Review: The House in the Night by Susan Marie Swanson, pictures by Beth Krommes


Since I was very small I’ve had a love affair with picture books. My mother, a kindergarten teacher and artist, nurtured a love for beautiful books filled with diverse stories and artful illustrations by gifting us books for all special occasions. After dinners out, my family would meander over to the nearest bookstore and spend time perusing the shelves, often coming home with a new book to add to our ever-growing collection.

Now, as a new mom, it’s my turn. While we may have boxes upon boxes of magnificent stories tucked away in the shed back in California, we have begun growing Ziva’s own little collection here in Michigan. Hopefully someday we’ll get my collection here for her to enjoy as well. In the meantime, I’ll share with you my favorites, the classics, and ones we discover together.

Over the weekend we visited Literati, the adorable local book shop in downtown Ann Arbor. I headed up to the second floor to find the children’s section and picked my way through the board books until I found one that felt just right for little Z. The House in the Night (by Susan Marie Swanson with illustrations by Beth Krommes) caught my eye with its striking black and white, intricate illustrations, and simple, rhythmic words.

The House in the Night by Susan Swanson, Illustrations by Beth Krommes
The House in the Night by Susan Marie Swanson, Illustrations by Beth Krommes

I always loved the books with big spreads of sweeping scenes filled with tiny little details you could get lost in. The art is just beautiful. The black and white with just touches of warm yellow light seem magical. The story has an arch to it like a relaxation exercise, taking you all the way out into a dream like, ethereal space, and then back into the warmth of the scene. I can imagine this one will be sending Little Z off to sleepy land for years to come. Thumbs way up.



Sleep Struggles 

Little Ziva was born a champion sleeper. Well, after 5-6 weeks she became one and started sleeping for 5-7 hour stretches all on her own in the arms reach co sleeper. Then, about a month ago we caught colds and her mucus kept her up. Then I started back at work and she started daycare. Then the dreaded “4 month sleep regression” hit (also known as Wonder Week’s Leap 4). She started waking up earlier and earlier, and then multiple times a night. 

She was busting out of her swaddle and thrashing about. She took up the hobby of scratching the sheet and the wall of the cosleeper. Over and over and over. She wanted to nurse endlessly and so I started letting her lay with me to nurse and she’d sleep there part of the night. I was waking up constantly to make sure she was still breathing and to keep feeding her throughout the night. Nobody was getting good sleep anymore. I love the cuddles, but we need our sleep. 

So, last night she woke at midnight. I breastfed her and gave her another ounce or two of pumped milk from a bottle to fill her up fast and then I turned on the mobile and laid her down in a sleep sack IN HER OWN ROOM! I had planned on room sharing until she was six months, but I was willing to try anything last night to get a little more sleep (anything harmless, never cry it out). It took about 20 minutes of her rolling around and looking around (not fussing at all), and then she went to sleep! She was out by 1am and slept until 6:30am in her own crib in her own room! I’m not sure I’m ready for the separation, but I’m glad it worked at least for one night. 


Real thoughts I had during my daughters first night in Her own room:

Oh no, she’s nursing on the toy I forgot to remove from the crib. That’s really sad and now I feel like an awful mom for leaving something in the crib (not safe sleep protocol). I have to stay awake and make sure she is breathing cause I don’t want to wake her to move it. 

The video monitor image sort of reminds me of a horror movie. 

Oh shit; the front door is between our rooms. What if I see hands reaching into the crib picking her up? Now I have to stay awake and watch her because my waking nightmare has struck terror in my heart. We should put the baby gate back up and I should put bells on it so I can hear if anyone tries to come up the stairs into the apartment. 

What if this works? Does that mean the end of room sharing and snuggles? I already miss her….

It Was Worth It

Laying here tonight, the night before I return to work and Ziva is to start daycare, I keep having the thought that it was all worth it. What exactly am I referring to? 

Everything. The awkward years. The junior high torment. The troubled teen years, a square peg in a community of round holes. The challenges of growing up. The heart aches. The tough lessons. The long school years and late nights. The break ups. The many moves. Friends lost and gained. 

Everything. Each and every thing I’ve experienced and endured in my life until this time. The time when I get to be Ziva’s mama. It was all worth it for this. 

As a young teen dealing with depression and challenging social dynamics I once gave up and tried to throw in the towel. I’m glad it didn’t work. It’s true that “It gets better,”. Over the years many things have gotten much better. But there have been ups and downs along the way. 

Being Ziva’s mother, experiencing her birth, spending time with her and seeing who she is, these things are what make me say, “It doesn’t just get better, it’s all worth it. It’s worth going through all of the grit of life to experience this.”


11 Weeks, 11 Things to Love

Baby Z is 11 weeks old today! Here are 11 things I love about my 11 week old:

  1. Her gummy smile. You have to earn it with coos and some quality eye contact, but once she gets going it’s pure joy.
  2. Her bear hug stretches, reaching both arms up over her head and scrunching up her face.
  3. Her skeptical expression… All of her expressions really. Her pout is killer.
  4. The way she clings to my shirt and brushes my chest gently as she nurses.
  5. the soft downy hair on the back of her head where it spirals in a cowlick
  6. When she giggles in her sleep… the counterpart of which are her sleep sobs. Those are truly heartbreaking.
  7. The weight of her spread out on me, arms splayed as she falls asleep.
  8. The way she uses her feet to play- pushing and pulling with her toes, thrusting her legs forward and back.
  9. The feeling of her little hand holding on as she sleeps, arm wrapped around me shoulder.
  10. When she clicks her tongue as she cracks a smile and squints one eye.
  11. Her big blue eyes. So deep and bright, looking up at me lovingly or with curiosity as she nurses.

I could go on and on… ❤

Newborn Survival List

Okay, so there are the obvious things – like diapers and wipes- and of course every baby needs clothes! This is my list of the specific items that helped us get through the first couple of weeks home with little Z. It’s crazy to think back on those first nights and days getting to know our daughter and leveling up from parenting level 1 to maybe level 10? I’m not sure, but this is one crazy, fun, tiring, and exciting adventure.

1 week old Baby Z
1 week old Baby Z
Pump– I received the Madela Pump In Style Advanced from my insurance and it is great. When my milk came in my LO had stopped latching well and the only relief from the engorgement was through the pump. I’m so glad I already had it on hand. I have found that I prefer pumping on only one side at a time. I do this because a) It gives me one free hand for the remote or to browse on my phone, and b) when I pump both sides at once it causes me to let down on both sides when I’m breast feeding, leading to a ton of wet shirts.

Nipple shield- (If your LO is having trouble latching) As mentioned above, baby Z had a hard time latching at first and it was really frustrating and saddening. I felt like we would lose out on so much bonding time and that it could put our nursing relationship at risk if she wasn’t able to nurse straight from the tap. What if my milk supply went down because she wasn’t nursing?? Once we picked up the nipple shields the day after my milk came in we were able to nurse on demand right from the breast again and I was so relieved. It did concern me a bit that Z might not learn to nurse without it, or that I would get caught out of the house without the shield and unable to feed her or soothe her. In the end all was fine because about 2 weeks later I gave nursing without the shield a try and little Z latched right on and has been nursing like a rock star ever since. Thank goodness!

Target Nursing Tanks- I’m basically living in these Gilligan & O’malley nursing tanks from target. They are just under $20 (depending on style), and they are super comfortable and convenient.

Infant Nail Scissors– Piyo Piyo nail scissors make trimming little teeny baby nails so much less scary. I have found it easy to clip her sharp little talons without clipping any skin off of her fingers (which was a fear of mine in caring for my little one). I found them on Amazon here.

Fisher-Price Snugga(insert animal of choice) Swing This is a must. I can’t believe I almost didn’t get this. At 3 1/2 months this is still the main way I get a break to make lunch or go to the bathroom. Baby hangs out in this during dinner too so that I can sit at the table and be a grown up. She doesn’t stay in it for long, but long enough for the little breaks I need through out the day. They are pricey new, but readily available on mom to mom sites and Facebook groups. We got ours for $60 off of another family and in great condition.

Protein Snacks– We had a case of Kind bars and a pack of Nogii bars on hand for those first couple of weeks. Both of these are delicious protein snacks. The Kind bar is pretty high in fat though, and the NoGii is pretty in high sugar, so snack in moderation and try mixing it up with other healthy snacks. I liked having these on hand for when I needed something fast that I could grab one handed. I’ve been thinking about making some sort of homemade healthy protein balls (recipes abound on Pinterest), but I haven’t gotten it together to make them since Z was born. I wish now I had made and frozen a few batches beforehand.

Coconut water– My mom would mix 2/3 plain water and 1/3 coconut water for me to drink along with all our breastfeeding sessions (as well as in between). The mixture is pretty yummy and it helps keep me hydrated to support my milk supply. Costco sells cases of coconut water

Blue bed pads (or puppy pads)– Our little lady loves to “pee in the wild” as we like to call it. The moment you take that dirty diaper off she starts to go. Often it’s a forceful number 1… but sometimes it’s a wild number 2. Believe me, swapping out the blue pad is easier than changing the pad cover in the middle of the night. We have the Keekaroo peanut changing pad in her room so in there we don’t need the disposable pads (the Keekaroo just needs to be wiped down when there’s a leak), but in our room we just have  a traditional changing pad with cloth cover.When you leave the hospital you can take home any unused blue bed pads you have in your room (I was able to take an almost full pack along with the other unused goods like the pads, sexy mesh undies, etc).

Burp cloths (Lots of them)- I thought maybe I’d need a couple. I was wrong. We needed a bunch! I received a big stack of homemade, super soft, adorable burp cloths from Brian’s boss and they have been SOOOOOOO helpful. Our little one is s spitter-upper and with a decent stack of burp cloths we don’t get stuck without a clean one between loads of laundry.

Muslin Swaddle blanketsSwaddleDesigns (sold at Target) or Aden & Anais (sold everywhere), whatever the brand, get yourself some for swaddling your little. We tried the halo sleep sacks too but baby Z seems to regulate her heat better in the muslin swaddle. Now that she’s older we are using the Swaddle me sacks a bit more since she is getting stronger and can pull her arms out of the muslin swaddle more easily, but they were so helpful early on.

Baby Footie pajamas (snap-up kind)– I thought I would like the zipper kind of sleep’n play outfits, but when it comes to those midnight diaper changes I prefer the ones with snaps. Here’s why- the zipper ones zip from the top down… meaning you have to completely open the sleeper up in order to pull their legs out and change the diaper. When the snap kind you can open just the bottom half, leaving their top half nice and warm and undisturbed. This is especially nice in the winter when the house is cool.

Car seat Canopy– There’s no better way to avoid a wandering stranger’s hands from touching your little one when you are out in public. I like to think of it as a protective shield letting people know I don’t want them in Baby Z’s face.

Winter baby items– If you are having a winter baby like us, there are a number of things that are great to have on hand. We have a JJ Cole  Carseat cover (avoid anything that goes behind the baby in the seat for safety reasons), baby hats, GrowEgg  for keeping track of the temperature, warm fuzzy blankets, layers for baby (including long sleeved onsies).

Amazing helpers– Thanks Brian and Mom- you two are the best ever. I’m pretty independent, but having Brian and my mother here for emotional and physical support was absolutely priceless. It’s amazing how often you end up nestled in with baby to your breast and then realize you need something from across the room. Thank you Brian and Mom!!!!

Daddy and Baby Z getting ready to come home for the first time.
Daddy and Baby Z getting ready to come home for the first time.

Mommy-ing Up for the 2 month Check-Up


Yesterday started with a muggy thunderstorm and ended with my little one pouting in my arms. We agreed before Ziva was born that we would be vaccinating her, even though all of the hullabaloo about vaccines had me a little nervous about how she would react. Even if her reaction was purely emotional distress (and nothing physical), I wasn’t looking forward to it.

Maybe it was my subconscious attempting to avoid the whole thing that led me to completely missing her original appointment on Friday, maybe it was just general new-mommy over tired forgetfulness, either way the mishap led to my having to take little Z to the doctor today without the emotional support of her daddy’s presence. I wanted us both there so that Ziva wouldn’t associate just me with a negative experience, or to somehow stop trusting me. In the end, I had to just mommy-up and take our little girl on my own.

We love our pediatrician and the first half of the appointment went smoothly as usual. Ziva was snoozing in my arms when the nurse came back in to give her 1 oral vaccine and 2 shots. She suckled on the oral vaccine dropper and seemed to take it down okay, even offering the nurse a few faint smiles as she started to stir awake. I even held on to a moment of hope that she might sleep right through the whole ordeal and we’d all walk away unscathed. Unfortunately, that hope was dashed as her whole body curled to the left as the shot entered her little chunky left thigh. I could see the look, a mixture of fear, surprise and betrayal, wash over her little face. She let out all of her breath and then paused, mouth agape and brows scrunched together as she gradually turned tomato red. Kissing and shushing and repeating (to us both, I think) “You’re okay, you’re okay, you’re okay,” I tried to calm her and get her to take a breath in.

The second shot in her right thigh only made it worse. She took a short little hiccup of a breath in before pausing again in a dramatic pre-wailing expression. When she finally sucked in her breath she began to wail and shudder with big alligator tears. It was completely heart breaking. All I wanted to do was cry along with her… but I didn’t want to upset her any further by making her feel insecure so I managed to keep it together. I wrapped her up in my arms and bounced, shushed and kissed her. Aaaaaannd, she threw up all down my shirt launching herself into an even more dramatic fit of tears and sorrow.

Once we were both cleaned up she nestled into my bust taking shuddering little breaths as she nursed away. Occasionally she would look up at me with her intense dark blue gaze. With all the drama and concern of a first time mommy, I couldn’t help but read betrayal in her gaze. As she nursed I reassured us both that this was necessary and done with only the best of intentions. Eventually she seemed to come around and we packed ourselves up and headed home.

Despite tears and a little spit-up (which is part of our daily norm), Ziva handled the whole appointment and the shots very well. Actually, I think we both made it out the other side intact and I feel just a little more confident that I can handle the appointment on my own again next time. I guess it was worth mommy-ing up and doing this one on our own.

Now, the time after is another story. After waking up from her nap Ziva went back and forth between sleeping and wailing. As hard as this is to deal with (my heart is breaking for her little body going through whatever discomfort she’s going through), but I have to believe this is a temporary discomfort for a long term gain. Hopefully we truly are protecting her and doing what is right. I don’t believe in the vaccines=Autism allegations at all, but I am very careful about what I put into her and my body and this is a calculated decision we made to protect her and others in the herd from sickness. Thankfully, with just one dose of infant Tylenol she seemed to feel better and woke up this morning completely herself.

Please refrain from judging comments or attacks. Every family makes the decision for what they believe is best for their children and we have decided that vaccinating our child is necessary and for the greater good.



Story Behind the Name


I’ve always had a love for names. Since I was eight years old I kept a running list of names that I liked. I wanted to be prepared for the day when I would need to choose. Over the years the list was shaped by the different influences in my life. By the time we were expecting Ziva I had a robust list of boys names that I loved and only a few girls names that I liked. Here is the story of how we chose our little one’s name:


Pottery Barn pillow sham.
Pottery Barn pillow sham.

Ziva (Pronounced Zee-vah): I was set on a couple of names since the beginning of my pregnancy and assumed we would choose one of them once our little one arrived. My husband, on the other hand, was not  quite sold on the ones I had chosen. We discovered a Jewish baby naming app from and went through each name, from A-to-Z, reading them out loud to each other. When we got to the last name, Ziva, it just spoke to us. We experienced a loss with her first pregnancy about a month before we became pregnant with our Ziva. In Hebrew, Ziva means glow, brilliance, or light, and she is the ray of light and hope that came into our lives so soon after the loss. We waited until she arrived to be sure that she look like a Ziva. It fits her perfectly. She’s a calm, alert, and happy baby. So far we love calling her “Z” or “ZiZi” for short.

Pearl: Named for my paternal grandmother, Grandma Pearl was a character and a force of nature. She and I were very close and I always knew I wanted to name a daughter for her. Our little Ziva Pearl was born with strawberry blonde, reddish hair just like my grandma used to dye hers. It was meant to be! Ziva’s Hebrew name is Ziva Margalit (Margalit is Hebrew for Pearl), which I absolutely love.

On March 21st, Ziva’s 1 month birthday and Rosh Chodesh (the beginning of the month in the Hebrew calendar), we had a naming ceremony for her at the synagogue Brian grew up going to. During the Shabbat services, Brian and I were called to the bima for an aliyah and then the Rabbi blessed Ziva and we shared with the congregation the meaning behind the names we chose for her. Afterwards, Brian’s mother hosted a luncheon in the social hall for our guests. Though we were exhausted and happily delirious from our first month of parenting, it was a meaningful and love-filled day surrounded by friends and family as we welcomed Ziva into the covenant of our faith.