Thursday, July 28, 2011

My Body Is Mocking Me

Today marks the official two-weeks-to-go point of this pregnancy, and I couldn’t be readier. When I got close to the end of my pregnancy with my son, I really didn’t know what to expect, and I was assuming that I wouldn’t deliver until my due date or even later, so I wasn’t really watching for signs at this point. I was actually very surprised to wake up a week and a half before my due date because my water had broken and I was having contractions. But with this baby, I’ve been convinced all along that I’ll go early, so I’ve been eagerly looking forward to any and every sign of impending delivery.

With my son, I wasn’t aware of when he turned head-down, it wasn’t obvious when he dropped, I had almost no Braxton-Hicks contractions, my cervix wasn’t dilated at my last doctor’s appointment, and my water broke right when my contractions started. I really didn’t have much advance warning at all. It was just BOOM! Heeeeeere’s labor! But with this pregnancy, I could tell you exactly the day that the baby turned and dropped. I’ve been having Braxton-Hicks for a number of weeks and today I’ve been having them all day long, about half an hour apart. (I know they're Braxton-Hicks because they're painless - whoever thought I'd be WISHING for pain??) And I was just over 1cm dilated at last Monday’s appointment. I think my body is mocking me for all my expectations.

My husband has been warning me all along not to get my hopes up for an early delivery. He’s kept reminding me that if I expect to go into labor two weeks early and I don’t, I’ll be horribly disappointed. Whenever I tell someone, “I have two weeks to go, but I think it will be less than a week,” he says, “It’ll probably be in three weeks.” And he’s probably right. Even if he isn’t right, he’s wise. Because that extra week will seem like an eternity. An eternity of acid reflux, full bladders, and waddling.

So I guess I’d better just suck it up and plan on being in one piece for three more weeks. You hear that, body? Three more weeks! I admit it! This baby isn’t coming early, it’s coming late! So I’ll just have to wait for it.

I just hope my body isn’t wise to reverse psychology.

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Sunday, July 24, 2011

Hero Worship

One of the delightful things about childhood is hero worship. It starts with toddlers and goes all the way through the teen years. For teens and tweens, it’s likely to be a star athlete, or a famous movie actor, or a popular musician. The hero worship takes the form of posters on the bedroom wall, collecting stats or albums or DVDs, and reading articles online and in teen fanzines. It might even include imitating the hero’s haircut or style of dress. The kid would love to grow up to be as famous, rich, and talented as his or her hero, but they know that’s not likely.

Younger kids, ages 5 to 10 or so, are more likely to pick a hero they actually know. At this age, the hero worship is in the form of a crush, and can be on someone either the same gender as or a different gender from the child. My teenage niece, Kayla, works at a sports camp for kids, and has become the focus of hero worship of a 7-year-old boy in her class. He chooses which game to play each day based on which group she’s leading, and generally idolizes her. When I was in high school, I was a library page, and the 5-year-old daughter of one of the librarians chose me as her hero. She followed me around, trying to do what I did, flip her hair like I did, walk like I did. She told her mother how byooooo-tiful I looked every day, with my pretty hair, and my pretty clothes. In both cases, the kids mooned over us heroes, and wanted to be with us and be like us. They yearned to grow up just like us and to have all the wonderful confidence and independence that we had (in their eyes, anyway).

But the most fun hero worship to watch is that of toddlers. Their hero worship tends to be centered on a family member, and my son Ryan is no exception. He has two big heroes: his Daddy, and his cousin Troy. His hero worship is mainly manifested in unrestrained glee any time he’s with either of them. His face lights up like a Christmas tree when Daddy gets him out of bed in the morning, or when he hears Daddy coming down the stairs after work, or when Daddy comes out of the study after having been home but frustratingly unavailable for a few hours. Ryan gets so excited that he can’t even run to give Daddy a hug – he simply squeals and throws himself on the floor, then peeks up at Daddy and squeals some more. Eventually he manages to hurl himself at Daddy’s legs and cling on like a little octopus. When Daddy leaves for work, he often stands at the foot of the stairs with a quivering lip, pointing at Daddy’s retreating figure and pathetically calling, “Dada? Dada?”

And he behaves similarly with cousin Troy. When Ryan was born, Troy was ecstatic to finally have a fellow boy cousin amid the sea of girls in the family. The two of them bonded from day 1. In fact, as soon as Ryan started to learn proper names, he gave Troy a secret name which seems to have meaning only to him: Mun. No-one is quite sure where it came from, but Ryan is quite adamant that Troy’s name is Mun. When we practice saying everyone’s name in the family, the exchange usually goes something like this:
“Ryan, say ‘Bammy’.” “Bammeee.”

“Say ‘Pappy’.” “Pa-pa-pappy.”

“Say ‘Rosemary’.” “May-may.”

“Say ‘Holly’,” “Haw-lalala.”

“Say ‘Jim’.” “Jeeeem.”

“Say ‘Kayla’.” “Tayla.”

“Say ‘Troy’.” “MUN!!!” (Said with a big grin.)

When we pull up to their house and we ask who we’re visiting, does he say “Jeeem” or “Haw-lalala” or “Tayla”? Nope. We’re visiting Mun. Anyone else who happens to live there is just a little extra bonus. Mun is the point. Mun is the one Ryan runs to hug first, and the one he wants to play with. He loves everyone in the family, but Mun is special. Mun is his hero.

This weekend Troy has been staying overnight with us while he’s rehearsing for a show near our house. Ryan is thrilled by this development, and has taken advantage of the chance to pounce on him first thing in the morning, swim with him in the evening, and play with him every chance he gets. His favorite game is the Mun train: He runs up behind him, wraps his arms around Troy’s legs, pushes him to march, and goes “Woo woo!!!” like a train whistle, with Troy as the engine and Ryan as the caboose.

It’s hard to say who gets the biggest kick out of that game, Ryan, Mun, or Mum and Dad. There are definitely big grins all around.

I’m sure that someday Ryan’s hero worship will move on to a different figure, and that will be a very sad day for Mun. But I suspect it will be an even sadder day for Mum.

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Wednesday, July 13, 2011

What Kind of Mother Am I, Anyway?

Yesterday, I offered my child up for sale on Facebook. Yes, I was only kidding, but I’ll admit that if I’d gotten a better offer than a peeing cat I might have given it a split-second’s consideration. Seriously, I love my child more than life itself. I’d throw myself into the path of a moving train for him. But yesterday was one of those days when I was hoping for that train to come by and put me out of my misery.

I should have known it would be a rough day when he woke up at 7am instead of his usual 8 or 8:30. But I figured that with that early rising he’d be eager for an early (and hopefully long!) nap. And in fact, when I put him in his highchair for a snack at 11:00, he was moving in slo-mo and his eyes were beginning to glaze over. By 11:30 I was certain he’d be out cold in a few minutes, so I didn’t even tempt fate by asking him to climb the stairs to his bedroom. I picked him up to carry him upstairs and he laid his head on my shoulder and “koala snuggled” his arms around my neck. I turned on the air conditioner and a lullaby CD and tucked him in his bed with a few soft toys and a book, convinced that he’d fall asleep within moments, then slipped down the hall to lay on my bed until I was sure he was asleep.

For a few minutes, all was quiet, then I started to hear him chatting quietly to himself. Then I heard the quiet thud of a little body slipping from the bed to the floor. Then I heard the jingle of the jinglebells hanging on the outside doorknob of his door and I immediately ran down the hallway. When I came in the room, he was happily jingling his bells (which he had stolen from the knob and then re-closed the door) and was headed for a stack of toys, having already turned off the A/C and the CD and turned on the overhead light. I took the bells away and told him to get back into bed, which he did without question. I turned the A/C and the CD back on, gave him a kiss, reminded him one more time to stay in bed, and turned the light off on my way out.

Only a few minutes had passed before I heard the distinctive sound of venetian blinds being rattled and raced back in to scold him. Much to his father’s chagrin, he had already bent them badly out of shape and I was afraid of him making them any worse. He looked at me with big innocent eyes as I ordered him back into bed yet again. I decided to sit in the rocking chair and watch him for a few minutes, but when I realized he was much more interested in marching up and down the bed than in laying down and sleeping, I knew that wouldn’t work. So I heaved myself into his bed (and if you’ve never seen an 8-months-pregnant woman maneuver herself over a bedrail, you’ve missed out on an impressive sight), patted the pillow next to me, and convinced him to “come and snuggle with Mama”.

He immediately threw himself down next to me and commenced fake snoring. Ever hopeful, I threw my arm over him and waited for him to fall asleep for real. Ha! Silly Mama. That lasted for about 8 seconds before he jumped up and began throwing each of his toys and stuffed animals out of the bed, one at a time. I warned him, “all gone” with each item, and he solemnly repeated my words each time. Block? All gone. Bear? All gone. Book? All gone. He even pulled the pillow from under my head and jettisoned it. And then he leaned over me and peered at the detritus on the floor, pointing and looking at me hopefully. “Nope, all gone,” I told him. Unfazed, he then turned and crashed into the wall. Discovering what a delightfully loud noise that made, he began pounding on the wall with both fists until I couldn’t take it any more and told him “Enough!” Surprisingly, he stopped, and then announced to me, “Poop!” while patting his bottom. He then threw himself on my head, leaving no doubt in my mind that it was time for a diaper change.

At that point, I gave up on any hope for a nap for either one of us. I changed his diaper and brought him back downstairs to the playroom, where he commenced racing laps around the room while I collapsed on the couch and watched him. Every once in a while there would be a pause before he came around the corner and I found myself carefully listening to hear what trouble he was getting into in the back hallway. I’ve never been able to decide which is more disconcerting when he’s out of sight: absolute silence or unidentifiable crunching noises. Either way, it must be investigated ASAP. In this particular room, silence is usually the more serious problem, since it usually means he’s gone into the study with all the tempting electronic equipment with its exciting buttons and lights. I found him holding the baby monitor up to his ear and asking, “Hello? Hello?” while my wireless mouse lay on the floor without its battery cover. I returned the monitor to its cradle, found and replaced the battery cover on my mouse, and escorted him back to the playroom, regretfully closing the study door with its wonderful air-conditioned air inside.

Without the study to explore, he managed to find trouble all over the rest of the room. He ran through the vertical blinds. He threw all his toys into the big aluminum tub. He moved them from the tub onto the top of the toybox then flailed his arms to knock them all over the room. He opened all the cabinet doors that he’s not allowed to open. He tried to throw things at the glass doors, the television, and Mama. He finally broke the camel’s back when he ran up to me and very deliberately gave my leg a hard smack. I grabbed his hand, gave it a good slap, looked right in his eyes, and fully aware of my own hypocrisy, shouted in my sternest “angry Mom” voice, “No! No hitting!” I guess I finally got it right that time, because instead of his usual giggle when I scold him, he puddled up and started to cry. I started to cry a bit myself, and scooped him into my arms and told him I love him even when he makes me crazy.

He calmed down after a quick snuggle and we laid down on the couch together and played, until suddenly something struck him as hilariously funny and he executed what I’ve dubbed the “happy puppy wriggle”. You know how puppies, especially really big breeds of puppies, get so excited that their whole bodies nearly convulse with excitement? That’s what he does. Unfortunately, as he kicked out with both feet with his full strength, he managed to kick me full-on in the pelvis with one heel. I literally saw stars, and doubled over in pain (or as close to double as I can get these days) while I waited to get my breath back. I couldn’t scold him because it was completely unintentional, but it just felt like adding insult to injury (or injury to insult, to be more accurate). I started to get up from the couch and was rewarded with a fresh stab of pain. So much for the grocery shopping trip I’d planned.

By the time my husband called to say he was on his way home from work, I was definitely ready to sell this kid to the gypsies. So what kind of mom does that make me?

I’m pretty sure it just makes me human.

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Wednesday, July 6, 2011

The Pros and Cons of the Big Boy Bed

With the new baby due to arrive in a little more than a month, my husband’s nesting instincts have kicked in, big-time, and one of his recent projects was setting up my son’s “big boy bed”. We had a set of bunk beds in the attic, complete with a bed rail, so we opted to bypass getting a toddler bed and move Ryan directly from the crib into a twin bed. I was a bit nervous as to what he would think of it – and more importantly, whether he’d be willing to STAY in it – but my fears were apparently groundless.

The moment we brought Ryan into his bedroom with the new bed in it, his face lit up like a Christmas tree and he scrambled right into it with no prompting from us. He immediately began jumping up and down, throwing himself on the pillow and snuggling into the fleece blanket, and rearranging the finials on the bedposts, all the while grinning and happily repeating, “Bed! Bed!” In fact, the first night he slept in his new bed, the first thing he said when he woke up in the morning was, “Bed!!”

My biggest fear about having him in a bed was that he’d get out of bed in the middle of the night, still half-asleep, wander out of his room and fall down the stairs. The way our stairway is designed, a standard baby gate won’t attach at the top of the stairs. The solution I came up with was to “bell the cat” by hanging a strap with several loud jingle bells on it over his doorknob, so if he opened his door I’d hear it and wake up. Fortunately, I needn’t have worried, since he loves his bed so much that he hasn’t even made an attempt to climb out, either after a nap or in the morning. The closest he’s come to wanting out is to call, “Mama, mama, open!” or “Mama, up up up!” in the morning – and even that is only after he’s been wide awake and playing in the bed for half an hour or so.

I have discovered one small drawback, though: the bed is just enough longer than the crib that the video monitor doesn’t quite show the foot of the bed. So if he crawls down to that end, I can’t be certain that he’s still in bed, and I can’t see if he’s getting himself into trouble. This afternoon, after I put him down for his nap and was watching him on the monitor, I saw him crawl to the foot of the bed and vanish, and then I started hearing an odd series of noises that went something like: [click] [hum] [click] [silence] [click] [hum] [click] [silence]. I listened to it for several minutes before I realized that the little monkey had discovered the on/off switch for the window air conditioner and was happily flicking it on and off and on and off!! He’s definitely going to grow up to be either an engineer or a juvenile delinquent (or possibly both). But he’s my big boy now, and I couldn’t be prouder of him. Even when he’s being a monkey!

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Saturday, July 2, 2011

Ducks, Docks, Donuts, and Dirt

One of the highlights of every summer since I’ve been married is time spent at my in-laws’ house on Cape Cod. It’s a good-sized house, so our visits are often shared with grandparents, aunts and uncles, cousins, and often other family or even unrelated friends who’ve become family. So this past Thursday afternoon, we threw a bunch of stuff into the minivan and headed down the Cape.

To elaborate on that last sentence, I really do mean “threw a bunch of stuff” very literally. In the past, we’ve had to minimize and calculate to make sure we can fit everything we actually need into the trunk of a sedan. There were always tradeoffs: Do we really need to bring the full-sized stroller? Can we manage with the small umbrella stroller? Do we need the highchair or can we take turns feeding the baby on our laps? How many diapers do we need to bring for three days? Can I manage three days in the same pair of shorts without grossing everyone out? And of course, these questions were often asked as we stared into the full trunk in frustration, with 20 “needed” items still sitting forlornly in the driveway. But with a minivan, we literally tossed anything inside that we could possibly want, never mind need. It was great! Unfortunately, the drawback to this laissez-faire method of packing was a lack of organization that resulted in our leaving behind my husband’s backpack, which included all his toiletries and clothes (fortunately I had packed his swimsuit in a separate bag, so all was not lost). But it was the Cape, and it was vacation, so we rolled with it.

My son Ryan had first experienced the Cape House last summer as a 7-month-old. His enjoyment of it back then was pretty limited to sitting inside a giant inner tube on the lawn and being crowed over by dozens of adoring relatives at the annual family summer party. He was non-mobile enough at the time that it was easy to plop him somewhere with something interesting to watch and just sit back and relax myself. Ha! Not so this year. As soon as we brought him inside, my now VERY mobile 20-month-old was off and running around the house exploring every nook and cranny. He carefully pointed out each clock, turned every lamp on and off, and strained to reach every wall switch. He threw all the throw pillows on the floor, peeked in every cabinet, and attempted to fall off the porch into the bushes.

And then, he found the beach. (One of my favorite features of the house is that it’s right on a good-sized pond so the porch affords a lovely view of passing kayaks, sailboats, and various wildlife, not to mention a small private beach.) But even better than simply the beach, he found the ducks. A mother duck with 8 adorable, fluffy babies swam by to beg for handouts. Cousin Troy grabbed the sleeve of stale crackers which was waiting for their arrival and rushed down to the beach with Ryan eagerly following. Enthusiastic but not completely clear on the concept, Ryan imitated Troy throwing bits of cracker to the ducks by throwing handfuls of sand to them. Fortunately, the ducklings weren’t overly clear on the concept either and just as enthusiastically swam over to explore the splashes where the sand had landed in the water. Ryan turned to me several times and pointed at them, excitedly announcing, “Ducks!!” I was just thrilled that he made the connection between actual ducks and the animated and cartoon versions he’s seen on Curious George and in books.

When the ducks had had their fill and gone on their merry way, Ryan took advantage of being near the water and splashed a few inches into the pond (he would happily have plunged right in if it weren’t for his stick-in-the-mud mother who insisted he put on a swimsuit before that particular exploration). He was curious about the feeling of wet sand between his toes, and found a big flat stick to dig in the wet sand with. After a few barely-thwarted attempts to squat in the water to play, I hauled him back to the house to get him into his swimsuit.

Daddy gladly took over at that point (Ryan was not the only one eager to go play in the pond), and soon they were both suited up and ready to dig in the dirt and swim. One of the many items tossed haphazardly into the minivan had been a set of sand toys, and Ryan happily explored the bag of goodies. Buckets and shovels and molds, oh my!

He also enjoyed floating in the pond with some assistance from Troy.
And of course, a few swim lessons from Daddy:

The next morning we took a drive to pick up the morning paper, and on the way stopped by the docks to admire the boats. Ryan was as impressed by the real boats as he is by his toy boats, and happily waved to the various captains and passengers with an enthusiastic (and loud) “Hi!!!” to them followed by the announcement, “Boat!!” to everyone on shore who might not have noticed.

On our way back to the house, we stopped one more time for coffee and donuts – a special treat that Ryan rarely gets. He deigned to share a chunk of glazed donut and a bite or two of chocolate glazed while he watched Mary Poppins in the DVD player, his eyes glazing over as it approached nap time. I figured that he would settle right down in his crib for a nap when we got back, but I don’t know WHAT I was thinking. There’s no napping on vacation! As soon as we were back at the house, he insisted on running around again, stealing beanbags from Uncle Jim’s game, being chased by ever-patient cousin Kayla, climbing on the picnic table to see what Pappy was doing, and giggling while racing past Aunt Holly’s and Bammy’s legs. He didn’t want to miss out on a moment of fun at the Cape house!

But one of the highlights of our visit, to me, was our outing to a Falmouth Town Band concert. The town has a lovely bandstand with a great stretch of lawn that plays host to band concerts every Thursday night. Families set up lawn chairs and spread out blankets, others sit in their cars and honk appreciatively after favorite numbers. Herb and Ryan and I merely plopped on the grass and sat back to enjoy the fun. Ryan was tired enough that he was content to sit in my lap and sway along with the marches, his eyes wide as he took in the rows of shiny brasses and watched the cymbals and timpani clashing and crashing. At one point he did get up to chase another small boy next to us who was running in circles, as small boys do. It reminded me of the many other summer concerts I’ve been to throughout my life, both as a performer and as an audience member. I suspect that you could go back in time a hundred years and, other than the clothes and cars, see exactly the same scene. Families relaxing, children running about chasing fireflies or each other, people clapping in time to familiar marches, happily ignoring the occasional missed note or muffed entrance.

Families relaxing and having fun together: that’s what summer vacations are all about. That, and ducks, docks, donuts and dirt.

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