At 1:30 in the morning, Wombat slap-slap-slapped out of his room on treaded pajama feet to the side of my bed, where he whispered that his tummy hurt, then barfed neatly into his cupped hands, and then–cradling his vomit in his palms–was escorted by Simon to the bathroom for a few more rounds, the last of which (hopefully) we experienced at 10 a.m., when he horked into the popcorn bowl I was still by great fortune holding under his chin even though we had made it as far as through the living room, dining room, kitchen, and hall to two steps away from the toilet.
As follows from earlier memorable parenting moments, I was plenty concerned with the poor little dear’s well-being while at the same time being consumed with worry that I would be next. As sad as a sick kid is, and oh, it is sad, logic tells me a sick kid is preferable to a sick adult taking care of a kid who, if he’s not sick already, will inevitably be sick in the not-too-distant future. In short, if we can’t all be well, at least let me be well. I hope that doesn’t sound as terrible as it’s suddenly sounding to me right now (although it’s certainly less terrible than the way I kept cringing whenever he’d lay (lie?) his head on my shoulder–cringing! from my sick child!–as if those two seconds of tense muscles were any kind of protective barrier against the germs of a kid I was just going to hug and kiss and affectionately hair-rustle not three seconds later because he is my sick kid and I am his mother, self-preservation be damned). (But I’m still scared to death it’s the flu and I’m going to have it when I wake up tomorrow.)
Anyway, Wombat seems to be on the mend (fingers still crossed for the rest of us), and so I mention this only because (a) it’s his first major sickness and (b) the other thing I want to write about is the two birthday parties we threw on Saturday, but I obviously need more than 15 minutes to capture every excruciating detail of the festivities for your forced delight and (c) Simon keeps saying how cool it is that our kid puked into his hands and got nothing on the floor, not at all!, not a drop!, which is, like, super-awesome professional-level vomiting or something. We did a lot of talking about barf today is what I’m saying, which I guess is not all that different from what I did yesterday.
N.B. There is puking in the movie Pitch Perfect.
And how are YOU?
(Raise your hand if you’re glad this post contains ZERO pictures?)
Fox was born at ten in the morning, and three hours later Wombat stormed the hospital with a balloon and a smile and a tiny stuffed fox (and my parents). His smile was shy in comparison to the one the nurse drew on his bright pink Visitor badge (“My favorite color! How did you know?”), and I experienced a brief (and rare for me) few minutes of absolute zen as I let my children, my boys, meet each other for the first time, on their own terms. I was clear across the room on a bed, on an ice pack, and unable, thankfully, to interfere. This wasn’t about me.
Wombat gave Fox the little stuffed fox, and Little Fox gave Big Wombat a big stuffed fox.
“It’s a mama and her baby!” he said, because, until then, all big/little combos were always such.
“No,” someone corrected him, “it’s a big brother and a little brother.” Paradigm: shifted.
As is well documented here, I was momentarily overcome with “feelings” about having another boy, and one of those feelings that was not just regret dolled up in pigtails and puffed-sleeve dresses was that I didn’t really know the ins and outs of a brother/brother relationship. I have a brother, Simon has a sister, my mom only had one brother, my dad only a sister. This was uncharted, and I am, by any account, a person who needs charts and graphs and maps and outlines and Venn overlaps and PowerPoint slideshows to diagram what, exactly, I’m getting myself into at every turn. I scanned the index of the “So, You Just Had a Baby, Sucka” handbook in the hospital room and came up empty.
Empty was good, though, because it meant more room to fill with the likes of this:
Not wanting to be one of those parents who’s all “Love your brother because he’s the only one you’ve got blaaaaaaah,” but also totally being one of those parents who’s all “Love your brother because he’s the only one you’ve got blaaaaaaah,” I stumbled into something while talking with Wombat that I thought worth mentioning here.
I told him that as he went through life he’d have to/get to share a lot of things with a lot of people–toys, benches, KitKats, one single experimental cigarette, secrets. Some of the things he’d share would even be actual people; he’d have to share friends, favorite teachers, maybe even a girlfriend in the event of an awkward elementary-school isosceles. Now that his new sibling was here, he’d have to share his parents with Baby Fox, and his grandparents and cousins and aunts and uncles, and probably eventually some friends too.
He tilted his head up at me like your standard quizzical cartoon terrier.
“And sharing isn’t bad, right?” I reassured him. “You like it when people share with you. It’s just one of those things you do when you’re a nice person. And you’re a nice person.” He was silent, waiting for the “but.”
“But…” I dropped to a whisper “…not sharing can be really cool too. And guess what you never have to share, not with anyone, not ever?”
A stage-whispered “What?!”
“You never have to share being brothers with Fox. You are the only person in the whole world who gets to be his brother, and he is the only person in the whole world who gets to be yours. Isn’t that awesome?”
His face brightened with the reflection of gold emanating from an opened treasure chest.
They are my boys together and I am their mom together, but they are brothers to each other alone. They have something that I’m not a part of–that no one is a part of–and recognizing that has been a strange comfort to me, not just that they have this singular relationship but that this feeling of “yes, this is right”ness came to me as easy as anything ever has. It turns out I gave them to each other more than I gave them to myself.
It may not always be smooth sailing through these waters, and we may not have maps, but our boat is strong and our wheel manned by four pairs of steady hands (mind the drool on the littlest ones), and even just sitting here stock still on dry land thinking about it I can feel the wind in my hair and sense adventure on the horizon. Avast, my heart. It’s going to be quite a ride.
It’s okay that I’m doing my year-end wrap up on January 24 because (a) it’s still January and (b) I still have a stack of Christmas cards that need to go out. Yes I do. (Shut up.)
Now let’s shake it, shake it, shake it, shake it like an Instagram picture.
1. What did you do in 2012 that you’d never done before?
Got fired (kind of), tore myself away from daycare and became a mom of a preschooler, flew alone with two kids, road tripped as a family of four, breastfed in the Haunted Mansion at Disneyland, camped pregnant.
2. Did you keep your new year’s resolutions, and will you make more for next year?
I suppose there were some, but eeeehhhhhh. Last year was about cooking a baby to completion and then getting him halfway to one, so my expectations of getting anything else done were few and, apparently, easily forgotten.
3. Did anyone close to you give birth?
Ooh! Ooh! I know this one! ME.
There was a big Twitter birth club too (Jessica, Jonna, Alexa, Tamara, Erin, Kate, Anne, people I’m probably forgetting), and it was fun to follow along with everyone’s experiences, even at the very end when I felt like the only one without a baby because mine didn’t want to get out.
4. Did anyone close to you die?
We really thought our cat, Eve, would kick it in 2012, as she’s been pretty grossly sick for a while. When we left for Southern California over Christmas, I even told Wombat to say a special goodbye to her “because she might be dead when we get back.” (Something about death makes me so heinously uncomfortable I lose all tact.) I was pleasantly surprised she was still tapping around the hardwoods upon our return, and although Simon keeps reminding me that it might be time to “discuss our role in her mortality,” I’m happy to have her snuggle under the covers and head-butt my chin for the time being. Lord but she is skinny, though.
5. What countries did you visit?
None. This reminds me that I need to renew my passport and get some for the boys because we have family in England and never know when we might have to jet over there for an emergency summer vacation to the seaside or whatever.
6. What would you like to have in 2013 that you lacked in 2012?
I think having a household budget would serve us well. We’re making money and paying bills and have been playing it by ear just fine so far, but now that I’m not working a steady job and we’ll soon have preschool and daycare fees to the tune of something like $3K/month (CAN YOU EVEN?), it might be time to get our finances squared away in something resembling a responsible and grown-up manner. Where’s the graph paper and my TI-82?
7. What dates from 2012 will remain etched upon your memory, and why?
Fox was born on July 16, which was FIVE DAYS LATE, YOUNG MAN, but also Simon’s deceased father’s birthday, which is pretty cool. I never met the man, but his is the dormant blue-eye gene that passed through Simon to Fox, so he’s in there somewhere, somehow.
8. What was your biggest achievement of the year?
Having a second child and dealing with all that entails without freaking the fuck out. I had all the lowest expectations of my ability to handle a newborn/infant in addition to terrible-threes older child, so although I’ll concede that it’s much easier to clear hurdles that are teeny-tiny miniature hurdles for especially athletic leprechauns, I still did it and am duly proud and amazed and have since given myself a pat on the back in the form of eating a giant tub of Red Vines all by myself over the course of two weeks. *urp*
9. What was your biggest failure?
Hrm. You know, I’ve heard other bloggers criticized for always being so shiny and happy and nothing-ever-goes-wrong-in-my-perfectly-styled-worldy, and although I’m sure that in a lot of cases that’s an intentional arrangement of a more complicated life, I also know that there are people out there (like me) who really don’t dwell on the negative past, so much so that they have trouble remembering it when asked things like “What was your biggest failure?” When this question came up, my brain just went *booooooooooooooop*. But seriously, how am I supposed to remember my failures of the past when I’m so busy worrying about potential failures in my potential future? I’m not superwoman! #paranoidpessimist
10. Did you suffer illness or injury?
We were all wonderfully healthy this year, and I am so, so, so, so glad for it.
11. What was the best thing you bought?
The fairy castle cottage wonderland playhouse thingy, which is currently overgrown with winter ferns and toadstools.
12. Whose behavior merited celebration?
Wombat has turned into the most amazing big brother. I knew he’d be good, but I didn’t think he’d be such a natural, and such a helper. The main issue between them is Wombat’s excessive enthusiasm. It started when newborn Fox came home and Wombat was so excited he was constantly amped up to 11 and I had a tranq gun aimed at his backside twelve hours a day. Now I spend about an hour, cumulative, telling him to “back off” and “give him space” and “STOP SMOTHERING HIM,” to which the only reply is “But he’s so cuuuuuuuute,” a statement there’s really no arguing with.
13. Whose behavior made you appalled and depressed?
Let’s just say that election season doesn’t, ah, bring out the best in everyone.
14. Where did most of your money go?
Mortgage and daycare/preschool, more constant than death and taxes.
15. What did you get really excited about?
Summer evenings roasting hot dogs over the fire in the backyard. Wombat learning to read and write better and better. Birthin’ a wee bairn (and it was exciting, and some day I’ll get around to writing it up proper-like). Spending Christmas with the in-laws we don’t get to see enough (and going to Disneyland!).
16. What song will always remind you of 2012?
We listen to “Carry On” by Fun an awful lot in the car because that’s exactly how long it takes to get to preschool in the morning. I also think the message is sweet, which is something I can’t say for Wombat’s other accidental favorite, “Pumped-Up Kicks,” which I’m trying to convince him has been officially changed to go “All the other babies with the pinked-up cheeks better run, better run, faster than my pinchers,” etc. Still working on it.
17. Compared to this time last year, are you:
–happier or sadder?
–thinner or fatter?
Thinner! Hooray! I’ve been working really hard and as of last week am only 5 lbs up from my pre-pregnancy weight (although my pants still don’t really fit).
–richer or poorer?
Richer? Maybe? Simon was unemployed for a few months but then got a new job, and I took on a bunch of extra freelance work but then took two months of unpaid leave at the end of the year and then lost my steady job altogether, so…multiply by twelve, carry the one aaaaand…I have no idea. WE NEED A BUDGET.
18. What do you wish you’d done more of?
Spending time in the backyard enjoying the summer weather. We did A LOT of that–kiddie pool, bubble wands, homemade popsicles, lemonade, wiener roasts, the whole shebang–but when the season ended I still hadn’t had my fill. Summer makes me greedy.
19. What do you wish you’d done less of?
Using pregnancy as an excuse to eat so many enchiladas because THE BABY NEEDS QUESO. Just kidding. I regret nothing enchilada-related!
20. How did you spend Christmas?
It was my first Christmas away from my family ever (I still can’t believe it), and we had an AMAZING time with Simon’s family in Southern California. His sister flew in with her family from England, all ten of us stayed in my MIL’s house for eight days and nights, and I think we defied every law of family physics by getting along for so many days without any drama.
21. Did you fall in love in 2012?
Oh yes. I mean, just look at him! He hasn’t had an ugly day yet.
22. What was your favorite TV program?
I started Parenthood on maternity leave and watched something like 52 episodes in two or three weeks. If you needed proof that I am, in fact, an impressively well-programmed android, I have only cried thrice in five seasons, but the show is still excellent excellent, and you should watch it. I also went into Bunheads very skeptical, but man, this week someone referred to chairs wrapped in plastic as “Laura Palmer furniture,” and oh, Amy Sherman-Palladino, where you lead, I will follow. Sherlock is also a really, really, really good time.
23. Do you hate anyone now that you didn’t hate this time last year?
I hate this question, so let’s ignore it here and excise it from all future recaps. Less hate, more love, bro.
24. What was the best book you read?
East of Eden was super-duper fantastic, like whoa. Did I read Prayer for Owen Meany this year? Good gracious, I loved it. I keep pimping Bringing Up Bébé, and I will keep pimping it until everyone reads it, so get going. I’m halfway through Cloud Atlas right now and holy hell, David Mitchell, are you a wizard or what? I would like to dedicate this year of reading actual books to accidentally letting my New Yorker subscription lapse for the first time in, god, twelve, thirteen years? (Look out 2013: I got a Groupon for $5 for a year of Cosmo.)
25. What was your greatest musical discovery?
I remember exactly when I first heard Fun. I had just come out of my gestational diabetes test and caught the last half of “We Are Young” while chompity-chewing my way through a smorgasbord of snacks and the whole time I kept trying to figure out where I’d heard the song before because it was so good it felt familiar. Has that ever happened to you? I mean, I guess I could have heard it somewhere before (it was released in September of 2011 and I heard it in February of 2012, and yes I just looked that up because I’m a compulsive fact-checker), but I’ve had this feeling before (with Hamlet and Death of a Salesman and “Such Great Heights” and the first time I met Simon, actually), so I think it’s a form of personal déjà vu that signals “This. This is special.”
26. What did you want and get?
A healthy baby boy. New slippers. Laid. Heh.
27. What did you want and not get?
A goddamn subscription to Real Simple, which I only point out because it’s been on my What To Get Me for Christmas/My Birthday Since You Were Kind Enough To Ask list for like two years.
27a. What did you not want and not get?
A c-section. Burglarized. The trots after eating tainted enchiladas.
28. What was your favorite film of this year?
Okay, this isn’t a really a film, it’s a miniseries, but Masterpiece’s Wuthering Heights, with Tom Hardy and Charlotte Riley, was so good we watched it three times in one week. I watched it by myself one night, and then when I wouldn’t shut up abbout it, Simon agreed to watch it with me, and the next day he wanted to go back and just see how it started, which led to us watching the whole thing again, and then his mom came to town a few days later and we watched it again with her. So. Yes. Good.
Anonymous we also watched twice in a row and talked about for days (some about the film but mostly about the Question of Shakespeare in general; the bard was my focus in college), and although I’m usually rather ridiculously overprotective of how the subject is treated (I poop on you, Shakespeare in Love), this one was thoroughly enjoyable, overacting and explosions and all.
Others we liked* (that I can only remember courtesy of our Netflix record, which doesn’t include what we streamed): Young Adult. Moonrise Kingdom. Looper. Like Crazy. The Box. And I loved introducing Wombat to Mary Poppins and Winnie the Pooh and Bedknobs and Broomsticks.
*I say “we” not because I’m not allowed to like movies all by myself but because the best ones are the ones Simon and I talk and talk and talk and talk about afterward (and sometimes through).
29. What did you do on your birthday, and how old were you?
I turned 33 (Jesus year, and I have thus far cured no lepers; sigh). I didn’t do anything super-special (except freak out because my blog broke), but I enjoyed the day just being all navel-gazey, as you (I) do.
30. What one thing would have made your year immeasurably more satisfying?
I wish we had an in with Southwest so we could fly to see our parents (and fly them to see us) more often. I hate that they’re not around to see the kids grow up, and I also miss them because I like them quite a bit.
31. How would you describe your personal fashion concept in 2012?
Fat pants. FAT PANTS.
32. What kept you sane?
The Internet, again. For all the ways it’s crazymaking, I can’t imagine doing what I do without it–without you–and that goes for everything from making social connections, having this space to blather and emote, and picking up extra work that challenges me and keeps my new-mom brain from turning to mush.
33. Which celebrity/public figure did you fancy the most?
Barack Obama is kind of super-awesome.
34. What political issue stirred you the most?
35. Who did you miss?
My parents and brother. Daycare Lady. All the folks who got to go to BlogHer12.
36. Who was the best new person you met?
37. Tell us a valuable life lesson you learned in 2012.
Most of the time, making a decision doesn’t mean I’m choosing something FOREVER. If I choose poorly, there may be unpleasant consequences (public humiliation! regret and woe! a terrible rash or mild burning sensation!), but there is probably also the option to change my mind and try again.
38. Quote a song lyric that sums up your year.
We are shining stars
We are invincible
We are who we are
On our darkest day
When we’re miles away
So we’ll come
We will find our way home
If you’re lost and alone
Or you’re sinking like a stone
May your past be the sound
Of your feet upon the ground