Sunday, November 29, 2009

Big News from the Home of a 3-Year-Old

Today, at 3 years and 3 days old, Elan peed in the potty for the very first time!

Anyone who is not a parent is not obligated to feel any excitement at all over this news.

Friday, November 27, 2009


For my first long night's sleep in over two weeks

For Elan turning 3 yesterday

For an amazing Thanksgiving meal

For several weeks of laughter and connection with friends and family

For holding my nephew Judah

For Popa Al's 100th birthday party

For safe travels and safe returns

For health and another -0- HCG level

For a quiet, peaceful moment in the autumn sunshine

For our Japanese maple showing off how it can do red

For dreams and the ability to pursue them...

Happy Thanksgiving.

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

What Am I Getting Myself Into?

We are leaving tomorrow morning for the Epic Back East Trip. Almost midnight and still packing (as usual). Feeling a little worried about how it's all going to pan out. Wondering if I'm going to be kicking myself for getting myself into this. What am I - crazy?

I might be updating the blog regularly from the road. But then again, I might not.

Monday, November 9, 2009

Here We Go

The last time I did a cross-country flight alone with Elan, it involved: 7 diaper changes; 3 episodes of explosive diarrhea (his); 1 destroyed airplane blanket (thankfully only the blanket, not the seat); 2 cases of raging pink eye and associated Nastiest Virus of the Winter (both of us); 1 episode of begging wipes from the other family on the plane; and 2 interactions with unsympathetic flight attendants that must have sufficiently labeled me mom on the edge that they ignored the fact that my computer was playing an Elmo DVD as we landed in San Francisco.

It’s taken me ten months, but I believe I have sufficiently recovered from that experience to attempt it again.

Enter the Epic Back East trip, beginning in T minus 2 days. Our itinerary is ambitious: 3 nights in Boston, 2 nights in Baltimore, 3 nights in New York City, 3 nights in New Jersey, culminating on the last day with a huge family reunion and party for my grandfather Popa Al’s 100th birthday. Twelve days, four cities, one mama and one almost-3-year-old. Elan and I will be traveling alone for two flights and two train trips. Mikhail will meet up with us in New Jersey for the party and accompany us home on the last flight.

I am a traveling mama. This is not a huge surprise, given my penchant for travel in my life pre-child. And, though my friends are always asking, “Where are you going this time?” for a long time I thought that because most of our travel is for the purpose of visiting friends and family and none of it has been international, it didn’t count. Most of the time when I travel with Elan, it’s quick trips back and forth to southern California. But we’ve also done several trips to the East Coast, and while usually I have a fair amount of family support on those trips, I do most of my southern California runs flying alone with him. And oh, what I’ve learned.

As moms in our daily life, we tend to think that we’ve got to have it all together. We try to manage feedings and snacks and naps and diaper bags to make our schedules and lives as comfortable and free of meltdowns as possible. But when you travel, to some extent you throw normal routines and schedules out the window. You’re in a new place; you don’t know where you’re going or what you will need when you get there. You’re more likely to encounter something that throws you or sends your child into a tailspin. When you travel, life becomes more uncertain. By its very nature, travel opens us up to the unpredictable. This can feel scary to new parents whose feeling of control is often on shaky ground as it is. But it can also teach us valuable lessons about how creative we can get, and how we can get through tough times.

One lesson that I learn time and time again when I travel with Elan is that people like to help. I don’t want to set myself up for impossible situations. But they can and do happen, and while some people will walk right by and ignore your plight, others get a big boost out of feeling useful. Given the norms of our society, people will not often offer – you generally do have to ask. But when you do, people can be surprisingly generous. If you find yourself without enough hands, look around for an able-bodied member of the general public who’s kind of looking at you. That’s your cue to give that person a big smile and ask them to take your suitcase down the escalator for you. If they bow out, don’t take it personally. The key is not to assume that you’re owed help simply because you have a child (people without children hate parents’ sense of entitlement!). When you do get help (and you will), be grateful. At the bottom of the escalator, give that person a huge thank you. Tell them they made your day. And sometimes, by reinforcing the communal nature of society (as opposed to the driving individualism we often embrace in our daily lives and when traveling alone), you can make that person’s day too.

Once, I was running late for a train that would take Elan (then six months old) and me from New Jersey to Baltimore. When I got to the train station, I jumped out of the car and asked a college-age guy waiting for the bus if he would do me the biggest favor ever. Not only did he run up several flights of stairs carrying my insanely heavy suitcase, he also helped me navigate the confusing ticket system. I made my train, and he got to feel like a big hero (and he was!).

A few tips about flying with a baby or toddler:

  • Pack more diapers in your carry-on than you think you could possibly, under any circumstances, ever need for the duration of your flight.
  • Overhead air blowers make excellent quick dryers for wet garments, especially when you lay them out on the seat back in front of you.
  • Rows 12-18 are the dirtiest seats on Southwest – that’s where all the kids end up sitting with the new family boarding system.
  • Diapers (even just wet ones) are not supposed to go in the trash bags the stewardesses carry down the aisles, and even though they rarely tell you this, they will sometimes make you pick yours out of the trash if they see it.
  • If your baby is breast-fed, no one will notice if you change his diaper on your seat (just use a changing pad so if they do, you still look somewhat civilized).
  • You can usually get away with keeping your baby in a soft carrier (Moby, Ergo) as you go through security. Just look confident and say “They always let me do it every time I fly” if you are questioned. If your baby is happy or asleep, try requesting a pat down rather than taking him out.
  • You are not technically allowed to keep a baby in most carriers during take-off and landing even though that rule makes no sense at all. Try to get away with it, but be ready to undo at least a few straps and hold your child the flight attendant makes a fuss.
  • If your baby cries on the plane, do not look around. Yes, people are looking at you, and no, that won’t help comfort the baby.
  • If you are nursing without a cover, everyone who walks by will invariably look straight at your nipple. Don’t get upset about it – it’s an involuntary reaction.
  • When an airplane does not have a changing table in the bathroom (and it's surprising how few do), just lay your changing pad down on the floor in the back galley and do it there. Act like you know what you’re doing even if you don’t (in fact, that goes for most of traveling with a baby or toddler).
  • Most important thing to bring: your sense of humor. The good news is that if you forget it – and you most likely will at some point – you can pick one up again almost anywhere.

Thursday, November 5, 2009

Monday, November 2, 2009

We Should Rent Him Out To NASA

I might have mentioned before that Elan is a problematic sleeper. At this point, after more than 2.5 years of sleep training, he often goes through good spells of sleeping through the night. He never wakes up at what Mikhail and I would have considered in our B.C. (before-child) life to be a reasonable hour. But let's not get me started on that right now.

Elan has a clock in his head. And it is a very reliable one. It knows, for instance, exactly what time to awaken to really piss off Mama (that would be anytime before 6 a.m., the time I have somewhat kind of a little bit made peace with). When we travel across time zones, he shows an eerie ability to almost instantly adjust to the new time. For instance, he might "sleep in" till 7 a.m. local time the first morning back east, but after that he's back to his usual wake-up time sometime around 6, even though that's actually 3 in the morning back home.

Mikhail and I joke about how we should rent him out to NASA, in case all the clocks in the entire world ever go blank at the same time. We could just put Elan to bed and then wait until he wakes up in the morning. BAM! Instant reliable time-keeping.

For a while, we tried to counter the permanent early setting on Elan's internal alarm clock with an external alarm clock. We figured we could capitalize on his love for numbers. It worked for a while. There followed days of blessed sleeping-in until 6:20 a.m.! That's a whole twenty minutes past six, people! After a few weeks, he started to think that if he just screamed loud enough, the clock would change. At that point I threw the clock out the window (not literally, but I would have liked to).

Lately Elan has been creeping his wake-up time ever earlier, until 5:45 a.m. We've been kind of skating along with this one, not wanting yet ANOTHER round of screaming in the darkness. It's easier, in the moment, to just bring him into bed and try to sleep another few minutes. Not that that actually works though - long gone are the days when he would snuggle in and sleep with us.

He's been getting up occasionally in the night too, like last night at midnight, at the exact moment that Mikhail had finally settled into a deep and restful sleep. Thankfully he settles down fairly easily in the night, but not in the wee hours of the morning.

(And YES, we've tried putting him to bed later, and NO it does not work. NOT EVER.)

It is amazing, knowing what I do about my son's internal clock, that I could be blind-sided by his response to the time change as I have been. I was actually looking forward to the end of Daylight Savings Time because I figured I would feel more awake in the morning if it were light sometime in the two hours after I awoke. However. The small and difficult one has gotten up at 4:45 a.m. the last two mornings. And he is completely resistant to going back to sleep. This morning, I was treated to 45 minutes of screaming, the first 15 at a pitch loud enough to wake birds sleeping in trees in yards across the street. And finally when I gave him a bottle and put him back in his crib, he did quiet down for a half-hour, but I am pretty sure he didn't go back to sleep. And then at 6:30, he tried again. Now can I get up? I'll be really charming and cute. Except after being up for nearly two hours when it's just getting light outside, charming and cute don't really register in my brain. All I am aware of is ugly, ugly thoughts that go something like where can I stick this kid so I can go back to sleep? Maybe inside the washing machine...

And that is why Mikhail was woken at 6:30 on his birthday and told: Take. The. Child. Now.

Happy Birthday Sweetie!

And now the small and impossible one is not napping. This wouldn't be so bad if he were not acting like a pile of exhausted toddler before going into his crib for naptime. But he was, cause HE'S BEEN UP SINCE 4:45 IN THE MORNING. He's in there calling out Mama five thousand times. And I'm in here trying to pretend like I can't hear him. And trying to pretend like it's not making me crazy. Oh, and look - I'm failing. I score an F in pretending my kid is not pushing every button I possess.

Mikhail said last night that there's probably no way to get him back on track without a lot of screaming. So it looks like it's time to bring the neighbors a bouquet of earplugs. It might be an ugly one.

Now I have a new realization about the end of Daylight Savings Time. I am not for it. Can't we just go back to the mornings being pitch-black until 7 a.m.? That wasn't so bad, really.

P.S. In case you work for CPS, I was kidding about the washing machine. It's a joke. The dryer is really much more pleasant.

Sunday, November 1, 2009

Ay, Matey

Happy Halloween!

We thought this was the year that Elan would discover candy, which he thinks is just "pretty" and has no idea that it is something sweet that people love to eat. In fact, last summer when we were waiting at the airport after a long flight, he entertained himself for at least a half-hour moving different-colored toffee from one bin to another. I guess that's the plus side of having a kid who is not very interested in food.

Elan was a pirate this year.

It was the perfect no-cost costume since my neighbor across the street provided an armful of pirate paraphernalia when I told her my idea. It was a big day for neighbors overall - we had a smash-hit Block Party complete with jumpy house, costume contest (for all ages), and potluck with great food. There's something about closing off the street to traffic and having everyone out of their houses and interacting that makes you think: let's live this way everyday. And we're so lucky to be living in a neighborhood (and block) where people are friendly and interesting, and there's lots of kids around.

Earlier in the week, we went to a pumpkin-carving party at Elan's nursery school, where he had a great time with his friend Katia, who was dressed glamorously as a princess. He is completely enthralled with Katia and talks about her all the time. She tells him what to do, and he (mostly) goes along with it.

And now I'm going to utter one of those ridiculous statements parents make:

First love?