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Lentil, kale, and potato stew

My daughter’s godmother just gave birth to an extraordinary little man. Her husband is gluten-allergic, so I can’t make my standard spinach-stuffed shells. Instead, I made this hearty, gut-filling, and healthy stew. This can be made vegan by eliminating the butter and using two tablespoons of olive oil instead.

 

2 Tblsp butter, separated

1 Tblsp extra virgin olive oil

3 medium-sized carrots, cut on the bias

3 stalks celery (plus leaves), cut on the bias

1 large brown onion, chopped

1 Tblsp salt

1/2 Tblsp black pepper

1 head garlic, cloves separated, peeled, roughly chopped

 

1 Tblsp turmeric

1 Tblsp cumin

 

2 C any combination of lentils (I used 1 C lentils de puy, 1 C red lentils), rinsed and picked through

4 yukon gold potatoes, cut into 2″ chunks

 

2 C good white wine

1 1/2 boxes (6 Cups or so) vegetable (or chicken) broth

 

1 bunch of kale, stems removed, torn into 1″ pieces

 

In a heavy bottomed pan or dutch oven, melt one tablespoon of the butter and all the oil over medium high heat. Add the carrots, celery, onions, salt and pepper and stir for about five minutes. Add the garlic and stir another minute (don’t let anything brown, just let it get translucent).

Add the turmeric and cumin and stir for about two minutes, then add the lentils, coating the lentils in the oil. Add the potatoes and do the same.

Pour in the wine and give it a good stir. Let it come to a gentle boil for about a minute, then add one quart (one box, four cups) of the broth. Turn down the heat so the stew is gently simmering, and cover. Cook for about an hour (or more) adding more broth as the lentils expand, and more salt and pepper as needed. Stir in one more tablespoon of butter, and drop in the kale. Stir the kale into the stew so that it wilts (add more water or broth if necessary) and turns bright green.

Serve with chopped raw onion or shredded parmesan. Enjoy!

Adventure Review: Peekaboo Playland

For a city that averages 350 perfectly perfect weather days a year, we have a surprising number of indoor playgrounds. It feels a little silly to pay for a place to play, but on a hot day, a rainy day, or a we-can’t-do-Shane’s-Inspiration-again day, indoor playgrounds are really amazing.

Peekaboo Playland is an indoor play space in Eagle Rock and is kind of the gold standard of indoor playgrounds. The design is sweet, artistic, and quirky, and the two story space, with separate nooks for different types of play, is inspired. The owners are obviously parents and know exactly what parents need: free coffee, free WiFi, and the opportunity to bring in one’s own food OR purchase healthy snacks on site.

When Willa was a little Little, she loved the upstairs infant area, which is perfect for Sitter-Uppers, Crawlers, or Just Started Walkingers. The toys and books are age-appropriate and the space is snuggly and safe. Also, bigger Littles aren’t allowed in the infant area, so parents can relax knowing that Big Bruiser Bob isn’t going to hurl his four-year-old self on top of their little wee’un.

photo courtesy of the Peekaboo site

Now that Willa is a bigger Little, she really enjoys the lower level with all its different areas. The first time she was able to explore the downstairs space, she paced, giggling and overwhelmed, for a solid ten minutes. It was fantastic.

In the center of the the enormous, bright, and surprisingly calming space is a huge climbing structure, featuring two slides (one little, one big) and a secret room. Surrounding the climbing structure are a bouncy tent, a toy and book room, a play house, a play “bistro”, a ball pit, and tons of open space for play cars, push toys, and toy strollers.

Willa wanders from point to point every visit, and seeing her explore new types of play is a real joy (for instance, I didn’t know how much she wanted a doll baby until she wandered the perimeter of Peekaboo Playland “nursing” a doll baby for fifteen minutes, saying “Baby. Baby. Baby.”).

I find it best to go right when they open at 10 AM (I so wish they opened at 9 AM). At this time of day, most of the kids are between 1-2 years, so there isn’t a lot of rough housing. I’ve found that when I go after Willa’s nap in the afternoon, the kids are older (probably coming straight from pre-school) and rowdier. Also, I find that many of the kids in the afternoon are attended by nannies who may not have as keen an eye on their charges as a family member would (e.g., a little boy might wallop my little girl, and I don’t want to discipline him, so I look to see who’s watching him, only to find an apathetic woman barely glance up from her US Weekly and mutter, “Brayden, don’t.” Random example.).

There’s a healthy restaurant called Four just a few doors down from Peekaboo, so if you don’t bring food, they are a great option (although please note that they don’t open til 11 AM). Peekaboo has snacks as well, plus they have restaurant recommendations for this great area. Of course, you can always bring food from home.

Parking can be a bit of a bugger, so I tend to start looking for parking starting at the corner of Eagle Rock and Colorado (meters, two hours).

Also, try hard not to permanently stick your eyes in the rolled position when you see moms who angrily demand that their children try to recreate a funny moment so they can capture it with the Hipstamatic app on their iPads (“Ava! Ava! Ava! Go backwards! NO! Not forwards, go BACKWARDS down the slide again! No, look HAPPY! AVA! Look happy and go BACKWARDS! NO! DON’T GO FORWARD DOWN THE SL…. ugh. Well, you ruined the picture now.” Random example.).

Amazingly, despite the many babies running around, bumping into things, crying, having a blast, Peekaboo is still inexplicably serene for parents. I always have a nice conversation or two with other moms.  Finally, I’m also in a place, emotionally, where I feel really comfortable letting Willa find her own way, free range.

Peekaboo Playland: 2030 Colorado Blvd. Los Angeles, CA 90041

HOURS: 10:00 AM- 6:00 PM (M-F only, Sat and Sun are for private parties, which are apparently super awesome.)

ADMISSION: $9 for kids 12m and up, $7 for kids under 12m. Parents free. I highly recommend buying a package. Please note: If you buy a package and leave your punchcard at home, they do NOT keep your info on file so you will have to pay for the day.

Have fun!

 

 

 

Adventure Review: Griffith Park’s Ferndell

Nature butt

Ferndell Nature Park is one of our go-to adventure spots. Just off of Los Feliz Boulevard, it’s close, free, and easy. Also, the entire area is shaded by ancient trees, making it a good ten degrees cooler than the rest of Los Angeles and a joy on hot days. Ferndell is a beautiful network of paths, hikes, bridges, and bubbling brooks, plus a little playground and great café called Trails. It feels a little magical and unlike anywhere else in Los Angeles.

When Willa was a little Little, I loved wearing her and hiking all the way up to the Griffith Park Observatory from Ferndell. It gave me an incredible sense of accomplishment and helped me shed a bit of weight. Now that she’s a slightly bigger Little (walking and running), she loves exploring the paths, getting a little dirty, climbing on the play structure, and enjoying a bite at Trails Cafe.

We usually park right near the entrance at Los Feliz and Fern Dell Drive, so that Willa can see and say hi to the bear statue that greets all the visitors. We then make our way up the path about a quarter mile to the play structure.

 

playground

chilling at the bottom of this weird slide, Ma.

 

If you want to be ambitious, you can continue all the way up (either on the right or left path) to the Griffith Observatory, although I wouldn’t recommend this if your baby is walking free range. It’s a tough hike and not good for babies unless they are safe in your carrier.

Across the street from the play structure is Trails Café, a fantastic little snack stand with sandwiches, breakfast, and wonderful coffee. Please note that it is CASH ONLY and CLOSED MONDAYS; there is no greater drama in this world than promising a good meal to my daughter and not being able to follow through because there’s no cash in my wallet.

Trails really caters to families: There is a large circle of hay bails for jumping, books for reading, open space for running, and everyone is understanding about, you know, screeches and squeals. The food is hearty and healthy and there are lots of vegetarian options as well.

After breakfast, we go back across the street to further explore the paths. The verdant brooks fascinate Willa endlessly. So do the Big Girl Benches. By the time we get to the car, she is exhausted and ready to sleep. We love this adventure because there are no set hours of admission, which means we can have a nice full morning before nap.

Enjoy!

 

Wading Through the Registry Madness

One of the biggest and earliest anxieties I encountered when I was pregnant was the exciting/dreadful Baby Registry. I remember looking at Babies ‘R Us, Target, Amazon, Giggle, Diapers.com, etc, and getting that anxious and agitated feeling in my stomach. Immediately, I thought to myself, “I am already a terrible mother. I don’t know what my baby needs.”

I wrote a frantic email to my girlfriends with babies and got the greatest responses back. Long, awesome lists of things they loved and things they hated. Wastes of money. Indispensable items that hadn’t occurred to me. I took much of their advice and was very happy.

After Willa was born, I must have fooled everyone that I was some sort of competent mother, because friends started to call and email me, asking for advice on their registry. I started sending out a standard email, which I would edit accordingly.

Now, one of my very best friends, and Willa’s godmother, is expecting her first. She had the same experience as I when she started creating her registry – her first of what I’m sure will be many Feelings of Unnecessary Guilt and Inadequacy.

I was going to send her my standard email, but it occurred to me that perhaps just getting it all out at once and online might work best. To wit, I present the Ideal Registry for a Crunchy, Green, Breastfeeding, Babywearing Mama, With (Mostly Amazon) Links.

(But first, a note: I think registries should be split into three retailers: One, an online only store like Amazon or Maternitique for those far-flung family and friends; Two, a hybrid brick and mortar/online store like Target, for those who like to peruse online but probably won’t buy a present until the day of the shower [ahem]; and Three, a local business like The Pump Station or Giggle here in Los Angeles, because small businesses rule.)

NECESSITIES:

- Car seat with frame: Our car seat is nothing fancy. We got a Graco Snugride car seat like this. But the stroller frame should and will be your stroller for at least the first six months. You just click the car seat onto the frame. It’s lightweight, easy, and you can really beat it up.

Also, try to get a car seat with a base. Register for two if you have two cars. The base is relatively cheap, but it means you can easily switch your car seat between two or more cars. Here’s an example of the base.

- The Happiest Baby on the Block and a Miracle Blanket. This book/DVD is a life saver, and the Miracle Blanket makes it all very easy. Just trust me, this is non-negotiable.

- The Baby Book by Dr. Sears: Dr. Sears and his family of pediatricians are pioneers in the AP (Attachment Parent) movement, and their book is a giant lifesaver for all things baby. It’s the Dr. Spock book of our generation.

- Baby Carriers: I am a babywearing fanatic. I am an attachment parent, so babywearing is a big part of what we do. My three favorites:

  • Moby Wrap, perfect for when the baby is very small. Don’t be intimidated by how complicated it seems. That’s what YouTube is for (that, and cats falling off of and climbing into stuff). After a few tries, you’ll be a champ.
  • Babyhawk, the easiest carrier out there. I used this from about 4mo-12mo.
  • Ergo, imo, the very best carrier for when the baby is 9+ months. I have a terrible back, and still wear Willa almost every day in her Ergo, even now that she’s about 25 lbs. I wouldn’t waste money on the infant insert. You can use a rolled up towel or find it easily on Craigslist.

If you have friends with different carriers, try experimenting with what works best for you and your body.

- Burp cloths/Cloth Diapers: you will use these for everything from spit-up to emergency changing pad. Stock up! I like to use cloth diapers for this because they’re so absorbant.

- Moses basket or bassinet: You won’t really need a crib for a few months. A Moses basket or bassinet works great. I like the Moses basket because it can be carried from room to room.

- Crib bedding, Mattress Pad, and Mattress: Try to go organic on this, since they’ll be spending a lot of time here and mattresses are notoriously dangerous in regards to off-gasses. CostCo carries a very reasonable organic mattress.

- A fan for the nursery: Research suggests that stagnant air may contribute to SIDS, and the fan will circulate the air. Plus, white noise is an essential component of the Happiest Baby system, and the fan takes care of that for you. So does this white noise lamb.

- Swaddling blankets: Although I never mastered the art of the tight swaddle, and didn’t need to since I had the Miracle Blanket, good swaddling blankets will come in handy for everything from covering the car seat during a nap to anywhere-tummy-time.

- First Aid Kit: It’s good to have a baby thermometer, Children’s Advil, etc. One note: baby nail clippers are totally stupid and awful. Use hangnail clippers instead.

- Nose Frida: Just check the link for the Nose Frida. Don’t make me explain it, just trust me that it is the greatest thing in the world when your little one has a stuffy nose. Just… just trust me.

- Breast Pump: There are a lot of different opinions on the best pump out there. I like my  Ameda Purely Yours pump. It does a fine job.  I’ve also heard great things about the Hygeia pump, and many of my friends swear by the Medela Pump in Style. Do some research and see what you think. A hands-free bra is a real must. Looks weird, yes, but makes your life so much easier.

- Breastmilk Bags: These little babies are for storing your milk in the fridge or freezer. Make sure they’re BPA-free (most are now).

- BPA-Free Bottles and Slow-Flow Nipples: Slow-flow nipples ensure that your baby doesn’t reject your nipples later. BPA is nasty stuff and should be avoided at all costs.

- Vibrating Chair: We got something like this as a hand-me-down and used it a lot. I recommend that you NOT get one of the giant swings. After a few months the baby grows out of it, and then you have this giant monstrosity taking up all the room in your house and no one is pregnant yet to take it off your hands and so you try to stash it but it’s too big and the one person who would want it already has one and I feel so guilty that someone lent it to me and what am I supposed to do with it now?

- Chemical-free baby wash and baby lotion: I am a huge fan of Earth Mama Angel Baby products and have used them since I was pregnant. There are a lot of great choices out there too, just make sure to read the labels. Words to avoid: PARABENS, SULFATES, FRAGRANCE, and PHTHALATES. Those are nasty chemicals that alter your baby’s hormones and can cause cancer. You can find lots of options at Maternitique or Giggle.

- Eurotub: Willa just loves her tub and the design brings great peace of mind to a nervous new mama.

- Playmat for Tummy Time: Lots of options; this is similar to the one we got and loved.

- Sleep Sacks: These are recommended instead of loose blankets, which can be dangerous.

Things you don’t need:

- A Changing Table: Just use the top of a dresser! I don’t know what becomes of a changing table once there are no diapers to change. If you use a dresser (like this Ikea one), then you can just buy a changing pad to put on top. Easy!

- Wipes Warmer: As my friend Kristi says, Toughen up, kid!

I’m sure as soon as I post this I’ll hear about all the important things I’ve left off, but I do think this is a good start. Please share it and let me know what you think – I’ll edit as we go!

Adventure Reviews: First Up, Descanso Gardens

I often say that if it weren’t for the traffic, Los Angeles would most assuredly be considered as great a city as New York, Paris, Chicago, Sydney – all those cities around the world that people get misty over when they try to describe it. Los Angeles has a terrible reputation for being dirty (true in parts), smoggy (improving every day), too spread out (just means we have mountains AND beach AND city), and full of “nouveau riche” “fake poseurs” with “shattered dreams” and “coke boogers” (totally true, but only between Fairfax and the 405).

But Los Angeles, especially the East side of Los Angeles where we live, is a really spectacular place, especially for raising kids. Unlike New York, Paris, Chicago, Sydney, London, Dublin, etc, the greatness of the city doesn’t smack us in the face when we walk out of the door. We have to dig a little deeper, work a little harder, look a little more closely to find LA’s greatness.

Since Willa was born, we have had an Adventure a Day with her. This has helped us explore and discover parks, attractions, gardens, and events all over Los Angeles, and has enriched our lives as Angelenos. Living in beautiful Atwater Village, our little town in the middle of this sprawling metropolis, we are uniquely situated close to some of LA’s best spots.

If I can get out of the way of my crippling procrastination/overwhelming duties on the Neighborhood Council, I’m going to start reviewing some of our favorite Willa Adventure Spots on this blog. We begin today with one of our favorite and oft-visited places, Descanso Gardens.

Descanso snuggle

This is Willa's default face while at Descanso

Descanso is a straight shot up the 2 Freeway for those of us on the East side. For Atwater Villagers, it’s about ten minutes away. Descanso is a botanical garden and learning center, with a meticulously well-maintained rose garden, small but striking Japanese garden, inspiring California native expanse, overwhelming and legendary Oak and Camilia forest, and many other attractions.

If you are a new mom with a little Little, Descanso is a wonderful place to walk while wearing or pushing your baby. The surroundings are truly breathtaking, and there are just enough hills to actually burn some calories. When Willa was a newborn we would come to Descanso about once a week. The fresh air and sensory experiences were great for her, and I loved sitting on a bench by a stream, nursing her, reading, and mostly, BEING OUT OF THE HOUSE.

If you have a slightly bigger Little (i.e., your baby is walking), Descanso is the best place for burning off energy, running around, exploring, riding the little choo-choo train, and getting good and worn out. Willa loves visiting the Koi fish and turtles at the small pond near the lake (“N” on the map), chasing the baby geese, looking for fairy butterflies, fairy dragonflies, fairy hummingbirds, smelling all the roses, and generally exploring all the fun nooks and crannies.

 


I love this photo of Willa flashing navel inside of a big, weepy tree at Descanso.

 

Descanso hosts lots of events throughout the year, like live music on the lawn, fairy shows on summer nights, storytelling days, gardening seminars, and even a kids’ camp.

EATING: There is no picnicking in the Gardens (except on special event nights), but there is a pretty good cafe at the entrance, so plan accordingly.

HOURS:  9AM-5PM. Descanso is one of the few places that opens early enough that if you have a bigger Little who naps around 11AM or 12PM, you can actually have a nice, full morning before nap.

ADMISSION: $8 for adults, $3 for ages 5-12, $6 for seniors/students. I highly recommend buying a membership to Descanso. Your membership gives you free admission not only to Descanso but also to hundreds of other gardens across the United States (including the Arboretum in Arcadia… to be reviewed soon!). Membership is $70 for two adults, and also gets you a discount at the cafe and the gift shop.

Descanso Gardens is real treasure. Please check it out (baby or not), and let me know what you think!

One Year

Willa Kathleen is one-year-old today. On the one hand, just as everyone said, it is shocking how quickly this first year has gone. Shocking. On the other hand, I can’t believe I’ve only known Willa for one year.

I also can’t believe how incredible I think she is, even though she doesn’t even talk yet. Or really know anything yet. What I mean is, she’s my favorite person in the world. She’s the coolest girl I know. She’s the funniest person ever. But she has yet to say one, single sentence. HOW MUCH COOLER WILL SHE GET??

I failed miserably in my attempt to keep an updated blog going while Willa was growing so quickly. I don’t know why I thought I’d have the time to be an awesome writer when I’m always so busy (being the biggest procrastinator who has ever lived ever).

I recently got a call from a friend with a three-month-old. He said that his wife is feeling incredibly overwhelmed, their families are far away, and would I know anyone who can help. I’m touched that anyone would come to me for any advice; it occurs to me that the only reason this keeps happening is because I’m very good at *appearing* to be in control and cool and calm and collected while kind of crumbling on the inside.

I don’t think anyone realizes just how lonely being a mom is, and I say that as a person with an unbelievable network of friends in Los Angeles. If I do have any advice for a new mom, it is this: find a group, a class, any grouping of other moms with babies. Whether it’s a dumb, fun music/swimming/whatever class, a Parent-and-Me group, or a Mom’s Club, being around other women who will talk about their vaginas and nipples fearlessly will make you feel so much less alone. I started the Atwater Moms’ Group in my town and it’s been marvelous.

So one year down. I no longer have an infant. As of today, she’s a toddler. A getting ready to walk, loving music, constantly dancing, always giggling, infinitely happy toddler, with her already walking, loving music, constantly dancing, always giggling, infinitely happy mom.

Recipe for Milk Enhancing Granola Bars

A few months ago, one of the posters on my incredible Yahoo group for mommies, The Booby Brigade (or The Tit Club as my friend Jason puts it) linked a Smitten Kitchen recipe for granola bars. She had made a few substitutions and said it had enhanced her milk supply. I tried it, made my own adjustments, and lo and behold, it worked.

Thanks to Smitten Kitchen for the original recipe and “LizBK” from the Tit Club for the inspiration!

 

1  2/3 cups old-fashioned oats

1/2 C raw sugar (or granulated sugar or brown sugar)

1/3 cup oat flour (or 1/3 cup oats, processed till finely ground in a food processor or blender)

1/2 teaspoon salt

1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon

1 C dried cherries

1 C raw almonds or walnuts

1/2 C shredded coconut

1 C raw pepitas/pumpkin seeds

(alternately, any combination of dried fruits and nuts. Coconut is important, as are either walnuts or almonds. Cherries are remarkably healthful, but dried cranberries are a less expensive and cheaper option)

1/3 cup creamy peanut butter

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

6 tablespoons coconut oil, melted

1/4 cup molasses

4 tablespoons honey

1 tablespoon water

 

Preheat the oven to 350. Line an 8 x 8 x 2 pan in one direction with parchment paper, allowing it to go up the opposing sides. Lightly grease the parchment paper and the exposed pan.

Stir together all the dry ingredients, including the fruit and nuts. In a separate bowl, whisk together the vanilla, melted oil, molasses, honey, peanut butter,  and water. Toss the wet ingredients with the dry until the mixture is evenly crumbly. Spread in the prepared pan, pressing them in firmly to ensure they are molded to the shape of the pan. (A piece of plastic wrap can help with this, as you press down on the back of it.)

Bake the bars for 30 to 40 minutes, until they’re brown around the edges.

Cool the bars in their pan completely on a cooling rack.

Once cool, a serrated knife (or bench knife) to cut the bars into squares. Wait until they’re cool! They’ll be really crumbly if you don’t (but still delicious). To store, wrap the bars individually in plastic or stack them in an airtight container.

 

Adventures in Breastfeeding

I always knew I would breastfeed my children. I knew all the stats about the benefits of breastfeeding: better immunity, higher IQs, reduced risk of several types of cancer for the mother, reduced risk of obesity, diabetes, and leukemia for the baby, just to name a few of the thousands of reasons. For years before I became a mother, I would vehemently and passionately argue with anyone who thought it was “weird” or “gross.”

In fact, just thinking of some of those conversations now makes me want to set something on fire.

What I didn’t know was how fearlessly I would breastfeed my Wee Bean, and that it would enhance and illuminate my identity as a feminist.

I have breastfed Willa Kathleen all over creation, sometimes in banal situations, sometimes in strange situations that only she will experience.

back-up breastfeeding

When Willa was about a month old, my mother had flown out to Los Angeles to save me from drowning.  I needed a haircut, I needed clothes that fit (side note: will someone PLEASE make a million dollars by creating post-natal clothes for poochy tummies and enormous tatas?), I needed someone to just help me with the laundry (the godforsaken, never ending, ratf*ck laundry, the worst part of motherhood). I was sinking, I was fighting the “baby blues,” I was crying almost all the time, and I was lonely as hell. Out raced my sainted mother, all the way from North Dakota.

She took me shopping and walked the baby around the block for an hour while I got my haircut. We then got some lunch at The Farm of Beverly Hills, where I passed two major milestones:

1) Cleaned up Willa’s first head to toe poopsplosion on the floor of the bathroom (with the help of a kindly fellow mom who happened to come in and find me sweating, on the verge of tears, and clearly in over my head), and

2) Nursed Willa in public.

Willa started to fuss as soon as we returned from the poopsplosion adventure. As hard as I tried to soothe her, it was clear that she just needed to eat. My mother gave me all the encouragement I needed with a smile and a squeeze of my hand. I took out my trusted Hooter Hider, draped it over myself, unhooked my nursing bra, and got Willa latched. I gratefully discovered that I got no sideways glances, no harumphs from old ladies wearing pillbox hats, no leers or jeers from any gross men. In fact, I don’t think anyone really noticed.

Since that day, I have nursed Willa

- in the dressing room at Anthropologie, Macy’s, and The Gap,

- in several public parks in Los Angeles and Chatham, MA,

- in too many restaurants to list, but usually at Viet Noodle and Canele, both in beautiful Atwater Village,

- in the front and back seats of a couple different cars, never while driving, obviously, but most memorably in a terrifying 7-11 parking lot on Santa Monica Blvd.,

- on a plane, in an airport,

- during the opening remarks of the Atwater Village Centennial Celebration Street Fair, where I stood near the stage chatting with deputies from Council President Garcetti’s office and State Senator Carol Liu, nursing all the way,

- while singing back-up for my husband’s band (see pic above),

- while running from site to site on Glendale Blvd., coordinating our Summer Nights on the Blvd. event,

- during a meeting of the Executive Board of the North East Central Alliance of Neighborhood Councils (NECA), on which I serve,

- while watching the Independent Shakespeare Company’s performance of Much Ado About Nothing,

- and most recently, standing on line outside the DMV in Lincoln Heights.

I feel so passionately about my right to breastfeed my child, and I’m proud that I live in a city where it just doesn’t seem to make people too uncomfortable. For those ladies who aren’t lucky enough to live in a progressive place like the east side of Los Angeles, or for those who, like me, perhaps have in-laws who aren’t terribly comfortable with the whole idea of breastfeeding, I say, Whip ‘em Out. Whip those boobs out. We won’t change minds until we make it clear that breastfeeding is natural, normal, and most certainly NOT sexual, gross, or weird.

Always remember: people who think breastfeeding is weird are the ones who make breastfeeding weird. Not nursing moms who know all the incredible benefits of breastfeeding. So feed your child. Don’t ask permission. Apologize to no one.

Willa’s first play

Willa and I have been having so many adventures that it’s been very hard to find the time to catch up and write. We’ve also been attempting to get a nap schedule started, which has been fairly successful. We spent a week letting her fall asleep wherever, whenever, to see if a pattern would naturally emerge. It did, so now we are trying to keep the schedule going.

This means that our adventures are morphing. In Willa’s first three months, she basically just went anywhere with me and usually fell asleep no matter what we were doing. Now, however, she’s taking everything in, learning more, and clearly enjoying the adventures so much that she doesn’t want to fall asleep. So now, we have to have our adventures during her waking times.

In the last few weeks, Willa has flown for the first time (more on that later), nursed all over tarnation, helped me out with my community duties, gone to our outdoor movie night, been to a fancy barbeque in the Hollywood Hills, and patiently gone on countless errands. These adventures are of course on top of her regular adventures: long walks in Atwater Village, lunches and breakfasts at Village Bakery, trips to the Atwater Village Farmers’ Market, and visiting with friends.

In my life before having Willa, I was an actress and an acting teacher. Since having Willa I’ve done a couple of stage shows and one guest spot on a TV show (ten days after she was born). Willa has been onstage several times, in a sense: I performed pregnant with her about three or four times, and always imagined/worried that she would feel, in utero, the rush I was getting with each laugh or round of applause or curtain call and catch The Bug, as they say.

I’ve subsisted on that rush since I was nine years old. It sustains me and warms me and keeps me charged. Still, the life of a performer or an artist is, well, tough. We already know Willa has our musical genes, as we see her eyes light up and an enormous smile spread across her face when we sing to her, and the joy she takes in any kind of rhythm. We knew she had my dancer genes since she was in the womb and was all “Step, kick, kick, leap, kick, touch…Again!”

But because she’s so mellow and sweet and dreamy in every way, I was pretty certain she hadn’t gotten the acting bug. Dodged one bullet. I thought.

Last night, we went to see the Independent Shakespeare Company’s excellent performance of Much Ado About Nothing, outdoors at the Old Zoo in Griffith Park. My council had sponsored their run, and in return they had a special Atwater Village night. Willa was a trooper as I strapped her on and then struggled and stumbled my way up the hill with all our outreach materials (table, tablecloth, boxes of fliers and bumper stickers and weird DWP info); thank God I ran into ISC’s managing director, David Melville, who carried the table most of the way for me. I then ran into another friend, Jordan, who took over so David could get to preparing for his performance as Benedick.

Just before the show started, after we’d set up, Willa and I got up onstage to greet the crowd, tell them how wonderful Atwater Village is, and get them to visit our outreach table. Standing in front of 750 people seemed to excite Willa a little. She was on my chest, in her carrier, but wide-eyed.

Here we are, getting ready to get onstage to speak:

Once the show started, I thought she’d go right to sleep, but she was awake and alive and staring at the stage, her blue eyes sparkling. When she got hungry I got her right to nursing so we wouldn’t interrupt the show for the other theater-goers. But every time the crowd would laugh or applaud (which, because ISC is so fabulous, was All The Time), Willa would unlatch and lock eyes with me. She didn’t look scared or even startled. She looked hungry, but not for food. Excited. Wanting.

Shit.

Catching up on adventures

Willa Kathleen has had some pretty specTACular adventures these last couple weeks. They include:

- Going to the flea market twice

- Nursing in a parking garage

- Going to a barbeque at Auntie Mary Elizabeth and Uncle Charlie’s house, where she was held by lots of fun people and Auntie Artemis made fart noises on her fat rolls and played her like a bag pipe

- Visiting her papa’s Grandma Judy, who is in failing health, but always smiles when she sees Wizza

- Watching Twilight: Eclipse at Mommy and Me Movies in Los Feliz and silently judging her mum for being eternally fifteen where Twilight is concerned

- Helping Mum do all her community work, which basically means running lots of errands and sometimes having lunch with people from the LA City Council President’s office

- Dancing and singing with lots of other Atwater Village babies at her World Citizen Baby class, held at The Cradle Company

- Sleeping for seven hours in a row without a feeding and starting to find her own sleep schedule

- Going out to dinner at Canele and Palate and Kuma Sushi

- and most amazingly, giggling for the very first time.

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