A Tale of Two Mommies

…because more seems excessive…

Tag Archives: family

Life as Pictures: holiday weekend edition

I went into Thanksgiving this year knowing it would be harder than most years, but I don’t want to immortalize what will inevitably be an undercurrent for a long time still. Leading up to the holiday I toyed more seriously with the idea of walking our town’s charity 5K with the kids. This is a tradition I hope to start in the coming years; each year I inch closer to taking the plunge. I don’t get my hold-up; I can walk a 5K easily, and the kids would be fine. I suppose it was a bit helter skelter this year; too much going on. I emailed the group organizing the race a couple days prior with some key questions…some more of a barrier than others. Although it seems I can just show up with my motley crew, there was a brief note of the course description that had me wonder if I could maneuver a stroller. It’s a turkey trot, so I probably could; but I read into the lack of response as a sign that this year would not be the year. And, really, I was already feeling overwhelmed as the weeks blurred by. Generally, when I feel stuck in angsty ruts, I create a new task for myself that allows me lift others in some way. This approach definitely improves my sprits to varying degrees, but at some point adding more tasks to manage is exclusively madness destined to be withheld until a better time. I experienced an irrational amount of guilt declining; life is short and unpredictable, and a bunch of what ifs flood in…What if I never have the opportunity again…madness.

Self-preservation aside, there is a simple fact heading into any day with no outing; Little Man NEEDS to exit our home in some fashion sometime during the morning, or anyone in a vague radius will want to rip their face off experiencing his destructive enthusiasm. I needed some fresh air too before cooking, so as a lowly duo, we set out for a walk around the neighborhood; and it was perfect.

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It’s a fairly large neighborhood for the area…many families in various stages of children. As a child nowhere remotely close to this area, I remember kids outside all the time; but maybe not. I often expect more bustle for some inexplicable reason. It was a quiet morning on the early side before a food-for-all; I’m not sure why I expected more kids around. Maybe because it’s one of the last remaining tolerably warmer days a few wisps above freezing. November is my favorite month; this year that sentiment virtually escaped me even as I tried to remind myself of that paltry fact. But, starting down our street a ways with some of the color still contrasting with a clear sky, I took a deep breath, filling my chest with a month’s worth of brisk fresh air at a glorious time of year.

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This is supposed to be a drainage ditch, but over the years the surrounding woods began reclaiming it…probably not a good thing in terms of flooding. I don’t have a single iota of how these structures function, but I’m fairly certain it’s not for little men to find fantastic sticks purposed for whacking dried plant debris.

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Eventually Mr. Man returned to me…jarring me out of my thoughts that were separate from his hushed leaf crunching and imaginative chattering. I couldn’t see him, but his sounds were reminiscent of fantasy stories depicting the whispers of small, winged pixies out to do mischief on those who trespass. When he emerged from the woods, he was so proud of his stick that stretched beyond his height. It was, in fact, a very good stick that merited Mr. Man’s chosen adjective for the day. From his first waking hours, dazzling things were “delightful” to him.

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The end of the stick. We were barely acquainted, yet it felt like family…entertaining my son for a whole ten minutes. It didn’t even have the opportunity to destroy something or injure someone before I would snatch it mid power struggle. Be well and at peace, dear stick.

 

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What is it about children who are perpetual furnaces? Little Man kept his hat on for twenty minutes before asking me to hold it for him. He refused it until I explained that his ears were bright red. He allowed me to jam it back on, which prompted periodic commentary about red ears and the need for hats.

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My husband is usually the one to take Little Man outside. I’m not sure what they do; usually I’m told in some form, but I often don’t pay attention. My son had a great time; end of story for me.

We kept walking. I used to distance run before injuries became more of a rule than they should otherwise be. I knew the terrain; Mr. Man eventually did not. We were embarking in an area where roosters can be heard from the road…because people in my town love their fresh eggs…or whatever. Why does any suburbanite willfully choose to house chickens? But, chickens are a top fav of Mr. Man, and the journey did not disappoint.

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A boy and his puddle, although this sucker should really be called a lake. Eventually I managed to move Little Man along, priding myself that he refrained from stomping through it like I asked.

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He didn’t romp through this one either, maybe because the surface ice was more distracting than the liquid underneath. I’ve leaned with Mr. Man that things are a progression. Rocks broke through the solid surface of this particular puddle. Copious questions about the physics of ice…and frozen pipes in the event that water remains in them through the winter…because my son is curious about pretty much everything. Smaller, more shallow future puddles tested his body weight before we continued on our journey. As we walked he continued to prattle on about pipes…water heaters…steam pistons…all things I have no clue about, but apparently he does.

Eventually the lure of puddle storming became too much for my three-and-a-half-year-old. For the last bit of our walk he was soaked, but to his credit he did not complain. That said, things were no longer “delightful.” Our traipsing was an hour-and-a-half, and, wet socks and shoes aside with a smattering of annoyed reprimands on my part, was still absolutely perfect. The memory didn’t even diminish when I realized on our driveway that I dropped his hat somewhere along the way. Well, immediately the memory was diminished, but looking through the pictures after my shower, I returned to the realm of “absolutely perfect.”

The Thanksgiving meal ran uneventfully; I figured it would. By the evening I was formulating the game plan for the following day. We live in close proximity to various farms and wildlife preserves. I saw news of a festival of sorts at one farm that we’ve attended on the rare occasion. It’s pricey by itself, and claiming the drastically reduced tickets housed at our local library is a pain. But, the “Black Friday” deal for the morning had me sold predicting a nice day to be outdoors.

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What nightmares are made of. How can ANYONE in their right mind gaze upon these animals who are clearly plotting human demise and think, “Now, that’s a fantastic pet!”?
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I don’t care how clever his proposed names are, it’s all fun and games until one of those little bastards pecks at his finger.

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I should probably be embarrassed by this, but I always assumed cows were a certain size. This bad boy…girl(?) was enormous, and I simply was not expecting it. It wasn’t just the height that had me, everything about this animal was massive. I never pictured cows on the scale of a schnauzer or anything, but I figured I could at least look one in the eye. As is, I was tushie level, so you know where I made a point to stand…I need no help in the poop exposure department, and my kids could easily give this heifer a run for her money.

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Warrior Queen was in a constant state of “go” throughout this entire journey…not unusual during outings, but she was particularly exuberant on this beautiful fall day among the animals and open landscape.

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It’s funny, Warrior Queen is like her brother on this front; she’s usually pretty indifferent to animals. I’m starting to figure that I have something to do with it. Try not to judge me.

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My parents were delighted that the eighteen-month-old Warrior Queen was saying, “Moo,” while visiting the cows…until literally EVERY animal was saying, “Moo.”

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The remaining pieces of the weekend were an unremarkable fizzle, but even unremarkable states of parenthood are a blur. It’s comforting for me knowing that as I trod through the frenzied days leading to and stretching through this particular weekend, I will have the imperfect kindness of my memory’s reflections…and a few scampering cherub photos buried with my olfactory recollection of these specific late autumn days…complimented by truly horrifying chickens.

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Routines, Rituals, and Other Things that Go Bump…All Day

I don’t have a vast familiarity with toddlers. Experiencing my son I can’t specifically speak to what is considered average development and what isn’t…for better or worse. He is two years-eight-months-old, and mostly garden variety, but I fully understand the compulsion to assume his growth weighs heavily as strokes of brilliance. Little Man constantly floors me with his leaps in development, but I’ve learned that’s what these stages are. That said, the limited number of professionals who’ve interacted with my son confirmed the few areas I thought were advanced or, at least, more unique to him.

I’ve observed and been told that Little Man is quite skilled in taking turns and sharing…to the point that he doesn’t understand when another child walks up and steals an object out of his hand. He never seems particularly disturbed when it happens, but will stare off befuddled for a beat before walking away to find an alternate source of entertainment. My son tells jokes and is chatty…telling stories to me throughout the day, especially relaying moments he was in trouble. I find this development funny considering his speech delay. Little Man looks to engage others in conversation; professionals working with him say that is unusual for a child his age.

Most interesting, however, is my son’s fairly sophisticated emotional intelligence. Little Man, probably beginning in the nine-month-old realm, possessed an uncanny ability to read others, and significantly alter his behavior and personality to what he correctly perceives others expect from him. Much of the time this serves as a manipulation tactic, and boy is it effective. Other times it seems to meet no other purpose than an intellectual exercise I find disturbing.

Part of this innate ability makes him fairly rigid and sensitive to shifts in his routines. I don’t have an overly complicated routine to our days, but any shift in what Little Man can expect from people and events leaves him struggling if the deviation is more than a day, two if I’m lucky. Some of this, I suspect, is simply toddler. But, I’ve heard early childhood workers in various capacities refer to Little Man as an “observer” or an “organizer.” It isn’t so much I think this merits a diagnosis, rather a personality quirk that makes him who he is.

But, with his need for routines and rituals and his ability to size up his world comes the price of anxiety. I wouldn’t say it amounts to a diagnosis, but times like the recent holiday season I’m reminded of how sensitive Little Man is to changes in his world, even when the change is fantastic and exciting.

At the ripe old age of nine-months, I noticed my son’s personality would change when we had extended visitors or his routine was off for too long. Some of it is age appropriate, but there were changes beyond the fussiness or lack of sleep that so many of my friends describe. Little Man’s temperament and general nature would shift in unexpected ways, but not globally. He would change his mode of interacting based on whoever was the primary personality in the room at any given moment, regardless if my husband or I were in his sights at the time. It’s difficult to describe this long out, and I would assume it was in my head if I hadn’t had practitioners working with toddlers relay what I suspected was a pretty interesting skill.

This brings me to the two week hell that was the holiday season. Family had been in the area, and my husband took the week off. It’s all so thrilling. But, each time Little Man encounters a wave of such excitement, it throws him. His behaviors more concerning as he’s grown older. Most glaring this time around was the aggression. Historically, he’s consistently demonstrated gentle hands with his sister outside the exceptionally occasional snafu easily explained by hunger or fatigue. There have always been independent bouts of jealousy, but Little Man usually has the ability to keep himself contained. And, really, once I read him a story or two on my lap, he’s good to go. Throughout the two week holiday span, however, I worried any time he was around his eight-month-old baby sister. Hardly an encounter occurred without my son pushing or hitting the Warrior Queen. I’m used to seeing an uptick of impulsive and rough behavior when my husband is around, but the incidents escalated dramatically in frequency and intensity.

Sure, during tantrums I might be slapped in the thigh, but twice my son slugged me in the eye without provocation. The biting was out of control as well. Usually such events are reserved for those moments when we pushed out bedtime too long. As the days wore on, it was rare to have his mouth remotely close to skin contact without a biting incident. The entirety of the situation left me flummoxed. My son is a sweet, kind soul who is patient and tolerant, all the more for a toddler.

Frustratingly, the peanut gallery dismissed this crop of behavior incidents as standard toddler practice. The entire span of time that Little Man continued to spiral I asserted he was struggling…all of the excitement and change was too much for him. I defended that these events were not how he navigates his world when the three of us are doing our thing. No one believed me. I began doubting myself…maybe he really is this aggressive. Maybe he is changing, and it is for me to adapt, levering my head from the sandy beach I’d grown to love.

Toward the end of the uproar, I had a couple moments when it was only our threesome…maybe just me and Little Man. They were brief and achingly far between, but I’d have glimpses of the existence I was beginning to lose to the recesses of my memory. I worried if we would return once the world settled, but they were a welcome reprieve even they amounted to be fleeting.

As I write this post we are almost a week out from the avalanche of activity. I’ve come to understand that just as easily as Little Man swings to the reckless, he soars back to the son I know. Within a day we returned to our life…flare ups of impulsivity when he’s hungry or tired…or Daddy is home. Once again I enjoyed our outings, watching my son explore his world in delight. All as though nothing had ever changed, nothing occurred.

I enjoy it when I’m right, but perhaps relief is more apt this time around.

It isn’t just about the mashed potatoes…and gravy…

Many heart wrenching, worrying things I share with the majority of Americans; but much tickles my heart and warms me despite future uncertainty. I’m thankful and privileged to see such strength, determination, and love following the loop hole allowing a disgusting individual and his counterparts to represent the best of us. Unending gratitude social media exists to make me laugh despite the serious nature of what will transpire.

I’m grateful for Rachel Maddow. I’m grateful for John Oliver and Impractical Jokers.

I’m thankful my gray hair that is prospering in droves doesn’t look horrible. Its proliferation is uncertain, but I’ve always found the salt and pepper look attractive…Here’s hoping the same will hold true for me…in six months at this rate.

Unending appreciation that the almost 102 fever I had on Thanksgiving was short lived, and was not fortified by a nose cold. My husband is fighting something. I hope that bit of lovely decides I’m not a hospitable homestead.

I’m thankful my father-in-law saw fit to buy me a bar of one of my favorite brands of chocolate. It’s the dark variety too, so I feel the depth of his love for me. He is now my favorite person in the world…until someone else buys me chocolate, creating a more contemporary warmth in my thoughts.

I’m blessed to have found a less tedious pumpkin pie-like recipe. It was mighty tasty…especially as my breakfast yesterday…and this morning. It’s about time for a second helping. I’m thankful it occurred to me to buy extra whipped topping. In that same vein, profuse gratitude to my friend who made a chocolate cream pie to add to the Thanksgiving meal festivities. Pudding or not, it was chocolate and phenomenal…and was a welcomed breakfast addition to the pumpkin pie I ate yesterday.

My toddler hasn’t napped in two days, consequently has been a disaster for the second half of the day, stretching into the evening. Having family staying with us and generally surrounding him has my son elated in a vibrating giggle beginning at six sharp in the morning. We hear Little Man emerge from his room with the tell tale jingle from his horrid stuffed dog. Within seconds the sound becomes a scurry into our room. An enthusiastic, “hi,” with other random commentary before turning on our bright overhead light. If I’m honest, it is quite possibly the cutest wake-up call ever…I’m thankful I haven’t killed him…yet.

Warrior Queen has made every effort to crawl back into my uterus. I don’t know what happened, but she decided that anyone other than me holding her will not be the game plan for the day. What gets me is that she will be fine until she catches my gaze. Then the slow abhorrence of her situation consumes her face. That said, I’m thankful I’m too tired to be much bothered as the shrill wailing commences…for a few minutes anyway. At some point dogs will start circling, so I have to give in. At seven-months she mostly is all smiles, and I cannot measure my gratitude to be the recipient of some so grand that her whole face is enveloped.

I’m thankful for leggings, which look surprisingly acceptable under dresses. I don’t have it in me to wrangle stockings or tights, and it’s getting cold. Additionally, I’m thankful for flannel shirts. They are an easy way to add color and pattern to my otherwise black wardrobe. I get that black is sexy and all, and it certainly looks good on me, but I don’t quite pull-off Morticia…with gray-ing hair.

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(I could fall asleep on that chair.)

That said, I pretty much nail the pasty look, and I don’t even need powder.

A final thanks to my husband who took our 2.7 year-old on an outing with his family, so I can rest. My fierce girl is sleeping in our office. I’m soaking in the brief quiet watching a knit/crochet program on television. The second pie helping was wonderful, as were the mashed potatoes and gravy. Sometimes I wish I could predict the future. I’ve never liked surprises, and these days I’d prefer to brace myself. But, while bad days loom, so do the good ones, and for that I am most thankful.

 

 

Ode to Thanks

I’m thankful for chocolate…dark chocolate, but not dark chocolate more than seventy percent.  If I wanted to have no sugar with my sugar, I’d buy a bar of baker’s chocolate…It’s cheaper.  I’m thankful for dark chocolate with nuts that are chopped up in it.  Truffles are good too.  Lindt is probably the best, but some of those generics are mighty fine…  I’m thankful for everyone in my life who grasped my subtle inclinations toward this treat, and use it as an easy gift that I will ALWAYS appreciate.

I’m thankful for tea, and my husband who showed me the delights of adding skim milk to my hot tea experience.  I’m thankful for those times when we drink it together, especially sitting on a cruise ship deck looking out on the ocean.  It’s been almost a year since the last time, but one day we will do it again, knowing the happiness of bringing our expanded family.  It will be like our first cruise together, everything new and exciting.

I’m thankful for time…long, tedious, endless time that can be insufferable in the ticking moments, but I cling to them like the covers my husband hordes in the middle of the night.

I’m thankful for change, daunting and unpredictable, but relentless and dependable.  Sometimes its inevitability allows me to hold on even if I don’t know where the shift will take me.

I’m thankful for new friends, and the old ones I now take the time to connect with on a reasonably regular basis despite busy lives.  I’m thankful that it occurs to me to take unbegrudged initiation while simultaneously maintaining the confidence that they think of me too and appreciate my organizational drive of pursuit.  I am thankful for my friends whose strength of character keep them with me even through their great struggles.  I appreciate every day I can still hear from them, and hope the next year brings about easier times they deserve.

I’m thankful for my Kindle, the passport to endless realities and stories while I paddle in stationary bobbing most mornings before the sun awakens for the day.  I’m thankful to be witness to the blue glow as the sun rises, filling the room like black light at the horrible college parties I used to attend.

Perhaps trite, but I’m thankful to have my partner in life and the only person worth arguing with over incredibly stupid issues that we both realize are stupid, but feel the urge to argue about them anyway.  I know you read this, and I’m telling you the random paper towel sheets appearing mysteriously on the counter most mornings aren’t left by me.  Ten years later there is no one else I’d rather have be where I need to be.

I’m thankful for family, all of them.  Through times of strain and times of harmony it’s always a blessing, perhaps because there are so few of us in touch.  My stories aren’t as enriching without the people in them, and I value every moment I can still make a call to hear of whatever antics might be in play in that particular moment.  I’m thankful my children will grow to know all of these players with the capacity to fondly reminisce when the presence of some are no more.  This excludes my mother.  She will live for forever; I’m certain of it.

This blog is my ongoing gratitude for my current and future children.

I’m thankful for screaming goat YouTube videos, and those hilarious eCards I can read on Pinterest.  I’m thankful for hot showers.  I’m thankful for bulky yarn eternity scarves that look perfect every time I throw one on, and the variety of cardigans that I impulsively collect.  I’m thankful for real scratch mashed potatoes with its skin included and turkey gravy.  I’m thankful for grilled cheese…or just cheese, really…and bacon…Bacon is how I know there is still good in the world despite the atrocities that bombard the vacant spaces of life.

I’m thankful for opportunities, whatever they may be.  Finally, I’m thankful for cool, crisp days to walk and think about them; to think about what was, is, and will be.

 

 

Magnitude

From time to time I think about my delivery and brief stay in the hospital. I close my eyes and try to recall all the feelings and sensations of the process…well, not all of them. Even with an epidural, some of it just isn’t all that pleasant… But, I try to remember the final feeling of him leaving my body with a warm, ticklish “Whoosh,” and those first few moments of his life with us.

I go back earlier in the day and think about the experience. Waking up at almost exactly three in the morning to an internal, “Pop.” I replay those early, groggy curiosities and phone calls to the on-call physician, and the waiting…a lot of waiting. And, while I waited, my husband went back to sleep; how nice to be able to do that. I spent the hours until nine in the morning crocheting and watching the same Law & Order: SVU episodes that kept me company throughout my pregnancy when I didn’t have the motivation to leave the house. The surreal quiet between me and my husband…after he decided he felt rested enough to resume the day… The casual conversations that spoke of our near future, yet avoidance of all the questions elephants held on cue cards in the backseat of the car.

I remember the call to my parents as I was about to enter the second stage of labor, and telling them to fly up in the morning, knowing full well they wouldn’t wait. They missed the first word of their only grandchild’s birth.

I think of the exceptional nurse in the delivery room. I think of my husband who was told to eat before it was too late, only to be called back within fifteen minutes. I recall the sudden onset of intense pain when induced, and the equally sudden relief after the anesthesiologist’s success on his second try. I think of my husband entering the room, expecting to tend to me north of the border, yet was enlisted to hold my leg. I remember him saying, “Such a beautiful baby,” even though he can’t. Then, I was holding him, this exquisite, tiny being who made it known he was not having a good time of things.

I was taken to my room after various hands assisted with things I never imagined would require a team.

My parents taxi to their gate with a voicemail greeting of my son’s birth, and my mom’s elated proclamation that they were on their way to the hospital. Even a year later, I’m not sure how I managed to hold her off until the morning.

I remember all the other nurses whose personalities became more rugged as the shifts progressed, but there was something comforting about the snarkiest one on the overnight shift my second night.

Having brief, but the best night’s sleep I had in months to awaken unable to contain my excitement to see the little person with perfect lips and a sleepy gaze. Looking at my little man’s features as he slept, and wondering if it was okay to hold this sweet little boy who was resting bundled in his Tupperware container with his name printed on the back. The overwhelming memories of holding my son when I was alone in the room, in the quiet. The strangeness of being pregnant mere hours before, and holding him, finally, in my arms. Realizing that my voice alone gave him calm in this new, scary world. Unable to imagine him in the future, but feeling no rush for him to grow.

Now almost a year of firsts have passed, but I think to my first the most. Whoever he is and will become, he forever will be my son.

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