Monday, November 29, 2010

On the First Day of Christmas

Since Herb and I perform in the Reagle Music Theatre’s annual production of “It’s ChristmasTime” every year, which runs the first two weekends of December and which generally involves us hosting a cast party, we always put up our Christmas decorations on the weekend after Thanksgiving. And by “Christmas decorations”, I don’t mean just the Christmas tree. We transform the entire house into a Christmas wonderland, inside and out. The top of the piano hosts an entire Christmas village, complete with a carousel, children throwing snowballs, a swan pond, a trolley, a theater, and a cobblestoned footbridge. The mantelpiece is filled with greens and berries and glitter-adorned candles, with an array of nutcrackers standing at attention. We drape swags of greenery over the entryway, across the living room ceiling, over the banisters, and around the mirror in the front hallway. The sideboard is cleared of its usual array of wineglasses and candlesticks to make room for the manger and the Magi. The chandelier gets bedecked with festive red bows. White icicle lights twinkle from the eaves. Wreaths adorn every door. And of course, the stockings are hung by the chimney with care.

But the crowning glory is always the Christmas tree. We are among the diehards who refuse to give in to an artificial tree. The feel, the scent, the imperfections and variations from year to year just can’t be imitated by an artificial tree. So we made our annual trek to Seasons Four in Lexington to get the complete tree-picking experience. We began by grabbing an unused flatbed cart in the parking lot, plopping Ryan onto it, and then making our way through rows and rows of fragrant green trees until we reached the section with the hardy Fraser firs. I love the rich smell of the balsams and the dusty color of the blue spruces, but when you put your tree up as early as we do, nothing beats the longevity of a Fraser fir. So while Ryan attempted to eat the red berries that were rolling across the flatbed, Herb pulled out tree after tree and we evaluated each one for symmetry, fullness, height, freshness, and overall personality. We soon found a lovely tree that had a beautiful shape and was full without being too big around for our room, and I evicted Ryan from his throne on the flatbed so Herb could have the tree trimmed and wrapped for the trip home. While he was doing that, Ryan and I went to visit the alpacas and the baby goats at the back of the tree lot. Ryan was more interested in the other children who were feeding the animals than he was in the animals themselves, but once he was standing nose to nose with a little grey goat who licked his fingers hoping for a treat, he got a little more interested.

It was getting a bit chilly by then, so we went inside to warm up for a few minutes and to check out all the theme trees inside. Ryan’s eyes were like saucers as he contemplated tree after tree full of twinkling white lights and glittering ornaments. We even found a Sesame Street-themed tree featuring Bert, Ernie, Cookie Monster, Oscar, Big Bird, and of course, his buddy Elmo. But leave it to Ryan, even as we were checking out the Sesame Street tree, he looked over my shoulder and announced, “K! K! K!” (which means “clock”, his latest obsession). I told him that no, there weren’t any clocks in here, but then I peered into the corner where he was pointing and wouldn’t you know, there was a clock with a 6-foot wide face. So we stood in front of that clock for a while as his face lit up with the wonder that is usually reserved for seeing the full stockings on Christmas morning, or sitting on Santa’s lap.

Eventually we tore him away from the clock and headed back home to unload the tree. We weren’t sure how he’d react to all the chaos and temptation of decorating the tree, so we waited until he was in bed to put up the tree and start decorating it. I’ll admit it: decorating the tree is my very favorite part of Christmas. And I especially love our tree, because we created a very special tree all our own just before we were married. I was living in an apartment with a cat who would have decimated a Christmas tree, so we decorated his house together. I don’t remember exactly what inspired us, but we decided to do a bird-themed tree, using glass icicles and baubles, snowflakes, pine cones, and every kind of bird ornament we could find. We cover the tree with hundreds and hundreds of tiny white lights and don’t use any tinsel or garlands (I’m a tinsel girl who hates garlands and Herb’s a bead/garland guy who hates tinsel – it was a very convenient compromise). We have dozens of feathered cardinal ornaments that add splashes of red everywhere, with a few bright blue jays, a goldfinch or two, a couple of robins, and even a jeweled hummingbird adding a dash of color here and there. The result, in my opinion, is breathtaking and glorious:


The crystal snowflakes, baubles, and icicles move gently with the warm air currents, catching the light and adding a gentle, ever-changing glimmer to the tree.

The cardinals nestling cozily into the crook of a limb, the chickadees perched pertly on the tips of branches, the blue jays seeming to cock their heads and fix their dark eyes on the observer, the majestic pheasant, the graceful dove, the proud peacock, the goldfinch flashing its bright gold feathers, the owls peeking wisely and watchfully from their perches, all the birds bring such a sweet, natural, peaceful beauty to the tree.

And so our bird tree is once again the centerpiece of our Christmas d├ęcor. It is festive, elegant, simple, and beautiful. And I hope it still will be when we have to put the playpen around it to protect it from a curious one-year-old who is just a bit too fascinated by it for his own good.


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Thursday, November 25, 2010

What I'm Thankful for This Thanksgiving

Every Thanksgiving, I make a mental list of the things that I’m thankful for in my life. And the older I get, the more the things on that list have ceased to be actual “things” and the more they have become the people and situations that I’ve encountered over the past year. “I’m thankful I got a new car” and “I’m thankful I took that cruise” have turned into “I’m thankful that I’m happy at my job” and “I’m thankful that I had the chance to visit some old college friends”. So here is what I’m thankful for this Thanksgiving.

I’m thankful that all my basic needs are met. I’m thankful that I have a comfortable home, a full pantry, a reliable car, warm clothes, and the option to stay at home with my son instead of having to work full time. I’m thankful that my family has enough to share with others. I’m thankful that every once in a while I have the luxury of splurging on a nice dinner out with my sweetheart, or buying that pair of shoes that I don’t exactly need but just have to have, or getting the good brand of salad dressing or toilet paper or breakfast cereal instead of the lousy generic kind.

I’m thankful that I have an extended family that loves me and supports me. I’m thankful that I have a host of family members I can call on to babysit in a pinch. I’m thankful that I never have to dread an outbreak of family drama during the holidays. I’m thankful that my family-by-birth and my family-by-marriage enjoy each other’s company. I’m thankful that the pain of the recent and untimely death of my brother-in-law is slowly but surely being replaced with the joy of memories of the short time I knew him.

I’m thankful for my beautiful son, who reminds me every day that life is precious and awe-inspiring and miraculous and wonderful. I’m thankful for his inquisitiveness, his sunny disposition, his affectionate nature, and his cute dimples. I’m thankful that he gets his looks from his father and his temperament from me – not that my looks or Daddy’s temperament would be a bad thing, but I’m thankful that he is a perfect mix of me and my husband.

I’m thankful that I have a husband who loves me despite my flaws. I’m thankful that he is patient, thoughtful, generous, compassionate, romantic, kind, and forgiving. I’m thankful that he is a loyal husband, a generous provider, a wonderful father, a devoted son, and a caring brother. I’m thankful that he inspires me to find more of all those qualities in myself.

And looking back a little further than just the past year, I’m thankful that I had the courage, four years ago, to take my destiny into my own hands and take a leap of faith by signing up for an online dating service. I’m thankful that I met a few interesting people, dodged a few whackaloons, and collected enough stories of the good, the bad, and the ugly to write a book about my experiences. I’m thankful that even if no-one else ever reads that book, writing it was both a growing experience and a satisfying artistic outlet for me. But most of all, I’m thankful that those dating experiences brought me my wonderful husband, for whom I would gladly re-live every sweaty-palmed first date, every phone call from a whackaloon, and every awkward moment I endured in my dating life before my Prince Charming arrived.

Happy Thanksgiving to you all!

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Tuesday, November 23, 2010

I Am Woman, Hear Me Roar

Today, I am Superwoman. I am wearing so many hats that you can’t even see my head. I am mother supreme, I am master baker, I am prolific author, I am seamstress extraordinaire, and I am professional chanteuse. Fortunately, I am also an organizational whiz, otherwise I would never get everything done that needs doing today.

Ryan has been a bit clingy and whiny over the past few days, so he’s claiming a bit more attention than he otherwise might. And since he’s had a few babysitters lately and will be having a bunch more next week, I feel the need to give him extra cuddles and snuggles to reassure him that Mommy isn’t going anywhere. I want to be certain he feels secure and loved, even more so than usual. (Daddy would probably say I’m spoiling him a bit and he’s just fine – which of course he is – but that’s why babies have Mommies AND Daddies.) So instead of just letting him whine in his playpen for a few hours while I get other things done, I’m spending a lot more time playing with him, sitting and reading with him, and just generally keeping him company.

Next on the list is my one make-ahead item for Thanksgiving dinner: Parker House rolls. I love Parker House rolls. No, that’s not exactly true. I ADORE Parker House rolls. I could probably live for a week, quite happily, on nothing but Parker House rolls. And I have fond childhood memories of having Parker House rolls at family get-togethers like Easter, Christmas, birthdays, and of course, Thanksgiving. So since the pies are being contributed by various family members, I decided the one thing I’d make completely from scratch for Thanksgiving dinner (I’m not counting heating the veggies or gravy or even cooking the turkey or making the stuffing – there’s very little culinary finesse involved in those) would be a batch of fresh Parker House rolls. Making these rolls is not especially difficult, but it is time-consuming. And not just time-consuming, but time-dependent, since there are long pauses while the dough rises but when it’s ready, it has to be dealt with NOW! (Motherhood has prepared me well for that kind of demand, actually.) So as soon as Ryan went down for his nap, I went to work scalding and measuring and kneading. And providing that Ryan’s nap schedule cooperates (ha!), I should be able to get in the next step right before he wakes up from his nap and starts demanding his lunch.

And until that stage is reached, I have a few minutes to get my blog going. I often think about ideas for a blog entry at random times of the day or night, as something strikes me. Sometimes I even lie in bed at night, mentally composing the next day’s blog. (Sometimes I even remember them the next morning!) And then some days, I sit in front of a blank Word document and discover that my mind is just as devoid of ideas as the screen in front of me. Fortunately, most of the time all I need to do is mentally review the previous day and there’s something that Ryan did that is fertile material for a blog entry. And today was one of those days when I did have a nervous moment staring at the screen – but even while I was staring, my inside voice was reminding me, “You need to check the rolls! You need to finish that hem! You need to memorize your lyrics!” And I knew what today’s blog would be. So here I am, inviting all of you into the glorious chaos that is my life.

If by some chance I manage to finish this entry and the rolls aren’t ready for the next step and Ryan is still napping, I’ll have a chance to jump back into my role as seamstress. As many of you who know me personally are aware, for the past few years (with the exception of last year, when I was kind of busy with a new baby), Herb and I have performed in the Reagle Music Theatre’s annual Christmas production, “It’s ChristmasTime!” This is a wonderful show that I look forward to every year. Herb and I first performed in the show together when we were just dating, so it will always have a special place in my heart. But aside from that, it is a show full of wonderful performers who are also my dear friends, and it is a show full of wonderful Christmas music, both familiar and a bit less common. And it is a delightfully festive way to begin the Christmas season, both for the audience and for the performers. The interesting thing for the performers is that every year, the cast is a mix of new performers and cast members who have done the show for ten, fifteen, even twenty or more years. It’s a joy to us veterans to watch the newbies flounder but then find their feet, to recall our own moments of terror and feeling of unpreparedness, and to reassure them that no-one will notice if they sing the wrong words, and that if they forget where to go next someone will nudge them into the right spot.

But part of the challenge in having so many newcomers in the cast is that they all have to somehow get costumes. Reagle has a pretty extensive stock of costumes, but there is still a limited number of sizes to fit an unlimited number of various-sized bodies. Which means that there are always piles of last-minute alterations. A skirt to be hemmed here, a vest to be let out there, a zipper to be mended, a hook to be re-stitched, a pulled seam to be re-sewn. So after last night’s rehearsal, I found myself heading home with a stack of costumes needing little mends and tweaks. I spent last night taking my seam ripper to this and my needle and thread to that, digging through my sewing box for a length of fabric in the right shade of brown or a hook the right size to fit an existing loop. And this morning most of the pile was still remaining, so while Ryan is either dozing upstairs or curiously peering over the playpen wall to see what I’m doing, I’ll be continuing to sew up a storm until everything in the “to be done” pile is finally in the “done” pile.

The reason that I need to get it all into the done pile today is that we have one more rehearsal tonight, and I need to deliver everything to their rightful owners in case any more tweaks are needed. Which means that as well as finishing all my sewing, I need to polish up my own music. It’s amazing how much two years and having a baby can dissolve blocking and lyrics out of a person’s brain. But I have no doubt that a few more run-throughs and it’ll all be back in my head. (And if it’s not, I’m sure some of the 20-year veterans will nudge me back into the correct spot.)

Hm, did I remember everything? Oh wait – I forgot to put eating on the schedule. Oh well, I’m sure I’ll make up for any missed meals on Thanksgiving Day.

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Monday, November 22, 2010

Oh, I Love Trash

Ryan is fascinated with trash cans. This fascination first developed, not surprisingly, when he discovered our automatic kitchen trash can. When he grabs at it on his way past, it magically opens, and as he peers inside in amazement, it closes again. He is completely awed and mystified by this. He discovered he can make it open by waving his spoon at it. He often tries to dive in and rescue various items. (This is highly discouraged by his mother.) But this is not the only trash can in the house that holds him in its thrall.

The trash can in his bedroom is also fascinating in its own right. It doesn’t open and close on its own, but it’s short enough that he can see inside it and it’s lightweight enough that he can knock it over and explore its contents at his leisure. It tends to contain interesting things like cardboard clothing tags, used tissues, and the occasional plastic wrapper from a diaper pack. Sometimes it even has a sticker from the diaper wipes container. There is endless amusement to be found in the nursery trash can.

But I think his new favorite is the tall green plastic trash can in the basement playroom. It’s tall enough that he can’t see into it without standing on his tiptoes and leaning over the edge, but he can easily reach over the top to drop various things into it. And he does. I’ve rescued more things than I can count from that trash can: balls, rings, a toy phone, the Barbie jeep, innumerable spit rags, the occasional stuffed animal. Every time I empty that trash can I have to sift through the contents to make sure I’m not about to throw away something that wasn’t meant to be discarded. And he has as much fun rescuing things from that trash can as he does throwing things away. That trash can tends to contain unusually fascinating items like the cardboard and plastic wrapper from a pallet of soda cans, empty plastic bottles from pool chemicals, birdseed bags, and almost always at least one soda can. How could he possibly resist the temptation to dumpster dive with a treasure trove like that waiting for him?

And on top of all the fascinating treasures that he’s likely to find, the best part is the reaction he gets from Mom and Dad, whether he’s throwing away things that aren’t meant to be thrown away or retrieving stuff that isn’t meant to be retrieved. He can always count on one or the other of us diving at him with a loud, excited, “No!” And if we take out what he’s just thrown away, it becomes a game of him trying to throw it away again every time we retrieve it. And if we throw away what he’s just retrieved, it becomes a game of him trying to retrieve it again. He finds it as endlessly amusing as we find it endlessly frustrating.

But short of inventing a locking trash can (and don’t think I haven’t considered it), I think for now I’ll just have to settle for keeping my eye on the trash can in whatever room Ryan happens to be in, and for carefully checking the contents of every trash can every time I empty it. I’m sure this fascination will be replaced by another before long, and he’ll soon forget about the trash can game.

And in the meantime, at least now I have a theory about what happened to that pair of socks that went missing, and the toy hammer that seems to have disappeared, and the birthday card I was saving to go in his baby book that’s nowhere to be found…

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Friday, November 19, 2010

Toyland

Ryan is very creative when he plays. He plays with just about anything that’s handy – a saucepan, a spoon, a vacuum nozzle, an empty box, my feet, his own feet. But he also loves to play with his toys – sometimes in the way they were designed, and sometimes not. Plastic stacking rings can, of course, be stacked on their peg – but they can also but balanced on one’s head, dropped into a bucket, or have a ball balanced in them. Balls can be rolled and bounced as intended, but also climbed on, stuffed into various cubbies and crevices, and licked. (The licking thing is true about pretty much anything he can reach with his tongue, but semi-see-through balls are especially fun to lick, since crazy Mommy can easily be tempted to lick the other side, which is a source of endless amusement. But I digress.)

So a few days ago, I decided to capture Ryan playing with his toys on video. So here, for your entertainment, I present “Two Minutes of Toys!”

video


So now if anyone ever asks me what Ryan and I do all day long, I can show them this video and explain that this is what we do all day. Over and over and over and over again. This, times 30 times an hour, times 12 hours a day. With the occasional break for eating, napping, and diaper changes.

Have I mentioned lately that I have the best job in the whole wide world?


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Thursday, November 18, 2010

Just a Spoonful of Sugar

Spoons are wonderful things. Not only are they useful and functional as food transporters (and as drumsticks), but they are also useful and functional in extending one’s reach. They can be used to knock objects off of tables that were formerly out of reach! They can be used to explore objects on top of the countertop that cannot even be seen. Spoons can be used to poke behind the couch, knock books off the bookshelf, bang pots on the stovetop, and reach otherwise unreachable items on the kitchen table.

Ryan may not be short by any means in terms of the height of most children his age, but he seems to be extremely aware that the world was designed to be explored by someone much taller than he. Spoons, however, have minimized this problem. He has a long-handled plastic mixing spoon that he plays with in the kitchen, and until recently it served mainly as a drumstick – he used it to bang on pots, pans, the colander, the doors of the kitchen cabinets, and the shins of unwary passers-by. But then he discovered that he can use it to extend his reach and explore all kinds of formerly unreachable places.

The kitchen counter, for example. He can’t see what’s on top of the counter when he’s right next to it, and he can’t reach past the very edge of the counter with his bare hands. But give him his long-handled spoon and, like the tentacle of a curious octopus, he uses it to poke and prod and feel his way across the countertop, poking at a squishy loaf of bread, banging on the wooden side of the breadbox, clanging on the rim of the sink.

The kitchen table is also deliciously in reach with spoon in hand. When he’s strapped into his high chair next to the table, his reach is frustratingly short – he can barely touch the edge of the tabletop. But add a spoon into the equation and he can flap the leaves of the flower arrangement on the center of the table, knock down the collection of birthday cards like so many dominos, and make the salt and pepper shakers roll across the table and onto the floor with a satisfying clunk.

The music room is another place that’s especially satisfying to explore with a spoon. All those low piano notes that are just out of reach are back in play when you have a spoon. Strumming the guitar with a spoon is a new and exciting experience. And the tower of CDs next to the stereo that used to be just beyond his fingertips can all be knocked over with one swipe of the spoon.

Like most children in this day and age, Ryan has a large collection of playthings that are technological wonders. He has a play phone with keys that light up and play music and read the alphabet to him, he has a wheeled zebra that sings and makes animal noises at the touch of a button, he has a plastic car with an elephant sitting in it that trumpets and zooms across the room. And he loves all those toys, and plays with them for hours. But when it comes right down to it, sometimes he’s just as happy to amuse himself with an old plastic spoon.


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Wednesday, November 17, 2010

You Say It's Your Birthday

Today is my birthday. Two weeks ago, it was Ryan’s birthday. In the past week, two of my friends have had babies. At my last job, I worked in a group with about 20 people and five of us had birthdays in November. November is a wonderful month to be born in! And after carefully counting on my fingers, I’m thinking that Valentine’s Day might just have something to do with it. But I digress…

Birthdays! They’re something that Americans celebrate with great gusto. On your birthday, not only do your friends and family give you presents and good wishes and balloons and cake, but complete strangers do nice things for you. Restaurants offer you a discount, a free meal, or a special dessert. When I was in college, a few friends and I spirited my roommate off to NYC for the night and took her to dinner at a Chinese place. We pulled our waiter aside to let him know it was her birthday, and before we knew it, the entire waitstaff came back with a giant orange taper candle stuck into a scoop of lichee ice cream on a plate, rang a gong, and announced, “Happee burfu-day, An-na!”

I was once in line at the registry to renew my license and during a conversation I struck up with the woman in line behind me, mentioned that my license expired TODAY and immediately half the people in line turned to me and wished me happy birthday.

It’s kind of funny, when you think about it. What are people honoring you for? Being born? It’s not like you had all that much to do with the event. It would make more sense to honor your mom on the day you were born – after all, she did most of the work. You just kind of went along for the ride.

Or maybe they’re honoring you for surviving another year. Congratulations – you managed to go for another 365 days without being hit by a bus, or catching typhoid, or falling off a cliff. Have some cake! Nope, that doesn’t make sense either.

I guess it’s just nice to be recognized for making a contribution to the world, even if the contribution is nothing more than existing. So what have I done in the past year that was a contribution to the universe? I’ve raised a wonderful little boy who’s brought sunshine into many lives. I’ve tried to make my husband’s life happier. I’ve joined in celebrating the anticipated birth of my cousin’s baby and the anticipated wedding of my sister, and I’ve celebrated the actual birth and wedding. I’ve performed on stage and hopefully helped to bring some smiles to people. I’ve supported charities and causes that help those in need. I’ve smiled at tired-looking cashiers, waved harried drivers into a line of traffic ahead of me, and offered a seat to a stranger in church. I’ve laughed and I’ve loved and I’ve tried to give others reason to do the same.

Yeah, I guess I’ve done enough this year to not feel guilty about all the good wishes that people are sending my way. So thanks to you all, and happy birthday to me! Let’s see if I can make this year even more worthy than the last.

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Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Family Holiday Traditions

With the holidays rapidly approaching (what do you mean, Thanksgiving is NEXT WEEK??), the annual juggling of family traditions is at the forefront of many minds. Some families have deeply-ingrained, sacrosanct holiday traditions, others are more casual. But whatever traditions you grew up with and assumed that everyone shared, when you get married you discover differently.

Just figuring out who’s hosting Thanksgiving dinner may be a sticking point with some families. What do you do when your family always gathers at your mom’s house but your husband’s family always gathers at his Aunt Matilda’s house (which happens to be 300 miles away from your mom’s)? Do you kill yourselves having dinner at one home and then driving frenetically to the other for pie? Do you try to convince one of the families to move their celebration from Thursday to either Friday or Saturday? Do you play the newlywed card and insist that everyone come to your house?

What about timing? Are there appetizers beforehand or will that ruin everyone’s appetite? Is dinner served at 1pm or at 6pm? Do guests need to arrive late enough that they had time to watch the parade before leaving home, or do they need to leave early enough to watch the last football game in the comfort of their own living room? Do the hosts have a big enough living room to accommodate all the football fans? And are the non-fans then expected to clean the kitchen, or are they allowed to nap while the footballers lounge on the couch?

And then there’s the menu. You grew up on bread stuffing, your husband grew up on cornbread stuffing – so do you make both? Mashed potatoes or wild rice? Jellied cranberry sauce from a can or whole berry relish made from Grandma’s secret recipe? Pumpkin pie or apple pie? With whipped cream or without? Brine the turkey or baste it?

It seems like no matter what you decide on any of the above questions, someone’s not going to be happy. But then, change is hard. So sometimes it’s best to start a completely new tradition. Our family’s solution is to host Thanksgiving dinner ourselves. The troops are arriving at 1-2pm and dinner is scheduled for 4pm (assuming the turkey cooperates). The menu includes roast turkey, mashed potatoes and gravy, jellied cranberry sauce (with the ridges from the can still in evidence), peas, squash, creamed onions, rolls, and both pumpkin and apple pie. Anyone who can’t live without a particular dish that’s not on the menu is welcome to bring it. It might not be the exact family tradition that any of us grew up with, but it’s now officially OUR family tradition. And I know that a lovely time will be had by all – because, after all, it’s family, and it’s Thanksgiving. How can it not be lovely?

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Monday, November 15, 2010

On and Off, or, the Joy of Prepositions

When I was in 7th grade, my English teacher made everyone in the class memorize a long list of prepositions and recite them aloud. We got bonus points if we could blurt them all out within 20 seconds. I still remember long stretches of that list: aboard, about, above, across, after, against, along, among, around, at, before, behind, below, beneath, beside, between, beyond, by, down, during, except, for, from…(big blank space here where apparently I’ve lost some brain cells in the intervening years)…of, off, on, over, past, since, through, throughout, under, underneath, until, up, upon, with, within, without. And much in the same way that l m n o p in the alphabet song merges into the single complex letter “elemenohpee”, a number of the prepositions merge together into words like “alongamongaroundat” and “untilupupon”.

Ryan has another decade or so to go before he gets to discover that preposition list, but he’s getting a head start these days, particularly with the prepositions “on” and “off”. As I’ve mentioned before, he developed a fascination for light switches some time ago and as a result I repeat the words “on” and “off” to him all the time. Our morning ritual still includes waiting at the door of his room so he can flip the light switch while I announce, “Off!” And waiting again at the top of the stairs so he can turn the hall light “On!” And again at the bottom of the stairs to turn it back “Off!” And on and on. And every time, I carefully announce “off” or “on”. So I’m sure that he’s beginning to associate those words with a light turning off or on.

Although I’m afraid he might be a bit confused, because he’s probably also associating the words “on” and “off” with whether he’s flipping the switches up or down. And the added complication for that is that several of our lights are controlled by multiple switches, which means that flipping a switch down doesn’t necessarily turn the light off, and flipping it up doesn’t necessarily turn it on. I find that a bit confusing myself, and I know how light switches work.

And there’s still another wrinkle adding to the confusion: Ryan has recently discovered the art of putting something on the table and then taking it off the table, and I announce “on” or “off” as appropriate there, too. So as he learns to associate with word “on” with putting something on the table, will he also start to look around to see if a light just went on? And when he moves it off the table and I announce, “Off!”, will he be expecting the room to get darker?

But wait, it gets still more complicated. Ryan has learned to pull his own socks off, so we sometimes play the “on and off” game with his socks. He takes his socks off, I put them back on – all the while announcing, “Sock off! Sock on!”

When you think about it, the words “on” and “off” have an awful lot of meanings that don’t really seem to be related. What does extinguishing a light have to do with removing an object from atop another object, or pulling an article of clothing away from your body? But we explain all of those ideas with the word “off”. It’s amazing that children ever learn this crazy English language at all.

But I can’t think about that right now. I have to take off – Sesame Street is on!

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Tuesday, November 9, 2010

The Perks of Kid-Dom

Herb was working from home today, so we decided that the three of us would grab a quick lunch down the street at Friendly’s. It was the first time we’d ever actually ordered something for Ryan off the kids’ menu (it was just milk, but still), so it was the first time in a really long time that I’d looked at a kids’ menu. And I realized that adults are really getting the short end of the stick.

To start off with, Ryan’s menu was shaped like a video game controller. My menu was a boring rectangle. His came with a box of crayons. Mine came with silverware wrapped in a napkin.



The options on his menu were way cooler than mine, too. I glanced at his breakfast menu. Did you know that you can get pancakes with M&Ms in them at Friendly’s? Well, by “you” I guess I mean “Ryan”. They certainly weren’t an option on my breakfast menu. My coolest option was Eggbeaters.

We both ordered a glass of milk to start off with. His came in a glass with cartoon characters all over it. Mine came in a glass that said “Friendly’s”. Mine came with a boring, straight, clear plastic straw. His came with a large-bore, bendy, bright orange straw that turned blue when he sucked milk through it.

His dessert options were a lot different from mine, too. My options pretty much looked like this:

His generally looked more like this:

I’m the first one to admit that being a baby can be pretty tough at times. You can’t tell people what you want. You have no choice in what you eat or what you wear or what toys you get to play with or when you go to sleep. You have to put up with teething and diaper rash and occasionally sitting in your own poop. You often fall over without warning. Your hands and feet don’t always do what you want them to. It can all be very frustrating. But boy, when it comes to dining out, you’ve got it made!

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Monday, November 8, 2010

Give Me a Head with Hair

I managed to put it off for an entire year, but it was finally time for Ryan to get his first haircut. I think the thing that made me want to put it off was the fear that he’d suddenly go from looking like a baby to looking like a little boy. But since he’s so big he already looks pretty grown up, so how much older could he look? So we decided it was time.

I was concerned that he’d be too squirmy, so we waited until nearly naptime when he was pretty mellow, and we brought a nice warm bottle with us to keep him occupied and distracted. We brought him to Supercuts and there was no-one else waiting, so while we waited for one of the girls to finish the client she was working on, we let Ryan play in the waiting area and we took a few “before” shots:


I stroked his soft curls one last time, tucked the long strands behind his ears, and told myself that I’d save a few locks for his baby book. And then it was time to sit in The Chair. We knew he’d never sit still on his own, so I put him in my lap and we both got capes. His was much cooler than mine – it had elephants and monkeys and giraffes on it. Mine just said “Supercuts”.

He was interested enough in both his bottle and his own reflection that he was pretty cooperative at first. I was quite surprised that he didn’t try to crane his head around to see the comb and the shiny scissors that this strange woman kept waving around his head. But he was content to just sit and let her work – until the hairdresser at the station directly behind us turned on her blow dryer.


Ryan and a blow dryer are like a moth and a flame: he can’t take his attention away from it. So with Rosemary’s help, I managed to get him into a position where he could see the dryer and the hairdresser could still get at his head. When that got too difficult, Herb had the brilliant idea of turning on the hairdryer at our hairdresser’s station so his attention was focused ahead again. (Let’s all hope Ryan gets his brains from his dad.)

The hairdresser had to do a fair amount of chasing him around, but she was both patient and deft and miraculously finished the job without stabbing Ryan, me, or herself.

And there was my big little boy, looking indeed like a big little boy and not like a little baby. I miss the softness of those baby curls, but I love seeing my big boy with his big boy haircut showing off all his big boy skills, like walking and rolling a ball and opening doors and playing with trucks. His new big boy look reminds me that he’s not a little baby any more, and that I need to let him be more independent and make his own mistakes and learn from them. It reminds me that he can fall on his face or bonk himself in the head or drop something on his toes and he’ll be okay even though he cries. And hopefully he’ll remember and be careful the next time. But if he isn’t, I’ll be there to tell him he’s okay and encourage him to try again. Because that’s what big boys do.

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Friday, November 5, 2010

It's a Pillow, It's a Pet - It's a Pillow Pet!

Ryan has always been very tactile – he’s fascinated by things that are scratchy, or smooth, or shiny, or fluffy. We have a very soft giraffe-print blanket that he loves to snuggle in and rub his face on. So it’s no surprise that he adored the two birthday presents he just got that are soft.

One is a stuffed beaver, which is not only soft but has the added advantage of a tail which doubles as a convenient carrying handle. And it’s just the right height so that when I set it on the table at the bottom of the stairs, it’s exactly at Ryan’s eye level when he marches past. Which means he generally comes to a screeching halt in front of it, stares in its eyes for a moment, then buries his face in its belly. And then marches on, only to do exactly the same thing on his next circle past. It’s good for cuddling in the playpen, too. It has chewable appendages. And it’s a good transportable size.

The second soft present he got is something I’m sure we’ve all seen on TV. Sing the jingle with me, everybody: “It’s a pillow…it’s a pet…it’s a Pillow Pet!” That’s right, Ryan got an official Pillow Puppy. In “Pet” form, he nuzzles it nose to nose and tries to tuck it under his arm like a football. But in “Pillow” form, he wrestles it like he’s in a Roman arena:

video

Not only does he nuzzle it with his face, he gives it the full-body nuzzle, he throws himself on it, he rolls over it and makes it roll over him. He immerses himself in it. He hugs it, bonks it, drools on it, sits on it, hugs it, and stares at it. (I haven’t decided yet if this means we’ll definitely have to get a dog when he’s older, or that we should under no circumstances get a dog when he’s older.)
 
But for now, he’s contented to roll around and wrestle with his Pillow Pet instead of a real pet. And considering that the bruises he accidentally causes when he rolls around and wrestles with me were beginning to get considerable (and painful), I’m happy to relinquish my Wrestlemania role to Puppy. Although whenever he needs a wrestling opponent who actually wrestles back, I suspect that Daddy (who carries noticeably more muscle and is considerably more bruise-resistant than Mummy) will still be happy to oblige. Which makes every one of us – THE WINNAAAAAAAAAH!!!!

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Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Five Hundred Twenty-five Thousand Six Hundred Minutes

One year ago today, I woke up at 2am and thought, “Hm, November 2nd seems like a good day to have a baby.” I had awoken to the sensation of a tiny, pointy foot poking me in a place that no tiny foot should ever poke. I rushed to the bathroom and realized that my water had broken and that I was feeling my first contraction. I spent the next several hours lying awake in the dark, delighting in the feeling of impending motherhood, enjoying the last few hours of peace, knowing that my life as I knew it was about to change forever.

Eventually, Herb stirred and I whispered to him that today was the day. He woke up with a big grin on his face, then promptly scolded me for not waking him up right away. We both showered and dressed, then we called the doctor to give them a heads’ up. I did my best to follow the advice we had gotten at our birthing class to “labor at home as long as you can”, and walked around the house, pausing every now and then to cling to whatever random object was handy (wall, refrigerator, filing cabinet, husband) and breathe through the contraction. The contractions were quite short, but they were close enough together that we decided it was probably time to head for the hospital. Herb took one last photo of pregnant me, and as he tucked me into the car, I announced, “I want an epidural.”

We left the house at about 5:30, and as we drove along the Charles River, the full moon was still glowing low in the sky as the sun was coming up, and a lovely acoustic version of the song, “Hallelujah” came on the radio. Herb and I looked at each other and smiled, both feeling that this was the perfect moment of peace.

We arrived at the hospital and walked across the street. We almost made it across between contractions, but a big one hit just as we reached the sidewalk, and I remember clinging to the pole of the “Pedestrian Crossing” sign and laughing to myself as I wondered how many times that sign had served the same purpose. Most of the rest of the process of settling in to the hospital is a blur, although I do have a distinct recollection of Herb telling the nurse, “She wants an epidural.”

I remember being both surprised and relieved that placing the epidural was not painful, and hardly even uncomfortable. I remember being thankful for my soft, cuddly giraffe blanket over my legs. I remember being even more thankful for my soft, cuddly husband by my side. I remember being surprised when they told me it was already time to push, and I remember being surprised at how little time passed between that moment and hearing the doctor announce, “Congratulations, it’s a boy!” I remember watching the neonatologist look Ryan over carefully, and hearing him recite a litany of, “Five fingers, five fingers, five toes, five toes, two ears, two eyes, two nares, one mouth, two nipples…”. I remember concentrating very hard on looking at Ryan once I heard the doctors who were still loitering around my, ahem, undercarriage ask for sutures.

And most of all, I remember finally holding my son in my arms for the first time, with Herb’s arm around both of us, gazing intently with love at this beautiful, tiny, new life that had entered our lives.

Wasn’t it just yesterday that all that happened? I blinked once and my tiny, helpless baby is suddenly a big, grown-up boy, marching around the house, exploring everything he sees, figuring out how things work, learning new things every day, developing a sweet, stubborn personality all his own. Happy first birthday, Ryan!


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