Papa will follow suit) so he will have to make his own choices and live with them.

Savings is the PRETTY SOON money. I don’t know yet if little Jeep will have a “burning a hole in my pocket” or a “miserly moneybags” mindset. Either way, to spend the money from the savings account he will need to check in with an advisor to get the purchase approved. The advisor’s role isn’t to talk him into or out of a purchase, but to be a touch point that reminds him of what he truly wants and values. Hopefully the savings account will produce many coveted toys and treasures while also teaching the sweet, sweet satisfaction of delayed gratification.

The Trade School account’s purpose is to make a dent in a future EDUCATIONAL endeavor. 25 cents a week won’t pay for books so we plan to supplement this account as we are able. Most likely and somewhat hopefully the future beneficiary of these funds will be the undergraduate tuition bill from a college or university. But the money is Jeeper’s to use for culinary school or a welding certification program or art school or an ESL certificate program in Spain or six years of community college courses or a PhD or whatever he chooses to pursue.

Earlier I wrote that Jeep’s allowance is for him and that he gets to spend it but that isn’t the whole truth because he has a jar for TAXES. We aren’t handing the fourth quarter over to Uncle Sam. The money in the final jar will be spent by our family (with Jeeper’s equal input) to benefit our home and our community. Family activities can be funded from this account (it is likely trips to Disneyland will be excluded) as are charitable contributions. One small way to remind him that with money comes a responsibility beyond yourself.

As Jeep gets older, I plan to increase his allowance to match his age. One dollar a week for each year lived, with ¼ still deposited into each account. The idea isn’t to fund Harvard tuition or pay for his first car, but to help him develop reasonable spending and saving habits while fostering independence and freedom. One shiny quarter at a time.

Saturday, November 25, 2006

Earth Angel

This post was originally posted on Blog Mamas on September 7th, 2006.

Ode to a Mother's Helper

One of the brightest ideas I had all summer
was to call 'Moe (Jeep's version of her name) and ask her
to become an honorary family member
She gains babysitting experience with mom around
(plus $4 an hour)
and I get extra hands and help with
shopping trips and summer concerts
Once a week under her care
all the board books return to the shelf
the tupperware to the cupboard
and the toys to their baskets
Baby boy giggles erupt from the living room
while I put dinner on the table
Stories of sixth grade entertain us and
our wacky family antics amuse her in return
Oh happy day
today is Thursday
and 'Moe is on her way!

Friday, November 24, 2006

Darn Nature

This post was originally posted on Blog Mamas on August 24th, 2006.
Even as I come up for air after a busy, tiring, stressful, sleep-deprived (and meaningful, touching, awe-inspiring, rewarding) 14+ months that were kicked off by one of the world's longest labor and birth experiences (about 54 hours of active labor at 2 full weeks PAST my very accurate due date)... I've caught myself having "baby urges." Are you KIDDING?

In my mind I know I am not ready for another baby right now! At the same time I am surprised at the power of the procreating instinct.

I expect that Jeeper will get a sibling (not yet sure if it will be bio or adopted which is a whole different discussion/post for another time).

But not ANY day soon.

Wednesday, November 22, 2006

New Blue Shoes

This post was originally posted on Blog Mamas on August 20th, 2006 as part of a "Mom Finds" series.

On Saturday I made a first-time visit to Me ‘N Moms and I hit a "Mom Find" grand slam!

Run number one: The store itself which was neat, clean, well-organized and well-stocked. An anomaly in the world of consignment.

Run number two: The great clothes I found for Jeeper including a new Babystyle long sleeve tee (for FOUR BUCKS!) and a funky dinosaur tee by Tangerine (a hard-to-find boutique designer of boy clothes).

Run number three: The perfect walking toy. On the way to the store, I was wishing I had a walking toy for Jeep, but I didn’t want to spend much money. How about a gently used Little Tikes Activity Walker for 8 dollars? Yes, thank you!

The final run: Brand new, too cute, blue shoes! M n’ M’s sells new shoes by Robeez and See Kai Run and I scored the last pair of the discontinued, but still so cool, Marek sandal. I couldn't believe it. They are the perfect size for Jeep’s feet, the timing is perfect for our trip to SoCal next week, and can't beat the perfect $19.95 price.

Yay, team!!!

Tuesday, November 21, 2006

One Stroller to Rule Them All

This post was originally posted on Blog Mamas on August 17th, 2006 as part of a "Mom Finds" series.

Like most expectant mothers, I carefully researched baby gear during my pregnancy. I knew our sweet baby would require the breast, a car seat, diapers and clothes. Everything else was superfluous and I was determined to find the best basics. In many areas, my frugality and minimalism paid off. Skipping the infant carseat and starting right off with the Britax Roundabout convertible carseat worked just fine. Jeep didn’t seem to miss the baby swing and the excersaucer we never bought. But I was most proud of our selection of the Mountain Buggy Urban Single stroller. So many parents I knew had a closet, trunk or garage full of strollers. But we needed only one. I was self-righteous about the simplicity and singularity of our Buggy. The MBUS was a travel stroller, jogging stroller, and mall stroller all rolled up in one smooth-turning, show-stopping, hot orange package.

Which leads me to my "Mom Find" item. The Maclaren Volo stroller. Ahem. Yes, my solo stroller smugness has vanished. When I needed to take my son to San Francisco for a quick business trip, I worried about hauling the 25 pound Buggy through SeaTac, BART, and the Westin St. Francis. So I read a few reviews, found an online special and purchased a carbon colored Maclaren Volo sight unseen. The carrying strap and 11 pound total weight convinced me to make the purchase, but the one-handed operation and delicate ride have stolen my heart. The Buggy still dominates for trails and car trips, but the Volo is the ride of choice for shopping and airports. This particular "Mom Find" has convinced me that although we can get by without a pack-n-play, a second, lightweight stroller is a must have!

Sunday, November 19, 2006

Motherhood: Antonym of Makeover

This post was originally posted on Blog Mamas on August 13th, 2006.

I didn’t live a picture perfect life before my son was born, but in the last year, most areas of my exterior life have deteriorated. The other day a colleague who lives near me jogged by my house and I waved her over. As we chatted in the driveway for a few minutes I looked around and realized how much has changed in the last 14 months.

That morning I had “styled” my wet hair using the car vent blasting on high. The little makeup I was wearing had been hastily applied at a stoplight. Jeep was slimy (from the banana the produce clerk gave him that morning) and dirty (from crawling in our dusty lawn that hasn't been watered) and he had wiped a good amount of banana on my shirt. The dandelions in our yard were almost 2 feet high and our decorative grass was so overgrown that you can barely get in the front door (we use the garage door and are able to ignore the problem). I couldn’t invite my co-worker inside because I knew that the living room was covered in toys, the kitchen table was cluttered with months of paper, the sink was full of dirty dishes, our bedroom floor was a mountain of dirty laundry and the bed frame was covered with clean laundry washed a week before. Plus I didn’t want her to see the Pepsi and soft tacos that I had just picked from Taco Bell.


I’m thrilled to have my son in my life and am honored to be his mother, but sometimes I get overwhelmed by the pace and magnitude of change brought about by parenthood. I’m still learning the balance between self-care and self-sacrifice, but I think I get it right when I choose book reading over blow-drying, laughing over laundry and hugs over housework. So while I think my priorities are going through an appropriate makeover, please don’t come over for a photo shoot anytime soon!

Friday, November 17, 2006

Five Favorites: Breastfeeding Stuff

Blog Mama reminded me that August is World Breastfeeding Month, so to celebrate, I posted my breastfeeding story and a review some of my favorite nursing products on the Blog Mamas site on August 10th, 2006.

I’m not exactly a lactivist, but I believe that mothers deserve lots of breastfeeding encouragement and I would love to see our society become much more supportive of nursing.

My Breastfeeding Story

After the pretty standard painful start, Jeep and I were able to manage breastfeeding although it seemed like I produced just exactly enough milk. When he was three and a half months old and I returned to work, I had enough stored milk to get him through one day. So everyday I would pump like crazy at work, rush to the daycare center to nurse at lunch, drink tons of water, swallow fenugreek caplets until I smelled like maple syrup and we still lived from bottle to bottle! My supply started to drop from all the stress so I finally bought a can of organic formula. Jeeper happily sucked down the bottles of formula in between the bottles of breastmilk and I breathed a huge sigh of relief. I didn’t get to relax for long because after about two weeks, he started balking at the formula and within one more week he completely refused it. So I was once again chained to the breast pump praying that I wouldn’t spill even one drop of the "white gold."

At six months we started to introduce fruit and veggie baby foods so the pressure began to let up. Things got easier as Jeep ate more foods and now I only pump once a day and each afternoon at daycare he has one bottle of breastmilk. He is almost 14 months old and he still nurses in the mornings, evenings and nights – most of the time I love it although there are some frustrating moments. Originally I hoped to be able to breastfeed for one year and now I hope to nurse for at least two years.

I encourage every mom to consider breastfeeding. It is rarely easy so you’ll need lots of tools, support and determination. The two pieces of advice that helped me the most were: 1.) Take it one day at a time. Sometimes when it isn’t going well it is hard to imagine pushing through the challenge to make it to some far off goal (like 6 months or one year) but you can probably make it until tomorrow and that is enough. 2.) If things aren’t going well or you have a question or problem, ask for help (some resources to try are a lactation consultant, La Leche League meeting, midwife, doula, doctor, mom’s group, female family member or friend with nursing experience or even the internet) and if that person or resource doesn’t help, ask someone else. Rarely does the same advice or solution help everyone so keep seeking answers.

November 2006 update - Jeeper is still breastfeeding and right now my goal is to continue to nurse at least until he is two and maybe longer. I started working less hours in September so I stopped pumping and he primarily nurses at home. A standard day of nursing would start in the morning as he is waking up (he comes to bed with us in the very early morning), then we would nurse when we get home in the afternoons, often again in the evening, always right before bed and probably once in the middle of the night. He nurses more when he is teething, upset or going through a big transition. For example, he recently moved into a new classroom at school and he is a little clingy and wants to nurse more than usual. Early in 2007, when he is 18 months old+, I plan to slowly cut down the number of nursing sessions. For the most part, I am very happy to still be nursing and I enjoy the closeness it brings us. He is very efficient at nursing so I don't spend long periods sitting like I used to which is nice. It can be hard to come up with nursing alternatives (cuddles, books, songs, snacks) when he is asking for more nursing sessions than I am willing to have and occasionally I do get a little tired of it. Overall, I'd say it is going very well lately.

Breastfeeding Product Reviews

Hug Nursing Bra by Japanese Weekend – The Hug bra is by far my favorite nursing bra (I own three of them and would love to buy one or two more). I bought and wore my first one in late pregnancy because it was soft and stretchy and it accommodated my expanding chest. I was so grateful to have it in the first weeks of nursing when I needed to wear a bra 24 hours a day; it was even comfortable for sleeping. Like many new moms, my breasts were extremely tender and sore when I was first learning to breastfeed so a very soft bra was of paramount importance! After the soft, stretching fabric, my second favorite feature is the layered style which creates easy access for breastfeeding. Because there are no clips or snaps, it is easy to operate with one hand. I always lift the cup up which provides a smidge more privacy than bra styles that only drop down to give the baby access. (Note, the photo shows the pulled down cup position, but it is just as easy to pull the cup up.) I throw these bras in the washer and dryer (probably not ideal) and they have held up beautifully. The only potential downside is this bra is on the lighter end of support so it may not be a great all-day bra for moms who need firm support.

Lansinoh Lanolin – I’m still not sure why rubbing sheep grease on very sore and tender nipples helps, but it does. (It would make sense to me if they were just dry and cracked, but they weren’t dry and cracked as much as they were raw and cracked. Sorry, but it is true!) Anyway, one tip is to rub some lanolin in between your fingers to soften it and then put it on the nursing pad which you then gently set on your sweet tender ladies. M-u-c-h better than trying to rub cold, stiff lanolin directly onto sore, sore girls. Yee-ouch! Lansinoh is a reliable brand for quality and purity and I found that one tube was more than enough to get me past the painful part. Now I use it on my dry elbows.

Lansinoh First Days Ultra Soft Nursing Pads – The regular Lansinoh nursing pads were high on my list, but during those sore first weeks, the ultra-soft nursing pads were my favorite! They are more curved than the rest, plus they are puffy cloud soft.

Lansinoh Breastmilk Storage Bags – These are the best, no question. They are easy to open, easy to fill, easy to zip, easy to label, easy to freeze and easy to pour. I avoid bags that use twist ties because they easily leak.

Medela Pump in Style Backpack – If you are returning to work, you MUST have an electric, double breast pump. (Even if you are not going back to work, you should get one.) I heard and read this advice when I was expecting but it didn’t really sink in until almost too late. After Jeep was born I went to the nearest drug store and bought a manual pump. The manual pump worked okay for expressing a little milk if I got engorged and I used it to pump a few ounces after we had breastfeeding established. But once I needed to pump three or more times a day at work, the only way to go was the double electric pump. An angelic friend lent me her Medela “Pump-in-Style” Backpack so I haven’t tried the newer Advanced version. The original one worked fine and the backpack was super handy for hauling to work and back everyday. My dear friend also gave me all my own new replacement pump parts so nothing “used” was ever touching me or my breastmilk. Remember that not only is it ideal to give your baby as much breastmilk as you can, formula is expensive so think of the purchase of a high quality breast pump as an investment.

To see more product reviews, check out my post on my top ten favorites: Baby Stuff.

Monday, November 13, 2006

Wrestle Mania

This post was originally posted on Blog Mamas on August 6th, 2006.

I grew up with two brothers and I recall a good amount of wrestling at our house. While my older brother was on the actual wrestling team in junior high, what I remember most is the three of us rolling around on the floor trying to "pin" each other. Knowing my past, I'm not surprised that Jeeper likes to wrestle. But I am surprised that he is such a tough wrestler at 13 months old! I would have never guessed that I would be pinned daily by a 23 pound nursling. Granted, he uses a unique technique where he presses his open mouth on my face (usually right over my nose) and then drools, causing me to be overcome with the heebie-jeebies and the giggles and the combo effectively renders me helpless. Sometimes he wrestles his daddy and occasionally he plays a little rough with his best friend at his daycare, but so far I am his favorite opponent. And as long as he stays away from moves like the "jawbreaker" and the "hammerlock" and he lets me sneak a few snuggles, neck nuzzles and a smooch or two, then I say, "Bring it on little man!"

Saturday, November 11, 2006


This post was originally posted on Blog Mamas on August 3rd, 2006.

My mom and dad have a big garden and recently my mom emailed me this photo of some radishes they grew. Wow, look at those roots! I can't get them out of my mind. Even worse, I've gotten too philosophical about vegetables since seeing this picture.
To explain, you need to know that my parents don't live in the Seattle area. Actually, my husband and I don't have any relatives in Washington state (well, maybe we have a 3rd-cousin-twice-removed somewhere around) or even in any bordering state. Our immediate families live in Montana, California and Texas and we have extended family primarily in New Mexico and Oklahoma.

I love many aspects of our life here in the Pacific Northwest, but I also have a deep urge to grow roots in one place. That feeling grew stronger after Jeep was born. I've been thinking a lot about what it means to have roots and if that experience is even possible. I've lived in three different parts of the US for 6 years or more and I feel connected to each of those places. I miss unique aspects of each of those locations even while I enjoy living here. Did I grow roots in the past and pull them up when I moved? I'm not sure.

Do I need relatives around to have roots? I know the answer is "not necessarily" because I was very connected to my home town and the people there even though I grew up with no extended family around. I have dear friends, good neighbors, supportive colleagues and a network that deepens daily here in Western Washington. I think I should feel rooted here and often I do. But then I see Jeeper with his grandparents or one of his uncles (or any other family member) and I notice something different. I'm not sure how to explain it. The love of the family seems a tiny bit more accepting and I wish he could be around that love more a little more often.

One more veggie tale might help clarify my muddled thoughts. I bought a bag of sweet Maui onions at Costco because I couldn't resist the price. We don't eat onions much – we use only one or two a year so it was dumb to buy four. When I got home and looked at the bag I felt sad that I don’t have family in the area. Because when it is family, you can stop by and drop off a couple of extra onions. And they will like and love you just the same (even appreciate the gesture) and not think you are strange. I want Jeep to have that "extra onion" type of acceptance in his life.

Some days I threaten to pack all we own and move in with my parents or in-laws. Maybe that closeness would give me instant roots, but it would also come with some significant trade-offs. What helps me the most is to be grateful for this moment. We have the love of our family and we connect through email, phone calls and visits as often as we can manage it. We are blessed with great and growing friendships here in town as well as special friends around the world. This place offers satisfying jobs for my husband and me plus spectacular care for our boy. So while I'm still not sure how to grow roots (or what that means or if it is important), today I am thankful for a rich harvest.

Friday, November 10, 2006

Ten Favorites: Baby Stuff

This post was originally posted on Blog Mamas on July 21st, 2006.

The Baby Book by Dr. William Sears – this book calmed our fears so many times. It is amazingly detailed so we use it like a reference book rather than a favorite novel.

My Brest Friend – dumbest name in the book, but this nursing pillow offers very good all around support especially in the early days of nursing when perfect positioning made all the difference.

Mountain Buggy Urban Single – so the two handle-bar recalls have been a pain in the bum, but other than that I love the smooth, smooth ride of this versatile stroller.

Swaddle Designs Blanket – the best all around blanket. Soft, lightweight and BIGGER than all the rest so you can easily get any sized baby good and swaddled. Ecological bonus – one version is made from organic cotton.

The Happiest Baby on the Block DVD by Dr. Harvey Karp – my hubby watched this DVD two or three times and quickly became “The Master Swaddler.” He could calm fussy Jeeper in a moment or two using the techniques which were clearly presented and easy to follow. I read the book which was quick and easy too, but especially recommend the video.

Ring Sling – I made fun of these before I took a baby wearing class where I tried a whole slew of baby carriers. I chose a silk sling because the fabric is very lightweight and strong, but also less bulky than most. The ring sling design is versatile and easy to adjust. Ours is from Taylor Made Slings, but there are many similar designers.

Baby Bjorn Baby Sitter Activity Bouncer – I love the simplicity of this baby seat (no batteries required). We didn’t use an infant car seat (we started right off with the convertible type), so it was great to have a comfortable place for Jeep to hang out for a few minutes when we were doing something (like eating) that made it hard to have him in arms or in the sling.

Earth’s Best Organic Lavender 2-in-1 Shampoo & Body Wash by J/A/S/O/N – the name is way too long, but this is great baby soap! It is tear free, concentrated, gentle but very effective and the bottle has an easy open design which is so helpful when you are trying to support a wiggly baby with one hand and get some soap out with the other.

Oball – a toy for everyone! This simple ball is great for babies as young as two or three months all the way up to 100 years+. As Jeep started to crawl he liked to roll the Oball forward slightly and then wiggle toward it. Now he throws it wildly, so I’m grateful it is soft and flexible. The small size is great for travel too!

Seventh Generation Chlorine Free Disposable Diapers – in addition to the absence of harsh chemicals, these diapers just work really well for us. We don't have problems with leaks and I like the simple tan style.

To see more product reviews, check out my post on my top five favorites for Breastfeeding.

Tuesday, November 07, 2006

Where Have All the Mamas Gone

This post was originally posted on Blog Mamas on July 13th, 2006.

About six weeks ago Jeep started saying “Mama.” It started as “ma-ma-ma-ma-ma” and then slowly the pauses started to occur in the right places. I called Bea and proudly announced, “Jeeper said his first word and it was ‘Mama.’” “Are you sure he meant you?” she asked. “Of course,” I shot back defensively.

Truthfully I wasn’t exactly sure. He didn’t look lovingly into my eyes or reach longingly toward me when he said it. It really was kind of random. I believed he meant it for me because I (naturally) was around whenever I heard it.

A few days later I dropped Jeep off with Bea and her kids while I ran to the airport to pick up my brother and his family. When she brought him home she said, “Oh, he definitely is saying ‘Mama.’ After you left he cried and clung to me for a while. He would look sadly around and every now and then he would say ‘Mama’ in a forlorn little voice.” While her story broke my heart to know he missed me so much, at the same time I was bursting with pride. My baby knew how to say “Mama!”

Since then he has also learned to say “uh-oh” when he drops things, “bop” when he sees a balloon, and “baa” each night when we start his bath. Oh, and he says “Dada” now too. Actually, almost all he says these days is “Dada.” Our cat is “Dada,” a ball is “Dada,” of course Daddy is “Dada” and (I don’t want to tell you but I must be honest) even I am “Dada.” Sigh. I know I shouldn’t be competitive and truthfully I’m thrilled for Jeep to know what to call his Daddy. But I l-o-n-g to hear “Mama” again.

Until then, I’ll gladly respond to “Dada.”

Sunday, November 05, 2006

Two-headed Beast

This post was originally posted on Blog Mamas on July 9th, 2006.

While I totally agree that BlogMama deserves validation for the choices and efforts she has made/is making, I don't think the grass is much greener over here in Working Mom Land. I don't get bonuses or an especially fat paycheck but I do earn enough money to cover exceptional (and exceptionally expensive) childcare plus a few economic ends including my family's health insurance. Although I try to be more efficient than ever, I can't give the time, attention and travel that I used to give to my work and I've seen the compliments & appreciation decrease as a result. Plus I still do the lion’s share of kid-care and household duties at home too. With no more thanks or appreciation than the average Mom – working or not.

What I find the most difficult about being a working mom is my split personality. I feel like almost every minute of everyday I frantically flip my focus from my son to my work and back again. The “to-do” list never ends and I have two of them! It makes me pretty crazy and I’ve spent hours talking to my husband and other mama friends about the perfect solution. I’ve come to the conclusion that there isn’t one perfect reality for all mothers but I hope there is a unique balance for each of us. So far, I’m still on a teeter-totter, but Jeep’s awesome daycare, a couple of hours of paid housecleaning a month, and lowering my standards in almost all areas are a few of the things that keep me from toppling.

I have thought a lot about the “career set-back” that can happen when a mom chooses to walk away from work and stay at home these days. While I'm not satisfied with the current economic & cultural situation and the choice mothers are forced to make, I’ll admit career progress has a small part to play in why I’m still in the workforce (although not nearly as much of a role as the health insurance). Honestly I don’t feel like I’m climbing the corporate ladder right now. If I’m lucky, I’ll hold my spot on this particular rung.

Friday, November 03, 2006

Even Prisoners Have Book Readings

This post was originally posted on Blog Mamas on July 3rd, 2006.

In April my friend Bea invited me to a book reading with Anne Lamott. She had arranged for a family member to watch her kids and was looking forward to time off, spiritual intellectualism and a few laughs. My only experience with Anne Lamott was a quick skim of “Operating Instructions,” but listening to an author who has wrestled (somewhat irreverently as I recall) with both mothering and faith appealed to me.

I work a demanding job in addition to the demands of motherhood. I feel caught in the stereo-typical “mommy wars” - judged for working by friends, family and strangers who are/were “stay-at-home” mothers and also pressured by society and economics to be a successful professional woman. So when I read about Lamott online, I was drawn to the description of Anne “exhorting readers to go easy on themselves and with each other.” I look forward to hearing “essays that are howlingly funny mini-sermons” and a “quirky, funny perspective [that is] nothing short of a salve for tired souls.”

The day of the event I realize I haven’t confirmed that my husband can pick up our son so when I learn he has to work late, I’m disappointed . I call Bea and tell her I’m tempted to bring Jeep and stay until he cries. She encourages me to try it and agrees to get there early to save us a place.

Jeep (10 months old at the time) is in a good mood and flirts with Bea as the crowd files in. There is no cry room so we sit in the back row near the hallway. Anne reads about Easter and cancer and it is as funny and poignant as I had hoped. Jeep giggles when anyone laughs at Anne’s wisecracks and turns with wide eyes every time the audience applauds. How refreshing to stretch my mind and soul while sitting on the floor with my wiggly, happy son! Although on occasion he spouts baby gibberish, I feel relieved and grateful to have the best of all worlds.

After reading, Anne takes comments and questions from the audience. While she tries to come up with an answer to “How do you connect with Christians in red states?” a gray-haired curmudgeon from two rows ahead turns to glare at me. “Get that kid out of here!” he barks. I’m caught off guard for a moment, then retreat to into the hall with bouncy babe in arms.

From the lobby I listen to a woman describe how "Operating Instructions" helped her get through life after the birth of her son. My eyes fill with tears that don’t stop. I return to the auditorium and whisper good-bye to Bea. She helps shove gear into the diaper bag and whisks me outside where she offers sweet words and hugs.

I cry on the drive home as Jeep chatters about the passing trees, cars and whatever else occupies the mind of a pre-toddler. Some tears are angry tears at my husband for having to work late, some are frustrated tears for the man who couldn’t relax and hear the wisdom of a writer/mother because he was too distracted by a few happy sounds from a baby, others are tears of embarrassment because I should have known not to bring a baby to a book reading.

Then I recall a recent NPR program about authors hosting book readings in a women’s prison. Sound like a good program, but what about moms? Like many parents, I struggle to juggle a life that includes a kid and society’s expectations and norms. The lines are fuzzy and I don’t always know where to comply and where to protest. And while I believe it is perfectly fair to ban babies from symphony concerts, I also believe that grumpy old men should be banned from Anne Lamott book readings.

Thursday, November 02, 2006

My Halloween History

Halloween is not my favorite holiday. When I was a kid, my mom made great handmade outfits for my brothers and me (she was a 4-H sewing champ) and I'm crazy for sweets so you'd think I would be a fan. However, I am w-i-m-p-y about anything scary so the whole haunted side of the holiday gives me the creeps. When I do celebrate, I carve happy Jack-o-lanterns, choose cheery costumes and skip the cobwebs, tombstones and werewolf howls.

I remember being excited for the Halloween haunted house at my elementary school. The teachers warned us that once we started to go through, we had to finish. There would be no early exits; no exceptions. I stepped through the door, heard the spooky music and immediately started bawling. I cried so hard they quickly made an exception to their "no exception" policy. No more haunted houses for me. I've never watched a horror movie and could only bear to watch Michael Jackson's Thriller video with one eye open. I'm a fan of The Simpsons and I faithfully TiVo each new show, but I'm not recording this week's annual "Treehouse of Horror" episode since I can't even handle scary cartoons.

In addition to the creep factor, Halloween ranks low on my holiday list because I don't enjoy dressing up. Some people love the challenge of creating a costume, but I don't! I never come up with very good ideas plus I just fret. Will I be uncomfortable? Will I be too dressed up? Or worse, not dressed up enough? Like the year I came to work as a gardener and no one even noticed that I was in costume. Because it is so common to wear overalls, a straw hat and galoshes to the office. Nevermind that I had my hair in pigtails and a spade in my front pocket. Argh.

When we moved into our house a few years ago, I started to get a little more excited for Halloween. It is fun to hand out candy and see the neighborhood cuties all dressed up (even though the doorbell rings only about 5 times thanks to the dark, rainy October nights here in Seattle). Last year we stayed in, dressed four-month old Jeeper in Halloween themed pajamas and answered the door. No stressful creative costuming and nothing scary. My perfect "all-hallows eve."

Jeep loves dogs, so this year I got him a puppy costume and made plans with a friend to take our babes to University Village for trick-or-treating. I told myself I was doing the right thing for the photo album and then prepared for some twoodler (like tween) fits of frustration. When one of my colleagues wished Jeep "lots of fun" on Halloween I responded with the observation that Halloween isn't exactly fun for one year olds. Not that it is torture, but fun for a one year old is a familiar place (like home) and an enthusiastic audience (especially one that will clap, cheer, sing and rough-house). Fun isn't big crowds, sitting for photos, wearing a weird hood or being urged to put treats in a basket.

I was right, Jeeper didn't burst into grins or giggles at any point during our Halloween adventures. He tolerated his hood, carefully observed all the commotion and took his treat taking very seriously. But what surprised me, in addition to his good behavior, was how much fun I had! The cool autumn air, the energy of all the families, the ease of a being with a good friend and the cuteness of my son together with the sugar high from a few mini candy bars made me into one happy Halloween mama. I'm already looking forward to celebrating Halloween as a family in the future. Just as long as I don't have to wear a costume any time soon.

Wednesday, November 01, 2006


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