Long Island Mom

What I've learned about being a mom.

Embarrassing enough?

I have had my share of embarrassing events in my life, and unfortunately for me, nobody lets me forget them. None, however, this bad or hilarious :

http://hahasforhoohas.com/the-fart-that-almost-altered-my-destiny/

This is by far the funniest story I’ve ever read and I actually laughed out loud reading it. Do yourself a favor and take a few minutes. Then let me know what embarrassing situations your significant other has overlooked because yes, you are that awesome.

For me, it was 3 different hair colors for out first 3 dates. I am a blonde (by bottle now but naturally growing up), but after moving to NY I decided I didn’t want to be ‘Blond Christie from California’ so I asked my roommate to help me dye it brown. Big mistake.

Our first date – I was blonde.
Our second? – leopard.

My roommate was not, in fact, a colorist and I never should have asked her to do this, but I was 19 and stupid. I called Dave a few hours before our scheduled date to cancel and was honest about why, and he refused to let me get away with it. I threw my hair up and decided to go. With leopard hair. He admits now that it was ‘pretty bad’ but he wanted to see me so he lied through his teeth all night about how great I looked.

I went the next day to get my hair fixed and thy had to dye it so dark it was almost black to cover the mistake. So now Dave, who thought he was dating a blonde, was dating Elvira. Thank God he stuck around.

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Mini-me

I am about as California looking as they come. Tall, blonde and blue-eyed. I married a dark haired, brown-eyed New York Italian. I thought for sure our kids would all look like him. Enter my mini-me. She is a leggy blonde with blue eyes. Go figure.

In addition to looking exactly like mommy, Sofia has also taken on quite a bit of my personality. She is adventurous, outgoing, and loves everyone. Oh, and she has a bitch of a temper. An unfortunate side effect of being like mommy.

I was a good kid, but a terrible teenager. My mouth was like a runaway train I couldn’t get ahold of and I said just about every horrible thing you can imagine to my mother. Her loving response so often was, ‘I hope one day you have a kid just like you.’ Nicely done, mom.

I took my life of the party daughter to Gymboree today, one of her favorite places on Earth. She was happily singing in her car seat on the way there, eating pretzels and being generally adorable. One problem : pretzels aren’t allowed in the play area. So I told her we would eat more pretzels after her class, and Vesuvius erupted. Tears streamed down her face and cries of ‘Wait! Wait!’ came out of her tiny mouth. She screamed like I was killing her puppy. I tried distracting her with fun stuff at Gymboree to no avail. We had to leave.

The second we got into the car, and the pretzels were back in her hand, she started sweetly saying ‘Bye Gymboree!’ and was back to her normal self. I blame my mother.

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Veggie Pasta

I haven’t been a big fan of meat this pregnancy, which is weird because most of the time you hear of pregnant women craving thick steaks. I try to get some meat into my meals but find myself craving vegetables more often than not. My husband, however, does not think a meal is complete without some meat in it, so I’ve had to be a bit creative. Most chicken brands in the supermarket now make single serving chicken breasts that you can throw in your freezer and quickly defrost. These have been key these last few months because I can make some sort of veggie meal and grill him a chicken breast so he has his meat.

This veggie pasta is a quick meal or side dish, and would work well with whatever type of pasta you enjoy. Your favorite veggies can be swapped for the ones in the recipe, too. It takes more time to boil the water and preheat your oven than to actually cook this. Hope you enjoy!

Veggie Pasta

1 lb. pasta (fettuccine or linguine, etc)
1/4 cup olive oil plus 2 tbs for veggies
2 cloves garlic, minced (or 2 cubes of Trader Joe’s frozen minced garlic)
1 red and 1 yellow bell pepper, sliced into strips
1 zucchini, sliced into strips
1/2 red onion, roughly chopped
2 broccoli crowns, chopped into florets
Salt and pepper
Red pepper flakes (optional)
Parmesan cheese
Torn basil leaves (optional)

1. Boil water for pasta and cook according to package directions

2. Preheat oven to 400

3. Toss bell peppers, broccoli, onion, and zucchini with 2 tbs olive oil, salt and pepper and spread on a cookie sheet. Roast in oven for 10 mins, turning once during cooking.

4. While veggies are roasting, put 1/4 cup olive oil, garlic, salt and pepper and red pepper flakes in the bottom of your serving bowl.

5. Toss pasta with olive oil mixture, add veggies, basil and cheese. Serve immediately or room temperature as a pasta salad!

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Christening Baby

I grew up at church. No kidding, we were there probably 4 days a week
for various activities. I was baptized Methodist but raised
Presbyterian and had my confirmation at our Presbyterian church in Los
Angeles. My mom was heavily involved in our church and did everything
from teaching Sunday School, to the church’s preschool, to the
Wednesday Kid’s Club and was also a Confirmation sponsor. I’m not
exaggerating when I say we were at church all the time.

When we moved to Orange County the summer before I went into 10th
grade, we stopped going to church. My parents couldn’t find one they
liked and so we just stopped. I now know that my dad is pretty
anti-organized religion. I’ve had a few conversations with him about
it and I understand where he was coming from. For my parents, it was
less about the religion itself than what it taught us as kids. They
wanted us to have a moral compass and liked the teachings of this
particular church. We did a lot of community service and church taught
us to be caring, compassionate kids.

My husband grew up Catholic and attended the same church that his mom
and grandma have attended for 50 years. His parents were married
there, and next fall his sister will be married there as well. When
the time came to discuss how we would raise our kids, we decided to
carry on the tradition of his family and raise them at St. Anthony’s.
Sofia was christened there February 21, 2011.

My sister and her husband have decided they will not be raising their
kids in any religion, because they aren’t religious. My sister feels
like her kids will make the decision when they are older to be a part
of a religion or not, but she doesn’t want to force anything on them.

This got me thinking about christenings. Is it a decision we should be
making for our children? Or should we leave this up to them at a later
age? In my husband’s family, it’s expected that you christen a new
baby within the first two months. Reason being, if something horrible
happens and the baby dies, Catholics believe an unbaptized baby will
not be granted access through the pearly gates. I have a hard time
believing that an innocent baby wouldn’t go to heaven so this doesn’t
worry me. Disappointing his grandmother does worry me, however. :)

Also, in the Catholic religion, babies are christened, 1st graders
have their First Holy Communion, and 6th graders have their
Confirmation. There are plenty of opportunities to opt out, although
all before the dreaded teenage years when kids actually start to think
for themselves.

So how do I really feel about all this? I’m not sure. I like the idea
of my children being raised in the church and being taught morals and
values from someone other than us as their parents. I like that they
will meet friends in Sunday School that are being raised similarly.
And I like that it’s ‘forced family time’ as my mom would put it.
Especially as they reach those awful teenage years, I like knowing
that I can force them to be with the family on Sundays for the sake of
tradition.

I got so many great comments from so many of you on the issue of
circumcision, and I would love to hear what you plan to do as far as
religion with your children. Leave me a comment here, on Facebook or
drop me an email at christinaarata@gmail.com. Thanks, as always, for
your support!

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Mommy bragging

I’ve always hated one-uppers. And nothing brings them out quite like parenthood. I take Sofia to Gymboree, which is a mommy and me playgroup, where she takes an art class and a gym class with kids her age. I have come across many different moms there and really enjoy seeing how similar, but also how very different our kids can be. Then the bragging mommy ruins my good time.

I have a very self-deprecating sense of humor and never try to make myself or my kid seem better than anyone else. I think I was just raised to know that bragging isn’t cool an doesn’t make you any friends. And I’m sorry, but my kid is not a genius. She eats crayons. So, I have a hard time with the ‘Johnny speaks Mandarin and can do his times tables’ moms that are clearly whack jobs.

Sofia didn’t crawl until she was 10 months old, and didn’t walk until 15. I wasn’t worried, but occasionally got sympathetic looks from other moms whose kids were running by the time she took her first wobbly steps. Now my kid is like a Tasmanian Devil running circles around Gymboree and you’d never know she started so late. It really didn’t matter, and because every kid is so different, what is the big deal about reaching milestones early or late?

Studies have proven that children who reach milestones early are no smarter or better off than kids that reach them later. I’m not talking about kids that have developmental disabilities, just lazy ones like Sofia. As my pediatrician lovingly put it, ‘She’s not going to crawl into her first day of college.’ That is, unless she’s like her father or me, and is hungover for her first day of college classes. (sorry, mom)

So why the bragging, and why the rush to make our kids adults? Why are we buying systems that promise to teach our babies to read, and enrolling our 2 year olds in French classes? Is it better for them, or is it just so we can brag to friends about how smart they are? Listen, buddy, I don’t care how smart you say your kid is, that’s a booger in his hand and I’m watching it go into his mouth.

I’m content to watch Sofia grow at her own pace and think to myself that she’s a genius. I’m here to support her, not push her into every activity that promises to get her into Harvard. If she’s anything like her dad, she doesn’t need help in the brains department, and I’ll assure you that in her gene pool there is no way she’ll be a successful athlete. Maybe a mathlete.

So shut up over there, bragging mom. I know my kid just fell over because she happened to look up. Yes, I see your son climbing up the advanced Gymboree rock wall and I couldn’t care less. Keep it to yourself. PS – your kid has his fingers in the light socket, you might wanna go do something about that. Hee hee.

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Things that surprised me about motherhood

Looking like a mommy:

I am in no way a glamorous person, but I’d like to think I’ve always been presentable in public. Until I had kids. Now I can only remember the last time I actually did my hair because it was for my sister in law’s engagement party. 2 weeks ago.

Poop:

This is now an acceptable conversation with my husband, my mom, my mother in law, and my friends with kids. Is this poop normal? Did she poop today? What did it look like? (I know, gross)

Being tired:

I thought I knew what tired was before having kids. How blissfully unaware I was of what real exhaustion is. Real exhaustion is being 33 weeks pregnant with a rambunctious toddler who is refusing her nap even though I can clearly see her rubbing her eyes. Mommy needs this nap, kid, FOR THE LOVE OF GOD GO TO SLEEP.

Dinner:

Forget eating sitting down and enjoying your meal. From the minute Sofia was born she has had something against me eating. The second a fork went in my mouth she would wake up screaming and I had to learn how to eat with one hand, over the sink. Now at 20 months it’s high chair tantrums and food throwing, or feeding my sister’s dog instead of herself. I’m constantly on watch. When Dave and I go out to dinner together I feel like I’m on vacation and end up eating in a rush out of habit.

Kid stuff:

My den used to look like it belonged to the adults that paid for it. Now it’s a sea of stuffed animals, play kitchen accessories, balls, blocks, soft books and play purses and strollers. Pictures from our wedding have been replaced with pictures of Sofia from every minute of her life.

TV:

We don’t have cable because my husband is morally opposed to paying a cable company for something he claims to be able to get for free. It is not free. I’m convinced the equipment he bought plus subscriptions to Hulu Plus and Netflix add up to way more. But I digress… I guess the cable thing is a moot point because the only shows I’m allowed to watch now are Sesame Street, Yo Gabba Gabba, and Curious George. I miss you, Real Housewives.

Weekends:

Weekends involve trips to Buy Buy Baby, assembling kid furniture, and baby parties like birthdays and christenings. A long time ago, weekends involved drinking and recovering. And sometimes laundry.

Bragging:

I try not to. But she’s so damn cute. I call my mom, mother in law and sister every time Sofia says anything or does anything. Anything. Everything she does is amazing to me and I’m quite aware that I’m the only one who cares about it but I can’t help myself.

Singing in public:

My friend Laura is the best example of this although we all do it. We sing ridiculous songs we’ve made up to entertain our kids. Anyone that knows her, knows the ‘Shinka Shinka Boy’ song she sings to her son. And we don’t care who’s watching.

Shhhhh!:

Nap time is sacred in our house. I will shush anyone that raises their voice over a whisper, including my dad who tends to yell across the house while she’s sleeping. My house, my rules, dad. (I’ve been waiting a lifetime to say that)

Feel free to add your own surprises about how parenting has changed you. You’re not alone!

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Circumcision?

Not a topic that’s comfortable for dinner conversation, I know. To be honest, I was so thankful I was having a girl last time because I didn’t want to have to make this decision for my poor son. I do not have a penis, obviously, so it’s hard for me to understand the concept of circumcision. I am not, like some politicians we have seen lately, in the business of making decisions about body parts I do not own. That being said, the whole subject makes me queasy and horrified for my tiny little boy.

The American Academy of Pediatrics does not recommend routine circumcisions on infant boys, as they say there is no medical necessity for it. I have also read studies that say circumcised men are less at risk for certain STDs such as HIV and HPV. Not factoring into my decision is the whole ‘locker room’ shame of boys that are uncircumcised. Statistics show a steep decline in circumcision, and today it’s about half and half. By the time my son gets to his teenage years it shouldn’t be an issue.

I just think about how tiny and fragile my newborn baby is about to be. I think about how I would jump in front of a train for my daughter and I am sure to feel that way about my son. How new and helpless they are at mere hours old, and then I just send him off with some doctor who chops off a piece of his most delicate body part. I want to make sure I’m doing this for the right reasons.

For my husband it was not even a discussion. Of course we would do it. And because I don’t own a penis, I am inclined to leave this decision up to him. He won’t really talk about why, just that we’re doing it and that’s it. Lots of moms cite ‘looking like daddy’ as the reason why or why not to circumcise. Not sure why everyone has to look the same though…

I’d love to hear your thoughts about this controversial topic. For those of you interested in reading more about the two sides to this argument, here are some links:

American Academy of Pediatrics

Los Angeles Times

Response to AAP Recommendations

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Not Just A Long Island Mom

In addition to being a Long Island Mom, I am also a wife, a daughter, a sister and a friend. And today happens to be my hipster brother’s 23rd birthday. He is Sofia’s godfather and a pretty awesome human being. Unfortunately for him, he was blessed with 4 moms; our mom, our aunt, my sister and myself. We have bossed him around, dressed him like a girl and endlessly made fun of him. And he still loves us.

On the topic of making fun of my poor brother, is this little gem : our sister has started her very own blog – My Hipster Brother. He has no idea, and since he doesn’t read my blog (thanks for the support baby bro) he still won’t know. It’s a collection of the ridiculous things he says and his hipster fashion and is funny. Very funny. Check it out!!

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Chicken Sausage and Veggies

Tonight was another night where I wasn’t sure what I wanted to eat for dinner and had limited time. Enter Trader Joe’s. My mom and I decided to just go and see what looked good and it paid off! Found Roasted Garlic Chicken Sausages and decided to roast them in the oven with veggies and potatoes. This isn’t so much a recipe as a mixture of a bunch of stuff that happened to taste good. There are a bunch of different flavors of chicken sausages at TJs as well as traditional pork Italian sausages which would be delicious in this recipe. Veggies can also vary depending on what’s in season or what you like. We happened upon some zucchini and yellow squash that looked too good to pass up, and tiny fingerling potatoes that we knew wouldn’t need to be cut up. It’s a one-pot meal that was made in 30 minutes. One pot = minimal dishes. I’m always a fan of that.

Chicken Sausage and Veggies

1 package of Chicken Sausages (12 oz), cut in 1 inch pieces
1 zucchini, cut in 1 inch pieces
1 yellow squash, cut in 1 inch pieces
1/4 pound small fingerling potatoes (or other potatoes cubed)
1 whole head of garlic, peeled
1 onion, coarsely chopped
a few sprigs of thyme
2 tbs olive oil
salt and pepper

1. Preheat oven to 425

2. In a baking or roasting dish, mix together all ingredients and bake for 30-40 mins until everything is brown and delicious looking. Stir halfway through cooking to ensure even browning.

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Crying it Out

I know this is a very emotional topic for moms and I have to say my tune has changed since becoming a mom myself. Before having kids, I didn’t understand moms that couldn’t let their kids cry it out to get to sleep. What’s the big deal, right? Then came Sofia. I couldn’t stand to hear her even whimper, let alone really cry. The thought of letting her cry in her crib until she learned to soothe herself to sleep just seemed so barbaric.

I was not blessed with a wonderful sleeper. I have friends that have never had a problem getting their little ones to sleep, and I’m green with envy over it. Sofia was a challenge from the very beginning. She never liked a bouncy seat, and constantly wanted to be carried. I wore her in a sling and later a baby carrier for the majority of the first year of her life. Friends and family were surprised how quickly I lost the baby weight, and it was because I was not allowed to sit down. Ever. She also was a terrible sleeper. She would nap great in the car, a swing, etc. but I couldn’t get more than 4 hours at night until she was 8 months old. That’s when Sofia and I had a little talk.

My friends with kids thought I was crazy to continue getting up and feeding Sofia a bottle in the middle of the night at 8 months old. My pediatrician told me there was no reason to continue to do it unless I wanted to get up with her like that. He said she wasn’t hungry, she just wanted to hang out. I read countless books about sleep training and resolved to myself that he was right, and I was crazy. I started to wean her ounce by ounce until I stopped getting up with her at all. She adapted like a champ. I couldn’t believe how easy it was.

Step 2 of my sleep training plan was to get her to go to sleep on her own. This was the part I was dreading. Sofia required a minimum of 20 minutes of rocking in the glider every night before she would be asleep enough to transfer to the crib. If i tried cutting it short, she would wake up on transfer and scream, and I’d be back to square one. It was exhausting. So I had a talk with my husband and let him know our sweet little baby would be crying it out starting the following night. Dave is a mush and I knew he would be the biggest problem in the equation.

That next night I gave her a bath, read her a story, put on her playlist of soft music and put her in her crib. Screaming ensued. I waited the requisite 8 minutes, one for every month she had been alive (my mom’s guidelines) and went in to reassure her. Screaming got louder. 8 more minutes which felt like 8 hours, and I went back in again, only to leave with louder screaming. 45 minutes of crying that first night until she finally passed out. I thought Dave was going to kill me. It was the hardest thing I ever had to do but I knew if we stuck with it eventually it would get better. It could only go up from here!

Three nights of hell and by the 4th night she went into her crib and went right to sleep. I couldn’t believe it. We survived sleep training and now we were free of rocking her to sleep for every nap, bedtime, and any night wakings. She was on her own and I just couldn’t believe it. I felt like such an idiot for waiting as long as I did to do this. She was no longer waking in the middle of the night 3-4 times a week, needing to be rocked, and her naps went from a maximum of 45 minutes, to sometimes 2 hours. She was happier when she was awake and bedtime was no longer a struggle. What was I thinking not doing this months ago?

I have read the theories that crying it out produces more cortisol (stress hormone) and can be detrimental to babies. I have also read and seen with my own eyes the damage caused by a child who is not getting enough sleep. Sleep training is not a one size fits all model, which is why there are so many different strategies. It depends on the mom, and the child. I firmly believe that good sleepers and bad sleepers are born that way and it is our job to teach the bad sleepers how to soothe themselves so that they get the amount of rest that is so needed for proper development. My point here is that if you were blessed with a great sleeper, thank your lucky stars. And if you were blessed with a Sofia, may the force be with you.

2 books I highly recommend for sleep training are Healthy Sleep Habits, Happy Child and The Sleepeasy Solution. Links to both here:

Healthy Sleep Habits, Happy Child

The Sleepeasy Solution

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