The Purple of Life

She told me to hold on to the purple in my life.

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Location: Chicago, United States

I'm a 37-year-old editor and city dweller, wife and mother, moderately liberal and radically optimistic. I would fill my perfect day with a cup of coffee and the Op Ed section, a flea market and the playground, a run along Lake Michigan, a walk through the neighborhood with my son and my greyhound, a Cuban dinner and a bottle of red with my husband, and an evening flight to some European city. I wouldn't be picky about which one.

November 10, 2013

On turning three

Birthday loot from the grandparents
He has fully rounded the bend past babyhood. Boyhood is clear on the horizon. I am watching the transition happen, right in front of my eyes. Suddenly, the child who would throw a fit because he didn’t want to walk is refusing the Ergo, insisting that he trot beside me for most of the almost half-mile to the el. He is trick-or-treating without a stroller, climbing steep porch steps without help. He is hanging off the bars at the playground, swinging his feet.

The child who had no words at all, really, is asking for more juice, more book, a big bowl. A glass of wine is “Dad’s juice.” He is saying “no dress,” “no bed.” He is singing the last word of each verse of “The Itsy Bitsy Spider,” saying the last word of each page of Goodnight Moon. He is pointing out blue, green, purple, yellow, red. He is saying “ummm” when faced with a choice. He is saying Dad? Dad? Dad? Mom? Dad?

He has said “Love you” back to me when I turn off the light at night.

He will never take a step off a curb or over a bump in the sidewalk when a full-throttle jump will do.

He has a sense of humor, slyly making the sign for “more” when he finishes a treat, grinning at us because he knows he can’t have seconds.

When I read him a book, he points to the page, giggling at a silly picture or crying "uh oh." It’s still so easy to make him laugh.

He can pedal a tricycle, draw a circle, comfort a fallen toy with a rocking hug, say that he’s 3, and give the best kisses, especially when they’re unsolicited.

He demonstrates more empathy than I'd expect from a child his age.

He has opinions about what shoes he wears.

He will sometimes throw the nearest object when he’s mad. He will hit. We’re working on this.

He has never been a good sleeper, and that hasn’t changed. We’re working on this.

He has peed in the potty twice.

He sometimes waves and yells “Bye bye!” to people exiting the el.

When he wakes in the morning, he says, “Up, Mom,” and brings me my slippers or glasses.

He loves the beach, the water, the hose, his Cozy Coupe, his tricycle, firetrucks, trains, Thomas, Bob the Builder, construction vehicles, his soccer ball, balloons, sticks. Ice cream, grapes, meat, fish, beans, rice, cereal with milk, M&Ms, sweet potato fries, “juice,” yogurt, ice cubes. He loves to walk on Clark Street and visit the dog store, the frozen yogurt place, the dry cleaner, the bookstore, of course the toystore. He is afraid of spiderwebs.

He remains a big fan of music and will pretend to play a horn when he hears it. He asks for music in the car. He loves the Native American drumming songs on his music class CDs.

A few weeks ago we toured a preschool that we’re considering for next year, and my heart leaped and ached at the same time, imagining him filing down those halls with the other big kids. It’s such a strange feeling to want and not want something at the same time.

It seems so unsatisfyingly inadequate to say how much I love him. How special he is. How deep my dreams and hopes are for him. How hard it is sometimes to parent a toddler, yet how grateful I am to parent this particular person. These days are so maddening and so sweet. They’re studded with such highs and lows. I would not trade them for anything.

Happy third birthday to my one and only Will Jiho. 

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November 30, 2012


Eleven years ago today, John and I moved from a town in West Michigan to Chicago. We rented a one-bedroom apartment in a prewar seven-story building in north Lakeview. The bedroom was so narrow that we got out of bed at its foot, not on the sides. The ceilings were tall, and the big windows looked out on other buildings, a gas station, a pawnshop, part of a billboard, a small slice of Wrigley Field.

My in-laws helped us move that Friday, driving our Penske truck while we drove my old Jetta, our goldfish clutched in a Tupperware between my knees. The power went out for awhile as we were carrying in boxes, the late-autumn sky darkening at 4:30 in the afternoon. We ate dinner at a Wrigleyville dive. I cut my hand unpacking the food processor. On Monday morning, we started our new jobs, and I took the Broadway bus to work, not realizing the el would’ve taken half as much time until my boss kindly explained that. We started new lives as city people.

El station in the Loop

Moving to Chicago is one of the things I’m proudest of having done in my life. When we arrived, we didn’t know anyone here except for one college acquaintance. Neither of us had ever lived in a city; John has never lived anywhere but the town where he was born. We left good jobs, and we left family and friends, and we set out on our own. We made it happen. We were 26 and 25, married just five months. I’ll always believe that the move brought us even closer together, since for awhile, we had no one but each other for company.

Spring sunset, North Side neighborhood

Obviously, a lot has happened to us in the past 11 years. We’ve become managers at our jobs; we’ve traveled around the U.S., Caribbean, and Europe; and we’ve had three dogs. I’ve earned a master’s degree and run two half-marathons. We’ve rented one apartment and bought two condos. We changed our religious denominations and joined an Episcopal church, although right now we don’t really attend. We entered our thirties. We decided to adopt a baby. And, of course, we became parents. There are now three of us, and that’s the biggest change of all.

Chicago has been part of all this. It’s not just the backdrop to my life; I feel like it’s a leading character. My life is better because I live in this city. It’s given me opportunities to grow and learn, for recreation and entertainment, to taste and see and experience so many new things. It’s gotten me in better shape. It’s helped solidify my political leanings. It’s introduced me to so many different people and different kinds of people. I’ve written about a lot of this, going back to 2003, and I love remembering that sense of discovery I had in the beginning, as I started to make the city, or my corner of it, my own. 

Election night 2008

My first home was in Pennsylvania. When I was 18 and my family moved to Michigan, that move left a gaping hole in my heart where home should be. The seven years I lived in Michigan brought many good things into my life, but the places I lived there were never home. Truthfully, I didn’t know what to consider home during that part of my life. Chicago has filled the hole. It’s part of who I am; it’s truly home, and for that, I feel fortunate indeed.

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November 1, 2012

On turning two

Will can use a fork and spoon. He knows how to pet the dog gently (usually). He just started giving his stuffed animals a drink from his sippy cup—the first signs of pretend play. He can put on slip-on shoes. He’s excited to mimic everything we do. He loves his push tricycle. He loves to dance to “Gangnam Style.” If he sees a flower, even a fake one, he puts his nose to it. When a plate of food is set in front of him, especially at restaurants, he says enthusiastically, “MMMMMM!” If you tell him to go to his room and get a book and bring it to Dad, he does just that.

His first Halloween
He’s started to climb; we’ve taken down the crib and he seems thrilled about having his mattress on the floor. He gets excited about cars and motorcycles, buses and bulldozers, traffic lights, pumpkins on a porch. (We say hello to our pumpkins every day when we get home.) He can kick a ball with gusto. He puts toys in containers and dumps them out. He stacks his matchbox cars on top of each other. His dance moves consist of bouncing his head, squatting up and down, and turning in a slow circle until he gets too dizzy and tumbles to the floor.

He loves eating yogurt, rice and beans, fish, chicken, sweet potato fries, Korean noodles, kefir smoothies, waffles with peanut butter, grapes and berries, the occasional special-treat Oreo, and all kinds of cereal. He can climb up stairs on his own two feet, although he still reaches out for help sometimes. I want him to master the stairs, but I also want to hold that little hand.

I find myself wanting to stop time, to imprint little moments in my brain so they never fade away: He waves his hand, a pint-sized conductor, to get us to sing. He stands outside the glass door while John’s showering, rubbing his own hair and grinning as John shampoos. He laughs out loud when I send a car zooming down the ramp of his new toy garage. He burrows into me at bedtime. He turns around and backs down into my lap when we’re reading a book. He lifts a forkful of noodles to his mouth, or balances a piece of food on his sippy cup, then claps delightedly at his own success. He maneuvers his feet into our shoes and clomps around. He shrieks “MAH?!” when he sees the neighbor’s cat. He turns back to look at me again and again while he eats, while he plays with a toy, while he dances to music.

He’s at such an innocent age. A walk in the alley behind our home is slow-moving with wonder. Any new toy is a revelation. Seeing the television turned on is the height of excitement. When I say, “Please hold Mom’s hand,” he reaches up automatically. He doesn’t care what we dress him in. We do not embarrass him. We’re everything to him. There are so many things about the future that I’m excited about, and so many things that I know I’ll miss about this age and stage. Sometimes I already feel nostalgic for what he’s like right now.

I’m trying so hard to be present every day, to focus on the beauty and meaning of being his mother and watching him grow. I’m not saying anything new when I state that parenting a toddler can be very challenging, and sometimes I think it causes me to not see the forest for the trees. I focus on his whining, or on his refusal to sleep, or on trying to plan activities to keep him occupied, or on the confounding mercurialness of his toddler wants and needs. (“Mom, how dare you offer me grapes! But in 10 seconds, I will scream and whine because I don’t have grapes!”) Those trees can loom large. I’m writing this because I want to remember to look past them, to step back, to see the utter miracle that is the forest.

Happy 2nd birthday, Will Jiho.

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August 2, 2012

At 21 months: So I will not forget

The beach fills him with unbridled joy. He loves splashing in the surf, chasing seagulls, playing in the sand. He’s just started feeling brave enough to stand and walk in the water by himself, without holding our hands.

He’s getting more confident about stairs, too, and can often climb them without help, if there’s a railing.

He points at airplanes and asks “mah?” Same with cars, buildings, fences, fire hydrants, pretty much anything we pass on a walk when he’s feeling vocal. And the construction machinery in our neighborhood this summer has been a giant attraction. We may or may not have spent a full hour one morning watching it in action.

In a previous entry, I mentioned that after he hands something to a person, he nods his head emphatically, as if to say, “There. I gave it to you.” In a true “duh” moment, John and I realized that he was bowing, as he was taught by his foster family. We’re keeping this going; if we bow to him, he bows back.

He loves it when I rub and tickle his chubby thighs. His arms and legs are the brownest brown after half a summer spent outside, punctuated by a few pale-pink scars on his knees and elbows.

He “blows” me a kiss in the morning when he sees me carrying my work bag. And he wants to blow bubbles, but so far he just holds the wand near his mouth and looks up at me.

A fun game we play on the back deck: I creep toward him as he runs around the furniture giggling hysterically; he allows himself to be caught and I tickle him and kiss his neck.

He likes “Ring Around the Rosey,” “Hello Everybody,” “The Wheels on the Bus,” “El Pollito.” When he wants us to sing, he tries to do the accompanying hand motions and/or bops his head, and it’s up to us to figure out which song is being requested.

Current favorite foods: Yogurt, grapes, strawberries, animal crackers, zucchini, scrambled eggs, fruit smoothies, cheese, hummus, sweet potato, Cheerios, raisins, anything in soy sauce.

When faced with an in-ground swimming pool for the first time, he eagerly allowed himself to be placed in a blow-up tube and paddled away like a pro. His happiness at being in that pool is hard to describe.

He laughs when people around him are laughing.

Our current bedtime routine: Bath, pajamas, hair blow-dry if needed, warm milk, toothbrushing (“With some on top and some beneath, they brush and brush and brush their teeth”), Aquaphor on his upper lip where the pacifier chafes, pacifier. Reading three books (the last one usually being “The Going to Bed Book” by Sandra Boynton), saying “Time for sleep; night-night, light” as we turn off the light and turn on the white-noise machine, going into the crib, and then singing “Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star” until he’s asleep.

He still loves balls and toy cars and his stuffed musical seahorse. The broom is an endless source of fascination, as is the dustpan. (Would that it were always so.)

This week I bought him a new Sandra Boynton book. He climbed into my lap so we could read it together, and he was visibly excited to turn the pages. It just swelled my heart.

He rides in a green plastic toddler seat on the front of John’s bike, pointing at things as we fly down the street to a restaurant or the zoo, Marvin the Martian in his big black helmet.

He now drinks out of a sippy cup without letting the water cascade down his chin for fun.

Current favorite books: Anything by Boynton, “Go Dogs, Go,” “The Very Hungry Caterpillar,” “Five Little Puppies Jumping on the Bed,” “The Pigeon Loves Things That Go,” and a book of classic nursery rhymes. He can identify certain animals and objects in books, such as a mouse and the moon.

Almost every day, we’re amazed to discover he understands a new English word: “sleep,” “more,” “airplane,” “phone.”

He’s been taking a music class for babies and toddlers. At the first one, he stayed on my lap the whole time, silently taking it all in (finding comfort and security in me, his mom; oh, these things still bring me so much happiness). By the third class, he was running around, grabbing instruments, moving his arms to the music, but still wanting to be held if he wasn’t quite sure about a certain activity.

Other than a full diaper, he has no bad smells. This fascinates me about toddlers.

Sometimes, when he’s watching his Pororo cartoons on YouTube, he waves to the characters, as if they could see him and wave back. And this just pulls at me so deeply, makes me want to protect him from all the scary things in this world. It almost gives me a tug of sadness. He is so innocent. He is so little.

When we bring him into our bed to sleep, he immediately burrows up against me.

On my first day back at work, he and John and Stella met me in the neighborhood as I walked home from the el. When I saw them, I crouched down and called to Will, and he ran along the sidewalk to me (he’s getting faster, but he still has that clumsy, jerky toddler gait) with a grin on his face, and I caught him and hugged him, his arms around my neck. I will never forget that moment.

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June 28, 2012

Three more weeks

Today was such a good day, despite the fact that John was working late and it was too inhumanely hot to do our usual playground visit and afternoon run. Will slept until about 8:30, woke up with a smile, and we lay in bed for awhile cuddling and “talking” (I say something; he responds with “meh?” or “mah”). After breakfast, we played with his toys, including a new-to-him toy that I brought out of storage last night, a sloping track for little plastic cars. The look on his face when he entered the den and saw it was priceless.

Some favorite toys these days
When he became bored with his toys, I let him play around with some old cords, a hairdryer, and a computer mouse (which he promptly placed on the desk next to our real computer mouse) while I made the bed and got dressed. Our house has so many random objects strewn around in weird places, but this is how I’m able to put on my makeup.

We left at 11:15 to run errands in the stroller; the heat was intense, so there was no meandering. We dropped off paperwork at his daycare and spent some time at the bookstore, where they have a chest of toys and a great selection of kids’ books. Then we went to the sandwich shop for a really delightful lunch… sat across from each other at a little table in the window and ate our turkey sandwiches with lots of grins and no fussing.

Home again to walk Stella, with Will in the back carrier. He fell asleep, and I laid him on our bed, where he proceeded to take a solid one-hour nap (!), during which I wrote a little and read the New Yorker. He woke up groggy, and we cuddled on the bed for about 20 minutes. Milk, reading books (I sit on the floor in his room and he brings them to me), practicing “How big is Will? Soooo big!,” watching some Korean Pororo cartoons on YouTube, then outside to play in the kiddie pool for an hour—lots of fun stomping in the water, pouring with the funnel, and, of course, worshipping the hose, Will’s most favorite toy.

Inside for our afternoon snack of yogurt and crackers (he knows what “eat” means now, which is so helpful), then off to walk Stella, more playing with toy cars, and 20 minutes of Baby Einstein while I cooked dinner. He sat in the little rocking chair that was mine as a toddler, clutching a wooden spoon and swaying to “The Wheels on the Bus.” We ate in the dining room, more grins and excited head-bopping for the sweet potato and zucchini and cheese. He was in a mischievous mood, pretending to put food in his ears, which he knows is wrong, then putting it in his mouth and reveling in my praise.

The mischievousness continued after dinner, when I emptied his diaper pail, told him to stay away from it, then found him fiddling with its door; when I reprimanded him, he erupted in crazed giggles. Bathtime! I sang Pororo songs and he kept trying to stand up and dance in the tub. So much smiling today, so many hugs and arms lifted to be held, so much dancing and laughter.

As John settled down in the rocking chair to put him to bed, Will closed his bedroom door; I was standing in the hallway. I knocked on the door and asked for a goodnight hug. He opened it, smiled, and gave me one. Then I blew him a kiss, which he doesn’t yet know how to reciprocate, I thought. He blew me two back and closed the door. I sat at the table and cried because I’m so just so happy I get to be his mom.


Unbelievably, I go back to work in three weeks. I still vividly remember my first few days home alone with Will, after John returned to work in late April. I could not fathom how we’d fill the next few months, how I’d get through the 10 hours of each day. Taking care of a mobile toddler on my own, all day, seemed like the hardest thing I’d ever attempted to do.

I’m not going to say that I now find it easy. But definitely easier, and with really, really huge rewards. We’ve had some bad days, but more of them have been like today. It’s just me and him, together, getting to know each other and becoming mother and son. We’ve gone to playgrounds and the beach, on runs and playdates, on the el, to parks and the bookstore, out for lunch and for ice cream, to a local museum. We’ve read books, kicked balls, drawn with sidewalk chalk, walked around the neighborhood, run errands, met dogs, watched Pororo cartoons, played in the kiddie pool, listened to music. We’ve cuddled. There have been tantrums and crying and confusion and worry and naughtiness and boredom and frustration. But there have also been many spontaneous hugs from Will, an inordinate amount of laughs and smiles, bonding, babbling, singing, and dancing.

Sometimes, going back to work feels like the wrong choice. The thought of leaving him—after we’ve been so joined at the hip since April 12—makes me feel incredibly sad (even though it’ll be made easier by the fact that John starts a five-week paternity leave when I go back). Then again, there have been several days when I dearly, fervently wished I was sitting in my office. When Monday morning rolls around, I don’t feel a sense of pure pleasure at the prospect of caring for Will alone for five days. I know that parts of those days will be beautiful, and I do truly love spending time with my son, but I feel a small sense of dread at the upcoming tedium and isolation combined with very limited parental down-time (Will isn’t much of a napper; some days it’s only 15 minutes).

I definitely don’t want to not work. But I realize that I’m wishing I didn’t have to work 40 hours a week. Even working just four days a week, instead of five, would help alleviate the guilt that’s already starting to creep into my mind and heart, settle heavily on my shoulders. I enjoy my job and colleagues, and it’s a family-friendly workplace, and I’ve worked hard to achieve the position I have there. But John and I don’t need my salary to survive. So the wheedling voice of guilt tells me that I’m going back to work only because I want to… because I don’t want to take care of Will full-time… and that’s a selfish choice that isn’t best for a toddler. No one has actually said this to me, and John doesn’t agree with it, but the voice is there.

I know there are other reasons to keep my job. I honestly believe I’ll be a happier, more balanced person and, therefore, a better parent if I’m working. If John lost his job and I was unemployed, we’d be in bad shape. If John wants to change jobs for one that’s less stressful with a lower salary, he’ll have much more latitude to do that if I’m working. Editorial jobs are difficult to come by, and it would likely be extremely tough for me to find another well-paying, fulfilling position if I take three or four years off… let alone at a company that’s as sane and pleasant as the one that employs me now. I could try to build a freelance editing business, but I’m not sure how to schedule weekly childcare for unpredictable work, and I don’t think I can mentally handle parenting all day and editing all night. Then there’s the fact that we’re pretty confident Will will adore daycare and thrive with the activities and other kids.

Still. The guilt, tinged with a little sadness. It’s there, and I’m not quite sure what will become of it. In the meantime, my focus right now is on enjoying these last few weeks of just the two of us. I’m trying to be as present as I can. I’m taking lots of photos. Every night, I write down all the little discoveries and accomplishments and feelings and funny things that happened that day for both of us, knowing that once I’m back in my office—managing, editing, hair done and lipstick on and no need to worry about what the toddler’s getting into or how to entertain him—I will, without a doubt, miss him and these precious, precious days.

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June 12, 2012

So I will not forget

Sometimes, randomly, in the middle of playing, he walks over to me and wraps his arms around my neck in a big hug.

When he hands a person something, he’ll sometimes nod his head emphatically, as if to say, “There. I gave it to you.” And he’ll often willingly and easily give a person something if he or she asks or gestures for it, open his mouth so I can pry a piece of paper out, etc. Somehow I suspect this obedience won’t last, but I’m certainly enjoying it now.

He loves it when I rub his ears, count his chubby toes, tickle his tummy.

He adores balls of all kinds and flaps his arms like an excited little bird when he plays with them.

He mimics people sneezing and coughing. When I flutter my eyelashes at him while we eat, he squints his in return.

If I sing “Dancin’ dancin’ dancin’,” he flaps his arms and swivels his waist.

When I tell him to hug a stuffed animal (in Korean, “ah-na”), he does so, then hands it to me to hug as well.

His favorite toy right now is a red metal Volkswagen Beetle. He loves pushing it along the floor and “vrooming” it over his body the way I taught him. (He remembers things I teach him.)

He can point to his head, tummy, ears, and nose. Two days ago he identified a photo of a ball. Yesterday he stacked six blocks. When I clapped and cheered, he began clapping for himself each time he added another block.

He absolutely abhors having sunscreen applied, having his face wiped, and getting out of the bathtub. Diaper changes often aren’t much fun either.

He brings me books to read. This fills me with no end of joy.

In the morning, when we’re waking up, I say “mm” and he says “mm” and we answer each other like that a few times.

When I tell him “no” (and pretty firmly, too) as he goes for the stove knob or dog’s water dish, or tries the flush the toilet for the third time, he just looks at me and smiles. Depending on what time of day it is, this is endearing or incredibly annoying.

He squawks when we enter any kind of tunnel or enclosed space, enjoying the echo.

When we water the outdoor plants, he picks up his little plastic watering can and follows us, pretending to do the same.

A friend brought us Korean jap chae noodles, and he devoured them with complete vigor and joy, noodles stuck to his cheeks, clasping the empty plastic bowl on his face at the end.

When I ask him if he wants to watch a Pororo video, he runs to the desk and stands in front of the computer bopping his head to the music he’s about to hear.

I don’t know why the fact that he drops things from his highchair annoys me so much, but it really, really does.

He smells like strawberries, even when he hasn’t been eating them.

When the toaster pops up, he puts his hand to his ear as if the phone rang. Good lord how he loves the concept of a phone. He’ll hold anything to his ear and ask “Meh?” as if he’s answering a call.

He loves staring up at a tree while its branches sway in the wind, running his fingers over the rough bark of the trunk. A squirrel or a beetle is mesmerizing. The garden hose is the most brilliant object ever invented by humankind.

This week, he suddenly began clapping more often—for music, for his favorite Korean cartoon, for himself.

How can I write about how his crinkly little smile lights up my heart in a way that doesn’t sound so trite? How will I ever learn to write about that?

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May 28, 2012

Day in the life

I just want to write it down, so I can remember these days.

He usually wakes up in our bed. He’s still not sleeping through the night—at six weeks home, we don’t really expect him to—and if he wakes up and is inconsolable, bringing him from his crib to our bed does the trick. And he loves his sleep! Some mornings he snoozes until close to 9, although usually it’s more like 8. By then, of course, John’s left for work, so it’s just me and him. He often wakes up with a grin on his face, and we cuddle together until he hears Stella’s tags jingling from her bed on the floor, then he scootches over immediately so he can see her.

Right now, I think one of the tougher things about taking care of a toddler is occupying him while I’m trying to go to the bathroom, put on the barest essentials of makeup, or get dressed. I’m constantly trying to think of distractions to keep him occupied and in the same room while I do these things: a flashlight, a small box filled with ribbons and other odds and ends, an old makeup bag with empty containers in it, a toothbrush (he loves brushing his teeth). I have gotten very fast at things like washing my face.

Next up, a diaper change (sometimes there is screaming involved), then breakfast. He loves fruit, so I usually give him strawberries or pineapple along with a frozen pancake, waffle, or dry cereal. If the dog’s in the room, he’ll throw pieces on the floor and giggle wildly as she eats them, so I usually babygate her in the hallway. I eat my cereal or toast and coffee, sneaking peeks at the newspaper as we babble and make faces at each other. If I hand him a whisk, sometimes he’ll play with that in his highchair while I clean up the kitchen. Other times, no—there’s cry-whining until I lift him out.

Playtime! We head over to the den, where we keep most of his toys, to play for about an hour. Right now he’s loving his Pororo keyboard, wooden stacking toys (amazing to watch him learn to stack them), a plastic giraffe that has balls that go through a hole in its mouth, toy cars (great for pushing along the dining-table bench), and books. It makes me so happy to see his interest in books—we started reading to him right away every night, and how he’ll bring me books to read him during the day, too. Current faves are The Hungry Little Caterpillar, Five Little Puppies Jumping on the Bed, Doggies, and Mr. Brown Can Moo. His attempts at making barking and rooster-crowing noises are adorable.

My goal is to get out of the house at least twice a day, so around midmorning, we start our preparations to leave, most often to visit one of four playgrounds nearby but sometimes to run errands, too. It’s a slow process—I give him his morning bottle of formula (he was drinking this way in Korea, and we don’t want to introduce too many changes at once) and get him dressed, then we head to the master bedroom so I can make the bed and get myself dressed. Sometimes the application of suntan lotion is involved, which good God he hates.

Once I sit him on the mudroom bench and get out his shoes, he knows for sure we’re heading outside, and his excitement is obvious! Another thrill is getting to push the button to set the house alarm; that never fails to elicit a grin. I strap him into the blessed BOB stroller—best baby gear we own—and off we go. The farthest playground is about 1.2 miles away and the closest is less than a half-mile, but overall we usually spend about an hour and a half on our outing. I love watching him toddle and stumble around the equipment, watching the bigger kids with wide eyes. Every once in awhile, he’ll turn to me with outstretched arms to be picked up, but usually he’s independent enough to do his own thing. He likes the toddler swings and recently started trying to climb steps, and he’s now going down short slides by himself. He definitely tries to copy what he sees other kids doing.

We take a short break on a shaded bench to eat Cheerios together—a time that I love—and we leave so that we’re home by around 12:15, lunchtime. I put something together for us as quickly as I can while occupying him in his highchair with more Cheerios or a kitchen utensil, or directing him to his unlocked cabinet that’s full of Tupperware. It’s kind of funny to me that I usually eat the same frozen meals I ate at work—fast is best! Will’s lunch might be PB&J, leftover butternut squash or sweet potato, cheese, grapes, turkey lunchmeat, pasta, applesauce. It’s easy to see what his favorites are by noticing which food’s on the floor when we’re done.

Getting Will to nap has tended to be a challenge, but right now we seem to be settling on one afternoon snooze at around 1:15 or 1:30. Sometimes it lasts more than an hour; other times it’s 40 minutes. And right now, the only way to get him to sleep, unless he’s already super-drowsy, is to put him on my back in the Ergo carrier. He’ll sometimes fight and shriek about getting in (which does not make the process easy), but he’s fine once I stand up. I strap him in, we take Stella for her short midday walk, and then I pace the floors a bit, and he’s asleep. I pick up the kitchen and read a book or magazine or spend some time online. No, it’s not terribly comfortable doing this with a 25-pound child on your back, but I’ve figured out how to make it work. I sincerely hope that someday Will will be able to nap in his crib. Right now it’s more important to us that he naps, period.

Lately he’s been in a terrific mood when he wakes up! Super smiley, uncomplaining during diaper changes, etc. We play with his toys, read books, drink another bottle, maybe watch a few Pororo cartoons on YouTube (if I ask him if he wants to watch, he runs to the computer). Then we gear up for our afternoon stroller run. I’ve been trying to leave the house around 3:30 or 4, when the sun’s not as strong… and since I can’t shower when I’m home alone with him (the pack-and-play isn’t really tolerated yet), waiting until the end of the day to get sweaty is best. We usually do a three- or four-miler with a break halfway to play in the grass at a park or the lakefront. Not only does this take up a nice portion of the afternoon, I get my workout and he gets to explore. I swear, Will spends just as much time in open outdoor spaces as any suburban kid.

After we return home, it’s snacktime—Greek yogurt with cereal sprinkled in it. I love this little ritual of ours. We both love yogurt, so he’s always in a good mood. It’s something I used to do in the late afternoon at work, too, but it wasn’t nearly as much fun (or messy—just once it would be nice if my dining companion didn’t end up with yogurt on his wrists and eyebrows, which he loudly protests being wiped off).

After that, it’s usually not too long before John gets home, around 6. I won’t lie, I look forward to this—it’s so good to have a break after a 10-hour day of toddler wrangling. John takes Will onto the back deck to play while I start dinner, sneaking in a newspaper article between stirs and chops. Then it’s mealtime and watering the outdoor plants and bathtime and bottle and stories and “Twinkle Twinkle,” and he’s asleep by 8:30 or so. The next three hours are mine—to wash dishes and pick up toys, but also to read or email or work on my Seoul photo album or watch TV. The decadence!

People have asked me if I miss work. When I’m sitting in the sunshine in a green park, watching my son pull up grass or stare at a bug in wonder, no, no I do not. There’s absolutely nowhere else I’d rather be. When I’m scrambling to prepare some kind of lunch while he screams, or trying desperately to put on makeup or sunscreen while he flushes the toilet for the eighth time, being at work sounds pretty damn nice. Sometimes I look forward to going back and other times I dread it. But truly, I haven’t thought about my job much in these past six weeks… I just don’t have the headspace for it right now. My mind is completely engrossed in parenting. And I suppose that’s how it should be. That’s the purpose of this beautiful, idyllic, maddening, challenging, amazing, once-in-a-lifetime time. 

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