Thursday, November 15, 2012

On the End of Breastfeeding

I have not nursed my son for 4 days. He's 19 months and 3 weeks old. Before then, I nursed him at least once a day, every day, since practically the moment he was born.

Three weeks ago, I started contemplating weaning. I'd never expected to nurse Munch this long. When he was born, I had decided I would see how my body took to breastfeeding and not see myself as a failure if I needed to turn to formula. But, my body did what it needed to and Munch latched and we were off.

Three weeks ago, when I started feeling like it was time to wean, I was very sad about the prospect. This article about the last time our children do things kept echoing in my brain. With each short nursing session, I tried to enjoy every second, emblazon it on my brain. I felt a little panicked. And I felt a tiny bit heartbroken.

Nursing is something I have treasured. It has been a constant in these first months of motherhood. As my son now runs full tilt and identifies bananas and birds and stars, it is a last vesige of Munch's babyhood. First, he learned to hold his head up on his own. Then, he broke the swaddle. He graduated from the Pack n Play in our room to his own crib. Solids became the primary food source. The sleepsack was packed away. And soon nursing would be gone as well.

So, I reasoned, maybe I wasn't quite ready in my heart, even though I was in my head. I support every mother's choice to breastfeed for however long is right for her. But nursing started evolving for me when my son became very communicative. He's a bit of a late talker, so it wasn't until about 15 months that he started really interacting. With him at 19 months, I felt strange being able to hold a relatively meaningful and lengthy conversation with him and then stick my boob in his mouth.

Also, the teeth. He no longer bit me while nursing for 2 minutes--he grew out of that. But at the end of a nursing session, he clamped down and scraped backwards. This was not good. And last Saturday, he took some skin off the nipple. Really not good. And it was in that moment, I think I felt my heart say good-bye to breastfeeding.

So, I said to myself, I'll only nurse him if he asks for it. (Munch asking is him holding the Boppy or any random pillow out to me, giving me a pleading look, and saying, uh uh uh.) We nursed for a rather long session (i.e., about 7 minutes) overnight on Sunday, when I believe he was having teething pain and difficulty sleeping.

And that's been it. That night likely will be the last time I nurse this child, whom I've cuddled to my chest for God knows how many hours since his birth. It was a nice ending--quiet, dark, with the TV flickering, like it was in the early weeks, when I became very familiar with Willie Geist on "Way Too Early" and SportsCenter, when only paid programming was on every other channel.

We ended nursing the way we began, Munch and I--alone as my husband slept, half-asleep, comforted.

Tuesday, November 6, 2012

A Mother's Reflections This Election Day

When I was born, Jimmy Carter was President, but only for a short time. Ronald Reagan was inaugurated a mere 10 months after my birth. I've always felt a fondness for Reagan that is explained only by the fact that for so much of my formative years, he was in the Oval Office. He was the leader I grew up hearing about before I could form my own thoughts about politics and leadership.

Then came Bush 1 and the bombing of Kuwait. Fear of war struck me at 11 years old. I still vividly recall a dream I had during that time, with bombs (shaped like the cannon balls from Super Mario 3)falling in our front yard and my father running for the backyard. I can still see what clothes he was wearing. And that is what I most associate with George H.W. Bush--fear.

I feel blessed that my first son was born during the first term of the first black President of the United States. And I hope that he gets another 4 years to internalize Barack Obama as the leader in his youngest years, the one he grows up used to seeing at the podium. Because 20 months is not long enough for my son to have Barack Obama as a president.

And what will my son learn from a Mitt Romney presidency in the next 4 years, as he begins to understand how the world works? He'll see a staggeringly rich white businessman in the Oval Office. He'll hear about millionaires and banks and cheap labor in China and how the middle class just doesn't cut it.

He might glean that money is what gets you the presidency, not hope, not change, not caring for your neighbors, not giving those who need support the resources essential to a life well lived.

He might hear that a woman's place is at home and wonder why his mother isn't home with him all day. He might hear that all Muslims and non-Christians are wrong and to be feared, despite those he goes to daycare with every day. He might hear that his mother shouldn't have as strong a voice as his father. He might hear that money, that's the bottom line in America.

When I look at my son, I want so desperately for him to have the experience of a compassionate, quietly powerful, dedicated, intelligent leader for his childhood. Yes, Barack Obama's rich too, but he's self-made. He came from a broken home. He has daughters that he lifts up and a wife who is his equal partner.

His is the face I want my son to associate with President of the United States.

Thursday, October 25, 2012


My Munch is in such a language phase right now. He makes elaborate babble sentences with the most inquisitive look on his face as he looks straight at you. He's quite clearly explaining himself. He's saying many new words this week, including: Daddy (without the middle Ds, but definitely with two syllables), bubbles, bottle. He loves his B words.

Yesterday, I had to change his pants, and we were just rolling around on my bed playing and I said, "Okay, let me put on your shorts" just as a matter of course, as I usually do. He sat up and said, "No." Clear as a bell. I said, "You don't want me to put on your shorts?" He said, "No." Then I laughed so raucously that he tumbled all over me, giggling.

Probably not good that I taught him the word No delights me. But while he's been shaking his head No for a while now, this was the first verbal, purposeful No I've gotten. And I'm sure it won't be the last.

And, as time goes on, I'm sure it won't create quite as much delight in me!

Monday, October 22, 2012

5 Things That Happened Right After Munch's Birth

It's Munch's 19-month birthday! Hard to believe that 19 months ago my up-and-down-the-stairs toddler was just a little lump in a pink-and-blue hospital administered cap. After hearing the wretched birth story of a close family friend's new nephew, I thought in honor of this sort-of birthday, I'd do a 5 Things post about what happened immediately after Munch's delivery--things only me, my husband, OB, and a few other hospital staffers witnessed.

1) "What do we have?" Though I labored for over 24 hours, from the start of the induction process, I only had to push three times. In fact, I was shaking with the effort of "holding it in," clutching my husband's hands, as we waited for my OB to travel the 20 minutes to the hospital. Again, even in birth, Munch did things when he was good and ready and then, full tilt.

So after the third push, out the baby came. Hubs and I hadn't found out what the gender was, so we were waiting for the "movie" "It's a WHATEVER!" moment. Dr. J didn't say anything as she held the mewling babe. Through my sweaty haze, I asked, "What do we have?" and she said, "It's a boy."

2) Skin-to-skin. Then, Dr. J placed just-born Munch on my chest. They'd told me we probably wouldn't get to do this little ritual because of evidence of meconium in my water after it broke and they'd need to whisk him away to clear his lungs (or something?). But there he was. This tiny, red, wrinkled being. His eyes were wide open and he was looking right at me. His forehead was crinkled with the effort. And he had this look on his face like, "What the heck did I just go through?"

But we've also felt like Munch is an "old soul." He settled right into our family and the world from the start, like he was taking a place pre-appointed for him. And so, yes, in those first seconds, his eyes did look familiar and it was like he was seeing me for the first time but with a settled, you're-what-I've-been-waiting-for air. I found myself saying, "Oh my God," over and over. It's the first and only time I've ever held a miracle.

3) Thirst. Again, after about 32 hours in the labor process, and after an entire day of only having ice chips, I was parched. After I was stitched up (lovely) and Munch was screaming through his first bath and weigh-in and Hubs was following him around with a huge smile on his face, the nurse sat me up and gave me an ice-cold drink of half ginger ale and half cranberry juice. It was the most refreshing beverage I've ever had.

4) The naming. Hubs and I had a short list of three boys' names (though honestly, I can't remember one of them). Right after Munch was born, Hubs said not to say what name I was thinking yet. I knew which one I wanted. Luckily, we both thought the same thing when we met Munch.

5) The feeding. I was so nervous for the first breastfeeding. How would my body know anything needed to happen? How would this newborn baby know that he needed to do something? But he knew. With the nurse's help, Munch nursed. I'm trying to remember if he was laying across my lap or in what would become our preferred method (the football hold)--and I feel like he was laying across me that first time. His little lips, eyes still open. He was a natural, and, with his help, I became one too.

Saturday, October 20, 2012

Pumpkin Patch Pictures

This morning, we had Munch's 18 (well, 19) month pictures done at an apple orchard near our house. My very dear friend is a wonder photographer, and she's done his 12month pics and 6 (well, 7) month pics. The latter were done at this apple orchard as well, so we headed back there one year later.

Our 2012 family of pumpkins
I was a bit concerned at first because Munch didn't seem to be having any of it. He pointed to the piles of pumpkins and said "Ball, ball" over and over, but wouldn't get near/interact with said pumpkins. And, he was all about mommy, which doesn't make for good toddler shots either.

Luckily, they had an old green John Deere tractor out and Munch happily sat on the seat and turned the wheel. I can't wait for my grandfather to see these. And we cajoled some smiles out of him with falling leaves, but he still wouldn't explore much on his own.

We'd pretty much given up and said we'd done all we can (and I'm positive my wonder photographer will mine these shots for gems as always) and went back to the patch to pick out our family pumpkins.

Turns out, another friend and her family were there and so we chatted and suddenly Munch was all about exploring the pumpkins! So, when set off on his own, with no expectations, Munch did what we'd wanted him to do all along.

I truly think he knew what we wanted him to do the whole time, so he did the opposite. When the camera was in front of him, he turned his back. When I showed him pumpkins, he pushed them away disdainfully. As always, Munch does things on his own terms or not at all.

I can't wait to see the pictures. I plan to order a three panel canvas from the three stages of pics we have. It's amazing how he's changed over the past year.

Friday, October 19, 2012

We Left (and Returned) on a Jet Plane

We went to Disney World this month (hence the complete lack of posts in October!). The trip was terrific and much needed, but it was bookended by one of my least favorite things: a plane ride.

We thought long and hard about whether to fly to Orlando or drive. Under normal circumstances, it would probably take us about 14 hours one way to drive. That is not terrible to a family who regularly drives 8 hours for visits to my hometown and, until my MIL moved down near us, close to that to my husband's.

However, with an 18-month-old, that 14 hours would easily stretch to 18 and would need to be broken up across 2 days. We felt it was akin to torture to put this child in his carseat for so long. It also probably meant we would have to cut our actual vacation time short for travel days and that seemed silly as well.

So, as my family made the 24-hour trek from Michigan, through Kentucky and Tennessee and into the Deep South, we made for the airport and I told myself this was the most run-of-the-mill way to travel even as I knew my heart would pound at takeoff and every bump thereafter.

Flight History

I've not always been a terrible flyer. We were not a family of flyers. Our summer vacations consisted of drives to Cincinnati to King's Island amusement park or to Maryland to visit my aunt. My first flight was to Washington, DC, on a class trip when I was 16. The next month, I flew to, ironically, Disney World. I also flew to France for a class trip; San Diego, Montana, New Hampshire, and Philadelphia for college-related things; Bath, England, ALONE for a 6-week summer abroad experience; and Hawaii, among various other trips. Grand Cayman on our honeymoon, etc.

I think a few things changed over the years.

  • I have a harder time giving up control. Control is a big issue for me. Over the past, I would say, 5 years, the idea of control has caused me immense anxiety. I try to control other people's feelings and emotions and experiences (I'm a people pleaser). I feel like if I control my surroundings, I can cheat death. With motherhood, the control-induced anxiety bubbled over. Pregnancy was difficult for me--talk about the ultimate lack of control. Motherhood is a lesson in being totally out of control (really) of the thing that is most precious to you. I can do everything I can to keep Munch safe and happy; but, in the end, so much is up to chance and to HIS OWN choices. A plane is also the ultimate giving up of control. At least in a car, I have the illusion of control. 
  • I'm happy. I think my flying fears escalated after I met my husband. Suddenly, there was so much more to lose, so much more to miss out on. 
  • 9/11. I have no personal connection to 9/11, but I think the idea of hijacking needled right into my brain. After 9/11, planes seem that much more vulnerable.
  • Hubs and I had a bad landing experience returning from Chicago. Wind shears, and all that. It wasn't good.
I spoke with my counselor months before the vacation about the imminent plane ride and we talked some strategies. For me, when I feel myself getting wound up over something, it helps for me to "think as a mother." As a mother, I wanted Munch to have the best travel experience, and, compared to driving, that was a plane. It was quick, convenient, and relatively inexpensive.

And, I felt Munch would distract me on the plane. With a toddler to entertain, I would have much less time and attention to focus on every little bump.

And, if I panicked, Munch would feel that and also be scared (thinking as a mother again).

My counselor also recommended that I keep repeating, despite my compulsion to knock on wood after doing so, "This is a safe mode of transportation." Eventually, some part of my brain would believe it. 

Prepping for Takeoff

The thing Hubs and I worried most about was Munch's behavior in flight. This is a child who doesn't like to sit down on laps for any length of time. He likes to be held, but he likes for the holder to be standing and moving. Not an option on a plane. He also is too young to mind-numb him with a DVD player. It might distract him for a few moments, but it's not like we could pop in a movie and he'd be fine til we arrived. What about his ears? What about food? So many things to consider.

So, we gathered some new books and toys and put them aside for him to see for the first time on the plane. We packed empty bottles and filled them with milk purchased after security. We packed Goldfish. And, we prepared for 2.5 hours of screaming. We would try to sit surrounded by other families (this was a flight to Orlando, after all). It would be over comparatively quickly.

In Flight

My child slept from takeoff to wheels down both flights (well, first flight he woke up 20 minutes out). As soon as the engine revved up for takeoff, his eyes fluttered closed and he collapsed against me. The effect of intense white noise? Did Southwest release some gaseous sedative? I couldn't tell you. 

For the first flight, Munch was curled against my chest and I rubbed his head and sang to him as we took off and got going. I was afraid. I must say a clandestine tear was shed, as I buried my face in his hair. But, a strange thing happened. As I sang, I pictured myself in Munch's nursery, when I held him like this and sang/swayed him to sleep. It calmed me. Picturing myself in that dim room, the quiet night around us, safely on the ground, eased my fear. Apparently, Munch's nursery is my happy place.

I sat in the window seat, another thing I've avoided for years. But, when Munch woke up that first flight, all he wanted to do was look out at the ground. And I looked with him. He pointed at round bodies of water and tall buildings and I named everything for him. Seeing the tiny world through his new eyes helped me to see the wonder of it all as well.

The second flight, we were all exhausted. We'd been up at 3:45am to get transported for a 7:45am flight. Munch fell immediately to sleep, sprawled on his back across Hubs and my legs, and didn't wake up until we WOKE him up after we were landed and at the gate. And, the interesting thing is, I wasn't nearly as scared on this flight. I read my book. I dozed. I looked out the window when the pilot said you could see DC. I enjoyed looking at the tiny cars, the wooded landscape. Twice I grabbed Hubs' arm for reassurance at a bump. But my heart didn't pound and I didn't cry.

  • Munch makes me stronger. I'm learning this over and over. Munch helps me as much as I help him. Being his mother makes me a braver person.
  • Though I had my first flight at 16 (and Hubs had his at 19), Munch first flew the friendly skies at 18.5 months. That is a gift to him.
  • I want Munch to see flying as an adventure, not something that induces terror. In order for him to see that, I have to model that.
  • The thing you worry about most often turns out to be the thing that is easiest. 

Thursday, September 27, 2012

18-Month Well Baby

Last night, Munch had his 18-month well baby visit--yes, my pediatrician has evening hours on Wednesdays. Love her!

Here are the stats:

Weight: 23.9 pounds, putting him nearer the 25th percentile than the 10th--yay!
Height: 32.75 inches--my tall boy!

He got two shots--pneumococcal and hep A--that he endured bravely and got two tiger-stripe Band-Aids for his trouble.

The only downside was he couldn't get the flu shot at the same time as the pneumococcal--so we go back in November, and Hubs and I will be able to get them from Dr. H as well.

Our appointment was at 7, but we didn't end up seeing her until closer to 7:30. Munch walked happily around the exam room, eating some banana and fish, exploring until about 7:20. Then he was done. It was incredibly hot in there, and he got pretty tired in a snap. So, he cried for most of the appointment, unfortunately.

Dr. H says all looks good--his ears look normal, now that they're tubeless, so fingers crossed for a good fall/winter for ears.

We talked to her about what we see as his slightly lagging speech development. She's not concerned, as he's definitely verbalizing, he says his version of a few words (ca, do, bbbb--I'll let you figure out what each of those are) and he obviously understands what we're saying. (I believe this child understands exactly everything. I say, want to take off your shoes? Touches them immediately. Want milk? Goes to the refrigerator. He knows.)

So, as with his walking, he's taking his own sweet time, practicing his long, babbly sentences, and one day, I'm sure, he'll look at me and say, "Mother, please turn on Disney Junior."

Okay, maybe, "Mama, up." I'd be satisfied.

Monday, September 24, 2012

Day Care-Induced Mommy Rage

My phone rang at 10:30am: day care. My heart sinks when they call me during the day. Something is wrong. Immediately the assistant director says, "Hello, your son is perfectly fine." Me, aloud: "Okay." Me, silently: He's clearly not perfectly fine, or you wouldn't be calling me at 10:30am.

Long and short: Munch fell on the playground and scraped his "cheekbone." He was running and fell. She's looking at him now and he's not crying. It didn't bleed or break the skin. They put a little ice on it and he went back to playing. I confirmed his eye was fine. Oh yes, doesn't affect his eye at all.

So, I got through the work day with my anxiety level elevated and increasing as I imagined picking him up and trying to figure what his cheek will look like--is it a long line of a scratch like he sometimes does to himself when I neglect his nails a day too long? Or is it a "patchwork" scratch, like he got when he skinned his knee the first time?

When I pick him up, the room is chaotic because several parents have arrived at once. I immediately see the mark on Munch's face and they're right--it's not terrible. He is smiling and running for his bag as usual.

And, his mark is not nearly as horrific as the poor little girl whose mother is clutching her in the "circle time" area. This little girl has a massive what appears to be a gash-like mark vertically down her face from above her eye, over her eye, and onto her cheek. I would have FREAKED if I was her mother.

Okay. Details about Munch's "scratch" that I can assess now that I see him in person:

  • It is not on his cheekbone. There is a dime-size mark directly below his eye, on his orbital bone or whatever-the-hell.
  • There is another mark, this one a small dot of a purple bruise directly ABOVE his eye, below his eyebrow.
  • It likely did not bleed because this seems to be more of a bruise than a cut.
I can feel myself inwardly clenching. Apparently, the assistant director's powers of observation aren't up to snuff. Or, maybe she's not sure where the cheekbone is. I would not characterize this as a cheek injury; it is an eye injury (but, again, in comparison to the other kid, hardly worth noting). 

Then I turn my attention to the horribly named "incident report," where they list out a narrative of what happened and whether the kid was taken to the ER (obviously no) and the teacher signs and the parent signs. "CYA" if you will.

The incident report states that Munch attained this injury when he was sliding headfirst down the slide. 

Not running, tripped, and fell.

And, his teacher informs me, all the other teachers were "on the other side of the playground" and therefore he did this when no one was watching and apparently they were alerted when they heard him crying. 

So, to sum up: My 18-month-old son obtained a relatively innocuous eye-area injury when he, on his own and with no supervision, climbed to the top of about a 4- or 5-foot slide, went down head first, and presumably hit the ground with his face. 

Okay. Time to get out of there so I could RAGE on the phone to my husband.

I am not good at reacting "in the moment" to things like these. I absorb all the information, do not think of appropriate followup questions ("Why were all the other teachers on the other side of the playground? Are the kids often left to play unsupervised?"). I go home, stew, and plan my next day's conversation with the teacher or director. I obsess over this until I talk to someone in authority. 

And, I'm sure I'm known as "that" parent in the day care. I called immediately when I found a scratch on Munch when he was about 5 months old that he probably did himself, but how could I be sure?? When we discovered that we received another kid's bottle at the end of the day and that child happened to have a rare letter in her name in common with my son, I convinced myself that he had drunk her breastmilk, likely would be coming down with a communicable disease, and it was all day care's fault. Not that the bottle was put in the wrong bag. 

I question everything. 

However, I feel it's better to be "that parent" than the one who goes blindly along, not reacting to circumstances or her gut. When my gut says something is amiss, I listen, and I address it. Especially when my son is not old enough to tell me what actually happened, when he literally cannot speak for himself. I must speak for him. 

And these are the days that I rail and rage against the necessary evil in my life that is work, a paycheck, health insurance. I know that day care is beneficial for my son and I know he greatly enjoys his days there. But on days like these, when I have to say to myself, are these people truly watching him like I would? I hate it. 

I understand that he's a little boy and little boys will get all manner of bumps, cuts, and bruises. However, I could have gotten behind that argument when I thought he had been running along, stumbled as he is wont to do, and tripped. 

That is apparently not what happened. Someone wasn't watching him and they should have been. I understand that there will come a time when I take my eyes off him for a split second and there will suddenly be broken skin. I understand we all make mistakes.

But I entrust this most precious thing to these people and I expect that my 1-year-old will not be able to climb to the top of a freaking ladder and face-first plummet to the ground without SOMEONE having a clue until he cries out. 

And so, tigress that I am, I will stew and wait for the morning when my husband will talk to Munch's teacher at drop-off. And I will absorb what he learns then and take all my information to the director when I pick Munch up tomorrow afternoon.

And the beauty of this is: this is another "welcome to motherhood" moment. This is my life. At this writing, my mother-in-law is with her 29-year-old son who had an accident at work and needs to have surgery tomorrow. My mother reminds me of the time in 9th grade I was hit at school in the forehead by a softball and I was knocked out cold. No one at school called her, and she didn't know what happened til she saw the massive goose-egg on my forehead and rushed me to the ER. (I was fine, no concussion.)

These feelings induced by seeing our offspring damaged, in any way, will not go away as these tiny beings grow and age. This is life. This is motherhood. Seeing these marks will hurt more than if I'd banged my own eye. And all it feels like I can do is rage. And advocate until I'm hoarse.

Lord of the Rings

After a weekend of zooing and relaxing, I got a call this morning from day care that Munch had fallen while running around the playground and he has a scratch on his cheekbone. :( And I have to wait until I get home to see the damage. Apparently, it didn't bleed and he cried a bit, but settled down. Poor thing!

With that, the weekend wrapping:

The Highlight(s):
  • The zoo on Munch's half birthday
  • Munch got so into his Melissa and Doug wooden ring tower last night! It was amazing. He sat for an hour putting the rings on the rod and taking them off and clapping for himself. He was so contented and excited!
The Good:
  • A nice visit with my dad and Patty. After the zoo, we just hung out at our house and played with Munch's basketball hoop and had Chipotle for dinner.
  • " 'nana".
  • My first trip to a Waffle House for breakfast--excellent waffles, omelet, and hashbrowns. Munch again at first refused to sit in his high chair, just stiffened up his whole body, then we had a minor victory of getting him to settle.
  • A quiet Sunday just the three of us, though Hubs had to do a lot of work.
  • Rocking Munch to sleep for his late-day nap and holding him while he slept (though he slept for too long, my fault). Read the whole time.
  • My first Pumpkin Spice Latte of the season.
  • Cooler weather starting Sunday.
  • Munch playing with his basketball hoop--so cute. At first he tried putting the ball up through the hoop's bottom, but he soon got the hang of it.
  • NEW iPHONES--so awesome. And back to Verizon!
The What???
  • News on Sunday that the National Zoo's newborn panda died. The article referenced the keepers hearing the mother's "distressed cry" and my heart broke.
  • Munch didn't get to sleep last night until after 11 last night--Mommy's fault, as I let him sleep from 4-6pm.
  • Never-ending housework. No matter what we do, by the end of the weekend, the kitchen is a mess and the laundry isn't done.
  • The Emmys really weren't good.

Sunday, September 23, 2012

A Day at the Zoo

Yesterday, we went to the National Zoo during a visit with my dad, who was in for the weekend. He hadn't seen Munch since my sister's wedding over Memorial Day. At that time, Munch was still only taking a few tentative steps here and there. Now he's running all over, so it's a big change!

Munch has been to the zoo once before, on his 1st birthday. I didn't even process that it was his half birthday, so that pretty much solidifies a pattern and a tradition. He rode around in the stroller very well, eating Goldfish and just looking around. The weather was gorgeous, though a tad on the hot side as we said good-bye to summer with 85. He guzzled water every so often and seemed content. Lots of kids and babies were there, all in various states of enjoyment and outrage at their varied perceived injustices.

We got him out of the stroller to have him make a "handimal" -- put his handprint on a paper and a zoo employee paints it into an animal. We chose, of course, a monkey. This is where we shifted from content to obsessed--as soon as he was unleashed from the stroller, he wanted to push it. He screamed through his handprint, which I think under normal circumstances he'd enjoy, and then he pushed the stroller around and around in circles and then we inched along as Munch held his hand on the side as I pushed. That was nice--he clearly loved being "in control."

Hubs went with Dad and Patty into the pavilion to get us lunch, and I stayed out with Munch and the stroller. At first, he was content to push from the ground as usual, then he wanted me to hold him up at the bar and let him truly "push" the stroller. This is exhausting, to say the least. And, when Daddy arrived with the food, massive screaming ensued as we attempted to extricate Munch from his hold on the stroller.

So, off Daddy went to show Munch the vending machines and the cow at the kids' farm. After lunch, I tried in vain to get Munch to sleep, as he was then very past his naptime. Then, we had a minor victory as we wrestled him back into the stroller and got him to settle down to ride around again (usually, we never get past this step, as he refused to sit back down once he's out). And, after a bit more rolling, he finally slept for about 45 minutes.

Munch still wasn't terribly aware of the zoo animals. Once, when I thought he was smiling at two fat-bellied monkeys sitting on a ledge, I realized he was smiling at a hanging ball three feet to the right. I guess whatever floats your boat.

As a zoo experience, this was a good one, though. Among the highlights, we saw:
  • The male lion with his thick auburn mane resting in the shade
  • A swimming sea lion, among my favorites
  • A tortoise feeding demonstration, so the big boulder of a shell actually moved with the tortoise standing up and walking and extending his neck
  • A gorilla reclining back on the ground with his legs crossed up against the glass
All in all, a very good half birthday for Munch!

Saturday, September 22, 2012

Happy Half Birthday!

I have the Alice in Wonderland "A Very Merry Un-birthday" song in my head, but that's not exactly it. Munch turned 18 months old today! How the time has flown.

And, his present to me was:

During his breakfast, I brought out his customary banana. He pointed at it and said with a knowing smile,
" 'nana!"

And my heart exploded!

Friday, September 21, 2012

Prove It!

So, my 18-month-old can identify body parts. My MIL says that some 3-year-olds can't even do that. How smart little Munch is!

He's known "nose" for a while. I worked very hard on this one in the bathtub--he has a little boat with a big red nose and I pointed over and over saying "nose nose nose" then pointed to Munch's nose. Now, Munch points to it himself and almost says it--at least, "No" while he points.

He's known "belly" for even longer, thanks to Lisa, who taught him to slap his Pooh Bear's belly. He now does it to Monkey, himself, and Daddy if prompted.

Lately, he's been very into eyes. We were looking at a book and came upon the letter I and I said, "I!" Munch immediately pointed to his eye. It's amazing to me that he knows these things already.

So last night Munch was in the bath and I said to Hubs how impressed I am that Munch knows his body parts. "You need to be able to do that when you enter kindergarten!" I know that because the one body part I missed in my kindergarten entrance exam was "jaw." (It speaks to my history of academic perfectionism that I'm not even forgiving with that less-than-100% effort.)

Hubs said, skeptically, "He knows nose and hair, but not much else." Me: "He knows mouth and ear too." Hubs: "He knows his mouth?"

I looked at Munch, sitting in his suds, and said, "Where's your mouth?" And held my breath. I've never "tested" him in such a way, in a "prove it" way.

And boy that kid came through--he immediately opened his mouth wide, stuck his tongue out, and pointed. Triumph! It was so cute, and I got the, "boy what a smart kid we have" feeling.

Reflecting on this, I feel myriad jumbled feelings.

1) George Carlin has a bit where he talks about how excited we parents get when our kids POOP! I'm sure he would lump knowing where one's mouth is and being able to point to it on cue as not placing one in the "genius" category. However, George Carlin never saw a kid as cute as MINE, I'm sure.

2) No, there is a wonder in watching what started as a microscopic cell learn the art of, well, living. I understand that billions of kids before mine have rolled over and smiled and eaten a puff and clicked their tongues and stood on their own. But MY kid has a first time for these things. And though you know these milestones are coming and though the novelty wears off and soon they're just walking like most other bipedal creatures, there is something so joyful in watching them learn to do it. The excitement of those first few steps Munch took, for us and for him, are quite nearly unmatched. When he was first walking on his own for about 10 steps, it struck me as so odd to get excited about so commonplace a thing as walking. But it was wondrous.

3) I've said before that I don't want Munch to be the top of his class. I know that sounds so weird from a mother's mouth. But what I wish for him is average. For so long in my family, "average" in school or work equates to "mediocre." What I mean is, I don't want him to feel that he's a complete failure if he tries his best and gets a B. I don't want him to feel like he has to be the BEST at everything. I want him to enjoy life, and find what he is naturally BEST at, whether that's music or tennis or math or science. I don't want him to be a slacker; and I hope he doesn't struggle in school. I want him to be a solid B student. That may be weird, but that's how I feel.

However, was my innocuous question, "Where's your mouth?" the shot across the bow for the "show me how smart you are" trap we parents all somehow seem to fall into? If Munch had simply stared at me or leaned forward and put his face in the water or eaten more bubbles instead of triumphantly finding his mouth, what would that have felt like? Would I have been disappointed that he wasn't further along, that he couldn't "prove" to his father his anatomical knowledge? Did I get too much satisfaction from him knowing the right answer?

I hope not. I hope I felt pure joy that my little man learned another new thing. Because the joy is in the learning. And, as toddlers are wont to do, maybe he's forgotten where is mouth is by now. But the joy, the triumph, I think I take in his body part identification is the progress. He's growing! He's understanding that everything has a name. And he's learning to name it.

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Any Time in Gettysburg Is a Good Time

Weekend wrapping up on Tuesday again. An at-home weekend with some visiting thrown in.

The Highlight:
  • Saturday evening, Hubs, Munch, and I went to Gettysburg to enjoy the beautiful air and get Munch some 18 month pants and long sleeves. The colder weather, especially in the mornings, crept up on us. We split up and I did some clothes shopping for myself (also much-needed) and Hubs first pushed Munch in the stroller, then I took Munch to the center of the outlets and let him push the stroller around the gazebo and sit in the rocking chairs. After Hubs was done at Game Stop, he came back and we both walked as Munch sat in my arms "pushing" the stroller around and around. He loved it.

    Then, as I shopped at Carter's, Munch ran in and out of the store with Daddy following behind. He interacted with a little girl who said, "What is that baby saying?" in response to Munch's intricate babbles. I was like, honey, we have no idea.

    Munch is definitely in the toddler "I want what I want now and I'm going to scream if I have to stop" phase. When he had to stop pushing the stroller, screamed. When it was 8:15 and time to leave and I picked him up, screamed. And, we made the mistake of buying a Melissa and Doug Trunki because we thought it would be SO CUTE for Munch to have his own luggage for Disney.

    Trunki claims that there will be No More Tears! in the airport, now that your toddler can have HIS OWN suitcase that he can RIDE ON WHEN HIS LEGS ARE TIRED. What say you, marketing gurus, when said miracle Trunki induces crying because my one-track-minded toddler wants ONLY to ride or push the Trunki when it's time to, say, get in the car or stow the beloved Trunki in the, um, trunk? So, Trunki has been hiding in the front seat of Daddy's car since purchase, and we're considering whether this particular toy/luggage will be waiting until Munch is perhaps older.
The Good:
  • Barnes and Noble Friday night. Also, awesome chicken.
  • A good day of playing on Saturday, with lots of dancing and I even took Munch out into the backyard after I mowed the jungle-lawn.
  • Football! with dear friends and Red Robin, whose tagline now is, "It's good to enjoy a burger every now and now." Yep.
The What???
  • Croup and breathing troubles.
  • So much snot from Munch's continuously runny nose.
  • Teething, oh teething.
  • Munch ate exactly 6 bites of cereal and goldfish all day Sunday.

Monday, September 17, 2012

Parental Panic

We've all been there: In that moment when something goes wrong with our children and our stomachs seize and our chests tighten and our minds go blank and then race: "Please let nothing be really wrong."

Luckily, knock on wood and all that, my moments of parental panic during these first nearly 18 months have been momentary and not truly panic-worthy. But don't they all feel like the world is crashing around us?

Last night, I had my most recent moment, and the most serious one since Munch was very little--when he had bronchialitis at 4 months old and he needed to be nebulized in the doctor's office; when he'd gotten a bruise in the middle of his tiny 5-month-old forehead when a day care buddy threw his bottle and hit Munch in the head.

Last night, at 11:45, Munch's cries rang out through the monitor. They sounded different, dry somehow. I went in to find him on his back, gasping with each intake of breath. He, it seemed, couldn't breathe. I cried out for my husband, rushing into our bedroom as Munch continued to try to cry silently and gasp on the inhale. My heart was pounding and my mouth dry, my own breath coming quickly. What will I do, I thought, if he just stops breathing? I felt sure, in my white-panic brain, that he was dying in my arms as I watched, and there was nothing I could do.

It wasn't like he had sucked a Trix into his throat as I did at 9 years old and couldn't breathe for a REASON. He had been asleep, soundly, and now he was struggling for breath. I saw fear on my husband's face and that more than anything terrified me.

And then, it was over. He had hardly even opened his eyes. It must have only been 30 seconds. And he was again sleeping soundly, breathing normally, chest rising and falling regularly, in my arms.

Munch slept. I cried. Hubs examined. I had him call our pediatrician, the first late-night phone call since before Munch  turned a year old, the first since before he was 9 months old. The verdict: Croup. Not serious. Common. Often don't know your kid has it. Yes, in fact, he has sounded hoarse when he cried the past few days.

Remedies: Keep him calm. (Um, so, running through the house yelling for my husband while my own heart races ISN'T the best way to help my son? Got it.) Nebulize him. Try a steam room (read: bathroom with hot shower) if he continues to have trouble. If all else fails: ER.

He was fine the rest of the night and chipper this morning. These moments of parental panic seem so silly when they're over and when you realize nothing big truly was at stake. Nothing tragic was imminent, nothing even really bad. The time I scooped peanut butter out of the jar with my finger, then gave Munch his pacifier with the same hand, only to realize I had PB under my nail (this was when Munch was about 6 months old and still hadn't tried PB). I stood over him and watched for anaphylactic shock to seize him.

Or, when he was even littler, 2 months little, when he was asleep in my arms and then started breathing in quick bursts, huh-huh, as if he'd been crying very hard . He did this for about 20 minutes; I had another night of watching him like a hawk. Our pediatrician told us that babies drive their parents crazy with their little breathing quirks and likely Munch was DREAMING that he'd been crying and his body was reacting as if he really had been.

I am calmer post-croup, but my doubts linger. "I hope this is croup. And not something more serious like, say, congestive heart failure." This is where my mind goes. Jumps pneumonia and straight to the ICU.

And now, I watch. And even though this was "nothing" (*hopefully* knock on wood and all that again) these moments remind us of what is at stake when we have these little people, with pumping hearts and firing synapses and lungs that need to fill every few seconds. Everything. Everything is at stake when you become a parent. And I'm better about the things that could lead to a panic moment than I was when he was born--for instance, he barrel-rolled off a hardwood step in our living room yesterday and I cuddled him, ran my hands over him, and set him off to play again.

But sometimes--sometimes, I am reminded. A breath away.

Friday, September 14, 2012

"Good in Bed": What a Narrator

I've been following Jennifer Weiner on Twitter and thought for sure I'd like her books. I picked her debut to start, and I have several complaints, not the least of which is how convenient it is the Cannie ends up meeting a gazillionaire right around the same time she's going to become a single mother. Nevermind Cannie having to figure out how to really live, she has a sugar-mama now. That's an exaggeration, but not much, considering that she sold her screenplay and made a ton of money through this connection.

I am a Former Fat Girl and I found serious contradictions in Cannie's character. (I acknowledge that experiences are not universal, and mine may not speak for every fat girl, but here are my impressions.) Like Cannie, I grew up heavy, was heavy all of my teen years and into my 20s. Unlike Cannie, I never had a boyfriend or even a first kiss because I so lacked confidence in myself. If Cannie really feels that she is unlovable to the extent she claims, there's no way she would have a relationship with Bruce wherein she teaches him the art of lovemaking. She doesn't seem particularly self-conscious as she makes jokes and snide comments about every thing and person she sees. It's like Cannie is supposed to be both: a fat woman with crippling self-esteem problems AND the fat woman who can get a guy and have awesome rock star friends and not let her size hold her back.

I also was so horrified by Cannie's treatment of her mother's partner. I was especially appalled by the conversation she and her siblings have at a holiday where she does so many impressions of Tanya. As someone who so desperately wants to be loved, she shows an astonishing lack of awareness that her mother also deserves to love and be loved as well.

And, is it just me or is the way she thinks she'll be viewed as a single mother straight out of the 1950s? This is the 21st century, after all, with women choosing their own paths to motherhood that do not all involve a man. It was weird.

The more I think about it, the more I hate Cannie!
And I listened to the audio version and detested the reader.

All in all, 2 stars.

5 Things About This Week

Things have been busy, but good this week. I've also been scattered and not able to really focus on writing a post every day. So, here's sort of a weekly wrap up.

1) Munch is cutting another molar, on his right side this time. I think last night we hit the "writhing" place again and I'm sure it's either cut through now or it's close. Poor thing, we gave him Advil and he slept pretty well. I also feel like he's grown another 2 inches. He can now reach things on the edge of the counter, as I realized just in time as he reached for a knife I used to chop onion. Yikes. He also is waving for real now. A very deliberate twisting back and forth of the wrist. It's like he's practically disdainful as he looks at you  while doing it, but it's just him concentrating and getting the hang of it. So cute.

2) My MIL sent me an article about "the last time" things happen with your baby--the last time he crawled more than walked, the last time he wasn't bald, the last time he didn't have teeth. This post caused my mother to write her own ode to "last times" and my older sister to call me in paroxysms of sobs. I have somehow been able to keep the emotion at arm's length and look at it pragmatically: We all need the reminder that childhood is fleeting; these are the days we'll long for when our babies are sullen teens or beaming graduates. My mother in law once told me that parenthood is a series of letting gos and I could not agree more, and this article summed that up. It's sort of a pessimistic way of looking at things, but it's a hard truth we all need to acknowledge--it's the quintessential "live for the moment" lesson. Life, too, is fleeting. Don't look too far ahead or lament your current state.

3) I've been blowing it up on Twitter, I think. I have very much enjoyed connecting with other moms, especially other working moms, and I've gotten a couple of follows. It's a little absurd how happy this makes me.

4) I went to our building's gym TWICE. It was only for 20 minutes apiece, but I sweated a lot, and I told myself that 20 minutes are better than no minutes. I felt much better about myself.

5) I've been feeling quite light-hearted. This is not a natural feeling for me, and it's one that I regard with great wariness and suspicion. Sadly, whenever I feel quite good and light-hearted, I'm watching up ahead for the Thing That Will Tear Me Down. I'm trying to concentrate on just enjoying the feeling. This is what it's like when my hormones are even and I'm able to "control my mind."

Monday, September 10, 2012

Daddy Time and Good Screaming

This weekend was another great one, with Munch being in a good mood for most of it. My mom, sisters, and grandma were in for my cousin's baby shower on Saturday, so Daddy spent a good deal of alone time with Munch.

The Highlight:
  • The Saturday night visit, during which Munch was in such a good mood. He seemed a bit shy when they came in, pulling slightly back into Daddy, but quickly warmed and spent the evening screaming for us all to imitate him, playing with the origin star from Carlisle, which now hangs on my doorknob, knocking blocks over, and having us sing "Wheels."
The Good:
  • 2.5 cupcakes on Saturday. (This is both good and bad.) BW3's on Friday (again, good and bad).
  • Seeing a new and quaint part of Baltimore, near the "Fells Point" area. Gorgeous area right on the Bay, lots of sailboats and massive Navy ships.
  • Spending so much time with my younger sister, whom I've missed a lot since she moved to Pittsburgh. Spending quality one-on-one time with my older sister as well, and enjoying some good-natured ribbing.
  • Nursery rhyme worksheets at the shower, which resulted in a $15 Starbucks card.
  • Munch running up and down the length of the living room, screaming and smiling and delighting as I screamed back.
  • The continuous "star search." We've discovered stars on several more toys. Munch also stared at a quilt with a large starburst in the middle, thinking, I could see, that it could possibly be a star, but it's unlike those he normally likes.
  • Football!
  • The glorious fall-like weather after the storm on Saturday, walking around the lake at the Rio with Hubs and Munch on Sunday.
  • Got my new bathing suit and I think it'll be cute for Disney.
  • Chipotle twice.
  • Finished A Study in Scarlet and started an awesome mommy memoir.
The What???
  • 75 minutes on hold with Verizon Fios.
  • Teething--another molar coming in, and some discomfort at night.
  • Another "mommy fail": I let Munch play on the kitchen counter last night and he was playing with the Keurig and toaster. Of course, it went a little too far and he started putting his finger inside the Keurig, where the little needle is that pokes the hole in the top of the K-cup, so that ended that, and he screamed and obsessed and wouldn't get over it until Daddy finally just took him to bed. He fell asleep immediately, so he was clearly overtired, but once again, he was so upset because I let him do something, then had to abruptly stop him from doing it, and he can't understand why. He doesn't have the capacity. I need to remember that when he wants to do something that he shouldn't but that seems okay on the surface. I am the mommy and need to be stronger in this regard.

Thursday, September 6, 2012

Stars: The Obession Continues

My little man continues his total fascination with the star shape. He finds them everywhere, even places we've been looking for many months of his life. It's like stars have opened a whole new world. Suddenly, he'll point to something and be so excited and I won't even realize why until I see the star. It's like his own personal game of Where's Waldo or I Spy.

He's found them:
  • In his own piece of artwork hanging on the refrigerator. It's one of the first things he ever brought home from day care, a stamped picture of "At the Beach." And across the center are four star-shaped stickers.
  • On his "house" toy, a two-sided thing that has the outside on one side and the inside on the other. At the top is a wheel you can spin from "day" (sun, blue sky) to "night" (moon and, of course, stars).
  • In other toys, like his shape ball, which has a star piece.
  • In books, on random pages, like "That's Not my Monster."
Most troubling for our household, last night was OPENING NIGHT for the 2012 football season, and the inaugural game was played by the New York Giants and the Dallas Cowboys. The Cowboys are much-maligned under my roof, as they have beaten Hubbaland's beloved and tragic Buffalo Bills in the playoffs. And, Texas is the source of my husband's one prejudice, he just dislikes the state, its collective philosophy, and everything that has come out of it (except the Dillon Panthers).

So, last night, as the game was revving up, Munch walked by the TV, and something familiar and cherished caught his eye. The Cowboys' star logo, emblazoned on dozens of helmets and jerseys. Hubs was quite distressed! I feel like Munch CHOSE them as his team, that we should get him a Cowboys shirt. Beyond that, I feel like he'll be a Dallas Stars hockey fan--and then, God forbid--a Texan through and through, a citizen of the Lonestar State.

Hubs said if I encourage this, he will push the Pittsburgh Penguins on Munch hard (which would enrage this Detroit Red Wings fan).

But it was so cute.

I hope this is how Munch will go through life. Finding stars in the mundane, in the everyday, in the familiar, and the well-known. I hope he will find the bright spot in everything.

And, he's teaching me to open my eyes and really see. Not to miss the star right before my eyes.

Labor Day Away

I realize I'm doing my weekend wrapup on Thursday, but if I don't do it, this will be second missed week in a row and that's not acceptable! This is also my first post of September!

I came back to work after the long weekend with a lot on my plate and also in the midst of an emotional time that caused me not to be able to focus, so here it is a few days after the weekend, which was largely great.

The Highlight:
  • The first "vacation" Hubs, Munch, and I have taken just the three of us. It wasn't anything elaborate or long, but it was wonderful! We went to a Hampton Inn in Front Royal, VA, just about 1.5 hours from home and at the entrance to the Shenandoah National Park.

    Basically, our one requirement was a pool for Munch. He went swimming three times, each for about 20 minutes before he started shivering and turning blue--literally blue-lipped. We took him straight to a warm bath afterwards. There were some other kids in the pool, and he watched them and splashed when they splashed. He "swam" in my arms and "jumped" off the side of the pool.

    (Having grown up a bigger kid with quite a bit of padding, this quick-chill for my skinny baby is foreign to me! He loves to swim and he cried so hard when we had to leave. But it's not like he'll sit wrapped in a towel until he warms up. This makes me wonder what he'll be like in Disney.)

    It was a relaxing weekend during which Munch slept fantastically--on Friday from 11pm to 7am in the crib and then in the king-size bed until 9am, then from 7:15pm for nearly 12 hours on Saturday. He enjoyed eating breakfast down in the common area, which served hot breakfast for FREE every morning. We timed our drive of Skyline Drive through the national park during Munch's nap, and that worked out pretty well.

    Front Royal is not nearly as pretty as it sounds, in fact, it was rather hole-ish, rather than being a beautiful, quaint small town. The hotel shared a McDonald's parking lot, and I indulged in two filets-o-fish, and man, were they insanely good.
The Good:
  • Having 3 days with Munch!
  • Getting home on Sunday so we had Monday to relax.
  • Seeing Tony and Myrna for dinner on Sunday.
  • Munch's crying evolved to something so cute and heart-wrenching at the same time. Instead of just crying--for instance when he is put down and doesn't want to be, when he feels thwarted in anything, for any real reason--he started wailing, "Mama, MAMA, mama." Over and over.
The What???
  • Hubs getting a massive sinus infection (probably from Munch) on Friday night, causing him to be ill most of the weekend.
  • Having to give Munch his antibiotic, which resulted in a horrible screaming fit twice a day.
  • Munch biting my wrist so that I think he burst a capillary or something, causing a huge bruise to form on the ball of my thumb, and a resulting hypochondriacial reaction about blood clots.

Friday, August 31, 2012


My little Munchkin has his first molar! I'm so happy and sad for him. Last night, as he was wailing in wait for his medicine, I saw the bony, gummy bumps on his top left side, quite near the front. The edges are broken through, but the center is still working on it.

This may be my answer for why he was writhing so terribly on Tuesday night. I can't imagine how painful this is for him. I froze some washcloths to give him tonight. I feel so bad for the little man!

Thursday, August 30, 2012

5 Good Things About This Last Week

In lieu of my weekend wrapup, since I'm 4 days out from it, and because it's been so stressful with a sick kid at home, I give you 5 Good Things:

1) Hot Dog. Not the food, but the song. Munch is totally into Mickey Mouse Clubhouse now. He loves the Hot Dog Song, and we watch it on YouTube when it's not on TV. He dances and smiles, and it's so cute. (However, I've had it in my head for the past 10 hours, and it's driving me a little mad.)

2) Hugs and hair rubs. Munch is way into my hair right now. He'll wrap his arms around my neck and take clumps of it gently in his hands, like he's making a ponytail. It feels so sweet. He also will rub his face in it and smile.

3) Spending more time than usual with Munch. Although he's been sick, he has thankfully not been TERRIBLY sick. It's been nice cuddling and being with him much more than during a usual week.

4) Last night's sleep. He was in the crib from 9:30-2:30, then back in the crib from 3-8. Unprecedented these past few months.

5) A quiet weekend with just us (again). We had another no-plans weekend, and it was glorious until the fever struck. We went to our normal Panera Sunday, and Munch was happy throughout the meal, looking at his new Halloween books. It rained on Saturday and I opened the curtains to a rainbow. Oh, and we bought a freaking iMac!

Back From M.I.A.

It has been a week. Not only was I too busy/stressed/preoccupied to followup on last week's goals, but I didn't even set official goals for this week OR do a weekend wrapup post.

Long and short: Munch's temp started to elevate on Sunday night and by Monday morning, it was a full-blown 102 fever. :-( He was so hot. I took him to the doctor, ignoring the "wait 5 days rule" because we are supposed to go away on Friday, and because he's been coughing and sniffling for a freaking month.

It appears he has a sinus infection like he did in April. It's like the cold lingers long enough to morph into something more. His fever was gone yesterday, but boy was it rough for a while. I was off work until about 1:30 on Monday, and when I left him with my MIL so I could get a little work done, he cried so hard and clung to my neck so desperately, that I sobbed my way out the door and cried all the way home. It was one of the worst times I've ever left him. It was heart-wrenching and devestating because I knew so clearly that all he wanted was ME to comfort him and I felt like I was abandoning him. It was terrible. I felt the dualing roles of mother and worker acutely.

Tuesday was better, still feverish, but playing, so he wasn't just wanting me to hold him. Tuesday night, however, was awful. For one thing, he took a nap later in the day than usual and so he wasn't tired until later. We tried at 9:30 and it was clearly not happening, so we gave it until 11 (before which he just played). He fell asleep, but within 5 minutes coughed himself awake and from then on it was screaming/writhing/crying/wanting to play/but wanting to sleep/horror until 1:30, when he finally fell fitfully to sleep after I sang "What Child Is This?" for 40 straight minutes.

We kept him home one more day yesterday, and he was tired and cranky, but by evening seemed to be turning the corner. I haven't heard anything from day care today, so I assume that means he's done well today. He hardly ate anything all week, but he did keep drinking lots of milk and water, so that's good.

Now we just have 7 more freaking days of the antibiotic, which entails a wrestling match, projectile spitting, coughing and choking, and much crying all around. I'll let you puzzle out who does what.

Thursday, August 23, 2012

Distinctive Voice, Powerful Story

I'm a slow reader, but I love books. Therefore, I have shelves and shelves of unread books, all the best intentions, and an ever-growing list of "to-read" while my "read" (past-tense) list grows slowly but steadily.

I also have about an hour in the car each day. And not a lot of disposable income. So, I went to my trusted local library and checked out an audiobook by Joshilyn Jackson, whose blog I find hilarious. I own Between, Georgia, and it's squarely on my "to-read" list.

A Grown-up Kind of Pretty is Jackson's most recent novel, and I'm so glad it was my introduction to her. Not only was the narration amazing--read by the author--but the story, characters, and message all spoke to me. I couldn't wait to get into the car for my commute, sometimes wishing for a traffic jam!

This is a story of mothers and daughters, of what it means to call someone "mine" and what it means to be claimed by someone in love. (I mean that in the best sense of the word, claimed. To be welcomed and accepted and fought for by someone.)

It is a story of loss, redemption, growing up, and being accepted for who you are. It is a story of grace for those who are different and for those who have made mistakes.

I didn't want the story to end. I can't recommend it highly enough.

Timing Is Everything

Ugh and blah and bleck. I am regretting basically every food choice I've made today. I'm so ticked and so frustrated with myself and disappointed. I can't get the food I've already eaten back. I have dinner ahead to go. It's halfway through the week and I haven't been great. And the weekend looms.

A big problem was not having a solid plan for lunch. So, I went to Whole Foods, which I love, but where I always overeat. Then, when I was feeling less than satisfied with the salad and chicken I got, I found tantalizing leftover pizza in my office breakroom, which I promptly ate.

Then, after I decided to estimate Points on everything and write it all down, discovering I had about 7 Points left for the rest of the day, I got an email that THE ICE CREAM CAKE IS MELTING for an office birthday celebration. Off to the 8th floor I went, and boy it was good. Now I'm definitely OVER Points for the day, before dinner.

Last night, I let myself go down a pizza-toast rabbit hole after dinner.

And I keep hearing in my mind, what is WRONG with me? I have specific goals that I WANT to achieve, and yet there goes my whatever-the-hell, will power, motivation, desire, WHATEVER at the mere suggestion of an ice cream cake.

(Really, the ice cream cake was good and could be termed "worth it." The pizza was also quite tasty; it's the chicken that I truly regret--greasy and rather tasteless, and yet, I ate it.)

In my weakest moments, I encountered pizza and ice cream today. And I gave in.

I know I need to "turn the corner" and show myself what I can do today to at least help (take a walk with Munch, not have dessert after dinner). But right now I feel WALLOW-Y. Whiny. All those nice W-y words: Weakly. Wimpy. God-forbid, weepy.

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

5 Songs I Sing to Munch

In honor of Munch's 17-month birthday, here are 5 songs I sing to him:

1) "One of Us" by Joan Osbourne, "Glee" edition. One day when Munch was about 2 months old, he was fussy fussy and I couldn't get him to sleep. I turned on my Glee playlist and "One of Us" came on. I swayed him in front of our patio door, singing along, and he went out like a light. This is still one of my favorites.

2) "What Child Is This?" Christmas carol. Yes, I realize it's bizarre to sing a Christmas song in the middle of a humid summer. But this sort of just happened one night, when Munch was fighting sleep. I've always liked this song, and now I feel it's one of my favorites. The key is low enough that I don't feel completely idiotic singing it without musical accompaniment.

Being a mother has also given me a new appreciation for the song's story. As I sway my own baby in the dark, his head on my shoulder, my nose in his hair, I feel a connection to this mother in the stable, who is singing to a little baby who is primarily that to her--her beloved baby. I never fail to choke up as I reach the line, "Raise, raise the song on high, the Virgin sings her lullaby." It holds such a base-level innocence, the primal love of a mother for her son, before this baby embarks on such a journey as lies in store for him.

3) "Poor the Baby," my own made-up song. Speaking of bizarre, I'm known for making up weird songs and tunes with repetitive lyrics. Some of my past "greatest hits" include, "The Only Other Place I Know" (about an ice cream parlor near an old apartment of ours), "Let's Get in the Shower" and "This Doesn't Hurt at All" (sung in Maui to my red-headed husband after he got horribly sunburned sitting out by the pool under a thatch umbrella), and "I Put It Over There (But Now I Don't Know Where It Is)" both normal version and slow jazz.

(Weirded out yet?)

Anyway, so I made up a song on the fly to sing to Munch using words that just come into my head. It might go like: "Poor the baby, poor the little one, poor the everything and the all things and the one thing and the baby." Repeat. It's weird. I know. It gets weirder. I just string syllables together: "You're my munchkin, and my lumpkin, and my bumpkin, and the baby."

4) Veggie Tales Lullabyes. My mom gave us a CD of Veggie Tales lullabyes, and this was a go-to playlist for getting Munch to sleep when he was quite little. Usually, it only took the first 5 songs, which I got to know very well--Itsy Bitsy Spider, This Little Light of Mine, He's Got the Whole World in His Hands, etc. We still listen to that in particularly desperate moments, and sometimes I'll leave my iPhone in his room with the playlist on repeat.

5) "The Wheels on the Bus." This isn't a night-time song. This is an every-minute song. Munch will just turn his hands sometimes and that'll be his signal to sing. He loves it.

Monday, August 20, 2012

Home Sweet Home

This weekend was a blissfully unplanned, open weekend that we spent mostly at our house. Poor Hubs had to work quite a bit, ensconsed upstairs on the bed. It was a Mommy-and-Me Saturday, with more family time on Sunday.

The Highlight:
The Good:
  • Complete lack of obligations and plans. We haven't had a weekend like this in a long time, and it was much needed.
  • Friday night at the chicken place, with Munch playing with toys at B&N.
  • Frank and straightforward conversations.
  • Munch in a fabulous mood almost the entire weekend. Just happy and playful.
  • 45 minutes at the gym, complete with treadmill and hand weights.
  • Munch mimicking some funny stuff--my "surprise face," sucking in air and making his mouth a little O, then laughing. Wagging a finger no-no, serious faced, at Daddy. Babbling into his "phone" held to his ear and I know I heard a 'lo?
  • Munch playing with his new V-Tech vacuum and books with sound.
  • Panera breakfast, Munch even behaved the whole time.
  • Fro-yo.
  • Friday Night Lights, Season 1.
The What???
  • Munch ate almost nothing on Saturday--Goldfish all the way.
  • He fought going to sleep last night, but it wasn't too bad.
  • Cat puke. Ugh.

Splash Zone With my Water Baby

I've been meaning to take Munch to this little water park near our house all summer. For one reason or another, it never happened. But, Saturday, I accomplished this goal, and it was everything I knew it would be.

From the second I pulled him out of the car and he could hear the water splashing, he smiled. He couldn't wait to get his tee-shirt off and took off toward the fountains, running and squealing (his high-pitched, I-can't-believe-I-get-to-do-something-so-amazing squeal).

Of course, the play area offered plenty of toddler-friendly activities--a frog that spit; tiny dancing fountains tossing arcs of water back and forth; a short slide; a rock formation with a delicate waterfall; mushrooms dripping water.

Munch made directly for the loudest, most powerful ring of fountains at the center. With about a 30-foot diameter at the widest point, these concentric circles of plowing water made me squish my eyes shut and shake my head. So I can't imagine what it did to my water baby, who kept running into the stream and staggering around after, only to go right back for more.

Munch got cold pretty quickly; he shook after about 20 minutes, and he cried going to the parking lot. That child would play in the water until he turned into a tiny iceberg.

I brought him back for another 20 minutes that afternoon, and this time he wanted to stand underneath the big buckets of water that filled and dumped 15 feet down every few minutes. I curled my body over Munch as he stood and waited and that water hurt. If it would have hit Munch full-on, he would have been knocked to the ground.

And, I'm sure, stood up squealing in delight for the next drenching.

Weekly Goals #5: Let's Get Real

Okay, so things haven't gone exactly as I'd hoped food-wise. Time for some major refocusing! And some major "getting real":

Weeks to Disney Departure: 7
Current Weight: 186.6
Goal: Lose 15 pounds by Saturday, October 6 (Goal Weight: 171.6)

Now that we're so close to Disney (where did those 4 weeks go??), I have to be realistic in my weigh-loss goals. I'm not going to lose 30 pounds in 7 weeks, nor should I. So I have to do what I can do and be proud of my efforts. I have not been pleased with my efforts over the past 4 weeks--I've munched and eaten bad for no good reason. Laziness and compulsion, mostly.

Now for the week's goals:

  • Write everything down. DO IT!
  • Weigh myself on Monday morning.
  • Do something 3 days this week. If I can make the gym at least once, that'll be golden.
  • Write a letter to my grandma by Wednesday.
  • Clean the kitchen.
  • Finish putting away all my clothes and Munch's.
Disney 2006

Tuesday, August 14, 2012

Seeing Stars

Munch's newest obsession: Stars. As in, the shape.

One day last week, he was on the couch pointing and making his "do you see this?" little grunt noise (Uunh?) and it took me a second to realize he was pointing to a star on the border of the Red Wings afghan. This he has repeated several times a day.

He also found a star on a Macy's bag. (Uunh?)

So, I started singing Twinkle Twinkle instead of Wheels on the Bus, and he seemed to enjoy it. Twinkle is not nearly so varied as Wheels, so it gets a little boring for the singer, but what can you do? Munch seems to prefer it right now, as he made his "Wheels please" hand motion and then did a little frustrated wiggle when I started singing Wheels until I sang Twinkle instead.


When Munch was going through his bookshelf, he pointed to a board book he wanted to look at. I mistakenly took out two others and he remained focused on Olivia. He kept flipping the pages, then looking back at the spine. Why? Because of two black stars on the side. Heart, commence melting.

And I've remembered that this isn't his first fascination with stars. At Carlisle, my sister had hung a blue metal star on the wall, and various people held Munch up to touch it, and it made a little clanging sound against the plaster. Tina also had a clock that chimed every 15 minutes. Somehow, Munch associated with clock chiming with the star, and every it went, Munch pointed up to the star and went, Uunh?

Monday, August 13, 2012

Weekly Goals #4

I will be at Disney in 2 months' time. Get crackin, self!


-- Do it right for 1 week. That's it, just 1 week. Write it all down, don't go over Points. See what happens.
-- Weigh myself next Monday morning.


-- For goodness sake, do something. Take a walk with Munch 3 times this week.


-- Clean out my sock drawer and put away all of my and Munch's clothes. (I bet this conjures lovely images of my home! They are close to accurate, I assure you.)

Fair Game

This weekend was a varied activity stay-at-home weekend, and it was largely great.

The Highlight:
  • Hard to choose between my all-time favorite outdoor event of the year, the Montgomery County Fair, and Saturday evening at the Gettysburg outlets and dinner. So, we'll go with both!
    • Highlight 1: Meeting my mom and sister in Gettysburg was wonderful. Munch loved running around the gazebo and testing all the wooden rockers, and my family got some much-needed quiet time with him while Hubs and I did some much-needed shopping. Munch and Hubs got new shoes that they very much needed and I got new purple sandals that Hubs wanted me to get as well as a cool heart necklace.

      Dinner at Gettysburg Eddie's was terrific, complete with frozen mango margurita. Munch behaved pretty well until, as we were waiting for the check, our waitress was facing away from us, bent over to take another table's order, and there goes Munch's pointer finger toward that heiny. Hubs said, No no, very sternly. Munch paused, let the pac fall from his mouth, and then crumpled his face up in a devestated how-could-he-say-that-to-me cry. Then, after a cuddle from mommy and pac back in. The pointer finger moved ever so slightly the same way. Repeat. Repeat. This little game was so funny!
    • Highlight 2: The fair. The weather was lovely, though hot in the sun, not humid. We ate the usual, corn dogs, ice cream, cinnamon almonds, yum. Munch enjoyed looking at the animals (my favorite, the baby piglets nursing), and he pointed at every balloon we saw. He only lasted about 2 hours, though, as he got very hot, wanted to squish his balloon to his chest, and play with his stroller when he got out.
The Good:
  • Just being home in the mornings and having Munch take his nap at home. These quiet spaces, when Munch is in such a good mood and just playing, and then sleeping restfully, are the best parts of my week.
  • Panera bagels on Sunday morning.
  • Watching Sherlock Holmes 2 with Hubs on Friday night. Or was it Saturday? Who knows.
  • Finishing Gone Girl. Wild! (Ah yes, so the movie must have been Friday. Who cares??)
  • Seeing Lara and Laura for our 8 of 8 see-you-at-least-once-a-month 2012 plan.
  • Getting some cleaning done.
The What???
  • Munch is back to being very sniffly and coughing. I know it's post-nasal drip coughing, but these are the moments I feel the most helpless as a mother. I want to help him, and there's very little I can do.
  • Consequently, Munch napped very fitfully and shortly on Sunday and coughed himself awake at 5am this morning. He was in the sweetest mood, just lying around with us from 5-7am, but boy does that start the week out roughly.
  • Munch is boundary-pushing, big time, and I am the boundary setter, and a poor one. Okay, not poor yet, I won't judge myself quite yet, but boundaries are tough for me in general. Welcome to parenthood of a toddler. I feel like I have confused him, now that he wants to move from playing with the answering machine (an activity he and I both enjoy) to messing with lamps and the mug tree. Now, this whole thing has to stop, and last night he cried so hard because I wouldn't let him do his normal fiddling. He's strong-willed, my boy, and it'll take some time for him to get over this. He is not easily diverted or distracted. What's that saying, Your greatest strength is also your greatest weakness. And when I'm exhausted, that doesn't help.
  • Gettysburg Eddie's did not have a changing table. What?? Luckily, Munch just had a major pee that we changed lying out in the grass by the parking lot, but what if he'd had a blow-out, as he is wont to do in restaurants?

Sunday, August 12, 2012

Gone Girl: Amazing Writing, Creeptastic Villain

If yout haven't read this book, I recommend you not read this review or any others, actually. Part of the fun is not having any idea what's going to happen. You will be [[SPOILED]] if you keep reading.

My MIL recommended this book to me, and I am so glad she did. I loved Gillian Flynn's writing. I haven't read a book written with really high-quality writing in a while, and this book was delicious just for its use of language alone. I also thought she mastered the unreliable narrator device in Part 1. I didn't feel like it was contrived, and I felt like with mere clauses, Ms. Flynn cast doubt on Nick's motives and with each revelation, I felt a "wow" moment.

The character of Amy Elliott Dunne is one of the creepiest villains in modern literature. She is a real psychopath. It was amazing how I did a complete 360 within pages of starting Part 2. The depth of her psychosis is terrifying.

For the quality of writing and the plot, which kept me turning pages right to the end, I give this book 4.5 stars. For the story itself, closer to 4 stars, and the ending, as far as my sense of personal satisfaction, about 2.5 stars.

The problem with making Nick seem so suspicious in Part 1: We never get to understand WHY he was acting cold and distant, not worried, and in fact why he kept saying "This is how the worried husband is supposed to act now." I believe it is because Nick was so consumed with making people like him, with acting "right," that he was unable to act genuinely at all. I feel sorry for him, especially by the end, because I think he really has no identity. He is who Amy makes him/wants him to be.

I was quite disappointed in the ending. I wanted Amy to "get hers" so badly. I wanted to see her taken down as meticulously as she took down those she felt wronged her. I wish Flynn could have orchestrated Amy's take-down as masterfully as she created such a demented character. I believe this likely was the ending Flynn wanted, though. The villain wins. NIck lives in terror and fear. And God help the child!

Part of me wonders if we'll see Nick and Amy again. I feel like this ending lends itself perfectly to a sequel!

Friday, August 10, 2012

5 Things To Remember About my First Weight Loss

I'm in a place where I feel alternating states of hope and commitment and complete disillusion and depression over my apparent lack of getting my eating under control. I want to lose weight, I truly do. I just feel like it's a tall, impossible task that takes more energy than I have for it.

So, here are 5 things I need to remember from the time when I lost 100 (100!) pounds, starting at a much (MUCH!) higher weight.

1) Weight Watchers works. It does. When you follow the plan, you lose weight.

2) It took a whole, dedicated year to lose 100 pounds. It took 6 months to lose 70 pounds and another 6 months to lose the remaining 30. The remaining 30 is what I have to go, essentially, and those pounds will come off more slowly than my early weight.

3) I didn't work out at all until I was down to about 140. At all! And I lost weight. Not working out/being as active as I was before I got pregnant is not an excuse as to why my weight is not coming down. I know that it's healthy for me to be active, but that activity CAN come in the form of a nice walk with Munch.

4) I didn't eat chocolate for 3 months when I started Weight Watchers. Not a nibble! I understood my triggers then. Well, more than understood them, I avoided my triggers then. Now, I think I can manage them, and I don't think that is entirely accurate.

5) I wanted it more than anything back then. I made different choices--only eating out at Subway, going to meetings. I started Weight Watchers the first time before I ever kissed a boy or before I could ever shop in "normal" stores. Now, it's like I had it and I am impatient to get it back, but I'm not committed in the same way.

And now, a bonus 5 Things I need to accept in order to lose weight this time:

1) I must keep a food journal. Must. Especially if I don't go to meetings.

2) I will have to turn down things like a baguette or bagel from Panera or dessert or a dinner drink.

3) I am overweight. I am at risk for diabetes and heart disease, and I don't want these things to happen to me because I am a mother now.

4) I am Munch's greatest role model in all things, including food. If I want him to avoid the heartbreak of obesity, I must show him that it's good to eat healthfully.

5) It's not enough to want something. I have to take actions that will help me get it.

Tuesday, August 7, 2012

Baptism Birthday

My sister, Munchkin's godmother, reminded me that today is the 1-year anniversary of Munch's baptism. The story:

He was baptized in our Lutheran church on the first Sunday of August 2011. It was HOT, humid (funny, just like now), and we had a large picnic planned at a nearby state park pavillion. Many people came. Lots of family at the service as well: Us, my parents, Patty, Jennifer (godmother), Tina, Lisa, Ben, MIL, SFIL, Nate (godfather), Remy, and my grandparents. Ben filmed the baptism, but I don't think he got much of it, and we've never watched the video.

Our regular pastor was unfortunately on vacation, but a former bishop did the honors. Munch fell asleep for the service before the ceremony and didn't cry during the water portion. Funnily, the church was set up for vacation Bible school, and so all of our pictures have huge pandas in the background.

Munch wore the cutest little white suit with shorts, a vest, tie, and a hat like a train conductor. He was almost 5 months old.

At the picnic, we had lovely salads, burgers and hotdogs that my dad and Ben grilled, and cupcakes from Lily McGilly's that had ugly fondant block letter Fs on them. I had pictured something pretty and festive, but they still tasted good.

Lots of friends and family came to the picnic despite the heat: Lara, Laura, (with Margaret in tow) Linda, D, Rob, Elizabeth, Ruby, Adam, Jamie, Ed, and Justin. They brought gifts though we said not to. Many of them made me cry with their "little boys are" sentiments!

Munch was shuttled around so everyone got a little cuddle, then I nursed him in the air conditioned car and he fell asleep, flat on his back in his stroller for the second half of the party.

We got cleaned up just as the rain came pouring down! All in all, a successful day.

Weekend Wrapup: Visiting and Moving

We spent last weekend in Pittsburgh, visiting Hub's brother and my sister.

The Highlight:
  • After a few hours of unloading the moving truck at Tina's, Hub's jumped in the shower. Munch also was a sweaty mess from running around the backyard (trying to get puppy Scully while I held the two of them apart). So he took his first shower! Daddy held him and Munch laughed as the water pelted him. He loved it! We do have a water baby.
The Good:
  • Munch's overall mood. He was just a happy guy the whole time. He sat on my lap most of Friday night, just hanging out while the adults conversed
  • Munch eating Honey Smacks (what I knew as Sugar Smacks in my youth). He sat on my lap while Grandma T fed them to him. This meant a great deal to her, as her mom always gave them to us.
  • Munch being so enthralled with Zachary. He played with Grandma T and a video game car at dinner, with Zach next to him, and he kept looking at him and clearly wanting to mimic him.
  • Munch doing this little laugh now when he sees something he wants or that excites him.
  • Munch in the car. We timed both rides at his nap time and he slept for hours. If not for some traffic difficulties on the way back, he would have slept the entire way. This seems the way to go.
  • Nate's place. Gorgeous inside, very welcoming, and a wonderful place to stay. King-sized bed and all.
  • Ah, food. Domino's Cheesy Bread. It lives up to the commercial. And Key Lime Pancakes for breakfast. The wings at Primanti Bros--carmelized and crunchy.
  • Watching Nate play Minecraft--such a silly game, hilarious how into it he is.
  • Munch's ease of going to sleep for naps and bedtime. It was a welcome change!
  • So much time reading, as my Hubs drove the entire way back.
  • Rain! It rained Sunday, and I wanted it to.
The What???
  • By now you can guess: The heat and humidity. Ugh.
  • Houses with faulty A/C. Nate's downstairs was wonderfully cool, but in the bedrooms, it was pretty hot. We had fans (which fascinated Munch), but it just didn't cut it.

Monday, August 6, 2012

Weekly Goals #3

Okay, seriously, we're about 2 months from Disney. Time to get in the game.


-- Make two healthy dinners to last for the entire week.
-- Do not eat after dinner 5 days this week.


-- Do some activity 3 times this week.


-- Organize the kitchen by next week.

Weekly Goals #2: Lessons Learned

Food was not good and activity was nonexistent.

Challenge: When do working moms work out? While still getting to see their children and sleep?

While I didn't write down one thing I ate all week (not one thing), I didn't eat after dinner 5 days, which was a goal met.

I need to remember how much more settled I felt when I was writing things down. I didn't feel out of control or frantic over food.

Well-being: I felt very free not worrying about conversations I have no reason to know about. This was a nice little exercise for giving up some control--control of information. By not inviting every conversation into my life, I also didn't allow opinions that may not match my own to have power over my state of mind. I will keep this up. It was nice knowing that I just don't have to care about some things.

Friday, August 3, 2012

I Want My Mommy: Why?

Poll: When you were growing up and you didn’t feel good, which parent did you run to? Which parent did you want most to cuddle you? I would wager than the vast majority of people would say: Mom.
As a mom, this tickles me.
As a wife, this troubles me.
When I imagine how my husband must feel when my son reaches desperately to transfer from him to me, I feel heartbreak. Even worse—Hubbaland has told me it makes him feel bad. And there’s nothing I can do about it.
One of the beautiful things about childhood is complete abandon to one’s feelings. The Munch feels no shame in moving from one toy to another, one activity to another, one person to another. He does what he feels, and his desires change from moment to moment. At some point, he will realize other people have feelings. And he will pause, think, consider. But now—he just feels and acts without guilt or obligation.
The Bond
My older sister once commented, as she watched Munch snuggled against my chest, “The mother-child bond. I don’t know how it happens, but it does.” And it’s true. Our mothers are of paramount importance to our lives, our whole lives. If they were kind, loving, and supportive, you grow up feeling secure in the notion that at least one person in this world will always have your back.
If they were distant, cold, and harsh, you grow up (I imagine) feeling a small hole in your being—like you know something was supposed to go there, but you were denied it and the emptiness will always be with you. We mothers—we hold tremendous power over these tiny beings grown in our bellies, and it saddens me that so many mothers are such broken people that they intentionally or inadvertently damage such vulnerable things as their children.
I worried about “the bond” before Munch was born. What would I feel? Would I feel anything? What if I felt nothing? Even after experiencing the bond, it’s nearly impossible to describe.
Munch was only 2 days, old when I realized full-on that the bond had already clasped me like a vise, irrevocably and eternally, around this fragile and perfect person I’d only just met. I was in the hospital still, and Munch was in the little clear-sided bassinet, swaddled and sleeping, under his pink and blue knit cap. I felt a gushing well-spring of love in my chest, my whole self, and it brought with it a certain amount of panic to me, who fears loss above all else, who keeps many people at arm’s length, that I loved this child with a fierceness that was unparalleled by anything in my life. If anything happened to him, I knew on this second day of motherhood, I would be broken in ways that it’s best not to imagine, ways that would make the years stretch on in an endless, joyless beat, and I wouldn’t ever quite know color again.
What caused the bond? Was it hormones, evolved over the millennia to just the right mix to ensure that we new lionesses didn’t abandon our cubs? Or was it something more miraculous, something that we women are blessed to feel, after our trials of labor? “Here now, this is yours to treasure.”
And, as demonstrated by Munch’s desperate calls for me when I leave a room even now, the bond stretches both ways. In the early days, newborns, with their mushed-up E.T. faces and mewling cries, rely purely on instinct to get by. The bond they feel for their mothers is an instinct. Research shows newborns can recognize their mothers by scent. After spending 10 months literally attached to one another, mothers and babies are primed for a relationship. Mothers scoop up their babies with the sense of, ah, here you are, this bundle that has kicked me and laid against my bladder for so many months. Welcome home.
The bond is a gift, and I cherish it, even as it still terrifies me with its power.