Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Halloween with a 2 year old.....More Fun Than a Bag of Tricks

Last night was the first time Halloween meant something to my toddler. Once she figured out that the costume I gave her and the bucket she was carrying meant that people would give her candy, oh, she had it down pat. So well in fact, at one stop she walked right in to the living room and saw what she could see. No problemwhatsoeverthanksyouverymuch she seemed to say. Even when she took a dive in the street and her candy stash went flying, she didn't cry as much as one tear. She was probably too jacked up from all the sugar, to be honest, but we didn't care, it's one night a year.

We ruled the streets with a great group of parents and kids, all under the age of 5. The local neighborhood is amazing and generous, these kids got enough candy to last them quite a while. With the loving help of the parents, of course. It's been decided our kiddo will be allowed to eat some of her lovingly collected chocolate bars, but only one every other day or so. Her enjoyment will be stretched out into a few weeks and Mom has her emergency chocolate sorted out too.

This year, I really realized Halloween truly is the most fun for the children. Seeing them dressed up, the older kids excited about their costume selection, the screaming, the spooks, the treats. As an adult I would go to the required costume party every year but I've had more fun these last two years trick or treating than any year, at any Halloween bash. It's just so precious to see my baby girl make her way to the front of the pack to get her reward. She wasn't scared of anything, nope, not even the screaming banshees. Every year is going to get better, I think, as she is able to talk more and share her first time experiences, that will take me back to my own youth. So bring on the goblins and witches and ghosts, next year we'll be waiting and ready!

Thursday, October 27, 2011

Marin Mama Tries to Unplug...And Fails

There is a reason why this is my first post in over two months. Simply, my workload has been over the top overwhelming. Although I love my job in media relations, it's been a challenging couple of months. Not to mention that the kiddo turned two and we had a blast at the party, complete with a bubble machine and cookie decorating. Needless to say, I was BUSY! But now the craziness has returned to it's level of normalcy, after all, my house wouldn't be my house without some sort of crazy talk,  and I'm finding myself...well, a little sad. I know what you must be thinking, "she was talking about how stressed she was, she was talking about never working in this field again," and true, I said and felt those emotions. Of course, that was when none of my editors or journalists were responding to my pitches. Once the press coverage started coming in, I was feeling great, awesome in fact!

So now, the month of birthdays has passed, the baby showers have passed, the event planning has passed,  and I'm still plugged in to my computer, my iPhone, waiting for the latest update to hit the wires. It could be that I just don't know how to relax! These days, being connected is everything and to really be "connected" and remember I'm talking about electronic connections, not real life connections, you have to constantly be on the update and I mean that in the most literal sense of the word. I realize that this is my job, especially since public relations has come to mean social online relations in a large part, but sometimes I wonder if I could go a day without any electronics. I'd like to think so but it's hard. I've made a note to leave my phone in the car while the kiddo and I are at the park or on the hiking trail. Those precious hours can't be done over and I should make an effort to keep the networking and the updating confined to a few hours a day, preferably when I'm working for the few moments a day when the nap is in full force.

Living in this fast paced society, especially the Bay Area, has taken it's toll on this Marin Mama. The sense of needing to do something, "Quick, check-in, connect, update!" can get out of control and it's time I slow it down a little. This weather won't stay nice for too much longer and then I'll be desperate for entertainment which doesn't include a TV.

Thursday, August 25, 2011

Marin Mama Contemplates Clothing...Is it All That Important?

I've been told by that upon receiving my first pair of black patent leather shoes I insisted in wearing them everywhere, even to bed. Apparently I would have my mother sit them right alongside the bathtub so as soon as I was toweling off, those shoes could go right back on my feet. My youngest sister was on the opposite spectrum, not wanting to wear clothes at all, in fact, the less of them the better. My husband is very particular about his shoes and the way they fit. So, should it even be a surprise to me in the last couple of weeks I've been battling the battle which has no end? The Clothing Battle. Yes parents you know exactly what I'm referring to here, don't try to deny it. The struggle that sounds something like "do you really want to wear fur lined boots in July? Don't you think you'll be cold running errands in a swim suit today, considering that it's December? Do you realize that you've got two different shoes on darling?" It can go on for hours, months or even years. 

My kid just started getting weird about clothing and I chalk it up to a week in Dallas, where everyone is practically naked during the summer anyways, and to my family living in a moderate climate where a winter coat is almost never necessary. I tried reasoning with her to put on socks and shoes and a shirt the other day but then I realized two things; 1. Why am I reasoning with a 22 month old toddler who says NO to everything I ask anyways? and 2. Does it really matter if she runs errands with no shirt on? Isn't that considered the norm in Europe? 

To answer my own questions, I don't know why I would try to reason with someone who doesn't really understand the concept, unless of course, she was headed out in a snow storm with her bathrobe on. And second, No, it doesn't matter if she runs errands with no shirt on, in fact, it might make my trip more pleasurable. She's happy, I'm happy she's happy, no one is in danger, we have success!! It's these small battles we as parents ought to let the kids win. Their choices are so limited and really boil down to what they are allowed to do and not to do. To quote one woman who commented on my daughter with a smile "Might as well let her do it while she can" which is very wise because sooner than later she'll be worried about the latest styles and what her friends and idols are wearing. I should be thrilled that this means nothing to her as of yet, that she couldn't care less how she looks to others. I can only hope that some aspect of that carries through her life, creating a confident woman who looks great but doesn't need to worry about looking perfect. It's definitely not worth losing 30 minutes of our day over. In fact, she practically ran out the door in joy the day she wore nothing but a pair of leggings. To her, she was dressed exactly as she wanted and was happy the way she was. 

Monday, August 15, 2011

Marin Mama Follows the Crumbs on the Quest for Clean

I've always been somewhat tidy, in fact, I'd call myself an organized, clean person. I thought this to be a great asset until my first born (and only so far) became a hungry, busy toddler. Now that I'm a parent, I've realized being a clean person sort of morphs into one of two things after the birth of children. A parent either gives up the quest for clean as a lost cause and no longer follows the crumbs or a parent takes on the quest for clean wholeheartedly, as if following the crumbs will prevent more crumbs from falling. Well I am of the latter group and just can't seem to give up on the quest completely. A clean house is something of an achievement, especially to those parents who work full time AND parent. I work part-time and am the CEO of my household. I like my lists made and my laundry folded. I like a shiny clean sink and it's a little sick how excited I get upon seeing how much dirt I manage to vacuum out of the three tiny rooms over which I reside as Queen of Clean.

This used to be a lot easier. The kiddo was messy but it was a moderate mess. Totally manageable and not without reason. Alas, this is no longer. I follow the crumbs on the quest for clean because my 22 month old daughter seems to have taken a liking to throwing almost any type of food on the ground. Carpet, linoleum, tile, no matter, she'll throw food on any surface available. The trail of cheerios can be found from the kitchen to the living room and into her tiny bedroom. The goldfish crackers can be found under the kitchen island, near the TV and even in the bathtub, where my precocious young thing has been testing out her theory of whether or not those things can actually swim. It’s like she’s Sir Isaac Newton having just discovered the law of gravity and can’t stop throwing things down. “Oh Wow! Those peas and tomatoes really DO drop to the ground and roll away under the refrigerator....Hmmmm, avocado and cheese sticks don’t really bounce, in fact, they stick to the ground nicely.” It’s amazing that she’s discovering the laws of science but it messes with my quest for clean!

I can only imagine what a second child does to mamas following the crumbs. Could be that the mess just gets bigger and still gets cleaned up. Could be that the mess overtakes the quest and it’s forced to take a back seat to the quest for sanity. I’ll have to get back to you on that one...maybe you can tell me!?

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Gaa, gooo, lalala, "No Mama NO!!!!.......Wait, what did you just say?!!!

If you're wondering just what I meant by my blog post title, well it's pretty simple. My 20 month old daughter has figured out how to use her tongue to form words, all kinds of words! "Mama" was there a few months ago, a given ;), and there was a favorite dog at Nana and Grandpa's who became known as "baa baa" a well produced version of his name, Ricky Bobby, then we heard "Daa Dee" which excited my husband to no end, he just loves hearing her say Daddy, over and over and over and over. Well this mom loved hearing all the words too. I love the animal sounds she's figured out, sounds like moo, woof and a lions roar. All amazing, all fun and yes, she's so smart!!  Then yesterday arrived......and so did the word "NO." Yup, the kid has learned how to say No and in an amazing amount of time ( did I mention she's sharp?) she also has figured out just what that word means. The fun shall now begin.

No mommy, no! No, mommy NO!!! NO! NO! NO! NO! No diaper change, no clothing change, No leave the pool, No get in car seat, NO, NO, NO!!. In the course of a mere 48 hours I can honestly say I've heard NO at least a hundred times. Which got me to thinking, should I have not used that word while helping her understand there are limits? Mommy and daddy know best and that no, you can't go into the street? Or, no jumping on the couch? She's not trying to defy me, just yet anyways, I mean, the darling is only 20 months old and a very good girl. I chalk it up to new words and that wonderful time in a child's life where there is so much to learn and do that it is simply overwhelming. It's pretty funny though, when I think about how it must look, a child kicking and screaming NO MOMMY NO!! She's not the first and she won't be the last, so I find comfort in knowing there are so many other mommy's out there having dealt with the very same issues now challenging me. In fact, I happen to know that yours truly was a fine tantrum thrower and used NO quite often, according to my own dear mother.

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Up in the Air...Away We Go...With Child!

I traveled by air for the first time at 12, across the country with a school group, for a week long adventure to New York and Boston. I vividly remember waiting in SFO airport, anticipating the unknown, the fear of what I hadn't yet done, wondering how the take-off and landing would feel, many different thoughts. Amazingly enough to me, my daughter has already traveled via jet airplane six times in her 18 months of life. A sign of changing times, no doubt, and no doubt due to the fact that the Marin daddy is the house is actually a Texan in disguise, so we have family out-of-state, a fun, loving place to which we can escape. I'm thinking about all this now because we are about to embark on a couple of months of madness. Two round-trip flights in less than three weeks.  Two weddings, both out-of-state, one really, really out of state and one close to my in-laws in Texas. It's going to be a busy, busy time for our little family and I'm trying to tackle these events head-on and with confidence.

 Traveling used to make me feel glamorous, even if because it was a change in the daily pattern called life.
Once my daughter was born I assumed and anticipated flying would be horrible. I've heard other mothers tell tales of horror, children crying for hours on end, people casting dirty looks. Well the first time we took our 2.5 month old daughter home for the holidays, she was a perfect baby, slept in the Moby wrap for over half of the trip. It wasn't so bad for us either, no crying, not much fussing. All was good. Next trip, she's 8 months old, and we  thought we had it down. Well we thought wrong. A last minute seat change placed us in the last row of a plane with only one set of bathrooms right behind us and before the attendant's prep area. We thought it would have been a good idea to take a red-eye, let her sleep, which, if we had gotten the seats we originally picked, she would have done.

 All I will say is that my level of patience and calm was certainly tested on that night. We've had a couple other flights, all with no problems, and every time we fly we get better at streamlining the process. We have discovered that our daughter can go hours without being grumpy so mid-day or early evening flights work best for us(this is something you'll figure out on your own.) Considering the location of one half of our family, it's something that will have to keep improving, especially if another baby is added to the equation. Here are some tips from yours truly on traveling with a child: (*disclosure: if you've got more than one child on board, hats off to you! I commend you on your efforts.)

  • Pack Smart: As a mother you can carry-on one bag and a diaper bag. Pack essentials such as diapers, wipes, food, drink, videos, books, in the diaper bag, to be stored at your feet. Those lovely magazines and books you once read in flight? Those most likely, will remain in your carry-on, abandoned to another time and place.
  • Use disposable diapers - this seems like a no brainer to 99% of women but if you were using cloth, as I was, and dragged a whole set of fuzzi bunz to Texas, like I did, then take note. It's not worth the stress and effort to change a baby on a plane, especially when you are 6'3" like my husband. The diapers will also eat up valuable packing space, something to consider with airlines often charging almost $25.00 each way per bag. There are some eco-friendly disposable brands out there and they can last up to three or four hours depending on how much your child drinks. 
  • Bring snacks, lots of snacks: If your child is under six months, be prepared to breastfeed on demand or have plenty of formula prepared. The squeezeable baby food packs that are mega-popular are so for a reason. These handy dandy, no-mess, no-stress packs were a sanity-saving trick last time we traveled. Small pre-packaged snacks are good too but if you want to cut down on waste, pack a cooler. You can take milk through security, but they may ask to test any breast milk or formula before allowing it on a plane. 
  • Keep them occupied: The television stays off 80% of the time in our house so the video entertainment isn't out of control. However, I am a firm believer in keeping my sanity so we bring a chargeable, portable DVD player along for the ride. We let her watch whatever she wants, within reason of course. She can pick Sesame Street, Wonder Pets, My Baby Can Talk/Read videos or even Disney. Maybe others will disagree but I feel that something such as airplane travel can be a time for treats such as video entertainment in mass amounts. Small toys are great too, keep some hidden to pull out mid-flight, "oh look honey, what I found, cool!" If your child is a bookworm like mine is, bring as many small board books that fit comfortably into your diaper bag.
  • Remember that everyone was a child once: Those few people who give you and your family dirty looks? Ignore em'. 9 out of 10 people will be kind and understanding, almost everyone of your traveling companions have raised children themselves. My husband and I have yet to experience a grumpy traveler. 
I'm pretty sure there are many more excellent tips on flying with children and I'd love to hear them. The more knowledge the better! Check out my most recent contribution to the world of Marin Moms: San Rafael Patch.com's Mom's Talk

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Marin Mama Takes a Moment for the Unsung Hero...Her Marin Daddy

I started this blog to chronicle the adventures of being a new mom in Marin County. So far, in the 17 months since I gladly took on the title of Marin Mama, every day has been a blessing, of course, the standard tantrum or poopy diaper included as part of the blessing. It is with a whole heart that I enjoy living in one of the most naturally beautiful places on Earth, with thousands of nature lovers who not only embrace but enthuse the good points of getting out into Marin County; full of wondrous trails, gorgeous peaks by the sea, ancient redwoods and pedestrian friendly paths. The kid and I, we get out, we explore, we sing, we play.

This Marin Mama is very grateful that she's able to work weekends and stay at home during the week. This is all possible of course, because of Marin Daddy, at least, our Marin Daddy. He works hard, drives faster than I'd like in order to get home before bedtime or, if he's lucky, dinnertime. He doesn't get to go for a walk in the middle of the day. He doesn't get to stroll through the mall or go to Jumping Jacks or story time. He calls on his lunch break and wants to know what we've been doing with our day. It's times such as this that I ponder the roles of mother and father and usually I'm pretty happy that I'm the Marin Mama. My career prior to mother was a good one and I still have a small side business. I loved my job, no doubt, but I love being a stay-at-home-mother (SAHM) more than I ever imagined possible.

The Marin Daddy in our house is a hands-on-dad, when he's home. Since I work at least one weekend day, that's Daddy Day in our house, and usually, when I see the munch (my daughter) after Daddy Day, she's usually wearing an outfit I would never have picked and the house is often times pretty cluttered. The baby is sometimes dirty like she's been playing outdoors for hours upon end, she's sleepy and always, always, blissfully happy. These things, which sometimes add to my exhaustion, always make me happy because it's clear how much those two enjoy their time together, without Mommy. I am so grateful that my husband is so in love with our daughter. Unfortunately, not all fathers are willing to changes diapers, do a bath or even be a parent. There is no "babysitting" the munch when daddy's on duty, it's just daddy and baby time.

He is the unsung hero of The Chronicles, he is a fabulous father and I know that my daughter is one of the luckiest little girls in Marin County, maybe even, the whole world.

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

Marin Mama and Baby Go Head to Head.....Are the Terrible Two's Here Already?

Now that my daughter is what we call a toddler, having moved from the so-called baby stage so quickly that I swear it happened over night, we have run up against the period of time designated as "The Terrible Twos" which for convenience sake we'll shorten to the TTs. Wait a second, the kid's only 16 months old! Surely she hasn't hit her TTs yet....so what's my excuse for the recent bursts of emotions ranging from frustrated to sad to mad? Ummmm, guess I don't have one. In the last week or two our little walker has discovered something....something called willpower. Something that I thought was oh so cute and amazing when she wouldn't give up, when she refused to take no for an answer, has turned around and bitten me in the behind.

After all, this Marin Mama was planning on raising a power daughter, someone who will take on the world, all the while rockin' her 5 inch stilettos. It never occurred to me that my power daughter and I would begin having a power struggle at such a tender age.  Thank goodness I'm attempting to be objective in raising my child, and thank goodness my husband approaches child rearing in the same manner. We believe in rules and respect but we can be lax about bedtimes and snacks in between meals. She seems to do well with Dad but lately she's been difficult with me and I've had to thumb my way through my favorite child-rearing book to get some ideas as to why this might be. After a couple of days I think I might have found some answers.

I am a very laughable person. I have a cheery disposition and being firm and serious is not of my nature. That being said, having to discipline is one of the hardest things I've ever had to do. I'm having to push aside all my own emotions when dealing with a breakdown. Even though sometimes I want  to laugh because her little fit is so cute, I simply cannot. I have to be serious, consistent and firm. Is it possible that she knows this? It feels like this could be the truth because she has begun to test my limits, test my patience, test the very thing she's using to cement her position, willpower.

Looking at this behavior from my daughter's point of view might be more productive. She sees something, she wants it, simple fact. She doesn't yet understand about waiting, sharing is a new idea as well. It's up to me to teach her that she can't always have something right this very minute, now, now, now!! She doesn't understand that chewing on that pen cap haphazardly isn't safe, in fact, it's a total choking hazard. Parents sometimes want their children to imagine them as a friend that they can forget their #1 job isn't to be a friend, it's to be a parent, someone to put the smack down, to have the answers, to make the rules. Being a friend is important, no doubt, but it comes second in the order of what is necessary to create respectful, happy children. At least, it is in my opinion, and I know how many different opinions are out there. My daughter will never look at me as only her friend, I am her mother. As much as I'm going to want to bond and giggle and share my favorite girlie things with her, there has to be a line I remember to toe. She has to respect and like me in order for this thing called parenthood to work. I can only hope as she grows I'll be able to do the dance between friend and parent, having a blast and earning respect at the same time.

Friday, January 21, 2011

Sign Language for Babies: Yes it really does work!

When I was in college, at some point I read a study about babies being taught to use American Sign Language (ASL)  to communicate before having mastered the means to do so verbally. After reading it I laughed and giggled with friends about how silly it seemed to use sign language with babies. How pretentious, how over-the-top, we'd say. They are just babies, after all, let them enjoy being babies!!!! Fast forward about 10 or so years and I'm a mom. With a 15-month daughter who uses sign language to communicate, a lot. This wasn't something I planned to have happen but it's one of the secret weapons I will now and forever keep stashed on my super-mommy utility belt.

It all began on the munch's 1st birthday when she (me) unwrapped a set of videos from my father and stepmother. My Baby Can Talk, a three video set including 1. First Signs 2. Sharing Signs 3. Exploring Signs. Now please remember that I had laughed at this very topic a mere 10 years ago in college when I had all the answers. Can you blame me for being a little hesitant? No, you cannot. Up to this point in her life, my daughter had watched little to no TV or videos, excusing football Sundays and the San Francisco Giant's championship post-season performances.

Nevertheless we'd had a great day, the present were unwrapped and we thought, "why not? Let's see  what this "signing business" is all about." Pop in First Signs and then the video shows a pretty lady signing words such as cat, milk, more, banana, dog, sleep, etc. Then there is a series of images of real and pretend items corresponding to each sign. It's Baby Einstein blended with ASL with all the classics, Mozart, Beethoven, thrown in for good measure. Brilliant, just brilliant. The wee one sat and watched almost the entire video without moving, her attention span wowed everyone in the room.

If this kind of thing is even remotely interesting to you, or not interesting at all, Google it anyways because I'm not sure how to explain these fabulous keep-mom-sane-while-expanding-brain-capacity videos. There are numerous books on the subject of ASL and babies and I've even had the good fortune of taking a music class that incorporates signs into the songs. I also know there has been some debate in regards to the legitimacy of such videos, including the early morning paid programming favorite, My Baby can Read. This is the real deal, I am a complete devotee. .

From that night on she has asked as nicely as a 12-15 month old child can do, to watch at least one video a day. Don't get me wrong, she'd watch all three all day long if we allowed her to do so and I'll be honest, there have been a couple of days when she's done just that. I found it to be a wonderful way of getting her to sit in one place and found myself thinking, was I being a terrible mother by letting a 13 month old girl watch DVDs, albeit educational ones? Well the day she started using sign language to tell me what she wanted, my hesitation flew out the window. It was one of the most amazing moments in my career as a Marin Mama. She is able to tell me what she needs! To see her use the sign for dog, or eat or more; to see her make the sign for turtle or giraffe, it's simply incredible. Every day I'm constantly blown away by her fabulous sponge-like abilities to sop up information and use it to her advantage.

So blown away in fact sometimes I can't tell what she's signing. I have watched the videos, and I sign whenever I get the chance but wow! Occasionally she'll whip out a sign and mix it up with another sign that could be one thing but maybe another and I'm speechless. I'll ask her to tell me again, and she'll do the sign again, until finally, hopefully, I catch on. She's able to express herself before speaking and although I'm no expert I know her sweet, perpetually happy disposition is related in some way to her being able to tell us when she's hungry, tired, or wants to go down the slide at the playground. I would absolutely tell any parent to buy these videos or try in some manner to incorporate ASL into the daily routine of a child. Even if you think you may be that weird parent at the playground signing to a toddler. It's worth every look!

Thursday, January 13, 2011

Dancin', Dancin', Dancin'! Loving that my kid love to dance

Years before morphing into a Marin Mama who gets her exercise by hiking and running behind a 15 month old little girl, I studied tap, ballet and jazz dance. In college modern, hip-hop and musical theater was added to the repertoire. Dance was a big part of my daily life for almost 12 years; it was a lot of fun and I worked as an instructor in my time off between class but ultimately I chose not to make my art my career. My legs, or any other part of me for that matter, rarely see a studio these days; I regret this immensely and hope to become more involved if my daughter also exhibits the dancing bug.

I have no intention to push her towards being a dancer, no matter how much I hope to spend weekends surrounded by tutus. I will absolutely sign her up for the first tap or ballet class with other little girls her age. If she loves it, great! If not, well, we'll find something else active that she loves. No, I spent my life cringing at the stage moms, we all know who I'm talking about(every activity has one), and hope I never fall into that category. This being said, it thrills me to no end when my daughter starts moving to a beat and I'm having a hard time imagining her not loving dance classes! Her boogie down moves are some of the cutest, silliest ones I've ever seen and I'm convinced we've got another Fonteyn on our hands. 

Since dancing and music go hand in hand, good tunes have an important presence in my life and it seems to be the same for the wee one. Music beats, one after another, have been playing for her since she was swimming around in my tummy and I've concluded the following thus far: reggae seems to be a favorite, Paul Simon is a must and ANYTHING with drums is good. (Her grandpa will tell you that she loves the Jonas Brothers but I'm going to ignore the fact he let her watch music videos while we were visiting over the holidays) She's been rocking out for months and now that she can stand and walk and bend those knees, her groove is really kicking in. She'll squat two or three times, quick now! One! Two! Three! Her little arm will go out and in while she's pumping. Yeah! Yeah! Yeah! Now she's get a foot out there as well as her little one, two, three.

It is an absolute joy to see her get pleasure out of the same things I enjoyed and still enjoy to this day. It would be awesome if her attraction to the shiny patent leather shoes means she'll want to sleep in her tap shoes, as I once insisted upon. Even if I didn't have years of training, her shrieks of laughter and her grooving to the beat would still thrill me because it's just pure joy for both the child and the parent and I'm left wondering how soon we can sign up for that first dance class.