Sunday, April 18, 2010

Instinct: Better than a Handbook.

I, like the rest of the Internet, have become a big fan of The Pioneer Woman. I like her self-effacing humour and the beautiful pictures she posts of her seemingly idyllic life on a ranch in Oklahoma. Her recipes are drool-worthy, though I haven't made any of them because, Hello cheese, butter, cream and bacon, meet my gargantuan thighs.

Recently Pioneer Woman posted a lovely set of photos of a cow watching nervously while a cowboy roped a calf to stop it from wandering away. She wrote about how the cow's maternal instinct gave her the ability to find her calf in a herd of a hundred cows and how the cow's concern for her little calf trumped her fear of the cowboy who was roping it.

I know that concern and fear. I've known it from the day Bug was born. I couldn't stand to be more than a few feet away from her. The night before we were supposed to leave the hospital, a nurse came to take Bug for one of the many look-sees they give newborns. I don't question nurses. I know better. They have needles and catheters and they know how to use them. If you're nice, they'll make sure you're comfortable and get the best meds.

The nurse was gone about a milli-second longer than I thought she should be and I started to sweat. I wondered if I'd carefully scrutinized the nurse's ID badge before she took my baby away from me. My heart pounded. Grinch saw anxiety pulling color out of my face and said, "Go get your baby."

I could hear all the way down the hall. Her cry wasn't the cartoon "wah, wah, wah!" It was "Lllllaah! Lllllaah! Lllllaah!" The nurses tried to assure me that, yes, she was safe, she'll be done in a second but I couldn't hear them. All I could hear was "Lllllaah! Lllllaah!" I paced back and forth at the nursery door like a lioness. A nurse finally gave me the go-ahead to come in. I pushed past her, and zeroed in on my sweet bug, wailing and lah-ing like her life depended on it and as far as I was concerned? At that moment, my life depended on it.

I carried my sweet, snuffling bug back to the hospital room, wheeling her bassinet behind me. I closed the door and collapsed in a chair, holding her tight to my chest, nursing and crying. "She's ok. She's ok." Grinch soothed me. I nodded through tears.

I may not feel like the best mother. I certainly don't know everything about being a mother and, you know what? No one does. Not even close. Everyone has their own way of doing things. We all know the difference between right or wrong but if you'd rather bottle feed than breastfeed, that's not right or wrong, that's just none of my business. We don't watch TV in my house, but if you let your kids watch Backyardigans and Dora, well, ok for you.

Everyone seems to want to be the "best" mother. I want to be the best mother I can be and whether or not I achieve that is really my kids' judgment, not mine. I'm not going to kill myself to live up to someone's standards. They can be the "best" mother to their own kids.

My instinct tells me to protect my children from danger, to breastfeed them, feed them healthy foods when they're ready, teach them to use good manners and not pick their noses in public. My instinct tells me it's ok to skip over the scary parts of books when we read, to enroll them in Sunday school and to avoid the creepy guy at the park.

That's all we're really working on here, isn't it? Instinct? Good, old-fashioned, motherly instinct. It works for cows and lions and for me and my girls. Right now, my instinct is to go give them big, fat, sloppy kisses.

Excuse me.

Sunday, April 4, 2010

Speaking of Surprises

Springtime is supposed to be a time of renewal, so I'll (try to) renew my blog. Wish me luck and thanks for checking in.

Bug's language skills got off to a slow start. She started saying "mama" and "dada" a few months after she turned one and we thought she was the most brilliant child on the planet. Except for the addition of "dis" and "dat", that's pretty much where her vocabulary stopped for six months.

Just about the time I was getting worried about her, (Googling "my 22-month-old only says four words" and nearly fainting at the tales of woe and nightmare diagnoses) she let loose with a torrent of words. "Bus! Ball! Hat! Blueberry! Car! Daddy's car! Daddy's car is silver! Mommy has a blue car!" She went from four words to 40 in a couple of days. Our assessment of Bug as the World's Most Brilliant Child was proven, in our eyes at least.

Dosey is now 27-months old and still says just a few words. Her chosen way to communicate most things is to point and scream. Loudly. She can say "cookie" and "no", the important stuff.

She has also picked up on the words "die" and "beer." I can explain: Dos loves to drink out of our glasses and when she goes for a sip of Corona, we tell her "That's beer, you can't have that." "BEER!" Dos says.

Also, Bug is a daredevil. We don't mind her stage-diving off the couch and scaling the climbing wall at the park, but when she tries to use the window screens as vertical trampolines, that's when we step in. Simply saying no doesn't stop her. It has to come along with dire warnings of "If you do that, the screen will give way, you'll fall out the window, crack your skull on the driveway, your brain will spill out on the pavement and you'll die." "DIE!", Dos cheerily cries.

Your kid's first words may be please and thank you, ours is "BEER! DIE!" We're quite proud.

At her two-year check up, the nurse practitioner commented on Dosey's language skills, or apparent lack thereof so far, and said, "I wouldn't worry about it, but if it's getting frustrating for you or her, then give us a call and we can talk about ways to get her talking more." GETTING frustrating? Lord, honey, it's been frustrating for a long time, now.

Little Dos wants so much, wants to tell us so much, and just can't get it across sometimes.
"Dubbadoo?" she asks, sincerely, pointing to a book.
"W?" I ask.
"No! DubbaDOO!"
"Dubbadoo?" I ask, hopefully.
"NO! DUBBABOO!" her eyebrows scrunch, her cheeks redden and her voice goes from childish purr to siren-like wail.

Frustrating? Hell yes.

Words are coming slowly for her. New favorites are puppy, hill, pie, night-night, up, needle, boo-boo and boobie. Yes, boobie. More on that later. Know this: I've tried to correct it to "breast", but it just cracks her up. Whatever. Let's just get her talking, we'll work on proper terminology later.

I turned 41 last month. Holy crap. That's just sinking in. 41. Jay-sus. ::deep breath, exhale:: I turned 41 last month and Grinch surprised me with cake and presents. Dosey surprised me by repeating, as best she could, "Happy. Birfday. Mommy. Love."

That's the best surprise ever.

Saturday, November 28, 2009

I've Come For An Argument

For a kid who can barely muster the nerve to say "good morning" to her own teachers, Bug is weirdly confident about other stuff. Like the fact that I am totally and completely wrong about everything.

"Sweetie, don't crawl under the bed. It's very dusty under there."
"No, it's not."
Really? So that 2-inch thick layer of gray fuzz on the floor? What is that, exactly?

"We can't go outside, it's raining really hard right now."
"No, it's not."
Then why did our neighbor's trash cans just go floating down the street?

"I can't read any more, I'm too tired. I'm about to fall asleep."
"No, you're not."
Kid, did you miss the part when I said, "...down the hill, tumble bumble, pellzzzzzzzzz...."?

"Darlin', you can't wear those stripey purple pants with the starry orange shirt and pink Hello Kitty socks. It just doesn't go together."
"Yes, it does."
If you're headed to try outs at clown college, maybe. But not for lunch at Oma's house.

I actually used to argue with her about these things, which is ridiculous. It was like a Monty Python sketch.
"It's time to go home, bunny."
"No, it's not."
"Yes, it is."
"No, 'tisn't!"
"Yes, 'tis!!"

Unlike Michael Palin and John Cleese, there is nothing side-splittingly funny about our arguments. The debates would get heated, I'd raise my voice and make ugly, angry faces, I'd realize that I'd let myself get into an argument with a four-year-old and get even madder. Now, I try to just keep going. Distract, redirect, dip into the bag of tricks and see what works this time.

"I made meatballs and pasta for dinner..."
"No, you didn't."
"...and delicious cookies for dessert."
"Oh, yay!"

"Yuck. The cat threw up on the floor."
"No, he didn't."
"I'll just clean this up and we can go to the park."

Our pediatrician says the Bug doesn't really doubt everything I say, it's just her goofy four-year-old way of striking up the conversation. It gets to me, though. It does. I already doubt almost everything I do, particularly as a parent. So when she expresses doubt in me, too...well, it hurts.

I'm trying to look at this positively: she's not gullible. She doesn't take everything at face value. She's going to question everything until she gets to the bottom of things. That's all good, right?


Sunday, October 18, 2009


Hello again from the land of outspoken toddlers and runny nosed babies. Sounds like a fun place to visit, doesn't it? Tickets are free. Donations of wine and mild tranquilizers are welcomed and appreciated. Step right up and enjoy the freak show.

Actually, the freak show has gotten somewhat less freakish. I took several days off last week and I don't know if it was the extra sleep or what but, damn I swear I saw rainbows and heard birds singing just about everywhere I went. That's even weirder than it sounds considering that it's been raining for what seems like the last month.

Some things have been wonderful, like seeing the Bug enjoy school more and more, hearing her excitement about new discoveries in the classroom and seeing her test her strength on the playground. I pick her up from school everyday. On my days off, I take Dos with me and the three of us spend some time playing in the classroom together after the other kids leave for carpool. I love seeing what Bug finds so fascinating about her classroom. "Mommy, look! These are called Lincoln Logs." she says, revealing her new discovery. "This is the reading corner! And we have puzzles!"

On the days I work, I leave the office and go straight to Bug's school. Waiting in the carpool line, I sometimes see her with her classmates on the playground. There's something weird about seeing your child moving through the world without you. It's different than taking them to the park and watching them run and play with their friends. They're still conscious that you're there. They're depending on you. You know they're your responsibility and you're on alert, so to speak.

Watching her on the playground, away from me, running and playing without a care in the's a partial out of body experience. She's part of me, but completely independent of me and growing more so every day. It's wonderful and frightening at the same time. I'm still on alert. What if she falls? What if someone is mean to her? What if she needs me and I'm not there? It's hard not to rush to be by her side just in case but that's not what she needs now. What she needs is to learn to be her own person away from Mom, Dad and little sister. So I sit in my car, watching my little girl grow up right before my eyes.

When it's our turn in the pick up line, I'm reminded again that she's still a little girl. My little girl. She climbs into the car, wide-eyed and smiling at me. She has a new painting or project she can't wait to show me. Her teacher buckles her in and we're off. We stop for smoothies and she begs me to hold her hands while we twirl around the room. The room spins and my eyes are focused on her. Her eyes are shining and she's smiling. We stop and she stumbles into my legs, hugging me. "Mommy" she says, giggling, "you're my best friend."

Sunday, August 30, 2009

Give Me a Home

Our favorite babysitter went back to college and I have a niece and two nephews who are college freshmen as of last week so there has been a lot of talk about college and college life around our house lately.

Grinch and I have been talking about our own journeys to college, being away from home, going wild, feeling lost and free at the same time. We've talked about how my sister, a single mom, must feel, sending her daughter 444 miles away to go to university. How hard it's going to be not to have her daughter around, to not be able to protect her, guide her, have fun with her.

Grinch is already twitchy about the idea of sending the bug away to college. You should have seen how we hovered over her pre-school when first started there. She was only gone for a few hours, two days a week, but we sat in the parking lot and waited just in case she needed us. I got weepy just thinking about next year, when she'll be in school *all* day! Five days a week! How are we supposed to just drop her off, drive away and not see her for....ohmygod months?!

It's a good thing we have 14 years to think about all this. Which, given how quickly the last four years have gone, doesn't seem like that much time at all. Ohmygod.

I don't worry about Dos too much because she's still so baby-like that I have a hard time imagining her ever growing up. She'll just be my baby forever and we'll leave it there. K? I'm trying to avoid a full-on emotional meltdown here, y'all.

Bug has overheard all this college chit-chat and has started asking questions. "What's a college? What's a professor? What's tuition?" With everything, we're straight forward and honest which is pretty easy to do with a subject like this. (Drowning and dying came up recently. That's a whole 'nother post.)

We've talked about studying hard, choosing a school, joining clubs and making new friends. I thought I was doing pretty good until "...and we'll take you to your dorm and help you get everything you need and...."

"What's a dorm?"

"That's where you live when you're away at school."

Her eyes filled with tears and her mouth turns down. "But I don't want to live away from you and Daaaaaaddeeeee...."

I made my sweet girl cry. I feel like a jerk. Oh! But she loves our home so much, she loves Grinch and me so much she never wants to leave! We're awesome!

"Aw, bunny... You don't have to go away to college. You can stay at home. You can stay at home for as long as you want." She's smiling again. Giggling.

Wait...did I just tell her she can live at home forever? I did. Which is OK with me.

Sunday, August 16, 2009

Still Here

Well, there it is. Proof positive that I suck as a blogger AND a mommy. I haven't updated in weeks and I didn't wax poetic about my bug's 4th birthday to the internets. Since I've turned 40 I've learned that I suck at a lot of things. When I was 20, I thought I was awesome at EVERYTHING. 20 years makes a big difference.

So yes, the Bug turned four and I can hardly believe it. (I waxed poetic privately. Just because it didn't happen on line doesn't mean it didn't happen. ) We're probably giving the kid a massive complex because Grinch and I keep staring at her. We don't expect her to spontaneously burst into flames or give us the winning lottery numbers, though that would be cool. (The numbers, not the flames.) We just can't stop looking at her because....well...she's four.

"Are you sure?" Grinch asked me as the bug and dos giggled over one of her birthday presents.

"Sure of what?" I asked.

"That she's four."

"We must have miscounted."

"How'd she turn four?"

(counting on my fingers) "2006, 2007...yeah...that's four years."

"She's a little kid. She went from a baby to a little kid, like...." Bug's ears perked up at this.

"I'm not a little kid! I'm a big girl! I'm four! Four, four, four!" and off she hop, hop, hopped like a bunny, hugging her new dolly.

Our little girl. Our baby bug. She's four.

Sunday, July 12, 2009

Different is Good

"Is she a good baby?" a friend asked after the Bug was born.

"She is. She's a good baby." I told her. I wasn't sure what she meant by "good baby" but I meant that Bug was cute, nursed well, let other people hold her and didn't cry without reason. Don't get me wrong. She cried. Lordy, lord did she cry. I cried, too. Big, heaving sobs of "This sucks! I want my life back!" and then she started sleeping through the night and I no longer felt like gray matter was seeping out of my ears. Things got better. We figured each other out. I stopped trying so hard to be The Perfect Mom and concentrated on being a really good mom to my little girl.

I was dumb enough to think everything would be exactly the same the second time around. Everything was different from the start: Bug took her time getting everything in place before she would think about being born. Dos came five days ahead of schedule and nearly made her entrance in the hospital parking lot. Bug barely made a peep during the first few diaper changes. Dos screamed bloody murder, to the point that a nurse poked her head in during one diaper change to ask, eyebrows raised, "Is everything ok?" Bug looked around, wide-eyed with wonder on her first ride home. Dos clamped her eyes shut and screamed for 5.5 miles. In rush-hour traffic.

Bug slept through the night on her own at 8 weeks. Dos finally gave it a try at 8 months and didn't care for it too much. She was over a year old before she slept through the night on a regular basis. I don't think she's all that fond of sleeping, but she does it reluctantly because she knows a whole buncha fussin' isn't going to get her much more than a cursory pat on the back and another stuffed bunny tossed in her crib. There are only so many bunnies one kid can take.

Grinch and I fretted and lamented the differences between Bug and Dos. We questioned everything we had done, I, had done during my pregnancy. Wondered if genetic anomalies, chromosomal aberrations, even brain damage could explain her apparent unhappiness with seemingly everything. We fumed and cried, cursed and raged. What was wrong with this baby?

Then one day, it hit us: nothing is "wrong" with her. She's just different. She's a healthy little girl who has her own personality, her own likes and dislikes, her own quirks and curiosities. She's not Bug, she's Dos. All new. All ours. Ours to figure out, to learn from and enjoy.

She's different from her sister in another obvious way: I used to rock Bug to sleep, singing campfire/Beatles/Johnny Mercer medleys. When I tried to lay her in the crib, sometimes she'd wake up, clamp her arms around my neck and cry as I pried her off. Dos nurses happily until she's calm and sleepy but hates to be rocked almost as much as she hates my singing. I stand with her cribside, swaying to the music and patting her back. She pats my back, leans in for a kiss or three, then dives for the crib, clasping a bunny to her chest. I hear her cooing and giggling as she falls asleep.

She's different from her big sister, alright. What a great thing.