Tag Archives: motherhood

Reflections on a year

Jake’s birthday is imminent.  In just a few days he will be one year old.

It’s so cliche,  but I cannot figure out where the last year went.  It’s been a year of a lot of changes — sold our house, moved back to NY state, quit my job/career thing.  Through all that Jake’s been happily along for the ride.  I spent five months of maternity leave just loving on him as much as I could, and he made it so easy.  He practically came out of the womb smiling.  And once he learned how to laugh, man, it barely stopped.  He is one happy guy.  His smile lights up his whole face and is, in a word, infectious.

After the maternity leave, I went back to work three days a week, and Jake went to day care with his sister.  He seemed to instantly win over the girls who worked in the infant room.  They would light up when we arrived in the morning, and gushed continually about what a wonderful baby he was.  He didn’t sleep much for them – he is and has always been incredibly sensitive to noise when he sleeps – but no matter to them, because his demeanor was always cheery and easy-going.

Then we sold our house, and moved, and I gave my notice at work, and my notice at day care, all in late September/early October.  At that point Lane had just started in a new classroom so her teacher wasn’t much attached to her yet or vice versa, so that wasn’t an issue… but because Jake was still a baby he had remained in the infant room, with the girls who doted on him without remorse.  But regardless, the two center managers knew Lane since she’d started there at six months old, and Lane’s previous teacher was now the teacher in the classroom Jake would graduate to once he mastered walking.  They all cried when I told them.  Cried.  I cried, too.  As much as I was looking forward to my days with my babies, it was emotionally very difficult to remove them from an environment where they were so well cared-for and loved, and where I knew they were safe.  I had about 15 minutes of sentimentality about leaving my job… leaving that day care center was so much more difficult for me.  I still miss them, and Lane still talks about a couple of her friends and asks to see them.

Of course, being home with them isn’t all gumdrops and lollipops.  There are times, like right now, where Frank just caught Lane smacking Jake and put her in time out and now she’s wailing from on our bed for me, like I’m going to go easier on her for being mean to her brother.  Or when Jake fights having his nails cut so hard I’m tempted to duct-tape him to a chair to get it done.  Or at the mall today when Lane decided listening was optional so she lost the privilege of visiting the Princess Store (a.k.a. the Disney Store) and she became a wet noodle and I had to carry her to the car wailing and wet-noodle-like.  And the times, which really occur nightly, where Jake refuses to sleep more than two or three hours at a stretch.

But mostly, really, it’s fun and amazing and awesome and fulfilling. I love watching Jake and Lane interact and love on each other, seeing them learn, seeing them play and playing with them, and more than anything feeling like I can be a better mother because I’m not trying to cram all that motherhood into the too-small window after work, when everyone’s tired and cranky from a long day.  Though I suspect Frank thinks I’m tired and cranky all day anyway, because that’s mostly what he sees when he gets home from work every day.  Two kids are a lot of work, especially when one of them is a three year-old with a body capable of sustaining a constant fusion reaction… because seriously, she barely eats, so cold fusion is the only way I can think of that she has as much energy as she has.

And her constant state of motion provides such a contrast to her brother.  He’s a cool, content dude.  Happy to be in a sling, happy to be in a stroller, happy to be in the playard, just happy.  Crying from Jake means one of three things:  he’s tired, he’s hungry, or his sister has him in a headlock.  Though, that’s becoming less true nowadays, since the boy is walking.  He’s hurt himself as much as Lane has injured him over the last couple weeks.

He’s not just walking either… he has a veritable inventory of skills.  He claps.  Oh, does he clap!  He claps after he walks, he claps when he hears anyone else clapping, even if they are on TV.  He claps when you laugh.  He’s quite a pointer, too.  He has one word, Dog, though it sounds like Duh.  I think in the last day or two Lane has been designated “A”.  He points at her and says “A”.   One of his most recent additions is tickling.  We’re big on tickling, and when I tickle Lane he tries to, too.  If you say “I’m gonna tickle you!” he wiggles his fingers at you.  He’s also waving with meaning, which is just awesome.  And, he knows the sign for milk, which we use for nursing.  He doesn’t use it to ask to nurse yet, but when he knows that breastfeeding is imminent he starts signing “milk”.  I think, though, his most impressive skill is climbing.  Given he’s spent most of his mobile life in this 2 bedroom apartment which completely lacks stairs, he can sure get up a flight of stairs awfully quickly.  Or get on a step stool.  Or on the padded ottoman in our living room.  He can nearly get himself into the bathtub by himself.

He’s just such a little person now.  I love it.

Kind of weird but mostly sweet

I’ve talked about breastfeeding before.

Jake’s still a nursling, and probably will be for the foreseeable future, especially at bedtime. And that’s fine.

Lane, pretty much is not. Which, given she’s closer to four years old than three years old, is also quite fine. These days, she will very occasionally ask to nurse at bedtime. Frequency-wise, we’re talking maybe once every two weeks. Our rule since around the time she turned three is that she can nurse if she asks, but only until I count to ten. And it works; she nurses, I count, she pops off happily. When the rule was implemented, she nursed vigorously for those ten seconds.  Gradually that has evolved into two seconds on, two or three seconds off, three seconds on, and then she’s off at about the eight count and she’s done.  I don’t foresee her nursing much longer.

Coupled with her increasing ability to communicate, our ongoing nursing relationship has become interesting.  After she nurses she usually reports that “Mommy’s milk is yummy” or that she likes nursing.  Once she told me my milk tasted like ice cream.  🙂   Last night was a first though… she asked to nurse, and after she was done and we cuddled in her bed for a minute, she looked at me and said, “Mommy, would you like to nurse from Alena?”

Umm…. well….

I responded something to the effect of, “Oh honey, that’s very nice of you, but only babies and kids can nurse from mommies.  I can’t nurse from you.”  And she was cool with it.  So we cuddled a little longer, and the whole thing just made me smile.  Nursing has become for her more a way to connect with me.  Usually the times she asks to nurse are after a busy day, or if she’s really tired and needs the little bit of extra comfort, or if she’s not feeling well.  I just thought it was so sweet that she wanted to offer that to me, too.

I miss my mom

I was laying with Lane tonight, trying to get her to fall asleep.  I was stroking her soft blond hair and singing her favorite Disney movie songs to try to lull her to sleep.  And as I lay there, I thought of my mom.

I thought about how she died, nearly ten years ago.  I thought about how she was only 47.  I thought about how, if I live as long as she did, that means I still have 15 more glorious years of life left, to play and cuddle and love and laugh and cry and squeeze every bit of joy out of every moment that I can.

I thought about what it would mean if I died when I am 47.  Lane will be 19, Jake would be 16.  I was 22 when my mom died, and I wasn’t nearly ready for it.  Of course, I had no warning.  She just died.  No real rhyme or reason, just slipped away quietly in the middle of the night.  And I wasn’t ready.  I wanted more time with her.  I needed more time with her.  I had only been an adult for a couple years at that point, really, and our adult relationship was really blossoming.  My brother was only 15 when she died, and I know he needed more time too, way more than I did.  Our dad sort of dropped the parenting ball after mom died, (not that he was great at carrying it before she died) and my brother was left to flounder.  In retrospect, I knew that would happen.  I knew it, but I wanted to believe it wouldn’t.  I wanted to believe my dad would rise to the challenge and be the parent that my brother needed through his formative years of high school.  But, it didn’t happen.  Part of my denial was self-serving — to admit my dad would shirk his parental duties would obligate me to move back home, to drop out of the graduate school program I’d just started when mom died, and make sure my brother became the man I knew he was capable of being.

Not to imply he’s turned out poorly.  Now, he’s 24, and he’s doing OK.  Career- and education-wise he’s a bit of a ship without a sail.  He knows he wants more for himself, but he’s not sure what and not sure how.  I feel like he harbors a lot of anger.  But he laughs a lot, and smiles a lot, and has healthy (from what I can tell) relationships with decent girls.  He has artistic pursuits that bring him contentment.  I love him to death and no matter what, I’m really proud of him.  But I think with better, stronger, and/or more present adult guidance after mom died, maybe he’d have his bachelor’s degree by now.  Maybe he wouldn’t ache inside quite so much.  Maybe he’d have more direction.  I don’t know.  I just want him to be happy, and I know for a long time he really wasn’t… and I probably could have helped make that happen but I was too involved in my own world, 300 miles away.

Anyway, that was a tangent I didn’t really mean to go on but I just feel like spouting some emotion for a bit, even if it’s a bit incoherent.

I guess it all comes back to that I feel like a lot of how I define myself sort of goes back to losing my mom when I was still pretty young.  I read a book a few years ago called Motherless Daughters which helped validate those feelings.  (If you have also lost your mom, especially early in life – through death or abandonment – this is an excellent read.  I can’t recommend it enough.)  I do wonder how much of who I am today would have been the same even if she were alive, and how much was shaped through the lack of her presence and the process of grief of losing her.  It’s a riddle I know I’ll never have the answer for… but it really doesn’t matter.  I am who I am (or, “I yam who I yam” if you’re a one-eyed sailor with a spinach affinity).

And I guess more than anything, I want more than the cards my mother was dealt.  I want to meet my grandchildren.  I want to live long enough to use my retirement savings.  I want to get old enough to have lots of wrinkles.  I want to celebrate all those metallic wedding anniversaries (my parents only made it to their 23rd).  But if I do go early like my mom did, I want to have been a good enough mother that Lane and Jake will miss me terribly.

Sleep, sleep! My kingdom for some sleep!

This is really starting to take its toll.

I’ve mentioned previously, my daughter is a night owl.  Often she isn’t asleep until 1:00 or 2:00 a.m.  Rare is the night she’s asleep before midnight.

Bedtime is a struggle and it gets me keyed up.  By the time I’m ready to fall asleep, Jake (the 10 month-old) is up to nurse.  I’m clearly not getting enough solids in him because he’s up way too much to nurse, in my foolhardy opinion.  But these days he’s only mildly interested in baby food, preferring foods he can feed himself.  But those end up more on him than in him.  And the cycle continues.

So, I’m up with him, as I’ve said, somewhere between two and a hundred times a night.   And then they are both ready for the day around 11:00 a.m., which is late enough for me to get a fair night’s sleep usually, but not nearly enough to feel well-rested, especially since Jake’s up so often.

I probably really need to just yank Lane out of bed at 8:00 a.m. a couple mornings in a row and get her shifted to a different schedule.  I just so do not have the willpower to get myself up to do it… and the cycle continues.  I really shouldn’t have the audacity to bitch about it when I could probably fix it with a little effort (and a lot of coffee).

Regardless, I’m tired.

2007, you were an interesting year

It seems all the rage on blogs to take a moment to reflect on the past year as it draws to a close.  Well, it’s probably more a human quality, and since humans write blogs, well, there you go.

2007 has led me down an interesting path.  At the end of 2006, I was very pregnant, I’d just finished recovering from a broken foot, I was working full time in a promising career at a Fortune 100 company, we owned a large 4 bedroom house in central NJ.

Now, I have a 10 month-old son…. he is by far the biggest thing that happened to me in 2007.  Jake is simply amazing.  He has a curiosity for the world that is already so apparent, it won’t be long before he’s taking apart our DVD player just to see what’s inside.  And he’s happy.  Nearly anything can elicit a giggle or even a hearty laugh from him and it melts my heart every time.  He already has a first word – dog – although that ‘guh’ sound at the end apparently is just too pedestrian for him to bother with.  It’s a fitting first word; we have a golden retriever and he thinks she’s just awesome.  He’s pretty laid-back too, in general, which is good given his sister’s appetite for wrestling with him.

Speaking of his sister, she’s had quite a year too, and it’s been fun (mostly) to watch.  2007 has brought Lane her 3rd birthday, successful potty-training, and the ability to sleep through the night.  Lest you think that has made our jobs as parents easier, don’t you get ahead of yourself.  😉  Lane is – how shall I say this – a complicated child.  The hip way to describe her is ‘spirited’.  She is as intense a person as I have ever met.  There is not an ambivalent bone in her body, and she feels every emotion and shares every opinion with a strength of passion I hope will serve her well in life.  She also may have a birth defect, that being that her body has mastered cold fusion.  This little girl has more energy than anyone I’ve ever seen.  She can go and go and go and go and go.  Sleep is an afterthought for her.  If there is a point where she can burn off so much energy that she will go to bed earlier, we haven’t found it yet.  Please don’t think for a second I’d change any of that.  Lane is awesome fun to have around.  Her joy and verve and exuberance are contagious, and she’s a constant reminder that life is meant to be lived, and be fun, and what use is it to sit around?!?  This year has also brought Lane an exploding vocabulary and the daily joy of having conversations with her.

Anyway, back on track here!  While I started the year as a working, career-minded (though increasingly ambivalent), homeowning mother, I’m ending it, well, I’m still a mother.  We sold our house to move closer to my husband’s parents in downstate NY.  I quit the promising career at the great company, which was at the same time exhilarating and the scariest thing I’ve ever done.  We moved to another state and are renting an apartment while we househunt for a house that, while it should still be sufficiently roomy and nice enough, will not be the house we left in New Jersey. 

2007 has turned me into a stay-at-home mom to two kids, and though I never knew it, it’s exactly what I always wanted.

2008 promises to be a great one for our family, too.  There will be another move when we buy our new house.  My husband is an actuary, and 2008 should be the year he attains his Associate of the Society of Actuaries, which anyone who is or knows an actuary can tell you, that’s a big deal.  Jake will turn a year old, and will reach a ton of milestones this year – talking, walking, maybe even doing our taxes for us.  We’re going to Aruba in April.  It should be a pretty amazing year for our family. 

And here’s wishing that your 2008 is full of discovery and wonder and joy and love.

I actually have time to miss, now

It’s been two or three days since my kids had any presents to open, and I think they have realized that the cornucopia has finally emptied.

They got so. much. stuff.  Oh my goodness.

But they got some great stuff, I must admit.  Nothing too violent or huge or lame.  They got some clothes. 

Some of my presents, however…. yeah, some lameness abounded.  My dad’s presents always seem to reflect a strong influence from whomever he is dating that birthday/Christmas.  His female companionship of late, let’s call her Linny…. Linny seems to have a great deal of sentimentality coursing through her veins.  She is a lovely woman, and in many ways that make my heart smile she reminds me of my mother a lot.  It’s been nearly a decade since my mom died so that striking resemblance is very heartwarming, and not at all threatening in a way it might have been 7 or 8 years ago.

And now that the madness has ended, I actually have had time to miss my mom.  Since it has been over 9 years since she passed, the memories are fuzzier.  In fact, they are starting to be less of “how it was” memories and more of imagining how it could have been, since time has mercilessly marched forward since she died, and she hasn’t been around for her memory to evolve with the lives we have that are so much more different than they were in 1998.  Then, I was just starting grad school.  I knew my husband, but he was just a boyfriend at that point — a serious boyfriend I’d dated for three years, and we both figured we’d get married, but there was no ring and no firm plans at that point.  I certainly didn’t have kids.

And now, having the time to think about it post-madness, I’m sad.  I can’t say I miss things the way they were — because the way they were was me single, no kids, no dog, etc. and I like where I am now.  I miss what could have been.  My mom would have been a wonderful grandmother.  She would have doted on my kids, cuddled them incessantly, loved them fiercely, and bragged about them constantly.  She was a woman with a big heart and a wealth of kindness, and my kids’ lives would have been enriched to have her around. 

So I miss my mom.  I miss her laugh, and her smile.  I miss the way flicked her middle fingernails with her thumbs when she was thinking.  But mostly my heart aches for her love – the unconditional love she had for me, and the love I know she would have had for my children.

At the same time, it is certainly nice to idealize what would have been.  Maybe she would have though the extending breastfeeding relationship I have with my kids is weird.  Maybe she would pin the blame on me that my daughter is such a night owl (I’m writing this at 1:50 ish in the a.m. because she only fell asleep at 1:30 a.m.).  Maybe if she hadn’t died we would have had a big falling-out over something.  Maybe if she hadn’t died, she wouldn’t have gotten along with my in-laws and that would have been a big source of tension.  So in a way it’s nice that I can imagine that everything to this point would have been hunky-dory, but I have no way to know if it would have been or not.

But that doesn’t change that my mom was awesome, and I loved her immensely, and I miss her with every ounce of my being.  I wish she were here.