Life and Randomness, Toddlers

snot monster

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We paid a visit to the pediatrician yesterday.  Jude has been snotty-nosed for close to two weeks now, but what preschooler isn’t?  And my usual protocol of “just wait it out” typically works pretty well.  So he has been running and playing and being his crazy self, and I just figured if there was a problem, I’d know when it happened.  I still took him to school since he’s only there 6 hours a week anyhow, and the rules about keeping a kid home just apply to stomach ailments and fevers.

Then we arrived at his school yesterday morning, and it smelled like bleach when we walked in the door.  I mentioned to his teacher that he was still snotty but seemed to be fine and didn’t worry too much as I left there to run errands.  An hour later, the school director called me and said his temp was 99.3, so I should come get him.  I did, of course.  And I felt pretty lame and embarrassed that I deemed it alright to drop him off and didn’t take his temp that morning. But I gather from our conversation and the overwhelming bleach bath that there have been some pretty nasty bugs going around, so they’re being super strict and watchful.

After that we got a quick appointment with the pediatrician, and she gave us an antibiotic and said it was a sinus infection.  We made it almost 38 months without an antibiotic in this kid, but there’s a first time for everything, I guess.

He’s passed the snot monster off to baby sister, but Dr. B said simply to watch her for fever or changes in behavior, but for now she’s fine.  In hindsight we’ve had a full 5 weeks off from sickness in this house, but I really feel like we’ve been passing something around since he started school.  SO MANY GERMS.  I know the interaction is good for him and the time with only Norah is good for me, but it’s seriously ridiculous.  I hope the next three months aren’t as brutal as this season started out to be.  All this combined with the news that a mama-friend of mine is sitting bedside in a children’s hospital with her very sick newborn who contracted pneumonia from a simple respiratory virus is turning me in to a germophobe.

We also have some light traveling and family get-togethers this weekend, so I’m just praying the kids hold up and we survive intact.  We’re trying our hardest to stay in the holiday spirit despite the sniffles.

Happy weekend, reader.  I’m looking forward to dinner with some college friends tonight and Christmas celebrations tomorrow.  Plus lots of car passenger time for knitting!

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motherhood, Toddlers

family. and some ramblings on perfectionism.

We got our family photos back a couple of weeks ago, and in my absence, I forgot to post them here. We worked with Andrew Thomas Lee again as we did last year and the year before that.  Like I’ve said before, if you are in Atlanta and looking for a great family photographer, he’s perfect.

I thought for sure there’d be no way he could capture all four of us together without a blurry toddler or a crying baby or some sort of mishap, but he did.

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Norah was three weeks old when we did the session.  She’s already grown so much that I feel nostalgic looking at these tiny newborn features from the beginning of the summer.

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And Jude lit up the camera again and gave us lots of personality.

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It’s funny looking at professional photos of your own family and knowing the nuances behind them.   This summer has been great, and Norah is the “easiest” baby I could ask for.  I love the cuddly baby stage, and I could have a dozen babies if they were eternal newborns.  I love it.

But toddlerhood?  Oh my.  I’m so exhausted at the end of the day lately that I cannot even begin to describe it for you.  He’s wearing.  me.  out.

Just yesterday, I tweeted this.

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And today it was followed by this.

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And really there are a million more where that comes from.  It’s all happening at once lately, and it’s not letting up.  He’s fighting bedtime which he has never done before.  He’s completely regressed on potty training to the point that I feel like I shouldn’t even have started months ago, and it was all wasted effort.  He’s given up naps.  He never stops running and he has to be busy at all hours of the day.  My only saving graces are that he’s sweet as pie to little sister and never aggressive at all with her and that the new no-nap situation brings a 7:00 bedtime without the fighting we’d had recently on napping days.  But still.  Toddlerhood is no joke.

And I’d like to be that mom who prepares three gourmet, organic meals with my children each day and doesn’t allow television in our home and photographs my toddler playing independently all day with a handcrafted wooden toy.  Because I feel like I see that everywhere I turn, and if they can do it, then why can’t I?  The internet is an inspiring place in ways, but sometimes it just leaves you feeling like shit, if I’m being honest.

I used to read Dooce years ago before I had kids, and then I stopped reading when I had Jude because I felt I just couldn’t relate to her in any way.  I felt like she was too whiny and sarcastic about the miracle of motherhood, and I didn’t have a desire to read any longer.  But now I’ve grown tired of my usual online reads with perfectly dressed children and moms who wear lipstick everyday and always do crafts with their kids.  Because I am probably at home with my toddler in his underwear eating boxed macaroni and cheese as they are somehow finding time to make things perfect.  I just don’t get it sometimes, how people have time to do it all.

I don’t want to rush things, but in ways, I really look forward to the time when I don’t have to come in contact with my kids’ poop – or even know anything about it.  When I don’t have to dress them.  When I don’t have to wrangle them through parking lots and into car seats.  When I don’t have to bathe them and brush their teeth and perform elaborate bedtime rituals to bring sleep.  I’m pretty sure this post just became a rambling mess that went in a different direction than I intended.  I am not complaining about my life.  I have lots of things I am eternally grateful for.

I just need to remember that “Comparison is the thief of joy.”  (Thanks, Teddy Roosevelt.)  And there might be mothers whose homes look like a glossy magazine and whose toddlers never have tantrums. But I am not one of those moms at this moment in my life, and that’s okay.

The grass is always greener, I think.  And we always romanticize things- especially when looking at a photograph or reminiscing and daydreaming about another time.  I’m doing it now as I look years ahead to when my kids develop a little independence, and I’ll do it then as I look years back and remember these chubby feet and charming mispronunciations and tiny grins.

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They are beautiful little people who offer such sweet moments when you get past all the work and exhaustion.  Perfection is an unattainable quest.

motherhood, Toddlers

Memory

We went to the doctor this morning for our two-year-old check-up.  All looks well and healthy, but ohmygod this kid did not like the doctor today.  I managed to snap a quick phone photo before our pediatrician dared to enter the room and (gasp!) listen to his heartbeat and look in his ears.  He looks happy here, but mere minutes later, it was insanity.

He has never even had an ear infection on his life, so there shouldn’t be a bad association with it at all, but after trying a million different approaches to tricking him into allowing a glimpse in his ears, I had to resort to holding him down for it.  Our doctor said he must have remembered the sting of the immunization from before, and now he hates the office.  Point taken. Because when the nurse came in with the shot, you could hear him screaming at least a mile away before she was anywhere close to him at all.  Loudest cry ever.  Poor kid.  We survived, and I rewarded with french fries on the way home, so sanity is restored here.

But it made me realize that he’s remembering so much these days, and it adds both joy and pressure as a parent, I think.  I know he is only two, and he won’t remember pieces of our lives now when he is older, but I really do believe that somehow these memories make a mark even if they aren’t recalled in absolute clarity as an adult.  I love thinking about forming memories and associations in someone’s little mind.

This Saturday was his actual birthday even though his party was last weekend, and we decided to pay a visit to the local fair that morning for some quality cuisine.

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And I hope he grows to remember that for all of mom’s granola-making, whole-wheat baking, candy-withholding ways, it’s perfectly okay to shovel greasy onion rings in your mouth on a few select occasions. He wanted to ride all the big ones, but he settled for the ponies, and he was really impressed with himself.
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It was such a great way to spend a fall morning, and we’ve also made time to celebrate more fall lately with a walk in Great-Grandaddy’s garden and a feast of fresh broccoli.

And the best part is that these memories are held by the both of us and probably more cherished by me since I know how sweet and candy-coated those childhood memories become when you grow a few years and find them in the back of your mind associated with some smell or sound or feeling.  Even the greasy carnival food and garden-dirty broccoli take on a quality that really means something more.

In the Kitchen, Toddlers

Summer Fun

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I cleaned out my freezer this weekend, and I’ve realized that cleaning a freezer or pantry is easily the best way to save at the grocery store.  My bill at Whole Foods was less than $60 for a full week of food because I realized I have a lot here already. Among the things I found in my freezer were a ziplock bag of blueberries from last summer’s berry harvest and a few frozen bananas. I always throw overripe bananas in the freezer rather than the trash, thinking I’ll make bread or something with them.  And of course I never do.

I also ventured to Target for odds and ends last week and saw some popsicle molds for $2.99, and I decided I needed them. I threw some blueberries and bananas straight from the freezer to the blender, and I added a few spoonfuls of plain Greek yogurt, and the result was especially delicious.

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It’s incredibly messy and an outside-only treat, but it’s also one that I don’t feel guilty for giving twice a day.

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So much summer fun to be had this year. Such a great age for exploring and loving the little things!

Jude, Life and Randomness, Toddlers

in a funk

It’s been eight days since I posted anything here, and my usual schedule of writing a few times a week and taking a few daily snapshots hasn’t held up lately.  I’m a morning person, and I set my alarm for 6:30 everyday, but I usually climb out of bed earlier.  The rhythm I was accustomed to gave me an hour or even two hours in a quiet house with coffee and a solo shower.  It was my time to write or to plan my day or my week.  I loved my time.  I say loved past tense because we’ve had a disruption in our usual rhythm.

We moved Jude out of the crib.

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Last Friday, I heard him wake up from his nap and talk happily to himself as he usually does, and as I opened the door to get him, I found him hanging his entire torso over the edge of his crib, and he dove headfirst (if that’s what you call it when you don’t even put your arms out) to what my paranoid self would assume is a sudden death or at least paralysis.  I caught him as he grazed the carpet.  As he stood upright, he looked back at the crib and then at me and then grinned.  He figured out how to work a doorknob that afternoon, and we dismantled the crib and got a toddler rail the very next day.

I am pretty certain that I would have kept him in the crib for at least another ten years if given the chance, but if my options are toddler bed or terrible injury, I choose the former.  It’s no secret that Jude took quite a while to get the hang of sleeping through the night, but the past four months have been blissful.  Like 13 solid hours of sleep every single night without a fight or a peep kind of blissful.  And here we are with a new set of problems now.  The staying asleep thing he was never great about hasn’t regressed too much, but he doesn’t particularly want to go to sleep in the first place when he can easily get out of bed and play with the toys in his room.  Or as he was demonstrating today – run around his room and scream “night night!” while laughing hysterically instead of napping like he has every single day of his little life.  His old schedule had him sleeping until 8:00am or so, but now he also opens his eyes at something like 6:45 every morning and silently grabs his favorite blanket, opens his door, and steps into the hallway.  And when I say silently, I mean you seriously have no idea how quiet he is. A kid who can’t be quiet in a restaurant or a library or a moment when mama wants to hear what’s on NPR somehow acquires the stealth, sly nature of a Navy SEAL when he wants to arise from nap or nighttime.  I walked out of the bathroom in my robe yesterday morning at 6:25  to see him just staring silently at me.  It’s unsettling really.

So I’ve spent the past four evenings camping outside of his room Supernanny-style and silently plopping him back in his bed every single time he gets up and walks out.  All 127 times.  Every night.  And every naptime.  And I haven’t had my alone time and coffee solitude since last week.  And family business is somewhat improved but still weighing heavily on me.  And I’ve been helping my sister with childcare for part of this week and spending all day alone with a seven-year-old, a three-year-old, and my nineteen-month-old who all together aren’t as terrible as it probably sounds, but I am outnumbered three to one nevertheless.  And my husband is gone for work for part of this week.

Help. Me.

So today I was trying to get Jude down for a nap and we were on something like minute thirty-eight of the Supernanny routine, and I totally lost my cool.  I yelled and I couldn’t take it anymore, and I totally exploded. Poor Jude was confused at my response since nap time normally isn’t a punishment of any kind.  And the fighting over staying in the bed didn’t really get any better by the yelling because we were still arguing about it twenty minutes later.  He finally gave up and I came downstairs to regain lost sanity by browsing eye candy on Pinterest and listening to my usual Joni Mitchell Pandora mix.  And it hit me how ridiculous it all was that I was feeling so overwhelmed and full of self-pity when here I am in my air-conditioned home with my healthy child and healthy spouse and the time and money for occasional hobbies.  I feel so stupid for complaining when there are families with far greater problems than my current stresses.  There are women around the world for whom the idea of an uniterrupted hour of solace and fresh-ground coffee is absurd rather than expected.

But still.  I feel overwhelmed, stressed, and in need of some inspiration just the same.  It’s hard sometimes to find a balance between understanding that there are far worse things in the world, but still recognizing your own life and your own issues as valid and real, you know?

I don’t really know where I am going with all of this except to say that I am a lucky girl and I love my life, but there are still long days sometimes.  I’ve been in a bit of a funk lately, and I decided to take some photos of Jude in his new bed tonight.  The result is not what I was going for but hilarious indeed.  I took him upstairs in just a diaper since we were headed for the bath, and I tried to get a few shots in the bed, but he decided to show you that he can jump headfirst out of his crib, he can work a doorknob, and he can also remove his own diaper.

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removing the diaper

And he’d like to demonstrate that he can even climb out while naked.

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And while we are at it, let’s run around the room naked and point to our business in case you didn’t see it.

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So I’m a little blah lately.  I’m a little stressed.  I’m running on fumes with some really frazzled nerves, and I need some inspiration.  But despite all of this, life keeps me laughing.

motherhood, Toddlers

Incongruity

When I was a classroom teacher, I was often plagued with the most bizarre occurences.  Random moments when I’d wonder if that really just happened.  Funny moments, really.  The English major in me knows that this particular humor is brought about by incongruity or “a conjunction of opposite or unexpected situations in a way that evokes humor.”

Like the one time I found a pair of pants on the floor of my classroom and had to hang them up on the chalkboard with an arrow that asked, “Whose pants are these?”

Or the time I rewarded a class with a party for winning a canned food drive, and I passed around a sign-up sheet for the food list, but when it came back to me, it only listed three items: “omelets,” “Jagerbombs,” and “Oreos.”

Or the time I found a stunning drawing in my own image left on the dry-erase board after class.  The incongruity of a kindergarten-compatible drawing penned by a high-schooler.

Or of course the subtle humor of some pimply-faced adolescent scribbling “Shakespeare sux” in the margins of MacBeth.  Because that kid certainly knows enough to claim such a thing.

The list goes on.  Whether they mean to or not, kids are funny people when they aren’t driving you insane.

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And I kind of thought those sorts of bizarre and humorous moments were present in my life because of my daily interactions with 150 high-schoolers, but now that I am home with a toddler, it’s a daily occurence again.  I mean as I write this, there is a roll of toilet paper in our downstairs hallway; watercolor paints, a tape measure, and a random cord on my dining room table; and alphabet letters thrown in to a pan with a wire whisk resting on my kitchen floor.  And I do clean the clutter occasionally, I assure you.  But the randomness follows me everywhere, I swear.  Incongruity at its finest.  Just this morning I found Jude pushing a hand-me-down pink baby doll stroller with a serving spoon buckled in where the baby ought to be.

Like the pleading eyes of my poor dog juxtaposed with the joy on Jude’s face when he forces her to submit to some play time.  For all their annoyances, these dogs put up with a lot from us.

Jude also got a harmonica in an Easter basket, and he stumbles around playing the blues like some troubled old homeless war vet or something. And I don’t know what it is about that scenario, but it cracks me up.  Someone who knows nothing of trouble in the world and fills his days munching on cheese crackers now spends his time staring aimlessly out a window and playing the blues.

He’s also discovered that his favorite word is “cheese,” only he says it with this high-pitched and desperate “sheeeeeeeese” that you can hear a mile away.  And he asks for “sheese” at least five times a day, typically when it is not mealtime or snacktime, but the thought has graced his mind and he comes racing and pleading to me.

The “sheese” face is half-cute and half-scary.  Yesterday we were reading a book about a runaway sheep, and he jumped up from our cozy spot on the sofa, screamed “sheeeeeeeese” and ran to the refrigerator door.  Must. Have. Cheese. NOW.  The hilarity of screaming CHEESE at various moments throughout the day is not lost on me.

Incongruity at its finest.

I mean even toddler temper tantrums, painful though they are, are examples of this.  When the fretful moment has passed and I regain sanity to really think about what has just happened, I laugh a little remembering that handing someone the yellow crayon instead of the blue one he was grunting for resulted in flailing on the floor.  Next time I ask Scott to pick up something at the store and he forgot it, I think I’ll respond the same way.  You forgot coffee creamer?  OH MY GODDDDD, the horror!

My three-year-old niece is staying with us a couple of days a week, partly to help my sister out with childcare and partly to have a playmate for Jude.  I love watching all her delicate little mannerisms and girly habits after spending time with my rowdy boy. But then she plays her favorite game which is to “be a yion” as she says.  Or growl like a scary lion.  So here we are with this blue-eyed girly-girl making a loud, guttural growl and trying really hard to make a mean face.  Incongruity at its best.

And I’m realizing toddlerhood might be the funniest source, but it isn’t the only source of incongruity in my life.  I’m full of some contradictions as well.

As of last week, I am grinding my own grain in the kitchen and baking all of my family’s bread, yet I still love my cupcakes and can’t stay no to another cup of coffee or a margarita.

I’ve had major issues accepting television as part of our daily routine around here, and I tend to take it too seriously as a drain on a little brain’s budding intelligence, yet I adore the beautiful half hour I spend in the kitchen every evening before dinner when “Backyardigans” sing happily in the next room.

I revisit Blake and Shelley like old friends and ache for books in such a tangible way, yet I have been plowing through the same novel for weeks and know much more about Seuss than Renaissance drama at this point in my life.

Today I long to hit the road with my nomadic little family and jump at any opportunity that would have us moving and leave Jude learning on the canvas of some foreign city, but the next day I’ll decide I need to deepen some roots right where we are and my rocking chair on the front porch is all the exploration I need.

I think there was a time when I viewed these incongruities as something I needed to fix or make a decision about, but as I get older, I’m learning to accept them for what they are.  I can do pretty much anything I want, just not everything I want.  Or not all at the same time.  And sometimes that leaves me with one foot in and one foot out, straddling some fence and trying desperately to throw the other leg over.  And, students, since this has been a lesson on incongruity, I’ll leave you with a literary quote from a wise Walt Whitman, “Do I contradict myself? Very well, then, I contradict myself; I am large — I contain multitudes.”   For now, I love my multitudes.

motherhood, Toddlers, travel

Beginnings and Endings. And Traveling in Between.

I love to travel.  Love it.  Seeing new places, eating new food, cramming clothes in a suitcase with plans in my head.  For various reasons – namely money and real jobs – I am not as extensively traveled as some I know, but pre-Jude, Scott and I would take trips whenever we could, some not far from home, and some a little farther.

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in Bruges, Belgium three years ago

It’s so hard to try and imagine how your life will change after having a child.  I think it’s actually pointless to predict it because parenting is something that, for me anyway, kind of evolves on its own.  I expected to drop the baby off at Grandma’s house often for a night out or a longer trip away.  I expected to want “me” time really frequently.  I expected to feel a little trapped and overwhelmed in this role. But life surprises you sometimes and things don’t always progress the way you expect them to.

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So when we first began to talk about a trip to celebrate my thirtieth birthday, I never even thought about leaving Jude at home. Not that couple time isn’t a good thing, of course. But he’s so young and so a part of us that I jumped in with both feet and dragged a toddler to Costa Rica.

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I know everyone has varying opinions on this, but I love traveling with a baby. We took him to Seattle when he was nine months old, and things went well, so I wasn’t really thinking about any reasons not to take him this time.  That said, as I began to plan the trip and share details with others, some people told me in not-so-confusing terms that they thought I was crazy or even unfair to my child to drag him along.  I did it any way, and I’m so glad I did.

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My thirtieth birthday trip to Costa Rica was such a fun adventure.  But I learned a few subtle lessons, too.

As we landed in Liberia and waited in line at customs, I saw two young couples arriving from the states as well. The women were complete from head to toe with beachwear on their backs, coordinated luggage, and glossy lipstick. Obviously four childless folks vacationing together with grand plans of piña coladas at the shore and deep tans to bring home as souvenirs. And as I looked at them with my toddler in the carrier on my back, I glanced at a shadow of my former self. One without worries of proper water safety and preserving the sacred nap time. One who remembered to wear lipstick and didn’t find my bra hanging out of a stained shirt after a four-hour flight with a busy kid.

And those travel days with fewer worries and more time?  They were lovely.  I’ve cruised the Seine at night with Paris illuminated before me.  I’ve strolled Nantucket’s cobblestone streets with not a single concern in my mind.  I’ve lingered far too long over a bottle of wine with friends in a restaurant that would never work with my child in tow.  I’ve sipped tea leisurely in Grantchester Orchard with a stack of school books in my bag.  I’ve walked the gulf sand with girlfriends and cold beer and silence punctuated with some of my life’s best conversations.  And all of those moments were just as perfect as they sound, lasting stamps in my mind.

But here we are at a new place with some pretty beautiful moments as well.

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Was every second of the trip perfection?  I’d be lying if I said so.  There were no fewer than three tantrums on the plane ride there.  There was a rushed dinner that felt far too long because we traded off toddler-duty, walking rounds to satisfy a tired and cranky boy.  There was the constant need for a pacifier so that he’d stop eating random, potentially dangerous things.  Relaxing poolside is impossible when he’s vulnerable and can’t swim, and admittedly I relished the glorious hour of naptime when I lounged and read alone under the hot sun.  Traveling with a child is not for the faint of heart.  But then again, neither is motherhood.  Just when the newborn haze wears off, you get the hang of things, and then the mobility begins and you wonder how you got here.  You find a way to make it work though.  Now I just look for a playground in walking distance from my relaxing beachside margarita.

Our first day in Costa Rica, we were poolside next to an older couple from Indiana.  They commented on Jude’s cuteness, and we began talking.  They spoke of grandchildren back home they missed, the ten-day tour of Costa Rica they were ending, and the beautiful sights they’d seen.  And as we spoke, I realized something.  Life moves on.  And these stages, however easy or hard they may be, only last for a little while.  Right now I have this wiggly daredevil who wants to run and scream and play, and it’s fun but exhausting.  Soon I will have an active swimmer who won’t stress me out so much in the pool or make a scene in a restaurant, but I’m sure I’ll miss chubby little hands and feet.  And later still, I hope to travel with a teenager who can hold his own in a conversation with me and understand the historical significance of some of the world’s greatest places.  And much, much later, we’ll have those childless trips again, wandering city streets and seeing sights without worrying about taking care of someone else.

So I guess if there’s one thing I’ve learned in this few weeks of my thirtieth year it’s that this might be the end of certain parts of my life, but it’s only the beginning of a lot more.  That and I love belonging to my little family, whether we are near or far.

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