Monday, August 22, 2011

On writing.

This morning I was in a crabby mood. I wanted to write and complain about everything "wrong" right now. I wrote a few sentences of complaints, and that was it. I ran out. No more things to complain about. Was I really so upset about 2 sentences' worth of bad news? How couldn't I see that before? How silly of me.

The good thing about my writing here is that this phenomenon happens often. When I write something down and reread it before clicking "publish" I am forced to see how stupid I am to be complaining about my life. How little my problems are compared to what could be wrong. It's easier to see the humor in my situation when I'm reading through it instead of experiencing it first hand. I become a spectator, and what was once my anger becomes no more than words on a page. It is easier to let go.

In some ways, writing for me is better than talking to friends. In an attempt to console you, friends will tell you that your anger is valid, that they would be mad too. They empathize with you because they like you. And while empathy can be nice and helpful, sometimes it just gets in the way of getting over yourself. By writing here to no one in particular I can hold up a true mirror to myself.  No judgments are made for or against any side, it's just all the facts laid out in front of me.

The blog doesn't say, "Yes, I'm sorry that happened to you. It wasn't your fault." It doesn't say, "You were in the right do to that! I would have done the same thing." It just holds my words up there for me to reread, to reanalyze, to see from a new perspective. And sometimes it's just what I need.

It's good to be reminded sometimes of how good my life is.

This morning, like every morning, Oliver crept into our bedroom and climbed up on our bed. Instead of demanding breakfast or telling me to get up, he nuzzled his face against my neck, whimpering and wiping snot all over me. I wanted to be mad because the snot was all over and I wasn't ready to get up. Doesn't he know better than to come wipe snot all over people?

Actually, no he doesn't. He's just a little boy and he only wanted me to comfort him. How nice is it that my small boy wants to hug me to feel better. How nice is it that my hug does make him feel better? That he wants me to comfort him, hug him, hold him... That is amazing.  Even if we're both sick and snotty, he wants me and for now that's good enough. It doesn't get any better than that.

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Evening discussion.

After coming home from the grocery store, Oliver and I sat down to a pre-dinner snack of cantaloupe. We sat across from each other at the table, eating our melon in silence, juice dripping down our chins.  Then Oliver says,

"Hi, Mom."
"Hi, Oliver."
"(Is the) cantaloupe good?"
"How was your day?"
"Good, Oliver. Thanks for asking."

And then we went back to eating in silence, the only noise between us the juicy squish of Oliver gnawing on huge chunks of fruit.

A few minutes later I replayed the conversatioon in my head and started laughing out loud. Really? My toddler just had that conversation with me? You're kidding, right? Squeaky voice and pronunciation aside, that is the exact same conversation I might have with a 30-something dinner guest.

Oliver saw me laughing for seemingly no reason and asked, "Mom? (Are you) Okay?"

Why yes, Oliver, I'm just fine.

Monday, August 15, 2011


I simultaneously hate and enjoy teaching Oliver to do things for himself. On one hand, it means that whatever I teach him to do by himself is no longer my responsibility. Lord knows I have enough to do already.

On the other hand, it means that Oliver will extrapolate on his new skills and  use them in settings that I deem inappropriate for a less than two year old child.

For example, I  taught him to unzip his clothing, and he taught himself to unzip the suitcases and leave all contents strewn about. I taught him to pour dog food into the dog's bowl and he taught himself to pour yogurt into my potted plants. I taught him to wash his hands and he taught himself to wash the controller he'd grimed up with his PB&J fingers. In the toilet.

The list goes on. Today he showed himself to the door and tried to make a break for Grandma's.

Me: No, Oliver. You do not run out the door to go to Grandma's house by yourself.
Oliver: I do.
Me: No.
Oliver: ...yes.
Me: You need to go back home.
Oliver, writhing on the floor: I CAN'T!

Did I teach him to unlock our door? Not directly. I did teach him to unlock our mail box. I did show him how to open his little plastic tool box... Apparently, those things are close enough to unlocking a real door that he can improvise enough to do the job on his own.

More than a few times I've heard the door slam shut and had to chase him down the hall back into our apartment. The only thing stopping him from actually walking to Grandma's house is that he cannot yet reach the lock release on the building's man entrance door. And that, I'm certain, is only a matter of time. As a deterrent, I've taken to booby trapping our entrance way, littering the ground with the noisiest, most temperamental toys we've got. His stride isn't long enough to step over, so he invariably sets off a barking dog or a revving engine before he can reach the door.

It's not the prettiest strategy in the world, but it works. As long as we remember to lock the door and keep tall, climbable structures away from the door he's pretty well kept.

But... as sometimes happens when a person gets up at 6AM every morning,  forgetfulness does happen. And then your neighbors have to return your child to your doorstep while you mumble excuses.

Tuesday, August 9, 2011


It's not even 8:00am as I write this and I'm already wishing for nap time.  Yesterday I bent sideways to pull Oliver up onto my lap and pulled something in my back. Now it hurts if I reach the wrong way, and I can't pick up Oliver. It's good that we switched him into the big boy bed because now he can climb in himself. Ive been changing him and eating with him on the floor so I don't have to lift him. It's kind of pathetic.

Then, in a move I knew was stupid, I watched Jared's show right before going to bed and it gave me terrible nightmares coupled with fun back pain. I must have been up 6-7 times last night.

Oliver decided he had to get up at 6:00am. Jared and I both were too tired to fight making him go back to bed so we put Toy Story 3 on the laptop between us in bed. He watched while we slept.

Only 8.5 more hours until Jared comes home.

Monday, August 8, 2011

Cookies for Breakfast.

I was getting ready for the day when I noticed that Oliver was mysteriously silent in the other room. I walked out to the kitchen and found him up on our high bar stool chairs, chocolate smeared on his face and belly.

Oliver climbed up onto the stool, climbed up onto the counter, grabbed the bag of monster cookies, and then sat back down at the counter to have a civilized breakfast.  That part just kills me. The fact that he felt like he had to sit on the chair and eat them at the counter. Like an adult. Like Jared & I would.

When I confronted him about climbing onto the counters, he didn't have much to say for himself.

In fact, I think he was quite proud.
"Were you eating a cookie?"
"Well, at least, was it good?"

I told a friend of mine this story and she said, "How do you keep yourself from laughing at situations like that?"

I don't.

Saturday, August 6, 2011

Why am I still up?

Oliver went to bed a bit after eight tonight in his new, exciting, fantastic big boy bed. I set up his room for him and when he walked in he exclaimed, "Big bed! Neat!"

He didn't try to get out when we told him it was bed time. He crawled up into bed, covered himself with his blanket and said goodnight to me. I haven't heard a peep since then. What a wonderful little boy.

It's past midnight now. Why am I still awake? I don't know. Something stupid inside of me is keeping me up, making me remember when he was little littler. When I was scared to leave him in that huge crib (that now seems small) all by himself when he first came home from the hospital. How I worried about leaving him overnight at my parents' for the first time. When I worried he would be scared to sleep in his new bedroom for the first time after we moved.

I worried today that after making this switch that he would fight it and be up all night, wandering into our room at all hours... but so far, he hasn't. He was excited for change. He  embraced it and now he's doing just fine, like so many other obstacles he's encountered.

This is just one more thing I've worried over for nothing. I need to give him more credit and accept that he is his own brave person now.

I've gone in twice to check on him, and he's still just as I left him - tucked in a far corner of his bed, holding on to a plastic dump truck with a sippy cup of water under his arm.

I very rarely go in to check on him anymore, but every time I do it reminds me of how I used to walk into his room when he was a newborn. I used to be able to walk in and trip over dirty laundry and make a huge racket, but he'd remain fast asleep.

Now if I try to sneak into his room and I make even the slightest noise he lifts his head up and says, "Mama? Hi."

I know it's so cliche to say that kids grow up fast, and I'm not even really saying that I miss those newborn days because I so enjoy the way he is now but... seriously. Something so trivial as changing his bed can make me remember so much. 

It's crazy.

Thursday, August 4, 2011

Conversations with my (not actually) two year old.

Dinner is always interesting with Oliver. He wanted to call his grandma on the phone, but she was out. We made a video message for her instead. This is what typically takes place around our dinner table each night.

If you watch, you can see that he has a couple of problems with counting the numbers two and four. Why two and four, you ask?

Somehow, in his head, Oliver is convinced that he is two. He isn't. But he's still convinced. Whenever he counts and the number two comes up, he must tell everyone that he  " TWO!"

Finally, we overcome the issue with two and three comes out okay, but four is another temptation. It sounds like he's yelling "Eeee, Eee, Four!" but he's really (trying) saying "I am THOR!" He cannot distinguish between "Thor" and that stupid number after three.

Why does he say this? Because my mom bought him a toy hammer, and he loved to carry it around. Jared, seeing the tiny boy with a giant hammer, told him he looked like Thor, the hammer wielding Norse god.

Not pictured: My child.
Seeing how hilarious we thought it was when he yelled "I.... am.... THOR!" he now takes every opportunity to do just that. And if you have to do that in the middle of counting? Well, you have to.

In fact, when the second video starts, you catch the tail end of another "I... am... THOR!!!!"

Here are subtitles for the second movie:

Oliver reaches for the pitcher on the table.
Me: No, don't touch everything. You're kind of gross. You need to take a bath.
A spoon falls to the floor.
Oliver: Ooooooo-oops!
Me: Oops.
Oliver: It drop!
Me: Yeah, it did drop.
Oliver: Woops! (unintelligible) ..Yogurt? Yogurt! Yogurt. Yogurt. Yogurt.
Me: You want yogurt now?
Oliver: I like it.
Me: I know you like it.
Oliver: But. But I('m) yucky.
Me: But you're yucky. laughs
Oliver:  But..... ....Juice. Juice.
Me: Now you want juice instead?
Oliver: Uh huh.
Me: What kind of juice do you want?
Oliver: Orange juice.
Me: You want apple or grape?
Oliver: App-changes mind Grape!Uh huh.
Me: Uh huh. laughs Alright, well.. Let's clean you up a little bit and then you can have a little bit of juice, okay? Say goodbye to Grandma.
Oliver: Grandma, bye Grandma!

Don't you all want to come over to dinner now that you see what you're missing?

On raising a nonchristian child in our Christian world.

99% of our family disagree with us on our religious stances, or lack thereof.

I.E. We teach Oliver nothing religious and actively shield him from participating in overtly religious practices.

Why? Because. Because we think it's best, of course. We do everything for him because we think it's best. We don't hate Christians or people of any religion. If our friends and family believe it, that is their right and I'm happy for them. But for them, it's a major stressor that we don't share their beliefs and that just seems unfair.

Both Jared and I were troubled by religion when we grew up. I don't really want to speak for Jared's exact experiences, but I know we were both scared into belief by constant threat of hell. It was terrifying. I never believed any of the other things I was taught in Catholic school, yet I was still scared of hell.

I was taught, over and over again, that if I died with a mortal sin on my soul I was going to burn and suffer for all eternity. Life was never "good for you, you're a great person!" it was always "Good for you, you've avoided eternal punishment! ....For now."

Intentionally skip Mass on a Holy Day of Obligation? "Maliciously" lie?  Dishonor your parents? Feel those flames licking your skin - Or at least that's what they told me.

If I felt like Oliver could understand and process the information to make a decision and choose Christianity, I would absolutely allow him those influences.  But since he can't? It'll have to wait.

I don't want him to feel like I did. To be the only kid who really didn't believe, even in Grade 1. To feel that incessant guilt for not believing, despite trying. To never feel good enough because you don't believe. To want to believe just so everyone would stop bothering you. To try and try and try to believe just so you could fit in. To sometimes fake belief to get by.  To constantly feel guilty, afraid, unsafe - even when you've done nothing wrong and you're perfectly safe.

Worse still, I do not want other people  to lock him into a room and force him to accept Jesus as his personal saviour. I do not want other people to constantly pick at him, to wear him down on his beliefs before he is old enough, wise enough, sure enough to defend himself. I want him to know that he doesn't always need to defend himself, that sometimes it's okay just to know he's right. To know that his beliefs are his choice and no one can change them for him without his permission. I don't want anyone to make him feel like he is a bad person just because he is not Christian. All of these things I've personally experienced, and it hurt me. Jared has been hurt in similar ways.

We do not want that pain, that fear, that guilt for him.

Once he reaches an age where he can decide for himself - when he understands that not all grown-ups are infallible - well, then he can learn. Then he can decide. And if he chooses Christianity, Islam, Judaism... Great! We will not try to dissuade him of his beliefs. We will congratulate him on searching for himself and deciding what is true.

Until then, we're teaching him what we think is right:

Be nice to people, be nice to yourself.  Try to be fair when you can, but when you can't accept that that's life. Do not harbor hate, not towards anyone. Thank people when they give you something. Clean up after yourself. Eat your vegetables.  Take care of your family.  Try your hardest in everything you do. Accept what you're given and work with what you've got.  If you want things to be different, do something to change them yourself. Be truthful. Be happy in all things. Ask for help if you need it. Respect that other people's differences and similarities make them who they are.

Above all, we want him to do these things not because he is living in fear but because they are good. Because he is good, and he should know that.

If we instill those beliefs in him and he lives by those truths, what more could we ask of him? Oliver is a great, happy, loving little person right now, and I have no doubt that he will continue to be.  I think we must be doing something right.