Friday, January 30, 2009


I just want you to know you're an awfully lucky little girl, lil' dude.
This morning Daddy was so tired and sleepy. As I was getting ready for work -quickly, I was late and wanted Starbucks first for their FAB Greek yogurt with honey- Daddy decided to keep sleeping which meant you could too.

You lucky girl! All morning with Daddy to yourself, AND you slept until 8:30am.
Daddy said he could hear your Glo-Worm singin' her songs over your monitor, and it woke him up with a smile. You always make his day.

Hope you enjoyed your morning free of routine and hurry.


Thursday, January 29, 2009


Lately when I whip out the camera, the lil' dude charges at me like a possessed animal.

It's pretty amusing, I mean, she has got to be sick of all the 'razzi chasing her all the time.
"Sit still!"
"Look at Mama!"

Roar ... goes the tiny one.

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

"I Gather Colors, For Winter is Gray ..."

There is a story, lil' dude, I love reading to you called Frederick.

It's a children's book written by Leo Lionni and it was first published in 1967. You know how fond I am of old stories, particularly stories I remember being read to me or reading myself as a little. This is a great story.

You and I were out and about sometime last month. It was too cold to do anything except stroll the mall. Our mall has this little tiny treasure called Books Revisited. It's a second hand book store and it's right across from the Gap. Not where you'd expect to find a used book store. And granted, it's a store mostly full of garage sale castoffs and newer books people already had a copy of. The kids' section is vast- torn up Golden Books, Barney activity books, Dora, and Disney bedtime stories. These books are on the display that welcomes you to this kids' section. I always skip it ...

Because right behind the Doras and Barneys are the stories like Frederick. The old, obscure stories I believe the vast majority don't care about. Or know about, maybe. It's where I found you a perfect condition copy of the book for less than $3. It made my day, and I couldn't wait until bedtime to read you the story.

I won't ruin the plot for our readers, but it's such a small story that packs a huge punch ... here is my favorite part:

Who scatters the snowflakes? Who melts the ice?
Who spoils the weather? Who makes it nice?
Who grows the four-leaf clovers in June?
Who dims the daylight? Who lights the moon?

Four little field mice who live in the sky.
Four little field mice ... like you and I.

One is the Springmouse who turns on the showers.
Then comes the Summer who paints the flowers.
The Fallmouse is next with walnuts and wheat.
And Winter is last ... with cold little feet.

Aren't we lucky the seasons are four?
Think of a year with one less ... or one more!

It's true, lil' dude. We should always be grateful for what we have even if what we have is dark and gray and no fun. Because it all fits together; the gray will soon give way to the warm sun. It always does.

Monday, January 26, 2009

So Winey

This picture quality is not the best. But it doesn't matter.
See the little red drops on the lil' dude's shirt?
Guess what they are?
Red Wine.
More exactly, Blackberry Merlot.

How did it get there?

The lil' dude loves to dip when she eats. Cucumbers in ranch. Turkey dogs in ketchup. Chicken in sweet & sour. Fruit in yogurt. She's all dip dip dip.
We were hanging out this weekend, having a good time with chips and salsa.
Please, the lil' dude started signing. I want to dip a chip!

So we let her. She loved the salsa. That's my girl!
But when the Dad lifted her onto his lap, she got all dip happy. Before we knew what had happened, she stuck her chip into the Dad's wine glass ... and gobbled it right up. Please, she signed again. More?

Thursday, January 22, 2009

A Love Like Dat

I'm about to tell you a secret.
It's not something I am ashamed of, although, I understand some people will have a reaction to it. A negative one. An incredulous one.

I still sleep with my baby blanket. You're damn right I do.
It's a quilt my grandma made me as a baby. For whatever reason I developed an intense bond with it, a bond I have yet to break. A bond I am not sure I'll ever break.
Before I could speak well, I called the blanket blankie dat, probably toddler speak for that blanket. My shorthand became Dat. There used to be a tag on the back that read that, but it fell off somewhere, I suppose in the last nearly three decades or so.

Dat and I, (both) age 10mo.

I have tried to banish Dat to the hope chest, I have. I know I bravely offered her up to my newborn baby brother when he arrived, but reneged on that once he developed his own blanket love.
I'm sure I tried when I went to kindergarten.
Probably when we moved when I was nine.
I'm sure as I became a teenager at 13.
At 16.
When I left for college.
I talked about it when I got married.
But I never pulled the trigger.
The Dad knew to not even ask anymore.

I just didn't want to. It wasn't and isn't a can't thing. I can let go. I just don't want to.
The night we brought the lil' dude home from the hospital, we swaddled her up tight, put her in her crib, and I went to bed, where my blanket was waiting for me. I immediately felt calmer, like somehow, I wasn't all grown up and a Mom and that would define me from now on. I felt like a piece of my childhood, my forever-me had remained and I felt better and a little bit safe.

My blanket is in precarious shape. I wash it alone in a lingerie bag on the gentle cycle and hang it to dry.

About 10 years ago, I was sick of the quilt batting being so bunched up so I gently ripped it all out. I stuffed the gnarled contents into a padded envelope and mailed it to my grandma, explaining how Dat's soul was now in her hands. She sent me a sweet, heartfelt note in a sympathy card along with a $10 bill. I still have that card.

For my 21st birthday, grandma made me a new Dat, as she finally found the old pattern to embroider the same animals on and made a near-match. I couldn't bring myself to sleep with #2, though. It felt like a violation. The tag on its back says:

Lil' Dude's Mama
April 4, 2001
Dat II
Love, Grandma S.

The duplicate sits on my writing chair in the corner of our bedroom.

In high school, I accidentally left my blanket behind at the hotel during a basketball tournament. The hotel staff who located it and promised to ship it to me thought I was calling in a desperate panic on behalf of my child. I was 17. Details ...

Why I am even talking about this personal oddity?

Because up until two weeks ago, it appeared my daughter, the lil' dude, my own flesh and blood, did not have an affinity for any of her blankets. To say it kind of broke my heart is an understatement. And did she ever have blankets to choose from! 5 handmade quilts, 5 handmade afghans, a bazillion fleecy, minky, silky, bright, subdued, textured, colored, girly, boyish blankets. After weeks of observing her strange behavior and affection for our kitchen towels, one night the Dad simply handed the lil' dude her pink polka dot blanket with her name on it. And, I think there is something developing there. I was stunned.

And delighted.

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

As a Mule

I want you to know we were laughing with you, not at you.
Even though you weren't really laughing.
You were more crying-like, turning red with frustration.

Moments after this sweet photo was snapped, you burst into a fit of rage because you could not fit your body through the dining room chair's opening where your chin rested. Daddy yelled at you to STOP what you were attempting to do for fear your pretty little head would get stuck and we'd have to quickly MacGyver you out.

When he had you safely removed, you threw yourself onto the linoleum and screamed.
And Daddy and I laughed at you.
I'm sorry.
But, wow, you're stubborn.

I went over and picked you up and soothed you until you calmed down and quit flailing. I wiped your tears and told you how strong and determined you are. Then I told you how much like Daddy you are. How when he is trying to build, modify, fix, or install something and it just isn't working out, he gets so mad, I can tell he wants to throw the hammer or level or pack of nails a flyin'.

You're one in the same, my darling stubborn mules.

Friday, January 16, 2009

Not Everything

I have never poked your thigh with a diaper pin, lil' dude.
I have never caught your chin in your coat's zipper.
Never scalded you with too hot bath water.
Never let you sunburn.

I have never let you drink outdated milk.
I have never forgotten to pick you up from daycare.
Never left you in a too hot car.
Or in any car.

I have never made you bleed while clipping your nails.
Never fed you anything that gave you a rash.
Never let the dog bite at you.
I have never let soap get into your eyes.

I have never forgotten your socks.
Or mittens.
Never left you in the dark to scare you.
Never squeezed you into clothes too small.

I have never ignored your cries of hunger.
I have never taken away your favorite toys.
Never not kissed your boo-boos.

And yet, here you are, with a black eye.

I can't protect you from everything, lil' dude. But I try to. And I always will.
When I was in college, I had a sign in my room that said, "May you get a black eye fighting for what you believe in."
May YOU.

Thursday, January 15, 2009

Little Bit Here, Little Bit There

Where does she get her smashing good looks?

From her Daddy?

Or from her Mama?

It's just too bad the lil' dude's house does not have an avocado green laundry basket for her to pose in like we each did decades ago.

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

Mama Who?

I was inspired by a blog I read this week, MckMama.
It gave me the great idea to give the lil' dude a big glimpse of who's at the helm of Little Dude's Mama. Who I am. Where I came from. Where I've been. Go grab something to drink and shut your office door. This is going to get long!

I am born on Friday, April 4, 1980 at 12:56pm. It was Good Friday. I would go home with my maternal grandparents to their farm as my mother went back to college. Six weeks later in chemistry lab, she would meet my dad. Jimmy Carter loses his presidential bid for reelection to Ronald Reagan and critics say the loss was due to Carter's failure to handle the Iran hostage situation effectively.

In late summer of 1982, I disappear in the night from my grandparents'. I am just over 2. Everyone fears I have fallen into the Snake River that runs behind the house or am lost on the heavily wooded 80 acres of property. I turn up with the dog, Shuck, covered in mosquito bites at my aunt and uncle's house a quarter-mile away. Legend goes I wanted to "visit" my cousins.

June 18, 1983, I am the flower girl in my parent's wedding. I cry because I do not want to wear a dress. Pictures show my defiance as I refuse to smile. My dress, knee-length, reveals tanned legs with numerous scrapes and scabs. I am total tomboy. That very same day, Sally Ride becomes the first American woman in space. I leave my grandparents' farm, the only home I had known. We move 120 miles away to a big metropolitan area, and into a high-rise with an outdoor pool.

I become a big sister on December 22, 1984 as my little brother and only sibling is born. I wanted a brother for Christmas, his due date was Christmas Day. He is born gray and not breathing due to aspirating meconium into his lungs during delivery. My dad will tell my mom he cannot handle such a traumatic event again and says he is perfectly fine settling our foursome into a forever family. Terms of Endearment wins Best Picture at that year's Academy Awards.

In 1985 we move into our first house and I finally have my own swingset. I start kindergarten and wear red jeans, a white polo shirt, belt, and tennis shoes on my first day of school.

In 1986, I handpick my first puppy, a Springer Spaniel Black Lab mix, and name her Dolby after the label Dolby Surround Sound I see on my aunt's stereo system. She would live for 17 years and when she finally died, it would hurt just as bad as losing a person. The Space Shuttle Challenger disintegrates 73 seconds after launch. I remember sitting in the school's cafeteria watching a TV someone had wheeled in and wondering why all the teachers and grownups were crying.

I break my right arm after falling off a swing as a seven year old in the winter of 1987. My cast was blue and my teacher showed me how to adapt holding a pencil just in time for the Iowa Basics test administered school-wide. To this day I still hold my writing utensils in weird, pinched way. Baby Jessica falls down the well.

I am the junior bridesmaid in my aunt's wedding in August of 1989, the same week my dad takes a job in his hometown 100 miles from where we live. I go with him to stay at my paternal grandparents' lake home as he starts work and my mom and brother stay behind to finish the move. I start 4th grade and am laughed at on the bus for wearing boy shoes and having a mullet. My family would stay in that town for 13 years, where my brother and I would graduate high school.

I break my right arm in the summer of 1991 after falling off my bike. I do not cry during the whole ordeal and being older, I choose a white cast. I start 6th grade with a smelly cast on, caused by secretly swimming in the Snake River and a chlorinated pool. "Smells Like Teen Spirit" was released and Nirvana's album Nevermind was the year's #1 in the U.S. I would meet my first best friend, H., who would become my maid of honor 14 years later.

On the second day of 7th grade in September 1993, I get my first period and cry. My mom lets me stay home the next day as I struggle to get a grip. I wear forest green Girbaud jeans and a striped rugby shirt for my school pictures. The summer after 7th grade, I flip over my bike handlebars and break my left collarbone and a few ribs. My brother, witnessing my accident, calls my mom from a neighbor's, telling her "I think she's dead," and hangs up. I am not.

New Year's Eve, 1994, 12 of my friends I and go a little too far with a prank and vandalize a yard filled with Christmas decorations. We are caught and each have to pay $25 restitution and apologize publicly for our crime. I am grounded for the first time ever, a punishment that would last for months. A few months later, myself, the lil' dude's eventual Fairy Godmother, and her auntie S., drink gin mixed with Tang, getting drunk for the first time. My parents would not find out.

In 1995, I experience a severe allergic reaction to shellfish while having dinner at home. I am rushed to the emergency room, arriving unconscious. Since then, I have carried an Epi pen with me and am to the point where I cannot remember what any type of seafood tastes like. My friend E.'s mom dyes my hair for the first time in their bathtub.

Rapper Tupac Shakur is murdered in 1996, the year I get my driver's license, get my first boyfriend, get my one and only D in high school, get into a horrible car accident totaling my brand new car, get my first job at a grocery store, and play three varsity sports; volleyball, basketball, and track. 1996 always stands out in my memory as a big year for me.

I travel on an airplane for the first time, puking the entire 12 hour trip to Germany, in the spring of 1997. My basketball team plays in the state tournament, losing in the opening round. I see Titanic in the theatre three times. I become a Godmother to my cousin A.

I spend New Year's Eve 1999 in the Dominican Republic not convinced Y2K meant I would forever be stuck there. As a college sophomore that spring, I get my first tattoo. Dream, love, desire, in Chinese symbols, on my lower back.

In 2000, I fail my one and only college course, Accounting I, and decide to change my major. I become an editor at my college's newspaper, starting a weekly column called "Surviving Opal" which I would pen until I graduated two years later. In the presidential election, Florida poling issues would prolong the official results of George W. Bush's win for nearly a month.

As a 21 year old, I officially will never live with my parents again. It's 2001 and I cry about it for a long time. It would be the year my parents turned 40, my brother, 16, and my grandma, 70. Big year in our family.

I move to the city where I still live in 2002 and answer a cryptic newspaper ad for a generic job in the company I work now. I meet the Dad. I get my first cell phone. I get my first text message. Our family cat, Tess, would die at age 12. I take the biggest roadtrip I've been on to Vegas with the lil dude's other auntie S., and leave her there to experience life.

In late 2003, I introduce the Dad as my boyfriend to my parents and grandparents. I pierce my nose. America has been at war with Iraq for over six months at this point. My last roommate I'll have, L., moves in and when we both move a year later, we pack all our belongings into Hefty bags, launching them over our 3rd story balcony to the parking lot below.

I have ovarian surgery, get married, and get on an airplane with the Dad for the first time in 2005. Terri Schiavo is removed from life support. The Dad and I get our zodiac signs tattooed on Valentine's Day. Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince is released as the final installment to the JK Rowling series.

We become parents to the Beagle in June of 2006.

March 22nd, 2007 the doctor calls to tell me the pain I'm experiencing is implantation pain associated with pregnancy. I am pregnant with the lil' dude. She will arrive looking like her daddy 260 days later. NFL quarterback Michael Vick is sentenced to 23 months for his involvement in a dogfighting ring.

I attend my 10-year class reunion in summer of 2008, still arm-in-arms with the seven girls I met in 7th grade. The girls who all were there New year's Eve in 1994. I tell the Lucky Charms story at my grandpa's funeral. I start this blog. I unpierce my nose. I plant a vegetable garden and it grows.

And that brings me right back here.

Monday, January 12, 2009

The Best Part

Mondays are what they are. There's never anything I can do about them.
This morning came too quick. The sky was gray and spitting out snow in the dark. The forecast for the week? I should have turned the TV off. More gray. More spitting. More cold.

But you, lil' dude, you're the best part of my day. I peek in your crib as you lay slumbering away, unaware of Monday. You're on your belly, your tushie is up in the air and your knees are pulled tight to your chest. You enjoy sleeping that way. I whisper good morning and open the shades, turn on the little lamp. You start to stir.

I creep over to the side of your bed and rub your back. You turn your head to face me. You smile, as big as the sky. You're so happy. Effortlessly happy. Then you stretch out long and straight trying to banish the sleep from your eyes. And picking you up all warm and smelling of sleep is my favorite. You fit your fuzzy head under my chin and we get reacquainted for the day.

You're so calm when I dress and lotion you up. Just full of lazy yawns and big stretches. Then you usually ask about the Beagle and I tell you he is still in bed with the covers over his face. He's not a morning dog and Mondays are hard for him too. Daddy usually pokes his head in too to say good morning! and sometimes his face is even full of shaving cream. That makes you laugh. You give him the biggest sunrise smiles ever.

Thank you, lil' dude, for being the best part of today, of any day and every day.

Saturday, January 10, 2009

Purely For Fun

Just your average Friday night at the lil' dude's house ...

We don't wear no pants 'cuz we don't wanna ...

We gonna wear our Crocs when it's -1* outside 'cuz we don't care ...


Wednesday, January 7, 2009

Letter from Mama, v13

Look at you, all 13-months old and whatnot!

The first year of your life was incredible. Just the other day, we met your new friend, JW. He is exactly one year and 19 days younger than you. To see him swaddled in Daddy's arms and you pointing at him says, "Baby? Baby!! Baby!" really confirmed how much changes in the first 12 months of life. To be so small and dependent and still to being ferocious and independent and a blur in just a year. Life is a trip, kid.

Last night you and I sat on the floor of your closet playing. You would hand me your babies to be wrapped up. You love when they are swaddled tight so you can feed them their bottles. Then, you grab a corner of the blanket and let them spin to the floor, picking them up to pat their backs. Baby, you murmur. We then tucked them all in their basket for nighttime. How did you learn to be such a caregiver? So compassionate? At night in the dark of your room, we lay rocking after we've finished our stories and turned out the light. I rub your back, and you rub mine. We're chest to chest and silent, just rocking and rubbing. I think you're like Daddy in that way. How much I love to be 'petted' by him when I am sad, or tired, or hurt. You're an old soul, lil' dude. An old soul.

This week, Daddy asked me, remember when we didn't have the lil' dude? and I said no ... because I don't really. You just a natural fit in our family, just what we needed. Our days are spent on the floor with you, rescuing you from towering heights you've stranded yourself upon, searching for your sippy cups, teaching you words, cheering you on. You've become what we do, who we are without us really even knowing it. You and I are already friends. Like last Saturday? how we just went to the mall, like girlfriends do. We spent three hours walking circles, people-watching, trying on clothes for fun, searching for bargains. You were so good and so content the whole time. As I tried on new bras at Victoria's Secret you kept repeating uh-oh ... uh-oh Mama, in the dressing room. Look at you, with your sense of humor? Aren't you funny? You made all the salesgirls laugh with you. Thanks for being so cool, lil' dude.

And you? are totally smart. Last weekend you did back-to-back 14 hour sleeps, so naptime was not happening Sunday afternoon. You cried and cried from your room. Broke my heart because now your cries have names, like Mama! Mama? MAMA! so I went and got you. I hogtied you in my arms as we rocked in the recliner in the dark, country music playing around us. I had my eyes closed so you would know what to do. Except, you instead tried to pry my eyelids open. Hey, you're not sleeping. Come out! You made me laugh. You always do. You're so clever.

Mama loves.

Monday, January 5, 2009

For You

Today is today already, time goes so quickly.
Lil' dude, you are already in your 3rd calendar year.
It's easy to become sad this time of year; uninspired, restless, depressed.

My dear, that is not how we do things at our house.
Daddy and I aren't big on New Year's Resolutions. One year I resolved to stop running red lights. One year, stop adding salt to my food. Last year, stop swearing so much. I did well with all those things. Because they were small and manageable and things I needed to do anyways. Making them resolutions made them sound fancier.

This year, I want to become a better photographer. You should see how happy the people in your village get when I send a simple email to them bearing a photograph of you. If it's that easy to make some one's day, I am all for it. Now, I really want to knock their socks off!

What I am trying to say is don't make yourself change if you don't see the purpose. Or do, if you feel like it. But know we'll never expect you to change or adapt to new things because we think it best for you. Just don't set yourself up to fail or be bogged down by unrealistic expectations. Change if you want. Aspire if you want. Just stay you.

Mama loves ... you, for you!

Thursday, January 1, 2009

And 2009 Begins

The scene: home. Lil' dude is in the living room running around. I am in the kitchen.

The Dad walks upstairs. He stops, looks around.
It appears he is smelling the air. He makes pronounced smelling notions around the room.

He grabs the lil' dude, smells her tushie. (It's what parents do. There is no shame)
He sets her down.
"I thought she smelled. What IS that?"

"I am making deviled eggs," I say.
"Bingo," he says.