I’m pretty sure I’m raising a germaphobe.

One of my favorite things about being a mom is seeing my son develop his personality.  His like and dislikes, his quirks, his sense of humor. It’s so cute.

But sometimes something pops up that makes you go ‘uhmm, wait a sec. this is a little odd.’  And this is one of those times.  I think he’s a germaphobe.

Here’s the evidence:

He has been able to wash his hands by himself (soap and all) for almost a year now.  I thought it was just because it’s fun to splash in the water, but maybe not.

He recently saw me using antibacterial gel and now he will scream every time he sees the bottle until I let him use some.

Every time we walk past the downstairs bath (pretty much every time we go upstairs or downstairs, or come into the house or leave it – the door to the garage is right by the stairs and the bathroom), he starts chanting “Wash up, wash up, wash up,” climbs up on the step stool and washes up.

Typical instance in my home:
Lil Man will be crying hysterically over…whatever…who knows?
Me: Oh, baby boy! It’s okay!  You want some hugs?
Him: WAHHHH! NOOO!!! WAHHH!! WAHHH!!!
Me: Do you want to go wash up?
Him: sniff sniff. yeah.  sniff.  ::runs to wash his hands::

What do you think? Germaphobe or not?

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That’s What It’s All About

No, I’m not talking about the hokey pokey, although I have the feeling I’ll be doing a lot more of that in the future.  I’m talking about life, family and enjoying them without feeling like pulling my hair out.
 
I’ve had a lot of changes in my life recently, the biggest of them being that I quit my job (!!!) so I can stay at home with my son and focus on our family life.  With all the long hours and travel that my husband has to do, it’s become increasingly important for someone to step back and make our home life a priority.
I came to the realization that I wasn’t being a good mom, wife or employee.  I wasn’t winning at anything in my life.  I was just mad-dashing from here to there, not really investing in anything, just getting things {barely} done.  I lacked balance in my life.  After too many days of giving Lil Man Easy Mac for dinner, a week where I was up at 4 a.m. working and worked all weekend, I realized I can’t do it any longer.
And why was I trying to do it all? I’m still not sure. The plan had always been for me to stay home.  I am certainly not a career gal.  I had a job in my field that was fun, but I had it mainly because it was flexible and family friendly, but that had changed a while back.  I was just doing what I’d been doing without thinking about whether I needed to do it, like a hamster in its wheel.
My life has taken on a whole new direction, and I like it.  The day after I turned in my two week’s notice, I was able to breathe better and had time for little things – reading an extra book to my son, little longer conversations with my husband. I’ve been able to keep up with our home a little more and holy crap! I’ve actually had time to talk to my neighbors!
And as confirmation that this was the right choice, my son decided to learn to leap out of the crib a week after my last day at work, while my husband was out of the country.  It was up to me to convert the crib to a toddler bed and stay up pretty much 24 hours a day, since my son didn’t take well to the toddler bed.  He’s like a newborn, waking up every couple of hours, except that this newborn can run to find his mama when he wakes up.  So yes, it’s a very good thing that I’m able to be home.  Thankfully, he’s down to waking up two times during the night, so things are looking up!
Staying home is tiring and the work never ends – if one more person tells me I’m now a ‘lady of leisure’ I might become a ‘lady on trial for assault’. I never expected things to slow down.  If anything, I knew it would be more hectic to chase after Lil Man all day (by the way, he can climb to the top of a six-foot chain link fence in .02 nanoseconds) than to lose myself in my Adobe Creative Suite (oh, how I miss it!).  I just couldn’t do both.
Cash is tighter, of course, but I’m turning those shortfalls into highlights. Like yesterday, I had to take my Lil Man to get new shoes.  Normally, I just buy food while I’m out, but I packed a lunch for us in an effort to save my pennies.  Instead of eating fast food, we had a picnic at the park when it was time for lunch.  {Wanna know something really odd about me?  I always have a picnic blanket in my car.  Always.  I’ve used it maybe three times.  Don’t ask me why I do it.  I really don’t know.} It was simple picnic.  We just sat down, ate our sandwiches, and waved at every.stinking.dog that came within a 50-foot radius of us.  We put on the hoods on our sweatshirts, which cracked him up for some unknown reason, until he realized I had tricked him into wearing his hoodie, which immediately kicked off screams of “Off! Off! OFF!!”
But isn’t that what it’s all about?
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Weekend Getaway: Charleston, South Carolina

The hubs and I decided to celebrate Independence Day in our own way….by declaring our independence and going away for the weekend.  My parents drove up from Florida to stay with Lil Man, which I am so thankful for that. It took us forever to get on the road, but once we did, it was great.  Other than missing our Lil Man and his giant hugs, we were happy to be away from work, the schedules and the non-stop chaos that our life has become.

Check out some pics from our trip:

Charleston

I could write a whole drawn-out description of everywhere  we went, everything we saw, but I won’t bore you.  I’ll just sum up my highlights:

City Market: this is the main tourist drag in town, but  it used to be the actual market for the town. It so cool to walk around and see the stalls and people’s wares.  You can almost feel the history.  Especially if you’re into handmade and local talent like I am (even though only a handful of vendors were really handmade), the City Market is an awesome way to spend an afternoon or two.

Ghost Tour: I love me a good ghost tour.  It tells you how people used to live back in
the heyday of the city you’re visiting. My husband and I try to take a ghost tour wherever we go. The tour guide we had this time wasn’t the best, but the stories were pretty good, and there was a guy in our group who was all into ghost hunting and even had an EMF
reader with him, a la Ghost Hunters.  He took some pictures and said he caught some ‘orbs’, but I think they were just bugs.

City Lights Coffee: We had breakfast here a couple of the days we were there (because we slept past breakfast the first day – no baby monitor!).  It’s a local coffee shop that just ooooooozes with charm.  So cool.  If I could rule the world, I would rename that place “The Charleston Coffeehouse” – it just has that feel to it – worn wood, tin ceilings, a big old bar in the middle.  They serve the best hazelnut lattes that I’ve ever had, and they serve them in thick ceramic cups that make you curl both your hands around them and soak up the warmth.

Walking around: Charleston is a great place to just walk around and soak up history.  Every building is charming, every street is full of history. And the homes are just gorgeous.
We loved our time meandering through the streets, having gelato on the steps of the customs house (kind of reminded us of our trip to Italy a few years ago), or hanging out at the Battery.

Husk Restaurant: If you’re in Charleston and want to have one nice dinner, definitely go here.  We (the hubs, really) thought that the restaurant was just a long-ish walk away,
which it was, but we didn’t factor in the crazy hot weather.  By the time we got to Husk, I was a sweaty, drippy mess.  I was so embarrassed, especially since I didn’t realize that this place was as nice as it turned out to be.  One of the owners was at the front and greeted us like we’re his best friends.  Our waiter was really great as well.  And the food was to die for.  It was a pricey place, but worth every penny. They even gave us dessert on the house to celebrate our anniversary!  I really can’t get over how attentive and caring the staff was, and how delicious and high-quality the meal itself was.  It’s not every day you find a place
that treats you well and feeds you well.

Reconnecting: The best part of the trip, by far, was spending time with my husband.  With all his work travel and our crazy schedules, it seems like we’re been just making do and struggling to stay afloat. Taking care of our son is our priority, but I have to admit that it’s been a challenge to stay connected to each other.  Taking this time, as difficult as it was to be away from my baby boy, was so important for us.  Being able to hold hands, hang out, not worry about a schedule or house maintenance/cleaning. And we weren’t completely heartless. We came back in time to celebrate Independence Day with my parents and our Lil Man, and then enjoyed fireworks with the neighbors.

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This is not a milestone I knew about.

kisses and graham crackers in the courtyard - first memory?

My first memory is of me, sitting in my grandpa’s car, crying because I got homesick and insisted on him taking me home when my brother and I were supposed to sleep over at my grandparents’ house.  I remember wearing a seat belt, and looking down and seeing my tiny feet not quite reaching reaching the end of the seat, and a giant white diaper poofing out between my legs.  Yes, no carseat.  It was 1982. I don’t even think people wore
seat belts back then.  I was crying, mostly because I felt bad about being such a brat that I made my grandpa drive me all the way home (maybe two miles), at such a late hour (the sun was still out – it was just late for me).

The next memory I have is of me at home, watching Sesame Street and looking over at the kitchen because my nanny was talking to herself as she was cleaning up.  This was before
I started preschool – which I started at the ripe old age of two, so I was probably about 1 ½ or so.  I remember thinking “Isabela si que esta loca!”  That’s “Isabela sure is crazy!” in Spanish – I grew up in Puerto Rico.

Seriously.  I remember this stuff.

I was thinking about these memories a couple of days ago while soaking up our nightly cuddle time with my Lil Man.  And then a chill ran down my spine as I realized that I was about his age when I had these memories.  That means he could be remembering anything that is happening now.  He is forming his first memories, those little moments he’ll think back to when he’s cuddling his child three decades from now.

My first reaction was panic. This is not a milestone I had been warned about. What if his first memory is bad?  Am I supposed to provide a life of puppies and rainbows so his first memory is pure bliss? Surely this is not the case.  Right?

But I don’t want it to be a bad one.

I mean, my first memory is of guilt, of me getting my way, of me inconveniencing one of the greatest people on earth.  That sucks. On the other hand, I could look at it as a memory of my grandpa and the lengths he’d go to because he loves me.

Did this in any way shape who I am today?

As a mom, what am I supposed to do? Should I do anything?  It’s unrealistic for me to create an environment of pure happiness and perfection 24/7.  And I wouldn’t want that anyway.  Besides, my kid has it good.  Really good. I may not be a perfect mom, but I wouldn’t mind his life.  Any better and he’ll be spoiled rotten.

Now that that first moment of panic is gone, I’m just curious…what will his first memory be?

Will it be of the time that he and I hung out on the courtyard at his school and giggled as he finished a graham cracker that he charmed out of his teacher right before we left his class that day?  Or will it be when I didn’t let him tip over the bench in that same courtyard?  Will it be us playing chase around the house like we do every day, or will it be the temper tantrum that ensues when I take him off the couch because he’s tried to run laps on it?

The bottom line is that I can’t shape his first memory.  If it ends up being a less-than-stellar moment in his otherwise kick-ass life, then there’s nothing I can do about
it except know in my heart of hearts that for every bad memory there were a million and a half good ones.  I’ll just have to wait a decade or two to find out what those early memories are/will be.  Maybe that’s why they don’t tell you about this milestone – you can’t do anything about them, and it’ll be decades before you know when it happened.

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Inspiration Workshop: Handmade

Handmade…to me, the word evokes a sense of warmth, of giving, of love. My first thoughts go to a few of the oodles of blankets we received at our baby shower. That was almost two years ago – yikes! where has the time gone?!
Somehow, we ended up with close to 30 receiving blankets.  A few of them were lovingly made by family and friends, and those have a special place in my heart:
The ones I love the most are the lightweight flannel ones with crocheted borders made by my grandma (like the one with the train pattern – that’s just one of the ones she made).  We’ve been using them a lot more now, because they seem to comfort my son at bedime.  Each night, he grabs one of his blankets from a cubby hole, hands it to me, climbs into my lap and curls up into my neck.  I wrap the blanket on top of us and cuddle back.  When he realizes that it’s time to go to sleep, he pops up and plays some sort of silly game (blowing me kisses, pretending to bite my nose, throwing himself back so I’ll tickle him, etc.) to get my heart to melt so I’ll let him stay up later.  After a little play time, I place him in the crib and tuck him in with the blanket.
 
What I love is that these blankets remind me of when I was little.  My grandmother made some of these same kinds of blankets for me and my brother when we were born.  After we were babies, these blankets became superhero capes, roofs to our forts, and on occasion used as whips. I still have my favorite (pink, of course) at my mom’s house. One more detail that amazes me – each blanket has a different crocheted border, and she never works from a pattern. She just makes it up and goes with it.
 
The quilt in the middle of the stack was the first quilting project by one of my oldest friends (not age-wise, but time-wise).  She was the first friend I made when we moved from Puerto Rico to the States (Florida to be exact).  Really, our brothers, who were fast friends, pushed us together so that we’d leave them alone and they were lucky that we hit it off.  More than 20 years later, we’ve all become family.  This quilt is so special to me, because it was made by her. I can’t imagine finding complimentary fabrics, cutting so many squares, sewing them together and then giving it away.  I can’t even begin to imagine how long this took.  And to give away your first quilt is so telling of my friend’s genuine heart. My son and I have had great times on this quilt – it was the perfect tummy time mat in his infant days!
 
The knit blanket at the bottom of the stack brings a tear to my eye every time I look at it.  It was made by my mom’s aunt, who honestly, I don’t remember ever meeting.  I know that she has the most giving heart even though she has been very ill almost her entire life.  She became a nun when she was young, but after being incredibly ill (she had her last rites given to her four times), she left the convent so she wouldn’t be such a burden to her already-struggling community.  She went on to fall in love, marry, have a child and then adopt two more children.  These days, she is in her 80’s, and a widow. Despite her health issues, she still has a beautiful giving spirit that won’t give up.  She learned to knit a couple of years ago and when she found out I was pregnant with a boy, began knitting this beautiful blue blanket that I used to wrap up my little baby boy on that chilly December day that we left the hospital to bring him home.
 
All this hadmade love continually inspires me, not only in my own sewing and crafting, but in my life as well.  It inspires me to live from my heart and share my heart with others.
 

Gussy

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Maybe I’m missing out, but he’s not.

Lil Man's favorite spot at his school ~ under the pergola in the courtyard. Who says daycares are cold and impersonal?

Lately, it seems all different parts of my life are making me feel guilty for being a working mom.  I keep getting comments and questions like:  Why would I hire out my parenting?  How can I stand pawning off my kid for the entire day?  He’s missing out on so much at some cold, generic center where nobody knows his name (apparently, I’m supposed to take him to Cheers or something…and by the way, every teacher in his school, even the ones he doesn’t see often, know his name) – how can you stand it?

The answer? Sometimes I don’t know.  Even after more than a year, my heart still breaks when I leave him in the morning, and it skips a beat every time I see his big smile and open arms running at me in the afternoon.

But, I do know that I absolutely adore my son, more than anything in this world.  And I know that I cannot provide the same kind of stimulation and learning that he gets at his school.  I cannot provide endless amounts of lessons learned from early childhood education experts.  I have no way of letting him learn how to react to other people, or learn that there are some kids who will happily share toys and others who may need a little convincing without me being his crutch.  I have no way of safely introducing him to peer pressure, both the good (all my friends are eating veggies, I should too!) and the bad (all my friends are climbing tables, I should too!) in a way that will let him make his own choices, and not look to me for direction every.single.time.

Frankly, I underestimate him and all toddlers.  I had no idea that he was capable of washing his hands well, putting his dirty dishes away, getting his blanket and putting it away after naptime by himself, or putting his toys away.  I would have never even thought to teach him that at this age, but he does all that.  I’m still amazed.

I don’t have the ability or time to create elaborate, nutritionally-balanced meals from scratch every day (including two snacks) like he gets at school – even on the weekend, with the hubs helping out, I can barely manage to get a halfway decent dinner on the table, and I actually love cooking, at least when I have the time.

With no family nearby and a husband who travels about 60% of the time and works long hours in between trips, it would be me, and only me, all day every day, weekday and weekend taking care of my son with no chance of a break.  Add in my life-long utter lack of energy, and you can see that this isn’t a good combination for any toddler, especially mine, who is never still – not even when he sleeps.

What I can do is present him with those opportunities that I am not qualified to do.  I can take him to a place that is so nurturing that it hurts.  A happy place where as soon as you step through the front gate, you are welcomed into a beautiful courtyard full of nooks and crannies to explore with birds and squirrels sneaking a snack out of the birdfeeder.  And that’s before we even cross the front door, where we are always greeted warmly and by name by whichever director or teacher is there before we walk down the ramp and enter his classroom full of friends, lessons, adventures, hugs and memories.

Ideally, there would be a magic solution, where he would have all the experiences that his school can provide, and I could be there with him (do you think they’d let me enroll in the toddler class?), and he’d somehow still learn to be a little more independent from me (because he’s really turning into a mama’s boy, which I secretly love – okay maybe not so secretly), or even better, I’d be able to provide everything for him and be his hero, but I can’t at this point in my life.

So yes, I may be missing out on some great experiences with my son (and I’m not all that sure that I am missing out but the mommy guilt is still there), but the important thing right now is that he‘s not missing out on anything.
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Can I be a wedding guest now?

Okay, so I got caught up in the royal wedding.  So sue me.

I was just going to watch just to be in the know, and of course to check out the wedding dress.  But then, I saw them.  The hats.  The magnificent, amazing, hypnotic hats.  I fell in love.  I had planned on wearing my tiara at the office (yes, I have a tiara), but after seeing those…well, it just wasn’t worth it.  It’s not like I’ll ever be a princess.  But I can wear funky hats whenever the mood strikes.  And oh, man, did it ever.

At work, there was a bit of quiet time, and my computer needed to reboot like a million times today (I have a feeling the blue screen of death is in my near future).  So this is what happened:

I scrounged around the office and got a small foam plate, some paper cut into strips, tape, staples, a pipe cleaner and some rubber bands and voila!  I have a hat fit for a royal wedding.

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