Friday, October 13, 2006

Who couldn't use a little Justin?

We received a note home from school last week that said J closes her eyes when reciting the Pledge of Allegiance. As she has had an almost rabid obsession with flags for more than a year now, I see it as only fitting that she would hold sacred this oath of patriotism.

The note reminded me that her syllabus (for 2K - six kids in the class and a syllabus from each of her teachers (classroom/Spanish/music/PE) that tells me what songs they are singing, colors and shapes they are learning, exercises they are doing, etc., on a weekly/monthly basis - I love this school) indicated the class would be reciting the Pledge everyday, so I decided to quiz J to see how much of it she had learned. She got the last word or two of every line, with a very serious emphasis on "under God."

But this was hands down my favorite line:

Me: With liberty and...

J: Justin for all!

Boy band fans everywhere are shouting "Amen!"

Thursday, October 12, 2006

Hold the chili please... Check that

At a high school football game:

Me: Can I get a plain hot dog please?

Friendly Neighborhood Concession Volunteer: Sorry, we just have wienies (really?) and chili.

Me: Right, I just want a plain hot dog.

FNCV: No {struggling to find the words}, we just have wienies and chili.

Me: {blink... blink}

FNCV: We can't make them here and they come with the chili already on them.

Me: OH. {And... really?}

Me: Ok, can I get a chili dog... and a fork?

I was completely freaked out because J had been looking forward to a "hot gog" ever since I told her we were going to the football game - pieces-parts encased in whatever the wienies are encased in are the best part of sporting events as far as she's concerned - and since I wouldn't in a million years eat a freakin' chili dog I just assumed she wouldn't either. In the past she's only eaten them plain - no ketchup, no mustard, no relish, no whatever Those Who Eat Hot Dogs eat on their hot dogs - so I felt sure a big mound of artificially colored ground beef oozing out of each end would be the kiss of death for dinner at the football stadium.

Just for kicks, I offered her a bite before I commenced to scraping. Not only did she eat. every. last. bite. but she ate the chili off the top first and then went back for the dog.

Definitely her father's child.

Fall-ing in love

I. love. today.

The weather is perfect. Bright and sunny but finally not sweltering, just enough of a breeze to scatter the fallen leaves across the yard... perfect, perfect, perfect. J and I spent the whole morning outside and she's upstairs sleeping it off right now. Thursday is our only free morning - no preschool, no Kindermusik, and today no plans other than meeting the carpet cleaner at 11. She loves all of those activities, but sometimes I feel like she doesn't get enough time to just hang out and play, a feeling reinforced recently by the fact that anytime there's a break in the action she asks to watch TV. I don't let her everytime, of course, but I've been thinking lately that maybe she isn't so good at entertaining herself because we're rarely here long enough to afford many opportunities to learn how.

We slept in, hung out, and then went to the park for a brief sojourn on J's beloved playground. She chanted "playground time" all the way to the park and when she caught sight of it from the parking lot she took it down to a reverent whisper. It's time like those that I just want to pull the car over, climb in the back seat, and eat her up. I love seeing her so genuinely full of joy, especially over something so simple as a morning spent running and climbing and swinging and sliding. Her school puts a big emphasis on playground time, which I love... if it's not raining they spend at least a few minutes of each day just playing outside. They also have organized PE once a week (for two-year-olds, who knew?), which I think is fantastic.

When we got home we headed straight for the back yard - a few minutes of play-doh on the porch while Mommy dealt with the carpet cleaner (I don't know when we entered the "I can happily entertain myself without begging to 'watch'" phase, but I must say I'm digging it, and also realizing it's entirely possible I just got lucky this morning) and then it was out into the yard for more running, ball kicking, acorn collecting, and clambering up and sliding down the brightly colored plastic monstrosity MOMD abhors but that our neighbors were nice enough to offer us the use of for a season until their youngest daughter is old enough for it.

After that we walked down to our favorite neighbor's house (three boys ages 8 to 14 who shower J with attention, which, of course, she hates) so J could bounce on their "jumpoline(!)" for a few minutes. What a happy girl! On the way home the leaves were blowing all around the cul de sac and she had a great time chasing them. Made me wish I had my camera and a smidge of talent for photography to capture how much we both enjoyed our morning.

And in other "When Did We Get Here?" news, J played outside by herself while I made lunch. I remember last fall - our first one in this house - thinking what a great back yard we had - enclosed by a fence and highly visible from the kitchen window - but not being able to imagine letting her play out there by herself. Of course, this time last year she was only 14 months old, but even a month ago I wouldn't have done it, or maybe it's that she wouldn't have done it. I kept my eagle eye on her the whole time, of course, but it gave me such a contented feeling to watch her happily playing on her own.

After lunch I was rewarded with that favorite melody of mothers of toddlers everywhere, "{heavy sigh} I tired." We read a little Shel Silverstein, which she surprisingly loves even though I'm pretty sure most of it she doesn't even remotely get (I bought it when she was a baby but more to recapture my own fond eighth-grade drama class memories than because I thought she was going to be into oddball poetry anytime soon), and she was asleep within 15 minutes of my leaving the room. I don't know why, but I get such a sense of satisfaction from putting her to bed when she's truly worn out - I guess it's because I feel like I've done my job well when she is worn out.

Tuesday, October 10, 2006

Catching up

We moved J to a big girl bed last week. She loves it and so far has stayed in it, even yesterday afternoon when her three-hour stint upstairs never gave way to peaceful slumber. She chatted and sang to herself and called for me a few times, but never once got out of the bed. I'm sure that won't always be the case, but for now I'm reveling in a seemingly painless transition. I had planned to spend way too much money on one of those precious PBK beds and make a new big girl room part of Christmas, but my parents are in the process of moving (closer to us, hurrah... and I mean that) and had an extra bed that needed a home so we took it. I still had plans to store the bed in the spare/baby #2 room until I could procure the ideal big girl bed linens, but the night we brought the bed home Daddy and I found her very nearly climbing into it from outside and thought, "heck, no time like the present."

I feel like I should have made a bigger deal of it than I did. It is a huge step in the life of a toddler, after all, but she took it in such stride it didn't really feel like such a big deal. I did have a moment, as I was dragging the crib and glider (an unanticipated casualty of the renovation) out of her room, where I realized she would never sleep in it again (if we were lucky) and that our rocking days will now be fewer and farther between, and the idea of that does make me sad, though not as sad as I thought it would. Because for all the baby things I'm losing I feel like I'm gaining so much more. She wasn't really into reading in the rocker anymore anyway, and now we can all three snuggle together - comfortably - in her big new bed while we read stories and say prayers and give her just a few more kisses on those plump, velvety cheeks.

When she was a baby I used to get so sad at the thought of her growing up and not being "exactly like she is right now" forever. But I know now that was only because I didn't know then how much more fun it gets. Not to say that I don't miss the baby stuff, and I still sometimes wish cryogenics research was a bit more advanced, but watching her grow into a little person is the most fascinating, rewarding and hilarious thing I have ever done. I say all the time now that she is the best thing I've done, and I firmly believe that to be true.

Independent thought is probably my favorite thing about the toddler years. She's no longer simply churning out colors and numbers and repeating the information we prompt her for, though there's still plenty of that, but coming up with her own ideas and her own answers to our questions. And volunteering information about her day at school, "Drew mash fingers door," though, admittedly, usually not the information I'm looking for. She sings whole songs that I don't know the words to - I thought it would break my heart to not know exactly what she's doing every minute of everyday, but it turns out I love seeing her blossoming in a new environment and learning fun things from someone else.

I'm forever repeating to Daddy and her adoring aunt and grandparents all the brilliant, funny things she says and thinking I need to write them down so I don't forget them, and now that I'm finally sitting in front of the computer I'm drawing a total blank.

Here's one...

This weekend we went apple picking for the first time - a misty, foggy, chilly day; quite seasonal, but not the Sound of Music morning on the mountaintop I had envisioned - and after our adventure I bought J some fresh apple juice in an apple-shaped (or was it a red bell pepper?) sippy cup. In the car on the way home she kept trying to close the lid on her finger while saying, "bye-bye finger!" Disturbing, no?

In less fun news, her peanut allergy was confirmed a couple of weeks ago. I took her to the allergist for an hour or so of torture - for both of us - only to be told that not only is she allergic to peanuts, as we had suspected, but that she is to avoid all tree nuts and - wait for it - chocolate. Because most of it is processed with nuts. Her father argues that she's been eating chocolate for a while now with no problem, but the allergist says her best chance for outgrowing it is by totally avoiding nuts of any kind right now. Which makes total sense, but man, that news hit me like a ton of bricks. I was sitting in the testing room crying my little eyes out, feeling ridiculous and not at all sure what I was crying about, but knowing that if I opened my mouth to articulate that fact or apologize to the clinicians in the room my weeping would give way to an all-out bawl.

And this wasn't helped by the fact that on top of the allergy I pretty much already knew she had, she also tested positive for wheat, soy, some kind of spring tree, and mixed feathers. Which means she's allergic to our bed. The big, fluffy, white one she can't wait to watch "Rickey Mouse" in every Saturday and Sunday morning. I do take issue with this one, however, as the testing site was right next to the peanut one on her back and I know she rubbed the peanut one so doesn't it stand to reason she could have smeared some it on to the feathers one and made that one well up, too? The nurses all seemed rather surprised by the reaction, too, so I'm approaching that one with healthy skepticism. I'm not buying down pillows for her new bed or anything, but she's still allowed in ours and we're just keeping a close eye on any resultant physiological response, which, so far, we haven't noticed.

She also tested positive for wheat and soy - both 1 on a 0-4+ scale (peanuts and feathers were both 3+) but the nurse said if we've never seen a problem she wouldn't worry too much about those. And that kid eats edamame like there was no tomorrow, so, again, grain of salt.

And to be honest, I'm ashamed by how emotional my reaction was. Not just because my two-year-old handled the whole thing with more bravery and composure than I did, even after being pricked in the back 40 times and subsequently not being allowed to scratch the enormous welts rising on her back but sneaking a hand back there anyway and then rubbing some of the allergen solution into her eye, in a room with no sink, which sent Mommy in search of a nurse and some water. But because, for the love, there are so many more frightening, life-changing things we could have been hearing that day, that it just seems downright selfish to get that worked up over the fact that J won't be able to have pb&j for lunch.

{Where did all this come from anyway? I never knew anybody who was allergic to any kind of food when I was a kid - I know it happened but it certainly wasn't as prevalent. J is one of nine kids in her preschool that are allergic to peanuts, and several others are allergic to milk, etc. What changed, and is anybody doing anything about it?}

But I've realized since then that my reaction really had nothing to do with what she won't be able to eat, it was about the fact that she'll be different. She'll be the kid in her class who can't eat what everyone else is eating, or (worse?) the reason no one can have it at all. And I don't want that for her. And if I'm really honest with myself, right now it's a little more about me than it is her. Because, really, she isn't old enough to understand it and as long as she's getting her two pieces of candy on the way to the carpool line, who cares if she gets Skittles when everyone else gets M&M's? If I'm really honest, I don't want to have to tell people that my kid has a peanut allergy - because lord knows her father and I did our fair share of mocking this very affliction before we became parents.

And of course it's not just nuts, it's everything in the world that is processed with or near nuts that we now have to watch out for. Which means Halloween should be a blast. And honestly, that's the first thing I thought of when the doctor said no chocolate - Halloween and Christmas and all her preschool parties. But later I realized this year I can switch out the candy she brings home on Halloween night with a pre-purchased, pre-approved batch of my own and she'll be none the wiser. I'm sure that won't work next year, but by then I'm guessing avoiding certain foods will be so normal for her {ugh} that it won't phase her... much. She already knows that nuts make her "sick," which kills me, but she has to know she's not supposed to eat them, right? I certainly am going to do everything in my power not to turn into one of those freakout moms who petitions the school to ban peanuts and makes her wear a big placard that says "hey, look at me, I'm allergic to peanuts," but I also have to put aside my own crap and keep her safe.

Just today at lunch she had a reaction and I have no idea what caused it. She hadn't even eaten anything yet, but from the minute we sat down at the table she was clawing at the backs of her knees and by the end of the meal she had huge welts there and on her wrists and her face had started breaking out. I gave her a dose of Benadryl and my dad went to the drugstore for some Cortaid, which both seemed to help, but on the way home I could. not. make her stop rubbing her eyes, so by the time we got back here one of them was so red and swollen it looked like her reaction had been much more severe than it actually was. So, not life threatening by any means, but clearly miserable for her and who knows when it could cross the line? I'm carrying an Epipen now, at the recommendation of her pediatrician, which I still can't even believe but pray I never have to use.

And the worst part about today is I have absolutely no idea what set her off. Did the kid who sat in the highchair before her eat peanut butter and smear some on the seat? The seat wasn't visibly soiled when I put her in it - believe me, I always check - but I guess if I were a good mother I would have wiped it down anyway just to be safe.

So - this sucks - but it could be so much worse and I know that and am ever thankful that she is a happy, healthy little girl. Just a new reality to which we all must adjust.

Another one just came to me...

On the mornings that I have to wake her up for school - which I HATE doing and always wait until the last possible second, which usually means feeding her breakfast in the car, which I further hate doing - as soon as she hears me moving around her room she pops up her sleepy little head and says "all done right now!"

Would that we were all that cheerful first thing in the morning.

About Me

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Southeastern, United States
34-year-old freelance writer/mommy of one, married to S who loves his work but is gone too much