Sunday, December 27, 2009

One year ago, I was just meeting my favorite little guy for the first time, in all his bruised, brunette glory:

Now he's a golden boy, charming and happy and gregarious, and his only bruises are from his tumbles into immobile pieces of furniture as he tries so hard to perambulate:

Happy birthday, Sam. I'm so glad you're here.

Sam's birth story is here: part one, part two.

Saturday, December 26, 2009

I like to take care of potential danger and inconvenience by worrying them away, crushing them under the weight of my crippling anxiety. And so it was that no doubt because of my fretting and hand-wringing that our plane from Detroit to Kansas City did, in fact, get off the ground, and did not, in fact, suffer from constant turbulence. As we glided to a slightly shaky landing, I heaved a sigh of relief that would have been audible had we not been seated in row 25, right next to the engines. The plus side of the constant shouting-level white noise was that it drowned out the sounds of my shrieking children. Just kidding--they were wonderful and quiet and well behaved. All thanks to my fretting.

The only factor left that I had applied my magical worrying powers to was our car. You see, when we flew to Grand Rapids in August, our car sat in the economy lot for a week, and when we returned, it had acquired a new trait. It coughed and sputtered and idled low and threathened to conk out completely. We pulled over about 10 minutes from the airport in the 90 degree heat and baking sunlight to have a little all-family freak-out fest before returning to the highway at a decidedly slow 50 mph and with the AC turned off for good measure. I sat in the back, wedged between the children's car seats, trying desperately to placate two sweating, unhappy kids, while I too was melting into a puddle of rank flop sweat. The culprit, we determined later with the help of Jeff's dad, was a crusty spark plug, likely caused by a little bout of rain during our absence.

Our stay in Michigan this time around had been in much more severe conditions, and I was expecting the worst from our otherwise trustworthy Subaru. Jeff and I had had the foresight to send him off solo to fetch the car from economy while the children and I luxuriated in the warmth and bustle of the baggage claim area of the Kansas City airport. I awaited his call with trepidation, and was relieved to hear that he had made it to the car, and the car had started up fine--once he had gotten into it. It was, it seems encased in a thick crust of ice. "It'll take me a while to chip out," he explained. "No problem!" I replied. "We're doing fine!"

And at that point, we were. Our suitcases had been accounted for and now surrounded us, forming a protective ring in which Charlotte frolicked, narrating a tale of Santa and Rudolph and her stuffed orange kitty, while Sam crawled, squealing and bellowing "BALL" at any remotely spherical object. I relaxed, relieved, all my worries proven naught.

But you see, when you let your guard down, that's when bad things happen.

Feeling the need to be proactive, I decided to change Sam's diaper and get him into his pajamas. The baggage claim area was nearly empty at that point, and I figured Sam would fall asleep in the car, and this way I could seamlessly transfer him into his crib when we got home. Jeff had most of the diapers with him, but I had thought to grab one before he left. Sam wasn't eager to be torn from his exploration of the super-fun jungle gym he had discovered in the luggage carts, but he was fairly agreeable. What wasn't agreeable was what I found when I opened his diaper: a poo of remarkable capacity and malodorous profile. I was rendered speechless and also temporarily paralyzed. Jeff, you see, had the wipes with him.

"Uh...oh. Um..." I said. While I sat frozen, Sam reached down and grabbed his nuts with one hand. His nuts, it should be noted, were covered in feces. And now, too, his hand. "Um." I said.

Charlotte's little voice, shrieking in my ear "OH NO! Sam did a HUGE POOP!" snapped me back to my senses. Thinking quickly, I whipped Sam's fleece pants off and used them to wipe his hand, and then his bottom. My water bottle was empty and Charlotte's was MIA, so I made do with the dry fleece the best I could (it wasn't very good). Then I popped a fresh diaper over his still poo-streaked buns, turned the now-dirtied fleece pants inside out and stuffed them into the front pocket of one of our suitcases, praying I'd remember they were in there the second we got home. (I didn't).

Once I wrestled Sam into his footie sleeper, an experience not unlike what I imagine it would be like to try to put clothes on a cat, I released him to once again explore the wilds of the baggage claim, and I sighed with relief once again. What a funny story that will be to tell Jeff, I thought. I was relaxing into a mindless, exhausted ease when the second shoe dropped.

Charlotte, who had previously been playing and chattering constantly, suddenly froze in a panicky, slightly crouched posture I knew well. "Mama," she called out. "I have to do a turtle!" My insistence that she needed to wait until dada came, and that she should just tell her turtle to go back inside, was futile. She had the glassy-eyed, red-faced demeanor of one whose bowel movement was nigh. Luckily, at that moment, an airline employee came into view.

"Ma'am!" I said, not without urgency. She appeared startled, apparently not expecting to find a little camp-out of disheveled mom and tots in the area. I asked her if she could watch our things as I was alone with the children and my daughter really, really needed to use the bathroom. She agreed and we were off. I carried Sam, who thought we were really having a "BALL," while Charlotte ran stiff-legged, clutching the seat of her jeans with both hands and hyperventilating.

We made it. Charlotte turtled in record time, and I managed to wipe her up with only one hand, and even washed hands while wrangling giant Sam, who thought this would be a great time to practice his full-body backward-flinging move. As we walked back down the hallway from the bathroom, Charlotte loudly announced, "I really had to make a turtle, and so did Sam! We both made GREAT BIG POOPS today at the airport!" much to the amusement of the people we passed.

The rest of our time in the airport passed (no pun intended) without incident. Jeff was amused when I told him of our Great Fecal Adventures, and I knew I would have a story for the blog. As well, of course, as a new worry to add to my ever-growing list of anxieties.

Sunday, December 20, 2009

Another video! This one focuses on Sam: Fall 2009.

I realized after I had saved and uploaded it that the titles at the beginning are out of order. I didn't care enough to go back and fix it...sorry about that!

Friday, December 18, 2009

Charlotte's Preschool Christmas Sing-a-long: click here!

Sorry the video is so long! If you're pressed for time (or just not interested in watching 9.5 minutes of singing preschoolers), then I recommend you skip to 5.23. The last two songs are really the best.

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Sorry about not posting yesterday. Late Monday night/Tuesday morning, I realized that this paper was simply not going to come together in time. It was coming along, sure, but I've developed to ability in my years of graduate work to project how much work is left before a paper is "done," and in professional opinion, this paper was about 50% potential awesomeness, 25% half-formed thoughts, and 25% random gibberish. I needed more time, in other words.

So I asked for an 2:30 in the morning. Perhaps the time stamp on the email is what motivated my professor to respond so readily and kindly to my request. Regardless, I got more time, and worked all night last night, and part of this morning, and now have a 21-page paper that I'm reasonably proud of. I'm meeting with my professor (who will also, I hope, be my dissertation director and chair my comps committee) in about 45 minutes, and I will then hand her this paper, and I swear I WILL NOT read the paper copy that I have, because I KNOW I will find errors or problems and then I will begin dripping with flop sweat. I don't need sweaty palms as an accessory during our Talk about My Academic Future and Plans and Goals and Timelines.

So I promise a few things over the next two days: 1. Video of the kids (possibly separate videos, as I have a lot of material for each kid); 2. A couple more posts

For now, I leave you with this from Charlotte:

A few Christmas songs have been on heavy rotation in our house lately. Feliz Navidad and Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer are two favorites. Frosty the Snowman is another.

When Charlotte and I got to preschool today, we went into her classroom to check out her "job" for the day. Charlotte's eyes got wide when she spotted something in the classroom, and I followed her gaze as she pointed, wordlessly, to the Frosty the Snowman DVD sitting on a shelf beneath the TV. "Yeah, it's Frosty the Snowman!" I said. "I dreamed about him last night!" she said excitedly.

One of her teachers was nearby, and Charlotte ran over to her. "Mrs. Kelly!" she said. "I dreamed about Frosty the Snowman last night!"

"You did?" Mrs. Kelly responded. "What were you doing in your dream?"

"We were just together, Frosty and me," Charlotte answered. "We were together, and singing and playing in the snow."

"That sounds like a great dream," Mrs. Kelly said.

And doesn't it? Certainly better than my annoying academic stress dreams I've been having lately. Here's hoping I dream about Frosty tonight, too.

Monday, December 14, 2009

Charlotte's preschool Christmas concert was yesterday. While I'm currently in the midst of writing my seminar paper (and therefore have no time to post), I thought I'd throw a few pictures from one of her teachers up on the blog. Enjoy! And watch for a real post sometime tomorrow.

Monday, December 07, 2009

A couple Charlotte-isms:

While I was changing Sam's poopy diaper the other day. Charlotte: OH MY. *gags* Wow, Sam. You made me very unhappy with that poop.

Jeff: How do I have such wooonnderful children!?!
Charlotte, immediately: Well, Mama got them born, and God gave you them.

Charlotte "reading" from Bible Stories for Kids: From Bethlehem to Kansas; From Moses and Mary to the little girl who saw...and Jesus was in his way...and some fish from God. And the sea to shining sea. And God is with us. Now YOU say, And God is with us.

Friday, December 04, 2009

Last night, I was talking with a classmate about books, and in particular juvenile literature. We were both recalling some of our favorite books from when we were young adults (L.M. Montgomery's books, the Little House series, the Narnia series, etc.) and trying to articulate what the experience of rereading those books was like. I put it this way:

When I was very sick at the beginning of both of my pregnancies, I could handle doing very few things. I had little energy for anything physically taxing, and even things that require mental exertion were beyond my ability. One day when I was about ten weeks pregnant with Charlotte, I was at the library (returning a movie, perhaps) when I noticed the Little House on the Prairie and Emily of New Moon books on the shelf. I checked them all out, and over the next week I read them all. I moved on to the Narnia series, To Kill a Mockingbird, and the Anne of Green Gables books.

I told that story because I felt like it best illustrated what those books mean to me. I wanted something familiar yet still wonderfully entertaining, calming but still engaging. Reading those books again was like visiting with a good friend, the kind of friend who doesn't care if you don't change out of your sweatpants when she comes over.

Comfort is an interesting idea. The word comfort is both a noun and a verb. As a noun, it means, among other things, aid, succour, support, countenance; or, one who or that which strengthens or supports; or, the feeling of consolation or mental relief; the state of being consoled; or, a state of physical and material well-being, with freedom from pain and trouble, and satisfaction of bodily needs.

You, dear reader, might be familiar with some of its common applications, such as: Comfort food, food that comforts or affords solace; hence, any food (freq. with a high sugar or carbohydrate content) that is associated with childhood or with home cooking. orig. N.Amer.

Comfort break n. euphem. (orig. U.S.) a break taken to use the toilet.

Comfort stop n. orig. U.S. a short stop intended to give passengers a break from a (long) bus or coach journey, esp. in order to use the toilet; (hence euphem.) a short break taken from any journey or activity in order to use the toilet.

As a verb, it means what we usually think it means: To soothe in grief or trouble; to relieve of mental distress; to console. Comfort the verb also has several interesting archaic meanings, including to strengthen (physically), support; to make fast, secure; to strengthen (morally or spiritually); and, most interesting of all, to comfort in a negative sense means to encourage in, or to, that which is evil.

One of the things I think I'm most responsible for as a parent is doing something rather vague and unspecified that I think can best be described as comforting my children. I soothe them when they experience grief or sorrow. I attempt to relieve their mental distress. I console. I strive to offer them freedom from pain and trouble, and satisfaction of bodily needs. I hope I am an aid, a support, a succour.

Sam has something related to comfort that I didn't find defined in the Oxford English Dictionary, but which several parenting books I have call a comfort item. This is a favorite something, such as a doll or stuffed animal, that the child turns to to help comfort him or her, usually before sleep. Sometimes children use their comfort item at times of stress as well.

Charlotte never had a comfort item, although we tried to encourage one in the hopes that it would get her to sleep better. Sam's comfort item is his little giraffe blankie, a brown satin/velvet blanket about ten inches square. He's had it since he was a few weeks old (it was a gift from my Terlouw cousins) and I worked from the start to try to promote an attachment. I would rub it against his cheek as he nursed. I would place it next to him as he slept. When he got older and more easily distracted, I used it like horse-blinders, draping it over his head when he nursed to try to keep him focused on the task at hand instead of gawking and taking a chunk of nipple with him. Now he still nurses at night and before naps that way. And somewhere along the line, it took. Now he uses the blanket to comfort himself down, by rubbing it on his upper lip and sniffing it. I mean, really getting into it, with big, loud sniiiiiiffffffffs. It's adorable. He rests his face on it when he sleeps, and if it should happen to drop out of his crib while he's going to bed, you'll hear some genuine, full-out wailing from Sam.

Sam has his blanket. I have my old, familiar books. What's your comfort?

Tuesday, December 01, 2009

I can't stop! I'm addicted to daily posting! I need an intervention!

Just kidding. I just had a Charlotte-ism I had to share.

Tonight, when I was giving Sam a bath, Charlotte was getting ready for bed. I gave her her nightly gummy Winnie the Pooh vitamin, and she commented how the different characters were different colors. I thought this might be a nice teaching moment, so I mentioned that in real life, people came in all different colors.

Charlotte: What color are you, mama?
Me: I'm sort of, peach color.
Charlotte: Me, too! I'm peach, too. And Sam's peach colored too.
Me: That's right!
Charlotte: And dada's hairy colored!