Practicing her letters

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We’ve been teaching M the letters in her name. (Actually, her school has probably done most of the teaching.) Daddy is convinced she understands how to make an M and an A, even if the execution is not quite there.

So far, Mommy has not been able to reproduce these results, but we’ll let her slide.

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Teaching manners

“Coo-kie?”

“Say, ‘Cookie please?'”

“Yea.”

“No, say, ‘Cookie please?'”

“Yea.”

<shakes head> “‘Cookie please?'”

“Yea.”

“‘Cookie please?'”

“Yea.”

<sighs> “Okay, here.”

“Taintu!”

“You’re welcome, baby girl.”

^^^^Improvement over the past week, where repeated attempts of “Madeline, say, ‘Thank you’?” were met with “Macom” (her word for “welcome”).

Brining the turkey

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Unorthodox use of medical tape # 152: decreasing the potential space of your turkey brining bag to increase the brine coverage of your turkey.

brining the turkey with some help from medical tape and a  binder clip

brining the turkey with some help from medical tape and a binder clip

As is most of my cooking, the brine was concocted with approximate guidelines and inspired by stuff available in the cupboard:

  • kosher salt, about 1 cup
  • honey, about 1 cup
  • sugar, about 1cup
  • 1 head of garlic, peeled, crushed and minced
  • juice of 1 lemon
  • some bay leaves
  • varying quantities of clove, nutmeg, parsley, sage, rosemary and thyme — I honestly don’t know if these come through with everything else going on
  • balsamic vinegar to taste

All of the above were dissolved in 3 qts boiling water and reduced to a simmer for about 10 minutes. I let the brine cool for about 20 minutes, then added about 2 qts warm water to help cool it down more. When mixture felt comfortably warm (not hot enough to cook the bird) we poured it over an 18+lb turkey in the brining bag. It’s now sitting in the fridge in its roasting pan, taped up as shown above.

We shall find on Thursday whether the brine was a good idea or not. Update: turkey was ah. may. zing. And the turkey stew we made from it was the best we’ve had.

Creatavita: Tough Choices

Heidi Hayes is a fabulous voice teacher in the Philadelphia region. She is also a mentor to many artists here, and she recently wrote a piece on career-life balance. Although I am not a working artist, her words ring true. Worth a read for anyone thinking about work-life balance. Below is an excerpt.

I admire people who can hand their kid over to a caretaker and fly off to do a six-week stint in Europe. I really do. I admire people who can take on the role of a lifetime while their kids are under the age of 10. I couldn’t do it. I didn’t have enough psychological space. But what matters is that I know why, and that’s what you need to know for you and your life. I knew that being available for the Kid was the most important thing for me. I was lucky; I had had a pretty nice career before I had a child, so I knew that I’d be okay if I didn’t achieve more of my career goals in this lifetime. I also knew I could never forgive myself if I messed up a kid, particularly one that came from my gene pool.

I knew I was missing opportunities because there was a chance that they were coming at the wrong time in my relationship with the Kid and I was okay with that. Conversely, opportunities appeared that allowed me to be available for the Kid and fulfilled me as an artist. Maybe not as much as I wanted, but enough to keep me balanced.

I was also fully aware that I could mess my kid up even more by being around. My kid’s pretty self-contained, and he’s always been that way. So, I’ve done a lot of waiting, listening, and holding my tongue (and we all know how challenging that is for me) while calmly hanging in the parental holding pattern. He has always made it clear when I was really needed and every single time, I have been grateful. Grateful that I made the decision to be available and grateful that he could express himself.

I think the hardest part of this family and career intersection is figuring out what works for you. When it doesn’t line up with what you see others doing, you can really question your decisions. I know that’s hard for me. There’s a little part of me that’s very jealous of these people who can be parents and don’t have to be available all the time. I wish I could do that. But I can’t. So I haven’t. The reward is that I know I’m following my gut, and my kid is doing well. He’s a great human, he’s healthy, he’s vibrant, he’s his own person. I couldn’t ask for more.

via Creatavita: Tough Choices.

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How med students handle uncertainty could predict career future

Thanks, Madeline. You, along with four years of musical theater, have most definitely taught me to roll with uncertainty. Although I always liked unplanned organic adventures and surprises before, that kind of variability in a medical setting made me hyper-anxious. Not so much anymore. So thanks, baby girl.

The survey found that high tolerance for ambiguity was associated with students’ intention to work in underserved areas and with lower levels of perceived stress.

Tolerance for ambiguity—or the tendency to perceive uncertain situations as more desirable than threatening—is an important competency for physicians. For instance, the AAMC includes tolerance of and adaptation to stressful or changing environments as part of its core competencies for entering medical students.

via AMA Wire®: How med students handle uncertainty could predict career future.

Quiche Lorraine

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Another easy baby-approved meal. Bacon for the win. Quiches and pies are fall favorites around here. (Bacon fat + pie crust = maybe not the healthiest meal, but M needs some more baby fat rolls before I worry about that.)

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“Sheesche? Sheesche?” Madeline couldn’t wait long enough for me to snap a photo before demanding a piece to eat. Hence the missing wedge.

Quiche Lorraine

Ingredients:

  • 3/4 lb bacon (lower sodium preferred for baby), cut in 1-inch pieces
  • 1 large onion, diced
  • 1/2 tsp white pepper
  • dash of cayenne pepper
  • 4 eggs
  • 1 cup milk
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • 1/3 to 1/2 lb shredded gruyere cheese
  • 9-inch pie crust in a pie pan

Directions:

  1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees F.
  2. Over medium-low heat, fry the bacon until crisp. Drain off fat as needed, leaving 2-3 tablespoons in the pan. Remove bacon and place on paper towels to drain.
  3. Add onions to the fat in the pan and brown over medium-low heat, about 20-30 minutes.
  4. Meanwhile, pierce holes or slits (use a fork or knife) in the pie crust bottom. Bake the pie crust for 5 minutes and remove from oven.
  5. In a separate bowl, beat eggs, milk, salt and pepper together until blended.
  6. Layer ingredients in the pie shell as follows:
    1. At the bottom, place 3/4 of the cheese and spread evenly.
    2. Spread a layer of half the bacon, then half the onions, and repeat with the other half of bacon and onions.
    3. Sprinkle the remaining cheese on top.
    4. Pour the egg mixture over all the ingredients to fill the pie pan enough to just cover the top layer of cheese. If needed, add another egg blended with 1/2 cup of milk.
  7. Bake quiche for 30 minutes or until center is set.

The Neiman Marcus Chocolate Chip Cookie

I requested that Anna pay me in cookies for babysitting her two kids, and here’s what I got. These cookies are definitely yum, particularly when executed by a master baker like Anna.

THE NEIMAN MARCUS CHOCOLATE CHIP COOKIE

cookie

An urban myth is a modern folk tale, its origins unknown, its believability enhanced simply by the frequency with which it is repeated. Our signature chocolate chip cookie is the subject of one such myth. If you haven’t heard the story, we’ll put an end to it here. If you have, the recipe below should serve to refute it. Copy it, print it, or pass it along to friends and family. It’s a terrific recipe. And it’s absolutely free.

The $250 Cookie Recipe

A woman and her daughter had just finished a salad at Neiman-Marcus Cafe in Dallas and decided to have a small dessert. Because her family was had such a love for cookies they decided to try the “Neiman-Marcus Cookie.” It was so excellent that the customer asked if NM would share the recipe, and the waitress said with a small frown, “I’m afraid not.” The customer then asked if she could buy the recipe. With a cute smile, the waitress replied, “yes” and said the recipe would cost “two fifty.” The customer requested that it be added to her tab.

Thirty days later, the customer received her credit card statement from Neiman-Marcus and it was $285.00. She had only spent $9.95 for two salads and about $20.00 for a scarf, but noticed that at the bottom of the statement, it said, “Cookie Recipe – $250.00.” The customer was upset and called Neiman’s Accounting Department stating that the waitress said the recipe was “two fifty,” and not $250.00. She asked them to take back the recipe and reduce the bill. The Accounting Department said they were sorry for the inconvenience but that the customer’s bill would remain as charged because they wanted the recipe to be something that was special and not afforded by all.

The woman decided to share the cookie recipe with the world so that no one would ever have to pay $250.00.

Yields about 2 dozen cookies

Ingredients:
½ cup (one stick) butter, softened
1 cup light brown sugar
3 tablespoons granulated sugar
1 large egg
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1 ¾ cups all-purpose flour
½ teaspoon baking soda
½ teaspoon baking powder
½ teaspoon salt
1 ½ cups semi-sweet chocolate chips
1 ½ teaspoons instant espresso coffee powder

Preparation:
Preheat the oven to 300 degrees Fahrenheit.

Place the butter, brown sugar, and granulated sugar in the work bowl of an electric mixer fitted with a paddle attachment. Beat on medium speed for about 30 seconds, until the mixture is fluffy. Beat in the egg and vanilla for 30 seconds longer, until well combined.

In a mixing bowl, sift together the flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt. Add to the mixer, while beating on slow speed., Beat for about 15 seconds, stir in the chocolate chips and espresso powder, and mix for 15 seconds longer.

Prepare a cookie sheet with about 2 tablespoons of shortening (or use a non-stick spray). Using a 1-ounce scoop, or using a 2 tablespoon measure, drop the cookie dough onto the cookie sheet in dollops about 3 inches apart. Gently press down on the dough with the back of a spoon to spread out into 2-inch circles; there should be room on the sheet of six or eight cookies at a time. Transfer to the oven in batches and bake for about 20 minutes or until the cookies are nicely browned around the edges. Bake for a little longer for crispier cookies.

The Neiman Marcus Chocolate Chip Cookie.

“Get over yourself.”

Quote

Get over yourself.
This song is only doing
What it has always Continue reading

Swedish meatballs

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This recipe is my version of the meatball-egg noodle dish, adapted from recipes from the Fannie Farmer cookbook, The Dirty Dish Club and Food.com. After some initial skepticism, Madeline approved. This one might become a cold-weather staple.

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Swedish Meatballs (or, Meatballs with Egg Noodles in a Sour Cream Sauce)

Ingredients:

  • 12 oz wide egg noodles
  • 3 tbsp unsalted butter, divided into 1 tbsp each for the meatballs, sauce and noodles, plus more as needed for the sauce
  • 2 tsp chopped fresh parsley, divided into 1 tsp for the meatballs and 1 tsp for the noodles, plus more for optional garnish
  • Meatballs:
    • about 1.25 lb ground beef, pork and veal (sold at our grocery store as “meatloaf mix”)
    • 1/2 cup breadcrumbs
    • 1 egg
    • 1/3 cup minced onion
    • 1/4 cup finely shredded carrot
    • 2 cloves minced garlic
    • 1/2 tsp salt
    • 1/2 tsp sugar
    • 1/4 tsp black pepper
    • 1/4 cup flour for dredging
    • 2 tbsp olive oil for frying
  • Sauce:
    • 1/2 large onion, minced
    • 1/3 cup flour
    • 1 tsp paprika
    • 1/2 tsp onion powder
    • 1/2 tsp sugar
    • 1/4 tsp ground ginger
    • 1/4 tsp ground nutmeg
    • 1/4 tsp black pepper
    • 1/8 tsp ground cloves
    • 2.5-3 cups beef or vegetable broth
    • 1 cup sour cream

Directions:

  1. Meatballs (start the mix several hours ahead or the day before): 
    1. In a large bowl, combine the ground meat, breadcrumbs, egg, onion, carrot, garlic, sugar, salt, pepper, and 1 tsp parsley. Mix well. Cover and refrigerate for several hours or overnight.
    2. Form 1-inch meatballs, dredge them in flour to coat all over, and set aside. I spray my hands with a bit of cooking spray to prevent them from getting too sticky.
    3. In a large pan, melt 1 tbsp butter with the olive oil over medium heat. Lightly brown the meatballs on all sides and remove them from the pan with a slotted spoon, leaving the fat in the pan. The meatballs do not need to be cooked through at this point. Unless your pan is very large, this step will probably require working in batches.
  2. Sauce:
    1. With the pan on medium-low heat, add the minced onion to the pan and caramelize the onions, about 20 minutes. You can start the noodles while you are waiting.
    2. Combine the flour, paprika, onion powder, sugar, ginger, nutmeg, pepper, and cloves in a small bowl and set aside.
    3. Add 1 tbsp butter to the pain and stir to melt.
    4. Add the flour mixture to the melted fat and onions and stir quickly to form a roux. If the fat seems too scant for the amount of dry ingredients, add more butter. Continue stirring the roux for 2 minutes.
    5. Add the broth, stir well, and bring to a bubble.
    6. Add the meatballs, cover the pan, and reduce the heat, allowing the meatballs to cook through.
    7. Once the meatballs are cooked, turn the heat very low so that the sauce is not bubbling. (High temperature might cause the sour cream to curdle.) Stir in the sour cream and turn off the heat. Continue stirring to mix well.
  3. Noodles: Prepare the egg noodles according to their directions. Drain most of the water and return the noodles to their pot. Toss with 1 tbsp butter and 1 tsp parsley.
  4. Assembly: Place noodles on serving dish. Spoon sauce and meatballs over the noodles. Garnish with a bit of chopped fresh parsley.

 

“Peek boo!”

With Madeline strapped in her booster seat (so as to stay out of my way), I began to assemble her teepee. She kept squealing “Wow! Eeeee!” as it took shape. Then Daddy inadvertently set her loose and she started playing in it before I was finished with assembly (note the ouch-waiting-to-happen slippage on the wood floor). For our small apartment, I suppose this teepee is an acceptable use of 9 sq ft.

Iced pumpkin chocolate chip cookies

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Mama’s primary accomplishment on this cloudy drizzly day:

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These are for Madeline’s class party on Friday. Amazing things get done when mommy has the day off! Between the pumpkin puree and the reduced amount of sugar (compared to regular chocolate chip cookies), these treats qualify for nutritious snacks in my book.

The recipe is from Very Best Baking:

Iced Pumpkin Chocolate Chip Cookies

Ingredients:

  • 2 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons pumpkin pie spice
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1 cup (2 sticks) butter or margarine
  • 1 cup granulated sugar
  • 15 oz. pumpkin puree
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 12 oz. (2 cups) semi-sweet chocolate chips
  • 1 cup chopped walnuts
  • vanilla glaze:
    • 1 cup powdered sugar
    • 1 to 1 1/2 tbsp milk
    • 1/2 tsp vanilla extract

Directions:

  1. PREHEAT oven to 375° F. Grease baking sheets.
  2. COMBINE flour, pumpkin pie spice, baking powder, baking soda and salt in medium bowl. Beat butter and sugar in large mixer bowl until creamy. Beat in pumpkin, eggs and vanilla extract. Gradually beat in flour mixture. Stir in morsels and nuts. Drop by rounded tablespoon onto prepared baking sheets.
  3. BAKE for 15 minutes or until edges are lightly browned. Cool on baking sheets for 2 minutes; remove to wire racks to cool completely.
  4. FOR VANILLA GLAZE: COMBINE powdered sugar, milk and vanilla extract in small bowl; mix well. Drizzle or spread glaze on cookies.
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Dancing baby

She doesn’t really care for children’s tunes, but put on some pop/hip hop/any dance track and she’ll have a party.

She’ll bounce to any hint of a bass rhythm. This includes washing machines.

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[just to be clear,] Vaccines Do Not Cause Autism

Thanks to Jenn for passing along. I suspect I will need to refer to this in the future, particularly with the new recommendation for 3rd-trimester Tdap.

How My Daughter Taught Me that Vaccines Do Not Cause Autism.

Additionally, the above led me to the article below, which dissects the “alternative vaccine schedule” put forth by the popular Dr. Robert Sears and explains its problems and misrepresentations:

American Academy of Pediatrics: The Problem With Dr Bob’s Alternative Vaccine Schedule. (If you google the article title, you might find a full copy in a repository.)

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Buckles

The toy of the week is buckles. Madeline has been playing with every buckle she finds, and she started buckling the straps on her booster seat:

I’m fairly certain she also UNbucked herself in the grocery cart this morning. If she really figures out how to unbuckle herself from various baby receptacles, we will have a problem.

There is nothing quite as serene as the quiet of a busy baby who falls asleep.

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M helps with laundry

The things babies do that crack me up! Today, Madeline celebrates her toddling independence by “helping” with laundry:

I was folding/sorting Madeline’s clothes and ended up taking out all the stuff from her drawers to reorganize. I sat on the nursery floor with piles of clothes around me. After watching me for a bit, Madeline decided to transport her socks from her sock drawer (which I was not organizing) over to our bed down the hall (which we frequently use for laundry folding). She must have made about 5 trips to and fro, carrying her socks. When her sock bin was empty, she proceeded in reverse, carrying them back to her sock bin. She did all this without saying a word to me, very deliberate and focused on her task. She finally tired of this activity with about half the socks remaining on our bed, and we went downstairs to get a snack after all her hard work.

Please excuse the poor quality of the images; my iPhone is not up to performing in low-light conditions.

Happy 4th!

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Why PepsiCo CEO Indra K. Nooyi Can’t Have It All

Reminders to myself for the tough days ahead. She makes me proud to be a Yalie.

I don’t think women can have it all. I just don’t think so. We pretend we have it all. We pretend we can have it all. My husband and I have been married for 34 years. And we have two daughters. And every day you have to make a decision about whether you are going to be a wife or a mother, in fact many times during the day you have to make those decisions. And you have to co-opt a lot of people to help you. We co-opted our families to help us. We plan our lives meticulously so we can be decent parents. But if you ask our daughters, I’m not sure they will say that I’ve been a good mom. I’m not sure. And I try all kinds of coping mechanisms.

I’ll tell you a story that happened when my daughter went to Catholic school. Every Wednesday morning they had class coffee with the mothers. Class coffee for a working woman—how is it going to work? How am I going to take off 9 o’clock on Wednesday mornings? So I missed most class coffees. My daughter would come home and she would list off all the mothers that were there and say, “You were not there, mom.”

The first few times I would die with guilt. But I developed coping mechanisms. I called the school and I said, “give me a list of mothers that are not there.” So when she came home in the evening she said, “You were not there, you were not there.”

And I said, “ah ha, Mrs. Redd wasn’t there, Mrs. So and So wasn’t there. So I’m not the only bad mother.”

You know, you have to cope, because you die with guilt. You just die with guilt. My observation, David, is that the biological clock and the career clock are in total conflict with each other. Total, complete conflict. When you have to have kids you have to build your career. Just as you’re rising to middle management your kids need you because they’re teenagers, they need you for the teenage years.

And that’s the time your husband becomes a teenager too, so he needs you (laughing). They need you too. What do you do? And as you grow even more, your parents need you because they’re aging. So we’re screwed. We have no… we cannot have it all. Do you know what? Coping mechanisms. Train people at work. Train your family to be your extended family. You know what? When I’m in PepsiCo I travel a lot, and when my kids were tiny, especially my second one, we had strict rules on playing Nintendo. She’d call the office, and she didn’t care if I was in China, Japan, India, wherever. She’d call the office, the receptionist would pick up the phone, “Can I speak to my mommy?” Everybody knows if somebody says, ‘Can I speak to mommy?’ It’s my daughter. So she’d say, “Yes, Tyra, what can I do for you?”

“I want to play Nintendo.”

So she has a set of questions. “Have you finished your homework?” Etc. I say this because that’s what it takes. She goes through the questions and she says, “Okay, you can play Nintendo half an hour.” Then she leaves me a message. “Tyra called at 5. This is the sequence of questions I went through. I’ve given her permission.” So it’s seamless parenting. But if you don’t do that, I’m serious, if you don’t develop mechanisms with your secretaries, with the extended office, with everybody around you, it cannot work. You know, stay at home mothering was a full time job. Being a CEO for a company is three full time jobs rolled into one. How can you do justice to all? You can’t. The person who hurts the most through this whole thing is your spouse. There’s no question about it. You know, Raj always said, you know what, your list is PepsioCo, PepsiCo, PepsiCo, our two kids, your mom, and then at the bottom of the list is me. There are two ways to look at it. (laughing) You should be happy you’re on the list. So don’t complain. (laughing) He is on the list. He is very much on the list.

via Why PepsiCo CEO Indra K. Nooyi Can’t Have It All – Conor Friedersdorf – The Atlantic.

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Madeline’s first trip to the beach

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Miss Mads arrives in her shore outfit:

Miss Mads gets acquainted with the waves:

Miss Mads discovers an old-school pull train toy and takes it for a loop around the deck:

Miss Mads plays in the sand and harasses Daddy with the shovel to play too:

“I’ll never miss another bedtime.”

Madeline has been going through a developmental growth spurt this past month or two. We have observed that she

  • very clearly loves to dance (as in the video here) and also loves to watch dance (she was suddenly mesmerized by a dance video I came across while web surfing),
  • claps to music with a strong bass beat (today, she clapped regularly for a few seconds when Flip Fantasia came on in the car, and just to test her, I played it again a while later, and she did the same),
  • figured out old-school 1970s toys (a pull train with a whistle) almost immediately when we went to visit the grandparents,
  • matches her socks when we fold laundry,
  • matches shapes on her sorting toys and claps for herself when she succeeds (and when she doesn’t, too),
  • recognizes objects she’s seen once (a Trader Joe’s bag of freeze-dried strawberries, which she snatched unbeknownst to me during our next trip to the store; a display of fruit pouches after her first one at Karla’s wedding, for which she lunged frantically to grab),
  • recalls activities she’s done once (a week ago, we read Eric Carle’s book of food and made a silly game where I ask a question and we shake our heads no; today, she brought me the same book while vigorously shaking her head no with a big grin),
  • recognizes hats, sunglasses and shoes as such even if she’s never seen them before (which she demonstrates by trying to put them on),
  • points to the “puppy” in various picture books, even if they don’t look like Henry,
  • perks up and says, “Daddy!” while looking expectantly when she hears someone at the door.

Not long ago I was somewhat concerned that Madeline was developmentally slow, even with accounting for her late premie status. Although she has far greater receptive language, she still has relatively few intelligible words besides “mama,” “daddy,” “bye,” “shoes” (“shuce!”), and “socks (“shocks!”). Alas, I should not have doubted her, for she soon demonstrated the extent of her comprehension.

Since my schedule can be irregular, Chris has been putting Madeline to bed the majority of the time. They have their own little routine, and she generally goes to bed quietly without a fuss. Last night, Chris had to do some work outside, so it was my job to put Madeline to bed. All was going fine; we played with toys, read a story, settled down, and I lifted her in her crib. She’d had a big day of playing at the sprayground and she was clearly tired. As she stood holding the side rail, I said, “Bed time, baby girl. Good night, Madeline.”

A question on her face. “Daddy?” she asked.

“No Daddy. Daddy’s not here.”

At that, she began to wail. Long story short, she was very upset, refused to sleep, and shrieked at the top of her lungs in that special way that she reserves for only Mommy. At one point she was even leaning against the side rail half asleep, with chin resting on her arms, eyes closed, and continuing to voice her feelings. She never sleeps well when she goes to bed upset, and she had multiple awakenings throughout the night.

When Chris came home, I told him about how she asked for Daddy and was very agreeable until she was told Daddy’s not here. Chris thought quietly for a minute, then said simply, “Well. I’ll never miss another bedtime.” Asked why, he explained that he never thought Madeline expected their bedtime routine, that she looked forward to it. Sometimes when she’s very tired she reaches for the crib as he’s putting her down. Chris had assumed that she went to bed more willingly if he put her down because she didn’t care much about staying with Daddy, in contrast to her separation anxiety with Mommy. But now that it’s clear that little Madeline wants her special bedtime routine with Daddy, that she asked for him and cried horribly for him to come put her to bed —

Now, he’ll never miss another bedtime.

(Point, Mommy!)