Spirit Fingers. 23 Months.

20 Sep

So, this may be a long update since I managed to miss your 22 month post in a perfect storm of housework, traveling, writers block and, perhaps, just perhaps, sheer laziness. But fall is here and with it a new school year, which always feels like the real beginning of the year to me so I am feeling more energetic as the mornings are cooler and crisper and fall slides into town. I saw a few yellow leaves on the ground the other day so it must be fall. And we went to the State Fair where you mooed at the cows and oinked at the pigs and gobbled french fries so it must be fall. And we took a picture of you on your “first day” of school again this year and I marveled at the change from your first day picture from a year ago. I long for the day that I can buy school supplies for you and hope that you like freshly sharpened pencils and college ruled (none of that wide ruled stuff) notepaper as much as I do.

You started off your 21st month with a massive growth spurt that left all of us in a very bad mood due to your lack of sleep and general crankiness but added inches to your legs. Your face is still as round as ever but you are tall enough now to really look like a little boy. When your dad cut your hair the other week I exclaimed that you looked like you had aged another six months, which is not much in the grand scheme of things but you are definitely not a baby anymore. You have a mind of your own and it is becoming more and more apparent that you have a will of your own too and everything, I repeat, everything, must be on your terms. I finally got a book that I had seen many times at the library and in bookstores that I didn’t think applied to you: Raising Your Spirited Child. I had long poo-pooed the notion that you were doing anything that wasn’t age appropriate. Total freak outs when needing to transition from one thing to the next? Don’t all children do that? Insisting on trying to do something new while simultaneously getting so frustrated that you throw said toy across the room? Um, I throw things. Maybe it’s genetic. Massive aversion to new things until you have had the time to get accustomed to it about a dozen times over? OK, so you don’t like new things. Anyway, I sat down and started reading and woah, maybe you are just a little more intense than the next kid. And maybe if I take the time to work with you on things maybe our days will get just a little bit better. And they have. And it’s been good. There are certainly plenty of days when I feel like screaming but the other day someone complimented me on having a polite child and I nearly died of pride.

The two year old birthdays, which trickled in over the past few months, kicked off with real gusto as we attended your friend Claire’s party in August. Her birthday was the first of your friends’ parties last year and looking around the backyard I couldn’t believe the change. Here were all these kids that a year ago could barely speak, let alone walk, running around demanding things of their parents, talking to each other, blowing bubbles, sliding down slides and feeding themselves. Here were all the parents, some of whom have become my closest friends, who a year ago I was just getting to know. It was a little bit mind blowing and as we sang happy birthday I got somewhat weepy. As these milestones slide by I feel like I can feel the years telescoping out in front of us and I can envision you and your friends at seven, at ten, at fifteen and I want things to slow down a little. This is rare for me.

You can now sing your own version of the alphabet song and join in when I sing, “I’ve Been Working on the Railroad,” which you refer to as the Twain Song, not to be confused with the Aipane Song, the Goonight Song, the Car Song or the Babee Song (I still don’t know what that last song is although you ask for it quite a bit.) One of your favorite things to do is grab a piece of chalk or a crayon and come to your father and me demanding that we draw a sun. What you really want is a happy face but the sun rays are an added bonus. We draw one sun and then you point to another part of the pavement or paper and say, “one sun. one sun.” You refuse to call any ball anything but a soccer ball. I say, “basketball?” and you respond firmly, ” soccarball.” You are very single minded in your wants and you are very pleased with your accomplishments. For a few weeks you shouted “I di it!” whenever you accomplished anything – or thought you had at any rate. This segued into “There you go,” which is so utterly charming that I laugh every time you say it. I realized I have been saying it to you for almost two years. Amazingly, you also really like your bike now and willingly put on your helmet. You go up and down the driveway and refuse to let us help you when you need to turn around.

Your newest trick is to come over to me as I am sitting relaxing in a chair and ask for my hand, “han? han?” I give you my hand, you pull me out my chair and then scramble up to sit in it yourself. Very crafty. Like so many other things that I wish for – sitting, crawling, walking, talking – once you start mastering these new developments, you start using them to your advantage. I used to wish for the day you could tell me what you want but now that you say no to most things and can insist on others, this whole verbal thing seems a little overrated. We taught you how to say Roll Tide (which sounds like “boooow tie!” when you say it) and Go Utes in preparation for the football season and every once in awhile you’ll randomly yell it out. You had a marvelous time at the Utah football game a few weeks ago cheering and pointing out that the band was playing music. You were not thrilled when Utah scored a touchdown because everyone, including your very excitable mother, was cheering and screaming. You wept but a trip to the slushy stand quickly cleared away your tears and you turned out to be a quick study on using the straw/spoon to shovel the bright red ice into your mouth.

You are head over heels in love with trains and airplanes and cars, but mostly trains. Most of your obsession focuses on Thomas the Tank Engine, whom you refer to as, “Tasses,” as in every morning the first word out of your mouth is, “Tasses? Tasses?” I usually insist on Sesame Street because that insipid Thomas theme music is more than I can stand at 7.00 in the morning. We have your birthday present of a train table, tracks and cars tucked away in the garage and I can hardly stand that we have to wait another month to give it to you because I am certain you are going to love it so much. I have started to dread going anywhere with a train track because the resulting temper tantrum when we have to leave is unbearable.

Two months away from this blog and there is so much more I could write about and so many things I know I am still forgetting. Funny things that you have said that I share with your father and friends but neglect to write down. Adorable moments that rise out of the frustrating ones – like the way you refuse to let me button your shirt but when I ask you if your dad can do it you reply with your breathy, “tay” (short for okay) and then stand proudly in front of your dad while he buttons and tells you that you look sharp. I feel sure that I remember everything about your little life but how could I remember every single moment of the last almost-two years? I came across an email I wrote to my sister the day after you were born telling her that you are perfect except for a tiny cut on your arm from the c-section. What? A cut on your arm from the c-section? I told your father about it and he had also no memory of the cut. I suppose this is what parenthood is – all of the tiny events that seem momentous at the time and quickly fade as presumably more important things take over. Maybe this is what this blog is then, remembering the big things but hopefully capturing a few of those small details I would never otherwise remember. But will I recall in thirty years – without this help of this blog – how much I love going in to check on you at night now? How I love smelling your warm head, straightening the blanket around you as you tuck your hands underneath your chest and smiling when sometimes you wake up just enough to sleepily say, “night” as I shut the door? I hope so.

22 and counting

26 Aug

I have not been able to clear my head and get something written for your up and down and all around crazy 22nd month. Someday soon. But right now I cannot think of anything clever to say and unfortunately there are 80 loads of laundry to do and 15 million things to pickle and preserve in the garden and heaps of papers to file and all of these things are making it impossible for me to write something cohesive and funny and actually worth reading.

This is what you looked like a year ago. Your lack of hair and teeth make me laugh.

21 Forever. Or Not.

21 Jul

“And then Olivia’s mother gives her a kiss and says, ‘you know, you really wear me out but I love you anyway.'”
-Ian Falconer
Olivia

That just about sums up this month, with each day given over to a lot of high pitched squeals, tantrums and emphatic “no’s” to my questions of “do you want some milk? some juice? some water? to go outside? go inside? play with your blocks? your legos? your cars? read a book?” There has been a lot of screaming in grocery stores, a lot of total freak-outs when you don’t get exactly what you want. There have not been many days when I haven’t felt like throwing my hands up in the air and walking away as you stand defiantly ready to pitch your body on the ground.

So, briefly, here are your accomplishments lest you read this twenty years from now and think I only focused on the bad. You are putting words together now. It is not just Dad or guitar anymore, but “dad’s guitar” and “mama’s hands” and “Buddy all done” and “Nuke eat.” (You are no longer Uke. You inexplicably have added an “n” to the front of your name and are “Nuke.” This is probably an apt description for you.) You can pull peas out of their shells and strawberries from the vine and currants off their stems. You like watering the garden but only certain parts. If I try to direct you to water the cucumber instead of the very soggy beets you get very angry. You continue to love your books so much that the other night I went to make sure you were warm enough and found a book tangled in the blankets. You awoke the other night at 1.00 in the morning demanding your “panes book.” That’s “planes” to the rest of us. When I handed it to you, you clutched it to your chest and went promptly back to sleep.

After months of not going anywhere, we are on the go again. The two of us boarded a plane to California at the end of June to see your grandparents, cousins, aunts and uncle, and we were accompanied by our newest distraction – a portable DVD player gifted to me from your grandmother – something that is both a blessing and a curse. A blessing because I was actually able to sit and read on an airplane while you watched Caillou for the umpteeth bazillionth time. I had resigned myself to never reading another book on an airplane until you were 18, or maybe at least 12, so this was awesome. The curse is, of course, that you want to watch Caillou all the time and this leads to more tears and screaming. But for that twenty minutes of uninterrupted reading time, I will gladly deal with the fallout.

We went to a lot of parks in Sacramento, and it amazed me to see you doing all of these things you couldn’t do when we visited last year. You walked to the park, slid down the slides all by yourself, rode the spring mounted horse without assistance, climbed ladders and stood in awe of the crew of workers trimming the trees in the park. We came back to Salt Lake just in time for the Fourth of July, celebrating with little poppers that explode with a loud snap when you throw them to the ground and those ash snakes that slowly emerge from small black tablets. You were fascinated by the snakes and couldn’t believe we were letting you throw the poppers on the ground since we spend so much time telling you not to throw things. You did not like the regular fireworks at all.

A few weeks later we were back on the road, this time to Sun Valley where again I was astonished by your growth. Last year we took you fishing and you sat on the river bank barely crawling and eating dirt. This year you picked up every rock and stick you could find and threw it with gusto into the river. You are fascinated by water. You love watching rivers move by, streams trickle and lakes move into shore and you will throw anything you can find into moving water just to see it carried away. You also figured out how to climb out of your pack-n-play during the trip. Yeah you.

Everyone warned me that the so-called terrible twos are not so bad, that it is really the 18-24 month period that is brutal, and this is clearly the case with you. You want to do everything by yourself but still need our help for so many things. If I try to hold your hand now you wrench it away. What used to be an easy transition from waking up to watching Sesame Street has turned into a mine field if I don’t offer you milk fast enough or, like the other morning, I don’t give you both milk and juice at the same time. This month has challenged me like no other. I know I have written about this before but this month seemed even harder. I used to think I would let you read this blog when you were seven or eight, but now I think I might keep it from you until you have children of your own. I worry that you will read this and think that I didn’t love you. I do love you, but I will admit that there are times when I don’t like what you are doing one bit.

Sometimes parenting feels like the worst babysitting jobs – the ones where the kids are awful and not listening to you and throwing fish sticks at each other and you still have five hours before the parents come home. And when they do, they pay you next to nothing and forget to tip. There are times when I wish that somehow I could just stop being a parent for a few hours, not just to take a break from you but to really not be a parent. Because even if you are at school or asleep or even if I get to leave town for a day or two and leave you behind, I still worry. I worry about you getting sick or hurt and being inconsolable. I think about you needing me and not being there to make things better and that feeling never ever goes away no matter where I go or what I do. And that’s not all bad, it isn’t really bad at all, but it is exhausting. So this month I had to force myself over and over to take deep breaths and try to find the good moments, the moments that make being your mother worth it again.

When we were in Sun Valley we took you up to Red Fish Lake and went to the beach. It is a beautiful dark blue alpine lake ringed with tall thin pines and the spiky peaks of the Sawtooth Mountains. You were in heaven standing ankle deep in the water throwing rock after rock after rock. I think you would have stood in that crystal clean mountain lake forever if we had let you. Occasionally you would look up from your rock throwing endeavors and comment on the boats going by. Almost all of the pictures we took that afternoon are of your hat because you refused to look up from the water and the rocks. After we finally persuaded you to come out of the water, we got some dinner and you made us laugh by dipping your french fries into the ketchup and then into your ice cream. As the sun started to sink we got back in the car and I drove back to Sun Valley through the warm summer night and you and your dad mooed at the cows grazing on the side of the road. I tried to fix everything in my mind: the music playing, the way the light made everything look so green, the river rolling past and the fly fishermen in the distance casting into the evening hatch, your laughter, and knew I would remember that car ride.

20

23 Jun

How is it nearly the end of June already? I am having a hard time believing you are only four months away from turning two. The two year old girls in your Little Gym class are actual little girls with long stretched out legs who do somersaults on their own and scale the bars with an ease I am not sure I ever possessed. I look at you, trotting gleefully on your stubby little legs running into things because you never look where you are going and swinging on bars and cannot fathom that you will be climbing those same bars in a few months.

Or maybe I can because two weeks ago I woke up to the sound of you sobbing hysterically. Usually your morning cries are more like whines so this brought me downstairs pretty quickly. I rushed into your room, looked at your crib and then saw you on the floor. Yes, you had figured out how to climb, or in this case, fall out of your crib. Major. Bummer. I was counting on you being contained in that thing until you were at least twelve or thirteen. One Facebook post, 20 helpful comments and twelve hours later, we introduced you to the idea of sleeping on your mattress on the floor. This newest change in your life yielded mixed results, much like all new things in your life. The first night you sacked out for twelve straight hours and I was elated. I should have known better because the next few nights you woke up every two to three hours and banged on your door until I came to escort you back to bed. But there are benefits too to this new routine. Now when you get into bed, I lay down beside you and sing you songs and you cuddle up with your lion and when I say good night you lift your head and blow me a kiss and say, “night.” It is the sweetest thing ever and I have to force myself not to sit back down and sing you dozens more songs.

Everything is “mine” now. You point to your dad’s beer and my glass of wine and say, “mine,” which they most certainly are not. Trying to explain mine and yours is incredibly difficult when it is so intuitive to me and yet you don’t get it at all. We spend a lot of time in grocery stores talking about mine and yours as you point to items you would like to be yours.

Another concept that I find hard to grasp now that I actually have to teach it to you is counting. You love to count and love to walk up and down the stairs (which you can do sometimes without assistance) counting each stair but always skipping from six to eight. I am not sure why you don’t like seven, but you do like to holler out a triumphant, “ten!” However, as much as you are recognizing numbers and counting, you clearly don’t get the concept of numbers as units of things. What makes it obvious that there are three strawberries when you could count each one as its own strawberry? Your father informs me that there are entire books on philosophy devoted to this concept so I am glad to know my brain hasn’t gone to complete mush in the mundane details of your life.

Amazingly, incredibly, finally, you have learned the word, “yes.” I thought it would never come and that you would continue to refuse things on principle for the rest of your life. However, you seem to have discovered that sometimes I offer you things that you might actually like so yes is a useful word and you do love to say it. The trick now is to teach you how to tack on a “please” or “ma’am” to the end of the yes. So far that is not going as well. But you continue to make your father and me laugh every day with your antics. The other night you and I were outside inspecting ants and other backyard items and you suddenly ran into the kitchen where your father was making pizzas to grill all the while demanding, “saw-ee. saw-ee.” We could not figure it out until we realized you were asking for sausage and you looked triumphant when we gave you some. Other accomplishments include learning how to climb in and out of the dog door, tossing rocks into puddles of mud in the garden and throwing whatever we give you into the garbage can.

Summer – I hesitate to say this since a few weeks ago it was so cold I had to turn the heat on – has arrived and with it the farmer’s market and the re-opening of the pool. You love the Farmer’s Market for two reasons: the abundance of dogs you can tell us about and the trucks that the farmers use to drive their goods to the market. Seemingly overnight you have become a Boy. A month or so ago a dozen trucks could have passed you on the street and you would not have batted an eye. Now you point them out wherever we go. “Tuck! Boom!” Trash collection day is like a high holy holiday as the garbage and recycling truck circle the neighborhood endlessly.

So we go to the market and you run around pointing out the dogs and the trucks and we try not to lose you in the crowd or let you run headlong into tables of lettuce, beets, peas and dried fruit – not a lot of variety in June in Utah at the farmer’s market. On Sundays, after we go to breakfast, we take you to your swim lesson at the JCC. The swim season got off to a rocky start when you started crying the moment we got in the pool the morning of your first lesson. I had this awful vision of being stuck at home all summer long as you resolutely refused to get in the pool. But I should have know your love of water would win out – I fear seeing our water bill since your favorite thing to do is play with the garden hose as I attempt to water the flowers. Within ten minutes you were splashing and playing with water toys, kicking your legs and cautiously trying to blow bubbles. Going to the pool has been another reminder of how much you have grown. Last year you could barely crawl in and out of the pool. This year you wade in fearlessly staring wide eyed at the big kids splashing and throwing themselves into the pool with reckless abandon and I can see for the first time your eagerness to grow up.

A few days ago we headed to a concert at Red Butte Gardens. Your grandfather was visiting from Kentucky and you happily sat on his lap telling him all about your Elmo sticker book for the better part of an hour. Your dad and I were amazed because you are rarely so friendly with strangers and you never stay in one place that long. After awhile you climbed into my lap and ate the parts of your dinner you wanted, discarding the rest and we listened to the opening act, which closed with a cover of Purple Rain. As I sat there holding you I suddenly remembered how I used to sing this song to you every night when you were about four months old as we waited for your dad to come home from work. I would dance you around the living room dipping you on the refrain and you would laugh and laugh.

My throat constricted listening to this cover, thinking of the first time I came to Red Butte with your dad five years ago. We had met that January and now it was June and I was studying for the bar exam and falling madly in love with your father. I remember walking through the garden that summer during concerts on my way to buy ice cream, smiling at the kids dancing and thinking that your dad was the person I wanted to build a life with. Someone to have children with and come to Red Butte with and watch our kid dance. One year later your dad and I were back at Red Butte and just married. I thought about the first night I found out I was pregnant with you and telling your dad, “now I can be one of those happy pregnant women at the Red Butte concerts,” and I was. I remembered you inside me kicking through concerts and laughing and hoping you would be one of those dancing kids. Last year we took you and you crawled all over the place, not really getting that you were at a concert but enjoying an outing and staying up past your bedtime. And then my thoughts circled back to the present, sitting with you in my lap as the song played on and tears in my eyes realizing that the long ago dream of being married and creating a little family, and having a dancing kid who made other people smile as they walked by on their way to buy ice cream had all come true. This was our life now and I felt so unbelievably lucky and held you tighter and whispered, “only wanted to see you laughing in the purple rain” in your ear and dipped you a little.

19 Months on the 19th! Magic Birthday!

19 May

So, remember how last month I wrote about how spring had finally come and winter was over and how happy that made me? And I talked about how being in the garden with you was perfect and lovely and the culmination of so many years of waiting to hang out in the garden with my sweet kiddo? I do. It was just a few weeks ago.

Yeah, well, I lied. First of all it snowed. A lot. For days and day. Snow piled up on top of all of the flowering fruit trees that bravely put out hundreds of flowers. I have no idea if we’ll get any fruit this year and I am sad about it because I couldn’t wait to walk out to the front yard and pick a perfectly ripe peach for the two of us. The chances that you would take that same peach and hand it back to me with a firm, “No,” are actually quite high so there goes another lovely daydream. As I write this, it is thankfully not snowing, but it is pouring rain again and I can honestly say I am elated that you are in day care today because another day cooped up in the house with you would have been the last straw.

Second of all, a few days after I wrote that post you turned back into wild child, prompting your father to quote The Onion headline, “99% of one year olds have ADD,” many times a week. One moment you are cuddling with us on the couch and running to us and burying your head in our legs in the sweetest way, the next you are hanging on that same leg wailing over some unknowable frustration. I have the audacity to sing and you tell me, “No No No,” unless it is bedtime when you have now started asking for a song repeatedly. We try to read you a book that you find unacceptable and you snatch it and throw it to the floor or, on your better days, put it back in your box of books and then search for exactly the right one. This process can take a long time as you pull books out and examine them as if reading the plot. (Gorilla escapes from cage. Lets other animals out or Snow falls. Child goes out to play. Has fun or Rabbit has difficult time going to sleep because a creepy rabbit in the corner is whispering hush.)

These are actual conversations with you:

Me: Do you want help getting off of the rocking horse?
You: No. Down?
Me: So you want help?
You: No.

Your Dad: Please put your shoes away in the basket
You: No (with a distinct underlying tone of, “Not in this lifetime sucker. Try and make me.”)

Me: So are you done with your food?
You: Done. (Stuffs food in mouth)

Me: Did you poop? (A ridiculous question since it is obvious to anyone in a ten mile range that this has occurred)
You: No (runs away so the diaper changing chase/wrestling match can ensue)

You: Song? Song? Song? Song? while grabbing my face and moving it back and forth
Me: How about you sing me a song?
You: No

In the past month you have fallen in love with the power of the no probably because we say it to you so often. We spend all day saying: don’t do that, please don’t touch, we’ll do that later, take that outside, now you are going inside, and NOOOO! The other day I turned my back for one minute while you were watching Sesame Street and in that minute you flipped your chair on its side, climbed it and then climbed onto the television console. When I turned around you were kneeling on top of the table gleefully playing with the remote. Of course I told you to get down immediately but I was kind of proud of your bravery too. I didn’t tell you that part.

There have been some great moments tucked in between the tantrums and whining. You are counting everything now, at least up to the number eight. You are recognizing more and more letters and have added so many words to your vocabulary that I cannot remember them all, although I think my favorite is “mulk” for “milk.” You will repeat words when asked, the cutest being “I love you,” which comes out more like I woh oo. And you are starting to learn the correct words for the situation at hand. Last night you dripped milk on your bare toes and you looked up at us and said, “Ohh no,” in this very sad mournful little voice. Your dad and I just lost it laughing it was so damned cute. Then you looked enormously pleased that you had made us laugh.

All of this talking has really stemmed from the fact you got tubes in your ears this month and that has been, on the whole, a very good thing. You started getting ear infections about seven months ago and once you had your first, you just kept on getting them. Every month found us at the doctor’s or the urgent care with the doctor trying to look into your ears as you screamed and she would sigh and say, “Yes, those ears looks bad,” and we’d start off on another round of antibiotics. Four ear infections in a year period is usually a red flag that something is amiss in a kid’s ear, but six in six months put us on the fast track to ear tubes after the specialist took one look at your latest double ear infection and agreed that tubes were a really good idea.

And so the surgery date was set and I didn’t give it another thought until the night before when the terror of you having surgery crashed around me. I could not get the image of you going under out of my head. I could only picture you alone and scared. I wished with all my might that you were older so I could at least explain what was going on, but you are so little and even though you can point out elephants and lions and geese and make an awesome honking noise for a goose you were not going to get what was going on. My heart just broke and I could not stop crying thinking about it. And so I got it right then. I got that doing anything for your kid idea. I got that I could lay down my life for you and not give it a second thought. I got that I would move mountains, toss cars aside or wrestle large animals for you just to keep you from getting hurt.

Of course, after all that the surgery was easy as pie. They gave you a tranquilizer and you got really loopy and I wished, like a terrible mother, that I could get a few of those tranquilizers to give to you on days when you will not sit still for one second. Then they put you in a little wagon and took you off to surgery and 25 minutes later you were done and awake and really mad because I couldn’t get you your milk fast enough. But what is most amazing is the change in you. You were talking some before but now you repeat words or try new words all the time. You chatter about five times as much as you use to and it’s not like you weren’t a chatterbox to begin with.

Every night now when I get you out of the bath I wrap you up in a towel and take you downstairs and I ask you what the dragon says and you let our these fabulous roars. It is unlike any of your other animal sounds and it makes me laugh every time. I love that we have funny parts to our routine because the sameness of everyday is sometimes more than I can bear: the monotony of the five bazillionth diaper change, the boredom of making you scrambled eggs again, the endless fights over brushing your teeth, the days of block building and book reading and crayon coloring stretch on and on and I admit to myself that parenting is sometimes incredibly boring. But when you do these unexpected things like running to me when I pick you up from day care yelling, “mama! mama!” or briefly lying down with me on the couch, your little body relaxed for just a few seconds, it makes it all worthwhile. I read the best post on Design Mom about being a mother the other day and the author, Kristen Frantz, managed to describe motherhood so perfectly that I cried. I wanted to write something like that to you this month in honor of Mother’s Day (which was awesome because I got a hand colored card from you,) but I couldn’t find the right words so I am glad she could say it for me.

“What can I expect from becoming a mother? Disappointment. Frustration. Surprise. Joy. Love. Love. Love. Do I have what it takes? Sometimes yes, so much so that you will astound yourself. And sometimes no, this job will ask for more than you can give. What does it cost? All of you. And you will never regret it.”

I never regret you. Even when you make that face.

You can vote! Oh, wait, that’s 18 years old.

20 Apr

Are you really a year and half old? I like these milestone dates because it makes you seem more like a kid than a baby and it is easier to tell someone you are a year and a half old rather than 16 and 3/4 months or 82 bazillion weeks old. And now that you are eighteen months old you are officially smarter than a chimpanzee. I read in some book that until kids are eighteen months old they are basically the intellectual equivalent of a chimpanzee. Let’s hope you go up from here.

I will admit though that you have learned so much in the last month. You are pointing out numbers and letters and delight in saying, “O,” “eight” and “six” especially. The other day you finally started saying your name, “uke.” You do not seem to know how to deal with the letter L as you leave it out of almost every word that requires it. You surprise me all the time by saying words I didn’t know you knew. Today it was “airplane.” You will now put your shoes away when asked and look delighted as you set the shoes just so in the basket. It is beyond adorable. You are learning how to feed Buddy dinner and absolutely love to take the cup of food and dump it into his bowl. You also immediately sit next to his food bowl when I ask Buddy to sit, which never fails to crack me up. I can honestly say the we did not set out to have a kid so we could have someone to do all the menial chores around the house but I can also tell you that as soon as you are tall enough to take out the trash and rinse the dishes, hot damn, we will be in business.

Your bedtime routine has become so much more fun since we moved you downstairs and you have a playroom outside of your bedroom. Your dad comes home and you immediately race to the bottom of the stairs, look up at him and say, “Dah! Dah!” Your dad and I sip our well deserved glasses of wine and you run around entertaining us. Some nights you and your dad throw the basketball into your little basketball hoop and with every shot you make you yell as if you are in some kind of slam dunk contest. Other nights you attempt to climb onto one of the chairs with accompanying grunts of, “ooo,” as you struggle with all your might to swing your legs onto the seat of the chair. Your smile when you make it is one of pure triumph along with a look of, “where can I go from here?” You also love to pretend to push us over. We sit on the floor and you come rushing up, stop short a few inches in front of us, pause dramatically and smile and then throw yourself into our arms. As soon as we fall over, you roll out of our arms and then immediately pull our shoulders up to sit up and start all over again. You are becoming very dictotorial about what you want us to do whether it is to sit in a chair, stop singing or dancing (I like to call you the Baptist preacher as you emphatically admonish me, “No! No! No!” when I try to sing to you) or to stand in a certain place.

The best thing that has happened this month is that spring is finally here. Even Easter wasn’t immune to this long dragged out winter as we woke up on Easter morning to a couple of inches of snow on the ground. Thankfully, it all melted before our egg hunt with your friends in the afternoon. All of you were bundled up – the little girls’ adorable dresses covered by equally adorable spring coats – and the grownups shivered and marveled at all of you running around collecting eggs. A year ago most of you were barely crawling and to see the change was nothing short of mind blowing. I don’t think I even mentioned Easter last year because I was so exhausted by the six month old you but this year I couldn’t imagine not getting a little basket for you. Watching your dad help you hunt for eggs made me tear up because I used to think Easter was a pretty fun holiday with adults but it was about a thousand times more fun with you.

Three days a week I drive you to day care so you can spend the day running around and playing and I can spend the day running around doing errands and enjoy leaving all the baby gates open so I can walk through the house freely. The street we take is lined with trees that for the past six months have been bare of leaves and the lawns have been covered in snow and slush and are generally quite brown and sad. Two weeks ago the forsythia started the show and made bright splashes of yellow against the brick houses and fences and then the other morning, seemingly overnight, the trees exploded into bloom. I was afraid last week’s snow storm would knock those fragile buds off the trees but these Utah trees know what they are doing. Watching spring come is one of my favorite activities and this year it is all the more joyous because you so love being outside. When I mention we are headed outside you immediately rush to the backdoor and yell, “side. side. side” Once I help you down the steps you squeal and head off to look at the birds in the snowball bush that now sing all day long and then you yell something that sounds like, “chalk” and grab the chalk and start very efficiently marking the garage door, the garbage cans, the chair and my car when my back is turned.

In the spring your dad and I spend a lot of time just walking around the garden assessing what to grow and what we have to do. We peer into the ground to see if the asparagus is coming up, watching for signs of life on the branches of the raspberries, greedily looking forward to the day that we can get all the tomato plants in. Last year was so much harder because you were six months old, not mobile and got really angry and irritated if we left you alone in your pack n’ play in the middle of the yard for too long. Now you toddle across the yard as fast as you can so you can get into the garden and play your favorite game of picking up rocks and tossing them through the fence. I also introduced you the other day to your sweatshirt pockets, which you had apparently never noticed and you discovered how much fun it is to put rocks in your pockets. When I brought you inside later I found approximately ten rocks stuffed into your pockets. All I ask is that I never find any living creatures.

The other evening we walked out to the garden and you stood in front of the chives – the only thing that is growing right now – and pulled the tips off and pretended to eat them. You spotted an airplane and pointed it out to me and then immediately started waving goodbye to the airplane. You like saying goodbye to things and people although if asked to wave goodbye you will think about it for about 30 seconds and look at your hand as if it is supposed to wave by itself independent of any action you might take. After tasting a few more chives you walked over to me where I was sitting on one of the raised vegetable beds and climbed into my lap and we sat like that for a little while in the warm spring evening in the sunshine. You chatted softly about this and that and I smelled the newly thawed dirt and your sweet little neck and birds sang somewhere and dogs barked and the neighborhood kids yelled a block away. I am so glad winter is over.

Well hello 17.

19 Mar


Whew, deep breath.

Kiddo, in the last month our good friend and neighbor, whom you know as Marlo’s mom and someday when you are talking will know as “Mrs. Armstrong” as in “yes ma’am, no ma’am, thank you ma’am. Can I get you another gin and tonic ma’am?” happened to link to out little site. She’s got a wee little following of her own and holy moses kiddo. Let’s just say a lot of people have seen your picture in the last few weeks. So I’m a little stressed about this month’s post. And I might have lost a lot of sleep over it while I tried to pretend that we didn’t have thirteen whole followers and eighteen comments. But we are glad they are here. I might have also lost that sleep because I had to re-ferberize you out of wanting some milk in the middle of the night. I had forgotten how stubborn you can be when you really want something because the first night you cried from 12.30 until 4.30 in the morning. It also happened to be the night of daylight savings so I can tell you first hand that nothing interesting happens at 2.00 in the morning on daylight saving’s night. Nothing.

But you are oblivious to these external changes and these months are starting to meld together in that there is a sameness to a lot of days with little breaks of excitement when you do something new. For example. you will now hold up your index finger when I ask you how old you are and say something akin to, “one.” I know you still have a bunch of growth spurts and developmental steps ahead but now that you’ve hit the big one – walking and you are slowly starting to talk the little things don’t seem as big. But of course they are to you. The fact that you can say apple and point to the banana and say “Bah!” on every single page of Goodnight Gorilla is, of course, a huge deal. You are thrilled with this new word apple and I don’t think I ever knew that it showed up in so many places. You will be watching Sesame Street or Caillou while I rush around doing the dishes and suddenly you will yell, “App!” and point to the screen and then repeat it over and over. And just last night you leaned over and kissed me on the cheek. A real kiss with pursed lips and a little smack. I thought it was specially for me until you also kissed the laundry detergent bottle this morning.

You are learning to press your parents’ limits. We have forbidden you to play with the fireplace because you have nearly succeeded in pulling the cover off of the fireplace. We don’t like that brass cover either so maybe you are just sending us a message to redecorate already. But now you sidle up to the fireplace and when we say, “Luke. No.” in our most impressive low parent voices you simply place your finger on the fireplace and then slowly smile at us. The smile says it all, “I’m not playing with it, I’m just touching it. You didn’t say I couldn’t simply touch it.” How is it that you are splitting hairs at seventeen months? It reminds me of the part in The House on Plum Creek when Laura and Mary roll in the haystacks after their Pa said they couldn’t jump off the haystacks.

Those are the funny moments. The not so funny moments are when you throw all your food on the floor while looking me in the eye and laugh. And then I get you out of your high chair and you proceed pick up the food you just dropped on the floor and throw it over the baby gate. Those are the times when it is all I can do not to start screaming not because you haven’t eaten – I’m getting used to your hunger strikes – but because it seems so disrespectful. I know you don’t really get that I breaded those chicken strips and then fried them to perfection just for you. This is too much to ask of you, I suppose, but you clearly get that you are doing something wrong and you are getting pleasure out of making me want to cry. Those are moments when I do not like being a parent. And you won’t get that until you are a parent.

In school you have moved up from the baby’s Honey Bee room where you were clearly the biggest kid on the block – as evidenced by your class picture populated by seven babies and then you, lounging in the middle of the group looking very cool and grown up. In the toddler’s Tator Tot room you eat your snacks at a little table with all the other one year olds and take your nap on a cot. I am not sure I can conjure up anything more completely adorable than you sleeping on a cot. I keep asking your teachers to take a picture of this phenomenon because I cannot wrap my head around the fact that you sleep somewhere without bars and you don’t just get up and walk around the room.

Now that you are with bigger kids you are coming home with more battle scars. The other week you came home with a cut under your eye that made you look very badass. Apparently some kid scratched you when you took his toy. I tried to find some sympathy for you but honestly, you took the kid’s toy and you shouldn’t have done that. It is a funny thing having a boy. There is this part of me that wants to protect you from everything, even from yourself, as you attempt to go down the stairs without me or try to crawl through the dog door but then I think maybe you have to learn how to stand up for yourself. Would feel the same way if I had a girl? And then I wonder sometimes if I don’t protect you enough. Are you scared at play group sometimes because some kid has tried to pull your hair? I hope not.

Your other big news is that we moved you downstairs into your new room; the room that you will most likely occupy until you leave for college. It is bigger than your old room and I think you like the space because you spend a lot of time running around it. I was a little bit worried that we might have missed the window for you to transition to a new space and that we would have to wait until you were thirteen but you fell asleep that first night in your new room without missing a beat. So now your father and I have the entire upstairs to ourselves again in the evenings and let me tell you, it’s a little strange. I didn’t think I would miss your presence, your little sleeping presence just across the hallway, but I do. I have this overwhelming urge to go and check on you in the evenings because you seem so far away.

This last week has been really difficult. Your dad has been in Hawaii for work all week and it’s been just the two of us. You are growing four new teeth at the same time, are on the brink of another ear infection and have generally been in a contrary mood. You even had a breakdown at Little Gym, which never happens. This has been more than a little challenging for me, someone who often times has very little patience with motherhood as it is. I’ve really had to look hard to find the good and charming things about you. I drive around with Kanye West’s Stronger on repeat even though most of the lyrics are not an anthem to parenthood. However, “that what don’t kill me will only make me stronger,” strikes a chord when you throw your fifteenth tantrum of the day.

I know this sounds terrible, but it’s true. There is this wonderful video online about being a mom and there is a line that says, “Motherhood . . . it’s the best there is, and sometimes it’s the worst.” The whole video makes me cry every time but that line runs through my head many times a day because it is so true. Raising you has been the hardest thing I have ever tackled in my life. So I wake up everyday mustering my wits and I keep coming back to something you recently started doing when I get you dressed in the mornings. After I have wrestled you into a diaper, pulled a shirt over your head and managed to get some pants on you, I stand you up and you wrap your little arms around my arm to balance as I put your shoes on. It is such a tiny brief moment in the day but it never fails to make me smile; those tiny skinny arms wrapped around mine. It gives me the strength to go on and tackle everything else.

You are Sixteen Months Going on No.

5 Feb

Another month. Another few milestones. Another few moments of soul aching loveliness. Another few reasons to burrow my head in the pillow and scream in frustration.
You have unfortunately discovered the word no and consequently you say no to everything; even things you actually like. Even when your dad and I nod our heads and enthusiastically say, “Yes!” you shake your head right back and say, “No!” But it’s more like, “Ney,” with a twist of whine thrown in for good measure. I grit my teeth and try to be zen about the fact I have years of this in front of me although the no’s are not nearly as frustrating as the collapse to the ground move you make when you don’t want to go somewhere. I have watched this maneuver for years in other kids and dreaded its appearance because there is nothing more fun than gathering up a heavy writhing mass of toddler who doesn’t want to go somewhere.
The weather around here has been unseasonably, unsettling, warm. The tulips have been working their way out of the ground for weeks. I would love nothing more than to wake up to find a foot or two of snow on the ground but you are still in love with the driveway and all of the delights it offers so I’ve made an uneasy peace with forty degree weather in February. I bought a kid’s snow shovel for the non existent snow and for a few weeks you would carry this shovel everywhere. A friend joked that while I fretted you didn’t have a special blanket or stuffed animal you had instead bonded with a plastic snow shovel.
The shovel also accompanied us on walks around the neighborhood. This phrase, “walks around the neighborhood” sounds much more impressive than the reality. Your idea of a walk is to stop every three steps to examine a blade of grass, pick up a stick, pat the fire hydrant or shove a rock in your mouth. Our walks are accompanied by a relentless barrage of “et’s dat?” “et’s dat?” “et’s dat?” and I describe telephone wires, houses, driveways and fences to you. It is tiring but I feel so guilty if I don’t tell you for the hundredth time that that object you are so curious about is a tree and that a tree grows branches. But every once and while you put your hand in mine and we stroll down the street together and those are moments that you imagine all of parenthood will be like. As a parent I know now that 98% of parenting is nothing like you expected but that 2% makes all those no’s and tirades over nothing worth it. To feel your hand gripping mine as we walk down the sidewalk is even more endearing than those first times you squeezed my finger when you were an infant.
You are really into animal sounds now having added cow, horse (hey!) monkey, and sheep (always a whispered baa) to your list of sounds. This past week after a trip to the zoo you also learned elephant (a loud screech) and lion/tiger/bear/any loud animal (a near silent roar.) You love to ride your rocking horse and slap your stomach for giddyup. You also rub your belly instead of your chest for “please,” which is hilarious and incredibly endearing. You figured out that I let you do some things if you ask nicely so you use it for everything – getting me to open a door, asking me to let you out of the supermarket shopping cart and reading you another book. When I finish reading the book you immediately make the sign for more. This just about kills me seeing you carefully touching your fingers together making a sign I started signing to you when you were about six months old. I honestly never thought you were ever going to get it.
For as much as you are always on the go, you love to lounge. We got a kid’s chair for you to sit in when you watch Sesame Street and I think you love having a chair of your own. As bedtime approaches you start throwing yourself on blankets and pillows and against my shoulder sighing and smiling and pretending to sleep but as soon as we ask you if you are going to sleep on the floor you pop right up ready to read another book or throw another little person down into your Fisher Price castle dungeon. Your dad thinks it is funny that there is no right of due process in Fisher Price land.
All of these seem like large accomplishments but the largest and the one that came with the most drama was giving up your bottle. OK, I have to admit that you still get a bottle at 5.00 in the morning, which is the only way you sleep past 6.30. But you gave up your pacifier over a year ago and you haven’t, as I mentioned above, really bonded with anything like a blanket or animal (despite my best efforts to make you love your lion) and unless you were way down the tantrum path there was nothing that a bottle couldn’t make better. But you are getting ready to move into the Tater Tot room at school and apparently you cannot have a bottle there so we embarked on this journey, which took weeks and weeks. And weeks. And a lot of deep breaths. And wine.
My first attempts to get you to drink out of the tilty cup were enough to make me okay with you moving off to college with a bottle clamped firmly in your teeth because you lay on the floor and screamed for 20 minutes straight. Props for endurance. But then I started to notice you would not put up a fight of any kind if I simply handed you the cup while you were watching Sesame Street. Yes, I am probably contributing towards your obesity and sheer laziness when you are 15 but it worked. There are plenty of times when I put the cup on the floor and you literally spin around so you sit with your back to it and then every time you sneak a peek to see if it is still there you let out a howl of protest but I just ignore you and walk into the other room. And then I hear you pick up the cup and slurp away. Victory.
So you don’t take a bottle anymore when you go to bed at night, which means that after we have gone through our ritual of a bath, pajamas, tooth brushing, book reading, kissing dad good night and waving goodbye to Buddy, we go into your room and turn off the light and turn on your ocean wave sounds and I put you on my lap to sit for a bit before I put you in your crib. Some nights you wiggle around and cry a little and it takes a long time before you find a comfortable position and then I rub your back for awhile and whisper, “I love love love you,” in your ear. Other nights you just lean against me and it’s the leaning nights I love best of all. I’m not going to lie to you. I thought I really loved you when you were born. And I thought that I loved you even more as you grew and started smiling at us and even started crawling towards us or saying Mama or Dada. But it is when you lean against me at night as you are falling asleep that I cannot quantify my love for you. My head swims and my heart swells and I marvel for the millionth time that you are this imperfect and yet, perfect, little person and you are ours.
p.s. You are famous. Sort of.

Fifteen

21 Jan

Perhaps I should be in a better mood as I write this since it is 5.30 in the morning and you have reverted, once again, to waking up at 3.45 in the morning demanding a bottle. I was too tired this morning to let you cry it out and instead gave in. And gave in again at 4.30 when you were up again cheerily greeting me with an uh-oh as I searched in the dark for your bottle. I think of you as a fairly good sleeper but these constantly changing wake ups drive me crazy.
Let’s move onto other topics shall we? You are 15 months old and in the last week or so you seem to have put your temper tantrums on hold, if only temporarily. Sure there are a few meltdowns everyday but you seem somewhat happier. You climb on everything. You are so close to being able to climb on the couch by yourself; a prospect that dismays me to no end. You throw your hands up to signal a touchdown no matter what sport we are watching on television. And when you take a swig from your sippy cup you exhale with a soft “Haaa,” instead of a resounding “Ahhhh.” It is absolutely hilarious and you do it over and over to make your dad and me laugh. You are so annoying sometimes but so much more of a little person and engaging than you were just a few months ago that it makes you a lot more fun to be around.
Your newest love is walking up and down the driveway. This delights you to no end. I drive the car up to the garage and get you out of your carseat and set you on the ground. You get so excited that you stamp your feet and laugh hysterically and then you head over to the very dirty snow and proceed to eat it. Or you inspect some ice. Or you watch the water coming out of the drain pipe. I will walk down the driveway and look back and you look so tiny dwarfed by the car and the garbage cans and the house. Inside the house you fill up your spaces but outside I can see you for your actual size in the world and you are so little it startles me and twists my heart.
Christmas was a whirlwind of activity. Your aunt Emelie and uncle Isaiah and cousins Avery and Birch all drove from California through the night to get here at 7.00 in the morning. It was so exciting to answer the door and find them all on the doorstep. The house also filled up with your grandparents and your Aunt Anne and Uncle Tommy and resembled a three ring circus for a few days as you all played with your new toys and went sledding. You absolutely loved sledding and in the days since our first attempts you have gotten better and better at sitting on the sled and not falling over as we pull you around. I think that might be your favorite part of the endeavor. Your father and I got you a bike for Christmas, which you seem to like, but you like eating snow even more so going down the block is a slow business as you stop every foot or so to swing your leg over the bicycle seat and get some more snow to shove in your mouth.

We made another trip to the ER this month after you cut your eyebrow open on a cabinet handle. This trip was not nearly as awful as last year’s. For one, the injury wasn’t as bad. You were laughing and charming all the nurses by the time we got to the ER and for two, I think your dad and I are getting a little better at this parenting deal and able to take things in stride a little better. Yeah us! Thankfully no stitches were needed. Or rather the doctor told us if we cared about a scar we could get stitches but if we didn’t they could just clean out the cut. We chose option B and headed home. I hope you won’t hold that against us years from now.

You continue to be a chatterbox. I will pick you up from day care and be told that you spent the entire day saying, “hot.” You also say hat, head, bye, ball (more like bahl, which is also your word for bottle) and make little animal sounds when prompted. What does the chicken say? Bah-bah-bah. It is so cute. You also make b sounds when prompted by Sesame Street, which makes me feel better about plopping you down in front of the television for an hour every day. When I read you Good Night Moon, you put your finger to your lips and say, “shhhhhh” pages before I get to the old lady whispering hush. Sadly, your concept of shushing doesn’t extend to actually being quiet when I ask you to pipe down in the grocery store.
When you get hurt you refuse to be held. This is frustrating for me because I just want to make you feel better but I can understand it. When I get hurt I get really mad and don’t want to talk to anyone either. But when you aren’t angry or hurt about something you are getting so much more affectionate. If I lie down on the floor you immediately come over and pull up my shirt and blow raspberries on my back. You are very business like about it and it is so funny. You come walking over periodically as we are playing on the floor to fall into my arms and give me a kiss or a hug. When your dad comes home at night you get so excited that you toddle down the hall as fast as you can to find him. He bends down and stretches out his arms and you walk over arms outstretched to give him a hug. Then you back up a few feet, stamp your feet in excitement and run in for another hug. And another and another. It just kills me.

14-are all teens this hard?

18 Dec


A year ago you were just a teeny tiny two month old and now look at you. Actually, you were not so teeny at two months. Back then you were still in the 80th percentile or so for weight and now you are hovering around the 25th percentile. You have stretched out and you have these small legs with perfect little calf muscle that are so strong. The only part of you that is very big is your belly and that’s only after you’ve eaten and it is quite rotund and quite hilarious.

You can now point to your belly when we ask you, “Luke, where is your belly?” You pat your stomach and rub it carefully and proudly, like a satisfied eater. Then we ask you were your nose is and you always point to our noses instead. And last night you correctly identified your feet. It is so exciting and sweet to see you actually putting words to objects. Some days you don’t say mama at all and other days it’s mamamamamama and nuhnuhnuhnuh, which seems to be your word for pay attention to me or I’m irritated about something. I can sometimes feel your pain but I have to be honest and say it’s incredibly annoying too. Being at the grocery store with you writhing around in the shopping cart whining nuhnuhnuhnuh makes me want to tear my hair out. Patience is not a virtue that your mother possesses.
You also don’t let us read you books anymore. You want to do this on your own. I will start reading a book and you will yank it out of my hands and immediately start turning the pages, studying the pictures and babbling to yourself. I treasure the rare occasion when you stand next to me, hand on my arm, supervising as I read a book to you and recall when you were just a teeny tiny baby and I used to put you on the floor on a blanket and read Lord of the Rings to you and you wouldn’t protest at all.
You are walking about 90% of the time. The only time you crawl is after you’ve fallen and need a walk to climb up so you can resume walking around. But even that is coming to an end as you are learning how to stand all by yourself from a sitting position. You love to walk from the living room to the kitchen to your room and back. I only wish it was summertime so you could walk around the back yard because I think you get bored with your walking circuit. But no matter, you are walking! It’s so amazing to see. I was sitting at Little Gym the other day with your friend Claire’s mother and we both marveled to see all of these little kids walking around like little people. I can clearly remember when you and your friends were barely moving around the big red mat just learning how to crawl and now you are all moving in a hundred different directions.
You have spent a good part of this month growing some new teeth, which has been a real struggle for all of us. Your teething combined with your ever growing frustration with all the things you cannot figure out yet plus all the things I won’t let you do is sometimes more than I can handle. There have been lots of blocks, Legos, Fisher Price little people, books and other toys thrown in outrage. Lots of back arching, wailing and rolling away during diaper changes. Sometimes I just have to walk away because I don’t know how to deal with your temper tantrums and other times I feel compelled to pick you up and hold you because it has to be really difficult to be 14 months old and on the cusp of so many things. It must be hard to be able to wave and say buh bye but not be able to fit Legos together. There are so many things I wish I could help you with but you have to figure them out on your own.
The holidays are coming and Christmas is just a few days away as I finalize the post. Last year you were still so little that Christmas with you didn’t feel like as big a deal. It was sweet but you really weren’t doing much. But you are so much more grown up this year and so much more a little person that everything feels so much more Christmassy and I feel like sometimes I can barely stand the sweetness of it. I have faltered singing Christmas songs to you in the car and nearly started to cry picking up your first bike the other day. Your very first bike that will be waiting for you on Christmas morning under the tree. I hope you love it. I hope you love all these traditions we are starting to create with you. I hope that you’ll love It’s A Wonderful Life as much as your father and I do. I know that someday you’ll roll your eyes at having to go pick out a Christmas tree with your parents but I’ll remember this year when we went to the tree lot and you walked around in your snow boots and your bear hat and sat on the ground trying to eat peanut shells and looked at all the trees surrounding you. And I’ll remember going to your first Christmas program and seeing you on stage in a little angel costume staring at all the bigger kids singing Christmas carols. I’ll remember standing there smiling and laughing at the sheer cuteness of it all surrounded by parents with cameras and video cameras and feeling so fully like a parent. Those are memories of Christmas I hope I’ll remember for a long, long time.