Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Learning from the First Year- What Works for a Working Mom

Recently my DH and I had dinner with another couple expecting their first child.  This couple asked us if we had any advice, as we are one year into parenthood.  At first I was taken aback by being considered knowledgeable, as I feel like I spent this past year not knowing what I was doing AT ALL!  However, I did have a lot of "advice" (if you can call it that) that I was able to share with the expecting couple and I figured I would share it will all of you!

*  The "Extinction Method" from Healthy Sleep Habits, Happy Child by Dr. Weissbluth works- when Baby A was two months old, I had one more month until I needed to go back to work so I was desperate to get her to sleep through the night so I could make it through the work week.  On the first night my DH and I sat on our bed holding hands as we endured 26 whole minutes of blood curdling screaming and crying out in protest of this new bedtime routine (according to the method, you are not suppose to go back into the baby's room AT ALL- you are to let the child cry it out until the crying becomes "extinct").  These minutes seemed to last forever as I bit my lower lip to stop from crying and nervously paged through Weissbluth's text to make sure I was following his instructions to a T.  The next night the crying lasted a painful 19 minutes, and by night three she protested with only a murmur.  People say I am lucky that I have a child who has been sleeping through the night since she was two months old, but I really think it is the "Extinction Method" the proved to work!    

*  Take your baby everywhere!  Baby A has been to the nicest restaurants and her table manners are excellent, haha, not really, but she is pretty well behaved as long as she has people to watch and something to play with- like bread.  She is an extremely social baby and I think my DH and I have conditioned her to be this way by immersing her in social environments since an early age.  

*  Have a schedule, but train your child to be flexible-  Our household is predictable and on most days, mealtime, playtime, bath time and bedtime have specific time slots.  I think it's good to get into a routine because expectations are set up and that way, when your child has to go to bed, it is expected and not a battle.  However, I am not too rigid with our schedule, especially on weekends and during vacations- it's okay if your little one is up an hour or two past their bedtime every one in a while.  This past Summer Baby A had some late nights especially during the weekends when spending time with family and friends was more important that following our schedule.  This occasional irregularity in bedtime proved to be helpful when we went to California because it wasn't a big deal if Baby A was up latter than normal- she goes with the flow!

*  Another great book that was given to us by experienced parents that proved to be helpful is The Happiest Baby on the Block by Dr. Karp, known for the 5 S's (swaddle, swing, sing, sideways, shh) to calm colicky babies- Baby A has food allergies and the first 8 weeks were tough and this book gave great suggestions for calming baby so that most importantly, you can be calmer!  Visiting the website is a must for new and expecting parents and is highly interactive and educational.

*  The 8 week milestone- When Baby A was first born we had many relatives, friends and neighbors come over to meet the little one.  One of our neighbors could tell that I was stressed when she stopped by and she told me that this tough time is temporary and that after about 8 weeks it all clicks in and motherhood become a little easier.  At the time, I couldn't wait 8 weeks, I was exhausted, frustrated and ready for it to "click in" already!  However, time does move fast and she was right, at the 8 week marker I felt myself more comfortable and natural with being a mommy- so ride out the first 8 weeks and just know that it does "click in" eventually!  

*  If you have a baby with a food allergy and need to go on a pricey formula, contact your insurance company to see if they can help pay for all or most of the formula.  Baby A was diagnosed with a soy and dairy allergy and moved through many expensive formulas before settling on the one that worked- Neocate ($139 for a case- four cans- each can lasts a few days!).  My insurance pays 100% of this and I get it delivered right to my door every month.

*  Even though I have a child now, my home doesn't need to be turned upside down with toys tucked away in every corner.  I recommend designating a bin, box, or tote for a select amount of toys to keep in the family room/living room.  Rotate toys monthly so that your little one isn't overwhelmed with play options and older toys become new ones when they are rotated into the toy basket!  It took my DH and I a while to build our sense of style and we spent a lot of money on furniture and decor to make our house a home- we have not lost our sense of style and our house is still welcoming instead of a crazed romper room!  Additionally, no one is in our home during the work week so there is no need to have toys everywhere.

Baby A celebrating her first birthday!  It has been an AMAZING year filled with laughter, tears,  stress, and realizations about love, life and happiness!
Now it is MY time to hear some "advice"- for those experience moms and dads our there- what are some realizations you have come to about parenting?  What works for you?

Sunday, September 25, 2011

Learning about Nor Cal Part 3- San Francisco

The City by the Bay has been a place we have wanted to visit for a while now and this visit lived up to and beyond our expectations!
View from the car driving up from Napa- the Golden Gate Bridge is pretty impressive!

Monday, August 12th- Today we did not have scheduled plans so we designated today for taking it all in! We spent the day strolling around this beautiful city.  One of our first stops was at the famous Boudin Bakery known for it's sourdough bread!  This facility houses a tour-able factory, cafe, restaurant, and gift store. We also stopped by the touristy Pier 39 known for harboring hundreds of sea lions!  Check it out!
Outside there is a giant viewing window where people passing by can watch the bread makers craft masterpieces and take in the wonderful smell of freshly baked bread via vents that blow out warm, scented steam from the factory!

I've never seen this before- loaves of bread shaped like animals!  We actually shipped the crab seen in this picture to my sister in law as a thank-you for taking care of our dog Brooklyn while we were gone.

So the day started with food and ended with food with dinner at The Franciscan Crab Restaurant at Fisherman's Wharf (pier 43 1/2).  If you are a seafood lover like myself (if it's from the sea, it's for me- is one of my favorite sayings), then this place is for you.  Even my husband who wouldn't touch anything from the ocean with a ten foot pole, fell in love with The Franciscan's famous dungenous crab.  The crab arrived at our table basted in succulent butter and covered in secret spices (not Old Bay seasoning, but very similar).  This is the type of place where everyone is wearing a bib and wet naps are served with the bill!  I also had crab alfredo which was also crab-tastic!

We stayed at the Hyatt at Fisherman's Wharf and ended our day with a nice swim in their rooftop heated pool.  Check out Baby A :)  

Tuesday, August 13th- This was an exciting day because we had made reservations to visit Alcatraz.  It was a beautiful day and we had a wonderful time.  What I was really impressed with was the audio self guided tour which lasted 45 minutes and kept my attention (something that I lack when at museums) the entire time.  Baby A was strapped to the front of me and she was even well behaved!  Check it out!
Top Pic: The view of the island from the ferry. Bottom Pic: The teacher in me took this photo- lifelong readers made from jail time!  
Locked Up, lol!
This is the view of San Fran from outside of the prison- so beautiful!
When we got back from Alcatraz, we enjoyed more time walking around this beautiful city.  Highlights include stopping at Ghirardelli Square where I enjoyed an AMAZING ice cream sundae at their ice-cream and chocolate shop and got to view how they make their chocolate, trying west coast oysters (which are so much smaller than those on the east coast), taking a drive down Lombard Street (the crookedest street in the U.S.), watching electric cars and trolleys travel down the road without stinky street pollution and simply taking it all in!  Here are a couple more photos:
Such a pretty picture of the water and the bridge. 
My favorite picture from the entire trip!  The views from this restaurant were similar to the picture above- however there were people swimming laps in the water, some in wet suites and some not- cold, yikes!

What I learned about San Francisco:
*  We got lucky with the fog burning off pretty early in the morning, but people do not realize how chilly it is here and many tourists were seen wearing San Fran novelty sweatshirts and jackets because I'm sure they were not prepared.
*  San Fran is rated the #1 "Smart Places to Settle Down" according to Parents Magazine (October 2011)- this is def. a family friendly city and I can totally picture my family settling down here some day!
*  Not one restaurant served Rice-a-Roni-is it really"The San Francisco Treat"???
*  The trolleys are overrated, yet people wait hours to ride one.
*  Sadly, there are a lot of homeless people on the streets due to the stable (not to cold, not to warm- all year round) weather the city has to offer.

This was such an AMAZING experience to visit these parts of Northern California- San Francisco was the perfect spot to end our trip.

Sunday, September 18, 2011

Learning about Nor Cal Part 2- Napa Valley

We have always been captivated by the beauty of Napa as seen on television, movies, and in books; so it made sense that we would spend some time here on our trip- not to mention our LOVE for vino!

Friday afternoon, August 9th- we left Monterey and took the two hour drive inland to Napa.  It was interesting how the moist, cool air turned into dry hot air by the time we pulled into our hotel at The Westin Verasa Hotel in Napa.  This hotel is pretty AMAZING-  as we walked into the lobby, we found ourselves instantly transformed from seaside beauty (Monterey) to wine country sheik (Napa) as samples of wine were freely being passed out (I took full advantage).  The entire back wall of the lobby gives way to a giant veranda with a large heated pool/jacuzzi.  In the bar, lavish appetizers laid across a thick butcher block counter top to accompany the many wine offerings.  After we picked our jaws off of the ground, we made our way up to our room- and the jaw dropped again as the door opened way to a very comfortable suit with a full kitchen, sitting/living room area and a balcony to boot!  I got to wash baby A's bottles in a dishwasher to sanitize and started a load of wash as we went off to dinner- this place was like home!

Saturday, August 10th- after one of my favorite breakfasts (lox and cream cheese on a bagel with capers, tomatoes and purple onions), we meet our limo driver for the day out front- you always need a DD when in Napa!  First stop was Beringer's Vineyard- known for their beautiful grounds.  Take a LOOK!

There was a calypso band playing out front and Baby A and I sung and danced the early afternoon away!

After a couple of hours of dancing, singing and tasting, we were ready for lunch at The CIA a.k.a The Culinary Institute of America at Greystone.  The moment I walked in I was captivated by the smell of roasted chicken.  I never order chicken when going out to eat because it is too boring, but here I couldn't resist!    
In the center of the CIA restaurant you can watch the soon to be chefs receive training from top talent- even the hostess and servers are in training!
After a satisfying lunch, we hopped back into the limo and headed to another vineyard called Castello di Amorosa- an interesting experience.  Take a LOOK!
No, this is not a castle from long ago, however, it is an authentic castle built by the winemaker!
This winery often throws Renaissance parties here where guests dress up from the time period. 
You cannot buy this wine at any package store.  The wine from this vineyard is only served at select restaurants in the area, so we made sure to buy a few bottles to be shipped back home. 

The most interesting experience here was that during a tasting, the solemner asked us to try a very sweet dessert wine- yuck!  After he noted that we were not a fan so much, he asked us to wait and disappeared for a couple of minutes, only to come back with a bar of dark chocolate- I was intrigued!  He broke the bar up into many pieces and had us put a piece into our mouths and melt over our tongues.  This chocolate tasting was surprising because as the piece began to melt, large crystals of salt rock were uncovered.  Next, he told us to taste the sweet wine again...WOW- this time the wine tasted completely different.  Instead of overpoweringly sweet, the wine tasted crisp and refreshing with a subtle sweetness that did not get in the way of enjoying the wine.  Needless to say, we left this winery with a bar of this magic chocolate and some wine!

Sunday, August 11th- One can NEVER sample too much wine, so we decided to go visit another vineyard- one that my DH's parents discovered when they last visited.  Artesa Winery took my breath away.  Take a LOOK!
We enlarged these photos and are using them around the house like in the guest bathroom!

This winery is very contemporary and features many beautiful water structures (like the ones above).  Artesa is built into a mountain (see below), preserving the views around it and also making it unique- they use 50% less  air conditioning than other wineries.  
Below is a picture of where they store barrels (barrels can be reused up to three times)- the sound of Monks chanting fills this room, as it is said that the vibrations of the music agitate the wine, thus enhancing its flavor.   
Another beautiful water feature inside of the winery, used as a reserved tasting room.
The next couple of photos are taken outside of Artesa and are for your viewing pleasure!

What I learned about Napa:
*  Until you actually pull into a particular winery, the land is pretty barren.
*  August through October can be very warm- it was 85 degrees, dry and sunny the two days we spent here.
*  The largest bottle of wine I saw was called a Nebuchadnezzar (named after the king of Babylon) and it needs three grown men to lift and pour from it.

*  The tops of wine barrels make beautiful lazy susan turntables.  
*  Napa has many hidden gems like Artesa and can be found by doing a little research- like digging around in Wine Spectator magazine.  These wineries are often less crowded and offer unique experiences.  
*  Hiring a limo driver for the day can make traveling to many wineries in one day fun and SAFE!
*  I could spend a full week here and would LOVE to go again!

Next up, the final installation... San Francisco!  

Friday, September 16, 2011

The Guest Post - Learning Not to Leave Your Husband Home with Access to Your Blog.

Over the last 12 months, I've learned that being a parent is arguably the best part of life.  I've also learned that it can be a trying experience that can frustrate you to no end.  Case in point: 7:30 a.m., Friday, September 16, 2011.  

The morning began great.  Jen's alarm went off at 5:00 a.m.,  Brooklyn jumped on the bed and barraged me with Golden Retriever hugs (a/k/a smooches from my pooches), and I didn't have to put on a suit.  At my job, the combination of Casual Fridays and me not having to be in court on a Friday is rarer than a Necci being told they are tall.  I was also looking to the start of an early weekend.  Friday night was the big UConn v. Iowa State football game at the Rent and Saturday was going to be a big family party.

After getting ready for work and handling the manly duty of deciding which ruffly shirt I should put my daughter in, I headed downstairs to pack Abby up for daycare, or as I affectionally call it, school.  As I had been told by the Jeneral (fantastic nickname if you are married to someone named Jen who is as obsessive compulsive about neatness and list making as a world war 2 era drill sergeant) the night before, I dressed Abby in a great outfit, packed a backup outfit, and put her fleece on.  I then sat her down in her car seat... oh wait, no I didn't because there was no car seat in the house.  Or in the garage.  Or in my car.  Turns out the car seat was somewhere in North Central Connecticut, either in the car at Jen's school or trying to board a plane at our local international airport.  We'll probably never know.

Because this was a big day at work and one of the few times I get to spend more than a couple of hours at my desk answering emails and voicemails, I have to admit that my first reactions were: a) confusion; b) frustration; and, c) anger.  To be fair, those were probably my first, second, and third reactions, and I have to be honest that I am glad that the grandmother living with my neighbor across the street really only speaks Polish, because the words that were echoing in my garage should not be heard east of the Rhine River.

My wife doesn't know this, but I had a premonition about a similar event about a week ago.  Not really a premonition, but an actual experience that almost led to me making an angry call to her school before I ultimately found the car seat in the foyer.  Boy, that would have been a "foot in the mouth" moment!  Fortunately for me, I got to make that call this morning!

When I called, emailed, texted, smoke screened, and faxed Jen about the situation, I tried not to be angry.  It's clear that she didn't mean to leave me in a bind. Or did she?  That would be really twisted, so I'll go with it being accidental.  It was similar to when you're at a restaurant and you're frustrated with the service.  You try to make a point to the waiter or manager without the end result being saliva or other substances put into your food.  I know who takes care of me and my family, and while I don't think Jen would do anything gross to Abby's food, she might do it to Brooklyn's delicious Eukanuba Adult Breed mix just to spite me. (Eukanuba is a proud sponsor of "The Learning Passion", where we not only teach human lessons, but pet lessons as well.)  That's probably not true either, but I digress.  I won't bore you with what happens next, because the complaining part is more fun that the resolving issues part, but things did work out in a way that allowed me to take care of some things at work without needing the car seat.

That last sentence is what I want to focus on in this post.  I've been told that this blog always has   a TGIF learning moment, and it is Friday, so here is mine.  Things work out when you are willing to take the necessary steps to resolve a problem.  In most circumstances, life is not about the ideal situations we are put in.  It's great when that happens, but the vast majority of our lives are dictated by the choices we make.  

To quote one of the greatest movies of all time, The Shawshank Redemption (FYI, I also highly recommend reading the short story the movie is based on, Rita Hayworth and the Shawshank Redemption, which is found in Steven King's novella Four Seasons.  Great book that includes short stories that the movies Apt Pupil and Stand By Me are also based on), "Get busy living, or get busy dying."  Issues or problems are not resolved by worrying about them.  They are resolved by analyzing them, reviewing your options in a quick, but thorough manner, and then taking direct and deliberate actions.  One of the redeeming qualities of law school is the way it teaches you to how to think in stressful or pressure filled situations.  Having fantastic parents that tell you that you can do anything also helps, and is also less expensive than law school, so I highly recommend them.  I also recommend challenging your kids in a way that encourages them to try difficult things when they know you are there for support.

It also does not hurt to have a partner that you completely trust and that you know will always support you unconditionally.  It's easy to take unpopular or unusual positions when you know no matter what, someone is in your corner.  It's also easy not to get frustrated by an accident when you know it just as easily could have been you, and that you would also have been forgiven (albeit after a few hours of ridicule.)

In closing, I appreciate you spending some time reading this post.  It's been fun writing something that does not have to be supported by a ridiculously structured statute or by an opinion that was written by a judge who's been dead for 75 years.  I hope that you all continue to read Jen's blog and also that you encourage your friends to do the same.  She is passionate about the things she loves like reading, her dog, her daughter, and her fantastically understanding husband.  I think that passion comes through in this blog.  

Now let's get back to talking about that ridiculously amazing NorCal trip, which is much more entertaining to read than this diatribe.  I promise that if I am left home in this type of situation again, there will be a 3000 word dictation describing the ways the Mets can improve both their play on the field and their uniforms (Shout out to my boys at and 

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

Learning about Nor Cal Part I- Monterey

I've been wanting to write about the trip my family took to Northern California for a while now.  Hurricane Irene caused this post to be delayed as we just got internet service back recently.

*This is the first post in a series of three posts covering the places we visited on this trip.


Wednesday Night, August 10th we arrived in Monterey and stayed in a wonderful hotel called The Clement Monterey from InterContinental Hotels and Resorts Click here to be linked to this hotel!
This hotel had the most comfortable bed to relieve my jet lagged body with down everything (featherbed, pillows, and comforter)!  My DH and I put our DD down after a day of exhausting flying and ordered room service from The C Restaurant, which we later learned is known as a top notch place to eat in the area.  I ordered the dungeness crab salad and this became the first of many crab dishes I experienced on this trip.

Thursday, August 11th we went sightseeing all day starting with a walk through the Red Wood Forests of Big Sur.

Look at how small the stroller looks compared to the base of this redwood!
The DH was getting creative with his camera shots- he wanted to show just how tall these trees are.

Next, we took the 17 mile drive along the Pacific Coast line.  We stopped at many interesting sight seeing attractions like:
The Lone Cypress recognized among “10 Most Magnificent Trees in the World” by World Amazing February 2009.
Pebble Beach Golf Course- rated #1 Public Course in the U.S. by Golf Digest
I most enjoyed gazing out the window as baby A (a.k.a. my DD) soundly slept in her carseat.  It is amazing  (and a little scary) how close the road is to the coastline, however it makes for breathtaking views from the car.  The only way that this day could have been any better is if the sun were out!

Friday Morning, August 12 we visited the well known Monterey Bay Aquarium.  I had heard about this aquarium from other people that had visited this region and was told that it is amazing (I use this word a lot when I get excited about something) and a must-see!                IT IS!
My two favorite people!  This attraction produced the most smiles :)
The best part parts of this aquarium are:

*  the "Open Sea" exhibit-which is a tank that reaches from the floor to the very top of the ceiling and when you stand in front of it, you feel as if you are standing on the bottom of the ocean in the deep blue sea.
*  adorable sea otters floating around on their backs and silly penguins up for a photo op.
*  multiple touch tanks all over the place= never crowded and always room to pet a sea cucumber!
*  live shows outside with the ocean as the backdrop- cast members dressed as jellyfish, penguins and other sea animals dancing and singing in an effort to communicate with children the need to preserve sea life and help keep oceans clean- the DD LOVED this and clapped throughout the whole performance.
*  WHAT I REALLY LIKED is that they had a special section just for toddlers to explore!
Abby experiencing the motion of the ocean in the toddler only section- I couldn't get her off of this thing! 
If this aquarium weren't on the other side of the country and I would definitely purchase a season pass to this AMAZING aquarium!

What I learned about Monterey:

*  It can be very chilly and was in the 50's when we were there.
*  Dungeness Crab is native to the west coast and DELICIOUS- much meatier and fulfilling than crab from the east coast.
*  Sea lions and sea otters are swimming around all over the place- keep your eyes peeled!
*  Cannery Row (where we stayed) is famous for canning and producing sardines- there is an exhibit on this at the Monterey Bay Aquarium.
*  John Steinbeck was inspired to write about this local.
*  this is SHOCKING but, I thought chowder from Fisherman's Wharf was better than New England Clam Chowder (I feel like such a traitor)!

Next Up...Napa a.k.a. Wine Country!