Sunday, August 31, 2008

The end of the beach trip

Oy. I think I need a vacation to recover from my vacation.

We got home around 8 p.m. or so last night. We unloaded the car and plunked the little guy into the bathtub and then in the crib before we collapsed. I think we were more exhausted than he was, though...running up and down the beach for a week didn't seem to put even a tiny dent in his energy reserves. If there was a sand castle to be found, William found it and wanted to play there. If there were "friends" to play with, William was there in the middle of them. Sure, William was sometimes content to sit next to us under the umbrella and dig with his toys...but not if there was action elsewhere. He could smell it. Like sharks can detect a drop of blood in a mile of ocean, William could sense when there were people building a giant sand castle nearby. The Toddler Sixth Sense.

And God love him, poor David had to chaperone most of these forays up and down the beach.

But I think David and I are finally getting good at this travelling-with-a-small-child thing. Well, maybe not good, per se. But better. Definitely better.

For example, we have learned how and what to pack to make a road trip with a small child as painless as possible. That is: snacks, snacks, more snacks, books, Sesame Street CDs, and snacks. Put sunscreen on the kiddo, stack a bunch of fun books up next to his carseat, add in a Magnadoodle, and hand over the snacks. Play the Sesame Street CD a lot, sing along, and pass some more snacks around.

We also gave in and borrowed Leland's portable DVD player with a batch of DVDS. So when William got really whiny (which blessedly was not often) and we were just done with the whole singing-of-songs and looking-out-the-window, we just stuck an Arthur DVD or "Finding Nemo" in the player and let him bliss out in front of the tube. Actually, we only resorted to using the DVD player for about an hour on the way to Holden Beach and maybe two and a half hours total on the way home. Considering that it's about a ten hour drive, that's not too bad, I don't think.

And in anticipation of ending up in a fast food joint or gas station without a changing table (which, grrr, happens more often that it should), I packed plenty of Pull-Ups so I wouldn't have to sprawl my child out on his back on some grungy floor. Dear McDonalds Corporation: Why are you letting people open franchises with huge spectactular plastic playgrounds and Happy Meals full of Star Wars toys but no changing tables? Don't you know that if kids eat all those Happy Meals, there's going to be an end result eventually?

We made it home without any bloodshed. Hurrah! Of course, William did a spectacular running faceplant into the sidewalk in front of our house this evening, so anyone who sees us will undoubtedly think our vacation was a terrible disaster, judging by the goose egg on his forehead. It's a beauty. He looks like a very small extra from a made-for-TV horror movie.

But seriously, we had a good time. And aside from the little matter of the lockout (ahem), it was relatively drama-free and fun for all of us. One of the highlights for William was getting to walk down the beach to "the ice cream cone store" twice during our week in Holden Beach. He managed to devour a huge cup of ice cream during each visit. It made such an impression on him that when the little boy next door stuck his head over the porch railing to say hello the next day, William called out to him, "You go to the ice cream cone store? You get toclat?" Forget more important little-boy issues. Ice cream. That's where it's at.

As for David and me, we had been looking forward to fresh seafood. David took a field trip....somewhere...and come back with shrimp, which we boiled and devoured on our last night. That was a great meal, I have to say, not just because of the food but the entertainment. Out of nowhere, William busted out with his best imitation ever of his father during dinner--"William! I tell you! Go to bed!" said in a very deep, mock serious voice. David and I almost choked to death on our shrimp, we were laughing that hard. We already knew we needed to pay attention to what we are saying, but I don't think we realized that our own words were going to be parroted back to us quite this soon...

Another highlight isn't really a highlight, but it's something that I always enjoy. We got to sit and enjoy the ocean breezes from our little patio. There's just something about that endless rhythm of the waves washing over the sand and back out to sea. A glass of white wine, a chair on the patio, and the ocean air. It's so relaxing that it should come with a prescription.

But David and I...dare I say it?...were even pretty much ready to come home by the time Saturday morning rolled around. We had a lovely, lovely time, but all the beach-walking and the sunscreen-applying begins to take its toll after awhile. At least on us. And giving a sand-encrusted William two baths a day? Yeah, not one of the things that I will remember fondly. We had to give him two baths a day...he managed to get himself evenly coated all over with sand, almost like a piece of battered chicken ready for the fryer. And to think that we actually worried at the start of the trip that he was going to hate the sand! So, after six days of that, we were happy but ready to come home. And I think that's par for the course, don't you?

Thursday, August 28, 2008

Please, tell me you have a key

How is it that someone this cute

can wreak so much havoc?

I'm sure you know that's not just a rhetorical question, too. Lesson In Parenting No. Something Like 546: Always Take a Key With You. To the mailbox. To the car. To the backyard. Heck, it might not even be a bad idea to take a key with you to the bathroom. And yes, for God's sake, take a key with you when you walk out onto the porch of the beach house.

As you may have now guessed what what my dear sweet son did yesterday, let me just confirm your suspicions. My lovely child managed to lock me and his daddy out of our beach house this morning. David and I were standing there on the deck wearing only our bathing suits, all greased up in our sunscreen, while our son was grinning at us from inside. Drunk in his newfound ability to lock and unlock doors, William had bided his time, waiting for me to step out onto the porch so he could bounce up and flip that deadbolt.

We stood there for the better part of 15 minutes, screaming through the glass door, "Turn the lock! To the right! The right! No, the RIGHT! Please? Please turn the lock and open the door! Please? Come ON, William! Open the door!" Was that an effective strategy? Yeah, not so much.

And he looks so angelic, right? Harumph.

Finally, David jammed his beach flip-flops on his feet and went stomping off. He was going to walk the three miles down to the rental agency to get another key. And he was Not Amused. Meanwhile, William grinned and giggled and pretended to turn the lock when I was dancing up and down in front of the door, flapping my arms uselessly like a mad duck, trying to talk him into turning that blasted deadbolt. I'm not quite sure but I think I heard him say, "You funny, Mommy!" Of course, then he cried loudly when I turned away and walked down the porch in frustration. When he got bored with me at last, he went and found his new lift-the-flap book from the North Carolina Aquarium to entertain himself.

Did I mention it was hot, and I was all greasy with a thick marinade of sunscreen? I worked up quite a sweat doing all that useless flapping and cajoling. Ick. I felt like a glazed doughnut.

Luckily, our upstairs neighbors came down the stairs when I was about to go crazy (okay, crazier than usual) and asked what was going on. The husband ran up to get his keys and took off in his car to pick up David and drive him down to the office and back. Thank God. I was dreading the thought of dealing with David after six miles of walking up and down the beach in the hot sun at mid-day when he could have been lounging in the shade under the beach umbrella, where his son could bury his feet in the sand.

So it all worked out. See, we're all still friends here:

And yes, we learned our lesson. I stashed an extra key in the beachbag, and David put one in the pocket of his swimsuit. I'll be making, oh, a few dozen extra house keys when I get back to Nashville. Nashville peeps, let me know if you want to be a Keymaster, 'k?

Another couple beach shots:

More pictures to come, of course...

Monday, August 25, 2008

The beach, 2008 version

Greetings from Holden Beach, NC!

We made it safely here on Saturday afternoon, after spending a wonderful first-half-of-the-weekend with our friends Alethea and Glenn and their son Graham in Chapel Hill, NC. I promise to post pictures of the boys together when I finally dig up the cable that will connect the digial camera to the laptop. They were adorable together, though, just in case you were dying of curiosity.

Anyway, we're here, and it's been great so far. William sighed deeply en route on Saturday afternoon and said, "I miss my people. I miss my Leland," referring to his buddy Leland (see previous post). David and I tried not to fall out of the car, laughing. The melancholy doesn't seem to have inhibited William too much since he got here, though. Whew. Yes, we do miss the regular beach crowd, particularly William's grandparents, but we're surviving so far.

We did have one big uh-oh moment on Saturday evening when we took William down to the beach for the first time. William agreeably toddled down the wooden boardwalk and down the stairs to the sand....only to pull up short. Oh God. Was William going to be the torch-bearer of a dubious Wyckoff tradition: being afraid of the sand? David was afraid of the sand at age two. Was this yet another example of dominant genes? Please, no, I prayed. No amount of convincing and persuading or, er, threatening, could talk him off that last wooden step. Finally, I gave in and picked him up, all 32 pounds of him, and lugged him over the soft piles of sand to the firmer packed-down sand. I plunked him down, and held my breath. Luckily, after a few grouchy seconds, he didn't seem to mind. He quickly realized that there was a beach full of shells to examine, and the shells won out.

Ever since then, he's been mostly fine walking on the firmer sand, but he still wants to be carried over the softer dunes. Sigh. He also gets very very upset when David walks down to stick his feet in the shallow water. Imagine a small boy turning bright red and jumping up and down on the sand, with angry tears pouring down his face. That's what happens every time one of us dares to get near the waves, especially William's beloved Daddy. I guess William worries David, the orignal Mr. Measured and Cautious, will get carried away, wading there in the ankle-deep water, ane he'll get dramatically swept out to sea. Poor William. David finally tricked him, in a kind, caring, measured and cautious way of course, to wading in a fine stream of water this evening. After William realized the shallow water wasn't so scary, he began to enjoy himself. In a wild, water-splashing, sand-flinging manner. Yeah. The wet, sandy clothes he was wearing are now drying out on the patio as I type this.

But seriously, we've had fun. We've collected pocketfuls of shells and we've watched people fly kites. We went to the nearby aquarium when it rained today, and we played Candy Land when we got home. We have four more full days, too. I'm looking forward to walking down the beach to get ice cream cones tomorrow after dinner...

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

A walk in the park

I just realized that I really haven't posted many pictures lately. Let me remedy that right now.

Here are some photos from the day that William and I met up with his friends Leland and Mary-Allen and their parents at Dragon Park down near Vanderbilt.

The obligatory "Look! We're riding the dragon!" photo:

And another one. Leland had just jumped off, but William and Mary-Allen were happy to pose for another nanosecond or two.

The three little monkeys on the see-saw! Mary-Allen, William, and Leland.

After running and jumping and getting very, very dirty, the kids were delighted at the prospect of lunch on the patio at Macdougals, a casual joint that serves chicken fingers. I don't have any good pictures of the kids at lunch that really shows off the sheer mess that we made, but trust me on this: there was so much ketchup spattered around our table (and under our table) and on our children that it looked like CSI: Macdougals by the time we were ready to head out.

Walking back to the car, with Mary-Allen's daddy as chaperone:

I wish I had been able to video the kids while they were walking in their little daisy chain, because they were giggling so hard they could barely walk.

And finally, here we have a rare photo of adults! That's me, Mary Clare and Jerri. Without our children. I know. Amazing.

Sunday, August 17, 2008

Toclat or strawbewwy?

Just a quick funny anecdote.

So William has gotten really into "pretend." I mean, he loveslovesloves to make believe, especially if it involves one of his favorite things on earth: food. He loves to pretend that he's making pumpkin pie. He mixes it up in an invisible pie pan, puts it in a theoretical oven, and then he'll come over and pretend to serve me a piece of pie from a (real) coaster.

He's also gotten into this game where he pretends to bring me a birthday cake, too. He brings me an imaginary cake, tells me what flavor it is, then sings the Happy Birthday song, and then immediately leans over and blows out the candles. And then he does it all over again, except with a different flavor of cake. We must have gone through, oh, 20 or 30 cakes yesterday before dinner. Toclat (chocolate), strawbewwy (strawberry), wemon (lemon), and booberry (blueberry) are the officially sanctioned choices of cake, just so you know. There apparently is No Such Thing as imaginary caramel cake. Or imaginary raspberry cake. Believe me. I tried. One can only eat so many imaginary toclat and strawbewwy cakes.

And he loves to hand out make-believe ice cream cones. Usually, he'll give you three or four ice cream cones in a sitting. And he varies the flavors so you don't get bored. You might get toclat one time, and then strawbewwy the next. And if you can hang in there, you might even get vwanella (vanilla) or wemon. He's very good at sharing when it comes to invisible ice cream cones.

So the other day in the car, he pretended to hand me something. Assuming that it was yet another pretend ice cream cone, I put my hand back to meet his hand, then lifted my hand toward my mouth. Pretending (see, I can do this too!) it was a big ice cream cone, I took a big pretend lick and said, "Mmmm, yummy."

Silence for one beat. Then William pipes up from the backseat. "No, Mommy, that a mouse!"

And then because I guess he was concerned that I was really going to eat the mouse, he added urgently, "Hand him back to me!"

Here you go, kiddo.

Friday, August 15, 2008

Internalizing parenthood

Thanks to everyone for understanding my need to write about Kathy in my last blog post. Some people just make that kind of impression on you, you know?

It got me thinking about how we change when we become parents. Maybe not on the outside (er, well, except that lovely post-pregnancy body that some of us have going...cough...months, years later...). But inside, yes. For me, it was imperceptible at first, mostly just a seed inside me, obscured by my general exhaustion. Eventually, it took root and flourished.

It was a gradual process. Miller and I recently had a conversation about it. Are we still the same self that we were prior to having children? The same self that we were ten, or even twenty, years ago? Do we still contain, at heart, the essence of the self that we have always been? I think so. I know she does, at any rate, and I'm pretty sure I do. But has my lens through which I view the world been altered in some way? Not radically changed, but altered by the perspective of being a parent. Absolutely. Not overnight. Not even in a few months. But it has happened. I expect it will continue to evolve as my child gets older.

I've mentioned time and again how I react much differently to the thought of children in danger now than I did before I was a mother; I can no longer purely look at something as an abstraction but instead feel a visceral sense of panic. I always threaten to walk out of a movie if something terrible happens to a child, and believe me, it's not just an idle threat. In fact, in some ways, I feel like I react more viscerally to a lot of things now. Many things seem to nudge the mama bear inside of me, making me instinctively rear back not just at potential danger but at anything that could potentially threaten my family's existence as it is now. When a sports announcer mentioned a few nights ago during the Olympics coverage that the Chinese usually take prospective gymnasts away from their families at age three to begin the intensive training it requires to become a world-class athlete, I remarked flatly to David, "Someone could take away my three-year-old son from me when they pried my cold dead fingers off of him."

But then sometimes, I have to make a conscious effort to not just react as a parent but to behave like a good parent. I have to stop and think now about whether I am behaving in a way that I would want my child to emulate. Am I really acting like a good role model? Sometimes I don't want to, but I have to, and that's really hard. (See: Times when someone does something exceptionally rude, like cut me off in traffic.) I even have to censor my words, now that William is old enough to really understand what I'm saying. I'm trying to not say words like "stupid" and "hate" because I really don't want him to say those words, particularly before he's old enough to understand the pain that they can inflict when wielded against someone else. I learned that the hard way when I muttered, "Stupid bunnies" at the evil tomato-murdering rabbits that lurk in my backyard; a few seconds later, the cheerful echo of "stupid bunnies! stupid bunnies! stupid bunnies!" came back to haunt me.

I am at once stronger and more vulnerable now than I can ever remember being. Do I view Kathy's death differently once I became a parent? Yes. It was always a tragedy. It always took my breath away. But once I became a parent and internalized the knowledge that I am a parent and incorporated it into my self, I could no longer just mourn the loss of my dear friend but also ache for the mother who lost her own child.

P.S. Sorry for the horrible post title. I know it sounds like a boring parenthood self-help book. But I was fresh out of good ideas. I had my mind on other things.

Wednesday, August 13, 2008


Five years ago, I had just started my new job as a reporter for The Desert Sun newspaper in Palm Springs. I'd been on the job about a week and a half, when my husband called my new office. An old friend of mine from Birmingham had called and left a very odd-sounding message, and it sounded ominous. I hadn't talked to that particular friend in months. Something was wrong, very wrong.

My first thought was that something had happened to one of our mutual friends. But I decided to wait until I got home that evening to call Mary Beth back. But an odd feeling nagged at me.
Then my father called my cell phone as I was driving home. As it turns out, the news was much worse than anything I could have dreamed up.

Those of you who have known me a long time have doubtlessly heard my stories of my old friend Kathy. We always called her Kathy Potts P-O-T-T-S, yes, actually spelling out her last name after the fact. Sometimes we just called her Potts P-O-T-T-S. The joke came from a friend's futile effort to give her name to the hostess at a restaurant that we often frequented in high school. As if Kathy wasn't already memorable enough, she got a very memorable nickname.

Man, she was a hoot. Trust me on this. She was hilarious, and headstrong, and warm, and so many other things. She and I knew each other as young children on a local swim team, but we really became a pair many years later at a Presbyterian youth conference when we nearly got thrown out of the worship choir together. And after that, we were sort of a team. I was two years older and arguably more serious and probably a touch more responsible. She was younger and more impetuous and far more charismatic. We balanced each other out. We had our own encyclopedia of inside jokes. We made jokes out of stupid things: Bryan Adams songs, quilts, knock-knock jokes and cake. We concocted a wonderful farcical tale of what we would do together in our old age; we planned to buy an old house and sit together on the front porch and make quilts and go to the local Shoney's for the early bird special and play bingo and attend our friends' funerals for fun. We stayed close all through college, despite attending different schools. The Rhodes crowd came to know her and love her, too. I even have photos of her attending Amy Hall's wedding with me and my college friends. She was another part of me.

We only began to grow apart much later, mostly because of distance. She stayed in Alabama. I moved to California. She got married, and I was a bridesmaid in her wedding, telling her that she was too skinny and cracking ridiculous jokes in the bride's room beforehand. She missed my wedding, desperately sick in her first trimester of pregnancy. She called me for the last time the night before I started my new job in Palm Springs, and we chatted about her new baby son Mason. She urged me to come home for a visit soon, saying she was desperate for me to meet Mason. Although I'd been nursing some resentment since she'd missed my wedding the previous fall, I could never hold a grudge of any size against her. I loved her. That was a precious conversation. Still, when I hung up the phone, I felt like something was, and I never could really full articulate what.

I found out ten days later, driving along Highway 62 in the shimmering summer desert heat, when my father told me that Kathy had been found unconscious in her overturned SUV in a ravine miles and miles from home the night before. No one is quite sure how she got there or what exactly happened. The paramedics tried to rouse her, and got a very thready pulse back by the time they got her to the hospital. That afternoon, while I was probably eating lunch, Kathy's mom and husband had to make the unthinkable decision to let go. The machines were turned off. Kathy was gone.

Katharine Brook Potts Palmer was 27 years old. She had been married to John Palmer for 15 months. Her son Mason was four months old. She was survived by her husband and son, her mother Jane and her brother Mike.

I was 29 when Kathy died. I had known her for more than 20 years. Her family was like a second family to me. And yet, she had never met my husband David. That alone still astounds me, that two people who have played such a formational role in my life never met. And they will never meet. It did not seem real. I couldn't really grasp the knowledge that I'd never see her again, never hold my breath and grip the dashboard while she drove her car merrily and crazily along the road, never sing loudly and probably very off-key to all our favorite old songs (notably U2's "With or Without You"). She will never meet my son William or know that we moved back to Nashville. We never got to trade pregnancy war stories or compare anecdotes about our children as they grew up. We will never sit together on a big wide veranda in our golden years and make quilts or just gossip together. All the memories are mine alone now.

Today marks the fifth anniversary of her death. I still miss her every day. I sometimes find myself still melancholy about her death. I wonder about her son, how he's doing, how I can't even bear the thought that he will never know the woman who was his mother, who was my dear friend. I consider myself blessed each day that I get to spend with my own son. I ache that my friend never got to celebrate her son's first birthday or his second or any other. How weak it sounds to say "it is not fair," but it isn't.

I could spin tales about Kathy all day long, and it would still never really do her justice. I could tell you about how she was one of the biggest Alabama football fans to ever walk the face of the earth; she used to talk about legendary 'Bama Coach Paul Bear Bryant's funeral as if it was a funeral for a member of her own family (which in a way, it was). I could tell you about how she took a paintbrush full of paint one summer at camp and slapped in down the back of my head, covering my entire braid in paint. I could tell you how she lit up every room she walked into, amping up the energy level just by being there. It would never, ever be enough to convey what is in my heart and in my head.

I have a picture of the two of us together propped up on the desk here where I write. I was probably 17 or 18. It was taken at a friend's house, probably just on random night where we got a big group of church camp friends together and hung out. We look really happy to be hanging out together, and maybe a little bit mischievous, which is probably par for the course. We look like ourselves. That is how I remember us, remember her. In my head, I will also forever carry the image of her as a sweet-faced little girl in a swim cap and Green Valley racing suit. She will always be a part of me.

Monday, August 11, 2008

Buy me some peanuts and crackerjacks and hotdogs and french fries and chicken nuggets

Another summer, another Sounds game.

Late Saturday afternoon, we went to the Sounds game in honor of David's office's annual party. They played, the, er....the Omaha team. They, Royals, I think. It was a double-header, so we just stayed for the first game. Which ended after seven innings. So William didn't get to sing "Take Me Out to the Ballgame" for the seventh inning stretch. And he'd been practicing? Isn't that lousy?

But we still had fun. Plus, this year, we got seats in the shade.

William ate most of his grandmother's hot dog (complete with mustard and relish), at least half of mine, and a good chunk of his father's. And then he ate goldfish. And french fries. And a chicken nugget or two. And some cotton candy. And a box of raisins. Am I leaving anything out? I mean, he ate and ate and ate and ATE. What child love mustard and relish? My kid, that's who. The same one who loves onions, olives, and lemons. Here's photographic evidence of the eating spectacle:

Luckily, Diane managed to extract her fingers before William ate those, too. I guess it just takes a lot of fuel to maintain William's standards for personality and cuteness, right?

David and William dressed as much alike as possible:

And we attemped a family photo. This was the point at which William began screeching loudly while sticking his fingers in his ear. So this is about as good as it got:

No keg roll game this year either, sadly. They did play this weird Fish or No Fish game that I never understood, not that you're really supposed to understand audienced participation games at minor league baseball games.

But William did get to meet the mascot this year. Notice that he's still holding his raisin box in his hand.

Friday, August 08, 2008


Have you been watching television at all in the last few weeks? Have you seen the Visa commercial with the footage of the runner who, in the 1992 Summer Games in Barcelona, pulled up lame in his race and crumpled to the track? Here's the link to the video, if you've missed it.

As Derek Redmond lay there and writhed in agony, both physical and emotional--his chance to win gold and glory in the 400 meters in shambles--his father came running out onto the track. Derek painfully got up and hobbled forward, his face grim and wretched, determined to finish, no matter what. Brushing away the officials who tried to waylay him, his father's eyes never left his son. He reached Derek, put his arm around him and hoisted him up. The other runners had long since finished their race. Seconds ticked by, but eventually, Derek and his father made their way, haltingly, heartbreakingly, together, to the finish line.

"He and his father finished dead last," intones Morgan Freeman. "But he and his father...finished."

There's a longer video available on YouTube that shows the entire race. It's titled "Perseverance."

It should be called, or at least subtitled, "Love." I can't watch it without tears dripping down my face. It would have been touching before I had a son of my own. I would probably have put myself in the place of Redmond, devastated by his injury and the loss of his dream.

Now, as a parent, I so strongly identify with his father that I can barely stand thinking about how he must have felt and how he made sure that he reached his son, no matter who tried to stop him. It makes so much sense to me that I can feel it in every molecule of my body. That was his child. He was going to help his child when his child needed him. And he did.

I may not be able to help my child make it to the Olympics. I may not be able to keep him from ever feeling sad or frustrated or angry or hurt. I may not be able to keep him from even failing at some things. But I will always go to him when he needs me.

Thursday, August 07, 2008

Last day of school

Forgive me if I'm a little nostalgic. William's last day of school was yesterday.

He attended a nearby church's playschool one day each week all year, and yesterday was the last day of the summer program. In September, he'll begin school two days a week at our church, Westminster Presbyterian.

But he loved school this year. Loved it loved it loved it. We'd walk down the hallway and into his classroom, and he would usually stand there for a few minutes, just taking it all in. Then he'd bolt forward toward the toys. Sometimes he'd turn back to give me a quick hug and kiss--usually at the prompting of his teacher--but usually he was ready to Play.

And William'll be just fine at his new school. After all, he already knows a lot of the kids and teachers from Sunday School, and he's familiar with the classrooms and playground from going to church with me every Monday morning for my Disciple class. Even if he wasn't already comfortable in that environment, he's so social and flexible that I think he'd adapt quickly.

But I was a little sad to say goodbye to Bellevue Presbyterian. His teachers this year were really terrific. They always were so warm and welcoming--to both of us. He had Miss Nora and Miss Theresa during the school year, and Miss Angela and Miss Theresa (see below) for the summer. They loved to tell me about how William chatted and chatted and always made everyone laugh.

William was always so proud to show me his art project each time I picked him up after school. He'd proudly show me a picture of a rooster that he'd scribbled with orange crayon, or a page with stars stamped on it with red and blue ink. Before I could load up all his stuff and take him to the car, he'd have to tell me about his project. I have most of them stashed away in a plastic folder. A few are hanging on the fridge. I will save the best ones for always.

So, yes, I got a little sniffly when I picked him up yesterday, knowing it was the last time. And it was the last time I'd get to chat with his teachers, too. I know that William will go to a lot of different schools in his lifetime, and this is just the first transition. It will be fine (can you hear me talking myself into it?). He'll be fine; he already is. He had a lot of fun at his school, and he's ready to go on and have more fun at his new school.

I'm just being a little sentimental at yet another milestone in my child's life. I tend to do that. I was the same way, actually, about my own transitions. Even when I was moving from one good place to another good--or even better--place, I always felt a few pangs of loss. They never lasted long, and I know this feeling will dissipate soon, too. I'm just making the mental break and saying my goodbyes. Miss Theresa told me to come back to visit sometime and say hello and bring a copy of the photo that I took of the three of them. I'll have to do that.

Tuesday, August 05, 2008

"And when I was a man, I put away childish things"

My son is not even three years old yet, and already, he's starting to put away some of his delightful childish expressions.

For example, William used to say "tomo" for tomato. Then, a few months ago, he proudly asked for some more "tomaaaatoes." We jokingly asked him if he actually wanted some more "tomos," but we weren't fooling him. He never asked for "tomos" again, but he'll gladly eat as many "tomatoes" as you're willing to fork over.

Then, about a week ago, William was nattering on in the backseat about bulldozers and cranes and all manner of construction equipment that we regularly see driving around town. Then he saw a truck towing a trailer with a big industrial tractor mower on the back. He asked what it was, and I told him.
Then I realized after he repeated what I said that he had said "lawn mower," and not "lawn motor." He'd been saying "lawn motor" for months, and I always thought it was both cute and sort of appropriate, too. I've been trying to trick him into saying "lawn motor" again, but again, he's too smart for me. "Lawn mower, Mama," he will tell me when I ask him if he just saw the "lawn motor." "It's lawn mower." Oh, he knows I'm dying for him to say "lawn motor" just one more time, but he laughs and laughs and just won't do it. He can say the real phrase now, and he's not looking back.

(Side note: What is it about construction equipment that so enthralls small boys? William knows the names of more of those machines than I do, and I have 30 years on him. I tend to call all of them either bulldozers or diggers. I'm probably wrong 90 percent of the time, but oh well.)

Aw, man. I'm not ready for this yet. I didn't think he'd be giving up little cute childish expressions before he was even out of diapers! I figured, I'd get more time than this to cherish them before I just had to remember them. I bet if you asked her, Diane would say that she still misses the way David used to say "windsheepers" instead of "windshield wipers" when he was a preschooler.

He's already so big and independent that the little babyish things are starting to get a little hazy in my head. It's hard to exactly recall how the top of his baby head used to smell. It's hard to remember precisely how it felt when he fell asleep with his head on my shoulder. I figured, at least toddlerhood brings the hilarious little neologisms to enjoy.

Luckily, William still seems happy with randomly busting out with a gleeful "super rocketship!," which is my all-time favorite (so far) William expression. It doesn't have to be relevant to anything. He just has to be in a good mood to say it. It's sort of a nice all-purpose "I'm happy" expression. Like "awesome" or "rock on" or "yahoo." And now that I look at all those word typed out, I've decided that "super rocketship" is a much cooler expression, too. So if you're ever just cheerful and feel like saying so, try saying "super rocketship!" It's oddly satisfying.

Monday, August 04, 2008

The itsy bitsy baby

Our friends Kathleen and Will recently welcomed their first child into the world. I got a chance to meet Baby Maggie in person last Friday.

Eeeee! Isn't she so cute and tiny? She really is precious. She squeaks and mews and beeps and honks as she sleeps, and it's all just to-die-for cute. It's early, but I think you can already tell that she's going to have just oceans of personality, too.

Anyway, Diane and I met Kathleen, her mother Charlene, and Baby Maggie for lunch at a local cafe. I got to hold Maggie and tell her how gorgeous and sweet and (of course) smart she is. She flickered her eyes open maybe twice the entire time. She just wasn't that into me. Ah well. We've got time to bond.

I actually spent half the time that I held her marveling at how light she was. I mean, yes, newborn babies are tiny. I know that. But I guess it's been so long since my own child was little bitty that I really hadn't processed how great the size differential is between Maggie and William. I could hold her in the crook of one arm, stand up and sit down, lift things with my other arm, and barely even feel a thing. Amazing. It was like (cliche alert!) holding a baby doll.

But on the other hand, when babies are that tiny, you have to do every.single.thing for them, from cradling their wobbly little heads and necks to getting up to feed them every two or three hours, no matter that your body is screaming at you to just lie down and fall into a coma. I felt for Kathleen. It is hard to be a new mother. She's tired. I remember being bone-tired like that. The exhaustion felt like a heavy winter coat that I couldn't take off, no matter how I wanted to. She said she couldn't really tell me what she's been eating recently. I thought back to when William was new, and I couldn't for the life of me remember eating anything either. Did I actually eat? Who knows?

There are times now that I want to throw my hands up in frustration and shout, "I give up." Usually--okay always--those times coincide with one of William's more major temper tantrums. But those moments pass. Usually minutes later, I'm giggling over something he just said or being glad that I can say "Go find your shoes" and that he actually does go find his shoes. But those early weeks of motherhood? Not for the weak. I've never actually run an ultra-marathon (er, or any other kind of race that even aspires to be a marathon), but I imagine the first month or two of being a new mom to be like it. Utter depletion, sometimes approaching zombiedom. Occasional moments of ecstasy or hilarity, followed by tears of exhaustion. Culture shock. So not for the weak. Give me a good night's sleep and the occasional toddler hissy fit anytime.

So, if you're reading this, Kathleen, hang in there. It really does get better. I remember despairing that I'd never get a decent night's sleep ever again, but I did. Babies do eventually hold their heads up, sit up, crawl, stand up, walk, run, demand a juice box, put their own shoes on. They do. They really do.

Saturday, August 02, 2008

The Know-it-all

Serial posting here.

I was counting from one to ten in Spanish while I gave William his Flovent yesterday. And I figured, what the heck, why not keep going? So I counted from eleven on up to twenty.

Now, William can count from one to twenty in English, and he can count from one to ten in Spanish. But I've never heard him even attempt to count from eleven to twenty in Spanish.

Nonetheless, as I counted en espanol, his little brow furrowed a bit over the air chamber. He pulled it down as I reached twenty and gave me a significant look. Loftily, he said....

"That's not how it goes, Mommy."

More tantrums

Prepare yourself for the understatement of the week.


William seems to be quite strong-willed.

I mean, I know my parents have always talked about how stubborn I was as a child. Diane and Aaron love to tell us about how David threw Donald Duck-style fits as a little boy. And I'd say it's probably fair to say that David and I both maintained some degree of stubborness as adults. Just a little.

So anyway, our child. The first child of two first children. The first grandchild of four first or only children. Genetically speaking, he was going to have to be hard-headed about some things. It would only make sense. William is a loving wonderful hilarious boy...except when he gets riled up.

So, this loving wonderful hilarious boy got all out of sorts on Thursday afternoon and threw the mother of all temper tantrums. I mean, it was epic. I've never seen him act like that before. I half-worried that I was going to need to put plywood up over the windows.

What precipitated such a hurricane, you might ask? Well, let me tell you.

He woke up from his nap all sweaty. His shirt was damp, his hair was drenched, and needless to say, his diaper was full. So I stripped off his clothes and his diaper and prepared to re-dress him. Usually, this sort of thing happens without incident. But not on Thursday...

For some reason, William became angry at the prospect of having to get redressed. He wiggled away from me and began running around the second floor of our house in a mad frenzy. He wailed and shrieked and screamed and hollered "No! No! No!" He apparently wanted to put back on his sweaty plaid shorts without anything under it. Which meant he wouldn't let us put a diaper on him first. So, every time one of us tried to grab him and wrestle him into a diaper or Pull-Up, he began thrashing and kicking his legs so powerfully that I seriously worried that he was going to knock the other one of us out cold. ("How'd you get that black eye, Jen?" "Oh, well, you know, my my two-year-old kicked me." "So your horse kicked you?" "No, no, that came from my two-year-old son.") So we let go, and he spun off in hysterics. And he defiantly carried his plaid shorts with him, like a soldier carrying a flag into battle, as he stomped around the house.

"But William, you have to wear a diaper!" I tried to call after him, thinking about what could happen to my carpet.

Yeah, that was effective.

Anyway, the fit went on and on...and on and on. Nothing, absolutely nothing worked. Not ignoring him. Not being stern. David tried plunking him into the Pack n Play for Time Out, and William just threw one leg over the side and immediately hoisted himself back out. Thunk! And from the second floor, I heard the sound of a screaming, angry toddler running back upstairs again. We tried to leave the room every time he followed us into another room, and that just seemed to further inflame him.

Eventually, seasons passed. Glaciers moved. Snow caps melted. And William began to calm down. The wild hyena shrieking began to diminish. Eventually, we managed to talk him into a Pull-Up. And we let him put his plaid shorts back on. And he went into his room and picked out a t-shirt (which didn't match the plaid shorts at all, but like I was going to argue that point).

Order was restored. I felt like I needed a strong drink. Maybe a double. But all we had in the house was wine, and a girly glass of chardonnay was just so not going to cut it. All that over a Pull-Up. Geez.

Most of the time, he's a really good kid. Really. But when he gets angry, he gets Angry. Have you ever heard of the Incredible Hulk? Whew.

We experienced a similar tantrum this morning. Except the problem was that William wanted a juice box, and I, the oppressive dictator parent, said "no." That tantrum didn't last quite as long, though, and at least his bottom was covered. It's the small things that I appreciate.