Mommy learns to be a big girl, too

May you build a ladder to the stars
and climb on every rung.

“Forever Young”
Bob Dylan

When Evie and I moved to join her daddy in Florida a little over a year ago, there was a period of adjustment for all of us.  Gill adjusted to sharing the TV again, I adjusted to lugging groceries up the 4,876 stairs in our townhouse, and Evie adjusted to adjusting.  One of her major adjustments was actually a backslide.  Evie refused to go to sleep by herself or to stay in her bed the entire night.

Before we moved, I would put Evie in her bed at night, kiss her forehead, tell her I loved her and walk out of the room. The next morning I would know she had awakened by the chattering I heard coming from the other side of her bedroom door.  After we moved, all of that came to a screeching halt.  Bedtime became a battle which I eventually lost, i.e., surrendered, and you could find me each night in Evie’s room, rocking in the the rocking chair, waiting for sounds of soft snoring coming from her bed.  And after we moved, I knew she was awake by the kidney-kicking I received each morning from the little body pressed up against my back.

After awhile, I adjusted to Evie’s refusal to adjust.  I could have fought it.  I could have put another child lock on her doorknob like she had in North Carolina.  I could have Ferberized her again.  I could have dutifully carried her back into her room each night and put her back into her own bed.  But I didn’t.  The truth is, I came to enjoy that quiet time in her darkened room at night, softly rocking and thinking my thoughts while my baby drifted off to dreamland.  And I enjoyed rolling over in the middle of the night to find her warm little body snuggled against me.  And I knew she enjoyed these things, too.  They made her feel safe.  I made her feel safe.

Mother’s intuition is a son of bitch.  A real bastard.  It told me that all of this had to end.  It hissed in my ear that I had set up and was continuing to foster bad habits.  It stood behind the rocking chair and crouched by my bed, lecturing me about how I would feel still doing all of this when Evie turned six, eight, ten years old.  I ignored it.  Then I ignored it some more.  Then Evie turned four, and I was ready to listen.

One day, out of the blue, I started to talk to Eve about acting like a big girl.  Not just being a big girl but acting like one.  I told her that all of her friends were big girls.  They didn’t need their mommies to stay with them at night, and they slept in their own beds all night by themselves.  Evie offered that they also didn’t wear Pull-ups to bed.  I panicked a little and told Evie not to get ahead of herself, i.e. rush Mommy.

That night we began the experiment.  I have learned this over the past several months:  If you want Evie to do something, don’t offer a reward.  Threaten to take something away.  Sound cruel?  As Bill Cosby so wisely observed, “This is not your child!”  So, I told Evie if she didn’t go to sleep by herself, she couldn’t watch her favorite show the next day.  I figured we’d tackle the going asleep first and then work on staying in her own bed all night next.  I asked Evie to explain back to me the deal we were making.  She said, “I have to go to sleep by myself and stay in my bed. Not get in your bed.”  She threw me off guard, but my brain quickly rallied and caught up with that of my four-year-old daughter.  “That’s right.  Yeah, that’s right.  Evie, you have to stay in your own bed,” I managed, strong disciplinarian that I am.

And she did.  Holy mother’s intuition, she really did it.  And she kept doing it.  And she also doesn’t wear Pull-up’s anymore at night.  My child, bless her little Type A heart, is an overachiever.

And I?  Am a freakin’ mess.

My baby.  My baby.  Where is my baby?  I’m sad. I’m happy.  I’m proud.  I wish I’d never started this.  Mother’s intuition rolls its eyes at me and tells me to get over myself.  It explains through gritted teeth that Evie has to learn how to make herself feel safe.  That part of growing up is pulling away.  That part of being a parent is pushing away.  That if I don’t help Evie instill a firm sense of independence and pride in herself, that she and her good-for-nothing unemployed boyfriend will still be living with us when she’s 37.

I know, I know.  But can I just say one thing?  One of the most unnerving things I’ve had to do in my short parenting career is stay downstairs.  My baby is upstairs in her dark room with three nightlights burning, her blankets pulled up to her chin, who knows what lurking outside the window, trying, trying, trying to be a big girl, and I have to stay downstairs.  Stay downstairs and piddle.  Flip through the channels.  Check email.  Pet the kitty.  Wait…was that Evie?  Was that her little voice?  Does she need me?

No.  In this case she doesn’t.  And she’s so proud of herself.  She’s acting like a big girl.  I would never, ever take that away from her.  I will find a million little things to do before I walk out of her room at night, though:  Hang up a dress that was on lying on the floor.  “Night night, sweetie.”  “Night night, Mommy.”  Straighten up a few books on her bookshelves.  “I love you.  I’ll see you in the morning.”  “See you in the morning.”  Hand her another stuffed animal.  “Mommy, are you leaving?”  “Yes.  Sorry.  I’m going.”

I have to deal with my issues around the act of pushing away a person who has depended on me for so much for so long.  But.  When I roll over in the morning to see that little pink-nightgowned figure standing in the bedroom doorway, waiting for me to see her, I don’t hesitate for a second.

“Come here,” I whisper.

FOUR!!!

Well, my goodness.  You’re sure a big girl now, Kimosabe.  Can you believe that four years ago today when I held your unfamiliar little body, stared into your scrunched little face and thought about how I was your mommy, it scared the crap out of me?  My, how times have changed…and how they’ve stayed the same.  I still get scared sometimes, especially when I look at you and see almost no sign of that baby.  Just a big girl.

The past year has certainly been an adventure.  We’ve moved miles and miles away from where we used to be.  And, we also moved to Florida.  You and I have learned and seen and done so much together over the past year, and I wouldn’t trade a moment of it.  There is no part of me that regrets the decision I made to quit my former life to hang out with you.

Evie, sometimes I wonder what I did to deserve someone so beautiful in every way.  You’ve inspired me to build my life into one that is  full of surprises, happiness and love.  Being your mommy opens up the world for me in ways I never imagined.  You’ve made me a bigger person.

Thank you, baby girl.  I love you.

C’est fini, beotches

Well, here we are.  November 30.  Thirty days of posts from yours truly.  I did it.  I really did it.  Holy crap.

I was dubious from the get-go about my ability to stick it out.  During the month there were days when cleaning my toilets seemed preferable to posting.  On those days I thought about you guys and how I’d put myself out there on November 1st.  If I failed, I’d have an audience.  I didn’t want y’all to watch me fail. 

Also, there was KeAnne.  Beautiful, wonderful, talented, infuriatingly diligent KeAnne.  She was dutifully posting every day.  I thought if she could do it, I could damn well, too.

True, there were days when a post on the The Evie Standard consisted of one or two sentences.  Those were the bad days, folks.  You know what I mean.  Those were the days when I was so tired that pressing buttons on a remote was physically draining, and my brain was leaking out my ears.  If you can believe it, I was genuinely afraid I’d forget to post one day.  I imagined jolting awake at 11:59pm and falling all over myself to get downstairs to throw something, anything up on the blog.

I think I’ll probably do this challenge again some time in the future, especially now that I’ve got one under my belt.  Notice I said some time in the future.  I don’t know when, parentals and parentals-in-law.  Simmer down.  It was good exercise, and in the end, it gave me something to be proud of.

Thanks, everyone, for hanging in there.  See y’all in a few days.  My fingers, they are tired.

Love,
K

 

A life lesson

Lately Evie and I have taken to hanging out with her friend Charlie and his mom at the pool.  The water is too cold to swim in unless you happened to really, really want to take a dip, but the kids like playing around the water with various detritus they find while Oolie and I take in the sun and talk. 

Today, as Evie and Charlie were playing, Charlie decided to take a bathroom break in one of the pool’s restrooms.  He walked in and closed the door.  Evie walked over, opened the door and stood at the entrance.  Below is what I heard:

Charlie:  Eve.  I have to pee.

Eve: (doesn’t close the door)

Charlie:  Eve!  I’m peeing!

Eve:  (doesn’t close the door)

Charlie:  Close the door.

Eve: (doesn’t close the door)

Charlie:  Eve!  Close the door!  Close the door! I’m peeing! (slams door in Evie’s face)

Eve: (begins to cry hysterically)

Charlie:  (finishes peeing, comes out of the restroom)

Eve: (continues to cry loudly)

Charlie:  (curls up in a ball in a nearby chair, hands over his ears, face scrunched)

Eve: (continues to cry while staring at Charlie)

Charlie: (walks over to Eve, puts his arms around her and rubs her back)

Eve:  (accepts the embrace, stops crying, starts hiccupping and sucking her thumb)

I looked at the two of them and sighed.  Poor Charlie.  I thought about trying to explain things to him.  But, I figured that this wouldn’t be the last time in his life that  although he did nothing wrong, because she cried, it was still all his fault.

Okay.  Brace yourselves.  What follows is the cutest thing you will see for the next 24 hours:

 

She sang so the back row could hear her.  She knew all the words.  Clad for the first time in her red and white robe, she clasped her hands in front of her as she walked up the aisle, as I’m sure Ms. Eby told her to do.  When she saw me, she flashed me one of her delighted, slightly conspiratorial grins as if to say, “Look at me!  This is so awesome!”

Proud doesn’t begin to describe it.  I wanted to make a formal announcement at the end of the performance that the beautiful girl with the blue bow in her hair who sang so the heavens could hear her was our daughter.  Our Evie.

Her daddy had to be out of town for work and missed it.  She did great, sweetie.  You would have wanted to tell everyone, too.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Oh yes, oh yes! Evie is tres!

Well, my goodness.  Our big girl is three years old.  Can you believe it?  THREE.  Three years ago at this moment, I was pushing as hard as I could to get her into the world.  And now preschool looms in our near future.  Good lord.

Evie, I can’t tell you how proud I am of my sweet, eager-to-please, smart, sneaky, funny, opinionated, curious, outspoken, bossy, almost-potty-trained, compassionate, quick-tempered, energetic, beautiful little girl.  You’re everything I ever dreamed about and hoped for and infinitely more.  You’re the best thing about me.

I’ve loved every minute of your three years.  I feel privileged to watch you grow up, to be your mama.

I love you, baby-girl.

Mama

P.S.  And don’t worry.  Pretty soon you’ll be able to make “three” with your fingers without holding down your pinky and thumb.  It’s a learned skill like anything else.

Potty is as potty does (will I eventually run out of these, do you think?)

As of tomorrow, Gill and I will have been potty training Evie for one week.  During this time, we have discovered some things we didn’t know before.  Namely, hardwoods are the way to go and that a toddler can indeed pee her way through 40 pairs of underwear in a day.  We’ve also learned that the connection we make between the urge to relieve ourselves and going to the toilet to do it is something we take entirely too much for granted.  We have to remind ourselves that Evie doesn’t make that connection.  To her, pee-peeing on the potty is merely an option, just like pee-peeing in her diaper or on the living room floor is an option. 

During the past week, every time I go to the bathroom I think about Evie.  Ain’t that sweet?   I wonder if she’s used the potty yet that day.  I wonder if I’ve bought enough panties for her.  I wonder if it’s wrong to secretly hold the opinion that if they make diapers that will fit a four-year-old (and they do) that it’s totally okay to wait that long to potty train them.

Just kidding. 

I’ve read a couple of articles on potty training so far, and, like most instructional material on parenting, they all pretty much say the same thing: 1)wait until your child displays readiness signs; 2) get rid of the diapers and use pull-ups and/or real underwear; 3) be patient and encouraging.  Hmmm.  Like I said, Gill and I have learned a few things this week.  Some of those things they might not tell you in Parenting.  And lucky you, I’m here to tell you what they are:

1.  You must absolutely buy huge bags of Hershey Kisses and lollipops and put them on the topmost shelf of your kitchen cabinet.  Then you must sometimes literally, sometimes figuratively (but always shamelessly), dangle said bag in your potty trainee’s face in order to bribe them to pee-pee on the potty.   I take  a very carrot-and-stick approach to parenting and firmly believe in the “if you do this, I will give you that” philosophy.  Judge me if you must, but it works for me.  And it definitely works for Evie.  She likes it very much.

2.  If you’re going to be home for an extended period of time, strip your trainee naked from the waist down.  This achieves three main goals: a) quicker butt-to-potty seat access for the trainee; b) less wet underwear and shorts to wash; and c) endless entertainment for both the trainee and the trainers by all-out-running-around-the-house-like-a-crazy-baby-with-my-naked-butt-hanging-out extravaganzas.  

3.  Pull-ups are just diapers, folks.  No.  No.  They are.  Buy real, big-kid underwear.  Take the leap.  Go ahead.  You can do it!

    3a.  With all the different colors and characters available to today’s big-kid underwear purchaser, the process is actually fun!  Yay, Belle and Dora and Toy Story and Spiderman!  Oh look — Kai Lan!  And Transformers!  Cool! 

             Okay, maybe too much fun.  And maybe you should have a night out with your girlfriends.

4.  You will get frustrated and exasperated with your trainee.  The other morning I sat Evie on the potty no less than nine times before we left the house.  She actually used the potty none of those times.  She waited until I opened the door to leave the house.  Then she peed in her pants.  Frustration, thy name is Mommy. 

Take a breath.  Count to three.  Try your best to keep a sense of humor and be patient.  Your trainee is trying her best to learn and do what you want her to do.  She wants so much to please you.

     4a.  If you do lose your patience and get all eye-rolley and a “tone”, give yourself a break.  You just tried nine times to get your kid to pee.  You’re doing your best to teach her.  You want so much for her be proud of herself.  Do something nice for yourself.  Have a bowl of ice cream with some of that chocolate Magic Shell.  And some of those peanuts sprinkled over it.  And, oh, hey look!  There’s wine left! 

These tips should get you through.  Good luck to you. 

And good luck to me.  Things are getting weird around my house.  Last night I suddenly came upon some poop tucked away in a corner.  I looked up and saw both my daughter and my cat pointedly not looking anywhere near my direction.  I’m still not sure who to blame.

To Evie on her second birthday

Dear Evie:

The last two years have flown by so fast, they’ve felt like two minutes.  Yet so much has happened, and you’ve grown up so much!  When I pick you up at the end of the day, you always seem to know something new.  You’re so smart and funny and imaginative and sweet – I’m just so proud of the special little person you’re becoming.  That you already are. 

Evie, being your mommy is such a wonderful adventure that can take me from bone-shaking  fear to warm contentment and from dazzled wonderment to utter exasperation, all in the span of fifteen minutes.  I try my best to treasure every second of it.  

This morning I stopped for a minute to watch you play.  You were sitting on the floor in your pretty birthday dress, surrounded by books, crayons and Play-Doh-filled eggs, singing and talking to yourself.  My heart was so full of love for you and the little family you, your daddy and I have created that I was overwhelmed.  I realized what it really means to be blessed.

Love,
Mommy   

 

Hair today

Since Evie has come into our lives, I have seen many things I never imagined I would.  I have seen vomit covering the top half of her body and diarrhea covering the lower half.  At the same time.  I have seen her smear snot hither and yon.  I have seen her plunge her hand into a bowl of spaghetti and wipe it across her face.

I’m sorry, were you eating?

I have also done many things I never imagined I would.  I have wiped up and rinsed off and, in some cases, hosed down.  Gill and I debated what would gross us out the most in the process of taking care of a little person, and I wagered attacking a highchair oozing with wet food would be my white whale.  Sure, I knew managing my baby’s bodily functions would be like nothing I’d ever experienced, but did I ever think I’d pick another person’s nose?  No, no I did not.

And, yet, Evie?  Still the most beautiful thing I have ever seen.  I swear, there is nothing that could come out of that child that would make me think her less adorable, less angelic.  Is it any wonder then that I really paid no heed when her hair reached vagrant proportions?

I would like to submit Exhibit A into evidence as part of my defense:

I mean, on one hand we have a possible refugee from the cast of an off-Broadway production of Annie, and on the other hand we have cute little crossed ankles and pink toes just begging to be tickled.  Which would grab your attention first?  I rest my case.

Still, others started to suggest that maybe Evie’s hair could use a little “shaping”.  Hey, I can take a hint.

 Behold!  I give you the skilled hands of my own hairdresser, Carmen.  Dig the fabulous nails.  I have to tell you, Carmen is crazy.  I don’t mean like mental ward crazy, though.  I mean like Lord-y’all-they-ain’t-no-tellin’-what-that-girl-is-gonna-do-next crazy.  You know,  Country Crazy.  In my opinion, Country Crazy is the only kind of hairdresser to have.  Evie agrees and enjoyed getting her first haircut from Carmen.

As is my way, I had fretted about this haircut all week.  When Friday finally rolled around, the day of Evie’s appointment, I was sure the whole thing was destined for disaster, and the chocolate and light-up Valentine’s Day necklace I had procured would be vain and weak talismans in the face of Evie’s eventual meltdown.  So, anticipating that Carmen would need some time to get Evie strapped down in her chair and a sheet draped over her, I chatted up Mike, the man whom Carmen has married twice (I told y’all she’s crazy).  That’s Mike in the background.  Interesting tidbit:  At first glance of this photo, I thought the person standing in the background, who is actually Mike, was me.  But then I realized that no, that couldn’t be me because I was taking the pictures.  I am stunningly stupid sometimes.  Anyway, as I assured Mike that hateful people would eventually stop talking smack about his and Carmen’s rekindled flame, Carmen started the haircut.  I had to spring into action.

  Instead of strapping Evie down institution-style, Carmen opted to let her crawl all over Auntie while she quickly and cleverly snipped here and there.  Incidentally, Carmen cuts Auntie’s hair, too.  She may have a love life that puts any Hollywood starlet’s to shame, but Carmen cuts a fabulous head of hair, don’t you think?  By the way, I think I heard Evie say, “Et tu, Brute?”

The finished product!

Gill and I would like to introduce our son, Evie.

In the end, there was candy.  Isn’t there always?

Little Evie’s hair does look much better, and people have stopped trying to hand her change when we walk down the street.  And yes, Evie’s grandmothers, I did save some of the hair. 

 As for me, I was told by Carmen in no uncertain terms, “Honey-child, you need to come in here and have your roots done.”

Love that girl.

It’s my potty, and I’ll overdramatize if I want to (except I won’t)

I have a secret to tell you and only you:  Al Gore invented the Internet for me.  It’s true.  Why? Well, he knows that I am an information junkie.  I know, I know.  Right now you’re rolling your eyes and thinking, “Whatever, dude.  You know you shop and obsessively Facebook like the rest of us.”  Whereupon I say to you that I certainly do shop but I don’t Facebook and I am deeply in love with Google.  Like, the “we’re practically married” kind of love.

It all started when I decided to lose some weight back in 2002.  A friend of mine (you know her as SchmeAnne) had gone on Atkins and her butt looked great, so I decided to try it.  But I didn’t know where to start.  So one day I Googled “low carb diet” and pressed enter.  I’ve never looked back.

Now I Google everything.  Everything.  Most of the time I get good information.  Sometimes I get bad information posing as good information.  Occasionally I run across a total nutjob who has a laptop, some programming background and a lot issues.  Eventually I pretty much learned how to tell the difference began having just the best time cruisin’ around in cyberspace, filling my head with random and useless information.

Then I got pregnant with Evie, and a whole new can of worms – she was opened.  I’ll let you in on another little secret:  There is no other being in this world capable of a more complete and total freakout than a pregnant woman.  Not only are her  hormone levels off the charts, but she has an alien being growing inside of her, her pants won’t button and she can’t seem to control her cheese consumption, her husband keeps leaving the room all deer-in-headlights when she walks in and her feet really, really hurt.  Plus, PLUS, once the baby finally bursts forth from her womb, she has to somehow keep it alive.

Aaand there’s the rub:  Keeping the baby alive.  So, what does she do in an effort to provide the best care for her eventual offspring?  Well, since said offspring in encased securely within her body and not running around outside, getting into her kitchen cabinets and trying to “pet” the cat, she has plenty of time on her hands.  Plenty of time to scour the Internet for ways her baby could meet certain and utter doom, both in- and ex-utero.  Amid all the gutwrenching YouTube videos of natural childbirth and WebMD diagnoses of brain damage, she will eventually find a message board and join in a communal freakout with other pregnant women, which is what I did.

I remember the women on my May 2008 Babies message board as being paranoid, overreactive, slightly bitchy and very, very naïve.  I fit right in!  During our pregnancies we talked about baby names, our doctors’ appointments and, depending on the day, what sweethearts/lugheads our significant others were being.  One by one, our due dates fell.  One by one, our waters broke and we delivered the wee, soft little strangers we had been ranting and raving about for the past ten (TEN!) months.  Now the freaking out could really begin.

One of the most popular topics to obsess about on my message board was sleeping.  All of our pediatricians insisted that we develop a nighttime routine right away so that we wouldn’t have trouble getting our bundles of joy to go down for the night later in life.  They instructed us to put our babies in their cribs when they were drowsy but still awake.  This would help them learn how to fall asleep on their own.  Our doctors warned that if we rocked, nursed or in any way soothed to them all the way to sleep every night, we would end up doing it until they went off to college.

And we all dutifully nodded our heads in their offices, collected our little ones and went straight home – to the Internet.

How we moaned, wailed and kvetched over our inability to get our babies to soothe themselves to sleep.  Post after post went up, detailing how one new mom couldn’t lay her baby down in his crib if he were the slightest bit awake.  Another fretful soul timidly confessed that she was rocking her barren all the way to sleep every night, and you could almost hear the collective gasp followed by the sound of a hundred tsk’s.  The group tizzy would finally peak, and then everyone would move on to another topic just in time for a longtime mother to come in and regale us with stories of how she still had to sit by her four-year-old’s bedside and soothe him to sleep because she never followed her pediatrician’s advice.  Then the pearl-clutching would begin all over again.

I moaned and wailed with the rest of my group.  At night I would put Evie in her crib still awake and sit back down in the rocker and stare at her.  Evie would stare back at me.  We would sit like that, staring, until one of us nodded off or Evie let me know she was “having none of it tonight, lady.  Seriously.” 

We went through this routine for about two weeks right after I went back to work.  I diligently put my little one down in her crib still awake every night.  Sometimes she went to sleep.  Sometimes she didn’t.  But then one night I let her fall asleep in my arms while I rocked her.  In her darkened bedroom I held my baby and listened to our house’s nighttime sounds: her daddy cleaning up the dinner dishes downstairs; the whir of the air conditioning kicking on and off; a creak here and a settling there; my sweet girl, her little body totally relaxed in my arms, softly breathing in and out.  Folks, it was the most precious part of my day. 

So I decided to stop worrying so much and just enjoy it.  Every night we would read a story and sing a song, then turn off the pink ladybug lamp and commence to rocking back and forth, back and forth until Evie’s eyes would start to flutter and then finally close.  Sometimes I held her after she fell asleep for over an hour, just rocking and loving my new life.

And you know what?  The world didn’t come crashing to a halt.  In fact, nowadays Evie wants the same two stories, ONE verse of “Danny Boy” and then she wants you to put her in bed, Mommy, because she is damned tired.  And, AND, the other day I was putting Evie down for her nap, thinking she might fuss a little because she had visitors she wanted to entertain downstairs.  But I sat her in her crib and said, “‘Night-night, Evie.”  She replied, “Night-Night, Mama,” laid down and went to sleep.  I saw it with my own two eyes, people.

I told you all of that to tell you this: I’m about 95% sure Evie’s ready to start the first stage of potty training, and I’m not gonna freak out about it at all. 

Oh, I’m gonna read about it.  My Google history will show searches for “how not to screw up your toddler psychologically via potty training,” and “potty seats vs. stand alone potties,” and “Everybody Poops + unused copy,” but you will not find “harrowing tales of frightened children hiding piles of poop in their closet,” or “help, my 12-year-old wets the bed!”.

This is what Evie has taught me:  “Chill the hell out already, Mommy.”  That’s good advice.  Because Evie is a smart little girl who will learn how to use the potty (with a little well-informed guidance from her parents) in her own way and at her own pace, just like everything else she’s accomplished so far.

And the fact that she likes to walk around the house with her Disney Princess toilet seat balanced on her head means nothing at all, and I WILL NOT Google it.