Category Archives: Musings

The Trials of Two

Don’t let that innocent little face fool you, this child is out to destroy my sanity.

I admit that we have been really lucky the last almost six weeks – despite the stomach virus and the never-ending cold – Lorelei has adjusted to life with a newborn fairly well. And we have, too. That doesn’t mean, however, that we haven’t hit a few bumps along the way and trust me, they were some pretty big bumps.

Lorelei has become really attached to her baby toys – all the various rattles that she hasn’t even looked at in a year – and has even tried to claim any new toys we have received for Amélie as her own. There is one toy in particular, a stuffed pterodactyl rattle, that has been the source of a lot of stress for me. I try to clip it to Amélie’s swing when she is in it and it’s as if Lorelei has super-hearing because she will sense the tiniest rattling sound from it and yell, “Dinosaur!” and then promptly try to pull it off the swing. She is less attached to the other toys – a squeaky zebra and a zoo-themed playmat – but if Amélie is “playing” with them she will try to take them away. It is starting to drive me insane and she was being so bad the other week that I had to take the dinosaur away from her and say it was being put up for a week. It kind of sucks for poor Amélie since it is in fact her toy but I didn’t know what else to do.

She’s also started to throw tantrums again. Nothing nearing the Great Tantrum of Thanksgiving 2011, but some pretty bad ones. She will scream for what she wants, despite being reminded numerous times that she needs to ask nicely. When we tell her “No” – usually to the second piece of candy or the television before breakfast time – she screams and cries and throws herself on the floor. We’ve started giving her mini time-outs where she has to sit in her bed for a few minutes until she calms down. She almost never calms down but when she starts pathetically calling for me (or Brian) it’s hard to resist. It’s only made worse by the fact that she apologizes almost without prompting whenever we go through this process. Why can’t just learn not to do it in the first place?

Yesterday, however. Oh, yesterday was really great. And by great, I mean completely awful.

On Wednesdays for the past month, Brian had been teaching an ACT prep class which left me alone with the children for dinnertime and bedtime. I was lucky to have my friends come over and help me out, but it was still very stressful. I could see the light at the end of the tunnel and was rejoicing in this being the last evening he would be gone for awhile. Lorelei was doing her best to be up in my goodies and testing my patience by doing things that she has repeatedly been told not to do and, up until last night, she never did. For example, try to climb the microwave cart.

I knew it was just her way of trying to get my attention, especially since it had been mostly focused on her sister – newborns are high demands, yo – but it was working my last nerve. I should have tried harder to get her out of the kitchen and distracted by something else while I finished dinner, but I didn’t have the energy for a fight and so I didn’t. Big mistake. I was taking the meatloaf out of the oven and Lorelei decided that was the perfect time to test to see how hot the oven racks really were.

Ugh.

She has never ever shown any interest in the oven and has, in fact, run out of the kitchen the second I go to open it. This is usually without my prompting her and she will say, “Oven hot!” Last night, however, must have been a special occasion. She went to grab it and almost instantly fell on the floor and started crying in pain. Poor little girl. I felt so bad for her because it obviously hurt her a lot and the only thing that calmed her down and got us through the night was watching half of her new movie while Nick fed her dinner to her.

And right at this moment, we are having a nap strike which makes me want to put my head through a wall. At least the littlest one is asleep, right?

Words

I’ve been thinking about words a lot recently.

Sometimes, we underestimate the power of words. Sticks and stones may break my bones, but words will never hurt me. It’s a good lesson to teach your children, but it isn’t the truth.

Words can wound. I seem to have a particular talent for turning a simple phrase into something downright nasty. (Just ask my husband). And how many nights have I spent lying awake in bed replaying a conversation over and over in my head, turning a innocuous phrase into an assault on the very essence of my being.

Sometimes I forget that words can heal us, too. I hesitate to say things like, I’m thinking about you or, even, I love (care about) you. They can seem like empty phrases. For someone like me, however, it can turn a day that was full of despair and desperate thoughts into something a little brighter. I need to hear those words. I also need to remember that other people need to hear those words, too.

I love you.

I’m thinking about you.

It will get better.

What brought this on? There is a a little thing going around the internet: February Photo a Day (there was also one in January, but I didn’t do that). I thought I would give a shot, even though I’m handicapped by my lack of smartphone. Also, I’m already a day behind but I’m going to try to do two tomorrow to catch up. We’ll see how long this lasts.

For all photos, go here.

Magic

Excerpt from The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern*

“It is important [telling stories]…Someone needs to tell those tales. When the battles are fought and won and lost, when the pirates find their treasures and the dragons eat their foes for breakfast with a nice cup of Lapsang souchong, someone needs to tell their bits of overlapping narrative. There’s magic in that. It’s in the listener, and for each and every ear it will be different, and it will affect them in ways they can never predict. From the mundane to the profound. You may tell a tale that takes up residence in someone’s soul, becomes their blood and self and purpose. That tale will move them and drive them and who knows what they might do because of it, because of your words.”

I like to think that that’s why I write. Why I am compelled to tell stories, even if it’s only in my head. Telling stories can be magic. What I say might change someone or help someone. So, even when I feel inadequate and words seem insufficient to explain what is in my heart and mind, I will always write.

*If you believe in magic, or wish you could, read this book now.

How to Eat a PB&J Sandwich

According to Lorelei Jane, Age 2

Step One: Crusts must be removed from the sandwich and consumed separately.

Step Two: Sandwich must be cut into small bite-sized squares. If the parental unit dares to give larger portions – for example, a sandwich cut into quarters – as much of it will be shoved into the mouth as possible just to make a point. This travesty will never happen again.

Step Three: Each tiny sandwich square must be pulled apart, as they are eaten.

Step Four: Put one side of the sandwich into mouth. Immediately after that, put in the other. They are absolutely, positively not allowed to enter the mouth at the same time.

The last six months have been extremely difficult in this household when it comes to food. There are a few major issues that we – and I – have really struggled with. Let’s start with the one that is the most fun uncomfortable to talk about:

Issue One: Breastfeeding

Subtitle: Yes, I’m going to talk about my boobs.

I was one of those people. Lorelei was breastfed until she was twenty (maybe twenty-one) months old. It wasn’t a conscious decision. When she was born, I didn’t set out to breastfeed long-term. By the time she was two days old, I was really hoping that I would manage to do it at all. And then I set the goal of one year. One year was a perfectly respectable amount of time, I told myself. The year-mark came and went. While no one was pressuring me to quit breastfeeding, I did get the occasional question about when I was planning on weaning her. Again, I was not out to make any sort of statement so my standard reply was, “She doesn’t seem ready yet.”

On and on it went. Eighteen months came and went. While I still think that she wasn’t ready at that point, it became clear to me that I wasn’t ready yet either. Breastfeeding had become something of a crutch for me. It was an easy way to soothe her, an easy way to put her to sleep for a nap or for bed. It was an easy way for me to feel like she was getting enough to eat. Honestly, the only reason I finally weaned her was because I got myself knocked up again and – although perfectly normal and safe to continue breastfeeding through pregnancy – I had zero interest in that and I knew that it was finally time for the both of us to give up our crutch.

Issue Two: No Separate Meals

I was strongly opposed to the notion of making Lorelei meals – dinner in particular – that were different from the one we were eating. The only time I would make an exception was if I was making something I deemed to difficult for her to eat – think creamy soups and really spicy foods. I firmly believe that giving your child tasteless meals of the average “kid-friendly” variety was the surest way to raise a picky eater. So, she ate what we ate. Unfortunately, this lead to issue number three…

Issue Three: Is She Eating Enough?

Lorelei has always been on the small size. We’re talking from birth. Her weight has always fallen in the 5-10th percentile. Nothing, really, that we should really be concerned about. As our pediatrician reminded us once or twice, neither of us are very large so it seems only natural that she would fall on the smaller end of the spectrum. That, however, does not stop me from feeling extremely paranoid about her gaining enough weight and getting enough to eat. Despite being told on multiple occasions to just provide dinner and then let her eat it or not, I couldn’t really get behind the whole “let her starve” advice. Knowing our luck – and Lorelei’s stubbornness – she would starve before she ate what we put in front of her.

Fortunately, we have found a few strategies that have helped us get over this first round in the great food war (I am sure there are many, many more to come). As I always say, I am not an expert. This is what has worked for us and if you are also in the midst of a food battle, let me tell you now that it will eventually end.

Strategy One: Dress it Up

Lorelei would not eat meat for the longest time. No chicken, no ground beef. Nothing. She even went off eggs for a while. We were at a loss as to how best to get her to eat any sort of protein – thank goodness for good old PB&J and beans (lots of beans) – until we realized she loved sauce. That girl loves Sweet Baby Ray’s. Your toddler might be a ranch dressing or a ketchup kid, but the concept is the same. Whether they like to dip – Lorelei would be more inclined to just lick the plate if we let her dip her own food – or they prefer the food coated in sauciness, dressed up food is always better. Eventually, they won’t need as much or any sauce at all to eat that delicious grilled salmon that you prepared for Christmas Eve dinner. We still keep an ample supply of BBQ sauce in the fridge for emergencies.

Strategy Two: Give Them a Choice

Despite my previous aversion to preparing separate meals, I have recognized the fact that she will not always want to eat what I have mind. Fortunately, we have reached a stage in her development where she knows the words for a lot of the foods we eat and I can offer her a choice. I stick to things that I’m also willing to make and want to eat for dinner. It requires that you have a certain amount of flexibility with your meal plan, but it can lead to a lot less screaming and crying.

Strategy Three: Preparation is Key

Just because they don’t want to eat that green bean doesn’t mean that they don’t like green beans at all. Lorelei likes her vegetables for the most part, but they have to be prepared the right way. For example, green beans will be consumed if they are roasted (fresh) or straight out of the freezer (frozen). Steamed or microwaved from frozen green beans, however, will be spit out immediately. It’s all about trial and error and finding what works and then adjusting your plans accordingly. Or, if all else fails, employ strategy one and throw some sauce on that veggie.

Strategy Four: Blend It

Does your toddler hate fruit? Leafy greens? Milk? Try throwing them all together in a blender and see if they’ll go for that. Lorelei’s favorite snack is a smoothie. Right now we make it with frozen strawberries, frozen spinach, whole milk yogurt, a scoop of applesauce for sweetness and a splash of milk to thin it out. Boom. Snack. And they’re eating vegetables. It doesn’t bother Lorelei (for some reason) that you can see chunks of green in the liquid but if it does bother your little one, try mixed berries, it will hide it better.

Strategy Five: Bribery

Ha. Okay. I know bribery is bad, but sometimes everything else has failed. It’s food she likes, it’s food she’s picked. We’ve tried saucing it up and yet she still won’t eat more than a bite. So we bribe her with a book. That’s right: we will whip out one of her many, many books (usually we even ask her which one she wants) and for each bite or couple of bites we will read the next page. She’s reading (yay!) and she is also eating her dinner. It’s my least favorite strategy and one I’m trying to employ as little as possible, but it works.

If you have stuck with me through this entire treatise on how to get your kid to eat, congratulations! Unfortunately, I don’t have a prize. However, what I would like to know is what has worked for you? I’m sure that there will be a day soon when everything changes and none of these will work, new ideas are always welcome.

So That Was Christmas

The half-decorated tree with a string of burnt out lights is a good indication of what this Christmas has been like for us: well-intentioned, but ultimately depressing. It has been a hard month for me. I say that a lot, but my usual anxiety and depression is kicked into overdrive when there are BIG! IMPORTANT! holidays involved. Throw in financial stress and pregnancy and you have a recipe for disaster. Disaster in the form of late nights staying awake and fretting or late nights staying awake and sobbing.

I feel like I have failed Lorelei. This time of year should be magical for little kids. Twinkling lights, late nights watching movies, making and eating too many cookies, hot chocolate snuggled on the sofa, meeting Santa. She’s not quite old enough to really understand what’s going on but I feel like now is the time to really start making new traditions as a family of three almost four. And I did almost nothing. Not for lack of trying or planning but through a complete lack of follow through. Like the tree:

It was supposed to be a nice little activity for Lorelei and I to do one afternoon post-nap. Brian and I had put up the tree and hung the lights the night before. I put on White Christmas and got out a few of ornaments – mostly the non-bauble variety – and I gave her a few. I tried to explain that she was supposed to show me where she wanted them and I would help her hang them on the branches. Well, our language skills – despite the recent explosion of words – were not up to the task and she had a meltdown when I tried to help her. Melt. Down. Followed by throwing of the ornaments because, yes I did get out a few balls and that was a terrible, terrible mistake. I was reluctant to finish decorating the tree after that and so it sits in the corner with a dozen or so ornaments placed on it at random. It really is a sad little tree.

The new tradition that turned out to be a complete success – even though it lead to a no-nap day (kill me now) – was taking her to St Charles for their little “Victorian” Christmas. I don’t know if I can accurately describe this event because it is kind of hilarious and so…St Charles-y but it was a huge hit with the little one.

Don’t let the surly expression fool you. If we had met Santa at the mall, there probably would have been tears. And screaming and Mommy really, really wishing she could have a bottle of wine or five afterwards. Meeting Santas from around the world or whatever (some of which, I swear, sounded like they just made up – Frontier Santa, really?) as we wandered down brick sidewalks on a mild December day was a much, much better idea. (Pictures above: Lorelei, Brian and Père Noël) Bonus: the various characters gave out trading cards for the kids to collect. Lorelei loves her some cards.

New tradition achieved!

What really got me down this year was the presents. (I know Christmas isn’t really about the presents or even Santa but try to explain that to a kid and then get back to me. Hell, explain that to most people my age and let me know how that works out for you.) Unfortunately, Christmas has turned into something obnoxiously materialistic. I felt like I couldn’t turn around without having to hear about what people were getting for their kids or what people wanted from their spouse/significant other/parent/whatever and it is just infuriating. It’s like Christmas has turned into a way for people to show how much money they have and to get into a competition with people they know about who can get the most expensive thing. It’s disgusting.

However…

However, that doesn’t mean that there isn’t a small big (I’ll admit it) part of me that is insanely jealous. We don’t have a lot of extra money to spend. Things are tight but we managed to save enough to at least put a few gifts under the tree. Right now, Lorelei doesn’t really get it. In a few years, however, when her school friends are bragging about the new bike or iPod or video game system or whatever is the next big thing that they got for Christmas, I don’t want her to feel left out. It’s a strange thing to worry about, the future Lorelei. But I do. It was actually giving me anxiety attacks. Here’s the thing, though, Lorelei still got lots of presents (thanks family!) and she still got things that she really loves. Why do I care so much? She is very happy and I should be to.

This has turned into a completely incoherent ramble. But what I think I’ve decided, realized, whatever…I’m not going to change things. She (and her sister) will get a few new toys from us, a few books and maybe something to wear (her kitty/rabbit/mouse/ whatever hat was one of the biggest hits) and that’s it. Nothing fancy. And if (hopefully when) money is less of an issue, we can pass the extra along to those who aren’t so lucky. I think that is a much more important thing for her them learn.

I need to stop now. Want to see a cute picture of Lorelei on Christmas morning?

Playing

I admit that I’m not any good at playing with Lorelei. I also admit that it is extremely frustrating and makes me feel like a failure.

Here’s my main problem: she doesn’t seem to want to play with me. She likes to play near me. Or she likes to use my body as part of her playing – my thighs make excellent race tracks, apparently. I’ve tried to be more active in her block stacking or in her “cooking,” but she will yell if she doesn’t like what I’m doing. For example, her round blocks are not for stacking they are for pretending to drink from.

So, what am I to do? I make an effort to be in the same room with her and to pay attention when she chatters at me, but I find myself on the computer or reading a book in the rocking chair more often than not. Am I ignoring her? It’s the question that I keep asking myself over and over. I don’t think I’m ignoring her but I can’t help but think that I am. My mind runs around the same path over and over.

Does it get better? When? Is it when she becomes more (coherently) vocal? How do I keep from being bored while at the same time not feel like I’m ignoring my child? And most importantly, how do I keep her from being bored?

Fifteen Weeks

I have a lot to say. My head is full of many thoughts. Some of them are important, some are trivial.

I don’t want to write them down.

The thoughts that are important – I think, anyway – deserve a response. Deserve more than the four or five readers that occasionally stop by here.

I know that my life is very boring. I don’t have the resources to make it any more interesting than what it is. I live a pretty simple life and it is not going to change any time soon.

So, I know that no one really comes here. I write this mostly for me and it will likely always be that way.

But what I’ve been feeling, what has been torturing my thoughts for the last several weeks feels bigger than this space. Bigger than the tiny world of this one stay-at-home mom.

I don’t know how to go about this.

I don’t want to write down something that is important and difficult for me to say and see no response.

No response.

Over and over. There are no comments.

Nothing.

Silence.

Yesterday was officially fifteen weeks into this pregnancy.

I’m not doing so great right now.

Fourteen Weeks

Twelve & Thirteen Weeks

Eleven Weeks

Ten Weeks

Nine Weeks

Feverbaby

Lorelei was on a destructive tear Wednesday evening. I had rudely awakened her from her late nap, so she had to show me who was really boss in this relationship. As a (sometimes unfortunately) very curious and active almost eighteen-month old, this is a pretty common practice of hers. Books must be removed from shelves and strewn across the dining and living rooms. Toys must be dragged from her room and tossed willy-nilly down the hall. Mommy must be screamed at for no discernible reason…

Wait. That last one is not true.

On the rare occasion that she decides not to nap immediately post-lunch and instead passes out in the late-ish afternoon, I’ve gotten into the habit of letting her sleep for an hour and then rousing her from slumber. I probably shouldn’t, but when she chooses four in the afternoon as nap time I don’t have much choice if I want her to go to bed at a reasonable hour. I do. She gets up at the same time every morning, no matter what time she goes to bed at night. Normally, she is crabby for a ten or twenty minutes but I can distract her with toys or coloring or her favorite movie (right now it’s Tangled). When my usual tactics didn’t work, I knew something was up.

I avoid taking her temperature as much as I possibly can. For one thing, I’m not going to take it unless she a) feels hot to the touch or b) is acting like a complete terror. I usually hold out for both conditions to be met unless she is really, really volcanic hot. Which, just so we’re clear has only happened once before when we were all down with the flu this last Christmas. The other reason I avoid taking her temperature is that it is a huge pain in the B-U-T-T. We started out with an ear thermometer, but Lorelei hated it and wouldn’t let me anywhere near her with it so we got one that’s like a pacifier.

(Spare me the lecture about how she shouldn’t use a pacifier and how it’s the most inaccurate and yadda yadda blah blah blah because I don’t give a fuck. It’s what works for us. I would rather have something – inaccurate as it may be – that she will actually let me use than have nothing at all. Okay? )

She didn’t seem very warm to me but coupled with her fit of destruction, I decided to risk her wrath and approached her cautiously with the thermometer. After a minute, it beeped. 101.6 Not that bad but bad enough, especially since she is never sick unless one of us gets sick first. Truth. See: every time she has ever been sick ever

By yesterday evening, despite my best efforts – including Tylenol, a lukewarm bath and cool clothing – she was still wavering between 101 and 102. After refusing dinner, we called our pediatrician – they have an after-hours urgent care – and they told us to come in. We made it there just before it was closing for the night. Everything was fine in the waiting room. Lorelei seemed happy enough to be running around and clutching her stuffed owl, even though it was past her bed time. The second we opened the door to the examine room, however, she went from sleepy but happy toddler to screaming feverbaby!

She screamed when they tried to take her temperature. She screamed when they weigher her. She screamed when they brought her medicine, even though she gulped it down once I managed to get the syringe past her lips. While we waited for the doctor, I bounced her in my lap and pushed her around the room on the little doctor’s stool. She whimpered pathetically but wouldn’t allow us to put her down. Eventually, I traded places with Brian and she was mostly calm by the time the door opened again. What followed was one of the worst ten minute blocks of my life.

My poor baby girl was very scared. She wouldn’t let Brian set her on the examine table and instead clawed at him and reached for me. I held her tightly, feeling her fevered skin burn my cheek, while the doctor tried to listen to her heartbeat and lungs and check for rashes. Eventually, we had to lay her down. Brian held her feet and I held her arms and I shushed her and told her it was going to be okay over and over and over. I wanted to cry to. It felt like someone was stabbing me in the gut, watching her scream in complete terror and knowing that there was nothing I could do until it was all over.

But eventually, it was over. Diagnosis: hand, foot and mouth disease. Translation: nothing we could do accept give her Tylenol and hope her fever went down.

We trudged home and tucked her into bed. She was up several times in the night screaming. I felt like running away.

By this morning, her fever was gone. She wasn’t her usual active self, preferring to curl up next to me on the couch or curl up on top of a pillow on the living room floor. We watched the Royal Wedding (and that’s a whole other post right there) which I had the forethought to DVR. She would clap whenever there was a lot of cheering and she was enthralled during the hymns. She took a long nap at her normal time this afternoon and she seems almost back to normal. For that, I am glad and I hope that we don’t have to go near a doctor’s office for a very long time.

Not Getting What I Didn’t Know I Wanted

I don’t even know where to begin. I haven’t been posting much – other than the occasional picture or recipe – in the last few weeks. I might have said at some point that I needed to sort through the jumble of thoughts in my head. I lot of what has been going on are things that I’m not sure I want all of the internet to know. But…BUT…it has been a rough couple of weeks and today I was dealt a blow that I didn’t expect:

I’m not pregnant.

Let me repeat that: I’m not pregnant.

The desire to have a second child started pretty much the second Lorelei was born. I knew right away that, despite my earlier protests of “one is enough,” I want to have a big family. Or a bigger family. I want at least two kids, at least one playmate and conspirator for Lorelei. It didn’t help my baby fever that it seems like all of the internet and a number of real life friends are currently pregnant. However, baby number two was not supposed to be in the immediate future.

In case you missed it, Lorelei was not planned. Not at that moment in our lives anyway, not when we first found out. It was a shock to see the second line on the pregnancy test because a baby had been until then something for the future a few years away.  That is not to say that I regret having a baby when I did. Just because it wasn’t planned does not mean that I would change anything about it: Lorelei is perfect and I wouldn’t have her if everything had gone as planned.

So…

When talking about baby number two, we wanted to have more of a plan. We wanted to be moved into a bigger place before we tried to conceive. Moving with a six month old was not fun and I can’t imagine moving while pregnant would be any better. Our tiny compact car is barely big enough for the three of us, where would a second car seat go? We needed to save up for something bigger. We needed to save money period. We wanted it to be soon, just not right away.

Enter this month week. I am late. Like, really late. Bet you wanted to know that. On the one hand, I’ve been sick with anxiety. This wasn’t the plan. We were going to do the unplanned thing again. On the other hand, I’ve been excited by the possibility and maybe even getting my hopes up a little. I could not figure out which side was winning the battle. Well, I don’t have to fight with myself anymore. The test is negative.

I’m feeling sad and disappointed. I didn’t even know that it was what I wanted, not really, and yet here I am. I know that there are people who try for years to have one baby and here I am lamenting the fact that I’m not pregnant with a second baby when we weren’t even trying. I feel like a huge asshole. And yet…well, here I am.

All I have now is the possibility. Maybe. One day.

Not today.

"Grown Up"

Lorelei, minutes old

When Lorelei came into this world, a squirming little red bundle of arms and legs and enormous head, it finally dawned on me: I’m responsible for another life. There is this tiny person who needs me for everything. She needs me to feed her and clothe her and bathe her and change her poopy diapers. She wants me to snuggle her and hold her when she cries and kiss her when she falls down. And I do it, even when I feel completely crappy.

We’ve been through a lot, our little family. It hasn’t always been easy, but we have survived. There is laughter and dancing and bad singing. There are books read over and over until they start to fall apart and there are tea parties with Daddy. There is a little girl with a smile so big it can light up even the darkest days and a laugh so loud and beautiful it can drown out the bad thoughts in my head.

This wasn’t the plan. I didn’t plan on growing up and becoming an Adult, with a capital A so soon. But I did.