Thursday, May 31, 2012

Memorial Day

 For people who didn't make any plans, we sure ended up having a pretty nice Memorial Day. It all started at the Bethany Memorial Day parade where we parked ourselves in front of the old firehouse and ate fishies and juice. Well, some of us had fishies and juice and others had coffee. On the way there, Ella was getting all excited over this whole "parafe" thing, but once we got there, she couldn't understand why everyone was sitting by the side of the road and clapping at old cars driving by.
 For a while, she was more interested in stuffing herself inside the concert chair bag and calling herself a mermaid.
 Then Pop Pop gave her a better view and she got more into it. When the horses made their way down and she got to pet a pony, she started to really like the "parafe."
 After a good nap (for baby and Dad while Mom graded, per usual), we headed over to Jessica's house for a barbecue and a good soak in the pool. The only fit she threw all day was when we tried to get her out of that pool. She was loving it and kept telling Mike to let go of her. Sorry Beezer, but you don't know how to swim.
We ended the visit with a good ride on Jessica's old tricycle that her dad dragged out of the barn and cleaned up for us. Needless to say, Miss B slept well that night. What a fun day with family and friends.

Monday, May 21, 2012

I'm just kidding

Here is the conversation Ella and I had on the way home from school this afternoon after the owner of our daycare gave her two new dolls:

Me: What's the little dolly's name?
Ella: I don't know her name.
Me: You get to give her a name.
Ella: Give her a name?
Me: Yeah. What do you want her name to be?
Ella: Ummmm...ABCDE.
Ella: Yeah, just E.
Me: E?
Ella: Yeah.
Me: Okay, what about big dolly? What do you want to name her?
Ella: Name her?
Me: Yeah. What names do you like?
Ella: I like blue.
Me: Blue?
Ella: Yeah. Her name's Blue.
Me: Okay, E and Blue.
Ella: Yeah. This is E and this is Blue.

We both allowed some time for these new names to sink in and to enjoy the pitter patter of rain on the roof and the swooshing of the windshield wipers before continuing our conversation. 

Me: What should we make for dinner?
Ella: Macaroni and poop!
Me: Macaroni and poop?
Ella: No, I'm just kidding Mommy.
Me: Okay, good.

Another day in the riveting life of Jeni and Ella. Stay tuned for the next episode.

Thursday, May 17, 2012

Mother's Day

Last Sunday marked my third Mother's Day as a mom. There was no Mother's Day hoopla or grandeur, but in all the small ways, it was a pretty great day. Ella B slept until after six, which was a huge gift since she normally gets up around 5:30. We had our usual Sunday morning breakfast at the diner with my parents, and then headed home to do some housework. It was a beautiful day and Ella desperately wanted to go to the park. Mike needed to mow the lawn, so Ella and I headed off to the playground while he did work around the house. The day was made especially beautiful by the fact that the sun was shining after weeks of rain and Ella and I spent the morning throwing rocks in the stream, swinging on swings, and exploring the woods next to the playground. Later, my sister and her family came down for a picnic and Ella spent the rest of the day following her "big" cousin Izzy around. We cooked hotdogs, ate corn on the cob, and even enjoyed a little strawberry shortcake. As a final gesture before leaving, Izzy gave Ella her bike, and now Ella thinks she's "big like Izzy."

As we relaxed in the front yard, I thought about how much nicer this Mother's Day was than my first one, or even my second. Motherhood, for me, was not as easy a fit as I thought it would be. Before I had Ella, I imagined that first Mother's Day as this blissful moment filled with effortless breastfeeding, a cooing, happy baby, and a sense of accomplishment and purpose. I thought having a baby would make me content and that everything about it would just feel "right." Unfortunately, that didn't happen for me. Motherhood turned out to be a lot more awkward, clumsy, exasperating, and thankless than I ever could have imagined. I didn't feel like the Earth Mother I'd always envisioned myself as, and realizing that I wasn't as good at this job as I'd thought I would be was a big blow to my ego. There were times when I thought it would never get better and that I'd be carrying that girl to college in a Baby Bjorn.

It took us about a year, and in that year I battled postpartum depression, fed my baby breast milk every day (though she would rarely take it from the source), taught her to sleep in her own crib, and learned how to enjoy her and love her in the way I'd always hoped to from the beginning.

The painting below is a Gustav Klimt print that we found at Ikea when we were pregnant. It was an idealistic vision of motherhood that I took as fact. After I had Ella, I felt duped by that painting for a long time, that it wasn't telling the truth about what motherhood was. Then, a few weeks ago, I took this picture of me and Ella lying on the couch, and I realized that a picture is just a snapshot of one moment. No one's experience is perfect, but there are moments to celebrate and treasure along the way.

Motherhood was not instant bliss for me, and for a long time I felt guilty about that, but I think mothers generally spend way too much time feeling guilty about stuff instead of living in the moment and enjoying the tiny victories that each day brings. The picture above is an example of that kind of victory. A warm person nestled against me who loves me more than anything in the world despite all the mistakes I have made so far. This is our moment of bliss, and I am trying to relish it.

Wednesday, May 9, 2012

Pancakes for dinner

Last night, Ella B and I were fortunate enough to have dinner at Chip's in Milford with my girlfriend Wendy and her twin boys, Robby and Joey, or "RobbyJoey" as Ella would call them. It was a fundraiser for our school and a good excuse to eat pancakes for dinner. Ella B was surprisingly well behaved in her own two-year-old way. Besides refusing to sit down, bothering the woman in the booth behind us, and pressing her face up against the glass a few times, she was pretty good. Robby and Joey, who are five and much more well-behaved than Ella, kept saying things like, "Mom, why is Ella doing that?" and, "Miss Jeni, look what Ella's doing!" 

Finally, at the end of the meal, when I was feeling pretty good about that fact that I didn't have to drag Ella out of there kicking and screaming and that I actually ate my entire meal in a reasonable amount of time, Robby announced, "I don't think Ella's gonna be going to any restaurants any time soon."

It appears that Robby is a much stricter parent than I am. Luckily for Ella, she gets to come home with me.

Wednesday, May 2, 2012

Special Things

On Saturday we were outside playing with bubbles, one of Ella's biggest obsessions. She recently acquired a battery-powered bubble gun (aka- we just put batteries in a bubble gun she got a million years ago) that shoots a stream of bubbles with a squeeze of a button. This is pretty much heaven as far as she's concerned, mostly because she doesn't know how to blow bubbles herself and gets frustrated every time she tries to do it until she looks at me and declares, "It's not working." There aren't a lot of perfect antidotes to toddler problems, but in this case, there is. A seemingly endless stream of bubbles that requires not blowing and no help from mommy. That is perfection. 

After a while, she got bored of simply blowing the bubbles and wanted to chase them. I dutifully took command of the gun and blew the bubbles in her direction as she gleefully chased them amidst the ever-changing wind. At some point it dawned on her that she was no longer in possession of the gun and ran over to me shouting, "That's my bubble thing, Mommy. It's special to me. It's my special thing." Michael and I tried to stifle our laughter as best we could. Where did she get that one? How does she know the word special? As with most things, I realized she had learned something from me quite by accident. I thought about all the times I asked her not to touch my wedding rings, or a small elephant that was my grandmother's. "These things are special to mommy." Her slow and systematic acquisition of language and social understanding never ceases to amaze me. She realizes that certain things are valuable and worth protecting, and in the toddler Universe, a bubble gun ranks right up there at the top of the list.

I started thinking about what other things might be valuable to her: Her Marcia blanket (made by her teacher at school), and her Nene blanket (given to her by my mother) for sure, her Dora umbrella and raincoat, rocks, dandelions, worms we collect to put in the vegetable garden, her playground, squirrels, socks, Goodnight Gorilla and Marley book, her trampoline, the kitchen chair she uses to help me make dinner, as many kisses as she can steal from her father before bed ("Just one more"), having breakfast with Nene and Pop Pop on Sunday mornings, and that big blue house she calls her home ("Yay! I see our house, Mommy").

These are some of her special things, and I know that I rank pretty high on that list, too. And that's good because Ella B, you are my most special thing of all.