• Baby

    young mornings


    In the city, one of the decisions that comes catapulting out of nowhere is preschool. It feels like this: you are sitting around with your friends, your babies babbling, learning to use their legs and turn their heads, and someone says “so did you apply to schools? And this is from your stay-at-home friends, who you’ve already curated because you want to hang out with them during the week. Sabotage.

    The first time someone asked me that, at the playground, I thought they meant graduate school. For the schools my friends were looking at, they applied in December when their child was one, for the following September when their child would be two.

    Of course it’s been fine. I have a little notecard with who is free on which days. So and so, Tuesday and Thursdays. So and so, Monday afternoons and Wednesdays.

    The price of preschool in Boston made it easy to decide against it for us. If we’d had enough money for a two-day or three-day, three-hour program, I’m not sure what I would have decided. Occasionally I have a flutter of jealousy for that reliable break that the mom has. Or that network of parents and kids that she is automatically clued into. Or simply interacting with another adult who knows about educating children.

    But one of the things I’m so grateful for now are our mornings. Mornings seem to be peak nesting time the girls. Most of the time if I try to do something with Lux, I’m interrupting her work. I interrupt her when I come to get her out of the crib. I interrupt when I declare getting dressed for the day. (compare and contrast to around 5pm that evening when it will be abject mama mama please play with me). Sprinting about in pajamas and picking out a pile of books to read. Opening the toy cabinet and turning yesterday’s dominoes into today’s tea cakes. There are new messes to be made because there is clean floor. And what’s more inspiring than a clean floor?


    Moms with young kids…we’re off the grid in so many ways. We don’t seem to operate on the world’s schedule, according to any time zone. We’re up before them. We’re up when Buenos Aires is supposed to wake up. We were up before that too, when Athens woke up. Maybe one more time slipped in there, just as London started perking up.

    If we were going to be trip trotting by as the rest of the world rushes to the train, I say let it be so. Let other mornings be the busy ones. Let other mornings have clocks that work properly, alarms that mean something, coats to be zipped, bags to grabbed, lists to be mulled over.

  • Baby,  Essay

    self care


    I’m experimenting with something new: having two hours to myself, once or twice a week. For Christmas my older brother bought me a two month membership to a nearby gym that has childcare. Um, woah. That was a surprise.

    The girls are simultaneously in an almost freakish sweet spot where they are perfectly happy in the care of strangers. Freakish to me, after the scenes I’ve been through with Lux at a younger age, that now I wander out with nary a whimper as the door closes behind me.

    I confess that I often think, “I’ll just go sit in the steam room and then take a hot shower for an hour. No one has to know that I never actually exercised.”

    The gym is blissful spot really. There’s some kind of waterfall behind the front desk so the first thing you hear when you get off the elevator is the sound of falling water. There are walls of freshly folded white towels. A cafe with all the trendy smoothie add-ons I don’t want in my pantry, but I do want to try: maca root, spirulina, bee pollen. It’s thrumming with Boston’s beautiful people steadily getting more perfect. The first day I walked through the primary gym room to find myself a treadmill, I thought “Jeez you all look great. I think you’re doing fine. Treat yourself to a matinee!”

    Yesterday I settled onto a wood bench in the gloriously hot and dry sauna. After a moment I noticed that the woman across from me was doing some kind of calisthenics on her bench. She had the look of someone who was older, but her skin wasn’t showing it. Neither was her hair. This must be her secret, I thought. Calisthenics in the sauna. I bet she’s here everyday.

    I admire that kind of self care, but this gift is coming at a time when I’ve almost totally dropped that from my register. I’m more likely to have a strong drink in the evenings than take a soothing bath. More likely to collapse on the couch with my phone than do some stretches on the floor. I get everyone ready in the morning and then I dart around for five minutes getting myself ready. I feed everyone well, but then snack on coffee for myself.

    Something that I thought about during my yoga class yesterday is the moment when people grab something to cover themselves, to get a little warmer. There’s something so nice about that movement. When a girl drapes a scarf around her head and snuggles into it. When a blanket gets piled on. Watching a man put on his hat and settle it just so, tugging it down over his ears. When you shrug a sweater over your head and continue on, feeling a little bolstered and braver.

    It’s self care at its most immediate. I need a little something extra right now—ah, a blanket. Ok, now I’m ready.

    Totally coincidentally I undressed in the locker room next to the exact same 70-something-year-old woman that I had sat next to in yoga. We were both very naked, and discussing the amount of clothing we were about to put on. “The difference between us and them,” she said, referring to the southern states in the midst of a deep freeze, “is that we have the clothes for this.” I looked over my clumsy pile of daily gear–the pilling mittens with useful flaps that fold back, a thin yet warm knit hat, a broad scarf, the long jacket already tipped with salt stains–and felt proud. I’m not doing all the nice things for myself that I could be, like most of the people here. But I’m doing a few of them.

  • Baby

    sleep to come


    It is my veteran opinion that the conscientious art of sleep training occurs to a mother right around the time she needs it. I’ve seen it in myself, I’ve seen it in other mamas. They get a firm look on their face as they talk about the absurd lengths they’ve recently gone through to get some sleep. And there’s knowledge in their eyes–the infancy period is over and it’s time for the family to have some predictability. There’s a suspicion in the air that everything is being sacrificed for the baby. Dinner, other children, an affectionate marriage, mom’s energy and enthusiasm for life. I personally suffer from a faint sense of bitterness around this time. I don’t ask for it. I don’t want it. But it arrives, lurking in the back of my mind, when one small part of me knows the baby could sleep better, long, harder, deeper, than this. When I know it’s up to me to bring us there. When I know it’s been me that got us into this mess, by feeding willy-nilly at all hours of the day, and letting naps be on the fly or not at all, letting the 2am wakeup slip back in, and then an 11pm wakeup, and shifting bedtimes every day as my calendar demands.

    Oh but it’s hard for those few days. When I’m in the moment of it I just want it to end end end. I can tell it is not hunger crying and I don’t want to be counted on to feed at 11pm but my surging hormones want to solve this now. It sounds so wonderful to go in and calm her. But you know if the exact same thing happens tomorrow, and the day after, it will not sound wonderful. And after that heady ten minutes of soothing, I’ll think to myself, what have I done?

    And so you have to write a schedule down, or find one in a book, or tell your husband or call your mom. You have do something, out loud, that affirms the logic of it, that reviews and confirms what you’re planning.

    With Joan at six months, I’m in this right now. I talked it over with Joe and realized that our day schedule had no predictability for her. As of the beginning of this week, she wasn’t even falling asleep on her own during the day. So I’m fixing that first–paying more attention to the time going by, putting her down for naps, awake, at the same time every day, timing the space between feedings.

    And then next week we’ll tackle the nights; and after three or four nights we will all sleep happily ever after. Not really, of course. But I can praise a few of the results for you, from experience: after sleep training you do end up with a baby who can fall asleep on their own, who doesn’t wake up at the slightest discomfort crying out for you, who errs on the side of sleep rather than wake when changes come—like being sick or traveling.


  • Baby,  Essay

    Advent candles

    The light in our bedroom in the morning is so beautiful. Almost every day I try to take a photo of it. Joan actually wakes up before the sunrise but I just turn her over onto her back and let her coo at the ceiling for 40 minutes while I climb back into bed. Funny thing about doing stuff like that with babies: they really don’t mind, you just have to bring yourself to do it. Then I watch the sunrise with her at my side and Joe still fast asleep. From our view, there’s a crane silhouetted directly in front of it, they’re building another high-rise across the way. It will be a luxury building that only a few can afford to live in, but I support the idea of higher concentrations of people downtown anyway, though I wish it had a few subsidized apartments to bolster it. To give it a little heart.

    The bricks have puckered up and seem to radiate a chill, just as they radiated heat in the baked summer. As long as I get everyone dressed warmly we can wander just as frivolously as we did in warm weather. This is my new moment of accomplishment, my big inhale of satisfaction: everyone is warmly dressed. It feels like a gauntlet, reaching this place every winter, with mittens, hats, coats that fit, shoes that fit, and everything on all at once. I think of an old country song that is something something We had no shoes in the summer, but NEW shoes in the winter. Yes to that, country mama of old, I know where you’re coming from.

    On that subject I really enjoyed my friend Melissa’s rumination on getting everyone dressed warmly. 

    Warm clothes and clean hair. I’ve come to realize that bathing my children doesn’t come as naturally as the shampoo commercial makes it seem. On top of Lux’s own suspicion of the bath, there is my general forgetfulness that it exists at all. One perk of this is that whenever Lux’s hair is clean, Joe and I can’t get over how nice she looks. Keeps us easy to please.

    I find myself thinking of Sylvia Plath. I shouldn’t bring her up as I know almost nothing about her, but like all mothers I encountered in my past, I feel I have wronged her in some way. I misjudged her. I remember thinking scornfully of a woman who would kill herself while her children slept upstairs. The word abandonment occurred to me, of course. And it was, it was abandonment, and reading studies like this that bring up the role of the mother in a man’s younger years, and thinking on how Sylvia’s son killed himself late in life…the implications are undeniable. But anyway, Sylvia had two young children at home, by herself. A single mother trying to make a living with her writing. Her book comes out and it gets crummy reviews and yet she’s still supposed to make oatmeal every morning. I feel very sorry for her now, by herself like that, and think of her.

    I guess I’ll have to work my way through all the mothers I ever judged before I had a baby, and quietly apologize. Light a candle for them. I’ve been lighting more candles anyway as each evening now the moment of darkness is creeping further up the clock. It lands at 4:10 now. I wouldn’t mind lighting a candle and having their ghosts keep me company until Joe comes home. Maybe they’d give me a thumbs up on this venison chili that turned out a little heavy on the chili powder. Lux is so into the pink candle on our Advent wreath. She can’t believe we haven’t lit it yet. It must feel like an eternity to her, these two weeks before lighting it.

  • Baby,  Essay,  Faith



    My heart did a little skip every time I thought about Joan being the star of the show on Sunday. Even though I can’t pay attention to her most of the time, even as she has to start crying before I notice that Lux is sitting on top of her feet, I still like for her to get fair praise. I’m awfully fickle with who I feel needs attention in my household—if too many strangers coo over the baby, I direct the conversation to Lux. If everyone is laughing over what Lux is saying, I start to chirp about funny baby things Joan has done lately.


    But it just seemed so right, for us to think about Joan for a bit, to light a candle and gather round and celebrate her existence and say out loud that we hoped she would know God and that we would raise her with that hope. At our Episcopal church, the Baptism part slides simply into a normal Sunday service. Between the homily (more of a meditation/story than a sermon) and communion. The four of us went up to the front, plus David, our dear friend-godfather of both of the girls. We talked through, out loud, a series of questions about what we hoped for Joan. Sammy, who was the presiding priest for the day, is our good friend. I’ve probably shared as many drinks with him as I have heard sermons from him, which is a nice thing to feel when you’re handing over your daughter for some legit blessings.

    Maybe it’s the bourbon, but I get weepy thinking about this now.  “And will all you who witness this,” Sammy’s voice rang out across the pews, “do all in your power to support this child in her life in Christ?” “We will,” answered everyone, strangers some, old friends others. It was beautiful.

    Not to say this is what she will choose for herself in the future, not to say that she won’t have moments of thriving and withering, but to say now, in this moment, we acknowledge our part in what she is raised to believe. “…give her a spirit to know and love you, and the gift of joy and wonder in all your works.”


    Then the entire congregation trouped to the back corner of the church, to gather around the stone font with its hammered copper bowl. This is my favorite part because from my corner you feel surrounded by a small sea of faces watching and smiling. Sammy dramatically poured water into the bowl, intentionally splashing some over the edge onto the giggling kids below. Joan got sprinkled and anointed with oil that smelled like balsam and fresh cut trees. Salt, for wisdom, was pressed onto her tongue. The kids gathered close and watched every move, laughing when she yawned and hoping she might let out a shocked cry at the salt (obviously she didn’t because she’s born to love salt just like Lux and me. Heritage).


    We brought a case of Sofia blanc de blanc, the California sparkling wine that comes wrapped in pink cellophane, to celebrate with everyone afterwards, the early hour notwithstanding. It’s a fruity sparking wine, perfect for the morning. I made 70 golden gougeres (ina’s recipe, easy, reliable, five stars on the crowd-pleasing) and piled them into a big bowl next to the chilled bottles. They go best with champagne if they are hot and crunchy out of the oven, but they still taste sharply of gruyere and softly eggy, even when they are one day old.

    <thanks to Kelsey and Julianne for the photos>

  • Baby,  Faith

    baptism dress


    A couple weekends ago I spent a cold morning helping organize a tag sale. Joe entertained the girls back at the apartment while I met up with three other moms at our playground. We had our paper cups of coffee, our mittens, and tons of donations. There were big bags of clothes, and my job was to hang up each item of children’s clothing and place it on the right size rack. Organizers got first dibs on shopping, but Lux doesn’t really need anything, so I had just pulled out a box of infant socks so far.

    AND THEN a woman dropped off a ziplock bag of antique linens. A bag, I’m not kidding. Folded over delicate dolls’ jackets and infant victorian-style tops, and two dresses that looked like baptism dresses to me. I pulled those out to buy for myself, and packaged up the rest of the bag for some other antique-lover to find. It seemed like too much for one person to claim all for themselves.


    This dress, the one Joan wore, is so pretty, and I feel lucky to have it. I like to think about the woman who made the dress. I bet she made it by hand, and I bet she picked out the lace months beforehand. I wonder if she made it for a boy, or a girl, or maybe both, for her whole family. It must be at least 100 years old but it’s in such beautiful shape.

    So this will be for whoever comes after Joan. And maybe, just maybe, it will make it to a granddaughter someday.



  • Baby

    the glimmer of it


    Normal. The glimmer of it widened, broadened into a sunny porthole, and finally enveloped us into its light. We’re normal. We’ve hit three months and the “fourth trimester” is over. I’ve learned, or remembered, that she wants a nap after being awake for 1.5 hours. I’ve learned or remembered that the best naps come after crying in the crib for a minute or two when she’s just tired enough, and the shortest naps come after being nursed to sleep. Her digestion has hit a stride and she doesn’t notice what I eat or drink anymore. After lots of setting down and picking back up, setting down and picking back up, day after day, Joan doesn’t take it as an insult to lie on the floor next to Lux and me while we read and play. In fact, she seems to enjoy it now. What a good baby, people gush. Slowly slowly, I think to myself. And she does smile like a loony bin almost all the time now, which makes me happy to no end and even Lux has started noticing how pleasant a creature this baby is. “Is Joan your little sister?” people ask Lux. “Joan Bea” Lux says, looking like she’s been put on God’s solemn earth to correct these uneducated louts.

    She still has a cry in the carseat that makes my heart leap into my throat and makes Joe want to break something, but I’m sure that’s going to fade as soon as she can chew on a toy with gusto. And she does this thing where, whenever she hears Joe or Lux talking nearby, she practically falls out of my arms trying to look at them. It’s unbelievably sweet.

    And finally, possibly most importantly, I settled into a mother-of-two state of being: not all needs will be satisfied all the time. But, both of them will get what they need, as my friend Lena told me in the first few weeks of two-hood, most of the time.


  • Baby,  Good design,  Website Reviews

    Endless Diaper Boondoggle


    By my calculation we spend about $80 every two months on diapers for each girl. Quite a bit of money. So I think it makes sense that early on in diaper purchasing I became a bit neurotic about where I was buying them from. I’m not sure if it helped or hurt that each diaper supplier helps you break it down by giving you the per-diaper cost. For the first year, I used Amazon’s “gift” of prime membership to all new moms and bought from them. Then I started buying them from Whole Foods because Amazon started charging for shipping, and I liked the Whole Foods ones better anyway. They were $.30 each.

    Briefly I attempted diapers.com but I got really sick of their whole email-discount-code song and dance. They force you to keep up with their emails and hunt through them for coupons. And then some months, the coupons just mysteriously disappear and you pay 20% more than you did last time. No thank you, crappy business practices. (incidentally diapers.com is owned by Amazon, which just feels like another mind game.)

    I looked at Honest Diapers at the time but found them quite expensive. I don’t know if I wasn’t doing the math right or if they dropped their prices, but I’ve since revisited them and now they seem like the best deal in town.


    I like how nicely their website is designed and how easy it is to work with their interface. I like that when I call them to change or last-minute-delay an order I get a happy American on the other end of the line. I like that they send me two warning emails before they ship. I like the fun graphics on the diapers that gives Lux a distracting conversation topic when I’m changing her diaper. I like that they try to make their diapers as low-an-impact on the environment as possible (though at this point, several brands do that, so it’s not a distinguishing factor). I like that all of their employees appear to enjoy working there, unlike Amazon. And they are a certified B corporation which looks at how a company treats their employees, health care options, workspace design, environmental impact, etc. (incidentally if I care about things like ‘certified B corporation status,’ I should stop nickel and diming everything right there, probably.)

    Lux’s size 4 works out to $.43 each. But they include four packages of wipes with each order, which you can value at a minimum of $10. So then it’s $.37 per diaper. Whole Foods for her current size is $.35 each, but then I have to get them home from the store myself. Seventh Generation via diapers.com is $.36. is this getting neurotic enough yet?

     What is my point here? That basically all diapers cost the same amount and if I’ve found a company that has at least two or three practices that distinguish themselves, it’s worth sticking with them.

    What do you think? Have you obsessively broken down these pros and cons too? Who’s your favorite vendor? Am I missing anything obvious? This is not a sponsored post at all, but I have linked to Honest Diapers with my account’s code, so I would get an initial credit if you signed up from this post, just fyi.

    And for you cloth-diapering mommas: I’m with you! We just operate from a laundromat right now, so it doesn’t work. But someday!


  • Baby,  Essay,  Life Story

    alienation in the first year

    Recently I’ve started feeling that I only need to get Joan to age two and then I will hand her off to Joe for her further education and edification. Joe says he’s in the “newborn disenfranchization” period with Joan. A period that we blessedly now know is short and temporary. He says that, before Lux, no one told him as a new dad that he would feel helpless and alienated from his child for a good while, that the first time he held her it wouldn’t necessarily be like a light-switch of bottomless love was flipped.


    There’s a few things dads can do with young babies—get them to sleep occasionally, offer a bottle here and there—but overall for the dad who really wants to be involved, it can feel like he’s not wanted. Sometimes I exhaustedly hand Joan off to him and she just cries harder for the five minutes he’s holding her. That brief respite for me is life-saving in the moment, but there’s no moment of engagement in return for him. He’s merely an extra set of hands helping his wife.

    There’s science behind the breastfeeding success rate for women who breastfeed within two hours of the baby’s birth. Scientists believe the hormones that are released in the woman’s body by breastfeeding create feelings of connection and intimacy with this newborn. Feelings that will propel her to pick her up when she cries, to carry her around for hours, to feed her every three hours for almost six weeks before the mother might get anything in return, such as a smile. There’s no doubt that it can take a little boost from nature to assure the mother of their connection. Dads don’t necessarily get that.

    But now that Lux is long-since through that stage, it’s amazing to see Joe and Lux together. Despite the time he’s gone each day at work, they still get in countless games of “ghost tent” and “fly bear,” bike rides, and drawings. Before bed they talk through tucking in each of her 8 stuffed animals. He seems to read aloud at least 10 books to her every Saturday. They share their cereal bowl in the morning. He’s the only one who can get her to both try the new food on her plate and love it. If she and I find anything broken throughout the day–a ripped page, a cracked egg, a plant knocked down on the sidewalk, a creaky door–Lux declares, “Da-da fix” with a confident nod. In the last hour before he gets home from work, she walks dolefully around the apartment, looking at me like I’m some kind of CSPAN to Joe’s Disney Channel.

    IMG_7315 - Version 2

    Sometimes I get annoyed that on the scale of self-sacrifice, I feel like I’m at an 8 and Joe is at a 3. Sometimes I feel like saying, you are a child compared to me. The things you’ve given up, the frustrations you encounter, they are so petty compared to what I do everyday. You thought that was frustrating? Try that times two, at three times the volume, then multiplied by three hours. The first week postpartum with Joan I remember saying you do realize I’ve sacrificed my body on an alter to our family, right? We laughed (that was the first week, of course. I felt much much better exactly seven days later. Worry not.). I think about him going to the gym a couple times a week and spending an hour in pursuit of nothing but a better physique, walking out to buy lunch in a cute cafe and eating it at a table by the window, having a meeting over drinks in the evening. I am almost aghast at the differences in our daily lives right now. Remember when we were dating? Remember when we were all matchy-matchy, and both liked spending an hour at used bookstores, and both liked buying scones on a morning walk, and both liked seeing indie movies at the theatre every week? I wonder, will he ever catch up to me? Or will it have just been me all these years, becoming infinitely more patient, or more beleagured, as the case may be?

    I think I spent a whole week being simultaneously jealous of Joe and Lux’s evolving relationship—that she doesn’t need me wholly and comprehensively anymore—and wearied by the very same needs from Joan.

    IMG_7316 - Version 2

    Then I think of something my friend Kellyn said to me when Lux was two months old. We went out to visit her on Nantucket and one day while I made lunch, Kellyn held Lux, showing her around the cottage.

    “Lux only smiles like that when you walk into the room,” she said. “She doesn’t smile like that for anyone else.”

    Oh the gravity of a compliment.

    To hear a baby cry, to pick her up, to feel her relax against you in contentment. To whisper a request in your toddler’s ear and have her to do just what you asked. To have your children turn away from a stranger and search for the safety of your hand, the beat of your heart, the back of your legs.


  • Baby

    childhood creativity


    We spent childhood summers in Spain where our aunt lives, first shooting on disposable cameras. We were hell-bent on capturing the rainbow glean of a pigeon’s feathers, cataloging funny-shaped dog poop, stalking stray kittens for portraits and reveling at lipstick-stained cigarettes stubbed in odd locations…

    -I love to read this type of fostering-creativity memories from artists. This one is from the Weaver House, two sister photographers interviewed at VSCO.