Thursday, February 26, 2009

There's still hope.

Daddy may not like to dance. But mommy does. 

And guess who's at home all day with the baby?

video

Leaps and bounds

Dear boy,

Here you are, thirteen months old -- you're now squarely in your second year of life, and you're making the most of it. 

As I predicted in your eleven-month letter, you are indeed not only walking, but walking well, and often, and with great gusto. When we reach out to take your hand while you toddle around, you frequently stop short, pull in your arms close to your chest (making you look like a tyrannosaurus rex) to avoid contact with us, and grunt, as if to say, "Um, I've GOT it, thanks." In the last six weeks or so since you took your first steps, you've progressed quickly to not only tee-tottering around, but stopping without falling over, changing direction, walking while carrying objects of various dimension and mass, stepping over toys on the floor, and even running a few steps when you're really charged up. With each step, your dad and I can see that your confidence is growing just as your balance and coordination improve, and as usual, our hearts swell with pride to watch you master such big-boy skills.


With your enhanced motor skills have also come language skills. These days, your most frequent utterance is, "What's this?" In your unique language, it sounds more like, "Wah-zis?" You punctuate the question with vague but urgent multi-fingered pointing, and since we can rarely tell what you're actually indicating, I'm certain we've told you the names of things you couldn't care less about ("That? That's a bottle of low-sodium soy sauce, son. SOY SAUCE. Mommy doesn't like to wake up after a dinner of fried rice with her rings too tight. Oh, wait -- you probably wanted these Cheerios ..."). Other things you're saying regularly (that make sense) include the sounds a dog, cow and duck make (woo-woo, booooo and ack-ack, respectively), the sound a car makes (confusingly for some, also woo-woo, since you can't get out all the consonants for "vroom-vroom" yet), the words, "hi," "ma-ma," "da-da," "nye-nye" for night-night, "um" for when you want a snack or meal, and the word "uh-oh," probably because you hear that one all day long, since you're constantly falling over, dropping things or pitching toys into hard-to-reach places in the family room. The things you're saying that DON'T make sense comprise a list nearly as long, and they include the utterances, "gogoly," "oh-buh-dee," "bob-chick," and "cockly." We have no idea what any of those mean, but they've become part of our strange family pidgin just the same. 

Not all of your rapidly-expanding language skills are spoken, however. You have been great about signing "more" for months now, and lately you've added a few other signs, such as those for "please," and "all done." It's so gratifying to be able to communicate with you more reliably, and your dad and I are delighted you've taken so well to the signing. 

(Here you are modeling a family hand-me-down. To me, you look like a tiny, disgruntled Chinese waiter. Where's your other sock, by the way?)

You enjoyed not one, or two, but THREE birthday parties in honor of your first birthday, son. The first was with your cousin and your buddy, both of whom are just four months younger than you are. (Their mommies were there, too, of course.) The video at the bottom of this post is from that impromptu party. The second was on the night of your birthday and brought your mom's extended family together not just for your big day, but for the Asian New Year, as well. It was a late night for you, but you handled it beautifully. The third was your official party, with your grandparents, aunts and uncles and a few family friends. The pictures below are from that party. Your dad and I really thought you'd relish the chance to dive into your first cupcake, all by yourself, but we were wrong. You really weren't all too interested in the frosting or cake. (Are you sure you're my child? Because that's foreign to me.)



One of the challenges that we've tackled now that you're a year old (and then some) is night weaning. I'm finally ready to admit that there's no real reason you need those milky snacks in the wee hours anymore, so about a week and a half ago, I started to pick you up when you cried at night, but not nurse you -- instead, we sit in the rocking chair in your room and just rock until you've calmed down and fallen back asleep. I won't go so far as to say it's going well -- there are some rough nights, and some rough periods most nights, as a matter of fact -- but on the whole, you've accepted the change better than I'd thought you would. I'm hoping to be able to say next month that we've made some strides in the right direction with your night-time sleep -- once you're used to not nursing anymore, then it'll be time to start lowering you into that crib when you're less and less asleep, to get you used to falling asleep without me at all. I shudder to think of how long this process might actually take, but we'll get through it, buddy. Hearing you protest (loudly) is hard on me when comfort is near at hand, but this is the right thing to do in the long run, son, and at least I can cuddle and soothe you while you cry. For the record, I'm sorry it's hard for you, but I find solace in the fact that you'll never remember any of the tears later. I, however, will remember not only your tears, but my own.

So son, here's to the fantastic voyage you've taken us on already, and to the journey ahead. And someday when you view these posts, maybe you can take a peek at this video and tell me what the HECK you were talking about.

video

I love you,
mommy.

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Before boy was even born ...

... I came across this enchanting little photo somewhere, and the image of this angry little bluebird stuck with me. Now, I know I'm anthropomorphizing it -- I know this little bird isn't angry at all, that it's merely a trick of perspective and this breed of bird's unique markings that make it appear pissy when seen from a dead-on perspective. But I think the image was entitled "The Angry Bluebird," and it certainly seemed to fit.


Fast forward years later, and all of a sudden I have cause to remember that image. When boy was about seven months old, he made this face constantly, and all I could think every time was "The Angry Bluebird." And I'm so glad I snapped a few shots of the face, because of course he doesn't make it anymore, and it's just further evidence that each of these magical, amusing stages are so fleeting. 

I give you ... the angry bluebird.





I can see we have our work cut out for us.

This series of pictures is proof that no little boy is ever born a gentleman.



Boy's sweet little cousin looks a bit stunned at having her lovely green star toy snatched away from her so swiftly. Thank goodness for boy she seems to be the forgiving type. 

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Looking ahead

A letter to boy, twenty years from now:

Dear son,

I am so proud of you. Your determination and steadfastness have enabled you to accomplish so much! What some people call stubbornness, I call stick-with-it-ness, and the ability to stand up for what's important to you. It's sure to continue to serve you well, son, and I'm so glad you know your own mind and are strong enough to express it.

Love, mom

A letter to my almost-thirteen-month-old son:

Dear boy,

You may think you can outlast your mother in persisting in waking up just as she lowers you into your crib all night. She's here to tell you that you get your stubbornness from her, and she's perfected it. YOU CANNOT WIN. Also, if you don't stop repeatedly throwing your toys onto mommy's MacBook keyboard (despite her constant attempts to thwart you), you won't live to see two.

Persistence may be an admirable character trait, son, but not when it endangers mommy's technological best friend.

You've been warned.

Love, mommy

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Sometimes I forget ...

... that there's a world out there beyond my and boy's comfortable, safe existence. I forget that not everyone in the world enjoys personal and religious freedom. 

It's deeply troubling when you do think about it. 

Lately, a group of Baha'is in Iran have been subjected to persecution because of their beliefs. It's all conveniently couched in lies and falsehoods around "Iranian security" and the like, but at the heart of it, they're being held in prison without access to due legal process just because they don't worship the same way the people (and I use that term loosely) in power do.

Here's an article on cnn.com written by Rainn Wilson of "The Office," himself a Baha'i, with more details.

Please -- if you have a heart and 10 minutes, send a note to your congressmen and/or women online to ask them to support the members of the Baha'i Faith in Iran through writing or supporting legislation in Congress. I'm glad to say I've already done so, though I'm a little embarrassed that it was the first time I've ever actually gotten my rear in gear and did it. 

And may those men and women be kept safe in God's hands, and delivered back to their families very soon.

Friday, February 13, 2009

In so many words

I love this site. I never could have done this distillation of Write Softly myself. 

So this is, apparently, what the blog is all about. I had no idea there was so much emphasis on folding T-shirts all over the blog.  

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

No more refills

So, I'm getting off of Prozac.

I've been on a low dose since boy was two weeks old. That means it's been just about a complete year. When I started it to combat the postpartum depression that was controlling my life (and not in a good way, like how staying up to speed with "The Office" controls my DVR free space), my doctor told me that the plan was to stay on it for a year, or until I stopped breastfeeding, whichever came second. Well, I'm still breastfeeding, and have no immediate plans to stop, as long as boy still finds comfort in it -- it's a bond with him I've come to cherish deeply, and I see no reason to end it now. (That probably deserves its own post: breastfeeding a toddler. With eight teeth. And a wicked sense of humor.)

But what is on the horizon is the idea of having another baby. And if I can manage it, I'd rather go through this second pregnancy without extra medication in my system. I understand that it's considered fairly safe, and that many women need to be on Prozac or some other antidepressant while pregnant. I applaud them for doing what their bodies need, for taking care of themselves, because ultimately THAT'S what's best for the baby. It's just that if my body can do without it, that's the way I want to start off with this next baby.

About a month ago, with my doctor's support, I started taking my regular dose of Prozac only every other day. Did that for two weeks. Noticed no change in how I was feeling. Phase 1: Check.

Phase 2 was to cut back to just three times a week. I've been doing THAT for two weeks. So far, no change. Phase 2 is almost over. One more week of this, and it's phase 3: full stop.

I have high hopes. I'm feeling pretty good, and on days when I'm a bit cranky or down, I'm certain I would have been the same if I were still taking Prozac every day. (Contrary to popular belief, the meds don't make you blissful, or keep you from having ANY downs at all -- they just make your downs manageable, help you cope with them in a healthy way.) 

It will be nice not to have to take it every day (then again, I'm doing the prenatal vitamin thing, so it's like swapping six of one for a half dozen of the other. But it's really just one of each. Ah, you know what I mean). At the same time, that medicine helped me get through a really rough spot, and if Prozac was a person, I'd owe it a lot of thanks.

So here's to you, P. Thank you for helping me surface out of the ocean of fear and anxiety that was my brain-space for two dark weeks. Thank you for helping me see that maybe losing 25 pounds in 10 days is too rapid a rate of weight loss for a new, nursing mother, and that maybe I should take better care of myself and actually eat something. (Come to think of it, you may have done that job too well.) Thank you for enabling me to open my eyes to the wonder of my little boy's tiny feet, to see the light in his bright eyes, rather than just seeing that it was time to change or feed him again. Thank you for helping me tumble head-over-heels in love with the little guy. I'd started down that path already, but you really cleared away my roadblocks, and there's certainly no turning back now.

If you were a person, I'd totally send you flowers. At least. Maybe even a lobster-gram. Definitely something expensive. 

Because you made a tremendous difference. And I am so very grateful.

Monday, February 09, 2009

Tomato, to-mah-to ...

Even before we were married, husband and I disagreed about one important aspect of life together. It seemed that every few days, we'd have cause to drag out the old argument again and go head-to-head. There never was a clear winner. We tried compromise, only to find there was no middle ground. We enlisted the advice of other married friends, to discover that our polling left us no closer to a solution. We even tried NOT dealing with the issue-at-hand at all, but that just led to a huge mess.

I'm talking about the all-important, earth-shattering, is-this-gonna-be-a-deal-breaker-or-what issue of ... how to fold T-shirts.

Husband favors a complicated fold I call the double-trifold. You hold the T-shirt by the shoulders so that it's facing you, then you fold both sleeves behind the center of the shirt. THEN you tuck the neckline under your chin and do a quick scoop-up twice. You know, the Gap fold.

I fold shirts the way I was raised to fold shirts. (This is also known as "the right way.") I start with the T-shirt held up by the shoulders (but facing AWAY from me), then fold down the center line so that the sleeves meet up and are "stacked." Then I tuck the sleeves under, and fold up the shirt once from the bottom. 

I'll admit that the Gap fold has one advantage -- when you glance into your drawer, you know just which of your old T-shirts is on top, because the front panel is clearly visible. I get the plus, there. But that's where the pros end. Because the Gap fold makes your shirts extremely thick in your dresser drawer, so that you can stack fewer of them in a "column" in your armoire. 

MY method is clearly superior because not only can you see a full quarter of your shirt's front (which is more than enough to tell which shirt it is, especially when you consider that you're probably only folding cheap, old shirts anyway, so what does it matter?), your folded shirt also only has four shirt-layers to it, six if you count sleeves. (The Gap fold yields an astounding NINE, including sleeves.) So you can get more of your old giveaway blood-drive/college/March of Dimes T-shirts into your drawers. 

When we got married and I took over laundry duty (because I'm the one who will actually listen for the chime and transfer stuff from the washer to the dryer, thereby avoiding the cooked-in hard creases that result from forgotten wet clothes sitting overnight in a humid, icky machine), I made a sincere attempt to live with the Gap fold. I figured, Hey, we're married now. I can give in a little. I can extend the olive branch. I can show flexibility and maturity and adaptability. How bad can it be? So I sorted and washed and dried and fabric-softened the cheapies, and folded them carefully into the nine-layered behemoths that they were, and packed them into husband's dresser drawers. I did the hell out of that Gap fold for two years. 

Then we had a baby. And things got a lot more crazy. And now? I fold the T-shirts however I damn well please. Which is The Right Way.

Husband hasn't said a word. He either 1) hasn't noticed, 2) is more mature than I am, and has let it go, or 3) is plotting to get back at me in some other diabolical way, just when I've decided he's over it. *

Hmmm. 

Remind me to check to make sure the toilet isn't Saran-wrapped the next few times I use it.

* Update: Husband claims he's been quietly refolding the shirts his way before putting them in their drawers, and has just been choosing not to make an issue of it. 

He's a smart man.

Friday, February 06, 2009

I don't look good in low-rise cargos, anyway

Internets, the crazy has struck again. You've got to help me. Someone, please -- take the TV remote away from me. Hide the phone, and take away my credit cards.

Or else I'm going to order Hip-Hop Abs.

You know I'm not immune to the seductive ways of the infomercial. You know how those late-night voice-overs call to me. And you know I miss the swing dancing I used to do (and teach) before boy was born. Maybe that's why this particular fitness DVD appeals to me so much -- because "it's not exercise, it's a dance party!!"

Right.

This morning, I was SUPPOSED to be packing and getting ready for a short trip we're taking to visit my in-laws. But what I found myself doing was sitting, mesmerized, in front of the TV while Shawn T discussed his trademarked "power-T" ab-crunching dance moves. My wet hair was dripping onto the clean laundry I'd folded and was about to place in our suitcase. I saw the water drops on my jeans, and you'd think this would have spurred me into action, but no -- I perched on the edge of the bed and sat through a half-hour of the infomercial, taking in the before and after photos and the teary testimonials with all the earnestness of a religious zealot. Wow, I thought. That guy lost 58 pounds! And 22 inches in total! Maybe if I got THIS one ... And then the fine print caught my eye. 

Results not typical.

It didn't stop there.

You may be less successful.

And there it was. A cold, hard reminder that not only did THAT GUY order the DVD, he then DID it REGULARLY, and probably (gasp) changed his eating habits, too. He might even have been doing extra workouts he didn't discuss. For all I know, he might have had liposuction on top of it all.

So I flipped the channel over to The Food Network, and watched Paula Deen top a 70/30 hamburger with a fried egg, and dip her twice-deep-fried potato fries into mayonnaise.

That's WAY more my style.

Wednesday, February 04, 2009

The only thing missing was the pink polo shirts

Ways in which a one-year-old's birthday party is a lot like a frat party:
  1. Bottles are passed around liberally.
  2. Someone's guaranteed to crap his pants.
  3. Your floor may have throw-up on it at some point.
  4. The salty food runs out early, while there's too much dessert left.
  5. At least one guest shows up in pajamas.
  6. The guest of honor ends up getting called a lot of names. (How different is "stinker" from "a**hole," really?)
  7. It's a lot wilder than it was in your head when you planned it.
  8. Everyone's sweating.
  9. Party guests may disappear for hours at a time.
  10. Some girl is gonna cry.

Monday, February 02, 2009

Full circle

About ten years ago, I read a study that said that when women sit next to men on airplanes, it's the men who end up with control of the shared armrests between them over 70% of the time. Why anyone would bother to actually research and document that particular phenomenon, and where or how I came across it, is beyond me. But come across it I did, and in my mind it stuck.

Ever after that, I would approach each business trip with a mission: To Acquire The Armrest. I'd eye my row-mates on those Continental flights with a steely gaze, sizing them up for any territorial tendencies. As soon as I sat down, I'd whip out my paperback and snap those elbows out to cover all fronts (or sides, as the case may be). If someone had to sidle past me to get the window seat, I moved enough for the sake of politeness and tactical necessity, but as soon as they were past? SNAP. ELBOWS. I was like a pop-out automobile windshield sunshade, I would unfold those arms so fast. 

Moral of the story? I hate, detest, loathe thinking I'm nothing more than a statistic. 

The other day, I was out walking with boy around our neighborhood. It was one of those magnificent Texas winter days -- clear, breezy, sunny and about 55 degrees. The wind was just crisp enough to make me tug boy's hood up over his spikey-mikeys, and seemed to blow every bit of haze out of the air, so that everything looked sharp and colorful. It also caught the fabric of the stroller enough to make even our three-mile walk a bit of a workout, which was a nice bonus. As we were traipsing along, a school bus rumbled by, and I caught the sound of the laughter and conversation of the kids on the breeze. Surrounded by the smell of exhaust and green vinyl seats for just an instant, I was transported back to my own days of riding the bus to or from high school football games, and I remembered that I'd seen many, many moms pushing strollers myself, through neighborhoods a lot like mine. It came back to me in a flash that I thought I knew what their lives were like -- I imagined mild, tranquil days of light errands and playing with babies, days in which the greatest challenge to be faced was whether to make chicken piccata or broiled sea bass for dinner. I thought they headed out for their stroller walks humming just under their breath, content and at peace and carefree. I thought their kids were your average, textbook kids who were good sometimes, tantrum-y others, and just like any other kid you could point out. And I'll confess I thought those women were probably boring and dull and that I had nothing in common with them.

So now, 1) what an idiot I was. And 2) hooray for irony! I'm one of them. I'm square in the middle of that statistical distribution -- a former career professional turned stay-at-home mom, 33 years old with a child under the age of two, contemplating another child in the next 12-16 months, living in a suburban neighborhood, with a stroller and car seat and SUV and an HEB grocery store I adore. I belong to a mom's group, I own more plastic toys than I ever wanted to (though not as many as I could, I'll state in my own defense), and yesterday I oohed and aahed over my girlfriend's new Honda Odyssey minivan. I even lick my own child, and say things like, "Just one more bite for mommy, please!"

(Sigh.)

I have misjudged you, stay-at-home moms. And I had forgotten that I'd done so, but I'm apologizing, for the record. I see now that you are not all the same, that you are not statistically one. I understand that you are each unique and interesting and rich in subtle differences from one another. Of course you are. It just took me most of my life to appreciate it, about as long as it took for me to join your ranks, strangely. Yes, some of us are literally soccer moms, and others are room mothers and still others may pack juice boxes and carrot sticks and PB&J sandwiches for their children's lunches. But we also speak many languages, hail from various former pre-child careers and lives, worship in different places, prefer different retail establishments for our myriad senses of style and fashion. 

We are all women, but not the same woman. We are all mothers, but not only mothers. We don't receive pay for what we do, but we work (and work hard) just the same. 

So here's to us, whether we're struggling with teething or potty training or tantrums. Here's to our patience and selfless nurturing, whether we're mothering toddlers or teens. Here's to appreciating one another, because sometimes we're the only ones who remember to do it. Here's to sticking together, because someday our kids will head off on their own, as they rightly should and we've raised them to do, and yet we'll watch them go with needle-sharp pains in our broken hearts. 

I'm raising my ice-cold pretentious can of orange-flavored, La Croix sparkling water high to you, my sisters. Forgive me for my short-sightedness for so long. I'm proud to be one of you.

Sunday, February 01, 2009

Bedfellows

I'm one of those annoying people who has to have total darkness before she can fall asleep. (To be fair, it's probably only annoying if you've ever lived with me -- so, sorry, Mom and husband.) Even the glow of the indicator light on boy's baby monitor seems blindingly bright to me, and I have to make sure that the light isn't shining in my general direction. Either that, or I have to have an obstacle -- like a pillow -- in between me and the tiny green dot of light that seems to shine straight into my brain, keeping me awake.

Anyway.

Because I'm sensitive to light, I was opposed to having a television in our master bedroom, but eventually I wore down. It's turned out to be largely a non-issue, since husband, 99 times out of 100, is asleep long before I turn in, so there's rarely occasion for me to gripe about the flickering light in the room if it's on. But instead of the glare getting on my nerves, it's turned out to be the remote control.

See, my husband is blessed with the ability to fall asleep faster than anyone I know. It's great for HIM. It means that whether we're on vacation (and therefore in a strange place) or not, whether we're in a rainstorm or not, whether it's an afternoon nap or an early bedtime or a crash at the end of a long day, he's out within two deep breaths. The drawback for me, of course, is that if there's anything I want to chit-chat about at the end of the day, I have to make sure I catch him while the lights are on and he's not yet horizontal, because otherwise I may find that I've been talking to myself for 15 minutes about the last episode of "Lost" I just got around to watching. 

(On three or four different occasions, he's even fallen asleep WHILE TALKING TO ME. Granted, each time, he was really tired anyway, but it was disconcerting because he shifted gears right from normal conversation into dream-speak instantaneously. I was all, "What do you think about repainting the library?" and he was all, "I think it's a good idea, because the guys were driving the truck, and the meeting was moved anyway, so Trent told me he'd take us out to lunch. Grandma?" Wha?! There's a lot wrong with that sentence or two, but that last part really gets me. Not only am I not his grandma, she's been dead for like eight years.)

Ok, FOCUSING. Sorry, Internets.

So husband winds down by watching a little SportsCenter or MSNBC most nights. While I'm surfing or reading, he'll flick the channels a bit, and then in one sudden move, he's switched off the TV, spun onto his side to face the window, covered his head with one hand or a pillow, and mumbled "g'night." And none of that would bother me if the remote control made it over to his bedside table. But no -- it never does. Instead, it just gets dropped wherever it was when he hit the "off" button, as if he'd turned off not only the TV but his own active brain waves and motor control, and I never learn my lesson and fish it out of the blankets at that moment. Nope. I wait till about 3 a.m., and I've just climbed quietly back into bed after nursing the baby, and as I flick the blankets back to slip into the warmth and ease back into la-la-land, the remote goes flying and hits the chest of drawers across the room with a clatter, scaring the tar out of me. Either that, or it tumbles out of the blankets in the near-darkness, and for a split second I think it's a large rodent, and I try to scream but I can't get out any noise past the object lodged in my vocal cords, the object being my own heart, which has leaped in panic and tried to skitter into the bathroom by itself to crawl up onto the counter and point at the rat and shriek. 

Yeah. I really hate that remote being in bed in the night. The only technology I can deal with at 3 a.m. is my iPhone, and that's because it's sleek and sweet and tells me the time when I can't see even as far as the night stand without my contacts. In fact, I'm pretty sure it ends up in bed through the night at least half as often as the remote does.

Hmmm. Maybe I should quit my complaining before husband reads this post and starts to get ideas about banning remotes AND iPHONES from bed. 

Because that would just be crazy-unreasonable.