One day he'll be a reader.

I took Eliot to the library (otherwise known as heaven) today and let him play in the children's room for the second time. We explored the blocks, puzzles, and dollhouse, but he especially liked the wooden train tracks with the magnetic Thomas the Tank Engine trains. It's just the right size for him to pull up to and stand hanging onto the tracks.

I love that the children's room in the new library is so inviting and has so many activities for little ones. Hopefully we'll be able to make a library trip at least once a week this summer. I remember how delighted I always was to visit the library when I was a kid, and I hope that Eliot will feel the same way about this place. (It's also going to be a great way to give Daddy some quiet sleeptime during the day when he works third shift.)


This is what conversations with a 13-month-old sound like.

During his bath, Eliot boo-hoos because I won't let him drink his bathwater from the pitcher I use to rinse his hair.

Me: "Buddy, look at me with a straight face and tell me you haven't peed in this water. And then explain to me again why you want to drink it."

Eliot: "Bah bah doo doo mama blah blah be be be oh..."

Me: "Don't you take that tone with me, young man, or I'll brush your hair so that it dries funny!"


The monkey thought it was all in fun...

I have a jack-in-the-box that is exactly like the one my grandma and grandpa used to have in the collection of toys kept at their house for the amusement of all the grandkids. It isn't THE jack-in-the-box from my grandparents' house. After Grandma passed away and we were talking about memories of her and staying at her house, I mentioned this toy, but it was nowhere to be found. Luckily, resourceful Elecia, who must love me, found one on Ebay and got it for me.

I don't know why I wanted it, exactly. It always scared the hell out of me when I was a kid. (Okay, who am I kidding--it scares the hell out of me now.)

I used to be sure that the clown inside was an evil spirit, possibly because 1) clowns are creepy, and 2) this one bears a strong resemblance to Lady Elaine Fairchilde from Mr. Roger's Neighborhood of Make Believe. You remember Lady Elaine? She was the pompous, bitchy puppet who looked like this clown. I never liked her. In fact, I wanted to smack her every time she appeared on the show.


The jack-in-the-box plays a tinkling, creepy version of "Pop Goes the Weasel," and the clown always jumps out on the "pop" note, so you'd think I'd be ready for it. But there was never any being ready for this evil thing. I bet I jumped every single time. And then despite the shivers and tingles running up and down my spine, I'd somehow feel compelled to push the clown's head back down into the tin box and turn the crank again. Until he popped out and made me jump again. Madness.

So maybe it's the same dark fascination that made me want the thing now. That or just a desire to face old fears and reassure myself that they don't hold terror for me anymore. That I've moved on and nothing can scare me.

I played it for Eliot this morning and it scared the hell out of him too. It was hilarious. I'd turn the crank really fast so that it would pop up before he lost interest. And every time it popped up, he'd make an "O" with his little mouth and whimper. But he kept looking. And I kept shoving the clown back down and turning the crank again. (Perverse, and mean, I know, but the kid has been such a shit today he deserved a little jack-in-the-box action.)

For some reason, I didn't think it would scare him. I didn't think he'd be interested in it at all, but I figured that if he paid attention, he'd think it was funny. He loves peek-a-boo, and isn't a jack-in-the-box just another version of peek-a-boo? But he was scared, and for some reason that made me happy. Because I recognized him having the same reaction I once did? Because anytime I recognize myself in my child I'm delighted? Probably. But that isn't all. It isn't just vanity. I think it has to do with my hopes for him as well. My hope that his life will be full and complete. That the range of his emotion will be wide, his fear making his comfort more... comfortable?

Or maybe it's just a simple manifestation of my meanness to the ones I love most fiercely. Like if I'm mean to them first, no one else will be able to hurt them. Call it preparation for the big, wide, mean world.

And anyway, it's not like I'm making him watch Mr. Roger's Neighborhood.

Can you please just eat your lunch already?

I'm trying to strike a healthy balance between the camps of "Now, now, sweetie, you know it upsets Momma when you smash your peas and throw them in the floor" and "IF YOU DO NOT STOP THROWING YOUR LUNCH IN THE FLOOR THE FEEDINGS WILL BE DISCONTINUED AND I WILL LOCK YOU IN A CLOSET UNTIL YOUR FATHER GETS HOME."

Advice, anyone?

I have a feeling that I'll be looking very forward to the start of school by the time August rolls around...


Moose toes and other friendly reminders.

Grandma always used to wear socks with flip flops around the house. So much so that we grandkids thought she only had two toes on each foot.

Later, Elecia and I lovingly referred to this peculiar sock/shoe combo as Grandma's "moose toes."

Today I was rushing around to go pick up Eliot at daycare and couldn't find my slip-on shoes. The only pair sitting handy by the back door were my flip flops. But I was wearing socks. So, in the spirit of Grandma, I donned moose toes and headed out to go get the boy.

I felt like Grandma was smiling down on me today, just like Granddaddy is there with me everytime a waiter asks, "How do you like your eggs?"

I have these varied reminders in my life of loved ones who have passed on. But their spirits grinning over my shoulder also join with those whom I never got a chance to know. When I can't think of someone's name, I sputter, "Domino!" after a great-grandmother and the family dog whom I never met. She surely couldn't have guessed that her frustration at a failing memory would become a source of recognition and connection for generations to come.

These connections comfort me. It's impossible to feel alone when the universe sends reminders that I am surrounded by family, both present and past. Memory can have a tangible, touchable presence. It's a shoe with socks, a scrambled egg on a breakfast plate. It is bits of personality and individual quirks, phrases repeated and adopted until they weave a web of familiarity around us, as comfortable and as precious as an heirloom quilt.

This is what I have been given. This is what I shall wrap myself in.

(Zayda: the next generation of moose toes!)


Remember these?

Oh yeah. Matt's REAL Chocolate Chip Cookies. As opposed to Matt's Fake Chocolate Chip Cookies.
We used to eat these at Grammy and Granddaddy's house when we'd stay a week in the summer. I haven't had them in ages. Found them at the grocery store yesterday.
And they're in my fridge next to the butter because we have an ongoing ant invasion happening in the kitchen, and I'll be damned if they're going to get up on my Matt's cookies!


Yesterday in pictures.

This is a photo collage I made for a scrapbook page I did following the 12 on the 12th idea that I learned of through Cathy Zielske, one of my favorite scrapbooking bloggers. Here's the post where she shares her page, links to the original 12 on the 12th site, and provides the template that I used for the collage.

I'm not posting my page because it isn't finished, but here's the journaling:

Today was an ordinary day. Just working on laundry and dishes, relaxing with the latest CK magazine. Eliot lost yet another nuk during a stroller ride through the park. Dad and Pam popped in for a quick visit, since they had work nearby. And I had to shovel some good ole prunes in the boy to combat a slight constipation problem. That's it. Just us. Just life. One day at a time.

I like the idea of scrapbooking 12 pictures on the 12th of the month. I've been wanting to record more of the everyday, little things that make my life what it is, and this is a good (and incredibly easy) way to do some of that.

I think layouts like this one will be the most fun to look back on years from now, remembering the way the daily routine was and how it's changed.

This is why parenting experts recommend not allowing children under the age of two to sleep with a pillow.

And you thought it was the risk of suffocation.
No, sir. No indeed.

There, there, little buddy. Don't cry. Pillow-hair afflicts even the most carefully coiffured of us from time to time. Now come here and let Mamma put some spit on that cowlick.


Wham, bam, thank you, spam.

Mine is bigger. (Indeed.)

Help stop premature ejaculation. (A worthy cause, next on my list after saving the whales.)


A great love.

I recently inherited several bundles of letters and telegrams that my grandfather wrote to my grandmother while he was away during WWII. One of my projects this summer is to go through them and figure out how best to preserve them so that they don't deteriorate any further.

Reading through these letters, I'm feeling a mix of emotions. One is, of course, sorrow at the loss of my granddad. I miss him. And I know that Grammy must miss him tremendously. But aside from that, it's really a gift to have these letters and to get the chance to know him in a different way. As I read them, I hear his voice in my head.

Sometimes I laugh with the recognition of particular phrases or bits of personality that are just so him. In this particular letter, he mentions how little they get to eat, but not in a complaining way, just as a matter of fact. And he says that he finds the food "sufficient," which is so him. He never was one to complain about anything. Once I was helping him write a narrative of his time spent as a POW, and he described his treatment at the hands of enemy soldiers as "not that bad." My grammy interrupted as he was telling the story with, "Byron, you told me they threatened to kill you every day if you didn't give them information." And he replied, "Well, yeah...but they never DID!" And that was Granddaddy, always focusing on the positive.

It also gives me chills to read his plans for the future. He keeps reassuring Grammy that he'll be okay and that they're going to have a wonderful life together when he gets home. Just knowing that he WAS okay and that they DID have that wonderful life (60 years of marriage, three children, nine grandchildren, and nineteen great-grandchildren, at last count) makes me so happy for him. For them. For all of us.

Theirs is a great love story. And Granddad truly did have a wonderful life, despite all he went through during the war.

Here's a photo of him in his uniform. Isn't he handsome?!

And here is one of his letters (though I'm not sure if it's going to be readable):

He nearly always begins with "Dearest Doris," and closes with "your Byron."

I like this letter because he talks about how one of the guys has labelled him a "sentimentalist." He replies by saying, "I don't know, but if all the hopes and plans I have for you and I and Jr. after the war makes me one, well that's what I am then." (Grammy was pregnant with their first child at this time, who turned out to be my Aunt Pinky, and not Jr. after all.)

I'm looking forward to reading and sorting the rest of the bundles while Eliot is in daycare this summer, even though reading these private communications makes me feel a bit like a trespasser. I guess I can take comfort that the army censors read all of them before me? So they were never truly private? Some of the letters have sections that have been cut out or blackened, whenever he apparently referred to something off-limits. From the context, I can glean that what they've removed are mostly references to locations (at least so far).

I hope that Granddad wouldn't mind me reading these (and posting them on the Internet?!). I don't think he would. I see them as a wonderful piece of not only my own family history, but of American history as well. I think he would see the letters themselves as insignificant, now that they've served their original purpose. I wish I could ask him.


Schoooooooool's out. for. summer.

I managed to get my grades turned in well before the 4 p.m. deadline. That leaves the rest of the summer for me to work on more important things, like cleaning out my purse.

Eli has had a rare, and I think much needed, day of goofing off. This should give you an idea of how he spent the day:

Fish killer.


The poop edition.

Yes, this is what it sounds like it will be, so feel free to stop reading now, before I even get into it.


Okay, but don’t say I didn’t give you fair warning.

Before my son was born I, like most young people, didn’t spend much time thinking about poop. The times poop occupied my mind were rare and mostly limited to the occasional, yet unfortunate Taco Bell-induced gastrointestinal disturbance. I generally avoided poop as the non-polite, unmentionable discussion topic I was raised to believe it was.

In fact, I was often irritated and disgusted at people who would talk about poop so…crassly, I thought. The sister-in-law who seemed fixated on her son’s bowel movements, the cousin who never missed a chance to comment on having “the raging shits” in a public restroom. I don’t have particularly genteel sensibilities, but these forays into the arena of fecal matter sickened and offended me.

And then I gave birth. (I don’t like to say “Eliot was born,” as it’s far too passive a sentence construction to relay what actually occurred. The child did not just magically arrive into the world of his own volition. I BIRTHED him, by god, and it took a lot of work. And now that we have that issue out of the way, please, by all means, proceed.)

And I soon realized that poop is EVERYTHING. I understood why so many old people and mothers are obsessed with poop. I, myself, am now obsessed with poop. And I’ll tell you why. (“Yes, please, Rachel, by all means, enlighten us on the importance of feces,” I’m sure you’re thinking.)

First, there’s often no other way to tell when something is wrong with your baby other than noting the frequency, consistency, and/or color of his poop. Poop is an excellent indicator of the overall health of your child. Changes in poopage can occur when the baby is sick or teething; I’ve often wondered why Eliot was so damn cranky and driving me insane and not sleeping, only to finally have him take a gigantic hard-as-a-rock crap the size of Texas, thus solving the mystery. When the poop is off, the baby is off, and vice versa. It’s a symbiotic relationship the poop and the baby have.

And this is why when I pick Eliot up at daycare, I get the poop bulletin, which often goes something like this: “Eliot had one poopy pants today. I see he had corn yesterday.” And then Sandy and I will launch into a conversation about how amazing it is that corn can pass through the digestive tract and remain completely intact. And I note that mandarin oranges seem to have much the same ability. “Ah,” she says, nodding her head and making a mental note of this astute observation.

And this, my friends, is why new mothers often talk of nothing but their babies’ dookie. Because they have just made this same realization. They have newly become acquainted with what others (including the elderly) have long known: poop is EVERYTHING. The sooner you admit this to yourself, the better off you’ll be. Trust me. I know shit.


What your grade school music teacher never told you.

...is that it's important to pay attention to those goofy songs she teaches you, because one day, some twenty years later, you will find yourself driving down the road, desperately trying to serenade your crying baby with "Magalina Hagalina" and "On Top of Spaghetti" in order to stave off his sorrow at having dropped his nuk on the floor in Elder Beerman's. And if you cannot recall a verse, simply singing, "Third verse, same as the first," will not cut it, and then he and you and Mrs. Curly will know that you are a big fat failure when it comes to children's songs and comfort of any kind. And then what will you do???

Moons over my spammy.

"I'm in my bedroom wearing nothing."

What a coincidence--me too!