Water dog

Every morning David asks me what we’re going to do. Is it a school day? Or a park day? Is someone coming over? Is today a church day?

Then he gets down to it. “Mommy, is today a swimming day?”

No, son, it’s not. That’s my usual answer. Except when we were on vacation. On vacation every day was a swimming day.

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David loves the water. He loved it when he was a baby and he loves it more now.

We have a slip ‘n slide that pools about two inches of water at the bottom, and David holds his nose and tries to submerge his body. He sticks his head in our water table. He faux-swam in a deflated kiddie pool, working his arms and legs like Scrooge McDuck in his piles of money.

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Sometimes, completely out of the blue, David asks me, “Mommy? Why are we not swimming?” And I can’t think of a single thing to tell him.

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And here’s where I’m going to stop. You see, I had a whole post scripted in my head about how the best way to describe David in the water is to compare him to a Labrador. But not just any Labrador, David is like my parents’ 14-year old Labrador, Hudson, who loves the water much more than a normal Labrador. One summer, Hudson figured out how to roll a ball down a hill into the lake. He did it so many times that he lost a substantial amount of weight and his veterinarian had to put him on exercise restriction.

Hudson loves water so much he jumps in and out of the pool until his paws bleed. And even then he doesn’t stop. He doesn’t stop until my parents remove him from the water and put him in the basement. Again, he’s 14.

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I was going to compare David to my parents’ dog, and finish with a picture of the two of them, miserable together when we enforced rest time so they wouldn’t drown in a pool of their own fervor.

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I was going to say all that, then I happened to search my blog for previous posts about David’s love for water. I wanted to cross-check to make sure I didn’t repeat myself, you know, because my fans would BURN THIS SITE DOWN if that happened.

I did a quick search, and this is the first thing that came up. A post, titled “My water dog,” that compares David to my parents’ Labrador.

At least this time around it was a different Labrador.

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Vacation mom

When we go on vacation with Tom’s family, there are six kids and six adults. That sounds like a manageable ratio, perfect for man-to-man defense, but it’s not. Somehow toddlers multiply when they’re together. Several times a day one of us would look around and say, “Are there extra kids here? It feels like there are at least 12 kids here right now.”

Plus, two of them aren’t kids at all, they’re newborns. Each newborn required one person to hold-sway-shush, one person to retrieve things for the hold-sway-shush person, and one person to stand beside the hold-sway-shush person saying, “Oooh! Look! Look how cute! Look at that smile!”

Before we left, Tom and I decided on a division of labor. Let me just stop right there, because I hope that helps set the tone for what a trip with toddlers is like. There is a division of labor. Discussing a division of labor was not a something Tom and I did in 2004 when we went on a Caribbean cruise with 60 of our best friends from college.

Anyway, we decided on a division of labor to make sure we were on the same page — so that one of us wasn’t giving the other the side-eye because I made the peanut butter and jelly sandwiches yesterday, think you could do it today!?

The plan was Tom would hang with the older two and I would hang with Thomas, and we’d both help fill in the gaps whenever possible.

We were both totally on board. Obviously Thomas needs me, so that was a no-brainer. But I was also happy to see Tom with the big kids for two reasons.

First, I knew it would be good for our kids. I’m exhausted. I don’t have the energy or the strength to horseplay all day like Tom does. Plus, Tom has a unique bond with our kids. He is creative and silly and my kids love playing with Daddy.

Second, I knew it would be good for me. I spend a lot of the day “managing” the kids. I make food, take them to the potty, clean up messes, and shuttle them to activities. Watching Tom play with our kids is a blessing to me. It reminds me that our kids are fun. Isn’t that terrible? That I need the reminder? That I’m too busy with the day to be silly and fun and enjoy my kids? I do. I need the reminder, and when Tom dances with them in the living room or teaches them to do cannonballs off the dock, I remember.

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I was also really looking forward to some quiet time with Thomas — to nursing him without someone climbing on my back, or holding him for an hour when he fell asleep on my chest. And because I’m the type of person who likes a good challenge, my goal for the week was to actually “nap while the baby is napping.”

Everything went great. Tom ran around with the big kids all morning while Thomas and I watched from the dock or stayed inside doing things like trying to take “mama with baby in a Moby” selfies. Which, if you haven’t tried it, is really, really  hard. This is the best I got.

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Every now and then Tom would ask if I wanted to trade places, and I would balk.

I’m weird when I have a newborn. I really, really want a break, but I also get anxious when my baby is out of my line of sight. It’s not as bad with baby three, but I still feel a primal need to be completely available and present.

I would explain all this and Tom would roll his eyes and shove me in the water.

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When the baby was under the watchful eye of his daddy or one of his grandparents, I had a rare chance to play.

I got to hang out with my kids and swim and splash and feed potato chip crumbs to the fish. I took nature walks, and showed David how to make pizza dough.

Because I have a tiny baby, I almost never hold my other babies. They’re big kids, I tell them, they can walk. And they do. Except on vacation, when I wrapped my arms around them, lifted them up, pulled them close, and realized how big they’re getting. So I held them even tighter and breathed the moment deeply, and tried to not think about the day when they’ll be too big to hold.

Instead of just placating and managing my big kids, I got to be completely present with them without feeling guilty about chores or an unanswered email or my littlest baby who certainly needs to eat anytime now…

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Vacation provides a break that helps me gain perspective on our routine. This time around, the biggest surprise was how good it felt to shake off my normal mom tendencies and be vacation mom for a while.

Those moments I had with my big kids were some of my favorite all week. Like any trip that includes a division of labor, I didn’t come home well-rested, but I did come home with new energy to make sure vacation-mom doesn’t just show up on vacation.

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Linking up with Reflections from Me for Friday Reflections

Month 2

When I wasn’t looking, Thomas outgrew his bassinet. A friend stopped by and when she saw him she said, “Wow, he’s almost out of that thing!” Sure enough, she was right.

The same thing happened with 0-3 month clothes. I put on a doggy sleeper that was one of my favorites when David was a baby, and he barely had room to stretch his toes. He is growing so, so much. He already weighs 13.4 pounds and has grown two inches in the past two months. TWO INCHES! Can you imagine? Babies are incredible!

Wait, let me just stop right there. Babies are incredible, but mamas are AMAZING. I have been feeding this kid almost every two hours around the clock for the past two months. So when his doctor told me he’d grown two inches my jaw dropped because I expected she’d say at least 10 inches. And that he was training for American Ninja Warrior.

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We spent a long week traveling this month, and the trip was hard on Thomas. He’s just an infant! He’s supposed to just go with the flow, right? He’s not aware of his surroundings! He won’t get stressed by a change of scenery! RIGHT? Wrong. Thomas had multiple, inexplicable, unpredictable, bouts of screaming. I spent several evenings on vacation holding my baby while he screamed, screamed, and screamed. I sang, swaddled, shushed until he hit a wall of exhaustion and passed out, whimpering. All the while I worried about reflux or food sensitivities, and I Googled “can I get a vacation from my baby screaming on vacation?”

Then we got home and he never did it again. When your baby’s screaming, there’s a great temptation to try to “fix” your them, or give them some sort of diagnosis. But Thomas just needed me to listen to him. Thomas was telling me was that he missed being home, where he could have a long morning nap and outgrow his bassinet in peace. Or maybe he was just mad because he wanted a turn on the paddle board. There’s no way to know.

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As a two-month old, Thomas isn’t quite out of the newborn phase, but he’s also not quite a baby. He’s a bit awkward, cross-eyed, and still working on head control. Two months is when babies get acne and bald spots — it’s like adolescence and midlife crisis all at once.

But he’s also cooing and smiling, and he looks great in blue.

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Don’t tell anyone, but I’m kind of ready for the newborn phase to be over. I do love newborn babies. Ah, there is nothing better in this whole wide world than a newborn baby. I love how sweet and cuddly they are, oh my gosh the smell and the feel of their skin. I love it, I doBut I also really love everything that’s coming. I love the big smiles and giggles and when they’re a bit more interactive and sturdy.

I feel like the newborn phase is dragging. Smack dab in the middle of his newborn-ness, it feels like he’ll be a newborn forever.

Then I look at these pictures, taken just a month ago. Look at my teeny baby boy curled up like a little caterpillar in that bassinet that he barely fits in anymore.

Maybe it is going fast.

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Dear Thomas,

I think about you all the time.

I wonder what you’ll be like; whether you’ll be an easy baby, or a screamer. I wonder if your fuzzy blonde hair will be curly like Daddy’s, or if you’ll like pop music as much as Mommy.

I’m telling you, because I know I seem distracted and harried most of the time. Even if my attention is split, my affection is not. That goes for all you Krieger kids, but I especially want you to know, because you aren’t the first born, or the only girl. You’ve only known a mama who’s attention is spread thin and distracted; frayed and exhausted. You’ve only known a mama who says things like, “NO MORE TALKING TO MOMMY UNTIL SHE GETS HER COFFEE!” or who legitimately forgets when I last changed your diaper, when you last slept or ate. When David was a baby, I kept a chart for when he ate, how long, and then journaled at least 3,000 words about the whole thing. For you it’s different.

I think about you. Will you be wild, or careful? Will you be obsessed with balls like your brother? Or will you love ducks and books like your sister? Or will you spend the first year of your life screaming for something totally different? Perhaps you’ll be really, really interested in folding laundry?

I want you to know, when I go to bed at night, I think about you. And I think about how grateful I am to be your mama.

Love,
Mama

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