Sunday, June 23, 2013

"We can play for half an hour."

Ella asked if we could play soccer and baseball on the greenbelt after a long Target run with me. I told her to ask Daddy. After he agreed to play I overheard her say, "I want Mommy to not come," as I walked into the room. He gave me a sad face and almost started to speak when I quickly said, "That's good. I didn't want to play, anyway." He tells me they'll be back in half an hour.


Two minutes later, he's looking horrified and carrying her in at arm's distance; she's had a potty accident.

"Do you need help?" I ask, hoping I don't have to stop reclining on the couch.

"Yes," comes his desperate voice from the bathroom.

He's standing there staring at her standing next to the potty. They both look dumbfounded and forlorn.

Sigh. "I'll do it."

"Now we're not going to be able to play on the greenbelt!" he says.

She starts to cry, "I want to still play...."

"You can still play. Why not?" Please, this is not a punishable offense.

"Time wise."

"You still have time." Seriously? How long does he think it will take me to clean her up and change her panties?

"I want Mommy to come."

"No. Mommy needs a break," he says.


"I don't have to explain that one," he answers.

I don't say a word, except to ask her if she has to pee before they go back outside. She says no, but he tells her she has to try, and she does pee. He launches a one-sided discussion about the merits of going potty in the potty--the time saved, the cleanliness, the health.

Eighteen minutes of playtime remained before he had to start getting ready for work again.

My "thirty-minute" break has seven minutes remaining. 

No one talk to me.

Monday, May 06, 2013

Mommy Fail

After a bizarre 17-day stretch of Justin being either off or home from day shifts in time to tuck Ella in, we are on day 2 of a 9-day stretch of swing shifts (we only see Justin at lunch before Ella's nap).

Whenever we have more than four days in a row of any one type of shift, we get into enough of a rhythm that the transition to another type is rocky. Ella whines more, needs extra hugs and kisses, kicks and screams and pushes more. I know all of this and try to take it in stride.

So tonight, between our prayers of the day and the Lord's Prayer, she thrashed about a bit, whimpered, crawled into a ball with her head buried into the couch cushions next to me, then said, "I'm sad. I miss my daddy."

"I know, Love. I miss him, too. It's hard not to have him here for dinner and night-nights. He works so hard. But you know what? We're lucky because we get to see him in the daytime! A lot of kids don't get to see their daddies in the daytime, and we get to have lunch with him and sometimes go fun places with him. Like today, he got to come with us to your doctor appointment. Lots of daddies don't get to do that, but we get to do that together. Now let's say the Lord's Prayer and go night-nights."

She started thrashing about again, but we couldn't keep talking about it, so I started saying it without her, figuring she'd join in or at least just relax. She covered my mouth, "Don't say it!"

"We always say the Lord's Prayer together. We're going to say it." I know if I just skipped it, she'd decide as she crawled into bed that it was imperative to pick up where the record skipped, back on the couch, for prayers.

"No." She covered my mouth with her tiny hand.

I moved away and started singing it. Singing is how I've always gotten us through rough patches--since she first came home to live with us. I made up a song for getting her into the car seat and stroller, a song for getting dressed, a song for bathing and putting on lotion; now she knows all the words and asks for the songs or sings with us.

Right around "...thy will be done..." we settled into reciting it together.

Finally, we were ready to walk down the hallway to bed, past all of the family photos, which she has taken to stopping at to say, "Night, night, Mommy'n'Daddy... Grandma'n'Grandpa, etc."

"I have to do some work on the frames, so the pictures of Mommy and Daddy are in here, OK? You can say goodnight in here."


"I want to say night-night!"

"You can still say goodnight! They're just in here, instead of in the hallway. It's OK. See! Look!"

We were literally ten feet away from their usual spot, which is around the corner. I just took them off so that I could work on them while she slept and not make any noise.

"I want to say night-night in the hallway!"

"Really? You can't just say goodnight in here? The other pictures are still in the hallway. It's just those two of Mommy and Daddy that are in here."


"You want me to put them back up?" This is so not worth arguing about or standing on principle over. What's the principle? I'm changing things up on you when you're already upset about the change of not seeing Daddy at bedtime or in the morning? Because I didn't think it would be that big of a deal and I was wrong and you're two?


"OK. I have to put this stuff down." When Justin's not here, I have to carry her water and her pillow down the hallway, and sometimes her, too, so I'm loaded up. "Do you want to come with me? Do you want to see? They're all still up there. It's just these two."

She sits on the couch and sniffles, "I need a Kleenex!"

"They're right there next to you. Get one; I'll be right back."

I came back after hanging the photos and she wasn't in the living room. I heard the kitchen trashcan lid snap into position, and she turned the corner, smiling when she saw me. I knelt down and she ran, crashing into my arms.

We finished our routine--night-nights to everyone in the pictures in the hallway ("Why you not hang those two up?" "The paintings of me and Uncle Neil when we were kids? We don't need those ones. You don't say night-night to those ones. The ones of me and Daddy are up."), songs in the rocking chair, hugs at the bed, more songs, just one more song, one more hug, one more kiss, "I didn't get my hug!" one more song, one more kiss, "Bye-bye! I love you!"

We were running almost on schedule; I had all these plans for laundry and dishes and picking stuff up and writing stuff down once she fell asleep. I miss him, too, and the quaint Americana feeling there is about having dinner together and tucking her in together and watching TV together, but swing shifts mean more time to write, and watch political commentary instead of playoffs of sports we don't otherwise follow, and read.

But then, after all that everything, I just need a minute to recover. Maybe a glass of wine. Someone to tell all of this to before the feeling wears off and before the "new" old routine starts again tomorrow morning. So here I am. Forty-five minutes later, with nothing but a blog entry to show for it.

Friday, April 12, 2013

"going to work"

"Where's Daddy?"

"At work."

"Mommy go to work?"

I paused and breathed.

"No, Mommy doesn't go to work. I used to go to work. I used to be a teacher, like Miss Susan. But now I don't go to work and teach other kids, I take care of you."

"Yay!" She scrunched up her hands and raised them both in a cheer, flashing her crinkle-nose smile and everything.

It made me so happy. It felt so affirming. I felt like I had made the right decision. At that very moment, I knew that I was in the right place in the world.

A little part of me, when I was pausing and breathing, felt this flare-up of feminist hackles, but it just wasn't where I was.

I was talking to my little girl. She's two. It was almost bedtime and she was wondering where her daddy was. If I would go, too. She just needed to hear that no, I would not be going to "work." (I do wonder what she pictures in her mind's eye when we say Daddy's at work.) She just needed to hear that I would be staying with her. That she would not be left alone.

There would be another time for feminist teachings.

At that same moment, though, when my heart felt so full because my daughter was happy that I could stay at home to take care of her, I knew that I couldn't rely on her sweet face--the relief, the smile, the joy--to make this work feel right. I know that there will be times--there already are times--when it definitely does not feel like she is thrilled that I am with her.

This was not one of them.

Saturday, March 23, 2013

The First Night

After she put the sheet and the quilt on her new toddler bed, Ella picked up her blankie, unfolded it and struggled to arrange it to her liking.

It used to be folded in half and hung over the now missing crib rail, just like in the baby furniture catalogs.

"Do you want help?" I asked.

"Yes." I could hear the frustration in her voice.

I folded it in half and spread it at the foot of her quilt.

"No! Up there!"

"But we used to hang it on the railing, right here. If we spread it out over the quilt we won't be able to see the pretty flowers."

She climbed onto the bed. Thinking she was getting in a better position to help me arrange the blankie at the foot of the bed, I refolded it and laid it there.

She began to panic and then lay down the way she usually sleeps.

 "No!" she was crying.

It struck me.

"You still get to sleep with your blankie! Don't worry! Do you want to try lying down under the covers?"

"Yeah," she agreed in that way crying people do when they are being calmed.

She got off the bed and I folded her sheets back, like turn down service in a hotel. She crawled in. "Get all comfy!" I encouraged as I always do. Then, I covered her and laid the blankie over her quilt and rubbed her back as usual.

"Is that better? See, you still get to sleep with your blankie, even in a big-girl bed."

She smiled, got out of the bed and left the room. As she was leaving, I said, "Hey, you have to make your bed before you leave the room!" But she was gone, and I was happy to arrange my baby's bedding all by myself, like I used to do for her crib.

Throughout the evening, she would say, "I'm tired. I want to sleep."

"OK. Do you want to go to sleep right now? No dinner?"

She'd go on with what she was doing.

Later, "I'm tired. I want to sleep."

"Are you just saying that because you want to sleep in your big-girl bed?"

"Yes." We giggled and smiled at the cuteness, and she giggled back.

When it came time for bed, after our prayers and saying goodnight to the grandparents and friends in our wedding photos down the hallway, and wishing on a star, she went straight for her crib. I mean bed.

"Hey! We still have to do songs in the rocking chair!"

She stopped, turned, and walked over to it. When her lullabies were through, I picked her up, knowing I didn't have to carry her the few steps to her crib, I mean bed,but still wanting to hold her. Still wanting those arms around my neck and that weight of her body, still wanting my hug.

I put her down.

She climbed in and we saw her huge, beautiful, dimpled smile.

Two more lullabies. I didn't take them up-tempo as I sometimes do; I lingered over the notes I could reasonably hold.

"Good night! We love you!" We exited, stopping at the door as we must, so that she can lift her head and peek at us, blow us a kiss and say, "Bye-bye! I love you!"

Back in the living room, we hugged tight. Justin started to walk to his computer at the dining table, but I stayed, standing at the window, looking through the courtyard and through the hallway window, staring at her door. Waiting for it to open. He said something like, "She'll be fine. We'll hear her through the baby monitor..." I held up my hand to stop him, just wanting to be left alone as I usually am after I tuck her in when he's at work. He left, and I stared. Tears trickled down my cheeks.

When I finally went into the dining room, he looked at my teary face and joined me on the couch. I started to sob against his chest. "She doesn't need me anymore!"

He consoled, "That's silly. She still needs you to say prayers with her, and sing her songs, and give her water--and even though I hand her the cup and my hand is right there to take it back, she has to give it to you. She still needs you."

"But she's so big now. It's going by so fast!"

"I know."

The baby monitor was silent. She slept. I wrote my blog. He checked the basketball scores and played a video game and watched a little TV. We drank wine. We went to bed.

"Do we have to switch sides?" His Marine Corps instinct to protect against intruders if he's awoken abruptly can be scary.

"No, I trained myself that if I wake up to this," and he tapped my arm gently and repeatedly, "it's Ella."

She woke only once, about 2:30 a.m., making some struggling noises that escalated slightly. Justin went in; he always does if he is at home, since if I do it she is more likely to want me to pick her up, to hold her, to begin her day. "Covers!" I heard her say, as she would if they were bunched up against the crib wall. We're trying to teach her to re-cover herself, but it's a tough skill to master.

He reported back: They were on the floor, she was still in bed. She repositioned herself on her tummy in her usual spot in the crib... bed... and went back to sleep.

I woke up at 7 a.m., peacefully, while they still slept.

She's up! It's 8:37! Gotta go.

Friday, March 22, 2013

"I'm getting bigger, but not too big."

We didn't give her any warning. We knew as soon as we mentioned it, we would have to do it right away.

That's what she's like now.

We don't look forward to anything. In so far as, she never knows something exciting is coming soon. It just happens, within hours or even just minutes of when she hears about it.

It is our new policy.

Ever since the zoo.

In February, we had a mini-vacay to San Diego, to see some friends who were visiting from Arizona. In our naive excitement, we told Ella we were going to the San Diego Zoo when we planned it weeks before going.

The night before, she was crying, "I want to go to the zoo!"

"We can't go right now. We have to go to sleep first. The zoo isn't even open! The animals are sleeping! They have to sleep. We aren't allowed to see them until the morning, when it's sunny again."

Then, in the morning, "You have to drink your milk first. The animals aren't even ready for us to come over yet. They still have to eat their breakfast and brush their teeth and get ready. We still have to drive there, and it takes a long time."

So we didn't warn her.

We didn't discuss it.

Justin and I talked about it, but not with her. Ella cannot fit into a pack-n'play or hotel "crib" anymore. She does not sleep with us in our bed--she thinks we are a jungle gym and climbs all over us, poking us, seeing if her finger fits in our noses or ears or mouths, playing peek-a-boo... Ella is almost 39" tall and weighs 30 lbs. It's getting too hard for 65" me to lift her over the crib wall--her feet crash into the rail. Ella tries to climb into her crib each night, but as she hinges her leg over the rail, I pick her up, telling her, "Silly! People don't climb into their cribs!" I figure if she learns to climb in, she'll realize she can climb out, too.

Today, as she goofed around with us before letting us her lift her out of the crib after her nap, I tapped on its wall and looked as Justin.

"Are you working tomorrow night?"

"Yes. But then I have a night off and it's your parent's anniversary party, and then I work for the rest of the month."

"OK." I tapped again. "Tonight?"

"Are you sure?"

"The only reason I want to do it is that we can't go anywhere until she'll sleep in a bed."

I took Ella potty while Justin secretly got the directions off the floor of the crib to make sure we weren't missing any parts. Then, I told her we had to talk to her and brought her into her room.

"Do you think you're ready to take this wall off and sleep in a bed? Or do you want to wait and do it later?"

"Yes, wait and do it later."

We asked again.

"I'm ready now!"

"OK. But if we take it off, you have to sleep in your bed. You have to stay in bed until Mommy and Daddy come to get you." I didn't even want to mention the possibility of wandering around the house unattended.

Justin and I have to switch sides of the bed. He still has Marine Corps instincts--you can't sneak up on him while he's sleeping without having a reasonable expectation that he will instinctively try to defend himself. I should sleep on the side closer to the bedroom door.

After Ella helped us by getting the sheets from her dresser, I prepared to make the bed. We put the mattress cover and fitted sheet on together, and then I put the mattress back on the frame.

"There is no side wall. I can do it by myself," she told me as she looked straight into my eyes while holding the sheet.

I wanted to object, but couldn't figure out why, so I said, "That's true," and put down the quilt and picked up the cell phone video camera.

She was never as cute as when she said that, but eventually, the bed was made--with a tiny bit of coaching when she started to get really frustrated that the sheet wasn't straight.