Wednesday, May 29, 2013

Home Again

So, we had a wonderful Memorial Day weekend with my family. And, for the first time in a long time, 10 hours on the road with a 1-year-old was relaxing. I just had to force myself to do things a little differently...

When it was just Mark and I, we would leave whenever we got out of work to start the 5-hour trek to upstate New York. If we did that now, it'd mean leaving at E's pre-bed time and fighting to get her to sleep in the car.

Instead, we left Saturday morning, and she happily rode for hours, taking in the sights. The purpose of the drive wasn't "to get there." It was to enjoy a day in the car as a family -- singing songs, talking, playing games, and watching a movie. We made frequent stops to eat, to enjoy the ferry ride.

Both traveling days were rather zen and family-focused. It set the stage for the weekend as we visited on my parents' porch, took the kids to the park with my sister, went for walks, and ate cold cuts. Life went on as usual in New York, with us fitting into the daily routines as if we never moved to Vermont.

Last night, when I got home, my VT life greeted me with a slap in the face. Though I had cleaned the kitchen before we left, toys were strewn everywhere, and a laundry pile almost as tall as me glared at me as I walked in the door. Blech.

Today, I'm truly in a New York state of mind, where the houses are clean, windows are open to let in fresh air, and summer is washing over the town -- neighbors returning from camp, pedestrians lazily wandering to the park to lounge on a bench. I love my VT life, but NY is home.

On Sunday, my sister and I walked to another park on the other side of my parents' house. She explained to me how to get there, and I sought it out only to find that this was the park that I used to play at, when I was about 5 and we had just moved to town. Besides a new main play-structure, everything else was the same -- swings and jungle-gym. The metal was worn in the same places. Millions of children's hands must have gripped those bars, climbed and climbed, fallen, gotten up, then grown too old to climb just for the sake of climbing.

Hopscotch must not be as popular now, because no one had bothered to re-paint the lines and numbers on the court. I found just a faint outline of the number 10 then found myself wondering what comes after. At which moment exactly did it stop? On which day did I not reach for a rock and run back to 1?

Somedays I feel so much like a child, my life falling apart around me and not knowing how to pick up the pieces or where to put them. Yet, somehow I'm building it -- maybe awkwardly and crooked in places, and I see all the things I dreamed about or pretended -- on that very playground, in my life now -- a drive to work, a meal on the table, a husband, a daughter.

I can't help but find the beauty in my daughter skipping over the faint outline of the hop-scotch numbers, swinging, running in the grass, and yelling, "Go, go, go!"

And I tell myself, "While I'm lacking, she's growing. There's a bigger picture. Here's a glimpse. Jump to it. Hold on. Reach higher. Swing. Go, go, go."

Monday, May 20, 2013

Lens-Cap Thief Steals My Heart

A few pics between temper tantrums... It was a no-nap day, with a half-hearted attempt at a time-out that ended in giggles, snuggles, and a "Sorry, Mama." That's okay, baby. Wanna play with the camera? "Yeah."

Is it normal for birds to...

Photo by Kim J. Gifford
Is it normal for birds to fly with your car? Like, for a half mile?

This has happened quite a few times since I've had E, and I can't figure out why. I've never seen anything like it before. They hover beside or about 10 feet above the car and fly with us. It's so distracting to look out your window and see a bird... flying beside the car.

This morning I thought that E was communing with nature spirits... and that the birds had been sent to guide her safely into adulthood when she would assume her title as the Kingdom of Vermont's First Queen of the Feathered Brethren -- and accept her duty to serve and protect her winged friends...

BUT... I decided that it was probably just her screeching in the backseat combined with me nearly swerving off the road. Our white Nissan probably looked and sounded like a giant, awkward swan trying to take flight.


Me: Why, God...!?

Monday, May 13, 2013

Mother's Day

Money is extremely tight this Mother's Day, so when Mark came in our room Saturday morning to wake me up for help with E and said, "I hope you don't mind, but... I don't think I'm going to do anything for Mother's Day," I responded with a, "Good! It'd be crazy to spend money on any extra luxuries right now. I'm glad you didn't secretly plan anything." And, surprisingly, for the first time in my life, I wasn't the girl who forced a smile and said, "Oh, that's fine." I meant it. I was happy that $5 hadn't been wasted on a card, and was looking forward to a day with my family.

I also firmly believe that God rewards us for our sacrifices, teaches us lessons in the give and take of the world. Parenthood offers examples every day. For each action (of chaos, frustration, defiance), there's an equal and opposite reaction (of tranquility, love, and happy compliance).

Mother's Day began when E refused to let me sleep in an extra half hour. She came bursting through our door (really need to get that lock fixed) and crashed into the side of the bed, happily screeching, "MAMA!!!" at the top of her lungs.

No sleeping in for me, but I screeched her name, too, and scooped her up into my arms for a big Mother's Day hug.

Throughout the day, chaos ensued. Her temper tantrums consist of usually short-lived high-pitched screeches. Then, somehow, it escalates into uncontrollable sobs and crocodile tears if she doesn't get her way. The first screech-fest happened when Mark helped her out of our bed, and she didn't think I was coming with her.

Then, heaven forbid, I stopped to pee on my way to the kitchen to get her breakfast -- screech!

Other screech-worthy moments:
She wanted my oatmeal, instead of hers.
Her dress was too picky -- she opted for a cotton dress, mismatched pants, and a sweatshirt.
The sun was too "bright."
Her pants were too warm.
She wanted the TV on.
The TV beeped too loud.
We had to turn the TV off to leave.

She wanted to wear my shoes, instead of hers.
It took too long to pack the car.
The seatbelt was too tight.
She wanted a snack.
The raisins in her trail-mix were at the bottom.
The applesauce wasn't pushed to the top of her applesauce packet.
She squeezed the applesauce packet too hard (into my purse).
She wanted to watch Little Tikes Land in the car. Fine. I grabbed my phone.
Every time she touched the screen, it paused.
She didn't want me to hold the phone.
Her shoes were on.
Her socks wouldn't come off.

We went out to eat at a restaurant with my mother-in-law, Betsy, and sister-in-law, Kim...
Mild annoyances to screech-worthy calamities:
The high chair didn't have a buckle to play with.
She climbed out, then had to be put back in.
She didn't want pizza, would only eat my steak-fries.
The woman sitting behind us looked at her (when she tried to touch her hair).
I wouldn't let her hang on me throughout my meal.

At the science museum...
She wanted to play with her stroller latch.
The stroller latch got stuck.
She wanted to run down the stairs.
She wanted to run up the stairs.
She wanted to play at the bubble station.
She ate 4 handfuls of bubbles.
I wouldn't let her buy the $13 ball in the gift shop (that she took upon herself to bring to checkout).
She wanted to keep riding in the elevator.

A quick stop at Walmart...
She wanted to ride in the cart.
She simultaneously wanted to walk.
She wanted applesauce.
She spilled applesauce on the floor.
I wouldn't let her run away.
She wanted sunglasses.
The sunglasses wouldn't stay on her face.
She wanted a helium "Clearance" balloon.
She wanted milk.
They only had half-gallon jugs (I let her drink from the jug).

Panera's for a light dinner...
She wanted some other kid's balloon.
She wanted water.
Turns out, she just wanted the straw in the water cup.
She spilled water on herself.
She only wanted yogurt (Panera's has the kind in a tube).
The yogurt wouldn't come out of the tube.
She wanted me to help.
Then she didn't want me to help.
She also didn't want the yogurt squirted on her plate to eat with a spoon.
She threw her spoon on the floor (then ate my apple).

On our way home, Mark drove through squinted, sleepy eyes, and I took videos with my phone of E on her yogurt-sugar high, kicking her heart out in the back seat. He said, "Well, that was a wonderful day," and he meant it. I responded with, "It was, wasn't it?"

Between the tantrums, we laughed, played "I spy" in the backseat: "I spy your nose," I'd say, or "the doggie." "There's doggie!!" she'd laugh and snuggle her stuffed puppy. We saw Auntie Bee's pugs and sang "Row, Row, Row Your Boat" to them.

At the restaurant, even while she was hanging on me, I stole some snuggles and laughed at how she stole my fries. When sitting got to be too much for her, Bee swept her off to the mall next door while I had dessert in quiet company, and she brought back three wonderful things: my (happy) daughter, a ball, and a new stuffed puppy dog. At the museum, we played with bubbles and had fun riding in the elevator.

Even when she was at her most tired in WalMart, we made it to checkout by stopping to visit every helium "Clearance" balloon on the way. We drank milk straight from the jug! We danced to "Walking on Sunshine" while wearing sunglasses, and bought lipstick.

At Panera's, Kim told me that she wouldn't care what anyone thought of E's screeching, that, in fact, she would teach her kids to yell like that. And I laughed, and it reminded me that I never used to care what anyone thought of me, and I certainly don't have time to worry about it now.

And, even on the way home, after E took the straw out of her cup and spilled it down the front of her, after she cried for snacks that she had long ago eaten, she found comfort in pointing out the moon -- just a sliver on the horizon. She hugged my hand and said, "Oh, Mama..." and we sang, "Moonshadow," with E's contribution to the song: "Shadow... mooon! Shadow... mooon!"

Thursday, May 9, 2013

Sock Queen

Yesterday morning Mark was frustrated trying to find socks for E. I finally yelled from the bathroom, "Did you look in the sock bucket??"

"No, I don't know where it is!!"

E jumped up, ran past him to her play room, and grabbed the sock bucket which had blended in with her toys. It's half her size, but she scooped it up happily, toddled across the room to bring it to Mark, and said, "There's the bucket!" (Dares da buck-it!)

Then she reached in, grabbed a handful of socks and cheered, "Socks!!!" as she waved them in the air. She was so happy to help!

This morning, she was running around in the bathroom while I tried to get ready. I said, "Um... Can you go help Dada get ready?" I meant it in a general, "outta-my-hair" kinda way... Ha!

She looked up at me, so seriously, and said, "Socks!?" Haha! So ready to do her new job!

As hard as it is to be a mom somedays, she really does complete our family and make our lives easier. She fixes things, simplifies them.

Tuesday, May 7, 2013

Holy Crap Project Life!

Wow. It has been forever. I'm way behind on Project Life, but this completes August 2012!

I had intended to do a page a week for the first year of E's life, so to make it to September is quite an accomplishment, I think! Only 16 pages to go! I'm excited to pick it up again after so long. I just hope I remember all the little stories that go with each set of pictures!

After this is complete, I think I'll try to do a page a month for her 2nd year. That seems more doable now that I'm chasing a 1.5-year-old around!

Pinky Swear

Photo by Kim J. Gifford
We recently taught E how to do a "pinky swear" or "pinky promise." Similar to when she learned the phrase, "Amen," she uses it when I least expect it -- like when I tell her that we're having mac 'n' cheese for dinner. She locks her pointer finger with my pinky, looks up at me hopefully and says, "Pinky?!" Yes, I pinky-swear to keep prepping this mac 'n' cheese for you. How cute!

Then, last week, she caught me off-guard with a pinky-promise-request I will never forget and intend to keep.

She had been talking about her long-time day care friend, Gwen, quite a bit. She would go through the names of her day care friends, then pose Gwen's name as a question. I gave her my standard reply, "Yes! You're so smart! You know Gwen!"

On Thursday, I happened to mention this to the day care teacher who sounded surprised and told me that Gwen left the day care awhile ago. I was heartbroken. I know my daughter is only 15 months old, and I may be putting more of my own emotions into this situation, but I felt like she was asking me where she was and why she left. I also felt like I should have a real discussion with her about it.

It never occurred to me that people would be coming in and out of her life at day care -- that there would naturally be changes with teachers and kids coming and going. That's fine -- her home life is stable, but does she know that we won't leave, that she'll always have her Mama and Dada? I wasn't sure, but I wanted to try to convey that to her.

Gwen's name didn't come up again until the next morning. E was jumping on the bed as Mark and I were trying to wake up. Then she sat down next to me and asked, "Gwen?" I told her that Gwen had to leave day care -- that I was sorry I didn't know she left and that she didn't have her friend there any more. I hugged her tightly. I asked her if she knew that Gwen had left and if she missed her. She nodded.

Then I told her that Mama and Dada would never leave her. She didn't really respond, so I tried to rephrase it. I said, "Mama and Dada will always be with you." She smiled up at us and held both pointer fingers in the air -- one for each of us and said, "Pinky?"

It was such a special moment. Even Mark had tears in his eyes. We made a pinky-swear circle and gushed, "Of course!!" and "Yes, always!!"

It's funny how my anxiety works. I'm always afraid of dying or losing her -- that somehow the world will pull us apart. And maybe that pinky swear was partly the promise you make to a child when you want to give them security in an ever-changing universe. But, in that moment, I actually believed that I would always be with her. I know that I will overcome any and all odds to be by her side.

And as hard as it's been to write lately (I blame the beautiful weather), I'm motivated to keep writing something, even to just record the little things -- knowing that she'll always have these words. In that way, no matter what, I'll always be with her.