Wednesday, December 29, 2010

The 39th Week

Pregnancy, though loved by some moms, is generally not my favorite state of being. I value agility, energy, control of my bodily functions and emotions, and a quick, runner’s squat shoe-tie—all things that disappear when I’m lugging around a ball of baby.

Some moms glow with talk of how much they love to feel all the little kicks and movements of the tender babe growing inside of them. Hmmm. Yes, there is a nice little novelty to that feeling, but in general, I’d prefer to be able to roll over in bed without feeling as if someone is trying to pry my pelvis apart in the middle of the night. In general, I’d prefer to not feel as if a tiny fist is about to shoot out between my legs while I make a quick return at Banana Republic. In general, I’d prefer to have the baby strapped to my chest in a Baby Bjorn rather than head butting me in the spine or challenging the durability of my hips from within.

If you let me, I could bitch and moan about the pains and discomfort of pregnancy all night long, but that would be a waste of time and to do that would also be to discredit the intense gratitude I feel that I am able to get pregnant, to carry a baby full term and hoperfully, bring him safely into the world. I am quite aware that for some this is no small feat and for others, impossible. So, instead of going on and on about what is actually, in the grand scheme, relatively mild discomfort in the 39th week of pregnancy, let me focus on what is really driving me crazy. In an intensely wonderful sort of way.

The anticipation.

Not since I believed in Santa Claus have I gone to bed at night with such giddy excitement about what might happen during the night. Except, unlike Christmas where you get the child-like excitement for just one night, this is more like the world’s greatest Hanukkah minus the Menorah. I realize that not everyone goes into labor in the dead of night, but because I did with Finny, that is how I imagine it. Every night I close my eyes and wonder if something new and magical will wake me up. With Finny, I got up to use the bathroom and when I got back into bed, my water broke in a matter of minutes. So, every night, when I get up to pee, which happens at least three times a night now, I slowly crawl back into bed, barricade myself within my fortress of pillows and wait silently and anxiously for his arrival.

And every morning I wake up, shrug my shoulders and pour myself some Raisin Bran with some skim milk and a heavy sigh. I might seem disgruntled with the anxious waiting. I might seem crabby and impatient with the not-knowing. I might seem put-out by the possibility of missing that glorious 2010 tax break. But here’s the thing. Under the surface, under the heavy sighing and the dramatic eye-rolling and the exasperated head-shaking, I love the waiting. I adore the not-knowing. I am relishing in all the endless possibilities of how and when my baby will make his grand entrance. My body is writing a novel and every night I turn another page wondering with finger-biting anticipation how it will end…how it will begin. In this way, there is nothing greater than the not-knowing.

Maybe. Maybe it will be tonight. Maybe tonight, in a great flurry of inspiration, the dramatic plot will unfold and the story of this second born will reveal itself in all its wonder--new, original, a life story with a twist never been told before.

And then again, maybe it won’t. And tomorrow, I’ll sigh heavily over my bowl of Raisin Bran, roll my eyes dramatically over my cup of coffee and shake my head discouragingly as I choke down my vitamin. But don’t be fooled. It’s all for show.

Underneath it all, I am filling up with eager, giddy, secret joy that I have one more night to wonder what will happen when I turn that next page. One more night to wonder how this second pregnancy will end…how this next, extraordinary life will begin.

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Dear ________,

You’re almost here and the time has come to write you a letter. When your brother was in my belly, I had already written him numerous letters by this point. What a privilege it was that I got to spend that summer being a writer, a thinker, a dreamer. The only thing on my agenda each day that summer was to write as much as I could and so I would sit and think and wonder and rub my little Finny in my belly and imagine all of the wonderful things he would become and all of the great joys he would bring me.

You and I, little________, have had a different journey. While you have been growing arms and hands and legs and sprouting hair and forming eyes to see and ears to hear, I’m afraid I have not been so intensely focused on you. I have not been reading all the books; I have not been writing you letters. I have been teaching and grading and Christmas shopping and wrapping, but mainly I have been chasing your big brother. I’m afraid, little one, that while you have been busy forming into the little precious boy you are bound to be, I have still been very focused on your older brother. Such is the fate of the second born.

But even though you will never quite experience the one-on-one time that Finny and I have had these two years, even though you will not be the first at many things that your brother has already claimed, you will be our very first _________ and you will bring with you the originality that only our little___________ can bring.

We will not worry over you like we did over Finny, hovering over every noisy breath he took. We will likely not take 500 pictures of the first time you eat rice cereal or the first time you take your first steps. Many of your books will be chewed and torn and many of your clothes will be stained and worn. But only you will get to experience for the first time the great privilege and gift it is to be the second born. This is a gift that will in many ways shape who you become and it is a special bond that you and I alone will share.

I could spin you some tales of character traits that second born children inherit. I could tell you you are going to be easy going, independent, rebellious, a free thinker. I could tell you you’ll be the peacemaker, the people pleaser, the inventor. I could tell you that you may feel like you are often in Finny’s shadow or that you can do more mischief with less discipline. I could tell you you’ll be the stereotype presented in almost every TV sitcom—you’ll have the brains and the wit, but not the beauty. (Think Roseanne, Growing Pains, Family Ties, and Modern Family.) But who you’ll be is not for me to tell you. It is for you to show me. And I can’t wait for you to tell me the story you’re writing right now at this very moment as you punch and jab and deliberate about when exactly you’re going to make your decision to come out and play with us.

No, I can’t tell you who you will be or how being second is going to shape who you become, but I can tell you about one very special gift that you’ll have that Finny does not--you will have a big brother. And not just any big brother; you will have Finny. And likewise, he will have you. Because I am no fortune teller, I cannot predict that you will be buddies or best friends, that you will get along and always keep in touch. But I can hope. I can hope that Finny looks after you and you look after him and that you both look up to each other. And I can hope that long after your father and I are gone that you and Finny share and relish in the unique bond that comes with growing up in the same home. That you find comfort in shared values, joy in shared jokes, and warmth in the shared unconditional love that your father and I have for both of you.

We can’t wait to meet you, ___________. All three of us are anxiously awaiting the best Christmas gift any of us have ever received—our second born son, our little brother, our Christmas miracle. You’re almost here. It’s time now to slow down and focus in on you. To rub the belly, to dream the dreams of the wonderful things you’ll become, the great joys you will bring, and the captivating story you will tell.

Merry Christmas, _____________…



Saturday, December 4, 2010

Looking for Tinkerbell

It's been nearly two months since I've blogged, mainly because as far as life goes, I've bitten off a little more than I can chew.  By that I mean, I decided to get pregnant again while raising a two-year-old, holding down two part-time jobs, and preparing for the holidays.  Needless to say, naps have started to take precedence above all else. 

But I thought I should take this moment to announce to everyone who reads my blog that my little boy has arrived.

No, not our second boy, who is still cozily curled up in my tummy attempting--in this ninth month of pregnancy--to pry my hips apart.  My first little boy, Finny, has arrived, in all his boyness, just in time for us to spend long winter months inside together.

If you know Finny personally, you know that he is a very sweet-natured, cuddly little guy.  I would say this is generally still the case.  However, this past week, I've noticed a bit more of a shift toward that sort of aggression that comes with boys, like he just got shot with a dose of testosterone or puppy dog tails.

Phrases like "I break it!" or "I crash it up!" or "The monster!"  or "Roar!" are now common pieces of our everyday conversation.  Last week on our way home from the doctor's office, I heard some loud, violent growling coming from the backseat.  I looked back and found Finny baring his teeth, gripping the arm of his toy stethoscope between them.  When I asked him what he was doing, he responded in an Austrian California Governor sort of accent, "I break it!"

Yesterday, I found him doing the same thing with a plastic drum Christmas ornament.  He had taken it behind the couch in the family room like a wolf bringing back his kill to the pack and he was tearing it apart with his fingers.  When he saw me hovering over him, he looked up and once again responded, "I break it!"

Build him a tunnel out of blocks?  Think he might want to admire your handywork as much as you do?  Think again.  "I crash it up!" he'll say as promptly levels it, sometimes before the last block is even in place.

Think lions, tigers, bears, and dinosaurs are the only things that roar?  Think again.  According to Finny, so do giraffes, pigs, and the occasional bunny rabbit.

Think Rudolph is the cute and cuddly star of the claymation Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer?  Think again.  All Finny talks about is "The Monster!" in his best abominable voice.

But just when I think I've lost him to the dark side, when he says "I break Mommy!" and comes charging at me, just when I sigh and say, "Okay, here we go.  Bring on boyhood and all of the relentless destruction that comes with it," Finny will say or do something so gentle and sweet that will remind me that hidden behind the crashing, the breaking, and the obliterating, there is tenderness.

I had such a moment last night, as we were driving through a wooded Christmas light display at Sharon Woods park.  Finny has recently discovered Captain Hook in stories and poems and has a mild fixation on him.  One of the first light displays we pointed out to him was Peter Pan and Captain Hook engaged in a sword fight, but this time he wasn't interested in Captain Hook or Peter Pan.  In fact, for the rest of the thirty- minute mile of lights, he was interested in none of the other light displays of snowmen and choo-choo trains, and zoo animals.  For the next thirty minutes, all we heard from the backseat from his tiny, little bundled up head was, "Where's Tinkerbell?  Is she in the woods?"

There was something so sweet and small in his little question that he repeated over and over again.  Something so soft and little that made me just want to scoop him up and hold him close. 

All the books have torn pages, at least four of the ornaments already need gluing, and I get horrifying glimpses of Lord of the Flies when Finny comes charging at me threatening to "crash mommy up!"  But, little boy, no matter how big and destructive and aggressive you become, no matter how many toys get hurled down the stairs or how many towers get knocked down or how many Fantasy Football Leagues consume your mind some day, I hope there is always some part of you that is forever looking for Tinkerbell in the woods.  Then I will know you are my little boy.

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

The Whiskey Aisle

When grocery shopping with my two-year-old, I often find myself searching, in vain, for the elusive Whiskey Aisle. It must be there somewhere.

As I search, I walk aisle upon aisle in a mad dash to the finish picking up tossed Cheerios, tossed milk cup, tossed loaves of bread as I go. I report the spilled plastic cup of pureed peaches that was hurled out of the cart in aisle eight. I pass heaping handfuls of deli turkey to my little beggar in the front seat. I sing a varied assortment of Sound of Music, Black-Eyed Peas, and "Itsy Bitsy Spider," and I narrate every last move I make:

“Oh, Finny! Let’s get some ground beef! Doesn’t that sound good? How about some coffee? Do you think we should get some apple juice? Can you find the apple juice? Where is it? Tide Coldwater or with Febreze or with Bleach Alternative? Doesn’t matter, does it? How many pears should we get? Can you count them? No, honey, don’t throw the apples!”

Yesterday, as I busily tried to get us through the last leg of our trip—produce and dairy—Finny decided to hold the bag of lettuce and munch like a rabbit. Only rabbits swallow the lettuce they munch. As I peeled chewed romaine from the top of his shirt and the floor of the cart, I realized that I had long ago abandoned any type of bargain hunting.

Organic green pepper? Fine! Can’t find the regular kind and this one looks kind of squashed and pricey but it’ll do. Don’t I have a coupon for Kraft shredded cheese? But I have to buy two to get a dollar off and it’s more expensive than the Kroger brand. I also have a coupon for Sargento… No time for basic math. Just need a bag of cheese.

Finally, I make it to the check-out and I wonder as I stand in the slowest line behind the check-writer who forgot spaghetti noodles, Why don’t they keep the candy and the gift cards in a glass case? I huff and puff as I pick Trident and Home Depot cards off the floor, Finny still reaching desperately for just one more leaf of romaine to chew up and spit out.

The bagger asks me if he can help me to my car. Normally, I would decline. Yesterday, six months pregnant and whiskeyless, I looked at him with pleading eyes, remembering that I’ve parked on a hill, “Yes, please.”

He helped me to my car and then kindly put my groceries in the back seat while I got Finny situated. David asked me later if I had tipped him. It occurred to me at the time, but instead I gave him a heartfelt thank you and got in my car, breathing a sigh of relief for the five minutes I would get to spend in the car before I had to attempt to carry it all in and put it away before lunch.

I’d like to think that not everyone expects a tip for kindness. I’d like to think that this nice man truly knew what a long journey I’d been on and enjoyed nothing more than the look of sincere gratitude on my face.

Besides, I spent my extra tip money on a $10 bag of shredded cheese, and I was sick to death at that point of reaching into my bag in search of treats. God bless you, sir, for all that you do to help the poor pregnant mothers of toddlers at the grocery store. And to the men and women who design a grocery store without glass-cased check-out aisles and a full service bar smack in the middle? A pox on your houses.

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Happy 2nd Birthday, Finn Michael!

Dear Finny,

Tomorrow, you turn two and I love you more than I ever thought possible. You will never remember laying on my chest at just two days old when I looked into your tiny face and told you I didn’t ever want you to get any bigger than you were at that moment—my tiny, perfect, baby.

Oh, what I would’ve missed out on if you’d stayed just two days old forever. I would’ve never known how smart and handsome and charming you would turn out to be at just two years old. Let me tell you a little bit about you at two, so that someday you will know just how special you are right now, September 29, 2010.

Today, on the playground, you stood at the top of the slide and hung by the bar above. I was amazed and so were you. What a daredevil you are becoming! I make you hold my hand when we cross the bridge on the big playground because there is a big gap and a far drop, but today, you bolted across without me before I had a chance to grab you and you declared, “I do it myself!” What a mixed blessing this is for a mommy. I, of course, want you to want and be able to “do it yourself,” but I also always want you to need me. Please remember this when you are thirty: if you love your mother, move out, but need her from time to time.

Right now, you are learning new things at such an alarming rate that I can hardly keep up with you. I’m quite certain when we visit the pediatrician tomorrow that he will declare you a genius. They will tell me what percentage you measure in weight, height, and head size, but if they could tell me your IQ, I’m quite certain that they would tell me you are one of the smartest two-year-olds they’ve ever seen. You are busy learning your colors and numbers and today when I asked you what types of things we see in the sky, you responded, “Moon, stars, and Venus.” Venus! You tiny genius, you.

When we ask you how old you are, you proudly respond, “I’m two.”

When we ask you what your last name is, you proudly respond, “I’m two.”

Even tiny genius’s have weak spots. Besides, VanHimbergen is right up there with Supercalifragilisticexpialidocius. It could take a while.

When I ask you how old Mommy is, you say, “She’s two.” You are such a little charmer.

I have so many moments throughout my day where I am just filled with complete and utter elation that we created you, but one of the best ones yet came last night when we were getting you ready for bed.

Daddy was holding you after you brushed your teeth and we were all standing in our bedroom laughing. You wrapped one arm around Daddy’s neck and one arm around my neck and pulled us both in for a family kiss as you said, “Ahhh, Mommy. Daddy.” I’m quite certain in four years of marriage, your father and I have never been happier than we were at that moment.

Finny, at two, you are a wonderful human being. I learn so much from you every day. As bittersweet as it is, I can’t wait to watch you grow and grow to continue to see all the new and wonderful ways you will amaze me every day.

Happy 2nd Birthday, Finn Michael!

Love, Mommy

Train Wreck

I’m not quite sure what it is about motherhood that invites me to welcome unnecessary stress into my life, but I somehow manage to do it time and time again. This week that unnecessary stress took the shape of a train cake or rather a cake that was meant to look like a train and came out resembling a kind of race car, speed boat, truck-train hybrid.

Maybe it’s because we never had store-bought cakes growing up. Maybe it’s because my mom would show us pictures of all the fun cakes she made for us: clown cakes, Snoopy cakes, train cakes, etc. Maybe it’s because I’ve seen other, far more artistic moms do it and I wanted to keep up with the Jones Mommies. Whatever it is that compelled me to plan, design, bake and decorate a train cake for Finny’s second birthday, I hope its decapitated head gets hanged by magnet from the refrigerator somewhere beside the grocery list to serve as a warning to all other silly, stressful notions that compel me to do something far beyond my range of talents and capabilities.

It began in Kansas City when I went to visit my friend Cathy. I was just looking forward to spending time with my old friend and catching up, but figured while I was there, since Cathy is a professional cake-maker, I should seek out her cake-making expertise and her patient teaching nature to see if she could show me some of the ropes of cake-making. So, that weekend, she helped me make a delicious European butter cream icing and showed me how to carefully ice some train cars. The icing was a butter-lover’s dream-come-true that tasted positively sinful. The cake-making was an extensive, careful, time-consuming process that made me feel itchy, sweaty, and clumsy, not unlike how I felt during my entire career as a waitress or my short-lived stint as a seamstress. And yet, despite the intense anxiety I felt, which at 5 months pregnant could not be quenched by big heaping gulps of wine, I left there still determined that I could do this…on my own.

So I Googled it and I YouTubed it and I revisited the cake aisle at Michael’s again and again, just as I had the year before, but this year, I didn’t bail. This year, I purchased. I went home armed with a train-shaped cake pan, multiple spatulas, a serrated knife, cake decorating tips, and food coloring and I set my mind to the task of baking this train cake. Full speed ahead.

After carefully mapping out all the steps and buying all the tools and ingredients I would need to make the cake, I set to work on Tuesday whipping up the butter cream icing. I knew I could not attempt the European butter cream that Cathy had shown me. It involved separating egg whites and heating them to 160 degrees on the stove and then beating them into fluffy peaks, and despite how truly magical the result of all that was with Cathy, I knew if I attempted it on my own, it would end in third degree burns and a bad case of salmonella. I couldn’t do that to the baby, Finny or the twenty plus house guests I was expecting. So I went with the traditional American butter and sugar butter cream, and the icing, I can admit, actually turned out quite well.

Then, things derailed.

On Thursday, as soon as Finny’s head hit the pillow for his afternoon nap, I was in the kitchen ready to bake. Almost instantly, the itchy, sweaty, clumsiness ensued. The cake pan had called for a pound cake mix. I had my box of mix in one hand, while the other hand started scratching at my invisible hives as I noticed that the pan instructions called for two boxes of pound cake mix. I was stuck. Timing-wise, this cake needed to be made now, but I couldn’t leave. What could I do? I called Cathy.

She directed me back to Google and told me I could do it from scratch if I had all the ingredients. I found a Betty Crocker recipe online that sounded easy and I was equipped with all the flour, sugar, eggs, baking powder, butter, vanilla, and milk it called for. I thought I was saved.

Cake mixed and poured into the train cake pan, I put it in the oven with only one question about the baking—the time. The train cake pan is completely enclosed, so the only way to really test for doneness is to stick a toothpick in a tiny hole in the top and if it comes out clean, it’s done. The pound cake recipe suggested an hour and ten minutes to an hour and twenty minutes, the mix box suggested an hour, and the train cake pan instructions said 35-40 minutes. So, I set the clock for 40 minutes and I waited.

At 40 minutes, my toothpick was wet. At 55 minutes, it was dry and there was brown crusting around the edges of the pan, so I removed it and set it out to cool. When I took off the top pan, it looked great and I was so relieved. After all that sweating, this had turned out to be a piece of cake.

Or so I thought. After the suggested ten minutes, I flipped it and removed the bottom portion of the pan. It was then that I noticed that my train cake looked as if it had run a red light and been nailed by another oncoming train. It was sunken and raw in the center. Salmonella glittering on top.

I called Cathy.

She told me I could put it back in, so I did. After ten minutes, it looked as if my problem was solved. It looked over-cooked now on the edges, but at least it looked frostable and the toothpick came out clean once again. So I left it to cool and an hour later returned to frost it.

Apparently the Wilton Train Cake Pan people need to include longer toothpicks. I flipped it once again, and it was still raw in the center. Overcooked on the sides, raw in the center, and a complete train wreck all around. At that point, I got the icing out of the fridge and started tearing off the cooked chunks, shamelessly lathering them with icing and popping them in my mouth. Then, I dumped the rest in the trash and prepared myself for the long night ahead.

Once again, Finny’s head hit the pillow for bedtime and I was back in the kitchen preheating the oven. This time, I would make a dark chocolate fudge mix in two loaf pans. This time, I would be sure they were cooked. This time, I would make a side of cupcakes just in case.

After being on my feet baking and cleaning and tossing and baking and cleaning again until midnight, I finally went to bed and set my alarm for 5:30 a.m. and once again entered the kitchen, home of train cake hell.

I carved, I food-colored, I mixed, I shaped. Then I got out my chocolate engine and began to crumb-coat with icing. The wrong side. The crumbly side. Big chunks of train seemed to be chipping off everywhere as I awkwardly ran my spatula of blue icing over the steam engine. David came down the stairs to check on the madness. “Does it look anything like Thomas?” I asked. “Speedboat,” he offered. Yes, I thought, Thomas, the Speedboat, why not?

I “carefully” began to set my iced speedboat back into the fridge and set to work on the cars when the top of the boat collided with a refrigerator shelf and removed yet another large chunk of iced cake. I paused. I could try to place the missing chunk back on the cake or I could eat it. I popped it in my mouth and moved on. I was running out of steam.

The rest of the morning I spent covered in food coloring and icing as I crumb-coated, iced and assembled my train cake. I laid Kit-Kats for the tracks and linked the colored cars together with pretzels. I adhered Oreos to the sides of each car to represent wheels and then I filled the tops of the cars with Animal Crackers, Candy Corn, and M&Ms for tasty cargo.

Once I added the wheels to the speedboat engine, it no longer resembled a boat. Now, it looked more like a race car. I added crumbled Oreos to the back for the coal tender. Still a race car. I added stacked Reese cups to the front for the smokestack. Looking better, but still a race car. Finally, I figured that the only thing at this point that would truly make it look like a train engine would be if I buried the entire thing under a pile of crumbled Oreos and placed a picture of a train beside it with a little “RIP” sign beside it.

Covered in icing and food coloring and on my feet for so long at this point that I felt as if I might go into labor on the kitchen floor, I decided to pull this train into the station and call it a day. But first, I needed to show it to Finny.

I picked him up and showed him the cake and waited to see and hear the awe in his eyes and his voice as he carefully beheld the train cake I had just toiled over for the past week. This would be the true test. “Finny,” I beamed, “What is it?”

His answer: “A cake.”

And there you have it.

The next time I really want to impress a two-year-old with a cake, I will make just that—a cake. In nice, round, reliable cake pans with a couple layers of icing. And the next time I want to keep up with the Jones Mommies, I will visit this picture of my crumbly, speedboat, racecar, train cake and remind myself that I do an awesome Cockney accent when I sing the part of Burt in Mary Poppins and I’m pretty close to perfecting nearly all the voices of the Winnie the Pooh characters, but cake-making? I’ll let somebody else engineer that train. My train cakes are best left in the roundhouse with all the other race cars and speedboats that never quite got on track.

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

Baby Love

Nothing tickles me more than Finny's growing affection for his unborn baby brother.  He likes to touch and kiss my belly and is constantly telling me how he wants to "take it off" as if the only thing between him and his brother is some magic curtain I can lift up for a peek.  He also tells me how he wants to "hold it" and gets impatient when he can't see the baby "now!"  He also likes to tell the baby about his day and show him what's going on in his world.  He will look right at my belly and hold up whatever he happens to be playing with and say, "This is my train," or "This is my sandwich," or he might tell my belly, "I'm going to the park."

Last night he had a particularly endearing moment with his in-utero baby brother when we were walking side-by-side across the softball fields at David's game.  As we were walking, Finny just started pointing out all of his body parts, saying "Legs!  Arms!  Head!  Nose!"

I stopped him there and said, "There's Finny's nose.  Where's Mommy's nose?"

"Right there!" he responded as he looked up and pointed to my face.

"Do you think the baby has a nose?  Where's his nose?" I asked.

At this, Finny reached both arms in the air as if to say, bend down and I'll show you.  When I bent down so that he could touch my belly, he pinched two fingers together on the surface of my belly and smiled as he said, "Honk!  Honk!"

And that lit up my entire world.

Thursday, September 2, 2010

An Ode to My Bladder

*This candid blog is dedicated to leg-crossing sneezers everywhere and all pregnant ladies whose bladders have forgotten what it means to go pee-pee in the potty.

An Ode to My Bladder

Out of all of us, you, my friend, I’m afraid have taken the worst of it. At 5 months pregnant everyone asks how I’m doing, how I’m feeling, but nobody thinks to ask you, do they? But we know. We know , don’t we. I’m really doing just fine, but we know that you, my little trooper, my trusty bag of fluids, you are just barely hanging on.

I am trying to help you out as much as I can, but sometimes our little secret gets out, doesn’t it? And I’m afraid now with ragweed season approaching, well, we are just up shit creek and it’s only a matter of time before someone calls over the loud speaker, “Clean up in Aisle 5!”

In fact, it nearly happened yesterday, didn’t it? Even after I went potty right before we left the house. There was that sneeze in the car and then the sneeze in the parking lot and well, we both knew then that those khaki pants were a mistake as I shuffled the diaper bag around my back to cover the fact that our secret was seeping out.

And honey, I’m afraid you ain’t seen nothin’ yet. We’ve still got 4 months to go! From here on out, workout pants can only be black or navy and even modified jumping jacks are a no-no. From here on out, we must avoid travelling anywhere where a potty is not close at hand. And from here on out, all sneezing and laughing must be kept to a bare minimum. Only cordial chuckling will be permitted.

I know, I know what they say about the Kegels, but the truth is, the only time I can remember to do them is when there’s a slow trickle running down my leg. I’ll try harder, I promise. I’ll start right now while I’m finishing this blog post.

Oh, bladder, just hold on a little bit longer for both of us. I know you can do it. The diaper budget is already about to double, do we now need to think about tripling it for you, little guy?

Stay strong for me, will you? I’m only 31 years old and I’m gonna need you to put in quite a few more years for me. Potty training is gonna be hard enough with Finny. I can’t have you givin’ up on me too.

Your Faithful Friend,

The Pregnant Lady

Friday, August 20, 2010

Little Boys, Little Boys

Preparing for Brotherhood:  Finny and his cousin, Reece
We confirmed yesterday that Finny will indeed be getting a baby brother. At the ten week ultrasound, Rose, our ultrasound technician had guessed it based on something she identified as a budding penis, and yesterday, she confirmed it with what looks very much like an office-party-gone-wild-photocopy of Baby Van-On-The-Way depantsed after a few too many trips to the Harry Buffalo Cooler.

Now that my belly is getting bigger and rounder, I’ve started telling Finny I’m growing him a baby in my belly. I want him to think this baby is our personal gift to him in an attempt to offset any jealousy that might occur once the baby is born (I think I probably read this somewhere). Last night, when I reminded him that there was a baby in my belly, he pulled down the top of my shirt and said, “I wanna see it!” Then, he kissed my belly.

So, how do I feel about my world being taken over by testosterone? The truth is: I’m delighted. Little boys, it turns out, are pretty wonderful people to have around. Oh, I know what they say about frogs and snails and puppy-dogs’ tails—just the babblings of a misandrist who clearly never met a man with a fantastic mother. My little boy is sweet and cuddly and lovely. He showers me with kisses, smiles, and affection. He’s sensitive and loving and friendly. And he thinks next to Blankie and Tissa, I’m just about the greatest thing on the planet. He laughs at nearly all of my jokes and stupid attempts at physical comedy, he thinks I have a marvelous singing voice and stellar dance moves, and he loves to hold my hand. It’s like having an even better version of David around. (David thinks a lot of my jokes are stupid and he runs and hides when I try out new dance moves. He does, however, still like to hold my hand.)

But, the good news is, it’s a pretty even exchange. I laugh at all of Finny’s jokes, think he has a marvelous singing voice and outrageous dance moves, and I love to hold his hand as well as shower him with kisses just about anytime I have him in my clutches. So, why wouldn’t I want another little boy just like him to pal around with everyday?

Well, I guess there’s that whole thing about boys not being as clean and tidy as girls. I may have more mud tracked through my house. I guess there’s that whole thing about boys being more physical than girls. I may have a few more fist fights in my house. And it seems that girls tend to stay closer to their parents than boys. I may have to travel a bit to see my sons.

But I’m not so worried. After all, it’s not all pre-determined by gender, is it? I do have some role to play in how they turn out. With a little training, I believe that I could convince my boys to make their beds and put the toilet seat down. With a lot of affection and attention to sensitivity, I believe I can teach my boys to be lovers instead of fighters. (We’ll talk birds and bees later, much later, but maybe sooner than 25 like my own dad did. Good work, Dad, trapping me in a half-daze at the breakfast table. At least you got it in before I got married.) With years and years of hard work in showing them what a total blast I am to be around, I’m even convinced that maybe just maybe someday they won’t be able to bear the thought of being more than fifteen minutes from home.

Besides the fewer the girls around here, the more clothes money there is for me. My boys and I may never attend a Mother-Daughter Tea or go out for Mani-Pedis, but I’d rather go for beers and a hike in the woods anyway. I wouldn’t even mind looking for frogs and snails, though puppy dog tails I could do without. So, bring it on boys. I can take it. Little league? No problem. Mud fights? Count me in.

But, just don’t expect to get out of the musical theater. Sorry, fellas. Man-up all you want: pound on your drums, crash all your hot wheels and blow all your millennium falcons to smithereens, but there’s no escaping West Side Story, Guys and Dolls and Sound of Music. You’ll know them all and love them all and believe me, my little lovers, someday, the ladies will be begging to hear you manly men sing just one more song from Funny Girl. They’ll eat it up. I promise. You can thank me later by marrying a girl as cool as me who would just die if she lived more than fifteen minutes away from her in-laws.

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

They Were Right About the Blinking

"I Stuck!"
They always say it happens so fast. The growing up they mean. “Blink and you’ll miss it,” they say. I always try to keep this in perspective during moments when I feel as if it’s going on forever. The breastfeeding, the spitting up, the food throwing, the no-sleeping, the incessant whining, the mess-making—all little inconveniences that make motherhood somehow seem like a burden instead of a blessing.

But, they’re right, you know. About the blinking. It’s all started happening so fast that I can hardly keep up with it. The milestones. The moments. I need to take a minute just to think about them all. Just to get them down so I remember what an incredible blessing motherhood is. So I remember just how good it all feels. So here are a few Finny quirks that I particularly love right now…

When Finny drops something, he always “Uh-oh” and addresses the object he’s dropped by name as if it were the object’s fault and not his own. “Uh-oh, Milk.” “Uh-oh, Thomas.” “Uh-oh, Tissa.” He does the same thing if he deliberately throws any of these items across the room. I hope this isn’t a sign that he’s going to become one of those adult blame-passers we all love so much who end up in neck braces suing the pants of their local school systems for failing to make the lunch trays ergonomically-correct. Because right now, it’s just really cute and silly.

When Finny wants to see one of his friends or grandparents that he hasn’t seen in oh, a few hours, he pretends as if they’re coming over to see him right this instant. “Knock-knock!” he exclaims. “Who’s there?” I ask. “It’s Gramma! Knock-knock, Gramma!” and he goes running toward the door as if he can will her to appear at that very moment. Just last night in the bathtub, he put his rubber Thomas the Train up to the tiled wall of the bathtub and claimed he was looking for Gipetto. “Knock-knock!” he exclaimed. “Knock-knock, Gipetto!” I’m quite certain Gipetto and Thomas have never met, but I love the idea that Finny imagines they have.

Finny is also a pretty friendly little dude right now. Shyness strikes on occasion, but in general, if he sees a friendly face, he’ll greet you with a smile. To our neighbor, “Hi, Jim!” To Jim’s dog, “Hi, Mitsy!” To his Great Uncle Jack whom he’d only known through pictures until a week ago, “Hi, Uncle Jack!”

He does not discriminate between the living and non-living either. On the road, “Hi, Cars!” To his knee, “Hi, Dora Band-Aid!” To the TV, “Hi, Jiminy Cricket!”

Most recently, he’s started making silly faces and voices and calling out random animal names for no rhyme or reason. “A fox! A fox!” or just all of a sudden from the back seat of the car, I hear, “Gorilla!” followed by “Dogs, dogs, dogs, dogs, dogs! Ducks, ducks, ducks!” And during my recent sinus infection, when I was blowing the nose straight off my head, “Elephant Mommy!”

One of my personal favorites is when Finny is looking for something that we’ve lost. He walks around the house looking under couches and tables calling to them as if they might holler back at him from behind the refrigerator, “Where are you, Little Thomas?” or “Where are you, sunglasses?” Just a few weeks ago at his cousins’ house, he found a small Ernie doll and immediately responded with, “Where are you, Bert?”

David and I also enjoy watching Finny discover the amazing. Just two weeks ago, we had the pleasure of showing him the ocean for the first time in the Outerbanks, NC. “Ohhhh, ocean!” he said and his eyes widened with wonder. Of course, just two days ago, he saw the hand railings David installed on the staircase and said, “Oh, cool hand rail-kings!” as his eyes widened with wonder.

The thing is now that he’s approaching two, everyday he shows me something new. He’s sponging it all up so fast, I can hardly get it all down. On a daily basis now, my little Mama’s boy wraps his arms around my knees and says, “I want Mommy hold you.” And every time I fall to pieces. I want Mommy hold you too, Finny, and every last, simple, sweet, silly, adorable thing you say and do. I don’t have time for a lot of things these days and blinking is number one on the list.

Tuesday, July 20, 2010


Last week, when we walked out to the car in the morning, our street was covered in a thick fog. Finny looked out at it with a look of awe and said, “Oh, cloudy.”

“That’s fog,” I replied, “Can you say foggy?”

With a look of complete understanding, he replied, “Oh, foggy…ribbit, ribbit.”

(Image from

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Linda McCartney Did a Lot of...Breastfeeding?

For me, one of life’s great mysteries has recently been solved: the origins of Linda McCartney’s crop-top haircut. I have always had a special admiration for Paul and Linda McCartney’s love story. I found it romantic and compelling and dreamy and always hoped that someday my husband and I would also sit in fields of daisies strumming our guitars in t-shirts and bellbottoms while our babies ran circles around us. But, always in the back of my mind was this nagging question: Why the mullet?

Now, I know. Surely it was not intentional. Linda McCartney was just breastfeeding. That’s all.

There are some quite wonderful side effects to pregnancy. The first being, of course, that the end result is a baby who will one day sing “Barbara Ann” to you at a moment’s notice from the backseat of the car. And there are some wonderful side effects of breastfeeding as well. One being that you can follow up a steak dinner with a large slice of double chocolate cake and then find the next day that you have actually dropped three pounds.

But there are some negative side effects to pregnancy and breastfeeding as well. One being the aforementioned Linda McCartney crop top, which takes nothing short of a decade to grow out (i.e. Linda and the 70’s). It seems that Linda, who was birthing three children in 70’s, finally said, “Oh, to heck with it!” and just embraced her new found hair growth with a full-on spiked mullet top. I, on the other hand, am a humble blogger, no Oscar winning rock star, so I have chosen to carefully conceal my Linda McCartney crop top with a small army of bobby pins every morning.

I have battled with my involuntary hair growth for the past year and a half trying an assortment of hair products, blow drying techniques and the old standby spit-and-press in desperate moments just to get these spiky bangs to lay down or my new-found sideburns to tuck back, and now after months and months of pinning and pulling, I am finally seeing some progress. I am finally seeing that the hair around the crown of my head may actually be longer than two inches again and I may soon be able to call home some of the troops of bobby pins, which have been stationed atop my head for far too long.

And then, of course, I realized, come January I will be breastfeeding again and once again I will endure endless months of hair loss followed by endless months of mullet-style re-growth. And at this realization, I could not help but sigh.

But on the flip side, I will have a baby after all. And someday that baby will sing “Barbara Ann” to me from the backseat of the car and perhaps maybe even in three-part harmony with me and his older brother. And maybe someday David and I will win an Oscar for our own co-written version of “Live and Let Die” and our children will sing back-up in clothes I’ve fashioned out of curtains. And after our shows, we can eat all the steak and chocolate cake we want and show up skinny the next day. And well, won’t that be something?

Okay, Lovely Linda, I get it now. The mullet was just you embracing your love for your babies. Now, all I need is a field of daisies and a few guitar lessons and David and I will be on our way to living the greatest love story of all time--my perfect, crop-top mullet being the cherry on top of it all. No bobby pins needed.

(Photo found on

Thursday, July 8, 2010

Just Watching Him Be Small

Today I took a nap with Finny. I should have been working on my copywriting assignment for Reach Magazine, which is due tomorrow. I should have been paying bills, which are coming due soon. I should have been vacuuming and mopping the floors. I should have been pulling the weeds. But, instead, I found myself lying perfectly still beside my sleeping toddler just watching him be small.

For two hours I lay beside him in perfect stillness. For some of it I read my book through the crack of sunlight coming in through the drawn shade, for some of it I slept, and for the rest of it I just stared at his lips and enjoyed the soft touch of his warm hands wrapped around my arm. I found myself just staring at his tiny elbow jutting out into the air beyond the blanket. I thought long and hard about that elbow and how tiny and soft and perfect it is. How someday that elbow will be much bigger and rougher, calloused by sun and age. How someday I will not be allowed to sleep beside him and stare at his grown-up elbow. And I smiled. I smiled because I was supposed to be doing so many things with his nap time today, but instead I lay still and burned his elbow into my memory.

As we lay there still just breathing in and out, suddenly the unexpected tapping of rain began to make its way across the roof growing from a light trot to a loud gallop. At this, Finny kicked his legs and tossed and moaned and I prayed that he stay asleep just a little while longer. Not because I needed to get just one more chore done, not because I needed to get just one more email read, but because I wanted more time to just be next to him, my perfect baby boy with the scabby knees and the sweaty head and the little, red lips.

Today I took a nap with Finny and I got a surprising amount of work done. I committed every soft inch of him to memory so that someday when he’s old and grown, I’ll have that moment when he let me lay so close to him I could feel his breath on my face, see his chest rise and fall, and wonder how one tiny elbow could fill me with such immeasurable joy.

Monday, June 28, 2010

The Lime Grows Into a Shrimp

People tell you that you will be tired during the first trimester of pregnancy. I was prepared for this. I was prepared for the 8:00 p.m. bed time, the need for an extra cup of coffee just when they are telling you you can’t have the extra cup of coffee, and the need for a 2 p.m. siesta every day. However, I was not fully prepared for the fact that my first trimester of pregnancy, while trying to keep up with a 20-month-old, would virtually suck my will to live.

I can talk about this with relative ease now because I’m past it. I’m rounding the corner and sliding into home as we speak and the beginning of Week 13 begins. But just a few short weeks ago, I had some serious questions about my right to be a parent. I don’t discuss this on my blog because I want pity or because I want to bring people down, but I mention it because it’s a low, dark, scary place to be and no one should ever feel like they are alone in this place.

People often ask you in early pregnancy if you are feeling sick and it’s actually quite comfortable to discuss nausea with others because good, old morning sickness is well-known and expected. They are a little more hesitant to ask you if you’re depressed; that puts people a little more on edge. But my family noticed “I was not myself lately” and when I called my mom or sister in tears on a weekly, sometimes daily basis, I really just needed someone to tell me I was normal and that this too shall pass. And sure enough, it did.

The hard part was that while I could try to explain to David and my family why I was not myself, why I snapped easier, why I fell apart easier, why I would spontaneously burst into tears if the dishwasher needed emptying again, the one person I could not explain this to was my closest buddy, my right-hand man, my most treasured playmate, Finny.

For Finny, life on a daily basis is new, amazing and wonderful and filled left and right with exclamation points. “I wanna go the park! I wanna go to the pool! I wanna play choo-choos! I wanna milkshake!” But how could I go to the park and the pool? How could I play with choo-choos and blocks? How could I even throw a smile or a song his way when all I wanted to do was lay in bed with my eyes closed? And then of course, how was I going to keep up with two little ones in a few months when I couldn’t even keep up with one? I didn’t deserve to be a parent. I wanted to pack my bags and run for the hills.

But then, the miracle of life kicked in. The kumquat in my belly grew into a fig and that fig became a lime and now that lime is the size of a medium-sized shrimp. He can urinate and kick and he has teeth budding under his gums and fingerprints on his fingers and his eye muscles can clench and his mouth can suck, and well, I guess the truth is, unbeknownst to me, I was doing a lot of work in there. Growing a human being will take a lot out of a gal, and growing a tiny human being while also raising a tiny human being might just knock you off your feet.

But the other truth is this, just when I thought I could not muster the strength to sit at the sandbox, Finny would start singing “Barbara Ann” at the top of his lungs with a few extra “Ba-ba-ba’s.” Just when I thought I had no energy to kick the ball around the yard, Finny would put on my sunglasses and start dancing to “Billy Jean.” Just when I started wondering how I could ever keep up with another one and why I had wanted to in the first place, Finny would climb into my lap, rest his soft, baby hands on my forearms and with book in hand, say, “Read it.”

Parenting is a give and take and sometimes if feels like there’s a whole lot of taking going on. But the gifts when given are small but enormous all at the same time, and despite the fatigue and the blahs that sometimes come with pregnancy, I’d do it again and again for the touch of those soft, baby fingers resting on my forearm, that soft, baby head resting on my chest, and that soft baby voice shouting through the bars of his crib long after I’ve left the room, “Nite-Nite, Mommy!”

Nite-nite, Finny. Mommy’s sorry she’s been such a crab. She’s growing you a shrimp who has big shoes to fill.  It’s going to take a lot of work.

Wednesday, June 9, 2010

From Bieber to Brando

At around midnight, it started again. The crying of a toddler who can’t sleep. It had happened the night before between 2:30 a.m. and 4:30 a.m. Last night, it started even earlier and lasted even longer. Finny stood awake in his crib from midnight to at least 4:30 in the morning without a clue as to why he’s decided the wee morning hours are the time to party.

He’s not sick as far as I can tell. There are no outward symptoms of illness, although he does have a heavy stream of drool going on these days. So, it has to be one of two culprits, right? Ears or teeth. Again.

At midnight, David went in and attempted a good rocking, but this technique has lost its luster as Finny does not rock to sleep like he did in the old days. So back in the crib he went and cried and cried. I went back in at 2 a.m. and tried talking it out with him, you know man to man.

“Finny,” I reasoned, “What’s wrong? Do your teeth hurt?”

Blank stare.

“Do your ears hurt?”

Blank stare. “Get down! I wanna get down!”

“Well, it’s bed time. You can’t get down. It’s time to sleep.”


“Daddy’s sleeping.”


“Pop-pop’s sleeping.”


“Jane’s sleeping too. What if Mommy comes in and lays on the floor beside you and we listen to some lullabies?” I left and returned with blanket and pillow to resume my spot from six months earlier on the hardwood floor—why did I want hardwood floors again?

Then, Finny proceeded to talk my ear off like an oblivious airline passenger for the next hour and a half while I feigned sleep. Here’s how the conversation went:

“Fan. Choo-choo. Airplane. Up high. Moon. Stars. Tissa. Blankie. Ba-bye Blankie. Ba-bye Tissa. Milk. Snack. Juiccccce! Cheese. Gramma.”

Then, he counted, “One, two, three, five, six, seven, eight, nine, four.”

Then, he counted again, still preferring for four to follow nine rather than three and discarding the need for ten all together.

Then, he named body parts. “Eyes. Nose. Elbows. Knees.”

When his presentation of words failed to make the impression he had hoped, I watched through squinted eyes as he tried another tactic.

“Uh-oh!” he shouted as he crossed over to the far corner of his crib and dropped his pacifier between the crib and the wall. “Uh-oh! Where’d Tissa go? Where’d Tissa go? Tissa dropped. Wash Tissa.”

When that old trick failed to stir the fake slumbering Mommy, he hurled everything in his possession at my defenseless body already aching on the hardwood floor.

“Ba-bye, Blankie! Ba-bye, Pooh! Ba-bye Tigger!” Thank God, I had the foresight not to put him to bed with The Complete Works of Mother Goose.

Then, Justin Bieber made an appearance. You know you are watching too many daytime TV talk shows when your twenty-month-old knows the words to Justin Bieber’s smash hit, “Baby.” As I cuddled with Tigger on the floor, Finny started a Bieber dance party in his crib, jumping up and down, singing, “Baby, Baby, Baby, Ohhh!”

That’s where I drew the line. “I love you, Finny. Go to sleep. I’ll see you in the morning.” And I gathered my things and left.

I’m not sure how long he cried after I left, but this morning, the rasp in his voice indicated that Justin Bieber had been replaced by a young Marlon Brando. Though I’m not sure that Brando had to work himself up quite so much to achieve his trademark whisper.

Oh, please, God of teeth and all things mysterious about the sleeping habits of babies and toddlers, please, please say it is okay for me to dope Finny up on Motrin or Benadryl before bed tonight. Please, please let him save his Bieber concerts for the high chair and the crying for 7 a.m. I may be better prepared to deal with it then and my poor glasses are more likely to survive a little longer if they don’t spend another night glued to my face, beneath my pillow, or under my armpit.

Thursday, June 3, 2010


Let’s talk about what’s been going on in my house this afternoon all during what we will loosely refer to as “naptime.”
So, today, after lunch, I put Finny down for his afternoon nap. Then, exhausted from a morning of play, play, play, I put myself down for my own afternoon nap. Just as soon as I found myself drifting peacefully into a coma, I heard it. The distinct “clank” Tissa (Finny’s pacifier) makes when she hits the floor.

“Tissa! Tissa! Tissa!” Cries of desperation shouted from Finny’s crib. So, I wrenched myself out of bed and sternly walked into his room to retrieve Tissa for a smiling Finny, who may or may not have given me a devilish wink as he pointed at me and said, “Gotcha!” I told him firmly that I would not come back again.

I left and once again lay down and drifted off into my tranquil coma. This time I was in even deeper when I heard the distinct “clank,” again followed by shouts of “Tissa! Tissa! Tissa!” I was not going back in. He had been warned and besides I was crossing over to the other side of nap heaven.

I heard his cries of “Tissa” through my foggy nap brain for a few minutes and was able to ignore them, until I suddenly heard another sound—gagging. At this sound, I immediately popped out of bed and ran to see what my poor child was choking on. Once again, there he was, standing at the edge of his crib grinning his head off, and this time, covered in puke.

“Yucky!” he said grinning broadly. Furious, I began to wipe the puke off of his hand and continued as he directed me, saying, “Yucky toes. Yucky shirt. Shorts. Blankie.” I pulled him out of bed to change his clothes and sheet, and after I had changed his clothes, he bolted down the hallway shouting “Choo-choos! Play Choo-choos!”

Once everything was cleaned up, I put him back in his crib and got in the shower, where I was able to successfully block out all nap protests under the running water. It wasn’t until I emerged once again that I heard “Clank” followed by “Tissa! Tissa! Tissa!”

Wanting to avoid another barf session, I entered the scene to once again retrieve Tissa. Finny was there smiling and for a second time, standing in a puddle of his own self-induced chunder. This time, judge me if you will, I lay an extra blankie over the puke and made him sleep on it. And that’s what he’s doing this very minute as I tell you my story.

Some people say a little lavender on the pillow will help you sleep. Today, for Finny, it was regurgitated turkey and cheese on whole grain. To each his own.

Saturday, May 29, 2010

Choo-choos are Boring

The truth is I don’t share Finny’s enthusiasm for choo-choos. I’m thrilled that he loves them and that they are entertaining to him, but I have slightly more enthusiasm for pushing a choo-choo around a track than I have for watching poker on TV with David. I can only pretend I’m interested for about a minute and a half before I start daydreaming about balancing my checkbook.

I feel the same way about sidewalk chalk and bubbles. The moment we pull into the driveway, my little companion in the backseat starts chanting, “Chalk! Bubbles! Chalk! Bubbles!” If I don’t have a trunk full of groceries or a stomach rumbling for lunch, I reluctantly oblige and then stand there bored as I watch Finny carry the bucket of chalk from here to there and occasionally draw a series of lines. With the bubbles, we basically turn on the bubble machine and shout “Bubbles!” with gusto as we watch them float away. Again, an activity that is only remotely engaging for about twenty seconds.

It’s not that I don’t like playing with my child, it’s just that well, if Finny and I could sit down and play Battleship from time to time, my mind might get a little more stimulation. Or even if we could create a story for the trains on the island of Sodor that involved Sir Topham Hat secretly investing in Rogaine and some kind of steamy affair between Emily and Gordon all under the watchful eyes of Diesel 10, well that might get my whistle wheeshing. But, as our game play stands right now, I’m not so into ripping the tracks off the table and running the choo-choos into the wall.  Just doesn't do much for me.

But alas, before I complain for too long about the mundane task of playing with my one-and-a-half-year-old, I should mention that even though I prefer pulling weeds to playing with sidewalk chalk, when Finny looks up at me and demands, “Hand!” and then he grabs my hand in his little, soft baby fingers and pulls me to our next play station, there’s something so gratifyingly satisfying about that one tiny moment that ultimately I don’t mind throwing on my poker face and pretending for just a little while that “Bubbles!” out of the bubble machine are truly the most miraculous occurrence this side of I-71.  Now if only we could get Glinda the Good Witch to float down in one with a game of Battleship tucked under her arm...well, a girl can dream.

Saturday, May 22, 2010

Bye, Bye, Bullstrode

It doesn’t matter who you are or what you are, as soon as Finny learns your name, he’ll start sweeping you out the door, whether you’re ready to go or not. With his new social language confidence and his extraordinary singing ability, Finny is cheerfully inclined to sing goodbye to everyone and everything he meets these days.

When I pick him up from bed in the morning, and he knows it’s time to put his pacifier and blankie away, with his hair pointing this way and that, he immediately bursts into song. “Ba-bye, Tissa! Ba-Bye, Tissa! Ba-bye, Tissa! It’s time to say Ba-bye!” Then, insert “Bankie” and repeat. Going downstairs? Insert “Stairs” and repeat. Getting off the phone with Grandma or Grandpa? Insert “Gramma” or “Pop-pop” and repeat.

Recently we had our friends, Sara and Bob, and their kids, Sadie and Robert, over to play. It’s been a few weeks now since their visit and yet still randomly with a mouthful of cheese sandwich at lunch, he’ll start belting out, “Ba-bye, Sawah! Ba-bye Bobert! Ba-bye Sadie!”

Earlier this week, as I was brushing my teeth and Finny was busy reorganizing his books, he suddenly bolted into the bathroom for one of Thomas’s many friends from the island of Sodor, his toy bath boat, Bullstrode. When he promptly bolted back out into the hallway, and I suddenly heard a loud metal clang, followed by “Ba-bye, Bullstrode!” I knew that Bullstrode had taken his third boat trip down the laundry chute.

Occasionally, I’ll even hear him from the corner of the room saying some parting words to himself, “Ba-bye, Ninny! Ba-bye, Ninny!”

Sometimes if Finny is tired, he cries as he sings ba-bye, but more often than not, he just belts it out Mary Poppins style. They say parting is such sweet sorrow, but around here, Finny will willingly bid you adieu if he knows it’s something new for him to sing about. If you’re lucky, you’ll end up on the front stoop, rather than on a pile of towels with poor, plastic Bullstrode.

*To see Finny saying Goodbye to his milkshake after a bath, click on the link below.  Notice, he forgets who he is saying ba-bye to halfway through and starts to say goodbye to Tissa again!

Friday, May 14, 2010

No means no...or whatever

Around here, no means no. And sometimes yes. And sometimes I don’t care. And sometimes I don’t understand. And sometimes leave me alone. And sometimes, Ha-ha, the joke’s on you.

It seems in the world of Mommy-Finny communication, “No”, like a great Faulkner novel, is open to interpretation. Finny, though cute, seems to have developed the annoying habit of driving me nuts. I know it is natural for a one-and-a-half-year-old to start exploring every aspect of his world, but must he really pull down the dish towels every time he passes through the kitchen? Is it impossible for him to resist pulling up all of our floor rugs and stacking them in a pile for me to later discover as I’m tripping over them to my near death? And how many times will he put sand in his mouth before he realizes he doesn’t like it? How many times will he dive head first off the ottoman before it sinks in that it actually hurts when his head goes crashing into the floor?

And that’s where “No” comes in. Any time Finny acts on a behavior that I disapprove of or that could harm him or others in some way, like hanging on the oven door, I give him a firm “No!” and remove him from the situation. And what does he do with my firm “No!”? He runs as fast as his little legs can carry him right back to the scene of the crime giggling his little head off as he hangs on the oven door, shaking his head, muttering, “No! No!”

So, then I try a little swat on the bottom along with my NO, which is met with more hysterical laughter. And then I try a time-out, which is met with more playful giggling even though I’m giving him my sternest look, which would have shut up most of my high school sophomores. Sometimes I do exactly what most experts tell you not to do: I reason with him. “Finny, the oven door is not a toy. It’s hot. If you pull it open, it will hurt you or burn you. Do you understand?”

To which he responds with something along the lines of “Juice!” or “Choo-choo!”

So, what’s a mom to do? With my white flag in the air and a few frustrated, tired tears down my cheeks, I called my mommy, who told me it’s the age and it’ll pass.

She’s probably right, but I still want solutions. I can’t drop my voice a few octaves lower or furrow my eyebrows any further, and let’s be honest, my bottom swats are so gentle they’re practically hugs and I’m not sure that I have it in me to make them anything more than that. So, I checked out a book, 1, 2, 3 Magic by Thomas Phelan. It’s about discipline for 2-12 year olds and by the looks of it, I think it’s a classic. Finny is a few months away from qualifying, but maybe I can start laying the groundwork. He does, after all, know how to count to three. After three, he jumps to five and nine, just cause he likes the ring of it, but if we can work on 1, 2, 3, maybe at some point my stern voice will sound truly menacing, and maybe eventually “No” will mean what it is intended to mean with absolutely no room for interpretation.

Thursday, April 29, 2010

The Imperfect Specimen

Among Finny’s many fine qualities are his contagious giggle, his ability to notify me when he has pooped by announcing, “Poopie” and then running in the opposite direction, his sweet dance moves, his love of a great, big, long nap, his ability to fill in the end rhyme to every line in the Complete Works of Mother Goose, and his talent for belting out the D, G, K, P, S, V, X, and Z in the alphabet song.

But there is one rather annoying habit he’s picked up that sometimes overshadows all his adorable, loveable cuteness and nearly sends me off a cliff and that is his penchant for dumping various sauces and purees on his head and hurling any food item he no longer has use for off his high chair and all over me, my floor, and the walls.


On Monday, I tried serving him an avocado/cream cheese sushi roll, thinking he would like two of his favorite foods rolled into one. He chucked his plate on the floor. I tried offering him pureed peaches, which he also loves. He dumped the bowl on his head. I tried peas and carrots. He ate some and then started chewing them up and dribbling them all over this lap. Then he began flinging them all over the kitchen. At my wit’s end, I shouted an expletive that I won’t repeat here. But he repeated it. Oops.

Exasperated, I wiped up the floor, wiped up his face and hands and removed him from the high chair so that he could play and I could sit down and eat my own dinner after this 20 minute game of “What else are you going to hand me so that I can just throw it back at you?”

All I wanted to do at this point was eat my dinner and watch a little Oprah. Finny, although busy playing, would have nothing of it and promptly stopped what he was doing to run over to the cable box and turn it off. He went back to his trains and busily choo-chooed until I turned the TV on again. He put down the trains and walked over to the cable box and turned it off again. So, I sat and ate and tried to regain my composure and my sense of humor about the whole scene.

Tuesday night, I cooked us a nice meal of Chicken Chow Mein. He loves sweet things; he loves noodles—this Chicken Chow Mein is the perfect combination. I set him up with everything he would need on his high chair, but before I sat down to eat, I realized I had to pee. Could it wait? No, it couldn’t. I knew I was taking a risk, but I left him in his high chair for a quick potty run and from the bathroom, I heard, “Uh-oh.” Uh-oh, which is typically reserved for accidents by most people, is usually used by Finny after he has done something on purpose. Like chuck his plate of Chicken Chow Mein onto the floor.

Kid, you do a great Will Ferrell impression, you follow my every lead when we sing Sound of Music’s “Do Re Me” through the grocery aisles, and you can really cut it up to just about any Ray Charles song that comes your way. But until you either figure out how to keep your food on your tray and off my floor or learn how to operate a mop, I’m afraid “The Perfect Specimen” does not accurately describe you. Title revoked.

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

The Perfect Specimen

Oh, dear, sweet, innocent Finny, I don’t think he has any idea yet as to our real reasons for creating him. He’s at such a precious age where he doesn’t quite suspect our true motives for bringing him into this world. We must mold him, shape him, sculpt him into the perfect specimen we intend for him to be.

Which is why every day Finny and I sing a non-explicit, duet version of gangster rapper Notorious B.I.G.’s “Big Poppa.”

It goes a little something like this.

Mommy: I like it when you call me big…

Finny: PAPA!

Mommy: Put your hands in the air if you’re a true player!


Mommy: Goulet!

Finny: Goulet!

The “Goulet” at the end is because Mommy and Daddy’s favorite version of this song is actually done in the musical stylings of Robert Goulet as performed by Will Ferrell on Saturday Night Live to the captive audience of a wooden goat.

Even though Biggie Smalls has left behind quite a monumental rap legacy, we do not, believe it or not, want Finny to model himself after a drug-dealing rapper who died at a young age in a drive-by shooting.

On the other hand, if he someday resembles a hairy-chested Will Ferrell who makes us cry with laughter, we will be extremely pleased.


Wednesday, April 14, 2010

That's My Boy

When out-of-towners who haven’t seen Finny in a while ask what he’s up to, they always want to know, “Is he walking yet? Is he talking yet?” I wonder why they never think to ask, “Is he bustin’ out some sweet new moves on the dance floor yet?”

In case you’re wondering, yes, yes he is, and I couldn’t be prouder.

Walking and talking are certainly big deals and I don’t mean to minimize the excitement that surrounds these two events, but when I discovered this week that Finny really loves a beat he can dance to, I felt a small tear trickle down my cheek as I grabbed my heart and sighed, “That’s my boy.”

And then I turned up the volume on Billy Ocean’s “Loverboy” and jumped right in to join him.

Right now he’s got a couple signature moves, but everyday he seems to add to his repertoire and I’m quite certain that by Friday he’ll be doing The Roger Rabbit and maybe even a little Shopping Cart.

When I pick him up and twirl him around the carpet, he waves and twists his arm about in a move that seems to have some Eastern Bengali dance influences and makes me inclined to attach some small bells to the tops of his hands. In the case of our Billy Ocean dance, he waved his arm about while simultaneously singing, “Lover, lover, lover…” right along with Billy. It was nothing short of spectacular.

In the case of Dion’s “The Wanderer” or even just the introductory music to “Thomas and Friends” he kind of hunches over and side steps in a circle, almost like he’s flying solo for a round of Ring Around the Rosie.

Not only does he love to dance to any good beat that comes his way, not excluding cell phone rings and musical toys, but he also loves to exclaim outright what he’s doing by repeating “Dance, dance, dance” over and over again.

I first discovered his inner Billy Idol when I was in my bedroom and he was in his. Paul Simon’s “You Can Call Me Al” came on and I heard him saying “Dance, dance, dance.” Sure enough when I walked in the room, there he was, dancing with himself. It was like walking in on a two-foot-tall David and images of Finny in a tuxedo with a sweaty poof of hair and a screaming circle of fans swirled into my head.

The thing is: it’s contagious. I often complain about how unproductive I am these days chasing after a toddler. I can’t seem to unload the dishwasher in less than an hour, let alone clean a bathroom or vacuum the Cheerios off my car floor. And now that there’s dancing, well the chores will just have to wait. I can’t seem to resist a spontaneous dance party mid-afternoon, especially if Michael Jackson turns up on the eighties station. That is what we teachers refer to as “a teachable moment.” I mean you really have to time the crotch grab juuuust right. And I’m quite certain with my tiny dance prodigy, he’ll have that plus the moonwalk mastered by at least mid-June. I’ll keep you posted.

Friday, April 9, 2010

Bah-Bye, Moon

Finny and the moon seem to have a little something going on. In every book we read, whether full or crescent, if there’s a moon in the picture, Finny will find it. And every window we pass, whether morning or night, if there’s a moon in the sky, Finny will find it.

This morning the crescent moon lingered in the sky past daybreak, and all through breakfast, Finny called out to him, “Moon, moon, moon.” And after breakfast, when Finny climbed up into a kitchen chair, a new trick which makes him glow with pride, and then promptly tumbled backwards head first onto the hardwood floor, the only thing that could stop his tears was the sight of the moon still winking down at him from behind a tree. “Moon, moon, moon,” he called, tears streaking down his face.

And this afternoon, well after the moon had disappeared from sight, Finny could still be heard from the family room, face to the glass of the sliding door, calling, “Bah-bye, Moon. Bah-bye, Moon.”

Watch out, Mrs. Jones. Finny and Mr. Moon, they’ve got a thing going on.

That is, of course, only if Tissa is asleep in her drawer. If Tissa walks in the room, all bets are off.

Wednesday, April 7, 2010

Coming Unplugged

There are those of us who embrace new technology, those of us who fight new technology, and those of us who fight the fact that we’re fighting the new technology even though we really want nothing to do with it and sort of wish digital cameras, cell phones, and email had never been invented.

I fall under the latter category. But today I’ve decided to fight the fighting and embrace the fact that I really do have no desire to be plugged in at all times. Thus, I am returning my iphone. Gasp!

I know this is almost unheard of by iphone aficionados across the globe who, like my husband, proclaim that this is the most amazing piece of technology ever invented, but the truth is, I’d rather read my book. But, Jill, there’s an app for that! You can read your book on the iphone! No, no, I want to hold the book in my hands and fold down the page when I finish a chapter. But, Jill, there’s an app for that too! It makes the iphone morph into what feels like a book and with a simple touch of the screen it simulates folding the page over. No, no, I protest further, I don’t want simulation. I want the real deal.

I have a great fear that if I don’t embrace the iphone and all its app glory that somehow I will become Amish. If I don’t start reading my book on a Kindle or uploading my photos to Facebook, you will likely find me churning butter in a bonnet somewhere in Northern Ohio. To quote Thomas the train, I don’t want to be a “Fusspot” or a “Fuddy-duddy.” I don’t want to return to the workplace someday and find I am one of those “old” teachers who doesn’t know how to operate a tape deck. Yes, I know, tape decks are quite old fashioned, but the good news is so are public school systems.

I have a great fear of being left behind and so I try to force myself to embrace the new stuff and how easy it’s supposed to make my life. But, the truth is, I have an even greater fear that what’s masquerading as ease, is really making my life more complicated and difficult. Last night, I spent two hours filtering through and responding to old emails and I still have 400 emails in my inbox and this is just my personal inbox, not to mention my work inbox. I also spent an hour and a half uploading and sharing photos on Kodak Gallery last night. It will take me another half hour to go through and order them today. Isn’t it nice that we can delete bad photos and not waste money on damaged film anymore? And isn’t it nice that we can share them so quickly with friends and family? But wasn’t it also nice when the 24 pictures were taken and you could just drop them off and pick them up, rather than sift and upload and share and order for hours and hours? And isn’t it kind of nice to feel the pages of the photo book and flip, flip, flip, rather than to stare endlessly at the screen and click, click, click?

I also fear that what’s masquerading as improvement, is really decreasing my quality of life. I mean isn’t it wonderful that now men and women who already work fifty-hour weeks can check their work email on the go via the iphone? Isn’t it great that corporate America now has a way to eat into more of our at-home family time? The thing is I don’t need to know what my five hundred friends on Facebook are doing at 4 p.m. on a Tuesday. All I need to know is that my one-and-a-half-year-old just discovered that that if he throws a fistful of sand into a pool of water, it makes a plopping sound that is apparently hilarious. If I had been checking my iphone, I would’ve heard the laughter, but I would have missed the moment that smile appeared across his face.

I know. Sentimental, right? Old fashioned, right? I could’ve taken a picture of it with the iphone and shared it with 500 friends instantaneously and isn’t that awesome and joyous too? Yes, it is. But I want to see it with my own eyes, not the lens of a camera. I want to flip the page. I want to leave a fingerprint on the printed glossy. David says I’m a hippie. He might be right. But I appreciate the quality of a good daydream, a moment when I am not glued into the world of information, a moment when I am just glued into the world unfolding before my very eyes in my own backyard: my toddler at a sand table, a deer in the woods, the texture of a piece of printed paper, a dinner party with lots of eye contact. But, Jill! No, no, I’ll interrupt, there’s not an app for that.

Monday, March 29, 2010

Goodbye, Tissa.

Tissa is a local celebrity here on Old Barn Ct. If Finny is feeling a little tired, a little blue, a little bored with his mundane lifestyle of choo-choos and measuring cups, as soon as Tissa makes her appearance, gray skies clear up. If nightmares plague his sleep or a shiver wakes him from his slumber, all it takes is a little Tissa to immediately lull him back to sleep. If Catholic mass is feeling long and stiff and all together just too quiet and contemplative, all we need is our good friend Tissa to make the time pass a little bit faster.

So, when I tell you that Tissa doesn’t charge us a dime for her services and then when I tell you I let Tissa go last Friday, told her her services were no longer needed here, you might exclaim, “How on earth could you let such a good thing go?!”

My answer to you would be, “Excellent question.”

What, Jill, were things getting too easy for you around here? Was Finny sleeping too well these days? You missed the old days of terrible teething and hour long naps? Were you getting bored with your three hour chunk of time to yourself? Feeling disappointed when Finny would go to bed without so much as a whimper of protest?

No, it was none of these things. I got rid of Tissa because suddenly she had a name, this inexplicable name, Tissa. Up until this point, Tissa had simply been Finny’s generic old paci that he took at naps and at bed time, but suddenly, he began to call out for her at all hours of the day begging for Tissa, Tissa, Tissa! Nightly, we’d hear, around 4 a.m., Finny calling out, “Tissa, Tissa, Tissa!” I knew it could only mean one thing: addiction, dependence, attachment. I needed to put a stop to it.

So I sat down in front of the internet and read and read and read. There was story upon story about how parents got their babies and toddlers to part with their pacis. Some parents cut off the tips of the binkies so that they were no longer appealing. I only needed to read one story about how this is a choking hazard to convince me that this was not the approach for me. Some moms said take it before they’re one, some said take it when they’re two, three, four. Some said just throw it away. Some said talk about it. Tell them the Binkie fairy is coming. Some said it ruins their teeth. Some said it’s not a big deal. But many said when you make the decision to take it, one thing’s for sure, you’ve got to stick to it.

So, I did it. Last Friday morning when Finny woke up, I told him today we were going to say bye, bye to Tissa. “Tissa is going to be with the babies,” I said to my eighteen-month-old son, who looked back at me with his baby face and repeated, “Bah-bye Tissa. Baby. Tissa. Bah-bye.”

And then he clung to my side all morning and cried. So, we went to Target and I bought him three new trains, thinking a shiny new choo-choo in the Tissa cup would be enough to distract him from the fact that Tissa was no longer there. But at nap time, when I put him in his crib, he clung to his new choo-choo and shook the rails of his bed crying out, “Tissa, Tissa, Tissa!”

I closed the door and paced across the kitchen floor. I cleaned furiously hoping that by the time I turned off the vacuum, the crying would be over and he would be asleep. The crying continued. I went out on the deck with my book and a cup of coffee thinking by the time I finished a chapter and came back in, the crying would be over. The crying continued. Two hours passed and I wondered, at what point will the neighbors call Children’s Services? At two and a half hours, I could endure it no longer, and I went in and pulled my tired, frazzled, hoarse baby out of bed.

David called, “Maybe we shouldn’t take it now. Maybe it’s not the time.”

“No, I’m in it to win it,” I answered. “When you make the decision to take it, you’ve got to stick to it.”

So we went about our day drawing with chalk, blowing bubbles, and playing with choo-choos and all the while Finny participated in a sort of nap-starved daze.

All day long, he wouldn’t eat, he wouldn’t sleep, and he pooped five times, more than he’s ever pooped in a day in his life.

Finally, it was time for bed. He cried through his entire bath, a part of the day, he usually loves. And then, we sat in his rocker and we read books and he relaxed and he listened. But when I got to the part about saying our prayers, the part he knows comes right before bed, he burst into tears. But I was in it to win it, so I put him in bed and watched as he shook his crib rails, crying, dark circles framing his eyes. I walked out of the room strong, determined, in charge.

As I sat downstairs, listening to my tired baby cry, I got on the internet and looked up more stories. But this time, I noticed something else. I saw story upon story of people who took the Tissa without tears. Parents who said it was actually no big deal. Parents whose children were two and three years old. Old enough to understand, to talk it out.

And then, with a giant sigh, I let myself off the hook. If it felt so awful, if it felt so traumatic, if it felt like the wrong decision, why should I stick to it?

So I called up old Tissa, told her I’d made a mistake and begged her to come back. She agreed and the moment she hit Finny’s lips, he collapsed in his crib, eyes closed, sound asleep within no more than a second.

Maybe I’m a fool for trying to take it, maybe I’m a softy for giving it back, and maybe, just maybe, I did exactly what I was supposed to do in this challenging job of parenting: trial and error.

Welcome back, Tissa. We love you, we missed you, please stay a little longer.

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

My Rotting Brain

It is generally not okay to admit this because it makes people uncomfortable but I’m going to do it because hey, maybe there are others like me out there? So here it is: Lately, I find I am extraordinarily worried about what other people think of me. I think it is because I spend so much time with just Finny that I’m nervous that I’m forgetting how to interact properly and tactfully with other adults. I find myself having adult conversations and then over-analyzing them with thoughts like, “Was that offensive? Was that a weird thing to say? Do I sound like a moron?”

It’s dangerous to spend too much time by yourself or with someone who can’t talk or form advanced thoughts. Don’t get me wrong, I love more than anything in the whole world the time I get with my snuggly, lovely, smiley Finny. But I sometimes worry that while full-time motherhood is growing my heart, it also may be rotting my brain. And this line of thinking always leads me to wonder what it is I’m supposed to do with my life. I think this is why I love reading memoir and personal essays so much right now. I want to know what decisions other people make for their lives and how it serves them and would they do it again the same way. I want to ask working, writing moms how they do it. How do you find the discipline and time to write? How do you find the courage to publish? How do you get over the guilt of not making any money? How do you figure out how to make money? How do you do all this and still get plenty of sleep and still make Chicken Cacciatore in the Crockpot and still put together a fabulous scrapbook for your son and still once in a while clean the kitchen floor and learn how to landscape your garden and send a letter to HGTV to come design your living room and kitchen and sun porch? How do you do all this and still manage to sit on the back deck with a cup of coffee on a sunny day and read a book? Help me out here, Moms, because I’m having a hard time figuring out how to do it all and so most of the time I am so overwhelmed by the thought of doing it all that I just sit on the couch and eat thin mints. Then, when Finny gets up, I think, “Up so soon?” And I also think, “Thank God, I have to stop thinking about myself now and pour some juice and quack like a duck and watch Finny put everything he can find into the fish pitcher in the kitchen cabinet.”

It’s dangerous to admit that you feel a little self-conscious and inadequate sometimes, but maybe, just maybe someone else will read it and say, “Me too!” And if not, well then, it felt good to write it for myself because sometimes writing is the best and only thing I can do to exhale and start to think maybe I’m just a human being having a human moment and there’s nothing too terribly weird or offensive or wrong with me after all.

Monday, March 15, 2010

What's in a name, Shakespeare? A lot. A whole lot.

The evasive “Mama.” Just when I think I’m getting close to hearing this word, it sneaks down some back alley and all I get is some other inferior sounding thing.

When Finny was twelve months old he said something that resembled this word when he would sing the Patti Page “Mama Doll Song” with me and would echo “Mama” with “Baba.” It made me smile.

Well, “Baba” went away for a few months and for a long time I became “Dah-dah.” “Who am I, Finny?” David would ask. “Dah-dah!” he’d exclaim with gusto.

“Who am I, Finny?” I’d ask. “Dah-dah!” he’d exclaim with gusto. He might as well have said, “Chopped liver.”

Then, one day a couple months ago, I asked again, “Who am I, Finny?” And he answered, “Kiss!” I bear a slight, non-existent resemblance to Gene Simmons, but I think maybe it’s because I demand kisses so often that he started to think that was my name.

For a short while recently when I would ask, “Finny, what’s my name?” the answer, clear as day, was, “Bessy!” Not sure when or how I became a cow or how Bessy in any way resembles Mama, but at least I had a name distinct from “Dah-dah.”

And then, suddenly, last weekend, March 6, 2010 to be exact, it arrived like a package at the bottom of the stairs.

I was upstairs getting ready for our trip to Louisville and Finny was downstairs with David when he came looking for me. I was searching for more diapers when I heard it: “Ma-MA!” From the bottom of the stairs, “Ma-MA!” Like a seventeen month old Frenchman, “Ma-MA!” Again and again. He was calling to me. By name! “Ma-MA! Ma-MA! Ma-MA!”

I bolted to the top of the stairs like Juliet looking for her Romeo. “What did you say, Finny?”

“Ma-MA!” And I literally felt my heart melt all over my ribs and slide down my legs to my feet.

“Say it again! Say it again! Say it again!” I bolted down the stairs and scooped him up.


I ran into the kitchen. “David, did you hear it?!”

“Yeah, I heard it,” he laughed, “Finally, his hundredth word, after tree, Pop-pop, car, coat, girl, bawk-bawk, duck, dog, books, Jane...” David went on.

“Doesn’t matter. He said it. He called me by name.”

Sure, I remember where I was when I heard that Michael Jackson died. I remember very vividly the day the World Trade Center was attacked. I can tell you exactly how I watched the inauguration of our first black president. I can even strangely remember where I was when John Denver died. I remember these big, historical events pretty clearly along with a great many others who shared in these big national moments.

But the day I first heard my son speak my name, no one else will record this in the history books. There will be no newspaper clipping, no national headlines. This one is all up to me. So go ahead, ask me where I was the day I became the most important person on the planet. I’ll tell you: It was Saturday morning, March 6, 2010. I was at the top of the stairs. I was looking for diapers. My heart was in a puddle at me feet.