Friday, May 27, 2011

Mr. Toad's Wild Ride, or, The Joys of Pregnancy Hormones

Today being the unofficial beginning of Memorial Day weekend, this morning my husband and I were both looking for links and music to post on Facebook in honor of our military heroes. You know, emotional music and pregnancy hormones are a very volatile mix. My husband found a beautiful rendition of “Here’s to the Heroes” sung by a boy soprano and while I was listening to it, he posted one of the most poignant (and one of my favorite) sections of Lincoln’s Gettysburg Address, and between the two, I of course dissolved into a puddle of tears.

Now, it seems to me that I should get a pass on this one, because the poignancy of those words combined with that glorious music is enough to make the hardest heart a bit softer and to bring tears to the ears of the most unemotional among us. But I will readily admit that these days I am moved to tears by much less than this. In fact, I can be moved to tears by an insurance commercial, or a toilet paper commercial, or even the occasional car commercial. Of course, I can also be moved to tears by the cap of a new gallon of milk that won’t tear off, or by an unsuccessful attempt to tie my own shoelaces, or by a blob of gunky toothpaste in the sink.

Occasionally, the tears have no known cause at all, like a few days ago when we were in the car and my husband suddenly noticed that I had tears pouring down my cheeks and asked what was wrong. “Nothing,” was the sobbed reply. “Are you sad?” “Yes.” “About what?” “Nothing!!!” followed by more sobs. And it was perfectly true. I just suddenly felt absolutely miserable – about nothing at all. All the emotion was there but none of the backing reason.

Fortunately, the tears are often followed by laughter as I know how ridiculous these outbursts are. Logically, even when my hormones tell me I’m miserable, I know that I have no reason to be sad. Knowing that you’re not miserable and yet feeling miserable is a very disconcerting sensation. It’s a strange feeling that I suspect cannot be fathomed by anyone who hasn’t been through it. And it brings a kind of giddiness in its wake that is equally unfathomable.

I am grateful that I have a husband who is able to roll with the punches and not take my emotional outbursts overly seriously – and yet, he takes ME seriously. He never minimizes my feelings or dismisses them; he accepts that they are real, even when they are baseless. I appreciate that he doesn’t need to completely understand how I feel in order to allow and even support me feeling that way. He just hops right along for the ride. And that’s why I love him.

Bookmark and Share

Thursday, May 26, 2011

I Am a Mom

I’m guessing that it’s not news to anyone who’s ever read my blog before that I am, in fact, a mom. But I feel the need to announce it, because I just got my official Mom Street Cred: I bought a minivan.

When my husband first brought up the idea of trading in my beloved Honda Civic sedan for an SUV or minivan that would actually hold a double stroller in the trunk and accomodate two car seats plus adult passengers, I was terrified. Despite the fact that I learned to drive on a huge Plymouth Gran Fury station wagon that seated about 12 people, since then I’ve only driven tiny compact cars. My first two cars were Honda Civic hatchbacks and even my current sedan was smaller than most. The thought of driving something as big and heavy as an SUV or a minivan filled my heart with fear and trembling. But I agreed with him that upsizing was a necessary evil, so we both started doing our research.

The thought of driving a van for the first time on unfamiliar roads with a car salesman yammering at me from the back seat brought me to tears. So wisely, my husband suggested that we rent a minivan for an upcoming weekend trip, to let me get a feel for driving a bigger vehicle without a stranger watching me. By that point, we had eliminated SUVs as having too few seats and being too high off the ground, and were seriously considering the Honda Odyssey minivan, both because it got excellent ratings in all the reviews we could find and because the familiarity of a Honda cockpit was very comforting to me. So my personal research department (AKA my wonderfully patient husband) searched all over town to find someplace that would rent us an Odyssey for the weekend. No luck, but he managed to come up with a good deal on a Kia Sedona, so I agreed that any kind of minivan would be a useful experience, and he picked up the Kia and brought it home, then had me drive it to his sister’s house, a very familiar journey.

Pulling out of our street onto the main road was probably the most nerve-wracking part of the trip. I was surprised at how high off the ground I felt – it was like driving my own car sitting in a lawn chair on the roof. But as I got off the city streets and onto the highway, I was surprised but relieved to find that it didn’t feel as ponderous or heavy as I’d expected. In fact, it had more pep than my sedan. The only time I had any sense of the weight of the van was when I was making a tight turn at a high speed. I had another minor nervous moment when I had to back the beast out of a parking space at a busy highway rest stop, but even that was more manageable than I expected. I ended the weekend confident that I would be able to survive, and possibly even enjoy, driving a minivan. (The satellite radio tuned to the Broadway station might have contributed to that impression.)

That feeling was confirmed a few days later when we found a 2008 Odyssey at a dealership and took it for a test drive. As expected, the familiar Honda cockpit helped to put me at ease, and since we had our son in the back seat, he helped to distract the salesman a bit and I could concentrate on my driving. We took the car on the highway and on some back roads so I could get a feel for how it handled under various conditions. I even turned around in a parking lot and laughed when I realized that this big beast had a tighter turning radius than my little sedan! I found that very comforting.

Then last night, we went to a dealership that had a number of Odysseys on their lot that fit our criteria: right year, right body type, right mileage, right features, and of course, right price. One of them had more bells and whistles than most, even the backup camera that had originally been on our “must have” list but that we’d been unable to find in any other vehicles at other dealerships. The sticker price made me catch my breath a bit, until my husband reminded me that the “online” price (and the one we would be paying) was considerably less than that. (Of course, that also reminded me of how much I hate car dealers’ deceptive and manipulative selling tactics, but that’s another whole blog entry.) Our wonderful saleswoman, Luda, had us take it for a test drive, and instead of yammering on about how wonderful the car was, she chatted with my son in the back seat (and let him play with the DVD remote, which endeared her to all of us immediately) and let the car sell itself, which it did.

My husband and I had a little chat in the waiting room and agreed that this was the car we wanted, and within an hour I had signed, initialed, and gotten copies of a whole stack of paperwork promising that this would be my very own mom car. So today I go to the bank to have them cut the biggest check I’ve ever written and then back to the dealership to drop it off and sign, sign, sign my life away on another stack of paperwork. And then just wait a day or so for them to get new plates and detail the car to ensure that new car smell, and she’ll be all mine!

And yes, she is definitely a “she”. I had joked to my husband on the way to see the car that I was thinking of naming it “Stan the Van”, but this car is much too elegant and ladylike to be a Stan. In fact, I was so grateful to our saleswoman for being so helpful and unpushy that I’m thinking of naming it in her honor: Ludmilla, or Millie, for short. I just hope that she and Gustave get along.

Bookmark and Share

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Do You Know What I Know?

Like most toddlers, Ryan is always happy to show off his new tricks to anyone who’s willing to watch (or listen). Within the past few days, he’s had both a babysitter and his grandmother, Bammy, to show off to, and he took advantage of it both times. He ran around like a crazy boy, putting a box on his head and marching around, demonstrating his ability to put his potty seat on the potty without help, pointing out each and every wall in the room and proclaiming, “Wall!”, and breaking a few eardrums demonstrating his understanding of both the concept and the word “echo”. He’s very proud of what he’s learned.

But he doesn’t always need an audience. Sometimes he’s perfectly content to be his own audience. Yesterday morning, I woke up to a quiet recitation of his entire vocabulary coming from the other end of the hall. He had woken up and was entertaining himself (and unbeknownst to him, me) by going through his whole repertoire, just like a little parakeet. Uh-oh. Ball. Pooh. Potty. Wall. K (clock). Cuckoo. Pee! (“Pee” is always said with an exclamation point. He is a boy, after all.) Book. Mama. Poop! (Also always said with an exclamation point. Still a boy.) Vroom. Moo. Baaa. Neigh. Woo woo (that’s a train whistle). Woof woof. Up. Down. All done. Potty. (That one is apparently worth saying twice.) What. Why. Bye-bye. Bum. Eye. Bear. (All right, we’re from New England: he says bayah. Whattaya gonna do?) Rar. (That’s his lion/tiger/bear/dinosaur noise.) Ah-boom. Ah-ah-ah-choooo. Balloon. Echo! (Said in either an ear-splitting screech or a barely audible whisper, never anything in between.) Bee. Blue. At that point he had apparently exhausted himself and went back to sleep for 20 minutes or so, then woke up and did it all over again.

I love that’s he not only aware of all the new discoveries he’s making, but also that he’s just as delighted by them all as I am.

Bookmark and Share  

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Pregnancy: The Ghost of Christmas Future

I am writing this entry at three o’clock in the morning. No, I’m not up with a sick child. No, I wasn’t out partying and am just getting to bed. No, I didn’t have a four-hour nap yesterday. No, I’m not even having trouble sleeping because I can’t get comfortable. Yes, I’m exhausted. But one of the joys of pregnancy (for me, anyway), is periodic bouts of insomnia.

It seems to me that a lot of the symptoms and discomforts of pregnancy serve to prepare a woman for having a small child. Pregnancy insomnia is practice for those long nights when the baby just won’t stop crying unless you’re walking up and down the hall with her in your arms, or for those nights when he wakes up every hour on the hour and wants to be held. Those funny leg twitches you get in the middle of the night give you practice jiggling a colicky baby on your knee for hours on end. Not being able to find a comfortable position to sit in gives you practice for finding the exact position in which the baby will finally relax and stop crying.

But above and beyond all those practice skills you’ll need in a few months, there are lots of discomforts that give a mother sympathy for a baby. What are the biggest complaints of a small baby? Gas and diaper rash. The boxes of Prilosec and giant bottle of Tums on my nightstand are proof that I have sympathy for any digestive issues, and between the hemorrhoids and the constipation, you’d better believe I have sympathy for any disorders of the “undercarriage”. Even the difficulties of eating – like feeling starved, but just not wanting to eat – are often echoed from pregnancy to newbornhood.

So instead of letting myself get frustrated at the heartburn, the soreness, and the exhaustion, I’m trying to think of everything the new baby will be going through and trying to fix this moment in my mind to give me patience when he or she is dealing with upset tummy, sore bottom, and tired crankiness.

And then I’m going to get myself some warm milk, sit in the rocking chair, and turn on some soft lullabies. After all, it works for the baby.

Bookmark and Share

Monday, May 16, 2011


For the past few weeks, Ryan’s vocabulary has been absolutely exploding. He picks up a new word or two almost every single day. Of course, a few of those words are merely mimicking something he hears someone say, but with no understanding of the meaning. For example, we tried to get him to say “thank you” the other day and got something that sounded vaguely like “takoooooo”, but he didn’t repeat it and he didn’t say it in the right context. But some words he grabs onto and relishes and uses every chance he gets. When I see him begin to play with his food instead of eating it, I often ask him, “Are you done?” and now he’s taken to announcing “Done!” whenever he’s finished with his dinner, or when his sippy cup is empty, or even when he’s ready to get out of his high chair. He obviously understands what “done” means. But my favorite new use-it-all-the-time word that he’s picked up is “wow!”.

I’m not always sure exactly what he’s referring to, but he seems to understand that “wow” means you’re looking at something new, or interesting, or different. And he often repeats it many times in succession, often with increasing (or at least varying) intensity or inflection. “Wow. Woooowwwww. Wow! WOOOWWWW!” In the morning, when he wakes up, we often hear a few quiet wows, apparently as he contemplates the excitement and adventures of the new day. Saturday night, we were visiting friends in New York and stayed in a hotel room with Ryan’s porta-crib beside our bed, and we woke at 3:45 am to the sound of a small voice excitedly (if somewhat drowsily) exclaiming, “Wow. Wow. WOW. Wow! Wooooooowwwwwww.” I’m not certain if he was even truly awake or not, but I can only assume he had just had an amazing dream.

The speed with which his vocabulary is growing is incredible to me, and the fact that the vast majority of his words are clearly understandable and used in the right context makes me shake my head in wonderment. That little brain is absorbing and learning at a rate that is just astonishing. His whole world is opening up as he learns to talk about it, to express his thoughts to the rest of the world, and to communicate with other people.


Bookmark and Share

Friday, May 13, 2011

Pardon Me, I Think I Got Some Quirk on Your Shirt

I knew that my husband Herb was the man for me when I discovered that instead of rolling his eyes at my quirks, he merely laughed and humored me about them. When he discovered my complete lack of a directional sense, he bought me a GPS. And when he discovered that I name my cars, he shook his head, laughed, and admitted that his sister does, too.

I bought my first car when I was 20. It was a wee, peppy, brownish-red hatchback that I dubbed Tess. She served me well for many years and when she finally succumbed to high mileage and body rot, I traded her in for a brand-new, wee, peppy, bright blue hatchback named Willy. Willy also served me well for many years, and eventually succumbed, not to high mileage (although he was up there), but to my need for a “grown-up” car. He was supplanted by a graceful, elegant, sleek, burgundy sedan named Marguerite, which was the car I was driving when I met my husband.

Marguerite was actually a major contributor to my receiving the family seal of approval, at least from my niece and nephew, who were about 12 and 10 at the time. At one of our early meetings, they shyly asked me if my car had a name, and were surprised and delighted when I introduced them to Marguerite. They giggled and told me that when Uncle Herb got his car, he refused to give it a name so they named it for him. In keeping with his (Uncle Herb’s as well as the car’s, that is) stodgy nature, and inspired by the license plate bracket advertising “Smith Motors”, they dubbed his car Mr. John Smith. And of course, after we were married, they informed me that Marguerite was now Mrs. John Smith – although she still goes by Marguerite socially.

After 13 years and well over 200,000 miles, Mr. John Smith, like an elderly pet, was beginning to cost more for maintenance and repairs than it was worth for the resulting increase in lifespan, so (unlike with a pet), we immediately began to look for a newer model. And just yesterday, Herb brought home a beautiful, sleek, suave, three-year-old, European model of elegance, having left Mr. John Smith behind to begin his next life as an ashtray. I had already claimed naming rights, assuming that Herb had no interest in bequeathing a suitable moniker on the new arrival, even going so far as to tell my sister-in-law that although I had loosened him up considerably in our three years of marriage, convincing him to name a car was beyond even my considerable powers of persuasion.

So as soon as he pulled into the driveway in the new car, I announced that he looked like an Angelo. Herb shook his head and laughed – and then informed me that he couldn’t possibly be an Angelo, because he’s German, not Italian. And he promptly suggested the name Dieter. I objected that Dieter made me think of the old Saturday Night Live sketch with the creepy “touch my monkey” guy, which immediately led us both to suggest “Hans or Franz!” – which we also just as promptly vetoed. After throwing around a few more German names, one or the other of us came up with Gustave (which makes us both think of the brilliant composer Mahler), and we agreed that the car was, indeed, a Gustave.

Who knew that my quirk would finally rub off on him? I know that he’s still just humoring me, but the fact that he was willing to jump right in and participate in my quirk makes me very happy. Now if only I could get his sense of direction to rub off on me a little…

Bookmark and Share

Thursday, May 12, 2011

In Theory and In Practice

For some reason, my husband and I were discussing Yogi Berra quotes the other day, and we agreed that one of his best is, “In theory, there’s no difference between theory and practice. In practice, there is.”

In theory, I love being pregnant. Bringing a new life into the world, feeling a baby grow and move inside my body, watching my own body change and ready itself to sustain a new life – it’s amazing and humbling! In practice, being pregnant can be pretty miserable. Nausea, heartburn, constipation, headaches, incontinence, mood swings, hemorrhoids, itching in places that should never itch, swollen ankles, skin turning dark in weird places, stretch marks, skin tags – it’s amazing that any woman volunteers to go through it more than once.

But here I am, one of those women who voluntarily, intentionally, and determinedly is going through it a second time. And if you’re wondering why, after that list of symptoms, rest assured that at times I wonder why myself. But here’s the answer that I come up with every time: pregnancy may be nine months of misery interspersed with moments of joy, but motherhood is a lifetime of joy interspersed with moments of misery. From that first moment in the hospital when they laid Ryan on my chest and I looked into that tiny, perfect face, I forgot about any of the sickness and pain I’d gone through to reach that point. And even now, as I’m in the midst of the unpleasant symptoms, I can look forward to the moment when I meet this baby for the first time and know that once again, all the memories of my current discomfort will melt away.

Everything is always easier in theory. It’s predictable, it’s fixable, it’s all laid out and nothing is unexpected. But in practice, life throws you curve balls. The symptoms that responded to medications last time don’t respond this time. I have symptoms I never had before. My expectations of what I’d encounter and how I'd deal with it are completely off target. With a second pregnancy, theory gave me a false sense of security about what I was in for, and practice deflated my confidence and made me start all over again from the beginning. But with a second pregnancy, I also have the foreknowledge of exactly how amazing motherhood will be – with the first pregnancy, I only had the theory, but with this one, I have the practice. And in this case, the practice is so much better than the theory!

Bookmark and Share

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

We Should Have Named Him Tenzing

Ryan is reaching the age that I refer to as the “mountain goat” stage. He will climb on anything he can reach. I’ve caught him with his foot over the top of both the crib rail and the playpen fence, about to sling himself over. I had always assumed that he jettisoned his comforter, blanket, and stuffed animals from his crib every morning because he was bored; now I realize he was just creating a landing strip for his Great Escape.

Sofas and chairs are no longer objects to sit on, but objects to be scaled. He will pull a kitchen chair across the room so he can stand on it and reach things on the counter. I am convinced that it’s only a matter of time before I leave the room for 30 seconds and come back to find him perched on top of the refrigerator. No longer does he merely climb on the seat of the sofa, but he pulls himself to the top and tightrope walks across the back. I even caught him standing up in one of the office chairs and pulling himself up and over the back.

He’s discovering new purposes for all his toys: the ramp he used to roll balls down is now a stool that gets him high enough to dive over the side of the playpen. The wooden mailbox, the toy trains, even the small upholstered chair are all merely stepping-stools to freedom these days. The ride-on zebra and the wheeled cooler he used to push around the room are now mountains to be climbed.

And objects need not be inanimate to be climbed. He is just as happy to climb onto the back of the couch by standing in my lap and climbing up over my head and shoulders as he is to climb directly onto the back. (My hair makes an excellent hand-grip.) He’ll even grab me and shove me where he wants me to be so he can scramble up my body like a kitten and reach a light switch or a cupboard or whatever intrigues him that’s otherwise out of his reach. If I am ever foolish enough to sit on the floor of his playpen to play he immediately steps on whatever body part is handy and clambers up and over me to get over the wall.

It’s a good thing that the weather is getting nice enough that we can visit playgrounds often. Hopefully he’ll burn off much of his need to climb by scrambling up ladders and stairs and by his constant attempts to walk up the slide from the bottom. He happily pulls himself up onto play horses and cars that are intended for older, taller children. He gladly accepts the challenge presented by any climbing area, or in fact any structure that can be climbed, whether intended as a climbing area or not.

Eventually, he’ll either discover some other mode of exploration and leaving daredevil climbing behind for a while, or at least he’ll grow tall enough that he won’t need to climb as much to get into the trouble he’s seeking. But until then, my reflexes are becoming impressively sharp. I guess that’s one of those unexpected bonuses of motherhood.

Bookmark and Share

Tuesday, May 3, 2011

Talk To Me

My son Ryan is reaching the age where he can both understand and speak quite a few words. It opens up a whole world of communication between the two of us. Often, this communication is very helpful. For example, when he’s starting to feel sleepy and he’s ready for a nap, either I’ll ask him if he’s “ready to go up?” and he’ll start up the stairs toward his room, or he’ll announce “up, up, up!” to let me know it’s naptime.

Sometimes it’s helpful but a bit embarrassing. When he has a dirty diaper, he’s taken to proclaiming, “Bum!” to let me know. Helpful, but embarrassing, at least in public. And, being a boy, of course another of his new favorite words is “pee”, which he uses to point out the toilet every time he walks past a bathroom, but which he also uses to announce to anyone in the house whenever Mommy goes to use the bathroom. It’s not so bad when Daddy is the only other one home, but when we have guests it becomes a bit of an overshare.

Sometimes his newfound conversational skills are just the tiniest bit too limited. Every afternoon as I bring him downstairs from his nap, as soon as he sees the front door he requests, “Ball! Ball! Ball?” and then gets frustrated because he doesn’t understand my explanation of “after lunch” or “first we have to put your socks and shoes on”. I’m hoping that he’ll begin to understand the words “wait” and “later” very soon, but for now the poor kid gets apoplectic trying to convince me to take him outside to play ball when all I want to do is put on his shoes before we go outside.

But even with his conversational limitations, the fact that we now have give-and-take conversations where we both obviously understand each other is amazing to me. He happily complies with requests for a kiss or a hug, or to bring me a toy, or to throw something in the trash, or to show something to Daddy. Instead of merely pointing and grunting when he wants something, he can now often specifically ask for something that’s out of reach, like a book or a ball or a teddy bear or a pillow. He’ll even pick out a video by the picture on the cover and bring it to one of us, telling us which one it is by announcing “Pooh!” or roaring like the Lion King or making a monkey noise like King Louie in the Jungle Book.

But I’d better cut this entry short – I hear a small voice from the other room announcing, “uh-oh”…

Bookmark and Share