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    Entries in toddler (20)



    It was George's birthday, it was Zelda's birthday. We had parties. I was going to write things about them, but everything I started to say was uninteresting. My kids had birthday parties like pretty much every other kid has at some point in their lives. 

    (I love this picture for many reasons but one of those is that Autumn is just cruisin' the internet)

    And the bowler:

    (his favors)


    my son, the weaner

    Oh, this poor, neglected blog. The winter of 2013 will forever be remembered as The Great Nose-Wiping, I'm afraid. Alternate titles: Downton Crabby; The Winter of Our Discontent (With Rhinovirus). We are all sick all the time, and George has been afflicted with the worst of it, thanks in no small part, I'm sure, to his relatively recent weaning. Something I've been meaning to talk about here. Now -- while the boy coughs and watches Shaun the Sheep and the rest of the family buys logs at the farm store -- is as good a time as any. 

    When I was pregnant with Zelda, put off breastfeeding by a serious case of the nursing heebie jeebies, I was determined to make it to George's second birthday before I cut him off. This turned out to be an unnecessary goal, since the return of my milk in the third trimester marked the end of my discomfort, and we happily resumed our normal nursing relationship. I look back on the final month of my pregnancy so fondly, remembering George's little toddler belly pressed up against his still in-utero sister, feeling her kick as he nursed to sleep. Hindsight being what it is, I can see that was the first real, tangible bonding they did, and I was so glad that my body did us all the solid of letting nursing happen pleasantly, as it had before. Our nursing relationship enabled him to experience my pregnancy from my side, not the opposing side to which most siblings are relegated, feeling mama's belly when invited and perhaps thinking about the time when they had unrestricted access, too. 

    When, right after Zelda was born, we were spending a majority of our days in the house, often on the couch, nursing, George was free to nurse as he needed to, also, rather than being put off in favor of the new addition. We didn't suffer from any sibling rivalry until much later, and I attribute some of that to the fact that he didn't feel entirely usurped by the baby. At a time when my toolbox was running low, nursing was still my cure-all for sadness, a late nap, a fall, or need for reconnection. When your sleep is interrupted, you've just experienced a pretty big blood loss and you're trying to remember how to take care of a newborn, you don't necessarily have the resources available to think up creative new techniques for dealing with toddler behavior. Thanks, term breastfeeding, for keeping the peace when I didn't have the energy to respond as sensitively as I should, or playfully parent through adversity. 

    I wish I had a better weaning story. Or, I guess I should say: I wish I had a more riveting weaning story. But, I don't. One day, George just stopped asking. He was 34 months old (nine months after his sister was born), and I waited a week before I brought it up. Are you all done with nummas? I asked him, and his response is forever etched into the mama part of my brain. The part that stores photographic memories of first steps and the first time he said I love you, unprompted. 

    Nummas made me so happy, he said, but now they're for Zelda, and now they're called na-na. 

    Na-na, what his sister has called mama's milk all her life. 

    As simple as that, with no tears or strife. I never suggested he stop, and yet: he did, when his body told him it was time. When his heart told him he was ready. I didn't directly experience a terrible lot in the way of criticism about our term breastfeeding, but, nevertheless, ours is a story for the critics of child-led weaning. For those who argue that it creates whiny weirdos who suckle until pried off the boob sometime before middle school. For those who think it makes unhealthily dependent kids. For those who caution that weaning will be arduous when the child is old enough to articulate his need and the hurt that comes with refusal to meet that need. For those who think children are born manipulators. 

    There are times, like now, in the midst of a slog through illness, when I am trying to find ways to boost my poor little guy's immune system as it struggles, and I wish breastmilk served as the cure-all it once did. There are times when my toolbox is as empty as it was when I was newly post-partum and I wish I could pull him close for a nurse instead of trying to comfort him with words or hugs that fall short. Our relationship is different now, and that change is natural, healthy, developmentally appropriate, but difficult all the same. When I'm lonely for the fat little baby in old pictures, I look at the goofy, gangly preschooler in front of me and am comforted that I didn't force him out of his sweet babyhood too soon. I'm glad that he shared a bit of that babyhood with his sister instead of being metaphorically dumped out of my lap in her favor.  

    Though it was not always fun, I don't regret a single second of our term breastfeeding, and its effects are still making themselves known. When I find myself telling the doctor I'm not sure if George has ever been on antibiotics before. When I see him guilelessly look on at our friends' children as they nurse. When he nurtures his own sister or plays the role of caretaker with his toys. When he suggests that crying toddlers and children his own age might need some nummas. I'm proud of myself for those 34 months, and the 12 and a half I've spent breastfeeding Zelda. We've nursed on lawn furniture for sale in the middle of Target, at the zoo and at the park, in bed, all night, at strangers' houses and on walks, while I looked at the internet with one hand and he slept in my arms, for hours and hours and hours - an unquantifiable amount of time, of such enormous quality. I hope that, should he choose to have children, he carries these memories with him, whichever ones (if any) last to adulthood, and they influence the way he parents. Regardless of whether or not he winds up with kids of his own, I hope he remains a nurturer. And, I hope that this, among all my failings as a mother, serves as a reminder that I was -- and am -- in it for the long haul. 


    an early birthday

    I am no good at giving presents. Well, I'd like to think that I'm good at some aspects of gift-giving. I put thought into it, and often a lot of time. But when it comes to waiting or surprising I'm pretty much the worst. It usually works out, since as a procrastinator I don't frequently have long to wait between finalization of gift and handing it over, but every once in awhile I plan ahead and find myself with weeks of lag time. This simply will not do, and do it did not in the case of Zelda and the armless baby.

    Zelda's beloved Gob, a naked thriftstore baby George picked out a long time ago and had since abandoned -- her akimbo limbs and creepy, uneven, dead-eyed blink citable as potential turn-offs -- recently lost an arm. It's no shame for her; she's dragged around by her arms more than anyone can be expected to survive, limbs intact. This hasn't affected Zelda's love much, but it was a good opportunity for me to make her a new doll. With her birthday coming up, I had the occasion in addition to the reasoning. 

    Waldorf doll making has always intimidated me. The particular supplies, the expense and the precise techniques were hurdles I hadn't overcome though I've long admired the style. Meg McElwee's book Growing Up Sew Liberated: Making Handmade Clothes and Projects for Your Creative Child includes a pattern for a Waldorf doll, and it's been in the back of my mind since George was smaller. Alas, he's never really taken to dolls. Zelda is a different story, though, my children being so unbelievably gender stereotypical as to make me think someone is playing a joke.

     I love Meg's book (and blog) and the directions seemed clear enough to allow for some finagling according to my budget and crafting style which is a little more by-the-seat-of-my-pants than Waldorf dolls generally call for.

    I regret that the face isn't shaped, and if I ever make another I'll put more time into the facial features. The body is out of some soft bamboo velour I thought was perfect for a one year-old to snuggle, and the clothes are made from fabric scraps (Heather Ross' beautiful and now out of print mermaids) and leftover yarn. Choosing the hair yarn was tough, and I wish that I'd found something more colorful to make a real rainbow mop but that, too, is something for the next attempt.

    This doll is most definitely a quick and dirty version of a Waldorf doll, but the Sew Liberated pattern and instructions gave me a great starting point and I gained some knowledge about how to attach arms and heads in ways that don't result in droopy shoulders and floppy necks. Because it's tough to have a tea party with someone who can't stay awake.

    She's real cute, and, true to form, I couldn't wait until Zelda's birthday to see the reaction, even though every gift I've ever handmade for my kids has been met with the same vague interest. When will I learn? Never! It doesn't really matter -- most of the fun is in the making, anyway. 

    At their introduction, Zelda dubbed her "Dunna!" which we took to mean Donna, a perfectly suitable sister for an armless baby named Gob. 

    They were fast friends, though Donna's gonna have to do something to prove her unconditional devotion á la allowing herself to be drawn and quartered. 

    The entire project took me three evenings of off and on work, the most time-consuming being the altogether pleasant handwork of the face, hair, and foot shaping.


    I think Zelda's actual birthday may see the opening of a matching outfit or two, because I am that person I would never have expected myself to turn into, who loves matching outfits on pretty much anyone and anything. When I was little, my mom made me a life size Raggedy Ann with a dress and pinafore for each of us, and if photos are to be believed it was a monumental hit.

    I think a more androgynous doll may be next on the agenda. Overalls, shorter hair, and some actual facial features.

    Happy early birthday to you, Goldie. Here's to a (doll's)life-long friendship.



    the spinning kind

    So much going on.

    Most of it good. Really good.

    I love this season. The weather. The holidays. The happenings. 

    There are lots of ways to dance and
    to spin, sometimes it just starts my
    feet first then my entire body, I am
    spinning no one can see it but it is
    happening. I am so glad to be alive,
    I am so glad to be loving and loved.
    Even if I were close to the finish, 
    even if I were at my final breath, I
    would be here to take a stand, bereft
    of such astonishments, but for them.

    If I were a Sufi for sure I would be
    one of the spinning kind. 

    - Mary Oliver, from her new collection(!), A Thousand Mornings

    Never die, Mary Oliver. I simply won't allow it.


    a lesson in melted wax 

    Inspired yet again by The Artful Parent, I decided to try to help George a little with his fine motor skills by way of sprinkling, a practice he frequently enjoys, mostly by sprinkling the rice out of his sensory bin onto the dining room floor. I so love all of TAP's "stained glass" activities and felt like our big dining room windows could use a little cheer, since the daylight is getting shorter and considerably less bright. More grey. Pretty, and a welcome change, to be honest, but cheer never hurts. 

    We had some old Stockmar beeswax crayons that didn't mind sacrificing themselves for a good cause. If Nathan cared that I (possibly) ruined the parmesan-specific cheese grater, he hasn't said so. 

    I had to stop myself from saying spread them out, now, George. Don't lump them all in a pile. Distribute them evenly, for godssakes, or all you'll get is a brown wax lake.

    I wanted to say those things. I certainly thought them. I demonstrated my own sprinkling on my own small sheet of wax paper with perhaps a little too much zeal. I couldn't help myself; I'm bossy. I'm a perfectionist. The poor child comes by it honestly when he says with a frown, "But I'm not good at it!" Because I tell him it doesn't matter, that trying is the thing. That everyone is bad at all of it, to start. But I hate it, too, being not good. Alas. There his wax was, in piles. He took a nap and, with the baby in the Ergo, I placed his and mine next to one another between sheets of butcher paper and ironed. 

    Mine is on the bottom, his on the top. My confetti, his painter's dropcloth. 

    Mine boring, measured, neat. His messy, unpredictable, with bubbles and swirls and colors I didn't grate. Colors, actually, that I said to myself as I grated, I wished we had. An olive green would be nice. A sienna or a plum. Something to more accurately reflect the season. Beautiful.

    By contrast, the carefully sprinkled colors on my mine became muted and dull, desaturated as they bled into the milky wax of the paper. I traced and cut triangles and sewed them together to make buntings. I kept the pieces of mine small, but cut George's generously to make a big, bold decoration for our Fall windows. A reminder to me: back off and let the kid do his thing. 

    Pardon all the pictures (and the dirty windows), but it was a sight to behold.