Put a Bib on It


A Toddler Ate My Baby.

elliponyI wrote recently about how I don’t miss my baby being little. That’s still true, but in the meantime, my baby has been turned into a full-fledged toddler. My husband joked the other night that it seems a toddler came and ate our baby, and that feels more and more true every day.

This toddler stage is… interesting. Just when we got the hang of parenting a baby, our world was turned upside down and we now need a whole new set of skills. Not to mention a lifetime supply of patience.

My daughter wants to talk. So badly. She babbles constantly and recently started using the same inflection and cadence that an adult uses, and it’s adorable. She points to what she wants and this new communication makes life easier in many ways. When she wants to eat, she wants to her high chair, reaches up and says, “num num!” When she wants water instead of milk, she shakes her head “no” at the milk cup and says, “wa wa!” She’s figuring out new ways to let us know what she wants and picking up new words every day.

But my daughter also doesn’t know words that she badly wants to say. Her pointing is pretty vague, so when she points to the fridge, it’s hard to figure out if she wants milk, blueberries, a cold teething ring or if she just likes how it looks. She shakes her head “no” when you put rice on her plate, then proceeds to eat it by the handful. She is desperate to have a spoon or fork when she’s eating, only to set it down and use her fingers instead (but don’t make the mistake of thinking she’s done with that spoon or fork. Because she is NOT!).

She is literally learning something new during every waking moment, and it’s amazing to watch. Sometimes, especially when she’s sleeping, she still looks so much like a baby. Other times, the way she looks like a little girl literally takes my breath away.

Thankfully (I think?) this toddler stage will last for awhile, so we have some time to practice our newfound toddler parenting skills. Which is good since our toddler is doing her very best to make sure that we have to use them all!

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Ready or Not

baby on the wayThe time is almost here! September 29—the baby is coming. It isn’t my first; I feel like I should be ready. Unfortunately, the opposite is true. Yes, I have all the material things I need, but am I ready?!

To the women who love being pregnant—I envy you. I want to love it. I really do. I love the idea of it. I love the magic of it (That we can grow little humans from microscopically small eggs and sperm is amazing). In fact, before I got pregnant again I even missed being pregnant and told my husband I was ready to do it all again. Apparently I had motherhood amnesia (where you temporarily forget all the “bad” things about pregnancy, labor, delivery, and newborns, just long enough to want to have another little one). Well, it’s all clear to me again now.

Pregnancy is rough on my body. It was with my first and this time has been even tougher. I spent over five months sick as dog, vomiting in “ideal” places like parking lots and out car windows, three weeks with a very rare infection in my neck believed to be caused by the relentless vomiting that lead to four emergency room visits and three days in the hospital. And let’s not forget, I have a 2-year-old at home. Add all of this to the growing abdominal region (I am one of those women that everyone asks if it is twins—if you know what I mean), a painfully uncomfortable pulled stomach muscle, working full time, and a bladder the size of a quarter and you have the joys of my pregnancy.

You would think with all of that I would be chomping at the bit to get this baby out of me, but I’m not. I don’t know if I am ready. Actually, I don’t know if I’ll ever be ready. I have all those insistent questions bubbling in my head all day long: what kind of personality will he have, how will the family dynamic change, will I ever sleep again, will our marital relationship suffer as we deal the stresses of three children (including a newborn), what if there are problems during the delivery, what if there are other unforeseen issues with the babies health, what if the baby cries all day, what if the other children don’t feel the love they deserve, what if I don’t have enough love for ALL of my children and husband… Ahhhh. I could make (read: am making) myself crazy.

I suppose, there is no choice. The day is coming. Within the month he will be here and I will be living the answers to all of my questions. I suppose, all I can say is, ready or not…here he comes!

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Never Underestimate a Baby

never underestimate a babyI have this irrational fear that Little Sister is going to be loved the least.

Not that she won’t be loved, mind, but that she won’t be loved quite as much as her big sister.

It’s pretty challenging to outshine a walking cartoon, which is what Miss E is daily becoming. The conversations she has with herself make grown, stoic folk giggle. She dresses herself, so, no explanation required there. Miss E is just so intensely involved with the world and present in a way that a pensive, crawling girl sometimes gets a little sidelined.

In a recent conversation with my husband, we were talking about how much we love Little Sister, but also how different it is with a second child, another baby. My husband said we have “history” with Miss E, and it’s true. We’ve shared our lives with her in a way we haven’t yet with Little Sister, or are only just beginning to. I can see now that we weren’t complete without her, but it’s also such a strange dynamic, having experienced things in a big way with Miss E, to slow down and remember that life with a baby is a whole lot different.

I never thought it was strange that Miss E couldn’t talk when she was a baby, or feeling like she was perhaps missing out because of all of the things she couldn’t do yet. But sometimes I look at Little Sister, yammering around a mouthful of Cheerios or stubbornly scooting around the house after me and I think, it’s like she’s locked in. There’s stuff she wants to tell me and can’t. There’s things she wants to do and can’t. And because I’ve seen now what babies grow up to be and do, I have complicated feelings for her. Honestly, I feel a little sorry for her, which is just silly.

Because there’s another thing my husband said that truly resonates with me, and grounds me again in appreciating babies for who they are and what they CAN do: she’s experiencing the whole world, every little thing, for the first time. I loved observing that process with Miss E and I relish getting to see it all over again with Little Sister, too.

And she’s just as loved, likely more loved, because having done this before, I know now just how much I’ll miss this age, and all of the joys I have to look forward to.

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Two Years of Parenting Paradoxes

It happened. My baby turned 2. We celebrated the special day and I cried. I don’t even know why. Tears of sadness because he is getting older or tears of happiness because he is growing up?! I know—those are both pretty much the same thing— I’m confused too.

Birthdays are bittersweetI actually feel like everything in my life related to being a parent is essentially one paradox after another.

It started in the hospital. Soon after my baby was born, the initial exhaustion of childbirth set in. All I could think about was taking a nap. Thankfully, I have an extremely helpful and supportive husband who encouraged me to do just that. He took care of the baby while I got the rest that my body so badly needed. Even to this day if I have had a long day at work or just need a little nap my husband encourages me to take a break and get the rest I need. Then I wake up and instantly feel guilty for napping and missing quality time I could have spent with my baby. The same goes for date nights, baby-free shopping trips and girls’ nights. I know I need a break from motherhood once in a while but I always feel guilty for missing the time I could have spent with him.

Nearly every evening I look forward to bedtime, practically counting the minutes down until we start the bedtime routine and I get to sit down and rest. Then, every night after I tuck him in and he falls asleep I miss him and have a strong urge to wake him back up.

I spend hours trying to make sure my son is clean and presentable when we go out in public, however I often end up leaving with food stains on my own shirt and my unwashed hair in a bun.

Sometimes all I want is a little bit of peace and quiet. Then I get the silence I have been praying for and instantly fear and concern set in and I go into a panic about why it is so quiet.

Nursing was a year-long commitment for me. As we neared the end of our breastfeeding journey, I felt a sense of excitement and joy. I couldn’t wait to have my body back. Then, after it was over and the milk had all dried up I was sad and longed to have him nurse again.

Every weekend I pray that my baby will sleep past 7:30 a.m. But, every time it happens, I lie wide awake in bed checking the baby monitor constantly and wondering if he is OK!

I looked forward to the day my baby could walk. Then the day came and I envied the days when he couldn’t walk and I could actually still catch him without breaking into a run myself.

I willed my baby for months to say “mama”. We practiced it often and celebrated when he said it. Now 90 percent of what comes out of his mouth is “mama, mama, MAma, MAMA, MAMA!!!” Ugh—why must he say my name like that over and over and over and over?

And seriously, how is it possible that every day I love him with the most love I could possibly love him, but the next day I love him even more?

Isn’t being a mother the most confusing thing you have ever done?!

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Real vs. Ideal

real vs idealChildhood is messy.

It seems like that really ought to be a given, but the lovingly curated play rooms of Pinterest, with their mint chevron accents, and the merry, candid family photographs complete with color-coordinated sibling ensembles insist otherwise. Just Google “nursery” and prepare to experience the parenting fail. You know the sorts of images I mean. While they can be really quite fun to deconstruct, they also dominate the cultural picture of contemporary childhood. With these pristine images in mind, it can be hard to reconcile oneself to the cat hair stuck to the baby’s watermelon dribbled chin, her romper dingy from scooting around on a floor you can’t remember mopping this month.

I try to be realistic about my mothering, but I’m also seriously enamored of the lovely, playful, ever-elusive aesthetic that seems like it should be attainable – admittedly with an unlimited budget and very few children around to muck it up. It’s just pretty. I arrange wooden toys for my girls to knock down. My husband and I built an a-frame tent that regularly collapses from too much rough play. Miss E could find a way to messily consume a bowl of dry cereal, let alone the ears to toes festival that is spaghetti and meatballs. I’m lucky if I brush her long hair in the morning, let alone sweep it artfully up with a bow that matches her dress… and her sister’s, too.

I have to learn not only to give in to the mess, but the kitsch, the chaos, the ugly stuff of childhood. Miss E dresses herself and is every bit the ragamuffin I was as a girl; a thin layer of grime persists on her hands, face, and clothes no matter how frequently I wipe her down. Some days she prefers a BPA-laden plastic trinket from the dollar store to her Waldorf-aspiring doll collection. Little Sister pukes her way through three outfits a day and is still inexplicably damp when we’re about to show ourselves in public. No amount of vacuuming – let alone what I’m willing to do – can keep their bedroom rugs from boasting glitter, lint, and icky tangles of shed hair.

I’m challenging myself to love these images of childhood, too, because they’re not an ideal. They’re real. They bear the indelible marks of play, of zeal, of little lives lived fully.

Besides, I’ll take a (chocolate) mint chevron smeared on a chubby, flushed cheek any day.

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Though he’s young and hadn’t had a lot of interaction with his great-grandpa, my son still needs to process through this loss.

My husband and I went through something recently that we weren’t quite prepared for. (When it comes to parenting, when are you ever truly prepared? That’s a big, fat “never”). Sadly, my husband’s maternal grandpa passed away and we weren’t quite sure how to handle it with Ev. We had a lot to consider when trying to make the best decision for Ev because we wanted to allow him to say his “good-bye”. My mother-in-law’s family is huge and time spent together is highly valued. They planned to have two visitations and funeral service, then the funeral. As soon as plans were made my husband and I started wondering what we should do.

Question number one—would we take Ev to the visitations? All of the family would be there together and it seemed that Ev should be there as part of the family. I also knew that my mother-in-law likes us all to be together, and as part of supporting her during this time of loss, I wondered if I should bring him. Also, if we chose not to bring Ev, who would care for him? Most of the people we trust enough to care for Ev were going to be attending the funeral services and we would never ask them to choose otherwise. All of this weighed against the reasons not to bring Ev. He is at the age where he doesn’t quite know the difference between what’s real and what’s not. He is also a thinker and a worrier. The visitations were “open-casket” and I knew there was no getting around Ev seeing his great-grandpa like that if we were to enter the building. If he were a little younger, he may have run around, up and down that place without ever realizing what was happening. And if he were a little older I may feel more confident about his ability to think through what happened to his great-grandpa and what was happening at the visitation (and my ability to explain it). Not to mention that these services are typically a somber, quiet experience and Ev is anything but. As with all tough decisions I enlisted the advice of other parents. And as with all parenting advice everyone had something different to say that worked for their families.

When it came down to it, I really just had to go with my gut. In the end, Ev did not come with us to the visitations. Thankfully, two of our friends who have kids of their own jumped at the opportunity to help us out. My husband and I were able to give all of our attention and energy to the family and each other—and Ev had a blast with friends he doesn’t get to see that often, since they live out town. We did decide to take him to the funeral service and funeral. When we told Ev what happened, that his great-grandpa had passed away, he did have lots of questions. He was worried it hurt when his great-grandpa died and we told Ev he kind-of fell asleep (And then Ev was worried if he fell asleep he would die). He was also worried about his grandma when we told him that was her dad. He asked if she was sad. I told him that she was but that’s why we’re all together—to help each other. Ev wasn’t very close to his great-grandpa since he didn’t see him that often. We were able to visit recently before he passed away, so Ev was able to recall his great-grandpa when we talked about him. I feel fine about our choice to bring Ev to the funeral. It gave us the opportunity to talk about a new kind of experience that would be hard to talk about if he weren’t experiencing it first hand. There are always tough decisions about what is best for our children and when you follow what you think to be true for your own family, you really can’t go wrong.


Better Together

There's a silver lining to being apart from my children, and it's that I'm reminded how golden our hours together have the potential to be.

There’s a silver lining to being apart from my children, and it’s that I’m reminded how golden our hours together have the potential to be.

Working four days a week is an adjustment for everyone, and if Miss E’s request that I “stay, stay” at bedtime and Little Sister’s manic-excitement kicks and hand flaps when I return in the afternoon are any indication, I’m not the only one who’s missing something fierce. It’s tough and likely only to get tougher when Miss E returns to a preschool program in a few weeks and Little Sister is settled into a family child care home.

But the time we do spend together, it’s sweeter and better for our parting.

I’m home in the afternoons with plenty of time to jump around in the sunroom singing “Walking, Walking,” to tickle Little Sister repeatedly from toes to ears, to admire the day’s many drawings of ghosties and Miss E’s attempts to write her name; I’m also home with patience enough for requests to help make dinner and cries to nurse every half an hour.

As much as I love my sleep, there’s a part of me that wishes my girls were (a little bit) earlier risers, so we’d have more time for snuggles and stories in the morning before I have to go. Still, Miss E climbs down the stairs at long last and leaps at me, and I carry Little Sister through as much of my morning routine as I can.

On our most recent day home together, Miss E helped me to hang the diapers to dry and to sort her clean laundry, and we three worked together on the very important task of tower building and wanton destroying. While Little Sister napped, Miss E and I decided what to make for lunch and played a matching game. And then she had some quiet time, too, and while I caught up on work, I wondered over what a fine day it was. Sure, there’d been a hug that got a little too aggressive and the usual tug-of-war over the inconsequential that just comes of living with a nearly-three year old, but I felt less frazzled, less quick to anger, more willing to accept what could be done in the moment and move on. I was just happy to be with them, and that felt good. Really good.

There’s a silver lining to being apart from my children, and it’s that I’m reminded how golden our hours together have the potential to be.


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