Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Wonder of Wonders, Miracle of Miracles

It is hard to explain how wonderful it felt yesterday when I looked down and saw a little splash of pee-pee in Finny’s little potty. I wanted to gobble him up with pride.

Then, eight hours later when I discovered a little poopy in the potty, I practically wept with joy.

Why? What on earth is it about these basic bodily functions that made me want to twirl around in a brown linen dress singing to the hills of Austria? I don’t know. I only know that there was a fear deep within me that Finny would never figure out how to pee or poop on a toilet. Logical reasoning tells me that the odds are in our favor that Finny will someday use the bathroom and not a diaper, but there’s this whole other part of me that just can’t for the life of me understand how this is all going to go down.

And then he did it. Twice in one day. Pee and Poop. Number 1 and Number 2. Wonder of wonders. Miracle of miracles.

Clearly I need to get out of the house more. Maybe do a little travelling. Attend the theater or an art museum. Engage someone in intellectual discussion over just what is the right approach to our handling of the whole Libya debauchal.

In the meantime, I am going to sweep Finny off his feet every time he leaves a little present in his little toilet and shower him with kisses and sticker charts.

In the meantime, I am simply going to rejoice over the miracle of pee-pee and poo-poo in the potty.

(Note: I chose not to document this momentous occasion with a picture or video, but to quote Finny, post-poopy, “It’s a big one, Mommy!”

If this blog still exists on the world wide web when he is fifteen, he is no doubt hating me right now for writing this.)

(Another Note:  I just figured out how to connect the blog to Google's Feed Burner so that readers can subscribe to receive an email when I have updated it if you should so choose.  There is also an option to receive Musings on Motherhood in an RSS feed.  See the links to the right.)

Friday, March 25, 2011

Charlie's Wisdom

Dear Charlie,

A minute ago, you taught me something invaluable. A minute ago, you imparted some of your baby wisdom on me and left me feeling nothing short of euphoric.

We were sitting together in the family room glider enjoying one of our rare afternoon moments alone as I nursed you and caught up on my DVR. You fell asleep in my arms as you often do when we get a quiet time to nurse, and I turned off the TV and began to contemplate how I would go about laying you down without waking you so that I could return to checking emails, wrapping gifts, cleaning off my desk and making a number of important phone calls.

I had so many things to do, so many plans for a productive afternoon. How good it would feel to check things off the old to-do list, to move about the quiet house without any children needing me.

But you had something else in mind. You decided it would be just the right time to grab my finger and smell sweet and be soft and still and peaceful. You decided I shouldn’t get up, I shouldn’t turn on the TV, I shouldn’t search for my book or my laptop or the grocery list. You decided that the only truly urgent, pressing matter we had to attend to was the business of holding each other close. The business of just being Charlie and Mommy alone together in the easy chair at three in the afternoon on a cold, blustery March day.

Initially, when you finished nursing, I thought, “What I wouldn’t give to just have a few minutes to read my book in peace.” But then, it occurred to me as you sleepily stroked my finger and I gently rubbed your tiny forehead, that years from now when I have all the time in the world to read my book, I will find myself sitting in this same easy chair thinking, “What I wouldn’t give to just be able to hold the soft baby hand of my little Charlie just one more time.”

Your dad and I were talking last night about poor little Charlie who spends so much time in his swing while we tend to the needs of a demanding, curious, mischievous little Finny. You certainly don’t get the face time Finny got when he was an infant. We don’t have the time to stare at you and admire you for hours and we can’t always run right to your side the moment you start crying. You are having to learn from a very young age to be patient and independent and go with the flow. I think, I hope these will end up being valuable lessons for you that will shape you into someone who is able to take life as it comes and be content with the little joys that come your way.

Right now, at not quite three months old, you seem to be delighted when you discover a bright light shining down on you from the ceiling fan or when you discover that you have the ability to bring your two chubby hands together right in front of your nose or when you notice that adorable baby with the strawberry birthmark staring back at you from the convex mirror on your baby swing. You’re such a sweet little thing, my Charlie. You don’t complain much and it only takes a glance in your direction to get you to open that charming duck mouth in a wide smile and coo.

And you’re wise, little Charlie, because today, just a few minutes ago, you taught me a little thing about delight. That it’s not big or expensive or time-consuming and that there’s a fat chance it’ll ever have a checkbox beside it on one of my to-do lists. It’s simple and sweet and unexpected. It’s just a small moment with you in the easy chair that I will remember someday years from now as I look up from a page of my book to stare out the window and try to conjure up the delicate texture of the back of your hand and the gentle joy of just having a moment to hold you close.

I love you, Charlie.



Wednesday, March 16, 2011

A Day of Moments

Yesterday, when we woke up at 7 a.m., it was still dark outside. Finny was extra excited to use his flashlight and forbid me from turning on the lights in the family room. He shined his light out into the dark backyard and I asked him what he saw.
He reached into his brain and pulled out, “Ummm, I think I see a beaver.”


Last night, I moved Charlie out of our bedroom and into the guest bedroom in hopes that we would both get a little more sleep. This morning he slept in an extra forty-five minutes. While I nursed him at 6:15 a.m., I had another one of those fleeting moments when I just melted at the touch of his soft baby cheek and the way his little head felt cradled in my hand. A moment he’ll never remember; a moment I will try desperately to never forget.


This morning I scurried around the house to get us up and out the door in yet another attempt to make it to the 9:30 a.m. Stroller Fit class. I got everyone dressed and fed, put the breakfast dishes away, and packed the diaper bag with snack and juice. I even gave Finny a good pep talk about behaving in the stroller. Then, Finny pooped. “Okay!” I exclaimed, relieved that he had gone without crying. “Let’s go change your diaper real quick and then we’ll go to Stroller Fit!”

As I pulled down his pant leg, I quickly realized that this poopy was a full-on mudslide, up his back and down his leg and all over everything. “Well,” I said with a sigh, “It looks like we might need a bath for this one.”

“This poopy needs to get in the bath, Mommy?”

“Well, not the poopy, Honey, but we need to clean you up in the bath.”

“Okay, Mommy.”

“You know what I could use, Finny?”

“Huh, Mommy?”

“A glass of wine, Honey.”

“A glass of wine and a bath, Mommy?”

“Sounds perfect, Finn.”


Yesterday, after months of regular, strain-free pooping, Finny got constipated again. After three days without a bowel movement, the poor child was gripping my leg and crying in agony as he strained and strained in vain. I brought down Tissa and Blankie and laid him on the floor in front of Dora the Explorer and gave him a suppository. Then I cradled him in my arms like a baby while he screamed and wailed, “Mama! Mommy!” as he passed a rock-hard poopy. The whole experience was torture. There is nothing worse than feeling helpless while my child is in pain. Nothing worse.


This weekend Finny and I had a date. After an exhausting Friday where I played disciplinarian all day as he looked for every possible opportunity to cause trouble or make a mess, I was a little reluctant to take him with me to the gym, but as it turned out, it was just what we both needed—a little time for me to exercise and then a little time for me to give him my undivided attention. Later that day, the two of us went out into the yard with his new golf clubs and some practice balls. He was more interested in running than golfing so the two of us just chased each other in circles around the yard while he yelled, “Faster, Mommy! Faster!” Then, as I swung him up over my head, he noticed the half moon in the sky.

“Look, Mommy! There’s the moon.”

“You’re right, Finn. There it is. The old half moon.”

“Mommy, can I just sit on your lap and look at the moon?”

I looked at the wet grass and then looked back at his little face.

“Sure, Honey. Let’s sit down and look at the moon.”


My days right now are made up of lots of moments. Some are filled with poop, some with pain, some with exasperation, exhaustion, and hair-pulling frustration. But some are filled with a kind of quiet contentment that can only come from the feeling of my finger gripped tight within the palm of my nursing infant and some are filled with the pure joy of staring up at the moon with my little boy while the wet grass soaks my jeans.

My day is made up of moments. All of them are filled.

Friday, March 11, 2011

Patience? Where Are You? There’s a Mad Man at Large.

I took a drive this morning. In an attempt to resume exercising again after a six month hiatus due to pregnancy and post-partum healing, I took a drive. I drove to my Stroller Fit class, actually got out of the car and began class with some warm-up jump-roping and a little jogging in place, and then, about five minutes in, I got in my car and drove home.

It’s not that I couldn’t handle the work-out—although my bladder was a tad bit ill at ease about all the jump-roping business—it’s that I couldn’t handle my toddler.

It was hard for me to imagine a few months ago that my Finny would ever experience something as cliché as the Terrible Twos. He was such a sweet boy, I always heard, so polite! The women at the gym daycare just adored him and other adults would positively light up when he threw out “please” and “thank you” the way adults tend to do when they experience the joy of a child who shows gratitude. But now…well now, even though he still lights up my world in ways I never knew possible, I am frequently finding myself experiencing bouts of Big Momma Madness. Teeth clenching, jaw tightening fury towards my own small, adorable, cute-as-a-button baby Finny.

A few months ago, we would jokingly call Finny “Captain Destructo” when he would suddenly sweep all of his trains off the train table or dump a whole basket of crayons on the floor just because he liked the to see them scatter. “Such a boy!” others would quip at his seemingly harmless need to make a giant mess and a loud noise. But lately, it’s not so harmless and his destruction has a lot more purpose: he actually wants to hurt me in order to get my undivided attention.

The trouble is, undivided attention is a thing of the past around here. I can’t take Charlie back to where he came from, nor do I want to, but how do I keep my tiny little madman from opening fire on all of us in a jealous rage in the meantime?

The worst of it occurs when I’m nursing the baby. I sit down with a pillow and a glass of water, but what I really need by my side is a SWAT team and a megaphone. Twice, I’ve literally had to talk him off the ledge as he threatened to tumble backwards off the arm of the sofa. There have been violent bouts of tissue throwing and tearing, he’s tried numerous times to completely dismantle Charlie’s baby swing, and once I found him wreaking havoc in the junk drawer, which he scattered all over the kitchen. I often shamelessly try to lure him into the hypnotic power of the TV with promises of watching a show. “Finny, do you want to watch Diego? Curious George? Winnie the Pooh?” But lately, even that doesn’t do the trick. The worst of it though is when he actually uses poor Charlie. Three times already, he has raised his open hand and come down smack on top of Charlie’s head as he nurses. The first time I didn’t see it coming and poor Charlie pulled away, turned out his bottom lip and burst into tears. The other times, I was able to anticipate it and block the blow, but it’s all disconcerting nonetheless, and in all cases, I’ve had to stop feeding Charlie, set him down and carry Finny immediately to his crib for quiet time.

And it’s not just Charlie; he has started hitting and kicking me as well. Others warned me that this would be an adjustment for him, that there would be some jealousy, but now that I’m in it, I am realizing what a true test of my own mettle this really is.

Today at Stoller Fit, he was trying to fight and wrench his way out of the stroller, and when he couldn’t get his way, he began furiously kicking Charlie’s carseat, which I feared would teeter off of its already precarious place in the seat beside him. After a time-out didn’t work and he still continued to kick and push Charlie’s seat, I finally decided we all had to leave. As it turns out, the twenty minutes in the car on the way home listening to lullabies was just what I needed to regain my cool, but I still left disappointed that we missed the work-out and the socialization (for both of us), and feeling frustrated with both Finny and myself.

So, where does this leave us? A straight jacket doesn’t seem socially acceptable, nor does a flask of Jameson in my glove compartment, so I guess we are left waiting. At times, patiently and at other times, impatiently, for this to pass.

If Finny were a grown, reasonable and rational human being at this stage in his life, I would tell him I love him, more than ever, and that I’m so sorry I can’t hold him every minute of every day because in a perfect world, that is exactly what I would do. In a perfect world, a mama would grow an extra set of arms and an additional lap with every child (which would actually put these extra post-partum pounds to some good use). I would sit and snuggle you, tickle and tuggle you, kiss and cuddle you all day long, while my staff of maids prepare the dinner, empty the dishwasher, dry my hair and organize the damn tupperware cabinet.

But, since it is an imperfect world and I am an imperfect mommy with an imperfect toddler, I guess we will just have to muddle through these tough toddler times and lean heavily on that old unconditional love.

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

Bodily Fluid Week

From breast milk to spit up to diarrhea, vomit and urine, my world last week was a giant swim through bodily fluids. Couldn’t count on me to make it anywhere on time or to stay very late. Chances are someone was gonna poop, leak, or hurl and all plans to do anything resembling life activity were going to go for a flying leap out the window.

It all started last Saturday when David and I tried to have a night out on the town to see Fiddler on the Roof, my Christmas present. As I breastfed the baby, pinned up my hair and tried to figure out if I had a single pair of tights that fit my awesome new post-partum body, I neglected to account for the fact that I would need batteries for the breast pump if I planned to leave the house for more than two hours. Having no batteries at home, and finding no batteries at the convenient store, I decided I would just have to roll the dice. We had a great dinner and enjoyed the first half of the show, but after feeling the milk let down for the third time that night during intermission, I decided we would have to call it a night for fear of flooding the orchestra section with breast milk.

Although leaving the play early was disappointing, leaky breast milk was hardly the worst of it for us last week.

On Monday, Finny woke up vomiting. I prepared myself for a day on the couch with our old buddies Tissa and Blankie and our stack of Pixar DVDs, but I didn’t realize then that what I thought was a 24 hour stomach bug would actually last the entire week, with Finny waking up every morning crying and moaning about his tummyache: “My tummyache hurts.” After a few days of diarrhea and general crankiness and what felt like 29 showings of The Tigger Movie—I dreamt I was singing “The Wonderful Thing about Tiggers” in my sleep as I strolled through the Hundred Acre Wood with a loaded shot gun—Friday morning I thought we might finally be in the clear. So in an attempt to get us out of the house, I put on our raincoats and ventured out to the mall to get a little walk in. In an attempt to pacify an antsy Finny as I made a purchase at The Gap, I promised him a special lunch in the food court. I had already pre-packed him a healthy lunch of banana and peanut butter wrap and milk, but I thought it couldn’t hurt to share a few french fries. So, as we settled into our Special Food Court lunch, put out our ketchup for dipping and got all situated in our “big boy chairs,” I was pleased to see that Finny was beaming at the special treat of a waffle fry in each hand and a lunch out with Mommy.

Until, about 7 minutes into the lunch, Finny hopped down from his big boy chair and told me for the fifth day in a row that he had a tummyache. Then, he barfed all over both of us in the middle of the food court.

I recruited some generous moms to help me flag down a custodian and some napkins and I stripped Finny down to his onesie; then I strapped him back in his stroller to head for home. I suppose it was about time to leave anyway. The milk was letting down and old Charlie was starting to squirm in his seat. The worst part was that Finny was so disappointed that we had to leave: “What about the lunch, Mommy? What about the french fries?”

I tried to explain that we had to end our lunch early to go home and get cleaned up, but he was so clearly distraught that I reached into my bag of ideas and cleverly pulled out, “Hey, after your nap, we can watch The Tigger Movie, okay?”

Well, self-sacrifice, that’s what motherhood’s all about, right? Self-sacrifice and heaps and heaps of laundry.