Thursday, July 29, 2010


I don’t know how we managed to do it, but our son is hooked on books. Maybe it’s because we’re both teachers. Maybe it’s because we never forced books on him, but they are everywhere in our house—in his playpen, all over his room. My own collection takes up three large shelves. Books for school and work clutter the dining room table. Maybe it’s because we’ve been reading to him since his first week of life. Maybe it’s just … luck!

Zade’s appetite for books can best be described as voracious. He literally devours what he sees. Literally. He’s been known to chew up brand new board books beyond recognition within minutes. He tears flaps, wrinkles pages, bends spines in ways they’re not supposed to be bent.

His tastes are not entirely discriminating, though he does have his favorites. He keeps trying to sink his teeth into the novel I’m reading, The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo. I tried to tell him there’s no pictures, that it’s not age appropriate, that it just doesn’t taste good. “Gaaa!” he yells in protest.

Haz has been reading Dr. Seuss’s Mr. Brown Can Moo! Can you? to him since he was a few weeks old. We’ve both read it so many times that we have it memorized. There’s Goodnight Moon, by Margaret Wise Brown, I Love You Through and Through (by Bernadette Rossetti Shustak), I’ll See You in the Morning (by Mike Jolley), Peek a Who (by Nina Laden), My Animals by Xavier Deneaux, and of course, others. The latter two books are the simplest (no plot whatsoever). Peek a Who contains rhymes of the popular phrase and colorful pictures; My Animals is simply a black and white illustrated collection of animals and their names. All of the above have been thoroughly chewed (an entire corner is missing from Zade’s original Peek a Who; the cover of his more recent copy is about to fall off ).

This morning I woke Zade up a little early in order to get him on a more normal sleep schedule (he’s been going to sleep close to midnight and sleeping until 10am all summer). As his eyes reluctantly opened, he looked at me and rolled over. His crankiness continued as I pulled him out of his crib and started to change his diaper. He seemed to wake up as soon as I gave him a book to flip through on the diaper changer (hey, we read magazines on the toilet, so why not?). “Gaaa…. Da da dush… dush…” He pushed the book into my face. You read it, Mom.

And so I read In My Meadow (by Sara Gillingham), complete with bunny finger puppet. As soon as I finished changing Zade, he wiggled in my arms signaling that he wanted to get down and play in his room, which is filled with blocks, too many Fisher Price toys, talking cars, stuffed animals, and puzzles in addition to books.

He went straight to the bookshelf and pulled out Mr. Brown Can Moo!

“Da da dush….!” He yelled, waddling over to me and shoving Mr. Brown in my face.

I realized that he still hadn’t had his morning bottle or any breakfast.

“Dushh!” he yelled.

“Ok, ok!”

Oh, the wonderful sounds Mr. Brown can do, he can go like a cow, he can go MOO MOO!

I read the entire book and Zade sat, crosslegged, transfixed. As soon as I finished, he fussed. “Da den, dush!” (I swear it sounded like, “again, rush!”)


And so the morning of one of my last days of summer vacation began. I read Mr. Brown about four times in a row, followed by Peek a Who and My Animals at least three times each. Sometime after that I managed to get Zade to follow me into the kitchen for a bottle. He brought My Animals with him. My Animals with the simple words: “Cat. Rabbit. Elephant. Crocodile. Sheep. Cow. Dog.”**

Whenever we get to the page with “dog” on it, Zade exclaims “gog.” He also stops listening once you pass the “gog” page. He has limited patience with most books. Often he’ll hand you a story—such as Mr. Brown—and a few pages in he’ll hand you another—such as I’ll See You in the Morning. Maybe he prefers the colors of some, or the feel of the pages of others. Maybe he gets bored with the rhyme and seeks another rhythm. Maybe it’s the excitement and anticipation of what to look at next. Maybe he simply enjoys the feeling of control.

Zade has always given his attention to books. He loves looking at them while riding in the car, pulling them off of bookshelves, and standing on them in his playpen for better leverag. But his latest quirk—reading the same few titles over and over again, is quite new. So are his emphatic demands—which, for the non-acquainted, might be a little difficult to decipher—but his pushing of books in your face definitely is not.

Tonight, right before bed, the trend continued. We read Mr. Brown, Peek a Who, My Animals, and I’ll See you in the Morning nonstop, on demand. If little Zade were demanding video games, candy, rides on the carousel, or piggy backs on demand, nonstop, I would not give in. But because this is books, I cannot, you know, stop. At least not as easily. I tried to introduce some new books (such as Hurry! Hurry! by Eve Bunting) but he was not interested. “Da dush!” he yelled, pushing I’ll See You in the Morning into my nose.

I’ll see you in the morning, now it’s time for sleep… I’ll stay and watch a while until you are counting sheep…

As I put Zade in his crib, he demanded an encore round of My Animals.

I pulled out the book. Cat. Rabbit. Horse. Pig. Cow.

“Gog!” he said, through his pacifier, sleepily. I kissed his cheek as he started to fuss and left him with the book (the pages are too thick to devour so there’s no danger of him eating paper and cardboard with this one).

“I’ll see you in the morning, Zade. Now it’s time to sleep.”

I smiled as I shut the door, realizing this was the only form of poetry I had read in weeks.

**This is not the exact order of animals included in My Animals. I can’t tell you the exact order because Zade is currently sleeping with the book in his crib. I do know that the “gog” page is about halfway through the book, however.

Sunday, July 18, 2010

Two Years Later

Two years.

It's been nearly two years since I posted an entry on this blog.

To say a lot has happened would be quite an understatement.

I'll attempt to summarize where I've been:

Let's see. After Gustav, I settled back into my job as a second grade teacher and tried my best to get my students back on track after a week of hurri-cation. I unpacked and reorganized everything we evacuated with: my wedding dress, our photo albums, random mementos from Japan, dirty laundry, canned foods, random journals, cat food. During this process, I found out I was pregnant.

Seeing the blue, capitalized word, “PREGNANT” on the clear blue stick sent a shock of pure elation and fear through my entire body. We had both suspected I was, in fact “PREGNANT,” but were not prepared for the finality of it. The “what? No way” of it. I took another pregnancy test, a different brand, later that day just to be sure. Yes. Two pink strips. Not just one.

So I began carrying a little bean in my body, a bean that began growing amidst the confusion and calamity of Gustav, in the insipid nothingness of Tallahassee. A bean that grew with me throughout the entire school year. A bean that was born a beautiful boy we named Zade Andre Dayeh on May 14, 2009. He just turned 14 months old a few days ago. He just started walking a few weeks before that.

Zade has drastically changed our lives, and completely enriched them. Until now, I struggled to write—no, wait, I didn’t even attempt to write—about the experience of pregnancy, birth, and motherhood. It’s all been too beautiful, too special, too all-encompassing to put into words. The hardest part of all is to describe how I truly feel about Zade, and how Zade has made my marriage to and love for Haz so much more complex and deep.

In the first few months of my pregnancy, I continued to work on my attempt at a novel about an adolescent girl who struggles with her parents divorce. Haz and I continued to go out to eat, see movies, hang with our cats, and travel (we went to Vancouver in October 2008 and New York in December that year). As Zade grew larger inside me, these activities became more and more infrequent.

In February 2009, as I became 7 months pregnant, we bought a house in Gentilly. A house whose character and soul were hopelessly buried beneath rat droppings, hot pink and purple paint, rotting carpet, old sticky whisky bottles, and empty bottles of Viagra. A house whose detached garage was infinitely more livable. I still don’t know how we convinced ourselves to take the plunge. We got a great deal. We saw the potential. Our teacher/helper/do-gooder selves wanted to help it. Our good friend and new neighbor said we could do it. But our 1940s blue cottage on Spain Street needed drastic, dramatic, near total renovation.

The next few months were a blur of racing the baby clock to get it all done. We hired our new next door neighbor Gerald’s (not to be confused with our other friend Gerald) son-in-law as a contractor to completely gut the house’s only bathroom and scary, cave-like kitchen. Haz put his heart and soul into painting the entire interior. I helped where I could, mostly focusing on painting doors and baseboard so I could be off my feet. So many friends, good and worried friends, helped us. Isabel, Andy, Noah, Dave, Tiffany, Katherine, Jenise, Gerald & Gerald: thank you, thank you, thank you. The Westbank Dayehs were there too: helping us pack up our Lakeview apartment, install the microwave, paint the picture rail. Thank you!

In those few months before Zade (a time we now call “B.Z”), glass was shattered, walls were smashed, new appliances were purchased, toilets and laundry rooms were moved, floors were refinished, granite was installed, rats were chased out, several truck loads of us stuff was relocated, and tons and tons of baby furniture was all put together.

The night I went to Touro to start my labor (or continue it, depending on your perspective) was the night we were supposed to finish painting and arranging the guest room. Zade wouldn’t allow it. He arrived, crying, and then my Mom arrived, on a plane, tired with no bed, blinds, or curtains in her room. But there was painter’s paper, paint trays, spackle, and some random fire-bellied toads in a tank from my second grade classroom. Haz and Isabel miraculously moved this stuff while I struggled to nurse Zade and stay awake.

I pretty much stopped writing altogether once we bought our house, and the not writing continued with the arrival of Zade. Writing will never have the importance for me that it once did. My family, my Mom job, is number one. I’m also a wife, a teacher. Oh yeah, and a student. Sometime after that I still consider myself a writer. It’s something I like to do, maybe love. But it’s definitely not the same love I attach to MOTHER. Mom. Wife. Teacher.

Perhaps this blog will help me bring it all together. Maybe Zade will let us sleep tonight interrupted. Maybe it won’t, maybe he won’t. Either way, I’m having fun, I’ll be writing more soon, and sleep is overrated.

But naps on the other hand….

I always need more!