Thursday, March 8, 2018

Madmartigan, 4 Years Old | it's only fair to tell you, I'm absolutely cuckoo

I never used this space to really explore and write about my breast-feeding experience. Breast-feeding was just a thing I did. It wasn't, alone, an incredibly important or emotional experience for me. I follow many breast-feeding moms on Instagram who frequently post photos of themselves nursing their babes and write long-form captions about the emotional weavings of the breast-feeding experience, and it makes me feel like I missed something. I remember nursing a barely 1-year-old Mads at a friend's wedding, in an effort to keep him from wiggling and running about and interrupting the ceremony more than anything. At the reception, the mother of the bride, whom I've known since I was 11 and is a member of the La Leche League, took the time to pause her revelry (and the general soaking-in of her beautiful daughter's beautiful wedding) to tell me she'd seen me nursing my baby during the ceremony and it had made her so incredibly happy. I was touched, and I was glad she was touched (I was touched by her touchedness, and by her expression of her touchedness), but, also, breast-feeding was just a thing I was doing back then. You know? I wasn't shy about it (I had no qualms about nursing my baby sans cover in many public places), but I wasn't precious about it either. Sometimes Mads and I gazed lovingly into each other's eyes, and sometimes I swatted his diapered butt and told him not to lizard crawl all over my lap, and sometimes he'd get squirted in the face with milk when I'd unclasp my nursing bra, and I'd have a giggle fit for many minutes afterward, and sometimes I nursed him just to get him to pass out milk-drunk so I could sneak off and make out with his dad. I breast-fed my son, mostly on demand, for two years. We also co-slept, and while he would not stand for being held close to me in a sling or carrier, he demanded to be held close to me in my arms and on my body in his every waking and sleeping moment. In short, my baby was touching me, feeding from me, laying on me or against me, held in my arms, for two years. That is the big, important, emotional experience, altogether--the constant physical contact. Breast-feeding was just part of it. 

Martigan was weaned out of necessity. An opportunity opened for me, to work full-time for a business I was excited about, and off I went in my prettiest hippie duds. I became a full-time working mom. At that point, Mads was nursing before his afternoon naps and before bed. The first little step toward weaning I'd taken when he turned a year old, which was to stop those public feedings--not because I was embarrassed, but because I needed boundaries, and I needed to decide (at least a little) when and how my body was available to him. We'd stopped night feedings shortly before he turned 2, because up to that point he spent most of the night literally attached to my breast, and my hips were beginning to ache from sleeping on my side for two years straight. We'd experimented a little with weaning those before-nap feedings, but he wailed and carried on as if his world was crashing around him, and it hurt my heart, and I didn't know what to do. Then, I went to work and was saved from the hard choices. For the first week, I would nurse him as soon as I got home. But those honey-I'm-home feeding sessions got pushed back later and later as we settled into a new rhythm, and soon, he didn't ask to be nursed at all. He only asked to be held.

Which brings me to my point: At fast-approaching-five, Mads still asks to be held. There's no more "wan-nur!" (which was, by the way, how he asked for boob, as in, "wanna nurse"), but at about the same  intervals as breast-feeding occurred during his infant days, he wants to be hugged close. He wants to sit my lap. In the mornings, first thing, Mads gets into bed with us. He must start the day with snuggles, pressing his little cheek against my chest and announcing sleepily, "You're so warm. I love you so much." After breakfast, before I've even finished what's on my plate, he wants to sit in my lap. At lunch he wants to hold my hand. He still wants to be picked up periodically through the day and carried on my hip, though he's quickly becoming too big for me. Essentially, our days of nursing ended abruptly and are far behind us, but he still comes to my body for comfort and nourishment. I know one day, he won't climb into our bed in the morning. One day he will be too big to pick up. One day he won't want to rest his face in the crook of my neck. On days when I'm feeling touched-out, I think about this, like I did when he was an infant on my breast--these days are not forever. They'll be over before I know it, and I'll wonder how time moves so fast, and what happened to this boy who was practically an appendage of my body, he was so close and so constant.

About Mads, 4 Years & 7 Months Old:
  • When his dad gives him instructions, Mads responds, "At your service!"
  • Wolfman and Mads have started their first Dungeons & Dragons campaign. (Mads is a wizard who can burn and freeze things with his hands.)
  • A sleigh bell hangs from the handlebars of his bike, and a joker card rattles against the spokes of the back wheel (Get it? A Joker card on a Batman bike?)
  • According to Mads: Mom is sweet as watermelon. Dad is sweet as pickles (bread and butter pickles, that is).
  • Mads can set up the Rube Goldberg game "Mouse Trap" completely on his own (and his dad is so proud and tells everyone, even complete strangers).
  • Parenting win: when we started turning reggae music on to calm our dog when she seemed particularly antsy (studies have shown shelter dogs respond positively to easy listening and reggae), we discovered reggae also calms a particularly antsy Martigan.
  • Martigan, accepting my stick figure drawings of our family but never once attempting to draw a stick figure of his own, has finally begun drawing humanoid shapes (see above).  He starts with the legs and moves up.
  • Officially, Martigan's first musical (as in, the first musical he's watched and musical soundtrack he's listened to on repeat) is Little Shop of Horrors.
  • Mads tells me he's going to use "ballet pink" in his painting and holds up the soft baby pink bottle of acrylic paint. I ask, "how did you know that's ballet pink?" He answers, "It's the color of a ballet shoe; it's ballet pink!" 
  • Here and there, Mads has been getting dressed on his own in the mornings, without prompting, without help. Getting dressed and undressed have always been big struggles for us, so this is HUGE.
  • We introduced Mads to Car Talk. I skipped to the end of that first episode so he could hear the, "Don't drive like my brother" bit, and he recognized Click and Clack's voices as Rusty and Dusty from Cars. Later that same day, while he was playing independently in the living room, he asked to listen to more "Rusty and Dusty." 
  • Mads has been taking a theatre class for the past month, and he loves it. He insists on showing up early each week. He loves his class, loves wandering the halls of the Cary Art Center before class, and maybe also he loves that this is his first class where I drop him off, wave good bye, the door closes, and he gets to experience something that is totally his own, without me. 
  • After his theatre class, Mads likes to go to Firehouse Subs with Grandma and me. He's obsessed with Firehouse Subs.
  • Mads builds transformers with his duplo blocks, making robot transformation noises with his mouth as he switches up their bodies, removing wings and etc.
  • Sometimes Mads announces that he's not Martigan, he's "Martigod." Martigod is very stinky, and often we respond to this announcement, "Oh, no, not that guy; he's the worst!" Mads then reassures us, "Oh, guys, I'm just joking! I'm Martigan!"
  • He says, "I love ya, Mom. I love ya, Dad," at least five times a day.
  • Martigan's favorite books this month: Valensteins by Ethan Long, Creepy Pair of Underwear! by Aaron Reynolds and Peter Brown, Naked! by Michael Ian Black and Debbie Ridpath Ohi, all the Curious George we can get our hands on
  • Martigan's favorite shows and movies this month: Transformers: Rescue Bots, Super Wings!, Scooby-Doo

Thursday, March 1, 2018

Thankful Thursday | a matchbox of our own, a fence of real chain link

I love describing my husband to people who don't know him. Or, rather, I love attempting to describe my husband to people. He is enigmatic and my stories of him, the things he says, the way he is, sound, surely, full of contradictions. Is he kind or is he surly? Is he serious or is he absurd? Is he crazy-eyed intense or is he even-keeled and steadfast? Yes, yes, yes, yes, yes, and always. He is all of the things (and none of them, or at least, none of the things succeed at summing him). He is the man I love yes, yes, yes, yes, yes, and always. I love him when times are good, and we are laughing--I can say aloud any crazy non sequitur that pops into my head, and he will respond in kind, and our talk becomes a layered babble of nonsense, like we're orating R-rated Seussian poetry. I love him when times are hard, like this past year, and I need to tell someone my pain because telling takes some of the burden away, and he is there for me, listening, warm and strong, his body made to hold mine, and his mere presence in a room is enough to lift me up and keep me moving. I love this man. I heard on inspirational talk radio once that the most important thing you can say to your partner isn't 'I love you,' but, 'thank you,' and I felt so proud of myself for getting something right for once. Not a day goes by that I don't thank this man in my life, for making coffee, for teaching our son, for loving me so good. I am so grateful to him and for him yes, yes, yes, yes, and always.
  • I am grateful for the joy on Attie's face--her grinning gob, the sparkle in her eyes, the lift of her chin--as she chews on a bully ring.
  • I am grateful for the way Ella mimics Martigan's affections with me--somewhat awkwardly, but so precious because of that awkwardness.
  • I am grateful for sticky monkey bread, shared at a bakery with my husband, at a table too little for our gangly legs, on a date morning.
  • I am grateful when Wolfman plays guitar and grins and thanks me for the wau pedal I bought him for his birthday; I am grateful to have given him something he loves and can use; I am grateful for his joy.
  • I am grateful for the pride with which Wolfman shares an audio recording of weird improvisational music he and Mads created during the day (Wolfman playing an out-of-tune acoustic kiddie guitar and jingle bells, Mads playing harmonica and drum); I am grateful so much of Martigan's (un)schooling has fallen to my husband, who is so naturally inventive, smart, irreverent; I am grateful the musical instruments I've been collecting since Martigan's birth are getting use.
  • I am grateful when Wolfman whispers to me, "I've always loved that song," as "Somewhere That's Green," ends in the Raleigh Little Theatre's production of Little Shop of Horrors.
  • I am grateful for the wave of relief that comes after clearing off surfaces whose clutter seemed immovable and permanent, going willfully unnoticed and untouched for years--like the top of the fridge and the shelf in our laundry cabinet; I am grateful for my resolve; I am grateful for Marie Kondo, who taught me something that makes sense and is helpful and speaks to my woo woo, animistic inclination.
  • I am grateful to put my healthy, funny, smart, good-looking boy to rest at night; I'm grateful we've been granted another day together in this chaotic, sometimes brutal, often beautiful, very strange world.
  • I am grateful when Mads tells me he wants to grow his hair long again.

Thursday, January 18, 2018

Thankful Thursday | when you press me to your heart, I'm in a world apart

I Am Grateful:
  • I am grateful for the Duplo blocks that quiet Mads and capture his interest.
  • I am grateful for every part of my body that jiggles because I'm made of flesh not paper.
  • I am grateful when I hear sirens, for the people who make livings of helping others.
  • I am grateful for my grandpa, steady and good and full of love.
  • I am grateful to come home to a house full of good cooking smells after a long day at work.
  • I am grateful for little gifts left in my cubby at work from co-workers.
  • I am grateful to Grandma for picking us up and taking us to dinner at Martigan's favorite, Firehouse Subs, and I am grateful to her for her good humor when Mads eats only chips and does not touch his sandwich.
  • I am grateful for citrus-scented dish soap.
  • I am grateful for the jingling tinkle of my many charm bracelets (Christmas gifts from Grandma this year) against china coffee mugs as I put them away in the cabinet.
  • I am grateful for the way salt patterns swirl on roads and look like some ancient magic runes, and like snow, impervious to sun and heat.
  • I am grateful for the competing morning sounds of Uriah Heep on the turn table on one side of me (in the living room) and Wolfman tuning up his guitar on the other (in the bedroom).
  • I am grateful for the tradition of wearing my husband's boots and coat (so much more practical than my own) to tromp around in the snow.

Thursday, January 11, 2018

Madmartigan, 4 Years Old | I'm a man you don't meet everyday

My guy, he hates the snow. He hates the cold. He wants to watch the same episode of Rescue Bots over and over (the first episode; he loves watching the autobots choosing their earth disguises). He tells me, "I just love toys! That's the thing I really love." Some days he's not much interested in food and meal time is a struggle; other days he is ravenous and eats two adult sized sandwiches for lunch. He talks, from the moment he wakes up in the morning until he falls asleep at night. I know him by his little voice, his chatter, his questions, his games, the songs he sings. He also tells jokes. He also lets the people he loves know he loves them. I worry I let him eat too many sweets, and I worry that he is a little soft (see the last photo, of my supposedly wild boy wailing his dismay at the existence of weather), but he is articulate and hilarious and so full of love, so I'm doing something right.
About Mads, 4 Years & 5 Months Old:
  • When he plays with transformers and action figures, his Big Bad is "The Nothing" (from Neverending Story).
  • While sick, he woke suddenly one night crying out, "I ran out of batteries!" then fell back asleep.
  • We've done away with television in the mornings, and instead, to much objection and with many failed attempts at negotiation from Mads, we listen to music, play games, and I read from magazines and books of fairy tales. Mads objects the least and engages the most when I read recipes. And, in fact, once or twice he has even requested we flip through recipe books together. We have big plans to make pretzels this week.
  • As his dad and I giggle together in the kitchen, Mads demands, "You tell me your secrets or you're fired!"  
  • His big Christmas gift this year was a bike, from his grandmommie, Sandra (a Batman bike and an Iron Man helmet). He got sick almost immediately after Christmas, and then we had record low temperatures the following week, so he hasn't done much riding yet.
  • He can draw a perfect circle.
  • He is not a fan of Dim Sum.
  • Favorite books: Sam's Sandwich, Twinkle Twinkle Little Star, Little Blue Truck
  • Favorite shows & movies: Transformers: Rescue Bots, Boss Baby

Thursday, January 4, 2018

Yule 2017 | the sky is a hazy shade of winter

There was a time when I passed harsh judgment on my neighbors whose Christmas trees lay used and discarded on the curb on the 26th of December. Now, I am one of those people. I had to be at work at noon the day after Christmas and so started early dismantling our tree that morning. By second breakfast, I was dragging our tree into the thicket beyond our back fence for the wild things to use as they see fit. 

Is it only when you work in retail that you're asked, constantly, "Ready for Christmas yet?" in the month of December? Or is this a thing we say to each other regardless of occupation as the holidays lurch nearer, a seasonal replacement for all that chatter about weather? My standard, if unwholesome, answer quickly became, "Ready for it to be over." My poor tree was also pooped out on the yuletide, just a couple weeks into the month. Promptly and without notice, it died. The thing was dry as good kindling, and I feared that's what it might become what with all that incense burning I do in the house (keeping all the Ghosts of Christmas Whenever away). I didn't spend nearly as much time this year happily arranging and rearranging my ornaments on the tree as I did last year, so I didn't immediately realize exactly how dead it was. 

Unlike my tree, however, my holiday spirit was only Mostly Dead, not All Dead. There were moments to be had, both holiday-specific and not. For instance:
  • As I travel back and forth between the front porch and back yard, carrying rotting jack o'lanterns to the compost bin, I am watched by a little brown lizard, poking his head out of the trailer-shaped bird house hanging near our walk, his little claw curled around the doorway of the house.
  • In the kitchen in the morning, still in our pajamas, I join in on a hug between Mads and Wolfman, wrapping my arms around them from behind, kissing the back of Wolfman's neck and Martigan's plump baby cheek, his face resting in the crook of his dad's neck. Mads repeats, "I love you. I love you guys. I love you..."
  • It is the night before Thanksgiving and Mads is cranky and done as we walk out the door at Grandma's house. Grandpa gestures him forward, puts an arm around him, and they turn their backs on Grandma and me, like they're sharing a secret. Grandpa says, "What did I tell you we're going to do tomorrow? Watch the parade. Watch the dog show. Watch football. And eat until our stomach's hurt."
  • I've just come home from work. Mads is asleep. The radio is on, playing George Michael's "Last Christmas." Wolfman rolls his eyes and says this is the kind of song to be drunk to at an office Christmas party. We begin dancing as a joke and then, my arms around his neck, we dance in earnest.
  • On the road, driving to Grandma's house, Mads and I sing "Holly Jolly Christmas," along with the radio. I have no idea where he learned this song, but he knows nearly all the lyrics. 
  • Wolfman and I meet each other's eyes with a spark of joy and humor. We've just won the Worst Parents of the Day award for letting our 4-year-old son eat ice cream and sip boba tea at swanky new Milk Lab Cafe at 9:00 at night. 4-year-old has responded, predictably, by having a complete meltdown on the sidewalk just outside the cafe. (When I ask, laughing only a little bit, "Baby what's wrong?," he wails into the night, "I DON'T KNOW!")
  • My boss has just appeared, at the front door of the store, like a customer (which I mistake him for at first) instead of slipping in unnoticed through the back. He hands Nicky a stack of envelopes, says something nice probably. I don't know what because inside my head is a voice that sounds very like Prince Gristle squealing, "Christmas Bonus!" It's like I've just eaten a troll. I am that happy.

Thursday, December 28, 2017

Thankful Thursday | you with the sad eyes, don't be discouraged

I have lived within the pages of my journal, lately. I have dived deep into these cheap composition notebooks and paper-mached myself in layers of National Geographic photos and Martigan's artwork and other paper ephemera I come across, like the O. avoseta bee who makes a Thumbelina cocoon of flower petals. I have explored and experimented more than, perhaps, ever before, and it has been therapy. I am grateful to the journaling inspiration gathered from various social media platforms. I am grateful for old books and magazines full of beautiful images and the glee of ripping into those pages to construct something new and personal. I am grateful for the patience of my husband as I sit down one more night, not to snuggle with him, but with the open journal on my lap. I am grateful for smooth-writing pens with heavy, dark ink. I am grateful for the particulars and peculiarities of my handwriting. I am grateful, again, to my husband for bringing home a stack of composition notebooks (my preferred medium), snagged for 30 cents each at the pharmacy up the street.

I Am Grateful.

  • I am grateful for FM radio in the morning--the happy chatter, the recognizable commercial jingles, that one Tom Petty song every station plays.
  • I am grateful when I drop a plate and it doesn't break; I am grateful for each of the vibrant, mismatched plates I've collected over the years, unwrapped from thrift store newspaper like treasures.
  • I am grateful when Mads cannot wait to get home and asks me to read the books we choose at the library, right there, sitting in the aisles.
  • I am grateful when I hear Wolfman's key in the door and the dog's wagging tail thumping against the sofa as she hears it and is grateful as well. I am grateful for the memory of Lunchbox's tail thumping against sofa, mattress, and floor. I am grateful for every dog who ever wagged a tail in my presence and the ones who will wag tails for me and my loves in the future.
  • I am grateful turning the store sign over at the end of the night to announce to the dark parking lot "CLOSED."
  • I am grateful for that moment driving in the rain, when the car drives under a bridge and all sound is sucked up into a vacuum, so briefly--a half second of eerie silence--before the sound of pounding rain on our roof commences again on the other side of the bridge.
  • I am grateful for the fleeting softness of brand new, never-worn, never-washed socks.
  • I am grateful for minty toothpaste on my baby's breath as I carry his sleeping body into the house at night.
  • I am grateful to finally squeeze out a couple tears at the end of a long day (and longer summer), and I am grateful for Cyndi Lauper's "True Colors" for getting me there.
  • I am grateful for the sound of stew bubbling on the stove.
  • I am grateful for the way Atalanta blushes pink when she's happy.
  • I am grateful when Wolfman tells me, "I'm lucky to have you," and I get to respond, "I think I'm the lucky one."
  • I am grateful for all the little messes in our home, because they show how we live and play here.
  • I am grateful for Grandma's beef stew, the taste of my childhood in her home--warm, hearty, a touch spicy.

Wednesday, November 15, 2017

Madmartigan, 4 Years Old | everybody's got a thing, but some don't know how to handle it

This afternoon Mads has a smudge of chocolate on his chin, like a goatee.  Together we made s'more bars (thus, the chocolate). Mads crushed graham crackers while I melted chocolate chips.  When he realized he could not eat them immediately but had to wait an hour for them to cool and set in the refrigerator, he left the kitchen in a huff, announcing, "Shit! We just made shit!" I followed him, laughing, and, incredulous (but still giggling), asked him to repeat himself.  He gave me a cheeky smile before hiding away in a living room fort. "I said spit, Mommy. We're making spit. Isn't that funny?"

Martigan is three months into being four-years-old, a real kid. He loves playing hide-and-seek, but always hides in the same spot. He paints nearly every day. He is frequently what we term "stinky" (his dad and I "call stinky" on him when he's being bad), especially after eating sweets (I will pay for the chocolate on his chin later). But, he is also a giver of hundreds of kisses and compliments. Today at lunch he told me, "You're a good mommy."
About Mads, 4 Years & 3 Months Old:
  • He is tall enough to reach light switches.
  • He is in the 30th percentile for both weight and height (a little guy), and in his doctor's medical profession, absolutely perfect.
  • The key to a perfectly well-behaved sweetheart of a child with nary an episode of stinkiness is no sweets or television (all day), but Mads has rotten, indulgent parents, and this rarely happens.
  • Once, when sent to his room in punishment, he snuck out with his Spider-Man mask over his head and seemed surprised and outraged when he was ordered back to his room, Spider-Man or not.
  • When he wears a combination of Spider-Man, Batman, and Capt. America costume parts, he becomes Captain Spider-Bat USA.
  • When I ask Mads to finish eating his breakfast, he tells me, 'I'm all hungried out, Mom."
  • He prefers the Curious George stories when George and The Man live in the city to the new country ones.
  • After re-watching The Lego Batman Movie, Mads asks, "Don't they know they're legos?"
  • He consistently points out letters--either lines and shapes that remind him of letters or actual letters on signage, etc. He is particularly keen on 'M' and 'W'. ('M' is for Martigan; 'W' is an upside-down 'M').
  • Martigan's favorite toys and games this month: Candy Land, Baymax action figure, Rescue Bots
  • Martigan's favorite shows/movies this month: Transformers: Rescue Bots, Sing
  • Martigan's favorite books this month: Curious George, Batman's Dark Secret, I Am a Witch's Cat

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