That’s a wrap!

Pop the champagne – I’m done with Christmas shopping!

It’s always an achievement, to get everything purchased. Nothing is wrapped, mind you, but my excuse for that is that it’s not a good idea to leave something so tempting within the toddler’s reach. Yeah…

I have to toot my own horn here too because I think I did quite well this year. You know how some years, you’re shopping, and nothing seems to pop out at you? No great epiphanies. No perfect something that stands out. Those years when you end up buying everyone gift cards with the justification that then they can get exactly what they want [jazz hands!]. Those years suck. This year, my friends, was not one of those years. Huzzah!

For my mom, I purchased vanilla beans and I’m making her vanilla extract. Sounds fancy but seriously the hardest part was drinking the wine from the bottle I bought getting the label off the bottle. Now it’s just chilling in my cabinet, getting more delicious-smelling by the day. I also got her a mini knife sharpener because I used her knives at Thanksgiving and had to lecture her on knife safety. Her knives are a menace to society. And thumbs. 

For my dad, I got something a little cheesy. You know those specialty popcorn shops? Yeah, I got him a big tub of popcorn. BUT. (1) He loves popcorn and (2) I’ve had this popcorn because [long story is long] and it’s the BEST popcorn I’ve ever had. Hands down. Even the cheese popcorn, which usually sort of grosses me out, was delicious. So I’m excited to slap a bow on that sucker when it comes in. I’m also hoping he’ll share some before he leaves. 

For both of them, I found these adorable Letters to my Mom/Dad keepsake book … things. The book calls it “a paper time capsule” which, sure, I guess. It is pretty cute though. It’s comprised of twelve pages that fold up onto themselves as letters. Each one gives a prompt like “a special memory I have of you is….” and on the outside you note the date you wrote it and the date they can open it. It’s a cute way to write down a few special memories and thank them for being my parents. That is, it will be cute if I can get all 24 letters written before Christmas.

For my brother, I scoured Redbubble and got him a little wall art for his new house. It’s a black and white abstract guitar. It looks nice; I hope he likes it. His wife was easy to shop for because my bro told me to get her a Google Play gift card. Yay!

For the dumpling, I got him a personalized wooden puzzle with his name and … that’s kind of it. You see, I had plans to get him this block set as well – an adorable little setup that was part puzzle, part block set, part town play. Very cute. And I guess a lot of other people thought so too because when I went to buy it, it was out of stock. Slated for return in January. wah wah. I feel especially dumb over this because I looked it up online a few weeks ago but didn’t buy it because “it was too early” or something. Gah! Clearly I underestimated the Christmas frenzy. I’m disappointed, but the dumpling is still young enough that it doesn’t really matter. I’ll get it for him when it comes back in stock. 

So yeah, that’s a wrap for 2018 holiday shopping! I was super impressed with myself too for having my shit together so early, until I looked at my calendar and realized that Christmas is actually less than two weeks away. So maybe not all that early.


A year

It’s been one year since the unthinkable happened. A year since we listened to his strangled cry. A year since Luffy held him in his lap while we watched him convulse. A year since I called 911 for my baby and we waited those agonizing, syrupy minutes for help to arrive. A year since we loaded our child into the back of an ambulance and made our way through the darkness to the children’s ER.

I feel compelled to revisit the day, through my own writings, through the midnight email I sent to my coworkers, through the pictures I took in the hospital. To read and remember the fear and the worry. To see again how tiny he looked on the trauma room’s bed. To realize that no parent is ever prepared to see their child with monitors and IV’s. To remember the way the doctors and nurses buzzed around as I stood by helplessly, catching phrases like “no gag reflex” and “poor response” and “respiratory distress.” To remember when the radiologist performing the CAT scan asked my permission to give my son a little blanket, lovingly handmade by someone who worries about the tiny patients in the children’s ER. To recall the sobering moment when the overnight on-call pediatrician asked us about poisoning, both intentional and accidental. 

I remember my struggle to get the dumpling back to sleep after we were admitted to the hospital and transferred to a private room. He was hooked up to an IV and monitors, so I was chained to one spot. I struggled to think of what to do: should I try to lay in the hospital bed with him? Should I lay him on my chest or beside me? Were the wires long enough to stretch to the bedside? We ended up curled together in a recliner while Luffy angled his 6’5″ frame on the couch. By the time we got settled, it was almost dawn. I remember dozing off, watching the sky lighten through the window. I could hear the nurse shift change and I wondered what the day would bring. There’s a picture of us, the dumpling and I, in the chair. He’s still alseep, his long lashes on display over his smooshed cheeks, and I look tired. Tired but relieved too. I remember deciding when it was finally late enough in the morning to call my mom. I remember breaking down when she assumed we were in the hospital for his fever and I said the words out loud for the first time: he had a seizure. My mom would be there just hours later, to greet us at our room when we came back from the EEG.

I remember our push to get him discharged Tuesday, after his abnormal EEG. I remember driving home with him in my lap as he dozed off again. I remember the fear of putting him back in his crib for the night and the need to keep an eye on him the entire night. I’m fairly positive that between Luffy and I, we physically checked on him almost every hour throughout that first night.

I remember our shared terror when we woke up early Wednesday morning to find that the dumpling was running a fever of 103.5. We debated going back to the hospital before remembering this was exactly the sort of thing that our pediatrician’s night-call number was for. She directed us to rotate Motrin and Tylenol throughout the day to control his fever and keep him comfortable. That was probably one of the truly scariest moments: thinking we’d have to go back to the hospital after just getting home. 

Sprinkled in with the fear and the uncertainty though is a sense of wonder at how much we humans care for each other. My coworker’s responses to my midnight email, for instance, are full of concern. I was supposed to have my annual review with the partners of our firm on Wednesday, but they urged me to stay home with my son. When I did have my review (via Skype), they expressed sincere concern and condolences. Our neighbor texted us the next morning, having seen the lights of the ambulance and fire truck, and offered to feed Jas or bring us anything we needed from our home. The night we returned home, our neighbor across the street stopped by out of concern. She too had seen the lights. Our daycare teachers were horrified when they found out (upon our return to daycare) and held the dumpling close; one teacher offering a quick prayer for him.

And to the kindness of strangers: I imagine that blanket I mentioned earlier was sewn by some sweet mother or grandmother in the hopes that it would comfort a scared child. I was given a care kit in our hospital room that was put together by volunteers with the sole purpose of supporting parents who found themselves caring for a very sick child. A couple of days after we returned home, the EMS team who had cared for the dumpling stopped by our house, to check on him. [One day, I plan to take the dumpling by the firehouse to see the fire trucks he’s obsessed with and I swear that if I happen to see the people who cared for him I will absolutely lose it.]

A year to the day since the unthinkable happened and the dumpling’s doing well. We have his follow-up MRI scheduled tomorrow (which isn’t helping my compulsion to revisit the past) and we’ll meet with his neurologist in January for the results. I’m not anxious for the results; I’m sure everything will be fine. 

In the meantime, I’m going to spend this holiday season eternally grateful that the dumpling is healthy and thriving. 

Adorable Things My Child Did Over the Weekend

Why are toddlers so cute? Like, seriously, how on earth can I go from pulling my hair and gnashing my teeth in frustration to looking at my child with pure love and adoration in like …. 2.5 seconds? I truly believe that toddlers are the reason people decide to have more children – they’re so cute. That’s how they get you.

But without further ado, I present to you adorable things that my child did over the weekend:

The dumpling is just beginning to play pretend. He’ll pick up the play phone in his kitchen and say “hello?” He’ll serve you pretend soup, if you sit patiently as he makes it. He has started tucking his puppy and kitty under his blanket and saying “night night” to them, but this past Friday, he took it to a whole ‘nother level. 

We were hanging out. He’s been having a ridiculous amount of energy right at bedtime for the past few days, so Luffy and I have generally spent the time between 7:15 and 8:15 trying to wear him out. Friday night, the dumpling was directing me around the house when he decided to pretend to put kitty to bed.

So we’re in his room and he gently lays her on the floor and puts his blanket over her. He gives her a kiss and tells her night night, then gives her a little pat. Suddenly, he gets up and says I’ll be right back! before tearing off down the hallway. He pauses midway to the living room to turn back and direct me to continue patting kitty to sleep. I’ll be right back! he assures me again as he continues down the hallway. He returns with his milk and water, to feed kitty, before resuming her pats. He then gathered her up and said let’s go mama! and we all went back in the living room to start kitty’s bedtime process again.

Every once in a while the dumpling decides that he doesn’t want a zippy for sleep. He’ll usually go without it for a few days in a row before changing his mind once again. On the nights that he doesn’t sleep in his zippy, I usually sneak back into his room after he’s asleep to put socks on his feet. I can’t help it, I worry about his little toes. I think it’s a maternal compulsion to keep his little feet warm. Anyway, Sunday morning, when I walked into his room, I found both socks on the floor outside his crib. Take that mama!

I put up the Christmas tree over the weekend. I am actually really pleased with it. I bought a new one this year. Our previous one was a slim tree, more suitable for apartment living (which is where we were when I bought it). This year, I upgraded to a “full” tree and opted to decorate it with more toddler-friendly tinsel rather than the bulbs and orbs I’ve had for years. It turned out gorgeous, if I do say so myself. Half way through assembling the tree (did I mention it was artificial?), the dumpling decided to investigate. 

“Uh oh mama – grass!” he said, bending down to pick up a few scattered needles. I didn’t even know he knew the word grass.

Later, I introduced him to the felt Christmas tree (and ornaments!) I purchased expressly for his entertainment. I hung it up opposite the actual tree so that he could play with it whenever (and so that I can conveniently redirect him to it whenever he tries messing with the real one). He loved it and I solemnly swear that I did not rearrange his haphazard placement of ornaments into a more pleasing arrangement.

Oh ok, fine. I did move the star that was clearly meant to be the topper to the top of the tree for reasons. And I also moved a present that was clearly meant to be under the tree to the bottom. Because reasons.

I took the dumpling for a walk in his wagon yesterday. We got to an area that accumulates fallen leaves. He hung over the side of the wagon, enraptured by the crunch, until I heard mama, it loud from the backseat. I moved over to the non-leaf-covered sidewalk.

A little bit later, he wanted out of the wagon so that he could pull it. I pushed from behind, trying my best to keep the front-wheel-steered wagon on path. My back’s a little sore, but it sure was worth it to see the pride in his face over pulling his wagon around the block.

The dumpling recently decreed that a tiny toy bunny rabbit should also join his bedtime companions. One evening a couple of weeks ago, as we were putting him to bed, I thought he was saying “help, help, help” but I realized as soon as I walked out the door that he was saying hop hop hop. As in the bunny, she hop hop hops. He must have learned it at daycare, because I didn’t realize he knew this.

Last night, as I was trying to get him undressed and into the tub, a very naked dumpling suddenly got down on his hands and feet, executing a tiny little hop. I wasn’t really sure it was intentional until I heard a ribbit. A frog! He was pretending to be a frog! I also didn’t know he could do this, but I got down on my hands and feet and we ribbitted down the hallway, mooning* Luffy before heading to the tub. 

*For clarity, the dumpling mooned Luffy. I was fully clothed. Just FYI. I can only imagine the grace and dignity I would exude if I were to ribbit down the hall naked.

Oh sh*t

It’s been a while since I recounted for you all of the words my toddler could say. Since then, he’s truly turned a corner verbally. His vocabulary has exploded into phrases and he’s rapidly making headway into sentences. He can answer questions (even abstract ones like how was your day? which gets a tiny little good with a big smile). He can consider your explanations (he will studiously listen to you explain that if he stays in the bath much longer, he’ll get all prune-y, to which he responds ok while pulling the drain plug).

We talk about it being cold outside or bright outside or scary outside (poor baby). We talk about trucks and school busses and concrete mixers (his absolute favorite). We talk about dinosaurs and big dinosaurs and tiny dinosaurs and hot dinosaurs. He’ll attempt to sing along with Daniel Tiger songs and is doing a pretty good job of getting all the words in. He picks up new words seemingly instantly, so long as it’s a fun word (the windmills on our way to West Texas were a big hit).

And so, we’re finally to the stage of parenting where we need to start watching what we say to each other. Spelling out m-i-l-k for instance or c-o-o-k-i-e-s. We’ll have a learning curve, I’m sure, because we’ve both got a sarcastic sense of humor, especially Luffy. And then there’s the cursing. Neither of us curse much in everyday conversation, but we do manage to let an expletive fly under pressure (or stubbed toes). Which brings us to my current dilemma: 

I noticed it a few days before Thanksgiving, and even pointed it out to my mom while we were there. The dumpling was saying sit sit sit sit sit sit. Or was that shit? Or some other form of a word he hasn’t quite picked up yet?

I passed it off as coincidence until Sunday, when the dumpling managed to lightly bonk his head on the end table and let out a perfectly timed oh shit! 

Truly a milestone for the baby books, ladies and gentlemen! 

Unfortunately for us, he seems quite enamored with his new phrase and utters it constantly for everything from dropping his toy to bumping into the wall. It’s adorable, but it’s also something I’ve got mixed feelings on.

I don’t really believe in “bad words.” I wouldn’t mind a teenage dumpling exclaiming oh shit! over a dropped phone. What I do mind though, is a child who can’t control it or realize that certain situations require certain words (or the lack of others). Cursing is a grown-up task (to speak in Daniel Tiger vernacular) because it requires gauging the situation and company and formality. You don’t curse at work or in front of your grandmother, but you do with your friends. Or you do curse at work because your job has a very informal setting, but not with that one friend who is very religious. You get the idea. Kids can’t make these types of judgments.

So anyway, that’s going on. It’s a mystery as to where he’s picked it up. I definitely say oh shit on occasion, but not enough for him to pick up on (at least I don’t think). I’m much more likely to say ridiculous words like whoopsies! Luffy’s more partial to the f-word when pressed, so it’s not him. Maybe there’s another little toddler in his classroom with a fondness for oh shit.

Post-Thanksgiving Thoughts

We’re back! We made it! Oh thank goodness and praise the etch-a-sketch gods!

The car ride there actually went really smoothly, all things considered and thanks to the aforementioned etch-a-sketch. Luffy got it for the dumpling, especially for the car ride and he loved it! He, of course, ping-ponged around like a monkey for a while after getting out of the car, but that’s to be expected. And, unlike last year when it took the full four days to even get the dumpling to agree to separate from me for even a nap, he had left me behind and was reading books with his papa within 30 minutes of our arrival. Yay for me! Ahem, I mean him. Yay for toddler independence!

Our primary hiccup was sleep related, not surprising given the dumpling is a very particular sleeper. The first night, we tried setting up a toddler airbed in a separate bedroom for him. He did pretty well going down, but he woke up at midnight and didn’t go back to sleep until I crawled into the bed with him. Since I couldn’t sleep well in the position I was in, I tried getting back out of the bed around 4:30, but he woke up about 15 minutes later and was up for the day basically. I took him to our bed where we dozed for a bit, but never really got back to sleep. The next night, I asked him – where do you want to sleep? Initially, he asked for his bed to be brought into our bedroom, but changed his mind once we laid him down to sleep. (On an interesting note, he was all about the toddler-sized airbed, until it came time to actually sleep in it. Toddlers, amirite?) He requested to sleep in our bed which was shocking since he’s never, ever done that. We did that for the two remaining nights and it actually went really well besides a few kicks in the face and a really early wake time since oh hey mom, you’re right here and I’m up so let’s party

Sleeping aside, we had a really great time. Lots of good food and playing with the dumpling. We took walks* and met my brother’s dog. The dumpling was fascinated by my parents’ cats (all four of them) and delighted in helping feed them. We decorated and baked Christmas cookies. I made a delicious cake. We played in the backyard. We played in the front yard. We looked at Christmas lights. We dug through boxes full of things from my childhood, sorting into keep-toss-donate piles. (And giving the dumpling one of my stuffed puppies.) Lots of fun!

The drive back even went pretty well, up until the dumpling got himself so worked up over getting back in his car seat that he puked. And then he did it again not an hour later for good measure. That part wasn’t so fun. But hey, we at least made it back in one piece! 

I even got a little extra dumpling time on Monday because he vomited twice Sunday, just enough to make me wonder if he had a stomach bug. I’m still not convinced, but he definitely does have a cold, so we just hung out watching Daniel Tiger and eating Cheerios. As we should.

*One adorable anecdote: I took the dumpling for a walk Thanksgiving morning (the day we woke up at 4:30) at about 9:15ish. Luffy and I had already planned to load him up in the car around 10 for a car nap (he loves those and we were not about to try getting him to nap on the airbed). He was tucked away in his wagon under a blanket and we were talking about it being cold outside. I literally turned the corner and looked back to find him asleep. ASLEEP! Sitting upright! In the cold, harsh wind! When we had been conversing not a minute prior! Who is this child? I laughed so hard and was thankful that we were right around the corner from my parents’ house.

Thanksgiving Thoughts

We’re off! Or… we will be… tomorrow… maybe…. as long as I can get all of us packed up.

We’re headed to West Texas for Thanksgiving and I have lists upon lists upon lists for things to pack. A list for me. A list for the dumpling. A list for Jas (who’s coming with us!). A list for the car. 

I truly hope that this car ride goes better, but we’ll see. You’ll have to keep your fingers crossed for us.

… And that’s seriously all the time I have today. I need to workout. And wash the wagon (which is coming with us!). And air up my car’s tires (luckily not quite the fiasco it was this time). Shop for car snacks. Create a Jas car-nest. Pack as many distractions for the toddler as I can fit into our car.

Wish us luck! I hope you have a wonderful Thanksgiving!

Gather round…

… for I have a story to tell you. A story of how I (deservedly) got the dumbest speeding ticket in the history of speeding tickets.

So let me set the scene for you: a bright, cold Tuesday afternoon. I had gone to Target to buy a coat rack, an impulse I couldn’t shake after deciding that I was tired of throwing my jackets all over the place. I needed a place to keep them! Preferably with a shelf for me to put my wallet! And I needed it now! Plus the dumpling probably needs a new winter coat for the season. So off I went to Target! My search for either item was unsuccessful (perhaps I should have taken it as a sign as to what was to come over the weekend) and I begrudgingly decided not to buy anything unnecessary. I got in my car and headed home.

I was close, only about 3/4 of a mile away from our home. I had turned onto a brand new stretch of roadway – expansive, three lanes in each direction, divided, and completely empty. As I turned onto this roadway, I saw a police officer waiting to turn in behind me.

Oh there’s a police officer! went Belle’s brain, as I passed by.

I proceeded on my merry way, listening to Above & Beyond’s crescendo moment for their ABGT 150 set, when I suddenly saw the dreaded blue and red lights in my rear-view mirror. I pulled over and quickly discovered that I was being pulled over for speeding.

Well crap.

I mean, not only was this not a speed trap, I had seen the officer pull out behind me. There wasn’t another soul around, yet I still didn’t pay attention. Hell, I didn’t even realize I had been speeding. My first thought when I saw those lights in my rear-view: are my brake lights out? That’s how oblivious I was. I drove the remainder of the way home after I had been released, positively fuming with myself. My god Belle! How much of an idiot can you be?!  Apparently, quite the idiot.

I was so mad at myself that I contemplated immediately driving to the courthouse to take care of the ticket. Instead, I ordered my driving record and enrolled in a defensive driving course. I fumed at Luffy, doing my patented routine where I get so mad at myself that I curse myself out, calling myself every degrading name in the book. Thankfully, he pointed out that he was fairly positive I needed to take care of the paperwork before doing the defensive driving course. Silly me had wanted to get everything knocked out so that I could just go once and present all the paperwork and proof. Of course, the government doesn’t really work like that and I absolutely had to have approval before taking the course.

I had to work downtown Wednesday, so the earliest I could go to the courthouse was Thursday morning. I went bright and early, as soon as I had dropped the dumpling off at daycare. In true Belle fashion, I found out that I had beat the government. I sat down at the counter to file my paperwork electing to take the defensive driving course and was told that my ticket wasn’t even in the system yet. They told me to come back the next day.

Wah wah.

Luckily for me, I called back about an hour later to ask if I could go ahead and start my defensive driving course. I couldn’t, but the woman recognized me from earlier that morning and told me that my citation had been uploaded to the system. I could now come in and file the paperwork!

True to form, I’ve already finished the course. I have 90 days to submit proof of completion, but I didn’t want to wait around. If I had opted to pay an additional $20, I would have already had my certificate and would have stopped by the courthouse to finalize everything. I figured I could spare a few days though to wait for snail mail delivery. Just a few though. Don’t want to push it.