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32 – The Past is Present

30 Jun

I am trying so hard to make this month’s post work, which is probably why it is now more than a week overdue and I am still waiting for everything to coalese into something workable. The largest segments of these posts usually come when I am running around the gym track or lying in bed early in the morning unable to sleep because I know I need to write and then that month’s post just suddenly writes itself and I rush to the computer and type quickly to get it all down so I can start the editing process. Editing is so much more enjoyable when you have a nice long post to comb through. Why is this month so hard to write? I have had all these thoughts swirling in my head for weeks and yet I cannot seem to make them come out correctly on the screen. Perhaps it is because the pendulum between your emotions and mine seem to swing so wildly from hour to hour and day to day. The moment to sit down and write comes and goes too quickly for me to capture it into something pleasant to read instead of a screed against all toddlers and their insane and awful behavior. We are starting to see glimpses of you at three years old, even though it is still five months away, and I will just say that I am very very afraid. It’s ugly. It’s all the annoyances of two but stripped of any of the charm of two. I spend a lot of times these days apologizing for losing my temper and talking with you about how much better life would be if you just stopped and listened to me. Five minutes later you are ignoring me again and I am saying, “Luke, how many times do I have to ask you not to do this?” You always answer, “One.” Then I go off in a corner and scream.

Maybe you are acting crazier because your brain is going about ten thousand miles per hour all the time. In the last month you have shown a marked interest in letters and how to spell things, spurred on in large part by your newest love: the show Word World. You are so into it and I totally support your love because it is so much less annoying than Thomas. You are learning new words all the time and trying to spell them with your magnetic letters on the fridge. We help you spell the word DUCK and for some reason you always want to tack on the letter L to the front so it spells LDUCK. Very French of you.

However, your adoration of Thomas – while somewhat diminished when watching television – continues unabated in other parts of your life. We took you to see an actual real life sized Thomas engine up in Heber over Memorial Day weekend. The day was memorable in two respects. 1) We woke up to snow that morning and 2) it was truly the happiest I have ever seen you in your entire young life. You were so excited walking towards the Thomas engine that you practically levitated off the ground squealing, “Oh! Thomas! Oh! Thomas!” Your dad and I had tears in our eyes and could barely speak because it was so gratifying to see you that happy. Then we walked around the exhibits and you discovered a tent filled with four train tables complete with dozens and dozens of trains. Perfect happiness achieved for you and about 50 other kids crammed into the tent.

We drive around a lot these days and you often ask for the Train Song – i.e. the theme song from the Polar Express – which I generally deny on the grounds that Tom Hanks yelling a song at me can only do great damage to my fragile mental state. However, I always acquiesce immediately to your request for The Race Story – also known as Atalanta, the story of the girl who ties Young John From The Town (for that is how I see his name in my head and it always my sisters’ voices saying it in perfect imitation of a very young Alan Alda) in the race to determine her future. The story is, of course, from Free To Be You And Me, a record (how strange that you will have absolutely no idea what a record is) that I listened to approximately 58 billion times when I was young. The first time I played the title song from the album, now nicely downloaded onto my iphone, I broke down in tears. You did too because you were about nine months old and hated all new music. But you have grown – or maybe I have forced you – to love some of the stories and I absolutely love that when Alan Alda says, “And the runners…were OFF!” you cheer and immediately pretend to be running a race in your car seat. It is the only time I allow you to kick the back of the passenger seat because really, you have to have some way to show that you are running a race. It’s all very exciting but I always get a thrill when you love the same things I loved when I was a kid. I love that there is a place in your childhood for the same things that I played with when I was a child and that so many more things wait in the wings for you – Charlotte’s Web, Henry and Ribsy, jumping off the diving board at the pool, riding your bike around the block, sleepovers and camping trips, s’mores and staying up past your bedtime on New Year’s Eve and swinging all by yourself on the swing at the park.

A few weeks ago you finally started camp at the JCC and I had a huge lump in my throat as we walked in for the first time. I couldn’t believe we had reached this point already. I remember very clearly looking through the camp information when you were about nine months old and your dad said, “Camp? That’s years from now.” And it was, but in a heartbeat two years ticked by and now at last you get to be a camper. We joined the JCC when you were just about five months old just so I could leave you at the day care and sit by myself for an hour a day. I would look at all these big kids coming in and out and dream of the day that you would join their ranks but also not able to picture you that old at all. And now three days a week you race into the building shouting hellos to anyone who will listen to you.

Why do these things make me cry? Is it the passage of time? The fact that you are old enough to go to camp? The unbearable sweetness of you in your little shorts and tee shirt and Keens? The fact that you are joining this community of campers at the JCC that has been going for decades and are now a part of that great tide of children seems so amazing because you are slowly taking your place in this world? It is probably a combination of all these things along with a hazy vision of what I want your childhood summers to be: fun, carefree, perhaps an occasional disappointment like the library doesn’t have the book you want, popsicles from the ice cream truck, filled with friends and sprints through the sprinklers in the backyard. I want you to be part of this community that stretches back decades and will continue for decades. Your father and I both belonged to similar clubs, swam on similar swim teams, went to similar camps (OK, he went to Space Camp. I never did that) but we left all of those ties behind when we left our hometowns. Will you be different? Will you continue to return to Salt Lake City to your friends and family? Will your children swim in the same pool? Go to the same camp? Will you put down roots in your parents adopted home? I have a secret wish that you will but I suppose most parents have the same wish.

The first day of camp you were so excited that you kept telling me the names of your teachers and that they were going to say hello to you when you got there and within moments of walking onto the playground it was as if you had always been there. When I left you were sitting on a tricycle and you called back to me as you attempted to push the pedals, “have a good day Mama!” As I drove away that morning I could see the bigger kids cheering as their own first day of camp started and the cheers followed me up the hill and around the corner and just like that another piece of your childhood clicked into place.

31 Months – Dad is Awesome.

20 May

I started writing this post in my head yesterday afternoon because I thought it would be cathartic because you took a thirty minute nap and after that thirty minutes of blessed silence I walked into your room (you alerted me to being up by banging very loudly on your door) and found you had torn down your curtain and broken the curtain rod in the process. I tried counting to ten. I tried deep breaths but really, I was so angry. Angry that it was clear you had never gone to sleep. Angry that it was raining for the fourth morning in a row and I couldn’t get you outside so you could run around and burn off some energy because you are part dog. Angry that you would do something so destructive and then have the gall to laugh at me when I walked into the room. So I took the offending curtain and rod out of your room, told you to get on your bed and then said, “Timeout.” Even after those two minutes ticked by I was still so angry that I took the time to tell you how disappointed I was in you. You spent the rest of the afternoon telling me that I was very disappointed in you. That really made me feel better.

The rain stopped for approximately an hour so I took you up to Red Butte Gardens in the hopes of getting you to run around (see dog comment above) and we did get some fresh air but even a trip to Red Butte, which usually cheers me up immediately was punctuated by moments of wanting to scream at the top of my lungs as you pushed my every last button. Just when I thought I couldn’t take another second, you sidled up to me and said, “you are my best friend mama.” This is not a new or particularly original take on parenthood. Every parent knows that all too familiar feeling of wanting to walk away in a cloud of frustrated tears one moment and wanting to die of the cuteness the next. It is impossible to keep being angry when you are being so sweet but it is so hard not to get angry the next moment when you are disobeying me once again. Staying in the sweet moment is so difficult.

But somehow the Mothers’ Day commercials made me cry even more this year than usual. I realized as I surreptitiously wiped away tears when the commercials played on the television at the gym and tried to make an escaped sob sound like I was working out even harder that I am more of a mother this year than I was three years ago; so much more and I have so many more miles to go. I carry many more battle scars and have so many more stories from the frontlines than I used to. But I have also learned – and continue to learn and remind myself sometimes on a minute by minute basis – that no matter how many times I roll my eyes and curse the clock that it is five hours until bedtime I will make it through another day. The tantrum will pass, bedtime will come and I will get up the next day and the next and the next and much of it will all stay the same but so much has changed and will continue to change. You go to sleep on your own, you are starting to learn how to get yourself dressed and are ecstatic when you can get your shirt on without my help. You can “read” entire books to us and get upset when we try to read them to you. You are an amazing talker and can usually tell me what you do and do not want to do in no uncertain terms. You even swear sometimes in perfect context. If I am annoyed and say, “Are you kidding me?” you will sometimes supply a “Goddamn it,” delivered in a breathy tone. I try not to react and remind myself again that I must stop swearing around you. It is so hard.

Do I fall down on the job? Dial it in? Let you watch another episode of Thomas when I should sit down and play with you? Yes, absolutely. But do I wish I was working and feel unfulfilled in my role as your mother, guardian, teacher, kisser of hurts, dictator and enforcer of rules? No. You have allowed me to be a mother and without you I would not be the person I am today and I mostly like the mother I have become.

So, in spite of all the things you do to annoy me – surely not on purpose right? – I found myself sobbing on the way to the airport last week as I prepared to leave you and your dad for the first time since you were born. Your father was a nervous wreck and I was suddenly wondering why in heaven’s name I thought that leaving for five days was a good idea. But the trip was great for a variety of reasons, an excellent one being that you seemed to finally discover what a fantastic playmate your dad can be and you are head over heels in love with him. For the longest time I don’t think you counted him as someone to play with and now whenever I tell you that I cannot do something that very moment, you turn to your dad and say, “c’mon Dad! c’mon! Come downstairs with me!” And when you get up at some ungodly hour (it was 6.30 this morning) you come upstairs and ask, “Where’s Dad? Can we go see Dad?” I explain to you that your father is resting and deserves a good night’s sleep before having to deal with annoying lawyers all day and this pacifies you for awhile but you squeal with delight when he walks into the living room. You have a new best friend and it makes me so happy. And so while your dad held down the fort at home, I went to New York and to my 15 year college reunion at Smith where I wandered the campus in a bittersweet daze smiling at the graduates and their parents and being simultaneously grateful I had my life at home to return to and longing for the days when I was 18 and life was pretty damned easy. However, one of absolute best parts of the entire trip was talking on the phone with you, which is something I’ve never been able to do before because you recently learned how a phone works. You got on and the sound of your sweet voice saying, “Hi Mama! This is my train Mama! This is the toy bus Dad gave me Mama! I love you Mama! I miss you Mama,” just about killed me. I sat in that empty dorm room and realized that even if I could have the chance to go back to being 18 and young and carefree, I wouldn’t take it because my life is infinitely better with you and your dad and that realization was the best Mother’s Day gift I could receive.

30 Take Two

28 Apr

This is a late post but that seems appropriate since we are late to everything these days, which drives me nuts. I hate being late. I once yelled at one of my sisters when she fell off her bike on the way to school because her bleeding knee was making us late. Not my finest moment. But time has no meaning for you. You know that you are not supposed to get up until 7.00 but this does not stop you from calling for me from anywhere between 6.15 and 6.45 so I go downstairs and get into bed with you and the next 15 to 45 minutes go something like this.

You: Mama! I want to look in your ear. I want to be a doctor.

Me: Luke. Lie down and be quiet. It isn’t 7.00

Blessed silence for 15 seconds

You: Mama! I need some water!

Me: Your water is next to your bed on the floor.

You: Ohhh! Yes! I love water. Water. Water. Water. Mama, want some water?

Me: No, thank you.

You: Want some? Want some? Mama, wantsome?Wantsome?Wantsome?Wantsome?Wantsome?

Me: No, thank you Luke. Thank you for asking. I really don’t want any water. I want you to lie down and be quiet.

Repeat until 7.00

You: Oh! It’s seven zero zero! It’s time to get up! Mama! Yeaahhh! Mama! It’s time to get up. C’mon Mama. C’mon. Let’s go!

Me: OK, time to get up. Do you want to use the potty?

You: No thank you.

Exit stage left. Go upstairs. Start heated discussion over who will pour the milk out of the very heavy glass milk container.

In spite of your rush to get up in the morning, you seem to be in no hurry whatsoever to get out the door. There are many pitched battles over getting dressed, putting on your jacket, walking up the stairs, deciding which door we will actually use to exit the house, opening the driveway gate, getting down the driveway to the car and then the ordeal of getting into the car. You can now climb into your car seat by yourself, which is great because it is less strain on my back but it’s quite a process for you and if I try to hurry you, you insist on starting the entire ritual again from the beginning. I am sure our neighbors hate us for the number of times they have had to listen to you have a breakdown in the driveway. They may also hate us soon because we finally got chickens and the chickens will move outside in a month.

After talking about it for such a long time, we finally took the plunge and got five tiny baby chicks. Your friend Leta and Marlo’s (or as you refer to them: Yeeta and Marwoe) mother, whom you now always refer to as Mrs. Armstrong (which pleases me and cracks me up) documented it much better than I could. You can read about our first day with the chickens here. You didn’t end up naming any of the chickens because you still don’t get the concept of naming things even though I tried to explain it to you about five dozen times. The naming aside, you love the chickens and love to talk to them and hold them. Your favorite is Maisie and she is pretty tolerant of you yelling in her face, “She’s a little bit nervous Mama!”

My computer broke a few weeks ago. It was starting to get a little shaky with the screen flickering off and on for no apparent reason although I have my suspicions as to who the culprit might be of the “liquid damage,” that finally caused the computer screen to switch to grey permanently. In any case, I spent a few weeks fretting and trying not to freak out over the fact that I might have lost every last picture I had taken of you in the last two and half years. When my new computer arrived and we were able to transfer everything off of the external hard drive and all those pictures popped back up I cried I was so relieved. I might have cried because I was so tired from all the sleep I had lost worrying about the photos but I also cried because to lose all those would have been the absolute worst. Another added bonus was that my phone finally backed up properly and I was able to download all the video I have taken of you for the last year or so.

Looking through all these videos made me cry even more because there is nothing like watching a video of your child to make you momentarily forget all the things that make you want to pull your hair out. In the two and half years since you were born you have imprinted yourself on my heart like the way my wedding ring has imprinted my ring finger. You are so much a part of my life, of my every breath that I find it impossible to imagine life without you. If I am out driving around and I see a firetruck I wish that you were there to see it too. I cannot read stories or see shows depicting children being hurt without the story immediately becoming the story of you being hurt. I feel like I cannot breath imagining you in the same situation. I have dreams about you falling into water, dreams of you being eaten by alligators and I wake up terrified that something has happened to you. I don’t really live every moment in fear but the dreams come or the random thought drifts across my mind or I read a story of some terrible thing befalling some young child and I think, there but for the grace of God go I. At the end of the day when we are lying in bed before you go to sleep and you are telling me all the things you are going to dream about (triangles, whales, the ocean, steam engines, one car, two cars and mamas and dads) you sometimes spontaneously say, “you’re the best mama in the world,” and all the other unbearable stuff becomes bearable again.

So here is a snapshot of you and your life over the last year.

30 Take One

21 Apr

You are two and a half and I have some lovely ideas rolling around my head but I cannot seem to commit them to the page. I promise not to miss this month though because you say all sorts of hilarious things now like after I asked you about singing a song about Jesus you learned at school, you pointed to my wine and said, “Jesus is in the wine.” I replied that he might be but that you could figure that out for yourself in a few years. Oy vey. Time to get you to the JCC preschool.

29 is for giving thanks

22 Mar

I don’t even know where to begin this month. Do I talk about the fact that I have signed you up for summer camp or that you are now sleeping in an actual twin bed, a bed you may very well be sleeping in until you go to college? I went to check on you last night and there you were sleeping in your “big boy bed kinda like Caillou’s” with a headboard and I couldn’t believe that 29 months ago you were a teeny little newborn swaddled and looking minuscule in the middle of your crib. Now you have about four or five blankets, a real pillow and two stuffed animals that you only pay attention to at bedtime. You are becoming more and more of a little kid.

Do I talk about the fact that you chatter the days away asking us “What is that?” over and over and over again, which is a kind of backtracking to when you were 16 months old when you would walk around the neighborhood asking , “et’s dat?” all the time. You have improved your pronunciation as well as your retort when I tell you what that particular thing is. “Luke, that’s a lemur.” You respond with, “Yes mama, that is a lemur,” as if you were the one telling me what it is. You are really funny about wanting us to fill in the script of what you think our conversations should sound like. You prompt me by saying, “What sound does that animal make?” I then have to ask you the same question and you happily respond. This goes hand in hand with you thinking that asking for something politely makes it a foregone conclusion that you will receive it. “Cupcake? Please? OK.” is a favorite.

It is hard for me to talk about your accomplishments this month because world events came storming into our lives a few weeks ago and we still seem to be reeling from them. Your dad had to go to Japan for business; he has gone to Japan no fewer than four times in the last three years so this is becoming a fairly normal part of our lives and this trip didn’t seem as if it would be any different. It was a tough week for him to be gone because you got really really sick the night before he left and then proceeded to stay sick the entire week and ended up finally on antibiotics for strep throat. It was a long week.

And then just as your dad was going to board his plane in Tokyo, an enormous earthquake hit Japan. It was very very big and hurt and killed thousands of people. He texted me from the plane saying he was okay and then the waiting game of seeing whether he would actually get out of Japan started, all the while stories of a tsunami and terrible destruction started filling the news, the internet, the television and I had to shut them all off and just hope with every fiber of my being that his plane was going to take off. And it did. And it was a miracle. You and I met him at the airport that night (so did the local news) and I have never felt so relieved in my life and I still am swimming in relief. I want to hold you both closer and closer and even as the mundane details of our lives go on, I feel sick every time my mind drifts again into the what-ifs. What if he wasn’t on that plane? What if he had been running late and not made it to the airport at all? What if the pilot had made everyone get off the plane instead of being brave and taking off, taking your father far far away from the disaster? What if he was still stuck there unable to get home to us? What if? I cannot bring myself to say the worst.

Two days after he got home the weather warmed up again as it has been doing in fits and starts over the last couple of weeks. A massive snowstorm hit a few weeks ago and we got a foot of snow. Two days later it was gone. But that Sunday was glorious and your dad went and got a new cherry tree to plant in the garden. It occurs to me now that it was particularly apt that we should plant a cherry tree since Japan is so famous for its cherry blossoms. A small unconscious decision that I am probably giving greater weight to now than it deserves. But I am glad we have that little tree. It is good to have reminders of the events that made you realize again how very lucky you are. While he watered it and started to clear out the dead winter leaves out of the herb beds, you practiced walking along the wood border of the berry patch saying, “look at me dad! look at me!” I had never been so happy to be in the garden as at that moment.

I hope the cherry blossoms bloom in Japan this spring. I hope that country can heal. I hold you and your father even closer now and try to cherish more moments more often. This passage from the movie Stranger Than Fiction has rolled through my head many times since your father got home. It seemed so very pertinent this month. Over and over and over I come back to these small moments that make up our lives together and I know I write about them a great deal but I do not know how else to chart the days. Long after so many other memories of your childhood have faded from my mind, I will remember you running to greet your dad at the airport when he came home. I will remember crying with relief as the three of us stood there holding each other. My little family. Three people does not sound all that significant but it is your hand slipping into mine as we walk through the garden, your father kissing me goodnight as I drowse into sleep, us going to breakfast on Sundays, you observing that Buddy is sleeping in a dramatic whisper, your dad planting that cherry tree in the newly thawed soil, your utter delight in watching the garlic come up that makes up my world and makes it richer and better than it ever could have been without you; this mosaic of a million bazillion tiny moments creating our family portrait.

“As Harold took a bite of Bavarian sugar cookie, he finally felt as if everything was going to be ok. Sometimes, when we lose ourselves in fear and despair, in routine and constancy, in hopelessness and tragedy, we can thank God for Bavarian sugar cookies. And, fortunately, when there aren’t any cookies, we can still find reassurance in a familiar hand on our skin, or a kind and loving gesture, or subtle encouragement, or a loving embrace, or an offer of comfort, not to mention hospital gurneys and nose plugs, an uneaten Danish, soft-spoken secrets, and Fender Stratocasters, and maybe the occasional piece of fiction. And we must remember that all these things, the nuances, the anomalies, the subtleties, which we assume only accessorize our days, are effective for a much larger and nobler cause. They are here to save our lives. I know the idea seems strange, but I also know that it just so happens to be true. And so it was that a wristwatch saved Harold Crick.”

-Stranger Than Fiction

28 is pretty great

21 Feb

A lot of friends and family touted two as the dreamy year; all cuteness and cuddles and sweetness and for a long time I thought they were just flat out lying or that their children were far more adorable, sweet and cuddle-worthy than you. And then about a week before Christmas you started slowly emerging from the months long terror that was 25-26.5 months and you have continued in this vein of pretty damned tolerable for awhile. I’m not going to lie and say it is peaches and cream and loveliness all the time but this month has been one that I could potentially look back on in say, 15 years, and say, “Yeah, two wasn’t so bad.” I will most likely say this to a mother of a two-year-old who will probably want to beat me senseless because when people who don’t have toddlers say, “Oh, that is such a FUN age,” they have most likely completely forgotten what rotten little buggers two year olds can be. But, in 15 years you will be 17 and I’ll probably be longing for the days when our worst battles were over whether you wanted your diaper changed or not.

Actually, you never want your diaper changed so really it’s more like a battle of this is happening now whether you like it or not. I have started to ask you whether you want to do something the hard way or the easy way, explaining that the hard way will result in you crying and becoming really mad and that the easy way – i.e. my way – will be a much more pleasant outcome for us both. You consistently pick the easy way but this doesn’t stop you from incurring a few timeout warnings along the way before you finally submit to my demands. I don’t blame you for digging in your heels. If someone was as demanding of my time as I am of yours I would be pretty annoyed most of the time too. I mean, who wants to change a diaper when you could be watching The Cat in the Hat for the twentieth time? The Cat in the Hat is this month’s newest love. I have absolutely no idea how you found out that the Cat in the Hat has a show on television – we don’t even own the book – but somehow you found out about him. I suppose this is similar to you finding out about Dora the Explorer. We have not watched one minute of that show and yet you know who she is. School? Friends? The slow creep of pop culture into your life? Who knows.

A few weeks ago your dad and I got on an airplane without you and went to Mexico for a week leaving you behind with my parents, your beloved Nan and Charlie. As best as I could tell you had a marvelous week and didn’t miss us at all, which is great because it means we can take more trips without you as long as the grandparents are willing to put up with your shenanigans. And the trip was wonderful. I think we slept for eleven hours straight the first night, which was the most sleep I have gotten in one night in over two years. And we got to fly without you climbing all over us and we got to walk through the airport like normal people not chasing you up and down stairs and we got to go out to dinner and not have to race through our meal before you got bored and we got to go to the pool and not worry about you falling in. All in all, a lovely week. But I missed you so much more than I thought I would and when we got home I could barely wait to see you and when you exclaimed, “Mama!’ as I walked through the door I couldn’t believe that I had actually forgotten how sweet your voice sounds. And then you started talking to us in complete sentences and we couldn’t believe how much we had missed in one week. In fact you are talking so much now that I can understand 97% of what you say. The other day you actually started to tell me what you did at school that day without any prompting from me. It was a long description of eating pink cupcakes for a classmate’s birthday and how you got pink cupcake all over your face. Cupcakes certainly deserve unprompted discussion.

So the trip was a success all around and the only thing different from this trip than our last trip to Mexico was that I didn’t come home pregnant and that was a good thing too. I know you are far too young to understand now but I think perhaps I should tell you that you are not going to have any brothers or sisters. It seems like I should explain to you now, while I can somewhat coherently state our reasons, why your dad and I are not going to have any more children. I can imagine in four or five years you might ask us for a sibling and I might not be able to remember the reasons with the certainty I feel now.

First, you are perfect. OK, you aren’t perfect, but you are one pretty great kid all things considered. You are sweet, funny, really smart and quite adorable to boot. You have your dad’s gorgeous blue eyes and are a hilarious and sometimes frustrating combination of your parents’ best and more questionable qualities. I am sure that if we had another kid he or she would be perfect in his or her own way as well, so there are other reasons why we want to keep our family the way it is now. We like our life with just you. We cannot imagine adding another kiddo to the mix because of the toll it would take on all of us – the sleepless nights, the juggling of two schedules, the rewinding back to square one of infanthood is more than we can imagine. This would all pass in time because time, obviously, does pass and babies grow up and become toddlers and teenagers but I fear the work that it would require of your dad and me would be too great a burden for us to bear. I fear, being a somewhat impatient person to begin with, that two children would make me a terrible mother to two children instead of just a pretty good mother to you. I know this is all speculation. People have two, three, four – and here in Utah – dozens of children all the time and they survive. They find a way to make it work and I am truly in awe of those parents. Maybe the second baby would be a perfect angel, sleeping consistently through the night from day one and sitting quietly on my lap for hours at a time. Or maybe not. We are not willing to take that chance. I recently started compiling a list of things I want to do in my life and so many of them involve you – taking you to Paris, going camping, fishing with you in Montana, dropping you off at college. To have another child would delay all of these things and while many people would argue that I should hold onto these precious moments with you as a little little boy, I am so excited to teach you things that you cannot do now. I cannot wait for your father to teach you how fly fish, how to chop an onion correctly, and how to grill the perfect steak. Having another child wouldn’t keep us from doing that, but it would put it off by many years and I don’t want to wait to involve you in our lives. Your dad and I have big exciting things to do with you and we cannot wait for you to be old enough to share in them.

Ultimately, perhaps, we are making a selfish choice. We are choosing our happiness over your potential happiness of having a sibling. We are, perhaps, depriving you of the joy of having a little brother or sister. So I can only hope that we have created and will continue to give you a good and happy childhood. I hope, and I suppose all parents hope, that you look back on your childhood with an overriding sense of joy and that it becomes the basis for what you might want for your children. We will fail you plenty of times. We will make mistakes and make decisions that you disagree with. You will probably make a list of things you will never do to your kids and then, maybe, realize with time that we were right in the end to make you stick to that curfew, eat those vegetables, finish your homework, try a new food, give you a timeout or keep you from playing violent video games because we thought that was probably in your best interest. I hope that someday you will know that we made this decision out of our love for you and our certainty that just having you made for the very best childhood we could give you.

Author’s Note: I have read a lot of blog posts and articles about having one child and I hope that I have not inadvertently plagiarized anybody else’s thoughts on having one kiddo. If I have, please accept my sincere apologies and let me know so I can give proper credit.

You are 27 months old. No, that’s my 27 months old.

23 Jan

I think I must have read somewhere at some point in time that for two year olds, “what’s mine is mine and what’s yours is also mine.” I am going to put quotes around it because that cannot possibly have been an original thought from me. In the last month your possessiveness has grown to world domination levels. You claim everything as your own, including the zipper of your jacket, which you seem sure I am going to take from you. I have no interest in it other than zipping it up but you remain convinced that I am out to take everything from you. To be sure we have had a few wrestling matches over things that are definitely not yours – my pearl necklace for one; a really sharp pencil that you somehow purloined off my desk for another. I turned around the other day and realized now that you are tall enough to put your cup on the counter you can also pull a lot of stuff off of it too. I fully expect to find you standing in the cabinets soon.

Along with “mine” is your ongoing love affair with the word no. You use it in place of not, isn’t or any other word that might be the opposite of an affirmative word. So most conversations with you sound like this:

“Luke, are you going to school today?”
“No go to school today.”

“Are you going to see your friends there?”
“No see my friends.”

“Is Alice your friend?”
“No Alice friend.”

“OK, well let’s go inside now!”
“No let’s go inside!”

“Can you show me the sign for first down”
“No show me sign for first down.”

No go to bed
No I sleepy
No I pick up toys right now

And on and on and on.

Rounding out the triumvirate of favorite toddler phrases is your need for immediate action. You have become so tyrannical about your demands that I have considered getting a little coat like Napoleon’s so that you can march around and issue your edicts in style. If I deign to lie down on your teeny little bed after you have again gotten up at 6.00 a.m. you march back into the room and yell, “Mama! Wake Up!” If I respond by telling you that my eyes are open and I am speaking to you and so I must be fully awake, you then yank off the blankets and say, “Mama! Get Up!” Please be advised that I am filing all this away for future payback when you are fifteen years old.

Christmas was less than a month ago but it already feels like six months ago. You loved all of your Thomas items and are still asking to hear the Train Song from The Polar Express every time we get into the car. I finally drew the line the day after 12th Night and declared that Christmas and Christmas songs are over. This has not stopped you from asking for the song nor from discussing how you are going to take the train to the North Pole to see Santa Claus, Mrs. Claus and the elves. Next Christmas should be interesting. A couple days after Christmas you, your dad and I flew off to California for a week of visiting your cousins. At Avery and Birch’s house you thought you had died and gone to heaven because they had so many trains, trucks and cars of every shape and size. At Jada and Brooke’s house you contented yourself with pushing a pink stroller around because it was the only thing that had wheels. Your cousin Jada introduced you to the Wii dance game but your moves still consist of bobbing up and down. The highlight of the week for you was walking into my parents’ house and discovering the Fisher Price steam engine. You played with it for two days straight and even took it to bed with you. You are fathoms deep in love with your grandparents. I think your dad and I could have disappeared as soon as you walked into their house and you wouldn’t have cared.

However, I think my enduring memory of the trip will be that you actually fell asleep on top of me on the plane ride home, something you haven’t done since you were about five months old. I was like a brand new mother hardly daring to move for fear I’d wake you up and in heaven at the same time. You are so rarely still that to hear your breathing and smell your sweet sweaty head and marvel that your feet now nearly reach my knees whereas you used to fit neatly onto my chest actually made the flight enjoyable. An hour later when the flight attendant woke you by announcing over the the intercom some trivial thing like we were about to land I wanted to cry.

And then a few days into the new year this terrible thing happened in Arizona and a little girl was killed and once more, for the hundredth, perhaps thousandth time, I was reminded that having a child makes you feel everything a million times more than if it had just be me. Having you made the pain of those parents losing their little girl feel all the more real. And I was reminded again that I cannot shield you from all the evil in the world, I can only thank whatever lucky star for keeping us out of harm’s way. I know that one day I will be at a loss to explain to you – as I heard my friend trying to explain to her four year old after he heard a story on NPR – why bad governments do bad things to people. I will have to explain to you all of the horrific things of this world and try to come up with reasons for why they happened and sometimes there won’t be a reason at all and I imagine that will be as difficult to understand at six as it is at thirty six. I was selfishly grateful that I did not have to explain this tragedy to you.

We watched part of the President’s speech and you looked at me as tears ran down my face and you didn’t understand why I was crying. I tried to tell you that when the President speaks we must be quiet and listen but you were more interested in your trains. I was in that moment, I am sorry to say, slightly put out by this, wanting to hear the speech and not play with trains but upon reflection, I am so thankful that you are still at an age when most of the world’s problems are not yours. Your unhappy moments stem from the fact that you have to put your toys away and go to bed or that you don’t like what I have made you for dinner. You are so lucky right now and we are so lucky to have a warm house and clothes and food and that a tragedy has not struck our family in the ways that it struck those people in Arizona. Someday the world will come knocking and you will have to find your way in it but I am so glad that right now you are still small enough to sometime, every once in a great while, climb into my arms and lie there and talk to me the way you did when you were so very little and you would chatter in your infant babble about the trees outside your window. Now you chatter about school and how you don’t want to go and about soccer and kicking the ball and your friends and for just a few moments the rest of the world and all of its awfulness and ugliness melts away.

26

22 Dec

*The Shortest Day*
By Susan Cooper

And so the Shortest Day came and the year died
And everywhere down the centuries of the snow-white world
Came people singing, dancing,
To drive the dark away.
They lighted candles in the winter trees;
They hung their homes with evergreen;
They burned beseeching fires all night long
To keep the year alive.
And when the new year’s sunshine blazed awake
They shouted, revelling.
Through all the frosty ages you can hear them
Echoing behind us – listen!
All the long echoes, sing the same delight,
This Shortest Day,
As promise wakens in the sleeping land:
They carol, feast, give thanks,
And dearly love their friends,
And hope for peace.
And now so do we, here, now,
This year and every year.
Welcome Yule!

I spent 36 years never thinking much about the Winter Solstice because I really liked winter. I liked the early darkness and the cozy nights and the snow. And then I had you and much like daylight savings time, things became a little bit more difficult. Yes, lots of good things came with your arrival (you can read more about them below) but winter is undoubtedly a lot harder for me now than it used to be. I feel sad when I didn’t used to. Instead of greeting snowstorms with tears of happiness, I feel an undercurrent of anxiety about how I am going to entertain you when we are trapped inside and you have all. this. energy. to. burn. So yesterday was the Winter Solstice and for the first time in my life I celebrated it and the poem above seemed a perfect expression of the holiday. We all wrote down our wishes last night – yours was a very definitive scrawl of red crayon – on pieces of paper and threw them into the fire. I am driving the dark away by looking ahead six months and dreaming of the garden and fresh peas and tiny strawberries sweeter than anything I have ever tasted and you running around the trellis pulling beans off the vine. I checked the lettuce in the cold frames today and tiny tiny little lettuce sprouts are coming up in spite of the snow all around. It seemed like a miracle and it gave me a little hope that spring will come again and things might get a little easier.

Everyone told me that 18 to 24 months were the worst and that 2 year olds were really nothing compared to those tough months. That and 3 year olds. Three is supposed to be just awful but this last month has been so grueling that it is hard to think it could be worse than this. I suppose that you adjust to your realities and if this is my life right now I’ll just have to find a way to live with it. But, oh, you have put us through the ringer this month. For starters, you are back to waking up at the crack of dawn. And the independent streak I knew was going to surface because your father and I are just a wee bit stubborn ourselves (your father would say it is just me) has at last fully emerged and it is a beast. “No, I do it,” entered your vernacular two weeks ago and really everything has gone downhill since then. Everything, and I mean everything, must be done on your terms. Getting dressed involves high levels of negotiations I didn’t know possible. I am fairly certain that a pack of mothers of two year olds would be able to settle the Mideast peace talks in pretty quick fashion because the mechanics of just getting out the door in the morning are truly incredible. I was talking to someone the other day about the decision to have kids and he noted that no one ever wants to be totally honest and say they don’t want kids if they already have them. I agreed that this was true but noted that you usually cannot give your kid back once you have them.

But I don’t want to give you away. I love you too much. I love your unruly hair and the way that you say, “Hey! There’s some lights!” as we drive around looking at Christmas lights. It’s a good thing that people in Salt Lake leave their lights up for weeks and weeks after Christmas because you absolutely love looking at lights and for once I can drive around with you largely entertained. I also love that you have now watched The Polar Express approximately 78 million times in the last three weeks and can now quote large portions of the movie while watching it. I love our new game where you suddenly yell out, “I know!” and I ask, “What do you know?” and you respond, “I know I love you!” because I said this to you once and you found it hilarious. I realized the other day that you don’t volunteer a lot of information when you talk to us; you just repeat what you have heard us say.

I love that you tell me you want Santa to bring you a Toby train because I suggested you might want to tell Santa that when you met him. When you did meet Santa, you were amazingly composed and quite ready to go through the motions; perhaps this was because we had talked about it for a week and rehearsed what you were supposed to do. You walked right up to him, turned around so he could put you in his lap and approximately five seconds later you were done. This didn’t surprise me really since you like to do everything with great speed – slide down stairs, run down the street, sing songs (jingle bells song very very very fast! is a frequent request in the car) and eat your meals, if you eat at all. Of course, if I ask you to do something like walk out to the car you suddenly adopt a snail’s pace. In any case, your contact with Santa was brief but this has not stopped you from being very excited every time you see his face, a figurine, lawn ornament or advertisement on television.

Getting ready for Christmas this year has been an exercise in great restraint for me because I have this overwhelming desire to get you everything, if not to see your face light up, but also to have some new toys to distract you from your general crankiness with the world. Isn’t that a terrible Christmas wish? Actually, I have found that this year, even more than last year, I am prone to choke up over the smallest things because it seems that when people talk about seeing “Christmas through your kid’s eyes,” you actually can. For a long time I thought it was odd that people would say, “Oh Christmas will be fun now that you have a kid,” because I have always really loved Christmas. But I have found that you have made it a million times sweeter. And so perhaps I should tell that person I was talking to to have a kid just for the wonder of seeing Christmas with you. Although you still don’t quite get the whole Santa/stockings/presents deal you are so excited about everything from the tree to the tree lights to the stockings and the smoking men all lined up on the mantelpiece. You even asked to watch a Charlie Brown Christmas the other day, which thrilled me to no end because it is one of my favorites.

In a few days it will be Christmas and I hope you like your presents, 99% of which are Thomas related. I also hope you know how much your father and I love you. Becoming a parent makes you acutely aware of how lucky you are when you can give your kiddo the Christmas you always hoped you could give. When we pull in the driveway now coming home from school or errands or an outing, you shout, “home!” and I always think that is a nice way to come home. Home! Home! Home! I am so happy you and your father and Buddy and I are all in it together. Merry Christmas Little Bear.

25 months

24 Nov

Someday you will learn how to drive – this fact terrifies me and I try not to think about it very often – and you will start driving to the same places over and over and over. Maybe you already notice that we drive to many of the same places repeatedly each week. To school (you call it “fool”), to Little Gym, to Dan’s Supermarket and to Em’s for breakfast on Sunday. I remember finally learning how to drive when I was young and just knowing where everything was in my city because I had been driving around to the same places with my parents for seventeen years. Maybe you will do the same, or maybe you will inherit your father’s sense of direction. In any case, when you finally learn how to drive, every once in awhile you will experience an unsettling experience that somehow you drove somewhere but you had no memory of actually driving. You will think, “wait, how the hell did I get to this light already? I was ten miles away from this light about two seconds ago.” This is what this last month has felt like. Wait, how the hell did we get here already because everything is moving at light speed.

Your vocabulary has taken off in the last month and it always astonishes me how quickly you transition into something new. For months you were mumbling words and I couldn’t understand 75% of what you said. Now you are running through the house yelling, “Mommmmmyyyyyy!” when you are looking for me. You charge into the bedroom in the morning before school and yell at your father, “Wake up!” You will go up to one of us, take our hand and say, “Follow me.” Sometime you say, “Follow you,” because you get you and me mixed up. Every once in awhile you sing to yourself – Happy Birthday dear Nuuuke being a favorite. I once overheard you singing Swing Low Sweet Chariot to yourself and nearly cried it was so sweet. I started singing you that song when you were an infant but you usually veto it at bedtime when I try to sing it. You have very fixed ideas about what music to listen to in the car. These days it is the “Jingle Song” because somehow you heard Jingle Bells. I blame school for this since it has to be one of my most hated Christmas carols. I said to my sister the other day that I never imagined driving around with a toddler would be like operating an all-request radio show but with a rotation of about five songs.

You keep growing up before our eyes, not just in height and weight (at your two year check up, your head circumference clocked as ginormous in the 85th percentile) but in your perception of the world around you. We picked out your Halloween costume (a monkey) weeks and weeks before the big date and you spent the month telling people, only when asked, that you were going to be a “monkey suit” for Halloween. But at no time did you volunteer this information to anyone nor did you talk about the upcoming event. We carved pumpkins and went to Red Butte Gardens after dark where you ran around in a daze of excitement about being in the Gardens after dark. But still I didn’t think you were going to “get” Halloween. Imagine my surprise when I put you in your suit Halloween night and took you around to some neighbors. It’s amazing how quickly you “got” it once neighbors started putting candy into your little pumpkin bucket. And once we got home and the doorbell started ringing, you sprinted to the door to give out candy like you had been doing it your whole life. Every time the doorbell rang, you would freeze, squeal and run to the door yelling, “who is it? who is it?” My favorite part of Halloween has always been staying at home to hand out candy so I was thrilled you liked it so much too.

I know I spend a lot of time here chronicling my difficulties with you. I am beginning to think that perhaps I will never be truly at ease as a parent. I have certainly learned a lot in the last two years and have learned, with varying degrees of success, what works with you and what doesn’t. The sticker reward chart for not whining and crying when getting dressed has been a hit. A parent-toddler dance class where you were expected to sit for minutes at a time was, unfortunately, not a hit. But two years in and I still feel a stab of resentment when you decide that 6.30 is a perfectly acceptable time to get up in the morning. I know, I should just get over it. You are two and you have big plans every day that involve playing with your trains, watching Thomas, reading train books and talking about trains. You are at the funny age where you know the rules and state them to me clearly, “No picking nose!” while simultaneously picking your nose. It’s hard for you to hold it together and I appreciate it when you do so perhaps I need to remember to cut you some slack more often. It isn’t easy being a parent but it certainly isn’t easy being you either.

I was supposed to finish this post a few days ago but now tomorrow is Thanksgiving so I’ll end by saying thank you. Thank you for holding my hand in the parking lot and then forgetting and holding my hand just a little bit longer. Thank you for asking for a “big snack” the other day and making me laugh. Thank you for taking real delight in your friends. Thank you for loving the snow and building a snowman with me. Thank you for listening to my goodnight stories every night and filling in the blanks – “Once upon a time there was a little boy named: (Nuke) and he loved: (birfday parties.) Thank you for finally learning how to blow your nose. Thank you for giving me a reason to at last use the waffle iron your dad and I got for our wedding that makes waffles in the shape of lions and elephants. Thank you for not crying at all (for the first time ever) at the doctor’s office last week and then being the perfect lunch companion afterwards. Thank you for throwing your head back and laughing hysterically after your bath the other night as I twirled you to the music playing and your dad looked on smiling and the fire crackled in the fireplace and I thought to myself, “my life is perfect right now.”

Two Years. 730 Days. 24 months.

19 Oct

730 days? I don’t even want to know how many diapers that translates into. I really need to be more proactive about potty training you since it is becoming readily apparent that I am a very lazy potty trainer. In theory you being able to go to the bathroom all by yourself is a great idea, but putting it into practice is much more difficult. Letting you continue in diapers seems so much more convenient when we are driving around town. And really, the thought of taking you into a public bathroom at say, the zoo, sounds so revolting I think I could keep you in diapers for a long long time.

Anyway, I didn’t mean to start out this momentous second year post with a commentary on public bathrooms. Let’s step back a moment and take it in. You are two! Seventeen more years until you go to college! How did we get to two already? Where did the time fly to? Two years ago you were this tiny screaming infant and now you are a twenty seven pound screaming toddler who can walk and talk and say hilarious things like, “Oh yes, airpane. Oh yes,” when queried about what is in the sky. You can show us the football referees signs for first down, safety, false start, offsides, timeout and touchdown. The best one is first down because I taught you to throw some drama into it so you step forward and throw your fist out and yell, “Firs down!” It is SO awesome.

The breadth, depth and width of your obsession with Tasses/Thomas the Train has grown in the past month to epic proportions and while these posts tend to focus on your accomplishments, I will say I gave myself a huge pat on the back when I learned all the lyrics to the Thomas and his Friends song. You like to prompt me when I forget the line, “…down the hills, around the bends, Thomas and his friends.” Your knowledge of the characters in Thomas astounds me. You know every single engine’s name; even the minor characters like Henry. Your dad and I were so excited to give you your new train table this morning and it has not disappointed. You have been playing with it for the past three hours. You took a very brief break to eat some toast and now you are back at it circling the trains around the track that your dad and I set up last night whispering and trying not to drop the tracks since we were right outside your door. This morning you woke up and your dad recorded you as you walked out of your room to see the track. It was such a funny reaction. I had been expecting a high pitched yell of “Tasses!” but you calmly walked over to the table and started pointing out the engines.

A year ago you weren’t even walking and you barely said Mama or Dad. Now you sprint from one end of the house to another and yell, “Bye Dad! Ove you Dad!” at bedtime. (The letter L is still non-existent in your vocabulary.) A year ago you still had to be spoon fed, made a mess of every single meal and found great joy in dropping food on the floor. Now you feed yourself, still make some messes but freak out when you drop food on the floor moaning, “Ohhh noooo.” Or you will simply tell me, “So messy!” You caught a 12 hour stomach bug last week and when you threw up you just cried and cried, “So messy. Sorry Mama. Sorry.” It broke my heart into about a bazillion pieces. A year ago you were still in your crib and now you are on the verge of getting a real twin bed. But I think the best thing about you becoming more grown up is the fact that you are so much more loving than you used to be. You will go up to almost anyone and throw your arms around their legs to give out hugs. You wrap your arms around your dad and me and announce, “Big Hug!” and then you hold my face in your hands and query, “big kiss?” before planting a huge sloppy kiss on my mouth.

We had a little party for you on Sunday to celebrate the twoness of you and amazingly the predicted thunderstorms did not materialize and the afternoon was perfect. The bright yellow leaves from the neighbors yard fell as you and your friends raced up and down the driveway and in and out of the garden. People sat on the lawn and the pimento cheese sandwiches were eaten and the juice boxes drunk and everyone sang Happy Birthday Dear Luke and I couldn’t because I had a huge lump in my throat. When I finally got to hold you two years ago after my very long labor and I looked at your teeny tiny newborn face I could never have imagined the life we have now. I could not have dreamed how you would turn out to be the biggest challenge of my life and pretty much the best thing that has ever happened all wrapped up into one rosy cheeked, laughing, funny, little boy.

So big hug and big kiss little one. Happy Birthday.

Music: Nothing by Steve Foxbury off the Do Fun Stuff album. All proceeds from the album go towards Smith Magenis Syndrome research.