Thursday, December 29, 2011

Give This to the Reluctant Mom in Your Life

I so wish I could get my hands on this!


Little Miss Homemaker

That's not me.  But I did pretend to be it for Thanksgiving!  This was the first time Bill and I hosted anything holidayish at our house.  We were so excited to have the responsibility of housing, feeding, and entertaining everyone.  We cleaned our house up all spic and span and bought a crapload of comestibles.  I had a recipe schedule for Thanksgiving and a list of things to do and places to see.

It was the first time in about 5 months that my family had seen Desmond, so everyone was pretty excited to see him.  We drilled Desmond with pictures of their faces and their names so that he could recognize them when he saw them (or else!)  My mom was worried that "her" baby wouldn't recognize her and she'd be heartbroken.  But, as we all know, kiddos love their grandmas (because grandmas = everything mama doesn't let you do) and by the second day, Desmond would not let my mother out of his sight.  He also warmed up (by the 5th day) to my step-dad because my step-dad would teach Desmond about the "fuego," the fireplace, in our house.  Unfortunately for his uncles John and Dan, Des did not let them carry him around and barely played with them.

On the daily walk with Des.

With a hat his grandma Donna made for him.
Anyhow, it turned out to be a really relaxing, low-key get-together (which is very unlike my family).  However, I've come to the conclusion that I am too young to hold and be in charge of any family-get-togethers, especially large, overly ambitious holiday dinners.  I'm happy to drag my, Billy, and Desmond's ass over the entire country to visit and be the recipients of such dinners.  Maybe I'll try again when Desmond's 6 or so.  That gives me enough time to hone my homemaking skills.  I hope.

The newly-engaged couple: my brother and his fiancée, Katie.

The pretty side of St. Louis.  Me, D, Katie, John, and my youngest brother, Gabriel.

The only pics we have of Thanksgiving dinner were taken by my well-meaning, but technically illiterate, step-dad.

Yay, family!

He did it! He slept through the night!

Yes, everyone, lend me your ears (and pity): I was "blessed" with a child who detests sleeping through the night.  He has never done it.  Ever.  Until about a month ago.  Bear in mind, my kid is 16 months old.  I haven't had more than 6 hours of consecutive sleep at night since before I got pregnant.  That's approximately 730 and a half days of shit sleep.  I mean, don't get me wrong...I take naps whenever I can, but it doesn't match that feeling of well-being and God-I-love-the-worldness that a good night's sleep brings you.

I can't blame it all on Desmond, however.  We definitely instilled some crap sleeping habits in him.  For instance, we still allowed Desmond to have his binkie and although we had practically weaned him off it during the day, he still relied on it to sleep at night.  We also let him have a bottle of goat's milk every time he would wake up (this was post 12 months of age, of course).  All this meant that we would wake up every few hours to put the binkie in his mouth and every 3-4 hours so that he could have a bottle of milk.  Although some people would say that rocking him to sleep or letting him sleep in bed with us was another one of the "Bad" sleep habits, we weren't going to budge on those (we don't consider them bad habits).  So, what needed to change was his reliance on the binkie and the bottle to sleep.

How did we do it?  Cold Effing Turkey.  No weaning, no coddling, nothing.  We spent two sleepless nights with D in our bed, trying to caress him and soothe him while he sat in his crib (right next to our bed) crying.  We wanted him to know that we were still there to love him and comfort him but that he didn't need his bottle or binkie.  And, on the third night, he slept 6 straight hours.  It was almost biblical, I tell you.  He slept in his futon in his room for the majority of the night without waking up once.

Now I know that most of you have angelic, fantastic sleepers who have been sleeping through the night since they were 3 months old.  But I ask you to think back to the fog that was the newborn days and how sleep deprivation turned you into the type of woman who sided with the murderer in the scary movie (I'm looking at you, LH!)  That has been me for the last year and a half.  So, this is HUGE news in our house.

And now?  He's keeping up the good fight.  He wakes up just once a night and has no problem going back to sleep.  Next on our agenda, though, is getting a king-sized bed to fit Billy and I vertically and Desmond horizontally (the kid likes sleeping perpendicular to us.  Go figure.)

Des spooning Billy.  Don't worry...he could still breathe.

Des sleeping deeply and peacefully on our 1,321 mile drive to Salt Lake City.  That's right...stay tuned for more on that trip later.

Saturday, December 24, 2011

Family Photo Shoot number 3

Yes, I love family photo shoots.  I know that they can be cheesy, but what better way to nicely chronicle the growth of your family (and the styles of the day) than with a professional photo shoot?  Sure, I can take tons of pictures of Des and Bill on my phone, but they're not quality.  and I like quality.  So, through an online mommy meetup group, I met Sam, who runs, along with her husband, a photography business called Pay It Forward Photography, based in St. Louis.  She donates a portion of the sitting fee to a charity that changes each month.  And she's super nice.  So, here are some of the highlights from the shoot.

For as flabby as my arms are, they look halfway ripped in this picture.  Only reason I posted it.  Oh, and to show you how cute Des's Levi's jeans are.

Your typical Desmond face.

My favorite one.

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Desmond's first heartbreak

At the ripe old age of 15.5 months, Desmond fell in love for the first time.  Who was the lovely lady that captured his heart?  None other than my beautiful goddaughter, Iris May, who is 4 years older than Desmond.  (I'm not sure if his penchant for older women will continue throughout his life, but I'm guessing that the ladies in his age group may still look sort of androgynous to him (most of the toddler girls his age have hair as long as his)). 

Iris May donning her ballerina outfit (skirt provided by her awesome godmother (she calls me Cuma Scarlett (Cuma is Godmother in Italian))

He fell in love with Iris.  I mean, totally in love.  Infatuated.  He would watch everything she does.  Follow her with his eyes where ever she went.  And she was so sweet to him.  At first, she kept her distance from him, just watching him as he rooted through her toy box, making sure that he didn't play with her prize toys.  But then she warmed up to him and guided him through her game of pretend.  I can't even begin to describe the level of infatuation Desmond had for Iris.  I won't even try...I will just let the pictures speak for themselves.

Making sure that Iris is nearby.
Look at how he adores her!  That's my hand sort of forcing the hug.
We had a lovely time hanging out with Annie and her family.  Unfortunately, all awesome things must come to an end, and we had to bid adieu to Youngstown and head home.  When it was time to say goodbye to everyone, Desmond gave everyone a hug and his signature kiss: open mouth with a hint of tongue.  When it was Iris's turn to receive Desmond's dubious gift, she recoiled in horror as she felt him slobber all over her cheek.  She turned her back to him and refused to give him a goodbye.  I don't blame her.  If some guy was eyeing me somewhere and, when he left the party, gave me a slobbery kiss on the cheek, I would book it out of there, too.  But it did cause my son his first heartbreak... :)

But he still has love in his heart for Iris.  And hopefully, that love will continue and grow until finally, they end up married and I could finally be a true part of the D'Angelo/Murray family. 

Annie's parents, Mom and Pop D'Angelo.  If (or I should say when) my parents ever die, I nominate the D'Angelos to adopt me, Billy, and Desmond.

Sunday, December 11, 2011

All by myseeeelf...Don't wanna be...All by myseeeelf

My best friend, soulmate, and perpetual roommate (in my heart), Annie, was due to have Henry, her beautiful baby boy, in a just a few weeks.  I had 10 garbage bags full of Desmond's clothes and baby accoutrements that were just sitting in my scary basement.  It made no sense for me to keep them all to myself, so I thought that I would give them to her and save her from having to spend hundreds of dollars on baby crap just like my friends gave me for Desmond.  The problem was that mailing that much stuff would cost me a fortune and not to mention, be a huge heartache to pack everything in boxes and ship them off.  So, I decided to make the 10-hour trek from St. Louis to Youngstown, OH to deliver everything to my best friend.

Did I mention that the trek was 10 hours?  And that I would be doing it with Desmond all by myself?  (You can gasp now, or feel pity for me...but you'll be applauding me by the end of this post). 

I decided that 10 hours in one day would be overkill and split the trip up into 2 days, 5 hours each.  We started our trip off at night, leaving at around the time we would start putting Desmond to bed, 7pm.  We fed him, bathed him, and put him in his pajamas.

So excited to begin our trip.

Just kidding.  He had no idea what he was in for.

He only loved the little car our neighbors gave to him.  It plays Funky Town.

That first night, everything went as beautifully as I hoped it would.  I was a bit tired, but having satellite radio in our car was pretty helpful.  The next day, we woke up at around 8am, got ready, had breakfast, and were on our way by 11.  We stopped one more time for a later lunch and Desmond had a nap until we got to our destination.  Easy peasy.

So excited about the games at Cracker Barrel.  Honestly, they may not have the best (or healthiest) food, they do have great child-distraction devices, like the toy you see above.  Plus, they have a whole area filled with kids toys...I mean a ton of kids toys.  Some are old-fashioned and others are more current, but they all are out for the kids to play with.

This was Desmond's favorite toy at Cracker Barrel.  We ended up buying it for him he loved it that much, but only on our trip back, which was our fourth trip to the restaurant.

Desmond trying on Mr. Potato Head glasses.

Another picture where Desmond looks drunk.
The trip back was a mess.  I'm guessing it was because Desmond's nap and sleep schedule was all screwed up because we were visiting friends and family.  My recommendation is that you stick to the nap and sleeping schedule, even if you have to rearrange your schedule around it.  Unless you're ok with the ride back to wherever being a constant litany of pulling over to hold your baby because he or she is crying incessantly. 

When I told people that I did a 20-hour total road trip with my toddler by myself, they give me that wide-eyed "holy-shit-i-can't-believe-you-did-that-by-yourself-you-must-be-crazy" look.  But when I tell them that we came out of it alive and !gasp! happy to have done it, they smile, shake their heads, and tell me what a "brave" mom I am.  And I like it.  :)  Anyhow, after the trip, I felt that I had more confidence to spend long hours alone, away from home, with my son.  It was truly empowering.

Annoying toddler habits: Biting, pulling, and growling

I'm so embarrassed to say this, but my son has an awful, annoying habit: he bites.  Yes, he uses his 7 little teeth to bear down on the skin of my thigh when I'm sitting down.  And it's unprovoked!  It's not as if I took away a toy and he threw a tantrum and bit me.  He'll just come up to me while I'm sitting down, put his head on my leg, and as my heart wells with love and admiration for my child and before I can pick him up to cuddle him, he turns his head and, while still maintaining eye contact with me, he goes ahead and bites me.  Sometimes hard, sometimes soft, but he always checks to see if I'm looking at him.  I guess he gets a perverse pleasure from seeing me recoil in horror.

This is what he looks like when he puts his head on my leg.  This is when I'm all like, "Awww...look at how adorable he is!  We owe it to ourselves, our family, and this country to make more children like him."

This is what he looks like seconds before he chomps down on the soft fat of my inner thigh.  Terrifying.

I'm worried that the habit won't break and that he will start to bite whenever he's angry.  Already, when he starts throwing a tantrum he'll throw whatever is in his hands or squeeze it really hard.  Poor Pirate.  If he's anywhere near Desmond when Des is throwing a fit, Des will run to him, grab a handful of his loose, fatty skin and fur, and squeeze it.  My poor dogs put up with a lot from Desmond.  I mean, he tries to "pet them" and instead, hits them really hard in a petting motion.  He also likes to poke Pirate in his butthole.  No joke.  I don't need to worry about how the dogs will be with Desmond anymore: they're fantastic around him.  I need to keep an eye on Desmond to make sure that he doesn't permanently blind Pirate or maim Hanzo.

The beginning of Pirate and Desmond's tumultuous relationship.

Pirate's face shows that he's starting to get an inkling of the abuse that's coming.  On another note, look at how disproportionately LARGE Desmond's ear is compared to his face!

Oh, and get this.  Before, when Desmond didn't want something, he'd start shaking his head no and start crying.  Now, he'll preface that with a growl.  Seriously.  A bona fide rumbling growl that emanates deep from within his little chest and grows into a scream.  It's kind of terrifying.  I don't know what excuse we would give to people who witnessed that if we didn't have any dogs.  I swear he's getting it from Hanzo and Pirate.  Weird, huh?  Next thing you know, Desmond's going to be picking his leg up and itching himself on his face.

We need to expose him to more children.

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

My dancing king...

When I was growing up, I wanted so badly to have a little girl.   A little mini-me who would grow up to wear tutus and pink dresses and take ballet classes.  As my pregnancy progressed, and as I became increasingly convinced that little Nacho was a boy, the dreams of cotton candy pink tutus became more and more distant as I thought of the little boy growing inside of me.  And I was OK when he was born and I knew that it was a boy and that Billy would probably frown upon me enrolling him in ballet class.  All I wished and hoped for was that he loved dancing, that he would love closing his eyes and swaying to music, that he would inherit my family's love of dancing (and sense of rhythm).  I'm not sure how it is among other Hispanics, but anytime a group of Colombians or Dominicans get together, there's gonna be some dancing involved.

My mom dancing with my friend Jennifer at Des's baptism. 

For the first year of his life, he showed no affinity for music.  We would meet up with other moms and tots and a song would come on and children as young as 9 months would bob their heads and Desmond would just sit there, unaffected by the music.  It broke my heart.  I would try dancing in front of him all the time, play music while he was eating his meals, sang to him and swayed rhythmically when I would put him to sleep at night.  But just in the last few months, Desmond has been blooming as a dancer.  I couldn't be more proud of him.  His dancing is more geriatric than danseur, but he's getting there.  Even when I'm humming (which lately has been the song from weeds: "Little boxes, on the hillside, little boxes made of ticky tacky...") he'll throw his hands up and do a rigid shifting step from left foot to right foot.

I can't tell whether or not he's going to be a natural at dancing just yet, but the seed's sprouting in him and I couldn't be more happy.  There's nothing like seeing a baby dance: so full of joy, so unbridled.  Just seeing him dance makes me get up and do silly little jigs and hops.  It's rekindled my interest in ballet (I take an adult ballet class once a week) and I'm finding the joy again in the technicality, the music, the letting go.

It's been 15 years since I last took a proper ballet class.  15 years and 15 lbs heavier.

This is him playing with a top my mother gave him.  He's doing the Chris Farley, "I live in a trailer down by the river" dance.

This is him going CUHRAZY over this little bear that plays maracas that my mom gave to him.

Saturday, December 3, 2011

It's about time!

No more free infant formula at RI hospitals
PROVIDENCE, R.I. (AP) — New mothers in Rhode Island will no longer leave the hospital with a free goody bag of infant formula.

To encourage breastfeeding, the state's seven birthing hospitals stopped formula giveaways this fall, apparently making it the first state to end the widespread practice.

State health officials hailed the decision Monday, noting that breastfeeding has been proved healthier than formula for both infants and mothers. Stephanie Chafee, a nurse and the wife of Gov. Lincoln Chafee, called the decision a critical step toward increasing breastfeeding rates.

"As the first 'bag-free' state in the nation, Rhode Island will have healthier children, healthier mothers, and a healthier population as a whole," Chafee said. "This is a tremendous accomplishment."
Formula will still be available to new mothers who experience difficulties with breastfeeding.
The new policy isn't intended to force women into nursing their children, according to Denise Laprade, a labor and delivery nurse and lactation consultant at Woonsocket's Landmark Medical Center, which eliminated free formula distribution last month. She said the focus is instead on parental education and helping mothers decide what's best for their child.

"We never make any woman feel guilty about her decision," Laprade said. She said she has received few complaints from parents about the new policy, though she said the older nurses needed a little time to adjust.

Thirty-eight percent of Rhode Island mothers nurse their babies six months after birth, compared with 44 percent nationally, according to a report issued this year by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

State Health Director Michael Fine said the state hopes to raise the percentage of Rhode Island mothers nursing at six months to 60 percent by 2020.

Public health officials in Massachusetts endorsed a ban on free formula samples in 2005, but the regulation was rescinded by then-Gov. Mitt Romney before it took effect. Getting the new policy in place in small Rhode Island was easier, since it's not a law or regulation and required the agreement of only seven hospitals.

Nationally, about 540 of the nation's 3,300 birthing hospitals have stopped the formula giveaways, according to Marsha Walker, a registered nurse in Massachusetts and co-chairwoman of "Ban the Bags," a campaign to eliminate formula giveaways at maternity hospitals.

Walker said the bags given to new mothers — typically containing a few days' worth of formula — amount to a sophisticated marketing campaign by formula manufacturers.

"Hospitals should market health and nothing else," she said. "When hospitals give these out, it looks like an endorsement of a commercial product."

The International Formula Council, a trade group representing formula manufacturers, opposes the end of free formula samples. In a statement, the council notes that sample bags also include "key educational materials" on how to use and store formula.

"Mothers should be trusted to make good choices for their babies," the council said in its statement. "More than 80 percent of U.S. infants will be given formula at some point during their first year of life ... these educational materials are needed by the vast majority of mothers to ensure infant formula is prepared correctly and the baby's health is not jeopardized."

New mom Crystal Gyra said that while the new policy is well-intended, women should have the option of taking home formula samples. The Providence woman said she gladly accepted the free formula she received after giving birth to her daughter Gianna, now 2 months old. Gyra gives her daughter formula.

"It helped me," she said of the samples. "They should leave it up to the women to decide whether they want to take the samples or not. We're smart enough to figure it out."

Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Visits and outings

It's so funny how you move to a new city and you have every intention of visiting every single landmark and good restaurant, etc, but 1 month in and you're so burned out about seeing everything that you just spend all of your weekends at home not doing any sight-seeing and watching reruns of weeds.  So, it's so nice when you have friends to come visit you: you get to show them all of the places that you have been wanting to go and do all the things you've been wanting to do.  It gets you off your ass and it gets your house really clean in preparation for their visit (because who wants to have visitors go back home and say, God, their kitchen was a hair everywhere!)   
Our friends Jordan and Rachele came to St. Louis and stayed with us while Jordan interviewed for Pediatrics residency out here.  They brought their two sons, Beckham, who's almost 3, and baby Gavin, who was almost 6 months old.  It was nice to have kids around the house...Desmond really enjoyed watching Beckham play and he loved going up to Gavin and lightly touching him and trying to give him a hug and besito (kiss in Spanish, which, incidentally, he does open-mouthed.  Don't go thinking that we kiss Desmond all open-mouth or anything...he's done that ever since he started kissing people.) 

At City Museum...Billy did all of the activities with Desmond because I was too chicken to do them.  I can't even go down the playground slide without almost passing out from a mixture of fear and anxiety.

Action shot.

Billy says that this picture perfectly describes my and Desmond's relationship.  Take that however you want to take it.

A slightly friendlier picture of us :)

Look at Desmond's luscious hair.  I'm just now starting to appreciate how wonderful it is.  Truthfully, when it was apparent that Desmond was going to have blond hair, I was kind of sad about it...I had grown up visualizing my future kid as having dark hair, so when his hair started sprouting blond, I was borderline disappointed. 

Having the time of his life...

On top of the scariest slide ever.

We do love visiting the St. Louis Arch.  Underneath it is a huge expanse of grassy field where Desmond could just run his happy little butt off.

This kid STILL only has 6 teeth.  He just barely started sprouting a 7th tooth, but I feel like this is taking way too long.  The kid is a champion at masticating food with his rubbery gums. 

Rachele and I underneath the Arch.  Behind us is crappy East St. Louis (East of the Mississippi River; St. Louis proper is west of the Mississippi).  In front of us is a much more picturesque view of downtown St. Louis.

We should be in an ad for a parenting website or something.
It was so nice to have some friends visit us and it was so nice showing them around our city.  Here's to hoping that Jordan gets and accepts a residency out here!