Friday, December 26, 2008

Almost there

Dear boy,

Merry Christmas! And happy eleven-month-birthday, son. It's getting harder and harder for me and your dad to remember a time when you weren't a part of our lives, home and family, especially now that you're such a vocal and mischievous contributor. 

Your smile has always been a bright spot for us, but lately you've taken it to new levels. You don't just smile anymore as much as you dare us NOT to laugh at you. To call you a happy baby would be a major understatement -- you're just blessed with an outgoing and naturally upbeat personality, for which we are thankful. 

This last month has brought lots of changes. You're pointing at things and people now that have captured your attention, and while it's a perfectly normal developmental milestone, your method of pointing is anything but run-of-the-mill. I have yet to capture a picture of it, but you fold your thumb down against your palm and point with your other four fingers in the general vicinity of what you want to indicate, and your dad and I can't get enough of it. When we ask you what you're looking at, and you pop out that four-fingered salute, we never know quite what to rest our eyes upon, but it hasn't been too much of a problem so far. I kind of hope you never figure out how to point any differently, because I love your way of doing it now. 

You've also fallen in love with your board books, and I cannot be any happier. Hooray!! Another reader in the house! Storytime before bed never fails to captivate you, and you play with your books now all on your own, even frequently choosing them over the noisier, battery-operated toys at your disposal, a choice I heartily appreciate on many levels. Not only have you learned to employ your tiny thumb to turn the pages of your board books, you've also figured out how to rifle through magazines faster than I would have thought possible. So far your periodic reading has been limited to "American Baby" and "Parenting" magazines, but we're thinking of getting you your own subscription to "The Economist" and "Business Week."

Now that your upstairs playroom is functionally complete (meaning it's baby-safe and filled with toys, not that I've repainted it or hung up anything cute on the walls -- there just aren't enough hours in the day!), you spend lots of time there with me on any given day. When you want a respite from your toys, you always know how to take a break -- you crawl to the window, pull yourself up and peer over the sill to stare down at the neighbors as they come and go. You are more interested in the lives of our neighbors than I would have thought possible for a child under the age of one, and your intent face makes me laugh. Sometimes your dad and I try to figure out just what you're keeping tabs on, and we wonder if you're noting who's pulling up in a new sedan, who's got a new bike, and who's accepting yet another FedEx package. If the neighborhood watch ever needs another member, I'm signing you up.

Not all new developments are easy and breezy -- I'll admit that sometimes your determination and sheer force of will are hard to handle. You are a remarkably happy baby, as I mentioned, but I've been amazed by how committed you can be to doing things on your terms. If I'm helping you move a large toy that you want to play with on your own, you'll grab my hand and push it aside. If I've walked into a room holding a snack that's not baby-friendly (like something with peanut butter on it), I'd better have something else to feed you or you'll let me know you're displeased. If you want to feed yourself Cheerios and I try to hand you one, I can expect to be sweeping up the floor, since you'll pitch them overboard faster than I can say "multi-grain." And if I want you to take just one more bite of pear-pineapple but you're done, then BY GOD, YOU'RE DONE AND NO ONE'S GONNA MAKE YOU EAT ANYMORE. You definitely know your own mind, and it's going to serve you well in your adult life, but I swear, kid -- it can make parenting a challenge, to say the least. Still, I would not have you be any other way. I have the feeling you came by that fierce independence honestly enough, and I know that both your daddy and I value that about our own personalities.

Speaking of feeding yourself, you're doing so with more regularity and more success. It's so much fun for us to watch the physics of how you manage getting one tiny piece of cereal to your mouth, a short distance but one apparently fraught with insecurity and danger. Lately you've gotten much better at the pincer grip of picking a Cheerio up with just your thumb and first finger, but your earlier attempts were hilarious demonstrations of the meaning of the word "overkill." You'd grab one Cheerio in your palm, wrapping all your fingers securely around it as if you expected someone to spirit it away from you by magic. Then you'd cram that whole hammy fist into your mouth and try to open your fingers while they were lodged between your gums. More often than not, those moist Cheerios ended up in your lap or on the floor, but you've shown steady improvement, and are probably eating up to 75% of what we put on your high chair tray these days. And you always love to celebrate your success when the food's in your mouth, which is infectious. We do a lot of clapping and "yay!"-ing.

As I noted, you love storytime before bed. We always make sure we get in at least two books before bedtime (after your bath and prayers), and it's your daddy who reads them to you. This is for a couple of reasons -- after a long day at work, both you and he enjoy having some quiet time together, and also, when I try to read books to you at bedtime, you seem much more interested in moving on to the next phase of the going-to-sleep routine -- nursing. So I usually retreat to the hallway and watch you surreptitiously from the doorway as daddy reads you your books and sings your prayers with you. You never know I'm there -- I make sure you don't see me, since it tends to bring storytime to a grinding halt when you're crowing for sustenance -- but I watch you every night. I have the feeling that there will be a lot of times in your life like that, son -- you won't realize it, but I'll be there, watching over you and hoping and praying for you to be kept whole, happy and healthy.

This time next month, I'll probably be writing about how you're walking. You've come so close to taking your first steps -- you stand unsupported now with regularity, and you're starting to lurch toward things several steps away, a development that's both exciting and terrifying, since you're so much more prone to accidents now. And I have the feeling that everything will feel completely different once again when you're toddling around instead of crawling, like we'll be starting over with a new baby, one who doesn't explore the world at his feet, but one who runs through the world around him. How will we be parents to that new little guy? I don't know, but I trust that we'll figure it out together. You've shown us all along how to be the parents you need, and we'll just keep holding your hand when you need it. That's the easy part. The hard part is always the part where we have to let go.

I love you, son.


Thursday, December 25, 2008

Here's the Christmas card I would have sent. Sort of.

Every year I have the best of intentions with holiday cards. I make lists, I buy postage, I drag my collection of snowmen-themed cards out of storage, I make sure my favorite pen has ink in it. And in recent years the trend has been that that's where it ends.

Now that we have a baby, it stands to reason that from now on, any cards we send will feature said baby. Prominently. So since I didn't send out the cards I should have, here's a picture or two that might have been used on one. 

The kid made out like a bandit. You think he could have spared ONE smile.

Merry Christmas, everyone!

Thursday, December 18, 2008

In my defense, I NEVER CLAIMED to be normal.

If I ever walk up to you and sniff your face, you can blame my aunt B.

When I was a little kid, I used to spend afternoons after school at my grandparents' house. My aunt, who wasn't yet married at the time, still lived with them. And occasionally, she'd let me watch her put on her makeup. 

My aunt's makeup ritual would have been elaborate to an ADULT. To a second-grader, it bordered on the mystical. She would take a seat at her low vanity table, and survey her assortment of vials and compacts and tubes. First was the concealer, dabbed on in strategic places, then blended carefully. Then came liquid foundation. Then powder. Then eyeliner (this took a while, as she carefully pulled and lifted the applicator to create an almond eye shape, almost feline at the outer corners). Then eyeshadow -- three or more colors, painstakingly applied and blended. Then a touch of lipstick to the mouth, and dotted on the cheeks and forehead and rubbed in to give her face a rosy, pinky glow. At each step, she'd pull back from the glare of the vanity mirror and check the overall effect, frequently moistening a finger to undo the latest application, grumbling under her breath until she had the cosmetics on the way she wanted.

The whole process took over 45 minutes. And this was makeup ALONE. Hair and wardrobe hadn't even been considered yet. So it's really not surprising that she would therefore be so meticulous about the finished product. If we ever reached up to hug her after her ministrations, she'd hiss, "Watch out! Don't touch my face!" It wasn't long before she'd perfected the air kiss, a quick peckish motion in the vicinity of your cheek in greeting. 

Over the years, she became less adamant about the absolute-no-contact rule, and modified her salutation into a sniff. In order to preserve her carefully applied lipliner and lipstick, she'd curl her lips into her mouth, and press her nostrils onto your cheek, inhaling at the same time to create a light suction effect, not unlike a kiss, I suppose. In Vietnamese, the phrase you use to describe that little sniff is hit vao, pronounced HEET vah-oh, and it's become the standard greeting for more than one of the perfectly-made-up women in my family. If it hadn't started when I was such a little kid, it would probably seem gross, but at this point, it's just what they do. I've even caught myself doing it when I greet them in return, strangely. 

And there was the one time I did it to a girlfriend who is not acquainted with my family, and heck, she's not even Vietnamese. Not that that would have helped.

She'd just had a baby, and husband and I had gone over to visit the new little family. As good friends do, we'd made and brought dinner along with us, so when I saw my friend for the first time, my hands were full of a slow-cooker, teeming with some kind of soup or stew. A hug (our normal greeting) was therefore out of the question, and without thinking about it at all (clearly), I leaned down and sniffed her cheek. 

Keep in mind the poor woman had recently had her first baby. She was wearing her glasses, which means she hadn't been sleeping regularly enough to know when to put in or remove her contact lenses. And chances are, if you're not sleeping regularly, you probably haven't had a regular shower routine, either. Not that I even remember whether she smelled bad or anything, but if you hadn't showered recently and a friend put her head next to your face and inhaled sharply, wouldn't you feel uncomfortable?

The instant I'd done it, I thought, "Hey, I'll bet that seemed REALLY EFFING WEIRD to her." But I had no idea how to address it. She didn't say a thing about it (the fact that she didn't rear back as if I'd tried to bite her is a testament to her grace and poise), so I pretended like nothing strange had happened, and to this day we've never discussed it. 

So, I'm just sayin'. If I sniff you, it's 'cause I love you.

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

So much for Dr. Spock.

Every baby book you read tells you that during his first year, your baby will progress from a newborn to an infant to a toddler. 

They lied. 

Here are the real stages of development, as recently experienced by myself, husband and boy.

Stage 1: The Sleepy Bundle.
This stage is very short-lived, usually limiting itself to the hospital duration only. It's characterized by long stretches of sleep, punctuated with short stretches of nourishment or digestive-system testing. This stage allows new parents plenty of time to rest and get charged up for what follows, though they nearly always squander this time in admiring the Sleepy Bundle.

Stage 2: The Angry Blob.
Shortly upon arrival home from the hospital, the Sleepy Bundle metamorphoses into the Angry Blob. Scientists are not certain how the Sleepy Bundle is sentient enough to realize that the supportive nurses at the hospital are no longer around, but it's incredible how accurate this timing is. The Angry Blob has a lung capacity approximately seven times that of the baby in its former stage, and makes use of it frequently. It's normal for new parents to become terrified of their own baby while he or she is in this stage, and begin to tiptoe around the house during the rare moments of quiet that present themselves, out of fear of awakening the Angry Blob. This stage usually lasts approximately until the baby's eighth to tenth week.

Stage 3: The College Roommate.
At some point, the Angry Blob bestows its first smile upon its parents. When this occurs, the baby's parents usually forgive all Angry-Blob outbursts that have preceded the smile, and enter into a new relationship with the baby. They will tolerate long stretches of indifference, relish the occasional grin, and clean up the baby's messes and various odors, which is why the stage is named as it is. This is known as the College Roommate stage also because the baby's parents will consume an inordinate amount of delivered pizza, out of proportion to that of any healthy adult diet, due to the sheer convenience of the meal. The College Roommate stage usually lasts until about the baby's fifth or sixth month.

Stage 4: The Benevolent Dictator.
Once the baby passes into the sixth or seventh month, smiles and laughter become more frequent, and the baby even learns a few useful party tricks, such as waving "bye-bye," blowing kisses, or creating farting noises on someone's bare arm or cheek. Because parents and their circle of family and friends will do anything to receive the favor of these small performances, the baby soon learns to lord these behaviors and use them at the most opportune times (usually to extend playtime, delay bedtime, or receive a tasty morsel). While this is clearly manipulative, most babies have learned to smile so charmingly that no one minds this arrangement. 

Some babies are still in this phase at their first birthday. However, as is becoming apparent with boy, others may enter into a fifth stage.

Stage 5: The Best Friend (a.k.a., The Siamese Twin).
As the baby develops a sense of self and identity, he or she also realizes that parents are separate entities as well. Therefore, whenever the parent who is present attempts to leave the room (for such selfish reasons as relieving his or her bladder, or going to work to earn money to make the baby's LIFE POSSIBLE), the Best Friend cries real and terrified tears at this seemingly unnecessary and traumatic separation. Parents find themselves resorting to ridiculous behavior to avoid the tears of the Best Friend, who now is carted along everywhere, such as to Wal-Mart, the grocery store, Home Depot and the restroom (thus earning the alternate name The Siamese Twin). 

Though we have not yet experienced the stages past these, we hear from friends that the second year holds such exciting new developments as The Prima Donna, who throws tantrums in public at the slightest provocation, and The Contradictor, who will disagree with any idea just for the pleasure of saying, "no."

Monday, December 15, 2008

Print this out and put it in your wallet, son.

Dear boy,

Most of the time, I write you letters just to tell you how much I love you, or to catalog your rapid growth and capture the incredible journey you're on. But this time, I'm writing to apologize. This is something mothers aren't known for doing, son, so you should probably keep this post bookmarked, and just refer to it in the future when necessary. Which might be often, as you shall see.

Here's the thing. I thought I would be immune to at least most of the crazy things that women do when children leap from their wombs. I was sure I'd be able to resist the siren call of saying, "I told you so," or "Because I'm the mommy, that's why," or even "Just wait till your father gets home." I was positive I'd never put a jacket on YOU just because *I* was cold. And I never thought that I'd give in to picking up your messes YET AGAIN, muttering the whole time about "maids" and "gratitude" and "someday-you'll-see-what-I-mean."

But now I'm not so sure. A couple things have happened lately that make all those actions seem inevitable. And I feel like I should tell you about them, because they might happen again, and someday you'll be sentient enough to be utterly humiliated by them.

Last week, we were out on a short walk around the neighborhood, enjoying the mild weather and slanted evening sunbeams. We stopped to talk with some other mommies and babies doing the same thing, and when I glanced down at you, I noticed that I had missed a spot when I was wiping your face after your last meal. (To be fair, son, this is not entirely my fault. Whenever I commit the indignity of trying to render you mess-less in the facial area, you scream and carry on as if I were injecting you with some kind of experimental medication, or attempting to separate your limbs from your torso. You are amazingly adept at arm-swipes and hand-waving, so the damp paper towel doesn't always find its mark entirely.) Not wanting to be the mother who let her baby walk around with cereal and green beans on his face, I clicked my tongue in embarrassment and (this pains me to admit) licked my thumb, and applied the moistened digit to your face to work off the crusty remains of your dinner.

None of the other women around me seemed to give it a second thought, son, which tells me that it's a common occurrence on a street crowded with families with young kids, but as I was swabbing you down with The Mommy Venom Against Dried Foods, I was chagrined. It was happening! I was turning into every mother I'd ever heard of, including my own! I'd thought I was immune, safe from this transformation. I'd thought I was cool enough to resist the urge to put my own SPIT on the face of my progeny. Apparently not, however.

I'd managed to shake if off as a one-time transgression until today, when I feel like I've passed the point of no return. Just now, as we wrapped up a late lunch, I plucked you (face shining from my ministrations with a moistened Brawny) from your high chair and took you to the area your daddy calls The Pit -- the family room, which we've modified with the installation of a large baby gate that cordons off a baby-safe area where you can play and crawl happily. As I set you down to play, I noticed that there was a multi-grain Cheerio stuck to the back of your soft knit pants. Without hesitation of any kind, son, I plucked it off of you and popped it into my mouth. After all, it wouldn't do for it to be ground into my newly-vacuumed carpet. 

While I crunched, the magnitude of my actions hit me like a punch in the gut. I'd just unstuck cereal from my child's clothing and eaten it off of him like some sort of starving person. And now I think it's all over, son, and so I'm saying "I'm sorry" ahead of time. If we're ever out and I approach you with a saliva-wet finger in front of your friends, or if I eat the leftovers of your meal RIGHT OFF YOUR PERSON while your horrified buddies look on, I am truly sorry. It's a DNA-level transformation, son, and it cannot be resisted. 

By the way, you should know it's not just your mom who will slowly be descending into behavior unfit for public places. The other day, your dad admitted that when he saw you about to grind a spit-out strawberry-apple puff into the carpet, he took that soggy piece of cereal out of your hands and ate it himself. Which means he basically ate food you'd already chewed. 

At least if you shun us, I guess I'll have company.


Friday, December 12, 2008

Twitter me this ...

So I jumped on the Twitter bandwagon. As you can see from the left-hand sidebar here. And it's fun, and I really do like it. But there's a whole subculture around it that I know nothing about.

I assumed Twitter was like Facebook, in that you look up people you ALREADY KNOW and have a new, mobile-phone-based way to keep in touch with them. But what I'm finding is that a lot of people use Twitter to MEET NEW people. So I jumped on, ready to connect with the handful of friends I knew who were already using it -- and now I'm getting random people "following" me. Which is flattering, but, um, kind of a lot of pressure.

Supposedly, Twitter's intended to let you address just one question: "What are you doing right now?" And you can answer that and tell your followers what's going on from hour to hour in your life, if you want. And that's cool, and I'm warming up to it. 

Problem is, while I'm always doing SOMETHING, it's not exactly pithy Twitter material. "Changing a diaper. Again." Not so fascinating. "Catching a nap while boy snoozes." Good for me, right? But who cares? So I've tried using Twitter (to date, anyway) just to share some random thoughts. What I'm wondering, what just occurred to me, what I cherish about the day. 

And now I have an all-new format in which to feel pressured to be clever and fascinating. 

Tuesday, December 09, 2008

Joy to the world

Husband and I hosted an interfaith devotional service last Sunday (we do this the first Sunday of every month). A friend of ours put together the readings, and organized the selections around the theme of "joy." It seemed perfect for this time of year, when so many celebrate a joyous occasion, and these are my favorite readings from the program.

From the Baha'i Writings:
Be happy and joyous because the bestowals of God are intended for you, and the life of the Holy Spirit is breathing upon you.
From Philippians 4.6-7:
Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus ...
From Islamic Scripture (Rabia):
O my Joy and my Desire and my Refuge,
My Friend and my Sustainer and my Goal;
Thou are my Intimate, and longing for Thee sustains me;
Were it not for Thee, O my Life and my Friend,
How I should have been distraught over the spaces of the earth;
How many favors have been bestowed, and how much hast Thou given me
Of gifts and grace and assistance;
Thy love is now my desire and my bliss;
And has been revealed to the eye of my heart that was athirst;
I have none beside Thee, Who dost make the desert blossom,
Thou are my joy, firmly established within me;
If Thou are satisfied with me, then,
O Desire of my heart, my happiness has appeared.
From the Kenyan tradition of Kikuyu:
O my father, Great Elder,
I have no words to thank you,
But with your deep wisdom
I am sure that you can see
How I value your glorious gifts.
O my Father, when I look upon your greatness,
I am confounded with awe. 
O Great Elder, 
Ruler of all things earthly and heavenly,
I am your warrior,
Ready to act in accordance with your will.
From the Hindu Scripture of Tulsi Das:
Grant me, O Master, by thy grace
To follow all the good and pure;
To be content with simple things;
To speak no ill of others;
To have a mind at peace;
Set free from care, and led astray from thee
Neither by happiness nor woe;
To consider my fellows not as means but ends,
To serve them stalwartly in thought, word and deed;
Never to utter a word of hatred or of shame;
To cast away all selfishness and pride.

Set thou my feet upon this path,
And keep me steadfast in it:
Thus only shall I please thee, serve thee right.
And one of my favorite Baha'i prayers:
O God! Refresh and gladden my spirit. Purify my heart. Illumine my powers. I lay all my affairs in Thy hand. Thou are my guide and my refuge. I will no longer be sorrowful and grieved; I will be a happy and joyful being. O God! I will no longer be full of anxiety, nor will I let trouble harass me. I will not dwell on the unpleasant things of life. 

O God! Thou are more friend to me than I am to myself. I dedicate myself to Thee, O Lord. 
Such beautiful words, and such purifying thoughts! And it's all so simple, and yet living it is so very difficult. So here's to doing your best, right? I needed this guidance now more than I even knew last weekend. 

Monday, December 08, 2008

With apologies to Walt Whitman

O baby! My baby!
(Inspired by "O Captain! My Captain!" [which is a much drearier piece].)

O baby! My baby! Your bedtime's here again.
And questioning your wakening isn't an "if," but "when."
The bath is done, the books are read, the prayers they are all chanted.
Your socks are on, your shirt is tucked, your bottom's been a-panted.
Now, shh! shh! shh!
As I walk you through the air
And place you in your snuggly crib,
Then descend the well-worn stairs.

O baby! My baby! It's only been an hour,
And yet you're up and crying now. Will I ever shower?
I go to you and scoop you up, and settle you to nurse,
And when you're done, I put you down, and when you cry, I curse.
So rock, rock, rock
As you suck without a care,
And I place you back in bed again
And sneakily go downstairs.

My baby's up and wailing now, it's not yet ten o'clock,
If only this could just be solved by changing out his frock.
He's dry and clean, he's nursing again, eventually he'll sleep.
And someday when he sleeps all night, I probably will weep.
So I hug, kiss and snuggle 
My sweet, warm teddy bear,
And patiently await the night
I don't have to climb the stairs.

Sunday, December 07, 2008

Leaning on You

Dear God,

Do You still do the lightning-strike thing when people are displeasing You? If so, I'm ready. Because I know I'm a moron. Or at least I'm acting like one now. But I'm having a weak moment, God, and I hope You'll understand.

Here I sit, absolutely snowed under with blessings. I've acknowledged this lots of times, here and elsewhere. I know, completely, how lucky and loved I am. And yet I'm sad. And angry, and frustrated.

Please, God, send me wisdom and strength. Help me to open my eyes and see You walking with me, as I know You are, even though I feel alone. Give me patience and courage. Even as I speak to You now, I know You are answering my prayer, because it just occurred to me for the first time that maybe, this sleep issue of boy's isn't so much a test for him, or even just for me as his mom, but for both his parents together. It's rare that we find anything we can't agree upon completely, Lord, and here you've given us an opportunity to develop that ability. 

I pray, then, that you give me not just tireless patience with boy, but continued understanding and empathy with his daddy (whose only transgression is to want what's best for boy, just as I do). Help me to be not just a dedicated mommy, but a loving and supportive wife, too. Enable me to be the partner that husband deserves. 
Is there any remover of difficulties save God? Say: Praised be God, He is God! All are His servants, and all abide by His bidding.
As always, Lord, I am humbled by Your abundant gifts and blessings. Thank You for the love and grace You have shown me, always.

Saturday, December 06, 2008

House rules

We try to keep it simple around here, but we do have a few rules everyone has to follow.

1. No talking with your mouth full.

2. Speak up and contribute to your family ... and to your community. Make your voice heard.

3. Playing with food is ok, but only if mommy says so.

4. Learn something new every day.

5. Be proud of yourself and who you are.

6. It's ok to feel less than happy. Just be honest.

7. No passing of gas at the dinner table.

Thursday, December 04, 2008

Tuesday, December 02, 2008

I couldn't have said it better myself.

My sister-in-law sent me the most amazing e-mail today, and I felt so exhilarated by it that I had to post it here. The excerpt she sent me was a scanned piece from The Washington Post, called "Tell Me About It." And I liked it so much I've RETYPED it here. If I knew what date it was circulated, I would include that, but I have no clue -- I'll cite it the best I can. This piece is written by Carolyn Hax of The Washington Post. You can reach her at

So -- this one's for my sister-in-law, and for screamy mimi. And for shorty, and dooce. It's for my girlfriend Laura who reads this blog and has two amazing kids herself. It's for N, also a mother of two, and C, whose baby is just four months younger than my own boy. It's for my incredible girlfriend K who is a mom to an adorable one-year-old, and who has battled cancer and numerous health issues herself since her son's birth (she just finished chemo and radiation, and her spirit inspires me every day). It's for all the moms in my mom's group. It's for any mom anywhere who's ever felt frustrated with the fact that her to-do list never seems to get completely checked off on any given day. 

There's a good reason for that. Multiple reasons, in fact. As you'll see.
Dear Carolyn: Best friend has child. Her: exhausted, busy, no time for self, no time for me, etc. Me (no kids): What'd you do today? Her: Park, play group ... 

OK. I've talked to parents. I don't get it. What do stay-at-home moms do all day? Please no lists of library, grocery store, dry cleaners ... I do all those things, too. I guess what I'm asking is: What is a typical day and why don't moms have time for a call or e-mail? I work and am away from home nine hours a day (plus a few late work events); I manage to get it all done. I'm feeling like the kid is an excuse to relax and enjoy, but if so, why won't my friend tell me the truth? Is this a contest ("my life is so much harder than yours")? What's the deal? I've got friends with and without kids and all us child-free folks have the same questions.  -- Tacoma, Washington.

Dear Tacoma: Relax and enjoy. You're funny. 

Or, you're lying about having friends with kids.

Or you're taking them at their word that they actually have kids, because you haven't personally been in the same room with them. 

I keep wavering between giving you a straight answer and giving my forehead some keyboard. To claim you want to understand, while in the same breath implying that the only logical conclusions are that your mom-friends are either lying or competing with you, is disingenuous indeed.

So, because it's validation you seem to want, the real answer is what you get. When you have young kids, your typical day is: constant attention, from getting them out of bed, fed, cleaned, dressed; to keeping them out of harm's way; to answering their coos, cries and questions; to having two arms and carrying one kid, one set of car keys, and supplies for even the quickest trips, including the latest-to-be-declared essential piece of molded plastic gear; to keeping them from unshelving books at the library; to enforcing rest times; to staying one step ahead of them lest they get too hungry, tired, or bored, any one of which produces checkout-line screaming.

It's needing 45 minutes to do what takes others 15.

It's constant vigilance, constant touch, constant use of your voice, constant relegation of your needs to the second tier. 

It's constant scrutiny and second-guessing from family and friends. It's resisting constant temptation to seek short-term relief at everyone's long-term expense.

It's doing all this while concurrently teaching virtually everything -- language, manners, safety, resourcefulness, discipline, curiosity, creativity. Empathy. Everything.

It's also a choice, yes. And a joy. But if you spent all day, every day, with this brand of joy, and then, when you got your first 10 minutes to yourself, wanted to be alone with your thoughts instead of calling a good friend, a good friend wouldn't judge you, complain about you or marvel how much more productively she uses her time. Either make a sincere effort to understand, or keep your snit to yourself.
Can you hear me clapping?

Now, let me clarify -- I am blessed with friends who have never openly wondered whether I've developed bedsores from lazing around in my new lifestyle. I can't say that I have a "Tacoma, Washington" among my loved ones. So this isn't so much a redirect of this rant to the people in my life as it is me flying high the banner of the stay-at-home mom -- and of her understanding circle of dear friends. Because I know I've fallen off the radar of a lot of people who are important to me -- I was never the world's best correspondent, and now it may be months between calls or notes or Facebook Wall postings. And they may think they've fallen off of MY radar, but that's not true. For what it's worth, I think of them -- of YOU -- all the time. I remember birthdays, wonder how someone's mother is doing, wish I could be there for him, plan to call her. I miss people I taught with, worked with, danced with, laughed with. And if those people are YOU, I want you to know -- you are still important to me. 

Don't give up on me. I'm still here. My hands are full and every hour is a balancing act, but I AM here. With everything I've got, thank you for being understanding and patient and flexible. 

Monday, December 01, 2008

What's the sign for "bittersweet?"

Ages ago, before boy was even a thought, husband and I watched some friends teaching their baby sign language. We were amazed, impressed. "We're doing that someday," we said to each other. "All it takes is consistency, right?"

Ahem. Here we are with a ten-month-old who still has no predictability to his sleep, and I thought consistency was EASY?! Ridiculous of me. Still, we've at least been doing the sign for "more" with boy consistently. Apparently.

Because he signs it now. 

At some level, it's not a big deal. It's like smiling back at someone, right? It's like waving bye, or clapping your hands when someone else does. Babies mimic the actions they see. So why do I get tears in my eyes when he does it?

I think it's because now, he knows what it means, not just how to do it. He signs, "more" when we're eating and he wants another bite. He signs "more" when I say, "Baby, do you want more?" He GETS it. Without even talking, he can ask for something he wants. And it's incredible. 

He's done it six or seven times over the last two or three days, and every time he does it, I want to call the news stations. "You've GOT to see this," I want to tell them. "My son TAPS HIS FINGERS TOGETHER. It's the greatest thing EVER." And I know how dumb that sounds, and I know that kids all over the world do this kind of thing, and that he's not the only one or the first one or even the best at it, probably.

But it's one more big step in boy communicating with ease. It's one more huge jump in his rapid development, one more way I watch him learn something and have to praise him around the lump lodged firmly in my throat. 

It's one more way my baby's growing up. And it's beautiful and perfect. And it's breaking my heart.