Our weekend was filled with family, friends, and cake, as we celebrated Sir’s 3rd birthday.100_1025

We kept things pretty simple and low-key, which also equated to planet-friendly.  The only “disposable” item that I purchased was the pack of party hats, but they’re all in good enough shape to be used again.

Matthew suggested that we look for some kind of reusable (ideally cloth) birthday banner that we can pull out at this time every year (his family had something like this growing up), and I think that’s a great idea!


Sir requested strawberry birthday cake, and I delivered, using frozen garden strawberries (I used the Jell-O-free recipe here, subbing whipped cream and sliced berries for the icing).  I also pureed a bit of roasted beet for extra pink oomph — the batter was a lovely bright pink, but, as you can kind-of see in the above picture, the finished product just barely had a pink hue.  Sir didn’t mind!

I’m on the hunt for a kid-sized table and chairs for G (not necessary, but might be fun for him, so if I can find something nice, at a reasonable price . . . ), so in the meantime, we borrowed my MIL’s.  Fun place mats belonged to Matthew and his siblings.

Birthday presents were also pretty low-key: a deck of Uno cards (he plays at Mrs. L’s house) and a new-to-him bulldozer, which, not surprisingly, was a huge hit!  (I picked up the bulldozer at a thrift store last fall, intending it as a Christmas gift, then forgot about it.)  While I think gift-giving can be a nice part of birthday celebrations, I really prefer that the acquisition of more stuff not be the focus.

My planned birthday gift for Sir is/was a new-t0-us, three-wheeled scooter.  I’ve been keeping an eye on CL, but not really finding anything.  My first choice would be a Mini Kick Scooter (reviewed here), but I might have to compromise on that, if I’m also set on buying used.  Either way, I’d like to get something so he can zip around like the adorable kids I saw in London.


Sir’s weekend fun also included not one, but two, trips to Grant’s Farm, first with Baba, and then with my family, who came from Iowa for the weekend.  Gabriel had lots of fun running around with his cousin Noah and riding the “train.”


Returning to normal time

Have I mentioned that I like routine?  Because I really, really, really like routine.  I admit there would be some advantages to being more go-with-the-flow and less into routine.  Some people thrive on spontaneity and change.  I am not those people.

So it’s no surprise that my little world was in a bit of a tailspin last week, when both my primary (Mrs. L) and secondary (my MIL) childcare providers were on vacation.  For the ENTIRE WEEK (how could they do that to me???).  It felt like even longer, and, in fact, it was, as the week lasted from Friday the 27th through this past Saturday.  Nine, count ’em, NINE days!

I’m used to having 8.5 hours of childcare, 4-5 days/week, including an overnight most weeks.  To drop from that to almost nothing was a bit of a shock to the system.  (Also, my MIL being out-of-town means we have extra garden duties, which is a double whammy.)

To be fair, the last weekend in June was a vacation, as we spent Friday through Monday in Illinois at a family reunion.  That was easier, with other adults around to spend some time with Sir, plus cousins to play with (though “play” is an optimistic term at this age, as it involves plenty of adult supervision and intervention — maybe we should just let them duke it out like puppies).


For Sir, the highlight of the weekend was the “train” shuttle at our resort.  If I could have strapped him into it and let him ride it on his own, we’d have been set for hours!  Alas, it required adult involvement.

Though the term “vacation” is an oxymoron when you have a child, it was a nice weekend, We enjoyed time with my family, including rare time with extended family from Texas, and manged to sneak in a few short hikes at Starved Rock State Park (from which we miraculously escaped without getting poison ivy).

But the weekend ended, and the week of no childcare loomed.  I made it through one-and-a half days.

Then, to help save my sanity (and give me time to actually put a few hours in on my paid job), my mom came for a short visit — 28-hours that provided two afternoons and one morning of reprieve, leading into the Fourth of July holiday weekend.

In my experience, having two parents home is really not that much less exhausting than having one parent home, as you are either the parent who is “on” with the child, or the parent trying to get something else done, while the child begs for your attention, even though he has the attention of the other parent (I imagine having more than one child might change this equation).

The chorus of, “You want to play with me?  You want to go for ride on my tractor?” seemed never-ending.

To mix things up a bit, we planned a few outings for the weekend, starting with a parade on the 4th.  We originally planned to attend the community parade with my FIL in Webster Groves, but when I read about the VP Parade (the official 4th of July parade in StL), and realized this might be the one year in my lifetime that the parade was held in Forest Park, plus the fact that the parade featured numerous marching bands, we changed plans.


We were quite the patriotic bike family, with Matthew and Gabriel on Roadrunner (AKA Big Blue) and me on fire-engine red Baby Jake.  We arrived early, and were able to bike right along the staging area where the floats were lining up (in retrospect, I wish we lingered a bit longer on this part).  Cars were [mostly] not allowed in the park over the weekend, so bicycles had free reign!


The parade was awesome!  I’ve never seen anything like it — the intricate floats, fancy costumes, music from both marching bands and live bands playing on the floats — spectacular.

We left a bit early, but we didn’t really miss much, since we biked back toward the parade start and were able to see most of the floats that hadn’t passed us yet.

Unfortunately, we didn’t leave early enough for Pookie.  He didn’t want to go, but was clearly tired, as evidenced by his nodding off in his bike seat.  This made the ride home not-so-fun for me.  I felt bad that he was that tired and that we hadn’t gotten him home sooner , not to mention worried that we’d blown our chance at him taking a real nap that day.

Fortunately, he was strapped in (though he looked really pitiful with his head all over the place and falling forward on the bike), and his bike nap, by some miracle, did not take the place of his regular afternoon nap that day (important because we also wanted to nap in preparation for fireworks [sans Sir] that night).

Saturday morning dawned much too early for the two family members who watched fireworks on Friday night, but we dragged ourselves out of bed and got in gear in time to both make pancakes and get out of the house on the earlier side.

Our outing involved a visit to the Botanical Garden as well as a [rare for us these days] stop at Tower Grove Farmers’ Market.  We have plenty of produce from the garden, so the stop was solely to pick up some snacks for the morning.  At my insistence, we managed to time this outing to avoid any bicycle napping.

I don’t know if I can express exactly how much I’m looking forward to a “normal” week.  I survived the interruption to our normal routine, but it wasn’t always pretty, and it left me more than a little burnt out!


One for the now

This is a post that has been on my mind for a long time.  I’m finally writing after reading some other posts this week by Kim Simon (AKA Mama by the Bay): first, this beautiful tribute to doulas and fighting PPD, then the story of becoming a family of four, and finally, this.  Talk about tugging my heart strings!

Kim’s story with her first child seemed so like mine, in many ways, and it was SO easy to get caught up in the healing she found with her second child.  Her writing had me in tears; it was, in many ways, beautiful and uplifting, but it sent me on a downward spiral, because, in my heart of hearts, I don’t think her story will be my story, and that was depressing.

THIS is my story.  Maybe it is your story, too.

My little boy will turn three in just over a month.  In the past ten months, it seems like everyone I know with a similar-age first child has either had a baby or announced a pregnancy — both real-life and virtual friends.  So now it’s just me.

I guess because I made it clear fairly early on that G would most likely not have a sibling, I’ve avoided a lot of the, “So, when are you guys going to have another one?” questions, but that doesn’t mean it’s not on my mind.

Most of the time, I’m over 90% sure that one is a really good number.  But sometimes I get caught up in wondering: the chance to grow and nurture another life; a re-do of our first year; a shot at another (different?) birth story.

It’s tempting to look at my peers and think, “Everyone’s doing it, so I should, too.”

But my story is my own, and when I really think about it, I can’t think of any really good reasons to have a second child.  At least nothing that overrides my looooong list of reasons why, for me, for our family, one is a really good number.

My one child is awesome (and exhausting and sometimes frustrating).  Could I handle another one?  Could we make it work?  Yes.  Maybe.  Probably . . . . but why?  (No, I don’t really want answers to that last question.)

It’s hard to find closure on this when I wonder if I’ll regret it later.  And these are still “early days,” in many respects — will I feel differently when G is 4?  Or 5?  Or 10?

As he gets older — more independent; less needy; more fun, new stages — I’m afraid the temptation toward a second child will only grow, especially when couple with increasing time and distance from those challenging first months and years.

The best answer I can come up with is to live in the present, challenging though that may be for this “have it all planned out” gal.  For NOW, one is a really good number (except those times when it still feels like too much — I’m a mommy wimp!).  For NOW, I have a sweet, healthy, smart, adorable little boy, and I love seeing the world through is eyes.  For now (and, yes, quite possible forever), one is enough.

If I am still living in the present when I am 40, 50, 60 . . ., I won’t look back and regret.  The real tragedy would be getting so caught up in the worry and what-if that I miss the amazing, wonderful NOW.



Sir speaks

In the last four months, Gabriel has made huge progress in the speech and language department.  The changes started in mid-December (just shy of 2 1/2 years old), when his vocabulary really took off — all of the sudden he was using a lot more words (language) though many of the words sounded similar and were difficult to distinguish (speech).

In mid-January, we started speech therapy, and between that and just finally being developmentally “ready,” he’s really taken off: greatly expanded vocabulary, phrases and sentences, and slowly making progress on articulation.

While we get a lot of, “Be careful what you wish for, once he starts talking, you’ll never get him to shut up,” type comments, I’m enjoying all of the talking, except what is uttered in a whiny voice (but there was whining before he was talking much).

He still drops most ending consonants, so, while we understand almost all of what he says, comprehension can be difficult for others.  The only consistent exception is that he really emphasizes the “d” at the end of “good.”

Me: How are you feeling this morning?
G: Goo-duh

Being able to talk means that he can tell us what he’s thinking.  For a number of mornings in a row, when I went into his room to say good morning, he would start to get up, pause, and, with a very thoughtful look on his face, say, “Thinking ’bout going somewhere.”

He can also tell us what he’s feeling . . .

Me (to a crying Gabriel): I know you don’t want to put away your toys and brush your teeth right now, but that’s what we’re going to do.
G (crying): Feel really sad!

I’m thrilled that he’s starting to verbally express his feelings.  However, such statements are no more effective than crying when it comes to swaying Mama.


He has some particularly cute and endearing phrases:

  • He uses, “Lil’ bit,” as a response to many questions, and, as Matthew describes it, he sounds like a little Southern girl when he says it.
  • “Love you soooo much!”  This one is pretty much self-explanatory.
  • “Want mo’ food,” which usually means, “I want different food.”

He surprised me by counting to ten last week.  I thought we were counting to three or four for rocket ship blast-off, but he just kept going, all the way up to ten!

He’s pretty good with manners, often using “Please” and “Thank you” appropriately, with no prompting.  He hasn’t quite figured out what to do when someone thanks him, though.

Me: Thank you for picking up your toys, Gabriel.
G: Thank you, too, Mommy.

He’s really into Curious George, and we started reading the books and pausing to let him supply certain words:

Me: This is . . .
G: Geor’
Me: He was a good little . . .
G: Mo-key
Me: And always very . . .
G: Cute-sy

Yep, “Cutesy George.”  This is one of my favorites, and, sadly, one that he already seems to be outgrowing.  He can’t completely get his tongue around “cur-i-ous” just yet, but it’s sounding more like “curious” than “cutesy” every day.

We are just now hitting the “Why?” stage.  The word started popping up in a few places two or three weeks ago, but it’s really been in the last week that he’s started using it all. the. time.  Sometimes, it works to turn the question around on him.

The “why’s” got particularly repetitive on a car ride the other day, so I started having fun with it, making up random responses.

G: Why going this way?
Me: Because this is the way to Papa’s house.
G: Why?
Me: Because the unicorn said so.

You have to be able to have fun with this, right?  Either that, or go completely out of your mind.


Psst, psst: Deceived by EC

I last wrote about our “Elimination Communication journey” in November 2012.  We’ve made huge progress in the nine intervening months, which I want to share, but I also became thoroughly disillusioned by the promises made in the Elimination Communication (EC) literature, which feature anecdotes from the very rare (at least in the United States) families that achieve freedom from diapers before or very shortly after the one-year-of-age mark.

The EC literature creates unrealistic expectations, especially in the cultural context of the United States, where EC practice is very rare, and where many infants spend time in daycare facilities where pee and poop free-for-alls from undiapered bottoms would create serious sanitation and health problems, and where caregivers do not possibly have the time to put each and every baby on the potty every time the infant might be showing some need.

After thirteen months of largely wasted time and effort, followed by five months of one step forward, two steps back, I was coming to this realization for myself this past February, when I read the chapter on “natural parenting” in Jessica Valenti’s Why Have Kids?

She raised good questions and provided this thought-provoking critique of EC:

. . . EC also represents the white middle-class phenomenon of fetishizing a largely imaginary “third world” motherhood that’s supposedly more pure and natural than Western parenting practices.  A common refrain from EC advocates, for example, is that mothers in India or Africa don’t use or need diapers.  Never mind that there isn’t a monolithic “Indian” or “African” parenting experience (or that Africa isn’t a country), or that the mothers they’re referring to could be very happy to have diapers, were they available.  It’s easy to appropriate a condescending fixation on “underdeveloped” motherhood when you have the financial means and leisure time to pick whatever kind of parenting works for you at the moment.  This clueless racism is captured perfectly on Krista Cornish Scott’s website, where she assures readers that “EC is not just for African bush-women” (p. 20-21).

I wanted to laugh and cry at the same time as I read that chapter.  If I had actually owned any EC books (I checked them out from the library, of course), I might have planned a book burning.

Unfortunately, my epiphany came too late, long after I’d been sucked into the myth of a diaper-free baby.

Looking back on my EC experience
Feeling frustrated (with yourself and your baby) and discouraged with every wet diaper, like you must be doing something wrong, is not a healthy or fulfilling introduction to motherhood.

Between the normal first-year-with-a-baby, sleep deprived, what-the-hell-am-I-doing haze, plus my postpartum depression haze, I failed to recognize this for many, many months.  Many months when I could, and should, have been enjoying a cute little [cloth] diapered baby butt.  Though I don’t dwell on it, I resent the extra strain and stress I put  on myself (and Matthew), as well as the normal, cuddling with a tiny baby time that I lost to potty efforts and naked-baby-on-the-floor time.

If I had a do-over . . .
I would not even attempt to take my baby anywhere near a potty until at least six months.  Even that is probably crazy early.

For Sir, things really clicked shortly after he began walking and was able to get on and off the [little] potty by himself.  This age will differ for every infant, of course, but in Sir’s case, the walking happened at about 12 1/2 months, with the independent on and off the potty about a month later (this is not to say that he was “diaper-free” at this point).

While there’s no way to know for sure, I have a strong suspicion that the “potty work” and any small progress we made during the first thirteen months of Sir’s life could have been condensed into a single month when he was thirteen- or fourteen-months-old.

One month of effort vs. thirteen months of effort — which would you choose?

I’ve concluded (though again, every child is unique) that there is probably middle ground between the very early potty learning espoused by EC advocates and the much-later, don’t even think about it until the child is at least two-years-old position held by most Western child-rearing “experts.”

I’ll share more about that in an upcoming post on our experience with potty learning from months fourteen through twenty-four, by which point we were diaper-free except for naps and overnights.