Thursday, June 3, 2010

We watched a friend's little girl today. In an effort that all we mothers constantly strive to achieve, my friend wanted some balance and so planned to take a yoga class, a little patch of time to herself. As her daughter is beautifully attached at her age, we both knew this might prove tricky for said little one. They came over early, to settle little daughter in, and after a bit, my friend left and her daughter (a lovely, lovely girl who is only a few weeks younger than Dory, is even slighter than our girl with that blow-away-in-the-wind delicacy and has the soulful brown eyes of a poet) did exactly what you might expect and dissolved into tears.

For a while she was inconsolable, sitting on my lap and crying, and saying "mama, home, mama home," in that way that could actually break your heart in half if I didn't know what's she's starting to learn which is that mama will come home again. Mama will come home, hurrying, rushing, speeding, so glad to be home and so incredibly refreshed from her two and a half hours of time on her own. Mama will come home, there is little in the world as certain as that. In about two hours. Two hours is a hard thing to explain to a person who has no concept of anytime except Right Now.

Off and on this little girl cried and I would hold her while she did (I actually held her nearly all the time- she recognized, I'm quiet sure that, my possession of breasts meant sitting in my lap put her in much closer proximity to the good stuff than, say, sitting at Dory's baby piano. Sure it wasn't her good stuff, but- it's still nice to be close.) Dory played around her, sometimes engaging me or both of us and other times just playing and occasionally shoving her friend enough to the side of my lap to get her own good stuff ("the bobos" as they're known around here). And sometimes this little girl would watch, would look up, interact, and seem to have a very good time. And then something would remind her of mama and she would dissolve into tears again.

And it reminded me of anytime I've ever seen any friend with a broken-heart. The way you sort of limp along, and then slowly start to get your step back and then- bam!- you drive past the diner you always ate at or hear that song you both used to laugh at, but secretly loved and suddenly you're weeping on the kitchen floor. We were on a little walk in front of the house, Dory in diaper and shoes, marching along with purpose (remember, she knew exactly where her bobos were) and me holding our little friend on my hip, following, talking about leaves and sticks. And this girl suddenly said "stick!" with such enthusiasm I picked one up and held it out to her. At which point she melted in my arms, sobbing, "stick, mama, stick," in a way that said clearly, "this is just like the stick mama and I once picked up." And I did what I think most good friends do- I validated her feelings. "Yes, I know you miss mama. And maybe that stick makes you think of her. It can be tough when mama's not here. Even hearing she'll come back doesn't always help. Yes, I know. I hear you."

Off and on all morning, this was the experience. And then mama came home and it was exactly what you expected- daughter lights up, beams, than cries a little more and then it's done. The emotions are out, expressed, mama's home, she survived, and everything is right with the world again.

Mostly it made me realize/remember/get hit with that bolt of lightening- what's so bad about treating our children the way we treat our friends? If you go to a friend and say, "I've experienced this loss that I'm not sure I'll pull through or even how to start..." would your friend reply "oh, it's fine, get over it"? Or "stop crying! he'll be right back!" The emotion is the same for them as it is for one of us when we've been romantically wounded, only, I expect it's much worse. They don't yet understand permanence, impermanence, a run to the store, time to one's self. Yet how often do we dismiss their hurt because we (big, wise, moon-faced grown-ups that we are) can logically see the other end? Maybe its not treating our children as our friends (though that doesn't seem so bad either) but treating them like our friends that might make these relationships run a little smoother. And letting them know, they're worth the same respect as someone more than three feet tall seems like a good place to start.

Monday, May 10, 2010


Here is Dory the morning of the 'incident':

And here are her knees after:

Those are scratched, bloodied knees if I've ever seen them. At the duck pond, in total joy, Dory dashed around the perimeter of the pond, across the uneven pavement, took one misstep and... sprawled out on her knees and hands. A full-out whack! to the pavement.

She cried openly. I cried internally. She's had any number of bumps and bruises since she started walking, but this was easily the worst. There was no catching herself before she fell. There was real blood. There was even the icky sound of a schmack! when she hit the pavement. This was her first in earnest childhood injury.

I held her and she cried and I tried not to. My mother was at hand and she was calming for the both of us, commenting we could take Dory home, give her a bath, those scratches would be gone in a week, tops. After a few minutes, Dory seemed calmed down. We didn't rush back to the car, but lingered a little longer, looked at the ducks in the creek next to the pond, even spotted a mama and her baby ducklings.

It's tricky to see here, but that Mama Duck is in a protective posture. Next to us, on the bank of the creek, a woman had a dog and, seeing the ducks, he hit the end of his leash, barking madly. At first, she and the ducklings took off at full waddle through the shallow water. Unfortunately this took her right past the dog and on recognizing his nearness, she stopped, posed and four baby ducklings hid behind her. I don't know if Mama Duck had a plan, but her feathery body language communicates one clear statement: do not mess with me and my babies. After a little more "ooing" of the ducklings, the dog's owner moved on and Mama Duck and ducklings proceeded down the creek, ruffed only in spirit.

My duckling came to harm, through her own activities, and there was no one to blame. Rocky pavement? Sun in her eyes? Trippy kids' shoes? Maybe, who knows, and that seems a stretch. I still wanted to puff up, make my stance and just dare anyone to mess with my child. And like the dog leaving and the ducks waddling away, the moment passed. Yet just that quick flush of protective instinct reminded me how far more linked we are to our animal nature than we might normally realize. And that whatever enemy, be it leashed dog or old, cracked concrete can bring out the mama bear in all of us.

Or in this case, the mama duck.

And I'm glad to say, more than a week later, Dory has only the faintest signs of knees scrapes.

Saturday, May 8, 2010

A Post in Pictures

In the words of Paolo Nutini, "I put some new shoes on/And suddenly everything's right..."

Story hour

What is 'Things You Find in Your Refridgerator When You Have a Toddler'

Baby Napoleon

The latest art house film: "Diapered Dollies, Pantsless Baby"

The latest hit song from the '30s: Walkin' My Monkey Back Home

Silly face kind of day

Monday, April 26, 2010


Dory is asleep and this is our living room right now:

And instead of doing anything about that, I'm going to direct you over here to check out two new Dory videos- one of her and her dad, the other (and pretty darn interesting, I think, though you might attribute that to me being her mother) is a little video she took when I (please don't tell my husband) let her carry around our Flash recorder yesterday morning.

I can't remember if this is the one or not, but if I'm singing in the background, forgive me. And if Matthew asks, she overpowered me, stole the camera, figured out how to work it by herself and that is definitely, 100% not me singing in the background.

Sunday, April 25, 2010

Open Doors

This morning, while using the bathroom, I heard Dory bust into a wail and a chorus of "mommy-mommy-MA-AHmee!" I, many parents with toddlers understand, had the bathroom door open (oh, yes, not-yet-parents, there will be a time, no matter what you might say now, when you poo with the door open- just wait) and could hear her clearly. So I called to her, coaxingly, "Mommy's in the bathroom! Can you come in here with me?"

There was a brief pause in the cry, and then a moment later it was taken up again, with even greater gusto. This wasn't the all-out, full-lungs, lusty yodel of a newborn baby, but more along the I'm-exasperated-with-you cry, or I-really-expect-better-service-than-this cry. So while I sensed the need wasn't urgent, (this wasn't an "a piano just fell on me!" yell or, more likely, "I've shut one hand in a book and with my other hand am squeezing it closed because I don't yet understand the physics of the situation!" yell) I found myself hustling to get to her.

I found a very sad-faced baby standing in front of the other bathroom, the half bath we almost never use, where the door was, in fact, closed. And, even after she saw me, and I picked her up, she insisted we open the door to make sure, I assume, I wasn't somehow in there still...

I wish a good Sunday to you all! And here are some Easter pictures from, oh, only a month ago, where I can't help but think she looks like she wandered off the set of The Sound of Music...

Saturday, March 27, 2010

Sunny Days

I thought I would share some pictures from last Saturday... Dory, in the words of Sheryl Crow, wanted to soak up the sun.

Before we left the house that morning, for our first walk of the day, decked out in her new pink spring jacket (thank you Grandma Cindy!)...

Dory, by her own choice, carries the poop bag, for cleaning up after our doggie. Of course, the bag was empty at this point...

Me: Are you ready to go home?
Dory (points the other way): Nope.
(I like the fact you can see my shadow and, if you look closely, note I'm clutching a mug in my hand, as I'd brewed some really strong hot Irish tea. This gives me about a quarter of the get-up-and-go Dory rolls out of bed with every morning.)

Dory sits on a rock, at the park, on our second walk of the day. We saw another mother, with her toddler poised on a nearby rock, taking lots of pictures and trying to cajole her six year old son into posing too. I got Dory to do the same, in that she sat still for about two minutes, watching the other family. Then she was done and ready to get rambling again.

Dory, no jacket now, as this is our third walk of the day and its gone from forty something to sixty plus degrees outside. To me, her expression says: "Can we please GO? We've been inside ALL DAY."

We spotted this guy, hiding in the flowers. Dory surprised me with her stillness. I expected "CAT! Meow!" followed by subsequent kitty terrorizing. But she looked, announced, "Cat. Meow." and then on we went.

And, as all walks end, the ceremonial setting down of the walking stick... You, Child of Nature. Me, Mama who Need Sun Hat and Good Sneakers.

Friday, March 26, 2010

All the Words...

A list of all Dory's vocabulary as of late:
Dokey-dokey: Okey dokey
Youd: Loud
Yights: Lights
'Ice: Rice
Beez: Beans
Cahz: Cars
Toys! (always said with an exclamation point at the end; you can just tell)
'Kay: Okay
Sas: Salt
Sasa: Sausage
Wead: Read
Doggie (also Puppy)
All done
Hewoah: Hello
Monter: Monitor
Wok: Rock (this one you sometimes have to hear in a sentence- or at least a gesture)
Holt: Hold
Dow: Down (and usually said "dow-dow-dow!")
Tabee: Table
Shing: Sing (usually song, usually Elmo's song)
Dory! (again always said with an exclamation point)
Me (can mean her, but can mean "you"; another example of "could you use it in a sentence...?")
Houssh: House
Peggy: Penguin
Gam: her Gram (my mom; only said a couple times, but it was distinct!)
Bas: Bath
Watey: Water
Shocks: Socks
Panss: Pants
Sholers: Shoulders
Paws (I might have made a mistake in referring to her hands as paws, as in "put that little paw in mine"...)
Eahs: Ears
And, of course, No, NOOOOO, No-No, and, just recently, Nope.

And that's all I can think of for now, at 11:30 at night. Her language expands so rapidly (daily) I realized if I didn't record it somewhere, we wouldn't have a way to remember her first real words, when she said them and the way she said them. And I expect there are a few long-distance friends and grandparents (and great-grand!) who might like a little list too...

And a cute story. We had a really busy day yesterday, playgroup in the morning, and then a visit to my parents after that. We played there for a couple of hours and suddenly Dory looked up, shook her hands (her sign for "all done"), and said "all done, bye-bye." And waved. Her grandparents (being easygoing people) were delighted and they burst out laughing. I packed us up, we got in the car, and within three minutes she was asleep. Isn't that amazing? Did she know she was ready for a nap? Could she tell she needed a break? Or was she just tired of her grandparents (just kidding Grandpa and Granny!). My instinct says, she was ready for a rest and she took good care of herself by letting us know. Just amazing.

Saturday, February 13, 2010

More Nursing Support

Back with more breastfeeding support! Holistic Moms, a national organization devoted to creating a healthier, more natural, and more sustainable way to parent, responded to a recent article in the Herald Sun (Australia) which reported "that young women are reluctant to breastfeed their babies due to fear of public embarrassment." HMN appealed to all members to send in photos of themselves nursing their children in public. Of course we sent a picture.

This beautiful video is the result. To watch click here. (Dory and I are around the three and a half minute mark!)

To read more about the inspiration behind the project click here.

I'm so glad to be a member of the national and local branches of this fantastic group!

Friday, February 12, 2010

Playful Parenting

I have another excellent book to add to my list of parenting reads: Lawrence Cohen's Playful Parenting. (Linked it in the sidebar, for more information.) I stumbled across this one at my library and thought it might have some useful suggestions for more imaginative play with Dory. And it does. But, oh baby, it is so much more than that.

Dr. Cohen digs into the emotional, mental, and psychological importance of play in a child's life. Play can open a child's self-expression, can help heal an emotional hurt, can strengthen or even create a bond between child and parent and is always needed- from birth to the teenage years (and adult years too, though Cohen points out, most adults idea of play is relaxing and being stationary, which can make it difficult for adults to engage in child's play!). Children find their power through play, they find their voice through play, they work out confusions and fears. One of my favorite examples describes a three year old girl, who's gotten a shot, comes home and now wants to play doctor. She wants to administer the "shot" and she needs an adult, preferably a parent, to administer to. Through this game, she is now in control, she now has her power back, and the one who took the power away (i.e. hello mom! hello dad!) is now looking to her. Give her her power back, Dr. Cohen says. Play with her. Be the patient! Shriek, cry, let her know it's painful! Allow her to work out what happened, what it means, and to feel her autonomy in her world again.

I've read this time so many times, but it always bears repeating: children have so many decisions made for them everyday. Most of us parents, no matter how lightly we hope to tread, still make lots of choices for our child (this shirt, this food, this time to leave, this stop to make) and that can leave a little one feeling frustrated, disempowered and marginalized, at best. Dr. Cohen explains, you can help your child regain his sense of himself through play. Let him lead. Let him guide. You follow. Get on his level and give him the reigns.

Of the many, many useful suggestions of this book (read all of it- it's worth it), this stood out with me the most. Be your child's advocate for maintaing his sense of worth, his sense of importance, his sense of relation to this world by helping him maintain his power.

Other points that stood out to me:
Girls need physical play! Boys need more cuddles! In our attempts to give our children "roots and wings," our overly stereotyped idea of the sexes leaves girls feeling rooted, but timid and fearful and boys feeling adventurous and often reckless and with no grounding. Play can build and strengthen these underdeveloped areas.

Be flexible. Your child may want to play the same game a very different way- for instance, yesterday, she wanted you to give in and let her win. Today, she wants a challenge. Follow your child's lead. Sometimes she wants to build her confidence, other days she wants to see herself tested. Let her decide.

Participate consciously. Even if you're exhausted, even if you're sore, even if you've worked all day, even if you've already spent the entire day together- be present when you play. Conscious playing fills a child's need for your attention and fills his feelings of worthiness and importance in the world. Often, once he's full, he can play on his own for even longer periods of time, especially as he gets older. And if you aren't able to do this for extended periods, set time aside everyday (even if its only ten minutes!) and play fully and actively with your child.

This is a child's world. Play is her world. This is how she learns, how she processes and understands, how she participates. Respect that. This is her way of relating. Respect that. Even if you are not in a mood to play too, respect that this is her work in the world right now.

For me, the best part of Playful Parenting is how little I really knew beforehand. The more I know, the more I thrive and enjoy parenting. Before reading this, I had some basic concepts- play is important, interaction in play is really important, find toys that allow for imagination (which typically means avoiding anything with the phrase "requires AA batteries"). I'm home with Dory everyday, we play for seventy percent of it (at least), and I hoped this book might give me some ideas on how to shake our play up. I revel in having my expectations blown away.

Playful Parenting is rich with insights into our children, how their minds work, how they communicate and what they need from us to thrive and grow. Just an exceptional read. And for the little bit of information I've posted here, I've barely brushed the surface.

It's definitely a Good Mama read.

And, there are so many more good books to go. Currently, I'm reading Naomi Aldort's Raising Our Children, Raising Ourselves and I can't wait to write more about it. Another amazing, amazing book. Also on the list: The Hurried Child, which was first popular when I was a wee one and is still much talked about today (that's promising), Free Range Kids and Hold Onto Your Kids. There are so many exceptional, thinking people writing about children and yet so few naptimes and late nights in which to read. I would have started years ago if I had any idea how interesting and amazing this parenting-thing would be...

Tuesday, February 9, 2010

Not the Only One

At an AP playgroup last week, another mother surprised me with her question to the group. She wanted to know if any of us ever had "those flashes" when you see something bad happening, some absurd yet horrifying accident involving your child. The flash (a perfect description, I think) does not actually happen, but catches you off guard and leaves you working to breathe, and let it go.

Who knew I wasn't the only one?

I thought these flashes must be a consequence of my environment, my own upbringing, the way my mind works... Who knew this happens to, maybe not all, but so many mothers?

Sitting together at the bottom of the stairs, I see her toppling, head first into the hard floor below. Buckling her into her car seat, I'm seized by an image of a car slamming into the passenger door and can feel the scream in my throat. Holding her on my hip, while I scramble eggs on the stove, a scene plays through my mind where she reaches down and grabs hold of the hot pan in her small, tender fist.

All these weird, startling, heart-stopping images- they're rare but powerful. They happen in seconds, bursting through my brain like a train through a house, racing through as speedily and leaving just as much damage to my mental interior, and wrecking my heart entirely. Even writing about them, my chest tightens and I realize I'm holding my breath. I'm left with the question: do these thoughts serve me?

I watch Dory and see a natural confidence, an enthusiasm for exploration and adventure radiating from her. She's bold and brave. She loves to stand in the rocking chair, lean forward, look over the edge and then pull back, while I watch from the floor. She loves to walk down the stairs, holding an adult's hands. She loves to stroll the aisles of the grocery store, and run around the park, always glancing back to check Matt or I are there. I've realized, she's adventurous, not stupid. She doesn't want to fall out of the chair, she doesn't want to get lost at the park, she is as aware of us as we are of her, most of the time.

So I am trying to keep my mouth shut. This is not easy. I could, if I put even a little effort into it, see terrors at every corner. I could be frightened and worried constantly. I could voice my concern all the time, turning my worry into the soundtrack of our lives and making both of us tense and anxious. But watching her, I know, that isn't the path I want to guide her down. I admire her outgoing and brave soul. Bumps happen. Bruises, hurts, tears. They all happen. But "bones heal faster than timidity and fearfulness" Dr. Cohen points out in Playful Parenting and that's the mindset I want to develop.

Back to these flashes. I don't think they're here to drive me crazy. I don't think their purpose is to send me rushing to the nearest padded room with Dory tossed, fireman-style, over my shoulder, where we can wait out all the dangers. I'm choosing to see them as the question my mind poses: where are you right now? Are you present? Are you HERE?

Often yes, sometimes no. But maybe those flashes, maybe they're built into the DNA, and maybe their very existence is Nature's way of keeping us mothers aware. We are not all-knowing. We cannot be all places at once. We cannot stop every little danger. But can I be totally available, physically and mentally, when she and I are together? Can I, with effort (such effort for a million-thoughts-a-moment person like myself), be just here, just now, with her, watching, enjoying and, yes, keeping an eye out, supporting her exploration of this big, bright world around her?

Maybe I'm reaching. Maybe it's a stretch. But so far, everything I've read about Mother Nature, from wanting to breastfeed my child to her sleeping cuddled up next to me, has been true. We're made with these instincts. They might be trained or cajoled or bullied out of us over time, but I believe we are born with knowledge of how to care for our children.

And I've decided to think these flashes are part of it. I've decided to make friends with them, to remember to breathe when they happen, and to let them pass. And to ask myself, when one has seized hold of me and then bolted just as abruptly as it came- Where am I right now?

Whatever the reason, its always so reassuring to know I'm not the only one.

Sunday, January 31, 2010

The Littlest Reader

The napping schedule around here is fairly loose. Typically I nurse her down in bed anywhere between one and three and she'll sleep for one to two hours. Dory brings books to naptime, carrying a stack in her short, sturdy arms and saying "booksss, booksss, booksss." We'll read a few different ones, several times over (can you call yourself well read when you read "The Very Hungry Catepillar" and "Night-Night Little Pookie" several dozen times a week?) before she's good and dozy. When she wakes up she gives one short, loud cry that lets us know to come get her. I think she's so accustomed to us responding quickly to her, it doesn't take more than that.

This is the the foundation to what happened yesterday.

Dory and I read a stack of books and she fell asleep. Fast forward to an hour and a half later. Matt and I were in the playroom and heard some noises from the monitor. Dory stirring. Then... quiet. A few minutes later... rustling. Then... quiet. This went on for nearly fifteen minutes before I had to know what was going on. Walked into the bedroom and saw this...


Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Help Haiti and Books and Back Packs!

First- over here at This Mama Rocks, she's running a great silent auction. All proceeds go straight to the Red Cross to help Haiti. She has lots of creative and cool family-friendly products up for auction. I'm bidding on the Mama Rocks Nursing Necklace and a Head Organics bath set. The auction ends this Saturday, Jan 30, so get over there quick!

Now on to- babywearing back in action! We've used our Beco Backpack off and on in the last few weeks (Dory sees it and announces "ba-pa"), but I thought I'd pull out our wrap and give it a try. This one is a Hopp (long) and quite comfy, though I'm still fiddling to get it just right.

She fell asleep there while I did the dishes. Hooray for babywearing!

And now- I thought I would mention some of the amazing parenting books I've come across lately. That topic sounds limited, but, oh no, my friend, oh no. My experience thus far- I'm learning about everything through these books. What inspires and motivates children, how adults treat them (or us, if you consider from the point of view of your own childhood), what these interactions show, how we can be better and more, not just to our little ones, but to ourselves, our families, our friends, our world. Sounds heavy only because it is. But they've all been such great reads, insightful, illuminating and so helpful. Or to put it this way, if you were ever a child, I expect any one of these books would catch your attention and make you think. Two of my favorites...

Lu Hanessian's "Let the Baby Drive." (All of these books are in my sidebar and you can follow the links to Amazon to "peek inside" most of them.) I think any parent would enjoy this book, but especially those of the five-and-under crowd. What a rich and insightful read about her experience as a first (and then second) time mother and her attached, intuitive approach to parenting. Learning to trust her baby, learning to trust herself, the changes to her relationships with her husband, her mother, her friends, interacting with other mothers- Ms. Hanessian hits all these subjects with a tender and genuine honesty that moved me. Add to the mix, she's a gifted writer and this goes straight to the top of my must-read list.

Barbara Nicholson and Lysa Parker's "Attached at the Heart." These adventurous, exceptional women founded Attachment Parenting International more than fifteen years ago and here is the book that expounds on the meaning and intentions of our amazing group. I had the great fortune to meet them both at the API Celebration in Nasvhille last year (read about that here) and they were warm, friendly, and kind. Exactly like their book. Read it! And come over to the AP side...

And that's where we are today. Help! Wear Your Baby! And Read!

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Not Yo Ordinary Breastfeeding...

Before I started this post, I went to, a great and well-regarded site on breastfeeding, looking for statistics on the number of babies in America who breastfeed past the age of one. Than I remembered, I don't really care. My guess? Not many. Under 10% I'd bet (again, in America) and that's probably shooting high. While I've done my reading on the benefits of extended breastfeeding (of course it has a name- doesn't everything these days?), I'm not going to report that here. This is more of a what-works-for-us approach. And as a nursing mother of a bright, bounding, brilliant toddler, I thought I'd share some experiences here.

Thoughts on nursing a toddler... this is not your infant nursing. Those first six or so months, breastfeeding was a quiet time, a peaceful time, Dory still fit neatly in my arms, we gazed at one another or slept together while she nursed. This was a rich experience for the two of us and for Matthew as he often sat next to us, watching Dory's face as her expression relaxed, her eyes closed, she became dreamy, and eventually slept. We were serene, filled with love and tenderness. Those are the words I would use.

At the time, I might have also called it: intense. Constant. Demanding. No one else could provide what I had (especially as Dory wanted nothing to do with a bottle). She nursed on demand and her demands could be high. That is the other side. But, now, in that dreamy way we all have when we move farther away from a certain period in life, I mainly remember how calm and loving our nursing time was. And stationary. Very stationary.

No longer. My nursing toddler is a child on the GO. When she was smaller and I would settle down to feed her, I tried to remember, bring a glass of water, a good book, a snack, wear something comfortable- you're going to be here for a while New Mama. Now my main thought? Lady, hold onto those boobs.

Dory still breastfeeds on demand, but it can be anywhere from a half-hour nurse to bed to a thirty second drive-by.

She can nurse: sitting, laying down, kneeling, standing, bending over, kicking one leg to the back (then switching sides), draped across my belly, performing baby yoga, and sometimes even dashing across the room.

There is no understanding of modesty. For her, that is. Regarding my modesty. She happily yanks up my shirt or thrusts her arm down it, tugs at my bra straps, unzips my coat. She'll find a pillow, settle on the floor, and pat the space next to her, seeming to say, c'mon Mama, let's get this dinner going. Too bad we're in her grandparents' living room. If given her druthers, she likes the whole chest-area available, (buffet-style, you might say), but this typically only happens at bedtime, when she and I are cuddled in bed and I'm just glad to be sitting in one place for longer than two minutes.

The cuddle time. That's my favorite, when I hold her in my arms, she taking up all of my lap, nursing happily, and gazing up at me with such total trust in her eyes. Sometimes I'll make silly faces and she'll smile. The tenderness in that moment is inexpressible.

For us, there is so much value in this relationship, this extended breastfeeding. There is an immediate comfort for her- this is something she knows. In this world where she has- how many new experiences a day? Dozens? Hundreds? Thousands? Who could say for sure? This is something dependable, faithful. Even our relationship, maybe especially our relationship, shifts and changes all the time. She tests boundaries, limits, possibilities, her own power. As she gets bigger, more mobile, more independent, more adventurous, this- the safety of her mother's breasts- is still a constant. The power of a comfort zone is a rich and heady thing when your world grows exponentially every single day.

A friend of mine, when I asked her about nursing her eighteen month old, expressed it this way: "She has an emotional connection to breastfeeding. As she gets older, she won't need this anymore, but right now this is still a need. I wouldn't feel right taking that away from her." That sums it up for me.

But for anyone who would like more reasons for prolonged nursing (scientific ones, not my woo-woo, namby-pamby, follow-your-gut stuff) you can read up on benefits here. Excellent info. For more on this method termed "child-led weaning" API gives a good, brief description here. And for La Leche League's thoughts(THE authority in breastfeeding) on the subject bop over here.

And for any mamas out there, thinking, "just us?" you're not alone! We have surrounded ourselves with like-minded mamas, most following along on this "extended" schedule, past six months, nine months, a year, and beyond. I think I speak for Dory and I both when I say: Power to the nummies!

Monday, January 18, 2010

This Post Brought to You by the Letter 'P'

Dory's vocabulary grows in the most interesting ways. I expected it to run along the lines: daddy, mommy (OK, maybe I hoped it would by mommy, daddy, but either way...), doggie, bath, I want to go to the park, I'm going to a movie with my friends where are the car keys...

Turns out, learning how to speak a first language is a bit slower, more erratic, and far more entertaining than I imagined. I've seen friends with their children, translating, with a parent's expert ear, conversation that is totally alien to me. Dory has been no different. What I consider perfectly formed words might still be incomprehensible to your man on the street. To my mind, she has a list of words that she's more than mastered now. Some are traditional: daddy, dat (that), doggie, bat (bath), ucks (yucky) and, most recently, mommy. Some I did not expect that she just loves to say are: duck and sock. All day long, socks come off and on from the joy of announcing "shhhock" as she tugs them off her plump little feet. And she absolutely thrills anytime she can point out a "duc-K, duc-K, duc-K." She knows a few of her friends' names: Ike (Isaac), Emme (Ember), and Lana (Alana, and, technically, the name of her friend's mother, but still). Favorite problem word? Uh-oh.

By far, though, what sends her quick, bright mind into frenzied delight: the letter 'P.' Anything with the letter 'P.' Appa (apple). Hipa (hippo). Pwoops (oops). Pot (Spot, based on her favorite literary character). Pata (pasta). Pei-pei (pee-pee). Po-hee (potty). Pway (play). She's even tried piwhoa (pillow).

I did not foersee how important language would be right about now. She's almost eighteen months and Matthew and I are realizing, she understands a lot. I mean, A LOT. We-have-stop-saying-that-word a lot. We started to notice it around fourteen months. She seemed to understand us beautifully. Her brilliant parents? Not so much. This was the trouble. We couldn't understand her and this was incredibly frustrating for all parties, as she would speak traditional toddler "eh-eh-eh" (sometimes accompanied by pointing) and Matt and I took turns trying to figure it out holding out random items and saying "this? you want this?" I noticed, we were treating her the way a lot of Americans in foreign countries behave: speaking LOUDLY and slooooowly. It wasn't pretty and not, probably, our best moments as parents, though we were trying.

Then- dum-dum-dum-DUM!- inspiration struck. Sign language! Our friend, the aforementioned Alana, started teaching her daughter sign language when she was about four months old. By one year, her child could sign almost one hundred different signs and understood almost twice as many. Yep. World domination is next on her baby's list. I marveled at watching her sign different animals, wanting to go up or down, play on the swings or the slide eat crackers or cheese. It was amazing.

We started on a much, much smaller scale with a few signs for Dory, the ones we could remember and that seemed to be important for her to communicate. Eat (as in "do you want some food?"). Milk ("or would you prefer some milk?"). More. Thank you. Oh, and bear (that was all Matthew, big Chicago fan that he is- and let me tell you, Dory cannot see a bear without enthusiastically signing it, probably her favorite sign to date).

Now we're to the point where she shows us when she's hungry, wants to play, wants to sleep, wants Mama (by signing milk), and she's even made up her own sign for color which is to wave her hand through the air like she's writing (right now, Granny Suzanney is murmuring, "Baby Genius, like I told you...")

My thoughts on signing? Absolutely worth it. If there's a Baby Two, we'll start much earlier. What a relief and pleasure to communicate with her without it dissolving into tears (on her part) or behaving like monkeys at the zoo (that would be Matthew and I). We picked up a book from the library on Baby Signs and took off. I've even wondered if the signs have helped with her language because we waste less time trying to figure out what she wants and spend more time talking to her like the interested and brilliant little person she is.

And for any of you wondering, yes, Dory has said her first curse word. The one that rhymes with "sit." And, yes, she has on several occasions pulled it out and said it a few times, just to practice, I guess.

And yes, it was Mommy who slipped and said it. Thank you very much.

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

I Get By With a Little Help...

Well, you know the song.

Tonight was our second monthly Mom's Night Out and an even bigger success than the first. A group of us mothers, about six to eight of us, from our local Attachment Parenting Group formed a weekly playgroup a few months ago, to give our little ones more time together and ourselves a chance to visit. That idea took off and it didn't take long (only two months or so- we're a bright group) to decide another off-shoot might be a mother's night out. Our first dinner came together hastily and with great enthusiasm shortly before the holidays and here we are, not even halfway through January, with a second one behind us.

And it is such a good time. We meet at a casual restaurant (they must serve adult beverages- this is a MUST- even if those of us partaking are limited to one or two glasses) and chat, catch up, and talk about everything but our children.

Wait- no- that's some other group. We talk almost exclusively about our children. Our husbands. Our families. And the childcare books we're reading, teachers we're listening to, parenting questions we field, criticisms we handle- we run the gamut of everything child-related and I absolutely love it.

There is, I've discovered, a surprising depth to the relationships I have with these women. I didn't know a one of them before Dory. I couldn't tell you where most of them were born, how they grew up, favorite color or even their ages. Yet our children threw us into this ocean of mothering together and we have gravitated to one another. When we do get together, like tonight, the immediate familiarity is surprising and very, very comforting. We're beyond the early stages, beyond the "how does she sleep?" "when did he start solids?" type of questions. The fast intimacy of motherhood leads us to meaningful and genuine conversation that energizes and strengthens me. We are, I feel so strongly, in this together.

I have had the good fortunate of really good friendships in my life, with Matthew, my parents, people I grew up with, people I've met in other places, people with similar passions and interests. And I'm just so glad parenthood proved no different; I'm so glad I know these other women all with children born within a few months of Dory (a cosmic coincidence? I think not) who are genuine and open and relatable. I feel grounded after a playgroup or a dinner. Of any of these women, I might never learn a favorite movie, first job, or political party, but, in our own way, there are few people I will ever be closer to than this group, this tribe of amazing mothers and women I'm so glad to call friends.

Sunday, January 10, 2010

Play? Play? Play?

If you happened to wander through our house yesterday, here's what you would have noticed... Upstairs, at the top of the landing, two Christmas cookie trays, with orange peels scattered on and around them... Downstairs, on the living room floor, all the library books for the week in two piles and a bag with legos... On the dining room table, a fat Sesame Street coloring book (with the cover torn off) and a big plastic baggie filled with crayons... And in the kitchen, dish towels and dishcloths scattered all around the floor.

What did all these mysterious items signify?

Well. The orange peel (from breakfast) was a game she invented, where Dory and I took turns tossing pieces onto the Christmas cookie trays. The books were from a little reading we had done that morning. We built with the blocks, but mainly we experimented with putting all the blocks into the bag then dumping them all over the floor again. For twenty minutes or so she sat in her high chair and I sat on the other side, and we colored. The dishtowels, that was from her mid-morning snack, when I asked her to get a towel out of the cabinet which I spread out on the floor like a small picnic blanket. Dory then pulled five more dish towels and cloth napkins out and spread them all around the floor herself.

That was one morning's worth of play for us. What was neat, I thought, about it, surveying, the tremendous mess we could make in about two and a half hours, was the common denominator: teamwork. Whether we used an item designated, by being large, colorful and costing thirty times what it took to make, a "toy" or a mundane item from around the house that Dory deemed a toy, we had a great time because we were using it together.

Right now feels very intense, in how much she's going, doing and exploring, all while wanting someone (myself, her dad, a grandparent) very involved in the play. In The Discipline Book Dr. Sears explains in "the time between the ages of fourteen and eighteen months... the high energy toddler wants to do everything, but he still needs mother involved 'big time.'" We are definitely at that stage. And I've realized, while I can sneak five minutes here on the laptop or ten minutes at the stove while she plays on the floor next to me, this is another time to just Go With It (words I'm thinking about tattooing across my forehead) and PLAY. There is something incredibly fulfilling about letting go (not minding this blog will take me several hours to post, based on how often I can sneak back for two minutes), getting over it (there is mess wherever we go- there just IS) and giving myself up to this time in her life. In the same way she needed commitment as a newborn to be nursed and held almost constantly, she needs commitment that someone is willing to explore this great, big, wild world with her. And as enter into her seventeenth month, I'm finally getting it- I might be a slow learner, but I do get there. So after one morning's worth of serious play, the house is mildly wrecked, I'm still in my pajamas, and haven't brushed my hair or teeth and Dory is absolutely delighted and looking for another room to trash- I mean explore. And it was a seriously good time.

I take comfort from the Sears when they write: "Hang in there through eighteen months" because your child will start to play and imagine all on his own for longer stretches of time. And when they explain "by the time your child is six... [he} will check in for breakfast, be out the door, check in for lunch, and be gone again" I try not to dissolve into tears. This parenting thing- it's a mess, isn't it?

Friday, January 8, 2010

Presenting... Presents!

Pictures I know a lot of people have been waiting for... Christmas shots!

These are highly abbreviated. This girl, between Matthew and I, our family here and our family in Texas, had FOUR Christmases. That's not a joke or the latest Vince Vaughn holiday film.

Dory had a grand day. She loved opening her gifts, they never seemed to overwhelm her and she wasn't even bothered by the constant flash of cameras going off.

(a baby grand piano- in pink)

(a rocking horse)

(a piggy bank- a wise thought in these trying economic times)

(monkey hat- fashionable and warm)

(another piggy bank, this one shaped like a Chicago Bears helmet)

(a pic of the abundance of gifts)

(stacking blocks)

(more blocks)

("Good Night Moon"- the glow-in-the-dark puzzle)

(Dory inside the chute off the side of the indoors tent- that's right a TENT- she got)

So Dory, this is your second Christmas- how do you feel about that haul?

That's what I thought.

Merry Christmas, Happy New Year, and, I'd like to personally thank all Dory's grandparents and her great-(and cool!) grandmother for doing their part to bolster the economy. It was good work by you all.