Wednesday, February 25, 2015


More than once on the day Elliott was born, I briefly forgot he was in the hospital room with us. He was such a peaceful presence that when we put him in his little bassinet cart for a nap now and then, I'd find myself suddenly realizing after a lapse that hey, the baby, he's here now. I recalled this with some amusement while putting him to bed tonight, on the evening of his second birthday. My placid infant has grown into a child whose presence never goes unnoticed. I have become a little worried that my descriptions of him here and on his baby book blog make him sound difficult or high-maintenance. When I say that he's stubborn, opinionated, high-spirited, physically daring, does that read as hard to handle? I hope not, because he really is wonderful and not particularly difficult. While it is true that he's much more likely to get into things than his brother was and that he has a mind and a will all his own, I do not think he's any more challenging than the average two-year-old. As my mom likes to say, he says yes as much as he says no most days, and even though his tantrums are pretty spectacular, they don't last long. He's a good boy.

He's so very different from Nico, and it's wonderful. We visited friends last fall who don't have kids, and one of them asked if I thought the boys were similar. When I said no, hardly at all, he remarked that it must suck, having just about figured out your kid and then getting a completely different version the second time around. I honestly told him, no, it's awesome. The basics of keeping the child alive and clothed are really the same, so it's not like I had to start completely from scratch, and now I get to discover a whole new parenting experience. I knew intellectually before Elliott was born that he would not be a duplicate of his brother, but in my imagination, all I could picture was a second copy of the kid I already had. He was the only child of mine I knew, so I didn't have a frame of reference to imagine anything else. But from the beginning, we could tell. This one was his own man.

We also lucked out that we have two kids who are different in so many ways but both mostly easy to raise. I won't say either is always easygoing, but neither of them have presented any challenges that are truly concerning, anything that makes me worry deep down that we're doing something wrong. They also complement each other well, and their personalities so far seem to balance out. Of course they tussle, they'll argue once Elliott has more words, they'll eventually become teenagers and briefly ruin my life, but today, I have no complaints.

Elliott at two is a big personality. He grins, he glowers, he laughs, he shrieks, he demands things and refuses other things and says no a lot (a lot). He holds his arms out and cries, "Hug! Kiss!" and just this week has said "Yuv you, Mama" while wrapping his little arms around my neck. The other night we had an entire, albeit brief, understandable conversation about what he wanted for dinner. (No blueberries, but yes strawberries. No yogurt, applesauce instead.) When thwarted, he will sometimes collapse onto the floor in abject misery. He gets over it pretty quickly. He always dumps out a toy bin instead of reaching in to pick out the thing he wants. He often dumps the bin, then looks at the pile and decides he didn't want anything out of there after all. He can assemble his zoo track by himself. He likes trains and airplanes, but also other vehicles. He carries around whichever flannel receiving blanket we give him with no preference, but loves his stuffed kangaroo best. He is learning and growing at a pace that is truly breathtaking, and even on the days when he tests me and pushes all the limits he can, I still feel that he's a wonderful gift.

Happy, happy birthday, baby Elliott. You're one of my life's best surprises.

Monday, February 16, 2015

You must be new.

MB's company sponsored a free weekend of indoor mini golf for employees and guests, and after our plans to go with friends fell through, we decided to go ahead and take both our kids yesterday afternoon. Yes, you read that right: we took a two-year-old mini golfing. On purpose. It was comically bad. He was SUPER EXCITED to be there, mostly so he could dip his tiny golf club into the unnaturally blue water hazards and run ahead to collect all the golf balls that the rest of us putted. And of course Nico howled with indignation every time Elliott ran over to pick up his ball, and of course Elliott literally kicked and screamed any time one of us picked him up to try to prevent him from interfering. I had to laugh, it was so bad and so obviously inevitable. It was like we had never had a toddler before, or more specifically, like we'd never met this particular toddler before, since I suspect Nico at two would've been much more circumspect about the whole affair. MB ended up striking a truce with Elliott around the 8th hole, when he got Elliott to agree to ride peacefully on his shoulders for the rest of the outing. Even putting one-handed with a 27-pound monkey perched on his back, MB still kind of kicked my ass. He even got two holes-in-one in a row. So it all turned out okay in the end but seriously. Are we new at this?

In other we're not so bright news, we were almost taken by surprise by the weather event of the season, since we don't watch the news and I hadn't checked the forecast all weekend. I finally saw someone talking about snow in Tennessee on twitter, so I checked and we were predicted to get 5 - 8 inches overnight Sunday into Monday. That would've been one hell of a surprise to wake up to this morning! We ended up with an official total of 5 1/4" which was enough to close the schools for the day. Since I was off today anyway, I spent the entire day at home with the kids. It went well, especially considering we almost never just stay home for a whole day. We usually have an outing or at least an errand. The schools are closed again tomorrow since there are concerns it will all freeze over tonight, so I may stay home with them again. I figure I'll wait and see if anyone else decides to brave the unplowed park road into work before I make the trek myself. Nothing of major note happened today, though I did finally capture an excellent Elliott stinkeye for posterity. This is his go-to expression when he's unimpressed or annoyed and I love it so much.

This was after we had the audacity to offer him crackers while his pizza was in the oven. Clearly we are monsters.

Reading:  First Frost by Sarah Addison Allen

Playing:  Car Wheels on a Gravel Road by Lucinda Williams

Saturday, February 07, 2015


I've been experiencing an increasing level of distress over what had started to feel like blog abandonment. My life has been eating my writing mojo of late, but the longer I go without trying, the harder it gets to even attempt it. And it's not that things have been bad or even particularly stressful - on the contrary, I'm generally pretty happy. It's probably a combination of things. Work is typically balls-to-the-wall busy, and in a using my brain kind of way, so that when I get home I'm just tired, and often still pondering various work projects. For instance, in the shower the other night instead of planning out a blog post, I was mulling over ideas for a grant we're getting ready to start writing. Not an un-valuable use of my brainspace, certainly, but also not one conducive to journaling about my cute kids. There's also my unofficial but I guess official resolution to do a better job keeping up with the house, which means cleaning after the boys go to bed most nights. Plus I am trying really hard to do some workouts at home in the evenings (Started Betty Rocker this week, and what the fuck, amirite? She's adorable, but what. the fuck. with some of this stuff). I guess this is a long-ass way of saying I seriously don't know how some of y'all do this. Full time jobs, kids, not-disgusting houses, workouts, AND blogging? I don't even sleep much and I can't get it all done.

Anyhoodle, we have been busy around these parts since I last logged on. Nico had two birthday parties, one at home with the extended family on January 17 and one at the nature center with his classmates and playdate friends on January 24. We'd never let him have a classmate party before, but turning five felt significant enough to warrant it. I'm quite glad we said up front that we probably wouldn't do another one until he turns ten, because as great as his party was, it was exhausting. I let Nico choose the animal visitor and he picked a snake, so we did a whole snake theme. It was super simple as far as parties go - we paid for someone to bring in the animal visitors (there were three snakes) and do activities with the kids for half an hour. We served cake shaped like a snake with crackers, string cheese, and grapes and set out little water bottles and juice boxes. The kids were WAY EXCITED to watch Nico open his gifts, and then we gave everyone a super-nostalgic wiggle snake and parted ways. Then we went home and I took a three-hour nap. Birthday success! He also got a birthday club card from the carousel at the mall good for a free ride and a punch balloon for himself and up to nine friends, so we met our playdate crew there the Monday after his party and treated them all. That was super fun, actually. And after that, one of the other moms treated us all to Pump it Up, where my kids were admirably self-sufficient. Of course the birthday experience was more important than the gifts, but Nico got some really spectacular toys. He got several great Lego sets, three big boxes of K'Nex, and a set of snap circuits. I wanted to play with all of it after he went to bed. The snap circuits are really cool, and he's been building with the Legos and K'Nex pretty much daily since his parties. So far, five is pretty fantastic.

Almost-two is rather fantastic, also. Elliott has had a huge vocabulary explosion in the last two months, and it's the best thing since Nico had his first big language burst. One day E kept saying what pretty clearly sounded like, "Oh no! Shark!" but I didn't think he knew what a shark even was, so I'd repeat back quizzically, "Shark?" and he'd yell "AAAAAH!" It was so weird and hilarious. Turns out there's a very similar conversation in one of his Pooh videos at my mom's house.

We read Bear Snores On every night and he waits with barely-contained anticipation for the page when he gets to name all the characters. I don't know how to adequately describe how much I love this, other than to tell you that if it were possible to get a tattoo of the sound of him saying "badger," I would do it in a heartbeat.

He totes his beloved kangaroo everywhere, as well as whichever receiving blanket is around - he has no real preference on those. He will kiss and hug and "love" his Roo-uh, and sometimes ask me to do the same. Mom told me one day last week that he set Roo on his high chair tray while he was eating and had a long conversation with him. Elliott would lean down and babble to Roo, then tip his ear toward Roo as if listening to him. Then he took Roo's paws and made him sign "more." I wish mightily there was a video of this interaction, but alas. E will also fix little play food snacks for his stuffed toys and play with trucks and the other day at the consignment shop, he got his hands on a wooden leopard while I was trying on jeans and barreled around roaring magnificently. He is our instigator, toy-dumper, risk-taker, and sass-spouter. He's also loving and sweet when he feels like it, and pretty cute on top of it.

"Mama! Hat."

As for me, I have a wisdom tooth coming in and have a newfound sympathy for babies everywhere. Teething is in fact a bunch of bullshit. My fascination with Unfuck Your Habitat continues unabated. I actually re-activated my ancient tumblr account so that I can post before and after pictures on it, so if you are the kind of person who likes looking at other people's decluttering photos (as apparently I am), you can find me and my embarrassing amount of material goods here. This weekend I'm beginning the long-overdue process of liquidating my gigantic CD collection. I am halfway through the first of four huge diaper boxes and I am utterly horrified about the amount of money I spent on CDs in my youth. Kids these days have it easy with their option to download singles for $1.29, man. There's probably more, but after three days of having this in progress, I figure I'd better hit publish before another week goes by. To all of you who are still around, thanks for being here. I appreciate you even more these days, I think.

Reading:  Glory O'Brien's History of the Future by A.S. King

Playing:  Car Wheels on a Gravel Road by Lucinda Williams

Thursday, January 15, 2015


Nico turned five today and I have so many feelings. I'm happy, of course, and pretty amazed that it's already been five years since he was born. For the first time, I'm also feeling a little bit sad. Maybe wistful is a better word? I wouldn't wish any of it away, but I'm just feeling a little dismayed that it's gone by so fast. I went back to the oldest photos on my phone last night and started flipping through and I truly barely recognized / remembered baby Nico. I can recall feeling so invested in his every move when he was a baby, doing my best to soak it all in and cling to how he was so I'd always remember, and he's five and that little baby I once cuddled almost looks like a stranger. And in five more years, the little boy he is now will probably seem the same - impossibly far off and yet only a short time ago. Logically I know it's just a birthday, not much of a milestone in the grand scheme of things. Elliott at almost two is probably doing more big-picture changing than Nico at five, but FIVE. It just sounds big. It feels big.

One of the best surprises that came with having kids was how much I enjoy their company as little people in their own right. Nico is sweet and funny and smart and curious and surprises me all the time. He's a bit of an oddball kid, but I don't worry as much about his social awkwardness as I did before, though I'm sure when he starts public school I'll fret some. He's still not a physically daring child, but he'll finally go down slides and jump in inflatables. It's looking like giving up on group swim lessons in favor of private lessons was a good idea, despite the cost - he will now put his face in the water and jump off the side to his teacher. He has a remarkable memory. His fascination with construction vehicles has faded a bit, and he spent the summer drawing electrical lines over and over and stringing yarn between Lego towers. (I heard that my uncle used to string yarn all over the house as a kid, and he grew up to be an electrician.) Just in the past month or so, his interest in building things out of Legos and K'Nex has ramped up, which is an exciting turn of events. He's right on the cusp of being able to read, and I almost can't contain my glee about it.

I couldn't have asked for a more amazing kid, and I suspect it's just going to keep being awesome.

Saturday, January 10, 2015

near miss

We came very close to a day-by-day reenactment of how last year started. Elliott came down with what I thought was a cold, which rapidly progressed to what I'm pretty sure was full-blown RSV. By last Sunday night, he was wheezy and breathing fast and it was bad enough that I broke out Nico's old nebulizer and happily not-expired Albuterol tubes and gave him a treatment while my timehop app cheerfully reminded me that Nico had checked into the hospital for the exact same symptoms a year ago that day. The nebulizer (without the mask, which he vehemently refused) didn't help much, and I was wracked with indecision about taking him to the ER vs waiting to call the pediatrician in the morning. I tried calling the after-hours pediatric nurse line, but of course once we got to the part about him wheezing, the only thing she was legally allowed to do was tell me I was advised to take him to the ER. I had MB come home early from his friend's house (sorry, MB) just in case I needed him to sit with Nico, then went into Elliott's room every 30-45 minutes to hover over his crib and listen to him breathe while wringing my hands. I finally opted against the ER, but when I took him to the doctor in the morning, I had a bag in the car for each of us with clothes and pajamas and our toothbrushes. I was certain, absolutely certain, that we'd get sent to the hospital just like we did with Nico last January. But I was surprised - we saw a super old-school on-call pediatrician since ours wasn't working Monday morning, and he was utterly unconcerned. He told me I needed to use the nebulizer on Elliott with the hated mask every three to four hours, and that as long as he was happily playing while wheezing, I shouldn't worry too much.

I have to admit, I was highly skeptical of this cavalier dismissal of what had seemed at 1:00 a.m. that morning to be a dire situation. After all, Nico was only a little croupy-sounding the day we went in for a steroid prescription and ended up with a three-day hospital stay. I bribed E to accept the mask by letting him watch Kipper the Dog on my phone during his treatments, and at first they didn't seem that helpful. Meanwhile, the daily reminders of N's adventure kept popping up each morning on my phone. After a few days of angst (on my part), though, Elliott ended up making a pretty speedy recovery. By Friday, he only had one treatment the entire day, right at bedtime. As guilty as I felt for considering it as a factor on Sunday night, I'm extremely relieved to not be facing an ER bill.

Luckily we were able to make up the Monday morning music class we missed on Thursday, and Elliott even got a secret carousel ride without his brother while we were killing time before Nico got out of preschool at 11:00. I'll never tell!

Elliott won't tell either, though he's talking so much more just since the first of the year, and it keeps surprising me. At the music class, his teacher was reading a book to the kids about animals and Elliott pointed to the page and said, clear as a bell, "Yook! A horse!" As alarmed as I am by his near-complete de-babying, I'm so eager to watch him grow and learn this coming year. I suspect it will be a pretty wild ride. Hopefully one with no hospital stays.

Reading:  Glory O'Brien's History of the Future by A.S. King

Playing:  Led Zeppelin IV

Wednesday, December 31, 2014

Dead reckoning

For some reason the changeover to the new year feels more weighty and important this year than it has in the past. Maybe I'm putting too much thought into it, but it feels like I'm moving toward big changes. We're almost certainly done having babies, so there's the transition from what has seemed like a holding pattern into moving forward with our complete family assembled. In the fall my first baby will start Kindergarten and my second will probably start preschool, so that's pretty huge. We are discussing a serious and major step to reduce our debt, which may turn out to be a game changer. In general I feel antsy and poised to shake things up. Or maybe it's just that I saw something on facebook this morning pointing out that 2030 is now just as far away as 2000. Let that one soak in for a moment.

Past year-end posts: 2006 / 2007 / 2008 / 2009 / 2010 / 2011 / 2012 / 2013

1. What did you do in 2014 that you’d never done before? I officially became a supervisor of other employees - previously I had only managed volunteers. It's been a learning experience, to be sure.

2. Did you keep your new year’s resolutions, and will you make more for next year?

3. Did anyone close to you give birth? Three close friends had babies this year and while I find their babies delicious, they don't infect me with baby fever as I feared they would.

4. Did anyone close to you die?
 Luckily no.

5. What would you like to have in 2015 that you lacked in 2014? More follow-through on my goals and plans.

6. Any memorable dates or events from 2014? We had a great trip to Memphis with the boys at the end of May, as well as lots of smaller adventures that I really enjoyed.

7. What was your biggest achievement of the year?
 Doing very well at work, I think. As much as I sometimes regret the time spent away from my boys, I appreciate very much this second chance at a fulfilling and rewarding job. I also end the year feeling mostly like I'm acing this motherhood thing. (Though currently my beloved second-born is ransacking his room instead of taking a nap while I hide downstairs and blog, so...perhaps there's room for improvement.) I'm also proud that I was able to nurse Elliott to 14 months, though it's bittersweet because I wanted to continue much longer than that. I still have regrets about not pushing to get his lip tie diagnosed and fixed early enough to make a difference in our nursing relationship.

8. What was your biggest failure? I let a lot of small things slide that in the big picture probably don't matter, but which would have improved my day-to-day existence if I'd stuck with them a little better. I'm disappointed in myself for not being more diligent about keeping up with the boys' monthly letters / journal posts, and really hope to get back on track in the coming year.

9. Did anyone suffer illness or injury? Nico spent three nights in the hospital in January with what turned out to be a bad asthma flareup.

10. What was the best thing you bought? I think MB got the iPad this year. If so, that probably wins.

11. Where did most of your money go? mortgage, the damn credit cards

12. What did you get really excited about? As much as I miss having a little baby in the house, having two little kids has been so amazing. I am truly giddy sometimes when I think about all the great things we will be able to do with our kids.

13. What was your favorite TV program? Supernatural

14. What were your favorite books of the year? Ship Breaker by Paolo Bacigalupi, The Girl With All the Gifts by M.R. Carey, Ask the Passengers by A.S. King

15. What was your favorite music from this year? I made a road trip mix that I really liked for a while. I also spent a lot of time listening to the CDs from Elliott's first semester of Kindermusik, which he loved.

16. What were your favorite films of the year? I think the only new movie we watched this entire year was Captain America: the Winter Soldier. We liked it very much.

17. What did you do on your birthday? A look at the calendar shows that my birthday fell on the second Thursday of March this year, so I suspect that I took the day off work to volunteer in Nico's preschool class.

18. What one thing would have made your year immeasurably more satisfying? It would've been nice to have had more of our debt paid down.

19. Tell us a valuable life lesson from 2014. You can't be the good guy all the time, and that's okay.

20. One word to describe this year. Full