Resurfacing

Well, hello again.

So where am I at?

When last I wrote, I was facing down the start of a ridiculous month of deadlines. I was, not to put too fine a point on it, panicking.

Here’s what happened.

I eventually gave up and went to my doctor and got antibiotics so that I could stop being sick. I just couldn’t shake it on my own.

I marked all of my students’ assignments and tallied their final grades.

I finished the draft of my dissertation and gave it to my supervisor on time.

The next week I wrote the first conference paper and presented it. It was well received. I wrote the second conference paper while away at the first conference.

Then I wrote my final language exam. I thought I had done well enough that I might maybe, maybe, squeak a viva rather than being failed outright.

They passed me outright. No idea how I managed that, given the mess I made of the final passage, but I’ll take it and run. That made for all four translation exams (two ancient, two modern) passed on the first attempt. I’m the only graduate student in my program to have done this.

The day after the language exam I gave my second conference paper. It was fine.

That weekend my supervisor sent back my thesis, which he had actually read, and read carefully, in two weeks (this is pretty much unheard of in academia). He sent it back with 28 pages of typed comments. Not one was “you have to rewrite this entire chapter/section because it is terrible”.

That Monday Q. went overseas for three weeks. I was on my own with E. for a week, and then had two weeks with grandparents there to help (my dad for the first, my mum for the second).

I worked 12-14 hour days on the dissertation those two weeks. My days went like this: wake up in a panic around 5 a.m. and work at the kitchen table until E. woke up. Then have breakfast with E., and take him to nursery school if it was a nursery school day. Then go to the library. Work until a bit before 5, with a fifteen or twenty minute break for lunch (as much time as it took to get down to the cafeteria level, eat a sandwich, and go back up to the stacks), then get home in time to cook dinner. After dinner put E. to bed and then work until 10:30 or 11 p.m. before going to bed. Repeat.

I am so grateful my parents were able to help. I wouldn’t have been able to get the revisions done otherwise. Even if Q. had been here, he would have had his own deadlines to meet, and I needed every single hour I could get.

I didn’t get every i dotted and every t crossed. This led me to have a massive anxiety attack one night when it became apparent I was going to have to make substantial changes to the introduction where I just lay in bed and cried until I fell asleep, but by the morning I had accepted this and could focus on finishing what I could finish rather than stressing about the revisions that needed more time than I could give them at that point.

But I got it done.

Q. got home on a Saturday night.

Sunday night I finished the table of contents and then turned the draft into a PDF.

Monday morning Q. went up to work, printed the draft out and delivered the hard copies to my committee members, while I did my last duty day at E.’s nursery school.

Monday afternoon Q. and I packed, took apart E.’s crib, and set up his new medium-sized bed.

Late Monday afternoon I picked E. up from nursery school. We had just enough time at home for a quick snack (making sure he didn’t go up and see the change in his room) and then my sister drove us to the airport. That night we flew down under, where we’ve been for the last month, and where I thought I’d have loads of time to blog except that it turned out my MIL scheduled pretty much our every waking minute.

It’s been a bit manic, to be honest.

We’re home now, jet lagged as anything (two nights ago E. slept for less than four hours total), but glad to be back.

Expect more from this space in the near future.

5 Comments

Filed under (Pre)School Days, Anxiety Overload, Down Under, Family, PhD, The Sick, What were we thinking? (aka travelling with small children)

And now you are three

As I have done in previous years, I will lock this post in a week or two. But I wanted to give all of my readers a chance to see how E. has grown and changed over the past year (although I might have gone a bit overboard this time- there are a LOT of photos and I didn’t take the time to fiddle with resizing, so some of them are larger than would be ideal. Bonus points to everyone who makes it to the end of the post!).

Dearest E.,

IMGP8096Three years ago today you were born.

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And then, before we knew it, you were turning one.

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And then, you were two.

 

8 May.

9 May.

And what an adventure we were on! We lived overseas for the first four months of your third year.

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It was a bit of a change from our usual big-city lifestyle.

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11 August.

But you loved it.

19 June.

Even when the weather didn’t cooperate.

You loved that we could cycle pretty much everywhere.

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Even if all of the excitement sometimes wore you out.

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And when we weren’t cycling, we rode the double-decker bus (always sitting at the top!).

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And even just hanging out in our village was good fun too.

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There was cricket to watch (even if the wrong side won in the end).

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A garden to play in.

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Plenty of meals in the open air.

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Fauna to meet.

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Woods to explore.

And your best bunny for company.

Whenever we left the flat, Outside Bunny was your constant companion.

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We had a great time in the pubs.

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We went back to where your Mummy and Daddy first met.

We made a number of expeditions to the coast. We visited The Wash in Norfolk.

West Wittering in Chichester.

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And the Jurassic Coast in Devon.

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We rode on so many trains, airplanes, buses, and subways. You loved it.

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(Although we agree that the Amsterdam-Vienna train epic, complete with flooding Danube and corresponding delays, was probably a bit too much…)

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You saw some amazing things.

 

(Thanks for pretending to be as excited as I was to see the Lipizzaners in Vienna.)

Dartmoor National Park.

The Roman ruins in Bath.

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Salisbury Cathedral.

But it was the playgrounds you loved the most. (We counted after we had returned home, and you went to no less than thirty-one playgrounds while we were away!)

Our time passed all too quickly, and before we knew it, it was time to come home.

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It took us a while to adjust to our old life. You complained for the first couple of weeks that our city was too “yowd”, and you worried about all the cars on the road.But you approved of our house sitter’s use of the garden, especially vegetables you could catch yourself.

There were lots of changes too. You started nursery school.

You thought all the art options were great!

And you loved watching the cars and trucks drive by while you ate your snack on the way home. You know the names of every single kind of truck there is! (And now I do, too!)

The autumn was really busy. We went to a wedding which necessitated yet another plane ride.

But we still found time to visit the parks.

Soon it was Thanksgiving.

And then, Hallowe’en.

This was the first year you were really excited about it.

You told me for weeks that you wanted to be a bunny.

You enjoyed trick-or-treating, right up until you were badly frightened about ten houses in by one of our neighbours who was dressed as a pirate. At that point you announced (in tears) that you wanted to go home “right now!” But once we were safely home, you were happy to inspect your loot and sample a few pieces.

Suddenly you were two and a half! That ‘roo had never looked so small.

The weather started to change. You didn’t mind getting out your big winter jacket. It just made it easier for people to know what your favourite colour was…

And then it was time to get ready for Christmas!

You visited Santa again- a more successful trip than last year, although you still weren’t sure about the whole “sit on the jolly man’s lap” aspect of things.

You asked for “Lara bars and a dump truck” and Santa listened. You were so happy on Christmas morning, but after about five minutes of playing with your truck, you stopped and said, “Want to see if maybe Mummy and Daddy haf somefing too.”

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It was a long, cold, hard winter, but we did our best to enjoy it.

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You were always happy to do some baking on the coldest days.

By January, you’d decided you no longer needed a nap “at any point”, but occasionally you would surprise yourself (and your parents) during quiet time, although it was a challenge to find enough room to lie down.

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We always found something fun to do.

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You still really, really loved trucks. Your favourites had their very own parking garage.

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And hand-me-downs with trucks on them became instant favourites.

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The train set came out almost every day.

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You were always careful to make sure I had a train too, even if it was a bit smaller than yours most of the time…

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You loved getting mail, especially stickers.

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Finally, it started to get warmer, and we could spend more time outside again.

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And then it was April and time for your very first Easter egg hunt. You found almost all of them on Easter morning, although there were a few surprises that turned up over the next couple of days.

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You and Daddy discovered the train bridge. The drivers always sounded their horns when they saw you waving.

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And you were always happy to be engaged in a building project.

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As your birthday came closer and closer, I realized I had a little boy, and not a toddler, looking back at me.

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(Even though you’re getting bigger you do still love your bunny very much.)

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I have loved watching you grow. I love our dinner table conversations and all the questions you ask as we walk to nursery school. You never stop talking these days, and “Why?” is one of your favourite words. I love to watch you make sense of the world. I hope you never lose that curiosity.

You have a wonderful sense of humour and such a strong imagination. You spend hours “visiting the Bears” or being “a giant python that will be such a surprise because no one has seen one with such a long tail before”. You are kind and gentle and loving. You make us laugh, every single day.

I know the twos are supposed to be terrible, but yours were mostly terrific. Even though we all had our moments of frustration, and at times things were more stressful than any of us would have liked, this year was such fun.

And now, now, you are three.

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I love you ever so much. Happy birthday, my son.

Love,
Mummy

9 Comments

Filed under E.- the third year, Letters to E.

A very small wish

About three months ago E. started talking about his birthday. He was interested in learning all the months of the year and how they fit together and whose birthday is in which month and which month was coming next.

“I want a fire truck for my birthday,” he told me.

“A fire truck?” I asked.

“Yes,” he said. “Because I love their sirens so much.”

“But E.,” I said, “You already have a fire truck. You have a little wooden fire truck, and the big ride-on fire truck/dump truck Granny gave you for Christmas two years ago.”

“I don’t want a fire truck like that,” E. told me. “I want one like my garbage truck and my flatbed dump truck.”

He meant his Bruder trucks. They are beautifully made, and so true to life, and E. adores them, but they are not small trucks.

I really didn’t want to add another truck to our household.

I’d e-mailed his relatives with ideas for his birthday. I specifically asked them not to buy him any more trucks.

The subject of the conversation changed, and although E. told me for a few more weeks that he wanted a fire truck, eventually he stopped mentioning it. I looked for one in the store where they can be found for a heavily discounted price (because German engineering doesn’t come cheap), but I never found it.

Time passed. I ordered E. some garden tools, since he loves working with us in the garden, and these were real tools, not toys, that he would be able to use for years.  After discussing it with Q., we also ordered him a couple of Mighty Machine DVDs, because he adores them, and I was getting tired of trying to remember to return them to the library on time and assuaging disappointment when the library’s copy didn’t work (probably because too many other toddlers had been so excited to watch it).  One of the DVDs had the episode with the fire trucks in it.

Done, I thought.

Last weekend, out of nowhere and for the first time in well over a month (if not longer), E. piped up while we were sorting laundry.

“I’m going to get a fire truck for my birthday.”

Q. and I both tried to gently suggest that maybe there wouldn’t be a fire truck, and maybe this would be ok, and there would be other good things, and didn’t he already have lots of lovely trucks, and wasn’t his parking garage full, so there wouldn’t be room for another one.

The tears welled up in E.’s eyes.

He wiped at them with one hand while gasping out in a tiny voice, “But I want a fire truck. I love the sirens so much.”

The look on his face was one of betrayal and crushing disappointment, but I could see that he was trying (trying so hard) to control his emotions, to not get too upset by this devastating news.

Q. and I looked at each other.

“Well, we’ll see what happens on your birthday,” Q. told him.

“But you know, E.,” I added. “If you do get a fire truck for your birthday, I think that would be the last truck. You have so many trucks now and we really don’t have any more room to park them. What do you think?”

E. considered this very seriously. “I think that would be ok, Mummy,” he said. “I would be ok with it being the last truck. I promise.”

“I saw the fire truck in the local toy store,” I told Q. later that morning, when E. was playing with his trains.

Q. nodded. “I guess you’d better go and get it.”

All that morning, I debated our decision. Were we being manipulated? Were we giving in to our toddler’s demands? Were we going to spoil him? Was I being that stereotypical mother who bought my child things because I felt guilty about not spending enough time with him? Was it a snap reaction to the miscarriage and all the money we have spent on a mythical second child, money that could have gone into his education fund, or paid for a family vacation? Was it a reaction to my realization that E. is struggling with anxiety? Did I somehow think I could make him less worried about his life (and his nursery school) with a fire truck? I worried he would somehow come to equate getting stuff with love.  I worried that I somehow equated buying him things with love.

I realized in the end that I didn’t really have a good reason for him NOT to have a fire truck.

I didn’t want another truck in the house, especially one with battery-powered sirens.

I didn’t think he NEEDED another truck, especially not one made by Bruder.

We’d already bought him some lovely presents, that we knew he would use and enjoy.

The trouble is, they weren’t what he’d asked for. WE decided they would be a good idea.

I had lots of reasons, but they weren’t compelling ones.  They were my problems, not his.

What finally convinced me, and allowed me to buy the fire truck (for rather more than I would have liked) without a guilty conscience was this:

Almost everything E. has said to us about his birthday has been negative.

He told us he didn’t want any friends to come.

He told us he didn’t want to have a party.

He told us he didn’t want anyone to sing “Happy Birthday” to him.

In all of our discussions about his upcoming birthday, E. has asked for precisely two things:

An orange cake with chocolate icing.

And a fire truck.

It would never have occurred to me to even consider not fulfilling the first request.

There was no good reason for me to reject the second.

There will be plenty of moments of disappointment in E.’s life. There will be presents he will ask for that we simply won’t be prepared to buy. There will be things he wants to do that are unfeasible. We will say no to him, many times, and we will mean it.

We didn’t have to say no this time.

We didn’t have to disappoint our son on his birthday.

So we bought the fire truck.

And the smile on his face when he unwraps it on Thursday will tell us we did the right thing.

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Filed under E.- the third year

What I would write about (if I only had the time)

I have six BILLION things I want to write about.

Some are good things, like how I found out yesterday I’m going to get paid this summer, about as much per month as I was being paid this academic year, which is beyond exciting as I spent most of this academic year believing I had no right to any funding at all for the summer. So the new roof looks less stressful, and our cottage vacation seems less frivolous, and I guess we’ll have the money for the FET when we decide it makes sense to do that.

Some are bad things, like how I was involved last week in a deeply distressing e-mail exchange where I was bullied by a big-shot professor in the U.S. to the point that I seriously considered pulling the paper I’m giving at a conference in a few weeks just so I wouldn’t have to deal with her any further.

Some are things I don’t have any answers to, but just wish I had the time to write about, like how we had this wonderful dinner out the other week and we were walking home, with E. holding both our hands and swinging between us, and I had this moment of realizing, really realizing, that if this is our life, we will be ok. And how I can think that one second and then struggle to breathe the next when I understand that, deep down, I don’t believe we’re going to be able to add to our family again, and I am not ok, so very much not ok with that reality.

Some are things that make me frustrated, like how I am STILL sick, more than three weeks after it started, and how I just can’t quite seem to shake it, and how I am so tired of being tired, and I still have all this work to do, and Q. is so stressed as well, and it’s just overwhelming if I look at it all at once. And how my face is a disaster zone (again) and I have no idea why, but the birth control pills, which I thought were helping, don’t seem to be anymore.

Some are funny things, like how E. is into the “Why?” questions in a big way, and how he talks non-stop in these hugely complicated sentences with four or five clauses, and how people now smile and laugh and give me knowing looks on streetcars as they, too, listen to E.’s constant questions. At dinner the other night we had this lengthy conversation where E. explained that he was keeping his poo across the street, in a poo tree in the neighbour’s yard, and how the fire trucks on his pyjamas were poo fire trucks, so they would come and get the poo and deliver it, but before that would happen the front-end loaders had to come and FLING the poo out from the tree, and it went on and on and on with Q. and I just grinning at each other. And the next day E. decided he was a giant python, so we’ve had several days of “Can you carry me up the stairs, Mummy? Because I’m a giant python and I don’t have any legs” and “When I see something I want to eat, I’m going to give it a big hug and such a big squeeze and then I’m going to eat it all up” and “Do you think the other kids at nursery school will be surprised to see that I’m a python? Maybe they are afraid of snakes. You could warn them so they wouldn’t be scared.”

Some are things that keep me up at night, like the fact that E.’s nursery school teacher thinks he had an anxiety/panic attack during circle time a week and a half ago. I have known for a while now that E. is very sensitive, and feels things very acutely, and has a very strong imagination, and tends to worry about anything and everything, but I am now starting to suspect that he is struggling with anxiety, real anxiety, not just normal toddler fears. This breaks my heart. I am working on not blaming myself.

But I have no time to write anything meaningful. So instead, I will leave you with this, the printed version of which I gave to my supervisor yesterday.

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Filed under Anxiety Overload, Butter scraped over too much bread (a.k.a. modern motherhood), E.- the third year, Money Matters, PhD, Second Thoughts, The Sick

Things fall apart; the centre cannot hold…

Last weekend I was supposed to go away.

To reconnect with friends and their daughter, who is the same age as E.

To meet and have lunch with one of my very best blogging friends.

I was going to do something, just for me.

I got the flu instead.

Thursday afternoon I started running a high fever.

I didn’t stop running a fever until Monday.

I wasn’t able to stand up for more than five minutes at a time.

Walking to the bathroom exhausted me.

E. was sick too, but he didn’t get hit as badly. He ended up with a croup cough for a few days and missed Monday at nursery school, but he never ran a fever, never seemed to be dealing with the exhaustion I was fighting. He was happy enough to watch his very first movie (The Little Engine that Could) every.single.day.

It’s more than a week later and I’m STILL sick. No more fever or sore throat, thankfully. No more laryngitis. But now it’s in my sinuses and I have a terrible pounding headache that medication only barely eases.

And now I’m scared.

I have SO much I have to do in the next month.

I’m giving a full draft of my dissertation to my supervisor in two weeks. I have to meet this deadline because if I don’t, he won’t read it in time to give it back to me to allow me to make changes and send it to my committee before we go to Australia for a month. Basically if I miss this deadline I set myself back by at least six weeks.

I have to mark the final assignment for my class. Apparently the grades are due today because I didn’t set an exam. I didn’t know this until today. I’m not going to be submitting my grades on time.

I have two conference papers, both of which I’m supposed to write in advance and send to the session chairs. (I have no time at all in which to do this.)

I’m meant to write a language exam- the last one I have left to do, but I haven’t made the time to prepare properly for it because I’ve been so busy freaking out about the dissertation. But I can’t defend the dissertation if I haven’t passed this exam, so at some point it’s going to have to move up the priority level.

When I’m able to work, I’m properly focused. I’ve cut myself off from Fakebook and my blog reader. When I have time, I use it well. But I am looking at my workdays and there just aren’t enough of them.

I knew this time was going to be difficult. But I assumed I’d be working at night, getting up early, burning the candle at both ends to get it done.

I am good at getting things done.

I wasn’t expecting to be so tired and wooly headed I pass out at night by 8 p.m.

I was supposed to start the Couch to 5k program again. I managed exactly one run- the day before the fever started.

I don’t have time to be sick.

I don’t have time to get better.

I don’t really have time to be writing this, but I needed to get it out before I ended up sitting in my living room crying.

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Filed under Anxiety Overload, Butter scraped over too much bread (a.k.a. modern motherhood), PhD, The Sick

E. at 33, 34, and 35 months

I have been remiss at writing one of these and thought I had better get it in before he turns three!

What he’s doing:

Walking all over the neighbourhood. He is a superb walker. We started getting into the habit of walking to the library after I picked him up from nursery school on Monday afternoons because there’s a bakery right across the street and he quite liked the idea of having afternoon snack there. After we’d done this a few times, I decided to look our route up online and discovered that it was 1.5 km! And then he was doing close to another kilometre to get home again from the library, all without complaint. He loves balancing on the angled paving stones on some of the yards in the neighbourhood (to prevent erosion from the lawns). Now that we’re (finally) getting some slightly warmer weather he’s been enjoying walking in his shoes. He was heartily sick of the snow and the ice and the wind and the cold. I thinked he walked to nursery school every day this winter except for one, when it was so cold with the windchill he would have been in danger of frostbite. That day we took the stroller. He’s also enjoying playing in the parks again, and getting out consistently at nursery school. I lost count of the number of days this winter where we would walk there and then discover that it was an indoor day because it was too cold for them to go outside!

He’s also really, really, into the mail right now. He became so disappointed that there was never anything for him that I wrote to all of his relatives and asked them to consider sending him something. That’s resulted in him receiving mail two or three times a week for the last few weeks, which has thrilled him no end. It’s also prompted him to get interested in letters. The other day we were walking back from the library and he asked me why the cats never got any mail and I said without thinking, “Oh, well the cats can’t read. There’s no point in getting mail if you can’t read because you won’t know what it says.” The next day he brought a book over to Q. and said, “I want you to learn me my letters so I can read.” He’s probably got 12 or 14 of them now, and he never fails to recognize when one of the envelopes that arrives at the house has an E. on it!

Speaking of the cats, he bosses them around constantly. It’s almost like having a younger sibling (I imagine) as he shouts at them, “No, no Yiyi! Don’t touch my trains! Shoo! Don’t sit there! Go away!” He absolutely hates it if one of them sits on a puzzle that he’s working on, or tries to sniff his toys. If one of them is in my lap he’ll sidle over and lean on them until they move (if he’s being subtle) or just shove them away (if he’s not). They’ve both taken to hanging out in his room in the mornings to take advantage of the morning sun, which he thinks is hilarious, especially if one of them has gone into his room and jumped onto his change table before he’s even woken up.

He has become very interested in time and numbers. He can count to twenty-nine, and can go higher if you help him out with “thirty” and “forty” (otherwise he’ll say “twenty-ten, twenty-eleven” etc.).  He is trying to figure out how the months of the year and the seasons and the days of the week all fit together. He knows who has a birthday in which month. He also experiments with saying things to me like, “I’m going to go and visit the Bears in half an hour”. We’ve been talking about his new room and he’s told me he wants a clock in there “so I will know what time it is when I wake up”. I read in Your Two Year Old: Terrible or Tender that this sort of interest is really common around this age, which made me feel a bit better. I’m completely incapable of not being obsessed with time and punctuality (army brat), and I was worried I was burdening him with the same rigidity. But it seems it’s just normal development and I’m sure I’ll be pulling out my hair waiting for him to get up when he’s a teenager.

I do sometimes feel like pulling out my hair when we’re trying to get out the door in the morning, or at bedtime. I’ve realized that we have very little conflict in our day if we observe his timeline. It’s when I have to pressure him to do something faster than he wants to do- because I need to run errands before lunch, or I need him to get in bed so he won’t be overtired the next day- that he pushes back and starts resisting and getting silly and running away from me. And if I push back, then we get a meltdown. I am trying very hard to leave enough time to let him do everything he can do himself- put his pants and shirt on, put his boots on, take all winter gear off, etc., but some days I end up taking over and doing it (usually with him screaming and writhing in protest) because we have to be somewhere else. It’s a hard balance to meet.

He still really likes to help me out around the house. He doesn’t enjoy helping with the vacuum, as it’s too loud, but he cleans the toilets when I do the bathrooms, and does quite a good job of it too (I do around the edges, but he uses the brush to clean the bowl). He still loves baking and did 85% of the work for the cookies we made for my students on the last day of classes. He doesn’t help as much with dinner prep as he used to- I think we got out of the habit in the U.K. because the kitchen there wasn’t toddler friendly and it’s been hard to restart. He matches socks when I do the laundry, and puts cutlery out to set the table.

One thing he doesn’t seem to be doing a lot of is growing. His feet are in the same shoes I bought a year ago (8s). I’m sure he is getting taller because his head is above the countertops in the kitchen now, but all his clothes still fit and he’s showing no sign at all of needing to move into 3T. We’re going to have to move the carseat around the next time we need to drive somewhere as he no longer has the inch of shell above his head that is the requirement for rear-facing. This is deeply frustrating for me, as the carseat is weighted for rear-facing to 40 pounds, and he is nowhere near that. He’s put on some weight (finally- it’s been a real struggle with him being ill in the fall and then again in December and again in January) and is currently a whopping 28 pounds. I seriously think he might be off the weight percentiles altogether if he doesn’t put on a couple of more in the next month. I am having trouble not stressing about this. He looks healthy and has lots of energy, but it seems odd to me that I might have an average-sized son rather than a tall one, given all of my male relatives are over 6′. Q. is average-sized, so it appears his genes might be winning out. E. is a total beanpole. Even with all the weight he’s put on you can still see his ribs and his pants all slip down below his waist.

He does have a good appetite, although it is wildly variable. Every morning he likes to ask me what the breakfast options are, even though they’re pretty much always the same. I never notice how little his eating troubles me until we have grandparents visiting. They invariably end up pushing him to eat more, or they report back to me exactly what he ate if they were looking after him. My mum finally relaxed one day after watching him eat four bowls of oatmeal at breakfast. I had told her and told her that he ate when he was hungry and dinner wasn’t usually a good meal, but she had still been fretting. Q. and I have started to push him a little bit more with food now that he’s almost three. We don’t push him to eat more, but if he’s eaten everything he liked, or drunk all his milk, and he wants more of the same, we’ve started asking him to try the things on his plate he hasn’t touched. So far this hasn’t led to any battles (I think because food has never been a battle), and it means he’s getting exposed to more things, as he is still a real toddler stereotype in what he prefers to eat. If he doesn’t like what he’s tried, he’s allowed to spit it out. He really dislikes seafood right now, which is funny given one of my favourite memories from his first year is watching him eat everyone’s scallops at dinner the weekend of his first birthday party. Scallops are one of my Dad’s favourite foods, and he just handed them over, entranced at the sight of this pint-sized almost toddler wolfing them down. We had scallops again the other night when he was visiting and E. took the one bite we’d requested of him and then immediately spat it out gagging. Oh well.

What he’s playing with:

These last few months have really been about imaginative play. We spent MONTHS playing Berenstain Bears. We would line up all of the dining room chairs to make a streetcar that we would ride to go and visit the Bears, and then we’d sit on the couch and pretend that it was going to be Christmas, or that we were going to have a picnic with them, or that they were moving out of their treehouse and needed our help. When we set up the trains, the trains would inevitably be transporting things that belonged to the Bears. He would get upset with me at quiet time or bedtime if I told him anything other than, “Have a nice visit with the Bears”, because that’s what he would sit up there doing for the entire quiet time, or until he fell asleep at night. Once he skipped quiet time because Grannie and Grandpa were visiting and he told me at supper, “I’m looking forward to bedtime because I can visit the Bears. I didn’t get to see them this afternoon.” Yep. This child tells me on a regular basis that he has “no friends” at nursery school because “the other children are too yowd”, so I’m glad he’s made friends with someone, even imaginary ones.

When the Bear obsession finally waned, he became fixated instead on Peter Rabbit. He has a stuffed Peter, as well as another bunny (this one a lop) which he has ignored for his entire life. Suddenly they were both treasured companions, and Peter and Mop the Lop (and I) spent days going “gooseberry netting” which consisted of the bunnies eating breakfast, then E. driving his dump truck over to the part of the couch where the gooseberries were that day, and then Peter would refuse to help Mop pick the berries, or Mop would spend the whole time jumping into the truck and Peter had to pull him back out again (depending on which bunny E. was in charge of that day). When the truck was eventually filled, he would get a book from his shelves to be the lid, and then he’d drive it off, dump it out somewhere, and we’d start all over again. The bunnies also come out at night when we sing Sleeping Bunnies before he goes upstairs to start the bedtime routine. He made Q. and I laugh so hard the first time he made them join in, because after the first round of the song, he lay down again, and he made Mop lie down, but then he made Peter keep hopping and refuse to lie down (because Peter, after all, is a very naughty rabbit).

In between the Bears and the bunnies, he became very attached to his stuffed cougar and, by association, my stuffed cougar, which was my most treasured stuffed animal when I was small (and not-so-small- he came with me on all my moves overseas). My mum made his cougar a cape, so now she’s Super Caramel and he spends a lot of time flying her around making a whooshing sound. He’s also continually engaged in a campaign to keep my cougar in his crib. I’m resisting, because as much as I love my son, I can’t relinquish my cougar, but he might wear me down.

He’s really not interested in crafts right now. We get art from nursery school perhaps twice a month, and he almost never colours at home. He does like stickers and sticking them in all sorts of strange places. Trains are still very popular, as is the IKEA tent he got for Christmas. We set it up in the living room and then the bunnies or the cougars will go inside and all sorts of antics will ensue. He’s in the habit now of watching a short (thirty minutes or less) video each day, which is more television than I’d like him to be watching, but since he doesn’t nap at all anymore and his tolerance for quiet time ends at about the hour mark, it’s a useful sanity saver. We tend to borrow DVDs from the library, usually Mighty Machines or Berenstain Bears. The Mighty Machines are 25 minutes long, so he can choose one of those, or three of the Berenstain Bear episodes (they’re 12 minutes and each DVD has five different ones). Mighty Machines has been a great discovery. It’s Canadian, educational, and apparently enthralling to almost-three-year-old boys. I know I’ve learned something from every episode.

He has a wonderful imagination but also incredibly firm ideas about how the game will go. I’ve had to tell him more than once that I won’t play with him if he keep screaming at me because he doesn’t like what I’m doing: “NO! WE’RE NOT PICKING THE GOOSE BERRIES FROM THERE! NO, I DON’T WANT PETER TO DO THAT! NO THANKS! NO THANKS!” I know he gets to control very little in his day, so I try to let him take the lead when I play with him, but I’m also cognizant that I do him no favors allowing him to be a tyrant when playing with someone else.

What he’s reading:

It was basically one Berenstain Bear book or another for two and a half months in this house. I think at one point we had 27 of them out at the library…and he had them all memorized and would correct you if you missed a single word. He didn’t have any strong favourites, although he was quite taken with Moving Day and Go Out to Eat. It was a great relief when the obsession eased in the last couple of weeks, not least because I had used up all the renewals on the library books and had to start taking them back. I think we’ve only got five or six out at the moment. He’s recently moved on to Beatrix Potter’s Peter Rabbit, which has become a firm favourite (I think partly because it’s short enough that I’ll agree to read it twice at night, which I wouldn’t do with any of the Berenstain Bears).

What he’s saying:

I think I probably say this every time I write one of these posts, but his language really does change in leaps and bounds these days. He has such a wide vocabulary- we realized the other day (after a lot of wrong guesses) that he was trying to say “ricocheting”. The biggest change, right around 34 months, was he figured out the first person and stopped calling himself “you”. It was really interesting- he woke up one day and was clearly starting to experiment with it. The next day he had it 85% of the time, and the day after that he was pretty much letter perfect with ‘I’, ‘me’, and ‘my’. For a long time he was saying “Yep” or “Nope” but lately he’s been using “Yeah?” with this huge upward shift in pitch at the end. He also shouts “No thanks, no thanks, I think that’s a terrible idea” when he disagrees with us. He’s started getting us to come with him by saying, “Ok, come on Mummy, let’s go and play with the trains”, while holding out his hand, which makes me laugh every time. He’s also understanding the idea of sitting together at the dinner table and talking, as he’ll ask, “How is your day, Daddy?” listen to the response and then, if we’re not fast enough, he’ll add, “I want someone to ask me how my day is!”

Here are a few of his conversations:

At lunch (33 months).
E.: “You was hungry! And thirsty!”
Me: “You were! Are you all done? Did you want to get down?”
E.: “No. You want to sit at the table and chat with Mummy for a little while.”
Me: “Sure! What do you want to tell me?”
E.: “Want to tell Mummy about what happened at [nursery school] on Wednesday.”
And he did.

At lunch (34 months).
E.: “I’m going to visit the Berenstain Bears at quiet time.”
Me: “That’s nice. Are you going to see them in their treehouse?”
E.: “Yes. And each day I’m there will be Christmas.”
Me: “Every day will be Christmas?”
E.: “Yes. Because I love Christmas.”
Me: “You do, sweetheart.”
E.: “And each Christmas I will get a big truck. Because I love trucks.”

In the bath (34 months).
E.: “I don’t want to use the potty or the toilet because I’m two.”
Me: “Oh. Does that mean you will want to use them when you’re three?”
E.: *giving me a deep, suspicious stare* “I will use them when I am bigger. Like an adult bigger.”

At breakfast (34 1/2 months).
E.: “Daddy, you and I are going to do the roof.”
Q.: “We’re going to redo the roof in the spring?”
E.: “Yes.”
Q.: “Where are we going to get the supplies we need?”
E.: “We will get the sprinkles (shingles) from Canadian Tire.”

Upon checking the mail and realizing that there are two pieces of mail for him and none for me (34 1/2 months).
E.: “I got two mails today! Two!” *shakes his head* “You did not get any mail again. You must be so disappointed.”

What I’ve noticed:

When we have good days, we have GREAT days. He is so funny, so insightful, so curious. He figured out ‘why’ questions in early February, and we often spend much of the walk to nursery school discussing one thing or another. Q. and I both end up shaking our heads sometimes at the things he tells us. He is genuinely good company. We have real conversations at the dinner table now.

When we have bad days, they are very difficult. He is so quick to start shouting or crying or both as soon as he dislikes something. When he’s having a bit of trouble doing something, he’ll start shouting, “Help! Help!” in this really high-pitched voice. Half the time he’s shouting it as he does whatever it is he’s claiming he can’t do. I have to admit I find the high-pitched whine/shout really hard to cope with. Nothing erases my patience faster.

He’s obviously worried about growing up too quickly. He’ll make big strides in doing something and then suddenly start wanting us to do it for him again, as if he’s realized he’s more independent. Bedtime is becoming a progressively larger issue. We put a nightlight in his room about six weeks ago because he was starting to show signs of being afraid of the dark. That worked well, but in the last week or so we’re back to him wanting the bathroom light left on as well and his door left wide open. We also have to check on him multiple times, and we’ve only just managed to curb a bad habit of having to go back in and take him back out of the crib for another cuddle on the futon. The routine also takes forever these days, now that we have to do two rounds of Sleeping Bunnies, and then he wants to run laps of our hall upstairs (usually 20 or so), and then there is the inordinate amount of time it takes him to put on his pjs, and then teeth brushing and hair combing and then there are stories, and then cuddles, and then we have to check on him three times, and then we still often have to go back in again to stop a meltdown. Partly this is a result of him occasionally napping at nursery school. He gave up napping over Christmas. Since then he’s napped maybe a handful of times- three of them at nursery school in the last week or so (which might mean a growth spurt). It’s so clear that he doesn’t need a nap now- it just destroys bedtime. But I also think part of it is he’s developing more sophisticated fears. He woke up from a bad dream the other night and told Q. that he had been lost and he understands the idea of being lonely too. Right now Q. and I are pretty clear on our lines in the sand and we’re not budging. I have to admit I’m glad he’s still in the crib- it would be far worse if he could be popping out of bed whenever he pleased. We were planning on moving him to his new room later this month but the timings are just going to be too hectic, so we’ll wait until we’re back from Oz in July.

Other than the battles at bedtime, his sleep right now is truly amazing. He’ll go to bed happily at 7:30 (8:00 at the latest) and sleep through for twelve or thirteen hours. Once he slept in until 9:00! The other huge change is we can get up in the morning without waking him up (even with our terrible floorboards). Occasionally Q.’s even showered upstairs without hearing a peep from the other side of the wall. And we can check on him at night when we go to sleep. I remember reading about Serenity being able to check on her O. when he was sleeping when E. was so little and so terrible at sleeping and thinking, “That sounds amazing. That will NEVER be us.” Yet here we are. A year ago at this point E. was waking up for the day at 5 a.m. or earlier. Two years ago he was waking up when we went to bed, even with the white noise machine in his room, and if I didn’t nurse him, he’d just scream for an hour or more, even though he’d fed less than three hours before. And now I can walk into his room before I go to bed and smooth his hair and check to see if he is wearing his bunny as a hat, or if he is cuddling a cougar. I can listen to his breathing (or put my hand on my chest if I can’t hear it). I can see how he sleeps. I love being able to do this.

His best bunny isn’t as popular anymore. Since she only has a bunny head and a blanket body she’s not as interesting as the cougars or the other bunnies, so she doesn’t tend to come out of the crib much these days. For a while he wasn’t even sleeping with her. It made me so sad to think he didn’t need her anymore- it was this reminder I just wasn’t expecting that he is growing up. And then I noticed that when he was asleep she was usually nearby, or tucked under his arm or his belly, and the last few times we’ve had a huge meltdown, I’ve been able to get him to calm down and fall asleep by getting him to cuddle her. He was even wearing her like a hat as he slept two nights ago, which I haven’t seen him do in months. I’m glad he hasn’t outgrown her quite yet.

He is still so physically cautious. We started going to playgrounds again, and when he first sat in a swing he didn’t want to be pushed very high at all, and the first time he went on a climbing structure he actually crawled across the little bridge spanning two sections (a bridge that was made of metal and wasn’t going to move). When I told him it would be ok to walk across, he did it, but he kept a death grip on the railing. In some ways this is a good thing, as he’s very sensible and it means I don’t have to worry about any daredevil antics. At the same time, however, I don’t want his excessive caution to slow him down. He became much braver in the playgrounds after a couple of visits, thank goodness. I think he just needed to remember how to play there.

He’s starting to develop some empathy. He spends a lot of time telling us that he misses us, asking about our days, giving us big hugs and cuddles, etc. When he knows we’re upset, he brings us kleenex so we can wipe our tears and feel better. He wanted to buy Q. flowers when he finished teaching for the year because “Daddy will love the colours and they will make him so happy”. He has also finally, finally, stopped rejecting his father. I am still doing 99% of the bedtimes, because if I’m home E. will make a huge fuss and it’s just been too stressful a semester to push that, but if I’m out Q. puts him down with no trouble at all. More importantly, E. has stopped yelling at his father to leave as soon as he walks in the door and he no longer shrieks and throws a fit if Q. gets him breakfast or changes his diaper. I had to leave for work before E. woke up a few times in the last couple of months, and Q. didn’t have to call me to get me to talk to a hysterical little guy. E. gives Q. lots of hugs and kisses now. They giggle together when they’re being Sleeping Bunnies. He seeks out his father for stories after supper. It makes my heart happy to watch them together.

Watching E. process the loss of the baby was heartbreaking. For weeks I’d be ambushed out of nowhere with questions: “Tell me again why there’s going to be no baby in September.” “Is you still sad about the baby?” E. told me that he missed the baby and that he was sad it wasn’t going to get to come out. His interest in the months of the year was sparked by his wanting to know exactly when September was. He knew that we weren’t supposed to going to Oz this summer- when we were talking about it, weeks after it had happened, he piped up with wanting to know why there wasn’t going to be a baby again. The other night I was telling him that he’s my best medium-sized guy (because he doesn’t want to get big, but he’s not little like a baby either), and he thought about it for a while and then said, “Mummy, I’m your only medium sized guy.”

He gets me through the day. Even on the days where he’s driving me absolutely up the wall and I don’t know whether to cry or scream and I’m afraid I’m going to do both, he gets me through.

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Filed under E.- the third year, Letters to E.

Priorities

I did our taxes last week.

It was quite a good result in the end.

I knew we were going to get money back, but we are going to get back quite a lot more than I was expecting/hoping for.

Here’s the thing: it took me four days to realize I hadn’t once looked at that final refund tally and thought, “That’s a really big chunk of a full IVF cycle.”

I didn’t even look at it and think, “Well, we’ll have the money for that FET no matter what happens with my teaching in the fall.”

When I first reached the end of the program, and saw the total, what I mainly thought was this:

I want to get a cottage.

And then I thought about how Q. wants to take down our old shed and replace it this summer, and how we are redoing the roof in the spring, and how this tax refund just gives us that little bit more breathing space while my income for next year is so up in the air. And I told myself not to be frivolous.

Q. had the same thought I did.

So we’re going to be frivolous with some of it, we who are never frivolous with our money. We’re going to rent a cottage for a week in late August.

It isn’t fancy, but it has a screened in porch and a canoe and it looks out over a lake and there is deep, clear water off the dock and a shallow entry into the water from the shore with a patch of sandy beach where E. will be able to potter around with his buckets and his shovels (and, let’s face it, his trucks).

We’re going to have a family holiday, just us three.

I’m tired of mortgaging our present for a potential future that I can hardly bring myself to believe might yet come to be.

I want to build memories with E.

Most of all, I need a distraction.

On the other path, the future that I thought was going to happen but isn’t now, I wouldn’t have been able to travel in the week we’ve rented the cottage.

I would have been as big as a house.

I would have been seeing my midwives every week.

Instead, I will swim and canoe and read and stargaze and build sand castles with my son.

And maybe, just maybe, be happy.

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Filed under Anxiety Overload, Family, Grief, Loss, Money Matters, Second Thoughts, What were we thinking? (aka travelling with small children)