Age four

My son turns four today.

I know that someday, he will be too old to sit in my lap, or cuddle me in bed. I know that one day, he will be more independent, driving to places on his own, spurning my affection.

The other day I was napping in my bed, and he came in to wake me up. As he cuddled into me, he said, “It smells wonderful in here.”  It’s something I remember myself, how your mother smells so familiar and comforting. The human equivalent of baking cookies and a fire in the fireplace.

Things I want to remember: How he constructs sentences. “I’d like an apple or snack of some sort.” How he makes his toys talk. How he pretends to be a female puppy named pumpkin, and announces her arrival with “Pumpkin is here.”

This morning, he was so excited for his birthday that he could not sit still. He bounced all day long.

Next week we are taking him to the beach. I can’t wait to show him the ocean.

I was thinking the other day of my sister. She lives close to our family. She has support when she needs it. Someone is able to watch the kids, drop them off, and watch them for weekends at a time (have enough familiarity with an external family member that this sort of thing would be okay).

I live far away from any family. They visit a few times a year. They skype with us every few months.

It’s so interesting because becoming a mother, for me, was a lot like being encouraged to jump off a cliff. Everyone’s telling you to do it and that things will be fine. So I did it. And then I was left alone to pick up the mangled remains, to heal myself.

I wish I could go back to that woman in the first year, and hold the baby while he cried for her. I would let her go out on the weekend once in awhile. I would hold her while she sobbed. We had no community. We still don’t. And that’s partially our fault. We don’t engage in it, we like our privacy. We like being out of the drama.

It seems like all my big life events were tragedies. My wedding was too hard to enjoy. The birth of my son was overshadowed by sorrow and neurosis. My graduation from graduate school was an afterthought. I have no life events left to ruin. But I also don’t have any to look forward to.



My son is now 2.5.  He would disagree and say he was two, and do so by holding up his chubby toddler hand with all five fingers raised. I’m guessing the implication is that you have to ignore the other fingers during the counting.

There are things I don’t want to forget about right now.  Like how he sometimes squinches up his face and talks out of one side of his mouth. It happens when he is feeling playful, and often accompanies a question.

I don’t want to forget how he said to my husband, “I’m so glad your back” after his return from work.  I want to be able to return to these moments at will.

He is a great traveler, now having flown to Arizona twice in his life.  We’re going to take him to New Orleans at the end of the month and rent a house with some friends who also have a toddler.  Get out of the snow and into a warmer environment.  Go to the zoo, see the aquarium.  I’m looking forward to it. That and beignets.

I have so many count downs right now. I am counting the days until spring (approx. 95). I am counting the years until retirement (30).

During his hardest tantrums, the ones where he throws himself on the floor and cries about seemingly insignificant things, I am counting the days until he turns 3.  I am under the hope that his little brain will make the connections it needs to make to understand how to control the situation better.  Things he has cried about in the last few days: Not getting to eat the wrapper on a candy, the fact that I tried to take the wrapper off of the candy, not letting him jump off the stool by himself, bringing him to dinner when he was watching a show.

This weekend my husband worked from six am until noon, which leaves me to do the babysitting alone.  I think I handled it better than I have in the past, but I wish I had some more time for myself this weekend.  Perhaps I need to take a vacation day soon.

2nd year journal

My son turned two about a month ago.  He is in this liminal state where he is both a baby and a little boy.  He turns and I see the long legs of a little boy, the scruffy hair, the rough and tumble movements.  Then the next minute, he will look at me with his bright wide baby eyes, and I can see nothing but my sweet baby.

My husband and I have decided that we would not have any more children, hard stop.  Yet, I sometimes get the urge to have another, go through pregnancy again.  It was such a magical time.  The anticipation of a new life.  It was lovely.  It’s the baby I’m not good with.  Everything that I wanted to do from breastfeeding to cloth diapering to baby wearing was impossible with this child, so there’s some part of me, some type-A ridiculous part of me that wants to try again to “get it right.”

In truth, it’s a good idea not to have any more.  We can travel.  We can only afford one.  My longing for more is a longing for a better life, which would be impossible for me.  I will never have a clean house, or a husband who doesn’t snore, or a perfectly organized kitchen.  I can never be a stay at home Mom, who gets pleasure from cleaning, or keeping up the house, or designing fun activities that are also educational.  I am not that good at life.  For me, life is sticky and lazy and rife with drama.  I will never make my own laundry detergent.  The lower level of my house will always smell like cat pee, and we will always have way too many boxes in my garage.  And the number of children I have will always equal 1.

As I reread this, I realized that I am resigning not having a second child to my own failing.  I wish it was about how 1 child is the right number, or that we were happy where we are.  But really, when you get down to it, it’s because I’m not good enough at balancing parenting, maintaining a household, and running a business.  I have a great deal of difficulty on any given day, and I don’t want to add further failure.

To coin a term

My husband and I have a term that we use to describe a certain state in which a person has had so much interaction with the baby that you begin to check out and/or get resentful.  Baby-ed Out.  You are in overload and the only remedy is to be away from your baby.

This weekend we were with our toddler and he was at full-strength.  I am not complaining in any way that he was healthy.  Make no mistake.  But full-strength also means that he was moving and touching and picking things up and turning over glasses and knocking over the lamp and throwing things.  He was in constant motion from the moment he woke up.

The good news is that for two nights in a row, he slept the entire night.  I never thought we’d get to a point where we’d have two consecutive nights of sleep.  Or mostly, I waffled between not believing that I was going to ever get sleep again, and the hope, the fable that I would have full nights again.

Yet again my husband and I are partaking in the magical thinking associated with this strange occurrence.  Perhaps it was the pajamas, maybe his old pajamas were keeping him up at night.  Maybe his diaper was itching him.  It causes us to put him in the exact same pajamas night after night, trying to replicate our initial results.  The truth is less superstitious.  He’s just gotten older.  He sleeps through the night sometimes.

He’s 23 months now.  Old enough to have a regular bed, if we needed to make it happen. Thankfully, he’s not a climber (yet) we’re not making any plans.

I’m not planning on having another baby.  I get a little sad as I’m selling my baby bjorn, or the swing with the little duckie on it.  A little sad, but I am able to sell them all the same.  My son will be an only child, because I am barely cut out for this.  It’s become clear to me that my tolerance level for kids is pretty low.  I’m ashamed to admit it, but there it is.

She Wears Many Hats

My son is almost 2 years old.  He walks.  He says funny things.  He has opinions.  He has preferences and can name all the colors.  He can count to 14 and express himself in 2 to 4 word sentences.

I am grateful that he is getting older, that he is developing.  I am interested to see what kind of person he is becoming.

My work, although difficult, has suffered by being a Mom.  Not just a little bit, but a great great deal.  It’s no coincidence that my business has experienced a deficit since around the same time that my baby was born.  The fish stinks from the head down.

I’m still doing it wrong.  And when I say “it” I mean “the balance.”  I still feel like I’m not doing anything well.  My house has mold in the basement.  Do I do anything?  No.  I just ignore it.  I’d rather spend the brief moments I have at home to watch reruns of Arrested Development and eat leftover Easter candy.  My bathtub has a ring of pink crud growing in the grout.  My carpet is so dirty that I’d rather walk around barefoot in a manure field.  The 30 second rule has ceased to exist in my house.  The terrors in my carpet and flooring negate any such ruling.

I still let my son sleep with us.  I know this is “bad parenting,” but I still can not seem to manage letting him cry it out.  At around 1-3 am, my son gets up and calls for us.  Either my husband or I get him into the bed with us, out of exhaustion.  It’s easier to have him in bed, than rock him for 45 minutes.  We’re teaching him bad sleep habits.  I lamented to my husband that he’ll be in college and  we’ll have to go to the dorm to rock him to sleep.

I wish I didn’t have so much stuff.  We have way too much stuff.  We have things that I want to throw out, but can’t because I might need it.  And there’s stuff that my husband’s family and my family has brought to us because it’s important to the family, but it takes up room.  Do we need a cheese plate made by my husband’s grandfather when there are dozens of other heirlooms that make more sentimental sense?  My house is a dumping ground with layers of detritus.  The bottom layer is stuff that I had before I became a Mom.  Fashion magazines, makeup coupons, movie ticket stubs, mementos from dates, art I meant to frame.  The second layer is stuff from when the baby was born.  Breastfeeding pamphlets, diaper coupons (expired), bibs, burp cloths, pictures of baby.  The third layer is all just shit that our families dumped on us because they didn’t feel they could get rid of it.  Things their parents made like lamps and tables, old books, old license plates, art supplies that we won’t use, tools acquired from years of garage sales, sports equipment.  The last layer is the saddest, because it sits on top of all this stuff.  It is what we live off of.  It consists of bills and NYTimes magazines, candy wrappers, notifications from daycare, tax notices, offers to repaint our house, children’s books, stuffed animals, empty lean cuisine cartons.

I want to escape for awhile.  This is terrible to admit, and I may have admitted this before in a previous, much older post, but sometimes I daydream about buying a plane ticket and taking off somewhere.  I would just disappear to everyone that depended on me, and go to somewhere tropical.  I would sit on the beach in my business suit, and squish sand in my toes, and eat fish tacos.

Of course, the fantasy is better as a fantasy.  I end up missing my family after they are out of the house for more than 3 hours at a time.  And they come home and I am relieved.

Across the vast emptiness

It’s been a really rough couple of days.

My business has been tanking.  Things are getting worse financially, and no matter what changes I make, improvements are slow or nonexistent.

My husband and I are fighting a lot.  I’m too wrapped up with my job, and it’s effecting how we interact.  Everyday, I’m just so close to having a major meltdown.  I’m truly failing at my job, and that’s a terrible feeling to have, especially since it once came so easily to me.

Then, suddenly, I found a possible job in Tucson.  I flew there to interview, and it went well.  They said they would get back to me the beginning of this week.  I am watching, waiting.  Can we move from this cold place?  Can I just leave the troubles I created here?  Start over?  Sell our house?  That in itself, seems like an impossible plan.  But people do that, right?  Is that what I would do?

I’m on the brink of a huge change, or a major meltdown, and I’m not quite sure what kind of post-interview phone call will elicit which response.

I made the Northwoods my home.  I’m curious to see if I can make the exact opposite climate my home.  I wonder if I can live without trees, or snow, or cold rainy days in March.  Will I miss it?  Will I even have the chance to consider it?

The merriment

Okay.  I get it now.  I get why X-mas is so fun when you have kids.  Before it was an obligation.  It felt empty.  Even last year when we had our son, who was 8 months old or so, it still seemed that way.

But now this year is different.  Our son loves Santa and trees and lights.  He gets excited to talk about presents and how he will get to open things.  Granted, he’s only 1.5 years old at this point, but he’s involved enough now that X-mas has gotten fun again.

I think the Oatmeal has a comic that alludes to this, which is pretty damn awesome.

We took our son to see the Holiday Parade in our town.  This was significantly disappointing for my husband and I.  It was approximately 12 degrees, and the parade took an hour to really get started.  Then the “floats” were just business vehicles with a string of lights haphazardly strewn on them.   So if you have a pickup truck you use for your contracting business, throw some lights on it and you have a “float.”  It was so disappointing and so long that my husband turned to me at the end, tense and tired from shivering in the cold for an hour while holding the toddler, and lamented that he thought that there would be no Santa at the end of the parade.  To him, the hope was gone.  The parade was so bad that he questioned the very fabric that X-mas parades are made from, the one constant, that of Santa.  I had promised our son that he would see Santa, and I was dead set on it.  Our son, however, was so bundled up that only his eyes were visible, and had no peripheral vision.  He was quiet to the point of worry, and a racing anxiety built in me.

What would win, my competitive drive to beat the cold to see Santa, or my anxiety about making sure my son and husband were safe?

Thankfully, the parade ended after the news trucks with blue lights passed, and there was Santa.  We all went home and hid our disappointment from each other on the parade itself and focused on how we survived the holiday parade in such weather.  Living in the northwoods, I’m sure it’s not going to be the last time that I worry about my son getting frostbite or frostnip.

The weather has been so much colder this year, that I am looking forward to spending X-mas in Arizona with family.  At least we can go outside and have our son run around and get some exercise.  I would love to see a little sunshine right now.