Sunday, February 24, 2008


I remember riding home with my mother from college one spring day and telling her with all the self-assured conviction (i.e. arrogance) of an 18-year-old that I was going to “be somebody” one day. I could just feel it.

Yeah, you can groan now. It is corny.

I don’t know when I lost that “feeling” that I was going to make something of myself. Maybe it happened when I got bogged down with the daily grind. It’s hard to pull ahead when you can barely keep up.

But in the middle of the night two years ago, as I held my newborn Ladybug, I had a flicker of hope. Not for me, but for her. Maybe if we gave her a good start in life she’d find her own dreams and have more success than we did in reaching ours.

My husband and I talk often about how to accomplish that. Ladybug has the unique advantage of having two cultures – French and American – under one roof. But the question has always been, how do we make sure she makes the most of it? How can we best teach her about her two cultures and the world around her? Where will she be able to perfect both of her native languages and be exposed to others like her?

We have an opportunity now to try to answer some of those questions. And as we do, I must leave you. This will be my last blog entry.

Thank you for following Ladybug’s journey for the last 10 months. I’ve enjoyed sharing our triumphs and our not-so-successful adventures (we’re almost three weeks into potty training, and still no luck!). And I’ve appreciated your suggestions, your praise and – yes – even your criticisms.

Thank you again for reading. May your mothering days be happy!

Tuesday, February 19, 2008

Too cute

Before Ladybug was born, I washed all of her clothes in anticipation of her arrival. I’d hold up the tiny socks and the little pajamas and envision the small bundle that would soon fill them. Those miniature clothes were just too darn cute.

Ladybug’s clothes are still adorable, but they’re not baby clothes anymore. They’re little girl clothes. Polka-dotted underwear, brightly striped tights, pom-pom boots. And pocket books.

Ladybug’s favorite pocket book is a purple and pink vinyl Beauty and the Beast purse that we take on every outing. Inside are her princess flip phone, a princess wand, a small rubber Beast figurine, a leather wallet I bought in Spain years before Ladybug was born, a fake credit card and a princess camera.

She hangs the ‘book, as she calls it, in the crook of her arm or drapes it over her shoulder, raising her arm in the air to keep it from falling off. Then she takes my hand to help her down the stairs.

Sometimes she’s just too cute for words.


Ladybug was holding puzzle pieces when the pediatrician walked into the patient waiting room for her two-year checkup last week.

“What do you have there?” he asked.

“Elephant,” Ladybug said, holding up one chunky wooden piece then lifting the other. “Monkey.”

“Normally people your age can say about 30 words,” the doctor said to Ladybug. “If you can say ‘elephant,’ I think you can say 30 words.”

And then some.

That night, my husband and I started listing all the words that Ladybug could say in English and French, easily hitting 75. Each day, a new word pops up in her vocabulary.

I’m always amazed when I hear a discernible word in Ladybug’s babble. To watch her name animals in a book and then make the correct moo or meow is nothing short of incredible. Hearing it come out in French is even more cool.

Watching her language develop has been one of my favorite parts of her growing up – the visible signs of Ladybug’s frustration when we don’t understand what she says, the glee when we do, the shared humor in an exchange of a few words.

The days she understands without effort, like during a visit to Sci-Port a few weeks back, are awesome to watch. On that particular day Ladybug was hogging a kid-size tractor, inviting other toddlers to sit next to her but not relinquishing the steering wheel. A particularly brazen little girl climbed into the cab, leaned across Ladybug and started driving.

“Why don’t you and the other little girl switch places so she can drive? I said to Ladybug, who dumbfounded me when she stood up and changed seats with the girl.
And then there was yesterday, as I held Ladybug in my arms and asked her, “Does Mommy love you?”

“Uh-huh,” she replied.

“Does Daddy love you?”


“Does Attitude (our cat) love you?”

Ladybug looked down sheepishly and shrugged her shoulders. She was remembering an incident the day before when she yanked Attitude’s tail. Attitude arched her back and hissed at Ladybug, chasing her off as she cried, “I’m sorry Tee-Tude! I’m sorry Tee-Tude!” Ladybug has been a little gun shy since, approaching Attitude with caution and a stream of apologies.

I stand back secretly smiling and watching it all in awe. To think that this little girl hugging my legs and smiling up at me is my daughter humbles me and makes me proud.

It’s only a matter of time now before Ladybug is speaking in full sentences, and to be honest, I can’t wait.

Ms. Apologetic

The other night I woke up to the sound of Ladybug talking in her crib.

“I’m sorry train,” she said, her voice cracking as if she was going to cry. “I’m sorry nose. I’m sorry toe. I’m sorry rain. I’m sorry …”

She proceeded to fill in the blank with just about every word she knew. Usually I try to stay quiet during these middle-of-the-night one-sided chats lest she draw me into conversation, but I had to say something.

“What are you sorry for, Ladybug?” I called from our bedroom. “You didn’t do anything.”

“I’m sorry, Mommy,” she whimpered.

These days Ladybug is “sorry” for everything and to everyone for no apparent reason. She could be sitting on the sofa flipping through a board book by herself, and all of a sudden she’ll launch into a long list of apologies.

I feel awful when she does that, like it’s my fault. I start going over the preceding minutes: Did I inadvertently snap at her? Was she reading something from my body language? Did I make her feel as if she did something wrong? The majority of the time, I can’t find anything in my behavior to have prompted Ladybug’s apologies.

Then this afternoon as we were watching the home video from Ladybug’s birthday party, I think I found the source of the sorries: Me. Each time I’d bump into something, the recorded me would say, “Oops, sorry.” When Ladybug’s balloons came untied from her chair, it was followed by “sorry” from me. Every time I turned around, I seemed to be saying sorry, sorry, sorry.

I’m sorry that Ladybug is mirroring my habit. But if she has to mimic me, I’m just glad it was a five-letter word – not a four – she picked up on.

Sunday, February 17, 2008

Up, up and away

I’m kind of an impulse buyer. Not for myself, but for Ladybug. If I see something I think she’ll like, I have to get it. I’ll leave to your imagination the kind of havoc I am capable of wreaking on a checkbook.

So when I walked into Party Central to buy helium balloons for her birthday this past week, you know I couldn’t walk out with the generic latex balloons I intended to buy -- not when there were giant Cinderella-carriage and Disney-princess castle balloons beckoning me.

Each balloon was almost as big as Ladybug – how cool is that? – and they would go so well with her princess-themed party. So I bought two of them … for a grand total of, gulp, $21.

But Ladybug loved them. I tied them to her high chair for her party, then moved them to her rocking chair in her room where they’re still bouncing around.

Each time Ladybug looks at them she says, “Balloon sky.” That’s because the last time she had a balloon I accidentally lost hold of the string, and the wind whipped it up and away before I could grab it. Ladybug watched in amazement as it floated over the houses and disappeared into the woods.

“Balloon sky,” Ladybug said to me again this afternoon, taking me by the hand and pulling me to her rocking chair.

“Oh, no, honey,” I replied. “Last time was an accident. I didn’t mean to send them in the sky. Plus, these cost $21.”

Yeah, I said this as if my two-year-old, who thinks empty penny wrappers go in piggy banks, understands the value of money.

But who am I to talk? I spent $21 on two balloons.


Every time I strike up conversation with other parents at the playground and they tell me their children are the same age as Ladybug, I politely say, “I thought they might be the same age.” But in my head I’m thinking, “You’ve got to be kidding me! They’re so small!”

Ladybug consistently stands at least a head taller than other kids her age. Her above-average height is confirmed each time we go to the pediatrician. This week, when she went back for her two-year checkup, the doctor gave us the latest news: Her height is off the growth chart.

I watched as the pediatrician scribbled a couple numbers on a piece of paper, saying he could use a formula to estimate Ladybug’s final height with 85 percent accuracy, give or take an inch. Care to venture a guess?

Six feet. Six feet!

I suppose it’s to be expected. I’m just thee inches short of that height. My husband is about that tall. My father is a few inches more, while my husband’s grandfather towered more than seven feet. It’s genetics, pure and simple.

But what the doctor said next made me kind of proud: “If she continues on her current path, she’ll have that tall and lean look that everyone desires.”

At 37 inches tall, Ladybug weighs a healthy 30 pounds thanks to our efforts to feed her nutritious, well-balanced meals made from scratch. It’s a tedious endeavor at times (especially in the middle of potty training), but hearing we’re doing something right makes it all worthwhile.

Wednesday, February 13, 2008

Happy Birthday, Ladybug!

Another birthday for Ladybug has come and gone. As I stood at her crib tonight, holding her hand as she said “Night-night Mommy,” I couldn’t believe she’s two. Could that much time have passed already?

It seems like only a few weeks ago that we gave her a toy walker for her first birthday to help with those early steps. And now here she is bouncing around the living room like Tigger. My, how time passes.

Ladybug’s birthday is extra special because she was born on the day my husband and I met. Fifteen years ago today our journey began in a Paris bistro. Who would have thought that we would be here today with the daughter we had named a week after we met?

But, really, what better way to celebrate the day?

Tuesday, February 12, 2008


My, oh my, how things sneak up on me. Tomorrow is Ladybug’s second birthday and, can you believe, I forgot to get her a card?

And I was so proud of myself for being ahead of the game. I bought her birthday presents when I did the Christmas shopping. I got her princess party supplies a couple weeks ago. I made her cupcakes from scratch today. How could I have forgotten the card?

Oh, I know, it’s not like she would know the difference. But I save all the cards she receives and put them in her “memory box” for when she grows up. I think it’s a nice way to remember how much she was loved by so many people.

In fact, I still have a box of cards from my childhood signed by relatives, many of whom have since passed away. When I look at them I’m reminded of the boots one grandmother gave me each year and the goofy wind-up toys that the other grandmother stuffed into our Christmas stockings.

So now you see why it’s important that I give Ladybug a birthday card. And to make sure I don’t forget, I put a reminder note on the kitchen island. The last thing I want is Ladybug looking through her memory box when she’s all grown up and asking, “Mom, what happened to my birthday card from when I turned two?”

Sunday, February 10, 2008

In need of de-throning

These days I’m all consumed with potty training.

Ladybug gets up in the morning, we go to the potty.

We eat breakfast, we go to the potty.

I clean up the mess from breakfast, we go to the potty.

You get the picture.

But Ladybug doesn’t.

The fun area I created (see the “Potty Animal” entry below) may be coming back to bite me. I’m afraid it may be too fun because all Ladybug wants to do all day is sit on the potty.

The first few days, I really thought she was getting the hang of it, too. She was going five or six times a day, and occasionally telling me when she had to. Of course half those times I couldn’t do anything about it because we were driving or checking out at the grocery store, and the concept of “holding it” hasn’t sunk in yet. But at least she knew when she had to go.

Now I can’t tell when she really needs to use the potty and when she’s just trying to get attention. She’ll say “Potty!”, but when I take her in the bathroom, she’s more interested in playing with the toys I set up than accomplishing her mission. Then as soon as I put her Pull-Ups back on, the waterworks begin. “Potty!” she’ll say again, only to repeat the dry spell when she’s back on the toilet.

Today she only successfully used the potty once, and that was just by chance. But we sat there at least 10 times. Ten times multiplied by 20 minutes. That’s more than three hours on the throne. That’s enough time to cook a roast, for Pete’s sake!

I keep reminding myself that everyone eventually gets potty trained, but days like this make me feel like it’s going to take an eternity. Not to doubt my little Ladybug, but in my distress this afternoon I did have a fleeting vision of having to send her off to elementary school in diapers.

I think all those ammonia fumes are going to my head.

Matter of perspective

It always makes me chuckle to hear how little people refer to each other. Ladybug and I were at the cash register at CVS one day when a customer carrying a newborn joined the line behind us. My under-two Ladybug pointed and said “Oh, it’s a baby!” much to everyone’s amusement.

I haven’t figured out what qualities make someone a “baby” to Ladybug. The first-graders at the library are "babies," just as the teenagers coming home from school are too. In both cases, Ladybug waves and yells, “Hi, baby!”

But this week at the playground, the tables got turned. Ladybug chased a three- or four-year-old boy up the jungle gym steps to a tunnel. When Ladybug stuck her head in the tunnel he was hiding in, he laughed and said, “It’s a baby!”

It must be a universal greeting.

Wednesday, February 6, 2008

Going up? Too bad

If Ladybug and I are out shopping with the stroller, I don’t expect people to hold the store doors for us, even if that would be the polite thing to do. I figured out a long time ago how to lean over the stroller canopy to catch a closing door or how to prop one open with my foot as I maneuver the baby four-wheeler through. Elevators, though, are a completely different story.

This past weekend Ladybug and I went to the Krewe of Gemini parade. We left before it was over to beat the rush back to the parking garage. But you know how slow elevators can be, and we were still waiting with another mother and her stroller when people started pouring in from the parade. The crowd started to swell behind us, but I wasn’t concerned since us mothers were first in line and the polite thing to do is to let those first in line pass, right?

I was comforted by the sound of a stranger’s voice behind me saying to her family as the elevator doors opened, “They have strollers … “

That was before she yelled, “Quick!”

Before I knew it, she and her kids and several people behind her had bumped past me and the other mother. The elevator doors closed, and the other mother and I looked at each other with unbelieving stares. She told me she had already missed several elevators for the same reason.

“Alright then,” I said. “You block the right side, I’ll block the left. We don’t let anyone past.”

It was kind of a bitchy move but, hey, what goes around …

So when the elevator doors opened again, the edges of our strollers were pressed up against them. As she wheeled her stroller on and the crowd started to try to press through the opening, I threw back my right arm and warned them away. When we were both in, at least 10 people tried to squeeze in, all the while giving us dirty looks for having strollers.

The elevator was so overloaded, it wouldn’t move. But I had no intention of getting off. The late-coming strollerless passengers could either wait their turn for the next elevator or move their lazy butts up two flights of stairs.

At least that would be the polite thing to do.

Potty animal

It looks like we’ve finally broken the middle-of-the-night bottle habit. Don’t congratulate us just yet, though. Ladybug’s cries for “didi” have been replaced with shouts of “Potty! Quick! Quick!” That would be something to celebrate if she really had to go. But Ladybug just likes sitting on the potty, even if it’s 3 a.m.

It’s partly my fault. When we first started practicing on the potty, Ladybug didn’t want to sit there. She was content to continue using her diaper. So to make it more inviting, I attached a chalkboard with magnetic letters next to the toilet. Then I hung a small bag of chalk and small plastic dolls on the toilet paper roll holder. I put her potty-training book that makes flushing noises within her reach on top of a pack of toilet paper.

The setup must have been enticing because each potty episode now takes at least 20 minutes while Ladybug works her way through all the toys. That’s fine with me since the longer she’s there, the more likely she is to actually go. And it gives me a few minutes of downtime to flip through a magazine as I sit on the bathroom floor.

However, Ladybug still isn’t taking cues on when she has to go. Either that, or she’s just ignoring them. So how do I convince her it’s worth stopping playing with her dollhouse to go to the potty? I’m hoping with stickers.

I made a “Potty Princess” sticker board – heavy duty paper with pictures of Ladybug sitting on the potty. In the bottom left-hand corner are two pads of sticky notes, one for pee and one for poo. Each time she does one, the other or both, she gets to put stickers on the appropriate sticky note pads. The more challenging the task – telling me she has to go before she actually does, for example – the more stickers she gets to pick out after she has flushed the toilet and washed her hands.

At the end of each day, we count all the stickers on the note pads and celebrate her success. Then we hang the notes on the wall above the Potty Princess board so that Ladybug can see them each time she’s on the toilet.

In the few days we’ve been doing this, the daily number of stickers on the sticky notes has been increasing. Ladybug loves her Pee and Poo Pads. She’ll even remind me if I start to leave the bathroom without finishing the routine.

Maybe that would explain the 3 a.m. potty parties.