Friday, October 28, 2011

No rest for the weary

My Mom died. No, not today, or this week, even. She died almost 6 years ago. She and I were close; she was my best bud. So, when people talk about "losing a loved one" I get it. I get the fact that grief is never ending, and the loss is forever. I get the 7 friggin' steps in the grieving process, though no one ever tells you that you'll go over those steps (sometimes not in order) over and over again each year.

What's interesting is that my mother's death continues to effect me in ways that I never would have imagined. One way, is that it's hard not having her around to witness her grandson. And, likewise, my son will never know what a phenomenal personal she was. This also means that any wisdom regarding babies, children, being a parent, is gone, inaccessible to me.

I'm navigating without a map here. It's just me and my husband trying to figure things out. And while I think I've done a pretty good job of figuring things out there's one area that's still lacking, greatly.


My husband and I live 1700 miles from the rest of my family (and his). My sister in law lives 5 miles away and sees my child so infrequently that she makes him scream when she tries to hold him.

The night before last Baby C woke up at 3AM, perky and ready to play. I rocked and patted and rubbed his back and finally at 5AM he went back to sleep. I took 2 nyquil last night and went to bed at 9:30. Baby C slept, thank God, and so did I. But, honestly, I'm still tired, still fighting off a cold, still lacking in patience. I need a break. This would be a fantastic time for my mother to be around. She could take the baby and give me even just 1 hour to nap.

But, sadly, she's gone and I'm forced to pay someone $7-12/hour to watch my child so that I can get the occasional break. So, instead I'm doing my weekly menu (yes, I'm still doing it) while Baby C naps. (We're going to the grocery store when he wakes up.)

But, I'm thankful that I had 30 years with the best mother in the world and try my hardest to emulate her. I'm still tired, though. Anyone want to babysit?

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

DIY: Creamy Extra Potent Shea Butter Lotion

I know some of you (probably 6 out of the 10 people who read this blog) are going to close this blog right away once I hop on my slightly chunky, urban-hippie bandwagon. You go ahead, you'll be missing out on some good info here. For the remaining 4 of you, I have some info to share... gather round... come close so you can hear this THERE'S TONS OF CRAP IN OUR BEAUTY PRODUCTS. That's right! CRAP! Chemicals, fillers, preservatives, colorants, etc....

I love lipstick as much as the next gal, but when I read a report that said there's lead in lipstick I had to step back. Why do we have junk in our cosmetics?

1) Mass produced cosmetics and beauty products require preservatives to prevent molding (AKA: the dreaded parabens)

2) Chemicals are cheaper than the (natural) good stuff

When I became pregnant with my son I wanted to live a healthier lifestyle. We started to eat mostly organic and I began to phase out my non-green beauty products. Likewise, I began to buy green beauty products. I've found that there are 2 types of green beauty products: (1) those that are moderately expensive and (2) those that are hellishly expensive.

So, what's a girl to do? Do it yourself! That's right. DO. IT. YOURSELF. Save some cash and make your own!

I've been taking the DIY approach to beauty and making my own products. After my son was born my skin looked horrible. It was dry, had dry patches, looked blotchy, my eyes were looked wrinkled and old. I decided to stop spending tons of money on things that didn't work and try to make my own. A bit of trial and error is required, but that's how it goes sometimes.

Here's a recipe that you can do at home. You can get all the ingredients at your local health food store.

Extra Potent Shea Butter Lotion

1 Tbsp - Virgin coconut oil
1 Tbsp - Shea butter
1-3 tsp -Grape seed oil/jojoba oil/olive oil (add more oil if you like your lotion runny)

You don't need to heat the ingredients (well, might want to if it's cold out). Simply use a spatula and stir until all the ingredients are creamy. You're done. That's it. I've found that if you heat the butters before mixing, the mixture can harden (and I mean really harden) when it cools. Also, shea butter melts at 75 degrees so DO NOT leave this home made concoction in your car... in the summer, especially. I'll show you how to make lotion bars in another post. Lotion bars are a fabulous way to cart around your own home made moisturizing goodness.

(Tip: I'd like to point out here that one of the reasons that parabens or preservatives are not required in this recipe is because you're only using butters and oil. Once you add water, your lotion has the potential to mold or go rancid.)

Now, how much would you have spent on shea butter before reading this recipe? You're saving some cash, and foregoing all those nasty chemicals. How FAB is that?!

BTW... for those of you who want to read the article talking about lead in lipstick, here you go.

Sunday, October 23, 2011

Spoken like a woman with nanny

I'll admit that I love Bethenny Frankel... or at least I used to. I frequently check to see what new recipes and inspiration she has going on. Let's face it, as a former globe trotter (the vacationing kind, not the basketball playing kind) I can appreciate a low cal cocktail. Hell I could use one right now (spare me the judgement, having an "active" toddler takes it toll). So when I saw that Bethenny was on the cover of parenting magazine I had to check it out.

Then I saw it... she literally said " 'I have no idea what I’m doing, but is it really that hard?' she says of new motherhood". Spoken like a woman with a baby nurse and a nanny. Spoken like a woman who wasn't awake at 3 AM googling "colic" while her child screamed uncontrollably in his bed. Really? Isn't that hard? What kind of bullshit is that? Being a Mom (or at least a good one) is all kinds of hard.

I'm a working Mom and just dealing with Monday through Friday is exhausting. Do we have enough diapers for the week? What about the dog food? What am I going to make for dinner? For lunch? Why does the baby have a runny rose? Is he getting sick? Does he have allergies? A constant monologue runs in my head all day. I'm always wondering about the state of my family, about how I can get more done, about how I can retain my sanity in the process.

So, sorry Bethenny Frankel, I guess I'm not as good a Mom as you are. To me, motherhood is hard. Especially when Cam has a cold or an ear infection I'm up with him every night for 10 days. You see, the nanny's off duty at Chez Chaos. It's a self service household. I guess motherhood is pretty easy when you have professional help 24/7. Must be nice.

For those of you who want to read the issue of parenting magazine, here's the link.

Saturday, October 22, 2011

Does anyone else have a neurotic dog?

I have a dog who doesn't know she's a dog. Her name is Cava. That's right, Cava. For those of you who think that I just made up my dog's name, for the record, Cava is Spanish champagne. When I brought my puppy home she was a champagne color and the name Cava seemed to fit.

She's 6 years old now and has proven herself to be the worst watch dog ever but best companion. She lets the kids literally climb all over her. I was making dessert tonight and turned around to find Baby C climbing all over the dog. And there was Cava, looking at me, not moving a muscle while the baby tugged on her ears and smacked her snout. Cava kind of gave me a funny look. I swear if she could talk she would say "really, lady, I can't even lay here on the tile floor and cool my big tummy without getting beat up by the kid".

Cava is what I like to call "the clean up crew". When Baby C realizes that (a) the dog is in the kitchen and (b) he's sick of breakfast, lunch, dinner, he drops food down to the dog. He's gotten pretty good at silently sneaking food to the dog, too. The other day Baby C had his snack cup (filled with goldfish ... or has my husband likes to call it "baby crack") and he was snacking before dinner. (Now before you start getting all huffy about how the goldfish will ruin his appetite I 'd like to defend myself by saying that some days you do what you have to just get dinner on the table... enough said.) Anyway, back to the goldfish, the dog and Baby C. I was busy getting the last finishing touches on dinner when I looked down to find the baby hand feeding the dog gold fish. Of course, the dog was having a good 'ol time and Baby C thought it was hilarious that the dog was licking his fingers clean. The baby looked at me, took out another gold fish and put his hand out for me to take one.

Of course, my cold heart melted when I saw the big smile my boy had on his face. I just could get mad at either of them for their gold fish adventures.

Tomato Soup

I love tomato soup. I don't think my husband had an idea of my enthusiasm for soup when we married. I think my soup obsession might be a tad over the top (oh well). I love to cook and consider soup to be included in the "comfort food category". I had some left over roma tomatoes that were looking a little sad and decided that they needed to be sacrificed for tomato soup. Fortunately, I also had some basil that was looking a little sad, too.

I followed this recipe (loosely) and made a fabulous soup with crostinis. Even the BABY liked it... whoo hoo!

Here's my opinion in regards to following a recipe. USE WHAT YOU HAVE. I didn't have any fresh thyme leaves. Did my family enjoy the soup less without the thyme? No.
Try this soup. It rocks with the roasted tomatoes.

Thursday, October 20, 2011

Who knew? Baby sign language works… sort of

I've spent the past week signing "Mom", "Dad", "drink" and "eat" to my 14 month old. The first few days he looked at me like I'd lost my mind. After a few days of keeping it up I wondered if I had lost my mind. It was one of those times where you realize that you're talking to your child in the grocery store and saying things like "would you like peas with dinner? Daddy likes peas, too". In my past life, as a jet setting singleton, I just looked upon those women with pity … they had clearly lost their minds from spending all their time with their baby (and no time with adults). Now, that's me in the grocery store… please, no judgement.

After a week of feeling like an idiot when doing the sign for "milk" I decided to give up. He wasn't "getting" it and just continued to stare at me like I'm a crazy person. That same evening, I was making dinner and my husband said "you want some milk?" while looking at my son. I looked down and he was signing "milk". Holy cow (no pun intended)! We found that he uses the sign for milk to mean both milk and food… but at least we know why he's cranky, I mean, when he's hungry.

I'm shocked that the baby sign language works… but not really, because my child is clearly a genius. Why do you think he has such a big head?! ; )

Monday, October 17, 2011

The weekly menu

Dinner time can be stressful. By the time Hubs and I get home from daycare with Baby C it's close to 6, Baby C is demanding attention and we're all hungry. Last week I decided to attempt a whole new level of organization and do a weekly dinner menu (lunch is a whole other animal so I figured I'd start with dinner first).

First, I picked out my menu. I love to eat and to find quick recipes that have yummy high quality food. I visited the Pioneer Woman's website, and other foodie websites along with my new Giada Di Laurentis cookbook that I received for my birthday (thanks, Hubby). I have to admit that using a weekly menu really forced me to take stock of what I have and what I need. I printed out all of the recipes and have kept them with my weekly menu (so we know what our options are this week). I have to admit... I'm hooked. Life is so much easier this week just by having our dinner dilemma out of the way. Also, when my family starts to act like they're not enthusiastic about dinner I just give them options. Again, fabulous! My step son actually ate butternut squash soup with havarti crostini's this weekend... and liked it!

Hooray for the weekly menu!

Mainstream Mom has some templates of weekly menus... check it out.

Saturday, October 15, 2011

Nappy Hour, anyone?

I realized this afternoon (around 4:15 when my child was STILL not asleep for his afternoon nap) that his afternoon nap is when I recharge my batteries ... and get dinner ready on the weekends. I was so frazzled this afternoon (insert child's exhausted screams in the background -he fights sleep) that I opened up a bottle of wine at 4:30 while I made dinner.

If any of you care, I made an awesome butternut squash, sage soup with havarti cheese crostini's (thank you, Giada DiLaurentis). Even my 9 year old step son snarfed it down!

I digress... anyway, as I poured two glasses of wine I decided that I need a break from Baby C in the afternoon just as much as he needs his nap.

I held my glass up to my husband and proclaimed "Happy Nappy Hour". So, if no one else has coined the phrase (and I really don't care if anyone else has) I'm claiming "Nappy Hour" as my own phrase. Nappy hour is when I (gasp) sometimes have a drink, can check my email, check my sanity, take a deep breath, stalk the UPS man (why does he always ring my bell when the baby's asleep... can anyone answer me that?), and recharge my batteries so that I can love and appreciate my son for the love-bug he is.

Happy Nappy Hour, everyone! Cheers!

Friday, October 14, 2011

Why do I go to Whole Foods?

My local whole foods was having a sale on shrimp. I ended up doing my weekly grocery shopping there, rather than my local Trader Joe's. While I love the concept of eating organic foods 100% of the time, sometimes I find that Whole Foods is a little silly. When you parouse the isles you find that there's not only organic coffee but organic coffee hand picked in a fair trade Guatemalean field that's sustainably planted and powered by the neighboring wind farm. All of this can be yours for a mere $40 a pound... Really? Do we really need to pay $40 a pound for coffee to feel like we're good citizens? Can't we just accept that the generic french roast will do?

Sometimes it's a bit rediculous. My child doesn't care if his pasta is whole wheat, flax infused, organic fair trade. It's macaroni that he'll mush into his tray before making it (about 75% of the time) to his mouth where he doesn't chew, just swallows, the pasta whole.

In addition to that, I'm always trying to stretch my budget. Sometimes the brand name, non-organic is good enough. I wasn't raised on organic food and I don't have a third arm.

While I'm on my soap box, I'll also point out that eating organic is EXPENSIVE. It's really hard to get organic coupons. The organic coupons I do have are a result of me filling out surveys (yawn) and submitting my email address. So is all of the spam in my junk mail folder really worth the effort (or the amount of spam). It's a conundrum that I have yet to solve.

In the meantime, I'll keep shopping at Trader Joe's, which I find to be much more reasonable than Whole Foods.

Disclaimer: For those of you that LOVE Whole Foods and find eating organic to be a breeze, I commend you. If ate only organic foods I'd probably be thinner and a lot healthier.

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

I've been reduced to baby sign language

I’ve been in bit of a parenting slump lately. I’ve been so frustrated… with my son and his tempter tantrums, with myself for not being a parent who knows how to handle it, for having to even deal with these issues in the first place. Just getting through the day has been the name of the game lately. Simple dinner? Perfect. Putting the baby to bed early? Yes, absolutely.

One thing that has amazed me about motherhood is the amount of GUILT I face over every single decision. What the heck? Before I had Baby C, I was a confident, self sufficient woman. Now I’m always looking for permission; permission to give Baby C a time out, permission to give him mac ‘n cheese for dinner for 3 nights in a row because that’s all he’ll eat right now, permission to quit the cloth diapering (that one was a no-brainer; I hardly have time to wash clothes, much less diapers). I’m not too sure if the guilt thing has anything to do with the fact that I come from an Italian Catholic family - we’re experts in guilt. Blaming my upbringing won’t solve anything but right now it makes me feel better… so I’ll just blame the Catholics… not the Italians (I’m all about the pasta right now so I’ll forgive them just because of the good food and wine).

I've been doing a lot of reading lately about the "terrible twos". Maybe I’m going through the terrible two’s, too! I’m frustrated, tired and hungry from my demanding baby. Maybe my child is just misunderstood right now. He's been crabby and loud lately. Maybe he's just frustrated because he hasn't started talking yet.

I've decided to try baby sign language. (Sigh… I’ve become one of those mothers.) I hate to hop on the hippie bandwagon, but if it will make my house less chaotic, I'll try it. We'll see how it goes. When I ask Baby C to "say bye bye" or "night night" or something like that, he just looks at me like I'm nuts. I wonder if he'll do the same with the baby sign language or if he’ll take to it. I'll keep you posted.

Monday, October 10, 2011

I need ear plugs

Are other kids this loud? Seriously, my child is always crabbing about something or another. When he crabs he screams... a lot. At 14 months Baby C's still baby babbling ... and when I ask him to "say bye bye", for example, he looks at me like I'm nuts. I keep telling myself that maybe when he starts talking the crying with subside. Honestly, who knows. I thought he would have been a quieter baby all around, so clearly I'm not the expert.

Tonight he crabbed, and whined and screamed from 6PM to 8PM (when he went to bed). Is it late onset colic? What the heck? Does anyone have any advice? Any pearls of wisdom?

Saturday, October 8, 2011

I’m Baby C’s Mom

Before my husband and I married I had a full (but lonely) life. I traveled the world, had great friends, had a dog. I was afraid that if I got married that my life wouldn’t be about me anymore; it would be about HIM and US. My husband assured me that our life together would be a full, beautiful life together. He delivered on his promise.

When I was pregnant I imagined my life as a mother. My calm (and impeccably mannered) child would enjoy museums and eat gourmet food. I would raise my son to be a great man, not just some ordinary Joe.

Now I know the reality of it. Baby C screams…. a lot… at a decibel that must be physically painful for our dog. At 14 months he also has started having major tantrums. He isn’t speaking yet but he sure does know how to yell. Our demanding child also eats a tremendous amount, so much so that it’s scary.

Here’s the interesting thing about motherhood. I never thought that I would loose my sense of identity in the process. I didn't lose my identity when I became my husband’s wife, but in reality, I lost it when I became a mother. Whenever I call the daycare, the doctor, the pharmacy, whatever… I’m not me, myself, an independent fully capable woman. I’m “Baby C’s Mom”.

The transformation became utterly clear to me one day when I was at daycare. The head of the infant room “teacher” (and I use that word loosely) asked me, “Claire, can you bring wipes tomorrow?” I looked around the room, wondering who Claire was. She laughed and looked at another woman working there and said “I don’t even know her name. She’s just ‘Baby C’s Mom’ to me”. And there we have it. It doesn’t matter where I got my Master’s Degree or how many countries I’ve been to. The fact that I have a child defines me.

While I’ve been mentally chewing on this thought for a week, here’s the God’s honest truth. I will always be defined by my demographics, my family, my children, what car I drive, etc… I guess it was an easier transition when I was defined as “the blond with the Mercedes”. Oh well, I’m still blond.