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Item 1: Gather Thoughts

2012 May 31
by MushBrain

When I first started this blog, “mushbrain” seemed an apt description of myself following the birth of my first child.* Now, following the birth of my second child, it would be a generous description. I believe I am now the mushiest of mushbrains.

As this post will no doubt demonstrate, my brain is atwitter with everything and absolutely nothing at once lately. Following a single train of thought is a challenge. Full, comprehensible sentences do not come easily. Words? Sure I can do that. It will most likely be mumbled jibberish under my breath, but I know words. Sentences? Not so much.

There is, however, one written form that has been pouring out of me lately. Brace yourself. It’s very exciting….lists! Nope, nope. Not exciting at all. But still. I got ’em covered.

There is no limit to what I am capable of forgetting these days.** I write lists for everything these days. Everything. I have lists of things to buy, and things to do. That’s 3 to-do lists: things to do now, later, and whenever. I have a list of blog posts to write and a list of admin changes to make to the blog. I have lists of questions for pediatricians, lists of milestones to document, and a list of crafts to finish. I have lists of presents to buy, and a list of books to read. I have lists of pictures to print, people to call, thank-you cards to write and things to google. I have a list of things I need to do to get organized and a list of things to organize. This list of my lists could go on and on and, as if that wasn’t enough, I also have a running list in my head of lists I need to list. At this very moment, I can scan my immediate vicinity and see no fewer than nine lists. I have a problem.

Nevertheless, if I’m ever going to get this blog thing moving again I just have to jump in and do it. That’s going to mean playing to my strengths for a while. So brace yourself. Mushbrain is up and running again. I hope you like lists!



*See my about page which hasn’t been updated since I started this ride. I’ll add that to my to-do list.

**Here’s where I realize there’s still a lawyer in me somewhere. I feel compelled to note that if this blog post is ever subpoenaed for purposes of litigation, that sentence is indeed hyperbole. Ok, carry on.

It Ain’t Easy

2012 March 26
by MushBrain

Being the mother of two young children is not easy. I say this in part to inform, but mostly to reassure myself. I need someone to follow me around on a daily basis and repeat this to me all day long. Like my own personal Robin Williams in Good Will Hunting.

RW: Being the mother of two young children is not easy.

Me: Yeah, I know, but . . .

RW: [grabs my shoulders and looks into my eyes] Being the mother of two young children is not easy.

Me: Well, yeah, of course, but . . .

RW: [determined] Being the mother of two young children is not easy.

Me: [breaks down; sobbing uncontrollably].

When you’re suddenly thrust into mothering another child (as all mothers of more than one child are), it becomes clear very quickly: This is not easy. I don’t think I’ll ever forget the first time I was left home alone with Lilly and Henry. Well, actually, I already forgot most of it. Or blocked it out. It’s one huge blur. But I’ll never forget the scene when Elliott walked back into the house after about a twenty minute absence. The Nut was barking incessantly. Henry was screaming. I was pacing the floor, pulling on my hair, and crying. And Lilly was sitting in time-out, screaming and crying, and completely naked.

I honestly have no recollection of what happened in that twenty minutes except that I have a vague memory of there also being a puddle of urine somewhere in the vicinity, which would explain some of the nakedness. But I do remember thinking, “Holy crap. How am I going to do this by myself every day?”

So, yeah, I know it’s not easy. It’s the accepting of that message that is more difficult. Because for some reason the fact that people do this all the time convinces you that this should be easy. But it’s not.

But every once in a while things click. Maybe not everything, but a lot of things. And that’s all it takes sometimes.

Today did not start out well. When Henry woke me up around 2 a.m. for a feeding, I immediately noticed that I was not entirely over the stomach virus that had kicked my butt the day before. Then I realized Elliott was not in bed anymore. Odd. Then before I even got out of my bedroom, Lilly came running in asking to sleep in our bed – a habit, which we have been working on breaking. But since I didn’t have any reinforcements to keep her out of the bed once I went into the nursery and since Henry’s crying was getting more frantic, I just ok’ed it knowing we were undermining some of the progress we’d made on that front. After feeding Henry, I sought out Elliott and learned that he was victim #3 of the aforementioned virus. So that’s how the early morning hours went.

I woke up knowing there would be no time for slacking off today. And I do recall a moment this morning when I was trying to get a cranky Henry to nap, while trying to keep Lilly from disturbing Elliott convalescing on the couch, when it hit me once again: This is not easy.

Yet still, now that everyone has been cared for and is asleep, I’m thinking back on my day and I’m not thinking of the stress. I’m thinking of the minutes when Lilly and I were pretending to be Kung Fu Pandas in the backyard; and when Lilly and I took turns snacking on baby toes to make Henry laugh; and flying Henry on my knees; and teaching Lilly how to play tennis in the driveway, and reading bedtime stories to both kids at once for a change.

It was a good day. Not an easy one, but a good one. That’s the distinction I have to remember. Motherhood is not a day at the beach. It’s a long, hard workout that kicks your ass, but makes you collapse into a chair and say, “damn, that felt good.”


St. Patty’s Day

2012 March 16

St. Patrick’s Day is one of my favorite holidays. I don’t really know why. It doesn’t have all the bells and whistles of some of the bigger holidays, but it’s just always fun.

In high school, I loved it because it seemed to be one of the few days parents and teachers looked the other way while masses of kids ditched school and took the train into Manhattan to see the parade. Not coincidentally, it was also one of the few days that the NYPD seemed to look the other way when it came to drinking in public and/or underage. In college and in my twenties, it was all about partying in the Irish pubs in D.C. and N.Y. and it was always a blast.

Throughout all those years though there was a quieter, more traditional, celebration with my family. My Irish-American mom would hang out the “Erin go Bragh” flags, bake delicious Irish Soda Bread, and we’d feast on corned beef and cabbage. It’s not much, but I always looked forward to it. These days, that’s more my speed. That, and a St. Patrick’s Day craft with Lilly. Maybe next year we’ll venture into leprechaun trapping, but for now I’ll share the makings of our St. Patrick’s Day so far.

Here is the self-explanatory craft I made with Lilly earlier this week. It gave me a chance to discuss with her how lucky we are to have a happy, healthy family. Lilly felt particularly lucky to have a singing Jasmine doll and Aladdin.


"Things That Make Me Lucky" St. Patrick's Day craft

Today we spent the day making Irish Soda Bread using my mom’s recipe. This was the first time Lilly was old enough to really help with it and it was fun to pass on a family tradition that I enjoyed so much. It came out just like Mom’s — delicious.


Mom’s Irish Soda Bread

(makes 2 small loaves or 1 large loaf)

4 cups flour

1/2 cup sugar

4 1/2 tsp baking powder

1/2 tsp. baking soda

1/4 tsp salt

1 egg

2 cups buttermilk

1 cup raisins

6 Tbsp butter or margarine

LOTS of caraway seeds

Mix dry ingredients in large bowl. Use knives to cut butter into dry ingredients. In a separate bowl, mix egg and buttermilk, then mix with dry ingredients. Coat raisins in some flour, then add raisins and seed to mixture.

Split batter into 2 batches (or use as one large loaf) and mold them into large mounds. Place in center of a metal cake pan or metal bowl. Cut a cross into the top of each loaf. Bake at 350 degrees for 1 hour or until fork comes out clean.

Finally, enjoy your bread with some butter and Irish tea!

Toddler Valentines

2012 February 13

Just finished another round of Valentine’s Day crafting with Lilly, which got me thinking about our homemade valentines from other years. Each year I’ve tried to come up with a simple, but made-with-love Valentine’s Day craft for Lilly to make for her loved ones. Since they are all fun, inexpensive and toddler-friendly crafts, I thought I’d share some of her valentines from the last three years as ideas for others with little ones. read more…

Date Night

2012 February 5

I did it. Henry is in his own room now and has been since my last post. Much as I hate to admit it, we are all sleeping better. Henry is going to bed earlier, waking less, and sleeping longer. Obviously, that means more sleep for Elliott and me. Even Lilly has abandoned her nightly pilgrimage to our bed, presumably because she is no longer feeling excluded from our family sleepover. So it’s good. It’s healthy. But I do miss having Henry by my side, of course.

Besides the extra sleep, which is very nice, there is another perk to having Henry in the nursery however. It’s what I think of as our date nights.

Our days tend to be a bit crazy. Lilly keeps me going pretty much all day, and that means Henry is in tow pretty much all day. And, while I hate doing it, I often find myself looking for a time and place to put Henry down. It kills me to even think about this. Like most first children, Lilly was held constantly. And although it meant I missed many meals and had to do nearly everything one-handed, I loved it. I would spend hours just watching her sleep, staring at her, playing with her, doting on her. Poor Henry gets a couple hours in the morning, in which I’m also trying to push through several loads of laundry and do grocery shopping and any other random errands.

In his younger weeks, before he moved into his own room, Henry would stay up late with Elliott and me after Lilly went to sleep. That gave us some time to dote on just Henry, begging him to grace us with a fleeting smile and his cute little laugh. Now that bedtime is much earlier even those precious hours alone with Henry are no more. And crazy as it sounds coming from someone who hardly gets a minute to herself, when I’m sitting around in the evening, I miss him. I find myself gazing at the video monitor and wishing I had the time, like I did with Lilly, to just hold him and stare at him for hours on end. But I don’t.

What I do have is date nights. I have time in those hours of the night when everybody but college kids, graveyard shifters and nursing moms are asleep. That’s when Henry and I have our alone time. Granted, I’m exhausted and often when Henry calls upon me with his hungry cries, I don’t want to go. I want to sleep. I really want to sleep. Much longer.

But after we get through the initial screaming diaper change ritual, Henry makes it easy. Clad in a clean diaper, he is nothing but smiles. And once we’re settled in his armchair, sitting in the quiet, dark nursery, and Henry is feeding, I start to remember what it was like in those early days with Lilly. I get to just hold Henry. I get to feel his warm body against mine and his cute little hands grabbing my shirt or my fingers. And even if it is only by the light of his nightlight, I get to stare at his cute little face, his tiny ears and his little twitching feet until he tires of eating and falls asleep in my lap.

There’s something about those nightly nursing sessions that breathes new life into me. I remember feeling the same way when Lilly was still breastfeeding. Life seems simpler at those times. All the petty annoyances and stresses of daily life are lost in the cloud of a sleepy brain and all I can think in that moment is, “I’m a mom and this beautiful creature is my baby. How did I get so lucky?”

Then exhaustion overtakes me once again and I put Henry back in his bassinet and I go back to my bed. When the sun comes up, it’s back to our crazy life. And while there are many precious moments in which I’m grateful for my kids during the daylight hours too, around the fourth or fifth time I am forced to put Henry down in some baby-entertaining contraption, I do wish life could always be as simple as date nights.

Letting Go

2012 January 25

I’m a bit of a parenting book junkie.  And if there is one thing that (almost) all of them agree on it’s that parenting is, in large part, about learning to let go. It’s common sense, really. If you want a child to grow up to be a confident, self-sustaining, independent person, they must, at some point, be left to sustain themselves, independently  — and here’s the kicker — with a confident you somewhere in the background, not holding their hand.

But does it have to be so soon?? read more…

Mirror, Mirror

2012 January 4

They say that babies Henry’s age aren’t even aware that they are separate human beings from their mothers. I can’t remember exactly when that happens, it takes at least months, if I remember correctly. But I can guarantee you they know this by the time a child reaches Lilly’s age. Perhaps a little too well. read more…

I’m Not Crazy. I’m Just a Mother.

2011 December 30

There’s so much talk about motherhood in the world, but people often forget to tell you – or remind you, as the case may be – this one thing when you’re about to have a baby: motherhood really messes with your head. read more…

Making Magic

2011 December 24

I’m a born-cynic, I suppose. I actually consider myself more of “a realist” because I think, realistically, there’s a lot of messed up people in this world. But I’ve been informed that that thinking makes me a cynic. So I guess I’m a cynic. Personally, I don’t think it’s a bad thing, but I do have to admit that it can make for a negative outlook if you don’t allow yourself to see the good in life – the magic. And, realistically, there’s a lot of that too. read more…


2011 December 5

The honeymoon is over. My parents have gone home. Elliott’s back to work and I’m on my own with two kids all day long (and have been for over a month now). Finding “me time” – much less blogging time – has been a challenge, but you gotta start somewhere! So here’s how the story of my life with two kids began. read more…

He’s Here!

2011 October 30
by MushBrain

Goodbye T. Rex. Hello, Henry!

Proud sis, Lilly, welcomed her baby brother, Henry, at 8:29 a.m. on Monday. The whole family is back home together and enjoying our newest addition. read more…

The Final Countdown

2011 October 23

Lilly is nestled, snug in her bed at Grammy’s house. The Nut is no doubt proving that she is the loudest snoring dog at her doggie resort. I’m minutes away from my late night snack that will get me through my morning fast leading up to my C-section. And Elliott and I are enjoying what is likely to be the last bit of peace and quiet we will have for, well, years. read more…

39 Weeks

2011 October 21
by MushBrain

39 weeks now:
Achy, sleepy, painful “kicks”
Worth every second.

A T. Rex by Any Other Name…

2011 October 18

Much as we’ve enjoyed calling our little boy “T. Rex” while he’s in utero, we do realize that he will eventually have a “real” name. The question, however, has been whether Lilly realized this too. read more…

DIY Simple Blackout Curtains

2011 October 14

After spending countless hours online shopping and buying and returning no fewer than 4 sets of curtains while decorating our nursery, I finally decided that the fastest solution was to make my own rather than waste any more time in the shop-buy-regret-return cycle I was in. read more…