The 3 C’s of Our Life Right Now

Toddlerhood. I am, now more than ever, the parent of a toddler. A toddler with a very specific agenda: to rule the world.

Yesterday, instead of the playful noises that alery us that Zach has awakened,we heard screaming. We ran. Turns out Zach did a nosedive right out of his crib. Come to find out, he broke the damned thing. Hoss Baby. I have never heard of a baby breaking a damned crib. I mean, really. Broken. B-R-O-K-E-N. So the question remains, what the fuck do we do now? Do we a buy a new one for the 16-month-old who may get another year out of it, or less? Or do we put him in a toddler bed? I don’t think it’s time for that yet, as we still haven’t broken him of the damned swaddler. I mean, I think I’m going to have to see if they come in sizes for a 35-year-old man in nice manly patterns at this rate, but oh well. So back to the crib. Our solution is to buy a new crib. A semi-inexpensive one that will convert to a toddler bed when the time comes. And then maybe to a full headboard. But seriously, I have to buy a new fucking crib. Really.

So the other day, after sorting through bins of clothing lent to me by a coworker, I determine that Zach may need a few things for fall/ winter, but not much. And we still have our niece who is going to have a baby in November. So I have been hearing of this mythical land where they sell Carter’s clothes for dirt-cheap prices. I thought Carter’s were affordable to begin with, but these prices are apparently so low that they rival consignment shops and the hated Wally World in their prices. But it was about an hour a way. Don’t get me wrong–totally worth it—if you have that kind of time. I don’t think I have to explain that I most decidedly do not. But then I find out that they have one here in Cincy. Wha????? Sign me up. The CARTER’s STORE! Lo and behold, there is a place that sells nothing but Carter’s clothing. I thought it would be small. It wasn’t I thought it would be outlet-ish, with defects and off-season stuff. It wasn’t. And the best thing? 50% off everything in the daned store. Furthermore, when I kept having to drop stuff off at the register because my arms were full (I did this about 3 times), and I told the lady working the register that I didn’t even know they were there and had never been, she did the unthinkable. “GIRL, Let me HOOK YOU UP!”, she said. And she proceeded to pull a coupon out of a drawer for an additional 25% off f my entire order. Yep, that’s right. 75% all fall and winter stuff. I bought Zach 20 outfits, all size 24 months, to add to the other stuff we have. I also bought 15 outfits for our new great niece who is coming. AND a week’s worth of pajamas/ sleepers. AND some baby bath products. And I spent $305. Holla.

So I was feeling smug because the only thing left to buy Zach for winter is a light jacket, a winter coat, hat and mitten set, and shoes. No, wait. I forgot that I just bought three new pair of Pedipeds in the next sizes up. So just the outerwear. He already has a raincoat and boots that I bought this past spring because they were too cute, and also too big. That’s it. He should even have room in all of these clothes to keep growing. But…

Then the weather did some weird crap. It got cold, causing me to reach into those bags in a fit of desperation for a fleece sleeper one night. And I discovered that the shit fits him. Now. It fits him now. Well, the sleepers are roomy, due to the short-leg syndrome that plagues this family. But the clothes fit. Shit. But, the beauty of the place is that they gave me a 20% off coupon for my next visit, and for every $100 you spend, you get a card for $10 off your next order. So we are going back for the rest of the stuff this week. Love it. It you have one in your area, or even within reasonable driving distance,  GO! It will be worth it.

And finally, the third C, Crackers.

The trick to getting Zach to do anything is pish crackers. Yeah, I said pish and not fish because that is how we say it here. It’s just how we roll. And yes, I know that bribing my kid with any kind of food is teaching bad eating habits and will likely cause him to be Maury-Show-fat. But the person who is saying that as never tried to get a toddler to do anything. And so I bribe my ass off. And as a result, I have damned pish crackers coming out of my ears. There is a baggie of them in my purse, the car, the diaper bag. The pocket of the stroller, my backpack. We cannot go anywhere without them if we want to get any task completed. Or if we want to save our ears from the deafening screams.

Such is my life.

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Baby Steps

It started with a chubby baby hand holding fast to a cabinet door. I was in the kitchen, making dinner for the family. I wasn’t watching when that hand let go. I was too focused on dicing. And seasoning. And out of the corner of my eye, just in the periphery of my vision, I saw the honey-blonde top of his head. Rounding the corner from the kitchen to the dining room. And into the living room. He left in his wake a brown and russet colored sock, long removed from his foot. I abandoned the knife and chili powder to peek in and have a little glimpse, expecting him to have moved his grasp onto the cart next to the kitchen doorway. Instead, my heart took a leap into my throat.

Outstretched arms. Lilting back and forth. Chubby feet navigating the floor underneath him. He let go. And he found his footing. Sparkling blue-green eyes. The brightest smile I have ever seen. Pudgy baby toes gripping tufts of carpet as he went.

“He’s WALKING!”, John shouted.

“I know!”, I replied.

I know. He did it. He walked. Not a few steps. But through 2 rooms and part of the third before he noticed our excitement and stopped to clap and cheer with us. Complete with baby giggles. And he lost his balance, plopping to the carpeted floor beneath him on his diapered butt. I was here to see it all. I didn’t miss it in the throes of work and school.

He did it. Finally. He walked. He let go.

Now I wonder if I will be able to?

Grandma’s Mission

While we were at John’s mom’s house in Madisonville,Kentucky last week, she deemed it her mission in life to get Zachary to a point where he was walking consistently before we left. She tried. She tried and tried and tried. She held both hands, one hand, positioned him in front of cabinet doors to motivate him to take a step or two. She enticed him with snacks. She got down to his level.

All of it—every single bit of it—had the same exact result: Zach would take a couple of steps, and then sit down. We all enjoyed the sight of him walking while holding her one hand. It was adorable and I wish I would have gotten a photo. Chubby, still-bow-legged Zachy holding Grandma’s hand and walking by her side. I wish he would take off. I know he can. I’ve seen the balance he exhibits when he sits down in a very controlled manner when he decides he doesn’t want to take anymore steps. But on the other hand, he looked so grown when he was walking and my heart broke just a little bit. His baby days are behind us.

Zach will walk. As always, he will do it in his own time. Just like everything else. Yeah, Evan walked at 9 months. Zach isn’t Evan and Evan isn’t Zach. Evan also didn’t talk until he was two, and Zach is already saying many words.

Grandma’s mission wasn’t accomplished on that visit, but I think she really had fun trying, and that is what matters.

 

Where We Are

14 Months. That’s where we are.

This time a few months ago, I was worried that Zach wasn’t where he was supposed to be, develomentally speaking. I still worry. I think I always will.

Zach has 4 teeth now. He tries to walk a little bit. Most of his development has been in the cognitive realm. Zach knows that a cow goes “moo”, and will even make the sound. He also can identify a sheep, pig, chicken, and dog, and imitate their sounds as well. He cannot verbalize the names of colors, but if you put a pile of blocks in front of him and ask for him to hand you one of a certain color, he gets it right. At first I was sure this was a fluke, but he manages to get the color right every time. Maybe this is because, for the past 14 months, I mention the color of every-fricken-thing I touch in front of him. As in, “See the ball? The ball is green.”, “See the car? That car is red. Zachy’s red car!”. Yeah, I’m a mom, and I’m annoying as hell to be around. I’m  surprised I don’t find myself in the bathroom exclaiming, “See the poop. Mommy’s brown poop.” Seriously, folks.

I am most decidedly Mama. John is Dada. Evan has become Bubba (Because we’ve been referring to him as Bubby to Zach all of this time). Before it was cute, but I wasn’t sure if there were meanings associated with the babbling. Now it is very purposeful and the intonation changes with Zach’s mood and intent. Earlier, I walked around the corner to go to the bathroom and I heard his little voice, “Mama? Mamaaaaa? MA-Maaaaaaaa????” And he did the same while Evan was visiting grandparents. He would crawl around the house, looking for “Ba-buuuuuhhhhh?” John would look at him and tell him Evan went Bye-bye, to which he would reply, “BAAAAA-Byeeee” Followed by his interpretation of Evan’s name, which incidentally came out the same way Evan said his own name when he was really small: Eh-nun. I tell you, it is the cutest thing in the world, listening to babies learn to talk.

Walking is another story for another post. As is his temper. But otherwise, he is so happy and so content. If you speak to him, he will give you the biggest of smiles, even if you are but a stranger in the grocery store.He’s just Zachy. That’s all I can say. It is hard to imagine that there was ever a time when he didn’t exist.

 

Things They Should Tell You Before You Breed: The Perpetual Picker-Upper

I forgot about this part, too.

The mess of childhood. Or toddlerhood. Or some kind of ‘hood.

Zach still isn’t really walking. He’ll take a couple of steps, then sit down–not fall–sit down. Chicken. But he crawls like a madman. His crawl is so fast that all you can see is his little butt wiggling back and forth as he fiercely moves his legs to get where he wants to go. And in a blur, he is gone. But he does walk with minimal support. And he leaves a path of destruction in his wake.

We have this little rolling storage cart that is oh-so tacky, but was my solution for baby item storage. It used to hold a slew of pumping supplies. Then it held bottles and bowls and spoons. Now it holds sippy cups and bowls and plastic baby plates. And Zach loves to push it all over the kitchen and living room. It’s hilarious to watch, because the damned thing is taller than he is, but yesterday, he made a new discovery. If he pushes the drawers/ bins from the back, they fall out on the other side. And it creates this delightful crash as sippy cups and bowls and plastic baby feeding items fall to the floor. And the mess. It makes a delightful mess of all of this brightly colored stuff: yellows and neon greens, bright blues, reds. It must be a thrill for him.

I mean it has to be, right? Because he. Keeps. Doing. It. Which means John and I spend a fair amount of time picking the stuff up and returning it to its spot. And then there is his room. The changing table used to be a place of function. The shelves were stocked with diapering needs. Now that Zach is more mobile, the shelves of it are stocked with all kinds of things: board books that a nuclear holocaust could not destroy, wooden puzzles and bead mazes, shape sorters and stacking cups. I must admit that, if I were 12 inches tall, it would look very inviting. And Zach has access to all of it.

All of it.

So the events occur like this: I crawl around on the floor, putting puzzles back together and creating piles of what piece goes with what so I can put them back together. And when I am done, his room looks awesome. A virtual toddler wonderland. And it lasts. For about 10 minutes.

Because it has become apparent that Zach does not prefer his puzzles put together. Or his ring stack. Or his nesting cups. Or his shape sorters. He does not like the bead mazes cutely displayed, thankyouverymuch. He would prefer all of the pieces to be in a jumble on the floor. And that ball chute that is as tall as he is? Well, it cannot possibly be standing, with the balls that go with safely placed in it. It must be tipped over and laying on its side. The balls can’t all be in one place. They have to roll under the changing table, the crib, the dresser, down the vent. Otherwise, Mom wouldn’t have nearly as much fun trying to find them all. I mean cleaning his room is like finding the toy in the cereal box as a child: you never know what you will find after some good ol’ digging.

The newest thing, now that he is tall enough to open the accordian doors of his closet, is to open the lids of the storage bins on the floor of his closet and pull each tiny piece of outgrown clothing from them, one by one. And so now the mess is of a hybrid variety. Teensy tiny socks small enough to fit preemie feet, newborn-sized sleepers and swaddlers, hats that he fought wearing as a little baby. Mixed in with the blocks and stacking/nesting bowls and the balls and puzzle pieces.Lovely.

I could solve the problem. I’m not stupid. I could follow him around, saying “No-no Zachy” a million and one times. I choose not to. I like that he can safely destroy  explore his surroundings. Nothing can be ruined that is within his reach. And he isn’t exloring electrical outlets or anything. (Incidentally, we now have to install the sliding outlet plates because he knows how to pull outlet covers out of the outlet!) He plays and learns, still free from the responsibility of having to pick up after himself. I wouldn’t have it any other way. But the end result is that mommy, in her typical OCD fashion, dies a little more inside when she sees the mess and realizes this is the life. And she has to let it go.

It all has triggered memories. The days are coming (or are already here). Cheerios in sofa cushions. Pots and pans and wooden spoons on the floor of the kitchen while we cook. Toy cars smack-dab in the middle of the living room floor, and virtually no decor below adult waist-level. Baby gates that don’t match the surroundings. Rubber ducks and bath toys amidst the candles and other decor in the bathroom. These are those days. I haven’t seen these days in almost 9 years.

But with these days come peals of baby giggles. Shouts of excitement when he discovers a new thing. The sight of chubby baby hands and fingers learning to manipulate the world around him. That look in his eyes when he is learning.

As my days pass in a sea of school work and actual work, the role of the perpetual picker-upper can be exhausting. But it is so worth it. I realize now that I missed these days for so very long. And it isn’t like I don’t get rewarded for the role.

I mean this morning, I came home from work to see the mess Zach made of the room I just cleaned yesterday afternoon. There were the toys and the clothes. A big heap of them. I was just about to moan and groan, to confront John about why he allowed him to do that. But there, sitting right in the middle of it all, was Zach. Smiling, happy, adorable, loving Zach. Having fun. Learning. Being.

Suddenly, I couldn’t care less about the mess.

Toddlerhood. Or: I Totally Forgot This Part.

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Okay. Yeah. I feel like a moron. I mean, I’m not a novice here. I’ve totally done this shit before, right.

Zach is no longer an infant. Not sure if he officially counts as a toddler yet or not, since he refuses to exercise his thunder thighs. Put him outside and he will do this weird walk/crawl that resembles a primate. Give him a walking toy or something to hold onto and he is good to go. Other than that, he crawls with lightning speed.

But the rest of toddlerhood? We’re there, man. Boy, are we ever.

Exhibit A:

I needed to get a prescription filled yesterday. I took the kids with me. We were in the pharmacy at the hospital, where we sat in the provided chairs, waiting for the script to be ready. I sat in one. Zach sat in the one next to me, and Evan sat on the opposite side of Zach. Everyone was fine until Zach pulled himself up and reached over and whacked Evan. Yeah. Of course it wasn’t hard enough to hurt Evan, and I told him no. And then he did it again. And I had to hide my giggles.

Exhibit B:

Zach throws tantrums. And it is so cute  not tolerable. Really, he just rolls around on the floor a bit and kicks his legs, all the while fussing just a tiny bit. And it cracks me up.

Exhibit C:

Do we really have to revisit the day he bit me?

Exhibit D:

He plays games with us. Yeah. Not Pat-a-Cake. I mean looking us right in the eye and throwing something on the ground to watch us retrieve it for him. And again. And again. And he gets mad when he sees Evan with one of his toys. God have mercy.

Exhibit E:

He is into every-friggin’-thing. Electrical outlets, doors, you name it. He is finally tall enough to not only reach doorknobs, but to realize that they are his ticket to whatever is behind said door. And so all of this prompted us to create a totally safe place for him to play that is blocked off by a metal-barred baby gate with a door. And he hates it. So he goes to the door, grabs the bars and jerks back and forth like our house is Alcatraz and he is trying to beat the odds.

So the moral of the story is that, although I have reservations of making one’s house into a bubble of safety instead of teaching children what to do and not to do, John and I made an emergency trip. Outlet covers. Doorknob covers. Cabinet and drawer latches. Door Stoppers.

We are learning to do this all over again. Nine years after we did it the last time. We will. We will!

Now if someone could reveal the secret to get the kid to drink from a fuckin’ cup, I will be forever grateful.

PS: He finally has more than 2 teeth. The two front uppers are breaking in. And if the stories are correct, he is going to take off running any day now according to the disruption in his sleep schedule.

>One

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“I was six months old and full of fun.

With the blink of an eye, I was suddenly one…”

http://www.youtube.com/get_playerI started out with what seemed like endless photos of Zach and the intention was to make a video so poignant and moving that you would cry as you watched. And then I really thought about it. A) I’m no Spielberg, and B) why would you cry anyway? Instead you get this: poor transition timing, perhaps too long, and even one photo that repeats (Gold star for whoever can tell me which one it is!). What I did manage to do was make myself cry. A lot. From the photos. From the music. Because I was there.
I was there the day we discovered there was even going to be a baby. The day I took five separate home pregnancy tests, unable to believe that I was really pregnant. That after all of that time of me wanting another baby and never having one, and suddenly, at the point where I had given up and moved on with my life, there he was. His name was selected because I read online that Zachary means God has remembered.

I was there, in my bedroom, day after day, watching YouTube videos of preemies each and every day. A 26-weeker, a 28-weeker. And as the contractions got worse and my resolve got weaker and weaker, the searches got more specific: 30 weeks, 1 day; 31 weeks; 5 days. This is what my baby will look like. Will he be intubated? Have an IV in his head? Be swollen, yet tiny? have transparent skin that looks almost alien? And people generally don’t put the horror stories on YouTube So I watched and cried and drew every single shred of hope from the success stories I could find at ever stage of gestation. And the first song in my video was in just about all of them.

I was there on the day he came into this world. And I felt that fear. And guilt. Fear that I had somehow caused this, that although his lungs were deemed mature, there was more to it than that. The 35-week brain is vastly smaller than the 40-week brain. And though we thought I was 35 weeks, there actually was a miscalculation of my due date that wasn’t discovered until 5 weeks postpartum. Should I have lied about the contractions? And what if something happened to me in the process? Could John raise them both alone, armed with only my life insurance?

I was there when the doctors held him over the drape and I saw the scrunched up face. And the hair! I will never forget that hair. Enough hair that it had shown up on an ultrasound. Only this was no ultrasound. This was him. In front of my face. And he was half-whimpering, half-crying. No hearty, robust cry. And I cried. A day shift anesthesiologist I do not know, and never have met at work since, was the one to wipe my tears. Because as a respiratory therapist, I knew what that meant.

I was there in my room and I couldn’t see him. And I didn’t know if he was warm or cold. Breathing or not. Was he confused that he wasn’t hearing my voice anymore? My heartbeat? was he rooting for me and I was nowhere to be found? My heart and my arms ached for him, this child for whom I went through so much.

I was there when they put him into my hands. Yes, hands. He was that small in stature that, with my hands under his head and back, his little butt aligned with my wrist. Which is so bizarre considering his birth weight. But he was swollen. From fluids. From drugs. I look back at his newborn photos and see that now. This is why he lost over a full pound in a little over a day. Which they mistook as a nutrition issue, and is thus why we were made to give him formula from day one. I’m so sorry for that because that isn’t how it is supposed to be. But not really sorry because he is here. The drugs, the fluids, the hormones, and yes, the formula…they all worked.

I was there in those first nights. When I would just cuddle with him and breathe in the smells of newborn breath. With the downy top of his tiny head tucked under my chin, I realized I could’ve lived my entire life just like that. And suddenly, I didn’t give a damn about medical school or whether they would hold my job open long enough for me to come back to work. I would find another job, do something else for school.

I was there when that smile first flashed at me. That bright, amazing smile. All gums and innocence and joy. As if a million stars were harnessed and placed right here for me. And those first baby giggles. My heart melted. And soared.

I was there. For each day in the life of this baby boy. For an entire year. Me. I was that lucky, that blessed to wake up (or return from work) each day and witness a new miracle unfold in this boy’s life. To feel the sheer joy this baby has brought to the world. The love. The patience. And the best part is that I get to continue to be there, that this is not the end but the beginning.

I was there when God (or Allah or Yahweh or Jehovah or whomever you place your faith with) decided that this world was good enough for Zachary. That my life was good enough for Zachary. That I am good enough for Zachary. I’ll never understand how that is possible.

I was there for the first minute, day, week, month….The first year in the life of a living miracle.

Happy First Birthday, Zachy.

(Photo Credits: The Eleven-month photos from the video, the cake-smash photos from the video, and the photo in this post were all taken by Katie Woodring (http://www.katiewoodring.com/). Though I purchased the copyrights to these photos and am in no way infringing legally on her rights as an artist, I am giving credit where credit is due. Thank you, Katie.)