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Teething is not so easy a process, I say in all my wisdom.

As I cut my teeth in the blogosphere, I watch as my daughter is literally cutting.her.teeth. Today she left teeth marks in her finger, bit a decent chunk off of a toddler-size crayon (and went back for seconds and thirds), tried to bite a coloring book, and chomped on her dinnerware, my breast and the granite bathroom counter. She woke crying every hour of her long afternoon nap.

She’s been a slow teether; she has only her bottom two in her official first birthday photo. Now at 19 months, she has nine, three of which have broken through her tender little gums in the past week or two. She has at least three more waiting in the wings.

My husband is conservative with the Motrin and Tylenol. “If we give it to her tonight, we’ll end up giving it to her tomorrow night, and before you know it she’ll be 3 and have some sort of addiction to berry and bubblegum flavoring.” I exaggerate. A little.

What’s with bubblegum flavoring for babies, anyway?

But tonight she made her case. She’s resting comfortably, and I will, too… until she nurses in the morning.


I’m so… so disillusioned. And I think Hallmark is to blame.

Since I was a kid, I’ve been looking for the ideal relationship that is sisterhood. You know, with hugs and sunshine and flowers.

First it was my cousin, the only other person in my family nearly my age. Even though we were raised on two different planets continents, I looked forward to her letters and visits. I wanted to be just like her: I tried a nickname that ended in an “i” (Andi never stuck), jumped off the high dive for the first time, changed my favorite color (pink) to hers (purple). In my defense, I was 7 or 8. And my favorite color is now garnet red. Ha.

I grew up four years older than my sister. I think our relationship had typical ups and downs including jokes and confidences, fights and jealousies. We were close as kids. But the gap between us — me, the old soul, and her, forever young at heart — feels four (or 40) times the four it is.

Our parents want so badly for us to be close. I want so badly for us to be close, and she might, too. I can’t decide whether it’s a relationship broken and malnourished, or if it’s simply different from what I imagined it would be.

That’s where Hallmark comes in.

I wonder, now, if my expectations are realistic. If some sibling relationships are the stuff of greeting cards, but others simply are what they are. Or what you make them. I’m not even sure what I want from my sister. Or what she wants from me.

I daresay no relationship is static, and I believe this one will change, with help. Hopefully for the better, for the closer, for the more fulfilling. And when it does, I’ll buy the perfect card for the occasion.

“You never really understand a person until you consider things from his point of view… Until you climb inside of his skin and walk around in it.”

There’s such beauty in hindsight. Not that it helps us avoid learning everything the hard way. Hey, I thought the Boppy pillow would ease my transition into parenting, too.

What hindsight has gained me, though, is perspective on my parents. I was the type of kid who thought my parents knew what they were doing until I was practically 30. That even though I certainly didn’t always agree, I thought their decisions — from dinner to dating — came from some kind of teacher’s edition with the answers to your toughest child rearing questions in the back.

Now that I’m walking around in my parents’ skin (Couldn’t Atticus have said shoes? Skin. Eew.), feeling like a kid dressed in grown-up clothing, I look back on their actions with new appreciation. I haven’t asked them specifically, but while some of what they taught my sister and me came from standards of safety and, um, decorum, an equal part may have been the product of exhaustion and frustration.

I’m lucky to focus on happy memories of my childhood. I remember a lot of love. And I know my parents wanted the best for us. Of course, I like to think I was a relatively easy kid to parent, pouting and hormones and crayon on the backseat of the car (not in that order) aside. I think my husband remembers the same (I really should talk to these people once in a while. You know, to confirm.).

I also can think of friends and family who don’t look back on love. Who spent their childhoods in the face of anger and loneliness. I see where some parents made terrible mistakes: physical abuse, allowing their children to witness their marital struggles. But in other situations I see parents who were only trying their best: no public school, no staying up late, no ripped jeans, no dating, no out-of-state college. Sometimes it worked, sometimes it backfired.

My hope is that my hindsight — first as a daughter, then as a mother — will lead me to succeed where my parents may have struggled, even though I’m bound to struggle somewhere else along the way. And that my children will someday look back on their dad and me and see, with hindsight, we were doing our best.

In case you happen to miss my daily shout from the rooftops, I’ll spell it out for you:

I’m done.

If you also are done, my statement needs no explanation. But I’ll elaborate for the rest of you. Today I babysat for a friend’s youngest son, who is young, indeed. Shy of 3 months young. He’s a smiling, cooing, fuzzy-headed bundle of sweetness and joy. At least he was for the 20 minutes I watched him, changed him, danced around my house talking and singing to him. He could warm the heart of the grinchiest baby grinch.

Those 20 minutes — while my son was bowling at a birthday party and my daughter napping in her crib — brought me back to a time and place when the world revolved around me and my firstborn. When I was on maternity leave and life was simple. Of course it didn’t seem simple at the time. Caring for one newborn is only simple when you have more than one child.

Those 20 minutes were particularly peaceful, I think, because I didn’t yearn for another new baby of my own. And that’s saying something because I love me some babies. I’m done, and I’m at peace with my decision. (I suppose I should add that my husband agrees with this decision. So far.)

I’m not done because I didn’t have enviable pregnancies, or because I’m afraid of experiencing another miscarriage, or because children are exhausting and expensive. I’m done because I’m so ridiculously happy with my family. My son and my daughter are amazing little people. As they grow and their personalities emerge, I can’t help but beam with pride knowing I’ve had a little something to do with them.

I’m done because our family feels complete. We have each other; no one is missing. Except maybe a fish, per my son.

I say it again and again, and I don’t waiver. But I now have three friends who have welcomed their third child after swearing up and down they, too, were done. “Never say ‘vasectomy,'” my husband says. So you never know. (But I’m done.)

O, unsung ranch dressing. How my children love you so. They have eaten you straight, on hot dogs and grapes. And have happily used (veggie) chicken nuggets and honest-to-goodness vegetables as vehicles to your creamy goodness.

I know I should be nothing but grateful. You’ve eased mealtime stresses and likely saved my kids from the perils of malnutrition. But, Ranch? You give my baby ranch breath. And you’re so greasy in her hair when she puts her otherwise empty plate on her head.

I admit I think about cheating with a really attractive balsamic vinaigrette, but I bet it stains. Who knew love and condiments would be so complicated?

My family and I drove to Alaska when I was 7 or 8. (Yes, you can do that… a story for another time.)

Along the way, we took in a few natural wonders, the geyser “Old Faithful” among them. I apparently insisted on calling it “Old Reliable,” which admittedly makes me chuckle. I now find myself longing to be referred to as reliable. Old… not so much.

But it’s unlikely. I’m habitually late. My preschooler and his friend have learned to run from the car to school, and that they’ll likely be “the caboose” — again — because we’re late. My extended family takes bets on when my family will arrive to holiday dinners, and my friends know to add a half-hour when I say I’ll be over at 10:00.

I like to blame it on my husband, but really I procrastinate of my own accord. Sometimes my tardiness is relatively legit: the baby sleeps late; the phone rings as I’m walking out the door; yeah, I can’t think of anything else right now. Usually, I just don’t have my, um, act together. I try to squeeze in 10 minutes of extra sleep, I can’t find my son’s socks, I let my son watch TV during breakfast so he’s moving in slow motion lest he of Higglytown Heroes. I can’t find my car keys, I have to get the diaper bag packed for the gym, my hair is sticking out funny and I need to run the straightening iron over just one little section.

In a perfect world, I would be prepared. Clothes would be laid out the night before. Diaper bag would be stocked. Our water bottles washed and maybe even filled. My keys would be in the cute little bowl on the counter, my cell phone would be charged. The kids would be well rested and cooperative.

And you know what would happen? I’d be so calm, cool and collected, I’d let my son have an extra five minutes of TV because, you know what? We have five minutes; what would we do if we were five minutes early? If nothing else, anyone who typically waits on us wouldn’t yet be ready.

And that would be inconsiderate of us, wouldn’t it?

I don’t intend to be inconsiderate. In my head I’m really dependable. But there’s a huge disparity between the two. I feel shame. So much more importantly, in four months it will no longer be about me. My son begins kindergarten, and there will be no more sauntering in after the bell. I have to ensure he’s prompt. Poor kid.

I’m hoping kindergarten will be the impetus to change my evil ways. This is my challenge, and I accept it… or I will, anyway. In a minute.

When I see first-time parents schlepping their miraculous bundles of baby joy, I’ll admit to feeling a little… smug. In the, “Oh honey, remember when we didn’t know what we were doing, either?” sense. To which my dear husband would likely respond, “You mean five minutes ago?”

We’re a confident lot, he and I.

But I’m talking about the bewilderment that comes with new baby territory. As if sleep deprivation wasn’t enough, you’re barraged by advice. What you need to buy, what you need to do

I recently read a quip of parenting insight I wish I’d heard in the prime of my baby days. It’s likely more valuable than anything you’d glean from my experience alone. Brett Berk, author of The Gay Uncle’s Guide to Parenting, observed simply:

“The baby business seems to play on your fears that you’re ill-equipped for the job and are going to do it all wrong.”

He also wrote a whole book, I suppose. But I’m so content to mill over this sentence.

Have you created, or at least read, a baby registry lately? You’d be daft not to include coordinating nursery decor, complete with diaper caddy. You’ll need to feed baby, so don’t forget nursing pillows and personalized burp cloths and bottles that do everything but lactate for you. If you plan to leave the house, you’ll need a designer baby carrier that matches your car seat and stroller and diaper bag. As baby grows, his or her intelligence will be permanently stunted if you don’t have the latest and greatest educational toys that instill art appreciation and environmental responsibility.

Seriously, it’s not my goal to suck all the joy out of preparing for baby. I’m just sayin’. You’re contending with corporations trying to sell you crap disguised as necessities. You’re reading product reviews about the newest gear on the market. You’re comparing your list to that of your friends who have kids and therefore must be less clueless than you feel.

Listen to Mr. Berk and me as we steer you away from the strangers with candy-coated promises for perfect parenting. Follow your heart and your head, and buy what you want. But don’t succumb to ploys to make you believe you need stuff. Your baby needs you and diapers. Everything else is negotiable. ;)

I think about my obituary as often as I think about the inner workings of my appliances. Which would be not at all. And I generally think that’s a good thing. Until something goes horribly wrong (like lint clogging the dryer vent… but that’s another subject altogether).

So I’m sitting at home two weeks ago, minding my own business — not contemplating my existence in the least — when I receive an e-mail from our church sharing news of the sudden death of one of the church staff.

We’ve upgraded from Christmas-and-Easter Catholics to twice-a-month Catholics, but still I didn’t personally know this man. I get the impression he was well-liked, and it’s a tragedy to lose anyone at 47. Still, I admit I went on with my day.

Last week my mother-in-law opens the Chicago Tribune to the obituaries. Cheery, no? And she brings my attention to an article about the man from our church (my in-laws miss nothing, I tell you). I didn’t even know him, but I read it.

And I saved it.

And I keep thinking about it.

It’s the most amazing profile of a life, someone who had such a profound affect on the lives of others. And from an unlikely source: a custodian. A husband and father. Not someone noted for his power or wealth, but instead for his character and compassion.

Now I can’t help but contemplate my existence. What will my obituary say? Because the way people remember Gilbert Gonzales? That’s they way I hope someday someone will remember me. Gilbert Gonzales is changing my life, and he’s no longer here. That’s a legacy.

I’ve been exercising regularly for the past few months. If you don’t know me, you have no idea how funny that is. I’m 32 years old, and this is quite possibly the first time I’ve been fit by even the loosest of standards. And, cardiovascularly-speaking, I have a long way to go.

After two pregnancies, which each yielded a small child and a bonus 55 pounds, I’m finally committed to a Mommy Boot Camp program. And although I’m not yet ready to say it out loud… I like it. I look forward to it. I feel better. Stronger. I can run an entire mile. I’m working toward the “Linda Hamilton arms” (circa Terminator 2) an old friend inspired.

That said, I still detest running. And I don’t appreciate those of you out there (my husband, ahem) who make it look so bloody easy. I’ve all but mastered the elliptical machine, the arc trainer, the rowing machine, the Bosu. I’m dabbling in kick boxing. But put me on the track, and the jig is up. I’m awkward and exhausted. I know the greater an object’s mass, the greater the force of gravity… this does not say good things about my body composition. I may even be radioactive.

Everyone — and by everyone, I mean my mom — says staying in shape reaches a new level of difficulty after 35. So I have three years to get this right. Okay, two years, six months and three days. Rub it in. I clearly need to contemplate my strategy over a pint quart of ice cream.

It’s kindergarten. Not college, you chide.

Beginning next fall, my son will make the trek four blocks to our neighborhood school for about three hours, five days a week. I’m proud and apprehensive about his next step toward independence. Some parents get all worked up about academics and kindergarten as the new first grade, yadda yadda. Me? Not so much. He’s a smart kid, and he’ll learn his reading, writing and arithmetic. We have good schools in our town, and I’m an involved parent. It’s relatively cut and dried.

But something shakes me Mean kids. Lord help me when it’s my daughter’s turn, because I’m already cringing just thinking about how mean kids can be.

My husband and I have always taught our son to be a good friend to everyone, and if someone isn’t being a good friend in return, to play with someone else. But how do you instill a deep sense of self confidence and personal strength? A sense that you get to choose whose opinions matter, and if a kid tells you your coat is ugly/your favorite book is for babies/you’re not good enough to play soccer, it doesn’t matter.

What matters is that you’re a good friend. You appreciate who and what makes you happy. What matters is how you’ll decide to define your own success. How you’ll make the most of what you’ve got. You may never be the best at something — and certainly will never be the best at everything — but you can always do your best. And you’re loved more than you’ll ever comprehend.

Excuse me while I put down my pompoms and/or Kleenex. ;)

It’s obvious to me that this soul shaking stems from my own struggle to find self confidence. I have my moments of peace, but I’m much better at worrying about and doubting the person I am.

So this is a big part of life. And life isn’t easy. Or fair, for that matter. But how do you convey that to a 4 (and three quarters)-year-old kid? Who happens to be my baby: a big guy who loves all things manly and construction, but has a gentle heart and will cry if he meets our disapproval.

Did I mention parenting is hard?