Tag Archives: mom

get rid of clutter: it makes kids happier, too


My almost two-year-old is entering his defiant phase.

“OK, CP, time to clean up!” I say after dinner. “You’re in charge of the Legos.”

“No,” he says with a smile, and then turns in circles, arms out like an airplane. Or he walks away and grabs a toy car and starts pretending it’s zooming on the furniture. And then grins at me with that infuriating glimmer.

“CP,” I say with a sterner tone, pointing at the rug. “Legos.”

This happened three nights in a row. Three nights ago, when his exasperated brother tried to boss CP into cleaning, CP took a heavy wooden car and hit CM in the mouth. CM wailed; I put CP on the couch, and he giggled at me when I told him how unhappy I was and we don’t hit in this house. (I later told A. it was time for me to read up on toddler discipline again, because CP’s personality is so different from CM’s. I default to this woman’s advice, and I’m also going to pull out some of the books on my shelf.)

Two nights ago, when CP wasn’t cleaning after several prompts, A. and I decided to put the Legos away. He put them on top of the fridge, so CP could see them and ask for them.

Yesterday morning,  CP was wandering the house.

“Mama, I can’t find the Legos anywhere,” he said in whiny voice, hands up-turned.

“CP, you didn’t clean up last night,” I said. “You don’t get to play with them for a few days.”

He cried for a moment and then said, bottom lip out: “Ohhhh.” It’s tricky because I’m not sure he really gets it yet.

But here’s what I noticed. With the Legos out of sight, the boys got along better. They played in a huge cardboard box we’ve had for two weeks that we turned into a “house.” They giggled and pounded on the box like it was a bongo. Then they jumped into a toy bin and pretended it was a hot air balloon. Later in the morning, I took them on a hike in the Sandia Foothills and they walked on what was left of the snow and jumped in the mud, and CP made up a song that went, “CM, I loooove you.”

The boys don’t need much to be happy. We’re all about simple play. We want to foster their independence, creativity and love of nature. Sometimes the best idea, even though it can feel hard in the moment when they’re upset, is to simply put those toys away.




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from the eyes of a toddler

One of the great joys of having a kid is watching them discover the world around them and how they fit into it. I watch the gears in C.’s brain move, oiled and quick, with many ah-ha! moments. The first time he walked, he hyperventilated with joy — deep breaths, face all smiles. His imagination shows itself when he opens my glasses case and balances it on his head and says, “Hat!” or when he bites a tortilla filled with hummus into a shape and says, “Horse!” or when he points to scribbles he drew with blue sidewalk chalk and says, “Seahorse!”

Here is his latest discovery: What happens when he blows into an inch of milk. He watched the bubbles grow and grow and grow until they spilled over the edge.


Oh I know it’s cliche, but this 20-month-old just keeps getting funnier and sweeter and more and more fun. Lately, he surprises me by saying things like, “Papa drive blue car work” (after A. leaves the house in the morning) and, in the evening, when I tell him A. should be home soon, he says, “Wait driveway?” He’ll throw his hands up in a funky dance and make monster noises and then say, “Mama, do it?” In the car yesterday morning on the way to a coffee shop, C. said, “All over the place,” and I said, “What’s all over the place?” and he said: “Mountains” and I looked out at the Sierras on my left, white on the top, and B Mountain on the right. Last week was the first time he said, “Mommy. Love mommy.” And then later, “Mama, hold my hand.” Melt.



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we scared off a bear in yosemite

I’ve had visions of what I would do to protect C. if our house flooded or if a fire blazed or if we were attacked by a mountain lion on a hike. I’ve even envisioned sacrificing my life for C.’s I’m sure I’m not the only mother to do this.

But when I looked up on Friday evening as we sat in our camping chairs with our jet boils making dinner in Yosemite on Lake Harden, this came out of my mouth, very quietly and calmly: “There’s a bear.”

It was walking toward our campsite, its head peeking over logs, sniffing our cous-cous. It looked small — at first I thought it was a baby. A. and I and our friends R. and R. looked at each other and said, “What should we do?” and then we remembered to make a racket to scare off a black bear. We started yelling, and the bear ran off, but at a safe distance it looked back at us.

All the while, I knew that C. was by my left side, but I didn’t know where, exactly, just close, and my eyes were fully focused on the bear. Our friend R. took A.’s walking stick and chased after it to ensure it wouldn’t come back (and it didn’t).

Here’s what surprised me: That I didn’t grab C. and hold him tight. But I also wasn’t scared – and I didn’t want to scare C. The bear was ambling along and it looked lumbering and curious, but not angry and certainly more frightened of us. Had it come closer, I most surely would have nabbed C.

A friend of mine said, “Good work” for scaring the bear away. I said I was more proud of myself for hiking three miles with 35 pounds of toddler on my back and sleeping two nights in a tent as dirty as can be with an equally dirty child.

I admit that I find back-country camping a bit stressful because of the wildlife, the physical strain, the lack of sleep, wondering if we packed enough food and being far away from any help if there is an accident.

But on this trip it was all worth it when I had one of the sweetest moments so far in C.’s 20 months, as we lay in our sleeping bags in the dark, looking at each other. He kept putting his hand near my mouth and I said, “If you put that near my mouth, I’m going to kiss it!” And he did and I lunged with puckered lips and he giggled like crazy, over and over. Then he rubbed my arm before taking my hand and closing his eyes and falling asleep in the woods.





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routine: a love-hate relationship

C. and I have fallen back into our daily routine since returning from vacation. I love being home, but, after a week, I’m already dreaming about how to shake up our quiet days. I love routine and I hate routine. C., however, thrives in it.

We’ve been spending the mornings reading Ezra Jack Keats and picking the final sweet green grapes off our dwindling vine. By mid-morning, we leave the house — we meander to the library or music class so C. can run around with the 2-year-olds who yell and giggle hysterically at a fly buzzing in the room. Yesterday, we swam at a friend’s pool, and C. blew bubbles and smiled when I laid him on his back on top of the water, his rounded belly like a half sun coming up over the horizon.

But when it’s just the two of us at home, mostly in the late afternoon when my energy slips, C. has been digging into drawers and pressing buttons — including mine. He turned on one of A.’s machines in his shop, and scraped his middle finger. He pulled my curling iron out of a bathroom drawer and dragged it across the house to an outlet. He was quiet for much too long, and I found him sitting on the carpet in my bedroom, his thumb pressed in my deep purple eye shadow, his lips and tongue sparkling with powder. I left him on the patio for a moment while he worked on a paint-with-water print — a photo of a boy driving a tractor — and I returned to the paint cup at his lips, his elbows bent, water stained down the front of his shirt and pooled at his feet.

The highs are still pushing 100, so I stay inside while C. naps, catching up on the news and emailing friends. I’m slowly working my way through Dr. Zhivago. But I’ve been feeling a bit antsy, a bit crabby, a bit cooped up. I’m quite sure it’s the routine — and my lack of projects — and feeling sluggish in the summer desert heat.

So I keep reminding myself: This is life as a stay-at-home mom. And this is a special time.

And I remember to cherish certain moments with my 19-month-old, like last night, after dinner, while the sun set, and C. and I drew with thick chalk on our patio — he said he was drawing “A’s” and “ovals” and then he pointed to some scribbles and said it was a helicopter. “A helicopter?” I said, my eyes a bit wide, “Really?” “Uh-huh,” he said, very seriously. “That’s really cool,” I said. “I like the propeller.” And he looked back down at his drawing and smiled proudly.



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a toddler, books and … tears?


One of the wonderful things — and curses — of living in the desert is the quiet. So much quiet. The wind is fierce, the air is dry and the summers are hot. This week, the temperatures are pushing 100 degrees — a hint of what’s to come. Our swamp cooler kicks on at random times during the day and I have to park under trees and stretch a shade across the windshield.

There aren’t many toddler classes in town, the city is shutting down its only public pool for lack of resources and it’s getting too hot to go to the park.

That means that C. and I are spending most of our time at home or at the library. At home, we don’t watch TV — and so we read. A lot.

The tiny, shabby desert library is open Tuesday-Thursday and the kids’ section is meager. We’ve run across gems like Jim Aylesworth’s “Little Bitty Mousie” and Pamela Edwards’ “Warthogs Paint” about colors (C. still calls everything “bue”), but I feel like in a few weeks we’ll have picked over the stock.

As I skim through books, I notice that many of them have characters behaving badly, and I gently close them and return them to the shelves. A. and I have read that what you read to kids can influence them in ways you might not realize. Kids don’t have the staying power or ability to comprehend a resolution. They just pick up the bad behavior.

What we didn’t expect was for a book to make C. cry. This is new for our almost 17-month-old: His chin wobbles and he tears up when a book ends with a “goodbye.” He has no problem saying bye to A. in the morning, or bye to me if A. takes him to Home Depot. But a book about a mouse leaving a museum had him crying over the weekend. And a book about boats had him in hysterics yesterday evening.

Continue reading


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the land of meltdowns

Last week, A. and I crossed into the land of meltdowns (said with a booming voice) where storms can unleash with little warning. Our little helper — who loves to sweep, rubs down the floor with tissues and toddles to the trash can to throw away litter — gave me his first forceful “NO!” when I tried to change his diaper. It was accompanied by a little kick and I raised my eyebrow, like, “Really? You’re going to go there?”

In general, this kid is awesome. He wakes up in his crib and reads to his llama and owl for an hour. The other day I heard him counting. He giggles like crazy and has a new way of saying, “Hi!” that brightens up a room. He sings to himself, and says things like, “Mama, hat, on” when he wants me to put on a hat and “Book, couch” when he wants to read with me. He says “mama, nine” (that’s wine) and “papa, beer.” (Hmmmm…) He always says please (“peas”) and he grabs my face to give me kisses.


And now there is this budding streak of independence and “no” is his new favorite word. Last week, he tried to shake off my hand and run into the street. I grabbed him, jerked him to safety and made him look me in the eye while I told him why that wasn’t OK. Major Meltdown. (A few drivers flashed me sympathetic smiles.) He has a new fascination with outlets and crouches down to see if he can look into the wall. Cool! Electricity! He drags us objects to plug in and we shake our heads, “No, buddy, how about we don’t plug in the curling iron where you can step on it?” Meltdown. He loves the food processor plunger, but we decided that hey, maybe that’s not a great toy so let’s lock that cabinet. Meltdown.

He’s only 16 1/2 months, but I’m seeing a rapid change. It’s natural development and A. and I agree that we’d worry if he didn’t go through this stage. And, really, he’s so much easier than when he was an infant and I had a trillion hormones coursing through me and his cries made me want to crawl into a corner, curl into a ball and rock. So much easier.

But I’m getting prepared for this new stage: I plan to put on a heavy raincoat and boots AND carry an umbrella as we enter the land of meltdowns.


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a taste of freedom in LA


Last Thursday, I went on my first solo overnight trip since C. was born (I know! 15 months is too long, but that whole nursing thing has gotten in the way). I had a doctor’s appointment at UCLA (all is well), and stayed with my friend S. in Venice beach. I had no idea how it would go, but a few things surprised me.

I was looking forward to some “me” time — but as I was driving south through the Mojave desert looking at desert brush, deserted trains and blue sky, my mind kept wandering to C. I kept getting visions of him cocking his head to the side and smiling so big you can see all of his six teeth and I was laughing to myself like a wacko in the car.

S. took me to get drinks at The Tasting Room. We had scotch and ginger drinks and saw the actor who played Charlotte’s bald Jewish husband on Sex in the City. He was shorter in person than on the screen, surprise surprise. And I felt a little bit old and a little bit frumpy and I didn’t care.

Then we had a 9 o’clock dinner at Gjelina, a hip restaurant that had more than an hour wait. We shared several tasty dishes and the vegetable list looked exactly like what I’ve been making at home from our farm box (which, trust me, is shocking) — kale, cauliflower, beets. And by 11, I was yawning incessantly. I guess that’s my new bedtime.

The next morning, after my doctor appointment, I found a brunch place in Santa Monica where I could sit outside next to a heat lamp, have a latte and breakfast burrito, and eavesdrop on the LA glitterati. I also took my writing notebook. But I spent the whole time talking with my sister-in-law about parenting. I also could see a bookstore from my seat: Books and Cookies. It was wholly for kids. So, of course, I went over and browsed the shelves and took mental notes of what they sell. I read so many kids books daily, that buying a new one is actually a treat for me so that I don’t lose my mind.

I think a night or two here and there away from C. is really healthy. What surprised me most is when I pulled onto our block, I actually had butterflies. When I walked in the door, I could hear bare toddler feet slapping on hardwood floors as C. ran to me calling “mama” and circled his chubby arms around my neck.

After I put him down for a nap, I tackled A. and held him tight and said: “Thank you for taking me to the desert.” Now that C. is almost fully weaned, my next night away from C. will be with A. I can’t wait.


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desert shadows

When I moved to the desert, I noticed the shadows. Everywhere. Early morning, late afternoon, long shadows on the sidewalk, on the brick wall in our backyard, on the sand. C. notices, too, and points and I’ll jump up and down or wave my arms over my head or put out two fingers to exaggerate our figures. He’ll watch me and giggle. Yesterday, just before the sun set, I was holding C. on my hip near our front door and saw his shadow on the stucco — he still hasn’t quite grown into his head, his cheeks are like balloons and his lips are pink and full. I love his profile. I love this little boy.



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thank you palm springs

I love travel. Always have. But lately, I have quietly struggled when C. doesn’t sleep well on the road. Often, he’ll cry that first night in a new place, which stresses me out, and he won’t nap, which makes for a fussy baby. Not this weekend.

We met friends in Palm Springs for three nights, and C. slept like an angel. He went down easily for the night in his travel crib. He napped on two hikes — one overlooking Palm Springs and another in the Indian reservation (where we saw the spring for which the city is named — a true oasis). He napped in the car on the way to Joshua Tree.

And then, on our last day, he took a late afternoon nap so that A. and I could dip in the heated pool just outside the door of the condo we rented for the weekend. I fit into my pre-pregnancy bathing suit (yay!) and enjoyed the sun’s warmth and felt so relaxed and happy. Yeah, I like California in the winter.



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the things he carries

One thing that consistently has me giggling these days is catching C. carrying objects through the house. He’ll show up in the kitchen, where I’m drinking my coffee and reading the news, with my electric toothbrush or the trash can full of lint from the laundry room. It’s even funnier when the objects are twice his size or three times as long as him. And he’s on a mission to take the (insert object here) into nearly every room, toddling on unsteady legs. I mean he really concentrates: He furrows his brow, breathes hard and focuses so he doesn’t tumble and take the object with him. Here are some of the more surprising ones as of late that had me cracking up.

A full carton of chicken broth, carried upside down.

A full carton of chicken broth, carried upside down, away from the kitchen. Far, far away.

AA tub of toys, including Q-tips found in a drawer in the bathroom.

A tub of toys, including Q-tips found in a drawer in the bathroom.

For a while he was managing the broom and the Swiffer. He abandoned the Swiffer in haste.

For a while he was managing the broom and the Swiffer. He abandoned the Swiffer in haste.

Here he's treating the wall as if it's a lion and he's a lion tamer.

Here he’s treating the wall as if it’s a lion and he’s a lion tamer.

He didn't make it far without tumbling. Why? Zero visibility

He didn’t make it far without tumbling. Why? Zero visibility.

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