Friday, March 30, 2007

Mom Style: An Oxymoron?

Lately I've been preoccupied with the idea of style, and having one. Or not, as the case may be. I've been ruminating on things like handbags, shoes, and skirts. Ballet flats and heels, wool trousers and capris, work suits and date dresses. Maybe it's because suddenly it seems like everyone in the blogosphere is talking about make-up, clothes, shoes, sandals, bags. Is it because it's spring? Is everyone thinking about their warm-weather wardrobes and their sunless tans? I don't know. But it's all got me thinking.

I'm afraid that I've become that most dreary of all stereotypes, the frumpy at-home mom. I know, I know: I've got two children under three; one of them is an INFANT, for God's sake--what am I doing ruminating about anything other than how much spit-up is currently drying on my shoulder? And, I also know: it's not as if I was some admirable style-monger in my pre-baby life. Also: I should get over myself; who's even looking at me, in my yoga pants and Old Navy camis and Dansko clogs? Yeah, I get all that.

But. Still. I can't help but read all these style columns and good-grooming posts and feel less than fully pulled together. I mean, I'm a stay-at-home mom, sure, but do I have to be so consistently pale and undereye-circled, ponytailed and workout-clothes-clad? Can't I put in a little more effort and look stylish and put-together at the park and baby storytime? Am I going to be the mom in the preschool drop-off line next fall wearing pajama pants and running shoes? Not to mention my strangely worrisome recent realization that, were I need to suddenly attend a job interview, a professional networking meeting, a wedding, I would not have the appropriate outfits to wear. People, I have a handbag I got in 1996 at an after-Christmas sale at the Gap. And I still use it. (I actually know some people who do things like buy Prada bags off eBay, and I'm sure if they are reading this, they have just fainted with the horror. I'm sorry. It's sad, but true.)

Strangely enough, my pre-pregnancy clothes from before Genevieve are mostly too big; I can't explain this, but my waist is currently smaller than it was before my second pregnancy. Any clothes I still have hanging around my closet from my childless life, when I at one point was happily biking four to six hours a week and weighed a good ten pounds less than I do now, are either too small or seriously out of style. (You know, six years ago was....SIX YEARS ago.) And when it comes to shoes, I'm seriously deficient in anything even remotely stylish and pretty, because nine years ago I developed arthritis in my feet and was forced to give up heels. Blessedly, my arthritis is now well-controlled enough for me to be able to wear the occasional heel, as long as it's not too crazy, for those instances when any self-respecting adult woman would do so, and yet...I'm so far out of the shoe loop that not only do I not own any pretty heels, I don't even know what a currently fashionable shoe style looks like.

Mainly, I've been on a severely tight budget for almost three years now, since quitting work to stay home full-time with Julia (and then Genevieve), and during that time, whatever small clothing allowance I've milked from our suffering bank account has gone, out of necessity, for those items most salient to my current life. And that means jeans, t-shirts, short casual playground-ready skirts, and, on the side, workout clothes and shoes. There hasn't been money to invest in clothing or shoes to have around for the rare time I might need to "dress up." It's only gotten harder since we moved to a small town with only a Target for clothes-shopping. Any other shopping means online, which also means paying all the shipping charges when ordered clothes don't fit right and have to be returned. And yet, it bothers me to feel so unprepared for what I see as a truly adult life--one in which I may need to show up sometime, somewhere, in something other than jeans and a $7 Target tee.

What about you, other moms? Does anyone else have this dilemma? Do you run around in jeans and New Balances and never give it a second thought? Or do you carry a Kate Spade bag to playdates? Are you on a tight at-home-parent budget, and if so, do you buy new clothes for yourself, or just go without? Do you live someplace where "style" isn't much of an issue? Do you wax your eyebrows and get your nails done? If you had a sudden job interview or cocktail party to attend, could you dress for it?


The other day, since we were all sick and stuck indoors, I put in a DVD of home movies of Julia from birth to her first birthday. Not surprisingly, Julia finds these movies fascinating and hilarious, so it was good for a half hour of entertainment during the cranky late afternoon. What was so funny, though, was how, at each scene, Julia kept pointing at the screen and saying, "What's Genevieve doing?!" I told her it wasn't Genevieve, it was HER, when she was a tiny baby, but it didn't stick for quite awhile; she kept laughing at how funny "Genevieve" was on the screen.

Another funny thing was that Julia kept asking things like, "Was I a girl when I was a tiny baby?" and "Was I a girl in that picture?" and "Mama, were you a girl when you were a baby?" She didn't seem convinced when I told her that if you're born a girl, you stay a girl your whole life, and same for boys. (I figured it was too early to explain about transsexualism! Save something for a later discussion!)

Wednesday, March 28, 2007

Feed Me

Remember when I said that, now that I am no longer the sole source of nutrition for baby Genevieve, I don't have to eat my weight in food each day to avoid chronic, intensive hunger attacks? Apparently that does not apply to days on which I, in addition to nursing (in both respects) a sick baby and caring for a bossy toddler all day, mop the floors, dust the entire house, and do a 50-minute strength-training workout. (Don't be too impressed. It was done in 10-minute increments between being spit up on and bossed at.)

Here's what my diet looked like today: Get up at 5:30 a.m. because sick baby wakes up from massive coughing fit. Nurse baby. A bit later, eat a bowl of super-health-food granola as fast as possible due to extreme hunger from going running last night (in training for that 5K). While baby naps at 7:30 a.m. and toddler watches Sesame Street DVD, sweep and mop all floors and then almost pass out. Frantically eat small bowl of homemade trail mix with raisins, walnuts, and Kashi GoLean cereal. A half hour later, frantically eat a (yucky) Nutri-Grain cereal bar. At lunch, eat a PB&J on whole-wheat and some green beans and apple slices with the toddler. When toddler naps, fortify self with an iced decaf soy latte and two homemade brownies. Wish I could justify a third brownie. Decide to do that later. During the afternoon, work out and clean the house some more. Nurse, play as needed. Eat graham crackers with toddler at snacktime. Eat pathetic dinner of chicken soup, brown rice, and broccoli with toddler after feeding baby. During babies' baths (not my job), eat third brownie and small (for me) bowl of light cookies & cream ice cream. Wish there was more. Nurse baby. Take shower. Sit here typing and listening to my stomach growl, feeling sad that it is grocery-shopping time and there is nothing good left in the kitchen to snack on. Feel very, very hungry. Know that a white-cheddar rice cake, a string cheese, or an orange WILL NOT CUT IT.

Wish that Dairy Queen delivered.

Tuesday, March 27, 2007

You're Not the Boss of Me

We're sick. We're all sick. Well, Julia and Genevieve and I are sick. Poor Genevieve's got it the worst; she's so sick that yesterday she napped from 11:30 a.m. to 3:00 p.m. Which wasn't as great as it sounds because Julia didn't nap at all. Not that I'm complaining about the sick baby sleeping for 3-1/2 hours. Little trooper, she's still sleeping 12-13 hours a night, no wake-up crying spells, even with this terrible cold, her nose alternately running and stuffed up, her apple cheeks chapped and red, her chesty cough all congested. She's got this horrible tragic sick cry-cry sound she does now, nothing like her normal cries.

But that wasn't what I was going to write about today. I was going to write this:

Julia has this crazy Berenstain Bears book called "The Ghost of the Forest," (I know: scary, right?) that has the phrase "boss of them all" in it. Something about there being spooks in the woods but the boss of all the spooks is "the Ghost of the Forest." (I know! Totally scary!) Out of the blue this morning while Julia was playing, she said, "Boss of them all! I'm boss of them all, Mama!" I said, "Really, honey? You're boss of them all, huh?" and she said, "Yes! I'm boss of them all, because I'm BOSSY!"

You could tell that in her mind the word bossy had no negative connotations whatsoever.

Earlier today we'd been having a little conversation about what it means to be bossy, and why perhaps she might want to think about being a little LESS bossy. (While the two of us colored together this morning: "Mama, color your picture red! Mama, color Bert's stripey shirt! Mama, color his mittens black. Black! Black, Mama! Here's the purple. Color his boots purple. Color his boots purple. Color his boots purple. MAAAAAMAAAAA!!!!") Ahem. Let's just say I don't think Julia quite got the point of our little talk.

Monday, March 26, 2007

Tea for Two

Yesterday afternoon I took Julia up to St. Paul with me for afternoon tea at a favorite cafe with our dear friend Tricia, Tricia's sister Tami, and Tami's two girls, Sydnee and Tehya, to belatedly celebrate Tricia's birthday. The whole family had been invited, but I made the strategic decision to leave Genevieve home with Daddy (and a bottle of pumped breast milk) so that Julia could have some one-on-one mama time. (As she put it delightedly, "No Daddy, no Genevieve!") All weekend, Julia talked excitedly about our tea party. She was intrigued by the idea of meeting Tami's daughters, whom she knew were "big girls" (they're in 6th and 1st grades--glamorous, fascinating creatures to a toddler girl), and believe me, they did not disappoint. Sydnee is tall and sweet and reminded us of Julia's oldest girl cousin. Tehya sat next to Julia, shared her raspberries with her, and, after tea was over and we walked across the hall to check out a little shop of gifts and toys, Julia happily took Tehya's hand and let Tehya lead her around the store to check out fuzzy stuffed animals and sparkly purses.

Tea itself was scrumptious, chatting with women friends was wonderful, and Julia was a joy to be with through and through. It was clear that she was thrilled with the whole girly adventure: Julia and Mama getting dressed up, driving all the way up to the city, parking in a big deck and walking along a bustling sidewalk to the cafe to eat fancy sweets and cucumber sandwiches. It was good for her to get some individual attention from Mama without baby sis around.

Speaking of mothers, my parents drove down for a quick visit over the weekend and, true to form, my mom came bearing, in addition to the usual little gifts for the girls, a carful of random items she knew we could use, including diapers, baby wipes, strawberries, veggies, frozen ground turkey, homemade cookies, Kleenex, and toilet paper. Diapers and toilet paper--that must be the adult version of an away-at-college care package, right? Anyway, it makes me chuckle. I'm 36, and with every visit, my mom never fails to bring along a few bags or boxes of toiletries, grocery items, treats, etc., just to be, well....motherly. Is that what it means to be a mother? You still bring your child groceries and diapers when she's 36 years old, just to be nice? Will I be bringing Julia and Genevieve cars full of food and paper products when they're fully grown adults? I hope so, and, you know, it's a pretty good bet. Thanks, Mom! (For the care package AND for the example!)

Friday, March 23, 2007

Thank God it's Friday, and Spring, and No One's Currently Having a Meltdown

Hey people, good news. Last night, Genevieve slept from 7 p.m. to 7 a.m. without even waking up once to cry or fuss. (She hasn't been nursing overnight since we started the sleep training a couple of weeks ago, but this is the first time she hasn't woken up at least once overnight to cry and complain that she is not being nursed.) Plus, after two nights in a row of epic hours-long bedtime meltdowns, Julia went to sleep last night "like a big girl," with no crying or fussing or screaming loud enough to peel the paint off the wall, earning herself a special weekend outing to the bookshop downtown to pick out a new Richard Scarry.

So, Friday started off well. We had playgroup this morning at a dear friend's house; the sun is out, the birds are singing, and the temp is in the 50s, promising great weather for an after-nap walk this afternoon; and Nonna and Boppa arrive later today for a visit. All is well.

In addition to these lovely circumstances, this morning I was reminded of another reason to be thankful. My friend who hosted playgroup today has a 28-month-old and a 9-month-old, and the toddler has just started exhibiting aggression toward the baby, hitting and pinching her now and then. Obviously, this is devastating to their mom. While I was there, I watched her older child run over to the baby and smack her on the head with a hard, heavy toy. Everyone was okay, but there were many tears, a major time-out, and serious frustration and shock on the part of my friend. "She's never even shown one ounce of affection toward the baby, never said anything sweet or nice to or about her," my friend said sadly.

I realized how lucky I am. I'm sure things will change; I know sibling difficulties are inevitable. But so far, Julia is incredibly sweet with Genevieve. On a regular basis, she sings a silly little song we made up one day that goes, "Genevieve Rose, Genevieve Rose, you're my cute baby pie," and every now and then she'll look at her baby sister, giggle, touch her chubby arm or leg, and say, "Genevieve! You're so cute!" or, "Look at Genevieve's cute little chubby foot, Mama!" She gives kisses and hugs and tolerates (sometimes) spitty kisses in return. She brings Genevieve toys and rattles when she fusses. She warns me when Genna is spitting up or tipping over. I hate to say it, because you know you don't want to tempt the parenting gods, but I can't even imagine Julia ever being aggressive toward her baby sister (partly, of course, because she isn't aggressive toward anyone; she's not an aggressive child, even at her most frustrated or upset).

My friend has it tough, with a much closer age span--one baby only 1-1/2 when the second was born. We talked this morning, all of us, about how hard our jobs are, how incredibly hard it is to be home full-time with two children under the age of three, how it never stops, you never get a break in the day, there's no time for self-care or time to "re-charge," there are no colleagues with which to chat at the water cooler or over lunch. How we all have days, weeks, or longer when we're not patient, we're not energetic, we're not creative, we lose our tempers too often, we snap at the children, we're too tired to be calm at all times. We feel like we're doing a poor job at those times. And yet, we all know we're doing the best we can; it's just that our jobs are more than we can be at times.

At the end of playgroup, we made a plan, one we've made, but not followed through on, several times in the past. We're going to meet for coffee a week from this Sunday, in the afternoon, just ourselves, with no kids. (Heads up, dads!) We're going to spend an hour just having coffee with each other, talking. A moms' talk. This time we're following through. Because it's been almost a year since we've met each other now, and 7-9 months since our second babies were all born, and we've yet to take any time like this for ourselves. And IT'S TIME.

Tuesday, March 20, 2007

I Need a Mental Health Day

Is it possible that it's still only Tuesday? For real? Because Genevieve spent all day--a day that began at 5:30 a.m., after a night of waking up and crying every few hours--crying, apparently because of teeth coming in (damn teeth! who needs 'em, anyway? and come on, TEETHING, just DAYS after finally, finally, finally accomplishing the night-weaning? is this the universe's idea of a cruel joke?), and right now, at 9 p.m., Julia's in the middle of a strange and unprecedented bedtime meltdown that began 90 minutes ago with some kind of weird and unnamed fear, manifested by her sitting up in her bed, peering oddly at a shadow on her wall, then at her door, then at a giant doll in her toy stroller, and begging me to leave her door open, but which then morphed into a mysterious weep-fest about not wanting to go to sleep, and which is at this moment as yet unresolved. I have a stomachache from all the crying in the past 24+ hours. People! It's only Tuesday? Seriously?

Why Do You Never Stop Asking Questions?

I think it might be time to stop listening to Justin Roberts CDs for awhile. Not because we don't love his music; we do. But because I just can't stand the questions anymore.

Here's an abridged version of Julia's lunchtime "conversation" with me today, as we listened to a favorite Justin Roberts CD on the stereo while we ate. If you're familiar with his "Yellow Bus" CD, you'll recognize the lyrics.

"Why he say, 'Be careful Mama there's a cop'?...Why 'this little piggy' on my toes?...What sound came from across the room?...Why he is scared?...What went boom boom boom?...Why his daddy came in?...What is 'symphony'?...Why it's dark out now and the stars are out now?...Why the bus is taking too long?...Why Willy walked on water?...Which kind of perfect sound?...What does 'mockingbird' mean?...What is 'please confide'?...Why he say 'cross your heart'?...Which kind of cookie jar?...Which kind of other creatures?...Why 'don't cry now'?...Why 'all eyes on you'?"


W as in Why Didn't I Keep My Own Last Name?

Both Julia and Genevieve take medicine daily for chronic medical conditions, so Julia has had many opportunities to overhear me on the phone to the pharmacy calling in a prescription refill. This morning during playtime, she told me she had to call the pharmacist to get more medicine for her teddy bear, Julia Bear. Then she mimed picking up a phone and said, "Her name is Julia Bear Tassava--T,A,V,A." Then she decided her stuffed elephant Lottie ("Yottie") needed a refill, too, and I heard: "Yottie Tassava. T as in Tom, S,S,A,V,A."

I laughed so hard. I guess it's good she gets used to the challenges of communicating our surname over the phone now; it's going to be a long, long life of "T as in Tom, A, S as in Sam, S as in Sam, A, V as in Victor, A." (SIGH.)

Parenting Lesson #1,326,789

Lesson learned: Do not blab all over the Internet about the baby (more or less) sleeping through the night, or the very next night she will, due to teething, illness, or some unknown mystery reason, wake up and cry at regular intervals all night long.

Monday, March 19, 2007


Genevieve night-weaned herself. She did! She still wakes up at some point in the night, but with a little comfort she goes back to sleep. No nursing. Not even the 10 p.m. nursing. So far I'm not getting a full night's sleep because of the above-mentioned awakening, as well as the middle of the night pumping (too engorged to go 13 hours). Not to mention the 2 a.m. fears that the baby is not, indeed, miraculously sleeping through the night but is, in fact, dead. But I have faith that eight hours of actual sleep is on my personal horizon.

Have I mentioned that the idea of being done with sleep training, FOREVER, is one of the things that keeps my crazy brain in check when I start thinking I might one day regret having only two babies? NO MORE SLEEP TRAINING, PEOPLE. EVER! We have survived. Sure, more angst will come, sooner, later, whenever. But the sleep training? DONE.

Friday, March 16, 2007

The End of Another Beginning

People, it is a sad day around here. How can it be sad, you ask, when Genevieve spontaneously slept ALL the way through the night, on her own, last night? (She did, too! 6:30 p.m. to 7:20 a.m.! She even skipped her still-allowed late-evening feeding. How crazy is that? And yes, I did have to get up and pump in the wee dawn hours--sigh.)

Oh, so I was saying--how can it be a sad day? Well, I'll tell you. I've spent half the day organizing a ton of baby gear that we are bringing to some dear friends tomorrow, friends who are expecting their first baby very soon. And, as you can probably imagine if you know me at all, this has been a bit, um, emotional.

People!--Moving Genevieve out of the infant carseat?! No more carrying babies around, snapping them in and out of cars and strollers? That is a true sign of the end of the newborn era. Giving away the infant swing, the bouncey seat, the extra receiving blankets and sleep-sacks and tiny booties and hats? And this, the day after Christopher's assistant at work, a sweet, warm, middle-aged mother of five grown children, expressed overt surprise that we aren't planning on more children? (I believe her exact words were, "Really??? You're done?" If that isn't enough to make your internal voice say hesitantly, "Ummmmm......," I don't know what is.)

Let's just say I've spent the OTHER half of the day having a panic attack about the possibility of eventually becoming one of those women for whom having one last baby is imperative, and then having NOTHING LEFT FOR THE BABY. And being too poor to buy it all over again.

Christopher has spent half of HIS day promising me that, should that come to pass, we will call in a bunch of favors from a whole lot of fellow-parent friends. Do you promise, people? Will someone save something for me, just in case? Please?

Thursday, March 15, 2007

Seven Months

Today Genevieve turns seven months old. You've heard it all before, so here's a brief paraphrase: oh my God, seven months old, where does the time go, it seems like it was just last August.

So what's seven-month-old Genevieve up to these days? Well, for one thing, she's given up her wee-hours-of-the-night nursing. On the fifth night of "sleep training," she didn't wake up and cry at the designated time. However, last night (the sixth night), she did, twice. So, she's not exactly embracing the concept. But even so, it hasn't been as difficult as I anticipated. Christopher goes in to comfort her, and she doesn't scream bloody murder, just cries and fusses and eventually gives up. How long does she cry, you ask? I actually have no idea. My clock does not light up and I try very hard not to pay too much attention. Again: easier with the second baby than the first, though still not fun or effortless. Speaking of non-effortless, Genevieve has still not learned how to roll over from her stomach to her back. She is so uninterested, you wouldn't believe it. I think she assumes we will be there for her forever, standing around waiting to flip her over onto her back when she's stuck belly-down, so, why bother practicing herself? It's HARD, after all!

In other news, Genevieve is chowing down in a big way on her solids these days, but unfortunately her little reflux-ridden digestive system does not appreciate it (nor does it appreciate not eating for eight hours at night and then scarfing down a huge milk-meal at 7:30a.m.), and the spitting up here is a bit, well, disgusting. And by "a bit, " I mean "totally and completely." Let me tell you, baby-food spit-up is far different from mild, light-colored breastmilk spit-up. We are awash in dirty baby outfits, burp cloths, bibs, blankets, and sleepers. And the wall-to-wall carpeting has looked better. Baby-food-prunes spit-up on pale beige carpet.....not pretty.

Then there's poor Julia, who just caught a nasty cold and also has a terrible rash on her upper body, about which I'm not terribly concerned because my theory is that it is a reaction to the different laundry detergent I started using recently. It doesn't bother her, but it looks pretty bad.

Earlier this week, just a week or so since our two big snowstorms, it hit the mid-60s here and we went for walks and runs and opened the windows. Now it's 25 degrees out with a forecast of snow. So, you know, typical March in Minnesota.

So, that's my seven-month news. Unbelievable, where did the time go, oh my God, it seems like it was just last August.

Wednesday, March 14, 2007

Slacker Parenting

It occurred to me today--as I left Genevieve playing with toys in her highchair (Julia still asleep in her room) while I ran upstairs to put away a gigantic load of clean laundry, only to come down quite awhile later to find all of Genevieve's toys on the floor and Genevieve studiously, but perfectly happily, sucking on her highchair seat straps (something I would never have done in a million years, by the way, when Julia was an infant--leave the baby all alone for any length of time? while I went to another room to do something else?--but which if I did not do this time around I would literally NEVER GET ANYTHING DONE around the house)--that Genevieve gets way less one-on-one interaction than Julia did as a baby. I feel bad about that, and think about it often, but....well, it seems inevitable. Most days I feel like I'm running some sort of childcare-laundry-cooking-cleaning race, and I'm just hoping that quality-interaction-with-baby just happens in there somewhere, in an adequate, if not impressive, amount.

It also occurred to me, relatedly, that Genevieve is a MUCH different baby than Julia was, willing as she is to entertain herself for loooong stretches of time without fussing. Many, many times a day I set Genevieve up on the floor with some toys and largely leave her to her own devices, whether that means I'm reading to Julia a foot away or am around the corner in the kitchen doing the dishes. Julia NEVER tolerated this. She literally cried when I disappeared around the corner to go to the bathroom for thirty seconds. She demanded constant proximity, constant attention. I never got anything done, and back then I only had ONE baby to take care of! I had actually completely forgotten about this, until this morning when I spied Genna happily munching her highchair straps.

Although, I have to admit, "happily munching her highchair straps" doesn't exactly scream "overachiever, " now does it? Oops.

Uh, I'd better go and talk to the baby.

Monday, March 12, 2007

You've Got to See This

Anyone who reads this blog but not Christopher's, and who might care to see two amazing, precisely-one-year-apart photos of Julia standing at the exact same spot in our neighborhood, go ahead and click here. Oh my goodness. Do you see where her head is in relation to those rocks in each picture? Do you see the baby face last year, the baby face that she no longer has? Do you see those tiny, stubby snow boots in March 2006, and those short little snow-pant-garbed legs? Oh my, my, my goodness.

(An aside: can you believe that she just happened to stand in front of THE EXACT SAME ROCKS--in an embankment several yards long-- she posed in front of one year ago? And within two days of the same date in 2006? Um....a little uncanny, wouldn't you say?)

Saturday, March 10, 2007

Spring Forward

So you know all that stuff about how things change? You know how Catherine Newman once wrote that, with her second child, things moved so quickly that she could feel Birdy's babyhood "like a wind blowing so quickly through the house"? Yeah, that. That's what's happening here these days.

Genevieve is solidly on solids. She eats rice cereal and oat cereal and barley cereal and Gerber 1st Foods strained carrots, peas, green beans, sweet potatoes, prunes, squash. She eats these mushy meals when we eat ours, and awhile back the obvious came to me in a sudden realization: I am no longer enough, on my own, to sustain her. (It happened so fast! One day: a teaspoon of watery rice cereal; within two weeks: rapidly chowing down on multiple courses at breakfast and dinner.) I voiced this moment of clarity to Christopher, and added, "It's sad." He expressed surprise, saying he didn't know something like that was sad. I told him it only is when it's your last baby. When never again will you alone be the source of sustenance for a tiny human being for whom you'd kill or die.

OK, everyone, heave a sigh of sappy sentimental nostalgia with me. I don't know about yours--if you have any--but I'm sure MY sentimental sappiness is at least in part fueled by the hormonal adjustments awhirl inside, as my body shifts from 24-hour-a-day extreme milk production to a less fevered meal-making pace. From the only course to side course.

Not coincidentally, I realized the other day that--guess what?!--I don't seem to have to eat half a bag of Hershey's Nuggets in order to feel full and non-shaky anymore! I don't feel desperately ravenous approximately 45 minutes after dinner--well, maybe on days I go running or when Genevieve's going through a growth spurt. But for the most part, wow! I don't feel like I'm eating my weight in calorie-dense treats any longer. (There are, of course, exceptions.)

No doubt this is good news for my cholesterol level, but otherwise? It's--no surprise--kind of sad. I guess it makes me look ahead to weaning, and when you've been either pregnant or nursing for all but two months of the past 3-1/2 years, the idea of not being either anymore--while liberating in one way--can seem like a strange return to a land you no longer know. The land of having one's body all to one's self. I know: sounds good, right? But surprisingly empty, too.

Catherine Newman was right: with the first baby, every moment seems an eternity; you think infancy will never end, you'll never get to sleep again, you'll never not be glued to the sofa in a dirty bathrobe, nursing every 45 minutes. And then with the second baby, you know you'd bribe anyone who could make time slow down for you.

Friday, March 09, 2007

Would YOU Willingly Let a Baby This Cute Cry Her Eyes Out?

Tonight we commence an attempt to extinguish one of Genevieve's two remaining overnight nursings (the middle-of-the-night one). She doesn't know it yet, but when she demands a meal at two or three a.m., she'll be out of luck. Sigh....

Thursday, March 08, 2007

News Flash: Things Change.

So, Genevieve is now a competent non-nursing-napper. She still cries when I put her down, but usually only for a few moments, just to let me know that she hasn't forgotten the halcyon days of snuggling to sleep with a milky snack every morning and afternoon. And that, in comparison, this just being laid down wide awake with her silky in her fist and my whispers in her ear is the worst idea anyone has ever had.

And then there's what we've recently learned about Julia. If she refuses her nap, her usual 7 p.m. bedtime is fine; it works just like the old days, meaning that she easily goes down and generally falls asleep without a peep, waking up 12 hours later. But if she takes a nap, we now put her to bed between 8 and 8:30, and lo and behold: the endless hours of calling and fussing and whining and protesting are gone. She may still sing and talk for a bit, but it's NOTHING compared to the streak we were on in recent months, which turned bedtime into a relentless campaign for one more tuck-in, one more blanket-straightening, one more drink of water or "friend" in her bed as she agitated her way through the long minutes until she was actually tired enough to fall asleep. Guess what! At almost three years old, 7 p.m. is way too early a bedtime if she's slept for 90 minutes in the afternoon. Lesson learned! Even if the sleep book says that toddlers her age still need 12 hours at night and a two-hour nap each day, even if our preferred sleep expert swears up and down that all children her age need a super-early bedtime--certainly earlier than 8 or 8:30!--well, guess what: THEY'RE NOT ALWAYS RIGHT.

Hallelujah for learning from one's own parenting experience. And: isn't it such a perfect illustration of how, as a parent, you totally forget that things can change on a dime? You get so used to whatever it is--the routine, the phase, the teething or nursing or compulsively rolling over and then getting stuck belly-down--that you lose all perspective sometimes, and miss the obvious, that what worked before just might not work anymore? It's funny how that happens. Funny, and a little unnerving, because I'm used to thinking of myself as a bit more...on the ball, a bit more organized and planful. (Like: "OK, here comes preschooler-hood, get ready for extended bedtimes, extreme bossiness, and willful insistence on picking out her own mittens. Say goodbye to good-natured compliance and needing help to reach the doorknob.")

But who's ever ready for their baby to become a big kid who stays up past sunset and cuts into prime "Friday Night Lights" and "The Office" viewing? Not me.

Wednesday, March 07, 2007

Baby Einstein

Yesterday when I got in from a run, Christopher told me he'd videotaped Julia reading out loud an entire Richard Scarry story. "Huh, wow, great!" I'd replied distractedly, thinking she'd probably said a few pages worth of lines for the camera, or paraphrased the main plot line of one of her books. Little did I know. This morning while I was feeding Genevieve her rice cereal, Julia stood at the couch with her "What Do People Do All Day?" book open on the cushions. Then I heard her reciting every single word of the multi-page episode about Abby the bunny going to the hospital to get her tonsils out. I just about dropped the spoon. This story is no short-phrase toddler board book. It has a LOT of words, and discusses ambulances, the operating room, and Abby's mother giving birth to Abby's baby brother. (On the same day as Abby's operation! Yikes!) Julia said every single word verbatim, even the most complicated sentences.

Understand here, I'm not bragging about my child. My point is, I know she's very smart, have known it for a long time, have had toddler teachers take me aside to tell me how amazed they are at some of the things she does and says in baby class. But I also have many unpleasant memories of being a too-smart kid in elementary school, where I felt like I didn't fit in and hated being singled out by teachers and other kids. Julia's truly amazing; she astounds me just about every day with her perceptiveness, empathy, verbal skills, and creativity. But I can't help but wonder: is this kid going to struggle to find her place in her childhood, because she's bright and overly verbal and easily bored? And what in the world is it going to be like, getting this kid an education in a setting that doesn't bore or stifle her? Somehow I think the local "gifted and talented" program might not quite cut it.

I know, I know: she's only two. Save the worries about third grade for later, right? OK.

Tuesday, March 06, 2007

The Rest of the Day Went Just Fine

I know there is no way you can imagine these two cuties both screaming at the top of their lungs from their respective beds at the very same time at naptime yesterday afternoon, now can you? THESE grinning sweeties? These cheery-looking honey-pies? Impossible, you say!

Let's just say I TOTALLY DESERVED those chocolate truffles and that half-caff iced soy latte at about 1:45 p.m.

Sunday, March 04, 2007

Baby + Milk = Sleep

One week ago I stopped nursing Genevieve down for her naps. I didn't want to do it; those naptime-nursing moments each morning and afternoon--reveries of cuddly drowsing, of slowed-down time--were my favorite parts of the day. I hated to give them up, and now I'm in serious mourning for that impossibly sweet snuggling. It's just one more baby moment gone; one more reminder of how big she's getting, how fast.

But I did it for a few reasons: I knew she didn't need to eat that often, that it was purely for comfort most of the time, and though there is nothing wrong with that--what could be more natural than an infant seeking, and receiving, comfort?--I knew that since she didn't need it, it would be better for her not to THINK she needed it. Because sometimes it just isn't convenient to nurse for naps. Sometimes the baby has just eaten an hour before, sometimes she needs to nap when Mama isn't around, sometimes it doesn't mesh with the schedule. It's hard, too, to nurse to sleep at naptime with a toddler running around, in and out of the room, marginally unsupervisable. I'm lucky to have the sort of toddler to whom I can say, "It's Genevieve's naptime now, I'm going to nurse her, it's time for your whisper voice, can you find a magazine?" and nine times out of ten she will truly stand at the bed, silently paging through a back issue of "Real Simple Family," hunting for the photos she likes of the children helping cook dinner, or of the girl with the dalmation t-shirt, until the baby and I are done and I can motion to her to meet me in the playroom, and she dutifully folds her magazine up and totes it out of the room in a pantomime of a busy, cooperative adult. But then there's always that tenth time.

Mainly I stopped because I felt Genevieve was too reliant on nursing to fall asleep, even though she was perfectly capable of putting herself to sleep without it--just reluctant to do so. I want to work on the nighttime nursings, and I think that will go more easily if we get rid of the nursing-nap associations.

But giving up this ritual has come at high cost to both of us. We miss it. Today I went up and nursed her to sleep again after all, because she was in a fury of frustration and not-quite-fullness, because in her baby mind, Daddy just did the nap thing all wrong, and sleep was not imminent amidst the screams. She nursed both sides with aplomb. Then she fell heavily asleep, and Genevieve and her over-full belly napped for two solid hours. So: no regrets.

Friday, March 02, 2007

Exactly How I Felt in That Honors Lit Seminar, Senior Year

Hoo boy, the toddler is cracking me up these days.

This morning when we were playing tea party, she said she was baking me some cookies. "Fantastic!" I said. "What kind are they?" Julia told me they were "medicine flavored." Um, OK.

Earlier, just after she woke up, Julia had received a book as a reward for going to sleep like a big girl last night, without whining or calling for us. The books are from a big stack of vintage paperback children's books that my mother-in-law brought to our house many months ago. The books had belonged to Christopher and his sister when they were children. Most of the books are by Richard Scarry, whose work Julia adores, so awhile back we began using them as a cheap (i.e., free) but meaningful reward for appropriate bedtime behavior. Sadly, the last of the Richard Scarry books was bestowed upon Julia yesterday [an aside: yes, I know this is dangerous territory. The books are almost gone, and there is no way we are going to buy a new book for the kid every day! Oops!], so this morning I grabbed the next book in the stack, "Busy Trains" by Peter Lippman, a book I'd never heard of. Unfortunately, while the super-detailed illustrations of all kinds of trains are interesting, the book is way beyond Julia's age level--as I realized as soon as I began reading it to her. It's full of in-depth descriptions of things like how steam locomotives work and how repairmen fix cables. Words like "chemicals" and "commuters." Pages about electrical switches and side-dumpers and mining cars taking ore out of the ground. (Yeah, um: boring.)

So anyway, I kept reading every word, mainly because it was all too complicated to even easily summarize on the fly (You know: "...and then, um....the train falls off the bridge. Oops! But everything was okay! Next page!"). Julia listened gamely for about half the book, but I could tell she was pretty confused by all the big words. Then suddenly, in a bewildered tone, she interrupted my reading and said, "Mama...who are you talking to?"

Oh, man. I held it together at the moment, but later on while recounting the tale to Christopher over the phone, I laughed so hard I got tears in my eyes.

Thursday, March 01, 2007

Snow Day

So most of Minnesota is in the middle of a major snowstorm. It's really crazy. It's been snowing hard and blowing even harder since last night, and schools far and wide were closed today. That meant that our toddler class (run by the public school district) this morning was cancelled too, which was fine because I wouldn't have wanted to go out in this weather with the girls anyway, and it allowed Christopher to take the car to work today. (Obviously, biking would have been impossible by any stretch of the imagination.) Still, he came home early, since everyone was leaving the office as fast as possible to make it home safely.

The major interstate highway running through southern Minnesota to Iowa was officially closed this afternoon, and all state highways in the southwestern counties of the state are closed as well. This evening, crazy notices keep coming across the TV screen, like "Duluth fire chief orders all residents to stay home" and "Southdale Center [huge mall in the Minneapolis suburbs] closed." (Southdale! Closed! Have you ever heard of such a thing?!) All area schools are already closed for tomorrow, including many college and university campuses.

It's been a long time--since I was a child, I'm sure--since I've experienced a true blizzard like this one, the kind that disables everything and forces everyone to huddle inside baking brownies while the windows become caked with snow so you can't even see outside anymore and the light coming in takes on a weird white glow. It's totally fun, even if it doesn't mean a reprieve from all normal obligations, like it did when I was a kid. I mean, there's nothing like a no-school snow day when you're a child, but now, it's not as if the TV announcements say anything like, "All parenting duties cancelled" and then I get to lie around in my pj's all day drinking cocoa and watching DVDs and waiting to hear about the next day.

As for what's going on inside our house, well, the sleep struggles remain in one form or another, with one child or another, or both. Some things are changing, some are staying the same, and I'll write more later. Right now, homemade brownies are calling and both babies are asleep. OK, I don't get a snow day, but there are advantages to being the grown-up in the house.