Archive | Musings of the motherly sort

Happy Holidays from the Happy Helmraths!

merry-christmas-webMerry Christmas, guys! Or if you’re celebrating something else…happy Friday.

Thank you so much for reading this tiny little blog. I certainly have fun with it, and it means a lot that you stop by every once in a while to see what we’re up to.

May you, too, experience all the joy, delicious food, and laughter of family and friends that the season as to offer. And a baby copping a feel. It’s just not Christmas without that, amiright?


The Ultimate Christmas Playlist

shareasimage (3)I love Christmas music. I mean, I LOVE it. Usually I can’t wait until the day after Thanksgiving to start playing it, much to Will’s chagrin.

But just in case you’ve realized it’s Christmas Eve and you don’t have a sweet Christmas playlist to listen to while you open presents tomorrow, I’ve got you covered.

Best Version of a Song I Normally Can’t Stand: Last Christmas, Jimmy Eat World

I don’t know why I hate this song so hard, but I’ve never liked it. Until I heard this version and thought, “Hey, that’s kind of catchy.” Damn you, Jimmy Eat World.

Best Medley: Angelic Proclamation, BarlowGirl

A Christmas medley! It’s all your favorite Christmas songs mashed together in the most amazing possible way. For best results, belt it out as loudly as you can in your car.

Best Duet, If You Can Get Past the Rape-y Lyrics: Baby, It’s Cold Outside (Glee Cast Version)

These guys can sing, man. This is, hands-down, the creepiest, most rape-y Christmas song ever written (“Hey, what’s in this drink?”) but if you can get past that, this is a really nice, kinda jazzy duet.

Best A Capella Christmas Song: Carol of the Bells, Pentatonix

I discovered the Pentatonix Christmas album last year, and this year they have a new one. I think about half of my Christmas playlist is Pentatonix. They’re amazing and everything they do makes me wish SO BADLY that I could sing.

Best Christmas Song by a Boy Band: The First Noel, N’SYNC

I’m a die-hard N’SYNC fan and I say that completely un-ironically. Their Christmas album is fantastic, and I also mean that un-ironically. It’s Justin Timberlake and 5-part harmony; how can you go wrong? Runner-up: Anything from the 98° Christmas album. I love me some late 90s pop.

Best Version of My Favorite Christmas Song Ever: 12-Way Tie

O Holy Night is indisputably the best Christmas song ever, and everyone has a different version on their own Christmas album. I can’t pick just one (there are at least six on my playlist), but Jewel, Third Day, N’SYNC and 98° (obviously!), and Point of Grace all have really nice versions.

Most Likely to Make Me Cry: Where Are You, Christmas?, Faith Hill

No I’m not crying, I just have something in my eye. GODDAMMIT FAITH I ALMOST KEPT IT TOGETHER THAT TIME.

Best Song with Made-up Words: Welcome Christmas, Glee Cast version

FA-WHO FOOOOOOOO-RAY, DA-WHO DOOOOOOOOOO-RAY. Don’t even pretend you don’t want to grab hands with the person standing next to you and sway in solidarity around a giant Christmas tree.

Most Disturbing Christmas Song But You Don’t Even Know It: Winter White Hymnal, Pentatonix

The first time I heard this song I got caught up in the harmonies and didn’t pay too much attention to what they were singing. The second time through I thought I must have heard wrong. And then I looked up the lyrics, and, huh…that’s odd. “I was following the pack / all swallowed in their coats / with scarves of red tied ’round their throats / to keep their little heads / from falling in the snow / and I turned round and there you go / and Michael you would fall / and turn the white snow red as strawberries in the summertime.” Oh…um…ok then. Beautiful song, weird lyrics.

Best Instrumental Christmas Song: Christmas Eve in Sarajevo, Trans-Siberian Orchestra

This is just such a fun song. Everything they do is awesome.

Best Alternative Christmas Song: God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen/We Three Kings, Barenaked Ladies and Sarah McLachlan

It’s got a fun beat AND it’s a medley. WIN WIN. If I ever did Christmas karaoke (is that even a thing?) I would totally pick this song.

Weirdest Christmas Song: Merry Christmas Darling, The Carpenters

“Logs on the fire fill me with desire.” Enough said. Weirdo.

Best Mash-Up: The 12 Days of Christmas, Straight No Chaser

Such a fun song. Just give it a listen if you haven’t already.

Best Electronic (?) Song: The First Noel, TobyMac feat. Owl City

I’m not quite sure what genre this falls under, so we’re just going to go with “electronic.” Definitely not your standard Christmas fare, especially with a rap breakdown in the middle of the song.

Best Christmas Song That’s Really About Something Else: This Gift, 98°

The first time my middle-school self realized this song was about a guy proposing to his girlfriend it was like POW mind blown (doesn’t take much when you’re 12). And then it was ALL THE FEELS, because, obviously: 13-year-old girl. PROPOSE TO ME NICK LACHEY.

Song So Annoying It Should Never Be On Any Playlist, EVER: Dominic the Donkey

I’m not even going to link to this one. If you go to the trouble of finding it, you deserve to have that godawful earworm stuck in your head forever. I’m serious, guys: this song is the WORST. And not even in a “so-bad-it’s-good” kind of way. NO. Do not believe that nonsense.

And here’s my playlist in its entirety if you’d like to take a peek at the whole thing. What’s the best version of your favorite Christmas song?


Natalie Right Now: Two and almost-a-half

  This blog has been pretty Olivia-centric lately. They say that it’s the second child who gets the short end of the stick, but during the last several weeks (mostly since Olivia’s sleep regression started) I think it’s poor Natalie who’s been neglected.

“Natalie, I need you to be patient while I feed Olivia.”

“Natalie, can you sit in front of the TV while I rock your sister for 45 minutes just so she’ll sleep for 15?”

“Natalie, please just raise yourself for the next few days; Mommy’s too tired to be useful. You know where the peanut butter and jelly are.”

And even though she’s not quite two-and-a-half, even though she has the attention span of a typical toddler, even though she’s been feeling out of sorts and jealous of her sister, this child has been, by and large, a saint. 

She’s amazing. Every time I turn around she’s learned something new, made some connection I thought she was too young to understand, or showing an incredible level of empathy for Olivia.

And then she turns around and yanks Olivia’s toy out of her hand and runs away shrieking with laughter, because, you know, two-and-a-half. 

Natalie right now…

Loves play-doh and wants me to help her make snakes and trains and balls every day. When she’s done she announces it’s time to “pick up pay-doh” and meticulously sorts all three of the colors back into their original containers. There is no mushing together of colors, oh no, not in this house.

Is a bottomless pit. She’d eat twelve snacks a day if I let her. She also uses this as a stall tactic and declares almost every day before naptime, “So hungry, mama, so hungry.” Mmm-hmm, you must be starving after a sandwich and a clementine and a piece of ham and sliced cheese and a glass of milk. So hungry, indeed.

Adores her baby sister. For every time that she rips a toy out of Olivia’s hand, there are three more when she rubs the top of Olivia’s fuzzy little head like a good luck charm, drapes herself over Olivia to give her a hug, or retrieves Sophie when Olivia chucks it on the floor for the millionth time.

Is a Stage 5 Clinger. Good god do I love this child and I would go to the ends of the earth for her…but I’d also like to be able to pee alone without tiny fists banging on the door while she shouts MAMA MAMA MAMA MAMA MAMA from the other side. Thirty seconds, child; no need to try and push your fingers underneath the door. She also won’t let Will do anything. And I mean anything. Diaper changes, wiping her face after she eats, helping her out of her booster seat, giving her a bath, even walking downstairs with her. NO NO NO NO MAMA DO IT MAMA DO IT MAMA DO IT!!!!

At first it was kind of sweet, like, aw, my baby loves me better than anyone else in the world. But now? I totally hit the wall this weekend after everyone, including myself, was sick the whole week and I hadn’t spent more than a few minutes away from one child or the other. Every time Natalie grabbed my hand or started to tantrum because she wanted me to do something, I felt like I wanted to crawl out of my own skin. Touched out. Completely. It passed, thankfully, because that’s a really horrible feeling to have. But also a good lesson, because that’s what happens when I don’t take time for myself.

Anyway, back to Natalie. She…

Doesn’t understand the concept of Christmas or presents, but asks to listen to Christmas music (“Tis-mis music”) every day. My sister’s birthday party was this weekend and Natalie kept trying to distribute Leslie’s presents to everyone else at the party. She should be entertaining on Christmas Day. 

Thinks the whole world works at either the shop (what she calls my uncle’s business, and it’s true, most of the people in her orbit do work there) or Hobby Lobby, where my sister works. Only she pronounces it “Hobby Obby” and I’m going to be so, so sad when she starts saying the letter L. 

Parenting her feels like higher stakes than it used to — I mean really, it’s not like you “parent” a baby; you just take care of their basic need for food and clean diapers and affection. Sleep training kind of falls under that umbrella but it’s not the same as what we’re doing with Natalie: trying to raise a decent, empathetic, thoughtful, curious, and ultimately independent human being. NO PRESSURE. 

Higher stakes but higher rewards. The daily grind of “no you can’t do this/eat that/throw those” is finally starting to pay off, little by little. Not without many, many setbacks, of course, but she’s absorbing at least some of what we’ve been striving to teach her. 

And it is rewarding. When she throws her wiry arms around me and presses her sticky little face to mine and shouts “I got you, mama!” I think to myself, “You have no idea, kid.” 

She’s got me, alright. Hook, line, and sinker. 


Sick Daze

It started so innocently, as it always does.

“Nose running!” Natalie declared. Shrug. Having a runny nose is practically her constant state of being since she started daycare.

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I knew she wasn’t feeling like herself since she deigned to sit in my lap during reading time, rather than making me sit in the corner and try to read out loud from across the room.

She started coughing overnight, a deep, hacking cough that left her grabbing her throat in pain. Since it was Friday, and not a daycare day, I figured we’d keep an eye on it over the weekend. Of course she’d be fine for school on Tuesday!


Will left last Saturday for a 5-day trip to Las Vegas for a work conference (woe is him, amiright?). I was fine, Olivia was fine, and Natalie just had a cold. I’d already talked to my mom and my sister and arranged help for some key strategic points throughout the week, like bathtimes and bedtimes. And breakfasts. And dinners. And getting dressed. And grocery shopping. And PLS HALP CAN’T DO THIS ALONE  *cue wild panic flappy arms*

I woke up feeling fine on Sunday, but had a bit of a tickle in my throat by the end of the day. On Monday I was coughing, too, and feeling a bit run down. Stupid cold.

NOSE RUNNING!, Natalie constantly reminded me, as we plowed through a box of tissues. She continued her bellowing cough, spraying pestilence particles on everything within a 5-foot radius as I washed my hands over and over and tried to stop her from coughing directly on her sister.


Woe is me, for I do not know how much longer I can go on, I shall surely perish — OMG PHONE!

On Tuesday the mucus hit the fan.

I woke up with a fever, shivering under a fluffy comforter while wearing fleece pants, socks, and a sweatshirt. I ached everywhere, and every cough sliced through my throat like glass shards.

I texted my mom in the pre-dawn hours and asked if there was any way she could take time off work to bring my sad self to the CVS Minute Clinic, because I needed some Tamiflu, STAT, and there was no way I could drive myself, let alone safely buckle everyone into their carseats and manage our diseased traveling circus alone.

She arrived shortly after breakfast, and by “breakfast” I mean that I tossed some blueberries at Natalie and let her eat them on the couch while watching YouTube videos on my phone.

We got to the Minute Clinic mere minutes too late to be the first in line. I balefully watched the lady ahead of me from behind my plague mask, coughing and sniffling and hoping that somehow I looked pathetic enough for her to offer me her spot.

No luck. We waited an hour to be seen while my saint of a mother followed Patient Zero around the store and stopped her from shoplifting lollypops.

And then, in the cruelest move ever, the nurse WOULDN’T GIVE ME TAMIFLU. “You’re breastfeeding; better not risk it.” I shake my tiny, sickly fist of fury at you, CVS Nurse. I am most definitely not a doctor but I’d googled Tamiflu that morning, and the consensus is that it’s most likely ok, as long as your baby is over two months old. I tried to wheedle her into writing me a prescription, but no dice.

“You can gargle with salt water,” she said.

Sympathetically, I might add. She wasn’t heartless, just in the “you can never be too careful when pregnant or breastfeeding” camp.

(I take some issues with that. This book, affiliate link, is a really great read for more information.)

So I left with no prescription, no drugs, not even anything OTC except Advil. Just instructions to take hot showers, use my neti pot, and gargle with salt water. Which is almost exactly the same as dayquil, except you can’t function and feel like crap.

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Natalie was very sympathetic. Clearly.

The long story short (ish) is that we all survived. Will came back late last Wednesday night and stayed home from work on Thursday to take care of the girls while I curled up in a fetal position on the couch and hacked my lungs out.

A week later Natalie and I are still coughing, but she’s been well enough to go to daycare this week (HALLELUJAH!). Olivia is still a little congested, but so far it really hasn’t affected her sleep at all, knock on wood.

I used to scoff at all the Facebook memes about moms never being able to take time off, not getting sick days, etc. Um, suck it up, you CHOSE to be a parent, remember? *gets on high horse and gallops off into the sunset*

I’ve since come to the conclusion that being sick with small children in your house is basically the worst thing ever. If my pre-kid self had known what sick days would look like as a mom, I would’ve seriously reconsidered this whole reproduction business (kidding) (mostly).

Pre-kid sick days: Take Nyquil at 9 a.m. because you want to feel nothing and you can get away with it. Sleep for most of the day while a Law and Order: SVU marathon is playing in the background. Shuffle back and forth between couch and kitchen every once in a while for some soup. Take more Nyquil at 8 p.m. and go to bed.

But with a baby and a toddler in the house, there’s no rest for the weary. You must drag yourself off death’s doorstep to take care of them, because they just keep right on eating and pooping and trying to ride laundry baskets down the stairs. How thoughtless of them.

If you’re lucky your mom will swoop in and save the day.

Which just goes to show you that sick kids are the worst. Even when your kids are thirty years old.


Child’s Play

Natalie learned how to walk last July. In late summer/early fall, she started taking an interest in the playground at the park where our workout group met, which coincidentally was the same time I started experiencing heart attacks on the regular.

I don’t consider myself to be a helicopter parent, but I wasn’t about to let my one-year-old navigate the playground without me right behind her. She was just brave enough, just strong enough, and MORE than determined enough to climb all over the whole thing, but sorely lacking in coordination and oh yes A SELF-PRESERVATION INSTINCT. If I’d let her, she absolutely would have wandered right off the edge.


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I agonized about how best to help her on the playground. I wanted her to be confident and I wanted her to learn how to cruise the playground without me boosting her up on everything, but…but…she was little. And not very smart yet when it came to slides and bridges with open sides and ladders.2014-09-09 11.29.29

So I reasoned that stopping your kid from killing herself didn’t really count as helicopter parenting, and I followed her quite closely. I backed off when I could, encouraged her to explore (CAREFUL CAREFUL CAREFUL!!), and tried my very best not to swoop in and bundle her up in bubble wrap.

And then came the epic winter that dropped so much snow on Boston, the monkey bars were buried. No more playground for you, Natalie.

We took her to a playground here a few times once we moved, and she was a lot better about safety. My heart health definitely started improving. Then the weather turned to full summer, and even thinking about touching the metal playground equipment left you with second-degree burns.

2015-04-12 10.43.02Now it’s fall. We’re in our new house, just a five-minute drive away from a wonderful playground. We won’t suffocate under a snowdrift or peel off the backs of our legs on a scorching-hot slide. It’s PERFECT playground weather.

Homegirl is LOVING it. Every day she asks to go to the playground, and I make time for it as often as we can.

The difference between last fall and this fall is staggering. She can climb. She can go down the slide by herself. She can be trusted to walk around the little kid play structure and not blithely step right off the top.

It’s awesome.

Of course, she’s still pushing the boundaries of what she’s physically capable of doing right now. The logical side of my brain is very much in favor of this, because it’s the only way she’s going to get better at handling the playground obstacles and, in time, graduate to the big kid playground.

That doesn’t mean my heart isn’t in my throat when I watch her foot slip off the rung of a ladder and flail in midair until she regains her footing.

I’m getting better at not reacting with terror, because how can I expect her to keep her wits about her as she searches for a toehold when I can’t even do it standing on solid ground?

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She’s getting better. She climbs higher, faster, placing her feet in exactly the right spots until she reaches the top and then claps her hands together once, as if to say, “Nice work, self.” Then she sits at the top of the slide and looks down at me, and her face breaks into a proud, toothy grin.

“Mama!” she cries.

“Yes, Natalie!” I smile back.

“Slide down!” she says.

And she does. She slides down into my waiting arms and I squeeze her tight, my big, brave girl with the flying pigtails and scuffed up sneakers. She allows me to hug her for a moment before she runs back to the ladder, ready to begin her next ascent.

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Reach for the stars, baby girl. Just watch where you put your feet, ok?


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