Kid Chronicles The adventures and random observations of a new mom


Laughing together

Photo of my daughter reaching for the camera"Mama's face," my daughter says, stretching her hands up toward me as she lies in bed.

It's bedtime. We've read our stories and sung our goodnight songs. Lights are out, and her moon and star nightlight glows softly on the wall. I speak in low tones, trying to create a calm atmosphere conducive to sleep.

But I can't resist her little hands, reaching for me, palms up, begging to cup my cheeks. "Mama's face," she repeats.

She's been on a "together" streak for the last few months. Everything is "together."

There's a constant barrage of updates on what the two of us are doing at any given moment. "Mama and Lydia walking together!" "Mama and Lydia eating together!" Or even, simply, "Mama and Lydia together!" said with tears in her eyes when she doesn't want me to leave her in her room to play by herself.

"Mama's face," she says again.

And I impulsively lean down, put my cheeks between her hands and shake my head back and forth. We both dissolve into giggles, completely inappropriate for bedtime. Uncontrollable giggling is not on the list of things that will lull your child to sleep.

"Laughing together," she says.

A new phrase, a variation on a recent theme, but with a new meaning that stuns me. For all of her recent "together" declarations, somehow laughing together seems so much more significant.

My mind lights up with visions of the two of us laughing together through childhood into her adolescence and adulthood. And I simultaneously realize that it's been a long, long while since I've had the luxury of giving myself over to helpless laughter about something completely silly.

Funny -- I feel old and tired a lot, but I also feel so, so young when I'm laughing together with my daughter.


Countdown and cliches

Me and the little girl in our tiny world for two.

No one else can see that the world is going to end, but I can. It's imminent. It's only two days away.

My little girl, my tiny baby (who really isn't so tiny anymore), will be starting at a cooperative preschool on Monday. You guys, that's only two days away.

Brace yourself for a cliche, but where has the time gone? Yes, I am now a living, breathing manifestation of one of the most common cliches: "They grow up so fast!"

People would tell me how "it all goes by so fast" when she was younger. And it's not that I didn't believe them. I knew they were probably right, and I would eventually feel like time was speeding by. But at the time, hearing that phrase wasn't very helpful, frankly.

I mean, I was in the midst of sleepless nights (and days), experiencing mental and physical fatigue the likes of which I had never felt before, and desperately trying to figure out how to breastfeed, change diapers and do all of the other million things I was supposed to do to take care of my tiny child. And people are telling me that they grow up so fast?

You can't tell a new mom who only gets three hours of sleep at a stretch that "it all goes by so fast." I'm just trying to get through the day, thankyouverymuch. It felt like time was crawling when I had to stay up all night because she wouldn't fall asleep and I couldn't figure out why. And really, I don't need to hear that all of the exhaustion I feel and effort I'm putting into this child is going to go up in a puff of smoke when she's older because it's all "gone by so fast."

But you know what? It has. It really has.

What I realize now is that my daughter and I have existed together in a little bubble of suspended animation. It's been largely just her and me for her first 20 months. There have been other people in her life -- her grandparents, her dad -- but most of our time, the small minutia of each day, has been spent with just the two of us.

My world shrank to the size of a tiny infant when she was born, and my sole focus in life became to make sure she was comfortable and happy. And in return, most of my little girl's sole focus in life has been on me. We've found ourselves a wonderful, rich relationship, full of laughter (and sometimes tears), wide-eyed exploration, and learning so many things so fast that it takes my breath away.

But I know that her first day at school will be the first step in a long process of dismantling the little world we made with just the two of us.

Really, I know it's going to be a good thing. After a (hopefully brief) bout of tears, she's going to go off and have grand adventures with her teachers and her new friends at school. She's going to become an independent little girl who will see a world much bigger than the small one she shares with me. How can I not be happy about that?

But I'm still a little sad. And happy. But sad, too.


My new soy-free and dairy-free life

Almond milk and soy and dairy-free ice cream

Almond milk and ice cream made with coconut milk: a few staples of my new diet

It seems that little L has problems digesting soy and dairy proteins, so her pediatrician told me to stop eating dairy and soy to see if that would help make breastmilk more tolerable for her.

Now, I don't know about you, but cutting dairy out of my diet was tough for me.  My first thought was that I wouldn't be able to eat ice cream anymore, which was awful enough.  And then I realized I had to cut out cheese, which meant no more pizza.  Really!  How am I supposed to live without pizza?

I gave it a try for two weeks.  No ice cream.  No pizza.  Poor me.

But it didn't seem to be helping that much.  Little L was still having the same digestive problems, so I was hoping the pediatrician would tell me to give up on the new diet when I went back for the follow-up appointment two weeks later.  After all, it wasn't working, so why would I continue?

But no, that's not what the pediatrician said at all.  She said to give it another two weeks.  And that I had to be even more strict about my dairy and soy intake.  I thought I had cut dairy out by not having yogurt or milk or cheese, but I wasn't strict enough.  I was still eating bread that might contain milk and occasionally eating chocolate.  I was now supposed to carefully read all labels and stop eating anything that had milk in the ingredients list.

Another problem was that I hadn't really eliminated soy from my diet.  I thought that meant I shouldn't drink soy milk or eat soybeans or tofu.  But I started reading ingredient labels on my and figured out that almost everything has soy in it.  The granola bars I'd been eating for breakfast?  Yep, they have soy in them.  And I had to say goodbye to the Girls Scout cookies I had just gotten because they've got soy, too. Cue a tiny violin playing a sad song for me -- I had to stop eating my thin mint cookies!

It turns out that soy is sort of like high fructose corn syrup... it's in everything.

So I had to take an entirely new approach to eating and start carefully reading the labels on everything I bought.  I figured out that there's a little section on many products that says what types of ingredients are in the product.  I think it's there especially for people who are allergic to certain types of things (like wheat or nuts) to make it easier for them to know whether they can eat that particular product.

I have never paid so much attention to the food I put in my body in my life.  After some research, I found a lot of information on dairy and soy-free diets.  I found a blog (MSPI Mama) that posts dairy and soy-free recipes.  And another blog called Reflux Rebels has all sorts of information on MSPI (which I think stands for milk soy protein intolerance).

I've been off all dairy and soy for about four weeks now, and little L is doing much better.  And I'm becoming accustomed to the new diet -- it's not as hard as I thought it would be.  I'll probably need to continue to cut all dairy and soy out of my diet for as long as I breastfeed, so I suppose I'd better get used to it.

The best part of this new diet is that I'm eating far fewer processed foods, which is much healthier.  It seems as though almost all processed foods have some kind of soy in them, so I've been eating a lot more food that I prepare and cook myself.

And it turns out that there are some substitutes for the foods I've been missing the most.  I started shopping at Whole Foods and found some ice cream made with coconut milk, so it doesn't have dairy or soy.  And a friend told me about almond milk, which I think I like more than regular cow milk.

I'm still looking for a substitute for pizza, though.  I miss cheese an awful lot.  Sigh.


Time for toys

Baby toys

Baby L's mountain of toys

My sister-in-law gave me a huge bagful of baby toys a few weeks ago. Seriously, there were more toys in this bag than any one child should ever have. But her children had outgrown them, and I didn't have many toys yet for baby L, so I gratefully took them.

But every time I tried to get the baby to play with them, she'd just stare blankly at whatever I was waving in front of her face. Or worse, start to cry. I was at a loss. Don't kids like toys? Why wasn't she reacting with smiles and laughter?

Well, little L is now three months old, and within the last couple of days, she's had a toy breakthrough.

I pulled out all the toys designed to dangle down and hung them on the bar over her bouncy chair and on the slats in her crib. She's been having a ball batting at them and sometimes even managing to grab them. I can't say that she's doing a lot of laughing at them, but that's because she seems to be concentrating really hard on getting her hands on them. I'm sure the smiling and laughing will come later after she's honed her grabbing skills.

It's so much fun to see the wheels turning in her head as she practices. It's almost like she was sort of asleep for the first couple of months of her life, and now she's waking up and taking notice of the world around her.

So, yet another baby mystery solved. She wasn't playing with the toys because she wasn't ready yet. But now that she is, I'd better buckle up, because this is just the first stop in a lifetime of new discoveries.

Can't wait.


Laughing babies

She always wakes up smiling

So little L has been smiling a lot lately.  It's a lot of fun to see her little beaming face, but I haven't seen her laugh yet.

I did some research and read that babies start to laugh at around three months, so I'm eagerly awaiting her first chuckle.

Until then, I've seen a couple of videos of laughing babies that made me laugh.

This baby has the most dramatic surprised face on earth and then the cutest laugh when his mother blows her nose:

And this baby is laughing at his father tearing up a job rejection letter:

I think they're hilarious, and they'll have to tide me over until I get a laugh from L.


Pain relief baby is thinking evil thoughts

Pain relief baby is clearly evil

OK, what's up with the evil looking baby on my box of store-brand infant medicine?  It kind of freaks me out every time I open the medicine cabinet, especially in the middle of the night.

I'd like to know what marketing/design person decided using a photo of a baby that looks like a demon on this product was a good idea.

I mean, out of all the possible baby photos they could have picked, this one was deemed the most likely to sell the product?

As one of my friends pointed out, it would be far more effective (or at least more amusing and less scary) if the baby had its pinky to its mouth like Dr. Evil.


Baby boot camp

Baby L: the screaming force of nature that's changed my life

They tell you your life will change forever, and you hear them say it and think you understand what they mean.

"Of course my life will be different," you think.  "I'll have a child.  That's obviously different since I don't have a child right now."

But what you don't get is that  you will suddenly have a new being in your life that will consume almost every waking moment of your time and probably a lot of your sleeping moments, too.  Or rather, you get that this is about to happen, but you underestimate how monumentally this will change everything.

I'm looking back over the last month and thinking of it as sort of a boot camp.  A baby boot camp.

From the second the hospital staff held up her crying, curled body for me to see her until now, one month later, I've been in baby boot camp.  And most people have a pretty good idea of what that is: midnight feedings, diaper changes, soothing the crying spells, encouraging the little smiles that you hope are real smiles and not just gas.

But not everyone knows what it is physically and emotionally, especially someone like me who hasn't spent much time around infants.  The sleep deprivation alone is enough to seriously affect anyone's outlook and attitude.  Add to that the seemingly unsolvable mysteries of why your baby is crying and how do you get her to stop, and it can quickly become overwhelming.

I've spent the last month learning so much. How to change a diaper so it (hopefully) doesn't leak.  When the baby is in your arms, it's a good policy to have a burp cloth on your shoulder, too.  What to do if the baby spits up everything you just fed her (in most cases, feed her all over again).

Baby boot camp has made me do crazy things.  Things I never thought I'd have the stamina to do, like sitting up with her in a chair for  hours on end to try to get her to eat.  Things like stopping the car on the side of the road to get out and check on her because she made a funny noise in the car seat and I'm worried she stopped breathing.

But baby boot camp isn't all stress and worry.  Baby boot camp has also made me look at my future in a new way.

I look down at this little girl sleeping soundly on the pillow on my lap as I type, and I think about all the things I want to show her in this world.

I want to take her to all the amazing places I've traveled to so she can see them for the first time, and I can see them anew through her eyes from her perspective.  I want to tell her she can be anything she wants to be when she grows up.  I want her to believe in Santa Claus, at least for a little while.  I want to teach her to be kind and generous to others and nurture what I hope will be an independent, indomitable, free spirit.

So many things I've learned in the last month.  And so much more learning to come -- for both of us.

Yes, everything changes.  Now I think I'm beginning to understand.

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