Thursday, September 30, 2010


When LL was just two months old or so, he semi-adopted his first security object. It was a little white burp cloth with blue stars and blue embroidered embellishments along the edges. One of my mother-in-law's friends made him a set of three similar cloths, but he only liked the one with the blue stars. He smiled when he saw it, he gripped it tightly when we gave it to him, he liked rubbing his cheek against it, and he seemed to sleep better if it was nearby.

The starry burp cloth was replaced by Froggie Blanket, a small dead-simple square quilt that I made for him out of some flannel with lily pads and frogs on it. LL briefly wanted to bring Froggie Blanket with him everywhere he went (and I added "make back-up Froggie Blanket out of leftover fabric" to my to-do list) but it quickly evolved into a sleepytime-only thing. He holds onto it at naptime and bedtime, and likes to hold it while being rocked, but in the morning he gives it a hug and leaves it in the crib. Occasionally, if he's sick or feeling particularly needy, he will want to hold onto it a bit more, which we let him do. It usually doesn't leave the house (he naps at daycare just fine without it) but it does join us on outings every so often. And he always always knows where it is, in a sixth sense sort of way. (Every once in a while at bedtime, we won't see it, but we just need to ask LL, "Where's Froggie Blanket?" and he will always know where to find it. Even that time it was stuffed inside the salad spinner in the back of a cabinet.)

I'm not a very artsy-crafty person. I do some occasional knitting or crocheting, but that's about it. And I've been known to go years between projects. But I love that LL is attached to the Froggie Blanket that I made.

But, little boys grow up, tastes change, new security objects are identified. We have a new must-have security object in our house. It's not exactly replacing Froggie Blanket, which is still required in the glider and crib at all times. This is more of an additional new friend. It's only been a week, so it may end up being short-lived, but LL's behavior with this thing has been sudden, dramatic, and different than anything he has ever done before. The object of his affection: a small stuffed zebra named NoNo.

I mentioned a little while ago that zebras are one of LL's favorite animals, and though he knows the word "zebra," he insists on calling them "no-nos" for, um, literary reasons. When we went to the zoo with Grandma and Grandpa, he spent a long time exclaiming over the zebras. As we were leaving, I helped my dad to pick out a little stuffed zebra at the zoo gift shop, for him to give to LL for his birthday.

LL thought the stuffed zebra was cool, but it pretty much stayed with all of his other toys. The fact that he played with it at all was a minor miracle, actually. We own a lot of stuffed animals in various sizes and species, and LL almost always ignores them. There's one monkey that he briefly liked playing with, because the monkey wears overalls and the overalls have a real zipper that goes up and down! not to mention monkey-sized shoes and socks, but other than that, LL just wasn't a stuffed animal or doll kind of kid. When I was trying to get him off of the starry burp cloth, I offered him a bear named Bingo at the same time as Froggie Blanket, and he was completely uninterested. (I'm wondering, in fact, why I even encouraged my dad to buy the stuffed zebra in the first place.)

So, the zebra sat in the toy box for a week or two. And then suddenly last week, when I was trying to get LL to climb into his high chair for dinner, he suddenly exclaimed, "NoNo!" I thought at first that he was just being defiant, but no, he was talking about the zebra. He dug it out of the toy box, climbed into his high chair with it, placed it carefully next to him at the table, and proceeded to feed it dinner. (Luckily, I was able to convince him very quickly that zebras don't eat yogurt, because that wasn't going anywhere good. It turns out that zebras survive mostly on goldfish crackers.) And ever since then, NoNo has gone everywhere with LL.

NoNo eats all meals with LL. He is clutched along with Froggie Blanket at bedtime. He rides toy trains. He reads books. (It is very important that NoNo be able to see the pictures.) He goes to the grocery store. Observations about the world are carefully explained to NoNo in long, complex sentences that only LL and NoNo completely understand. (I pick up individual words, but that's about it. I know that NoNo has been told about grandparents and shoes and jumbo jets, but I'm not sure what details were revealed.) So far, the only time that NoNo is left at home is when LL goes to daycare. Possibly it's because one of his friends there has a bear that she carries everywhere, and some of the other kids like to take it from her to make her cry, so LL might sense that NoNo won't be completely safe there. When he leaves for daycare, he gently kisses and hugs NoNo, then leaves him carefully by the door to wait for LL to come home again.

I am just blown away by this behavior. I know that kids like role playing, and they get attached to stuff, and they humanize animals. But I'm a little amazed by how suddenly LL adopted this particular friend. It's very cool to watch. It's also adding a bit of confusion to our household, because when LL yells, "No No!" we need to interpret whether he's talking about his zebra or saying "no" to something. But oh, so much fun to watch!

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Pa Choo-Choo

My parents and my in-laws visited us for 10 days around LL's birthday. I already recounted how the weekend didn't go quite as planned, but I didn't want to skip the fact that most of the visit went wonderfully, fantastically, joyfully well (debilitating fevers and emergency ambulance rides notwithstanding).

My parents and my grandfather and my uncle arrived first. It had been three months since they saw LL, and he was a bit shy and reserved during that visit. He had been a little cautious, a little quiet, a little hesitant to let anybody hold him. This time around, it was like we had suddenly presented him with four of the best playmates he had ever met. LL previously knew how to say "Mama", "Daddy", and the name of exactly one of his friends. He didn't have names for anybody else, including Rosie and Natasha, whom he sees for many hours every single week. Yet he had given obvious names to all four of the visiting relatives within an hour of their arrival. (Grandma was "Baba", Grandpa and Great-Grandpa were both initially "Pa", though he offered better distinguishing names later, and he called my uncle by his first name.) He insisted that all four of them accompany him everywhere. (It made for a very crowded bedroom during diaper changes, because everybody had to be within eyesight or LL complained and called out for whoever was missing.) When we went for a walk, LL anxiously kept everybody close, and if anyone fell behind, LL would run back to the straggler, take his hand, and drag him forward to join the group. We have a "no shoes" rule in our house, and each time people arrived, LL helped them to take off their shoes, then helpfully brought the correct shoes to each person when they were ready to leave.

The most awesome part of all of this was LL's interaction with my grandfather. My grandfather is 88 years old. He adores children, but he's just not able to play with them as actively as he used to. (He is, I think, fairly active for an 88-year-old -- he lives independently, works a part-time job, and flies cross-country to visit me and LL a few times a year -- but he's also, you know, 88 years old.) He has four (soon to be five!) great-grandchildren, but since he's usually with my parents when he visits them, he kind of gets treated as a backup to my parents, who are the grandparents, the main attraction. He has complained to me in the past that he doesn't think that my nieces and nephews like playing with him, and it makes him sad to feel left out of the fun.

Anyway, in addition to a traditional birthday gift for LL, my grandfather also brought two smaller gifts that he gave to LL as soon as he arrived. The first was a little foam baseball that he got for free at a baseball game. The second was a train book, because he knows that LL loves trains. ("Train book" is a little misleading -- my grandfather brought a 150-page catalog of high-end hobbyist collectible model trains that he picked up at a collector's convention.) (Note that my grandfather does not collect trains, he just happened to notice the convention going on so he stopped to pick up a free catalog for LL.) When LL saw the train book, he went wild for it. He took my grandfather's hand, dragged him to the couch, made him sit down, climbed up onto the couch next to him, and demanded that my grandfather "read" the book to him. Together, they read through all 150 pages of that catalog. On each page, LL would point to each train and yell, "Choo-choo! More choo-choos! More choo-choos!" and then my grandfather would try to say something descriptive about what they were looking at. ("That's a coal car, circa 1940. That one is a passenger car. Oooh, that train car is red! Look, there's a caboose!") For 150 pages.

When they finished the catalog, LL got the little foam baseball and played catch with my grandfather for a good hour. He let other people play a bit, but if any of the rest of us held onto the ball for too long, LL would run over and retrieve it from us, saying "No, Pa Choo-Choo's ball!" ("Pa Choo-Choo" should not be confused with my father, who became known as "Pa Itsy-Bitsy", because apparently he does an awesome Itsy Bitsy Spider.) My grandfather was in total heaven.

I should also note that the morning after everyone had arrived, LL woke up at 4:00am, and when I went to see what he needed, he told me that he wanted to sit in his rocking chair with Pa Choo-Choo. I told him that Pa Choo-Choo was sleeping, because it was nighttime, but he would be back in the morning. With that explanation, LL consented to sit in his chair with me, but only until Pa Choo-Choo arrived. And indeed, LL sat in my lap from 4:00am on, dozing off occasionally, but waking up regularly to ask if Pa Choo-Choo was there yet. And when Pa Choo-Choo finally arrived, LL ran to him, took off his shoes, dragged him to the couch, sat him down, handed him both the train catalog and the baseball, sat down next to him, and they read the entire 150-page catalog again.

Over the course of their visit, LL developed similar special games with each of the visiting relatives. Everybody felt bathed in LL's attention, nobody felt left out. We were a little nervous that he would ignore S's parents once they arrived several days later, but he immediately latched onto them with the same ferocity.

We went to the zoo, we went to a toddler amusement park, we went to the park, we played in the yard. S and I even went to work on several days while LL stayed with whichever grandparents were around at the time, so he got lots of time with grandparents and without Mom and Dad as well.

We're back into our normal daily routine now, and LL is still asking about when his grandparents will be back. Poor kid doesn't quite understand that the next time he sees them will be in January, when they all plan to visit after Kermit is born. We'll do plenty of computer video chats between now and then, but I'm a little nervous to see how he handles not being the center of their world. But for now, I'm just so thrilled that I have photos and videos of LL adoringly playing with older relatives, especially with Pa Choo-Choo.

Monday, September 20, 2010

Change of Plans

Here is how this past weekend was supposed to be:

Saturday was Yom Kippur, the holiest day in the Jewish calendar, which includes fasting for 25 hours (though I'm exempt from fasting because of the pregnancy. Kids don't fast, either). My parents had arrived earlier in the week from out of town, and we were going to spend a quiet morning at home, followed by services at our synagogue. S's parents were due to arrive that afternoon, then we were all going out to dinner to break the fast. (S's parents aren't Jewish, so no fasting for them either.) After a nice dinner out, everyone would return to their respective homes (us) and hotels (everyone else) before returning to our house for LL's party on Sunday morning. Yes, Sunday was LL's second birthday! We were expecting nearly 30 people at a birthday party for him on Sunday morning. Lots of friends, lots of family, lots of cute antics from LL. After the party, we would all nap and then quietly open presents with just the grandparents (and eat leftover cake -- I baked a big one!). I was looking forward to the whole weekend.

Here is a brief list of what went wrong:

1. Saturday afternoon, shortly after S's parents arrived, LL started acting strange. Even though he had already napped and it wasn't yet bedtime, he was very sleepy and lethargic. We took his temperature and discovered that he had a fever of 104.4.

2. I frantically tried to bring down his fever while simultaneously canceling his birthday party.

3. I suddenly realized that it was after sundown, my family hadn't eaten anything since the previous night, we had no food in the house, and we could no longer go out for dinner. I quickly ordered the fastest take-out food I could think of, then sent someone to go pick it up for me.

4. As everyone else sat down to eat dinner and I comforted a feverish LL, S's mom suddenly turned pale and said that she didn't feel well. Five seconds later, she completely lost consciousness and collapsed. And we weren't able to wake her.

5. I dialed 911, then carried LL outside with me to wait for the paramedics, so that he wouldn't have to watch his grandmother lying on the couch mumbling incoherently. For the record, standing in the cool night air watching the flashing lights on four emergency vehicles parked outside your house does a fairly good job of both cooling down a feverish toddler and distracting him from his own mystery illness.

6. The paramedics managed to rouse S's mom, but when she tried to stand up, she nearly collapsed again, so into the ambulance and off to the hospital she went. S's dad went with her, in a complete panic. S and I promised to follow them there, a few minutes behind.

7. The combination of worrying about LL, worrying about his mother, and not eating for 26 hours and counting was too much for S. I made him sit down while I packed up some things to bring to the hospital (S's mom's purse and wallet; a container of food for S; some snacks and water for me and S's dad; my address book so that we could call S's sister). I also gave quick instructions to my parents on how to care for LL while he's sick (where we keep the medicine; how much he can have and when; how best to comfort him at bedtime; emergency pediatric numbers in case he gets worse; to call my cell phone if his condition changes at all). There's nothing quite like handing a scared, feverish, sobbing toddler over to someone else before rushing out the door to an even bigger emergency. (I called the house five minutes later to see how he was doing. He apparently cried for 10 seconds after the door closed, then asked my dad to play trains with him. When I called, he was jumping up and down on the couch, despite the 104 degree fever.)

8. By 11:00pm, the ER doctors were convinced that S's mom was fine (thank goodness!). We may never know what caused her to lose consciousness, though she's under orders not to drive a car until she has been cleared by a cardiologist back home. Discharge orders and paperwork kept her at the hospital until 1:00am.

9. After getting home, sending my parents back to their hotel, and crawling into bed, I got a rejuvenating three hours of sleep before LL woke up and wanted to be held by his mommy until morning. His temperature remained at 103. When he was finally comfortable enough to fall back asleep in our bed at 7:30am, I was too wired to go back to sleep myself.

10. All the grandparents, including S's mom, returned to our house late morning on Sunday, where we all tried our best to be festive for LL's birthday. I blew up a few balloons, LL opened presents, we all ate cake. Then everyone went home early to try to get some sleep.

Last night, LL slept normally, and he woke up this morning with his temperature back to normal. His mystery illness lasted exactly 36 hours, just long enough to spoil his birthday. And S's mom has been joking that she only passed out because she didn't like seeing LL get all the attention. The weekend is over, everyone is fine, all is well. And I'm still jittery as hell. Everything is fine, but I can't seem to get my heart to stop racing. Pregnant women really aren't meant to endure this much drama.

Sunday, September 12, 2010

LL Anecdotes

In honor of LL's second birthday next week (!), here is a collection of recent LL short stories. I wanted to get them written down before I forget them in the haze of Terrible Twos and New Baby.


A few weeks ago, when I picked LL up from Natasha's, she told me that she should really be paying me, rather than the other way around. LL spent the day cleaning her house. When I got there, he was sweeping the patio, complete with very competent use of a dustpan. The next day, Natasha made me wait to get LL so that he could finish fixing her vacuum. Natasha has a roomba (small robotic self-propelled vacuum). One of the little girls at daycare (Jenny) is scared of the roomba. All day, this process had been repeating: (1) roomba starts independently cruising around the room; (2) Jenny starts crying; (3) Natasha hits buttons on the roomba in increasingly confusing patterns to make it more difficult to turn on; (4) Natasha hides the roomba; (5) LL finds the roomba; (6) LL keeps trying different combinations of buttons until the roomba starts working again; (7) return to step (1). As I was talking to Natasha, we heard a quiet "whirrrr" followed by hysterical crying from Jenny, followed by a big grin from Natasha: "I guess he fixed it again!"


We stopped using tablecloths when LL learned to crawl. (You know that physics trick where you pull really hard on a tablecloth and all the stuff on the table magically stays in place on the table? LL loves the idea, but sucks at the execution.) The other day, we were having friends over for brunch, and brought out a tablecloth. LL saw S shaking it out to put on the table, and became convinced that it was a bed sheet. We explained the difference, and had LL help us to spread the cloth on our formal dining room table. S and I then went to the kitchen. Soon, I heard a weird creaking sound coming from the dining room, followed by a giggling LL happily yelling, "Jump! Jump! Jump!" I returned to the dining room to find LL standing on top of the table, jumping up and down. He was somehow convinced that putting a "sheet" on the table had transformed it into a bed, which is of course meant for jumping. (Yep, we let him jump on the bed. We're bad parents.)


One of LL's favorite words is "hot." I'm fairly certain that in LL-ese, "hot" actually means "not the temperature that I was expecting," since all objects are said to be "hot" if they are not room temperature. Including things like ice water. One of his favorite things in the world is blowing on things to bring them to the correct temperature. In my perpetually-overheated pregnant state, LL has taken to lifting up my shirt, touching my stomach, declaring it "hot!", and then blowing on it until it seems cooler to him. My own little portable cooling system.


Our neighbors did some heavy duty yard work recently, which meant that there was a real live bulldozer right outside the window! LL spent much of the morning standing on the bookshelf under his bedroom window so that he could see it better. When we finally let him outside, he dragged a lawn chair off the porch and set it up in the lawn so that he could watch all the action. I tried to ignore the fact that he was convinced that the bulldozer was a train, and therefore kept yelling "Choo choo!" whenever it moved.


For snack time at daycare, Natasha puts out plates of snack at two toddler-sized tables, then lets the kids sit down and eat whenever they're hungry. Last week, LL sat down at one table while all the other kids sat at the other one. He proceeded to eat his entire plate of food, then slide the snack plate at the chair to his right on over and eat that snack, then go ahead and eat the one to his left. Then he carefully stacked all three (empty) plates into a neat little pile, carried them over to Natasha, and asked for more. He regularly eats three or four servings of everything that she makes, more than any other kid there. I think she's convinced that we never feed him. Yet he's still in the 30th percentile for weight. I wish that I had his metabolism.


LL's vocabulary isn't huge, but it suddenly started making huge leaps just in the last week, with a ton of new words and an explosion of phrases/sentences. One of his favorite pastimes is pointing out stuff he knows words for while we are driving. These loud pronouncements are generally followed by requests for me to acknowledge that I, too, saw whatever it is he's pointing out. And requests to see more of them. ("Bus! Bus! Mama, bus! Look! More bus?") Things that we see from cars that must be acknowledged: buses, bikes, balloons, trains, and dogs. Note that "trains" are things bigger than cars that are not buses, and "dogs" are non-human, non-bird animals.


LL remains the most expressive toddler I have ever seen. What does a typical toddler do when he spills milk? Laugh and make a bigger mess? Cry? Call for you to clean it up? Try to clean it up himself? Mine shakes his head and says, "Ay yay yay! Look at that!" His constant use of the phrase "Ay yay yay!" (along with the occasional "Oy!") makes him sound like an old Yiddish man. It doesn't help that he refuses to say the word "eat," and instead asks to "nosh" when he is hungry.


LL has a Farm ABC book, with pictures of farm items for each letter of the alphabet (R is for rooster; S is for silo; T is for tractor; ...). But, like every alphabet book ever made, the authors could only come up with a zebra for the letter Z. Next to the picture of the zebra is a caption that says, "Hey! Zebras don't live on farms!" Every time we read this book, LL points to the zebra, giggles, and says, "No no no no no!" He is now convinced that zebras are called "no-nos," and they're one of his favorite animals.


You know how some parents allow their older kids to choose the name of new siblings? We're at such a loss for names that we decided to give it a shot. I'm fairly certain that LL has chosen the name "Jumbo Jet" for his younger brother. Which do you prefer: Kermit? or Jumbo Jet?

Friday, September 3, 2010

Enjoying Pregnancy

I have a confession: I enjoy being pregnant. You probably wouldn't guess it by the amount of whining that I do here, but I really do enjoy the overall state of pregnancy. (Yes, the details leave much to be desired, but I'm talking Big Picture.)

True, the fatigue sucks. As do all the little aches and pains. The Top Ten List of annoying symptoms, for me, include fatigue, itchiness, swollen wrists and ankles, insomnia, muscle cramps, digestive issues, heat sensitivity, constant paranoia about food, physical awkwardness, and the inability to wear the same bra or shoes for more than 2 months in a row. During the first trimester, I tend to get a small set of those that stick around for weeks at at time. During the second trimester, I generally experience all of them, 4-5 at a time, rotating on a daily basis. (As soon as the digestive issues disappear, the muscle cramps come back, that sort of thing.) During the third trimester, they're pretty much all there all the time, if I remember correctly. And yep, that sucks.

But in exchange for the miserableness, there's so much to enjoy. I love the anticipation of it all. The sense of a new beginning. The realization that you're doing something that you're only going to do for a few short times in your entire life, if you're lucky. Feeling the kicks and knowing that you're enjoying something that nobody else at that moment knows exactly about -- the private kicks of your future child. The daydreaming about the future. It's all really rather lovely. And I know that there are people who freak out about the weight gain and spend nine months convinced that they look like a fat cow, but I'm actually the exact opposite; I'm normally fairly self-conscious about my body, but during pregnancy, I almost feel like I have an excellent "excuse" to not have an hourglass figure, and all that self-consciousness disappears. (After LL was born, it almost immediately reappeared, but still.)

I remember being physically miserable during my pregnancy with LL. Those last two months or so, from weeks 34-42, seemed never-ending. I reached the point of "Holy cow I really just cannot go on like this!!!" a good week or more before I actually gave birth. I remember being that miserable. But I also remember missing it all when LL was just a few months old. At the time, I convinced myself that my mind was playing tricks on me, that I wasn't really remembering what it was like, that if I was ever lucky enough to get pregnant again I would immediately be consumed by thoughts of, "Oh, that's right, this sucks! What the hell was I thinking, doing this again!?!" But now that I'm here again... nope, it's good. Really.

The things that sucked before (see the Top Ten List) still suck. But they don't suck with the ferocity that they sucked last time. This time around, I seem more in control of the fact that the miserableness is short-lived. That the aches and pains come and go. That the whole experience really is rather fleeting, even if it doesn't always seem that way in the moment. I feel like I spent my pregnancy with LL trying to "get through it." There were things that I enjoyed, and I spent much of that pregnancy in total awe of what was happening, but I still treated it as a trial that I needed to suffer through (including labor, the big final exam) in order to reach the payoff of a real little baby. This time, I'm much better at viewing the pregnancy itself as a life stage to be enjoyed like any other.

I wrote several weeks ago about how I was sad that this pregnancy felt so abstract. I'm starting to realize that my sadness came mostly from a place of feeling like I hadn't enjoyed those first few months the way I should have. And now they're gone. This last month or so, though, things have been very different. I'm definitely "in the moment" now with this pregnancy. Taking note of the changes, marveling at Kermit's development, keeping perspective on the bad stuff. And having twinges of sadness that I may never do this again.