Tuesday, October 30, 2007

Pining for dignity

When you have a baby, you learn quickly not to take yourself too seriously. After all, you need more than a little humor to get you through a newborn puking in your bra or a toddler walking in on you in your full glory and wondering “What’s that?” Unfortunately for those who travel in my company, I’ve always been a bit of a goofball. Pregnancy just magnified it.

Case in point: this afternoon as Ladybug and I collected pine cones at the Norton Art Gallery park. We’ve been making homemade Christmas ornaments – or rather, I’ve been making homemade Christmas ornaments; she’s been making a glitter-and-glue mess – and we needed more pine cones for our project. A beautiful collection was scattered across the lawn that borders the employee parking lot, and Ladybug and I raced back and forth to fill our bag.

I ran to scoop up some more pine cones when I noticed Ladybug wasn’t beside me. She had taken off in the opposite direction. I called her to join me but, as usual these days, she ignored me. So I started jumping up and down, waving my arms and yelling “Woo-hoo! Pine cone! Woo-hoo! Pretty, pretty pine cone! Look at all the pine cones!”

It got her attention, all right, as well as that of the police officer whose car I happened to be making a spectacle next to. He nodded at me, a smile curling up on one side of his mouth.

You think I let it go there?

Nooooo. I had to do the wave. It’s a natural reaction when I’m embarrassed. My hand flies up to my chin and flutters open and closed a half dozen times like a five-fingered butterfly.

I could feel the dignity draining from my body. But the bright side is I saved myself the humiliation of having the officer laugh in my face.

I had already turned around and skipped off.

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Puppet master

Much to my mother’s chagrin, my favorite word as a toddler was “down.” I didn’t want to be held, didn’t want to be hugged. The latter still holds true, as one of my girlfriends found out as she tried to embrace me as she was leaving our house one day. Now in parting she simply says, “Consider yourself hugged.”

It wouldn’t have been inconceivable for Ladybug to inherit this trait. But, much to my joy, it skipped a generation. Everything these days is “huggies!” – when I’m washing dishes, making lunch or in the bathroom. Ladybug stands there, arms wide open, waiting for me to scoop her up. As I hold her against me, she kicks her legs in excitement, buries her head in my shoulder and rubs my back. She’s even taken up the practice with my husband, who we joke has been neglected by Ladybug lately (see A Little Bit of Favoritism below).

But as all things with toddlers go, there’s often a motive behind Ladybug’s affection, particularly when it comes to my husband. She never doles out hugs for the sake of hugs. She calls “huggies!” to him when she wants to be lifted over the safety gate on the deck to play in the yard. She’ll stand at his knees and stretch her arms up to him whenever he’s eating and she wants a bite. And all of a sudden, she can’t live without him when it’s time for bed.

It’s a start. I’m happy for my husband, even if Ladybug’s hugs come with strings attached.

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Monday, October 29, 2007

Ruff ride

Dang, it’s a long ride from one end of the city to the other when you have a toddler who doesn’t want to be in her car seat anymore. An afternoon of returning too-small shoes, running to two grocery stores to get what the other didn’t have, and barely getting to Sam’s Club for vitamins before closing yesterday left Ladybug a bit cranky. Ladybug’s whimpers quickly turned into brick-breaking wails and karate kicks to the back of my seat.

I went through my usual bag of tricks to try to calm her down: a sippy cup that flew into the passenger seat, a mini box of Goldfish that was ripped apart and dumped upside down, a stern warning that was ignored. So I pulled out the old standby for times like these: Old MacDonald Had a Farm. The “E-I-E-I-O” part always sends Ladybug into hysterical laughter as she tries to repeat it with a garbled “ee-ya, ee-ya, dee.”

We’re usually five minutes from home when I have to resort to the Old MacDonald trick. But yesterday we were 20 miles away. That might as well have been the distance to the moon. After five minutes, I had gone through every farm animal. Another five minutes and I was done with family pets and garden critters. At the 15-minute mark, I was on to exotic animals, aquatic mammals and fish. Twenty minutes brought out the hyena.

There were only a few animals left to go, but jackass wasn’t one of them. I used that one up before I even started.

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Sunday, October 28, 2007

Winging it

Yay! Halloween is just a few more days off meaning I’ll get to dress Ladybug up in – what else? – a ladybug costume. It’s a cute red-and-black pullover outfit, complete with an attached hood and antennae. I don’t know why it didn’t strike me at the time my mother and I bought it during her visit last month, but the costume doesn’t have wings. How can a ladybug fly without them?

So my motherly instinct was to make them. I envisioned rounded black wings that clipped over Ladybug’s shoulders. I even went to the craft store for supplies but was overwhelmed by the rows and rows of materials I never knew existed. So I ended up leaving empty-handed, and here it is three days before Halloween and Ladybug still doesn't have wings.

And then my husband reminded me that we bought fairy wings at the renaissance festival a couple weeks ago – $22 fairy wings, mind you. I know, I know – why in the world would I spend that much money on pantyhose on a coat hanger? All I can say is that it was a spontaneous purchase after an encounter with a bubble-blowing fairy.

So this Halloween, my daughter will wear purple, pink and yellow wings with her ladybug costume. She’ll be a mutant fairy bug. Now if I can just figure out how to recycle last year’s $30 Hershey Kiss costume, we’ll really be in business.

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Thursday, October 25, 2007

Come back, come back

Aside from “Titanic," there’s not much that brings me to tears. But I’m choking back a few right now after a brush with my laptop’s delete button.

I was transferring files when I accidently erased the wrong folder – the folder with 3,704 digital pictures of Ladybug, the majority of which I still haven’t printed.

I couldn’t find the deleted photos anywhere. I opened and closed every folder, searched through the recycle bin, laid my head on the keyboard as if I could transfer the images in my brain to the hard drive by osmosis.

I wanted to puke. All of my visual memories – from the first time I held Ladybug all the way through last night’s modeling of her new footed pajamas – were gone. I was on the edge of full-blown hysteria when I called to my husband for help.

A click here and a click there, and my computer whiz of a husband restored all of my pictures of Ladybug. Now if he could just do the same for my composure.

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Wednesday, October 24, 2007

Anatomically, correct

Eyes, nose, mouth, ears, cheek, chin, throat and hair – ask Ladybug where they are, and she can point to the correct body part, even pronounce a couple of them. Knees, on the other hand, continue to pose a problem. Somewhere along the way, Ladybug got “knee” confused with “hiney.” I don’t know how it happened, but it makes for an interesting round of “Head, Shoulders, Knees and Toes.”

Then the other day, without any prompting, Ladybug corrected herself. It just happened that her Eureka moment came in the middle of the mall.

Ladybug was walking beside me holding my hand when all of a sudden she broke away and ran to a storefront window trimmed in Christmas lights. Ladybug watched in amazement as a store employee on the other side of the glass dressed a mannequin. Then the employee bent over to pick up a scarf, her backside toward us.

“Hiney!” Ladybug yelled, smacking the glass where the young lady’s derriere was.

I doubled over in laughter, almost falling to my hineys. Oops, I mean knees.

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Tuesday, October 23, 2007

Foot-stomping proud

There are moments in motherhood when you just want to raise your arms in triumph and yell, “I did it!”

Like when you’ve finally taught your toddler to drink from a real cup without dumping its entire contents in their lap. Or when you tell them it’s time to brush their teeth and they meet you in the bathroom. Or when you’re in the middle of the shoe store and they start shrieking the letters of the alphabet.

The latter happened to us yesterday. I had just slipped a pair of the cutest fur-lined boots onto Ladybug’s feet and told her to run around and test them out. She stood staring at her toes for a few minutes and then said, “Cool!”

“Yeah, that is cool. Did you see the rug?” my husband asked me.

I didn’t have to. I heard it.

“M!” Ladybug squealed as she hopped onto the corresponding letter.

“M!” she yelled again as she jumped to its mirror image a few blocks over.

My husband and I stood there applauding her achievement while shoppers turned around to see what the commotion was about. Who cares that they’re staring, I thought. My daughter just recognized a letter on her own! All those mix-and-match games we play with the refrigerator alphabet magnets are paying off!

“V!” I wanted to shout.


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Saturday, October 20, 2007

Rediscovering childhood

Have you ever noticed how long it takes toddlers to accomplish tasks? Ten minutes after you tell them to go get their shoes, you’ll find them sitting on the floor of their nursery playing with a toy they haven’t touched in months. Ask them to pick up the Legos strewn about the living room and you’d think there was a toy store to put away. You can almost get dinner ready for the rest of the family in the time it takes them to eat a cup of yogurt. So why would going for a walk be any quicker?

Now that the weather has cooled off, Ladybug and I try to get outside as much as possible. Our routine includes a walk to the mailbox at the end of the street. Normally this shouldn’t take more than 15 minutes round trip. But with Ladybug, it’s an hour-long outing.

Every blade of grass, rock, pebble and pine tree needle has to be examined. Ladybug has to stop and wag her finger at the soda cans and cigarette butts on the side of the road. “No, no, no. Dirty,” she’ll say. And if there’s a neighbor outside, we have to take a minute to “talk.”

I really don’t mind. It’s fun to watch her explore the world and be fascinated by simple things like acorns. For that hour, it almost feels like I’m a kid again.

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What's that? What's that?

It’s been several months now that Ladybug has hammered us with the “what’s that?” question a gazillion times a day.

“What’s that?” Ladybug asks, pointing at the ceiling light.

“What’s that?” she’ll question, putting her hand on the wall.

“What’s that?” she ponders out loud as she waves at the sky.

For some reason, we haven’t tired of it. Maybe it’s because we answer her each time. Maybe it’s because every once in a while she’ll surprise us by answering her own question.

Nonetheless, we’ve tried to mix the Q&A sessions up a bit, responding in English one time and French the next. That practice has resulted in Ladybug being able to follow simple directions in both languages.

But it has also produced some odd word combinations and mix-ups. One day she’ll master the French word for shoes and socks – chaussures and chaussettes – followed by perfection in English, only to butcher it on the third try with shooza and shoozette. Somewhere along the way, cheese has become deeda, although it couldn’t be further from the French word of fromage. Body parts have been the hardest for her to pronounce. Nose is noise. Arm is ahm. Knee is hiney. So far, extremities are nonexistent in French.

By making my husband’s native language a part of Ladybug’s day, we’re hoping French fluency will come naturally for her. Starting young while whatever part of her brain that learns language is still flexible and highly open to the suggestion is the key -- one that will hopefully unlock many opportunities for her in the future.

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Friday, October 19, 2007

A little bit of favoritism

I was sitting in a doctor’s waiting room when I felt Ladybug move for the first time. It was a little flutter on my left side, which I quickly dismissed as gas until it happened again and I remembered I was pregnant.

“I felt the baby move!” I yelled, tears welling up in my eyes.

From that point on, Ladybug couldn’t sit still. She’d roll from side to side, turn somersaults, even get the hiccups.

“Honey, you’ve got to see this!” I’d call to my husband each time my stomach bounced up and down.

No sooner would I hear his footsteps approaching that Ladybug would stop moving. My husband would sit patiently next to me, his hand on my belly, waiting for her next show. Nothing.

“I guess she’s asleep,” he’d say after several minutes of calm and walk off.

As soon as his back was turned, Ladybug would resume her acrobats. This didn’t happen just one or two times; it was throughout my pregnancy. In fact, my husband only felt Ladybug move once the entire time, and I’m pretty sure that was an accident. If Ladybug had known her daddy’s arm was wrapped around me at the time, I don’t think she would have flipped sides.

My husband and I joked that Ladybug had already developed a tendency for pranks in the womb. It hasn’t changed since, at least when it comes to my husband. Just about anytime he tries to pick her up or kiss her good night, she pushes him away and yells, “No!” Sometimes she’ll run toward him with her arms open as if she’s going to give him a hug, then makes a detour at the last minute. Meanwhile, I’m the recipient of an overabundance of hugs, kisses and overall clinginess from Ladybug.

I’m sure this mommy preference is just a phase and one day my husband and my roles will be reversed. Until then I’ll try to feel guilty for secretly relishing that I’m the current favorite.

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Wednesday, October 17, 2007

The Hoverer

Ladybug enjoys our outings, as long as she doesn’t have to be in her car seat for more than two hours at a time. So our trip to the Renaissance festival outside of Houston this past weekend came pre-programmed with a picnic lunch on our way and a stop at McDonald’s on our return.

This particular McDonald’s not only had an indoor playground but video games, stationary dirt bikes and a variety of toddler attractions. Ladybug made a beeline for the wall-mounted steering wheels and began “driving” with another little girl about her age. When the little girl moved to a peg puzzle, Ladybug followed. Same for the dirt bikes and the basketball hoop. And when the little girl darted up the steps of the jungle gym, Ladybug was right behind her.

And so was I.

Yes, I’m a hoverer. I’m one of those moms who will lift their child over the side of a slide rather than have them walk up the stairs. I’m one of those moms who holds their child’s hand as they teeter along a kid-sized balance beam. I’m one of those moms who says no running on concrete.

I’m one of those moms who gets strange looks from other mothers.

I know tumbles and scraped knees are part of childhood – a not-so-pleasant part of debunking a toddler’s sense of invincibility. But to me, 20 months is still too young for that lesson. I figure Ladybug has plenty of time ahead of her to learn the concepts of gravity and balance.

So moms, the next time you see me, go ahead and stare. Just try not to laugh as the playground equipment groans under the weight of an older woman.

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Tuesday, October 16, 2007

Wanted: efficiency training

I’ve had 20 months to practice, but I still haven’t mastered the art of outings – particularly overnight ones. As if the two hours it takes us to get out the door wasn’t confirmation enough, surely the dozen bags, backpacks and other assorted baby items waiting to be loaded in the trunk are.

This weekend we went to the Texas Renaissance Festival and, once again, the preparation for our 36-hour getaway took longer than the mini-vacation itself. I started packing Thursday – a full two-and-a-half days before our scheduled departure. To say “packing” is really a misnomer; there were no clean clothes to stuff in bags. Instead, I made a list of everything that we needed to take and did laundry all afternoon.

By Friday, my and Ladybug’s overnight bags were basically ready. Before she went to bed that night, I filled another backpack with toys to entertain her during the five-hour drive. Saturday I folded up her portable playpen (it’s what she sleeps in when we travel) and cleaned up her stroller after our dusty walk. Then I washed and sterilized enough bottles to get us through the next two days, cleared off a shelf in the refrigerator and stocked it with food to pack in the cooler the next morning for a picnic lunch along the way.

I was up by 6 a.m. Sunday to make a hearty breakfast, pack the cooler and gather up any last-minute items. Things were rolling along, and it looked like we would make our target departure time of 8 a.m. And then my husband asked where his shorts were.

Um, on the shelf in the bathroom. And dirty. I had forgotten to wash them.

With my husband’s only other presentable shorts already packed and temperatures expected to climb near 90 degrees that afternoon, I had no choice but to wait while the stray pair ran through the quick wash cycle. I sat on the sofa twiddling my thumbs as the clock ticked past 8 a.m., 8:15, 8:30. This was ridiculous; two-and-a-half days of preparation and here I am sitting on the couch at the last minute waiting for laundry. If we didn’t leave soon, we’d hardly have any time at the Renaissance festival. When the washing machine clicked, signaling the end of the cycle, my husband grabbed the shorts and said we were leaving. The shorts would dry during the drive, he said.

As the hours on the road passed and we neared our destination, my crankiness began to fade. We made it to the festival by early afternoon … more or less on target 60 hours after packing began.

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Thursday, October 11, 2007

Clipped wings of a social butterfly

As a former journalist, I was used to people not wanting to have anything to do with me unless they had an agenda to promote or a profit to make. In any other case, I was viewed as a pesky reporter asking too many questions – one to be brushed off like an ant at a picnic. I got used to it. After all, I was old enough to understand the reasoning behind the reaction. But when Ladybug experiences the same thing from fellow little people, I just don’t get it.

Whether we’re in a store or at the playground, Ladybug gets blown off by other toddlers. When we were in Best Buy the other day, Ladybug said hi to a little girl walking by. The girl looked at Ladybug without responding and ran off. In the doctor’s office, Ladybug tries to share her toys with the other kids and they ignore her. At the playground yesterday, she tried to introduce herself to no less than a half dozen toddlers, and they all left her in the dust.

Each time this happens, Ladybug looks puzzled and I don’t know how to comfort her. I’m not going to tell her the kids are just mean, and I won’t discourage her from trying again. But I do worry sometimes that her repeated failed attempts to socialize will somehow thwart her outgoing nature.

My concerns are probably for nothing. I mean, toddlers are complex little beings. They’re busy exploring the world around them and have their own issues to work through as they grapple for independence. They’re amazingly resilient as they find their way.

I just need to remember that the next time I'm more bothered by the blowoffs than Ladybug.

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Midnight charm

Ladybug is a light sleeper, so much so that we moved the TV from the living room – which bordered her bedroom – to the opposite end of the house so we could watch movies at night without disturbing her. With most of our post-bedtime activity now taking place away from Ladybug’s room, she pretty much dozes uninterrupted.

Until midnight.

That’s the time my husband and I usually go to bed. As we turn off the lights and head to slumber, we very quietly open Ladybug’s door. There’s a whole technique to it – put your right hand on the handle, the left hand on the door and frame, slowly turn the knob while bracing the door, gently push it back against the wall and tiptoe to Ladybug’s crib to check on her.

No matter how hard we try to do this as noiselessly as possible, she inevitably wakes up. Sometimes it’s just to roll over and say hi. Other times she’ll open her eyes, point at the ceiling and ask “what’s that?”

“Shhhhh,” I’ll whisper. “It’s not time to get up yet. Go back to sleep.”

That’s all the coaxing she typically needs to fall asleep again. But last night the door handle had no sooner clicked that Ladybug was standing up in her crib, very wide awake.

“Shhhhh,” I whispered. “It’s not time to get up yet. Go back to sleep.”

“Huggies!” she whispered back, her arms extended.

How could I possibly resist that? I leaned over the edge of her crib and hugged her. She wrapped her arms around my shoulders and squeezed.

“You ready to go back to sleep now?” I asked.

“Yeah,” she replied, laying back down. “Night night.”

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Tuesday, October 9, 2007

Night night

Ladybug is just an inch or two shy of three feet, the universally accepted height at which toddlers typically begin their transition from crib to bed. So when I brought this up to my husband the other night, he started laughing.

“You know we’ll wake up in the middle of the night to her pulling her toys off the shelves,” he said.

I had to agree. Ladybug’s bedtime routine consists of standing at the railing and pointing to the stuffed animals on the neighboring table.

“Which one do you want? Do you want the bunny?”


She grabs the bunny from my outstretched hand, hugs it, throws it in her crib and points to the next animal in the lineup.

“Who now? Dolly Llama or Mr. Goat?”

We go through this until the dozen or so stuffed animals and baby dolls are in her crib. Then once she settles down, that evening’s animal of choice tucked in the crook of her arm, I put the others back on the table. They wouldn’t stay there long if Ladybug was sleeping in a real bed from which she’s able to climb.

So we’re scratching our heads on how to deal with this next stage. Do we leave her in the crib a little while longer? Do we get a toddler bed and push it against the wall? Or would a twin-size mattress with guard rails be the way to go?

Frankly, I don’t know. For now we’ll just sleep on it.

Guilt trip

Ladybug’s top molars are coming in so she hasn’t been in the best of moods the last couple of days. Today was particularly cranky, so my husband and I were extra diligent in doling out lots of kisses and cuddles. It must have worked because around dinner time Ladybug shifted from quiet to exuberant mode and launched into one of her newly acquired skills – twirling.

Normally this isn’t a problem. Her main play area is largely void of all things pointy, hard and otherwise potentially dangerous. But we were in the not-so-well-babyproofed TV room when she started spinning faster and faster until she was so dizzy that she fell forward and smacked her face on the TV stand.

I felt like I was watching it in slow motion – Ladybug losing her balance, my husband and I jumping up from our recliners and running toward her in anticipation of what was going to happen next, getting there just as her nose and mouth made contact with the edge, my heart pounding in terror as blood trickled from some as-yet undetermined injury.

If you’ve ever seen your child get hurt, you know the guilt that follows: What was I thinking, letting her twirl in here? Why didn’t I stop her? Why did I let her in this normally off-limits room anyway? Because we were parents doing our best to try to make Ladybug feel better on an uncomfortable day, I tried to remind myself.

Once we got Ladybug’s face wiped up and gave her a popsicle to suck to soothe her swollen lip, she was fine.

Now if I could just say the same thing about me.

Monday, October 8, 2007

A welcome gift

“How’s it going?” my neighbor asked yesterday as I ran after Ladybug, who had taken a detour on her way to the front steps to chase after a small dog.

“Oh, we’re having a hard day,” I replied breathlessly as I tried to free an arm to grab Ladybug. It wasn’t an easy task considering I again thought it was more practical to carry the diaper bag, my purse, a drink, Ladybug’s sippy cup, play phone and stray toys as individual items rather than to stuff them into one carry-all. One day I’ll learn.

“What happened?” she asked.

“Well, let’s just say you know it’s never good when the manager of the grocery store gives you a balloon to help you calm down your child.”

“Been there, done that,” my neighbor said with a knowing nod of her head.

Welcome to toddlerhood.

Friday, October 5, 2007

Coffee or tea?

Since my husband’s mother won’t be able to join us for Christmas this year, she sent us money to buy Ladybug’s Christmas gifts on her behalf. It’s easier that way since every package she sends us gets broken somewhere along the France-to-America journey. So we went to Toys R Us the other day to pick up a few items in her name. And as usual, I couldn’t wait to give them to Ladybug.

I put most of the toys away with the exception of a few small things, most notably a tea party set. It came as a bonus to a box of play dishes. And to be honest, if it weren’t for that, I don’t think it would have ever crossed my mind to buy one. I was never a tea party kind of gal, more content to make rock-and-dirt cookies and chocolate mud milk.

But that tea set was a hit, ranking among one of the best buys we’ve ever made. Ladybug and I set up the cups and saucers on a tray, invited a couple of her stuffed animals and pretended to eat a pile of donuts, mini cakes and animal-shaped cookies (in reality, wooden blocks and the contents of the “Barrel of Monkeys” game).

It was so precious I wanted to cry. Ladybug made swishing sounds as she “poured” the tea, gulped as she “drank” it and let out delighted “mmmm”s as she pretended to take bites of the snacks. As I “finished” what was on my plate, I made an exaggerated yawn and said, “I ate so much I need a nap!” Then I collapsed on the floor and started snoring. Ladybug laughed and ran over to me, pulling me by the T-shirt to sit up.

“No!” she giggled as she tried to prod me awake.

I’d sit up and fall back down “asleep,” the cycle of laughter continuing between us. I don’t know how long we played like that but if it were up to Ladybug, we’d never stop. I guess that’s why now, three days later, the tea set is still in the middle of the living room.

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Peace meal

Ladybug’s episodes of “mine!” continue, especially when it comes to food. Even though we all eat at the table at the same time – and for the most part, eat the same thing – Ladybug would much rather have what’s on your plate than hers.

“Piece,” she says, pointing at the scrambled egg on my husband’s plate. “Piece!”

“Look, you have some on your plate,” I reply.

“No! Piece!” Ladybug yells before dumping her plate on the floor.

After a variety of failed attempts at curbing those tantrums, we’ve learned the best way to handle them is to stop her meal at that point. We take Ladybug out of her high chair and explain that when she’s ready to eat without throwing her food, she can try again. Of course that always leaves me wondering if she’s eaten enough – especially when a plate goes flying before she’s even taken two bites.

But the other day we stumbled on a solution to my concerns. As Ladybug lingered by the table screaming for a bite from my husband’s plate, I pushed her untouched plate of food next to his. It was just out of her line of sight so, for all she knew, the forkful of egg coming her way was from her daddy’s plate.

“Mmm!” she said as she scarfed it down. “Piece!”

We continued like that until her plate was empty and she ran off with another satisfied “mmmm!”

She got her way, I got mine, and all of it amounted to one thing: Peace.

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Wednesday, October 3, 2007

The mommy calendar

Our Christmas gift to the grandparents last year was a calendar. Not your run-of-the-mill blue sky and kitty cats calendar, but a genuine, one-of-a-kind Ladybug calendar. Each month features a collage of photos of Ladybug in a variety of poses – playing in the inflatable pool for August, dressed in a Hershey Kiss Halloween costume for October, wearing a Mrs. Claus dress in front of the Christmas tree for December.

We kept a copy of the calendar for ourselves but since I’ve become a stay-at-home mom, I haven’t had to use it much. It’s not because I don’t need it but rather because I never know what day it is. Time has a way of flying when you don’t have to be anywhere in particular.

And it’s relatives that get the short end of the stick in my inability to keep track of the days. Wasn’t it just last weekend that I called my grandfather? Nope, that was three weeks ago. Didn’t we just do a Webcam with the grandparents a couple days ago? No, it was probably more like a month ago, maybe even longer.

These days, the only way I know a significant amount of time has passed is when we start to run low on baby supplies: Out of formula? One week has passed. Only a handful of diapers left? It must be a new month. Baby shampoo running on E? Six weeks gone by.

So now as I start assembling the photos for next year’s Ladybug calendar, I’m setting my New Year’s resolution. I will do a better job at keeping track of the days.

January 1 is still a ways off, isn’t it?

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A twist to a toddler classic

Isn’t it funny how toddlers learn to talk? One day, there isn’t a discernible word in the babble; the next, there’s a very obvious “bye-bye.”

Ladybug’s word choices so far have revolved around food, sleep, body parts and manners. Right now she’s obsessed with “bless you,” and you don’t have to just sneeze to earn one. Any unusual sound emitted – including a stranger’s toots in the grocery store – will attract Ladybug’s attention and a very loud “bless you!”

But the latest addition to her word lineup has me stumped. I have no idea where it originated, particularly since I have made a conscientious effort to avoid using it: “Mine.” I always figured that “mine” would naturally find its way into her vocabulary. After all, what’s that phrase emblazoned on every toddler T-shirt? – “What’s mine is mine, what’s yours is mine.” It’s innate toddler philosophy.

Knowing that, we’ve tried to establish boundaries with Ladybug ever since she started crawling and getting into everything. It’s a balancing act because we also want to teach her to share. So when Ladybug heads to my desk to start emptying out the drawer, for example, I don’t say, “Stop, that’s mine.” Instead, I opt for something along the lines of, “That belongs to Mommy and I need it to stay there so I can find it. But would you like to look at the sticky notes with me?” It satisfies my need to keep Ladybug out of my stuff but it also satisfies her curiosity. Well, at least that’s the theory.

So I was a bit surprised when I was trying to sneak in a quick lunch the other day. I was standing at the island in the kitchen, a fork headed for my mouth when Ladybug showed up at my legs. Her arm was extended upward, hand open.

“Mine,” she said, pointing at my fork.

It wasn’t as if she was hungry; she had just finished a big meal. It’s just that she wanted what was in my hand. Since then, everything is “hers” – the TV remote my husband is holding, the laptop when I’m typing, the food a random shopper is placing in their shopping cart. I guess it’s a part of toddlerhood that I can’t escape.

But at least I can be comforted by one thing: Ladybug’s politeness. She’s added a new word to her demands.

“Mine …. Please.”

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Monday, October 1, 2007

The case of the missing library book

Before I got married, I returned to my parents’ house to clean out the drawers of my old bedroom. Tucked away in one of them was my diary from when I was 10 or 11 years old. Most of the pages were blank, but in the middle of the journal was a rather long entry that began “Dear Diary, Today is the worst day of my life.” What could have possibly been the source of such dramatic pre-teen angst? A lost library book.

It was the end of the world, according to the younger me. I had successfully borrowed and returned hundreds of books. What could I have possibly done with this one? How could I have been so careless? Now I was going to have to pay the price of the book – money I’d much rather use buying the latest Corey Hart or Culture Club cassette tape.

I relived that episode last night after I put Ladybug to sleep. We had been reading the books we borrowed from the library on our bed, and one was missing. I looked under the pillows, sorted through all the blankets, even pulled the mattress away from the wall in case one had slipped through. It was nowhere to be found.

“You’ll find it,” my husband encouraged me.

“But if I don’t, we’ll have to pay for it,” I said.

“Big deal,” he replied. “We’ll pay for it.”

What a simple solution, and one that I probably would have agreed to in my pre-baby days. But being in the midst of teaching Ladybug the concept of responsibility, I wondered if that action would unintentionally convey the wrong message – that you can just buy your way out of difficulty.

Perhaps I was reading too much into the situation. Besides, Ladybug was in bed and not there to witness the exchange. But I kept looking for the book anyway and eventually found it under a blanket in the living room.

My worry over a life lesson was shelved for the time being.

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