Along Came a Spider

by Ashley on March 9, 2015

The day began boring enough.

Play, breakfast, more play. Then we loaded up into the car.

Buckling the child into the seat is an ordeal. She always wants to go wherever we’re going, but she doesn’t want to be strapped down to get there. (The seatbelt struggle will be relevant later. Please bear with me.)

I eventually won the buckle battle. We back out of the driveway and head down the street. Less than one minute later, yes, one minute, while we’re still on our street, the child says, “Spider.”

No fear. No concern. Not even surprise. Just a statement.

I was less calm.

Our exchange went something like this:

“There’s a spider?”


“Where is the spider, honey?”

“In the car.”

(Not good.)

“Where in the car? On the window?”

“In the car.”

“On the door?”

“In the car.”

(Not helpful.)

“Is it a small spider?”

“Big spider.”

“It’s not a small spider?”

“No, big spider.”

(Definitely not good.)

“What color is the spider?”


“How many legs does it have?”

“One, two, three, four, five, six, seven, eight, nine, ten.”


(Though that’s not an unusual answer when there’s more than about five things.)

I don’t know whether to believe her, but either way, I’m a liiiiittle freaked out.

We continue driving because we’re meeting someone for lunch and I don’t want to be late. Ten minutes and one missed turn later, I’d forgotten about the spider.

She had not.

We pull up, park. I start getting out of the car. Again she says, “Spider.”

I go around to the back seat and ask, “Where’s the spider?”


And points.

To an ENORMOUS bug (not a spider, though easily mistaken for one if you’re only 2 years old). It’s just hanging out on the ceiling. Its six legs were at least an inch long. I’m not even kidding. Had it actually been a spider, it would have been a daddy longlegs.

I swatted the varmint out of the car, screamed when it flew into my coat and danced a crazy jig in the parking lot to shake it out.

No clue where it went. (Awesome.)

Later, as I retold the story with amusement mixed with horror, I wondered something I hadn’t thought of earlier.

How did she know it was a big spider? Where’d she get that frame of reference?

I also realized that the beast was perched over my head the whole time I argued with her over whether she would ride in the carseat. That’s a good four minutes or so.

Moral of the story: Believe the child’s warning when it comes to spiders. Better safe than sorry.

Show Me What’s on Your Mind

by Ashley on April 22, 2014

Sign language

Bert Heymans via Flickr

When you were born, you cried. Nonstop. For four long months.

Just days into your tiny life, I thought to myself, “This one must be broken,” and almost returned you to the hospital. Surely there had to be more sounds that come out of a baby than the ear-piercing, gut-wrenching, fear-inducing sound that constantly came out of you.

I asked friends with children what could be wrong. They felt sorry for me, but had no answers. They offered ideas, suggestions, wild guesses. But there was no answer.

It’s hard to pretend to be happy about having a newborn when the newborn was making me miserable. I loved you, but I didn’t like you much at all.

Finally, one day, someone offered something helpful. It wasn’t a solution. But it made a world of difference.

Her candid, comforting words: “Sometimes, they just cry.”

What an enlightening moment. Those four words did not alleviate your crying, nor did they make the sound of it any less distressing.

But those words gave me peace. More than I could have imagined.

You see, I could not understand you. You cried, and I tried to discover what you were telling me. I was miserable because I simply did not know. And I could not explain to you how desperately I wanted to know.

When you cried, I cried.

Now, more than a year later, you still bring me to tears when you try to tell me what you want. But now, they are tears of joy, because I do understand you.

We started learning sign language together when you were 6 months old. We practiced inconsistently at first, but more diligently as time passed.

You started signing back to me a month or so ago. At first, it was just one sign: “more.”

Oh, my love, I nearly cried with overwhelming delight. I don’t have the words to describe my excitement at the single sign you showed me. I’m choking up just writing this letter to you because I’m so proud of you.

You signed “more” a lot at dinnertime. Then you signed “more” when you wanted other things. More TV remote. More iPhone.

We keep practicing new signs. You tell me when you want milk. You tell me when you hear an airplane overhead. You understand when we’re all done.

Last week, you signed a three-word request: “More fruit please.”

My heart leapt with pride and joy. For you, sweetheart, are my pride and joy.

But now you’ve stopped signing “more.” You learned that Mommy asks you to sign “please” before you get more, so you just skip straight to please. You’re efficient that way.

You learned three signs yesterday. You made a new one before 8 a.m. this morning and another one this afternoon. They’re coming faster now. I think you understand that the signs mean something, just like words do. You match them up. And you talk to me.

When I sang to you at breakfast, you heard a word that matches one of the signs you learned yesterday, and you showed me you remembered it.

You recognize even more signs than you can sign back. When anyone signs “I love you,” you wave and say “bye-bye.” Because to you, they match. Daddy always says he loves you before he leaves.

We have come so far from those first months when you couldn’t tell me what you wanted, only that you were dissatisfied with not having it.

My darling, I cannot explain how proud (and relieved) I am.

I hope one day that you love language as much as I do. But even if you don’t, I hope you will always try to talk to me, no matter how difficult it may sometimes be. There’s nothing you can tell me that I won’t desperately try to understand.


The Baby Bird in My House

by Ashley on March 12, 2014

Baby birdI have become a closet eater.

Not because I’m embarrassed about my snack habits. (Yes, I’ll own up to eating half a bag of M&Ms on occasion.)

It’s just that I cannot eat anything in peace anymore. Other mothers can attest to this.

My wee one can’t talk yet, but her mouth can already ask, “Can I have some?”

No, scratch that. It’s not even a question; it’s a statement. “I’ll have some.”

By far the funniest time was when she was about 10 months old. She was playing with Grandpa on the other side of the room. With a few fleeting moments to myself, I grabbed the leftover half-banana that she didn’t eat at breakfast.

Children apparently come with a built-in banana-homing device. From the middle of play, she zeroed in on that banana and saw me take the first bite.

Big smile.

Drops everything.

Then crawling my way at top speed.

“I’m coming! I’m coming!”

So much for my snack.

And now I frequently get the baby bird look. This one time she’s playing in the pantry, and I grab a chocolate from one of those boxes of assorted chocolates (in which half of them have been bitten into and put back in the box because it was gross and you moved on to the next one, trying to find the truffle kind. You know what I’m talking about.)

I finally found a good one. I’m trying to enjoy it, but I’m dangerously close to the little beggar. She sees me eating it, but has no idea what it is. She had never had chocolate before.

Never hesitating to try something new (this child nearly ate a stinkbug once), she opened her mouth and leaned in, waiting for a taste.

It was not a request. Simply an expectation. “I’ll have some.”

(Thankfully, she has developed some patience. Not much, but I’ll take what I can get. There was a stage when, if I showed her a banana and it wasn’t in her mouth within five seconds, she screamed as if I were poking out her eyes. I don’t miss that stage.)

So she leaned in for a bite of chocolate, which I couldn’t deny her (she’s a girl for goodness sake). She tasted it, wasn’t impressed, and went back to destroying my pantry.

I would have appreciated that chocolate a lot more than she did, but isn’t it a mother’s joyful obligation to offer anything, everything to her child?

This is how I know: I don’t share chocolate. With anyone. Ever. Don’t even ask.

But she asked, and I gave with pleasure. Even when they don’t ask, we give. We never hesitate to give to these tiny people who just demand more and more and more (and more). Without a word or sign of thanks.

Who else is worth that effort? Surely not friends, likely not family, maybe not even a spouse. But this demanding, emotional, selfish, delightful, amazing little person simply looks at me with a smile or that sweet baby bird mouth and I cave.

Ugh. I thought I was tougher than this. But no.

Oh well. I’ll just scarf these M&Ms while she naps. They aren’t safe for her anyway…

Soft Places in a Mother’s Heart

by Ashley on February 20, 2014

PurseYou turned 1.

You walk.

You play games!

All this time I thought of you as just a baby, but now you’re a toddler. Already? When did that happen?

They all say it goes so fast, and they, for once, are right.

The days are long, but the year was much, much too short.

You’re at a clingy stage, and I can’t get anything done because you want me to hold you all the time. You can walk, but if I put you down, you cling to my legs, begging to be lifted into my arms again.

But you are also very independent. When you are in a better mood, you relish being free to roam, holding your toys or your trash, carrying your beloved possessions around the kitchen and living room. You smile, you laugh, you bring your gifts to me. You ask me to show you how things work. I show you games, and then you play them with me.

You like to play together and share your toys and even your paci. You have, however, made it clear you are not fond of sharing food. And today, for the first time, it became apparent that you aren’t fond of sharing me, either.

You have never been jealous of other babies before. You’re a laid back, easygoing baby. You are so happy; everyone says so. Always smiling.

We’ve played with other babies since you were a bitty thing, and you never cared if I picked up or held or played with another baby. You might look at me with slight confusion, but you would continue playing or eating or crawling, not giving the incident any more thought.

What was different today?

You saw a little girl sit in my lap to read a book. Across the room, a look of distress came across your sweet face. You walked over and worried about the little girl in my lap. You did not want her sitting there. Not at all.

You asked to be held and so I held you because I love you and I would never, ever trade you for another baby. When she left, you sat in my lap until you felt satisfied that no one was stealing your Mommy.

You were playing and I sat watching you. The little girl again came over to me, this time to give me some little treasured gift. You worried about that little girl and came over again to claim your Mommy. She left, oblivious to your anxiety. You stood before me, asking to be picked up, held and comforted. I did comfort you and reassured you that you were my treasure, my precious gift, never to be traded or discarded.

You were comforted and, satisfied no one was stealing your Mommy, went to play again.

You were nearer to me this time, to keep an eye on me, I suppose. You played with some toy when another baby, nearby, began to cry. That baby’s mommy was in another room, so I went to pick her up and comfort her. I had to step around you to get to her. I had to pass you by. And though I was still within arm’s reach of you, you cried, clinging to my legs, looking up at me, asking why I would do such a thing, pass you by and choose another baby instead.

I can’t bear that sad, sweet face.

I bent to pick you up, but I couldn’t hold you both, so I simply sat with you and snuggled you until the other baby’s mommy came back. Then I picked you up, you alone, and hugged you and reassured you.

You have never been jealous before. Maybe you were just tired.

But to know now that you really know who I am, that I am important to you, oh my sweet love, you have no idea how that knowledge overcomes me.

I know you can never love me like I love you. But you do love me too, not just because I clean you and rock you and feed you and play with you, but because I’m your Mommy.

In this clingy stage, you frustrate me because you used to enjoy playing with your toys while I was in sight, perhaps washing dishes at the sink. But now, you say, that cannot be tolerated.

My darling, I will stop forcing you to tolerate it. I will concentrate on you and devote my attention to you. There is no chore, no list, no errand more important than you. The time has already passed so quickly, and there isn’t much left. You already walk, you will soon talk, then school and activities will take you away from me, and then some boy will come along and take you even farther away.

I can’t bear that thought right now. The thing I can bear, and gladly, is putting off the tasks that must be done until another time. Perhaps a time less convenient for me, but nothing about having a baby has been convenient.

You are terribly, marvelously inconvenient and loved beyond comprehension.

I pray you always will be so.

May you always be happy, my sweet, and may goodness and love follow you all the days of your life.

Some Songs Are Written For Tears

by Ashley on September 5, 2013

You are my sunshine

My only sunshine

You make me happy

When skies are gray

You’ll never know, dear

How much I love you

Please don’t take my sunshine away.

The other night, dear

As I lay sleeping

I dreamed I held you in my arms

When I awoke, dear

I was mistaken

So I hung my head and cried.


Things You Will Never Understand

by Ashley on August 28, 2013

Niagra Fall (Closeup)

You will never know how much I love you.

When you are grown and become a mother, and I hope you become a mother, you still will not understand how much I love you.

But you will understand what it must have been like for me when you were a baby. You will feel that same intense, incredible, indescribable love for your baby. But you still will not know how much I love you.

I finally have a sense of how my mom loved me. But I don’t understand it completely because love like this doesn’t travel that direction.

Waterfalls do not flow up. Only down. And they never run dry.

So I know you will never love me like I love you. I know that because I finally understand love between parents and children. Children have reasonable love for their parents. Parents, mothers especially, have unreasonable, psychotic love for their babies.

I know you will love your baby with the same irrational love. But you will never understand how much I love you.

How do I love thee? I cannot count the ways.


A Letter to My Daughter: The First of Many

by Ashley on August 20, 2013

photoI dream of you.

At night and during the day. Every time I sleep, you are there. Even when I don’t see you, you’re in the background somewhere. I know because of the way I behave in the dream. I do things and don’t do things because I have a daughter.

Before you were born, I dreamed of you.

We found out on your birthday whether you were a boy or a girl. But my dreams told me long before I saw your face.

Before I was pregnant, I dreamed of you.

Even when I don’t remember any dreams, I know you visited me.

I try not to daydream of you because if I did, I’d never think of anything but you.

But just as in my dreams, I can’t prevent my thoughts from returning to you.

Thoughts from a Mother of 6 Months

by Ashley on August 14, 2013

I have been a mother for 6 months and 6 days.

There has been good and bad, as I expected. What I didn’t expect was just how much good and how much bad there would be.

For example, I expected my baby to cry. Babies cry. It’s natural.

What I didn’t expect was just how much my baby would cry. That did not seem natural. No one warns you about that.

Crying really needs to be part of the childbirth class. Or maybe a new parents class. Do they have those? I never saw one offered.

Another example: I expected to love my baby. Mothers love their babies. It’s natural.

What I didn’t expect was just how much I would love my baby. She’s so beautiful. The first night in the hospital, I couldn’t stop looking at her.

Six months later, I still can’t stop looking at her. She’s even more beautiful than when she was born.

I didn’t know that I wouldn’t like having a newborn. She cried. So. Much.

Even in the hospital, we sent her to the nursery – something I had been adamantly against doing – because she wouldn’t stop crying.

She did not like sleeping in the sterile plastic box that was her hospital bed. She didn’t like being so exposed to the world. She only stopped crying when she was lying next to me or in my arms or her daddy’s arms.

So I pulled her close in my hospital “bed” (and if you’ve ever spent the night in a hospital, you know why “bed” is in quotes) and we snuggled and she stopped crying and she slept.

Co-sleeping is generally frowned upon, especially in the hospital. Mothers are chastised if their babies do not sleep in their cold plastic boxes.

But my baby would sleep only if she were next to me. So sleep next to me she did. I wasn’t going to tell her no.

She didn’t stop crying when we brought her home, either. She cried unless she was in our arms.

She cried when we put clothes on her.

She cried when we took clothes off of her.

She cried during her bath.

She cried if we put her down.

She cried if she was alone.

She cried if she was in the car.

She cried when she was going to sleep.

She cried when she woke up.

She cried in her swing, in her bouncy seat, on a blanket, in her bassinet.

She was a terrible newborn.

Thankfully, she’s a very good baby.

I have learned I don’t like having a newborn, but I enjoy very much having a baby.

She still cries, but now I know why, and I know how to fix it. And most times, I know when it will happen and can prevent it.

We’re in a good place.

We’re both still learning, she and I. She learns about being a baby, and I learn about being a mother.

I have already made so many mistakes. Every time, in tears, I have begged her forgiveness.

She is quick to forgive, and I’m thankful for that.

I’ve learned that people are quick to offer advice about what you “should” do. And that’s strange to me because they don’t know my baby like I do. It would be better, I think, to tell me a story about what worked for them, rather than telling me what will work for me.

But that will never happen. And that’s OK. I’ll go on ignoring them and doing what’s best for my baby.

I do enjoy hearing others’ stories, though. It’s helpful and reassuring and pleasant to learn from other mothers, especially ones that are going through the same things at the same time.

When I listen carefully, though, my baby is my best teacher.

We discover lovely secrets about our babies when we listen with all of our senses.

The sound of her chattering to herself when she plays.

The smell of clean baby hair brushing against my cheek.

The sight of her smiling eyes when I peek at her around a corner.

The softness of her skin in places where my skin is no longer soft.

The taste of tiny fingers that she holds up for me to kiss while she nurses.

Two years ago, I wasn’t sure I wanted children. I think I would have been happy without them, but I’m certain I would have always wondered how my life would have been different, better, worse.

Now, though. Oh, now! Now, I can’t even remember my old life. It doesn’t even register anymore.

There were times that I desperately missed my old life (most of that awful newborn phase, in fact).

But now, I wouldn’t trade this new life for anything.

And now I look back at that miserable newborn phase and I miss it because I’m relieved that it’s over. I wish I could go back and do it again, do it better.

But I can’t, so instead I do better in this moment.

I want to soak up this moment, every moment, bottle it up so I can keep it forever.

I have filled my phone’s memory to the brim at least three times, trying to capture every bit of her.

Time still goes too fast.

But I always seem to love the next step as much as I loved the previous one.

And I can’t wait to see what she’ll do tomorrow.


A Word on Candor

by Ashley on February 2, 2013

I tend to be blunt with my friends. Though I try to be tactful, I believe it’s difficult to be close to people if you aren’t able to be honest with them.

But recently I griped about someone who was honest with me, and the comments I received about that post made me rethink my initial reaction.

To recap, I was shocked (shocked, I tell you!) that a woman would tell a very-soon-to-be first-time mother that raising children was not a particularly rewarding experience. I felt like that admission was something that one ought keep to oneself or perhaps share with a therapist.

But many of you commented that the woman was being honest with me, rather than jazzing up the idea of parenting into some fantasy experience full of coos and giggles and rose-scented diapers. (Not that I had those perceptions, mind you.) Rather than idealizing the concept of motherhood, this woman was being real, according to many of my readers.

And you know what? You’re right.

In the moment, I was offended that someone would say this to a woman who is only weeks away to giving birth to her first child. I still think it would probably have been better left unsaid unless she were speaking to a close friend, rather than a mere acquaintance. And many of you agreed with that.

But I’ve long said that I’m a realist. Sure, I fantasize about a perfect world and a perfect life. In the end, though, I try to be realistic about what’s possible and leave ideals for my REM cycles.

So why would I want someone blowing smoke about how wonderful motherhood is when it’s not always that way?

For months, I’ve been begging my close friends to tell me about their childbirth experiences. The good, the bad, the ugly – I wanted to know every detail so I wouldn’t be disappointed when labor and delivery weren’t a fantasy experience.

So why should I be offended by someone offering an opinion that might mitigate some disappointment in my child-rearing experience?

Thinking back, I’ve been known to be truthful (read: brutally honest) with my close friends. On more than one occasion, I’ve approached a good friend who was nearing her wedding day. I sat her down and told her, “You don’t have to do this.”

Shocking, no?

Not that I believed the man she loved was a bad choice or that she was too young or was getting married for the wrong reasons. I simply wanted her to know that if she had changed her mind since getting engaged, she didn’t have to feel forced to get married simply to keep up appearances or spare injured feelings.

And I know those friends were a little offended by my bluntness. When I explained why I said it – sometimes a wedding can seem like a train you can’t get off of – they understood that I was trying to be a good friend and let them know it was OK if they didn’t want to get married.

The woman who told me that child-rearing wasn’t very rewarding didn’t offer a reason why she said it. But I have to believe that she said it with good intentions. She certainly wasn’t trying to hurt or offend me. She was simply being real.

And I respect that.

When do you think is it OK to be that honest? Let me know in the comments.


Surviving Questions and Comments from Strangers

by Ashley on January 9, 2013

What a year this is going to be.

Not only did we not die during the Mayan apocalypse late last year, some of us, including me, will be adding to the world’s head count this year.

As a quick aside, here are answers to the FAQ:

We’re due Feb. 8.

Yes, we’re both excited. (Why on earth is “are you excited” a frequently asked question? How awkward would it be for me to say no?)

I’m still feeling good for the most part. Nothing a handful of Tums and a belly band won’t fix.

No, we don’t know the gender. And yes, I realize you think I’m crazy.

Yes, I know I’ve “gotten so big!”

No, we aren’t sharing baby names until one of them is written on the birth certificate. Don’t take it personally. Not even our parents know.

Moving on.

Things I Could Live Without

I was talking with an acquaintance recently about how quickly the due date is approaching. We were having a nice chat about how excited I am (?!), our parents visiting, and all that comes along with having a baby.

Then, the conversation took a weird turn.

She mentioned that raising children was hard, and I said that yes, that’s what everyone has told me. That it’s one of the most challenging but also one of the most rewarding things I’ll ever do.

Now, maybe that’s just what you say to people who are having their first child. Maybe it’s to ease their fears, I don’t know. I heard it a lot when I was still undecided about having children.

(I think those parents were just trying to trick me into joining their misery, but I digress.)


So I said I’d heard it was both challenging and rewarding. And she says, point blank:

“Oh, no, it’s not very rewarding. That’s not a universal experience.”

Uh, what?

She did follow it up with a comment about how much it does for you and for the child. But seriously, who says that to a first-time mother-to-be?


I don’t know what it is about people wanting to share their baby-related horror stories with pregnant women.

In a way, I guess it’s nice to know what types of things I might expect. And it’s been a relief to hear that other parents mess up, so I don’t worry as much about failing to be the perfect mom.

I can live with the horror stories because those are just stories. True stories, mind you, but only single events. Not an overall feeling that the experience of child-rearing is not worth the effort.

Perhaps this woman’s experience wasn’t what she hoped it would be, or maybe she wasn’t ever intending to be a mother and just ended up in that situation.

Had I been talking with a close friend, it might have been different. I’d feel more like she was confiding in me, rather than turning into Debbie Downer in the hallway.

Maybe I’m too much of a pleaser. I like to make people around me feel good, happy, encouraged. I wouldn’t lie to make that happen, but I’d at least keep quiet if I didn’t have something more uplifting to say, especially to someone I barely know.

Does this make me superficial? Am I overreacting?