I am a superhero


family  I am a superhero

family  I am a superhero

family  I am a superhero

When I went to pick up Hudson from preschool one day, I set Skyler down asleep in her car seat to open my arms wide and hug him. I turned around a moment later and another little boy had practically climbed into the carseat with her and was touching her cheeks—saying she was so cute. I tried not to show my alarm, but Hudson wasn’t quite as subtle. “Don’t do that to my baby sister!” he said loudly, with a scrunched face and plenty of emphasis on each word (as if there were periods after each one). Ever since then, Hudson will occasionally ask after the little (eagerly affectionate) boy, “he a bad guy”?

I’m not sure when Hudson first learned about superheroes. It’s a recent development. Out of nowhere, it seems, he’s begun to talk about “bad guys” and “good guys.” And rescuing people. It started very vague. But it’s getting more specific: he actually ran down the hall calling “Here I come to save the day!” one afternoon. Who told him about Mighty Mouse? We didn’t think he knew any of the names of any specific superheroes—maybe Mr. Incredible from a Disney book—but we were wrong. He’s very interested in Spider-Man. He was invited to a Spider-Man birthday party last month (love this video) and there’s a superhero party on the horizon; and it seems like every day he comes home from school with a new bit of dirt on the secret lives of superheroes. (I on the other hand am constantly mixing up Superman and Spider-Man in conversation with Aron, which has led to some serious eye-rolling on his part.)

family  I am a superhero

family  I am a superhero

Sometimes, when Skyler cries, he’ll tell her things like “I rescue you!” (Of course then he’ll make her cry more by fake spraying firehose water on her, but the intentions were good.) “Don’t worry, there no bad guys,” or “Don’t worry, there no dragons,” he’ll say, as the case may be. And there are characters who are starting to appear (and mix) in his roll-play scenarios. “I be troll,” he’ll say. (Are you familiar with the story of the Three Billy Goats Gruff? The troll says “I’m going to eat you up!”) The troll was a source of anxiety for Hudson after he first heard about him at school, but he had us read the story to him over and over (and he tells the story and acts out the story over and over) and with repetition he has seemingly conquered that fear. What’s interesting is how often he likes to be the troll—to be the thing that scared him and gain mastery over it.

I was curious to read more about why Hudson (and every little boy around his age, it seems) is so drawn to superheroes. (I know exactly what to bring to birthday parties these days!) Their power is the obvious suggestion. Hudson really has very little power right now, and I think he’s more aware of that every day. We try to give him choices, but the power of the choice is often sort of an illusion. “Do you want to eat with your orange fork or your blue fork?” (When, shhhhh, the point is that he use a fork instead of his hands!) Aron added the point that superheroes are forces of good, and Hudson so wants to do good (even if he likes to play that he’s bad).

family  I am a superhero

In an interview, Marvel Comics Editor-in-chief said “readers aren’t rooting for the powers or the costume—they’re rooting for the person inside the tights. With Spider-Man, they’re rooting for the kid from Queens who, when he’s not saving the world, has to scrape to make rent; with Captain America, they’re rooting for the 98-pound weakling who, through the miracle of science, was granted muscles that finally match the size of his heart.”

It made me happy to think that’s true. Hudson—while he still doesn’t really have a clue who Spider-Man is (just that he’s a superhero), let alone Peter Parker—is the person inside the tights, so to speak. I like thinking that in rooting for a superhero (and let’s face it, there are worse things than heroes who do good in school and learn from Uncle Ben that ‘with great power comes great responsibility’), he’s rooting for himself, for his character—in both senses of the word. Do you think that’s true?

family  I am a superhero

There was an op-ed in the New York Times recently titled “Raising a Moral Child,” on how to raise kids to be caring (beyond any inherited tendencies, of course). It said that moral emotions (right vs wrong) really start to appear around age two, and that praise is better than reward for fostering those emotions. What was fascinating was the suggestion that, in this case, praising the character is more effective than praising the behavior (when it’s a positive one): “You are such a kind person” rather than “that was a really kind thing to do.” Aron and I had actually been focusing on doing the latter after a study talked about the benefit of praising effort rather than results. Anyway, the point is, it can apparently be valuable to not only model things like kindness and generosity, traits associated with a strong moral compass, but to tie them to one’s character—especially in young children, when a sense of identity is forming.

family  I am a superhero

We’re entering the era of the superhero. I like thinking about how to embrace (and shape) the narrative—while still bringing home the fun stuff.

After all, as I tell myself, with great power comes great responsibility.

family  I am a superhero

[Featured: Spider-Man Star Lights; Spider-Man Flip-phone; and Spider-Man Kite  (all available in Target stores).]

family  I am a superhero This post is sponsored by Target. More Spider-Man, More Amazing: Blur the lines of fantasy and reality with your favorite superheroes at Target.

Warning: kite-flying is a workout! for a two-year old, a spirited grandpa, and for you!

At long last
Happy anniversary!
Five Months
Where Hudson sleeps
From the road... Wee...

Building your baby registry


family  Building your baby registry

family  Building your baby registry

I’ve talked before about what my list of baby essentials would be, but one thing I didn’t mention was how, in hindsight, I would have handled building the baby registry differently. I registered with an online site where you could pull in items from various stores, which seems nice in theory but ultimately made things more challenging overall. It’s really valuable to find a store with both a wide online selection and wide physical selection; a place where you can go see things in person—and your guests, many of whom would prefer to walk into a store and out with a gift and a card for the shower—can go. And some guests with less online experience are likely to find a purely web-shopping process confusing. I’d suggest finding someplace with locations in most cities, inexpensive shipping, flexible and friendly return policies, and which carries plenty of things you’d like to spend store credit on, should you make any returns (highly likely), after the baby arrives.

Target didn’t have a Manhattan location when I was registering for Hudson (now they do), or it would have been the obvious choice.

In fact, Target asked me to make a sample registry with all of my favorite baby essentials (as well as some additional items I’d love for a nursery). Every single one of the items pictured here is from my Target registry.

Here are ten suggestions for registering for all things baby…
family  Building your baby registry This post is sponsored by Target. The adventure begins here: Discover all Target has to offer for your baby registry and throughout your motherhood journey.

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Two kids, two months in


family  Two kids, two months in
family  Two kids, two months in
family  Two kids, two months in

Two months in seems like a good time for an update. Which means nothing, really, in terms of understanding what life with two kids will really be like but it feels like we’re getting our bearings.

There have been, of course, all of those incredible moments when Skyler smiles and my eyes water with love. And I could dwell there. But there have also been plenty of ridiculous acts of juggling.


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Date Night with your Newborn


family  Date Night with your Newborn
family  Date Night with your Newborn

Realizing that we were a little short on sustained conversation—lately our evening routine seems to involve a lot of dinner and bedtime hand-offs, screaming (side-glance at Skyler), or general toddler interruptions (“why?” “what doin’ mommy?” etc.)—Aron and I decided to arrange a babysitter for Hudson while we took Skyler out on a walking date. It’s basically a move from our New York playbook, as it’s how we got out with Hudson when he was a baby.

Anyone could of course shoot for a variation on this with a newborn sleeping peacefully in a car seat during dinner, but (at least right now) we’d have had to bring someone else’s newborn to have that happen. But Skyler’s pretty happy to sleep and let us do all the talking—as long as there’s movement involved. I thought I’d share some photos…


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Bring a children’s book to life (Boston)


travel family  Bring a childrens book to life (Boston) travel family  Bring a childrens book to life (Boston)

Lately, in our house, we have been spending a lot of time looking at Larry Gets Lost in San Franciscotravel family  Bring a childrens book to life (Boston) , a children’s book about a boy and his dog who get separated and, of course, reunited after the dog has some fun adventures around the city. I love hearing Hudson pronounce “San Francisco” and “Golden Gate Bridge.” We talk about the cable cars and the sea lions (which he remembers), and the curvy streets and colorful Victorian houses (which he does not).

I love the idea of discovering other children’s books to bring to life and combining them with travel. It was an idea explored so sweetly by Bridget Hunt (on her blog, Tales of Me and the Husband) last year. In fact I couldn’t stop thinking about the video (below), so I asked if she would share the experience of bringing Make Way for Ducklings to life. Here’s what she had to say…

How'd they do that? ...
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A StickyGram habit

Ten things that make motherhood sweeter at home


family  Ten things that make motherhood sweeter at home

family  Ten things that make motherhood sweeter at home

family  Ten things that make motherhood sweeter at home

I’ll never forget the time when, a few weeks after Hudson was born, Aron walked into our tiny Manhattan studio apartment to find me rocking back and forth like a madwoman on the sofa—at the time convinced that it was perfectly normal to just pretend to have a rocking chair to soothe our colicky infant. We didn’t have room for one after all, and the yoga ball just wasn’t cutting it. Our eyes met and I suddenly realized how crazy I must have looked. We both burst into laughter. (Moments later, of course, I passed Hudson off to Aron when he, no doubt, started performing some other version of a soothing-jiggly-bouncy dance that was no less ridiculous. Probably right before I crept through our closet, past Hudson’s mini-crib, to get to the bathroom.)

Ah, the crazy things you do in the name of sleep.

It all passes, and you look back with humor and nostalgia at what would once induce panic and weepy tears. We survived (thrived mostly) in that 500-square-foot space, the three of us. And I’m grateful for the lessons I learned in minimalism. But there was often a sense that it would be so different (i.e. easier) if we had more space.

Yes and no, is what we’ve learned since moving to a larger home in California. We still have to do the jiggly-bouncy-crazy dance (and now while smiling reassuringly at a toddler) but now we can get help from a rocking chair. There’s still that sense of fear that strikes about six weeks in: “will we ever be able to go outside past 8pm again?” (of course, yes), but now we can eat outside in the backyard. When she cries, it still sounds as loud as a chainsaw (to her own parents’ ears), but we no longer feel like we have to jump at the slightest peep out of courtesy to our neighbors. Thank goodness for not sharing walls. No matter the circumstances, new parenthood seems to come with its own dizzying combination of joy and anxiety, and often a bit of isolation.

More than ever, I’ve discovered, it’s important to love where you live—and find comfort in your home.

Here are ten things making motherhood sweeter at home these days…

family  Ten things that make motherhood sweeter at home

family  Ten things that make motherhood sweeter at home

family  Ten things that make motherhood sweeter at home

Her big brother, who has been more patient and tender than I could have ever imagined. “Her name Skyler.” “O want to pet her head?”—whereby “o” he means “u”—is the greeting Hudson offers enthusiastically to everyone who passes.

Fresh, white sheets for snuggling (and petting her head and nursing and napping and, more often than I’d like, not sleeping at night). I can’t tell you how good it feels to come home from the hospital and lay down (and lay your baby down) on crisp, clean sheets. And because it’s hard to keep them that way (hello, spit up), I got an extra set. Still, I like white for those precious newborn photos (and the spit up doesn’t even show!)

family  Ten things that make motherhood sweeter at home

family  Ten things that make motherhood sweeter at home

family  Ten things that make motherhood sweeter at home

Fresh flowers and natural light. The illusion, at least, of calm. (And isn’t it amazing what natural light can do for your mood? It’s so refreshing and uplifting to get outside!)

A stack of thank you cards. Because, fortunately, people have been incredibly kind and generous and because, unfortunately, if there aren’t cards nearby I’m apt to forget to thank them. (Even though I’m sure friends and family would give a new mother a pass.)

Soft blankets.

family  Ten things that make motherhood sweeter at home

family  Ten things that make motherhood sweeter at home

family  Ten things that make motherhood sweeter at home

Baskets. Baskets, galore. I can’t stop bringing home woven jute baskets. They help me carry away messes in a hurry to look presentable and they’re by my side with water (I get so thirsty when nursing) and snacks (I’m obsessed with these dried fruits for my sweet tooth) and entertainment. I love that they have handles for moving one-handedly (the manner in which so many things get accomplished lately, it seems).

A foot stool or ottoman for balancing little people on my knees and helping me to sit back and stop slouching while feeding Skyler. I’ve literally placed some version of one near every chair I tend to camp out on. (Can’t get enough of the jute.) It’s also just right for lounging on our slightly narrow couch if given the chance to binge-watch The Americans.

Our swing. (This is new to me and has been such a relief. We seem to make motion-loving babies, only this time I’m not walking around New York City for hours and hours every day.) And a video monitor so that I can be in the backyard or Hudson’s room while she’s in said swing. Or—eeps!—in her own room. With a lovely, full-size crib.

family  Ten things that make motherhood sweeter at home

family  Ten things that make motherhood sweeter at home

A partner to share it all with. A daddy to love them, and to play “shark attack” over and over (and over) in the “tiny pool” with an incredibly energetic toddler while I sneak off to soothe a sleepy baby. Obviously in a category of his own.

family  Ten things that make motherhood sweeter at home

family  Ten things that make motherhood sweeter at home

All of the items linked can be found at Target. Also pictured, from Target (their Threshold collection has been amazing lately): Ceramic White Vase /  Decorative Linen TrayRound Rope Mirror / Nate Berkus Scissors (in store) / Nate Berkus Pool towels (in store). On me: Micaela Tee (Anthropologie) and Zara Jeans (similar to broken-in style by JCrew).

family  Ten things that make motherhood sweeter at home This post is sponsored by Target. The adventure begins here: Discover all Target has to offer for your baby registry and throughout your motherhood journey.

All opinions expressed are my own.

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“Share this.” Parenting Think pieces


family  Share this. Parenting Think pieces
“[O]nce in a while, someone wants to talk about Crimea, which is a treat.” —Sara Miller, The New Yorker

Do you sometimes feel like all you do is talk about your kids (and everyone else’s)? I sometimes have to remind myself to stray from the subject among groups of friends at dinner parties, even though it is—of course—front and center in my mind these days.* (So I’m not making any promises, in other words.)

There’s a great parody of a parenting study in this week’s issue of the New Yorker, wherein it is concluded that if parents have to read one more “long-form think piece about parenting,” one more of those “articles that begin with a wryly affectionate parenting anecdote, segue into a dry cataloguing of sociological research enlivened with alternately sarcastic and tender asides, and end with another wryly affectionate anecdote that aims to add a touch of irony or, failing at that, sentimentality,” they will “go fucking ape shit.”

It’s pretty funny, particularly considering that my plan for today was originally to share with you the one that keeps coming up in conversation around here lately: Have you read the article in The Atlantic, “The Overprotected Kid“? It’s been largely circulated (and in being so probably prompted the New Yorker spoof), but it doesn’t stop it from raising fascinating questions about your tolerance for risk when it comes to your children. I’m curious where most of you fall on the spectrum, actually. I have said “be careful” to Hudson enough times that he will actually preemptively say—as he is about to run past the edge of the pool toward our dog’s house or climb atop a chair I’ve told him not to—”I be careful, mommy.” He’s got my number.

It made me seek out an old Momfilter post that once sparked similar conversation…


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Little daredevil
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A StickyGram habit

Books for the First Year of Parenting


family  Books for the First Year of Parenting

With Hudson, we read (skimmed) so many different baby books. Some were borrowed from friends who would pass them along to us, dog-eared and filled with promise; many were devoured while swaying in the parenting aisles in Barnes & Noble—usually frantically hoping for a golden-ticket to sleep.

We’ve barely glanced at the accumulated pile this time around (so far, at least), but Rachael’s post on sleep training last week had me thinking about which books (and which promises) I’d pass along to friends, if asked.

The books I used most:

The Happiest Baby on the Blockfamily  Books for the First Year of Parenting
It almost goes without naming. We watched the DVD first and were pretty convinced about reading the book. Besides, everyone will tell you about Dr. Karp and the “five S’s,” so you may as well know what they’re talking about. Even though we don’t have this book (we borrowed it), we are totally reliant on its techniques.

The American Academy of Pediatrics New Mother’s Guide to Breastfeedingfamily  Books for the First Year of Parenting
My sister-in-law passed this one on to me, and I’m really glad I read through it before the baby arrived. It’s not the sort of book I found myself referencing much once I’d finished, but I felt like it started things off really well and gave me some great tips. In other words, borrow it or check it out at a library.

What to Expect the First Yearfamily  Books for the First Year of Parenting and The New Basics: A-to-Z Baby & Child Care for the Modern Parentfamily  Books for the First Year of Parenting
I lump these two together because both are very searchable by issue (as opposed to being something you read through). I really enjoyed WTE‘s monthly breakdowns: it was nice to see which milestones were right around the corner and to feel pride at things Hudson was mastering on the early side. And it helped me come up with questions before visits to the pediatrician. The guidance felt very straightforward, with little that could be seen as controversial. Each chapter—each month—is structured into Q&A format, and I would usually pick it up and just read through to see what other questions were typical around that time. I think it’s superior to the WTE When You’re Expecting guide. This is the first one I’ve pulled out to look at again.

The New Basics is a bit more unique to Michel Cohen—who runs a pediatric practice in Tribeca, and is often described as “very French.” (The “Frequently Bought Together” book on Amazon is, tellingly, Bringing Up Bébéfamily  Books for the First Year of Parenting .) I really appreciate his no-nonsense approach (though I think the book is best paired with another source). It’s also a Q&A, structured in alphabetical order by issue (e.g. Colic, or Pacifiers).

Solve Your Child’s Sleep Problemsfamily  Books for the First Year of Parenting
Ah, the controversial classic. I read most of it at the bookstore, and then realized that just about every other book/plan I was considering buying/committing to was essentially an abbreviated version. So if you’re of the mind to teach your child to sleep/self-soothe and are open to leaving them to do that (crying, with checks at intervals, hopefully briefly) then I think it’s worth reading the original, often-updated Ferber. It’s a tome, with lots of sleep study info, but I felt so much more confidant about making a plan with all of that information to back me up. It gave us the tools and the confidence we were looking for, with plans I thought were compassionate and reasonable (and it worked). My two cents: if you’re going to try the ill-coined “cry-it-out,” the only way to do it kindly is to think it through ahead and be consistent. It’s the inconsistency that tends to accompany (the very familiar) impulsive desperation that seems unkind to me. But honestly you also have to trust your gut.

The Sleepeasy Solutionfamily  Books for the First Year of Parenting
This is actually one of those books that owes completely to Ferber, as it basically tells you to do exactly the same thing, but it is much less dense. I’ve probably actually used it the most, because once I’d read Ferber and we’d successfully done our three nights of initial sleep-training, I’d reference this book for things like sample nap schedules (so handy) and tricks for getting back on track after a cold.

I also occasionally referenced:

Heading Home With Your Newbornfamily  Books for the First Year of Parenting and Jo Frost’s Confident Baby Carefamily  Books for the First Year of Parenting for a sort of primer on things like general diaper practices and bathing.

For sleep, the other books recommended to me most frequently: 
The No-Cry Sleep Solutionfamily  Books for the First Year of Parenting
On Becoming Baby Wise: Giving Your Infant the Gift of Nighttime Sleepfamily  Books for the First Year of Parenting
Healthy Sleep Habits, Happy Childfamily  Books for the First Year of Parenting
Secrets of the Baby Whispererfamily  Books for the First Year of Parenting
The 90-Minute Baby Sleep Programfamily  Books for the First Year of Parenting

All of which Aron and I, no doubt desperately, skimmed at one time or another. (Something I’m sure will happen again soon… as those “witching hours” are getting tougher every day!)

Do you have favorites? What would you add?

P.S. Remember this fascinating TED talk? I’d like to read her book.family  Books for the First Year of Parenting

[Thank you, Giggle for sending Skyler her own Mr. Scrapoctopus (aka "Scrapopulus" in our house)]

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home family  Ladybugs
home family  Ladybugs

Last year, around this time, we were just planning our garden: planting citrus trees and succulents, and making room for plots of Sungold tomatoes. We were also hoping to address an aphid problem. One way to do so, is to encourage beneficial insects—like ladybugs and lacewings—to take care of them, rather than use pesticides. Sounded good to us!

But even more appealing, to be honest, was the chance to play in the garden with Hudson—who was, at the time, just getting really excited about dirt and worms and rolly-pollies and the like. He would surely love to release ladybugs!


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First day of Spring


family  First day of Spring
family  First day of Spring

family  First day of Spring

Hooray for the first day of spring! I couldn’t resist pulling out a few more photos from that week (Skyler’s second week with us) when we spent multiple afternoons in Almond orchards (lest we miss out on the blooms)—I hope you’ll indulge me, but those trees were all just too pretty!

I thought the afternoon was a nice reminder to get out to some parks without playgrounds every now and then. It was refreshing to see Hudson combing through the grass in search of bugs (rather than through wood chips), and I loved hearing his imagination at work when he found himself knee-deep in grass that resembled a nest. It was a pleasure to hear insects (rather than other little can-be pests… if you know what I mean) and birds while watching him run through trees with the same enthusiasm generally observed on hard-rubber mats and sidewalks.

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Poetry for children


family  Poetry for children

This coming Friday has been declared World Poetry Day by UNESCO, so I found myself looking into the archives to find this post Stephanie Madewell wrote for me when Hudson was born: I’m feeling inspired to try finding some poems to read with him. 

by Stephanie Madewell

One of the great sneaky pleasures of being around little children getting to experience all sorts of firsts, to see and be reminded of wonders hidden in plain sight. One of those everyday wonders is poetry. For many of us, childhood is woven through with nursery rhymes and funny poems, but eventually life tilts to prose. Poetry retreats to the highest, dustiest shelf, (maybe) respected and (generally) unread.

This is a tragedy!

We are born to poetry and poems are born to be read aloud, which makes babies and poetry a perfect match. Tiny babies are an especially ideal audience for reading or reciting poems to – they don’t need pages to turn or pictures, just your voice and face.

There are many, many good places to look for poems, and many excellent books of poems specifically for children, but my favorite read aloud anthology is The Rattle Bag,edited by Seamus Heaney and Ted Hughes. Hughes and Heaney, good friends, were both incredibly well-read and extraordinary poets. They sat down together in the early ’80s and compiled over 400 of their favorite poems, then put them in alphabetical order. It’s an oddly genius arrangement that lets each poem sing out, unexpectedly and wonderfully, and makes it easy to stumble across treasures. It’s the perfect volume to pick up and flip through until you find something that catches your eye, and there’s enough there to get you through a lifetime – if I could commit the whole to memory and ended up stranded in darkest Peru, I would feel pretty lucky. And while few of these poems were written for children, almost all of them can be read to them. I’ve read selections from it to squirmy babes, antic toddlers, and fidgety kindergarteners, and the response is always ‘MORE!’

And you never know. Keep it up, and eventually you might have someone who’ll recite poems for you.

[Republished from my previous parenting site, Baby Mine, August 2011; Thank you again to Stephanie of Even Cleveland]

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Infancy. Again. “Sleep to come”


family  Infancy. Again. Sleep to come
by Rachael Ringenberg

It is my veteran opinion that the conscientious art of sleep training occurs to a mother right around the time she needs it. I’ve seen it in myself, I’ve seen it in other mamas. They get a firm look on their face as they talk about the absurd lengths they’ve recently gone through to get some sleep. And there’s knowledge in their eyes–the infancy period is over and it’s time for the family to have some predictability. There’s a suspicion in the air that everything is being sacrificed for the baby. Dinner, other children, an affectionate marriage, mom’s energy and enthusiasm for life. I personally suffer from a faint sense of bitterness around this time. I don’t ask for it. I don’t want it. But it arrives, lurking in the back of my mind, when one small part of me knows the baby could sleep better, long, harder, deeper, than this. When I know it’s up to me to bring us there. When I know it’s been me that got us into this mess, by feeding willy-nilly at all hours of the day, and letting naps be on the fly or not at all, letting the 2am wakeup slip back in, and then an 11pm wakeup, and shifting bedtimes every day as my calendar demands.

Oh but it’s hard for those few days. When I’m in the moment of it I just want it to end end end. I can tell it is not hunger crying and I don’t want to be counted on to feed at 11pm but my surging hormones want to solve this now. It sounds so wonderful to go in and calm her. But you know if the exact same thing happens tomorrow, and the day after, it will not sound wonderful. And after that heady ten minutes of soothing, I’ll think to myself, what have I done?

And so you have to write a schedule down, or find one in a book, or tell your husband or call your mom. You have do something, out loud, that affirms the logic of it, that reviews and confirms what you’re planning.

With Joan at six months, I’m in this right now. I talked it over with Joe and realized that our day schedule had no predictability for her. As of the beginning of this week, she wasn’t even falling asleep on her own during the day. So I’m fixing that first–paying more attention to the time going by, putting her down for naps, awake, at the same time every day, timing the space between feedings.

And then next week we’ll tackle the nights; and after three or four nights we will all sleep happily ever after. Not really, of course. But I can praise a few of the results for you, from experience: after sleep training you do end up with a baby who can fall asleep on their own, who doesn’t wake up at the slightest discomfort crying out for you, who errs on the side of sleep rather than wake when changes come—like being sick or traveling.

This is the fourth and final piece in a series entitled “Infancy. Again.” by guest contributor Rachael Ringenberg. I’m so grateful she was willing to share these, all of which struck a cord with me and, I gather happily, many of you. Thank you, Rachael!

Rachael lives in Boston with her husband Joe, and their two daughters—2-1/2-year-old Lux and six-month-old Joan, and writes about having another baby on her blog Erstwhile Dear  She can also be found under the name girlpolish on twitter or instagramRead her first, second, and third posts.

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Infancy. Again. “In the weeds”


family  Infancy. Again. In the weeds
by Rachael Ringenberg

In which our young heroine finds she was given a real baby, a waker-baby. None of this magic sleeper-baby stuff, like always falling asleep while nursing (Lux) or sleeping 5+ hours by one month (Lux) or never ever spitting up (Lux). No, this time it’s a real baby who wakes up every three hours to the dot, and would like to be held all the time extra please, who hasn’t the faintest idea how to fall asleep and gets rather upset about it, who detects a whiff of caffeine in my breastmilk and can not abide it.

It will never be this overwhelming, I said to myself last Monday morning after Joe had left and Lux was begging to go to the playground and Joan was fussing. This is it. The pinnacle of overwhelmingness has been reached. The next time I have a baby, I’ll have a four year old and she will make lunch for all us. Right?

I see normal, I see the glimmer of it, though I think it might still be two months away.

family  Infancy. Again. In the weeds

I hate repetitive conversational pleasantries. I’ve probably heard some variation of “zero to one is the toughest,” or “one to two is the hardest” one hundred thousand times. THE POINT IS PEOPLE, I would like to interrupt, IT’S A NEWBORN. I remember how I felt with Lux. I remember feeling overwhelmed. THIS is the pinnacle, I imagine I probably said.

There are times in the day I have to say to myself, quit it. She is a newborn. She doesn’t have to shape up. She doesn’t have to get with the program. She can do whatever she wants. I think I perhaps see her worst, through a glass darkly, at 6pm. I’m not seeing her, I’m just seeing all the stuff I haven’t gotten done. The absolute rumpus Lux has piled around me and throughout the entire apartment. The lack of dinner plans. The two emails (just two!) I was hoping to respond to.

But I see her best at 6am. She wakes up to the sunlight. She coos and stretches next to me and I wake up too. It’s quiet and everyone else is still asleep and we’ve made it through the darkness to this very second. I love that moment, a moment when I manage to open my eyes to the present instead of chasing something else in my mind, when I can watch her facial expressions and notice that her eyelashes flit out like a Disney chipmunk’s. When I wonder who she is right now and who she will be.

family  Infancy. Again. In the weeds

My mom once told me that she took up sewing when we were young so she could point to something and say “here’s what I accomplished today.” That’s probably why I find myself in the kitchen, baking something that doesn’t need to be baked by hand, dancing a very fine line where Lux is engaged and Joan is briefly asleep but perhaps soon to wake, but will it be after the dough is safely pressed into pans, or before? Last week I found an index card I had scrawled on years and years ago. “Finnish bread” it said at the top, which sounds absurd because it was always “homemade bread” when I was younger. I asked for it weekly from Mrs. B, a Dutch woman who started helping out my mom around the time when there was four of us kids. Before I left for college I finally asked her to walk me through the recipe, and I made scattered notes on this index card. And after I put it in the oven the kitchen smelled exactly as it used to when she made it.

family  Infancy. Again. In the weeds

Toast with butter and honey? Who could forget this delicacy? And what about cinnamon sugar toast? My college cafeteria used to keep shakers of cinnamon sugar casually on hand by the salad bar (like, you can have salad, or you can have…cinnamon sugar!). Throughout the semester, on not so good days, I would make a neat stack of white toasted bread with cinnamon sugar and sit down with a cup of coffee for lunch.

When people come visit our apartment, and a rather lot of them have been lately, which is lovely, when they make it up to the 5th floor after the two heavy doors that noisily buzz them access, after the tiny rickety elevator that lifts them four floors, after the small red carpeted flight of stairs from the kitchen they found themselves in after the elevator—they often look around and call it a treehouse. The ceiling is vaulted like an old attic, the windows are mostly enormous, and the tops of trees are visible everywhere. A treehouse that smells like fresh bread.

I think of this as a very easy bread, hard to mess up, leaving you with basic tomato sandwich makings or, of course, steady toast supply. I sometimes abandon the dough for more than two hours, if babies demand. And I particularly like the short baking time–fresh bread so quick!

Makes Two Loaves of Mrs. B’s Homemade Bread
1 package active dry yeast (or 2 1/4 t from a bulk container)
2 cups whole milk (or skim)
1 cup whole wheat flour
4-5 cups white flour
2 tablespoons butter
1 tablespoon brown sugar
2 teaspoons salt
  • Dissolve the yeast into 1/4 cup lukewarm water with your finger and let it sit for a bit. Mix together one cup of the white flour and all other dry ingredients. Microwave the milk for 1.5 minutes and then drop in the butter to melt.
  • Mix the bubbly yeast into the dry ingredients. Mix in the melted butter and milk. Add 4 or 5 cups white flour and mix it with a wooden spoon. Dump the dough out on to the counter and knead it for a bit, adding flour if it’s too sticky.
  • Leave the dough to rise for 20 minutes under a damp towel or a bowl.
  • Split the dough into two sections and drop them into bread pans. Let rise for two hours.
  • Bake at 425 for 30 minutes.

This is the third piece in a month-long series entitled “Infancy. Again.” by guest contributor Rachael Ringenberg. Rachael lives in Boston with her husband Joe, and their two daughters—2-1/2-year-old Lux and six-month-old Joan, and writes about having another baby on her blog Erstwhile Dear She wrote this post when Joan was just five weeks. (Which is just one reason it feels so on point for me!) Rachael can also be found under the name girlpolish on twitter or instagramHer first and second posts are here and here, respectively.

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Almond orchards in bloom


family california  Almond orchards in bloom
family california  Almond orchards in bloom
family california  Almond orchards in bloom

Every spring—this year earlier than some—acres of almond orchards around here burst into incredible displays of pale pink of white blooms, and start to buzz, literally, as bees go to work pollinating trees. If you neglect to get out and about around the  time the blossoms are on the branches, however, you could miss them entirely. So around the middle of February, I start looking for signs of spring in the neighborhood… and start asking friends who pass by the farms on a regular basis: “any blooms yet?”

It would be a shame to miss something as beautiful and transient as this.


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A First Bike (the Balance Bike)


family  A First Bike (the Balance Bike)

family  A First Bike (the Balance Bike)

When Hudson turned two, we decided that our gift to him would be his first bike—something called a “balance bike.” They’re pretty common these days, so you’ve likely seen one: sitting low to the ground, it’s a tiny bicycle with no pedals. Basically, as this Slate article discusses, there are two obstacles to learning to ride a bike: First, pedaling. And second, balancing. Training wheels helps you learn to do the first—which is actually the easier of the two to overcome. Taking away the pedals helps you learn to do the second—which will make learning to ride an actual bike much easier than training wheels would. (We’re still on the balance bike phase, so stay tuned, but I have a feeling the skill will come quickly.)


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A StickyGram habit


family  A StickyGram habit

family  A StickyGram habit

Have you heard of StickyGrams? We’ve been growing our collection on the refrigerator ever since moving to Davis—and I love them! Basically, StickyGram transforms your Instagrams into fun little magnets (and, now, IPhone and Ipad Cases). You just log in to StickyGram with your Instagram details, and choose from your own photos.

The quality is great. And because I use Instagram so frequently, it’s easy to grab what feels like a fairly accurate representation of our favorite, informal family moments to display.

family  A StickyGram habit

family  A StickyGram habit

They come in sheets—nine photos in a square, and I hadn’t even bothered taking ours apart (but rather have just been adding sheets to a single large grid one-by-one) until it occurred to me to let Hudson rearrange them. He loves looking at them and pointing out specific ones to babysitters!

Fair warning: they’re nearly addictive as Instagram itself. In fact, now that Skyler is here I think I may need to order the next sheet!

family  A StickyGram habit

By the way, StickyGrams also now offers a new magnet called “The Jigsaw,” wherein one image is displayed over the nine magnets. And they’re having a sale—25% off of all phone cases and iPad covers through the end of the month! Check it out.

This post is sponsored by StickyGram but all opinions expressed are my own. I have been happily making StickyGrams for quite some time now! 

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