Monday, March 31, 2008

Second annual egg hunt!

The egg hunt was a little late, but we threw it together in time for one last hurrah before March passed us by. Connor put all those weeks of looking for eggs around the house to good use and capture a bundle of eggs.

Cece's mom accused her dad (the egg hider) of tipping her off as to where the eggs were as her basket overflowed.

Samuel noticed there was candy inside and figured he better start munching before he was told to stop.

Helen thought it was awfully funny that there were colored eggs on the lawn - and several times her parents would point out an egg, only to have Connor swoop in and collect the goods.

No matter - there were plenty for everyone and wow - did Connor enjoy the infusion of chocolate!

It's 2 against 1, from here on out

Yesterday, Helen, Connor, and Ed were goofing around. Helen made a move on Ed's glasses, and Ed expertly picked his head up to avoid being blinded by the little lady. But, unbeknownst to him, Connor was not going to allow Helen to be bested by Ed in the game of swipe Daddy's glasses. Connor took advantage of his ability to stand at about Ed's eye level when Ed is sitting, and swiped the glasses right off Ed's face and handed them to Helen.


Sunday, March 23, 2008

Happy Easter!

An appropriate post for today, would be a photo of Connor picking up plastic eggs with candy inside them (which he did on three separate occasions this weekend). Or, a photo of Connor jumping for joy when he opened up the package from my parents last night, rife with candy and stickers. (There were clothes too, but this caused no jubilant dance.) Or even a photo of Connor in the bathtub painting Helen with the bath paints my sister sent him for Easter (which, coincidentally, he asked for when he saw Teo's last Wednesday).

But unfortunately, I have no photos of any of these things. Instead, I have this recent photo of Helen and me. She attended all events with Connor this weekend, but probably enjoyed the toy my parents sent more than anything.


Friday, March 21, 2008

Dude! You're so old school.

My friend Ellen rocks. She's like the uber mom. She's totally willing to admit she's not perfect, but she also knows when to give herself a pat on the back. When I'm in a parenting quandary that doesn't merit a call to my sister or mom, I call on her. I also ask her all questions related to breastfeeding because she is the most knowledgable person I know who is not board certified. (Someday, she will be, but right now she's raising two girls and has enough on her plate with that.)

So, last Monday, when we went bowling, she noticed that Connor was no longer wearing diapers. I told her that on Saturday morning I told Connor he was no longer going to wear a diaper during the day, except for naptime and he could also wear one for bedtime. I explained to him I was tired of arguing about whether or not he needed his diaper changed. Seriously, the thing would be about to explode and he would argue quite vehemently that it did NOT need to be changed. It became apparent to me that he was possibly going to be the only person heading off to their high school prom still wearing a diaper just because it was more convenient than interrupting whatever he was doing to use the toilet. A while back, he had a little stint of using the potty occasionally, and seemed quite proud, but after he knew how, it was no longer interesting, so he stopped entirely. Instead, he decided to work on more important problems, like, figuring out how to get a democrat elected president, or something along those lines, I presume. I also decided that because Connor is a man of little gray, it had to be a hard and fast rule - no diapers while awake, ever. I was scared, but did not want to send a mixed message to him that when we leave the house, he can use a diaper and when we're at home, he has to use the potty.

And you know what? It's working! On Saturday, we stuck close to home, because I was nervous. When Ed went to the grocery store he was totally happy that Connor didn't want to go because he was worried about the "accident" potential. Then on Sunday, Connor wanted to go to a parade downtown. So we went. And he actually agreed to go potty with enough time for me to sprint to the nearest museum, run past the line of people waiting calmly to go through the security check as I glanced at the guard - without missing a step, I might add - and shouted "potty training". Two women stepped aside at the bathroom door and Connor was there with a few moments to spare. He had a couple of accidents on Monday as he tried to figure out on his own how much lead time he needed to get to the bathroom, but since then, his underwear has been "clean and dry", as he likes to announce to me.

But the really cool thing about all this? Ellen's response when I told her? "Dude! You're so old school, just taking his diapers like that."

I consider it high praise, and I'm totally patting myself on the back. That, and kicking myself for just purchasing an enormous box of Connor's size diapers.

Oh, and he's also learned to slide off the roof of his playhouse without waiting for someone to catch him. Oh yeah, my days before heading to the ER are numbered now, thank you Ed.


Wednesday, March 19, 2008

Happy 31 Months

Dear Connor,

This month, you turned 31 months. I wish I could say that this month was easier than last, but it was not. But now that we're into your 32nd month, things have been fabulous. So, I'll get this post out of the way and we can go back to having fun again.

If there was one phrase we heard around this house enough to last a lifetime, it was "I don't want to", or a simple variation on that theme. Like, a few days ago, I told you it was an "at home" day for me. Usually, this makes you dance with joy. But a couple of weeks ago? Your reply was simply "I don't want you to stay home from work". So I said, "OK, I guess I'll spend the day with Helen" and then you quickly retracted your statement and we had a great day. Now when you tell me "I don't want to" I just say "I know you don't want to. You don't want to do anything. That's why I call you Connor 'I don't want to' William H." and so far, this makes you laugh a bit and you pretty much agree to do whatever it is that you initially refused.

You also resorted to a little reverse psychology on me and your dad. A few weeks ago, you didn't eat your dinner, and I tossed it in the trash as I was cleaning up after dinner. After telling us everything we offered you was yucky, you burst into tears at your apparently beloved yucky dinner being tossed in the trash. Seeing opportunity, your dad and I would later tell you "Connor, it's time to eat your dinner or we'll have to throw it away" and you would start eating. That is, until about 2 weeks ago when I did this at lunch and you said "It makes me HAPPY when you throw my dinner away" and I replied "Great. I want you to be happy, Connor.". Only, it didn't make you happy, but you weren't about to let on. So, at dinner that night, you dad said the same thing and you looked him right in the eye and said again "It makes me HAPPY when you throw out my dinner." Seeing no reaction from your dad, you then upped the ante by faking laughter and saying "I'm laughing because you threw out my dinner" because you wanted to make really certain that we knew you were really happy. As steam poured out your dad's ears (and might I remind you that he is the CALM parent in the house most of the time) I suggested you and I ought to go downstairs to play trains. A little separation at that moment seemed like a good thing.

But, you always seemed to know right when you were on the edge of getting kicked out of the house and at exactly that moment, you would lean in close and whisper "I love you Mommy" or, even better, you would run and get a toy for Helen, give it to her, and then be super nice to her. It's as if you know how much this warms my heart.

When you weren't being a total annoyance, you continued to be quite goofy and generally filled the house with laughter and good ideas. My favorite thing this month is watching you decide you need something from your bedroom when you are playing in the sitting room. You hop up, and do this cute toddler run down the hall at full speed, hands and arms flapping everywhere, and sometimes slipping and skidding several paces. Clearly, walking is too pedestrian for you. And if only you showed this sort of urgency any time I wanted to leave the house, it would be grand.

You seem to exemplify something my mother-in-law once told me. She said it was natural for kids and parents to not get along. After all, your job is to gain independence and mine is to keep you from getting it too soon. It's a natural rivalry. Now, I do believe she was commenting on your dad's teen years, but I think it applies a little to you now.

And now, let's get back to the business of having a blast. Month 32 has started off really great!


Monday, March 17, 2008

Happy 5 months, Helen

Dear Helen,

A few days ago, you turned 5 months old. This month, I write this letter to you not just because I like to have a monthly summary of what you’ve been up to, but because you father has no idea how old you are. This should help him keep track. Try not to take it too personally that your father tried to convince me you were a month older than you actually are – he gets my birthday wrong all the time.

This has been a big, big month, Helen. You roll! With varying levels of difficulty, you manage to flip yourself from front to back regularly. I’ve been working with you daily to figure out the back to front maneuver because I believe this is the key to you never waking me up again.

You sleep, Helen. Oh, how you sleep. Except for maybe 5 nights this month (probably fewer), you slept at least 8 consecutive hours, most nights you slept 9 consecutive hours, and several times you slept 11 consecutive hours. I go to sleep each night assuming I’m going to get to sleep until at least 4:00, and that is a beautiful thing. When you do get up, you eat like a professional eater, fall back to sleep, and don’t wake again until 7:00 or 8:00. The few times you haven’t slept like a champ, you seem to have gas or other tummy troubles, so it’s perfectly understandable that you call out. Someday, your stomach will function normally (hopefully!). I lodge a pillow on your side these days to make it difficult for you to roll over because that used to wake you up, and it’s annoying to get out of bed, walk across the hall, flip you over, and then try and get back to sleep. I can lodge the pillow beside you, because you no longer sleep on your tummy with your face in that pillow. Now, you sleep on your tummy with no pillow beneath your head. (You lost head pillow privileges when you started rolling off it and getting annoyed in the middle of the night, waking me up to be put back on the pillow.)

We’ve been able to spend more time outside lately and you do love the wind blowing through the magnolia tree and hearing the chimes. Someday, you’ll be able to play in the sand and water table beneath that same magnolia, but for now, you do seem content casting your gaze upward.

You have become a master at reaching up for toys above you, and this includes those round glass things your dad wears on his face. I suppose Connor pretty much trashed those same glasses when he was your age, so what’s a few more scratches?

Your hands, Helen, oh how you love those hands. They are almost always in your mouth, even when they are covered with vomit. That is disgusting, Helen, and we do try and wipe them very fast. You've also been known to eat a little soap if we don't get them rinsed off quickly enough in the bath.

Our mornings have become quite fun. You wake up happy, Helen, and I really appreciate this. You might be the only member of the house who wakes up, laughs, and tests out all your limbs by pumping your fists and kicking your legs around. You seem to enjoy this little workout. After a few minutes, Connor will run in and tell you good morning and then he requests I put him in your crib. At that point, he’ll flip your light switch on for you, snuggle a bit, and shout “good morning, Helen!”. It’s a lovely way to start the day.


Wednesday, March 12, 2008

In celebration of life

January 25, my friend Laurie gave birth to her second daughter, Mia.

February 3, my cousin's daughter, Sadie, died.

Laurie lives only a few blocks from me, and gave birth at home. As it turns out, the same midwife who caught Connor caught Mia. During Laurie's labor, her husband called to see if I would come over just to bring a different energy to the atmosphere. I had told them both before the birth that I would be more than happy to be involved in any way Laurie thought would be helpful. To make a long story short, it was really cool.

I arrived at Laurie's after she had been in labor for a few hours. Connor and Helen were both in bed and I told Ed I'd probably only be there for an hour or so because I wasn't sure how long she'd want me there. Truth be told, it was awful timing for me. Connor had been sick and a true grump, Ed and I were both on edge, and we were feeling really overwhelmed. But I wasn't going to tell a man with a wife in labor that I couldn't come after they had been so good to pick-up Connor around 7AM the day Helen was born to care for him, and so I went. Plus, I felt at least partly responsible for Laurie being in labor at home without meds since I had told her how great giving birth at home was about 1 million times. I was also very excited that Scott had called because I thought I could be helpful and really wanted to be there.

I could never possibly describe it fully, but seeing a woman in labor is incredible. The moment it starts, everyone knows what the ending will be - a baby will be born. But nobody knows how long it's going to be, what twists will happen, or how many special moments will be recorded along the way. I should point out, that I'm one of those people who thinks it's just amazing that a tiny seed can be planted in the ground in May and a couple of months later a tomato will be there. So you can imagine how amazing I think a little human growing inside a person is.

My mom gave me some great advice about weddings one day. She told me that there was so much hulabaloo leading up to a wedding, that by the time it comes, it can go by so fast that the actual day doesn't end up being nearly as glorious as it seemed it would be with all the planning. I'm not sure she would remember saying this, but it was at the time my sister's wedding was being planned and I remember it. When my own wedding came, I decided I was going to take my mom's advice (which I believe was to focus on the event, not the details) and enjoy that day to the fullest. After Ed and I hired people we thought would make a good contribution to the day, I refused to manage any small details. The day of the wedding, we were having photos taken at the reception site and the maitre'd asked me a couple of questions about details (I believe they had to do with placement of salt and pepper shakers, and possibly about when the bar would be open). I remember telling him "I'm sorry, I'm not going to answer any questions. Ed is in charge of all wedding day details. I'm sure your instincts on this are better than mine anyway." I said this not because Ed cared at all about any detail (except that the bars be OPEN at all times), but because I knew there was no way the maitre'd was going to bother Ed, so I was freeing the maitre'd up to do his job, and he wouldn't have to worry that I was going to have a meltdown because some tiny detail wasn't perfect. It worked perfectly. The maitre'd never asked Ed anything, and by avoiding concerning myself with any particular detail, I have no memories of anything going wrong, and I have a ton of fabulous memories about the day. I wouldn't change a thing. Not because it was perfect, but because everything important turned out perfectly. I really felt like a guest at my own wedding rather than feeling the need to orchestrate anything.

A child's birth is also something that should be remembered like a wedding. And similarly, you spend a lot of time planning for it - both in the conception phase and then during pregnancy. The problem is, you can't offload caring about details - particularly when you give birth at home. In short, your partner can do an awful lot, but he's not the maitre'd of the event. He can help make sure there is adequate food and liquid in the house. But only the laboring woman knows the right time to call the midwife and birth assistant. Most importantly, nobody can labor for you. In short, I would've loved to be a spectator at both of my births, but I was so focused on conserving energy and getting through the pain, that I couldn't really sit back and take in all the little things. Other people could, and did, but I was working really hard. Certainly I had a few moments at the beginning to be in awe "holy cow! I'm having a baby!", but once the serious business of labor began, there was no pause button.

So to have the opportunity to watch someone else's labor was very cool. I got to really marvel at all the little moments, but I wasn't in pain. I could provide support for Laurie and Scott, but after the contraction happened, I didn't need to start gearing up for the next one. Instead, I could sit back and say "wow - that's amazing. Your body is really working hard." I am so grateful for that experience. I finally understand why midwives do what they do. The hours are terrible, it can be hell on a family, and I suspect the pay is mediocre - but catching babies is meaningful work. And, my own bias is that doing this in a home setting is the most meaningful of all because the midwife, birth assistant, friend, whomever the laboring woman invites - enters the room with the laboring woman on her terms. So the contribution of being the midwife at a home birth is really crucial. She might be the only person with substantial medical knowledge around.

I went home to feed Helen once during labor, and then when it was getting really late, there was a moment when all of a sudden Scott went from sort of being on the outside worrying about Laurie to totally getting what his role was, and at that point, I went up to Laurie and told her everything looked great and I went home. Scott called once more when apparently Laurie was screaming at the midwives and had definitely hit a wall. I was feeding Helen though, so it took me some time to get over there. I waited to make sure Helen was all the way asleep before I headed back, and this was a mistake because I missed the actual birth by 4 minutes. But, it was still so cool to have been there earlier and to share a few moments with Laurie right after she'd given birth. I will treasure these memories always.

The next day, I told Ed I needed to be a midwife. I told him there was a 3 year Masters program at Georgetown for folks who weren't already nurses. I was totally ready to sign up. Ed is a very smart man. He would never tell me "you cannot do that". After all, he knows that I can be stubborn. Possibly my sister telling me I could never give birth at home is what kept me there when I had serious doubts with Connor and for a few moments, buried my head in a chair and thought to myself that I was never going to make it because it was SO.PAINFUL. But as soon as those thoughts entered my head, I knew transferring to a hospital would mean my sister was right and I was wrong about giving birth at home. I wasn't about to call her up from the hospital and tell her I was waiting for a baby to arrive while my anesthesiologist gave me an epidural. Nothing wrong with hospitals and epidurals - but I had told my sister they weren't for me and I wasn't backing down. So instead of telling me he wouldn't support me becoming a midwife, Ed said perhaps I should give it a little time, maybe become a birth assistant or doula first. I still think about it, but I am not nearly as convinced as I was that I need to be a midwife - though I do think I would be good at it and if I knew what I know now back when I was choosing careers, I would be a midwife now. The high of witnessing birth, was really high.

And then came the cruelest low. My cousin's daughter, Sadie, died after a two year struggle with cancer. Kids are not supposed to preceed their mom in death. It is not right, on any level, and there is no possible explanation that I will accept for this tragic event. If you find comfort in the thought that your god has some grand plan and this is all part of it, then your god is not nearly as merciful as my god. My god would never have a mission to prove something by ending a child's life. Which is just a very direct way of saying that I am unable to gloss over this loss with any supernatural explanation. I am, however, very hopeful that the next dimension will be much kinder to Sadie than this one ended up being.

I often wonder how my cousin manages to get through each day because I'm not sure I could handle losing either one of my children. I did not know Sadie well - only met her a few times at family reunions. My cousin kept folks updated on what was happening with Sadie, and I certainly cheered when good news came and sent all the good karma I could muster toward her when bad news came. The image I hold of Sadie is this unbelievably gorgeous Christmas card my cousin sent that featured 3 super cute photos of her 3 kids before Sadie was diagnosed with cancer. I often think of those photos when I think of Sadie because for me, it just shows how fast things can change. Nobody who received that card could've guessed that they wouldn't be receiving a similar card every year until the kids were teens and too concerned with their image to be the focus of the family Christmas card.

The take away lesson from both of these experiences? Kids are amazing. My kids are particularly amazing. I worked from home one day a few weeks ago and when I went upstairs for lunch, I looked out back to see Connor and the au pair playing in the sand and Helen sitting under the magnolia taking it all in. All I could think about was that I had no idea how many more days like this were going to come. My very flexible employer allowed me to cut my hours back again. I asked to do this because I don't want to miss too many days with my kids while they still think I'm really groovy. Ed has adjusted his hours, too, and he's home almost every day by 4:00. I don't know how long this will last, but I'm going to enjoy it while it does.


Wednesday, March 5, 2008


Connor made his second trip to the bowling alley this past weekend. This lane had one improvement over the last. There's a little ramp thingy (that is the technical term) that young people can hoist their ball onto and then give it a push. This is a critical element for the toddler set if you want to see the pins actually fall. Recall last time, without this piece of equipment, Connor's ball was traveling so slowly that it actually STOPPED! when it hit the pin, rather than the pin falling down.

Ed and I would never claim to be amazing bowlers, but I'd like to think I could beat my kid. Not so. For the record, Ed ended up edging Connor out in the last frame by two pins.



For quite some time now, Connor has been reciting books. He's remarkably good at turning the pages at the right time, and never missing a word. he has tricked more than a few onlookers. Since Helen was born, he's been "reading" to her, which is great because I can leave the room and still hear him, which lets me know that he hasn't moved. But lately, Connor has come to realize that there are words in books, and that there is some rosetta stone out there that he must acquire that will allow him to read these words. He'll point out words and ask Ed about them at bed each night. I'm hoping he figures it out soon so that I can give him the paper each morning to go through and find interesting articles for me to read. Ed used to be my personal clipping service but as of late, he hasn't been doing this for me very often. Perhaps it's because there's nothing in the Post worth reading. Of course, if the little bugger learns to read, he'll be able to outsmart even more people, which is not necessarily a good thing.

However, he could use these skills for good instead of evil. The last few nights, Connor has raced out to hang out with me and Helen when it's time for Helen's bedtime books. And the past few nights, he's taken over reading duties. He's limited to books he's already familiar with, but I have to admit, I'm thinking of turning over the job to him pretty soon.

He also applied for the job of starting bath Sunday night. Ed was vacuuming, Helen and I were playing, and Connor went to the bathroom, stripped (throwing his diaper in the trash), brought the non-slip bathmat into the tub, got it flipped over the correct way, stepped on it to make it stick to the tub, and then plugged the drain. He started the water as well, but that's when I intervened figuring I ought to make sure the water was neither scalding hot nor freezing.

Some days, the little guy can be quite helpful.


Monday, March 3, 2008

Sunday, March 2, 2008

She rolls!

And she's also been sleeping for 8 - 9 hours at night. I guess rolling is hard work.



When I was growing up, my dad installed a swing between the laundry room and the sewing room. This way, my mom could entertain me or my sister while she ironed or did the laundry. I haven't gone so far as to start ironing, but Ed did install a swing in the laundry room so Helen can hang out a safe distance above the floor downstairs. A floor, I might add, that is completely cluttered with marbles, coins, and trains. Not the best place for a baby who enjoys putting everything she can into her mouth.