Turns Out, Eventually It’s Not All About The Baby

Stop me if this sounds crazy, but we might be getting our lives back.

RR will be five in June and the last time I felt like Debra and I were distinct people with lives that were entwined rather than utterly melded was sometime in the summer of 2009. In fact, let’s go ahead and consider our move to this place in 2008 the marker.

It’s not that I don’t love the melding. We have been in sync (I think, at least as much as two different people trying to potty train another person can be) and in sync feels solid and predictable. I know that she will always have a smile. I know that she will cook dinner when I don’t want to. I know that we agree on bedtime and baths. We go on family walks and have family suppers and have family dance parties. We go to gymnastics together and swim lessons; we carpool to work together and sit together in meetings. Our lives have run together in a blue and yellow make green kind of way. We are all green.

But lately I’m catching glimpses of yellow again. She has a new music partner. She’s composing and playing. I’m hearing new music for the first time in at least two years, probably six. She’s out of the house for a music class, to practice, to meet friends. And by seeing her yellow, I can see my own blue again. For example, I have this moment to write to you. And I’m feeling less concerned about going to meditation on a Tuesday night or trying a class at the gym. Those things have felt inarguably selfish, regardless of what Debra had to say about it. The things I love about her are those yellow things. The things I love about myself are the blue things, the solitary things, the challenging, individual things.

I don’t feel like anything was lost even though it feels like I’m getting something wonderful back. But I can see with great clarity how we have been leaning heavily on our strong relationship in order to thrive. And that’s good. And I’m glad. But I like the distinct threads as much as I like the green rope.

Wii Are Tired of Winter

That’s right, this winter drove us right over the edge. After being trapped for one snow day too many (which, if you ask me, is the first snow day) we were all wishing long spring hikes weren’t so very far away. So we dusted off our aging wii and called my mom to ask if she still had a wii fit board. She did have one, she allowed, and we could have it. She did not confess that it had been stored so long that the batteries inside had corroded but, with a bit of care, it’s operating again.

hulamy record is 964 spins in 6 minutes. debra says she thinks invisible hula hooping is hot.

I don’t remember when these were trendy. It wasn’t recently, but the premise is that you take on a character and the board acts a scale and game controller in one with a host of aerobic, strength, and balance games. I’m a particularly good hula hooper, it turns out. Debra is a class act skateboarder and slalom skiier. RR runs.
This shouldn’t surprise anyone.
So with snow pouring down and piling up in drifts, we gave our kid a controller and let her run, her game character racing through a course chasing kittens and puppies. And she ran. Ran for three minutes. Ran for ten. And ten more. The next day she asked to run while we showered (separately. you saw the size of our bathroom. not even the hula hoop can conquer that.) She likes the biking course but can’t figure out how to control the handle bars. She likes the snowball fight game but can’t dodge and throw at the same time. In fact, she can’t master many of the activities beyond yoga and running.
I don’t want her to be an ace gamer. But when outside isn’t an option it’s kind of awesome to watch my kid run anyway.
This post is brought to you by 2007. Also a wii fit image search turns over tons of pictures like this. I’m not sure why so many people are watching so many other people’s butts.
1  3 4

We Have One Bathroom Too Many

I thought it was just the poop bathroom. I mean, we do have two toilets and two sinks in two different rooms so maybe one might sort one’s business that way. It’s true that they are pleasant bathrooms, clean, quiet, nice to be in, for bathrooms. Admittedly, I’ve had sexier bathrooms with whirlpool soaking tubs and heated towel racks. I’ve had more exotic bathrooms with windows in the shower and and river stone floors. I’ve definitely had larger bathrooms. In fact, every. last. bathroom. I’ve ever had has been larger than this pair.

You’ll agree from these photos that the bathrooms are not sexy or exotic or large. The first photo is the larger of the two. The second photo is the preferred house bathroom, the poop bathroom.
large small
note: this is a standard size door that reaches almost to the back wall. The sink is practically a miniature. 
Let’s talk about this tiny room. RR exclusively poops in this toilet. In fact, she prefers this bathroom for all of her needs. The other night when she launched her filthy self into the house to wash, she went through the trouble of finding a stool and opening the window so she could tell me that there was no soap at the sink. There is plenty of soap in the regular bathroom, along with accessible towels, a stool, and a sink that is the right height for a small person. But that evening in the poop bathroom, the soap and towels were out of reach so we sent her to the other room. You’d have thought we’d told her she had to go to bed without supper.
I think she likes that the walls are close to the toilet (so close that grown adults have to sort of sit diagonally). She likes that the paper dispenser won’t stay on the wall so the roll has been sitting on the back of the toilet (yes, I know. But no one was ever going to use this toilet). She likes that it’s tucked back in our bedroom instead of off the hall. This is the child that used to hide in the bushes to poop. I shouldn’t be surprised.
Everyone prefers this bathroom. If it weren’t for the shower, we could just wall off the other one and be done with it. It’s baffling. But it’s not the bushes and after four years of diapers, that’s something.

Kapow

Everyday we witness brilliance.

I go through each day with my mind blown wide open as my child peels back layers. The tiniest things are a revelation to her. She takes the world apart and puts it back together in fresh ways. I wake up and my own world is full of promise, but hers is packed with innovation. And so, from the moment I step into her sun, I just wait for the newness to wash over me.

This moment is a privilege. I’m soaking it up with the expectation that this is four, maybe five, and that she’ll eventually settle into life like the rest of us. That she’ll outgrow it like she’s outgrowing my lap (that’s a little heart-breaking, isn’t it – she’s so long). It’s all I can do to keep my eyes open and watch. Not to guide or to suggest, just to sit and wait and listen. This is nearly impossible but it’s my ever-present goal.

I smiled in relief this morning, a little, a smidge, when we dropped her off at school. She can pour this constant discovering onto someone else and I can go to work with the very reasonable expectation that the upper limit of surprises at a library is perhaps three. I feel like the edges of my mind are rubbed a little raw after two full days watching her read, add, invent, uncover, explore, surprise after surprise. She reads words everywhere all of a sudden. Watching her sound out a word and then produce it, fully formed from her mouth, it’s the tip of the iceburg. The math. The intricate building designs. And my god, the physical (and terrifying) explosion.

Once she told me (as she scaled a trash bin and then edged out on to a tiny ledge nearly flush with the wall) that things like this were dangerous. In fact she said “Dis is so dangerous, mama, but I yove it.” And I said, “Yes, it’s dangerous, but sometimes dangerous is also fun.” See above about keeping my mouth shut. She is fearless about retaining walls with dizzying drops onto concrete. We are constantly catching her arms to get a better grip, bracing for a wrong step. Convincing her to look the other way, that she doesn’t NEED to balance on top of that fire hydrant. This weekend, she tried to shove my hands off of her legs as she attempted to spring to the top of a railing overlooking a river. She’s so FAST. Does every parent have a disaster plan for the emergency room?

Some folks dread Mondays. Sometimes I’m among them. But my dangerous, smart, four-year-old is safely tucked away at school, unleashing her particular brand of discovery onto other people. And, thank goodness, I can take a deep, predictable, breath.

It HAPPENED.

You guys.

YOU GUYS.

Holy fucking shit.

My child hasn’t had an accident in almost two weeks. You guys. I can’t even.

little-engine-that-literally-cant-even

This is my new favorite. I work with a lot of college students.

Let me tell you, this is one of those times. Those times that you think, we are so. lucky. So incredibly lucky to have modern medicine. To not only have modern medicine but to have upbringings that have allowed my wife and I to not take no for an answer. To stand up to a doctor and say no. This is not working. Try something else.

I don’t take that lightly. My wife’s mother did something really excellent when she raised her. She helped build a strong person that isn’t afraid of authority and doctors’ cool competence, a person that can listen and then make a reasoned argument, a person that is able to push back firmly and politely and gets shit done.

I’m all over the place here. It’s shock.

The more we thought about our visit with the occupational therapist, the more convinced we became that this wasn’t the angle. At least, not at the outset. We did make RR a schedule with pictures and we considered the ultra expensive body harmonizing music and equipment she recommended. But our guts said this didn’t seem sensory. In fact, the OT said, “well, she could be mildly sensory-seeking but probably we aren’t seeing many signs because she’s so smart” Dude. No one has ever NOT said that. She’s smart. If this is flattery, we’re not having it. If it’s not, it’s still not helping.

A few days after that we were able to get in for an ultrasound of her essentials and a visit with a resident. As I sat in the sparkling new children’s hospital and watched her play, I felt that old tugging, the one that must run in my family blood (or at least that my mother ground in), the one I thought I’d therapied out, that we didn’t need to be there. There is nothing really wrong with her. Other kids need this time more. And then she peed her pants, oblivious.

The urology folks pumped her full of juice and she was not, I don’t think, scarred by the ultrasound. Everything was so perfectly normal, right down to the type and quality of flow she has. I had such a sinking feeling, sitting there, knowing that I was wishing there was something mildly, fixably wrong, and feeling absolutely horrible about it. For RR’s part, she held it together through the full two hours and Debra handled the end of the appointment when I had to run (unrelated to feeling absolutely horrible).

They tried to counsel good nutrition. I’m glad I wasn’t there. Yet another lecture from a doctor based strictly on what they think they should say and not at all based on fact would have put me in tears. She eats more vegetables than most people I know. She drinks water. It’s like prison over here. Fortunately for all of us, my wife chimed in with a thank you but also really, we have tried everything (though she said this in a much more articulate way). EVERYTHING. Is there nothing else?

And it turns out, there is. I’m sure there were lots of reasons why it took so long to get here. To a medication for incontinence. To bank on the chance that some spasms were making it so that she couldn’t hold it and hadn’t ever learned what it felt like to hold it. Couldn’t hear her own body telling her what needed to happen when. Not because she wasn’t listening or didn’t care or wasn’t smart enough or didn’t like the way it felt or liked it too much. No. There is actually a solution.

I’ll admit, after getting a last-ditch prescription, we were a little reluctant to take the plunge on a medicine not typically given to kids. We went into the weekend waiting for a call back from our super-but-where-the-hell-was-she doctor. And so we did it. We gave it to her. And one day bled into the other and then there I was, a week and a half later, realizing that I have a potty-trained child. No accidents during the day. She interrupts her work to go. She poops. She pees. She doesn’t leak.

I cannot tell you how amazing this is. She still wears a pull-up at night and you know what, she can do that until she’s 40 if she wants to. Accidents in the daytime were holding her back in so many ways. I’ve seen tears in her teachers eyes over this. This is a miracle.

Elsa

RR has never been that kid, the one who wants to be a part of something bigger. She is a tiny, self-contained, ball of fire. She burns bright until she flares out, sleeps, lights again. Not a joiner, but a maker. Not a follower, but a watcher. Parts age and parts personality, right?

This Halloween she dressed as Elsa and we tried the large, kids’, costume event in town. We skipped it last year in favor of our own sanity. The draw is the festivity and the joy of seeing so many kids and adults celebrating. She enjoys candy, but as we all know by now, is not particularly motivated by it. What’s the key, RR? What IS your motivation?

grin

So we were there for the atmosphere and she soaked it up. She got to practice trickortreat…thankyou…happyhalloween! on college kids who thought she was terribly sweet and adorable. And she got to mingle with hundreds of other terribly sweet and adorable children. And also, a million Elsas. There were large Elsa and small Elsas. Storebought Elsas and cobbled together Elsas. Blonde or bewigged. Tiaras or not. Gloves on some. Snowflakes on others. Anything went, so long as there was a somewhat blue dress involved. Many were accompanied by Annas or Olafs (big and small, particularly favored by the Dads). Some were friendly, others were in the candy zone – unable to recognize a fellow cheery Elsa or, maybe, a bit flattened by seeing so many others dressed in similar costumes.

swen

There was a Halloween Elsa drinking game. There were a lot of Elsas. We stopped counting somewhere after 21 Elsas and 15 Annas. We gave RR a heads up that there would be other Elsas and rather than seeing it as a disappointment, she looked at every passing Elsa with delight shouting, Hi ELSA! HAPPY HALLOWEEN! She was thrilled to see Annas HI ANNA! IT’S ME ELSA!

elsas

It was a shining moment. RR was an Elsa among Elsas. She glowed. And she was just as happy to leave them and be a single Elsa again. It was a super Halloween. An Elsa Halloween. And RR? Well, it flowed right over her and past her and it’s gone. More chocolate for us!

kapow

Also, thank goodness Grannie can sew satiny fabrics because apparently my costume fabrication skills cease at fire fighters, raggedy ann, hippies, and mermaids.

You’re Not Yistening!

I’m delighted that RR seems to be moving out of the “You’re not YISTENING to me!” phase. For months that refrain has been echoing in every room in the house and echoing in my head. Oh wait – that’s a persistent scream, not an echo at all. An echo requires time in between utterances. She doesn’t comprehend (or doesn’t care about) the difference between disagreeing and not listening. No doubt she has been overwhelmed by a sudden explosion in words. Going back to school flipped the language switch and she has been speaking in paragraphs and chapters. It’s so noticeable (to her and to us) that after reciting the minutiae of falling out of bed in the morning for several minutes, she said to me “that was a LONG talk, mama!” We both were a little awestruck at the number of words spilling from her mouth.

Along with YOU’RE NOT YISTENING, some other babyisms are on their way out. Ls are beginning to make more of an appearance. She’s dressing herself and picking out her own clothes. She makes her bed most mornings, something she began on her own and which I fully support. We also make our own bed – could it be that it rubbed off? Her fingers are lengthening, her arms strengthening. Life is a constant refrain of I’m okay mama! I’m not hurt! after she crashes yet again onto concrete after running at breakneck speed down stairs, over walls, across streets.

She is observant and thoughtful and she still sprinkles conversation with little quirks I’m sad to break her of. Did you heard the violin, mama? I did, faintly, from several blocks away, over the roar of the passing bus. I did. And, my favorite, her diplomatic way for telling us we are flat wrong. Did you fought I said I wanted the window open? I didn’t. Did you fought I didn’t want a cookie? I did. Did you fought I wanted you to keep talking? I didn’t.

We tripped and fell into a princess costume for Halloween. Queen Elsa still rules supreme, having been the drug of choice since we thought we toilet trained her the first time in May. My mother did the stitching this year since I proved inept at cutting satin and making pleats. I’m so grateful to have her nearby. RR even spent the night earlier this month and happily packed an overnight bag to visit her this weekend (even though our stay was just for the afternoon).

She is a treat. An awe-inspiring package of smarts and beauty and laughter. We are so lucky.

IMG_2152

 

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 903 other followers