Saturday, December 26, 2009

Quick! Before I forget...

...a few Christmas moments I want to embed in my brain...

Caroline oohing and ahhing at her new baby doll, especially the blinky eyes.

Sam solemnly saying after seeing a Nerf gun commercial: "I can't have one of those. I'll shoot my eye out."

The complete fog that can only be brought about by 17 hours of preparations followed by Midnight Mass.

Seeing my dad and my brother in the pews at Christmas Day mass, and realizing that once again the four of us are together as a family.

Caroline, after crying when he got near all during Thanksgiving, crawling up on Papa's knee.

Papa, Nick, Pops, Craig, Ana, Alexandra, me, Sam, Caroline and Mark completely overrunning our tiny condo from top to bottom on Christmas Day, and me not caring about the mess.

Being able to put together a (mostly) lovely meal for people I care about.

Hearing "I want that on my Christmas list!" for the last time, at least for a few months.

Remembering that, like labor, Christmas preparations are intense, thankless, painful and arduous when you're in the midst of them. But, when you see the result, not only is it worth it, but you somehow find yourself eager to sign up for it again.

Sunday, December 13, 2009

Christmassy Christmas...

Today I am feeling: Tired! Mark’s work party was last night, and I’ve now had my fill of the middle aged overserved dancing to funk. I know everyone complains about the spousal work holiday party, but I was actually looking forward to it, and it didn’t disappoint. I’m sure that’s partially because we have a great babysitter in our rolodex now, and, thanks to my new singing gig, the occasional pocket change with which to pay her. That means that in addition to the party, we have tickets to a show at 5th avenue (thanks, Bob!)for next week, and Mark will actually get to come hear me sing at the Choral Arts concert this weekend. Hooray!

I've also decided that I'm done being sad, for at least a little while. Thanksgiving was tough. It was hard to be in the same places and do the same things with the same people, except for Mom. I know it's going to sneak up on me now and then, of course. Last weekend, for example, we were at a toy store with Pops showing Caroline the dolls (Pops got her one for Christmas..shhh, don't tell), and I got a little sad thinking about how much fun it would have been to tell my mom about her cute reaction to them, and how right about now Mom would be doing all of these girly little firsts with her, like showing her dolls, or looking at Pretty Ponies (my personal obsession, btu we won't go into that). But Pops was there, and wanted to buy a doll, and did instead. I am so grateful that there are people in my kids' lives who are and will step up to the plate in those ways when the time is right.

Exercise: Blah. And again, blah. I went exactly once last week. Since Sam switched to the Tues/Thurs preschool (more on that later), it’s been somehow easier to find other things that just must be done during that time. I’m thinking about just sucking it up and still going M/W/F and paying double childcare for both of them. I know I’ll feel better.

Caroline: Cruising! Pointing! Saying stuff that might be words! In English! And eating. My golly, the girl is an eating machine. She will no longer let me feed her with a spoon and instead prefers to just grab handfuls of mash off the highchair tray and smash it into her face with her little palm. We got weighed again, and although she’s gained well, she’s still in the 25th percentile. Our doc isn’t worried, and said that she’s going to be burning off a lot of fat now that she’s moving around so much, and this just mioght be her new track. So, I’ve got a petite little lady who can really pack it in.

Sam: So, as I alluded to, we’ve switched preschool days. Same preschool, different class. Basically, there were a ton of boys, several older, in the class that were basically riling Sam up, as he tends to get around lots of high-energy kids. I had a fabulous conference with all three of his teachers, and they very nicely suggested that I bring him to both classes in one week so they could more directly compare, and I came and observed, too, on Thursday. He was indeed calmer, and the kids seemed more in line with him developmentally. He’s talked about one of the girls there a bit, so I think he’s made a little friend, too! More completed art projects are coming home, and he’s not a super-crab when I pick him up. All good things.

Sam also just received a letter from Santa. Since I’m assuming that no kids read this blog, I think it’s safe to tell you that Sam wrote a letter and put it in a large envelope, I addressed it to “The North Pole” (actually a post office in Alaska listed on www.usps.com as participating in this program), and then when he went to bed I wrote him a letter from Santa and popped it in an SASE inside this larger envelope and mailed it off to the Alaskans. And darn those nice Alaskans, they postmarked it from the North Pole and sent it right on back to us! Sam was thrilled, and it’s now sitting on our piano in a place of pride.

Projects: Christmassy Christmas things! We have baked lots of cookies, made stockings to hang on the piano (no fireplace,of course), decorated the tree,

In store: Pictures with Santa! I may whisper in Santa’s ear that he should ask Sam if he got his letter....

Thursday, November 12, 2009

Caroline crawls (sort of....)

Ok, now for something happy! Caroline makes her way toward me in her own Carolineish fashion. Listen closely, because I think there's a "mama" in there, too...

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Warning shot

I don't know if this just applies to me, but I find that when I'm in the middle of something intense, I don't see the big picture. Ok, now that I write that, it sounds totally normal. But I'm trying to forgive myself for it.

Caroline had her 9 month checkup on Friday, and, apart from being happy, healthy and smiley, she actually lost weight from her 6 month appointment. She dropped from the 75th to the 25th percentile in 3 months. Our doc didn't seem too concerned because she is otherwise thriving and just wants her back for a weigh-in next month, but I can't stop beating myself up about it.

Yes, I had noticed that she was fussy, and refusing solid food on many occasions. While frantically running up and down the I-5 corridor and back and forth between various hotel rooms and my parents' house, I would frantically nurse her before running off, then forget to even bring solid food to offer on our many restaurant meals. Our store of frozen baby food ran low, and I relied on store-bought fruits, with very little variety or calories. I figured she would nurse more, and usually she did. She also still sleeps right next to me, with an open buffet all night long if she chooses to partake.

She was teething, I thought, or her cold was affecting her, or she was just "off" because of all the travel. What scares me is that it never even crossed my mind to think about this even further. And really, I'm trying to not beat myself up about this. But, this is exactly what I'd feared would happen in my dark moments...that my grief would eclipse the needs of my children. There it was, writ large on the baby scale. And I didn't even notice it was happening.

Right after the appointment, I went to the Ballard Market and bought ingredients to make up a plethora of healthy, filling, yummy food for her. The moment I walked in the store, no fewer than three people cooed at her, how cute she was, how good. I walked over to the bulk food section and started discreetly bawling. She is good, she is so cute, and I hadn't been taking care of her. Not only that, but I realized I was desperately missing calling my mom, something I did after every doctor appointment. This was the first time I couldn't. I also realized that while I so badly wanted her reassurance about all of this, the very fact that she was gone was the reason the situation existed. Somewhere in a parallel universe existed a baby who had been well fed and nursed, who wasn't under a tremendous amount of stress over the physical and emotional absence of her mother, and who had a grandmother who would be answering the phone to hear about how much she'd gained and grown, and how enchanted the doctor had been with her in every way.

I was so angry.

And then, I gathered myself and my purchases up, went home, and cooked like a fiend. I made rice and lentils cooked in broth and blended, sweet potatoes, avocado, yogurt and bananas...I cooked and blended until almost all the produce was gone, and the freezer was full. I still don't feel completely better. But Caroline is smiling, and eating, and shoving apple and pear pieces in her mouth, devouring a half-cup of plain yogurt in a go, and smacking her lips for more lentils. All I have to do is take out the Cheerio box and she grunts and waves her arms in her seat. She gets all the food I can possibly offer her, and nurses whenever she wants. This is all much, much better. But the warning shot grazed a little too close.

Sunday, November 1, 2009

All Saints Day

This space has been empty for a long time. What does one write after one's mother has died? There's everything to say, and nothing to say. I told Mark last night that I feel like somewhere in my soul there's a deep, dark pit with my mom's name somewhere in the bottom, and I keep walking to the edge and peering in, then skittering away. Someday, I may fall in. But by then, it's possible that the hole will have filled a bit with dirt and time, and the fall won't be as great. Maybe it will fill completely, and I'll never fall. But the scar of the hole will always be there.

I've felt it already in the last couple of weeks since she left. Taking a picture of Sam, and suddenly realizing that I'll never show it to her, or Caroline cruising along the couch, and thinking about how she'll never see her walk. It's so easy to get caught up in the unfairness of it all. But is this what I'm supposed to do? Is this how grief is? All the books make you think that it's one long linear process, but now that I'm in it, I don't know at any given moment where I am in it, and what's next. I've already had so many surprises, good and bad, to believe any more in what to expect. I thought, for instance, that I would be sad, but mostly relieved when she finally died - mostly happy that she's finally free from pain. And there are those thoughts. But the overwhelming sadness that I've felt...I was totally unprepared for it. I was also unprepared for how grateful I was during the time leading up to the funeral to be busy and rock-solid, providing strength for others, even enjoying all of the old friends who came to her service. But now that life has returned somewhat to normal, I'm a little adrift. I think I just need to accept this feeling for now.

Funny how my kids have provided the most guidance on this strange path. Leading up to mom's death, both seemed edgy, unsettled. I prepared myself for the onslaught of emotion after it finally happened, and I told Sam about it, holding him in bed in the morning of October 20th. The amazing thing, though, is that it's almost as if a weight has been lifted from Sam. It's easy to forget sometimes that he's three, and three-year-olds like tangible, understandable, definite things, even if those things are negative and undesirable. Grammy has died. He went to the funeral and sat quietly and peacefully all the way through it, perhaps grateful that, finally, this was something permanent that he can understand, not the iffy, mommy-might-go-to-Portland-this-weekend, something-might-happen-to-Grammy-soon land he's been living in for the past year. He's talked about her a lot, easily slipping into the past tense that I have so much trouble with. And, blessedly, he's been liberal with the I-love-yous, the hugs, and the snuggles. My little man knows how much I need them right now, I think. Caroline, too, has become more settled, happy to be back in her routine, settling back into easy, milky smiles and grateful to be in my arms. And I think this is how my mom would want this to be happening with them.

I know it gets easier. The hole beckons, and I let myself look a little bit at a time, knowing that I have to manage this so I can still mother my kids and be a decent wife. The sucker punches to my gut when I think about how she no longer exists in this world will lessen, the ache when I look at pictures of her eventually will soften, too. This will all pass. But God, I miss her.

Friday, September 4, 2009

Fall

Today I am feeling: A little wistful, a little nostalgic. Today is my birthday. And as birthdays go, it’s just sort of what one would expect of a thirty-something birthday. On the whole much better than last year’s, when I was down in Portland on my own with Sam while my mom was in the hospital and Mark had to return to Seattle to go to work. It was a sad, lonely, exhausting time.

I’ve always loved the fall for lots of reasons, my birthday being one of them. It was always the start of something new - the start of the school year, a new city, a new job. It’s when I got married and moved across the country, it’s when I found out I was pregnant with Sam. I think of myself as an optimistic person, so these changes were always looked forward to. But, looking back, there was plenty of heartache to go along with some of those changes, heartache I didn’t always see coming. Now that I’m older, I think I’m better at acknowledging those possibilities, although I like to think I haven’t lost my essential positive outlook.

As I type this, it is looking extremely likely that I will be losing my mom soon. On good days, I am able to look at this as a change that I and our family will ultimately be able to deal with. On bad ones, I wait until the kids are asleep and cry, thinking about all of the grandmother things that both my mom and my kids are going to miss out on. In lots of ways, they already have. I know that if she was well, I would have received about a week ago a package of carefully and individually wrapped little gifts that she would have pulled together while out and about (Whenever I’d ask her where she got something, she always replied enigmatically, “Oh, I have my places...”). Right about now, she’d be sending Sam something unique and special to celebrate his start of school.

I remember when I got married we put together little copper cookie cutters with cookie recipes to give to guests at the reception. I printed out and tied the recipes onto the cutters myself. I remember my mom saying that when my child went to school for the first time, we’d pull these out and tie them with a pretty bow to give to his teacher. The thought seemed so far away and unreal...having a child, that child being old enough to go to school.

Next time I’m home, I’ll be pulling those cutters out of the bottom drawer in the kitchen and taking them back home to tie with something from my own ribbon collection.

Friday, August 28, 2009

Food and Fish Stories

Today I am feeling: Like it should be Friday. And it IS Friday! This week got a little drab when on Monday I had one of those dark nights of the soul when I thought that my children would probably be better off being raised by hyenas than churlish, crabby, yelling me. I put the kids to bed, drooled and snotted on Mark’s shoulder for a while, and woke up feeling better. I decided that I needed to call a truce between Sam and I and work more on going with the three-year-old flow. Obviously if he’s going to stick his finger in a light socket that’s not ok, but pulling over the chair to play with the faucet at the sink? Probably ok, and not worth a fight.

We’re heading down to Portland today to visit my parents, and Sam is bringing 3 of the rather feeble tomatoes our plant on the porch spit out this week to show them. I think the entertainment and attention from other people will be good for him, and hopefully we’ll get to use the pool if the weather is nice.

Exercise: Well, I haven’t gone all Rocky this week like last week. Exercise has mostly involved walks of about 2 miles to and from the village playground, some of them rahter slow when Sam decides he’d like to walk as well. But, it’s exercise, and I’m getting it. We’ve also (I think) made the decision to move Sam to the M/W/F preschool class, so he’d be going 3 time a week instead of 2, and with slightly older kids, which I think he’ll like a lot. There’s a little family-owned gym with a babysitting service right across the street...

Caroline: We exchanged the baby swing in the living room for the exersaucer. She wasn’t really enjoying the swing anymore, and is much more interested in seeing what we’re doing. I had a little pang putting the swing away, as the next time we’ll see it will be when another little one joins us in who knows how long. Or when we move, which God willing will be the first of those two occurances.

Sam: We went to see Ponyo yesterday, and it was so incredible! The film actually kept Sam’s attention for its entire length, which is no small feat. The animation is so gorgeous and so detailed. Like, the two main characters are getting in a boat and a crab creeps up the wall behind them, or an octopus crawls into the house. Who else would have thought to include that? The best part, though was the story. In the American version, the boy would have found Ponyo and mad capers would have ensued while he attempted to hide her from his judgemental and bitter mother. Instead, he instantly explains to her that she is his pet turned into a human, and instead of freaking out she simply acknowledges that there are indeed strange things in the world, and they make dinner. Combine that with a lovely scene that positively depicts breastfeeding, and I was sold.

Projects: Feeding Sam. Seriously, the kid is an eating machine all of a sudden. Yesterday, he had a huge bowl of yogurt and granola, two peanut butter sandwiches, two apples, milk, a bunch of goldfish, a whole piece of pizza, and part of a chocolate shake. Is this a preview of teenhood? I made an effort this week to move him gently towards weaning by telling him that he can nurse when I see him in the morning, at rest time, and at night before bed. So, I’m thinking that he was nursing at other times because he was actually hungry. Go figure.

Milestone: A very nice neighbor brought over a bunch of plums from her tree, which I cooked and pureed for C. I wish I’d had the camera ready...”Heeey, these are pretty goo..*puckerface!* *puckerface!*”

Thursday, August 13, 2009

Blurg

So, it’s been way, way long since I’ve written anything in this big empty part of cyberspace. It’s not that I don’t have things to say...just the thought of stringing together coherent thoughts into a neat, paragraphed package at the end of the day sounds about as much fun as organizing my sock drawer. Blurging, however, sounds great! What is blurging? My husband assures me that it is an actual term used to describe a blog that is really just a set of short thoughts. And here, I will blatantly steal from the Freeway Diva and introduce a brand new format...the mommy blurg.

Today I am feeling: Like it should be Friday, unfortunately. I blame my new church job (more on that later), because after years and years of being conditioned to go to rehearsal at other church jobs on Thursday and then wake up on Friday morning, I am now going on Wednesday evenings.

Exercise: Feeling awesome! I managed two walks this week, and another is planned tomorrow morning. I finally figured out that the iPod is actually not for me...it’s for Sam. Sam listens to kid tunes with the occasional embarassingly loud question or comment, Caroline has her morning nap, and I zone out as I zoom around Green Lake. As soon as I feel like certain flubbery body parts won’t fall off when I do so, I might even try to jog!

Kid-ism of the day: I got to have coffee today with Laural and our friend Monica, and I got such a kick out of Alexa, who was very good at holding out her hand and saying, “NO, Sammy!” whenever Sam encroached on a toy. That girl knows how to stand up for herself.

Sam: was really fun today, when he wasn't being a pill. Pretty normal. We built a fort!

Caroline: now eats rice cereal, sweet potato, and pear, all blended and strained by moi. I forgot how much fun it is to feed a baby, and she really is fun. Sam was never super-enthusiastic about eating solids (although he’s a great eater now), so feeding him was always a little stressful and coercive. Caroline, though, opens her trusting little bird mouth every time, and chuckles when I airplane or swoosh, or whatever other ridiculous thing I feel like doing.

Projects: I’m currently looking for a sewing class to enroll in, a very generous b-day gift from my father-in-law. I have my grandmother Helen’s sewing machine on which she spent countless hours making costumes for us and I really want to know how to use it, especially now that I have a little girl. Cue Mark rolling his eyes at another project I’ve picked up to “save money,” and which actually involves me buying more stuff.

Milestone: So, Caroline started a few solid foods this week, and liked them so much that she is keeping them mostly locked tight in her little intestines. Not to go into total graphic mommy mode, but let’s just say that today I realized that changing her diaper will hereafter be a different and, dare I say, less pleasant olfactory experience. Gone forever is the mild, buttermilky solely breastmilk-induced contents. I never, ever thought that the smell of my child’s stool would qualify as a milestone, but there we are. And I’m sad about it, ok?

Final thought: I’ve gotten much better at typing with one hand,

Monday, July 6, 2009

Sam graduates from gymnastics class

This class was called "Superbeasts." I think it goes without saying that that is humorous.
video

Friday, May 29, 2009

Samism

Sam has this funny habit of jauntily repeating phrases that I've told him regarding how the world works hours, days or sometimes weeks after I've told them to him, seemingly out of the blue. Things like, "Flowers wilt after we CUT them!!" or "It's rude to pick your NOSE!"

His latest one is, "When fish die, we EAT them!!" Which is a little different from my original statement, something about how we eat fish, which happen to be dead. His version sort of makes it sound like dead fish are popping up in the lake, and we gather them up and start munching. Anyway, a few days ago, we were revisiting the topic of his dead pet fish from last year and how he is in heaven now. There was a pause, and then, "When fish die, we EAT them!! Another pause while the wheels turned, and then: "Did Jesus eat our fish?"

Happy Birthday, Sam!

Dear Sam,

Yesterday you turned three. It's hard to believe that three years ago I was holding you in the hospital, wondering what the heck I was going to do now with this lovely little person who needed me so, so much. So, we took you home, and we loved you. And now here you are, this bold, energetic boy who knows his own opinions and isn't afraid to share them...often loudly.

I know that this has been a challenging year for you, and I've felt every single growing pain right along with you. I've seen you go through learning how to share (especially how to share me), how to sing, how to dance ballet, how to use the potty, how to manage disappontment, how to fall asleep in your own bed and how to sleep through the night in your own room. Suddenly, there exists a little space between us during the day that wasn't there last year. It's not bad, it just is. Now, you sometimes go to your room by yourself, or want to lay on the couch and look at a book on your own, or you disappear up the stairs to use the potty and come back down five minutes later with your underwear on inside-out. I watch you nervously, but I try really, really hard to let you have that space. I know how that feels to need that, and I think that for all of your extroversion, you need it just like I do. Rather than an appendage, you often feel like a little satellite now, hovering around me. There has been so much going on in your little world this year, and sometimes you let it spill over and make a mess out of you and everyone around you. We've butted heads this year more than last, without a doubt. But I know that you're trying, and that you're learning. And I know that this phase, just like all the others, won't be forever. Remember, I love you no matter how you feel.

Mostly I've been so, so proud to see you take on your new role - big brother. Just today, Caroline was crying in her little carrier on the floor while I got ready to leave the house, and you went over and did a funny little dance in front of her, making her giggle and chortle. You ate it up, of course. She loves you so much, and I am so grateful that you want to make her laugh, want to hold her hand, and want to have her lay next to you when you go to sleep at night. She is so lucky to have you.

Thank you, sweet Sam, for another wonderful, exciting year. I can't wait to see what adventures the next one brings.

Love,
Mommy

Sunday, May 24, 2009

Sam and Caroline




Caroline has started to gurgle, coo, and make other funny noises, much to Sam's amusement. Today in the car we heard:

Caroline: "Gah-groo? Awugh!"
Sam: "Noooo, Caroline! You can't have licorice! You don't have any teeth!"
Caroline: "Augh!"
Sam, giggling: "Caroline, I'm going to take you to bed to go to sleep with me! You'll be mine!"

Sure enough, he wanted me to keep Caroline upstairs with him while he went to sleep, and the last thing he asked for before falling to sleep was to kiss her one more time.

Lest this post sound like all is sunshine and bliss around the Leen household, I should assure you that these types of episodes mostly make up for the other kind - the screaming, tantruming, pant-wetting, time-out-inducing, unreasonable and intractable kind, which we're having a lot of. I really do try to remember that Sam has gone through so many adjustments in the last few months, most of which he's completed like a pro. He's done so much that I've asked of him, and he never, ever directs any anger toward Caroline. We have yet to hear any sort of "put her back" request. I find that responding to his needs promptly when I can, especially his requests to nurse, does wonders for his disposition (I did need to put a slight cap on that last part, so he gets 10 star stickers to redeem for nursing sessions each day), and that sometimes he just needs some alone time away from both of us to cool off when things get overwhelming. It's so easy to look at him and just see how big he is compared to her. A few nights ago I was putting him to sleep while Mark was downstairs with Caroline, and when I had that rare alone time with him I was suddenly struck by how small he still is. His little back was facing me as I lay next to him, and his little feet were tucked into my knees. His body takes up so little of his twin bed. I suddenly had the urge to hug him to my chest and nestle my nose into his hair, an urge that I indulged while he snoozed away. And I lay there thinking about how fast he's grown, how good he's doing, and how proud I am of him. And I got a little teary, as mommies sometimes do.

And Caroline...oh, Caroline. I am so in love with my little girl. She is just so sweet. I loved Sam at that age because he was curious and demanding and even funny. Caroline is sweet and mild and snuggly. She wants nothing more than to nurse and make eyes at me, and when she's done, to sit up on my lap and just be a part of whatever it is I'm doing - eating, playing with Sam, typing on the computer. And when she's had enough, I rock her in my arms and off she goes. She sleeps for long stretches at night snuggled up against me. She will sleep in the co-sleeper for shorter stretches, but I don't really want her to. She feels like my teddy bear, my security blanket. Her breath is sweet and warm, and her little body feels relaxed and safe. During the day I can tell already that she is completely in love with Sam, and Sam is eating it up. I can see forward years and years, as Sam bends over backward to make her laugh, and she obliges. What a great match of siblings.

Monday, April 20, 2009

Caroline's baptism

We got our little girl baptized on Sunday! Unfortunately, she fell fast asleep in the cozy towel, and when Father Ryan took her out of it and lifted her in the air...
video

Friday, April 17, 2009

Time

Something about the cherry blossoms falling from the trees at the park today made me feel really nostalgic. I was carrying sleeping Caroline in a sling and watching Sam play with a little 18 month old girl named Frances and I found myself wondering, what was Samlike when he was 18 months old? Do I even really remember? I had started this blog around that time, so I have records of everything, but did I really soak it in beyond what I wrote down?

Time is flying by so quickly now. When Sam was a baby, time just crept. I kept waiting for him to do something, to get past a troublesome phase, to learn to walk or play on his own. Everything felt so permanent and never-ending. No wonder it moved so slowly. THis time, though, I have this little boy to look at and I can hardly believe he was ever a tiny baby, he's just so boy now. I see now that they endless night nursing, the struggles to crawl or walk, the sleep deprived stupor...it all ends. Here is this little, spirited, opinionated, verbal boy who sleeps in his own room in his own bed and can lift a spoon full of tomato soup to his mouth without spilling a drop.

So, here I have this new little baby, just as little as he was. And time is flying. Already, she smiles and coos at me, begging for my attention. She sleeps next to me and I love it, because I know that she won't be there forever and that I'll miss her terribly when eventually she's asleep in her own room. I look down at her smiling up at me with my nipple in her mouth while we're nursing, and I realize that we're already about a third of the way through the time when food from my body will be the only nutrition she needs.

I wonder with some guilt if I just let that part of Sam's life slip by because I was so wrapped up in the timeline in my head. And then, I forgive myself for being a tired, wrinkled, worn-out first time mom and remind myself to enjoy what I have right here, right now. Because once it's gone, it's just a memory.

Tuesday, March 24, 2009



Sam and I strung these beads that we madeon a string, and he insisted on wearing them to the park, where he ran around yelling "dinner for supper!" and shouting into the toy telephone, "Hellooooo! Is anyone there? Aiuta me! Aiuta me!" We're on a roll, socially speaking.

The Expert


I've been feeling quite bossed around lately. I don't mean the typical two-year-old traits, although we have those going on, too. Last week, I told Sam we were going to Fred Meyer's, and, with practically an eye-roll, he said, "Not Fred Meyer's, mom, Fred Meyer." I got the same treatment a few days ago when I told him to "touch gentle" when handling Caroline: "Not, gent-le, gent-ly!" Yes, I am aware of how freaky it is that my two year old apparently knows about the proper use of an adverb. I also get parenting advice on a regular basis. She cries in her swing, and Sam says authoritatively, "I think she needs to nurse" or "she has a wet diaper." And he's often right. I think I'm just going to go on vacation and leave him in charge.
video

Friday, March 6, 2009

Modern Art



Artist: Samuel James Leen
Title: Sozzy (I asked)
Medium: Art clay, hotwheels and yarn needle

Saturday, February 28, 2009

Ash Wednesday

Dear Lord, I will never, ever, ever complain about my children again. Ok, I probably will, but not for a while at least. I just got home yesterday from 3 days with Caroline in isolation at Seattle Children's Hospital. I didn't expect quite such a visceral illustration of Ash Wednesday to intrude on my life, but that's the way it works sometimes, isn't it? The ashes on the foreheads of some of the parents I saw walking around the hallways seemed a little redundant - like they really needed a reminder of how fragile life is. One man looked at me in the elevator and shook his head with a wry smile: "This place. You're glad it's here, but..." "You'd rather be somewhere else?" I finished, and he nodded tiredly. My own experience seems pretty paltry compared to theirs, but I have definitely had enough of seeing people poke needles and tubes into my little girl. On the night we arrived in the ER with breathing problems and a fever, she had to have a blood draw, a catheter to collect a urine sample, and (the one I really had to sit down for) a spinal tap that took three tries to get done. In order to open up the spaces between her vertebrae, they had to fold her practically in half and hold her there until they got the right spot. When they handed her to me afterward, she looked at me with vacant, cloudy eyes that showed that she had mentally gone somewhere far, far away to deal with everything that had happened to her. I don't think I've ever had a sadder moment in my life.

The diagnosis of RSV meant that we were in a room by ourselves for 3 days. My meals were brought to me, and I spent the days eating, watching TV, sleeping, and rocking her in the chair they found for me. I left the room when Mark and Sam came to visit so I could take Sam to the cafeteria or gift shop to have some time with him. When I wasn't holding Caroline, she spent much of her time in a metal crib, swaddled in two blankets with her little boarded IV arm sticking out at an angle and her oxygen prongs taped to her little face. She went away from me for a day or so, sleeping for almost 24 straight hours while her body fought off the virus, waking up just to eat every few hours (which she thankfully was still doing well), and getting diaper changes. On the second night, the antibiodics they gave her upset her stomach, and she spent most of the night writhing around and fussing, while I rocked her in the chair and nodded off holding her. Finally, on Thursday afternoon she turned the corner, breathing just room air and starting to come back to us. On Friday, she was fully alert and given the ok to go home.

We've been practically giddy having her back and having our family reunited. This was obviously hard on Mark and Sam, too. Mark told me on Thursday that Sam had pointed at a bus on the road and told him that that bus was sad because his mommy was far away. We made up for some lost time this morning by piling on the bed together as a family, reading a book and admiring Caroline. The real reward for me, though, was a moment that we two had by ourselves earlier that morning. She had slept peacefully in her cosleeper for most of the night, but by 6:00 she was fussy and not settling with my usual pats and rubs. So I picked her up and laid her little head on my arm and snuggled down into the bed with her, something I hadn't been able to do for 4 days. She rewarded me with me most gorgeous, peaceful smile before drifting back to sleep. We're all so grateful to have her back.

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Adjustments

I'm trying really, really hard to not freak out about the fact that Mark goes back to work on Monday. He's been working from home a few hours and had a few meetings over the last few days, and I'm getting a taste of what it's like to stay at home with two kids. Oh, and did I mention that they're both sick, along with Mark? In true motherhood style, I am the only one that did not get the Horrible Disgusting Cold. Someone has to take care of everyone, after all. So, Caroline is snorting and woofing her way through nursing sessions every few hours, Sam is snotting all over his own face and occasionally wiping it on me, and I am upstairs in Sam's bedroom with both of them, trying to not think about jumping out the window and running down the street.

Ok, it's not that bad all the time. But I got a taste of what venturing out with two kids is like on Saturday while Mark was at a meeting. The weather was nice, so I loaded Caroline in the sling and decided we'd take a walk to Discovery Park. One tantrum later, Sam was happily riding his tricycle down the sidewalk. All was going well - a visit to the playground, running into some friends - when Caroline got hungry. Instead of trying to dash for home, I decided to go to the visitor's center to feed her in the playrooom while Sam entertained himself. Unfortunately, entertaining himself meant dumping sand on the floor, taking another little girl's toy, and eventually whacking her. I, with Caroline in the sling and still nursing, hauled him out into the hallway for his timeout, after which he refused to apologize to the little girl, in spite of my threat that we would be leaving on the spot if he didn't. Time to make good on the threat. So, I hauled him under one arm to the entrance of the visitor's center where a Grand Mal tantrum was had, and I think there was something said about leaving the tricycle here for someone else to have before it was gotten upon and ridden home, crying and trying to turn around the whole way, while I tried to steer it forward with Caroline fussing and crying in the sling. Not really fun, all told.

Along with that, we've had countless tantrums, refusal to use the potty, and (Mark's personal favorite), a dump in the pants. I'm trying really hard to be patient, knowing that he has a lot going on and needs to adjust to not being the baby anymore, but it's taking just about all I have to not list him on E-Bay right now.

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Week one




What a week! You know what's funny? The hardest part about all of this is not the lack of sleep (which has not really been that bad this time around), the endless diaper changes, the tantric baby positions designed to eliminate gas, or the nursing and more nursing. The part that has been the most emotionally and physically demanding is helping Sam adjust to his big brotherhood. To be clear, he has mostly been great. Any angst he feels is never directed at the baby. In fact, it's sort of like he's completely clueless that she is the source of what he's feeling. He is so loving with her, I have to keep him from diving in the basket or piling toys all over her. But, I see his stress in other ways. He has been off his feed and occasionally doesn't poop or pee all day, and (my favorite), he seems to have this little voice in his head that says things like, "Don't stab mommy in the foot with that fork. What? Stab mommy in the foot with that fork? What a good idea!" Basically, he seems subconsciously mad at me. I'm a big girl - I can take it - but I feel so bad for him. I have completely turned his world upside down, and he seems completely unaware of the cause beyond that life just doesn't feel right right now and he keeps stabbing me in the foot with forks and getting in trouble for it.

Other than that, I want a hut. I have told Mark that in some cultures women sit in a hut all day and are waited on hand and foot for a month while they recover from childbirth. He's not buying it, and is insisting that I go on these annoying walks every day. Fresh air, blegh. He's making me end this entry so that I can go to the hardware store with him with the promise that I can sit in the car. I mean, I did get to sit at home all day with Caroline while he and Sam went on some odyssey for a dehumidifier, so I suppose I should get out of the house. I lack the energy to be clever about this right now.

Monday, February 9, 2009

She's here!



How things change in just a few days. As I type this, Caroline Francesca is sleeping peacefully in her daddy's arms while Sam snoozes upstairs. I'm sitting here thinking that this is what women mean when they talk about how deliriously happy they are after having a baby. I always assumed they were just on more pain meds than me. Around this time in Sam's life, we were frantically trying to get him to nurse through jaundice while having him on a light bed at home, and I was having frequent crying jags and feelings of total helplessness. This was hardly Sam's fault - The birth had been long and difficult after an induction, and I was dealing with the aftermath of a birth experience that was in many ways the opposite of what I had wanted.

By comparison, Caroline's birth was picture-perfect. We suspected that I was in labor on Thursday night around 6 when I started having regular (but manageable) contractions, and made the call to send Sam to Erik and Laural's house for an overnight visit. We drove to the village and strolled around, popping in Starbucks and Bartells to wander around, me periodically leaning on Mark to breathe through a contraction. We were disappointed when things started to slow down, and we headed home where I planted myself on the bed to watch Grey's Anatomy. As if on cue, at 10 I started shaking, threw up once, and set in to strong contractions. I labored at home for two hours, we headed to the hospital around 12, I got in the tub at 1:15 to ride out about 20 minutes of serious transition contractions and my water finally broke, I felt the urge to push and got back into my room, pushed for 10 minutes, and out she came! It was obviously serious work, but the entire experience was delightfully fast and manageable. As I was getting in position to push, I looked at Mark and the midwife and remember saying, "I can't believe I get to push already!" There's even a picture of me with a big grin on my face between pushing contractions. And when she was finally on my chest, I was overwhelmed with joy.

And since then, she has been a delightful, calm, sweet baby. When she cries, it's this unobtrusive, hey-could-you-help-me-out sound, low and almost musical. She drifts off to sleep easily, and when she is unhappy it's been easy so far to figure out what she wants and how to fix it. Last night, she even let us sleep 4 hours in a row. I know that all of this isn't just her - I know much more now about how to handle a newborn and have much more realistic expectations. But I am overwhelmed with gratitude for everything that has happened over the last few days, for everything that she is, and for everything that our family has come to be through all of this.

Now, Sam...the final piece of this puzzle that is our new family. I will never forget the look on his face when Mark carried him into the hospital room to meet Caroline. He was completely taken with her, wanted to hold her right away, and got mad when Mark took away "his baby." On the way home, Sam and I were waiting for Mark to bring the car around when I looked over and caught Sam gazing at her in the car seat with a look of naked adoration, then he reached out and gently pulled the blanket up to her chin. I thought my heart was going to explode.

She's about to wake up, so I need to wrap this up but will continue later with some more about Sam and Caroline. I'll end by saying that although I'm tired, and although I know that we'll all have our ups and downs in the coming weeks, I never thought I would feel so happy and complete as when I look at all of us together, our new little family.

Monday, February 2, 2009

The next step

I can't believe that I'm a mere 2 days away from my due date. Not that that means anything, other than that I could have the baby in a few hours, or in a few weeks.

As we're on the cusp of adding a new person to our family, I find that I'm getting nostalgic about our sweet little threesome we've had for almost 3 years. A few months ago, I couldn't wait to drop off Sam at preschool so I could go to yoga, write, or grab a cup of coffee by myself. Today, I had plans to go to yoga, but Sam and I were having such a nice time this morning that I decided to forego it and stay at home and play with him. After all, our time is limited.

I always pictured having more than one child, and I still am on board with that plan. But, I also understand how a mom can fall so in love with her one child that it's hard to imagine sharing that love with anyone else on the planet. Our little weekday twosome time of going to the park, the zoo, for walks is all coming to an end. I look at him, though, and I think about the tremendous gift that he's going to be getting in return for this sacrifice. It's a gift he may not always want - learning to be a sibling is going to be tough. But siblinghood is a school for learning life skills he'd never otherwise have an opportunity to learn. He's going to have to share space, share time, be tender, not always get what he wants or get it himself, and how to fight well. And when he fails, he'll know that even though he or his sister may not say it, they love each other. They're stuck with each other. He has no idea that this is coming his way.

Or, maybe he does. He's also been super snuggly lately. Not clingy necessarily, although that's happened to, but huggy and kissy. This is a child who returns hugs but rarely initiates them. He's just always been that way - too busy. Not baby who nestled into me, he'd rather keep his head up and see what was going on around him. Now, it's not unusual for him to walk up to me and wrap his arms around me, head resting on my shoulder. This morning when I was helping him get on the potty he did exactly that, and we stayed there, hugging on the bathroom floor, for almost a minute. Then, in his little stage whisper, he said, "I don't want to let go of you, Mommy." I don't either, Sam.

Friday, January 23, 2009

Object lesson

There are those moments in every parent's life when it dawns on you that you would do anything, ANYTHING, for your child. You already knew that intellectually, of course. You tell yourself that you would stay up all night, step in front of a bus, beat someone up. But then it actually happens, and you're like, "Wow. I did...that."

Picture Sam and me on a foggy Friday at lunchtime. It doesn't particularly matter how we got there, but there we were - the public restroom at a local restaurant. Sam had decided he needed to poop (unusual for him in an unfamiliar place), and had subsequently requested, as usual, that I remove all of his clothes. So, he's naked. And the poop is half in, half out, and not going anywhere. And he's looking at me and crying. Not whining crying, but honest-to-goodness I'm-in-pain-mama, big, fat tears. My poor, poor baby. So without hesitation I...assisted the delivery. And then washed my hands like they had the devil himself on them.

The funny thing is that I was having lunch there with a friend, and she had just been telling me about doubts she had about whether she'd be a good parent or not. I told her that when you have your own kids, it constantly surprises you what you're willing to do and the reserves of patience, humility and creativity that you discover within yourself. Smart, self-satisfied me. Little did I know that I'd be getting a very yucky object lesson in this within the next 10 minutes.

But it got me thinking about all the ways that motherhood has changed me. It's not just what you do for your kids, it's how you feel while doing those things. I am definitely not a spit person - I gag at the sight of other peoples, and sometimes my own - yet wiping up baby drool is a non-issue. I love my sleep, and for two years I got up at least every 3-4 hours to tend to Sam, and I freely signed up to do it again with another one. I heard someone say once that getting through a tough developmental milestone with your child is a great bonding experience. But the every day stuff - that's where the refining fire truly is. Singing that song one more time even though it makes you crazy, cutting the peels off the apples even though the peeler slips and cuts your finger, doing for someone else at your own expense and inconvenience, all of that makes us better people and shows us the deep rewards of doing for others through the infinite love that our kids give back to us. And if we lucky, we bring that to our relationship with our spouse, our parents, our friends, and our community. Parenthood is indeed the best medicine.

Friday, January 9, 2009

A job for everyone...

Sam and I have been talking a lot recently about jobs - how everyone has one, and how there are all kinds of jobs that involve fixing things, making things, and taking care of things. So, last night we were in the bath and he noticed that his little duck sponge was beginning to come apart where it was glued together. I guess I shouldn't have been surprised when he sighed with resignation and said: "Oh, well. Better call the Sponge Man."