Sunday, January 31, 2010
Let me tell you something: I can brag with the best of ‘em.
And since this is my blog and I am in no way claiming to be above a little bragary here and there, I’ll share: My son, sometimes, can recite ABC’s and 123’s like a child prodigy. My son is so fluent in manipulation through manners that he could convince you to hand him a hypodermic needle with three words or less. And when it comes to being affectionate, the boy puts Pepe Le Pue to shame. My son is as sweet as sin. So don’t get me wrong, it isn’t that my son isn’t PURE JOY AND SUNSHINE; the purest essence of everything sweet and wonderful about this world -- it’s just that he’s two. Right? He’s two just like a quadrillion babies before him have turned, and he’s two just like your’s will be soon enough. And from what I’ve read in the pamphlet, there seems to be a pretty good survival rate of other mothers who have overcome this same disease… This disease they call The Terrible Two’s.
So at least I am not alone in my battle.
The problem with being as sweet as sin is that these precious weeble-wobbling munchkins are secretly just as deadly. They strike out of nowhere too, like finger-food wielding ninjas, the moment they know that they have you wrapped around their little fingers. At the first sign of a tantrum - when you will undoubtedly giggle at their first, feeble attempts to assert their blossoming independence, and then later blog adoringly about their “feisty” personalities - know, my friends, that it is already too late. Those feeble attempts are a mirage, used only to soften your motherly defenses. The battle has already begun, and it is too late to escape; you are caught within the deadly grip of this warm and fuzzy epidemic.
If you are anything like me, you may have thought that there was no way you could ever raise a voice, much less (God forbid!) a hand to such a beautiful, innocent being such as your growing infant. You knew that the day would come when maybe a time-out or a good, firm hand-on-the-hip might be in order, but by then - they’d be different… bigger… not so preciously innocent, and when that day came and they grew into those big, round, heart-melting eyes, you’d be willing and able to assert your motherly authority. But that day, you’re probably thinking, is fifteen galaxies away.
I’m raising awareness.
A common misconception is that babies outgrow cuteness. WRONG. Head my warning: that little however-month-old you’re watching munch on her fist just beyond the screen of your laptop, is only going to get cuter. She’ll get smarter, and funnier, (and stronger), and cuter. As she learns to pick up that rattle and you marvel at her astonishing motor skill rate of development, you should know that she is developing that particular motor skill for the sole purpose of someday hurling it at you the second that you inevitably someday down the road PISS HER OFF. I’m just saying.
You should know that I’m not one of those mom’s who wanted her baby to “stay this small forever and ever and ever.” I couldn’t wait for him to get bigger and to be able to play rougher and to be able tell me little two-year-old tales about who he beat up at daycare today. I look forward to every new day that he grows. I can’t wait to dress him up in a sweater vest and jeans on his first day of kindergarten, I can’t wait to pat down the hair sticking up on the top of his head with my saliva in front of his 9-year-old friends, and I can’t wait to disapprove of his girlfriend. I’m not against babies growing up - I’m simply, merely, only, just questioning whether or not I can survive it.
Everyday after work, I pick my son up from daycare. He’s always happily vroom, vroom-ing his Hotwheels off of some imaginary cliff, pretending to make them explode when they meet their fiery death at the bottom of the cliff on the kitchen floor. Then he looks up from the imaginary wreckage and yells “MOMMY!!” with the brightest, most beautiful ear-to-ear smile the world has ever seen. His arms fly up and he jumps into my arms, grabbing my cheeks with his wide open palms and jibber-jabbers away to me about how much fun he was just having with his toys and with his friends and did I “see that, Mommy? See that Mommy?? ((repeat explosion noises))?” My heart melts like a candy bar on the dash. All is well… then, the hour strikes.
“Okay!” I start enthusiastically, mentally preparing for the downhill progression, “Let’s get our coat on!!” Then it’s all flailing arms, arching backs and rubber legs. I HATE the arching back, limp leg routine.
Let me fill you in for those of you not YET acquainted with this technique. There is a mathematical anomaly that I like to call the “I HATE WHEN YOU DO THIS, OH MY GOD I’M GOING TO KILL MYSELF IF YOU DO THIS AGAIN AND THEN YOU CAN HAVE YOUR WAY AND STAY WHEREVER YOU WANT!!” thing. I don’t know what kind of law of physics out there backs this up, but I’m determined to find it and if it does not yet have a name, name it Matthew’s Law (because he’s really good at it, and also because it’s a really wonderful name, don’t you think?)
When a child does not want to do something, like.. Oh, I don’t know.. Get his coat on, he knows that once you take his precious little hand in yours, that if he only arches his back, launching his enormous cannon of a head backward, and then lets his body go otherwise limp, it makes it exponentially more difficult to do ANYTHING with him. And when that cannon of a head goes backward, he’s not watching where it’s going so it’s up to you - his trusted protector - to see that it does not fly backward into the corner of the kitchen cabinets, another kid, or even worse - your shin. And while you’re ever so worried about him hurting himself, believe me - he’s thinking that if you take a bruise or two or twenty-five amidst the battle, than you should just think twice the next time you decide to go against his wishes.
The mathematical anomaly is that by performing this small acrobatic feat, the child suddenly adds about two tons to his original body mass. So you’re basically trying to glop something that takes on the consistency of pudding that weighs two-tons-plus-twenty-whatever pounds or so into a ski jacket. At which point, you still haven’t gotten to the gloves, the hat, or the shoes. And let me tell you, once you’ve won the jacket battle, it is ON! The gloves come off before they’ve even gotten on. And let me tell you, those Diego shoes you bought him for Christmas that you thought were so nice with their extra thick rubber soles and all of the cool animal prints on the bottom, aren’t so cute when they’re being blindly launched at your chin amidst a temper tantrum. Oh, I’ve taken a Diego sneak to the face a few times. And let me tell you, I still have not mastered the proper way to tame this after-daycare beast I’m only loosely willing to call my son.
But I am working on a game plan. Believe me.
Friday, January 29, 2010
Mary had an extra project poster board lying around, so we put that on the table in front of his booster seat and let him have at the green. He absolutely LOVED it. I was surprised to see that he got the premise of shaping the clusters of dough into real-life objects. I told him that I’d make him a car; then shaped a very basic, primitive replica of a little two-door on wheels -- And he flipped for it. After that it wasn’t just mushing the stuff between his fingers. Whenever a wheel would fall off, he’d give it to me to fix immediately. He wanted it to keep that shape so that he could cruise it around the table, instead of instantly crushing it in his grip like I’d entirely expected. After that, Spencer joined in, making a Monster Truck. Then, Mary, with a person.
Most amazing to me was the fact that he recognized the makeshift objects for what they were and didn’t just mindlessly put a name to any old shape. If it didn’t look like what we were telling him it was, he’d say “No, make a car, Mommy” and hand it back to me. He totally understood that he wasn’t capable of making any of the complicated shapes. When we tried to encourage him to make some, he’d play around with it… Then look at the misshapen glop in front of him in disappointment. (We artists are always our own biggest critics.) And no matter how much we’d hoot and holler and tell him what a BEAUTIFUL, WONDERFUL, BREATH-TAKING “momocycle” he just built with his own two hands, we weren’t fooling him. He’d just hand it to me and say, “No, make a momocycle, Mommy.” We did help him to make a snake, which he was excited to be able to really do himself... And let me tell you, I may be a bias critic, but that was one very exquisit snake.
I haven’t been hanging my hopes too much on him following in his mommy’s artistic footsteps - just because I knew that chances were he’d have his own very separate talents… But the kid is on his way, that’s all I’m saying…
I can’t rave about these enough. Last night Spencer and I died - literally died - of swollen hearts last night watching what this kid can do with a stack of ABC flashcards.
I picked them up, 2 for 5 bucks at a Happy Harry’s one day before Christmas. ABC’s for Matt and multiplication for Mary. For both kids, they have been an absolute Godsend. We’ve done them four times so far. At first, I just held up each one for about five seconds or so, singing a little song I stole from a leapfrog video to the tune of “The farmer in the Dell” - or whatever the hell that retarded song is called.
The A says Ah, The A says Ah,
Every letter makes a sound, the A says Ah…
The first time we did it was at bedtime, where he was tucked in and just watching me the way that he would if I were reading him a story - not grabbing at them or wanting to handle them himself. Later on after he’d at least been introduced to the sight/sound of the letters, I started letting him sit at the table to do them with me. After doing that little song sequence for about a quarter of the letters, I started letting him hold the ones we went through. When he started asking for them, I made him repeat the letter and the sound it made (giving him the answer every time: You want the D? Okay, say D. Good, now say (sound). Here ya go!)
Once he’d acquired a small collection of letters, I let him “scramble” them up, which he REALLY had fun with, lying them on the bed/table/whatever and jumbling them up so that they were out of order. I’d pick up a random letter and have him find the matching upper or lowercase one.
It blew me away that he was able to
A.) stay interested
B.) keep up with the shifts in task throughout the game
C.) repeat each sound so accurately
D.) BE SO FREAKING ADORABLE… (What? I was!)
E.) actually look for and find the correct matching letter on his own.
We definitely don’t have time to do these kinds of activities every night, because Matthew shares us with an older sibling - who requires a lot more one-on-one help with homework, nightly reading, chores, flashcards & activities of her own… Plus studying for her upcoming DSTP tests. I try to do some kind of extra, educational activity with at least one of the kids each night. It’s ENTIRELY TOO DEMANDING, but - -hey, that’s what I signed up for, right?
Wednesday, January 27, 2010
Are there enough for us all up there?
Or do some folks have to share?
Last night driving home from work, my mind was reeling like the cars on the road, weaving in and out, trying to make it to a thousand different places at once. My cappuccino buzz was wearing off and I still had so much to do. Home is not a traditional retreat for a new, working mother - it’s where the work really begins. I told myself that tonight was not the night to fold the three loads of laundry that went through the dryer today. Tonight was not the night to give Matthew a bath. Tonight we were skipping flashcards. Tonight was a night to put my feet up. Tonight I’d microwave some popcorn and have Spencer put that movie in from blockbuster. I’d watch it in my slippers and I’d let myself fall asleep before it was even over. The kids would be in bed early. Maybe I’d top it off with a nice, hot bubble bath, if I was still awake.
It’s Tuesday, but Spencer didn’t pick Matthew up from daycare. Instead he picked up milk before it was time to get Mary from the bus. Awesome, I grumble somewhere past the windshield, One more stop before home, not thinking this time to thank him for the milk. It’s as dark and cold as it was when I got to work this morning, and I was far from home now. My van coughs under the pressure of the weather this month, trying to convince me that it’s heating up but only cold air comes out of the vent. It’s battery feels as drained as I do, but I know she’ll get me home and that is all I care about.
Matthew jumps into my arms and my battery is surged - a great big shot of something I needed. My little red light is on, as he brings his ear to my shoulder and cradles himself into the dip of my neck. I’m recharging. He is better than a bubble bath. On the way out, he pouts because he doesn’t want to leave pop-pop’s side. He refuses to give any betrayers a kiss good-bye. Not pop-pop, not even E-ma, and he get’s mad when they laugh at him, shutting the door behind us. Outside, he catches the moon as we walk to the car and he HAS to point it out to me. He does it every morning, when we drive to daycare before the sun wakes up. Now it’s nighttime, and the moon is back.
“Ooooh! Moon. Look, Mommy! See it?? See it??”
“Wo-oow… I love it. The moon is so beautiful tonight, isn’t it?”
“Boo-ti-ful?" he reaches as high as his arm will go in his heavy, winter coat, “I kiss it, Mommy?”
Well, how could I deny him that? I lift him up to the stars and he gives the sky a giggly kiss. That’s a lucky moon; Those are his best kisses. I stand with him out in the cold, staring at the moon with wide, wondering eyes. It’s a far cry my nice, hot bubble bath retreat, but my mind isn’t on the cold and it isn’t on my long day. It’s just on that moon and the stars in his eyes.
I made it home and I did fold three loads of laundry. I did put an extra load in the wash and the load that hadn’t finished in the dryer. We’re not backed up by much - that’s just how much laundry a family of four goes through… towels, sheets, tablecloths, socks, coats, and clothes. If my life had a smell it would be laundry detergent. Mary’s walking through the house, trying to play Hot Cross Buns on her new clarinet. Weird spasms of burps and shrieks are all anyone else can hear, like the sound I’d imagine a baby elephant would make if you tossed it down a really long flight of stairs - but we love it all the same because she’s just so proud of herself.
We did flashcards, too. Dinner was finished, thanks entirely to Spencer, and we had to let it get cold so that we could do just a few rounds of six’s and twelve’s before bed. Spencer broiled chicken thighs, baked a green bean casserole, made home-made mashed potatoes, and didn’t complain once when we weren’t finished in time to eat it before it got cold. In fact, he tossed Matthew in the tub so that we could finish up. They shrieked and splashed and laughed down the hall until you knew their faces hurt, while me and Mary marveled at how well she’s been taking to her twelve’s after only three days of practicing them. She complained about her teacher, and I signed all of her homework. We all met in Matthew’s room for bedtime prayers.. And I stayed late to read him a few extra stories. I Love You, Stinky Face, my all-time favorite story to read to him. It read:
“But Mama, But Mama, what if I were a green alien from outer space and I ate BUGS instead of peanut butter -- would you still love me then?”
“Then I’d pack you the tastiest bugs you ever had and I would put a little note in your lunch that said, ‘I love you, little greenie. Bon Appetite!”
He repeated ‘bon appetite?’ so I showed him how to kiss his fingers and say it in a phony French accent. He did it about a thousand times throughout the rest of the book. We did our bedtime prayers as usual, and I stopped just shy of ‘Amen,’ like I always do to let him say it by himself. This time he kissed his fingers and said “Bon Appetite, Momma!”
God, I always get sucked in. I kissed him goodnight.
“Yup,” I told him, “Definitely better than a bubble bath.”
Monday, January 25, 2010
4.) Paint 10 murals [3/10]
This one is important to me, and not just for the sake of getting into shape. Lately Spencer and I have been very aware of little ways that marriage and parenting are beginning to slowly chip away at our SANITY. Don’t get me wrong, it isn’t because we don’t adore our family (because MY family, in case you haven’t noticed, just takes the cake in the way of families, there is just no way a person couldn’t love being a part of it) it’s because, all kidding aside, it’s a very grueling exercise in selflessness. Time and energy are as precious to us as oxygen undersea. We only have so much of it to go around, and a lot of things to put our meager supply to these days. The two of us, before we met, used to love working out, and doing it often. I never had abs of steel like he did, but I was able to look forward to wearing my bikinis in the summer - and sadly, that day has officially passed. I’ve been proud of myself for getting back to my pre-pregnancy weight… but I think that Sarah on BecomingSarah.com said it best when she compared post-pregnancy bellies to something more closely resembling bread dough than an actual stomach, even after you’ve reached your previous weight.
I’ve been beginning to stretch every morning before work - which is a wonderful mood-booster, and way to slip back into that workout mindset, even if you don’t usually get into the real workout. Saturday I got myself down on the floor and started doing sit-ups and scissor kicks on the floor. I only did a few at a time, giving myself plenty of little breathers in between when the burn was just too much, since it’s the first time I’ve worked out in UM, about a year and a half. I worked my way up to doing about 20 continuous reps, doing probably about 70 altogether. I felt the burn ALL DAY LONG on Sunday - not because it was a wonderful workout, but just because I am THAT out of shape. But either way, it felt fabulous. Last night, because I was exciting about getting to my goal, but too sore to actually strain my stomach anymore, I stretched before bed, and ended up having the best sleep I’ve had in a long time - and for the first time in a looooooooooooooong time, was able to reach down and hold my toes without much effort at all. I was so excited that I must have stretched like that for an entire commercial break.
18.) Read 25 book about parenting [8/25]
What To Expect When You’re Expecting
What To Expect The First Year
Boys Should Be Boys
That’s My Son
The Three Martini Playdate
Sippy Cups Are Not For Chardonay
From Here To Maternity
Raising Confident Girls
19.) Do 25 projects with Mary [3/25]
Since I’ve started the list Mary and I have:
Made our own lip-gloss
Did one of her make-over design projects
A school project on Pluto
21.) Do 25 educational activities with Matthew
I’ll elaborate more on this in a separate post, but at a glance, here are some activities we’ve done so far:
Alphabet flashcards (having him repeat the name and sound of each letter)
Match-up letters (Having him scramble the cards, then I pick one up and let him find the matching upper or lower case card). He is surprisingly accurate at this game.
Bathtub Numbers (He has foam numbers that float and stick to the surface of the tub. We line them up and count them, then he has fun tossing them into the water and trying to find the number I’m “looking for.”) He almost never gets this right, but definitely has fun with it.
Foam letter, number scavenger hunt (using big, bright, soft foam letters & numbers, hidden in fairly easy spots around the house)
Play-dough - focusing on one color per play-time session, making sure to repeat the color name over and over again as we play
Coloring - same name-repeating idea, but with a handful of colors at a time.
And of course, good ol’ story time, every night.
Oh, I rocked this one so far. I already learned to:
Change my own oil
Replace my oil filter
Install a new oil pan gasket
23.) Take Matthew somewhere amazing (to him)
This past weekend Spencer and I dedicated all Saturday morning toward making a list of fun, inexpensive places nearby to take the kids on the weekends. We found a place called Hullabaloo in Fox Run that we never knew existed. It’s a Chuck E. Cheese style jungle gym play area for kids from 1 - 10... There are no real age restrictions, but the kids younger than one - well, got pummeled pretty badly because there is no employee supervision and the parents who were there while we were never checked to watch what their kids were doing more than for maybe a fraction of a second, so much older kids were romping around the toddler section, wreaking havoc. Anyway, Matthew and Mary are tough, so they held up well - and OH MY GOSH, had the BEST time! Spencer and I agreed that it was one of the best days we’ve had in a long time, just being able to soak up time dedicated solely to the kids - something that hasn’t really happened since Winter began and we’ve been stuck indoors, where it’s easy to get side-tracked by things that need to get done around the house.
We bought Mary some flashcards for Christmas and used them for the first time last night. We went through only the twelve’s which have always been a total mystery to her, no matter how often she’s faced with them on homework. We made piles of ones that she didn’t know right away. Each time, that pile got smaller and smaller until she knew all of her “twelve’s” at a glance.
35.) Do Alphabet flashcards with Matthew 100 times [8/100]
We read together nightly. I’ll read a few pages to get her started, while she reads for the thiry minutes that are required of her for her reading-log homework. Usually, I read a few pages more to finish us up, always making sure to leave off at a really exciting part, so that she’ll be excited about reading again the next night. Mary finishes books all the time, but this one is only for a book that read together. We are almost through Ida B., which is a nice, thick book of about 26 chapters.
37.) Read 50 different chapter books with Mary
These don’t have to be super long, just as long as they have chapters. Mary reads a lot for school and also loves to read on her own, so this one shouldn’t take long to achieve. The main goal of this one is to keep her focused on one book at a time, so that some of them actually get finished. She’s very good about starting a new book very excitedly, only to get into about fifteen other books before she reaches the third chapter - so a lot of books get opened, just rarely finished. The Latest she finished is called The Dork Diaries, tales of a not-so-fabulous life and she’s asked for me to try to find others in the same series so it shows that finishing the book really paid off.
So there’s my progress on the list I have so far. My list is still in the process of being finished, so check back every so often to see if there are any new goals that maybe we have in common or that you could help me out on. Any feedback or advice would be helpful, and if anyone else has any similar goals, I’d love to have a friend to work on some things with together. Just let me know!
Sunday, January 24, 2010
It was so difficult to breathe. That’s what I remember in the throws of it all. With my chin to my chest, heat was emanating from every pore in my face and if it were possible for my mind to be in any other place at the time, I would have been able to feel the hair that framed my face become moist and stuck to my temples. The air that collected in the mask over my face felt so think and so hot that I swear it could have suffocated me like a thick, fleece blanket.
For the last push, I mustered every ounce of force I had in my anxious, exhausted body… Then, “Stop pushing, stop pushing, stop pushing…”
My mom told me I’d want to, so I reached between my legs, overtop of a belly that was almost no longer pregnant. And I felt him; his skin, his hair. He was real.
Then, in a moment, the whole room came alive with noise and excitement, in one collective choir of awe’s that couldn’t decide whether they wanted to be a laugh or a cry… when out came this naked, lanky, squirming, newborn baby, with a cry in a voice that was all his own. That prominent wail that filled the air was in a voice that I gave to this person. The nurse laid him on my chest to cry, as she rubbed his trembling body with a warm blanket. I wanted to look at Spencer but I couldn’t take my eyes off of this wonderful baby.
Yesterday Spencer and I pulled into the yard and made the first right, slowing down to figure out how to make our way back to plot we needed to find. The Children’s Section II. The car came to a stop at the next entrance to let a hearse pull itself over the gravel. It made a right onto the stretch of concrete before us and that’s when we saw his parents, pulling in close behind, blinkers flashing, tires gnawing slowly at the ground with every turn of the wheel. My gut plummeted somewhere into my knees at the raw reality of what my eyes were taking in. We followed them as they followed their infant son to the plot of land where they would put him in the ground.
In that moment, I couldn’t take the burden of knowing my son was so healthy while theirs was not. I felt selfish and I felt guilty, but I felt forever, and ever, and ever grateful, too. I thought about what they should be spending this day doing, and how far from this place they should be. Mostly, though, I thought about the noise in the hospital room on the day that Matthew was born. I thought about that low roar of bustling nurses walking across glowing rays of 10:50 a.m. sunlight beaming through the huge windows, and about everyone laughing their way down from the high of the experience. I thought about the way that the hardwood floors reflected the sunlight like a blinding mirror, making everyone glow. Especially Matthew. I always said that he still had the fresh glow of Heaven on him the day that he was born. I will always have pictures to remind me of the way that everything looked, but I always hoped that I’d never forget that sound either, the way that everything just, in an instant, came to life.
Underneath of the tent, my dad gave the eulogy, standing over a beautiful blue and white coffin that held somebody’s beautiful son; a son who had a name and a once beating heart, and features of his family.
“There are a lot of things I don’t know,” he said, “so I’ll focus on what I do know.” He paused for a long time, raised his head with tears in his eyes, “I know that William will never be cold. He’ll never be hungry.” Suddenly, the sharp wind that was biting at my ankles didn’t feel so distracting. He told them that he chooses to believe that William was just too special to be away from God any longer, that for some reason God needed him there with him, and it couldn’t wait. He cried when he told them he’s never had to carry their burden, which as my father’s daughter and my son’s mother, pulled at my heart from all directions… but that he knows that they haven’t missed out on anything they’ve been waiting to do for their son; that William will be there, waiting for them to scoop him up and cradle him in their arms and brings cries of laughter to his face on the day that they’re called home, too.
Afterward, we all met at my parent’s house for what was originally going to be just a small, roast dinner for Layla and Josh. Once the service was over, though, the small, quiet dinner turned out to be a pretty large family gathering on behalf of William. Layla’s mom brought homemade cake, and Spencer and I, on our way back from getting Mary off the bus, stopped at the store to pick up some extra pasta salad and a few bags of fried chicken to help feed the extra guests. Spencer and I, being the last ones to arrive because of our extra stops, wondered how everyone would be holding up in light of what it was they were all gathering for, on top of the fact that a lot of people had never met.
It couldn’t have turned out better. There was nothing somber about the feeling in those rooms… In fact, there was a familiar hum of quiet laughter and gathering family, happy chatter and no lack of talk about beautiful babies, and friendly competition, each side of the family staking claim for his most precious features. Even though circumstances were tragic, when they should have been anything in the world but, -- it’s hard to see an entire family gather and smile that way without feeling good about the mark that was left behind by the little one they were gathering to cherish.
An Angel wrote in the Book of Life
Her baby’s date of birth
Then whispered as she closed the book
“Too beautiful for Earth.”
Monday, January 18, 2010
I hopped around the house like a lunatic, running bath water, medicating diaper rash, sweeping the glass that Mary broke, defrosting chicken in the microwave (because I had dinner plans, so I never took anything out that morning), and in-between, holding pieces of disassembled desk while Spencer screwed and cussed and dropped things and cussed louder. The windows looked out to an unforgiving black that just reminded me every time I passed one that I only had a few short hours before I’d be back in the cold, sputtering old van, heading to work for another ten hours Monday. But I hung with all my strength onto my meager smile for the kids and for the sake of not making this day any more awful for my husband than it already was. My head pounded, my feet ached, but at least Matthew was in bed and it only took two stories and a round and a half of alphabet flashcards to get him there.
Then everything stopped. My mom called, crying.
My and my husband’s best friends’ baby died. He was born a stillbirth two months before his due date. Layla said she needed me.
I kept telling Spencer that something wasn’t right. Wednesday night we watched something on T.V. about a baby’s near death experience; watched a mother‘s screams through grainy surveillance camera footage. It was only a short clip, just an insignificant cough in the lineup of the show, but it haunted me for days. DAYS. I lost sleep over it. I told Spencer that I just had a bad feeling - it wasn’t just that the show got to me anymore, something wasn’t right. I checked on Matthew and Mary twice each night; couldn’t take my eyes off of them for a second during the day. Then for the first time in my life, I cried over a newscast. The reporter described a husband in Haiti, holding his wife down in a field during a breakdown from the loss of all five of her children in the catastrophe. I told myself that I was being overemotional, even thought about it maybe being a sign of pregnancy -- but I kept being reminded that fears like this are legitimate each and everyday. For two nights in a row the feeling sucked us up into a conversation about how anything can happen at any moment. In an instant, we agreed, everything we love could be taken away from us just as easily as we had been blessed with it. We struggled through the heavy-going conversation of what we would do to pick up and carry on if God forbid, we were faced with such a circumstance - a conversation we’d never had before.
When I hung up with my mom, I sat in my room and I cried until my face hurt, working up the nerve to speak to Layla directly but putting 90% of my efforts into keeping quiet for Mary who was just outside the door, hanging onto every word of my previous conversation. I thought about how sensitive Layla’s always been. She’s so fragile; the kind of person who’s always, always apologizing. The kind of person who might make a single joke at the expense of someone awful - then spend the rest of the night remarking about their few good qualities, just to clear the air. This is the kind of person things like this don’t happen to.
I talked to Josh first, and I cried immediately, which only made me feel guilty. He took my apologies and practically whispered the play by play of how the heartbeat was strong and healthy in the beginning of the week and how they never expected any problems; about funeral arrangements and holding his son, even getting a few pictures. We didn’t get into anything too heavy, but there was a nakedness in his voice that I’d never heard before. It was like talking to someone I’d never met before; not at all like talking to my husband’s best friend.
Layla was on oxygen, but feeling well enough to speak clearheadedly. She was open to talk, though I didn’t know what to initiate. She offered information about labor and delivery, pushing for twenty minutes -- twice as long as I pushed with my son, which gave me chills. She was easier to talk to than Josh. She almost spoke as if she were just exhausted from a normal birthing experience and her baby was sleeping soundly in that familiar hospital basinet beside her. She told me about holding him, and about how Josh was as angry and she was sad. She told me about how they were going to hold a small funeral for him, but that they didn’t know when just yet. She asked if she could send me a picture, and she did. I told her to call me today and that we’d be there to visit the moment I finished up at work.
I didn’t tell Spencer until I spoke to her, though he could tell I’d been in the other room crying to someone. He held me while I cried quietly into his shoulder. We both broke the silence by laughing at Matthew, who was snoring uncharacteristically loud from all the way down the hall. It was a bittersweet kind of laugh, but one I was thankful for. Spencer isn’t an emotional man. He can be sentimental, especially when it comes to me or the kids, but in the course of all of the trials and tribulations that we’ve been through together: His cheating wife, his nightmare of a divorce, almost losing his property and everything he’d put his entire life into providing for his first marriage; births and deaths of loved ones - he’s never come close, even close to shedding a tear. He’s the one who smiles at me that sympathetic smile when I cry, but knows that that’s the best he can do and I’ve always been okay with that. Because he doesn’t breakdown with me, it’s easier for me to get myself together and carry on with a clear head, because I know that he’s there waiting for me when I’m done and that he’s strong and focused enough to get us through whatever it is we need to get through.
He dialed Josh’s number, giving me one of those, “Oh, man, I don’t know how to do this kind of stuff” look, and I smiled at it. They talked nine times as long as Layla and I did. Josh told him how the hardest thing he ever had to do what tell the doctor that it was Okay to for him to take his son to the morgue. My stomach was churning while I hugged and talked to Mary in another room about what was happening in clear and focused voice so that she wouldn’t be upset, just informed. Well over an hour later, I walked into the living room and saw something I’d never seen before.
For the firs time in all the years we’d been together, I saw an unbreakable man put his face in his hands and cry.
We held each other on the sofa, and had the most surreal experiences of our marriage so far. He wiped his eyes and we both laughed. We relived every sight, sound, color, smell and emotion of the birth of his daughter and the birth of our son. Time stood still in a way I’d never felt before. I could feel Matthew’s newborn baby hair underneath of my nose, like a whisper if you could feel one, while I kissed his warm, naked scalp in the hospital. You can probably guess that I cried through most of it… Just silent tears, the kind you can shake off and breathe through easily enough. It was a conversation that I will never forget.
Rest peacefully, baby William.
If anyone has any advice for us of things that we could do to help them out, or if you’ve helped a friend through anything similar, please, please let us know what we can do.
Saturday, January 16, 2010
They tell you that you’ll want to keep them that small forever, but I disagreed. I loved him that small for every second that I had him that small, but I dreamt at length about the boy he’d grow into: strong and resilient and cunning and adventurous. In less than a month, that little boy will be two and that little boy is
That boy is packed to the brim with all of the realized dreams that I gave birth to the moment I gave birth to him. I thought I loved him - that I was blown away by him - then. But I had no idea how bad it would get. Back then he picked things up so gradually. I could have taken the time to just sit and just watch and just make permanent every little step that lead up to every little milestone through better words and better pictures. I took pictures and I kept a little journal. But I also did things like look for a job and teach myself to cook for a growing family of four. I planned a wedding and washed windows. I assembled furniture and hung wallpaper with my husband. I guess it’s true that no matter how much you put into your kids, you’ll always tell yourself that it wasn’t enough.
Now, he wakes up in the morning, wipes the sleep from his eyes and the moment we strap his size six ½ shoes to his growing feet, he’s off like a bullet train all day long, and I’m chasing after him with the camera, struggling to keep up. I’ve tried, I’ve really tried to remember the conversation we had in the car on the way to daycare so that I can write it down; then he’ll say something clever as I’m leaving for work, and I’ll juggle the two in my brain until I talk to him on the phone before nap time… and by the time I pick him up and get him home and give him a bath and cut up his ravioli and read him his story, I’m left with not much more than fractions of seconds jostled together, like a mosaic of grins and jumps and monster truck crashes, “Mommy! Watch This! Mommy! See that?? Mommy, I hold you?” My heart has never had so much to contend with.
This kid is going to be the death of me.
Wednesday, January 13, 2010
Well, I looked into that whole Early Education thing… turns out my left arms really isn’t worth all that much to anyone. (I know. Who’d have thought?) Much less, enough to cover an extra two-hundred dollars a week for the one I felt like I might consider “settling for!” Notice I didn’t say “two-hundred”: I said an extra two-hundred, because the programs are all only about 3 hours long, two days a week, so he would most definitely still depend very heavily on his regular daycare (which I knew going into this) and no, no they do not provide any kind of transportation -- (what do I think this is, PUBLIC school??) I shouldn’t even dignify that statement about the price with an exclamation point, because it’s not like I’m surprised about it. Huff.
**I could go into the progression of thought that pummeled me to the ground in the following seconds after I hit that wall -- about how my brain and my conscience double-teamed me with discouraging thoughts of what a terrible mother I am for wanting to have another baby when I can’t even afford to properly educate the one I already have. No. I won’t go into that, because I have found a resolution.**
He’s two. Let’s be realistic about this. I want him to be socialized with other children, which he gets at daycare. Other than that, I like the idea of putting him into an early education center for the educational aspect of it. Ninety percent of what most Early Ed programs advertise is their loving, caring, non-discriminatory atmosphere - which fosters a love of all things warm and fuzzy! Well, maybe it’s the penny-pinching cynic in me, but Matthew get’s plenty of that for free throughout our already established routine. I want you to give my kid an educational boost. Are we AFRAID TO ADMIT THAT OR SOMETHING?? I know that he’s not going to be sitting down with worksheets or having a seat automatically reserved for him at the Harvard Open House in another 17 years, but give me a break. For two-hundred bucks a week, I want to know that you’ll be doing something with my son that I’m not perfectly capable of doing with him myself, at home for free. I love my kid more than you do, so don’t try to sell me on that alone.
All joking aside, I’m not knocking Early Ed programs altogether. Some of them really do offer a lot in the way of play & learning equipment that moms and other facilities just don’t have access to (like the sensory tables: OBVIOUSLY worth about three hundred of the thousand dollars you’ll be spending each month. Where else would our children be offered the opportunity to stick their little hands in some SAND and then talk about it?) Some children don’t go to daycares where they’re around other children, so it’s nice for them to have the socialization time. I’m just knocking the lowbrow ones that a couple with our combined, albeit mediocre, two-parent income should be able to afford… but can’t because these mediocre facilities won’t climb down a few rungs from their mother-fucking pedestals.
Broken down into individual days of the normal workweek, I could set aside a little over an hour every afternoon to work with him on colors, shapes, numbers and letters. Maybe if he’s being extra good that day I’ll shove his hand in some sand or some play dough. Children learn through play, which he gets plenty of all day long. I want to do more focused activities with him, just to give him that little boost; that little boost that I am not ashamed to admit I’d like my son to have. These activities will still be easily considered “play” but more than just sitting down with a colorful singing toy. During my down time at work throughout the rest of the week I’m going to put together a makeshift curriculum of crafts and activities. This should be easy for me because I’ve already done similar things with the three-year-old that I nanny for. I also see the activities that the three-year-old in my care comes home with from his Early Ed programs (one of the good ones) three days a week.
I’ll keep a journal of our progress on here. If my son scores as high as Mary on his DSTP’s at the end of the month, I’ll know I’m justified in having another one.
Wish us luck!
Monday, January 11, 2010
I work in Hockessin: The Soccer Mom Capitol of the World. The other day I took a little boy that I nanny for out to Friendly’s for lunch and ice cream before hitting the Library. There was not a booth occupied in the restaurant that didn’t consist of a pre-schooler and their mom. Just the two of them, out to lunch on their own.
I try not to be, but life has a tendency to make cynics out of even the most pleasant of people (and LORD KNOWS, I’m as pleasant as they come…) But there was nothing cynical in the world about a little girl out to lunch with her mom on a random Wednesday afternoon, shaking off the cold and giggling over snowman ice cream and French fries. I could have made a snide remark to myself about those pesky Stay-At-Home, Have-It-All-Soccer-Moms… but the truth was, I had honest, unsullied fun just watching them. A part of me wants to be that kind of mom.
Spencer and I have talked in grueling detail about the way we hope to parent our children: ways we want to spoil them rotten; ways we want to teach them responsibility; ways we want to discipline them; ways we want to push them - and how hard, and for how long… We’ve covered it all. And I wouldn’t consider the category those hopes have landed me in a Soccer Mom category.
Then my son learned to count to ten before he turned two and all I can think about is getting him into an Early Education Program. I’d sell my left arm to pay for it.
Then Mary asked to play the clarinet, and I’d have sworn off dinner to be able to go to a recital every night if she had one.
Then I went to Friendly’s with a three-year-old and decided I want to start a new tradition. I’m adding it to my 101 list. Take Mary out to lunch once a month - just the two of us.
Heaven help me…
It struck me that I’m only twenty three.
Are we crazy? We take turns asking it now. From day to day we aren’t sure who’s going to be on what side of the spectrum anymore. It’s a toss up, and I don’t know how we always end up balancing each other out, making it to the same exhausting conclusion. But we do. Our marriage is a marathon. We hit the ground running the day that we met and we realized a wedding, a son and some big-dreams later that we like the feel of the wind in our faces. We’re always pushing ourselves harder and harder and harder, coaching each other - we don‘t hold hands the whole time but we always make sure to match another step-for-step. We end every conversation about another baby the same way: wrapping our thoughts and fears lovingly in a little hat and little scarf and sending them out into the cold with words of encouragement, like: “Eh, we’ll be fine. We always are. It’ll be great.”
It may not seem like much of a counter to the cumbersome fears of making a child, but coupled with the way that he smiles when he says it -- oh, it’s a deadly combination. Suddenly, I think: Yeah. Now that’s some logic I can get behind. Let’s do this!
Yesterday he woke me up at four in the morning, his leg collapsed around me like a ten ton fallen branch. I had to readjust the covers. We mumbled back and forth in the dark, just keeping each other company until we fell back to sleep thinking Oh Saturday, oh my lovely, lovely Saturday, bring me sleep, would you my love? We talked about babies, keeping the conversation light, trying to fall back to sleep…failing. Conversations about bearing children are hard to keep light. We talked until the sun came up and we gave up and we made coffee and we buried ourselves in a blanket on the couch and we watched the sun bleed through the bay window into a quiet house with hardwood floors and framed pictures of our life. And we talked about babies.
And Preston & Steve
And the movie we watched about True Love on Tuesday.
And our wedding.
And Mary’s clarinet.
And diaper rash.
I only got up to make another cup of coffee. I passed by the cookbooks on top of the fridge next to the cantaloupe that’s getting soft. I sat my mug on a counter that wasn’t wiped down the night before and poured myself a cup, catching the dry-erase board that didn’t have a to-do list on it today. Big, loud, loopy letters danced inside of it’s pink magnet frame on the fridge: I LOVE MY MOM & DAD!! The words were emphasized with squiggly lines and polka dots, for good measure - the way a nine-year-old would reinforce the seriousness of such a weighty message. I love that when she thinks about loving us, she thinks of squiggly lines and polka dots.
After three years it still get to me that I’m the one she means when she says the word mom.
God, that’s such a profound word.
A profound name to have to two children at twenty-three. TWENTY-THREE!!!
(God help these children…)
By the time I got up to make the bagels, Spencer was changing Matthew’s diaper across the hall. Without seeing them, I knew that Matthew was standing on his changing table with his fingers pressed up against the glass of his bedroom window. The windowpane was cold against his skinny fingers and they fogged up the glass together with morning breath of coffee and warm milk, looking at birds in the front yard.
“Birdies!!!!” Matthew all but squeaked.
“The birdies are eating num-nums for breakfast. Worms… yummy!” Spencer’s voice was familiarly deep, but so lovingly light. I love the way he sounds when he talks to his son in the morning.
“Worms? Yummy?” (Matthew likes to repeat everything in the form of a question - a phase, I’m assuming.)
“Yup. Let’s get dressed so we can get nummies.”
“Okay. Bye-Bye birdies. Bye-Bye!”
“Say tweet-tweet. That’s how the birdies say ‘bye-bye’… They say ‘Tweet, tweet!’”
“Tweet, tweet birdies… tweet, tweet!”
Sometimes being a mom at twenty-three is waking up to spaghetti dishes displayed like a massacre across the counter from a late-night dinner and tripping over Rock ‘Em, Sock ‘Em Robots in the dark at 4:30 in the morning, and sometimes it’s breaking the coffeepot before work and seriously wanting to cry. Sometimes it’s doing the laundry until three in the afternoon and realizing it’s too late to do anything worth even getting a shower for at that point. Sometimes it’s cleaning up vomit in a restaurant. Sometimes it’s laughing about your crazy life with your husband and sometimes it’s wondering if you’d fall this much behind if you’d have waited a few more years before taking on so much responsibility.
There are a lot of things you come to expect, good and bad about being a mom.
Especially being a mom at twenty-three.
But EVERY morning, it’s unyieldingly, unwaveringly, uncompromisingly heavenly. Every morning, you wake up with a fair start. It struck me in a comforting way to realize that this morning was what marriage has made my reality; what being a mom at twenty-three is to me… This is my reality -- that I get to wake up every morning being this happy. And I realized that there hasn’t been a single year that I can remember of my life, not even as a child, that I had that kind of assurance with every single sunrise. And if I break a coffee mug today and miss church again and ruin a good pair of jeans learning how to change my own oil and get caught up in (God Forbid) an adult conversation with my husband in the garage for too long and burn Matthew’s fish sticks and don’t make it back from wal-mart until my legs ache and my weekend is practically over… I still get to wake up tomorrow, talking to birds with my son.
One point for parenthood.
Saturday, January 2, 2010
“Mommy. Mommy.” he called innocently enough.
“Mo-oOo-mmy. MOMMY. MOMMY.” increasingly authoritative.
“Mom. Mom. Mom. Mom. Mom. Mom. Mom.” -- Is my two-year-old calling me “Mom??”
Ah. Two years old.
I crept into his room with a sneaky little smile on my face, knowing he’d be wearing one too. I did my best theatrical impression of a spy rounding a dangerous corner, looking nothing like a spy in my pajamas and ponytail at five in the morning. Before I lurked around the doorway, he giggled, “I see you, Mommy.” He was still wearing his sleepy-eyes; like a Mr. Potato Head toddler, he has little sets of eyes for every time of the day. I love his sleepy eyes the best. When he smiles with his sleepy eyes, they’re even better.
A bowl of Apple Cinnamon oatmeal and two cups of coffee later, he sucked down the last airy drops of Vitamin D through the green Playtex lid and leaned up against my lap, offered his green and orange cup to me with a look of complete seriousness. “Ah… All gone, Mommy.”
“Okay, baby. Put it in the kitchen.”
He stood up, adjusted both legs of his footy dinosaur pajamas with his one, free hand, and obediently replied, “Okay.” He toddled three or four noisy steps toward the kitchen, craned his neck back in my direction and extended his hand, fingers broadly apart, little eyebrows high on his forehead, “Bye-bye, Mommy. Be back, Okay?” Be-bopping his head up and down reassuringly, now waving one pointed finger.
He must know how I count the seconds he’s away.
I’ve tried for about three days now to write his “Today You Are Two” letter. I’m sure I’ve said this before about other things, but it’s the new hardest thing I’ve ever had to do. When I was pregnant, I wrote three pages (front and back) on watching him float inside of my belly on the sonogram screen, propelled from one side of the screen to another by his own hiccups. (I’m quite sure nothing will ever make me laugh that full-heartedly again as long as I live). How do I even begin to tackle the mountain of monumental triumphs and conquests and sickeningly adorable feats of motor-skill and self-expression that he’s mastered since he turned one? HOW?
If I could go back in time to the mom I used to be when my son was but a blob of cheeks and chins who could barely muster a smile (but who managed to astound me deeply with every gurgle and burp) - and tell her about the charismatic and clever, mastermind, acrobatic champion of the Universe her son was well on his way to growing into…. Well, truth be told, she’d probably say, “Well, duh.” But she’d be blown away if she knew. Blown. Away.
I don’t want to hide his toes away in his socks, but I do. I don’t want to hide his knobby knees away in his khakis, but I do. I don’t want to hide his belly away in his T-shirt, but I guess I have to (it being January and all). I pick him up, so that he’s standing, and I just buy myself time, doing anything ridiculous that I can think to do to make him laugh, before I have to get him all the way dressed. The only thing keeping his cargo pocket pants above his skinny waist is a slick leather belt (cute as sin and just as expensive), underneath of a milk-bulge belly I love more than chocolate or tomato & basil cream cheese bagels, and the most adorable little belly-button the world has ever seen. Hands down. His shoulders are hilariously scrawny, which is only noticeable when I get to see him naked (a privilege I’ll dearly miss when I outgrow) but his arms… They are my goldmine.