Monday, November 22, 2010

what doesn't bend, breaks

Elliot has stopped sleeping through the night. It's no big deal, he's just done with it. He's also stopped going to bed like a dream and instead prefers to do it like a caged tiger with a thorn in its paw. I'm frazzled and sleep-deprived. Logic would tell you that if he is going to go to sleep late (on accounta the battle), be awake for up to 4 hours during the night, and then get up an hour early (which he's been doing since the time change), I should be back to "sleep when the baby sleeps" mode. But, much like when he was a newborn, I don't want to sleep when the baby sleeps. The more he's requiring of me during his waking hours (including those that fall between 1 and 4am), the more stubbornly I cling to my late-night Me Time of catching up on email and FB or reading a few pages of the latest book I'm forced to read at a snail's pace. The problem is that I'm not making it and I need some early bedtimes of my own. There it is, K. Consider the gauntlet thrown down.

My parents arrive late tonight for Thanksgiving. They'll be in our area for 2 weeks but it's yet to be decided whether they will stay with us the whole time or head out on their own next week. M and I are trying to make sure they get enough time with E who they don't get to see nearly enough of. They're trying to make sure they don't get on our nerves. We're all being very polite and accommodating. We'll see where the negotiations end up. Either way, we've got babysitters to see the new Harry Potter movie sometime in the next week so that's exciting news indeed!

Tonight is the Thanksgiving potluck dinner at E's school. It's always so fun watching him interact with his little buddies. He has two BFFs at school - Henry and Ben. I was such a girlgirlgirl growing up that it still weirds me out sometimes to have an "in" with the boy social circles, even when the boys in question are under 2 years old.

Sunday, November 21, 2010

toddler jukebox

I asked M for an idea to blog about and she suggested I do a 5-day Thanksgiving countdown letting you all know what I'm most thankful for, and that I culminate the series with a post about her and how lucky I am to have her in my life.

So anyway, moving on. ;-)

M burned me a CD of E's top tracks and I thought I'd share his playlist with you. I already mentioned he loves the music on this album from M's childhood, so we started with tracks #1, 3, 4*, 5, 7, 8, 10, 13, 16, 18 and 21, then added:
Jerk It Out - Caesars
My Sharona - The Knack (yup, I kept 'em)
Hey, Soul Sister - Train
Brown Eyed Girl - Van Morrison
Sister Kate - The Ditty Bops
Give a Little Love - Ziggy Marley
The Sign - Ace of Base
Roy G. Biv - TMBG
The Vowel Family - TMBG (I loathe this song, but E adores it.)
I Love a Circus - Dan Crow
Green Grass Grew All Around - Pete Seeger
Be Kind to Your Parents - Pete Seeger
If I Had a Hammer - Pete Seeger (I got on a downloading roll one day...)
Get Up Up Up - Farmer Jason
A Spoonful of Sugar - Julie Andrews

These songs didn't make it onto this CD but will surely be on the next one:
Will the Circle Be Unbroken - Arlo Guthrie & Pete Seeger
Two Mommies - Alistair Moock
Mr. Rock and Roll - Amy MacDonald
Imbuvu the Happiest Hippo - Ed Jordan
Holiday Road - Lindsay Buckingham
Be OK - Ingrid Michaelson
Here Comes the Sun - Beatles
All I Want Is You - Barry Louis Polisar
You are My Sunshine - Elizabeth Mitchell

He used to like Carbon Leaf and early Madonna as a baby but he hasn't listened to any in a while - mental note to get some back into rotation.

What songs/artists do your little ones like? Bonus points for music that won't make me want to take an ice pick to my ear drums. :-)

*This album was originally released in 1969 so there are a couple of songs that get skipped over as they don't quite mesh with our contemporary values. Those exceptions aside, I LOVE this album. The songs are musically diverse, creative and kid-friendly without being dumbed down. I'm really hard-pressed to pick a favorite as it seems to change week to week, but #4 is at the top of my list at the moment and you should check it out. It can be downloaded here or on iTunes, but be sure to get the Bernard Cribbins version. There are a lot of really awful remakes floating about.

Saturday, November 20, 2010


Party ran late last night. Guests didn't leave until well after midnight. NaBloPoMoOhWell.

Feeling tired and grumpy today and going to spare you whatever crankiness I'd fill this space with if I forced myself to write something.

How is Thanksgiving in 5 days?

Thursday, November 18, 2010

"moo-sick" and mayhem

E has started demanding his own music in the car. As soon as the engine turns over, the pleas begin, and they ramp up quickly. He used to be content to listen to whatever was on the radio, but that doesn't cut it anymore. He has his own playlist on my iphone, and his preferred songs within that playlist, and he has no difficulty communicating these preferences. I need to burn a CD of his faves so my phone isn't permanently tethered to the car stereo. The fact that he has certain songs he loves and others that he won't listen to more than a few seconds of makes me think he's absorbing more of the music than I have been giving him credit for. I should probably go ahead and take Jerk It Out and My Sharona out of the playlist now before his attachment to them grows any stronger. I've got some time before he starts understanding the words, but I can just see it now: We're at the park with friends and Elliot busts out "Always get it up for the touch of the younger kind..." Yikes. Bummer, those were kind of my bright spots among all the ugly ducklings and green grass growing all around.

It's been a bit of a trying week around here. Elliot seems to be very intent on establishing his independence from us, meaning he wants nothing at all to do with M and he's only minimally tolerant of me. It's great fun. He is also going through what we're thinking is a growth spurt. He's been eating like a horse and his sleep is all out of whack. This came together into a perfect storm the other night when he was awake from 1:00 to 4:30am and wanted to playplayplayplayplayplay. Once he realized he was not going to be let out of bed, all hell broke loose. M went in to console him at one point and he hit her then told her to go away. Um, excuse me? I know it's completely normal for him to go through periods where he feels more or less connected to one of us - there was a long stretch this summer where he was all about M and he could take or leave me - but it's annoying nonetheless, especially when it's accompanied by such atrocious behavior. M is doing a great job of rolling with it; better than I would, I'm sure. She's so cool and well-adjusted like that. :-)

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

(almost) wordless wednesday

1 month old:

20 months old:

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

kitchen notes

M and I are hosting a low-key "dessert and drinks" game night this Friday. I'm tied up the next two evenings so I'm anticipating a very late night of preparations on Thursday. My plan isn't entirely thought out. I know I want to make two finger-food type desserts, one should probably be chocolate and one probably not (although if it were up to me I'd make chocolate everything) and I want one of them to be cupcakes with Nutella frosting. I'm still on the fence about whether banana cupcakes are okay for a group. It's what I'd make for myself, but I know banana is an iffy one for people so I'm leaning toward french vanilla to be safe. I tested out a Nutella buttercream recipe tonight and... oh my god.

Make it now. Thank me later.

1/2 c. butter, softened
1 c. Nutella
1/4 c. powdered sugar
up to 2T milk (I used about half)
Mix butter and Nutella until well blended. Add sugar gradually. Beat until fluffy. Add milk to desired consistency.

I'll let you know what I come up with for dessert #2. If you have any to-die-for recipes, feel free to share!

Monday, November 15, 2010

ready to purge

I am a pack rat, but I come by it honestly.

My grandmother (who cared for me every weekday until I started kindergarten) kept everything she ever touched. She filled a three-story home, floor to ceiling, with a lifetime of treasures and... other things. Every coat my mother wore in high school, every board game my uncles played with as children, every score book completed one inning at a time from the recliner in her living room... Every fishing lure my grandfather left behind when he moved out (long before I was born), every yogurt container, every box top... My grandmother had no money and she never threw away anything she thought she might use, even if it would be 10 years before it would come in handy. She was one of the most frugal, resourceful women I've ever known.

My mom taught me the joy of a sale at a young age. She was the quintessential bargain hunter. If the sale was good enough, she bought the item. It didn't matter much whether we had a use for it. She didn't teach it to me in these words, but I know she is where I learned the theory behind a particularly incriminating slogan of mine: "You're getting screwed if you DON'T buy that!" The house I grew up in had a basement storage room with plastic bins from floor to ceiling, full of nonperishables bought in bulk, holiday decorations purchased "the day after" for 75% off, gift bags and toys purchased on sale because "someone is always having a birthday." I never felt like my house was cluttered growing up. I just thought my mom was amazing because anything we could possibly need was right there under our very roof.

Our basement is much like my the one I described above. I still have every item of clothing Elliot has worn to date, except for a few pieces I loaned to friends, only after putting an initial in every tag to ensure it would find its way home. I'm harboring two matching wall hangings I bought years ago on clearance that have never been hung in this house and never will be. I have at least five times as many sheet sets as I have beds to put them on, and more towels than our family could use in a month. I cannot walk past after Christmas without buying a few rolls of wrapping paper. It's all really nice stuff.

For most of my adult life, this hasn't really been a problem. When I first moved into this 4 bedroom house all on my own, I had an abundance of space and nothing to make it homey with. It took me several years, but I eventually filled up all of the empty closets, cabinets and shelves. With Elliot's arrival and all that we brought in for him, our house officially exceeded its capacity, and it's all my fault. M doesn't have a single hoarding fiber in her entire body. Amazingly, she doesn't chastise me for the accumulation. I think she recognizes the emotional side of it and knows I need to deal with it in my own time. And I have begun, but good heavens it is a slow process. The amount of angst involved in getting rid of something inexpensive that I haven't used in years is something even I can't totally understand. All I can fall back on is the knowledge it's just not how I was raised. I was raised to keep things; to keep everything. It's my family's version of being responsible and prepared for whatever life throws at you. The problem is, I'm starting to feel a bit like I'm drowning.

In the last few months, I've become acutely aware of the weight of my possessions. Every thing I have in this house is something that must be maintained. It may be putting it away on a daily basis, shifting it once in a while to reach something else, or simply filing it once and forgetting about it, but I don't have time for extra steps anymore. Some days it is hard enough to find time to brush my teeth. Any time I might spend tending to material goods would be better spent with my child. Beyond that, I'd really like to not pass this charming characteristic down to him, and that means the time to reset my hardwiring is now.

Up until recently, I have believed to my core that the worst case scenario would be to have to re-purchase something I had and got rid of. I now realize the worst case scenario is having so much stuff that not only can I not maintain or enjoy it, its very presence causes me stress. I've taken some big steps already, but they're not nearly as big as those that still need to be taken. I've been whittling away at the edges for months, but it's time for a major cut. I feel ready - really, I do - but then I look around and I'm instantly overwhelmed. I don't know where to start, perhaps more emotionally than logistically. I know once I get some momentum behind me, it will become easier. What's the point of keeping X if I've already tossed A through W, right? It's just really hard. But it's also time.

Sunday, November 14, 2010


I finally got caught up on my reader. My weeks of neglect yielded 300-something posts to catch up on. There were some real gems in there, too, like this post which just might make you pee your pants if you were obsessed with 90210 in the early 90s as I was.


Elliot is 20 months old today. That is almost as many months as we spent trying to conceive him. I'm not sure I'll ever get used to how much faster time flies on this side of things. Just one more reminder to be grateful.


Elliot says "bless you" when anyone sneezes, including the dog. The other day, he blessed me from his rear-facing carseat after I sneezed in the drivers seat. Adorable.


I'm over the moon that E's feeling better, but I miss the extra cuddles.


M's mom and I spent a couple of hours researching accommodations for a major trip we're taking with her family next summer. The whole thing is feeling much more real (and more rapidly approaching) than it did a few days ago. Are we going to survive overseas travel with a 2 year old? We're pros at domestic travel, but this is going to be a horse of a different color.


M and I are considering thinking about possibly buying a new (maybe, but probably just new to us) car. We have been together almost 10 years and I have only just uncovered a tragic secret about M: She likes hatchbacks. ;-) I'm not a fan, but I guess you figured that. I had a hatchback in high school and I liked it at the time, but now they all kind of seem like "kid" cars to me; like the car you have before you move up to the real model*. Fortunately, I don't actually care all that much and since M will be the primary driver of this new car, a hatchback it likely will be, as long as we can find one that can comfortably fit two car seats in the back**. We're in the very, very early stages of research but we kind of like the Ma.zda 3s. Any good or bad experiences or other cars we should check out?

*No offense to the hatchback drivers out there. I have a deep affection for hatchback fans. I love them so much, I married one. ;-)
**See how I did that? Pretty freaking bold, huh?


I got a pregnancy announcement on FB this weekend. The couple's first child was born 9 days after Elliot and #2 is due in May. I'm so jealous... and really happy for them... and jealous.

Saturday, November 13, 2010

confession time

The votes in Elliot's contest are so close, I'm afraid I'm going to give myself an ulcer from all the refresh page-ing I'm doing. I'm not sure why I care so much. OK, I have a few thoughts, but I don't want to share until the contest is over. Instead, I'll fill you in on another one of my (many) neuroses, inspired by Puffer's comment about how she feels when she's out without the twins.

I was totally fascinated (in a good way) by it because my own experience is exactly the opposite. When I'm out without Elliot, I too have a conscious awareness that people looking at me don't know I have a toddler at home, but 9 times out of 10, I hate it. If I'm in Tar.get or a grocery store without him, I'll sometimes go out of my way to buy something baby-related, even if we don't need it yet, just because I want people who see me to know. I'm not sure where this need to identify myself stems from - maybe it's some post-infertility brain damage or perhaps just standard-issue insecurity - but it makes me feel more comfortable in my skin, like my outsides match my insides. I think what has happened is that my identity as a mother has become so deeply rooted that I feel naked and self-conscious without my standard marker (the kiddo) on my hip. For the record, I totally think Puffer's take on all this is healthier. ;-)

Friday, November 12, 2010


Best unintended consequence of having Granny here for a week to take care of your scary-sick toddler? Free, competent child care for an impromptu date night. :-)

Runner up: Watching your son learn to say grandma.

My food coma and I are not long for this world, but I'll be back tomorrow with a proper post.

P.S. Huge thanks to everyone who has voted for Elliot in the contest. I haven't checked the standings in a few hours (good thing - perhaps a post about my obsessive personality will be in order soon) but he's hanging out close to the top of the heap. Only a few more days to go!

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Blogosphere powers, activate!

OK guys, I need your help.

I entered E in a photo contest for "worst" holiday picture. There aren't a lot of entries, so his odds are pretty good! At stake is $600 in gift cards and the priviledge of having your family's photo holiday card featured on the sponsors' websites. I think you can all understand why that last bit feels really cool and important. :-)

There are 79 people that follow this blog via google reader, and who knows how many more that keep up via other methods. There are less than 100 votes separating E from the first place photo. Those are pretty encouraging numbers. It would really, really mean a lot to me if you would take one minute out of your day to vote for us!

You can vote once per email address, but you do have to delete your cookies between votes. If you are feeling especially generous and wish to share this link elsewhere (i.e. on your own blog, FB page, etc.) you have not only my blessing but buckets of thanks as well! If I can repay the favor for you now or later, I will gladly do so.

To vote, just rate the picture 5 stars (which will count as 5 votes), click send, and confirm via email using the link they send you. It is super easy, fast and free.

Here's the link:

Thank you so much for your help!

Wednesday, November 10, 2010


I don't think I've received a chain letter in five years. Today, I received three. What gives?

In fairness, one was the same "letter" received twice (person A forwarded it to 10 person B's, one of which was me; another person B forwarded it to me as one of his 10 person C's) and the other was a totally labor-intensive book exchange. I have yet to decide whether I'll do either one. I'm leaning heavily toward no, but I'm already feeling guilty about letting down the people who sent them to me. Your thoughts? Chain letters are whack and I'm a bad friend if I forward them, right?

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

last placeholder post, I promise

I don't want to say too much and risk jinxing anything, but E hasn't had any fever reducers for almost 24 hours. He's nowhere near 100%, but we're all feeling like we have reason to be hopeful. I, on the other hand, am flattened. I think the worry and sleep-deprivation of the past week has finally caught up with me.

I promise to be back with something of substance (and NOT baby-illness-related) tomorrow. Speaking of... If anyone has any questions or suggestions, let me know! I've never put out the call for questions before because I think people generally ask things as they come to mind, but if there's anything you've been sitting on that you'd like to know, I'll gladly put it in the NaBloPoMo queue! ;-)

Monday, November 8, 2010

two steps forward, one step back

This is so not the NaBloPoMo I had in mind.

So, today was mostly good. E was cool when he woke up (medicated, yes, but even the medicine wasn't keeping him cool the past few nights) and acting a bit more like himself, albeit a more fragile and needy version. We went to the doctor mid-day and learned that he has the beginnings of an ear infection. She doesn't think this is the cause of his illness of the past several days (which she agrees falls in the "nonspecific virus" category), but instead a secondary issue caused by his congestion draining into his ears. She prescribed an antibiotic. Bonus to this is that if there is some OTHER secondary infection that is causing the prolonged fever, it should knock that out too. The doctor was impressed with his low temp at the appointment (97.3!) and instructed us to d/c the anti-fever meds and see how things go.

He came home, seemed to do well, and then about three hours later, his fever was back up over a hundred. An hour after that, it was a degree higher and he seemed to feel terrible. So back on the medication we went and he laid on me, clenched and whimpering, until the meds kicked in at which point he perked right up. He spent dinner throwing food to the dog, making eyes at Granny, and laughing at his own little jokes and bodily functions.

I know all this means is we cut out the anti-fever meds too soon, but I can't help but be disappointed that the No Meds experiment failed so quickly. I'm VERY glad that we're a good distance away from the 104-105 range, and that we seem to be moving in the right direction (knock on wood) but I'm ready for my baby to just plain Feel Better already. He's had such a terrible week.

Thanks for all of your wonderful comments. It felt (feels) really good to know so many people were out there thinking of him and wishing him well.

Sunday, November 7, 2010

help is on the way

The boy is still sick. Really, really sick. We called the exchange this afternoon and have a list of things to watch for, any one of which means an expedited trip back to the ER. Every thing on the list has happened at least once in the past 24 hours, so I'm bracing myself for the possibility we'll be heading in at some point. Hopefully not, for E's sake.

M's mom is arriving on a midnight flight so M and I can spend some time at work this week, eat something other than takeout, and have clean clothes and sippy cups. It's amazing how many sippy cups one toddler can go through when you're "pushing fluids" by offering 3 different options per hour.

I'm so tired and so worried. This is really hard.

Saturday, November 6, 2010


Fever is lower today (99-102, but mostly on the lower side of that range) and he's acting more like himself, so hopefully we're moving in the right direction. We had a terrible experience in the ER: Multiple failed attempts to catheterize him for a urine sample (before giving up completely), multiple failed attempts to place an IV (before giving up completely), rough blood draw and finger-stick, urine collection bag taped all over (and subsequently removed from - ouch) his most sensitive areas... I'm really disappointed given that we drove past closer ERs in order to go to the childrens' hospital. I was kind of hoping for more kid-friendly care. Anyway, it's behind us now and we hopefully won't be back any time soon. Thanks for thinking of us and wishing E well.

Friday, November 5, 2010


That was Elliot's temp when we left for the ER this afternoon. We're home now with all sorts of things ruled out, nothing ruled in, and a fever the meds are barely cutting in half. I'm scared out of my mind. If you have good thoughts to spare, I'd certainly appreciate them.

Thursday, November 4, 2010

ode to a neglected baby book

The NaBloPoMo rules are one post per day. They don't really address when that post gets published, right? Yeah, this one is late. Moving on.

Sticking with the theme of running late...

I've fallen behind on updating Elliot's baby book lately. I've missed writing down his last six teeth (up to 14!), and I'm woefully behind on documenting words, favorite activities, etc. I'm going to scan back through the blog and see if I can fill in some blanks. So that I will have this post to look back on next time I need a reference point, here's what Elliot is up to these days. My apologies for the boring you all with this nuts and bolts-y post.

Favorite books: Go Dog Go, There's a Wocket in my Pocket, The Itsy Bitsy Spider, and the San Francisco book I can't remember the name of right now.

Favorite toys: Trains, trains, trains, and puzzles. Oh, and trains. The kid is obsessed. He has a bunch of different train toys, train puzzles, train books... you name it. My parents bought him a few Thomas engines and cars the last time we were out to visit him and he loves them. The seal has been broken on the branded toys. We had a good run. ;-)

Favorite songs: His faves to sing are The Old Lady Who Swallowed The Fly, two versions of If You're Happy and You Know It (especially the shouting Hooray part), and the Alphabet Song. He sings the last word of each phrase in these and it's so cute. His favorites to listen to and/or dance to are all of the songs from All Aboard (an album M had as a kid), The Vowel Family and Roy G. Biv (both TMBG). Oh, and The Sign by Ace of Base. I kid you not.

Best trick du jour: We toss all of his sippy cup parts into a big bin in a cabinet and pull out pieces as we need them. It's a tall (5 foot?) pantry-style cabinet with pull out bins, so not super easy to get into. Still, Elliot has learned to open the cabinet (by pulling the dishtowel that is hanging on the cabinet opener, which is at the top of the tall cabinet), pull out the wire bin, find a matching cup and lid (including by color), close everything up, stand on tiptoe to place the cup and lid juuuust on the lip of the counter top, come to us and take our hands, then lead us into the kitchen requesting juice along the way. He does this every day when he comes home from school, and a few times a day on the weekends. It's pretty impressive to watch, actually! M decided to see if he'd do it in reverse so she handed him the pieces of his cups straight out of the dishwasher. Sure enough, he took them to the cabinet, opened it up, put the pieces away, and closed everything behind him. The funniest part is that he'll only take one or two pieces at a time, and he closes the cabinet between each trip. This means the activity generally takes long enough to get the whole dishwasher unloaded while he is making his trips. Surely our time with this is limited. I know it won't be long until he realizes he can leave the cabinet open and the bin pulled out between trips, but it sure is handy for now! 

Runners-up for best trick: He can identify all 26 letters by name and/or by the name of the item pictured under the letter on his ABC puzzle, and when we count from 1 to 10 with him, he says about half of the numbers on his own. 

He mimics everything we say. Everything. Neither of us swear very often, but there have been more than one sh!t choruses after something was forgotten or dropped, so we're working on cutting that out completely. I love, love, love the way his toddler mouth sounds wrapped around octopus, butterfly, Oh no!, please (peas), thank you, bless youagain, spoon (boon), and of course, I love you. He also mispronounces blanket as "bacon" and meow and "laooow" and I really hate to correct them because they're just so cute. :-)

Last week, he went through this really funny hat obsession. He came home from school one day and I tried to take off his hat as we came into the house, but he grabbed it back, crying "My hat! My hat!" He placed it back on his head and there it stayed through playtime... and dinner... and right into the bathroom to be taken off with the rest of his clothes for bathtime. The next day, we went through the same routine upon arriving at school. I told his teacher about the night before and said he might demand to wear his hat all day. (He was wearing a brightly striped hat with a pointy spire on top and one of the other kids was following him around saying "Nice party hat! I like your party hat!" LOL!) I left him sitting at the table eating cereal in his hat and picked him up sitting in the same spot coloring, hat on head. I pulled it off for a moment and his hair was damp and matted underneath. His teacher confirmed that he had worn it all day. This lasted for 2-3 more days and then it was done. Not sure what it was about but we got some good laughs (and pictures) out of it!

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

reunited (and it feels so good)

The injury post has been tabled for another day (I know, you're so bummed) because I just got the best news and I'm too excited not to share. My BFF In Loco Parentis is moving back to our neck of the woods!! She just called me to share the good news on her way back to the airport from the interview in which she was offered the (super amazing incredible) job.

She and I met in TownA for undergrad and then, amazingly, both moved across the country to TownB for separate grad programs at the same university. After graduation, she took a job several states away and we haven't been able to see much of each other since then. Her son is almost a year old and our kids have never met. But that is all about to change because THEY'RE MOVING BACK! In two short months they will be living right down the road. Literally. I couldn't be more thrilled.

P.S. I was given full permission to breach blogger etiquette and share someone else's news. I believe the direct quote was "I better get a Na-Blo-Po-Whatever mention for this." :-)

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Early Civics Lessons

Election Day 2008:

Election Day 2010:

And a bonus Election Day pic, taken this evening after a blood-curdling face plant on the patio. :-(

Speaking of injuries, E had a major one a few weeks ago. I'll fill you in tomorrow. It's much easier to talk about now that everyone is fully mended. :-/

Monday, November 1, 2010

my mother's daughter

When people asked me what E was going to be for Halloween this year, I answered that he was going to dress up as a child whose mother can't sew. The point is, I knew up front I had likely set my sights too high.

My mother made all of my Halloween costumes when I was a kid. I was Raggedy Ann, Strawberry Shortcake, a clown, a red crayon, a car hop, a mime, a robot, a fairy, a pirate, a Care Bear (the rainbow-bellied one, thank you very much - my root, perhaps?), and several other things, all lovingly crafted in the wee hours of the morning by my mom who worked full-time outside of our home, commuted an hour to and from work each day, did all of the laundry for our family of four and cooked (and served family-style) 95% of the dinners I ate from birth to age 17. I have memories of falling asleep on her bedroom floor, listening to the hum of her vintage sewing machine and waking in the morning to find expectation-shattering works of art laid across the foot of my bed or draped over a chair. Somewhere in all of that, those costumes became hard-wired into my psyche as the mark of a Real Mother.

I always knew that when I had my own children, I would make their costumes every year. After all, I was going to be a Good Mother. Elliot was seven months old on his first Halloween and I flat out missed the boat. The holiday completely snuck up on me and before I knew it I was purchasing a sock monkey costume online (which turned out to be perfect) and promising that would be the first and last costume I would buy him. M and I even picked out the pattern for his 2010 costume right then and there - a whole year in advance. I asked for and received a new sewing machine for my birthday so I would have no excuse this time around.

I should pause for a moment to let you know that I know this whole "mark of a good mother" business is ridiculous. I have known it all along. I'm a licensed mental health provider - I know crazy when I see it or, um, live it. Every time I told someone about my rationale for wanting to make his costume and they looked at me warily, as if trying to determine how to best confront my delusions, I held up my hands and said I know, I know, it's silly. I can't explain it; it's just one of those things.

I bought the fabric early - over a month in advance - and started cutting that night. Things got off to a decent start. And then I hit the sleeves. Oh my god, the sleeves. No matter what I did or how many youtube tutorials I watched, I could NOT get them to ease in correctly. Each time I ripped out a seam, I cursed at the holes it left in my cheap fabric. I finally decided to take a few days off... and I beat myself up mercilessly the whole time. I chastised myself for thinking I had the skills required to sew a costume from scratch. I reminded myself over and over again that I am not my mother, and sewing is just one of the many skills of hers that I am woefully deficient in. It sounds bad to spill that out here, but hang with me for a minute, because I think something positive came out of it.

My mom rocked Home Ec in high school, especially the sewing part. Seriously. She won an award for it her senior year and then proceeded to sew a full-length, fully-tailored coat to wear over her senior ball dress. A few years later, she sewed her own wedding dress. She is a very skilled seamstress. I am not. I never had to learn; I had her. But there are things I am better at than she is. I can teach Elliot about music and theater and visual art. I can show him how to see the big picture, plan things out, and see them through. I work in a field that will keep my finger on the pulse of social issues and I'll be able to talk with him and his friends about them in a relevant way. I need to use these things to make myself a Good Mother, instead of just trying to replicate the meaningful things my own mother did. I need to Do Me well, instead of Doing Her at eighty percent.

Armed with my new outlook, I went back to the costume and figured I needed to just finish the darn thing and then decide if it was wearable or a shopping trip was in order. Having given up the dream of making the perfect costume, things moved a bit more quickly. I attached the sleeves - not beautifully, but functionally - and made my way through the rest of the costume one late night at a time. Luckily for me, there was nothing left to sew that was anywhere near as difficult as the sleeves had been and toward the end of the project, I was turning out pieces that looked... dare I say it... good.

If I calculate my labor at $15 per hour and add in the cost of materials, I figure his gnome costume set us back around $185. But oh my, will you take a look at the finished product?

He wouldn't wear the beard. Not even for a millisecond.

When I look at those pictures, a whole new lesson (reminder?) emerges for me: It's okay to do something even if you can't execute it perfectly. This is a tough one for me as my monogrammed baggage contains some exceptionally maladaptive perfectionist qualities. I'm really glad I made his costume and I want to do it again next year. I plan to skip the angst and self-flagellation next time around, though. I'll be sure to let you know how that goes. ;-)