Wednesday, February 26, 2014

Charles Tells All

Meet Charles: the happiest guy around.  He's happy, high maintenance, hunky, and here to tell you all about his almost-10-month-old self.  Take it away, Charles.

Hey, guys.  Hi.  I'm looking at you right now and this is serious.  I'm thinking about you.  You're sitting there... reading this... I'm summing up the situation. You're probably awesome, but it's best to start off serious.  Okay, yeah.  Yeah, this is good!  Yeah!  I can't stop smiling!  Yes! I like you! It's official!  Let me tell you all about myself.

First things first, let's get one thing straight: food is meaningless.  Why people eat it is beyond me.  It's gross, it makes you gag no matter what, and I can't think of a single okay thing about it.  Milk is a different story. Milk is better than a million dollars.  I will never stop drinking it ever.  I will never not wake up 5 times in the night to drink it because I love it and no one can ever take it away from me.  That's all I have to say about that (actually, I could talk about it all day... I love it).

Music is pretty groovy, I have to say.  If you start humming, I'll start dancing.  Sometimes I even like to bop around when my mom is singing and trying to rock me to sleep -- she loves that.

If I see you fall down, there is nothing funnier.

Please come over to my house but, if you do, never leave.  That is really sad.  People should never leave.  I'm going to cry just thinking about it.

When I do cry, I really need my mom and I tend to say, "Mamamamamama."  I'm not sure why I say this.  It might be a coincidence or it might mean that I'm attempting to say something... I don't know myself well enough to know what I'm doing yet, so I'll get back to you on that.

My sister is really nice and I love her.  Sometimes she pushes me down or hits my head for no reason.  I cry a lot when that happens, my mom comes over and holds me, and then Alice and my mom talk a lot and Alice goes away for awhile and it gets busy around here.  But Alice is the coolest person I know.  When she's not around, it's not very fun.  It's kind of scary when she's not there to play with me.  Sometimes she takes my toys or tells me not to do things that I KNOW are okay to do.  She's the best, you guys.  She reads me stories and rubs my head and sings in my face.  When I'm bored she makes funny faces at me -- she's hilarious.  If I cry, she asks me what's wrong and hugs me really, really hard.  Sometimes her hugs make me fall down.  She really is the best.

I could go for some milk right now.

Sometimes I have something very specific in mind that I want... if you can't figure out what that is, I will be extremely angry.  You better figure it out.

However, if you take something from me that I shouldn't have, my heart will break. It won't make me angry, just the saddest baby ever.  How could you.

I think this about wraps up my life as an almost-10-month-old.  It's pretty confusing, but generally good.  If you'll excuse me, I need to go hang out.  ...but come with me... don't leave.  Come hang out with me.  Let's go.

Monday, February 24, 2014

Suh-no = Snow (and other Alice pronunciations)

Alice is coming up on 2.5 years and I can hardly believe it.  She has always been a little babbler, and so eager to babble and chatter that she is taking her sweet time actually learning the words she pretends to babble.  Finally, she seems to be slowing down enough to pause, listen, and learn words, and they're being pronounced in the best way possible. That said, I use this time to document some words that are uniquely Alice in pronunciation.

Suh-no = Snow (snow is yucky, in case you didn't know... it lands on cars and trees and makes a mess)

Cweeb = Crib

Taw-wees = Charles

Aw mawnin' = Good morning

Sussin = Medicine

Twends = Friends (everyone is a twend)

Munch = Lunch and/or sandwich

Beekies = Blankies

Aw dawb = Good job

Pawno = Piano

Bah = Umbrella

A-mawn = Amen

Ginks = Thanks

Last but not least, unfortunately, Alice thinks her name is Ass.  That's okay.  She'll get that L and I soon. We hope.

Hands down, our favorite word of hers is "cweeb"... it cracks us up every time.  At this point, her pronunciations are cute. If she keeps up this cuteness through age 3, I might get worried.  As for now, I'm embracing her sweet little baby talkin'.

P.S.  Alice has been stealing the show on the blog... Charles, you're up next, don't you even worry.

Friday, February 21, 2014

Let's Read Some Stories

The cries of her toddler's screams awoke her with a start.  "Eggs! Eggs! Eggs!"  A pause.  There it was again.  "Eggs! Eggs! Eggs!" Nothing about these screams should have startled the young mother, for they were a frequent cry heard in the early hours of the morning.  A silent moan welled up inside her -- that familiar tightness in her shoulders, resisting the day's monotony of splattered applesauce, smelly diapers, and the very real fear that catastrophe could, would, and should strike any moment.  The day itself began with the reminder of chaos, as Alice continued to scream from her bed, "Eggs! Eggs! Eggs!" The mother listened for her husband, perhaps in the kitchen starting his breakfast.  No, he had left for the bus.  Two cars in the driveway: one too dangerous to drive and too costly to repair, the other for her and the children.  Maybe they should get out of the house today... some place other than the grocery store.  Some place to justify her husband leaving an hour before he was due at work, compared to the 15 minutes it took to drive.

The mother turned to see her 9-month-old sleeping soundly on his tummy.  For a brief second she wondered how much more pleasant the morning would be if that baby were in the same room as the Egg Monster, no feedings through the night, just a normal morning with your body's energy a sweet reminder of the deep sleep of the night before.  That dear 9-month-old who much preferred feeding off his mother to a spoonful of anything a grown human might eat.  "Eggs! Eggs! Eggs!"  She crawled out of bed and made the one-second journey to the next room, the nursery. The morning sun always shone brighter in this room where behind, a mess of blonde bedhead, Alice greeted her with a rascally smile.  Alice's blue eyes stuck fast to her mother's. "Eggs?" she asked. 

                                                                         The End 

I often tell my husband that if he read more fiction -- or any story, for that matter -- life would make a lot more sense.  Caleb is an avid reader and a hungry learner, but he strongly prefers philosophy, theology, and the like to a book of fiction.  He's good at understanding information and there is nothing he loves more than understanding a topic backwards and forwards (is there any other way to understand something?).  While in college, I could walk into a Geography test knowing very well that there was plenty I did not understand.  This did not worry me because this was life... I studied my face off and didn't understand everything and that was that.  However, when Caleb worried about a test, it was because he "just didn't understand the concepts in the least. At all.  I know NOTHING."  As it turned out, knowing "nothing" about something simply meant he couldn't write a 1,000 page study on that topic but could, however, get a B on the test.  

Apply this way of thinking to life -- that you are an imbecile for not knowing your tire would spontaneously blow out -- and you have yourself the perfect recipe for mental insanity.  Yes, you creeton, you should have understood life enough to know that a speck of ketchup was just waiting to jump on your white dress shirt, you careless buffoon.  You know nothing.  You thought you could plan out your day, you thought you could impact the world, you thought you could finish reading that article?  Well, you didn't and it is obviously because you do not understand how life should work, and anything you don't understand is your fault, so try a little harder and learn a little more and get an A+  in life already.  Is this the voice inside your head?  Please read a story.

In books -- inside the hundreds of pages of a well-written story -- we find the timeline, in whole or in part, of a person's life.  We can read how Anne Shirley, a skinny little nobody of a red-head, is anything but a nobody.  We learn how Benjamin Bunny ignores his mother's instructions for the sake of adventure but, oh Benjamin Bunny, that is not the adventure you had in mind.  We explore the peculiar behaviors of Winnie the Pooh and all his friends, and join their grand adventures (and we might even have extensive conversations with our own Pooh stuffed animal, begging him to talk).  We can identify with the stubborn nature of Elizabeth Bennett, scoff at Lydia and Kitty's foolishness, secretly adore the meddlesome Mrs. Bennett, and nobody knows it.  We are free to assess the lives and characters of these people with no strings attached.  We can read as a fly on the wall or as Elizabeth Bennett herself.  We explore, think, and live in a way life would otherwise never allow us to explore, think, and live.  While we bury our heads in the sands of our own lives, we see the accomplishments, failures, outcomes, and consequences that the characters, whose own heads are so far buried in their own stories, cannot see.  We close the book with a higher understanding of our lives and a greater appreciation for a dreary day because that dreary day is just a speck of a thing to endure until we turn the next page into a new day where Mr. Darcy is confessing his love.  

Stories allow us to grow, imagine, and hope.  History is positively freckled with true stories that allow us to grow, imagine, and hope in the same way.  Life never looks as grand as it is until we make it a story; until we prove to ourselves how grand it is through the words we paint.  The sunny day with a picnic at the playground is not life finally made right, but rather a gift to enjoy and hold onto because when we turn the page to the next day, it could be filled with a tragedy for which only the sunshine could have prepared us.   

The small amount of fiction I have read (even as an English graduate) is appallingly embarrassing, but I think it's safe to say that I was shaped most by the stories I grew up reading.  If you have kids, show them the gift of stories.  If you want to teach the crazy voice in your head to be a sane voice of comfort, read any good story.  Learn from Noah, Moses, Ruth, Bloody Mary and Queen Elizabeth, Lucy Pevensie, Ramona Quimby, Montresor and Fortunato, Jane Eyre, Hulga Hopewell, Harry Potter, and Frodo Baggins.  Yes, that list turned out completely strange, but you get the idea: read a story.  

Stories open our eyes to possibilities and write ambition into our bones.  Stories help us make sense of the bleak and find hope in failures.  Stories help us rejoice when we are served our favorite dessert or get a new car. Stories are how I awake to a day burdened with the mundane, but suddenly see its meaning in the sunshine behind my daughter's blue eyes.

Wednesday, February 19, 2014

Temple, Tapping Into My Toddler's Toes

It might be a little belated, but it wouldn't seem right to let my blog go without recognizing the passing of Shirley Temple.  My sisters and I adored that happy, singing, tapping, bouncy-haired girl, and she is forever etched in my childhood.  Naturally, I want to pass down this love to Alice and, because she's a dancing fool, she has had no trouble becoming attached to the dancing ways of Shirley Temple.  I adore her bizarre 2-year-old interpretations of Shirley Temple's moves.  Alice has always loved dancing, and I'm sure Shirley -- or, as she calls her, "Temple" -- will impact Alice in the inspiring way she did my sisters and I.

At Alice's 10-week ultrasound, she was dancing.  If you've seen Bubble Guppies, she looked identical to a dancing Bubble Guppy.  In the womb she was a rollie pollie, and I told Caleb almost daily that we had a dancer on our hands.  Lo and behold, she was born with the cord wrapped around her 3 times, she was so busy dancin' it up.

Dance away, little Alice!  I completely support your choice of a role model.

Alice's favorite "Temple" song.

P.S. I'm deeply sorry for bringing something as horrifying as Bubble Guppies into a conversation about Shirley Temple.

Friday, February 14, 2014

Faces I Love

Happy St. Valentine's Day!

Who are you expressing your love and adoration for this Valentine's Day? These are some faces I kind of love:

1. Alice's sweet face
2. Charles' sweet face
3. The man in the Hawaiian shirt.  Caleb, the guy in the glasses, comes in a solid 2nd place to the man in the Hawaiian shirt.
4. Dark chocolate.  Dark chocolate is, in fact, a face.

I also love that Caleb (that guy in the glasses) did this to my college house when we were dating.  I woke up on Saturday morning and, to my great heart-melty delight, my house had been covered in beautiful paper hearts.

He's pretty great like that.  The Hawaiian man is even greater.

Wednesday, February 12, 2014


Breakfast without a hipster headband is no breakfast at all.

Monday, February 10, 2014

The Backwards To Do List: Lessons In Epic Motherhood

"I feel like I never get anything done," said every mom ever.  EVER.

Today I learned a little trick and a lesson for all of us moms who feel like a cog inside of a cog that's turning a cog (figure that one out).  This is the short story of how that lesson and the Backwards To Do List came about:

This morning began as most mundane mornings do, with my toddler whining like death from her crib.  She's never actually upset, she just likes to greet the day with a dramatic display of how desperate she is to get out of her crib.  We played a bit, soon Charles woke up, and I got breakfast going.  Messes happened, there was a short "I can't eat the rest of my scrambled eggs" crisis as well as an "I'm all done" crisis, but we pulled through.  Like a robot, I worked on auto-pilot and wiped food off the table and highchairs, the floors, counters, and children. I changed diapers, nursed and put Charles down for a nap.  Alice and I entertained each other.  Between primal conversations with Alice, shushing her loud singing, and scooting her away from the bathroom toilet, I got dressed.  I was soon back in the kitchen, making grilled cheese and steaming green beans.  We ate.  Charles awoke.  Charles ate. Alice spilled some green beans.  I blended some green beans for Charles, had some extra, put it in the freezer for later.  I finally put Alice down for her nap and came out of her room, Charles on my hip, tired and sighing.  I thought my frequent thought, "I never get anything done."  I had a sink piled with dishes to hand wash (no dishwasher in these parts), Charles was cranky, and I still had clothes to fold and dinner to think about and "Uuuugh, I'm so tired."  I hate feeling bogged down/sad/depressed, and I do what I can to make those feelings right because they have a tendency to overcome me and I just flat out hate feeling that way... so I grabbed a pen and paper and started writing.

I did not write what I had to do.  I wrote down everything I had already done... even the things I would never normally put on a "to do" list (like changing a diaper), I wrote down.  If I had put my time and effort into it, it went on the list.  With this list I discovered that by 1:30 I had:

- Exercised and dressed
- Cleared the clean dishes in the kitchen
-  Kids dressed/diapers changed throughout day
- Made breakfast and lunch
- Made baby food for Charles
- Swept the kitchen/dining room
- Organized a stack of clothes in our bedroom
- Made the bed
- Tidied the living room after putting Alice down

I then wrote down what I saw around the house that was burdening me with MORE things to do:
- Tired/needy Charles
- Clothes needing to be folded
- Dirty dishes
- Messy desk
- Dinner to be made

The first list - my Backwards To Do List - was impressive!  The second list - more of a To Do List - turned out to be minimal in light of what I had already accomplished.

I do get things done.  Moms out there: you do get things done.  The problem is that these things happen everyday: life feels like a toddler treadmill because life IS a toddler treadmill.  What is a toddler treadmill?  It's that thing where you are walking ahead of your toddler, cleaning all of their messes and toys and spilled food, and they are right behind you, creating a new mess that you continue to clean that they continue to mess up and so on.  You - we - are constantly doing and re-doing and it gets really, really old.  It makes your weary self look back on the day and say, "How special! I maintained the status quo!"  And then you wade through your messy house and wonder if you'll ever get anything done.

When this happens, sit down and write a Backwards To Do List.  You will very likely see that maintaining the status quo is a very difficult task, full of hard work that you should be proud of.

What's that you say?  It's hard to be proud of changing a diaper, drawing a fish 567 times, staying in your pajamas until 11, and your most intellectual conversation of the day being about the color blue?  I'll give you that.  It does feel stupid to be proud of that.  It would feel a lot more worthwhile to be proud of something you accomplished that challenged you, used your brain, pushed you, and gave you immediate results, maybe including a gold star and pat on the back.

But I will leave you with my conclusion to the lesson behind this madness: if diaper-changing, fish-drawing, pajama-staying, and blue-talking are not a challenge to our adult selves, why is it so hard to get through a day that is full of such things?  Because they are challenging, but perhaps not in the way we would like.

As mothers, we have been given the task of rising to the occasion when poop happens.  Doesn't that sound meaningful?

As mothers, we have been given the task of responding to our child's screams of "I DON'T WANT THESE PERFECT-LOOKING ORGANIC APPLES THAT YOU SLICED AND PEELED SO CAREFULLY FOR ME," when all we can think about is the now freezing bowl of soup we have been waiting an hour to eat.  That sounds positively stupid.

As mothers, we have have been given the task of hugging, comforting, and loving when our child cries.  That sounds a little more meaningful.

As mothers, we have been given the task of showing these little humans -- who have seen so little of life and whose hearts are so fresh that they don't know how to say "no" to themselves, how to hide their emotions, or how to think of you before they think of themselves -- how to function, live, and love.  That is deeply meaningful.

When you kiss their chubby cheeks at 12:00 in the afternoon, still in your pajamas because they haven't allowed you to think of yourself, you are teaching them selflessness.  When you correct their screams with a calm voice, you are teaching them self-control. When you direct their hands away from the toilet, you are teaching them common sense.  When you talk about the color blue, you are teaching them the art of conversation.  Do all of these things without loathing, and you teach them love.

You would think being a part of such large accomplishments in a little human's life would make every day feel epic.  I wish.

Pray for patience, be tender-hearted, and strive to see the wonder behind a house covered in crayons, dollhouse people, squished peas, and smelly diapers.  When you can't see the wonder and would rather give up and die, play the Lord of the Rings Sound track, write a Backwards To Do List, and bask in how epic motherhood can be.