Tuesday, August 31, 2010

King of the May

Westley has been saying "please" and "thank you" for so long that I don't remember exactly when he started saying them. Of course, he still struggles with the letter L, so what actually comes out of his mouth is "pwease." Strangers sometimes remark on Westley's politeness, and I take a moment to pat myself on the back for a job well done.

I can't take credit for the most recent addition to Westley's politeness vocabulary, however. I'm pretty sure it was my mom who taught Westley "may." As in, "May I?"

Westley was more than happy to start using "may." Rob and I make it very clear that Westley is more likely to have his requests granted if he asks nicely. (You should hear us be all positive-reinforcey around the house: "Wow, buddy! I love how you asked me so nicely! Thank you!" It borders on disgusting.)

But Westley still hasn't really grasped the proper usage of "may." He somehow decided that it goes with "will." Resulting in the adorable:

"Will I may pwease have annudder cookie?"

Maybe this doesn't kick your ass with cute the way it does mine. After all, I'm his mother and an English major and a former copy editor, and I do swell a bit with pride when someone calls my son polite. But whatever the reason, "will I may (pwease)" is, apparently, my Kryptonite. How do I say no to another cookie (or whatever) when Westley is busting his little toddler ass to learn this crazy English language, with all its wacky rules of grammar and politeness?

I can't do it. When Westley's putting in all that effort, refusing "will I may" just seems, well, rude. Not to mention grammatically challenging. ("No you may won't," perhaps?)


Thursday, August 26, 2010


How tired are you? No, really, I want to know. Moms, dads, grandmas, grandads, fellow humans with children to care for (or not!), lay it on me. Please, please, tell me that I'm not alone in this.

Because if it's just me, I can only assume that I'm losing my mind.
El Sleepo

I have been crazy tired as of late. As in, the kind of tired that makes you look and feel like a crazy person. I just packed up some leftovers, and put them away...in the cupboard with the dishes instead of in the refrigerator. And while cleaning up Westley's snack, I picked up the untouched half-slice of toast with peanut butter and ate it, momentarily forgetting that both bread and peanut putter upset my stomach.
El Sleepo

But the most maddening moment of tiredness came a couple days ago, when I was attempting to put Westley down for his nap. I cuddled him and sang to him, as I usually do. I'm not sure how much time had passed before I felt myself being shaken awake by my two-year-old, because I had stopped singing!
El Sleepo

I wish I could think of a cure for my tiredness that didn't involve hibernation and sleeping for a week. Because I don't have time to be tired! I have showers to take, workouts to do, and TV shows on DVD to watch. Not to mention meals to cook, and lullabies to sing.

Fortunately, in the back of my mind, I know I'm not the only mother who's completely wiped out. (Right?) Unfortunately, I'm dozing off writing this, and the day's barely started.


Thursday, August 19, 2010

Bye, Chair

Yesterday, I took Westley's highchair apart and put it in the garage. It suddenly occurred to me that I couldn't remember the last time he'd used it.

Well, the last time he'd sat in it. Earlier that morning he'd used the highchair...as a climbing structure-surfboard hybrid and nearly fallen on his head in the process.

Several weeks ago at dinnertime, Westley (belted snugly in his highchair) told Rob, "I wanna sit in your chair." Rob ate many meals with Westley on his lap, the two of them sharing a placemat, sometimes comparing portions and swapping vegetables. That quickly evolved into Westley wanting his own chair, next to Daddy, of course. Now, when the table is set, Westley has his own place setting, with his own water glass, and his own napkin. Or two.

So the highchair was retired to the garage during yesterday's nap. And so far, Westley hasn't asked about it. It joins boxes of tiny clothes and diaper covers, the Johnny Jump-Up, and the soon-to-be-outgrown stroller.

Just like I do with every trip to the garage or attic with baby- or kid-gear to store, I felt a little pang of longing. For that cheeky five-month-old who reached across his highchair tray to steal a whole boiled new potato from my plate (and then bit into it like an apple). For the little man rocking the toddler mullet and the soup spoon. But I was also glad of the little reminder that that little man is growing and changing every single day.

It's not my imagination that Westley is turning into a grown-up human boy person. I've got the growing pile in the garage and he's got his own dining chair to prove it. And his own placemat and his own napkin to put in his lap. Which he actually does, most nights.


Monday, August 16, 2010

The "Don't Wannas"

After going along for several weeks feeling more or less okay - and even semi-enjoying my little homemaker gig - I suddenly find myself in a near-constant state of "had it up to here."

I have developed a serious case of the "don't wannas." Even my more enjoyable chores, like meal planning and cooking, suddenly feel oppressive and stale. What, think about food again? Didn't I just make dinner last night? And that laundry in the corner is just going to stay in a giant, unsorted pile for the time being, because, well...ugh.

Naturally, I don't expect to love every minute of my day as a homemaker, every day. Especially when I notice that the bathroom desperately needs a total scrub-down and I already have 12 other things on my to-do list. But I believe that the work I'm doing is valuable. As my mother is fond of saying, "More homes need to be made." My "don't wannas" aren't so much housewife burn-out as they are an emotional tick. Depression Lite, perhaps.

The biggest problem with the "don't wannas" is that they quickly extend to things that actually help jog me back to the world of useful, basically happy stay-at-home-ness. Exercise, for instance. When I "don't wanna," there's nothing I don't wanna do more than exercise. Never mind that, post-workout, I always feel more rested and refreshed than I do after a nap!

You need to find something fun to do, I tell myself. That'll get you back on track.

But coming up with something fun, and then actually doing it seems unbelievably difficult. Even "fun" feels like too much work.



Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Unhappily Never After


Last Friday was my fifth wedding anniversary. Initially, I wasn't going to write about it, because I'm not sure how relevant it is. In fact, the further the date slips into the past, the more content I am to let it slip by, unacknowledged.

When I study the few pictures from the day that I can look at without feeling sick or wanting to cry or both, I feel split. As much as I still am that bride, I also don't recognize her. A 22-year-old girl wearing 12 pounds of underwear under a white polyester dress. She looks absolutely miserable behind a too-wide smile. Or maybe I just see the misery in photographs because I remember.

I was terribly constipated that day. I was angry at Rob for not having gotten a haircut beforehand - "the day you will be PHOTOGRAPHED more than any other day of your LIFE!" - and I was angry at Rob's father for refusing to dance with Rob's mother, and then for changing out of his tuxedo well before the reception was over. I was uncomfortable around the photographer, who made Rob and me do a bunch of goofy poses instead of shooting candids. I had one bite of wedding cake (which wasn't very good) before my plate was whisked away in the flurry of clean-up. I tried to be a good sport about it. But shortly after Rob and I arrived at our hotel, I collapsed into a heap of tears and rice.

I tend to focus on these relatively superficial wedding day disappointments because the deeper, genuine source of my unhappiness still stings after five years. I spent most of my wedding day half-convinced that I was making had made a huge mistake.

Now, five years later, I know I made a huge mistake. I was in such a hurry to have these things I never thought I'd have - a partner, a husband, a wedding - these things that I thought would make me happy, that I forgot that I was supposed to be happy! Let me say that again: I actually managed to forget (or, more likely, unconsciously ignore) the "happy" in "happily ever after."

People get married because they want to be together. Not because they worry about never being with anyone.

At least, that's how the story goes.

My story didn't go like that. (Because I'm a bad writer. Of romances, anyway.) But as much as I hate not being able to look back on my wedding day and the beginning of my marriage with shiny, happy thoughts, I'm kind of glad it didn't "work out" the way I imagined.
Picture 395

Being a 22-year-old bride didn't save me from my unhappiness. I don't know why I thought it would. I'm not a hearts-and-flowers, someday-my-prince-will-come girl. I'd much rather watch a black comedy than a romance. Which is exactly why my poorly-written story turned out so well, I suppose.

This marriage with its not-so-fairytale start, this less-than-perfect partnership, has revealed much more of my true self than I suspect an "ideal" match would. When the thing that was supposed to make you not unhappy doesn't do its job - and often makes you more unhappy - you spend some time figuring out what actually does make you happy. Which, if you're me, means finally getting acquainted with your true self after 27 years. And it just so happens that my true self is someone I don't mind hanging out with. I certainly like her better than the insecure bride of five years ago.

Luckily, the leading man in the story seems to like her, too. And while I was content to let the day pass without really acknowledging it, he wasn't.

"I'm kind of sorry we're not doing anything big for our five-year anniversary," Rob told me last Friday. "Five years is kind of a big one."

Rob opened a bottle of sparkling wine that he'd bought for the occasion, chosen especially because, as he explained it, "Hey! Wine, Monterey, and Sofia Coppola: all things Noelle likes!" I put on a playlist I'd made especially for Rob: songs I know he likes, songs I was pretty sure would make him laugh, songs with in-jokes and memories from our relationship so far. It was just celebratory enough for our funky little romance.

And, for me, quite a happy anniversary.
Happily...for the foreseeable future.

Thursday, August 5, 2010

Under the Baby Radar

My mom likes to tell me how, as a toddler, I had "nursing mother radar." If there was a woman breastfeeding at the mall, the park, the zoo...I always noticed. I could spot a breastfeeding mother across a crowded stadium.

"She feed her baby!" I would announce to my mother, who would have to search for a minute before she spied a nursing mom at the very top of the bleachers.

Apparently, this kind of radar is partially hereditary. Westley doesn't pick out nursing moms the way I used to (though he will tell you which animals make milk for their babies). But he never misses a baby.

"Mommy, I see a baby over dere!"

"Where?" I look around. A woman clear on the other side the market is wearing a tiny newborn in a Baby Bjorn.

When I tell Westley he has "baby radar," he cracks up like this is the best joke in the world. Then he gets pensive.

"I fink I want a baby."

"Not 'til you're 30, dude."

While Westley's attention to detail might be a little gift from the gene pool, his sudden interest in babies makes perfect sense. There has been a lot of talk about babies 'round these parts. As in, Rob and I have been having not-quite-daily baby-mentioning discussions. It would be nearly impossible for Westley to miss that something is up.

I'm de-IUD'd. We're past the pre-planning stage and into the planning stage. The kind of planning where you look over your insurance coverage and run into a (familiar) miserable, half-pissed-off, half-fearful feeling. Never mind sending two kids to college! How are we going to pay for the birth?

Westley hasn't been part of that planning. But he has been present for several of the conversations mentioning the word "baby" over and over, rapid fire. When Rob explained that we were talking about Mommy having another baby, Westley was enthusiastic.

"That baby would be a brother or a sister to you, buddy," Rob told him.

"I fink I want a bruhver baby."

"That would be cool," I said, "but we don't get to pick. We just get what we get."

"I fink I want a sister baby."

"That would be cool, too," Rob agreed.

Westley thought a moment, and then announced, "I want a bruhver baby and a sister baby!"


Tuesday, August 3, 2010

The Enemy of Fun

When I tell Westley it's time to leave "in five minutes," he doesn't protest. On the contrary, actually. He has started responding, "Thank you, five."

Yes, like we're backstage and I'm the Stage Manager.

Which, I suppose, I kind of am. As well as all the technical crews. I'm not exactly sure who the director is, though. (Were you thinking God? I totally want a wireless headset that connects me to God.)

While I'm with Westley, I'm always thinking about costume changes, prop usage, and especially entrances and exits. Exits - better known as "it's time to go now"s - are certainly the hardest. Despite Westley's polite acknowledgement of ten- and five- and two- and one-minute warnings, when I make it clear that we really are going now, he is instantly, entirely miserable. Screaming, red-faced, tears-streaming miserable.

That's when I feel my job title shift. From "Stage Manager of The Westley Show" "Mommy" to "The Enemy of Fun." Westley was having a perfectly lovely time, and I had to come along and spoil it. Because I wanted to get to the grocery store before lunchtime. Or because I was starting to feel wrong about spending an hour at our friendly neighborhood toy store with no intention of buying anything. Or because I really had to pee.

So I pick Westley up and hold him close, simultaneously carrying him and hugging him while he screams. I speak as calmly as I can, trying articulate how I think he must be feeling; "You don't want to leave. You were really having fun!"

Meanwhile, inside myself, I'm guilty and uncertain. Wavering. Did you really have to take him away? He was having so much fun! We'll be fine without hemp milk for one more day.

But you don't understand! He was showing no sign of ever getting done with those drums. And I have to pee so bad my back teeth are swimming!


Ouch, self.

But being The Enemy of Fun does make me feel selfish. It's my job to set the limits and give the five-minute warnings, and sometimes (often) I make the "time to go" call because I'm done. I know I can't give Westley everything he wants, and it wouldn't be good for him if I could. He could play for hours in a new or exciting environment, but that doesn't mean he should. My Stage Manager self knows this. But stepping in and ending Westley's joyous playtime never feels good.

So I suppose that even though enforcing "time to go" can feel selfish (even if we really do have to go), it's fairer than it feels. The Enemy of Fun doesn't have any fun either.


Sunday, August 1, 2010

Bed Overshare


As part of the nighttime routine, I sing Westley a few songs, kiss him good-night, close the door to his room, and then remove at least a dozen of his toys from Rob's and my bed.

Sometimes the bed is set up as a stage for a hybrid marching band set/rock show, with all Westley's various drums, guitars, horns, whistles, and even a microphone lined up and ready. Sometimes it's one big Sesame Street character puppy pile. Most nights, it's simply a haphazard arrangement of toys, books, and the occasional kitchen utensil.

Even more than Westley's insisting on accompanying me while I pee or his rummaging through my underwear drawer, the explosion of toddler-life into my bedroom, onto my bed feels like an invasion of privacy. Picking Westley's toys out of my bed is no different than, say, clearing them off the sofa...when it comes to the actual picking up. But on a visceral level, it crosses a line I didn't know I had.

It's not about the sex thing, the way my not wanting to bed-share, co-sleep, and so on is. Or it's not only about that. As Westley gets more active and inquisitive, the more I'm feeling like I don't have any space that's really mine. And I suppose I could just as easily complain about the child-grime in my car, or the magazines torn before they're read, or the favorite objects relocated to high-up shelves. But the truth is that I only sort of mind those things (except on the days when they make me want to start fires). Perhaps I'm honing in on the bed because it does feel so intrinsically personal. The fact remains, however, that Westley has a whole house to play in, including a yard and a playroom full of toys, and yet his favorite hang-out spot is Mommy and Daddy's bed.

On the one hand it doesn't seem like a huge request: one little corner of the house that's off-limits to Westley. On the other hand, it seems rather unrealistic. I have a young child who is home with me all the time. He really doesn't understand "personal space."

Even if I could explain my boundaries to Westley in a way that would make sense to him, I'm not sure what rule I'd want to enforce. "Stay out of Mommy and Daddy's bed, period, end of story" wouldn't work. As much as I can go off on bed-sharing and co-sleeping and how much I hate it and no, no, no...Westley and I nap together once every couple of weeks. And it's pretty great. Cuddling him next to me in bed when he's sick or hurt or scared is often a sure-fire way to help him calm down.

So, "No playing in Mommy and Daddy's bed," then? Also no good. Because if Westley wants to jump and tumble and fall on the bed while I just quietly lie there, making sure he doesn't crack his skull against the headboard but otherwise resting, that's pretty great, too. Especially on days when I'm not feeling even close to 100%.

I'm thinking of trying to enforce a "No toys in Mommy and Daddy's bed" rule. We've had a lot of success with "no food in Mommy and Daddy's bed" (probably because Rob and I are completely, fully in agreement on that rule, no exceptions). I don't know how well that will go over after months of Westley enjoying a king size soft playspace. But it might be worth a shot.

Or it might just be in my best interest to attempt to dissolve my boundaries even further, and get over the toys in my bedroom. Westley doesn't do it to offend me, and they're easy enough to move. And I'm sure that, like other aspects of this parenting journey that I've absolutely detested and then later come to find nostalgia for (cough-breastfeeding-cough), someday I will miss finding drumsticks under my pillow.