Monday, August 30, 2010

Are you done yet?

I believe that we're done having children. That is the official answer when someone asks if we're done. I mean, we've had three kids in four years. My once fertility-challenged uterus has proven its point, don't you think? There's always that doubt, though, and the knowledge that, in the big picture, my husband and I aren't really in charge of such things. Nor should we be—I approach the issue with too much emotion and my husband would be way too practical about it. God's grace just seems more reasonable in these matters.

Something does happen to a mom, though, when she really believes that the baby she's holding will be her last. She holds him a little longer and a little closer. She worries that maybe she didn't enjoy her other children, especially the middle child, as much as she enjoys this one. She smells his head and nuzzles his neck more and tries to remember how the heads and necks of her other children smelled. She kisses and talks and smiles more than she remembers doing with the others. She struggles to recall how the other two looked at her when they were babies. Were their gazes as adoring? Did her heart skip a beat when they looked at her, too? Did the other babies take deep breaths and stare and smile and coo and wriggle as much as this baby? She tries to remember whether her other children's voices sounded as melodic and sweet in their infancy because, nowadays, their voices are full of whines and shrieks and an exhausting willfulness. And she knows without a doubt that she doesn't want to forgot these things ever and wishes there were a way to bottle that smell (minus the spit up and poop) and preserve forever the sweet sounds and loving gazes. She hopes these tender feelings make up for the fact that this child may not have as big a scrapbook as the others—the first child and the first girl.

Did I say "she"? I meant "I." And I should mention that all these thoughts occur within the same five minute as any one of the following:
  1. Ew. Ew. EWWW. Stop drooling on me already. (Owen is the lone dribblepuss of the family.) 
  2. You won't die if I put you down for five seconds, you needy little monster.
  3. What the f---? You've only been asleep for a half hour. I haven't had time to miss you or even pee. (By the way, I'm not the only mom who utters four-letter words with their baby or child in mind or even at their babies. I know a lovely woman from my church who was sure her son's first word would start with F and end with K and another woman with a colicky baby who was affectionately referred to as that ... ahem, you get the idea.)
I should also mention that I routinely bark at my husband "We are NOT having any more damn kids" when that cherished baby won't go back to sleep at 2 a.m. Given the emotional extremes of motherhood, it's hard to rationally decide whether Owen's rightful place in the family will be "the baby" or the other middle child.

Maybe one day I will hold another baby—a new niece or nephew, a friend's baby, a grandbaby. Or maybe one of my own. I've always said that I don't want to have a 2 year old when I'm 40. To which my God, with his quirky sense of humor, will likely say, "Okay then. How about a newborn at 40?"

Thursday, August 26, 2010

Cloudy with a chance of misperceptions

There are some moms who use more sparkly gloss when talking about their kids than a gaggle of tween girls. They call it putting a positive spin on things. But, really, they make the rest of us feel like crap and sound like they're auditioning for their parent-of-the-year acceptance speech. Of course, there are those of us who are just too tired to fill in the blanks and simply blurt out at playgroup, "Oh yeah, we did some painting and crafts yesterday." Whatever the case, the embellishments or omissions in the tales from other households often leave me feeling that what goes on in your house is better and calmer and more Norman Rockwellish than what goes on in my house, which most days resembles scenes from "Animal House."

Before I had kids, I had visions of lazy afternoons hanging out with the kids or just letting them play alongside me while I worked in the kitchen. I probably got this idea from magazines where moms talk about doing collages with their 2 year old or spending rainy afternoons snuggled on the sofa reading books and drinking hot chocolate. Those of us who live with young children will tell you that art projects are short and messy--as in, five minutes and somehow there's paint on the ceiling. We'll tell you that kids just will not tolerate being ignored while you fix dinner or make a phone call. And hot cocoa on the sofa? Are you nuts? It would be spilled in two seconds. Even lazy afternoons playing with the kids are punctuated with a tantrum or two or three, a shove among siblings, a couple of nasty spills and lots of crying.

I'm learning, though, that there are special mommy glasses that can actually read between the lines. For instance, "We did some water painting and coloring the other day" does not mean two children sat on chairs at a table and used paintbrushes to paint on paper for about a half hour. It really means one kid shouted, "Hey mom, let's paint" and then mommy got kind of excited at the idea of doing an activity at the table. He and his sister stood on their chairs and painted at the table for five minutes. Then the younger one tried to drink the paint water and dipped a crayon in the paint and tried to eat that, too. And then the older one spilled the paint water and the younger splashed her hands in it. The older one then had a fit over the "mess" (that he made). This is why I prefer photography to video. It captures the split second that my children are enjoying that fleeting moment after the last mess and before the next meltdown.

Some folks really don't get my brand of honesty laced with sarcasm. One guy actually told me that I sound like I'm miserable. I'm really not but actually would be if I couldn't find the humor in this life or write about it the way I do. My point is that I wish some folks didn't gloss over the fact that days spent with young children are messy, loud, poopy, wet, smelly, irritating, schizophrenic, exhausting and actually quite fun when you overlook all the aforementioned. But for me to overlook the daily onslaught of unsavory behavior, I need to know that it happens in your house, too. As for the moms who are just too tired to fill in the blanks, I feel you, honey.

So let's just cut the crap and help each other out by being honest. What'd you say? To get us started, I've put together this handy translation guide for some of the most common mommy lies or omissions out there.

One mommy says: My kid was potty trained at age 2.5.
Translation: Your kid knows where the toilet is and puts his pee and poop in it a few times a day (in addition to the gobs of toilet paper and other items he likes to throw in there.) He still has accidents, sometimes daily, and probably will for the next five years. Oh, and he still wears a Pull Up to bed.

One mommy says: My kids have a good time playing together. I hardly have to intervene.
Translation: Your kids played together today for about 20 minutes until it dissolved into World War III. Then you separated them for the rest of the day which is why you hardly had to intervene.

One mommy says: My kid sleeps 12 hours every night.
Translation: Your kid stays in his pajamas and in the general vicinity of his bedroom for 12 hours. Sometimes she falls asleep behind the bedroom door that you had to shut just to keep her in.

One mommy says: My son and I have a chat about his day before nap time.
Translation: If you're honest and don't edit out the crazy stuff, it probably sounds a lot like this: "We gots to cut the roof off the church. Get a ladder. Make it a convertible. Oh, there's my car. There were fireworks. Pow. Pow. No screaming inside. Cut the roof off." Deep breath and a big, wide-eyed nod. "That's a good idea." (This is an actual conversation with Danny who was talking about the fact that he shouldn't scream inside church. Apparently, his solution was to cut the roof off the church then he'd be outside. Brilliant.)

One mommy says: My kids are good eaters. They eat everything I put in front of them.
Translation: You put chicken nuggets and fries out and they eat it all up. Once your son ate a few carrot sticks. And you often feed your grimy little toddler as she sprints by.

One mommy says: My kid knows the alphabet and all his numbers.
Translation: He says the alphabet in random order and often tells you that W is M and the lowercase g is a q. His favorite number is seven which he shouts out every time you ask him what comes after 1 or 2 or 3. Technically, he's right so don't sweat it.

Put away the gloss and, for God's sake, just be honest about the whole parenting experience. We're strong enough to handle the truth. I promise.

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Fiona en fuego

It's been a hell of a few days around here. I've been meaning to write something, anything, about our sweet baby Owen but he was awake last night from 1 to 3 a.m. so he's currently on my poop list. (More on him when he gets back in my good graces. Don't worry, all it usually takes is a smile.)

Fiona, however, is on my "OMG, what the hell?" list. Let me explain.

It seems that every few weeks she takes the game to a whole new level here, sometimes literally. I've found her in places that should be physically impossible for her to reach. She has pulled a few shrieking tantrums that probably violate the city noise ordinance. She did a running dive onto the swing that didn't end well. There's a dent in the ground and a bruise on her face. Yes, that's right, I said a dent. In the ground. She was really running that fast. She took wee little bites out of about a half dozen apples that I forgot to put away after grocery shopping yesterday. Sunday evening we had a little chocolate cake incident. A friend who was with us said she could see the fear in my eyes as Fiona angrily and violently sought out more cake, waving her fork wildly (the little pisser actually got my last bite of cake) and shrieking and flailing about on my lap.

Then last night, at 2 a.m., she came downstairs for a visit, presumably to keep Owen and I company. She was at full tilt even at that obscene hour. It was as if she'd never been asleep. She entertained Owie for a few minutes, tried to put his pacifier in and wandered off. Then it got quiet. Too quiet. I decided to investigate. I found her standing in the kitchen sink.

By noon, she had pulled down the top shelf of her closet, probably by yanking on the clothes hanging up there. I was too tired by this time to do anything but sit on the floor in the midst of the mess that included a bunch of wrapping paper and gift bows, boxes and bags. They completely destroyed all of it; the remains are in a trash bag on the back porch right now. But they had a blast playing with it. Danny pretended the string was spaghetti, my red flashlight was a jar of  spaghetti sauce and the laundry basket was the pot. I even taught him to play tug-of-war with the ribbons (it occurs to me that this is the anti-sharing game. how awesome.). Even Owen happily sprawled on the floor, watched the kids and even did a little pre-Army style crawling (Dear God help me!!). All was bliss until I turned to find his sister about to sit on his back as if her were a horse. Then she tried to bite him. Then she tried to hit him.

Then it was naptime, or as I like to call it, whack-a-nap. By the time one goes down, another one gets up. I get that one back down, try to get some rest and the other one pops back up. I finally gave up and came downstairs by which time all three of them were fast asleep. I swear they do it on purpose to make sure I never, ever get enough rest.

So, when life gives you nibbled apples, you just have to make Apple Brown Betty, right? I did that last night around 9:30. It's loaded with sugar and butter and so delicious. I'll have to eat in the closet, though, because if we give Fiona any, she'll probably destroy the house.

And for your viewing pleasure, here's a little photo album of Fiona's exploits this summer.

No no no no no

Thursday, August 19, 2010

Who's in charge here?

Danny's first day of preschool is fast approaching. We got his class roster, went to our first open playground time this week and I just read the official handbook. And I'm starting to get all panicky because the handbook is full of what appear to be rules and expectations. Someone else's rules and expectations. That I have to follow and live up to. Be on time. No late pickups. Show up for your assisting day on time. Be nice to the kids. (Okay, I know, that's not a hard one.) No nuts, popcorn or grapes allowed. Drive for field trips. Volunteer for a few hours each semester.

You see, I haven't been contractually obligated to do much since being laid off last April. It's been years since I've had to submit to someone else's rules and, specifically, school rules, which always seem much more restrictive and inane than rules in the real word. (Why is that?)

It's not that I was ever a big rule breaker. I was more of a rule resenter, although my mother might have a different view of things. I routinely questioned rules, quietly held authority in utter contempt and sometimes even flouted rules (mostly my parents' rules because, you know, they still had to love and feed me and couldn't screw with my permanent record). Once freed from the restrictive environs of school, I found that I could avoid authority by just avoiding certain situations. I'm not into organized sports, service clubs or even so much as a book club. Jobs are different, of course, as the motivation for compliance is more natural—no work, no roof over my head or food in my bowl. A rather simple and powerful motivator, don't you think?

Some days I can't believe that I'm actually in charge around here, that I'm "the authority." Lately, my son can't believe it either. This afternoon, we had the recurring "no, you can't wear just your underwear" discussion.

"Danny, get dressed. You can't come down until you're dressed."

"No, it's hot down there," he hyper-whines (a nerve jangling combination of hyperventilating and whining that makes me feel like hyperventilating sometimes).

A few rounds of this and I pulled rank. "Do you need help listening?" I ask.

This means that I will go in his room, pull out some clothes and physically put them on him (in the sweetest and most methodical way possible, of course). He, being the fiercely independent kid that he is, utterly hates this. I win this round, but not before he stomps into his room, takes his sister hostage in a tentative choke hold and clenches his jaw at me. I raise a mommy eyebrow, take a step forward and he releases a confused Fiona (who is probably plotting to bite him later).

What confuses me most about my role as "the authority" around here is that, at times, my decisions seem so arbitrary. Parents are urged to be consistent. That's neither easy nor practical sometimes when you have kids.

Truth be told, sometimes I let him run around in his underwear most of the morning.  It's been about a million degrees around here lately and some days we don't have anywhere to go and my kids wind up naked in the backyard and splashing in the pool anyway. Other days, I have an attack of authoritarianism and decide it really annoys me that my kid doesn't want to get dressed. And then I think, in the midst of the underwear discussion, "Why am I fighting over this? What's the big deal? If he doesn't wear clothes, I'll have less laundry to do." But I'm committed to this battle now and don't feel like I can back down. After all, if I do, then my kid is just going to roll over me like a steamroller for years to come according to every expert out there. And I justify all this by saying that he's going to need to wear clothes to preschool, which is a ridiculous excuse since he always gets dressed if he knows we're going somewhere.


You can see my dilemma here. I even think the rules that I make are pretty stupid sometimes.

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

They like the nightlife

When I was in college and even into my 20s, the evening didn't really start until way after dark.  I'd take a shower and fix my hair around 7 p.m., have a few drinks by 9:00 and be ready to go out by 10 p.m. or so. By midnight, I would get the munchies and be on the prowl for a loaded hot dog from a street vendor or some fried bar food. By 3 a.m., I was still up but winding down with whatever friends were still around. The next morning? A hangover and a hazy memory.

As I got older, I tried to be in the house and settled for the night by 10 p.m. The thought of leaving my cozy mortgaged nest made me yawn and snuggle in even deeper. And now that I have children, well, once again, it seems that is when my night begins.

Oh, we like to pretend that our evening is winding down as we watch the 10:00 news. We joke that we can't make it to the 11:00 news. And Saturday Night Live? Forget about it. I haven't seen a full episode in years. I figure if there's a really good skit, someone will send me a YouTube link. (You didn't think I'd actually record it, did you? I have barely any time to eat, let alone watch recorded television.)

Lately, 3 a.m. has been full of activity around here. Last night, Owen was up for his feeding as usual. Fiona was holding her pacifier in her hand and crying in her bed. So much for a pacifier being used to actually pacify the girl. After settling her, I came out to find Danny in the hallway at 3 a.m. saying that it's dark in his room and could I please turn his lamp on. Sure, kid, if it'll keep you quiet. I have no idea how long he read his books. He finally got up this morning at 9 a.m. Owen is the only one who has a good excuse for being up, in my humble opinion.

Sadly, this is not unusual these days. The only person who routinely is asleep at this hour is my husband ... who I sometimes feel like punching awake. (Not really; I'd just like to punch SOMEONE at that obscene hour and there's a good chance that he'll believe an elbow to the back was just an accident. Um, it's not likely though since I just tipped my hand, is it? Oh well.)

So, if you're afraid that having kids will kill your nightlife, don't be. It will be nearly the same.

Bath time will be at 7 p.m. with a full hair and skin care regiment.

Bedtime snacks and smoothies are meted out around 8 p.m. (We do banana and yogurt smoothies around here. We still cling to the hope that the calcium and potassium will put them to sleep.)
 Your kids will still get the munchies at around midnight. ("Mommy, I'm hungry. You just forgot to give me a snack. I neeeeeeeeed a snack.")

Your baby will be laughing and smiling at 3 a.m. like that drunk friend who always seems to get a second wind while the rest of us are tanking.

Your kid will want to "talk about it" at all hours of the night just like that dude on the barstool who talks your ear off. (When Danny wants to talk about his day, he asks us to "talk about it.")

You'll wake up with people in your bed and you won't remember how they got there.

Someone will have thrown up in your bed (Owen is a rather puky baby).

Your memory of all this will be quite hazy until late afternoon when you remember that the 3 year old was up at 3 a.m. and probably should have a nap since he's reenacted Chernobyl about a dozen times.

And in the morning, as you peel your face off your pillow, your contacts off your eyelids and your 18 month old off your back, you'll feel quite hung over. Ah, just like old times.

Saturday, August 14, 2010

Summer swingin'

"Maybe I can use a rope and a hammer," my husband says.

And with those words began a summer evening's odyssey to acquire a rope swing—the dilemma being how to swing a rope over a tree branch. It's not a new issue around here. My husband once used a fishing pole to swing a rope over a dead tree branch that needed to come down.

I laugh out loud and say, "I hope you're kidding." The drooling, chubby 3-month-old standing on my lap thinks it's pretty funny, too.

Then I see my husband gingerly reach over the fence to the potting bench and say, "Ah, there's my hammer."

My eyebrows rise as I hear him mumble, "Maybe I can do this before the kids wander over here."

"Kids, stay away from your dad. He's got a hammer and a rope," I call from the back porch.

Too late. Two naked little kids began to wander over, and, why not? Their father's dragging a rope through the backyard and he's holding a hammer. Finally, he settles on a football around which he ties the rope and swings it over the branch while standing on the ladder. As always, I make sure the phone is nearby. Just in case, you know.

"Jim, aren't you afraid the kids will hit the tree when they swing?"



The kids swung, supervised and assisted, on the swing for a few minutes before Jim took it down to rethink the process.

Little kids make strong associations very early on. I remember when my nephew was small he picked up a paper clip and sought out Nana, who is a school teacher, to give it to her. I wonder what our kids are going to remember most about their dad. Will they forever associate hot glue guns, ladders and drills with their father, who can't seem to go a day without using one of these items?

Already our son thinks of his father as the fix it guy. Whenever something breaks while dad is at work, he tells me "Daddy needs to come home." It's dad who restores life to toys with new batteries or hot glue. It's dad who fixes shoes (sometimes while still on the children) with a hot glue gun. It's dad who makes a bridge from scrap wood at the mere suggestion that the ditch in our backyard is a river. It's dad who makes monkey bars and a trapeze for our playground from materials around the shed. It's dad who uses a drill almost daily. It's dad whose ears perk up whenever a neighbor fires up a power tool.

He's always thinking, this guy. When we first moved in to our house six years ago, he often had a look on his face that I couldn't decipher. We had just gotten married a year earlier, so I was still learning about his faces and noises and all. I'd ask him "What are you thinking about?" He'd answer, almost every time, "How to move the shed." Eventually, he took the entire shed apart, piece by piece, and later rebuilt it in a new location. (In the process, he took a rusty nail in the arm. I wasn't even there to call 911. I was at work. He drove himself to the Urgent Care for wound dressing and a tetanus shot.)

They can learn a lot from a guy like that. What I hope they learn most from him is ingenuity and confidence in their ability to figure things out—and to not use a hammer tied to the end of a rope as a propellant.

Freedom for 10 weeks a year (a repost)

Today I heard a commercial on the radio for a retailer who claimed to have the brands your kids want for back to school. I reflexively flinched, as I do every year about this time. Right now, I have little energy or brainpower to say much better what I wrote a few years ago on the subject. I've made some revisions in an effort to make my offerings on the subject more thought-provoking than offensive. Please, please, please do not take my criticism of the predominant model of schooling in this country as a rejection of education or a desire to reform that education model. My desire is simply for choices about education to be returned to parents, who know when and where and how their children will learn best.

The back to school propaganda machine is in full swing from news media to advertisers. The news media makes light of the collective groan from children mourning the loss of summer freedom and cheers from adults anticipating the return of "free" day care in the form of compulsory public education. Advertisers swoop in with the diversion of back-to-school shopping. New clothes, fresh supplies, the latest electronics—all to distract parents and children alike from the scary reality of ever-increasing government control over our children, our time, our entire lives.

Children's instincts are right, but not for reasons that they are even conscious of. Learning is about making sense of the world around you, but too many children are cut off from that world. They are stuffed in a classroom for eight hours a day after a too-early bus ride and are spending even more time away from family on homework or extracurricular activities. Caged like animals, cut off from their natural instincts to explore, observer and learn, they turn into adults who can't make sense of the world around them. Their survival instincts were shut off at an early age. They know it isn't right or natural, and I suspect, deep down, parents know this, too. They go along with it, though, perhaps because they feel they have no choice. They accept, essentially, government-mandated control over how their family spends its time.

Here in North Carolina, it's still over 90 degrees outside, hurricanes are churning in the Atlantic, summer thunderstorms wash away the day's heat, the ocean water is the perfect temperature, the cool air of the mountains still beckon, not a single leaf has turned color, tomatoes are still ripening on the vine, mosquitoes and fireflies still flutter in my backyard. Yet students are returning to school next week, unnaturally ending a season that naturally meanders into late September. Every year, I feel excitement with a twinge of sadness as seasons pass. But as a child, returning to school in late summer was met with unspeakable sadness and anxiety. It unnaturally cut short time with family, time to play, enjoy summer, read, sew, garden, swim, be with friends or be alone, even doing nothing at all.

The language of the back-to-school blitz makes me flinch. A "Kickoff to Kindergarten" event at a local museum was described as boot camp for 5-year-olds; a lifeguard described the change in demeanor among children in the past week saying "It's just like they put their heads down and look at their feet. They know what's coming."

A headline declared "Last week of freedom." I'm afraid that's old news. Our freedom was lost a long time ago.

Sunday, August 08, 2010

Love and closet space

I'm hardly a romantic. Hollywood depictions of romantic relationships make me gag. I laugh at romantic comedies for all the wrong reasons. My stomach doesn't flip flop over flowers, jewelry and professions of undying love and devotion. Candlelit dinners just aren't my thing (I have to see my food; it's just a weird quirk I have).

I used to just think something was wrong with me. That is until I read a book called "The Five Love Languages" by Gary Chapman. The premise is that everyone shows and feels love in different ways: words of affirmation, quality time, gifts, acts of service and physical touch. The theory goes that one person may show love through acts of service to their partner and feel most loved when that partner spends quality time with them. The other partner may feel love through  words of affirmation and show affection through thoughtful gifts. It's all about learning how your partner expresses love and feels most loved. It made sense, even as I gagged my way through descriptions of love languages that I clearly did not speak. To date, it's the only "relationship" book I've ever read.

Flowers, jewelry and other gifts are completely unnecessary with me; in fact, it stresses me out probably because I assume all gifts have strings attached. Fancy dinners out are too expensive and, besides, I live with a chef. Movies are nice once in a while, but if I'm going to spend more than two hours in the dark there better be sleep involved and if I'm going to spend two hours with my husband alone, well, there are better things to do. Sweet nothings are just that and even plain old compliments sometimes embarrass me. And, at the end of the day, the last thing I want is one more person touching me. I do wish, though, that my husband and I could learn to dance together. We took dance lessons before we got married but, alas, he's a white Irishman and I'm a control freak. It just wasn't meant to be, though, once in a while, when our first dance song is playing (Into the Mystic by Van Morrison) we make an awkward attempt at dancing.

To be fair, these days most of my romantic fantasies involve sleep. My idea of a perfect date is my husband and I sleeping in together. With no children banging on the door or crying in the crib. Other than that, a trip to the lake, alone, with a picnic lunch and two rafts is my idea of heaven right now. As you can see, quality time is clearly my love language.

Jim was once told that whoever you marry should be someone you like to talk to because you'll be talking to them for a long time. He told me this a few weeks after one of our early dates. We went roller blading and then sat in my car and talked for a long time--he laid across the front seat, feet hanging out the open car door, I laid the same way but across the back seat. But when we finally parted for the day, he told me "You're easy to talk to." My father had told my mother something very similar when they first began dating.

These days, talking doesn't often happen with three young kids in the house. This evening, I remarked to my husband that the kids' bedtime has gotten way too late, an obvious sign of a summer well-enjoyed with the unintended consequence of us not having any time to ourselves. Between that and the volume level in our house, it's impossible to carry on a conversation.

Good thing I have another love language; one that wasn't mentioned in the book, probably because some would considere it a mental disorder. Apparently, I am in love with well-organized closets. Over the years, my husband has happily busted his hump renovating our kitchen, putting in closets and reorganizing spaces all over our house. He seems to show his love through acts of service and he knows how much I love organized spaces even if I'm not always motivated to do the organizing myself. Nowadays, I'm so mind-numbingly exhausted it's a miracle if I even fold a basket of laundry.

Our latest closet addition is in the kids' bathroom in an open, wasted space between the counter and the wall that served as an entryway from Fiona's room into the bathroom. The door had been locked, the entry way never used. Now the space has shelves filled with baskets of supplies, bifold doors on either side and space for hampers and diaper pails. The closet before that made use of space beneath our stairs. Jim knocked down walls in the kitchen a few years ago to open up the layout and provide more storage space.

Having kids certainly gets in the way of us spending quality time together or even having a conversation sometimes. But when I look around the house and see orderly little nooks, well, my stomach goes flip flop and I feel very loved.

Wednesday, August 04, 2010

Mommy amnesia

There's something about a 3 month old baby that makes a mother forget everything from the time of its conception through his third month. If we remembered anything of the year past --  the morning sickness, heartburn, hemorrhoids, the exhaustion, their overdue arrival, labor and childbirth, the after pains, the exhaustion, the crying for no apparent reason, the refusal to sleep at 4 a.m. and, oh, did I mention the exhaustion? -- the human race might cease to exist.

Owen is 3 months old this week. He just rolled over with his little knit bunny a la Aunt Jackie and put himself to sleep. (I'm typing fast here, so ignore any grammatical or other errors.) He smiles, he talks, he soothes himself, he's almost sleeping through the night. He's been introduced to the Bumbo seat and, as you can see, the exersaucer has landed. He's starting to look less worried by and more amused with his surroundings. For a while, he furrowed his little brow so much that he looked like a very worried old man. Though he remains blissfully oblivious, he really should still be a bit worried. His sister has just learned the names of all facial features and is particularly interested in pointing out his eyes.

By the time each of my children reached this age, amnesia set in. I had forgotten that, while pregnant for all our children, I threw up almost every day. I had forgotten that my back pain was so bad with Fiona that one day Jim came home to find me in pajamas and tears on the sofa with an oblivious 2 year old flitting about. I had forgotten that Danny's labor was 40 hours and Fiona was overdue by 10 days. I had forgotten that Danny screamed, farted and projectile vomited much of his first three months. I had forgotten that Fiona would be wide awake from 4 a.m. to at least 6 a.m. for the first few months.

Mommy amnesia protects our hearts, too. It keeps me from holding a permanent grudge toward my children as they trudge through each stage. At least once a day, as Fiona throws every toddler trick she's got at us, I look at my husband and say, "I don't remember Danny doing this" or "I don't remember Danny being this bad about ... ."

And he says, "I think I remember ... . " Daddies remember these things, probably because they get more sleep, but mostly because men tend not to hold grudges. He brings these things up in a very matter of fact way. I can sulk for days over my children's behavior. Then weeks, months and years later, I forget all of it. Sometimes, all it takes to forget the past is one good family outing to the lake, one good hour with the kids or even one small interaction with the kids. I start to see them changing and growing and becoming little people with distinct personalities and I start thinking, "This isn't so bad. Maybe we should have another one." Sometimes I think that I don't like children as much as I like the challenge of childbirth and parenting and, of course, picking out those tiny little outfits.

Maybe we should just end it here. After all, I do not want to have toddler when I'm 40 and kids in our house until I'm 60. It's too bad, though. With Owen, I finally learned how to swaddle effectively and got to practice that skill all of six weeks.