When your child is first born, every relative on both sides of the family will tell you who the baby looks like. And once the child starts to do things, no matter how small, the relatives will also tell you who the baby behaves like. They can't seem to stop themselves. It's almost like they are laying claim to the child because he looks like or acts like so-and-so did way back when. Pointing out proof of bloodlines or something.
Of the two, behavior is more fascinating, at least to me. Watching the little personalities emerge and recognizing myself or my husband or someone in the family...that's really, really cool. "That's my son!" or "That's your son!" (Depending, of course, on just what the son has done....)
So, we were shopping at The Sports Authority last weekend. Well, I was shopping, everyone else was along for the ride. And I wasn't so much shopping as I was clawing and pawing through jogging bras to find as many as I could in my size of one particular design that I bought a while back and it is the BEST one I've ever owned, so I wanted ALL of them. I was lugging Julia around in my left arm and searching through the racks with my right hand. It was awkward and Julia weighs 17 lbs 6 ounces, but I was on a mission. I found four, by the way.
But that's not the point of the story.
The point comes next. While Julia and I were in search of the perfect woman's support garment, Alex and Bill were wandering around in the more manly areas of the store. It was while they were in the fishing section that Alex suddenly announced - in his loud and proud little boy voice: "I DID GAS!" And he wasn't finished, either. A little bit later he announced "I DID GAS AGAIN!"
He's Bill's son, you know.
But then, there are other moments...like at the dinner table one time, I asked Alex to hand me his plate..."It's a bowl, Mommy, not a plate."
Or this...it is that part of a weekday morning when all is chaos as we are getting ready to leave the house, and I am trying to get both kids ready to go and I call out to Alex, who has wandered off somewhere, "Okay, Alex, time to put on your socks and shoes!" and he corrects me: "No, Mommy, boots; not shoes."
And so on.
Well. Years and years ago - when I was too young - I was the manager of a small bookstore (part of a very large chain) in a little mall outside of Boston. It was a lovely place to work. Every so often all the store managers had meetings to discuss what to do in case of an armed robbery. Fun.
I was in way over my head. I lacked confidence, big time. And my way of getting past that feeling of "any minute now they're going to realize they made a BIG mistake putting me here and FIRE ME" was to be a bitch on wheels.
I had inherited my employees from the previous manager, who, if I remember correctly, was fired, but I don't remember why. Among the crew was this one guy who I just didn't click with AT ALL. I was too nervous, too unsure of myself, to relax about anything during that time, and he was laid back and older than me and oh, whatever. We just didn't click. He probably knew I didn't know what I was doing (or at least I didn't think I knew what I was doing), and just knowing that he knew I was out of my element drove me nuts and contributed, in part, to my dictatorial behavior at times. Not a bright and shining period in my life.
He and I were working at the front of the store one day, opening boxes of books and entering them into the store's fledgling computer inventory system. I was at the computer, he was on the other side of the counter emptying boxes and putting the books onto shelves or on a display table or something.
And then it happened.
He said "Can you hand me the slasher?"
And I said "The what?"
And he said "The slasher - you know, so I can open this box?"
And I said (icily, I'm sure, because that's how I spoke a lot of the time back then) "It's called a blade."
And he looked at me like I was insane and ridiculous - which I was - and laughed slightly, and said something dismissive (and sensible) like "slasher, blade, same thing."
And I said "It's. Called. A. BLADE."
And he probably decided it was too stupid to even continue the discussion; better just to give in or she might bite or something....
So anyway. I made the mistake as some point after that of telling this story to my sister, and so of course she will remind me of it when I am being particularly anal.
"It's a blade! It's a blade!" she will snarl, in a Wicked Witch of the West voice. It works. I shut right up.
But my point is...it's a blade...it's a bowl...it's a boot...
Julia has learned how to wave. It's kind of a limp-wristed wave at the moment, but she's very proud of herself, which is clear because she smiles really big and you can see all two of her teeth when she does. Plus her little eyes light right up, which only increases her charm...
She waves at Alex, at us...and at The Baby in Mirror Land.
The Baby in Mirror Land is a little baby who appears to be about Julia's age and has a mom who appears to be my age (under harsh lighting) and who we mostly visit in the bathrooms, because that is where we have the largest Windows into Mirror Land.
Julia loves to smile at the Baby in Mirror Land...and now that she knows how, she also loves to wave at the Baby in Mirror Land. And she KNOWS that the best way to see the Baby is when we go into either of the two bathrooms and can look through the big Window into Mirror Land and that charming other Baby and her Mother will be right there waiting.
So now, Julia begins waving and smiling whenever we are simply near the doorway to one of the bathrooms.
Because she thinks that's where we're going...and so of course as soon as I see her start to wave, we must go in.
Mustn't disappoint the Baby in Mirror Land, after all.
And the other half of this disjointed story is that Julia is ALMOST crawling. She can turn herself around while on her stomach, and roll over and over like a tumbleweed, and in her agitation to get at the cat, she can even push herself backwards while shrieking.
But as of yesterday, she can propel herself forward while lying on her stomach, her bare little feet digging into the carpet one at a time and shoving her whole little self forward so she can get to that little tiny black bit of fluff before Mommy sees it and whisks it out of sight and reach.
but is there anyone else out there whose elbows have grown larger after having two children? The second child is the important element, because I don't think my elbows were any bigger after Alex was born. But after Julia came along...my elbows are definitely larger.
I know this because I am wacking them on doorways and furniture and car doors and vending machines way more than I have ever done before in my life. So I was wondering if this was one of those surprise aftereffects of having kids that women don't talk about.
I was going to comment yesterday on Sheila's post about the super-mommy discussion going on out there in the world, but I was too busy teaching my 9 month old daughter Latin so she can get accepted into a really GOOD preschool. She's still having trouble with verbs, but she can say "ba" and "doot" and "yeah" like a - well, like a 9 month old.
No, really, I didn't because I was at work and shouldn't even have been reading her blog at the time, nor should I have been thinking about what I would like to say as a mommy who is far from Super, nor should I have composed most of this current post and emailed it to myself at home so I could post it without getting caught.
While I am NOT a Super Mommy, I hear the beckoning call at times...like when I have been up five or six times in one night with two sick children under the age of three, and the dishes aren't done and the dishwasher is full and we are out of cat food and I have been teaching my two and a half year old son the alphabet in the dust that has accumulated on the floor along the edges of the rooms we don't use much. (The rooms we use a lot not only have dust - they have a few crumbs, one of Julia's socks, a shriveled up soybean, and a splatter of pureed chicken and rice as well, all of which make it a bit more difficult to form the letters.) It is usually when I am sleep deprived that my defenses and sensible thought patterns drop down and allow in that scary chorus of voices that try to tell me what ELSE I should be accomplishing in my day. For the betterment of my children, of course. And that's just what kids need - crazy, frazzled, overstressed, emotional zombies to emulate.
You know what? I don't want more time in my day. I don't want more assistance - financial or otherwise. We are fine. Just fine. My kids are happy and basically healthy (though it seems their noses have been running for months now, but I blame all those OTHER kids at daycare for that.) and they are normal. My daughter, by virtue of her age, naturally requires a little more lugging around (since she can't walk yet) and a little more attention (since she can't feed herself very well yet or demand juice while holding out all three parts of her sippy cup to help me along) than my son, but both of them CAN and DO play by themselves in as age-appropriate a manner as possible.
And we read to them. For fun. I grew up having books read to me and then going on to read books for myself. I devoured books. And now it delights me no end to see my son "reading" his books to himself. He's got the favorites memorized, and he'll sit there, going through them, page by page, "reading" them aloud perfectly. I love this - because he loves the books, not because I think he's got super memorizing capabilities and will somehow excel at something at an early age. I love the fact that he loves his books because it's something we have in common. How cool is that? He's my son! The same thing with blocks, and legos, and his stuffed animals - these are fun things for him. Who was it who said something like "Play is the work of children." ? That's the thing - PLAY. Not work is the work of children.
As far as losing one's identity after becoming a parent - I sometimes feel like that, but it's ebbing. I think it's perfectly normal to disappear into the background more so when the child is an infant and they need you because not too many of your friends would want to come to your house at night and get up to breastfeed your child so you can sleep. I have felt lost and like a kind of robot. Not even female - just a being placed here for the sole purpose of taking care of everyone else under the same roof FIRST, and then, eventually, when hell has frozen over and pigs are cruising at altitudes from two to five miles above us...then and only then will it be time to take care of me - i.e. get my eyebrows waxed. Finally.
It's been like that. But still - my husband and I have tried to remember that we are husbandandwife, not just Mommy and Daddy. Five weeks after my son was born I spoke at a friend's wedding. In another state. Attended the rehearsal dinner and the wedding. A lot of driving both of those days, but well worth it. It was important to us. And my son was fine. And I dressed like an adult in adult clothes and the only way anyone could have known that I was a new mother would have been to grab the painful ROCKS on my chest or note (on the way home from the wedding) that I'll never wear THAT dress again because the proteins in breast milk make it really hard to get rid of the stain. At least the dress was on sale.
The point is - we went OUT. And we still go OUT. Not as much as we'd like, and not with any predetermined regularity, but we GO. We have PLANS. Just for US.
And that is what I wrote yesterday afternoon before I left work. Then I went to pick up the kids at daycare, come home, do some dishes, make part of dinner (Bill grilled the chicken, I did other stuff), clear the table, change a diaper, make a bottle, hug my son goodnight, convince my daughter that it would be a good idea to go to sleep too, and then finally it was just us again. And we were both too tired to do anything other than watch TV...which is how we are a lot of the time lately, but that's okay right now.
You know what? I have no idea where I'm going with all this. Maybe that's the point. I have no idea where I'm going. And that, too, is okay. I am doing my best (and trust me, I don't do this well) to just focus on each day as it comes, and to try to get through it without too many tears or tantrums (Alex's or my own) and to laugh as much as I can about things because I know that years from now I will look back on these years, when my children are so small and so dependent on me and my husband, and I will miss a lot of this stuff - I'll miss my daughter and her only-two-teeth-so-far grin, and her spikey hair, and the way she looks like a character out of Chicken Run - her giant grin - and how she will fall asleep with her little head on my shoulder and she will look just SO unbelievably precious and sweet - and I KNOW how lucky I am to have that moment. I will miss my son demanding "a hug, a kiss, and a smooch" from me - several times - before I leave him at daycare.
And I want my kids to look back on their childhood one day and NOT remember me as overscheduled and frazzled and wild-eyed all the time.
My childhood was simple, I think. I remember playing with my friends...reading my books...going to school...having a healthy fear of my parents' displeasure so that I tried most of the time to be good...I remember being outside a lot...I remember hanging out in the kitchen watching my mother make dinner...I remember hanging out in the darkroom in the basement watching my father print photographs...I remember all these things - and of course a ton more things that I don't have time to type because the kitchen timer just went off and I need to go back to work - I remember all these things in a comfortable way...I don't know how to explain what I'm trying to say...but in a comfortable kind of waking-up-in-a-warm-bed-and-realizing-it's-the-weekend-and-I-don't-have-to-get-up-yet-and-the-kids-are-still-asleep-too-so-I-can-just-doze-if-I-want-to kind of way.
That's the kind of childhood I hope my kids have.
Gotta run...please forgive this definitely disorganized post....
I've been doing a little bit here and there on this blog today. Long overdue stuff. Nothing major. A couple of new books over there somewhere on the right. I don't have a ton of time to read lately...at least not anything meant for someone older than three....
That's a picture of me holding a lobster up there in the right-hand corner of this page. Back when we lived in a little tiny cottage and there were just the two of us...
And back before pregnancy made me queasy at the smell of rotting fish heads (which were used to bait the lobster traps).
And back before pregnancy caused my center of gravity and my sense of balance to change EVER so dramatically.
And back before I had my first child and had to stay home and on land because it seemed selfish to me (at the time - I've matured since) to have someone babysit JUST so I could go out fishing with my husband.
We tried taking Alex out on the boat once when he was about a year old, but the timing was bad - it was a very warm day, he was encased in his mammoth life jacket, and he was overdue for a nap. He didn't enjoy himself and let us know about it as loudly as possible. We made it to the gas dock and back and that was about all any of the three of us could tolerate.
And back before the boat became too much of a headache (too many repairs needed, too small, too costly to dock)...and before Bill traded it (and the nice trailer it was sitting on) to a coworker for a case of beer. They kept the trailer. The boat, as I understand it, was eventually flattened.
We WILL eventually get another boat - something a little bigger than 16 feet...something that the previous owner didn't CARPET (because it's really hard to get the stink of rotting fish or fish blood out of CARPET and really, carpeting doesn't belong on a hardworking little boat like ours was anyway.) Something newer, something safer, something we can bring the kids out on without fear that the previous owner's bad fiberglassing job will give when the bow slaps too hard against someone else's wake. Something my husband won't have to teach himself to fiberglass on. Something with live wells. Something with white or off-white surfaces. Something we can just hose down and be done with at the end of a trip.
And then we WILL go back out on a regular basis, and put the lobster pots back out there, and teach the kids to bait hooks and adjust the drag and set the hook and bring an angry bluefish successfully into the boat. Both of the kids.
Sigh. Probably not this year...but maybe next year. I hope.
Last Friday morning on the way in to drop off the kids at daycare and then go to work, I was trying to figure out what to have for dinner, and I knew I didn't want to put much effort into it...but I couldn't decide what I was in the mood for.
So I asked Alex. "What would you like for dinner tonight after school?"
"What would you like for dinner tonight after school?
(Silence - but a productive one)
"...We only eat cows," he said.
I do not know what he meant - I didn't pursue it. But for the record - we also eat chickens and ducks and turkeys and sheep and pigs and creatures from the sea...along with all kinds of plants and their byproducts.
We do not ONLY eat cows.
But then again, as I think about how he said it - with absolutely no emphasis on any one particular word - might he have meant, just in general, that we only eat cows, as opposed to utilizing them for any other purpose?
I don't know.
But this is the sort of thing Alex makes me think about.
I loved that show - reruns anyway - when I was a kid.
I have no idea what a two-eleven was - or is - or how quickly Code 3 means they should respond...I'm guessing from the immediate siren sound after it, that Code 3 means pretty quickly.
And that is my segue into the event of December 31st. I was at work, kids were at daycare, Bill was at home because he is a teacher and had that whole week off. He called me late morning to see if there was anything else I could think of for him to pick up at the store, and then he left the house at approximately 11:15 am to go to the bank and the grocery store and Home Depot and the asian market we like to shop at.
I got sprung from work early - around 2:00, so I left him a message on our answering machine, picked up the kids, and headed home. Turned onto our street and saw a police car parked on the street. My slow brain first thought Bill's cousin (who is a police officer) was visiting, but the car was from our town, not the one he works for...then I thought it had nothing to do with us, and then I pulled into the driveway and saw Bill and a police officer outside and Bill saw me pull in and marched rapidly toward my car with his hand out in a "STOP" position. So I did.
Our house was broken into. We'd been robbed.
Fun fun fun. They didn't get much - we don't have a whole lot of stuff that is both small and worth stealing. They did get our DVD camera and some (but not all - SO THERE) of the stuff that went with it...and all the coins from various jars and coffee cans that we were MEANING to cash in soon...and they went through the bureaus in our bedroom and through my jewelry box, but it doesn't look like they got anything (because - HA HA - most of what I have isn't worth anything and the things that are worth anything are things I sometimes wear but forget to put away in the jewelry box where they belong so I lucked out because I am lazy. There's a lesson for you!) OH - and they took the diaper bag. The black, backpack-like diaper bag. I believe they used it to take out all the change they stole.
The only thing that hurts is that in the DVD camera was a disk that we hadn't filled up yet. Little things like Alex telling us what sounds various animals make...Bill taking Alex trick or treating...Julia doing cute little Julia things...Christmas morning when Bill got Alex singing "Jingle Bells" from his crib...and later, coming down the stairs into the living room...Alex saying over and over, in awe, "presents....presents!"
That's the stuff you can't replace. Can't get reimbursed for. That file a claim for. That's what you kick yourself in the head about - why did I leave that IN THERE??? That's the one thing you want to somehow communicate to the losers that broke in that if they would just drop the disk in the mailbox we'd be happy and fine, keep the DVD camera. We'll just upgrade.
So it wasn't the happiest of New Years.
But on the other hand...this was all right after the Tsunami hit Asia all over the place...so in comparison, we've got precious little to complain about. We are all alive, we have a roof over our heads.
And now we have deadbolts on the doors and a security system installed.
I was going to use the break-in to somehow excuse my lack of writing in a month and a half...but that's not the reason. There is no specific reason, other than just the general busy-ness of a family and a job and most of January spent with one or more of the four of us sick in some form or another.
But I miss writing. I would find myself in bed at odd hours of the night, after being up for the umpteenth time with Julia...and I'd be writing stuff in my head...composing things to post. But then sleep deprivation would work its magic and the next morning I'd have absolutely no idea what I'd wanted to write about.
So now I'm writing little notes to myself at work (which is where I do a LOT of thinking about things that I'd like to post...because it's far more entertaining than the work I should be doing)...because I don't want to forget stuff, and I need to write more.
So I plan to. But now the timer on the stove has gone off, which means I have to get my shoes back on and drive back to work - my lunch break is over.
Sorry for the long gap in writing. I've missed you.