Jesus Christ and Other Stories

Dear Love Bug,

I fear these notes may be increasingly few and far between. Daddy and I are working on a project that may be months in the making, and it’s occupying a lot of free time. It’s also much too premature to really say anything about it, but if I’m not writing as regularly, that’s why. 

It’s a long Fourth of July weekend, and we’ve hit the dog days of summer. Thick air, immediate sweat, intense thunderstorms. None of it seems to phase you. You ran wild around your friend D’s house this afternoon while we were there for an early Independence Day cookout, usurping all his toys. You have a big personality, and sometimes I feel like you steamroll quieter kids. 

And speaking of quiet, you are not at all it. Aside from talking incessantly, which you’ve been doing for a while now, you have taken to repeating yourself over and over again if you get no response or a response you don’t agree with. It’ll go something like this, which a actually happened today:

Me: “There’s leftover pizza in the fridge so I think we’ll have that for lunch.”

You: “I want peanut butter jelly for lunch.”

Me: “But we need to eat the pizza before it goes bad so we’ll eat that.”

You: “I want peanut butter jelly for lunch.”

Me: . . .

You: “I want peanut butter jelly for lunch. I want peanut butter jelly for lunch. I want peanut butter jelly for lunch. I want peanut butter jelly for lunch. I want peanut butter jelly for lunch. I want peanut butter jelly for lunch. I want peanut butter jelly for lunch.”

This morning, when Daddy and I were upstairs getting ready to head out with you to run some errands, we heard you bang into something downstairs, followed by “Ow! Jesus Christ!” I nearly died. It’s not like I ever say that or anything. 

How come you repeat that but not our constant pleases and thank yous?

The other day, we were headed down to Food Truck Wednesday at the firehouse–it’s become somewhat of a midweek ritual at this point–with Daddy hauling you down in your wagon. As you were bouncing along the sidewalk, you declared, “I want a dog. Can I have one for my birthday?” (Your birthday, by the way, has become an obsession. You talk about it All. The. Time. In fact, it’s become your way of showing or repealing favor. If you’re feeling lovey toward us, it’s “You can come to my birthday party.” If you’re mad: “You can’t come to my birthday party!” Said with all the will of an angry toddler. 

Anyway, we both responded “no” because ain’t no way in hell that’s gonna happen. But you pressed us. “Why can’t I have a dog?” I responded, “I don’t think the kitties would be very happy if we got a dog.” You thought a bit, then said, “Well, can we get two dogs?” Of course this is perfectly logical. We have two cats, so getting a single dog wouldn’t work. They each need one, obvs. 

Oh, Sweet Pea, you keep me so entertained. 

Love you like crazy, kiddo,

Mamma

once around the sun

12 months

These past couple of weeks have been busy and exhilarating as we’ve immersed ourselves in celebrating your 365 (plus, now) days on this beautiful planet of ours. Can you believe how far you’ve come? You’ve traveled all the way around the sun. And while you were at it, you grew from a fairly unexciting (let’s be honest) blob into an enchanting, sweet, funny, big-hearted little boy.

Three Sundays ago (already!), we hosted your first birthday bash in a shelter in Patapsco State Park. We were blessed with glorious weather–not overly hot or muggy but delightfully warm with no precipitation–and 80 of your closest friends and family gathered to celebrate YOU. Nonna and I spent most of Friday and Saturday preparing five dozen cupcakes–split between my favorite chocolate cake recipe and a new, yummy lemon one–that we decorated with M&M’s to look like little blue, green, yellow and orange fish. I applaud myself for not getting overly Pinterest-y with the party, and there was no real theme, per se, but we had a banner and balloons; I strung up your weekly photos to show how much you’ve grown; and we threw in some sweet, personal touches like a homemade birthday hat and a “guest book” that you’ll enjoy for many years in its other capacity as Dr. Seuss’ Happy Birthday To You!

You were adorable. You delighted in being pulled around in your wagon, sharing rides with some of your friends, and when everyone sang to you, you broke into a huge grin. You gingerly poked your finger into your smash cake and sucked off the icing; eventually, though, you went whole hog, painting your high chair and yourself in a lovely, Smurfy hue. When the party died down, you slept off your frosting hangover in your stroller while we cleaned up.

On your actual birthday, Daddy and I played hooky to spend the day with you and reminisce about how you came into the world exactly one year prior. Nonna and Opa joined us for a trip to the zoo, where we walked for hours. You loved making monkey noises at the chimps and staring up at the giraffes, who hung their heads over the retaining wall to greet you (and undoubtedly to wish you a happy birthday). You fell asleep in the car on the way home and slept for hours, so we opened your mini mountain of presents without you.

Since then, we’ve been recuperating: assembling presents, finding room for them in our increasingly tiny house, writing thank-you notes, updating your baby book, editing photos, putting your cards into your scrapbook and just generally trying to keep up with you, a bigger challenge every day.

I could write thousands of words about what this past year has meant to me, how becoming a mom and finding my groove in that role has changed me and made me a stronger, more content human being. But it’s hard for me even to begin pulling that thread, as it unravels so many emotions. I have too much to say. Instead, I’ll share what I wrote in Dr. Seuss’ Happy Birthday To You! on a recent quiet evening when I had a chance to reflect on how your life has filled and shaped mine–and on how you have gifted me the best year of my life.

To my sweet Guppy, on your first birthday,

When you were still in my belly, I thought often about who you might become. I wondered how the tiny being who kept me company all those months would turn out. I never imagined a you as extraordinary as the 1-year-old you are, as smart, funny, vivacious, loving and bold as you’ve shown yourself to be. I also didn’t expect you to teach me so much in just one short year. And I’m not talking the basics, because sure, it’s important to remember to use the front flap of the diaper to protect oneself from the line of fire when in the midst of a change. And no one will argue that naps make everything better. I’ve also learned about your favorites–toys, books, blankets, foods–and about what makes you feel better when you’re sad or cranky. I can interpret your babbles better than anyone (except for maybe Daddy). But you’ve taught me so much more: that my heart can grow infinitely in all directions and you’ll continue to fill it with love; that I’m capable of a patience I’ve never conjured up before and that slowing life down comes more easily than I’d ever anticipated; that I should appreciate each moment–and try to stamp it in my memory–because each milestone passes more quickly than the last; that doing nothing in particular with you is actually everything; that I should wish nothing away. I know you’ll continue to teach me things for the rest of my life–that in the end, you may teach me more than I teach you, although hopefully I’ll teach you enough to help you not just survive but thrive when you’re ready to face the world on your own. I hope I can teach you kindness, compassion, courage, confidence, perseverance and tolerance. I hope I can teach you to be fair. Mostly, I hope I can teach you to love without limits–the way I love you. Thank you for that incredible gift. I am so very lucky to call you mine.

Happy birthday, Sweet Pea! Here’s to all of your many, many, many future trips around the sun–may they bring you endless joy!

I love you so much,

Mamma


  
  

  

the importance of being selfish

29 weeks

My birthday is next week. I’ll be 36 years old. Right now, after a night that ended abruptly at 4:15 (deep, dark 4:15 seen through the tiniest slits of my eyes because I just couldn’t pry them open) when you woke screaming (again), I feel like I’m going on 65. Actually, I’ll probably be better rested at 65.

Anyway, people (meaning Daddy and Nonna) have been asking me what I might want for my birthday, and the only things that come to mind are intangible. I have no need for anything other than: Sleep. Quiet. Time for myself.

This makes me feel selfish, of course. I’m not even seven months into this mom thing, and I’m already feeling like I need a break. A serious one. Perhaps a days-long one. I want to get my hair cut. I want to do my nails. I want to go shopping, once, for myself. And without you strapped to me.

I must have zero stamina. I must be weak. I must not really love you as much as other moms love their babies.

This makes me feel horribly, terribly guilty. After all, I wanted this. I wanted you. So not only am I selfish, I’m an ingrate.

And as I stood over you, then paced with you, then sat with you grappling at my neck and hair and drooling all over me at 4:15 a.m., feeling like I could cry but knowing that adding my tears to yours would do absolutely nothing to help the situation, I realized that I am grieving. I miss my old life desperately sometimes (mostly at 4:15 a.m.). More guilt.

But really, I think it’s natural for new parents to grieve their former lives, and it’s something–much like postpartum depression or sleep deprivation (both of which are no joke)–that we need to talk about more openly rather than in hushed tones, as if they’re something to be ashamed of, and setting up unrealistic expectations for storybook lives in which baby is the end all, be all, bestowing such joy upon the new family that nothing else matters anymore. I will say it: I miss my old life.

I miss the impromptu dinner dates with Daddy, the evenings at the theater, my after-work runs, my lazy weekend mornings idling hours away over the crossword puzzle, no more than two loads of laundry, evenings in front of the TV doing my nails, baking for no reason other than the joy of baking, reading for fun and time, time, time galore. I had so much time, I don’t even know how I spent it all. I miss the freedom. And I miss my relationship with Daddy and with my body, both of which have been neglected more than not.

So as I start a brand-new year of my life (which happens to coincide with the beginning of your eighth month, unbelievably), I’m telling myself not to look back but I’m gifting myself the freedom to be selfish every once in a while and not to feel bad about it. I know that taking care of me–whether it’s physically (I need to get back into the gym or at least go for a run before everything turns irrevocably to jelly) or emotionally (I will make arrangements so that Daddy and I can have us time every once in a while)–will ultimately allow me to take care of you more effectively and more willingly. Sleep would help, too.

There is courage and strength in being selfish, and I know I’m not alone in feeling that. Nonna sent me a piece about this with a note that it’s important. It is important. Nonna has taught me my whole life how to advocate for myself, and it’s critical now more than ever. If I allow my life to be consumed by yours or by our family’s, without thought to my own well-being, I will have failed her and myself.

While I will do everything in my power to teach you to be generous and big hearted and charitable and to do unto others as you’d have done to you, I will also teach you to be selfish when appropriate. Love love love with all your heart, but remember to love yourself most. I will try to do the same.


This Week in Guppy Growth

  • You tried pancakes for the first time, and toasted coconut ones at that. You are a fiend. I had to cut you off. (You also tried zucchini and didn’t hate it.)
  • You sat in a restaurant high chair for the first time and ate off the table when you and Daddy came to have lunch with me at work.