Tag Archives: Emmett

Living that “threenage” life

Emmett was star of the week last week, and looking through photos for his door display was so much fun. He’s packed a lot of life into less than four years, for sure.

Right now, living with this “threenager” as they say, is two parts super fun and one part please-stop-scream-crying about bananas. (Bananas are a major toddler tantrum trigger, in case you didn’t know. They’re either too spotted, too green, broken in the wrong place, peeled wrong, etc. This week, we were out of them and it was as if the sky was falling at our house during breakfast.)

Back to the good stuff. Because this blog is the only place I record things, I’m going to share a few Emmett developmental moments:

Emmett is not into arts and crafts. He likes to draw on the dry erase easel we have set up and a magna-doodle, but otherwise is pretty disinterested.

At our conferences, his teachers pulled out his latest “self-portrait,” which was one thin, faint line. You know what he told them when they asked him about it? “I’m standing sideways.” Ha!

Past Lives
I’ve always thought Emmett had a kind of old-soul, haunted look about him, to be honest. When I was his age, I had an imaginary friend named Skelley. Emmett has a previous life. He’s always starting his stories “When I was a young kid…” and lately he’s been talking about his old dad and mom. Apparently his “old” parents had red hair, the dad was named Andrew and he wore a black shirt and the mom wore a flowered shirt. When he was a young kid, he went to China. It’s a little bit creepy.

We promote a lot of nature play, experiments and the like. Lately, he’s been wanting to go on family walks after dinner to point out “nature signs” like buds on trees, grass, etc.

His favorite thing to play with is sensory kinetic sand. We put it in a baking dish like an indoor sandbox so it doesn’t get all over the place, and he plays with it for literally hours at a time. I got him this play dirt at a toy store and he was equally mesmerized, digging and burying things and sculpting it.

My grandpa’s death was a pretty big deal in our house, and Emmett definitely was aware of what was happening. I’m proud of how comfortable he is talking and asking about death and how we can keep people’s memories alive. He’s also started to be more interested in my memories of my dad, who died just after I graduated high school.

Emmett has a Dr. Seuss sense of humor, and one of our favorite things to do on the way home from school is break into rhyme-a-thons together. I found these silly flip-a-word readers at the library and I think when he gets ready to start reading on his own, they’ll be helpful.

This photo was right after he told me my hair looked “like a pile of dirt,” which I’m pretty sure was meant as a major compliment.

Emmett loves movies. He went through a really long phase of asking to watch Octonauts and have a snack the minute he got home from school (3 going on 13) and his favorite movie is The Sandlot. We watched it last week with my mom and aunt (somehow they’d never seen it!) and witnessing them all watch it together was hilarious, because Emmett basically quotes it and was trying to tell them what comes up next. The first time he heard “You’re killin’ me, Smalls!” he said “Hey! My mom says that!”

I need to take more videos that capture his funny personality and cute little voice. He has a toddler way of talking that almost sounds like a major Chicago accent (“d” and “f” sounds for “th”) that I know he’ll grow out of.

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Motherhood: Two years in

On the way home from picking Emmett up today, we decided to ruin prelude our dinners by stopping for a little fro-yo at Menchies because it’s Tuesday, it’s hot out, I’m pregnant and he’s charming. (And we got a call from the doctor today saying, without much detail yet, that his allergy levels have gone down considerably. CELEBRATION!)


The yogurt mustn’t have spoiled things too much, because later during dinner (Joe and I did a weird parental hand-off in the Menchie’s parking lot so I could swing by the dsm unveiling) Emmett said to me: “How was your day, mom?”

If I could describe this 2-year-old phase, it’s a little bit tug-of-war and a lot of heart-melt moments when you realize your child may actually be listening and learning from you after all. We make family meals a time for sharing stories, and I’ve been asking Emmett how his day was, and asking him to ask his daddy how his day was. For him to ask me, unsolicited, was magic, pure and simple.

When we drive past Gray’s Lake and see a sailboat, he quotes to me from “The Max Book” aka “Where the Wild Things Are,” and when we pick raspberries in the backyard he pretends to be Sal and I’m mama bear. We got a goldfish with some of his birthday money (which he named Rock) and he said to me, right in the middle of PetSmart – “Mom, this is Rock. I love him!”

Can I get a heart eye emoji on that one?emoji

My baby is a little boy who uses colloquialisms (currently: “you’re kidding me!” “guess what?!”), narrates everything he’s doing, calls his parents names (“worm sandwich” and “dirty sandwich”), offers to help, and asks me not to sing to him (“Don’t make that noise, mom!”). He tells us how much he loves us (soooo much), with big hugs around the neck and wet, open-mouth kisses.

My baby is a little boy who skins his knees, cruises on his bike, pages through his books and watches construction sites with rapt amazement. He’s growing more cautious as he learns the world isn’t all soft surfaces. He’s growing more confident as he assists with every day chores, like making coffee.


My baby is a little boy whose curiosity and comprehension expand on an hourly basis, and who daily makes me chuckle with disbelief at his intelligence and compassion.

One minute, I’m chasing – reminding him to stop at the end of the sidewalk. Another minute he’s demanding to be held, or screaming himself to sleep in my bed, tiny feet digging into my kidneys. Keeping up with this emerging personality — who exercises his independence and his neediness, delighted and devastated by the realities of life on an ever-changing basis — is like running in the sand. I know we’re getting somewhere, but the footing is constantly shifting. Can’t beat the view, though.


At this point, my biggest concern is figuring out this next phase of childcare. He’s been with my amazing sister-in-law since my maternity leave ended, but she’s about to have her third child and our hope is for our second child to join her when my maternity leave ends this winter, so it’s time for Emmett to move on.

I’ve taken for granted how amazing it is for him to be able to tag along to the zoo or science center or various playgrounds  and take epic naps and for me to never have to worry about his safety or whether he was in the care of someone who loved him. We’re still third on the waiting list for the full-time program down the street, which was my original plan for him. I think we have a spot for him in a dual language program, which is an interesting environment, especially for such a verbal kid, but the fact that the center hasn’t been returning my e-mails makes me uncomfortable.

Motherhood is all sorts of letting go and listening, so I suppose it’s time to take this next step and then listen and trust him when I ask how his day was.


P.S. ICYMI, my last post was a shoutout to a few local mamas who I admire! 

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Motherhood: 18 months in


This isn’t the right analogy in a lot of ways, because I’ve always loved my son. But early on he often felt like this really cute but exhausting roommate who did a lot of puking on me at the just the wrong times and turned my nights and days unpredictable and my body unfamiliar. Early motherhood kind of strung me out, living with this demanding relative stranger who was my own flesh and blood.

Parenting a toddler is pretty challenging, too, but I’m finding the experience enjoyable and rewarding. Suddenly, that darling mystery is turning into a charming friend. (Don’t get me wrong, because there are tantrums. Full-on, face down on the floor screaming and kicking tantrums so ridiculously textbook that I have to stifle my laughter.) I think it’s his grasp of language, and imagination. Personality. Sometimes, a taste of my own sassitude bounced back at me.

I’ve learned that days go most smoothly when I don’t expect Emmett to be occupied by a toy, but try to engage him in an activity. Sometimes this means we can work on parallel projects and sometimes it means I’ve become a boat and he’s riding my legs down the river, or we’re making soup together. The whole world has clicked for him and he wants to be a part of it. And, as parents, we’re re-discovering the world and words, too. (Of course, I felt less starry-eyed about this stage a few weeks ago, during an epic sleep regression that meant Joe and I would take turns falling asleep with Emmett on his floor at 3 a.m.) Daily life.

The joy of hearing his litany of two-word phrases: up high! another one! bless you! help you (for help me)! go outside! close door! His little inside jokes (which might be hilarious to just Joe and me) and the way he tickles my back and his obsession with trucks and cooking and books and bubbles and babies. The way he voice-over-narrates his every activity: Running! Pooping! Falling! His malapropisms: waffles = awfuls.

I’m in love. And, with babyhood in the rearview mirror, I think – I hope! – if and when we get on that crazy train to number two – I’ll embrace the early weeks and months a little more.



Plus, a few favorite parenting links lately:

I heard this Fresh Air interview of the author of Overwhelmed when it first came out, and it was on when I turned on the radio to run a friend to an errand this morning. Totally what I needed to hear. Again. (I just went back and noticed I linked to it in my post about motherhood, 9 months in!)

A friend who is a new mom linked to Our ‘Mommy’ Problem awhile back and I kept thinking ‘YES!’// I love being part of a book club where it’s about being a woman and a reader (and wine-drinker/pizza-eater) and not necessarily about being a mom.

Catching up on ‘How we Montessori’ blog posts for some simple activities Emmett and I can do together. I read this when I was pregnant/he was tiny and it seemed like it would take forever before he could actually do any of the work, but I suddenly realized he’s ready for some of these concepts. He moved his learning tower over to help wash dishes last night and loves putting away and getting out his own plates and bowls I put in a bottom drawer.

We watched “The Gruffalo” and then “The Gruffalo’s Child,” two delightful short movie adaptations of children’s books that are streaming on Netflix. Joe and I loved it just as much as Emmett, who was calling out the names of all of the animals. In snowy scenes in the sequel, he was feeling empathetic about the Gruffalo child being out in the cold. Needless to say, we’ll be getting these books!

I wish I’d known about The Longest Shortest Time when I was in those early months. It’s still pretty great at this point. And the spinoff tumblr, It’s Like They Know Us.

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Little boy at the barbershop

Emmett turns 18 months old next week (!!!) and Joe starts his new job with the Iowa Natural Heritage Foundation tomorrow (!!!) so the gentlemen of the house decided to mark their milestones with a visit to the barber. There’s a fine line between shaggy chic and just plain scraggly and both were walking it.


Joe goes to an old-school barber shop down the street from our house between my at-home haircuts, so we decided to forgo the whole kid haircut place and have them go together. Of course, I had to be there to document it. Dad went first while Emmett watched from a mount of bravery.


The Roosevelt Barber Shop (Est. 1919) had board book about trucks, mounted taxidermy, Christmas decorations, a (broken?) horse ride and dum-dum suckers, which is really all a toddler needs to be enthralled.


Booster seats, penguin capes and quick-fingered barbers kept things cool.




And for mom, an envelope to save those sweet baby curls and an official first haircut certificate.


Emmett was super well-behaved during the whole cut. He’s started talking up a storm these past few weeks and kept saying “wow” when he’d see the other guys get clippered and buzzed. I think he looks pretty darn handsome, but he’s definitely more little boy than baby, now!


Now it’s my turn to make a hair appointment! (I’m more of a Salon Spa W girl, myself.)

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Toddler wish list

I’m looking forward to celebrating Christmas with a toddler. Emmett’s at this magical age where I’m pretty sure he’ll love the boxes and wrapping paper just as much as anything that comes in them.


Our holiday letter-writing tradition brings me such simple joy, and I want to try to keep the season sane as our family grows. We have adopted the four-present precedent some families set so I don’t go crazy getting Emmett All. The. Things.


  • Joe found a Strider bike on Craigslist and now that Emmett is finally walking, I’m imagining there will be some indoor shenanigans with it before the spring thaw.
  • Poor kid still gets his lunch packed in my old breastmilk coolers, so when I saw this Skip Hop cutie on clearance at Target I knew he’d love having a zoo lunchbox like his cool older cousins.
  • I have a soft spot for a boy in Sambas. My dad, brother and Joe all default to this classic shoe, and it will be special for Emmett to follow in their footsteps, especially since Emmett will never meet his papa.
  • Oliver Jeffers books are so sweet, and I’ve had my eye on This Moose Belongs to Me since before Emmett was born.

We’ll probably also do a few little stocking-sized trucks (the kid is obsessed) and get some special Christmas jammies to wear on the Boone Scenic Railroad Santa Express (which I hope isn’t sold out yet!)

Pretty unrelated, but did you all see the Pretzel Parker House Rolls recipe on Smitten Kitchen the other day? All I want for Christmas are those.

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Year over year

October 23, 2014

10724182_802709706460187_1488208128_nOctober 25, 2013 autumn-rainbow


My dog, my boy and a leaf-crunching walk. Sixteen months in is my favorite point yet. This apple-munching toddler. He knows the names of so many things, is always climbing, gaining independence and strength. Ideas all his own. And jokes! He’s started feeding his toys, making little sucking and squeaking noises and running his little car along the edge of everything. Vrrroooom! Off we go. Time flashing by, yellow confetti ahead and behind. Thank you, October.  

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Motherhood: One year in

I celebrated my first anniversary as a mom last weekend, chasing my freshly minted 1-year-old boy. These days he is bursting with energy, curiosity, things to say. Pausing every now and again for a few cuddles before his next expedition.


I think back to the days and nights of last June, when new motherhood was an overwhelming tidal wave of emotion and exhaustion. I remember what everyone told me: The days are long, but the years go by so fast. And it’s true. Here we are, heading into a second summer, older, and maybe a little wiser.

I’m by no means a perfect mother, but I am a happy one.

There isn’t much room for selfishness in motherhood. The million little chores and acts — the diaper changes, meal preparations, bathtime and bedtime routines, up rocking in the middle of the night — involve choices that put your child’s interests before your own. The weight of this responsibility is enormous and sometimes, if I’m honest, it can drag a mama down.

It’s in the midst of these days that we parents need to – proverbially – do what flight attendants direct in every safety spiel: Put your oxygen mask on first. You won’t be able to help the kid next to you if you can’t breathe.

Do all those little thankless tasks. And do something for yourself. Don’t feel guilty. Take a shortcut, if you can, call a sitter, lean on your spouse and give yourself permission to focus for a little bit on something just for you. The book club with your girlfriends. A long run. A pedicure. A getaway.

 I’ve learned that if I can’t recognize the person I want be when I look at the mirror (or, more often, my calendar) — how can I expect my child to see that in me? 


My earlier posts on motherhood are here.


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A Father’s Day story

Last year on Father’s Day, we brought Emmett home from the NICU after our first weekend entrenched in the harrowing experience of parenthood. Yesterday, we watched our freshly-minted 1-year-old boy squeal and repeatedly climb all over the playground, launching himself headfirst, upside down and backwards down the slide.



Two emergency room visits, hundreds of restless nights and moments of delight and desperation later, we’re celebrating his first birthday with a little family party today.

Through it all, I’ve tried to keep perspective thinking of my friends Tim and Gretchen, who welcomed triplet girls just two weeks after Emmett was born. Every time I melted down, I thought of their challenge and — although it turns out I didn’t know the half of it — our struggle seemed to shrink.

I’ll never forget the morning Tim and I met up for tea, me bumping out at around 24 weeks and he told me about their incredible pregnancy, which Tim chronicled in his fantastic blog. I was over at the Paluchs a couple of weeks ago and Gretchen (whose boundless grace never ceases to amaze and inspire me) mentioned Tim, my former editor, was writing again. I think I literally hopped with joy to hear it.

Whether or not you’re a parent, a great Father’s Day read this weekend is Tim’s personal essay for Esquire on becoming a dad:  http://www.esquire.com/features/tim-paluch-hardest-decision?src=soc_fcbks

Tim gives voice beautifully to the fear and joy they felt. I’m so grateful to know these brave friends and to raise my kid alongside the Paluch 3-pack! 3pack


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9 months: Our baby essentials

Yesterday I blogged about my mindset as a mother, nine months in, so today I thought I’d share some of the stuff that we’re finding really helpful/like a lot at this stage. It’s easy to find lists of what to register for for newborns, but we’ve definitely entered a new phase.


OXO Sprout high chair, $249 
We scored this for 40% off, thanks to Joe’s professional discount, and it’s definitely one of my favorite splurges. Our floor plan is very open and the thought of looking at/maneuvering around a gigantic plastic high chair for years was depressing. I love that the legs are wooden but the seat, tray and cushion are easily wipe-able. It’s modern and it can be adjusted to grow with the child. Someone, please find me a set of adult dining room chairs just like this!

IKEA MULA block set, $7.99
A friend gifted these to us and they are Emmett’s favorite, in addition to his Sassy lookbook. He’s obsessed with pulling on strings (like my hoodie strings and zipper pulls) and he loves to pull the cart closer to him and inspect the blocks. I’m not going to lie, though. His favorite toy is the plastic bag of wipes, my glasses and things he can wave around in his hand. We’re big on waving right now.


ScratchMeNot mittens, $24.95
These things are the reason I haven’t gone insane and Emmett doesn’t look like he’s been mauled by a rabid raccoon. Totally amazing for families struggling to manage eczema. He learned how to pull the socks off his hands a few months ago, and a couple we know told us these little shrugs are worth the investment. You can flip the cuffs so the kiddo’s hands are free, or fold them down into silk-covered mittens, which are a lot softer on his face than cotton socks. We have three pairs and he wears them constantly.

Hannah Anderson Night Night sleeper, $34

It pains me to pay more than $3 for an article of clothing that Emmett could grow out of in the blink of an eye. (I’m not that cheap, but the kid is in the 93rd percentile for height and already rocking 18 month duds. Plus, garage sales FTW.) We got one of these organic cotton zippered sleepers as a gift and I asked my mom to get another one when they went on sale. Stripes + zippers are my melting point when it comes to baby gear. Whoever invented snap pajamas was a sadist.


Diano Radian carseat, $270ish
Emmett is super tall, so outgrew his Chicco Keyfit carseat in a hurry. We asked for this for Christmas and got one then and another more basic Diano later, because we alternate dropping E off and picking him up. The big boy carseat expense was a punch to the wallet, for sure. We went with the Diano because we heard they’re a good option for tall kids.


Munchkin rubber ducky bath, $11.79
I’m weird and didn’t want to buy a baby bathtub because they’re big and clunky and you don’t use them very long. We started out bathing Emmett in the sink, then I would get in with him in the big bath. But because of his eczema, we have to give him a bath every other night and so I caved. I saw Cara had this bath for her daughter, and love that it’s inflatable/portable, but mostly I like that it’s shaped like a giant rubber ducky, OK? Emmett started trying to drink the bath water this week. What a weirdo.

A few other things: Emmett loves to feed himself, so we don’t do much pureed baby food unless we’re out of sweet potato, broccoli, peas, pears, cantaloupe, etc. We like the Plum Organics stuff, and often rely on their puffs as a distraction to get E to stop scratching. We’re still using the Bum Genius diapers at home and I’ve been really happy with them, although we did switch to Pampers Overnights because we’re not hardcore. An exersaucer is also a great thing, especially if you can get a good one secondhand.


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Motherhood: 9 months in

Sometimes, I guard my heart against the good things. I fear that by grasping too tightly, I’ll shatter what I hold dear and its tiny shards will cut my empty hands.

If I am honest with myself, I think I began my life as a mother this way. Tentative. Cautious. Holding my breath so I could hear his. I read too many tragic stories, wept over other mothers’ losses. If they didn’t deserve the cruel hurt, what would protect me? I felt I was too happy and hopeful for my own good.

And then, the first time I saw my baby boy — aside from the few brief moments he was pressed to my chest — he was connected to tubes and wires and, well, we haven’t exactly had an easy start. An emergency surgery. Another trip to the E.R. this month for an allergic reaction. Wondering: Is this the day our little world will come crashing down?

But each morning, he’s here. Now reaching for a string, chewing on a block, waving, babbling, launching himself forward but not quite crawling. Standing, squealing, picking up pieces of sweet potato and pear and pasta and navigating them to his mouth. We laugh and joke. I wonder how it’s possible.


I see him with my grandfather and marvel that they should share the same days, however limited those may be. I think often of my grandfather’s mother, loving him as I do my own small son. I wonder how we have the courage to put people on the earth, hoping we will leave them first. Hoping that they will know their great-grandchild’s hand in their own. Knowing nothing is a guarantee.

Maybe there’s a formula in quantum physics that can explain the ever widening part of my heart where he lives, but for me it’s a little bit of independence for us both. I am happy; I am embracing his life and my own experiences, the overwhelming immensity of motherhood and my own daily moments.

P.S. I caught part of this interview on Fresh Air the other day and found it interesting. I could not ask for a better co-parent than Joe, and believe how we navigate our responsibilities and time together has been a critical aspect of fostering a happy house. An interesting listen for parents and prospective parents. 


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