Tuesday, March 29, 2011

What We Learned: 5 Months

There is something about having a five month old baby.  He's not so new anymore.  I kind of know him.  He does big boy things like sit up.  He talks.  He laughs.  He has two freaking teeth.  It is not fair that having a nice baby equates having a big grown up baby.  There is a fine line between wanting him to learn new skills and wanting him to stay small and sweet.  My boy is changing so fast, I want him to slow down.  I want life to slow down. 

Bennett learned to hold his bottle.

I learned that five months of washing bottles is getting old.

Bennett learned to sit up.

We learned he's not always behind on the development curve.

Bennett learned he has a friend, Atticus.

Atticus learned Bennett isn't going anywhere.  Crap.

Bennett learned to put himself back to sleep.

Rocky learned that not all middle of the night waking equals starving baby.

Bennett learned growing teeth hurt.

We learned a tooth can pop up out of nowhere and another can cause weeks of pain and anguish.

Bennett learned to chatter.

We learned loud squacking translates to "I am hungry," or "I am tired," or perhaps "I am so freaking happy!"

Bennett learned to hold his toes.

I learned that holding my baby in the middle of the night is a treat that I'll cherish as long as he'll let me.

Big boy, no?

Sunday, March 27, 2011

The Proof is in the Toof

When Bennett was first born, people initially declared he looked just like his daddy. But as Bennett grew older, it became apparent that he was definitely his mother’s child.From the bluish-grey eyes to the dimples on each cheek, Bennett definitely looked a lot more like Allison and a lot less than his old dad. Don’t get me wrong, this was a good development. We all know that I married up. So the fact that my son is developing some quite dapper looks makes me incredibly happy.

With less of my traits appearing in Bennett, people started talking. Then, just before my friends began to really examine what the mailman looked like, the first bit of evidentiary proof of my paternal involvement appeared. That’s right…Bennett was cutting a tooth! Now most people that have seen me and my father have commented that we have a beautiful smile, which is just a nice way of say “my gosh your teeth are huge and really fill out that smile.”

It looks like Bennett is going to take after his dad after all. In fact, just a few days after tooth one appeared, we noticed he was quite irritable (obviously, his mother’s child) and we noticed that Bennett didn’t have one tooth he had two! You know what they say, like father like son.

Friday, March 25, 2011

Flashback Friday:The Day the Vera Died

A long, long time ago, Rocky and I were invited to a black-tie wedding one Valentine’s Day. It was a first for both of us. I debated for weeks over cocktail or evening gown options and desperately tried to borrow a dress from a friend. After all, I knew a black-tie wedding worthy dress would undoubtedly only be worn once.

I decided to bite the bullet and go shopping for something appropriate. When I showed up at Nieman Marcus, I was surprised to find racks and racks of discounted dresses. There were sequins and spaghetti straps, sheaths and ball gowns, Mizrahi, Meister and Mischka. When I had been begrudging the timing of my coworkers nuptials, I should have been thanking him. I had hit the post-inaugural ball discount dress jackpot!

I finally settled on a blueberry-colored Vera Wang number. I had never owned something so fancy and it just so happened to fit me like a glove. The dress made me feel like a movie star. Even though it was already the deal of the century, I vowed to find other opportunities to wear it.
When we got home from a wonderful evening of dinner and dancing, Atticus ran across our living room and jumped into my lap. He was so excited, he couldn’t contain himself...he peed all over the Vera. He left behind a lovely stain straight down the front of the skirt.  The dry cleaner could save the silk, but he couldn’t save the sequins. My dream dress was a one hit wonder after all.  At least she went out with a bang!
Bennett is apalled at your behavior, Atticus.
We were singing bye bye Miss Blueberry Pie...

Thursday, March 24, 2011

Week In Review

I could have had a fresh post for each day this week, but now you just get one giant brain dump. Maybe if I placate you with pictures, you will forgive my distracted behavior and lazy attitude?

Laziness is not an acceptable excuse!
 My cousin Sean is back on American soil, safe and sound. There is a rumor going around that he’ll be in town next week. I’m hoping we’ll get the chance to introduce him to Bennett, but he may be a bit busy hanging out with another B, as in Mr. President. Call me cuz, if you can’t find a date!

Sean, Bennett can't wait to meet you!
Bennett’s gummy smile is a little less gummy these days. He has not one but two teeth! Thankfully, he hasn’t learned how to use them just yet…
Please don't make me smile!
Thanks to Congressional recess, my boss recommended I take a mental health day. I got to spend a random Wednesday playing with Bennett. Staying home with an almost-five month old is entirely different than staying home during that 0-3 month newborn phase. We read books, played on the floor, ran an errand while the boy was awake and alert, even napped together. It is a good thing I don’t get the opportunity more often, it really made it hard to come back to work today.
Mom, don't leave me!
I love to read, but as soon as I got pregnant I lost my ability to concentrate and everything became “babies, babies, babies.” So, recently finishing the five hundred page book, South of Broad, by Pat Conroy, felt like quite the accomplishment. The story follows the life of a group of friends who survive disease, despair and mass destruction. You know, your typical Southern novel. The story may have required a Kleenex or a tranquilizer, but the language he used was so beautiful. The words he used to describe each detail made it quite apparent he loves Charleston and the South and it reminded me just how much I love it too.
I don't think they dress like this down South, at least not in March!
After spending a couple of weeks pretending like I didn’t get the email, I accepted Vanderbilt Career Center’s invitation to speak at a career forum. They asked me to speak about my experiences as a lobbyist. I won’t ask you to contain your laughter, because I couldn’t contain myself either. Much to my surprise, it went smashingly. Sure, it was a little awkward knowing that my mug shot was projected on an eight foot screen in front of a room of Vandy overachievers. But as it turns out, I had something to say. It had been so long since I felt like I knew what I was talking about. I’m so thankful Anne talked me into doing it. When it was over, I felt like I could lasso the moon.
Catching a Bennett is better than lasso-ing the moon any day.

Friday, March 18, 2011

Flashback Friday: A is for Average B is for Bitter

C is for Crazy Curls
I’m not what you would call athletic. The only time I ever got a C on a report card was in my seventh grade physical education class. To me, learning the rules to football was like learning Portuguese. I tried. I studied. I ran hard and tried valiantly to use my toothpick arms to attempt a pull-up. The C didn’t hurt as much as the check mark under “Average Effort.”

My sophomore year of high school, I signed up for the track team after my best friends joined. I practiced with the sprinters because it seemed running the 200 meter dash and the high hurdles would be easier for a novice runner than say the 3200 meter run.

It didn’t come easy for me. I think my parents were only invited to one track meet that season because I consistently finished in middle of the pack. How average. But I fought hard. I had the shin splints and the sports medicine referrals to prove it.

Track was tough. Thankfully, my friends agreed. We were surrounded by star athletes and we only joined to stay busy in the spring season. To fuel our aching bodies and defeated egos, we made an after-school McDonald’s run on more than one occasion. There’s nothing like running laps and practicing calisthenics on a Big Mac and a French fry hangover.

Then, one track meet my seventh grade teacher was there to clock times at the finish line. I ran my little heart out. My legs throbbed and my little toothpick arms flapped in the wind. I crossed that finish line and had to ask the coach, “How was that for average effort?”

Thursday, March 17, 2011

Pump for My Baby's Rump

If your name starts with Dad, Uncle or Mister, I advise you to give yourself a break from this installment of Shrimp and Kings. If you are easily offended by bodily functions, I advise you to give yourself a break from this installment of Shrimp and Kings. If you have no desire to have children, I advise you to give yourself a break from this installment of Shrimp and Kings.

Now that all two of you are left, let me tell you about pumping. It sucks. (Ha!) I dedicated myself to nursing Bennett until he was at least six months old and since I’m back at work, pumping is essential to success. I just didn’t know how draining it could be. (Ha!) The first couple of weeks I was at it, I needed to pump every other hour. Now, my body has adjusted and I only need to take three breaks a day. It’s a good thing it got easier, because the circumstances are less than ideal.

Let’s keep in mind I am surrounded by men, male attorneys, male lobbyists, even the office manager is a man. I had to approach the middle-aged office manager to ask for space to do my business. I was rewarded with a storage room with a broken light switch.  It is filled with floor to ceiling boxes. Adding to the pain, the string to lower the shades is blocked by the dumb boxes. I had to resort to building a little wall of dumb boxes so the folks across the street don’t get a little show. Even more aggravating, firm policy does not allow locks on the doors, so I have to pray my little door stop does the trick. Like I said, its less than ideal.

Surrounded by men, insulated by dumb boxes, I’m sitting pretty (in the dark). I spend fifteen minutes hiding in my little den, balancing bottles and tubes, a book and my blackberry. Contributing to the ambience, my little pump makes this lovely wee-oo-wee-oo noise for the entire fifteen minute pumping session. I didn’t think this was that big of a deal.  Being surrounded by the dumb boxes, you’d think it would muffle the noise, right? I was beautifully ignorant of just how thin those walls are for weeks. Then, a coworker took a call next door and I could hear him clear as day, as if he was sitting right next to me. But it wasn’t just any call, he was speaking to a Governor. On speaker-phone. I wonder what wee-oo-wee-oo sounds like on speaker phone in the oval office a square state?

Several times a day, I meekly walk down the hall back to my desk and stash the parts and the produce in my contraband fridge. Thanks to the contraband fridge, I don't have to wash every part in-between pumping sessions.  Thanks to the contraband fridge, I don't have to store my bottles amongst weeks-old leftovers or smelly lunches.  The bossman never asked about the lifesaving-contraband fridge and it went without comment until this week when he asked why I had one. Really? You’re just noticing this now? “My lunch…and Bennett’s lunch.” I know for certain he’ll never say another word.

The logistics are lousy.  The process is a pain.  But Baby Bennett is growing to be a giant, building a brain, and sitting strong.  I know it is worth every awkward exchange and every sound and side effect.  I can see the fruits of my labor everyday as he learns a new skill or smiles that gummy grin.  I might have to read him this post every bedtime so he knows how hard mommy works for him.  Wee-oo-wee-oo.

Friday, March 11, 2011

Flashback Friday: Family Tradition

You grow up an O’Rourke, you know that St. Patrick’s day ranks right up there with Christmas, Easter and ice fishing season. For many years, my family traveled to northern Wisconsin to celebrate the most sacred of green beer holidays. We would spend the weekend at Uncle Kevin’s cabin, listening to The Chieftans and Van Morrison. Saturday was the pinnacle of festivities, the famous St. Patty’s Day Parade. We froze our ¼ Irish hinies off to grab candy, Mardi Gras beads, and other “Imported from China, not County Clare” baubles.
Every year the cousins would compete for who had the most Irish paraphernalia. But Mary’s dangly earring and sock collections were no match for Sean-E-O and his belt buckles, green carnation corsages and his shamrock ties.   I'm sure my mom felt left out with her authentic Ireland sweathsirt.  She did buy it in Dublin, afterall.
I’m just teaching my kid to keep up with family traditions.

Thursday, March 10, 2011

Luck Be An Auntie

So, remember what a big deal I made of getting out of the house for our first real post-baby date? It felt like we were busting loose and fancy free, albeit guilt stricken and in a hurry to get back to cuddle with our kiddo. We were gone less than three hours and only a few miles from home. Just three weeks later, we went away for a night. Without the baby. Across three state lines. Sounds like a huge leap, no?

It would have been a major hurdle had it not been for the bestest sister a girl could ask for. Had it been anyone else, I would have been hyperventilating, waking up in the middle of the night to check my phone. I’d be up for the day at 5:00 AM, just to see how the night went. But you see, Mary takes care of babies for a living. She works with preemies and babies with heart conditions and babies waiting for transplants. And she’s been an all-star babysitter for more than a decade. As soon as she was old enough, my regular babysitting clients stopped calling me. I think their rug rats were begging for her and not the strict, boring big sister.

I wasn’t worried about Bennett. I was worried about Mary. Being that he lacks any real mobility yet, he’s relatively easy. He wouldn’t be running away or jumping off furniture. He eats, he squeals, he dirties diapers. But the sleep. Oh the sleep. Putting him down for bed or a nap can be tricky. Very tricky. Bennett has this very small window between awake and asleep. It seems he goes from “maybe he could be tired” to epic meltdown of “why didn’t we put this kid to bed fifteen minutes ago” evil proportions. Rocky and I know it, expect it, and can handle it. Asking anyone to deal with it for a twenty-two hour stretch seemed like asking someone to walk the plank.

It didn’t surprise me when I called Saturday morning and she was exhausted. She needed a vacation from her babysitting vacation. We rushed to get dressed, check out, and on the road. I was in such a hurry I left my makeup behind. Hopefully, the maid has the same complexion and can benefit from my only regular self-indulgent splurge. We skipped breakfast and burned rubber back three state lines. I had an hour and a half of worry and regret and “we’re never doing this again” second-guessing.
By the time we got there, he was napping. Apparently, Mary just needed an hour break, because she was back to her old-babysitting-angel-self. Mary learned to roll with Bennett’s naptime nuisance. Then, we had almost two more days with Mary to recover. She had a few tricks up her sleeve to help us get him to giggle and even to go to sleep a little easier. Bennett is lucky to have the lady for an auntie and I’m even luckier to have her for a sister.

Sunday, March 6, 2011

B Has Mad Skillz Y'all

At Bennett's 4 month check up last week, I inundated the doctor with development questions.  Is it ok he isn't rolling over?  Is it ok he doesn't put toys in his mouth?  "Of course it is ok crazy first time paranoid mother.  In fact, look at how your 92nd percentile height child likes to stand."  She told this crazy first time paranoid mother, "Time to put that kid in a chair, time to put that kid in an exersaucer." 

When we got home and that night, Bennett put his toy in his mouth.
Then yesterday, at 4 months and four days, Bennett pulled up into a sitting position.  That's only two months ahead of schedule!  When he did it again the next day, we caught it on camera.
We tried out the exersaucer/stationary-entertainer/mom-can-finally-make-dinner-toy. He loved it. See for yourself.
He went from blob, to baby, to grown man.   Bennett, it's time to slow down!

Friday, March 4, 2011

Flashback Friday: Frequent Flier Family and Friends

February 2011 will forever be known as the MONTH OF VISITORS!

We’re flashing back all the way to February 4, with the arrival of Grandma Ski. She had been apart from little B. for a whole FOUR WEEKS and couldn’t take it anymore. With Rocky out of town, it was a thrilling weekend of lounging in our jammies, watching movies, and hosting a fake Super Bowl party for our party of three. She even encouraged me to take the kid out in public, WHILE HE WAS AWAKE! Had we thought to bring a clean diaper or two, it would have been a total success.
My poor mom admitted that if they hadn’t just settled my sister so happily in Nashville, they might be hightailing it up to Virginia and moving in with us. She was surprised he had gained approximately forty-five pounds, learned Swahili and could even hold a rattle! It was heartbreaking to discover how much a kid can change in such a short period of time. We’ve since planned monthly Ski visits.
The following weekend, my best friend Anne, and her husband Pete flew all the way from Cali-forn-ia for a 48 hour trip just to meet Bennett. It was our third annual King-Marlenga reunion weekend. Our first trip, we met up in Las Vegas. It was freezing cold, even for Nevadan standards, so we were resolved to staying inside and playing the slots.
Last year, we met up in Florida for New Years. It was freezing cold, even for Floridian standards, so we were resolved to playing mini-golf in our parkas.
For our 2011 reunion, we had less interest in sitting around in our string bikinis, so the weather wasn’t such a deal breaker. But it was freezing cold, even for Virginian standards, so we were resolved to staying inside and lounging in our jammies. We learned that our B(arnacle) may crimp our style from time to time, but those 8:00 bedtimes are ideal for bonding with old friends.
Remember my mention of those imported babysitters from New York City (New York City!)? They were none other than Moose and Auntie Nini (the artist formerly known as C.Patel). I don’t think it was too hard to read between the lines involving boogers, that I needed a break. They reached out to Rocky and demanded to meet B and get me the heck out of the house and away from said boogers. I got to get all gussied up and they got to stay home and lounge in their jammies. I did a good job helping them to assimilate into suburban culture by bribing them with pizza delivery, cable tv, and Saturday night-in playing scrabble. It was really a win-win for everyone involved.
Wrapping up the MONTH OF VISITORS was our little baptism weekend. If I didn’t have the deep love affair with my church that I do, it would have been more convenient to welcome Bennett into a Tennessee church. Instead, there were five plane tickets, sixteen hours in the car, “a sick day,” and a partridge in a pear tree. I hope I’m right, but I think they’d have to say it was a worthy endeavor.
Bennett was the perfect host, screaming on cue to prove that I don’t exaggerate his angry red face and smiling on cue to prove I’m not raising a monster. I know I sound like a broken record from time to time, but we are truly blessed to have so many people supporting us from near and far. I just wish there was a whole lot more near, and not so many so far.
P.S. Happy 100th Post to Shrimp and Kings!

Tuesday, March 1, 2011

Forever Friends

It used to bother me that my closest D.C. friends were the girlfriends and wives of Rocky’s friends. However, I had been struggling to maintain relationships with the friends I had made on the Hill. Most of them were single and spent their free time at Capitol Hill happy hours. Instead, I was too distracted by a boy from East Tennessee. The feminist in me is embarrassed to admit it, but I was just so excited to finally be living near my boyfriend that I rushed home after work so I’d be available to see him if and when he had a study break. Keeping up with the Hill crowd seemed all but impossible.

I was so happy when I hit it off with Lindsay, another law school widow. We bonded while our husbands were glued to the tv during football season. It was nice to branch out beyond the Hill and have a friend who understood me a little better. Our friendship was easy and we only grew closer when our little boys were born three weeks apart.

Rocky, however, is fortunate to have a fabulous group of friends. I'm not sure fabulous is the word they would use, but I certainly would. They have helped us move four times. They fix our roof. They fix our cars. They take care of the dog when we're traveling or off having babies. His friend, Tom, even spent an afternoon assembling the chair covers for our wedding, voluntarily, without being asked.

Tom did something else incredibly above and beyond. When he found a bride, he found me a new friend. It’s hard to believe it was just over a year ago Amber and I were fumbling through lunch, getting to know one another and finding common ground discussing our dogs. Since meeting her, we’ve celebrated engagements, babies, birthdays and housewarmings. She’s thoughtful and caring and generous. She feels like the kind of friend I had been missing since moving to D.C.

Amber and Tom are getting hitched on Friday and we couldn’t be happier for them. I'm so happy to be celebrating a forever friendship of both the marrying and girlfriending kind.

What We Learned: 4 Months

Hot diggity, I am raising a homo sapien after all! Since his three month update, it feels like that switch was finally flipped. I was hoping it was just growth and age. But I honestly believe it has a lot to do with my return to work. It is hard not to blame-slash-thank the new interaction, the new games, the new atmosphere for his new-found human abilities such as conversation-like babbling, sitting still, and not losing it during tummy time.

He has become such an incredible joy. He is attentive and curious. He is aware of his surroundings. I can already see his developing sense of humor, even if it is just because I know how to do a mean horse lips.

With Bennett's growth and development, I am beginning to feel more like my old-self too. I can participate in adult conversations that don’t involve boogers. I worry about world peace and politics and accessorizing. I’m not just a mommy zombie, I’m more of a human too.

Bennett learned to breathe through one nostril.

We learned that having a sick baby can break your heart.

Bennett learned to sleep through the night, then re-learn to sleep through the night and then re-re-learn to sleep through the night.

We learned Bennett likes church.

Bennett learned to grab and hold on tight, be it hands, noses, Atticuses, or our clothes.

Atticus learned to be patient.

Bennett learned there are other things to concentrate on besides food.

I learned to be patient.

Bennett learned that there is a long line of people who can’t wait to meet him, hold him and love on him.

Rocky learned that even dads can do the pick-up routine at daycare.

Bennett learned to be vengeful and avoid eye contact with mommy when she works late.

I learned that being a working mom can make me a better mom.

Bennett learned to laugh.

Rocky and I learned that every day we think we couldn’t love him more but then we do.