Monday, April 27, 2009

River News: Month Twenty-Four

Dear River,

I've known for a while that this would be your last River News, and I think that's why I've put off writing it for so long. You really are becoming a big boy now and though you still learn something new everyday, the milestones you reach are definitely fewer and further between. It doesn't make sense to collect funny anecdotes about you in my head for a month and not just write them down immediately. Twenty-four months - TWO YEARS! - also just feels like a nice round number to wrap this up. So though I plan to meticulously chronicle your ever-changing self (at least until you're teenager and tell me to knock it off), I won't be doing it in a monthly newsletter.

I want to start with some of my favorite moments from these past two months, mostly revolving around bedtime. We have had a pretty solid bedtime routine since you were six months old (bath, stories, songs), but you always like to add a new twist to the evening. Mostly these additions last a week or two (like hiding under the sheets or reading stories in your crib), sometimes they turn into permanent fixtures (ONLY daddy can dry you off after bath and bear HAS to sit with you through stories and songs). Lately you've been testing out some words to add to the bedtime routine. One night you asked daddy for "extra kisses" before we walked out of your room. The other night you MELTED MY HEART when you said for the first time, unprompted, "Wuv you." Mostly, though, the phrase that has stuck is, "Goo night, mommy. Goo night, daddy."

I love hearing you say these things because it shows how secure you are with bedtime, how all of our work to build a consistent routine these past two years has paid off. But mostly I just love hearing your sweet voice say happy things before you drift off to sleep.

As you get older, you become more aware of some of the dangers around you. You're careful in parking lots, saying, "Watch out. Cars," you don't attempt to go down the stairs on your own, and you know that ovens are hot. While it certainly makes life easier that you're not constantly attempting to do yourself physical harm, I'm a little sad to see some of your innocence go. Some of these dangers are trickling into your dreams and imaginary life as a way for you to process it all. The biggest way it's manifested lately is in monsters. You've had a growing fascination with them for the past two months, largely in a friendly, happy capacity. You crave monster books (they all turn out to be big, silly, and not that scary) and you created a couple monster imaginary friends you could carry around with you.

But after a couple weeks of seeing only happy monsters, you started to discover some scary monsters. You play games where monsters are coming up the stairs, hiding under the bed, or waiting for us behind a door. I know it's a healthy way for you to express your fears, and instead of telling you they're not real, I try to give you the means to get rid of them (mommy escorts the unwanted monsters out of the house or you tell them to leave). You have such a huge imagination which delights me to no end. I don't want to quell that, but I don't want you to powerless against your fears either.

March is a big month for birthdays (uncle Nelse, daddy, Finn, mommy, and you all celebrate March birthdays). So you got lots of practice with the birthday song and candles before it was your turn. We went to Las Vegas for a long weekend and had a great party with Nanu, Dadu, Oma, Opa, Nelse, and Sydney. You were showered with presents and knew just what to do when presented with a flaming bunny cake (blow out the candles and make everyone sing again, of course).

Back at home we had a huge party with all of your friends, and your auntie Melissa came to help mommy celebrate her 30th birthday. Your party was held a day early to coincide with the normal playgroup day, so on your actual birthday, mommy took you for a long train ride. We got on the subway in Central Square and just rode and rode. We switched cars, rode an above-ground line, and spent some time in the Boston Commons playground. We had a fantastic time and you were just thrilled with everything you saw.

Since then we've done a couple more train trips to nowhere and though they haven't inspired quite the same level of glee, I'm pretty sure they're becoming a regular fixture for us. I like just being with you, having no agenda, riding wherever the train takes us, and people watching.

Every weekend for this past month your father and I have been diligently working to finish your play structure. We finished last weekend, and though there's new grass seed in the yard (which means we can't really run around on it for a month) there has been no keeping you from your "orange playground." You love the sandbox, the climbing wall, the fort from which you can spray mommy with water and say "no girls!" You love the steering wheel and telescope, the swings and picnic table. You love the time outdoors with your dad, picking up worms and snails, and soaking in the sun. All of the work to put it up has been more than paid for with your happiness.

Your cousin Finn also loves following you around on your playground and burying himself in sand. You two are having great adventures together these days, and when you're not putting him into a choke hold or attempting to stuff him in the kitchen cabinets you seem to get along great. But if you had asked your uncle and aunt how things were going a month ago, they might have said something else entirely. Finn was still having a hard time standing on his own, so he would often use something - like your arm - to pull himself up. When he did this you complained, pointing at him and saying, "Finn pinch." Of course, that's not how it sounded to the grownups who burst into laughter and kept wondering why you were calling Finn a female dog.

As I write this your dad has taken you out to the playground and I am still in my pajamas recovering from a couple visits to the porcelain bowl last night. I was afraid I had caught this horrible bug going around which would have me wedded to the bed and the bathroom for a week. But I've managed to keep half a glass of water and piece of toast down, so I'm optimistic.

I'm still wary of giving you any illness, so I'm trying to keep my distance. It's incredibly difficult for me, since hugging and kissing you are highlights of my day and make me feel like nothing in this world could go wrong. I know there's a million more things to report, I'm leaving out telling about how intuitive you've become, how your language is growing, your compassion. I could talk about the great friendships you're developing, or some more of the fun places we've been together, but there will be more time for all of that.

As I close this last letter, I want you to know that I love you more than I ever imagined I could love someone, and that love is growing more each day. I am so proud of the little man you are becoming and so happy that I am lucky enough to be a part of your life. You are amazing, my River.

I love you love you love you,

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Random Tuesday Thoughts

Hello, and welcome to my random thoughts...

  • Bath time tonight featured a mushroom and two fireman stickers - stickers which say, "I visit fire sashun," according to River. The mushroom came from the fridge, a treasure pilfered while Thom got the cat food out to give the beasts their evening meal. River clung to the mushroom while brushing his teeth then put it on top of the stickers on the edge of the tub when he got in. The mushroom made it through the end of the bath and naked hide-and-seek and the pajama wrestle. It met an untimely end just before bedtime when River took a large bite and immediately spit it out saying, "Yucky."
  • A plant in our house seems to be thriving in spite of the fact that I don't remember watering it since February.
  • I really have to be careful about what I wish for. During a wicked bout of insomnia last night I thought, "I'd really like to snuggle River right now." Cue the immediate, intense cries from his room. After I brought him to bed for "just a little while", he proceeded to roll around for an hour and a half while I wobbled in and out of a delirious fog. Needless to say, nobody got enough sleep last night.
  • I'm craving fast food lately - horrible things like Taco Bell and Wendy's - and I think it mainly stems from my lack of sleep and even greater lack of exercise. It's like the fat cells in my body are lonely and want to create more friends. Tonight I turned my urge for a Wendy's baked potato with broccoli and cheese-like-substance into a much healthier homemade version. I also realized that River would never eat a baked potato, but he doesn't know the difference between a french fry cooked in a bucket of fat and a french fry baked with cooking spray. One round goes to The Mom!
  • Spring is here, leading to thoughts of BBQs, lounging on the deck, and soaking in the sun. It's funny, but none of those dreams feature the rusted bistro set that comprises the whole of our patio furniture. In order to make space for our imaginary new outdoor furniture we have to clear off the detritus from the deck - an ugly and overwhelming collection of junk we moved from our old house to the new one because we were too lazy to deal with it at the time. I feel embarrassed every time I walk out there, imagining we look like the Cambridge version of the Beverly Hillbillies with computer parts, empty sewing machine boxes, and hippy baby paraphernalia stacked near to the roof. Add it to the never-ending list of projects. Thom's folks have owned their home for almost 30 years now and they still have projects to work on just about every weekend. I guess I don't mind the idea of constantly working on the house as long as we get to enjoy it a little bit too.
  • The Monstrosity is complete. Now I never want to look at it again. Just tell that to the little boy who now has a playground in his back yard. Does that kid have any clue how good he has it?

Keely has the good stuff at The UnMom

Saturday, April 18, 2009


Thanks entirely to Thom and Kevin, the giant monstrosity in the backyard has seen some real progress this weekend. If all goes well with the weather for the next two weeks, we may be able to finish it before the end of April. Here are some pics of the boys scampering around on it.

Since this was taken, they got all the supports up for the lower-level deck and Thom built most of the roof for the upper level.

River is showing off his swinging skills here although it looks like he's trying to do a pull up. The pile of wood in the background is about 1/4 of the original. Seriously. What made us think we could do this by ourselves?

"I want YOU to come play with us."

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Random Tuesday Thoughts


Welcome to this week's edition of Random Tuesday Thoughts....
  • River has become a little voice recorder, playing back sound bites I don't even know I've uttered. Last week we were getting ready to go to brunch and in the spirit of helping us get out the door, River told us to, "Hit the road." Really? Okay, maybe we'll "put the pedal to the metal" too. At Thom's soccer game on Saturday I was explaining to River that we should cheer for daddy by saying, "Go Daddy!" I got distracted watching the game for a little while, but I must have been giving River more words of encouragement to use because the next thing I hear is, "Kick butt Daddy!"
  • I think I'm going to get into quilting. I'm slightly worried that I'll have to start wearing white nursing shoes and dye my hair blue, but I'm going to fight the granny image of quilting. I'm going to make it cool! You know, like knitting is all the rage these days - quilting is the next big thing. Watch out hipsters, you'll all be wearing quilted skinny pants and ironic quilted T-shirts soon!
  • Every time Thom tries to back up my computer or make it run more efficiently, I lose some capability - like my itunes library goes missing, my address book disintegrates (that was NOT cool), or today, my calendar suddenly says I can't open it because I "do not have the appropriate access privileges." Seriously, you're MY COMPUTER. I have all the privileges I want, you *(^$*(*%%^#$%^!!! I'm sure it's a simple solution, but for me fixing this stuff is like watching a monkey try to operate a microwave. I might get lucky and make popcorn, but chances are greater I'll explode a can of pork n beans.
  • Our kitty, Poe, has been making attempted prison breaks all week. She's an indoor cat (as have all my pets been since I lost two outdoor kitties in one week while I was in high school) and has never shown a great interest in getting out. In our current place she has tons of room to explore and lots spaces to hide, but maybe the horrible smell of her brother's missed kitty litter attempts are driving her away. I can empathize. It's driving me crazy too. Edgar stands in the box and just shoots a stream straight behind him onto the tiled floor. Thanks for that wonderful ammonia smell wafting through the house, Edgar. So Poe has taken to sneaking out any open door she finds. Usually, she has to build up the courage to make a break for it with a door standing open for more than thirty seconds and no humans nearby. But last night she zipped out between Thom's legs as he walked in from work. She got freaked out and hid on the first landing in the stairwell, but these bold moves are making me nervous. Stop trying to escape, Poe! If I promise you more playtime and brushing will you stay?
  • I brought River to the sewing shop yesterday and aside from encouraging me to buy a few spools of thread I didn't need, he did amazingly well. The secret is iphone applications. We have two great ones that are perfect for about 5 minutes of distraction: Peek-a-Boo Barn and Build an Alien. They're good for short trips to the bank or post office, waiting in the car while daddy gets his dry cleaning, or quick conversations with store clerks. I've also started carrying around crayons, paper, and stickers for times when we need more extended entertainment like daddy's soccer games, meals out, or waiting in doctor offices. We're good at the grocery store as long as River has a snack and he gets to help hold some things. That's what's working this week, at least. I'm sure next week we'll be back to square one.
Check out Keely for more random goodness at The UnMom

Monday, April 13, 2009

in the buff

River and I are in his playroom when I remember that he hasn't had a change since he woke up from his nap, oh, about an hour ago. He is very cooperative; he lays down on the floor for me and lets me get to work without complaint. I get through wiping and taking away the old diaper, the new one still under his bum, when the phone rings. Usually I would ignore it - not only because telemarketers have our number on speed dial, but I generally have this weird phone aversion - but at this particular moment I'm expecting a call from River's aunt and uncle. So I tell River to stay right there, I'll be right back, and I run to the other room to answer the phone.

At that exact moment, Thom walks into River's playroom from the back door and finds his son alone on the floor, pants splayed around his ankles, bits and pieces out for the world to see. He hears me in the other room, figures out what has happened, and chuckles to himself. River, however, wants to leave no doubt that this is not a situation of his own making and explains, "Diaper change."

Sunday, April 12, 2009

Happy Easter

Here's a little sugary goodness for you. I'm feeling a bit overwhelmed by life's obligations at the moment (the giant wooden monstrosity in the backyard isn't the only towering, unfinished project ahead of me), so as you can see, blogging is on the back-burner for a little while. I'm going to try to make the time to post more often than I have this past week, but I'm not going to stress myself out about it. I'd rather be happy in the real world than prolific in the intarwubs. I'm sure you'll be able to find some other amusing diversions in the mean time.


P.S. Photo courtesy Chocolate Moose Cakes

Tuesday, April 07, 2009

meditations on motherhood

A while back I got a comment from someone who thought that if I was feeling so angsty about having another baby I wasn't ready for a second child. It was one of only a few anonymous comments I've received and probably the first that wasn't completely flowery and supportive. Obviously, the commenter only wanted to offer some well-meaning advice, but I felt very defensive at the time. What do you mean I shouldn't have another child? Do you think I'm a bad mother? Am I a bad mother? I sure bitch about it a lot...

My blog is an open forum and by its very nature invites strangers to comment, but I don't make any money on this and it's principally a journal, so part of me felt that I didn't have any responsibility take (what I viewed as) criticism gracefully. Still, I tried to write a balanced response that didn't scream, "Mind your own business!" The whole episode made me realize how happy I am this blog runs under the radar and I don't have to worry about fielding less-than-glowing comments everyday.

Heather Armstrong recently wrote that she would be appearing on Oprah in a show about confessions on motherhood - a subject that is of obvious interest to me - so I recorded it. (And by the way, I would NEVER want The Wyrd Sisters to be as famous as Dooce is. The emails she receives would crumble me in 2 seconds.)

Most of the women on the show talked about how hard motherhood is, and how our expectations of what we should be able to achieve are so astronomically difficult, they're impossible really. Because we all think we should be The Perfect Mom, there is a culture of silence in which mothers put on a happy face at pre-school drop-off and never let on how overwhelmed they feel. They believe they're the only ones doing it wrong, the only ones who don't have it all together. And the fear that they will be judged for their choices keeps them from opening up to other mothers - mothers who are going through the same exact things.

Luckily the tide seems to be turning. More women are making connections with flawed, real mothers like themselves online - women who are brave enough to show the good, the bad, and the ugly face of motherhood. I feel very lucky to have found a group of women in my real life who have grown with me as a mother, whose children have grown with River, and we all find a way to express both the challenges and the delights of motherhood. Friends, family, my husband, this blog, and other blogs all give me an outlet to bitch about and celebrate it all.

I don't feel alone, but still, I often do feel inadequate. So it was fantastic to hear something that made me feel slightly less guilty about my shortcomings as a mother. This revelation was almost a toss-away comment from one of the guests at the end of the show, but to me it was a kernel of wisdom one might find after months of intense meditation or years of therapy. The woman said something to the effect of: Loving my children is easy. Loving the job of motherhood, not so much. It's such an obvious idea and not really that profound, but to me it was an entire shift in perspective. It made me realize I'm allowed to separate my (mixed) feelings about doing the work of a mother from my immense and overwhelming love for my child. Really, what woman loves cleaning up puke, waking up every hour in the night, and calming a screaming toddler in the midst of a tantrum? You'd have to be insane to say you love those parts of the job. It let me see that I don't always have to be a cheerleader for motherhood and I can still be a great mom. I may not always do a perfect job and I may not always love the job, there is never a single moment that I don't love my child.

And that will be true with one child or twenty.

Random Tuesday Thoughts


After a week off, I'm back to do my RTT update! Let the randomness ensue...
  • My 80 year old grandparents spent the past week in Africa, checking out the local wildlife. This is their second trip there. Since retirement they have been to Europe, the rain forest, Panama, Alaska, and a few other places I'm forgetting. Up until about 20 years ago they had never ridden a plane or left the country. Grandma says this is their last big trip. I hope you guys had a wonderful time! I know you have lots of adventures ahead of you - they just may not involve lions.
  • We bought a giant play structure at Costco this weekend and I don't think we quite understood what we were getting ourselves into with this purchase. The four 9ft boxes (plus slide, plus hardware boxes) required the rental of a pick-up truck to get home. If we had tried to tie that thing to the roof of our car, it may have made it around the block before flying off into oncoming traffic or crushing our car completely. Add the 1,000 lbs of playground sand we had to load - getting that thing home, unloading, returning the truck, and actually getting started took about 2 hours. We worked on construction (three adults building, one watching little ones) for another 5 hours and had to quit for the day on step 3 of 37. Two days later and I'm still sore. Do you think there's a construction fairy, and how do I get him to visit us?
  • Insomnia is lots of fun. It's like a present your brain gives you that you didn't ask for and don't want. Thanks brain. You're awesome.
  • River has a new friend. He's an invisible blue and orange monster that fits in his palm and goes by the name R-River. I never had imaginary friends that I can remember, but based on how fantastic this guy is, I wish I had. The name alone cracks me up. It's like some futuristic robot name. I know it's just a product of River learning his alphabet (R is for River), but I love that he used it to name someone. All of his other animals are named things like Monster, Big Bear, Little Bear. He can't say "this friend is a by-product of my subconscious and a figurative representation of myself." But somewhere inside he knows it.
  • I'm in love with The Dollhouse. Really I would watch anything that Joss Whedon wrote (and if you haven't seen Dr. Horrible's Sing-A-Long Blog yet, there is an empty space inside you that needs to be filled). So far the ratings on Dollhouse are bleh but I have hope that they won't Firefly this show and take it off the air before it has a chance.
  • We went to PetCo the day we picked up River's monstrosity playset, hoping to kill some time with the animals before the other stores opened. When we walked up to the sliding doors at 9:45am, they didn't open, so I checked the hours posted on front which said open on Sunday at 9:30am. We did what any parent desperate for entertainment would do and pried the doors open. (What? You wouldn't do that? You're a better person than me.) The lady at the front of the store was very nice and said, "Sorry, we're not open until 10." A fact which should have been obvious from the doors having to be, you know, pried open. But my mother always taught me false-advertising is wrong and I made a stink about the fact that the sign on their door was wrong. We walked away, me feeling very smug and put out. When we drove past the door on our way out of the shopping center I looked at the sign again to reinforce that smug satisfaction; however this time I noticed what the sign ACTUALLY said was Store Hours: 10am, GROOMING HOURS: 9:30am. And then I felt exactly like what I was: a giant asshole.
  • And just for the sake of saving the shred of dignity I have left, let's talk about snuggles. Snuggles are always good in my book. Yesterday River and I were killing some time at Whole Foods before a playgroup and about halfway into breakfast he had a snuggle attack and jumped into my lap. He then wanted to pretend it was naptime, saying "Night-night," asking for his (pretend) blankie, and telling me to rock him. It was pretty much the cutest thing ever.
Check out more randomness at Keely's place: The UnMom

Friday, April 03, 2009

and this and this and this

I'm having the hardest time focusing. I want to work on some HooberBloob projects, but my brain is completely scattered and I don't know which project to start. I want to write River's monthly update, but it seems like too large a task for my attention span right now. I need to fold laundry (that's been sitting in a basket for a week now) and do three new loads, but I have absolutely no desire to do that. And I feel like I owe my blog a funny, insightful post, but as you can see that isn't happening either.

I'm missing the sense of routine I had a month ago. Travel and guests and birthdays have disrupted my flow and my days feel a little cracked. I guess it doesn't help that during my precious morning sitter time River has become even more clingy and needy than usual. It seems like the moment I get focused on something, he charges in and cries for me to play with him. And how can I turn him down when he's so sad? I know I'm incredibly lucky to have this time at all, and I want to use it wisely.

Well, River is off playing trains pretty happily, I've just written a post (lame as it is), and I'm sitting at my sewing table ready to work. I just need to get started. So here I go...