I hate when I start to notice something about myself that I don’t like.
I’m not talking about physically, like unwanted weight gain or a flurry of skin issues. I’m talking about my character.
I like to think that I’m pretty judicious in assessing my own flaws. I can keep things in perspective, sure, but I am self-aware enough to always know every last thing that’s wrong with me. (It’s like the world’s worst party trick!)
Lately, I can’t help but feel like I have the shortest patience of anyone on the planet.
To be fair, this flaw has had a slow build. I blame much of it on living in New York. But I really, really hate when I feel my flaws affecting the way I parent Vivi.
In the last few months, there have been a couple of times that I’ve caught myself totally snapping at her because she is doing something naughty. I do want to discipline her in a way that’s meaningful to her, but in these cases, I was just airing my frustration. To be fair, I’m usually tired or stressed or in the middle of too many things at once, but, honestly, those just don’t sound like good excuses to me. Like most parents, I don’t want to be someone who just yells all the time. I feel like it will just become white noise to the kid anyway.
When I do yell, I want it to strike fear into her tiny heart. #MomGoals
But, again, I don’t want that to be my go-to. I want to take a second first to breathe, collect myself, and parent in a positive way.
I’m probably being a bit naive. I know there is no way I’m going to never lose my patience, snap, yell, etc. Stressful NYC life or not, I’m still human.
But I’m still trying. In the last week, I can’t think of any time I really yelled, and I feel good about that.
Sometimes I forget that I’ve done this mom thing for such a short amount of time. When every moment with your child feels so precious and fleeting, it’s hard not to put too much pressure on yourself to be perfect. I’m glad that I can be aware of my failings, not as a way to constantly beat myself up (I really don’t, I promise) but so I can be attune to ways to improve always.
Thank goodness Vivi is so much more patient with me than I am with myself.
Most people who know me know that I love organizing. I even tried to start an organizing business a few years ago. It didn’t end up taking off, but I still “freelance” organize for friends and family from time to time. (Not letting the dream die!)
Yes, what I’m saying is that I organize for fun. And, like the sicko that I am, I really, really do enjoy it.
Which leads a lot of people to think that my home must be super organized all the time. And it is with great shame that I must admit…it’s not. ALWAYS. I do my best, I really do. Joey will tell you that I’m quick to toss any errant object and my favorite question is, “Do you still need this?”
But I live with two other people (and a Bogey), which means I can only do so much when it comes to paring down our belongings.
Recently, I’ve gotten on a tear about our closets. Some of you may remember from my moving-in post, but our apartment is a weird labyrinth of winding hallways and strangely shaped rooms. It also has nine closets.
This is unheard of in New York City living. And while it’s great for storing stuff out of sight (yay!), it also means it’s wayyyy too easy to hoard things we don’t really need.
“Hmm, what to do with all these extra bits and bobs from IKEA? Let’s just put them in this drawer in case we need them later.”
“Dang, these kitchen items don’t fit in the drawers…let’s tuck them in here for now.”
“I mean, I might need eleven tote bags at some point, so I’ll just put them in this closet until that day arrives.”
You see how this can become a problem.
For a long time, I’ve intended to clean out one of our back closets that I lovingly refer to as The Junk Closet (TJC). TJC has become the home of everything from old paintbrushes to baby-proofing items to Joey’s hockey equipment, and it’s safe to say I got stressed out just thinking about looking for anything in there. I also had a sneaking suspicion that the seven or so things I have “lost” in the last year were probably buried somewhere in its depths.
Finally (fortunately), Joey had a few days off this week, so he was able to watch Vivi while I attacked the closet. And, I’m pleased to tell you, it has been brought into order and is actually super functional now. It actually thrills me to open the door and look inside.
I ended up throwing out two full trash bags of junk and did find those missing items. I also learned a few lessons along the way:
1. Waste not…unless it means creating more useful space.
Listen, I get it. You don’t want to just throw out something that, at some point, you paid good money for or that technically someone else could probably use. (Just not you.) I think the hardest part about cleaning out a closet for most people is that feeling on, “But it’s not broken…” So you tell yourself that you could use it someday. Or sell it. Or find someone who could use it. And you put it back in the closet and it sits for another couple of years until you pull it out and have the same internal struggle yet again.
You need to change the way you are thinking about this. That useless thing is actually bringing down your life. It’s taking up space that could be used by something useful to your actual life. Throw. It. Away.
2. But if you really can’t just toss it…
Okay, okay. Let’s pretend you have a really good reason for not just ridding your life of this space-sucking object. Put it in the sell or donate pile and set a deadline for yourself. That means you have exactly one week to sell or donate said item. If that deadline passes, it goes in the garbage. Ain’t nobody got room to store an item they are actively trying to get rid of for more than a week. I currently have three items for sale in my Poshmark closet that are on rapidly dwindling deadlines — and then they will immediately join their pals in the “donate” pile.
3. And if you MUST save it…
Set a space limit for yourself. I’m not a total sadist — I understand that sometimes you really will use something in the future, even if you can’t use it now. You just shouldn’t dedicate an entire closet (or, *shudder*, room) to these items. I let myself have one bin of items that could potentially serve a purpose in a different apartment or house. But you have to really mean it. In my bin, I have a pair of white curtains, a few wall hooks for keys and coats, and a ceramic deer head. Like I said, limits.
4. When you’re done, label everything.
Now that you are purged of junk and neatly organized, you want to keep everything that way. I am the biggest fan of chalkboard labels because they allow for the possibility that one day you will no longer need a bin of baby-proofing items but will instead need a bin of lightbulbs (or something). And since chalkboard labels can get a little pricey when you need a million (because you will want to label everything once you get started), I love this chalkboard tape. It works just like masking tape and can be cut to fit any size bin or drawer.
What are your tips for conquering TJCs in your life?
So, I’ve officially begun weaning Vivi.
Side note: Can we please find a new term for this? Weaning sounds like a loose mix of taking a leak and the noise an animal might make as it dies. Not. A. Fan.
But the point is, we’re down to one nursing session a day (right before bed), and it’s leaving me with a lot of mixed feelings.
On one hand, it’s nice to have a bit more freedom in my day. I can wear dresses that don’t button! I can take her anywhere and not worry about having to find somewhere private for meals! I can wear dresses that don’t button! I can leave her with a sitter for more than four hours at a time! I CAN WEAR DRESSES THAT DON’T BUTTON!
But while I do like this new age of freedom and independence for us both, I’d be lying if I said I was completely thrilled by the development.
Sometimes, I miss the closeness. I miss getting to snuggle up four to six times a day (or even more in the beginning) and feel so bonded to this lovely, tiny person.
Of course, that’s the nostalgia talking. I know in my brain that nursing wasn’t always to picturesque. But there is a tiny part of my heart that breaks anytime Vivi asks to nurse and I have to give her a sip of water or milk from a cup and distract her away from me.
I’m trying to focus on the good things. I was able to go to an all-day work conference for my new job (that I absolutely love). Vivi was able to spend the day with her grandparents at a company picnic on Long Island. (Though, not going to lie, sending her off in a car with someone who is not me was much harder than I expected.)
Basically, we’re all growing up. And, for the most part, dealing with it.
Just don’t grow too fast, k, Viv?
*Moccasins provided by Minimoc. Review 100% my own.
Everyone tells you to enjoy the first few months of your baby’s life. Not just because the newborn stage is so fleeting. Not just because it’s so easy to get frustrated and take that whole time for granted.
It’s also because, well, that is the last time you won’t spend most of your day chasing the little stinker around.
I distinctly remember the first few days after Vivi learned how to crawl. For the first time, I realized I couldn’t simply lay her on the floor on her activity mat for a couple minutes while I went to pee. No, going to the bathroom was officially a group activity. Now the baby who I set in one place would (quickly) relocate herself to somewhere else, grinning to herself all the while about what a hot shot she was.
Things didn’t slow down when she started taking real steps.
Now, it seems like Vivi is everywhere — and fast. She can walk and climb and gets into everything. And while, yes, it is more tiring and it does sometimes make me long for those early days of wriggling around on activity mats, it’s also pretty amazing watching her turn into this person with her own agenda.
But you’re not just here for nostalgia about Vivian. We also need to talk about something important: shoes.
From the very beginning, Vivi has not been a fan of shoes. I could usually get her to keep socks on, but tights were the only way to be certain her toes would stay covered. And the only shoes she would tolerate were the fake ones stitched on to the ends of tights.
But now that she’s actually walking, I want to protect her bare piggies from the ground and give her a bit more grip on our tile floors than socks will allow.
I’ve tried a variety of soft, moccasin-style shoes from major retailers, but I’ve been wildly unimpressed. They are typically stiff, and as difficult as they are to get on Vivi’s feet (and it is so, SO difficult), she was usually able to rip or wriggle them off within minutes. (Cue my extreme phobia of losing a shoe somewhere in NYC. Those things are not cheap, you guys.)
But thank goodness for good friends, right? My friend Haley, of Beluga Baby fame, always seems to know the best baby product makers. She has been telling me about Minimoc moccasins for months, but it wasn’t until recently that I finally started listening. (I don’t know why I resisted so long, Haley! Never again!)
And, you guys? They. Are. The. Best.
From the moment I opened the little shoe box, I actually said out loud “oooh!” The leather is so soft, and Vivi’s rose gold mocs were such a pretty, new penny color I couldn’t stop staring at them.
Then I actually put them on her feet. And I waited. And waited. And she waltzed around like she owned the joint without even attempting to pull them off.
That? That is downright miraculous.
Suffice to say, I’ve already picked out her next pair.
I mean, I know I’m going to spend the next 18 years chasing her around…shouldn’t she at least have comfy, protected feet while I’m doing it?
I’ve realized I am a much more creative cook in the fall and winter. It could be that the summer months are usually too hot in NYC to even think about cooking. (Turn on my oven on a 90-degree day? Are you insane?) But I also think I’m just a lot more inspired by fall produce.
One thing I’m especially fond of is squash. Pumpkin, butternut, spaghetti — I dig ’em all.
My mom tends to cook acorn squash a lot, so for a recent visit of hers, I decided to create a stuffed version made with ground turkey (one of Vivi’s favorite foods) and quinoa. It turned out pretty tasty, if I do say so myself, so I thought I’d share the recipe with you fine folks. Enjoy!
Turkey and Quinoa Stuffed Acorn Squash
2 acorn squash
3 T olive oil, separated
1 c quinoa
2 c water
4 cloves garlic, finely chopped
2 small red onions, finely chopped
1 lb ground turkey
1/2 T garlic powder
1/2 T onion powder
1/2 T rosemary
1/2 T thyme
1 t nutmeg
1/4 c pecans, roughly chopped
1/4 cup dried cranberries
salt and pepper, to taste
Greek yogurt (optional)
We don’t have a lot of friends with babies who live near us, but we DO have a lot of friends with babies in Long Island. One thing I’ve always liked about that whole crew is how they put a lot of work into putting together fun parties for the kids, giving them a chance to play and make new friends even at a very young age. Now that Vivi is getting older (and actually appreciating other kids), I was excited to finally take our turn in planning a fun get-together for a few little ones.
Plus, not going to lie, I really wanted an excuse to dress Vivi like a penguin.
And thus, my plans to throw Vivi a zoo-themed party were born.
Now, Vivi is only about a year old, so I wasn’t going to go too crazy. I wanted to keep the guest list as close to ten kids as I could, and I was less concerned with planning organized activities than I was for creating a fun theme and having good snacks. (And, you know, the aforementioned penguin costume.)
Here’s a run-down of what we did, ate, and wore for all you other party animals out there.
^^The closest to “safari chic” I will probably ever get.
I did actually consider having the party at a real zoo, but given the young age of our guest list, I ultimately decided it would be better to just create our own version in Joey’s parents’ backyard. They graciously offered up the space, and I set to work creating activity stations for the little guests (as well as just making sure there were a lot of toys around to keep short attention spans occupied, from bubbles to play tables and beyond).
I painted a few signs to hang around the yard to differentiate the areas, and my sister drew some animal prints leading up the sidewalk with chalk to guide our guests to the yard.
The yard also gave us room to have a few different areas for adults to sit, including tables, benches, and swings. (Because moms and dads gotta relax too, ya know?)
What were these stations, you ask? First, I present The Monkey House.
Okay, okay, so basically all I did was cover the swing set in fake vines (I got mine on eBay) and add a few stuffed monkeys (thank you, Mom, for finding all my old Beanie Babies!) for effect. But, come on. That’s a pretty cute monkey house, right?
Next up, we have The Aquarium.
A water table, a kiddie pool full of plastic fish, and a handful of bubbles (plus some cute sea life stick-ons from the party store), and we were under the sea.
Finally, there was The Petting Zoo:
I originally intended this to be the area that even the youngest tots could play in, but those horsies turned out to be a big hit with the older kids as well. (Plus, clearly the Boges was into it.)
What we ate
Of course, everyone knows that decor is nice but a party is only as good as it’s food. The menu included PB&J sandwiches cut into animal shapes, Annie’s Mac & Cheese in Silly Sea Life shapes, a cucumber snake with homemade tsaziki, a hummus lion with bell pepper slices, a watermelon hedgehog, and fruit kabobs. I also put together an animal-themed trail mix for some of the tables.
For dessert, I created Jell-O “aquariums” topped with Swedish Fish and funfetti cupcakes with animal toppers. Viv especially enjoyed her first cupcake (clearly).
To make sure grown-up bellies were full as well, I asked each guest to bring an app and served a “jungle juice.” Because, let’s be real, we had all probably earned it.
The photo booth
To be totally honest, the kids probably kept their costumes on for approximately half an hour. (But GOSH were they cute!) Predicting this, I welcomed each guest and then promptly directed them to the photo booth to make sure they got a pic of their little cutie dressed as their favorite animal.
To create the booth backdrop, I created a jungle of tissue paper poms (tutorial I used here) and cut-out paper leaves. To create the cage, I purchased an oversized picture frame from Michael’s, removed the glass and back piece, and strung rope-like yarn to create the bars.
Pro tip: I highly recommend a group photo at the beginning of the party if possible. By the end of the day, everyone is tired and dirty, and getting the kids to cooperate will be harder than ever. Look how cute they were when they first arrived!
Once the pictures were taken, costumes could be ripped off, water could be splashed, cupcakes could be smushed in faces, etc. Save yourself the trouble and get the pictures done early.
What we wore
As I said, my main priority here was getting Viv dressed as a penguin. #MomGoals
The create her costume, my mom actually took a larger penguin costume, cut off the belly and wings, and sewed them onto a black onesie. She turned the head into a little cap Vivi could wear, but it really only lasted for the pictures. (To make up for it, I drew a little yellow beak on her nose using costume makeup.) I also added a pair of yellow tights from Lunaby Baby to complete the look. She killed it, I must say.
As for Joey and me, we decided the most appropriate attire would be that of zoo keepers. Basically, we wore a lot of khaki and sun hats I found at Costco. It was surprisingly effective.
What’s a party without a little something to take home? The best part about having a small guest list is that you can go a little more creative with the favors. Each kid took home an “adopted” animal and a box of animal crackers to keep the party going.
One other fun extra? I also created a Snapchat geo filter for the party. Totally gratuitous, but it was $5 and pretty cute! (Learn how to make your own here.) Here’s what it looked like:
All in all, we had such a blast at Vivi’s first party. Thanks again to all her friends (and their cool folks) for coming out to join!
And a special thank-you to Aunt Yoyo (AKA, my sister Joelle of Figment Art Photo) for photographing the whole event!