Monday, December 31, 2012

2012 in Books

I'm pretty impressed with how many books I managed to read last year. Here are my short little book reports. My favorites are indicated with asterisks.

1. When You Are Engulfed in Flames by David Sedaris

The first half was laugh out loud funny, and I am rarely the type of person to laugh out loud at a book. Road Trips was an especially funny story. The second half was slower.

2. This is Where I Leave You by Jonathan Tropper

This is exactly the kind of book I cannot put down and want to read in any free moment I have. Yes, it may be formulaic. Yes, the characters may have been a bit one-dimensional. Yes, I could see a movie script rolling out with little trouble, something in the vein of The Family Stone. But I loved it. It was funny and fast paced and had some great one liners.

3. *State of Wonder* by Anne Patchett

The synopsis on the book jacket was not at all interesting to me, but I had heard so many people rave about this that I had to give it a try. I'm glad I did. It was like reading about the strangest dream I've ever had, yet it was so realistically rendered and the characters were so fleshed out and flawed and rich. I loved it.

4. How to Talk to a Widower by Jonathan Tropper

After 2 Tropper books in a row I see how formulaic his novels are, and yet I really enjoy them. Mediocre Jewish guy marries up, has a narcissistic mother, a father who didn't hug him enough and a slightly inappropriate relationship with his sister (does Tropper HAVE a sister?). But again, it was a fun, easy, light read that had some interesting insight into losing a spouse.

5. Bel Canto by Anne Patchett

I may be the only person on the planet who didn't LOVE this book. I had a really hard time getting into it. The plot was interesting, yes, but maybe there were TOO many characters all of who's heads we were jumping into and out of. And without giving anything away, I HATED the epilogue.

6. Is Everyone Hanging Out Without Me? by Mindy Kaling

Funny, quick, I want to be BFF's with Mindy.

7. Husband and Wife by Leah Stewart

This book started out whiny for me. I didn't like either the husband or the wife and didn't really care what happened to them, but I'm glad I kept reading, because although I never really grew to like the characters, I loved the insight into how a marriage can fall apart, how spouses can grow apart and then together again. It reminded me a bit of The Heights by Peter Hedges with the same fly-on-the-wall insight into the dissolution of a marriage of Blue Valentine.

8. *The Fault in Our Stars* by John Green

This was such a beautiful book. It might be classified as Young Adult, but nothing really makes it so other than that the main characters are teenagers. I was impressed that Green seemed to capture a teenage girl's voice pretty well. It was funny, poignant, and incredibly sad.

9. Half a Life by Darin Strauss

Here is where I realize I need to stop reading such depressing books... But seriously, I didn't like this. It's written in a very train-of-thought kind of way which I often have a hard time getting into. Sometimes it just takes me a while to get into the author's head, so I gave this a chance, but I never could get into Mr. Strauss's groove. I respect that it was intended to be a very real account of his emotions and grappling with how he felt and how he SHOULD feel after such a life-changing event, and in real life our emotions and reactions aren't neat and tidy, but it was quite disorganized feeling. Maybe that was the point, though? Maybe I am not highly evolved enough for this. Then I read in the acknowledgements that Dave Eggers had a heavy hand in editing this, and I recognized his trying-too-hard voice all over it. I'm just not a fan of Eggers' voice in memoirs.

10. Confessions of a Scary Mommy by Jill Smokler

I don't really remember this that well now. It was recommended by a friend. It was a quick read, and kinda funny, but not anything I hadn't heard before.

11. *Gone Girl* by Gillian Flynn

Holy sociopaths! As my good friend said, "[Flynn's] characters are chock full of WTF." But I could not. Put. It. Down. And although a lot of people took issue with the ending, I felt like it fit the characters.

12. Blueprints for Building Better Girls by Elissa Schappell

I barely remember this only a few weeks after reading it. It's short stories, that much I remember. I just remember I felt like there was too much "mystery" and too much left unsaid that we were meant to read into the characters, in every story and I didn't like that.

13. This Beautiful Life by Helen Schulman

The premise is intriguing (15 year old boy receives a pornographic video via email from a 13 year old classmate which ends up going viral. His family proceeds to fall apart). One small misstep by an otherwise good kid can change his whole future. It made me do a lot thinking about how I, as a parent, might avoid such events. But then the whole thing fell apart. Schulman rushes the ending, like she had gotten these characters into such a clusterfuck she didn't know how to get them out. And we end with a glimpse into the 13 year old's future which was strange because she wasn't really the point.

14. Looking For Alaska by John Green

I read this on vacation... that's... all I remember? I mean, I remember the plot, but I can't say it affected me in any real way. I'll say it was just good.

15. *A Grownup Kind of Pretty* by Joshilyn Jackson

Loved this.

16. Little Earthquakes by Jennifer Weiner

I enjoyed this. It makes me wish I had a close group of girlfriends.

17. Maine by J. Courtney Sullivan

Eh. Quick, beachy read.

18. **Mudbound** by Hillary Jordan

Probably the best book I read all year. Maybe the only book I've ever openly wept while reading. And one of a few that I think I'll re-read.

19. Girls in White Dresses by Jennifer Close

I kind of hated this. Jennifer Close has a really bleak view of marriage, and I don't think she even realizes it. She wrote about every male-female relationship (and there are many in this book) in the same grim way, but wrote it as if we all feel this way and we're all just accepting it. For the record: No.

20. Canada by Richard Ford

I really hated this. God it was boring. The plot is extremely interesting (a teenage boy's parents become bank robbers - and everything that lead up to that process - and he is sent to live in Canada with a stranger), but it is so long and drawn out with so much description of the landscape. Around page 300 I really thought hard about throwing in the towel, but I powered through and, gosh, I wish I had just quit and not wasted my time. But hey, my dad thinks this will win the Pulitzer, so obviously there is some disagreement about whether this sucked or not.

21. The Marriage Plot by Jeffrey Eugenides

I think this book benefited from the fact that I read it right after Canada. It was long and not much happened, but instead of page upon page of descriptions of the country-side it was page upon page of character development. Which I love. And my dad would have hated it. I told him I didn't think he'd like it and not to read it, but on second thought I should have bought him a copy to get back at him from making me read Canada.

22. The Light Between Oceans by M.L. Stedman

It took me a long time to get through this book, but I don't mean that as a strike against it. It was actually quite good, it was really moving and kind of depressing in a way that I didn't expect.

Friday, December 21, 2012

Dear Mia: Part 11

You are almost 21 months old now, and I have to say this age is HARD. You are naughty with little concept of consequences. You hit, you kick, you bite, you throw things. You follow directions one minute, then completely ignore me the next. I am realizing that this age is as much a test for me, and a learning experience for me, as it is for you. I sometimes expect a bit too much of you because of how bright you are, I forget how young you still are. But even so, sometimes taking you out in public is like going out with a drunk girlfriend. I know you KNOW how to behave, but for the moment you are short on the resources to do so.

I also realize that any naughty behavior is purely for attention at this point, in fact, if you are being naughty while I am not in the room you will tattle on yourself, shouting, "Mia standing on chair!" which you know you're not supposed to do.

You ask "Wuh-sat?" about everything, even things you know. A million times a day I am answering "What IS that? Do you know?" And now it was morphed into "Wuh-sat, right dere?" usually said while pointing at a total stranger in the grocery store. Or "Wuh-sat -blank- doin?" Which is actually pretty funny, like the other day when you pointed to the button on my coat and said "Wuh-sat button doin?" 

We talk about Christmas a lot, and my genius idea was to take you to see the mall Santa several times in the hopes that you would eventually sit on his lap for a picture, but it has totally backfired as we've been three times now and you just seem to get more scared of him every time. The first time you walked right up and high fives him. The second time you walked right up, but stood in front of him shaking with fear, and the third time you wouldn't even wave to him as we walked past. In fact you often mutter to yourself, "Sit Santa's lap?" And then shake your head with a scowl, "No. No. No."

You are, however obsessed with Rudolph which you only refer to as "Roof-off Red-nose Reindeer Had Shiny Noooooooose." You command me to sing it several times an hour, and can finish each line yourself. If we hear it on the radio you shout with glee (see what I did there?) as if it is playing just for you. You love your Christmas pajamas that have reindeer on the feet and request I put them on you at every diaper change. You call them your "Roof-off Jams."

You sit for hours a day looking at your books. You love going to the library, sitting at the little tables and chairs and having an infinite selection to flip through. You are very into the Clifford books right now, having completely dogeared the two books we own. Whenever we visit someone else's house you seem to have a radar that hones in on where they keep the children's books and are happy to sit reading, ignoring the chaos around you. One of my favorite things in life is listening to you read books to yourself. It only takes one or two readings by us for you to essentially memorize the book and repeat it to yourself in your own little abridged language while flipping the appropriate pages.

On the flip side, the most annoying thing you do is repeat EVERYTHING you say until someone acknowledges you (in fact, as I write this I realize your dad does the same thing), and, girlfriend, you feel the need to narrate everything. I spend my entire day saying, "Yes, Elmo is red. Yes, I see you looking out the window. Yes, I HEAR Rudolph on the radio." And God help us all if your dad and I are trying to have a conversation in your presence because you will just repeat yourself until you turn blue in the face.

You are not a dancer. You love music and singing. You love jumping and climbing. You live drawing and painting, but you don't dance. This is weird to me because I can't help but tap my foot to any beat I hear and your dad likes to dance too. I just thought this was interesting to note.

Your favorite toys are probably your stuffed animals which we call your buddies.Your favorite is probably your Minnie Mouse whom you carry all over the house talking to. In fact, she is becoming your scapegoat sometimes for naughty things you know you aren't supposed to do. I hear your little voice in the other room saying, "Minnie touch Daddy's treats?" as I hear rustling in the candy bowl I thought was out of your reach, and I catch you holding Minnie up so her hand is in the bowl.

 You have become a somewhat better eater over the last couple of weeks (or maybe I have just lowered my standards). In fact, I've gotten you to eat some carrots and spinach in the last week. Some of your favorite foods are instant oatmeal, vegetarian "chicken" nuggets, yogurt, blueberries, beans, milk, peanut butter, pancakes, bacon, not mention any sweets you can get your hands on.

You are learning your colors. You cannot make hard "c" and "k" sounds. You often refer to yourself as "Mia Bo Bia." You call the hood on your coat a "neighborhood," which I totally perpetuate because I think it's awesome. You love to be tickled. You shriek with joy whenever your dad comes home from work. You are still an early bird, chirping happily at 6am every morning. You love slides. You are currently a little afraid of the shower after accidentally turning the showerhead on during bathtime.

There are some horrible, scary things going on in the world right now, my love, and my own mother tells me the only way to cope is to pull every one I love closer to me, so excuse me if I smother you with kisses and blow raspberries on your belly every hour on the hour. You are my heart personified, and I don't know what I would do if harm ever came to you, so all I can do is tell you I love you a million times a day. All I can do is hope that you know how much love surrounds you, because it is a whole lot. A whole lot, little one.

Sunday, October 14, 2012

Dear Mia: Part 10

You are about 18 1/2 months old now. I started writing this post about a month ago and have had to go back and edit and rewrite a lot because you change to much, so quickly. 

You LOVE coloring and drawing - crayons, pencils, sidewalk chalk, your Magnadoodle, you love it all. You take your sidewalk chalk and walk up and down the driveway, crouching randomly to make mysterious looking marks (your dad calls them gang signs), before toddling off to scout another location. And you spend hours a day standing at the coffee table coloring in your coloring books.

You love music and singing. You try to make your dad and me sing on command by demanding specific songs. You also love to sing them yourself, but sometimes get self-conscious. Your favorites are probably Old MacDonald and The Wheels on the Bus.

You have a made up word that we cannot figure out the origin of, but we know that it roughly translates to you wanting something specific. You point and say what sounds like "mah-san" or "mah-shawn."

A few weeks ago you, your dad and I were outside and we told you we were going hunting for Dinosaurs and Elephants. You walked dutifully down the street, stopping every once in a while to crouch down, swivel your head side to side and shout, "Di-so-wah! Hey you?" (Dinosaur! Where are you?) "Eh-flat! Hey you?" (Elephant! Where are you?) It was exactly as cute as it sounds. It killed me dead. That's all I have to say about that.

You are still the pickiest of eaters. Most days you eat one decent meal and subsist on crumbs the rest of the day. I'm not sure how a person survives on ketchup and milk alone, but somehow you are still thriving. I try not to let it stress me out, I don't want to be the root of any food issues you may have down the road, but it sure is frustrating. Even more frustrating than the picky eating is the food throwing, which may just send me to an early grave, but I'll refrain from ranting about that for fear I may never stop.

We took our first trip to the ER in the middle of September. I was swinging you around by your arms and when I set you down you screamed and then wouldn't or couldn't move your right arm. Your dad and I listened to you scream for about 30 minutes as I felt increasingly positive that I was the worst mother in the entire world. We decided to take you to the hospital and I had visions of a waiting for hours, of X-rays and a tiny cast, of having to answer to a social worker. As I walked in and saw a waiting room full of kids in wheel chairs or with bloody noses, I felt like I might throw up. I couldn't stand the thought of having to sit there and wait while you were in obvious pain. But I walked up to the receptionist and told her through my own tears what had happened. She nodded to a nurse and they both agreed, "Nursemaid's elbow," and a doctor and two residents quickly ushered us to a chair in the hallway and reset your dislocated elbow right then and there. Apparently it's a really common injury among little kids, and 5 minutes later you were offered a popsicle which you reached for with your injured arm, and we were in and out in an hour. But man, I have no idea how I am going to deal with a lifetime of injuries and heart break with you. I want to wrap you in bubble wrap and never let you leave the house.

You recognize most of the letters in the alphabet. You correctly identify several different shapes. If we ask you what color something is, you always answer "green!" You can count to 14, but you always leave out the number 10. You know people's names, but if I ask you, "What is her name?" you always answer "Mia!" You call all balls "b-balls." You call potatoes "peek-a-boos" (which KILLS me every time, and I hope no one ever corrects you). You call ice cream "airplane." You insist that hippos are called "hope-ios" and that Elmo's goldfish is named Lucy (it's Dorothy). My nickname for you is Cuckoo or Cuckoo Bear. You would prefer to be naked. Always. You don't like wearing socks, but you love to have your feet tickled. When we cuddle you stroke my arm, wiggling your little hand up my shirt sleeve to touch my skin. And when my hair gets in my face you very gently try to move it out of my eyes, if you're unsuccessful you take my hand and say, "fix it, Mommy." When you suck your thumb, you rub your ear with the other hand. You've begun to suggest we do things by saying "how bout..." Like, "Mo' mote? (more milk?) No, no, how bout dooce (juice)?"

Your memory astounds me. You recognize that Wegmans is the store where you get cookies. After going to a Toddler Time gym class just once you remembered, a week later, that at gym class there was a slide and balls and you got stickers. You remember the words to countless songs and can recite some of your favorite books.

Oh, I could go on and on...

Parenting books warn against putting labels on children. We're not supposed to say, "Oh, she's my shy one," or "You're such a good girl!" We don't want to pigeonhole our children for the rest of their lives. But I find I couldn't label you if I tried. You are everything. All at once. 

Mia, you are the sun, the moon, and the stars.

I am still trying to figure you out. I will never be done figuring you out.

Monday, August 13, 2012

Dear Mia: Part 9

Mia, you are just about 16 1/2 months old now, and you are a complete whirlwind. I read a book recently that described a character as "half girl, half hurricane," and Mia, that is you to a tee. You are wild. You dance and sing and spin around and shriek with laughter, but if I sing you the wrong song you shout "No. No. No." and shake your head so hard you might fall over. You are spunky, feisty, a spitfire. You are one extreme and then another. You are laying in my arms sucking your thumb cooing, "hi, baby," and then you are up attempting to climb on top of the coffee table.

Everyone comments on how verbal you are for your age. You seem to learn a new word everyday. It only takes you hearing a word once sometimes for you to catch on. There are some words that you mispronounce that I never ever want you to learn to pronounce correctly, like butterfly ("blah-fly"), elephant ("eh-flat"), umbrella ("blah-la-la"). Lately when I tell you I love you you answer back, "Blah blue (love you)." I die.

You have started combining words; "all better (when I kiss your boo boos)," "all done," "help me," "push you," "hold it," and "no throwing (said while throwing things)."

Which leads into the most frustrating thing we are dealing with with you, which is how quickly you get frustrated. Your ways of coping with this are by throwing things or by banging your head on things (on purpose, in case that was unclear). We are working on this by trying to give you alternative ways of coping and by rewarding you with stickers if you make it through a meal without throwing food. But it is most embarrassing when you throw things at other children when you don't want to share (and sometimes when you do want to share but they don't want whatever you are sharing). The only way to deal with this seems to be by exposing you to more kids, but I worry about any casualties we may have in the process.

You are still a pretty picky eater, but I tell myself you will eat when you're hungry, and you do. You love fruit, any fruit will do; bananas, cantaloupe, watermelon, strawberries, apples, pears, grapes. You still don't like vegetables, so we still feed you your pureed green beans at dinner. Again, the cashier at the grocery store probably wonders why I'm still buying baby food, but you eat it without complaint, so I'll keep offering it. Other than fruit you like yogurt, oatmeal, vegetarian "chicken" nuggets, pizza, macaroni and cheese, hummus, rice, and the weirdest one: pad thai.

We took you on your first airplane ride to the beach a few weeks ago. You were a great little traveler and the week at the beach was everything I hoped it would be. You were fearless in the water, running right into the waves. You loved playing in the sand and collecting shells with Grandma. You are an absolute water baby.

You slept better than I could have hoped. One day you woke up at 4am to start the day, but other than that you were a dream.

You fell completely in love with your grandparents on this trip. All day long you shouted "Da-ma!" "Da-pa!" whenever you saw them (which was about every 5 minutes) as if Elmo and Justin Bieber had just entered the room. And I know your grandma and grandpa just ate it up.

Your memory has begun to blow me away. While we were in Florida you kept saying "Horsey! Riding!" and I would ask you what you were taking about and you would say "slide!" and the only explanation we could come up with was that you were recalling a carnival we went to on the fourth of July where you rode a merry-go-round over and over and went down a big slide riding on a burlap sack. It's awesome to feel like we are actually creating memories with you, no matter how short-lived.

You love stickers and Abby Cadabby and Elmo and reading and bouncing on my knee while I sing to you about riding a horse. Every day you ask to have a "pony" in your hair. You love your slide and your swing. Your hair has become bleached blond by the sun and you seem to favor your right hand when coloring and using a fork. You love your cousins and our neighbor Kassie. You give kisses on command. You love bathtime and animals. You can count to six if we prompt you with "what comes after 2? etc." You recognize the letters M, O, and A. You can point to, name and make the sounds of countless animals. You blow me away, kid.

I reprimanded a boy on the playground for throwing wood chips in your face. Afterward I was surprised at myself. Surprised at how quickly I had scolded him, at how confident I felt in my words, and then at how afterward I wanted to cry because I never ever want any one to be mean to you. I texted your dad wondering if I was this upset in such a situation where you came out completely unscathed, what will I be like when someone truly hurts you someday? I might break someone's arm.

Mia, not to mix weather metaphors here, but you are complete and absolute sunshine in my life. Hourly I look into your face and can't believe how cute, how sweet, how spirited and FUN you are. I am so so proud of this little person you are, and can't wait for more...

Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Dear Mia: Part 8

You are 14 months old now.

I think you understand most of what I say to you at this point, which means all these months I've been wondering if you understand what "no" means, now I can answer that you do, even if you play dumb 99% of the time. I'm on to you.

Every day you are saying more and more words. Just for my own records, here are the words you say now (although I may be the only one who understands them): Mama/mommy, Dada/daddy, Nana, Papa, Elmo, water, puppy, buddy (we refer to your stuffed animals as "buddies"), night-night, shoes, socks, hat, up, down, off, more, meow, doggy, woof woof, hair, nose, eyes, arm, knees, ball, baby, apple, airplane, moon, pizza, Mia, Kassie, Lulu, poo poo, potty, Abby, read, hi, splash, bye, car, no, ready, glasses.

You know your own name which is the happy accident of giving you an easy name. You look at yourself in the mirror and I ask "Who is that?" or I ask you what your name is and you say "Me-yaaaaa."

If you can't say a word you just won't even try. We'll coax, "say Timmy!" over and over and you'll just stare at us, then we say, "say Mia!" and you'll parrot back "Me-yaaaa."

You are still an early bird, waking up at 6 or 6:30 every morning. I never thought I would consider 7am to be sleeping in, but here we are. You wake up with boundless energy, and I cannot even fathom all the other parents who claim their 1 year-olds occasionally sleep until 8. I would be convinced you were dead if you slept that late. 

Now that you are sleeping through the night like a normal human being and are generally fun to be around, the question of when to have another baby enters my mind. Sometimes I think, what if you are awesome enough all by yourself? Maybe I don't need another one. Maybe I want to focus all of my love and devotion on you. I always thought that if I had one kickass kid I would obviously want another one, right? But you are so amazing that I'm afraid of having anything to distract me from you. Obviously I KNOW that the "something" distracting me from you would theoretically be another kickass kid, but I have not met that kid yet. I have not fallen in love with them yet, so I can't quite get on board with it.

I watch videos of when you were a chubby baby and I thought that would make me yearn for another newborn to snuggle, but all it makes me want to do is go back in time for 5 minutes to snuggle you again. At this point I don't want ANOTHER baby, I just want to relive YOU as a baby again.

The idea of going through those first few months with a newborn and ALSO having a toddler makes my palms sweat. But sometimes I close my eyes and remember the moment I first saw your face or the first time I heard you laugh and I have this twisting in my stomach that tells me I KNOW I will do it again. I just don't know when.

You still undeniably have my eyes, but as your face becomes less the round cherubic face of a baby and more the lean face of a child, the fact that you are your father's daughter is overwhelming. You look less and less like me and more and more like him every day. The eyes are mine, but everything else about you is him.

Your hair is the lightest shade of brown (the longer it gets, the lighter it seems, and I cannot believe that last summer you had dark hair and that I was convinced you were going to be brunette) and your eyes are still the same dark blue as the day you were born, but now they have the faintest flecks of brown around the pupil. I'll give it until your second birthday until we really determine what color they are.

You love to dance and listen to music. You turn in circles to "Ring Around The Rosy" and clap your hands to "If You're Happy and You Know it." We've been going to a music class on Wednesday mornings where you shake maracas and march around the room. You mostly just love to be around the other children...

You LOVE other kids. You stare and point and laugh in their presence or often you walk right up to another kid and just stand right in front of them as it seems this is your understanding of how to make friends.You try to share your toys with unsuspecting kids who may not want to play with you, which almost breaks my heart with how pure and unashamed the action is and because I want EVERYONE to want to be your friend.

You love to give kisses. You kiss everyone I tell you to. You give your dad a kiss, then turn your head to me for a kiss, then back and forth. You kiss your stuffed animals then pretend they are kissing each other. I had no idea a kid so young could pretend things like that, but you also like to pretend to give your babies bottles (it's amazing how girls are little mommies right from the beginning) or you pretend to put sunblock on me as I put it on you or you hold objects up to your ear like they are a phone and say "hiiiiiii."

We finished breast feeding on your birthday. I was so worried that it would affect your nighttime sleep, but you could not have possibly cared less. I am confident that it was the absolute right time to stop now. You had gotten so wiggly and you would pinch me and slap me, I can't imagine still doing it at this point. And now you are chugging whole milk like a champ.

You love Elmo more than life itself. Nothing else captivates you like putting Elmo's World on TV. I have nothing to expand on here, I just figured it was worth noting for my own memories.

You still love being outside. You love to go to the playground and climb to the top of the slide. The anticipation of going down is more fun for you than actually sliding. But you go down holding my hand. You love to swing and play in the sandbox. You love playing in the water. I can't wait to take you to the pool and the beach this summer because you don't mind getting your face and head wet and you don't care how cold it is. You just want to be in the water. You take my hand and put it in saying "posh (splash)."

You are in a phase where you love climbing and jumping too. You have a skinned knee at the moment, and I see many more in our future. You love to get up in my bed and just throw yourself around. You are not a delicate flower. You fall down and get right back up again, and I admire that so much about you.

Mia, you are rough and tumble. You are feisty and strong-willed and independent, but so so sweet, and I love you with such intensity it could knock my off my feet. I remember hearing before I had you that having a child was like having your heart walking around outside your body, and that is exactly what this is like. I am vulnerable with you out there in the world, but I couldn't be more happy and proud to watch you grow and learn and dance to your own beat. I never want you to stop doing that. Not ever.

Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Dear Mia: Part 7

Oh Mia Jane, you are the most stubborn person I've ever known. When I tell people this they snort. They snort because they are under the delusion that I am the most stubborn person they know. And your dad is no push-over either. Our genes seem to have collided into this super power of bull-headedness - You.

You have decided after months of being a great sleeper that you no longer want to sleep. Ever. At all. Under any circumstances. Unless maybe you are in direct physical contact with me. Which is obviously not always doable. You have somehow completely lost the ability to put yourself to sleep. Where did this ability go? I may put out fliers, plaster it on the side of milk cartons, for that it how much I miss it. My baby is broken. Is there somewhere I can get an upgrade? This model is out dated. She seems to think it is LAST March.

I write this in the hopes that it won't be long before I can look back on this and think, "aw, I remember that week where I was seconds away from getting my tubes tied, so sure was I that I would never ever put myself through this frustration again. It wasn't so bad. It was just a phase. And look at what a good sleeper she is now!"

You are currently in your crib going on 1 hour of standing and crying and possibly falling asleep standing up and then banging your head on the crib rail, waking yourself and crying all over again. I am at a loss.

I am not even going to address the above rant, for fear of jinxing anything. I will just say that I am well-rested at the moment. That is all.

Mia, you are 1 year old today. How did this happen? Some days I am addressing myself as "mommy," and immediately wondering, "How am I someone's mom? Who allowed that to happen?" And then some days I am having some memory of a day before you were born and subconsciously injecting you into that memory, for I feel like you have been here forever.

We had your birthday party this past weekend. Everyone who loves you showed up and acted enthralled as you devoured an entire cupcake in record time. I can't lie and say I wasn't proud in that moment. This family loves sweets and you are no exception. You were a bit overwhelmed by all the hubbub, but you kept it together pretty well, even taking a nap in your crib while the bigger kids where outside taking their aggression out on a pinata.

I went over the top with decorations and cupcake baking. I love showering the people I love with attention in this way, and I can't wait until you really understand what birthdays are all about. Watch out, I might go a little crazy.

I am in the midst of weaning you from breastfeeding right now. We are down to one nursing a day, right before bedtime. I am nervous about giving this up, for fear it might mess with your sleeping, but I plan on stopping some time this week. I can't believe we made it a year. It was so so hard in the beginning. I thought about quitting so many times along the way, but I'm so glad I didn't. But I am so ready now, and you haven't seemed to miss it much, just requiring a few extra snuggles throughout the day, and chugging milk laced with drinkable yogurt (I knew you wouldn't just make a smooth transition to milk, my picky, stubborn girl, but we are working on it).

The weather was unseasonably warm the last few weeks and you have loved being outside. You toddle up and down the driveway chasing your ball. You pull grass out of the yard, and whenever you see our 4 year-old neighbor Kassie come outside you drop whatever you're doing to walk to her. You love going for walks and to the playground. Last summer I was so excited for this summer to see how interactive you would be, and it's only spring, but it's totally living up to my own hype!

Neat Party Tricks at 1 Year-old:
- You say "hat," "book" (more like "buh"), "ball" ("bah"), "shoe" and "dada" (rarely do you say "mama") in correct context
- You call anything in a cup "water" ("ah-too").
- Whenever you see me holding a plate or a cup you say "hot," because often I am holding you and a plate or cup of something hot and have to tell you not to touch, it's hot.
- Whenever someone says the word "cold" you say "burrrr."
- You try to put your shoes and socks on yourself, and you bring my shoes to me and try to put them on my feet.
- When we tell you it's bathtime you toddle off the the bathroom, and when you are undressed and ready for the bath you try to climb in by hitching one leg up as high as it will go.
- You sign "all done," and I've tried to teach you the sign for "more," but I think you have interpreted it was waving to yourself with your right hand.
- You can identify your belly, your mouth (by opening your mouth wide and sticking out your tongue), your hair, your feet, and sometimes your nose and ears.
- You dance by swaying side to side. You jump by bouncing up and down with bended knees. You rock your baby dolls and give them kisses.
- When Daddy leaves for work in the morning you wave to him from the front door then whine for a few minutes, then when he comes home at night you shout "Dada!" which must just be the coolest thing ever for him.
- You know that cows say "moo" and monkeys say "oh-oh ah-ah."
- You know the dog across the street's name, Cuddles (although you say "Duh-doos") and that dogs go "woof woof," but now you call all animals Cuddles and say they go "woof woof."

A year ago I couldn't have imagined how you would make my heart grow over the last 12 months. I couldn't have imagined what a neat little person you would become. A year ago I looked into your shrieking face and I knew I loved you, but you were still a stranger to me. Now, you are the sweetest, silliest, most wonderful person I've ever known.

Happy Birthday, gorgeous girl!

Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Dear Mia: Part 6

You are 11 months old today. How did that happen? Just yesterday you were a little loaf I could put down in one place and you didn't move an inch. Now you are all over the place. You have finally figured out that walking is an adequate way to get around. And if you fall down you crawl like the your butt is on fire. If anyone leaves a room you are in, even if there are still 10 people left in the room, you follow them. Because they must be going some place fun. I knew it would be exhausting chasing you around all day, (and it wouldn't be nearly so if you would just learn to listen when I say "no," as you empty every book off of my shelves) but I love watching you stomp around the house and you are so dang proud of yourself. I wouldn't trade it for that little loaf any day.

The other day your dad was getting you undressed for your bath while I was running the water, and he put you down and told you to walk to the bathroom. Holy cow, a little tiny naked lady who's just learned to walk stomping down the hall may just be the cutest thing I've ever seen. I have burned that image into my brain. I never want to forget it.

You, my dear, are a picky eater. I had no idea a baby could even be a picky eater. And I can find no discernible rhyme or reason to the things you like and dislike on any given day. You refuse any green vegetable except puréed green beans, so you have a jar with dinner every night. I'm a little worried I will have to send you off to college with a box of 4 ounce jars of puréed green beans to get your quota of greens every day. The only foods you'll eat without a fuss are: goldfish crackers, yogurt, cottage cheese, hummus, beans, bananas and grapes.

You have begun to really communicate lately. You seem to understand a lot of what we say. You follow simple commands. When I say hi to you, you wave. When I say the word "clap" or any word that sounds like it, you clap. When I tell you daddy's coming home, you look at the door and sometimes crawl over to it to look out the window. If you are playing and get frustrated with a toy, you take my hand and put the toy in it as your way of asking for help.

I'm pretty sure your first word is "hat," which sounds more like "hot," and is accompanied by either putting your hand on your head or trying to put your hat on your head. You repeat sounds a lot, but this is the first word I've heard you say independently while identifying the object.

It is just so awesome to feel like this relationship is not just so one sided anymore. I am not just talking for the sake of hearing my own voice all day long.

Your favorite activity is by far looking at your basket full of books. You love to sit and look through them yourself. When you want to be read to, you hold a book out to me, and I ask "do you want me to read this?" and you give a big smile and scramble to get into my lap.

I've been wondering since I was pregnant whether you would be left handed like your dad and me. It's kind of like a science experiment waiting to see. When you first started sucking your thumb, it was your left thumb, but now you have no preference. You suck both thumbs. But you seem to hold things with your right hand more often, so we will have to wait and see about that.

You are a rambunctious little thing. You are no shrinking violet. But you are also so sweet and snugly, especially when you are tired or hungry. You'll let me hold you against my chest while you suck your thumb, and I lap it up. Oh, my girl, I have to remind myself that there will come a day when I won't be able to bury my face in your neck any time I want. I wonder if my own mother still longs to kiss my neck whenever she sees me. I can't imagine there will be a time when I don't want to go crazy kissing your face. We have years of neck nuzzling left, yes? (Just lie and say yes)

You continue to sleep pretty well at night. You'll go weeks of sleeping until 6:30 (which seems SO luxurious these days), and then something will wake you up at 5:30 one day. After that we spend weeks getting you back to sleeping that extra hour. Let's just say I pretty much hate everything before 6am, so while we are currently on an "off" week of waking at 5:30, I am not too happy.

With the good comes the bad though, and you have begun throwing monster tantrums when you don't get your way, complete with screaming, crocodile tears, and back arching. The Terrible Twos may find you put out with the garbage. The whining already has me wishing myself deaf.

You show affection and frustration by head butting. Twice I have thought you must have given me a bloody nose with the power of your love. You head butt the cats and other babies at story time at the library. And when you get frustrated with something you sit on the floor and bang your head on it. Obviously, we are working on this. Gentle is not a word you understand just yet.

I am planning your first birthday with as much care as I put into my wedding. I am so excited about it. Excuse me if I make this more about me than about you, but the more birthdays you have the more they become a celebration of whatever age you're turning and less an actual celebration of the anniversary of your birth. So, on the first anniversary of your birth, I want to remember where I was a year ago, the last time I felt you swimming in my belly, the first time I looked into your face. The joy, the pain, the frustration. Next year, and all the years that follow March 28th will be your day. We will celebrate you turning 2 and 10 and 25 (eek!) by looking forward, but this year I just want to reminisce a little bit and see how far we've come, because March 28th wasn't just the day you were born, it was also the day I became a mom.

Thursday, January 26, 2012

Added Square Footage

Earlier this week we finally made a big change to the house, one that will hopefully make it feel quite a bit bigger. We got carpet installed in the basement and, in a game-time decision that I think makes all the difference, up the basement stairs.

This is what we were dealing with before:

Since the stairs are open they really are kind of part of the main living space. Even though they were hardwood, they were looking beat. I considered refinishing them myself, but uh, it's not like I'm flush with free time right now.

Notice Tesla at the top of the stairs in this pic.

Oh, my eyes. That's ugly.

And here's how it looks now:

So warm and lovely.

And notice Conrad in the top of the stairs in this pic.

At the end of the hall is the laundry room and storage. The second door on the left is a bathroom where we also had new vinyl floors installed. We're still doing some work in there, and it will probably always be an eyesore, but I may just man up and post pictures eventually, because it's definitely an improvement. I was scared to even go in there when we moved in.

So eventually this space will be a play room/workout room. We have to move the treadmill back in and Jeff's bike trainer. It probably won't ever be "pretty," but it will be nice to have more room for Mia's toys that are cluttering every other corner of the house.

Saturday, January 21, 2012

Life at the Moment

I had that last post saved in my drafts for a few weeks before I posted. I thought just typing the words that Mia was sleeping through the night was enough to tempt fate, but no, apparently you actually have to hit " post" before you upset the God of Getting a Good Night of Sleep, because now my daughter has decided that the hours of 10:30pm and 1:30am are a wonderful time to scream her fool head off. And I want to die. The end.

I got inspired by Pinterest again to do a little art project for the entryway (the wall over the table used to look like the last photo on this post and I never really loved it).

I was first inspired by this photo:

(originally from Me Oh My)

And then I liked the one contrasting stripe from this photo:

(originally from from Ohdeedoh)

And so I came up with this:

I quite like it.

Is it bedtime yet?

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Dear Mia: Part 5

You are almost 10 months old now, and I'm not sugar-coating anything when I say the last 8 weeks or so with you have been so much fun. You started consistently sleeping through the night (yes, I am aware that now that I put this out there I am begging the universe to slap me upside the head, but I feel the need to record this milestone), and it has made a world of difference in your attitude.

You are such a happy baby.

You think everything is funny (Most notably: sneezing, shoving various toys into my mouth, and watching daddy throw things in the air and catch them). You interact with everyone and everything. You babble to yourself almost constantly, then chuckle at the silly things you say. You wave. You clap. You give high fives.

This has made me fiercely protective of your sleep schedule, something your Nana judges me for, but I really don't care. I see the positive difference in both of us that getting a good night of sleep makes.

We celebrated Christmas with your dad's family in Buffalo. You, of course didn't sleep well at their house and were up at 5:30, which made the day rough for both of us. But you loved wrapping paper, and you got showered with gifts. You were also able to eat the same foods we were eating for dinner; some potatoes, sweet potatoes, carrots, and cheese. It is a lot of fun to be able to feed you from my plate and you give a satisfied "mmm."

Your favorite food is definitely yogurt. When your dad is eating some in the morning you clamor to get close to him and look up at him like a dog begging at the dinner table. When he shares with you you squeeze your eyes closed and smile like you've just taken a bite of the most decadent dessert.

You are getting better with strangers. You seem to do better with women than men, and you seem to read their energy before deciding whether you'll be cool with them or not. Calm, friendly women are your people. If someone comes at you with too much excitement and attempts to pick you up in the first 30 seconds, you will never forgive them. I get it, you just need a bit to warm up to people, then you will charm their pants off. Some of Daddy's family has a really hard time understanding this, but I think that's their loss that they won't take the time to get on your good side.

I've said before that you have my eyes, and I've always felt something oddly familiar about looking into them. Then a few weeks ago I was sitting next to your crib as you fell asleep because you had a cold. You were curled up against the side crib rails to be as close to me as you could, and all I could see of your face was the bridge of your nose and eyes, and suddenly I realized what was so familiar about your eyes, they are my little brother's eyes, and now that's all I see when I look at you. You look like uncle Tim did when he was a baby, and it makes me so nostalgic. In some ways I feel like he was my first baby, and then I remember that he is almost 20, and boy, does time fly. It feels like just yesterday I was singing him lullabies and putting him to sleep.

You are a morning person through and through. We struggled for weeks just to get you to sleep past 5am, but you wake up so damn happy! And your dad says it's his favorite part of the day when we bring you into our bed in the mornings to snuggle.

I know I've said it before, but I find it necessary, as I think it is an integral part of your personality, to point out again how you go from 0 to 60. One morning I watched you on the video monitor as you were sleeping soundly on you belly, the next moment you were up pulling yourself to standing on the side of the crib. No stretching or eye rubbing, just straight from sleeping to raring to go.

I don't want to brag, but at your 9 month appointment your doctor went on and on about how advanced you are. She said it was weird because you SEEMED like a 1 year-old, but in the body of a 9 month old. I honestly don't know if she says this to every parent, but I sure do love someone other than myself going on and on about how smart you are!

Speaking of bragging, I told your dad the other day that I need to find some balance between bragging about you and downplaying your achievements (for lack of a better word). Because I think it's something that will come up over and over throughout your life, and I'd never want you to think I'm not proud of you. And I NEVER want you to hide your light. I want you to shine as bright as you dare.

You finally starting crawling a few weeks ago. I thought you might go straight to walking. You cruise from couch to coffee table then crawl to a toy, pull yourself up, etc. you can get where ever you want to go now.

Right after you started crawling you took your first steps, on New Years Day no less. And you have continued to stumble from me to daddy and back again. One day you will figure out what this ability means and you will be off and running.

Watching you stumble toward me with a huge smile on your face is one of the most exciting things I've ever experienced. THIS is why people have children. THIS is why we put up with the sleep deprivation and tantrums and wiping someone else's rear end. Before I had you I didn't know this emotion, this heart-bursting elation. There is not even a word for how much joy you bring to my life.