It’s the First of the Month

Hello, dear readers!

I say this each month when it happens, but I love it when the first of the month happens on a Monday. Seems nice and tidy and fitting.

How was your weekend? We did a ton, starting with a Friday dinner trip to Ella’s Deli, where Miss Red proceeded to cry at the flying Bart Simpson over her head. She perked up for the carousel ride, though.

Saturday morning she and I walked to our favorite neighborhood coffee shop, The Victory. She even asked for it by name. It’s like Cheers for the caffeinated – owner Patrick remembers you by name and your coffee order, too. Miss Red likes going because it means blue moon ice cream or a cookie of sorts.

That afternoon we purchased a twin mattress to accompany the frame I found on Craig’s List. We then headed downtown to catch a free screening of the original Muppet Movie at UW Cinematheque. Miss Red lasted an hour, which was impressive.

After that, CH focused on taking down the toddler bed and assembling the new bed. For the first time in months, she didn’t get out of bed after we tucked her in (note, this only lasted one night).

Sunday was another day of awesome. My favorite cousin, whom I grew up with and lived with us for a while, was in town. We all had brunch at Ironworks Cafe and caught up. She’s a midwife now and I find that so, so cool. It has been her dream and it happened.

Miss Red and I were both due for a hair cut, so I headed to Alice first and then she came in the middle. We both lost a few inches, but have fresh new dos.

Then, the best finale to a weekend ever, we headed to Grandma’s house for the beginning of birthday celebrations. Grandma and Lady CH, CH’s sister (Miss Red is also CH – ha!), had decorated the house with balloons and made homemade macaroni and cheese. And per Miss Red’s request, there were cupcakes. Red Velvet, to be exact. Presents were opened, and we all settled in to watch Lilo and Stitch, one of Miss Red’s gifts. Again, she lasted about 45 minutes, which was impressive. Lady CH is thankfully back in town, and spending more time with her has been awesome for the whole family – Miss Red gets to know her more, and our little Madison enclave gets to be like, well, family.

And that brings us to the first of the month. And Miss Red turns 3 this week. All good, big, awesome things.

If you need a little more oomph to start your month, why don’t you listen to what I think of every time I hear the phrase “first of the month.” Talk about dorm memories, circa 1996.

– MD


What Do You Remember?

I have a decent memory. Better at some things – names and faces, not so great at other things – card games and jokes. But I’m missing a lot of my childhood. Don’t worry – nothing Terrible happened – more like lots of little unfortunate things, but I do]]><![CDATA[n't have a ton of memories or nuanced photo images from my childhood, probably because I was moved around a lot before I was 10.

I barely remember kindergarten. Forget first grade, except for one memory of cleaning erasers. Second grade? The Challenger explosion and a very kind teacher, Miss Waldo, who came to my ballet recital. Third grade? More memories for sure. But what comes before school are a handful of very, very sad memories.

One happy one –  a birthday, when my parents were still together, and I didn’t want to eat a hot dog. Thinking they would be mad that I wouldn’t eat it, they smiled and told me it was OK, my dad’s arm around my mom’s shoulder. I must have been four, in our house on Jenifer St.

When I was pregnant I was often wracked with anxiety as to what memories I would make for my future child. The sex of my baby unknown, but going by the fond name of Cheeto (thanks to my BFF, who when she looked up what a fetus looked like at the scant weeks pregnant I was when I told her, said, “Oh, it looks like a Cheeto!”). Would Cheeto remember that I planned on reading books to s/he each night? Or would Cheeto remember something small, like an imaginary time I lost my temper and raised my voice? Or would Cheeto only remember a distant parent who preferred reading or watching TV, similar to some of my experiences? What memories would this baby have?

Believe me, those anxieties haven’t left. Miss Red is turning the page on 3, and I daily, yes, daily, wonder what memories she will have. Will they be of the cookies and smoothies she gets from our local coffee shops? Conquering the playground? Or when, last night, frustrated that she left her room for the fifth time to pretend to use the potty and it was 9 p.m., spoke louder to her than I had in her whole life, her little chin held firmly in my hand?

What she remembers matters a great deal to me. It matters not because I think it marks what kind of parent I am, but because I know how it forms her future. It matters because her memories will make her who she is, even if they plant only a small kernel. Her memories matter because I hope she never, ever, has mine.

– MD

Ayelet Waldman’s Bad Mother

A book review! Don’t worry, the theme of this blog and its angsty writing hasn’t changed, but I do want to share an angsty book that I selected for my book club. Actually, this isn’t a book review at all.

Ayelet Waldman's Bad Mother

Side note on my book club/pat on the back: Nine years ago I co-founded Literati, an all-women’s (aren’t they all?) book club with co-workers. While only a few of us still work at the place we all met, we still get together once a month and the person who hosts picks the book. We’ve read everything under the sun.

Anyhoodle, I hosted Wednesday night and selected Ayelet Waldman’s Bad Mother. I read her latest book Red Hook Road earlier in the year and liked it. Then I heard her on a replay of Terry Gross’ Fresh Air, where she recounted her essay where she famously acknowledged that she loved her husband more than her four children. Gasp! Splat! Swoon! It’s more complicated than that, believe me, but she went on Oprah and was almost torn to shreds. I thought, “I gotta read this.”

I’m not going to share anything new about the book that hasn’t already been written about. But I can share some of the insight from my book group. Not all of us have children, but all of us are children and remember our mother’s so we had some interesting conversations. I found Ayelet on Twitter and asked her, “My book club is discussing BAD MOTHER tonight. I’ve been recommending it to so many people. Any ?s you recommend I ask?”

To my surprise, she responded with, “Ask the women the very worst thing they ever did as a mom. Answers will be hilarious, I promise.”

Side note: I love Twitter. I like it more than Facebook. I find out information faster than news organizations post it, have met people in Madison I now regularly hang out with, and actually have conversations with people I would never be able to, like Ayelet. Are we on a first-name basis, Ayelet? Hope so. Also, this is why I’d make a terrible book reviewer.

During our conversation we talked about the hardships most women place on themselves, and found similarities to raising children in Madison as in Berkeley. Most of us gave it a “B” overall, except for loving her brave and heart-breaking chapter, “Rocketship,” for which we applauded her honesty.

So what were some of the worst things some of the moms did? Both were accidents, but one mom vacuumed over her baby’s hand and another locked her three children out of the house in winter while she went to work. Two moms shared that at the time of their parenting they thought they were great moms, but in looking back, actually think they weren’t so great. Why the change, we asked? They were tired and yelled, they responded, and while had some support from their partners, it was in that 80s male way, as Ayelet describes, of “showing up.”

I shared this with Ayelet on Twitter, to which she replied, “Nobody ever screamed so loud in a parking lot that someone called the cops?”

Not yet.

We discussed imposed feelings of guilt, working and staying home and everything in between. But can I share a secret with you, fair readers? I don’t think I’m a bad mom. I’m not the best, but I don’t even know what that means. I think I’m a pretty good mom for Miss Red, and a lot of that is because of the support I receive – from CH, my town, my friends, my family, my job. I’m lucky. I know. And I might not be the best mom if we had a different type of kid, but that I don’t even know. The worse thing I’ve ever done to Miss Red? I guess forgetting to buckle her car seat straps when she was a baby and I was sleep deprived. But I figured it out a few blocks later and pulled over, crying and sweating and freaking out and thanking the sky above that nothing bad had happened. And being bad is relative, right?

So let me ask you, what’s the worst thing you ever did as a mom?

– MD

p.s. If you’re so inclined to find me on Twitter, check me out. ALW can be found here.

What Still Makes Me Sad

I am not a religious person, but I know that I am blessed. I found a fantastic partner in CH, and through some type of cosmic luck of the draw, we ended up with a healthy, beautiful, funny and really, really smart little girl. My heart explodes as I type this.

Miss Red

But there are some things that I haven’t been able to let go of from Miss Red’s first months, even as she heads to birthday number three this summer. It’s something I was reminded of Tuesday night and wasn’t surprised at how raw I still feel about it inside.

At  yoga a woman commented that she and her nearly two-year-old were weaning. In her daughter’s cuteness, she was relaying this information to her stuffed animals, “No more nurse, it’s OK, it’s OK.” The other women crooned and smiled. The thought of how clear and conscious we are, even at two, was so grounding for me. But tears sprang into my eyes because Miss Red and I didn’t have that relationship.

Miss Red didn’t nurse. I’ve written about it here and here, but for those who don’t want to click, I did try everything and I have an amazing support system. Five lactation consultants, including hiring the best in town for unlimited home visits in addition to the help from my doula, syphon systems, you name it. I produced milk, but she never got the hang of it, so I spent the first six months of her life pumping, storing, and generally making our home a mini breast milk factory. I loved providing for her, but that closeness, that convenience, that extra snuggle and comfort we didn’t have.

More than two years since I packed up the pump, I am still sad about it. I am sad that I couldn’t have that relationship with her. I am sad that it was something I had wanted so dearly that I was driven to the edge, and it just didn’t happen. I was sad that I tasted some of the disappointments of parenting so soon after becoming one.

I know that other side of this story: the bonding she had with CH, and ultimately that she was taken care of. But that sadness, that longing, still hasn’t left me, even as time dances on with Miss Red leading the way.

– MD

New Year

The New Year. I love it. I love the deep breath at the end of the holidays. I love making resolutions. I love the vast stretch of time ahead, the (mostly) blank calendar. I love that the days are getting longer.

I love looking back at the past year, figuring out what went right and thinking through the things I’d like to change and improve upon. 2010 was far and away the best year I’ve ever had. So many things I set out to do at the start of the year was realized. Nope, I didn’t lose 50 pounds, but what I gained was infinitely more valuable:

I made new friends. I had some of the best times of my life.

I took a family vacation to a lake shaped like a heart….

…and played in the snow.

I hosted three parties, after years and years of lacking the confidence.

I made new connections. I stood up for myself when it really mattered.

I watched my baby turn one…

…and into a happy, strong-willed, smart, and delightfully goofy little big girl.

I quite literally went from the couch to running a 5k.

I celebrated my 10 year dating and 5 year wedding anniversaries with my husband.

At my December birthday party, I was presented with a donut tree. Yeah.

The truth is, I still have a long way to go. My holiday running hiatus was a bad idea and poorly timed. I wasted too much time doing stupid stuff on my addictive phone. That baby in the bar? Mine. I said some things I wish I hadn’t because I have no filter. Yeah, I probably drank too much. But you know what? I don’t care. I had FUN.

No regrets.

Happy New Year, to you and yours.


Mary, Did you Know?

The thing I remember most about Henrik’s first Christmas is that he was still screaming.  I don’t know if he was colicky, or if it was just his personality (I’d bet all my presents under the tree that it’s the latter).  Three months into my life as a mother, I all of a sudden was thrown into a new understanding of the story of Christmas.

For me, this sacred holiday became focused on Mary. Not her virginity, or her holiness – but her motherhood.   Mary was a new mom.  She gave birth (Labor!  Delivery!) to her beautiful baby in a barn full of stinky animals and hay and dirt.  And now she had this new baby that wanted to nurse throughout the day and night, that needed constant rocking, and probably some swaying or bouncing to calm his new worldly nerves.  That cradle wasn’t just designed for the pretty church nativities – she Needed that cradle to get him to fall asleep –  To soothe her screaming baby. And after the angels had gone, and everyone had brought their pretty gifts, the crying probably got worse.  And the everyday of motherhood became a stark reality.

Believe in Mary as Jesus’ mother, as the Virgin Mary, as the mother of the Savior, as a vital part of the Christmas story, as holy – or just another woman in the history of womankind –  there is something about her story that every mother can understand.  

Who of you has gotten your face so close to your babe’s that you could feel his breath, and hear her small movements?  Who has held him, swaddled, shhing her till you can see her little eyelashes come to complete stillness and feel your own heart slowed?  Who of you has stared into his eyes, and saw the Hope that she could bring to this world?  The love, the grace, the kindness, the care. Angels or just a starry sky, gifts of Myrrh or just an empty bag, Mary was a momma who knew her job was great.  Who knew her job was a gift, who knew that it would take sacrifice, sleepless nights, and worry beyond compare.  She shed tears, she loved deeper than she ever understood or would ever comprehend.  We all know how Mary must have felt that night, and those months, and years and year and years to come.

Oh, holy night.

You and me  – and Mary – we’re raising hope for the world, the feet on this earth, the ones that will bring in human form, in my understanding, God’s love to all.  They will make the decisions that help, strengthen, Give.

Moms all around the world, Peace, Love and Strength to you all this Christmas.  Shalom.

– EC


I wrote last week that I’ve been traveling and working long hours at my job. It’s OK, because I’m still in love with my work, and most importantly (to me, at least), am passionate about what I’m working for.

In the middle of my travels I was able to spend two nights at my parents’ house in Milwaukee. The same ranch house I lived in for six years before I left for college and never moved back to. One night when I got back around 9 p.m. from a long day of production, I sat in the living room as my mother made me a lovely necklace. In her empty-nesting years she has thrown herself back into crafting – sewing, quilting, jewelry making, flower arranging – and it’s nice to see her enjoying her evenings. I was talking about my day, sharing stories and more. At one point, I said that while I was so happy at work, I wondered if it was an issue that I didn’t have a great title, like “Manager” or “Director.” I have plenty of friends who reached these titles in their late 20s or early 30s, and now 32 and happily nestled into a job I love, know that I won’t get that title. At my organization there is no stepping into a larger title or role. I can grow my skill set and expand what I’m doing, but I won’t get “Sr.” or anything other higher designation now that I’m in a union. It doesn’t work like that.

In the middle of stringing the necklace, not even looking up, my mom said, “Honey, you are 32, have a toddler and work full time. You can’t have that title.” And while I know it’s true, I have been gnashing over the truth of that. Why do titles matter? Why do they matter to me? As someone who has been fairly career-oriented, I was always striving for next-next-next. Pushing, pushing, pushing. I clearly remember sitting in a job interview 7 years ago and when asked the dubious, “Where do you see yourself in five years?” question, answering quite clearly, “As the Marketing Director of a non-profit.” Somewhat gutsy, given that the current Marketing Director of the non-profit I was interviewing at was sitting in the same room and she was new to the job herself. But that’s fine ‘cause we’re friends now.

This hangs in my office. By These Are Things.

So here I am, 32, and not a director. When RBVH and I finally met up this last weekend (I was the one who fell asleep and missed our coffee date – yeesh), she and I shared the same concerns. Should we be pushing, pushing, pushing for more?

But maybe what I’m not ready to say aloud – but guess what world? – I can say it on the internet! – is that I’m OK with not having the title. It’s not that I don’t think I could handle what came along with it, it’s that I like the other titles I (sometimes) come with: mother, wife, friend, partner, creator, (fledging) runner. Why? Because I’ve found my center-for-now. Sure, it gets wacky, laundry never gets put away, I miss having Fridays with my toddler, but I’m able to be all of the parts of me while at my current job.

I guess you’ll just have to call me Lucky.

– MD

Frazzle Rock

I’ve been working a lot of hours lately. That’s relative, since I’m not a physician or splitting the atom, but it has been a lot. I’m rounding into month five at my new job and I love it. Love, love, love it. I feel very fortunate to have found a place I will happily hang my hat. Thank you, Universe.

But part of my new job is occasionally, those occasions being now, traveling around our fair state. I’ve been putting serious miles on our car, drinking Diet Dr. Pepper and listening to the various Wisconsin Public Radio stations. This has meant more than a few nights away from my family. My husband has graciously taken on the added duties of solo-parenting, a task he never grumbles about.


In fact, let me take a moment to thank him over the internet for being such a great dad and partner. He doesn’t mind taking on more parenting because he sees that I’m happier, which makes our whole family happier and he’s happy for me and our family. But thanks nonetheless, because doing double duty even with our lovely toddler is well, doing double duty while I’m driving hundreds of miles every week and arriving for 6 a.m. production calls. And he’s really cute, too!

How has this changed our lives? Thankfully, our toddler hasn’t noticed a difference. She started going to daycare full-time, but it’s so awesome and fun I think she’s happier going five days a week.

But I’m starting to feel the difference. I’m more frazzled. Fridays at home with her meant a lot of activities, but those activities often included meeting friends for coffee or lunch at a child-friendly location, versus trying to schedule lunches or coffee a month in advance, or as I embarrassingly did this weekend, miss a coffee date with dear RBVH because I fell asleep on the couch. Ouch.

I’m happier, but the new job has also meant a few cancelled vacations and missed parties. There was a square dance I missed, a few planned getaways and other events as they’ve emerged.

I even missed an annual trip to northern Wisconsin, but was able to attend a great clothing swap last night, filled with lovely women, hosted by a fantastic woman. We laughed and ate her homemade ricotta on pumpkin muffins and chocolate-drizzled biscotti. We sorted through clothing and offered suggestions to others of new outfits. I got to see EKR in person versus via Twitter. We had a really nice time.

One exchange stuck with me for the rest of the night and today. One woman, showing me a dress shirt, asked how I needed to dress for work. “I need to dress nicely,” I replied. [Side note: dressing “nicely” in the Midwest comes in various forms, but overall, I need to look professional. Even if I’m in jeans, it needs to be classy.] She handed me a shirt that didn’t fit, and then asked “who else here works in an office?” and looking around, we realized that only one other woman worked at an office. The other women in attendance all worked – some as full-time moms, childcare providers, at the local food coop and a variety of other locations – but I was possibly the only person there who worked in an office, full time, and needed to dress in a traditional office way.

It made me melancholy for the rest of the night.

Over dinner my husband asked about the swap and I shared my feelings with him. Again, as if I almost had to convince myself, I said “I don’t want to be a stay-at-home-mom, right?” And I don’t. I didn’t want to before I had a baby, while I was pregnant or even after I had Lil’ Miss Red. I love working. I’m good at it, too. I love meeting people and working with situations and words and creating. I absolutely know that this is part of parenting, but maybe I’m just not wired that way.

But I used to have extra time with my daughter, where she recently started to call it a “mama day.” And while I loved the time with her, I can look back and say how exhausting it was. By the time my husband came home on Friday nights I felt zapped. Done. Over. I usually left the house to run a few errands (what becomes “free time” once you have children) to re-set. I honestly don’t know how full-time parents manage to engage their children so creatively. I think our childcare provider was crafted by Greek Gods, she with her imagination, patience and resourcefulness. I had to plan each fun activity with my daughter. My creativity tends to emerge in my work. My time with her was focused and while I didn’t develop fun art projects for her to explore, I did, and still do, give her (mostly) undivided attention as much as possible, in the form of reading books, playing cars, or dancing.

I often think of something LHW said to me three winters ago when she was hosting a swap. I was pregnant and looking for post-baby wear. We were talking about my (now previous) job and my question as to whether or not I’d ever want to stay home.

“M, it’s different for you, you have a career,” she said. “And whatever you decide, it’s the best decision for your family. Even if you change your mind.”

So while I’m happier at work, I am frazzled and sometimes tears are involved. Tears for no more Fridays at home, tears for long work days, tears for the new and exciting demands placed on me, tears when I think about the state of the laundry, tears that I now forget things, like minor to-dos, notes and coffee dates.

It is what it is and it’s wonderful. Even if I change my mind.

–       MD

Mondays and Fridays

I am incredibly fortunate to have a part time schedule that allows me to be at home with my daughter on Mondays and Fridays.  In a way, I’m almost embarrassed to admit it – I KNOW how lucky I am to have this time and the means to take it.  I will never take it for granted.

We save up errands for Mondays and Fridays – I do the grocery shopping and get in a couple of runs with the jogging stroller.  I clean, vacuum, do laundry.  I try to get my daughter caught up on sleep after three long days at daycare.  I remain in complete awe of single parents and families with both parents working full time.  

As it is with kids, some days are rough, other days are easier. Some days I am so focused on what needs to be done that I lose sight of my main purpose of being home – namely, quality time with my daughter.  

And other days, things just click.  

We dance in our jammies.


We stack blocks.


We watch them as they fall.


After a leisurely morning, we go to the zoo and ride the carousel.

We take a ride on the Zoo train.


We check out the meerkats.

I am incredibly lucky to have these days with my daughter.  In the years to come, when I am old and gray and my baby has grown up, I won’t remember if I got the shopping done, if I fit in a good run, or if the house was vacuumed.

What I will remember, what I will never forget, is the feel of her hand on my knee as we chugged along the track in the fall sunshine.



There was a day this past year that I had been waiting to pass since almost the day that my son H was born.  For Four solid years, I waited for the day of the big test, the test that would give us some finality.  A decision about whether H would go to Kindergarten.

I think it’s safe to say that Most parents start feeling a bit of angst when their child reaches the age of four.  Four is this big age – toddler-hood is over, preschool has begun and the day that school begins is imminent.  School.  It’s that big word that invokes in most people images of the school bus, little kids in backpacks, and some old fashioned RRR, mixed with creativity, and well – being Big.  It’s that last word – the Big word – that provides the parenthood angst.

Is she really Big enough?  Can he handle school?  Will he get lost in the crowd?  Will she listen to the teacher?  Will he make friends?  Really the question is – is my Kid really that Big?  Am I the parent of a little kid or a Big kid?  And really, How did This happen?

It’s safe to say that I remember most every day of H’s childhood.  I remember the crying, the kicking phase, the cuddling phase, the digger phase.  I remember the waking up in the middle of the night (phase, thankfully).  I remember the needing milk 24 hours a day (long) phase, the new to big-brotherhood phase, the spitting his food out after chewing it phase, the not wanting to wear shoes phase (still in that one).  And now we’ve reached the learning phase of H’s life.  I feel most everyone one of the days of every one of these phases, probably because I’ve had to go through them, every single one of them, with him.  Because first it was the being a mom of a kid who wanted milk 24 hours a day phase, and then the being the a mom of the new big-brotherhood phase, and being the mom of the kid who refuses to pick up his toys phase.  

So for what I had been anxiously waiting for Four solid years?   I knew at the age of four, we would finally have the option to test our little guy to see if he could go to school with all of his peers.  Born just seven days past the school deadline, H had always been a part of the crowd just months older than him, kids who were 5 by September 1.  I know that H was ready, and that I was ready.  I didn’t feel the angst of the parent wondering how we got there.  I KNOW how we got there.  And we were all ready to move on, more forward, move into the world of Big.  

H passed his big Test (that big scary day for which I had waited and waited and waited) with flying colors, and the sweet, friendly teacher who tested him laughed as we sat down on the ittybitty chairs to go over his “results”  – “Wow” she said “Your little guy is quite the sponge.”  Sponge he was, and sponge he is.


Sure, I haven’t 100% successfully moved into this next phase of motherhood.   Yep, while other moms and dads cried on the first day of school, anxious about how it all crept up on them, I rejoiced, smile, laughed with my little guy who jumped onto the bus like he had done it a thousand times (with one last quick security hug, of course).   Still, every once in awhile, I question whether he will be able to negotiate the often painful world of friendships (“mom, no one played with me on the playground today.  Everyone said no”).  I wonder if he’ll ever outgrow his inability to just jump up an and answer the question without raising his hand, or whether he’ll figure out how to properly spell all of the words on his “word wall.”

On the bus.

But every new phase brings new worries, new challenges, new fun.  I feel confident that we’ll figure it out.  Odd to say, but in the big checklist of life, excited to say – Toddler-hood?  Check!

– EC

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