Saturday, November 7, 2009

Project Baby and Guest Blogger Week: Carina

Friends, I am out of state for the lovely wedding of a wonderful friend. Until I get back to Utahland, please enjoy the writings of Jetset Carina, AKA the lovely Azucar! Some people I have friend crushes on, some people I have people crushes on... Carina is my blog crush. And she is about to become yours too.

Beautiful Things, by Carina
Do you know your beautiful things? That lamp that you serendipitously found in that tiny thrift shop? The gorgeous necklace your aunt gave you for graduation? The glass vase from your wedding, the antique sideboard, your new taupe couch with the perfect pillows?

Say goodbye.

Pick them up, handle them with care, and shed a tear, because none of them are safe.

Congratulations, it's a boy.

I don't remember the first beloved possession of mine to disintegrate in front of my eyes, but I remember the feeling. I loved it with a memory, it was whole, and now it was broken.

I lost my new turquoise necklace to an afternoon pirate who had raided all the drawers to find wearable booty. One minute the necklace was swinging through the air, the next, blue beads shot across the room in a shiny spray. We grew alligators on our carpet, so the boy had to jump from chair to chair. They weakened until the pedestals collapsed to the side, forever tipping the chairs at a jaunty angle.
Do you know how to catch a monster? Smear toothpaste on a wool rug. Do you wonder why that lamp stands up so straight? Perhaps a few hits with a light saber will make that prideful lamp shade tip its rim and fall off every time you go to turn it on. Can't find a wipe for your bum? Just use a merino wool sweater.

Rocks in pockets go into your dryer. Green army men march down your drains. Glass doors are more fun in pieces. Pots are just for banging.

And sometimes, when you take a head butt in the ear, breaking your earring, driving the post into the soft skin, it's OK to cry a little. When you just can't face your shattered clock, your newly Sharpie'd wall, or the burned Anthropologie hand towels that were put inside your oven, just let the tears fall. What else can you do?

There is a reason that there are daddy's girls and mama's boys: a boy fills a mother's heart with more love than she has ever known for a man. You need that love, because you can't love just things anymore.

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

Project Baby and Guest Blogger Week: Melissa

My family life up until this point has provided med with pretty limited experience with babies. The most recent baby in my immediate family was me, and my only sibling is a brother two years older than me. So I'm the baby, and thus my only source of familial experience with infants.

Fortunately, our friends have been more than obliging on the baby front, and so Nick and I have been able to live and learn vicariously through them. One of our favourite sources of baby and little boy wisdom and amusement has been our friends Melissa and Paul, and their three year-old son Caleb.

Caleb, who at age two, once asked his mother why it was dark in outer space.

Caleb, who takes a keen interest in politics and was at one point convinced Barack Obama was a Hawaiian man in his ward.

Caleb, who was bitterly disappointed to discover that his brand new cousin neither walked, talked or possessed the ability to like diggers - yet.

Caleb, who once requested that their future home have 'a "big bubble" and a "hee-yoooge train on top! Dat I can climb to on a ladder!"'*

Caleb, who gave me the first inclinations that having a son had all the promises and potential to be one of life's most hilarious and rewarding adventures yet.

In the following, Melissa proves me right.

On Having a Son, by Melissa.

I have been the mother of a son for three years, nine months, and--as of this writing--six days. It seems both longer and shorter than that, but one thing is absolutely true regardless of which perspective--long or short--I take. And that is this: all 31 years of my life have been building up to this. To him. To our family. That may seem like a dramatic thing to say, and I am currently 40,000 feet in the air over middle America lurching around in moderate turbulence on my way back home to him after a 48-hour jaunt in Ohio. So it could be that my perspective right this minute is just a little more hysterical than usual. In my clearest moments, though, I believe that it's true: I've waited for this for three decades.

I never expected to be partners in crime with a skinny three-year-old, but I'm pretty sure that's exactly how my little man sees our life together. I'm the Sally to his Lightning, the Wendy to his Bob, the Frog to his Toad, the pink strawberry topping (something in our world has to be pink) to his mini-wheats. Recently, he was describing to a phlebotomist the mysteries of which letters comprise his name, and he got stuck after "c" and "b." He lowered his voice, bowed his head in my direction, and whispered conspiratorially, "And what ovver letters are dair, Mama?" 'Cause he knew I had his back with the alphabet. That's one of my duties in our relationship.

His duties include things like putting away the silverware (minus the knives) when the dishwasher's clean, coming up with spontaneous songs about construction and emergency vehicles, and also jumping. If there's jumping to be done, Caleb's your man--unless that jumping is in the house, because Caleb jumping in the house (also known as preschooler parkour) has been outlawed and results in time-outs. And time-outs inevitably result in Caleb saying to me in a hurt tone, "But Mama, I like you." Which, I think, is to say that partners don't give partners time-outs.

(Too bad.)

Besides having a built-in partner-in-crime (and -cooking and -reading and -exercising and...), having a son has changed my life in too many ways to count. I know because when Tamsin asked me to contribute here on her fine blog, I started trying to list all those ways. And then I had to resort to making a list of all the lists. To wit:

Things I've found in my pockets
Things I've found in the dryer (because I didn't look in his pockets)
Things I find myself having to say
Things I didn't expect to find so entirely charming
Things we have lost and will never see again and the tragedy inherent therein
Number of pictures on my computer of my three-year-old
Number of Cars/Bob the Builder characters I can recognize in a single glance (I think this might be a superpower)
Amount of time I've spent thinking about superpowers since he learned to talk (compared to the previous 28 years)
Percentage of the movie Cars I can quote
Level of familiarity with construction equipment
Percentage of increase in knowledge over the last three years regarding aircraft of all kinds
Amount of time dedicated to anything dealing with firefighters
Number of fire trucks currently in our home
Embarrassing moments initiated by the child's socializing
Occasions on which I've cried since I became a mother (at which I might well have laughed four years ago)
People with whom I--usually an agoraphobe--have struck up conversations as a direct result of having a man child
Number of months left until I can willingly allow action figures into my home

I could go on. (Blessedly, I will not.) It's amazing, though, how natural all of the changes he's brought into my life are--which I guess is why becoming the mother of a son feels like a culmination of everything that's gone before. I like it. A whole, whole lot. My guess is that Tamsin and Mr. Nick will too.

* All of these delightful bits of information (and so much more!) are to be found on Melissa's blog, which is always read aloud at our house and frequently laughed at so hard we have to take breaks.

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Project Baby and Guest Blogger Week: Stepper!

Much as I promised this wouldn't turn into a Mormon Mommy Blog, it turns out that being pregnant makes you think about things like babies and motherhood quite a lot. It seems that tiny little feet pounding on your bladder will do that to you.

In the weeks since my last Project Baby post when we found out that we're having a boy, I've spent a lot of time thinking about what that means for me, for us and for our little family. It's amazing how different it feels to go from "we're having a baby" to "we're having a son". And I'm honestly very, very excited because little boys are amazing!

For this weeks blog project, I asked some friends and fellow bloggers who just also happen to be the mothers of sons to share some of their thoughts on the raising of boys and the having of sons.

First up is Stepper, who seems to be becoming something of a celebrity on my blog. If you don't believe me (and you're not using Google Reader), look to the bar on the right at my current featured blog. Don't be shy about leaving her a comment here, or about clicking over to her own blog. I'm sure you'll like her as much as I do.

Boys by Stepper

When I walked trustingly into the ultrasound office the summer of 2007, I was sure I was having a girl. I had flipped back and forth during my whole pregnancy thus far, saying things like, “it appears he is not a fan of tuna fish – please go eat your sandwich in some dark corner away from me.” and “she is doing the kitchen dance in there!” But a few weeks before U-day, my mind and (surely!) my Mother’s Intuition had settled on a girl. I should be able to intuitively know what sort of person inhabited my space with me – and this person was decidedly female.

We even had her name picked out.

So when I caught a glimpse of what would prove me wrong as the ultrasound technician moved her cold black rolly-stick over my bump to discover all fingers and toes, I didn’t believe it. Those grainy pictures are squidgy at best, anyway. What I saw could have been anything! A bunched umbilical. A third leg! But not that.

“Do you want to know the sex?” asked the technician.

We nodded.

The cold black rolly-stick moved back into position. That was no third leg. “Well!” said the technician as she digitally circled the proof and typed “it’s a boy!” in tiny white letters across the screen, “he certainly isn’t shy!”

(she had no idea)

For a flash of a second, I was consumed with disappointment. What about the daughter that I was so certain I had been talking to all this time? What happened to her when this interloping boy had taken her place? Boys were a complete mystery to me. I had three sisters – no brothers. My poor dad had to resort to buying a huge and flashing fire truck to donate to charity at Christmas time. Little boys were inscrutable with their obsession with trucks, balls, and bandaged knees; teenage boys had completely baffled me (why on earth would anyone think that burping the alphabet was funny?); adult men were intriguing and mysterious, but still beyond me. How the heck was I supposed to change one’s diaper, let alone raise one to adulthood?

I looked at Bill – the one male on this planet that I did understand. His eyes were wide and wet, staring at that monitor, and his mouth barely formed the whispered words, “it’s a boy.”

Our eyes met, and my brief flash of doubt completely dissolved into something else. Something I’d never felt before. Something strong. I was swept away with it.

I was having a boy. A son. My son. And suddenly, I had never wanted anything else. I had never wanted anything so desperately than I wanted this boy in my arms, in my life.

“You’re having a son!” I blubbered to Bill. He pressed his sleeve cuffs against his eyes and grinned.

“You too,” he said.

The ultrasound technician tried to move on and explain all the other parts we were seeing. We listened and appreciated and ooh’d and ahh’d at how cute his tiny little features were – and they were. Seriously. Adorable. My little man.

But in my head, I was already five months from then. Sitting in the rocking chair Bill had just bought for me – for us! My little man and I – with this child in my arms, knowing him and loving him and watching him grow to be a man the caliber of his father.

I think I may have interrupted the ultrasound technician when I suddenly blurted to Bill, “You’ll have to change his diapers; I don’t know how!”

Bill just laughed.

I’d learn.

This boy thing – I’d learn.

Wyatt is almost two years old, now – and I’m still learning, every day, why being the mother of a boy is the absolute best thing in the entire world. I had no idea boys were so much fun.

One evening while kneeling next to the tub giving Wyatt a bath, I looked up at Bill who was watching the fun. “I want boys. Lots of boys. I want a whole house FULL of sons!” And I meant it! Girls were probably great, too – but boys? I had irrefutable proof that boys were divine.

A whole house full of them, please.

Now Wyatt is about to become a big brother. To a girl. Her little protector. And I’m looking forward to learning how girls are the absolute best thing in the entire world. Because I know she will also be irrefutably divine. And she will make me want a slew of daughters to give baths to, also.

But I still plan on that house full of boys.

Monday, November 2, 2009

Halloween Week: The Grand Finale

*Please prepare for a LONG post*

We decided a year ago that we would be spending this Halloween with Nick's parents in good ol' Hurricane, UT. As it turns out, this tiny town is trick or treat central for most of Southern Utah. At least, specifically my in-laws street is. We'd heard tales of people descending by the thousands on a two-block neighbourhood of spookily decked out houses. So, this year we went.

And they did not disappoint.

We started off on Halloween morning with some nice family baking.

These witches fingers were pretty quick and easy to make, as well as surprisingly tasty. At least the non-green ones were. I still have a very Scandinavian fear of food colouring. I liked the almond fingernail part the best, as it added some nice crunch. If I make these again in the future, I might try baking some pretzel sticks into the center of each finger for a surprise bone crunch. Or maybe a red jam center?

Then we followed that up with the all-essential pumpkin carving. As it turns out, two pumpkins are more than enough for three adults, especially when one of them (me) has the attention span of a very small insect and got bored with tracing the pattern onto the pumpkin. That's right, this year we opted for the no-creativity, but highly impressive (if you don't think about it) stencil!

Then we returned to our baking and decorated our spider cupcakes. All of this had the very fortunate effect of functioning like little Halloween activity stations. Perfect for little kids and 29 year-old pregnant women with short attention spans!

Before too long it was time to gear up for the trick or treaters. I honestly thought my in-laws were being a bit ridiculous for stocking up on 350 pieces of small candy for the little kids and a similar amount for the older ones, and still worrying about running out. But between the hours of 5:30 and 9 PM, the doorbell rang so constantly that we eventually pulled up a row of chairs by the front door to save us the walk from the couch, as well as the hammering of tiny impatient fists on the door.

Along with Nick's sister Tess, we handed out candy for the first hour or two to the smaller kids that came early. The little kids were cute and funny with their head first lunges into the candy bowl and parent-prompted choruses of "TWIIICK OR TWEEEEAT!" But we knew that once it got dark and the older kids started coming around, it was time to hand things over to the professionals.

Nick's younger brother Cody is the Halloween candy master. No kid grabs candy from his bowl without saying anything: Cody will stop them with a "Dude, now you're just taking my stuff" and a firm, but fair reminder of Halloween manners. At least be a polite mercenary of sugar.

The best part is when older kids come to the door. Cody will give them the full-sized candy, but first request some effort from them in return:

- "Do 20 push ups!"
- "Will you moonwalk like Michael Jackson for a full-size Snickers?"
- "Show me some jumping jacks!"
- "You're a big group, make a human pyramid!"

It's fun to watch people's response. Some of them balk at the idea of actually doing anything in return for their candy and leave, but most play along and think it's fun. And if they don't want to do one thing, they'll often offer do something else instead, so we had people cartwheeling on the front porch, as well as some singing, dancing and the occasional bird call.

All from giving an 18 year-old a little bit of power.

Our almost three year-old nephew Gavin also showed up in his Spiderman suit, and we got to take him trick or treating, which was fun, because I've never done that before. We didn't celebrate Halloween in Norway. Don't get me wrong, we'd still maraud around the neighbourhood in wanton search of candy, but our assigned time to scrounge candy off the neighbors was the week after Christmas instead. Gavin is too young to have developed too much trick or treating stamina yet, though, so after two houses he asked if we could "go home to Grandma's house, please?" There he got hopped up on spider cupcakes, professed his true identity as Spiderman and squealed excitedly every time there was a knock at the door. Then he made three more trick or treating raids with Grandpa, two houses at a time.

We attempted to take some photos of the street at its busiest with hundreds of people everywhere and every house ghoulishly decorated, but nighttime photography is a bit beyond our skill level:

Still, you get the idea. This place was decked out.

After all the candy was gone, all 700 plus pieces of it, we curled up and watched A Nightmare Before Christmas. A perfectly spooky end to October and the Halloween season.