Monthly Archives: September 2010

Road Tripping with a Toddler

This past weekend my family went on a road trip to the University of Missouri, which is where Hubby and I met. It was a nice jaunt down memory lane, but the most challenging part was getting there.

Going on a road trip with a little one is no walk in the park. You try to pack everything you’ll need without over packing, which to me seems like mission impossible, but I try. You plan for spills, bathroom accidents, play activities and meltdowns (for mama and babe!)

It took us about seven and a half hours to get there. It’s normally a six and a half hour drive, but between the tot and me being six months pregnant, we had to make a few stops. I think we hit four McDonald’s solely on the way down to Mizzou to visit our niece. On the return trip, I vowed no Mickey D’s, and we managed to avoid the Golden Arches.

The trip to Missouri was our second out-of-state adventure this month. Two weeks ago we went to a wedding in Ames, Iowa. That was a seven hour drive. Not including the kid and mama factor, it’s supposed to be about six. With each escapade I find I’m getting better at prepping for the road and it almost makes me want to go on another excursion in a couple weeks. Almost.

But if you’re headed on a trip:

  • Have your little one pack the toy bag. Logan, like all young kids, really loves to help out, and helping to decide what came on the trip gave him a sense of ownership.
  • Eat Lunch in the Car. If you don’t bring along any nosh that’s more than snacks, swing through the drive thru. It can be messy to eat in the car, but I thought it was worth it. It took us longer to get to Iowa because every time we stopped to eat, we also took a play break where we ran around and stretched our legs. I found that if we ate in the car, then our breaks were purely for play and the 45 minutes to one hour breaks were shortened to 20-30 minutes.
  • Nap Time. Take advantage. Pretend it’s like when they’re an infant, sleep when they sleep. Also, figure out the timing so that the adults don’t need to take their own potty break when it’s nap time. Like I told Hubby, now that Logan’s asleep, we’re not stopping for anything.

I Confess, My Toddler Has An iTouch

Yes, you read that right. My little man has his very own iTouch. It was a birthday gift from his daddy. I am a professed gadget girl, but am sheepish about the fact that my boy has already had his first byte of Apple Inc.

My boys playing with the iTouch.

It started early this summer when Hubby proposed getting one for Logan’s birthday. I thought he was nuts at the time, but after talking to some educators, they all thought it was a smart idea and started extolling the virtues of such devices. They’re perfect for small hands! There’s tons of teaching apps! It’s important to introduce technology early!

I asked myself, has Steve Jobs been talking to my friends or is it that iAmOutOfTouch?

Logan got his iTouch for his 3rd birthday and he really likes it. He knows how to turn it on, unlock it and play whatever games he wants. The usual faves are counting monkies jumping on the bed, alphabetic flashcards, a matching game and all the puzzles. He’s also got a few episodes of Mickey Mouse Clubhouse, Tigger and Friends and Backyardigans. He figured out how to access all of them fairly quickly.

Hubby wrapped the iTouch in an apparently tantrum-proof case that was put to the test this weekend during our road trip. Somewhere just east of the Mississippi River, it came hurtling from the backseat, whizzed by my shoulder and slammed into the front window. I pulled it from the dashboard, completely unscathed.

Although I’m still not comfortable with him having one, I have to admit I like the educational apps Hubby’s downloaded. Speaking of Hubby, many people asked me if the iTouch was really for him. I assured them that nope, Hubby wanted it for Logan.

Then I began to wonder myself after he accidentally pocket dialed me from a boys weekend and I could hear him showing off the new iTouch to his buddies. (It was funny to listen to drunken grown men talking about kiddie apps!) And recently there’s been some downloads of Hubby’s favorite bands, a-ha and Depeche Mode. Nevertheless it seems like it’s 80 percent Logan’s and 20 percent Hubby’s, which is fine, as both boys seem very happy with the gadget.

Again, it’s been good for Logan, but the practical Kansas girl in me has a hard time wrapping my mind around him having such an item. After all, the “big gift” I got for him was a $24 toy guitar that he loves so much, he sleeps with it.

So I don’t know if he’ll be more apt to turn out like Steve Jobs or Slash, but at least the boy’s got choices.

Coming Out Of the Pregnancy Closet: Guess Who’s Expecting No. 2?

I’ve got a bit of news for some of you. We’re pregnant! Yep, about ready to slip into the alarming land of the double-wide stroller. Part of me can’t believe that just as things were looking a little settled on the home front we’re venturing again out on the rollercoaster ride that is a newborn baby.

Even though it’s going to be nutty trying to make it all happen, Hubby and I are over-the-moon with happiness about the little one whose name (for now) is Bean.

Let me see if I can answer the usual questions: Yes, I feel fine. No, we’re not finding out whether we’re Team Pink or Team Blue. (Although I’m totally Type A, my obsessive need to color in between the lines is not as powerful as my love for surprises. And I can think of no bigger surprise than the sex of your child.) Also, I’m nearly six months along, due Jan. 6.

Obviously everyone who sees me IRL knows that I’ve got a baby on board. But there’s a whole host of folks out there, my “e-friends” if you will, who don’t know. So I’m coming out of the pregnancy closet.

Telling people that you’re pregnant can feel awkward. Many women decide to wait to spread the good word until after they’ve made it through the first three months, when the chance of a miscarriage is much lower. By then, some of her colleagues and friends may already know since she’s extra tired, always snacking, acts like the bathroom has a revolving door and is ordering weird mocktails. But the timing really needs to be about whatever you’re comfortable with.

With my first, I told anyone with ears shortly after I hit the three-month mark. It was such a relief to pass that milestone that I wanted to shout it out to the world. This time around it’s different, somehow it seemed sweeter to keep it among close friends and family for as long as we could.

Also letting your manager know can be terrifying. You hope they’re going to be cool with it, you think they’re going to be cool with it, legally they kinda have to at least pretend to be, but still. You’re never quite sure of the reaction until a few moments after you’ve uttered your news.

So since every Tom, Dick and Harry on the street knows we’re expecting, I figured it was high time I post about it. World, meet Bean. Bean, here’s the world.

A 4D shot of Bean

Leaving The Writer’s Loft

This week’s the last of my writing class and boy what an adventure it has been. I’ve always loved to write, it’s partly why I became a journalist. In the past several months I began to crave writing something for myself, so I started She’sWrite.

Here's the loft where our group of 12 met each week. Amazing stories have been told in this room.

Blogging was so much fun, I flirted with the idea of stretching my writing. After a bit of Googling, I stumbled on a workshop that spoke to me. It was about empowering writers to write better. I called and talked to the teacher, Jerry, and we chatted for a good half hour about writing and I was sold. He was exactly the kind of adviser I wanted. Smart, honest, kind.

My first session, I was very nervous, wondering what the people would be like, whether I’d have to read my writing aloud. Scary stuff.  My group was varied. Some had written books, others screenplays. One woman who oozed Zen was a songwriter and poet. When we introduced ourselves it was inspiring to hear all the reasons people joined the workshop. They were prepping for their MFAs (Master of Fine Arts), dusting off an MFA, trying to get published, finishing their second novel, etc. Me? I gave a very articulate reason for attending: “I just wanna write.” It was followed by a sheepish shrug.

Not so impressive, but it’s me.

I learned a lot from the workshop and Jerry gave us the tools to keep growing. Some of us are forming a writing group that meets regularly so we can keep up the creative momentum.

Honestly it’s somewhat good the workshop is over because with work, our commute and Logan, it created many scheduling constraints that aren’t sustainable long term. Thankfully Hubby bent over backward to fill in the gaps.

Still, I’ll really miss my Wednesdays. I’d get off work, scramble to the Lakeview neighborhood on the city’s North Side and pick out one of the must-taste restaurants on Southport Avenue. I did Tango Sur, Blue Bayou, Fridas (twice) and Coobah. There’s something liberatingly serene about having a table for one.

So that’s it. I’m leaving the writer’s loft, but at least I’m taking a little bit of it with me.

Confirmation That the Kid’s Gonna Be Alright

We had our 3-year doctor appointment not too long ago and for weeks I’d been looking forward to talking with the pediatrician about Logan’s stuttering. As I’d written before, over the past couple months it would wax and wane and it’s eeking it’s way back again but just not as pronounced. Instead of the first syllable in each sentence giving him trouble, only a few words here and there stalled on their way into the world.

At his appointment, I described his stuttering to the doc and he said it sounded normal for a kid his age whose mind is working faster than his mouth. And we moved on. I didn’t press for details or for him to consider an in-home consult, largely because I already had peace of mind about the issue.

That’s largely because of a friend of ours who is a speech therapist and one of the nicest people you’ll ever meet. She attended Logan’s birthday party and I casually asked her about it shortly after he was struggling to get out an “I.” She also explained how it was very normal and reiterated what Google had told me before: Maintain eye contact, don’t make an issue out of it, let him finish speaking on his own and that it was just a phase. She also recommended doing a lot of reading aloud, especially rhymes and listening and singing to music.

It’s interesting that Logan’s become aware of his stuttering too, telling his dad once that sometimes when he talks it’s hard to get the words out because he talks too much. Dad assured him he didn’t talk too much, that he’s a great talker and we absolutely love his talking. Also, whenever I stumble over a word, his face brightens and he goes: “Mom!? You can’t get the words out?” I smile and say yes, that everyone can have trouble talking and it’s perfectly fine.

The whole situation has given me a new appreciation for Porky Pig, I honestly never liked him until now. When we watch him, Logan’s commented about how the pig can’t get his words out either. You’re right honey, everyone can have trouble talking and it’s perfectly fine.

It’s funny, I went from worrying about his stuttering to not worrying at all. You hope it’s just a phase, think it’s just a phase but you’re never really sure. For me, it just helps when the trained experts see your kid and tell you: Don’t worry Mom, he’s perfectly fine.

Introducing Jess: Soon-To-Be Mom of Two Looks Back at the Good, Bad and Snuggly

*It’s a big day for the She’sWrite blog. Today is my first guest blogger. Her name is Jess and she’s a quick-witted, stay-at-home mother-writer-friend who is expecting her second child any moment now. (I mentioned her in my previous post as the cute brunette in my mommy group.) She’ll be popping up here periodically sharing her insights on the various lenses of her life. Without further ado, here’s Jess:

I am about to become a new mother for the second time. I have a 3-year old son, Henry, and the invaluable advantage of hindsight — I now know there is a solution for every problem and no problem is a catastrophe — but still I feel I am entering virgin territory (well, you know, new territory). How will I manage breastfeeding all night and a toddler all day? How will I deal with Henry’s jealousy? Will I ever be able to run an errand again?

I also can’t exactly remember my experience the first time around. So I reread with interest a few thoughts I wrote when Henry was 6 months old. I will no doubt learn new lessons in the next six months. For now, though, here are some things I think hold true for real first-time moms:

1. You might not love your baby right away. Many people threw the following clichés at me when my son was born: “Don’t you just want to eat him?” No, I didn’t. “Isn’t it scary how much you love him?” No, it wasn’t. “Can you even remember what life was like before him?” Yes, I could. For the first month, I felt like I was babysitting a child — I was very careful and attentive, even ferociously protective, but I was not in love with my baby. I felt exhausted, dumbfounded, and trapped. The love happened over time.

2. You are trapped. “Adjustment” is a euphemism or something you do to your seatbelt. But being trapped becomes okay. By the time your baby is old enough to leave with someone for hours or even days at a time, you won’t want to go as much as you did the first six weeks.

3. You might feel very alone for awhile, even if you are surrounded by people. No one is going through exactly what you are. The closest you can come to a sense of camaraderie is with other people who have new babies — not just children but new babies. If you don’t already know someone like this, the best thing you can do is join or create a new-moms group.

4. Those cute little shoes for newborns are more trouble than they’re worth. When your baby is a genuine newborn, for about the first 3-4 months, you are trying to figure out how to hold him without his head falling off. These tiny shoes are just another thing you have to deal with. Newborns need a onesie and a blanket. Forget accessories. Spend your money on easy.

5. While you’re at it, cut out other unnecessary crap. This goes for everything from answering non-urgent emails to hosting your in-laws from out of town. Do what is best for the new-mom you even if the well-mannered you is worried it’s impolite. Ignore emails; ask your in-laws to stay at a hotel; say no to travel for the first six months if lugging a baby to the airport feels like too much. It doesn’t matter if your friend could do it. It doesn’t matter who you disappoint. You are undergoing the biggest transformation of your life.

6. Your body will never be the same. I always thought this oft-recited warning just meant I’d be forever plumper. What I now realize is that it’s not (just) about weight. It’s about ligaments and bones that move while you are pregnant and don’t go back. Shirts are now shorter on me. Pants lip out in back when I sit. The act of delivering a child seems to have made my backside flatter.

7. Finally, the clichés are true:

  • Once the love starts, every day you will love your baby more than the day before. You’ll think you can’t but as with the Grinch, your heart grows bigger and bigger to accommodate.
  • You can love someone so much it’s scary. You have only so much control and you hope that the story is happy and continues long after you are gone.
  • Love makes you vulnerable. Falling in love with your child is like having a huge, open wound: much of your happiness relies on the hope that people won’t mess with it.
  • And yes, you can love someone so much you want to eat him.

*Update: On Sept. 24, Jess had a healthy baby girl, Clara June Edith.

Mommy’s Memory: What Happened To My Steel Trap?

I’m forgetting things. Not trivial things like forgetting to unthaw the ground turkey before leaving for work in the morning. Not egregious things like forgetting to pick up my kid from daycare, but things that before would be safely locked in my steel trap mind.

These days it’s more like a steel sieve. Why is that? After becoming a mom, my brain isn’t as efficient as it once was. Is it the lack of sleep? Is it that I’m juggling more? Some hormonal shift that affected my internal hard drive? Who knows.

It’s funny because at work, my memory’s fine. I believe it’s partly because I write everything, and I mean everything, down. I can’t do that at home as I need both hands to cook, clean, play with Logan, clean him, clothe him, put him to bed, etc.

So what am I forgetting? Well earlier this summer I lugged Logan into the city for a party at my friend’s condo. I buzzed the door, but no one answered. Turns out the party was the next week. I couldn’t bear dealing with the insane Chicago traffic again, so we just hung out on the lakeshore for a few hours.

A few weeks ago my sweet, dear friend from middle school was to have her baby shower. I planned on going and went to double check the date on the invitation only to find that I had missed it. By TWO WEEKS! How lame?

Last week I tried to cancel a doctor appointment that I had never even scheduled. There’s friends that I keep forgetting to call back and I still haven’t mailed my Father’s Day card. Yep, that was June 20. (I bought them early, they’re just at the house. My understanding pop tells me to save them for next year.)

My biggest recent debacle has been my young niece’s birthday. It’s just before Logan’s (so you’d think I’d get it together right?) but I didn’t. I brainstormed some gift ideas about three weeks before her birthday, then on the day remembered we needed to call her to at least wish her a happy birthday. I told Hubby and he agreed we needed to hop on the horn soon especially because she’s seven time zones away, but it also didn’t happen. Ugh. She just turned 3 like Logan and thankfully my sister-in-law was very gracious and understanding, but you still feel like the world’s largest loser.

So experienced moms, will my brain power ever return or do you even remember? I hear it improves, but in the meantime I’ll try to be better at updating my calendar, keep begging for forgiveness and being thankful I’ve got so many empathetic pals.