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 www.christinekane.com.

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: