Thursday, September 27, 2012

The Glamourous Life of Me

It's funny how when your child gets sick, your mind automatically considers the worst possibilities.  

Here's what happened in our house this morning after I woke up to find Madeline gagging and retching in her crib:  

Calling to Eric from Madeline's room: "Omigod, Eric, I think Madeline has Rabies!!  She keeps gagging, and there's a weird scratch on her neck.  Maybe a bat bit her!"  

A loud sigh emerges from the bedroom where Eric is trying to get ready for work.  I ignore him and start checking under Madeline's bed for bats.  

Even though Madeline probably just ate too much cheese for dinner last night or something equally non-life threatening, I Googled the symptoms of Malaria.  It had to be Malaria.  Or Rabies.  Or Meningitis.    

After a few sad and lethargic hours, Madeline finally sat up and asked for some juice.  She took one sip, started crying, curled up in my lap....and vomited all. over. me.  It was just like old times, except now her stomach is larger than the size of a walnut and her diet consists of more than just breast milk.  Awesome.  

I guess she just needed to get it out of her system, because no sooner had I dabbed a towel across my lap did Madeline ask for a bagel.  I gave her half of one, she ate it, and asked for more.  Now she's back to her usual self.  A few moments ago, she whacked me with a drum stick and said, "Ouch, that hurts."  

Boy, it's a good thing Rabies and Malaria clear up so quickly...

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

A is for Apple

I feel as though last Saturday should have been dubbed National-Go-Stand-In-A-Field-Crowded-With-People-Wearing-Patriot's Shirts-And-Pick-Some-Apples Day.  Cause seriously.  

I love apple picking and had a Jim-dandy 'ole time.  Eric just sorta shuffled down the rows of trees, carrying a bag of apples, trying desperately to understand the strange traditions of New Englanders in the fall.  Maybe they don't pick apples in Long Island.  Or maybe Eric just doesn't pick apples in Long Island???  Regardless, he just doesn't get my apple-picking enthusiasm.  Luckily, he is a loving husband and a good sport, so he at least pretended to have a good time.  

Madeline wasn't that into picking apples either.  However, baby gal was interested in EATING apples, which is just as important.  

 She's saying, "Cheese!" in the picture above.

And for comparison's sake...a look back at last year's apple-picking extravaganza.....

 We also went and visited the pumpkins.  Madeline insisted in turning them so that they were all facing the correct direction.  Sigh....little Ms. Perfectionist.
 This is her I'm-gonna-run-away-and-pout-in-a-pumpkin-patch pose.

 And yes, we have matching sneakers because we're awesome like that.

Monday, September 24, 2012

Second Birthday Video

Remember how I made this adorable video for father's day last year?

Well, this year, I decided to wait until Maddie's birthday to make a new one.  This is mainly because we didn't take nearly as many videos this year as we did during her first year of life.  Parenting fail.  Womp. Womp.

I'm a little late getting this finished, but here's a look back at Madeline's life as a one-year-old.

Also, they've reset the votes at Top Baby Blogs again.  If you could take a moment to click the brown button in the sidebar, and then click again when you see the owls, I would greatly appreciate it.  You're awesome.  

Sunday, September 23, 2012

Remembering Ellis

Four years ago today, our daughter, Ellis Jane, was stillborn.  

We remembered her today by releasing three pink balloons into the sky.  Madeline did the honors this year.  She called, "Bye, bye, balloons!" and waved up at the clouds.  

We watched them float higher, and higher, and higher.  At one point the balloons disappeared behind a cloud, but a few minutes later a tiny speck caught my eye in the sunlight, and there they were again.  I tried to point the speck out to Eric, but he couldn't see it.  So I continued watching until my eyesight grew blurry from squinting, and they were gone.  

Friday, September 21, 2012

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Our Favorite Books

When I told a group of students a few years back that I read to my daughter every night, one student gaped at me incredulously and sputtered, "You make her read!?  Pff, I feel sorry for your daughter."

It was a pretty sad comment.  The concept of a parent reading to her child was so foreign to that student.  The thought of reading as anything other than punishment was inconceivable.

Reading to Madeline before bed is a special bond between the two of us that I began long before she understood what I was saying.  (I read the Hunger Games series, The Help, Edith Hamilton's Greek Mythology, and the final Harry Potter book aloud to her while I was home on maternity leave.)

Now, she cozies up in my lap, we dim the lights, play the sleep sheep, and read three books every night.  It's our ritual.  I feel so lucky that I live the kind of life where I am able to do that with her night after night.  A lot of parents, through the pressures of work, or maybe even by choice, don't get to experience that.  

As her tastes have developed, a few favorites have begun to emerge from the stacks piled around her room.  Although she sometimes gets stuck on book that gets old after the second or third time through, I've got to say, Madeline has pretty good taste.  Luckily, her favorites have also become some of my favorites.

In no particular order, our favorite books:

Bear Feels Scared
Karma Wilson

Eric bought this for Madeline last Valentine's Day after she went through a brief phase of being scared of school.  When I first saw the dark colors, I was worried it would only frighten Madeline more, but she loved it right away.  It's a cute story about a bear who gets lost in the woods while looking for strawberries, and his friends go out to rescue him.  The rhythm and beat of the words make it fun to read aloud.  It gets stuck in our heads.  Even Madeline has chunks of it memorized.

All The World
Liz Garton Scanlon, Marla Frazee

This is such lovely book!  Maddie asks to read, "All da Wooowld" almost every night.  The illustrations are gorgeous, and it sends such a positive message of togetherness, hope, love, and peace.  I feel better about the world when I read this book.  

Where, Oh Where is Huggle Buggle Bear?  
Katherine Sully, Janet Samuel

This is a silly book that came in a publisher's package that I bought off Zuilily or Totsy last year for Christmas.  I think this was the first book with an actual story that would hold Madeline's interest all the way through.  She was seriously obsessed for a while, but reading it with her didn't get old.  I perform it quite dramatically....very Shakespearean.

Duck and Goose Find a Pumpkin
Tad Hills

The Duck and Goose series is really sweet.  We have a few of them, but this is our favorite.  The illustrations are colorful, simple and cute.  The words are also simple, cute, and funny for grownups.   Madeline has this one memorized.

Big Dog...Little Dog
P.D. Eastman

An oldie, but a goodie....good ole Ted and Fred.  Nana passed along Eric's childhood copy over the summer, and Madeline was instantly drawn to it.  She especially likes to point out Eric's name written in the front cover.  It's basically a story about friends who are complete opposites.  Sorta Bert and Ernie-ish...but dogs.

Good Night Gorilla
Peggy Rathman

This is a picture book with very few words, but it's so fun to let the pictures tell the story.  Madeline loves that the animals are sneaking out of their cages.  It's also kinda fun to make up your own words as you go along.

Pride and Prejudice
Jennifer Adams, Alison Oliver


This is part of the BabyLit series that turns classics of British literature into board books.  We have the whole set, which includes Pride and Prejudice, Romeo and Juliet, Jane Eyre, and Alice and Wonderland.  Don't worry, they are simple counting wives locked in the attic, teen suicide, drug references, or "scandalously patched-up marriages." Pride and Prejudice is my favorite.  I would wallpaper Madeline's room with the illustrations if possible.  Side note:  For some reason, Madeline thinks the illustration of Mr. Bingley is me.  "Dat Mumma!"  Either I'm really manly or Mr. Bingley is quite girly.

Mon Papa M'Adore! 
Francesco Pittau

My parents went to France last spring and brought Madeline back some books en francaise....including Madeline!  Maddie is still a tad too young for the tales of Ms. Clavel to hold her interest unfortunately, but she adores this little book.  I don't speak French beyond a high school level, but from what I can tell, it's about a little tomboyish girl who does not like dolls, but does like drawing on the walls, kicking things, and making a mess in the bathtub.  And most importantly, her father loves her.  Awww.

I feel like I'm probably forgetting books, and later I'll be all, "Darn you, Summer!  How could you forget that book?  You dummy!"  It's pretty hard to narrow down the list...but if you are looking for something new for your repertoire, I hope you find these suggestions helpful.  

What are your favorite baby books?  Got any recommendations?

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

What We've Been Up To: M's Birthday

I feel like I've been running around looking like this woman so far this week, 

which is just fine and dandy if you are a Picasso.  If you are a lowly English teacher, however, nobody wants to hang you on the walls of museums to admire your misplaced nose and runny eyes.  Imagine me hanging on the wall of the MFA by the back of my shirt collar croaking, "Hand in your papers in time or you get detention!  Take off that headset!  Is class ovah yet? I need to peeeee...."  How's that for modern art?  

Anyhow, as you try to erase that image from your mind, let's discuss Madeline's birthday weekend.

Since we just threw a hootenanny for our wedding a month ago, we decided to keep the celebration minimal this year.  Mimi and Bob came over for dinner and cake on Friday night, while Nana and Pop drove up from New York to spend the weekend visiting their favorite grandchild.  

Madeline opened presents...

 and tried out her new tricycle...
(Yes, I make my daughter wear a helmet while riding a tricycle.  I'm part of the T-ball generation as Bob would say.)

and played with Mimi and Bob...

and played with Little Mimi and Little Bob...

and ate all the pink frosting, but none of her actual cake...

 and took her first spin around the block on her tricycle....

 And swung to new heights at the playground with Nana...

 And Pop too...

She also got to go out to eat, see some puppies, and generally run around the house like a maniac.  All in all, it was a fantastic birthday weekend.  Thanks for celebrating with us, grandparents!

Ohmigosh...She's so big!!

Friday, September 14, 2012

And Now You Are Two...

Dear Madeline,

This is the conversation we had on the car ride home yesterday afternoon:

Mumma: Madeline, it's your birthday tomorrow!
Maddie: No!
Mumma: Yes, it's your birthday!  You're going to be two!
Maddie: (covering eyes) No!
Mumma: What do you mean no? You don't want a birthday?
Maddie: No!
Mumma: You don't want to be two?
Maddie: (sad voice) No....
Mumma: Do you want to stay Mumma's baby?
Maddie: Yes! 

On the ride to school this morning, I sang "Happy Birthday" and you covered your face and squeezed your eyes shut the same way you do when a noisy motorcylce passes by.  It could have been my terrible singing voice, but it seems like you're uncomfortable with having a birthday. Apparently, at just twent-four months, you are already dreading growing a year older. 

Don't worry, sweet girl, you will always be Mumma's baby.  Even when you're 16 and hate being seen in public with me.  Even when you're busy raising a family of your own.  Even if I live to be 100.  Always. 

Two years ago today, I headed into a seemingly ordinary day of work only to have my water break while standing in line at Dunkin Donuts.  You really love the bagels at Dunkin Donuts, so maybe you were eager to join me for breakfast.  This morning we stopped by (a different) Dunks, and I bought you a bagel as a special birthday treat.  You devoured it quickly, leaving a cream cheese beard in its wake. 

I remember driving to the hospital with your dada on the morning you were born.  It was a beautiful, sunny fall day just like today. We listened to the playlist I had made for my labor, enjoyed the view, breathed through some contractions, and chatted in hurried, nervous sing-song voices.  Mostly, I remember the excitement of knowing we were about  to meet you.

The rest of the day is a blur punctuated by brief moments of clarity.  I remember how you stopped crying and looked right at me the moment you heard my voice.  Your face was new to me then, but when I think back to that moment, the face I see in my memory is so familar to me now.  As much as you've grown and changed, some facial expressions have remained the same. 

You slept noisly that first night.  You whimpered softly to yourself as if you were trying to wrap your mind around the trauma of being born. I remember lying beside you, barely sleeping, as I watched and listened for your every move.  I wondered what you were dreaming about.  What does a baby, who has no experience with the world yet, see when she drifts off to sleep? 
Last night, just as I do every night, I checked on you before heading to bed myself.  You were curled up in your crib with a blanket over you.  I rubbed the curls on your head a few times and you whimpered softly in your sleep.  As I got you dressed for school this morning, I asked you was you dreamed last night.  You told me about a blue sticker and butterflies. 

I'm looking forward to celebrating your birthday with you this weekend even if you're not thrilled by the idea.  I feel that celebrating your birth should be a national holiday. 

And even though your first birthday last year was a very big deal, I feel that we've reached an even more significant milestone.  It's the end of your babyhood.  You're a child now.  But as I said, you'll always be my little baby.  Always. 


Tuesday, September 11, 2012

And She Sings Too...

Speaking of what Maddie Bear has been saying recently, let's turn our attention to what she's been singing.

Forgive the poor quality...I used my phone.

 I love her stream-of-conciousness babbling after she finishes singing.  She goes from talking about her strap, to buckling her baby in, to Dada's baby, to Mumma, to Mimi's Mumma's Mumma, to Nana, to Nana's House, before returning her focus to her strap.  

Gal just never stops talking.  Love it.

Monday, September 10, 2012

Wednesday, September 5, 2012

Greener Grass

Summer vacation always seems to fly by at warp speed.  It was just June, and now suddenly the days are getting shorter, the leaves have a golden hue to them, and there's a chill in the night air.  And for this family of teachers, there's the transition from the lazy, family-filled summer days back into a whirlwind of newly sharpened pencils, meeting students, and grading papers.

There was a time in my teaching career where I could throw myself into a new school year full throttle ahead without a second thought about my personal life.  Now, going back to school means scrambling to find a healthy balance between being an effective teacher and being the best mother for Madeline.   Mother guilt sets in.  Teacher guilt sets in.  I'm still learning how to do both jobs well.

There always seems to be a slightly contentious debate over the life of the working mother versus the life of the stay-at-home mother.  Which woman has it harder?  Who is sacrificing more?  Who is helping their children more?

In some small way, summer vacations allow me to have the best of both worlds.  I get to stay home for two months a year, and the rest of the year I work.   When I see these debates playing out on blogs or through the comment sections on newspaper articles,  I find myself agreeing with both sides.

Both jobs are equally hard in different ways.  Both jobs require huge sacrifices in different ways.  Both jobs both benefit and disadvantage children in different ways.  The debate is pointless.

I love the time I get to spend with Madeline when I'm home.  It's so much fun to see her learn and grow every moment of the day.  It's tremendously rewarding, but it can also be frustrating, isolating, and a bit monotonous.  To top it off, I'm spoiled with an at-home husband to share the burden during the summer months.  Without him, I can only imagine that the negative aspects of staying at home would be even more intense.

On the other hand, while work gives me social, intellectual, and financial rewards, I hate missing out on so much of Madeline's day.  Besides, the responsibility of taking care of your house and child don't go's just combined with the responsibility of work.  By the time we see one another in the afternoon, I'm a walking zombie and she's a cranky patty.  Zombie moms aren't fun.  They eat brains.

I guess what I'm trying to say is that the grass is always greener.  By the end of the summer, I'm ready to get back to work.  Yet, as soon as I get back to work, I long to be home with Madeline.

Honestly, the desire to stay home has been stronger than the desire to work in recent months.  I am lucky to be employed, lucky to be able to help support my family, lucky to like my job and the people I work with.  But, pretty soon my baby won't be a baby any more and the opportunity to be a full-time parent will have passed me by.

It also doesn't help that Madeline got bitten by a classmate....twice...on her first day back to school yesterday.  Apparently, there was a turf war over the play kitchen in her new big-kid room.  Secondly, I let her sleep in this morning because she was so wiped out from yesterday, so I missed her all day long.  Furthermore, when Eric told her she was going to school this morning, she started crying, "I no like school."  Heart.  Break.  In Half.

In another week or two, we'll all be back to our normal routines, and it will be like summer vacation never even happened.  In the meantime, I'll try not to look too hard at the grass on the other side of the fence.

Monday, September 3, 2012

Happiness Is...

 What's been making YOU happy lately?