TV Dinner anyone? 9 of 100

Matilda was one of my favorite characters growing up. Matilda’s family always ate dinner in front of the TV and Matilda was way too smart for that crap, but she still sat there and ate with them. They chided her for reading books instead of watching TV. When I was a girl I wanted to be Matilda-bookish and magical. I abhorred her parents and eating dinner in front of the TV seemed to emblematic of their dysfunctional family and lazy lack of goodness.

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Well, you wanna know what? In our house, we have a lot of TV dinners. At first, it felt indulgent. But if I’m being 100% honest, we watch something during almost every dinner–sitting at the table has become the exception rather than the rule. When I was nine months pregnant, we rewatched seasons three and four of Game of Thrones and it was glorious. I wanted nothing more. Now that I’m a mom, I feel kind of guilty about it. I mean – James is asleep by the time we are eating dinner, so it’s not like we’re subjecting him to Game of Thrones’ world of beheadings and sexual depravity or the frightening moral compass of Frank Underwood. But Dan and I aren’t taking that time to really be with each other.

In our defense, we do do breakfast at the table and a long coffee hour every morning. Also, let’s face it, TV is churning out great content. But mostly, we’re TIRED. Dan has been at work all day, I’ve been changing diapers, putting him down for naps all day (and still not really sleeping through the night). Is it so wrong to want to lean back and veg out at the end of the day? What would I have thought if those meanies the Wormwoods said to Matilda: We’re tired girl! (Did they say that?)

Now, when my kids are up for dinner, I am confident this we’ll have a steadfast dinner-at-the-table policy and save any TV for when they are in bed. In the meantime, I’m just going to ask you if you’ve seen any good shows lately. So: have you?

Here are our current favorites:

Bored to Death: Seriously underrated comedy on HBO about a flailing writer turned unlicensed private detective. He and his two buddies get into all kinds of nutty situations, usually stoned. Ted Danson is hilarious!

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The Honorable Woman: Eight episode miniseries about a woman from Israel whose father’s business manufactured arms and was hated by the Palestinians. Her father was murdered when she was young and she’s trying to turn the company’s money to bring peace between the two nations. A kidnapped child, a mysterious past, a complicated present. One of the best things we’ve watched on television.

The Good Wife: Is there anything better than drinking red wine with Alicia Florrick? I wish I could be as smart, bad ass and sexy as her.

"Oppo Research" -- When Alicia agrees to further explore the option of running for State's Attorney, Eli brings a respected campaign manager into the fold to help her decide once and for all, on THE GOOD WIFE, Sunday, Oct. 12 (9:00-10:00 PM, ET/PT), on the CBS Television Network.  Pictured Julianna Margulies as Alicia Florrick Photo: Jeff Neumann ©2014 CBS Broadcasting, Inc. All Rights Reserved

Game of Thrones: What can I possibly say that hasn’t been said about this show? I was slow to take to this one – it’s so dark and f’d up! But it really is the best, isn’t it? I’ve now read all the books and have a small obsession. (For fans, watch this.)

Girls: I was tepid on Girls at the beginning – although One Man’s Trash in the second season was a favorite. Seasons three and four are excellent. This show really nails what it’s like to be in your 20s: confused, arrogant, searching, trying so hard to make the wrong guy fall in love with you, saying things you think are smart but are actually embarrassing, the wonder and despair that comes with following your passion. My hat is off to Ms. Dunham on this one. (Dan loves this show too now! Guys, it’s not just for Girls.)

Bloodline (on Netflix): Randomly clicked on this when I was insanely tired one day. Addicting story about a well-to-family and their troubled past that leads to an even more troubled present.

Is that Coach Taylor and the girl from Freaks and Geeks?! Why yes. Yes, yes it is.

Is that Coach Taylor and the girl from Freaks and Geeks?! Why yes. Yes, yes it is.

House of Cards: Obsessed with Robin Wright on this show. How can I love/hate a character the way I love/hate Carrie Underwood?

If you haven’t already: Broadchurch, Top of the Lake, True Detective, The Wire, Friday Night Lights, Parks and Recreation

What are your thoughts on eating dinner in front of the TV? (And again – seen any good shows lately?)

Camping with baby – 8 of 100

Well, we did it. We went camping with our three month old. I feel like we cheated a little bit. I mean, we did cheat a little bit. Our friends Cindy and Roger just bought a very posh camper trailer and they let our family of three sleep in it for two nights. So I guess we dipped our toes into camping, which was the perfect way to start.

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Dan with the pimp trailer behind him.

As a new parent, I am still wrestling with how to continue doing the things we love while making sure that James gets what he needs (namely sleep) and is a happy baby. What this looks like so far is booking trips and camping adventures and crossing my fingers that things will fall into place. Right now, James needs a lot of naps. And by a lot I mean he needs to sleep almost every other hour. Which means I spend about half my day putting him down to sleep. Eventually, he’ll fall into a schedule, but until then, I have to watch for his little yawns and try and whisk him into the nursery before he devolves into a cranky crying mess. If I were to stick around to accommodate this napping routine, I would be able to leave the house for a few half hour spurts a day– which would in turn drive me completely nuts.

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James getting acquainted with camping.

So when Cindy and Roger invited us to camp, I felt apprehensive but I also knew we had to say yes. I made Dan promise that if it all went south on Friday night, we’d abandon ship and head home to recover on Saturday. But all did not go south on Friday. Yes, it took an hour of crying and rocking to get him down on Friday night, but then he slept pretty well (except for that time he was awake from 5 to 6 a.m., but it’s all a distant memory now).

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Exploring.

On Saturday, at 7 a.m., I zipped James into his soft white bear suit and brewed coffee while Dan built a fire. Then the three of us sat around the fire together. And of course everything I love about camping was all around me–the chilly mountain air, the smell of evergreen trees and campfire, a perfect cup of coffee, being outside at such an early hour. All of it. James seemed pretty happy about it too.

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The best.

Later, we hiked to Rawson Lake and James napped in the baby carrier while we tramped through some lingering snow. He woke for our lunch and then fell back asleep for the hike down. IMG_2139 Hikin.

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Red wine and kebabs on over the fire – what could be better?

That night, he fell right asleep at 7 and I drank a little too much wine around the fire because it was my birthday and why not? Did it suck waking up for his little 5-6 a.m. stint again? Yes. Was I utterly exhausted on Monday and still on Tuesday? Yes, yes I was. But you know what? We all came out ok and it was totally worth it and awesome! Honestly, the worst part of the whole thing was the drive, during which he wailed. But we survived that too and I think James has forgiven us. I mean, he hasn’t run away or anything like that. DSCF3378 Like the travel thing, I think you just have to go for it and see what happens. I’m still nervous about the camping trips we have planned for this summer. All my books are telling me that my baby is becoming less portable. That he will only sleep well in his own crib after four months of age. They tell me taking trips will ruin any and all of the sleep progress we make (which does not bode well for the three week trip we have planned in July). It’s not that I don’t believe them- but are we really supposed to stick around the house until he’s done napping at five years old or something? Maybe I will eat these words later. I might. But I want my son to see the world. I want him to have a sense of wonder and the wide world. I want him to sit under trees, beside lakes, beneath mountains and the sun. DSCF3387 I want him to be well rested and happy too. So maybe we can meet somewhere in the middle. We’ll see, my friends.

A few thoughts on traveling with an infant – 7 of 100

By 10 weeks of age, our little guy had been on two major trips, eight plane rides and set foot in four states. Not too bad for two and a half months of life, hey?! The first trip was to Florida, where my parents have a place. James was six weeks old. DSCF3252 The second was to South Carolina for a dear college friend’s wedding when James was 10 weeks old.

For what it’s worth, a few thoughts on traveling with a little bean:

#1: Little babies are pretty good travelers. As Dan and I were packing up for Florida, we were both nervous. I mean, god, we could barely keep our shit together in our own house. James cried and cried as we gathered all the last minute things and loaded him into our friend Sara’s giant red truck. What have we gotten ourselves into? I thought. But then he slept. He slept as it took us ONE HOUR to check in at the desk (that’s right, we stood there for one entire hour. Parents take note: leave yourself oodles of time. This infant in arms thing is not as simple as it seems!). He slept through security and then had a breakdown during which we hid in the family bathroom (never loved a public restroom so very much then I did at this moment in time). Then, he slept all the way down to Florida. He slept so much that I fiddled with the idea of somehow living on a plane with all those nice vibrations and incredibly loud white noise so that I could enjoy the type of peace I enjoyed during those six to eight hours. IMG_1887 #2: If they cry, they cry. For some reason, James fussed on the last leg of both trips after being a dream for the entire rest of the time. I bounced him and shh’d him, but sometimes babies cry. It totally sucks, of course, but as with all things in life, this too shall pass. Plus, my next point:

#3: Babies are the great the connector. If you’re nervous about your baby making you the most hated person on a flight, don’t be. It’s the exact opposite. I cannot tell you how many people looked at me and smiled, came over to ask: “How old?” and then said: “Enjoy it. They grow up so fast.” Many (maybe most) have children of their own. They’ve been there. If you pay attention, you’ll see all of their love for their children flash across their face as they look at yours. It’s one of the loveliest thing you’ll ever encounter – this brief but utterly profound sharing of parental love.

I sat next to a guy about my age who runs a micro-brewery on the flight from Florida to Minneapolis who had a toddler and we talked about parenthood- the ups and downs and everything in between. The guy behind me on that flight kept offering to hold James. I could tell he longed for the weight of a baby in his arms.

When I landed in Calgary, a volunteer in a white hat and red vest rushed up to me as I walked towards customs ran to me cooing: “Oh, you lucky person! What a beautiful baby! Please, let me show you the elevator! Oh you lucky lucky person.”

#4: Every week of baby’s life contains vital developments in those early months. Plan accordingly. We took James to Florida to stay with my parents and my brother and sister in law at six weeks. They say six weeks is the peak of a baby’s fussiness and that proved true for us. One day, James cried every minute he was awake. There wasn’t much sleeping to be had. To have the support of other family members, and have Dan around 24/7 that week was a life saver for me. My dad would lift James over his shoulder, pat his back and take him to another room to soothe him (We called it the Jimbo touch). My mom would take him in the morning after I fed him so that I could sleep for a little while. Kevin and Fiona (brother and sister in law) helped me get out when I might have just stayed home – so there was a boat ride and pina coladas and even an entire dinner out without babe! DSCF3261 Everyone helped me laugh and stay sane. And believe me, laughter and sanity were precious commodities at that time.

By 10 weeks, James was SO MUCH better. He was full of smiles and starting to coo. Not to say he didn’t cry, but by then, his crying didn’t make me want to crawl into a hole.

My mom came with me on the wedding trip- and it should be said that I NEVER could have done that trip without her. We had bought a breast pump and introduced a bottle so that being away from babe for more than two hours had entered the realm of reality.

The night before the wedding I went out for dinner with my friends and then a cocktail reception. By 10:30 p.m. I was tapping my toes, thinking obsessively about James. In the bathroom with my best friend, I confessed: “I want to be the cool mom who can just forget about it all for a while and stay out late! But I just want to be home with him.” She assured me that that was ok. So I went home.

The night of the wedding, though, I vowed to just have fun. And have fun I did. The champagne and wine were flowing. The dance floor was bumping. All of my college girlfriends were there. It was the best to be there with them. To have my mom spending time with her grandson. Win, win and win. IMG_1939 I had a lot of anxiety about the wedding trip before I went. There are so many unknowns when you are a first time mom. But, at the end of the day, you can make anything happen if you are prepared and flexible. Plus my next point:

#5: Know thyself. Travel is incredibly important to me and I think it was important to know that we could handle it early on. I personally could not have done the wedding trip earlier than I did, but I have a (way more amazing) friend who went to a wedding in France when her first was four weeks old. If there’s a trip you want to take: #6: It’s worth it. What other opportunity would I have to meet my girlfriends in the lobby on a hungover Sunday morning, clutching coffees just like the good old days and have them gather around my little son for a picture? Or see my friend Callie get married?! IMG_1932 When else would I get to plop little J in a bouncy chair while my brother and sister in law boiled lobsters and my dad passed the chardonnay and we all clinked glasses? IMG_3253 I would not trade any of it. Nope, not ever.

Holy shit, we bought a car (6 of 100)

Last night, Dan drove home in something other than our beloved 2003 VW Jetta. He had spent months on this purchase. He had researched, visited dealerships, test drove and even made a spreadsheet. I basically did not do one thing. This is the kind of thing I would have put off for five more years had it been left to me. I probably would have driven that Jetta until it was dead and smoking on the side of the road. There’s all this stuff you suddenly need when you have a kid. There are little things, like swaddle blankets, and there are bigger things like cribs and then there are really big things like a car and maybe a house. Where is that elusive line between need and want? Here’s a list of things we’ve been saying we need for the past year or so:

  • New car
  • New dining room chairs
  • New bed frame
  • House

Three of our dining room chairs were gifted to us by Dan’s old boss – they are the most basic wooden chair you could imagine, painted yellow by Dan. The last chair Dan bought for $1 at some recycle store and sanded and refinished. It feels like it’s going to collapse under you every time you sit in it. Our current bed frame is that metal thing that comes with the bed; it’s being held together by plastic zip ties, causes our bed to sag in the middle and also sounds/feels like it’s going to fall apart every time you lie down.

And yet.

These near-falling apart pieces of furniture have not fallen apart and we can still eat dinner and sleep in a comfortable bed. As for the car- well, the Jetta had 116,000+ miles on it. She still runs, but she’s starting to shudder a bit in reverse and if we’re being totally honest, sometimes she shudders and stalls in drive. The steering wheel is literally starting to disintegrate. A couple of months ago, I pulled the visor to block the sun and it broke off in my hand. And then, when we installed the carseat, the passenger seat had to be pushed forward so that the passenger’s knees nearly touch the dashboard. It was time.

So we took a test drive on a sunny day with a friendly man named Bruce who was selling his 2012 Volvo XC-70. After, we went to a cafe patio and talked about the car. It had things like Bluetooth capabilities, a radio that actually worked, climate control, all these wild Volvo-y safety features–technologies that seemed James-Bond-ish compared to the Jetta (which, for the record, originally came with a CASSETTE TAPE DECK). Also, it had leather seats. What the hell would I be doing in a car with leather seats?

Yesterday Dan ran all over town, getting the license plates, firming up the finances. I’m really in the trenches with James’ naps right now (another story- but really people! It’s a battleground!) and Dan called at 3:30 to tell me I had to come into town and sign some paperwork.

“But I just got James down for a nap!” I groaned. It couldn’t wait, so into the carrier the baby went, spitting up promptly all over me. I boarded the train and walked into the bank smelling like sour milk (this is definitely the most appropriate way to purchase a station wagon). An hour later, Dan pulled it into our little parking spot with the new wheels and I went out to meet him, tucking James under my jacket because it was raining outside. The two of them posed for a quick picture. IMG_2020 It’s funny our relationship to cars. The Jetta is a part of our family and our story. It has been so many places with us. I think I’m going to cry when we sell it. It’s not just a car–it feels like I’m saying goodbye to my young entire adulthood. Already, I feel a little ache in my heart when I see out front, parked on the street rather than our spot out back, as if it’s been put out to pasture.

But here is our new car. A little piece of our future. Parked outside and waiting for us to take a drive. IMG_2026

Great Grandmothers – 5 of 100

On the way home from my friend’s wedding, I got to spend about 15 hours in Minnesota. In that short time, James met a lot of family: cousins, Aunts, uncles, and two great-grandmothers.

My Grandma Ernie-my dad’s mom- ooed in her very specific Grandma Ernie way. But the sweetest thing about it was that she looked at my dad and said:

“Oh James, I’m so happy for you. You always loved babies most of all.”

My dad said: “Isn’t this little guy lucky? To have so many people love him?”

I think about that all the time. How James was born being loved. How lucky any of us are to begin with that gift.

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When we walked into Monnie’s assisted living home, she was in the lobby playing a word game with a big group. My mom tapped her on the shoulder and told her she had a surprise for her.

Monnie stood and turned and gasped at the sight of me and James. Then she turned to the group and interrupted by loudly proclaiming: “Everyone! Everyone! This is my great-grandson!”

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In her room, she held James and told me how happy it made her to see it all go on. “At my age, it’s so wonderful to know that life perpetuates itself.”

First Mother’s Day – 4 of 100

On my first mother’s day, James let me sleep until almost 7:30 a.m. When I looked at the clock I could hardly believe it. But he’s changing. Every day. And one of those changes is more sleep for both of us.

Dan slipped out of bed early and I heard the coffee grinder go off. For once, I got to be the one who slumbered on. When I woke, breakfast was ready and Dan was so excited to hand me a card that read: I love being married to you.

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James bounced in his bouncy chair and we drank smoothies from big red wine glasses. James went down for a nap and we polished off a second cup of coffee. Dan and I have always loved our mornings.

Then our friend Charles and his 10 month old, Benoit, swung by and we drove out towards the mountains. It’s been so long since we went out to our beloved mountains! We settled into a picnic table for lunch and Dan draped a big blanket around me while I snuggled James into the carrier where he fell fast asleep. It was chillier than any of us had bargained for.

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Dan and Charles threw their lines into the pond while James slept and I sat in the Crazy Creek. Benoit sat on a blanket next to me, picking things up and looking around. Clouds rolled in and it started to rain. On the way down, the thought of just sitting in the rain watching the boys fish didn’t sound so greatly appealing, but it was the perfect thing to do. Although I am not an avid fisher, I have grown to appreciate the zen of the sport. I felt so cozy there under the blanket with James snuggled up to me breathing away in his sleep, his soft hair brushing my chin. Two hours passed.

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Then I did begin to get cold. We all packed up and before we left we went into the little hut to warm up by the fire. A Turkish bbq gathering was in full swing and we were immediately offered chicken wings and these delicious seasoned lamb burger patties. Then cake. The ladies were asking about James. One woman gave me a cupcake – for mother’s day. We hugged. She said there is an expression in Turkish about unexpected surprises waiting for you.

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When we got home, we watched a movie, James content to bounce away in bouncy chair while we cooed and made faces at him.

He was 11 weeks old on Mother’s Day.

I feel like that second month of mothering was all about the challenges. These past few weeks have been all about the joy. Of course the challenges remain. Of course they do! But James is so full of smiles and funny faces and noises. The feeling of his little hands and arms reaching around your neck and his intoxicating smell. He seems excited – rather than overwhelmed – to be alive and here with us. Dan and I go gaga over him every single minute.

When I put James to bed, I got a little choked up. If you want to be a mom, you wonder your whole life who your kids will be – and here he is. Our first little guy. Perfection.