Saying mama

Baby H is about to turn seven months old. On the one hand, how can it be seven already? On the other hand…only seven? Really?

Parenting sometimes makes me exhibit split personality disorder-like symptoms.

She has been babbling and making more and more noises, but to my great chagrin, she will not make a mama sound. She loves dada, although I think she thinks it means dancing, and she says it to get us to dance.

So I’ve been thinking about the mama sound, and how it’s one of those words that’s so universal over different languages. I used google translate to check several different languages, and found maman (French), mama (Spanish, German, Russian), mamma (Italian, Swedish), and maminka (Czech). (I tried to check some Asian and Middle Eastern languages but since the alphabets are different, google translate was unhelpful, and honestly, I did minimal research on this in order to not dispute my own theory. #confirmationbias)

I read an article that suggested that babies first gravitate towards the m, p, and b sounds because they are the easiest to make. They come entirely from the lips, no teeth or tongue required. Why then would babies around the world naturally associate mama with mother, rather than papa or baba? This same article called the mama sound a “slight nasal murmur” that babies make while breastfeeding – meaning “mama” first signifies to them food, and it becomes associated with mother after that.

This seems like a good theory to me. I accept it.

My follow up question is then – why is the other word that comes to mind as being very similar across languages – “no”? (French non, Spanish/Italian no, German nein, Russian nyet, Swedish nej, Czech ne)

Does this mean that moms are somehow linked to “no”? Because it does feel like that.

Parenting does sometimes make me feel like I’m just saying “No” all day long.

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Growing Up

When I was 19, I used to think that I didn’t ever want kids. My “humorous” reason was that I was way too selfish and wouldn’t want to put someone else’s needs above my own. At 19, that was probably true.

When I was 24, I realized that I wanted to have kids, just not yet. I wanted to be married for at least a year before even thinking about it.

When I was 27, I was desperate to be a mom. I hated all my friends who were having babies.

When I was 28, our son was born, and we spent the first two nights in the hospital feeling totally shell-shocked and confused about what we had signed up for. The first few weeks were overwhelming, scary, and really made me question everything I had thought I wanted. Luckily that was all just the craziness of the first weeks of the first baby, and I’m happy to say that I don’t regret anything.

When I was 31, our daughter was born, and it was slightly less crazy but still overwhelming, and it’s been almost 6 months and we still aren’t sleeping super well and it seems that they never nap at the same time and there is always someone needing something.

But I think we’re done now…and it makes me sad to think that I won’t be pregnant again. The first time around, every stage was new and intriguing, and we saved everything religiously for the next one. This time, we’re starting to jettison things, baby clothes and toys and gear, just getting rid of things when she doesn’t need them or fit into them anymore. It’s hard to give away boxes of baby clothes in the mindset that there won’t be another one.

But still, I sometimes think about that selfish 19-year-old, and I think she had the right idea. Doing whatever I wanted, whenever I wanted, being accountable to no one, spending time with Drew or with friends or even alone – it was so luxurious and I didn’t even know it. I remember in New York, when Drew and Jared would be working two shows on Saturday and Sunday, I could sleep until noon, and then spend the rest of the day lying around reading. I used to watch a lot of Law & Order: SVU while doing cross-stitch kits. It didn’t matter. I could do whatever I wanted. (I want to yell this at the 20-somethings I know who complain about being tired. You have no idea! Embrace it! Just take a nap and you’ll feel better! Go out to brunch or something!)

In the last three years, I have discovered that I have a well of patience that I didn’t know existed. I have also discovered a temper that I didn’t know I had. They both kind of depend on the amount of sleep and protein I’ve had in the last 24 hours. I am definitely a different person now. I think I’m more responsible. More willing to lower expectations. More grateful. I hope the changes have been for the better.

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My Definitive Best Picture Rankings

It was a close call, but I’m happy to say we just managed to finish watching all eight movies nominated for Best Picture this year, as is our tradition. As is also our tradition, my ranking of the movies varies wildly compared to Drew’s. Isn’t it nice that art is so subjective and can be enjoyed by so many people with different ideas and preferences?

Here’s my ranking of this year’s movies, from best to worst:

The Martian
Bridge of Spies
The Revenant
The Big Short
Mad Max

My system of ranking is extremely detailed and scientific. It involves putting the movies into a note in my phone as I watch them, based on the immediate experience I had. For example:

Room was amazing and also the hardest to watch. It only lost out to The Martian because I can’t really see watching Room again. The Martian is the surprise to me – I didn’t think I would like it as much as I did.

Brooklyn and Spotlight are really tied for third. I basically put Brooklyn ahead because I watched it after Spotlight and the experience was fresher.

Bridge of Spies was fun but a little slow. Tom Hanks is a national treasure. Mark Rylance is also a national treasure, but I’m assuming the UK has laid claim to him.

The Revenant was visually very interesting (shot using only natural light), and very gory, and also the only one of the movies I saw in the theater.

The Big Short and Mad Max are really the only two I would say I didn’t like, and I realize that I’m one of the very few people in the world who feels that way about Mad Max. But come on. Action movies about people driving around shooting at each other? Just not my thing. All they did was drive from point A to point B, and then back to point A.

So there you have it. The most definitive ranking of 2016 Academy Awards Best Picture nominees. Happy Oscars tomorrow!

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Be Mine

I have always had a fondness for Brachs conversation hearts, even though I suspect they might actually be disgusting. In high school, my best friend and I used to give them to each other every Valentine’s Day, and one year when we did time capsules in school, we both included conversations hearts in ours.

It’s been a couple years since I’ve had them, but this year she sent me some boxes as a Valentine’s gift. I was reminded instantly of their chalky yet delicious taste, and the way the stamped expressions of affection are often charmingly off-center. But while enjoying them, and (as always) sorting the yellow and white ones out to eat last…I suddenly realized I had no idea what these flavors are supposed to be.

I decided to do some experimenting, and so I started investigating the flavors. I was pretty sure white was some kind of mint and yellow was banana, and those have always been my favorites. I thought of the other flavors as spice drops – they’re not the typical flavors of colored candy, but they’re okay. But in my investigations, I realized they’re actually just fruit flavors: grape, orange, lime, strawberry (?). I mentioned this to my BFF, who laughed at me and then said she thinks that pink is bubble gum. That might explain why that’s my least favorite…although fake strawberry is also on my thumbs down list.

Side note: This year I found a bag of hearts at Target that are “Emoticon” themed – instead of sayings, they all feature really pixelated faces that are supposed to be emoticons. Very 1990s meets 2004, on a Target shelf in 2016.

Happy Valentine’s Day, and may all your conversation hearts be white or yellow and stamped cleanly!

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I’m sorry

My 3-year-old son will sometimes, out of the blue, say, “I’m sorry. I’m sorry, mommy. I’m sorry, daddy.” This, while he’s playing with Legos or his train set. While he’s not doing anything he needs to apologize for. It usually happens when he’s being super adorable. I always rush to tell him he doesn’t have to say he’s sorry, he’s being so good.

He comes by it honestly. I find myself apologizing for things all the time, even when it doesn’t make any sense. A coworker and I both tried to open the same door, from opposite sides? “Oh, hey, sorry, sorry.” My fork screeches on my plate at dinner with my family: “Oops, sorry!” I was at Carter’s the other day buying a “My First Valentine’s Day” onesie and I stood in the checkout line for several minutes before the cashier said, “Oh, are you ready? Sorry, I didn’t see you there,” and I said, “No sorry, yeah, I didn’t want to interrupt.” What even is that?

So, is he imitating what he sees me do every day? That’s hard, since this is definitely something I see as a personal flaw, and am actively working on. Is this something we need to have serious conversations with him about, about being confident and not putting conditions on everything you say?

…Or is it more likely that he HAS done something he needs to apologize for, and I just haven’t found out about it yet?

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No pictures please

B has started rejecting the camera when I get my phone out at certain places. It’s like he knows where the great photo ops are and chooses those moments to become super private and reclusive.

He’ll go from grinning and waving to being this sullen-faced little boy, saying “Mommy don’t take pictures of me Mommy” and putting his hands in front of his face. Last weekend at the zoo I wanted to take a selfie of us on the little puffer train. He had other plans.


The thing is, can I blame him? There are probably more pictures of him in his 3 years of existence than there are of me in all my 31 years. He must be getting tired of having joyful moments interrupted by a subtle camera click. Or of being told “smile, say cheese, wave hi, say hi, look at the camera, look at daddy, look at mommy, smiiiiiiiile!”

On the other hand, I can’t blame us either. He’s cute, and these moments are cute and nice ones to capture. Being able to recall visuals of moments where we’re all smiling is crucial for keeping our cool in the moments where we’re not.

But it is telling that at just 3 years old, he’s aware that sometimes he hates being photographed. It’s obviously not a self-conscious thing, so it must just be a dislike of the camera coming out during moments when he’s having fun, and getting in the way. In some ways maybe he’s wiser than we are.

Then again, this morning he poured out all his cheerios onto the floor and then sat there to eat them off the carpet, so he still has a lot of learning to do.

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The Christmas Checklist

At the start of the 2015 Christmas season, Drew and I made a list of all the Christmassy activities we wanted to attempt in the next 5 weeks. It was pretty ambitious, including everything from visiting Santa to completing our Christmas song advent calendar.

And of course, no Christmas activity is complete without being documented for posterity. So without further ado, I give you: The Christmas Checklist.

In order to maximize our holiday, we picked out our tree the day after Thanksgiving. In the past we’ve always just gone to one of those pop-up tree lots in a parking lot, but this year we drove down to Half Moon Bay.


When we set up our tree, we got to use the tree skirt I made this year, which I am inordinately proud of.


We even had a little photo op moment when B put the star on top of the tree.

Also on our list was Elf on a Shelf. We got one last year, and we thought this year B would be ready for it. So yes, we named our Elf (Asa Swakeek, Sid for short), moved him around every night, and B actually looked for him every morning, and even occasionally listened to the mild threat, “No more throwing things/hitting/yelling, the Elf is watching you.”


I think Asa might be his title, and Swakeek is his name.

We tried to get a nice picture for our Christmas cards, but were unsuccessful at our one attempt here, and decided to just wait for our mall photo session…a good choice, as it turned out.

We also wanted to make Christmas treats, like cookies and a gingerbread house. Then I found a recipe online for these cinnamon ornaments, which I remember making as a kid. They’re literally just unsweetened applesauce and a whole thing of cinnamon, with a little bit of craft glue thrown in. Then we decorated them with puffy paint and glitter glue.


They smell delicious.

The gingerbread house decorating was also a huge success. It took up a large portion of one evening, and B was really cute, and actually helped decorate instead of just eating the candy. It probably helped that we didn’t tell him it was candy until it was almost over, so I think he just thought they were small plastic pieces.


Also originally on our list was going to the Dickens Fair, but we very wisely took that off the list when we actually thought about whether a three-year-old would enjoy it, and then what the chances were that we would enjoy it if he hated it. Scratch that idea. Good job, us. (This Christmas was about making wise choices.)

No Christmas season is complete without a visit to Santa. Our tradition is to go super early so we’re first in line on a weekday. First in line…and only one in line this year. We were just hoping for a picture with both kids in it, and assumed that one or both would be crying. But check this out!


Throughout this whole season, we were also doing our Christmas carol advent calendar. Drew got this advent calendar from Starbucks, which has stale-tasting chocolates inside Christmas ornaments numbered 1-25. We took out all the chocolates and put Christmas songs inside instead. Then every night (theoretically) we would open a new ornament and sing a new song. I wasn’t sure how this would go, but B really loved it, and got excited about doing each new song. He particularly likes “Jingle Bells” and “Rudolph,” and also has a song of his own that just goes “Christmas Christmas Christmas reindeer red nose snow.” Drew did good on that one. (The advent calendar was all his idea.)

Another Christmas tradition is to go walk through the South City neighborhood with all the lights. We kept putting it off and off, and then one night when it was only slightly rainy, we went anyway. It wasn’t crowded at all (well, it was a Tuesday) and the weather held up until we were on our way back to the car, when it started raining that kind of little needly rain. Parenting!

When we got back to the car, we were so pleased with how it had gone that we decided to try to go to Erin’s cookie decorating party that we had previously declined. But upon exiting the car in the parking garage, we realized that H had had a blowout through her adorable Christmas sleep and play. Drew tried to cover it with his hand so we could at least go in and say hi. Once inside, I realized that B had also had a (small) accident. So we ran interference between the two of them and anyone or anything in the apartment. But when a girl I have never met before said H was really cute and asked if she could hold her, Drew had to fess up, and we left soon after that. Parenting!

We crammed a lot of activities into Christmas Eve, including a morning playdate where the kids decorated cookies. To get ready, B and I made the cookies first thing when we got up.


Just. Look. At this.

Crossing off “cookies” was really the last thing on our Christmas checklist, which I found extremely satisfying. But we still had a Christmas Eve dinner party that night, which doubled as another playdate. Two playdates in one day! Parenting!


Kids love Toy Story parallel play!

Finally it was time for Christmas morning! We all slept in after our late Christmas Eve party. B played happily with one set of toys all morning, while we periodically coaxed him away to open presents. It was cozy and relaxed, and except for me underbaking the monkey bread I made for breakfast, just like a Christmas movie. One that takes place in a location without snow.


We did it! Merry Christmas! Christmas checklist completed!


I hope you all had a happy and blessed Christmas season! And next year, we are for sure doing the Dickens Fair. Four-year-olds love Dickens.

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