Saturday, August 28, 2010

Ode to Char

First of all, Charlie is very fortunate that I'm only getting around to posting about his first birthday now. See, when Charlie turned one, he had a lot of growing up to do. Miraculously, he's dedicated the past 10 weeks to maturing significantly, probably because he didn't want his baby book to have a birthday entry from his mom reading, "Charlie is a tool. I can't believe I survived his horrific first year. Still love him, but don't always like him."

Instead, now that he's shaped up his act, his birthday entry will read the following:

"Charlie is cool. I can't believe I survived his terrific first year. Love him, and almost always like him."

But nothing I write ever approaches succinctness, so it will also read:

Charlie has taken me to the extremes. In his birth, I experienced the highest high of my life, and in its immediate aftermath endured the most exquisitely painful lows of my life. This set the pattern for mothering him ever since: a topsy turvy roller coaster of polar emotional states. One moment he's so irresistible I'm resisting the urge to asphyxiate him with love. The next moment my ears are ringing, my blood is boiling and I'm resisting the urge to asphyxiate him without love. (Actually, I should be serious here. I never injured him or felt very close to doing so, for which I have deity to thank.)

So many times, and not just a handful, but actually nearly every day for the first ten months of his life, I had episodes of exasperation, desperation, and near-despair. Kyle was always plucking my gray hairs. I feel I aged 10 years in one.

There's no getting around the reality that Charlie was an unusually demanding and emotionally draining baby. I'm not saying it doesn't get much harder than Char. All I mean is that my personal stress threshold was pushed to the limit; with the help of his brother, he wore the thickest parts of my patience thin. I wanted to be savoring every baby milestone like the moms around me. I wanted to talk wistfully about how my baby is growing up so fast. Really, though, I wanted Charlie to grow up as quickly as humanly possible (or non-humanly, if it came to that)!

Of course there were also times of delight and bliss. That extra maternal umph of love was always there, and that's what kept me loving him immensely despite it all. I write frankly about the difficulties of Charlie's first year to acknowledge that it's okay to not love every moment or even stage of motherhood. If I'd felt like I had to smile and feign maternal peace and well-being that I was so far from feeling inside, I would've only ended up miserable. So I did my best to stay afloat and be emotionally easy on myself, and I knew someday I would know it was all worth it.

The older Charlie has become, the happier we've both been. I just knew there was a streak of independence in that ridiculously clingy child that was waiting for the right moment to be unleashed. That time has come. He still follows me around the house, crying and tugging on my pants a lot (which is how he learned to walk), but there are also lots of times when he waddles off full-speed ahead and only looks back to flash me a proud grin. Actually, he has managed to be both my clingiest and my most curious/destructive toddler. So, we get the BEST of both worlds, right?

In earlier days, I loved Char for his snuggles, his perfect baby koala form, and for patting his mouth while singing (old-school Indian style). Now I love Char for his excellent posture while walking, for finally displaying an interest in toys made for babies, and really, truly, for snuggling. There is an advantage to a clingy baby, and that is it. We find him resting his head on and snuggling up to odd-shaped plastic toys, scratchy church walls, and even his big brother (at his own risk!). You know when he approaches you he's going in for a snuggle, yet even expecting it, my heart melts every time.

Love that little guy because, hey, we've been through a lot together. Plus he's pretty lovable.

And for reading all that (and even if you didn't), you've earned a photo re-cap of Char's first 14 months of life. (cue sentimental music...)

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Char party madness, part 3

So with the food and decor on our side, the party was pulled off so effortlessly that I found myself pacing nervously around the room disturbed by my idleness-- why did I have nothing to do?! Because it was a small group--just our closest peeps-- and no games or activities for a baby party, I pretty much actually got to sit back and enjoy it! (When I wasn't nervously pacing, that is.) Oh yeah, when I said no activities I meant that the ball pit was like 10 rowdy and hilarious activities in one, so none other were needed.)

Kyle and I were both ecstatic and extremely relieved to see the end of my season-of-soireees. (Four thrown in five weeks.)

Char's our first kid to get a smash-cake experience. Well, I guess Erik had an accidental one.

Charlie waah-ed at first until he got a taste (but not before Erik did)...

And then he put on a pretty good show.

Some frosting even made it to the wall behind him.

He hasn't eaten a vegetable since. Oh well. That was fun, and fun is good.

We did have a quiz on Char's first year, that (surprise, surprise) Mish and Kjerstin tied to win.
I didn't get a group shot or pics of presents, but rest assured they were cool.

I believe it was a happy birthday for this boy (clad in a second Hungry Caterpillar outfit-- gifted by the Pauls-- which fit him despite being size 3-6 months). He's a pretty nice young lad, and much more so since his first birthday. (That's all to come in the next post.)

Also, this is my new favorite party I've thrown (it tends to be my most recent one)! I pretty much loved everything about it, and I pretty much love everything about Charlie. (Sometimes.)

Monday, August 23, 2010

But he was still hungry.... Char party, part 2

Remember this little guy? As promised, I will guide you through a tour of his gluttony, and likewise that of our party guests. (I will acknowledge that a close-up of fruit wedges falls short of thrilling some people. I'm glad you're not one of those people.)

You may suspect that Erik's hand was at the scissors for these tags, but no. If you recall, much of Eric Carle's artistic appeal to me is his wonky non-perfectionism. In fact, when making the food banner, I had to force myself to cut crooked sometimes! Being an utter slob by nature, this artistic allowance felt splendid.

I go to Mish for all my baking needs.

Yes, leaves buried in what else but more fruit! Char had such a fun diaper the next day.

I was originally planning on a bundt cake type caterpillar, but it turns out I don't have a bundt cake pan.

The same friend who made Erik's dinosaur cake offered her talents again and whipped out these whimsical pretties, which are much better than a bundt cake.

Not as well balanced a spread as I prefer to serve at parties, but everyone got their eight-fruits-a-day!

Next, since I did technically do this for him and not for food and streamers, Charlie makes an appearance at his own birthday party.