Singing Our Way into Fall – Months 46/47

27 Sep
I think it is imperative as your parent to make sure you have a well rounded musical education. When you were very young, we were told that we would have to resign ourselves to the Disney Radio Channel and all the mind numbing music that goes along with it. Some people love all things Disney. I am not one of them. I am still trying to figure out how I can get through your childhood without taking you to Disneyland; I am that awful. I don’t have a problem with people loving Disney, but it’s just not for me. So, early on I decided that because we spend a lot of time in the care, we would listen to really good music. What is really good music? It’s music that I happen to love and others may hate as much as I hate the Fresh Beat Band. A little Call Me Maybe? Totally fine. A lot of Fresh Beat Band. Not okay.


In the early, early days I would often be reduced to singing Old MacDonald Had A Farm because it was literally the only thing that would stop you from screaming in the car. Then the halcyon days of NPR came when I could listen to Morning Edition and not have to worry about you overhearing the news and then asking tough questions about tragic world events. Now whenever I have NPR on you ask questions and I sometimes have to turn the radio off because it is very hard to explain to you why something terrible happened in world events. You are always listening and filing things away to tell me about later – like the time you told me that a kid in your class thew up his pizza lunch. Five days after it had actually happened. 

And, back to the music. Your favorite songs are on a playlist I have put together for you. This is what is on it right now and almost anytime I play any of these songs you say, “Oh! This is (insert song title!) This is my favorite song! We haven’t listened to this song in a long long time!” (even if we had just listened to it the previous day)  And then without missing a beat you ask, “Mama, is it on repeat? Can we listen to it on repeat?” Without fail, this is your routine.

So, a few “kids” songs in the mix, but overall a really solid music beginning. Your dad and I are always thrilled when you specifically request “Orange Crush.”
Sugar, Sugar (what an insanely weird awesome video – I’d never see it before)
Kodachrome (not the version you know, but what I wouldn’t give to have been at that concert – I would have been seven)
5 Years Time (this is the cutest video I have ever seen)
Saw You First (being in the studio definitely lifts this one-this is a pretty bad version)
Leaving On a Jet Plane(we always debate whether this is a sad song or a happy song)

A few weeks ago summer came to an end and you went back to school, which I was really happy about because you were a restless soul without the routine of class or camp and teachers keeping you in line. The summer was absolutely dreamy though and I’ve felt a little panicky as the leaves have swiftyly changed from green to red in the mountains and our driveway has a few more yellow leaves on it every morning. We spent hours and hours at the pool this summer and you got braver about learning how to swim underwater. We went in adventures and hikes and to see the new polar bear exhibit at the Zoo, which we both loved. We went to Sun Valley and fished again together and you rode your bike around the hotel grounds ringing your bike bell and stopping at the candy store for candy, just like I had been dreaming of you doing since you were born. We spent the last week of vacation in August in Californa after driving there for the first time ever. With the exception of a brief bout with a stomach bug the night before we drive back to Utah, you were a champion traveler. This was not due to any particular parenting tactic I employed, but simple because you will happily sit for hours watching videos in given the chance. Long live the ipad.

The occasion for the trip was my sister Anne’s wedding to her now husband, Tommy, which you were pretty thrilled about since Anne and Tommy are probably two of your favorite people in the world along with my parents and your other aunt and uncle Emelie and Isaiah. Your dad and I rank somewhere around 10th or 11th place. You and your cousins Avery and Birch all wore the same outfit and were the cutest things ever. You danced up a storm on the dance floor, which made me laugh thinking about when you were very small and would demand that people stop singing Happy Birthday at parties and catagorically refuse to dance. “No Mama. No dancing. No singing.” You still tell me to stop singing in the car sometimes because, “someone else is already singing the song.”
So, school started and you actually posed for pictures after I promised you could also take my photo. I had been thinking a lot about what songs to play for the first day of school, since you often ask for a song that will, “get you ready for your day.” And so we chose The Cave, which I thought was an excellent way to kick off the school year. How can you argue with the lyrics, “‘Cause I need freedom now and I need to know how to live my life as it’s meant to be.” Preschool seems as good a time as any to start the road to self-awareness. And then we cruised into the parking lot singing Stayin’ Alive. There is nothing like a three year old belting out “oooooo, stayin’ alive, stayin’ alive.” I felt like the coolest parent ever for about three minutes.

I know that a few years from now you’ll barely be able to stand being in the car with me, let alone sing with me so I am living this up right now. You are on the cusp of four and so grown up I find it nearly impossible to think of a time when you weren’t telling me that, “five chances means five opportunities Mama.” But I am not longing for the days when you were an infant. No, if growing up means you putting on your own seatbelt and dunking your head underwater at the pool and leaping from the edge into my arms over and over and weighing in on what you think a song means, and asking for a dance party in the living room every night, then this parenting gig is just getting better and better. Thank you for being my singing partner. 

The living is easy

10 Jul

What will become your memories? What will become your rituals, your annual events that you cannot live without, those memories that define your childhood for you, that you talk about and anticipate and cannot wait to share with your own children? 

I spend a lot of time worrying about your earliest memories. You dad remembers things from when he was two. I have only a hazy memory of swimming with my father when I was two or three but my memories don’t really take on definite form until I am four or five. I worry so much that your first memory will be of me yelling about something, something that was probably totally trivial but in that moment I couldn’t be calm about and let go. I recently had a conversation with a friend who was able to see her daughter interact with a teacher and be her usual amazing brilliant, charming, hilarious self, a side her mother doesn’t get to see all that often because she is being the mother and her daughter is fighting her. I said to my friend that the hardest part of parenting is that you always have to be the bad guy, the one who insists on manners, respect, listening and not crossing the line and so it is only rarely that you get a glimpse into the incredible being you brought into this world and are trying to mold into more than just a feral being. You have to be the one who forces them to toe the line, to say no, to say time out and break their hearts. But I spent the better part of three weeks with you between school ending and camp beginning and you are an amazing kid. You are considerate. You ask, in between a lot of trying questions, a lot of really interesting questions. We did something new almost every single day and I got to go places I would have never thought to go on my own – a copper mine, a train museum with huge old engines and the Aviary with its beautiful owls. I really hope that you remember those adventures and not me trying (and failing a lot of the time) to bring you up into someone as amazing as your dad. I hope you don’t remember me telling you to please get on the soccer field during your games, but recall instead the look of pure joy that crossed your face when you were able to run and kick the ball at the same time.
The carefree days of summer are fully upon us. You trot off to camp every morning and the first day of camp I gazed in amazement at the new two year olds starting camp for the first time. Could you really have been that small last year? You seem like a totally different kid chatting with every single teacher in the hallway and swinging your backpack as you stroll into the classroom. The heat, so unlike last year’s winter that lingered into mid-June, came very early and so July feels so fully like summer that I keep reliving my own long hot summers in Sacramento.

This is the perfection of the season: the feeling of not a single care in the world except whether perhaps that cute boy on the swim team talked to you. It is the utter thrill of day after day stretching in front of you with nothing to worry about until the end of August and those damned summer book reports I always had to write in elementary school. My sisters and I would leave them until the last few miserable days of the break when we would crank out eight (!) reports in one day. But that bitter memory aside, others crowd in.  The hot nights when the air conditioning would be turned off and my parents would say, “Just lie still girls. You’ll cool off eventually,” the early morning breeze coming into my bedroom before swim practice, the dry musty smell of the cot I slept on when my cousins came to visit, the endless rounds of solitaire and the Monopoly games with made up rules, the Fourth of July and the feeling of total bliss that I would not recognize as perfection until I became an adult. 

You were so excited about the Fourth of July this year that you could talk of nothing else for days on end. You ate hot dogs and slurped down popsicles and burned through about 50 sparklers. Gone was your fear of fireworks that kept you glued to the dining room window last year. This year you could barely stay on the sidewalk as Dad set off a few carefully selected fireworks that would not start any fires, which have plagued the state for a month. You squealed and asked for more only covering your ears when it got a little too loud.
Here are the two overriding memories of my childhood: reading endlessly and riding my bike endlessly around my block, and then around my neighborhood once my mother started to worry less about us getting lost. Long before I ever had you, long before I ever met your dad, I had for years this hazy vision of parenthood and the first thing I would always think of when thinking about children was reading to them and then watching them ride around on their bikes. Nothing encapsulates childhood and especially childhood in the summer better than those two things. They were the constants of my early years and so when I opened up Stuart Little a few weeks ago, it was with a full heart and a catch in my throat as you actually sat in bed and listened to your first chapter book. I suppose it wasn’t your first – I used to read Lord of the Rings to you when you were an infant – but you didn’t have much say in the matter then and ever since you were about six months old you have been picking out the books we read at night. Best of all though, you loved Stuart and we read a chapter or two a night and you finally finished with Dad the other week with one of the best paragraphs of a book ever.  
“Stuart rose from the ditch, climbed into his car, and started up the road that lead north. The sun was just coming up over the hills on his right. As he peered ahead into the great land that stretched before him, the way seemed long. But the sky was bright, and he somehow felt he was headed in the right direction.”
Someday you will realize what an incredible writer EB White is; I appreciate him all the more after having spent the last few years plowing through such awfulness as Thomas and the Runaway Train, Bob the Builder board books and any book that doesn’t have an actual author.

And then there is your bike, or Galahad as you sometimes call it, named after the horse in your newest obsession, Mike the Knight. Now that you are finally confident enough in your riding skills, almost every night you pull out your bike and ride back and forth between the front step, the fire hydrant on the corner to the south of our house and the tree one house down to the north. You set off down the driveway saying, “tootle loo!” and then amazingly navigate the hill without falling off. Sometimes you ride up to Dad and me as we sit on the front step reading and chatting and you give us a hug and a kiss before setting back out on your biking adventures. You say, “Hey!” to anyone who walks or drives down the street and then hasten to assure me that you only said hello because I was sitting there and that you were not talking to strangers without me. These are your parameters and you stick to them, but already you have started to ask to cross the street, which for now I say no to, but soon enough, you’ll be crossing it on your own and pushing a little farther afield. I can still see you, but I know the day will come when you go around the corner and I know I’ll stand there trying to visualize where you are, with my heart in my throat waiting for you to re-appear.

One of these mornings
You’re going to rise up singing
Then you’ll spread your wings
And you’ll take to the sky

But till that morning
There’s a’nothing can harm you
With daddy and mamma standing by

George Gershwin

A Series of Sundays

23 May

Two months ago the toilet training hammer came down. We spent a week counting down your last pull ups and then Saturday morning arrived and there were no pull ups to be had. (OK, I had to hide the rest of them to make sure we started on a Saturday, but you didn’t know that.)

That first day was pretty awful. You peed six times and pooped once and not once did you make it anywhere close to the toilet. It was a very long day. Your dad and I went out to dinner that night and I walked into the restaurant and it was filled with screaming children and I nearly lost my mind I was so irrationally annoyed.

The second day was a lot better. We made it to Em’s for breakfast and home without an accident. We had a few mishaps but you actually started putting two and two together and sitting and waiting to pee. You took an hour long nap on the floor of your playroom during your rest time – I guess you were exhausted too – and then in the late afternoon with the sun shining warmly outside, I introduced you to shaving cream and food coloring. You absolutely loved it and things started to feel a little easier as you laughed and swirled the colors and your dad looked on from the kitchen as he prepared to grill outside – because it was just that perfect.

I am trying to remember that Sunday because things have been so difficult for the past month or so. Your half birthdays and the months around then have been hard since you were born. I look back at your seventh month, your 19th month, your 31st month and there is this recurrent theme of Really Damned Hard, So I keep thinking back to that Sunday and that perfect hour when absolutely nothing was wrong. I cannot stop looking at these photos.

I have this hazy floating memory of the week after that because I wrote it all down as fast as I could. The weather was picture perfect, Dad was grilling again, the Civil Wars played in the background on Prairie Home Companion and we had dinner together in the sun-filled dining room. A lot of laughing and not too much interrupting from you. Another perfect moment snagged out of a difficult week. The week after that we watched the snow swirling and fall on the greening grass. A fire burned in the fireplace for the first time in weeks and I had to re-learn my fire tending skills. And the weeks floated by and spring came early this year and we planted the garden and added to our chicken flock. You named your baby chick Woof.

So much has happened in the months since I have last written. Another Easter arrived and with it our annual Easter Egg hunt. We had thirty people over, easily half of them your friends and after the egg hunt was completed (it took about four minutes to find the nearly 150 eggs we had “hidden” around the yard) you all raced through the garden chasing one another stopping to compare your candy haul and stuff a few more pieces of chocolate into your mouths. The parents stood around saying, “Can you believe it? They are entertaining themselves! They are all playing together!” It seemed incredible that you are all old enough to play a game of tag by yourselves.

And yet, and yet, there is so much you still want from us, still need from us. Three and a half has ushered in an era of needing me constantly. You constantly ask me to do something or be next to you or hug you. After nearly of a year of easy drop offs at school, you became a weeping mess every morning as I attempted to pry you off my leg. At last, I found a solution. Every morning before I left, I drew a picture of Dad on your left hand (you always reminded me to draw in his beard and mustache) and me on the right. Some days I added the words Mama and Dad as well and then you informed me, “When I miss you, I can look at my hands and you will be right there.” The last weeks of school slipped by and I drove to school yesterday afternoon to pick you up with a huge lump in my throat. Your teachers this year were beyond incredible. They loved and understood you and were so patient with you. You are not an easy kid to have in a classroom full of other kids and they viewed this with joy and that was a gift.

Last Friday you had surgery to have your ear tubes removed. When they were put in two years ago the doctor told us that most kids had the tubes fall out within a year and a half. Most kids. I know well by now that you are not most kids and was not surprised at all when your little ears two years later were clinging stubbornly to those ear tubes. Since we are on the edge of summer camp and swim lessons, we decided the tubes had to go. But when you had them in, you were a mere 18 month old and had no memory of the surgery at all. You are definitely aware of every little thing in your life now. If one thing has been changed in your classroom, you notice it immediately. You will find the smallest minutia of an object and ask why something is the way it is. So springing surgery on you wasn’t going to be easy and we spent the entire week before talking about it and mapping it out. At odd intervals during the day you would say, “Mama. Let’s pretend about the surgery,” and we would act out the entire procedure form checking in to waking up to the trip to the toy store afterwards. We took a tour of the hospital waiting rooms and you had memorized the schedule so thoroughly that you corrected the nurses if anything seemed out of order. The morning of the surgery I watched you wheel yourself down the hall in a little toy car to the operating room talking the anesthesiologists’ ears off. Ten minutes later you were done and coming out of anesthesia and within a minute you were asking me all sorts of why questions. You were just fine. But much later that afternoon I sat with you in the garden filled with sunshine eating the first strawberry of the season and as you laughed I thought of the hospital tour we had taken a few days earlier when one mother mentioned that her son would be kept asleep for three days after his surgery. Three days. I couldn’t begin to comprehend the terror those parents were feeling. I felt again crushing gratitude that you were happy and healthy and that we had all only danced around the edge of a tiny medical issue and didn’t have the sadness in our eyes of those parents, the truly awful weight of a really sick child that rounded their shoulders and shaped their lives. How terrible could my life really be that I have this laughing boy eating strawberries in the sunshine? Not terrible at all.

p.s. I loved this.

40 – Over the Hill

23 Feb

So look at me trying to write. Trying to be creative and useful and a wife and a mom and trying to hold a whole family together, failing a whole lot, but maybe making some headway too.

Your dad and I just returned from our now annual trip to Mexico without you because my parents are amazing and watched you for a whole week so we could have some time to fall asleep at 9.00 and wake up at 8.00 and listen to nothing except the sound of the waves. I read four books in five days, which is more than I’ve read in the past year. I missed you last year too and I still clearly remember walking into the house to see you still warm and red from your nap and you called out, “Mama!” and my heart clenched because I had actually forgotten in just five and 1/2 days exactly how your voice sounded. This year, you were much more aware of the fact we were leaving. So much so that you volunteered that you were, “worried about us leaving and were going to cry a lot.” You were also quite concerned that we were not going to come back and so I promised, of course we were coming back and that we would talk to you on the computer so you could see us and chat. You love a good Skype chat. But I missed you even more this year than I thought possible. One of the books I read during the week described the author sitting on her mother’s lap each evening after dinner and I wanted nothing more in that moment than to hold you in my lap and smell your hair and feel you wiggling to get comfortable. I missed your laughs and your funny hand gestures when you want us to follow you. I missed driving around in the car listening to Pumped Up Kicks with you because it is your favorite song at the moment. I know it is a crazy violent song but you sing all the wrong words so I am certain you don’t get the meaning at all.

But I missed you so much I had a panic attack on the last day of our trip. Not a full blown panic attack, but close enough to the one I’ve had once in my life to know that my stomach wasn’t just hurting from something I ate and my head wasn’t spinning because I was possibly dehydrated. It suddenly struck me that I missed you horribly and I told your dad that with a catch in my voice and he knew I wasn’t being flip and said, “I miss him too.” When you were a baby I never had that panicky desire to come running back to you the moment you left my side. I remember Annie Lamott in Operating Instructions talking about the “jungle drums” beating in her ears as she attempts to go to a movie a few months after her son is born. I never had that happen and always wondered what was wrong with me. Even now as you trot off to school each day I don’t feel disoriented without you. But there, so far from home, after not seeing you for five days, I missed you more than I have ever missed you in my life. And as sick as I felt, it was a kind of shock tempered by relief. Relief that I am so unbearably lucky to have you as my son and your dad as my husband. And finally coming home to you the next day and being greeted with your huge hugs and your exclamations for the next three days, “I am SO glad you are home Mama and Dad!” made things feel better too.

I also want to tell you that I love you, which is not anything new, but bears repeating, hourly if necessary. I wish you could read this and know that I love you. That Dad loves you. That we love you beyond belief. Beyond all reason. That we will love you no matter what (my only caveat being that if you decided to go to BYU we will disown you.)

Your first response now if I yell about something, anything is, “But I still love you Mama,” or “Can you smile happily please Mama?” It is like the sharpest knife to my heart every time you say it. I know you are just trying to neutralize the situation as fast as you can but it makes me feel utterly awful about everything. It makes me feel even worse because I know exactly how you are feeling. You are so much a product of your dad and me that you have inherited our ridiculous inability to deal with conflict. Conflict makes me want to run and hide. The first whiff of conflict sends me crawling up a tree trying to distance myself from it and trying to calm myself down enough to know that one fight does not end a marriage or a friendship. One disagreement over where the flour should go in the kitchen is not going to end the world. But I am 37 and I still have this immediate flight reaction to conflict. And yet with this inability to deal with conflict also comes this complete lack of patience and lightening fast reaction to anything I find annoying.

So, I find myself over and over in situations where I am really angry with you because you have not listened to what I have asked you to do 87,947 times in a row. Or you have asked me the same question over and over and I have given the same answer and I am simply tired of trying to explain that a bus is just a bus and there is nothing more I can say to answer your question, “But Mama, why is a bus a bus?” I am certain that one day your philosophy professor in college will be thrilled with your insistence on getting to the bottom of this existential question, but I am not a philosophy professor, I am just your mom. A mom who just wants you to put on your jacket and get your backpack and walk out to the car. Is that so difficult? I won’t answer that because I know that every parent reading this knows that it is that hard to do something that simple.

But I hear your sweet voice saying, “But I still love you Mama,” and I torn in two. I am still angry – sometimes justifiably – and yet you are forcing me to swallow my anger and reassure you that I do love you. And I absolutely hate that you have worried for even a second that I don’t love you. It kills me to think that you worry I don’t care about you. If this is toddler manipulation, it is the very worst form of it because it goes to my worst fears.

I am taking a photography class this month and taking a photo each day of something that corresponds to a letter of the alphabet. It has been very difficult not to just take a picture of you or something related to you since the ratio of Luke to non Luke photos in my iPhoto album must be about 10 to 1. I have done pretty well forcing myself out of my comfort zone but I slipped back to you as a subject a few nights ago. S for sleeping. I think I only have one or two other photos of you sleeping and they are from when you were very small mostly because the fear of waking you up is far greater than my need to document you sleeping. This one I will treasure forever because this is what you look like most nights: your cheeks flushed, Lion tucked under you, your arms and legs all over the place. You are warm and quiet and I whisper to you over and over I love you little bear, sweet dreams little bear, tucking the blankets around you. I am so glad I took the risk of waking you just to remember this particular moment.

I love you.
Sweet dreams.
I love you.
Sweet dreams.
I love you.
Sweet dreams.

Please know that and remember it always.

38/39 – Slip Sliding Away

9 Feb

Every single day I promise myself that I am going to finish this post and then every single day I don’t. I know I have the words in me and I know I need to write them down but there the will to write is not there. And then a friend posted one of those flow charts that everyone loves these days and it was about writing and how you just have to keep writing and it is with that in mind that I am just going to finish this post. And then I am going to keep on writing.

Every year I promise myself that I am going to write a post about Christmas right after the actual day because it is one of those holidays that has such a momentous build up that even two days later it already feels like two weeks have passed. Now Christmas was almost two months ago and it feels like two years ago. The tree is gone, decorations down, you remind me almost daily that the Christmas lights are still up outside the house and my resolution to write more is clearly not being followed. Each month so much happens that I feel like I cannot properly relate it all or distill it down to one perfect moment of parental clarity. Maybe I need to write more, which is a task that is daunting and terrifying and yet sounds immensely satisfying in theory. I suppose I find myself casting about these days for something I can say that I do. Without the garden, I feel at loose ends and directionless. Starting in September there is a great rush of activities – gardening, canning, putting up, getting ready for winter. The birthday season comes and we have parties to attend nearly every weekend. Football season with its games, your birthday, Halloween, Thanksgiving and then Christmas, we slide into New Years and suddenly it all stops. Spring and its glorious warmth is still months away. The days slip by but with little show for it except an occasional burst of New Year’s cleaning resolution. Perhaps I could try to write away the rest of winter and when I look up in a few months the ground will be thawing and it will be time to sink my hands into the dirt and drop seeds and buy three more chickens.

The house is quiet again as it always is when you are at school. Christmas break and the weekends you fill the house with the sounds of your I Love Toy Train DVDs, your own train sounds as you circle your trains around the track and newer sounds of pirates fighting and things blowing up. I won’t lie though. After two weeks and two days of your holiday break, I had a spring in my step as we headed back to school. I could totally identify with the line in It’s Beginning to Look A Lot Like Christmas “and mom and dad can hardly wait for school to start again…” The parking lot was filled with parents who could barely refrain from looking gleeful and not a few mothers stopped me and began the conversation with, “we survived!” I know it sounds just awful and really, all things considered, the break wasn’t that bad, but you were so clearly thrilled to be back at school with “your kids” and I am thrilled to sit in my house and listen to The Quiet that I think we are both in a good place.

Christmas was, actually, delightful this year as it was the first year since you were born where you really started to get it. Every morning you would bound out bed and race up the stairs saying, “Let’s find Owlie,” Owlie being your Elf on the Shelf that your dad and I managed, miraculously, to move every single night and you seemed somewhat convinced that he actually went back to see Santa every night. You were far less convinced that Owlie actually reported any of your daily transgressions and only told Santa the good things you did that day. Perhaps next year he will have a stronger grasp on your behavior. We went to visit Santa at one of our favorite nurseries, Cactus and Tropicals and after a few moments hesitation, you got on his lap and smilingly told him that you wanted a log cabin set for Christmas. You held tight to this request until a few days before Christmas when you started adding things to the list. I hardened my heart and told you that Santa only brought some of the things you asked for, not all. Your dad, a total softie and way nicer than I am, went out and got a few more Thomas trains for your stocking. The look on your face when you unwrapped them Christmas morning and said, “Just what I asked for!” was priceless and I was so glad that you have such an amazingly kind father.

Your utter delight in the fact that Santa ate the cookie we left out and that the reindeer stopped to drink the bourbon we left on the back step was so charming and sweet that it did make Christmas all the more magical. You stopped and looked at every single gift you received, wanting to play with it right then and there. I think your favorite was a tractor trailer truck and bulldozer combination.

A few days after Christmas, we boarded a plane and headed to California for a whirlwind trip to see your cousins, aunts and uncles and my parents, your beloved Nan and Charlie. You spent two blissful days with your cousins Avery and Birch and my sister Emelie and I could not get over how well you all played together. You were in heaven, knee deep in cars and trains and boys. Every night we would tuck you all into your bunk beds and your aunt and I would sing to you and you would fall asleep in about five minutes because you were so tired from all the playing. I kept thinking of the day I went to get the ultrasound that would tell us if you were a boy or a girl. I talked to Emelie an hour before the appointment saying I was still convinced you were going to be a girl and she said, “But if it’s a boy they can all play together. All the boys. It will be so awesome.” Later the technician, after showing us your fluttering heart and tiny lovely spine said, “It’s a boy. Definitely a boy. DEFINITELY,” and three years later that long ago dream of all the boys playing together came true. It was definitely worth the wait.

I think I keep returning to this idea that I need to write more because you are so much more of a person than you were nearly three and 1/2 years ago when I started writing this blog. That seems like such an obvious statement but I think as a parent you don’t notice as much how much your child has grown until you step back and look at the long view. This past Sunday was Super Bowl Sunday and I realized that it had been four year to the day that I found out I was pregnant. Four years ago I burst into the bedroom at 7.00 in the morning (your father would maintain it was 5.00) yelling, “Oh my God! Does that look like a plus sign to you!?” And right then and there our lives shifted.

Four years ago. I cannot really take in how much has happened since then and now that you are three you say and do so much on a daily basis that I cannot keep track of it all. You say something every day that makes me laugh. You are such a miniature adult in so many ways often correcting me by saying, “Oh. You mean, a cup instead of a glass?” You respond with an enthusiastic “Of course!” when I ask you if you would like some milk or water. The other day you observed that, “there are a lot of big snowmen in this town.” I could easily turn this blog into a daily one filled with funny things that you say, but I don’t really want to do that. I think I will continue always looking forward to how much you will grow into an adult, but to continually be amazed by looking back to see how far we have come. Four years ago I sat on our couch and watched Barack Obama give his first national speech in Iowa and my world changed and I had hope again. Four years later, you sat on the couch with Dad and watched the Iowa caucus results. How could I have this sweet small baby curled in my arms and then four years later have this sweet small boy sprawled on the couch talking about caucuses and how he will be President some day? We have such dreams for you. I hope all of this writing lets you know someday that we loved you from the very beginning.

37 Months. It’s On

30 Nov

I was induced at 41 weeks with you. Have I ever told you that particular detail? I cannot remember. You were finally brought into this world via an emergency c-section and after sitting in my birth canal for so long when you did come out, your head was cone-shaped. Your dad thought it was actually going to stay cone-shaped and the nurses were just being nice by not saying anything about it. In any case, at the time I just thought you were a difficult birth. In hindsight, I know that you were really mad that you had not been born on your terms. I can actually imagine you sitting inside me with your arms crossed pouting refusing to come out. You were an angry infant for the first few weeks of your life. You would sleep all day and then be up all night long. Every night I would nurse you and change your revolting diapers on a fifteen-to-thirty-minute cycle. I kept one of those journals everyone told me I was supposed to keep about when you nursed and when you slept. After awhile I stopped because it was so repetitive it seemed silly to write it down. Midnight: nurse. 12.30: change diaper. 1.00 AM: nurse. 1.15 AM: change diaper. It was, I would tell people, like living in a town being ravaged by a werewolf. Night would fall and you would start screaming. Like I said, in hindsight, I think you were just really angry about being forced into the world on someone else’s terms other than your own.

Three years later, you are actually a pretty good sleeper, not that we didn’t have to sleep train the hell out of you for months on end. But for the most part, you usually fall asleep on your own sometime between the time I shut the door at 8.00 and when I check on you around 10.00. Of course, the other night I checked on you and you were asleep on the floor with your head half under your bed. Who knows what you had been doing when sleep finally descended. But the point is not about you sleeping, it is about living your life on your terms. That part of your personality has not changed one bit and once again I feel like I am that villager living in the werewolf ravaged town except that those villagers could just keep an eye on the moon and know when to lock their doors. I feel like I am living with a land mine that could go off at the moment when I least expect it.

Just like that it’s really hard again. I am reading a book right now called Your Three Year Old, Friend or Enemy. The book, published in 1985, came before the word frenemy came into being, but that is exactly what you are right now. You are my best friend and my worst enemy rolled into one very frustrated, eager, adorable, charming, maddening little boy. But instead of being mad like an infant because you were hungry (or just mad about being born) you can tell me why you are angry and much of the time it isn’t rational at all. I know, I realize I am expecting way too much of you if I think you can be rational at three. Well, maybe it is rational, but it just seems incredibly annoying to me. If I take the iPad away from you after your allotted 30 minutes in the morning you throw yourself across the couch and scream. Where warnings of 10 more minutes, 5 more minutes used to have some effect, now we get to the end of a time period and you just flat out refuse to do anything else. Sometimes you suddenly decide that putting on your shirt is “too hard,” or that you don’t know any of the letters of the alphabet.

You collapse onto the ground at the slightest provocation and nothing short of threatening to take your favorite toys away will compel you to get up and start moving again. If I try to take you on a walk, you will stop stock-still and not move at all. You demand to be carried and when I refuse (you weigh more than 30 pounds now) you resume your soldier-like stillness and simply say, “I can’t walk.” You will crumple at the smallest thing telling me, “Don’t look at me. Don’t smile.” and you contradict every single thing that I say. If I mention that the sky looks particularly blue, you will respond, “It isn’t blue Mama. It’s red.” My favorite, because it is just so obviously meant to get a rise out of me, is at bedtime when I am closing the door and say, “I love you Luke. See you in the morning.” Your response? “I don’t love you Mama. I won’t see you in the morning.” Last week I walked into your room in the morning and you cried for ten minutes because you thought I shut the door. I am sure the teen years are even worse, because when you tell me you hate me you’ll probably mean it, but it feels like I am living with a tiny 13 year old. Nothing is ever right. Nothing will ever be right and everything I do makes you very angry. You might as well say, “You never let me do anything!” slam your door and turn on some terrible music that will give me a headache. Actually, you started asking for the Polar Express song again and you do slam your door, so we’ve got two out of the three already. Who needs 13 when you’ve got three?

It’s not all gloom and doom every minute of the day even though it feels like it some days. You finally totally understood Halloween this year and could not wait to get into your costume and go trick or treating. You are still talking about it weeks later. You were Thing One from the Cat in the Hat and everyone kept asking, “Who is going to be Thing Two?” Luckily your dad stepped into the role with a helpful sign reading, “Thing 2” the night of Halloween. You also dressed up for Red Butte Garden’s After Dark Halloween event and had the most magical amazing time running through the twilight with your friends. The other week we took you to a model train show, which you could not get enough of. Your father and I were fairly certain that we were the only registered Democrats in the building given the number of Tea Party conversations we overheard, but you had an amazing time and managed to keep your sticky little fingers off of most of the trains most of the time.

Thanksgiving was a few days ago and you spent some time this week at home and at school talking about what you were thankful for although I am not sure you totally grasped the meaning of the word. You reported that at school you said you were thankful for the bikes. At home you said you were thankful for me, Dad, Buddy and the chickens, but I am fairly certain that came from the fact I told you I was thankful for those same things. You also said you were thankful for “all the food,” but I know that came from your Thanksgiving plate from Pottery Barn Kids printed with those same words. I think that you love us most of the time ins spite of your behavior to the contrary. You are an incredibly outgoing friendly kiddo and are rarely shy except when asked to sing your Turkey song from school; then you clam up immediately.
But a lot of our conversations are about the same topics and you repeat the same greetings and goodbye routines verbatim every morning and evening. The night we drove home from Thanksgiving with friends and your dad and I were chatting about the party and what a nice evening it had been. We were above the city and the valley was filled with twinkling lights and some houses already shone with Christmas lights. Suddenly you piped up from the backseat, “I like both your voices.” My eyes filled with tears because I could not at that moment think of anything I was more thankful for than driving in the car through the beautiful night with you and Dad and hearing that sweet completely spontaneous comment from you.

Three Years. 1095 Days. 36 months.

12 Nov

Luke, you are three! Three! After months and months of talking about it endlessly and telling everyone and everybody that your birthday is October 19th and that right now you are two but on October 19th you will be three, October 19th finally did arrive and at 7.00 on the dot, you banged on your door and yelled, “MAMA!!! I got up at seven-zero-zero!” and I went downstairs and gave you a big hug and said, “Happy Birthday Little Bear!” You got to watch two episodes of Curious George instead of your usual one as a birthday treat and then you went to school all dressed up because picture day corresponded nicely with your birthday. We took apple slices and honey and caramel (caramel SAUCE you were quick to remind me each time I mentioned it) for dipping as a birthday snack treat for your class and then I drove around doing errands while you were at school all day reflecting on how very different my life was from three years ago on that day.

I wrote about your birth here. I re-read it from time to time and it seems like a lifetime ago and simultaneously thirty seconds ago . You now do all these things I could not even begin to imagine you doing three years ago. You talk. I know you have been talking for ages and ages, but you talk all the time about everything and anything. I know you don’t know every word in the world, but it feels like you have the words for everything you need in your little world. You walk. I know you have been walking forever, but now you run, hop, try to skip (it’s more like a gallop) and climb the ladder at the playground with an ease you seem to have possessed forever but it’s really only been about a month. You eat. You use a fork and a spoon most of the time and the only meal that really created a complete mess is still mac n’ cheese, which always correlates directly with bath night. Shh, don’t tell anyone but you don’t get a bath every night. Dirt is good for you.

I cannot grasp all that you have taken in over the last three years. Three years sounds like such a long time, but it skipped by in a flash. In three years I learned enough to pass the Utah Bar. In three years you have learned your numbers, colors and letters, how to smile, put yourself to sleep, and almost get dressed. You know that the clock says 7.00 a.m., how to spoon tomatoes into jars for canning, how to use an iPad, an iPhone and any other device that requires tapping a screen, how to dig in the garden, carry an egg without squeezing it too hard, how to feed Buddy his dog food, load the dryer and help me sort clothes. You finally worked up the courage to ride on an animal on the carousel at the Zoo and you can climb into the car and into your carseat by yourself. You know how to give the best hugs and huge smacking kisses on our cheeks. You memorize books after reading them once or twice and you tell people you are good when they ask, “how are you?” You remember to say please, thank you, you’re welcome and excuse me most of the time. You constantly amaze me. I am in awe of how much you have accomplished and figured out on your own.

You are mind-bogglingly stubborn. You have a very clear sense of what you want in life. You will hold out for fifteen, twenty, thirty minutes in hopes of getting what you want even if I have made it clear I am not going to give in. You can be very bossy. You tell me all the time that I have to do something. You get upset with your teachers sometimes if they aren’t singing the song that you wanted. You often try to “help” your classmates (whom you call “your kids”) with things they don’t want help with. But you also, so your teachers told me at you parent-teacher conference, are a leader and the kids look up to you. My heart burst with pride when I heard this. But more importantly, they told me you are an exceptionally happy kid and this made me so very happy. Your father’s and my greatest wish for you is to be happy in your life and to be happy with who you are and with those around you. To know that you are happy gives me hope that somehow between all of the timeouts, the lectures, the frustrations and the battles, we are doing something right. We are giving you a home that you love and where you are safe and secure and content. We are trying so hard to be good parents and hopefully you know that in the last three years, it is you who have given your parents the greatest gift – we are so very lucky to be your parents. We love you little bear.

34/35 – Remembering Again

17 Oct

This post is not going to write itself and that’s just the plain hard truth. A massive case of writer’s block, malaise and fall preserving insanity has taken hold and I find it harder and harder each day to find the time or the will to write. I also have so many months to cover that I fear this post will jump from topic to topic with few transitions. I wish that I could carry the computer around and write while we take our post-dinner bike ride around the neighborhood. I remember holding you as a tiny baby on the last warm days of October after we came home from the hospital and seeing the neighborhood kids riding their bikes around and thinking that that would be pretty cool when you could join in. Now many nights after you have taken three bites of your dinner if you don’t like it, or demolished three helpings of mac n’ cheese, you jump onto your little strider bike and we stroll around the neighborhood with the other parents and kids out enjoying these last lingering days of summer even though it is technically autumn. I soak in the sunshine and everything seems right with the world because the only disagreement we usually have is whether we are going to turn left or right and that’s pretty easy to deal with. You love being on your bike and I can see how much you are going to love the freedom of a two wheeler once you learn how to ride a real “big kid bike,” because it is that same thrill of freedom I felt when my parents allowed me to ride my bike more than one block away from our house.

You started preschool at the beginning of September after five long weeks of being home with me. I think you were pretty excited to start just because you were heartily sick of hanging out with me day after day. We went on lots of adventures – hikes, trips to Red Butte Gardens, the pool, your friends’ houses where your friends’ mothers and I would sigh and compare stories of how much our children were driving us nuts and just how many days it was again before school started. And then suddenly, it was the night before school started and I marked the occasion with a cupcake and we sat on the front step and talking about how your new teachers were going to teach you lots of things like how to “dance” and “make art with my hands.”
You have rough days during which you absolutely refuse to nap and “push a lot of boundaries,” according to your teachers, but you have somewhat settled into your school routine and usually love it. I am constantly amazed at how much you are learning. You come home singing a new song every day, but you usually reply to my queries about what you did that day by responding, “Nothing. I just sat there.” Did you play with your friends? “No, I just sat there.” This makes your dad and me laugh.

After months of bickering with you in the car about music, I stumbled into the strange realization that you love 70’s music. I randomly played Creedance Clearwater Revival’s “Have You Ever Seen The Rain,” for you one day and you were hooked. We listened to it no fewer than fifty times in a week before I thought to punch in CCR to Pandora Radio and voila, music we can both listen to. The other morning American Pie came on the radio – a song that my sisters and friends and I would dance to endlessly when we were small, complete with a choreographed dance that our poor parents had to suffer through on many occasions. I am sure my father cursed the day he ever introduced us to that eight minute and thirty-two second song, because while it is awesome to listen to in the car, it was probably rather mind numbing to watch ten year olds stumble through a dance routine time after time after time. No matter, you finally love singing and dancing at school and when you danced in your car seat this morning to that classic song, I felt a little teary as I always do when you love things that I loved as a kid. I think that connection of my childhood to yours feels incredibly special and I don’t really know how to find the words to describe that.

Outside the leaves are changing in the mountains and small spots of yellow can be seen in some of the trees on the streets of our neighborhood. Winter ticks ever closer and I am holding onto the last golden days for as long as I can. I know, however, that when our lawn is covered in snow and the trees stand bare against a very dismal grey sky, I am going to think back to August and our trip to Squam Lake in New Hampshire. We had not been to the lake since I was nearly eight months pregnant with you and you instantly fell in love with it. You insisted on having the curtains on your bedroom windows open so you could see the lake during your nap and at bedtime. You spent day after day wading in up to your waist to throw hundreds of rocks into the water and learning to fish with your very first fishing rod. You learned how to cast pretty quickly and your dad and I had a hard time not crying over how proud we were. You loved going on boat rides, squealing when we went fast and pointing out every single “Slow No Wake” buoy when we had to slow down. We took you to the boy’s camp that fronts the lake because I have this crazy hope that you will want to go there six years from now when you are eight just like your uncles did when they were young. We walked around the camp and I could just begin to envision you there running around with this pack of boys. Your favorite thing was the tetherball and when you had a hard time pushing the ball, some much older boys came to your aid, showing you how to play. It was such a sweet and kind gesture and I hoped that when you were older that you could show such kindness to a younger kid.

I am finally finishing this post on flight to Massachusetts to attend a wedding of a dear friend from Smith. Whenever I mention Smith, you ask me how to spell it, just as you ask me how to spell most things these days. The other day I think I spelled cat, mighty machine, bulldozer, black, green, red, school, apple and truck all in the span of a minute. I was a terrible speller in school but this constant spelling bee may be a benefit to both of us. Luckily, you haven’t started asking me how to spell xylophone or supercalifragilisticexpialidocious.

This is the second trip I have taken without you and your dad. The absolute thrill of sitting on an airplane and reading three New Yorkers in succession instead of being interrupted by you harassing fellow passengers, arguing with you about not touching the window shade or hissing threats that for-the-last-goddamned-time-stop-kicking-the-chair-in-front-of-you feels as relaxing as a day spa. But this happiness is mitigated by the fact that I miss you and your dad horribly. What is it about sitting on a plane, train or any other form of public transportation, my earphones clapped my head as vintage REM plays that makes me instantly feel as if I am watching a movie of my life – removed from the everyday sameness, suddenly everything seems wondrous and precious and all senses are heightened. Somehow all the things that drive me insane about parenthood slip away and I am left with only a sweet home video playing through my head of you laughing as your dad says something funny or you hugging me tightly as you tell me you are going to miss me so much while I am gone. Where does that wonder go when I am in the thick of it with you? This same dreamy feeling of flying high above the earth, the music loud in my ears, makes me ache with love for you and I think again of checking on you last night before I left. There you were sprawled across the bed, your stuffed animal, Lion, tucked under your arm and so peaceful and so perfect in every possible way that I again immediately forgave all the flaws of the day and could only hope that you will forgive me mine.

34 Months

2 Sep

I took August off last year. I think I’ll do it again this year even though it is already September. In the meantime, here are some of my favorite posts from the last almost three (!) years.

Nine Oh Nine!


25 Months

29 is for giving thanks

33 months. Time Out.

3 Aug

A few weeks ago we made it 33 months into this joint venture of parenthood/childhood. You were sick with some sad little summer cold that made your voice quite hoarse and you ran screaming in the opposite direction if I so much as suggested that you might want to blow your nose. It sort of summed up the month nicely.

Here’s what you do these days. You loved the little poppers on the Fourth of July and threw them by the handful. You hated the bigger fireworks and watched them from the dining room window. At the park you climb the ladders and find rocks to roll down the slide. You slide down the slides without a moment’s hesitation, which is so different then even six months ago when you would stand at the top dithering and fretting over whether to come down or not. Now you drag trucks and cars to the top of the slides, send them roaring down and follow hot on their heels. You pick up more rocks and toss them at the slide looking at me out of the corner of your eye waiting for me to say no. When there aren’t any other kids at the park I let it go. It is very hard for me to let things go and I’m trying. Really trying hard. It’s not easy.

You negotiate all the time. I say, “please take your trains downstairs,” and you immediately counter with, “How about I leave them upstairs?” You actually use the phrase, “How about.” It floors me.

Your musical tastes are slowly evolving into something that I can live with and I had an incredibly proud moment the other day when you asked me for, “The train rolling down the track song. Johnny Cash.” We then listened to Folsom Prison Blues on repeat until I had to turn it off for fear you would make me dislike that classic. You danced like a crazy person at the Josh Riter show at Red Butte the other week, which was actually the last time we are ever going to take you to a Red Butte show because it was such a nightmare to keep track of you running through the dark at the outdoor show. It pains me because I loved taking you to shows in the past and some of my sweetest memories are of you and your dad at Red Butte but you make things so difficult that sometimes it is not worth it.

What an awful thing to say.

I don’t like to sugar coat things on this blog. I know this little forum has morphed from letters to you to broader reflections on parenthood and sometimes I write things here that I am not sure I want you reading until you are much older and able to understand that while I love you, you also drive me crazy. Really and truly crazy. So I’m just going to come right out and say this because it seems like it is such a terrible thing to say and a lot of parents don’t for fear they are going to be branded the worst parents in the world. Parenting is very hard work and you know what, sometimes I’m not all that fond of you. Sometimes I don’t like you very much. Sometimes you are like the awful employee at work that burns popcorn in the microwave so that everyone can smell the hideousness for days afterwards. You are willful and you hit things and you talk back to me and you throw yourself to the ground and freak out over the most minor of supposed infractions, like I didn’t hold you up the right way so that you can turn on the ceiling fan. Or I offered you milk first thing in the morning instead of turning on the light. Or I didn’t pour the exact right amount of juice into your cup. Perhaps these are the beginnings of some serious OCD tendencies or maybe you are just two going on three. Whatever it is, I can see already that the therapy bill is going to go through the roof in this next year. You make me insane and you know you make me insane and you relish that power.

I think the thing that bothers me the most is that so often your mood mars what is supposed to be a fun outing for our family. (see: Red Butte concert mentioned above) I know you are two. I understand that and I guess I am supposed to also understand that you have little to no self control and therefore are a victim of your own two-ness and I am supposed to be okay with that. Only, I’m not. I don’t think it would kill you to show a little gratitude. I know, I’m being ridiculous but honestly, you make it so hard sometimes.

So there, I said it. I said the stuff you aren’t supposed to say. I said I don’t like you and you’ll read this someday and maybe you’ll head to your therapist but hopefully by that time you’ll have a kid or two of your own and maybe sometimes you won’t like them very much. But this doesn’t mean I don’t love you. I spend a lot of time telling you these days that even though I yell that I still love you no matter what and that I’ll always love you even when you have made me angry or frustrated. And you break my heart by prompting me to say, “Sorry I yelled.” And I apologize and then sometimes you do too. It’s hard. Things are tough for us right now and I don’t see that changing anytime soon. It must be difficult to live under such authoritarian rule all the time but sometimes I feel like I am living with a very small dictator of my own.

So, here is something to lighten the mood. Your dad and I nearly fell on the floor laughing. And no, you cannot watch this until much much later because you repeat everything I say these days and I don’t want you going to camp and repeating this montage.

Yesterday we went on a small hike around a lake up in the mountains with some friends. I took you on the same hike exactly a year ago and I couldn’t believe how much faster we made it around the lake this year; even with you stopping to throw rocks into mud puddles and to climb with no hesitation on the bigger rocks that lined the trail. You exclaimed over the ducks and I breathed in the warm piney air and marveled for the thousandth time that I live in a place so beautiful. You looked with fascination at the people fishing and declared that you also needed a fishing pole and your dad was quite happy when you told him that later in the day. Then we got back in the car and turned on the Wagon Wheel song, which you call the Train Wheel song even though there is no mention of trains. We rolled down the windows and headed back down through the most gorgeous canyon bordered on either side by towering mountains covered in pine trees and a massive creek running next to the road still flowing like a wild river from the winter snows. I sang softly to myself and you danced in your car seat and then declared that you love the mountains. My throat constricted and I replied simply, “I love you.”