Thursday, February 25, 2010

Josie The Great

Jos is rolling both ways already - front-to-back *and* back-to-front. We had to pack the bouncy seat back into the attic because she sits up in it, and can tip to the side (and fall out). As soon as you put her in it, she sits up. It's ridiculous.

Have I mentioned she's three freaking months old!? HOW do Mike and I make such wiry children?

Gage keeps asking me when we're having Baby #4. My head swims.

He wants another sister. Honestly, he's the best big brother I've ever met. He's eternally patient with Josie. He is gentle, quiet, soothing, protective. Lila...he seems to figure she can more or less stand up for herself (which, really, is accurate). But Josie is the love of Gage's life.

I vote we wait a few years before we broach the 'Baby #4' topic.


Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Lunch with Lila

The upside to Mike being laid off is that we've been able to have more one-on-one time with the kids. And we spent a Monday, a couple of weeks ago, at the Please Touch Museum in Philadelphia. It was awesome - the kids had a lot of fun.

I have been going into the office every morning from 9-noon, and then I drop Gage at preschool Mon-Wed. This Monday, after dropping Gage off, Lila and I went out to lunch. Just the two of us. I was really looking forward to our lunch date. Lila was excited, too. We went to a small, fancy sandwich shop / caterer not far from our house. For some reason I kind of expected us to chat, not really remembering that Lila is two. Gage can hold real conversations, and Lila is always piping up with her opinions so I guess I thought she was participating in the conversations more than she actually is. Once we were alone I realized that, charmingly, Lila's speech is made up mostly of observations combined with anything major that happened to her recently. She was not interested in the back-and-forth of conversation...she wanted to entertain me.

"Snowflakes!" she cried, pointing. Every couple of feet a sparkly wooden snowflake hung from the ceiling. "Can I reach it?" she grunts as she reaches her arm up as high as it can go. Not coming close, she begins to stand up in her seat.

"No, sweetie, you must sit in your chair. What do you want? Tuna salad? A hamburger?"

She settles back into the seat and, still looking up, says "I will eat snowflakes for lunch." Then she giggles as though she's told a hysterical joke. She reaches up again and pretends to grab a flake, makes a chomping noise like she's eating it.

"You're funny," I smile.

Chomp. There goes another snowflake. Chomp.

"What should we order for lunch? Do you want turkey?"

"I will eat alllll the snowflakes." She's grinning and bouncing in her chair as she reaches up again and again, pretending to pull all the decorations from the ceiling.

The waitress comes over to take our order.

"Milk!" Lila exclaims, as though she's gone days without a drink.

"Lila," I squint at her warningly.

"I mean," she begins again, and switches her voice to quiet, sweet and high-pitched, "May I please have some milk?" This polite voice is like a parody of a polite voice. Too sweet, too girlie, too wheedling. I love it.

"That's much better. Coffee for me." By the IV, if possible. "She will have the chicken soup and a bowl of fruit." I order my own sandwich and the waitress retreats.

"I like that nice lady," Lila says, watching her walk away.

"So, how was your morning?" I ask.

Lila holds up a hand, and I see a small, colorful band-aid wrapped around one of her fingers. "I was jump-jump-jumping on the trampoline," (the kids have a small, indoor trampoline with an attached rail to hold for balance) "And I hit my finger with my tooth and I was crying and crying. I was crying so hard and then I stopped and I didn't turn into a piggy." (Thanks, Alice in Wonderland.)

"Oh my," I say sympathetically. "That sounds like it really hurt."

"Daddy gave me a band-aid."

"I see that."

"I was jump-jump-jumping on the trampoline," Lila begins again.

"Yeah, and you hurt your finger."

"I hit my finger with my tooth." (Wait, didn't we just have this conversation?) "I was crying so hard. But I didn't--"

"Yeah, you didn't turn into a piggy," I'm trying to rush her through the instant replay because the waitress is back with our drinks. Lila says a quiet Thank You as her milk is placed in front of her.

"That lady is nice," Lila says again, and wrinkles her brow in concentration as she opens her straw wrapper.

"What else did you do this morning?"

"Played with Gager." She looks up, and chomps a few more snowflakes. "Here, Mommy," she picks up her milk and passes it to me. I lunge for it - it's full and wobbly in her little hands. "I want to share my milk."

"Oh, thank you. But that's okay. You drink it."

"No, I want to shaaare."

"All right," I take a tiny sip of milk and make an appropriate yummy sound. "You want some coffee?"

"No!" she laughs.

"Good girl."

"I have to poop!"

"Let's go," I take her hand and we start the amazingly long journey to the bathroom. It's like a quarter mile from the table, through many skinny, ill-lighted hallways. Some places have the strangest bathrooms, and you see them all when you have little kids.

No action, but lots of hand-scrubbing later (Lila loves to wash her hands) lands us back at our table.

"Why don't you tell me a story?" I ask.

"Once upon a time," she begins immediately, "There was a pointy tree and it was chasing us! It was chasing the big girl and the mommy and the daddy. They said, 'Oh no!'" She's getting a little loud, and I shush her a bit so we don't make any enemies. "They were running and the big pointy tree was chasing them!"

"Wow, that sounds scary."

"Yeah. And once upon a time there was a big girl and the big girl said 'I hate Baby Josie!' and the big girl went to time out in her bunk bed all day."

My eyes widen. One the one hand I'm surprised, on the other hand not really. "Well, anyone who says they hate someone should go to time out, because that's not a nice thing to say." Lila looks at me, like, I know. Weren't you listening to the story?

Luckily our food arrives, sparing us both from any more stories involving the tiny screamer who replaced Lila as the baby in the family.

Lila enthusiastically spoons up her soup, pleased with the celery 'moons' in each bite. She's content to eat peacefully for several minutes, and so am I. She turns her attention to her fruit and picks up a cube of green melon with her fork.

"What's this?" it's been a long time since we've had summer fruits.

"That's honeydew. Melon."

She gobbles it, spears another piece of fruit. "What's this?"

"That's canteloupe. Melon."

"What's this?"


"What's this?"

"A grape. You know what grapes are."

"What's this?"

"Honeydew. Sweetie...." I try to think of a way to change the subject.

"Have some," she pushes the fork toward my mouth.

"I wish I could, but I'm allergic."

"Just have a little," she urges. She puts on the polite, wheedling voice again. "Just have a little, Mommy."

"I can't." No means no, Lila! I'm getting peer pressure from a two-year-old!

"I have to poop!"

Back through the hallways we go, under the flickering, buzzing lights. Past the strange and unwelcoming doorways that must lead to storage rooms. Why does the bathroom have to be so far away?

"You really have to go this time," I tell her, "Because this is the last trip to the potty."

"Okay," she says.

Back at the table I finish my sandwich and Lila finishes her fruit. She's eaten a decent amount of soup. The waitress refills my coffee and packages up the remaining soup for us to take home.

"I like that nice lady," Lila says.

"Yeah, me too." Lila has been eyeing the spinning display of cakes and now the restaurant is mostly empty, save for a handful of older women (who think Lila is "Just adorable! How old are you, sweetie, three?" "Yes," Lila nods. I hide a smile and say "She'll be three in May."). I figure it's safe now to let her look around a little, since the display is in plain view and not far away.

"Lila, you've done a good job of staying in your seat. Would you like to go look at those cakes?"


"Okay. You may, but you have to come back when I call you."

"Okay!" She trots off, and stares at the cake display while I sip my coffee.

"Mommy," she stage whispers. "Call me back."

"What? Oh, um, Lila, come back please." She trots back to me, then breaks into a run. "Walk," I remind her. You must walk." She immediately slows, taking slow-motion, exaggerated steps.

"Let's go pay," I say, taking my last gulp of coffee. At the register Lila picks up a tin of candy.

"What's this?"


"You like mint! Here you go, Mommy." She slides the tin onto the counter while I'm getting money from my bag.

"Oh, thanks, sweetie, but we're not going to buy these." I put the mints back on the rack and hand the money to the cashier.

"And what's your name?" the cashier asks. Lila, suddenly shy, turns her face into my legs.

"Say, 'My name's Lila,'" I prompt.

"My name's Yi-yah," she whispers.

"Aww, how sweet," the cashier smiles. "You want these mints, too?"

"What? No," I put the mints back again - this kid is slick. I didn't even see her put them up there the second time.

We get our coats on, and we've survived a nice lunch together in peace, repetition and observation. I love this kid.

We had a great time, and it was truly lovely to get out with just Li. I'm going to do a solo-Gage trip sometime this week, and then Mike will do solo trips with them next week.

Last night I said, "Tell Grandma who you went to lunch with yesterday," and I had to laugh at Lila's memory of it.

"Baby Josie!" Lila cried.

"No, was just Lila and...."

"Daddy! And Mommy! And Gage! And Baby Josie!"

"Left quite an impression on her, our alone time," I joked to my mom.

But I'll remember it well. Me and my girl.

Monday, February 22, 2010

Enjoy Every Sandwich

Mike and I have been talking a lot lately about making every moment count. We have sort of different ideas about it, and I can really only tell you mine, since I really only understand mine.

I am having lots of fun with my kids. I love being married to Mike. We laugh every day and I can't imagine being happier than I am right now.


And there's always a but, right? Things are busy. Things are crazy. Last night we had three crying kids at the dinner table, and that's hard. (Gage could not swallow the bite of roasted eggplant in his mouth and it started dribbling chunkily into his lap in a most disgusting way, Lila fell out of her chair and landed sharply on her hip, and Josie was...well...she's a baby.) Mike and I stared across the table at each other, half-grinning in that insane "Where do we go from here?" way.

There's always more to do. I cannot take care of the kids, prepare meals, keep up on laundry *and* have a spotless house. I just can't do it. And I don't really care. Who cares? I'd like to have a clean house, but it's not going to be me who keeps it perfect. I have priorities, and there are a lot of things that I need to do in a day before I collapse from exhaustion and stare unhappily at the cherry juice stain on the table, or the pile of socks and undies on the bathroom floor. Everything is sticky and nothing is perfect. And I'm okay with that.

Mike likes to quote Warren Zevon who, in his last days, advised us all to "Enjoy every sandwich." Sage advice, words that put a lump in my throat, but, of course, impossible to do. I propose that maybe part of the joy of this time is being overwhelmed. I am living (struggling through, at times) a very special time in my life, a time that I will forever look back on with want. Maybe it's okay to be so immersed in picture books and paint and flour and markers and tape and laundry and, yes, crying, that it's a privilege to be snowed under by it. There's so much little kid in my life right now that later, when I miss it, I'll remember fondly the gluttonous overflow of little kid.

It's what Mike and I call the "Steak Again?" phenomenon. I worked for years in the kitchen of a fine dining restaurant, and employee meals were on the house - whatever the restaurant had a surplus of on any given day. Some days were light - a big bowl of pasta with fresh tomato sauce. Other days were fantastic - a thick slice of shrimp and crab and cheese heaven with a flaky crust. Most days it was steak. The first couple of weeks I was thrilled to have tender strips of medium-rare meat, with a big serving of buttery garlic mashed potatoes and sauteed vegetables. It was so pleasing to have this fine meal, for free, after an evening of hard work.

After a couple of months, though, and then years, those of us in the 'back of the house' began jokingly complaining, "Steak again?" And then kind of groaning for real, because there's only so much red meat a person can eat.

I don't know if this makes any sense. It's hard to explain.

I used to babysit for a four-year-old boy - a clever, creative kid, actually smart as a whip. One day his dad was kissing him goodbye and said, "I love you. You know I love you, right?" and the boy said "I know," in an eye-rolling, give-me-a-break kind of way. How delightful! How amazing to be so often reminded of your parents' love, that you can brush it off, just completely knowing that it's there.

Steak again?

Imagine having the overabundance of such a happy thing that it's actually, pleasurably, too much. It's a benefit to be so full of something wonderful, that it's everywhere you look.

So while Mike tries to enjoy every sandwich I'm more content to acknowledge the craziness of my life right now and bask in it. I have the privilege of being annoyed by mopping spilled milk for the third time today, and I have the privilege of reading this book one more time, when we all already know it by heart.

It won't be like this forever.

As for my favorite Warren Zevon quote, it's also rather live-in-the-day:

Don't let us get sick
Don't let us get old
Don't let us get stupid, all right?
Just make us be brave
And make us play nice
And let us be together tonight.

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Back to Work

Sitting at my desk at work I feel a wave of nostalgia for being pregnant. Around me are reminders of that time that already feels so long ago. That big, awkward, round, uncomfortable time...that also happened to be miraculous.

In my drawer there are individually wrapped Jaw Breakers, for the sweet cravings. Also packets of sunflower seeds in their shells, for the salty cravings.

A bottle of Mylanta for the constant heartburn.

I have pictures of my kids taped to my computer monitor. My eyes hurt from staring at the screen - I'm no longer accustomed to this.

It's strange to have more than one life.

Tuesday, February 9, 2010

Maternity Leave

I go back to work in two days. Sigh.

I've had three months off, and it's been wonderful. Josie is often quite a fussy baby, but she also has sweet times (Gage was fussy full-time, and didn't get sweet until he was an older baby). So Jos requires a lot of attention, which I am happy to give her. We've had some very long days of lots of crying and no naps, but we've also had plenty of all-around excellent days to make up for it.

My stint as a stay-at-home mom has been priceless. I love to cook and bake and have enjoyed family dinners made from scratch, with lots of help from Gage (this weekend he picked Black and White Cookies from a recipe book and we made them together - they were good!). We've also had many fun evenings together, which we don't normally have when I'm working. There's just, of course, not enough time.

Some highlights from the break have been:

The Polar Express Train Ride. We went in mid-December on a two-hour train ride in Phillipsburg, NJ. The Polar Express was read over the loud speakers, the kids (dressed in their PJs) got hot chocolate and cookies. Santa came through and talked to everyone. It was charming and cold and loud and the kids had a blast.

Christmas. My favorite memories from this Christmas were (1) Gage wrapped seven presents for me and put them under the tree. He was worried I'd feel left out because I spent one morning wrapping presents for him, Lila, Jos & Mike and I put them under the tree for decoration. Gage was concerned about my not having any gifts, so he collected some items from around the house and wrapped them for me. On Christmas morning I opened the calculator I use for balancing the checkbook (which I had blamed Mike for stealing), a bottle of super glue, a roll of packing tape, some stickers, an invitation to a birthday party (I'd had to call the mother of the birthday boy to say "What time is the party again? I can't seem to find the invitation anywhere!"). I told Gage that I was happy that he had chosen so many things that I really like (for real - I love super glue and use the calculator all the time). He smiled and said "I watched you to see what you like so you'd have nice presents." Such a sweetheart. (2) My parents bought a certain Cabbage Patch Doll that Lila has been eyeing for months (you can style its hair). When Lila opened it her face lit up and she just kept saying "I wanted this! I wanted this!" over and over. She was clearly thrilled. (3) Both the older two were really interested in Josie's gifts and happy for her when she got something neat. I love these kids.

New Year's. We had our friends' kids, Bella and Wyatt, sleep over on New Year's Eve. Gage voted himself the supplier of snacks and set out a lovely plate full of candy - decorated beautifully and colorfully. It was enjoyed by all.

Gage and Lila have always done a lot of art projects but Gage has ramped it up even more in recent weeks. It's like he turned a corner, or a lightbulb went off or something, because now his artwork is recognizable - people look like people, trees look like trees. He still likes to do scribbles and random shapes, too, and he is quick to explain these: "It's abstract."

Lila has a new dream - to be a ballerina. She loves to watch ballet on TV and I pull her hair back, she slips into a gauzy skirt and she prances and spins around the living room. She lifts one foot high into the air, balancing with one hand on the coffee table, and shouts: "I'm doin' it!"

Josie is almost three months old now, and is very strong. She likes to be held in a standing position, with her feet in your lap, so she can put weight on her legs. When she's on her belly on the floor she lifts her head way high up to look around. She smiles and coos at us and playfully sticks her tongue out. Her eyes are so bright and alert, and have been since birth.

Gage made up his first poem today, and is quite proud of himself. Here it is:

Let me through
To get a tissue

He carefully wrote it out, letter by letter (with prompting from me), on a piece of construction paper. Then he spilled soup on it and started all over again. "Wasn't that sad luck?" he asked me. But he wrote it all again, cheerfully. He added "To Grandma, From Gage" on the bottom of the page and we mailed it to my mom this afternoon. I'm sure she'll be thrilled to get such a lovely poem in the mail.

I'm trying to face returning to work the best I can. Of course I'm disappointed, but we have no choice at this point. Mike was laid off two weeks ago and *should* be rehired in March, but we don't know yet for sure. It's scary for him to be out of a job, but not unexpected in this economy, nor in his line of work in the middle of winter. We're taking things week by week, and trying not to picture the current situation as long-term. He will be back at work sometime soon, and if things go well maybe I'll be able to take more time off. We'll just have to see how it plays out.

So, remaining present, it's supposed to snow another 18 inches today on top of the six we already have. So tomorrow may be a 'snowed in' day, which is my very favorite part of winter. I'll bake bread, maybe sticky buns, and roast a turkey for dinner. There's nothing like a warm house full of good smells to combat the snow. And Sunday is Gage's Second Annual Valentine's Day Party, so we have baking and crafts to do for that, too.

I have loved the last three months of my life more than I've loved any other time, as long as I can remember. I'm sad to change my schedule, but we'll do what we have to do and we'll try to smile our way through it. Nothing's easy, and keeping busy is better than not. Right? (Well, it's got to be when you don't have a choice.) Right.