Thursday, November 27, 2008

Over The River And Thru The Wood

Since leaving the home of my family of birth, my Thanksgiving tradition has been to eschew tradition. Knowing that they are still up there, enjoying family and food and the warm, unforced comfort that only occurs among people who share genes, has made it impossible for me to consider attempts at A Traditional Thanksgiving to be anything but pointless and, frankly, too painful.

This year, already challenging in its own ways, I decided to leave the house altogether and take the children for Thanksgiving dim sum. Miss M loves few things more than steamed dumplings, and I felt confident that if Mr. Baby didn't enjoy his meal, he'd at least entertain anyone else in the vicinity with his cuteness. (I know that's what every parent taking their child out in public thinks, but seriously, have you seen my boy?)

To be on the safe side, though, I planned to go during a non-rush, which translated into a 3:30 dinner. Miss M asked if we were having lunch. When I said, "No, you had an egg sandwich for lunch, this is dinner," she replied, "Then why is it light out?" Not only light, but desolate. We walked into the restaurant and the only other people eating were the staff, gathered around a large circular table and clearly not expecting to have to interrupt their meal.

Our waitress - the only waitress we've ever had there - was a little less polite than usual. She rolled out the dim sum cart, and after I'd picked a few things, talked me into ordering an entree as well. But then she brought out more little plates of goodness and I immediately regretted the additional order.

Chinese pop music was blaring over the CNN feed of the terrorist attacks in India. Mr. Baby was transfixed by both. I managed to get Miss M to eat two scallop dumplings, a shrimp dumpling and one bite of a pork dumpling before she completely lost interest in the whole adventure. Mr. Baby ate about half a pork dumpling before trying to stage dive out of the high chair. The entree still hadn't arrived. I was already stuffed and trying to keep Mr. Baby from erasing the specials off the white board by the front door. I tried in vain to get Miss M to eat the bacon-wrapped shrimp or fried shrimp balls, both of which were salty, fatty goodness that any kid would have liked.

When my noodle plate finally arrived (hey, look, more shrimp!), I'd lost control of both kids. They were wandering the restaurant (still empty of other patrons) while I tried to force a few more bites of food into my mouth. I gave up on it pretty quickly, asking the waitress for a to-go box for food I never intend to eat again as well as the remaining dim sum. I had my debit card poised for action and we were all in our coats and standing table-side when she returned with my receipt. When we got back in the car, I checked the clock. Our Thanksgiving feast had been $40 and 42 minutes long.

Feeling that my Thanksgrinchiness needed to be cranked down a notch, I turned left instead of right and took the kids downtown for a sunset walk by the river. Getting M out of the house definitely improved both of our moods, and Mr. Baby was a tranquil companion despite the full diaper I mistakenly attributed to parking too close to a city garbage can. Tom Lee Park was busier than I've seen it outside of MusicFest, with families of all sizes, configurations and nationalities taking a post-dinner constitutional by the Mississippi. I would have walked all the way to Mud Island if the daylight and M's legs weren't both giving out. Hell, I would have walked to Louisiana.

But, alas, our unexpectedly holidayish moment had to end. We closed the evening at home, with popcorn, Charlie Brown, and Miss M informing me that, due to my refusal to get her a third helping of yogurt-covered pretzels, she wasn't so thankful for me after all.

Monday, November 24, 2008

Have To Catch An Early Train

It was such a wonderful plan.

When Mr. Baby woke up and required nursing ten seconds after I turned off the back-up alarm, I lay in bed thinking how good it would be to just stay there. Not even just the usual good of avoiding the return to the Monday schedule, but of actual physical benefit to all of us. Mr. Baby and I both got a second attack of the dreaded stomach bug over the weekend, and Miss M spent the last few nights perfecting a throaty, barking cough that can be heard from across the house. And so I thought it would be reasonable and even useful for us to take a day to rest, to build up our strength rather than exhausting all our resources before 7am. The rain was thrumming hard against the window. The idea of putting on heels and walking two children through the downpour made my chest hurt almost as much as my stomach. We could just stay there. We could sleep in, eat a leisurely breakfast, and see what fresh hell Rachael Ray was wearing. But just as I was mentally making the phone calls to my office, Mr. Baby's daycare, Miss M's school and aftercare, I had a rare moment of maternal responsibility. A nagging thought made me get out of bed and search for Miss M's school calendar. I knew that they were celebrating their fundraising successes this week, but I didn't know when. So I sneaked away from Mr. Baby and went to check the homework folder that I'd ignored all weekend. And there, right in front, was a little quarter-page note:

"Miss M can be out of uniform on Monday, Nov. 24 for her class's Mega Party!"


Not just a party day, but a non-uniform day. All of my tidy sick-day justifications melted away. None of us were in top form, but there wasn't anything wrong that was worse than making her miss a big, fun, special day.

So I got up. I showered, I made lunches, I spent 20 minutes trying to get Miss M to pick something both coordinating and season-appropriate to wear (and saying many thankful prayers for the city school's uniform policy).

And of course, when I tried to get Miss M all psyched up for the big day, she just looked at me like I was crazy. She seemed to know nothing about a party and clearly thought I was misinformed about the whole concept. She didn't even buy the note-in-the-folder story. So obviously, I could have just kept her home and let her enjoy a restful day with Spongebob and Drake Bell and she never would have known the difference. But instead, she went to school, Mr. Baby went to daycare, and I went to work with my soggy heels and crampy stomach.

I was there approximately one hour when the phone rang. Mama KT was calling to let me know what Mr. Baby was running a fever over 101 and had exploded all over himself. I needed to come get him on the double. So I fired off a "good morning and goodbye" instant message to my boss and reversed my commute. When I got to Mr. Baby, he was passed out on the couch in borrowed jammies, looking about as puny as could be. Mama KT made it pretty clear that she didn't expect to see him until after Thanksgiving, so it looks like my solace in saving one vacation day to use over the holidays has turned into the full sacrifice of two days.

So let this be a lesson to you, kids. The next time you feel like you shouldn't get out of bed on a Monday morning, just stay there. The universe will conspire against you until you give in.

Thursday, November 20, 2008

Your Feet Are Going to Be On The Ground

Fair warning, this is a purely obligatory catch-up post. I really have nothing on my mind that is dying for cyber-expression, but I hate seeing the blog languish for more than a week, so here we go.

I had a sudden realization in the last week that Miss M has seemed more in control of herself. A phase that seemed to emerge, ironically, after a ten-day fit of inexplicable itching that caused her to dig bloody divots out of her skin. But ever since then, she has seemed more aware of her moods, her behavior, and the general movement of her limbs. Not always, of course. No need to start checking her closet for pods just yet. But she has been better able to express herself and her feelings, and I think that's going a long way toward easing the between-pre-school-and-big-school conflicts she's been working through.

Mr. Baby is, very happily, a little man on the move. He is so thrilled to be walking that sometimes the mere act of standing up and taking a step makes him grin. His whole demeanor is more relaxed and content, and he is so much more independent than just a week ago. During the daytime, anyway. Our attempts to nightwean have been stymied by what appears to be another round of teething - he still has four more baby teeth due, and I think they're planning to come for Christmas. He's gotten pretty consistent about lying down to sleep without nursing, but when he wakes up hurting and screaming at 3am, a mama can only be so tough.

We've reached another one of those mini-milestones, as well: tear-free daycare drop-offs. I've never had a doubt that Mr. Baby was happy at Mama KT's (see pic in previous post), but his pathetic wails when I left him there always sent me off to work with a knot in my stomach. But in the last week, those dramatic displays have all but disappeared, and it's so nice to be able to have the last image I see of him be his calm smile and backwards wave, rather than his angry, tear-streaked face.

That wave is generally accompanied by a "bah-bah," which is just one of the numerous words he has very recently added to his vocabulary. He has always been a mimic, and now that he understands the word-as-label concept, he is delighted to be repeating the correct names of things. Recent additions to his repertoire (previously consisting only of hi, cat, mama, and shoes) include daddy, sister, socks, nurse, banana, apple, juice, eat, oatmeal, thank you, and variations on numerous first names.

And there's the update. What, you expected a nice pithy wrap-up on a guilt-induced post?

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Sleep All Day

How is it he can sleep like this during the day, but when I so much as request that he spend his nights not directly on top of my throat, he cries like I have stabbed his soul with a hot, rusty poker?

Friday, November 07, 2008

Walking On Sunshine

Just four days before my mentally imposed deadline to begin serious worry, Mr. Baby pulled himself up to standing and walked across the room. Just like that. Just like we suspected he could all this time. I knew he'd been practicing at daycare, and he's slipped in a couple surreptitious steps over the last week or two, but this was the first time I saw him just get up and walk away. Seeing him from that distance, on his own two feet, was a huge relief and a minor heartbreak. I know people say to be wary of mobility, but in this case, I'm just so happy that he has independent movement again. He was such a content baby when he was crawling and able to go where he wanted to go. But then once he started walking with assistance, he was so completely over crawling that his only acceptable form of locomotion involved an adult's pinky finger and bent lower back. And lately, only my pinky would do.

And so yes, mostly relief as I saw that fuzzy little head from the back, those tiny feet making assured contact, that gravity-focusing belly correcting his balance. But of course, I also felt the pangs of panic and sentimentality that strike at every milestone, the sudden awareness that this time is gone and the next will be sweeping past even more quickly. I was so elated to see him upright, but also had the desire to scoop him up in my arms and tell him, "Okay, but you're still my baby."

We celebrated this newfound skill and independence by continuing this week's other goal: night-weaning. It felt like a cruel reward, really. "Nice job, kid, now you're on your own!" And he accepted it with all the grace of, well, a petulant toddler. I consider myself patient and able to withstand discomfort for a longer than average amount of time, but even I was about to cave in to his three-hour marathon of full force screams. The only thing that prevented my collapse was the constant reminder that a couple nights of crying (safely in my arms, with all other comforts attempted) is worth the reprieve from weeks on end of sleepless nurse-a-thon nights. So I withstood the hollering, and the writhing, and the sippy cups thrown at my head, and finally, begrudgingly, he fell asleep. And stayed that way until dawn, when he nursed, got up, and walked into his next big day.