The Rhythm

We welcomed our sweet baby girl into our world almost four months ago already. I can hardly believe how fast the time is flying by.

I find myself living between worlds constantly in search of my rhythm, my family’s rhythm. As soon as I think I have found it, we are off embarking on a new chapter.

*   *   *   *   *
Pregnant. Summer off. Home with toddler. Moving. New baby. Toddler back to daycare. Working from home. At-work working mama.

Dressing. Feeding. Cleaning. Drop off. Pick up. Playing. Loving. Off to bed. Exhausted.

Running around all day being mindful that my “work” hours are actually my most restful. Finding myself missing out on the sweetness that are my children as I’m rushing and stressing trying to get by. Maybe even on time.

*   *   *   *   *
Between the tears of getting our shoes on right out of bed, I almost missed my boy singing jingle bells as we walked out the door.

Slowing down. Trying to do it all. Finding new ways to enjoy the moments.

Smelling the evergreens

*   *   *   *   *
I find myself unsettled. Balancing my work and my family, not to mention myself, precariously between each other. Never quite able to feel satisfied in any area.

I am so grateful to have a job that I adore for so many reasons. I am challenged. I am rewarded. I am granted the flexibility every working parent should have. I am able to do work that is meaningful to me. I am grateful. And yet.

I so long to spend the days being a mama to my kiddos, with my kiddos.

*   *   *   *   *
Crafting and snuggling.
Singing and exploring.
Learning and doing.

Enjoying the rhythm that I found so natural.
Enjoying every moment of each of my children growing up.
So fast.

*   *   *   *   *
It’s different for me after my first child. Returning after my first maternity leave left me longing to snuggle and stare at my baby. The second return to maternity leave is different. I am longing to be with both baby and toddler. My heart hurts that I am missing out. And yet.

I wish I would be satisfied and satiated, as well as able, to be a stay at home mama. I don’t think I would be, but I don’t know. I wish I could know if it would be enough for me. Then it may not be so hard to go to work.

*   *   *   *   *
Today is day four back in the office. I can’t say that it’s any easier than the first. Perhaps even harder as I can identify the rough spots in my rhythm. In our rhythm. Thinking of the moments I’m missing, even when I’m there.

I try to find comfort in remembering the rhythm will always be constantly changing.  As hard as it is with so much on our full, lush plate, all I can do is welcome and try to enjoy the flow.



Where I’ve been, part 2

Also titled: How we survived 20.5 hours of travel and a 14-hour time difference. And I’m dividing this post into a few posts.

So we got to go to Japan. All three of us. Naha, Okinawa, to be specific. So while we were technically in Japan, Okinawa is a separate island that is sometimes referred to as the “Hawaii of Japan.” I think it’s more like the “Florida of Japan.” I will answers a few questions that I know I would ask, at least in my head:

Why? Husband has a cousin who lives there and married a woman from there. We went for the wedding.

How did you pay for it? Luck, actually. Found and sold heirlooms. I’ll tell you more if we’re actual friends.

How in the world did we get there with a toddler? Lotsa planning. I’m a planner. I’m also very goal-oriented. So once we booked the tickets, I started a huge mental plan to get us ready. It involved getting Miss Red’s passport and signing up for an international driver’s license, which I thankfully didn’t need. And thinking about packing. I’ll skip the boring parts about packing, but highlight what helped as I outline how we made it there.

Madison to O’Hare: 2.5 Hours

Husband, Grandma (mother-in-law) and Miss Red and I jammed into our 2003 Honda Civic for the 2.5 hour drive. That was actually a loooooong drive. We had to wake Miss Red, she was crabby, Grandma sang to her, she ate a lot, she faked poopy diapers.

O’Hare: 2.5 Hours

Long-term parking was a nightmare. Also, Miss Red dragged her blanked through cigarette buts and some unknown substance immediately. I don’t even remember this much, except that we couldn’t find Grandma for a while because we were on the elevator with our bags and we lost her. By the time we checked in, snagged a bagel, caught up with another cousin on the long flight, it was time to board. And we had given ourselves nearly 3 hours to do this. So no joke about getting there early.

O’Hare to Narita: 12.5 Hours

I had gone to the Dollar Store to get scores of stickers and coloring items and general crap to keep Miss Red occupied for the 12.5 hour flight. We also thought she would sleep for at least six hours on the plane. I packed pjs for her, did the toothbrush routine, read stories, etc. Ha!

What ended up being the lifesaver was that my husband insisted we bring our new, shiny, MacBook. He is so smart. What worked? Endless DVDs.

In PJs, thinking she'd sleep. O'Hare to Narita

Get kid headphones. Just do it. We also put a few episodes of Sesame Street on the iPod, which was essential for the long immigration lines.

What helped:

  • Aforementioned kid headphones
  • Aforementioned iPod
  • New-to-her books
  • Crayons, stickers
  • Cups with lids and straws. The airline won’t have them. We brought 2 – one for milk and one for water.
  • Shelf-stable milk. Honestly. It’s expensive, but the mini ones were live-savers.
  • Trader Joe’s Applesauce packets. They are an insult to the environment, but we went through 4 boxes our entire trip, and that was even while rationing them.
  • Fruit strips
  • Animal crackers, Goldfish crackers
  • Lollipops

How did she do? Well, ok. Here’s the truth: out of the entire long flight, she slept the last 45 minutes. Seriously. So we were whacked out of our minds. The adults, that is. She was in good spirits.

Layover in Narita: 1.5 Hours

So clearly there were language barriers, but this involved immigration, getting our bags again, and having our stroller taken away in place of an ANA stroller. But people were nice. We met up with the rest of the American family headed to Naha and relaxed a bit. Miss Red was getting cranky, but a stranger gave her a toy. Yep, creepy as it sounds. We changed her clothes and re-charged the sacred laptop.

Narita to Naha: 3 Hours

We then had another nearly three hour flight to Naha. By now we were very tired. But I spoke with a few women traveling alone with children. One woman had 6-month-old twins and made the journey herself. There are American bases in Okinawa, so there were a number of women and crew-cut Americans on our flights.

Almost as soon as we got on the plane, I needed to sleep. We set up Miss Red again, and soon she fell asleep, too.

Narita to Naha flight

The cool thing about this flight was that they have a camera on for take-off and landing, so you get to see on a large screen a lot of the scenery. They then switched to Japanese TV, which I could have loved to watch, but I was so insanely tired.

We arrived around 8:45 p.m. in Naha. The next day. Like, we left on Tuesday afternoon and made it to Naha, with travel and the time change, on Wednesday night.

It was warm and lovely. They have orchids all over their airport. Family was waiting for us, and we took 3 taxis to our hotel for the 11 of us visiting from America. One taxi was almost all luggage. No joke. Once we arrived, the Okinawan family our family member married gave us great gifts, and the three of us bowed out of dinner and drinks and headed to bed. Miss Red? She had been passed out since the plane, the taxi ride, etc.

We put her in the crib, opened the screen door for fresh air, and collapsed.

The best part of being awake, for, oh, how many hours? Well, when we went to bed, it was night. When we woke up at 3 a.m. the next morning, none of us had jet lag. It was actually great. We hung out in pjs, watched Charlie and Lola (thanks, RBVH!) on the sacred laptop and bathed, making it downstairs right when breakfast started at 7 a.m.

Our new favorite show, thanks to RBVH

What did we do there? Stay tuned for the next part…

– MD

Sick Day

The first time my daughter was sick, at a few months old, I called my mom and cried. I had no idea how to care for this tiny baby who was so miserable. And then I had to go to work.

Before I had a child I thought that if your child had a sick day, it was a nice day off for you, too. Little did I know that most sick days are preceded by sleepless nights, changing sheets multiple times in the night and rinsing out puke from hair and ears. And that’s just you.

Two and a half years into parenting, we have somewhat figured out the sick routine. My husband and I generally split the day, one of us heading into work in the morning, then a switch off at lunchtime. It gives us each a chance to be at the office but take turns watching our daughter.

Our daughter caught the bug going around daycare and is home today. Instead of us splitting the day, I will take the entire day with her. With my late nights and impending travel for work, it’s only fair that I stay home with her so my husband doesn’t have to take more time off. I will still be connected to work all day, writing and editing, answering calls and emails, and when my husband gets home, head to a work function until late tonight.

It’s frustrating when we realize that we need to shuffle our work schedules. But I am quickly reminded of how lucky we are to have flexible jobs, the ability to check in from home, the sick time to be with our daughter, and most importantly, a healthy child. It helps to balance the whining, inconsolable crying and general aversion to anything. That, and a little TV to help me write this for five minutes while answering work emails.

I remember sick days when I was younger. It meant watching The Price is Right on the couch, under piles of blankets, snoozing through the day and not being tired enough at night for a good night’s sleep. When sick, all I could focus on was wanting to feel better. Then, once I was well, forgot that my body worked and got better. Really, we are all magic.

So on this sick day where I’m not sick, I will do my best to not focus on what needs to get done, but on the magic that is happening right now.

–        MD

Adventures in Bedtime

Lil’ Miss Red is funny, caring and lovable. She smiles, tells us silly statements and is a joy to be around. Except for bedtime. Then she’s the Girl Who Cries Wolf.

Her history of sleep has been, like most children, rocky. As an infant she was nocturnal and her wakeful period was from 7 p.m. until midnight or 1 a.m., when she would still get up one or two times during the night to eat and I had a 5:30 a.m. wakeup call to pump.

She started sleeping through the night, 75% of the time, when she was a little more than a year old. We had a nice routine and she’d happily talk to herself, sometimes for upwards of an hour, in her crib, with all of the lights out and the door closed. When she didn’t sleep through the night it was usually related to teething or sickness and within a week she’d be back to her usual pattern.

That was one year ago.

Now, at two, Lil’ Miss Red has a new plan. To get out of going to sleep. Enter her new tactics:

  • Throwing her pjs away. She has placed them in both the trashcan and her diaper genie.
  • Crying “help me.”
  • Crying “I have a poopy diaper.”
  • Crying “hey mama” or “hey dada” repeatedly.
  • New iterations of how far the door can be open. “Open the doorway” and “not dark” are new calls from the crib.

Any of the above combinations can go on for an hour. With an 8 p.m. bedtime, this means that she sometimes doesn’t fall asleep until 9, or even 9:30 p.m. A few weeks ago I went in after 9 and insisted that all of her friends were asleep. “Wake them up,” was her response.

Oh sure, we do the various tactics of getting ready for bed. No TV an hour before bedtime, reading books, giving her ample verbal announcements about changing clothes, offering her an option of who will sing her songs, letting her pick said songs as we rock her, etc.

Her stubbornness is starting to shift to naps, too. We’ve found that one of the ways she’ll at least go into her crib is by convincing her that everyone is “taking a rest.” We’ve even started singing a favorite song, courtesy of Sesame Street. The Caribbean back beat really helps.

Nearly two years ago I ended my maternity leave and I quipped that the key to work/life balance was sleep. Not much and a little of everything has changed since then.

– MD

A Year of Parenting

Fall always brings out the reflective and nostalgic in me. Now this fall, for the first time, I reflect on my first year of being a mama.

Pregnancy. Childbirth. Sleepless nights. Your child’s laughter. Parenthood. It all changes you from the tips of your toes to deep in your soul.

Looking back at my year as a mama, here are a few bits of what I have learned:

1. Sleepless nights suck.

2. Laughter is key.

3. But sometimes you just have to cry it out.

4. I knew my husband was amazing before we were parents. I have since learned that he is an outstanding dad. My son is so lucky to have him as his Papa. So am I.

5. Snuggling my baby, even in the middle of the night, makes my heart full.

6. Watching my husband put my child to bed after I tried and failed is the best feeling of relief and yet it will make me sigh every time.

7. I will always be there for my child. As in ALWAYS, no exception.

8. Friends make it all so much easier. Sharing the tales of parenting reminds me that the crazy, hard moments are actually normal.

9. People are so kind and so generous to a new mama and a new family. I seize the opportunity to pay it forward.

10.  Watching my child experience wonderment – through food, music, experience – is the most uninhibited, organic and, usually, joyful sight.

11.  I never knew the feeling of selflessness until I had a child.

12.  What and who I think I can count on will always surprise me.

13.  Finding community of mamas was harder than I thought and yet, turned up when I least expected it and needed it most.

14.  I have found that there are other ways to trust my body after pregnancy. And no, I did not find it in childbirth.

15.  C-sections suck.

16.  Bodies are amazing. My body (and me) grew a human. Then it produced food for said human. That human grows from a tiny ball of baby to a roaming, running, babbling toddler all in one year. Amazing, I tell you. Truly amazing.

17.  The early days, weeks and even months of being a mama were very foggy for me and felt surprisingly lonely. I didn’t expect that, but will be more aware the next time.

18.  I worry more as a parent than I ever thought possible and far more than I ever expected.

19.  Raising a boy to be a good man is a challenge I take very seriously every day.

This is what a feminist looks like.

20.  There is nothing more heart breaking than to see your kiddo sick. They have no idea what’s going on and there is often little you can do to really make them better.

21.  Even when I feel completely clueless, finding ways to make parenting choices with confidence and without judgment is essential.

22.  Being a mama is the hardest and most rewarding job I ever could of dreamed of.  I can’t imagine my life without mama-hood.

23.  Watching my baby dance warms my soul.

24.  It really does take a village. I am so grateful for ours.

25.  I am conscious every day not to wish the time away. I am SO excited to hear his first sentence, to see his first steps, to tell his first joke, to meet his first friend and to be a big brother. Today, however, I am enjoying the present.

It’s been quite a year. The most amazing year. As my baby is about to complete his first revolution, of many, around the sun, I am ready to celebrate. I can’t think of any other way than to throw a party and celebrate with our village our first year of parenthood! We made it! My hubs and I will surely exchange a super high five.

Happy (almost) birthday baby E!



I never expected to be a stay-at-home mom, or SAHM, as I’ve learned to call it from the mommy blogs.  As a child my vision for myself was of a woman striding down shiny corridors in high-heeled shoes, the sound of which I associated with feminine power.  Instead, I wear this year’s Birkenstock sandals to the playground and wipe the sand and grit off my feet when I get home.

My right to claim SAHM status is limited. I was home full-time with my daughter for the first year of her life and then worked part-time (just twelve hours a week) for the next two. I’ll do the same with my son, born three months ago, and I don’t plan to work full-time until both are in school.

Lately, I’ve been thinking about my decision to be primarily at home.  In retrospect, it seems that it wasn’t so much a decision as the path of least resistance; things seemed to flow in that direction and I didn’t do anything stop them.  It helped that I was in graduate school when my daughter was born and so could simply opt out of teaching for two semesters. A big reason I didn’t want to work was nursing-mother laziness; I flat out refuse to pump. Another is my belief that this is what’s best for my children, but I’ve known for some time that this cannot be my sole or even primary reason; this has to be what I want for myself. Likewise, I recognize that I cannot do this in expectation of some sort of future payoff; I cannot expect or hope that my children will be any smarter, kinder, or better adjusted than those who spent less time at home. The experience of this time has to be its own reward. In this regard, parenting has been one more teacher in what I have come to recognize as my personal life’s work: living in the present, staying in the moment.  As a dance instructor once said to me, I could enjoy the process more.

A friend told me recently that she could never stay home full-time and asked me how I do it.  I have asked myself this very question, and I find it difficult to answer because I don’t really feel that I am “doing” anything.  To me it feels similar to being pregnant: a relatively small amount of time devoted to a particular state of being.  Being pregnant, like taking care of small children, is often demanding and exhausting and tedious and frustrating, but we don’t ask ourselves how we “do it.”  We just do.

So I decided to interpret this question literally. 

Mommy's juice

Here, roughly in the order in which I employ them, is my list of things that get me through the day:   

  1. Coffee
  2. Twenty minutes of yoga or Pilates, subject to comments from three-year old and interruptions from baby
  3. NPR
  4. Out of the house from 10-1, preferably with mom friends *
  5. Nap with baby for one hour in the afternoon while non-napping three-year-old watches PBS **
  6. NPR
  7. Assign husband to three-year-old the minute he steps in the door
  8. Get into bed immediately after children are asleep
  9. Read New Yorker or novel for forty-five minutes
  10. Sleep ***

 *          Mom, or Dad, friends are the key to success.
**        Some people, including myself, consider this cheating, or at least bad form.
***     As much as possible with night-nursing baby.

– AC

Working Stiff

I recently got a new job. I haven’t started yet, but it will be a good change for me and an incredible opportunity for my family. I’m headed back into non-profit-ish work, where I started my career.

I am looking forward to it, but I have also have been up at night and unable to fall back asleep in the middle of the night. For purely selfish reasons.

See, with my new job I will now need to work five days a week. I know, cry me a river. Most people work at least five days a week or on schedules that don’t fall into a “standard” 9 to 5 work environment, or in the Midwest, the 8 to 5 workday.

At my current job I worked five days a week, but in planning for maternity leave I approached my supervisor and asked to go down to four days, with Fridays off. I was fortunate that there was another woman who had done the same, and luckily, when I came back to work after 11 weeks, I was only in the office Monday through Thursday.I’ve had this schedule for 19 months.

Those first few months back to work were hellish. I rarely spoke about it to my co-workers, because who wants to hear how tired someone is, but honestly, I had a nocturnal baby and was going on, like 4 hours of sleep a night. Total. I would spend Fridays napping whenever C did and happy if we got out for a walk.

Then we hit our stride. She got older, got on a schedule, and we started connecting with other parents with similar schedules. I started smuggling her into a toddler story time at the incredible new library on the other side of town or we headed to a great play area. We went out for coffee with friends, had lunch together, and in nicer weather, C tolerated me slogging her to garage sales or St. Vinnie’s. And yes, when she napped in the afternoon, I often found myself doing the same more often than not. What a difference it made for our family! We rolled into the weekend, and even if I didn’t run errands, I never, ever felt rushed during the weekend and honestly, have never, ever felt guilty about working.

But now I do. I do because now our special day, our Friday, is gone. Soon. I’ve been fortunate and had opportunities in the past two years to take different work, but it was never a great fit until this new gig came along. This is a great fit and it means that our special day is gone.

My husband reminds me that it’s not like it’s the last time she and I will ever have a special day together. She’s older and loves her daycare and we love it, too. She probably has more fun with her buddies at daycare than with me, but I always felt that I had *it*, that elusive balance between work and life. And now I can feel it slipping away and I haven’t even started the new job.

I know, cry me a river. This comes from a place of privilege. I also know that yes, she will be fine and our family will adjust and that I’ll take time off here and there so that we can have special days to roll into the weekend. This isn’t the end. It’s a new beginning. And C won’t notice at all. It’s really me.

So as my lip quivers as I type this and each time I think about it, I know that this is good. It will just take some time. Some adjusting. And maybe a few sneaky naps on the weekend.

– MD


There are many truisms about being a parent that you hear while pregnant that you kind of shrug off, like how your life will change, how you can feel your hips spread and the sleepless nights at the end – or, in my case, 7 months of – one’s pregnancy. But the one comment that I thought people were insane to share with me was the comment, “Oh, I forgot when my baby did XYZ.” XYZ can be inserted with anything from sleeping through the night, eating solid food, smiling, saying “mama.”

“Come on,” I’d think to myself, “How can you not remember when your baby slept through the night?” I mean, how could someone not remember when their baby first ate solids?

People, you are reading about one of those people. I now realize that this comes from clinging to *something* – anything – that would chart a course to normalcy or consistency.

My closest friend, M, has a lovely 8-month-old, and when she asks me questions I have to wrack my brain to remember. What do 8-months-old play with? Uh, they’re still in an exersaucer, right? Blocks? Stacking cups? Animals?

Here is what I have forgotten:

  1. When C rolled over.
  2. The pain of child birth. You laugh at this, but even after 44 hours of labor and delivery, I remember that it hurt, but mostly I remember my friend, A, telling me how to push. It worked. I was a champion pusher. And here’s a hint: many of you “know” how to push. I won’t say any more.
  3. How I made it through returning to work after 11 weeks. At that time C was nocturnal and her wakeful time was 7 p.m. to 1 a.m. She was still getting up throughout the night and I would get up at 5 a.m. to pump because she didn’t nurse. Who knows what I was like at work, when my memory and language skills were that of a goldfish? Months 3-7 are empty in her baby book. I just can’t remember what was going on.
  4. C’s first word. Dada?

Here’s what I remember:

  1. When C smiled (7 weeks). I remember because there’s a video of it.
  2. When C slept through the night (8 or 9 months, I think).
  3. When C crawled (11 months?).

I know that a lot of this has to do with sleep deprivation, but maybe some of it has to do with my chance to see each day as new. If my mind held on to so many of those milestones, maybe I’d miss the new ones, like how she now says “here you go, mama” (sounds like “heeyagomama”) or now “feeds” us and her blanket milk.

I don’t know what it is, but whatever it is, I love it.

– MD

Mommy Greenest

I’d emit one-ton of carbon dioxide for an hours rest.

I wanted to be a green mom. I really do care about the environment; I compost and garden, turn off lights and use CFLs. I even unplug appliances when not in use. But being a new mom to a sleepless babe quickly changed many of my actions.

It started when I was eight months pregnant and my old car broke down. And the thought that my car might stall in the winter with an infant inside was too much. A week before O’s birth I purchased a used Subaru outback. Much more car than I need but heated seats and 4 wheel drive suddenly felt like needed safety features. And my carbon footprint grew…

I was sure I would use cloth diapers until the second day home from the hospital when I had already used 2 dozen cloth diapers and hadn’t done laundry yet. I poop once day, twice if I am lucky, yet no one told me my daughter might poop 10 times a day! The morning of day three I sent my husband to Target to buy disposable diapers with pictures of commercialized characters all over them. And my carbon footprint grew…

Just a few days later on yet another trip to Target to buy more things I never realized I needed, O fell asleep during the short car ride. Desperate for some sleep of my own, I suggested that the two of us nap in the car while dad did the shopping. When I cut the engine O let out a grunt and then a cry. I quickly turned the car back on, but she continued to stir. I put the car in drive and made a slow circle around the lot and she lulled back to sleep. I pulled into a spot and the fussing and crying resumed. I drove in slow circles for half an hour so I could have quiet and she would take a nap. A month before I wouldn’t have left my car running for anything longer than a red light and now I was aimlessly driving nowhere for 30 minutes of peace. And my carbon footprint grew…

And while I thought that maybe this growth was only temporary, I have run my furnace through the night, turned on my air conditioner more frequently and burned through a lot of D batteries all to keep my babe comfortable. I have purchased toys with flashing lights, mechanical songs and bright plastic pieces all made in China. And my daughter likes them better than the hand-whittled wood rattle made by local artists. I have tried hemp salve and organic jojoba oil for O’s dry skin but the petroleum by-products just work better. I am a little cheap and a little lazy but mostly I just want a happy, safe child. And my carbon footprint grows…

I am not the mother I planned to be.


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