Friday, July 25, 2008

Three Poems

I love my Poem a Day calendar. Sometimes the poems are not great, but I still get some scrap paper out of the deal. But sometimes they are just marvelous. I've had two great ones, very resonant with my own life, in the last couple of weeks, and thought I'd share them with you.

A Baby Running Barefoot

When the bare feet of the baby beat across the grass
The little white feet nod like white flowers in the wind,
They poise and run like ripples lapping across the water;
And the sight of their white play among the grass
Is like a little robin's song, winsome,
Or as two white butterflies settle in the cup of one flower
For a moment, then away with a flutter of wings.

I long for the baby to wander hither to me
Like a wind-shadow wandering over the water,
So that she can stand on my knee
With her little bare feet in my hands,
Cool like syringa buds,
Firm and silken like pink young peony flowers.
D.H. Lawrence

I have a neighbor

I have a neighbor
who is always deep
in a book or two.

High tides of clutter
rise in her kitchen.

Which last longer, words,
words in her bent head,
or the clean spaces

between one perfect
dusting and the next?

Rosellen Brown

And, here's a link to the poem that A&E chose for me to read at their wedding, a lovely one.
Prayer for a Marriage by Steve Scafidi

Updates and Dangerous Minds

It's been a while since I shared any O-speak, so here are some recent examples.

Reading his dinosaur book to himself:
"Some are red and some are green, and don't forget the duckbills!"

O: Mommy, who is your Mommy?
Me: Grandma is my Mommy.
O: Which Grandma? Grandma and Grandpa Grandma?
Me: Yes.
O: I should have known.

He's showing off a new interest in adjectives...
Playing with his new little plastic dog and kitten figurines: "These are excellent to play with."
"Isn't my painting so colorful? I am a great painter."
After an outdoor concert with Grandma and Grandpa "That music was beautiful." well as knock-knock jokes:
Knock Knock
Who's there?
Peach who?
Peach you glad I didn't say banana?!

Inexplicably: I have feathers on my bottom. Yes, feathers on my bottom. Otherwise, I couldn't go potty.

After being handed a "granilla" bar in the car: "Oh yeah. That's what I'm talking about."

Eating a round peanut butter cracker: "This is a PIRATE cracker. Arrrr." And holds it up to his eye, like an eye patch.

Shopping in a department store, there is an announcement over the loudspeaker that someone in the shoe department has a call, and then the speaker says "Thank you for shopping at Dillard's." O. replies: "You're welcome up there!"

Also, an N. update:

In addition to the WALKING I mentioned in a recent post, Miss N. has sprouted two new teeth, taking the total up to eight, count them eight little chompers: four up and four down. She has taken to gnawing on her bed rail, to the point that there are a few loose splinters. It's too wide for those plastic cover things, because I tried them with O., so we'll just have to hope she doesn't get too big a chunk off.

So, is biting an issue, you may wonder? As the person who has to stick parts of my own body into her mouth both to rescue small toys before they hit her windpipe and to feed her, oh six or so times a day, I'm happy to report that so far she's only broken skin once, and that was on O. Apparently he was "hugging" her while she was standing up, and she didn't like it much, so she bit him square above the belly button, leaving quite a mark. "Mommy, why does she have to bite to protect herself?" Maybe because she's not quite old enough for wrestling matches, dear. When I'm trying to get her down for a nap, she burrows her head into my chest, grabs my t-shirt in her teeth, and shakes her head like a little puppy. When I sternly say "no" (as if talking to a puppy), she laughs out loud. Very funny.

Her vocabulary now includes MaMa and DaDa, used somewhat appropriately. She also has mastered the sign for "milk" but uses it to mean "gimme gimme gimme whatever piece of food you have right now that I want right now" pumping her fist together with increased franticness when you don't immediately respond. She also shakes her head "no" when approaching an item she thinks she is not allowed to go near. Doesn't stop her, but at least she knows it's off limits.

She is the best little eater I've ever seen, and while she'll still eat baby food quite well, it is clear she prefers whatever it is that we're having for dinner that she can get to her mouth on her own. Tater Tots? Toast? Rice? Tortilla Chip? Thank you, thank you and, thank you. The only thing I've seen her refuse so far is meat, the beginning and end so far of eating similarities with her brother. J. asked recently if the amount she eats is normal, after spending nearly a half hour dicing and presenting her with fruit. I replied that I think this is how most babies are: O. is the weird one, not her.

She loves to bring items over to "show you" and wants you to take them from her and admire them, then promptly return them. She especially enjoys playing this game with her daddy, and it can go on for as long as you'll play along. Favorite items are her baby doll, teddy bear, Pat the Bunny book or other small chunky books. Oh, and the other day, a wine glass. She got it from our wine rack in the dining room and toddled right on over to me, holding it by the stem, so smiley and proud.

She is indeed the smiley smiley baby -- she uses every chance she can to show off those new teeth, and her whole face is taken over by it. And is it possible that her eyes are getting even MORE blue?

Okay, enough enough of the gushing over my children. But just in case I needed a reminder of why I'm glad I'm currently spending my days with them, rather than teaching high school English, there's Anna Quindlen's recent Newsweek column. Seriously, follow the link. It's maddening, sad, and true. What's saddest is that most everyone, including myself, just caves to the crazies rather than putting up the kind of fight this teacher did. Real life teaching isn't like the teacher movies where all you have to do is stand up and do what you want and it all crescendos to Lulu singing Dear Sir With Love.

Monday, July 21, 2008

"I Get to Carry the Rings"

Congratulations to my best loved brother on his wedding to my favorite person to ever share a name with: A. and the Other E.

Thanks to both of them for sharing their day with us, and for giving O. what I'm hoping will be one of his first memories of a really fun party. He was so thrilled to have a job, and then to get to DANCE! He said today he can't wait for their next wedding, and I know he meant to each other.

We were unsure whether or not O. would come through on the role of ringbearer, as his separation anxiety of late has been intense. It was a last minute go or no proposition, though he acted excited if you asked him what his job was at the wedding (see title above). We had arranged for him to walk with my cousin, one of the groomsmen. O. is nearly as infatuated with him as he is his uncle. Or maybe he just has a little crush on my cousin's beautiful girlfriend. I think it's a little of both. When the music started playing though, he had a little moment of panic, and the solution was the one you can see at the top. He walked down the aisle with the groom, and that was okay. You'll notice we didn't really practice holding the pillow as you'd imagine, ceremoniously offering up the rings. Looks more like he's got his books all ready for kindergarten.
Today, we were having a rough morning. Little sleep due to a fierce thunderstorm and power outage, and the power was still out when he woke up. He didn't really understand why the TV wasn't working for him to watch a show. When I finally talked him into going upstairs to get dressed, there was the ring pillow lying in the hallway where I'd unpacked it and laid it out so I'd remember to give it back to the bride and groom. O. saw the rings still attached (they are decorative ones made for the pillow of course, not the real deal) and burst into tears again. "Mommy, Mommy. I forgot to give E and A their rings!" It was as if all the credit he had taken for doing such a good job at the wedding was a sham and he knew it. Even worse, the "big dinosaur toy I can hug" he was promised as a bribe by Daddy might be in jeopardy. I rustled up a story about those being special memory rings for E and A to have to always remember their wedding and his help, and that A had other rings in his pocket to give to E, so they had those with them on their trip. He seemed relieved, if not entirely convinced.

Anyway, the wedding was one of the most beautiful ceremonies I've ever attended, with all the time and thought ahead of time clearly going to the details that they'll always have in their memories of a gorgeous day. I wish I had a good picture of the two of them to share in addition to those of my own little family, but they were having such a great time at their own party, it was hard to get them to stand still long enough for one. E. told me "I love my wedding!" and I'm so glad she was able to be present in the moment enough to know that she did. They're currently in paradise for a two week honeymoon, but judging from how happy they looked together on their wedding day, I'm pretty sure that the paradise has just begun.

Sunday, July 20, 2008

Steppin' Out With My Babies

I don't know if this is apparent from my posts, but complacent babies are something I do not have. I've always been jealous of those babies who seem perfectly content to stay in the stroller/cart/wagon/high chair/playpen and watch the activity at hand go on by. When O. was about 16 months old, I enrolled him in a tumbling class. There was another child, a younger sibling of a boy in the class, who was two months younger than O. and spent every class session burbling away in his pumpkin seat while O. attempted to learn a somersault.

I have pleasant fantasies of tending to my flower beds while my daughter sits contentedly on a pretty blanket in the grass while my son amuses in the dirt with trucks he's fashioned for himself out of twigs and grass. But no, whatever the means use I try to contain either of my children, either physical barrier or mental distraction, it is always but a fleeting moment of peace I get to accomplish a task.

Sure, when N. was tiny, she had a short time when she was one of those "luggage" babies that you could take places in the pumpkin seat, and she'd just sleep the meal or activity right away. And truth be told, she's a good daytime sleeper still, if I give her the opportunity to nap. She'd be happier doing it on my chest, but we've finally gotten to the place where she can sleep in her crib for an hour or so. But right around the end of that 'fourth trimester,' N. decided that the car seat was not that fun a place to be -- my hip seemed a lot better place to see the world, and thus, the fight to get out of it, the stroller, cart, whatever, began.

Grocery trips tend to fall apart right around the time O. finishes the cookie we pick up in the bakery department, and N. loses interest in licking all the germs off of the cart handle. I spend most of my time in the frozen foods trying to pin O. to the glass with the cart so he can't jump out of the car up front, or protecting the backs of my ankles from ramming injuries with a "little cart" if I've temporarily lost my mind and let him push one. By the time we get to the checkout lane, I'm once again holding N. while she screams, and unloading the whole cart one-handed. All twenty jars of baby food.

We get halfway through lots of things before we have to abandon the stroller: the zoo, the museum, trips to Kohl's. Then I'm left with a baby on one arm, pushing a stroller with the other, and yelling at O. to stay RIGHT HERE NEXT TO ME. It's exhausting and frustrating.

However, when I compare the experience of raising my children to the one I might have had if they were more containable, complacent children, I realize that many of my most treasured memories of their brief lives so far are ones related to their very active and engaged personalities. O. pushing an overturned laundry basket around on seven month old legs, climbing up on top of his pile of presents on his first birthday, holding his daddy's hand and walking down the hill of our yard, and jumping like a kangaroo at the zoo. N. sitting up on her own at five months, gumming her favorite striped ring; crawling at lightning speed toward the shoe pile, pulling herself up in her crib and stretching out her arms to be picked up, standing UP on my lap and twisting around so she can see what's going on in the room WHILE NURSING. And now, here, at ten months of age: some of her first steps caught on camera as she toddled over to me:

She is so darn proud of herself. She can't hardly stop grinning as she moves around the house, sometimes in circles, because although she's got the steps down pretty well, she just has to go with momentum so she won't fall down.

So, although my babies didn't spend much time in that "sit on your lap and watch the world go by" phase, choosing instead to continually look at me as if to say "Okay, that was a fun trick to learn. What's next, Mom??" it is true, for O. at least, that once he learned to walk, he became such a happy and ultimately pleasant child. Active yes, but satisfied, finally. Here is my active and satisfied boy, showing off at his beloved uncle's wedding (more on that to come) over the weekend:

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

The Small World Economic Downturn Savings Plan: Fueled by Momnesia

There was an article in the paper this morning on how to try to save some money at the grocery store, given the rise in prices of everything from milk to rice. After I saw the term "Hamburger Helper" I kind of lost focus, but I did note that they recommended not shopping hungry, angry, or with toddlers Hmm. So, on that plan I could go get us groceries maybe every other fifth Tuesday? Better stock up.

But seriously, though the grocery store is still a weekly necessity around here, I have stumbled upon a good technique for cutting back on those 80 dollar budget busting not-quite-as-necessary shopping expeditions. So, here's what you do when you find yourself needing to stroll the aisles of Tarjay so you don't lose your mind to Noggin at home.

First, hit up the dollar aisle, because where else can you pick up things for A DOLLAR? Oh, the dollar store, I guess. But, these are high quality, surely lead free toys, right? And you NEED that pink and green headband as a treat to yourself. It's cheaper than a Starbucks coffee, even.
Go ahead and browse the clearance racks in the clothes department. 30 percent off, don't you know? You'll be able to fit back in a medium t-shirt sometime soon. And you'll only probably end up with one or two extra things in your cart grabbed by your baby. About this time, you'll have to recover your three year old from the inside of a clothes rounder and haul him into the cart, leaving less room for merchandise.
When you get to the cleaning aisle, you won't be able to remember whether or not you need Windex, but you might as well get some, as it's on sale, and haven't you always heard that buying in bulk is cost effective?
When you have cruised all the aisles, taken advantage of all the seasonal clearance sales, and avoided all but a couple of the toy aisles, you'll be ready to check out, proud that you've kept your total under 50 dollars, surely. After all, you didn't REALLY need anything. You'll be surprised to find that you've hit that magic eighty dollar mark again, but no worries. This time, you've planned ahead with your secret savings plan technique.
The night before, you must be sure to leave your diaper bag on the floor in the kitchen within the baby's reach, so that she throws your wallet UNDER the kitchen table out of sight when you gather up all the necessaries on your frantic dash out the door. Therefore, when you hear the clerk give you that magic total, you'll be pawing frantically through your bag for much longer than it takes you to realize the wallet isn't there, as if you might be able to talk her into letting you have it all for free because you look like such a nice person, with such gorgeous children. No? Okay, make the appropriate 'silly me' protestations, and get out of there. Savings: eighty dollars!
Here is an alternative plan when you find you must brave another very dangerous spending zone: THE MALL. Here, go straight to the children's shoe store, do NOT stop in at the Gap or Ann Taylor Loft on your way, no matter the tempting sale offers in the windows. Feel free to look at all the cute girl shoes that you've been waiting and waiting to buy for your female child after having only two choices for your son, but go ahead and buy the only one in the entire store that will fit her extra wide foot.
You could go ahead and leave now, but you're not going to make it home in time for lunch anyway, so you might as well go get that baby gift and save on shipping charges. Browse for a bit, choose something super cute, talk yourself into a zip-up hooded sweatshirt for your boy -- it's ON SALE, for goodness sake. Go to the check out, and reach for the wallet but it will NOT BE THERE. The shoe bag dangling from your stroller will be a taunt you that you have not planned ahead for the diaper bag rifling technique this time.
Never fear however, as you are now getting an extra bonus: the Small World Panic Induced Baby Weight Loss Plan. You'll have dial your phone while lifting a three year old as warm-up, then begin jogging behind your umbrella stroller while giving your husband weepy instructions for finding the credit card company phone numbers. Enter the sprint phase to catch the elevator before the newborn/new mom duo, with grandma accompaniment, tries to maneuver their over packed gear-laden tank stroller into it ahead of you.
You may breathe again when you find that the nice lady at shoe store on the other side of the mall has kept your wallet behind the cash register for you when you put a sippy cup back into your bag instead. You'll be far too winded and ashamed to go back to the other store. Savings/Calorie Burnoff: Around forty dollars and oh, at least 100: minus the six dollars and 600 calories you spend on soft pretzels to calm you down.
There are a few other problems with a savings plan fueled largely by momnesia. Namely, items you will lose/misplace/ruin along the way will need to be replaced, thus cancelling out much of your savings. From my own shopping list of needed replacements: one pink croc, size 3, left foot; one snack dispenser cup, filled with puffs; three mary-jane socks, assorted colors, none the same; one orange striped towel; one waterproof mattress pad, shredded after being loaded into a too full washing machine; a small plastic rhinoceros. Luckily, two of the above were lost in the aisles of Tar-jay, perhaps we'll recover them on our next cost-saving expedition!