Thursday, May 24, 2012

Mothers and family photos

We spent Mother's Day at my mom's house this year. The stars must have been aligned just right, because all of us kids were together in the same house at the same time. You know what that means... photo op!

Mom, when did we all get so much taller than you?

The Bunce-Martodam Family

The Martodam-Carters

The Martodam-Schmidts (wait, aren't we missing someone?)

There she is!

Mother's Day smooooooch. Kisses from Marla are serious business.

Marla has an odd obsession with the television antenna on top of Mom's house. In this picture she's pointing to it and saying "anenna!"

"Enough with the love. Let me at that antenna!"

Happy Mother's Day!

Tuesday, May 1, 2012

A day in the life

Since I've slacked on Marla's monthly posts (on all posts, actually), I need to somehow document this time in our lives so it's there for posterity. Sometimes it's the little day-to-day things that are the most important. Thus, here is an example of a typical day around here. Enjoy.

2:20 a.m. - Marla wakes up for the first time. She's usually in a semi-conscious state at this point, crying pitifully and murmering, "nu-nu" (nuk) or "mummy" (monkey), both essential ingredients for a good night's sleep. I reunite her with both items and stumble back to bed.

4:42 a.m. - Marla wakes up for the second (or third, or fourth) time. She is more awake this time. I enter her room to see her standing up in her crib, dangling her monkey over the side. She points to her humidifier while babbling a string of gibberish that sounds like, "abaddaba-de-ba." Marla's language skills have progressed to a point where about 25% of what she says are real words that I can actually understand, another 25% are real words that I can't understand, and 50% is complete nonsense that nobody understands. This falls into the third category. I pick her up and bring her into our bed.

4:45 a.m. - After lying still for three minutes, Marla sits up and asks for Betsy. "Beppy? Beppy?? Mummy? Nu-nu?" Jeff brings her back to her room.

5:54 a.m. - She falls back asleep.

6:00 a.m. - My alarm goes off. I hit snooze.

6:01 a.m. - Jeff's alarm goes off. He hits snooze. (This pattern continues on an alternating basis every six minutes for approximately half an hour every morning.)

6:30 a.m. - Upon hearing Marla stirring in her crib, I push the monitor toward Jeff and jump out of bed to shower. It is easily the most peaceful ten minutes of my day.

6:55 a.m. - I put on my makeup and stall in the bathroom. Jeff has already gotten Marla up, changed her diaper, and brought her downstairs for breakfast.

7:02 a.m. - I hear scratching at the bathroom door. "Mama! Mama!" I open the door. She grins and rushes into the bathroom to unravel the toilet paper roll.

7:10 a.m. - Jeff kisses us both goodbye and leaves for work. The following 20 minutes are a blur as I finish my makeup and get dressed. Before I had a baby, this time was filled with the sounds of the Today Show and my hair dryer. Now, it is filled with a string of commands, requests and pleas, mixed with the occasional futile attempt at distraction: "Marla, put Betsy's blanket back in her bed." "Toilet paper isn't for eating." "Don't unplug your nightlight." "No, we don't play with outlets." "That's Betsy's blanket, leave it alone." "Here, do you want to play with Mama's lip gloss?" "Don't touch the garbage, icky." "Open the door, please." "Betsy's blanket stays in her bed." "Noooo-no, do NOT suck on that cord." "Keep the toilet closed." "Look at Mama's pretty bracelet, do you want to play with it?" "Be nice to Betsy." "Just one more piece of toilet paper, you've had enough." "Betsy needs her blanket, put it back in her bed." "Don't suck on that deodorant." "Here, play with my cell phone." "Don't put the phone in the toilet." "PUT BETSY'S BLANKET BACK IN HER BED."

You get the idea. In between my incessant nagging, the Today Show is drowned out by the sound of a book which plays "Up On the House Top" repeatedly with the push of a button (thank you, Aunt Alisa). Occasionally there's 30 seconds of complete silence... when I poke my head into her room to investigate, she's either reading books quietly or is in the process of emptying her hamper.

Hi, my name is Marla and I wear dirty clothes on my head.
And every day, no matter what it looked like the night before or 30 minutes before, her room looks like this by the time we leave:

7:30 a.m. - I chase Marla around the room to put her shoes and jacket on. I briefly consider making a lunch to bring to work, but decide against it.

7:32 a.m. - I put my own shoes and jacket on. I briefly consider making coffee to bring to work, but decide against it.

7:35 a.m. - I buckle Marla into her carseat and we leave the house. "Up On the House Top" will continue playing in my head for the remainder of the day.

7:50 a.m. - We arrive at daycare. When I set her down in her classroom, Marla makes a beeline for her friend, Tanner. They greet each other exuberantly and take turns grabbing whatever animal is featured on the other's shirt. The excitement quickly turns sour as Tanner sticks his finger in Marla's face and she bites it. Tears ensue.

7:53 a.m. - I inform Marla that I'm leaving for work. She responds by running over to the toy shelf, pulling down a stuffed bear, sitting on it, and bouncing up and down. In these moments, watching her play happily, I am filled with guilt and regret. Nobody on earth thinks she is as cute, funny, smart, and perfect as I do... and every day I leave her with someone else and miss a part of her growing up.

7:58 a.m. - I leave daycare for the office. I am going to be late.

8:07 a.m. - My car somehow steers itself into the Starbucks drive through.

8:15 a.m. - I arrive at work, latte in hand, feeling as if I have been awake for three hours already (actually, I HAVE been awake for three hours already). I turn on my computer and plow through my daily tasks. Some days drag on, the monotony making it impossible for my overtired brain to engage. Some days I miss Marla a lot. Some days I am so relieved to be alone in my office, away from the clutches of a one-year-old, having adult conversations about adult things, that work feels like a vacation from the rest of my life. But most days it is just work and the time flies by, filled with emails, meetings, grant proposals, deadlines, research, etc. These days I am grateful that I work full-time, happy to be doing something that brings me satisfaction and a feeling of accomplishment.

11:00 a.m. - I eat lunch with Jodi, who also has young children. We compare notes on who got less sleep last night and and catch up on all things non-kid related. It is wonderful.

4:30 p.m. - I leave work and head to daycare.

4:45 p.m. - I pick up Marla and get the run-down of her day. (Only ate fruit for lunch. Had two big poops. Slept well at nap. Played in the sandbox, so watch out for the sand in her diaper.)

5:02 p.m. - We arrive home. Marla picks up right where she left off this morning and gets down to business tearing the house apart. We walk Betsy outside to pee.

5:25 p.m. - Marla is hungry and must eat now, or else. I had planned to make something healthy for dinner, but there's no time. Grilled cheese it is.

5:37 p.m. - Marla eats a handful of grapes, an entire grilled cheese, two crackers, and zero peas. Meanwhile, Betsy waits eagerly at her feet and cleans up any and all droppings. I eat Marla's leftovers. During dinner, we follow a ritual of getting out of the high chair ("ah-duh" = all done), getting back in it ("mo peas" = more please), getting out, getting back in, and so on.

5:49 p.m. - Dinner is done, thank God. I begin doing the dishes, but Marla follows me into the kitchen to weave between my legs, so I give up and leave them for later.

6:00 p.m. - Jeff arrives home. We spend the next hour and a half playing in the living room, wrestling and reading books and sometimes taking a walk. It is the most dedicated time I spend with Marla all day, and it goes too fast. And yet, it is always a bit of a relief when bedtime rolls around.

7:30 p.m. - We give Marla a bath. I like to think of this as our "conversation time" because she is so engaged and responsive... we sing songs, practice body parts, talk about grandmas and grandpas, and practice tricks for her to perform on command later (this has yet to happen, but I'm still hopeful that it will one day).

7:45 p.m. - I put on Marla's pajamas, brush her teeth and hair, and Jeff kisses her goodnight. She blows a kiss to "Beppy."

7:48 p.m. - I turn off the lights and hand Marla her monkey and nuk. She lays her head down on my shoulder and I rock her to sleep.

8:00 p.m. - I head downstairs to finish the dishes, make my lunch for tomorrow, do a load of laundry, and pick up the toys in the living room. I should note, however, that I don't always spend my evenings doing household chores. Often, the mere thought of everything that needs to be done is enough to make me collapse on the couch, where I sit and watch TV until bedtime. It feels completely self-indulgent and irresponsible, and also absolutely necessary.

Here's the truth: Some days are really hard, harder than I ever imagined they would be. The day I described above is just a normal one, not even one where Marla is sick, or Jeff has a late game, or I venture to the grocery store after work. Even these relatively uneventful days can be difficult beyond words.

But in the quiet moments while I rock Marla to sleep, with her warm body in my arms and her soft breath on my cheek, I reflect on the day and our life, and I'm overwhelmed with gratitude and affection. The love I feel for her is consuming, forgiving, all-encompassing. These moments renew my spirit. And I know that I can do it all over again tomorrow, and the next day, and the next, and for eternity if I had to. She's so worth it.