Betsy Ross is no longer our dog.
Jack and Max have assumed ownership and renamed her Betsy Banana Tickle.
When I started making video montages for my children’s birthdays, watching how much they grew in one year was amazing. Now the changes are more subtle, but it’s a tradition they look forward to every year.
What’s my song this year, Mommy?
Can I see my video yet?
I always play them at our parties right before we sing Happy Birthday and eat cake. It brings the crowd together. This year was cute with Max’s friends laughing at funny pictures of him in his underpants and with flowers behind his ears. It might not be as dramatic to you, but as his mother, I see the changes from four to five so clearly.
Enjoy the snapshots; we’re already off on our sixth trip around the sun. What an adventure that will be!
Before I was Rebecca Cofiño, I was Rebecca Harmon.
You need to know that to understand this story.
Ten years ago I drove across the country by myself, from New Orleans to Spokane, Washington. I made a few pit stops along the way: White Sands, the Grand Canyon and even Las Vegas.
When I arrived in Las Vegas, the sun was setting. It’s a place I never had much interest in seeing, but it was on my way, so I decided to check it out. I’m not a gambler, but I did try it out for the five hours I was there, turning $20 to $120 and ending at $95. But I’m getting ahead of myself. This story is about sunset on the Las Vegas strip.
I was driving down the famous strip in my silver VW Beetle containing all my worldly possessions. While I drove, the sky was burnt off its pink glow and the lights brightened in the falling darkness. I had no idea where I was I was going. Suddenly, I saw this:
How had no one ever told me that Harmon Avenue was a major intersection on the Las Vegas strip?
Was I the first from my father’s side to visit the casinos in the desert? Had no friend ever looked up on a wild weekend and seen an interesting bit of trivia?
I fumbled in my backpack to get my camera so I could snap this picture. Remember, no smart phones ten years ago. I accidentally sliced the middle of my thumbnail with my razor while fishing around for that camera while driving, so let me share another a useful bit of trivia with you. There is a CVS at the very end of the strip.
What brought this memory to mind?
Well, Max just got a new dinosaur book and look what I found?
Come on, people! Tell me these things!
I ought to have known that I was named after a giant, gambling, African dinosaur from the late Cretaceous period who, of course, was vegetarian.
Now, what else am I missing?
This is the truth.
This is the way things happened today.
Throughout the morning I gave you the countdown from five years ago:
You were still inside my body and Mommy and Daddy were in the tub.
Finally it was time to push you out, and I roared like a lion.
I had to get out of the tub, and the midwives helped me to the bed.
At 11:11 you came out of my body and the midwife held you up. I didn’t know who you were until that moment. When I saw you, suddenly I knew you and I exclaimed, “It’s a boy! I love my baby boy!”
And then I had to explain happy tears to you, because there you were eating lunch after building Lego trucks and playing putt putt golf with your little brother, and I have been there to witness every single moment of your incredible life. Mother’s Day always dances around your birthday and some years it even tangles up, which is fine by me because your birthday marks the day I became a mother. You made me a mom and I will always be astonished and grateful for that. All of this wells up inside me and spills out as tears, smiles, kisses, and wistful looks that see past, present, and future at once.
Fifteen minutes later we head to school to tell the world, your class, that you are five. On Friday I told you that you would never go to school as a four year-old again. You are beyond excited. You are the last in your class to turn five. As I drive the commute I have come to loathe, we pass by the House of Babies, the birthplace of you, your brother, our family and in so many ways, even myself. We blow kisses and wonder if another baby is being born there today.
Right now. At this moment.
As we wait for your teacher, another mom rushes towards us and asks us if we’ve seen the sun today. There is a rainbow circling it. We call you over and the brightness is blinding, but I share my sunglasses because you have to see it.
There is a rainbow around the sun, exactly five years after the moment you were born only a few blocks away from the place where you were born.
This is the truth.
There is poetry in this world. There are mystical birthday presents from the universe. There is joy which cries.
All of this is for you, my darling boy.
And this magical day began in darkness, when you were invited to cuddle with your parents inside our bed, and you matched my fingers and then your father’s.
One. Two. Three. Four. Five.
A whole hand!
We are just as proud and as stunned as we were five years ago the moment you entered our lives:
my son, my sun.
All my love, all your life,
This is my annual repost for Mother’s Day perfection. Share it widely.
Let’s face it: mamas are the holiday planners in most families. We shop, we bake, we plan, we organize, we record, we everything. The rest of the family bumbles around and sometimes manages to help.
The problem is that when Mother’s Day rolls around, we are not in charge. People who never plan anything are put in charge and judging by the furious credit card swiping that happens on the day after Mother’s Day, it’s not the most successful celebration. That’s OK. I’m here to help.
This is a fool-proof guide to planning the perfect Mother’s Day celebration on any budget. Every dad needs to read and follow it.
THE MOST IMPORTANT THING YOU CAN DO TO CELEBRATE MOTHER’S DAY IS TO PLAN SOMETHING!
THE PLANNING PART IS WHAT MATTERS MORE THAN THE ACTUAL PLAN.
The perfect Mother’s Day should include:
1. A homemade gift from the children
2. A gift for her as a person, not a mom
3. Family time
4. Personal time
5. Do the grunt work.
Regarding Other Mothers
1. There are other mothers in your life whom you need to celebrate. If you live near either of your parents, figure out what you are doing for them and when. If your wife wants to cook dinner for her mom, let everyone know (including your wife) that you are in change of brunch for her. Make sure that there is one time in the day that is completely devoted to the mother of your children.
An easy way to make this work is to go out to brunch or serve mama breakfast-in-bed, and then have everyone over for a BBQ dinner you prepare.
2. Whatever you do for other mothers, you need to do greater for the mother of your children. If you give a single rose to all the women in your family who are mothers, your wife gets a dozen. If you give them all a dozen, she gets 2 dozen. The exception to this is your own mother for whom you can get something special, although it should not be greater than your wife’s gift.
That’s it. That’s all I’ve got. If you follow my advice you will make the mother of your children very happy and she will be bragging on Monday. I hope this doesn’t sound condescending. I know a lot men are wonderful and full of their own ideas. I just want all dads to be informed about what mamas really want, so you can make it special for her.
By the way: MOTHER’S DAY IS SUNDAY, MAY 12th.
When Max was three days I old I took him on our first real walk together, around the park at the end of our block. He weighed 6 pounds and 8 ounces that day. No wrap or stroller, I cradled him in the crook of my neck. One teenage boy noticed us on his way to soccer practice.
Look at the baby! His friend was uninterested and unimpressed. Look! I’ve never seen such a little baby before!
He’s three days old, I beamed with pride.
It was an evening in mid-May in Miami, which meant the park was packed at sundown, a relief from the heat. I remember seeing kids play at the playground, parents pushing babies in bucket seats on swingsets. I had a thought I knew was wrong, Those other parents think their babies are little, but they aren’t really. They’re already big. My baby is the babiest baby of all.
Of course, I realized that the playground parents had gone through the newborn stage and were light years ahead of me in terms of parenting, but there was something inside me that wanted so strongly to hold onto the preciousness of that moment: the first few days of a new life.
Babyhood is beautiful! A lot is written about poopy diapers and sleepless nights, but mothers know that those are truly inconsequential details when compared with the earth-shattering joy a new baby brings to a family. Every day offers something new: a smile to be amazed by, a first giggle, the funny discovery of hands.
At the same time, each milestone that marks a beginning also marks an end. Babies grow remarkably fast. Once a baby can crawl, he’ll never be content to bat at a mobile on his back. Once he can walk, forget life on hands and knees. Once solid food is grasped, nursing falls by the wayside (usually, I know and respect different choices).
As eager as we are to get to the next stage of development, it’s hard to let go of the baby we so love. This is especially true for second children. My mom jokes, With the first child, you eagerly cheer their first steps. With the second child, you knock them down. There is a sense that you don’t want to rush through the best time of life. Babyhood is fleeting.
Now I am a mom at the playground. One child rides on his tummy on a big kid swing, the other child is learning to pump his legs to go high. Who knows what newborns are being carted around the park? I’m caught up in my own life and rarely notice.
Friends who have children younger than mine often remark that my kids are so big. I smile, knowing that they don’t get it. They won’t get it until their kids reach the same age. Three year-olds, four year-olds, even five year-olds, are still very little people. When I need reminding of this, I just look at a single body part: an elbow, a shoulder, an ear. They are still tiny.
But it’s OK that they’re growing. I am firmly out of the baby and toddler stage of parenting. My kids are preschoolers with kindergarten on the autumnal horizon. My time with babies is over. I don’t even feel a twinge of sadness about that, because the truth that the mothers on the playground know is this:
It gets better.
Babies are wonderful, but they are also generic.
A baby could be switched in a hospital nursery and no one would be the wiser, but there is no way you could ever pick up the wrong kid from school. Those milestones which delight us are really just rites of passage every person on earth experiences. As children grow, they become more and more themselves. Every day, every year, they come into their own more fully.
Even though the love I felt for my children at birth consumed and overwhelmed me, it’s really nothing compared to my love for them now as distinct individuals.
My love for my four year-old is not the love I feel for my firstborn son. It’s specifically for Max who is thoughtful, observant, artistic, athletic, sensitive, inquisitive, pathologically helpful with an engineer’s mind set to building.
My three year-old gets love not for being my baby, but for being Jack, a reliable clown who lives on his emotions, has a wild sense of humor, a deep love of dogs, and a creative imagination that spins elaborate, spellbinding stories.
And we are just getting started.
The end of babyhood marks the beginning of selfhood.
It is humbling and exciting to see a little one create and reveal his unique identity. It’s much more thrilling than watching him roll over for the first time!
Those inconsquential details I mentioned at the beginning, sleep and poop, well, it’s nice to be done with that, too. It’s a welcome relief to have the ability to break a routine without having a meltdown, to move through a crowd without a stroller, to stop acting like a Sherpa for every outing. An exhilarating freedom comes with a child’s independence.
I also get to reclaim some of my identity that got lost in round-the-clock parenting. I can get out of the house without guilt and pursue my other passions. I can also share parts of myself with my children, like yoga and cooking. Although I happily relinquished much my life to focus on being a mother, becoming Rebecca again is quite refreshing. It’s a different version of Rebecca and it’s fun to redefine who I am as a mother and a woman.
Once babies stop being babies, the real adventure begins!
All the playground moms know that.
It had to happen.
Day-after-day, year-after-year, the same problem weighed on my heart: I felt bad about the way my body looked.
For every one pound of extra physical weight, I carried 100 pounds of spiritual weight. When I got dressed every morning, I never felt a lightness of spirit in getting ready for the day. It was an exercise in camouflage that never really worked. There was angst, shame, frustration, confusion, a touch of self-pity and then…
Plain and simple, it dawned on me that having the same problem all the time was incredibly stupid and boring. I mean, really, how much longer did I want to make faces in the mirror before plastering on a fake smile for the world? Wouldn’t it be at least more interesting to take control, and move past this speed bump?
And so, I did.
The month of April was a time I set aside to focus on myself. I had a short window when holidays and responsibilities were at a lull, so I staked a claim for myself.
I didn’t cheat once.
Although there were times when my heels dragged a bit, I was just so ready for a change that it wasn’t too hard to stick with the plan. It was a gift to myself and it had an expiration date.
May is a busy celebration month in my home, which will be immediately followed by summer vacation, a new school year, the farmer’s market reopening, the holiday season…. Knowing that I had a finite amount of time to really focus on myself enabled me to get down to business without any hand-wringing. Of course, I plan on losing a bit more weight and I know I can’t do that during only one month in a year, but I got a great head start, and firmly implemented some excellent habits that will serve me well.
How I Lost 10 Pounds in a Month
1. No sugar or sweeteners.
Sugar is addictive. It operates the same way as heroin in our brains. Freeing myself of my sweet tooth made life easier than parceling out small portions. I got it out of my body and my head. I didn’t place a limit on fruit, because no matter what current fad diets say, fruit is healthy. If I wanted a something sweet, nature supplied it, and that was that.
2. No dairy or gluten.
This had more to do with trying to relieve myself of some chronic pain. I will reintroduce these foods now and see if they cause an allergic reaction in my body.
I did find myself making some creative culinary choices. When I made my family pasta, I had roasted sweet potatoes or zucchini with sauce for my meal. I also used lentil flour quite a bit and developed a deep love of papadoms heated in the microwave. Instead of cooking eggs in butter, I used avocado oil, which is unusual and delicious. It was fun to play in the kitchen again.
3. Greens 2-3 times a day!
I wanted a nutrient-rich diet. Usually breakfast was a fruit and veggie smoothie with an egg on the side. A few days a week, I sauteed spinach and mushrooms and put a poached egg on top with fruit on the side. For years my lunch has been a big salad. Vegetables are always the foundation of dinner. Eating so many plants felt great! It’s a wonderful energy boost.
4. Exercise 10-12 hours a week!
This is key. I jog almost every morning. Two weeks in, I added interval sprints which really helped. I also do a light barbell routine for my arms and an ab and leg video for toning on alternate days. Yoga has become an evening ritual, which is strange because I love a morning practice, but it fits better into my schedule in the evenings. On the weekends I swim a mile in a lap pool.
5. Replace TV with reading books about health.
In the past I’ve read fitness magazines to keep me motivated, but that never really worked. They offer so many different programs, that I always second-guessed my plan. This time I read books about diabetes, sugar, wellness, allergies, you name it. This reading constantly confirmed that I was making great choices for my health. They also shared horror stories about people who did not make healthy choices, adding fuel to my fire.
6. Up protein.
Eggs, nuts, beans, tofu, quinoa and seafood played a more starring role in my diet. Most of those are plant-based proteins which also provide excellent fiber, vitamins and minerals. I made sure to include a small serving of protein in every meal, and also ate a few nuts whenever I was hungry. This kept me feeling strong.
It’s simple and a lot of hard work. Every choice I made I knew was good for me in both the short term and the long term. My plates were full of colorful, healthy food, and my days were full of movement.
I have about 15 more pounds to lose. I probably can’t lose another 10 pounds in May, because the closer I get to my goal, the more stubborn my body will cling to the weight. That’s OK. I have more ideas to shake things up, and a realistic goal of losing 5-7 pounds.
Most importantly, I’ve lost that heavy feeling of failure.
I look and feel great!
It’s been a long time since I could say that.