Saturday, September 29, 2007

Double bubble trouble

As much as Ladybug loves her bath, she hates having her hair washed. So I decided to try a new product that was a bubbly two-in-one concoction of body wash and shampoo. I figured she’d be so distracted by the white foam that filled the tub that I’d be able to lather up her head before she realized what I was doing.

At least half of that equation was right. She was mesmerized by the blanket of bubbles that hid the bathtub floor. She delighted in reaching under the growing fluff and pulling out a hidden squeezy fish and handing it to me.

We went through this cycle four or five times before I realized I didn’t recognize the last squishy toy in my hand. Or the next one she was holding out to me. Was that Play-Doh? How in the world did it get in the tub, I wondered as I balled it up in my hand.

Um, it wasn’t Play-Doh.

Every inch of me wanted to jump up and shake the wad from my hand and yell, “Gross, gross, grossssssssss!” But I had to be an adult about it, so I tried to pretend it was just a chocolate cupcake I was holding and only a brownie I was taking from Ladybug.

I dumped the pair in the toilet and washed my hands, nonchalantly settling back down next to the tub to play with Ladybug. This time, though, I wasn’t accepting toys.

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I can’t believe it – I finally got Ladybug’s toenails cut.

All 10 of them.

All at the same time.

I know, I know. It’s a weird thing to celebrate. But if you had seen how my husband and I had struggled to just cut one, you’d understand my joy. Most of Ladybug’s toenails were so long and oddly shaped her feet looked like Rorschach ink blots. We even had a joke whenever Ladybug stumbled: “Did you trip over your toenails again?”

But when I sat her on the bathroom counter to brush her teeth, she reached for the toenail clipper. I asked her if she wanted me to show her how it worked. When she said yes, I clipped the big toe. She was so in awe of the arch of nail that flew onto the counter, that I managed to get the other four toes done without her noticing. To keep her distracted so I could finish the other foot, I put the pile of clippings next to her.

Yep, totally gross. But yep, totally effective.

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Thursday, September 27, 2007

What were they thinking?

Oh, the things we do for love.

Now that the weather is cooling off, I’ve been trying to take Ladybug outside more. She loves to run around the backyard, picking up leaves and checking on the green pepper plants. But this past weekend, I decided to give her another option for outdoor play: the plastic trike my parents bought when they were here a couple weeks ago. Technically, it was supposed to be a Christmas gift, but who’s going to ride a trike in the winter? Ladybug would have to wait until spring to give it a test ride around the back yard, and that’s just not good economic sense. We might as well get our money’s worth out of it now, right?

So I pulled out the box containing the trike. I had already assumed I’d have to attach the seat and handlebars because, really, what bike can fit in a box the size of a VCR? But when I opened it, I thought we had bought a returned item with the wrong contents; there was nothing in the box that remotely resembled a trike, just dozens of tiny components, all intricately connected by giant plastic toothpicks.

“Take it back to the store,” my husband said. “Don’t even bother.”

But I had already showed the box to Ladybug, and I’m not one to give up so easily. So I carted the box, hammer, screwdriver and scissors to our bedroom, closed the door and got to work. I sat there for a good 20 minutes trying to figure out how to remove all the pieces from the plastic casing. They were too thick to cut but also too thick to snap out with my bare hands. I ended up twisting and spinning and bending each piece back and forth to weaken the connectors. I encountered a particularly stubborn set but was finally able to snap them off after I wrapped a small towel around them. Too bad they were actually part of the pieces needed to finish the wheels.

Two hours of huffing and puffing later, I had the trike finished – minus the wheel caps, of course. At that point I didn’t really care; they were just decorative anyway. I took a deep breath, trying to rid myself of my assembly-induced bad mood. I threw open the bedroom door and triumphantly raised the trike in the air.

“Look what Mommy has!” I exclaimed.

“Ohhhhhhhhh!” Ladybug squealed.

Ladybug ran to the back door. We hurried down the steps and put the trike on the ground. Time for a test ride! I sat Ladybug on the bike. She grabbed the handles while I took her feet to show her how to pedal.

“Noooooooooooooooo!” I wanted to scream.

Her legs were two inches too short to reach the pedals.

I tried to get her to just lift her legs while I pushed her around the yard but she wanted nothing to do with that. Instead she decided to peel off all the stickers and throw them on the ground. After a few minutes I accepted this trike ride was not going to happen and took the bike inside. I put it back in the pile with the Christmas gifts.

Seems it might be spring before she rides it after all.

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Wednesday, September 26, 2007

Tea time

I’m convinced if you really want to test your parenting skills, take a toddler on the verge of the “terrible twos” to a restaurant. Then tell them they have to sit still.

I used to be amazed at how good Ladybug was when we’d eat out. Sure, she’d do the typical toddler acts – like empty her entire bowl of Cheerios on the floor – but as far as behavior went, she was impeccable. So when boredom struck earlier this week, my husband and I didn’t think twice about going to Copeland’s for a late lunch.

It started as a day to remember when the waitress arrived at our table with a booster seat instead of the usual high chair. It was the first time Ladybug would sit side by side with us at the table. And, after that meal, it looks like it will be the last for a long, long time.

Usually we prep Ladybug before she experiences something new. We tell her what to expect and talk her through it as she tries it. But for some reason, I just plopped her in the booster seat, told her to sit up straight, and continued to talk to my husband. I didn’t think anymore of it as our meal arrived since Ladybug was quiet as she absorbed the surroundings.

And then out of nowhere, a foot flew above my plate and into my iced tea. The glass fell over and tea poured into my lap, where Ladybug had thrown herself. We were both dripping wet and not getting any dryer as the ice started to melt and soak through my underwear. Then Ladybug began screaming and slipped down my legs and under the table in an effort to escape into the aisle. All the while, my husband was lifting and shifting plates so the waiter, who was maneuvering around me and Ladybug like some warped game of Restaurant Twister, could sop up the mess.

I took Ladybug outside, sat her on a bench and got down to look her in the eyes. I told her I didn’t like her behavior and that if she wanted to be treated like a big girl, she would have to act like one. That meant sitting in her booster seat, not throwing food and not screaming. I asked her if she wanted to try again.

“K,” she said.

So we went back in. No sooner had we sat down that Ladybug started her show again. I carted Ladybug off to the car while my husband got to-go boxes and paid the bill. While we waited, Ladybug continued her tantrum, grabbing whatever she could reach from her car seat and throwing it. I took off my sunglasses and turned around from the front seat.

“That is not acceptable behavior,” I said sternly. “We still have one more place to go, and we will not accept that behavior. When we get to the store, you will hold Mommy and Daddy’s hands and you will not scream. If you do, we will leave.”

Humbled, Ladybug stopped her wailing and sat still.

“That was really good,” my husband told me later that night.

I don’t know about that. I’m sure there’s some “parenting expert” somewhere who would cringe at how we handled her behavior. But it worked. Ladybug held my hand as we walked around the store. She pointed at things that interested her but did not try to touch them. I let her lead the way through the aisles and thanked her for her good behavior when we were done.

I was proud of her … and a little bit proud of us too.

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Tuesday, September 25, 2007

A mother's logic

“You never stop worrying about them,” my 80-some-year-old grandfather told me one day during a conversation about parenting.

Even though I’m relatively new at this whole mommying thing, I can see what he means. For the entire first year of Ladybug’s life, I was terrified of naps and bedtime. To me, it was a game of Russian roulette with SIDS.

When Ladybug passed the 12-month mark, I breathed a sigh of relief. But of course there was always something new waiting to replace it – a fear of her choking as she moved to table food, a worry of furniture toppling on her as she learned to climb, an obsession with car safety as we increased our outings. I even insisted the sheriff’s office examine the placement of Ladybug’s car seat even though I knew my husband had installed it correctly.

I’ll admit, sometimes my fears for Ladybug’s well-being are seemingly irrational – like postponing our walk around the block because school was getting out and the neighborhood would be overrun with kids, some of them not so nice. But then I see the weekend headline “High-schoolers charged with battery of elementary kids” in Pleasant Hill, and I don’t feel so overprotective.

I don’t know the details of the case other than the four paragraphs that appeared in the paper. Basically three high school girls are accused of scratching three young children during a run-in in the bathroom of an elementary school. What the older girls were doing there and what prompted the incident wasn’t addressed in the article. But frankly, I don’t need to know the details to justify my concern about Ladybug’s safety.

I know my logic seems way out there. After all, Ladybug is 19 months old and constantly under my supervision. And I’m an adult, at least twice the age of most high schoolers. In a normal world, I should be able to protect her from an older kid gone astray. And why would anyone pick on a toddler anyway?

But you never know. There are still a few neighborhood teens angry at my husband and me after we caught them in the act of vandalizing street signs and chastised them. After the very disrespectful mouthing they gave us, they stalked us during our walk around the block, running off only when we got to our yard.

It’s a shame that we have to live life always assuming the worst, looking over our shoulders and taking precautionary measures against the stupidity of others. Now that I’m a mother, I can understand some of the decisions my parents made while I was growing up, even though I wasn’t exactly their number-one fan at the time.

Right now, with Ladybug still learning to talk, she can’t question my decisions. But there will come a day when she will challenge me on my actions and wonder why I’m being so ridiculous, just as I did with my parents.

“You’ll understand when you have children,” my mom always said to me.

For her safety, I hope it doesn’t take Ladybug that long to figure it out.

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Friday, September 21, 2007

Parental training

Just when I was so sure I had the perfect child, Ladybug pulls a fast one on me.

In a matter of 24 hours, she went from the sweetest toddler who’d share her cookies and distribute hugs for no apparent reason to a nightmare on chubby legs.

It’s really not that bad, but compared to her previous easy-going personality, Ladybug’s new attempts at testing her independence are a bit frustrating at times. And of course they involve the three most common daily activities: diaper changes, meals and teeth brushings.

Whenever I try to pick her up to carry her to the high chair or changing table, Ladybug throws herself onto the floor in a limp blob so that I can’t get my hands under her arms. If by some chance I do succeed in lifting her, she goes straight as a board and pushes herself away so hard (using my boobs as a springboard, mind you) that I’m forced to put her down to avoid dropping her as she twists and turns.

My husband and I have learned to adapt to this new behavior by asking her to meet us in the nursery for a diaper change or to pick something normally off-limits she wants to examine – like an emery board or tube of lipstick – while we brush her teeth. But sometimes those distraction techniques just don’t work, like when you’re in a store full of shelves overflowing with shiny and interesting objects. And sometimes there’s just no room for negotiation, like when you’re in a parking lot.

We all learned the latter the hard way when we went to a local shopping center to look for a roasting pan. Ladybug’s stroller was tucked away in the trunk behind bags of groceries, so I decided to carry her. Ladybug decided she did not want to be carried. She kicked and pushed and screamed at the top of her lungs. She made such a fuss that people stopped to stare.

“Sorry, Ladybug. You’re not walking where all these cars are. You can walk when we get to the sidewalk but only if you hold Mommy and Daddy’s hands,” we told her.

You think it worked in calming her down? Of course not. All she saw was a large open space great for playing hide and seek, and we were holding her back from her fun. But we saw it another way – from the parental point of view of danger everywhere. There was no room for compromise.

That routine outing was strange in a way. It brought out another side of our parenting that we hadn’t had to use up to that point – putting our foot down and not budging.

Ladybug has long since forgotten the incident, but it’s still a topic of conversation for my husband and me. We use these situations as learning experiences and take advantage of hindsight to discuss what might have been a better way to handle the scenario. The goal of these post-incident analyses is to better prepare us for next time.

And if this past week is any indication, we'll be putting our revised techniques to work sooner rather than later.

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Bedside manner

What is it with doctors and nurses? Do they not realize that their comments can send a mother into a frenzy?

This week we were fighting a rash that appeared on the crease of Ladybug’s right leg. I noticed a couple small bumps when I changed her diaper in the morning. A couple hours later, the bumps had become swollen like mosquito bites. A few hours after that, the bumps were gone and replaced by flat red marks. Ladybug had no fever, and she was as playful as ever.

To me, it was just a bite or a reaction to something she had come into contact with. I called the pediatrician’s office to see how to treat it, and I left a very detailed voicemail describing the characteristics of the rash. That was in the morning. A nurse called back a few minutes before the doctor’s office closed that evening.

“You might want to consider going to the ER or an after-hours clinic,” she said.


All of a sudden, I was in a panic. What disease did Ladybug have? What havoc was it going to wreak on her little body? What if she stopped breathing? Oh my God, didn’t her temperature just spike?!?!

I told my husband what the nurse said and started getting Ladybug ready to go. And then I remembered something the nurse said: She had tried calling back in the morning but got a busy signal. She didn’t try again until minutes before closing. I wondered -- if it was that urgent, wouldn’t she have kept trying until she reached me?

My husband was convinced the nurse’s suggestion was just a case of CYA on their part, and ultimately I think he was right. A round of Benadryl and calamine lotion cleared up the rash overnight. But two days later, I still find myself taking Ladybug’s temperature at each diaper change.

I love Ladybug’s pediatrician, but this incident reminded me of how I wish doctors in general would keep their suspicions to themselves until they’ve had a chance to run tests. When Ladybug was a few weeks old and could put a college binge drinker to shame with her vomiting, one doctor said she might have a kink in her stomach. She didn’t. Then there was the case of my visit to our family doctor with a general case of blah. Without doing any tests, he said he suspected leukemia and sent me on my way. Needless to say, I don’t have leukemia and he’s not our family doctor anymore.

So here’s a piece of advice to doctors from a mom concerned about her baby’s well-being: Do the necessary tests, tell me what I should do in the meantime, but keep your hunches to yourself until they’re confirmed.

Otherwise, you might have a new patient with panic disorder on your hands.

To share your thoughts and to read other comments, click HERE.

Tuesday, September 18, 2007

Don't look!

When my brother and I were little, it seemed our banishment from the bathroom in my parents’ bedroom always came at the same time of the year – a few months before Christmas. If, in a dire emergency we were allowed to use their bathroom because the main one was occupied, it always came with the stern warning not to look under the blanketed pile in the corner.

I never did. But that was because I was more interested in the makeup my mother kept under the vanity than a desire to obey orders. I still don’t know what was under those blankets – or in later years, in a covered pile behind their bed – but I’m guessing it was our Christmas gifts.

I thought of that this week as I was trying to find a hiding place for Ladybug’s Christmas gifts. It’s not like she knows who Santa Claus is and would be puzzled to find the same gifts from Father Christmas under the tree that Mommy and Daddy had bought and stacked in a pile in plain view in the exercise room. And really, would she even remember?

But on this one, I’d prefer to give her the benefit of the doubt. She catches me off guard with some eerily advanced actions sometimes – like saying “bless you” when I sneezed in Wal-Mart the other day – and I’m not so sure she wouldn’t put two and two together on the Christmas gifts.

So, for the time being, she’s not allowed to go in the exercise room. Until I can find a better hiding place, maybe I’ll just throw a blanket over the pile of toys in the corner and hope curiosity doesn’t get the better of her.

To share your thoughts and to read other comments, click HERE.

Monday, September 17, 2007

Time flies

I have a rule of thumb that I use pretty routinely to help control clutter: If I buy something new, I have to get rid of something old. That applies to just about everything …. except Ladybug’s baby things.

I’ve held on to it all –from the miniature blood pressure cuff the nurses used on her in the hospital to a messed-up attempt at capturing her newborn footprints in plaster. My attachment to anything Ladybug has worn, used or played with has left me with little space anywhere in the house for future acquisitions.

That makes last week’s shopping spree a bit problematic. Between my mom and me, we bought about a dozen toys for Ladybug. That means I have to find 12 things of similar size to pack up and store away. For her new trike, I took apart the Exersaucer. For the baby in the bathtub, the tummy time gym mat.

As I cleaned up the toys for storage, I thought about how fast time has gone by. It seems just like yesterday Ladybug was bouncing up and down in the Exersaucer – or her “flying saucer,” as we called it – the pressure of the seat against her stomach forcing her lunch out of both ends.

And wasn’t it just last week that we were cheering her on when she lifted her head off the floor and stared at her reflection in the mirror on the gym mat for the first time?

Now my Ladybug is running around the house, a purple pocketbook draped over her shoulder and heart-shaped sunglasses sitting on her cute button nose. “Bye-bye,” she waves as she stands at the door.

Today she’s just going to pedal her way around the back yard.

Tomorrow she’ll be borrowing the car keys.

Friday, September 14, 2007

All in the head

I’m starting to think this stay-at-home-mom fatigue I’ve been experiencing is psychological.

I was barely tired this past week that my parents were here, despite our near morning-to-evening outings. And unlike their pre-visit days, I actually changed out of my pajamas in the morning. And last night, to my husband’s surprise, I grilled steaks and made homemade mashed potatoes. (That stint of cooking every meal right after I quit my job was short lived.)

But as soon as my parents pulled out of the driveway this morning for their return trip home, I felt the fatigue wash over me. Suddenly I wanted to crawl back into bed and sleep the rest of the afternoon. What’s up with that?

Maybe it’s the thought of knowing that we’re back to our routine of me struggling to keep Ladybug occupied. Or maybe it’s a hint that I should take advantage of Ladybug’s belated naptime to rest up. These last few frenzied days, Ladybug hasn’t been going to bed until 9:30 or so – two hours past her normal bedtime.

I have a very tired feeling I’m going to be paying for that soon.

To share your thoughts and to read other comments, click HERE.

Thursday, September 13, 2007

Yeah, we're parents now

It’s funny how life changes when you have a baby. But what’s even funnier is how you don’t realize it until you have a moment to yourself.

With my parents in town to watch Ladybug, my husband and I were able to go on an overnight date this week. We started at the Boardwalk to buy a pair of tennis shoes (yeah, real exciting), and as we walked to the store I noticed something was different. We were holding hands. Before Ladybug was born, my husband and I always walked hands entwined. But now our hands are always occupied pushing a stroller, searching through a diaper bag or grabbing the arm of a toddler who’s trying to dart off.

Then there was dinner. Our mealtime usually revolves around Ladybug; either I don’t get to start eating until Ladybug finishes what’s on her plate or I’m shoveling in bites while Ladybug chews. I almost forgot that there was any other way to dine. But before I knew it, two hours had passed at the restaurant. My husband and I were so wrapped up in conversation without the worry of Ladybug trying to tip over her high chair or throw spoons and napkins on the floor that we lost track of time.

I felt a wee bit guilty relishing this temporary freedom. It almost felt like our pre-baby days. But then we went to the casino and lost $100 on the slot machines, and all I could think about was how that money could have bought the talking parrot Ladybug latched onto in the toy store.

I guess some things will never change.

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Tuesday, September 11, 2007

The perils of an older mom

The doctor said the grey streaks that starting appearing in my hair when I was pregnant with Ladybug would go away. It was just a hormone thing, he said.

But here it is 19 months later and it hasn’t gone away. In fact, it’s quite the opposite. There are so many grey hairs that I can’t pluck them out fast enough, which makes a weekend incident in the toy store that much more … troubling.

Mom and I had taken Ladybug out and were letting her roam the toy store when all of a sudden she bolted down one of the aisles.

“Mom, get your baby,” one of the employees joked as Ladybug slipped out of reach.

But the comment wasn’t directed at me. The employee said it to my mom.

Granted, my mom is quite youthful-looking 57-years-old. Her petite stature and brown hair swept back in a carefree ponytail make her look years younger than she really is. But still …

Maybe I misunderstood what the employee said. Maybe she really was talking to me.

Or maybe these grey hairs make me look older than I really am.

To share your thoughts and to read other comments, click HERE.

Did you wipe that down?

I’m a bit of a germaphobe. I carry antibacterial wipes in my pocketbook, Ladybug’s diaper bag and the front and back seats of the car. I give restaurant highchairs and tables the once-over with disinfecting towelettes before letting Ladybug touch them. I even have a “Buggy Bagg” that slides over shopping cart seats and that covers every inch Ladybug would normally come in contact with.

So to take Ladybug to a petting zoo – as my mom and I did yesterday – is not exactly ordinary behavior for me. But Ladybug adores animals and she loves getting out of the house, so it’s a perfect combination … as long as she doesn’t touch anything.

I know, I know. Why would I take her to a petting zoo if I’m not going to let her touch the animals? First off, it saves me a little dignity. Rather than having me feign very unrealistic – and in the case of camels, very inaccurate – animal sounds using Ladybug’s stuffed animals, she gets to hear them in real life. It also helps teach her the concept of big and small – “Look at that baby goat. He’s so much smaller than the one with the beard.” And where else but in Louisiana do you get to see alligators get a feeding of raw chicken?

But I have to admit, I did feel a bit awkward holding Ladybug back while other parents encouraged their toddlers to stick their hands through the fence and stroke the baby zebra’s fur or hand-feed the deer. But then again, all my efforts to keep Ladybug germ free has resulted in only one cold in 19 months.

Knock on sanitized wood.

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Saturday, September 8, 2007

Mooed change

Ladybug adores our cats, both of whom she lovingly calls Tee-Tude. She’ll try to cuddle up against them, stroke their fur and kiss their ears. But one too many bops on the head from Ladybug have made the cats a bit gun shy. When they see Ladybug coming, they usually run and hide just out of her reach. When that happens, Ladybug sighs a frustrated “oh!” and goes about her way.

But today we may have accidentally solved that problem. While my husband and father went to Bass Pro Shops to buy their guy toys, my mother, Ladybug and I headed to the real toy store to get a jump on Christmas shopping.

We used Ladybug’s stroller as a shopping cart and let Ladybug run up and down the aisles picking out what she wanted – a plastic bowling pin set, a shopping cart filled with fake food, Play-Doh. And then the perfect gift found her: a mooing, walking, tail-wagging cow. It was one of the display toys and it bumped into Ladybug as she rounded a corner.

The fact that Ladybug didn’t burst into tears is quite remarkable. She has been afraid of cows since she was about three months old and I brought home a mooing cow rattle from a diaper run. From that point on, every time she saw a cow, her bottom lip would quiver, her cheeks would flush and she’d burst out crying.

Her fear of cows has forced us to ban one of the Baby Einstein DVDs on farm animals, and we have to guide her hand away from the cow icon on her toy keyboard lest she accidentally hit it and send the bovine into a mooing rendition of “Old MacDonald Had a Farm.”

But when that cow in the toy store hit Ladybug’s leg, she picked it up and hugged it. She carried it throughout the store and snuggled her head against its head. My mom ended up buying it for Ladybug, and the cow kept her company throughout lunch. It stayed by her side all night while she pretended to give it water and stroked its fur and kissed its ears.

And then we understood.

As Ladybug leaned in to put her face against the cow’s nose, we heard her whisper: “Tee-Tude."

To share your thoughts and to read other comments, click HERE.

Friday, September 7, 2007

A special occasion

My parents finally got into town late last night. When I say “late,” that’s mommy talk for three hours past Ladybug’s bedtime. In reality, it was only 10:30 p.m.

But we let Ladybug stay up to greet them. We had been talking up their visit all day, starting with her first diaper change in the morning.

“Do you know who’s coming to see you today? Grandmom and Grandad! And if you take a nap this afternoon, you can stay up to see them!”

Ladybug’s eyes widened and she clapped. See, Ladybug only takes one nap – a midmorning two-hour snooze fest. We gave up afternoon naps more than a year ago when we discovered (the hard way) that they prevent her from sleeping at night. If she took an afternoon nap, she’d stay up until at least 9 p.m., fall asleep for a few hours, then wake up and play in her crib until 3 a.m. She’d doze off for a few hours before being forced out of slumber by my alarm at 6 a.m. The whole cycle made for very cranky baby and parents.

So when we mention an afternoon nap to Ladybug, she knows there’s something special going on. And the timing couldn’t have been more perfect. The crew started cutting down the second tree yesterday morning (read “Life’s Curve Balls” to see what I’m talking about), and the sound of their chain saws kept Ladybug from taking her morning nap. By the time the crew finished at 3:30 p.m., Ladybug was ready to sleep, and she napped until about 6:30 p.m. She ended up staying up until almost midnight. The rest of us stayed up until 2 a.m., and a short seven hours later, Ladybug was calling for her bottle.

Normally by now Ladybug would be taking her nap. But as I look at her sitting on the floor, singing “Old McDonald” and playing Legos with my mom, I don’t think she’s going to be going to sleep anytime soon.

I can’t say the same thing for me.

To share your thoughts and read other comments, click HERE.

Tuesday, September 4, 2007

Life's curve balls

I hate the last few months of the year. It’s the time of year that we always get “whammied” – my late grandmother’s word for “cursed.” Family legend has it that my grandmother “whammied” my mother on a particularly rebellious pre-teen day full of attitude and flip behavior.

“I hope you have a child like you,” my grandmother supposedly told my mother.

That child ended up being me.

Oh, I wasn’t easy by any stretch of the imagination but my mother always said she would never “whammy” me. She never did to my face. But every September to December, when life throws us curve balls, I can’t help but wonder if she did in her mind. There’s no other logical explanation for our annual end-of-year bad luck.

This year’s stroke has started earlier than usual -- at 5 a.m. a few days ago, to be exact, when I awoke to a boom.

My first inclination was to jump out of bed and run to Ladybug’s room. I thought perhaps she had finally succeeded in climbing over her crib rails and had fallen to the floor. But Ladybug was asleep. I did a walk-through of the house expecting to find the cats had knocked over a pan from the stove, but everything seemed to be in order. So I figured the crash that had startled me out of a deep sleep was just a neighbor leaving for work, the sound of his car door slamming magnified by the early morning quiet hours.

No such luck.

When we woke up the next morning, the thud was sprawled across our front yard. A quarter of a hundreds-year-old giant oak tree had snapped and fallen to the ground – a warning sign that the tree removal that we had been putting off was imminently necessary.

So today that tree came down. Its even bigger sister comes down later this week. But the decision doesn’t come on our financial time table. When do they ever, really?

I can only be comforted by the fact that when Ladybug is old enough to move into her big-girl room that she won’t have an old, giant tree towering over her bed.

That, and the fact that I didn’t park the car in its usual spot under the tree that day.

To share your thoughts and read other comments, click HERE.

Monday, September 3, 2007

A moment to reflect

We have a very set morning routine: Bottle, diaper change, Baby Einstein. But every once in a while when I have filled a DVD with home movies, we’ll swap out Baby Mozart with Baby Ladybug.

A few days ago we watched our latest home movie with highlights of the last month. As I watched Ladybug run and kick a ball and bellyflop onto my husband’s stomach, I was struck by how much she has changed in the last 18 months. And what was even more incredible is how much she has changed in the last four weeks.

In the last three days alone, Ladybug has said five new words: wall, bath, bubble, book and belly. She’s also become quite a pro at “Head and shoulders, knees and toes” although she looks like a disjointed disco dancer as she tries to keep pace with the song.

I’d like to think her progress is because of how my husband and I interact with her. Each time I change her diaper, I’ll ask Ladybug where her eyes are or tell her to show me her ears. When we play, I’ll ask her where her ball is or if she can find her crayons.

My questions are mostly greeted by Ladybug pointing to the appropriate body part or locating the correct toy. But as she sat on the floor recently and stared at her image in the entertainment center, I asked her, “Is that your reflection?” She responded, “I don’t have one.”

I wanted to laugh and cry at the same time. Her matter-of-fact answer -- and the fact that she answered at all – made me want to burst out in uncontrollable laughter. But when I realized what her response meant – that she’d soon be talking – I wanted to curl up in a ball and wail, “My baby is growing up!”

I didn’t, of course.

But only because I saw my reflection in the entertainment center.

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Sunday, September 2, 2007

Rolling out the red carpet

I love having company. Not the unexpected kind – that creates all kind of stress when you have a baby – but the kind you know is coming and will stay for a few days. You get the enjoyment of being in the presence of people you like. You get to visit your city and see it through the eyes of an out-of-towner You eat food you normally wouldn’t cook for yourself. But the best part: You clean your house inside and out.

My parents are coming in a few days, and I’m getting ready. Unlike the last time when they showed up a day early and I hadn’t even gone grocery shopping, this time I’m preparing in advance. Sure, my parents always say, “Don’t go to any trouble. We can make the bed and clean the bathroom when we get there.” And they really wouldn't care that there's a big stain at the front entrance where my husband tripped over my coffee cup when I sat it down to help Ladybug with something.

But that’s just not me. I like to offer a welcoming environment but, truth is, it’s a lot harder to create with Ladybug running around. No sooner will I get toys picked up in one room then she’s emptied a shelf in another room. And to be honest, cleaning -- or at least the detail stuff -- isn't that much of a priority to me anymore. I'd rather spend time with Ladybug.

But having company forces me to do much-needed tasks. I stay up a little later to get things done and I'll sneak in some cleanup when Ladybug takes a nap. I’ve got just about all the laundry done that way this week, although it’s still sitting on the dining room table since I have to go through her room to put everything away. And this afternoon I got about half of the flower beds weeded before it started raining. Tomorrow I’ll finish steam cleaning the carpets, and Tuesday I’ll mop the floors. I’ll do the final touchups on the guest bedroom and bathroom on Wednesday.

At least that’s the plan. I’m full of energy and good intentions. I just need a little cooperation from Ladybug in the form of two-hour naps.

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