Tuesday, July 29, 2014

Two good.


The last few months have been a true rollercoaster of a time with you.  We've experienced our lowest moments yet as a mama-daughter duo, but also, some of our very best.  I'm beginning to distinguish a pattern.  You (and maybe all toddlers, how the heck should I know?) are prone to sudden, massive mental leaps - one day you wake up a different person with new questions, deeper understanding, and altered preferences, but you don't yet have the words to convey any of this to us.  Your current vocabulary is insufficient to express the complexity of thoughts rattling around your semi-baby brain, so you are frustrated.  Angry.  You act out, fight me on everything, hit and bite and throw guacamole around.  You are a tumultuous beast of a child, to put it mildly, and then.... it's over, just as suddenly as it began.  One day you come up with 50 new words and you are my sweet, sunny, loving baby girl again.

A less happy moment

June was one of those crazy frustrating months for us, but July has been blissful.  Life with you right now is an endless love-fest, with hours spent laying on the floor while you climb all over me, stopping only for the occasional "big hug" and "fish kiss."

You're a different kid these days, and the biggest development by far has been with your words.  Four months ago you had around 80 words, but now I'd estimate that number closer to 1,000!  You talk all day long, about everything.  You put together rather complicated sentences, everything from "Mama, get up!" to "I take bath and then watch Frozen and mama do hair!"  You say seem to understand the concepts of "tomorrow" and "later," and you are very good at remembering the names of new people you meet.  Best of all, you can now tell us more about how you feel. Simple phrases like "it hurts!" or "foot itchy!" or "too hot!" have taken our relationship to a whole new level.  We can have real conversations now, and actually communicate to each other.  I can see in your eyes, how happy you are when you say something that I can understand and respond to. 

You love nothing better than to have a job.  I will be sacked out on the couch sometimes, only to have you come up and demand to "help Mama."  I then have to get up and figure out something to do that you can assist with.  You're a pro at sorting laundry, unloading the dishwasher, and dusting.  You will occasionally get tired of your own clutter, proclaim, "I make a mess!" and then toddle around gathering up your toys and putting them away while I gawk at you.  Fingers crossed that this quirk persists into teenage-years and beyond!

You just seem so mature lately, and do so many things that I (who didn't know much about 2-year-olds before you) never thought a 2-year-old could do.  You recognize most of the alphabet on site; You've memorized Goodnight Moon and another ABC book, and read them to ME at bedtime; you know all the words to more than five songs; over the weekend you told us right around noon each day that you wanted to sleep, marched into your room, and asked to be put down for a nap.  You eat almost everything we put in front of you, from broccoli to beans, kale to cucumbers, spicy goat stew to smoked trout on toast, and you haven't met a fruit you do not love.  Every time I give you a bite of my fig, or slide a morsel from my plate to yours, you offer up a sweet, unprompted, "thank you, Mama."  I find myself asking out loud, "Who ARE you?  Who is this kid in the crib where my baby once slept?"

Your passion for cake is almost scary.

But I know who you are.

You are a nurturer - your favorite toys right now are your baby dolls, which you spend hours carrying around, changing, bottle-feeding, and strapping to your high chair for pretend breakfasts of oatmeal and peanut butter.  If I lay on the couch, you immediately find a blanket to put over me.  Two weeks ago I saw you run up to a kid at daycare who fell down and pat him on the back.  You like to take care of everyone around you.

You are a leader - I feel that your language skills have skyrocketed because you were tired of watching your daddy and I do everything wrong, and felt we needed to be corrected sooner than later. You dictate, delegate, fight to have things done your way and in your time, and there isn't a complacent bone in your body.  Type A all the way, just like Mama.

Naughty ice cream smile

You are a thinker - you've never been a very outgoing child.  You want to sit and observe, ask questions, repeat words, and make sure you have a full picture of what's going on before you jump in to participate.  You are not the slightest bit impulsive, preferring to talk things through and tread cautiously into new scenarios.  We're trying to help you be more confident in new situations, to not be intimidated by new people and places.  Your reserved nature serves you well though, since at two you can already spell your name and count to 20.  Quite the intellectual, just like Daddy.

You are loving - with new words comes a new understanding of how we communicate in this culture, and you have been very perceptive to these nuances.  You say please and thank you constantly, and in the proper context (we prompt you more for "please," but you are generous with "thank you!")  You thanked me one day for changing your diaper, and say thank you to us several times during each meal.  You've been saying "bless you" at sneezes and coughs for months, and will remind us if we forget to say it.  One day you tried to shove me out of your way and said, "excuse me," which blew my mind (I didn't teach you that; must have been daycare). You love sitting on laps and giving big hugs and randomly planting enormous kisses on me in public. You always want to see your Daddy and I kiss, and will pull us together sometimes for a big group hug.  Every night ends with you wrapped around me, snuggling into my neck while I sing to you.

Snuggles and silly faces

This is so long already, but I could go on - there is just so much substance to you these days. Your personal growth is astounding, and our relationship is evolving from caretaker-baby into this living, vibrant partnership between mama and daughter.  Parenting you is harder these days, less about physically keeping you alive and more about teaching and guiding (I can only imagine how much more complex this will be in 10 years or so), but also infinitely more rewarding.

I tell you this at least twice every hour, but here it is again - I love you, baby girl.  You make every day gloriously bright.

Happy 2nd Birthday, Amaliya!

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Friday, July 18, 2014


For every time I've rolled my eyes, subtly or not-so-subtly, at the kids screaming, spilling water, or throwing food in restaurants...

For every time I blatantly stated that MY child would spend their afternoons playing with me in the great outdoors, instead of sacked out on the couch with a movie while I snuck a few minutes of peaceful phone time.

For every time I've nodded and smiled as harried parents describe to me the struggles of dealing with their strong-willed, spirited children, but in my head thought, "that will never be me..."

For every time I've heard a mother yelling at her child in public, and thought she's probably either out of control or seeking attention...

For every morsel of processed food that I swore my child would never eat...

For every time that I, in my childless naivete, had a judgy thought about the personal choices of my friends with children...

For every single smug thought that ever crossed my mind in relation to kids, parenting, and the joy/struggle of mother/fatherhood...

For all those.... I am truly sorry.  Just know that karma came back to bite me.  Wait.... that wasn't karma... it was a 2-year-old with a full set of teeth!  It's a good thing she's so cute.

Tuesday, July 8, 2014

Mini-vacation semi-fail

I already know that the best part of parenting, for me, is going to be experiencing things again through the wonderstruck eyes of a child.  Though I honestly love every phase that Amaliya has passed through (even the challenging ones) I can't help but look forward to the day where she is able to come on adventures with me, see amazing things and have memorable experiences.  Sometimes I get carried away though, and try and push things too soon.  Hence, we ended up at the San Diego Zoo Safari Park a couple weeks ago.

With a very tired baby.
We were in Escondido for a friend's baby shower and I thought, why not get a hotel room for the night, and go to Safari Park the next day?  Amaliya loves animals, and running around parks, so I thought she would really enjoy it.

Things did not go as planned, of course.  We stayed late at the baby shower, keeping her up past her bedtime.  She was wired and refused to sleep in the Pack and Play in the hotel, and ended up sharing one of the double beds in our room with me all night.  She only slept 8 hours as opposed to her usual 11-12.

She was mildly excited about some big birds, and pointed out the water wherever we went.  Otherwise?  Our crazy active toddler spent the whole trip happily strapped into her stroller.  Every time we took her out to show her something, she would crawl right back in and ask to be buckled.  Elephants?  Who cares!  Sleeping lions?  Not impressed.  Not even the baby gorilla sparked her interest (though, I thought it was amazing).

I admit my mistake.  Almost-two is not quite old enough for some types of adventures.... at least not when you're sleep deprived and overstimulated.  It was still a great time though. We strolled around for a few hours in the gorgeous weather, met a very nice man who walked us through the park (where he's been coming regularly for over 20 years) and told us interesting stories, ate lunch, and packed up to come home.

We'll try again, maybe in a year or two.  It's easy to forget that, when you're two, you don't need expensive parks and big attractions.  Amaliya would have been just as happy if we took her outside and let her climb a flight of stairs 20 times, or spent the afternoon swimming in the apartment pool.  Still, I look forward to the day when she's up for the big outings.  I know she's going to be a phenomenal traveling buddy.

It wasn't a total fail, though.  We did get a few smiles out of her!

Tuesday, July 1, 2014

An accidental poisoning

So the thing about dining with toddlers is... don't do it.  Just don't.

They scream, they won't sit, they either throw the food or mash it in their hair, their armpits, their belly buttons, basically anywhere except their mouths. They make the thought of any sort of peaceful dinner conversation laughable.  Not only is it frustrating, it's dangerous!  Having a full sippy cup of water spiked on your foot, grains of rice flung at your eyes... I need protective gear just to eat a family meal, these days.

We went out to our favorite Mexican place a couple weeks ago, because Amaliya behaves ever-so-slightly better when we're out in public (our most recent Chipotle run notwithstanding... innocent strangers were beaned...  I don't want to talk about it). Anyway, we were at Maria's Cafe, it had been a rough week, and I was indescribably relieved to have a meal delivered to my table, fully cooked, and eat it without a kid screaming in my face.  So relieved, in fact, that I did not take my usual precautions when ordering.  I asked for a salad, and did not blink when it came to me in a fried tortilla bowl.

I passed on the cheese and sour cream, but for some reason, downed half the bowl without even thinking.  I noticed it tasted strange, but it never crossed my mind that it might be a flour tortilla - off limits, for someone with Celiac Disease like me.

I started feeling off on the ride home, but it wasn't until I was on the couch two hours later, barely able to hold my head up, that I realized what had happened.  I ate gluten.  I poisoned myself.  It brought on what I think might have been a migraine.  I've never had one, but the symptoms - massive headache, body aches, nausea, sensitivity to light - fit the bill.

I have accidentally poisoned myself 4 other times since I stopped eating gluten forever in June 2010.  The first time was August 2010, I ate a cheese croissant at Panera and had no reaction, but my body had not yet adjusted to the new diet.  July 2011, I ate a fast food hamburger (my first since 2004, and definitely my last) and was incredibly sick.  September 2011, I ate a contaminated fish taco and was sick.  December 2012, I ate a chocolate chip cookie, and felt off but not terrible.  My body has definitely grown more sensitive over the years, since the gluten has been out of my system for so long.  I used to eat bread three times a day.  Now, half of a flour tortilla makes me very sick.

Those of you who know me, know that I am cautious with my diet to an anal-retentive degree. So why, and how, did this happen?  The short answer: complacency.  We don't eat out too often, and when we do, we frequent the same places.  I am familiar with the menus and know what I can and can't eat.  Honestly, my gluten sensitivity seldom crosses my mind when I eat out these days, because knowing what to look/ask for is second nature.  This time, I was distracted, frustrated, and just plain lazy about my food.  I didn't take the appropriate precautions, and I paid the price.

A rare peaceful moment during dinner.... also, could they BE any more related??
There is a lot of negative backlash against food sensitivities lately.  Those who adhere to "special" diets such as gluten-free without thoroughly understanding it are being called out and publicly shamed.  I, too, am irritated at people who have jumped on the gluten free bandwagon without really understanding its implications, because these people damage the credibility of all of us. They make it that much harder for those of us with intolerance due to an autoimmune condition to find compassion and understanding when eating in restaurants or asking questions at grocery stores.

The bottom line, though, is this.  Every one of us, Celiac or not, gluten-sensitive or not, has the right to experiment with our diets.  We have a right to know what we put in our bodies.  We are paying for food products, purchasing meals in restaurants, and (hopefully) tipping our waitstaff, and therefore have the right to expect transparency and accountability from vendors when addressing the products they serve.  I'll speak for the gluten free community when I say that most of us aren't out there looking for freebies.  We don't want to you bend over backwards and make us a special meal in your restaurant that we can eat.  If you will do that for us, great!  We're likely to vote with our dollars and frequent your establishment.  But above all, we just want to know.  We want to know what ingredients you use in your food, so we can determine whether or not it will make us sick.  That's all.

This experience was a good reminder for me to always be mindful of what I put in my body, and also to be compassionate towards others who have allergies, food sensitivities, or other medical conditions that they have to deal with on a daily basis.  It is not easy, especially when the wider world seems to think you're just seeking attention or mindlessly following a trend.

Be kind to each other, friends.