Saturday, November 19, 2011

WANTED: Book Club: Reading Optional


I know what you are thinking.  A Book Club?  Reading?  Who has time to read a book these days, let alone commit to it monthly? 

I understand and empathize with your concern(s). 

When pregnant, I read very few books about children.  Attempts were made to prepare for the future baby, but each time I picked up a book on infants my eyes glazed over and my hands uncontrollably wandered back to Girl with a Dragon Tattoo.

Ahh, those pregnancy days -- hours of luxurious free time; the ability to eat out, shop, and relax.  I didn’t realize how it would drastically change, so needless to say, there was a lot to learn (and read) when our son arrived.     

As each stage flies by, the array of advice books is overwhelming.  I imagined once I "caught up" in the reading I delayed in the beginning I could relax, but instead am in constant prep-mode for the next phase.  I consider it rude, but he won’t pause and wait for me to catch up.   It is nearly impossible to stay ahead of the curve.


The days of ample free time are now gone and when he naps I walk sadly past my tidy, unused bed to the reading chair.  I have to continue powering through.  

Not only am I researching parenting tips, but I also want to be aware of the world outside my window.  This involves scanning national headlines, being conversant in pop culture (though proud to say we are a Kardashian-free household), and maybe even squeezing in a few magazines. And dare I dream of adding in a book from the New York Times Best Sellers list?

With all of this pressure to raise an amazing child while keeping up to date in the realms of news, politics, and fashion, I am exhausted. 


However, I came up with an idea. 

Let’s start a Book Club where each member reads a different book.  You pick the focus; something of interest to you.  With an aim to balance required & desired reading, it can range from the latest best seller to the ‘joys’ of potty training.  Side note:  I prefer people who really like digging into developmental milestones, leaving me to focus on pop culture education.

Then we gather together to eat, drink, chat, and provide cliff note versions of what we learned. Everyone wins. We have less required reading, enjoy a girls’ night, and gain new insights in a fraction of the time.

No time for a full book?  We've all been there. Just bring a magazine, online article, or book previously read...we won't judge.

Not only will everyone walk away with more knowledge, but this allows me to dust off & spend quality time with my Real Simple & Lucky magazines. I may even pick up a copy of the Hunger Games and relax guilt free on the couch while Chase naps. 

Who's with me?

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Urban Dweller

Disclaimer: this entry is not touting the city as superior to the suburbs or small towns.  Being from a small town and having many friends in the 'burbs, I have an appreciation and love for both.  I just think the city gets a bad rap, and while the city is not for everyone, it is the best option for us.   

Not only do my husband and I have a child and live in the city, but we plan on staying.

For some reason, when the above statement is shared, I am often met with a look of disbelief or horror.

To many, the idea of having a child and living downtown is less than ideal. Most couples run to larger, greener pastures when the plus sign is achieved on their pregnancy test. Well-intentioned friends cite the joys of a backyard, less traffic congestion, and more space when asking whether I will move to the suburbs.

For me, however, raising a tiny Chicagoan goes beyond a life of concrete, pollution, and a higher cost of living. There is so much to love about urban life, I wanted to share some of the reasoning below:

Location:
Time is a precious commodity and the city maximizes this non-renewable resource:

  • Being close to work is key. Less time commuting equals more time with family. Also, the short taxi ride home has me back at my desk – forgotten laptop in hand – before the boss has time to notice.
  • Proximity to my son’s school is crucial. After work, I only travel 10 minutes for a hug from my little man.
  • Jogging a few blocks to the Lake Front path provides a dose of both physical activity and nature. And if stopping to rest, I can pretend it is only to take in the skyline view.
  • A quick walk provides access to the Museum Park and numerous playgrounds. Museum Tip: take a stroller as ADA entry lines are much shorter. Though they may catch on if you don’t at least have a child in tow.
  • A Bus, El, or Cab in any direction provides so many restaurant & bar options, we never have to visit the same place twice. Unless we want to. I’m talking to you, Smoque.
Condo Life:
A frequent question I hear is Don’t you want a yard?

While many find satisfactionfrom a weekend of mowing and weeding, I do not. This is a reason Condo life is ideal for me – offering the perks of home ownership without a few of the hassles:

Sidewalks are free of weeds, snow, and ice without (me) lifting a finger…or shovel.

  • The rich variety of cultures in our community enriches our lives immensely.
  • A doorman signs for deliveries and as a bonus, keeps them from being stolen.
  • Trash day is any day. And down the hall. Handy for the forgetful (me) and lazy (me).
  • A smaller home is easier to clean. Couple swipes of the swiffer and call it a day.
  • The indoor, heated parking garage doubles nicely as play area when rainy or cold.
  • Trick-or-Treating is a breeze. No coat required and we are done in a fraction of the time.
In my mind, living in the heart of what we love, avoiding some house worries, and enjoying additional time with my son (and husband) is well worth the higher COL.

Friday, September 9, 2011

O N E Y E A R

Chase Alexander has officially survived one year of life!  Some said it couldn't be done...but that may have just been me.  His highlight reel is below and photos are included for those interested (simply click each month):  
Recipients of the 6 month update may want to skip down to 7 Months (it is highly repetitive):

0 - 1 Month: Lots of crying. Some sleeping.  Experienced the longest night of our lives: 6 solid hours of crying (night was dubbed: "Babyggedon").  Weight and Length placed him in the "heavy-weight" division. 

2 Months: Chase began to quiet down and operate well as a photo prop, helping pass the days more quickly.  We were promised "coo'ing", but received "baby dragon" growls. 

3 Months: Chase started daycare; Tracy started work.  Chase melded in quickly and easily, taking a quick liking to his teachers.  Tracy struggled working 8 hours in a row without naps.  Was told there would be cots.

4 Months: Caught his first flu, which led to several enjoyable nights of waking up to screaming in 30 minute intervals.  It was nice the whole family could be involved.  

5 Months: This was a busy month as Chase began testing solids; sitting up;  drooling uncontrollably; sucking on anything in sight (tables, toys, mom's face); and rolling over when placed on any somewhat flat surface. 

6 Months:  Chase babbled "dadadadadada" in the middle of the night, which seemed to be a distress signal specifically for Kevin (he disagreed).  However, Chase soon had enough of our midnight visits and started sleeping through the night. 

7 Months: Started his first fight.  Chase tackled a schoolmate, but then panicked and released when his tiny victim started crying (Chase followed suit and broke into tears as well).  Meanwhile, we stopped "wrestling" with Chase at home with suspicion this led to the attack.

8 Months: Took up crawling, only to ditch it after two weeks in order to walk.  Hasn't stopped moving since.  Video proof for the Doubting Thomas in you.

9 Months: Dance Moves began to form.  From the hip hop arm bounce to a jazzy spin, what he lacks in proper beat is made up for in showmanship and enthusiasm.  Current house beats for a good booty shake include Try it, You'll Like It and Wash your Hands (lather up)

10 Months:  This month was a blur of parks and playgrounds. The swings!  The slides!  The faceplants.  The eating of rocks and mulch.  Also began speed-reading this month: "reads" about 1-2 pages of each book from his shelf, resulting in all books askew on the floor.    

11 Months: In a sprint to tick off some milestones before the big birthday, he squeezed in his first sign language (more, eat, dad) and started to wave.  Had he known what a huge hit the wave is to everyone around him, he would have incorporated it into his repertoire a long time ago. 

12 Months:  One day in.  So far, so good.  We weighed & measured him this morning and expect playing, napping, and eating is on the docket for the remainder of the afternoon.  

It has been an honor to watch Chase grow (at least until 9M of age...he hasn't moved an inch since) and learn.  Excited to see what the next year holds! 

Monday, August 29, 2011

The Playground

I am not sure if a world record exists for the most hours logged at a playground, but we may be in the running.  And while the playground began merely to get our son out of the house (and apparently to build his tolerance for sunscreen application -- the less you move, the lower the chance of white stuff in the eye kiddo), we had no idea of the learning opportunities awaiting us.  Below are some of the highlights:

Share-ground
The playground is mainly a lesson in sharing: sharing of time, space, and toys.  Currently our son is one of the youngest at the park, deeming him the "learning tool" for older children.  When parents see our son (Chase) ambling in, children are quickly instructed to be gentle and let the baby play.  

Typically, the older child greets ours with a hug and head pat (his bald head just asks to be rubbed).  Little does the head patter realize how this action has cemented Chase's love for his new best friend.  Whether climbing a slide, playing in the water, or tossing a football - the child will not be able to shake our chubby-cheeked fella.

Having witnessed how Chase affects the older children, we have seen what the future has in store.  The sharing of time: patience as the youngest at the park maneuvers to the top of the slide, stairs, etc.  The sharing of space: instructing our son to be gentle and allow the baby to be (super) close and observe him (little ones just don't believe in personal space).  Sharing of toys: encouraging Chase to allow the smaller ones to play with his ball or other toy (this is assuming someday our son plays with anything other than a ball).

Product Testing
The playground is a product testing gold mine.  In the past we have scouted sippy cups and inquired about walkers.  Currently we are looking into Tryke bike options and every park visit provides a myriad of options.  Parents are so great to answer our questions and always offer the opportunity to take their bike for a spin. 

Though I am never sure if it is a true offer or a nice gesture they hope is refused, we jump at the chance before they can change their mind.  Those bikes are pricey, so there's no sense in leaving the decision to chance.  Chase may be forced to visit the park even when not in the mood -we have further product testing to do!  It's for his own good in the end.

Ruling Authority
On the rare occasion there may be a parent disengaged and unaware of their child's activities at the park.  I understand the need for a break, but if an unsupervised child messes with Chase, I no longer sit back and hope for them to wake up and intervene.  Instead, that child immediately falls under my parental governing authority.  In the past, waiting for these parents to snap to it only resulted with my toddler being unnecessarily roughed up. 

My tactics changed the day a kid refused to allow Chase into a playhouse and then to add insult to injury, repeatedly threw a ball at his face (I should say tried to throw a ball...the kid was a terrible shot.  He's going to need to step up his game to be a true bully). 

A nearby dad intervened, took away the ball, let our son into the house, and scolded the tiny meathead.  The dad then clarified it wasn't his kid, but wanted to help since the actual parent was MIA.  Witnessing the man stepping in gives me confidence to do the same when necessary. 

Would love to provide more examples, but we have a busy day of park-hopping ahead of us.

Sunday, June 19, 2011

Thank You


A Father's Day thank you to my husband:

Thank you for knowing the details.  During the do-we-have-a-child negotiation phase, I may have reacted harshly toward you when I learned some dads don't know how to pack a diaper bag.  Little did I know there was nothing to fear.  Not only are you an amazing father and an expert diaper bag packer, but you have kept our son alive, diapered, and clothed when I travel for work or go out for a ladies night.  You have continued to impress me and surpass all my expectations.

Thank you for letting my gene pool annihilate your gene pool.  It's not a competition.  But if it was, I'm definitely winning.  While you may not love it now, down the road it may come in handy.  When our son toddles over to you and asks: Dad, why are my cheeks so big?  Why are my shoes so tight?  Why are my shirts so short?  you can just shuffle him over to me.  Then I, and my dominant gene pool, will have to explain how my attributes equate to always having a baby face, (super) high arches, and a long torso. 

However, once I have corrective surgery for my "deviated septum" he will only have you to blame for a large nose (Note: Donations are now being accepted for this important procedure.  Please write Nose in the memo...no need to confuse this money with the college fund).

Thank you for teaching me to be in the moment.  Because of you, I have relaxed (a bit) from the sole focus of accomplishing tasks, to being more present in each moment.  It is easy to be distracted by organizing and cleaning to the point where I miss quality time with our boy.  Now although fewer items are crossed off of the to-do list, but more time is spent seeing our little man laughing and playing.  Tasks can be taken care of later, and eventually my hope is we can train our Tasmanian devil to throw in a helping hand.  He can't freeload on fun forever.

Thank you for letting me hover.  During maternity leave, no one was there to judge or point out errors I made throughout the day.  I had the freedom to make mistakes and learn from those to create best practices.  Unfortunately for you, I was frequently around to offer unsolicited "help" or "advice."  When I finally gave you room to breathe and test out parenting on your own, you were the one giving valuable insights to me!   

Thank you for acknowledging the MVP (Most Valuable Parent).  After going on and on about how great you are, it's important to bring you down a notch.  Let's remember -- no matter how great you are -- our son has designated me MVP.  Thanks for letting me relish the moments he reaches for me from your arms, walks quickly (too young for running yet) to me for pains or pickups, and cries when I leave the room.  Knowing the title MVP will change hands over the years, I need to soak up all the extra attention while I can. 

So tonight I raise a glass and thank you for being the best baby daddy and husband I could ever hope for.  Happy Father's Day!  





Sunday, June 12, 2011

Best & Worst

To kick off a Tale of Two Cities, Charles Dickens probably had the first eight weeks of parenting in mind when he wrote "it was the best of times, it was the worst of times...."

The beginning moments are never forgotten.  Holding my baby for the first time was surreal.  I would spend hours watching him sleep.  Though most of those hours were to ensure he was still breathing.  Nine months of work wasn't going down the drain on my watch. 

Another perk of newborns is their surprising portability.  Once asleep, hardly anything woke him and packing him in a carrier or stroller was a sure nap in the making.  As long as a bottle or boob was nearby, we were good to go.

However sweet those moments, there also came a few bumps in the road.  People warned of sleep deprivation and high expenses, but I don’t remember anyone mentioning the topics below.  Consider yourself warned.

The Witching Hour
We were blissfully ignorant of this expression pre-infant.  The witching hour refers to the time babies scream inconsolably.  And scream.  Our “hour” (Bogus, by the way.  Wish it was only an hour) was each & every evening for eight weeks.  One traumatic night he screamed six hours straight.  No exaggeration. Six. Hours.  

This instance had us asking the important questions: What is the warranty on babies?  How flexible is the Nordstrom ‘return anything’ policy?

Neither the hospital nor Nordstrom would accept him as a valid exchange, but luckily the episodes ended and evenings together became more enjoyable. 

Nap Deprivation
The phrase "sleep like a baby" is misleading.  It makes one believe they not only love sleep but do so often (word on the street is 18 hours a day).  Early on, our baby took a strong stance against sleep.  When we realized the issue, help was sought from every available book, theory, and doctor.  Although recommendations varied, one idea was consistent: we should be able to mold his sleep patterns.    

His refusal to sleep and my inability to control it made me crazy.  Concerned it reflected poor parenting skills, I obsessed.  I called my husband at work bawling when he wouldn’t go down.  Self-loathing settled in when I resorted to the ‘prohibited’ motion sleep after all else failed.  Then anger switched to self-pity as I was the one awake, stuck pushing a stroller while he rested peacefully in a dream of warm milk and tummy time. 

Life drastically improved after I relaxed and realized my obsession wasn’t creating a perfect napper.  It only made me miserable.  While my son never had a napping epiphany, the new version of me was more enjoyable to be around. 

When seeking comfort from others, we scoffed at those saying “it gets better.”  That’s vague.  Better?  As in: still terrible, but not as terrible?  And what is the timeframe?  When does better kick in? 

It took about 10 weeks for us to see the light at the end of the tunnel (take heart: many have shorter timeframes).  And each month has continued to surpass the next.  To us, better meant our son transitioned from the personality of a gummy bear to an interacting, learning, and smiling little man. 

My unsolicited advice is to soak up the joyful moments and power through the challenges.  Just as Charles Dicken's quote starts off a great novel, we are embarking on an amazing and memorable journey called parenthood. 



Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Cry Baby

 I was promised water with my ducks                                               Take. Off. This. Hat.

I've been referred to as dead inside. As having a heart of stone. You know the phrase Speaking Truth, in Love? Apparently I have mastered the first half with a little to be desired on the second. And those are just comments from my husband. 

Though I haven't loved these descriptors (I prefer the term “realist”), they were, in essence, true. Historically, I was never very emotional or known to shed many tears.

Notice the past tense? Me too.

Sometime during my post-partum stay at the hospital, there was a change.  Maybe it can be chalked up to the 24 hours without food or water, but a sniveling version of myself nestled in and refused to leave. Like a free boost at Jamba Juice, the cry baby emotion was included with my stay.

Situations which previously left me unaffected now make me cry.  I misted up watching a marriage proposal of a couple I never met. Welled up as a man gave up his seat on the train for an elderly woman.  Seeing a three legged dog hobble around the block queues the tears.  And don’t even get me started on the Applebee’s commercial where the football team arrives at closing time.  I am a mess.



Do I miss the old version of me? Sometimes.  It's strange how news stories, commercials, and babies hold a kryptonite type of power over me.  But I like the softer side too: there's now more Love in the Truth spoken and more empathy for what others are going through.

Previously I wasted energy hiding my emotions.  Now the joy of watching my child laugh and learn often materializes into tears.  Tears I wear with pride.  To me, these emotional moments become the lasting memories no photo can capture and no parent can forget.  But just in case, I still tend to write them down or document with video…my memory isn’t what it used to be.

Now where was I?  Oh, right…

While the pre-baby me isn't completely gone (I still roll my eyes at any RomCom starring Kathrine Heigl), I can now appreciate the softer outer shell to my heart of stone and wisely carry a pack of Kleenex at all times.

Though, it would be easier to keep up my tough girl fa├žade if the three legged dog would move out of the neighborhood.  He's really destroying what I have left of my street cred.


Sunday, May 1, 2011

My Apology

A smile when laid down to sleep isn't a good sign.  A yawn when you are trying to leave is even worse.

I'm sorry. Friends with children, friends without. No matter. You are due. Let's consider this my official Apology Tour.

To friends with children:
If you had children before me, there is a 100% chance I judged you.  How hard was it to shower each day? Could you really be that tired?  Weren't you home sleeping all day?  And what is the deal with your inability to be anywhere on time (or to get there at all)?

We swore our family would be different. We are not.

Luckily, finding time to shower was not too hard for me (by sacrificing sleep, a 5am shower would suffice).  The problem was more in how pointless it was to shower.  I enjoyed being clean no longer than 10 minutes each day before being drenched in spit up.  At a certain point I even gave up changing clothes.  The extra laundry wasn't worth it.

Now onto sleep.  Sleep - Oh how I miss you.  Saying the word makes me sad.  It is impossible to describe the exhaustion associated with the first 3 months.  The worst part is reflecting on each day and realizing nothing was done or accomplished.  What was I doing all day?  One thing is for sure, it wasn't sleeping.  I'd like to think it gets better, and look forward to the days where we have to pry the kid out of bed to make it to school on time.

Turns out, the biggest struggle has been getting anywhere on time.  Right when we are ready to walk out the door there is a diaper explosion or sudden need to eat.  Worst of all, a rub of the eyes....Eventually we released the dream of keeping to a schedule and are now satisfied to show up at all.  

All of this confirms you are owed an apology for my judgement and lack of understanding.  I'm still learning, so please assume any and all future apologies are included above - I won't have time to get to each individually. 

To friends without children:
Sorry about the whole "I-will-never-have-children" statement.  In fact, a lot of statements started with "I will never..." or "I will always..."  Obviously we veered pretty far from the "baby free" path, so you can assume many of my blanket statements have been, or will be, broken (I'll never stop shopping at BCBG.  I'll never complain about money...).

One of the statements affecting you the most is "We will always hit the town together."  In fairness, this is no problem if you catch me around noon.  However, I may have insinuated the hanging out would be at night. This was wrong of me.  My desire is there.  I desperately want to go with you to that new restaurant, bar, and/or club.  Here's the catch: activities need to end by 8:30 pm, so I can be in bed by 9pm.  I'm sorry, but my new "alarm clock" comes with a belly button, not a functioning snooze button.

So my apology to you is in the broken promises (current and future) made.  In an attempt to make amends, I will add a promise with staying power: I hereby solemly swear to never ask if you are reading my blog.  No check ins.  No tests. 

To All: My hope is for forgiveness so we can move forward in life together.  Even hang out. Which to clarify, by "hang out" I am speaking purely of the daytime and ideally somewhere cheap (cash situation is more of a drip than a flow these days).  Note: I will most likely be late.