Monday, October 21, 2013

Some Pig

Above our front door, we have a kind of Charlotte's Web situation going on.

As with so many other things, Munchkin has opened my eyes to the pervasive presence of spiderwebs. It started with his Geema and him using a stick to clean off the spiderwebs from a playground and it snowballed from there. Every time we see a spiderweb, we have to clear it away.

In some cases, the spiderweb has been too beautiful for me to destroy, and I've convinced Munch that spiders live in there and it's okay to leave them alone. This is what happened above our front door.

A huge spider built an elaborate web and it did freak me out a bit because its inch-long legs kinda creeped me out, but whatever.  Spiders are good for us, getting rid of bugs etc., so we left it and each day, we'd see it sitting up there.

Well, the other day, it's sitting there with its legs all crumpled in and at first I hoped that it was just hiding, but the next day it was in the exact same position. It is dead.

I find myself feeling a sense of loss over the arachnid guardian above our door. He was there for a couple months, and now he is gone. The web has started degenerating from lack of upkeep.

A bright spot is that I think I see an egg sack, so I guess she, it must have been a she, will live on.

Everything changes and ends. This is a truth I'm working to accept. It's a truth that is ever-present in our lives, and now that I'm watching my child grow and change with each passing second, I'm feeling it more viscerally than ever.

It's a truth that I have run from, denied, and pushed away since I watched movies like Charlotte's Web and Bambi and Old Yeller. If I didn't look at the hard scenes, the scene where Charlotte seemed to melt away on the rafter, the scene with the gunshots ringing out over the meadow, or the growling yellow dog in the shed, then they didn't happen. They wouldn't happen. I could stop the movie and pretend the hard stuff never happened.

But, hard stuff is a part of life, and maybe these kids' books that I vowed early on never to have my own son read, movies I never want him to watch, maybe these messages are there to ease us into it.

Because, someday, the spider above the door will be real. And we will have to face it.

Tuesday, October 15, 2013

"Put Da Phone in Da Butt"

My son has always been drawn to my iPhone. It's amazing to me that while I still sometimes am amazed that I carry my entire life in my pocket, Munch will grow up with this as the norm, expected. He won't have to stand next to a rotary phone with a tangled cord in order to speak to someone. He will be able to talk to a friend while walking down the street, something that I never could have imagined when I was little.

I am hyper-aware of my tendency to "iPhone addiction." I am one of those who feel compelled to check my email each time I hear it ding, to check Twitter every few minutes, to always have my phone within reach. I work to put my phone out of sight as soon as I pick Munch up from daycare, but it doesn't always work out that way.

Last night, Munch showed that he too is hyper-aware of the phone's presence. As I scrolled through whatever inane information, he said, "Mommy put down da phone." He said the same thing to his daddy later on.

We listened.

I think we have to listen. That was Munch's way of telling me to refocus. To unplug from whatever it was that I just had to look at, to see what really mattered--my child. My real life. Munch is 2 years old. And he understood that I was distracted from him.

I'm not saying that we parents must always make our children the center of our attention. But I am a firm believer that, especially for us working parents, the moments of play time and quiet time with our children are precious and deserving of at least as much concentration we give to our precious screens.

And it's also a reminder that our kids are always watching. Later, Munch told me to "Put da phone in da butt." I almost died laughing--I always put my phone in my back pocket, and Munch was telling me in no uncertain terms to put it away where it belonged. In da butt.

Monday, September 30, 2013

Brown-Eyed Girl

I'm getting my #12ThingsILoveAboutMe post for September in just under the wire!

This month, I'm focusing on my peepers. I love by eye color, which is a rich dark brown.

I haven't always loved my eye color. I'm brown-haired and brown-eyed, as are my dad and my sisters. The dominant genes are strong in this one.

For so long, I saw brown as drab, unexciting, the opposite of the quintessential all-American beauty, blond and blue. (Even Kate Hudson once got photoshopped--she's a green-eyed blond beauty and a magazine cover made her eyes the more acceptable blue.)

For so long, I thought brown = boring.

My husband, he's got the exciting combo of rr genes: Red hair, GREEN eyes. And I love this about him.

But I have come to love my brown eyes.

I still feel a secret thrill when I hear a song immortalizing a brown-eyed girl. Of course there's the iconic Van Morrison tune, but there's also the more recent "Pretty Brown Eyes."

It seems to me that it's easy to sing about honey-colored hair and sapphire eyes. It takes a deeper, more thoughtful look to sing about the brown-eyed beauties among us.

Wednesday, September 25, 2013

A Case of the "Shoulds"

So today I've read two wonderful articles on parenting and both of them included the idea of letting go of self-blame. This one from the Today Show included a piece of advice that I completely agree with and actually made me tear up a bit:

For Stephanie Decker, a mom of two who famously used her body to shield her kids while a tornado destroyed their Indiana home in 2012, playing with kids is a key to parenting, even when the kids are tiny babies.

“Kids don’t care if the house is perfect or if the laundry is done; they care if mom will have time to sit, play and cuddle with them. At the end of the day, all our kids want is to be loved and cherished.”
This has me thinking about my own tendency to hear the "shoulds" in the back of my mind as I go through my day. I've gotten loads better at shutting off this voice, but there are some things that often run through my mind, mostly on weeknights, after work and while I'm enjoying the few hours I have with Munch and Hubs.

When I get Munch home from daycare, our first activity is often to veg on the couch. I snuggle him as he drinks his bottle (one of the biggest shoulds in my mind: "I should stop him from using a bottle"), and we sometimes watch his favorite Disney shows, but other times it's just quiet. It is our wind-down time. After 8 hours apart, these moments are precious to me, some of my favorites of ever.

But that doesn't stop the shoulds from creeping in.

"I should clean the kitchen."

"I should pack up Munch's old clothes."

"I should dust instead of just sitting here."

"I should get dinner going." 

"I should clip Munch's nails."

"I should clip the cats' nails."

"I should clip my own nails."

And even less productive shoulds, but more personal ones:

"I've seen this episode of Sophia 60 times, I should read while we sit here."

"I should write my grandma a letter."

"I should stay off Twitter while I'm with Munch."

All the "shoulds" go toward telling myself that what I'm doing at that moment--sitting quietly with my son, or even playing with my son--is wrong somehow, not ENOUGH somehow, lacking somehow.

And that is both sad and full-on crap.

I agree with Stephanie Decker--I believe that the biggest gift we can give our kids is our time, our attention, our support, our smiles, our kisses, our arms, our snuggles. No, I don't think it's okay to let trash pile up in the corners or flies to buzz around dirty dishes in the sink. But I think snuggling on the couch is 1000% more important to my parenting than folding a pile of laundry and making sure every bit of dust is off the shelves.

As a working parent, something's got to freaking give. It can't be work. I refuse to let it be my time with Munch. So, it's the housework, by and large.

Besides this, as Munch grows up, I find he's a kid who likes companionship while he plays. A couple of friends have kids about Munch's age who seem much more independent than Munch in that they go to their rooms, alone, and play. One of these kids goes to daycare every day, the other is home with Mom; one is a second child, the other a first. So I don't know if it's an environmental thing. I think it's a temperament thing.

And I think: "Should Munch be playing on his own?"

He will turn to me as he plays and pat the floor and say, "Mommy, sit down."

And 10 times out of 10, no matter what I'm doing, I sit. I ask you, what "should" I do? Tell him, "Play by yourself"? Is that the right answer?

But then I shake myself and say--There is no right answer. There is only what is right for me, and what is right for Munch, and only I as his mother and Hubs as his father can answer that.

And, for me, sitting with him, playing with him, is what I want to do. Munch has to play independently at daycare all day, every day. For him, for my child, playing with Mommy and Daddy in the evenings is important to him. And it's important to me too.

The "shoulds" whisper in our ears as parents because of the huge responsibility we hold. We think, or we fear, that every decision we make will affect our children forever. Some decisions of course will have a huge impact. But my sitting to play with my kid who happily goes off to daycare each morning does not mean he will become a clingy kid who refuses to leave my side. When kids are around, he already leaves my side, screaming "Kids!" He tells me to stay away as he climbs ladders to the slides. He has an independent streak; but he also has the "sit with me" streak.

So, self, let go of the shoulds. Snuggle and play. Munch is only young once.

Tuesday, September 24, 2013

Snapshot: My Little Myna Bird

Munchkin has gotten into repeating after Hubs and me and other things like the TV. My favorite is:

Munch: Mommy?

Me: Yes, baby?

Munch: Yes, baby.

Rinse, repeat.

Monday, September 9, 2013

Career Day Killed the Veterinary Star

When I was in elementary school, I wanted to be a veterinarian. It's likely this imagined career is popular amongst little girls and boys alike. I liked animals; I liked the prospect of working with them every day. I read the Animal Inn series about a girl who helps in a vet's clinic, and though #2 featured the dread putting down of a beloved pet, I loved the books.

But I did not grow up to be a veterinarian. And I remember the moment that dream died a quick and shameful death.

It happened at our 6th grade career day. I don't remember any presentations from that day, other than the one I was most excited to attend--the talk by our family's vet. I felt like this was the moment I would learn all about the glories of becoming a vet.

And maybe he did talk about the good stuff and the rough stuff, but what I heard and grabbed on to was the HARD stuff. Dr. D said in his talk how difficult veterinary school was--to get into and to complete. It would take years, FOREVER, to my young mind. He talked about how few vet schools there were, how competition was fierce, and the best of the best only got in and made it.

I can still feel the deflation as I remember sitting in the folding chairs and listened. It was a sort of crushing heartbreak. This would not be my future after all. I knew it for a certainty, beyond a doubt.

Because, I was sure, I was not the best of the best. I couldn't do it, so there was no use in even going down that road. It would be too hard and I was sure to fail.

The irony here is, at least in my small pond of a small school in a small Michigan town, I was the best of the best, or damn near close to it. I was straight As almost entirely through K-12, and I graduated salutatorian. I excelled at AP courses. I was smart. I was bright.

But I wasn't confident.

And my greatest fear then, as now, was failure.

This streak runs through me, the absolute certainty that I am about to fail, falter, fall short in some fundamental way. Over the years, I've learned to push these voices aside, but it's an active process, and it's exhausting. I've learned that if you don't try ANYTHING, you will not live any sort of life. But it's hard for me, even now.

I've learned to close my eyes and and go, in some cases, enter a sort of free fall--like motherhood, the largest, scariest, most rewarding, most terrifying endeavor of my life. I'm learning to see things not as absolutes, so much. Some things I will fail at--like when I gave my 2 year old a love nip on his shoulder during bedtime routine and he flipped out. But that doesn't mean I'm a failure.

And I've learned to live with failing, learned to see the glory in the trying--like when I wrote my novel and failed to get an agent. There's still time, yes, but there's pride just in having completed those 150,000 words.

I don't know why Dr. D hammered into his young audience how challenging it was to become a vet. Maybe he was sick of having rose-eyed kids imagine his job was simply giving adoring pups a few pats on the head. Maybe he needed to validate himself that day, all his accomplishments and hard work.

And, it's likely with time I would have reached the conclusion that being a vet wasn't for me after all, once I stopped to imagine myself putting a family pet to sleep. I like science, but I'm not precise enough. I don't think I could perform surgery on anything, as I can't even cut a straight line.

But those aren't the reasons I didn't pursue it. Those are mature reasons, the reasons of a woman who knows her strengths and understands that medicine isn't one of them, and that it's okay.

My reason was fear. And that's sometimes hard to live with.

This post was inspired by the writing prompt, 1.) Something you wanted to be when you grew up.

Mama’s Losin’ It

Thursday, September 5, 2013

Hail to the Spaghetti

Last week, I shared this tweet: "And then my finicky 2yo ate a plate of spaghetti. In a RESTAURANT. #doublewhammy"

This is the story of that tweet.

The scene was a recipe for disaster. Hubs, Munch, and I were on vacation with Geema and Geepa at Massanutten Resort in the Shenandoah Valley, and we decided to venture into a restaurant instead of eating in, as is always easier with dearest Munch, who doesn't always sit down for meals (*understatement*).

The restaurant was a buffet, heralded in the resort literature for it's "popular pasta bar."

It also was located inside the big ol waterpark that we weren't taking Munch to because he wants to ride the tallest slide and swim in the deepest water and stand under the biggest bucket. It's just not the scene for him (or mommy) at this point in his life.

The buffet overlooked the entire park from pretty much anywhere you sat. Distraction was not an option.

We were disappointed to find that the food looked, in a word, disgusting. And this is coming from me, the girl who loves fast food and recently told her sister how she thinks with fondness and longing of the elementary school cafeteria pizza and chicken pattys. I'm not a high-brow food person, I love "trash" food, and this buffet was inedible.

So, as Munch squirmed to look out at the water park and said, "Kids!" and "Down there!" my mood quickly downgraded from hungry and hopeful that Munch would sit calmly to quite pissy and queasy. I wanted to leave, but Hubs said it was too late, we'd ordered drinks, we'd tried the watery mashed potatoes. We were committed.

As I walked back from another look at the buffet with Munch drooped sullenly in my arms, he spied food at another table and suddenly said, "Lolos" (translation: noodles). Someone was eating spaghetti. I said, "You want lolos?" and he nodded.

With no hope and nothing else to do, I took Munch to the "popular pasta bar," which consisted of two types of noodles, pale shrimp, and a few veggies, and ordered him up some spaghetti with red sauce. We watched as the "cook" made up the pasta on the hot plate, then I carried the large oval plate back to the table, figuring that I'd be the one eating the noodles.

Munch sat in his booster seat next to the window overlooking the water park and let me feed him a noodle. Seeing as how he's never eaten spaghetti for me, I held my breath, pretended this was no big deal, and fed him one noodle at a time. He looked at me and said, "Big one." As in LOAD THAT FORK, WOMAN. And soon he was shoveling the noodles into his own mouth!

He ate two-thirds of that plate, quietly watching as the big water bucket filled and dumped over and over. None of the rest of us ate much, but it was Munch's best meal of the trip, and for that, I thank the Blue Ridge Buffet.

This post was written in response to Mama Kat's writing prompt: 2.) Find a tweet you shared last week and elaborate.

Mama’s Losin’ It

Tuesday, September 3, 2013

Welcome September!

I'm so happy it's September, the gateway to my most favorite season, autumn. I can't believe summer is over (and hope the humidity gets the memo soon!). It was a good summer, full of both travel and home time, but I'm not sorry to say, as Munch would, "Bye-bye August!"

I've been looking at so many people's "back to school" or "starting school" pics and it's hard to believe this will be us in a couple years--I'm glad we're not there yet, because I will be a puddle!

The fall is another fresh start in the year. I just saw Gretchen Rubin's quote that today is the other January 1. It is so true. Even though I haven't been in a school environment for years, I still think of this as a "start." And we all know how I love new beginnings and times for resolutions!

I'm casting back in my memory to remember if I was nervous or anxious over going back to school, and I must have been some, because I get nervous for any and all changes and transitions. But school was something I was good at, at least the academic part. I don't remember the anxiety, if I felt it.

What I remember is full tubes of Elmer's glue, new pencils, smooth pads of paper, new shoes and jeans, and pictures on our square front porch, holding my clarinet case. I remember a tidy desk and a clean locker and new seating charts and dark black chalkboards not yet gone gray with eraser streaks.

New things, full of promise. That's how I feel about every autumn. That may be what I'm "supposed" to feel about spring, but I don't. Autumn is where it's at.

Thursday, August 29, 2013

5 Big Thoughts

I've had "blog writer's block" this past week. Usually, a topic will strike me (often, the title comes to me first, when in other writing I can't think of a title to save my life), and off I'll go, the words just pouring out. Most of my posts are free-writing, without a ton of editing involved.

This week, though, nothing. I don't know why, but I have an idea. I've been thinking BIG THOUGHTS, so in some ways I think my little slice-of-life thoughts can't come through. So, here are 5 Things That Are on my Mind.

1) The horror of living. Dramatic much? Not when you consider that in the space of a couple weeks a blogger I follow had a newborn son who died of a crazy rare heart problem or that in my tiny hometown a 3 year old shot himself to death with a found gun. I internalize things like this, empathize, put myself in the place of the parents. It drives me crazy. Leading to...

2) Crisis of faith. Now, crisis is a bit of an overstatement here. Over-analysis of faith may be more accurate. I've long had a complicated relationship with God and all matters of faith. Namely, how can an omnipotent God allow the situations above to happen? What is the purpose of it all and WHY should I trust such a being? And, I conclude, my God isn't omnipotent. I can't reconcile it. I believe God can give us strength to bear this life, but I don't believe that he can fix all the bad stuff and just chooses not to.

3) Time is passing. Though I haven't had to deal with back to school emotions, I've once again lived vicariously through all of the parent bloggers sending kids to kindergarten, high school, college. And I look at my little guy and realize that he's almost 2.5 and I never realized that 2.5-year-olds can sing so many songs, identify so many colors and shapes, hold conversations. My vision of a 2-year-old before I had one is what a 1-year-old really is. What I have now, I imagined in an late 3-year-old. Munch is growing up TOO FAST. Leading to...

4) Eddie Money. Namely, "I Wanna Go Back." This song slays me. I want so badly to hold my newborn Munchkin again, to swaddle him, to smell his newborn smell, to watch him learn to roll over and scoot and crawl. I wanna go back. And I fear that throughout Munch's whole life, this will be what I feel. Soooo....

5) I'm present. I breathe. I watch Munchkin do his newly mastered forward rolls and I high-5 him when he does something that he loves. I snuggle him in the mornings and dance with him in the evenings. I enjoy every smile and even, as much as possible, every meltdown. This is life. Here, right now. And I don't want to miss it for all my obsession with Big Thoughts.

Thursday, August 22, 2013

Balloons: The Bane of my Existence

My 2 year old son has many obsessions, ranging from watching “Big Block Singsong” to pushing every button imaginable to checking if the light outside our house is on each night. The biggest obsession he has going, though, is balloons, which he inexplicably still calls “booms.”
(Full disclosure, obsessions are in Munch’s DNA: I will listen to one song seven times straight. Hubs will play a video game level 2 million times until he beats it. Munch, I fear, is doomed in this regard.)
I believe my husband and I instilled the boom obsession because when he was born, we got a Mylar “It’s a Boy!” balloon and tied it to the rocking chair where I often nursed him. Tiny infant Munch would watch that balloon sway back and forth, back and forth. This balloon lasted for months, it was the best balloon I’ve ever seen.
When he got old enough to realize that he could hold and interact with balloons, a little after his first birthday, he flipped out when he had one. I mean crazy screaming, mostly because he couldn’t reach the string when it went to the ceiling or because he wanted to clutch it to his chest and it would float off, as booms will. So, from about the time he was 12 to 18 months old, balloons were banned from our household. Balloons seen in public caused tears and screams and rants and raves and swift changes of route. Avoidance at all costs.
The things we love most are indeed the things that drive us the most crazy, eh?
When Munch turned 2, he sort of had outgrown his complete psycho problem with balloons. We realized it after he threw up on the car on the way to Wegman’s and we continued with our shopping, believing it to be car sickness (it was the flu, turns out), and he got a green balloon and a yellow balloon and was the most joyful boy in the world. At home, he let the balloons hang out on the ceiling and he played with them, but didn’t meltdown when it was time to say “Night-night, booms.”
Just as he outgrew his stroller obsession, it seemed Munch was “over” his balloon obsession. Now, balloons were just beloved. He can see them, notice them, and let them be. Yes, in the checkout lines at grocery stores, he cries. (I’d like to pop every single one of the dozens of balloons we have to pass on our exodus.)  But, he mostly forgets them as soon as we’re out the door.
We’ve even started buying him a balloon every other week to have at home, and he’s been oh so happy about it. I thought all was well.
And then, daycare got the brilliant idea to attach shiny gold star balloons to its signs, apparently in an attempt to attract new patrons.
For some reason, Munch fixated on these balloons. He asked for the “yellow booms” every day. Once, as soon as his eyes popped open at 7am, he looked at me and said, “Yellow booms” and when I said, “They’re at school,” he immediately burst into tears.
On walks, he would direct our steps past school, just so he could look at and subsequently cry about the yellow booms. He would say, “I touch it. It’s my boom.”
This went on for weeks, WEEKS, as school added more and more booms to their signs. To add insult to injury, they were STARS, Munch’s favorite shape. As each day brought more boom-induced meltdowns, I started to believe school hung the balloons JUST to spite us, JUST to torture us, JUST for fun at our expense. 2-year-old tantrums will do that to a person.
Admittedly, Hubs and I considered popping the balloons under cover of darkness.
But, I wouldn’t have wanted school to believe they were vandalized, so they stayed.
And, one day, as balloons are wont to do, they deflated and then were gone. And Munch pointed out where they were and said, “Yellow booms?” And accepted my answer, “Balloons are bye-bye.”
I pray they don’t get replaced.
This post is written in response to Mama Kat’s writing prompt, #3: Write a post that incorporates the word: balloon.
Mama’s Losin’ It

Friday, August 16, 2013

About Me

Purple is my favorite color.

I'm afraid of small dogs, especially terriers.

I'm the middle child, of three sisters.

I have a hard time being vulnerable; thus, parenting terrifies me on a daily basis.

But my son is worth every clench of anxiety.

I don't really do "girly."

I didn't "always think I'd be a mother."

But I think I'm pretty good at it.

Autumn is my favorite season, spring my least.

I live in Maryland, but still consider myself "from" Michigan.

I moved in with my husband 6 months after we started dating.

I love fast food like whoa.

Coincidentally, I was an overweight kid/teen.

I lost 100 pounds in 2001.

I take thousands of pictures of my son, but don't share any of them online.

I have brown hair and brown eyes.

I'm a people-pleaser but working on it.

I think everyone could benefit from cognitive behavioral therapy.

I cried the first time I used Ny-Quil because I believed I would never wake up (I was 23 years old).

I think Co-Advil is a miracle drug.

I always wanted to marry a redhead, and I did.

I love my husband desperately.

I wrote one novel, and half of another. Both need work.

I like romance novels.

I think I can watch horror movies, but I end up crying and can't sleep.

I want to believe.

I love Disney and Harry Potter and the county fair.

Charles Dickens and Charlotte Bronte are my favorite classic writers.

I'm not known for patience, but I am patient with my son.

If worrying burned calories, I would be a size 0.

I like instant gratification.

I love to proofread and do data entry.

I love rock and roll.

I pray, but I'm not positive to whom.

I try to get others to look on the bright side.

In situations like plane rides and standardized tests, I anticipate the worst.

I believe conspiracy theories.

I think crop circles are supernatural.

It drives me crazy to be "shushed" or told to calm down.

I eat up inspirational quotes.

I should meditate.

I should stop saying "should."

I love lists.

Thursday, August 15, 2013

PDAs in Front of the Youngster

I'm an affectionate person by nature. I'm a "hugger," if you will. This holds true with relative strangers and members of my family, none more so than my husband and son. I love nothing more than cuddling with Munch, and I soak it up even more now that he's an active toddler who someday will flinch at a kiss from Mommy.

My husband and I are affectionate and always have been. Once, a family friend commented to his wife that he'd like her to tug at his arm hair like I was Hubs' (a little weird, but I do like to tug on the arm hair).

Now that we're parents, our displays of affection haven't ceased, and I have no plans to stop anytime soon. I'm not saying we like make out in front of Munch, but we kiss and we hold hands and hug. I think it's incredibly important for Munch to witness.

And he's clearly taking it in. Take last night. Part of our usual bedtime routine involves Hubs and I swaying with Munch in his darkened room to some Veggie Tales before we lay him down to fall asleep. I hold Munch and Hubs rubs his back. Last night, Hubs and I kissed over Munch's head and as he sometimes does, Munch pulled our necks back together for another kiss.

Then, when he was seeming to pull us forward again and Hubs went to kiss me, Munch said his own name--as in, No, Dad, kiss me! It was so sweet and so precious and a perfect little quiet moment.

My parents were affectionate when I was growing up. My mom greeted my dad with a kiss at the door every afternoon. I remember times watching from the backseat as they held hands across the center console in the car. It comforted me, to see my parents showing outwardly that they enjoyed one another. (Though their marriage ended, I still believe those moments were genuine and true and critically important to my upbringing.)

I want Munch to grow up in a household where people love one another, show it, and say it. I know that when Munch is a grumpy tween, he'll likely roll his eyes at his parents kissing each other or him. There'll be screams of GROSS and averted eyes when Hubs and I kiss. But even if he doesn't realize it, seeing us love each other outwardly will have an effect, and a good one.

My dad has said that his parents never told him they loved him growing up. Thus, my sisters and I never told our grandparents we loved them, though they hold such special places in our lives. Recently, I've started telling these now-80+-year-olds that I love them when we part after a visit. Usually, they say something like, "Well I appreciate that." But last time, my grandma said, "I love you too."

If not now, when? We are scared to tell people "I love you" because it makes us vulnerable. We're hesitant to hug for fear of being pushed away.

But the only thing that matters in this world is loving one another, and making sure those you love know it. And the only way for them to know is to tell them and show them.

So today, hug your kids, hug your partners, hug your parents, hug everyone you love. Let your kids see you plant a wet one on your spouse's cheek, or rub her shoulders, or smell his hair. Nuzzle your toddler and pat your teen on the back. Show kindness and let those you love know how much you value them. If not now, when?

Monday, August 12, 2013

What Beautiful Hair I Have

I'm not vain, not really. I'm usually the opposite of vain when it comes to physical attributes. But one thing I've always loved is my hair.

It's brown with reddish highlights, usually at least to my shoulders, shiny, soft, and, to my eye, gorgeous.

Once, a teacher in high school was demonstrating some tool, I have no idea what it was called, that measured things as tiny as a strand of hair and he used mine as an example and said, "You have very fine hair." So science backs me up. haha.
Here's a nice example of a good hair day (wasn't Nathaniel Hawthorne a hottie?)

As with most things, my hair has become even more beloved to me since becoming a mother, because Munch is a hair-toucher. He strokes his own hair when he's tired or relaxing, and he loves to stroke mine as well. I don't blame him!

This is not the post for negativity, but I'm sad to say that I am getting a LOT of grays. This devastates me. I've been getting noticeable grays since I was in my early 20s and they've multiplied exponentially in the past 2 years (did anything stressful happen to me in that time period? Hmmm...) I think it's genetic, though, because my maternal grandma was pure white in her 30s. EEK!

I'm trying to be a woman who embraces the change with dignity.

But I mostly fail, as I stand at the mirror and pick out gray after gray or take the opportunity at a red light to fish some out.

I only dyed my hair one time and let it grow out immediately.

I don't want to dye it because I love, as I said, the color and the texture, and dyeing changes both of those things.

But they're both changing naturally anyway.

What to do, what to do.

In the meantime, continue loving my God-given hair!

What gorgeous hair that bride has!

 What do you love about yourself? Tweet it using the hashtag #12ThingsILoveAboutMe

Friday, August 9, 2013

Snapshot: The Ol' Count and Jump

It may be time to get Munchkin into gymnastics. The past 2 nights, Munch has stood on my pillow, counted himself off, and launched headfirst to the middle of the bed. Last night, he almost did a forward roll from a dive!

(We are aware that this is not the safest of activities, and we only allow Munch to do this under close supervision. What was it that Mama told her monkeys about jumping on the bed?)

Anyhow, it went down like this:

Munch stood on the pillow. Out of nowhere says, 1, 2, 3, 4, 5.... SIIIIIX! and launched.

Reset on the pillow. 8, 9, 10, 11, 12, garble sounding something like 13, 14, 15. Launch.

Then it got a little weird and a lot cute.

Reset on the pillow. He started singing, 8, 7, 8, 7, 8, SEVVVEEEEEN and launching. This went on for a while. They must sing a number song at school. 

Wednesday, August 7, 2013

On Returning to Work

One of my coworkers is back to work today after 12 weeks of maternity leave with her beautiful baby girl. Seeing her has me thinking about that day looong ago, over 2 years now, when Hubs and I dropped Munch off at daycare for the first time.

Confession: Though I like my work, I wish I could do it part-time and be with Munch for 20 more hours each week. I dreaded going back to work. For me, maternity leave was a magical, blissful 4 months of moments in time, moments I would never get back. I would never, even if I had another baby, experience their like again.

It was Munch and me. We fell into a happy routine, most days. Once he was about 6 weeks old and I felt brave enough to take him outside, he and I went and met Daddy for lunch almost every day. We still look back longingly on those early days at Panera, with Munch sleeping in his bucket seat.

Then, I'd take Munch to our favorite outdoor shopping center and we'd take a walk around the lake, which would put him to sleep again, and then I'd sit with a Starbucks and still-sleeping baby for an hour or so at Barnes and Noble.

And that's pretty much all we did, for 4 solid months. I loved it, I loved him, and I loathed the idea of leaving him with ANYONE every day, except me.

But, bills come calling and leaves come to an end. Returning to work was one of the hardest experiences of my life, and I still feel sad thinking of those first devastating weeks.

I did several things wrong, going back to work. The biggest one is I went back on a Monday. Mondays are torturous days under the best of circumstances, but they are the worst for maternity leave endings--the long week stretches out ahead and the thought wouldn't go away: How am I going to do this for 4 more mornings?

Hubs and I went to daycare together, that first morning. It's likely I wouldn't have been able to leave my still smush-faced baby if we didn't go together. We dropped him off, and I did that part "right" at least. I kissed his little head and handed him over to the teacher. We'd picked this place months ago, and I was confident in them. But I was also ragingly jealous of them--they got to see my baby ALL DAY.

I got out of the room without crying, I think made it to the car. Hubs and I went to Starbucks and sat quietly for a few minutes, just feeling the oddness of knowing he was out there, a mile away, with virtual strangers, and we were here. I felt like my arm had been cut off--or, really, my heart severed out.

Those first weeks, I would shut my office door and cry. A lot. More than I think a lot of mothers do. I just couldn't stop thinking about Munch and how I so badly wanted to be with him. Looking at pictures made it worse, so I didn't have many on my desk. I don't know if I was maybe mourning maternity leave, but at first, being back at work felt like being squarely in the middle of grief.

Once, I ran into a coworker whose baby was then 18 months old. We stood in the copy room while she told me that sometimes she would go into her baby's room just so she could smell her. And she started crying right there. The anxiety released in me a bit--it was normal, maybe, to miss someone this profoundly.

Well-intentioned people said, "You'll get used to it." I wanted to SCREAM, That is worse. I didn't want to get USED to missing Munch, and, worst of all, being away from him.

I had to accept that this was life. I couldn't change it, not with our financial situation. I had to stop thinking about alternatives because they drove me crazy. There was no alternative.

Honestly, I entered counseling. Once I found the right doctor, it was the absolute best thing I ever, ever did. I wish I'd gone years ago, or at least when I got pregnant.

Because, duh, becoming a mother changes you. Fundamentally. And yet, after the beautiful bubble of maternity leave, there was my life. Right where I left it. My same office. Same coworkers. Same commute. Same parking lot. Same responsibilities.

And yet, who was I? Who was this mother-me who had reveled in weekdays spent at the bookstore, gazing more at her sleeping boy than the page of her book? How could I be all the "mes"--Mother-Me, Worker-Me, Wife-Me, Weight-Watcher-Me, Sister-Me, Daughter-Me, ME-Me?

Going back to work felt like the world crashing in around me--HERE ARE ALL THE THINGS YOU MUST DO AND BE. So I needed help adjusting, integrating all the Mes into one healthy person.

And, just as everyone said, I have "gotten used to it." It just took me a while, a LOOONG time. It helps that Munch is happy at daycare, and he's learned so much. He loves it, really, and I do feel that I'm doing something positive for him, putting him in the world and showing him that mommy works, just like daddy.

Just as giving birth is a rite of passage, so is returning to work. Maternity leave, which is far too short in this country, is a sort of bridge between the life-changing, world-shifting event that is becoming a mother. Returning to work felt like learning to stand on my own again, entering the world anew.

I still miss him. I still feel guilt. But I'm better at telling myself it's okay. He's okay. I'm okay.

Tuesday, August 6, 2013

Snapshot: Poppin Goldfish in Church

Last weekend, at my younger sister's ordination service, Munch surprised everyone and sat quietly for about a half hour at the start of the service. I think he was overwhelmed by the crowd, maybe, listening to music, and just getting his bearings.

By the sermon, which was given by a bishop, an older man with an intentionally bald head and white goatee, Munch had turned around on my lap and appeared to be listening attentively. He had a bag of Goldfish and kept popping them in his mouth and crunching down on them, just like he was eating popcorn in a movie theater.

The best part was, he kept turning around and whispering, "Papa." We may have seen a bishop; Munch saw a friendly grandfather entertaining a room.

I'm starting a new post series called "Snapshot" wherein I try to capture a memorable moment. So many things that happen in this life are moments, fleeting, but these are sometimes the most important times to remember.

Thursday, August 1, 2013

Thanks, Boobs: World Breastfeeding Week

Happy World Breastfeeding Week! Before I had a child, I never dreamed how important breastfeeding would become to me. My mom makes no secret of the fact that she didn't nurse; I had very few points of reference. 

It's hard to believe that it hasn't yet been a year since Munch and I stopped nursing. For the first 19+ months of his life, much of our days revolved around breastfeeding. I constantly thought about when he would need to eat next, where I would be, and how I would finagle it if we happened not to be home.

I know some women are able to just hold the kid with one arm and keep on with their lives with the free hand, but that was not me. I am what some would term "busty" (if this was 1950) and my body's former high weight and subsequent weight loss left me with let's say fleshy bosoms. They take active managing. Impossible to cage in button-down shirts and difficult to pin down comfortably for jogs.

Breastfeeding changed how I felt about myself and made me not so critical of my non-perked boobs. They were now life-sustaining wonders, producing milk because my baby needed it. They knew their job and they did it for nearly 20 months. Thanks, boobs!

And thanks also for making me feel:

Brave. I avoided nursing Munch in public when possible, but sometimes it was unavoidable. I did a lot of nursing in the car, but in the dead of summer, that wasn't happening. One of many memories is sitting in a Panera Bread in Pennsylvania with my mother-in-law holding up my breastfeeding shield while others ate and a worker slowly, slowly swept the floor around our table.

I never felt embarrassed or ashamed for people to know I was nursing. In fact, I felt almost defiant. I've read the stories of women being boob-shamed in Target and various other places; I felt like, I dare you to say something to me. Bring it on. Luckily, no one ever mentioned it, but I was prepared to defend my right to feed my child.

Proud. If you know me, you know I have some self-esteem issues. I feel like very little comes easily to me. And my head had been filled with caveats surrounding breastfeeding: "Don't blame yourself if it doesn't work. There's no shame in formula feeding. You're not a failure if you can't do it long term." And I believe those things; I believe and know that breastfeeding IS hard and there is no shame in choosing formula.

But after a few bumps, breastfeeding came easy. By day 3 in the hospital, one nurse asked if I had other children because we were doing so well. Breastfeeding was something that felt natural and easy, once I fell into a routine with Munch. In a time when everything--from how much a newborn should poop and pee to how to safely swaddle his tiny body--felt fraught with uncertainty, breastfeeding was a gimme for me, and I'll be forever grateful.

Connected. Breastfeeding connected me to my child like no other thing. But it also connected me to generations of women, spanning thousands of years. Our bodies, our mothering bodies, did this miraculous thing. It is natural, yes, but that makes it no less a miracle.

And beyond that, it connected me to Nature. I read stories of how each mammal's breastmilk does specific things for its young--seals, for example, produce milk that is very high in fat because of the rough conditions in which seals live. The milk knows, the mother's body knows. And that is a miracle.

Tuesday, July 23, 2013

10 Things in Our Shopping Cart

I admit it, I love to grocery shop. I try to time my trips for when the store is mostly empty--good times are Friday or Saturday evenings after 7pm. Of course, Wednesdays around 10am would probably be the best, but I usually can't swing that!

Here are 10 things I'm likely to buy every single week:

1. Whole milk. Munch still drinks far more than his fair share.

2. Precut mangos. These are a bit expensive, but indispensible to me. I cap myself at 3 packs.

3. Turkey and ham--from the deli counter. I've recently discovered just how much better meat from the counter is than the Oscar Meyer packaged stuff.

4. Bananas. I eat a LOT of bananas. Munch goes through phases; sometimes he'll eat two a day. So we usually get two big bunches.

5. Skinny Cow ice cream snacks. Cookies and Cream sandwiches for the Hubs, Salted Caramel Pretzel ice cream bar for me.

6. Bread. We eat a LOT of bread.

7. YoBaby Yogurt and Gogurt. Munch is a finnicky eater, but this is a go-to. Gogurt, he eats in the bathtub (!).

8. Lean Cuisines, if they're on sale. I especially like the Sweet and Sour Chicken, which is saucy enough to combine with ...

9. Frozen steam-in-the-bag veggies. I used to tell myself I should steam fresh veggies myself. I rarely did--these bags are a lifesaver.

10. String cheese. I eat one for breakfast every morning.

Monday, July 22, 2013

"I Got It"

My dear Munch is nurturing his independent streak. I love seeing him gain confidence and do things on his own. He now helps with so much and you can see the pride he takes when he does something without help.

The past few days, he's started saying, "I got it," as he pushes my hand away to do whatever it is, whether it's opening videos on my iPhone or brushing his teeth or climbing into his carseat and helping to buckle it. "I got it." I hear much more behind it than a simple, "Hands off, I'm doing this myself."

I hear the existential, "Bitch please, I'm owning this. Don't trouble yourself. I got it." It's amazing.

For instance, the stairs. He now wants very little help going down the staircase. Sometimes, he'll reach for my hand, and of course I grasp it, but he doesn't always accept if I initiate. "I got it." And I hover a little ahead of him, clenching my teeth with each step, to see if he really does "got it," prepped for launch if he doesn't.

Same with that freaking ladder on the playground, remember that one? Now, he'll go to climb it and beyond saying, "I got it," he says, "No Mommy." He won't tolerate me even hovering close. And, last week, as Daddy hovered, with his hands cupped out ready to grasp, Munch did fall. Straight down through a rung at the top, onto his feet. By the grace of God, he didn't hit his chin. It freaked him out. He ran to me then, for a bit of comfort.

Now, as he goes forward with stuff on his own, he needs to learn that sometimes, he does need to ask for help. (Which he does, in the sweetest way, saying "Help you." As in, I always say, "I'll help you." Munch I think believes "helpyou" is one word.)

But, to me, indulging the independence, pushing boundaries and then reining in when necessary, is crucial. And it's something I struggle with to this day. I don't have an independent streak, at least not one that isn't also painted with anxiety and worry.

Case in point is the diving board. Growing up, I could swim like a fish, but I couldn't dive to save my life. I was on the summer swim team in 6th grade and I frog-flopped straight down off the blocks at the start of every race. The diving unit in Phys Ed nearly did me in--I may have even gotten a horrifying B in the class, if you can believe it.

I just couldn't dive. Diving required tucking one's chin to one's chest and jumping off, flying through the air and trusting that I could hit the water without looking at it. It felt out of control. I've done proper dives maybe three or four times in my life and remembering the sensation even now causes my heart to pound a little harder. It's free fall. Just for a few seconds, but it's there. The free fall is terrifying.

But, behind the terror, I can also feel the freedom. The diving free fall, done properly and without the belly smack I'm used to, is liberating. It's exhilarating. It's joyful and wonderful. It releases you from the burden of looking. The water is there, it will catch you. You just have to believe, you got it.

I love when Munch, even at 2, gets that look in his eye. I can practically hear him saying, "Chill, Ma. I got this. It's going to be fine."

I want to do the same. I want to approach life with the go-get-em spirit. With the diving free fall that is more about the journey to the water than the worry about the mechanics of getting there. I got it, I want to say to it all. I got it.

Thursday, July 18, 2013

Bite My Kid Once ...

So Munch has been bitten at daycare, by the same girl, twice in one week.

The first time it happened, near the end of the day last Friday, they called to tell me that the girl bit him on his cheek. HIS CHEEK! His perfect plump pink cheek.

I admit, I freaked a little in the form of calling the doctor to find out if I needed to beware of anything special. The daycare director assured me no skin was broken except a tiny little spot. (I of course pictured Hannibal Lector-esque chunks being gnawed from Munch's face.) The doctor said to put some Neosporin on it and likely it would heal quickly--the only other thing to worry about would be viral infections like HIV or hepatitis. No biggie. O_O But only then if there was a deep gash and of course the kid would have to be infected herself and the chances of that blah blah blah.

I did not cry--wow, huh? I didn't panic! The first time he came home from school, around 5 months old, with a cut on his neck, likely from a fingernail or piece of jewelry, I sobbed. Because, of course, I can't protect him. In that moment I felt like I couldn't protect him from ANYTHING.

And I'm proud to say that I've come far in almost 2 years and even the fact that my poor little boy had his face gnawed off didn't really faze me. (I exaggerate--his face was bruised, but only a little, from the bottom teeth.) I get it--shit happens. Kids get hurt. And the cutest thing was that Munch could tell me who did it, while pinching his cheek, and then told me the kid got timeout.

Apparently she has a bit of a biting problem, recently bit her brother, etc. I kissed Munch's cheek, rested assured that the girl has all her shots, and let it go.

Until yesterday afternoon. When I got to daycare and discovered an angry red circle on Munch's forearm. From the same girl.

This time, I got out of there and cried in the car. I told Munch, "Mommy's going to cry for a few minutes." Because I don't like to cry in front of him. I kissed his arm, he told me again about how the girl had bit him, this time pinching his arm. And I let it overwhelm me.

It seemed TOO MUCH. Now, I had to worry that my kid would be bitten, harmed, hurt, every day. Once, I can understand that things happen. But TWICE within DAYS??

I spoke at length to the daycare director. He said that at this age, biting is more about communication than aggression. This girl doesn't know how to express her frustration or desire, so she bites it out. It's also possible that Munch and this girl have grown to be close enough friends that she feels comfortable biting him to let him know what she wants. (This seemed a bit like, whaaa? but then when you think she bit her brother, maybe.)

Indeed, this girl and Munch have known one another almost their entire lives--she came to the infant room soon after Munch, and they've been together, give or take a couple months, ever since. Their nap mats are placed next to one another and I'm told they both wake up early and talk together about the signs listing the ABCs and beloved shapes like diamonds and triangles.

So the first order of business for the daycare, besides talking extensively with her parents, will be to separate Munch and the girl--after all, biting is about proximity. In both biting instances, they were both wanting the same object--a puddle in the first instance, a truck in the second. So they'll create some distance and see if she moves on to bite someone else--I guess at that point, they'll know it's more of an overarching problem, rather than a specific one. (I believe it's the former, but.)

Look, I know this is not a bad kid. And if I'm being honest, I'd probably prefer to be dealing with "the bitten" than "the biter." I have a 2 year old, I know they do things you want them to stop but for the life of you can't get them to. I know that if Munch was leaving teeth impressions on his classmates, I would spend many a night crying myself to sleep and worrying constantly over what to DO, how to FIX IT. I'm sure her parents are embarrassed and feeling tense.

But. My sole responsibility is ensuring that MY kid is happy and healthy at his daycare, the place where he spends as much time as I do at work. And it's the daycare's responsibility to ensure that ALL of their children's needs are being met.

So this will be a situation I monitor closely. The good thing is, Munch is getting much better about actually telling me what's happening. So much guess work is disappearing, and that's a comfort.

Tuesday, July 16, 2013

Little Things That Make Us Awesome

This week's Monday Listicles asks for 10 Little Things That Make My Family Awesome. I'm so happy with Hubs and Munch, so this list will be a cinch.

1. We laugh--a lot.

2. We split the chores (well, Hubs and I do, and I'm sure Munch will be brought into the mix when he's old enough--heck, he already carries around a water-filled bottle of carpet cleaner, following Daddy as he cleans up the ever-present kitty puke).

3. We love to be active together. The best nights are walk nights, with Munch in the stroller and Hubs by my side.

4. We let each other be still.

5. We support each other's interests. Hubs knows I sometimes need to hunker down and watch trash on TV. (He even has been known to watch LMN's Pick-a-Flick Fridays with me!) And I know that one of Hubs' great loves is and ever shall be video games.

6. We are committed to long-term goals, like reining in spending so we can get a bigger house in a couple years.

7. If there's a decision to be made, big or small, we consult each other before making it.

8. We say "I love you" every day.

9. We go grocery shopping together--it's one of Munch's favorite activities right now.

10. We lift each other up.

Bonus: We read. It's so important to me for Munch to see both of his parents enjoying and discussing books.

What makes your family special?

Friday, July 12, 2013

Loving Myself: Look at Those Calves!

When I heard about the idea Kendra over at My Full-Thyme Life had about choosing one part of ourselves that we love each month and celebrating it, I knew I had to participate. With Operation Beautiful also backing the effort, I think it can really make a difference to a lot of women who have a negative voice going through their minds on, like me, sometimes a near constant loop.

Like Kendra, I've always been self-deprecating. There was never any REASON or moment that it started, it always just has BEEN. It's all linked to self-esteem and my very deep lack of it. I don't take compliments well. Review time at work is always an anxious time for me--and not because I'm worried about getting a bad review, but because I always get a good one--Almost all 5/5 ratings and I have to listen to what a good job I do ... My thought automatically is, "Everyone must be this good." And "I'm not THAT good--I've got them fooled." And "Oh God, now I have to live up to this."

Add to that an overweight childhood and overeating and trouble with impulse control and you have a recipe for someone who talks down about herself inside. When someone loves me, like my wonderful, sweet husband, I feel deep, deep gratitude--not, "Hell yes, he does. Who wouldn't?"

But I'm working to change that.

And the impetus is becoming a mother. Being a mother has made me stop and look at myself through my son's eyes.

When you have a kid, I think that's when you truly understand feeling unconditional love for someone--and you feel it reciprocated back at you. With Munch, he loves me for ME, for my silliness and my tendency to be goofy and my laughter and my softness and my very large capacity to love him. I don't overwhelm him, when one of my biggest fears has always been that I am overwhelming. Too much. And yet, still, somehow not enough.

For Munch, I am perfect. I am his mommy, his only mommy. Irreplaceable.

And when he looks at me, that's all he sees--Mommy. He doesn't look at me and think, Hm, she's fine enough, but a little thick around the middle and in desperate need of some triceps toning.

He sees love. And that's what I should see too.

So, this month, I'm celebrating my legs below the knee--I've always had tremendous calves. They're toned and powerful. I've had comments from friends, family, and random people throughout my life. My ankles are also nice, and, this may be weird, but I love how the tendons on the top of my feet look. Truth. I look awesome in heels.

What do you love about yourself? Tweet it with the hashtag #12ThingsILoveAboutMe.

Tuesday, July 9, 2013

Life With Superman

Munch has worn the same shirt for 48 hours now, night and day. It's a Superman UV water shirt--royal blue with the classic red-and-yellow Superman symbol emblazoned on the chest. It looks like this:


It all started on Sunday morning when I took Munch to a little water park near our house. Hubs took his new bike out for a ride while Munch and I braved the fountains shooting up from the ground and triangle-shaped buckets dumping water down and waterfalls and spitting frogs.
Munch, in his typical deliberate manner, did not run headlong into the fray. Instead, he stood very still, smiling, looking at everything, tap-tap-tapping his feet in the puddles and getting the lay of the land before fully committing. Unlike many of the other boys crashing headlong into the water and anything else that happened to be standing close by, Munch observes a lot before he explores. But once he does, there's nothing like seeing the joy on his face. He screamed "Water!" and squealed with glee.
Last year, whenever he entered a pool or got wet, he started shivering after about 20 minutes--not so, this year. His little body has caught up with his desire to be in the water. We were there for an hour and not a bit of shiver. His favorite thing, besides watching the water fall down from the triangle buckets, was standing in the center of a crazy mess of roaring fountains, where in the center a spurt of water burst forth, then stopped about every 30 seconds. Each time, again as other boys would scream at the empty hole, Munch pointed at it and looked at me and said, "On?" Then he'd jump and squeeeee when it came on again.
And all the while, Munch wore his Superman shirt. He was so proud when he put it on, tapping the emblem and looking down at it. Once, it was the most amazing moment, another boy ran up to him and this boy happened to be wearing a white shirt with the same Superman symbol. I was standing about 15 feet away as Munch encountered this boy. Munch looked at him, then down at his own shirt, then up again. You could see on his face--mind, BLOWN!
When we got back home from the water park, Munch put on a white shirt while Superman washed and dried--and then he wanted it back on. All day, he'd pat his chest and say, "It's MY Superman." It was the cutest thing!
Then came bedtime--he refused to remove it for PJs. So, he slept in it.
Yesterday morning--same deal. He wouldn't hear of even switching to another Superman t-shirt, this one dark navy with a burgandy symbol. So, he wore his water shirt to school all day.
Last night, at bath time, he raged as I removed Superman and, for shame, put him in the washer. He cried over and over, "It's MY Superman." So, he and I sat in front of our front-loading washer and talked about how Superman was getting a bath just like Munch had. Munch was bare-chested and anxiously awaiting the shirt. Slept in it again. And, this morning, went to school in it. Again.
We got the thing at Target, so we're going over there tonight to see about getting a second one so I can always be rotating it and we don't have to spend hours in front of the washing machine, waiting for Superman. Hubs is like, "You're sure it's okay to indulge this." I'm like, yes. I've heard tales of friends' kids who went everywhere in Spiderman pajamas. A Superman UV shirt seems pretty inocuous. I know kids get fixated on pieces of clothing. I guess I thought it would happen when Munch was like 7 years old or something. The kid never ceases to surprise me.

Monday, July 8, 2013

Munch Speaks: 10 Awesome Phrases

Nothing warms my heart more than listening to Munch talk. He says stuff that even I have a hard time understanding, but deciphering his toddler language is one of my favorite activities! So for today's Monday Listicles, here are 10 of my favorite things he says right now, at age 2 years, 3.5 months.

1. Mommy, come 'ere. This is by far my favorite. He also says Kitty, Daddy, Mama come 'ere. He'll crook his wrist while saying it as well. I say "come here" constantly, so it's no surprise he picked it up!

2. Kirkle. Think this is "circle"? Nope, he says "sircle" prettty well. "Kirkle" is triangle. I have no idea why! And triangles are one of his favorite shapes right now.

3. Tinkle star. He sings "Twinkle Twinkle Little Star" almost all the way through on his own.

4. Grocery store. He botches this pronunciation a lot, but he LOVES going to the grocery store and sitting in the cart.

5. Plowe. Pillow, where he reclines while drinking his bottle.

6. Hullo. Said in a low, serious voice while putting the phone on his shoulder.

7. Mouse on. Munch's favorite TV show, in fact really the only one he watches, is "Mickey Mouse Clubhouse." He loves it and can name each character.

8. Sansin. Dancing, another favorite activity. "Last Friday Night" by Katy Perry is the current favorite. In the middle, when the crowd whispers "TGIF" he mimics them and then when the music starts again, he screams and jumps and claps.

9. Lolos and lulus. Noodles and cereal, respectively.

10. His own name. He just started saying it recently, and it's adorbs!

Wednesday, July 3, 2013

The Origin Story

Hubs and me on the Gettysburg College campus
Before Munch, there were two people who fell in love. This is how they came to be that way.

If you know me or have followed my blog you may have gleaned that I was not the most confident of people in my childhood, teen, and young adult years. (Can you read between the lines to see the gross understatement?) I blame this lack of confidence on my being overweight, but of course my reaction to my size is symptomatic of my lack of self-confidence and low self-esteem. After all, one of my good friends from high school was as large as me and she started on the basketball team and had a ton of friends, if not boyfriends.

But this is not a story about weight, though all of my stories seem to come back to it. Probably, it's a crutch, but I'll figure that out later. Suffice it to say that by the time I turned 21, I had not had a boyfriend, not one. I had not casually dated, not once. I went to my junior prom on a blind date and never saw him again (he turned out to be a little cray-cray, so no harm done). I was, as they say, inexperienced in the love department.

Hubs, on the other hand, 500 miles away and in ignorance of his future wife's existence, had an active social life. Whilst he didn't date like crazy, he was beloved by many girls in high school. He was the "guy friend" that always had gals calling on the phone, I'm told. Gaggles of them, in my mind. He was a sweet guy, genuine, steady, the same as he is now. He had a serious girlfriend I believe when he was 16, took the breakup hard, but eventually got over it and later introduced me to the girl over dinner at The Olive Garden.

Hubs and I went to the same college, but we didn't get together until the second semester of our senior year. We crossed paths during our first 3 years, both working at the library and even being in the same World Music small group during sophomore year. I still have our final paper, and there are our names sitting next to one another.

But, you could say, Hubs had a distraction those first years in the form of a long-term, long-distance relationship with a girl in Upstate New York. While I spent my college years watching friends hook up and break up and eventually go long-term, Hubs worked hard on a relationship that ended badly right before senior year, devastating him. He started senior year in the middle of an ending.

By the time I started my senior year, I was in the middle of a beginning. By second semester, I had lost 100 pounds and gained some form of self-confidence. I'd dated one guy who seemed quite into me, though sadly for him, the feeling was not mutual. It felt weird to reject someone after years of being rejected--something in me said to be grateful for what I got. But, off he went, and off I went.

The last week of January, a mutual friend of ours (who also was in that World Music small group) threw a party. A gala, we called it. It was held in her dorm room. I showed up in size 6 (6! from Aeropostale!) jeans and a purple-striped shirt I still have. I wasn't a big drinker, but that night, I drank. I danced, a bit.

And across the room, I saw Hubs. He was wearing a backwards baseball cap, as was his custom. And shorts. In January. I would learn that such quirks also were his custom.

One of our engagement pics, taken in front of the dorms
where the gala took place.
We worked our way toward one another throughout the night. I kept offering him drinks, which he politely and consistently declined--with the excuse that he'd just played tennis, which made PERFECT sense to me. Later, I would learn that Hubs doesn't drink, never has (still hasn't), and I would feel like a LUSH. And the family lore would go that Hubs and I got together when I was drunk.

Around 11pm (seriously, what a rager, eh?), there was a knock at the dorm room door. In walked a Campus Security officer. He said we needed to break it up because of the noise (music), so I guess it may have been a bit of a rager. I was of age, but hadn't brought my license.

I sat down on the couch and huddled behind the guy sitting there--Hubs. I laid my hand on his arm. And he patted my hand with his.

Looking back, this is the moment that we both "knew something" was happening.

My friend came to collect me for the walk back to our dorm room. I later learned Hubs was going to offer to walk me back. We had made no plans to see one another again, not for Hubs' lack of trying. He and some friends were going to see Black Hawk Down the next night, but I said I didn't want to go because I didn't want to see that movie. (What. An. Idiot.)

Over the next week, I found myself thinking about Hubs at odd times. I'd look for him as I walked across campus. I stopped by the circulation desk where he worked. He gave me a ride to the gym when he saw me walking.

I remember realizing that Hubs was just "in my mind" when I watched TV--and that I thought I liked him. The thought panicked me. I didn't WANT to like him. I didn't want to feel how I felt when the other guy liked me and I didn't like him. I was feeling the tremors of vulnerability that love brings, I know now. I didn't want to be vulnerable.

The timing wasn't ideal, for me or for Hubs. We were both graduating in 3 months and who knows what life would bring. For Hubs' part, he kept the similar thoughts he was having about me a secret from most of his friends and family because he didn't want to hear what they would surely say--his 2.5-year relationship had just ended and was this really the best time to get involved with someone new?

But, we both pushed those fears away, thankfully, and Hubs came over to my dorm for biscuits (yes, biscuits) 6 days after the gala and the next night we went on our first date to see A Beautiful Mind. We had Wendy's for dinner. We talked into the night afterwards, about everything, and he kissed me when he left--and it was the kiss that told me I was on the right track. It EMBODIED Hubs. Genuine. Steady.

Three months later, we graduated college. Three months after that we both started grad school in Washington, DC. We moved in together at our mothers' mutual suggestion--to save money, they said.

Five years later, we got married.

And 4 years later, our lives changed forever, with the birth of our firstborn son.

Monday, June 24, 2013

Journey vs. Destination

I've never been a "journey" person. And in my typical fashion, I've always derided myself for that. Being a journey person, to me, means you're "being," moving along with the flow of life with little anxiety as to where you're headed--you're enjoying the ride.

Being a destination person is more about the stress of WHEN WE WILL GET WHERE WE'RE GOING. It's about getting somewhere else as quickly as possible. It's about setting your sights on a point down the road, and tunnel-visioning for it. Not looking around to see what you're experiencing now--but urging forward and getting stressed when the destination remains out of reach.

Perhaps that means I'm goal-oriented, and that can be a good thing. But when your goal is a big one, something that takes long-term dedication and sustained drive--like losing weight or training for a 10K, for example--reflecting on and enjoying the journey is equally important as GETTING THERE.

Being a destination person sometimes means feeling deflated and floundering.

Being a journey person means saying I like who I am at this moment and I'm making progress and that's all I can ask of myself.

My dad has always been a journey person. When I was little, he would always choose the back roads to get anywhere in our rural corner of Michigan. When you've got a straight shot of highway and can drive 70mph, why oh why would you ever choose the winding two-lane road? I would sit in my seat, gritting my teeth, urging the car faster so we could GET THERE.

But, on the back roads, maybe you can see the river better.

Maybe you'll see a field full of deer.

Maybe you'll stumble upon something you weren't even looking for, something that would blur past as you try to get around the semi before your exit.

Having a kid is turning me into a journey person. Take our recent 450-mile drive to Michigan. I've been making this drive since I was 18 years old and went to college in Pennsylvania. And before I became a mother, I had it down to a science.

Drive 10 miles over the limit and you can do it in about 7 hours. Pee breaks are swift and hurried. Meals are eaten in the car, even by the driver, never EVER sitting in a restaurant. Leave whenever--be that 7am or 7pm. Only deviate from the customary route in extreme situations, like an accident shutting down the Turnpike.

Pedal to the metal. Get there as quickly as possible.

This was the first long, long drive Munch has made in a front-facing car seat. And he loves his car seat. Some days, after work, he'll want to just drive around. He loves riding. And we are lucky. He didn't cry almost at all on the way to Michigan or on the way back. He just rode. He pointed out semis, the diamonds on their rears where the "warning" signs go. He pointed out the moon when the sun set. He drank milk and ate cereal bars and looked at his nursery rhyme book and kicked off his shoe a thousand times and just chilled.

With Munch in the car, we stop for long stretches. At one rest area, he sat as good as can be (when he usually refuses to sit in restaurants) and ate apples and chicken nuggets and fries and then he ran laps around the near-empty space, laughing and having a great time. We stopped for over an hour that time.

And my instinct is still to look at the clock, calculate how much time we've lost, grit my teeth that we haven't made it to X or Y milestone yet.

But then, I turn my mind to the time we gained. That time in the rest area was so much fun. Munch kept pointing at Auntie Ann's pretzels and saying "heart." He squealed as I chased him around. He pooped, a big deal on a long trip. It was relaxing to stop. It refueled him and us. He stretched his legs and burned some energy. He readied himself for the next leg, and enjoyed every mile of it.

And that's the biggest perk of being a journey person. You enjoy every mile of it. Having a kid has given me a grand appreciation of the passage of time. And now that I can hardly remember the sound of Munch's newborn cries, or the baldness of his head until he was past a year old, or the way he babbled before talking, now that I want DESPERATELY to slow the journey down, I no longer long for the destination. I no longer wish away a week to get to the weekend or a month to get to a vacation or three years to get to a new house.

I slow down. I breathe. I listen to Munch saying "Mommy, come 'ere." I laugh when he whistles. I walk slowly, as he stops frequently to check out the stroller. I hold his hand as he points out the moon, always there, watching over our journey.

I put the destination out of my mind. This is where I want to be.

Wednesday, June 19, 2013

The Terribles?

The past couple of days have been an exercise in patience in our household. Since Sunday, Munch has been quite moody, flying off the handle at the smallest perceived slight, having full-on, blown-out, seemingly-never-ending tantrums when his tiniest desire is thwarted.

We ask ourselves--is he in pain? He's been drooling a lot, so could he be teething? But he falls asleep fine and stays asleep at night. No fever. I keep waiting for each day to dawn and the moodiness to have dissipated. But, each morning he wakes and is smiley for a bit, then turns his mind to something--getting his stroller, having milk IMMEDIATELY, wanting kitty to be up on the bed--and if I tell him "Not right yet," he loses it.

Of course the dread "Terrible Twos" are etched onto parents' consciousness. As you hold your slumbering newborn or watch your bubbly infant roll over for the first time or help your 1-year-old take a tentative step, the thought lingers in the back of your mind: Every milestone moves you closer to the day when your child has a will and an opinion and a ready screech to let you know just how displeased he is.

I've enjoyed Munch gaining his voice. He's the sweetest thing most days, most moments, pointing out things that I never dreamed he knew (calling a giraffe figurine "long neck" ribbiting like a frog) and learning new words every day ("gross" is my current favorite, and it's usually in the context of "kitty butt gross").

So as we wonder what is "wrong" with Munch, I fear that I know: It's the age and stage.

Before he started really talking he went through a fussy period, and we think it's likely because he knew what he wanted to say, he just couldn't. He seemed much more content when he could get his point across.

I think now he knows what he wants and he can tell us and he's just pissed to all hell when he can't do what he wants at the moment he wants to.

The tantrums he's thrown the past couple days have been epic. Screaming, kicking, red-faced. And he will not be diverted. I feel what can only be described as desperation when he's in the throes: Desperate for my bubbly guy, my happy guy, the Munch who fiddles with my hair and does his best to whistle.

And yet, I'm loathe to describe his age or him or even his behavior as "terrible." I just don't like the idea of labeling anything regarding someone I love this deeply "terrible."

Look, we're all assholes sometimes. We go through things that make us feel like crap and act shitty to those around us. We act like children when we really should man up and act reasonably. We treat our loved ones like crap sometimes. And maybe we do deserve to be labeled "terrible" in our worst moments.

But we also deserve to be loved unconditionally by those closest to us. And labels, words, especially negative ones, come to define us if we let them. "I'm terrible" is not something I ever want Munch to internalize. "I'm acting like a jerk," maybe wouldn't be so bad.

Luckily, the newest phrase Munch has learned is "I'm sorry." He says it completely out of context right now, but at least he says it. And maybe one day soon, he'll recover from a tantrum and say it and actually mean it.

So, for my part, I prefer to think of Munch as "working through something." Growing up is hard, yo, as hard or harder than actually being grown up. So if I need to put Munch in the crib for 2 minutes while he screams, or go to the kitchen as he lies on the living room rug ranting and raving, then so be it. I'll be there to hug him when he's done. And we'll work through this thing together.

Tuesday, June 18, 2013

I Do Believe in Spooks

I have a tendency to let my imagination run away from me. In many cases, I'm squarely with Mulder ("I want to believe") regarding things like aliens and ghosts and past lives and the Loch Ness Monster and the like. It doesn't take much to freak me out regarding the unknown, the thing that lurks in shadow.

And when I had a kid, I realized that they stare off into space a lot, especially newborns. Who knows what wonders their brand new vision reveals as their eyes mature. When he was very little, Munch stared up at the ceiling a lot, cooing and smiling and seeming to "look" at something that wasn't there--or that Hubs and I couldn't see.

Hubs took to calling this ceiling dweller "Jim," which I told him to stop immediately. Anyone who has seen the Paranormal Activity trilogy can understand why. The absolute last thing I wanted was a demon befriending my newborn. (Ummm, that's a really weird sentence, but also very true.) But Jim remained a part of our lives for a while.

I told myself that if Munch was seeing something, it didn't necessarily have to be evil. It was even comforting to think that my grandparents who have passed or great-grandparents on Hubs' side that I've never even met might be stopping in to see our little blessing.

Okay, that's still freaky, but not like The Exorcist freaky.

Now, 2 years later Munch sometimes still seems to interact with something that isn't there. It doesn't happen a lot, but when it does, I'm usually alone with him, of course. One night, we were in the living room, and he kept looking up at a corner of the ceiling and even pointing. And I asked, "What do you see?" and Munch just pointed.

Confession: Sometimes, I ask these nothings to leave us be, in the off chance that Jim was in fact a demon. (I feel the need to spit on the floor and douse myself in holy water even admitting this.)

The most recent incident happened about a month ago and it is the one that freaked me out the most. Munch and I were playing on my bed, which he loves to do. He tumbles and goes under the covers and mostly gives me heart failure for how close he dives to the edge of the mattress.

This particular day, I was lying with my head on the pillow and Munch was standing over me, looking at the room at large. He smiled. Then he whacked me pretty hard. And laughed. And looked back at the room at large.

Our closet doors are mirrors, and Munch loves to look at himself. However, I checked and he couldn't see himself from where he was.

This "look at nothing, hit mommy, laugh, look at the room, repeat" went on for a bit. I kept looking in the direction Munch did. He seemed delighted. And I couldn't see anything.

I, however, really started to freak out, I confess it here and now. I was like, Is some freaking ghost telling him to hit me?

I know this is likely completely insane. I know that Munch is 2 and he hits because he thinks it's fun and that he could just be imagining something in the room or who knows what.

I also know that I scooped him the hell up and went the hell downstairs.

I don't know. I've read about the concept that kids can see things we adults say just aren't possibly there. My cousin's cousin, when she was very little, used to talk about the lady who sat in the rocker in her room--an older woman had indeed once lived in their house. As the kid grew, mentions of the lady stopped. But did she disappear, or did the child just learn to see with adult eyes?

So, that all goes to say, I do want to believe. But I may not want to believe in my own bedroom.

* This post was inspired by a dear friend who on Twitter wondered if her cat was looking at a bug or a ghost.

Monday, June 17, 2013

In Honor of our Wedding Anniversary

Today is Hubs' and my 6th wedding anniversary! It was a beautiful June day in Gettysburg, Pennsylvania, sunny but blazing hot. We met at Gettysburg College, and that's where we married--in Christ Chapel on the campus.

I often don't put as much weight on this anniversary as on our "relationship" (first date) anniversary in February--we've been together more than 11 years, and we've lived together for most of that time (story for another post), so it feels wrong to "discount" the first 5 years just because we weren't married.

But, that doesn't mean that our wedding day wasn't incredibly special, or that our marriage isn't something I cherish. So, in honor of that hot day on June 17, 2007, here are 5 of the best moments from  our wedding day.

1) The walk down the aisle.

a) Having both my parents walk me down the aisle was a very emotional experience for the three of us. My parents divorced when I was 16. One of my favorite things about my wedding day was my parents coming together and doing that walk for me and with me.

b) I didn't expect to be emotional. At all. But when I turned the corner down that extremely long aisle and saw Hubs standing at the head of it, I just lost it. I cried and cried the entire walk, sobbing, not just tearing up, but really blubbering. My parents really had to hold me up. Hubs said later that it looked like they were dragging me up to him.

2) Photos on the golf course. Our reception was The Links and they had golf carts for the wedding party to ride down to the greens and take pictures on the course. Though, again, it was blazing hot and we were exhausted by that time, we got some of the coolest pictures ever.

3) The speeches. My sisters (co-maids-of-honor) and Hubs' brother gave heartfelt, funny, and sweet speeches to us, and I still have the original copies they used.

4) Our cake. We were lucky enough to use Food Network's Duff Goldman before his show went on the air and before he exploded in popularity. He created a replica of Penn Hall, the centerpiece building on Gettysburg College's campus that predates the Civil War, and an Xbox 360 and controller for our groom's cake.

5) Dancing at the reception. Both sides of our families danced the evening away and it was awesome. Our DJ was perfect--we used a local guy who did weddings on the side and we gave him a CD of our requested songs, and that's all he played. It was quite literally one of the funnest times of my entire life. Everyone was in great spirits and I still think of it with warmth in my heart.

Our wedding day, in the end, was one of the best days of my life. I married a man I love wholly and completely. It was a day without any drama, chock full of happiness and blessings. I will be forever grateful for that.