I Wanna Hold Your Hand

Ever since Annabelle was a baby, Colin has wanted to hold her hand, saying her hands are so soft that he can’t resist them.  This sounds sweet, but when Annabelle was an infant, she was very particular about what was okay and what wasn’t.  In the Okay Box was Mommy holding and feeding and taking care of her.  In the Not Okay Box was everything else.

Colin was only three when Annabelle was born, and he compulsively grabbed her hand.  This meant that every two minutes, Annabelle screamed.  Also occurring at two minute intervals was Andy or me yelling, “Colin!  Stop holding your sister’s hand!”  (Chalk that one up to things you never think you’ll say as a parent.)

“You could hold my hand,” I told Colin.  “I’d like that.”

“No thanks,” he said.  “Yours aren’t as soft.”

Once Annabelle got older, I got this little gem from her: “Baby hands are soft, Mommy, but yours are like rocks.”

These kids.  Let’s see how silky their hands feel after they spend years cleaning up vomit and poop.

Colin is right that Annabelle’s hands feel like creamy lotion.  I figured that as she got older, her hands would lose that baby softness, and my hands might be in the running for being noticed again.  But no!  Still, at age five, her hands feel like silky goodness, and still she creates a demand for the pleasure of holding them.

Sometimes, in rare, happy moments, she lets Colin hold her hand, and then Colin is over the moon, smiling at us and gesturing to their clasped hands and basking in the short-lived joy of touching that lovely smoothness.  But for a girl who loves her brother more than anything, she sure does know how to withhold something valuable.

Since his hand holding moments are so rare, Colin saw his opening when I was pregnant with our third.

“Carson will have soft hands!” Colin said, “and when he is a baby, he won’t be able to tell me I can’t hold them.”

And Colin is right.  While Carson spends many of his waking hours voicing strong objections to no one knows what, he is perfectly amenable to hand holding while unconscious.  At last, Colin can pet a baby soft hand as much as he wants.

This means that often, while I’m holding the baby, Colin is standing two inches away, rubbing a little baby hand against his face.  It sounds sweet, but every time I try to move, I’m tugging Colin along with me, and holding a baby and tugging an eight-year-old while making lunch is a bit difficult.  I see now why Annabelle objects to the endless hand holding.  But I pretend I’m okay with it because it is cute.

It’s not like I can offer Colin my hand as a substitute anyway.  The poor guy would probably cut himself and have to be carted off to the ER.

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Boss Babies

We bought our baby an expensive, high tech robot bed.  Whenever Carson is fussy, his bed is programmed to soothe him by rocking him and playing white noise to simulate his time in the womb.  I purchased it from a friend who called it a miracle bed, saying it saved her marriage and sanity.  It’s supposed to quiet a crying baby within a minute, and it got rave reviews online, with everyone claiming it stretched their sleeping hours longer and longer.  Andy and I were so excited.  Finally, at baby three, we’d be the most well rested parents on the planet.

Carson hates his robot bed.  He spends his one minute in the bed screaming, and then the app on our phones tells us, “Carson needs your care.”  Stupid lazy robot bed.  I hold him all day, and it gives up after a minute.  Incidentally, the swing also sits unused in the corner of our room.  All of our expensive baby soothing devices are just extra things for me to dust every week.

Poor Andy, who believes in the robot revolution, and now the robots have let him down.  But maybe it’s not the bed’s fault.  Carson likes to be held, all the time, day and night.  We keep trying to set him down, but the moment his little baby back hits the bed, he startles and starts to scream, even if he’s in a deep, eyelid fluttering, dream filled sleep.  Sometimes I try to put him on his play mat.  So fun!  Baby play time!  But Carson calls it his orphan mat.  No playing happens there.  Ever.

You can imagine how fun our car rides are.  “How long can he do that for?” Colin asked one day when we were trapped in the car and Carson had been at max volume for the last fifteen minutes.  “It sounds like it hurts his throat.”

Funny Colin should ask.  I ran that experiment with him (not by choice).  It turns out their little baby throats are surprisingly resilient.

We shouldn’t be surprised that we can’t put little Carson down.  Our daughter Annabelle was the same way, screaming the minute her little body left our arms.  I can’t help but see this as a compliment.  I must have a particularly warm and comforting womb, if no baby can adjust to life outside of it.

Unfortunately, Annabelle and I had thrush, so I sometimes had to set her down to pump.  Annabelle, talented thing that she was, could amp up to full volume in just under five minutes.  I know because there was a timer on my pump.  FYI, it takes longer than five minutes to pump milk.

And those baby cries.  There’s just no getting used to them.  Annabelle’s crying weapon was the red faced, silent cry.  We knew that when the silent cry came, the next one would not be silent, and, oh, would we be sorry.

Colin had colic, which meant he cried for hours in the middle of the night.  Andy was so patient with him, rocking him to sleep for thirty minutes, then trying to set him down gently—so, so gently—while I prayed to every deity I could think of, “Please, please let this baby stop screaming.”  But, then, no.  The screams would echo around the room again, and Andy, with his endless well of patience, would start rocking him again.

I was not like Andy.  After about ten minutes of the wailing, I cracked like an iPhone meeting the cement.  Note to my friends and family: If ever I become an international spy and am captured and tortured with baby cries, I will sell out all of you.  Probably in under five minutes.  Why drag it out when I already know how it will end?

Meanwhile, Annabelle, buckled right next to her screaming baby brother, can—get this—fall asleep.  I am beside myself with admiration and envy.  She makes me believe in unicorns.

Despite his vocal chords of steel, I am lucky with Carson—because there is no thrush and no colic, just a baby who wants to be held.  Carson is my last baby, so I enjoy the cuddles and watching him sleep.  The third time ‘round is definitely the easiest because I’ve learned that everything ends.  I can relax, knowing that in six months I’ll get to do all those little things I can’t do now—like eating, sleeping, and using the restroom.  Until then, I’ll enjoy my baby, snuggling him with one hand and listing his bed on eBay with the other.

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Welcome, Carson!

Carson Paul Kaiser is in the world!

The day he came, I started feeling contractions around noon, and I had students arriving in a couple of hours for a tutoring session.  The pain wasn’t yet of the crippling, debilitating variety that I knew was looming, so I debated waiting it out and letting my students come.  Distractions can be good.

The only problem is that Annabelle came so quickly that I had her in the wheelchair, and I didn’t really want Carson’s birth certificate to list 680 N as his place of birth.  When I called the hospital, the nurse advised me to come right away.  Andy still had twenty minutes left of class before lunch, so I asked the nurse if he could stay and finish.  She said he could if I wanted this baby to be born at home.  So Andy went ahead and left class early.

Annabelle had school, but she was excited to skip and stay with her aunt.  For someone who only goes to school twice a week, Annabelle embraced truancy pretty quickly.  What will that mean for next year when she has to go five days?  I try not to think too hard about that.

After we dropped off Annabelle, the contractions started getting intense.  Andy and I had been here before—rushing to the hospital, hoping to make it in time.  Both times I had this growing fear.  What if I got Andy all worked up, screaming that the baby was coming any minute, and the nurses checked me and said, “You’re two centimeters dilated.  Drama queen.”  Then, when I was in between contractions and not writhing in agony, I’d feel very silly.

But, lucky me, I was 9 ½ centimeters dilated.  Since everything was urgent, Kaiser prioritized by giving me lots of forms to sign that I could not read, and they probably now own my house and soul.  But that’s okay because after I signed them, I was allowed to go to the labor and delivery room.

Once there, the nurses helped me onto a bed and cheered me on.  “You’re doing great!”, they said, instead of  “Here.  Have an epidural.”  In fact, none of them mentioned an epidural.  So I didn’t either.  But I thought it very loudly.

“Do you want me to break your water?” one nurse asked because I did not get a fun movie scene where my water dribbles all over, and I shriek while everyone points.

“I don’t know,” Andy said.  “Last time, the nurses broke her water, and she and the baby got an infection.”

The nurse looked at me.  “It’ll go faster if I break your water.”

“Break it,” I said.

Then, after several minutes of me swearing in my head because I am too repressed to do it in front of strangers, Carson was in my arms.  He was beautiful and perfect and crying and traumatized.  Labor is such an intense experience that after it’s over, I’m amazed that I am not the only person in the world who’s done it.  More amazing is that the nurse who delivered me rushed downstairs after helping another woman do the same thing just moments before.  While my body is twisting in the worst pain I’ve ever felt (except, you know, the two other times I’ve felt it), the nurses are saying, “Great job!  Way to go!”, as if what’s happening to me is the most natural thing in the world.  And I guess it is.

But despite how common a miracle it is, there is nothing like that moment when they put the baby in my arms, and I am overwhelmed by how much I love him, and he looks like a little bundle of perfection.

Now that the hard part of giving birth is over, I can enjoy my cuddly little boy and, like every other mother in the world, pretend to forget that he ripped and clawed his way out of me.  Then I will love him while he wakes me relentlessly.  How quickly they learn to progress from physical to psychological torture.  Cute little buggers.  They grow up so fast.

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Over Due

I’m writing this on May 1st, and as of today, my baby Carson was due a week ago.  We all thought he’d come early, so for the last two weeks, Andy has been ready.  He’s said good-bye to his students, prepped his substitute plans, and come home Friday night ready to start his paternity leave.  But every Monday morning, Carson has sent him back to work.

Now that Carson is expected any day, every one in our family keeps adding one more thing that needs to get done before he arrives.  My eldest son Colin wanted to go to the car show in town.  (He made it!)  My sister’s birthday was today, and she wanted Carson to wait until that passed.  (Check.)  Colin’s birthday is in March and Annabelle’s is in April, so both kids wanted Carson to wait until May so that each of them could have their own birthday month (even though I told them that the birthday month is Not a Thing).  Poor Carson probably thinks there’s never a good day to come.

I like birth dates that are multiples.  I was born on 7-14, Colin on 3-6, and Annabelle on 4-4.  I love that, so I get excited whenever a multiple date crops up as the potential big day.  But now that his arrival has slipped farther and farther past my due date, the chances of him hanging on until the next multiple seem slim.  Andy was born 9-2—not a multiple.  I do love Andy, so I’m trying to accept the possibility that good people can be born on non-multiples.  Maybe.  But wouldn’t Andy be even more awesome if we celebrated his birthday on 9-3?  (Andy says no.)

Here’s an exciting thought.  The next multiple is 5-5, Cinco de Mayo, and I was born on Bastille Day.  That would mean we’d both be born on international holidays.  How’s that for a fun subcategory of multiples?  So maybe Carson should wait a little longer.

People love to ask the kids if they’re excited to get a new baby brother, and both Colin and Annabelle go disturbingly silent at the question.  Sometimes one of them will mumble a yes because they know that’s the expected answer, but they haven’t yet learned the art of faking sincerity, so no one is convinced.  Colin has confessed he has anxiety about our new addition and would prefer things to stay as they are.  I understand that.  He still has memories of learning to share his parents with new baby Annabelle, and that was a tough and long transition for him, even though she is his best friend now.  Naïve little Annabelle, who has never experienced another baby popping into the family, claims she’s excited about becoming a big sister.  Great!  I don’t have to worry about her.  But recently we talked about a future outing, and when I mentioned Carson would come with us, she was shocked.  “I thought we’d leave him at home,” she said.

“No!  He’s your brother.  He’s going to come everywhere with us.”

“Oh.”  She thought about this.  “But maybe sometimes we’ll just leave him at home.  Like Rocky.”

Yeah, so she might not be quite as on board as I thought.

Here’s a fun update.  As I was writing this, I started having contractions, and less than two hours later, Carson was in the world.  So uncheck that box about not having the baby on my sister’s birthday.  (Sorry, Whitney.)  But, May 1st is a multiple!  And it’s May Day—an international holiday!  It’s in May, so Colin and Annabelle are also happy that everyone has a distinct birthday month, and order is maintained.  Baby Carson has learned his first life lesson that it’s impossible to please everyone—and his second lesson that if you have to choose who to please, choose the person who’s in charge of your food supply.

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Generation Y Work?

Colin has never liked school, mostly because he feels he could use the time in better ways.  I get that.  School is a lot of hours, and Lego construction is shockingly absent from the new common core.

Before he started, I naively thought he’d love school, but I should have realized he’d hate it.  When he was two or three, people used to ask him what he wanted to be when he grew up.  “Maybe a firefighter?  Or taxi driver?” they’d ask.  He loves vehicles, so these seemed like good options.

But Colin always gave a puzzled look and said, “I just want to play.”

I have to admire that answer.  When I was a kid and people asked me the same question, I answered, “doctor” or “lawyer” like the obedient little schmuck I am.  Then after school ended and I was thrust into the adult world of work, and all those dinners that used to magically appear on the table suddenly disappeared, I realized I’d been had.  How did Colin figure out at age two what I didn’t realize until I was 23?

Still, I can’t let Colin be a mooch forever.  When he was five, I knew it was time to get serious about career planning, so I asked him again what he wanted to be when he grew up.

“I want to drive a limousine Volkswagen school bus taxi that goes on railroad tracks,” he said.

Obviously I had to shoot down that dream.  “You can’t earn money for that.  You have to pick something people will pay you to do.”

He thought about this and then said, “I want to open a dealership that sells limousine Volkswagen school bus taxis.  And I will buy one.”

That almost sounds like a job!  “Good idea!”

“Yeah, and someone else will work at the dealership.”

“Oh.  But will you still be in charge of it?”

“No.  It will be someone else’s dealership.  I will just drive mine around.”

I guess I should be impressed that he found a trickier way to say, “I just want to play.”

Colin is eight now, and his current long-term plan is to live at home forever.  He does want to have a family, and he says that Andy and I will help raise his children.  At least he’s clear about his goals.  Some kids string their parents along, pretending they will move out, but Andy and I have been warned upfront that we are raising a freeloader.

Colin sometimes says that he will open a restaurant based on obscure Lego characters that no one has heard of.  But when it’s time to put dinner on the table, is this future restaurant owner in the kitchen?  No, everything’s left to Mom and Dad.  And those pizzas won’t put themselves in the oven.

Annabelle, who has not yet learned to fight the school system, says she will open a Lambie restaurant.  She will not serve lamb at this restaurant; instead, it will be filled with pictures of her stuffed lamb.  The menu will consist entirely of green food, as Lambie is green.

I know.  It’s a terrible business plan.  There’s no demand for Lambie restaurants that do not serve lamb.  But whenever I try to broach this, Lambie gets very upset, and it’s really hard to talk to Lambie when he’s tantruming.  He’s sensitive about the consumption of lamb and has banned it from our household.  Annabelle’s stuffed fish and pig likewise object to the slaughtering of their kind, and Colin and Andy live in fear of Annabelle acquiring a stuffed cow or chicken.  It should be noted, however, that when bacon is on the table, Annabelle scarfs away, and Piggy’s cries for justice are silenced.

To support her dreams of entrepreneurship, Annabelle is eager to help in the kitchen.  Often, she sees Andy or I start to cook and declares, “Oh!  I will help!”  This is very cute and thoughtful.  But not at all helpful.  Sometimes her efforts to “help” make me appreciate her slacker brother, who’s off inventing a monster truck jet with wheels that retract automatically—totally ignoring my suggestions to do some market research first.

They used to both want to help in the kitchen, and then they’d argue over who was taking more space on the stool and whose turn it was to stir and generally succeeded in driving me nuts.  But these days they want to help less and less, and even Annabelle is drawn away by the creation of the monster truck jet with retractable wheels.  Now I find I miss them shoving each other off the stool and stirring so vigorously that most of the ingredients land in their hair.

Swayed by her brother, Annabelle also plans to live at home forever and raise her kids in our house.  Colin says he’ll marry Annabelle, which means I’ll never have to deal with a new and difficult daughter or son in law.  But we have a baby boy on the way, and Colin has noticed the problem here.  What if the baby also wants to marry Annabelle?  It’s a real worry, only solvable by having another daughter.  Andy said this baby is the last one, but that was before he realized this snag in the children’s life goals.

Colin and Annabelle have taught me that I can’t plan their lives.  All the parenting experts say to let children blossom into whoever they want to become, and my children want to blossom into freeloaders who let their parents raise their genetically questionable kids.  I had a slightly different vision for them, but who am I to stand in the way of their dreams?

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Round Three

We are expecting our third!  (And, Andy says, our last.)

It took a little convincing to get Andy on board for number three.  I said that I didn’t know Annabelle was going to be our last one, so I wasn’t ready.  He said he thought it was pretty clear, since we already have a boy and a girl.  There was also that time when I was in the throes of labor with Annabelle, crawling on the floor in agony, when I may possibly have said, “I am NEVER.  DOING. THIS.  AGAIN”—or some other totally ambiguous statement that Andy probably misinterpreted.

For two years I thought about having another, and although Andy started to waver, his uncertainty made me less certain.  Part of me wanted to just be done and enjoy what we have.  But I couldn’t stop thinking about it!  I had constant conversations with myself about the pros and cons of a third.  Usually I’d finish by concluding it made sense to stop with two.  Good.  Decision made.  But then two minutes later, I’d think, “What should we name our new baby?”  So in the end we had to have a third so that I could stop being a crazy person and could actually think and talk about other things.  And it’s worked.  I bring up much more sensible topics now, like which Netflix romantic comedy we should watch tonight—A Christmas Prince or Love Actually?

The truth is that I need another baby because my situation was getting desperate.  Annabelle is starting kindergarten next year, and with both kids in school, things will be expected of me.  What if I start having to do the Costco runs?  I really, really don’t like doing the Costco shop.  But, see, now I won’t have to.  I hate to brag, but did I problem solve that or what?  And in five years, when this little Costco predicament sneaks up again, I’ve already got a solution.

Like with my other two pregnancies, I am so sick.  Princess Kate was pregnant at the same time I was expecting Annabelle, and we are pregnancies buddies again.  Actually, she is not my buddy because I am irrationally jealous of her.  A friend told me that Kate was too sick to take her son to his first day of preschool, so she had to watch it on TV from her bed.  Isn’t that the saddest story?  Ahem, guess who didn’t have anyone to take her kid to her first day of preschool?  Guess who drove her there and pulled over two or three times to throw up along the way?  Guess who waited on the floor for twenty minutes while the other parents lined up to fill out the forms because I couldn’t stand in line but instead gagged into a cup and waited until they were done?  Yeah.  I kind of hate Princess Kate.

At my worst in this pregnancy, I could not eat or drink for stretches of three days.  My mouth was so dry it hurt.  I sucked on ice and then spit it out, so I wouldn’t swallow and throw up the water.  I felt very sorry for myself, and a little like Gandhi during his hunger strikes.  But then I remembered that India is already a free and independent nation.  And I felt a little bit less like Gandhi, and a little bit more like someone who was sucking on ice and then spitting it out.

When I tutored, I typically vomited before and after every student and then excessively after the last student left.  After a particularly bad session, I told Andy, “I’m still tutoring tomorrow.  I am strong, and this will NOT break me.”  But then I threw up about five times in the space of ten minutes, and Andy got the laptop and said, “So I’ll email your students and cancel for tomorrow,” and I said, “Yeah.”  I’m pretty sure Gandhi never tutored during his hunger strikes anyway.  And Princess Kate definitely never did, the wuss.

After weeks of my sitting listlessly on the couch in between vomiting runs, Andy asked, “Why did we do this?!”  And I said, “I know!  Why didn’t you tell me this was a crazy idea?”  He didn’t really say anything after that, I guess because he was silenced by my profound argument.

Despite our long indecision and my sickness, Andy decided he wanted to be a father again, and we’re both excited to raise another.  At least, we’ll be happy when I can actually function and get off the couch again.  And also after the baby is done ripping and clawing its way out of my body.  Maybe also after those long stretches when we are up all hours of the night and walking around like sleep deprived zombies.  But after that, what joy!  And then Andy and I will both see what was important about this whole adventure, which is that I was right.  Oh, and also that we have a lovely family.

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Play it Again, Sam…And Again, and Again

One of the greatest challenges of parenting is kiddie music.

It’s just so high pitched.  And repetitive.  And nonsensical.

But my kids love it.  They perk up whenever it’s on, even if they’ve never heard the song before.  It’s like they have some kind of built in radar for high pitched, asinine singing.  Should that make me concerned?

The kids and I recently took a music class that came with a CD, which the instructor told us to listen to before the next class.  The CD sat in the car all week, but because I am the kind of person who does my homework, I popped it in on our way to class.  Check: homework done.  But when we arrived, the instructor quizzed all of us, asking if we’d listened to the CD in its entirety, every day, all week.  And he really went around the room asking each parent, “Did you listen to every song?  Did you?”

I had a good reason for slacking.  Sirius had just launched their Garth Brooks station, and it was limited time only.  Who can resist that?  I expected all the other parents to, like me, lower their gaze and mumble some lies about loving the CD.  But no!  This was their third or fourth music class!  They had all the songs memorized and listened to them on repeat!  And could we talk about the merits of this year’s CD versus last year’s?

Stupid over achievers.

But don’t worry.  My children weren’t deprived.  At their request, we listened to that CD for the next six weeks, until I went to bed with the melodies still spinning through my thoughts.

To mix it up, I recently checked out a copy of Disney’s Tangled CD from the library.  Annabelle is in heaven.  I’m thankful that Disney songs are much better than the typical kiddie songs, but there is still something about listening to a song for the 147th time that dulls my appreciation for it.

But Annabelle is super cute whenever the CD is playing.  She dances and sings, and she is always roughly ten words behind, but she doesn’t seem to notice.  This makes me love her more.

Colin notices though.

“Good singing!” I tell Annabelle.

“Um,” Colin says, possibly because the song Annabelle is singing ended two minutes ago.

“Mommy’s singing is good,” Colin says because he hasn’t yet learned that I’m actually supposed to get the notes right when I sing.  This makes me love him more.

When it was time to return the Rapunzel CD to the library, Andy suggested we buy it.

“But the reason we got it from the library is so that we could return it later,” I say.

“Why wouldn’t we want a copy?” he asks—spoken like a man who gets to escape to work for eight hours and only listens to the songs on repeat for a paltry four hours in the evenings.

Andy did suggest that we, ahem, acquire the songs another way.  But that would be wrong: Piracy is not a victimless crime.  I know this because the FBI spends all of their time translating it into 200 different languages and posting it on my Netflix DVDs.

We bought the CD.  But you already knew that.  Disney and Lego stock would plummet without us.

There are times when my kids get interested in adult songs.  Colin liked John Denver’s “Country Roads” for a while, and Annabelle has latched on to Cyndi Lauper’s “Time After Time.”  Sometimes we’ll make play lists of adult kiddie songs, like “Yellow Polka Dot Bikini” and “Monster Mash” that capture the children’s attention, but nothing hangs on like those high-pitched voices and singing princesses.

I like when my children are happy and enjoying their own music, but there are days when I want a break from it.  Sometimes, when I’m turning on the car and I know there’s a kiddie CD cued up, I punch the radio button before they notice.  But then my kids do something really manipulative: They say, in their sweet little voices, “Mommy, can I please listen to my CD?”  So we do.  For the next six weeks.

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