"She refused to be bored, chiefly because she wasn't boring." Zelda Fitzgerald

Monday, May 31, 2010

Let Summer Begin!

Happy Memorial Day! We're celebrating all the ways we know how...lost of grins and giggles...
....loads of roses blossoming in our garden.....

....loads of fresh peas being stripped off our pea plants by hungry boys who waited all winter just for this.
And then a salad with roses and peas....along with a lot of lettuce, also from our garden. Ah! Nothing like growing your own. This is the first of our produce for the year.

The baby is still cute! (gratuitous infant moment)

The pool is fabulous! Ah!

And the grill, she is fired up. Steaks or shrimp or burgers? Such choices....

And this morning I was so proud of my sons, soaking up the parade with glowing faces, asking me what each of the uniforms meant, impressed by the bigger boyscouts, thrilled about the helicopter fly-over and clapping enthusiastically when the marching band came thrumming past. Such sweet boys! I've always love love loved parades but, there's something really magical about sharing parades with your children.


Saturday, May 29, 2010

Garters and Goodbyes, With A Side of Roses

Yesterday was perfect weather for all the outdoors gallivanting we did. I did a little garden exploring, catching up on what I'd missed since I took to my bed and buried my nose in all the roses that are indeed blooming. So lovely to see them all flourishing! I really was wincingly nervous that all this rose anticipation and hope and apparent incoming blossom avalanche would somehow manage to come to nothing but, instead, I'm happy to report we are enjoying a regular storm of rosy petals. When you step out onto the patio it smells like a perfumerie that specializes in old rose scents. Mmmm...
And then...tiptoeing past the garden bench I noticed this little garter, all curled in the sun, pretending earnestly that he wasn't there and hoping I'd think he was only a leaf. I ran in and got the boys, hoping I could show them but he was too nervous and quick for two rowdy little men and had managed to dematerialize quickly by the time I had them both on the bench, peering over the side. Oh well. I thought later that I should have taken them back indoors and read them the poem that kept rattling through my brain after the encounter. Note to self: when poems in my brain insist on being heard over and over, maybe they will be satisfied if I read them aloud to small boys. Dickinson would be good for us all, I think.
Little Bird was exhausted after the errand running because part of what we did was take him to the pediatrician for his first basic exam. This visit is always kind of fun...they weight, they measure, they tell you how incredibly gorgeous he is and you sit and chat congenially about parenting. He's a little big for his age and he's gaining weight beautifully (totally impressed the nurse with an 8 oz gain since birth) and he scored perfectly normal or above average on all the checklist points so, now its confirmed...our newest son is practically perfect in every way! What else would we expect?

And then of course the saddest duty of the day was saying goodbye to our dear Grandma/Mama at the airport. Ru cried as we drove out saying, "I just want her to stay with us! Why does she have to go?!?" He's a rambunctious little boy who can be a real handful but he is a lover deep inside and he does hate goodbyes. Good thing we're headed to Michigan to return the visit in just a few weeks...July, here we come!


Thursday, May 27, 2010

Thank You Seems A Little Flat...

Really...how do you "thank" someone for: putting their life on complete hold for you, for washing all your dirty underwear, for putting up with your toddler screaming in their face, for coaching you through a four hour nighttime tantrum session, for making three meals a day from scratch and serving them to you while you sit enthroned like a queen with nothing more to do than nurse your newest subject, for praying you through contractions, for wiping up spilled drinks and any number of myriad other unspeakable acts of sacrifice and selfless love?

How does that work? That whole "Gee, thanks!" bit? I wish there was some fabulous something we could buy her besides a plane ticket home that would make her feel amazingly loved and really convey the depth of our appreciation. I wish I had daughters so that I could replicate what she's done for me for the next generation. I wish I could say something more than a teary goodbye and a lot of "I love yous" but, what in the world would it be. In lieu of that...I'm here...leaving a bloggy thank you and spreading the word through the blogosphere that just in case you all think I don't know what a spoiled little goose I am, how incredibly lucky this sort of treatment is and how very special my mom is for slowly and lovingly buffering my descent into motherhood...I know. I don't know how to ever make it up to her and I'm not really sure how to let go of her, (I never do) and peddle my own two-wheel bike down the driveway but I sure am deeply grateful. I'm a big girl but sometimes inside I still don't feel like it. And really folks, knowing that your parents are, like mine, so deeply loving and care so very much is the deepest safety net a child can have and one of the most profound kinds of goodness.

So, Mama....thanks. I owe you about five million....again.

Extra special grateful love also goes out to my kid sister Melody and my incredibly fabulous Papa who also gave deeply and to whom I am indebted as well. This is love.


Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Pool Weather!

Today the thermometer hit 99 degrees and we had our first pool day! The pool here at our association is unheated and filled via garden hose so when we noticed about five days ago that they had opened it up, even though the boys were chomping at the bit to go SWIM NOW we put them off rather expertly, knowing it would be bone numbingly cold. Yeah. And then it became summer and the thermometer hit 99 and suddenly, it seemed like the best idea around. Hooray for the pool being open a little early even though its not quite Memorial Day!!!!

So, although we meant to plant out the baby tomato plants, and we still have laundry to do (don't we always) and meatballs were on the menu for tonight...instead we drank mint iced tea, made salads together, sat around in the air conditioning and talked and yeah...we swam some more in the pool.
What can we say? You'd have done the same.

Today was the last big relaxy day of enjoying my mom's visit...tomorrow we have an insane day of rushing hither and yon doing a ridiculous laundry list of errands and then we'll come home, pack Mama's bags, pour our exhausted children into their beds and get up to see her off in the early morning at La Guardia. Its been a very good run.

The air has that hazy summer quality and I'm starting to dream about all the things that are quintessential this time of year: key lime pie, lemon meringue pie, sun tea on the back porch, long drives with the windows down, country music you can sing along while said windows are down, tan lines and watermelon seed spitting contests and oh boy...sweet corn, fresh from the farmer's market...dripping with butter! Doesn't that sound divine?

Just the last little bit of May here and all of that will begin in earnest. It sure feels good to be recovering from a birth so quickly that 5 days out, I already feel semi-normal and can see life beyond Babyland. I love it when things you hope and pray for earnestly work out.


Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Sibling Rivalry: How Prevent Infant Assassination

So, one of the most frequent questions I get these days (after, "How are you feeling?") is "So...." *raised eyebrows* "How are the boys doing with the new addition?" And then they smile that sort of knowing smile and fold their hands and wait for it.

And my answer at the moment is, as it was when Dee joined us, "Oh good! Schedules are all up in the air and things a little squirrelly because of that but, the biggest relational problem we're having with Baby is that there need to be breaks between the kisses and hugs and Baby needs a little space occasionally for sleeping and we can't all hold him at once and sometimes that causes a few tears." And people often look at me with wide eyes and sort of stutter, "Uh...well...great! That's great!" And I'm not sure they believe me.

But, truly...nobody at our house has stormed, "I hate that new baby!" or tried to drop large things on him in hopes of offing him discreetly, or tried to push him off my lap or started pooping in their diapers extra and demanding their forgotten sippy cup at meals. We're all human over here but, one of the issues I've picked up a few tips for handling is sibling rivalry...at least as far as introducing a new baby to the house goes. The later form where one kid has a cooler helium balloon than his brother and they break out in cat fights, I am still working on cracking. Heh.

So, here are my hot tips for smoothly bringing in Baby (most of which by the way are blatantly plagiarized from my own mother's personal parenting philosophy) :

  • Be forthright about the Baby's existence. I think its important to tell the future older siblings about the baby as soon as you know you're pregnant...honestly, we have talked about the next kid well before we're even "trying."  We talk about wanting another baby together, then we share the news with our kids as soon as we know, and all the way through the pregnancy I tell the older sibling/siblings about how the baby is developing and we talk clearly about when the baby is coming and how much longer we have to wait. The big plan? Be honest and give siblings all the time you can to warm up to the new addition. I think lots of people think they're doing their kids some kind of favor by hiding the news for a long time but, I think they accidentally plot problems for themselves instead.
  • Frame Baby as positive, positive, positive. I believe strongly in the power of self-fulfilling prophesy and I think that if you set up the situation as potentially tedious, rife with jealousy and positively riddled with messy anxiety and catastrophe...then there are good chances you'll get just what you bargained for. The flip side is, a new sibling framed as an exciting new adventure will often be received as such. Kids are mirrors...ever watch a toddler who falls down and then immediately searches their parents face for cues about how to react? If Mommy smiles and says, "You're okay!" and offers a high five the tot will usually respond in kind. Its the same idea. 
  • Include your older children. I try to always say "our baby" not "the baby" or "my baby" and I talk a lot through the pregnancy about how the older siblings will help and how much the baby will like them and what they can share with the baby once he or she arrives. Nobody likes to feel excluded and if you make sure that your other children have part ownership in the new little being they'll be a lot more excited and feel less need for jealousy. Our kids come with us to all the prenatal appointments, help us discuss name ideas and help me set up the baby's clothes and personal items once they come out of storage. The message is: the baby isn't just for mommy and daddy...we're all in this together.
  • Once Baby arrives...encourage sibling involvement, relax and use positive language. Maybe this one point ought to be three separate ones but, together they encapsulate my plan for postpartum parental tactics so, I've thrown them all together. I let my kids hold the baby as often as I can stand to, I let them run and fetch diapers and pacifiers, kiss the baby's hair and help me tuck the swaddling blanket in at the edges. Any way I can get them physically included in all the business of taking care of the new little someone, I do it. Relaxing, means just what it sounds...letting go of a good bit of your paranoia about how having a two year old hold a baby is dangerous and how there mustn't be any ball throwing in the house now because you have an infant. Pillows stuffed into the nooks and crannies of the couch a big double bed or even a Lazy-boy can make a cozy nest for even a toddler to hold the baby and truly, babies can get used to all kinds of craziness...they are far more flexible and forgiving than you imagine. Of course sometimes older siblings must be genuinely reigned in, today for instance, I had to stop my four year old from feeding the baby lettuce out of our garden. This is where the positive language comes in. A sharp rebuke from mom about that lettuce, "Ru! Get that away from the baby! What are you doing! You must never try to feed the baby anything! That is so dangerous!" would have been a great way to make Ru shrink four inches and begin to sow the bitter seeds of hatred in his heart for his new little brother. Really though, the animosity would be thrown towards the baby but meant for me because I made him feel small and humiliated when he meant to be sharing a special garden treat with the new little one. I kept the relationship smooth and un-poisoned by saying instead: "Oh lettuce is so good isn't it? But, right now Reid can't eat lettuce. He has no teeth! Isn't that funny? Babies this small can only eat milk. In a few months you can help teach him all about lettuce though and he'll be so excited to try it." In other words, "You catch more flies with honey....." as my Papa always quoted.

So, those are my hot tips. So far so good...and frankly, even though I've done it smoothly twice now, you could still call me a notice sibling introducer and perhaps all my well-founded theories have really just been blind-luck. What do you think? Disagree with me on any one point (or two or three) or have a good idea of your own about how to smoothly introduce Baby? I'd love to hear it. Throw it at me.


Monday, May 24, 2010

Bopping Along With Baby

Life is pretty darn jolly. We're all working on getting back into the swing of things...meals at regular times, naps in the appropriate places, everyone wearing clothing...you know, that sort of thing. I am considering this Day One of integrating into real, normal life. We have been folding and folding and folding laundry, taking little hiatuses to the garden, eating a lot of strawberry popsicles and taking breaks from every little thing to say to ourselves, "Isn't he darling?" *sigh sigh sigh*

I have to admit that I cried when A came to kiss me goodbye for work this morning but, I also managed to bathe both of the older boys while nursing the newest addition. Give and take. I am not a very dependent or sappy wife generally but, I always do this after I have a baby. I know he has tomorrow off and that this coming weekend we'll have extra time together because of the holiday but somehow the hormones win out anyhow and there I am sniffling away in the rocker while he buttons his dress shirt. But, as I said....I musn't be too hard on myself I am having my quickest postpartum recovery ever and am already downstairs jetting around doing all kinds of little things I never did in the first week after a baby's arrival. Last night I wiped down my own kitchen counter-tops, I swept the floor this morning and folded a basket of laundry and as I mentioned...my biggest triumph of the day, baths all round. Small victories, that's where its at.

Outside my bedroom window in the pussy willow tree I watch poof out in the early spring, there is an amorous squirrel couple who have been scurrying around for weeks nibbling off tender willow shoots and leaves and carting them back to weave into a little round nest at the thickly hidden main crotch of the tree. If you tilt your head at just the right angle you can see the busy whisking tail of Daddy Squirrel or Mommy, whomever it is who is doing the packing and weaving at the moment while the other partner comes bounding in from some far branch with a new twig or two. Cute cute to see and kind of fun to see the activity winding down and see the wad of green that is the nest starting to dry out and see the tail of the occupant just sitting and no longer whisking. I was up in my bed, snuggling my new baby and just a few feet across through the air a squirrel mommy was snuggling her new babies in her tree-house bed. Parallelism is cozy.

So, now I have a first pediatrician appointment schedule for later in the week and I'm working on a grand plan for disconnecting from the dependency from my dear Mama who has been here since two days before the birth, helped me breathe through contractions, has been doing my laundry, entertaining the boys, washing the dishes, cooking three square meals from scratch and spending lots of time laughing, goofing around and talking, talking, talking. So wonderful to have this therapeutic time together. I am one spoiled puss and I know it. The other side of this fabulous time is that its always a big adjustment to let go of the spa-like life and move back to being the mommy in charge. I feel more optimistic about the switch this time than I think I've ever felt before. Finally getting my feet under me with motherhood maybe? Is this what happens over time? I like to think so.

And in the meantime, there are long, tender, velvet soft toes to nibble and the first roses have opened in the garden and the baby has gotten to the point where he has that lovely, creamy milky smell. Life, is very jolly all round....


Thursday, May 20, 2010

Its A Boy!!!!

This morning, just as the sun rose our third son was born! We have three strapping boys at our house now! Woohoo!!! I'm gonna be a boy expert before this is all over.

Reid Solomon Armstrong was born at 5:02AM May 20th

He weighs 8lbs and 14oz....bigger than Dee (7lbs 14oz) and smaller than Ru (9lbs 8oz) so he fits soundly right in the mix.
He was 21 inches long and had a 13.5 inch head circumference.

 He was born with pretty much no head molding, big round pink head right from the get-go, and a dusting of dark brown hair. He is wonderfully alert although quite snuggly and easy-going, no serious screaming sessions yet. He has a deep little baritone sneeze which makes all of us giggle and long elegant toes and feet that he clearly got from his daddy and not from me. *grin* I can't get over how very robust and strong and healthy he is....he has wonderful skin tone, a few rolls on his chubby little arms, an extra chin and excellent muscular strength. He has big juicy red lips which he likes to suck on and pucker and the sweetest little round chin that looks like someone glued a little pink ping pong ball to his lower lip. Such a sweet boy. I'm so proud of making such a top rate little person!

His name Reid is a family name on both sides of our families. On A's side we're remembering and honoring Baby's paternal great-grandfather whose first name was Reid...a stalwart and honorable Northern Michigan salt-the-earth working man who ran a little gas station in a small town and was the kind of hard-working and resourceful ancestor we all admire fondly. On my side, Reid is a maternal family surname...another hard-working clan from Northern Michigan. So, he's a well connected little guy for sure with lots of great legacy to live up to.

His middle name, Solomon, is a nod to the wisest man who ever lived, a euphonious handle that A and I both love aesthetically and it means "peace" which is wonderful label to give your child to carry through life.

Anyhow, life is peachy. There is opera music and birdsong floating through the house, the sun is beaming onto my bed where I'm typing with little Reid bundled up next to my thigh making little grunting noises and I can smell dinner cooking mixed with the aroma of the next door neighbor's grill and the freshly cut lawn. A, Ru and Papa (my parents are here!) are out at the store picking out a miniature birthday cake to celebrate Reid's zeroeth with per our little family tradition. I am feeling pretty fabulous and extremely loved and spoiled. There are some moments in life when it feels achingly like it could not easily get better.