Tuesday, June 26, 2007

At the breakfast table

On Tuesdays, my mom comes to watch the girls while I work. The dear woman gets here at 7:10 in the morning and plays exhaustively with them until after lunch, so she knows exactly how hard this job can be sometimes. Of course, they mutually adore each other though. And I freely admit that she does this far better than I do. On the days when Manga comes, you might get to do anything from making molasses cookies to going on a nature walk (and she lets you a) get out of the stroller as much as you want to pick as many clover and dandelions as you want, or even better b) doesn't make you get in the stroller at all, but lets you take your dolly stroller with and walk along beside her, going as slowly and/or stopping as many times as you want). She'll let you finger paint and will teach you how to turn somersaults. She'll play tag and hide-and-seek. She'll even help you make an exact replica of Thumbelina--the size of a child's thumb--including her little walnut shell bed and tiny bedding (I'm so not kidding).

But today I heard Elaine screaming at the top of her lungs all during breakfast, and when Lucy came upstairs I asked her what was wrong. Here's what she said: "Smoochie's being a brat. She won't eat any of your nice food. She won't eat your yogurt or your toast or your fruit or your nice waffles. She's bawling her head off. She just wants you, Mom."

But...that was over in a few minutes, and now I hear them all preparing to get the various dolls and strollers out.

Monday, June 25, 2007

Another year

This weekend was my birthday. I'm officially 38. I can't even say I'm in my mid-thirties anymore. It's definitely late 30s. I figure the birthdays are gonna come no matter what, and I can be depressed and sad or happy and eat cake. I'm always up for cake, so I go with happy every single time.

Also, this year my birthday fell on Sunday, so in my book, the celebrating really starts at least on Saturday, if not Friday night. Saturday morning my big present was that I got to sleep until 8:00 a.m. Sort of. I didn't get to bed until 1:00 a.m. anyway, and Lucy wandered in at her usual early hour and blew into my face. I pretended I didn't know that happened and rolled over, and wonder of wonders, she climbed in next to me and was actually quiet for about 17 whole minutes. Then she started talking and I moaned to Darren, "You've got to get those girls out of here, it's my birthday and I need quiet for a present." So he took them downstairs and gave them breakfast.

Then in the afternoon, we went over to my parents' house because no matter how old you are, nothing beats having your mom bake you a birthday cake. Last year Darren bought me a Baskin Robbins ice cream pie, and while I loved it and it was great, it was all WRONG if you know what I mean. On the way into their house, Lucy whispered up to me, "Mom, I have a special surprise for your birthday! But it's a secret! It's a pin cushion. I made it for you all by myself with Manga! It has pins and needles in it so if you rip your shirt you can put one of my pins in it. But you can't tell anyone about it, OK?"

Later in the day, I took her back to the bathroom off of Mom and Dad's bedroom and she said, "Oh! You can't go in Manga's closet there, because that's where I hided your present. It's wrapped in paper that's Dad's favorite color, but I can't tell you what it is!"

Then we had lunch, which I got to request and my parents totally indulge me (because that's how it should always be on your birthday, right?!) My dad made his famous fried chicken (the only time in the entire year I let myself eat fried chicken), and we had potatoes and peas and fruit salad and Mom's homemade cinnamon rolls with it. [Side note about the cinnamon rolls: These appear at everyone's birthday no matter what. One year, Mom forgot to make them for my brother (who is now 40.) The cinnamon roll-less birthday that will never be forgotten might have been for year 27 or something. But he's never let her forget it.] Then she made my favorite poppyseed cake with caramel frosting and toasted walnuts on it. Everyone toasted me and my good health, and Darren gave a special toast for how thankful he was that it's my birthday 'cuz we get to have fried chicken.

I got lots of good presents, such as cheongsams (that fit! a long story for another time) that Mom made, DVDs, great books, and of course, the famous pincushion. It's the cutest thing. It's pink with little green frogs on it. Lucy stuffed it all herself, and it's set up in a little box. On the bottom of the box she wrote a message that my mom translated, "You're the best Mommy" and signed it herself.

One book that I got from Mom I sat and read all yesterday until I finally finished last night. I'll write more about that tomorrow because the book is at home, and I want to write down quotes from it. Darren was going to get me an MP3 player, but then I decided against it, so I'm still deciding what he's going to get me. I like to spin these birthdays out as long as possible, as I've said.

And...what else...nice friends and family members called me and sang and other nice friends sent me cards and e-cards, and really, what more could anyone ask for? How could I be sad to be 38?

Plus, if my shirt rips, I'm all set now.

Tuesday, June 19, 2007

Ode to Dad

This past Sunday while we were getting ready I said to Darren, "Do you remember your first Father's Day? I do. Because I couldn't walk yet at that point." Lucy was 8 days old. More than that first Father's Day, I remember him being in the LDR, being absolutely silent because that's what I required of him. I remember her delivery and him spooning ice into my mouth and cheering me on. I remember that he was unofficially voted Most Excited Dad ever by the doctor and nurses.

When I came home from the hospital, he bought me a porch swing and a necklace with the baby's birthstone in it. In those first few nights when we were wondering what we'd gotten ourselves into and she was screaming her head off and I couldn't figure out how to nurse her for the life of me and was bawling my head off too, he said, "You lie down and get some good sleep; I'll take her." And he walked up and down the halls and all around the house with her while I slept for at least 4 hours.

When Elaine was born, I can pretty much just say, "Lather, rinse, repeat."

He's been to countless doctor appointments, changed countless diapers, given countless bottles, and been thrown up on with the best of them.

He's the dad who works far more than a 40-hour work week in 4 days so that he can take care of the girls on Friday, rather than have them go to daycare.

He makes pancakes for breakfast and grilled cheese with ham for lunch.

He gives baths, takes temperatures, and runs out late at night to get Pedialyte/Motrin/amoxycillin.

He takes a little girl to ball games, and they eat nachos and drink Dr. Pepper. He goes on bike rides and takes her to band concerts.

He does bedtime devotions and reads untold number of books. He plays all the characters in "Curious George Makes Pancakes" and "Lyle, Lyle Crocodile" and talks in all the different voices.

He teaches and disciplines and gives lots of hugs and a few spankings.

He goes to swimming lessons and Christmas programs and Kids' Club.

Last Friday night, he woke Lucy up and got her out of bed. They got some books, went to the convenience store and got some supplies, then they camped out together in the tent in the backyard. He had set the tent up with a great air mattress, both their pillows, and a little table. They laid out there and drank grape pop and read stories and went to sleep.

He worries, cries, prays, and laughs over his girls.

That's just the kind of dad he is.

Happy Father's Day, Scooby. You're the best! I love you!

Wednesday, June 13, 2007

Overheard in the bathroom...

"Mom, I'm going to wash my hands with just water, not soap."

"No, you need to use soap."

"OK, I'll put on this honeysuckle soap here. Why is it called honeysuckle soap?"

"Because it smells like honeysuckle."

"Why does it smell like honeysuckle?"

"Because that's what flavor of soap it is."

" Why is there a picture of honeysuckle on the bottle?"

"So people will know what kind it is."

"Why is it what kind it is?"

"Because it just is."

"Why is it just is?"

>long pause< >sniff<

"Here Mom, smell my hands. They smell like dead honeysuckle."

Friday, June 08, 2007

The birthday girl

Whew. I'm tired. The last 2 1/2 days have been filled with feverish preparations for Lucy's 4th. I'm not a mom who can handle having huge "kid" birthday parties; we just have family. But since family is usually at least 13 of us, it's still a fairly significant production. Lucy and I made empanaditas and cinnamon chips and pineapple salsa for appetizers (we had regular chips and salsa too, but she missed out on that prep). She had a great time smearing tortillas with butter, cinnamon, and sugar, which I then cut with a pizza cutter and broiled. And not to be left out, Elaine clambered up on a kitchen stool, smeared her hands in cinnamon and sugar, and ate it.

The morning of her birthday, I was too excited to sleep and woke up around 5. I got the Strawberry Shortcake dollhouse and dolls (that I spent weeks on ebay trying to get) and set the house and furniture up in the living room. Then I put a doll and pet on each of the steps leading downstairs. I packed Elaine's Strawberry Shortcake-themed gifts that she had "picked" out in the dollar section of Target into a gift bag and put that outside Lucy's door. She got up at 6:45 despite going to be at 10 p.m. the night before because she had gone to Kids' Club, then to Wendy's for a Daddy/daughter outing. (Side note: She got a little cat on rollers with her happy meal, which she brought home, sneaked into Elaine's room, and put it in her crib so she would have it when she woke up in the morning.)

All four of us were in our bedroom while Lucy opened Elaine's bag. That would have been enough to make her day. She got flip flops, sunglasses, lip balm, a Strawberry CD, barrettes, and a headband. She hugged and kissed Elaine and told her thank you. Then in an unprecendented move, Elaine toddled (I say "toddled" but when she walks it looks sort of like a tiny blond Frankenstein lumbering around) over to Lucy and gave her a big hug. Of course both our cameras missed that moment. Darren tried to get them to recreate it. Hahahahahahahaha. Amateur. Screeching and unhappiness ensued.

Then we went downstairs. Lucy discovered a doll on each stair, and that too, would have been enough. I could not have asked for a more gratifying response when she saw all of them and then the house (fortunately, we do have all that on video). Suffice it to say, she spent the rest of the day playing with it and taking all of the dolls' clothes off and having them interchange outfits. Later on in the morning when I checked on her, she looked up and said, "Mom, I was never happy before until I got this Strawberry house!"

Family started arriving around 5, and everyone loved our appetizers. Lucy had asked for tacos for her party (read: lots of chopping preparation), and people seemed pretty happy about that too. After working hard in the yard all day and simultaneously watching the girls so I could do all the chopping preparation, Darren showered and changed into his hospital scrub shirt that has Lucy's teeny tiny baby footprints on it. He prayed a really sweet prayer for her and got a little choked up too (see Reason 7,685 why I love him).

Sometimes when you get family together it can be a volatile mix, but everything went really well. After dinner, I brought out her princess cake (she decided she wanted a princess cake the day after her third birthday), and she was thrilled. I was pretty happy myself--it didn't look as good as the picture (of course), but I had ordered the doll part from Wilton and it came with long hair. As a lifelong short-haired person with two short-haired girls, it was a major accomplishment that I put this thing's hair in an updo and even fashioned her a crown out of some of my old earrings.

After cake and ice cream, Lucy ran to the living room, then rushed back to the patio and said, "Everyone needs to come inside for presents!" Wow. Our families consistently overwhelm us. Chuck and Rome gave her the hardback collected stories of Eloise and a Strawberry Shortcake fairytale book (which we had to read 3 times to her before bed). Aunt Kimmie and Megan bought her a pair of Crocs with princesses. Then just to blow her mind, Mimi and Papa bought her sandals with princesses (that light up!), so she spent her present opening time changing back and forth between the pairs of shoes. She also got a lot of beautiful clothes and a pool with a canopy that both she and Elaine can play an advanced version of "Water" in. My mom made her an adorable dress and a matching one with a bonnet for one of her dolls.

Speaking of my mom, as I sat out on the patio with her, I said, "Mom, I thought of you these two days as I worked round-the-clock to put this together! I can't BELIEVE you used to do all this for us!" She just laughed it off. I'll say it again, I never knew how much my parents loved me until I became a parent. At least I have a six-month reprieve until I do this all over again for Elaine. My mom used to have to do it three weeks apart every summer.

So, now I am the mom of a four-year-old. I can't believe it. It's a happy-sad thing. Mostly happy, though. This morning Lucy called me at work (where I'm resting). She chattered on about how she stayed dry all night and how she's wearing her new, "What are they called again, Mom?" Crocs, and when I said, "I better go now, Baby" she exclaimed, "Not yet! I haven't asked you 14 questions!" My great big girl.

I'm figuring out exactly what "bittersweet" means.

Tuesday, June 05, 2007

Four Years Ago

Four years ago this week, this is what I was doing. While I had contractions every five minutes 24 hours a day, I spent my time alternately walking around the neighborhood by myself--it was eerily quiet since most everyone was at work--and sitting in the glider rocker in the nursery, emailing my friends and listening to John Mellencamp's "Trouble No More." The highlight of the week was Wednesday, my OB appointment. She said, "It's actually hurting me to look at you. Let's put you out of your misery." She set me up for Saturday (earliest available bed), and I spent the rest of the week waiting, but happy knowing the end was in sight.

Friday night we rented a Harry Potter movie, I'm not sure which one, and I don't remember anything about it. I couldn't sit still or lie still. Too jittery. I brought the ironing board in front of the TV and ironed every single thing we would be wearing in the morning (and those of you who know me know how rare that is) and checked and rechecked everything in my suitcase. I was bringing a lot of DVDs. I'm not sure when I thought I'd be able to watch "Sliding Doors" and "Four Weddings and a Funeral," but...I was optimistic. I might have fallen asleep for an hour or two.

I was up at 4:30 and in the shower. I said one last prayer. Not, "please let me be OK" or "please let it not hurt too bad" or "please let the baby be healthy." I just prayed, "Dear God, please let this baby be a girl." We got in the car around 5:00, and Darren had to stop at Dunkin Donuts to get his coffee. Someday I want to be in a commercial for Dunkin Donuts as the only couple who stopped on their way to the hospital to have a baby because Dad had to have his DD coffee. I saw a suspicious-looking guy walk in in a hooded sweatshirt with his hands in the pockets and was sure he would shoot everyone in there. I was so mad at Darren. How could he get killed on the morning his first child was supposed to be born? But I guess Mr. Sweatshirt was just chilly and wanted his coffee too.

It was foggy all the way to the hospital.

We got there without incident, parked, and walked in. Right outside the doors, near a bush, was a tiny baby bunny. We'd been calling the baby "Puppy-Bunny" (Puppy for a boy, Bunny for a girl). We looked at each other and said, "It's a sign!" I got all checked in and hooked up and monitored. Boring. Uncomfortable. The nurse kept asking me, "From 1 to 10, what's your pain level?" and I kept saying, "2" until I finally thought as I was dozing off, "Next time I'm going to say 3 1/2" when...Bang! Darren rushed out to the nurses station and said, "Her water broke! Her water broke!" They were a lot less excited about this than we were. Oh, and the next time she asked me about pain I almost punched her and said, "Five hundred thirty seven. Get.my.epidural."

The epidural man came around 12:30, and life got a lot better. I told him I loved him. I bet he's heard that a lot. I fell asleep. At 4:00, the nurse gently woke me and said, "Honey, it's time."

It's time.

An hour and twenty minutes later, the doctor said it's time for a C-section. She'd try with a vacuum, but the baby's heart rate is slowing. She said, "Give me everything you've got!" After an entire week of contractions, a day of Pitocin, and an hour and twenty minutes of pushing, I didn't have much left. But I thought, not "I can't wait to see the baby!" but: "After all this, you better believe I'm not having a C-section!" and I gave it everything I had and the next thing I heard was, "It's a GIRL!"

It's a girl.

Thank you, God.

Happy birthday, sweet girl. I love you even more today.



Too Busy Living

It's pretty bad when Darren points out to me that it's been almost two months since I've written in the blog (the blog he didn't like in the first place!) I can't believe it. I think it's just a combination of writer's block and just the craziness of life. We've been too busy enjoying the outdoors and walking and playing "Water" (this is when I fill the watering can up approximately 800 times while the girls pour it out into their sand toys and all over their feet and each other's heads). We've been working and visiting and going to the park and having fun.

I feel like our family has finally, finally hit cruising altitude. That doesn't mean certainly that we don't run into turbulence at times, but the lynchpin in this whole setup is that...and I'm afraid to even write this in case somehow my printed words will somehow fling themselves out into the cosmos and come hurtling back into our littlest one's brain but...shhh...Elaine sleeps through the night. She sleeps all the way through the night. We put her to bed at 7, and she sleeps until at least 6 a.m. Without waking up. Without needing a midnight bottle.

Right now you're probably saying, "Wait, isn't Elaine, like, a year and a half old?" Yes! She is! She'll be 18 months in a few days. She started sleeping through the night at 15 months. It must be some sort of world record! Good job, Mom! Almost as good as the milestone of potty training Lucy by age 4! Somewhere someone is thinking of nominating me for the Nobel Peace Prize, I'm sure of it. I aim high, people, I aim high.

The thing is, (in my defense), it's not like I didn't TRY at either of these two (apparently) Herculean tasks. With Lucy I tried potty training for two years. I read every book and article and scoured the Internet and asked anyone who would care to listen and got every single person's opinion and saw two pediatricians and knelt down by the side of my bed and PRAYED that my kid could go to the bathroom. For real. Oh, and saw a child psychologist, did I mention that? So, it's not like no effort was put forth. And for all those people who said, "Don't WORRY. It'll happen." Thanks. Thanks a lot. Because...that's exactly pretty much what happend.

And as for Elaine sleeping through the night, they don't call me the "Sleep Nazi" for nothing. Before Lucy was born, I read Healthy Sleep Habits, Happy Child, and The Happiest Baby on the Block, and The Baby Whisperer, and I felt quite smug and successful when she slept through the night sporadically at 7 weeks and continuously at 15 weeks. We could go in her room, pick her up out of her crib, love on and talk to her, lay her back down, and she'd never wake up. Not old Smoochie. We started calling her "The Princess and the Pea." If one of us got up in the night to go to the bathroom, we couldn't even flush the toilet for fear of waking her. I logged her sleep patterns and tried all sorts of methods and even tried in desperation to let her cry it out (note to all: Elaine Frances does NOT "cry it out.") She finally just...did it. No more waking.

And I have delved in the glorious long-lost land of a full night's sleep. Eight hours and sometimes nine. Nine! Kah-razy. I feel rested and sooo much more patient with and loving of everybody. It's fascinating how much sleep affects all of us because, to use a well-worn but certainly true saying, "If Mama ain't happy, ain't nobody happy."

So, lots and lots and lots has happened. I've completely skipped over the fact that Elaine walks, runs, and climbs now (sleeping was much more important). She talks too. Lucy has probably said and done a thousand cute and funny things, and sadly, they'll be lost in the mists of time because I didn't bother to write them down. But...I'm hoping to do better. With the exception of periodic bumps here and there, this family is cruising now and it's all good.