Monday, May 23, 2011

Clowns to the left of me! Jokers to the right!

Stuck in the middle with you.

Our little, middle guy is having some tough days lately. There's the daily battle to get him dressed as he screeches and cries, "No, I wan wear jammies."
There's his new obsession with turning off the television whenever big brother Bub is watching something. Cue screeching, screaming, and cries of "Moo-oom, he _______!"
There's the running around in circles once we've gone upstairs to settle down for night-night.
There's his habit of "accidentally" knocking over, kicking, and tripping his little sister Sweet P.
There's the running far away from me at Target, Jo-Ann Fabric, and Jewel ... even when just as we've entered each store, he's looked up at me sweetly and promised, "I stay close, Mom. I stay close you."
There's the schtick where he folds his arms across his chest, sticks out his lower lip, and announces in manner of an obnoxious sitcom kid, "Not fair. It not fair." If I ask him to clarify what's not fair, he answers, "You!"
There are the screeching and screaming fits that come seemingly out of nowhere and are resistant to logic and even to kindness and patience.
He'll turn three next month. I'm in the camp of parents who think the threes are potentially more terrible than the twos so perhaps his tough days can be attributed, in part, to his age.
Circumstances are probably also a factor. It's been a long "sprinter" (term for winter-like spring conditions), and he's been cooped up too much. Plus, he's been cooped up in a house that's for sale and always needs to be "close" to show-ready. His mama is tired and short on patience these days.
And, of course, he's our little, middle guy. Our daily and weekly schedules are dictated by Bub's school schedule, Bub's t-ball practices and games, and Sweet P's naps. Our Little Bit goes with the flow pretty well ... until he doesn't. I don't want to pin everything on birth order, but I imagine he does feel stuck in the middle sometimes, wondering, What about me?
Earlier in the spring when Sweet P was learning to walk, my hubby would stand her up so she could practice walking between us. Little Bit, desperate for his own attention, would swoop in, block her, and say, "Look me. Look me. Look I walking!" So we would humor him and clap, "Yes, good, good for you. You ARE walking, just as you have been for almost two years now. Way to go!"
Our little, middle guy is our biggest cuddle bug. He will crawl up on my lap, give me a hug, and say, "I love you too, Mommy." It's the too that gets me every time. I hope it indicates that my "I love you" to him is always understand, but my heart breaks that he always seems to need just a little bit more reassurance.
Little Bit climbs into our bed at some point every night. Sometimes hubby hauls him back to his own bed, but a lot of nights we leave him. In the morning, he wakes up between me and his daddy. Sometimes we will both snuggle him and kiss his cheeks at the same time. His eyes light up so big and with such joy that it's worth the discomfort of having been kicked by him for the last hour of fitful sleep.
He is a lovable little guy. With his angelic face and his big, blue eyes, I don't know if there is a boy who looks any sweeter when freshly-scrubbed and in his jammies.
And he's funny too. His passion for Star Wars and lightsabers is still fiery. He's invented a new game called Hide-n-Seek Lightsabers. The hider and the seeker are both armed with lightsabers. As the seeker seeks, he has to say, "I have a bad feeling about this." Cracks me up every time to hear Little Bit say that. When seeker finds hider, a battle ensues. Sometimes, two lightsabers cannot be located and Little Bit is quick to improvise, "It okay. I use the Force."
He likes to dance and shakes his little hips.
He's learned a couple of prayers and songs at school and his attempts to share them at home are stinking adorable.
He's taken a fancy to the younger sister of one of Bub's friends and calls her his girlfriend. "My girlfriend be there? My girlfriend be at t-ball?"
He used the potty exactly enough times to earn the red lightsaber I promised him as an incentive and then promptly stopped.
He eats his own dinner every evening and then eats a second meal with me and Daddy a couple of hours later. He's so proud whenever he tries a new food, "I like it, Mom. I like it!"
He asks me to take his picture all the time. I'm happy to oblige. One day my little, middle guy will be dressing himself, hearing "no" without throwing himself on the floor, staying at home all by himself while I shop at Target alone, and sleeping in his own bed past nine or even ten o' clock in the morning. I'll look at those pictures and only have slightly blurry memories of the screeching and the crying and the battling and the mess-making.
I don't know if birth order is a crock or not. I'm the oldest in my family and don't know firsthand what it feels like to be "stuck in the middle." I'm not doubting the pain of the experience, just wishing I knew better how to make his tough days less so. I guess just summon all the patience and energy I have and keep telling him and showing him how much he is loved.
I love you too, Little Bit. So, so, much that it's not fair. You're stuck in the middle and you're stuck with me and Daddy. So there.

Any middle children out there? Any wisdom to add? Grievances to air?

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

A Visit to the Bookstore (don't snore)

Way back in my early twenties, I lived in three different houses/apartments over the course of four years, all less than a five-minute walk from the bookstore named on the bag above. It was one of my happy places.* I spent many satisfying evenings browsing the bargain books set out on tables outside and inspecting the new releases inside and to the right. The store hosts author readings and book signings several nights a week, and my dear friend and fellow booklover E... and I were regular attendees, often buying the featured author's book when we felt sorry for him/her that the reading was not better attended. (Side Note: these days, the thought of conjuring pity for someone who had actually finished and then published a book seems kind of comical.) I also enjoyed many meals in the book store's cafe, including a Beef Wellington special that still comes to mind on cold winter evenings.
When I taught a high school elective course called "Bestsellers" (basically, a course devoted to reading for pleasure, not necessarily to reading bestsellers), I took my students on a field trip to this bookstore. Can we pause for a moment to appreciate the fact that I was able to gain permission for the students and I to take a school bus to this bookstore, enjoy a tour and browsing, and then walk across the street for a pizza party in my home before taking the school bus back? That really happened.
Anyway, I love this bookstore but had not visited for years. When I was back in the Cincinnati area with my kids during Bub's spring break, E... and I were planning to get together and decided to meet up at the bookstore for browsing and dinner. We had the most lovely time, making our way through the store, discussing books, considering purchases, and making each other laugh ("a coastal knitters mystery"--that is funny). The last time we had walked through that store together and shared in a meal in that cafe we were young, unmarried high school teachers. Now we are wives and mothers (three children each)--older, wiser, tired-er. The opportunity to be alone with a dear friend and surrounded by books was especially delicious and worth savoring.
I haven't followed all of the reports because I live out of town, but I am pretty sure that my favorite bookstore is in or near bankruptcy. I am hopeful that the store can be salvaged somehow. Admittedly, I do most of my book shopping online these days. Taking my brood into a bookstore is not even a little bit relaxing. Truth be told, I also have a hard time paying full price for a new hardback when I know I can get it for free at the library or for 30% off online. Like so many others, I hate the idea that bookstores are becoming endangered species but do enjoy discounts and, more and more, enjoy ebooks and audiobooks (though, to be clear, I do still buy traditional books and pray that I will always have that option). I also read more reviews than I used to and find that I am seeking out particular titles and authors these days, whereas in the past I tended to browse and take chances.
I tried to do my part to support bookstores that evening and thought you might like to see my purchases.
The books were mostly bargain books:
Street Gang by Michael Davis is a history of Sesame Street that I read a review of years ago and had been wanting to check out.
The Wednesday Sisters by Meg Waite Clayton was purchased because, as often happens for me in the bargain book section, I liked the title and cover.
I made one non-bargain book selection (discounted paperback). I had read many positive reviews of Jennifer Egan's A Visit from the Goon Squad, which has since time of purchase won the National Book Critics Circle Award and the 2011 Pulitzer Prize for Fiction. Not too shabby.
Having devoted six years of my life to researching female friendship, I had to pick up the bargain edition of Friendship Poems since I am diligently continuing my research (when I am not working out). Ahem.
I haven't read any of the books yet, but it's always a happy, hopeful feeling to know there are books waiting to be enjoyed.
I also bought this beautiful collection of cardinal notecards by the late Charley Harper. I am obsessed with cardinals and knew nothing of Charley Harper until I saw these notecards. I have since pored over a website selling Charley Harper prints with the hope that I will someday have a new home in which to feature one or two.
And, in the name of supporting independent bookstores, I also purchased some baby gifts and dinner. Just trying to do my part.
My book buying habits may make for snoring-boring reading (sorry), but I am interested in the topic and would love to know if others' habits have changed over the years as mine have. Have yours? Where do you get your books? How often do you visit bookstores? Do you have a favorite one? Any recent bookstore purchases worth sharing? Are you a sucker for the bargain book section? Please share in the comments.

*Other happy places of that time period include: Graeter's in Hyde Park Square, the "World's Greatest Don Pablos Ever", Bruegger's Bagels, Arthur's patio, the audiobook section of the Oakley Branch of the Cincinnati Public Library, and the now-closed Phar-Mor. I basically could list every eatery in the area, but I will stop for now.
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