More field notes/blog bites

* At Lily’s two year appointment, last May, the pediatrician issued a warning to me. “Two year olds are notorious for trying to drink their way through meals, with juice or whatever, instead of eating their food. So watch out for that.”

I’ve been on the lookout, but only recently, as Lily’s third birthday came within our sights, has this become an issue. Because, at one point, Lily was having intensely painful bowel movements, she’s indefinitely been prescribed a daily powder that we mix into some juice each night. So we need to supply her with some juice at dinner.

And this wasn’t a problem for a while. But lately, she gulps the juice down to the point of panting, then asks for more. So we’re having to start saying “no,” after her initial cup, until she eats more of her dinner. Hopefully, this will solve the problem. Cross your fingers for us.

* Related to this, Lily has lately become a bit obsessed about drinking just about every beverage she consumes in a small whiskey glass – part of a set we received as a wedding gift. We had, at meals, moved from sippy cups to small juice glasses, but once, when all the juice glasses were in the dishwasher, I offhandedly pulled down one of these whiskey glasses as a substitute. And now she won’t drink from anything else. (This is particularly hilarious to watch when she’s got apple juice in one of the glasses. I’m always tempted to ask, “Nightcap?”)

But of course, it’s not as simple as pouring her a “shot” of milk or juice into one of these glasses. She insists that we initially put the beverage in a sippy cup, which she will pour, mad scientist-style, into the whiskey glass in increments before drinking. So this has become part of our nightly ritual. (That and me saying “Be careful, be careful, watch what you’re doing, please!” ad nauseam as she’s transferring her drink.) One more instance where the oft-repeated (in our house) statement “Food is to eat, no to play with,” seems to hold no water. To a kid who’s nearly three, everything, at all times, is something to play with.

* Lately I’ve been remembering that casual terms of affection – sweetie, sweetheart, bug, honey, kiddo – were never, ever a part of my vocabulary before I had a child. Personally, I’d never been crazy about strangers, as well-intentioned as they often were, calling me “honey,” “sweetie,” etc. It usually struck me as demeaning, this unearned familiarity. But for whatever reason, as soon as we had Lily and brought her home, these pet names and more flew out of my mouth freely, punctuating nearly every sentence I uttered to her. No idea why, or how this so automatically kicked in.

The funny part is that although Joe’s long called me “Gorgeous” – even when we were friends for years before dating – he sometimes gets his words tied up, calling Lily “Gorgeous” and me “sweetie,” the latter of which sounds bizarre and strange to both of us. (I do this sometimes too, of course, unthinkingly calling Joe “sweetheart” before we both shake our heads as if to remind ourselves who we’re addressing.)

Lily, of course, is still getting acclimated to different names, nicknames, and titles. So once, at a big family party, we were trying to get Joe’s attention from across the room, and before I could call out, Lily yelled, “Joe!” at the top of her lungs. Yes, we’re very evolved and informal in this family. And once, long ago, when Lily ardently wanted me to take care of every detail involving her, she stood wailing in her crib, yelling through snot and tears, “I WANT GORGEOUS!” It’s a weird life sometimes.

* A couple of people recently asked me whether, now that Lily’s seemingly developing in leaps and bounds (truly, the last several months have been astonishing to watch in terms of her emotional and intellectual growth), I miss her being a baby. My response? Not in the least. As far as I’m concerned, this is the payoff for the trying, difficult baby stage. Right now, we’re experiencing the most fun time we’ve had as parents yet.

On Monday night, for instance, we went down the road for our library’s story time, which she was so cutely excited to go to. But after we came back outside, she just wanted to run up and down the small, grassy hills on one side of the building. Each time she got to a crest, she’d say, “I’m on top of the mountain!” and then she’d run down and across the grass, arms up, hair flying in the wind. And she did this for a good while. We were happy to let her, of course. For I know there will be times when she’s troubled by who doesn’t want to play with her, and what party she’s not invited to, and what someone said about her on the playground. Right now, though, this nonsense flies right past her without a thought – and I’ll happily hold on to this stage as long as it lasts.

* My/our method of lazy parenting paid off recently in regard to Lily’s self-imposed transfer into a toddler bed – after it sat in her room for a few weeks, and I got some bedding for it, she decided one day she was ready to nap in it, and soon, she slept at night in it, too. But she’s still dragging her feet on the potty training a bit. Admittedly, we’re not forcing the issue – as is our tendency – and maybe we should lean more in that direction. But a part of me again simply thinks that when she’s ready, she’ll start doing it regularly. She’s a smart kid, from what I can tell so far; and since one day, on our walk to pre-school, she said, “I’m not going to worry about it,” I’m guessing this is a kind of mantra for me – one I’ve repeated many times in her presence.

* On the topic of what Lily’s absorbing, at times lately, I think we’ve got a little lawyer-in-training in the house. She’s all about sussing out the loopholes in what we say (though I imagine this is something that kicks in with all kids fairly early on). We have a morning rule, wherein she has to have eaten breakfast and gotten dressed before she can watch a maximum of 30 minutes of “Sesame Street” (or “Mary Poppins” or “The Sound of Music” or whatever). On a recent morning, she came down in her pajamas, holding a small dollie, and asked to watch TV. We repeated the rule – for the two thousandth time – and she held up the doll to us and, in a voice meant to be the dollie’s, said, “I’m dressed, and I want to watch TV.” Cute try, kid, but still no.

I also have a rule about her not wearing her shoes while sitting with me in the living room armchair. “Why?” she often asks. “Because you were just wearing them outside, and they have dirt and rocks and stuff on the bottom.” Lily’s answer? She took off the ones she’d worn outside, pulled a different pair of shoes off the shelf, and pulled them onto her feet before climbing into the chair. “These are clean, OK, Mommy?” she said. Um – what do you say to that? Precocious little stinker.

* In the “pregnancy amnesia” category, I was just awoken in the night by my first severe leg cramp. I’d run that night, and I hadn’t gotten to stretch very well afterward, but this might have happened regardless. Somehow, I’d totally forgotten that I’d suffered these the first time around. But there I was, whisper-screaming “Ow ow ow ow ow ow ow ow!” while waiting for the pain to subside, which it generally does after a few awful minutes. Woke Joe up, I”m afraid, but I remind myself in these moments that he’s still getting the better end of the deal by far.

* A few things about Lily’s current state of mind: we’re now at the “why?” stage, where everything she sees and hears is reflexively punctuated by this question. It can be maddening – especially when reading stories to her – and sometimes impossible, but I’m trying hard to be patient and answer her in the best, most thoughtful way I can.

Also, though she can have a remarkably long attention span for a little kid, she is generally easily distracted and fast-moving in terms of her focus these days. This can make you crazy at times, too – you’ll still be trying to get her to look you in the face and apologize for something she did 2 minutes before but has already forgotten – but we’ve also used it to our advantage at times, too. On Sunday, the first really, really warm, sunny day this spring, we took her in the bike trailer to a nearby park to play before her nap. After her nap, she went to the garage and tried to physically pull the bike and trailer out again, demanding to return to the park. “Think fast,” I thought. “What would completely put this out of her mind? Oh – offering to take her to visit the little boy who lives across the street.” Sure enough, I said, “Do you want to go see if Michael is home and wants to play?” And she dropped her struggle and said, “Yeah. Yes. Let’s do that,” with a big nod.

So at least sometimes you can use the very thing you’re sometimes fighting against to your advantage.

* Lily has the hair that I had as a kid – kind of dirty blond, but with several different tones and colors mixed in. It’s gorgeous.

And it got me to remembering a long time ago, when women who cut my hair, or sometimes complete strangers, told me my hair was beautiful, and I didn’t quite understand what they were responding to. The cut? That didn’t seem likely, since it was never anything notable. The styling? I didn’t do anything my peers weren’t doing in a way that was 20 times more pronounced. How much of it there was? It was thick, and some perms caused tangles that pretty much had to be cut out.

So usually I was left baffled by this. But now that I have to pay someone to get highlights, and thus make my hair to look like it used to naturally, I get what people were responding to.

My sisters and I, with some differences and variation, got our hair from my mom, so years before I had Lily, I witnessed it re-appearing on my nieces (a poem I wrote years ago included the lines “so strange to see my hair/on other heads”). But it wasn’t until really seeing it up close on a daily basis that I started thinking about the legacy of such physical characteristics.

Lily, of course, is oblivious, as I had been, to how pretty her hair is. But I find myself constantly touching it, whether it be to keep strands out of her mouth and, more generally, her face, or to put it in a ponytail or pigtails, or to simply express affection.

And then I remember that my mother also had this habit with me. As I got older, I thought, “What’s the deal with that? Why is she always moving my hair around?” But now that I’m on the other side of the mom divide, I understand that it’s a lot of things, wrapped up in a compulsive gesture.

Which leads me to also mention in passing that there are many times, in recent months, when I simply wish that my mom could see Lily now, and hear her speak, and listen to her singing songs from “The Sound of Music” while she’s coloring. She would have gotten such a kick out of her, I know. I’m glad she got to meet Lily and spend the time with her that she did, but babies are such a blank slate. Lord knows I couldn’t have guessed what Lily would be like as she got older. So in certain moments, the sense just washes over me: I wish we’d all had a bit more time.

* Finally, a running update: I’m just beyond the third trimester mark, and so far, so good on the running. The one time that I suffered a bit of pain, which I previously wrote about, turned out to be the only time, thank goodness. So I’m still gingerly jogging along, weirding people out as I go. 🙂

Plus, a friend just posted a link to a NYTimes article about how babies benefit from preggos exercising (specifically, it’s shown to help improve a baby’s heart health). Yay! But then, I also got a note from a woman who is in her 6th pregnancy and just ran a half marathon at 6 months. Now, I’m proud of myself for staying with it and all, but holy cow! That’s a different class of super-human altogether. I bow to her.

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