Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Finny Kisses Sheep

This week Finny has had two new cognitive developments.

First: He has learned how to Ba, Ba like a sheep. When I sing Patti Page's "The Mama Doll Song" to him, he sings right along with me.

The song goes,

"Her eyes were so blue, and her cheeks were so red, but I loved her most of all each time she said...Mama, mama, mama, mama. One little word she knew. Mama, mama, mama, mama. To me it meant, I love you."

When I sing "One little word she knew...," he chimes in with "Baba, baba, baba." So, clearly he knows that I'm his Mama. He just doesn't know yet that I'm not a sheep. One step at a time.

Second cognitive development: Finny gives kisses on command.

If you say, "Finny, give me a kiss," right on cue he'll lay one on you. It's probably the best thing ever. The only trouble is, he is a little advanced in the kissing department and he goes straight for the open-mouth kiss, using tongue and sometimes teeth like a seventh grader at an eighth grade dance.

But Baba doesn't mind wiping her face and asking immediately for another one.

Whole Milk--Alleluia!

Went to the grocery store this week and bought myself a gallon of Vitamin D milk. Found myself skipping down the aisle with my $1.98 gallon of whole milk. Found myself skipping right past the $23.99 carton of Enfamil and the $21.99 carton of Similac. Found myself whispering, "Eat my dust, Similac" and then giggling as if I'd just beaten Similac in a game of Battleship, as if I'd just won a $100 lottery this month and next month and next month.

Then I watched Finny down a 6 oz. cup of $1.98 whole milk as if he'd been drinking it his whole life.

Mmmm...$1.98 never tasted so good.

Float Like a Butterfly

Teeth. Again. Molars this time, I believe, are waking us up in the middle of the night. David put Finny to bed last night and I gave him all the instructions: two-three books, music, fan. I forgot to tell him about the Motrin and sure enough at 2 a.m....teeth.

I try Motrin, a diaper change and gentle rocking, but although calm, he will not sleep. If I even walk close to his crib, absolute histeria breaks out as if "sharks with lazer beams" were swimming at the bottom of it. So I bring him into bed with us.

The wrestling match begins.

First an elbow to the throat, then a finger up the nose. Next, he pushes all his weight on my face and pins me down so I don't quite know what's happening when he pulls his signature move and pulls all my hair out.

With a gentle, "shhh," I lay him back down between us and in a flash he is up on all fours again and gunning for David. Now he tries to pin David down by propping himself up on David's face and then he takes a good healthy handful of chest hair sending David moaning into the corner.

With a gentle, "shhh," and a kiss, I lay him back down again and the yoga poses begin. Butt in the air, butt in the face, butt that seems to have a mind of its own.

One hour later, this isn't working. No sense in all of us being in the ring, so Finny and I move to the guest bedroom and Round Two begins.

Hair pulling, nose picking, throat checking, and an hour later--TKO.

Not sure who went down first, but based on the way I'm feeling this morning, I'm pretty sure he's the champ.

I should let him win anyway; it is his birthday after all.

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Happy Birthday, Finn Michael!

Finny, like a good wine, has only gotten better with age. Tomorrow morning he will be one year old. At this time, on this day, last year we didn’t know him. He was just a belly. Now, he is our baby.
In honor of this very special day, I thought I would share his birthday story. It is not something I could sum up in just a few words, so beware, it will take a while to read. But it is a story worth telling because it is the story of our son.

The Birth of Finn Michael

It is September 29, 2008 and this night, at dinner, David and I are sharing our last meal together as a two-person family. Our last supper as a solo couple. It is nearing the end of September, the school year is underway and all the neighborhood pools are closed because September is expected to be the beginning of a cool weather fall. It never happens like this in Cincinnati though. We often have warm weather well into October and even November some years. The leaves are changing and falling, but summer hangs on. So this September day, it is still warm enough for me to be sweating in a sundress, still warm enough to sit in the park and read a book, still warm enough to grill burgers on the deck. David and I are eating our burgers and chewing our corn on the cob under the bright lights of the kitchen island and we are unusually giddy this night. He makes fun of the haphazard way I chew my corn on the cob as usual and we laugh harder than I’ve laughed in a long time about a Far Side cartoon. Far Side cartoons, although mildly amusing, have never seemed as uproariously funny as they do this night, particularly the ones featuring cows. It all starts with the discussion of the birthday card I bought this day for his dad. There are three cows on it, which in and of itself is a recipe for hilarity, but it is how the cows are interacting with one another that really gets me going. The cows, like us, are grilling out and the entire scene makes me giggle. One of the cows is grilling hamburgers and his two buddies reproach him saying, “You’re sick, Jerry. Sick, sick, sick.” I cannot stop laughing about the absurdity, the irony, the hilarity of cows talking, cows grilling, cows passing judgment on one another.

This reminds me of another cow cartoon I love about cow poetry, so I proceed to try and explain the cartoon to David, but I am already so giddy from Jerry and the burgers that I cannot stop laughing long enough to describe the premise of the cartoon. It is that kind of contagious laughter that David can’t resist and soon we are both beside ourselves. The combination of the laughter and the intensity of the seven pound baby doing a headstand on my bladder heightens my pregnancy incontinence and I start to pee my pants, or dress in this case. As I laugh harder at the idea that I am peeing myself, I pee harder, until I am truly peeing all over the kitchen floor. It is a vicious cycle and because I cannot stop laughing or peeing as they are both the cause of the other, I make a mad dash for the bathroom, but in my great hurry to sit down on the toilet, I don’t take the time to lift my dress. So David, who has followed me to the bathroom, shouts through a mouthful of food, “Jill, you’re peeing on your dress!” And sure enough I am. Sure enough I have soaked my dress with laughter, which of course, makes us laugh even harder.

It is this very laughter, I am quite certain, that brought our Finny into the world. If we had not been discussing cow cartoons, if we had not been so giddily chomping away at our corn on the cob this night, if I had not peed all over my dress, I am sure, he would have at least held off until one of the first few days of October. But we were having too much fun and we woke him up. He wanted to be a part of the joke, a part of our dinner table giggles. It is only a few short hours later when I wet myself once again. This time it is not instigated by cow poetry, this time it is because my son is coming.

It is 12:00 a.m. when I get up to use the bathroom. The window is open and I can see the lights in the valley below. Things are cooling down now and I can feel the breeze of a September night that is about to fill with rain. I sit there once again on the toilet in the dark in the middle of the night. It is how I have spent every night this summer. The more pregnant I became, the more time I spent in the bathroom in the dark. When I return to bed, I lay there wide awake, waiting, waiting, wondering, always wondering when will it be? Will I know it when it happens? What will it feel like? How will it start? And then I feel the drip, the slow drip that could be anything. Could it be? Could be anything. Until it is no longer a drip but a gush. Until the dam brakes and I am not peeing myself, but I am filling the mattress with water.

“David, my water just broke.”
“What? No it didn’t. What? Did it really?”

“Yes, get me a towel.”

And so it begins and I know it is time to get ready to go. But when I reach the bathroom, the water stops and is it supposed to stop? I call the doctor.

“My water broke but it stopped.”

“It stopped? Are you having contractions?”


“Give it a couple hours. If more water comes or contractions begin come in. If not, wait until your appointment.”

My appointment is at 10:40 a.m. the next morning. Wait until my appointment? But my water broke. Wait?! Wait?! Okay, we’ll wait. We’ve waited this long; we’ll wait a big longer. David shaves. We both shower. We are preparing to meet our new family member and we want to look our best. “Should I wear my hair curly or straight?” I ask him. How will I look best through the long hours of labor? Which hairstyle will hold up best through the intense physical experience I am about to have? How can I best attempt to look pretty through such an agonizing experience? Curly. If I straighten it, it will no doubt begin to curl anyway through all the pushing, sweating, and grunting. Besides, I am feeling a little uncomfortable and I want to get some more sleep if I can.

David checks his email. Tells the guys he won’t make it to softball, asks Kerry if she wants our Ryan Adams concert tickets. I put in a load of laundry, pack my bag. David makes a sandwich, gets dressed—jeans, belt, shoes and all.

“Should we pick up some videos on the way?” He wants to know.

“Maybe,” I say. But what video stores are open? “Let’s get some sleep first. It’s not time to go yet.” I say this as I am drying my hair, trimming and filing my nails, feeling a gradual, nudging discomfort across my lower back. Feeling a gradual, nudging pain. “Let’s go back to bed and see if the contractions start.”

We turn out the lights once again and I lay wide awake on a towel. David who can sleep through anything begins to snore—how easily he can fall asleep! When should we go in? Nudging pain across my lower back. Five minutes and thirty seconds. Nudging pain across my lower back. Five minutes and thirty seconds. This goes on for thirty minutes. It is bearable after all and I want to be sure. Shouldn’t get there too soon. Shouldn’t go unless it’s real. Don’t want to be one of those ladies they send home with false labor.

4:30 a.m. “David, we should go now.”

Very suddenly the pain does not seem so gradual; it is no longer so quietly nudging. It is like a wave, a wave which stops me in my tracks. Five minutes and thirty seconds. But could it be that the last one was only three minutes and thirty seconds ago? Couldn’t be. Must’ve timed it wrong. I try to get into the car. Struggle to get into the car—three minutes and thirty seconds. No time for videos. No video stores open at five a.m. anyway.

On the way to the hospital, David calls our parents, tells them we are on our way. I grip the car door, beg for the seat warmer to be turned on; my back is throbbing. By the time we arrive after only a fifteen minute drive, I struggle to walk from the car to the hospital door, struggle to stand in the elevator, struggle to focus on anything but the pain across my back. When we arrive at the nurse’s station, there is paperwork. Name, birthday, insurance. Halfway through writing VanHimbergen, I have to put the pen down and grip the side of the desk. The nurses are unphased. They see this everyday, but how can they be so calm when I can barely stand.
They take us back to triage. The pain is coming quickly now. I cannot lie down on my back as she has asked me to; the pain is too intense across my back. She hooks me up to monitors; she checks my cervix. She tells me I am four centimeters dilated. Did she lie? Did she know then that I was actually much farther along than that? I try to politely ask for the epidural.

“When is the epidural coming? When can we start that?”

“Soon,” she says, “First we have to admit you and we have to take your blood.” So many papers to fill out, to sign. Liability, waivers. She explains them to me, but I don’t know what they mean. All I know is the throbbing across my back. All I know is the sweat around my face. All I know is the grip of David’s palm. It is all coming so quickly. She checks me again—six centimeters. Time to move me to the labor and delivery room. In between contractions we make a break for it. When we get there, I lay on my side gripping the side of the bed, eyes closed, wanting ice, wanting a fan, wanting something to ease the pain, the heat, the sweating, wanting someone to stick my lower back in a tub of cool water or remove it from my body all together. The nurse is sticking an IV in my hand. Doesn’t take. Sticking the IV in my arm. Needles all up my arm and I am still signing forms. In the meantime, I can think of nothing but my back. I am growing impatient. Breathing, just trying to breathe and think about my breath rather than the pain. There is David’s hand to squeeze and music to focus on coming from the ipod, but where is the epidural?

“Soon. It’ll be here soon. We just have to admit you and wait for your blood work to come back.”

She is being purposefully elusive, won’t give me a time. Soon. Any minute now. But can’t she tell? Can’t she tell this thing is coming sooner than soon and no one is moving quickly enough. The only person in the room with any sense of urgency is the baby. “Hand!” I yell to David. All I want is his hand to squeeze. I don’t need any massage or labor techniques we learned in the birth and labor class, don’t want the rice sock, don’t want to stand and lean into him or sit on a birthing ball. I don’t need him to look into my eyes because I can’t even open mine. All I want is his hand to squeeze and some ice chips. Where are the ice chips? And a fan. It’s hot in here. Could someone turn on a fan? Where is the damn epidural? The doctor—where is he? Shouldn’t he be here? Shouldn’t someone act as if I am in labor? Shouldn’t someone act as if I am about to birth a child. Why is no one else feeling the urgency I’m feeling?

7:00 a.m.

“I feel the urge to push.”

“You do? All right, let’s check you again.”

“Well, you’re about nine centimeters. Let’s go ahead and start pushing.”

Start pushing? But where is the doctor and where on God’s green earth is the epidural?!

“There’s no time for the epidural. We’re gonna go ahead without it. You can do it.”

“Oh shit!” I scream and then apologize for swearing. I’m in the most intense pain of my life and still somehow wanting to be polite to this nurse who is a stranger, to this nurse who took her sweet and precious time with the epidural and now there isn’t one. Now the epidural is off the table and I’m on the table and about to experience a pain I cannot imagine.

“Well, when the doctor comes, can he numb the area?” I ask. At least the area, right? If they can’t make the contractions in my back disappear, can’t they at least protect me down there?

“The baby’s head will numb the area.”

The baby’s head? Oh God! Doesn’t she know I want the area to be numb so that I have no sense that there is a baby’s head in the area or even in the neighborhood? Doesn’t she know I just want the baby to appear; I don’t want feel the impact upon arrival? And where is the doctor? A light drops down, the bed changes shape, my feet go up. I can’t open my eyes. I can’t see anything. And now I have to lay on my throbbing back because they want me to push. I am going to have to push. But how? How do I do it? They told us in the classes, but now I am actually going to have to do it. How do I do it? I am in so much pain. I want it to stop. But the baby can’t stay in. I know the baby can’t stay in and yet I don’t want the baby to come out either. The nurse insists the contractions will feel better if I push. She is right, but what about that head? What about the fact that that large head is pushing through my pelvis, is pushing through what I know to be a rather small opening? But what else can I do? I am out of options.
So I push. Pull my legs up and bear down. David holds one leg. “You’re doing great, Jill.” The nurse holds the other. “You can do this. You’ll be fine.” Still no doctor, but I push again.

“You’re doing such a good job, Jill,” David keeps saying, the nurse keeps saying, coaching me, keeping my spirits up, seeing what I could only feel in the other world of pain I was in, seeing that I was beside myself with pain, that I was worried, concerned, sweating and panting.

“Okay, let’s push again.”

7:15 a.m.

Dr. Ortiz arrives. They can see the head.

“Push again, Jill.”

“I can’t do it. This can’t happen. I don’t understand how this is supposed to happen.”

“You can do it, Jill. You can do it. It’ll be fine.”

“Lord, God please help me. Please be with me. Please carry me.” I need something much larger than myself to lift me through this. I need God. Without Him, I do not have the strength alone.

“He’s here, Jill.” David. “He’s here.” It occurs to me in the hazy split seconds of warped time that this all seems to be occurring in, that I can survive death if only God will carry me.
And so I push long and hard and I hold this push so long I feel as if my head might pop right off. But it doesn’t. Instead the baby’s head pops right out. Oh, I feel it finally push through the pelvis, push through that tiny opening that is perhaps not so tiny after all. A relief, but I have to push again. He is still not out.

And then, there he is. I can’t see, can’t open my eyes. But, I can hear him crying, flailing across my chest. I can barely look at him. He and I have just been through quite a difficult journey and neither of us can seem to look at the other. We are panting, crying, shaking as if we have just been washed up onto shore after weathering a terrible storm. We are wet and weeping and just happy to have survived. And so they take him away, take him away to be cleaned off, suctioned, weighed, cared for. David takes pictures; he is my eyes when I cannot see, and I lay there open, wondering why I am still feeling pressure. Why won’t the pressure go away?

The doctor. “You still have to deliver the placenta. You won’t have to push. It’ll come on its own any second now.” And it does. And I have never felt so relieved, so tired in my whole life. I lay there and shake. Everyone around me takes care of my son and I just close my eyes and shake with relief.

It is a few minutes before I hold my son again. It is a few minutes before I can hold him swaddled and bundled and really see him, really understand that he is there breathing before me and that’s when I really cry, that’s when I fully realize what has happened. And it is exactly as they say it will be—worth it.

It’s gotten a lot easier and I’m adjusting now to this new role. I miss the time to write. I miss the time to do things at my pace. But sitting here for the past hour and a half writing this story, our story, I miss more than all of that, the soft backs of his hands, the most kissable spot just under his ear, the tiny head snuggled up beneath my chin, and the tiny body sprawled across my stomach.

Giving birth to Finny is the most terrifying thing I’ve ever done and it is certainly the most pain I’ve ever experienced, but what a story I have to tell. All summer I couldn’t wait to know what my birth story would be, what my labor experience would be like. I am not disappointed. Everyone asks me if next time I will have the epidural. I can only guess that once again in that moment of delirious pain, I will be begging for the relief that those drugs promise, but in the end I’m glad I didn’t have that relief this time. I’m glad I have such an exciting page turner to tell. My novel may be muddled and confusing and stunted right now, but God wrote me a nonfiction story I never get tired of telling. I never get sick of delivering the climax with the appropriate amount of enthusiasm and am never disappointed by the reactions on my listeners’ faces. Finny, like fictionalIsaac, truly shot into this world like a rocket and we are all the better for it. There is no more waiting to know the story. The birth story is told and the chapters of his life I will live right along with him. Everyday is something new and even though I still cling to David’s hand, now my eyes are open for it all.

Thursday, September 24, 2009

The Thrill of the Ride

Apparently, motherhood has made me into a total wuss.

There was a once a time when I travelled across the ocean to live in a foreign country for two years without knowing a soul; this week I started to sweat when I got lost in a slightly rougher neighborhood than my own five minutes from my house.

There was a time when I would rock climb, hitch hike and walk unfamiliar territory invigorated by the fact that I didn't have a map and wasn't sure where I'd end up. Now heights, strangers and even grocery carts terrify me. I caught Finny with the strap to the grocery cart in his mouth yesterday and broke into a cold sweat; I might as well have just poured him a sippie cup of H1N1.

But last weekend, I overcame a little of my fear and was able to enjoy the thrill I once got from danger. On Saturday, David and I went to Kings Island for P&G dividend days and like little kids we were giddy to ride all the big rides. I noticed quickly though that something that was once so exciting had now become uncomfortably terrifying. I could no longer open my eyes on the big hills and I checked the lap belts repeatedly, convinced that mine was never quite locked. I had a white knuckle grip on every safety harness, certain that at some point during the ride I would be dangling from it. Twelve roller coaster rides later, I found I never needed to rely on my grip to save me. Instead, I relied on my eleven-year-old husband beside me distracting me from my impending death with his high-pitched giggling, ending every ride with, "Should we do it again in the front seat?!" or "Where to next?!"

When it was just me to worry about, the idea of putting myself in potentially dangerous situations was thrilling. Now, although we had a great time and those rides still make my stomach flip, there is an additional element of real terror involved because...what about Finny? He needs us. We need him. Now frivolous risk no longer seems invigorating; it seems selfish and irresponsible.

But there has to be a balance, right? I'm spending a lot of time and money these days on safety gates and soft corners, but I can't become an agorophobe who never leaves the house or a germophobe who stops eating the deli turkey on sample day. So although my hitchhiking days may be over and I've embraced the luxury of maps and antibacterial wipes, once in a while I might need a few corkscrews and a giant drop from a tall tower. Even though motherhood has for the most part made me into a big weenie, thanks to my giggling husband and lap belts, once in a while I can still experience the thrill that comes with a safe dose of danger.

Thursday, September 17, 2009

Having It All

This morning I read an article on Student Choice in teaching reading and I got choked up. My heart ached for teaching. How is it possible to be so fulfilled by one job and yet miss the other so much?

I don't miss getting up at 5 a.m. In fact, I can't believe Finny has the audacity to wake me up at 6:15 a.m. I don't miss my albatross of papers to grade constantly hanging around my neck. And I don't miss the politics and endlessly fighting to justify my measly paycheck.

But I do miss my classroom and the energy 120 teenagers brought to me on a daily basis. I love being Mommy, but I miss being Mrs. Van.

Many people struggle to find a career that they love; I guess I should count my blessings that somehow I found two. Someday, maybe I will figure out how to do them both at the same time.

Tuesday, September 15, 2009


David and I have been debating about the name of our next son. Although he has not yet been conceived, we thought we might name him Patrick, another good Irish name. After the news today, we are going simply with Swayze. Swayze VanHimbergen. He'll be the coolest kid in school. His black silk shirt will be open at the top to give the girls a little taste of his hunkiness and his black pants will hug his little butt for inappropriate gyrating and stage leaping at school dances. Young girls will carry watermelons into his hidden, sweaty love shack behind Kellermans, and his top lip will curl up just a little bit when he mambos and cha chas and busts out car windows with fence posts in the rain.

Finn VanHimbergen may be our future PGA champion, but Swayze VanHimbergen, well, he's gonna throw his hips around like its nobody's business.

In the here and now

It's easy to wish away the present. It's easy to dream of a day when Finny can walk, talk, go to school, pick up the toys on his own, wipe his own bottom, sleep in until 10, do his own breakfast dishes, and ride in the car without screaming at the top of his lungs. It's easy to dream of the day when I can go to the gym, shop for jeans, or start and finish a long project (shhh, we don't talk about the novel any more).

But, I know, always, in the back of my mind, that when the day comes that I finally have time (and money) to decorate my house, I'll miss the days when I was so needed. Because being needed comes with the priceless perk of endless affection and cuddling.

Best part of my day: rocking with Finny and reading him stories. He lays his little hands on mine and sometimes points to the pages and I can feel his soft baby hair under my chin. Then, he lets me kiss him in the soft spot between his ear and his neck. And as I lay him down, he gives me this desperate look--"You're leaving? But we were having such a nice moment there in the chair with the books and the reading and the cuddling and now, you're leaving?"

Best part of my day: the look of absolute elation on his face when he wakes up and I come back to get him (NOTE: this is not the best part of my day unless at least an hour and a half has passed). He flips all around, does bridges and downward facing dog, tugs on his blanket and smiles so big the paci falls out--"You're back! I can't believe it! I love you! Show me the ceiling light again and our faces in the mirror. Man, I forgot how funny you are!"

Someday, he'll leave me and it'll be the right thing for him to do. But, hopefully he'll come back and when he does, I'll say, "You're back! I can't believe it! I love you! Man, I forgot how precious you are." And at that point it may be weird for a mom to kiss her grown son on the neck, but maybe I'll get a big hug and a kiss on the cheek and it'll be just enough to remind me of that little hand on mine and that soft baby hair under my chin and that skinny little butt in the monster pajamas, and I'll wonder why did I ever want it to end?

Sunday, September 13, 2009

Everybody Hurts

So, the mystery behind Kate Gosselin's haircut is solved--one or some or all of her kids were teething.

Something crazy must come over women when their children aren't sleeping. They, in turn, aren't sleeping and suddenly everything looks tragic and hopeless.

The Desiderata says, "Many fears are born of fatigue and loneliness." And so, apparently, are reverse mullets.

When Finny doesn't sleep, I don't sleep, and all of a sudden I start going down this dark path of "I'm a terrible mother. My life is misery. I should be teaching and somebody more qualified should be watching my son. I hate my jeans. My face is ugly." You know the drill.

So, in an attempt to get my mind out of this depressive loop, I took Finny to the park and walked him around the track listening to REM's "Everybody Hurts." Somehow it made me feel better to know that everybody hurts; not just me. And also, I decided I would feel better if I got my haircut. Short.


My mom came over to watch Finny and I, armed with a photo of a stunning model with adorably short hair, went to the hairdresser and decided to become her. Two hours and four inches later, I left feeling a tight bond with Kate Gosselin.

"Many fears are born of loneliness and fatigue," and so apparently are mom haircuts and perhaps other bad decisions like mom jeans and sweater vests.

Next time, I may just opt for a cup of coffee and a good book and stay clear of Coldwater Creek.

Saturday, September 12, 2009

Forget it. Finny doesn't speak after all.

Okay, so maybe I gave him a little too much credit. His hand opening and closing that I thought was a desperate plea for milk may have just been his hand opening and closing because he's figured out that it can. He does it a lot now and doesn't necessarily want anything to do with his cup of milk.

He does continue to communicate with me though mainly through whining and screaming and mainly to continously complain about the service.

It's a good thing he's so stinkin' cute when he's cheerful or else I'd be on the horn to the leader of that wolf pack I got him from to come pick him up and take him back to the woods. Let's see how he feels about the service around there.

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

Finny Speaks!

Finny and I are on speaking terms again. And by speaking terms, I mean he spoke to me today! He actually spoke! Well, perhaps I should clarify. He speaks all the time in variations of "Ma, ma, ma, Na, na, na, Da, da, da, dee, see, blabbity, blabbity." His mouth makes sounds, but he doesn't communicate. But today, he sent me a message, a very clear message, using a new language I didn't know he'd learned, so like a dope I totally ignored him.

All in all, we were having a pretty good day until about 5:30 p.m. Just when I was struggling to get dinner together, Dr. Evil Finny showed up in yoga pants again. I threw balls and crackers and lightswitchs at him, but was getting nothing. Or so I thought.

He kept opening and shutting his hand at me and I was like, "What does that mean? Lightswitch? High five? Cigarette?"

I changed his diaper, I gave him his paci, I showed him his sad face in the mirror, and still he continued to play Charades, thinking to himself, "Ugh, how did I get stuck with this idiot on my team?"

I put him in his high chair and threw more crackers at him and watched as he continued to open and shut his hand, and finally it dawned on me--Milk! He was giving me the sign language for milk! Beside myself with excitement, I quickly prepared his cup of milk and he guzzled it and smiled.

All this time I've been showing him the Baby Einstein sign language video thinking he didn't get it. I've been showing it to him since he was 6 months old and he loves it, but until today, he's never given any indication that he was actually learning the signs.

Today, Dr. Evil Finny became simply Dr. Finny, Master of Language. I will never underestimate those little hands again. They are full of new tricks everyday.

Dr. Evil Finny

It seems Finny's evil brother, Dr. Evil Finny has reared his ugly head. Who is this crazy baby who kicks and screams every time I try to pick him up, put him down, feed him, put him in the car seat or the stroller? If I didn't know any better, it would seem that for the past 11 months Finny had been raised by wolves in the backyard.

One minute he's so cute and cuddly, and the next, he is contorting his body into advanced yoga positions and howling at the moon.

I know that at the heart and soul of this behavior is the fact that he can't walk and wants to and he needs my two little fingers to keep his balance as he explores the house. If I try to reclaim my fingers for my own personal use, he immediately files a complaint with customer service.

He wishes he could walk. I wish he could talk.

I like to imagine how civilized our relationship would be if he could talk.

"Excuse me, Finny. I'm going to let go for a second so that I can itch my nose."

"Oh, of course, Mother! Go right ahead. I'll sit and wait patiently here for you. But do be a dear and get me cracker while I wait. Thanks, love."

Then we would embrace and tell each other how great we think the other is.

Instead, I watch as he does variations of downward facing dog and screams at the top of his lungs, looking at me as if I just murdered his seahorse.

Saturday, September 5, 2009

Civil Disobedience

Before Finny was born, I dreamed of all the things I wanted to teach him. I would teach him to be kind and generous, to look out for the weak and unfortunate, to learn to laugh at himself, to have a strong faith, and to fight injustice. These, in my mind, are the characteristics of admirable men, heroes, and followers of God.

It wasn't until recently, when Finny learned to morph into a wet noodle every time I try to pick him up, that I began to re-think "fight injustice." Perhaps he and I need to break down exactly what qualifies as "injustice." Injustice is, for example, unfair school funding in the state of Ohio. It is not being placed in the exersaucer while Mommy takes a shower. Injustice may also be a little kid being bullied at the bus stop. It is not being pulled away from playing with dangerous lamp cords.

So, it has occurred to me that before I can teach him the things he needs to know to be a man, I first must teach him what he needs to know to foster a healthy Mommy/Baby relationship--obedience. It's good to see that he has a little fight in him, don't get me wrong; I realize it will come in handy some day when he needs to stick up for himself. But putting him in the pack and play so that I can pee does not qualify as abuse and so I'd appreciate it if he would stop throwing his head back as if he were resisting arrest every time I try to contain him.

I'm sure that Gandi and Thoreau would agree that in the case of Mommy v. Baby, Civil Obedience is the best approach.

Tuesday, September 1, 2009

What's the point?

I guess we have children in order to keep teaching that old dog new tricks. It seems everyday now Finny is waking up with a new trick, something that amazes both him and me. I don't wake up with new tricks anymore, unless of course you count my new trick knee or trick back, but I always anxiously open the door to Finny's room to see what new tricks he is going to teach me today.

A few days ago he learned how to point. This is a minor milestone, one that is not much discussed in books or among mommy circles. Everyone wants to know if he can clap or high five or wave goodbye. He can't do any of these things yet, but he has figured out how to stick just one finger in the air and point (and thank God it is the right finger or else I would have a lot of explaining to do). He points to everything now. He points to himself in the mirror, he points to the light on the ceiling. He doesn't point in an accusatory way as adults have learned to do. He doesn't even point to indicate that he wants something (although I am hoping this is on its way soon). Right now, he points just for the pure pleasure of pointing. And so, I point too. I point to him, I point to me and sometimes we touch pointers and ET phone home.

Who needs new tricks when I can just relearn the pleasure of the old ones through the eyes of my child?