Monday, November 30, 2009

Looking at the stars

On December 1, 2004, Dan and I became a family.

Anna Frances was a good sleeper, a terrible eater and sounded like a baby pig when she cried. When she was awake, she was incredibly alert and took in everything she saw with clear eyes and a thoughtful face. Her daddy was the first person to ever hold her and without a doubt she always knew who he was.

As a new mother I reached new levels of sleep deprivation and learned all kinds of important lessons about nursing and pumping and crib safety and baby reflux. Also? Nothing ever felt more awesome than having my newborn baby sleep on my chest.

Anna's feeding and reflux issues made her a pretty high-maintenance child for those first few months. The one saving grace is that she slept amazingly well. Usually all we had to do was get her to lay her head down on us for more than ten seconds and she'd fall asleep for pretty much as long as we'd let her stay comfy.

Five years later one of my favorite things about Anna is that she is still that cuddly. All those hours snuggled up on the couch in her early days must have stuck with her because at least once a day I am ordered to the couch so that she can lay down on (yes, "on" and not "with") me. I know full well that one day she won't want me in the same room and so while my laundry piles up and that funny smell in my kitchen may not have been resolved yet, Anna can have me.

My labor with Anna was not easy and by the time I finally delivered her I was completely exhausted and barely conscious but I remember straining to hear some comment about her condition. One of my clearest memories of that moment is hearing one of the nurses comment that Anna was face up. "She was born looking at the stars, she'll spend her life looking at the stars."

Let's hope so.

Happy birthday Anna!

Sunday, November 15, 2009

Forty-eight months later

Four years ago today my Rachel was born. I had a repeat c-section after a good 24-hour fight against preterm labor that just would not stop. Even though she was six weeks early she was a good size and appeared healthy.

Turns out Rachel's lungs weren't inflating and so she was whisked off to the special care nursery where she spent the first six days of her life. Not having her in my hospital room with me was awful. Postpartum hormones plus no baby to hold equals one especially emotional mommy.

Leaving the hospital without my baby was heart-wrenching. But after a frantic week, finally taking her home and introducing her to her big sister was glorious. This is the first picture ever taken of our family of four (disclaimer: that's breastmilk in that bottle!):

Anna loved Rachel the minute she laid eyes on her. All she wanted to do was touch her and stare at her. It was the sweetest thing I'd ever seen. She took her role as big sister pretty seriously from the start.

I am sometimes asked if Dan and I will ever "try for a boy" or if I am ever going to have another one of these babies I adore so much. But we are done and while I might love on my friends babies and wonder out loud what life might be like with more children, I really am ok with that. Because my family? It's complete. And kind of awesome.

Forty-eight months after her early arrival Rachel continues to surprise me every single day. She is dramatic and hilarious and affectionate and the most snuggly girl ever. And today she is four.

Happy birthday Rachel!

Saturday, November 14, 2009

The one about my dog

What's that? You didn't know I had a dog? Well that is because I actually do not.

What I do have is a medium-sized creature who runs around on all fours and pants and barks and yips with excitement and howls when upset and eats food out of a bowl on the floor.

Unfortunately that creature is my four-year-old daughter. Several long months ago she decided that she wanted to be a dog. At first I went along with it because why not? Pretend play, the imagination at work, what a creative child!

As she does with everything, Anna took this business very seriously and her commitment to her new game was complete. She carefully studied how dogs position their legs when they lay down and the way their ears move. She didn't want to act like a dog, she wanted to BE a dog and she repeated this distinction to anyone who would listen.


Behold my pride and joy BEING a dog at... wait, where was this photo taken again? Oh, heh heh, right, ummm, at SCHOOL. Yeah, I waited for weeks for the lynch mob of parents to show up at my door after she had like a whole pack of them going.

So this commitment I mention, this focus, this clear intention to BE a dog includes my child actually barking. BARKING. Loud, sudden, eardrum-rupturing barks. The canine version of the atmosphere-disrupting shrieks that used to cause strangers to crane their necks to see what I must be doing to the poor child to make her sound like that.

The barks were startling my 90-year-old grandmother so severely that we had to put a doggie ban in place when Grandma Edie is around. I'm seriously considering moving that woman in with us.

Because it's not only the elderly that can't handle Anna the dog. I can't handle Anna the dog. And let me be clear, Anna's love of and connection to animals is one of the many things I adore about my oldest child. It warms my heart to see it in action.

But I can't get through an hour of any day without encountering the dog behavior. Meal time, bath time, grocery store, swim class - it is nonstop. She was a Border Collie for Halloween and she obsessed over the details of the costume with such intensity that I had to wonder if it was completely healthy.

The truth is that I don't believe the dog behavior is unhealthy, at least not yet. And I feel guilty saying it - though I've long ago accepted that guilt just comes with the territory of having children - but more than anything the behavior is annoying. I'm just tired of her putting her hands down on dirty public floors and getting food in her hair because she's eating with her face in her bowl. And I'm completely over the noise.

I feel bad when I have to tell her to stop playing because it's making me insane. But I have done it. It is hard to balance fostering my child's creativity with maintaining my own mental health. I suppose that is one of the most basic struggles of motherhood.

It could be worse. She could have a drum set.

Thursday, November 12, 2009

One more reason

Rachel just came to me with a folded up tissue pressed to her chin and told me, "This is my beard. My man name is... Mr. Pete!"

Oh this child. Four is going to be fun.

Monday, November 09, 2009


Bath time around here is no longer fun. What used to be the most joyous time of the day - giggling children, silly shampoo hairdos, oh my goodness the divine smell of a freshly lotioned baby! - has turned into a nightmarish routine of whining and fighting.

I can almost set my watch by the complaining. First Rachel starts her "I'm very very cold" song before her toes even touch the water. Then they fight over who gets to sit in the front of the tub. Then Rachel complains about having to rinse the shampoo out of her hair. Then Anna yells at Rachel for any reason she can find. Then the kicking starts, the kicking of as much water as possible out of the tub and onto the floor.

By the time the water starts flying I am at the end of my rope. Which admittedly isn't that long to begin with. As the girls get out of the tub and start fighting over the lotion and pushing each other for space in front of the mirror, my voice gets louder and soon I'm barking orders at them like a drill seargant, only meaner.

And now I'm pulling them apart and reminding Rachel not to put lotion in her hair and warning Anna to stop screaming and lamenting the fact that every single night it's the same frustrating scene. Then suddenly Anna stops shrieking to make an observation:

"Hmmm, my snot tastes like coconut milk."

The three of us freeze for a second before dissolving into laughter and I get to enjoy the moment before Rachel decides to express her joy by shoving Anna in the chest for no apparent reason. And I'm back to the battle.

Monday, November 02, 2009

True story - even the part with the bunnies

June 22, 2001, was a Friday and like we did most weeks, Dan and I had dinner with his parents. We were back at our apartment for a good twenty minutes and settled in front of the television when Dan suddenly suggested going out for ice cream.

We headed up the street to an ice cream shop we both grew up with but were met by a sign announcing that the shop was closed for remodeling. Dan seemed disproportionately unnerved by this information and we sat in the car for a long minute deciding our next move. I finally suggested getting milkshakes from a fast food chain nearby and he reluctantly agreed.

Huge takeout milkshakes in hand, Dan drove to a small local park where we stood and watched the sunset as a family of bunny rabbits played in the grass. I am not making this up, I distinctly remember these rabbits. And they were playing. But I digress.

In this park, watching those rabbits, drinking those enormous milkshakes, Dan asked me to marry him. And I said yes of course and then I got mascara on the shoulder of his polo shirt because I cried. A lot. I was happy.

We married the following November. November 2, 2002. Seven years ago today. It's been quite a roller coaster, this marriage thing, but we've decided to stay on the ride.

Happy Anniversary honey!

(Photo taken on Day 3 of our awesome Vegas honeymoon)

Sunday, November 01, 2009


As I've written about before, my girls go to an orthodox Jewish preschool and therefore have no school friends with which to share the joy of Halloween. This year I reminded the girls to try not to talk about Halloween at school so that they don't make anyone else feel left out.

I realize that it is virtually impossible for children this age to keep secrets but aside from trying to do a little damage control, I sort of wanted to see what would happen when they tried to keep this topic out of their everyday conversation.

Thursday night as we set off on our trick or treating adventure we walked through a particularly large pile of leaves on the sidewalk and enjoyed the crunchiness under our feet. The rest of the night easily overshadowed that pile of leaves in the excitement category but sure enough on Friday morning Rachel's memory was triggered.

At circle time Rachel's teacher talked about walking in leaves and Rachel was eager to contribute. "You know what?" she reported, "Last night, my mommy and my sister Anna and me and well Daddy was at work but my mommy and my big sister..." I held my breath and waited for her to mention costumes, candy or the dreaded H word. "We walked through the leaves and it crunched!" She finished with a beaming smile.

I exhaled as she turned and looked at me with pride. "Mommy, I didn't talk about Halloween!"

Because I can't resist



I was so proud of the girls for being polite and gracious during their trick or treating. They said thank you at every house without any prompting and Rachel kept shouting "Happy Halloween!" over her shoulder as she pranced back down the driveways.

The high points: Rachel deciding that she wasn't afraid of the costumes or dogs that she saw and announcing that fact to anyone who would listen, "because princesses are brave!"; Anna naming the breed of every dog she saw along the way and stunning their owners with her accuracy; gorgeous weather.

Definitely the best Halloween with the girls yet.