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.

Thursday, June 6, 2013

5 Hilarious Things Munch Has Done Lately

My little 2-year-old is a ham and is also incredibly observant, which just amazes me daily. He's so sweet, and so cute, and I feel like he's just blossoming before our very eyes! Here are 5 recent examples.

1. Last night in the bath, Munch stuck an index finger in each nostril and widened his eyes at Hubs and me, then dissolved into fits of giggles. I'm sure our reactions (Gross!! *Raucous laughter*) didn't help.

2. Then, inexplicably, Munch started crying and saying "Foot! Foot!" We said, "What's wrong with your foot?" He said, "It's wet!" Devastated voice: "It's wet!" So he proceeded to cry and we proceeded to try to stifle laughter as we toweled him off.

3. This morning, he was lying next to me as we woke up and I was facing away from him. I was wearing an old Disney World t-shirt on the back of which is a big picture of Winnie-the-Pooh and his friends. Munch starts laughing and poking me in the back and I said, "That's Tigger!" and he said in a very scary low growl, "Rowrrrr."

4. He's starting to be able to tell me why he cries when I'm not there. It's mostly "Jabber jabber wah jabber bike jabber." Translation: "I cried because the bike is broken and I couldn't play with it." Awesome getting some two-way conversations going.

5. He ends his own fun time. We'll be out walking with him in the stroller, and it's his favorite thing ever, and suddenly he'll say, "House. Bye-bye stroller." And we'll head back to the house where he'll calmly get out of the stroller and go inside.

Okay, 6. We were playing on one of the normal wees and another boy was there. Munch hurried as fast as he could up the stairs, through the tube, down the slide, sprint around and start again, all the while looking over his shoulder for where this kid was. The competitive streak is presenting early.

I could go on and on, but I'm already over! I love this kid!

Wednesday, June 5, 2013

Pee-Pee on the Potty!

Milestone! Munch went pee-pee on the potty last weekend!

It was one of those accidental things--we are not yet starting potty training proper. We always give Munch "naked time" after his bath. The 20-30 minutes he plays in the nude are among his most carefree--and who can blame him? If I spent every other moment in a diaper, I'd relish a little air down there as well!

Over the past several months, he's gotten good at signalling when he's about to pee, so we can rush him into the diaper (as opposed to when he was younger when we kept cleaner on hand and he just let er rip while he played).

(The time he started pooping, when we were able to stick a diaper underneath him just in time, that was a shining parenting moment, I'll tell ya.)

Now, he'll look at one of us, get very quiet, start fiddling with his weiner, and say "Poopy." (Everything is poopy right now, be it #1 or #2.)

He did this last Friday night, and instead of rushing him into a diaper, we rushed him to the big potty. We held him on the pot and he looked at us like, "What now?"

I said, "Go pee pee! Go pee pee like Daddy!" (Sorry, Hubs.)

His belly tensed and then he peed! We cheered and clapped. It was a big night in our little realm. Now we need to find the perfect training potty for the big climb up Mount Potty Training.

Saturday, June 1, 2013

Mommy Down

It's been a rather eventful few days. Friday, I had a stomach bug (the less said the better). Friday night, Munch went pee-pee on the potty for the first time (more on that in another post).

This morning, we set up Munch's water table in the backyard, which was fun, and Hubs found a tick on his neck, which was not.

And this afternoon, I fell down the stairs, about a third of the way.

It was after Munch's nap, and he and I were going downstairs to get Cheetos, his current snack of choice. At the top of the staircase, he reached for my hand and I took it. We went down a couple steps, and he was calling for Daddy, who was down in the living room.

Somehow, about three steps down, my feet went out from under me. Our carpet is threadbare and can be slick, and I felt my heel miss. I went down hard on my left hip, next to the wall, and slid downward, grasping at the wall and trying to catch a step with my foot.

Somehow, I let go of Munch's hand. He sat down on the step. Below, unseen, Hubs was freaking out, I heard him. Though this all happened in seconds, I remember calling, knowing that my tone was matter of fact, calm: "It's me. It's me."

It's only me.

Not that if I'd been seriously injured it wouldn't have been a big deal to me or to Hubs or to our families. "It's me" was meant to calm his initial fears, thoughts that even in the three seconds during which I fell until I stopped myself by grabbing a picture on the wall and finally a foothold, I was thinking myself. Thank God it's not Munch.

If it would have been Munch, the next minutes would have been filled with hysterics and panic and frantic is he okay??? and phone calls and hands run over his head and body and maybe a trip to the ER, hopefully just to be safe, and a night of shaking heads and (hopefully) imagined what-if scenarios.

It's me stopped those thoughts.

But, to Munch the fact that it was me meant something entirely different. As soon as my momentum ceased, as I registered the pain in my hip and on my elbow where my arm scraped along the wall, I looked up at my little boy sitting still on the step. And he burst out crying.

Pushing down the blossoming pain in my leg and the shaking from did that seriously just happen? and the fear from it could have been so much worse, I stood and scooped up my crying boy and held him. Carefully, with Hubs below us, I finished the walk to the living room and sat on the couch, cradling Munch, whispering, Mommy's okay. Hubs assured him, Mommy's okay.

He calmed very quickly, but his Cheetos were forgotten. He sat on my lap, holding my hands and rubbing my hair the way he does when he's tired or insecure. I swallowed hard to show him my brave face, that Mommy was indeed okay.

After a bit, he started talking, jabbering, gesturing at the stairs and saying, "Mommy down. Mommy 'kay." Over and over he told us what had happened through his little eyes. Mommy down. But, he was taking our word for it, Mommy 'kay.

And that's what brought me to tears.

It was hard to define why this narrative from him cut me clear to the core. It showed his vulnerability. But it also showed mine. It showed how much I mean to Munch.

Of course, I know how important I am to him, can see it in the way he smiles at me or lays his head on my shoulder. But as my younger sister termed it, this was verbal confirmation of how much I mean to him.

Munch looks at me and sees someone who will protect him and who is in control of our little world. He sees me as the person who ensures he's holding a hand on the way down the stairs, trusts that I am the person who will spot him, keep him safe, remind him to be careful.

And I fell.

This was maybe the first time his little consciousness realized that his mommy is not invulnerable to the ways of the world, to the stairs we encounter. And I hated seeing the fear in his face and hearing the relief and the reminder to himself and to us: Mommy 'kay.

I want to tell him that Mommy will always be okay. That I won't ever, ever leave him alone or scared. And I will tell him these things--they are one of the fallacies we must tell our children in order for them and for us to sleep at night.

And it's not that I'm "feeling my mortality" after a silly slip on the stairs that left my leg aching but not broken or even bruised. It's that I don't want Munch to feel it. Not yet. I don't want him to be afraid of what can happen. Not yet. There are plenty of years ahead for that.

For now, I want him secure in the knowledge that all he need do is reach out and I will take his hand, no question, I will be there.