Minnie Mouse Birthday Memories

Lillian turned three on November 5, 2017. We invited family and friends to a Minnie Mouse themed birthday party the day before to celebrate our little princess. Lillian loves Minnie Mouse and had the opportunity to meet her favorite character in February when we visited Disneyland and again in July when we went on a Disney Cruise to Alaska. We chose pink, white, black and gold as the party colors.

Invitation

I incorporated a fun photo from our Disney cruise to Alaska when creating the invitation. You will find a thrilled little Lillian holding Alaskan Minnie’s hand. I turned to Etsy for help and had My Celebration Shoppe design the invitation. After receiving a digital image I went to Fed Ex to print them out.Lillian 3rd Birthday

Birthday Outfit

I found the perfect shop on Etsy (Kim’s Boutique) to make custom Minnie and Mickey Mouse embroidered t-shirts for the party. Mommy, Daddy and Lillian wore the special shirts that incorporated the birthday colors and theme. Lillian wore a gold tutu and sparkling gold shoes from Gymboree.

Lillian’s birthday picture was taken by the talented photographer, Lisa Parsons.

Decorations

I always enjoy using a Cricut Machine to cut out themed banners. This year my friend Phil let me borrow his spare machine and I went crazy! I created Minnie Mouse banners that incorporated the design on the t-shirts and placed them in every room.

A sample of the Minnie Mouse banners that hung throughout the house.

I borrowed some Minnie Mouse decorations from a neighbor friend. These included the “I am 3” banner, Minnie Mouse center pieces and photo booth props.

Photos of Lillian and Minnie Mouse that were taken in Disneyland and on the Disney cruise were placed in gold frames and positioned on the mantel and throughout the house. I also used some of the character photos on a wreath that hung on the inside front door.

Guests were greeted with balloons and a “Lillian is 3” banner made out of paper Minnie Mouse heads cut from the Cricut Machine.

Cake and Cookies

We love the cakes that J. Noto Bakery have made for us in the past. The bakery met our expectations once again by incorporating my design ideas into this stunning Minnie Mouse birthday cake! The cake was iced with buttercream and the top tier was decorated with a pink fondant bow with polka dots, mouse ears, large polka dots on the side and a #3 piped on a large polka dot. The bottom tier was decorated with Minnie Mouse silhouettes with pink bows and an oval name plaque with the birthday girl’s name piped on it. The cake looked amazing but tasted even better! The top layer was chocolate cake with chocolate Bavarian creme filling and the bottom layer was white cake with raspberry filling.

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The beautiful Minnie Mouse birthday cake created by J Noto Bakery.

For the littles I made vanilla cupcakes iced with homemade buttercream icing and pink sprinkles and adorned with a black and pink Minnie Mouse head which I made with the Cricut Machine.

My mom baked homemade sugar cookies in the shape of Minnie Mouse. She decorated them with homemade pink buttercream icing and pink sprinkles and added a black number 3 to some.

My dad decorated a scoop of ice cream to look like Minnie Mouse. He used Oreo Cookies for the ears and made a bow out of gumdrops. The ice cream treats were a big hit with the birthday guests!

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Minnie Mouse ice cream.

Games and Activities 

I cut giant mouse heads and bows with the Cricut Machine and we played the game “Pin the Bow on Minnie.”

I ordered a personalized Mickey Mouse Clubhouse book called “Whose Birthday Is It?” from the company Put Me In The Story. The reader follows Mickey Mouse and the other Disney characters on a birthday treasure hunt filled with clues that uncover a special birthday party for “Lillian.” I read the story at the party and then had all of the guests sign the book.

When I was a little girl I had a Mickey Mouse birthday party and my dad made special birthday hats with mouse ears. It is a joyful memory that I will always remember. I asked my dad to replicate this idea for the Minnie Mouse party. The little guests looked so cute wearing the hats!

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Minnie Mouse party hats. A memory from my childhood.

Goodie Bags

Months before the birthday party I began collecting items for the goodie bags. I found the fun miniature Mickey and Minnie stamp pad set and the Disney card games on clearance at Target. I purchased the Minnie Mouse bubbles, stickers and activity books at a discount online at Walmart. The hot pink necklace was leftover from our gender reveal party and the Minnie Mouse head filled with candy was purchased on clearance at Walgreens.

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A sample of the party decorations along with the Minnie Mouse goodie bag.


Birthday Blessings

Flying home from Erie, PA on that chilly autumn evening I sat in the back of the plane and I wept. As tears stained my face I thought of the children I left behind. And I thought about all of those people making choices for their lives before they can make choices for themselves. Then I thought of Lillian and her little friends who are all celebrating third birthdays. Beautiful girls and boys leading joy filled lives with people diligently striving to make quality choices for them. They are sweet and innocent and too young to possibly comprehend all of the blessings they have been given. I thought about my daughter’s weekend birthday party. The pictures I took of laughing faces, the sweet taste of sugar from her Minnie Mouse cake. How we transformed our home with pink and white polka dotted balloons, sparkling Minnie Mouse banners and packages adorned with iridescent bows. 

Beyond the themed birthday parties, fancy cakes and the toy filled room. Beyond the stack of books, the recent autumn adventures to the pumpkin patch, zoo and neighborhood trick or treating.

Beyond the enriching classes at the library, Kindermusik, Little Gym, and the swimming pool. Beyond the overflowing closet full of clean clothes, shoes, oversized hair bows and accessories. Beyond the quality dental and healthcare. Beyond the healthy food, clean water and opportunity to safely play outside.

Lillian, the best gift you received that day was the room filled with family and friends who took the time out of their busy, stressful lives on that November afternoon to celebrate you. People who love and care for you and relish in your accomplishments. People from far away sending you cards through the mail and virtual greetings via social media. Individuals cheering you on while you reach for a new milestone, reassuring you when you feel uneasy and setting high expectations for your future. Through their guidance and encouragement you will grow to be the best “you” a little girl could possibly be. This my dear one is a birthday gift that will last a lifetime.

The family and friends who love and support my daughter.
Perhaps you are wise beyond your freshly turned three years. For after you opened your last gift on that monumental day your Godmother, Aunt Kay Kay, heard you whisper in a soft sweet voice, “Lucky Baby.” Lillian, you are my smart and stunning little “lucky baby” but I am the lucky one because you chose me am to be your “noteworthy mommy.”

The “lucky baby” with her “noteworthy mommy.”

A Few Things I Said I Would Never Do When I Had a Baby

Formula Feed    I know “breast is best” and I had every intention of breast feeding my daughter. I took a breastfeeding class prior to her birth, bought a state of the art breast pump, a pretty pink breast feeding cover and a Boppy pillow with several trendy patterned covers. A day or two after my daughter’s birth we discovered that my milk wasn’t coming in and the nurses had me supplementing my daughter’s diet with formula. I religiously pumped using the hospital grade pump and rejoiced when I pumped enough milk to cover the bottom of the bottle! Unfortunately, I never produced enough to adequately nourish my baby. After being released from the hospital I persevered by renting a hospital grade pump, taking supplements, increasing my water in-take and drinking Mother’s Milk Tea. But an appointment with a lactation consultant showed that my efforts weren’t improving my milk production and all I could produce at any given time was less than an ounce. I will never forget sitting in the pediatrician’s office when my daughter was only a few weeks old. We were making an extra visit because my daughter wasn’t gaining weight. I wept when the doctor gently told me I should give up on my breastfeeding journey. I felt like a failure and feared that my daughter wouldn’t develop properly and be scarred for life! I know people probably judged me when they saw me feeding my daughter formula, completely oblivious of my tremendous struggle and feelings of inadequacy. Leading up to motherhood I would have been one of those people judging. I was void of the knowledge that not producing milk was even a possibility. When I heard of a mother feeding formula to her baby I felt she had “given up” not wantingto be  inconvenienced  with the demands often accompanied by breastfeeding. There are many women who choose to formula feed but for me it wasn’t a choice. Although my body didn’t cooperate, my daughter and I are extremely close. She had a healthy first year of life, met all of her milestones and continues to thrive; scoring off the charts on a recent developmental screening administered by our Parent Educator. 


Give My Baby a Pacifier     On the day my daughter was born I told the nurses to put a “no pacifier” placard in her bassinet to ensure that she never be given a pacifier. What I hadn’t anticipated is the fact that my daughter was born with a lot to say and she wanted to ensure that everyone (even the family in the room down the hall) heard her! When her pediatrician visited us in the hospital she commented on my daughter’s thunderous cries. The doctor was finding it difficult to hear her heartbeat and questioned whether she had a pacifier. The nurses at the hospital must have felt the same way because after spending an hour in the nursery my daughter came back to the room with a green pacifier in her mouth! The pacifier stayed and my daughter used and adored her “paci”until she was close to two and half years old. It soothed her during car rides, helped her fall asleep and comforted her on airline flights. The pacifier didn’t delay her language development or harm her teeth. Although getting my daughter to relinquish her pacifier was a bit painful for the entire family, as I look back on my days prior to motherhood I can’t help but feel a bit quilty at the mother I scoffed at who had given her older toddler a pacifier on the airplane. I thought the child was too old for a pacifier but the woman was traveling alone and as a mommy I view that nothing short of a true victory! I published a story on this blog  in March titled “The Pacifier,” which details the adventures my daughter had with her beloved “paci.”

Where Are My Sunglasses?

Before I was a mother I wondered why my sister-in-law always wore her sunglasses on top of her head? When I look at the pictures I have taken of her over the years, in ninety percent of the photos she has her iconic sunglasses perched on top of her head. One of the few photographs I have of her (sans the sunglasses) is a family portrait taken on the day I married her baby brother. 

My sister-in-law Patricia wearing her sunglasses on top of her head.

Maybe the sunglasses serve as some sort of headband or she is prone to losing her glasses and by placing them on top of her head they are never far away? Perhaps she is trying to begin a new fashion trend? Although, I doubt that is true because she doesn’t wear designer glasses and once bought a replacement pair at an aging gas station. Whatever the reason it became a quandary that I never figured out… until I became a mommy!

In preparing for motherhood I read a lot about parenting but I never found the topic of sunglasses in any of the books. The sunglass topic came up once when I was pregnant with Lillian. I remember my co-worker Sara telling me, “Enjoy your designer sunglasses now. When you have your baby girl she will rip your sunglasses off of your face and they will never be the same again! I have one word for you, Target.” 

When my “mini me” was a baby I realized Sara had given me some wonderful advice and I’m glad I purchased several pair of inexpensive sunglasses. Lillian loved reaching for my glasses and found great satisfaction in playing peek-a-boo by pulling them away from my face. With popped out lenses and stretched out frames my little one has caused several pair of sunglasses to meet an early demise. And in her toddler years she hasn’t proved to be any gentler. She adores my sunglasses and enjoys trying to fit the oversized lenses on her petite face. Like my sister-in-law I frequently found myself putting my sunglasses on top of my head in an attempt to protect them. I quickly learned what all of the veteran mommas already know, babies love sunglasses

The other day I spent a few hours at Chicago’s Midway Airport during a layover on my way home from Cincinnati. One of my layover rituals is to initiate a FaceTime call with my mom so I can surprise my little girl. That’s when I was astounded to see the video image of myself. Staring back at me was a woman sporting a pair of sunglasses perched on top of her head! The sun had already set and after a plane ride and a layover it had been hours since I had been outside. I quickly swept the airport to see if I could spot anyone else wearing sunglasses on top of their head and after looking at dozens of passengers the only person I spotted with sunglasses was a pilot ready to naviagate a flight. To passerbys did I appear to be a pilot in training or a busy super mommy (like my sister-in-law) who juggles motherhood and a career and simply has too much on her mind?

A self portrait during the layover at Midway Airport in Chicago.

I am prone to losing my sunglasses and many have become buried in the bottom of my bag. Before Lillian was born several pair have been left behind in rental cars or abandoned in hotel rooms. I continue to question, “Where are my sunglasses?” but now that I am a mother I always know where to find them. I think about my sister-in-law, raise my arm and pat my head and that is where I find my sunglasses, sitting proudly on top of my head! 

Proudly wearing my sunglasses on top of my head!

It’s a Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood 

My daughter is obsessed with everything Daniel Tiger! “Daniel Tiger’s Neighborhood” is an animated children’s television series targeted at preschool-aged children. The program is based on the “Neighborhood of Make-Believe” from “Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood,” the long-running family-oriented television series created and hosted by Fred Rogers. Little Lillian loves watching the show and reading Daniel Tiger books. She has a red toy trolley complete with the “ding ding” sound effect and a miniature Daniel Tiger (dressed in Fred Roger’s iconic red sweater) that fits perfectly inside. The steps in our home have been transformed into a trolley and Lillian asks family and friends to take an imaginary ride to the library, grocery store or doctor’s office on a daily basis. Lillian enjoys acting out the show’s familiar opening scene by sitting in her little chair and singing “It’s a Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood” while carefully putting her shoes on. Our little girl is filled with great imagination!

While watching Daniel Tiger and his friends I am transported back to my childhood where I enjoyed watching “Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood” and became enchanted with Daniel Striped Tiger, Henrietta Pussycat, King Friday, Mr. McFeely and others in “The Land of Make Believe.” Many of these characters (or their offspring) appear in “Daniel Tiger’s Neighborhood.” When I watch the show with my daughter its like seeing old friends from forty years ago! This new show carries on Fred Roger’s legacy by supporting whole child development and is based upon Fred Rogers’ six principles of learning readiness. I am reminded of the the importance of childhood play, discovery, creativity and imagination. ​​Another show highlight are the catchy strategy songs that introduce the preschool set to social/emotional themes: feelings, confidence, new experiences, self control, responsibility and kindness. We enjoy listening to the songs in the car and at home while we play.  Sometimes I find myself humming the songs throughout the day and I have spent several sleepless nights with the songs playing over and over in my head!

Meeting Daniel Tiger
Last week I felt like I was living in a real life musical. Not a bad place to be since I absolutely adore Broadway theater! It all began while I was preparing breakfast. My mini me peered up at me and sang, “When you wait, you can sing, play or imagine anything.” A song she learned from watching Daniel Tiger! I was impressed that she was singing the song at the appropriate time and she didn’t miss a single lyric. Since it was Saturday, Daddy was home and he joined his girls in building a huge castle out of blocks. That’s when we heard her sweet voice sing, “I like to be with my family. Family time is special.” When she tried to use the potty she belted out, “If you have to go potty, stop and go right away. Flush and wash and be on your way.” And when it was time to clean up before bed she sang, “Clean up, pick up, put away, clean up everyday!” Although she did a better job singing than picking up any of her toys, it was clear she was learning a lot from watching Daniel Tiger and his friends. 

Our neighborhood trolley!
In late August the Saint Charles County Library System sponsored a special story time and trolley ride with Daniel Tiger. Lillian was thrilled to meet Daniel Tiger and I was pleased to see my daughter enjoy something I adored as a child. It was an exciting day in our neighborhood and we made a special memory this neighbor will never forget!

A Wonderous Voyage 

When my family and I embarked on a seven day cruise to Alaska on the Disney Wonder I was prepared for a truly magical experience. But after a challenging flight where I had to physically restrain my two year old during take off ( in fear that we would get kicked off the plane) I was beginning to have my doubts about the trip. She didn’t improve as we made our way through the ship’s boarding procedure, refusing to have anyone but mommy console her and I ended up carrying her every step of the way. Sadly, our trip was quickly losing its magic.

Once on the ship we encountered crowded elevators and a mass of people making their way up to deck nine for the castaway party. Through all of the chaos a mother and her daughter caught my attention. They were positively glowing and I don’t know if I was attracted to them because of their fashionable nautical wardrobe or the fact that as mother and daughter they looked so happy to simply be together. I admired their special bound and hope my daughter and I have a relationship like theirs when she grows into a young adult.

We made our way up to deck nine with only minutes to spare before showtime. There were people everywhere and even more people looking down on us from deck ten! As we frantically looked for a place to stand, a Disney cast member took down the rope blocking a gazebo and ushered us inside, giving us the perfect spot to see the show! My daughter shimmered with excitement as Mickey Mouse and friends filled the stage with animated enthusiasm. We danced along to the spirited party music and Chip the Chipmunk captured her heart by blowing a kiss her way!

After the characters and dancers left the stage I turned around. To my surprise, there was the mother/daughter pair who had caught my eye outside the elevators on our frenzied dash to the show! I continued to feel drawn to them and wrangled between approaching them and keeping to myself. Although I questioned my decision, something inside of me pushed away any decisiveness and I made my way over to them. I quickly explained that I usually don’t approach random strangers but wanted to complement them on their stylish cruise attire. They in turn complemented my family and I on our matching cruise t-shirts, adding that they enjoyed watching my little princess dance. I told them we were on the cruise to celebrate my parents’ 49th wedding anniversary (visiting our 49th state for 49 years of marriage.) Through teary eyes they told me they were cruising together in memory of their beloved husband/father who passed on a year ago after a tremendous fight with cancer. I am not an overly emotional person but tears welled in my eyes as I immediately embraced them and said, “Your husband/father is here on the cruise with you. I don’t know how to explain it but I just feel his presence.” I assured them I wasn’t claiming to be a medium or a psychic or anything like that. It was just something I felt that I couldn’t completely articulate.

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Tracee and Brooklyn pose for a picture with me and my mini me!
We continued our conversation and I discovered twenty-year old Brooklyn, wise beyond her years, was an only child and a college student interested in pursing the health profession. Tracee (with two Es) was a proud Momma who beamed with pride when she described the dedicated care Brooklyn showed her father during his heart wrenching struggle.

After meeting Tracee and Brooklyn I completely changed my attitude about the trip. I no longer worried about everything going smoothly. Suddenly my daughter’s toddler meltdowns and the fact that we wouldn’t be able to do and see everything seemed insignificant. (our big dog sledding on a glacier experience was cancelled due to weather) Instead, my focus shifted to spending quality time together (with the added bonus of having the majestic views of Alaska as our backdrop). As Carly, our delightful cruise director stated, “Now is the time to disconnect with the outside world and reconnect with your family.” So that is exactly what I did and I will never forget the memory of seeing my brave little girl grin from ear to ear as she danced with Minnie Mouse or the quality time my dad and I spent sipping hot cocoa on our private verandah after the rest of our family went to bed. As we passed seals riding on ice bergs, viewed amazing waterfalls flowing down mountainsides and stood in awe gazing at the Mendenhall Glacier, we were creating magical memories. Delightful memories that I will no longer take for granted. 1572-12152152-Tracy Arm-26947_GPR.jpg

Although I saw Tracee and Brooklyn several times throughout our Alaskan adventure we never exchanged email addresses and I left the ship knowing I would never see them again. However, I will never forget them and will treasure the moment we shared and the lessons they taught me on that wonderous day. They reminded me to focus on the little miracles in life. As I further reflect on my encounter with Tracee and Brooklyn I realize the Holy Spririt was at work in me that day. God used me to speak to Tracee and Brooklyn and I was open to listening to Him. I am reminded that God is always with us and He can speak to us at anytime, even on a crowded cruise ship in the middle of the Pacific Ocean!

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Stickers, Stickers, Everywhere!

When I was in the 5th grade I had a beloved sticker collection. Each newly acquired sticker was kept in tact and pristinely placed into a giant photo album where it was safely kept under the shiny plastic to be admired over and over again. I never used any of my stickers (like actually stuck them on anything) and the bigger, puffier and shinier the sticker; the more it was valued. Unicorns and rainbows were hot commodities along with the amazing sheets of scratch and sniff stickers found at the local teacher aid store. Gift shops and drug stores would sell individual designer stickers by Lisa Frank, Suzy’s Zoo (my favorite) and Sandra Boyton. I would save my money so I could buy these special stickers for my collection. It was a big event to go to the mall to buy new stickers. What a thrill to tear the newly found sticker off of the roll and then find the perfect spot for it in my book! 

Designer stickers from the 1980s.
Pictures of my sticker collection.
Other coveted stickers in my collection included Garfield, Pac Man and Snoopy. My friends and I would trade stickers on the playground during recess and get together to admire our collections after school. I belonged to the Lisa Frank fan club where I was matched with a sticker pen pal. We wrote letters to each other and even traded stickers through the mail! I was the shining example of a ten-year old sticker addict! 

Fast forward thirty-five years and I am a forty something with a two-year old little girl who is obsessed with stickers! But unlike her mommy, Lillian gets a thrill from eagerly ripping the stickers off of the sheet and sticking them onto everything! Every time I see her do this my ten-year old self (who never dared to use any of  her stickers) cries out with a silent Aggghhh!!!  She puts stickers on her clothes, on her beloved stuffed Sweetie Pie, and all over her toys.  So there are stickers everywhere! Stickers are stuck to our hardwood floors, in the carpet and one night I even found a sticker in my hair! 

Lillian likes to share her stickers with the people she loves; never expecting anything in return. Visitors leave our house adorned with stickers. I have shown up to multiple rehearsals with a sticker clad shirt and daddy went to work one day only to discover at lunch that he had spent the entire morning sporting a Minnie Mouse sticker on his tie! 

And she doesn’t discriminate when it comes to stickers. As long as they are sticky she is in love! In fact anything adhesive is viewed as a sticker. Last week we went to our local post office to mail a package. While there I picked up a sheet of stamps. Not even thinking I let Lillian pick them out. She got the biggest grin on her face when the nice lady behind the counter handed her a new sheet of “stickers.” She began to rip the expensive stickers off of the sheet while I frantically explained these were special stickers, called stamps, that are used to mail things to people. To my relief, she willingly traded her new sheet of “stickers” for some Goldfish crackers and I celebrated the fact that I successfully prevented a $9.80 mistake from happening!

Lillian loves stickers!

A huge smile appears on her face when the cashier at Target, or one of the grocery stores we frequent, gives her a sticker as we pass through the check out. The little girl in me gets excited when we go to Trader Joe’s. Trader Joe’s has the best stickers! They give each tiny shopper an entire roll of stickers and the stickers are often seasonal and witty, so there is something to be enjoyed on multiple levels. For Thanksgiving they gave out scratch and sniff stickers (for free) and the little 80’s girl who used to save her money to buy stickers could barely contain her excitement! Back in the day the stickers Trader Joe’s gives out would have been a coveted addition to my growing sticker collection! 
The fun stickers from Trader Joe’s!
My old sticker collection is a childhood treasure I am excited to pass down to Lillian. I plan to wait a few years before I give her my cherished possession. Although I would enjoy seeing the excitement on her sweet little face, I would find absolutely no joy in peeling my beloved collection off of our hardwood floors! 

Negotiating the Terrible Twos

Life with a two year old is truly unpredictable. I never know what the day has in store for us! Will my little one wake up and willingly get ready for the day ahead or will she delay the start by challenging every aspect of our morning routine? I have to be prepared for either because I never know which little girl will greet me each day. Will she be a Beauty or The Beast?

I often feel like I am negotiating every aspect of the day. “Would you like to wear the Minnie Mouse shirt or the shirt with the pup on it… would you like apples or yogurt for snack… do you want to drink out of your St. Louis Cardinal cup or your Kentucky Wildcat cup?” I wish it was always that easy, giving the little princess two choices and she picks one and we happily move along. Sometimes she doesn’t like either choice of clothing and she will run around the house in her diaper. I try to negotaiate and plead with her to get dressed until I become frustrated and both of us end up in tears as we find we are once again late for our appointment. I will never judge a parent whose child is seen in public wearing snow boots in May or a pajama top with her leggings or mix matched clothes of any kind. Some days the victory comes in getting the child clothed! Once she requested toast with butter and cinnamon sugar for snack. This request was easy to fulfill and I even had her help me spread the butter and sprinkle the cinnamon. But then I cut the toast into strips instead of little squares and she refused to eat; throwing the bowl of sweet crispness on the floor. I will never scorn a parent who gives her child a Pop Tart for breakfast because sometimes getting the little person to eat anything is a true accomplishment! And one day sweet Lillian requested to drink milk from a cup that was in the dishwasher, ready to be cleaned, and when I tried to explain this she threw a tantrum because that was the only cup she wanted to drink from that day! 

Although I have read the worst thing to do is to give in to her demands, out of pure desperation I have resorted to negotiation and pure bribery. The incident occurred in the garage on a sunny Tuesday morning in May. Feeling accomplished after passing the first hurdle of getting her dressed, she suddenly stalled when we got to the car by refusing to get buckled into her car seat. She arched her back, kicked her legs and cried, “No Mommy, no!” Blood curdling screams accompanied by crocodile tears rang out of our garage. I’m surprised the lady taking a lesurly morning walk nearby didn’t call the police out of fear. I tried everything, “We can go to the park if you let mommy buckle you in… Girls who get buckled in their seats get a new Minnie Mouse toy.. Please sweet Jesus help me get this little person into the car seat! And after all of the drama and the sweat and the tears (from both of us) we never ended up leaving the house that day. 


I know this is “just a phase” and that at two years of age children are testing their independence and navigating all of life’s demands. When I mentioned these episodes  to the “library girls” I was comforted to know they were experiencing the same behaviors with their little ones. I read a few articles online and my “mommy mentor” gave me some helpful advice. Her best suggestion, “Did you try turning her car seat around to forward facing from rear facing?” When Lillian was told she was going to ride in the car like a “big girl” I am happy to report there hasn’t been another car seat fiasco!

We had two rough weeks where she challenged everything but then my little Beauty started to show her sweet face once again. She still experiences tantrums now and then but I am better prepared for them. Although her tantrums are as unpredictable as a summer storm and often reach a grand crescendo; they are short bursts that swell in sound and after ringing loudly, slowly return to a normal volume. One day our house will be filled with silence and I know I will yearn for her musical performances, the ones that frustrated me and grated on my last nerve but until then I have invested in a set of high quality earplugs! Several people have told me that once you master one stage in your child’s growth and development they move on to the next. I am preparing myself because I have already been warned about the “threeanger” and their unpredictable personalities!

Grandma Gerry

During my first two years of college I worked for the YMCA as a before and after school childcare worker. I was assigned to be Geraldine Zollner’s assistant at Washington School. At the time Washington School was a kindergarten center. I dreamed of being a kindergarten teacher when I grew up so it was the perfect placement. 

Little did I know what a positive impact Gerry Zollner would have on my life. Through her youngest daughter I was recently reminded how much Gerry enjoyed working with me. I began working with Gerry the same month her youngest child left for college. Although I could never replace Kristie, for two years I was a surrogate daughter helping Gerry acclimate to having an empty nest after successfully raising seven children. We saw each other every weekday morning at 7 am sharp and again each afternoon from the time the school bell rang until the last parent picked up their little one at 6 pm. Gerry was there for me as I navigated my first years of college and supported me as I juggled my studies with a part time job.  

Although she never knew it I often referred to Gerry as “Grandma Gerry.” It was the perfect name because she was a mother to seven children, a grandmother to fourteen and a great grandmother to two. And over the years she was a grandma to all of the children under her care at Washington School. She banadaged their scraped knees, gave reassuring hugs and comforted little ones who missed their mommies. I remember the words of motivation she shared with me before I headed off to take an exam or give an important presentation. Grandma Gerry was filled with smiles most of the time but she did have “the look.” And everyone knew when she gave you “the look” you needed to shape up or you were going to be in trouble. 

Grandma Gerry always had a stash of saltine and graham crackers that she handed out to ease tummy aches and tears. Our “latchkey kiddos” occasionally felt anxious when their parents were late picking them up but with love and compassion and a few crackers, Grandma Gerry successfully turned frowns into smiles. I was a happy recipient of her crackers and caring on several occasions. 

I will never forget the extra time and effort Gerry put into her job, especially during the Christmas season. The first year we worked together she helped the kids make a gingerbread schoolhouse that she entered in Belleville’s famed gingerbread contest. After weeks of constructing and decorating our masterpiece, we were thrilled to win a ribbon! At the time the YMCA sponsored an annual YMCA Latchkey Christmas Program where the children and their caregivers prepared songs to sing on stage. The first year I helped the kids learn the song “We Are Santa’s Elves” and the second year we performed “Suzy Snowflake.” Gerry went the extra mile and supervised the construction of sets and costumes for both performances, spending hours outside of work to make sure everything was perfect. 

Sometimes people come into your life for a short time leaving you with lessons that will stay with you for a lifetime. Grandma Gerry taught me that it’s the little things that we do for each other that really make an impact. That extra hug, a reassuring smile or a package of saltine crackers shows others that someone cares. 

Although Gerry and I hadn’t seen each other for close to twenty years we continued to exchange Christmas cards and recently found each other on Facebook. I wish this story ended with a happy “face to face” reunion as Grandma Gerry expressed interest in meeting my little Lillian Clare.  Sadly, Grandma Gerry passed on last week and the reunion never happened. I find comfort knowing there is another beautiful angel in heaven watching over all of us and I will never forget Grandma Gerry and her devotion to her job, her love of children and her special stash of saltine crackers.

The Pacifier 

I never wanted my daughter to have a pacifier. After my daughter’s birth I specifically told the nurses I didn’t want my baby to have a pacifier, so they honored my wish and put a card in her bassinet that said NO PACIFIER. Everything was going as planned until she came back from a visit to the nursery with a bright green pacifier in her cute little mouth!

IMG_2189It would have been easy to mention something to the nurses and to stick to my original “no pacifier plan” but my daughter was born with something to say. She has no volume control and when she cries everyone hears her! In fact, I bet everyone in the entire hospital heard her cries! When her pediatrician, Dr. Hartman, examined her at a mere day old, she couldn’t hear her heartbeat because her crying was so loud. Dr. Hartman asked, “Do you have a pacifier for her?” The doctor continued, “She sure has a healthy set of lungs!” I’m thinking she may be a future opera singer or a Broadway Baby who can belt out a tune without a microphone. Or maybe she’ll be a cheerleader who can easily be heard by the fans in the stands. So against my original plan, my baby left the hospital addicted to her paci. The brand they use at the hospital are called Soothies. Probably a marketing ploy to make parents feel better about giving their little ones a pacifier. And that is the brand she has preferred from newborn to infant and into toddler-hood.

I have to admit the paci was a lifesaver during those first months. Like it’s name implies, it soothed my little girl while she slept and was irreplaceable when we sleep trained her at a year old. Lillian became obsessed with her pacifier. She never left home without it and always had it in her mouth when she went to bed. It soothed her during stressful situations like long road trips, airline flights and meeting new people. It brought security when she met her idol, Mickey Mouse and comforted her when she was separated from mommy. I even recall her saying on several occasions, “I love my paci!” I knew weening her off of her beloved paci would be a challenging task.

Lillian with her pacifier at Disneyland.

After our trip to Disneyland, where she relied on her paci more than I would have preferred, I decided to begin the weening process. Since Lillian is an auditory learner who comprehends everything she hears, I began to talk about a “paci free world.” She had a tendency to bite through her pacifiers so I told her when this happened she would have to throw the paci away. She would walk around the house saying, “Mamma throw my paci away.” She had two pink pacifiers left and then she bit through one and to my surprise willingly threw that one away. I also began talking about replacing the pacifier with a tank full of goldfish. She loves the small aquarium at the library so I was hoping the thought of having a tank of her own would be the motivation she needed to let go of the last paci. So for weeks I talked about this proposition. I could tell she was processing the scenario because on several occasions Lillian inquired, “I would still have my Sweetie Pie and blanket?”
Sometimes things happen when you least expect them. After a fun filled day exploring Purina Farms, my family and I returned to the car to find that Lillian’s last pacifier was missing. In a panic I searched the car high and low and was unable to locate it. So my dad said, “The pups at Purina Farms must have taken your paci.” Lillian was distraught and clearly missed her paci but since it was really lost there was nothing that could be done. She had a difficult time falling asleep that first night but since she still had her Sweetie Pie and her blanket she successfully soothed herself to sleep. So just like that she was weened. With her wild imagination and problem solving skills she comments regularly, “Sweetie Pie will fly and get my paci.” But as each day passes she mentions it less and less. 

Carefully selecting fish after giving up her pacifier.

I am proud of my little girl and never imagined that entering a “no paci world” would go so smoothly. Now it is time to tackle another toddler right of passage, potty training.