Friday, June 22, 2007

Ladybug, meet Grandad Chicken

At the same time we drop my mother-in-law off at the airport, Ladybug and I are taking the plane to see my grandfather.

It will be Ladybug’s first time flying and my first time packing for an extended trip with a toddler. It will also be the first time Ladybug will meet most of my family, all of whom live up north. We’ll be staying with my grandfather, affectionately known as Grandad Chicken.

I don’t know where that name came from, aside from his marriage to Grandmom Chicken. And I’m not quite sure how my parents became known as Grandmom and Grandad Boosh except for some vague memory of my brother as a toddler calling my dad Boosh Wee Woy Junior Period Pop.

But I do remember how Ladybug got her name.

In the early days of rocking her to sleep, I’d make up silly songs that were usually inspired by our tribulation of the moment or the onesie she was wearing at the time. There was a particularly creative ditty called “Prune Juice” sung to the tune of “Footloose” when we were battling constipation. A beige circus-themed outfit prompted “SuperStar.”

But it was a pink onesie with a ladybug in the middle that gave her her nickname and another hit song, “Pretty Little Ladybug (Oop-dey Doop-dey Bug).”

It’s been a while since I’ve come up with a new song. My creative juices have been running on empty for some time.

But I have to believe there’s inspiration around the corner.

Grandad Chicken. Grandad Boosh. Ladybug.

There has to be a song in there somewhere.

The hand-off

We’re coming to the end of my mother-in-law’s six-week stay with us. Tomorrow she heads back to France, and we likely won’t see her again until next year.

I don’t know what I’ll miss most – her company or her help.

I haven’t had to wash and sterilize bottles since the beginning of May. Same for dinner. And I’ve actually been able to get ready for work in the morning without worrying what bathroom drawer Ladybug would empty next.

But alas, all good things must come to an end.

I’m tired just thinking about it.

Wednesday, June 20, 2007

A turning point

The weirdest thing happened to me at work this week.

I started training a new employee. For my job.

I’ve made the decision to be a stay-at-home mom.

If you had told me a few years ago that I would have turned my career upside down to take care of a baby, I would have laughed at you. That’s what they make daycare for, I thought.

But then Ladybug was born, and it no longer mattered that I had spent the last 20 years of my life preparing for and working in my dream job.

In the early days after my maternity leave, I’d cry when I’d leave Ladybug to go to work. She did too.

Then we got used to the routine. I’d grab my coffee, purse and car keys in the morning; she’d put my shoes next to the door. Ladybug would wait for me by the window at night, and wave and point as I’d pull into the driveway.

But as I got back into the swing of things at work, my days kept getting longer and longer. The fluctuating schedule that kept my job so interesting before was now a nightmare. Most of the time I’d leave for work before Ladybug was awake and I’d get home just as she was going to bed. There were weeks where the only time she’d get a bath was on the weekend.

Then I started missing milestones. It was days before I knew she had her first tooth, was saying her first words or was standing on her own.

But my fate was sealed the day my husband filmed Ladybug waiting for my return from work.

Every time a car passed in front of the house, Ladybug would run to the window and yell “Mama!” With each car that passed that wasn’t me, she became more exasperated, eventually working herself up into a full-blown crying frenzy. She wore herself out and was sound asleep before I ever got home.

I decided then that it was time to stay home.

Over the coming months I’ll be cutting back my hours until I’m no longer working. Sometimes I feel guilty for making this decision, like the other day when a colleague told me she had worked until midnight the night before and was likely going to be at the office late into the evening again that day.

Then I remembered Ladybug’s cries as she waited for me at the window and it all disappeared.

Friday, June 15, 2007

The thought that didn't count

I’m a numbers kinda gal.

Give me a couple hundred pages of statistics, and I’ll strip them down into a toddler boardbook interpretation. Ask me later where I found those numbers, I can almost cite the page. Which is why my experience at the doctor’s office this week was so mortifying.

I was reviewing my medical history with the doctor when she asked how much Ladybug weighed when she was born.

Seven pounds and ….

And …

And …

I drew a blank.

I could not remember how much my daughter weighed on one of the best days of my life.

It was a Dead Zone kind of moment – time came to a halt as I visualized myself flipping through my pregnancy journal, looking for the page I had scribbled her weight just after she was born.

Still nothing.

I imagined myself staring at the glass picture frame in the guest bedroom that has her length and birth weight etched on it.


“We’ll just look in your chart,” the doctor said.

Oh, the humility.

“She was seven pounds and …”

And …

And …

I missed it.

I have no idea what the doctor said. I was too busy beating myself up, wondering where along the way I forgot this precious detail.

Maybe I’m not such a numbers kinda gal after all.

Thursday, June 14, 2007

Happy Mother's Day to me!

Today is my Mother’s Day.

We didn’t celebrate the national holiday with the rest of the country last month, and we won’t be marking Father’s Day this weekend either. Instead, we chose our own special day to celebrate parenthood: June 14, the day we found out I was pregnant with Ladybug.

We had been trying for years to get pregnant and ultimately ended up seeing a fertility specialist for help. Our first round of treatments didn’t work, and by the time we started on the second round I was afraid that we would never be able to have children.

But a week after we had completed the second attempt, I went to visit family out of state and just knew I was pregnant. It was the end of May and I was huddled under layers and layers of quilts, shivering so hard the bed was shaking. This must be the start of the hormonal changes they talk about, I remember thinking. I was anxious for the week’s visit to end so I could go home and see the doctor.

When I finally returned home, the 24 hours between the pregnancy test and the doctor’s phone call seemed like forever. But when the nurse finally called the morning of June 14, 2005, everything passed in a blur.

“Your test came back positive. You’re pregnant,” she said.

Even though I was on the phone with her five minutes, that’s all I remember. I was crying, jumping up and down and hugging my husband. I was such a basket case that my husband had to talk to the nurse to get the next instructions.

In my excitement, I grabbed the camera, scribbled “We’re pregnant! June 14, 2005” on a piece of paper, and pulled my husband onto the sofa with me. We held the camera out in front of us, each of us holding a corner of the paper announcing the news.

It’s an awful picture. My unbrushed hair is pulled back in a barrette, my eyes are red and puffy behind my glasses, and my normally strong husband is staring at the camera with a sheepish grin, a lost look on his face.

To celebrate, we ordered pizza – a two-for-one special in a superstitious attempt to ensure twins. As much as we wanted at least two kids, we weren’t so hot on having to go through pregnancy multiple times. Why not knock out all of our family planning at once, we thought?

But alas, we only had one.

Ladybug was born on the day my husband and I met 13 years earlier in a Paris bistro. He was with his military buddies for a night on the town before heading out on deployment; I was out with my girlfriends for a break from our study abroad.

His group was gathered in the corner in front of the ladies’ bathroom, and I kept looking that way hoping they would move before I had to use it. He thought I was looking at him. So when nature finally called and I headed toward the restroom, my husband met me halfway.

That was almost 15 years ago now.

I’m reminded of that night each time I look at Ladybug and see the mix of her features: my smile and blue eyes, his nose, ears and left dimple.

And as far as I’m concerned, I’m glad my husband thought I was checking him out instead of the toilet.

Wednesday, June 13, 2007

Franglais, and then some

Since my mother-in-law has been visiting us, there hasn’t been much English spoken at home. Everything has been in French.

Ladybug has even gotten in on the game, replying “oui” instead of “yes” and asking “ça va?” instead of her trademark “howwadoo-wing?”

Usually I can trace the origins of her newest words to something said earlier in the day, but I’m stumped by the latest addition to her vocabulary.

She was gathering up her squeezie fish bath toys the other day and started saying, “Bubba, Bubba, Bubba.”

I’m thinking it has to do something with her Louisiana roots. Unlike me and my husband, she was born here.

I’m now waiting for the next new word. You wanna bet it’ll be “Boudreaux?”

Thursday, June 7, 2007

Those dang dogs

Ladybug loves taking baths.

I mean luuuuuuuuvs.

She’ll follow me into the bathroom, throw her toys into the tub and point.

You can see it on her face: “Look, Mommy! My toys are in the tub and I want to be there too!”

But for the last couple of weeks, my mother-in-law has been visiting. She’s staying in the room with the adjoining bathroom where Ladybug usually takes her baths. That means Ladybug has been relegated to the shower stall in our master bathroom.

Have you ever tried to give a wet, soapy toddler a shower? Let’s just say it’s kind of like handling an oiled turkey.

Anyway, Ladybug hasn’t enjoyed the experience that much either and usually ends up crying before I’ve finished wiping the shampoo out of her hair. (Yeah, you read that right. Wiping. She’s afraid of the showerhead.)

So to make up for the misery she’s endured, we bought an inflatable pool over the weekend. It’s long enough that all of us can get in but only about a foot deep.

The first time we used it, Ladybug went wild. Bath toys were flying, arms were flapping, giggles were contagious. She wore herself out splashing around.

We planned to let her play again the next night, but when my husband went out to check the water level, the neighbor came to greet him.

“I’m really sorry. I couldn’t stop him in time,” the neighbor said.

“Him” being a dog. A really big, hot, thirsty dog. The water inside the pool was one huge muddy mess.

It takes hours for the water to drain out of the tiny plug in the bottom of the pool, so we weren’t able to get it cleaned before Ladybug’s bedtime. So I apologetically packed up Ladybug’s bath toys, put away her bathing suit and towel, and pulled out the cleaning supplies.

And to make up for the misery we endured, she skipped bath time.

My Christmas story

I overheard someone at work talking today about Prince.

“You know how old he is? Forty-nine.”


It seems just like yesterday that I was lip-syncing “Let’s Go Crazy” for an eight-grade music class project. I shudder at the memory: four of us Madonna-wannabes rehearsing Prince’s hit song over and over in the living room, jumping off the sofa and playing air guitar.

But I digress.

It’s just that I’ve been feeling kind of old the last couple of days. This is the time of year that we start hiring college students for summer internships – “ the kids” as I unintentionally started calling them when I realized I’m almost twice their age.

But the true reality check about my disappearing youth came in an email I received yesterday with a link to a friend’s blog on her daughter. Her little girl had just turned four and had asked for a Barbie castle and an oven.

I remember asking for something along the same lines: the Barbie Dream House and the Easy-Bake Oven – my own obsessive version of the Red Ryder carbine-action, two hundred shot Range Model air rifle BB gun with a compass in the stock and a thing which tells time.

I didn’t get either, although I received a modified version of the Barbie mansion: a three-story townhouse, complete with a manually operated elevator. Pretty cool.

Pretty cool?!?!

Should I be having that reaction in my mid-30s? Or worse, should I be as eagerly anticipating the day that Ladybug asks for a Barbie Dream House so that I can play with it too?

Maybe it’s my way of trying to recapture the younger years when there weren’t bills and taxes and work to worry about.

And hey, at least I won’t shoot my eye out.

Wednesday, June 6, 2007

The magic drawers

I love my kitchen. It’s full of lots of cabinets and drawers and countertop space. Ladybug loves it too, especially the drawer where I keep the kitchen towels.

When I’m preparing dinner or washing dishes, she’ll pull all of the neatly folded towels out of the drawer and then shove them back in a bundled-up wad. Now when I reach for a towel, I usually end up pulling out three or four in a ball.

At one point it became a magic drawer – open it up and reach in for a towel, and you’d likely pull out something else as well. There have been shoes, cookie cutters, play telephones, just about anything that is Ladybug’s fascination du jour.

But lately Ladybug has given up the magic drawer in exchange for the magic diaper. Reach in and you never know what you’ll find. There have been Cheerios, grated cheese and even strawberries.

What makes this so strange (as if it were normal, everyday behavior to begin with) is that she’s wearing onesies most of the time. You know, the one-piece outfits that go on over her head and snap between her legs. I’m trying to figure out how she would have grabbed a handful of strawberries, reached around her backside and stuck them up her diaper without me seeing.

I came to the conclusion that it must be happening in her high chair, that somehow as she wiggles while she eats that the food is falling and wedging between her butt cheeks.

That theory satisfied me until the other day when I was changing her diaper. I looked down and saw what looked like poop. But when did poop get flat and fuzzy?

That’s when I realized it was a puzzle piece, the body of a teddy bear. She certainly hadn’t been playing with her puzzle in her high chair, so I was left with the assumption that she actually intentionally stuck it in her diaper.

It reminded me of a story I read in one of my parenting magazines about a mother who took her toddler to the ER after the child stuck Legos up her nose.

When the doctor asked her why she had done that, she replied, “Because I didn’t have any pockets.”

She apparently didn’t have any diapers either.

Tuesday, June 5, 2007

The hardest goodbye

After 10 days at home with Ladybug, I’m back to work. And I have to say, today is one of my hardest days.

Not because of the hundreds of unread emails in my inbox, or the inches-thick pile of mail sitting next to my desk, or the line of colleagues needing to talk to me about the next project. It’s because I’m away from Ladybug.

Those days at home were the most time we’ve spent together since my maternity leave more than a year ago. Working full time, I only see Ladybug about two hours a day during the week.

Oh, I’m sure there are mothers out there rolling their eyes and saying, “I wish I only had to deal with my kids two hours a day.” And who knows? Maybe I’ll be one of those mothers one day.

But today I’m at work, drowning in misery that there’s no one running behind me, waving their arms and screeching, “Hey you!”

Well, actually there are, but they’re about three times taller and calling me for all the wrong reasons.