Saturday, August 10, 2013

The sister dilemma

Practicing sisterhood with her friend Felix
Now that the cat's out of the bag on the whole fertility thing, we can talk about the "sister" problem. As I'm sure many children of a certain age are, Ella is wondering why she hasn't become a sister yet. Because she is three, many of her classmates have become big sisters over the past year, and she's started thinking that this is a natural part of getting older. You become a big girl; you become a big sister. Here's how many of our conversations go:

Ella: When am I going to be a big sister?
Me: When Mommy and Daddy have another baby.
Ella: Can you have a baby right now?
Me: Well, we're trying buddy, but we have to wait until the baby is ready to come.
Ella: Tomorrow?
Me: No, definitely not tomorrow. Babies take a long time to make.
Ella: Can we make one when we get home?

And so on, and so on. As if this wasn't bad enough, she's actually started lying to people. She told a girlfriend of mine and a teacher at her school that her mommy, "has a baby in her belly." They approached me all excited to hear the good news, and I had to sit Ella down and talk to her about lying. "But you're trying to have a baby," she said, looking guilty, and I told her, "Yes, Mommy is trying, but I don't have a baby in my belly yet, and you can't tell people that until I do. Once I do, you can tell any one you want."

The hardest part has been explaining to her what a sister actually is. She's got it in her head that "sister" is another word for "big girl." She'll say things like, "I have to eat my vegetables so I can become a sister," or she will ask me if big girl's she sees in various places are sisters. She also can't understand the whole big sister/little sister thing. She can't fathom that I am a little sister, or that one of the one-year-olds in the baby room at school is going to be a big brother. We talked about everyone we know who is a brother or a sister, and I tried to explain what made one "big" and one "little." She had it until she brought up her friend Kate who is a middle child. She said, "So, Kate is a big sister because her mommy had baby Claire!" I said, "Yes, Kate is a big sister, but she's also a little sister because she has a big brother." That conversation pretty much sent us back to square one.

The whole thing is pretty heartbreaking because I know exactly how she feels: everyone at school is becoming a big sister or brother, she wants it desperately, but there's nothing she can do about it. This thing she wants is completely out of her control. And man, do I know how that feels.

Luckily, I think she's finally getting it. Yesterday, she was pretty quiet on the way home from dance class. When I unbuckled her from her car seat, she said, "When you get a baby in your belly, I'll be a big sister, but you don't have a baby in your belly yet." I pulled her out of the chair very gingerly and gave her a big hug. "That's right, buddy, but until then, you'll be my baby." She smiled and hugged me back. And in that moment, it was enough for both of us.

Tuesday, July 23, 2013

I'm just going to say it...

I've always been considered a bit of an over sharer. I have no problem telling people how I feel, what I fear, what I'm anxious about. This is why I've always loved but found therapy to be somewhat unnecessary. I often wonder why I'm paying someone a hundred dollars an hour just so I can tell him what I already told my husband, mother, sister, best friend, and hygienist earlier that day. I never pretend to have it all figured out, especially when it comes to motherhood.

When I suffered from post-partum depression after the birth of my very unhappy baby three years ago, I didn't hide my anxiety or sadness. When strangers in the grocery store asked me if she was a good baby, I looked them in the eyes and said, "No." When people asked me how it was going, I would say, "I'm having a really hard time." People were a bit shocked by this. Some were even a bit put off, but mostly, people told me how "brave" I was for being so honest. This reaction puzzled me. There was no part of me that was trying to be brave. Bravery implies trying to overcome something fearful, but I wasn't afraid to share my feelings. It wasn't hard to cry in front of people and tell them I felt like I was losing it. Honestly, I couldn't have faked it if I'd wanted to, but, really, I didn't want to and couldn't understand why anyone would. Why would I try and tough this out on my own when there were so many people willing to help me if I just asked them to?

The most interesting revelation I had during those first six months of my daughter's life was how many other people had experienced similar feelings, and how many of them had kept it a secret. Both acquaintances and close friends would tell me, "Oh God! I felt the same way," "I was miserable,"  "I thought I'd made a huge mistake," "I was so depressed." It wasn't their reactions that shocked me but how for years these same women had pretended to be enraptured by motherly bliss, to have it all together, to be perfectly comfortable as mothers, to the point that they had me completely convinced. 

And as I spoke to them, I started to get angry. I started to realize that if I hadn't shared my feelings first, they never would have shared theirs, and I would have kept walking around thinking I was the only one who felt this way, that I was a terrible mother for being depressed, and that everyone else around me was perfectly happy. I started to realize that there were a lot of women suffering in silence and that, to some extent, society wanted to keep it that way.

I noticed this before my daughter was even born. As a chronic over sharer, I was not able to keep my pregnancy a secret during the requisite three month period. Many people were appalled that I was sharing the news so early, and several people cautioned me by saying, "Well, what if it doesn't work out?" I understood, of course, that Tweeting at the moment of conception wasn't a good idea, but these were friends of mine, people I saw regularly. My response was always, "Yes, if I have a miscarriage I'm going to be really upset. Am I supposed to hide that from you, too?" I realized that there were unique burdens that, for some reason, women were supposed to suffer behind closed doors.

Unfortunately, three years after the birth of my daughter, I'm learning this lesson all over again. I discovered recently that there is another word besides "depression" that women aren't supposed to speak of: "infertility." For exactly a year now, my husband and I have been trying to have another child. Recently, we underwent fertility testing and began a cycle of treatment. This has been an emotionally challenging year. Last summer, two of my girlfriends and I decided to get pregnant. They both did; I didn't. To spend the year watching their bellies grow bigger, and to watch the onslaught of Facebook and celebrity baby booms was difficult to say the least. Before we started trying, I had to wean myself off of the Zoloft I'd been on since my daughter's birth, so I was especially anxious and inching towards depressed throughout the year. I've had more ultrasounds and blood tests in the past six months than in the rest of my life combined, and the monthly roller coaster of hope and disappointment has distracted me from my work and my life. I'm telling you people right now that I'm having a really hard time, and just as with my post-partum depression, I refuse to pretend like everything is fine. 

So, when people ask me when we're going to have another baby, I tell them we've been trying for a year. And once again, every time I bring it up, I find out how many women have also dealt with infertility. I talk to women who tried for years to get pregnant but never said a word to their family members or closest friends. At night, when I indulge myself in the guilty pleasure of reading posts on infertility message boards, I listen to these women pouring their hearts out to strangers, discussing how long they've been TTC, and how many DPO they are, and that they just did the BD with their husbands. (That last one took me a minute- "baby dance" if you're still trying to figure it out). These women have no problem describing their cervical mucus to complete strangers, but keep telling their best friends and mothers that they aren't ready to start a family yet. And all I keep wondering is, why?

I know that I am being somewhat unfair to the women who choose to suffer in silence. Everyone who is dealing with something difficult deserves to do so as she sees fit. I don't expect most people to shout their private business from the rooftops as I am doing here, but to bear this burden alone when there are people in our lives who can ease our feelings of disappointment, pain, and fear just doesn't make sense to me. In my mind, keeping such a huge secret implies that one feels guilty, or embarrassed, or ashamed- three emotions no one who has dealt with infertility should ever feel.

That's why I choose to talk about it. When my two girlfriends got pregnant last summer, I felt incredible joy for them and incredible sadness for myself, and I told them that there were days when it was really hard to be around them. When a huge box of fertility medications, needles, and syringes arrived on my doorstep and I nearly had a panic attack wondering what I'd gotten myself into, I called my girlfriend who recently went through IVF, and she offered to come over and show me how to use everything. Every month when I found out I wasn't pregnant, I had at least five girlfriends I could text and get encouraging messages from. When I needed someone to watch my daughter while my husband and I did our first insemination, I had three people offer to help.

And last night, when I discovered that our first IUI procedure didn't work, I cried to my husband, texted one girlfriend who always knows the right thing to say, and made lunch plans with another friend who can always make me laugh no matter how terrible I feel.

I am so lucky to have such amazing women in my life who are happy to lift me up when I need a hand, and I think I owe it to them to be honest, to create connections of shared experience rather than barriers of secrets.

Recently, I got an email from a friend of a friend. This is a woman I know only casually, and she explained how she's been trying to get pregnant for a year and didn't know if she should try fertility treatments or just keep trying naturally. My girlfriend had given her my email address because she knew I'd be happy to talk to her friend. The woman wrote, "I totally understand if you don't want to talk about it." I sat at home reading this email, and I was so glad she'd decided to email me. I was so glad that it was me she had reached out to because I knew I was the right person for the job. I told her, "What do you want to know? You can ask me anything." I realized then that being honest about our difficult experiences not only helps us to feel less alone, but it shrinks the space between ourselves and others. So, to some extent, I feel not only a desire to speak up, but an obligation to.

You may think I'm completely out of line for insisting that you share your pain with others, and maybe I am, but I'm also so glad to be an over sharer because it means I don't ever have to suffer alone, and if it makes you uncomfortable, well, tough, because it makes me feel a whole lot better.

I'm off to share a big plate of sushi with a really great friend. I feel better already. 

Friday, July 12, 2013

A disappointment

At the ripe old age of 32, I know that life is filled with disappointment. Whether you have a charmed life or not, things are not always going to work out the way you'd hoped. I have come to accept this truth in my own life, but yesterday it suddenly occurred to me that now I have to accept it for another person's life, a tiny person, one so bright-eyed that I'd rather endure the most horrible disappointment imaginable than watch her deal with one ounce of it. And that, my friends, is called motherhood. Luckily, we're not talking about any life-altering disappointment here, just a little cancelled ballet class, but it was enough to bring one of us to tears (that would be me).

Ella has been talking about going to "ballerina" class for quite some time. She loves nothing more than to twirl and leap in full ballerina costume, and she has been begging us to take a dance class for at least four or five months. I waited until she turned three, then began pursuing a class that would be a good introduction- low-key, nothing too intense. I avoided places that advertised the number of awards they'd won, or the ones with glossy pictures of ten-year-olds trussed up like 1930's prostitutes. I found an inexpensive place near our house that advertised a fun, non-competitive, no recital, no polyester costume sort of dance class perfect for a wee one just starting out. About two weeks ago, I signed her up. Since that day, we've been talking about it. At least three times a day, she would ask me, "Is my ballerina class today, Mommy?" Finally, the day arrived, and I picked her up early from daycare, leotard and ballet shoes in hand, and we talked about what it meant to be in a dance class the whole way there.

Then we walked in the door, and there was no one else there, and the girl behind the counter looked surprised to see us. I tried to ignore all of these warning signs.

"We're here for the ballet class?" I said, both of our smiles plastered to our faces.

The woman did not return the smile.

"Oh gosh. I completely forgot to call you. That class was cancelled due to low enrollment."

My heart sank. Ella's head fell to my shoulder.

"I'm so sorry," the woman said. "This never happens. I just completely forgot to call."

Normally, in times like these, I would have simply said, "Oh that's okay. No big deal." I am quick to forgive peoples' mistakes. That's the number one rule of life my mother taught me. "You can't get mad at people when they do something by accident." And this has always been a relatively easy rule for me to follow, but at that moment I realized that someone disappointing me feels a lot different than someone disappointing my little girl.

I didn't say anything. I wasn't mean, but I didn't tell her it was okay, and our sullen faces revealed our feelings. Of course, if the woman had called me the day before, the class still would have been cancelled. Ella still would have been sad, but to walk in there with her leotard and shoes all ready to go was more than I could handle. 

We walked out of the building and sat on the steps so I could explain things to her.

"The ballet class was cancelled, buddy."

"What's cancelled?"

"It means that there isn't going to be a class."


"Not enough kids wanted to go."

"Why didn't they want to do it?"

"I don't know. Because they're really silly, but we'll find another ballet class, okay?"

"Right now?"

"No, not right now, buddy. Now we have to go home."

The look on her little face just crushed me. I couldn't hold it in. It came at the end of a very bad day I'd had, and I just couldn't control myself. I started blubbering like an idiot on the drive home.

"Mommy, why are you crying?"

"I just feel really bad that you couldn't take your class today."

"It's okay, Mommy. We'll find another class."

She held my hand as we drove home, and I realized that she was going to be fine. It was just a dance class, afterall, not a broken heart, or a cut from the volleyball team, or a rejection letter from her top-choice college. It was the first of many disappointments in her life, and I realized that I was going to have to experience all of them with her, so I'd better suck it up and show her "It's okay," even when I feel like it isn't.

And I know I won't be able to fix every disappointment in her life, but for now, it's nothing a little Swan Lake and a popsicle can't fix. Thank God for YouTube and for little girls who are a lot tougher than their mothers.

Thursday, July 4, 2013

Kid-free weekend

So last weekend was Alex and Larry's wedding up in the Cape. Since the wedding plans got underway, Mike and I have been debating whether or not to take Ella with us. We considered bringing our babysitters (A.K.A my parents) along with us and making a real vacation of it, but we ultimately decided that we wanted to just be on our own for once. Both Mike and I have been away from her for several days before, but we haven't had the opportunity to do that together, so we were really looking forward to it.

The funny thing was that it was strange to both be away from her and not have any grading left to do. When we arrived on Saturday, it was raining, and we had some down time before the party started. In my normal life, I never, ever feel moments of boredom, and I don't really know how to deal with having nothing to do, so I had my first little itch of "I kind of wish Ella was here," mostly because I wasn't quite sure what to do with myself.

However, once the parties got underway, I was glad to have the freedom to enjoy myself. Our other friends who had brought their children had to play the, "Which one of us is going to go to bed now?" game, and we were glad to not play it.

At one point, one of our friends who had left her ten-month-old for the first time came up to me and said, "Do you miss Ella?" implying that she was having a really hard time without her little girl. And, I realized how much things change in just a couple of years. Before Ella was a year, it would have been nearly impossible for me to leave her. I would have worried about her nighttime routine, her napping, her eating, everything. Now, she really is just a kid, and if she stays up late, then she stays up late. If she eats cotton candy and lollipops for two days, she'll survive. I so understand how my girlfriend felt, and I'm so glad to be past that feeling.

I did slip away around ten on Friday night to call my parents and see how bedtime went. My father answered the phone and said, "We're just pulling in the driveway!" I assumed she was asleep in the car, but my father said, "Nope! She's wide awake. Want to talk to her?" I couldn't believe it. I had never spoken to her at 10 PM in the three years she's been alive. They had just arrived home from my niece's dance recital and she couldn't have been more excited about all the things she'd seen. It was shocking, and heart-wrenching, and wonderful to know she was having a great time without us. A while later, my father sent me this picture of her evening at Izzy's recital.

I saw that look on her face, and I knew that she certainly wasn't any worse for wear. When we got home, I gave her a big hug and we had the following conversation:

Me: El, did you miss me?
Ella: No.
Me: Didn't you ever think, 'Gee, I wish Mom was here?'
 Ella: No, I never think that.

And even though her reaction was super harsh, I was glad to know that she is okay without us. She is her own little person now, and she doesn't always need Mommy and Daddy around to have a good time. Though, being missed just a little bit wouldn't be so terrible.

Congratulations to Alex and Larry, and thanks so much to my parents for putting that smile on my little girl's face.

Friday, May 31, 2013


So, it's been a few weeks, but at least it hasn't been a month. I'm improving, a little.

Anyway, I went away last weekend. For three nights. For fun. Without my husband or my child. I know. Craziness. I've been away from her before, but only when Mike and I had a wedding or I had to go to training for work. This is the first time I've left her for more than one night just to have a good old time with my girlfriends. And yes, I did feel the obligatory mom guilt gnawing at me from the bottom of my stomach, but once I filled that puppy with Espresso martinis and lobster, that gnawing was replaced by another feeling all together. That feeling was "Freedom!" There. I said it. Staying up late, sleeping until 11:30 (are you serious?), and doing whatever I wanted to do during the day felt pretty amazing.

Even though I've only been a mom for three years, I have grown accustomed to the constant reminder of her presence. I always know where she is, what she's doing, whether or not she has pooped, if her hair is up or down (down- obviously), if she is wearing the Cinderella underwear or the Dora underwear (Cinderella- obviously), and even while we're both sleeping, it only takes one tiny "Mommy?" for my eyes to shoot open, ready for action. When you are a mom, you are always on-call, 24 hours a day.

I think that was the thing that initially freaked me out about motherhood. I had understood, of course, that this would be the case, but it wasn't until that first night in the hospital when Lost was over and I was ready to go to bed that I realized, "Oh my God. I don't get to just 'go to bed.' There is no "clocking out" of this job, no union to help me negotiate working conditions and personal days. No, there is only this very small and very unreasonable tyrant telling me I will never have five minutes to myself ever again!" This went on for quite some time. You've all heard the sob stories about my devil baby, so I won't bore you with them again.

But now, fully emerged from the baby fog, I realize that there is life after motherhood. That I can find the balance between my role as a parent and my role as a friend. This past weekend was about celebrating the end of single blessedness for my dear friend Alex, a girl I have literally been friends with for 27 years. Going away for the whole weekend seemed impossible when the idea was first presented, not because I didn't think my husband could handle Ella (he's always been better at it than me), but because it seemed like a lot to ask of him, and because, well, I am a mom now and moms aren't supposed to spend a weekend drinking booze and riding through P-town on something called a "Funk Bus" while their friend gets an impromptu lap dance by a stray lesbian off the street. Moms don't sleep until 11:30 and play Sexy Slang until the wee hours of the morning. But then I remembered that before I was a mom, I was a lot of other things, and namely, I was a friend who enjoyed the company of her girlfriends more than almost anything. This is a part of my identity, too, an important part of it that I want to cherish and cultivate, just as I want to cultivate the relationship with my husband and my child. The good thing is that these relationships have always felt stable to me, but it is the quality of those relationships that is tenuous. Partner, child, friend. I am lucky enough to have all of these things in my life, and I know that with that blessing comes an obligation to nurture these relationships every day. That's a lot to take on, but it's a job I'm lucky to have.

So, I relished the time with my girlfriends as much as I could, and when I got home on Monday, there was a smiling little person, no worse for wear, so excited to see me that she ran in front of my car, and I had to stop in the middle of the driveway, get out, and hug her. She wrapped her arms around me tighter than she ever had before and said, "I'm so glad you're home, Mommy!" She kept grabbing me intensely all week, saying over and over again, "I missed you Mommy. I missed you so much." And I took her in my arms, holding her little body against mine, and I relished that blessing, too.

Ella B taking over my spot in bed. 

Tuesday, May 7, 2013

Popping Bubbles

A disclaimer...

It's been over a month since I blogged. This is the first time since I started the blog that I've let an entire month go by, and this makes me a little sad. I'm sad for both the right reasons and the wrong ones. The wrong reason is out of a sense of failure. I love to write; next to cooking, writing is my most favorite thing to do. Also, walking in the woods. If I could find a way to write about eating while walking in the woods, I'd be a very happy girl. So, why, then, have I allowed over a month to go by without writing a post? Work, kids, life, work, weeding, laundry, etc. Okay, so I know why, but I still feel like a failure for not carving out one hour for myself every now and again to do this thing that really does matter to me. But this is not the right reason to be disappointed. What matters is that every time I don't blog, I'm missing out on a chance to create that living record of the amazing Ella B. The sheer number of funny things she said or did in that one month is unimaginable, and everyday I tell myself, "Oh, I'm totally going to remember that one!" and then I start to make dinner, and Mike gets home from work, and when I turn to tell him what she said, I've already lost it. Life is happening so fast, and sometimes it feels like she's passing by me in a blur of hair and teeth. I'm trying to catch her, but she slips just out of my reach every time.

This is all very dramatic, of course, and plenty of people can enjoy their children's lives without every taking pen to paper or finger to keyboard, but for me, this is a place where I get to hold her just a little longer, and I want to do a better job of giving myself that gift...So, without further ado...

 Dear Ella B,

You never want to go inside anymore. It takes every promise of Cinderella and sour worms and ballerina dancing to get you in the door so I can make dinner, but today was just too beautiful. So, we changed our clothes, made a picnic, grabbed a blanket and headed back outside. We raced on the driveway and practiced bike riding, and then we laid the blanket in the backyard and had our dinner. I read I Love You Stinky Face while you ate strawberries, and we snuggled under a canopy of leaves. You put your hands behind your head and said you were relaxing, and I laid down next to you, feeling the sun on my face, and exhaled long and deep. You are three years old, and your skin is soft and your hair streams halfway down your back. You say things like "disappointed" and "eventually," as if you're fifteen, but you also say "each udder" and "somefing" to remind me you aren't. You can almost ride a bike and get yourself dressed, but you still like to sit and hold my thumb while we watch T.V. You ask a million questions, but when I ask you about your day at school, you say, "I don't want to talk about it." You think sitting at the table during dinner is the worst kind of torture, and you scream every time I try to brush your hair. You know songs about the days of the week and the months of the year, and you desperately want to be a big sister. You are starting to remember things, Ella B. You are making memories, and it makes me so happy to know that all these days that fill our lives with joy are starting to stick. So, here's one for you, in case you forget. Tonight, while we sat on the blue blanket in our backyard, you asked me to blow bubbles for you to catch. As I did, we noticed that the ones that fell on the blanket didn't pop right away. They hopped a little and then rested there. You went to pop one, and I said, "No, wait, let's see how long it lasts," and we sat and watched the bubble, the iridescent sphere swirling in the sun until it finally popped. You said, "It didn't last, Mommy," and I said, "I know, buddy. It's okay." You furrowed your brow and stared at the spot where the bubble once was. I blew another bubble, and another, and another until I finally got one to land right on your dress and sit there for just a minute. You smiled at it, and we watched it explode into a million tiny droplets. You collapsed into my lap dreamily and said, "I love bubbles, Mommy," and I said, "Me too, buddy," knowing that we both meant so much more than that. These are the days I will cherish. I hope you will too.

Love you always, 


Wednesday, March 27, 2013

"Just Ella"

As we drove to a school fundraiser the other night, the following conversation took place:

Ella:" Mom, I don't want to be Bonaldo anymore."
Me: "Okay, what do you want your last name to be?"
Ella: "No, I just want to be Ella."

This sort of conversation pretty much sums her up. As I've talked about endlessly on this blog, Ella B (excuse me, I mean "Just Ella") is a free spirit with a big personality. She knows exactly what she wants and doesn't want and isn't going to submit to any societal expectations, even when it comes to last names.

I saw her three-year-old personality in full force when we arrived at the restaurant for the fundraiser. She took her usual fifteen minutes to warm up to the crowd of teachers and students excitedly talking to her and telling her that they know me. She was not impressed by my apparent fame in the least. However, before I even realized it, she had shed her sweatshirt and was running around the restaurant in her super girl costume pretending to fly. She played a few rounds of hide and seek with a friend of mine, and downed an ice cream cone like it was her job. People were in awe of her: smile as wide as her face, tangled hair streaming behind her as she ran. She was captivating, mostly because she was doing whatever she wanted without worrying about what anyone thought (including the wait staff).

This display seemed incredibly appropriate given the event we were attending. As I said, it was a fundraiser for my school, but I didn't mention that it was for our PLAHD club, the gay-straight alliance that helps raise awareness and support for the LGBTQ community at our school. The club is not only for kids who are gay, but for anyone who supports the notion that we all deserve to live our lives free from discrimination, hate, and inequality based on sexual orientation, gender identity, etc.

It felt rather poignant, then, to see my daughter, entirely unaware of the fundraiser's purpose, running through a restaurant wearing a Halloween costume in March, being 100% herself just as all three-year-olds are. It got me thinking about when that all changes. At what point does it stop being okay to be ourselves? Sure, there are plenty of kids (these PLAHD club members to name a few) who refuse to let society stop them from being themselves, but we view them as kids who are making a decision to be individuals, and to some extent, making that decision may marginalize them. When will that happen to Ella? When will she have to stop and decide whether she's going to be herself or conform to some expectation of her culture or society? And what will she choose to do if being herself means being marginalized? Will she be confident enough to stay "Just Ella" if others decide they don't like what "Just Ella" stands for?

I mulled over these ideas as we enjoyed our sandwiches and fries, and some time after my friend left, Ella asked, "Where'd he go, Mommy?"  I told her he had to go home to, "have dinner with his husband." As soon as I said the words, I cringed at what her reaction would be. I assumed she would say something like, "Mommy, that's so silly! Boys don't have husbands!"

But she didn't say anything. She just kept on eating her ice cream cone as if I hadn't said anything funny at all. And I thought, wouldn't it be great if she grew up in a world where despite all the tough decisions she'll have to make about which parts of herself to let the world see, she won't have to worry about that one? Wouldn't it be great if being an openly gay teenager wasn't a brave decision?

I don't know how the world will view homosexuality in ten years. I hope that today is the beginning of something really positive, but I know there are still so many people out there who don't want a kid like Ella to be herself if being herself means offending their values. I'd like to think there is room in the world for a free spirit like Ella, but I just don't know. In the meantime, I hope "Just Ella" can find a way to keep wearing that super girl costume long after it doesn't fit. I hope she never lets it go.

Sunday, March 3, 2013

Party Pooper

I often try to write post titles that include puns. However, in this case, the title should be taken quite literally.

About a week ago, a few of us got together to honor my girlfriend Christina who is about to have her second child. Ella was very excited to go to the "shower party" and play with her friend Loreli. She wore the Christmas dress she refused to wear during the holidays, sparkly pink tights, and her pink boots. We were all dressed up in matching black and white dresses and looking forward to a very grown-up day.

Now, you know that the potty training saga has been going on for close to a year now, but we decided a few weeks ago to really go all in and make this thing happen. So, for about three weeks she's been wearing underwear all day except for at nap and bedtime. This is working out quite well in terms of peeing. She never has a peeing accident, and we can even go out for the day, and she will pee in stores or wherever we are. Great. Awesome. A lot of progress. However, the whole pooping on the potty thing is an issue. She doesn't want to do it, and she will hold her poop in for days to avoid the issue. The only time she will poop is if we put a diaper on her, but sometimes she still refuses that and just holds it in.

So, there we are at Christina's house enjoying some bagels and company, and somewhere in the house is my pretty little daughter who hasn't pooped in three days. Suddenly, my friend Kye emerges from the bedroom and tells Christina, "I think your dog pooped on the floor." I stop for a second, look around for Ella, can't find her, and begin to panic. "Oh no," I say, "I don't think it was the dog."

I find her playing in the living room seemingly unaware of the fact that she's taken a giant crap on Christina's bedroom floor with poop all over her pretty dress, feet and legs, trailing it through the house. Embarrassed doesn't begin to describe how I felt. Mortified comes a little closer. I knew that I shouldn't scold her or try to make her feel bad about it, but I'm telling you the kid didn't seemed affected at all. Is it bad that I wanted her to be a little bit ashamed of what she did? I took her into the bathroom and cleaned her up while simultaneously yelling to Chris and her friend Teresa to stop cleaning up the mess. I put a diaper on her after that, which was a good decision because she pooped again before we left. I guess holding it in can only last for so long.

I went home feeling a bit defeated about the whole potty training thing. It's frustrating because she's obviously physically capable of controlling it, but has decided she just doesn't want to go in the potty. So, how do I convince her that pooping in the potty is where it's at? In the past three years of her life, I haven't been able to convince that girl of much of anything.

Later that day, I started reading a potty training book that asks you to take a personality test for your child before you begin training. Shockingly, Ella falls into the "Strong-Willed" category. So, for her, everything is about control (like I needed to take a test to know that). I'm supposed to act very nonchalant about potty training, as in, "Oh hey, there's this thing called potty training. You may have heard about it. Some kids are doing it, but you know whatever, it's not a big deal." So far, this does seem like the way to go for her. We ask her if she has to go, but if she says no, we don't push it. I think this makes for a longer process, but I'm just going to have to accept that this will take a while.

Update: A few days after this incident, she did poop on the potty for the first time. She looked absolutely terrified, but she did it. So, small steps in the right direction. I know she won't go to college in diapers. Live and let poop I say, live and let poop.

Tuesday, February 12, 2013

Blizzard 2013

As I am writing this, I'm realizing that since I began this blog, I've written a lot of weather related posts. It's pretty amazing that in less than three years Ella has already lived through two hurricanes, a blizzard, and two Halloween snow storms. I don't know if it's global warming, but I do know that we've had some crazy weather up in here lately.

The blizzard may have been the craziest so far, at least where we live. I know Sandy did quite a number on some coastal towns, but for us, this was a bigger deal. Mike and I have never seen so much snow in our lives, and I guess that's what made it so exciting. We're use to watching her experience things for the first time, to see that glint of awe in her eyes, but this time, we all had that glint.The three of us couldn't stop staring out the window, watching the snow pour down from the sky, all of our eyes wide and our mouths dropped open.

Once the storm was over, the reality of three feet of snow set in. Ella wanted to go outside immediately, but Mike had a lot of work to do before that was possible. It took him about nine hours to snow blow the driveway, and Ella and I had to entertain ourselves with baking, and dancing, and painting, and coloring, and a whole lot of Toy Story and Ice Age. When we finally made it outside on Sunday, Beezer couldn't contain herself. She was so excited and immediately scurried on top of the three foot snow pile and proceeded to roll and flip and somersault her way into snow ecstasy. Mike decided to build her a snow fort, one my father would have hated, complete with secret underground tunnel ready to collapse at any moment. I watched from the house as they dug tunnels and threw snow balls at each other until he had to drag her inside for nap. She would have stayed out there forever.

The only bad part (besides all the snowblowing) was that Ella woke up on Friday with pink eye. So, there we were in the middle of a blizzard with no way to get any medicine. Luckily, I was able to get out Sunday morning, and I am so glad I did because I had never seen the world look like that before. It was so weird to see unplowed roads on every side of us, snow piles almost ten feet high, and more white than I could ever imagine.

A couple of warm days have melted a lot of the snow, and I can actually see some of our grass again. I'm glad it's almost over and I'll be getting back to work tomorrow, but I'm kind of glad I got to see the world looking so still and picturesque. I'm glad I got to see the world like Beezer does, full of wonder and amazement. The world through a three-year-olds eyes is pretty incredible.

Our first cooking adventure- Eggplant Parmesan. She was so serious about her jobs.

Yep, that's the snow line. Two feet.

That driveway takes a loooong time to snow blow

Inside the best fort ever. I'm kind of bummed it's all melted now.

Friday, February 8, 2013

Young Grasshopper

So, this was a big week for Miss B as she graduated from the Beetle class into the Grasshopper class. She is now in "junior preschool," which, I guess, is like "junior high school," but without all the braces and awkward French kissing (hopefully). The truth is her school created this pre- preschool group this week mostly, I think, because there are several preschool age kids who are developmentally ready for preschool learning, but haven't mastered the whole potty training thing. Sad trumpet music. Ella is one of those kids. It's frustrating because I really think she belongs in the next classroom, but she's holding herself back with this whole pooping in the potty thing. So, this is like preschool prep school, I guess. They're taking the year off to figure out what they really want to do with the rest of their lives. Something like that.

Anyway, I was a little nervous about the transition from the relaxed Miss Meghan and Miss Christina to the more professional Miss Cheryl. Even on the first day, Cheryl told me that Ella had given her a hard time about taking off her playtime dress during snack. Oh, you mean the dress that she always wears, all day, every day while she's at school? The dress no one has ever told her to take off before? Yeah. This is going to be interesting.

Mike thinks it will be good, that she needs someone who is a bit stricter in her life, to reign in those wild child tendencies. I'm excited that they've starting teaching them how to hold a pencil and write their names. In the past week she's become obsessed with letters, and since Friday, she's already written "A, E, l, and p" on her own. Well, the "p" was really a backwards "a," but I think that still counts.

At this rate, the girl's going to be reading and writing before she's wearing underwear.

I now present to you, Ella writing her name for the first time:

Sunday, January 27, 2013

Transformers Ballerina

The other day one of the other moms at daycare who has a little boy and is now expecting a little girl asked me, "Does Ella always dress like a princess?" I looked over and saw that as usual she was wearing the Cinderella costume she puts on every day as soon as she gets to school and wears the entire day until I pry it off her unwilling body. I nodded and smiled, and the mom said, "I just don't know what I'm going to do. I'm just not a girly person." It was funny because I realized that she sees my daughter differently than I do. She sees the little girl in polka dots and pink who is always wearing a princess dress or a tutu and twirling around like a ballerina and thinks to herself, "There's Ella, the girliest girl there is." This is so funny to me because I don't see her that way at all, and I don't think Ella sees herself that way, either. Now, I'm not saying she's a tomboy. Does she love girly things? Of course. She loves makeup and nail polish and clothes and all the other "girly" things appropriate to her gender, but her likes and dislikes do not end there. She loves superheroes and transformers and Thomas the tank engine. She loves turning over rocks and looking for worms. The only thing she asked for on Christmas was Spiderman slippers. Today we went to a knight themed birthday party, and I bought her a Sleeping Beauty dress to wear there, but as soon as she saw the dragon costume sitting out in Emmett's living room, she pulled off her dress to put it on. She spent most of the party using pretend power tools to fix Emmett's playhouse. A lot of her interests come from the kids she hangs out with at school. Her class is made up of mostly boys, so when they want to play Captain America and "Save the Day!" she gets sucked into the excitement. Perhaps if her classroom was full of girls, she would never know about Power Rangers or Batman and wouldn't be interested in "boy" things, but her environment is what it is, and she doesn't seem to notice these discrepancies.

It's like that scene in Friends when Rachel makes a dessert and accidentally mixes two recipes together, one for a fruit trifle and one for Shepard's pie. Joey continues to eat it, and explains himself by saying, "What's not to like? Custard, good. Jam, good. Meat, good." I think that's how Ella feels about her interests, as in, "Magic wands, good. Sparkles, good. Worms and dirt, good." She can't see any reason why all these items can't compliment each other in the trifle dish of her life. 

The truth is that beyond all the "stuff" I see much more "boy" tendencies in her than "girl" ones. Her friend Kate is like I was as a kid, content to sit and color or play Play-doh for hours, carefully choosing the right crayon and meticulously adding a speck of glitter here or there. Ella would much rather be finding the highest thing to jump off of, or asking us to chase her or watch her run "really, really fast" or jump "really, really high!" She loves speed and danger and excitement. She loves being physical and rolling around with Mike, and I think that because she is a girl, he subconsciously doesn't play as rough with her as he would a boy, even though she would love it.

I think we spend so much time worrying about gender stereotypes that we end up putting our kids into these categories without realizing it. If she likes princesses, then she must be girly. If she likes baseball, then she's a tomboy, but none of this matters to Ella. She has no idea what boys are supposed to like, or what girls are supposed to like. She just likes what she likes, and that's the way it should be.

I think this really hit home for me the other day when she and I were at the grocery store and I let her pick out a balloon. At the time, she was wearing a sundress (yes, in January), sparkly tights, and pink boots. She looked at all the balloons- pink, purple, sparkly, heart-shaped- and out of all of them, she chose the Transformers balloon. On the way home, she held her balloon in the backseat and said, "Mom, when I get big, I'm gonna be a Transformers Ballerina."

And I said, "Ya know what, buddy? That sounds just perfect for you."

Saturday, January 19, 2013

Those three little hours

Sometimes Friday afternoons make me a little blue. Of course, I'm glad the week is over, and I'm looking forward to heading home, but I always get a little jealous of my kid-less friends who have plans to go out to dinner or to a movie, or to do something else fun. We don't get to go out a lot, and honestly, we don't even have the money for take out, and the thought of going home on Friday night and making chicken and broccoli just sounds a little bit depressing. On top of that, I'm tired after a long week, and though I'm excited to see the beezer, our afternoon times are not really the best. I feel like from the moment I pick her up to the moment she goes to bed, I pretty much spend the whole time arguing with her. She doesn't want to leave school (who can blame her- they have llamas and bearded dragons!), she doesn't want to get in the car, she doesn't want to go inside, she doesn't want to eat dinner, go potty, get in the bath, get her jammies on, go to sleep, etc! I feel terrible that I spend those two or three hours fighting with her, and sometimes I sort of dread going to get her, knowing that my exhausting week still isn't over yet.

Today I was definitely feeling those Friday blues, but this time I tried really hard to fight it. I tried to muster up the energy to be the best mom I could be for those three hours between pick up and bed time. So, when we got home, and Ella asked me to play with her, I didn't say, "No, Mommy has to make dinner." I said, "Sure. Let's go play." So we played until Mike got home, then hid in the tent and waited for him to find us. Then, all three of us played hide and seek until it was time for dinner. Little miss picky actually ate her whole dinner and asked for more, which has never happened in the history of forever. Then, we read a few books and headed upstairs.

After her bath, we read a few more books, and that's when the true cuteness began. She started "reading" the book, and by reading of course I mean that she has memorized some of the words, but when she is actually saying the exact words on the page, it's just about the cutest thing you've ever seen. Then, she started singing "The Wheels on the Bus" and shaking her hips on the bed. She ended all of this cuteness by giving me a hug and saying, "I'm glad you're here, Mom."

She's asleep now, and I can finally relax, and the whole afternoon made me realize that those three hours are pretty precious in my day, and even though I need to clean up and make dinner, and do a million other things, well, sometimes those things can wait, because Ella B is glad I'm here, and I'm glad, too.

Tuesday, January 15, 2013

Christmas Part 2

Okay, so it's mid-January and I'm still finishing my Christmas post. I know, I know, wrap it up Bonaldo. So, as I said, Christmas was pretty special this year, and not just because it was the first Christmas where Ella really understood all the magic and whatnot, but also because we had Mike's brother Tony, his wife Lisa, and their almost thirteen-year-old daughter Madelyn with us for the whole week. You may remember them from the blog post "Sweet Home from Alabama" way back in August of 2011 when we went to visit them in Alabama. Well, this time they came to us, saw our house for the first time, met most of my extended family and friends, and got to spend the craziness that was Christmas Day with us. We'd never had house guests before, so I was a little nervous about how things would go, how Ella would react, how I would get my house cleaned in time, etc., but everything ended up being pretty effortless (well, not the cleaning part, but everything else). We had a great time hanging out, eating lots of food, drinking a lot of wine, and marveling at the ridiculousness that is Ella B. They got such a kick out of her, and it was great for them to be here long enough for her to get comfortable with them. The only down side was that poor Madelyn had the flu and spent almost the whole week sleeping. We couldn't even wake her up to see the snow, and Ella kept asking, "Where's the girl from the couch?" Luckily, she was able to pull it together to head to New York and see Times Square and Rockefeller Center for the first time. That and the Taylor Swift tickets she got from her parents made her Christmas pretty awesome, anyway.

After everyone left, we cleaned up the house, threw out the leftover Christmas food, and got back to reality. It was nice to have a (somewhat) quiet house again, but I have to say that it made me realize how much I love a house full of people and laughter and food and noise. It was the first year that I was really bummed that the Christmas season was over, and I really am looking forward to many more years of that fullness.

PS- I totally want to add a bunch of pictures to this post, but for some reason, blogger is letting me. I'll try to figure it out!

Monday, January 7, 2013

Oh, hello again and Christmas part 1

Wow. One blog post in December. And it was a real downer. Sorry about that guys. Between work and the holidays, I just couldn't make this whole blog thing happen lately, but I'm back, and I am glad I had at least one blog post in December, because as bad about blogging as I can be sometimes, in almost two years, I've never missed a month, and that sounds like a pretty good accomplishment to me.

So, where do I start? I guess I'll start with Christmas and fill you in on the rest later, or, on second thought, it's almost 10, so I might have to break Christmas down into multiple parts. Let's just get started and see what happens, shall we?

So, this was the first year that Ella was old enough to really get excited for Christmas. Once the old-school holiday specials started playing on the T.V. and it seemed like everywhere we went there was a Santa (like even at the diner), she started to get that Christmas itch, and, I have to say, I got a little bit of the itch, too. I loved watching Frosty the Snowman with her and talking about what she wanted for Christmas (Spiderman slippers- the only thing she asked for was Spiderman slippers). It was the first time we did the Elf on the Shelf, and the first time we put cookies under the tree for Santa and carrots for the reindeer. We even sprinkled some special reindeer magic dust on the lawn and spun around three times and made a wish. When I asked Ella what her wish was, she said, "Mommy, Daddy, Ella, Nene, PopPop." I figured that sounded like a pretty good wish.

On Christmas Eve she went to bed knowing that Santa would be arriving soon, and I can so remember that joy and anticipation. It was always so hard to sleep that night, but something in the air just felt so good. I remember how my parents always put those fake candles on all the window sills, and I would go to sleep by that light and feel so warm and happy. This was the first year I got to see that joy in her eyes, and I realized that it means I get to live that feeling all over again. Once you grow up, but before you have kids, the holidays can become this tedious time of shopping and cooking and cleaning, but then, when a little person in penguin pajamas asks you if Santa came last night and her eyes are all sparkly and sleepy, the holidays become something else entirely. This is the first year in a long time that I'm really bummed that Christmas is over, but I'm so looking forward to all those fun years ahead.

Well, I barely told you anything, but I have to go to bed. Stay tuned for more Christmas stories later. Oh, and here is a video of Ella singing her favorite song, Frosty the Snowman.