Wednesday, May 28, 2008

Happy to be here

Once upon a time, I was much more of a phone person than I am now. Brian would sometimes tease me after a long phone chat with Angie or one of my sisters and say, "What on earth could you two have talked about for that long? You just talked to each other yesterday!"

But that was exactly why we had something to talk about---because we did it often. We knew each other's cast of characters and the background to the stories, so we could (and still can) share the little things (that are really the big things) that would require too much back-story to make them worth sharing with friends whom we called less frequently.

Today I feel the impossibility of bring this site up to speed with the past couple of weeks, because both nothing and everything happened.

M D & H

First, my baby sister, who is about to have her own first baby, visited with her husband. They were both glowing in that magical state of anticipation. Aidan enjoyed having a whole bench of fans at his T-ball game, and Sean loved all the extra attention. Nolan fell asleep on Mimi's pregnant belly, and I couldn't help picturing the little cousin sleeping within, the two of them wrapped on each side of Mimi, like a little yin/yang symbol.

Splish splash pool

Then Angie's family of five came for an all-too brief visit. Despite the short length, it was packed full with waterplay and splashing in the kiddie pool, summer pasta salad with a BBQ and morning waffles, late night chats and a game of hearts. Sitting outside watching our kids playing together, Angie turned to me and said, "This is the moment we used to talk about in college" and I got chills up my spine---we used to hike Sabino Canyon and talk about the day our kids would play together. Of course, in our fantasy we were living next door to each other and this kind of afternoon was a daily occurrence rather than a rare treat, but still, I know how lucky we are.

And the kids do too. When it was time to go, first James and Charlie hid in the tent they'd made out of an air mattress, blankets, and the boys' bunk-beds. Then Aidan threatened to hide in their car. No one wanted to say goodbye. We appeased them with the fact that we'd be traveling to Flagstaff ourselves in a few weeks (now just a few days!) to celebrate Meagan's first communion.

Kev's visit109

Just a couple days later my little brother Kevin arrived for a week long visit. I'm 18 years older than Kevin, and even though he has been taller than me for several years now, I still think of him as the sweet 4-yr-old boy he was when I first left home. I think this visit permanently changed that---like it or not, my little brother has grown up. Not only is he taller than me now, he's a man. That makes me want to both cry a little and cheer out loud. It is made much easier to accept by the fact that the man he's become is smart, witty, generous and incredibly good with children. He likes to joke that he's going to wait till he's 50 to have any kids, but I'm not going to put any money on those odds.  

Kev's visit004

He's always been good at calming babies, and his nephew with the look-a-like chin was no exception.

I'm filled with that familiar feeling of wishing the world were smaller, that I could shrink part of it so that all my favorite people lived within walking distance. I so wish all these people and more were regular features in the childhood of my children. We pay a big price to live where we do.

Kev's visit104

But the payback is awesome as well.

One of the best things about having visitors is that it gets you exploring your own backyard.

Kev's visit055

Our two explorers want to live here. Living less than 5 minutes away from here isn't good enough.

Kev's visit065

Bri confronted a guy who was etching his name into the rock. Can you believe that?!? There aren't enough graffiti-filled places to visit, you need to add some to a National Park? Yeah, I still haven't quite gotten over that one.

Kev's visit044

Neither have I fully gotten over watching my son fly into the air at the annual Art Fair in town. Sure there was a trampoline below him, and cables attached to him, but my heart was still pounding as I was watching him go higher and higher.  Lucky for Aidan, everyone ignored my requests to not give him the full treatment, and Aidan loved it. First thing he said when he was safely on the earth again and saw me: "Did you die watching me?" This was said with an enormous grin that makes me more than a little nervous for the future.


Nor am I over the phone call I received on Monday that this little stinker had eaten a paintball while at the park with friends.

Turns out paintballs aren't poisonous, and it didn't get stuck in his airway or puncture his intestines or cause him to go into shock in any way.

It did however cause me to feel faint at the idea that he might need to have his stomach pumped, or worse. He was in great hands and returned to me safe and sound, but every momma has that feeling, "If only I'd been there..." It was Memorial day and I found myself crying an ugly cry that night for all the mommas who have suffered the unthinkable.

And as a consequence for his poor decision, he's had to deal with my need to hug him tightly at random moments throughout the day ever since.

There was so much sadness in the news this weekend. The toddler lost in the Midwest tornado, those lost in the crazy surf on the coast, and more. I find myself having to turn the radio off, shut off all the possibilities I know are out there, and just focus on here and now.

Which is why I'm posting, instead of sleeping, which is what I really need. I want to remember the joy of having my brother read A Movable Feast while here, about how I lost every bet I made with him (who would believe Truly Madly Deeply is unavailable on Netflix? Even if your reliable brother tells you so. That's crazy. Go add it to your queue right now and maybe if more people do, they'll finally get it), how great he was during unavoidable embarrassing new-mom-moments, and how crazy he thinks I am to dislike McDonalds with a passion but to love their straws.

I want to remember the way Aidan announced that this was "the best Saturday ever" as he sat down to the big breakfast Brian had made. And the way he read WALL-E aloud to us, and would get words he had no business knowing how to read and then stumble over a word like "there". Playing with Kevin's matchbox cars on the floor. Taking care of his three after-school "jobs" (putting away his shoes, cleaning out his lunch box, and washing his hands) before he devours a snack as big as dinner and then says he is still hungry.

The way Sean wakes up from his nap all sweaty and his hair all curly. His patience in the big city yesterday while I nursed Nolan in our car, in the Target parking lot. His continued patience when Nolan then filled his diaper the way babies do and we had to all go back into the store to clean him up, only to have him then explode again once everyone was in their car-seats. I ended up changing that diaper on the floor of the minivan. Sean just entertained himself through it all, singing his made-up song "Al's Toy Barn" and asking me random questions like, "Mommy, where's our green car?" (the Subaru we sold 4 months ago).

Laughing with Brian during what had to be the funniest idea on "The Office" yet:


"I work with numbers."

And 101 other snapshots I only took with my brain. I'm grateful for this little space in which to capture them. I think we're caught up now, or at least close enough. Glad to be back.

Monday, May 19, 2008

2 months old


Last Monday Nolan reached the 2-month mark, and we missed his dr. appointment that afternoon. It's just been that kind of week/month/year.  I'll add info this afternoon after his makeup appointment.

We have bets on, thinking Nolan is the biggest of our 3 boys at this age. He's got beautiful rolls on his thighs and a sizable second chin:-) He's already outgrown most of his 0-3 Months clothes, and is wearing size 2 diapers.

He's also gaining more neck strength and arm control. He loves being in his swing, for short spurts, and gazing at the toys hanging from his car seat during our meals. He slept from 9 pm until 4 am one night, seven hours straight! Of course he hasn't had a good night's sleep since then; he's been waking up uncomfortable with a stuffy nose every couple hours.


He's smiling like crazy now, though I can only capture the shadow of it once I put a camera in front of my face. He's on the verge of laughing, big wide open smiles and shooting his chin in the air, so ready to laugh. And cooing while looking us in the eye, trying to communicate. He was doing this last week while Aidan teased him with a rattle toy and I started talking in a funny voice, translating what I thought he was trying to say. Both boys thought it was hilarious, and Sean keeps trying to recreate that moment, holding a toy in front of Nolan's face and then saying, "Talk like Nolan, Mommy."

I've had several posts rattling around in my brain, with recipes I'd like to share and recaps with great visits we've had this week...but they'll all have to wait. So grateful just to have captured this moment a bit.

ETA: 14 lbs, 2 oz 13 oz., and 24", which is roughly 95% in weight and 90% in length...and the boy's head is huge: 16 1/2". But the doctor mostly commented on how strong he is (already lifting his head, etc), especially for his size (I guess big babies are often behind on motor skill strength precisely because the head is so big).  

Tuesday, May 13, 2008

A good weekend


I hope everyone had a wonderful Mother's day. When one's children are young, Mother's Day falls on the dad's shoulders. I couldn't have asked for a better day. I didn't have to make one meal, and even more exciting, I didn't have to make any decisions :-)  I woke to a yummy breakfast of homemade waffles with fresh strawberries and cream. And some orange juice in my favorite little glass; little things like that make me so happy.

Aidan proudly presented me with the sunflower he made with his grandmother during her last visit. (Thanks, Marilyn!). Bri surprised me with some real sunflowers in a pretty bouquet. Aidan decorated the marigolds' pot (with Franny K Stein of course) at school and gave me my favorite gift yet, a book about why he loves me. Following pages detailing how I help him in his "lab", there came this conclusion:


Aidan pointed out that I am saying "Aidan" and he is saying "Mom."

I used to be Momma to him, but I'll take Mom so long as it still comes with hugs.

Sean gave me his Planet Heroes Turbo Shuttle. And Aidan also built me a robot out of a cardboard box and a balloon, and told me it was a Cleaning-bot that would wash all the floors for me. Man, this kid knows the way to a mom's heart:-)

As requested, Brian picked up the camera that day, and he did get a good shot on our picnic at the Teacup.  Nolan had a good nap in the Bjorn while his brothers had fun getting wet and muddy with their dad in the creek.


There are 101 things I want to record here before they slip away, but Nolan is sleeping and if I don't soon, I won't get to. As of yesterday he's two-months. Insert here every cliche about it all going too fast. It's painful really, except that as they grow they become more and more engaging. A full update to come soon!

Tuesday, May 6, 2008

For the moms


When Aidan was born, my good friend Angie put together a book of "mother wisdom" for me, with short essays by my favorite moms---my sisters, my mom, my mother-in-law, and my closest friends who had children. It remains one of my favorite gifts ever.

When I became a mother, I was shocked at how little reading material accompanied me. Oh, there were plenty of "how to" books and I read plenty of them. But there were so few that offered a glimpse into how an individual had made her own way down the joyful and guilt-filled path of motherhood. (Notable exceptions: Tillie Olson's "I Stand Here Ironing"; Lorrie Moore's "People Like That Are the Only People Here", and a few Grace Paley stories. If any others come to mind, please leave the title and author in comments. Thanks!)


I have an insatiable need to read, and reading something that actually applies to what I'm living is a rare treat.  Which is why I'm so grateful for all the mothers who are sharing their unique journeys online. I'm grateful for all the mothers I've come to know via this blog or their blogs. 

In celebration of Mother's Day, I want to share some of my favorite posts by them:

By the Seat of Our Pants by Catherine Newman, on one of the worst pains in parenting

Loving the Mothers We Are from PrairiePoppins

Good, Better, Best from Stephanie in Alaska

Slow Learner from FinSlippy

Humanity by Pioneer Woman Ree

Press On from Molly Irwin, refreshingly honest about one of those days

Not having a *system* from MollyCoddle, a short reflection that this system-lovin' mom needed to read that day... 

And the best essay I've ever read on mothering, by the great Anna Quindlen.

Finally, for all the moms out there, Billy Collins reading "The Lanyard". You'll need to turn off the music if you haven't already. It's the first of the three poems he reads in this clip (thanks, Katie--great minds think alike!):

Enjoy your Lanyards this weekend. That is the magic of motherhood---we can find delight in anything made by our offspring:-)

And do me this favor--- hand over your camera this weekend. Get a shot of you with each of your children. 

In making Sean's ABC album, the hardest part was finding one photo of just him and me. There are possibly three photos of just me and Nolan out of the 1001 photos we've taken since he came home. Of course I don't like how I look in any of them.


All I see here, besides sweet Nolan at 5 weeks,  are the dark bags under my eyes, the pregnancy weight I've yet to lose, my need for a comb.

But I know enough to realize someday I'll find it priceless.

Anna Quindlen

NOVEMBER 2000 IF NOT FOR THE PHOTOGRAPHS I might have a hard time believing they ever existed. The pensive infant with the swipe of dark bangs and the black button eyes of a Raggedy Andy doll. The placid baby with the yellow ringlets and the high piping voice. The sturdy toddler with the lower lip that curled into an apostrophe above her chin.

All my babies are gone now. I say this not in sorrow but in disbelief. I take great satisfaction in what I have today: three almost adults, two taller than me, one closing in fast. Three people who read the same books I do and have learned not to be afraid of disagreeing with me in their opinion of them, who sometimes tell vulgar jokes that make me laugh until I choke and cry, who need razor blades and shower gel and privacy, who want to keep their doors closed more than I like. Who, miraculously, go to the bathroom, zip up their jackets, and move food from plate to mouth all by themselves. Like the trick soap I bought for the bathroom with a rubber ducky at its center, the baby is buried deep within each, barely discernible except through the unreliable haze of the past.

Everything in all the books I once pored over is finished for me now. Penelope Leach. Berry Brazelton. Dr. Spock. The ones on sibling rivalry and sleeping through the night and early childhood education, all grown obsolete. Along with Goodnight Moon and Where the Wild Things Are, they are battered, spotted, well used. But I suspect that if you flipped the pages, dust would rise like memories.

What those books taught me, finally, and what the women on the playground taught me, and the well-meaning relations and the older parents at cocktail parties—what they taught me was that they couldn’t really teach me very much at all. Raising children is presented at first as a true-false test, then becomes multiple choice, until finally, far along, you realize that it is an endless essay. No one knows anything. One child responds well to positive reinforcement, another can only be managed with a stern voice and a time-out. One boy is toilet trained at three, his brother at two. When my first child was born, parents were told to put baby to bed on his belly so that he would not choke on his own spit-up. By the time my last arrived, babies were put down on their backs because of research on sudden infant death syndrome.

As a new parent this ever-shifting certainty is terrifying, and then soothing. Eventually you must learn to trust yourself. Eventually the research will follow. First science told us they were insensate blobs. But we thought they were looking, and watching, and learning, even when they spent so much time hitting themselves in the face. And eventually science said that we were right, that important cognitive function began in early babyhood. First science said they should be put on a feeding schedule. But sometimes they seemed hungry in two hours, sometimes three, sometimes all the time, so that we never even bothered to button up. And eventually science said that that was right, and that they would be best fed on demand. First science said environment was the great shaper of human nature. But it certainly seemed as though those babies had distinct personalities, some contemplative, some gregarious, some crabby. And eventually science said that was right, too, and that they were hardwired exactly as we had suspected.

Still, the temptation to defer to the experts was huge. The literate parent, who approaches everything—cooking, decorating, life—as though there was a paper due or an exam scheduled is in particular peril when the kids arrive. How silly it all seems now, obsessing about language acquisition and physical milestones, riding the waves of normal, gifted, hyperactive, all those labels that reduced individuality to a series of cubbyholes. But I could not help myself. I had watched my mother casually raise five children born over ten years, but by watching her I intuitively knew that I was engaged in the greatest—and potentially most catastrophic—task of my life. I knew that there were mothers who had worried with good reason, that there were children who would have great challenges to meet. We were lucky; ours were not among them. Nothing horrible or astonishing happened: There was hernia surgery, some stitches, a broken arm and a fuchsia cast to go with it.

Mostly ours were the ordinary everyday terrors and miracles of raising a child, and our children’s challenges the old familiar ones of learning to live as themselves in the world. The trick was to get past my fears, my ego, and my inadequacies to help them do that. During my first pregnancy I picked up a set of lovely old clothbound books at a flea market. Published in 1933, they were called Mother’s Encyclopedia, and one volume described what a mother needs to be: “psychologically good: sound, wholesome, healthy, unafraid, able to deal with the world and to live in this particular age, an integrated personality, an adjusted person.” In a word, yow.

It is good that we know so much more now, know that mothers need not be perfect to be successful. But some of what we learn is as pernicious as that daunting description, calculated to make us feel like failures every single day. I remember fifteen years ago poring over one of Dr. Brazelton’s wonderful books on child development, in which he describes three different sorts of infants: average, quiet, and active. I was looking for a sub-quiet codicil (see: slug) for an eighteen-month-old who did not walk. Was there something wrong with his fat little legs? Was there something wrong with his tiny little mind? Was he developmentally delayed, physically challenged? Was I insane? Last year he went to China. Next year he goes to college. He can walk just fine. He can walk too well. Every part of raising children at some point comes down to this: Be careful what you wish for.

Every part of raising children is humbling, too. Believe me, mistakes were made. They have all been enshrined in the “Remember When Mom Did” Hall of Fame. The outbursts, the temper tantrums, the bad language—mine, not theirs. The times the baby fell off the bed. The times I arrived late for preschool pickup. The nightmare sleepover. The horrible summer camp. The day when the youngest came barreling out of the classroom with a 98 on her geography test, and I responded, “What did you get wrong?” (She insisted I include that.) The time I ordered food at the McDonald’s drive-through speaker and then drove away without picking it up from the window. (They all insisted I include that.) I did not allow them to watch The Simpsons for the first two seasons. What was I thinking?

But the biggest mistake I made is the one that most of us make while doing this. I did not live in the moment enough. This is particularly clear now that the moment is gone, captured only in photographs. There is one picture of the three of them sitting in the grass on a quilt in the shadow of the swing set on a summer day, ages six, four, and one. And I wish I could remember what we ate, and what we talked about, and how they sounded, and how they looked when they slept that night. I wish I had not been in such a hurry to get on to the next thing: dinner, bath, book, bed. I wish I had treasured the doing a little more and the getting it done a little less.

Even today I’m not sure what worked and what didn’t, what was me and what was simply life. How much influence did I really have over the personality of the former baby who cried only when we gave parties and who today, as a teenager, still dislikes socializing and crowds? When they were very small I suppose I thought someday they would become who they were because of what I’d done. Now I suspect they simply grew into their true selves because they demanded in a thousand ways that I back off and let them be.

There was babbling I forgot to do, stimulation they never got, foods I meant to introduce and never got around to introducing. If a black-and-white mobile really increases depth perception and early exposure to classical music increases the likelihood of perfect pitch, I blew it. The books said to be relaxed and I was often tense, matter-of-fact, and I was sometimes over-the-top. And look how it all turned out. I wound up with the three people I like best in the world, who have done more than anyone to excavate my essential humanity. That’s what the books never told me. I was bound and determined to learn from the experts. It just took me a while to figure out who the experts were.

From the Hardcover edition.Excerpted from Loud and Clear by Anna Quindlen Copyright © 2004 by Anna Quindlen. Excerpted by permission of Random House, a division of Random House, Inc. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.

Thursday, May 1, 2008

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