Saturday, December 30, 2006

Isaac and his clothes, another installment

There are moments when you learn, in a deeper way, what it is to be a parent.

Take for example, one evening recently, when I found myself tucking a pair of shoes into bed. No child attached mind you; the child was standing next to me watching me do it. In case I need to say it, it was his idea. It was the only way I was getting those shoes off of said child and the path of least resistance in this house is quite definitely cleared of brush and well-trodden.

The tucking in of the shoes went on for maybe a week or so. And while that's past, Isaac's attachment to his clothes is only just beginning. Like many toddlers, he enjoys helping to pick out the clothes he will wear for the day. However, just because he's picked them out, don't expect him to put them on.

Isaac is always most attached to whatever he is currently wearing.

“But if you take off the hippo pajamas, you get to put on the froggie shirt.”

Isaac stares at me dubiously and jabs a tiny finger fiercely into his chest where two smiling hippos loll in the grass.

“Let's put on froggies and look in the mirror!” I suggest brightly.

The gods are merciful on this particular morning, and he nods.

Without further ado, I whip the hippos off, snaps unsnapping all in a burst, before he can change his mind. The key now will be to hide all the books referencing hippos for the morning. If he discovers a hippo in the pages of his reading material and is made aware again that his counter hippos have been taken away, it's mutiny.

I place Jump, Frog, Jump in clear view and head to the laundry hamper.

Sunday, December 24, 2006

warm wishes

The Mexican women at the bus stop across the street huddle and bounce in the chill, hands tossing long black braids over their shoulders then returning to the pockets of their fleece jackets.

It’s cold here.

Okay, okay. It’s not THAT cold. It’s not igloo, Denver airport, fjords cold. But for the central coast of California, it’s cold. We all make choices. If you’ve been shoveling your driveway this morning, don’t blame me. I chose to live here amongst the cypress and abalone. For this privilege, I pay exorbitant rents and wallow in the knowledge that I will likely never be able to buy my own home.

We had frost the other morning; show me some sympathy here.

Despite the fact that his mother has been wearing the same two pairs of jeans since he was born, Isaac is a clothes horse. When I held up the jacket he loves as we headed for the door yesterday, he shook his head vehemently. “No!” he told me. And, because my child believes in clarity if not a bit of drama, this familiar mantra was followed by “No, Mama!!!” with hand held out in a stop sign.

“Okay, not this jacket. How about your orange vest jacket, Isaac?”

“No,” he says simply and quietly now, reengaging in his previous game of building block towers and losing forever the initial momentum we had worked so hard to muster in order to get out of the house and to the grocery store.

“Okay, Isaac,” I try again, returning from his closet. “We’ve got blue hoody sweatshirt,” I hold it out in my right hand. “And we’ve got red sweater with balloon buttons. Ooh! Red sweater with balloon buttons!” I add with enthusiasm, lifting the hand-knit cardigan up for him to see.

“No,” he says without looking up from his precarious pile of wooden cubes.

“You have to wear a jacket, Isaac. What do you want to wear?”

He makes the sign that often means ‘fish’ for him – as in “Please, mother, I’d like to visit the aquarium today, or at least the pet store.” His hand wiggles rather high above his head, however, and I soon realize he means ‘airplane.’

“Plane, Iz?” I’m lost.

He points up at something that I’ve long since stopped taking notice of. It’s his Halloween costume hanging for the past two months from the handle of a cabinet over the closet, a hooded baseball sweatshirt Mike covered in silver material, a propeller beanie attached to the hood, pieces of shiny insulation sewn onto the sleeves for wings. Isaac wore the costume for about a total of two minutes before a kid in a scary mask left him screaming, face hidden in my neck and he was officially done with the holiday. Now, however, he’s determinedly pointing at the symbol of his young pain.

I’ve been waiting for this moment, the one when I join the ranks of other parents I’ve been watching all my life, the ones towing around kids wearing big pink rain galoshes on a bright, sunny July day, or reading solemnly as their kid flies about the dentist’s waiting room in superman pajamas.

Even though part of me has been waiting for it, maybe forever, I’m taken by surprise when it happens; and I throw back my head and laugh, loud and open-mouthed.

Happy holidays and stay warm, any way you can.

Wednesday, December 20, 2006

dr. duck

Besides his sign language, real and invented, Isaac now says a bunch of words, most of which sound exactly alike, making context and the generosity of a mother’s ear crucial. There is for example, Hot, which comes out kind of like “Dot” as does Cut, Stop, Drop, and Pop. Then there’s the proverbial “Duck,” meaning Sock, Stuck, Truck, and, in fact, Duck.

Birds were Isaac’s first love, and though at this point his obsession with trucks rules large, his obsession with ducks falls not far behind.

Due not to any example or encouragement from me, Isaac constantly wants to see ducks and feed ducks. Duck books that have gone missing in the house have been known to cause inordinate amounts of trauma, and anything in a book even slightly resembling a duck, must, by the laws of Mr Baby, be a duck. A chicken or an ostrich, for example. “That’s an ostrich. An ostrich bird, Isaac,” I tell him staring at the same damn page of that First Words book for the umpteenth time. (God knows why ostrich needs to be one of his first words.) “Duck,” he assures me. “Duck.”

Many children have negative associations with the doctor’s office. Isaac does not. Besides the fact that our pediatrician is incredibly personable for someone with a medical degree, he keeps a drawer full of little plastic animals that he gives out to the kids after visits. There are starfish, frogs, bunnies, lots of stuff. There are probably no longer any ducks, however, because I’m pretty sure we’ve wiped him out. I counted at least seven bobbing along next to Iz during his last bath.

Here’s an example of a conversation I’ve had with my son more than once:

Me: “We’re going to go see Dr H today, Isaac!”

Isaac: “Duck!”

Me: “You’re going to get a shot! Cool, huh?”

Isaac: “Duck!”

(Later than same day…)
Me: “Here we are at the doctor’s, Izzy!”

Isaac: “Duck!”

(In the examining room…)
Dr: “How are we today?”

Isaac: “Duck!”

Once, when Isaac went to get a vaccination (a whole separate and contentious topic worthy of much blogging), the nurse made him cry, not with the needle, mind you. He got upset when she wanted him to sit naked on the cold scale and went about calming him in oh-so the wrong way. Trying to tempt him with an early toy, she waggled the bit of orange plastic in front of him saying “Look at the octopus! Look at the octopus!” Nevermind that it was really a hippo, which was where she lost credibility with me, it was certainly not a duck. After the dumb, mean lady was gone, Isaac reached into the drawer two-fisted and pulled a pair of little red ducks, wiping his eyes on his sleeve.

Ernie’s got nothing on my boy.

Tuesday, December 19, 2006

another metaphor for which i will be condemned

Having a child is a little like having PMS.

It’s not that the feelings you have aren’t true and real, it’s just that the intensity with which you feel them is on a much greater level. At the beginning of course, the reasons behind this are the same as the reasons behind PMS – hormones, hormones, hormones. See, and you thought I was just being flip.

As things go on, however, the worry and exhaustion of parenting takes over as the driving force behind emotional magnification. Like, you know already that we live isolated, work-driven lives, but having a child throws that into high relief. You know that you’d like to end homelessness, that you can’t get back to sleep if woken up after 3 am, that you hate the way your husband eats a bagel, but thanks to the miracle of that little angel in your life, you can see all these things that much more clearly.

Monday, December 18, 2006

It was a typical morning.

The plastic penguin was drinking out of the cat bowl, my coffee table was covered in trucks of various size and ability, the CDs – well, most of the CDs from the bottom rack were missing completely. When I’d asked Isaac where he might have left them, he just shrugged his shoulders, palms upturned. “Uh-oh! Uh-oh! Where?” was all he offered as a clue.

Currently, that same petty thief I call my son is planted on the floor in front of the bookcase speedreading through my Russian literature collection. One after another he absorbs and discards the classics, pulling a book off the shelf, flipping through it, then tossing it over his shoulder with a cry of “All done!” The Complete Works of Nikolai Gogol. “All done!” Doctor Zhivago. “All Done!” Pushkin, Lermentov, Tolstoy. “All done!”

Shh! We have to be very quiet. Penguin is taking a nap. He is swaddled in a blanket that covers him completely and is snoozing soundly in the colander on the kitchen floor – an improvement over his other common nap space, the refrigerator, which is where he spent the better part of yesterday.

In the outside world, I imagine people purchasing new bed clothes, bunches of bananas, talking amiably with store clerks, listening to the news, showering. Sometimes I wonder what the mailman thinks glancing into the window – sill lined with boxes of baby wipes, cheerios and mis-matched socks. But most days, I’d much rather be completely ignorant of his thoughts.

Isaac escapes a diaper change, sliding expertly off the bed and racing through the house barebottomed calling “Nun! Nun!”

Penguin has awoken from his nap and is being alternately cradled and bitten by my son, who finally throws him passionately onto the floor. Penguin rocks briefly on the spot where he’s landed, then stills and remains there, facing the wall.

Sunday, December 17, 2006


"Look, Isaac! The moon! It's beautiful!"

He points at it, his face beaming.

"Ball," he says.

The next morning, he looks again for it and, not finding it in the sky, turns to me, silent and alarmed.

To know betrayal before the age of two.

Saturday, December 16, 2006

happy endings

When people tell you “I was up half the night last night!” or “It's crazy with two!” or “It's so difficult managing Jacob's allergies.” Why do they always have to ruin it by adding “But things are fine.” and “Mostly we're having a great time with the kids!”

Why can't people let it be? Why can't things just suck?

Thursday, December 14, 2006

dream states

I am awoken from a dream by the baby dreaming.

"No! No! ...Mama!" he's calling.

I am at a cafe, somewhere in Europe. There are flowers. I have just shared a joke with the tall man in brown when I hear the baby cry out.

"Mama's here," I comfort. "Mama's here."

On such lies we raise our children.

Wednesday, December 13, 2006

Wednesday mornings

It's something about the consistency and enthusiasm with which he greets my son each Wednesday morning when he doesn't really have to, in the middle of his busy day. And then there's Isaac at the window - waiting, waiting, waving, waving. Cupping his hand and lifting his arm, making the grumbling mechanical noise.

They understand each other these two, a mutual respect that makes my mother's heart yawn wide and scoop them both in together: my toddler son and the garbage man.

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