Category Archives: Parenthood

Be Good-at-Cinderella

“Hola!!” I said to a student and his mom; we were approaching them on the street in downtown Minneapolis. 

“Hola!” they said back, both excited to see Little L; I often show videos of her in Spanish class at school. 

“We’re out searching for her shoe,” I explained. “We lost it this morning on the way to music class.” 

“Oh, she’s like Cinderella!” my student’s mother said. “Lost a shoe.” 

While I might not jump to compare my one-year-old to a stereotypical Disney princess, in this situation, yes, she had lost a shoe – and it hadn’t even been because of a harried exit. In fact, the shoe hadn’t even been on her foot! I let her go in her socked feet to music class because it’s just a carpeted room and because we’re always late and it takes a good minute and a half to get those shoes on. But I had thrown them in the bottom compartment of the stroller just in case we stopped to roam around in a park on the way home. 

We hadn’t, though so I didn’t notice the lost footwear until we arrived home – okay, after stopping to grab me a sandwich on the way. The whole music class outing, in fact, had seemed rather idyllic on this fall day. Or maybe just the walk home – watching toddlers try to play cymbals can be a little dizzying. We strolled through the autumn breeze, picked up toothpaste at the pharmacy, and bought a sandwich. This is what I had imagined motherhood being like while I was pregnant; the first year of Little L’s life was a reality check.

When we arrived home on this out-of-the-ordinary fall day, I removed only one pink sneaker from the bottom of Little L’s stroller. 

Now that Little L was a walker, I had to think about shoes. She didn’t need them in her stroller or when running around the carpeted music classroom (don’t worry; we would change her socks when we got home). But what if we stopped somewhere and she asked to get out? 

Asked is an exaggeration. What if she started flailing her body and trying to slip out of her stroller? 

Best to be prepared, and so I had thrown a pair of pink shoes that I received from my aunt (receiving hand-me-downs and gifts and how to manage them is a whole topic of its own – let me know if any of you have any tips!). 

But upon removing Little L from her stroller – she had not gotten out despite a weak protest when we strolled through a grassy mini-park across from Lunds – I found only one pink shoe in the under-stroller holder.

So after nap time, Little L and I set out again to retrace our route. I had already called music class and they did not have the shoe. 

But surely someone had seen it along the road and set it on the curb or on top of an electrical box? I see things like this all the time.

Look – someone put these lost keys out to be found!

Nothing. No shoes, not even anything pink that could have given me a moment of false hope. 

In my mind I fantasized about finding that shoe – how vindicated I would feel. “We traced our entire route to music class and back!” I would tell Alex, who would listen with admiration to my perseverance and dedication to shoe recovery. “And then we found it!” I would conclude, victoriously.

You see, it was the only pair of shoes that fit her at the time. And it seemed like a waste to buy more shoes of the same size – who knows how long they would fit?

But that night I texted my mom, asking if she could get a pair of shoes for Little L. She brought them on Wednesday and informed me that although she had leveled up on Little L’s shoe size, she had stuck cotton in the toes. 

It was not a week later when I found these in my mailbox at school.

The Fairy Shoe-Mother bequeaths me with footwear for Little L.

While I didn’t know who had provided the mystery shoes, I was both grateful and disappointed. If only I’d discovered the barely-worn hand-me-down shoes sooner, I could have avoided acquiring that extra pair of shoes! 

When I came home from work on a Thursday, my mother-in-law told me about the great time Little L had walking around with her grandparents in the park. 

“And those little blue shoes, she loved them!” she said. 

I was glad they fit.

“She loves how they squeak.”

What!?

Yup. Squeaky shoes. While I’ve seen my fair share of kindergartners with shoes that light up each time the strike their heel down, I didn’t even know shoes that talked were a thing. Go figure.

So now Little L is a big fan of the squeaky shoes. Now that it’s winter she mostly wears boots outside, but we use the squeaky shoes for adventures in the condo building like going down to check the mail. 

A number of neighbors have been amused by the shoes and some of their dogs even like them too.

So for now, we use them every once in awhile – though I keep them hidden on a high-up shelf so that she won’t see them and ask to wear them. 

And on the days when they get a little annoying, I think, well, she’ll probably either lose one or outgrow them soon. 

Give Thanks for Purple Helmets

For all of you who haven’t seen any photos of Little L recently, she’s not rocking her purple star helmet during the daytime anymore. It is now a sleep helmet – like a nightcap, but, well, more durable. 

For those of you who haven’t seen Little L or her photos for the past half-year, she wore a head-shaping helmet because her head got a little flat on the sides from the way she was sleeping during those super-pliable early days. 

Every three weeks since Little L got her helmet, she and I have visited our now-friend Mallory, who checks on the progress of her head, writes calculations on a post-it for me, adjusts the helmet, and calls me “Mom.” 

When we first got the “she could really benefit from a  helmet” diagnosis, we weren’t thrilled. Besides it being a hassle, I was worried what people would think. 

But this is the way I’ve come to see it… Allow me to quote myself. I recently emailed a local author whose book about her preemie’s birth I had just read. I mentioned the helmet as one side effect of Little L’s early arrival to Planet Earth.

She (the author – not Little L!) wrote back to me that she liked what I had said. A real author, not only reading and responding my email, but quoting my email back to me! I felt like that guy in When Harry Met Sally, one of the few pop culture references I’m equipped to make, when he said, “Nobody has ever quoted me back to me before.”

So this is what I said: 

I thought that it would bother me trying to explain it to people, but I think it’s actually been good for me. I think she looks adorable in it, and it will help her “toaster head” as the NICU nurses called it. Her journey into the world wasn’t exactly standard, so why not have a cute purple helmet to prove it?

In my memory – and in my photos, of which there are many – Little L’s transformation from infant to toddler took place in the helmet. I mean, she did wear it 23 hours a day! Learning to roll, sleeping on her tummy with her face smushed into the mattress and her butt up in the air – how many times have I looked on the monitor to see an astronaut sleeping in Little L’s crib? A fashionable astronaut with a purple helmet.

The first time she rolled herself from her own room to the living room, slapping the wooden floor and grinning at me. Crawling towards her sound machine with a giggle that gave away her plans for grabbing the cords. Laughing as a dog licked her face. Trying to crawl out of the “superdrum” the kids were sitting in during music class and a mom saying with a nervous laugh, “She’s fearless.” Learning to pull herself up those first times – onto the glass table at my sister-in-law’s house in California. We all felt better knowing she was wearing her helmet.

I am happy for Little L that her head can breathe easier now during daytime hours; she seems perfectly content wearing the helmet just at night. According to Mallory, soon we will hang it up for full retirement (will we keep the helmet? Keep a piece of it? How do you keep a piece of a helmet? A friend said she still has her fourth grader’s helmet). 

At the beginning, I over-explained the helmet to strangers on the elevator and servers at restaurants. But as time went on, I only accounted for its existence when I felt like it.

I didn’t feel bad about it and I don’t think Little L did either. She rocked that purple helmet with pride.

I love her in her helmet and I love her without it. One of my favorite helmet snapshots is driving home from Joanie and Wendall’s house in early spring. They keep their heat a little warmer than we do, and Little L was overdressed, plus, you know, wearing a helmet. I stripped her down to her onesie and left her in her reduced clothing state on the ride home. I could see her in the review-baby-mirror: pantsless, grabbing her bare feet, sporting her purple helmet, snow passing by outside. 

I thought, “that’s happiness.” 

Some people need helmets to shape their heads temporarily. Some people need helmets for longer periods of time because of health conditions. Some people don’t wear helmets when they ride scooters through downtown Minneapolis. They should.

On our last visit to Mallory, Little L walked back to Mary’s office with a grin on her face. I remember our early days when I still brought in the entire carseat carrier from the car. She now has a mouthful of teeth. On this visit she spotted the little doll modeling a helmet – her same purple helmet. “Baby! Baby!” she said, and I gave her the doll. She proceeded to take its helmet off and then got frustrated when she couldn’t get it back on. 

It didn’t fit on her own head either, but not for lack of trying.

“It’s really up to you,” Mallory said. “We could be done now or we could try another three weeks. Her soft spot is still a tiny bit open, so we might get a little bit more progress. But I’d have to see if I could make room in the helmet.” 

“Can you try?” I asked after just a couple seconds of reflection. I’d been given this option at least three times before, and  I kept making the same choice: Helmet On.

Mallory was gone longer than usual – I have a feeling she had her work cut out for her trying to make more room in a helmet that is probably past its peak. 

When she came back in, Little L was standing looking at herself in the mirror.

“She’s my tallest patient!” Mallory said.

I handed her the “baby,” slipping its purple helmet back on. “She played with this.” 

“That’s what it’s there for,” she said. 

My pediatrician recently said that I probably know Mallory “almost as well” as I know her. I laughed – Little L and I see Mallory every three weeks; luckily we don’t need to go to the doctor’s office quite that often. 

“I got it sized a little bigger,” Mallory reported. “So let’s see what happens in another few weeks.” 

Exactly. We’ve come this far; I don’t see why we would quit now. 

I’m prepared that the end of the Helmet Era is quickly approaching, that one of these Monday morning trips to Mallory’s office will be our last.

But I know that when I hear Little L’s giggle or watch her wobbly Frankenstein walk, I’ll remember her purple helmet. And this says a lot: I can’t promise that I’ll get rid of it.

Whatever your version of the purple helmet is, be proud of it. Wear it with pants if you like, or maybe just with a onesie. If someone in your life wears a purple helmet, don’t pity them. It’s there to serve a purpose. It is part of who they are.

So today, maybe during a trip to the bathroom for some much-needed Introvert Time, check in with yourself: what color is your purple helmet? Have you been wearing it? If not, it might be time to pull it out. As Mallory would say, try it just at night. That might be enough to make some progress.

Happy Thanksgiving. Helmet On.

 

Be Good-at-Minnie

With a mom who is somewhat against things, Little L gets by on three cups. I’m sure we’ll get her more someday, especially once she stops using bottles, but for now she has three, one of which was a gift. 

And so when the purple Minnie Mouse cup (the coolest cup and obviously the one that was a gift from a family friend) went missing, I retraced its whereabouts in my mind to a dinner out at Brasa. 

I remembered having the cup there, because I let Little L take a sip without the top. This meant that water poured into the trough of her bib, leaving the food leftovers sopping wet. 

Had the purple cup remained on the Brasa premises? Neither its lid nor it were to be found in the diaper bag. 

“Hi, I’m calling about a left item,” I said when I called Brasa the next day. 

“Okay, what is it you’re missing?” 

“It’s my daughter’s cup – it’s purple and has Minnie Mouse on it,” I explained. Saying “my daughter” still feels weird. But I really wanted that cup back and wasn’t going to pretend it was mine.

“Just a minute.” 

I unloaded the dishwasher as I was placed on hold. The frequent dishwashings are the reason we can make do with three cups. I placed the blue things that go inside the bottles to dry on the metal rungs of the bottle drying-rack and waited for the verdict.

“Hi again,” a voice said as he took me off hold.

“So what outfit was it that Minnie was wearing on the cup?”

Huh!? What was Minnie wearing? A dress of sorts, I’m guessing. Probably not an astronaut suit or a basketball uniform, though Minnie should be able to wear whatever she wants, dressing for comfort or utility – not just fashion.

Why was he asking? Were multiple purple Minnie Mouse cups left at Brasa and he needed to clarify which was mine? Or was it a security measure to make sure I wasn’t trolling restaurants trying to commit a Minnie-crime of amassing used baby cups?

“Maybe a dress?”

He seemed pleased by my answer. “Okay! This is probably it then. We’ll leave it for you in the host stand.” 

When I went to pick it up the next day, I was relieved to discover that it was indeed our Minnie Mouse cup. “Oh, I think I put it in here a few days ago,” the woman working at the front told me. 

“Yeah, it took me a while to realize it had gone missing,” I said. More specifically, until Day 2 of the dirty dishwasher when the other two cups were unusable.

“Oh, I get it,” she told me. “I have kids too.”

The irony of this all is that in the time it took me to get around to finishing this post, Little L has now discovered that the Minnie Cup – unlike the two sippy cups – releases a satisfying burst of water when dropped on the floor from her high chair. 

These days, there is surprisingly little drinking going on from the Minnie cup, prompting me to recently place an order for two additional sippy cups. 

Let’s hope Little L doesn’t leave the Minnie Cup anywhere else again soon, because at this rate, I’m not so sure I’d make the trip back to claim it. 

Be Good-at-Humor

Little L received her first parking ticket last Friday.

After a tiring week, finding the parking violation made my evening. 

Just because you run out of gas, it doesn’t mean you can desert your car.

Right away I texted Dana and Jon to see if they were the traffic enforcers. They don’t live on our floor of the building, but perhaps they had been up here for humor’s sake?

Who is the mastermind behind Little L’s ticket? Someone who carries Scotch tape with them; that’s who!

“I wish! That’s hilarious!” Jon responded. 

“I wish we could claim that!” Dana chimed in. 

I asked some neighbors on the floor – including a new couple who moved in with a baby – and they weren’t able to claim the joke either.

I was thinking maybe it was Maria, but then she left me a note about the new composting program. The handwriting samples didn’t match. 

What about the note leaver from the Sunday Morning Scandal? They also don’t have reason to be patrolling our floor, but if it was them, at least Little L hadn’t left her half-eaten pizza in the hall that evening.

I’ve stopped asking around, because I kind of like that it’s a mystery.

It’s comforting knowing that there is someone hilarious lurking amongst us.

Better watch where you park your car.

Be Good-at-Heat

Anyone who has spent a toasty summer day with me knows that I don’t take the heat very well. 

“Are you hot?” Axel asks me on the way home from the Farmer’s Market as I snap at him for walking too slow.

There was a lot of heat-induced crabbiness during the four-day stint this summer when the A/C went out in our condo building. 

Because the layout of the condo doesn’t allow for great airflow and because we don’t have window unit A/Cs installed, it was hard to get the temperature inside to lower than 80 degrees. Thank goodness I was able to borrow two fans from my brother and Silvie. 

For some reason, the air conditioning was working in the hall. So we propped our heavy front door open with my pastel pink flip-flop, which, ironically, was a gift from Silvie many years ago. Silvie was really winning at keeping our condo cool-ish. 

fans from hall
Thanks for the fans!

Other neighbors followed suit – using granite paperweights or heavy plants. Bonus! You could walk by and see what was going on inside someone’s home (if you walked slowly enough)!

Little L enjoyed it too. She takes after me in the people-watching department; we recently had a dinner where she rubber-necked to see three girls and their parents sitting behind us so much so that I considered just turning her high chair to face them so that she wouldn’t strain her neck. 

From her high chair perch at the kitchen counter, Little L had the clearest view to the hall; I was more than a little jealous. She jerked her head every time she heard a noise. Sadly I found her reports about the hallway happenings incomprehensible. 

On one particularly warm afternoon, Little L and I met up with our neighbor-friend Jon in the hallway and his two dogs. Soon we were greeted by a neighbor Maria and another neighbor Shelly and then Barb joined us too! “It’s like we’re in a dorm at summer camp,” Maria observed. I brought Little L’s toys out into the hall. We got invited in to Kelly & Glenda’s apartment and met their “mew-mew” (that’s kitty-cat to all you adults; meow, meow, get it?).

view from hallway
This toy is better enjoyed with a little A/C and a lot of people-watching.

I remember the days when I carefully avoided neighbors; I didn’t have time between feedings and naps to socialize. But now we have the time, and Little L and I don’t mind a little interaction with others during my summer break. We always have an excuse to cut the interaction short – dinnertime! nap time! lunch time! and the ultimate, bed time! – so we know we’ll never stay out too long. 

But sadly, since that fateful day when I returned home and noticed that Maria’s door was no longer being held open by her ficus tree and the A/C was back on (goodbye sleeping in the 80 degree heat, hello no neighbors to gawk at!), there aren’t many neighbors congregating in the hallways.

That’s not stopping Little L, though. Now she points to our front door. She wants us to go out there; she remembers the good times we had. She also wants to eat the pink flip-flop that has returned to its home in the closet.

We head down to the lobby. I reason that at least half of the neighbors in our building have dogs, and deh-dehs, like kids, need to go out. 

Little L wants to people-watch? 

I’m more than happy to oblige.

The Lonely Introvert

I ran to the front door – as fast as you can run while trying not to wake the baby – and peeped through the hole (that’s what you do with a peephole right?).

No one was there.

But I swear I had heard a knock!

You might be wondering:

  1. Why would an introvert go anywhere near the door if she heard a knock?
  2. If for some reason she did go near the door, why would she be disappointed to find nobody outside of it?

Welcome to a new conundrum that I have experienced over the past few months of being home on leave with Little L – the plight of the Lonely Introvert.

For the record, this introvert knows how to entertain herself! I’ve spent many a summer vacation doing my own thing (sorry all you non-teachers out there). Yoga classes, walks to the store, bike rides, lounging at my favorite café…

I naively thought that’s what my maternity leave would be like. Just like summer vacation, but with a baby in tow. 

What? Little L needs to eat. She needs to sleep. She needs her diaper changed, and said favorite café doesn’t have a changing table.

I have never in my life spent so much time at home as I have in the past few months. On a typical non-work day Pre-Little-L, I would get up, exercise, shower, meditate, eat breakfast, and be café-bound by 10 or 11. 

These days, by 10 or 11 I’m feeding Little L for the second or third time and I’m lucky if I’ve eaten breakfast myself.

I’ve definitely had my coffee though.

I didn’t anticipate feeling lonely. But being sequestered in your house is – well, a little isolating. 

Not that I had to do it that way – I know new parents who tote their kid to the mall to walk around. 

Apparently that’s not my mom persona – yet. 

So the past few months I’ve been at home. A lot. 

It took me about a month of being at home on my own with Little L to realize I needed to put my scheduling skills to good use. If we couldn’t make plans to go out (because who knew what time her naps would be and we definitely didn’t want to miss those!), then the people would come to us. 

I got a good rotation going of family, friends, and neighbors who came over to visit or to watch Little L so I could run out to drop off a library book or go to an appointment. 

“So, tell me what’s new!” I’d say. “What’s happening out there in the outside world?”

But running to the door in hopes of a visitor? That is what can happen to a Lonely Introvert. It has given me empathy for extraverts. 

When I told this story to my friend Alissa, she laughed. “If a salesperson had been there, maybe you would have invited them in for coffee!”

And then I realized, I had done just that. In October we ordered new blinds, and the woman from Hirshfield’s came to our house to measure the windows.

It was when Meghan and Cameron were visiting and it just so happened that Cameron had made a French Press of coffee.

I offered the window treatment woman coffee. She accepted.

After the blinds were installed, she called me to see how the installation went.

And I answered.

card
She sent me a thank you a few weeks later. I think she enjoyed our time together too.

I’ve talked to strangers at the park; I’ve lingered by the mailboxes hoping a neighbor – any neighbor! – would stop to talk. 

I called people. 

I was disappointed when they didn’t pick up.

I recently took Little L walking around the floors of our building. 16 degrees seemed too cold to take her out in the blustery wind, but we needed a change of scenery. 

Unfortunately they took the artwork down to paint so I quickly realized that  every single floor of our building looks identical right now.

Oh well.

We figured it out these past few months. Little L ate. She napped. She didn’t nap. She spit up. She laughed. She “talked.” I sang. We read books. I did laundry and more laundry and then some more the next day. We went for walks, but not nearly as much as I’d thought we would.

It’s not summer vacation. If you know a stay-at-home parent or anyone who isn’t able to leave their home as easily as they’d like, please call or text them today to see how they’re doing. They might just want to talk to an adult.

I head back to work today, and Axel is home on leave with Little L this month. I’ve filled him in on what I’ve learned. 

Axel, I hope you love your time with Little L. And I hope you have your visitors lined up.

Today is a hard day. On one hand, I’m going to miss being with Little L all day. I won’t know how many dirty diapers she has or how long she sleeps – oh wait; I will. Axel will enter it in the Baby Manager app, and it will pop up on my phone. 

But not being there with her will be so weird.

Yet I’m excited to see my colleagues and students and know what time I’ll be able to eat my lunch.

Teachers can’t work from home. So today I will be forced to leave the house, and that will be a good thing. 

Have a good day, Little L and Axel. I’ll be home soon, with news of the outside world.

What’s that? Is someone knocking at your door?