A Year of Growth

DJ and I took a walk with Bryce today, and we had a chance to talk and reflect on the last year.  In some respects, it feels like it has been about five years, but in other ways it has really flown!  Bryce of course had many, many milestones.  Last year, he was still a chubby little baby, and now he looks more and more like a little boy every day.  DJ and I both had some major personal and interpersonal growth.  We had to relearn how to be a couple in the midst of navigating parenthood, as well as figuring out our individual new identities and roles.  Ten years ago, DJ and I were waking up late from an amazing Cinderella-like New Year’s Eve at the Kennedy Center.  I had JUST discovered Orff Schulwerk,  I was still scarred from teaching middle school, I was so in love with DJ and we were less than two months away from getting engaged.  I definitely feel much older and wiser at the close of this year, but life is so, so good, and I wouldn’t change it for anything.

Some major events and memories for me this past year:

I successfully nursed Bryce until he self-weaned at 13 months.

I presented two sessions at the Denver AOSA conference.

I was invited to teach a summer Orff Level 1 course at Winthrop University.

I had a miscarriage.

I joined a playgroup.

I quit a playgroup.

I reached out to a random mom I met at Wegman’s, and we are becoming really good friends!

I met all my neighbors while out walking with Bryce.

I discovered FlyLady.net, decluttered my life, and reclaimed my sanity.

I made it out to Mobtown Ballroom a handful of times, but discovered that I don’t miss dancing as much as I thought I would.

I learned how to grill pizza.

I maintained my health and my weight, in spite of having a baby (and in spite of learning to grill pizza.)

I found my first gray hair.

I got my 25 year waterski club trophy at Woodloch.

Running finally felt good again.

I still really love my husband, not quite the same way as I did at the Kennedy Center on New Year’s Eve ten years ago, but with less flash and more depth.

Some Bryce memories I don’t want to forget:

Nursing him; the hardest and most rewarding thing I’ve done.  I was sad when he weaned without me really realizing it, but I got some closure when he signed “Milk” while watching me put my bottles and pumping equipment away.  There were three sad little bags of pumped milk in the freezer.  I defrosted them, and he drank them all up, signing “milk” the whole time.

Bryce’s signing taking off after his first birthday.

Bryce singing “Uh Oh” along with Pink’s “Just Give Me A Reason” and totally getting down to “Blurred Lines,” “Lucky Strike,” and “Light ‘Em Up.”  He would say “Yay!” every time he heard a song he likes on the radio.

Taking his first few steps at the Lilly Reunion.

The gigantic poop explosion on the way home from the Lilly reunion (maybe I’d rather forget that….)

Bryce saying “Grandma!” every time he saw my cell phone.

Bryce saying “Hi!” to everyone we see at the grocery store and out walking.

Many, many miles logged on his pushtrike.

Bryce saying “Ball! Ball!” while picking up big green walnuts at the playground.

Meeting my neighbor, Maureen, and her grandson Owen at the tot lot.

Bryce saying “Uh Oh” and alerting us whenever we forgot to latch a cabinet lock.

One snacktime, I was singing “Bryce likes to eat grapes grapes grapes” to the tune of Wheels on the Bus, and he totally on his own inserted “Bar bar bar!” because I was eating a granola bar.

When he first learned how to give kisses.

He is such a sweet, friendly, playful little guy, and I am really treasuring this time with him.  I can’t wait to see what 2014 brings!



Christmas Traditions

We’ll be spending our first Christmas at home this year!  It only took my giving birth to finally allow us to celebrate in our own home.  For a few years, we didn’t even bother decorating because we would spend most of the holidays on the road bouncing between extended families.  Bryce is much more aware this year, and I am really looking forward to building some holiday traditions with my little family!  Some of the things I’m excited about:

Symphony of Lights:  This is a mile and a half of christmas light displays that you can drive through.  There are some times that you can walk through as well, the Dazzle Dash run, and the Blinking Binkies stroller walk.  I took Bryce to Blinking Binkies this year, and he loved chilling in the stroller eating grapes and looking at all the lights.

Washington Christmas Revels:  Every year this group puts on a sort of Madrigal Feast, sharing holiday music, dancing, and traditions from around the world.  I’ve only attended once, but it was absolutely magical and transporting.  My master plan when Bryce is old enough is for DJ, Bryce, and myself to audition and actually perform in the production!  What a fun family experience!

Carol Singalong:  When I was a child, my mom would host a carol sing for all the neighbors on our street.  Everyone would come over, eat goodies, and then we’d sit in the living room and sing Christmas songs.  Fostering community music making is one of my passions, and this is a tradition that I am really excited to continue!  I’m hosting my first one this year, and I am in the process of creating a website with all the lyrics and piano/guitar chords so attendees can access them from their tablet or smartphone.  I don’t mess around when it comes to Christmas music.  😉

Cookies:  I don’t think I will be quite as extravagant with the amount and selection of holiday baked goods as my mom was, but I do want to make some goodies for the season!  Bryce is starting to be interested in standing on a chair at the kitchen counter to watch my food preparation activities (and to unload  and reload the silverware drawer) and it is only a matter of time before I attempt to make a yogurt cake with him!

Giving Back:  Our church offers many opportunities to help out the community during Christmas; Angel Tree, breakfast for the local homeless shelter, music and puppet ministry, and other things too.  As Bryce gets older, I really want to involve him in some service projects so that he can focus on helping others as much as the Santa Claus/gift getting part of the season.

I can already feel our family life starting to blossom.  It is so wonderful to BE where we are and ENJOY the holiday season instead of worrying about packing, traveling, and surviving the holiday season!

Beginning to Discipline

And so it begins!  No longer is Bryce a sweet chubby little lump who lies on his back and bats benignly at objects.  He is On the Move and On a Mission to explore anything and everything!  We have done a pretty thorough job of babyproofing the house, so there isn’t anything that would cause him harm, or any irreplaceable valuables within reach.  However, there are definitely limits that need to be set for acceptable behavior!

I have the advantage (?) of having been hardened by 10 years of teaching elementary school, so I know all too well the children who were so cute that their parents didn’t deny them anything.  I will admit that it is definitely difficult to remain steadfast when you see this:


However, I am determined that he will not be one of those kids that people think “He’s adorable, but he’s SUCH a brat!”

I started doing my homework while Bryce was still a baby.  I read and re-read The Happiest Toddler on the Block by Harvey Karp and Simplicity Parenting by Kim Payne, both AMAZING resources!  I browsed Pinterest for ideas.  I brainstormed some basic rules and behaviors that I wanted to reinforce, and I talked with DJ to make sure that he was on board (Memorize this response: ‘Ask Your Mother.”)  😉   I wanted to make sure I had a bag of tricks and a plan in place, so that when the time came I was ready to jump right in.  I am such a teacher it’s not even funny.

So far, things are going really well!  I wouldn’t say that the Terrible Twos are in full swing, so I’m not relaxing and patting myself on the back just yet, but I feel like we are laying a solid foundation for managing behavior in the future.

Here are some things that are working really well for me:

1. Baby Signing Time.  Number One recommendation for reducing fussiness!  Bryce is just beginning to verbalize things, but with his signing vocabulary he can tell me what he wants for snack, if he wants his blanket or pacifier, when he wants music on, when he wants to go outside, if he needs help, if he has a dirty diaper.  I feel like signing has made him a more sociable baby as well.  Other kids at the playground are very self-involved, but I think because Bryce is used to looking at people for communication cues, he walks around and tries to interact with everyone.  All I did was buy the Baby Signing Time DVDs and let him watch them.  I had to relax my “No Screen Time Before Two” standards, but it was totally worth it.

2.  Time Outs. This comes from my Happiest Toddler reading.  If Bryce is tantrumming or doing something he shouldn’t, he gets a slow count of 3, or a redirection, depending on the situation.  If he continues to fuss or misbehave, I take him up to his crib and leave him alone (with the light on and the door open) for 1-2 minutes.  This is AMAZINGLY effective.  Now, if he starts to throw a fit, 80% of the time if I count to three, he will calm himself down.  When we put up the Christmas tree, he started playing with the tree skirt and wearing it like a cape.  When he continued to mess with it even after I offered him another toy, I gave him a time out, and he hasn’t touched it since.  The Happiest Toddler book offers lots of other suggestions for managing behavior as he gets older, but right now, time-outs are working well.

3.  Setting a schedule up for success.  Simplicity Parenting talks about the concept of “pressure valves,” and how people need to balance periods of stress and activity with periods of rest and recharging.   I know I get cranky if I’m sleepy or hungry, or have been running myself ragged, so I try to make sure Bryce is in a state of homeostasis before I unleash him on the world!  I usually plan errands around Bryce’s sleep/meal schedule, either after breakfast, or after his nap and lunch.  I make a plan, I try not to take more than an hour and a half, and I always take a sippy cup and a finger-food snack just in case.  If we have a busy afternoon with a playdate, errands, or a class, we’ll keep the morning low key, or vice versa.  Simplicity Parenting offers other suggestions for reducing stress and overstimulation that can lead to tantrums and misbehavior.  I feel like many of the suggestions given in the book can help adults to reduce stress in their lives as well, whether or not they have kids!

Giving Bryce a way to communicate his needs, gently but firmly establishing my parental authority, and setting him up for good behavior by working with his schedule have really helped to keep him (and Mommy!) happy and balanced.  I hope that I can continue to build a strong relationship of respect and love on this basic foundation!

Thanksgiving Thoughts on Food

I am so excited to be hosting my first Thanksgiving at home! I love cooking, but I especially love putting together fancy meals and feasts like Thanksgiving dinner.  As much as I try to tell myself that food is fuel, it isn’t as simple as that.  There is definitely a Food=Love philosophy that is ingrained in my upbringing.

In addition to enjoying the food itself, there is so much sensory joy that comes from the preparation.  Feeling the textures of crinkly kale, smelling herbs and spices as you measure and chop, listening to the sizzle of oil, and planning out your preparation so that everything is done at once.

Then there is the joy that comes from cooking for others.  Much like knitting a prayer shawl, where the maker prays intentionally while knitting the fabric, cooking for friends and family makes me take extra care with my recipe as I think about the health and enjoyment that my food will bring them.   Preparing and sharing a meal with special people is one of my favorite things to do. Few things bring me more happiness than savoring a good meal while savoring the company of loved ones.

This is why Thanksgiving is my favorite holiday.  The focus is on the people you love, sitting and sharing a meal together.  Such a simple thing, but a such a huge blessing.  Happy Thanksgiving to everyone!

Just a Year Ago

I went jogging around the lake with Bryce when I got home from work today.  It was a gorgeous fall day with a chill in the air and a bright blue sky.


I loaded him up in the stroller with a snack cup of cheerios while he said “Yaaaay!!!”  and “Brrrrroooom Brrrroooom.”  As we ran down the path, he said “Runrunrun!  Runrunrun!”  going fast down the hills,  and “Da     Da    Da     Da”  (trip trap trip trap) as we crossed the wooden bridges.  He barked at all the dogs we saw, echoed the calls of the blue jays and crows, and greeted everyone on the path with a bright and cheery “Hi!”   I felt energized and strong as we sped down the path, and I had a sudden flashback to last year at this time:

I was exhausted from waking up to nurse 2-4 times a night.

It was painful to run because my hips were still out of whack from being pregnant.

Bryce was so small he could barely sit up in the stroller yet.

I would walk around the lake with Bryce in the Boba carrier on my chest, and he would usually fall asleep.  I would rub his back, play with his toes, and smell his soft little head as we plodded around the lake.  Every time we got to the steep hill by the dam, I would take a DEEEEEEEEP breath in, reminding myself that even though I was still carrying a baby around, at least I had my full lung capacity back!


What a difference a year makes!  My body finally remembers how great it feels to run (even with a gigantic stroller!)  My sweet, chubby, sleepy baby is now a sweet little boy who looks with wonder at the world around him (and squawks in protest as we run by the playground without stopping.)   The days are long, but the years are short…


A Morning with Bryce

Bryce is an early riser.  There was a period of time where he would wake up at 5am (or before!) ready to go, but thankfully he’s evened out and now sleeps in until 6 or even 6:30.  I never considered myself a morning person, but now I don’t really have a choice.  Pre-6:00 wakeups are still kind of painful, but I’ve actually grown to enjoy my morning time with lil B.

I set my alarm for 6:15 on workdays, but I rarely need it.  The monitor on my night stand rouses me when it starts to broadcast “Hi! Whoo whoo! Arf arf arf!”  from Bryce’s room.  He has a stuffed dog in his bed and an owl-shaped clock on his wall, and he never fails to greet his friends every morning.  =)

I take 5 minutes to do my morning routine and then open the door to his room.  “Hi!  Hi!”  He is usually sitting up in his crib snuggling his blanket, and he stands up and begins frantically signing “Eat!  Eat!”  when I walk in the door.  He is warm and snuggly, and I always take a minute to cuddle him and smootch his chubby cheeks.


I’ll spare you the details of what I usually find in his diaper.

I carry him downstairs, and he walks around lifting his hands and grandly singing “Ta Daah!!” as I turn on lights.  I begin to empty the dishwasher as I heat up his breakfast, and sometimes he helps by handing me the dishes from the bottom rack.  (I frantically snatch all the knives from the silverware rack when I hear his little feet padding into the kitchen.)

I set him up in his highchair with his breakfast, and he immediately signs “Music,” looking pointedly at the radio.  I usually attempt to start off mellow with my Nickel Creek Pandora station, but baby boy digs the funk.  He protests until I start up Robin Thicke or Justin Timberlake, although sometimes we can meet in the middle with Coldplay.

I’ll make my coffee and light a candle on the table while he enjoys his food, saying “Yum yum yum!  Mmmmmmmm…” He’s definitely his mother’s son!  We watch the birds and squirrels on the deck, and talk about our plan for the rest of the day.  If it’s a workday, I’ll go give DJ his first wake-up poke (it usually takes at least 3) and start gathering my things. If it’s an off day, I’ll clean  Bryce up and head out for some playground time before I start morning chores.

There are some mornings that do not go like this.  Some mornings, he wakes up screaming, smelling of poo, refusing to eat his breakfast, and can’t decide whether he wants up, down, or neither.  But, whether relaxing routine, or battle of wills, I try to cherish every morning I have with my special little boy!