I spent the next four in what I'm realizing is the hardest thing I've ever done, and that's being her mom. I've got a lot to learn.
So, in the spirit of summing up 2006, I decided to finally complete the meme for which Michelle tagged me.
Things I learned this year
I learned that becoming a mother and holding your child for the first time is like watching your heart beat outside your body. That indescribable feeling of absolute joy, of gazing into the face of that little person you created (or, if you've been through IVF, that little being that you, your partner, a team of doctors, nurses, and embryologists, a petri-dish and about $11,000 created) is so overwhelming, it's hard to even put into words. And as I just mentioned, I also leanred motherhood is the hardest thing I've done in my 30 years. I have much to learn in this area.
People I met
I met Ramona, of the cool and quirky Kross-Eyed Kitty. And I learned she is as sweet and funny in person as she is on her blog. If you haven't paid her a visit, go now and tell her I sent you!
Things I don't want to take with me into 2007
Impatience. Patience has never been my strong point. And now, because I'm often mentally and physically exhausted, especially lately with Isabella's horrid sleeping patterns, I'm getting even more impatient than I normally am. And motherhood and impatience? Not a fantastic combination. Luckily, Isabella has a wonderful dad who is patience personified and who can save her from her on-the-brink mother when she needs it. I need to learn how to check this unfabulous personality trait in the new year.
Things I want to hold close as you pass into 2007
Hmmm... this implies that I'm actually going to see the passing of 2006 and the arrival of 2007. My eyelids are currently propped open with toothpicks, so me thinks this ain't happening.
Things I'm looking forward to in 2007
1. God-willing, 8-10 hours of consecutive sleep, the likes of which I haven't seen since before becoming pregnant.
2. Learning to make some or all of Isabella's baby food myself.
3. Hearing Isabella's first word, which I'm 99% certain that because she spends all day and night with me, will have four letters, start with an f and end with a k.
Things that were life-changing in 2006
This one is fairly easy: becoming a parent. And the word "life-changing" doesn't quite cover it.
Things I hope to accomplish by the end of 2007
Regaining my sanity and the massive amounts of brain cells I've lost since becoming pregnant and then becoming a parent. I am seriously at least 22% dumber than I was before becoming pregnant. I cannot remember anything anymore, and I used to have a memory like an elephant, people. Now I can barely remember where the bathroom is in my house.
Achieiving a work-home balance that will reel me in from the edge. Working full-time from home, at night and on weekends, after caring for a four-month old all day is seriously hard. And exhausting. And mood-altering. I know. Poor me. But I need to fix this situation for my own sanity, be it through going to part-time work, or potentially job-sharing, or even quitting altogether and writing only on a freelance basis. At this point, I don't know.
And that's all folks. If you've sensed a slightly discouraged tone in my answers, well, give yourself a prize. It's been a hard couple of days here in new mommyland. But tomorrow is a new day, and a whole new year. And I've got high hopes for both of them.
Happy New Year to you! I can't wait to read about where each of your lives takes you in 2007.
She had a bit of a fussy Christmas day, as she still isn't sleeping with any kind of consistency. Add to being overtired the excitement of the day, and you have one cranked out baby on Christmas night. We've decided to keep her, despite her tantrum at her grandmother's house. Aunt Karrie, however, may be thinking twice about staying at Casa Bella next time she's in town!
I'm going to start blogging with more regularity starting next week. My mom is still in town, and once she leaves on Friday and New Years is over, things will be back to "normal" around here. And my laptop needs a new battery. Which means I can't blog from my big comfy yellow chair. Because I am too lazy to blog from the chair in front of the desk on which the laptop sits when it's plugged in. I know. Pathetic. You can say it.
I have much to talk about here, including Isabella's four month checkup and the case of the missing knee caps. Before New Years, I fully intend to complete this meme, for which M tagged me four score and eleventeen years ago. And then there's the origin of this picture of my mother. I dare you to guess what in the name of hell is going on here.
In the meantime, here are some pictures from Christmas and the days preceeding Christmas. I hope each one of you had a wonderful holiday, no matter which ones you celebrated.
So this bow? On my head? Adorable for you. Humiliating for me. Remove it. Thank you.
If I lay very, very still, maybe no one will know I'm even here.
So I says to Santa, "Santa, hit me up with a wee spot of Oxy for Christmas."
Eh yo. Yo eh. Don't freakin' mess with me or my goombas. Capice?
This is what I got my dad for Christmas, so we're all set for opening day. Mom said she'd be leaving the house that day. I'm not sure why.
And here's what I got mom. Aunt Karrie even took a picture of me and dad working on it together. It came with a Dunkin Donuts gift card. Dad told me to tell mom that I love her best of all when she's running on Dunkin.
And the snow here in usually snowy upstate NY is nowhere to be found. In fact, the thermometer on my kitchen window this morning reads 45 degrees Fahrenheit. Thanks, global warming!
I'm taking a few days off from blogging, but I'll be back soon after Christmas.
Until then, Merry Christmas and Happy Hannukah to my wonderful blog friends. I truly hope you each have a wonderful holiday.
PS: Thank you SO much for all the sleep suggestions. Ella has been doing a bit better these past few days, but still not great. But I know it's only a matter of time before she figures it out.
Starting about two weeks ago, Miss Ella decided she didn't want to nap anymore. Scratch that. She would nap if someone was holding her. The nanosecond you put her down, however, all hell breaks loose. This carries over to bedtime as well. We rock her gently in our arms into relative sleepiness. And then, as the experts tell you, we put her down in her bassinett (yes, she's still in our room) while still awake, and we tiptoe out. And she stays asleep for about 10 minutes. And then she wakes up. And then she screams. And then we wash. Rinse. Repeat. At least three times until she's out for the night.
But more so than the disaster that has become her bedtime situation, her lack of anything resembling a consistent daytime napping schedule Is. Killing. Me. Because she doesn't sleep for anything longer than 10-15 minutes, I don't get a break. And I know this sounds selfish. I mean, she's my job, at least from the moment she wakes up in the morning until she goes to bed. Then, of course, I start the job for which I'm paid. But not having the chance to pay the bills, or water the plants, or get some of my work done while she sleeps is making me miserable. And I feel like a failure of a mother as well. She tries my patience. I'm grumpy. And there has been more than one occasion where Rich has walked through the door at the end of his work day, and I've handed over Isabella to him in tears. I hate the feeling of not being able to solve this problem. I feel like a failure of a mother.
She is frequently overtired because of fighting off sleep. And we've tried everything. I've put her in two sleepers because maybe she's cold. I've heated up her bed before putting her in it because maybe it's too cool for her to sleep in. I've covered her hands when she goes to sleep because she keeps whacking at her face and maybe this is waking her up. When she wakes up 10 minutes into her nap, I enter the room, avoid all eye contact, stick her pacifer in her mouth, and rock the bassinett back and forth out of her sight until she drifts back off. But 10 minutes later, it's the same thing all over again. And by the time an hour is up, she's slept for maybe 20 minutes, and me? Well, I've accomplished none of the myriad tasks I need to do, including reading and commenting on all of your blogs. :(
On Monday, I bought this book, on the recommendation of some random women who saw Rich and I staring bleary-eyed at the collection of Children and Family books in Barnes and Noble, looking for an answer to Ella's sleeping issues. And in it, the author recommends a 7pm bedtime, 7am wake-up time, followed by two hours of "vigorous play," a 9am morning naptime, followed by a 1pm afternoon nap. He advocates daily consistent rituals before sleep, and he also is somewhat of a fan of CIO (crying it out), which I tried for the first time Monday night, and just couldn't let her wail past 45 minutes. And oh by the way, today? The 9am and 1pm afternoon nap advocated in the book? I believe Isabella slept for a total of 20 minutes each time.
So I'm at a loss here. Does anyone out there have any suggestions for getting a baby who doesn't seem to want to sleep, like ever, to develop a consistent sleeping schedule? Please help me!
One year ago today, at around 1 in the afternoon, we found out that you were on your way. And just for a second, while I was on the phone receiving the news from the nurse, time stood still. I cried tears of joy. Your dad did too. We had tried so hard and waited for so long for you. And finally, in that instant, you became ours.
From the moment we heard the news, you were loved so deeply. And a few months later, when we shared the news with your family, the amount of love surrounding you grew exponentially. You became our "Beastie." Our miracle. Our love. Immediately, and unconditionally.
When you arrived amid massive familial fanfare nine months later, you changed our world forever. And now, four months later, you're developing into a little person. You laugh at our funny faces. You smile several million times a day. And each time you do, you melt our hearts a little bit more than you did the time before.
I hope you always know how very much I love you. How much you were wanted. How much joy your arrival brought to your family. And that no matter what happens in your life, you will always, always have your mom and dad by your side.
I'll never forget the day I learned you were growing inside me. I'll never forget the joy I felt. The anticipation of what was to come. And yes, the fears I had as well.
You are my love. My sweet, precious daughter. And I am so lucky to be your mom.
Let's clear something up. Some people are excellent gift shoppers. They purchase exactly the right gift for everyone on their list year after year without having to ask anyone what they want, and without even having to root around for clues as to the perfect present. I'm going on record here. I am not that person.
I need help, people. I ask people what they want, and then I buy it for them, or something similar to what they've asked for. I don't like to guess. To spend precious minutes in the store wondering, "Well, I know so-and-so was into Harry Potter last year. I wonder if she still is this year?" Plus, I figure it's a win-win situation. My friends and family get what they asked for, and I have a little less stress in my life (and frankly at this time of year, that's something we could all use).
But I have one person in my life who makes my life a living shopping hell year after year, but in particular, this year. And much as I love him (Hi, dear!), his Christmas gift request this year (and, by the way, it's his only request) just ain't happening. My husband wants an LCD flat panel tv for Christmas. To the tune of at least a grand. And last time I checked, we didn't have an extra thousand dollars sitting in our bank account for a television.
I've asked him repeatedly for other ideas. And his answer is always either "the tv" or "nothing." Thanks. That's very helpful. Now, I want a trip to Switzerland, a Mini Cooper, and world peace (in that order), but you don't find me asking for any of those for Christmas. And why is that, you ask? Because they're not freaking possible! Oh wait, he's also requested an iPod Video. Less money, but still not even in the ballpark of the usual dollar amount we spend on eachother. So we have "tv." We have "iPod Video." And we have "nothing." Awesome.
Me thinks someone might be a wee bit disappointed on Christmas this year.
The decorating disaster of which I speak is the ginormous Christmas inflatables phenomenon that is sweeping this nation of ours.
Now, before you paint me green and call me the Grinch, let me tell ya'll that I love Christmas. I decorate my house with all my grandma's old decorations that she gave me about ten years ago. We have a fresh tree covered with the ornament collection my mom started for me the year I was born. And our bushes outside are covered with white lights. Tasteful (ahem) white lights.
But these inflatables? These gigantic, monstrous, lighted and often rotating, spinning, or swaying in the breeze creatures? Are. Not. Tasteful. Or attractive. Or festive. Or fun. They're ugly. And they're ridiculous. And apparently, they're also a lot like Lays potato chips, because for a lot of people, apparently just one on ye' ole' front lawn will not do.
And if you have one, as much as you try to convince yourself otherwise, your neighbors whom you believe are sharing your love of your outdoor holiday display hate them, and they hate you for putting it up.
If you have one, bending and blowing in the breeze outside on your lawn right now, I demand that you out yourself, and tell me why, oh why, you purchased such a thing, and how it adds to your celebratory holiday spirit.
Okay, who's with me here?
I officially cristened my new oven this weekend making a pie that didn't even require baking. Its crust did, however, so my oven's first job was to bake a graham cracker crust for the Peppermint Pie I made. Later in the weekend, though, I gave it a full workout making the cookies.
"Peppermint Pie?" you say. "I've never heard of Peppermint Pie." Well, I actually hadn't either until I saw my girlfriend Paula Deen make one on a Food Network holiday special a few weeks ago, and I knew I had to give it a try. It sounded easy, and it was. But the recipe called for soft peppermints, which I soon learned would be difficult to find. My local grocery store, which is enormous and carries everything under the sun, didn't have them. I finally found them at Walgreens, so if you make this pie, head there.
The pie was light and delicious and requires very few ingredients. And of course, your house will smell like Christmas while the peppermints are melting on your stove.
1 envelope plain gelatin
1/4 cup cold water
1/2 cup heavy cream, plus 1 1/2 cups heavy cream, whipped
8 ounces peppermint candies, soft type (recommended: Bob's. Found at Walgreens)
1 prepared chocolate cookie crust (I'm not a chocolate fan, so I made a graham cracker one instead)
Crushed hard peppermint candies, for garnish (I omitted)
1.) Soften gelatin in water and set aside.
2.) Put 1/2 cup heavy cream in a small saucepan with candies and cook over low heat until candy melts.
3.) Add gelatin mixture and mix well.
4.) Let cool and fold in whipped cream. Pour into crust, sprinkle with crushed peppermint candies, and chill thoroughly (I let mine sit overnight).
Saturday night, I continued the peppermint theme by making peppermint bark. I *heart* me some peppermint bark like nobody's business. And when I was pregnant with Isabella, I bought it constantly.
This is Martha's recipe, and it was super-simple to make. Finding the peppermint oil was a challenge, though, and I finally found it at a cooking specialty store. One thing I discovered after spilling a tiny bit of the oil on the counter. It apparently has the same effect on cats as catnip. My cats were all over the counter like white on rice, rolling on the spot of the spill. And when I pushed them off, they rolled all over the floor like they were drugged. Bizarre.
Martha's Peppermint Bark
2 pounds white chocolate (I bought the small disks in the bulk food section of my grocery store, but if you buy bars, chop them into 1/2 inch pieces)
12 large candy canes
1/2 tsp peppermint oil
1.) Line an 11 x 17 inch pan with parchment paper and set aside.
2.) In the top of a double boiler, melt the chocolate, stirring constantly.
3.) Pound candy canes into 1/4-inch pieces.
4.) Stir candy cane pieces and peppermint oil into the melted chocolate. Remove from heat and pour mixture into pan, spreading evenly. Chill for 25-30 minutes. Break into pieces, and eat!
And finally, I made cutout cookies on Sunday. Here are some I just sprinkled with colored sugar.
And here are some plain ones I fully intended to frost with royal icing, but didn't, which actually works out okay because I actually like them better without icing. I know. It's strange.
Isabella was quite the help in the kitchen. Here she is wearing my hat from when I was a wee tot. My sister and I each had one. My mom would put them on out heads, hand us a red felt square onto which she'd sewn jingle bells, and we'd skip around our kitchen table singing Christmas carols. Good times. Rumor has it Karrie still does this today in her own house.
with its disgusting interior, which I so obviously haven't cleaned in quite some time
was replaced with this beauty.
Yes, my friends, I have a new stove. An early Christmas present from my mom. Truly, there aren't adequate words in the English language to describe how excited I am about it. And I'm not ashamed to admit it, even though this marks this second time in less than one year that I've become unnaturally thrilled by a kitchen appliance.
Now, it's not the uber expensive stove of my dreams. In fact, it's just your basic white electric stove. But it's new! There are no drips of unknown origin all over the interior door. There are no collections of years' old food particles banding together to form a militia on the stove floor. It's new and it's shiny and it's mine, and I can't wait to break it in.
My goal this weekend (and it's a tentative one at that) is to make Christmas cookies in it. Sugar cookie cutouts. And if I don't have time for that, perhaps I'll just curl up next to it and stroke it lovingly. We're going to be so happy together.
When you're an infertile, you of course see children and pregnant bellies everywhere. It feels like God is purposefully kicking you in the teeth, day after day, by placing that pregnant mother with her two toddlers ahead of you in line at the store, or by sending you baby shower invitations for women you hardly even know. But around the holidays, the kid influx literally is everywhere. It's on your tv. It's all over the mall. It's in everything you see. And read. And hear. The holidays are about children. And you? Well, you don't have any. And you can't have any either. I haven't forgotten that feeling.
While I was going through my IVF cycle this time last year, I wasn't hopeful. Not in the least. Ask anyone I was talking to at that time and they'll tell you I fully expected it to fail. I defined negative thinking. And while I tried to remain as distracted as possible while I waited for the results for that painful two weeks following my transfer, I wasn't. I cried. I retreated into a black hole. I avoided anything and anyone that had anything at all to do with children. I wasn't pleasant to be around.
What a difference a year makes.
My IVF cycle worked. It was a Christmas miracle, and as hokey and as corny as that sounds, yes, I believe it. And this year when I trim my tree, and unwrap the ornament that Dawn sent me last year shortly after I announced my news here, I'll have my three-month old "bun" by my side. I'll experience Christmas through her eyes this year. And next year. And the year after that.
To say that I feel blessed doesn't quite cover it.
Such is not the crowd on Friday mornings. On Friday mornings, there appears to be only two kinds of people in my grocery store: the old and the painfully slow, and the old and the scarily motorized.
Not, first let me say here that I love me the old folk. My family is full of them. And you know how much I *heart* my family. My great aunt of the cookies and the house-cleaning is 78. My grandma of the "old rules" is 76. And my great uncle of the Golden Autumn Pumpkin Cake is about to turn 82. They are the loves of my life, truly, and I would never disparage their generation.
But, see, the people I encountered in my grocery store on Friday, well, they were seriously old. O.L.D. And I don't see my relatives this way at all. My great aunt climbs ladders to paint her house. My grandma still works and has a more active social life than I do. And my great uncle is at the mall every single day buying $80 sweaters for $6.78 with his coupons and sale-rack scouting. These people buying their food on Friday? Seemed ancient.
It literally took me 10 minutes to get through the produce section, because the old folk were everywhere. I waited for a wee little woman to pick out her five apples for a good three minutes as she selected each one as if it would be the last thing she'd ever taste (and perhaps it would be). She was adorable, but My. God. Woman. Keep it moving!
And unfortunately the older set doesn't like to keep to proper cart-in-the-aisle-etiquette either. If you're stopping in an aisle to select a product from the shelf, move your cart to one side or the other so that other shoppers can navigate their carts by yours. My geriatric co-shoppers liked to leave their carts smack-dab in the center of the aisle as they meadered up and down said aisle looking for their boxes of graham crackers and their cans of peas. And so I would stop. And carefully move their carts over so I could get mine by. And smile at them as they realized their mistake. And smile at the same people once again in the next aisle over when they repeated the behavior.
However, there was a more concerning senior element in the store on Friday. And those were the folk in the motorized shopping carts. You know. The ones that look like big scooters with a basket attached in the front? Okay, clearly the people driving those things around the store are the very same ones whose licenses were revoked by New York State because of bad vision. I was picking up my eggs in the dairy department. I turned to head toward the frozen food section when WHAM! An elderly gentleman with (and I kid you not here) this seriously crazed and dazed look in his eyes slammed into my cart with his motorized one. Thank the good lord I didn't have Isabella with me, because her brains would have been scrambled by that collision. But the most frightening thing was that he appeared to not realize what had happened, because he went right on careening down the aisle as if he hadn't just hit my cart.
I know I'm going to be old someday. And sometimes I feel like I have more "senior moments" than my senior citizen family members do. But I hope I'm "with-it" enough to be as active, socially mobile, and bargain-obsessed as my own older relatives. Or at least that I'm sharp enough to realize that I need my speedy and non-motorized grandkid to come with me to pick out my apples.
I glossed over it briefly here, but the deal I worked out with my manager is this: he agreed to let me work from home, five days a week. And he agreed to let me work my own hours, meaning I can work at night, or over the weekends, and I don't have to work 8-5pm, or even be home during those hours. My days and nights are my own, as long as I get my work done. And I promised to come into the office whenever I'm needed for meetings, etc. He was completely accepting of what I asked for. In a word, he rocks.
But the reality of the situation is a bit more complex. I don't want to start working at 9 at night when Isabella is asleep. By about 7, I'm exhausted and ready for bed. "Well, work while she naps," you say? Well lately, girlfriend is in a fued with sleep like Kelly Ripa is with Clay Aiken. She.Does.Not.Sleep.During.The.Day. She'll fall asleep in my arms. I'll put her down in her pack-n-play or her swing, and two seconds later she's awake and crying. And it's killing me. I can't get a single thing done. The house is a sty. I eat my lunch in five minutes while she screams her bloody lungs out in the swing (where she's supposed to be napping) in the other room. And I certainly can't get any work done during the day until Rich comes home to relieve me.
So that's the work angle. The other item of concern about being a FT WFHM is my fear of going absolutely bat-shit stir-crazy during the winter. Now, as you know, one of the cardinal rules of child rearin' in my family is that The CHILD SHAN'T LEAVE THE HOUSE. NOT EVER. Grandma or Auntie comes to watch her and I leave on my errands. And given the fact that I don't get out much anymore, dear Lord, do I enjoy those errands. A simple trip to the grocery store has taken on a new and important meaning for me. (And yes, for the record, I am fully aware of how pathetic that sounds.)
But when the weather is bad, as is often is here in upstate NY, I won't allow my relatives to drive over to my house. They're old (in their 70s), and I don't want them risking their lives to come over and clean my house or watch Isabella while I get some work done. And I don't want to drag a three-month old out in a snowstorm either. The cold is one thing. I'm fine with bundling her up and taking her out. But 8 inches of lake affect snow is another. So what happens on those days? Will I be climbing the walls looking for an escape? I'm the type who doesn't often sit still. How will I respond with being "stuck" within the walls of my house with a three-month old for days on end, without even being able to take her for a walk?
Don't get me wrong. I know how lucky I am to have the work situation I have, and I know how many other mothers would kill to be as fortunate. But I'm concerned, friends. Deeply concerned. Okay, I'll stop complaining now before working-at-the-office moms want to pelt me with tomatoes. And rightfully so.
Here's a picture I took this weekend of the one whom my manager refers to as "she who must be obeyed." Remember the sweater I made for her before she was born? Well, it finally fits, sort of. And is it just me or does her hair seem to be growing in in the stlye of Maddox Jolie-Pitt? It's hard to see in this picture, but Ella's hair is indeed coming in in mowhawk form.