Tuesday, February 17, 2015

Natalie's Favorite Toys

Natalie got some great gifts for her Birthday and Christmas at the end of last year, and since then our living room has been overtaken by toys - and Natalie in general. That's even with returning about $250 worth of toys to Toys 'R Us. Here are some of her favorites at the current moment.

Natalie's Favorite Toys

What are your Little One's favorite toys right now?

Tuesday, February 10, 2015

The Joys of Now

Chris and I were among the first of our friends to have a kid. And now as many of our friends are starting to embark on their journey to becoming parents, we're starting to get asked a lot of questions.
I love it. I'm an open book when it comes to this stuff, and I have no problem answering any questions that come my way about pregnancy, child-rearing, nursing, or parenting. I like being the forager, the person who's been through it all and back and lived to tell the tale. I can impart the little wisdom I've gained, share my mistakes, share my triumphs, and give my advice - for whatever it's worth. I don't have all the answers, I don't always have advice for every issue, but I can at least try.
But I've learned that I like the more finite questions from others:

"When did she start sleeping in her crib?" 11 weeks.
"When did she first try a bottle?" 4 weeks.
 "Did she start drinking milk right away when you started weaning?" No, it took her 2 months to drink plain milk.
"When?" "How?" "Why?" Those are questions I can answer. But when two friends who are about to become parents in April were over for dinner last week they asked us "What can we expect?" and that one, is an entirely different question to answer. That's an open ended question that can go as deep or as not-deep as you want it go.
I want to say you can expect to be exhausted, you can expect to cry from joy, sorrow, or sometimes both at the same time, or sometimes just because. You can expect to google every single little thing for the next 6 months straight. You can expect to doubt yourself, and then you can expect your mommy gut to jump in and say "no, this is right". You can expect to fight with your significant other, but also love them so much more at the same time. But I think a lot of that is obvious and I don't really think it's necessary to always point out. I don't need to sugar coat things for anyone's sake. But I also think that we, as parents, should at least make an effort to point out the good things, the positive things, rather than harp on the negative things that "you can expect."
The question I enjoyed answering was: "Are you enjoying/having more fun with Natalie now or was the last year more fun?" and while watching Natalie grow from 7 pounds to 21 pounds in just 12 months was remarkable, my answer to the question was unequivocally "NOW!" "now now now now and now....I am having much more fun now. I am enjoying her much more NOW. I am enjoying this process much more NOW." For one: I have the confidence of a year under my belt. Like starting any new job at all, there's always a year learning curve. At my last few jobs, I never felt fully comfortable with what I was doing until I was there a year, and it was the same way being a mother. I have a routine (somewhat), I have a system, and I know what I'm doing (most of the time).
She's grown to love her daddy, and respond to him in a way she never did before. For most of the last year, Chris and I watched Natalie lay on the ground, or sit and absorb everything around her, but with little to no interaction between us. We were all getting to know each other, we were all learning each other. Now, when I say to her "Can I have a hug?" she walks, sometimes runs, over to me, jumps into my arms, and wraps her arms around me with all of her might.

So am I enjoying this time with Natalie a bit more than the newborn stage? 

100% yes, yes, yes. 

Monday, February 9, 2015

A "Typical" day of a part-time-work-from-home-mom

Many of you have asked me to write a post about what it's like to be a part-time-work-from-home-mom, and to write a post about what a typical day for me is like. Since February marks one year at my new job working from home, it's only fitting to finally reflect on the last year of this new role of mine.
I have never been a person who gets bored at home. I understand the importance and need to work and contribute along with my husband, but I have long felt that even if I were a housewife before we had Natalie, I would have loved it (I cannot stress enough the difference between a housewife and a stay-at-home mom, but that's a different topic for a different day). I can always find something to do at home. There is always a workout to do, always a new book to read, always a new recipe (or 10) to try, always laundry to do, house to clean, files and pictures to organize, weekends and events to plan, walks to take, and grocery shopping to do. If I ever was bored, I think it would just mean that I didn't have any drive interest in anything - and that's a bigger problem than just being bored. But these days, I'm lucky if I am even able to get half of this stuff done (that's also because we're still in the throws of a house renovation and it takes up a lot of time, so I'm looking forward to things calming down once I move). But, suffice it to say, I do NOT have a freshly cooked meal waiting on the table every day when Chris arrives home from work. I do NOT have oodles of time sitting around doing nothing. I do NOT have time to myself to relax, get manicures, or put my feet up in general. I don't know how/if it would be different if I didn't have work hanging over my head for a few hours every day. Whenever I do have some time or Natalie is napping, I feel like I MUST be on my computer working or doing something work related to put in my hours each day.

To give some background on my job: I was a personal assistant to a businessman prior to leaving for my maternity leave. While I was pregnant, he started a new classical music management company with his business partner, who was looking to leave her position at a large music management company. She is now the person I report directly to, and she's an awesome woman. The business is doing very well, but since it's so new, there isn't a ton of work right now. It's one of those things that will hopefully keep growing and growing and the work will increase. I want the company to grow and get bigger, but I also worry that one day she will need a full-time assistant, and then "bye-bye me". The work hours are flexible and inconsistent. No matter the hours I work in a week, I get paid half the salary I was making before I left for maternity leave. That means I could have a week where I work 5 hours, or in turn a week where I work 30 hours (that hasn't happened yet) and my salary stays the same week to week. One day, I could be super busy with work, and then I could go 2-3 days with little to no work. I realize my situation is not typical, or normal, and honestly, some days I wonder how long I can keep this up. Not in that I can't handle it, in that, it seems too good to be true, and I worry that my luck will run out. Nothing is ever really too urgent: the arrangement is as long as I get things done in a somewhat timely manner, it doesn't matter if I work at 11:00 pm at night or 2:00 pm on a Saturday, whatever I need to do to stay on top of work. Occasionally I'll get an email request for something they'd "like to review by the end of the day", which can be a little bit stressful if I'm trying to plan anything else in my day. If I'm away from a computer, I constantly check my phone to see if anything arises that needs to be taken care of right away. As long as I keep my phone on me at all times, and have a good response time on things, I'm pretty good. The opportunity to be home with Natalie full-time and provide supplemental income for my family is truly a dream come true for me, and I wouldn't trade my work situation for anything in the entire world.

I also have the benefit of having my mother-in-law two blocks away, so if anything really urgent ever comes up that I have to devote an afternoon or even an hour to, she is always willing to come right over and watch Natalie for me while I take care of things. There has also been a few days in the last year when I have had to go to the office for a project, and Natalie was able to stay with my mother-in-law on those days.
There isn't really a "typical" day here, but here is the most "ideal" kind of day around here. This also changes each season, because in the spring/summer/fall, I'd have various walks around the neighborhood peppered in here, but I am not getting in any walks right now with all the snow on the ground:
cranky baby!

6:00-7:00 am - Natalie wakes up to nurse. For a very long time, she'd go back to sleep after I nurse her until around 8 or 8:30, but for the last two weeks she's been staying up after she nurses. So it's anyone's guess each morning - which is why there is an hour window for each thing listed below.

7:00-8:00 am - Depending on the above, this is when I change her, dress her, dress me, do my hair, go downstairs and make breakfast for us both. On an IDEAL (hopefully soon to be normal, everyday) day, I pop in a work out video and work out for the next half hour and this is something I'm trying to get better at. BUT if we have anywhere to be that day - like a play-date, doctor visit, or shopping for the new house, I'll let her play here before we get out the door by 9:00.

8:00 am or 9:00 am- Eat breakfast in the kitchen: egg whites and toast for me. Typically, a mix of pancakes, eggs, and fruit for Natalie.

9:00 am-12:00 pm - She plays in the living room while I usually do work on the computer. OR, we go out and run errands at this time - house shopping, grocery shopping, etc. OR, on Thursdays we go to Gymboree for a class. I will nurse her again around 10 or 11am for the second time of the day. I may turn the tv on at this point to carry her through the last hour until her lunch if I have a lot of work to do.

12:00pm/12:30pm - Lunch - Natalie has been picky with food lately. She'll eat anything from cut-up fruit, grape tomatoes, hummus on pita or toast, grilled cheese, raisins, or various other items that she may or may not like on any given day.

1:00 pm to 2:00 pm - Nurse her to sleep for her nap. I have about one hour to myself here, so I do a quick clean-up of the kitchen from lunch and sit down to do work.

2:00 pm or 3:00 pm - She's up. She's usually cranky when she gets up, so I like to sit on the couch with her while she eats a small bowl of cheerios and we watch an episode of Thomas the Train at this point. If it was Spring/Summer/Fall, at this point I'd probably go for a walk, but that's not happening right now. Some days, there's a young girl in the neighborhood who will come over after school and play with her at this time, while I do some work around the house or catch up on work emails. It's great for Natalie to get used to other people and I know that in a few years, I will have a great baby-sitter right around the corner who is already comfortable and familiar with Natalie.

Between 4:00 pm and 5:00 pm Try to wrap up things with work, or house stuff, and start thinking about prepping stuff for dinner. Since I have started weaning Natalie from nursing, I will give her a sippy cup of milk somewhere in this hour, instead of nursing her. (I'll be sharing my nursing/weaning experience soon)

5:30 pm - Chris gets home, and we all eat dinner.

6:00 pm - Playtime in the living room with Natalie and Zoey before bed. Chris and I use this time to catch up and I really try to devote this hour of the day to just focusing on being together as a family without outside distractions. Unless it's urgent, I am never doing work between 6 and 8 pm. Some nights I'll give Natalie a bath at this time.

7:00 pm - Natalie and I go upstairs. I change her, get her into her pajamas, brush her teeth, and read books.

7:30 pm - Start nursing her to sleep.

7:45 pm - She's in her crib. Sometimes asleep, or sometimes she'll toss and turn for a bit before falling asleep. 9 times out of 10, she's asleep by 8:00. This nursing session used to take at least 30 minutes for the longest time, sometimes longer, which I never minded. But since Natalie turned 1, she's been nursing so quickly that it's not enough time for her to fall asleep. If I'm in the mood to snuggle with her more, I'll rock her to sleep on my shoulder, but most nights, I'll put her in the crib. I'm very happy that she is capable of putting herself to sleep in her crib with minimal to no fussing, and I don't want to regress from that, so I try not to rock her to sleep too often.

8:00 pm-11:00 pm - I shower, get ready for bed, go downstairs, clean-up all the toys if I didn't do it at 7:00 before I went upstairs, clean up the kitchen, and watch tv while I catch up on work emails, facebook, and blogging.

11:00 pm - Go to bed

Rinse, and repeat. What do your days look like?

Thursday, February 5, 2015

Natalie's Favorite Books

Natalie's Favorite Books. 
1. Wiggle, by Taro Gomi - This book is awesome because you put your finger in the hole and shake the cat's tail, or the chameleon's tongue, or the elephant's trunk. Natalie gets a kick out of it, and doesn't get that it's my finger so she's always trying to grab it and put in her mouth, or she's trying to figure out how it works. It's hilarious.

2. The Foot Book, by Dr. Seuss - She finds this book hilarious, and when I start reading she always bends down and points to her feet.

3. Open the Barn Door, by Christopher Santoro - Natalie loves lifting the flaps in this book to reveal the animals and hearing me make the various animal sounds. This is the book that taught her "moo", "duck," and "woof"

4. Owl Babies, by Martin Waddell - This was given as a gift from a friend who's baby also loves this book. Natalie really likes it too. I don't know if it's the owl's big eyes, or the dark colors in the book, but she stays captivated longer with this book than most.

5. Dear Zoo, by Rod Campbell - Another great flap-up book that teaches her about different animals.

6. Night Night Little Pookie, by Sandra Boynton  - If I start reciting this one when I go upstairs (I have the whole book memorized), she goes over to the book shelf and brings it to me. She's been gravitated to this book since she was just a few months old, and I always read this one at least once before bed every night.

7. Snuggle Puppy, by Sandra Boynton - There is a song that goes along to the text of this book, if you youtube it. It's really cute - she really seems to like the Sandra Boynton books.

8. Five Little Ladybugs, by Melanie Gerth - Very cute little counting book.

9. I love my Daddy, by Giles Andreae - She loves this book, of course, it's about her daddy!

All of these are board books. I have a ton of other books I want to read with her, but they aren't board books and she's already ripped enough pages out of the regular books for me to know that I need to wait before introducing them back into the rotation.

What are your little one's favorite books at the moment?

Tuesday, February 3, 2015

"Enjoy it while you can, it goes by so fast" and other generic statements

It seems no matter where I go these days with Natalie, someone inevitably will come up to me say "Enjoy this time, it goes so fast" or "Enjoy this time, you have no idea what you're in for," or "Man, I miss these days, enjoy it now while you can."

I always smile, give a little laugh, and say "Oh I know, thanks!" and go on my merry way. I know that these comments are always well meaning. It allows one to impart some wisdom on a young, unassuming person who is just starting their life as a parent. I also know that babies are automatic conversation starters, and I like that. Anywhere I go I will be asked the following questions/hear these comments: "Oh how old is she?", "Oh, is this your first?" "Oh, what a beautiful little girl!" etc. etc. But sometimes, the whole "Enjoy it now, it goes so fast" comments can really irritate me:

When I feel like I hear how fast my life is about to flash before my eyes almost everywhere I go, and from every chatty person I meet, it kind of gets depressing after awhile. 

I don't really want strangers, friends, or even family members, to remind me day in and day out of the fact that before I know it, I'm going to wake up and Natalie's going to be a 15 year old throwing a teenage temper tantrum. Just let me enjoy this. Please.

I am well aware that time seems to go faster when you have children as opposed to when you ARE a child. Though I've only been at this for a year, in some ways the last year of my life seems like the longest of my life, and yet the shortest at the same time. My life "Pre-Natalie" feels like a lifetime ago. It feels like years ago when I was commuting to Manhattan every single day for work, reading books on the train, planning dinners with friends every Friday and Saturday. Now, when I do pop into my office, there are new employees, new doormen, new faces everywhere and it's weird. Oh - life does go on in the outside world while I'm at home...Huh.

I've wanted to write a post about this for awhile, but I came across Jess from Keeping Up with the Casey's post last week called: The Answer to Slowing Down Time,. This is what finally prompted me to write about this. She has the same feelings I do about this whole "time goes by so fast" sentiment, and I loved her takeaway:

"It's not about slowing down time at all, it's about acknowledging the present."

So often we look back on periods of time in our lives as truly great. That summer I lived in Little Italy, Manhattan for instance, was a summer I'll never forget. The 4 years I went to college, the 2 years I lived in Astoria. Those were moments in time that I have fond memories of and will always look back on with great joy. But so often, we don't realize how great they are until they're past. We don't realize until we're on the other side looking back saying "Wow...that was a great year" or "What a great period of time that was." 

I know that I'm living a "great time" right now. I know that this time alone with Natalie, without the pressure of other kids, or school, or after-school activities taking up most of our time, these days with Natalie I can never get back. So if I blog less, if I disappear for a few days, if I fall off the grid for awhile. It's just because I am trying to soak up these days as much as I can.

And so what can we, the people who will one day soon, see a new mother or father with a little baby say to them that won't be so depressing? What do I wish I would hear more of from other people? How about:

"Congratulations! Believe me, it only gets better from here." 

Monday, February 2, 2015

January in Pictures

I've decided to do a photo dump at the end of each month this year, to recap the highlights of the month. This was our January 2015 - a month I think should be dubbed "The month of climbing":

Natalie: You continue to keep me on my toes. Although things like this don't even bother me anymore. Daddy sees the way you climb on things and has a heart attack - I, am used to it, and have kind of taken the whole "You'll learn when you fall and hurt yourself" approach #momconfessions
You climb into things, climb onto things, climb out of things, climb around things, climb over the couch...
 Knock over toys and climbs onto them...
 And when I leave the step stool out for ONE minute, this happens...
You loved going to the hairdresser in Astoria and watching all the people drive and walk by while Daddy and I got our hair cuts...
I often find you perched in your shopping cart (yes, my daughter has a mullet)
As well as in the book basket, but you started helping me clean up when I sing the clean up song!

You can be a contemplative little one...

 You like to lounge - Kids...they're just like us!
You enjoyed having some friends over this month to have them play with all your new Birthday and Christmas toys! Playing with Samantha:
 Cousin James:
 Your friend, Lily:
And of course, Uncle Matt!
 We had your first real snow storm, which was a blizzard!

You loved 2-ingredient pancakes
 And you loved pretending to drink from this empty soda bottle.
January was a great month! You started saying "Moo", "duck", "woof, woof", pointing to your feet when I say "Where are your feet?" and stomping your feet:

Looking forward to seeing what new words and actions February brings us!