Wednesday, August 6, 2014

My daughter, the almost-toddler

This little one is a delight. She really, truly is. She's growing up so quickly these days.

She is the happiest little person I can imagine. I do remember Peregrine being crazy happy at this age, but it still takes me by surprise. She coos and giggles and warbles and smiles and laughs. At everything.

Since she was about six months old, I've felt like we could have honest-to-goodness conversations, even though only one of us spoke legible English. It goes so much deeper than speaking. She sees people. She has a special, unique relationship with just about everyone she knows well. She has jokes and games she reserves for individuals. And if you ever laugh at something, she will laugh at it, too. She watches you astutely, figuring out what you like and how to engage you on those terms.

She reads feelings like nothing else. This is new to me. Peregrine is kind of stoic, most of the time. He's very tender, and very sweet, but it's hard to really get him down. He doesn't take things personally. He can get scared or panicked or sad if that's how you're acting, but nothing like Sylvia does. It's like she just tastes the feelings in a room. She watches my face, constantly, to see how I am reacting to everything. She picks up fear, sadness, anger. She picks up happiness and calm, too, fortunately. It's easy to reassure her, just by acting reassuring.

She is the child I was pregnant with, the child who is never still. She is insanely wiggly during diaper changes. I have to pin her down. Dressing her takes about five times as long as it should, because she undresses herself that many times. She'll pull a foot out of her pants when I'm putting the other in. She will not keep shoes, socks, or hair decorations, in.

She is single-minded and ridiculously hard to distract. If she has a goal, she goes for it, and nothing gets in her way. But she doesn't frustrate easily. And she rarely ever asks for help. She just keeps going back, keeps trying until she finds a way that works. She learns systems quickly and figures out how things work the way they do. She can already put her own dee in in the middle of the night (you'd think that would make her sleep better, wouldn't you?), and she's figured out the concept of puzzles. She mimics brushing her hair, brushing her teeth, putting on socks and shirts and pants and hats (and she knows where on her body they all go!). The other day she found a washcloth and started scrubbing the floor, then quickly realized it wasn't the washcloth I had just used. So she carefully strategized, propped herself up against the wall, leaned and stretched and reached, never fussing or complaining, and after several minutes, got the washcloth she was looking for.

She can climb up slides and stairs and into Peregrine's bed. But she can't walk around furniture. She hates being left out and can't stand it when anyone leaves the room or closes the baby gate. Although she's fairly certain she can make it through the baby gate--I frequently come back from a laundry expedition to find her with an entire limb--or two or three--through the bars, the rest of her patiently easing its way through, despite the futility of her mission.

She is remarkably tough when no one is watching. She's accumulated far more scrapes and bruises than her careful, precise older brother ever did. She falls, and gets up. But if she thinks she's been insulted--if the person or inanimate object did it on purpose--she weeps and wails and gives me the most pitiful cry you ever saw. If Peregrine so much as touches her in a mildly bumpy or scratchy fashion, her little lip starts quivering and her little eyes start pouring tears. Start your skills strong, younger sibling.

She eats like a horse, and constantly. She went through about 8 raviolis (big ones!) the other night, and was still hungry. She is especially fond of juicy fruits, and pasta with savory sauce. Oh, and ice cream.

She says Mama, and Daddy, and bye-bye, and dee (of course!), and squeezie, and more. The jury is still out on all-done and thank you. Mostly she yells, but we're working on using our words and asking politely.

She is fiercely independent and hates having you do things for her if she could be doing them herself. She hates it with a passion when we try to feed her (unless she's terribly hungry). She sobbed and wailed and shut her mouth and refused to eat ice cream today because I wouldn't let her have the spoon. Andrew and I kind of dread her toddler years. Between the independence and the tendency toward melodramatics--well, it's going to look a lot different from Peregrine.

She's remarkably opportunistic, and she's not above picking pockets. (She's quite good at it, actually--she managed to whisk away this little crumb-scraper from a waiter the other night. No one realized it until minutes later, when we looked over and saw Sylvia industriously scraping crumbs from the tablecloth. And she manages to get my phone out of my purse, usually without my noticing it, every time I pick up the two of them together). She fully accepts that Peregrine is above her in the pecking order. But she lies in wait, patient as always, until he has abandoned whatever it was she was wanting. As soon as he is out of sight, she swoops in for the kill.

She loves noises and sound effects. Her very favorite game is to bring me her stuffed animals, one by one, and have me make the various noises for them. She has no patience for most books, except the ones with texture. She loves music and will bob her head whenever she hears it. She can hear clapping from a mile away and always claps along. She plays pretty independently, a lot of the time. She loves to be with me, and insists on being at my side most of the day, but she doesn't love doing things with me the way Peregrine did (and does!). She just wants me nearby while she does her exploring.

She's still my little Owl, and still not a shining example in the world of baby sleep. She's gotten better, slowly but surely, though. She's a champ at going down--she puts herself to sleep almost all the time, and tolerates Peregrine's loudness and babbling and multiple potty trips with remarkable grace. He can wake her up with his shenanigans, and she will settle down peacefully, often with no assistance. So, despite her owling, I have to remind myself she has a lot of strengths. But she still owls at night on occasion, with no apparent reason. And she still wakes up a lot, even if she's not hungry. Andrew and I are going to try keeping her in her room all night and see if that makes any difference.

I love her so much, and I love her at this age. She is growing and exploding with curiosity and joy and mischief. I know she'll change so much over this next year, and a few months from now, she'll be so, so much more grown up than she is now. Her soul will be the same--souls are, it seems, it's remarkable to me how both my kids are so solidly the same people they always have been--but she'll know and do so much more.

Here's to you, my owlet. I love you so much.

My son, the boy

In the last week, Peregrine has:

-Dismantled the baby food grinder

-Dismantled the bicycle pump

-Dismantled his (second) spray bottle

-Eaten an entire bag of craisins in one sitting

-Learned to pee standing up (entirely on his own, and with no motivation other than seeing his cousin do it).

-Torn the bathroom door off its hinges

-Carefully and deliberately unscrewed the apparatus that makes the front screen door prop open

-De-cushioned most of the chairs in the house and on the deck, multiple times.

-Eaten bites of anything he can get his hands on, and then left the evidence (okay, nothing new, he just has longer arms, plus he's discovered that with a step stool, the world is his oyster).

This kid is a force of nature right now. A fierce little whirlwind of doing and undoing. He's kind of turning into a boy.

I'm a good candidate for a mom of a boy, I think. I have a high tolerance for most chaos and mess. Germs, dirt, and snakes don't really scare me (tarantulas are another story, but fortunately, those are hard to come by hereabouts). Andrew grew up on a mountain, hacking out his own trails and sleeping in the woods alone with a knife, even as a pretty young kid. I want that for Peregrine. I want him fierce and wild and free. I want him to own the land, to have it in his heart the way Andrew does. I want him to know and be comfortable with the dirt, the sea, the rocks, the sky. I want him to grow up into the kind of man his father is, the kind of man I married, the kind of man who captured my heart and soul with his craziness, his spirit, his just-barely-tamed love of getting dirty and living life outside.

But it can be draining on the day to day. The trail of destruction he leaves. The hose that's constantly on, and spraying everywhere. The piles of wet, muddy clothes, and wetter, muddier socks (my goodness the socks! He's obsessed with socks--obsessed, he won't go to bed without them--and he puts on and sheds several pairs a day. They are everywhere.) The elbows digging into my belly when he hugs me, the feet that are constantly stepping on mine, the fact that he never, never, never slows down. And the fact that he freaking undoes everything I do. I give him leftovers to put in the fridge, and in the ten feet there, he manages to take off the lid, eat some of the food, and then forget how to put the lid back on. I put on one shoe while he throws the other downstairs.

Andrew's nickname as a kid was Dr. Destruction. Peregrine is not terribly destructive, per se, although he does a fair bit of it. He's more just Dr. Entropy. Order tending to disorder. I don't think he's even aware of it, half the time. He walks through a room, and will just randomly sweep pillows off chairs, covers off beds, towels off racks. He turns on lights, fans, and faucets. It's so maddening. Making him pick it all up is torture, and so much more work than doing it myself.

But, I know Dr. Entropy will grow up. I know he'll get big enough that it won't be unreasonable to ask him to pick up a whole room. And honestly, work though it is, I'm looking forward to the years ahead, tainted and colored and made both frustrating and exciting by the presence of boy in them. He'll probably break everything I own and eat the rest. But I hope he'll always stay free and wild and strong. I hope my home is a safe haven for him to come to after he's been tramping in the woods all day. I hope I'll still know how to nurture his soul, and his friends' souls, and that they can come in, and talk, and eat things, and grow into good men.

Tiny boy, I love you more than you'll ever know. I hope you learn to break less, or at least to fix what you break. I hope you learn the art of sitting still, at least for a little bit. But I hope you never lose the crazy beauty in your soul. It's my honor to have the keeping of it, and I hope I keep it well.

Monday, August 4, 2014

Local Mom Disappears Into Bathroom, Is Not Seen For 2 Minutes. Panic Ensues.

Breaking News!

Burien, Washington.

Local mother Rachel Nelson, 28, is by all accounts a fairly normal woman. She has two young children, she has a decent repertoire of songs (though sadly, none about police helicopters), and she is adept at putting on underwear and opening boxes of raisins. But appearances can be deceiving.

This morning, Nelson simply got up, left her 24-hour mothering job, and walked into the bathroom. Alone.

"I just don't understand it," sobbed Sylvia Nelson, 11 months, speaking through an interpreter, "I love her. More than anything in the world. She loves me too. And yet--she chose the bathroom over time she could have spent holding me?"

Her older brother Peregrine, 3, is also perplexed.

"People like to be with people," he explained, "We do things together. It's part of human nature. We share our experiences. It's not the going to the bathroom thing that got me. I mean, everybody has to go potty once in a while, right? It's the fact that she just up and went, alone. She invited no one to go with her."

We asked if Peregrine ever desired to use the bathroom alone.

"No, never!" he exclaimed, and then added, "Well, of course I don't want Sylvia in with me. If I hear her even crawling in the direction of the door, I scream. Usually I stand by the door and hold it shut while screaming until my mom picks Sylvia up. Not that I can do that now that I've ripped the door out of its hinges. Now I just scream. But, I'm getting off track, as usual. This has nothing to do with Sylvia and me. Never would I ever shut my mother out of the bathroom, unless I was planning on eating soap or dismantling a toilet paper roll. A mother-son relationship is nothing like a brother-sister relationship. They're different entities entirely. Mothers and sons want to be together. They do things together."

We asked Sylvia the same question. Does she ever use the bathroom alone?

"No!" she responded, "Never! And I just really don't understand it. I mean, she's still got a lap when she's sitting on the toilet, right?"

Did they hear from their mother, or was there simply the sound of terrifying silence?

"Oh, she called to us," Sylvia responded, "She was all like, hey, Sylvia, I'm still here, I love you, I'll be back in a second. What on earth does she mean, still here? Way off in the bathroom is not still here. That's, like, in another country. If I can't get there in five seconds of fast crawling, that does not qualify as still here."

"We're not actually sure it was her," Peregrine confessed in a low voice, "It could have just been a tape recorder. She was saying really generic things--'I'm still here' and the like. When I asked her a question about police monster camper firetrucks driving through rocks, she claimed she 'couldn't understand me' because I 'wasn't talking loud enough.' It was just really canned and rote sounding. I didn't want to scare Sylvia, so I didn't say anything, but inside I was like, that is not my mother. My mother knows everything. She gives me detail, not one-liners that make no sense."

When asked if their mother had left the door open, or deliberately shut them out, Peregrine and Sylvia were quick to reply that she had, indeed, left all avenues of entrance and exit available for their use.

"But that's not the point," Peregrine insisted, "The point is that she went at all. Sure, she left the door open, but if she had truly welcomed our company, she would have invited us to go with her. She would have come into the room where we were both playing peacefully, and said, hey, I'm going to the bathroom, who wants to come sit on my lap and discuss the elimination process with me? It's not like she has a problem interrupting our play--she's quick to do it if it's nap time or dinner time or something. Why not now? It's just really fishy."

"I knew she was there," Sylvia added, "I crawled, I don't know, ten whole feet maybe? in the direction she'd gone. But I couldn't see her, it was so confusing. So I just put my head down and wailed. Then Peregrine put a pillow on my head."

When Nelson returned, she simply acted as though nothing had occurred.

"She just walked back out and was like, hey, P, what are you holding? And I was like, a lego, because it was. And then she started talking to me about fire trucks. It was a total distraction tactic, and it really made me suspicious. What was she hiding in there? Does she eat ice cream or something? It's not like I would have bothered her, in there with her. We would have talked, had good fellowship. I would have peered in the toilet and asked her about it. Totally normal stuff. I don't know what she's afraid of."

And how did Sylvia feel about seeing her mother after her long absence?

"I love her!" Sylvia exclaimed, "She's just--the best! I mean, she's soft, she's funny, she's the coolest person in the world except Peregrine, she has all these magic ways of getting stuff down and making food come out of boxes, and she even makes her own milk. I just--I don't know what to say, I love my mom."

We are currently monitoring Mrs. Nelson to see if this was merely an out-of-character mistake in judgment, or if there are deeper neurological imbalances causing her unorthodox behavior. Meanwhile, everything seems back to normal--for the time being.

Saturday, August 2, 2014

Minus Four Wisdom Teeth

So, I got my wisdom teeth out on Thursday. I've had them in for about ten years now--they came through when I was in college--but they're in perfectly straight and they've never caused me any pain. Dentists have told me I need to get them out because my mouth is way too small for them, but I've put it off, primarily because I've never had dental insurance, and also, who wants to volunteer for surgery without significant motivation?

But we have dental insurance now, and they did need to come out, and the dentist convinced me it would be okay for breastfeeding because he would just give me standard post-C-section narcotics (presumably safe to nurse with), and I would only need local anesthetic.

That's right. Local anesthetic. So, basically, being wide awake while someone puts multiple shots into my mouth, and then holding my mouth open while four teeth are extracted.

But, I bit the bullet and scheduled it. Because sometimes you just have to.

It was unpleasant, not gonna lie. It's disturbingly easy to remove teeth--just a little bit of pulling and shoving, and out they pop. Or, at least, three of them did. The fourth was a bit more stuck--the dentist accused it of having "very long roots"--and it took pulling, shoving, and a fair bit of drilling. Eventually, I took to just closing my eyes. Because I wasn't in pain (twelve shots will do that to you), and I wasn't even that uncomfortable, but watching the dentist approach the inside of my mouth with various torture devices was a bit much. I still have no idea what the drilling was all about. I know it required three stitches to repair. But, I wasn't about to ask him.

Also, teeth sometimes crack when they are being pulled. I had been warned about this, but I thought I could handle it, seeing as how I wouldn't be feeling them cracking. But, it turns out, the body has a very visceral reaction to hearing its own bones breaking, even if no pain was involved. It was gross, memorable, and will now haunt my nightmares. As will the smell of something burning during the drilling episode.

It was funny, however, how much they expected me to communicate with them during the surgery. Not just yes-no questions either. They would ask me if I felt pain, or just pressure, or a little bit of both? They asked me how old my kids were. While my difficult tooth was being drilled, the dentist squirted a lot of water in, and most of it ended up lodged over my tracheal opening. When I politely indicated that something was wrong, they started asking me all sorts of questions about what, exactly, I was feeling. Pain? Pressure? Coldness? Sharpness? Bad sound effects? My mouth was completely numb, and wedged open, with a drill inside. Unfortunately, there isn't a convenient hand sign for "Chinese water torture."

My recovery has been pretty easy, though. I was on Vicodin for a day, and it was gross. I felt awful while taking it, so I've just been on ibuprofen since. Andrew has been home to help with the kids, which means I can just rest, which is bliss. I haven't been too swollen, and I've been able to talk.

And the kids have been sweet about it, too. Sylvia is kind of missing me, since I'm not supposed to lift her, but Peregrine has some basic understanding of what's going on. When I first came home, all numb and unable to talk, he put his arms around my neck and started singing "Rockabye Mommy" to me (actually, he started with "Rockabye Peregrine" and then realized that he was in the caretaker role, not me).

However, small child understanding only goes so far. Later that afternoon, after snuggling in bed with me for awhile, he nodded and me gently and said, "Mommy, get up and decided to give us dinner."