Saturday, May 31, 2014


Brandon has been introduced to sidewalk chalk.
He got a bath right afterwards.

I'm afraid sidewalk chalk is the new bubbles for me (which means I hate it).

Friday, May 30, 2014

2 months

Holden had his two-month doctor appointment yesterday. 
He is in the 95th percentile for weight at 15 lbs, 2 oz. 
He is in the 92nd percentile for height at 24 3/4 inches. 
He also has a big head. He is our chunky little guy.

Tuesday, May 27, 2014


Holden's hair is starting to lighten.
I looked back at Brandon's pictures to see when his did.
You can see it started to lighten at seven weeks...
and by twelve weeks, he was blond.
Check back in a few weeks to see Holden's golden locks!

Monday, May 26, 2014

Thursday, May 22, 2014

thank you, mama

I have been making Brandon say "thank you" every time I've done something for him for months now. I don't know how sincere it is, when I'm prodding it out of him, but he says it just the same.

But today was the first time he said it on his own, without me telling him to. He is pretty obsessed with Jake and the Neverland Pirates so I bought him a pajama set last night and he wore it to bed, pretty pumped up.

This morning, he pointed to his shirt and said, "thank you, mama." Not once or twice, but three times. My son has learned gratitude and thankfulness. I am beaming with joy.

Tuesday, May 20, 2014

Two years; two months

I was not planning to turn this afternoon into a photo session.
But when my boys are together, they are so adorable.
I don't have to pose them or stage them at all. Brandon just likes to be around Holden now and is always cheesing it up when there is a camera around. This is really them. I know, I'm a lucky mama.
 Holden always smiles when Brandon is playing with him. These two are bound to end up best friends.

Monday, May 19, 2014

8 weeks

Today Holden is eight weeks old. It's hard to believe that he's going to his 2-month doctor's appointment already next week. He is getting pretty chubby. He's got Michelin Man arms and chipmunk cheeks.
He has slept for 8-10 hours at a time three out of the last four nights. I am ecstatic about this.
He laughs and coos when he is playing on his piano gym. On Saturday after his bath I gave him a mohawk and his hair has stayed like that ever since.

Saturday, May 17, 2014

Sleep tight

This week has been a real turning point for me. This week I have let go of what I will call my "lazy parenting." That is to mean, I was basically babysitting Brandon before. This week, I started to finally do something about raising my children responsibly.

For example, it has been no secret that I was rocking Brandon to sleep up until this week. I have written about this before. I really enjoyed our special nighttime ritual together.  My pediatrician had told me to make him fall asleep on his own about a year ago, and I had blown that off as a mere suggestion.

It seems we only listen to what we want to hear until we're ready for the truth. I wanted to hear that I should enjoy this special time with my son because he soon will outgrow it (and me!) and I will long for these days again. And while I'm sure that is true, I have realized that waiting things out is not taking action at all. And kids sometimes don't outgrow things until you force them to. Hell, I know plenty of adult children whose parents still pay for their insurance, cell phone bill, car payment, you name it.

Brandon is a nearly thirty-pound child who certainly takes up more room than my lap can offer. He is uncomfortably flailed about over my body trying to fall asleep on me because it is what he is used to and what he is comfortable with. He will fight sleep if I'm not rocking him. The second I put him in his crib, he will scream bloody murder because he knows it gets me right back into his room immediately.

But two years of rocking him to bed for up to an hour each night starts to wear on this old woman. It is no longer the joyous bonding it was before - instead, it became me checking the clock endlessly, estimating the time I would finally have a few minutes to sit and relax. Night time really is my only time of complete peace and selfishness. Also, ever since Holdy has joined us, I have seen Brandon as a boy rather than a baby and this rocking just seems a bit ridiculous.

We had tried to get him to fall asleep on his own while my mom was still here, but it seemed too barbaric to force on him along with taking away his pacifier (in the day only), introducing him to this baby brother, getting him into a big boy bed, and start potty training. So I decided instead to take these things one at a time. After he got adjusted to Holden, we got rid of the pacifier (it was so much easier than I had imagined). I have tried the big boy bed many times, but without knowing how to fall asleep on his own, he just ends up climbing out of bed and playing with his toys instead. And potty training - geez, that can wait. I'm not too excited about cleaning skid marks, anyway. So it all comes back to falling asleep on his own as the next step.

I read message boards where one horrified parent said their child cried for seven whole minutes before falling asleep and it was torture. That is nothing to me. When we had tried letting him cry it out before, it could take up to an hour and a half. And this is of non-stop screaming. My kid is a real fighter. I finally found some good advice that I decided to try - let him cry for ten minutes, then go into his room, calm him down, and once he stops crying, put him back in his crib after explaining why. I did that. I expected to go five rounds the first night. It only took three. The second night, he didn't even bother screaming. He just whimpered a little bit and alerted me when he dropped his pacifier. I retrieved it for him and when he asked me to rock him, I told him he is too old and now he falls to sleep by himself in his crib.

With Holden, I can tell you we will make him fall asleep on his own right when the pediatrician recommends it, if not earlier. Tonight, I have an extra hour to myself. Both of the boys are sleeping peacefully. And I can read and write. I'm working towards an equilibrium here. Sometimes that means tough love. Which sucks, but turns out to be exactly what both of us needed.

Thursday, May 15, 2014

Child King

After my post about not wanting to be Just a Mom, Donna suggested I read Bringing up Bébé. It's about an American mom who discovers the secrets of French parenting. I'm only a few chapters in, and already, I know I needed this book. I have been the classic American hover parent. I cave in to my child's every demand and don't set rules to define boundaries for him. The fact is, children need those boundaries. 

My parents did something right in raising us four kids. We were the most respectful, polite, and obedient children people had ever seen. And you know why? Our parents gave us chores and rules and curfew and restrictions. We needed it. We didn't fall into heaps on the floor when we heard "no." We didn't have tantrums at the store. Because if we did, we knew mom would send us to the car. She wouldn't break down and buy us whatever we were screaming over. 

The French have a term which translated into English means "child king" where the child runs the parent. Brandon is a child king. Until today. I started working on our first lesson - patience. Patience isn't something you either inherently have or don't have, it's learned, this book explains. If the second he asks something of me I do it, he learns not to wait. 

So today, when he asked for something, I told him to wait three minutes until we got to the next store. And he did. It was as easy as explaining to him that he would get what he was asking for, but not in this moment. For three minutes, he distracted himself. He counted to ten, he sang his ABCs. And when we got to the next store, I gave him what he had asked for as promised, without him so much as having to ask for it again. 

Perhaps the reason only children are stereotyped (and for a valid reason, I might add) as needy and spoiled is because they never have to learn to wait because they never have to share their parents. Brandon has gradually learned waiting over these past seven weeks merely because Holden is here and the supply isn't there to fill his demand. I have told him to wait many times so he knows what it means now which is probably why today's experiment had the perfect outcome. 

You can teach younger children to wait, too. The French do what this book calls "the Pause" when an infant is crying. They don't immediately rush over, but they don't let them cry all day, either. The pause only lasts a few minutes, and certainly never more than ten before you respond to the infant.  I don't pause when Holden starts whimpering, which explains many ounces of wasted formula. I will assume he's hungry when he merely is trying to fall back asleep. Apparently French babies usually sleep through the night between two and four months. That will be Holden. Check back in two months. 

There is a ton of other great stuff in the book, too. If you're a parent that wants to see another perspective on parenting, pick up this book. I'm not saying it's the gospel on parenting or anything, but reading always gives me another perspective, which I need to prevent me from becoming the most narrow-minded person in the world. Some of it will stick, or maybe none of it will, but either way you're better off for knowing another point of view. Just one day into the book, I already feel more in control of my child. Child King, my ass. There's only room for one queen in this castle.

Wednesday, May 14, 2014

Hospital bills

The day before we were to be induced, I logged onto my insurance's website and estimated how much having this baby would cost us. They estimated total costs of around $9K with my out-of-pocket being around $1,800. Steve and I were ecstatic. That was much less than our out-of-pocket cost with Brandon (I have different insurance coverage this time around). But then came the emergency C-section.

Have you ever wondered what a hospital charges for an emergency C-section? Let me answer that for you. About $26K. We asked for an itemized bill because they don't send it automatically. I guess people just receive hospital bills and pay them. Not me. I wanted to see how in the hell we wracked up that bill.

I called the hospital yesterday asking if they had made an error - they sent two bills, one for me and one for Holden. Each of our bills charged us for a room - mine was $900 a night, his was $1600 a night. I explained that Holden slept in our same room. The man at the hospital told me they charge everyone with a newborn for the baby nursery, whether or not they use it.

Only in healthcare can you get away with charging for something no one asked for or used. They also charged me $15.25 for each of my thyroid pills. The thyroid pills that I pay $10 for a month's supply and have plenty of, but they forbid me from bringing to the hospital. But that is small peanuts in comparison to the room charges. You would think we had stayed at a five star resort.

The hospital bills don't include the bills we will be receiving from the anesthesiologist, Holden's circumcision, my OB/GYN and Holden's pediatrician. When all is said and done, we will have been charged about $30K for Holden's delivery. Of course we're not paying all of that. We have insurance and they don't allow the hospital to receive all of what they're charging. They paid some and I have reached my out-of-pocket maximum and we are working on reaching Holden's, too.

Damn, healthcare is a racket though, isn't it? I also pay co-pays for every doctor's visit and premiums out of every paycheck. I think when all is said and done the insurance company and I each pay about the same amount on my healthcare. Which is why they're millionaires and I'm not. I'm paying them to pay my bills. And then I'm paying the rest. I'm not usually a total miser about money, but then again, I never received a $26K bill before.

Steve said it best though, Holden is worth every penny. If a frugal accountant can have that healthy and positive mindset about this whole thing, perhaps I should, too.

Monday, May 12, 2014

Kerby loves

If you look closely, you will see that the "den" is brighter than all the other letters. 
That's because Kerby was my bear when I was little. He is a 1983 Avon classic.
My mom took off the "ly" from Holly and replaced it with "den" so my son can have a piece of my childhood.

Only my mom would still have iron-on letters from 1983. 
For 30 years, those letters were sitting in a drawer somewhere, collecting dust, for no apparent reason. Holden gave those letters their reason.

Apparently Avon Kerby bears sell on eBay now for over $100 apiece. Who knew?
This bear is valuable in more than one sense. 

Sunday, May 11, 2014

First smiles

There is this magical week when your baby starts smiling and cooing at you.

It is then that you realize this isn't just an eating/pooping/sleeping/crying robot. This little baby is going to grow into a boy with a personality and hobbies and likes and dislikes and weird little quirks.

That was this week for Holden. I struggled to catch the moments in time, but I tried.

Friday, May 9, 2014

time out

In the spirit of honesty, I'll shoot it to you straight. I was unsure if I wanted to be a stay-at-home mom. There, I said it. I know, I'm a terrible person. Whatever. But I have been working for a very long time and I get a sense of accomplishment and identity out of it. That sounds pathetic, perhaps, that I've let my job define me in a small way. But my dad instilled a strong work ethic in me and I'm proud to be able to put it to good use and show it off a bit.

So these past six weeks, without spreadsheets and payroll deadlines and co-worker camaraderie, I've felt like I was missing something. Like I'm not contributing back to society or some bullshit like that. Not knowing what day of the week it is or being required to put on makeup makes me feel somehow lesser. But keep in mind, I've been post-partum and my hormones are just now settling back into normalcy. Now I'm getting my bearings and the fog is lifting.

So it was just today that it hit me, while I was running around the lake at 10 a.m., pushing a sleeping Holden in the jogging stroller. What job would let me do this? And I thought it again when I read Brandon Thump Quack Moo for the umpteenth time. What job would let me do this? And I thought it again when I sat down to write this blog while both of my boys are peacefully sleeping. What job would let me do this?

And of course, no job would allow me to do all these things. Jobs require your time, and that is the one thing I can't buy more of. If I was working all day, I wouldn't get to dance around to "the DJ Shuffle" with Brandon on repeat. I wouldn't get to smash down his Playdoh for him or watch Holden as he smiled over and over, and then actually cooed at me. I have all the time there is to have with my boys now.

And I also have more time for myself. I haven't had this much time to be myself since before having kids. I have mastered the art of getting both the boys to take naps at the same time and I use it to do Pilates and to read and to write. I have written ten pages of a novel this week. I feel myself again. I'm not anyone's bitch at work any more. I'm not running errands for work over my lunch break (which used to be my only time to myself).

I am a mom who is also a reader and a writer and a walker and a sometimes runner. I can have my cake and eat it too. And I am certainly contributing back to society. What greater contribution can a person make in their life than raising up a child to be a responsible, kind, intelligent adult? I know I will go back to work when the boys start school. And then I will work from then until I retire, no doubt. So this little pause in that monotony is exactly what my boys and I need. This time we have would tick by one way or another, so I'm glad I'm able to spend it with them.

Wednesday, May 7, 2014

a mother's usefulness

I have not done this for years, I feel
intensely happy, drawing the sock
up the calf--Other foot--
as if we are back in the days of my great usefulness. 

~"Socks" by Sharon Olds; "The Wellspring"

I think what draws a child so much to his mother is how useful she is to him. I am his world. I help him with everything. I teach him words, how to do things. I play with him, I prepare him meals. I change his diapers and dress him. I give him baths and buy him things at stores. I am his right hand - I am the vehicle through which he gets what he wants and needs.

But the day is approaching when he doesn't need me anymore. Already, he needs me less than he used to. He can get up to the sink by himself thanks to the step stool I bought him. He can pull the cereal out of the pantry and open it and eat some while spilling much of it all across the floor. He can take off his clothes (but hasn't yet mastered putting them back on). Soon he will be able to go to the bathroom by himself and put on his own shoes.

The days of the constant, "mama, mama" will soon end. Soon I will be an afterthought. He is growing into an independent boy. He will need me for a long time still, of course. Mostly for food and shelter and money though, really. I will no longer be his world when this happens. And I will mourn the days of my great usefulness that have gone by so quickly.

Perhaps that is why I have held on to rocking him to sleep. It is another way he needs me. Something I haven't taught him yet to do on his own. But today is different. Today I realize that he needs me to teach him how to do things, not to deprive him of his own independence.

My little baby has graduated into a little boy. I know this when I rock him to bed and he takes up my whole body and can no longer be cuddled in just the crook of my arm. When he fidgets around trying to get comfortable across me because he is much bigger than either of us is willing to admit.

He will outgrow me. But I will be OK. Because he will always need me in some way. Even if it's just to bring green bean casserole over to his house when he hosts Thanksgiving dinner at age 30. I will take it. And it will be the best damn green bean casserole he ever had.

Monday, May 5, 2014

toddler selfies, pretty people, melted heart

This kid loves to take selfies: he thinks he's the cutest thing ever.
Not that I can argue with him. He is a very photogenic kid. He doesn't take a bad picture. Now his brother, on the other hand, is more gorgeous in real life than I can ever capture in a photograph.
Today I was trying to get ready and he kept saying, "mama, mama, mama!"
"What?!" I finally shot back at him, exasperated.
Then he pointed at me and said, "pretty."
He melts my heart of stone.

Sunday, May 4, 2014

bucket list

Long before the term "bucket list" existed, I created one. I was a kid still, and I wrote it with a pink pen on a piece of notebook paper. I came up with fifty things I wanted to accomplish in my life. I have looked for this piece of paper, but have never found it since. I would love to read it now. I remember one of the items was "surf the internet." Since that list is probably long gone and maybe too easy to accomplish, I am making a new one. Here are some of my life goals:

1. Get a book published
2. Become bilingual
3. Learn calligraphy
4. Visit all 50 states
5. Take my kids to DisneyLand
6. Get my Master's degree
7. Get 5+ poems published
8. Turn my house into my dream home
9. Take tennis lessons
10. Run a full marathon
11. Read all of the Newbery Medal and Honor winners
12. Read the 100 classic books
13. Read everything by John Steinbeck, J.D. Salinger, and Sylvia Plath
14. SCUBA Dive in a tropical locale
15. Get a passport and use it
16. Teach my sons to read
17. Become a creative writing professor
18. Go on a cruise
19. Skydive
20. Get a tattoo

I plan to keep adding to this as time goes on. Once you accomplish a goal, it's time to add another one!

Glory lies in the attempt to reach one's goal and not in reaching it. 

Friday, May 2, 2014

summer haircut

Don't you love summer time? When boys dress in t-shirts and cargo shorts and girls are self-conscious? 
We got Brandon's haircut today. I have considered doing it myself, but then I remember in January when he got his haircut last, he screamed non-stop. Snot and tears were running down his face. I will leave it to some poor professional for now and revisit that idea later.
Well what do you know? He must have really grown up in these past three months. He sat there quietly and watched Toy Story 3 without so much as a sniffle. No pacifier or anything. I was so proud of him. I didn't feel compelled to tip quite as much as a result, so he's starting to pull his weight around here. 
It's been raining these past few days so today when we got to see sunshine and nice weather again, I took the boys outside. Holdy slept in the shade of the slide.
Rest is not idleness, and to lie sometimes on the grass under trees on a summer's day, listening to the murmur of the water, or watching the clouds float across the sky, is by no means a waste of time. 
~John Lubbock

Thursday, May 1, 2014

what's in a name?

When people hear what Holden's name is, they don't seem to get it. Most people don't know a Holden. They probably think I'm some sort of a weird hippie that's into bizarre names and just liked the sound of it. The truth is, there are a lot of reasons that went into naming Holden:

1. Consistency 
  • All of my children will have two syllable first names and one syllable middle names. I think five syllables for a full name is perfect.
  • All of my children will have names that end in "N." Brandon ends in "on" and Holden in "en." If we ever did have other children, I would pick a name that ended in "an" or "in" for the next one. 
I think it's special when there is some thing shared in a family's names.

2. Meaning

Brandon means, "broom-covered hill" and Holden means, "hollow valley" in their English origins. I really liked the juxtaposition between the two of them once we already had Brandon named.

3.  Holden

Steve introduced me to J.D. Salinger's The Catcher in the Rye a few years ago and I have read it annually as one of my favorite books ever since. Holden Caulfield is the name of the protagonist in the book.

4. Paul

Paul is a family name - the last five generations of Carter men have had "Paul" somewhere in their names. The Peleskys have also had a Paul for the past three generations that I know of. I haven't traced ancestry to see if it goes any further.

5. Initials

I might put more thought into names than the average person. In fact, we almost didn't make "Jude" Brandon's middle name because of the initials "BJ." But then I got over it and realized Jude was going to be in one of my children's name and I didn't know when I would have the opportunity again. 

Holden's initials are "HP" which happen to be my maiden name initials. I really loved my maiden name. I hold onto it with my blog domain and email address still. Now Holden can share those initials with me.

So I didn't just like the name. The name is perfect for Holden. It suits him. And it suits us. So don't call him Hayden. Or Colton. If you forget his name, just do what I do in the same scenario - refer to him only in pronouns.