Tag Archives: toddler

Sirens and Smoke

Tuesday. Primary day in New York, which meant I was hoofing door to door, trying to get a targeted list of voters to the polls. I was making pretty good time, too, when I became gradually aware of sirens, first one, then more, until the entire city sounded like it needed help. One by one, people started slowing down, looking around at each other as if one of us had the answer to the chaos. It was Howard Stern who finally filled us in, drifting quietly through an open window, and we collectively looked up at the sky.

I have never told this story. My husband knows that each year on 9/11 I shut down, avoiding work, the news, social media; he has no idea why it hurts, why I’m so “emotional.”  I left New York not long afterwards, the campaign trail sending me to the Midwest. I’ve returned several times to visit but still have not been able to bring myself to Ground Zero. There are still times when I pause upon hearing an aircraft, en route to a nearby landing strip, begin to slow for descent. And after all this time, I still look to the sky when I smell smoke.

It was T, in all his toddler glory, who made me pause, forced me to focus, to remember. We’ve been learning about the Star-Spangled Banner this week, which coincides with the festivities surrounding the bicentennial of the War of 1812. He cannot get enough of that song – we went through dozens of versions of it, listening and singing along, learning the lyrics line by line. “Try that one! What’s this one?” It was inevitable that we would come across footage from September 11th. I knew as soon as he picked the next clip what it would contain and I hesitated – it would have been so easy to tell him that one didn’t work, or distract him long enough to choose another. But I have never lied to him, and it was time for me to let go.

“We can watch this one, baby, but it may make me cry. I don’t want that to scare you.” “Okay, Mommy.”  So we watched together, with Alan Jackson playing in the background.  “Why is that building on fire?” “A plane ran into the side of it.” “What is that dog doing?” “He’s helping the police find people who were hurt.” “Why is that fireman so dirty?” “He worked really hard, it was very smokey and dirty.” “Who are those guys?”

Everyday Heros

Everyday Heros (unable to locate original photo credit)

“Heroes, baby. That’s what heroes look like.”

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Posted by on September 11, 2014 in Remember


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Finding Moments

It’s been a long, crazy weekend here.  Grateful for sun after three days of rain and the coolest spring I can recall since moving here, we kicked off the weekend with strawberry picking at one of my favorite farms.  Saturday morning was a raucous game of soccer, or as close as can be had with a bunch of three-year-olds.  And still drunk on blue sky and warm breezes, we came to realize that nothing would make the weekend more perfect than a night spent under open skies.

Really, there was no “we” in that realization.  I have this idealist vision of camping, memories of my mom cooking a huge breakfast on a griddle while my dad helped me and my brother find worms and nightcrawlers for fishing.  When I was a kid we spent a lot of time in campgrounds and took first our truck camper, and later Winnebago, all over the country.  I’ve either blocked out the bad parts, or it was AWESOME.  I dream of a pop-up camper; so far the furthest I’ve gotten is convincing my husband that sitting around a campfire and sleeping in a tent a few times a year won’t kill him.

Anyway we packed up Big Blue, got the dogs and kid in the car (J, at sixteen, was just way too cool for camping),  and headed outside the city.  Of course by the time we got there, set up camp, scavenged enough wood to start a fire, made dinner and made our way back and forth to the communal bathroom several times, T was so exhausted he was crying to go to bed even before making “fo fo’s” (marshmallows).  As the fire started to burn out and the temperatures dipped, we noticed we didn’t have the tarp for the top of our tent.  We huddled together on the air mattress that managed to spring a leak since the last time we used it, staring up at the stars through our unimpeded view.  And finally, finally, the squirrels, deer, bears, mountain lions, and other guests stopped their partying long enough for me to fall asleep…only to wake and repeat the chaos of toddler-caring, fire-making, food-preparing and the rest of it.

Batshit crazyBy the time we packed up I was more than ready to go.  T had been whining non-stop for nearly two hours, I found myself repeating and REPEATING simple directions such as “stop throwing rocks!” and “stay away from the fire, it’s hot!” and I wanted nothing more than to be home and the sweet solace of T’s naptime.  And I’m sad to say that, while I strive to use kind words and toddler-level reasoning with him every day, by the time we got in the car my frustration and short temper were starting to spread like toxic mold.

We did make it home, an uneventful trip except for the ginormous spider I found crawling on my shirt (seriously, I almost died).  A too-quick nap and T was awake and still acting up, incapable of listening out of shear exhaustion.  But as I tried to get some of the laundry started and dishes washed and camping carnage put away, I kept passing him lying, quite peacefully, on the couch, watching a movie.  And I recalled that it can wait, all of it.  I have not doubt that pile of greasy pans will still be in the sink after he goes to bed, or even tomorrow morning.  But for this moment, of T being three-and-a-few-months and just the two of us lying together, watching Toy Story, still smelling like campfire and sunshine, I have no such guarantee.  So I took it, and he put his hand on my head and smiled, and life was good.



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Man I hate winter.  The cold, the snow, the slippery roads, taking an extra thirty minutes to get out the door because of all the layers, not being able to open my windows or dry my sheets outside without losing an eye on their frozen corners.  Ugh.

T and I were looking at some pictures on my phone the other day and I realized that, the day we hauled the wagon full of stuff down to the Toys for Tots donation spot (in December!) we were wearing sweatshirts.  And shortly after that, the deep freeze set in.  Ugh again.

But today…Today was glorious.  Foggy at first, then sunny warmth that invited a long walk with the dogs and many trips down the slide.  T got a bike for Christmas and, except for the day he decided to ride it down the stairs, it has mostly collected dust over the past few months, waiting for just the right moment for him to make it FLY.

Just a few more winks...

Just a few more winks…

So I take this day, the first of Spring, to declare the end of my annual hibernation.  Sure, the next few weeks could bring more snow and sleet.  But I’ve had just enough sweet air to get me over the hump and my loving husband just brought me a Bud Lite Lime Mango-Rita (seriously – it’s a thing!).  So suck it, winter – there’s a new season in town.

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Posted by on March 20, 2014 in family, Remember


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My sweet son –

Happy birthday! You turned three today…it hurts my heart a tiny bit just to say it. You are tall enough now that I can rest my hand on the back of your head and kind enough to permit me to do so. You are changing so fast, every day brings something new – words I can’t fathom how you know, skills I can’t believe you mastered so quickly, and play I can’t figure how you imagined.

I’d like to tell you every day is perfect, but you are old enough now to realize that’s not true and tell us when you are hurt or scared or mad, and acknowledge when one of us feels the same way. There are moments of incredible frustration, like when Daddy and I took you to the National Air and Space Museum to see “rocketships” but you were having none of it, pitching a fit on the floor while school kids milled around. But those times are balanced by moments of such gentleness and love; one of my favorite times of the day is when you first wake and come in to snuggle with us, smelling like lavender and sleep. We yell and cry, and are by no means a quiet family. But there is love to spare and you are so quick with yours that it sometimes takes my breath.

You’ve accomplished so much in just one year. Within weeks of turning two you Houdini’d your way out of your crib, grinning at us as you monkey-climbed down the other side. You learned to ride bike, made friends at the park, spent hours reading to yourself and us, helped mommy cook, discovered a love of superheroes and baseball. And your language….one day during the summer I found myself staring at you, trying to decipher your baby tongue, only to realize you were speaking in entire sentences. You have such a way with words and I am so proud to see you try them out, it sometimes looks as if you can almost taste them on your lips. You take on each day with bright eyes and infectious spirit, and I find myself inspired.

As I tucked you in the night before your birthday you pulled my hand down and whispered “You make me happy.” You have no idea, my son. No longer a baby, my heart will not yet allow me to call you a big boy. But you are, without a doubt, my Sweet Boy, and I wish you the happiest of birthdays.

Happy birthday Sweet Boy!

Happy birthday Sweet Boy!

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Posted by on February 28, 2014 in family, Parenting, Remember


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Sneaky Eats

When DH and I first started dating, my stepson, J, was eight and a SUPER picky eater.  I’ll admit that, at the time, I (a) had little experience with kids in general, let alone one who saw me as the person who “stole his dad” and (b) was still determined not to have any kids of my own.  Regardless, it took about two weekend visits with J to realize he refused to eat – or drink – almost anything I would consider healthy for a growing boy.  And despite my hesitation about my role in his life, J’s eating habits and attitude toward nutrition bothered me – a lot.

The first rule at our dinner table has always been “try two bites” – some are tinier than others, but more often than not one bite leads to several rather than just one more.  The second rule, which I never made secret, is “you can know what you’re eating, or I can hide it.”  Meaning, you can tell me you hate the cauliflower we got at the farmers market and will never eat it, but I WILL find a way to incorporate it into a meal.  It took some time, but our battle over food ended up bringing J and I closer. Over the past several years J has discovered he likes all kinds of foods – including vegetables! – that his eight-year-old self would never have considered edible. I take every small taste as a tiny victory, acknowledging that he has totally different rules (i.e., apparently none) about what goes into his body once he’s home with his mom.  And I’m proud to report that, in recent months, he’s even starting choosing water over soda as his beverage of choice!

That said, there are times when getting good food into J, and now T, is still a challenge.  Unlike J, T is less hesitant about trying new things, but also less likely to take more than the two required bites.  We never force him to eat – when he says “finished,” he’s finished.  That makes every bite he does take even more important.  Here is a list of five ways I’ve found to get a kid of any age to eat almost anything:

1.  Blend it.  My mom got me a Baby Bullet when T was nearly one.  At the time I thought I would only use it for a few more months before he outgrew its need.  Wrong.  I still pull out BB a couple of times a week.  When either of the boys won’t eat, or when we need a quick “meal” as we head out the door, I pull it out and blend up a smoothie.  Spinach, avocado, yogurt, fruit, wheat germ, the list is endless. Depending on the ingredients, sometimes I sweeten with honey, fruit juice, or agave nectar.  I also use it to blend up leftover veggies for the freezer for later.


2.  Freeze it.  I found these super cute Monster Pop things on clearance at TJ Maxx last year.  They freeze in no time, stand upright on their “feet” (helpful in the freezer since they didn’t come with a tray), are easy to clean and simple for a toddler to push up.  My favorite thing to do with these is to blend Greek yogurt with a bit of fruit and freeze.


3.  Pack it.  My mom is my biggest ally in my quest to feed my kids healthy, locally sourced food.  She found a sweet bento-type lunchbox somewhere and sent it to T.  Not sure why it works, but that kid will eat pretty much anything I can back into it’s tiny little squares. Small Potatoes also has some cute bento ideas.

4.  Hide it.  I have tons of cookbooks, but one of my favorites for kids is the Deceptively Delicious book written by Jessica Seinfeld.  She has all kinds of ideas for using fruit and vegetable purees in everyday dishes from scrambled eggs to pancakes to pasta.  As I noted above, I do use my BB to blend up leftovers, but trips to the farmers market usually mean one or two veggies purchased solely to blend/chop/freeze for later.

5.  Cook it.  In the past year J has started to show an interest in cooking, and I’ve showed him how to make some simple, healthy meals. T has been in the kitchen with me since before he was old enough to sit up on his own, and is often on the stool next me adding veggies or stirring the pot.  Both boys also join us on trips to the farmers market and are encouraged to ask the farmers/vendors questions about how to prepare something or how it’s grown or raised, and also to pick out something they want to eat that week.  There are tons of articles about how kids are more likely to eat something they helped cook, and we have definitely found this to be true in our home.

What do you do to get picky eaters (adult or child) to eat? 

Wishing you many healthy, peaceful meals!


































































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Amazing – A Letter to My Son on His Birthday

Dear T –

What a difference a year makes!  You turned two today and greeted me, as usual, with a smile and a “Hey!”  I lifted you out of your crib with the realization that this time next year you will more than likely be in your big-boy bed and the hope it would be the only change to our morning routine.  We headed downstairs and I recalled, as you asked for milk and jumped on the couch and helped open your gifts and tried to stick your entire face into your cake (yes, for breakfast!) that this time last year you had just taken your first solo steps.  When we spent the afternoon at the National Zoo, you pointed to and named the animals and it reminded me that age one you fell asleep every night with your giraffe.  And tonight, when I tucked you in and you blew me a kiss for the very first time – well, that was just perfect.

Heaven blew every trumpet and played every horn, on the wonderful, marvelous night you were born. - Nancy Tillman

Heaven blew every trumpet and played every horn, on the wonderful, marvelous night you were born. – Nancy Tillman

For you each day is an adventure! You took your first steps in the days before you turned one and have been non-stop action since.  You’ve learned to jump, climb, and run, and scared the crap out of your father a few weeks ago when he found you half-way up a 6′ ladder.You smile and say hello to people we pass on the way to the market, ask “what’s that?” or “hear that?” a thousand times a day, and your eyes light up when we head to the park or the zoo or even somewhere new. And it is so exciting to see you running around the playground, making friends and kicking the ball around. You are curious and inquisitive and do not shy from new experiences, and I hope you never lose your sense of wonder.

You already have quite a way with words. Most mornings your Daddy and I wake up hearing you talking or reading to yourself, and with the exception of nap time it’s pretty much non-stop until bedtime. You started using your signs asking for “more” borsch (of all things!) in July; since then you’ve learned hundreds of signs and words and each day it seems you know a few more. You have questions for EVERYTHING, usually more than one, and there are days when I am grateful for the silence when you’ve fallen asleep. But I would not trade it for anything else, and I pray you retain your excitement for language.

And perhaps most incredible is that, at the age of two, you are the first to notice if someone is upset, or sad, or hurt, and ask “you ‘tay?” and offer a hug or a hand on the arm. I don’t know where you learned that compassion, but my wish for you is that you never lose it.

You’ve accomplished so much in the days since you turned one and are, in a word, amazing.  I say that knowing, if you ever read this, you will be horrified and embarrassed and may go so far as to deny me as your mother.  But it’s true, so there it is.

Happy birthday, my sweet peanut. I look forward to seeing what the next year will bring.

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Posted by on February 28, 2013 in Remember


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It’s been a really hectic, crazy year.  Most days I can survive, sometimes even thrive on the chaos.  Today is not one of those days.  If only we could choose when it’s inconvenient to be exhausted.  Kind of like a floating holiday, but likely way less fun and requiring only enough energy to drag yourself off the couch long enough for a snack, or if the house starts on fire.

T, that little darling, is starting to come into his own as a toddler and takes every opportunity to remind us.  Today he voiced his opinion, loudly and using a series of ear-piercing screeches and knife-sharp kicks to the ribs, exactly how he felt about leaving the park.  I managed to wrestle him upstairs for a nap (seriously, I think his arms turn to rubber when he’s in fight mode) and now that I’ve bought myself at least a hour of sweet silence, the only thing I can do is lie on the floor sweating and panting.  I could work in a few stretches and call it pilates, but more likely I’ll lie here listening to the clock tick down my seconds of solitude and dream of a sick day.


Even the dog is tired!

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Posted by on October 24, 2012 in Parenting


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