Friday, October 24, 2008

New mama on board

When people ask me where I�m from, I usually tell them that my husband Dan and I moved here from D.C. about three years ago.  Before that, we lived in Baltimore, where we went to college, met, and married.  But I grew up in Oregon, in a town nestled between three mountain ranges, Pacific saltwater in my veins.  It�s been almost ten years since I left the northwest, and a part of me will always think of it as home.

As for the Triangle - let�s just say we�re a work in progress.

Before our move to Durham, we were living in a sprawling apartment complex in one of the suburbs of D.C.  Dan had an hour-long commute to work; mine - on transportation ranging from the commuter rail to the subway, from metro bus to foot - was an hour and a half.  Days were long and stressful; we felt as though we never had time to relax or pursue other interests.  We spent many sleepless nights trying to ignore the shouts and yells coming from the Motel 6 parking lot behind our building.  I guess by comparison, the life of a graduate student and spouse in Durham, North Carolina sounded kind of nice.  Peaceful (if impoverished).  So when Dan was accepted to a PhD program at Duke, and the nonprofit organization for which I worked told me I could keep my job and telecommute from North Carolina, I said, Okay, sure, let�s go.

But alas, Durham and I never enjoyed a blissful honeymoon period.  I hesitate to point fingers, but it was really all my husband�s fault for insisting that we keep our second vehicle, a sketchy old Ford Tempo given to me by a friend for a dollar in 2003 (that�s about $500 now, for those of you who used to have investments).  I thought the Tempo probably wasn�t up for the drive to North Carolina in the high heat of summer, so we rented a trailer to tow it behind our Budget moving truck.  The trailer blew a tire on the Beltway, barely an hour into our journey, and we waited for five hours in hundred-degree heat for someone to come fix the tire, only to find that he�d brought the wrong size tire.  So much pain and suffering, for a car I hadn�t even wanted to keep.  As it was, we did finally manage to get all our vehicles and possessions to North Carolina, but the trailer never made it, Budget refused to refund us any money, and the moving caravan took an astonishing twelve hours from start to finish. 

We pulled into Durham sometime after midnight on Moving Day (properly, the day after Moving Day), and I thought, ugh, welcome �home.� A mere day later, during a late summer storm - it wasn�t even a big storm - a tree in our front yard fell on the Tempo, smashing in the roof. 

As any sane person would, I took this as an omen.  A sign from God that we never, ever should have moved here.

Things have improved a bit since then, thankfully.  Earlier this year Dan and I welcomed our beautiful daughter Abigail - our first and only child so far - who was born at the birth center in Chapel Hill.  She just turned eight months old, and is a busy, happy, extremely particular little drama queen who terrorizes our cats and makes life far more interesting than it used to be.

But the truth is, while I love my new life as Abby�s mama, I am still getting used to life in the Triangle.  I still find myself brought up short by things I ought to be used to by now - the heat and humidity, the nonexistent winter, the coffee shops that close too early, the sheer size of the towns here and how far apart they are, Durham�s bizarre freeway system.  I still feel as though I don�t know enough people, I�m not plugged in to all the cool local things to do, I�m missing some magical key that could unlock all the hidden mysteries in the Triangle and fill me with that feeling, that sense of homecoming.  I want to learn more about the area, and introduce my daughter - now eight months old - to its many opportunities.  I�m just not quite sure where to look first.

That�s why I�m so thrilled that Marty asked me to be a contributor here at Triangle Mamas.  Since we can�t hire a baby-sitter every night, I need to trade in some of my favorite late-night activities - shows, concerts, late movies - for family-friendly daytime ones. I�m highly motivated to seek out new friends and new experiences in this community, to make it more real, to make it my home.

Sure, I�ve been here for three years already.  But having a baby really does change everything; it gives you a new lease on life, a new excuse to explore your community, new eyes with which to view your world.  My eyes, like my daughter Abigail�s, are wide open.  I�m looking forward to getting to know all of you, benefiting from your wisdom, sharing my own mama stories, and making new memories in this, my new home.

An original Triangle Mamas post. Nikki is mother to the amazing Abigail and a free-lance writer who also blogs at A Small Song.

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Thursday, October 23, 2008

Fair for Him, Great for Me

Img_0200I'm friends with the North Carolina State Fair on Facebook. I love the fair that much, and I am that much of a dork.

Last year, I was pregnant and going to physical therapy when the fair was in town. Something about my lower back and my SI joint. Funny how debilitating it was a year ago and now I can't even fully remember what was wrong. However, I do remember how I couldn't get out of bed the day after the fair.

All in the name of those little mini donuts.

Kevin and I took Christopher to the fair on Tuesday. It was the last warm day of the week, and I really wanted to take Christopher to the fair. Kevin surprised me and managed to get off work early to join us. I'm really glad he did because honestly? The fair wasn't that great to a nine month old.

I packed up the jogging stroller and my Babyhawk and a diaper bag full of emergency items. We headed in Gate 8 past the folks singing revival music and the Village of Yesteryear.

Img_0195The first order of business was food. Img_0196_2

A turkey leg, fried pork chop on a stick, a biscuit, some banana pudding, and a bottle of water held us over for awhile.

Christopher just sat in his stroller with an expression that said, "Are you done eating yet? Can we get moving?"

So we did. We wandered through the fairgrounds looking at the rides that Christopher is too little to ride. We wandered through the buildings where the chickens scared him and the cows smelled badly. We wandered around looking in vain for the ostrich burger we had saved room for, only to find that they weren't there this year.

Another big void? Chef Rameaux, may he rest his Cajun soul in peace. He died this past September, and the absence of his booth at the fair stung just as much as it does when I drive down Person Street past his empty shop. He once scolded me for not wanting to buy crawfish from him that had come from China.

"Girrrrrrrrrrl! Don't choo know those crawfish don't care where they grew up???"

I digress. Mightily.

As excited as I was to take our son to the North Carolina State Fair for the first time, I can honestly say, meh. It was. Just was. There really isn't that much to do with a nine month old at the fair except be tempted to feed him a bunch of stuff that he shouldn't eat.

Still though, we have the pictures and the memories. So many things, I think, we do for ourselves as parents. Things that mean something to us, we want to share with our children. So while Christopher passed out in the Babyhawk, I happily posed by the salt water taffy to give him his first fair experience the total package.

An original Triangle Mamas post. Marty doesn't blog anymore. Ever. Maybe occasionally. Okay, sometimes, but who knows where anymore?

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Wednesday, October 22, 2008

It's All Worth It

Anna Podris is having a baby. Rather, I hope she has already had that baby. A little girl born to two artist parents. I think she will be a lucky little baby.

I really only know Anna through her artwork. Her paintings hang in our living room and provide Christopher a beautiful view of colors, building, birds, and whimsy during our morning nursing. When I saw that she was expecting, I was compelled to drop by the studio she and her husband Keith Norval share at Artspace in downtown Raleigh. I really wanted to give her a Moby and offer up the smiles and encouragement that only the mother of a baby who sleeps through the night can give.

There is something about new moms that I feel drawn to now that I have a little more confidence. Now that I don't spend most hours of the day locked with paralyzing anxiety over what I'm doing wrong as Christopher's mother.

One the one hand, I want to let new moms know that it does get better. It does not always feel like you have sold your soul to the gods of impatience, sleeplessness, helplessness, and anxiety. There will be a day when you wake up with your baby and realize that breastfeeding isn't controlling your day, it's fitting into it.

On the other hand, I don't want them to know how bad it can be. Maybe it's not so bad for every new mom. Maybe there are new moms who are calm, sleep when the baby sleeps, and don't have any breastfeeding issues. Maybe you could hear me laughing as I typed that.

I know that some of us have it worse than others. Some of us have hormones that just won't relinquish their throttle hold on our lives. Some of us have to do it alone without family nearby to help. Some of us have legitimate worries that mix themselves in with the irrational fears and make it hard to distinguish the two. Some of us have such severe anxiety that we stayed in bed with our babies for no less than three days, only getting out to go to the bathroom because we were afraid that if we moved or let go of the baby that our milk would dry up.

Okay, so that last one was probably only me.

A couple of weeks ago, Christopher and I paid Anna a visit. We sat and chatted about her pregnancy and her birth plans. We talked about attachment parenting and cheered at Keith's proclamation of "whatever works" parenting. She tried on the Moby and wrapped it right on her very first try.

I said nothing of my dark days. I said nothing of my marathon labor that laughed mockingly at the Pitocin until I finally gave into an epidural 14 hours later. I said nothing of the depression and anxiety I was sucked into while trying so hard to be able to nurse my son.

But I didn't lie to her when she asked questions.

I did say I made small goals and celebrated when I reached them. My small goal was to breastfeed that day. That one day. And when it happened, I congratulated myself at night and challenged myself to do it again the next day.

I did tell her that getting no sleep was hard, but it didn't last long in the grand scheme of things.

And I did tell her what we all know. Everything she was about to go through was worth it and then some. It would be worth it to become her little girl's mother.

The image above is of Bird Tropolis, an original oil on canvas by Anna Podris.

An original Triangle Mamas post. Marty is a mother, a musician, and a writer. You can also find her at Deep South Moms Blog.

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Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Agoraphobics Unite

Despite the beautiful Autumnal temperatures, today was not a day I desired to leave the house.  It was just one of those days when I wanted to hunker down in my house, get some cleaning done, and then just laze about.  The only problem is that it�s grocery day.   I don�t know about your family but for us, grocery day cannot be delayed.  By grocery day, we are suffering a shortage of such necessities as bread, eggs, milk, and bananas.  I yearned to put it off until tomorrow but knew it needed to be done.

That�s when, in a moment of inspiration, the answer came to me.  I could just order my groceries online and pick them up in the morning.  The ultimate in convenience for a lazy-day sufferer like me. 

All I had to do was login, select a pick-up time, and begin making my list all while wearing my flannel pajamas.  Selecting items was as easy as click, click, click and I could even add special instructions like, �Green bananas, please.�  There�s even the added bonus of seeing an estimate of my growing total, which is more than I ever know in-store. The simplicity of it is really what makes Harris Teeter�s Express Lane such a phenomenal idea. 

Plus, if I were really organized, I could save custom lists for planned weekly menus and need only to add depleted staples.  In that case, I could be finished grocery shopping in 5 minutes flat.  (If only I were so organized.)

The only downside is that there is a $4.95 service charge after your first taste.  (The first time�s free!!)  Because of the fee, it is not something I do on a regular basis. (Although if I were working full-time I certainly would.)  But for days where my toddler is sick, days when I�m waiting on the cable guy, days when I have more chores than time, or just days where I don�t wanna, it�s nice to know Harris Teeter is there with their convenient shopping option.  And with eight different locations offering this service in the Triangle, there�s no reason you shouldn�t spoil yourself too.

Now, all that�s left to do is convince my husband to go pick them up. 

Abby is addicted to blogging.  Not only does she blog here at Triangle Mamas, she also blogs about motherhood on her personal blog, My Sweet Babboo.

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Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Pinching Pennies Pumpkin-style

Looking for a little Fall fun?  Feeling the crunch of tough economic times?  Look no further than Ganyard Hill Farms in east Durham.

Aside from your usual run-of-the-mill pumpkin patch fare (hayrack rides, corn mazes, cow milking), Ganyard Hill Farms offers plenty of adventure for your more stingy frugal economically conscience parents.

Start your fiscally responsible adventure with the petting zoo where you get to pet the painted plywood black cat.  Feel how soft fuzzy bumpy the kitty's fur is... nice, huh?  This beats feeding goats any day, right?


Next who needs a corn maze when you can try out the absolutely free wooden pallet obstacle course?  Test your limits by maneuvering over the pumpkins while avoiding getting caught between slats.


Now, that you're really having a good time, why not pass on the hayrack ride and take a trip on the Daddy Express?  Sure, you get this ride most every day, but here you can take in lovely views of the porta-potties, old barns, and of course all those other kids suffering through their time on the Hay Mountain.


Last but not least, don't forget to pick up a pumpkin.  Because your parents are cheap thoughtful, you don't have to wander through patch after patch before locating the perfect pumpkin.  Instead, you are presented with aisles of pumpkins similar to shopping at Wal-Mart.  Convenient, right?


Boy, oh boy, are you one lucky kid to have such tightwad adventurous parents.

(Author's Note: In all honesty, we highly recommend Ganyard Hill Farms and had a fun time visiting again this year.  We will definitely be sure to check out the more traditional activities next year when Linus is a bit older and able to actually enjoy the experience.)

Crossposted at My Sweet Babboo.
Abby is a stay-at-home mom of a one year old who blogs at her personal mommy
blog, My Sweet Babboo.

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Monday, October 13, 2008

Pencil Me In

Scheduling is not the same as routine.

I can do routine. We have the same thing for breakfast each morning. A jar of fruit. Some banana and a handful of cheerios. Christopher sits in his highchair and the dogs lay patiently and wait to be pelted with little round pieces of cereal.

It's our morning routine that happens at 8:00, 9:00, or sometimes 10:00 in the morning.

At night, we eat dinner as a family. After dinner, we go upstairs. Christopher and I take a bath. Kevin gets the baby out of the tub and into his jammies. We play on the floor for a few minutes, read a book, always end with Snuggle Puppy, and then go to bed. As I nurse and rock him to sleep, we say our prayers.

It's our bedtime routine that starts anywhere from 5:00 on up to 7:30 or so.

What I cannot seem to manage, however, is to have these things happen at the same time each day. Like right now? It is 11:00 AM, and he hasn't had a morning nap yet. That would be because he woke up at 8:30 instead of 5:30 like he did yesterday. So no morning nap yet means that the afternoon nap is sketchy and bedtime might be at 7:00 tonight instead of 8:30.

There just isn't a schedule to our day.

I can't say it stresses me out, but it would make life easier if I could plan the timing of it better.

Maybe when he's older. Or maybe not. I imagine there are moms who do it any way possible out there. I would love to know how they make it work.

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Friday, October 3, 2008

Sign Wars

The sign wars are upon us.  Up and down my street, my neighbors are putting out their yard signs to show which candidate they support.  McCain across the street � Obama next door.  Obama three doors down and McCain the two houses after that.  House by house, we are a neighborhood divided.  Only if you look at the signs, of course, because it�s not like we are really talking about it.  That is, we�re not talking about it with the McCain supporters across the street.

So why, if the election is what is really on everyone�s minds, are we ignoring the proverbial white elephant in the room?  Do we simply want to be polite and respectful to those who have an opinion different from our own or is it just easier to only speak with those who share our views?  I�m not sure if my 83-year-old McCain-loving neighbor was insulted or amused when my five year old asked her why she liked war so much.  She was confused at first but he pointed to her McCain yard sign and said, �You like McCain so you must like war.�    She laughed a little and looked at me.  I shrugged and said, �We�re an Obama family� and that sort of ended the discussion.

I have always shied away from talk of politics.  Typically, I have felt too un-informed to participate in such conversations.  I don�t even know what a Pundit is.  But it�s like March Madness and suddenly I�m a basketball fan.  I am late coming to the impassioned political party but here I am.  I watched the debate.  I follow the polls.  I go on-line to listen to the speeches.  I read the headlines on Huffington Post.  I can honestly say that I have never before quite felt this way about an election � completely emotionally invested in the outcome. This will be the first time that I will be voting for a candidate rather than against one.  And I want to talk about it. 

However, I am aware of a certain discomfort in discussing such matters.  Being from New England and in the words of Dar Williams, We don�t like to make our passions other people�s concerns.�  I was raised in a family where polite conversation did not involve talk of politics, religion and sex.  I personally felt uncomfortable reading a blog post recently written by someone who is very pro-Palin and I will guiltily admit that I may not be back to read that particular blog for a while.  Several others have commented that they steer clear of politics on their personal blogs for the same reasons and I understand.  It simply feels safer to talk about the current state of the election with like-minded people � I get it. 

The problem is, only speaking with folks who feel the same way I do isn�t really helping the cause.  I can write numerous posts about what I like about Obama and what I dislike about McCain and those of you who agree with me will say, �Sing it Sister� and those of you who disagree will quietly click away.  I�m sure I won�t be changing anyone�s mind if they have already made their decision.  There is no reason for stumping here.  [For those who are completely undecided and plan on flipping a coin in the voting booth, email me and I�ll tell you why I am pro-Obama � or ask my five-year-old.]  Seriously, do you really want to hear what I think of Palin�s Katie Couric interview?  I bet you can guess. However, I feel that we do need some true activism so I make the following proposals for whatever side of the ticket you are leaning:

1. Stop talking about the candidate for whom you are not voting and start talking about the candidate for whom you are voting.  Tell us why you think he�s the right man for the job.

2. Write a heart-felt email or letter detailing these reasons and send it to everyone you know.

3. Call your local campaign office and find out how you can help.  You can volunteer any number of ways by helping to get folks registered to vote or making calls.  If you don�t have that kind of time, offer to donate food to feed the other volunteers.  Here is the contact info for the Durham for Obama office but oddly enough, I couldn�t find a local office for McCain.

4. Donate to the campaign of your choice.  It�s going to take money to campaign hard in the battleground states, which now includes North Carolina.

5. Offer to drive someone to the polls that ordinarily might not be able to get there on their own.

6. Find out who�s on the fence � these are the people who will decide the election and these are the people we need to be talking to.

7. Get the facts on your favorite candidate � feel free to correct people who are spreading ideas that are simply not true.  For example, �No, Obama is not the anti-Christ.�  Need help wading through all the �facts�?  Go to for nonpartisan information.

8. If you are not already, get registered to vote.  You must be registered by October 10th.  If you don�t know how to do this, go to and do it on line.

9. By all means, vote.  But only McCain or Obama can be president so think carefully before wasting your vote on a third party candidate or write-in.  No one has ever made it to the Oval Office by a write-in vote.  If you do decide to write-in your vote, email me ahead of time so I can make sure you know how to spell my son�s name correctly. 

Right now, especially here in the Triangle, it feels like anything can happen.  But if true change is to happen, it is going to have to start with us.  Be proactive!  Stake your yard sign proudly.  And please, please talk about it � I�d love to hear what you are thinking.

Susie writes about her kids and their political wisdom on her personal blog At Home With Me.



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