Tuesday, November 30, 2010


I took Robbie on his first Christmas shopping extravaganza this afternoon. I have a few suggestions for the people at Kohl's... Well, really just one. Fix the stupid shopping carts! I'm not sure if you've been to Kohl's recently, but the child seats are in the front of the carts, lower than the handles, and facing out. This is extremely problematic.

Robbie got a kick out of facing front in a cart and seeing everything that was coming toward him. He was also a big fan of grabbing everything at his level. In case you're wondering, that was most of the merchandise. The seats in the carts are on the same level of all the tables and shelves. I looked down at one point and saw four towels in my basket. And they did not match my bathroom decor... This got particularly nerve-wracking when we were near the china.

Luckily, we survived without any casualties. And Robbie did make some friends while we were there. He blew kisses at a group of employees who came to find him before we left to say good bye. I also got all of my shopping done for one person on my list and I got some goodies for my yet-to-be-determined Secret Santa at work.

And now I'll sign off, hoping to sleep straight through the night without a 2:00 wake-up call ('cause that's what happened last night...).

Monday, November 29, 2010

Sleep Wars

While we were out of town, young Robert found himself very off-schedule. There were short naps and inexcusably late bedtimes. And now I pay the price...

Last night's bedtime was epic. It was a two-hour bonanza of ear-piercing shrieking. There was no escape from Robbie's shrill demonstration of displeasure. I put him down at 6:20 (I know because I called my sister right after he went down and checked my call log to see how long he had been screaming - a mere six minutes). At 6:26 I went in to get him. Normally, I would have waited much longer, but it was that screaming you can feel in your bones.

The screaming continued for another two hours. We tried to rock and soothe Robbie, which just made him more irate. We let him play quietly in his room, which was fine until he realized we were doing other things. We put him back in his crib to see if he would just get tired. Nothing worked. Not even when we drew the big guns: a bottle of milk.

The only thing that worked was Justin, who decided to try soothing Robbie two hours after the whole sleep ordeal began. How did that work out? Mmhmm... He had Robbie asleep in five minutes. Where, I ask you, was this man when the whole thing started?

Don't think it was over... Like we did. We were lulled into a false sense of security that was rudely interrupted at 9:30 when Robbie woke up and beckoned us with his war cry. It was more attempts at soothing, this time with all of us trying to go to sleep. Unfortunately, only two of us went to sleep. I woke up at 11:00 with a little smiling face two inches from mine, saying, "Hi!"

I naively hoped that one day at Zhining's would have Robbie back on track. Surely playing all day would get him so tired that he couldn't help but go straight to sleep. Of course. Not. The young one screamed as soon as we put him down. I took a shower, hoping he would fall asleep in the meantime. No such luck. I took him up a bottle of milk, as that usually does the trick (see big guns, above).

Robbie gratefully took the milk. As I turned away, he threw his arms up in the air and started screaming, "Mamamamamama!" Sensing that this was not going to go well for me, I picked Robbie up and went to the rocking chair, where we sat for the next half hour. Robbie drank his milk and stared at me like he did when he was a little baby, making googlie eyes. He nestled in a little closer and smiled up at me, closing his eyes for a little longer each time he blinked. And then he fell asleep. It turns out, all he wanted was a little time with me. And, since he has been so independent about sleeping for so long, I'm not going to question whether or not I'm starting a bad trend. I'm just going to enjoy that, tonight, my little boy just needed some more time with me in order to fall asleep. Oh, and that I didn't need Justin to come up and finish the job for me. At least not for the moment.

Saturday, November 27, 2010

Wedded Bliss

Justin and I celebrated our sixth anniversary today! I'm not sure how long six years is supposed to feel. Six years is all of high school and half of college. Six years is all of elementary school. But being married to Justin for six years doesn't feel as long as all of that. I guess it's because when you're in school, there is an end in sight which can make the time seem to drag on. But, when you're on a journey with someone and don't ever want it to end, it flies by.

On our way out tonight, we attempted to recap the highlights of our marriage. It's interesting to try to define a marriage in a matter of minutes. We focused mostly on the positive things that have happened to us, although I think we're more changed by the challenges we face. For us, when the negative had the opportunity to draw us apart, our marriage got stronger. I think this is, in part, because our first two years were such a challenge. We were two independent people, neither of us used to compromising. But somehow we figured it out and have been able to become closer with every curve ball life has thrown at us.

It's so nice to be in the middle of a life you love, especially when you are with someone you absolutely adore, especially when you hear of so many people who are in a loveless marriage but can't leave for any number of reasons. There's no one else I ever want to go on this journey with. Justin's the only person I can tell a story with simultaneously and know just where to pick up and leave off again. He knows to never keep grape jelly in the house. He gets up with Robbie every morning, even on the weekends. He clears the dishwasher and does the laundry - not because he likes to but because he knows I abhor those chores. Justin does the grocery shopping and helps make dinner. He drives wherever we go and always gets the luggage at the airport because those are, as I describe them, "husband jobs." And he makes me laugh and lets me know how loved I am every day.

In the past six years, there have only been a handful of days that we haven't talked. I know that may sound silly, but Justin typically travels a lot. He's been to Japan, Chile, Colombia, England, Germany, and France for extended work trips. He hasn't always had phone access, but we've done everything we could to make sure that we get to talk at least once a day. Those days when I couldn't hear his voice stretched on forever.

And now I think I'll close this sappy post. It's probably been a bit of an overload for you - after all, I just counted my blessings on Thursday. And now you're forced to read about how much I love my husband? Oy! So, as reward for indulging me, I will leave you with a video of the Manna child eating an apple (with a cameo of Justin's singing - he only knows the word "dynamite", so you'll recognize his harmonizing).

Friday, November 26, 2010

Other People's Homes

Visiting family is exhausting on its own. It is exponentially intensified when you visit with a young child. Since we flew to Annapolis, we were not able to bring the appropriate amount of child paraphenalia to successfully survive three days. There is no Pack 'n Play to place the child in when he has undone an entire rack of CDs for the fifth time. Or when he's gone digging in the litter box. Or when he's grabbed all the ornaments off the now top-heavy tree. I have never been so exhausted in my life.

There have also been benefits, though. Robbie is much more cuddly when we travel, probably because he's in unfamiliar places with people he doesn't really know. He fell asleep with me last night and then cuddled up with me again this morning.

We leave for home in just a few hours, and I'm hoping we survive the trip. I'm keeping my fingers crossed that Robbie will get tired and crash, but I'm not hopeful. I do plan to take a few Tylenol PM when I get home and get a really good night's sleep. There's something about sleeping in the same room as Robbie in a hotel that doesn't let me sleep well.

Better go... Robbie's screaming and throwing his head into Justin's chest. This does not bode well for our flight...

Thursday, November 25, 2010

So Many Blessings

I get so wrapped up in life that I often forget to take into account all the blessings I have. I'm so busy getting to work and daycare on time, stopping by the grocery, cleaning the house, and taking care of all the living beings who live with me that I forget how amazing life is. And so, if you will indulge me, I am going to take the time to count my blessings.

1. I have the perfect husband. Well, perfect for me. He loves me unconditionally and supports me in anything I want to do. He believes in me more than I believe in myself. He is my best friend. He is the one person I want to wake up next to for the rest of my life, morning breath and all. He knows how to hug me to make everything better and how to make me laugh when the rest of the world makes me cry. He puts thought into gifts and romantic gestures (yes, he's been known to be romantic!). I am so blessed that we met each other 14.5 years ago and even more blessed that he returned my call over 8 years ago. Thank goodness he finally gave into me begging to marry him (yes, it's true; I begged to marry Justin Manna).

2. I have an amazing son. He greats every day with a cheer (seriously: "Yay!' and lots of clapping over and over and over). He loves to laugh and smile and he loves me. He is happy and generally thrilled to be alive. He makes me want to be a better person. He makes me want to get up every morning and live more of my life than I did the day before. Robbie learns new things every day (today I asked him to say "turkey" and he responded with "chicken" - a word he's never uttered in his life). I am so blessed to be able to see his smile and sparking eyes and hear that sweet voice and get those beautiful kisses every day.

3. I have an incredible family. My parents and brother and sister believe in me and are there whenever I need them. We talk almost every day (sometimes two or three times...). They are a part of my best memories and the only way I got through the not-so-good memories. I hated being apart from them for another Thanksgiving (this makes six), but I am so thankful that this is the family I got.

4. Justin and I have enough. I read an email forward about a family that always wished each other "enough." At first, this struck me as sad. Shouldn't we strive for more than "enough"? But then I realized that wishing for enough is a perfect blessing. And, in a time when so many people don't have any, to have enough is more than we can ask for. We have a house that we love, reliable cars, food on the table, heat in the radiators. And you know what the best part of "enough" is? Knowing that when you have it, there's nothing else you need.

5. I love my job. It is the perfect job for me and exactly where I need to be in my professional life right now. I am working with incredible students who make me laugh (and, in all honesty, frustrate the hell out of me sometimes). I am excited to get to work every day, and I don't even mind Mondays anymore. I love my job so much that Thanksgiving actually snuck up on me; I wasn't counting down, hoping to survive until Thanksgiving like I've sometimes done in the past. I have fantastic colleagues who make coming to work even better.

6. I am no longer in grad school. I know this is old news, but it is so fabulous to not be in class or doing a practicum. I didn't realize how much of my life that consumed until, suddenly, I wasn't doing it any more. I can come home at the end of the day and just be. I can just be Robbie's mom and Justin's wife and (on really lucky days) just Erin. It's an amazing feeling to just be finished and know that you don't ever have to go back. Of course, I said that the last time. But this time I really think it's true. I don't think I can read another professional article and pretend to care about it for a class.

7. I am healthy. Justin is healthy. Robbie is healthy.

8. My friends are incredible. I have the friends I am closer to now that we have kids and new things to talk about. I have friends from miles and miles away who can pick up the phone and feel like no time has passed, even though it's been two and a half years. I have childhood friends who I see when I go home and new friends who I see for football. It's so nice to know that there are people in my life who care about me and aren't related to me. And it's amazing to have so many friends who play different roles in my life.

I know I have so many more blessings, but these are my top eight. Right now I think I'm going to end this and grab one of my favorite blessings to cuddle. He's still awake, but I think I could convince him to go to sleep if we had a little hug time. Last night, he fell asleep with his head on my lap, stretched out perpendicular to me. These moments are few and far between, so I'll enjoy it if he'll let me.

Happy Thanksgiving!

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Thanksgiving Travel

We made it. In one piece. Actually, it wasn't nearly as terrible as we thought it would be. We breezed through check-in.
Security took a matter of minutes. Waiting for the plane? Well, that took about two hours since we got to the airport so freaking early. But Robbie did pretty well give that he had to be confined. The flight? Refer to the posting I had in August for information about that, although this one wasn't as bad because I had Justin, there was no vomit, it was a nonstop flight, and Robbie didn't actually scream at the top of his lungs. He just fussed loudly and threw his head against the side of the airplane. Actually, relatively speaking, it was a pretty easy flight.

My brother-in-law picked us up, and we went back to his house to spend some time with him, his wife, and my father-in-law. Jarnetta, my sister-in-law, had never met Robbie. He took a little while to warm up, mostly because he doesn't usually meet people out of state two hours past his bedtime. He decided she was pretty OK, though, because she has bells on her Christmas tree and he was allowed to play with them.

We're at our hotel now. By we, I mean Robbie and myself. Justin (thankfully) went out with his dad and brother, so I have a little peace. Kind of. Robbie is still awake, four and a half hours past his bedtime... I'm noticing the eye rub, though, so I'm hoping cuddle time is going to happen. I'm not getting my hopes up though. However, it could happen. This afternoon, I asked Robbie to come give me a kiss and fully expected him to blow me one. Nope! My darling little boy ran across the room and gave me a big kiss on the cheek! For the first time ever. Definitely topping my what-am-I-thankful-for list this year!

I hate to leave you with what I feel is a sub-par posting, but it's so late. And I'm so tired. And Kentucky basketball is on.

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Travel Woes

Remember when you were little and it was time to travel somewhere? Maybe it was Thanksgiving (ahem). Maybe it was Christmas. Maybe it was your first trip to Disney World? And all you wanted was to watch TV or read a book or do anything but help clean the house? After all, why bother cleaning the house when you're just going to leave it. It makes no sense. You're not going to be there to enjoy the clean, and your time could be much better spent elsewhere. And wouldn't your mom be so much more pleasant if she was able to just be excited about the trip and not flipping her lid about clearing the dishwasher and finishing the laundry and taking the trash out?

That's what I thought. You do it, too, don't you? Yup. We've all joined the league of "Those Who Clean the House Before Attempting to Travel." It's a pain in the ass, isn't it? I want to sit on the couch and do nothing. I want to eat dinner at a reasonable hour (it's in the oven now). I want to actually call my sister back when I promise to (in 45 minutes, not 3 hours...). But no. That's not how tonight worked out at all.

I'll be honest; I thought about just giving into the filth. I battle it every day. There's the litter box to clean (I wholeheartedly recommend stopping at two pets, by the way; Mom, you were so right about that one). The dishwasher to clear. The laundry to sort, clean, fold, and (on a really good day) put away. The bed has to be made every day. Toys need to be put away. Floors need to be vacuumed and steam cleaned (a new addition to the list). And I can't go to bed if it isn't all set and ready to wreck again the next day. I've tried to give in. I've tried to let the piles and fur and dirt and dishes not irritate me. They do, though. Especially when I'm trying to go out of town.

I can't even pack until the house is clean, which is why the suitcase is still in the closet. Luckily, we bought last-minute plane tickets to Baltimore instead of driving to Annapolis (can you believe they were only $171 each?). So, I'll have time tomorrow afternoon to enjoy lunch with Justin and Robbie and get packed. And thank goodness I have a clean house that will make that packing possible.

Monday, November 22, 2010

Toy Story

On Mondays, I pick up Robbie and his buddy Pete from daycare. Everyone comes back to our house, and my friend Rebecca comes to take Pete home around 5:00. As they've gotten older, Pete and Rob have started actually playing together instead of just existing in the same place. And, with playing, comes jealousy...

Robbie has a toy that he has never liked. Ever. It just never intrigued him, and I've been meaning to take it down to the basement to clear some space. It's one of those walkers-turned-ride-on-toy things. It doesn't light up or make noise, so Roberto is really all set with ignoring it. Until Pete noticed it. Then, all bets were off.

I looked up this afternoon to see Robbie pulling Pete by the shirt and Pete tried to "ride off" on the toy. Pete, understandably frustrated and concerned for his own safety, just tried to pull himself away with more effort. Undaunted, my son moved to Pete's side and grabbed his collar. Then, with strength and rudeness that I am embarrassed to admit came from my child, he pulled Pete right off the toy. Onto the floor. And Robbie picked the toy up and took it across the room. He didn't even ride it away! Robbie has no idea what the toy is actually used for (unlike Pete who knew exactly what it was when he uncovered it). He just knew that he wanted it.

Unfortunately, so did Pete, who was up and shaking the dust off his shoulders. Pete was across the room in a second, ready to fight for the toy. Each boy, standing, had one end of it. Until Pete let go and sent a startled Robbie flying across the room. Encouraged by this brief victory, Pete hopped on, hoping that Robbie wouldn't be able to throw him off if he really dug his heels in this time. Although Robbie didn't try to pull Pete off the toy, he did try to pull the toy with Pete on it.

At this point, I felt it was my parental responsibility to intervene. There were tears, red faces, and yelling. I did the only thing a responsible parent could do. I took the toy and put it on the dining room table. Then, I opened the tool kit, since it has about twenty different things for them to play with. And what happened? You got it. They both wanted the hammer...

Sunday, November 21, 2010

One of "Those" Dads

It had to happen. I had to leave Justin and Robbie alone at some point for an extended period of time. After all, how could I leave for three days without a four or five hour test run? Today was the day...

I left the house at 11:15 to have lunch with some friends, leaving Justin in charge of Robbie and the horribly clogged toilet. When I walked out the door, Justin was still plunging away in our bathroom, frustrated that I was actually leaving him with the disaster. It should have been an easy afternoon for Justin, other than fixing the epically clogged toilet. Give Robbie some lunch, put him down, and play video games until his heart's content.

And it was easy for Justin. Very easy. He put Robbie down and Robbie slept for over three hours. It was the perfect Sunday afternoon, lying on the couch in shorts and a t-shirt, doing nothing.

Robbie had just woken up when I got home, and he seemed a little cranky. I picked him up and took him into the kitchen. He nearly leapt out of my arms when he saw the banana bread, shouting, "Na! Na!" (Chinese for "I want that"). He devoured the bread. And then he picked an apple from yesterday up out of the dog's bed (don't even ask...) and started eating it. He grabbed crackers out of my hand and shoved them in his mouth.

Being the intuitive wife and mother that I am, I asked Justin what Robbie had for lunch. Without even looking up from the computer, he said, "A bottle of milk when he went down for his nap." Are you kidding me? Our sixteen-month-old has only had eight ounces of milk in the past eight hours? Really? Our conversation went something like this:

"Are you telling me that Robbie didn't eat today?"

"Yeah, actually. I am. He just had milk. Is that a problem?" And he was actually serious - he didn't know if that was a problem.

"Well... Did you eat anything other than milk today?"

"Of course. I had lun... Oh..."

And with that, my dutiful husband propelled himself off the couch with surprising speed and ran into the kitchen. He did shout back to me, asking where the peanut butter was. He managed to find it in the same place we've stored peanut butter for the past four years. I've never seen a meal thrown together with this much speed. In about 90 seconds (after a few minutes delayed for the great peanut butter hunt), Robbie was buckled into his seat and chowing down on a peanut butter sandwich, some cheese, and an orange.

I have never seen Robbie eat so fast (or with such accuracy). Usually, some of the food winds up on the floor or given to the dog. And all of this made Justin feel even worse, which I appreciated. I've learned a valuable lesson from all this, too. I will leave detailed directions for Justin when I go to Montreal next month (please note that I specifically told him what to feed Robbie and when before leaving for lunch). But I'm still a little concerned...

On another note... I've started a Facebook page for the blog. I'd love it if you became a fan! And feel free to click on any of the ads you see on the page. It really helps me out. :)

Saturday, November 20, 2010

Fabulous Day!

So... Today is my birthday. And. It. Was. Fabulous. The perfect day, from start to now ('cause it isn't finished yet). Robbie (and the dog and the husband) let me sleep until about 7:15. I woke up to a happy baby babble and listened to it for about fifteen minutes until my bladder propelled me out of bed. I stood at the door for a few minutes, watching Robbie through the crack. He spied me after a few seconds and played peek-a-boo.

We had breakfast and opened some presents and cards. Justin got me a very thoughtful necklace. I almost cried when I opened it because I could tell all the thought he had put into it. If I spelled it all out for you, it would sound corny and cliche. And it was. Perfectly cliche. He bought me a necklace with a Hershey Kiss pendant; whenever we close our emails, we sign them "Kisses and Love." And now I will always have a "Kiss" with me. See? I told you it was perfectly corny and cliche.

We went to the Boston College game with some fabulous friends and, responsibly, left Robbie and Jack with a trusted babysitter. Trusted and very, very brave. Elena had both boys for nine hours. And she bathed both of them. And had them both asleep when we came home at 7:30. If you need her number, let me know. She is amazing. I don't know that I (mother-of-the-year that I am) could have handled two kids (one 16 months and one 18 months) for that long.

The game was really great - at least the second half was! And it was a game right down to the end. Like the last play. And, in honor of my birthday, BC won. Fabulous!

We made our way back home, and went to ...Cakes, where Amy picked up an amazing birthday cake for me. I think this store may be my new addiction. Cupcakes. Muffins. Coffee. Calzones. Fabulous. Absolutely fabulous. Then it was off to Tango for steak and sangria. And more sangria. And birthday cake. And a great combination of friends. I sometimes get nervous introducing people from different aspects of my life, but it worked out perfectly. It was good timing, too, since Amy an Allie are both going on the girls' weekend to Montreal in three weeks.

We came home to my second floral delivery of the day. The first was from my mother-in-law, who sent me a gorgeous fall bouquet. My neighborhood florist had delivered these (from my fabulous brother) on her way home. It's so nice to be friends with the florist around the corner. She called to make sure someone would be home to get them.

So now, with sangria making my fingers move quickly (if not accurately) on the keyboard, I'm going to sign off and enjoy the last four hours of my birthday.

Friday, November 19, 2010


This time last year, I was (admittedly) a little panicked about turning thirty. I tried to cram in doing things one more time while I was in my twenties ("This is the last time I'll go to the gym in my twenties," "This is the last time you'll kiss me in my twenties"...). After all, our twenties are when so much of life happens. It seems much more defining than the first two decades. For me, it was really when all of my major life events happened: I graduated college, I finished grad school, I got my first "real" job, I met Justin, I moved to Georgia, I got engaged, I got married, I moved to Boston, I got laid off for the first (and, please God, only) time, I got into Boston College, I got pregnant, I had a baby. It was a pretty busy decade.

And I'm sitting on the couch in my freshly cleaned house (mostly because I was going crazy searching for tomorrow's football tickets, which were, incidentally, on the floor of the closet; I should have asked Justin four hours earlier than I did), doing a little reflecting on the past year. I don't know that there have been that many "defining" moments, but it's my favorite year so far. There was the time I spent appreciating my family and relishing the quiet. Finishing up grad school (surely for the last time) and walking at my graduation. Getting a new job, my dream job. Spending four weeks in Lexington over the summer. Swimming at The Res when Justin got home from work. Running my first 5K.

Maybe my twenties were just the foundation. I know they say, "Life starts at thirty." There were so many wonderful things before thirty that shouldn't be discounted. But, you know what? I don't think I'd go back to twenty-nine for anything.

And, since I know you're dying to ask, yes. There is one thing that I want to do before I turn thirty-one. I'm going to finish the damn stocking that's been in my grandmother's sewing box half-completed for five years. Just have to sew the back part to the front part, and I have 96 minutes to do it!

But before I go, you should all know what a thoughtful husband I have. He started celebrating my birthday weekend early with a dozen roses. I hope you are all so lucky in love!

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Late Nights

Robbie had to stay at daycare late tonight. Super late. 7:30 late. I haven't gone that long in the day without seeing him since I was taking classes last spring. I rushed all the way from Lawrence to get there, even though I knew he would be asleep. And he was. Zhining was waiting for me, so I didn't have to ring the doorbell. She slowly opened the door to the room where Robbie was sleeping, and we peaked in on him.

Robbie rolled over and briefly opened his eyes. He slowly closed them. And then quickly opened them. If he was coordinated to jump to his feet, that's what he would have done. He ran to the side of the crib with an award-winning smile on his face. It was one of those I've-been-waiting-to-see-you-all-day-and-you're-finally-here smiles. I picked him up out of the crib and he threw himself at me. Then he pulled back from me and just looked at me, a slow grin spreading across his face. He touched my cheek like he wasn't really sure I was there and then hugged me again (Cuddle Baby is really working!).

I'm not saying that I would want to have Open House every week. But, it was nice to be gone long enough for Robbie to really miss me. Usually when I pick him up from daycare, he opens the door, looks at me, and runs the other way. But not tonight. Tonight, I was the one person he wanted to see. And, at the end of the day, that's all that matters.

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Cuddle Baby

As you may have guessed, Robbie does not have any tolerance for cuddling. He's down for kisses because they are quick and he can be on his way. I also thinks he gets a kick out of how kisses sound. But hugs? Forget about it. They require actually stopping what he is doing. He can kiss and walk, which is acceptable.

I, on the other hand, have always dreamed of having a baby (err... little boy) who loved to give hugs and cuddle. So, being a mom who likes to conform others to fit her expectations, I have begun training Robbie to cuddle with me. How? (I know you're out there! The other moms with kids who don't want to give hugs) Easy. I made it a game that involves rapid movement, one of Robbie's favorite things.

I started a few days ago hugging him close to me, saying "Be a cuddle baby!", and swinging from side to side so his legs bounced around. There are a few key things here. First, it was important to hold him close the way I always pictured my little boy hugging me (you guessed it: head on my shoulder). This way, he knows what to do when I say the trigger word (can you tell I'm the one who trained the dog?). This leads me to the next point: you need to have a name for the game. For us, it's "Cuddle Baby". This lets Robbie know what he should do when you say that word. Kind of like he's figured out how to bow when Zhining says, "Thank you" in Chinese. And, finally, I swing him from side to side because he thinks it's hilarious. That way we both get something fun out of the experience.

Is it possible that this actually works? Yes. Well, most of the time. There are times when Robbie is too busy to even think about Cuddle Baby. But then there are the times that he thinks it's fun, and I love that he leaves his head on my shoulder for a few extra seconds after we finish playing. Soon enough, he'll be crawling into my lap to cuddle while we read books together... Right?

Tuesday, November 16, 2010


Justin worries that Robbie doesn't miss him when he's gone. Robbie doesn't always look up and come running when Justin walks in the house. After all, sometimes a toy that lights up and plays music is more exciting than a dad walking up the stairs...

I've been trying to convince Justin that this is not true, that Robbie does really miss him and love him and know exactly who he is. But, what do I know? I'm just the mom who listens to the kid say Dada every day Justin's gone. I'm just the mom who watches Robbie lift up the sheets and look for Justin.

The proof came today. I was in the kitchen getting dinner ready when Robbie came running down the hall with Justin's shirt in hand, gleefully yelling, "Dada! Dada! Dada!" Now if only I'd caught this on video for real proof...

Monday, November 15, 2010


I've been waiting for this phase for quite some time, and I think it's finally here. That's right. It looks like Roberto is in the repeating phase. In the past, when I asked him to say a word, he just laughed and said, "Da" (is this as irritating to other mothers as it is to me?). It occurred to me that this must have changed when Zhining told me she was teaching QiQi to count. I nearly did a double-take. This kid just says ma, da, dog, cat, ball, light, and (how could we forget) hi. But, as usual, she proved me wrong. Zhining called out, "Yi" and my child looked up and called out, "Er".

So, I figured I would try this out with Robbie over the course of the evening. We tried out car, cheese, and, much to Robbie's delight, cookie. I'm sure he has no idea what they mean really. He just enjoyed the sounds. There's one that I know he does understand. But it's a strange one. One I'm not sure I should admit that my kid knows. He knows what sound a fish makes. How? Well, every night he feeds Jake the Fish (he figured out how to shake the food over the bowl awhile ago and has to feed Jake the Fish every night before he'll go to bed).

Since we got Jake the Fish, I've been making fish noises whenever he eats. Partially because it entertains me and partially because Robbie gets so tickled. Tonight, when Jake the Fish grabbed a flake, Robbie looked at me and, with a huge grin on his face, yelled, "Gulp!" I have a feeling I'm going to have to watch what I say much more carefully.

And in other big boy news... I discovered that Robbie's streak of independence has extended to the Halloween candy I thought was hidden. He came into the kitchen waving a Tootsie Roll pop. Since it was wrapped, I didn't think much of it. Until he came back to show me that he'd gotten it unwrapped and he was enjoying it. I'm just not ready for this... Talking? Sneaking his own candy? Can I just have my baby back?

Sunday, November 14, 2010

Excused Absence...

I've been MIA since last Thursday... And, in all honesty, it's all Justin's fault (as are most things in his life). We actually got to have a family weekend, and I got so caught up in actually living my life that I forgot to write about it. It probably won't sound like it was anything that fabulous, but Justin hasn't been home for a full weekend in a month. In the past two months, I've only actually had him home two weekends.

Friday night we took Robbie to his first high school football game. It was the first high school football game Justin and I have been to since we moved to Massachusetts. And, let me tell you, it disappointed. High school football in Massachusetts cannot, in anyway, compare to high school football in Georgia - or even Kentucky. When we lived in Georgia, it was an event. The entire town came. Teachers went. Students went. Parents went. Alumni went. The stands were packed, especially if it was an in-town game. At Lawrence? Not so much in regards to attendance. There is a beautiful facility, and it was mostly empty. The visiting team had more fans at the game.

It wasn't just the attendance that made it so different; it was the whole atmosphere. We're used to football and cheerleaders and marching bands. Sure, there was football. Mediocre football that no one actually paid any attention to. And there were cheerleaders who could barely do toe-touches and took five girls to put one girl up in the air. You would have thought I was there coach (and, in the shocking revelation of the day, I actually was a cheerleading "coach" for the freshmen at Houston County). And the band? Oh, the band. How disappointing it was for Justin, who was most excited about the band. They played once, between the first and second quarters. There were no uniforms. There was no marching.

I'm still glad we went, though. Robbie actually tried to run away from me (surprise, surprise!). When I got to him, I heard someone yell, "Mrs. Manna!" When I turned around, it was one of my favorite students who pointed to the guy standing next to me and said, "That's my dad!" I got to meet my first parent (to my teacher friends out there, I haven't gotten any emails or phone calls complaining about my performance as a teacher - A.Mah.Zing!). It was nice to be able talk to a parent, especially when I had so many good things to say.

Last night, Justin and I had a date. Not the pathetic excuse for a date we had last time (massage - not pathetic - followed by rushed grocery shopping - pathetic). We went all out last night after Justin got home from class (so we missed him for Saturday). We went to get massages and then out to Tango for a nice dinner together. It was so strange to sit and talk over a leisurely dinner. We had a pitcher of sangria. We slowly ate our meal (what I wouldn't give for another filet...) without moving the plate from groping fingers. There was no rush to leave because someone got antsy. There was no mess to pick up under the table. Well, other than the mess Justin left... We even had time for dessert. And, you know what? We still like each other! There are still fun things to talk about. Every now and then I worry that we will run out of things to talk about. And one day we might. But, thankfully, that wasn't last night.

Today involved a failed attempt at church. We had to make a break for it after the homily when Robert melted down. And then it was chore time. Major chore time. I'm talking shampooing the upholstery. I'm talking raking leaves. And bagging them. Thirteen bags worth. We even swept. It looks like fall never even happened at our house! Justin and I got it knocked out in about two hours. Yard work is so much more tolerable when there's someone doing it with you. It also helps when a certain baby takes a nearly four hour nap...

I told you it wouldn't sound like anything super fabulous. Of course, I left out some parts. Like that I've taught Robbie how to give hugs and play "cuddle baby". He'll throw his head on my shoulder and laugh. Since Robbie isn't really a cuddler (or affectionate beyond blowing kisses), this is a big step. I'm hoping at some point he'll move to spontaneously giving hugs and not trying to wriggle his way out of them after five seconds.

And now I need to go. After all, family weekend isn't over yet. There's still dinner with the Sillettos and bath time. Oh, and laundry to put away and the house to get picked up before it gets cleaned tomorrow. And then a clean couch to lounge on while I work on finishing the Christmas stocking I started making for myself five years ago...

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Toy Stealer

I arrived at daycare to a very concerned Zhining. I could tell she had something to tell me, but it didn't occur to me what it could possibly be. And then she showed me Robbie's hand, which was covered in teeth marks. From Addie, the two-year-old girl at daycare. Apparently, young Robert decided that he wanted the toy Addie was playing with. It's actually a battle we've been fighting at home, dealing with temper tantrums when Robbie doesn't get the item he wants. Well, Addie figured out how to deal with Robbie when he wants something that isn't his. Just bite him.

Being the good mother that I am, I couldn't help but laugh, much to Zhining's relief. I'm not sure how she thought that I would react. She had Addie apologize to both of us, and I had Robbie apologize (as well as he could with his limited vocabulary) for stealing Addie's toy. Then they gave each other kisses, which nearly melted my heart.

Zhining and I spent a few minutes discussing the situation. She told me QiQi had "big song" when Addie bit him. Shockingly, he didn't recover well... I guess he gave quite a performance. While we were talking, I looked over to see that Addie had picked up a car to play with at the table. And Robbie was in the midst of trying to pry it from her fingers. All of a sudden, I saw a gleam in Addie's eye as she opened her mouth wide and leaned in to teach Robbie a lesson about stealing toys.

I'm not really a big fan of my kid getting bitten, but I'm even less of a fan of him stealing toys from other kids. I can't really go around biting my kid every time he steals a toy or throws a tantrum. And hopefully I won't have to. After all, he sees Addie at daycare every day.

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

We Made It!

Justin has been gone since early Sunday morning, and, while I've actually enjoyed having some downtime to myself, I am so ready for him to come home tomorrow. I miss having someone to talk to in the mornings when I get ready for work and to recap the day before we fall asleep. With Justin being in California, there's the three-hour time difference, too. So we don't get to talk until 3:30, and even then it's only for a few minutes. Robbie hasn't actually gotten to talk to Justin on the phone for the past five days because he's asleep by the time Justin's finished with the trade show and we get to catch up with each other.

Justin called last night and left a message for Robbie. I wish I could have taped his face when he heard Justin's voice on the phone. It was a full body smile, from his eyes right down to his toes. He was so tickled to hear Justin talking just to him on the phone that it made me melt a little. I'm not sure who misses Justin more because Robbie keeps running around saying, "Dada! Dada!" But, we made it through (hopefully!) the last trade show of the season. I think we're both ready for some family time with Justin.

Robbie celebrated tonight by organizing his shoes before bedtime. It was a pretty detailed operation he had going on, but I'm not really sure what the madness to his method was. Or, for that matter, what the method to his madness was. But he was determined to move every single one of his shoes from under his rocking horse to, get this, the Diaper Champ. He piled them up on top and then around the base. And then started taking them back to the rocking horse. Not having time for the whole process again, I interrupted him with a hug and tickle session distracting him from the shoes. What in the world am I going to do when zerberts don't do the trick?

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Still Falling...

I've had over 48 hours to get used to this whole time change thing. But it isn't working. I think the problem is that we do the time change over a weekend. You know why they do that right? It lulls us into a false sense of security. We sleep an hour later than normal. We think it's a little cozy to curl up on the couch Sunday night when it gets dark later. It's a good excuse to get to bed a little earlier. Maybe we'll get up earlier in the mornings to enjoy the sunlight then. And then Monday hits. And Tuesday.

Yesterday was much rougher than I anticipated. There was the faculty meeting that went until 4:20. There was the pouring rain. There was the pitch black. And it was only 4:38. Pair that with not having glasses, and it was like driving in a fish bowl. I couldn't wrap my head around the fact that it wasn't 7:30, as I rushed to daycare. I was no later than I'd told Zhining I would be, but I felt like I was hours behind.

And then there was today. I got out of work on time. I picked up Robbie on time. We went to the gym. And, of course, it was pitch black when we left. "Taps" hadn't even played yet. Of course, there were still two errands to run before Robbie and I could get home. It wasn't terribly late, but I still had that horrible feeling of being late. I just really hope this doesn't last all winter.

In Robbie news... I put him to bed easily, but he started screaming about ten minutes later. It sounded a little distant, so I went upstairs to investigate. His door was still shut, which seemed odd. Usually, when he gets upset, the first thing he does is open the door. It turns out that was exactly why he was screaming. The door was stuck shut, and he couldn't open it to see what was going on out in the hall. As soon as the door was open? Happy baby! And off to sleep he went. Thank goodness for easy fixes!

Monday, November 8, 2010

Monday Morning Blues?

Not with Roberto in the house. I'l be honest; I always do a double-check when the alarm goes off on Monday mornings. I love my job, but I also love my weekends with my family. And I hate to see that time end. Needless to say, I was caught a little off guard with Robbie's approach to Monday morning.

I first heard him at 5:52, even though my alarm doesn't go off until 5:55. Today, though, I didn't mind. Robbie was cheering, "Yay!" and clapping. Then he waited a few seconds and started all over again. He kept it up for thirty minutes until I went in to get him dressed.

I don't think I've ever had someone cheer me awake, but I'm hoping it happens again tomorrow!

Sunday, November 7, 2010

It's Beginning to Look a Lot Like Christmas...

At least that was the plan today... Get a head start on the Christmas shopping. Maybe get a few decorations. Leisurely stroll the Boston Christmas Festival. And that's exactly how it would have been. Except my friend Amy and I took our little boys. And nothing is ever leisurely with one little boy. Two of them? Ha.

It started out well enough, the two of us managing to maneuver the crazed shoppers with ease. After all, we have over a year's worth of experience. Three years if you combine us. We made a few key purchases early on, and, as much as I would love to, they cannot be disclosed here. There's always the off-chance that my Godmother and father-in-law might read this... We smartly made our way to the gourmet food aisle, ripe with samples. The boys devoured them with such gusto that we decided it must be time to get lunch, which is where all hell broke lose.

The boys were done with their strollers. They batted away any food that was offered to them. They spilled their drinks down their fronts. My child fussed and carried on so loudly that I'm sure the people who let us share their table were regretting the decision. And, yes, I let Rob drink Diet Pepsi. From the bottle. In public. It was the only thing he would ingest. And then the crowning blow, so to speak. A blown out diaper. In the stroller. And no wipes.

Thank God it wasn't my kid because he would have been forced to ride back to the car in a clean diaper (I did remember to bring two of those) and his coat. Fortunately, Amy is a much better prepared Mom than I am, and her child was able to make it back to the car in a completely clean set of clothes. It was mothering at its finest.

Saturday, November 6, 2010

Rocking Horses

When I was little, my dad built a rocking horse for me. It's one of the only things I have from him, and Justin and I have had it in our bedroom since we got married. I'm not sure why it's been in our bedroom. But, that's where it's lived. It's been in the corner more often than not, occasionally with a stray shirt over its back. For years, the rocking horse has just been an oversight.

Rocking horses, in my mind, defined my father when I was little. He had an amazing workshop in the basement, and it seems like he must have spent weeks making rocking horses. There was tracing the patterns, cutting out the pieces, sanding them down, staining them, and shellacking them. I loved when he would give me the chance to help. I remember the feel of the sponge brush in my hand. He made ten of them to donate to our school's fair when I was in the first or second grade. One of my favorite pictures is him standing next to the stacked horses with my sister and me each sitting on one in our pajamas.

Later, when we moved to Delong Road, he still had the workshop in the basement. He didn't build horses as often, but all the equipment was still there. I got to build a rocking horse of my own out of a "mistake" horse. When I was finished, my mom helped me donate it to The Nest, a nonprofit that helped women and children leaving abusive home situations. Even now, I can remember taking the horse to the center with my mom. It was worth all the effort to see the kids run to play with it.

And so, thirty years later, Robbie is old enough to appreciate this piece of my childhood. In the past few days, he's figured out how to make himself rock back and forth. He's even started to work on his dismount, although they haven't all been successful. I keep assuring him that real riders get thrown all the time, but that doesn't do much to dissolve his tears. Fortunately, pretzels continue to do the trick.

Culture Shock

As many of you know, Robbie goes to Chinese daycare. I guess Justin and I never gave much thought to the Chinese culture, although we regularly appreciate the food. However, seeing Zhining every day has given us a glimpse into Chinese culture (and a son who thought his name was QiQi - his Chinese name - and not Robbie for the first six months of his life). And last night was no exception. Which is why I didn't get to write last night...

Zhining sings with the Boston Beijing Opera Association, and last night was their annual performance. I had planned to go see a former student's play, but Zhining presented me with tickets as a gift, and I just couldn't say no to her. She was so excited that we were finally going to come see her (we also saw her perform at the Dragonboat Festival in the spring, and Robbie burst into tears when she held him in full costume, as pictured).

Justin and I made a night out of it, with the help of Micah and Allie who watched Robbie for us. We took the T down to Central Square and ate at an Ethiopian restaurant we like. It was so nice to sit, relaxed, at a restaurant. Of course, the people with the three extremely loud children didn't add much to the ambiance. Especially when the mother busted out the Obama picture book and opened with "What does Obama say?" and then proceeded to loudly talk about how "Obama is in charge of everybody in the United States." I thought Justin was going to die!

And then it was off to the Chinese opera. Justin and I weren't quite sure what to expect, and we found the sixteen acts in the program a little daunting. But, they opened with a drum corps performing the Chinese Opera Overture, which was incredible. Zhining was amazing. And the 75-year-old woman who sang two numbers? She gave me chills. The orchestra that performed two numbers? Incredible.

I have to be honest; I was not looking forward to a night at the opera. It didn't really strike me as a fun thing to do on a Friday night, particularly when I knew that Justin would be in class all day today and that he leaves for San Diego for five days early tomorrow morning. But, it wound up being a fun date, despite the horribly uncomfortable chairs that we sat in for two and a half hours. I do wish I could have understood what the host was saying. He seemed to be really funny... But, like the descriptions of the songs in the programs, it might have lost something in translation. Did you know that the Chinese army has a head coach? And that "oftentimes" is a popular word? That might have been the best part. Except for when Zhining saw us after the performance. What did she have to say? "You came! But where is QiQi?"

Thursday, November 4, 2010

Favorite Stage?

When Robbie was first born, I remember talking to my older (and wiser) cousins at my Aunt Barb's house. They were talking about the stages their kids went through and talked about what their favorite stages were. I couldn't wait to experience all the different stages. But, I have to be honest, I thought the stage with the baby who loves to cuddle and needs me for everything was the best stage. I couldn't imaging life being any better than that.

And then Robbie started hitting new stages. The smiling stage. The sleeping through the night stage (still an all-time favorite!). The sitting stage (this freed up so much time!). The holding-your-own-bottle stage. The crawling stage (still not a big fan). The talking stage. The walking stage. And I've loved them all (except, as noted, the crawling stage), always convinced that the current stage is my favorite. But this time, it's really true. I'm sure of it.

Robbie is like my partner in crime. We do everything together: shopping, going to the gym, school dances, visit garage sales. And he gets it. He knows that he's on an adventure, and he seems to get a kick out of it. He's also in the stage where he's putting everything together. The other day, he tried to put the leash on Barkley, not that the dog was happy about it. He's figuring out new words and actions every day. Today, it was how to jump and say the word jump in Mandarin (it sounds like "bomb" and he kept saying it and saying it and saying it). I love the participate-in-life-and-laugh-all-the-time stage. And I hope this one lasts for the rest of his life.

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Quality Time

In the fall, Justin and I don't get a lot of time together, so I relish whatever I can get. Today is the first night we've had together without travel plans, class, or company in nearly two weeks. We met up at Wilson Farm to shop for tonight's dinner (and tomorrow's lunch). Sure, Justin could have gone on his own. Or Robbie and I could have stopped by on our way from the base (I finally got new glasses - all for just $183.15!). But it wouldn't have been something fun to do as a family. We get into so much of a routine that it's nice to do something other than dinner, bath for Robbie, and story time.

We all ate dinner together and enjoyed playing with Robbie while he took a bath. Actually, my pants did not enjoy it. Rob soaked them. Twice. And thought it was hysterical. It was nice to just sit and talk and play. No work. No school. Just a boy and his bubbles.

We're currently sitting on the couch, watching Survivor, as Justin rubs my feet. That's right. I don't think he's rubbed them since I was nine months pregnant. Of course, I'm not so sure that I've asked. It's not an exciting night. It's probably not one that we'll even remember in a week. But it feels so nice to just be. To sit quietly on the couch with Justin, not saying a word. With all the time I spend alone while Justin travels or is class, it's nice to have another adult. Especially my husband.

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Dinner and Dessert

My friend Julia is in town, so we went to one of our favorite haunts for dinner tonight. No, not Brigham's (can I mention here how devastated we were to find it closed during one of Julia's visits?). That's right. Ixtapa. Really the only good Mexican place we've found up here (coming from Georgia where there was some pretty fabulous Mexican). Roberto was kind enough to escort us and proved to be quite the entertainment.

Zhining tells me that Robbie colors in daycare, but I have never seen this. Until tonight. He sat right down at the restaurant, grabbed the crayons, and got to work. I quickly got involved in conversation and forgot about Robbie's coloring. I didn't really forget about him; I more left him to his own devices since he was so quiet coloring. Novice mom move. I looked back at Robbie and saw that his mouth was covered in blue and red wax crumbs. Closer inspection of the crayons revealed that he had indeed bitten the ends off... I'm sure Zhining will be asking questions when he has red and blue poop tomorrow. And I can't even throw Justin under the bus on this one (yes, I've done it before).

Dismayed at the loss of his crayons, Robbie began grabbing for tortilla chips. That wasn't enough. He saw us dipping our chips into queso (I know, the model of healthy eating with queso and crayon on the menu) and wanted some. I wasn't sure he would like it, but there's no telling Robbie that. After all, this is the kid who drank my iced coffee in August. And, once again, I was wrong. He dipped his chip into the queso (where does he learn this stuff?), put it in his mouth, smiled, and gave me his famous, "Mmm!" What do I know?

After dinner, we went to the only Brigham's left that's open near us. They don't serve the good food the one in the Center did, so it was really just good for ice cream. I wanted to get Robbie a little of his own and asked if I could just get a spoonful of ice cream in a cup. What I got was a $3.00 tiny scoop of ice cream... So much for a little customer service. Having worked in an ice cream store for over a year during college, I know that it's really OK to give a little ice cream. Especially for a baby who isn't going to eat more than a spoonful. But, I digress. I'm sure Robbie was thrilled with his own ice cream. He sat on his knees in the booth and practiced spooning ice cream and feeding himself. He was a little bit of a disaster, but the smile. Oh, that smile. Worth all the mess in the world.

Monday, November 1, 2010


Robbie had a nightmare tonight. It was the kind he couldn't wake himself up from; he was screaming in his sleep when Justin went in to get him. It was one of those pitiful screams, the kind where you just want to make it better as soon as you can.

Justin brought Robbie downstairs, and he immediately glommed on to me. I have to be honest; it melted my heart a little. Rob looked around, confused, for a few minutes. I'm not sure he realized that the dream was over, and he was checking out his surroundings.

It only took a few minutes for Robbie to cuddle into my arms, which means the dream must have been pretty terrible. He never cuddles with me. Ever. He fights his way out of hugs and holding. There are too many things for him to get into. So, for him to nestle in my arms was heaven. He cuddled up to me and fell into a deep sleep. It nearly broke my heart to have to put him back down in his crib because I don't know when he'll do it again. As much as I hate for him to experience a nightmare, I do love the cuddling that comes afterwards.