Monthly Archives: July 2010



Robbie and I are two days into Justin’s five-day trip to Wisconsin. And we are surviving. Barely. I have not spent this much time alone with Robbie without having the respite of work since my maternity leave. And rest assured that it actually is easier to spend five days alone with a six-week-old who doesn’t move too much and gets up once during the night than it is with a one-year-old who has a mind of his own and wants to be everywhere.

Things really started to go down hill around 11:00 last night when Robbie woke up screaming. Blood-curdling, body-racking shrieks, the likes of which I have never heard before. I felt the screams in my bones. Nothing soothed him. Not Tylenol, not a new diaper, not a damn sippy cup. Anything I gave him was immediately thrown over the side of his crib. The only thing that eventually made him feel better was being held. So, I did what all the experts advice against (Well, I’m assuming; I’ve never read anything they have to say. I’ve been too busy actually being a mom to read about being one). I brought him into bed with me. He drank some milk and then had the nerve to laugh and play. I mean, seriously? So I put him back to bed, only to have the horrid screaming start again. The vicious cycle continued for an hour and a half until I finally broke down. Yes. I gave him a bottle. It didn’t work immediately, but he finally fell asleep.

I sank pretty low this afternoon. Out of things to do and armed with a cranky baby, I actually went into work. There was some legit paperwork that I needed to take care of. And some women stuck at work who wouldn’t mind being entertained by Robbie. Thank God I was right! We killed a little more time at the park, where we ran into a show-off. Jacob, who turned eight on 23 May (no idea what day that is, by the way), educated me on the best game ever (, in case you’re interested). Robbie found him amusing, but not as amusing as the leaf that he took swinging with him. All of this bought us enough time for it to actually be bath time. Only three more days to go without another adult in the house.

Totally changing gears… Today is the one year anniversary of the day we brought Robbie home from the hospital. I remember bringing him home to an empty house and all of a sudden hearing our front door open. Mom had been at the grocery across the street and saw us pull in. In a totally un-Mom move, she left the cart full of groceries near the check-out, explaining that she had to go meet her new grandson who had just come home from the hospital. I don’t think there’s any way Justin and I would have survived those first few days at home without her here. She’s the reason Robbie started sleeping in his own crib and not our room. I completely credit her to his excellent sleeping skills. She’s the reason I didn’t give up on nursing, even when it seemed impossible (31 July 2009 ranks in the top ten worst days of my life — maybe even the top five — but more on that tomorrow).

I clearly remember the four days before Robbie was born, his birth day, and the five days afterwards. And then I’ve blanked out until sometime in mid-September. I remember bits and pieces here and there, mostly the good stuff. It’s probably some sort of survival mechanism. Maybe that’s what will kick in tomorrow morning to get me through until Monday night when Justin gets home. I’ll remember going to the park, playing with the leaf, and swinging, but I’ll block out the… Wait… Was there even anything bad that happened in the past two days?


Sippy Cup Wars


For the past two months, I have been handing Robbie sippy cups and he has been throwing them to the floor. In an ironic twist, I have been trying to force a big boy cup on Robbie while desperately wishing he would stay a baby just a little while longer. I’m not sure why I felt like he should be moving onto sippy cups, other than the fact that his friends were starting to make the move. It just seemed like the right thing to do, but I didn’t know how to go about it the right way. I would try to give Robbie a sippy cup and, when he refused, would give him a bottle instead. I know, novice mistake.

Bring in our appointment today with Dr. Fisher, Robbie’s pediatrician. I asked him how I could best transition Robbie from bottles to sippy cups. I’d heard a parent suggest taking away one bottle a week and replacing it with a sippy cup. Within a month, her child was totally off bottles. Zhining suggested keeping one with his toys so he could see it and play with it and use it when he wanted (a little too Montessori for me, and this approach surprised me from the Chinese parenting guru). None of these felt particularly “Erin-friendly.” And then Dr. Fisher told me his solution: “I hate that word, transition. Don’t transition. Just do it. Take away the bottles and give him sippy cups. When he’s thirsty enough, he’ll drink.” I guess he’s one of “those” doctors!

When Robbie and I got home from the doctor (one stick to the finger, one stick to the leg, and three Band-Aids later), it was nap time. I decided that since Justin was out of town, it was time for me to fight the final battle of the Sippy Cup Wars (he’s too weak and would become a casualty). I put Robbie down with a sippy cup full of milk. He cried for a little while, but he finally slept. He’d only had half an ounce of milk…

During lunch, Robbie didn’t want anything to drink. He shoved the cup away from his mouth and fussed every time I brought it near him. This is probably where Justin would have faltered and told me to just give the kid a bottle. But I would have made Dr. Fisher proud, the way I held strong.

Now, this next move was probably stupid, but I am one of “those” moms… I left the house to run errands for a few hours. All I had with me was a sippy cup of water. Please note that my son also hates to drink water. Part way through my haircut, Robbie got fussy. Really fussy. Embarrassingly so. I pulled out the only weapon in my arsenal: a sippy cup of water. And. He. Drank. It.

That’s right. Robbie drank from a sippy cup. For about five seconds. And then he started fussing again. I finally realized why when he yanked the cup out of my hands. You see, I was holding a Toy Story 3 sippy cup up to Robbie’s mouth because I didn’t want him to throw it on the floor (please picture this: I am in the chair getting my hair cut, leaning over to Robbie in his stroller – it was awkward at best). In fact, all this kid wanted was to hold his own cup.

For the rest of the day, Robbie was into his sippy cup. He drank from it in the stroller, in his car seat, on the kitchen floor, in the living room, in the bathtub, and in bed. He put it in his mouth and carried it around the house as he crawled from room to room. And, in a move that can only signify defeat, he cried when I took it away from him to fill with milk.

Birthday Boy!


At 7:22 this morning, Robbie turned one! It was so nice to actually enjoy Robbie’s birthday this year; last year it was really a bit of a blur. This year we were celebrating the little boy we’ve gotten to know and love over the past 365 days instead of introducing ourselves to a virtual stranger. I was able to physically function instead of waiting to get feeling back in the lower half of my body. Unfortunately, there were noticeably fewer flowers…

Justin, Robbie, and I had our own little family birthday party tonight. Robbie opened two or three presents and then got distracted by a box, so I helped him out with the rest. As the gifts were opened, Robbie got excited about them, particularly anything that made noise. At one point, he bent his head down to pick up a puzzle piece with his mouth. He may be part dog. At any rate, he really enjoyed the fun of presents. We watched 1 2 3 Count With Me twice and Robbie bopped along.

And then it was time for the real show-stopper. That’s right, ladies and gentlemen! It was cake time. Robbie has really gotten the hang of eating cake. Mostly. He hasn’t necessarily gotten then hang of getting the whole piece into his mouth. Roberto was covered in cake, frosting, and sprinkles. And I took about a hundred pictures of it. Just like any doting mother would!

So, young Robert is in bed in toddler dreamland. And I’m downstairs thinking of all the adventures we had in his first year. He traveled to/through more states than I did in my first year, hitting Massachusetts, New Hampshire, Vermont, Connecticut, New York, New Jersey, Maryland, Pennsylvania, West Virginia, Kentucky, and Ohio. Robbie visited the beach and went swimming in a lake for the first time. He ate about a pound of sand. He went to three Red Sox games and saw at least a dozen homeruns. He toured Fenway. Robbie met a Thanksgiving turkey and Santa Claus, got christened, and flew in an airplane five times. He took a 17-hour road trip to Kentucky (and back). Oh, and he was on Good Morning America. It’s been one heck (Justin’s edit!) of a year for this kid, and I can’t wait to see what his second year holds for us all.

Below is the Good Morning America video.

The Last Day of Baby


Today is the last day of Robbie’s first year, and I am not coping well. At all. I’m worried about whether or not I paid enough attention this year and if I took too much for granted. I’m teary because now I have a little boy and not a baby. And I’m utterly distraught because, well, I don’t know. I just am. Perhaps those of you who have been through this can help explain it to my husband because he keeps trying to figure out what he did wrong.

Don’t get me wrong. I’m thrilled that Robbie survived his first year with two yahoos as his parents. According to Zhining, it might have been touch and go for awhile, as American parents are not as smart as their Chinese counterparts. Robbie came into this world with a father who had never changed a diaper on a real baby and a mother who couldn’t seem to soothe him. He entered a house with a dog who didn’t understand why the new pet got so much attention. Yes, it’s remarkable that we’ve all adjusted so well.

Justin is now a champion diaper changer, and I am the only person in the house who can effectively soothe the baby — with the exception of Grover, who has thought she was his mother since we brought him home. In fact, the cat used to sit on the other side of him as he nursed, giving me a look that said, “Isn’t this tough? Thank God we have each other.” And, Grover, I couldn’t agree more. And as for Barkley, well, he and Robbie have a nice co-existence. Robbie checks to see if either Justin or I is looking and then ducks below the table to hand off whatever he is eating to Barkley. Barkley positions himself at Robbie’s left side, strategically under the table so we can’t see him, ready to take any undesired food off young Robert’s hands.

This time last year, Justin and I had no idea what we were getting ourselves into. In fact, this time last year, I hadn’t even had an epidural yet. That’s right, ladies and gentlemen. As I write this, I had already been in labor for 37.5 hours and still had nearly ten hours left to go. There was a lot of crying when the midwife told me I needed an epidural. I’m not even sure I can write the things I told her on here… And the things I said when they actually gave me the epidural? I may very well have a one-way ticket to hell for that. I’ll never forget Justin’s face; he was stuck somewhere between helpless, horrified, and panicked. But bless his heart for not leaving the room when they gave me the epidural. He’s still getting points for that one.

And now, not to leave you wanting more, but I think I’ll spend some of Robbie’s last day as a baby watching him as he sleeps. I don’t want to let another moment slip by. There are only so many left. And then I think I’ll be ready to move on to having a little boy and all the adventures I know we’ll have.

Labor Day


Today is my own personal Labor Day. I went into labor with Robbie at 8:15 on 26 July 2009. For those of you who realize that Robbie’s birthday is the 28th, this is not a misprint. I was in labor with Robbie for forty-seven hours. This morning when Justin and I were reminiscing about this time last year, he moaned about how long my labor was.

I can only imagine how horrible it must have been for him. I went into immediate panic-mode and forced Justin to clean the entire house with me; we certainly couldn’t bring Robbie into a dirty home, never mind that the house was scheduled to be cleaned in three days (before I would be released from the hospital). The poor man had to take me to the hospital, only to be released an hour later and told to try to rest. Then he had to endure dinner with a woman enduring contractions. And let’s not forget that he got caught up on Mad Men while I (stupidly!) watched an I Didn’t Know I Was Pregnant marathon upstairs, not able to get the recommended rest.

I went into full-blown labor around 1:00 Monday morning, much to the detriment of any sleep Justin hoped to get. Concerned that I wasn’t hydrated (the reason I was sent home the first time), Justin gave me five glasses of diluted cranberry juice. When he handed me a sixth, I complained that I’d already had five. Justin thrust the glass in my hand and told me to “make it six”! I think forcing fluids down my throat was really the only way Justin felt like he could help. And, knowing now how I must have sounded, and knowing how Justin is in medical situations, I’m really glad he was able to function well enough to get me the water. We did finally head to the hospital around 5:30 the morning of the 27th, but that’s a reflection for another day — well, tomorrow.

So today I fully celebrated my own Labor Day. I sent Justin to work and dropped Robbie off at daycare. And the rest of the day was mine. I ran three miles in the morning and went to go see Grown Ups, relishing sitting in the cool, dark theater by myself and not sharing my popcorn and candy. I caught up on Big Brother and went to Marshall’s to buy a backpack to replace my soon-to-be-a-big-boy’s diaper bag. And then I celebrated in the best possible way.

I planned to take Robbie swimming at the reservoir for an hour before FINALLY closing on our refinance (and, yes, we did close!). However, Zhining, his daycare provider, had other plans. It was her birthday, and I had brought her a cake. Little did I know that she had saved it and decorated one of the rooms for a joint birthday party. There was a “Happy Birthday” banner hanging from the wall and Chinatown balloons dotting the walls. She put party hats on everyone and had her daughter take hundreds of pictures. She and Robbie blew out their candles and cut the cake together. Robbie had chocolate on his face and in his hair, on my feet, all over Zhining’s clothes. And it was the perfect Labor Day celebration.

Justice Is Served


Justice was on the menu at the Manna house today. That’s right, Justin and Grandpa Pat had Robbie the “big boy” on their own for a few hours. I think they were lulled into a false sense of security the first time I left them, which was right before nap time to go to church and grab a birthday present for Pat to give Robbie. They had basic instructions (two jars of food, a bottle, change the diaper, and nap time) and managed to get those mostly right. And Robbie did exactly what he was supposed to do, going to sleep with very little fuss. I must admit that I really appreciate Robbie playing into my plan, perhaps even creating it for me.

After sitting around for most of the afternoon, I started whining about being bored. Not very mature, but… Well, I’d watched Deadliest Catch for almost three hours. What do you expect? Don’t get me wrong, I love the show. I just wasn’t in the mood for a marathon today. Justin was into it and Pat was worn out from trucking all over Boston yesterday (there was a lost cell phone fiasco, which ended well). Being the fabulous husband that he is, Justin suggested I go out and have some fun.

I knew they men were in for trouble when I left; Robbie started crying as soon as he saw me head for the stairs. Ladies, admit it. There’s something a little powerful in this. You love it when the kids give your husband a hard time, proving to them that it is difficult to be home with a child all day. I happen to know first hand that Robbie didn’t stop fussing because I called after twenty minutes to get Justin to check and see if another nail salon was open and heard him crying in the background.

I enjoyed my ninety minutes outside of the house; I even thought about sitting under the dryer for just one more session but decided to be fair to Justin. I did make the four block walk home slowly, though. And I heard the fussing as soon as I opened the door. Being a sneaky woman, I quietly came up the stairs to see what was happening. The only one who saw me was Robbie, who got smiled as best he could with the plugged in computer charger in his mouth…

Poor Justin looked wiped out. Pat’s hair was disheveled. I don’t think either of them will be the same. Robbie pulled out all the stops – throwing the picture frames to the floor, changing the channel, grabbing glasses, throwing toys to the dog from the Pack ‘n Play, trying to climb the stairs, and generally being inconsolable. Until he saw me walk up the stairs. He crawled over to me, held out his arms, and looked at the men as if to say, “You idiots! This was all I wanted the whole time.” And when I asked him who the worst babysitter was, he very clearly pointed at Justin.

The Due Date – A Year Later


Robbie was due to be born one year ago today. It’s amazing how much has changed. As I type, Justin is prying shredded napkins from Robbie’s mouth while Robbie dances to music. My life has become a complicated web of diapers, bottles, hugs, kisses, tears, and messes. And that’s just with Justin!

This time last year, I panicked about having a baby. It suddenly occurred to me that I might not love the child I’d been carrying for nine months. I burst into tears on our couch one night, which probably didn’t surprise Justin that much. But my revelation did. He wrapped me up in a big hug and assured me that we would love life with Robbie. And, you know what? I do. It took me a while to get to that point. Especially the first five weeks. But now I couldn’t imagine life without him, even during temper tantrums.

During this time, I was jealous of every new mom I saw on the street. How was it that they got to meet their new babies and mine was still refusing to come and play. I think I got more panicked with every passing day because I had a finite maternity leave. Regardless of when Robbie was born, I had to go back to work 28 September. And all I wanted was time with my new baby. Now all I want is time with my little boy; I don’t even know that there’s any of my baby left.

My father-in-law came in town for Robbie’s birthday late last night. This morning, he told me he had something for me. Pat told me that birthdays, especially first birthdays need to be about moms, too. I couldn’t agree more! In fact, for the first time ever, I told my mom thank you on my birthday – I finally knew what she had gone through. Pat had brought something for me to commemorate Robbie’s first birthday. It was the ring he was given for his Confirmation over fifty years ago. I’m actually wearing it as I type. It’s a beautiful man’s ring with a diamond and a ruby — Robbie’s birthstone.

So, to everyone, I encourage you to thank your mom on your birthday; it’s really her day, too. Gentlemen, remember your wives on your kids’ birthdays. And, ladies, remember that your husbands were as supportive as they could be the days your children were born. Really, I’m sure they were. It just didn’t seem like it at the time…

Some Days Are Like This…


…even in Arlington. I thought about packing my bags and moving to Australia a few times today because it really was a terrible, horrible, no good, very bad day. Well, for the most part.

Young Robert decided to serenade Justin and myself at 4:30 this morning. He sounded so pitiful that I didn’t mind getting out of the bed I had been tossing and turning in for five hours. I took diaper duty and Justin made a bottle (Ladies, please get your husbands out of bed when the baby wakes up; there is much less resentment this way. Just give him a choice in jobs – “Honey, do you want to change his diaper or get his bottle?” – instead of asking if he would mind getting up. This is part of my Husband Management Strategies). Shortly thereafter, Justin and Robbie were softly snoring in their respective beds. And I watched the sun come up through closed blinds.

If you read my last post, you’ll know why I couldn’t go back to sleep. I never put out the raging inferno last night. It was still hanging over my head! So, I stupidly checked my email to see if there were any responses from roofers. There was nothing useful and one that was downright insulting. The latter left me tossing and turning again so much that I finally went down to the couch; I was a little worried that Justin might get injured.

Let me tell you that after five hours of very poor sleep, I was not a great mom today. I was probably an OK wife, and, from what I remember, I managed to be civil to the line of roofers and insurance adjusters who paraded through my house (ironically, in the middle of naptime, which meant I didn’t get to rest then either). Later in the afternoon, I managed to get Robbie into a stroller and walked around town for a few errands. In all honesty, they could have been postponed. I just didn’t have any idea how to entertain Robbie all afternoon with very little patience and cats that were already irritated with him from the morning play session.

I was in such excellent form today that I put Robbie down for a second nap at 3:00 and told him he just had to sleep for thirty minutes. Bless his little heart; he slept for almost an hour! Still no rest though; it was time to finish cleaning the downstairs (I know, I know — but it wasn’t as bad as it was last night!) and then get as much of the guest room finished as possible. And did I mention I was still dealing with the mortgage broker? He promises me that closing is tomorrow morning at 8:00. And, miraculously, our interest rate has dropped .125%. I’ve been an anxiety attack waiting to happen about all of this for 26 hours.

At my wits’ end at 5:40, I had no option but to put Robbie in the bathtub and soak my feet while he played. There are no papers to shred, no cats to torment, and nowhere to run. And that is exactly where Justin found me when he walked through the door twenty minutes later. Robbie and I appropriately read Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day before bedtime tonight. Here’s hoping that I don’t have to eat lima beans for dinner or lose my marble down the drain. And that tomorrow Robbie will look at me like I’m the best mom in the world and today’s antics didn’t matter at all.

Managing Fires


To all of the working moms… Do you feel like you get nothing accomplished on the days that you’re home with your adorable child? When I’m at work, I have the stress to keep the house clean, the dinner cooked, and the laundry managed. But when I’m home all day, I don’t know how to fit it all in. It’s like I’m running around all day putting out small fires, only to find that there’s a raging inferno behind my right shoulder that I should have noticed earlier in the day. Take today for example…

I purposely cleaned up the lower floor of the house Wednesday night so that I would not have to do it today and could instead concentrate on organizing our guest/craft room for the impending arrival of my father-in-law. However, by 9:00 this morning, there were little yogurt fingerprints all over my coffee table, dog hair blowing like a tumbleweed down the hall, toys everywhere (including in the dog’s bed — bad, Barkley!), and torn bits of junk mail (a la Robbie) all over the floor, furniture, and child. Add to this mix a sink piled with dishes, an iron in the dining room, miscellaneous items to go to the basement in the kitchen, laundry on top of the hamper, and clothes laid across the balcony. Oh, and a friend was set to arrive for our weekly walk in 30 seconds.

Never mind that fire… I had more pressing issues! There was a plane ticket to book home to Kentucky in the middle of August and rapidly rising airfare. It had already gone up $20 since the night before. Surely this was more pressing than a dirty house and company on the way. And then the doorbell rang. Time to put the house cleaning and the ticket buying on hold for a few hours!

By the time we got home from our walk, Robbie was ready for a nap and so was I. Unfortunately, Robbie is the only one who got one. I managed to get the downstairs picked up again (and, please note, that I just finished cleaning it for a second time today at 9:30 pm) and buy the plane ticket. Miraculously, prices hadn’t increased during my walk.

At 1:30 it was finally time to tackle the guest room, which is where I put everything I didn’t know where to put when organizing the downstairs closets last week. Including the junk mail, which needed to be shredded. And, of course, Robbie woke up at 1:35. Having never spent much time in the guest room, Robbie was intrigued by all the possible play things — rolling chair, boxes, toys that I had brought in for him — for about five minutes. Then he discovered the shredded paper bits and had a great time. I finally put him in his room to play (and when I went to check on him, he wouldn’t let me in!) and he entertained himself happily for nearly half an hour. That left me enough time to make the room more of a mess than it was when I started and feel as if my entire day had been wasted.

Which brings me to the raging inferno… All of these small fires had been maintained well enough (not perfectly, but don’t judge!). That’s when I got the call from the mortgage guy, who wanted just one more sheet of paper in order to process our closing tomorrow, which, incidentally, is the third closing date they’ve given me. This encompassed nearly three hours of my evening. I still have no solution and my guest room is not ready for my father-in-law, but, rest assured, the downstairs of my house is clean. Until about 9:15 tomorrow morning.

The Truth Bites


And so does my kid. That’s right, ladies and gentlemen; Robbie’s a biter. Before you refuse to hold him the next time I try to pass him off to you, let me assure you that he only bites his mom. The woman who was in labor with him for 47 hours. The woman who got up with him every night while her fabulous husband snored in bed. The woman who makes sure his laundry is done and his diaper bag is packed. And I know somewhere my mom and sister are laughing because justice is finally being served.

I didn’t have many issues with biting when I was little; there’s really just one that stands out. Mostly because it’s one of the family favorites to tell at holidays. Mom left me with Hilary while she took a shower, and we were cuddled up spending quality sisterly time together. Until my sister started crying. Mom came out and asked me why Hilary was crying. I simply replied, “Probably because I bit her.” Mom made me bite myself as hard as I had bitten my sister, and I think that was the end of my biting days.

Unfortunately, Robbie is too young to reason with. I say, “Robert, no!” with as much force as I can muster (really, I just want to cry out in pain and smack him away; not doing so takes a great deal of restraint). He finally pulls back, shakes his head, laughs, and returns to my arm to attempt a second bite. So, I’m no closer to solving the problem than I was before. We have determined that no one is allowed to laugh when Robbie bites (where was that rule while I was nursing?) and that we have to be consistent. And I’ve found that saying “Robert!” instead of “Robbie” or “XiXi” gets a better response. It sounds a little more harsh, and I don’t ever use his full name.

I’m not a fan of biting Robbie back, and I don’t think he would understand putting his arm in front of his mouth when he goes to bite. Instead, that might become a game… So, I’ll keep trying to be stern. And I’ll refuse to play with him when he bites. And if you notice small, purple bruises on my arm… Well, that means we’re still working on the problem.