The things that will never make it in the baby books and other musings from a stay at home mom

Monday, February 28, 2005

10 inches of the heavy stuff headed our way

Snow, snow, go away
Come again another day

(...but only after confirming that my husband is no longer in London and will be available to shovel the driveway and front walk. I'm a wuss about this stuff.)

Sunday, February 27, 2005

The second time around

Evan crawled up to me this afternoon, arranged himself in my lap and settled in for a snuggle. I stroked his back as he stayed there for a few moments, his head resting on my shoulder and his beloved "sucking fingers" inserted into his mouth. Then, suddenly recharged, he happily crawled off of me and went back to what he was doing without a backward glance. He does this dozens of times in any given day -- it seems that the more independent he gets in the world, the more he needs to reconnect with Mama and feel the safety of my arms for a few minutes. Julia never did this, not that I can remember. It was me seeking out her touch at this age, trying to reconnect with a quick hug or hair stroke before she dashed out of my arms again. Different kids, different personalities. And, I was thinking today as I held Evan, strikingly different kinds of love.

My love for Julia has been intense from the moment I saw those two lines on the pregnancy test. I spent years fiercely hoping to experience motherhood, and I've loved my first child just as fiercely as I wanted her. From the beginning, I felt as if I needed her every bit as much as she needed me, and it's as often been me reaching out to her in the past three years as the reverse. Julia grows and I marvel at her progression and that heart bursting wonder and hope and joy I feel as I watch her develop embodies my love for her.

Evan was every bit as wanted as Julia, but not nearly as hard won. From the beginning, I described him using words like "again" and "other" rather than "finally" and "mine." My love for him, while every bit as strong, has never had the same impassioned tinge that my love for Julia has. It's grown organically, out of who he is and how he's become a part of my life, rather than a need that existed before he did. It's a pure, quiet love, embodied by the silent melding of our bodies as he nestles into my arms.

I've never understood parents who profess to have favorite children. Sure, I have a favorite child to take to the grocery store (Evan) and a favorite child to play with (Julia). But that, I suspect, has more to do with the ages and stages of my children than anything else. Who wouldn't pick a pre-verbal child to take to the store over the child who has the ability to demand tasty treats in every aisle? And who wouldn't prefer to play with a child old enough to understand and follow the rules of the game? I assume that as my children grow and mature, I will always have favorite things to do with each of them, just as at times each of them will individually drive me to the brink of insanity. But I can't imagine ever completely preferring one of them over the other, ever choosing one over the other, ever calling one my favorite, or even silently thinking such a thought.

All of those years I spent dreaming of motherhood, I wondered what it would be like to feel the oft-touted "mother love." I thought I understood after Julia was born. But now, with Evan, I find myself understanding all over again in a completely different way. I knew that mothering was an intensely personal and individual experience. But I'm only just now realizing that this generalization applies not only to different mothers but to each of the children we mother as well.

Saturday, February 26, 2005

Mad Mommy, not Mommy Madness

I've been staying away from commenting on last week's Newsweek article on Mommy Madness because I've already ranted once recently about the news media's depiction of mothers and because others have already led more thoughtful discussions on the topic elsewhere on the web. But then the article got passed around a list for alums of my sorority and after watching all of the enthusiastic "me too" griping that followed, I had to weigh in. And once I'd started, I couldn't stop, so I'll (briefly this time, I promise) share my thoughts here, too.

Am I alone in not appreciating this article? Don't get me wrong -- I agree with virtually everything the author had to say. But I hate the whiny, negative way it's all presented. I think there's much better writing on the realities of mothering in this day and age (try an issue of Brain,Child magazine or Andrea Buchanan's Mother Shock: Loving Every Other Minute Of It, for example) that examines these issues in a way that inspires intelligent discussion and not just the collective griping of a generation that feels gypped.

I do think that our upbringing perhaps led many of us to believe that we could have it all, when the reality is that it's virtually impossible to have it all at the same time. And I struggle with how to encourage my daughter to pursue all her dreams without giving her the illusion that something won't have to give somewhere at some point. I think many of us, myself included, mother too hard, whether to compensate for the fact that we've left "important" jobs behind to stay home with our children or to compensate for the fact that we're still working and leaving part of the "important" job of raising our kids to someone else. And I think we have to talk about those issues. But despite the fact that I know I'm not doing a perfect job here, I love my children and I feel enormously fortunate to have so many wonderful things to balance in my life right now. And that's what's missing from this article (and, I assume, the book, though I haven't read it) -- that even though the glass is half empty, it's half full here, too. Parenting is a balancing act. And I believe that any worthwhile discussion of the issues we face as parents needs to be balanced, too.

Stepping off my soapbox now...

Wednesday, February 23, 2005

There goes the neighborhood

I feel a little sick to my stomach right now. I'm sure that's partially because I just consumed my first fast food meal in well over a year. But I think the circumstances surrounding my meal are actually making me far more nauseous than the food itself.

In the three years I've been at home, I've never really mastered the whole lunch for myself thing. I'm not a big fan of deli meat, I'm not too into soup and I hate leftovers. I only like salads with tons of mix-ins and I'm too lazy to keep them all stocked in my house most of the time. So lunchtime is always a challenge for me. I end up eating a lot of frozen pizza or frozen gourmet type meals (expensive and probably not all that good for me), with an occasional bagel, bowl of chili or "acceptable" leftover (lasagna or quiche, mainly) thrown in to break up the monotony. I stock up on this crap every time I'm at the grocery store, mentally counting the number of lunchtimes I'm likely to encounter before I get back to the store to make sure I don't run short.

Today I ran short. I don't know if the long weekend did me in or what, but I had nothing in my house. (Actually, that's not true -- my cupboards and fridge all look full, which is the topic of another entry about my inability to throw things away -- but I seriously could not find a way to scrape together anything resembling a lunch.) We were trapped in the house all morning while workmen tried to repair my flooded and very stinky finished basement (also the topic of another entry), so I had no opportunity to restock earlier. And by the time the workmen left and I got the kids fed, it was nearly naptime and I couldn't see schlepping them into any stores just to find me a palatable lunch option. I was a hungry woman without a plan.

Then it hit me -- there's a Burger King with a drive-through just about a mile from here. And before I could regain my senses, I had heated up the car, tossed the kids in without coats or shoes and driven off to the Burger King drive-through in my fuzzy bedroom slippers. I figured I'd get myself a nice salad, but of course, one look at the big burger posters and I was a sunk woman. I drove home with a Whopper value meal beside me on the front seat and the voice of my conscience (who sounds suspiciously like Julia) ringing in my ear. "Why are we doing this?" "Do I smell french fries?" "Why don't I even have any shoes on?" "You know Evan's asleep back here, right?" "Can we go out without coats on all the time from now on?"

My plan worked beautifully and I arrived home, whisked both children into bed and consumed my entire Whopper value meal in record time. And now here I sit, a little nauseous, very tempted to hide the evidence of my foolish indulgence (from whom I don't know, since Paul will no doubt read about it here before he even gets home) and simply horrified at myself for sinking into what I assume must be the very bottom depths of stay-at-home-motherhood. This is it. It took me 3 years, 1 month and 13 days to hit rock bottom, but now here I am -- the stereotypical white trash mother taking her scantily clothed (and probably dirty) children out in the car to fetch a fast food meal. I can feel my thighs growing fatter as I type. And the worst part is, now that I know how easy this was, I know I'm going to be tempted to do it again.

I never even took my slippers off. Oh, the horror.

Tuesday, February 22, 2005

Fazed by a phase

I started an entry about half an hour ago about my current worries about Julia, about my fears that she's got a deep-seated unhappiness that will always be at her core and my panic that she'll never truly be happy in life. I started to write about how she's always the odd man out, how she literally walks away the second there is any conflict around her, how her preschool teacher says that it sometimes seems like Julia's watching a television show rather than really getting engaged with the class. I planned to talk about how she's funny and vivacious and downright bossy at home but so painfully shy in public that she can hardly smile at another person, about how I'm afraid that the world will never see her as she is when she's relaxed and happy, about how I fear that she'll never really be relaxed and happy. I was going to obsess in a major way.

Then I got interrupted by a phone call from a friend whose daughter is less than a week older than Julia. While we were talking, she lamented about how her daughter freaks out in unfamiliar places and how birthday parties and playdates at other people's houses are torture these days. And I started thinking about the friend we had a playdate with this morning, who got put in timeout 4 or 5 times in the less than 2 hours we were there, refused to share a single thing with anyone else and spent a good portion of the playdate stark naked. And I was casually skimming the web while I spoke to this friend and saw a post on a discussion board for parents of kids Julia's age from a woman who was complaining about how in the past week, her daughter had destroyed the hallway carpeting with red marker, the dining room chairs with purple crayon and her bedroom carpeting with lotion. And I hung up the phone and deleted my entire entry.

It's possible that Julia *will* be unhappy all of her life, that her behavior now *is* indicative of social and emotional issue she'll grapple with her whole life. I'll no doubt continue to worry that this is the case until I'm proven wrong. But it's also possible that she's just 3. And 3, my friends, is a very hard age. 3 is not a good age for facing the world, and though I don't know any other children who are dealing with things quite the way Julia is, I don't know a single 3 year old who's got it all together, either. Odds are pretty good that Yael will get more comfortable at people's houses and Jessica won't go to kindergarten naked and Alex will eventually learn to use paper rather than walls to express her artistic side. So it would be myopically obsessive of me not to presume that Julia will outgrow this phase as well.

Bottom line, yeah, Julia's in a painfully shy phase right now, but I'm in a painfully obsessive phase at the same time and the combination sucks. All I can do is hope that we both outgrow them soon.

Thursday, February 17, 2005

Solved: the case of the pornographic Purim puppets

I think my sense of humor might be a little too quirky for Julia's preschool teacher. She was somewhat less than amused by Julia's tale of naked Purim puppets when I mentioned it to her today at dropoff and launched into an immediate round of "we would never do such a thing" (visions of a lawsuit dancing in her head, no doubt). While I was assuring her that I wasn't actually accusing them of any inappropriate behavior, but was just curious how Julia got it so wrong, her assistant teacher solved the mystery.

Turns out the Purim puppets were big heads with no bodies. So when Julia said they were naked, she was kind of right, but not only were they missing clothes, they were also missing arms, legs, torsos and other unmentionable bits. Makes perfect sense, when you think about it, and I'm glad to have figured out the key to Julia's confusion. In a way, I'm also a little bummed, though. This story was much more fun when there was a chance that the puppets were actually naked...

Wednesday, February 16, 2005

Missing in translation (or possibly a whole new twist on the Purim story)

I usually get very detailed descriptions of what happens at school from Julia, to the point that other moms sometimes even call me to find out what really happened in class. I know, for instance, that the theme yesterday was George Washington, in honor of Presidents' Day, and that the kids learned all about his adventures with the cherry tree, his inability to tell a lie, and the fact that his face is on a dollar bill and a quarter. (In fact, Julia seemed to know virtually everything about George Washington except for the fact that he was our first President, but that's the topic of another entry.) Despite Julia's detailed descriptions, however, I occasionally know that I simply must be missing something when she tells me about school. Yesterday was one of those days.

J: I noticed today that Miss Janice always brings a friend when she comes for music.

Me: Really? Who did she bring today?

J: A queen. And a king. And another king, but he was very naughty.

Me (thinking quickly): Very naughty? Was his name Haman?

J: Yeah! It was!

Me: Oh, OK, then you must have been talking about Purim, which makes sense because it's coming up. Haman wasn't actually a king, honey. He was just a man, a mean and nasty one. Did you make noise whenever Miss Janice said his name to drown it out?

J: Uh huh.

Me: Sounds like fun. And the queen's name was Esther? And the king was Ahasuerous?

J: Yeah, that sounds right. And it was fun. (pause) I'm not sure why they were all naked, though.


J: Yeah. None of them were wearing any clothes.

Me: OK, well, Julia, their bodies must have been covered with something.

J: Nope. It's OK, though. I think they were probably about to take a bath.

The conversation ended abruptly there and I was unable to get Julia back to it later. I have to assume that her music teacher did not, in fact, introduce the story of Purim to a roomful of 3 year olds using nude puppets as a visual aid, though I may casually ask her teacher for some clarification at dropoff tomorrow, if only to assuage my own curiosity. I'm dying to know how that one got lost in translation. Or maybe it didn't. Purim's supposed to be the happiest, most entertaining Jewish holiday of the year. Perhaps Miss Janice just took the merrymaking to a whole new level.

Tuesday, February 15, 2005

Maybe I should just pre-pay for Evan's therapy now

I finally made good on my plan to start the "don't offer, don't refuse" approach to daytime nursing yesterday and as predicted, the little bugger didn't even seem to notice. He happily drank his soy milk from a straw cup and even I had to admit that he's (almost) just as cute with soy milk dribbling down his chin as he is when the milk on his chin came from me.

So it's all fine and dandy and relaxed and loving, this weaning stuff, except for one small problem. MY BOOBS ARE KILLING ME. I'm unclear why dropping one nursing session has had such a dramatic effect, but I look as obscenely engorged as I did in the early days of nursing (an E cup chest on a size 6 frame is a bit much, even my husband must admit) and I hurt. A lot. So much so, in fact, that I have caught myself quite a few times in the past 24 hours rubbing a few particularly painful spots to try to work out the knots that I imagine must be forming there. In other words, I'm feeling myself up. All day long. I don't think I've actually done it in public yet, but I'm sure that given enough time, I'm bound to cop a feel in some terribly conspicuous place.

I have officially become the punchline of a very bad joke about how men would behave if they had breasts. And if the Julia letter hooks on his wall aren't enough to send my son into therapy some day, reading about how his mother felt herself up all day long when he was a baby should do the trick quite nicely, thank you.

Monday, February 14, 2005

If my kid ends up in therapy, you can blame Pottery Barn

Evan has lived in this house for just over a year now. We've been calling his bedroom "his" since Julia vacated it two months before his birth. His clothes fill the dresser drawers, his lovey lies waiting for him when he's not in his crib. And yet, hanging on the wall over his changing table, there are still 5 charming letter hooks that spell out the name Julia.

I really did intend to swap the Julia hooks out for Evan ones when he moved into the nursery. But of course as luck would have it, Pottery Barn Kids discontinued the hooks right around the time Evan was born. I searched frantically for several months, haunting eBay and conducting elaborate Internet searches to try to find a similar product. Nada. If I were just looking for a cute way to personalize the room, I could buy regular wall letters without hooks on them, or even replace them with something else entirely. But those hooks are frankly very useful. I have pull toys hanging from two of them which serve as excellent diaper change distractions and a big fabric organizer hanging from another two which holds everything from diaper cream to the bulb syringe snot-sucker to tags that I've yanked off clothing and stashed up there to keep them out of Evan's reach. I've come to depend on those hooks, and I don't want to give them up.

So when it became clear that I wasn't going to be able to find a similar enough replacement, I just kind of left them there. For a while, I told myself that Evan didn't know the difference and it made Julia happy to see her name written places, so everyone was happy and it was no big deal. But lately, every time I walk into Evan's room and glance at those letter hooks, I feel guilty.

I consider the fact that my son slept in a pink sleepsack for the first several months of his life to be an example of thrifty hand-me-down costcutting on my part, and I don't feel the slightest bit guilty that dozens of toys that used to be Julia's have been reintroduced as Evan's. He rides in her old car seat, eats in her old highchair and even chews on her old teethers and I think that's all fine and grand. But the fact that his wall is adorned with his big sister's name in giant white letters, well, that's exactly the kind of thing that's going to land my kid on some therapist's couch some day. And when he calls me to confront me about his latest breakthrough and to tell me that those letters symbolize how he's lived under his sister's shadow all his life, I'm pretty sure that "but where else would I have kept your moccasins and your rectal thermometer?" is not going to be the answer he's looking for.

Sunday, February 13, 2005

Nature seems to have Julia on speed dial these days

Hello, my name is Rebecca and I am raising a public pooper. I realize that I have no right to so much as whisper a word of complaint about this, given how long and hard I worked to potty train Julia, but I'm writing about it anyway because that's what mothers do -- we talk often and inappropriately about our children's elimination habits.

I can't imagine where Julia's need to defecate in public came from (certainly not her mother, who will wait indefinitely for the peace and quiet of her own pot). But show my child a public toilet (the more public, the better), and the first thing she wants to do is poop. There even seems to be a hierarchy to her selections -- a friend's house is fine, a restaurant is better, a crowded Target bathroom where I am struggling to contain Evan and keep Julia from falling in, all without letting any of us touch ANYTHING, ideal.

At first, I thought it was a coincidence. How lovely that she's uninhibited enough to do her business whenever and wherever nature calls, I told myself. But we haven't been anywhere in the past several weeks without Julia leaving a little piece of herself behind. I am now beginning to suspect this is a game, and that my daughter is actually marking her territory around town in a poop parade of sorts.

I imagine (and at this point, after countless hours spent holding my pooping daughter in place on public potties, fervently hope) that the repression that keeps the rest of polite society from pooping in public unless absolutely necessary will eventually take hold of Julia as well. In the meantime, if you smell something foul in the next stall, my apologies -- it's probably us.

Saturday, February 12, 2005

Terms of endearment

Nicknames Paul has given me over the years:
The Honey
TH (a shortened version of The Honey)
T (a shortened version of TH which I put a stop to because he was essentially calling me "the")
Teeopolis Jones (in response to my complaint about the too-short T)
Opolis (because eventually everything gets shortened)
Opo-Honey (we seem to have come back around to the beginning again here)

Nicknames Paul and I have given Julia over the years:
Poopy Pants (a horrified response to those first few diaper changes)
Miss Pants (the shortened version)
Pooh (even shorter version -- and no, we didn't mean the bear)
Dohdie (Julia actually coined this one -- this is how she initially pronounced her name)
Dohd (shortened again...)
Dohdoloopie (and elongated...)
Doodlebug (strange bastardization of Dohd -- as well as the title of a cool Laurie Berkner song)

Nicknames Paul and I have given Evan over the years:
Baby Evan (predictable)
B.E. (equally predictable, once you know our pattern)
Evie (he'll hate me for this one some day)
Eveleh (personalized version of the Yiddish endearment Bubeleh)
Sweet Boy (lame, I know, but the boy is very sweet...)

Nicknames I have given Paul over the years:
oh, there's...
how about Honey? I know I call him Honey sometimes.

It's amazing the guy hasn't sued me for divorce on grounds of neglect. I swear, I really do love him to death. For someone who fancies herself a wordsmith, I'm doing a damn lousy job of showing it, though.

Sorry, Honey. I'll work on it, I promise...

Thursday, February 10, 2005

Pants on fire

Last night, Julia lied to me for the first time -- for the first three times, actually. These first lies, delivered one after another in the span of 10 minutes, were clumsy attempts at subterfuge and entirely transparent. Her poker face was nonetheless a little too impressive, and the whole situation left me completely unnerved as I watched my innocent preschooler morph into a defiant kid before my eyes.

What she said was "yes, I ate a potato" (when she clearly did not eat anything). What I heard was "I finished my homework already." What she said was "I need to be excused because I have to go to the bathroom right now" (after which she was unable to produce even a drop of urine -- nor to conceal her glee at escaping the dinner table). What I heard was "of course Anna's parents will be home." What she said was "Dad said it was OK" (when he clearly had not). What I heard was "yes, Mom, I promise we'll use protection." Completely horrifying. I am so not ready for this new stage, nor for any of the stages that are going to follow.

I've read all of the Parenting magazine articles and the child rearing books. I know that trying out lying is an important stage in a child's cognitive development, that she's demonstrating a mature sense of self and is doing valuable testing of her role in the world. That all sounds fabulous on paper. But in practice, my sweet, well-behaved, barely-3-year-old kid was lying. To me. Are you KIDDING me?

It can't be a coincidence that just hours before Julia's first forays into fibsville, Paul was reading Pinnochio to her for the first time. I guess she must have missed the whole moral of the story and caught only the "little boy tells lies" part. Damn those classics...

Wednesday, February 09, 2005

Is the breast half empty or half full?

It's been asked countless times of me in the past few weeks. "So..." (meaningful pause) "Now that Evan's turning 1, are you going to wean?" I can almost hear the hope in the question -- the underlying note of "you've done a great job here and all, but please tell me you're not going to be one of those people who nurses a 4 year old." Or maybe people are just making conversation (as I myself have been known to do with this topic) and the criticism I hear there is all my own "stuff." Either way, the question puts me a bit on edge every time it's asked of me.

The truth is that I don't fully know what my weaning plan is. I just can't seem to decide whether I view extended nursing as appealing or appalling... in truth, I think it's probably a little bit of both. I still think of Evan as enough of a baby that nursing him doesn't feel weird to me yet, and I love the time I spend nursing him, love sharing that connection with him, and don't really give a damn about how people view that. But I'm also beginning to yearn for a little distance -- I've been trying to conceive, pregnant or nursing for over 4 1/2 years straight now, and the idea of my body being "mine" again definitely holds a certain level of appeal. Intellectually, I think I've done what I set out to do and it's probably time to move on reasonably soon. ("Reasonably soon"... see the hedge there?) But emotionally, I'm having a hard time letting go.

Ultimately, I think the decision whether or not to wean should be Evan's, not mine. If he still needs, or even wants, to nurse, then I see no reason to take that away from him just because an arbitrary date on a calendar says he's "old enough." But if the need and the want are all mine, if he could take or leave the nursing thing and it's really me who's deriving the primary comfort from nursing at this point, well, then I need to get over myself and let it go.

So this week, I dropped a feeding to see how Evan would respond. He had been nursing 4 times a day -- upon waking, after each of his naps and before bed. I dropped the a.m. session (to coincide with dropping the morning nap), added a snack of soy milk and cheerios at about the time he used to nurse, and shifted the afternoon session back a few hours, more for my own comfort than anything else. And wouldn'tcha know it, the kid didn't even seem to notice. He still nurses with enthusiasm when the breast is offered, but he's not looking for it at any other time. In other words, I think he's more ready than I am.

I'd promised myself I'd follow Evan's lead here, so I'm going to keep going and move on to the "don't offer, don't refuse" approach during the day next week. We'll see how that goes and then I'll decide what to do next. I don't know how long this will all take -- if Evan continues to not notice the absence, I'll just keep going, as fast as my physical comfort level and my heart will let me, but if at any point he protests, I'll gladly slow things down for a while. Either way, I guess Evan and I are officially on the road to weaning, though I don't know how long the journey will take.

I still remember the first day that I didn't nurse Julia at all. When she woke up, instead of bringing her into my bed to cuddle and nurse, I took her right donwstairs and handed her a cup of milk. She took it from me, turned around and happily walked away drinking it, leaving me standing there alone and, predictably, in tears. I couldn't decide if I was disappointed not to be needed in that way any more or proud of her independence, but I consoled myself with the knowledge that we were about to start trying for baby #2 and with any luck, I'd be nursing a baby again soon. I don't have that consolation this time -- while I don't know for sure what life will throw my way, the current life plan doesn't include any more babies for me to nurse. And with that in the back of my mind, I know it will be even harder when the day comes that Evan walks away, whether it happens next week, next month or (here comes that hedge again) some time way in the future.

I'm feeling quite a bit fuller this week as a result of dropping that nursing session, though I know that sensation will pass pretty soon. At the same time, I'm feeling a little bit emptier, thinking about what comes next, and I have the feeling that sensation won't pass as quickly. I guess my body's just as conflicted as my mind on this one. I suspect that it will always be one of my proudest accomplishments as a mother that neither of my children ever even tasted formula, that I nourished their bodies along with their hearts for the first year of their lives. But I also know that the desire to give my children the best won't end when I finally hang up my nursing bras. I'll be a better mom for following my son's heart than my own on this one. And so that's what I'm going to do, even if it hurts.

Tuesday, February 08, 2005

The mind of a 3 year-old

Snippets of Julia this week:

"OK, fine, I'll come with you. But after we go upstairs, I have to come right back down and nurse this sheep."

"Can you explain to me why I don't fart more?"

"Know why a hundred is my favorite number? Because it starts with an H and H is for hat and I love hats."

"I've been carrying all this STUFF and boy, are my arms HEAVY."

"Wait, Cinderella had a prince too?"

Using the blog as a baby book again

Since I can't remember what I did yesterday, let alone what my kids were doing last week, last month or last year at this time, I figured I should take a moment to remember Evan as he is right now, just after turning 1.

What he's doing:
crawling, pulling up, cruising, climbing stairs, walking with a push toy or an adult's hands
standing independently for 5-15 seconds and working hard to improve this skill
nowhere near close to walking, as far as I can tell -- still unsteady and unsure on his feet

What he's saying:
Cat ("AT!")
Banana ("nana")
Achoo ("Aaa... DO!")
All done (this one I'm unsure of, but it sure sounds like "all done," and he's using it at the end of a meal, so I'll give him the benefit of the doubt)

What he loves:
Sesame Street (especially Elmo)
throwing toys and chasing them down
eating the cat food (strange child)
copying Julia
the spotlight

What he hates:
his winter coat
getting strapped into the car
playing independently when Mommy & Daddy are getting ready in the morning (odd, since he's great on his own the rest of the day)
having his face wiped after meals

Favorite toys:
Julia's tea set (mainly for the sound it makes when tossed on the tile floor)
shape sorters
Little People circus train

Favorite books:
Goodnight Moon
Mr. Brown Can Moo, Can You?
Elmo's Balls Book (lift the flaps)

Favorite foods:
scrambled egg yolks with cheese (hates the whites)
french toast

In re-reading these lists, I'm realizing I've probably described about half of the 1-year-olds in America right now. So much for my unique child. Someone ought to publish a baby book with generic answers already filled in for those of us Mommies who are too lazy to keep our own. It's not like any of us -- or our children -- will remember enough to contradict what's written in the book anyway...

Saturday, February 05, 2005

Happy birthday, Evan

Dear Evan,

A year ago today, I saw two things for the first time. One of those things was you, just seconds old and gazing at me with the most placid expression I'd ever seen on a baby. And the other thing was your Daddy's eyes, welling up with tears for the first time that I can remember in the 10 years I've known him.

It's entirely possible that he cried when Julia was born, too. I was so overwhelmed by her birth that I don't even remember who told me that she was a girl, let alone what the expression on your father's face was. But on the day you were born, I knew enough to watch and listen and savor every memory. And I know I'll never forget your Daddy's tears, or his words to me as we welcomed you into our family -- "I forgot how miraculous it all is."

I had worried before you were born, as I imagine all second time mothers do, that I had already seen it all, that the magic and mystery that make parenting so all-encompassing the first time around wouldn't be there this time, that it would all just be old hat to us. I'm delighted to report that I could not have been more wrong. From your first laugh (at 2 months, in the midst of bronchiolitis, no less) to your first bite of solid food (at 5 1/2 months, when I knew you were ready because you started watching intently as Julia ate and giggling hysterically every time she put a bite in her mouth), every single one of your milestones has felt just as miraculous to me as if I'd never seen anything like it before. I've celebrated every inch you've moved, every tooth you've sprouted, every poop you've created (OK, maybe not so much the poops) with boundless joy, not because I didn't know those things were coming, but because they came from you.

You are the very best of me and the very best of your father, all in one package that is uniquely you. I consider it one of life's greatest miracles that the exact same thing could be said about your sister, and yet the two of you are absolutely nothing alike. This time, the gene pool mixed us up about the happiest baby I've ever seen, with a devilish grin, a heartmelting smile and a wicked sense of humor. You charm the pants off everyone from the old men in the grocery store (old ladies are such easy prey, they're not even worth mentioning) to the 3 year olds who come to our house to play with Julia but end up playing with you instead because you're just so much fun. You entertain yourself, you entertain the people around you and you make life a little more fun when you're in the room. You're damn cute, too, by the way, but I'm not sure I'm supposed to say that since I'm your mother. I think I'm supposed to just smile and look a little surprised and a little grateful when people tell me that. They do, all the time, but I still haven't perfected the response, I'm afraid. I'm so used to explaining away your sister's constant scowl that I have no idea how to handle praise for your abounding charm.

I have a little confession to make, though I don't imagine it will come as much of a surprise given the last paragraph. I've got quite a crush on you right now. When you smile at me, or wrap your arms tightly around me and plant a big wet kiss on my cheek, or nuzzle into my shoulder with a sigh, or giggle as you play with your toys, or grin as you tease your sister, or shovel astounding amounts of food into your mouth and then applaud when you're done with your meal, or really, do just about anything at all, I think my heart is going to explode with how much love I have for you. Yep, I'm 100% infatuated with you at the moment. And if you stay as cute and as funny and as good natured as you are right now, I have the feeling I'm the first of many women to feel that way about you in your lifetime. (Just remember, you heard it from me first, kid.)

I've been a weepy fool as your first birthday approached, thinking about how fast the year has gone and mourning the loss of your babyhood. Every time I nurse you now, I struggle to arrange us so that we both fit on the glider and my eyes fill with tears as I envision that little swaddled body I supported so easily with just one arm. Yesterday, I turned around and saw you standing at the little blue table in the kitchen playing with Julia's tea set (it's your favorite toy right now, but the way you use it -- tossing the pieces on the tile floor one by one to hear the sound they make -- is a decidedly masculine take on such a feminine plaything) and I almost did a double take at the little boy standing there. You looked so self assured and content and absorbed in your game -- not just physically, but mentally a child rather than a baby, that I had to blink away tears for a moment. I watched you for a second, picturing the little baby you were a year ago and trying to find a bit of that infant in the boy you've become. The transformation has been, as your father said last year at this time, miraculous. I knew that it would be, of course. I just kind of forgot how great it would feel to see it happen before my eyes and to feel, all over again, consumed by the joy and the awe of my baby's first year.

Happy first birthday, Evan. Thank you for a year that I hope I'll never forget.


Friday, February 04, 2005

A reason not to procreate again

During the long runny-nosed months of winter, I always keep a tissue for Evan in my left pocket and a tissue for Julia in my right pocket. I re-use them as needed throughout the day until they get too gross, at which point I replace them for clean ones and start the process over again (and again and again and again... I'm so done with this winter thing).

It occured to me today that I can't imagine where I'd stash a third tissue, and two in one pocket would result in some pretty nasty snot-swapping. If I was looking for a sign that I shouldn't have any more kids, I think I just found it -- right here in my pocket.

Thursday, February 03, 2005

My bad

She said it. So clearly I couldn't possibly have missed it. "I want to go home now."

And I ignored her need, encouraging her to have a little more fun with her friends before we left. Not because I didn't think she probably needed to go home then, but because Evan was still having fun. I was still having fun. I'd already shelled out the money for us to be there in the first place. How much could a few more minutes hurt?

Quite a bit, clearly. I deserved every bit of the hysterical earful I got on the way home, every single wail and every bit of her accusatory whining. "I said I wanted to go home. It was too much for me. I just need some time alone. Why didn't you LISTEN to me?"

I'm so sorry, Julia. Next time, I promise I'll listen.