Saturday, December 22, 2007

Dear Anna: Month 39

Dear Anna,

Last Monday, you turned 39 months old. You are now a bona fide three-year-old, with three months of experience under your belt. I'm astounded at how much you have changed since I last wrote you a letter. To begin with, your potty training hit a level consistent enough for you to transition to a new room at your day care center. You still have a lot of accidents, but you also have many days with none whatsoever. Your last great barrier (and I know you'll love reading this someday and knowing it was out there on the internets) is pooping in the potty. You're either not getting the physical cues you need, or you're just not comfortable with the idea. You have a low tolerance level, though, for poopy pants, so I think we're going to get somewhere with this soon...which will be good, as the worst poop disaster of our life together to date happened in your room this fall. I went in to get you after a nap and found you standing there, naked, with poop everywhere. You were trying to clean yourself up and get new clothes, but, in the process, you'd pulled poop up your back, onto the carpet, oh - everywhere. My jaw was on the floor, and you looked at me with the saddest face and said, "I pooped, Mama. And I got my hands in it." I got you into the tub and am now a majority owner of Resolve Carpet Cleaner. And that's all we're going to say about that.


You got a haircut that transformed you. Gone was what your father referred to as the "Prince Valiant!" As you weren't interested in keeping barrettes or headbands in but also weren't interested in hair falling in your face, we went ahead and opted for a pixie cut of sorts. It's adorable. As it fills in, I'm starting to mourn the curls less and see the match between this sassy cut and your sassy personality.


You still love your little sister. You're a little less sure of her now that she's crawling. She gets into your stuff, and that's just not cool. But I think you're remarkably patient. You get frustrated, and you try to keep her from getting the toy you're enjoying that has caught her eye, but I have never once seen you get rough with her. You love to tickle her and make her laugh. And I think your enjoyment of life's pleasures is somehow enhanced by sharing them with Tessa. During a recent bubble-fest, you were elated. You waved your hands, your eyes got wide, and you said, "There are bubbles, Tessa!"


You really got Halloween this year. You went trick-or-treating as a butterfly princess (or a fairy princess, depending on your mood when asked), first with me and then with your father. As we walked around one end of our neighborhood, you delighted in the decorations on front steps - the pumpkins, the skeletons, the witches' hats...and, of course, the people who dropped candy into your pumpkin bag!


Your pretend play has really taken off. You have a dress-up bin now, largely stocked with costumes from the Target 75% off post-Halloween sale. When I asked you, decked out in all sorts of finery, who you were, you replied, "I'm a woman. A butterfly woman." Sometimes you are a regular butterfly, or a doggie, or a princess - and we must address you as such, or our words fall on deaf ears.


I'm probably the most amazed by your developing literacy. You've had an affinity for books for as long as I can remember, and I'll still find books in your bed when I duck in to give your sleeping self one last kiss goodnight. But now you can write your name. You've started connecting the dots between letters and words. The first instance we saw of this came during a bedtime story when you stopped your father's narrative and said, "Daddy! Z-O-O! Zoo!" Seeing this happen makes me more proud and amazed than I can even begin to describe. You're reading. This doesn't stop some of the really cute word turns you have, though - my current favorite is "popadots" for "polka-dots."


For a couple of weeks there, you liked to count using your fingers to demonstrate the numbers. You were convinced that the best way to demonstrate "one" was to hold up just your middle finger. You flipped off so many people during that happily short-lived phase...I just don't even want to think about it. It was next to impossible not to laugh, which would have ensured it becoming a permanent part of your repertoire.


We had a small snowstorm a few weeks ago that closed school early and had us all home just before it got dark. You were delighted with the idea of playing in the snow. So we bundled you and Tessa up and headed outside to our teeny patch of snow-covered grass in front of the house. The neighborhood kids had left a sizable rolled snowball there, and you thought this was great. You tried to kick it like a soccer ball, describing your moves with every pummel until the ball was reduced to little chunks of snow. Then Daddy (accidentally) pegged you lightly in the head with a snowball, and you said, "Oh, Daddy! Sorry!" (You're still figuring out how "sorry" works, even though you say it a lot.)


You slept in our bed for the first time in ages last week on a night when the wind was howling. I tried three times to get you to go back to your bed, but your lip was quivering, and you were honestly scared. You crawled in with us and immediately fell into a sound sleep, on a straight diagonal, snoring. Around 4:30am, you decided you wanted to go back to your own bed, but the night scares are more and more common now. Right on schedule, I think, as your imagination becomes ever more active.


As we head toward Christmas, you've picked up some tunes. After one run-through, you learned "Rudolph, the Red-Nosed Reindeer" and will sing it for just about anyone who asks. You also do a heckuva cheery rendition of "Jingle Bells." I can't wait to get you serenading your grandparents this Christmas.


As I wrote to Tessa in her latest letter, you participated with our family in a child dedication ceremony at our church. This was a beautiful event, welcoming you and Tessa into our church community. You were given a lovely (thorn-free!) rose by our head minister, and you even thanked her. I loved what the minister leading the dedication said, and I'm including his words here for you, in the hope that you find them as comforting and welcoming as I do:

A traditional African poem reads:
Speak to me, child of my heart. Speak to me with yours eyes, your round laughing eyes... How shall we name you...? Who lives in you and quickens to life? At the day of your naming, you will tell us.

Today we pause to dedicate children of families in our church, recognizing that these precious and holy human beings begin their lives as a promise; a promise that human life may be reborn in goodness, that love may become incarnate, that everyday miracles wait just on the horizon, that each person alive has the potential to sway this world of ours away from evil, bringing us peace and harmony.

Promise lives in these children. Today as we look into their "round laughing eyes," we are offered the glorious story of hope.


You are all of this and even more to me, my beautiful girl.

Love,
Mama

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

Dear Tessa: Month 10

Dear Tessa,

Last weekend, you turned ten months old. This month saw you celebrate your first Thanksgiving, complete with a jar of pumpkin pie baby food that smelled so good, I'd have eaten it but for the table full of other grown-up options. My dad and Daddy's parents were visiting and celebrated the holiday with us, and you took to all three of them. It was especially wonderful for me to see you meet my father for the first time. He just delighted in you, and you didn't fuss a bit when he held you!


This has been a month of physical advances for you. I should stop being astonished that you're growing - we'd be alarmed if you weren't - but it still seems so quick to me. And, in some ways, it is. You crawled before Anna did, I'm sure in large part so that you can chase her around the house and take her toys. And this month, you pulled up to stand and starting cruising along the furniture. We'd just dropped the crib mattress from its top setting, and we had to turn right around and drop it to the bottom setting this month so that you wouldn't vault yourself out with all the bouncing you do in there.


The down side to this ability is that you don't always know how to get back down once you're standing up and holding onto something. When you're awake and playing, it's pretty easy to figure out. But when you've woken up and started crying (read: banshees have nothing on you), you rattle your crib bars like a little inmate, and then...you get stuck. You're not really awake enough, and it's not really light enough, for you to figure out that you can lower yourself back to a sitting position from which you could topple back to sleep.


You have more hair. This isn't saying much, but the peach fuzz has now been replaced by a completely nuzzlable head of soft hair that looks like it wants to curl up at the ends. I still hold out hope that you'll end up with the red hair, but it's still too soon to tell. We're a long way from barrettes and ponytails, but I think we're starting to depart the "What a cute little boy!" compliments you receive despite being decked out in pink and floral from head to toe. I never thought that would bother me, but, well, it does. Don't they see the baby girl I adore? Evidently not. At least they have the cute part right.


You've also graduated out of your infant car seat. Gone are the days when I can get you from car to house without waking you up, alas! But gone, too, are the days of your being clearly uncomfortable in a seat that rapidly became too small for your ever-lengthening frame. Weight-wise and age-wise, you'll be facing the back of the car for a while yet, but height-wise, you were just crumpled up in that seat. Now you look tiny again, in the friendly confines of your swank new Marathon.


You've also begun using a sippy cup. It's debatable how much hydration you're actually getting from the water in the cup, but you're certainly getting the mechanics down. It didn't seem possible that you were already old enough for this ("you'll always be my baby" - repeat ad nauseum!), but one of those parenting sites' developmental milestone emails woke me up, and I handed you the sippy cup that day. You knew exactly what to do with it, and I felt a little silly for holding out on you.


On your ten-month birthday, you participated, along with Anna and Daddy and me, in our church's child dedication ceremony. (For those not familiar with the Unitarian Universalist deal, think baptism but with promises I can keep.) I debated dressing you up in the christening gown Anna wore - too dressy? Too chilly? The sentimentality of it all (and the advice of my chorale friends) won out in the end, and I layered you into the gown, which fit just right. You held your flower and let our minister show you off to the congregation. You dusted Anna's hair with your flower while the ceremony finished. And I felt like you - all four of us - became part of something bigger than us just then and that no matter what might happen, we would be cared for and supported by that bigger thing. I hope you always have that feeling of love and connection - it makes everything seem manageable and, beyond that, enjoyable.

Love,
Mama

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

Dear Tessa: Month 9

Dear Tessa,

A week and a half ago, you turned nine months old. This has been a month of incredible ups and downs for you, but the ups far outweigh the temporary downs.


You were diagnosed with a lung infection that required nebulizer treatments but happily nothing more serious. So for several days, you had to curb your mobile self while we gave you blow-by treatments with the nebulizer and hoped it would get rid of that wheeze and help your cough. Daddy entertained you during these sessions by dancing around the nursery. You found this absolutely hilarious (as did I), and you stayed put to watch the show.


As if the nebulizer wasn't bad enough, you had an ear infection, too, so you also endured antibiotics for ten days. You were so miserable at the beginning of your ordeal - your sleep was all messed up (just when we were making progress!), and you just couldn't catch your breath - but then, over the course of the week you spent at home with Daddy or me, you played and laughed and became yourself again. Except for the sleep...


But this month also saw you take off - literally! You're crawling all over the place. You're pulling up, and your world is expanding every day. Suddenly, we're having to put things out of reach, and Anna is frequently frustrated by your interest in her favorite toys. And you're getting really good and playing with toys! You love the aquarium bowl with its spinny fish balls, which you put in the bowl and take out of the bowl and put in the bowl and take out of the bowl and...you get the idea. We brought some toys out of storage that Anna had loved, and you've taken to them immediately. We gave away your exersaucer and bolster seat because you just will not be contained any longer. You are a baby on the move.


Halloween was a lot of fun this year; I was amazed at your patience in your costume. You wore it for hours on Halloween night and helped us hand out candy to dozens of trick-or-treaters who got an extra treat in the form of your wee ladybug with the black cap and antennae. And you and Anna played off of each other, as always, and cracked each other up, as always. Anna still makes you laugh more easily than either Daddy or I can, and I love watching the two of you spiral down into fits of giggles and then belly laughs. Kind of reminds me of another pair of sisters I know...


You also graduated this month from baby tub baths to baths in the tub with Anna. You're a big splasher, and bathtime soaks Daddy on a nightly basis. I can't wait to see how bathtime looks when you're a little bigger, a little more stable, and a little more conniving with the squirty bath toys.


All these developments are very bittersweet to me. You're at such a fun age - so interactive and so delighted with everything you can do - but you're not an infant anymore, and I miss that tiny baby. Of course, I wouldn't trade your great big chuckles when you get me to nibble on your fingers in order to get the tiny baby back, so I guess we have to keep moving forward. I'm still trying to make the time slow up a bit, though, as I know it won't be long before I'm writing to you about your first steps. So now I will risk waking you up so that I can peek at your sweet sleeping self before I turn in for the night, and I won't complain too much when you wake up and refuse to go back down without nursing. These days are numbered, and as much fun as I know we're going to have in the lifetime ahead, I'm not ready to let them go yet.

Love,
Mama

Thursday, November 1, 2007

Gratuitous Halloween Cuteness

Come on - you knew it was coming...here are my darling girls, all decked out for Halloween.


Tessa is, clearly, a ladybug. Anna fell in love with this (components re-wearable, woohoo!) fairy princess deal but alternated between calling herself a fairy princess and a butterfly. Whatever - she was happy.


I love this picture because it totally looks like Tessa is saying, "Dude. Check out the princess. I'm with the fairy princess! She's a little crazy, but still. Princess." I'm in love with these girls.

I'm also in love with the moment I see Anna heading out to trick-or-treat with her dad. This year, I took a loop with her as well, and we had a blast. But I love this image of her, wings askew and pumpkin bag in hand, holding Mr. Asco's hand, heading safely off into the evening for some serious trick-or-treating.

Sunday, October 28, 2007

JOY!

Our daughters have some serious Red Sox mojo. We have a baby, and the Red Sox win the World Series that year. Not too shabby for a coupla cute kids. But no - we're not having any more. Sorry, John, Tom, and Larry.

What a beautiful feeling. What a great ride. Thanks, guys, and enjoy.

Tuesday, October 23, 2007

Dear Tessa: Month 8

Dear Tessa,

A week ago, you turned eight months old. It's been a month of big changes and developments for you. You switched day care centers in advance of my job moving later this year, and now you go to the same center Anna does. For a couple of weeks, you were even in an adjoining room to Anna, but then she transitioned to another room. You adjusted beautifully to your new environment, and I like your new room very much, but I miss my morning nursing visits with you terribly. I also miss your company on my commute - your singing in your carseat, and, of course, your counting as an HOV passenger!


All the same, it's great to see how easily you've adapted to your new surroundings. Your caregivers just love you. Your father reported that, on a recent pick-up, one of the teachers in the room exclaimed as he came in, "Oh, no! Tessa's leaving!" Even with a month-long case of the sniffles and yet more teeth (we're up to eight now), you are a delightful and happy baby.


We're still having issues with nighttime wakings, and I finally turned to your father a few weeks ago and told him I just couldn't do this anymore. I can, of course; it's amazing what you can tolerate when you just keep putting one foot in front of the other. All the same, this steady sleep deprivation is taking its toll. I've actually had this experience: someone asked me a question, and I stood there staring at her, absolutely convinced in my head that I'd answered her.


So it was time to bring in some sleep training. You're eating a lot more these days, and you're chunking up adorably...so we figured you were just conditioned to think you were hungry two to three times a night. I started feeding you for just a couple of minutes when you woke up (instead of ten minutes or longer) and then putting you down still awake. You fell asleep readily. You haven't eliminated the middle-of-the-night feedings, but I think at this age that one good nosh is still appropriate. And I'm still paranoid that your midnight hollers will wake up your sister, so I head in before I probably should. It's a vicious cycle, but we'll get there.


Your appetite is expanding on a daily basis, as is your food repertoire. Baby food is a staple, but now you also eat little veggie puffs and tiny peas. You get fidgety with spoon-feeding, but as soon as we plop some finger foods down, you dive in for the kill. You'll try anything once, and so far there isn't anything you won't keep eating. And eating. You're burning off your increased caloric intake by (drum roll, please) crawling! You started with a serious commando crawl, dragging yourself around the living room as you started to understand that you could get at your sister and, more importantly, your sister's toys. Within a few days, you were rocking back and forth on your hands and knees. Within a few more days, you had launched. You're still a bit unsteady, but you're moving, much to Anna's simultaneous delight and frustration.


You've also figured out how to sit up all by yourself. This alarms you when you do it in the middle of the night because you can't figure out how to lie back down again. We're stuck with that until you realize that what goes up will come down, but we did move the crib mattress down to accommodate your newfound ability to pull up to your knees.


Tessa, you're just amazing. I thought that I would constantly be comparing your development to Anna's, and I was worried that you'd get lost in that comparison. But two things happened: first, I didn't constantly compare you, and, second, you asserted yourself and just wouldn't slide into a neat comparison. These past few weeks, more people have commented that you and Anna look like sisters. And you do. But I see a resemblance, not a carbon copy. I see a beautiful, smiley baby with little dimples whose mouth turns into a wide little triangle as she repeats her favorite new syllable and then closes into a clenched teeth grin when she's done and basking in her pride. Anna was a a beautiful, smiley baby, too, with exclamations and grins of her own. But these are yours, and when you're doing your thing, I don't even think to hold you up by my memories of your sister at this age. How lucky I am to have you in my life.

Love,
Mama

Sunday, October 21, 2007

BLISS

The Red Sox win the pennant!
The Red Sox win the pennant!!
The Red Sox win the pennant!!!

I think I can get to work in a few hours on adrenaline alone...

Thursday, October 18, 2007

Dove Love

Dove Dark Promises, how I love thee. Thou art so much creamier and tastier than thy nearest supermarket rival, Hershey's Special Dark. Thy creator has seen fit to package you in seasonal splendor, with little notes on the inside of the pretty foil wrappers. Thy inspirational messages for the fall season, however, leave something to be desired. Is it just me?

"Take a walk through frosty grass leaving footprints."
OUCH.

"Watch the harvest moon rise."
Would that be before or after I've made dinner, cleaned up from it, and helped get two tiny people into bed?

"Get lost walking in a corn maze."
Why exactly would I want to do that? Am I assured of having sustenance besides the corn with me in case I really get lost? Will someone come find me and lead me out?

"The wind tells a story, listen."
Great. I'm going to let the wind respond to my preschooler's demands for a fourth and fifth bedtime story tonight, then.

"Dance under the Harvest Moon."
The same one I missed rising, right? My neighbors will have me committed.

"Press your favorite leaves inside a book."
So they can crumble and be aspirated by my eight-month-old, no doubt. But good form - we'll come back to this in a few years' time.

"Sit around a bonfire and watch the stars."
If I build a bonfire in our neighborhood, I will be more than committed. I believe the term is "jailed."

"Count the stars."
Are you fracking kidding me?!

"Take yourself and a book out to lunch."
Now this I can do.

Monday, October 15, 2007

Sing!

I'm singing again. In an organized group, I mean - it's not like I really ever stopped singing. I sing all the time - in the car, to the girls, to myself, for no particular reason. Although not so much in the shower. I think I'm just not conscious enough at that hour to muster the coordination needed to bathe and hold a melody. But I digress - I'm singing again!

It's a church chorale. A good one, even! With a new director who really seems to know his stuff and chooses a terrific variety of arrangements. The Family Asco is in the process of getting all membered up at our new church (that's another installment altogether), and I joined the chorale at the earliest opportunity.

Mr. Asco has been amazing and supportive of my new endeavor, especially given what it adds to his own long day once a week, and Anna loves seeing Mama sing in the chorale. She sees the occasional rehearsal before services, as her preschool class meets during the regular service. This is probably the best arrangement, as her response to this vision is a delighted, "Mama! Mama singing!" And then she and her mile-wide grin join me in the alto section, where she proceeds to "sing along" with us, beaming up at me the whole time. Cute as this is, I was mortified the first time she did this, but she quickly became a bit of a chorale pet, and I knew - again - we were in the right place.

Rehearsals are one night a week and half an hour before the service at which we're singing. I wondered at the outset whether I could manage (logistically and in good conscience) a once-weekly evening commitment away from home. After the first rehearsal, I was in tears on the way home. Good tears - I really had no idea how big the hole was that used to be overfilled by my involvement in various performing groups until I started to fill it up again.

Thursday, October 4, 2007

This morning's commute is brought to you by the letter "N"

I'm pleased to report that the "N" in "Autumn" was in place on my drive in this morning. Perhaps I was harsh in my criticism of the business in question. Perhaps there's an "N" bandit on the loose, kidnapping "N"s from area business signs. In any case, there it was this morning, in all its glory. So, indeed: WELCOME AUTUMN.

But. I think I still prefer the suggestions - none of which require an "N" from my friend Dave:

HI FALL
YAY OCT
SCREW YOU SUMMER

Wednesday, October 3, 2007

Peer

I have never once been called for jury duty. Today, I received a prospective juror questionnaire in the mail with instructions to fill it out and return it within ten days or face mauling by tigers.

My first thought? Cool! Maybe I'll actually get called and see something interesting! But not so interesting that I end up in one of those post-verdict jury pool interviews on the Today Show!

My second thought? I'm a nursing mom. Jury duty is the seventh circle of hell for nursing moms: long days and short breaks spent pumping in bathroom stalls with no refrigeration for your liquid gold. Oh, crap.

I set about filling in the form and found something that I don't recall seeing the last time I saw one of these (about five years ago when a friend at work received a questionnaire) - nursing moms have been added to the exemption category list.

Well, howdee. :)

Drive

You know you have a bad commute when the line between having a drive time of less than an hour versus more than an hour is drawn at 6:15am.

Mantra: It's all temporary. I can do just about anything for a couple of months.

At least our resident sleep terrorist only woke up twice last night and seems to be getting over her snuffles and the latest teething jag.

Random pre-dawn commuting observations:

1) If you don't have all the letters, don't put up the sign. "Welcome Autum" just pisses me off at 6:30 in the morning.

2) If there are two right turn lanes, and you are not in one of them, do not turn right. Particularly when my car is in the leftmost right turn lane. Further, do not indignantly flip me off when I realize you are on the verge of hitting my car and honk my horn.

3) Radio stories about how the commute in this region is the second worst in the country while I am slogging through said commute are really just preaching to the vehicular choir and are truly not productive uses of your broadcast time.

Tuesday, October 2, 2007

Dear Anna: Month 36

Dear Anna,

A couple of weeks ago, you turned three years old. How in the world are you already a preschooler? There's so much going on in your world these days that I hardly know where to start. So let's begin with the gross, after a peek at your happy, smiling for the camera face.


For four nights running recently, you had either a nosebleed or an escaped poop. That's a lot of laundry but, more so, a lot of worry. Your first ever nosebleed didn't bug you, but it made your pretty little bed look like something out of CSI. After being reassured that the occasional nosebleed is pretty common among tiny people who are starting to, ahem, explore their nasal regions, we relaxed a bit. And then there was the poop. As you started potty training in earnest, you became resistant to keeping your diaper on at bedtimes, wanting instead to change yourself. Needless to say, this helpful maneuver had pretty messy results. Fortunately, as you became more determined to use the potty, you also became slightly less resistant to keeping a diaper on overnight, and we've had little reason to do emergency sheet changes in a while.


You're still one super-affectionate kid. You were out at the playground with Daddy recently and brought me a flower from your walk back (and asked your first "why" question when I said we should put it in water!). You started saying, "I love you, Mama, have a good sleep!" as you headed off to bed and naptime. You've also become a real hugger - us, your grandmothers, your friends at school, and, best of all, your baby sister.


Sometimes, you're just plain weird about the hugging. We were at the mall a few weeks ago, in a kids' clothing store with readily-accessible mannequins in the window. You fell in love with these kid-sized mannequins and started going from one to the next, hugging them in turn and counting them. In Spanish.


You're also developing real live manners, understanding that there's a nice way to ask for things and doing so without (always) being prompted. You routinely engage now in please-thank you - you're welcome exchanges, and you remarkably have learned to ask for something by saying, "May I please have..." Of course, your little age-appropriate freakouts interfere with your becoming a tiny Miss Manners, but I think a tiny Miss Manners would be pretty weird and probably not a little annoying.


I love watching you explore new skills and interests, too. You can now use a mouse and "play" computer games designed for your age group (and attention span). The Dr. Seuss A-B-C game is your current favorite, and you readily navigate the letters, choosing your favorite rhymes and songs easily. A sign of the times - my preschooler is fully versed in pointing and clicking! You sing a lot - nonsense syllables, descriptive recitatives of your daily activities as they're unfolding, your version of the church choir anthems as we rehearse on Sunday mornings, you name it. I love it all, but especially your "doodle-oodle-oodle-ooo" as you putter around the house, doing your thing.


You started a soccer class with Daddy last month, too, and it's so amazing to see you being taught and (literally) running with the basic concepts of the game. You have little Nike wear, sneakers that light up when you walk, and a snazzy blue and silver soccer ball. If there were a preschool world cup, baby, you'd be a starter. You do have your klutzy moments, though, as when you recently found out the hard way that you are now as high as the doorknob.


You are delighting in Tessa even more than the last time I wrote to you! She's sitting up, reaching for things, and laughing, and you are her favorite entertainment. When you ask her questions in a sign-song, rising intonation, she just goes bananas. And the more she laughs, the more you laugh, creating a cycle of increasing hilarity. You leave Tessa's actual care and feeding to Daddy and me for the most part, but one recent venture into this area absolutely killed me. You climbed up onto the rocker in Tessa's room, outfitted in a t-shirt and your purple tutu, and asked to hold Tessa. As we set about getting you properly posed to do so, you modified your request: "Want to feeeed Tessa, Mama." And pulled up your t-shirt on one side in a perfect imitation of a nursing mom.


Bedtime is one of the most challenging and most satisfying parts of the day for me where you're concerned. When you're tired, you can throw incredible tantrums, fighting us off at every turn when we try to get you to brush your teeth or get into your pajamas. But when you do finally realize that bed is a most excellent place to be, it's just bliss. You require stories, but we often read in parallel. You tell me which book I should read, and you explain that you'll be reading a different book. Then, while I read my book out loud to you, you patter along with the book you're reading, drifting away from it whenever the plot of my book becomes more compelling to you. For a while, you were leaving your room after lights out, and we would hear you taking exaggerated tip-toe steps through the hall way and to the gate at the top of the steps. Then you'd just stand there and breathe until we claimed you and returned you to your bed. On really rough nights, I ask if you'd like me to snuggle with you for a few minutes. You nod, and I wedge myself into your toddler bed next to you, nose to nose with you while you just stare into my eyes, sometimes tapping my nose with your index finger or patting my shoulder. Just to be sure of me. And I stay just a few minutes longer than I really should...just to be extra sure of you.

Love,
Mama

Friday, September 28, 2007

Joy

Well I love that dirty water
Ohhhh - Boston you're my home

Congratulations to the 2007 American League East Champion Boston Red Sox.

Best non-FCC-offending quote so far:
"I was standing on this table here, watching that big-screen there..." (Jonathan Papelbon, when asked where he was when the division was won)

Best visual:
From the celebration within Fenway (lots of fans stayed), two players chasing down and dousing the bullpen cop with champagne. Said cop responded with a fist bump to the players.

Best thing about the celebration:
Seeing it leave the locker room and extend to the fans in the park. For example: Mike Lowell, beer in hand, skipping on down the line, high-fiving the fans. Well played, guys.

It's almost good enough for me to go wake up the girls and tell them about this momentous occasion. But, dude, I'm psyched, not stupid.

AWWWWW YEAH!!

And now, back to work...there be October baseball to play, boys.

Dear Tessa: Month 7

Dear Tessa,

Almost two weeks ago, you turned seven months old. I know - I'm later than usual in writing your letter this month! In my defense, there aren't many spare minutes in the days lately, and an unfortunate percentage of those that should be spent sleeping are instead spent with you in the nursery. I'm just saying.


This month, your personality has come crashing through. You are a delightful, happy baby who smiles at everyone she meets. You leave a wake of delight and warm fuzzies. Your smile takes over your whole face, and those dimples - those dimples! Your newfound vocalizations enhance the smiles - we sing in harmony, which cracks you up. You're playing with consonants ("ah-da!") and long, drawn-out vowels, which cracks you up. You think most everything is funny, and you look like you're contemplating your deepest thoughts while gnawing on your toes. You've developed a bit of a royal wave that just slays its recipients. You're clearly imitating all the waves you see, and you love getting a reaction to it, so you keep it up, twisting an imaginary doorknob with your wee pudgy hand and your little wrist creases.


You passed your first weekend without both Daddy and me this month, and you were a real champ about it. I missed you like crazy and worried that you'd somehow forget all about me after a day or so. You had a wonderful time with Anna and your grandmother, but your huge grin is what greeted me when we got home, and it was all good. Daddy and I had a great time away, but don't ever think I was anything but thrilled to see you at the end of the weekend.


You have more teeth! For the longest time, you had just those two bottom center teeth. Then, suddenly, the two top teeth just outside of the center two appeared, giving you a bit of a vampire look. Don't get any ideas. These new teeth led us to toss more solid foods at you, including those airy little puffs that dissolve in your mouth. You love these. You get almost as many into your mouth as you sweep accidentally to the floor, but you clearly enjoy being able to grab something edible and shovel it in. Your culinary repertoire expands every few days, and you are becoming well-versed in fruits and veggies of the pureed variety. You are also still a strong nurser. And I do mean strong - you'll latch on and promptly arc your free arm out and around, slapping your little hand down on my breast in a gesture of complete ownership.


This appetite is good, as you are a stringbean. Long and lean (but pretty spot on the fiftieth percentile for growth), whereas your sister at this age was approximately as round as she was long. You're active, flailing about and reaching for things just out of your grasp, but I think the bottom line is that you're - hello - a different baby. This has had me convinced that you must need all those overnight feedings because you're littler. Ha! This is, of course, a cop-out, and we will start working on this soon. But I'd be lying if I said some part of my completely exhausted self didn't still enjoy rocking with you while you nurse in the wee hours. That part is being pummeled into submission by the part that would like a full night's sleep, please, so brace yourself for some changes, little one!


You've learned to sit on your own this month, and you can now reach for things and amuse yourself quite readily. Adding to your entertainment is your sister, who elates you. When she careens into your line of sight, you are elation personified, laughing and kicking and playing off of her every move. She in turn loves your laughter, and I've watched the two of you descend into fits of laughter together, each reacting to the other. My own sister - your Aunt Carolyn - and I had this reaction to each other very often as children. Who am I kidding? We still do, and I suspect we will always be able to set each other off as no-one else can. I know what your relationship with Anna can be, and I hope it's all of that and even more. I couldn't wish more love, or a stronger bond, for anyone than I do for the two of you.


I'm already losing your infancy. I can hardly believe that you were ever as tiny as the pictures that prove it. Every stage with you is more fun than the one before, but I still feel nostalgic for those earliest days. It's such a strange betwixt and between - stuck between wanting to keep you tiny as long as possible and eagerly anticipating the child you will become. It's bittersweet, but I wouldn't trade it for anything.

Love,
Mama

Tuesday, September 11, 2007

Nightnursing

With apologies to REM:

Nightnursing deserves a quiet night
The moon and stars on the nursery wall, hung up years ago,
Left them turned off so it's not too bright
Every headlight reveals a room where you should sleep

Still, we're both awake

I forgot my shirt, but who needs it?

You are hungry tonight


Terrible, I know, but such are the things that wander through my mind when I've staggered into the nursery to pick up a hungry Tessa and feed her before her cries wake up Anna. (On an aside, it seems my older daughter could sleep through an Aerosmith concert in her bedroom for how little she stirs when Tessa wakes up overnight.)

We have just - knock wood - come out of a stretch of a few weeks during which Tessa woke up 3+ times per night. And not just little fussy repositionings but honest to goodness feed-me-now wakings. Tessa is a long and lean baby (75-90% on height and 25% on weight) and seems to be in a constant growth spurt these days. And teething. I am so sleep deprived that I suppose it's little wonder I'm starting to take great liberties with one of REM's masterpieces. Here's how it goes:

8:00pm - Tessa nurses and goes to her crib still awake, settling herself down with her paci and her lovey, a little (6x6 or so) square fuzzy blanket with a puppy dog head at one corner. She goes to sleep on her own after playing with her lovey for a few minutes and contemplating serious baby issues. I figure I can get done what I need to get done and be in bed by 9:30 tonight, for sure.

11:30pm - I crawl into bed.

11:45pm - I crawl out of bed, realizing I forgot to brush my teeth.

11:50pm - I crawl back into bed.

12:30am - Tessa hollers, and I go feed her. Diaper feels okay - don't rock that boat. Tessa dozes off nursing, and I put her back into her crib without incident.

12:50am - I crawl back into bed.

2:15am - Tessa fusses. I think perhaps this will pass.

2:20am - Tessa fusses more insistently. I think perhaps this will not pass.

2:25am - Tessa cries. I go feed her. She digs in as though she hasn't eaten in days, bringing her free hand around in an arc to slap it down on my breast in a gesture of impatient satisfaction and possession. She dozes off nursing. Her diaper might be wet, but I do not want to wake her up, so I deposit her carefully in the crib and tiptoe out of the room.

2:40am - I crawl back into bed.

4:00am - Tessa cries, no slow build this time. Her diaper is undoubtedly wet, but she is trying to turn herself upside down in order to latch on and eat more, so I sit in the rocker and nurse her first. After a solid nursing session, she is dozing again. (It never ceases to amaze me that my body will provide for Tessa so readily, no matter how recently she has nursed.) I put her on the changing table and attend to the diaper, which now weighs about as much as she does. She drowses awake and begins to play with me, cooing and looking for a response. Impossibly, I keep my face neutral through the diaper change, pick her up, and set her back into the crib with her paci and lovey. She rolls over and scoots her knees up to her chest, wiggling her butt.

4:15am - I crawl back into bed.

5:00am - The alarm goes off. I reset it for 15 minutes later.

5:15am - The alarm goes off again. I convince Mr. Asco to take the first shower so I can sleep just a few more minutes.

5:25am - Tessa wakes up, her internal clock set to our weekday schedule. I bring her into bed with me, and she has breakfast while I doze.

5:35am - I take a shower while Mr. Asco gets dressed and tends to Tessa.

By 6:25, we're out the door.

I am writing about this now because it is, temporarily, at least, over. I could not be more grateful for that, but I don't ever want to forget this. In 15 years, when the girls are out late on a Saturday night, I will be awake. I will be worried and maybe angry. I will be tired. But I will never again be this tired.

Wednesday, August 29, 2007

Joey Jog 2007

Many of you will recall the entry I wrote on an old blog last December:

A dear, sweet little girl - one of Anna's playgroup buddies - died today. She fell ill right after Thanksgiving while she, her parents, and her younger triplet siblings were visiting her grandparents for the holiday. My daughter, along with the other playgroup toddlers, made cards for her room, and the other moms and I wrote notes of support to help buoy her parents.

She was hospitalized from that first night on through today. In order to help her conserve strength and stay still, she was placed into a medically-induced coma while many very talented doctors tried to figure out what was attacking her. They didn't get the chance. This morning, she registered no brain activity, and her parents had to contend with a decision that no parent should ever face. She passed away four hours after being removed from her support system.


I heard those words this afternoon. I heard them with my ears, but I just have nowhere to put them for processing. I hugged the stuffing out of my daughter after I heard this, and I have a lot of tears, but I have no mechanism to begin to comprehend this happening. Whatever your inclination, please keep this wonderful family in your thoughts, prayers, considerations. They will need all the strength they can muster over the coming months.


We miss you, Joey.


Joey died of acute liver failure. There aren't many days go by now that I don't think about how fragile our lives are, even lives that have only just gotten underway.

Joey's friends and family have organized the Joey Jog, which will take place on October 20 in Herndon, VA. The walk is designed to raise awareness and funds for the American Liver Foundation to prevent similar tragedies from befalling other families. I've committed to participate, and I'm writing this to ask for your help. I know there are a thousand worthy causes out there; I am walking this one because my friend lost her little daughter - this is very personal to me. I would be extremely grateful for any support you feel you can send my way for this event, as will Joey's family.

I have a pledge form, but most of you are not local to me. If you are able to support me in this walk, please drop me an email with your plans, and I'll add you to my list. Instructions on contributing by credit card (via PayPal) or check are available on the Joey Jog website.

Thank you so much in advance for helping this cause. We will shortly return you to your regularly scheduled blog.

XO
Liz

Sunday, August 26, 2007

Dear Tessa: Month 6

Dear Tessa,

A little over a week ago, you turned six months old. Already, I can barely remember your tiny newborn self. Your slightly less tiny self is now eating some solid foods, sleeping on her tummy, and laughing when she's tickled, among other things.


I spent my first overnight away from you this month. I missed you immensely and had this irrational worry that you'd forget who I was over the course of three days and reject me completely upon my return. I needn't have worried. As soon as I set foot inside our home again and you laid eyes on me, you lit up, grinned, and reached for me. That might well have been one of the best moments of my life to date. You're happy to see me at the end of a workday, but this was that to the power of ten. It almost made me want to go away again so that you'd react like that when I came back. Almost.

We can tickle you now and get a real laugh in response. Your ribs are very ticklish. My hair brushing your face gets you going. A nuzzle with big wet kisses on your neck is hilarity. I had already forgotten what a baby's laugh sounds like, and I'd like this particular sound etched into my memory forever, please.


You're eating solid foods now! You began your endeavors in this area with the traditional rice cereal and quickly branched out to sweet potatoes and peas. You also like to eat the books we read you, and you remain unconvinced of their lack of nutritional value. Fortunately, you seem more enamored of the stories and pictures themselves, so your book collection survives another day.

With your fairly newfound rolling skills, you've given up sleeping on your back. Being put down on your back makes you mad, and you fuss and then roll right over to your tummy. You pull your knees up under you, turn your head to the side, and you're out. I watched you obsessively at first, despite my recollections that your sister did this with no ill effects. After a few days of this dance, we gave up and started putting you down on your tummy. This seems to be saving us all a lot of time and stress.


You had your first big illness this month, too. It coincided precisely with our trip to Connecticut for your great-grandfather's 90th birthday celebration. Your doctor gave us a regimen to follow over the weekend to keep you comfortable, but, until your fever broke, you were either asleep or fairly miserable with your sniffles and temperature. I missed your super-smiley self and felt so terrible for your discomfort.

I left our hotel room with you at midnight that Saturday, leaving Eric and Anna asleep there, driving you around while you cried, wondering if we should go to the emergency room. I pulled into the hospital parking lot and looked at the Saturday night bar crowd there. I looked back at you. You'd finally fallen asleep, and I turned around and brought you back to the hotel. I let you sleep in your car seat rather than wake you up to sleep in your crib. When you woke up next, your fever was gone, and you slept most of the way back home the next day.


Our mornings at day care involve you playing, usually in the big suspended swing, while I put away your day's supplies before feeding you. Usually, you're quite content to play with the toys that hang down over the center of the swing, but one day last month you wanted nothing to do with them and everything to do with me. You craned your neck and contorted yourself all around so you could see me as I moved around the room, putting away your milk, writing your last feeding and diaper change on the whiteboard, putting your daily sheet on the clipboard in your cubby. You smiled and fussed, stretched for me, and never once took your eyes off of me. I think it's important that you know about these times when I really was the center of your world - they are going to be fast outnumbered by the times that you are the center of mine, but they are my constant reminder that what I do for you does matter a great deal in your grand scheme of things. I really believe that these earliest days are giving you a sense of trust in us and a self-confidence to carry you forward for years to come. I promise you now, absolutely, that trust will never be unfounded.

Love,
Mama

Tuesday, August 21, 2007

And the Academy Award goes to...

Anna's preschool does an "Academy Awards" event for their 2-5s every summer, and I had the privilege of attending Anna's first such event last week.

The entry hallway had a red (construction paper) carpet, which is probably the closest I'll ever get to the real thing. Camera in hand, I fell in with the other parents and took a seat on a too-tiny chair in the big front room designated for the festivities. The older kids were already there, and their teachers were trying in vain to keep them settled and contained. The youngest group paraded in, wearing little bumblebee hats and paper bee wings. Then Anna's class trooped in, wearing paper aprons and chef hats with an artful "3B" glittered onto their aprons to designate their classroom. This set sort of sat together, but any with parents in attendance dove for familiar laps. Anna was delighted to see me and expressed an immediate desire to remove her hat and apron.


A 4-year-old in a superhero costume emceed with jokes. The youngest class sang "Baby Bumblebee." Anna's class sang "On Top of Spaghetti." Well, one or two children sang. The others, despite knowing the routine cold, stared at their audience, no doubt trying to overcome their bouts of stage fright by picturing us all naked. (Of course, anyone with a child of 2 or 3 will tell you that this is no challenge whatsoever, since they rarely allow such dignities as solo bathroom visits.) The older classes did a hip-hop dance (and they were pretty darned good) and the Pledge of Allegiance (drilled in before kindergarten! who knew?). Anna's head teacher handed out awards to each class for their outstanding performances, and the show ended, coming in with a much shorter runtime than the Other Academy Awards.

This event is undoubtedly just the first of many such that I'll attend for Anna and Tessa. School plays, concerts, games, recitals - whatever they choose to do, I'll be there. I felt very conscious of this as I sat there with my camera and an adamantly non-singing Anna on my lap. For all the things I've done over the past nearly three years and for all the times I've felt like a great mom or just an okay mom, this was one of the first times I stepped outside myself, looked in, and thought, "Look - a parent."