Monday, December 31, 2007

Happy New Year

You know you have wise, good readers when their advice-giving comments on your post-holiday-doldrums blog post can be summed up more as less as: find a project; read a good book; remember to put everything in perspective; count your blessings.

Because, really, isn't that reliable advice for pretty much any situation? I think so.

Friday, December 28, 2007

Maybe I Need a Goal of Some Sort

I don't want to be a downer on a holiday weekend, but does anyone else have the post-Christmas doldrums? Is it the hangover that comes after spending the past five weeks planning, shopping, wrapping, cooking, baking, cleaning, addressing, mailing, delivering, decorating, and entertaining--being the heart of it all in your house, being the one in charge of "throwing" Christmas, like you throw a party, because you're the mama after all, and for the first time you have a child old enough to participate in Christmas--only to have it end in a whirlwind of trashed gift-wrap and sleep-deprivation-fueled tantrums?

Is it the somewhat sad, but mainly tedious, prospect of taking it all down in another week, of throwing out the tree and wrapping up each of those many, many ornaments, venturing back into the storage closet to fit each crimson candle, each handmade stocking, into its precarious space?

Is it the soul-sucking experience of spending a full day at a nearby suburban mall in search of new jeans on after-Christmas clearance, only to--of course!--leave with the conviction that THEY DON'T ACTUALLY MAKE JEANS FOR A BODY SUCH AS YOURS. MAYBE NOT EVEN ANY PANTS AT ALL. APPARENTLY YOU'RE SUPPOSED TO GO AROUND WITH NO PANTS ON. BECAUSE PANTS THAT FIT YOU DO NOT EXIST.

Maybe it's the depressing realization that no one else is ever, ever going to come and do the dusting. They're just not. Ever.

Also those curtains, valances, rods, and holdbacks you ordered SIX WEEKS AGO for the guest room window, but that are still sitting, packaged, in the utility room where you stashed them when they arrived in the mail? No one is ever going to come and hang those curtains for you. Nor are the curtains going to hang themselves. Dang!

Maybe it's the fact that I'm out of eggnog.

All of a sudden I'm in a major rut, bored with running (!) and cooking and making grocery lists and reading magazines. Bored with relying on the not-very-flattering ponytail because, with a baby who wakes up by six each morning to nurse, I've got no time in the a.m.'s to do my hair. Bored with sleeping terribly. Bored with lack of career ambition or plans. Bored with weekends full of chores and errands instead of movies and brunch.

OK, OK--I realize it's unseemly to harp on a laundry list of complaints when (yes of course I know it's true) my life is actually, truly, a litany of blessings. (I mean, all I have to do is recall those two little girls of mine, all dressed in red and hugging each other before Christmas Eve church, to know that's true.) But come clean, people: don't any of you other mamas ever feel like this, when the holidays die down?

How do YOU energize yourself to face the new year with excitement, to pack away those Christmas ornaments with good cheer, not the overwhelming desire to take a nap? How do you get yourself out the door into the chill air of a winter evening to run those three miles? How do you motivate yourself to keep dusting the furniture, week after week after week? Any new-year tips would be greatly appreciated.

I'll tell you one person who's happy that Christmas is over, though: Genevieve, who is glad she doesn't have to wear a Santa dress with matching hat and booties anymore.

Thursday, December 27, 2007

Merry and Bright


Christmas Eve 2007, ages 1 and 3.

Saturday, December 22, 2007

A Little Holiday Reading, Perhaps?

The mid-December issue of The Mothers Movement Online includes an expanded version of an essay I originally wrote for MotherVerse Magazine's blog, about the full-tilt, rat-race, no-free-time life of a household with small children.

Maybe no one does any online reading over Christmas. In which case, go open your presents, eat your candy canes, and check back here, and there, when you've got more time and fewer sugar cookie crumbs on the front of your shirt.

(As always, I encourage everyone to peruse the rest of the December MMO issue as well; it's full of thoughtful commentary and great writing about many issues related to mothering and social change, including commentary about and comparisons of the '08 presidential candidates and where they stand with respect to crucial family-life policies.)

Friday, December 21, 2007

Merry Christmas

Christmas is almost here, and thanks in part to the stress relief of a super fun, festive, and friendly playgroup session today (presents! treats! big basement playroom!), I'm not even about to lose my mind or have a stress attack about my to-do list. Good, huh?

Here's how I'm making peace with the holiday, its hoopla, and its many mama-centric demands:

* Plans for a no-cook, pre-prepped, hors-d'ouevres-type holiday buffet for Christmas Eve supper, so we can come home from the late-afternoon "Family Christmas Vespers" service at our best friends' church and get two tiny girls fed as fast as possible without the hassle of attempting a fancy sit-down holiday meal.

* Saving the fancy sit-down holiday meal for Christmas Day dinner, when, without a church service to get to or the big-deal present opening to take place (just stocking gifts from Santa in the a.m., because that's how we do it at our house, folks), I'll have more time for cooking.

* Fine china--because it's easily accessible yet rarely used, a family heirloom, and lovely to behold--but paper holiday napkins and regular daily-use silverware. Because really: would YOU polish all that silver, in a year when your babies are 3 and 1? Aren't there better, future years for investing time and energy in a task like that, when the girls are older and you don't have to interrupt the job to do things like nurse the baby or empty the potty chair?

* Reminding myself that when your babies are 3 and 1--heck, I imagine even when they're 7 and 5--Christmas doesn't have to be "perfect" or overly-busy or planned within an inch of its life; in fact, it can't be. It just needs to be sweet, genuine, and focused on the blessings of a happy year past and the joy of another to come, with peach-cheeked angels inhabiting the house and giving it life.

* A whole lot of homemade eggnog lattes: much less expensive than the ones from the coffeeshop, and you can cut the eggnog with skim milk if you're feeling especially virtuous. Or not. And the caffeine? Very helpful on days when you've been up half the night with an inexplicably fussy baby (teeth coming in? cold coming on? who knows?), nursing at 3 a.m. just like the old days, one year ago.

Sincerest wishes for a joyful holiday to all of you. Take a nap, drink some eggnog, and think of me.

Wednesday, December 19, 2007

Tempted to Move Closer to Kindly Grandparents

Realization: the three-year-old and I really, really need a break from each other.

Second, horrific realization: preschool is off for Christmas break for the next two weeks.

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

Making a List and Checking it Twice

I know, I know: this week this blog is so boring it's even boring me. I've been busy:

a.) creating multiple to-do lists, new variations on the to-do lists, and detailed schedules for accomplishing everything on my to-do lists
b.) stressing about my to-do lists
c.) pondering the merits of the various brands of peanut brittle in my neighborhood grocery store
d.) wondering if peanut brittle and eggnog count as "protein" and "dairy". what if it's "light" eggnog? does that help?
e.) wondering if, when the baby starts making wake-up noises after only an hour of nap (that's the day's TOTAL, people) and you're just not ready to deal with her again yet, you can just ignore her for awhile
f.) not that she'll go back to sleep
g.) because she never does
h.) so, really: how long can you justifiably ignore her?
i.) wondering if "deli ham and turkey on grocery-store buns with a pickle if you're lucky" can count as "Christmas Day dinner"
j.) wondering if I'm the only full-time stay-at-home mama of two children under four who wishes someone else would take care of Christmas so I could focus on taking naps and drinking eggnog
k.) trying really hard to maintain some semblance of Christmas spirit
l.) and yes, loving, loving, loving my new dining room table (don't you love how I keep calling it a dining "ROOM", as though it were actually its own separate room? when really it's just part of the living room? Yup, I do too.)

Saturday, December 15, 2007

Sixteen Months Old


Today Genevieve is 16 months old. It's so unbelievable to me that when I typed the post title up there, I accidentally started writing "Fifteen Months" instead.

Sixteen months old, and this afternoon she actually fell asleep nursing. Can you believe it? Isn't she a bundle of sweet?

The Long-Awaited Dining Room Table

Have you been waiting? Well, here it is. Wish I had a "before" picture of our dining room for comparison purposes, but I don't, so: here's the "after." (The pic is a little dim; I had to close the blinds to block the too-bright morning light.) So, seriously: anyone want to come for dinner?

Thursday, December 13, 2007

Big Enough for All

Good news. My (big, big, big) new dining room table is up! With all six chairs. Of course, when you've got a big, big, big dining room table, the room that it is in suddenly becomes small, small, small. Or smaller, as the case may be. But I don't care! I love it. I can't wait to have you all over for dinner. Warning: some members of our household aren't the most decorous eaters.

Photo as soon as we've hung the painting that is waiting to adorn the giant blank wall that has been staring us in the face for the past two years.

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

Never Too Tired to Eat Chips and Dip

Last night, at 3 a.m., Genevieve began groaning and fussing in her crib. She kept it up, off and on, for 40 minutes before Christopher went in to see if anything discernible was the matter. He talked to her, he changed her, he checked her bed to make sure her Silky and teddy bear were still there, he cuddled her and asked her what was the matter. In the end, he put her back to bed, convinced that whatever was wrong wasn't serious or extreme. Even so, she moaned and groaned periodically the rest of the night, which means, of course, that after about 3 a.m., my night was pretty much shot. (My mysterious chronic neck problems, stemming from the legendary pinched nerve of Thanksgiving weekend, did not help my sleeping situation. Or non-sleeping, as the case may be. I'm in major sleep debt right now, and my only consolation is that it seems that whenever I'm not sleeping well, I've got company in dear friend Squab.)

At any rate, today was killer. Genevieve was exhausted, but would not succumb to my last-resort strategy of throwing the old morning nap back into her routine. She preferred, instead, to become a miserable train-wreck of a baby who spent the hours between approximately 9 a.m. and 1 p.m. crying over just about everything. And nothing. She then napped for an hour and 45 minutes, which would not sound like much for total baby-napping in one day, unless you knew my Vivi, in which case you'd realize it's the longest afternoon nap in, oh, ten months or so.

Having been basically awake since three, I was pretty much comatose by the time Christopher came home from work, bearing the junk-food leftovers of his potluck contribution to the office Christmas party the other day.

Those plans I had, last evening, about making up an earlier missed workout by going for a run or doing my best strength-training workout DVD tonight after Vivi's bedtime nursing? Let's just say I ended up having a date on the couch with a bag of Lay's and a tub of french-onion dip. Wearing, for pj's, the same yoga pants I wore all day AS ACTUAL PANTS.

I swear, people, I only eat chips and dip about once every 20 years. Truly. Now the dirty yoga pants? We don't have to get into the frequency of that.

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

All I Want for Christmas is One Peaceful Meal

So, so tired of meals. Not of eating them myself, of course. Of feeding them to someone else. Of having to jump up every ten seconds to get something (read: more food) for someone who can't get it for herself. Of all the biscuit crumbs and broccoli morsels and chicken salad glops and errant Cheerios and toast crusts and crumbs crumbs crumbs crumbs crumbs that end up on the floor, again--that floor that have I mentioned is COVERED IN CARPET? IN THE DINING ROOM, FOR THE LOVE OF GOD?--that floor that I must get down on my knees and clean up ten million times a day.

And what is with the throwing of food, people? The sassy little fuss-budget scowl as one tosses a handful of polenta with white bean-tomato sauce on the floor? If you don't want any more of it, YOU CAN LEAVE IT ON YOUR TRAY.

Is it any wonder that the office Christmas party-luncheon attended by my spouse yesterday afternoon, involving potluck-style goodies, complicated punch, and unidentified hotdishes (that would be casseroles, to my non-Minnesotan readers) sounds, oh, about as luxurious as a three-day spa weekend? Because I would bet you that no one at that party was throwing handfuls of french-onion dip on the floor. At least, I hope not. And even if they were, it wouldn't be MY responsibility to clean it out of the carpet.

However! Having said all that, I must mention that last year at this time I had a newborn and was so brutally sleep-deprived that I accidentally used a debit card for a defunct checking account and consequently bounced checks--twice!--AND unwittingly left a shopping bag full of just-purchased Christmas gifts in a cart in the Target parking lot and drove away without it. So, you know, it could always be worse.

Monday, December 10, 2007

End of an Era


Have I mentioned? The morning nap is officially over. Genevieve is almost 16 months old now, which is maybe (who remembers?) a month earlier than when Julia dropped hers, but it's certainly well within the normal range for saying adios to the lovely morning snooze. My favorite baby-sleep book says that, while at 14 months old the majority of babies are still taking two naps a day, by just four weeks later, at 15 months, the ratio has flipped, with those morning snoozers in the minority.

Oh yes, we're having a rough time of it; of course! Dropping the morning nap is notoriously painful for all involved. Baby isn't tired enough for two naps a day; baby is too tired for just one nap a day. Simultaneously. I'm not even going to write any more about it. You can use your imaginations.

But what I am mainly focused on--because I am me, and you know me--is the end of an era! No more morning naps in this house! Onward to old-babyhood and toddlerhood and beyond! There is no more time to nap in the mornings. There is too much living to do.

Friday, December 07, 2007

Sleigh Bells Ring

Last night was our town's annual "Winter Walk." This was its 9th year, but our first time going. (We moved here two winters ago, but just after Christmas, so we missed it that year. Yes, we moved two days after Christmas. Yes, it was total hell. No, I am never, ever moving again, at Christmas or any other time of year.) And last year it was something like ten degrees outside, and we had a newborn, so....no.

But this year, hurrah! We loved it. Winter Walk takes place downtown, around the town square, and the whole place is lit up with tiny white lights in the trees and paper-bag luminarias lining the sidewalks. Choirs are caroling, horses are pulling children on "sleigh" rides, elves are handing out candy canes (though, truth be told, we never located these elves, we just heard about them), all the shops are offering special deals and treats and entertainment, there was cocoa and cookies and I even heard rumor of a bonfire with marshmallow-roasting. The whole place is just jam-packed with, as I commented to Christopher as we approached the festivities, "happy townspeople." Really, it was just like a scene out of a movie musical. In a good way.

After two snowstorms in one week, last night the weather cooperated, and the girls--bundled into snowsuits and boots--didn't get too cold or cranky. In fact, we all had a fantastic time, even though we kept it to an efficient, child-dictated 45 minutes. Much holiday cheer was felt by all. Photos (vague, blurry--I prefer to call it "impressionistic"--, but festive in spirit) below. Oh--and despite appearances in the bottom picture, Genevieve really did have a good time. And yes, it is just a coincidence that the only in-focus photograph is the one taken by someone other than me. Really.




Waiting for Santa


Thursday, December 06, 2007

Learned My Lesson

The very, very painful lesson I have learned this week is that Genevieve will no longer take two naps a day. If, in response to her eye-rubbing and fussing, you put her down for the old familiar morning nap--even if you wake her up in 45-60 minutes so she won't nap too long--she will NOT take her afternoon nap. Will. Not.

Then she will be so tired by 6 p.m. (at which point she has not slept in eight hours) that, when you try to nurse her for bedtime, she will fall heavily asleep within five minutes, sucking lazily in her sleep in a decidedly non-drinking manner.

However. If you keep her up in the morning, because you realize she is an old baby now who is giving up her morning nap, do not go around thinking she will then sleep for a good two or three hours in the afternoon. Because you will be wrong, and when she wakes up in 45-60 minutes, and it's not even 2 p.m., you will be sorely disappointed. Or maybe LOSING YOUR EVER-LOVING MIND is a better way to describe what you will be.

So I guess that's two lessons I learned this week. I hope Santa is good to me this year.

Wednesday, December 05, 2007

Incredible Differences


The differences between my two children amaze me every day. We have this plastic Little Tikes slide (you can see it in the background in the photo above) that I got last spring for $15 at a garage sale (best $15 I ever spent), and before the snow began last Saturday we brought it inside to the playroom for the winter. (Yes, you heard me. A big, bright orange, outdoor toy, inside our house. In the "playroom", which is actually a multi-purpose room that also serves as our office. I use the term "multi-purpose" to make it sound all fancy and like we wanted it that way. In reality we now have, well, a giant plastic climbing toy in the same room as our Crate and Barrel desk and bookcases. Yep, I know who runs the show around here, and they are small and cute.)

Anyway! This slide does not have a ladder; instead, you crawl in a little door and hoist yourself up onto a little platform to go down the mini slide. For Genevieve, that platform is waist-high. Even so, since we brought the slide in the house four days ago, she has handily taught herself to do the slide completely by herself, start to finish. Goes in the door, climbs up onto the platform, sits herself down on her bottom (even mastering that tricky maneuver where you have to get your back leg out and around to the front to slide down), and rides down the slide. Gets up, toddles back, and does it again. All day long. You can sit at that Crate and Barrel desk reading the blogs (or, more nobly, sit nearby and play elaborate make-believe games with your more high-maintenance three-year-old) and Genevieve just plays on that slide on her own.

Of course, that whole dynamic is probably the very reason it only took Genevieve a day to learn to do the slide by herself. Right?

Back to the point of this post. At 15-1/2 months old, Julia wasn't yet walking by herself. She didn't learn how to go down a slide by herself--climbing up, sitting down properly, etc.--until she was two. When we got this slide last May, it still took her quite awhile to figure out how to climb up onto the platform. And yet here's baby Vivi, scrambling around like an intrepid monkey.

But here's the kicker: at 15-1/2 months, Julia had 35 words. (I just looked it up in her toddler journal, where I wrote them all down at the time.) Thirty-five! It's unimaginable, now, when my current 15-1/2-month-old says only five things on a regular basis: Mama, Dada, Boo-wah (Julia), uh-oh, and mmm-hmmm (for yes).

So: one non-physical, nonstop talker; one on-the-go, non-wordy climber. It was inevitable, wasn't it?

I love having two children.

Tuesday, December 04, 2007

Future Dietitian


Sign that my three-year-old may know a little bit too much about nutrition for a child her age:

Julia (surveying her lunch plate): "Mama, why is there no bun? Is corn a starch in this meal?"

Bad, Meet Good.

Today after preschool drop-off I had to decide whether or not to go home and try a morning nap for Genevieve, or go with the giving-up-the-morning-nap flow and drive to Target to buy the last of the Christmas gifts. I asked her opinion. "Vivi, do you want to go home and have night-night with Silky and PJ Bear?" She shook her head no, so I drove off to the store. Halfway there (like, two minutes later) I noticed she was closing her eyes. On the way home from Target she almost fell asleep in the car. I chose wrong. Bad, bad, bad.

But they were giving away free coffee and giant muffins at Target today, so that was good.

Then at preschool pick-up I had to tell the teacher that no "special adult" (optional! really, it's optional!) would be coming on Thursday for the celebration of Julia's half-birthday (because her real birthday is in the summer), because Daddy has to work. Bad. But Julia's class made gingerbread men today at school, and she was very, very excited, so that was good.

Then after lunch, when I trundled both girls off for the joint nap that I kept Genevieve up to preserve, Julia wouldn't nap. Bad.

But now outside it is a frenzy of winter-wonderland snow falling, so that's good. But I have to go and get Julia up from her aborted nap rather than finish my gift-wrapping and Christmas-card-addressing: bad.

But we have leftover delicious lentil soup to have for dinner tonight, so I don't have to cook! Good!

How is YOUR day going? Good or bad?

Monday, December 03, 2007

Confidential

To the friend who called me tonight and asked me to tell her a.) if she should have a second baby, and b.) if so, when?, the answers are as follows:

a.) Of course. Because if you don't, you'll never get to experience this:


and,

b.) When they would look, together, just like this:

So Very Nice

An amazing writer--someone who lives in my town but whom I don't even know--wrote something super nice for me on his blog today (and then commented on the post below to say hi and let me know about it). For me! I think he's famous! And his writing is gorgeous! Go read the yogurt essay! You won't be sorry!

So thoughtful. So nice.

Winter Wonderland

As some of you know, I haven't been terribly excited about the holidays this year. All the extra work, all the errands and cooking and to-do-listing. You know. But one of the things I decided to do to make the holidays more enticing to myself this year is keep things as simple as possible. I've got a baby and a preschooler; things are already complicated enough. Keeping things simple includes obtaining our town's smallest available (live) Christmas tree. Which we did, on Saturday.



I couldn't be happier.

In addition to experiencing the season's first snowstorm, buying and decorating the Christmas tree, and drinking an eggnog latte over the weekend (holiday-ish enough for you, all of that?!), today I bundled both girls up in snowpants and parkas and extra socks and boots and hats and mittens and took them out back in the snow with a big red sled (guess who got all the exercise out of that little outdoor play session?! It's hard work pulling two small children around on a sled! I'm already sore!). Plus, I made a recipe called "Meringue Snowmen" with Julia (Genevieve watched). Snowmen! Out of meringue! To eat! I don't even like meringue, and it's not as if my children need anymore treats right now, but we needed an activity today. (Genevieve is in the middle of dropping her morning nap, for real this time. I'm sure you don't really want me to say anything more about that.)

So I kind of feel like, in the past 2-1/2 days, I've sufficiently embraced the holiday season. Don't you agree? I mean, the meringue snowmen alone!

Saturday, December 01, 2007

Brrrr.

I went for a run yesterday at dusk, when the windchill was 1 below. How's that for hardy? (Credit goes to the much hardier friend of mine who inspired me to get off my butt, put on some fleece, and just get out there.)

Thursday, November 29, 2007

A Case of Bad--and Good--Timing

Sure, now that Christopher is finally home from his latest out-of-town trip, marking the end of three solid weeks during which I was basically unable to exercise due to 1.) being the only parent at home with no way to leave the babies to go for a run, 2.) being out of town as a family for the Thanksgiving holiday with no room in my suitcase to pack outdoor running clothes and shoes on top of the mammoth amount of baby/kid gear we were already taking (shut up, that's my excuse and I'm sticking with it), and 3.) being, again, the only parent at home with no way to leave the babies to go for a run-- well, after all that, now that I can actually leave my house alone (or at all!) it is 7 degrees outside with a major snowstorm predicted for the day after tomorrow. Have I mentioned I've been running on sugar and caffeine for three straight days? (Shut up, how else am I going to keep up with these girls by myself, less than two weeks after doing it the last time, when one is sick and the other prefers throwing temper tantrums to napping? YOU try it.) Have I mentioned I'm only making, like, two drops of breast milk per day anymore? Not exactly a big calorie-burner, people. Maybe I shouldn't have eaten all that pumpkin pie. After all, would YOU want to go running in a blizzard?

November has kind of sucked so far.

However. Have I told you about my new dining room table, the one I waited almost 37 years for, that will--at LAST!--actually fit four to six people around it? It has arrived. Sure, it's in boxes in our garage, but sometime--maybe even sometime soon--I will have a grown-up, large, dining room table in my tiny little dining room. I will be able to have more than one other person over for dinner. We will all have room for our dinner plates AND our silverware on the table. No one will have to stand, eat at the coffee table, or pretend not to notice that our table is the size of a Sit-'n'-Spin.

Christopher and I have made a lot of sacrifices, as a family, to ensure parent-only childcare for our babies. I left my career--for now, anyway--to raise the girls, academia doesn't pay very well, and thus we don't have a lot of things many of our peers have. (Of COURSE it goes without saying that we have a lot of things many people DON'T have, as well. I know this.) Our house is relatively small, and attached. We don't travel or buy new clothes on a regular basis. Sometimes, when I'm feeling particularly devoid of gratitude for this life I should be so grateful for, it seems like everything we own is too old, too small, too outdated, too spare. And it's hard to justify buying new things when you're not putting anything, each month, into that pathetic savings account.

But then I think about this new dining room table, and how sure, it's a splurge, even on sale from a mid-range mass marketer. And how yes, of course we could be putting that money into college accounts for the girls. And even how to some people it's nothing fancy or all that special. But to me, it's a symbol of family warmth and love--to be able to gather everyone around the table!--and something I've wanted for a very, very long time. It's worth the price. It makes me feel grateful--not for yet another material object to compare with everyone else's (bigger? nicer? more expensive? prettier?)--but for what it represents to me, in my own mind: family, children growing up around it, dinners together, craft projects and cookie-baking and homework. Thanksgiving dinners. Weekend breakfasts. The heart of a family.

My new dining room table--even in boxes in the garage--makes November better. Want to come over for dinner?

Wednesday, November 28, 2007

Foiled Again

The other night I was compelled to break out the trusty Medela Pump In-Style. (Seriously, people: who named this machine? Could it have a more ridiculous name? I think not.)

Do you know what I got for my troubles? One ounce, people. COMBINED. Yep, that's both sides.

OK, so I've read that the baby can obtain roughly twice what a breast pump can, being, you know, a baby and not an unnatural, motorized pump. But that still only comes out to two ounces of milk per feeding. Since I recently cut down to three instead of four nursings a day--feeling that I could probably do that, seeing as how my baby is FIFTEEN MONTHS OLD--that comes out to only six (or so) ounces of milk per day. Six. Ounces.

SIGH.

Let me tell you something: 15-month-old babies are supposed to drink more than six ounces of milk per 24-hour period. In fact, I believe the general consensus is something like 16 ounces, though don't quote me on that. Of course, most 15-month-old babies are drinking cow's milk from a cup at all their meals, or if not cow's milk, perhaps soy, or rice, or lactose-free, or something. Most babies aren't reliant on nursing alone to get all their needed milk-based nutrition.

It's pretty crazy, because when Genevieve was a newborn, I had oodles of milk, way more milk than necessary. I guess my body is tired and old and saggy, and figures, hey, the baby is 15 months old now, she surely doesn't need a whole lot each time, so how about if we just kind of lie here and phone it in? Because surely she's almost weaned. Right?

After my initial dismay and panic, not only did I research "herbs for increasing milk supply" online (and people: do you know how weird it feels to be researching ways to increase milk supply for a 15-month-old? All the articles refer to newborns who aren't getting enough milk, to panicked newly postpartum mamas trying to get the hang of things. Not exactly my situation.), but I also glugged some chocolate milk into a sippy and slapped it down on the highchair tray in front of Genevieve, resigning myself to the last resort. (Internets: this was advised by our pediatrician. I do not take lightly the idea of feeding my baby chocolate milk. Believe me.)

At two meals and one snack yesterday, Genevieve wouldn't even try it. She could tell it wasn't water in the sippy, so apparently she knew I was trying to persuade her to ingest another milk-related substance, and she wasn't having it. But today she took a swig before realizing the liquid inside wasn't clear.

Guess whose baby DOESN'T EVEN LIKE CHOCOLATE MILK? Is she even human?

This morning I added that fourth nursing back into the day. Because apparently I'm going to be nursing this child forever.

Monday, November 26, 2007

Soldier On

Today Genevieve woke up with a cold so severe that by bedtime she was completely unable to nurse. I've had stuffed-up babies before, but never so stuffed-up they literally could not breathe--at ALL--while nursing. Poor Vivi latched on three times, trying valiantly to soothe her miserable self to sleep, but each time as the seconds ticked by she became increasingly panicked, kicking her legs and finally popping off to gasp for breath and then, in a truly heartbreaking display, crumple her little face into dismayed, confused tears. After the third try, over her wailing, I asked her, just to be sure, "Vivi, do you want to try any more nursing? Nursing, Vivi?" and all she could do was shake her head vehemently as the tears dripped down her cheeks. I put her to bed after a book and a lullaby, milk-less, sick, a total sad sack.

I haven't nursed now since 2 p.m., and I don't know what the morning will bring, so I guess I'm going to have to dig the trusty old breast pump out of the storage closet. The breast pump! Can you imagine? That old thing, now? Would you ever think, when you're plugging in that annoying contraption five million times a day to stock the freezer for your newborn, that you'd be needing its services at 15 months? No, because you'd never guess you'd end up with a baby so stubborn she won't drink cow's (or any other) milk and therefore you're it, mama, so get pumping; after all, at 15 months no doubt your breasts are so tired that if the baby skips a nursing they're liable to go Woo-hoo, we're finally off duty! and immediately halt all milk production in a frenzy of relief. Wouldn't you?

Anyway, speaking of trials, before dinner I dragged my sorry self outside for a run, after two weeks off from working out. You know: last week was the holiday trip out of town, and the week before I couldn't leave the house without the babies because of Christopher being gone on his business trip. Also because of being comatose with exhaustion. There was that, too.

I'm a fairly passionate exerciser, but boy, after two weeks off I can sure see how people become sedentary. I felt like I had SO MUCH TIME to get things done when I wasn't also racing to fit a run or other workout session into my day. Seriously, I was a lot less stressed. But you know, I also recognize that when one is on the verge of entering a five-week period of gorging one's self (I mean, partaking of in moderation) on eggnog, pumpkin pie, fudge, candy canes, gingerbread men, and assorted Christmas cookies, it probably isn't the best time to give up all exercise. So, you know, I went for my run. With a fairly minimal amount of wheezing and limping. (Did I mention I have a major pinched nerve in my neck? That rendered me completely unable to move at 3 a.m. last Saturday? That required me to filch my mom's leftover Darvocet from a past root canal to get through the day? And that now I am simply refusing to acknowledge, because it is driving me crazy and listen, neck: I don't have TIME FOR A PINCHED NERVE, hear me?! Um, yeah, so...there's that.)

I feel like all this ridiculousness should add up to some kind of wise, reflective little lesson. Paralyzing pinched nerve, sick baby can't nurse, forcing yourself to do the hilly run after two weeks off, contemplating three more days of solo (and car-less!) parenting to come: doesn't it seem like there should be a takeaway moral in there somewhere? Maybe, "Persevere, tired breasts"? Or, "When you're throwing back the eggnog guilt-free, those sloggy runs will be worth it"? Or, "Suck it up, lady, there's still a lot of mothering to go, so soldier on"?

I don't know. But the breast pump is calling, so...soldier on.

Sunday, November 25, 2007

Home Sweet Home

You know those people who get those vehicles with portable DVD players in them, to entertain the children on long road trips? I am in serious envy of those people. Or, rather, on our Thanksgiving driving trek, when Julia didn't nap at all and Genevieve napped for a total of 30 minutes (out of a six-hour car trip that spanned both morning and afternoon naptimes), and Julia began asking "WHEN will we EVER get to Nonna and Boppa's house?!" when we were ONE-HALF MILE FROM OUR DRIVEWAY, well, that's when I was in serious envy of those people. And on the way home, when everything repeated itself in reverse.

In between those two rides, we ate a lot and the girls suffered various degrees of non-sleep due to holiday excitement and noise and unfamiliar beds and we met our local friends who were also up in northern Minnesota for the holiday and took our combined four girls to see Santa at the mall (only one of the four dared sit with him for a photo) and much family socializing occurred. Mostly involving pie.

And then amidst the holiday goings-on we learned of a death in Christopher's extended family and of a serious health crisis in mine, and now Christopher is arranging to get back on the road (by himself this time) in a day or so for the funeral in a remote part of the country, and the girls and I are bracing for another challenging week.

And planning to never, ever take these two babies on a long road trip ever again. Well, OK, maybe not never. But a DVD player may need to be involved.

Monday, November 19, 2007

Stone Soup, with Spoons

It is 9:30 p.m. That's two hours past Julia's normal bedtime. She is still awake. Christopher just went in to check on her. When he came out, he reported that she told him she can't sleep: she's "too excited" about the fact that her class is making soup tomorrow at preschool.

OK. Admittedly, some of why she's not sleeping is because this afternoon the earth tilted mysteriously on its axis and she took a nearly three-hour nap. But, people: doesn't a small part of you sort of wish you were three years old again, when the prospect of making a collaborative soup (each kid gets to bring an ingredient! only we got assigned the spoons! not very exciting! but oh so necessary!), in conjunction with reading the book "Stone Soup", to celebrate a non-specific but still festive "Feast Day" at nursery school, was so deliciously exciting that you couldn't sleep because of it?

There are very few things so exciting they keep me awake at night. (There are plenty of things that keep me awake at night, but very few things that keep me awake because they are joyously exciting.)

I guess I'm a grown-up.

I wish making soup thrilled me to my wide-awake bones.

Stubborn Fifteen Months Old


Today was Genevieve's 15-month well-baby checkup at the pediatrician. She weighs 22 lbs., 9 oz., and is 30 inches tall, making her still a peanut compared to her sister at the same age (who was four pounds heavier, a couple of inches taller). But really, overall Genevieve's pretty average.

When I asked the doctor's advice about Vivi's continued refusal to drink (cow's) milk (thus requiring me to continue nursing her multiple times a day; oh Lord, I'm a die-hard breastfeeder, but mercy me, it's getting a little crazy-making to be still tied to my baby four times a day, including wake-up and bedtime, thus making any attempt to, oh, I don't know--get away for more than a few hours at time? have someone else put the baby to bed? sleep in?--well, making all that impossible), she recommended I try to give Vivi soy milk.

We came home for lunch, I put some soy in Vivi's sippy, she tried it, and then made a face and pushed the cup off her highchair tray.

So much for THAT.

Friday, November 16, 2007

How Dire Was It?

As I write this, Christopher is due home from his business trip in less than an hour. All I can say about that is, thank God. Wednesday and yesterday weren't too bad; I didn't sleep well, so I was dead tired, but the days were pretty uneventful and I managed to get through the hardest things to do alone, like nurse the baby to "sleep" at bedtime with a three-year-old sitting two feet away, or cook dinner with both girls hanging on me and whining, without totally losing it.

But today was pretty dire. These are some of the things that occurred:

Julia's cough turned into a full-blown sneezing/running nose disaster, with, at one point, an entire change of clothes necessitated by a particularly dramatic sneeze. Then she got super-spaced-out from the Benadryl I gave her, causing her to lie on the couch for most of the playgroup we hosted this morning.

The huge, noisy delivery truck bringing some new mail-ordered home furnishings arrived promptly at 1 p.m.--naptime--despite my having been told it would likely come around ten.

Both girls were up from nap by two.

After which, Julia basically had meltdowns the entire rest of the day.

Including the shrieking, ridiculous tantrum she had in the middle of Genevieve's post-nap nursing, which caused Genevieve to become totally terrified, begin crying, and then hiccup worriedly during the rest of her nursing session.

I raised my voice an awful lot. "Raised my voice" is a polite way to describe what I did.

Genevieve picked up the cat's full water bowl, walked away with it unnoticed, and dumped it all over the floor. So then I was mopping.

By 5 p.m. I had already allowed Julia to watch three different DVDs today (UN. HEARD. OF. Now you know how bad it was.).

For dinner, I served the girls a frozen Amy's burrito, dry Cheerios (Genevieve), and a handful of almonds (Julia).

While I was cleaning up after dinner, Genevieve hung on my knees and screamed as hard as she could until I picked her up and did the rest of the clean-up, including vacuuming the dining room (what genius decided to put carpet in the dining area?), with a 24-pound baby on my hip.

I skipped both baths because the thought of having to give two baby baths made me want to cry. Oh, did I say "want to"? I mean, made me cry. For the fifth or sixth time since noon. Did I mention that Julia's hair hasn't been washed since Christopher was home last?

I put them both to bed before 6:30 p.m. (both! which means Julia too! who normally goes to bed at 7:30!) for no other reason than the fact that I could not tolerate even one more minute of baby/toddler-parenting. The only way to get a break was to put them to bed. So I did. (By the way, they were both silent within three minutes.)

I was supposed to edit an essay for an online magazine and re-submit it by today. I didn't get a chance to because by the girls' bedtime each night I've been completely comatose and unable to do anything other than watch TLC.

I hate today. I hate that tomorrow it's time to start preparing to go out of town for Thanksgiving, which comes unforgivably early this year. Because when you're going on a road trip with a preschooler and a baby, it takes you two or three days just to make the packing list. And then another couple days to actually pack up your entire household to go. All the while you really should be feeling THANKFUL.

Thursday, November 15, 2007

Secondborn


Poor, second-baby Vivi. Totally gets the shaft. Has 3/4 of one baby-photo album filled so far, at 15 months old (today!). To Julia's 3-1/2 currently-filled photo albums, at three years old, including the GIANT, ENORMOUS, GARGANTUAN baby album that was already filled by the time she was SIX MONTHS OLD. Six months old, people.

Vivi: no home-movie DVDs yet made of her infancy. Julia: four home-movie DVDs by the time she was 15 months old.

Vivi: someone blinked and smiled at her, for, like, two seconds, the first time she held a hairbrush to her skull and pretended to brush her hair. Julia: it's on home video.

Vivi: doesn't know the parts of the face yet, or any of the sounds farm animals make. Julia: quizzed regularly by ten months old. Answered correctly.

Poor Vivi! I mean, she's such a total character, such a treasured little baby bear; we love her with a ferocity that is probably unapparent in our neglectful archiving of her babyhood, our lack of studiousness when it comes to teaching "baa-baa" and No, Vivi, that's a NOSE.

And yet: maybe it's okay in the end. Maybe your big sister's undying adoration kind of makes up for your hardscrabble second-born circumstances, if you're that second baby, parented by default and distraction. Because all day long, I hear things like this: Oh Vivi, did you get a bump? Vivi, do you need a hug? Vivi, I will dance with you! I will read to you! Mama, Vivi needs her nose wiped! Mama, Vivi needs her diaper changed! Can I touch her cute baby belly? Can I touch her little feet? Doesn't Vivi look so cute, Mama? Oh Mama, I just love her baby cheeks.

And this: Oh Mama, I just love Vivi.

And this: I just love her.

And: Vivi, I just love you.

Agenda

Trying to decide if I should work really hard to somehow muster the time and motivation (not to mention energy) to work out on the elliptical trainer sometime today (when? after the girls are in bed, I guess? because I used up naptime already, doing all the other things I need to get done), since, obviously, I can't go for a run without anyone else at home with the girls--or if being home alone with the babies while Christopher is on a three-day business trip is enough reason to say Forget it! Who needs a workout when you're sustaining life over here?

Also trying to decide if I should really try to get the upstairs carpet vacuumed (but when? because the baby is terrified of the vacuum, and there's no one here to take her so I can run it. although I could hold her on one hip and vacuum the upstairs one-armed, which I've done before, although it gave me some sort of shoulder injury. doesn't seem worth it. despite the level of dust and cat hair, and the fact that I'm hosting playgroup here tomorrow morning).

Um, I think I'm losing some sort of battle with my daily to-do list.

Two to Go

Day one, down! Yes, people, I survived my first day of Christopher's "business" trip just fine, thank you very much. And it isn't that I doubt I'll survive this trip, that I doubt I'll be just fine. It's that I dislike being the only parent running the household and taking care of the babies for several days in a row. It makes me tired. And crabby. More than usual, I mean.

Anyway, yesterday was, as I said, fine, especially after Julia got some sleep in the afternoon and stopped impersonating a teenager. Oh sure, we did resort to a 20-minute "drive" at 11:20 in the morning, usually a sign of true desperation, but really, things weren't all that bad. We were bored but there wasn't enough time before lunch to actually go and DO anything. And Julia asked to go. (How bored must a kid be to ask to go for a drive?)

Thanks to a dear friend who truly gets it, we had a mercy playdate yesterday afternoon, during which the three-year-olds got to make treats to eat for snack, and the babies toddled around putting baby-dolls to sleep under washcloths. Genevieve, who is scared of anything made of yarn and resembling a frayed rope, at one point took my hand and walked me over to the other side of the room to contemplate a yarn pom-pom-ball on the floor (the kind on the top of stocking caps). I had to actually hide it behind the telephone before she would resume playing. Poor little honey. Oh, she also made the other mama hide the Raggedy Ann doll. That scary hair, you know.

The worst part of being alone so far--and it's always thus--is that I hardly slept. I mean, I slept even less well than I usually do, which is saying quite a lot since I am a star insomniac. You'd think, since Mr. Snore-tastic is away, I'd be sleeping great, but I'm a total wimp about being alone in the house at night. I hear every tiny sound, like the furnace and the cat, and I lie in bed imagining someone breaking in. Truly, I do. Isn't that ridiculous? For a grown adult? Must be too many "Law and Order" episodes in my history. Damnit! Love that show. But what ends up happening is that I stay up late, monitoring the baby monitors (ooo, so nerve-wracking: waiting for someone to cry), then I fitfully sleep in my bed with a light on somewhere nearby, and then I wake up super-early before it's really morning. Then I get up and start my day. Um, yeah, not exactly a formula for having energy for chasing young children around from sun-up to sundown.

Speaking of, my coffee is calling. The babies are still asleep! I should be using this time to get dressed or pull my questionable hair into a questionable ponytail. Bye for now.

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

Good Morning to You, Too

Conversation at our house this morning:

Julia, downstairs talking to Christopher: Daddy, can we do "Baby Dance"? [a toddler dance/movement DVD we own]
Christopher: No, not right now, honey. Probably later today.
Julia, whining: But why NOT? I want to do "Baby Dance"!
Christopher: Because Genevieve is going to go down for her nap pretty soon.
Me, calling down from upstairs: You and Vivi can do "Baby Dance" later, when I'm making your lunch, like we always do.
Julia, petulant: Mama! I wasn't WORRIED about it! Why are you talking to me?
Me: I'm just having a conversation with you.
Julia: Mama, why do you ALWAYS HAVE A CONVERSATION WITH ME?!
Me, rolling my eyes so far backward they're practically stuck in my skull even now: Good question.

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

Amazing Baby

The other day the girls and I checked an old favorite out of the library, the charming board book "I Kissed the Baby!" by Mary Murphy. In it, the animals are all abuzz over a new baby in their midst, and they joyfully compare notes with each other: "I kissed the baby! Did you kiss the baby?"; "I sang to the baby! Did you sing to the baby?" At the end, a mama duck responds to one excited query by saying, "Of course I kissed the baby, my own amazing baby", and we find out that the baby in question is a quacking yellow duckling.

Yesterday Julia said to me, "Mama, Vivi is my own amazing baby."

Seriously, now: how sweet is that?

Monday, November 12, 2007

Those Airplane Rides? You Can Read for Pleasure During Them. Also Drink. Also Nap.

The day after tomorrow, Christopher leaves on a three-day business trip where he will eat meals prepared by someone other than himself, stay at a hotel where there will be a big bed, cable TV, and no baby monitors, and presumably have at least a small amount of free time (like, for instance, while on the airplane) to leisurely read magazines and sip coffee. Oh sure, he prefers to focus on the fact that he will be attending a work conference and going out to dinner with people he does not know. As if that's going to make me feel sorry for him. Since the main activities around this house lately seem to include fussing, crying, whining, teething, coughing in my face every five seconds, and repeating the phrase "Mama what did you say?" ten million times a day (seriously, people: what is it with three-year-olds? Are they literally unable to hear? I do not understand.), I'm not exactly crying him a river.

You may recall that the last time Christopher left me alone with the babies for multiple days in a row, I became Crabby, Impatient, Not Very Nice Mom, a persona I detest and dread but seem unable to prevent from taking over my body when I am the only parent on duty, break-free, from wake-up to bedtime (and beyond!) for more than, say, one day at a time. And maybe even for only one day.

Sometimes I hear of moms of older kids who make something special out of the times when Daddy goes on a business trip: plan special outings and activities, eat dessert for dinner, camp out in sleeping bags on the living room floor or let the children sleep in mom and dad's bed just this once. Kind of a party-atmosphere, to-heck-with-the-normal-routine endeavor, designed to get everyone through the week and create fun and excitement out of something that might otherwise be difficult or, at the very least, a bit of a bummer. I always think that sounds like a lot of fun, and it does allow me to see into the future to a time when being home alone with the girls might be an adventure, not a nonstop need-meeting marathon. But what I always come back to is the knowledge that we're just not at that stage yet, as a family. My children are too young; I'm still in the thick of things like nursing and diaper changing and wiping multiple bottoms other than my own, two naps a day and cutting up everyone's food into miniscule, non-chokable pieces. I have babies in the house; I don't have the kind of mothering life, yet, that can include throwing schedules and routine to the wind.

So think of me later this week, when I'll be attempting to resist poking my own eye out with a stick when I am forced to repeat the simplest comment five times in a row until I DON'T CARE ANYMORE, NEVER MIND, IF I HAVE TO SAY IT ONE MORE TIME MY HEAD WILL FLY RIGHT OFF MY NECK AND BOUNCE ACROSS THE ROOM. And when I'm not only the one to go in and fix the twisted blanket at midnight, but also the one to give more teething medicine at two a.m., change the wet sheets from the leaking diaper at five, and nurse the baby at six. Send some patient vibes my way, won't you? Maybe also a pint of Ben and Jerry's for every solo-parenting evening (I've mentioned that I'm still nursing four times a day, haven't I?), a double-shot espresso for each early morning, and the promise of being paid back, handsomely, at some point in the future.

Thank you.

Sunday, November 11, 2007

My Last Piece

Over at MotherVerse today, I'm finishing up my guest-writer stint with a piece about trying to find time to write. Fittingly, I finished it with a baby grabbing at my fingers and a three-year-old saying, "Mama, is dinner ready yet?" over and over.

Thursday, November 08, 2007

(Don't) Save the Date

I've got a little piece up at MotherVerse today, about foregoing date night in order to pay the water bill. And still remaining happily married.

Moms: What Would YOU Do?

I don't typically ask for parenting advice from the Internet, because a.) Are you kidding me? There are a lot of crazies out there, and b.) I'm almost always perfectly comfortable with what I'm already doing (or planning to do). Oh, and c.) Lot of crazies.

But this time I'm open to suggestions. In fact, I'm actively soliciting them. From other moms, ideally. Who have experienced something like this, even more ideally. Or who, at least, can imagine it happening at some point.

It's official: Julia has a bully. OK, that's a little too simplistic. Let me explain.

Remember "Oscar" (not his real name)? The preschool classmate who knocked her onto the floor a week or so back? Well, a lot has transpired since then, mostly in the form of Julia being knocked to the ground and/or hit every day of preschool since then. So far, this child has physically attacked my child four times. So, what's going on?

I've talked with the teachers. They are properly upset by this child's behavior, and (after I made it clear that I want to be told by a teacher every time it occurs) they inform me daily what's going on. Julia's head teacher has told me that this child lashes out physically--out of the blue, without the slightest provocation--at other children too, not just Julia. She informed me that "Oscar" is currently being assessed for EBD (emotionally/behaviorally disordered)/special education status, and that one of the assistant teachers is currently assigned to be one-on-one with him throughout the preschool morning--although, obviously, it's not always possible to do that when the assistant is one of five teachers for 30 children in three different classrooms. And, clearly, it's not always possible to prevent "Oscar" from hurting other children even with this type of monitoring.

From what I can gather--and from what I've heard from another mom who witnessed one of the incidents--the occurrences are being handled appropriately: "Oscar" is quickly reprimanded and removed from the situation, Julia is immediately comforted and checked to make sure she is okay. She doesn't cry; after the first two incidents, she didn't even tear up. At first she was terribly shocked, confused, and somewhat worried about returning to school. Now she seems resigned and a little ho-hum about this boy, though also completely confused by him. Why would anyone run over to you and smack you as you sit quietly playing Play-Doh all by yourself at the clay table? Why would someone race up to you on the playground and out of the blue knock you onto your back on the mulch? (Why, indeed?)

So, moms. What would you do?

Anyone who has ever been a teacher, childcare provider, or pediatric mental-health practitioner knows that you can't always prevent a child from acting out physically, no matter what you do or how you feel about such behavior. Part of me is very angry, upset, and (mainly) sad for my daughter (if you knew her, you'd really understand how shocking this is; I don't think I'm being too biased when I say she's just about the most innocent, sweet-natured, quiet, well-behaved baby rose in the world). But part of me, also, asks, Well, what do I expect the school to do about it, really? Kick "Oscar" out of preschool? Move him out of the Tuesday-Thursday session so he can then go and hit other children, in other classes on other days instead? Yell at his parents? No, of course not.

But it also doesn't feel right to just take the daily report at preschool pick-up ("Julia got hit again today") with resignation and no apparent plan of action for making sure my child doesn't keep getting hit or knocked over every single time she goes to school.

Any ideas, Internet moms?

Wednesday, November 07, 2007

Indoor Exercise, Part Two

Oh, and how could I initiate a discussion of indoor exercise (so to speak) and forget to include the following photo?

I like to call it: "How a Busy Mama Stays Fit"

Indoor Exercise

This is just a quick apology for how little I have to say on this site this week. But wait, maybe you're relieved. I've finally shut my mouth for awhile! Amazing.

Anyway, it seems that guest-writing at the MotherVerse blog for these two weeks has drained me of any and all additional writing content or motivation. Good thing I didn't pursue that two-posts-a-day-required paid blogging gig I was offered late last week, on a topic I know nothing about! Yikes. Needless to say I was both flattered and grateful to the very thoughtful and generous writer who tried to talk me into it. But more than that I was disappointed to realize that, much as I would have loved to accept the job offer, there is no way on earth I could have written two posts a day on this particular topic. I would have had to spend all day researching the topic, to try to find something to write. You know, while the babies sort of, um....took care of themselves. Sigh.

Anyway! Last night our family attended a little "family fun night" at Julia's preschool. The highlight was watching overtired Genevieve, already a half hour past her bedtime when the fun began, attempt to walk on stilts. OK, so they were those overturned-bucket-style "stomper" preschool toys, but let's just say they were still beyond her. That Vivi--she'll try pretty much anything. This week her main obsession has been joining Julia for their little "Baby Dance" DVD, where they run around with props like hats and maracas trying to do all the dance steps with the teacher on the TV. They love it and would do it all day if I let them.

Their other big activity these days is a cooperative game involving Julia riding a way-too-small plastic riding toy around our entryway/kitchen, while Genevieve walks behind, holding onto the handles in the back and pushing her (even though the toy is really for a baby Genevieve's size to ride on). The other day they laughed themselves silly, going back and forth like this for a half hour straight. I didn't point out to Genevieve that she was getting the raw end of the deal, having to do all the work. She seemed to be enjoying herself. By the way, this was also the day we saw snow flurries in these parts. I see a long winter ahead of us, full of TV-dancing and pushing the ride-on toys back and forth on the linoleum. Could be worse.

Sunday, November 04, 2007

Fall Back (to Sleep)

Before having babies, turning the clocks back in the fall meant an extra hour of sleep. Now it means the day begins at 4:30 a.m. Because, of course, to the baby it is actually 5:30 a.m. And that's, you know, close enough to six to make it not completely unreasonable.

Except it's NOT really 5:30 a.m. It's FOUR-THIRTY IN THE MORNING. Go back to sleep, baby!

Friday, November 02, 2007

Friday Night Link

Last night, Christopher reminded me that sometime in the future, we will no longer--EVER AGAIN--hear Genevieve utter the little sound-effect word she says every time she's giving a kiss: "mmmmm-muh? mmmmm-muh?" Am now totally heartbroken. Too despondent to write.

Except, of course, over at MotherVerse, where tonight I'm writing about the holidays. And how to not be Scrooge-ish about them before they've even properly begun. Merry reading!

Friday Fun

I don't usually post many links on my blog, because HELLO, that would take away from space I could devote to writing about myself, and what fun is that? But today I am making an exception, to bring joy to the masses. And by "masses," I mean the three or four people who read my blog.

I'm sure some of you already read the blog of all blogs, the incomparable Dooce, and may have already seen Heather's post today about Halloween night. But for those of you who haven't, you really have to click here and go read it. The first part, about how much fun it is to do things like this with your own children, more fun than you can ever imagine when you're childless, is sweet, funny, and spot-on. But please, keep going and see the photos of the dog getting dressed in his costume. I promise, you will be glad you did.

Wednesday, October 31, 2007

And One Late-Night Link

Over at MotherVerse tonight, I'm talking about rotating the toys. Enjoy.

First Trick or Treat

Before we go on to the details--and the photos--, let me just say that the moral of the story is this: Going trick-or-treating with your very young children for the first time is totally, completely, incredibly fun. Even if you only go out for half an hour and you hit, maybe, six or eight houses. It's a total blast because your three-year-old has never experienced anything even remotely like this before, and she is 100% thrilled and delighted with absolutely every detail about the endeavor.

Oh, and the other moral of the story is that we have some very, very nice neighbors. Including a sweet elderly couple down the street who have loved our girls from day one and who gave Julia a FULL-SIZED SNICKERS BAR. Because they "bought special treats for the neighbor kids" they know personally. And including the multiple houses whose owners plopped, like, three or four pieces of candy into Julia's trick-or-treat bag. Not one treat. Not even two. Three or FOUR. Oh, and also? Including our sweet neighbor across the street who, after we had returned from our evening foray, CAME OVER TO OUR HOUSE WITH HER BOWL, because she happened to be driving away from her house to run an errand as we ventured out to begin trick-or-treating, and she didn't want to miss out on giving Julia a Halloween treat. Trick-or-treat house calls? Do we live in Mayberry?

There is one more moral of the story, and I'm telling this one to MYSELF. Ready, self? Remember: it was our OLD house, in our OLD neighborhood, up in the CITY, where we ran out of candy every Halloween no matter how many jumbo-mega bags I bought at Target beforehand. NOT OUR CURRENT HOUSE. IN OUR CURRENT TOWN. In fact, self, HERE is where last year we hardly went through any candy at ALL. Like, not even the first bag. So next year? DO NOT BUY THREE SUPER-GIGANTIC "THE HUGE ONE!" BAGS OF CANDY. YOU WILL NOT USE UP EVEN HALF OF ONE OF THEM. EVEN IF YOU GIVE EVERY CHILD WHO COMES TO YOUR DOOR A HANDFUL OF TREATS. Someone please remind me of this next year. I am begging you.

OK! Enough with the boring stuff, let's get on with the photos! So, Julia was a jack o'lantern, and Genevieve was a bumblebee. At first, Genevieve was, shall we say, a little less than thrilled about putting on her bumblebee suit.



But she was so cute! She even had a stinger.



And after awhile she calmed down and posed for a few pictures.





And look at Julia! Doesn't she look like she's hopped up on sugar, even though in this picture she hasn't even had any yet? She was a little excited.



Last Halloween, I couldn't eat chocolate, because of my nursing newborn's colic. You can bet I'm making up for lost time this year. What? I'm a runner again, and I'm STILL nursing too many times a day, so I can get away with it. Although maybe not 2-1/2 super-jumbo-mega bags' worth. Happy Halloween!

Halloween Fun

Tonight will be Julia's first experience trick-or-treating (and Genevieve's first experience tagging along, be-costumed but candy-denied). Tune in tonight or tomorrow for photos, of course (I know, I'm a big tease).

In other news, Genevieve slept from 6:15 last night to 6:30 this morning. Ah, 6:30 a.m....

And, over at the MotherVerse blog, editor Melanie Mayo-Laakso writes me a very kind introduction and, surprisingly, indicates that I'm not the only person who thinks I'm funny. Who knew?!

More later, both here and there. Thanks for waiting, and reading.

Tuesday, October 30, 2007

No-Brainer

The weather here has been fantastic lately. (Today it hit 70 degrees.) I've spent the last two days doing things like chasing small girls all over the playground and going for my hard, hilly run--the one that goes all the way up to county road 19, with oh! so many hills!--and, though unrelated to the weather, cleaning the ENTIRE HOUSE.

So here's a little quiz for you. What do you think I will choose to do tonight? When my choices are: a.) go to a community lecture at the middle school on the topic of kids and substance abuse, in the hopes that I could later submit a request to the state psychology board asking them to approve said lecture-attendance for two hours' worth of continuing education credits for my licensure, though I don't currently know if the lecture will include a program or flyer of some sort needed for documentation of such a request, nor do I know if the board would approve the lecture for CEUs anyway, nor do I even really know where the lecture is being given (though I'm sure I could find it); OR, b.) sit on the couch in my jammies reading a stack of old secondhand People magazines, eating Halloween candy out of the bag.

Come on now, people, have you been paying attention at all? Because ARE YOU KIDDING ME? I'm already on the couch.

Cheers!

Monday, October 29, 2007

Guest-Writing Gig

Hey, loyal Mama in Wonderland readers--

Remember a couple of weeks ago when the literary journal MotherVerse Magazine ran an essay of mine on their "mothering out loud" blog? Well, I'm honored to announce that shortly afterward, MotherVerse invited me to take a two-week guest-writing post for their online site. I am extremely flattered, since previous guest writers have included fellow mama-writers with publications in magazines and webzines like Hip Mama; Brain, Child; Mothering; Literary Mama; and the Utne Reader (Good Lord!). Seriously, people: ridiculously flattering. Thank you, MotherVerse!

So: posting here at Mama in Wonderland may be light the next couple of weeks. Please come check me at MotherVerse while I'm writing there. My first piece is up today.

Sleep/Cold Update

At least one reader of this blog appears to be concerned and agitated about how cold Genevieve's current room apparently is, and how it seemed to be waking her up early in the morning, and about what we plan or do not plan to do about it. Lest anyone (else) think that Christopher and I are either a.) cruel, or b.) stupid, and therefore willingly allow our infant to freeze herself to misery in her bed at night, I thought maybe I should clarify. Who knows how many readers are out there thinking, Sheesh, are they doing anything to try and keep that baby warm?

YES OF COURSE we have tried a space heater; in fact, we tried it a whole year ago, when Genevieve FIRST spent a winter in the guest room. I hope no one out there truly thinks we are stupid enough to not try to warm up the room in whatever way possible. Guess what? The space heater--just as it did when we used it in our decrepit Minneapolis house when Julia was an infant--kept Genevieve awake with its constant cycling on and off as it attempted to regulate the temperature in the room. And guess what else? It raised the temperature in the room by ten degrees in less than half an hour, ON THE LOWEST SETTING. Does that sound safe to you? Or feasible? Or reasonable? (And yes, it was a modern, new space heater.) So no, we cannot actually use a space heater in the room with our baby in it. And yes of course we have used every other imaginable tactic to keep the room warmer for her at night. We moved her crib away from the outside wall. We moved the furniture in the room so the one heat register was not covered by anything. We open the room's door when we go to bed, to get heat from the rest of the upstairs into the room. We keep the furnace turned up higher than is prudent for our bank account or the environment.

Last winter, despite the space heater troubles, Genevieve did fine because she was a very young infant who could still wear a typical baby sleep-sack and was not yet mobile and so stayed under her blankets. This year, those things are no longer true, but last week we were able to procure, from a specialty company, a crazy toddler sleep-sack-type-garment that we now put her in at night. It's a huge bright-blue pile of fleece, and she looks hilarious in it, like she's lost in a Cookie Monster costume. But when we layer it over a onesie, regular pj's, socks, and a blanket sleeper, she's warm as toast.

So everyone stop worrying.

Friday, October 26, 2007

Halloween Treat

I probably won't be posting much in the next few days, since we have family in town. So I'll leave you with a little Halloween treat in the way of a picture or two of some Halloween treats that Julia and I made last weekend. Aren't they cute little witches' hats? Yum!


Wednesday, October 24, 2007

To Sleep, Perchance to Dream (of Both Children on the Same Sleep Schedule)

Lately Genevieve's been waking up for the day at five each morning, and Julia's been sleeping till eight. This means that Genevieve takes her morning nap around seven, and is generally awake again when Julia wakes up just as Christopher is leaving for work. Then the rest of the morning becomes a torturous marathon of trying to keep tired, crabby Genevieve awake until afternoon naptime at one. (Ha! You could also substitute the word "Mama" for "Genevieve" in that sentence and it would still work!) But these circumstances also mean that Julia is not tired for nap at one.

I'll leave it unsaid just how much I do not like the current sleep timing. (I will clarify, however, that YES OF COURSE we have tried to alter one or both of these sleep patterns.)

People: One child waking up at five, and the other at eight? RIDICULOUS. AM PULLING MY HAIR OUT. CANNOT STAND IT.

That is all.

Tuesday, October 23, 2007

Burned Out

I keep getting into these ruts where I'm supremely tired--so tired I feel that I'll never be not-tired again--and I never really get over it; I just suck it up and absorb it for awhile, until it starts overwhelming me again, typically in the middle of the afternoon when I am faced with (yet another!) day of short naps (the babes) and caffeine over-reliance (me). And the light at the end of the tunnel is difficult to see because until Genevieve deigns to drink whole milk--cow's milk, that is--I am doomed to nurse her several times a day, including upon wake-up (oh, so early is the wake-up! six a.m., five a.m., the dark depths of pre-dawn!). Which means that the idea of a long night of sleep--ever!--that extends, uninterrupted, beyond 5:30 a.m. or so seems like science fiction. I have a wonderful husband who, if time and scheduling permit, sometimes allows me to return to bed after this wake-up nursing to snatch some extra sleep, but truth be told, it's usually not very restful. Either there's too much to do and the day has already begun to run away with itself (and me), or the baby's shrieks permeate the bedroom door, keeping me awake, or Julia wakes up at the same time and then it just doesn't seem right to leave one adult up with two wee ones while the other slacker adult goes back to sleep. Even if the slacker adult totally deserves it.

Sometimes I dream of talking the grandparents into coming and taking care of the girls some weekend--even just one night!--and Christopher and I would go out for dinner and stay away overnight at the fancy river inn downtown, and come home rested the next day, giddy with the joy that (so I've heard) comes with a few child-free hours. Can you imagine? A night away from the babies? Something we've never, ever done? In over three years? But then I remember that I have to nurse the baby to bed at six p.m., and nurse her first thing upon wake-up the next morning (at the aforementioned ridiculously early hour). And so I have to rub my eyes and square my shoulders and think, "OK, brew some coffee, get on with it."

It's strange. I love these early baby days, you all know that. I kind of dread no longer being a "new mom" or a "young family" or having "babies" or "toddlers" or "preschoolers" in the house. Because there's just something special about this time, all of it, no matter what other, unknown joys lie in wait for the years to come. But at the same time, it's sort of torturous too: how there's never enough time to care for all of them, and yourself. How there's never enough sleep, enough relaxation, enough replenishing and recharging. How that treadmill of get up, get going, nurse the baby, drink the coffee, stay awake, keep going, muster the energy never ends, it just gets adapted to, successfully and less so, depending on the week.

The one good thing about feeling this way is that perhaps it makes it easier to resist the temptation of having just one more baby. Because the exhaustion? Wouldn't it just about kill you? Mother Nature might be smart that way: surely I'm partially this tired because I'm still nursing a baby four times a day, which is probably a signal to nature that another baby, a new one, would not be the best idea right now. So, to make sure I don't do anything stupid, I guess, Mother Nature just makes me really, really tired and burned out. Awesome!

THANKFULLY, my dear husband is taking three days off from work soon, which means he'll be home for a five-day weekend for the first time in almost a year. Also, my parents are coming for a few of those days, for the first time in over two months. Hopefully I can pawn off as much baby care on all those other adults as possible. Because Mama needs a break, a nap, and a full night's sleep. NOT another pot of coffee.

Don't Mess With My Kid

Today Julia was back at preschool after last week's vacation. Afterward, when she was hanging around the kitchen waiting while I fixed lunch, she said--and all names are changed here--"Today at first Oscar was touching me nicely, but then he hit."

Sigh. The first instance of some other child--not a playgroup buddy, not a friend's child, not a cousin, just a child from school I don't even know (is he a bully in the making? run-of-the-mill aggressive? or a sweet boy who didn't mean to?)--being mean to my kid.

First I thought I'd better get some clarification, though. "He hit YOU?" I asked.

"Yeah," Julia said. "He hit me and I fell down."

"What did you do?"

"I just got back up."

Of course by now I was Mama on a mission, intent on somehow getting all the details. "Well....did you say anything to Oscar?"

"No."

"Did anyone else say anything?

"What?"

"Were the teachers there?"

"I was over somewhere else."

Um....

"Did you tell a grown-up what happened?" I persisted.

"What, Mama?" [Here I started to get the feeling Julia was less than enthralled with the whole conversation...]

"Did you tell a teacher that Oscar hit you?"

"Miss D-- told Oscar not to hit," Julia explained.

"Did she ask if you were okay?"

"Yeah, she did."

"Did she make Oscar tell you he was sorry?"

"Yes."

"OK. But honey, if Oscar does that again, I want YOU to say, 'Don't hit me, that's not nice.' OK? Do you understand?"

She said yes, but I don't know. She's a meek little baby rose at heart, and she doesn't often stand up for herself, despite parental coaching. I also told her maybe it would be a good idea to keep her distance from Oscar for the time being, until he learns how to be nice and not hit.

It's hard to face the reality of someone else being mean to your child. Can you imagine anyone intentionally knocking sweet little Julia off her feet? Can you imagine the look on her face when it happened? In her world, the idea of anyone being mean or aggressive is just...well, unimaginable. Except I guess now it's not.

Monday, October 22, 2007

Trick? Or Treat?


The other day I took Julia to the local chain walk-in hair salon to get her hair cut. They always give out little toys or treats of some kind after the trim, and as soon as I saw what the surprise was this time, I had my doubts about how it would go over with Julia. It was a set of plastic chattering teeth--for Halloween, I guess--and though the mouth part was a cheery bright red, and there were relatively friendly-looking eyes attached at the top (?!), they were still a bit odd at best and creepy at worst. Julia's very frightened of statues, mannequins, wig-stands, and all things statue-, mannequin-, and wig-stand-related, so you can imagine where this might be going.

Actually when the nice woman handed them over, at first--I guess because of the red color and the big white googley eyes--Julia thought it was Elmo. Isn't that hilariously sweet? And aren't you now thinking, ooh, poor little honey!, because wouldn't it be disappointing to be three and think it WAS Elmo, only to find out it was something called "a set of chattering teeth"? I mean, what the....?

I tried to talk the teeth up in the salon, making them seem all silly and fun, because it was a gift, after all, and supposed to be a treat. So Julia played along and smiled and held it and, I could tell, tried to like it. But halfway home, in the car, she suddenly told me that she didn't want the toy, that she was kind of scared of it. ("Because it's just a mouth," she said. Indeed!)

Sunday, October 21, 2007

Fall On Me


This was the view outside our window on Saturday afternoon. Minnesota does autumn well.

And you know, when things look like that outside, you sort of feel like you'd better get out and do autumn well, too--especially when you've just waded through a week of solid rain. So yesterday, after errands (Julia and me), backyard play (Christopher and the girls), and two respective runs (me, Christopher), we all headed downtown for iced coffee (me, Christopher), a Family Walk, and playtime at the park.

Before you have kids, you spend your time doing things like going to the movies, going out for brunch or dinner or a beer, visiting museums, seeing plays, visiting friends--and the idea of spending a weekend afternoon cutting up someone's snack and then following them around a park fishing gravel out of their mouth sounds about as appealing as dental work. But then you have your babies and days like that are just what you want out of life, only more of them. You come home and bathe everyone and nurse the baby and tuck their little selves into bed, and when you reflect on the day you think, Yep, just right.

Funny how that happens, huh?

Friday, October 19, 2007

Naptime Stories and Circus Seals

The girls have been cracking me up lately. The other night Julia was running all nudie-patootie around the upstairs playroom, playing with a beach ball while awaiting her turn in the tub. She told me she was a seal (because of the color-blocked ball; don't all seals play with big striped beach balls, balancing them on their noses and such?). After awhile she came over to where I was sitting at the computer and said, nakedly, "I'm a seal. I'm such a beautiful seal. Look at me, Mama! I'm....seal-licious!"

And Genevieve? Yesterday at naptime stories, when she usually toddles crazily all over the nursery, busily pulling books off the shelf and animals out of the toy bin and crawling across Julia's and my legs, she brought a board book over to where we were sitting to read, sat down on her bottom, and opened the book in her lap. Then she began paging through the book, babbling loudly and purposefully to herself. Every now and then she'd glance up at me, grinning proudly over her "reading" skills.

Thursday, October 18, 2007

A Quiet Week

The girls and I have been having a surprisingly calm, even-tempered week so far--surprising because there's no preschool this week, Julia and Genevieve are on their fourth and third weeks of being sick, respectively, and we've been mostly stuck at home since we've only had the car one day out of the last four. Oh, and we've been mostly stuck inside, too, since the reason Christopher has been driving our only car to work (instead of biking as usual) is because now that the weather realized it could stop being 85 degrees every day it decided instead to rain every day. Nonstop. Since overnight Saturday. (Oh, wait! There were those few hours yesterday morning. When I decided we should run our necessary errands instead of go to the park, which could wait until afternoon. When it started raining again! On us! At the park! Just as our friends arrived to meet us! Dang.)

Oh, and yesterday? Julia didn't nap and Genevieve only napped 40 minutes.

So by rights I should be stark raving mad by now, clearly. But I'm fine. We're all fine. We've been doing a LOT of playing. Just....playing. I've still been doing what I need to get done here and there--laundry and cleaning and cooking and whatnot. But since we're not rushing to go off anywhere, we've had a lot of time to do things like put all the cookie cutters one by one in an empty coffee container. Pretend the laundry basket is a car. Have imaginary dinner parties (soup and pancakes) and birthday parties. Line up all the dinosaurs. Un-line them up. Line them up again. Do our "Baby Dance" DVD (fantastic! love it! for 1 to 5 year olds: perfect!). Pretend a wooden block is a bone, and we are a dog. Pretend to take our pull-along dog toy for a walk. And numerous other things I can no longer remember.

It's kind of nice to not have so many places to go. But, ask me again in January and I probably won't feel the same way.

Wednesday, October 17, 2007

These Days

Remember that heartbreakingly poignant essay by Anna Quindlen that my friend Jordan wrote about on her blog awhile back, "All My Babies are Gone Now"? I was reminded of it today.

The girls and I were running errands, and I took them to the post office. While waiting in line, we met a nice woman behind us, who was charmed by Julia's identifying each letter in the "Caution: Wet Floor" sign and by Genevieve's overall 14-month-old adorableness. She guessed their ages correctly, and said, "I remember so well when my kids were that age." I asked her how old her children are now, and she surprised me by telling me they are young adults, in their late teens and early twenties. She said that this--my girls' age--was her favorite age, that she'd relive it all if she could.

"I believe it," I told her. "It can be so hard, but I just love having a one-year-old and a three-year-old. Every day I think about how fast it's all going by and how special these days really are."

As we stepped up for our turn in line, the woman said to me--not morosely, just with a sweet, poignant awareness that comes with having parented babies and small children and then having watched them leave their babyness behind--, "Those days were the best of my life."

I thought about this chance encounter all morning, as we left the post office and went to Target, as we ate our lunch and played "farm" before nap. This was a good morning, one of those "easy" days. No one had a meltdown, no diapers exploded at the store, the baby napped. No one's teething, no one ingested any crayons, everyone's cooperating and in a good mood. It's an easy day for appreciating how precious one- and three-year-old sisters are; it's easy to believe that a kind, friendly woman at the post office really was the happiest and most fulfilled in her life when her children were babies and toddlers together, that she'd look at her grown kids and adore them, of course, but also gaze at the baby pictures and think, "I wish I could remember everything about that day, when those honeys were babies," just like Anna Quindlen suggests.

On the hardest days, I try really hard to remember these things. If this had been one of the hardest days, surely my conversation with the woman at the post office would have moved me to tears--to be reminded of something so true, and something so in need of remembering. But I don't think a day goes by--not the hard, desperate days and not the so-called easy ones either--that I don't know, don't feel in my bones and in my heart, that you don't get much luckier than having two tiny girls, ages one and three. And to spend every day with them, to squeeze every moment out of this time--this blink-of-an-eye time!--is something for which I will always be grateful. One day they will be young adults, college students, and though I know they will be delightful, brilliant women, interesting and cherished in all their adult-ness too, if I happen upon two tiny sisters in the grocery store or the bank, in chenille jackets with flowers and pink hats, holding hands, one with the chubby round cheeks of babyhood and the other just barely beyond? I'm pretty sure I'll smile and shake my head wistfully and start telling that mama how wonderful it all is.