Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Spit... and teeth

OK, internet, avert your eyes for just one moment. Helen has been off one of her reflux meds for almost 2 weeks now and she is (knock on wood) doing fine. A little more spitting (which the gastro doc anticipated), but no more apparent discomfort than is usual. On Thursday we drop one of her two pills, and I am terrified of doing this. But, we will forge onward with reducing the meds in hopes that Helen will still be fine.

In other news, I reached into her mouth on Sunday and felt her 3rd tooth. I haven't had the courage to check again and see if #4 has also come in.

Monday, September 29, 2008

And you thought my dad was the only one I kept busy in retirement

Oh, contraire. After all, why should she get to relax in her retirement? OK, so there are a thousand reasons she should get to relax in her retirement including the fact that as a stay-at-home mom until I entered school full-time, she bore the brunt of raising my sister and me. And after that, she worked part-time so that she could still run the carpool and later, be home for us when the bus dropped us off. She even convinced employers to give her the summer off for a good number of years so that she didn’t have to farm us out to other caregivers, something I am in awe of at this point in my life. My employer is the most flexible employer in the world, but I can’t imagine scoring the whole summer off.

My mom is the rock of the babysitting duo. She is the one who changes diapers, washes and folds the laundry, and gets Helen to sleep. She is the one who has been known to walk Helen through the trials of reflux in the middle of the night so I could catch a break. The only "maintenance" task that she regularly offloads to my dad is feeding. Her status as the caregiver who gets most tasks done is only fair because I cannot tell you the number of times my mother wished that I would have a child just like me someday and do you know what? Her wish might have come true. And had she thought she would be in charge of that child for about a month each year, she might have wished differently, like maybe “I hope you have a child who does exactly what you want them to all the time”. But alas, it is too late for that wish.

Connor is exactly the kind of child that was sent to earth for the sole purpose of torturing my mother. You see, she (like many rational people), thinks it reasonable to say “put your shoes on”, and have someone respond by, well, putting their shoes on. But, Connor’s reaction to this statement? It’s possible he will put his shoes on. But it is equally possible that all of a sudden his feet that were only moments ago running around in circles carrying him in Tasmanian devil style will all of a sudden move as if they are slogging through snow up to his waist. If you look closely when he does this, you can almost see the steam come out of my mother’s ears. I believe I used to do the same thing. But even better, you can tell Connor to “please find your shoes” and do you know what the little dude will do? He will look up at the ceiling, almost instinctively. Just. Like. I. Did. This could drive even Jiddu Krishnamurti to have high blood pressure. Fortunately, I have learned to cope with this for the most part, so it doesn't grate on my nerves daily.

But Connor can also be the sweetest kid ever and he loves sidling up to my mom and having her read 2 or 10 or 30 books - or however many my mom can get through (which is a lot!). He loves that she climbs on the playground equipment with her, gives him gummi bears, and somehow finds endless fonts of energy in his presence. So, even though he can make someone nuts, he is not hard to fall in love with.

Helen, well, who knows how she'll turn out? Lately, we've been getting a taste that she is a bit stubborn. And, if this holds true, my mom can expect lots of exasperated calls in the future that start with "what did you do with me when I...". And, no doubt, when my parents visit or meet us somewhere, my mom will once again be reminded why she does not want to run a daycare, but hopefully also see how fun it can be for just a week at a time.

And, like I warned Dad, Mom, they're only getting smarter and faster, so you might want to take this next week to rest up before you come visit.


Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Some children have no mercy...

My dad is a planner. And long ago, my dad decided he was going to retire at 62.5. In fact, he probably decided that he was going to retire at 62.5 the day he started working. And hey, one of the dude's earlier jobs was at an ice house (yes! they really existed), so having the knowledge that he would someday retire was probably very comforting. I have this image of him chipping away at blocks of ice, thinking of retiring - to someplace warm, no doubt. He'd enjoy some golf, travel a bit, you know - something very different from physical labor. (If you've started feeling bad for the man chipping away at blocks of ice so others could sip tea, don't. He went to lots of school and eventually landed a desk job where he sat ensconced in flourescent lighting many of his days.)

Growing up, my sister was tagged early on as being like my father. Primarily, because she is a planner herself. I believe it was in second grade that she requested my parents buy her a piano and put her in lessons because she was going to be a piano teacher. It surprises no one that knows her that she is, indeed, a piano teacher today.

My role in the family? I was tagged as the flibberty-gibbet. Into one thing on Monday and another on Tuesday. Who knew what I would one day end up doing, but all were hopeful that it would involve a regular paycheck, though not always confident. But I am here to announce that they were wrong. I am, in fact, a planner. How else to explain the fact that I waited - waited patiently, in fact - to have children? Waited so long, I might add, that my parents are both retired. And every one of my friends with small children knows what that means. I have babysitters! Perhaps not babysitters that can come on short notice, but babysitters that can cover long stretches of time when other care is not available. Babysitters who are willing to take my kids almost anywhere in the metro area. Babysitters who are willing to meet me on vacation (Utah, Colorado, and Illinois - so far!).

And so it happens that my dad spends only a portion of his time in retirement playing golf and traveling. But for a few weeks each year? My children run him ragged. And though he might question his decision to retire, I am ever so grateful that he was able to come out at the end of August while my au pair was on vacation - and because I never want him to have a chance to really get used to "the easy life", he's on call for another week in the middle of October while I await the arrival of my next au pair. I asked Helen what she thought of the whole deal and as you can see, she thinks it's marvelous.

Get your rest now, Dad, because they've only gotten faster and smarter since you saw them last!

Elaine - your daughter who bought into the idea that it's important for people to stay active, even in their retirement.

Monday, September 22, 2008

And I guess SHE'S independent too!

For the past week or so, Helen has been very interested in the toy kitchen area in our sitting room. She'll crawl over there, put stuff in pans, and mix it up for a while. Connor will often be cooking right beside her, though he usually keeps the contents of his pan inside the pot, while Helen is not so concerned with that detail. As the adage goes - if you want to make an omelet, you gotta crack some eggs. Then, Helen noticed the shopping cart that Connor often pushes around and apparently she decided she needed some new ingredients herself, so she pulled up on the shopping cart and went shopping - all the way down the hall.

She also decided to rearrange my curtains that hang a bit out of reach - so she just climbed on the CD player nearby to get a better angle. What a little problem solver she's turning out to be. She can employ the same trick if she wants to see what's on a higher shelf in the refrigerator than she is built to look at.


Thursday, September 18, 2008

I told you he was independent!

At our house, Wednesday is often "date night". Ed and I head out after the kids are in bed, but we tell Connor beforehand as the first time we snuck out, he woke up - which he had not done in months - and insisted the au pair walk him throughout every corner of our home confirming we were, indeed, gone before he would go back to bed.

Last night at dinner, Connor announced:
"Tonight I'm going out with my friends after you go to bed."
"Oh really? Where are you going to go?"
"Probably to California."
"Wow. That's a big trip. How are you going to get there - by plane or train."
"Who's going to do the driving?"
"My friend is."
"This must be a really big friend. How old is he?"
"He's 3."
"Well...have fun, I guess."

We also had to implement a new rule in our home - no exiting the physical structure without mentioning it to an adult. A few days ago, Ed got a package in the mail. It contained bike gear. Upon seeing the open box in the morning, Connor decided to put the bike pump where it belongs - in the shed. So, while Ed was changing Helen's diaper, Connor went out the front door, put the bike pump away, and grabbed the newspaper - because heck, he was already outside, might as well get that job taken care of as well. Ed came back to the living room to find Connor waiting patiently outside the front door (he's tall enough to get out, but not in) requesting to be let back in. I suppose we also could've implemented the rule "put your crap away at night so the toddler doesn't have to take care of it the next morning!".

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

It's all in a name

Ed and I had a tough time coming up with a boy's name when I was pregnant. Nothing seemed quite right, until we hit upon "Henry". We'd pair it with Ed's middle name, which is also his maternal grandfather's name, and conveniently enough, is awfully close to my maternal grandfather's last name. The last name would be selected based on the child's birthdate - I took odds, and Ed took evens.

I thought about this name a lot. But then, a couple of months before I was due, I was hanging around a pottery show at my old studio, when another potter and his dog walked in. Someone near me said "Henry's here" and the person next to me who did not know Henry remarked on what an excellent name that was for a dog. And right then, I decided I could not name my child "Henry", because that was a dog's name, not a person's name. A 7 month pregnant woman has a LOT of hormones pulsating through her veins, and at least in my case, they sometimes interfere with rational decision making. I came home and told Ed we absolutely could not name our child Henry and he just sort of nodded because I guess someone who is living with a woman who is seven months pregnant realizes that some battles are not worth fighting for. To this day, it sort of kills me because Connor would be a great Henry - though he is very resistant to the idea of changing his name. Go figure.

My sister's dog's name is Sarah. My sister's dog has been on the edge of death for more than a year - but so far just keeps on going. Just like Henry is a perfectly nice name for a person, I suppose Sarah is too. But when I hear the name Sarah, I think dog, not person. And so it came to be that my parents were sitting in my basement waiting for Sarah Palin to speak at the RNC. I could not stomach the speakers that came before her, so I kept flipping the television to another channel. Every so often, my mom would say "check on Sarah" and of course, I would do nothing, because every time she said that, I honestly thought she was asking me to call my sister and see if her dog had died. I couldn't figure out why my mom was so concerned about Sarah, but it didn't seem that odd to me I suppose.

Eventually, I figured out she was asking me to switch the channel, and eventually Sarah Palin spoke. As she was speaking, my only thought was that she was a joke. She could not possibly be the VP candidate. And the more I learn about her the more I know, I would much rather have my sister's dog in that office than this woman. At least Sarah the dog doesn't lie about going to Iraq, treat a layover in Ireland as a visit, and lie about accepting and wanting earmarks - all important since the first two were used to try and manufacture an international resume and the last because it shows that she has no problem lying - even when the public record shows the contrary.

In fact, probably the only two things these two Sarahs have in common is that neither seems to know nor care what the Bush doctrine is and both tend to act first and think later. Excusable in one of them, but not the other.

But just so you know, Connor and Helen, I am really trying to see the bright side of this. And the only silver lining I can find? I guess anyone can hold an executive office. By current standards, the two of you are already overqualified.

Sunday, September 14, 2008

Happy 37 Months!

Dear Connor,

A few days ago, your turned 37 months old. I wonder when it is appropriate to stop thinking about your age in months. Probably several months ago, or maybe even a couple of years ago. It is at that point when I honestly have trouble remembering life without you, though I have a feeling it did not involve someone calling me from across the hallway requesting to be covered. Really, Connor, this is pushing it.

This last month was filled with water. You did, indeed, get cleared to go off the diving board - although it seemed a little iffy to me still. But, you decided not to go. You never even went over to the diving board. You just announced one day that you didn't want to do it anymore and this was totally fine with me. It is, after all, quite a big jump for a guy your size. You had fun, instead, jumping off into the "deep end" (about 4 feet of water) and then swimming under the rope into the shallow end, and climbing out - or jumping into the shallow end (about 2.5 feet) and then swimming to the steps, and jumping again, or diving into the really deep end (about 6 feet of water) and swimming to your dad. We went to the waterpark (twice) and you and Daddy owned "Big Pete". It seemed a bit big for you, but as you remind me constantly, you can swim all by yourself. This is not the only thing you can do all by yourself. You go to the bathroom by yourself, you brush your teeth by yourself, you get dressed in the morning by yourself. Heck, one day you even announced you were going to buy a house and live all by yourself.

Your grandma sent you a wagon for your birthday and oh, wow, this is most definitely the coolest form of transportation ever. We have been on wagon rides throughout the neighborhood, laughed as Helen tossed toys off the back end and then looked longingly at the toy as we drove away, until you piped up and mentioned a toy was overboard.

We checked out a book at the library about a beaver and now you build dams everywhere. Possibly the greatest one was at a friend's birthday party that took place adjacent to a creek and you and about 4 older kids carried rock, after rock, after rock, until an adequate dam was built.

We started back at our parent-child class at the local Waldorf school and the first day we were there we got to celebrate your birthday. You were so proud of the crown you got to wear and the rainbow candles that you got to blow out. But the very coolest thing was the candle you got to take home from circle time. You will absolutely not let anyone light it at home. This held true even when the power went out for a few minutes and it was book reading time at night. When we went out on the playground the second week of class, you noticed the climbing wall that last year was too difficult to conquer. This year, you scampered all the way to the top, much to the amazement of me and your teachers. You did this alone, as the rule at school that I try very hard to follow at other parks as well that you can do what you can do - and parents are not supposed to interfere.

You have enjoyed much of your sister's new found movement, but you also realize the downside. You are remarkably good at keeping the toys we have identified as dangerous out of Helen's reach, and will even announce that you are going back to your room to play with your marble run. You will then close the door and announce it is so Helen cannot come in. I also hear you saying often "Helen, I'm playing with that. You play with this instead." and you will try and reason with her, but of course, she is as unreasonable a person as you were at her age. You get mildly frustrated but generally accept that she is something you have to put up with.

You can be stubborn as can be and would prefer you had no rules. But that's not going to happen anytime soon, and you seem to understand that. Our days are fun, Connor, but sometimes they can be L.O.N.G.


Friday, September 12, 2008

Happy 11 months!

Dear Helen,

Today, you are 11 months old, and that means your reflux is cured. Really. The good doctor pretty much promised me this would be the case when he saw you a couple of months ago. He said that by 11 months you would be done with this. I HEARD HIM SAY IT, HELEN, didn't you? Apparently not, because right before I came downstairs to write this post, you hurled all over me. Last Friday, you did a cute little projectile vomit all over the parking garage as we left Union Station, and my only thought at the time was "well, at least it didn't hit me". And I told you then you had one more week and then nada, zilch, nothing. No more reflux! I SAID SO. THE DOCTOR SAID SO! WHY ARE WE NOT IN CHARGE?

OK, so now that the eleven consecutive months of spitting is off my chest, I ought to point out all the lovely things that have changed about you this month. For starters, you climb stairs. For a girl who was content to sit for over nine months of her life, you sure seem to be in a big hurry these days. There I was, putting a puzzle together with your brother, looking over at you pulling up on the stairs (isn't that cute?). And then I glanced up again, and you were on the first stair, and did anyone ever tell you that at the bottom of those stairs is a tile floor? Well, no matter. There were three other adults in the room who were happy to spot you as you climbed that staircase, and my stomach just kept turning because now there is another danger I must be aware of on our days together.

You love eating real food, Helen, and this is good since your dad and I are basically too lazy, or tired, or busy to puree food for you. So instead, we chop up whatever we're eating and give it to you, and on the rare occasion that we don't do this you look at my plate very indignantly until I give in and give you whatever I am having. So far, only carrots and sweet potatoes offend you. And yogurt. But we only tried that once, and then we decided not to give you any cow's milk products until you learned how to poop. And uh, you haven't yet figured that out, I'm sad to say. We haven't tried any fish yet because that is the one dietary rule we were given for you and even we can follow one stinkin' rule, though it does seem somewhat silly to me at this point.

You still hang with the punches, and that continues to be a lovely, lovely trait. You see, your brother loves jumping into the pool cannonball style, and if I am the only adult there to supervise, it means you and I take it in the face. Lucky for me, you laugh. You also will regularly just put your face down into the water, and you always pick it up and smile, and I cannot for the life of me figure out if you think it's funny to cause me to have heart failure or if you are relieved that you are no longer underwater. You've done it in the bathtub when your dad was present too.

You still love to be included in anything and everything your brother does. One day, I came home from work and you were actually chasing him around the room. My dad was laughing up a storm, as was Connor, and you did not even stop what you were doing when I came into the room, which is unlike every other time I came into the room this past month.

No new verbal signs this month to report. But, thanks to a visit from my mom, you have added the "so big" trick to your bag. It's impressive, Helen, every time.

The drama factor in your life can be high. When I put you down because I need to brush my teeth, or wipe your brother's butt, or stir something on the stove, you often sit down and put your forehead on the floor. And weep. Because life for a baby? It is really, really hard. I used to continue holding you for that last one, until you reached over and touched a pan, and that was not good. Definitely not good.

I'm trying to hold onto little memories these days, because with the passing of time, and the realization that there will be no more babies in my house, I'm suddenly struck that each change you make takes you further away from being a baby, and me further away from witnessing whatever it was just changed.


Tuesday, September 9, 2008

Thank you, Hillary

I rarely drive to work these days, but a couple of weeks ago I did. And as I headed over the bridge into DC, I listened to a story on NPR featuring the Democratic convention. They interviewed two women from around here who were attending the convention as delegates of Hillary Clinton. And do you know what I did when I heard them interviewed? I cried. I didn't expect this reaction from myself. After all, I never really believed she had a chance to win the general election, and I certainly didn't think she was the perfect candidate. But as it turns out, I did have an awful lot of hope for the former. There aren't a lot of policy differences between Obama and Hillary, so I guess it came down to this: I want a woman president, and I want it badly. I want it to happen before my children are old enough to remember a time when the only job outside of professional athletics not available to women was President of the United States. I don't think anyone could look into Helen's eyes and want anything different.
At the start of campaign season, I thought no way could Clinton get elected. She got beat up in Iowa - and almost everyone counted her out, but then she won New Hampshire, and expectations changed. And that primary in New Hampshire did it to me. All of a sudden this small piece of me believed she was going win the nomination, and with the Republican nominee offering little resistance, she would cruise into the White House. It was probably the same small piece of me that believed by now the green party would be a legitimate third party. It's the part of me that is crushed regularly. It's the part of me that I try very hard not to listen to - because I know by now it ONLY LEADS TO DISAPPOINTMENT - but it is a part of me that is impossibly persistent.

Thank you, Hillary, for every crack you put in that glass ceiling. Even though it's not going to work out this time around, there is still this small part of me that believes I will live to see a woman president. And if it takes until Helen is old enough to have a cocktail with me? I'll buy the first round that night because I am going to PARTY!


PS: For the record, it is not enough for a candidate to be a woman, they also have to believe in the America that I believe in. So Senator McCain, please don't count on my vote in November simply because you chose Sarah Palin as your running mate. I am not that pathetic, and I don't suspect many of my fellow Hillary supporters are either.

Saturday, September 6, 2008

I think I have to sanitize my hand sanitizer

This evening when Ed was putting Connor to bed, Connor mentioned a little housework he had done earlier in the day. Apparently the hand sanitizer fell into the toilet, but not to fear, he washed it off.

Uhhh...thanks, Connor. I hope you decided to wash your hands off as well.

Tuesday, September 2, 2008

We really should get him an interactive pet

Last week, Ed decided to get lobster for dinner. He, of course, was thinking about the tasty dinner we were going to have. Connor had other plans.

He must have played with the lobster, taking him in and out of the sink, for almost an hour. We kept thinking the lobster was all "dude, take the bands off my claws and we'll see who's the big guy then!". We thought we might run into a problem when it came to the eating part, but luckily Connor seemed to understand that his "pet" had limited time on this Earth and was willing to eat him.

I love Connor's artwork in the background on the second photo. Sort of gives us a slaughterhouse theme for the kitchen.