Category Archives: thoughts

Guilt Free Saturday- Television

If, like me, you are stuck in New England, you have noticed it is negative degrees outside, with no let up in sight.
What do you DO with your life if you are stuck in this sub-zero catastrophe?
You could take up ice fishing, or ice climbing, or perhaps ice skating.
Or you could be the parent of a toddler who is not quite ready for these advanced motor skills, and who stands still yelling, “Mamma! Stuck!” when you dress her in the appropriate amount of layers for said weather.

So you improvise. You go shopping at big box stores. You go to drive-thrus for donuts. You visit every friend and relative you know. You check out the PlayPlace at McDonalds and at the mall.

And it’s still cold.

And so you watch TV.

So. Much. TV.

The American Pediatrics Association urges no television time at all for children under the age of two.

If you had asked me, before I became a mom, whether I would let my child watch TV, I would probably have told you no. I grew up in a very TV restricted environment, and I believe, despite the huge stink I put up as a child, that I am better for it. I am rarely bored and almost always able to figure out a way to pass the time.

But now, as an adult, I watch a lot of TV. Bad TV. Rot-your-brain type TV. It’s like my ongoing adolescent rebellion.
But not with my child. And so I digress.

When it was above 10 degrees outside, we played outside all afternoon, both on the weekends and when I got home from work. TV was not the first choice. Or even the back up. But now, with a stuffy nose and full-out cold every two weeks for both my child and her parents making up most of our winter thus far, sleepless nights from said colds and the eruption of an entire mouthful of teeth, and a heavy work schedule, my brain, for one, is mush. My energy is down.

But you know whose energy is never down? The gang from Yo Gabba Gabba. They are always ready to jump, shake, and shimmy.
And when I feel blah from the weather, and my full-time job, and the fiscal cliff, you know who is always, always cheerful? Elmo.

When I say “watch TV” I should clarify: we watch exactly three things here: Elmo DVDs, DVR/On-demand episodes of Yo Gabba Gabba, and YouTube Videos of cats. I always wondered who actually watched videos of things like “cats playing piano” on YouTube. Now I know. My child DELIGHTS in cat videos.

In fact, here is our favorite:
The Mean Kitty Song

This media diet eliminates the two things about TV that are, perhaps, the worst for kids: commercials, and violence.

But it doesn’t eliminate the #1 reason that kids shouldn’t watch TV- when you watch TV, you aren’t interacting with your child. They are watching a picture.
And the guilt sets in.

I am using this guilt to motivate me to use TV as an activity we do together, as opposed to a baby-sitter.

Today, for example, when we were watching the Yo Gabba Gabba episode about dress-up, my daughter ran to get her own “party hat” (they wear hats to dress up). So I ran and got my own party hat. We spent several minutes swapping hats, and trying on each other’s hats. Then we danced. (In Gabba Land, it is time to dance fairly often).

Am I saying I never turn on Elmo so I can cook dinner or go throw in a load of laundry or eat dinner with my husband? No. I totally do that. And I absolutely admire people who don’t. I do know real people who allow their children no screen time at all, ever. And I am in awe of those parents. Did my daughter rip my iPhone out of my hand yesterday because I was spending time texting while I thought she was occupied, watching TV? Yes. Did I put them phone down and play with her after she did that? Yes. Lesson learned that time.

If TV can get us through this winter, and teach my child to say “Mamma, party hat! Awesome!” then I totally think its worth it.
Guilt, be gone! ‘Cause now it’s time to DANCE!

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Comfort with Chaos

What is your comfort with chaos?

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Having a toddler makes me ask this question to myself each and every day. How much should she “experiment.” How much direction should I give? And, most importantly, how much FUN can we have?

At this point in my 18 month long crash course in parenthood, I have finally come to a very important conclusion: you can do anything-literally anything-with your child if you are not set on a specific outcome.

This was not an easy lesson for me. I am a control freak. I also like to GET IT DONE. I have had many long, frustrating days on this journey where nothing went as I wanted it to.
And I have an easygoing kid, people. Even when she was an infant she just ate, slept, and pooped.

At the end of yet another frustrating day, I finally figured out that I wasn’t having any fun. And if I wasn’t, my child wasn’t going to either.

I had to give up control. And, at the same time, take back control.

I have decided parenting is the intersection between what is good for me and what is best for my child. For example, I don’t believe everything we do should be about her. Nor should it all be about me. But I have 31 years of living behind me, and I felt sure there were some things I could show her that she would like, and we could do them together.

Shockingly, there is!
Exhibit A:

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We really enjoy cooking together.
But I had to let go of my process to make it a success.

I had to find some comfort in the chaos of cooking with someone who, at any moment, could take the entire thing we were working on and either: 1) eat it 2) dump it on the floor-on purpose or 3) get bored and make me stop. Also, she is super mobile, curious, and quick, so I have to make sure nothing around her is 1) hot (either as in the opposite of cold or too spicy, though she does like things with a zip!) 2) sharp 3) breakable or 4) Inedible (like an open bottle of vanilla extract or a bowl of raw eggs).
Several unfortunate mishaps (none serious, thank god) and many messes later, I have finally come up with a cooking process that works for US.

Today we made bacon cheddar biscuits. Which, I am sorry to say, were ok, but not awesome. But we had a blast. I didn’t flinch when she ate a spoonful of raw flour. Or took the dough and started spooning it into her own mixing bowl. Or offered a lump to the cat.

And through including her, I learned that my child can COUNT! I was spooning in tablespoons of buttermilk, going, “1…2….3…4…”and I paused to adjust my grip on the bottle and I hear her little voice go, “Five!”

I almost dumped the entire bottle on the floor.
I squealed “Yes! Five!” and she responded with, “SixSevenEightNineTen!”

If I had not let go, and learned to do things with my little love, and kept only cooking when she was asleep, this moment never would have happened.

So, accept that anything can happen-and you never know what will.
Now, who is going to help me clean my kitchen?

Guilt Free Saturday: Anything Goes

It’s Saturday, before noon! In an amazing twist of fate, my child slept through the entire night last night! This is especially amazing because she has a cold!

Naturally, she was up at 6 AM, ready to go.

A quick aside-I am going to save these posts for when she is a teenager and sleeps till noon and I am all bent out of shape. It will remind me to lighten up and go back to bed and be grateful she can use a toilet.

We are now having a “nice nappy” (that’s the vernacular around here) but whoa. Did we ever have a morning.

Before 7 AM, in the 30 seconds it took me to grab some coffee, my daughter managed to brush her hair with the toilet brush. Thank god she also currently has a hand washing fascination.
We played coloring.
Then, she demanded hummus, crackers, and olives for breakfast. She consumed about 3 bites, then said she was done.
Then, we settled for an episode of Yo Gabba Gabba.
We did laundry. We chased the cat.
Then, we needed breakfast for real. I made turkey sausages and ketchup. And juice. She ate about 1 sausage and about 2 tablespoons of ketchup with a spoon. Mmmmm. Then proceeded to drink her juice, take the straw out of the juice box, and drink the juice directly from the little hole, without the straw.
This is messy.
Then, we looked at Mamma and said, ” Poopoo.”
Yes! She knows when she poops!
We then went to take a shower and clean up the poop. This involves getting in and out of the shower 18 times (her) while attempting to, you know, shower, (me) and steam the room up to unclog her faucet nose.
My bathroom looks like the changing room at a water park. For reals.
But was that enough water? No.
In a genius move, a few weeks ago, I took the suggestion to do dishes with my child. Now, that is all she wants to do. All the time. To point where after the shower, she tried to move the bench I let her stand on all by herself, while screaming “Mamma! stuck! Heavy! Dishes!”
I HATE doing dishes. She is obviously not related to me.
So, we did dishes.
After yet more water had been strewn about, I finally got her dressed, and we watched YouTube puppy and kitty videos. She began to randomly cry. This is code for “Holy God I need a nap.”
And now, she sleeps.
Whew.
I’m tired.
And I am glad we made all these messes. We stick to such a brutal (for everyone) schedule during the week, with Mamma and Daddy both working full time, that on weekends, I like to do anything goes. Like, oh! I forgot to mention how she draped me in a few yards of dental floss, stepped back to admire her work, and deemed it, “Pretty.”
It reminds me that childhood IS fun-and parenthood-CAN be fun. It can stimulate the imagination. It can help re-frame household objects. I remember my job goes beyond saying no, teaching life skills, and giving, giving, giving. That my little person wants to give back- through sharing, through “helping” with dishes and laundry, through feeding Mamma a sausage she so thoughtfully dipped in spilled grape juice. By making me prettier with dental floss.
So lighten up, and play a lot. Remember, in parenting, that as long as it works for you and your child, anything goes.

Adventures in Toddler Land, Part 1-Waste not-Waste A Lot

I am child of the eighties. Reduce, reuse, recycle were the themes I grew up with. I am hardly a militant conservationist, but I do most of the day-to-day things you are advised to do to save the earth, like turn off lights, drive a fuel efficient car, turn the heat down, etc.
Then, my baby became a toddler.
Or, as I like to think of it, The Era of Waste. When I see what, and how much, I waste in the day-to-day of living life with my toddler, I feel immense guilt. I cringe. I have adopted little strategies to reduce this waste. But yet, the following things remain true:
1. The best way to brush teeth is to allow her to hold a second toothbrush under a running faucet.
2. A nice, full bath relaxes her at the end of the day.
3. Food served on a plate always-ALWAYS-ends up on the floor when I encourage independent eating (aka mom steps back and eats her own dinner and ceases to physically hold the plate down).
4. Juice is dumped/poured/squeezed everywhere.

Wasting food bothers me the most. Wasted food is a pet peeve of mine, in general. I will eat leftovers whether I like them or not. I will eat the ends of bread, the crumbs at the end of the chip bag, and the last swig of milk. I make chicken stock from my roast chickens. I can be so extreme, in some ways, that my husband jokes I act like we are living during the depression.

Now, I can find my way home, like Hansel and Gretel, due to the trail of Goldfish crackers that we leave wherever we go. I give her very small portions, but there is always some leftover. Plus, she makes almost daily floor-dumping offerings to the cat, despite my explaining that kitty thinks blueberries are yucky.
*sigh*
I keep telling myself that this a phase. But until it ends, you’ll find me if you follow the trail of crumbs, leading to the endless sound of running water.

Pizza and Parenting

Happy New Year!
It’s been over a month since I last posted! A month! Crazy!
I pondered this blog over the past month. Why, for example, was it so hard to post?
I realized something…I need to write about what I am thinking. Even if it isn’t food. And when I wasn’t thinking about food…I am not posting.
So much for a focused theme type blog, oh my three readers out there. It just isn’t my style.
Mostly, these days,I think about two things: pizza, and parenting.
I am only slightly kidding about the pizza. But not at all about the parenting piece. 18 months in, I have a lot of thoughts, feelings, questions, and experiences.
I also still love to cook. I have taught my child to love to cook too (so far) which is great! She asks, “Mamma, more cooking?”
That being said, the focus of this blog is going to expand. There will still be food, but also about parenting and those thoughts and challenges and experiences. We all need support. This is also in response to the loads of positive feedback I got on my “Guilt Free Saturdays” pieces.
See, when the people speak, I listen.

So, not to deviate from the food piece too much, here is what I am making for dinner tonight for my toddler and I:
Turkey deli roll-ups (roast turkey deli meat rolled with garlic hummus and guacamole, both packaged, and yes, she eats this)
Steamed broccoli
cheesy zucchini quinoa -I have this pinned on my Pinterest recipe board-which you should all follow, btw-and I want to make it, like, now)

It’s my resolution to cook recipes this year, as a hobby, like I used to. Also to blog, and write, as I hobby, like I used to. See where this is going?
What is your favorite weekday meal?

Guilt Free Saturday-Sleep

First of all, I feel proud that it is Saturday, and I am writing this post “on time.”

This Guilt-Free Saturday, I would like to talk about sleep-or lack of it. As in, your child’s sleep is the priority, the curfew, the dictator, in so many ways, while yours is…hmmm. See, I can’t think of a witty comparison because I am currently running on four-ish broken hours of sleep.
That being said, where am I going with this?

Let’s start with some irreverent humor about kids and sleeping. Do you know this book?

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If not, you should check it out here.
If this doesn’t offend you, you should then proceed to watch Samuel L. Jackson actually read the book out loud.

Sleep, I feel, is the first measuring rod of how “good” of a parent you are- and how “good” of a baby you have. The first thing you are asked is, “Are they sleeping through the night?” if you can say yes…it’s like the first gold star.

But the issue is murky, quirky, and full of pitfalls the deeper you go into it. Where does your baby sleep? With you? Near you? Safely ensconced in a crib? You don’t nurse her to sleep, do you? You answer every cry, right? You better be teaching your baby to self-soothe…and on, and on, and on. And for every scenario, there is an expert, a book, a bounce, a blanket, and someone telling you that what you did/are doing/want to do is wrong, or damaging, or spoiling your baby, or turning him or her into an unattached psychopath. And you? You just, at the end of the day, I bet, just want your kid to go the f*ck to sleep. I know I do. In fact, after last night’s two hour midnight “chat” session, I would add that I just want her to STAY asleep.

Quite frankly, I have had enough of the sleep wars. I really do suffer from baby sleep guilt. As opposed to my first two Guilt Free Saturday posts, which were sort of mom power liberation essays, I am here to confess that I feel sleep guilt with my child no matter what I do.
This is why:
1. She is, and has always been, a heavy sleeper on a regular schedule. And I take advantage of that for my own gain (i.e. the night we put her to sleep in her carseat at a loud chain steakhouse).
2. I don’t co-sleep. But I want to. And sometimes I do.
3. Sometimes I let her cry herself to sleep when it’s naptime. Just writing that makes me want to apologize and explain myself (I call this Dr.Sears-specific guilt).
4. I am pretty rigorous with her bedtime routine. This means sometimes she doesn’t see her dad at night due to his work schedule. Which makes both of them sad.

It’s like no matter what I do, I can’t win.

And my child IS a good sleeper! I shouldn’t feel guilty at all.

But yet I do.
And resentful; because when she does have a rough night (teething, cold, night terror), or when she is going through one of her “up with the chickens” phases, she takes a two hour nap after a leisurely morning.

I, (and her dad- I don’t fight my sleep wars alone, thank goodness) on the other hand, go to work. And do chores. And make her food. And, you know, do other parental and grown up things. I go through the day thinking, “where is MY two hour nap?”

Not that I ever take one. I am not a napper. Nor am I a good sleeper.

I refer to coffee as my “life elixir.”

I am encouraging you, on this Guilt-Free Saturday, to give yourself a break about whatever you do-or don’t do-to get your baby-and yourself-to sleep.

In other words, give the sleep guilt a rest.

Guilt Free Saturday: Outsourcing

First of all, I would like to acknowledge that it is Monday, and I know that. I could pretend this post got lost in the Internet, but I won’t. Besides, that only works these days with the 50 and above crowd, most of the time.
That being said, Guilt Free Saturday is more of a state of mind, anyway.
With this in mind, I would like to share this cartoon with you, which one of my friends posted on Facebook:

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Whenever anyone used to ask me, “Wow, how do you do it all?” I had an answer I used for the past year or so that usually gives the complimenter pause (because in the world of working moms, looking like you are doing it all is the goal, and acknowledgement of that, a compliment): “Badly.”

Believe me, not too many people know how to respond to that one.

More than anything, it was a reflection on how I was feeling. Which, incase the answer wasn’t obvious, was, in fact, pretty bad, most of the time. I hadn’t lost my baby weight, my tiny house was in shambles most of the time, and I felt terrible for leaving my baby while I went to work-and terrible on the days I was grateful to leave her to go to work.

Eventually, something had to give. I began to realize one of what I like to call The Big Mommy Secrets; are you ready for this? When you become a mom, you don’t change. You just are you with a baby. Any changes thereafter come as a necessity and having a child you care about as a motivator.

I am a terrible homemaker. And not just when it comes to housework; I don’t decorate either. I am happy with a mattress on the floor and a few piles of books. I hate cleaning, laundry, and DIY projects. I can’t sew. I am not a weekend warrior. Cooking, in fact, is my only real homemaking skill. I like any home project that involves giving things away so I never have to wash them again. That is about it.

Yet, this voice in my head believed that once I became a mother, not only would I want to do these things, I would like to do these things. That my sweet baby would make me into a Stepford wife.

Well, here is what happened. Not only did I not become a Stepford wife, I realized that I was using my baby to have fun making by MORE MESSES. I mean, seriously. I love throwing toys everywhere. And splashing in the tub. And undoing entire rolls of toilet paper. That is how I roll!

Finally, a Wise Woman revealed the answer to this sticky issue. How does one balance misery (and, let’s be honest, somewhat selfish homemaking tendencies) with the needs of one’s family? How do you use free time as family time, and not “let’s scrub the bathroom” time?

Outsourcing, my friends. Outsourcing. There is an entire service economy out there to be had for the taking, and before you think to yourself, “that’s too expensive,” I am here to tell you that it’s not. There are people willing to clean your house, do your laundry, deliver groceries, deliver meals, walk your dog, and play with your children so you can do something else. There are professional services, teenagers looking for a few extra bucks, and individuals looking to trade and barter services.

What stops most women from taking advantage of these isn’t money. It’s guilt. The voice in your head that tells you you should be bringing home the bacon, frying it, and then washing the pan. Now, when someone says to me, “how do you do it all?” I smile and say, “Outsourcing.” There is still the same pause after this response. But these days, I don’t focus on bringing home the bacon, frying it, and washing the pan; I just enjoy myself some delicious, crispy bacon.