Friday, July 30, 2010

Water Nymph

I commute 45 minutes each way to the heart of the city for work every day of the week. When I am there, it’s all business amid the concrete. The jungle. The dog-eat-dog world. When I’m not at work, I never choose to go downtown for fun because I just don’t associate that part of the city with that word. Drudgery? Yes. Chaotic? Absolutely. But fun? Not really. Until Little Miss comes along one day.

She shows up at my office with her daddy, and when we leave together, she makes my nine-to-five institution her 24/7 playground. She sees a world unexplored, a blank canvas. And she gets to work. Or rather, she starts to play. And suddenly, what was once grey, is now a kaleidoscope of colors, the core of which is the brilliant beam of her smile.

Her signature.  Her masterstroke. Her gift. To me.

Because now, when I reach downtown every morning, I see vibrance. I see beauty.

I see my baby.

 

*   *   *

Water Nymph, a haiku

Look! an oasis
In the bustling city’s midst
A welcome reprieve

Like quenching a thirst
The water cools little feet
Eases furrowed brows

Summer perfection
It’s not a myth, it’s a girl
No, my water nymph

CrownLomo1

 

 CrownLomo2

 

 

CrownLomo3

 

 

CrownLomo4

 

 

CrownLomo5

 

 

 

This post is linked with You Capture : Play & Bigger Picture Moments.

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Pina Colada Ice Cream {Guest Post}

Welcome to my Perspectives Series, where I host a guest blogger whose perspective differs from my own. While we share a passion for our families and for writing, our priorities, responsibilities and situations are not the same. And it’s the differences I’d like to highlight here, because let’s face it, the world is more interesting that way.

Confession time: I love my kid and this blog exists because of her, but really, if I had more discipline (read: if I wasn’t so lazy), I would be a food blogger. But the thought of finding and then cooking with a recipe, writing careful instructions, and providing mouthwatering images that I have to shoot and edit myself sounds a little too daunting and ambitious for me. But not so for Dana, also known as the The Kitchen Witch. Not only does she write about her adventures in the kitchen, she usually shares an interesting story that relates to each recipe. By interesting I mean there’s really not that many people out there who can pull off associating assholery and testicles with something that sounds as delectable as Seared Salmon with Jalapeno Ponzu. Seriously. But yet this mom of three does it with such flair that you just want to eat it all up – her food, her stories, her blog. I’m so honored and thrilled to share my space with her today.

Please help me welcome her – leave a comment and take some time to visit her site.  And you will find yourself stalking her the way I do because you just can’t help it.

Pina Colada Ice Cream
by The Kitchen Witch

Pina Colada Icecream 007

I always hated going to Illinois to visit my father's parents. They didn't have any fun toys, and they lived in an apartment so we couldn't play outside, and they had two bizzare old buzzard-ladies next door named Hazel and Belle who smelled funny and always wanted to kiss me.

However, the one bright side to visiting dad's parents was the obligatory trip to Petersen's Ice Cream in Oak Park. The ice cream was positively swoon-worthy, and I always tried to eat my scoop of Butter Brickle (always Butter Brickle) verrrry slowly, wishing it would last forever. Petersen's Ice Cream (with its legendary 18% butterfat content) almost made up for Hazel and Belle.

We had two mom-and-pop type ice cream places in my Colorado neighborhood, and while their ice cream wasn't quite Petersen's, it was pretty close. For a while we had Mom's Ice Cream, a shop dangerously close to the supermarket we frequented. My poor mama got hassled every time she took us grocery shopping (which wasn't that often, because my mama is smarter than that).

Mom's Ice Cream didn't have Butter Brickle, but it did have Lemon Drop. Lemon Drop was a delightful, puckery confection, dotted with little crisp nuggets of smashed candy. They also carried a neon-blue bucket of hideousness, Bubble Gum, which for some reason I loved. Mom's version of Bubble Gum didn't have those pesky hard pebbles of real gum that I hated. It was smooth blue paradise. However, I once threw up Bubble Gum in mama's car on the way home from the supermarket, and from that day forward, Bubble Gum was forbidden fruit.

Mom's closed when I was in third grade, and we had to endure trips to the lowly Baskin-Robbins for several years. Then, in a stroke of good luck, my sister insisted on attending a Jr. High out of our neighborhood. Near this coveted school was a wonderful ice cream emporium called Apple Orchard, or as the locals called it, "AppleTree."

Apple Orchard had (in my childish opinion) fascinating and exotic flavors of ice cream: cappucinno chip, cantaloupe sorbet, mint oreo. I think I tried almost every flavor they churned out, but my all time favorite was Pina Colada. I'm surprised I didn't start sprouting stiff, green shoots out the top of my head, I ate so much of it.

I ate Pina Colada almost weekly from the 7th grade until 10th, when I progressed to a high school farther away. I'm amazed I wasn't broad as a barn. Thank God for growth spurts.

Apple Orchard was the place I fumbled through first dates, desperately grappling for words. It was the place I sobbed, my mother rubbing my back, when the boy I'd loved for years just didn't love me back. It was the place I marched to, singing and giggling at the top of my lungs, gaggle of girlfriends in tow, at the end of every school dance.

Alas, Apple Orchard eventually closed also. And I can't help but notice that nowadays, there's hardly ANY mom-and-pop ice cream joint that survives a year in our neck of the woods. We've all been lured to the dark side of Cold Stone. Don't get me wrong, Cold Stone is fine, but it lacks the charm of a mom-and-pop joint. Plus, that damn place doesn't carry Pina Colada. Nobody does.

I was near my old stomping grounds this past weekend and noticed that--horrors! The building that once housed Apple Orchard is a weight loss facility now. Mama and I laughed at the irony, and then lamented the loss of Pina Colada ice cream. And then I got a hankering for that ice cream like nobody's business.

I came up with a version that's close, but still not as fantabulous as the Pina Colada of yore. That, like my youth, is water down the drain, accessible only in trickles of memory.

Pina Colada Ice Cream
based on Emeril Lagasse's recipe for coconut ice cream
makes about a quart

1/2 cup heavy cream
1 1/2 cups unsweetened coconut milk
1 cup whole milk
1/2 cup coconut-flavored rum
1/2 cup granulated sugar
6 large egg yolks
1 cup crushed pineapple, slightly drained

In a large heavy saucepan, combine the cream, coconut milk, whole milk, rum and sugar. Bring to a simmer over medium heat, stirring to dissolve the sugar. Remove from heat.

In a medium bowl, beat egg yolks until pale yellow and frothy. Add about 1/2 cup of the hot cream mixture, and whisk to combine, Add the egg mixture to the saucepan with the remaining hot cream and whisk.

Return to medium heat and cook, stirring constantly with a heavy wooden spoon until thick enough to coat the back of a spoon, about 4-5 minutes.

Remove from heat. Refrigerate until well chilled, at least three hours. Freeze according to manufacturer's directions. 5 minutes before the end of freezing time, add the pineapple bits; freeze 5 minutes more.

Transfer mixture to plastic container and freeze until firm.

 

What’s your favorite ice cream flavor? Do you have ice cream memories? If so, please share.

Monday, July 26, 2010

Will you take my hand?

This was a weekend for friendships, old and new. My Little Miss has morphed into quite the social creature ever since she graduated from parallel to interactive play in her development. She is especially interested in what the big kids are up to, observing and mimicking them whenever she gets the chance.

Friday evening, on our walk, Little Miss was invited to an impromptu playdate at a neighbor’s kiddie pool. And so she jumped in. She wasn’t the only one who had fun; I was thrilled, watching her socialize with kids she has never met before.

 

KiddiePool

 

On Saturday, we caught up with a friend whose daughter attended the same daycare with Little Miss when they were infants. Now we see them occasionally, but when our girls saw each other, it’s just like old times. But better. Because now they really see one another, learning and remembering names. As soon as we parted ways, Little Miss was already calling out to her little friend.

 

TwoPalsWater

 

When Sunday rolled around, we soaked in the gorgeous weather at the park with friends and their kids. There were cheese, cookies, and a whole lot of romping. The kids, that is. The adults were engaged in adult activities like eating and wistfully watching their kids and their budding friendships. Well, at least I was. After indulging in innocuous discussions about the weather, summer and food, we said our goodbyes to go back to the constant whir of our busy lives, where the building of our own friendships take a backseat to the setting up of playdates for our kids.

 

ThreeFriends

 

I look at the friendships I’ve developed since Little Miss was born and notice that most of them are with fellow parents. Many of my single or childless friends continue on their travels and salsa nights, as I read up on diaper reviews and join toddler music classes. These friendships were once important to me but have sadly fallen away. But who left who behind? As our situations change, our mutual interests diverge, and while we may be the same people, we now have different priorities. And suddenly our schedules are more in conflict than they are in synch. Soon, we rely solely on Facebook for updates.

The loss of certain friendships made me acutely aware of the ones I do have. I am especially grateful for them, and I find myself working harder to maintain the few I cherish. Fellow parents provide a strong network of support. My old friends from school and my BFF, who lives in another state, consistently ground me and remind me of the person I am. They have all been there for me regardless of my situation - single, married, parent. These are the people who help define me, and yet they are the ones who’re geographically impossible for me to get to on a regular basis. And I miss them. I look all around me in my city of millions, and the no-brainer solution is to make new friends but these days, that’s harder than crossing an ocean to see a familiar face.

When I look at my intrepid Little Miss who smiles herself into a social circle and nudges her way into the big kids’ group at the playground, I am envious of her courage. How I wish I had her guts so I too could, at my age, find a friend in the neighborhood with whom I could share intimate discussions and inside jokes – the stuff that make deeper connections. These days, I’m too worried about intruding on someone’s life to ask if they’d like to go out for coffee with me, and I also wonder, if they already have family and friends within easy reach, where would I even fit in?  Or would I?

I know - how grade school of me. Only I don’t think I was ever that way back then. I remember the time when I was seven, and it was my first week in first grade when I walked up to this girl who was drawing an impressive picture of a house. I complimented her on her artistry, “nice house” (I was seven, hello), and we became inseparable soon after. My first best friend. I find that the complexities that increase with adulthood greatly influence the nuances of building new friendships, and as I age, I begin to lose my confidence in decrypting secret handshakes and navigating social circles.

When I think back to the seven-year-old me, a memory as vivid as yesterday’s dinner, I often wonder, where did that bold little person go? Then I remember Little Miss taking the hand of her friend like it’s the most natural thing in the world, and I realize that I am still that girl. Despite my uncertainty, I continue to make the effort. My hand is still out. I’m just waiting for someone to put theirs in mine.

After all, it takes two, no?

 

HandinHand

Friday, July 23, 2010

Coming down from a high doesn’t mean we have to crash

The week after vacation – ok, in our case, a very brief weekend respite from the city – is always the worst. I often feel sluggish, burdened by the longing of being there not here, and when I look at the unpacked suitcase and the unbelievable amount of laundry generated from just three days away, I want to jump into the car and drive right back to where we were.

 

Where this little girl experienced the vastness of a Great Lake for the first time under azure skies

BeachBaby

 

Where a free chocolate spoon from the cafe staff a day kept the crankiness at bay

ChocolateSpoon

 

Where a sweet girl brought great joy to her daddy just by offering a little help

LugNuts

 

Except I also know that I will eventually have to come back (because home is where my pets are) and face the post-vacation blues all over again. No, thank you. Instead, I will just celebrate the myriad reasons why I am happy to be home. Even when I’m not. Call it my attempt at intentional happiness, the !!! of my life, where if it’s not right in front of me, I am going to go in search of it. And this is what I found.

 

!!!

I realize that no matter how wonderful the vacation, or how long or short I’ve been gone, the first sight of my favorite skyline looming on the horizon doesn’t just tell me I’m close to home; it takes my breath away each. and. every. time. 10 years of this has not diminished its effect on me. I am still in awe when I lay eyes on my city. My castle in the sky. My home.

Skyline

 

!!!

Here, at our favorite spot, when I kick back on the back porch, I have a little person kicking it right alongside me. And there we sit to watch the planes go by, sing our songs and talk about our day. Well, I don’t usually understand her but I nod and smile anyway, so even if she says, “that dog bit my foot and ran off with my pinky,” she will only get an appreciative chuckle from clueless me. (Oops!)

KickBack

 

!!!

At home, no matter what the temperature gauge says, when we take a walk under the canopy of trees on our street, it is always pleasant. And with a girl who’s eager to take over dog-walking duties these days, our evening walks have become the highlight of my day.

DogwalkerExtraordinaire

 

!!!

And this week, on one of these walks, I am surprised by Little Miss’ hair. Three haircuts in 20 months and she has finally outgrown the Beatles stage. Just the other day, when she was in t-shirt and shorts, someone called her my adorable “son.” I don’t think this woman will make that same mistake again.

HairClip

 

And yes, that’s a barrette on Little Miss I Don’t Want Anything On My Hair!!! I feel like I hit the jackpot with this one. All in the form of the hairamathingy that successfully stayed on her head for longer than 15 minutes. Ahh…My girl looking like a girl.  And my happiness looking a lot like her as well.

So what was I lamenting again?
 
 
 
 
 
Find out more about Intentional Happiness here:
Intentional Happiness Bad Mommy Moments !!!Momalom !!!

 

** This post is also a part of Photo Story Friday and Bigger Picture Moments.

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

The Tipping Point {Guest Post}

Welcome to my Perspectives Series, where I host a guest blogger whose perspective differs from my own. While we share a passion for our families and for writing, our priorities, responsibilities and situations are not the same. And it’s the differences I’d like to highlight here, because let’s face it, the world is more interesting that way.

Today I am excited to share my space with Stacia, one of my favorite bloggers, who has the amazing ability to make her readers smile, gasp, think, cry, laugh and swoon – sometimes, all in one post! She has been an inspiration to me from very early on in my journey in the blogosphere, and I am honored to have her here. Recently, on Mother’s Day nonetheless, she gave birth to her third baby, and if you can’t imagine what that’s like, you don’t have to; she’ll tell you in her own words, peppered with humor, grace and humility.

Please help me welcome her – leave a comment and take some time to visit her site.  I assure you, it will be a trip you won’t likely forget.

 

The Tipping Point
by Stacia @ Fluffy Bunnies

In business, it's the small yet profound moment when momentum shifts and a significant change occurs. It's when the video goes viral, the rock star says she likes those shoes, or the kids on the playground want those bracelets.

In motherhood, there's also a tipping point. For me — a stay-at-home mom of three — it's the moment I realized it was harder to be home with my newborn than it was to venture out. When I gathered up burp cloths, bottles, and sundry rattling toys and decided to leave the house. Because I couldn't stay there one more minute.

I've reached this tipping point at crucial, yet distinct, moments with each addition to my brood.

With my oldest, it was eight weeks into my new full-time job as mother to a small, helpless, sleepless creature. I was trying to manage a slow return to my other job (the paying one) by working at home a few hours a day. I was barely getting four hours of shuteye a night. I was addicted to daytime television because I craved adult voices, even if they talked incessantly about dishes I would never cook, movies I would never see, and clothes I would never fit into again.

One November morning, as Regis and Kelly spun the Prize Wheel yet again, I sat in bed and cried. I had made plans to take my daughter to work and introduce her to my colleagues. But the thought of trying to shower and dress and eat and get the baby ready and remember what to put in the diaper bag was overwhelming. All I wanted to do was lie there.

And it hit me, right between my unwaxed eyebrows. I had to get out of my house. No matter how hard it would be, no matter how tired I was, no matter that she would probably poop on her outfit in the car. I had to get out. My tipping point.

When my son joined us, a mere 14 months after my daughter (oops!), my tipping point came again at the two-month mark. I was sitting on the couch watching You've Got Mail for the tenth time in three days. I was shoveling peanut M&Ms into my mouth like a toddler on Halloween. And I was literally watching the minutes tick by on the clock, willing them to speed up so that it would be naptime and I could escape into the silence.

I had to get out of my house. My tipping point.

Just last week, I hit the tipping point with my third child, who arrived in May. We had watched the entire PBS morning line-up. My newborn had barfed all over the couch. My middle child had, shall we say, soiled his Thomas the Train underpants. My oldest had scaled the gate blocking the stairs and ransacked her room. I had been wearing the same clothes for three days. My tipping point.

I had to get out of my house.

And so I did. Each time I reached that tipping point, I packed the diaper bag and packed the kid(s). I shoved a hat on my head and told myself it had to be better out there. Where people were ordering lattes and shopping for cantaloupe and chit-chatting with the mailman. Where they were turning in library books and turning up the radio. Where they were living, instead of being.

And when I tipped? Life did, too.

In my favor.


Do you remember when you reached your tipping point? How was it different with one, two, three, more kids? And did you, too, pass time at home with a peanut M&M addiction??

Monday, July 19, 2010

It isn’t always about blood

I am now writing while Little Miss is napping in our rental home in a beach town a couple of hours’ drive from where we live. It’s our annual weekend getaway with friends. The Geeks on Wheels run their cars on the tracks just outside of town with fellow car fanatics, and those who don’t usually alternate between being spectators or tourists, enjoying the quaint downtown area, as well as its scenic riverside and lakefront beach. Everyone, all 10 adults and even the toddler, finds something to do here.

Little Miss has been in very high spirits ever since we arrived. With boundless energy and at least a few adoring adults who love making her laugh, this vacation is especially pleasurable for me because I don’t have to be watching her 100% of the time – not that I mind, but really, I am able to relax better when it’s not imperative for me to have eyes at the back of my head to keep up with my little imp. These are the times where being the first among your friends to have a baby is an advantage (before they’re too busy minding theirs to bother with yours - Hah!). There is usually an adult with my daughter at all times, and because they are familiar faces, she is more oblivious to my coming and going, relegating me to the not-quite-chopped-liver-but-no-filet-mignon role. Somewhere in between is nice. This is good for me.

While I wish My Guy would pick chess over speeding perilously around the tracks as a hobby, watching him this weekend work on cars, talk shop with fellow enthusiasts, and unleash his driving prowess is a beautiful thing because he is in his element. Even then, he is able to divide his time equally between his passion and his family, enjoying the beach with his girls, making his daughter squeal with delight as we splash around in the water and holding my hand in his as we take a walk by ourselves to experience the sunset. It’s moments like these that I am especially grateful for him as he never ceases to make us his priority. He is absolutely deserving of a weekend like this and more. This is good for him.

Little Miss herself is getting attached to our friends, who she addresses as auntie or uncle. When she wakes up in the morning, after asking for daddy, who leaves early for the tracks, she will then proceed to inquire about “Uncle Jason” – surprisingly succinct from the often clumsy toddler mouth – who is her favorite face outside of her parents’. Then there’s “Auntie Meissa” (Melissa), who is delirious that Little Miss could finally, almost say her name, and the rest of the aunts and uncles whose familiar faces provide her the comfort of home away from home. This is good for her.

In a few minutes, Little Miss will wake from her nap. In her groggy state, she will ask for her daddy. Then Jason, and probably Melissa. And I will take her to them, where they will beam at the sight of her and scoop her up and devour her greedily, and Little Miss will luxuriate in their attention. And through this amazing little girl, we will connect, bond, laugh, and even love. This is good for us.

With My Guy’s own relatives scattered across the country, we have learned to make our own connections so we can live fuller lives. Our own experiences taught us that family isn’t always about blood. Having left my own in my late teens in pursuit of my ambitions, I often forget the feeling, but now with the surge of emotions filling the empty cavities in my heart formed from the years away from home, it’s all coming back to me.

This is what it feels like to be with family.

 BabyandUncle Little Miss and her favorite “uncle” perfecting the art of mutual adoration


Thank you for making this whirlwind of a weekend so incredibly memorable for my family and me. You know who you are.


XoXoX,
Justine

Friday, July 16, 2010

Random Bits of Awesome

Little Miss turned the big 2-0 months this week (gasp! time! flying! stop! please!), and I realize that as the self-designated Memory Keeper of this blog, I’ve been doing a lousy job in commemorating her milestones. Instead, I’ve been reflecting on my feelings and discussing my issues. Since I’m trying to chronicle our lives as my gift to her, I suppose I should focus on things that may interest her too, like her developments and her stories.

So here, Little Miss, this one’s ALL ABOUT YOU (hope you’re happy). Here’s a compilation of snippets that will probably bore the heck out of most people but are rather amusing, endearing and bewildering to me because I’m your mom. I am blessed and cursed that way (loooooove yoooouuuu).

And once we’re done here, we can go back to talking about me.

 

Words, words, words

Now that she’s well past the rolling over, sitting up, crawling, fumbling, standing, walking stages, there are no other real developments to report other than the explosion of her vocabulary. However, just because she says them, it doesn’t mean we understand her. Most of the time, it’s guesswork on our part. While Little Miss repeats many of the words we say these days, I’ve included a few of note that are uttered with intent, and not just mere parroting. At 20 months, where stringing two words together is her biggest accomplishment, she’s not the most interesting conversationalist – consider yourself warned.

* * *

I was alarmed when she said “mouse” from the car when we were at the garage one day, not happy to be sharing my home with filthy rodents, until I saw what she was referring to - a squirrel. Phew! But it still surprised me that she made that inference because, before this, the only time she’s seen a mouse is a cartoon-like depiction of one from her bedtime book, Goodnight Moon. I was impressed by her ability to make a connection in her head – Small animal in book = small animal in real life = “Mouse!” - even if she ended up being wrong. (Good try, Little Miss, good try, but better luck next time.)

* * *

Speaking of mouse, when we were cuddling one evening, I was planting kisses on her face to savor her pink, chewy, chubby cheeks, but she kept saying “mouse” and when I looked at her bewildered, thinking there can’t possibly be a squirrel (or a real mouse this time!) in her bedroom, she puckered her lips – Oh… MOUTH! - and dove right in to place a big wet one on mine, with an audible mwaaah! I, of course, melted into the chair.

* * *

On our walk one evening, she stopped abruptly and sat on the sidewalk to blow bubbles. The world is her play yard, yes.


SidewalkPlayYard

 

When she does actually walk with me, she often requests, “hand” as she holds hers up in the air until I take it in mine. I am warmed by this gesture of implicit trust and one that clearly says, I need you. And I choose not to think about the time in the future where she will let go. Instead, I relish that delicious, dimpled little hand that searches for and nestles comfortably in mine.

* * *

I probably should not be admitting to this but Little Miss recognizes and sometimes asks to go into Target (“Tar-gitt!”), which is on our way home from daycare. I’m not sure what this says about my own current consumer behavior (ahem) and the future of hers, but I fear for both.

* * *

I like that when I ask Little Miss a question, she takes a second to ponder with an “Uhm...” (I wonder where she learned that? Uhm...). And when something catches her attention, she begins with an overzealous “Oh!”. For example:

Oh! Mac etaoifnaeoi efiweine!!! (in an animated voice)
- What just happened Little Miss?
Uhm...awron faeoroi cat fneounrt go boom
- Did Mac fall and go boom?
Yeah! (a little too gleefully, if I may add)
- Would you like to see if he’s OK?
Uhm...afraerajne neaornaenr dfaeour fanranern ararnnn
Yes, the turtles can build a castle made of ice cream in the mountains

Hey, two can play this game. I don’t know what she’s saying; she doesn’t know what I’m saying. We can both make things up as we go. It’s only fair.

* * *

I called for My Guy who was in another part of the house, “Honey!”
He didn’t hear me so I asked Little Miss to do it. “Call daddy for me please.”
And she echoes, “Hon-eeeee...”
I laughed and heard her dad chuckle. That got his attention alright.

* * *

Of course many of these are you-had-to-be-there moments for you to truly appreciate them, although mostly they’re the you-have-to-be-mom ones. I did save the best for last though.

The most awesome bit of all. This right here.

 

Babyface 

All of it.

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Racing to keep up: On life with two boys {Guest Post}

Welcome to my Perspectives Series, where I host a guest blogger whose perspective differs from my own. While we share a passion for our families and for writing, our priorities, responsibilities and situations are not the same. And it’s the differences I’d like to highlight here, because let’s face it, the world is more interesting that way.

Today it is my distinct honor to share my space with Christine, whose life is ALMOST like a mirror image of mine, with a full-time job in communications, a family and a love of paper craft, except she is the mother of two. And that’s brand new territory for me. 

Please help me welcome her – leave a comment and take some time to visit her site - and see for yourself what I see every time I read her words: an honest, beautiful writer who is also a genuinely kind and compassionate soul.

 

Racing to keep up: On life with two boys
by Christine @ Coffees & Commutes

I will never forget the moment when oldest son, C, met his new baby brother. X had barely been in the world for 24 hours. I was very apprehensive about their greeting, but even more worried about how their relationship would blossom. X was after all, changing our family dynamic, and C would no longer be our only centre. Now he would have to share that centre with his baby brother.

C came to the hospital with his grandparents. His father went to greet him and bring him to have a moment alone with his new family of four. With great care, C (who was 2 ½ at the time) tiptoed over to the hospital bed with a look of awe and anticipation on his face. His reaction when he saw his new baby brother?

“Mommy, he’s so cute!”

In that moment, a sense of calm and peace settled over me. I knew it would all be alright.

And it has been. My youngest, X, is almost 17 months and the transition to two boys, though fraught with challenges for ME, has progressed with surprising ease for my oldest son. Their relationship has truly blossomed in all the ways that I hoped it would. As I witness it each day, their friendship unfolding, my heart bursts with pride and awe.

The authenticity of their brotherly relationship, however, has not been without amusing obstacles. As my youngest discovers his own personality, we begin to face the normal battles for supremacy. They don’t notice it, and it’s completely without malice. But we do. For example, whenever one is getting an extra snuggle, the other zeroes in and takes his own rightful place on a second lap. Or when one is having a particularly yummy treat, he’d better be prepared to share, because what one has, the other must too. The oldest finds the youngest a wee bit noisy and struggles to keep his cool when he’s literally melting down. The youngest, by comparison, isn’t fond of his brother invading his space. He’s been known to swat him out of the way and wail in anger.

As time marches on, and we settle into a comfortable routine as a family of four, I’m struck by how quickly my youngest is growing up. In some ways, he seems more capable than his brother was at the same age. I suppose that comes from having an older example, one whom he looks up to and aspires to be. Whatever big brother can do, little brother will try to do too. It’s entertaining, and bittersweet. I wish he would slow down, stay my little baby, and not worry about keeping up. But if my suspicions are true, as he grows more capable, the age gap between the two will seem to diminish even more. My youngest will always be racing toward the oldest, wanting to do what he is, to be just like him. How different his experience will be because of it.

I remember a day, early in our adventure with two children; I was sitting on the couch with the baby cuddled close. C was watching us, but not intently. All was fine. And then, all of a sudden, he came over and very matter-of-factly said to me:

“You need BOTH your boys.”

And up he climbed up into my lap. It was a glorious, heart-filling moment. Because, indeed, he was right, I do need both my boys.

 

coffeecommbadge

Christine blogs at Coffees & Commutes. She is a wife, mother, and full-time communications specialist. On her blog she shares her journey in self-discovery and discusses what it means to be a working mom who’s struggling to find her place in life. As a reader, you’ll be invited to ponder issues like balance and finding joy in the ordinary. It’s a quiet, thoughtful place to pull up a chair, grab a coffee, and spend a minute just thinking about what it means to be really fulfilled.

 

 

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If you’re a mom of two, what is your experience like? Are your kids like Christine’s?

What do you love about having more than one child?

If you don’t plan on Number 2, would you care to share your reason?

What’s your own life like with a sibling when you were growing up?

Do you believe birth order has something to do with how kids are raised?

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Monday, July 12, 2010

It’s the right thing to do, even when it hurts

sleepingbeauty

Sleep training a baby has got to be one of the hardest things a parent has to endure. But in my experience, it was a necessary evil. And maybe that’s why I can now say that Little Miss has been a good little sleeper since just before she turned a year old. Yes, we bit the bullet and let her cry it out because neither of us were getting any rest in the evenings trying to put a stubborn child to sleep, and while I felt awful during the sleep-training process (I think my tears rivaled hers), it was the best thing we ever did with her. Yes, EVER.

At the end of her training, she finally started to sleep well and in 12-hour stretches. In the morning, a happier baby awaited us. It also gave us our nights back, where we had our life outside of the baby again. It’s not a coincidence that it was also the time I started blogging. As she slept, we were able to enjoy more impromptu date nights at home and cultivate our relationship. So yes, a sleeping baby is good for everyone.

However, there are moments of digression. It’s not uncommon that she whimpers around midnight but it often dissipates quickly as she soothes herself back to sleep. On rare occasions, her midnight stirring turns into a frenzy that demands the attention of a parent. But that parent is almost never me. Little Miss is a Jekyll and Hyde baby with us in the night, and of course, I would be the lucky one to get Little Miss Hyde.

If I’m the one to walk into her bedroom, her crying goes from terrible to gone in three seconds, which is great, but it’s what happens after that makes my mommy mojo fizzle. She is so elated to see me, she refuses to stay in her crib, and when I comply with her request to be picked up, she wants to stay attached to my side as we read, sing or just snuggle in the daybed in her room together.

She would wear a “this is awesome; mama’s here!” smile the entire time I’m there to accompany her incessant "mamamamamamamamamama” - cute the first 47 times, after which I desperately look for a mute button. But I can’t blame her; even she, at 20 months, knows our time together is limited, hence sacred, and every “mama” that elicits a response from me sends her into a tiny rapture. With each passing minute that I try to coax her back to sleep, the more awake she becomes, which is the exact opposite reaction expected. As I tire from sleep deprivation and decide to give up and leave her in her crib many, many, many minutes (sometimes over an hour) later, she goes back to being riled up but this time, she’s also angry that I am leaving. And so the crying that I went in there to quell starts all over again.

When her daddy goes in, most of the time he makes sure she stays in her crib. She’s less demanding with him so she stays in there as he rubs her back or talks to her to calm her, offers water, and he leaves a toddler quietly drifting back to sleep. And THAT is why he is on night watch – when he goes in, we all get the sleep we need.

While most people probably relish being the one to stay in bed, I have to admit, I’m a tad resentful of My Guy. I suppose I could take comfort in the fact that my inability to get her back to sleep stems from her favoring my presence over his, but the thing is, with a full-time job that affords me only two hours with her a day, I desperately long for any chance I get to be with her. I don’t mind being the one to wake from sleep to console her if that means I get to spend a few extra minutes to cuddle with my baby.

On the rare occasion that I do get to be in there with her, I can’t take my eyes of her. I study her features, admire her smile, inhale her laughter as we glide on the rocker together. In the quiet of the night, where it’s just the two of us, I memorize her face and her baby voice so it would last me the too-long hours I’m away from her. It’s often what I do at her bedtime - another routine that daddy does better – where I can barely tear my eyes away from her as I leave and shut her bedroom door behind me while My Guy reads her stories and brushes her hair. But on nights that I get to go in to settle an agitated toddler, it’s an indulgent treat – like devouring another piece of a decadent chocolate cake late at night even though you’ve already had dessert at dinner. You know you shouldn’t, but it’s so delicious, and YOU JUST CAN’T STOP.

As with most indulgences, it’s best consumed in small doses. And so when the need arises, My Guy soldiers on with his night duty, as I lay in bed awake with a heavy heart, wishing it was me in there instead. It’s the right thing to do, even when it hurts. Even if sometimes I am the one with the tears long after hers has abated. Sometimes I’m on the other side of the door, listening intently to her whispering to her daddy, often asking for mama. I never sleep while he’s in there with her. I wait until he gets back in bed, and I beg for every detail – What did she do? What did you do? And then what happened? Did she…? Was she…? Hoping that the details would bring me closer to her sweet face, her intoxicating scent.

But they never do.

Friday, July 9, 2010

Project Band-Aid

Little Miss, still at clumsy toddler stage, fell and scraped her knee on our walk one evening. The sting on her knee must have caused her to look down, when the mysterious scarlet that appeared took her by surprise. Apart from curiosity, there was no other reaction. When we reached home, I placed a regular Band-Aid that I found in the medicine cabinet over the affected area, and that was when she started to bawl. I noticed she stopped moving the afflicted leg, as if paralyzed by the adhesive bandage, and there was fear in her eyes. That’s when I realized that she must associate it with her shots at the doctor’s office, where it always ended in tears and a Band-Aid.

I reminded her that she could still move, that her injury didn’t really hurt, but saying, “You were walking just fine remember? You didn’t even cry after you fell” to a toddler is like trying to negotiate with my cats, “If you stop shedding, I’ll serve you real tuna for dinner every night.” Little Miss was inconsolable until I removed the little strip from her knee. Miraculously, she could walk again.

Knowing that scrapes, bumps and bruises are a rite of passage, I couldn’t just let it go. She may have won this round but she had to get over her fear soon. It’s the summer; the season for bare legs. Being far from graceful meant she would undoubtedly need a Band-Aid in the near future, and trying to coax her of it while she’s in pain would be impossible.

And thus began Project Band-Aid. Initially, I adhered a couple of strips to my arms to prove that they were harmless. Mere accessories. She wailed, thinking I was hurt. Attempt 1: Fail.

Next, I procured kid-friendly Dora the Explorer ones. When I showed them to Little Miss, she was fascinated. By Dora. I was getting close... But once she looked past the sheep’s clothing and spotted the wolf, she flailed and ran from me. Attempt 2: Fail.

At dinner one night, when I saw her pretend-feeding one of her stuffed animals before turning the spoon to her own mouth, it occurred to me that they would be my ally in helping her overcome her fear.  So this is what I did:

 

BessieBooBoo

 

At first, she kept pointing at the doll’s “wound” with consternation. But I convinced her that this doll, who we named Bessie together, was fine. I was cautious to not choose one of the Famous Five, her favorites, just in case it alarmed her to see them “hurt”. Bessie the doll-turned-thug wore her Dora face like a freshly inked tattoo, and Little Miss went from scared to impressed. That was when she asked for a Band-Aid for herself.

 

MissBooBoo

Attempt 3: Success!

Indeed, for every problem, there is a solution. If only they could be solved this easily each time. This round may go to me, but I realize that it won’t always be that way. For now, I will revel in this sweet victory. A tiny one, yes, but a victory nonetheless.

 

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I’m participating in Photo Story Friday and Give Me Your Best Shot.

Wednesday, July 7, 2010

Snapshot: Day in the life with a two-year-old boy {Guest Post}

Welcome to my Perspectives Series. No, it neither has a fancy button nor a linky (only because I really haven’t thought this one through).  What it does contain is a guest blogger whose perspective differs from my own. While we share a passion for our families and for writing, our priorities, responsibilities and situations are not the same. And it’s the differences I’d like to highlight here because I believe if we made the conscious effort to understand those with dissimilar backgrounds, we can better bridge the gap and consequently form a tighter community. (I admit, it also appeals to my voyeuristic tendencies.)

Today, I am honored to have Allison share her account as a mom to an adorable little boy. Allison is a slightly OCD momma (apparently you do have to eat M&Ms in pairs of matching colors) who blogs over at Alli ‘n Son. She’s a wannabe photographer, gourmet chef and highly creative woman, all rolled into one.

Please help me welcome her – leave a comment and take some time to visit her site, where I’ll be a guest blogger, offering my own take as a mom to a daughter – and why I wish I had a boy instead!



Snapshot: Day in the life with a two-year-old boy
by Allison @ Alli-n-Son

I’m the mother of a two-year-old boy. Scratch that, I’m the exhausted, overwhelmed, constantly moving, cautioning and boo-boo kissing mother of a two-year-old boy. Yup, that sounds more accurate.
When I first found out that we were having a boy, I was floored. Not because I didn’t think it was possible, but because I had no idea with to do with a boy. I come from a family of three girls, hubby is an only child, and most of my extended family are made up of girls. I could handle “sugar and spice and all things nice” but “snips and snails and puppy dog tails”? HELP!


EliNatureWalk2010College


As it turns out, I just kind of naturally fell into being the mother of a boy. I didn’t have any expectations, so I just kind of go with the flow. Change as he changes, find his interests and encourage them, whether that be arts and crafts or soccer and baseball. So far, it’s working pretty well, but it takes a lot of evaluating and compromise.

Take, for example, The Couch.


IMG_8787


The Couch is probably the kiddo’s most treasured toy. It serves as a cuddle zone, a trampoline, an egg (the kiddo pretends he’s a chicken and hatches out of pillows piled on top of him), a spring board, a reading nook, a crash pad…it goes on and on. I swear each day the kiddo comes up with some new way to play on it.

But it’s so much more than just a toy. It quintessentially represents what it means to be the mother of a boy. Because boys will try anything, anything, at least once. Actually, if he only tried it once, I’d be amazed. It doesn’t matter that the stunt of the moment could be dangerous. All that matters is that it’s fun, adventurous, and that there’s potential for trouble.

So of course, I find myself constantly weighing the risk for disaster against letting him explore and have fun. Hubby and I constantly disagree on this topic, but since I’m the stay-at-home parent, I get to call the shots most of time. Beside, how will he know if I let the kiddo stand on the couch while he’s at work? At least he’s not jumping on it.

And while he probably shouldn’t be climbing over the narrow space where the two couches touch, dangling carelessly three feet above the rug, at least he’s not trying to leap from couch to couch. So I let it go.
But when he’s laying on the back of the couch with the dogs, “sleeping”, it may seem innocent enough. Until that peaceful sleeping turns into rolling “out of bed” and over the back of the couch. Almost. I saw him just in time, and managed to stop the roll before it went too far. And that was the end of “sleeping” on the couch.

{For the record, hubby did warn that “sleeping” was not a such good idea, but I let the kiddo do it anyway. I guess sometimes I should listen to him. Just don’t tell him that I said that.}


Boys just don’t learn. I think they might be missing the fear sensor in their brains. Honestly, the kiddo will repeat the same daredevil stunts over and over, even if he gets hurt the first time. Or the 15th time. So I constantly have one eye on him at all times, giving stern looks of warning, springing into action at the nick of time, and generally weighing in on the possibility for disaster versus just letting him do what boys do best - testing boundaries, exploring, getting unbelievable dirty and enjoying life with an intensity unlike anything I’ve seen before. And thankfully, the occasional surprise hug that brings me to my knees with the emotion behind it.


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Someday I would love to have a daughter join our family, just to see what it’s like. Pony tails, skirts, shoes. But if by chance we are blessed with another son instead, I may have to invest in another pair of running shoes, just so I can keep up.




This is a Wordful Wednesday post.

Monday, July 5, 2010

A holiday of lemons, surprises and hearing loss

This was a rough weekend…for my ears. But it was worth it. We celebrated the 4th of July holiday with equal family versus adult play time, and while we hit a few snags, we still managed to relax, rejuvenate and enjoy ourselves. Here’s the celebration in pictures, brought to you mostly by the camera phone.

 

FAMILY TIME

RedWhiteBlue

Little Miss Patriotic in red, white and blue. We don’t usually have a thematic approach to the holidays but with these sandals, I couldn’t help it.

 

Emperor
The Emperor’s New Clothes musical - with vibrant costumes and setting, and lively music, this is a kids’ show that also appealed to the adults. But I was more enthralled by the Little Miss next to me, who was mesmerized, than by the song and dance on stage.

 

CaptiveAudience

She surprised us with how attentive she was, sitting through 69 minutes of a musical. She was so taken by the singing that she yelled requests at the stage, “Bus!” (Wheels on the Bus) and “Ee Ei Ee Ei O” (Old MacDonald).

 

FamilyAfternoon

After the show, there was ice cream, a carousel ride and The Children’s Museum, where she learned to excavate “dine-saw” (dinosaur) bones and shop in a just-her-size grocery store. The first thing that went into her cart? Milk, of course!

Naturally, busy days meant sleepy nights for the toddler. While she slumbered soundly, the adults came out to play.


ADULT TIME

Silversun Saturday evening

Not unlike the children’s show, with the colors and music, except MUCH, MUCH LOUDER. The Silversun Pickups concert was the beginning of the end for my hearing. It was a fantastic, high-energy show, but by the end of the night, when we retreated to a nearby bar with friends, we could barely hear one another from the ringing in our ears. “That show was brilliant!” “No, why would I bring detergent?”

The ringing was exacerbated the next night during the requisite 4th of July fireworks extravaganza. Having a toddler who sleeps at 7pm meant we weren’t able to enjoy the city’s spectacular show but fortunately, we had enthusiastic neighbors who entertained everyone in the five-block radius with a surprisingly elaborate (and illegal) fireworks display while we sat on the back porch with friends, feasting on homemade bacon-wrapped dates, Spanish potato salad and Sangria. We’re aware of the oddity of a Spanish-themed night for an American celebration but for what it’s worth, we did have watermelon - our feeble attempt to commemorate the occasion.

FireworksSunday evening

 

This was the highlight of our weekend. Yes, the picture isn’t great (that’s the camera phone for you) and no, I’m not talking about the fireworks. It’s what happened behind the scenes during the back-porch show. As our overzealous neighbors, who live across the alley from us (meaning, VERY CLOSE) shot off the loudest, most obnoxious fireworks that stopped and jumpstarted my heart many times throughout the night, our little girl, exhausted from her day at the show and the museum, SLEPT THROUGH EVERYTHING!

Every time the decibels hit levels that seemed like it would reach Canada, we whipped our heads around to watch the monitor, listening for Little Miss - her cries, her rustling. But there were none. Not a sound for the entire three hours of what sounded like a war zone (but prettier) in the city. We had planned contingencies for a toddler awakened and frightened by the noise.  But we never needed a Plan B.

It continues to amaze me how she consistently surprises us at every turn. Of course it’s not always peaches. When she awoke with a fever on Saturday morning, we had to forego our trip to the pool, but we more than made up for it the next day with our Independence Day excursions. When she slept through the fireworks, we were filled with wonder, both for our generous neighbors and their light show, and for the slumber that embraced her so deeply that it saved her (and us) from what would have been a harrowing night.

As parents we’ve learned many invaluable lessons in the past 20 months, but on this specific weekend, we realized that when life gives you lemons, you can add them to the Sangria and have a surprisingly wonderful time.

 

sangria

Cheers!

Friday, July 2, 2010

A tale of two pigtails

Little Miss does not want ANYTHING on her hair. No hair clips. No hair bands. Not even hats. And it’s exasperating. There goes the additional protection from the sun as recommended by the experts. Naturally, I turn on worried-mom mode now that there’s a new hysteria on sunscreen; turns out the experts recently reported that certain ingredients in what we’ve been conditioned by the experts to rely on FOR YEARS to protect us from harmful UV rays may actually be accelerating, not preventing, skin cancer. W.T.F.

Anyway, back to my original rant. You know, the more important stuff, like pigtails. Or rather, the lack thereof. Little Miss was born with a full head of hair, and I may have shuddered at the thought of all the pink that I may have to live with around the house, but I did harbor delicious daydreams of a little girl in pigtails riding in her red wagon or chasing iridescent bubbles. Because, really, I can’t think of anything cuter than a girl in pigtails. Maybe a little girl and her kitten sleeping together in a basket. But that’s it.

At brunch this past weekend, we managed to distract her long enough to get her hair up. She was so taken by the people and place that she had forgotten to defy us. For a brief (but wonderful) period throughout our meal, she was that little girl of my dreams. 

 

Pigtails1

 

Then it dawned on her that she looked cute (how dare we!) and off came the hair ties, and together with them my vision of perfection. I wonder what gave it away. Was it my incessant pleas for her to smile for the (camera) phone? (Which she does, by the way, complete with the fake smile summoned by saying “Eeeeee”.) I reached out for her hair again, and she stated very clearly, emphatically, “No.” It was an assertion. A choice. Her choice. I stopped when I realized that my pigtail frenzy wasn’t undoing a harm she’s causing herself, nor was she making a terrible mistake, a frequently cited reason for intervention; I was merely imposing my own preference on her. And it’s not right. As Sarah says about raising her son, “I can teach him, protect him, guide him, and love him. With that, I must respect his needs, his desires and his preferences as much I expect him to respect mine.”

Yes, that is a parenting wisdom for which I would like to strive. That is not to say that her decisions alone will dictate our relationship. There is a fine line between empowering and being rendered powerless. I just need to be better at distinguishing the two. For now, I will let her hair be, and I supposed I should even be proud that my Little Miss, barely 20 months old, is already her own little person.

 

Eee1 “Eeee…”

 

 

This post is part of Bigger Picture Moments. Click on the button, find out what it’s all about. Or you can read the other Bigger Picture Moments from this week here.

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