Monthly Archives: November 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.


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).

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…

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!

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.

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.

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…

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. 🙂

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.



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!