June 4, 2013
Translation: Round the Dinner Table
From lulling Margaret to sleep with Carla Bruni, to whipping up baby food purees in a Beeva maker, a Mustela snob at bath time, coveting everything on the smallable.com site, to Sophie being the toy picked above almost all others, and the sweet and brave Madeline being a favorite read … without being fully aware of it, I’ve apparently gravitated to the French school of thought when raising a child. It could be because I’m drawing from my own experiences from childhood, particularly when it comes to eating.
I didn’t know it at the time, but my parents essentially raised us at mealtime. We learned how to debate, hold our own in interesting conversations, manners (don’t interrupt, napkin on the lap, asking to be excused), the proper way to set a table, try new things, and to finish what you start.
We ate dinner as a family nearly every night at a table my father made from a piece of reclaimed California Redwood, purchased in Chicago after my parents found out they were expecting twins. The table is still at my parents’ house, held up by two porcelain elephants found in Ho Chi Minh City (when it was still called Saigon), Vietnam. My father sent four back home to my mother—two brown and two green—originally slated as end tables. Only one brown and one green made it, so the mismatched pair was destined for a life together under that table. For seating, in lieu of chairs, were two long church pews that came from a chapel in-between Great Lakes Naval Academy and Ft. Sheridan in Waukegan, Illinois, just outside of Chicago.
The life lessons around that dinner table are not unlike those being taught in all of the of-the-moment parenting books written by expat authors touting everything from portion control to maintaining variety in what your kid is eating. I want all of that for Margaret. I want mealtime to be fun, be filled with a range of nutritious (and wonderfully tasting) foods and for us to be present as a family during that hour. I want to make these moments a priority—to unplug and really just be there. I hope I do as good of a job as my parents did.
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March 26, 2013
After Margaret was born, several people, including my favorite editor, offered me the perspective line that the days are long and the years are short. That certainly seems to be the case in our lives right now. There are some days when they truly feel like three rolled up in one (wait, did I REALLY go to yoga this morning and we’re just now making dinner–yoga felt like five days ago!).
There’s something special about every stage, this I already know. The dazed and confused, puffy-faced newborn when we’re looking at each other like, OK guess we’ll figure this out together, to now, an exploring, opinionated little being (all without uttering one word).
If Margaret were a cartoon right now, all you’d see is a light bulb above her head. It’s absolutely crazy to watch a baby start to connect the dots. She’s discovered her ears recently and will spend a fair amount of time flicking them back and forth, as if she’s checking to make sure they didn’t go anywhere without her. And her bottom lip, she is experimenting sucking on it and pursing it; it’s all so very cute. She opens her mouth wide, like a little trout when she’s hungry or wants her pacifier. Her methods of communication are very effective and her personality (so far) is quite calm.
Honestly, most days, I feel like she’s the smartest person in the room.
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February 7, 2013
Growing up, my mother had a saying. It was something along the lines of killing a bear, skinning it, and serving it for dinner, if she only had one hour. I now have a pretty good idea of what she meant. Children make time management something of an art form. A ridiculously cute and well-worth it art form, mind you.
My mother’s line came directly from her grandmother, Lucy. The hardest working woman she knew. Lucy raised six boys (one of which was my late grandfather that Margaret shares a birthday with), a husband battling MS, the never-ending task of tending to the farm where they lived, and she managed to put herself through school to become a nurse. Talk about gumption.
After having Margaret, it got me thinking about all those things we pick up along the way from family and the nuggets of information I want to make sure she retains. The saying above is important, I think, especially for girls—gossip is toxic and does no one any good. Another one I want to instill in her is the notion of how a lady dresses.
Not to sound like a prude, but I read once, and it stuck with me, that a woman should only show one asset at a time. If you choose a short hemline on a dress, a plunging neckline is a no-no … one or the other, not both. I think that’s a good rule to follow. I mean I certainly don’t want Margaret to walk out of the house at age 15 in Beyonce’s leather getup from the Super Bowl halftime show. They didn’t have that particular quote on Pinterest—Thou shall not let ye daughter look like she works in the red light district.
Image: Courtesy of fashionchalet.tumblr.com
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January 29, 2013
I found that the second I got pregnant I was bombarded with loads of parenting tips and advice on must-have purchases to make parenthood easier. There are a few items that I haven’t even taken out of the box, and others I’ve already had to buy seconds of because I use them so often.
Here are my favorites so far.
1. Even in my belly, our sweet gal responded to music. She particularly liked bluegrass stuff, the Punch Brothers and the Avett Brothers were her favorites and since being born that has remained. She loves this song and this. 2. I was told Sophie the Giraffe was the toy to get for teething. We’re a bit ahead of the game with it since our gal is still thankfully all gums, but Margaret loves to hold and squeak little Sophie. The only drawback, Otis thinks it’s a toy for him and constantly tries to steal it. 3. We got several of these as gifts and they are the sweetest. They are one part blanket, one part stuffed animal and Margaret is now at the stage where she cuddles with hers and it’s just about the cutest thing ever. 4. These plush animals from Jellycat are whimsical and the two we have are brightly colored with stripes, giving Margaret something to focus on.
1. After the third visit to a lactation consultant the first week Margaret was born, she suggested this pillow for a better position while feeding. So. Much. Easier. 2. Having Dan feed Margaret a bottle of breast milk was a big day in our house. It allows me to actually do things like get a haircut or go to yoga. The transition can sometimes be tough with some babies refusing a bottle – after trying several other brands, Born Free worked for us. 3. Because when you’re wiping up spit-up all day, at least you can do it with a chic towel.
1. About five hours after Margaret was born the night nurse at the hospital asked us if we were team pacifier. Through cries of our baby, we immediately said yes, and she gave Margaret a Soothie. That’s been our paci brand ever since and she especially loves her Wubbanub. 2. Swaddling has worked for our family. And I’ve found these sacks keep our little Houdini nice and tight all night. PS – I’m a little creeped out by the photos on this site, they look like floating heads. 3. When you have a girl, you’re a bit on pink overload. While it does have some pink, I love the pattern in our blanket from Weegoamigo and it is a perfect weight for Atlanta.
1. I adore clothes from Baby Soy. Margaret has a few pieces including gowns and a super cute kimono onesie. They are really soft and made from organic cotton. 2. Socks from Trumpette are made to look like shoes, making baby feet even more adorable than they already are (as if that’s even possible). 3. Gap is great for staples. Their clothes wear really well and have sweetest designs.
1. While this activity mat is more play for Margaret, it’s truly hands-free for me. As soon as I press the button for the music to start, she’s in her own world. 2. The Moby is great for when your baby needs to be held, but you need both hands. Margaret has been in the Moby for everything from dinner prep, to conference calls, and phone interviews. Snug as a bug in a rug. 3. Apparently the Rock ‘n Play Sleeper was recalled because of mold issues. I have no problem with mine and likely wouldn’t have stayed sane the first four weeks without one.
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January 10, 2013
I think every child loves to hear the story of the night they were born. My twin sister and I never tire hearing my mom talk about making it to the hospital in the nick of time during a snowstorm in the middle of Chicago when we arrived. Or putting herself into labor by scrubbing the bathroom floors because, as she puts it, “She wanted those babies out of her.”
I planned to go all natural with Margaret, which I talked about here. I wasn’t against Western medicine during the process, but was the most afraid of an induction via Pitocin followed by an epidural because I thought it would take me into too hard of a labor too fast and something my body wouldn’t want to do. I wanted to be in control of what I needed and when and be flexible during it all, but have enough sense to change course if necessary.
Let’s just say no amount of meditation, yoga, or aromatherapy candles could prepare me for the physical pain of birthing a baby. Labor and delivery looked like a war zone with me playing the role of fallen soldier. Vomit, blood, oxygen masks and screams of agony were all there. And then, I felt nothing.
Let me back up a bit. When my doctor scheduled an induction for seven days past my due date, I knew I had to pull out the big guns before that. On my due date I started doing natural inducers. You can read more about that here. On Wednesday, three days past my due date, at 4:15 p.m. I went in for an hour of incredibly intense acupuncture. At 3 a.m. I woke up in a really emotional state. Woke up my husband and had a mini-meltdown about being a mother, working, and all the changes in our life. He calmed me down, and I fell asleep for a couple of hours. A short time later, just before 6 a.m. Thursday morning, my water broke.
The plan was always to labor at home for some time. I spent several hours very comfortable with Otis, my mom, and Dan around me on our living room couch. In just three hours, by 9:30, contractions were coming faster and it was time to head to the hospital as Atlanta rush hour was thankfully ending. My mom couldn’t have been happier, as she was a Nervous Nelly with us deciding to stay home for the beginning parts of labor. I don’t remember much about the car ride except the Driving Miss Daisy in the Jaguar going a whopping 20 miles per hour in a 45 for what felt like an eternity of the trip. I cursed the day that biddy was born. I think every woman can vouch that contractions in a moving vehicle aren’t for the faint of heart. Actually it’s just about the worst idea ever. I’m certain my mother was appalled at the truck driver potty-mouth daughter she raised.
Once inside the hospital I scared every man, woman, and child on an otherwise uneventful elevator ride and proceeded to sit on the floor of labor and delivery upon arrival, just to let them know we weren’t kidding around (and my blood pressure had dropped making me feel like I was going to faint). Now seems like a good place to say nurses (other than one lone Nurse Ratched at check-in) are saints. They truly are. Between my labor and delivery nurse, Lucy, and several night nurses, particularly Carolyn and Meghan, I wouldn’t have had the positive experience that I did.
When we arrived at the hospital just after 10 a.m. I thought for certain I’d have a baby by 3 p.m. at the latest. That’s how fast and hard labor was coming. I was dilated to a six when I was admitted. But, I then stayed stuck between eight and nine for hours. Finally, around 3 p.m., I got an epidural and felt absolutely nothing (except for a little pressure during contractions). It was HEAVEN. There were a few scares with my blood pressure going shockingly low and me needing to breathe oxygen for a bit. For as much planning as I did with music and candles, I wanted none of it. I wanted the room absolutely quiet.
Another thing we planned was my husband’s role. I was very adamant about where I wanted him to stand (my shoulders up), but when it came down to it modesty went out the window. He played a very active role and was the most encouraging voice I could’ve asked for. About 5 p.m. it was time to start pushing. After about an hour my husband put on a playlist called Little Miss Seith upbeat—and upbeat it was. The music helped so much! It charged me through that last hour of pushing (I won’t hold it against her that it took that long), and the mood in the room was actually really lively. No joke, our doctor and nurse were singing along to Mumford & Sons.
Margaret Ainsley Seith came out to the song, “We Are Young” by Fun followed fittingly by Lady Gaga’s “Born this Way.” That moment is one I will remember for the rest of my life. I was crying. Dan was crying, and Margaret was crying. We’re now nine weeks from that day. It does go by fast. And it’s worth every ounce of everything it took us to get here.
So far, motherhood hasn’t defined me, but I certainly like the feeling of knowing I’m hers and she’s mine, already seeing the world through her eyes, and making all the small stuff seem just that. She has already changed me–for the better.