Joey had a lovely Christmas. He got a pile of presents and found them all very exciting; he had all four of his favorite people around, and bounced from lap to lap all day. He tried eggnog and was smitten; he played with his new toys and danced and sang.

I’m writing about this so late—but I think I will leave it there.


My milk is drying up.


I knew this was a possibility, now that I’m four months pregnant, but it’s still discouraging. Kellymom suggests that I won’t dry up completely, and for now Joey seems willing to persist—he is in fact doing a lot of kneading and headbutting, trying to get every drop of milk when he nurses. He’s trying to nurse constantly; I am not willing to nurse much more than once every two hours, because WOW the pain, so we’re having some tantrums. I’ve started to flinch when he reaches toward me, because he keeps hitting me in the face. When that happens, I hold his hand and explain that it’s not okay, and if he persists I will put him down . . . and he will scream. Occasionally he’ll give up on hitting and start headbutting my nose. It’s not ideal.


That sounds a bit grim, but we’re really doing pretty well. There are good times every day, and I’m drinking more water and eating oatmeal, which has helped a little with the supply—but I’m also giving clear milk sometimes, so it’s really the pregnancy causing the change, and there’s nothing I can do about that. Dry nursing is painful, but beyond that, it is eerily like that feeling you get when you root around in your belly button too long: you get a clear signal from your body to knock it off. The pregnancy is leaving me awfully tired; it turns out that parenting while pregnant is much less restful than just being pregnant and sleeping fifteen hours a day, so I haven’t really gotten a second-trimester energy bump. Bummer. It’s definitely led to my blogging less, since I’m just tired all the time. In the meantime, Joey is moving steadily toward toddlerhood, breaking things and shrieking in protest when we clean up after him.


I think it’s going to be a great Christmas. I’ll post again this weekend, and for sure I want to share some pictures of my adorable tyrant.


Thursday was pretty crappy. By a happy coincidence, it was Mr. Book’s turn to get up with the baby, so I spent the morning in bed. I was pretty useless all day—Joey ate only snacks, which makes me feel lousy (by which I mean yogurt, crackers, string cheese, apple, tangerine, milk, and water; I don’t feel “I fed my baby Doritos” levels of guilt). Both Mr. Book and I felt pretty ground down, and Joey surely picked up on that; he had his very first forty-minute tantrum, sparked when I offered him water in a straw cup for the first time (the next morning, I offered him the same cup and he cheerfully drank from it with no issue whatsoever). I sat with him and rubbed his back and stopped him from slamming his head into anything but me or the carpet. It was faintly amazing; I don’t think I could keep up that kind of fit for forty minutes. Afterwards, we took him on a walk to feed apples to a horse. I had intended to call Cricket and wish him a happy birthday, but just . . . couldn’t.


Ruth contacted me to see whether I minded her posting a picture of all five of us at Cricket’s birth to Facebook; I said that it was fine, which it is, although I really didn’t want to talk to her on that particular day. We did send Cricket’s gift in a timely fashion, and he opened it Saturday, so far as I know; we accidentally outdid Ruth and Nora, who have had a bit much on their plates and decided to go with just a small gift, some play food. We sent an Aquadoodle, which I think will go over well, and some car stickers. Cricket isn’t having a party this year, but he did get to celebrate at a friend’s house on Saturday, which must have been fun.


I was surprised by how bad Friday was, honestly. I found myself staring at the clock, counting down to 1 p.m.—the time that we handed him to his moms and left. Ruth had mentioned Thursday that they celebrate “Family Day” on that day, and while I hate that, it’s mostly just because it is our “Don’t Gotcha Day.” Later in the afternoon, I was less upset, and certainly I was able to have a pretty good time with the little Snerks.


The weekend was much better; we had a very nice Sunday. I made candy all day and then made dinner, and so Joey went on a couple of outings with the Grands. We all went to church in the morning, and Joey and I hung out in the nursery, which he still seems to like. Afterwards, my father introduced Joey to their pastor: the pastor has a very intense, huckster-ish affect, and when he greeted Joey, Joey burst into tears. (We got him a bagel, and he was fine.) Really, though the afternoon was great: Joey went on a long walk, he got to see an outdoor mall, and he rode with his granddad on a toy train. He is so energized by an outing of any kind—we take him out just about every day, and I think he’d go out three times a day if he could.


I guess that’s a lame attempt to end on a cheerful note, but there you go. I’m off to wrap Cricket’s Christmas present.

Never Violence

I got sucked into an intense parenting conversation with my mother. She has talked occasionally about a colleague’s sister’s teenage son (perfectly clear, right? ;)), and about how his mother is going to send him to last-chance wilderness boot camp in a few weeks because he is mouthy and stays out all night. The mother and father of this kid have apparently been very strict his whole life, and now he curses at them, tells them he hates them, and won’t obey his curfew. I totally misread her point the first time she told me this: she was saying, How horrible for his parents. I was hearing: How horrible that his parents are doing this. I’ve read and heard accounts of people sending their kids to these programs and thought, Well, it’s hard to imagine what else they could do—but for a mouthy kid? A mouthy teenager? Of course we neither of us know the whole story, but based on our different understandings, we misunderstood one another.

For my mother, this means that I am judging her parenting. She didn’t send any of us away, but has told me many times that she considered sending me to military school because I was so depressed, and I have said that I’m glad that she didn’t, and I would have seen it as proof that she didn’t love me. I know as an adult that it wouldn’t have been that, of course, but as a teenager? I would have been certain, and heartbroken. It seems like a relevant fact that she never did sent me away, but she has apparently been needing to talk this out/set me straight, so while Mr. Book and Joey played with a cardboard tube (adorable), we talked about this without her persuading me to her point of view. She started to explain to me that parenting isn’t always simple, and sometimes you have to do hard things and be mean in order to help your kids, and I was saying that yes, I know that it is complicated, but I still value coming to these decisions from a place that prioritizes a warm and close relationship with my kids over their GPAs, and she felt as though I didn’t understand, and finally Mr. Book jumped in.

My mother was explaining that you want your kids to be successful, and you can’t stand to watch their actions close doors for them—I suggested that there will be doors open to them that you can’t possibly imagine, and while you can support your kids to succeed you can’t make them, and maybe their ideas of success aren’t the same as yours—and she was getting really exasperated. Mr. Book had been listening quietly, mostly focused on Joey, and he all of a sudden looked up at my mom and said, “We have different values than you do. We first off want our kids to be good people; we secondly want them to be happy; and everything else is a pretty distant third. We don’t prioritize success in the same way that you do, or think about it the same way.” My mom asked how you can make your kids be happy; he said that you can’t, you can’t make anyone be happy—but you can help. The conversation ended then.

I’m writing about the conversation because I’m still worrying it, chewing away at it and trying to figure out what happened. My mother has regrets, and that is what it is—I don’t hold my childhood against her, and I don’t bring it up with her. I know that we’re nowhere near the hardest parts of parenting yet, and am in that frustrating position of saying that while I know that I can’t know what it will be like, I think and I believe and I anticipate these various things. My mother kept asking me what I would do in this woman-I-don’t-know’s position, and I kept saying that I would really have to find myself in that position and figure it out—but I might see if he wanted to stay with relatives for awhile, I might let him drop out and look for work, I might ask him what he wanted and where he was going. Who can say? My mother worries that our decision not to hit our kids is a sign of some fatal parental weakness, and that we will be taken advantage of by horrible children; again, I suppose it’s too soon to rule that out for sure, but we don’t let Joey crawl around the floor in restaurants or make other peoples’ lives a burden to them. We have limits for him, but we don’t hit him when he crosses them—we just pick him up, explain, and redirect him. And my mother watches us, and worries.

The Haps

  • I do think that a part of Cricket’s current difficulty is just toddlerness. I have a friend who, on particularly challenging ones, will say “TODAY IS A VERY TODDLER DAY.” (The caps lock is important.) I am starting to get a taste of that, as Joey is having tantrums (little ones) pretty regularly these days, and I can totally understand that it’s just going to be hard sometimes, no matter how much you love your toddler.
  • The other day, I was watching Toy Story for the second or third time—when Buzz realizes that he is just a toy, I started to cry. Pregnant much?
  • The other day, we hit a small milestone that I’ve been dreading: We now have more pictures in photo albums of Joey than of Cricket. I print off every crappy cell phone picture that Nora posts to Facebook (and I’m glad to have them!), but that’s all we get—Joey is pretty well documented. Just a small sad thing.
  • Joey can say “banana” now—sort of. It sounds more like “ba-yeah.” My mother is starting to worry because he isn’t walking, although he’s clearly inching closer to it; I still am totally unworried, and expect to remain so for months. But he’s been having a rough time for several days now, so surely something is coming: maybe walking, or a new tooth, or some secret brain thing.
  • We have two cats in the house, and they’re both pretty good with Joey. One cat is very tolerant of baby petting, although he expects a treat from us afterwards; the other cat carefully avoids Joey after a few rounds of hissing at the baby and then finding himself dumped into the back yard to cool off. The hisser has always been slightly crazy, but he’s getting nuttier—and over Thanksgiving, he started biting my sister for no clear reason. I’m watching him with greater concern these days, and wishing that he was sane enough to understand that not biting/hissing leads to treats.
  • On Sunday, Ruth texted me and said that Cricket wanted to talk to us on the computer. It wasn’t our best Skype ever—both boys were due for a nap, and Joey finally just threw himself back and announced that we were done—but I’m encouraged that she reached out to us. And startled that Cricket thinks of us.
  • My parents, Joey, Mr. Book, and I are going to spend the weekend before Christmas in Santa Barbara: the grandparents’ gift to us. My mother was asking what we would like for Christmas, and I said that it might be nice to take a day trip somewhere like we did for my birthday; Mr. Book hasn’t seen much, and it’s not as though we really need more stuff right now. She was thrilled, she sprang into action, and now we have a hotel reservation and a plan!
  • Gross one here: Joey stopped pooping for a few days, and then—three days ago—started really hideously blowing out a diaper once a day. Sunday afternoon, I washed poop out of his hair. His hair.
  • I got a gift card some little while ago and used part of it to buy the Mister a board game—and he loves it. I’m crazy for board games, myself, so have started craftily trying to find games that my loved ones will enjoy. This is an odd one: 1960: The Making of the President. It is for two players only; one person plays as Kennedy and one plays as Nixon. My husband is a political nut and has worked on a few campaigns, so this is right up his alley. I’m already scheming ahead—perhaps Campaign Manager for Valentine’s Day?
  • All of my Christmas shopping is done.