Monday, May 25, 2009

Yay, youngest brother!

My family has now welcomed one more college graduate into its ranks -- youngest brother has graduated from Texas A&M University with his engineering BS! Yay! Just about my entire extended family recently drove to College Station, Texas, to attend his commencement ceremonies.

Here's a shot of youngest brother with boy:

The trip to College Station allowed us a chance to introduce boy to the stomping grounds his daddy had roamed as an undergrad at A&M himself. We took some time to capture the sight of boy in a number of distinctly Aggie locations.

There's a magnificent tree on campus called Century Oak. It's enormous and stately and graceful, and very old. The tradition states that if a man proposes to a woman beneath that tree, their marriage will last a hundred years. The last time we visited campus, husband offered to recreate our proposal for me under the tree for the sake of good luck. Since I was seven months pregnant at the time, I passed -- it would have looked a little suspicious to passersby for a guy to be on one knee in front of a clearly pregnant girl. Anyway, we visited Century Oak with boy. Here he is walking beneath one of its impressive boughs with his daddy.

Very close to Century Oak, there's a statue of the first president of Texas A&M University. I forget his full name -- I think it's got "Sullivan Ross" in it -- but everyone calls him "Sul Ross" for short. Another of the Aggie traditions is that if you need some extra luck on your final exams, you put a penny at the foot of Sul Ross's statue and hope he'll lend you a hand or put in a good word for you Upstairs. When we stopped by the statue right after graduation, there were stacks and stacks of pennies at the foot of the statue (not to mention more than a few dimes). Boy put a penny there as a head start for his own tests someday.

Sunday, May 24, 2009

I never claimed to be an artist.

I present to you: 

A collection of drawings that an-only-slightly-artistic mother created on her iPhone to amuse her 15-month-old son.


Thursday, May 14, 2009

And then God smote me.

Remember when I alluded to the fact that boy was eating better, more easily, with less fighting? I guess he heard me say that. Because now? Not so much.

These days, I have to get food into him by preparing not one meal, but TWO. Meal portion #1 I call the Food of Value. That's the stuff I really want him to eat -- veggies and meat, fruit, that kind of thing. Portion #2, though, I call the Food of Interest. It's what I have to basically entice him to eat with, then slip in bites of the Food of Value in between. 

Sample Foods of Value:
  • Beef with carrots and green beans
  • Chicken with squash and peas
  • Bananas with apples and pears
  • Turkey with sweet potatoes
Sample Foods of Interest (a.k.a., Things You're Appalled I've Fed to My Child):
  • Cinnamon graham cracker bits
  • Goldfish (the crackers, not the pets)
  • Torn pieces of string cheese
  • Kraft macaroni and cheese
  • Ramen noodle bits (he adores them)
  • Oscar Meyer bologna (ok, it was 98% fat free and all-beef, but STILL, right?)
I'm not sure why he's such a picky eater -- husband and I aren't what you'd call difficult eaters ourselves. But my mother has (rather gleefully, I might add) reminded me that I went through a phase as a one-year-old when I would eat literally nothing but hot dogs, cheese and Cheerios. And though I'm horrified that I was such a little toot about it, I'm somewhat encouraged that my child will someday be able to get through a meal of normal, regular food that I actually want him to eat. I feel so sneaky these days when I feed him -- I have to wave a piece of string cheese at him until he looks at it, then drop it on his high chair tray and while he's engaged in picking it up, I tiptoe in with two or three bites of the real food. And it's a battle I'm losing, because he gets more dextrous every day, whereas there's a limit to how quickly I can get a spoon of mushy food from the bowl to his mouth. The faster he gets with the fine motor skills, the less time I have to get those precious bites of vegetables into his jaws. 

Please -- someone tell me it gets easier.

Wednesday, May 06, 2009

I do. I really do love him more than cookies.

There's a fine art to baking the perfect batch of cookies. The uninitiated might think it has something to do with having the right recipe, but that's really only about 25% of the magic (for the record: Tollhouse. Or the Alton Brown recipe for chewy cookies, the one with lots of brown sugar. But I digress.).

See, if you want to sink your teeth into the perfect chewy cookie, you have to commit to the process. It's not just about letting your butter and eggs get to room temperature before starting your mix. It's not just about getting real vanilla extract and not just the imitation stuff. It's about the REAL details -- like using parchment paper on your baking sheet so that none of your perfect gems stick to the pan. It's about knowing that your first batch will take longer to cook than the range of time on the recipe, and that you have to hover by the oven door to watch them, like an overprotective stage mother watches her kids in tutus as they pirouette. It's about getting the fact that your cookies should come out of the oven not DONE, but ALMOST done -- they'll keep cooking on the pan for a bit. It's about being willing to stand and watch over that pan in the oven for just the right second to take them out, and then waiting three to four minutes (but no longer) before you slide a very thin spatula underneath them to get them onto a waiting cooling rack. And finally, it's about knowing that as much work as you put into them, there's only so many cookies you can (or should, really) eat -- so when the chips are down (ha), you've put in all that work for someone else's enjoyment.

Baking cookies is a lot like motherhood, I'm learning. When I think of the things I've sacrificed for boy (like reliably taking a daily shower, going out after dark, running errands on the spur of the moment instead of fitting them in around naps and meals, not to mention the quality of my sleep, the QUANTITY of my sleep, and the abysmal state of my body, post-pregnancy and mid-breastfeeding), the list makes me wonder why there aren't MORE families with only one child. Looked at objectively, it doesn't seem like the kind of experience anyone should be willing to repeat. 

Luckily for all of us, though (and here's where the cookie analogy breaks down), there's so much more to the equation than just what you give up. Tonight as I rocked my boy to sleep, I buried my nose in his fuzzy, just-shampooed-and-towel-dried hair, and breathed him in. And though you might not have known it to see me do it, gently and peacefully so that his sleep wasn't disturbed, I do it with a desperation I can only barely contain. The ferocity of my love for him sometimes shakes me to the core with its strength and power, and it's saved from being bestial only because I pray fervently while I love him fiercely. 

I can type those words, and others like them, and while they ring true to me, I know there are some of you reading this who may just shake your heads in confusion. I don't blame you. The words, put together, don't really make sense. I don't know how to tell you that the act of breathing in the baby-fresh scent of my son's hair is the purest form of prayer I know. I don't know how to explain that just feeling the perfect, unblemished joy of his smooth skin contains within it entire volumes of prayerful pleading and gratitude. Loving him has, ultimately, brought me closer to God, because He has entrusted me with a gift I can hardly understand -- the right to love and protect and guide my boy.

(On a completely unrelated note, I found out today that my son doesn't like warm, fresh-from-the-oven chocolate chip cookies. In fact, he doesn't really like cookies or desserts of any kind. I'll pause while the enormity of that statement sinks in for you.  ...  I KNOW. If I hadn't been there when he was born, I might have had to wonder if he was really, indeed, mine.)