Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Sweet Bits

After Henry woke up from his nap today, I dutifully removed his diaper and helped him put his underwear and pants back on.

We went downstairs to rejoin Abby, who patiently awaited my return to our game of concentration. (Side bar: Abby always GENUINELY beats me at concentration. I actually beat her today and she said, “Congratulations on winning, Mommy. Nice job.” Wow. This is one of those moments I want to etch into my brain forever (her great sportsmanship, by the way, not my big win.))

Henry asked for his soy milk. As I got his milk, I watched him repeatedly grab his crotch. Since I’m the mother of a boy, seeing this is not a novelty; he seemed, however, to be doing it more than the usual once-per-minute. And he added an interesting lurch and leg jiggle to his repertoire.

I asked him if he needed to go to the potty.

“No. My penus huwrts, Mommy.”


So I pulled up his shirt and intended to pull his pants down to investigate. But I didn’t need to look any further because I was greeted by the head of Henry's penis which was stuck in the elastic of underwear AND his pants.

“Oh, Henry.”

I gently released all his bits and pieces and put them back where they belong. When I finished, Henry looked me square in the eye and said,

“Mommy, you huwrt my penus.”

“I’m so, so, so sorry, sweet boy”, I replied.

“Mommy, I don’t want you to evwer do dat again.”

My stomach hurt from making him hurt—even though I have no idea what it feels like to own a penis, I know from hubby that any foul play really wreaks havoc on a poor guy’s parts. My solemn promise to Henry is that I will try really, really hard to never, ever, ever hurt his sweet bits again.

ps--Another aside. One of my good pals refers to a male's anatomy as "twig and berries". I cannot believe that I never once used her fabulous expression in this posting. A different title then could've been, "How I almost broke Henry's twig."

Monday, March 23, 2009

Questions and More

My mom always says that when kids act the worst they need the most. I try to remember this tidbit these days as I watch Abby and Henry tail spin in the hormones, emotion and passion that are the lives of a five (almost six) year old and a two (almost three) year old.

Sometimes, they’re just doing their jobs. Five-year-old girls are, at times, sassy, emotional firecrackers. Two-year-old boys do, at times, act as if the devil has taken residence in their behinds. The fervor and territorial prowess I’ve seen rendered over whose turn it is to hold the year-old broken piece of some long-ago-discarded toy is quite incredible.

Abby can break down over what I see as the smallest nuance. Yesterday, for example, she started crying because I cut her toast the wrong way. Sometimes, she’ll tail spin into oblivion because I got her brother out of the bathtub first. Others, she will say through quivering lips that she just needs an extra long goodnight.

Henry is at what I hope is the pinnacle of the terrible twos. A good day is one where a tantrum only lasts 15 minutes. The sobs I hear when we’re out of “yellow gum” (sugar-free, Zebra Striped) might make a passerby think that I’m pulling Henry’s toe nails out with coal-hot pliers. As I watch him convulse and buck because I won’t let him have a fifth glass of soy milk, or because I didn’t answer the “are-we-having-a-bath-tonight?” question correctly, I wonder. Am I raising a boy or breaking a horse?

In the height of the emotional spiral de jour, I try to ask myself: what does this child need? Are they crying because they’re exhausted? Do they need a bit more mommy? They, at their worst, need my attention, love and patience. (What I need at their worst is an entirely different blog, but it involves glasses of a dry, full-bodied Cabernet, dark chocolate and a Grandma’s house.) Once I have cultivated more patience, I focus on determining what they need and how to best support them. How I deliver this parental support is as varied (and random) as their moods. Predictably, there is no easy answer. Many times, there is no answer.

Just as predictably, that unanswered question raises others. How do I manage to raise well-adjusted, humble, good-manned, confident, intelligent children without crushing their independent, beautiful spirits? How do I balance their perceived needs (which are very real to them) with their other needs? How do I remain calm and sane in a house of tantrum and emotion? How do I grant them a happy childhood, but not a spoiled one?

So I sit, with my many questions, on the fulcrum of tranquility and lunacy. Luckily, asking questions usually yields some answers, even if they aren’t the answers for which I think I’m searching. Today’s answer is simple: I am just like my kids, and they are just like me. What they need and what I need are very much the same. Some days, at 36 (almost 37), I want to kick, scream and punch the bed because things don’t go my way. Sometimes I need a kind word and a hug. Others, I could cry (and do) because someone hurts my feelings. And on others, I just want my Mommy.

I let that answer settle over me. And tomorrow I’ll ask again,

“What does this child need?”

Thursday, March 19, 2009

The White Crib (sorta like The Red Violin, only shorter)

Henry is now in a big boy bed. Well, he’s in a blow-up bed on the floor, which is his first step out of his baby bed and into big-boy land. I expeditiously took apart the crib today, hoping to get “one last thing” knocked out before I left to get the kids from school. As I took the first piece out of his room, I suddenly stopped mid-stride.

“Oh. My. Gosh.” I thought. And the flood began.

I remember going to Omaha to pick out baby furniture for the nursery when I was pregnant with Abby. (Very round all-over pregnant.) I recall waddling through furniture aisles in my flip flops, worn because no shoe made fit over my swollen, Pillsbury-Dough-Boy feet. I remember wondering what furniture to get, what the right mattress was for this new sweet little life, envisioning the blissful moments standing at the changing table (pregnancy hormones were definitely at work here), imagining feeding my new baby in the comfy rocker. I remember dutifully looking at the spacing between the crib slats and I remember not being able to imagine the life inside of me ever sleeping in that huge, cavernous space.

I remember Abby sleeping in this crib for the first time, in her bouncy seat. Yes, in her bouncy seat in her crib. And I can still hear the thud which shook the house the first time she climbed (ok, fell) out of the crib, exactly two and half years later.

I remember being pregnant with Henry and strategically hiding the white crib and making Abby’s big girl room really exciting so she wouldn’t feel slighted when her baby brother began sleeping in her crib, still slightly warm from her past slumbers.

I remember writing on this very blog about the night Henry slept in the white crib for the first time at four months old. I remember the pain and emotion that filled my heart that evening, my baby boy sleeping so far away from me, the giver of life.

I held the pieces of the dismantled white crib in my hands and not unlike Abby’s first lost baby tooth, I slid my hands over the dents (teething) and dried tears. I smirked at the blue lines Henry artistically added when his mother was smart enough to leave a blue Sharpie within reach of his sleeping post.

Now, I had all the dismantled pieces in the hallway.

No more children of mine will ever sleep in this white crib. One single, fat tear traveled down my cheek. It’s over. No more. I think this was one of the most final, most pointed and defining moments, the “sign-on-the-dotted-line” finality that yes, I’m done having children. (You may reasonably point out that giving away all the baby clothes, or hubby’s “schnip schnip” may have provided more finality, but no, it was the breaking down of the white crib.)

I should get a tshirt that reads:

“once a baby factory, now closed. all facilities still viable. currently, however, being used solely as a hormone factory. now negligibly valuable, yet not obsolete. no more babies shooting down this production line.”

No more babies.

And then, my wonderful, stippled memories of golden reproduction days were shattered by an impressive hour-long tantrum from Henry who decided he absolutely does not like the meal that two weeks ago he loved. And with a one-two punch, Abby finally reached the melting point from lack of sleep and the rigors of being an incredibly kind, thoughtful Kindergartener.

Perhaps a better t-shirt would be:

“well-rested, proud mother of two. able to leave house with just a purse.”

Hubby wisely said to me, when we finally decided we wouldn’t have any more children,
“Honey, one of the children does have to be the last.”

Yes, I know. Especially tonight as I sit surrounded by discarded, strewn white and blue striped crib parts, ready to make their way into some other lucky family’s life. I know.

Farewell, white crib. Thanks for all the memories.

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

The Clutter Counter

I hate clutter. I despise little things hanging out in their random spots. Many times I’ve tripped over toys on my way to the stove from the sink. I’ve been known to aggressively kick and chuck toys into the play area. I’ve threatened to donate any shoes not properly put away to the Goodwill. When I was little, a fun play date included organizing my friend’s bedroom. Clutter physically pains my perfectionist pursuit.

Two small children breed clutter. Abby and Henry are each a complex cornucopia of clutter, from sunrise to nightfall. Backpacks, naked dolls, homework, shoes, school reminders, wet clothes, sippy cups, happy meal toys, snack bowls, rocks, underwear, treasures, hair bows, trucks and trains. And little tiny snippets of paper freshly cut by round-tipped safety scissors.

Hubby contributes admirably to my clutter conundrum. A clean, freshly sanitized counter is his blank palette. The Wall Street Journals set at a diagonal here, a lap top and phone charger there. Grocery store bags on the counter. Look! It’s an abstract, 3D, impressionistic display. Wait, there’s an empty slate over here—a.k.a. the kitchen table—with backpacks, mail and furnace filters, oh my!

I’d like to say I don’t contribute to the clutter. Come on, I’m the one eternally shelving everyone else’s crap. However, my explicit desire and burning need to be, well, perfectly prepared for “the unexpected” leads me to carry suitcase-sized purses. Filled with, you guessed it, clutter (and crap). 4 lip glosses, 2 chapsticks, pen, paper, band-aids, 5 lipsticks, wallet (with every receipt from the past three months), hand sanitizer, phone, Blackberry, 2 lip liners, Tylenol, notebook and Neosporin. Bobby pins, a paper calendar and lotion. And rubber bands. And an extra change of clothes for Henry. Gum.

Not only is my purse pot-calling-the-kettle-blacking me out of the clutter closet, I’m going to need extensive chiropractic hours to recoup my back from hauling this cluttery load.

Therefore, I choose to surrender. I see the children’s clutter as a blueprint of their creative synapses. My purple yoga mat, which is never properly put away, transforms many dreary afternoons into a mystical land of magic carpet rides. It has also transformed both Abby and Henry into big, purple burritos. Instead of physically shuddering when, upon arrival, my husband drops his worldly belongings on the counter, I will embrace the reasons behind his actions. For his stuff dropping (and clutter creation) frees his arms to singly hug and tickle our children as they joyfully dance at his feet.

Ultimately, I choose the people and embrace their essential random bits and pieces. If I successfully counter the clutter chaos, I’m provided with sacred glimpses into who my family is and how their brains work. I don’t always love it, but I inhale, allowing the clutter-filled cornucopia that is my life to joyfully unfurl.

Wednesday, March 4, 2009

The Tooth Fairy's Raise

Last night, the tooth fairy visited our house. Abby lost her first tooth yesterday. “Lost” is a funny word choice, because hubby actually “yanked” it out of her little mouth. He pulled the tooth expertly. I am forever grateful that he was home to do the honors. And Abby, who has been known to bawl when she almost stubs her toe, handled the tooth yanking gracefully.

As you might expect, she proudly displayed the hole in her mouth to anyone who would bother to look. She made chewing gum molds of the new hole. She pulled water into her mouth through the hole and pushed it back out again. She reveled in her new mark of maturation.

Abby was equally excited about the pending arrival of the tooth fairy. She told us that the tooth fairy would wake her up and give her $5 for her tooth.

“Fiver dollars?!?!?” I said. “No, sweetie, she won’t wake you up and she won’t bring $5. But she will bring you something special.”

“Ok, whatever, she’ll bring me something and I’m so excited!!!!”

(Whew. Because if she wasn’t, I was prepared to explain to Abby how the recession affects everyone, even the tooth fairy.)

Night fell. Abby strategically placed her tooth pillow under her big pillow in a spot she was sure the tooth fairy would have no trouble finding. After my darling big girl was soundly asleep, I donned my wings and swooshed into her room. I carefully removed the pillow. I secured the tooth. I slipped a crisp dollar in its place. Mission complete.

I returned to our bedroom with the tooth. At this point, I looked at hubby, who was intensely surfing the web, and held up the yanked tooth.

“We created this tooth.” I said to him.
He rolled his eyes at me.
“Seriously. You and I created it. It’s amazing. It’s a miracle.”

He responded with rapid typing. I guess this physicality is a mom thing—I grew the baby, therefore I grew the gums which sprouted the tooth which now sits in my hand.

The tooth fairy delivered more than just a dollar to Abby. She delivered a moment for reflection to me. I examined the tooth—this talisman of her babyhood. I thought of all the food (and skin) it did its part to bite into. I sentimentally recalled when that little white tooth first peaked through her swollen red gums. I will tell you that I caressed that tooth. Lovingly. The smooth sides and the sharp corners. I noted that Abby had done a nice job with her brushing because the tooth was shiny and clean.

The tooth fairy delivered a reminder that our first born is growing—quickly—and that we must appreciate what was. And look forward to what is coming. Today, adult teeth. Next week, driver’s license. At that moment, I felt cheap for paying only a dollar for the spent baby tooth that sat in my hand. Maybe the tooth fairy has earned herself a raise.