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

Tuesday, February 28, 2006

The real value of old family movies

What I remembered: Sentences more than eight words long. Near-perfect grammar and syntax. A vocabulary that would be astounding for a child double her age.

What I had completely forgotten: Pronunciation that was so difficult to understand that I needed to translate those wonderful, complex sentences for other people more often than not.

When I studiously avoid comparing my children obsess about the differences between my kids' development, verbal ability is always at the top of the list of things that I clearly have no business comparing. Julia was an incredibly verbal 2 year old. Evan? Is a boy. A different child. Has his own set of talents and abilities worth mentioning. Comparing the two does me no good, and it's not fair to them either. But what can I say? I'm human... and it's hard to forget. Or so I thought.

Last weekend, we watched old video of Julia just after she turned 2. Her sentences were every bit as impressive as I had remembered; that part of my memory had served me correctly. And yet, watching and listening two years later, we really had to struggle to understand them. It turns out that her articulation was scarcely better than Evan's at this age. And I had completely forgotten that.

Comparing my kids is never, ever fair to Evan, not when I'm comparing his current reality with a hazy memory of Julia. But comparing them side by side at the same developmental stage? Sometimes a little perspective is a very good thing.

Friday, February 24, 2006

Teachable moments

Evan: Oooh! A guck!

Julia: Yes, Evan. That's a truck.

Evan: Yeah. Oooh! Another guck!

Julia: Uh, no Evan. That's a school bus.

Evan: Oh. Oooh! A guck!

Julia: No, no, Evan. That's a minivan, not a truck. Here, I'm going to teach you a new word. It's transfortation. All of those things -- trucks and buses and minivans -- are kinds or transfortation. So are boats and cars and airplanes, so it's a great word for you. Here... I'll teach you how to say it. Trans - For - Ta -Tion. Can you say that?

Me: Uh, Julia? It's actually transPORtation. With a P, not an F.

Julia: Whatever.

Evan (pointing at a school bus): Oooh... another guck! Hi guck!

So much for teachable moments.

Thursday, February 23, 2006

I have 11 more months to go before all hell breaks loose, but I'm not going to think about that now

When Julia was two, we taught her to say "terrible two" whenever anyone would ask her how old she was. It always made people laugh, but most of them never got the real joke, which was that in truth, there was nothing whatsoever that was terrible about Julia at two. Julia at two was a sponge, and her delight in learning about the world around her was contagious. She was funny and good natured and genuinely interested in virtually everything. She made sharp and witty observations and asked great questions and was generally very good company. While she admittedly had her moments, they were for the most part few and far between. The pleasure I found in parenting a two year old was an unexpected surprise given all of the terrible things I'd heard (and, in some cases, witnessed) about two year olds, but two ended up being my very favorite year to date.

Lest I come off as some sort of Polyanna Mommy here, I feel duty bound to point out that large portions of the year that Julia was three were truly hellacious. I am the first to admit that my daughter can do plenty wrong, and she did more than her share of wrong at the age of three. I was not always a big fan of three. I should also add here that I remain unconvinced that four is going to be much better, as it seems to be shaping up to be a mouthy, balktalking version of three, which I am somewhat less than thrilled about. But two? Two I loved.

I was pretty sure that Julia's twos had to be a fluke and I waited the way you wait for the guy in the ski mask to jump out in horror movies for Evan's twos to begin. "He's a boy," I just kept telling myself as I prepared for the inevitable. "Two and boy are not such a good mix. I just need to be prepared for that." I watched and I waited and I held my breath. And now, nearly a month after Evan's second birthday, two has arrived with a flourish.

I know that two has arrived because I ask my son where something is and he answers "behind you." Such a simple response, really. Look behind you. I don't even think twice about exchanges like this any more. But I should. Because after two years of struggling to deduce what my pre-verbal child was trying to communicate, I'm suddenly having two way conversation that are both clear and useful to me every day. And better yet, I'm starting to take them for granted.

I know that two has arrived because Evan sees the letter A in the way the yellow lines are painted in the parking lot or an E on a street sign and he screams "Oooh... A!" or "Mommy... E!" with the kind of delight usually reserved for life's greatest moments. Spotting letters is a joyous game. Counting the cars in front of us at a stop light is the. most. fun. ever. And did you know that the sky is big? Evan tells me so every single day, and each and every time he says it, I can tell that he is truly amazed.

I know that two has arrived because I hear portions of the books we read together quoted verbatim as Evan plays quietly by himself. It's not the word-for-word start-to-finish rendition of Corduroy I used to get from Julia just yet, but Evan's version of Go, Dog, Go shows that he's not just passively listening any more; he's processing what he hears and thinking about it later. As a bonus, it's grand entertainment for anyone in earshot. "Heyo. Heyo. 'At? I do NOT. Buh bye. Buh bye."

I know that two has arrived because the testing has begun. I put grapes out on the table for each of us and Evan gestures toward mine and asks "mine too?" I shake my head and he asks again, more insistantly. This could turn into a battle, but for some reason it never does. When I laugh and tell him no, that we each have our own, he cheerfully accepts that. He's equally accepting (albeit eventually) of a time out or a request that he share a toy with a friend. At two, adults are still in charge and my word is still golden. (Perhaps this is the true secret to my love of two?)

I know that two has arrived because the tantrums are here; hugely dramatic shows of tears and flailing arms and legs and much wailing. But they are over as soon as they start; I sit down with a puzzle or a matchbox car and he is at my side instantly, desperate to get in on the action. Two, I'm suddenly remembering, is usually still distractable if I'm creative enough.

I know that two is here because I am having more fun with my son than ever before. He is at an age of discovery and growth that I find exciting and exhilarating, and watching him grow into himself is blowing me away. Forget the newborn snuggles and the long, peaceful nursing sessions. Forget the first steps and the first solids and really, the first anything. Forget all that I know lies ahead, even the stuff that I know is going to be really great. This, right here, right now -- the joy and the learning and the communicating and even the testing -- this is the best that parenting has had to offer me. Julia wasn't a fluke after all. Two is quite simply my favorite year. And I have eleven glorious months of it left.

Wednesday, February 22, 2006

The sign that says 25 mph

It's a straight shot from the center of town to my neighborhood; one and a half miles straight down a street that never so much as curves. The speed limit is 25.

I didn't even realize that the speed limit on that street was 25 until I'd lived off of it for over a year. I was pulled over one night on my way home from work, and I honestly couldn't figure out why. I had been going somewhere around 30-35, which seemed about right for a reasonably main artery in a suburban area. When the police officer told me that the speed limit was 25, I was genuinely shocked. "I never would have guessed that," I told her without a hint of artifice. "Is it posted anywhere?" Wordlessly, she turned to shine her flashlight on the sign standing almost directly across the road from where she'd pulled me over. 25. I don't know when I've ever felt stupider. "Don't worry," she laughed as I turned six shades of red. "You won't forget again." She sent me on my way without a ticket, and I vowed to keep to the speed limit from that day forward.

I really did try. I really do continue to try. I think about the speed limit each and every time I drive on that road (which, since it is the only route out of my neighborhood, I do multiple times each day). I want people to drive slowly past my house, and I owe it to my neighbors to do the same. It's socially responsible to keep our streets and our children safe by driving slowly. I really and truly do believe this. But have you ever tried to go 25 miles an hour down a straight road for over a mile? I. simply. cannot. do. it. Even when I do my very, very best to crawl down that road at a sedate pace, somewhere along the way, I look down at my speedometer and realize that I am well into the 30s. If the road turned somewhere or had a stop sign or something, I tell myself, then I would be able to slow down. If you left the house earlier and weren't always in such a rush, the nagging little voice in the back of my head replies, then you would be able to slow down. Both are valid points. But regardless of the real reason for my lead foot, it is clearly just not in my nature to drive 25 for any extended length of time. I almost never manage to do it for more than a block or two.

Yesterday, I actually did slow down to 25 on my way down that street, however. The bright lights of an ambulance, a fire truck and several police cars had caught Evan's attention and I eased off the gas a bit to let him admire all of those rescue vehicles (and, truth be told, to do a little bit of rubber necking myself). And there, on the lawn of a red house less than a quarter mile from my own, was a crumpled mini van. A white sheeted body was being carried into the waiting ambulance as we passed. "How could that have even happened there?" Paul asked me when I described the scene to him later. "Probably someone just going too fast," I mumbled guiltily.

I slowed down again when I passed that red house again today, remembering the scene from the day before. There's time to notice details around you when you're only going 25, and I couldn't miss the fact that the tree standing in that front yard is now damaged and deeply scarred from yesterday's impact. I knew in that moment that this tree was going to do a far better job of reminding me to keep my speed down than the sign that a police officer had highlighted for me five years ago ever has.

"Are we ever going to get home?" Julia whined as we obeyed the speed limit and slowly crawled toward our block. "Why are we going so slow?" I smiled as I kept an eye on my speedometer. 25 mph is just too damn slow for a street like that one; even my 4 year old can recognize that. But if driving 25 is going to keep my car from ending up on someone's front lawn, then I'm going to redouble my efforts to make sure that's just what I do.

Tuesday, February 21, 2006

Breaking up is hard to do

It's not you, it's me.

I hope that we can still be friends.

Maybe if we take a break for a while, we'll be able to salvage this.

Please don't take this personally.

It's all coming back to me now... that sickening pit-in-your-stomach feeling, the inability to focus on normal conversation as I thought about the task at hand. How would I word it? What would the response be? Would I feel relieved or just sad when it was all over?

I thought that I was done with that nonsense forever when Paul and I said "til death do we part." But today, for the first time in over 10 years, I'm going to be mumbling those horrible platitudes again. This time, I'm not walking away from a romance gone wrong. This time, I'm saying goodbye to one of the greatest support systems I've had as a parent.

We made it through all of the firsts and quite a few seconds and beyond. As other playgroups around us fell apart, we simply made a few adjustments to accomodate for preschool and kept right on meeting. "What," we wondered smugly, "would ever cause us to split up?" The answer, I'm afraid, is my children.

When your children are very young, you pick their friends, based solely on how interested you are in sharing playroom space with their parents on a regular basis. Whether the moms share a similar outlook on sharing and sugary snacks matters far more than how compatible their children are, especially when said children are so young that the most interacting they do is blowing each other an occasional raspberry. But it's a funny thing about kids. They grow up. And they eventually form their own opinions.

Both of my kids hate playgroup. We meet at an hour of the day when my kids just want to unwind and realx. They might be able to overcome the late hour for the right group of kids, but ever since their closest friends in the group moved away last summer, this is just not the right group of kids for them. All of the other kids are lovely. But they are very, very different from my kids, and my kids know it. They just can't seem to find any common ground. And so every week, instead of happily playing with their peers, they both sit at my side, stuffing as many snacks in their mouths as they can and begging to go home.

I've been telling myself for months that it doesn't matter how much they like these kids, that I am entitled to an hour or two of adult interaction a week. But in truth, I'm not really getting the kind of interaction I had hoped for when I'm bargaining with my kids for five more minutes of time with my friends (irony, sweet irony). And I'm paying for those five minutes all evening long, since my kids are bears every Tuesday evening from the moment I finally acquiesce and take them home until the moment I pour them into bed. Neither eats any dinner after all of the snacks they consumed. They both whine and cling to me and whine and whine some more. Playgroup days, I finally have to admit to myself, are just. no. longer. fun.

Without me, there will be three families left; barely enough to keep a playgroup going. I know that I have more social outlets than the other three mommies, all of whom still appear to look anxiously forward to Tuesdays each week. Even though they've all watched my kids sit on the sidelines for months now, I know that this is going to throw them. They have been my friends long enough that I know exactly how the discussion will go next week when I am gone. I know who will want to dissect my departure and analyze whether I like them any more. I know who will defend me to the death. And most of all, I know they'll all be hurt.

Sometimes people just grow apart.

The irony here is that my friends and I aren't the ones who've grown apart; our kids have. I hope they'll understand that. Perhaps the playgroup will have new life as a dining club in the evenings after our kids are tucked in bed. Perhaps not. But either way, this is the end of an era. My very own Mommy ministone. And unlike my kids' ministones, it doesn't feel bittersweet. It just feels sad.

UPDATE: I chickened out. Still committed. And both of my kids are, as usual, a whiny mess. Did I mention that I was never very good at this breakup thing?

Thursday, February 16, 2006

Occasionally, I wish that I had a slightly less clever child

We are in the car. Julia and Evan are playing a 'Freeze and Go' game which involves violently kicking the seats in front of them until Julia yells "stop." She doesn't seem to be yelling "stop" too often. I am tired of asking her to stop kicking me, and my voice is beginning to get that edge which signifies that I am close to losing my temper. I desperately don't want to lose my temper.

Finally, I suggest a different game. "Why don't you sing 'If You're Happy and You Know It' for Evan and have him do lots of silly things?" Julia loves the idea. Soon, the car is filled with the sound of both of my children shouting "hooray!" There is no more kicking. I am clearly a brilliant parent.

And then Julia begins the second verse. "If you're happy and you know it, kick your feet," she croons with glee. My back is once again pummeled.

I know when I've been bested. With good humor, I acknowledge what a good idea the kicking verse was. "And now there will be no more kicking," I tell her. She agrees. There is a short pause while she thinks of another verse. As soon as she starts to sing, I hear the tone of mischief in her voice and know that I am screwed.

"If you're happy and you know it, hop on one foot," Julia sings as her foot shoots out into the back of my seat again. I would kick myself for missing this obvious loophole, but my daughter is already doing it for me.

Wednesday, February 15, 2006

A good sport

Paul's tutelage has finally paid off. After months of encouragement and near-constant exposure, Evan has identified "ockey" as his favorite sport. He'll stop everything to watch if a hockey game is on TV, and the rest of the time, he runs around hitting balls with the little hockey stick Paul gave him and screaming "YAY ockey!!!"

As a lifelong hockey fan, Paul is over the moon at the prospect of sharing the joys of his favorite sport with his son, and I'm sure that he can't wait to get him out there with a stick and puck. I keep looking at my teeny tiny 10th percentile son and wondering how in hell he's ever going to be hold his own on a hockey rink. But it occurred to me today that as the only 2 year old I know with only 10 teeth in his mouth, perhaps Evan was born to play hockey. He doesn't have much to lose, that's for sure.

Tuesday, February 14, 2006

And they all lived happily ever after

The feud is over. Julia received not one but two valentines from her best friend today; one in her school mailbox and another through the U.S. Mail. Said friend was waiting anxiously at the classroom door for Julia to arrive this morning and cheerfully led her into the classroom chattering as if nothing had ever come between them. Julia never even looked back to say goodbye to me.

"Did you talk about what happened or did you just move past it," I asked curiously after I picked Julia up at the end of the school day. "Oh, we just got past it," she replied. "And do you want to know the best part? I sat with B and my new friends at circle time today. We all played together."

Perhaps I needn't worry about my daughter's social future quite so much after all.

Monday, February 13, 2006

A guilty pleasure

My teenage sitter generally comes over one or two afternoons a week for an hour so that I can go work out. The timing is not ideal; an hour is is scarcely enough time for me to race out and barely break a sweat before I have to race back and send her on her merry way. I'd love to have her here a bit longer, but she's a serious student and is not willing to give up more than an hour of her time on a school day. I'll take what I can get. As rushed as I always feel when she's on the clock, the $8 an hour I pay my sitter for a quick workout is money well spent.

Despite the very obvious fact that the snow had stopped falling a good 15 hours before school was scheduled to begin, school was canceled town-wide today. Our streets are still a bit iffy, I'm told, but I wouldn't really know. I haven't ventured out. It's cold and Evan's breathing is still not 100% and so we occupied ourselves here at home all day. Keeping my kids happy while cooped up at home for the third day in a row proved more of a workout than anything I might do at a gym. And so when my sitter arrived at 4:30 as previously scheduled, I bid my children a fond farewell and headed upstairs. I did not go to work out. I am not doing any errands in lieu of exercise. I am not even taking care of any household chores. After a day spent locked in the house with two small children who have already been here for several days -- a day of markers and glitter glue and jumpolene jumping and board games and puzzles and cars and trucks and balls and dress up clothes and and snow equipment on and off -- I am sitting and goofing off. For a whole hour. By myself.

Exercise be damned. This may well be the best $8 I have ever spent in my life.

Thursday, February 09, 2006

Tripping on Orapred

I'd like to chalk this one up to lack of sleep, but all of the excuses in the world wouldn't begin to make me look anything other than crazy here. I actually just caught myself trying to coerce Evan to take his oral steroids by saying "Come on, honey. It'll be fun. You'll get high."

This will probably dispel any illusions about my superior parenting skills quite efficiently. With a mother like me, who needs drug dealers? I guess I'm just a better mother at 4 a.m. than at 6 p.m.

My dream job

Evan had his second asthma attack in as many weeks yesterday evening. Still no asthma diagnosis (I'm a little unclear exactly one has to do to get an asthma diagnosis if 2 incidents in 2 weeks don't do the trick), but the pediatrician who saw him last night and again today said that she suspects we'll be spending a good deal of time bonding with the nebulizer this winter, diagnosis or no diagnosis.

We managed to stay out of the hospital this time by waking every 3 hours throughout the night to give Evan breathing treatments. The fact that we all got to go home to our own beds was good news, but the plan to keep us there was somewhat less than ideal for me. I just don't do the night time waking thing well. Even when my children were infants, I would wake up only long enough to scoop them into bed with me, offer up the goods and fall fast asleep as they sucked away. Had I been able to do the same thing now, I gladly would have. Unfortunately, I could not figure out a way to get my body to emit albuterol the way it used to emit breast milk. And so I found myself standing over Evan's crib at 4 a.m. last night, waving a nebulizer wand in his face and trying to will the medicine to flow out faster so that I could get back to bed where I belonged.

A nebulizer apparently works at only one speed no matter how tired its operator, and so my mind had plenty of time to wander as the machine slowly worked its magic. I found myself thinking of a conversation that I'd had with Evan's pediatrician after the first asthma incident. "We usually hospitalize kids if they need treatments less than 3 hours apart because it's just too much to ask the parents to do," she'd told me. "That's not your job." I'd been surprised at her choice of words. "It's all my job," I had replied without thinking. "I'm his mother."

My words had been automatic in the light of day, but as I recalled them in the darkness of night, they somehow seemed far more profound than they actually had been. After a lifetime of dreaming of motherhood and four years of struggling with the highs and lows of realizing that dream, here it was at its most basic. My child was sick. I held the power in my hands to make him better. It was honestly my pleasure to stand there and help him, I realized; sleep or no sleep. And furthermore, it was my job.

I stood there for what seemed like forever, listening to the hiss of the nebulizer and smiling at the sight of my sleeping son as I proudly did my job as his mother. And then when the machine sputtered dry, I kissed him on the forehead and I crept back to bed.

Wednesday, February 08, 2006

Days of Our Preschoolers' Lives

It is now Day 3 of The Big Fight. "We didn't work it out today," Julia reported glumly as we pulled out of the preschool parking lot after school.

Julia has been incredibly needy since the Fight Which Is Important Enought To Be Capitalized began, and all of her neediness seems to be directed at me. "I never get to spend any time with you any more," the child who used to shove me aside to get to the next play date wailed this morning as she was getting dressed for school. In the past several hours alone, I have been called upon to read, paint finger nails, participate in easel artwork and play more games of Spinning Wishes than any adult should ever be subjected to. It is all far more togetherness than I really need just lovely to have this opportunity to bond with my little girl.

On the flip side, my phone rang at quarter of 9 this morning as I was trying to usher the kids out the door to get to school. It was the mother of a classmate whom Julia has up until now declined to play with, but whose name I've been hearing increasingly over the past few days. Apparently, her child could not wait another minute to get a play date with Julia penciled in on the calendar. The mother was very apologetic about all of the rush, rush, but would next Wednesday be good for Julia?

Somehow, I think that this is all going to turn out OK, one way or the other.

Tuesday, February 07, 2006

As the playground turns

The good news is that all of our heart to hearts about being friendly with everyone are working. Julia's teacher confirms that the stories that Julia's been telling me about playing with all of the children in her class, not just her best friends, are true. "She's branching out beautifully. It's really nice to see," I was told at pick up time today. I'm suddenly hearing names I haven't heard before; Julia's building castles with Abby and running around outside with Morgan and sharing secrets with Alexis. I'm so proud of her (and not in the least bit smug to discover that -- for the time being, at least -- I still have a bit of an impact on my child's behavior).

The flip side to all of this social maturity, however, is Julia's first fallout with a good friend. Her best friend was apparently a bit taken aback by Julia's outreach efforts and told Julia that she really didn't want her playing with anyone else. Julia, God bless her, said that she couldn't do that but she would love it if they could all play together. The answer? "Well, then you're no longer my friend. And you're not invited to my birthday party, either."

Julia doesn't quite seem to get this kind of behavior ("I think she must have been joking," she told me with a slightly quivering lip) but it's all too familiar to me. Julia's doing the right thing here, but it's possible that she'll end up paying a high price for doing so. And as proud as I am of my daughter, the prospect of her closest friendship splitting up over something that I urged her to do breaks my heart a little bit.

I've always said that I would never relive those years of catty girl fights again for anything. But it's suddenly becoming clear to me that as the mother of a girl, I'm going to spend the next 15 or so years reliving them through my daughter whether I like it or not. This is Julia's life and it's not my place to get involved or invested. But the sinking feeling in my heart as Julia relayed the events of the day for me confirmed that I'm going to feel hurt right along with her all the same.

Monday, February 06, 2006

The peacock on her shoulder

Julia's teacher laughed when we came to the "exhibits self control" checkbox on the evaluation form she shared with me at our parent/teacher conference last week. "I've never seen a kid with so much self control," she told me. I knew immediately that I had Gofo to thank.

Gofo is Julia's imaginary friend. I can't recall exactly when he came on the scene, but he's been around for long enough that he's a permanent fixture in our lives. I've heard of kids who set places for their imaginary friends at the table or buckle them into the car, but Gofo doesn't merit that kind of treatment around here. We mainly know that Gofo is in the room when Julia begins telling him off.

Julia's never seen the old devil on your shoulder routine, but she's somehow managed to mimic it quite precisely in her dealings with Gofo. The naughty Gofo, she tells us, is a peacock who wants to make her do things that she knows she shouldn't do. All through 'quiet time' and periodically at other points in the day, he urges her to do things that he knows are wrong. Julia never obliges him. Instead, she lectures him aloud about why his suggestions would be inappropriate. "No, Gofo, I am NOT going to jump on my bed. We're not allowed to do that here," I'll hear her say when she's up in her room. "Gofo! I can't yell right now or I'll wake Evan up," she'll whisper as she passes his door while he's napping. Sometimes, she'll do both voices and we'll hear all of the ways that Gofo tries to coerce her into misbehavior. In the end, she always puts him in his place.

To listen to Julia's Gofo monologues is to quite literally track all of her impulses and her efforts to contain them. I can never quite decide how I feel about Gofo; Julia's conversations with him are almost eerie at times, but at the same time, I'm amazed by this textbook look at how my child is learning self control. Julia's ongoing discussions with Gofo are amusing to follow, but they're also a fascinating glimpse inside her mind. Like all kids, Julia struggles to be good, and Gofo is the way she gives voice to that struggle. Ironically, when she does misbehave, Gofo is curiously absent from the scene, making me far more enthusiastic about having Gofo around than I might otherwise be.

It sounds so bizarre written down this way; my daughter is frequently bossed around by a subversive peacock. And yet, there's something so sweet and innocent about a child who can talk openly -- if allegorically -- about how hard it is to be good sometimes. I presume that at some point, Julia will no longer need to give voice to her internal struggles to behave and Gofo will go the way of all imaginary friends. When that happens, I suspect I'll start setting a place for him at the table and inviting him to stay a while longer. I mean, come on... what's not to love about a naughty peacock?

Sunday, February 05, 2006

Happy 2nd birthday, Evan

Dear Evan,

Up until a few months ago, you would only refer to yourself as Baby. You had names for everyone else in your life, but you showed no interest whatsoever in voicing your own. "Baby," you'd say proudly when people asked your name. And then, as insistent as you'd been about the Baby thing, one day it was just gone. "No Baby," you told me, shaking your head dramatically. "Dehduh." Your articulation's still not quite up to par, but your intent was unmistakable as you thumped yourself emphatically on the chest. I'm not a baby. I'm Evan. No kidding.

You're not a baby. You're Evan. And today, you are 2. In the past several weeks, multiple people have asked me if you've had a growth spurt or a language explosion or a haircut or something. I don't know that you've had any of those things, and yet, somehow I understand why they're asking. It's as if overnight the last of the baby in you is gone, replaced by a confidence and a swagger (and alas, a temperament) which is 100% toddler.

You're not a baby. You're Evan. You give fierce hugs and open mouthed kisses that melt my heart. You sit for hours on the floor assembling puzzles (which you call "yays" because we all say "yay!" when you complete one), but when you're finished, you have to run around the house screaming a few times to burn off some energy. You have an obsession with all things Sesame Street which borders on the extreme. You fling your plate off the table when you don't want any more to eat (still working on that one). You've got basic skills like letters and numbers down cold, but have no concept of color whatsoever. You kiss characters in books to show that you've enjoyed a story. You like to throw yourself on top of people who are lying on the ground in a dive bomb move which looks pretty darn scary to me but cracks you up to no end. You flirt shamelessly with all of Julia's friends. Your "sucking fingers" are always in your mouth. Your articulation is appalling, but your determination to fix your errors and make yourself understood is sweetly admirable. You are a gentle boy and at the same time, you are all boy. Other kids love you. Adults love you. And I love you most of all. My crush on you only deepens with time, it seems, because I am completely besotted. I know that less desirable stages lie ahead. But for now, for today, I'm busy just soaking up the joy that is you on the cusp of two.

You're not a baby. You're Evan. And yet, sometimes, if I catch you in the right mood and ask if you're a baby or a big boy, you'll smile sweetly at me and say "Dehduh. Mommy baby." I'm Evan. Mommy's baby. Damn straight, kiddo.

Happy birthday, baby. I love you.


Friday, February 03, 2006


I tried desperately to convince my OB to schedule Evan's induction on February 3. Great people were born on February 3, among them my grandmother, my childhood best friend and Elmo. It would be so cool, I thought, to share a birthday with your great grandmother and Elmo.

Alas, my OB refused my requests. Apparently he felt that lung development trumped sentimentality or something silly like that, because he waited for me to hit 38 1/2 weeks and scheduled the induction for the 5th instead. Thus, I cannot wish my son a happy birthday for another 48 hours. But Elmo, buddy, many happy returns of the day to you. And Nana and Eden, party on.

Two notes on the birthday thing, since my OB inadvertently saved me from the time consuming task of writing a sentimental birthday letter to Evan today:

1) Elmo is, according to all reports, perpetually 3 1/2. How can someone -- even a puppet -- be 3 1/2 on his actual birthday? I have spent far more time puzzling over this one than I should really be willing to publicly admit.

2) Evan insists that he's turning 9 on Sunday. "You'll be 2 soon," we've all been telling him for the past few days. Each time, he corrects us. "No, no, no," he instantly replies, giggling. "Nine!" What is it with my children and wishing their childhoods away?

Thursday, February 02, 2006

Shave and a haircut, whose bits?

I had a long overdue appointment for a hair cut and color today. As I sat in the chair watching my shiny locks fall into place, I wondered why in the world I had waited so long to take care of myself in this basic way. And then I got to the register and I remembered why I hate to go to the salon: the tip decision.

My appointments are always scheduled with Michelle, my regular stylist. She greets me, discusses color options and then mixes up whatever we've agreed upon. Then I'm handed off to an assistant, who applies my color, sets me up under the dryer and rinses the whole mess out at the end. After my color is complete, it's back to Michelle for the cut and style.

The bill at the end is $120 -- $55 for the cut and $65 for the color. And after I've paid it, I always stand there awkwardly shuffling dollar bills in my hands for what seems like the longest time. I just can't figure out how it's all supposed to divvy up. Michelle's the expert and I'm her client. I want to keep her happy so that she keeps me happy (you don't mess with the woman who mixes your color and wields the scissors). But truth be told, her assistant's doing about half the work. So who gets the cash?

I always walk out of that place feeling like I've probably stiffed one or both service providers, which certainly isn't my intention. But doubling the cost of my service with tip money to show equal appreciation to everyone is not so appealing either downright ridiculous. Any tip etiquette experts out there? Someone please rescue me from my compensatory cluelessness!

Wednesday, February 01, 2006

Girls will be girls

Julia's teacher describes her class this year as "cliquey." She says that these are not the nasty kind of cliques -- the kids just seem to naturally pair off into close friendships. It sounds innocuous the way she describes it, but I suspect that she's sugar coating things a bit. I know that Julia and her best friend are particularly tight. Other mothers have told me on more than one occasion that their kids have felt left out because the two girls are such a formidable team. Deliberate or not, I often worry that my kid might be hurting other kids' feelings. Up until now, I've managed to convince myself that these actions weren't intentional or malicious, that at just 4, these kids couldn't possibly be old enough or mature enough to leave each other out on purpose. Now I'm less sure.

Julia had a playdate yesterday with R, a "2nd tier" school friend. Julia and B are best friends. R and A are best friends. The 4 girls all play together and are their own exclusive foursome a lot of the time, but this is the first time that Julia and R have played alone. I was frankly glad when Julia asked for the playdate; I love B and the girls are great together, but it's nice to see Julia spread her wings and expand her friendship circle a bit.

Julia and R were together in the kitchen working on an art project and I could hear them talking from the other room. They were decorating a jewelry box together, a process which involved much deliberation and discussion even if the end result looked pretty darn random. "The next time I come over, this will be yours and mine again, right?" R asked Julia, and Julia assured her that it would. "OK," R continued. "But if B comes over to your house, she isn't allowed to play with it. Ever. It's just ours." I could hear the confusion, and then the growing confidence in Julia's voice as she agreed.

Yikes. If this is 4, what's 14 going to be like?