Dear Daniel,

Birthday boy, bright-eyed and eager

I had hoped to post this on Saturday, your actual birthday.  However, your sweet voice trilled happily over the monitor before 6 AM and when your eager feet hit the floor, I don’t think they stopped moving all weekend.  As a result, that meant that mommy and daddy’s feet didn’t stop moving either.  There was no time for mommy to slip away to her laptop or even to form a coherent thought.

You turned three years old at 6:48 AM on Saturday.  Three!  You are very much all little boy now, and my chubby-cheeked baby has stretched into a 39-inch tall string bean who looks much older.  Daddy and I were reminiscing over the last year, and I’m sorry to say that it was a stressful one for our little family.  Each day was carried out under an omni-present cloud of anxiety and worry about Mum’s health and that made its way down to you as we had IMPORTANT discussions in hushed voices and upended routines.

And I cannot forget the stress caused by our foray into preschool, how miserable you were and how I doubted my intuition and scrutinized your every gesture, conversation or interaction like you were a science experiment that needed to be fixed.  And finally, the biggest change of all in May: going to daycare every day instead of your grandmother’s.


I’m so sorry for how rough and confusing the year was.  We tried our hardest to shield you from the craziness going on and let you continue to be the happy, cheerful little boy you are.  I’m amazed at how much you have changed.  A year ago you weren’t speaking much, but now you are a chatterbox.  It was in the fall that I realized you had memorized the books we read each night and could recite them on your own.

You also started telling jokes – quite clever ones actually!  Daddy and I still giggle about how you called Lucy’s tail her “tender.” You’ve started to sing the songs you know, and you have an excellent voice!   You’ve handled the daycare transition well – much better than I thought you would – and you are talking about your classmates at home; it makes us smile to think that they are telling their parents about you.

You stopped that heart-stopping running off the minute I turned away when we were outside and now display a love of nature that I hope we can nurture and help last.  You see beauty where others see weeds, and I’m reconciled to the fact that any flowers we plant may be there only for you to admire and pick.  Our porch and driveway are littered with your floral offerings.  Your artistic ability astounds me: your coloring has progressed from scribbles to trees, grass, rainbows and suns that look remarkably like what you say they are.

It’s a rocket, perverts!

Unfortunately you had a few other milestones that were unpleasant, yet unforgettable.  I’ll never forget the night you coughed at your easel and out came a tell-tale bark: croup!  But croup was nothing compared to your cutting open your chin and needing stitches.  The nice doctor who fixed your chin helpfully told us that those stitches were unlikely to be your last after he observed you in the waiting room.

Sweet Pea, you are so loving.  You give the best hugs, and it is precious how you pat our backs when you give us hugs as if to say, “There, there.  It’s ok, Mommy.” You have a huge heart, and I love that you comfort crying classmates or become upset when you think others are upset or sad.  You are always on the go, racing to get a different stuffed animal from your room, bringing an armful of trains into the kitchen or building long trains on your train table, but I am very impressed with how long you can concentrate on an activity you enjoy.

I hope 3 will be a great year for you.  We’re going to the beach soon, and I’m looking for a soccer team for you since you are enviably coordinated.  I can’t wait to see how you continue to develop and grow.

Happy Birthday!

Saucy boy enjoying his cake

More on Working and Friends

I promised myself that I was going to try a lot of new things this year, both personally and professionally.  In the personal arena, I’m focusing on putting myself out there more and taking risks and that includes blogging and making friends. I am excited to report that I have a guest post today at Liberating Working Moms on the difficulty of making friends as a working mom.  Please check it out if you have a chance!

ISO: Friends

30-something working mom of a 2.5 year-old boy seeks fellow working mom w/ toddler for play dates and companionship who won’t freak out if my kid hits hers.   Must love trains, garbage trucks, slides, pizza (kid), wine, books, and Downton Abbey (mom). Read more

Cooking with Toddlers: Yogurt Cake

A few weeks ago, I mentioned that one of my lingering takeaways from Bringing Up Bebe had been how French families bake with their children from a very early age and how capable even the youngest toddlers were of preparing a batter.  It’s not so much the baking that struck me per se but the idea that my son, not quite three, might be capable of more than I often give him credit for.  I think that I too often fall into the mode of thinking that my son is too young to be able to do XYZ and therefore delay pursuing it.

As a result of reading the book, I decided to start baking with my son as often as possible in order to attempt to instill patience, an understanding of cooking and an appreciation for food.  I really like to cook.  The first career I ever wanted was to be a singer (??? Ok, I was 5 years old), but my second career (at the advanced age of 8) was to be an artist (never mind the fact I have no artistic ability) AND a chef.  I’m not at all the caliber of a restaurant chef, but I’ve always enjoyed cooking and watched my mother cook amazing homemade meals. Since Jimmy and I have started making many of our meals and sauces from scratch, I’m really excited that I might be able to pass along an appreciation of cooking and food to Daniel at such an early age.

The first recipe we made was yogurt cake, inspired from Bringing Up Bebe.  I didn’t use the recipe that Druckerman included but thanks to the awesome power of Google, I used Chocolate & Zucchini’s recipe with a few minor variations.  Due to limitations such as Jimmy buying a ginormous container of yogurt, we couldn’t use the yogurt container as the measuring cup.  Details, schmetails!

Yummy, yummy, yummy in my tummy


  • 2 eggs
  • 1 cup plain yogurt (I used Greek yogurt and was a bit liberal with it)
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1/3 cup vegetable oil
  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1 Tbsp rum
  • 1 teaspoon lemon extract


  • Preheat oven to 350 degrees
  • Line bottom of round pan with parchment paper and grease sides (I confess I did not do a good job with this part, so my cake looked a little misshapen)
  • Combine yogurt, eggs, sugar, vanilla, oil, rum, and lemon extract
  • Sift together flour, baking powder, baking soda and salt in another bowl
  • Combine dry and wet ingredients until just combined
  • Pour batter into prepared pan
  • Bake for 30-35 minutes (we found 32-33 to be perfect)


I loved making this recipe with Daniel.  He was able to participate throughout the entire process and had a good time.  The cake was amazing.  It was lighter than a pound cake but denser than the basic yellow cake, and I think the addition of lemon extract really helped.

Horrific picture of me; adorable sous chef

Mixing the batter

The cake cooked quickly. That first night, Daniel had a small bit and then refused to eat any more (grumble).  I had a few pieces over the next few days before declaring myself done.  I took the leftover cake to work, and my coworkers happily demolished it.

Parchment paper fail, but it got the job done.

Yogurt Cake and chocolate syrup FTW!

I would definitely make the cake again.  The yogurt cuts the sweetness but adds a depth to the cake that is rather unusual and very nice.  In my Googling, I saw several variations on the recipe that included more exotic ingredients such as fruit and nutella, so it looks like it is a very versatile recipe.


Roller Coasters

We wait.  My anxiety levels are through the roof.  My stress levels are high. I can feel the cortisol coursing through my body.  When the phone rings, I twitch before answering it.  J called me three times on Monday, and I almost screamed at him to stop calling me because every time he did, I worried he was calling with bad news.

Bad news.

That’s so…delicate.  Bad news.  Deterioration. Death. That’s what we are anticipating and dreading with each phone call.

We’ve been up, euphoric, one day with good news and down, despairing, the next with bad news.  We’ve had instances where those upheavals have occurred in the same day, almost hourly.

It’s tough, and I have no doubt that it is toughest of all on the patient, J’s beloved grandmother, and his mother, her daughter.  And of course on J and his brother and grandfather.  I have no problems giving J all the time he needs to spend with his grandmother and mother.

We love Mum.  We don’t want her to be in pain, and this up and down is terrifying and confusing.

Roller coasters are fun at amusement parks.  They are not fun when it is your life, your reality.

Tonight was a good night for Mum, so we took Daniel to see her.  Unfortunately, Daniel had not had a nap, so he deteriorated quickly after about 20 minutes.  Even though I had only arrived a few minutes before, I bundled my wee one into his coat and carried him to the lobby, ignoring his weepy protests of “Put down, Mama.”

Daniel means the world to Mum, and I hope she was able to witness her dynamo of a great-grandson for a few moments tonight.

I don’t know how many more moments we’ll have.

I’m beginning to hate roller coasters.

Our Christmas Card

First of all, I want to thank everyone who commented or even simply read Tuesday’s post about Daniel and his preschool problems.  I feel so supported and relieved.  I think everything will be ok, and we’ll continue to work with him so that he is comfortable at his preschool.  If not, we’ll consider other options.


Christmas cards are trickling in to our house.  We haven’t received very many this year (14 as of today), but I wonder if everyone else is having a year like we are.  I certainly am not judging affection by the number of cards we receive; it’s just an observation. I’m a notoriously late sender of cards.  No matter how hard I try, it always seems like my cards are arriving in mailboxes a couple of days before Christmas.

Since Daniel was born, we’ve sent photo cards.  Pre-Daniel, I sent cards with hand-written messages.  That was nice but I wonder if they were deciphered since I have horrid handwriting. I feel weird about the photo cards.  On the one hand, I love having family pictures taken and being able to send out a pretty card.  In our circle of friends and family, these cards are normal and as someone who has never felt very  normal, I like the opportunity to pretend to feel normal.

On the other hand, I feel like a fraud.  Decidedly abnormal.  I don’t know why, but I look at the cards I receive from others and agree that they are able to fit into the Norman Rockwell norm.  I always feel like we are shoe-horned into normalcy for these pictures.  I know, I know.  It’s all likely in my head and normality is relative anyway, but still, there is something about the process of having a family picture made and then made to fit a rectangular or square backdrop that makes me feel suffocated. Yeah, I’m weird.  That’s what I’m trying to say 🙂

This year due to time, a desire to save money (because who can ever go to Portrait Innovations and buy only one picture and cards?  It’s a money pit!) and well, mostly time, we decided to do our own cards.  Honestly, I’ve always wanted to do our own cards because I like to make it personal.  Ideally, I’d love to add a creative, funny touch.  Unfortunately, that hasn’t happened in years (we had one legendary card with one of our cats and a beer about 6 years ago).  I pulled together some of our favorite pictures from the last few months and arranged them on a template.  Thanks to the magic of Walgreens, they were ready the next day.  So, yes, the cards are personal but not as good as I’d like.

2011 Holiday Greetings

I hope you all have a wonderful holiday.  I’m off to cook my brains out because that’s what I do during holidays.  Wee One’s big gifts are ready, and we can’t wait to give them to him!  Santa arrives very soon, and we are so excited!

I can’t leave out the pets.  If you have cats, you might enjoy and/or identify with this video.

Merry Christmas.  I hope it’s great for all of you!

Boring Saturday

I had planned to write something profound today but alas, profundity escapes me. We had a weird Friday in which Daniel fell asleep on the way home but was restless during the night, which woke us up several times, so we are in the odd situation of having gotten good sleep technically but fragmented sleep overall. Also known as engendering little sympathy.

Today we had hair cuts and the grocery store plus an early night for Daniel due to a very abbreviated nap. As a result, it’s now barely after 8. We’ve eaten dinner & are discussing Christmas presents, but we are tired. It’s pathetic, but I would love nothing more than to go to bed soon. I’m exhausted.

I’m old. Or becoming that way.

Happily, our groceries for Thanksgiving are in the refrigerator. I love seeing a full refrigerator and love cooking for my family. It will be fun, and each year provides us an opportunity to create a new memory or a new tradition.

I hope your Saturday went well!

Culinary Adventures

Daniel is becoming very interested in what we do in the kitchen.  He is afraid of the oven (yay?), but he likes to imitate cooking with his pots and pans and play food.   We made fajitas tonight and for the first time allowed him to watch the prepping and cooking.  I admit to having ulterior motives because I’m hoping the more he plays with and sees us working with and eating foods he usually won’t touch, the more he’ll be inclined to give them a try.  That’s the theory anyway.

Meal Prep:  Veggie Chopping

Here he is watching J, the official sous chef, chopping peppers.

Giving Daniel a piece of red pepper

Daniel eventually ate that piece of pepper about 15 minutes later.

So all you do is de-seed and chop? Totally easy, Daddy

Watching Daddy chop the green pepper

Wait...what are you doing to the pepper?

Checking out Daddy's knife skills


As with everything culinary, presentation is key, so we spent a lot of time creating an intricate plate for a wee palate.

Yummy! Mini fajitas!

Time to Eat!

Finally the fajitas were ready and assembled.  J helped Daniel eat his since the fajita was a tad over-filled and would burst open, something Daniel’s two-year-old hands weren’t used to handling.

Doesn't this look yummy?

Daniel takes a bite!


The Verdict

The good news is that Daniel ate a few pieces of pepper and had several bites of a fajita as well as rice.  The bad news was that he declared “No more” after only a few minutes.  Oh well.  Though he didn’t eat as much as we would have liked, at least he tried it, and I have to credit including him in the prep and cooking process for those small victories.

How do you incorporate your child into cooking family meals?


I have an acquaintance who bugs me because she is so confident.  She is confident in her parenting abilities. She is confident in her appearance.  She is confident in her work abilities.  I’ve been thinking about why I am so bothered by her.  Part of me thinks it is outright envy.  After all, who among us hasn’t longed to be balls out about some topic in which we feel expert.  Or even not expert just confident that we are awesome?  Am I bothered by her because I feel held back from expressing the abilities I have and the subjects in which I feel strong?  Maybe I long to declare, “Boom.  I am expert.  Hear me roar.”

Maybe.  The old-fashioned Southerner in me finds something distasteful in her proclamations of awesomeness.  Modesty for modesty’s sake is irritating, but it is more irritating to find such self-confidence pushed in your face.  It seems unseemly.

I don’t know this woman well.  Maybe her confidence is just a well-cultivated exoskeleton designed to protect her from the cruel world.  Or maybe she really does have that much confidence.  She is younger.  I’m not saying that means she has experienced less but that she is of a different mindset.

When it comes to parenting, I feel like I am constantly learning.  I feel like my child changes on a daily or even hourly basis and I still marvel that we haven’t messed him up.   I’ve felt like an imposter lately when it comes to parenting and maybe that’s what I am responding to when I roll my eyes at this acquaintance.

I know a lot about various & sundry, mostly useless, things but my child remains as much of a mystery at 2.5 years as he did at 2.5 hours old.  I think that maybe my temperament is different from my acquaintance’s.  After initially seeing situations in black and white, I eventually started to see shades of gray and nuance.  I don’t claim to have all the answers, and I realize that there are many answers to a single question.

I’ve learned that often there is no one right answer or one book that contains all the right answers.  Sometimes math doesn’t add up when it comes to people. Deserving people constantly experience negative situations daily while undeserving ones profit.

So one the one hand, I envy my acquaintance’s confidence in her abilities and plans.  I’d like to feel that way but I am destined to question, always question.  While I’m questioning, I’ll enjoy cultivating Daniel’s love for the outdoors.


Fun outside!


How do you see yourself?  Are you confident or full of doubt?