Friday, April 20, 2012

Saltine: My New BFF

Over the past few weeks of morning sickness I’ve tried to make friends with ALL SORTS of foods. Ginger chews, ginger snaps, ginger ale, ginger tea (ok… let’s just say ANYTHING ginger), peppermint tea, citrus fruits, apple cider vinegar, chicken salad (weird craving), Indian food (weird craving that turned out to be a VERY bad idea), lemon wedges, pickles, eggs…
But alas, NO food has been MY friend. Sometimes it takes a mere fifteen minutes post-digestion for the food I’ve eaten to “resurface” in a very UNfriendly way(pineapple). Sometimes, an hour or so after eating, the food I’ve eaten causes my tummy to start swearing at me like a sailor.
I have had to beg my coworkers not to talk about food around me (ME, who usually LOVES to talk about all things food-related). If a food commercial comes on the radio or television, I turn the volume way down or look away from the screen. I simply can’t bear the sight or sound of steaks grilling, salad chewing, or ice cream licking right now. Blech.
But have I told you about my new BFF? Her name is “Saltine”. Kind of a cute name, no?
Saltine is totally unfancy. She’s not  spicy, or sassy, or thrilling in any way, shape or form.  She definitely has a dry sense of humor, and overall I’d say she is pretty square.
But the thing I absolutely LOVE about Saltine? She is always there when I need her.
She lets me carry her around with me in my pocketbook. She’s just like one of those cute little miniature poodles! She goes everywhere I go. Sure, maybe strangers don’t stop to say hello to her and pet her head or tickle her chin, but it sure does comfort me greatly to know she is within an arm’s reach at all times.
At the office, when I feel like I am on the verge of having to pay a not-so-fun visit to the public bathroom for a one-on-one session with a toilet, Saltine totally calms me down. She just has this way about her.
On the drive home from work, Saltine sits in the passenger’s seat. When the roads get bumpy and my tummy gets grumpy, Saltine jumps in and lends a hand.
And at the end of the day, she’ll sit on my nightstand and wait patiently as I sleep, knowing that every two to three hours I will be waking and needing her companionship.
I’d rather not be nauseous 24 hours a day, but if I AM going to be terribly uncomfortable, it’s great to have such a reliable friend I know I can depend on. I don’t know what I would ever do without her.

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

The Daycare Situation

I’ve written a few times in the recent past about Emmy’s transition from a “waddler room” to a “toddler room” at her daycare center. While at first I was trying to be optimistic about the required change, I am no longer feeling so rosy about the situation. The new room that Emmy has transitioned to is rubbing me the wrong way for so many reasons, a few of which I have listed below.
Issue #1: Em has been placed in a room with children theoretically ranging in age from 18 months to three years old.  The problem is that in reality, all of the nine other children in Emmy’s classroom are way more on the 3 year old side of the spectrum than they are on the 18 month old side of the spectrum. This means Emmy is surrounded by kids that are twice her height, who have three times the motor skills she has, and a vocabulary of about ten times as many words as Em is currently speaking.
Initially, I was looking forward to Em being around older kids. I thought it would be great for her development. But when I realized that she would be the ONLY little kid in a sea of older toddlers (and in my mind, three year olds don’t even qualify as toddlers, since they are no longer “toddling”), I got a little nervous. The new teachers tell me that all of the kids in Emmy’s class think of her as “the baby” of the group and treat her as such. Every time I have arrived at pick up in the afternoon, Emmy is being held in her teacher’s arms, as if the teacher ALSO thinks of her as a baby. I don’t think Emmy’s development is going to thrive if she is treated like a baby among big kids. I just wish she were with kids who were more her age and at her level of development.
Issue #2: For the three weeks that Em was transitioning to her “toddler room”, she had two teachers who seemed very lovely, engaged, and interested in Em’s adjustment. Those teachers have disappeared. I know one of them left the daycare center altogether. I am not sure what happened to the other teacher. So Emmy’s first few full days in her new room have been spent with new teachers with whom she has no familiarity. Not very helpful at all.
Issue #3: For the first two days that I dropped Emmy off in her new room, the teacher’s assistant very aggressively grabbed my daughter out of my arms. She didn’t even give me a chance to say goodbye to Emmy! Em was howling up a storm, screaming “mama!” and the teacher’s assistant just whisked her away and made a “shoo”ing motion at me. I’m sorry.. whaaat? That is just NOT okay in my book. It was Emmy’s first week in a new environment. I should be allowed to stay a few minutes with her, to ease her into unfamiliar surroundings.  
I didn’t want to make a scene, because I figured the LAST thing Emmy needed on her first week in a new classroom was her mama screaming at the people she was supposed to trust and connect with. Instead, I turned on my heels and quickly exited the building. I headed to my car where I cried into my steering wheel (daycare issues combined with pregnancy hormones do not combine well). I felt so confused, frustrated, and hurt.
When I dropped Emmy off at daycare this morning, the teacher’s assistant did not grab her from me (thank goodness, because I was ready to whollop her if she did). But Emmy tensed up when the teacher came to get her from me. Her whole body went rigid and she turned her face away from her teacher as the teacher approached. When I finally handed her off, Em screamed bloody murder (and I went to my car to cry again). To me, that is not a good sign.
Issue #4: When I dropped Emmy off at daycare this morning, Em’s teacher had misplaced an incident report from yesterday, stating that Em had bumped her head. When I inquired as to what had happened, her teacher told me she had been sitting in a chair that was meant for BIGGER KIDS, and that she fell over in the chair. So why was Emmy allowed to sit in one of the big kid chairs to begin with? Why didn’t they just put her in a chair that was more suitable for her? Rrrgh.
Issue #5: When we arrived at Emmy’s new room this morning, there was only one other three year old boy who had arrived prior to us. The boy was sitting by himself, on (not at) one of the classroom tables, looking completely bored out of his skull. Neither the teacher nor the teacher’s aide was trying to engage him in activities. The entire time I was there (a good 15 minutes or so), neither of the teachers spoke a single word to the boy who was sitting by himself, staring at the windows. It was just so weird, and felt very wrong to me. Very wrong.
Because of the above listed issues, and a few other weird mother’s instinct kind of feelings I’ve gotten from Em’s new room and teachers, I’ve decided to look for a new daycare program. I have an appointment to check out one program tomorrow, and have an application in at another program that came highly recommended from a co-worker. I’m hoping that one of these centers will work out. I know that at both centers, Em would be in a room with children who are more her age, which comforts me greatly.
In the mean time, I don’t know if it is worth talking to the director of Em’s current daycare center. I feel like all of my concerns are valid, but if my intent is to take Emmy out of their program, is it worth stirring the waters and voicing my issues? Because the other children in Em’s class are so much older, their parents might not share many of my worries. Still, in the interim, I would like to not dread bringing Emmy to her daycare room for three days each week, and if there is anything that could be done to help resolve some of these matters, maybe that would be of some consolation.
What would you do in my situation?

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

Vasovagal Syncope Strikes Again

Note: I feel like I should apologize in advance, because this is the third post in a row that is rather complainy. Normally, I really do try to keep a positive outlook on life, and I see my blog as a way of sharing my joy with others.
 But I also don’t want to make stuff up, or pretend things are better than they are. I’ve had a tough week. So I ask that you just bear with me, and put up with my stink for a little while longer. I’m really hoping that things will start looking up in a few weeks…
So I had a little meltdown on Saturday.
I was watching Emmy by myself, which was no easy feat, given that my hormones are raging and my morning sickness is REALLY round-the-clock-holy-crap-could-I-be-any-more-miserable sickness. I did my best to be a good mama, and tried to enjoy my time with my daughter, but I ain’t gonna lie. It was a huge challenge. By 9:00 am I was ready for a three hour nap, and Emmy wasn’t exactly thrilled with the thought of curling up next to me on the couch to read books. So we did what she wanted to do, and ran around outside (she ran, I kind of hobbled), played in the dirt, and sprayed each other with water. It was fun-ish. It would have been more fun if I hadn’t felt like throwing up the entire time.
Around 10:30 am, I decided I needed to floss my teeth. When I did, part of my upper molar (way in the back) came off of my tooth as if it were a piece of food. Snap! I DO have a really big filling in that tooth, and it had been bothering me for a quite a few days, but I had thought maybe I just had a piece of food lodged way deep between my teeth. Guess I was wrong.
So I freaked out a little and called my dentist’s office, even though I was well aware that because it was a Saturday, no one would pick up the phone. The voicemail message provided the emergency number of another local dentist, who just happens to be a family friend. I immediately called the dentist and set up an appointment to see him that afternoon (I apologized profusely for ruining his weekend plans). I then called my mother-in-law and asked her if she could watch Em while I went to the appointment (and apologized profusely for ruining her weekend plans).
I was a little nervous about what was going to happen at the dental appointment. You see, I have this nasty case of Vasovagal Syncope, which basically means that any time my body experiences sudden, unexpected pain, or any time I see my own blood, I feel like I am going to faint, and then, just before I am about to faint, I throw up all over the place and subsequently feel better. At the last dental appointment I had, they had to give me laughing gas or something just to calm me down so they could finish what they were doing.  It’s not just dental work that sends me for a loop. I’ve had incidents where just hitting my funny bone was enough to make me feel faint and pukey. Fun times.
So when the dentist on Saturday started yanking at the part of my tooth that had broken off (with no novicane administered prior to the pulling), I knew it wasn’t going to end well. I tried telling the dentist I was hurting, but apparently he didn’t hear me. About two minutes later, the room started spinning, my ears started ringing, and all of the blood in my body started pooling in my lower extremities.  The dentist leaned me back in my chair, patted my cold clammy brow with a wet wash cloth, and told me to breathe deeply. I couldn’t breathe deeply (try as I did), but I DID manage to sit up and vomit all over his room (I even filled up the dental spittoon).
I kept apologizing for my behavior. I felt so bad for dragging him in on a Saturday, ruining his weekend, and then throwing up all over all of his dental equipment. After he (very quickly) finished my dental work, I asked him if I could help him clean up the mess. He said no, that this kind of thing happens in his line of work all the time (but probably not on a Saturday, with only him in the office). He told me just to make sure I was ok to drive myself home. I have a feeling he just wanted to get me out of the office as fast as humanly possible.
When I arrived home, Emmy of course wanted to jump immediately into my arms and play with me. After the whole dental incident, and the exhausting morning, and with my general state of being so sub-par, all I could do (after my mother-in-law had left) was hold Em in my arms and cry. And cry. And then I called my older sister and cried some more.
My husband, bless his soul, volunteered to take Emmy out to see a hockey game that evening, so I could just sit and cry by myself, and get some rest. A long night’s sleep was a real gift. I felt only semi-run-over-by-a-truck on Sunday.
I have another dental appointment on Thursday to follow up on my cracked tooth. I swear, if the dentist starts pulling any suspicious tools out of his drawer, I'm just gonna gather up my belongings and run out of the building. Screw it. My body can only take so much craziness.

Friday, April 13, 2012

Nothing Left to Give

It is only Day 6 of full-on pregnancy symptoms, and I’m already losing my mind. How in god’s name am I going to make it through another five weeks of this insanity?
I wish I could just buck up. I wish I could soldier on, and not let the morning sickness drag me down.  But seriously, between the nausea, the fatigue, trying to pay attention to (and breastfeed) Em, and balancing all of my job responsibilities, I just feel totally drained, like I have nothing left to give.
It’s like I am a zombie, going through all the motions of life but not really paying attention to anything. I get my work done, but not with the same level of attention and care that I was able to two weeks ago. I hug and kiss Emmy, or read her a book, but am distracted by constant rolling waves of nausea. I blog, but I only blog about morning sickness :). I try to act like a normal person, and have normal person conversations, but inside I am really just thinking about how horrible I feel.
Ok, I was slightly distracted from my nausea by the hilarity of last night’s episode of The Office, but that only lasted 30 minutes.
I think the symptoms of this pregnancy are a lot worse than they were with Em.  I don’t remember wanting to tear my hair out and run screaming towards the hills when I was pregnant with her. I wonder if the intensity of symptoms this time around is because, with Em’s crazy sleep habits and night feedings, I am unable to sleep as much as I did during my first pregnancy. Maybe breastfeeding combined with the pregnancy is just taxing my body too much. People are telling me I should wean Emmy, that that would help my body better deal with having to sustain a new baby. But are they right? I would hate to wean Emmy before she is ready, just to find out my morning sickness and fatigue have nothing to do with breastfeeding her.
Maybe there is no rhyme or reason (other than hormonal fluctuations) behind my current state of awfulness. Maybe I just have to somehow come to grips with the fact that I am going to be feeling this awful for at least another five weeks (and pray that my symptoms subside at week twelve). Maybe I should tie a satchel of peppermint leaves under my nose and ignore people when they look at me like I am crazy. Maybe I should paint the bottom of my toilet bowl with pretty flowers and sunshine and rainbows, so at least I have something nice to look at every morning. Maybe I should wear three pairs of Sea Bands instead of just one.
Or maybe this whole thing is just a state of mind situation, and I could improve my well being with some meditation (I’ve never done meditation, but I am so willing to try it if it means I will feel better). Maybe, with a little more effort, I COULD buck up, and I could figure out a way to embrace all the fatigue, the nausea, and my zombie-head, and welcome them as a sign of a hopefully healthy pregnancy.  The problem is, at this moment, I feel too exhausted to make mental and emotional efforts. I just feel like I’ve got nothing left to give.

Thursday, April 12, 2012

Here We Go Again!

At the end of February, when my husband and I discussed our family planning timeline, we decided we would give ourselves a year to try and get pregnant again. We were both pretty excited about the efforts we would have to make to try and conceive. For four or five nights every month, we would dim the lights and revisit our carefree pre-Emmy days. If we managed to get pregnant within a year, that would be fantastic. If we couldn’t get pregnant, at least we would have had a fun time trying. It sounded like an awesome plan.
But then my husband decided to show off his insemination skills. He got me preggers on our first official month of trying.
Of course, we are cautiously thrilled. Many women would think it is way too early for me to break the news to the general public, but honestly, I have never been good at keeping secrets. I’ve already told my family, and my work (the folks that I work for are incredibly supportive, as I knew they would be).  The way I figure, if something happens, and I lose this pregnancy, I will probably want to talk to people (and blog) about the emotions of that experience, too. But of course I am trying to focus on being optimistic, and just fully appreciate how lucky we are that we were able to get pregnant again so quickly.  
 I’ve tried half-heartedly to write about other things going on in our lives, just to try and push breaking the pregnancy news back a few weeks. But the thing is, I’ve got horrible horrible morning sickness that I really want to complain about, and I have so many thoughts and emotions about having a second child I would like to share. I simply can’t pretend to be thinking about other things.
Between trips to the toilet (this morning was the worst… dry heaving stomach acid… ugh..), I worry about this baby’s health. I worry about whether I am going to need another c-section or whether I might be able to have a vbac birth. I worry about how I am going to transition from loving one child to loving two children. I worry that I will never be able to love my second child as much as I love Emmy. I worry about how I am going to divide my attention equally between my kids. I worry about weaning Emmy before the new baby arrives.  I worry about whether I am ever going to be able to get a decent night’s sleep again. I worry about how we are going to be able to afford childcare, and what other changes we are going to have to make in order to raise two children.
I also fantasize a lot. I daydream about reading books and doing art projects with both of my children. I daydream about taking our little clan on lots of camping trips. I think about Em helping me wash the baby, and helping me put the baby down for a nap. Mostly, I fantasize about Emmy having a lifelong playmate, and the two siblings enjoying each other’s company and companionship for years to come.
I don’t know what lies ahead, nor can I control it. But in this moment, despite the nausea, the fatigue, and the indigestion, I feel incredibly blessed.
That having been said, if you have any secrets to fighting off morning sickness, please share! I am currently wearing two sea bands around my wrists, eating lots of protein throughout the day, and trying to drink as much water as humanly possible. But I still feel like I’ve been run over by a truck.
I look forward to hearing from you, as always…

Thursday, April 5, 2012

A Serious Case of Working Mama Envy...

To read a beautifully written response to my post on SAHM Envy (written by a SAHM), please visit this page. It is honest and heartfelt, and provides lots of insight into why the SAHM experience might not be 100% fulfilling for every mama out there.

Packing for Vacation, a.k.a My Personal Hell

Is there anything more fun in life than packing family up for a vacation?
Hmmmm… let’s see… I can only think of about A GAZILLION THINGS.
Taking a vacation used to be so easy. C and I would wait until the last minute to pack our bags, because it was something that could be done in less than 15 minutes. I’d fold my clothes into my luggage, put my toiletries into their separate compartment, figure out which shoes to bring, throw in a few books or magazines for reading during my “down time” (ahhhh… “down time”. I remember it so well….) and Voila! Done! Baby, I’m ready to hit the road!
Last night I had to pack my bag and Emmy’s bag for the upcoming holiday weekend. I am pretty sure it took me seventeen hours to get us “prepared” (prepared is in quotes, because I still have a sinking feeling that  I forgot to include some very important items). By the time I was done with the whole ordeal, I was panting, sweating, and trapped under a large suitcase, with a pair of Emmy’s pants wrapped around my head.
In order to make packing a more pleasant experience, I told myself I would come up with a packing list for future family trips.  If I were to base this list on the rationalization I employed during last night’s packing session, here is what the list would look like:
·         849 diapers. Yes, it SEEMS like a lot for only three days away, but you NEVER KNOW. Em could always develop a bad case of diarrhea, or dysentery (wouldn’t that make our vacation enjoyable). Discovering we have run out of diapers while our daughter is nekked and running around our hotel room screaming is never a fun time, so it is best to err on the side of caution.
·         45 “bottoms” and 67 “tops”. Let’s face it. Because I am a mama, I have no time to check what the weather is going to be like during our vacation. So we must be prepared for anything mother nature might have in store. I pack tank tops, t-shirts, long sleeved shirts, sweaters, sweatshirts, and onesies, as well as skirts, shorts, leggings, jeans, and snow pants. Thank goodness, each piece of Em’s clothing is only about 3 inches long, so I can fit her entire wardrobe in one suitcase.
·         Emmy’s favorite hoodie. Because even when I dress my daughter in her fancy “holiday dress” with her dressy tights and patent leather shoes and her hair done in cute little pigtails, she is going to insist that she ALSO wear her favorite (and my least favorite) ratty, filthy polyester striped hoodie. “It just completes the look, mama. Why are you so FASHION ignorant??”
·         8 pairs of shoes and 32 pairs of socks. Because Em is kind of obsessed with taking her shoes and socks off at the most inopportune moments, and I only notice she is hobbling around with one sneaker thirty minutes after the other shoe/sock combo has been misplaced, never ever to be found again.
·         1 toothbrush. I should really be packing at least 6 toothbrushes, because Emmy loses toothbrushes more often than she loses her temper (which is actually pretty often). But I feel like no matter where we are staying, there is likely to be a CVS or Walgreen’s within a stone’s throw, so we can always pick up another toddler-appropriate toothbrush. And in a pinch, I am not afraid to douse my finger in toothpaste and use that as a makeshift tooth cleaning tool.
·         Overflowing basket of toys. This is the part that gets me the most nervous, because predicting what Emmy is going to want to play with is akin to predicting winning lottery numbers.  I try to include a variety of toys, including stuffed animals, dolls, balls, interactive weeble wobble house, puzzles, etc. Of course, as soon as I pack a laundry basket full of Em’s toys, she wants to play with ALL of the toys I have gathered together. I had to repack this basket about 19 times last night. It was a blast.
·         Bedtime ritual paraphernalia. Emmy’s sleeping habits (or lack thereof) continue to be a huge issue in our house. She gets up around 93 times a night to breastfeed, and sleeps in 20 minute intervals (if you and I ever get together, please don’t tell me about your three month old sleeping through the night. I will cry). The only thing we HAVE been able to establish is an initial bedtime ritual, which includes a lamb that makes soothing ocean sounds, a stuffed giraffe, a pacifier, and several lullabyes. In order to make sure I get at least 3 hours of sleep a night while on vacation, I must bring all of these things along with us.
·         Snacks. Because Emmy’s growth-spurt-induced eating binges can strike at any time, and when they strike, I’d better be equipped with SOMETHING she can eat. I like to be prepared with yogurt bites, crackers, and fruit pouches. I feel that these options are much healthier than buying her a spur-of-the-moment Mocha Latte at Starbucks.
·         Tylenol/Ibuprofren. Because I just KNOW Emmy’s teeth are going to start killing her the minute we get on the highway, with 274 miles of driving ahead of us. And I would rather not leave my daughter screaming on the side of the road.
·         I take the contents of the most recently completed laundy and dump them into a suitcase. I zip up the suitcase. I cross my fingers that there are enough pairs of underwear to get me through the weekend (which means I have to be extra careful when I sneeze). I hope that on this vacation, I will run into strangers that I will never see again, and/or relatives that will forgive me for looking like Mary Kate Olsen. Throw in a brush, eyeliner and mascara, deodorant and a toothbrush. Done.
I know my methods of preparation need work, but luckily our next family vacation won’t take place until August. I figure that gives me plenty of time to refine my lists, thus reducing my pre-vacation anxiety.
Or better yet, maybe I just won’t UNPACK from this vacation.
Do you have packing tips you would like to share? Would you like to send me YOUR family packing lists? Please??

Wednesday, April 4, 2012

Our Pediatrician Needs A Frequent Flyer Program

“Are you kidding me, Em? Are you really sick AGAIN? You’ve gotta be kidding me. Is your nose seriously runny? Did I just hear you cough? Please tell me you’re kidding… Ugh. You just threw up on my shoe. So I guess you’re not kidding, huh?”
I’m pretty sure Em finished her strep throat antibiotics prescription thirteen seconds ago. Apparently, when the germies found out she was momentarily healthy, they held a press conference for the rest of the germs in the Capital District area, which has resulted in my daughter once again being ill.
I was warned by many a parent that daycare is a cesspool of sickness, and that our family would likely get a fair share of colds and other viruses during her first year of exposure to other kids. But what our family has experienced is in no way a “fair share”. I’d say it’s more of a “monopoly”.
I’m pretty sure that in the past three months, I have spent more lunch hours visiting our pediatrician than I have spent eating a sandwich (you know it’s bad when your doctor greets you with, “what is it THIS time?”). Each time we visit, I feel like I have to apologize profusely to the nurses and doctor. I feel like they must think I am an incompetent mama who never washes her daughter’s hands.  I swear I try to do my part to keep Em healthy, but in the mama vs. germies battle, I always seem to come out the big time loser.
Which is why, when I take Em to the doctor this afternoon, I am going to ask that they enroll me in a frequent flyer pediatrician program. If I am going to be using their services so often, it would be nice to get a few “perks” for all my patronage.
Here is what I propose:
·         Each time I bring my daughter in with a runny nose and a cough that turns out to be JUST a runny nose and a cough, I accumulate 5 points.
·         Each time I bring my daughter in with a runny nose and a cough that turns out to be strep throat, I accumulate 15 points.
·         Each time I bring my daughter in with a runny nose and a cough that turns out to be an ear infection, I accumulate 25 points (if you knew how hard it is to try and get my daughter to take the gawdawful ear-infection fighting antibiotic, you would understand why this deserves so many points).
·         Each time I bring my daughter in with a runny nose, a cough, and a mysterious rash, I accumulate 30 points (with 20 bonus points if the rash turns out to be something serious).
And so on, and so forth. I propose that at the end of the year, I would be able to turn in all of my points for a relaxing day at the spa, or a vacation for three to a germ-free far-away island.
It’s not that I need extra incentive to pay more frequent visits to the pediatrician. I just feel that if I am going to be taking Em to see her doctor every Tuesday and Friday afternoon, there should be a reason for me to LOOK FORWARD to these visits, rather than just dreading the diagnosis.
There is, of course, a slight chance that Em’s pediatrician won’t be enthusiastic about my proposed program. If that happens, I think I will take my idea to Em’s daycare, and ask them for an INFrequent Flyer program, which rewards parents whose children spend 75% of their school days at home, in bed, hopped up on Tylenol. Maybe THEY will go for the idea.

Tuesday, April 3, 2012

The Goldilocks Situation

This past Saturday, Em and I helped celebrate the 4th birthday of one of our favorite pint-sized family friends. The party took place at a local kid-oriented art space.  Em had a fabulous time hanging with all the four year-olds, engaging (with my help and guidance) in activities like painting, playing party games, and drawing with chalk on the chalkboard walls (part of me SO wants to make one of Em’s bedroom walls into a chalkboard surface, while the other part of me knows that this would likely result in EVERY wall in our house being covered with chalk).  Sure, she may have tried eating the paint on her paper plate palette one or two times, and she didn’t quite get the concept of “pass the paintbrush” (a creative spin on the “hot potato” classic). Sure, it was a little unpleasant when she decided to throw the entire contents of the bucket of chalk across the floor. But for a full afternoon, Em got to kind of be one of the big kids, and got to kind of participate in big kid activities. I could tell even "kind of" being a big kid made Em over-the-moon happy.
Later in the evening, we joined the family of the birthday girl and several of our friends (both grown up and not-so-grown-up) for dinner at the birthday girl’s house. I treasure these moments with friends so much, especially since they are so few and far between these days. The dynamic of our get-togethers has changed pretty drastically in the past few years. Whereas we all used to get together at a local dive bar for an evening of karaoke and greasy fries, many of us now have young kiddos, and have had to curtail our Saturday night plans. Sure, we still have a great time together, but it’s hard to collectively let our hair down when there are always diapers to be changed, hungry little mouths to feed, and children asleep on our shoulders.
While I tried my best to focus on catching up with my friends, I found myself constantly distracted. I was busy observing the way Emmy was interacting with all the other kids in the house. Em’s tenuous toddler status put her in a somewhat awkward Goldilocks situation, where she was too big to hang with the babies, and too little to join the big kids.
Two of our close friends have babies around the 5 – 6 month age range. Em looked at them like they were aliens who had just invaded our planet. She approached them warily, as if she wasn’t sure whether they came in peace, or were about to shoot lethal laser beams out of their eyes. When it was my turn to hold a baby, Em watched me, seeming to wonder why on earth I was making friends with one of the space invaders. But rather than immediately walking over and peeing on my leg as a means of marking her territory, Em hung back and managed to stifle her jealousy for at least a few minutes. I was quite proud of her.
By the end of the evening, Em seemed to have warmed up to the "weird baby creatures", even touching one of their hands and trying to talk to one of the baby girls as she sat in a baby bouncer. To be honest, I am pretty sure Em was trying to convince the baby to get out so she could take a turn in the bouncer. But Em’s got a kind and naturally nurturing soul, and was gentle and friendly with the little ones. It made me think that Em will make a wonderful older sister, if we are blessed with another child some day.
Em also tried hanging with the big kids (ages 4, 5, and 7) but that didn’t really go over so well. It was obvious that Em felt like she was “one of the gang,” but the gang didn’t exactly share her feelings. When the big kids ran around the house, from living room to bedroom and back again, Em waddled after them, hanging out on the periphery of wherever they were playing. On a few occasions, I saw her trying to communicate with the big kids in her made-up “toddlerish,” but they just kinda looked at her like “ummmm, what are you trying to say, baby?” and continued with their activities.
Watching Em try unsuccessfully to fit in with the older crowd was a little hard on my heart, actually, and I got a little emotional.  Being a card-carrying member of the overly-sensitive mama club (I should really run for president), I ignored the lump that was forming at the back of my throat and told myself not to interfere. I knew I couldn’t force the big kids to play with Em, and I also realized that I probably cared a heck of a lot more than Em did about her not being included.
This Goldilocks stage of toddlerhood is tough to navigate. Em is quickly outgrowing many of her baby behaviors, which of course makes me sentimental for the days when I could just carry her around in the Ergo carrier, with her little body close to my heart at all times. Em is also not quite ready for the big leagues, and still depends on me for an interpretation of her needs (and an occasional breastfeeding). But of course, even though she is too big to be considered a baby, and too small to be considered a big kid, to me Emmy is always “just right”.