Overheard in Our House

– A conversation between me and Jonathan hours before leaving C.J. with a sitter for the first time.

Me: I feel weird having a pizza delivery person go to the house with just the sitter there. What if he’s a psycho?

Jonathan: Dial it back, cuckoo.

Me: I don’t think that’s that crazy. Cute girl, all alone, babysitting, ordering pizza. That is a perfect recipe for a scary movie.

 Jonathan: Erika — would you not order pizza if you were by yourself?

 Me: Yeah, I would.  

Jonathan: What’s the difference? That’s nutty. I don’t think this is a, “Hello, Sydney” situation.

Me: The difference is, I’m a mama bear, and she is not.

Jonathan: This kid is going to need therapy. Should I just go to the movies with the babysitter and let you watch C.J.?

My Achy Breaky Heart

I opened the door. The sound of babies crying flooded my ears.

Crap, I thought.

My heart sank an inch. I had been fine until this moment.

Babies cry, I thought to myself. It’s practically their job.

I propelled myself further into the large, cheerful-looking room. For a moment, I stood quietly on the Kelly green rug, looking around, clutching C.J., keeping his face close enough to mine that I could feel his breath against my cheek.

Scanning the room, I recognized two other children from C.J.’s old classroom. They must have just moved up too, I thought. Both of them were crying, tears streaming down their little red faces.

My heart inched its way down a little deeper.

Babies in not-so-high chairs were lined up in a row along the front of the class. In front of them, Teacher #1 walked around with a bag of sandwich bread, placing torn-up little pieces on trays in front of them. It reminded me of someone feeding ducks in a pond. Off to the right, Teacher #2 was attempting to feed one of C.J.’s old classmates pureed baby food that looked like pears. I don’t remember what Teacher #3 was doing. Changing a diaper? Looking at papers on a clipboard?

I stood there expectantly. Am I supposed to say something first, or are they? I wondered.

“Hi,” I said, weakly. “This is C.J.”

“Oh,” they all said, sort of in unison.

“Hi, C.J.,” someone said.

“Look at those eyes,” Teacher #2 said, looking at C.J.

I stood there, waiting. For what, I don’t know.

In his old classroom, one or both teachers would rush to greet us, scooping C.J. up in their arms and talking sweetly to him. But this was not his old classroom, and no one was rushing to my baby’s side.

“When did he eat last?” Teacher #2 asked.

“7 a.m.,” I told her.

Teacher #3 came over. I think she introduced herself to me, but I can’t remember. She was not smiling as she reached for the diaper bag slung over my shoulder and put his bottles in the fridge. I asked a few more questions about naps and told them he’s been having a hard time sleeping during the day at school.

“That’s common,” they assured me.

I was still standing in the same spot, still waiting for the warmth his previous teachers had shown us. But they didn’t ask me a single question about my son. And not one of these women — these women I was leaving my child with almost every day for the next five months — made any move to come greet my child, make him smile, make me think they cared, make me feel at ease.

I felt a little bit silly. “Should I put him down somewhere,” I finally asked.

Teacher #2 sort of shrugged. “You can put him on the mat there,” she said.

The floor?  I thought to myself.

It’s not that I’m anti-floor — he spends plenty of time there at home. But to bring him in on his first day in a new class and set him down on the floor and leave? It just didn’t feel right. Unsure of what to do, I put him down, hesitantly. He propped himself up on his little hands and looked up. His lower lip puckered out, quivered.

C.J. began to cry. And still, no one came to hold my baby.

This. This was when my heart hit rock bottom.

I tried to play it cool and gave him a minute. When he didn’t calm down, I knelt down beside him and rubbed his back. I scooped him back up, gave him a kiss and set him back down, this time propped up against some soft, colorful blocks. He looked around, no longer crying. I let the teachers know I was going to grab his pacifier from the car, an excuse to distance myself from the situation for a moment.

I fought back tears on my way out. This wasn’t C.J.’s first day at daycare — only his first day in a new classroom. I hadn’t expected it to be difficult. Was it supposed to be? Was I expecting too much of these teachers? Had his previous teachers set the bar too high? Was I experiencing Mommy-melodrama? More than likely, it was a combination of all four. But I couldn’t help but think that on his first day in a new class, C.J. should have been welcomed a bit differently.

I gathered myself, grabbed a pacifier and walked back in, relieved to find Teacher #2 sitting in a chair, holding C.J.

My heart crept back up a quarter of an inch. As I washed off his pacifier, the school’s director walked in to see how it was going for the new kids in the classroom. Another quarter inch up it went.

I knew I had to leave. And I knew he’d be OK. I got in my car and let myself cry for a minute, hoping that when I picked him up later that afternoon, I’d find him smiling or in someone’s arms so that my heart might make its way back up to its rightful spot.

The Cutest DIY Baby Shower Invitations Ever

The Cutest DIY Baby Shower Invitations Ever

For the record, I am not a Do-It-Yourselfer. Martha Stewart would be appalled at my uncraftiness. For me, shopping at Michael’s is like wandering aimlessly through a foreign country. But I couldn’t resist making these Celebrate the Peanut shower invitations for the elephant-themed baby shower I’m co-hosting.

The mom-to-be has wanted a baby for a long time, and now, finally, she is just weeks away from giving birth to C.J.’s future bestie. There are seven of us hosting the shower, and we want it to be perfect — an amazing, slightly over-the-top shower to celebrate a long-overdue pregnancy.

Naturally, I turned to Pinterest — you know so I could browse thousands of far-fetched ideas I knew I would never in a million years undertake. (Thank you, endless hours of nursing and pumping for affording me the time.) But then I saw it. The most adorable baby shower invitation I have ever seen.

Celebrate the Peanut Baby Shower Invitation

Celebrate the Peanut

I know! How could I resist!? It seemed positively meant to be. I was so inspired that I dug deep (really deep) and channeled my inner DIY-er. Martha would be proud.

I can almost guarantee that at some point, you, dear reader, will take part in the planning of a baby shower. If I can do this, so can you. Here’s how I did it.

Step 1: Find boxes. Shopping! This part, I could handle.

I purchased these treat boxes with windows. They are a nice compact size for mailing, but most importantly, you can see the “Celebrate the Peanut” punch line.

Step 2: Buy crinkle paper, ribbon and of course, peanuts in the shell. More shopping! So far, so good.

Step 3: Make the invitation.

I work for a digital ad agency and am surrounded by graphic designers. Done and done. (If you don’t have direct access to an awesome designer, check out sites like Shutterfly, Vistaprint or find trifold business cards. Just be sure it’ll fit inside whatever box you choose. Try calling customer service so you can give them your exact specs.)

Step 4: Assemble the boxes.

Oy.

This part took me a while. Thankfully, I only had to assemble 21, but finding the right crinkle-paper-to-peanut ratio really is an art, as is tying the ribbon into a neat little bow. Wine helps

Step 5: Mail them.

The first place I took them to quoted me $10 apiece and I nearly fainted. Thankfully, the second place (good old, USPS) charged me just $2.25 for each one (I bought yellow mailing envelopes with bubble wrap at the dollar store and printed out my own navy blue address labels, complete with elephants on them).

The process above seems fairly simple, but it took me a good week and a half to complete all five tasks.

I couldn’t WAIT for my friend to get it in the mail. I felt like a kid waiting for Santa Clause. I mailed them on a Monday morning. Tuesday night, her name popped up on my phone. I played it cool.

“Hey, what’s up?” I answered, all nonchalant like.

“Um, are you trying to win an award for the Most Awesome Invitation Ever?” she asked.

Why, yes. Yes, I am. Cue silent happy dance and eye-rolling husband.

Minutes later, a text from a fellow shower co-host rolls in: “My parents are gushing over the invitation. You rocked it!”

I read the text aloud in a sing-songy voice for all to hear. Happy dance becomes even more obnoxious. Husband goes into full-on Ignore Crazy Wife mode; reaches for beer.

Wait until he sees the favors.

Must-Have Baby Gear for the First 6 Months

My pregnant friends always ask me what I couldn’t live without. Now that the first six months are under our belt (wahoo!), I thought it would be a good time to stop and reflect on what items really made our lives easier. Every mom will have her own answers. But other than the obvious necessities (i.e., diapers, wipes, diaper rash cream, a car seat, stroller and clothes), here’s a list of things I found invaluable during the first six months of motherhood.

1.       Fisher-Price Rock ‘n Play Sleeper

Taking a little snooze in the Rock 'n Play, swaddled in his sleepsack, paci never too far away.

While pregnant, I constantly wondered: Where will we put the baby when we’re not holding him? I know it sounds silly, but it was a real concern of mine. For us, the answer was the Rock ‘n Play. C.J. practically lived in this cozy little hammock-type contraption for the first four months of his life. To this day, it’s where he takes his best and longest naps, so when I really, realllly need him to sleep for more than one hour, that’s where I plop him.

2.       Gerber Prefold Birdseye Cloth Diapers

We use these as burp clothes (I’m far too lazy to use them for their intended purpose). I can’t stress it enough: You just can’t have too many of these. We have them strategically placed throughout the house, from the nursery and living room, to our nightstand and the back porch.

3.       Nursing Pillow

These just made feedings more comfortable for me and C.J. I’m still extremely reliant on it. We also use it to prop him up in sitting position.

4.       Swaddle Sleep Sacks

As soon as C.J. was big enough that these didn’t completely envelope him, we started using them at night for peace of mind (versus a blanket, which could potentially come loose). Once he went all ninja and started breaking out and threatening to roll over while swaddled, we began employing the infamous Double Swaddle Method. That’s right. Double Swaddle. He slept like this until very recently (10-12 hours a night, might I add).

5.       Activity Mat

Must Have Baby Items

Perhaps no other item brings me fonder maternity leave memories than our activity mat. We would spend hours on this every day, working on tummy time, reading books, swatting at the dangling animals (Larry the Lion, Elliot the Elephant, Marvin the Monkey, Zoey the Zebra and Wally the Whale) or just lying there staring at each other. I could never bring myself to throw this away.

 6.       Pacifier

I was one of those clueless, self-righteous souls who swore my kid would never use a pacifier. By week three, I was begging C.J. to take one. They’re a lifesaver on long car rides and out in public, when you don’t want to be the Mom with the Screaming Child. When he’s tired, cranky and fighting sleep, all I have to do is rock him a little and stick a paci in his mouth, and his eyes immediately start to flutter closed.

Note: He was picky with his pacifiers, so be sure to test out a few brands. When you find one he likes, buy 10 of them.

7.       Bouncy Chair

Admittedly, it took me a while to warm to this particular item. I mean, how much baby gear can one family have scattered around the living room? I started using it at around two months, and to this day, it’s my babysitter when I’m getting ready for work in the mornings. It keeps him entertained for up to an hour, and it’s lightweight enough that I can park it just outside the bathroom and keep an eye on him while I shower, do my hair, makeup and get dressed.

8.       Changing Pad Liners

Yes, in addition to changing pad covers. It must be a boy thing, but it seemed like for the first three to four months, every time we changed his diaper, he’d pee the second it came off. We perfected a series of Matrix-style pee-dodging moves that kept us mostly dry, however it seemed like we were stripping and washing our covers after every other diaper change. These just made life a little easier.

A New Mom’s Belated New Year’s Resolution

WindowI don’t usually make New Year’s resolutions. Well … I don’t usually keep New Year’s resolutions. But this year will be different. I know: EVERYONE says that. But perhaps announcing it on a blog for millions of readers to see (hey, a blogger can dream) will make it seem more real.

From the moment I learned I was pregnant, C.J. has consumed my life. Since before he was even a he, before he was a C.J., back when he was still a Samuel or an Emilia or a Jack or a Nora, this little being has found a way to infiltrate nearly every waking moment of my life, and on several occasions, even my dreams.

C.J. is now 7 months old. He’s been sleeping in his crib since he was eight weeks old. Yet, I still jerk awake several times a night to look at our video monitor. Still tiptoe into his room and put my finger to his nose to make sure he’s breathing. I examine his swaddle to make sure it’s not too tight, that no loose fabric has crept up over his perfect little nose, a miniature replica of his father’s. My weekends revolve around his feeding schedule. My non-existent gym going revolves around his feeding schedule. When and whether I enjoy a beer or glass of wine revolves around his feeding schedule. We have yet to leave him with someone other than a friend or family member, and even then, I have a nervous tick that compels me to check in every hour. (Let me just call and make sure we didn’t leave the doggie door open, I’ll tell Jonathan.)

I know it’s only been seven months. And I know this is normal behavior for new moms. At least, I hope it’s normal. But I’m ready for it to stop. I need it to stop. Or at least ease up a bit.

Don’t get me wrong; I like Erika the Mom. I really do. I’m actually pretty proud of her. But truth be told, she’s a little crazy and, frankly, a little boring. OK, so maybe I was already a little crazy. But no one ever accused me of being boring. Pre-Mom Erika used to do stuff. Like go to the gym and go out to dinner and speak in a language other than Baby Talk. I was capable of holding entire conversations that didn’t revolve around babies. I used to pay attention to my dogs and read for fun (I was almost finished with Mockingjay, the last installment of The Hunger Games, when I found out I was pregnant. I’m still working on it.).

Even as I write this, little waves of guilt wash over me. But then I remind myself that C.J. needs a mom who’s more than just his mom, and my husband needs a wife who’s more than a mother to his son.

So, this year, my New Year’s resolution (better late than never, right?) is not to lose weight (though given the fact that I can’t get my pre-pregnancy jeans halfway up my thighs, maybe it should be). It is to regain some semblance of Life Before Baby. To be a little less “mom” crazy and a little more “let’s get out of town this weekend” crazy. To finish Mockingjay once and for all. To find a good babysitter (or two). To go to the gym after work and let Jonathan handle C.J.’s dinner. To find a little more balance between Erika the Mom and just plain old Erika.