Saturday, December 11, 2010

Ho Ho Photo

This week was hectic. To say the least. New job for mommy, new daycare schedule for Baby Zen. Furnace breakdown and restart (with smoky, scary moments!), Big Daddy working three "late night" shifts (which is really only until 8 pm, but that might as well be midnight to a 5-year-old), and the topper -- Sweet Boy puked all over himself, his lunch, and his buddy in school Friday.

But somehow in between all the zoom-around, I managed to collect our little angels in front of the tree for the annual Christmas card photo. Here's how it went down:

First, Sweet Boy posed so I could get the light and angle and position in front of the tree. Just right. Aw, darling little elf, you know the drill.



Then we add Baby Zen to the mix. He is obviously a newbie...

Here we see big brother holding on to little brother for dear life, knowing that there may be some demerits from the naughty/nice list if the baby plonks to the floor.


Now big brother is starting to really stress out about this gig. And, well, it's pretty obvious how baby brother feels about it.


This is right about the moment I started to whine and beg, too. Please, boys, we just need ONE PHOTO for the relatives! So they know how adorable and loving and well behaved you are! And how completely together your mom is!

OK, that's not bad. Even though Zen looks completely shocked (and mildly pissed off). It'll do.

Thursday, December 2, 2010

Race, little rat, race

Here's one of life's great mysteries: How on Earth do so many people maintain careers -- some even advance in their careers -- while raising happy, healthy, well-balanced children -- without going completely batshit crazy in the process?

Are those people who are advancing in their careers not actually raising happy, healthy, well-balanced children? Or, are they actually batshit crazy and just hiding it well?

I'm thinking yes. We're all batshit crazy, yet some hide it better than others. And it's becoming more and more apparent that I'm not hiding it well at all. In fact, I hugged my new boss today -- who is not at all a hugger -- and watched my colleague's face distort in horror as she shook her head and joked "We don't do that in our group." I'm reviewing this moment over and over this evening, feeling completely unprofessional and ridiculous, and wondering why the hell I hugged my new boss. Hugged her! In a meeting! With an interviewee present! And the only reason I can think of is that I have finally cracked.

But it's understandable when one considers my recent jarring return to the rat race, right? How the hell do so many people do this?! In the last two months, since Chris went back to work, I have had to
  • wake up every day at 5:30 a.m. to feed the baby, then get myself ready for work and Hayden ready for school
  • hustle to make it 22 miles to my office by 7:30, work a full day that involves cramming 5 people's worth of work into 7 hours, then shuttling back up the highway at 3pm so I can meet Hayden at the bus stop every day (I actually carry my cell phone in my pocket with the alarm set to ring at 2:55 every day so I -- and everyone around me -- know it's time to go)
  • telecommute on Mondays and Fridays with my baby at my side because we couldn't find full-time daycare that we could afford right away
  • work out all details of daycare arrangements for every day, including finding someone who could babysit Jake every Tuesday until we could get him into the daycare 3 days a week, then hounding the daycare director weekly until she squeezed him in to a more permanent schedule
  • take care of the evening routine solo 3 out of 5 nights a week because of Chris's work schedule --this includes homework, piano practice/lesson, cooking and serving dinner, feeding baby, playing, wrangling, bathing both boys, settling Jake into his crib, then reading and snuggling with Hayden (and don't forget most evenings also come with some negotiating, whining, and room-sending)
  • coordinate every aspect of every day's schedule for both kids -- this includes scheduling doctor and dentist appointments and friend play dates, filling out school forms,writing teacher notes, etc. (even if Chris is doing the drop-off or the doctor's visits, I'm the one who handles the details)
On top of this, I'm transitioning to a new role at my workplace next week, and I've been anxious and amped up about that and all the other big changes at work. So when Jake came down with sinusitis this week, I really started spinning: Neither of us can take time off right now, but our baby is so sick! What do we do?! And then I had to sit on hold for over an hour with the doctor just to get an appointment... then we had to figure out who could take him to the doctor this morning... and I had to get my dad down here to stay with the sick baby all day... then I got trapped in traffic trying to get home from work... then I had to stand in line for 30 minutes with a rammy 5-year-old waiting for the baby's medicine -- when really all I wanted to do all day was simply lie in bed and snuggle the feverish, glassy-eyed, rattly coughing, snotty-nosed 8-month-old!

I, like so many other moms and dads in the world, work my money-earning job from 7:30 to 3, then work my love-earning job from 3:00 to 8:30. I get a tiny bit of break time between 8:30 and 10 pm when I finally crash and sleep hard. Then wake up and do it all over again. And again. And again.

However, I realized this week that my bosses at the love-earning job are way more demanding and difficult to please. And it's a much more stressful workplace. Which may explain why I hugged my new boss at my money-earning job today. I got confused. I thought, wow, this is nice -- someone who speaks full sentences and doesn't whine or screech and hasn't pooped on me yet today! She deserves a hug!

At which point the new boss probably thought, damn, this one is batshit crazy... glad I didn't offer her too much of a raise just yet. New boss probably should be relieved, though, that I didn't give her a sticker for being a good listener or praise her for getting her shoes on the right feet.

Sunday, August 29, 2010

The lump in my throat

I'm a mess. Trying to hold it together. But I keep catching myself lost in goopy, mushy nostalgia. I haven't yet pulled out the baby photos, but it's only a matter of time.

I put one of Sweet Boy's hand-me-down outfits on Baby J this morning and caught myself sniffling. Then later in the pool, I was playing with SB and found myself squeezing him (much to his chagrin) and reminiscing about the baby swim lessons we took there together. Not so long ago. This evening I had to leave the room as Big Daddy and SB laid out all his school supplies. And I snuggled with my big boy just a little longer than usual at bedtime, rubbing his head and back until he accused me of "petting him like a kitty" and kicking me out of his room.

All day there has been a lump in my throat and a churning in my belly. I'm not sure if the sobbing or the vomiting will happen first, but they're both there, latent, threatening. The thought of waving goodbye as he gets on that school bus Tuesday is more than I can bear.

Melodramatic? Maybe. Ridiculous? Perhaps. Over the top? Most definitely. But I can't help myself. It's kindergarten. And it's arrived way too fast.

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

My bouncing baby boy

I finally have a camera that takes decent video. So now you know I'll be spending most of my time making dumb little videos like this:


It should be noted, too, that about 20 seconds after I turned off the camera, Jakers barfed all over himself. As we like to say in my house, bounce til ya' barf, man!

Monday, August 2, 2010

Toes! And other things that are truly fabulous when you're 5 months old

Toes. Don't get me wrong: Fingers are cool and all, but these toe things are amazing. They're small and chewy, perfect for nibbling. Yet they're always just beyond my reach...unless I flex myself, oh yes, just bend a little more...got it! Omnomnomnom. And did you know that you can actually stick your toes through that loop on the end of your binky and launch that thing across the room?! Awesome!

Cats. Fluffy and warm with all these graspy, soft edges I can really sink my fingers into. This one I have also purrs loudly when he plops down next to me; that little vibration next to my ribs really tickles. I think he definitely likes it when I chew on him, too. I don't love the fur stuck to my drool-covered chin, but whatever makes my kitty happy...

Ceiling fans. Have you seen the way this thing just circles round and round and round and round? Mesmerizing. Really. I could watch it all day. And sometimes I do.

Paper napkins. Delicious.

Trees. I don't know about you, but I can't get enough of these things, with their blowy green leaves that shake and rustle and move. My mommy really likes trees too. We laze around on a blanket in the backyard, staring up at the trees and saying things like oooooh.

Big brothers. They make funny faces. And run around making noise all day. Sometimes mine blows on my belly, which cracks me up. He helps me get my binky back in my mouth (after I launched it with my toes, of course), because I really have very little muscle control in my own arms -- thanks, bro. And he hums and sings to me if I feel crabby. Mostly I just like to watch him, everything he does. Because he's so totally cool.

Sunday, July 25, 2010

Just in time

I used to be a punctual person. Truly. If you said be here at 5:00, I'd be there at 4:58 -- enough time to check my hair in the rearview mirror and file that snag off my fingernail.

And then I had a child.

It was like the universe said, "ok, lady, it's either the kid or the timeliness; there's absolutely no room for both." Suddenly, no matter how much lead time I gave myself, I could not arrive on time. Because, as I quickly learned, when you have a child, there's always one more thing you need to grab on your way out the door, one more outfit to change because of an errant spit-up or spilled juice box, one more "Mommy, I have to pee!" So, ok, fine. I resigned myself to always being a couple minutes late.

But then I had a second child. And just like that, a couple minutes late turned into 15 minutes late (or 30, but who's counting?). Always. No matter how early I get up in the morning. No matter how well I've packed the diaper bag the night before. No matter how well I think I've plotted out the Leave The House Scenario. And being late always stresses me out. I hate being late!

I tell you all this to set up this morning's ride to church. As usual, especially on Sunday morning, I was running through the house at the last minute -- literally putting my shirt on while buckling Jake's car seat -- yelling "Come on, Hayden! We've got to go NOW!" when I noticed Chris putting the final touch on Hayden's church outfit: A digital watch with Lightning McQueen on the face.

Keep in mind as you read the following conversation that the watch, in Hayden's mind, is just telling him numbers; he really has no concept of what they mean, as far as time (and lateness) goes:
H: Mom! It's nine-two-five!
Me: Great, baby, thanks for telling me. Let's hustle. Church starts at nine-three-oh.
H: OK, Momma. Let's go. [Mom plops baby's carseat into its base, buckles H into carseat, then scoots into her own scorching hot seat] Mom, it's nine-two-six.
Me: All right, buddy. Here we go. [Backs car out of driveway too fast and shuttles up the street, hurtling over speed bumps, praying there are no kids out playing this early on a Sunday]
H: Mom, it's nine-two-seven! I like seven!
Me: I like seven, too, babe. But I kinda like six better. [Pulls up to first stop light; the car is still steaming and the sweat begins to trickle down my temples]
H: Why do you like six better, Momma? Because of its fat belly?
Me: Uh-huh, yeah, because six has a nice little tummy like me.
H: Mommy, what's the number that's like a square on top of a square?
Me: Eight?
H: Oh, yeah. Mom, it's nine-two-eight, nine-two-eight, nine-two-eight [a little song ensues about the virtues of eight].
Me: OK, love, we're almost there. [Starting to freak out a little bit because we're at the second stop light, still at least 5 minutes away and church is starting in two minutes -- has probably already started -- and we'll still have to find a parking spot, get unbuckled, run across the lot....turn, light, turn, dammit!]
H: Hahaha! Wanna hear something funny, Mommy?
Me: What, babe? What's funny?
H: It's nine-two-nine! Hahahaha! Two nines? Get it? Nine-two-nine! Hahahaha!
And just like that, it doesn't matter when we get to church, nor does it matter that we're always late for church, and it doesn't matter how many eyes roll as we tromp our way through the back of the sanctuary. Because right now, me and my boy are sitting at a stop light cracking up about two nines.

Thursday, June 3, 2010

Back to the guilt...I mean, grind

I went back to work today after 12 weeks of maternity leave. For weeks I've been nervous about leaving Jake, worried that he wouldn't take a bottle and would cry incessantly until Chris lost his mind. But I wasn't expecting the emotional sucker-punch from Hayden, who has almost five years of practice separating from his mom each morning. This morning may have been in the top five hardest for me yet. Here's how it went down:

Wake up at 5:15 to feed Jake (who, by the way, did exactly as I asked and slept straight through from midnight to 5:15. What a good boy.) Shower, make-up, hair, get dressed. Tiptoe through the bedroom and hallway to avoid all the creaky floorboards. Kiss Chris goodbye. Tuck Jake's binky back into his mouth. Peek my head into Hayden's bedroom door, thinking he's still in bed because it's practically before the dawn...but his eyes are open, and he's clutching his lovey bear. Uh oh.
Me: Bye, love, I have to go to work.

Hayden: Nooooo! Mommmeeeee! Dooonnnn't go! [Sits up and begins sobbing uncontrollably, Big crocodile tears, sucking air, snotty nose] Don't go to work, Mommy. I'm going to miss you soooo much!

Me: I know, sweetie. I'll miss you too. But I have to go to work. I don't really have a choice, love. Don't worry, I'll be back around dinner time so we can spend the whole evening together! [Forcing a big smile through the lump in my throat]

H: I want to go with you.

Me: You can't, sweetie. Grown-ups only. It's no fun there, anyway.

H: So why do you go there?

Me: Because that's how we get the money we need to pay for our house, and our food, and...and...and your toys! [Yeah, toys, he'll get that.]

H: Oh. Are you gonna bring me a toy?

Me: Not today.

H: You never give me toys. [sniffle sniffle] Please have breakfast with me.

Me: [Knowing that breakfast will just prolong the agony] No, buddy. I'm going to eat breakfast later. Why don't you come down and help me get my stuff together, and then wave to me from the door.

H: [Deciding that tears are no longer working, and he must go for the jugular] NO! DON'T GO! YOU NEVER SPEND ANY TIME WITH ME ANYMORE!
With that, knowing I wasn't going to win this battle, I hugged him, he clung to me down the stairs, and he sniffled me to the front door. I made him promise he'd go back to bed and snuggle with Daddy; I asked him to help Daddy with the baby because being the big brother is even more important when Mommy goes to work. I smiled bravely as I tromped out to the car. He sat on the front step crying and waving, hugging his arms to his body.

And once again, I drove away from my crying child -- and cried my own self down the highway to my office. It's not the first time, and certainly won't be the last. Just have to get back into working mom shape. Toughen up. Shake it off. Go, Mommy, go.

(You know what I can't wait for? TWO kids sobbing me off to work in the morning!)

Thursday, May 27, 2010

Our aluminum anniversary

Today is our 10th wedding anniversary. That's right, one decade ago, I put on the poofy white dress with the sequins and the pearls and the long, heavy train, and I flounced down the aisle toward my man's beautiful smile. If you'd asked me on that day what we'd be doing on our 10th anniversary, I probably would have told you we'd be spending it on a tropical beach, or maybe in Europe, or at the very least, at a romantic little bed-and-breakfast in the mountains.

Ha. Nope.

Instead, because neither of us could come up with an acceptably romantic plan that didn't involve logistical nightmares around the care of our newborn who won't take a bottle, and because we're pretty much broke, we decided to have a low-key evening out as a family. After all, as Chris put it, this is the birthday of our family, so we should celebrate it together. And, really, he and I have spent every day together for the last three months, so a night out as a twosome, though it would be fun, wasn't really necessary.

We left the house for dinner at 3:30, thinking this was before the dinner crowd would mind our screaming baby or our rowdy kid and early enough that we could take our time and not worry about bath or bedtimes. We went to our favorite family-owned pasta place -- a restaurant we used to frequent in our pre-kid years. It's about a 10-minute drive, but I noticed 4 minutes into the trip that Hayden was sound asleep and drooling in his booster seat. So we drove around Delaware for a half-hour to let him snooze. (Interestingly, the part of Delaware that we drove around is about the ugliest part of Delaware, during which time I stared out the window thinking, how the heck did we get here?)

Lucky for us, when we walked into the restaurant at 4pm, there was only one other couple there -- and they were at least 85 years old and speaking loud enough to one another that I knew they had hearing trouble and wouldn't even notice us. We hadn't been to this restaurant in years (and the decor was outdated 10 years ago), and everything looked pretty dingy, including the waitress's funky-ass rotted teeth, but the food was just as delicious as I remember. Hayden was charming, Jake was smiley, we all pigged out on pasta, and we left giggling. It was a nice family time out.

We went to Borders afterward (not really sure why, other than it seemed too early to go home), where I nursed the baby in the back corner of the children's book area (add it to the list!) and Hayden and Chris read to one another. What could be better than a huge pasta meal and some quiet time in a bookstore? Two of our favorite things.

But then we got home. Where all the ants in the neighborhood had converged on our kitchen. There were ants covering every surface -- counter top, floor, cabinet door. AGH! We cleaned that all up, mostly (leaving a few carcasses on the floor as a warning). Chris went outside to spray the perimeter of the house with Ortho, and I got the kids bathed and in bed.

OK, deep breaths, she thinks. Everything is quiet, it's time for the married people to spend some time alone...

I walked downstairs in my pretty nightie so we could cuddle up, watch a movie, and have some us time, and dammit if a thunderstorm doesn't roll through. Hayden freaks out every time he hears thunder, and sure enough, within 35 seconds, he was hysterical and screeching down the stairs so fast I thought he'd hurt himself. He plopped himself between me and Chris, wailing about how we have to protect him, how we have to come upstairs to bed right now, and how we have to let him sleep in our bed.

So here we are. Celebrating 10 years, all sitting on the couch in our respective boxer shorts watching nonsense television. And I'm sure Jake will be waking up screaming to eat any minute.

Not exactly the romantic anniversary celebration I pictured all those years ago, but perfect because this is who are.

Monday, May 17, 2010

My life as the lunch wagon

Mom-Guilt Confession #879: I pretty much hated breastfeeding the first time around. It hurt. A lot. I felt like my body was not my own. I was embarrassed by my ginormous, leaking breasts. Most of all, I hated that I had to excuse myself from social settings, hide in the car, or just stay home when it was time to feed the baby -- every hour and a half!

This time around, knowing how freakin' expensive formula is, I decided to give it another go. The big difference this time, though, was deciding I would not be embarrassed about breastfeeding; I would own it. After all, I've waited my whole life for these double-D's, why not make the most of them? I'm not talking plopping myself in the middle of the mall and whipping out my boobs for all to see. I'm discreet and usually cover us both up with my fabulous baby sling. But with an active almost-5-year-old, three months off with my family, and a spring season of amazing weather, I refuse to go through this child's infancy in self-imposed busty exile.

So I've embraced my inner earth mama and my new motto is "have boobs, will travel." Chris and I have made it a little game, too, to keep track of all the interesting places these boobies have been over the course of Jake's infancy. So far, the list includes
* The children's section of Barnes & Noble (twice)
* The back pew of All Saints Roman Catholic Church at the end of my sis-in-law's wedding (then the unoccupied private dining room at the reception)
* A park bench near a random playground in NJ on our way home from my grandmother's
* The reference section of the Brandywine Library (and the bench next to the Talley Day Park playground right after we left the library)
* A bench by a scenic overlook on the outskirts of the Wilmington Flower Market fair
* My seat behind home plate in the top of the 8th inning of the Wilmington Blue Rocks game

The girls have also been put to work in various parking lots in the tri-state area, including those outside Target (more than once), the Herr's Factory, a pizza place on Rte. 202, a restaurant in Bucks County, and Hayden's preschool.

So far we're doing ok, my boobs, my baby, and me. Jake sure is rocketing up the growth chart, and I feel a special sense of pride in knowing that my super-milk is responsible. I may have become so comfortable with breastfeeding, though, that it's going to kick me in the butt when I go back to work next week. Jake still won't take a bottle from Chris; he goes completely berserk whenever you even put the bottle near his face, screaming like a dragon with a toothache. Ironic, eh?

Wheels!

Do you remember the first time you rode a bike? I do. The nervousness in my tummy, afraid that I'd fall or go too fast and lose control. But more than that, I remember the thrill, the feeling of autonomy and freedom. The "wooo-hooo!"

We bought Hayden a bike for his 4th birthday last July so he could feel the wind in his hair, too. But he wanted no part of it. As in, he refused to even step near the thing, except to have his photo taken on the day he got it. We decorated his red bike with Spider-Man stickers and a Spidey bell to make it more appealing. We let him pick out his own helmet. We bribed him with ice cream! But every attempt to get him to ride ended up with Chris frustrated, me annoyed, and Hayden crying.

So imagine my surprise when a few weeks ago, almost a year after the bike had been shelved in the garage, I looked out the front window and saw my son riding down the sidewalk!

As with every other major milestone -- crawling, walking, potty training -- Hayden had to do this in his own time. But now he can't get enough of that bike. Every day he begs to ride, rain or shine. Yesterday, our little friend across the street came banging on the door, asking those magical words this mommy has waited to hear: "Can Hayden come out and ride bikes?"

And the entire time Hayden and his buddy rode their bikes up and down the sidewalk, even though they were only riding about 500 feet per hour, my big boy yelled "Wooo-hooo!"

Wooo-hooo, indeed, my love.

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

And baby makes four

Baby Jake came screaming into the world on March 10, 8:24 a.m., weighing a whopping 9 lbs 11 oz. "What? A boy?!" I shouted from the delivery table because I had been convinced that this was my little girl baby. Then I saw him, in his scrawny-legged, red-faced, screeching splendor, and the waterworks started. He looked just like Hayden, but a bit smaller. (In fact, that was my second statement: "He's so tiny!" which got a lot of laughs when the nurse informed us of his actual size. It's all relative, since Hayden weight 10.5 lbs at birth.)

When Chris handed me my second son to hold for the first time -- having learned from my first c-section, this time I'd asked before my surgery if they'd unstrap my arms so I could hold my baby immediately -- I cried and laughed and cried and laughed and as he gazed into my face the crying stopped and we studied each other and fell in love. It was instantaneous this time, the falling in love. I recall it taking a couple weeks with Hayden, probably because I was so terrified at the prospect of having to keep a tiny, helpless person alive. But this time with Jake, instant.

Since that birth morning, six weeks have gone by in a blur of snuggles and diapers and 3 a.m. feedings and smiles and cries and more snuggles. Our little foursome is adjusting nicely, remarkably well, really, and all the new baby issues I'd feared seem to be nonexistent -- or at least smaller and more manageable. We've had our moments of tension, but this time around has been so much more relaxed. Our baby is more relaxed, too, not the screamer I remember his brother being, and I wonder which came first: Are we relaxed because he is, or vice versa?

Hayden is an amazing big brother. He has his bouts of jealousy, as is natural, but for the most part he is just as enamored of Jake as his parents are. He wants to be near him at all times, "helping" with whatever he can. He's very proud of his little brother, too. The first morning I took Jake to preschool with me to pick up Hayden gives a good snapshot: As I walked down the hall, Hayden popped his head out of the classroom, saw me schlepping Jake's carrier and yelled "The baby's here! My baby! Come see him!" Then he led a swarm of 4- and 5-year-olds out to the hallway, each of them wide-eyed and marveling, and directed them, one at a time, to approach Jake to say hello. He was protective and direct, like the publicist for a Hollywood starlet, giving each child a moment to peek, but allowing no touching or dawdling.

Jake has giant gray-blue eyes and a head full of dark hair; I'm sure both of these will change in time, most likely to the hazel and blond of his brother. The more time I spend with him, the more I think he may be an old soul, one who's been here before and therefore wiser than the rest of us. He stares at us, unblinkingly, through long stretches of time, taking in this great big wacky world, digesting it, soaking it up. And as you've noticed from my lack of posts these last weeks, I spend a lot of time simply staring at him, too, smelling his head, petting his paper-soft skin, feeling his warm breath on my chest. I'm trying to memorize every moment because I'm not sure if I'll ever have this wonder again. And wonder is the only word for it, really.
(By the way, I'm thinking I should rename this blog "Tall Girl's Adventures in Boy Land." It's giggle-inducing to think that I am now the mother of boys. Plural. I say things like "My boys" and "It'll just be me and the boys" as often as possible just to get this reality to sink in to my own head.)

Monday, March 29, 2010

Brand new

The tiniest person is snoozing on my lap, the slightly larger person is away at preschool, and the largest person is off at the gym, so I'm reflecting on the last three weeks since little Jake came into our world. He's wonderful and adorable, and he's turned us all upside down a little bit. He's a mellow infant, for the most part, but has the same baby dragon scream that his big brother did -- "don't make me angry....you won't like me when I'm angry!" We've gone through a week with the 24/7 glow and hum of a biliblanket to treat his jaundice (and can I just ask, Mr. Biliblanket Designer , have you not actually observed how awkward this thing is on a live baby human?), and now we're waiting for my little glowworm's milia spots to fade away. He's beautiful, though, despite the yellow-brown complection. Perfectly formed. Big blue eyes. Long thin fingers. Toes like candy dots. Full head of hair, and peach fuzz up his back and across the tops of his tiny ears. As is the case with all newborns, Jake is really not terribly interesting -- he doesn't do anything -- yet we all sit here staring at him through most of each day. We nurse a lot, nap a lot, snuggle a lot. Just yesterday, however, we managed to get out of the house and eat lunch with my dad; for two hours I felt like a real person again, instead of a house-bound, sweatpants-clad, baggy-eyed, swollen-bellied blech. I've lost all track of day and date; it's been like one very long, hazy day broken into 3-hour segments between feedings. The big difference, though, between this newborn experience and our first newborn experience is that we knew what to expect so we don't feel so panicky all the time, less like we've been run over by a train but merely buzzed by a compact car. I also know that each phase goes by quickly, so I can be patient and perseverant through the yucky stuff, grateful and present for the amazing stuff. Sweet Boy has adjusted fairly well. He loves his baby brother, smothers him with kisses and constantly asks "can I just look at his face?" (Can you imagine a more pure, loving desire than to simply gaze on his baby brother's face?!) But he's been a bit mean to Mommy, which I expected. I've tried to spend as much one-on-one time with Big Bro as possible, but it's not been easy, with the 6-inch incision healing on my belly and the 22-inch person suckling on my breasts. Day by day, though. We'll all figure it out. We're getting into a rhythm now, I think, I hope. I feel reassured this morning that perhaps I can be mother to two children without completely losing my mind; a week ago, I wasn't so sure. And now I must nap.

Tuesday, March 9, 2010

To my new little love, on the day before we officially meet

Here we are, kiddo. Just about 12 hours from our first meeting, the first time I see your little face and count your tiny fingers. I can think of nothing else right now. This is what it sounds like in my brain: babybabybabybabybabybabybabybabybaby.

There's so much I want to tell you about the world you're about to enter. But most of it can wait. Someday I'll tell you about what a cold, snowy, gray winter it's been -- how I sat around gestating through the entire winter, too big and clumsy to dare walk outside, while your father shoveled almost 80 inches of snow. Someday I'll tell you about how each day I try to watch the news but turn it off after 5 minutes because it just makes me sad. Someday I'll tell you about the political and financial blech that grips our country right now, the anxiety and uncertainty we all face each day. Someday I'll tell you about the giant earthquakes striking across the globe that make me think that Mother Nature is, in fact, trying to eject us.

But today I will focus on telling you these truths: For months now, you have been the glimmer in my heart, the bright spot in each morning when I wake up and feel you moving inside me. In a year of constant often frightening changes, you have brought hope and wonder and excitement into our little family like I've never known -- even moreso than when your brother was born because we now have him to share it with. You've lessened the sadness of losing loved ones and eased the shock of losing a job. You've already moved into our hearts and changed our perspectives.

Today I sat in the sunshine watching your daddy and big brother play on the playground and I thought, wow, life is so good. And it's about to get better. I'm so excited to meet you, my love. I've waited so long.

Thursday, March 4, 2010

So many questions. So little time.

Ah, babies. They generate so many questions: How was it made? How will it come out? What will it do when it gets here? What do I do when it gets here? How will it change my life? These are questions even grown-ups wrestle with.

But can you imagine being 4, witnessing your mommy expanding exponentially, wondering what the heck is actually going on in there when you see the ripples and hear Mommy giggling (or sighing/moaning/whining) about it? You can barely imagine sharing your toys with your cat, let alone a whole other person -- so you know this is going to be very hard but you'll do your best because it will make Mom and Daddy happy. You keep hearing about how you have to be a big brother, how you have to learn how to get your own sneakers on, how you will have to set a good example. You wait and you wait and you wait, then they tell you that Mommy has to go to the hospital for a few days, where the doctor will help her get the baby out. Hmm. But they still haven't told you, how did the baby get in there, anyway?

Oh boy.

Last night we tried to address some of Sweet Boy's questions about how the baby comes out (we still haven't come clean on how baby got in there -- I've chalked it up to "God knew we wanted another child" and left it there for now). Because he was a C-section delivery and because we've scheduled a C-section for next Wednesday, I took out the photos from Sweet Boy's first moments of life. I wanted him to see Mommy smiling on the strange table and Daddy with the silly hat and mask on. I wanted him to see himself screaming hello to the world, the nurses wiping the goop off him, his family smiling and cooing when they first met him. Of course he loved these photos. We looked at them at least four times. We talked about belly buttons. We talked about how cold and bright the world is when you're a brand new baby. (Yes, we even talked about how new-baby penises look different than big boy penises.) And we talked about how now he'd prefer a baby sister to a baby brother.

Then we talked about how Voo (my dad) will stay with him while Mommy's having the baby, but Daddy will come home every night to be with him while Mom's in the hospital. And I told him I'd call him every day and send him pictures from my phone. We counted on my fingers and on the calendar how many days until Baby Day. When he went to bed, he said he couldn't wait until "his baby" gets here, and he drifted off to sleep as I laid there next to him, tracing my finger along his perfect nose and cheeks, wondering how that smooshy-faced screaming red infant turned so quickly into this smart, happy, overflowing-with-love boy child.

Around 1 a.m. Sweet Boy padded into our room carrying his beloved Jodi Bear. "Can I just snuggle for a little while, Mommy?" Sure, buddy, let's snuggle; I can think of nothing I'd enjoy more.

At 6:30 this morning, I woke up to a tiny tapping on my shoulder, and a bright-eyed little boy with a hopeful-fearful-happy-anxious expression on his face, an expression like Christmas morning mixed with first day of school. "Mommy, is today the day the baby's coming?"

So again, we counted on our fingers how many days until Baby Day.

"Can you tell me again, Mommy, how is the doctor going to crack your belly open to get the baby out? I'm scared it's going to hurt you."

It's quite possible that none of us will sleep well for the next 6 nights.

Monday, March 1, 2010

A girl could get used to this

I arrived home a little bit late from the office this evening, after running an errand without worrying about racing up the highway from my office to get to daycare on time. When I walked in the door, I was greeted by the most scrumptious smells of onions and fried pork chops. A little boy with a gigantic smile and an infectious giggle ran to me yelling "Mommy's home!" and a handsome man kissed me and said "Just in time. Have a seat. Your dinner's ready." We ate a delicious dinner, and throughout the meal, the man and the boy spoke a strange made-up language that only they understood, exchanging giggles about a surprise that waited for me in the fridge. Finally when I thought the little boy would explode from the excitement of the surprise, the man presented a homemade carrot cake -- the first he'd ever baked -- just because he knew it is my favorite.

No need to pinch me, or check me for fever -- or send me for counseling because I've obviously had a psychotic break. This is real life. Or at least it is today.

It's been about two weeks now since Big Daddy's, ahem, parting from his employer of 12 years (those bastards), and I'm discovering that there are a lot of pluses to our new arrangement

(1) Daddy and Sweet Boy finally get to spend some regular old time together, doing regular old stuff like putting together puzzles, coloring, and exploring the woods in a snow shower -- all the things that I've been able to do with the Boy on a day-to-day basis but Daddy had been missing while making that hideous commute each day.

(2) Daddy is more consistent in matters of discipline. Sweet Boy's behavior at school has improved about 200%, and I'm noticing a number of positive changes at home, too. Like cleaning up toys without being hounded, or taking his cat-feeding responsibilities seriously.

(3) Dinner is ready when I get home from work. Which is enough to make any girl happy all on its own, but it also means that we eat earlier, which means we spend more time together as a family in the evenings.

(4) Our house has never been so clean. Seriously. Never. The counter tops sparkle and the dishes are put away. The wood floors shine. The furniture is cat-fur free. Even the laundry gets washed, folded, and put away. As if by magic.

(5) Small little odd jobs that have been sitting undone for months -- years! -- have been completed. Case in point: The ice cube maker in our freezer has been waiting to be connected since we moved in 3 years; he did some research online, hooked it all up, and we now have ice on demand!

(6) All the schlepping and errand running that I've been doing in between work and mommying is getting done while I'm at work. This includes things like oil changes, grocery store runs, phone calls, shopping for gifts for friends' birthdays -- even registering the kiddo for kindergarten!

(7) In the morning, I get up and eat breakfast with Sweet Boy, then we take our time getting dressed because Daddy can take him to school when I go to work. I can't even begin to describe how this has decreased my stress and made mornings better for all of us.

(8) Big Daddy is relaxed. And smiling. Finally. This is a very good thing.

No, I'm not advocating that all dual-income households drop a job just to shake things up. Yes, I think there's considerable time spent in the recliner with the TV on. And yes, I know that our life will be challenging* in a number of ways over the next few weeks (or months). And of course I do want my husband to find a job outside the home that he feels good about. But for now, this stay-at-home dad thing really is good.

(*Keep in mind that in about 4 days, I'll be home on maternity leave for 12 weeks...so we'll both be stay-at-home parents...at the same time! That's a whole lot of togetherness. Stay tuned.)

Monday, February 22, 2010

Counting down to baby

I realized the other day that most of my writings over the last few months have focused on the negative. Gross! I suppose writing is my outlet, the place I barf up all the things that weigh me down. But I don't want to be Negative Nelly or Debbie Downer anymore. So let's talk about something really fantastic and amazing and wonderful and happy that's about to happen in my life:

BABY! BABY! BABY!

In just over two weeks, I'll be checking into the hospital for my second c-section. While I'm not thrilled about the idea of another surgical delivery (ouch!) and recovery (long, extended ouch!) I have started to feel giddy at the thought of holding a small, warm, cuddly little person in my arms. After discussing an alternative pain medication with my doc, I'm even starting to look forward to a few days in the hospital. Crazy? Maybe...but when was the last time you had a few days to just lie in bed with complete control over the TV remote and let people bring you food and pain medicine? And for the first day or so, I won't even have to get out of bed to pee! Don't even get me started on that oxygen tube in my nose -- my absolutely favorite part of my first hospital experience delivering Sweet Boy.

We made a final trip to Target this weekend to stock up on supplies -- diapers, wipes, booties, hats, breastfeeding stuff, baby shampoo -- yet I have a lot more to do to get ready both at work and home. I grabbed a breastfeeding book at the library to refresh my memory. We're still trying to decide between disposable diapers and all-in-one cloth dipes; we still have to launder the car seat and swing covers, get the car seat in the car, organize the nursery closet, and get a few things out of the attic. My head is reeling from all the to-dos I was hit with at work today. I feel a bit like I'm cramming for a final exam.

But as I lay in bed during nightly snuggle time with Sweet Boy tonight, I tried to remember back to those early days with him. That was so long ago, and he's so far from being an infant these days. He's so excited for baby, and I can't wait to share this magic with him. In addition, when Sweet Boy was an infant, Chris was working such long hours that he really wasn't present for the day-to-day baby stuff -- and when he got home each day, he was so tired from a 12-hour day and an hour commute that he still wasn't truly present for it. This time around, he will be. I can't wait to share it with him, too.

I'm excited. And happy. And blessed.

Monday, February 15, 2010

The other shoe drops

So, here we are, cruising through our lives, getting excited and buying diapers for our new baby, digging out from two blizzards, counting the days until spring and then summer...thinking everything has finally settled down after the topsy-turvy year that was 2009. We had yet another lovely weekend, took Sweet Boy bowling with friends last night -- a really fun, giggly evening -- and as we drove home, I caught myself thinking about how perfect my life is.

Then suddenly, whammo. The other shoe drops. The shoe we've been dreading for just over a year. But we weren't expecting it to fall from this particular foot.

Chris was laid off today. Without warning. Kissed us goodbye and drove himself to work on a sunny President's Day, and was called in to HR with the rest of his staff at 9:00, home by 11. They cut all but three in his department, all the highest earners, because the company is failing and they can't afford them anymore. Because Chris has been there 12 years, they gave him a small severance package, but most of the other people didn't get anything. Just a thank you, good luck, and a box to put their personal belongings in.

Whoa. I can honestly say I didn't see this coming, though I think Chris did and in his stalwart way has been protecting me. We sat on the sofa just hanging on to each other for a few minutes when he walked in the door (cracking jokes, of course, because that's how we handle adversity), and he told me he felt like he was dumped by the bitchy girlfriend he hasn't had the guts to shed. So ironically, today he feels relieved. And really, when I really think about it, so do I. We have worried about the stability of his job for years now, as the company seemed to hire and fire its top people with the seasons. He's slogged his way through a hateful drive up and down the highway each day for over 10 years. The company has pulled the rug out from under him on numerous occasions, as far as raises and promotions go. So yes. Good riddance, Boathouse Sports. And fuck you, too.

Today we will soak it in, tomorrow we will start to plan the next steps. My husband is a smart, energetic, engaging guy who can do whatever he puts his mind to. So now he just has to find something that makes the most of his talents. We've talked for a long time about how conservative we are, how we've both just clung to mediocre jobs all this time because we are afraid to jump from frying pan to fire. But now the frying pan has been flung aside, at least for one of us, so there's nothing to do but jump into the fire and hope to come through with only singed leg hair or minor burns.

What strikes me most about this morning is that the whole time he sat here with me, telling me about what happened, he kept asking me how I'm doing, if I'm ok. He's worried about me while his world just got upended. How I love this man. I know that we'll get through it. There's no question, no alternative.

Boom, now it hits me: In a strange turn of events, suddenly I'm the breadwinner. Sitting here on the couch, working on a shitty manuscript on my day off, knowing there's no such thing as even a cost-of-living raise in my future, pissed off about my horrible new healthcare package, wondering if I'll even have a job this summer, because I work for a failing nonprofit. And in less than one month I will give birth to my second child. Oh, Life, you funny little bitch.

Tuesday, February 2, 2010

Almost ready

Since the moment I peed on the stick and discovered I was pregnant, I have been nervous about delivery. Sweet Boy was very large -- 10 and a half pounds with a 14-inch-circumference head -- and he was born a week past his due date by scheduled c-section. I did not like the c-section delivery. It was not what I'd planned or imagined, it was not like those episodes of "A Baby Story" that I watched on TLC for years. I did not get to hold my baby right away -- not for 5 hours, actually -- and I will always feel sad about that. Oh, and there was the pain...weeks and weeks of pain as that incision healed. In my first pre-natal appointment this time, I told my doctor that I want to try a VBAC delivery. She smiled and said ok, but there was a hint of "this lady is crazy" in the smile. And as the pregnancy rolled along, I had to come to grips with another c-section looming in my near future. Then Sweet Boy and I stumbled across a live c-section birth on the Today Show (amazing what you find on the morning shows), and he sat on my lap to watch. He was mesmerized, not by the surgery or the drama, but by the simple fact that a baby was born, screaming and red and new and wonderful. Wow. He asked questions, but he wasn't frightened. After the TV birth, Sweet and I looked at all the photos from his c-section birth-day, and we marveled at his giant, chubby-cheeked head together. At once the whole process was simplified for me, the fear erased: When it's all over, I will hold my child in my arms. The pain is temporary, the scar will fade, the love will grow and grow. And with my big boy sitting on my lap, smiling at the thought of his little sibling joining us soon, I finally felt like, yeah, ok, I can do this again.

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

We always hurt the ones we love...

...yet they keep on loving us: An allegorical (but true) story

When I got out of the shower this morning, I noticed Sweet Boy's bedroom door was closed. I heard him in there, playing and singing, and thought nothing of it. Until I heard, "Oh, kitty, don't move kitty, stop it, stay still!"

Uh oh.

So I opened the door and discovered Sweet Boy stuffing our 13-year-old cat, Pitino, into his stuffed animal pile in the corner of the room. He was pushing Pitino down, while Pitino tried to scramble back up to the top of the pile, eyes big and black, ears flat, only to be covered by another few stuffed animals.

I knew Sweet Boy meant no real harm, but I figured this was as good a time as any to reinforce the whole Pitino-is-a-living-creature concept, and explain that stuffing him into the stuffed animal pile could hurt him badly, maybe even kill him.

OK, so maybe "kill him" was a little over the top, but I needed to make the point. And the point was made: Sweet Boy plopped in a heap on the floor, sobbing huge tears. "I don't want to hurt Pitino! I just wanted him to play with me!"

After some tear wiping and further explanations of appropriate play with our pets, Sweet Boy and I got dressed and headed dowstairs to eat breakfast. Pitino lurked under the dining room table. "Why don't you go over there and give Pitino a kiss and tell him you're sorry and you won't do that again?" Good idea, Mom: He went over and sat on the floor next to the table and put his hand out toward his kitty.

I thought it would take some coaxing, but no, Pitino made the first move. He walked right over to his boy, put his front paws up on Sweet Boy's chest, and nuzzled his neck, even licked his teary cheek. Sweet Boy giggled and said "I love you, kitty-pants. I'm sorry I hurt you." And I could hear the cat purring from the next room.

Granted, Pitino is a pretty uniquely over-affectionate little creature, but on a day when I sought forgiveness from a human loved one, the scene was especially poignant.

Thursday, January 21, 2010

Mommies don't get sick days

[Warning: What follows is a whole lot of "poor me." I won't be hurt if you choose to just skip this and hop over to Perez Hilton or some site more interesting. Or, feel free to comment something along the lines of "Suck it up, you whiny brat, there are thousands of people dying in Haiti now. Your life is just fine."]

I am low on patience and compassion this morning, and though I feel a little bad about that, I need to vent a bit now. My husband, who is also my best friend and companion through good times and bad, has a nasty head cold. You know I adore him and I'm sorry that he feels awful, bt I'm also a bit jealous and grouchy that he can lie in bed moaning for two days because he has some congestion pain in his ear and head. I probably should be doting over him, making him homemade chicken soup and rubbing Vicks on his chest or something. But no. I'm griping.

You know why? Because not only do I have symptoms of this same head cold, including a searing pain in my left cheek, I also have a whole freaking person growing inside my body at the moment. Besides the aching head and stuffy nose, I am also dealing with stabbing pains between my legs, a constant muscle ache across my hips and back, and plantar fasciitis in my left foot. I have heartburn that simply laughs at any and all medication. My clothes don't fit right, my shoes are too tight, and my boobs really hurt. My stomach, lungs, and liver are battling it out for the same real estate, while my belly buddy pummels them all day long for fun. And I won't even discuss what the heck is going on with my bladder.

Do I get to lie in bed and moan? Come on, now. You know mommies don't get sick days! Nope, instead I grab a box of tissues, drink some lemon tea, eat an orange, and gulp down some Tylenol Sinus because I have to go to work, then come home to keep the energetic 4-year-old occupied enough that he doesn't bother his sick Daddy. I have to keep up with the cooking and the dishes and the laundry, pick up the cars and dinosaurs and super heroes that line the floors. Just getting the child and myself dressed and fed in the morning wears me out, but I've got to keep going because I have tight work deadlines, too. Meanwhile, the man with the head cold snores away in our cozy marshmallow bed.

I love you, babe, I really do. I'm not mad at you because I know it's not your fault that you're sick. And when you're well, you're a tremendous help with the kid-wrangling and the household stuff. But today I feel sick, too, and I'm grumpy and hormonal and sore and exhausted and I'm taking it out on you because you're here staring at me with that pitiful puss, looking at me as if I either gave you this cold or I have the power to take it away.

I'm also thinking, damn, if a head cold knocks you flat for two days, it's a good thing that women do the baby carrying and baby birthing and baby nursing because otherwise one of two things would happen: (1) Things would simply shut down for 9 months while the gestating daddies laid in bed, or (2) There would be way fewer humans on the planet.

And just think: In two months or so, this small person has to come out of my body (and we all know there's no good way for that too happen). I wonder how much time I'll get to just lie in bed and moan then? Hmph.

Tuesday, January 5, 2010

Time to cut the cable

As you may have heard, there's a baby coming this way. Soon. In approximately 10 weeks, to be precise. Which is awesome and blessed and amazing and exciting. But really freaking expensive. Which makes it also scary as hell when we're just about getting by financially in our current family state.

But scary makes us think, right? Scary makes us evaluate what's important, consider what we can live without, brainstorm creative ways to make it work. So over the last couple months, Big Daddy and I have been contemplating all the many ways we can cut our expenses in order to afford another child in daycare (and all the diapers and clothing and food that comes with another person) but without causing too much personal hardship or lifestyle change.

There are the obvious things, of course -- no more eating out, suspending the gym membership that we so rarely use, putting vacation savings on hiatus, paying off small debts to free up monthly cash -- but we live pretty lean anyway so it's been somewhat challenging to come up with easy bills to chop.

One night about two months ago, we realized that we can download movies through Netflix to the Playstation 3 that's hooked up to our super-TV in the family room. Which led to another realization, one that's a tiny bit embarrassing to admit we hadn't realized before because it's so simple: We can watch movies and TV shows online on a laptop in our bedroom. A-ha! (We don't have a cable outlet [or space] in our bedroom for a TV.) This is only fantastic because I usually fall asleep on the couch mid-DVD; watching a movie in my bed cuts out that horrible wake-up-and-drag-my-butt-upstairs step.

Anyway, this startling, life-changing epiphany led us to realize that although we have like 800 cable channels on three different TV sets in this house, we rarely watch anything worth watching -- and only really use one TV. Hmph. That's silly. What's worse, we can't really come up with a list of even five shows we watch regularly. Big Daddy is a sports fan, so he likes ESPN -- but much of what you see on ESPN you can watch (or read about) online. Otherwise we do a lot of channel flipping because there's not a whole lot that's truly satisfying on the Boob Tube. We watch some Food Network and some Travel Network, but would we suffer without either? And now with the fancy new HD conversion of regular channels, we could probably have some decent TV watching for, like, free. Whoa.

And then the December cable bill came: $165 for our cable/phone/internet package. What?! Wait a second -- I can feed this family for two weeks on just about $165. I could fill up my car's gas tank 4 times for $165. We could go to the movies like 8 times for $165. We could go to DisneyWorld in a year if we socked away $165/month. I could hire a freaking housekeeper for $165/month!

When I called the cable/phone/internet company to find out why the bill went up, I learned they had "bundled" some premium channels together (even though we hadn't requested this) and tacked on $15 to our bill. How nice. Why is this legal? Why is it ok for a company to just force something on us and charge us extra? (By the way, these two premium channels offer us about 20 channels of absolute crap 24 hours a day.) No thanks -- cancel premium channels now, please.

So then I asked what it would cost just for the internet. I had to speak very slowly and repeat myself three times because the guy on the other end of the line just couldn't fathom why someone would discontinue their cable or phone services. In fact, when I told him I wanted to save some money, he actually tried to upsell me a higher priced package that offered even more crappy channels because that was, um, a "better value." Huh? How does that math work? Anyway, turns out we can save over $100/month by switching to internet-only service. Not bad, methinks.

Here's what we've come up with: Buy a TV antennae and converter box for roughly $50. A one-time charge. Get rid of the cable and watch the networks we can get over the airwaves. Get rid of the land-line phone and use our cellies. Find new favorite shows to watch on Hulu. Rent our favorite series on Netflix (and watch them in our comfy bed!) Read more books. Play more board games. Listen to the radio or podcasts. Go for more walks. Write more short stories. Learn how to sew, play the guitar, draw...

Sounds lovely, doesn't it? Save lots of money and make time for things that are more enriching? So why, then, has it been so hard for me to make the call and just say "turn it off, man"?