Monthly Archives: July 2013

Adventures with My Little Lady #3: Beach Day!

“Help! Can you help me?!!” Me. Shouting imploringly in the lifeguard’s direction. Frantic. Fearful. Because my very adventurous three-year-old daughter is fearless, has been encouraged by her Momma repeatedly and with reinforcement that she can do anything if she believes that she can, and because she has a dive-right-in personality. (Literally, for this occasion.) No hesitation. No second-guessing herself. No limitations from either inward or outward. I usually love this about her and perpetuate these qualities that seem to be a natural part of who she is. But, when one important variable has suddenly changed (leaving the stability of land for the uncertainty of water; an overly brave trade-off in the elements, especially when you’ve no formal experience), all that is admirable about her all of the other days of the year, turns absolutely frightening in a moment. The lack of control I had over the situation was accelerated by an absence of my own aquatic talents. Really, I have none. A pool is even a source of nervousness for me.

Welcome to our beach day!

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Really though, the slight but effective waves that quickly began to carry my water baby into the sea was the lowest point of the 2-3 hours that we spent at Sandy Point Beach in Annapolis, MD, on Wednesday, July 24, 2013, a day made possible by our good friend, D. A day that she and I looked forward to so immediately, that we borrowed a book from the library, in celebration…

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Ladybug Girl at the Beach by David Soman and Jacky Davis. This is an extremely cute series with heart, created by a husband-and-wife duo, inspired by their children. My ladybug and I recommend any of the titles in the series with high regard.

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Oh, right. My daughter’s fine. No one drowned on this day. (Not sure how I would calmly sit, think, write, eat my toast with peanut butter substitutes had such an unfortunate, untimely event occurred..) Lucky for us, maybe even serendipitous, we had stationed our belongings a few feet behind the lifeguard stand; little lady and I were a few feet in front of it when she dove right in, attempting to swim. Even though she scared us both so thoroughly (I know she had to be frightened by the look on her face after the lifeguard came to our aid), the rest of our time was largely a normal beach-going venture.

Well, if you consider 10 different beach patrons suffering the sting of the almighty jellyfish in the span of the aforementioned couple of hours as the norm, then..sure. I think it’s safe to say, that with waters full of such peril (by something that to me looks like an overly used, saturated, holey tissue  —  my reflection on what I observed once D pointed one out to me, warning me of its presence. I wish I had snapped a shot!) the jellies were in full form.

The female lifeguard that we inquired with about the state of the jellyfish informed us that the reason for the uptick of the jelly population that afternoon was simply due to the temperature of the water hoovering right around a range that is exactly to their liking. Funny, I also found the temperatures of the water — and the atmosphere as well, to be perfectly balanced, in synch. Shame I’m a horrendous swimmer. On second thought, our borderline translucent, clot-like companions were already much, much too close. Like a bad video game…gosh, imagine a video game of zombie jellyfish!…My mind works this way. From a fine summer day to the undead. {Shrugs.} So it is. May it be.

I only had awareness of one of the jellyfish attacks (ok, that phrasing just set an old, imagined black-and-white B-level film rolling in my noggin..), though it puzzles me how any of the other nine weren’t on my radar. The tally is only part of my knowledge because D, and another friend that was with us, J, told me. I suppose this was a bit of info from the lady lifeguard that I happened to not hear on my own. A  boy of about 7 — using my Mommy eyes to guess on his age — wailed his heart out for at least 20 minutes prior to my realizing that the poor kid had received — if you will — a killer kiss, a stinger smooch.

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In a seemingly peaceful aquatic atmosphere, lurks an Attack of the Zombie Jellyfish! The drama! The horror! The hoard invades the summer at a beach near you! (Seriously, though…too many jellyfish trying to be social with us humankind that day.)

Oh, now I recollect why zombies are kicking around in my gray matter. Toward the end of our time immersed in salty H²O where it and the sandy land meets, (me only just above calve-deep), the settled serenity surrounding us suddenly shattered when a hoard of roughly 30 children descended from an unknown spot on shore, into the sea, smack next to us. D compared it to a herd of zombie. It definitely felt that overwhelming. “Ahhhh! Too. Many. Children. CAN NOT COMPUTE!” screeched the psyche. We exited.

Sandy Point Beach has a fairly pleasing playground on premises, that I had noticed last year when we visited, but she was just a wee thing compared to now. I hadn’t brought it to her attention nearly 12 months ago. For this rendezvous, I would have been completely remiss to have knowledge of its existence and not share it with her. Following a soppy, complicated change of clothing in the odoriferous cavern of a lavatory, my little lady and I sojourned onward to said recreational haven.

A child at a playground is a child in a natural state of being. My girl, if she could, would visit and enjoy every play area there is on this planet if it were possible. (I’m sure of this desire, as she has told me that she wants to go play at Peppa Pig’s playground…which is a fictional location involving a fictional character, for those without children, and thus without having a reason to acquire this tidbit.) What an authentically minimal, effortless saving grace a playground is — and an opportunity for a parent to sigh and chill a bit. Yes, you still have to be tuned in enough to their whereabouts, but with fun as the mission, the responsibilities get dialed back for that limited while.

As she explored the bridges, steps, slides, and tunnels, I kept one eye on her and the other behind my camera. I love photography, and know enough to see an opportunity before me to strive for whatever befitting shots I could manage. I turned my lens on her several times, and she playfully ran from her Momma-paparazzi.

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Do you see the smiley face painted in white? (It took me several glances to notice.)

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A view from the playground; Birds perched atop a roof, nearby the playground (the look and feel of the moment appealed to me.)

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One of those same birds, strolling, possessing — in my opinion — some character. (I really like birds.)

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This angle offered an artsy perspective, and made me recall the film American Beauty.

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With the day progressing as they always quickly do, and three depleted adults, we located a picnic table with a reasonable reserve of shade (and an abundance of flies! grrr!) where we consumed a brief snack of two of my new favorite food items, prepared by yours truly: fruit salad and flavored cream cheeses (that we paired with original Wheat Thins, another thing I never tire of shoving into my mouth).

Honestly, and obviously all the sun and excitement tuckered out my little one. She speedily embraced a car nap mere minutes following our departure from Sandy Point. And even after a second (or was it third?) wind at home, dropped off to sleep soundly for the night on time.

How was Momma? Oh, man. Fatigued down to my bones. So much preparation goes into a day of fun. So much deconstruction follows. I plowed through unpacking, cleansing dirty dishes, putting away of unused items, and whatever else in front of me that needed attention. And issued myself an early bedtime, sleeping just as sound as my babe. Which of us was still feeling exhausted the next day? Of course. This gal.

Worth it? Naturally.

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Adventures with My Little Lady #2: Navigating a Trip to a Local Movie Theater and Mall

Confusion. Then, sadness. Friday’s adventure opened with a morning crisis, way before us two ladies were ever ready to set foot on pavement, when I asked my three-year-old if she knew where she last saw her sparkly, iridescent beaded bracelet. Her blank stare as she processed what I already realized was immediately followed by that slow break the human features go through as emotion swells up and releases itself. Ah, man…I really didn’t expect her to shed tears. Some sort of reaction, yes. But, the several waves of melancholy and longing that repeatedly came over her through the duration of our preparations for another day out bordered on unbearable.

After her initial response, a calm was present — either she or I managed to distract her with other tasks. While finishing tidying our kitchen, I overheard a quiet but abrupt sobbing coming from our living room. Absent-minded for a beat, a knee-jerk inquiry issued from me, as I dropped the dishtowel I was using, moving into the adjoining room: “Honey, what happened? Are you ok?” “I want my bracelet..” she softly replied, her small voice cracking. I winced at her distress, in complete disbelief that what ailed her escaped my thoughts so fleetingly. I hugged her to me, smoothing her darling ginger hair while gently reminding her that we were en route to the mall, where several accessory stores are available, vowing that we would search for a new bracelet that would, as closely as possible, replace the one that had been mislaid.

She seemed doubtful that this was a serviceable solution. Grappling for a cure for my babe’s bracelet bummer, I remembered that I had in my jewelry box several colorfully beaded, single-stranded elastic bracelets obtained 12 years on  — probably from a location of Claire’s — that I hadn’t worn once they began resembling ponytail holders. I offered her a look through, disclosing that I had had particular bracelets in mind, hers for the taking, as both a stopgap until we located something worthy of a few dollars, as well as permanent additions to her collection. This extra suggestion delivered my normally buoyant gal back, as she laid claim to most of what I put before her, slipping a portion of the bounty onto her wrists to don with the day’s outfit. Yay! Happy offspring, happy ma.

Woes adverted, she and I concluded gathering ourselves and hightailed it for the bus kiosk.

During this bus ride, she directed my attention to a large, yellow, circular fountain in operation on a well-manicured lawn at what appeared to be a public county building. I replied that it was a pretty yellow fountain. She asked to go see the fountain. I told her that we couldn’t as it wasn’t on our way to where we were going, and that I didn’t even know what use the building it was in front of had. I still don’t. My takeaway though, was that if it weren’t for her perspective, her ability to notice her surroundings in the way that she does, I might not ever have been aware of that fountain, as in my 11 years living in our area, I didn’t know it, its building or those particular grounds even existed.

Exiting the bus and briskly stepping onward to the AMC movie theater residing in the same expansive parking lot as the mall, it occurred to me for the second time already that we were both saturated —  the humidity made us appear as though we had dunked our heads in that fountain we passed on the way, and it was just a few minutes to noon.  (Our hair never recovered, retaining that slickness no matter how comfortable of a decrease in body temperature we managed.)

Nevertheless, nothing was stopping us from taking in Monsters University, which we were both excited for, but because I could not recall the last flick I had the privilege of viewing on public release, I may have been a dose more amped. To be fair, this was her first full-length experience, making this a very special memory regardless. The only comparison that she could have drawn was from the 15-minute 3D version of Happy Feet that the National Aquarium at Baltimore’s Inner Harbor was showing during the earlier part of this year, that we caught while visiting for her birthday in March. But, I don’t think any such realization came. At least not until I mentioned that previous acquaintance.

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The many charming characters of Monsters University, including Mike and my personal favorite, Sulley. (Next mall trip might require the procurement of a Sulley T-shirt…for me. Disney Store, you need to provide!)

Not too many weeks back, the Disney Channel ran Monsters, Inc. from 2001, which I had not seen during the release year as I still did not have any interest in animated films, and had little awareness of anything like it that existed, having been busy with the second half of my college career. The current version of myself jumped at the chance to record, then watch the prequel to this story over some home-popped corn side by side with my little woman. To say that I enjoyed it thoroughly as I laughed, as I cried, to say that it became one of my most adored movies overall before I even reached the mid-way point just isn’t justifiable.

With Monsters University then a mere few days away from hitting theaters, I also knew it was my duty to myself and as a mother to turn intent into reality and go see it! Come on – the return of John Goodman, Billy Crystal and Steve Buscemi with the supporting talents of Helen Mirren, Sean Hayes, Dave Foley, Charlie Day, Nathan Fillion, Aubrey Plaza, Bill Hader and John Krasinski..! Plus, the confidence that it would be a good story, and good in more than just one way.

My girl had many questions, and much squirm-factor as we stood in a line that, even though short on length required every ounce of our patience — humidity + a solo slow-moving ticket booth operator + two mothers up front, whose children were well-behaved, but the whole of them managed to pull off a time suck with complications I did not fully grasp. Once we held our tickets, I mentioned having to stop and hand them off to the ticket collector, to which I received a basic “why do we have to stop, momma?” “Because we have to give our tickets to the person near the door so they know we paid, and to direct us on which room of the theater to go,” was my response. Really, nothing makes you realize how much you take for granted the information that you’ve learned over time and stored away, causing you to feel like you’ve always understood as much as you do, quite like the inquisitiveness of a young mind.

Previously having alerted me to her desire for popcorn, we then did something that always seems senseless to me: stood in yet another line, and none other than that of the concession. Even with AMC’s nifty Stubs card in hand, just enrolled in moments prior, I flicked my eyes up, down and across the astronomical prices with weariness. More lead-induced service from the posted employees. Unwieldy portion sizes (the economy of it all won me over) and packaging. The saving grace: our theater room was just feet away.

Hoping that she was soon to be as comfortable as possible to facilitate the absolute best first movie, I allowed my daughter to lead me once we entered the room and choose our seats. Straight to the top she marched, solidly selecting the two end chairs. Previews were already rolling, so I told her that trailers for upcoming movies are always part of the film, as a way to be aware of what you might want to see during the coming months. A couple of them appealed to her (and yes, to me) including Disney’s Planes, in theaters August 8, which is designed just like Disney’s Cars that we have yet to see and Free Birds starring Owen Wilson, Woody Harrelson and Amy Poehler, about two turkeys who decide to travel back in time and eradicate turkey from the Thanksgiving menu, out November 1.

She sampled the strawberry lemonade ICEE I paired up with our popcorn. Nope. Yuck, momma. You should have seen the size of this beverage. I must have impeccable bladder control. As I despaired over having to consume the entire large cup myself, she asked for her always-present-on-outings water bottle; the lights went down as I handed it to her, so I explained that this also always happened and that it indicated the feature film was actually starting.

Her attention held for as long as 40 minutes; I glanced over at her through the shadowy dimness, proud of her big girl behavior. I should have knocked on wood, or at least realized that Murphy’s Law of Parenthood would ensue as not long after I sat appreciating the fleeting moment, she stood. “What’s up?” I whispered in her ear. “You need to sit to watch the movie.” “I want to walk around,” she said, as if this action would correlate, and why would I ever be puzzled by it. “No, you need to sit.” This sort of back and forth popped up here and there for the remainder. At least though, she ended up sharing my seat with me, on my lap. Eventually, she even asked for me to hold her hand. I did (and always do without question), not deducing until now that something about this new experience was disconcerting to her.

A scene with an explosion, or some other action-filled moment — I was a little distracted, wondering if we’d make it through MU, considering that her engrossment wavered when it had — elicited her self-elected word of the day in this exclamation: “That was complicated!” I chuckled, momentarily putting being on guard aside, and concurring with her: “Yes, sweetie. That was complicated.”

For monsters, they are utterly human; surely, Disney intended this from the drawing board, and they executed it thoroughly. Just like its sibling, MU has a colossal amount of heart and contains firm, valid, true, positive messages and themes. Two of the major ones : believe in yourself; and friendship, its importance, and how we lift each other up. It also has some consummate quotes. I have an utter affection for quotes. My iPhone was brought forth, where on the “notes” feature, I rapidly captured the following ones that resounded with me as they were unfolded within the story:

  • “‘I act scary, Mike, but most of the time I’m terrified.'” ~ Sulley.
  • “‘You’re the scariest bunch of monsters I’ve ever met. Don’t let anyone tell you any different.'” ~ Mike to his fraternity monsters.
  • “‘Mike, you’re not scary. Not even a little. But you’re fearless.'”~ Sulley.

See? A completely human film, that even though about monsters on the surface, is really at its core about all of us, and how as different as we appear from each other, we’ve all behaved in ways veering from our true feelings or identities; we’ve all had to learn that we can not allow what opinions others carry about us to deter us from being what and who we are; and for everything that we are not, but might want to be, we are something else equally great.

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Our stubs to my daughter’s first ever movie-going experience! (Wow, base prices are exorbitant these days…!)

Before fulfilling my promise to seek out a proxy bracelet from Claire’s (we had decided to check this store before any of the others), I knew I could not expect her to pass by the carousel, as this is always one small part of our itinerary. And why would I want to miss out on her imitation of a horse with her whinnying sound effects?

Passing more time in Claire’s than I imagined we would — and money — the visit did prove productive concerning a glittery successor for my small madam’s wrist. Naturally, we could not find an identical stand-in, but this evidently eluded her. A successful browse!

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A fine fill-in, in spite of how it does differentiate from the absent original.

My little lady alerted me to her wish to procure a snack. Well, wouldn’t you know it, the Tutti Frutti set to open there at the mall was up and running, which I had not expected. If you’re paying attention, this meant dual servings of the sweet dessert in the same week. Shoot…! You can judge, but nothing was keeping me from my fro yo. It’s just that dang good. I was pleased to find that the flavors at the mall location differed slightly from the selection at the other nearby location.

We ended our trip with a visit to Bath and Body Works, where I picked out more of their banner candles, and my ladybug talked me into what I am calling her “cut-off duck,” as in no, we are not buying anymore for awhile. (It is cool, as it lights up, blinking alternatively between two colors.)

Our mall also has a play area where she likes to go wild and burn energy with any other tykes. Another part of our usual agenda that could not be skipped. Again, why would I when it makes her happy and supplies an opportunity to be social? Quite intelligently, she removed her bracelets that I passed down to her earlier that day, and handed them off to me for safe keeping. Maybe the lesson regarding personal effects and keeping them close in public sunk in for her with just that one loss.

Or maybe not. Time and circumstance will tell. A very full day with definite stressors, I want to remember it always: how because of the love between us, she leans on me to make problems go away and that just being there for her enables me the power to do that in most cases; how we need each other to notice more of what is directly surrounding us; how everything can be a learning opportunity; and how she not only has a strong vocabulary, but also uses words correctly. Simple things, yes, but bigger than they seem, that induce so much pride and appreciation from me.

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Adventures with My Little Lady #1: Navigating a Trip to a Neighborhood Shopping Center via Bus

Some of the best aspects about being a mother are: seeing things all over again for the first time; simultaneously being a teacher and a student; growing together with your child; the pride, love, and support — not just mother to child, but the reverse as well; and any/all opportunities for embarking on adventures together.

While out in the world, making whatever discoveries lie in wait, several of these aspects normally come together. Once in a while, but more frequently than we were, my daughter and I go on little adventures that I call Bus Days: we’ll ride public transportation to a few of our favorite local stores, places, and things to do. Last week, we had two of these afternoon excursions — Wednesday, July 17 and Friday, July 19.  (This post covers Wednesday; Adventures with My Little Lady #2: Navigating a Trip to a Local Movie Theater and Mall will cover Friday. Yes, a double-post week. Ambitious? More than this newbie blogger is possibly ready for. Hope you glean some worth from this decision, dear readers.)

She and I always have an enjoyable time out, albeit with a measure here or there of stress mixed in. Even though those moments can’t be allowed to derail an entire day’s experience, all parents or guardians know that they can and will occur. Acknowledge. Move on. One amazing truth about children — out of many — is how much joy they find in simple activities. My daughter is included in this, and I am always relieved at the reminder because with my adult mind, aware of grandeur and the large perimeters that the outside world extends to, I often fall into thinking that I have to be able to do really elaborate stuff with her, take her to majorly high fun spots. And it’s simply not true. That reminder facilitates a more productive train of thought, silencing the previous one whispering, “inadequate parenting!”

The value of togetherness, of absolute presence, of sharing all the details from the smallest, to the in-between, to the unexpected do not allude my toddler, or any. Lucky for me that she finds excitement from say, visiting Old Navy and Target, because that is what the focus of our time was about on this particular day. Usually though, she is more gung ho for Target (toys!!) than Old Navy and definitely becomes blasé about shopping overall like her daddy. But, our Old Navy is a few doors down from Tutti Frutti, a frozen yogurt chain that neither of us ladies ever tire. She didn’t mention the creamy delights initially, but I knew it was on her radar. (Ok, it was on mine, too. We went, we chose, we thoroughly consumed.)

Two types of items that my little daughter loves are bracelets and plush animals. She discovered shortly after we crossed the threshold of Old Navy, that both are contained within those doors. The abundance of stuffed friends in our house has begun to become its own animal to the point that I have cut off putting funds toward any more, for now. (As a former child that believed plush animals have feelings just because they have faces, I am thrown by the occasional dark and near-involuntary musing to have a fuzzy bonfire — the result of too many times feeling hemmed in by her collection, that finds its way onto the couch, barely missing being sat on, or mysteriously ends underfoot, missing a near-trampling. I won’t actually do it; her heart does not deserve any breakage due to actions made by her mother out of frustration. But I think the plush ones take my threats seriously, as I have not had to extract any from my backside while settling in to write, read, or watch a show in at least a week.)

Her interest in jewelry has existed for awhile, especially ever since I began to pick up cutesy, inexpensive pieces here and there for her birthdays and holidays. I try not to succumb to stereotypes. Nevertheless, she is our princess and so, several play adornments, including a plastic tiara, have made their way into her belongings. Lately though, bracelets are where its at! She even sported a sparkly, iridescent beaded one given to her by an aunt months previous while browsing through Old Navy’s wrist wares.

Girly when she wants to be, but not a smidgen further, she stuck it out as we shopped first for Momma, then for her, which always takes on a marathon feel as I have a need to see as much of the merchandise as possible. In the dressing room, if I’m not in an immediate amorous fervor over any single clothing item, extreme disqualifications are executed. After all, no one wants to drop dinero on threads that will only waste precious closet real estate.

We moved on to Target, where she realized that she could use a snack. Eye-balling the tiny cafe next to the tiny in-house Starbucks (that I managed to talk myself out of. Not easy to do. I love Starbucks with a capital L-U-V!), I decided that we would give an item or two on the basic menu a try. Shortly thereafter, we peacefully shared a strawberry smoothie, a small bag of popcorn, and a soft pretzel. Suddenly, she misjudged her own movements, toppling the popcorn bag to its side, spilling the top quarter onto the cafe floor. I was flustered: it was an accident, but it also translated to wasted food, which, due to Depression-era sensibilities passed on to me by my grandfather, doesn’t ever sit well with me. Also, I don’t like being that person who makes a mess, then leaves it for someone else to clean up. But, for as much as I wanted to sweep up the fluffy white kernels that my child knocked over, there was no broom stowed off to the side. I had to accept being that person this time.

Chewing on this thought and a bit more popcorn, I began to consolidate my Old Navy shopping bags — something I’ve always done, as it makes having to carry everything you have with you easier. Mid-transit, my daughter decided she was done and began to walk off, leaving me to call after her while stuffing the rest of my previous purchase together. A woman and her children decided this was a great moment to commandeer half the table, even though my rear was still planted on a chair. With all that distraction, but without my senses of sound, sight, and touch alerting me, a new pair of navy blue canvas flats escaped. At least, I imagine that this is where and how I lost them. Meanwhile, the sparkly bracelet she had been wearing was also MIA. Neither of us knew that yet either. We headed off to conquer our list of things to buy, and meet up with dad when he arrived to help us check out and travel home.

The day proved longer than it seemed: our little lady exhibited listening problems following dinner, coupled with a crazy energy supplied by a second wind; she forced our hand to enforce an early bedtime that evening. After we got her down to rest, I felt myself able to decompress via a huge sigh. Now, I was able to unload our new purchases and treasures. During this time, I normally match up the items in front of me with the receipt listing, especially for Old Navy — I get a thrill over savings due to merchandise from clearance, anything that was on sale, and/or if I happened to have a coupon for a percentage off the entire purchase. My navy blue shoes! Where are they? I searched the pile on my bed a second time. Picking the plastic bag up off the floor, I felt weightlessness. Down the steps to the dining room (where we unload after all shopping and sort from there), searching, but no, not under the table, or off in a corner. My husband hadn’t seen them…I thought of the moment in Target’s cafe and my heart sunk.

Discovering that I misplaced something I just bought left me frustrated, infuriated, and depressed. I let myself feel it all fully, then I reminded myself to calm down, breathe, think. What could I do about this? Was there a chance an honest person saw my new shoes lying on the floor and turned them in to Target’s lost and found? I called. They looked. Nothing. I’m going about this wrong, I thought. It’s Old Navy I should call. Though, I was fully ready for them to say, “Sorry. Nothing we can do.” Instead…!

Instead…Old Navy, I love you more than ice cream!! Word of mouth, for as old as it is, is still just as effective, impacting, whether negative or positive. As an aside, if you couldn’t tell already, I’m a huge Old Navy fan. Most, if not all of my wardrobe comes from there and always will, especially due to my recent telephone conversation, a prime example of superb customer service, that went something like this:

store manager: Hi, this is Jen. I'm the store manager. 
What can I help you with?
me: Hi, I was there shopping earlier today. When I got 
home, I realized an item was missing from my bag. What, 
if anything can we do about it?
store manager: Well, we can either hold the same item 
here for you, or ship it to you if you'd like...
me: That would be brilliant!...But, there would be an 
additional charge for shipping, correct?
store manager: ...No. Shipping would be free.
me: Wow, thank you so much. I just want to say this is 
why nearly 100 percent of my clothing is from there. 
I mean, afterall, you don't know me. I could be making up a story.
store manager: Well, it's important to us to do whatever it takes to make our customers happy. Besides, we 
neglected to put it in the bag.

Ah, ok. She assumed it was their misstep, not mine. I rolled with it. Moments like that are hard to replicate, and make me feel like there are still plenty of solid human beings (and there are.) Truthfully, I expected to have to make a separate visit to the store with receipt in hand and just hope they’d graciously give me another pair. (Not even 48 hours later, the navy blue flats sat waiting on our doorstep, and contained within as well, a $5 off coupon! Nice touch, store manager Jen. 🙂 )

That issue solved and this customer happier than ever, it occurred to me that in preparing my daughter for bed, I hadn’t seen her take off and put away her pretty sparkly bracelet. I crept into her dim room and checked the star-shaped papier-mâché box where she stows jewelry. No, not there. Over to my bedroom to check, as she likes to snuggle in our bed. Nope. Back down the steps to the dining room. Not on the table, in any bag. Not on the kitchen counter. Not even in the living room, her main domain. “Babe,” I said to my husband, “did you see the pretty bracelet she was wearing today?” “What bracelet?” was his reply. Oh man, she lost it. I pictured she and I looking at the bracelets at Old Navy and wondered if she took hers off to try one on, inadvertently leaving it behind. Gone, but not forgotten, as well. Just how did my little lady react when I finally asked her about? To be continued…

In the meantime, what I am saying in all of this long-winded detail is that life keeps showing me that any of the small moments with my child, whether home or on the town — even if cluttered with mini crises, the panic and sadness of lost items, stubbornness, fatigue, negativity of any sort — still have huge potential for becoming a fond memory of her early years not just through what she pointed out to me that day, not just through what lesson she picked up from me, but through all that we did and learned as a duo. How we persevered through it all, stayed focused on each other and what good and happy elements were threaded through the day’s foundation.

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Doo-Doo Duty: Navigating Potty-Training My Three-Year-Old

In any relationship, communication is key. It’s something we’ve all heard before, and as much cliché as it carries, there is an equal amount of truth therein. Each of us, within our minds, hearts and bodies are individual cities, with all the minutiae, scientific traffic, emotional busyness, and other goings-on. But, for all that we have in common, the irony lies in our inability to inherently understand more about one another unless told; you know, since mind-reading doesn’t quite exist yet. One of the most important linkages is that of mother and child. Ironic that as dependent as the child is of the parent, especially during infancy and childhood, and even adolescence, a parent’s job is made much more difficult when the child doesn’t verbalize what s/he needs.

Currently our daughter, who possesses a solid, well-rounded vocabulary, will tell us everything she learns, observes, thinks, feels. She, with her healthy imagination, will make up stories of whimsy about most anything, and argue with her parents over pretty much anything to the tune of a debate team champ with one exception — we can not get her to tell us when her body requires the presence of her infamous potty chair! Much like at the beginning of her life when she couldn’t speak, and we waited impatiently some days for speech to begin, we now wonder on the daily what it will take for her to let us know when the time is neigh.

Confession: I was comfortable with the routine of changing her for a long time, longer than I should have been. I was comfortable because she was (and still is) with wearing diapers. I was comfortable with not presenting a challenge. Comfortable with my own laziness with the task, my own desire to put off the inevitable. Comfortable, even though wiping someone else’s derriere comes from true love. (I can hardly tolerate cleansing my own backside; This is why it has always been said that no one will ever love you like your mother does.) This transmitted a message of reinforcement to her. Clearly, I was already giving the issue plenty of thought, just not any action. A catalyst named Shame was suddenly projected into my stratosphere in the form of the achievement of potty-trained status occurring for someone else’s little girl — a very good friend’s kid, who is nine months younger than my child. That last part is where my shame was born. Nine months younger. Never has a sentence fragment held so much personal meaning. It made me see my daughter as much older than her trio of years. Please don’t mistake me though; shame is very different from jealousy. This other little girl is someone I care very much about. I love her mother like a sister, and her father like a brother. I’m extremely happy for them and proud of their two-year-old.

For us, we now find ourselves pushing against the tides of stubborn confusion. Beside enforcing the practice of using the potty as often and consistently as possible,  we are also trying two approaches to combat, mediate and work toward the full transition: 1)Bribery a) if we no longer have to buy diapers, that’s money we could use on new toys. b) once she is potty-trained, we can plan visits to really fun places, that are far away, such as embarking on a family vacation to Disneyland, which requires the use of flight. 2)Limitations a) she can not help in the kitchen, if toilet time is not addressed (which induces an immediate panic in this child, the self-proclaimed “little chef”). b) while we don’t mind having story time in conjunction with potty time, there is no “after” option, meaning she can not negotiate story time now, then potty after.

And, of course, we talk to her constantly about the sheer need to tell us, tell us, tell us!

In defense of her potty chair (since it is not able to stand up for itself), it is not some foreign item with a purpose unknown to her. When we purchased it more than a year ago, she was in tow at our local Babies R Us. Upon arriving home that evening, we promptly removed the potty chair from its box, showed her the stickers that came with it (both for decorating the chair and for applying to a chart to mark progress), gave it a quick cleaning, and invited her to sit on it — we naively harbored hopes of an early big girl experience. If I recall, she was fairly timid about the prospect of testing out her seat, bare bottomed or no, which set the tone and in turn, my long-term inertia. The design of the potty — to double as a step stool — proved to be utilitarian as her former height warranted elevation in order to wash her hands both with and without our assistance. This feature became the main reason the seat was used at all. Once I realized this, I began to scold myself internally.

After all, my motley of annoyances over diapers — changing them, the cost, remembering to bring them in the car, how much extra trash they produce — could be a thing of the past had I stepped up my game sooner.

Suffice to say, I really had to push myself out of my own comfort zone, not only to get the process rolling, but especially to reach as many as six attempts a day, as we sometimes — but not with enough frequency — do. Since my understanding is that this is still a new activity, one that she might not fully grasp the logic, I try to make her as comfortable as possible with the verbal reminder that I am extremely nearby in correlation with her toys, books, and shows being completely available and within reach. When I can, I sit with her.

It seems like kids think parents make them do things because we experience a twisted sort of joy out of said things, like potty training. But, like most chores that parents are responsible for, this isn’t fun for me either. I know I’ve had moments where I spoke those words to her directly. Saying that it is a joyless task doesn’t include the fear factor-esque scenarios, such as this past Friday, July 12, following breakfast: I happened to glance over at her and caught that “oh-I’m-feeling-tense” facial expression, lunged out of the room for her potty chair, and without thinking, simultaneously whipped off the diaper while shoving the potty under her bottom. Good on me, right? Quick reaction = hard-sought success? Not so much. I felt my heart drop into my ribs as I watched the surreal acquaintance of turd and floor. Grossed out, I scrambled to inspect, finding an upside: no impact, no mark. The pro seems to be that I was able to react sooner than I had been because of her visual communication and my developing ability to look for and pinpoint these vital seconds. The con seems to be that the little accident happened because she didn’t tell me in words! This adventure in parenthood will produce several more little horror stories, surely. 

Then there are the near-regressive days, like Sunday when both my husband and myself were just busy enough around the house that neither of us ever thought of trying her for a single attempt. The progress chart has no stickers for Sunday, which feels like a gargantuan waste of an opportunity for .. well, progress. 

If you’re wondering, I do own a copy of a potty training book, pictured below. I’d take bets that it would even help a mother out, had I read more than a few lightly perused pages. I’ve certainly had it in my possession for long enough; I bought it at a bargain price from a bookstore I was employed by nearly three years ago. Ugh, slacker! To make it worse, when I purchased the book, my little lady was only a handful of months old. Given potty training thought, I have. Lack of use stems from a then-immediate overwhelming feeling, one that I should have come to terms with by now. Apparently, trying to conquer a task and reading about how to conquer a task are too much for me to process. Now its turned into a self-presented challenge to train her without some book! You challenge me? I challenge…ME! Afterall, I have an idea that I’m making it harder on myself by letting it continue to sit there, collecting dust, still looking mightly, justly, righteous, without neccesity. And still that rub: if she would just tell her momma! Her bodily functions would be privy to me if she voiced what they were and when.

But about me and general reading: it has always been an act done for and out of enjoyment, leisure, escape. This is why any book dealing head on with any aspect of life doesn’t hold my attention. It is what it is.

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It has occurred to me that there are actually two major phases to potty training, in my mind likened to a two-headed monster: Even after she is potty-trained, that only serves our daytime existence. She will need further practice at bedtime and while she slumbers, implicating possible nocturnal episodes of wetting the bed, as old as age 8 or later, according to my cursory Bing search. Suddenly, the overwhelming and frustrating is now also never-ending and insurmountable. I don’t want my frustration with this task to negatively effect our relationship, and the reason I’m even having that thought is because I already fear that it can.

No matter my concerns, the reality: I’m on doo-doo duty indefinitely.

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Summer: Navigating Reasons Why it Stopped Being My Favorite Season

Autumn is my favorite season. The orange and red hues that occur in the leaves of trees. The scent in the air — especially in October — that reminds me of bonfires and hayrides. The comfortable cool temperatures. Apple picking at a local farm with my family. And Halloween.

But when I was younger, summer was my favorite season and for most kids, that’s a common reality. After all, I’m an August baby, and the hiatus of school caused time to feel free, flowing, endless and available for me to do as I liked. The weather didn’t matter. The various bugs didn’t matter. Predatory plants, well, I was lucky in the sense that I hadn’t had an encounter with one. We ran in the grass; we didn’t cut it. So much that becomes part of our consciousness just didn’t factor.

Of course, when your mandatory formal education lay ahead, it feels like it will be a constant hurdle for eons. Once those years are behind you, so many things feel differently. For me, time has always been the other one, coupled with the seasons. Certainly, most adults are not heard by the third week of vacation whinging on about being in a state of boredom — with age, comes an appreciation for time, many additional things to do, and a struggle to balance the two. And there is no official break in or from adulthood. Summer is for the young. Summer is a reminder that you’re a grown-up.

Somewhere among the outer edges of high school, the first half of college and roughly the last decade, my love of summer simply dissipated into the air, much like evaporation. I don’t know if the onset of real adulthood was the culprit, some element of my personality that hadn’t been in play before, the two combined or a whole other possibility. But, in any case, there came a day when I realized and might have outwardly voiced a thought that I once never imagined I’d think, along the lines of: I don’t like summer at all anymore! {Gasp!} What?! {Hand over hand over mouth.} Child-me would think I’m just getting old, and probably roll her eyes at the ridiculousness in no longer caring for summer.

Consider this though: the palpable division of Week from Weekend from Holiday that once existed, from Winter, Spring, Summer and Fall, between Summer and the Rest of the Year fell away some moment after earning my college degree, but before marriage and definitely since motherhood. Ever after, days blend into days blend into months. Even when I know which day of the week we’re currently living, it’s more than possible that the date will not come to me, even as I furrow my brow trying to recall the elusive number. Time, like the seasons — and pointedly, summer — no longer has that same openness, as it has been replaced by a need to harness all of it, as all four seasons and time overall slip by in large quantities.

I know that one reason for this major change of heart is the humidity that is often a part of the warmest season of the year. Either, I didn’t notice it as a kid, or it didn’t bother me. Perception, in its capacity to shift, is nothing short of amazing. No doubt, I notice now! And this summer’s recent humidity has several times already found me stopping to ask myself: ‘Why am I suddenly feeling irritable? Oh yea, my entire face is a river! A fresh shirt might be a solid idea.’ Humidity isn’t even truly my enemy these days. It’s more how the human body responds to humidity that perplexes this lady.

Due to the unfortunate demise of our air conditioning system, my family and I spent the tail end of May and all of June toughing out all that Mother Nature has had in store for mere mortals: sticky, sweaty cloud-filled days and the perennial threat of a thunderstorm. Fans in operation 24/7, trying to create cross breezes by propping them in open windows. I believe in finding the upside, and obviously the one here is that I have a new appreciation for the technology and ingenuity available in controlling, or at least combating, the summer sizzles. Especially now that we have our A/C unit back in place after repairs.

And speaking of thunderstorms and the possibility thereof, this year that has been such a theme of continuity that upon waking, without thinking about it, it’s what I’ve come to expect to be part of the day. Nevertheless, I check the Weather Channel app on my smartphone, just on the off-chance that the percentage of possibility for storms has decreased. Usually, the opposite has occurred — a day that originally showed as having no thunderstorm chance, now does. Planning your life around the weather seems … archaic, but it’s what you find yourself having to do.

In my frustration with my local weather, I began about a week ago comparing the weather for three cities that I have huge interest in, any given one I would welcome relocating to: San Francisco, CA; Seattle, WA; and Portland, OR. The humidity, well, most everyone suffers that in summer. But the unrelenting and ever-present thunderstorm threats…! I think of Seattle first in this grouping. Certainly, at least for overcast and precipitation. Naturally, quick glances at all three told me what I had already guessed — the trio is trending more pleasantly than here. This is my opinion even in spite of San Francisco currently having the highest humidity. Indulge me with the following: My local weather for today, July 9 is listed as 85°F, isolated thunder storms, 30% chance of rain, 71% humidity. How do my three cities of infatuation compare?  San Francisco — 70°F, sunny, 10% chance of rain, 92% humidity. Seattle — 82°F, sunny, 0% chance of rain, 60% humidity . (I’m laughing at the irony as I input this second bit of information. Really? The chance for rain is higher here than Seattle?!) Portland — 87°F, sunny, 0% chance of rain, 67% humidity. I hope this supports what I’m trying to get across.

Another thing — and maybe I’m wrong about this, but —  when my husband and I relocated from one side of the Mason-Dixon line to the other roughly 11 years ago, we crossed into a land of double the amount of bugs. (I also acquired seasonal allergies.) Growing up, I do not recall nearly as many spiders, ants, flies, stink bugs, or any other like insect making way into my home at the same frequency as what I experience where we live now. Some weeks it is so severely noticeable, that I do what my daughter and husband know I call “creepy crawly vacuuming,” — lugging out the ole Hoover Runabout Ultra, setting up the attachment, and precariously (if need be) climbing via step stool or otherwise to reach and stretch into every corner, chasing spiders, ants, whatever, eventually sucking those little bastards up. I sweat all the while, no matter what. 

Naturally, anything that gets in, is also outdoors. In your backyard. Incognito near the deck. Invisible in thin air, right in front of you. Right on you. Biting you. I’m talking about you, mosquitoes! You sneaky, stealthy little blood-sucking itch-factories! Sure, I was bitten lots of times by mosquitoes growing up. But either my tolerance for it weakened, or they got stronger. Either way, I find it  incorrigible.

Thinking about summer annoyances as a homeowner makes me miss the most wonderful aspect of apartment-living, which ended for us 9 years ago this August — the luxury of having someone else take care of the yard work for you, while enjoying the sensation that it was free because it was included in the rent. I feel as though this is one of the most eye-opening realities to home ownership. Sure, updating and maintaining the inner sanctum of the home is of incredible import, and requires far more planning, time, money. But, all of that can be neatly tucked away from the scrutinizing eye of every busybody on the block. I am not of the stock that finds it pressing to trim the lawn to a fine manicure once or twice a week. To me, nature should be left to do its thing a little more often than we allow it.

What happened to me last summer completely affirms my last thought. While fretting over the sudden spring-up of every weed imaginable in our backyard, and in my honest attempt to lay down the law, I had my first run-in with poison ivy. New experiences broaden personal horizons and provide knowledge. Because I had never before had the itchy (what an understated adjective) rash created by exposure to poison ivy, its effects lay dormant in my skin for a week or so prior to the day that it uncomfortably revealed its presence. After ripping down every weed that would allow me to, I didn’t do a thorough wash-up — an oversight correlating with said lack of knowledge. The oils from the poison ivy must have had a great time attaching to, then burrowing down into my epidermis. This wasn’t an experience that I needed, nor desire to repeat. Lesson learned: be careful with weeds; especially if you don’t know one from another. The scars on my right leg — where it originated — are finally almost entirely gone. Nearly a year of a visible reminder of what carelessness can get you.

May we survive summer, may we find ways to recapture even small bits of youth, may we not get caught in a storm, may the bugs and weeds not plague us, and may I personally make peace with all that this season encompasses.

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Peanuts Are For Elephants, Not For Baby: Navigating My Child’s Food Allergies

As stated at the conclusion of my last post, the concerns I have as a parent — both present ones and whatever future challenges lie in wait — weigh on my mind frequently. I know this is true of most, if not all parents. But some fellow parents operate in a way where this never shows on their faces on in their movements. Though I know it’s there with them, too, behind everything else happening in their days, their lives. How could it not be? Bringing a new life into the world is no small venture.

Other parents certainly dedicate their blogs in part or in whole to thinking on their children, how they are raising them, whether or not their approach is working, whether or not they are good parents. One example of this is Dan Pearce’s wonderfully written blog, Single Dad Laughing, which I just began following a few short months ago. An aside: I am super impressed by the aesthetics of his blog, and all that he has put into it. So much heart, so much of himself. I hope I can express myself as well here as he has there.

Yet, the recurring puzzle of how to raise a child creates a real isolation, completely ironic to how many people are everyday also attempting as a family to come out of their son’s or daughter’s childhood and adolescence to the other side where that child not only makes it to adulthood, but arrives there successfully and has the pleasure of living a happy, healthy life thereon in.

This is most definitely an umbrella thought. One that needs focusing in for so many reasons, starting with the knowledge that you can only deal with what you know about. And it bears reminding, to not rush time no matter what is uncomfortable and how because every stage of our children’s lives are special, and all too soon are in our rearview mirrors.

And because we (hubs and I) came to the realization a few dinners ago that our daughter has a second food allergy, my mind remains there.

Truly I know a food allergy in and of itself is not the biggest problem a person or their parents can have. All the ways in which it can escalate is the rub. One that I heard of earlier this year was how some children that are bullying others with food allergies use said allergies in the bullying. That’s a whole other topic, but any other parents out there…you know how scary a thought this is.

On a daily basis, it’s really more or less a non-issue. Since she isn’t of school age just yet, she is with us and that makes it easy to avoid all together. And honestly, we haven’t ever found ourselves in a situation where an EpiPen actually needed to be administered.

Her first food allergy, peanuts, came to light more than a year ago when we were first really expanding her palate. We hadn’t yet had her try peanut butter, and since both of us not only adore the condiment but have never had issues with it ourselves, we didn’t at all foresee the red marks that soon appeared near her mouth as she happily smacked the gooey substance all around and between her lips.

A visit that was scheduled with her pediatrician was approaching — a kismet opportunity to address the then-new problem. Our doctor agreed with us that it indeed for all purposes sounded like our girl couldn’t have peanuts, but a blood test is the only true decider, so off to a specialist we did go, where she was not only tested on an allergic reaction to peanuts, but all tree nuts as well. Tree nuts: clear. Peanuts: a red raised spot on her skin where it had been applied.

Now, the specialist advised that we put all peanut products in the garbage and not ever keep any around. (He also made me feel like a bad mother from the start by implying that I ate too much peanut butter during my pregnancy, and that that contributed to her having this problem..!) Too much peanut butter. No such thing.

Anyhow, we didn’t do that. Please don’t judge. If you love peanut butter, you get it. You get why that wasn’t an option.

We have been extremely careful to keep it clear of our daughter. We always will, even while it remains both a small inconvenience and a melancholy that we can’t share the joy of peanut butter with her. In our house, peanuts are for elephants, not for baby (or rather now, little lady). The specialist, when we asked, did say that some kids outgrow their food allergies. His tone, I recall implied a slim chance, but I keep that idea in my back pocket.

In our frustration over this first food allergy, we went searching for the existence of any possible peanut butter substitutes, and happily found one straight off: Trader Joe’s Speculoos Cookie Butter. Made from crushed biscuits, this extremely tasty treat is super versatile, as it can be consumed with many other things, or my favorite way, straight off of a spoon (or my fingers in those really serious I-NEED-peanut-butter moments).

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Just this last Saturday, Wegman’s (love you, you expensive addiction!) supplied us with a second peanut butter substitute, brought to us by some of my favorite people, the Canadians, NoNuts Golden Peabutter. My daughter hasn’t tried it yet; both mommy and daddy have. Verdict: it’s good, but pales in comparison to Trader Joe’s little wonder item.

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The second food allergy made itself known during dinner both a few nights ago, and previously, around a week prior to that. She was happily enjoying her salad — an item all three of us enjoy, and that my husband and I make an effort to include in our diets, when those now familiar red spots came to visit again.

Of course she has eaten salad a numerous amount of times before June. What was different was the mix we decided to buy on our last two grocery adventures: a 50/50 containing baby spinach. I still can’t believe it even as I write this. That something with the word baby in its name is harmful in any way to my baby. But apparently, we hadn’t fed her spinach until now. We racked our memories and couldn’t come up with a time when we might have at all.

I know it confused her to have her salad taken away, even as we explained that her skin had the same red spots that she gets from peanuts. Even as we apologized. Even as we offered a different item to take the place of the salad (she quite happily took advantage of this rare situation. Mommy and daddy letting me eat what I want? Not, “you have to eat what’s for dinner?” Carrot sticks with ranch, please! Good job on us. She didn’t go wild and ask for ice cream or cookies or the like.)

We haven’t seen a specialist about it yet, but I don’t need someone with a medical degree to tell me what I already know: my kid can’t have this item now, too. Though, we will schedule an appointment. 

Largely, I feel I can’t claim that I have done much navigation in the way of figuring all of this out further, but right now, for me it’s more about coming to terms with her having a second food allergy when I don’t believe that I have yet really made peace with the first. It’s also about getting the experience so far, and the thoughts out into the ether.

I’d like to hear from anyone else who either has a food allergy or whose child does. My daughter’s are luckily not severe. Nevertheless, real and existing.

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