“I wanted a perfect ending. Now I've learned, the hard way, that some poems don't rhyme, and some stories don't have a clear beginning, middle, and end. Life is about not knowing, having to change, taking the moment and making the best of it, without knowing what's going to happen next. Delicious Ambiguity.”Gilda Radner

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Happy Birthday, Baby

364 days ago, I had to sleep in a recliner.

I could not see my feet.

I had eaten all of the candy bars my children were supposed to sell for school.

Walking up the stairs seemed like the worst thing someone could ask me to do.

No. Asking me to sit on the floor and play and then get up seemed like the worst thing someone could ask me to do.

I was 39 weeks pregnant and this little monster squirmed inside me. All. The. Time.

364 days ago, I knew that he would be a fighter. People would ask, hesitant but endearingly eager, "Is he kicking?" And if he was snoozing in my belly, all I had to do was press my hand down, and boy, did that baby get mad. He would kick my hand away, like, "Hey! Encroaching on my space, here!" On sonogram days, and there were many, the second that magic wand was pressed against my stomach, Little Man would knock it away. "Whoa!" was what the radiologist would say. I couldn't help but smile. My baby was fierce, and there would be no messing with him.

It's hard for me to write about Max. He is unexpectedly different from his brothers, but similar in nuance-y ways. He'll do something that will remind me of one of them, but it's just a hint, just a breeze of their different personalities. He takes everything and makes it completely his own, including his face, despite the never-ending moment-to-moment narration by extended family of who he most looks like. (He looks like himself.)

So. For the sake of simplicity, here are the highlights of what I have loved most about being Max's mom in this first year of his life:

1. Holding him. Even though he's by far the heaviest of my babies, he's all round and delicious and fuzzy, especially at bedtime.

2. Kissing his cheeks. Have you seen them?

3. Squeezing his thighs. For the first two months of his life his legs were like spaghetti. I was terrified that he would never catch up and be in a percentile. But he did catch up. My goodness, he did.

4. His silly faces. 

5. The fact that he tries really hard not to laugh, but sometimes they slip out, and then he's all mad at himself over such an emotional display.

6. He is, for the most part, a very content baby. Very chill compared to Noah. (Though the Incredible Hulk is chill compared to Noah.)

7. His cankles.

8. Feeding him anything. 

9. The way he has always been very decided about being done or over something. He closes his eyes, turns his head dramatically, and shoves whatever it is away. I love someone who knows what he wants. Or doesn't want.

10. Bath time.

11. Finding out that if I could go back and do it all differently, I won't actually do it differently. At least as far as mothering infants is concerned. Joey and Noah are nine and six, and memories of their babyhood were growing fuzzy and rose-colored. When people remarked about how anxious and, frankly, crazy I was with them as babies, I shrugged, thinking of how far I'd come as a mom and how much I'd learned. Then along came Max, and it turns out, no, I didn't learn anything. I worry about all of my children in equally irrational and insane ways regardless of all logic and lessons learned. Soon after Max was born, I was sitting criss-cross applesauce in front of him on the floor, worrying. Joe said, "What are you doing?" and I said, "Worrying," and Joe said, "Huh. Most people mellow out after they've had three kids, but not you. You just...sure love them a lot." So diplomatic.

12. His ear lobes.

13. His chubby wrists.

14. Honest to God--changing diapers. Nothing keeps you vibrant quite like a wild diaper change filled with the unexpected.

15. Waiting and being rewarded. First because it was my most miserable pregnancy. Then, all the milestones. They felt like they took forever--smiling, laughing, sitting up, crawling--and in some ways Max definitely took his time. But I didn't feel the rush so much this time. I loved him being squishy and round and all the things he is. When all the milestones finally happened, it was just more of an excuse to squeeze him and love him. (As opposed to how we were with Joey, who probably will find all kinds of Ivy League brochures in his baby books when he grows up because not only was he early with all milestones but achieved them with real panache. Apparently.)

16. His eyelashes.

17. He said "Mama" first but now prefers to fling "Dada" in the faces of all loved ones. "Dada" and, weirdly, "Poo." He says it like a little pigeon.

18. He loves music. He's instantly calmed by it and loves to dance around with his mama.

19. He loves his brothers. He (quite mistakenly) puts all his faith and trust in them.

20. He is all the good of all of us rolled into one little person. He is Joey's sound sleep, Noah's earnestness, Joe's silliness, my amazing charm and wit.

It was easy a year ago to know that each life in our family would change with Max's arrival. It's easy to say that they did. It just isn't easy to explain how. One small person, filled with so many smiles and so many poops, made us disorganized, out of control, confused, and crazier than we ever were. He changed all of our roles in this house in a huge way and we won't ever be the same. 

We'll forever be better, and happier, and more full of love because of Max.

(above photo taken by Natalie Komosinski)

Saturday, October 4, 2014

Only Boys

I've been rather shy about boldly declaring: THIS is what it's like to be the mother of boys, definitively. In the past, if I point out, ugh, driving them to sports, or ugh, they play so rough, I'm inevitably confronted by the indignant mother of a girl who's all, "My girl is just as athletic/rough/mouthy/physical/messy/etc as any boy." And I get it. I went to an all-girls high school, where they were great at empowering us and making us all well aware that we could do anything THEY could do better. THEY being the boys.

So, yeah.

But here is one thing I'm pretty sure is unique to being the mother of all boys.

The gross bathroom.

I'm going to start by saying that when they reach a point where I think it would work out well for me, I'm making them do all the cleaning. Right now, I don't think asking that of them would be beneficial to me. It isn't worth the fight and the re-do.

I consider myself a very clean person, and I also think I'm a pretty good mother. Those things combined should equal some tidy, fastidious children, but, shockingly, it doesn't seem to follow in that way. Joey and Noah understand that having a clean bathroom is the ideal. They are quite reasonable when I point out the situation behind the toilet. Day after day. Hour after hour.

"Boys, do you understand that you have to aim into the toilet?"

"Boys, do you see how there's a hole in the bottom of the toilet? Can you point the pee that way?"

"Boys, you know it's never a good idea to pee in the same toilet at the same time, right?"

"Yes, Mom."

"Sure, Mom."

"OF COURSE, MOM." (Bold and italics here because it's my favorite response and they know it, but forever use it against me, like telling me I'm pretty.)

And yet, every time I go in the bathroom, the grout around the toilet is just a shade too dark. There's a funk in the air I don't care to describe to you. There's the issue of the baseboards behind the toilet, also not worth sharing in detail. And all I'm left with is the bewildered, "What the hell?"

I said to our babysitter the other day, "It's very important to me that you know I clean that bathroom every single day, multiple times a day." And I do. Bleach. Spray bottle. Scrub, scrub, scrub. You can't mop it, you know. It's all hands and knees and cheek pressed to the toilet bowl as I reach around with a rag or even a paper towel, pressing the bleach into the porous grout, soaking up you don't want to know what but can probably guess. So, yes, please world, acknowledge my efforts.

You know what the babysitter said? "Okay." Like, all condescending. Like, yeah right, Mary Pat. That bathroom looks like ogres had a pee party for a week without quitting and you just let it slide.

And how about the fact that Noah announced he was heading in to take a shower, and I saw him shed his clothes (he's the sort of fellow who leaves a trail behind him in case he might lose his way and need to retrace his steps) and I heard the shower door close, and then....nothing. No water running. No fumbling with a shampoo bottle. Total. Silence.

"Noah?" I called, entering the bathroom. "Are you okay?" I asked, opening the shower door to check on my second-born.

Only to find him standing there, free and loose, peeing all every which and where (because don't underestimate the power of projectile and trajectory and all the other jects that were going on), and looking like he was quite enjoying the freedom to just Let it go, let it goooo, because apparently he just couldn't hold it back anymore.

Never mind that the toilet is a mere twenty-four inches from the shower, and looks to me like it's far more accessible in a hurry.

"What are you doing?" I cried in horror. Because, like I said, I'm a pretty clean person. I'm also reasonable. If you're going to pee in the shower, at least let the water run and wash it down the drain. And once that thought came into my head, I was further horrified that it's come to that, where I'd have a condition where it would be okay to pee in the shower.

"I'm going to the bathroom," he said, looking from side to side like, Isn't it obvious, you idiot?

"You can't do this!" I said. "You can't! It's not okay! Animals do this, not people! Not Bieleckis!" Like somehow our surname, our family line, our heritage, might preclude us from such base behavior.

"Mom," he said calmly. "Animals don't take showers."

"But you can't do this!" I said again. "Aren't you ashamed of doing this very bad thing?"

"Well, I'm ashamed that you saw me do it."

Later, after he'd gone to bed and I was spraying down the shower, scrubbing the grout, pressing into the pores of the tile, I thought, "Yeah. Find me a girl who ever did this."