inside one American mother's mind, while her children are young

Iris: The 11 Month Update

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This girl.

Not only is she walking along furniture, she’s walking with a push toy and she’s walking while holding onto her poor brothers shirt as he tries to run away from her.

She’s climbing all the steps she can find.

She’s standing on her own for up to about 5 seconds at a time.

She’s clapping! (Sometimes drumming and clapping as if to a song in her heart.)

She’s constantly scavenging for food.

She LOVES to swing, (Especially when her brother’s pushing her.)

She does this new thing where she rapidly wiggles her legs and kicks her feet.

She still smiles and babbles at strangers. She loves to have everyones attention.

She can scream, so very loudly. She knows just how to get what she wants.

She screams every time I change her clothing and wiggles her way out of every diaper change.

Suddenly she loves the bath! For awhile I had to get in the tub with her and nurse her to keep her calm. And now, out of nowhere, she’s a fearless water bug!

She wants all the the things. Especially the things her brother is using at any given moment.

Some nights she wakes up every thirty minutes. I put her to sleep at 7:30 and roughly every thirty minutes I am back upstairs putting her back to sleep!

She is so very MISCHIEVOUS! She gives us this knowing grin before every forbidden endeavor she undertakes. She is basically only interested in causing trouble :)

She climbs slides. Usually without getting very far, but she is able to climb all the way to the top of the little slide in the playhouse in our yard, without any help (just my hands spotting her, not touching!)

She gives big wet open mouth kisses.

She is quite excellent at going along for the ride. Napping whenever, wherever, no schedule, maintaining a pleasant demeanor, going to sleep and waking in the morning at the same consistent time every day.

We are amazed by her development these days, its all happening so quickly, our last baby, almost a toddler <3

Roman’s Montessori Room

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I’d been putting off sharing the end result of Roman’s first children’s room in hopes that I’d eventually finish decorating with all the little touches I originally dreamt up. Alas, with us moving to a new apartment a month from now, this is as good as its going to get! When we first moved from our one bedroom apartment to our first two bedroom home I was pretty excited to decorate Roman’s first official bedroom. When our daughter was born unexpectedly at 30 weeks exactly one week after we moved in, those interior decorating dreams no longer felt so important or interesting. Trips to Ikea, however, did have a magical way of making me feel in control of something. And we made a lot of them.

As I wrote about awhile back, we planned to set up Roman’s room Montessori style with his own floor bed since he had been co-sleeping with us on a floor bed up to that point. We focused on making the room safe for him to play in independently since he would be free to get up and explore at his will. He’s a climber and a jumper so we thought through every little thing that could be potentially dangerous. More recently we even decided to get rid of his dresser. My husband read something about the risks involving kids and dressers and we have caught Roman on more than one occasion trying to climb up it, so that was that! He moves around so much in his sleep we even padded the walls!

Since Roman has a long history of being sleep averse I also tried to create the room as a sleep space as opposed to a play space. It is a haven for all of his stuffed animals and many of his books, but no toys, which would inevitably distract him at bedtime while we lie on his floor bed trying to read stories and sing songs until he cuddles up and falls asleep. I think the teepee and stuffed animals have offered enough to amuse himself with when he wakes up and scoots out of bed! I did of course want to make it a whimsical, fun feeling space that he’d be drawn to, that would feel like his own.

In his room:

DIY Wall Padding: For a quick renter-friendly DIY headboard we made a trip to Home Depot and bought some affordable sheets of plywood, they cut them to size for us there. I ordered upholstery foam on amazon and used an old sheet for the fabric (for our next apartment I fully intend to pick out some fun fabric!). I am not an experienced DIY guru, but I simply cut the foam to fit the boards, glued it down with some gorilla glue, let it dry, laid out the fabric, placed the foam boards on top, cut the fabric, wrapped it around the boards and stapled it on tight with a staple gun! Thicker fabric would have done a better job, but this worked and has held up without a problem all year. I stuck the “headboard/ wall padding” to his walls with heavy duty mounting tape.

Ikea Wall Stickers: I loved the wild look of the leaves and the birds, unfortunately I couldn’t find the birds still available online, but I think they have a really fun selection.

Ikea Closet Organizer: We just use those simple tiered baskets in his closet for his clothes now that he doesn’t have a dresser.

Ikea Picture Ledge/Book Shelves: I love that these make his books easily visible and accessible! Admittedly, we have a problem with over stuffing them, in which case they fall off and end up piled up all over the floor!

Ikea block out shades: A nap time necessity!

Tuft and Needle Mattress: We went with a full size since we lay with him until he falls asleep (and often end up sleeping with him). We also went with the 5″ thick version, better for a floor mattress since thicker mattresses need room to breathe. It seems they may no longer offer this, and their prices seem higher, but we love these mattresses!

DIY Paper Source Letters

House Inhabit Teepee: A very sturdy indoor/ outdoor teepee! The perfect home for all of his stuffed animals!

DIY Teepee Art: I bought this sticker on Etsy and stuck it to some beautiful paper from Paper Source and framed it in a little bamboo frame!

The giant bear was a handmade gift from my aunt, we thought it was crazy at first, with us living in such a small apartment, but he LOVES it. He hugs it, cuddles it, wrestles it, and now I find myself having to resist buying even MORE giant stuffed animals.

And last, that little ikea owl watches over him (along with our baby monitor!)

3 Smart Lovely Children’s Book Discoveries



Patrick Mcdonnell is one of my favorite children’s book authors. Hug Time was my favorite book to read to Roman when he was a baby. Art is my new favorite. When I saw it this past week at our favorite local toy store “Why Not?” I couldn’t resist. He’s at an age where he’s starting to really enjoy drawing, coloring and painting. Mostly he makes circles and curly cues. I bought him a little notepad and a set of chunky toddler crayons that I keep in the diaper bag, now he loves to color while he sits in his stroller on our walks about town. The story is simple, sweet and clever, just as a children’s book should be! He asks us to read it to him, picking it off the shelf he says “art!”


On a Beam of Light

On that same trip to the toy store I spotted this beautifully written story of Albert Einstein for children. I had first heard of it in this review on Brain Pickings. Not quite age appropriate for Roman just yet so I managed to resist for now, but I cannot wait to add it to his library in a year or so. Its a lovely story for supporting and inspiring creativity and wonder! (Also for parents who love Einstein and theoretical physics and are excited to share that love with their children!)


A Strange Place To Call Home

Also found at “Why Not?” and also still a little over Roman’s head was this gorgeous book of poetry about animals that evolved to live in strange places. Another one I cannot wait to add to his future library. So clever and educational, a great way to begin teaching the evolutionary magic of life! Also great for introducing the beauty of poetry!

My Fall Wardrobe

Allow me to introduce you to The Estes Button Down:


I had some money left on an Anthropologie gift card that I’ve been saving for my Fall wardrobe. As we were passing by on our way from the toy store to the grocery store this wednesday I decided to pop in and see if my children would allow me a few moments to browse. They did!

My thought walking in was, “Okay, what do I want to live in this Fall?” At first I picked up a jumper. A slightly risky purchase without trying it on, and with both babies in the double stroller and the dressing room upstairs I felt certain returning something would be the easier option. Then I saw this button down by Cloth & Stone and said (to myself, in my head), “DONE!”

It is the softest thing I’ve ever owned. You feel as if you’re wearing pajamas outside in the real world. Its a nice neutral color, a great length for pairing with leggings or jeans, and it has a nice fit/ hang, oversized without looking frumpy. It went perfectly with my super comfy chambray sneakers and will work just as nicely with my favorite boots. So easy to wear.

I tried to take a picture of myself in it… and this is what happened:


So fashion blogging is not my calling. But I had to share anyway.

Because I am in love with this shirt.

And this weather.

Fall wins.

Currently Obsessed: BluePrint Cold Pressed Cashew Coffee


So I was strolling through Whole Foods on my way to the register, passing by the cold drinks I thought, “yes, I’m thirsty,” and I spotted a bottle of BluePrint that read “coffee cashew cinnamon vanilla agave”. I thought, “yes, that sounds good.”

I drank it on my way home, pushing my babies in their stroller, I thought to myself, “THIS IS THE BEST STUFF EVER. I’M GOING TO DRINK THIS EVERYDAY”

A few days later I was strolling through Whole Foods again, this time I had it in my head from the moment I decided to go grocery shopping that I was going to drink this raw cold pressed cold brew coffee. I had thought about it all morning.

When I got to the cold drinks I scanned for the bottle, there it was, one left. I looked down to check the price out of curiosity. $12.99. I knew it was an extravagance, I suspected maybe $8. I hesitated, it was too much. Then I told myself it was okay, I thought about it all day, this would be my last one.

I drank half and saved half for the next day, I’m drinking it as I write this, obviously.

My husband had a sip and a similar reaction. We decided we’ll just have to try to replicate it at home.

Apparently this person did and she claims its just as “divine!”

Book Recommendation: Girl In Glass


I just finished reading Deanna Fei’s Girl In Glass: How My “Distressed Baby” Defied the Odds, Shamed a CEO, and Taught Me the Essence of Love, Heartbreak, and Miracles and I feel eager to recommend it to anyone who has experience with preemies or NICUs. Her account felt eerily similar to my own experience, her thoughts and feelings, the way she described the details. Reading it was incredibly cathartic.

Her memoir charts her experience with her daughter’s unexplainable premature birth, three months in the NICU, and the media frenzy when said NICU stay was cited publicly by AOL CEO Tim Armstrong, her husband’s employer, as the reason for that years employee benefit cutbacks. Her writing is honest and insightful and the detail with which she recalls the NICU and her feelings at that time shot right through me.

Like me, she had a just over one year old son at home. Her daughter came at 25 weeks, a whole different world then my 30 week-er experience; her NICU stay was twice as long with may more scares and setbacks. Still, so much of what she wrote, especially about the experience of having a toddler at home, and the ways her and her husband responded to the experience differently, felt like it came from my own insides.

Like the way full term newborns, who once seemed the most fragile thing in the world, suddenly look huge:

“Before I became a mother, I found the sight of newborns unsettling, when I noticed them at all: those scrunched faces, puny bodies, limp necks. Now this newborn looks, to me, hulking in size and strength, obscenely plump, freakishly ready for the outside world.”

The experience of what I referred to as “phantom kicks”:

“At night, lying adrift but not asleep, I frequently feel a little fillip inside and reach to caress my belly. There’s the baby. But no; it’s a muscle twitch, a pocket of air, my organs creaking back into place.”

The guilt that never let me be happy when I was away from her, even when it was with my other baby, and the double guilt for not fully enjoying my happy healthy child at home:

“Today it seems impossible to experience joy without a corresponding measure of grief. Everything triumphant about our son is what’s tragic about our daughter.”

Even this, such a random thing, but I felt just the same:

“The fog in my head has subsided just enough that I can read books again, but the travails of fictional characters now seem like cruel contrivances. Memoir seems like the only form that might sustain me…”

It made me go back and re-read what I’d written at that time in my life: Her birth story , the experience of being new to the NICU, my experience with kangaroo care and being my own advocatemy lack of patiencereflections after her homecoming, thoughts on her story, my experience breastfeeding a preemie, and how things went when Roman finally met Iris.

And it finally allowed me to let go of that experience. I found that for the longest time I was still full of emotion that would pour out over something like an article about the value of kangaroo care, or a birth scene on a tv show. I held onto my frustrations with our NICU even though my daughter is now happy and healthy and developing normally. I couldn’t be more fortunate, my daughter will never have any memory of this and most likely no consequences from it, and yet I was still feeling a bit traumatized. As we near her first birthday, I am glad to be moving on.

Have you read it? What did you think? How did you move on from your child’s premature birth and NICU experience? Do you recommend any other books or memoirs about preemies or NICUs?

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My husband and I used to have an evening ritual. We’d sit on the couch and watch a favorite show. Once upon a time this involved a bottle of wine, but since Roman, the show sufficed. Since Iris this ritual has gradually faded from existence entirely.

Now we spend almost all night every night putting our children to sleep. The putting them to sleep doesn’t even necessarily end at bedtime. Lately I typically put Iris back to sleep at least a half dozen times throughout the night, and its not uncommon for Mike to still have to put Roman back to sleep at some point in the middle of the night as well.

I have not yet left Iris with anyone besides Mike before her bedtime. Her exclusive breastfeeding has led to a dependence, or maybe I should admit to an interdependence, that has made it very difficult for us to get any time away. Also, when you have two kids who are difficult to get to sleep and don’t stay down for the night after bedtime, babysitters can be tricky.

A couple of weeks ago my mother and sister were both visiting so we decided to attempt a night out. I made a late reservation at a new “speakeasy” just a few miles away. I put Iris to sleep in her crib and we left. This “secret” bar just happens to be inside my favorite donut shop! Its called Captain Gregory’s, its dimly lit with green lanterns, seats about 20 people, serves an inspired menu of specialty cocktails along with a list of prohibition era favorites and the promise to “make anything you want.” They have a small food menu with sandwiches that come on donut bread with two sides of house made pickled vegetables and donut-centric deserts. They take reservations via text and advise you to pull the “whiskey flag” on the wall that is actually a door.

I dressed up and put on makeup. (Finally wearing a new dress that is not “breastfeeding friendly”). I drank an “abandoned apartment in Paris” my first egg white cocktail, it had rose liqueur, was soft pink and frothy and florally delicious. He drank something with bourbon. We ate a fig and brie and something else sandwich and snagged some free donuts at the end of the night. We had a quiet conversation. It felt nice to be drunk up by his eyes again. It felt nice to not have our attempt at togetherness interrupted by a waking baby. It sort of felt like playing pretend, sneaking away from our regular lives to spend one night in our secret identities as lovers.

Since then we’ve had some nights when we were able to sit together on the couch and watch a movie. There were several times we had to pause so I could go upstairs and put Iris back to sleep, so not a perfect date night, but something. We watched The Overnight and Digging For Fire and I’d recommend them both. Both quirky independent films about married couples. Perfect for inspiring conversation and laughter and connection.

In Digging For Fire there was this one line I just loved, (partly because of how perfectly Jake Johnson delivered it), he said something like, “we have this rule where we have to keep connecting, but the thing is” and went on to talk about how both of them really are just consumed by their love for their son, how its so amazing and exciting to pour all their love into him, and how thats a different kind of connection and togetherness.

I wish I had the direct quote, but that is what I took away from it. I think that’s true for us too (though we’ve never made a real “rule”). This family is the center of the world for us both. And this time while our children are young is brief. And the shared feeling of awe they inspire and sharing in their joy and even their little struggles, is a different kind of closeness.

When we got home that night we found my mom on the couch holding Iris asleep on her chest. Apparently she’d woken up soon after we left while they were still getting Roman to sleep. She cried and wouldn’t take a bottle. Eventually though my mother was able to rock her back to sleep. She would wake up if any attempt was made to put her in her crib, so there they were on the couch. My mother was kind enough not to bother us with this news. We were able to enjoy our evening unaware. Iris survived without too much hysteria.

Our date night was a really wonderful little luxury. And since we’re moving even closer to Captain Gregory’s a month from now, we’re hopeful we’ll get to steal each other away for some more. Until then, well, I think this beautiful poem says it all much better than I could:


“The Hundred Names of Love” by Annie Lighthart

The children have gone to bed.
We are so tired we could fold ourselves neatly
behind our eyes and sleep mid-word, sleep standing
warm among the creatures in the barn, lean together
and sleep, forgetting each other completely in the velvet,
the forgiveness of that sleep.

Then the one small cry:
one strike of the match-head of sound:
one child’s voice:
and the hundred names of love are lit
as we rise and walk down the hall.

One hundred nights we wake like this,
wake out of our nowhere
to kneel by small beds in darkness.
One hundred flowers open in our hands,
a name for love written in each one.

Joan Didion On Writing


This being a belief of her husbands, the writer John Dunne, recalled by Didion in The Year of Magical Thinking while trying to come to terms with his passing.

He always carried note cards and a pen.

Now, we have iPhones with a “notes” app. (Which I use religiously.)

I’ve tried carrying little moleskin notepads, it seemed more writerly. But with the goal being to capture a thought before it fades, I have succumb to the efficiency of the notes app.

Elizabeth Gilbert, of Eat Pray Love fame, talks a lot now about creativity and inspiration, the subject of her latest book, Big Magic. In this interview she touches on this idea of the necessity of catching those fleeting thoughts. Of the moments when something bubbles up, something strikes you and you think you would remember it but you won’t, if you can’t record it, it will be lost.

I’ve heard a lot of talk of the process of creativity as being a sort of cross pollination. You have to do the work and your mind will connect things in new and interesting ways. Sometimes those connections happen at inopportune moments, and you need the notes app.

And sometimes your children do the sweetest, most adorable things, and you share moments with them that you cannot imagine forgetting, but you probably will. So you try to write it all down, to remember.

Our Two Weeks In NJ

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Roman, Iris and I spent the last two weeks of August with our family in southern NJ. My husband had a work trip in California, and instead of tagging along, we opted to squeeze in some quality time with their aunt and grandparents. My sister has been traveling for work for a year so far and has another year to go, her three week vacation just happened to overlap with Mike’s trip. We swam in a neighbors pool, had dance party walks down their wooded dead end street, ate my favorite ice cream, visited Story Book Land amusement park, the little Port Republic beach with friends, the Ocean City Boardwalk for the first time, Historic Smithville Village, the Smile Factory arcade, and spent many days on the beach at the ocean.

Two weeks felt like a long time. A long time to be away from their father. A long time to be out of their usual routine and schedule, which I honestly never realized we had until we weren’t in it anymore. That said, we kept them very busy and entertained, they had a fun filled two weeks. Also, it was so wonderful to be away from the Virginia heat, being back now I appreciate that even more.

We are so fortunate to have the help of my parents, my sister and my in-laws with raising these children, and I was particularly lucky to have them for those two weeks. It is so sweet to see the way Roman adores them all. They take such good care of him that I honestly start feeling a little too distant from him while we’re there, he’s so caught up in all his new attention, sometimes he doesn’t seem to need me. (But sometimes he does.) He particularly loves riding the quad with my dad, playing the drums and surfing with my father-in-law, painting with my mom and getting post bath massages from my mother-in-law. Every day at my parents house he would march back to the shed, knock on the door and insist, “I need a key, I need a key” to get in to ride the quad. He would constantly return to his easel in the house, mix the water and water color pods and sing “I’m painting, I’m painting”. I fell in love with that in particular, and with the way he apparently loves to eat watermelon on the beach.

The recent piece, The Myth of Quality Time, rang true for me in a timely fashion. I know how important it is to our families to get to “be there” and I’m so glad we’re able to manage extended visits like this one every once in a while. 

It was amazing to me the way he can adapt to changing environments. We’d spend a few days with my parents and then a few days with my husbands parents. His sleep schedule went awry and his frequency of “meltdowns” certainly increased but overall he is a remarkably adaptable child. Iris became more clingy than ever outside of her comfort zone, but by the end of the trip, particularly after she started crawling, she would sit on the floor for awhile and play and let other people hold her for short periods of time.

We tried to Face-Time with Mike on two separate occasions, neither of which went very well. I was nervous, afraid it might upset Roman more to see him on the phone and not be able to have him there. My fears seemed to be valid.

When Mike returned I felt a fresh sense of wholeness having our little family all together again. I remember walking off the beach, just the four of us, recognizing that I felt very complete. Something I probably tend to take for granted.

*links to Instagram videos from the trip throughout

Two Beautiful Meditations on Sound


I read two beautiful things on sound and music and their influence on us this week:

First, the quote above, found first on NPR’s Instagram. which led me to the article, How Sound Shaped the Evolution of Your Brain.

 “We’re emotional creatures,” Horowitz says, “and emotions are evolutionary ‘fast responses’ — things you don’t have to think about.”

That speediness pays dividends in the survival department: “You hear a loud sound?” he says. “Get ready to run from it.” Emotions are rapid delivery systems in the brain, and sound drives emotions.

So sound hits you in the gut. But sound is also rich with patterns that carry information.

“The brain is really a wet, sloppy drum machine,” Horowitz says. “It’s desperately seeking rhythms.” Not only rhythm, but patterns in pitch too, that have a mathematical regularity that captures the brain’s attention.

The sound of a familiar voice, for example, has its own set of rhythms and pitches. So do particular sounds in nature: birds, insects, rain.

Second, Oliver Sacks on the Paradoxical Power of Music from his book Musicophilia as quoted and discussed on Brain Pickings.

 Music, uniquely among the arts, is both completely abstract and profoundly emotional. It has no power to represent anything particular or external, but it has a unique power to express inner states or feelings. Music can pierce the heart directly; it needs no mediation.

My husband used to make me mixed cd’s. When I lived in Los Angeles I drove a car with a cd player and they were all I listened to. When I hear those songs now I feel instantly as if I am back there, driving through those hills, as if my mind is temporarily transplanted. Its not just imagery bubbling up, its the feeling of that time of my life; the feeling of living in LA, of a certain freedom I’ll never experience again and that high of the first months of love with the person you know you’ll spend the rest of your life with.  That piece of my life was so isolated from the rest, nine months in Los Angeles, falling in love; it has a signature, a stamp that temporarily imprints when I hear certain songs. I’m so grateful for those cd’s and for the power of patterns of vibrations. And for the cathartic power of this most pure art form. And for the way my children love it.


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