Wednesday, December 13, 2006

A Big Tray of Christmas Cookies

This blog is going to be chock full of holiday goodness I guess. It's OK though because I'm sure in January there will be long stretches of time when I could be writing, but really it would just be a repetition of "Stayed indoors. Didn't get out of our pajamas until 10. Made Mr. Putter and Tabby out of modelling clay. Ate mac-n-cheese. Went to bed." So I'll try to get lots of things down now so I can indulge in winter doldrums later on.

Since we've moved to this neighborhood, one of the best parts of the holidays is getting the tray of homemade Christmas cookies from our neighbor Jan. And when I say tray, I mean big TV-sized tray, not a little holiday plate. Last year I came home from the hospital, walked up the back steps, and the tray was waiting for us. I had just spent an emotional morning, folding up the tiny coming home outfit I had had so much fun picking out for Elaine, packing it back in my overnight bag, and leaving her behind in the NICU. That night, after Lucy was in bed and Darren was out on an errand, I sat watching TV and a Pampers commercial came on. It consisted of a woman softly singing "Silent Night" and lots of beautiful photographs of sleeping babies. I bawled and ate the ENTIRE tray of cookies. I think Darren and Lucy might have each gotten one.

A weekend or so ago, the tray arrived on the backporch again. Ahh, I'm in a much better frame of mind now. Darren took Lucy down to his parents' to see Megan's Christmas program. I stayed home with Elaine, and then we were snowed in. It was a real blizzard, and we were just stuck here. Fortunately we had plenty of food and heat (and cookies), so we spent lots of time playing on the floor together and sitting around reading. While she was napping, I took out some of the Christmas decorations--wreaths and garlands, nativity scenes and candles. I want to put out enough to look festive but not so much that I dread the hours it will take me to put it away.

When Lucy got home at the end of the weekend, she was overjoyed. She ran around the house looking at everything and was especially enamored with a little Christmas pillow I had hung on the front door handle. A night or so later, after I put her in bed, I came downstairs and saw, sticking out from behind the shutters in the dining room, a burgundy ribbon. I opened the shutters and the Christmas pillow fell out, its ribbon torn.

I went back upstairs into her room and held out the pillow. Her already enormous dark eyes got even bigger and she gave a half-sob and said, "I'm sorry, Mom! I broke your pillow!" I asked, "And then what did you do?" "I hid it!" she cried, "I was pulling on it, Mommy. I'm so sorry." And in the spirit of confession, she continued on with other things she knew she had done that she shouldn't such as "And I got up in Elaine's face!" These are the moments where, as a parent, you're just not sure what to do. Partly because, it was just so funny in a way. But I said, "Lucy, it's not so bad that you broke it, even though you know you shouldn't have been pulling on it. It's that you hid it. That's like telling a lie. And for that, I have to give you a spanking." Of course that made her cry even harder (even though Daniels spankings are two handswats on the sitter with clothing and diaper intact). After that I rocked her for a long time and we talked about how, even if she does something bad and gets afraid, she should come tell Daddy and me so that we can help her with it. Then I said, "It's time to get back in bed again. What story do you want to listen to?" and she said solemnly, "When Adam and Eve disobeyed and lied. Just like I did."

Oh my goodness. I'm never sure whether to laugh or cry. So I went downstairs and ate a lot of Jan's cookies.

Green eyes and random musings

I've sadly neglected this blog. I should have anticipated this at holiday time, but too much good stuff is happening and I need to get at least some of it down.

In short, living with Elaine is like living with Tigger. Bouncy, but tiring. Living with Lucy, is like living with a tempermental opera singer. Extreme high notes of happiness along with dramatic bouts of weeping. And a lot of dress-up and make-believe in between.

This is the first year she is really enjoying Christmas. The other day, we decorated the tree together. Last year we didn't put ornaments on the tree because I was having Elaine. We just put lights and then forgot to water the tree during the week of her birth, so when we got home it was a stick with lights--a genuine Charlie Brown Christmas tree. But this year I dragged out the boxes of ornaments, and Lucy was thrilled. She exclaimed over each one and distributed them all on the bottom branches of the tree (of course control freak Mama rehung them all during naptime, but she never knew the difference). She asked me to sit in a chair by the tree with Elaine and then said, "Mom, please say, 'Elaine, what is Lucy doing?' Then tell her, 'Decorating the tree, Elaine! Did you not know that she could do that? Doesn't it look so wonderful?'" [A side note: later on during snacktime, she decided to also decorate the tree in various places with...shredded mozerella. And yes, if you were wondering, it was lots of fun to clean up. Then we learned that if we have what we think is a fabulous idea, we should run it by Mama before executing our plans.]

After she was finished decorating, she gave a deep sigh of satisfaction and said, "We need to sing some Christmas carols now" and proceeded to give us her renditions of "Silent Night," "Away in a Manger," "Twinkle, Twinkle," "Once in Royal David's City," and "Jingle Bells." She informed us that Daddy had told her, "It's 'Oh what FUN, Lucy' because I was singing 'Oh what FARM.'"

We've been trying a new church, and she is practicing in the Christmas program. They've even given her her own line "...and the baby lying in a manger!" She marches around the house saying, "Rejoice, rejoice, Emmanuel has come!" and singing a mixture of carols. We're reading the book "Room for a Little One" where a Kind Ox invites each different animal in the stable and tells them "Come inside--there's always room for a little one here." Each night before bed, she stands before our nativity scene in her little footie pajamas and puts a different figure inside. Then she whispers, "Come inside! There's always room for a little one here!"

In case your teeth are aching from all this sweetness though, rest assured that just as all good operas have their tragedy scenes, so does our house--at least three or four a day. Yesterday was particularly trying. I should have been prepared that Elaine's birthday was going to be hard. We're always reading "A Birthday For Frances" where Frances the badger has such difficulty coming to terms with the fact that it's her little sister Gloria's birthday. "That's the way it is--your birthday is always the one that is not NOW!"

Maybe I should have prepared her more. But she seemed so excited beforehand and picked out a ball and some rubber ducks to give Elaine. She bounced out of bed in the morning and said, "Is it Smoochie's birthday today?" It was all downhill from there. By the time of the party, she was doing that thing that drives both Darren and me completely nuts where she acts as though each tiny sliver of food we've asked her to ingest is being shoveled in by a frontloader. She crumbles everything up and pushes it around and scatters in on the floor. I finally took her in the other room to have a little talk, and I asked her, "Are you having a hard time because we're having a party for Smoochie?" "YES" she wailed at the highest octave anyone's ears could possibly tolerate. "And I don't want to eat any of HER birthday cake!!! Waaaaaaaahhhhhhhhh!"

She rallied of course for the cake and the ice cream, but the presents. Oh the presents. Elaine got clothes, a blanket, and her personalized book quilt. Boring. Then she got her own Groovy Girl. Then she got a dollhouse. Whatever Elaine got, Lucy wanted. Elaine can't snatch, but she can hang on with all her might. By the end of the evening, both girls were weeping copiously. Brenda Lee didn't sing, "It's My Party and I'll Cry if I Want To" for nothing.

After everyone had left and I was getting Lucy ready for bed, she was holding on to the new Groovy Girl for dear life. I said, "Lucy, you remember that that Groovy Girl is Elaine's, right? When are you going to let her play with her?" "Not tonight, Mom. She's not ready to play with her. Besides," she continued as she danced the doll around, "this doll says, 'I don't like Smoochie, I don't like Smoochie."


But this morning they are happy together again. They're laughing and kissing each other. Elaine is playing with her new ducks and rubber ball, and Lucy is rerererearranging the furniture in the new dollhouse and undressing the new Groovy Girl, and all is well. For now.

Happy Birthday

Dear Elaine,

As I write this, you are looking over at me with your big grin, jumping up and down as high as you can go in your doorway jumper. You're making fierce growling noises, and we are laughing with you. What a difference from one year ago! On this morning a year ago, the morning after you were born, your ICU doctor came to my room to talk to me. I had seen you only briefly before they took you away because you weren't breathing right. I tried to keep the shaking out of my voice as I asked him if you were going to be OK. If you could breathe. If you had an increased risk of dying of Sudden Infant Death Syndrome. After talking with me, a smile crossed his warm brown face and he said, "A picture is worth a thousand words. You need to go see your daughter!"

Your daddy took me to the neonatal ICU--he was a pro there by now. We scrubbed our hands and arms with this industrial strength soap that dried out our skin so much it almost bled. We put on clean hospital gowns, and Daddy took me back to where your crib was. I was worried that in the midst of all those babies, I wouldn't know which one was you. But then I saw you. You had a lot of tubes and wires connected to you and to a machine that monitored the oxygen in your blood. But you looked just like us! Unmistakable!

I spent those first days in the hospital with you--safely cocooned in our own little world of the NICU--rocking you and listening to the Christmas music the nurses had playing. Then came the terrifying first weeks and months you were home with us. You would choke and stop breathing and turn blue. You slept in your carseat and I slept by your side for the first three months. All through the night, I would reach my hand down and touch you to make sure you were still breathing.

And then, all of a sudden, we began to see your two dimples. A lot. You started out with a smile, quickly progressed to a giggle, and now our house is filled with your frequent belly laughs. Your blond hair began to grow, and now it's a rakish little mohawk. The last time I took you to the dr., he walked in and said, "Oh, someone's having a bad hair day today!" I was a little insulted on your behalf because that's what it looks like all the time. You've kept your bright blue eyes--you look like a little Nichols.

Let's see--in this year we've learned some things that you like: being rocked, smiling, a warm bottle in the morning, Spot the Dog books, the bathtub spout, swinging as high as you can in your swing and squealing, your big sister, being tickled, bouncing on the bed, giggling, blowing raspberries, a warm bottle before your nap in the afternoon, Lucy's Groovy Girl doll, rubber ducks, jumping as high as you can in your doorway jumper, African music, rocking back and forth in your highchair, sitting on Daddy's lap, a warm bottle before bedtime, laughing, your stuffed lambs, bouncing up and down in your exersaucer, Packa's plastic birds, your Winnie-the-Pooh tree, singing "Pop Goes the Weasel," dancing around the kitchen with Mama, being bounced on one of our laps, and a warm bottle in the middle of the night if you can convince one of us to give you one.

Some things you don't like: having your diaper changed, carrots, being buckled into your highchair, getting your tights put on, getting your shoes put on, being buckled into your carseat, having anyone hold your hands, not being allowed to watch TV, not being allowed to play with Packa's plastic birds, being put down for a nap, and finishing your bottle.

Last night we celebrated your birthday. You wore a green velvet and taffeta party dress, your patent leather shoes, and a little bow in your mohawk. You were mesmerized by the lights on the Christmas tree, and Mimi insists that you said "tree" not once but twice. You stood alone for the first time! Mimi said, "The only reason your Mommy and Daddy were so calm at this time last year was because they were in shock. We were all terrified!" and the rest of your grandparents agreed. We all talked about what a change it was from last year. We're all so thankful that that tiny little baby wrapped in tubes and wires has changed into the bouncy, ecstatic little girl we have here today. We sat around the table and toasted your good health.

I brought in your snowman cake and watched your little eyes illuminated by the light of one candle. Everyone encouraged you to blow it out, and Lucy helped you. I'm not sure what you wished for, my sweet little girl, but I thanked God for your good health; your joyful, exuberant spirit, and your sweet good nature. Then I wished you as much happiness in your whole lifetime as you've brought us in your first 365 days.

Happy birthday, dear Smoochie!

I love you.