Monday, November 30, 2009

Rule of Two

I was just sitting down to describe how, after refusing to hold hands in parking lots, and refusing to eat, Westley has started refusing to go to bed at anything like a reasonable time (like any time before, say, ten o'clock).

Because of course sleep would have to enter into it. Because these sudden hatreds come in threes when you're two: you reject safety, you reject nutrition, and you reject sleep. Saying "no" is where it's at!

And then I realized: last night (and the night before and the night before and the night before...) Westley performed a one-man show so tragic you'd think Shakespeare had had something to do with it; tonight, suddenly and for no apparent reason, bedtime seems to have gone off without a hitch. In fact, I haven't heard a peep from him in over an hour.

(Now if I could just get him to keep his shoes on in the car.)

I know birthdays are important milestones, especially when you're little, but it being Westley's "birthday eve" doesn't make up for weeks of sleep issues. Clearly, something's up. Either Westley is giving me an early gift for his birthday by putting himself back on his old bedtime routine, or else he's messing with me.

(He's messing with me, isn't he?)


Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Lunch is a Battlefield

I knew this day would come. My adorable, fruit-and-vegetable-loving, sugar-shunning, adventurous eater of a child was destined to turn into a food-loathing, impossible-to-feed crankypants at mealtime. I guess I thought I'd have just a little bit more time to prepare.

But it was like a switch flipped. One day, Westley was happily eating all manner of healthy and delicious things. I just had to plop him in his high-chair, spread some food out in front of him, and in 15 or 20 minutes, almost all of it would be gone.

Snacking on brown rice cakes and broccoli at Northgate Community Center. (Those were the days!)

Now, suddenly, all food is awful and unacceptable and "Waa! Waa! Why in God's name are you making me sit in this high-chair, you crazy bitch?! You're killing me! Waa!" At least, that's what it sounds like, when my efforts to put a delicious dinner on the table are met with shrieks of horror. Tofu, which he used to adore, is off the menu. So are the old stand-by favorites rice, peas, and mushrooms. Ever-popular bananas have become fruta non grata. The same goes for avocado and cucumber.

It's part of the whole "having a toddler" thing. I get that. Intellectually I know that he's not doing it on purpose to piss me off (he's not, is he?). And--most importantly--I know that I do not want to fight with him about food. Of that I am completely sure. But my first instinct when he's hollering at me across the lovely spread on his plate is to fight with him.

Which, of course, does nothing except make him cry and scream, which makes me want to cry and scream.

I'm completely confident that someday Westley will return to his produce-loving ways. That doesn't worry me (yet). I'm much more concerned about maintaining my sanity while I wait for Westley's hunger-strike-phase to pass. Because I'm freaking out here, when I'd much rather be cool as my kid won't touch with a ten-foot pole.


Saturday, November 21, 2009

Keeping it Real Estate

So we're buying a house. We're buying a house today, actually. As in, we have an appointment to sign important, life-altering paperwork in an hour.

The last few weeks have been a roller-coaster ride. And by that I mean that I've been experiencing giddiness and dread simultaneously, while also fighting the near-constant urge to puke. It's a lot like being pregnant, actually.

Just like when I was pregnant and suddenly everything in my life revolved around growing and birthing and raising a tiny human, I cannot help but think about the house. Every thought includes a phrase like for the house or when we move: We'll need a new area rug for the house; When we move, I want to unpack Westley's room first; I want to do something nice for the house when we move so it knows how much we love it and how long we waited...

The weird truth is that I feel like much more of an adult (and maybe even like more of a mother) buying a house than I did having a child. Maybe it's the huge stacks of paperwork and the dozens of professional people with job-titles like "agent" and "officer" and "technician." Maybe it's seeing that incredibly large dollar amount emerge before my eyes. Or maybe it's just that you hear much more about young parents than you do about young home buyers (because the former is just more narratively interesting). Anyone can have a baby. But buying a home is something only grown-ups do.

But weirder still is that Rob and I have done the home-buying process once before--and it didn't feel quite so scary and grown-up back then. I remember feeling more relieved than excited as things were getting squared away. Now, I'm going over budget numbers and I'm actually looking forward to finding creative ways to pay for the things we need (for the house and for ourselves). I'm kind of excited that I'm getting a new (very efficient) furnace for Christmas...and my birthday...and Valentine's Day...and...

The only thing (besides the gnawing dread) tampering my lovey-dovey feelings towards my new (almost) home-owning situation is my other child. Westley is most certainly not excited about moving, and doesn't like it that Mommy and Daddy keep talking in animated voices about serious-sounding things. Today, as we were talking to a prospective furnace guy, Westley very clearly asked to "go home." And it absolutely broke my heart.

I realized that in my excitement and nervousness over our new living space, I'd nearly forgotten about the little someone who would be living there with us. As big a change as this is going to be for me, it's going to be even bigger for Westley. I need to get out of my own, house-fixated mind and into his a little bit more. Yes, he loves his new yard. But he doesn't yet understand that his home is about to change.

Maybe that's why I feel like more of an adult this time around. This is our second house, but it's our first family home.


Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Home Inspection

He didn't understand the empty houses. It was hard getting into and out of the car so many times. But he enjoyed running circles in new and unexpected floor plans. From the kitchen to the dining room to the family room, round and round, over and over.

Now he doesn't understand why all these adults are standing around talking when there are sliding glass doors to unlock and fall leaves to collect.

He doesn't understand the man with tools that are not ours to play with. There's a perfectly good screwdriver just sitting there! And he's allowed to play with Grandad's tools all the time! He's too busy squeakily zooming down the hallway in wet shoes to notice the looks that Mommy and Daddy are exchanging, the tense way they squeeze each other's hands.

His eyes aren't filled with dollar signs. His brow isn't furrowed with worry. He doesn't know about old furnaces or cracked skylights or carbon monoxide or asbestos. He can repeat the words "new house," but his heart doesn't race when he utters them.

He just knows that there's a yard.

A yard to play in.

And he doesn't understand why anyone would want to stay inside on a beautiful day like this.

(For him, things are looking up.)


Monday, November 16, 2009

Back, Out

It's the closest thing I'll ever have to a sports injury.

At least, it feels how I imagine a sports injury feels. And I can picture myself old and gray, leaning on a cane, hand on my hip, grimace on my face, grumbling, "The old football injury's acting up again." Except that I never played football. (I still don't really understand football, and being married to a sports-loathing man, I suspect I never will.) The most athletic event I have ever participated in was my son's birth, and I'm certain that that's where my "sports" injury came from.

Westley was occiput posterior, and didn't turn; he was born facing up, the way monkeys are born (I'm told). My back pain in labor was unbelievably excruciating. I'd never heard of "back labor" or babies being born "sunny-side-up" at the time, but now it's the only thing I can think to point to as the source of the persistent lower back pain I've been dealing with for almost two years.

Generally speaking, the pain is manageable. But this morning, as soon as my feet hit the floor, it was clear that something was wrong. And then I discovered that it hurt to walk. It hurt to move.

Oh my God. It hurts to move. And I have a child to take care of!

Fortunately, I also have a mother and a husband who put their work on hold, stepped in to care for Westley and even track down a number for my doctor on her day off, when all I could do was sit and cry from the pain.

Several hours, a doctor's evaluation, my first acupuncture treatment, and some anti-inflammatory medicine later, I'm feeling slightly better...physically. I'm still a bit of an emotional wreck. "Random muscle spasm" was the verdict, which does not make me hopeful for the future. I have been to more doctor appointments in the past two years than I went to in eight years prior to that! And I'm following all of the recommendations from my health-care professionals, and still--still!--I wake up in the morning and can't move? How am I supposed to feel good about this?

It's all very scary, and it means having to explain to Westley that it's okay, Mommy is crying because her back hurts. And that no, he can't come "up" for a hug, because Mommy can't lift him today.

I'm not trying to be a professional athlete. I don't plan to run a marathon, or even a 5K. Picking up my child when he needs comfort is not an athletic event, but right now, I can't do that. I was worried about getting my body back after childbirth, but now I'd just settle for getting my back back.


Wednesday, November 11, 2009

I (Don't) Wanna Hold Your Hand

I saw something recently that made me insanely, painfully envious. A woman was standing in line at the coffee shop, leisurely ordering her drink, counting out exact change, chatting with the barista...all while her son (who I later learned is almost exactly Westley's age) stood calmly beside her.

You know what happens when I put Westley down? He takes off running. It makes no difference how familiar the location is or how close we are to a busy street. When his feet touch the ground, he's off like a shot.


Not only would Westley never in a million years stand quietly beside me while I pay way too much for a latte, he will also never hold my hand. He just flat-out refuses. "Walk! Walk!" he insists, as we get out of the car. When I tell him he has to hold my hand in the parking lot, he says "no-no" (like I've just suggested that he try chewing on broken glass) and whips his hand away faster than I can easily catch it and tries to run. I think he's trying to give me a heart attack.

If I run with my eyes closed, they really can't see me!

Some parenting rules are negotiable. In bed right at 8:00 PM? Well, not always. No cookies for breakfast? When they're healthy, whole-wheat cookies baked lovingly at home by Daddy, it can't be much worse than eating toast with jelly. But "you must hold Mommy's hand in the parking lot"? Not a rule I'm willing to fudge.

No one's going to die if Westley goes to bed at 8:15, or, God forbid, 8:30. But those cars in the parking lot? They literally weigh a ton. But I can't explain this to my toddler. I can just hold him--tightly--by the wrist, and feel like a bully, and breathe deeply through his screams of "Walk! Walk! Walk!" until we reach our destination. Or I can carry him, which I often do. Because it's just easier.

Decaf, with rice milk, please... Now just hold on a second while I move my kid to the other hip so I can get my wallet.


Monday, November 9, 2009

Girls Who Are Boys

I take Westley to one of our local toy stores often, just to look around. It's a great not-so-little, family-operated place, and it just happens to be on our way to other errands. I find it difficult to resist stopping there when Westley is in the backseat, calling the store by name and asking to play.

Westley always knows exactly what he wants to play with. While he loves the cars and trains (and anything that makes noise when you press a button), his favorite toy in the store is the Calico Critters dollhouse. He would play with it for hours if I let him. Sometimes I'm tempted to let him, because it's just so much fun to see him having fun.

Getting to watch Westley play is one of the best things about spending most of my time with him, but the toy store makes it especially great. The dollhouse Westley loves like crazy is set up on a little table surrounded by the girliest of girly things: princess wands, fairy wings, sparkly plastic jewelry, ruffle-and-lace-clad baby dolls, flower-covered locking diaries, and pretend make-up. And there's my little son, oblivious to all the gender-specificity around him, just having a blast.

Gender neutrality in children's clothing is often difficult to find; gender neutrality in toys seems like it would be easier to come by. But suddenly, looking around most toy stores, it's clear that even blocks and soccer balls and scooters are being produced in both a "boy" color scheme and a "girl" color scheme.

Westley's favorite color at the moment is pink. His heart broke a little when his pink diaper cover moved so far into the "too small" category that it wouldn't fasten at all anymore. Westley picked out my pants yesterday, based (I'm sure) on the color alone. They were pajama pants and it was the middle of the afternoon, but I put them on for him. I was powerless to when he toddled into the kitchen with arm outstretched, clutching the garment tightly and holding it up for me to take. "Wear!" he instructed me (it sounded more like "way-uh"). And then, pointing to the fabric, "Pink!"

Westley likes a number of "girl" things right now. I don't really think about it: toys are toys, as far as I'm concerned. But I do notice that other little boys aren't hauling baby dolls around the grocery store with them.

Watching Westley play with the dollhouse, surrounded by "girl" toys, I wonder how long it will be before color scheme matters to him. Someday he will understand that many people think certain things aren't supposed to interest him...because he's a boy. And that if he continues to like pink, and baby dolls, and tiny French country furniture after learning what he's "supposed to" prefer, those people will take it to mean that he's wrong, or bad, or less of a boy.

I hope Westley can just continue liking whatever he likes, regardless of what other people think, for the rest of his life.

"Dah-house!" he says, bubbling over with excitement, moving rabbits and kittens in and out of the front door, moving the bathtub into the kitchen, carefully inspecting the dresser with its tiny working drawers...all the things I remember doing with my dollhouse. And then I desperately want to buy it for him, tiny furniture and animals and all--for Christmas, for his birthday, for any occasion where I can justify putting a big, big bow it. Because every kid who wants a dollhouse should totally have one!

And when the woman behind the counter who does gift-wrapping asks me if it's for a girl or a boy, I'll tell her, "It's for a boy. And he'd like the pink, floral paper, please."


Wednesday, November 4, 2009

Hollow Weaning

The last time I nursed Westley was Thursday, Halloween Eve Eve. It was only for five minutes, and just on one side. I doubt he even got much milk.

I looked at the clock, and then down at my little dude. "It's night-night time," I told him. "Time to go to Daddy."

Westley popped off, looked up at me with a drooly smile. "Mmm!"

I didn't know it was going to be the last time I nursed him. But the next night, Westley was extremely wound up well past bedtime, and I was anxious to get him to bed so I could start my workout. When he demanded to have another book read, I gave him a choice: book and night-night or nurse and night-night. He chose the book. The night after that, Rob and I were gone at bedtime. And the night after that, it seemed silly to nurse him when I hadn't nursed him in two nights.

So I guess this means I'm really weaning him. Or, rather, I have weaned him, since I don't plan to go back to breastfeeding now.

The thing is, the way I'm getting away with not nursing Westley in the evenings is by not being there. As in, not inside the house. I tell Westley goodnight while he and Rob are reading books, and then I go work out in the garage for a little while.

"How'd he do?" I ask when I've had enough of sweating.

"Fine," Rob says. "He cried for mama and milk, but he was fine once I got him his pacifier and his green blanket."


I don't really hear anything else inside my head, because I don't know how I feel about this yet.

I really, truly thought I would never have to wean Westley. Which is not to say that I planned to breastfeed him until he was nine. I just hear often about children weaning themselves at nine months, a year, a year-and-a-half... As Westley's first birthday got close, I was prepared for him to let me know that he wasn't going to take his milk lying down any more. He started drinking more milk from sippy cups, but bedtime was still all about my boobs. Earlier this year, Westley was all-but-weaned (and I was anxious to have him weaned-for-real), but it was that once-before-bed token nursing that hung on. I kept hoping that he would forget about it. Or that he'd say, "No milk anymore. I'm good. See you in the morning, Mom!"


That is impossible for more than a couple of reasons, the most obvious (to me) of which is that Westley friggin' loves to nurse! Hence the sweet smiling and the yummy noises after he does it. Which completely breaks my heart, because it means that I have to be the one to say, "Nope, that's it. We're done."

Except that instead of saying that, I've been sneaking off to the garage. Like the toddler-weaning coward I am.

Last night, when I asked for the Westley report, Rob said, "Fine. He didn't even ask about mama or milk."


So there it is. It's over. After hating (and then loving) nursing, I'm going to miss it. My breasts haven't wised up to the change yet, which makes missing it particularly easy.

I was sure I would want to throw a party when I finally got to the point of not having to flash my living room every night. But now, thinking, I'm not going to nurse Westley any more, I just feel so...sad.

(And not quite empty.)


Monday, November 2, 2009

This Two Shall Pass

Westley has been practicing being a two-year-old for months now: saying "no" as often as possible, throwing the occasional temper tantrum, insisting on doing things himself, and otherwise showing his independence from Rob and me. But on Halloween, the eve of his 23rd month, he was in rare form.

Nothing either Rob or I did for him was right, and he let us know it. Loudly. He rejected every suggestion of food, clothing, and entertainment. When left to his own devices, he ran maniacally around the living room, shrieking delightedly for a few minutes before collapsing into the couch, completely miserable.

I'm usually pretty good about taking the philosophical stance on crazy-Westley days. I remind myself that everything with him is temporary. And most of the time, it actually helps me gain some perspective on the situation and not lose my cool entirely, no matter how certain I am that this time, I really, truly am going to go insane.

But Halloween was different. We had plans to spend the afternoon with friends, tickets to an evening event, and demands from far-away family members for lots of pictures of Westley in costume. And when Westley refused to eat anything I offered him, and refused to wear his costume, and refused to have his picture taken, I felt like punching someone.

This day is supposed to be fun, I told myself. But I felt angry and anxious, even after Rob kindly took Westley on a guys-only grocery-shopping adventure.

The day eventually redeemed itself, even though we had to cancel some plans on account of our crazy-child-who-also-went-down-for-an-unbelievably-late-nap. Westley got some fresh, less-crazy energy from spending time with my parents. Rob and I got some fresh, less-stressed energy from not having to fight Westley on whether dinner would be eaten.

"What was up with him today?" I wondered, crossing my fingers that everything would be different when we got up in the morning.

Rob shrugged. "He's two."

"Not even!" I started to imagine a whole year of manic-Halloween-devil-Westley.

"Maybe he'll get it out of his system early," Rob hypothesized.

I just hope this really is as temporary as I try to convince myself it is. Because I don't know how much more Halloween I can take.