Friday, December 25, 2009

Christmas Morning Helicopter Rescue

6: Minutes before Arlo's new remote control helicopter landed on our snow-packed roof while he tested it outside

46: Minutes it took my husband, stepdaughter, and me to retrieve the helicopter from said snowy roof, using a ladder and long pole typically used for vacuuming the pool

happy holidays everyone!

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

40 By 40, Sort Of

This ain't no Bucket List. It's me, on my 35th birthday, thinking about what I want to do during the next five years. Here goes:

1. Gather a group of rad women into a poker club that meets monthly.

2. Learn how to play poker so I can win $$ at said poker games.

3. Finish writing the fiction and nonfiction books I've started, publish them, and throw big parties to celebrate their completion and publication.

4. Grow as a photographer using my dad's old, fully manual cameras.

5. Learn how to play at least three songs on the guitar.

6. Learn how to cook - vegan, comfort, ethnic.

7. Find one sport my husband and I enjoy doing together and do it.

8. Travel to at least three of the places of interest to me now: India, Nepal, Thailand, Spain, Portugal, Argentina, Costa Rica, and Greece.

9. Teach my son and daughter how to snowboard and ski.

10. Obtain or at least begin a masters in womens studies. Just cause I'm interested.

11. Tour the northern California wineries with my husband, sans kids.

12. Learn conversational Spanish, Italian, and French.

13. Go on a silent meditation retreat.

14. Get over my fear of public singing by doing karaoke at least once (I've NEVER done it before, never).

15. Commit to a daily meditation practice.

16. Commit to a daily yoga practice.

17. Produce at least one collection of clothing for nursing mamas.

18. One more baby - a gang of three little ones running around the house would be perfectly, blissfully chaotic.

19. Learn to play tennis, cause I totally see myself doing it in my 80s.

20. Reform my night owl ways and sleep at least 7 hours a night, most nights of the week.

21. - 39. ???

40. Plan and execute an amazing 40th birthday bash!

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

12 Month Checkup - My New Mission

Today my husband and I took our 13 month old to her 1 year appointment with the pediatrician. We were prepared for her to be on the skinny end of the weight spectrum.

First of all, she's just a waif. Skinny arms and legs, no layers of luscious baby fat on her body that make you all googley-eyed. Second, like every person in our five-member family, Elsa has suffered the stomach bug that's been going around this house. In the past two weeks, someone is at all times throwing up and/or crapping their bum off. And poor Elsa has suffered the longest, with five straight days of symptoms. So she's got to be down ounces and maybe a pound or two because she simply hasn't eaten much lately.

But we still thought she would measure 50th percentile for height and 30th for weight.

It was the doctor's statement about "this not warranting an IV" that scared me wide awake, despite the past two nights' lack of sleep. "She is small but feisty" we were told "but during bouts of diarrhea she cannot afford to lose weight or there could be a big problem."

So, my new mission: Fattening up Elsa*

*or at least making her less skinny

I'm to replace water and juice with milk (16-20 ounces a day) laced with canola oil, feed her buttered pasta, avocado, high fat yogurt and fattening meat. I never thought that her current feasting of corn, green beans, bananas, apples, peas and carrots -- sounds healthy enough to me - would be insufficient. Sigh.

We're scheduled to see the doc again in two weeks. I will do my best and pray for some girth on her little thighs (imagine having such a problem!).

In the meantime, if you have tips for fattening up an active (walking, climbing) 13 month old, please send them my way.

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Thanksgiving Eve, Rain, Thankfulness

It's been raining here in the DC metro area for a few days. And I am thankful for the rain. Because of it, I pulled out the rain coat from the back of the closet this morning as we were leaving to take Arlo to preschool. In so doing, I felt something heavy in my left pocket. My digital camera! Lost for two weeks! The very item for whose disappearance I had absolutely torn apart our house! It's like Christmas on Thanksgiving Eve.

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Step-parenting is...

If you are a stepparent, I dare you to finish that sentence. And to post the sentence online, for all to see.

I have not yet written openly about being a stepmother of a teenager, or how that relationship effects my marriage, my sanity, or my patience in parenting my own two small children. My feelings are too raw. The emotions are too big. The ramifications too high. So what follows is my restrained first attempt at the matter.

Before I became a stepmother, I read a self-help book on the topic. One line sticks in my head: "Being a stepmother can actually be a joyful experience." I believe the possibility is there, and that many factors play into whether you reach "joyful" or not. The biological mother and father play major roles. They have the ability to undermine and sabotage or help create a positive situation. The attitudes and personalities of the stepmom and the stepchild are, of course, also important.

I am pessimistic about getting to "joyful" if the child wishes their mother and father would get back together. Ditto when the stepmother is the primary parent to make rules, assign chores, and call attention to and enforce violations.

So what do you do? What comes next?

I guess you just keep on keeping on. You try to stay present with the other joy in your life and be the best mom you can be to your own children and you work on yourself as a person. You work on your own mindfulness. And I guess you never give up hope on getting to joyful. And you take respite in the reality of joint custody as a time to regroup and try for better the next time.

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Autumn in Bethesda

I recently took the kids to one of our favorite parks, Norwood Park in Chevy Chase, Maryland. The trees could not have been more gorgeous, with their leaves bursting in shades of red, orange and yellow. The weather was crisp enough for a jacket, but combined with the late-morning sun, not cold enough to demand hats and gloves. We played and picnicked on sandwiches and fruit. I remember sitting on the park bench and having one of those moments of pure bliss - where you want to close your eyes and hold on to the feeling as long as you can.

Thursday, November 12, 2009

House Full of Sickees

It started with my sore throat last Saturday. That evening I sat through a miserable play at Round House Theater ("26 Miles," miserable for me because of its stepmother-bashing, I swear I'm going to write a play or book about the amazing, wonderful, misunderstood stepmother - but I digress) and came home and climbed into bed with a full-on cold and sinus infection. Four miserable days later I found relief through a nice Southern ENT doctor who gave me a prescription for an antibiotic but cautioned we'd have to do something about my deviated septum, which causes all these sinus infection.

Meanwhile, Arlo (he'll be 3 in January) and Elsa (1 next week) caught the cold bug, as did my husband. We have no family here, so no safety net (ie no people to hand the kids to as we climb into bed and rest). Just babysitters that charge $15-20 an hour...painful!

Oh well, what can you do? We're passing our sick time by snuggling and watching Diego and Dora, and playing in the basement playroom and drinking lots of OJ and water. I'd love to go for a walk in the rain, but figure someone might call CPS if I take a sick infant and toddler out in the rain for a walk. So maybe we'll just continue to bask in the sweet smell of Vicks and Lysol while enjoying lazy, horizontal hours.

How do you spend your days when you have a house full of sick ones?

Sunday, November 1, 2009


I love Halloween. It's tied with New Years Eve as my favorite holiday. My husband is puzzled but amused by my excitement over Halloween. I can't really explain it, except that my Halloween crush probably began as a kid going trick-or-treating and then was solidified in my early 20's in college, going to Halloween parties in a hippie mountain town where people got REALLY into the spirit.

So over the weekend we hosted an adult/child Halloween party and it was fabulous (at least for me). Food, juice, booze, candy, moon bounce, somebody's grandpa dressed as Winnie the Pooh - what's not to love?

Friday, October 23, 2009

First Pumpkin Carving

This morning we helped the kids carve their first pumpkin. Arlo traced the pumpkin face outline and cut the pumpkin using a mostly-dull knife from the carving kit. Meanwhile, Elsa helped scoop pumpkin filling. She also taste-tested the seeds when she was quick enough to pop them into her mouth without us looking.

I love, love, love Halloween!

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Reusable Cloth Ziplocks - I So Want to Copy

I am filled with all sorts of existential angst about my carbon footprint. Three of my top worries - disposable diapers, paper towels, and all the darn ziplock bags I use for carting around snacks as we head to the park and other excursions. Today's focus and solution has to do with the ziplock baggies, thanks to blog Progressive Pioneer.

The ziplock baggies...I seriously fret about how many plastic ziplocks people (including me) send into landfills each day. Of course we use those small plastic containers that are supposedly spill-proof when we can, but if you need a sandwich holder instead of a Goldfish cracker holder, those little containers aren't very helpful. That's why I am super excited about Progressive Pioneer's posting for today, about making your own reusable cloth ziplocks. That posting contains pictures of her experience making the baggies, as well as some hints for putting it all together. Check it out, they are super cute.

Do I think I will actually sew my own? Not a chance. I don't have the foggiest idea about sewing. But you can bet I'll find someone making and selling them on Etsy and get some for my family and to use as gifts for some of my mama friends.

Monday, October 19, 2009

Ageless Style

My birthday is around the corner, which gets me thinking about accomplishments and to-do's, as well as how I see myself aging with style and grace. One of the blogs I enjoy and follow is Ink on My Fingers, and today it posts a piece on aging with style. Follow the link and enjoy!

Friday, October 16, 2009

Intentions Friday

Today is Friday and I feel the need to create some intentions for my life, going forward. Here they are:

1. I will kick my addiction to soda once and for all.

2. I will learn more about nutrition and the effects of eating lots of dairy and wheat and make any adjustments in my diet that might lead to a happier digestive system and a more energetic me.

3. I will create time each day for writing, movement, and meditation.

4. I will finish my "40 before 40 list" and share it on this blog next week.

xoxo shelby

Thursday, October 15, 2009

Muskogee, Oklahoma, USA

The babies and I are here in Muskogee, Oklahoma - my hometown - visiting my mom and stepdad. I only told one friend I was coming in, and we got together for dinner a few nights ago. It was so awesome to be able to get out for a nice dinner and conversation and not hear the $20 an hour babysitter's clock going off in my head. (Thanks, Mom!)

It's been cloudy and chilly here, so our outdoor excursions have included lots of layers of warm shirts, jackets, and hats, as well as mittens for little Elsa. It's funny how kids respond so positively to the outdoors. They simply love being outside running, jumping, kicking balls, and exploring. We had lots of fun throwing small sticks into the little creek behind the house.

Muskogee has added a trolley that carries passengers around town, and we intend to take it tomorrow. Where it rains or not, we'll also check out Honor Heights Park to give bread to the ducks and see the waterfall. Of course, I've already begun boring my children with stories from my childhood and I've shared with them most of my favorite restaurants from growing up.

Sometimes isn't it so nice being home?

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

Of Course

Of all the wonderful, handmade Waldorf-inspired wooden toys available for play...the fort created from wooden stands, with a canopy of silk scarves...of all the expensive, cutting edge toys given by loving grandparents and uncles at Christmas...

...What my children are loving best right now is the $4, bought-at-a-consignment store plastic chair that sings ABC's and other children's melodies in a fading, chipmunk-inspired voice when certain parts are pushed.

They climb on, sing along with, and dance to this chair. They scoot it, they use it as a means to climb onto a higher place, such as the chalkboard (toddler) or as a means to reach the chalk for sucking on (baby) -- at least, until I notice and instruct otherwise.

Thursday, October 1, 2009

Picnic and Hike in Great Falls

A few weeks ago my mom and stepdad visited. A visitor from out of town always gives us that poke in the pants we need to get out and explore some of the great tourist spots in our area.

We drove 7 miles north of our house in Bethesda to Great Falls Park in Potomac, Maryland. They say that a view of the falls is most beautiful from the Virginia side, but this was really great, too.

Great Falls Park offers lots of parking, shaded picnic tables near the river, and a super mellow stroller-friendly walk along the Potomac River to a series of bridges and very small islands that overlook the falls on the Maryland side. Also at the park is the original building that at one time served as saloon, boarding house, and restaurant for boats passing by on the river.

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Our NYC Weekend

My husband had two free nights at an SPG hotel that he had to use or lose by the end of September. So we packed the little ones and pointed our car northbound on I95 towards New York City for a weekend getaway. Travelling with small children is always an adventure and this trip didn't disappoint.

I should add that we've travelled a lot with our children. Arlo is 2.5 and has been on at least 25 airplane trips and a half dozen road trips. At 10 months, Elsa has been on four or five airplane trips and four or five road trips. All that travel exposes them to lots of different experiences, people and places, but it does jack with their routine and allow for bad habits to sneek in. After returning from a trip we inevitably have to force both kids out of our bed and that is never a pretty process.

We drove to NYC Friday evening around bedtime, hoping that both children would fall asleep and give us a pleasant three and a half hour drive up. Arlo cooperated but Elsa either didn't get the memo or simply rejected it outright. The girl has some lungs and she used them during a full hour of the middle part of the trip. We rolled in to the Westin Hotel in Times Sqaure at around 12:30am, checked in, and climbed in to our king size bed. I wished I had had my camera ready when, from the bed, I spotted Arlo eating an apple and gazing out the window at NYC. Eventually he climbed in too and we all drifted off to sleep in their glorious Heavenly Bed.

Saturday we had two big outings: a midday excursion to Central Park so Arlo and Elsa could play outside, and a late afternoon excursion to The Spain Restaurant for dinner. Lunch we ate at the park - a mix of hotdogs and pizza. We maximize nap time by giving one adult a break. While Elsa napped in the morning, I hung in the hotel room with Arlo and quietly played while Keith got a workout in. During their afternoon naps, I escaped to a deep tissue massage while Keith watched the kids. Our dinner was great - a feast of chicken, rice, and a seafood platter (muscles, shrimp, lobster).

Saturday night we stayed at the W on Lexington, where we had two adjoining rooms and a suite. With our bellies full from dinner, we tucked both babies in to bed in separate rooms and Keith and I enjoyed a movie in the living room portion of the suite. Unfortunately, we were unable to resist the siren call of the hotel's $8 M&Ms.

Sunday brought a rainy drizzle, but we still managed to get out and have some fun. Keith watched the babies in the morning while I got to take an amazing yoga class at Jivamukti Uptown studio (AMAZING - I highly recommend Zoe, who taught my class). After class, they picked me up and we drove over to a street fair. We rigged an umbrella over their stroller to keep them dry and warm and huddled ourselves together under a second umbrella. Again, we feasted - $1 chippatis and a plate of amazing Indian food, buttery corn on the cob. We bought t-shirts and hand knitted hats and a cool toddler t-shirt that says "anarchy in the pre-k".

Tired and a bit weary from the rain and travel, we decided to save the Children's Museum of the Arts for the next trip and loaded up the car and headed south to our suburb of Washington, DC. We stopped for dinner on the outskirts of Newark, New Jersey at this faux-Australian restaurant that made a killer grilled cheese for me, steak and steamed broccoli for Keith, shrimp and fries for Arlo, and spaghetti for Elsa. Our bellies full, we climbed back in our car. This time, both children slept the whole way, allowing Keith and me to enjoy our James Patterson book on tape.

As we strolled down the halls of Arlo's preschool this morning, the school principal nodded hello to us. Pointing to the handknitted hat we purchased at the street fair that he now had on his head, Arlo told the principal "My new hat." And then, as if he was 2.5 going on 15, he added, "I got it in New York."

Thursday, September 24, 2009

I'm a Waldorf Drop-Out

Last semester my children and I completed parent/infant and a parent/toddler classes. The classes itself were great but the stress took a toll on me: the stress of juggling two back to back classes (I'd shuffle one kid home from class, switch kids with the babysitter, then hustle to the second class). Mealtimes and naps were always a bit fudged on those days, in part because someone new was putting the kids down to sleep and in part because of the timing of the class. In short, it was a lot of hubbub for only a fair amount of gain.

It sometimes takes me a while to learn my lesson.

I signed us up for another semester of classes for this fall. This time, Arlo would be in the parent/child while Elsa was in the parent/toddler. The stress was similar, too: fudged meal and naptimes, the running back and forth while one child was home with a sitter, the struggle of finding a fabulous sitter willing to work one half day a week for us. Today was the second day of class and I came home knowing what I had to do.

I had to simplify. Drop out.

The thing is, I love the Waldorf philosophy and the toys and the environment and the focus on allowing children to be children and play and wonder. It is my intent to bring this philosophy into our home through my own self-study.

The tipping point came when I realized that I couldn't stand pretending to fit in. All the stress might be worth it if I didn't also have this growing uncomfortability with the pressure to swim a certain way. In my experience, there was a pressure to dress the children a certain way, dress myself as a woman a certain way, drink certain water and certain tea at a certain time, play with certain toys, climb certain wooden structures and not others, eat certain things at a certain time, talk in a quiet, hushed voice in a certain way, and so forth. I mean no offense to Waldorf true believers, but I can't live within those boundaries, even for four hours a week.

I'm in love with Waldorf philosophy as it relates to education and home environment but I can't do its societal norms. It reminds me of certain expressions of religion. While I love the concepts of love, peace, and doing for others, religions lose me with the extra constraints based on gender and sexual orientation and inconsistent applications of justice.

So, my children and I are Waldorf school dropouts. And already I feel better.

Monday, September 21, 2009

Dim Sum

Yesterday (Sunday) our family went out for dim sum in Wheaton, Maryland. My husband, being from San Francisco, needs a dim sum fix a couple of times a month. I'm a Native Oklahoman, which means that growing up, Chinese food was a buffet feast of food that was very Americanized. Through my husband, I've become aquainted with the concept of a weekend brunch of Chinese food served by waitresses pushing carts of chicken feet, rice/pork steamed inside of lotus leaves, and egg tart.

Not that I'm hardcore. I still stick with the less exotic dim sum options, like shrimp dumplings, string beans, and beef noodles. What thrills me is that our children are also dining on these options, leading the way for more adventurous dishes in the future.

Arlo loves the shrimp dumpling, called har gau. I think he ate six or seven of them yesterday. In between playing with the chopsticks, Elsa loves pretty much everything. She's at the stage where she wants to try anything and everything - not yet a picky toddler, and with three and half teeth, she is ready for culinary exploration. She ate everything I ate yesterday, including noodles, beef, shrimp, string beans, and sticky rice. Nailah, my 15 year old vegetarian stepdaughter, has it the hardest, but she managed to make a meal out of some veggie noodles that she said were quite tasty.

As with any dining experience with young children, things were messy and a bit hectic and babies were passed around as much as the dishes. But it was delicious and fun and a great Sunday morning together. Can't wait for next time.

Friday, September 18, 2009

Over the Hump

I'll probably jinx myself for saying this aloud, but I think we are finally out of the weeds with having two small children born 22 months apart. Everyone says that first year is really, really hard. *UNDERSTATEMENT* Our youngest little poobear is 10 months old, which means she is solidly on a good schedule, no longer needing to breastfeed in public, and has enough charism and personality and physical capabilities to entertain and play with her older brother.

All of this is helpful in a million little ways, each of which make the day flow better. I know when each child needs food and sleep, so we avoid most meltdowns by honoring those needs. After a meal at home, the two children play together or are engaged in side-by-side play in the same room while I clean up. With the little one's easing up on breastfeeding, I no longer have to engage in that awkward dance of tending to an active toddler while trying to feed my hungry infant under a sheet while in public.

I've also got the nightly routine down, even when doing it alone while my husband works late or is on travel. After dinner, they both play while I clean up the kitchen table, then we head upstairs for bath. I bathe them both at the same time - partly because it is easier on me and partly because they have fun bathing together. After baths, they lay side-by-side on one of the rugs while I lotion, diaper, and zip up pj's. Then Arlo gets one cartoon or quiet play in his room while I nurse Elsa and put her down for bed. After she's down, Arlo and I have some alone time for reading books, brushing teeth, songs, and then he's down.

And then...ahhhh...

When I see mamas of one child at the grocery store or at the park, they always say things like "wow, and I thought one child was hard" or "my hero! how do you do it?" I usually have to laugh at such comments, because it wasn't but 15 minutes prior that I looked like a big ol' hot mess - toddler who won't put shoes back on, infant needing a snack, my own lips feeling very dry and not being able to find my lip gloss and my remembering that I had been needing to pee for about an hour. The good thing is that with each passing week, it either gets a little easier or I get stronger and more experienced.

If you are in the middle of the craziness right now, with two under age two or simply two or more children whose stages are very high need, my only advice is to just breathe through it. You won't always be a hot mess. Some days/hours/moments you'll rock it, too.

And some day you'll, too, be over the hump.

(Knock on wood.)

Thursday, September 10, 2009

a new kind of math

1 teenager + not getting her way


1 toddler + not getting his way

+ tears from 1 teenager

+ tears from 1 toddler


one mama sitting down with a scoop of ice cream and enjoying mindless reality tv for a small bit of time.

Ending / Beginning

Every new beginning comes from some other beginning's end...

"Closing Time" by Semisonic

Right now I sit at my writing desk in the bedroom, typing on the laptop. If I turn to my left I can see our backyard. I see the pool and a lump grows in my throat.

Today was Arlo's second day of preschool. Yesterday was hectic, trying out the new schedule of getting myself and the two little ones dressed, fed, and out the door to preschool by 8:30 am. I stayed with Arlo for most of preschool yesterday to bridge the transition. Yesterday I was too busy to reflect. Today, I left him smiling at preschool and now I have what I've dreamed about for so long - a silent house (toddler at preschool and infant Elsa is napping) and some space for writing my book. And time to reflect.

So why the lump in the throat? Because we're in transition. Transition from summer to fall, transition from baby to preschooler, transition from myself as the full-time caregiver for Arlo to something a little less. It's a wonderful thing. It's such a relief to think that he will have other adult influences besides his father and me. (I don't know how homeschooling stay-at-home moms do it - the pressure to give so much to your child would be enormous.) But it's also sad in the way that changes are a bit sad, such as moving away from your college town after graduation or leaving one job for another.

As I look at the pool I think about how almost every day this summer, after putting Elsa down for a nap, Arlo and I would jump into the pool and swim and play for about 45 minutes. Afterwards, we'd snack on popsicles or cheese and crackers, and when Elsa would wake up we'd head to a park for a picnic lunch and playtime before the afternoon nap. The cool breeze outside and the start of preschool are manifestations of the impermanence of daily life.

This exciting new beginning - autumn, preschool, personal space for writing - is exciting and beautiful - but it does come at the expense of the ending of our glorious summer together and the babyhood that allowed it to be so.

Friday, September 4, 2009

Checking out Palisades

Today the children and I explored a little neighborhood of Washington, DC called Palisades. It is North of Georgetown and South of our city of Bethesda, Maryland. It's a really cute place, with little shops and cafes and restaurants and a curious mixture of personalities.

Having a general sense of where we might find food and the location of the Palisades playground, I parked the car and put Arlo and Elsa in the double stroller and we set off. I was hoping to pick up sandwiches we could take with us to the park, but instead we stumbled upon a little Italian restaurant with a great front table calling our names. The front table was drenched in sunlight and had views of the major road running through Palisades (MacArthur Blvd) as well as the homes across the street. We muched on warm bread with olive oil and yummy sandwiches, and then set off for the park.

There's a quaintness to the neighbohood. There are some homes belonging to people who are obviously well-to-do and there are some rental houses you just know belong to 20-somethings (couches on the front porch being one tell-tale sign). I've not seen so many houses with kayaks leaned up against fences since I've lived in Durango, Colorado, a small town with many, many boaters. It makes sense, because of Palisades' close proximity to water perfect for kayaking.

I was pleasantly surprised by the size of the park and grateful for its shade, as I had forgotten to pack a bonnet for Elsa (9 months). One thing that bothered me about the park was its maze of tree forts that prevented me from seeing my 2.5 year old as he climbed up and down and over bridges and ran through tunnels and slid down slides. Normally I don't have to have my eyes on him all the time, but there was a child of about 7 who was there causing problems (pushing smaller kids, etc) and I wanted to make sure this kid didn't do anything to Arlo.

We rotate through about 6 different parks, and each one has its own personality. Some parks you will find mostly nannies, some will be filled with moms and dads. The nannies are all the same but the parents are different depending on where the park is located. This park was about evenly split between parents and nannies. The two most tuned out caregivers - one mom and one nanny - were in charge of the two worst kids at this park. Both children needed their caregiver to put away the cell phone and teach them how to behave.

We stayed a little later than we should have, but nobody had any meltdowns. The kids snacked on Goldfish and water as I wheeled them back to the car, winding through more streets.

Next week school starts for Arlo, so our morning outings as a threesome will be confined to Fridays. I am actually looking forward to creating a ritual - Adventure Fridays. We'll pick a new spot each Friday. With a diaper bag filled with emergency supplies (snacks, drinks, cell phone, diapers, wipes, wallet) we'll set sail for a new land. I can hardly wait.

Wednesday, September 2, 2009

Who do you think you are?

One of my favorite inspirational bloggers is a woman named Christine Kane. Singer, songwriter, creative coach, this woman does it all. Her post today really spoke to me, because I am fighting the voices in my head telling me I cannot pull off some of my current dreams. I'm excited to share it with you. - Shelby


Who Do You Think You Are?

You’ve heard it.

I’ve heard it.

We can even laugh about it because it’s so common.

I’m talking about the snarky voice in your head that mouths off whenever you think about being a little bolder, or a little decadent, or more self-nurturing.

It’s the voice that says, “Who do you think you are?”

I’m embarrassed to admit this, but mine shows up as a group of high school girls.

Their eyes are lined with thick black pencil. They wear concert t-shirts. Their hair is burnt from too many home perms. One of them steps forward and says, with her hands on her hips, “Who do you think you are?” And then she turns to the others and says, “Who does she think she is?” Then they all take an aggressive step forward. (Welcome to an average day at my old high school!)

My friend Joy told me that “Who do you think you are?” jumps in whenever she imagines hanging out on the sofa reading magazines.

A few years ago, I saw Oprah speak. She said that every time she wanted to achieve more, the first voice she heard was “Who do you think you are?”

Every woman I know has her own version of this voice waiting in the wings.

In other words: Stay down, play small, shut up, and don’t embarrass yourself. Don’t even bother because you won’t make it, you don’t deserve it, and everyone knows it, and they’ll all laugh at you when you fail.

So, next time that voice jumps up in your head, here’s what you do:

Answer it.

Really. Who do you think you are?


One time, I was telling a mentor about some fears coming up around a choice I was making.

I said, “…and all the voices in my head are saying, ‘Who do you think you are?’”

And he looked at me and said, “Well? Who do you think you are?”

I smiled and continued with my story.

He cut in.

“No. Stop. I really want to know. Who do you think you are? Tell me right now.”

In a very tiny voice, I told him.

Then he made me say it again in a bigger, stronger voice. And again after that.

He said, “There. Now you have an answer for your voices.”

Now I do this exercise every time those voices arise.

Here’s a tip:

When you answer that question, use language that speaks the truth of your strengths and values

In other words, make it authentic.

It’s tempting to recite something that sounds “lofty” or “holy." I know you know what I mean. “I am a divine being, living in divine perfection with power and grace..and blah blah blah...abundance and light."

Okay, fine.

True as that may be, if that language doesn’t resonate with you, you’ll never feel any bolder, and those high school girls with the black eye pencil will put their cigarettes out on your shoe.

The Co-op of Lack

My theory is that “Who do you think you are?” is actually a Co-op.

It’s a collective body of voices saying, “Agree with us in the lack that we see! Agree with us that there are no other options! Agree with us that no one has any power over life conditions!”

It’s actually pretty convenient.

It’s convenient to have this world-view because it gives you permission to stay stuck. It never requires that you do anything about it because after all, you’re dealing with a whole world-view!

Think about it.

When you say, “I no longer want to work with this abusive client,” you’re also saying, “AND, I believe there are multitudes of others out there for me.”

When you say, “I’m gonna nap right now, and I will be more productive and happier because of it,” you’re also saying, “AND, I believe that there’s more than enough time for me to get my to-do’s done.”

Get it?

Essentially, you’re telling the Co-op that you’ve decided to create a whole new world-view!

Extra Credit Bonus Tip

Let’s be honest.

Most likely there are occasions when you’ve been the one saying, “Who does she think she is?” (Even if it’s only in your head.)

Don’t be ashamed. It simply means that you have more opportunities to shift those old lack mindsets. Usually those mindsets are saying: “I’m feeling small and poor, so she should be small and poor too.” We’ve all caught ourselves doing this.

Even if it’s uncomfortable, you can choose to bless or praise anyone who seems to be taking bigger strides in her life. Then remind yourself again who you think you are, and join her!


Performer, songwriter, and creativity consultant Christine Kane publishes her 'LiveCreative' weekly ezine with more than 4,000 subscribers. If you want to be the artist of your life and create authentic and lasting success, you can sign up for a FRE*E subscription to LiveCreative at

Tuesday, September 1, 2009

today i am grateful for...

Today I am grateful for:

70-something degree, sunny weather
beautiful playgrounds
my toddler son's can-do attitude towards potty-training
my infant daughter's amazing laugh
the little nap i was able to take mid-day

this uplifting video, about body image:

Monday, August 31, 2009

Reclaiming Our Power as Parents

Last week I visited a toy store with Arlo and Elsa. While there, Arlo and a boy who looked about three or four became engrossed in play with the toddler train set, while Elsa happily stood at the train table, looking on. Meanwhile, I browsed, wishing for a "mom" table of my own so that I could take advantage of these precious minutes where neither child needed me.

After about ten minutes had passed, the mother of the other boy asked him a question that made me cringe: "Can we go to my store now?"

The boy, being all of three or four, and not understanding adult subtleties, responded honestly. "No" he told her.

That's when the mom became upset. "Excuse me???"

I couldn't bear to hear any more. I announced to Arlo and Elsa that it was time to go, and even though Arlo protested I led him by the hand outside the store. No negotiations, no explanations, no sweetening of the pie ("If we leave now you can have a sucker...")

Of course the boy said no, they couldn't go to the mom's store yet, because she had asked him if it was time and he wasn't ready. I can only imagine how confusing it must be for him, to assume you are being asked your opinion when really your parent has a specific answer they are looking for.

I don't remember my parents ever asking me if it was time to do something. Ever. Thank God.

Have we as parents handed our parental responsibilities over to our toddlers/preschoolers/middle schoolers/high schoolers? From what I see being out and about with my two kids, I would have to say that sadly, many of us have. How many times have you said the following:

* "What do you want for breakfast?"
* "Are you ready to leave the park?"
* "Are you cold? Want to wear your coat?"

Language matters. Boundary-setting matters. Being the parent matters. Give the child the security of knowing that you are in charge. If it's breakfast, offer a healthy meal. If it's time to go home and take a nap, announce it's time to leave the park, and then go home. If it's cold outside, put a sweater or coat on your baby and move on.

And if you EVER catch me asking one of my kids for permission to go to "my store" kick me in the tooshie.

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Potpouri of Thoughts

Arlo peed in the potty today! One point for the lazy mama potty trainer!

Yesterday at the park a man asked if I was Arlo and Elsa's babysitter. He profusely apologized when I told him I was the mama. I told him I took it as a compliment, that I must not look as old as I feel. I don't totally take it as a compliment, though.

We took the babies and Nailah (teenage stepdaughter) on a tour of the East Wing of the White House today. Ever wear high heels while carrying a 9 month old in a Baby Bjourn? Fun times. The babies did fantastic, though. Arlo got some laughs when he said, "Mommy, where's Obama?"

My knitting class was a huge success. I learned to knit in two sessions. My goal: one amazing scarf for The Hubbie for Christmas. Next up: I start pottery classes in mid-September. I've wanted to learn to make pottery since at least the movie Ghost.

I've run twice this week. And it's August in Washington, D.C., so that should count as, like, four runs. During today's run, pushing the jogging stroller, all I could think was "Mama's back in the saddle."

Until next time...

Monday, August 24, 2009

Potty Training - Report from the Trenches

Well folks we have progress. The past few weeks we've talked about pooping and peeing in the potty, and Arlo has seen the new undies his friends are wearing. My mom (Arlo's "Nanna") sent him super cool Spiderman and Batman underwear that he's stoked on. Today - out of the blue - he told me that he wanted to wear the new underwear and not a diaper.

I wanted to jump up in the air and yell something like "sweet!" but I kept my game face on and offered Arlo an uninterested "ok." I didn't want to make a big deal of it, lest my enthusiasm be seen as pushy and cause him to change his mind.

So all morning he wore his underwear. I held off going to the park because I wanted him to use the toilet at least once before we left the house. Five times he urgently called me to the bathroom, where we stripped him down and plopped him on the big toilet and he strained his face as if to pee and poop.

But there was nothing.

Still, each time we pulled up his clothing and washed his hands, to set the stage for hand-washing after every future bathroom visit. For some reason, he just wouldn't go into the toilet.

Of course, as soon as we put the diaper on and went to the park, he did his business.

Bribing Arlo with M&Ms is not working. Every kid has their price, and for some it's books and others it's candy. With Arlo, I've got to throw down the gauntlet. No more cartoons until we're pooping and peeing in the toilet. That accomplishes two goals at the same time, unless of course he responds by closing the door on diapers forever. In which case, my little blog will offer it's first give-away: two boxes of brand new size 5 diapers!

Until next time...

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Two Little Words

Tonight, while tucking my 2 1/2 year old son into bed, he muttered two little words that stole my heart:

"Love you."

At the risk of ruining the moment, I asked for clarification. "Did you just say that you loved me?"

He giggled. "Yes."

I squeezed him tightly, the darkness masking my smile.

This little boy owns my heart.

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

About TV...

We allow our toddler to watch TV and I'm not at all comfortable with that. I don't want to create house rules that make him anti-social or rebel and go full throttle in the direction of the off-limits thing. But I also don't want to mess him up in any way by TV watching.

The teachers and parents at the Waldorf school down the street are adamantly against TV.

A mother of three told me that you are so over worrying about TV watching by that third kid.

A mother/write/Zen teacher wrote that TV is a surrogate and you should know this when you allow it into your child's life.

When my day with the children starts at 6:30am and my husband is either working late or on travel, it is so nice to put Elsa (9 months) down at 6:30 pm and sit with Arlo (2.5 years) on the bed while he watches a cartoon and I read a magazine, allowing us to coast to his 7:30pm bedtime.

Tonight, with my husband away, I entered that 13th hour alone with the kids very, very tired. Problem: I took away Arlo's TV privileges because he hadn't followed through with my instructions earlier in the evening. To my surprise, I was able to suck up my tiredness and pull off a very enjoyable and mellow evening with Arlo.

I put Elsa down at about 7 pm, then Arlo and I went down to the playroom to "cook" in his wooden kitchen. We made play soup, coffee and grilled cheese sandwiches with his play dishes and then sat on the couch and pretended to eat and drink. We talked about what we did throughout the day and we talked about things we could do tomorrow.

At 7:35 we headed upstairs to his bedroom to read books and sings a couple of songs and then tuck him in. He was perfectly happy to end the day with no cartoons and I felt better, like we had used that small bit of time to connect instead of zone out.

I'm not ready to go TV-less, but I am pretty darn satisfied with tonight's experience. Maybe tomorrow we'll try for two nights in a row.

Monday, August 17, 2009

Waning Summer Thoughts

I love, love, love how my children are covered in "summer" at the end of the day. At bathtime, I strip them of their playground-stained and sometimes berry- or popsicle-stained clothing and plop them into a tub full of bubble bath. We wash away the dirt and bug bites and wood chips in anticipation of clean pj's, warm milk, bedtime books and dreamland...

I love feeling and washing dirt off of vegetables bought from the farmers' market. It makes me feel connected to my food in a way that I don't when I buy prewashed, totally packaged veggies from the massive chain grocery store.

I love hearing the ice cream man's melody coming down the street when the kids and I play at the park in the afternoons.

I love lightning bugs, sun tea, lemonade stands, splashgrounds, watching the sunset from my deck, talking to all my "mom friends" at the local parks, and experiencing summer thunderstorms from my porch swing.

I also love the anticipation of a new school year and all that autumn, the truly best season brings - sweaters, football, Halloween...

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Craving for Solitude

Over the weekend I asked my mom if she ever wished she had gone back to work when my brother and I entered school. She very quickly replied no, that our entering school all day was the first time she had for alone time and she didn't want to pass that up.

This statement coincides with a book I've been reading, in which the author talks about women's profound craving for alone time - time for quiet, time for thinking, time for browsing, time for doing our own thing. It's not to say that men don't experience something like it, but women, with all we do for other people each and every day of our lives, in particular desire space of our own. I guess that's why so many of us with little children stay up late at night, savoring those hours of quiet solitude.

I wonder what we can do to make sure this need is being met. I don't want to wait 8 or 9 years, until Arlo and Elsa are in school all day, for me-time. And I don't want to choose between a career / finances and quality time for myself. Here's a quick brainstorm of ways to find time TODAY:

*go to bed early (9:30! agh!) to wake up refreshed at 5:30 am, and then you have at least one hour of quiet uninterrupted time to write, paint, practice yoga, go for a run (because, to be honest, my late-night time is completely wasted surfing the Net or watching TV because I'm too tired to write or practice yoga)
* take advantage of free time during the day, like nap time, by avoiding time zappers like the Internet and email and instead using it to feed the soul
* work while the children play, at least sometimes - cleaning and doing laundry while everyone else is sleeping or out is a form of spoiling your loved ones - they need to understand that the house doesn't magically get clean/uncluttered and they need to participate! Let's make our work VISIBLE. So take the children to the park and roll around with them at times, but also get your work done while they play independently, as it is good for everyone.
*if you work outside the home, use lunch breaks for a quick stroll through a museum or art gallery (easy enough to do in DC if you can break away from the desk during lunch time) or get some tea and browse a bookstore
*if you have a commute on a bus or train, use that time for meditation or listening to music or sketching

We must do what we can so that we have time for ourselves. Seize it - nobody is going to give it to you!

Monday, August 10, 2009

Humid Rain Tuesday Night

It's 9:30pm and the house is quiet. It's humid and raining outside and I can hear the rain wash down on our house in alternating patches of fast and slow. There is much I need to do, but I just sit here and listen. Listen to the quiet and listen to the rain.

Sunday, August 9, 2009

Saturday Morning Bagel Yum

Yesterday the babies and I were slow to get moving. The Hubbie is away on a business trip, making the house seem extra quiet. So I decided to mix things up with our morning routine.

We headed to our local bagel spot and planted ourselves at a table on the shop's front sidewalk. The three of us shared a couple of cinnamon raisin bagels toasted with butter: Elsa in her highchair, gnawing on part of a bagel and being fed apple puree in between bites; Arlo, hands greasy with melted butter, eating and talking about airplanes in the sky and birds on the ground; and me, feeling pretty darn lucky to be so blessed with these two amazing little beings.

Saturday mornings just beg for family ritual. Maybe this will become ours or maybe we'll think of something else. Growing up, my family had lots of rituals. Probably my favorite was church Sunday morning followed by lunch out at a restaurant. It seems to me that it's not so much the extravagance of the ritual as it is the time together.

And my time with the babies on that Saturday morning - seeing them in their pjs at the sidewalk table, sharing yummy bagels with me - was priceless.

Thursday, August 6, 2009

Preschool Jitters (Mine)

In about a month, Arlo will begin a really great preschool program for 2 year olds. After surviving all the drama that is preschool admissions in the Washington, D.C. metro area (that's another blog post) we now must deal with something even harder: our first-time separation.

I'm a stay-at-home-mom and we've never used a nanny or Mom's Day Out program or part-time daycare or Sunday school class. The Hubbie and I do use babysitters a couple of times a month for weekend dates, but at most the babysitter will tuck Arlo into bed and then hang out in the living room surfing the net or reading until we get home. The only night Arlo and I spent away from each other was the one night I was in the hospital for Elsa's birth. That nearly killed me.

This is the preschool of my dreams - half Waldorf, half Montessori, wonderful staff, sugar-free and peanut-free snacks, lots of outdoor time, lots of singing, and teachers that speak Italian and Spanish to the children - this was our first choice. And we jumped through hoops to get him in, including attending an orientation, completing the mandatory visitation of the classroom, filling out the ten-page application (picture included), attending a class with Arlo for what can best be described as an interview, and attending a parent-teacher conference.

I'm not sad about his growing up and moving towards independence. I am ready for a break from juggling a toddler and an infant for thirteen hours a day and I look forward to alone time with Elsa. I think I am just worried about a bumpy transition. It will crush me to leave him crying at school. I worry about him feeling abandoned. I really hope he loves preschool.

To prep Arlo, I bought a book a few days ago called "D.W.'s Guide to Preschool." D.W. is a character from the PBS show Arthur. Neither Arlo nor I watch that show, so we didn't know D.W. before picking up this book, but the book has become a favorite of Arlo's nonetheless. She talks about circle time, playground time, snack time, craft time, and all the other fun stuff they do at preschool. Arlo asks me to read this book before the 1pm nap and before bedtime every day, and he asks lots of questions.

In one month my baby boy will start a three half-day a week preschool program and somehow we'll navagate this separation of our lives, this rite of passage.

And then in two years we'll figure out the whole kindergarten thing.

Monday, August 3, 2009

What Does a Stay at Home Mom Look Like?

Over a year ago, a neighbor friend gave me an odd "compliment":

"You look great. You don't look like a stay at home mom!"


On that particular day, I showed up at her house around 4:30 pm with my 10 month old son, who was going to play with her 8 month old son. I happened to have brushed my hair and put on lip gloss before heading out the door. Not something I feel the need to do all the time, but not something that is completely out of character, either. She, on the other hand, worked at an official job all day, and so always left the house pulled together.

It got me wondering: What is a stay at home mom supposed to look like anyway? For that matter, what is a mom supposed to look like? Short haircut or sensible ponytail? Capris, mom jeans (remember the Saturday Night Live video?), blah dressing? No makeup because there was no time for it, and various stains on the wrinkled t-shirt?

One of the best books on mamahood is "The Yummy Mummy Manifesto" by Anna Johnson (who also wrote "Three Black Skirts.") In her chapter "Common Fashion Sins of the Mother" Anna advises moms to "forget fighting the visible signs of aging and instead battle against the suffocation of smart casuals." I'll quickly list her seven sins of maternal style:

1. the anchorwoman bob

2. the cardigan

3. the sensible shoe

4. the over-functioning handbag

5. the neutral palette

6. the cargo pant

7. the crew neck

I'm so guilty of numbers 3, 4, and 6! But what's a mom to wear/carry when she's running after a toddler in the park, with an infant strapped to her in a Baby Bjorn?

So I asked the Universe for an answer, and I found a muse, if not an answer. Lucky Magazine posted in its "June Inspiration Board" a picture of Elle Macpherson that blows me away. Some photographer snapped her photo as she was biking her son to school. She looked unbelievably good. Gladiator sandals, designer skirt, ruffled black top with a pile of long necklaces, undone bombshell hair, aviator glasses. I know she's a model, and she's not working within the constrains of breastfeeding and two children in diapers, but she really did have it goin' on.

What can real moms take away from the analysis of Anna Johnson and our muse, Elle Macpherson? How about these:

  • Think about how adding flair to your daily outfit might add to your mood or spirit and then go for it - wear some pink pumas or a leopard-print belt - add something to spruce up your outfit even if you are only going to the grocery store or park that day. You are dressing for you.

  • Resist the urge to conform - when I practiced law I felt the need to dress like a Washington, DC lawyer - very corporate and blah. Now, I feel the urge to dress sensibly and in a way that does not stand out as the most ridiculously overdressed SAHM at the playgroup. Perhaps there is a middle ground between function/uniform and over-the-top that allows for the expression of individuality and for you to roll on the living room floor with your toddler. One mama's way of noncomformity might be rock star eye makeup while another's might be some dark wash skinny jeans instead of the usual cargo pants.

  • Find a muse and forge a signature style. Bedhead + aviators ala Elle Macpherson or boho mamas like Kate Hudson and Nicole Richie or black eyeliner and art deco bracelets - figure out what you like and make it your style.

The bottom line is that a mama should do what makes her feel inspired and creative. Bonus: being camera-ready for any lurking paparazzi out there. = )

Friday, July 31, 2009

On Wondering

Last week while driving a friend home, I spotted a fabulous bumper sticker. It read:

Those who wonder are not always lost.

I had to smile, thinking to myself that the owner of the car was a kindred spirit. I read the bumper sticker aloud and commented to my friend that I thought it was great.

Imagine my surprise when my friend said that it was her car, her bumper sticker, and she, too had always loved that quote! (I knew I liked her from the very beginning!)

Those who wonder are not always lost.

This weekend I shall find a small chunk of time to wonder - outside, observing, unhurried.

Thursday, July 30, 2009

Me Time!

I did it. After years - seriously, years - of allowing a desire to learn to knit fester inside me, I signed up for a knitting class at the Knit n Stitch = Bliss store in Bethesda. Knitting is supposed to be a stress reliever and the teachers at Arlo and Elsa's Waldorf school say that kids are magically calmed by their mamas knitting in the room with them. Who knows if any of that is true - I'll blog about that later - but in the meantime all I can think about is getting my hands on some big fat mustard-yellow yarn and crafting up a big warm scarf for myself and loved ones.

What kind of me-time do you have planned for August???

Thursday, July 23, 2009

Zen and the Art of Pottytraining

Zen and the Art of Pottytraining - Report from Weeks 2 and 3

It's a sham calling what I am doing "pottytraining." It's more like my raising the issue with Arlo and him rejecting it outright. Our discussion goes like this:

Me (hopeful, smile plastered on my face): "So, Arlo, are you ready to pee and poop in the potty like Mommy and Daddy?"

Arlo (with furrow in his brow): "I want to poop in my diaper!"

Me (giving it one more try): "How about pooping in the potty, like big kids?"

Arlo: "No, diapers...can I have some apple juice?"

Discussion over.

Also, it's really hard and not that fun to be stuck at home all day every day while attempting to pottytrain.

Meanwhile, a girlfriend with a son a few months younger than Arlo announced to her that he was ready to use toilets now. I'm happy for her (I really am) but jealous, too. I want Arlo to tell me he's finished using diapers. And I want it to happen, without any work on my part. We already worked our butts off to get him in his own bed and sleeping through the night and on a good schedule and eating lots of veggies and playing nice with other kids and I'm tired and wanting to coast through pottytraining.

Believe it or not, you can outsource pottytraining. For half a second last week I considered hiring someone to come do this for us. I also considered bribing Arlo with M&Ms when he delivered No.1 and No.2's in the toilet.

They say that nobody goes to kindergarten in diapers, meaning that all kids eventually potty train. They also say that kids do it on their own time schedule. I refuse to over-research this issue (like I did for infant sleep) so this is all IO know about what the so-called experts say about pottytraining. I also refuse to flip out and make this a battle between Arlo and me.

So what's left? Why am I writing this if I am so "zen" about it? Two reasons. You know how you have rock solid beliefs about parenting before you actually become a parent? Well, before I had kids, one of the beliefs I had was that all kids should be potty-trained by age two. So a part of me feels like I missed some stupid deadline. This I feel, despite the fact that I made up this stupid rule before I had a clue what being a parent was all about. I also fear I am being judged by other people - parents and those without kids - who see Arlo's diaper sticking out of his pants and know that he's two and a half and judge me to be a bad mom because I haven't potty trained my kid.

In the end, I can only control what I think. So I told my inner critic to shut the *f* up. Yes, I missed an arbitrary deadline set by my former self, the self that had oodles and oodles of free time and that got all the sleep needed. Oh well.

I just finished a great book called "Momma Zen: Walking the Crooked Path of Motherhood" by Zen teacher Karen Maezen Miller. In it, she states: "Don't push the river. Let the future come to you." Soon enough this headstrong little toddler will be a headstrong, know-everything teenage boy whom I have to constantly remind to pick up the boxers from his bedroom floor. Such is life.

Right now, today, I will celebrate my friend's son's development in the world of pottytraining. I will continue to discuss, but not push, Arlo in the same direction.

And yes, there will probably be M&Ms bribery involved.

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Love, the Second Time Around

While pregnant with Elsa I wondered how I would ever love her, my second child, as much as I love Arlo, my first child. I simply couldn't imagine it, and that scared me. Arlo and I are so close and have such fun times together. I wondered what it was going to be like with a third member of our daytime gang.

With Elsa's birth, all those worries disappeared. First, you are thrown into full-time newborn haze on top of taking care of a toddler, so there is literally no time for pondering anything. But mostly it had to do with the fact that once I met Elsa, held her in my arms, kissed her little head and held her tight to my chest, I couldn't imagine not loving her. We were now a daytime tribe of three.

Tonight my husband is at a musical with his 15 year old daughter and I am puttering around the house after having bathed the babies and put them to bed. Elsa just woke up, not needing to nurse, but wanting to be close to me. She is pretty opinionated, and would only settle in quietly when I sat her on my lap facing outward. We rocked and I held her tightly. My lips touched her baby fine infant hair and I drank in her sweet smell. Slowly she melted into me, and I felt her little body go limp inside the sleep sack. She had fallen asleep and I had fallen even deeper in love with that little girl.

They tell you to enjoy it because it goes by so quickly. I believe them - I am amazed at how fast these 8 months with her have passed. So I'm collecting and savoring small moments like this one.

Mama Can't Get Sick!

A few weeks ago everyone around me got sick. It started with Elsa, who likely contracted it from her Oklahoma cousins. The cold then passed to Arlo, then to my mom and stepdad and finally to my husband when we reunited with him back in Maryland. Even my brother got sick from the lingering runny noses during our family get-together over July 4th. Somehow I dodged that sickness bullet - I like to think that it demonstrates that there must be a merciful God after all.

My experience as a stay at home mom is that we don't get sick days. At least I don't. If I'm sick, I still have to take care of the kids and the house and all the stuff they use during the day -- there are onesies smeared with purees, toddler shirts stained with playground dirt, high chairs in need of wiping and pots used in the making of Mac-n-cheese to be scrubbed. The floors don't care if I'm sick - they, too must be cleared of fallen Cheerios. The fun stuff, too, must go on - the babies need hugs and diapers changed and the occasional tickling.

A neighbor friend of mine, a woman who worked outside the home, told me that when she got sick she stayed in bed all day and let the nanny care for her son. What a luxury! Some women might be lucky enough to have husbands/partners/family members who can pitch in for the day to carry the load. If that's you, count your lucky stars.

My plan is to avoid getting sick in the first place. To to this, I employ a precise routine that usually works. Today I've begun the routine, because I woke up feeling a bit under the weater. Here's the magic:

1. Steamy shower followed by neti pot -- the steamy shower makes me feel better on its own, but it also opens up the nasal passage for the neti pot. When I first started using a neti pot about 7 years ago not many people had heard about them, but now they seem to be everywhere. I think I even saw one at Walmart. Nothing works like a neti pot to remove allergens and other gunk from your nasal passage and help you breath better.
2. Oil of Oregano - I put a few drops of this under my tongue several times a day. They say it is a natural antibiotic and it sure helps me to avoid getting sick or to feel better once I am sick.
3. Hydration - my choices are orange juice (vitamin C) and water. Lots of water.
4. Rest - I'm not so great about this. If you can swing it, it helps to nip a cold in the bud. I'm supposed to be resting right now, while my husband is taking the morning off and is at the park with our toddler (baby is napping). Does blogging count as rest???

Wednesday, July 8, 2009

Diary of a Potty Training Mama - Week One

Time to potty train! We are doing the let-them-roam-around-the-house-and-yard-with-no-diaper-on variety of potty training. Report from Week One:

Day 1 Tuesday - Explain to toddler that we are doing something new - we will forgo diapers and he should from now on let us know when his tummy feels like he needs to pee or poop and we will take him to the toilet. Toddler responds with "No, I want to poop and pee in my diaper." Toddler peed on the floor once, but mostly waited for nap time (where diaper was worn) for pooping and peeing.

Day 2 Wednesday - Toddler pooped in his morning diaper before we had a chance to begin our new routine. He also peed outside once. My back was turned but I heard "Oh, Mommy!" and turned around to see a small puddle on the patio. Toddler peed inside on the carpet once. He had asked for some water and he peed while I was upstairs getting sippy cup of water. He pointed to the small rug and said "I peed." This doesn't feel like progress.

Day 3 Thursday - Emergency stop by the doctor's to have Infant checked out (fearing ear infection, it turned out to be that she is just fed up with travel). Toddler felt need to go poop at the doctor's office but refused to poop in the toilet. Insisted on being alone in bathroom to poop in diaper. This doesn't feel like progress.

Day 4 Friday - Household is in a frenzy, prepping for party Saturday night. We return to diapers.

Day 5 Saturday - Ditto.

Day 6 Sunday - Tired from party and using regular diapers. Plan to regroup and try again next week.

My Toddler, My Meditation Teacher

I try, try to meditate at least five minutes a day. Lately, with all our travel, household woes (algae in the pool and oven door that came off when my husband and I were trying to move the oven to attack the ant problem, to name a few) and sicknesses (sick toddler, sick infant, sick husband = stressed and about to go nuts mama) things have been off schedule and rough. Finding five minutes to myself has been impossible.

This morning, desparate for a chance to collect myself and get grounded so that I could be a better mama and person and not be so short-tempered and scattered, I sat on my meditation cushion and told my toddler I was meditating for five minutes and he should do it too, with me. "All you do," I told him, "is sit real still, be quiet, and listen to your breath."

Silence followed. It was too silent, if you know what I mean.

I opened my eyes. Arlo was standing in front of me, two inches from my face, with a big grin on his.

I laughed out loud, then explained again how to meditate and invited him to sit with me for five minutes. I resettled myself - eyes closed, hands resting on my crossed legs with palms facing up, mind on my breath.


"I meditate like this" he said, jumping like a kangaroo across the room. "I meditate like this, Mommy!" Pure glee that only a child knows was completely written on his face.

Hhmmm, I thought. He might be on to something. Perhaps meditation is more than perfect attendance on the meditation cushion? Of course I'd done walking meditation before, but that was at an official meditation retreat. Why not jumping meditation, in the living room, where you are perfectly in the moment, breath and movement aligned. It was about presence, right? If I could find presence in the mundane acts of each day - diaper changing, washing dishes - then wasn't I achieving the point of meditation?

I'm a work in progress and I have so very far to go. But thankfully I've got a two and a half year old guru to help me along the way.

Thursday, June 25, 2009

Ten Minutes in Heaven

By midday yesterday, I needed rescue. Too little sleep the previous night and lots of heat outside = Aggitated Mama.

When both babies were sleeping soundly in their rooms, I turned to a favorite restorative yoga pose that always refreshes. Viparita karani, or legs up the wall pose, is my go-to pose when I need a quick fix.

To get into the pose, slide your bum up against a wall and allow your legs to stretch up the wall. Your back is on the floor. I add a touch recommended by a chiropractor - putting a rolled towel under my neck to allow those muscles to realign. The theraputic benefits of this pose include the following:

  • Relieves tired or cramped legs and feet

  • Gently stretches the back legs, front torso, and the back of the neck

  • Relieves mild backache

  • Calms the mind

Ten minutes in legs up the wall pose and I feel like a new woman: maybe not Zen Mama, but at least Refreshed Mama.

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

summer lovin'

one thing i love about being a mama is that, through your children, you get a chance to relive your childhood.

on this scorching hot oklahoma summer morning (100 degrees!) arlo and i turned on the sprinkler hose, filled up his inflatable kiddie pool with cold water from the hose, and had our little backyard party. we splashed, kicked, jumped, stomped, skipped, and laughed.

it's the kind of joy you wish you could bottle.

Sunday, June 21, 2009

Happy Dad's Day

Kent Nerburn writes that there is one place where perfection of the heart is given to us in all its fullness - parenthood. When you look upon a child you have been given, there are no limitations and reservations. You are looking with a perfect love.
On this Father's Day, I celebrate my two dads - my biological father, the late Rowdy Settles (pictured above, with me at a wedding) and my stepfather (pictured above with my son Arlo during the summer of 2008). I also celebrate my wonderful husband of five years (pictured with me at an Inaugural event in 2009).
Happy Dad's Day to all the fathers in the world who have found perfection in the heart through parenthood.

Monday, June 15, 2009

Snapshots of My Life Then and Now

Last Friday The Hub and I had an offbeat date. We saw an off, off-Broadway production of Hedwig and the Angry Inch in Washington, D.C. If you are not familiar with the plot behind that story, I'll allow you to discover it on your own...Sitting in the theater, recalling the time I saw the movie of Hedwig, I couldn't help but contrast how different my life is now.

Me, then: The movie version of Hedwig came out sometime around the fall of 2001. I was a young twenty-something newbie lawyer living in Seattle, fighting the good fight at a legal services organization, not really making ends meet but having a blast. I hiked, practiced yoga, kayaked, saw lots of live music, and snowboarded. I lived in a one bedroom apartment located above a Safeway and across the street from a chill coffeeshop and took the bus everywhere. I was paid pennies for my work but I was a happy, happy girl.

Me, now: It's June 2009 and I am a wife, mama to two babies, stepmama to a 15 year old, non-practicing attorney, struggling writer, living in the suburbs of Washington, D.C. The Hub and I go on "dates" a few times a month. I run, practice yoga, try to meditate once a day for 5 minutes (a girl's got to start somewhere), and belong to an awesome book club. Our house is fabulously close to three super toddler parks and I drive a PT Cruser around the mean streets of our suburb. I am now paid in hugs and smiles and I am a happy, happy mama.

My Toddler (2009) / Me (1976)

Concepts that my 2.5 year old son knows that weren't in my vocabulary when I was a toddler in the mid-70s:

1. recycle

2. pad thai takeout

3. hip hop music

4. rental car

5. watching cartoons on the Ipod

6. email

Tuesday, June 9, 2009

I Heart the Public Library

Kids Education

I love, love, love the public library. It started when I was a kid. There was one summer growing up where my mom worked outside the home and my Grandma Isabelle watched my brother and me. Some days we would go across the street to the swimming pool or to a local park, but other days she would take us to a cafe for burgers, fries, and a Coke, followed by a trip to the Muskogee Public Library. The cafe/library days were my favorite.

If I close my eyes, I can recall the entire experience: automatic sliding doors; the whoosh! of cold air-conditioning juxtaposed against the hot, humid summer air; the smell of old, musty books; the sound and sight of the water fountain in the library's corner, under the stairs; the children's area with puppets and a puppet stand, old dolls, and thousands of books, all of which were ours for the taking. With our bellies full of cafe food, my brother and I would run to the children's area and spend entire afternoons, playing with the toys and pulling books from the shelves. Some books would be glanced at, considered, and then put back. Ten or so lucky books would make their way into our canvass packs to be checked out and taken home to read and reread until they were due back at the library.

I had my own library card - a source of great pride. I loved standing in line, waiting to check out my newest selection of books. With the librarian's stamping of the due date on the back cover of each of my books, they were mine for two whole weeks!

I'm passing on the love of the library to my entire family. I hooked my husband after clueing him in to the fact that they have books on tape (for free!). My son, who is 2 1/2, loves to go for the toddler storytime and to play in the children's area. (Tip: have an early lunch, around 11 am, then go the library from 11:45 am - 12:30 pm, as that is when it is most deserted because all the other toddlers have gone home to have lunch.) I appreciate that we can check out books and rotate the stories we read to him before bed. While he may never tire of The Pokey Little Puppy, I occasionally need to mix it up with other books the library has in stock.

My favorite sections? The librarian's choice bookshelf, because it contains the real gems, picked by the most book-loving of them all. Now I know I must have been a librarian in a past life.

Sunday, June 7, 2009

Why Don't You...

why don't you...

get up early and go for a run?

make your own batch of wine?

sign up for a knitting class?

find a hammock and get comfy with a juicy book?

give pole dancing a try?

learn to make jewelry?

see a funky theater production?

Nap, Glorious Nap

How delicious does it sound to burrow under a light blanket of sleep right in the middle of a busy day? Why should young babies be the only ones allowed this wonderful treat?

The babies and I are visiting my family in Oklahoma. Yesterday, after putting them both down for naps in the early afternoon, I paused and thought about what to do next. Not being in my own house, I had no chores staring me in the face - no dishwasher demanding to be emptied, no laundy to fold, no bills to pay. I had roughly two hours of free time, and nothing seemed as glorious as stretching out on the bed and taking a little snooze.

Here's my favorite way to take a nap: First, my belly must be full of a good lunch. I can't stand sleeping on a hungry stomache. The room must be cool and dark, and I love to stretch out across the bed sideways, and on top of the bedsheets. A ceiling fan provides just enough air movement to keep me interested in a quilt blanket, which makes sleeping nice and cozy.

The lovely Veronique Vienne writes in The Art of Doing Nothing a wonderful section she titled "Recipe for a Gourmet Nap" in which she suggests:

* draw the blinds or curtains to bathe the room in a soft, restful glow

* kick of your shoes

* decide what time to wake up and trust your subconscious

* lie down under covers but not beneath the sheets

* close your eyes and imagine that you are a small boat drifting on the waves

* opening awakening, drag yourself out of bed slowly

* throw water on your face, stretch, open a window, don't rush

Ms. Vienne also writes that John F. Kennedy, Winston Churchill, Thomas Edison, Napolean Bonaparte, and Leonardo da Vinci took a mid-day slumber. Knowing that I'm in great company, I think I'll make a 10 minute, glorious nap a part of my everyday.

Wednesday, June 3, 2009


While stopped at a red light at an intersection, I saw a woman on the concrete slab between the lanes, holding out a cup and asking for money. The woman was disabled, with skin worn from the sun, and covered in torn, raggedy clothes. She could only hobble on her makeshift crutches when
a person in a car would reach out an arm with a couple of dollars for her.

I handed the woman a dollar and she whispered "God bless you."

My son asked, "What is she?" This is his catch-all question he uses to figure out his world. It can mean "how old are you?" or "are you a superhero like me?" depending on the situation.

I paused before answering, because I wanted to give him a truthful answer, but one that was appropriate for a two year old. I'm not sure I succeeded. "She is a woman who does not have a family or a place to live. She can't work at a job that pays money like Daddy does, so she asks people to help her by giving her money. So we shared some of our money with her."

"Oh. OK."

Having children has made me think about people differently. I feel the suffering of other human beings on a different level. The woman begging for money is somebody's child, and might be somebody's mother. What happened to her? How'd she get where she is now? Does she really not have family? Also, why are some people part of the "have's" while others are part of the "have-nots"? I know that it goes beyond how hard or motivated a person is, because I see the advantages a child has when his or her parents have resources and invest time and love into the child.

I always come back to the thought that there but by the Grace of God go I.

I was lucky enough to be raised by a loving mother and father and stepfather who cared about my well-being and did the best they could to give me every advantage. Neither I nor someone in my family has suffered a major health problem, leading to major, crippling debt. So far, none of us have lost a job or a house.

I see a person begging on the streets and feel fortunate, and somewhat guilty, that I get to live my life, which is a really, really good life.

While lost in my thoughts, my son had also been doing some thinking.

"Does that person need money, too?" He was pointing to the man in the Mercedes ahead of us.

"No, probably not." I told him, smiling. "Probably not."

Tuesday, June 2, 2009

The Five Minute Daily Practice

The other day I was feeling overwhelmed by duties and a bit in the dumps over my lack of movement toward the achievement of my goals. I mentioned this to my friend Ana, who runs Creatuitive Coaching, a fabulous company dedicated to assisting young women in the search for living authentic and creative lives. She had the best piece of advice, which she captured in her June 1, 2009 blog:

Make the goal small and manageable by transforming it into a daily practice. Five minutes a day spent in furtherance of your goals means that each and every day you are dedicating time toward the achievement of your dreams.

Don't you just love this?

Here are my goals:

1. get the stories in my head into files on the laptop. not sure if the end result will be two fiction books or one, or multiple short stories, or a book of short stories. we'll see when we get there.

2. finish the nonfiction book i've begun. it's about mamahood and i think about it all the time.

3. design the line of clothing for breastfeeding mamas who want functional clothes that are soft and luxe feeling. function + fashion for the breastfeeding mama.

These goals feel OVERWHELMING because the time to work on them is few and far between. But I can find five minutes, no sweat.

Yesterday I interviewed a fabulous babysitter who is available all summer long. Tonight my five minutes will be spent in furtherance of my dreams by emailing this babysitter with the two mornings a week I wish for her to come over to babysit, allowing me to escape with laptop to a nearby cafe to do my writing and design sketching. Tomorrow I'll find another five minutes to organize all the notecards of chapter ideas I jotted down, and then the next day I'll find another creative and dedicated five minutes to move myself forward.

I'm ready to seize my five minutes. Are you?

Monday, June 1, 2009

What Do You Want to Do Before You Die?

What do you want to do before you die?

This question was posed in the blog on June 1, 2009.

Here's my answer:

I want to travel more, have lots of beautiful moments, instill in my children compassion, responsibility, and a love for learning, to create writings that live long after I'm gone, to love, smile and laugh every day, and to leave the world a better place.

What do you want to do before you die?

What I'm Loving About Today

What I'm Loving About Today

Sunny, 67 degree morning weather and playing outside with the babies all morning long

Spontaneously dancing on our deck with my toddler son to the Doobie Brothers' "Listen to the Music"

Feeling refreshed from a great book club meeting yesterday

Feeling excited about a creativity workshop I'm taking next week

The mixture of silence (sleeping babies during naptime) and birds outside chirping

The growth of my wisteria tree and the beauty of the plants I potted

Sun tea, like my Grandma Deana used to make it

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

What Would Martha Do?

Like many time-poor women, I adore Martha Stewart. Yeah, I think the ideal she holds up is completely unattainable for most reasonable human beings, but I can't help but adore a woman who has redefined homekeeping and who emerged from scandal bigger and badder than before.

Besides that, it was so fun to watch her show during those first months with my first child, when we could linger in bed and take our time beginning the day, just napping and nursing and watching some tv before heading to the grocery store to buy ingredients for that day's meal, inspired by Martha. Now that I have a toddler and an infant, there is no time for Martha's show or for obsessing about anything like polished silver and an organized cupboard or a 50-ingredient dinner. But I do have time to perform Martha's big six most days a week.

In her book "Martha Stewart's Homekeeping Handbook" Martha lists six habits a homeowner would be wise to do each and every day. These include:

1. Make the bed. Because tidiness begets tidiness. You know you feel so much better walking into your room with a made bed!

2. Manage clutter. Do this every time you leave a room and insist that others do it, too. Hard with a toddler, teenager and messy husband, but I try.

3. Sort the mail. Take a few minutes to do this as you bring it inside. I don't know about you, but my mail piles up at warp speed, but if taken care of daily, we have so much less clutter that it really brightens my mood.

4. Clean as you cook. Wash or put dirty dishes in the washer as you cook. There is nothing worse than having a belly full of food and a desire to sit and watch some tv but you can't relax because of the sink full of dirties.

5. Wipe up spills when they are fresh. Less elbow grease required.

6. Sweep the kitchen floor. I mean, really, who wants to see a mix of last Tuesday night's tomato sauce and today's chips when you are preparing a meal?

So there you have it. A little slice of Martha for your day. I couldn't agree more.

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Imperfect Scone

This morning Arlo and I made scones together. With all ingredients mixed in a bowl, we took turns scooping the sticky concoction onto a pan for baking. My efforts were precise and clean - neat piles directly from bowl to pan, not a drip to clean up later. Arlo had a different plan. He would messily scoop the wooden spoon into the bowl and plop each misshapen mound onto the pan, with small droppings here and there. At one point he smeared the mixture around a little, in what seemed to my eyes to be random places on the pan.

My first reaction was the desire to step in and guide him in making a more "perfect" scone. But I stopped myself and decided to go with it. So what if our scones didn't turn out like the neat and tidy perfect little wedges that you buy at the bakery? Isn't the road travelled just as important as getting where you are going?

In so much I do, I strive for perfection. A perfectly clean and tidy house (I fail miserably), perfect mothering (there is so much to learn and I have so much to improve upon), the perfect scheduling of my day to allow for maximum use (time for me, for husband, for exercise, for one-on-one time with each child, to answer all emails and Facebook messages, to prepare healthy meals, to eat five fruits and veggies and to drink the right amount of water). The eternal, endless quest for perfection is exhausting and elusive and just plain sucks.

So I'm deciding to embrace imperfection. Maybe I've gone zen, but I think it's time for me to do what I can while letting go of some of my unachievable expectations. There is only so much I can do in a 24 hour period and there are things I absolutely MUST do during each day, like laugh with my children and smile at my husband. It's time to prioritize the truly juicy aspects of life.

Now excuse me while I go eat the last of our beautiful, imperfect scones.