Confession: I hate party-planning

I’m totally torn on if we should have a 3 year birthday party for Margo.

All year, I’ve said no. We’ve had it at our house the past two years and it’s just been… so crowded and so overwhelming. It’s January, so we’re all inside. (Which I hate bc we have an awesome yard – if she had a May-September birthday, this would not be a discussion.) Last year was the BEST! (And by BEST I mean WORST!) She was sick the week leading up to her birthday party and we had to reschedule it and push it back a week. Her birthday is also 3 weeks after Christmas. You know, that time of year when you’ve finally put away all the presents and decorations and don’t want to even look at anything sweet or think about adding more toys to the mix. And you don’t want to do anything social at all because you’ve been going-going-going for 2 months straight?

Oh, January birthdays.

I feel like a mean mom, to be honest! I think I missed the creative party gene, something that is glaringly obvious every time I log into Pinterest! I felt like that about planning my wedding back in the day too – I just don’t get jazzed up about character cupcakes or personalized banners or whatever shabby-chic decor I’m supposed to want to pay so much for! I’d actually glady farm the planning out entirely. I don’t like crafting, I don’t even like calling the cupcake shop and ordering. What is wrong with me??

But, Margo has been talking about her birthday since, oh… March? She has known her birthday is January 16 and it’s coming “beary soon!” since then. All along we were saying we’d skip the party this year and just do something low key & family oriented, and maybe do a friend party once the weather got nice. But we’ve been going to friend parties all year. We went to one Sunday and she said “Margo’s going to have a birthday party soon!”

Well, it is getting to be “beary soon,” now. 2 months away, it’s time to figure this mess out, I think.

Is it a terrible idea to skip a 3 year birthday party, since she’s so excited & loves parties? Should I just suck it up and do it, or be the boss and declare this a first world problem and know that life will be just fine if we skip…

Dressing A 2 Year Old Girl: Rules and Lessons Learned

So, some recent convos on Twitter got me thinking about my daughter’s wardrobe… how my views have evolved and pet peeves, and what I’ve learned in the 2.75 years I’ve had to dress her up.

Make no mistake, I love dressing my daughter. She is way funner to dress up than myself, and, cheesy as it may sound, she actually influences my style. To a greater degree than it is cool to admit…

In the beginning, I got an onslaught of little-girly, teeny and (mostly) free/gifted clothes. When they say “It’s a Girl,” it’s like an unstoppable impulse to go buy a tiny pink onesie with something cute written on it. (I remember folding freshly washed onesies reading “Cutie Pie” and “So sweet” just terrified it’d be “ironic” & my daughter wouldn’t be those things and therefore the shirt would be ridiculous… lol.)  I did it, my entire circle of friends & family did it. As she gets older and her personality is becoming apparent and she has real interests and opinions, I sorta don’t feel the same as I used to about some clothing things. I don’t follow a hard and fast set of rules, however these are some of my guiding principles.

My Kid Talks, Her Clothes Don’t*
*usually

My first rule is a strong limit on words on clothes for my kid. When you really start to think about it, uh, she can’t read. If I put her in a shirt that says “Rock Star,” isn’t that a little unfair? (Or maybe just odd?) She doesn’t even know what a Rock Star is, and is that something I want her to aspire to? Ok, that’s a different tangent, but worth noting, little girl clothes are notoriously off in the skanky direction. Not likely to find one that proclaims “I love Science and Math!” or something, you know, that we WOULD want to encourage. This summer I bought/inherited a few plain colored shirts that paired with plain shorts or skirts. It was easy (even a dad can match outfits!) and I wasn’t putting some sort of weird persona on my kid.

I’m not absolute, I did just buy a babyGap shirt the other day that says “Bonjour” and has a cat on it, because she loves “Happy Lion” and cats. Also, a Lifeguard shirt because she’s so obsessed with Lifeguards it just had to be done. So maybe I act as her power of attorney a little on the “if it has to have words, at least let them be relevant” rule. I know a common “I’ll never do that” -> “I totally ate my words and am doing it anyway” issue among toddler moms is “character t-shirts.” I don’t think I ever promised to avoid them altogether; we have a few (mostly Elmo). I have a t-rex shirt and a lion shirt for her for Christmas too, because, well, she loves them! And who can resist that happy moment when you get them something they love and feed an obsession…

Comfort first

Margo has always been a sturdy little lady. That said, the jeans I’m pulling out of the hand me down box now (3T) are the first jeans to really fit her well. The first year it was a joke… she’d been sitting up for several months and I put jeans on her and she couldn’t even sit. (But, they looked SO CUTE. Don’t worry, I didn’t make her wear them.) And last year sort of worked, though I didn’t subject her to them often because I could tell they weren’t comfortable. I have this weakness for babies and tots in jeans, this was a hard, hard concession for me. Don’t let them tell you you won’t grow as a mother, people.

(Aside: I LOVE jeggings on her for this very reason. They look so cute, but they’re more comfy than jeans. See? Oh, and bonus, they’re Circo and cost like $7 on sale. Win Win Win, to infinity. )

Here’s the thing that has come to be a guiding principle for me in the Comfort realm: kids play. She shouldn’t be limited in that because her clothes are limiting her or her shoes. And, in my experience/opinion, girls clothes are far more prone to inhibit play (not ALL, but there are some scary things out there, people.) Shoes are a big thing, in our experience. We’ve had several friends send hand me downs (which we’re so grateful for), so we have shoes to choose from (i.e., we have shoes in our closet that I didn’t pick out…) Several sandals (and even wedge heels…) just didn’t fit her right or she complained about them. At first it was a little sad – these dainty white thong sandals would go perfect with this dress – but then I realized “Dummy, she’s a kid! Throw some Crocs on her and move on.” And that’s the beauty of the hand me down – no guilt when you don’t use them.

Sidenote: do toddlers EVER like thong sandals? Margo wouldn’t tolerate them long enough to get the second shoe on!

Less is More
This is my hardest rule to follow. Even within the strict parameters mentioned above, I STILL always end up with too many clothes. (I know, first world problem.) I have been approaching it from the past year from a quality over quantity standpoint. Many of Margo’s clothes now are going to be worn for several seasons, if not years (like the dress-turned-into-tunic look!) I’ve been getting less at Target and more at Lands’ End and Zulily. I hate the feeling (which I’ve had every single season so far…) of having clothes that we hardly touched, or clothes I really loved that I didn’t feel she wore enough. I’m constantly reminding myself of this one, and breaking this rule. It’s just… freaking girls clothes! Irresistible.

Cute (not sexy)
Sad it has to be said, but there you go. This rule I am holding tightly, rocking in a corner. Will become ever more relevant as she gets bigger (and I like to think I don’t need to be reminded…) Maybe it’s more like a mantra. Or prayer.

So, what are your principles in dressing your little ROCK STAR/DIVA/CUTIE PIE? 🙂

Getting my Mommy Mojo Back…

My post-marathon days have felt sort of like reanimation… I’m slowly getting my energy, body movement and mental focus back. This weekend was pretty amazing; I didn’t work out at all. I didn’t have to prioritize anything over spending time with my kid. Without running long on Saturday morning, there was time to fit in all the “chores” without missing out on family time, and energy enough to enjoy family time.

(Marathon training wasn’t all bad, but it was a sacrifice. I’ve been enjoying the “decadent” feeling of having time to do all the things I missed.)

That whole Daddy’s Girl forever and Mommy is Chopped Liver shenanigans? Evidently I got my mojo back this weekend and things have been going better. For the most part, we’re in a happy, balanced, “I have two parents and they’re both cool by me” house. I worked hard to be present, be in a good mood and it was fun for all. I am sure there will come a time, maybe in the near future, where I’ll revisit the awesome comments you guys left – heck I used some of them this weekend! 🙂

We started out with Margo’s first soccer class on Saturday (OMG, the cute factor was really unfathomable.) She had a blast and it was really, really fun to watch her with Scott. We had to go out on the field a few times to “save” her from the big scary man coaches. She’s not much for dudes, turns out.

Sunday morning I went to the Raleigh Marathon to cheer for my friends, and repay the scores of anonymous marathoners with some of that encouragement I loved so much during my race. Sunday evening, me and Margo hit the pool together. Super fun! That is so “our thing” and I’m trying to do it every time I have the opportunity!

Getting a pic of Margo when she’s not talking: impossible.

Last night, we had a dance party to the Rock of Ages soundtrack (which Scott threatened to embarrass me with, but I’m owning it. Yes I own the Rock of Ages soundtrack. It’s awesome, not ashamed.) Margo loved it, & even started singing “I love Rock n’ Roll!” We were dancing together to power ballads. & I heard this little number…

“I don’t need to be the king of the world, as long as I’m the hero of this little girl.” 

And I was just content. Yeah, I’m still that so it’s all good. And even if she doesn’t like me sometimes (or for long stretches), I like to think I still will be. Right?

Daddy’s Girl

Apologies in advance for the overthinking enclosed within…

This weekend, on our family trip to DC, a painful truth emerged. Margo is a Daddy’s girl.

Not like “oh, whatever, I love my daddy”, but more like “NO! I don’t WANT Mommy, I want Daddy to do (my hair, get me out of the carseat, wipe my butt, etc).” I mean, I’m cool handing off the butt wiping and little things… it’s just awkward for me to feel pushed out. I wouldn’t say she even showed a preference… maybe one day she was more keen on one of us but never a lingering pro-Mommy or Daddy preference. I always was really thankful for that, and hopeful it would stick.

Part of me blames the marathon, which put me in the position of having to be off running while Daddy & Margo bonded. I also know that Scott is this fount of patience, and I’m just not. I know I need to work on that; he’s the fun one.

And then I start getting all mad at myself that I always end up playing with her “and”… meaning if we’re in the playroom doing an activity, I’ll duck into the laundry room to start a load or fold last night’s load. Or if we’re coloring together downstairs I’ll duck into the kitchen and start making dinner or throw some dishes in the dishwasher. She rarely has my undivided attention. She almost always has Scott’s when they’re hanging out. I think that’s a normal mom-problem, but I hate it. (And honestly, I’m not sure when those little things would get done if I didn’t do them sporadically throughout the night, or that it wouldn’t contribute to an overall high-stress Jamie if I waited till she was in bed.)

Part of this is our difference in approach, which might be something we need to address. I don’t want a child that I need to entertain constantly, and I’m welcoming her budding ability to entertain herself while I take care of something else. I encourage her to do stuff herself. Scott’s not *opposite* of those things, but I think I’m a little more “hard core” about it and she’s starting to sense that, perhaps.

In any event, I’m starting to feel like mean, lame mom to Scott’s cool, funny dad. It sucks. I’m trying to be more present, we’re trying to navigate things we can do together to give me the chance to re-bond with my kid. Me and Margo had some good times this week, but it’s mostly when I pick her up from school and Scott’s not there; if there’s ever a “choice,” Scott’s the pick. I’m hoping (oh, God am I hoping) this is a phase and it’ll pass soon. This morning it sort of all came to a head; I was trying to get her ready while Scott got ready & made her breakfast. She wouldn’t. listen. to. me at all. And the more serious I became, the more it was “Daaaaddy, Daddddy.” And the more she did that, the more I got sort of upset, which didn’t do me any favors in the likeability category. Not a great start to a day.

How do I mend our relationship? Wait it out? Give her space or push for more “bonding opportunities?” Or just buck up and realize this is a parenting lesson and we’ll have these times…I’d love to hear about others’ experiences & advice!

& thanks for listening (reading)

My baby can SWIM!

I’ve mentioned (here & like all the time on Twitter) how we’ve been poolrats this summer. We go at least once a week after work (provided the “funder” doesn’t have other plans) and usually on the weekend, mooching off of my parents’ neighborhood pool or one of the awesome Raleigh city pools that are crazy cheap. (LOVE Ridge Road, $2/per person!) That alone has been awesome time for me and Margo, and some bonus time with my parents!

We did swim lessons with Margo last spring, when she was 15 months old. It was fun for both of us and acclimated me to how and what to teach her, and I think got her comfortable with the water (though she was never, ever scared or fussy about it). I grew up a swimmer, both for fun and competitively so I wanted to share this with my daughter early on. BUT, having been a competitive swimmer, I know the crazies, ok? I know that not all swimmer parents are laid back and “do whatever makes you happy” types (shout out to Missy Franklin’s parents! You rock!) I refuse to let myself be all “living through my kid” or “forcing her to do what I did.”

(Note: My parents were very cool and non-crazy. Just had to put that out there.)

Honestly, when I think of the commitment that year round swimming was, I can’t say I’d be broken hearted if we DIDN’T go down that path. So just to affirm: not forcing swimming on anyone.

This summer, I debated lessons… we were happy with them through the City of Raleigh last year and I was sort of doing a wait and see approach. I browsed the times/days and they all seemed either impossible based on working or, if they were in the evening, like they’d throw off our entire month by wiping out 2 nights a week.

I thought, hell, let’s just see how it goes. I’ve been sort of catalouging skills I want her to have, what might come next as she tries something new and it’s been working out well. I’m not a naturally laid back person, but I think I’ve done pretty well, if I may say so, at letting Margo drive the boat on this. Some days she doesn’t want to jump in, or go under, and I don’t force it. Pool time is fun time, and that’s rule number one of baby-lead swimming lessons.

Jumping in

At the beginning of the summer, she was timid jumping in and she gradually eased into that, and now she’s almost bored with it. Sometimes she jumps in on the noodle (or TWO if she’s in a hilarious mood) and that makes her happy. We were at my friend Cara’s pool and some older kids were running and jumping in and she tried to copy that. Hil.Arious. She would run up to the edge & stop, then say 1-2-3 and jump like normal.

Back floating

She’s recently gotten really good at this. Last night, in the baby pool at Ridge Road, she was doing it all by herself. I think she liked doing it in the shallow water bc she had more control. Often, when we’re floating around she’ll just “bust” into some back floating, as in flail out of my arms without warning and float. So unpredictable.

Getting out

I taught her to hold on to the side of the pool and scootch to the ladder. An important skill! She’s in a very independent stage, and I think being able to do it herself is a confidence boost to her. I rarely hoist her out of the pool, which is a win for my shoulders 🙂

Bubbles/holding breath

We’ve done bubbles since last year’s swim lessons, I think that helped with her “getting” the hold your breath while underwater thing.

Swimming

The past two months I’ve been trying to do the holding her in a swimming position maneuver that we did in the swim lesson, which she’s in the mood for sometimes and not really other days. I always tell her to pull with her arms and kick hard… the pulling didn’t seem to click. Sometimes we do it with the noodle under her belly, and she can be semi-independent then & a little more bouyant.

Then, this.

Last weekend, she all of the suddent wanted to go underwater and kick. And I think it just clicked for her that moving your arms helps you go farther. The video was the beginning of that pool session… by the end, she swam diagonally across the pool with me walking beside her. She’d go under and swim, and pop her head up when she needed a breath (and me to grab her.) It was amazing, and my friend Amy & I had to drag her out of the pool bc we were tired; she would have stayed & done it again I’m sure!

Now, I will say that we went last night and she didn’t want to swim like that. I take it as it comes. Baby-lead swimming lessons.

So, what’s next? Anyone who HAS done swim lessons with a 2 year old wanna share any skills I should branch out to, or games or anything? I feel like we need to have a primer on the “Respect for the Water” aspect of swimming (ie: it’s all fun when I’m here beside you, but this can get real fast, etc.) I am still debating doing lessons, maybe it’d be a fun winter thing to keep swimming after summer is over and we’re not such poolrats.

This Just In: I Love Veggies

I’m not a vegetarian, and I never really thought I could be one. But lately, I’ve been ALL UP ON THE VEGGIES. Trying new ones, opening my mind to things I’d tried once a long time ago. Like now? I’m going through a major guacamole phase. And I’m getting there with hummus, though I still don’t think I see what all the fuss is about.

This week, I made two killer veggie centered meals I’d like to share with you. I can in no way claim to have invented these, but I do feel like a genius to have figured it out. I think it’s like “reinventing the veggie wheel.”

Veggie Pita
Ingredients (Mostly from the salad bar at work, but could be easily cobbled together from home/store/etc)

A bunch of veggies. I used red peppers, onions (also SO INTO onions! Odd.), artichokes
Shredded Cheddar cheese
Hummus (leftover from lunch out the day before.)
Pita

I slathered the pita with hummus and stuffed all the veggies in that I could. It was messy and delicious, and I couldn’t believe how filling!

Veggie Wrap
Ingredients:
1 yellow squash
1 zucchini
1 onion
4 garlic cloves, minced
a bunch of cherry tomatoes, halved
1 red pepper
Fresh Mozzarella
Olive oil
Balsamic Vinegar
Burrito wraps

Chop all the veggies and combine in a bowl. Sprinkle with olive oil and whatever seasonings you want. I was very loosey goosey here – some Oregano, Basil…salt I think? Heat up a skillet with some more oil and dump it all in. Add a splash of basalmic (a little goes a long way). Cook until they’re at your desired firmness, and add chunks of fresh mozzarella at the last minute, allowing them to just barely melt. Eat it in a wrap.

The veggie mix I made produced about 4 wraps worth, and you could totally just eat it as a side dish. And with different veggies, depending on what you have on hand.

Truth? I think I’m trying new things because of Margo. She’s really impressing me lately with her willingness to try new stuff and I can’t really say chicken-or-egg who’s inspiring who to try more stuff and be healthier! So, there’s a little unintended health benefit of our toddler eating habits, I suppose.

15 minutes & Making After Work Time Work

While surfing Pinterest the other day, I saw a pin that included a list of ideas to make sure each of your children felt special and loved, and one suggested that you spend 15 dedicated minutes with each kid, where you’re not doing anything else. Just playing, focusing on the kid.

Well, we’re a one kid household at this point so that sounds super easy. But as I got to thinking about it, I wasn’t sure I could say I *did* in fact spend 15 minutes without my phone, not picking up or folding laundry… just playing and focusing. Big, fat whoops.

So, I started being deliberate about it. Nights when I pick up Margo from daycare and come home, things can go really well or it can be a constant back and forth of her whining/yelling for me to pay attention to her and me throwing fishsticks in the oven or unloading the dishwasher and yelling back “Just a minute, sweetie!” Know what the determining factor is in our evenings? 15 minutes of focus.

I come home and bring all our crap in from the car (honestly, we look like we live in the car between the daycare bag, gym bag, sometimes the produce box, my purse…) and I just leave it. I fight the urge to take my sweaty running clothes upstairs & put them in the hamper and fight the urge to thumb through the mail. And we do whatever she wants to do (that’s not TV, that’s the babysitter that will come in handy during the second successful phase of the evening: dinner prep.) We often do a puzzle or read a book. We color (SO relaxing for me…) We pet the cat, sit on the porch if the heat isn’t brutal. We go outside if it’s possible, but frankly, indoor cuddling and mind games allow us more bonding.

Snuggles for all!! Exhibit A.

Then, after 15ish minutes (I don’t set a timer), I peel away and start dinner prep. Note: I don’t MAKE dinner, I generally warm some leftovers up or we eat something frozen. She can continue to play independently, or more often, she’ll ask to watch Curious George and I’ll say yes.

For so, so long I resisted TV. WHY did you do this, Jamie? For 23 minutes, she sits there and I can actually get shit done. It’s a beautiful, beautiful thing and I have begun to be okay with this daily. Not like it’s all day, I tell myself, it’s 23 minutes when I sorely need it.

On a good night, I have all our stuff ready and the two of us eat together. Family dinners are something that’s still a work in progress for us. It’s complicated, frankly… Scott and I generally aren’t eating the same things, and Margo has some overlap now, but she’s also got a unique plate. I work on the two of us, Scott does his. It’s working for us, for now. I do wish the three of us could eat together more, but right now given our schedules and diets, just not happening and I’m letting us off the hook for that. So.

What makes your nightly routine work or not work? Do YOU spend 15 minutes focused on your kid?