Friday, March 24, 2017

On the Record

Yesterday was a LONG one.

Nothing too unusual in the parenting of an almost one year old. Emptying of drawers and cupboards. Refusal to nap. Foreign objects in the mouth. Long waits for a glimpse of the garbage and mail trucks. A stuffy nose that led to a cough, that started sounding croup-y by about 3 pm.

We had our cute moments, too. Like when Andrew leaned his face over the dog bowl and started lapping up the water with his tongue. Oh my gosh. After that, I started filming some of his antics on my phone: wiggling his hands in the water, dipping his foot in, then dumping the bowl on himself. Then heading over to a drawer in the laundry room and throwing the cleaning rags onto the floor, one by one, like it was his job.

I guess, in a sense, it is.

Exploration is what keeps this little guy active and learning, and I'm along for the ride to try to observe, protect, and sometimes redirect.

I showed Margaret the video when she got home. She noticed another video, with a blank screen.

Turns out, I'd left the camera recording by accident.

"It's like a nanny cam!" she exclaimed with excitement. "Now we can see if you are an abusive mother!" I kind of think she would have clued in on any abusive behaviors in my 15 years of mothering her. Still, I wondered what the audio recording "caught" of my interactions with Andrew. After all, it was hour 9 of a very long day, and the baby has been keeping us up at night for the past several weeks. My body ached from the lifting and wrangling, and I hadn't even managed to get dressed until 2:30 pm.

The audio is of my kissing away Andrew's tears as I change his 6th poopy diaper of the day. In a sing-song voice, I encourage him that I'm almost finished. I sound loving, even though my enthusiasm for yet another poop may come across as a bit forced.

I'm not sharing this to proclaim myself as world's most patient mother. Hardly. The audio could just as easily have captured the exasperation I felt about any number of things: the state of the house, his refusal to nap even though he was exhausted, the fact that I wanted to write so badly but it seemed impossible.

This incident made me wonder what different aspects of my life would sound like if they were recorded.


What about the curt one or two word exchanges between my husband and me when we've made it through the trenches of raising little ones, weathered the death of our son, but now find ourselves, again, sleep-deprived and stretched thin? Would the brittleness and lack of generosity come through in our voices? Probably.

What about the way I shore myself up to warmly (yet NOT TOO enthusiastically) greet my teenager, only to be met (again) with either silence or disapproval? Would the audio pick up my sigh or the immature "Ugh!" I let out as I turn out of her doorway, trying to remind myself, "It's not about me. It's not about me"?

Then there's the audio loop in my head. "You're almost 50 years old. Why didn't you maintain a career? Why don't you exercise? Are you ever going to write another book?"

Exasperation is okay. I'm human. You're human. So are Tim and Margaret. Even little Andrew had a heap of frustrations to deal with yesterday. Sometimes the recordings (on our phones or in our heads) will be more positive than others.

He and I ended hour 12.5 of the day (but who was counting?) with a warm bath, long-john pajamas, and my ruffling his hair, which is looking a little bit like a mullet. He smelled so good. I didn't know when I put him down whether he'd be waking us up at 12, 3, or 5 in the morning, but I was glad we'd made it through another day. Not because I'm trying to wish his childhood away, the way I think I did with the older two, but because that's what life is, a collection of days.

Some are beautiful, some are exasperating, and most are a combination of both.

Wednesday, March 22, 2017


We made it through Jack's 18th birthday on Saturday!

It was a lot better than last year, when I was 8 months pregnant and Tim and Margaret were out of town. This year, we went on a road trip to our friends' house in the country, a place they have offered us so generously in the years since the accident. As is often the case, the anticipation leading up to the date was worse than the date itself.

After a restless night, Tim let me sleep in, we stayed in our pj's all day, spent some time outside playing 4 square, enjoying the pond, and letting the dogs run around. We caught up with a dear friend, her two girls, and my sister, who accompanied us on the trip. Later, we put on leftover paper party hats, Tim made fajitas, and we ate ice cream cake.

An article I wrote, telling a very special story I haven't shared before, was published in an online women's magazine that day.

If you haven't read it yet, I hope you will, and that it brings you comfort and encouragement.

Read the story here.

Wednesday, March 15, 2017

Catching Up

Thought I'd give you a hodge podge update on what's been going on around here:

After a few weeks of balmy weather, we had our first snow of the winter this week. It was icy and the wind was CRAZY, so conditions were NOT ideal for playing.  We got our photo ops and ran back into the house.

Truly, this kid LOVES being outside. You know how some babies don't like the feel of grass on their bare feet? Andrew embraces the grass. Andrew is ONE WITH THE GRASS. He's also fast, which means I'm always trying to stay one step ahead of him, scouting out wayward dog poop, wild mushrooms and other hazards. Each afternoon we watch the airplanes fly overhead. We also spend a great deal of time waiting for the mail truck. Cars and trucks are his current thing, with birds still topping his list of favorites. I'm re-learning how to slow down and notice the little things again. Sometimes it's magical; sometimes it's excruciatingly boring. He's such an outdoorsy guy that he gets angry when the dogs get to go out and he has to stay inside.

Last week, Andrew started veering off down our steep, hazardous driveway, in search of cars, or freedom, or the mail, so I bought this online. It's still in the box, so I have no idea if it will make a decent barrier or at least slow him down. I'll let you know. While I was reading up on this product, I watched a video a reviewer left, and I was astounded. The little boy in the video looks just like Jack when he was little. I can't see his face, but his silhouette, gait, and gestures are spot on. Tim and Margaret agree! It's only 18 seconds long, but it's so sweet to watch (click on link and go to bottom of screen).

Another friend suggested parking my car sideways in the driveway to create a barrier to the hill, which could be helpful. This pic gives you an idea of how steep our driveway is. You can barely see the houses across the street from this vantage point.

Speaking of cars, Margaret now has her learner's permit! She will be eligible for her license in October, and we have a lot of practicing to do before then. She is doing very well, but the whole thing stresses me out. I mean, wasn't she JUST a little kid? She proclaimed, after about 2 whole weeks of driving, that she's a better driver than I am. She also said that her dad is a calmer driving companion. Sheesh. I'll concede that it's hard for me not to clutch the door handle, and that my attempts to regulate my breathing could be construed as annoying, but we live in the land of road rage and terrible traffic. I'm going to miss driving her around when she gets her license. One of my favorite things about the kids being in private school all those years was the time spent together in the car each day since there was no bus service.

It's hard to believe that one year ago I was very pregnant, and now this little (kind of big) guy is next to me in his high chair eating peas. He loves peas, bananas, hummus, avocado, strawberries, clementines and is currently obsessed with blueberries. Speaking of eating, he is bigger at 11 months than Jack was at 18 months, and Margaret at over 2 years. Related: my back is sore. I'd love to get you a pic of his two little bottom teeth that are finally poking up, but they are still pretty tough to see. The dogs are also growing, because Andrew loves to throw food on the floor for them.

Miracle Baby has also been waking up A LOT at night lately, which is killing us, but he still goes down very well at 7 pm. Tim does the bath and bedtime routine every night. I weaned him much earlier than the other two, so that Tim could help me more, but now we've created a bottle monster who wants bottles in the middle of the night. I know we should get a grip on this before his one year appointment, but we feel too tired and old to deal with it, so we just stagger through the motions.

Andrew on the inside, a year ago:

On the outside, today, watching the birds:

Did I tell you what we've been doing for dinner lately? I remembered those food assembly places I used to go to when Jack and Margaret were little. Lo and behold, they are still around! I found one that ASSEMBLES and DELIVERS frozen dinners to the house, so I'm basically doing nothing. All I have to do is thaw a meal and pop it in the oven, saute it on the stove, or put in the crock pot. This has been working better for us than the fresh box subscription meals (like Hello Fresh and Blue Apron)  we were doing before, because the fresh food in the fridge was stressing me out. If I couldn't get to it in time, I ended up wasting food.

I also need as little prep time as possible right now because Andrew is...busy. Last week I was chopping something when he pulled open our dish drawer and hurled a dish to the floor with all the gusto of a guest at a Greek wedding, all while clinging to my leg.  He can sense an opening when it arises. Today he opened Margaret's snack drawer and fed a sleeve of crackers to the dogs.

Have you seen The Shack? I saw it last week. Because it deals with the death of a child, you might assume I cried throughout it, but I didn't. I'm not a big crier, even though I recognize and appreciate the healing power of tears when they do come.

I read the book when it first came out, long before we lost Jack, so there was a lot I'd forgotten. I know the book has helped many, many people grasp the concept of God's vast yet personal love for each of us, and I believe the movie will too. I thought the movie was very well done and full of love.

The only thing that bugged me about the movie?

No, nothing theological. Sure, for some it veers too much from the Bible, and for others it doesn't veer enough into the mysterious ways our loved ones can comfort us after death. It is not going to be all things for all people. No, the only thing that bugged me was when the lead actor, Sam Worthington, kept slipping into his Australian accent during intense scenes. And there were a lot of intense scenes. I found it very distracting, because once you notice something like that, it's hard to un-notice. You're welcome.

As for my bedside table, I'm finishing up A Man Called Ove today, and The Kitchen House is on deck for next week.

I'd love to tell you what I've been writing (very little) and what creative house projects I have in the pipeline (stair railings) but this hodge podge will have to do today.

Sending you lots of love for whatever your day holds!

(affiliate links included for your convenience)

Tuesday, February 28, 2017


Do you know what a "Golden" Birthday is? I didn't, until Jack and Margaret told me. It's the special birthday when your age and the day you were born match up. So my golden birthday would have been when I turned 6 on the 6th of October, way back in 1975.

Not that I would have known that.

Golden birthdays, half birthdays and the like were not celebrated in the 70's and 80's when I grew up. I was lucky to have my mom toss creamsicles to my friends and me on the front lawn after school on my birthday. That was our idea of whooping it up.

It was fun to consider that both of my kids' Golden Birthdays would take place when they were teenagers, because they were born on the 18th and 17th, respectively. I LOVE TEENAGERS, most likely because my mom loved teenagers, and getting a kick out of Jack and Margaret at that age is something I'd anticipated since the days they were born.

As the calendar turns from February to March, we are just a couple of weeks away from Jack's Golden Birthday. He would be turning 18 on March 18th. 18 feels significant. 18 feels heavy. It's also on a Saturday again, which Jack would have LOVED. He found birthdays on school days a drag.

Grievers approach birthdays differently, from making our loved one's favorite meals, baking special cakes, running in races, gathering with friends, or even hiding under the covers. I've done a variety of these since Jack died.  Last year was really hard. We are not sure what we will do this year, but I know 18 feels big, golden birthday or not.

Two weeks after that, we'll celebrate Andrew's 1st birthday. In the age of Pinterest, I wonder how his birthday will differ from the simple celebrations we had when Jack and Margaret were little. We'll see.


As my mother used to say, "Life is a very strange time."

I didn't know what that meant, but I figured I'd know it when I saw it. Now I see it. Life is a very strange time. Sometimes it's hard. Sometimes it's golden. Sometimes it's both at once.

Monday, February 27, 2017

Baby Browns

I posted more of these on Facebook, but I wanted to share the latest pics of Baby Andrew taken by his talented big sister! Hard to believe he'll be 11 months old this week.

Finally!!! Stitch Fix in Plus Sizes!

I've loved sharing about Stitch Fix over the years. You've been right here with me when I've found great dresses, fabulous outfits, favorite jeans, and even a few epic duds.

It's so fun to receive a box of clothes in the mail that I can look though, see what works for me, and easily return what doesn't. And, as long as I keep just ONE of the 5 items in the box, my styling fee is refunded! It has been a great way to refresh my wardrobe.

Many of you let me know, however, that you were disappointed that Stitch Fix did not have an option for curvy women. I gave your feedback to the company, and was thrilled to find out that Stitch Fix is launching styling for plus sized women...starting TODAY! Great brands, great looks, selected just for you.

If you are size XS-3X Now you can have your own personal stylist!

I can't wait to hear about your Fixes! My next one comes in April.


Wednesday, February 22, 2017

The Old Mom's Guide to New Baby Gear

When I first became a parent, we were in another century, actually another millennium. My son listened to cassettes in the car on a Fisher Price tape player! One of my first thoughts upon finding out I was pregnant in my 40’s, rather than my 20’s, after a few choice words of surprise, was that the baby gear must be a lot cooler now. 
It sure is!

To me, the most obvious change is that the fabrics and patterns for nurseries are more sophisticated than ever before and mirror the family’s personal clothing and decorating tastes. Nurseries now fit in seamlessly with the rest of the house and are more cool than cutesy. Think less Noah's Ark and more mid-century modern.

But what about the gear?

As Baby Andrew closes in on the one year mark, here are my top 5 favorites for the infant stage:

1. Boppy Lounger: We had Boppy nursing pillows back in the day, which we eventually rejected in favor of My Brest Friend for excellent breastfeeding support. This lounger, made by Boppy, serves a completely different purpose. It provides a soft place to place the baby during the day, and its silky soft cotton and supportive padding make a great little cocoon. It's also a great place to bottle feed if baby gets too squirmy in your arms.

2. Kinsa Thermometer: If you think your baby is feverish, it probably means you are already worried and stressed, so you need a thermometer that works! This one connects to your cell phone and provides a quick, accurate reading. It can be used under the arm, in the mouth, or rectally. My favorite part is that the app saves temperature readings and other symptoms on your phone, and it can be used to store data for the whole family. And as someone who once broke an old-fashioned glass thermometer in my baby’s room and had to safely dispose of the MERCURY, I’m glad to have technology on my side this time. Forehead thermometers like this one also look super easy.

3. Infant Swaddles: Can you say Night and Day? Tim and I used to argue about the best way to swaddle our babies using receiving blankets. No matter how hard we tried, a little arm or foot would come poking out and we'd have to start all over. What a difference it makes to have an easy to use swaddle with the strongest velcro in the world on it!  Mom and Dad can wrassle an infant into this thing in just a few seconds, and it stays tight all night. Labor and Delivery Nurses have special swaddling ninja skills, but SwaddleMe is for the rest of us.

4. Rock and Play: Total game changer! Before, we had wicker bassinets pulled up next to our beds. Nothing wakes a baby faster than his kicking the walls of a flimsy bassinet. A Rock in Play cradles infants in a comfortable inclined position, and the height is ideal to keep next to the bed so mom and dad can tend to the baby in the night. We had one upstairs and one downstairs. Another bonus is that it is lightweight and folds easily for travel. Due to concerns that the Rock and Play can cause babies to develop flat heads, I recommend putting a headrest in yours, such as this one from Boppy. Our baby learned to love sleep much faster than his older brother and sister did, and I credit the Rock and Play for this. We transitioned him out of his at six months, and I was sad to see it go.

5. Dohm Sound Machine:  This sound machine was a big improvement over the sound of a hair dryer or vacuum cleaner of the days of yore for trying to lull a baby to sleep. Savvy blog readers pointed me in its direction, and now I can't sleep without it! Another option is using a free white noise app on your iPhone.

I wouldn't say parenting a baby in my forties is easier than in my twenties, but some key products have helped. I could go on with my list, but these are my top 5 must-haves! Hoda Kotb, if you are reading this, I have some great hand me downs you can have for lovely Haley Joy!

Moms and Grandmas, what would you add to this list?

(affiliate links included for your convenience)