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When I picked Bear up from daycare on Monday of this week, one of the high school girls who helps out there after school looked at me and said, “She was hitting kids today.  A lot.”

We have had several occasions when I’ve received “Incident Reports” upon picking Bear up from daycare, and each time, I think, “Oh no.  My child caused an Incident.”  Every time, however, I am strangely relieved to learn that Bear has been the incident victim instead.  Bear must have learned to fight back this week, because surely any hitting from my sweet, innocent little girl would only be in self-defense.

On Monday night, my husband and I talked with Bear about how it was not nice to hit other kids and how she didn’t like when they hit her.  She quietly listened to us with big eyes, seemingly absorbing the meaning of our words.  The next morning, I asked Bear, “Do you promise not to hit anyone at school today?”  She replied with a definitive “yes.”

When I picked Bear up from daycare, I asked if Bear had hit anyone.  “Oh no,” replied the high school girl.  Before I could congratulate Bear, she added, “She scratched someone instead.”

I am going to have to expand the terms of our agreement next time.

Contrary to my promise to do so, I haven’t updated my blog in a few weeks.  But, don’t worry.  It isn’t because I haven’t been writing.

I wrote a short story that, while still a work in progress, is a good first start and perhaps, something that I’ll submit somewhere someday.  I need more defined goals, don’t I?

Last weekend, I took Bear back to my hometown for the first time since March.  I am always amazed at how when I first arrive, my rural little hometown feels so foreign.  After half a day there, though, it begins to feel familiar again.  The first morning we spent there, I put Bear in her jogging stroller and took a twenty minute walk across town to visit my grandmother.  My hometown is flat with few trees in comparison to where I now live.  I reveled at how it was so quiet and peaceful that I could hear a car driving down the street three blocks away, and if I turned my head in time, I could clearly see it pass between houses.  As I walked, I could easily tell who was home, and even hear moms talking to small children inside their houses as I passed.  Sound carries easily there without the trees to soak it up and other sounds to drown it out.  On our walk back, I thought about how all of the familiar names on realty signs and inscribed into rocks in front of houses now belonged to my classmates rather than their parents.  Later, when we went downtown to shop, I was amazed how some people (mostly those from my parents’ generation) so enthusiastically welcomed me and how others (mostly those from my generation) looked at me like I was the prodigal son returning home and they were his brother.

On Sunday, Bear battled stomach issues that I am fairly certain can be traced to some mystery zucchini bread that a lady in a hometown clothing store gave to my grandmother with Alzheimer’s, who then gave to Bear while my back was turned.  There were a few exciting minutes that my aunt spent frantically digging pieces out of  my daughter’s mouth.  Bear spent most of the next day with some nasty diapers and had periods where she cried and beat on her tummy, crying “Owie!”  Her response reminded me why I work so hard to only give her food that I know will not cause her to react.

Yesterday, after several good days at daycare, Bear came down with a fever.  She also began using her new, favorite word “owie” indiscriminately, so while we knew that something was hurting her, it was impossible to tell what.   At first, she would pull up her pant legs and hit her knees and saying “Owie.”  Then, during diaper changes, she would say “owie.”  She would also open her mouth to say something, and a huge bubble of saliva would come out instead.  These symptoms, along with her fever, seemed concerning, so I called the pediatrician’s office and her allergist’s to see if he would call in a prescription for some compounded non-soy containing Tylenol-type medication.   Around 6:00 last night, Bear began acting strangely.  She couldn’t seem to keep her eyes open, and she was moaning softly.  This, of course, scared me, and I immediately took her to her pediatrician’s after-hours clinic.  By the time we arrived, her fever had reached 104.  Despite enduring a strep culture and a catheter to obtain a urine sample, we left without any answers. Her pediatrician promised that a high fever wouldn’t “boil her brains” but acted annoyed that her allergist wouldn’t let us give her generic painkillers that contained soy.  I was annoyed that he was annoyed, but mostly I was tired and sad that my daughter was still not well and that we didn’t have any way to help her.

Fortunately, Bear’s fever broke last night.  She has not felt well today, but the absence of the fever has greatly improved her spirits.  She seems hungry but doesn’t want to eat.  She continues to have strange drooling issues and to say “owie” when I change her diaper.  She has also started telling me that her hand hurts.  We think that she has Hand, Foot, and Mouth Disease, but until blisters start forming, we won’t know for sure.  She seemed happy to take a nap, and for now, is sleeping peacefully, and I am still waiting for a call from the compounded pharmacy that someone has made a painkiller that my little girl can safely take.  However, I am hoping that we’ve passed through the worst.

“Writing is effortless when we are alive to the world,” according to Julie Jordan Scott.  This is partly why I write.  Not necessarily because it feels effortless, but because it causes me to take pause and become alive to the world.

My daughter is fascinated by the outside world.  She desires nothing more than to frolic in the grass, paint the driveway with long strokes of water, or run wildly down the street away from the safe arms of her mother.  Lately, when I bring her home in the evenings after work, her lips immediately form the loose word, “owside.”    During our days home together, it is the first word she speaks after gulping her morning milk or being roused from afternoon nap.  I can hardly blame her.  I too feel most alive outside, particularly on an early fall day such as this one.

This morning, we met two new friends at a nearby park.  My daughter squealed with unbridled joy when she saw the playground.  She ran to a rocking horse; her new shoes hitting the rough ground with the unpracticed steps of a sixteen month-old.  She slapped the cool metal with her palms and listened to the delicious sound.  “Up!” she ordered.  I swiped at the remnants of last night’s rain on the horse’s saddle with the sleeve of my jacket.  “Up!” she demanded of me again, and I complied.  Once astride the horse, she threw her body forward and backward in quick jerks, and the horse followed.  She already knew what to do.

I am always amazed when my daughter shows me that she exists outside of me and my time with her.  If it weren’t for moments like these, I would have convinced myself that her experience with the world pauses while I am away.

She enjoyed similar, exuberant encounters with the swings, the slide, and a merry-go-round.  Later, at music class, she lifted her legs high as I lifted her into the air, enabling her to “jump” while the other children and their mothers sang their hellos to her.  I watched as she flirted with the teacher; coquettishly smiling and then hiding her eyes.  She would run to a cement pillar in the room, slapping her arms around it in a bear hug and watching me with happy eyes.  Then, she would gleefully yell, “Mommy” and dart back to me, faithfully throwing her entire body into my arms certain that I would catch her.  She repeated this throughout the entire “quiet time” that the teacher insisted upon.

I didn’t care that my daughter refused to be quiet.  I love hearing my daughter shout my name with such admiration.  I love watching her run back to me, and I love holding her close for a few moments when she wants me near.

Now, she lies in her crib speaking unintelligible words to herself or to her “babies.”  Which, I am unsure.  Our nervous dog paces back and forth across the wood floor of my bedroom across the hall, clicking loudly, and occasionally, I hear my daughter shout, “Doggy!”  She may not nap today.

My soul still feels peaceful, however, until I receive a call from work reminding me of something that was left unfinished.  I never seem to have enough time at work or at home and momentarily, I allow myself to feel burdened by a place that I did not plan to revisit until Monday.  My daughter’s muffled jabbering has grown quieter and more intermittent.  Perhaps, she will sleep after all.  I lean my head back, appreciate the breeze from the open window blowing across my bare feet and exhale sharply in an attempt to push that other world away from here back into its separate place.  “Mommy!” I hear cried feverishly from across the hall, and I am thankful that I am able to live in both worlds rather than only the other one.

This weekend, my daughter showed me that she can think outside of the box.

By thinking outside of the box, she found a comfortable place to sit when she needed to rest.

She embraced creativity when the whim struck her.

And, she found a step up when she needed help reaching her goal.

I can learn a lot from my daughter.

odd man out, originally uploaded by Terwilliger911, Creative Commons, Flickr.

Today, before Bear’s music class, I sat between two friends (one closer than the other) as they discussed a new place that one of them had “private messaged” the other about on Facebook, and I listened as they discussed taking their two little ones there together sometime. I felt that I was in the middle of a conversation that they should be having elsewhere, particularly if they were not going to include me in it. Uncomfortable, I physically shifted backward to give them a clear line of vision. Still, they did not include me, and then the class began.

After the class, another woman who has been in previous classes with me, my two friends, and our babies took one of my friends aside to discuss something that they were going to do together. Earlier in the summer, my other friend mentioned taking her son to a play date with this other woman’s daughter.

I know that I shouldn’t be offended. Obviously, we are all adults, and we are all free to choose who we want to spend time with. Particularly, in the past, this other woman has made numerous passive-aggressive comments about her daughter’s lack of hair and walking. Since my daughter has quite a bit of hair and walks very well, I felt like she was comparing our daughters, and it made me uncomfortable and a little sad for the other little girl whose mommy didn’t seem to be content with what she had. I shouldn’t be surprised that this woman has not sought me out as a companion. Frankly, I shouldn’t even care.

But, I do. I feel a little like the kid who wasn’t invited to the birthday party with all of her friends, and I hate that feeling.

When I was ten, I remember being acutely aware that most of the girls in my class had been invited to one of our classmate’s birthday parties. I was not close friends with the birthday girl, but being from a small, rural community, most everyone was invited to every birthday party, and she had been invited to mine. My mother concluded that it was not possible that I had not been invited and that the invitation must have been sent to our old farmhouse rather than the one where we currently lived. So, despite the cold, wet day, she strapped my younger brother into our 1984 Blazer, and we began battling the snowy, muddy road for the two-mile journey to the farmhouse. Once there, I sadly discovered that my wonderful and couragous mother was wrong. No invitation waited for me in the mailbox. Unhappily, we began the trip back only to become hopelessly stuck in a ditch before we could reach home. I remember walking through the cold, wet mud and crying less about the slight of the birthday party and more about the feeling that I had somehow failed my mother.

Despite this experience, I always had close friends throughout my childhood. I have no actual memories of “making” these friends, however. For whatever reason, we were always friends. I made a few close friends in college, and with many nearby acquaintances, I was not lonely. That was the nature of college.

After law school and marriage and the start of work, my husband and I wondered if there weren’t multitudes of other couples “out there” who already knew each other and spent a lot of time together socially. If there were, they weren’t doing it with us. We finally decided that social relationships outside of the school environment, particularly after marriage, were meant to be different. I assumed though that once we had kids, we’d begin forming friendships with other couples who fell into the same phase of life as we did. Now, I’m wondering if maybe I just don’t know how to make friends. Maybe I’ve forgotten, or maybe I never knew.

At ten years-old, I realized that the sting that I felt at not having been invited to a birthday party had very little to do with my desire for a friendship with the birthday girl. I did not want to be left out. Being overlooked seems to say something about one’s self, and one’s importance to others. Perhaps now, I’m looking to the wrong people for friendships. I just wish that I was grown up enough to remember the difference between the two.

San Juan Islands, originally uploaded by HeyRocker, Flickr, Creative Commons.

Two years ago today, I snuck out bed in the early morning darkness while my husband slept in our hotel room in Canada. I fumbled through our suitcase in the dark and found something that I had eagerly been waiting to use. In the bathroom, I managed to break open the package with my teeth and somehow used the pregnancy test without making a mess. Once the appropriate time had passed (and not before, because I considered it bad luck to peek), I held the test up to the faint light coming through the window and focused my blurred, morning vision on the result. A line! I could see a line! Excitedly, I reached around the bathroom door and flipped on the light. There was definitely a line! Holy cow, there was a line!

I had been waiting and hoping for this moment for a long time. Now that it had arrived, I was unsure what to do or to think about it. I wrapped up the test in toilet paper, put it back into the box, hid it in the suitcase, and climbed back into bed with a racing mind.
When my husband woke up, I told him “happy birthday” but I did not share the news. Instead, we went through the same motions of the previous two mornings. We went downstairs and had a quiet breakfast. I avoided my usual coffee, but my husband didn’t seem to notice. Our time in Canada had ended, so we packed our suitcase and headed toward the ferry. As we climbed aboard and looked back out over the misty city, my husband said, “You know, if we ever have a girl, maybe we could name her Victoria after this city.” I still didn’t share the news. Once into the Puget Sound, we watched for whales and pointed at antelope darting from cliffs on nearby islands. Although I felt that words might jump out of me, I still didn’t share the news.

We arrived in Friday Harbor in the San Juan Islands a few hours later, and as we stepped off the ferry, I saw a nearby bookstore. My request to go inside wasn’t an unusual one for me and so he didn’t notice that I was purposeful once inside. While my husband was looking at books that held his interest, I found a card with a picture from the San Juan Islands and quickly purchased it. Later, I made my husband stand at arms-length as I wrote inside the card.

The exact words are his, and someday, our daughter’s, but in essence, I told him that his birthday gift from me would be a life-changing piece of information. During his 29th year, we would have a baby.

I gave him his gift once we arrived at the bed and breakfast where we would be staying and were settled into our room. After reading the card, he looked at me with a mixture of wonder, excitement, and fear.

Two years later – today – this morning – we stood at the bathroom door to our bedroom and watched our daughter sit against the side of the bed and read books. I observed my husband as his eyes followed our daughter’s movements. The fear was gone. But, the wonder and excitement remained.

The first time Bear pointed at a picture of a goat in one her books and said, “Goat,” I was amazed.  The child had never seen a goat in real life, and it seemed like a strange word to choose to make one of one’s first.  There are not an abundance of goats in her books – only one or two that I can recall (and let me tell you, I’ve read them enough times that I would know).  Sid hasn’t learned about goats in his quest to “know everything about everything.”  And, even though Bear has “country” running through her blood despite being raised in the city, she would never come across a goat at our farm.  So, her special attention to goats surprised me.

Today, Bear finally met a goat.  In fact, she got up close and personal with several.  She swatted their noses, despite being told only “soft, gentle touches.”  She beat on the heads of a few goats that weren’t fast enough or cared enough to move, and she grabbed a number of crusty tails that were caked in who-knows-what (OK, I do, but I’m trying not to think about it).  Bear had a good day.

After her nap, I think that I’ll pull out her one or two books where goats make an appearance and enjoy her reaction.

We have been traveling lately, so updating this blog has been difficult, but I will try to be more attentive.  Last week, we flew to West Virginia to visit my husband’s extended family and so they could see Bear for the first time in the past year.  We flew last year there with Bear, which strangely was an easier process with a five month-old.  Then, I was able to breastfeed her for much of the time, and despite being a human pacifier for the better part of a day, at least, I could pacify her in some way.  We also flew to California in May, which by coincidence fell on Day 1 of her bout with Roseola, so the poor girl had a high fever and clearly didn’t feel well, but in retrospect, she was quite subdued.

Flying with Feverish Bear is nothing compared to flying with Pukish Bear.  As we parked the car at the airport just prior to checking in for our first flight, I heard Bear coughing from the backseat and then gurgling.  We turned around to find Bear covered with the milk that she consumed earlier that morning.  So, we changed Bear in the parking lot and used about a million baby wipes trying to clean up the puke-covered car seat that we were getting ready to check for the flight.

Then, we were delayed from actually boarding the plane, because despite having booked our tickets and clearly indicating that we had a lap child with us, the airline had assigned us seats in a row without the extra oxygen mask for said lap child.  Instead of simply reassigning other passengers to new seats, they asked for volunteers to switch with us.  Apparently, no one would volunteer, so they had me sit in a single seat in the very back of the plane with Bear and had my husband sit elsewhere.  I was already annoyed with the unpleasant start to our trip, but I was really unhappy at the prospect of wrangling a nauseous fifteen month-old by myself.

Naturally, Bear proceeded to scream for most of the flight, except when she was eating, which resulted in her consumption of A LOT of blueberries.  She was also exhausted since it happened to be naptime.  Fortunately, she has a very good daddy who willingly walked up and down the aisle with her until, toward the end of the flight, she fell asleep on his shoulder.  My husband decided to just sit back down in his seat with her.  As we were getting ready to land, the flight attendant told my husband that he had to move.  Clearly this flight attendant had never struggled to get an infant to sleep (or stay asleep), but instead of causing a scene, my annoyed husband eased as carefully as he could out of his seat and walked back to where I was sitting to trade me seats.  Shortly after sitting down and as the flight was landing, Bear began screaming again.  I looked back, and my husband painfully indicated that I needed to get back there as soon as I could.  So, I waited until the plane was on the ground, and even though the ubiquitous seatbelt light had not been turned off, I charged back to where Bear and her daddy were wrestling and where both of them were covered with blue puke.  I did my best to help my husband and to console my crying baby while ignoring the flight attendant who was yelling at me over the loud speaker that I was not allowed out of my seat at that point.

I’ll admit.  I’m kind of a rule-follower, but I had had it with that flight.  I yelled back at her – past every passenger on the flight – “I DO NOT CARE!”  We found out later that there is some huge fine for being out of your seat during take-off and landing, but fortunately, by the time the flight attendant was able to get out of her seat, passengers were already disembarking.  We took our puke-covered baby and happily got off that plane.

The rest of the trip was more fun, and fortunately, the flights home were not as traumatic.  I am now thinking that we should avoid flying until Bear is at least three and certainly not within twenty-four hours of her consuming any blueberries.

Baby Toes, originally uploaded by Ryan Abel, Creative Commons, Flickr.

This morning, Bear woke up in a really bad mood. Nothing seemed to quell it. She was not happy after guzzling a cup of milk. She screamed as Daddy stretched and hitched up the dog for her beloved morning walk. After the walk, she stood at the side of her high chair and shook it yelling, “Baby! Baby! Babeeeeey!” Yes, the child wanted to eat. Unfortunately, we were not ready for breakfast. Daddy and I really needed Bear to wait until at least one of us was dressed and ready to sit in the kitchen with her while she ate. Besides, it was time for “Sid the Science Kid.”
Against my better judgment, but knowing that nothing other than food – not even “Sid” would be able to satisfy her – I filled a cup of corn puffs and set her down in front of the television in our bedroom to eat and watch “Sid” until one of us was ready to feed her a proper breakfast.

Now, these things that I refer to as “corn puffs” are just corn that is puffed. My husband brought them home from the grocery store last weekend in an attempt to find some processed (i.e., convenience) food that Bear can safely eat. They are not salty or sweet. In fact, they have little taste at all and tend to stick to your teeth. For some reason, my daughter enjoys them.

She seemed happy enough, munching and watching “Sid.” After a few minutes, I looked over at her to see that she was no longer eating. Instead, she was putting corn puffs between each of her baby toes and squealing with delight. I motioned for her daddy to watch, as we caught a little glimpse into our daughter’s psyche. “I’m glad to see that she has finally come to her senses,” I mused out loud. My husband looked at me like I was crazy. “Well,” I explained, “what else do you do with food that tastes like Styrofoam? Certainly not eat it!”

At this point, the dog burst through our bedroom door that doesn’t quite latch and headed straight for Bear with his tongue wagging. Within seconds, the corn puffs between Bear’s toes were gone. “See. Someone likes them,” my husband said pointedly; proud that his purchase was appreciated. “I’m just glad that the dog ate them,” I thought. It would have been bad to watch Bear eat Styrofoam but much worse to watch Bear eat Styrofoam from between her toes, but then again, there is no telling what the child has eaten when we weren’t watching!

Last week, I went searching for a book shelf for Bear’s room.  I am used to the all too frequent impulse buy at Target or the grocery store, but I thought that I would be safe shopping for furniture.  I was wrong!  Instead of coming away with what I went looking for, I found a sturdy, little rocker for Bear with a small book bin on the back.  My sweet husband just looked at me and only raised his eyebrows a little when he saw the receipt.  I was struck with buyer’s remorse as he began putting it together last night, but once I saw Bear crawl into it this morning, my foolish purchase suddenly seemed purposeful.

Bear immediately grabbed the books that I left for her there the night before.  She pulled herself up onto the seat and a little smiled formed on her face.  She grabbed the arms and moved her head back and forth to create a little rocking motion.  Her smile grew even bigger.  When it was time for “Sid,” she contentedly leaned back to focus on the television.  Her look said it all:  Finally, a chair for me!

I think that my husband might even approve!

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