Thursday, May 31, 2007

Peer Pressure is a Wonderful Thing

Julia's most frequent playmate just started using the potty chair, and that information alone (delivered oh-so-strategically, and with much purposeful drama and excitement, by me to Christopher, with Julia within earshot) was enough to prompt Julia to try her own potty yesterday. Well, glory hallelujah for peer pressure.

I'm not counting any chickens (believe me), but in the last 24 hours Julia has sat on her potty chair numerous times, and even gone once or twice. As you may recall, she gets one M&M for trying, two if she actually goes. It didn't take her long to figure out that the way to score the most chocolate was to simply say, every two minutes, "Mama I need to try the potty," and then sit and produce nothing.

But you know what? I don't care. Let her eat a million M&Ms today. Let us alter the reward plan later on. For now I just want to give her as much reinforcement as possible for even SITTING on the chair, after all these months of refusing to go near it.

If you know me, you know how averse I am--as a health psychologist and a mom--to using food as reward. But then there is the time you're desperate for your days-away-from-three-year-old to be out of diapers and off to preschool. And you think, "Help me, M&M Mars Co."

Tuesday, May 29, 2007

You Can't Make This Stuff Up

So the other day Julia invented a game where she pretends she is a mama owl--a "video owl," to be exact (no. there is no explanation for that. it is completely random.)--who naps in a nest made of couch cushions in our living room. Fair enough.

Today while engaged in this make-believe scenario, she told me that her name, as the mama owl, was "Owl Me Able Stretch." You heard me. Owl Me Able Stretch. She repeated it many times, as fluidly as if she was reciting her ABCs or singing a Justin Roberts song. I kept laughing, saying, "What?!" and asking her how she picked her name, and she paid no attention to me.

It's better than cable TV around here.

Monday, May 28, 2007

Lovely and Amazing

Genevieve says: "I'll nurse if you let me play with your earrings." And Julia says: "Don't all golfers wear their fairy skirts? Well, they should."

Julia didn't actually say that, but I like to imagine she would. She did recently say, by way of greeting upon coming downstairs after nap, "Mama, did you KNOW that 'incredible' means 'AMAZING'?!"

Why yes I did. Incredible; amazing.

Friday, May 25, 2007

Story of a Second Child's Life

So we survived our first kid birthday party! Or rather, I survived it, since I was throwing it myself this morning, when Christopher was at work. I host this same group of three other moms, their three toddlers, and their three babies every couple of months for playgroup, so I'm used to the COMPLETE AND UTTER CHAOS that comes with eight children under three in one small house. No matter how well I prepare, inevitably something gets broken, something gets spilled, and someone gets stepped on. Add cupcakes, candles, presents, and balloons into the mix and--well, you can imagine.

But it's a rite of parenthood passage, isn't it, the first real birthday party? And this was a low-key, keep-it-simple one, with no formal games, no food other than one cupcake and a few apple slices apiece, and a 90-minute time limit. But still, people: mass chaos.

Given that, it was still a smashing success, I believe. The theme was Sesame Street (actually, more like just plain Elmo, since I couldn't find general Sesame Street party decorations--with Bert, Ernie, Big Bird, etc.--anywhere), and after three days of soaking rain the weather was absolutely stunning, so I peppered our yard out back with all the outdoor toys we have, and the kids ran around outside after cake and presents. Julia got two games--Hi-Ho Cherry-O (so old-school! love it!) and The Very Hungry Caterpillar Game--and a book called "Ten Minutes Till Bedtime." Structured, thought-centered activities and reading material; you'd think these other mamas who picked out these gifts know my daughter really well or something! (Love you, other mamas!)

Oh, but during all the joyous hubbub? When all the almost-three-year-olds were stuffing their faces with frosting and screaming about balloons and goody bags? Who was that over there in the corner by herself, in the high-chair, eating peas? Perfectly quiet, straining her neck as far as it would go to see over the dining room chairs to the kiddie table and the source of the happy ruckus? Swilling water from a sippy instead of an Elmo cup? Yeah, that would be Genevieve, second child extraordinaire, (almost) forgotten and ignored once again.

I promise, baby girl, when you turn one it's ALL ABOUT YOU.

Wednesday, May 23, 2007

Some Days Are Like That

You know what happens when your baby takes a TWO-HOUR morning nap on the same day you drink full-on caffeinated iced coffee AND your toddler decides to be delightfully cooperative and cheery, pushing a broom around the entryway and playing by herself and not having any meltdowns at all? And it just happens to be two days before your toddler's first kid birthday party which happens to be the same day your mother-in-law and her best friend arrive for the weekend? Well, I'll tell you: happy, happy things, people.

You dust the downstairs; scrub down the kitchen counters and appliances; sweep, Swiff, and mop all the floors (I'm really not insane. We live on the edge of a farmfield, with the entire facing wall made up of windows, which are open at this time of year, and remember the wind? that wind I keep talking about? the wind that blows farmfield dirt into our house with the ferocity of a sandblaster? except it's not taking off grime, it's depositing it? yeah, maybe now you understand.); catch up with a friend on the phone; clean all three bathrooms; do a load of laundry; prepare, serve, and clean up after snack and lunch; take the girls on a walk (me pushing Genevieve in the stroller, Julia pushing her dolly in a doll stroller: cute!); make homemade hummus for the weekend; make brownies for the weekend (yeah, despite the fact that there will be birthday cupcakes and fruit cobbler. I'm crazy that way); make turkey meatloaf for tonight's dinner; and research options for three-year-old portraits for the birthday girl. All before 3 p.m.

Oh, and yes, I did, in fact, also do all the usual nursing, diapering, cuddling, and what-have-you of full-time mothering. Although I will admit to a small dose of "Sesame Street" sprinkled in there somewhere (isn't THAT really Mother's Little Helper?). And, true, it wasn't like I was doing a whole lot of quality play-on-the-floor-with-the-children today. As in, none, maybe? Because, come on, I've only got two hands! But still--isn't it such a great feeling, those days when you totally get your mom groove on? Your Retro Mom groove, maybe even? (Sorry, couldn't help myself.)

Almost makes up for the fact that yesterday I GOT LOCKED OUT OF THE HOUSE WITH MY BABIES ALONE INSIDE. Oh yeah, and remember that one time when Genevieve was a newborn and I drove all the way home from playgroup with her carseat straps unbuckled? You see, it's a good thing you have these days like today, right? To balance out the days you get locked out of your house and drive the baby home loose?

Yep, just call me Supermom.

Tuesday, May 22, 2007

Tea and Heart Attacks

Well, it's been an eventful week so far. And it's only Tuesday.

But before I get into all that, can I just say how tired I am of gale-force winds? What is it about this town, people? I know I've asked that before, but no one has given me an answer. What is going on here? Last spring our patio furniture blew into the neighbor's yard. A week or so ago Julia's sand table blew off the patio. Today we got home from an outing and our Rubbermaid box of outdoor toys--balls, frisbees, sidewalk chalk, plastic cones, sand shovels and buckets--was blown out of our yard, lid wrenched off, the toys scattered far and wide. Right now our new hanging baskets of flowers are flailing around on their shepherd's hooks, looking as if they're not long for this world. I just closed all the windows because the noise from the relentless wind gusts was overwhelming. It's like this several days a week here, and it just seems so...excessive.

OK, but so enough about the wind. We've been busy. Yesterday's trip up to Children's went fine, due in large part to the help of my dear friend Karin who met me at the hospital for help, moral support, diaper-bag hefting, stroller-steering, and baby-distracting. Genevieve cried very hard throughout the test, as was expected, but afterward she nursed, ate, and even gave Karin a smile or two before we headed back home. Unfortunately, even though she'd barely napped yesterday morning, she decided to take after her big sis and NOT sleep in the car on the way home (despite it being prime nap time--12:30 p.m.). Until we were six miles from home, that is. Naturally, after that ten-minute cat-nap, no more napping was done the rest of the day. Are you kidding me? I'm sure she felt that she'd just HAD her nap, people, so why would she sleep any more?

Speaking of Genevieve and (not) napping, she's resumed her quest to spend naptime sitting, crawling, and crying--rather than napping--with a vengeance. It seems that since becoming a crawler, she has decided she is morally opposed to LYING DOWN. It's just against her principles. And, you know, you can't really argue principles with someone.

This morning we girls went to a very exciting, very fancy tea party at the home of some friends. There were four moms, four preschool-age girls, and three (girl) babies. Everyone dressed up, the big girls decorated their own straw hats, we played games and danced, and our lovely hostess served tea (for the moms), chocolate milk (for the big girls), wheat toast, applesauce, and pureed squash (for the babies), plus loads of tea party goodies like cucumber sandwiches and scones. And then when everyone was stuffed and/or drooly and/or cranky and/or exhausted, we all left for home and naps, which in my house everyone is currently refusing; I don't know what's going on in all those OTHER tea-party-goers' houses. Lucky me!

But the tea party only happened AFTER Julia locked me out of the house, with Genevieve and her inside alone. Nice! A pre-party heart attack! Just what every modern mom needs! You see, the girls were just inside our patio door, and I stepped outside, closing the screen door behind me so Genna wouldn't crawl out to join me, for literally less than ten seconds, to adjust a flower pot. In those few seconds, Julia locked the door. And I didn't even know before then that she knew how to lock the door. Turns out, she does, but she doesn't know how to UNLOCK it. So there I was, outside looking at them, and there they were, inside and confused, and Genevieve started to cry and I started to panic and Julia didn't know how to let me in, nor did she understand what an emergency this actually was. ("No, Mama! I won't come over there and let you in! You stay outside! Mama, why are you out there? Mama, you should come in!")

In the end, I remembered that our dear sweet next-door neighbor had a spare key to our front doors, and though I hated to leave sight of the girls, I had no choice but to go and knock on her patio door. Thankfully, she was home. So we proceeded on our merry way, ready to drink tea and play games, while Mama recovered from her near-stroke. And now we are home. And no one is sleeping.

Monday, May 21, 2007

TV and Brownies

No time to write today; I'm off soon with Genevieve to Children's Hospital in Minneapolis for a few routine tests to check her kidneys for the same condition Julia has (which can run in families). In the meantime, the above photos should keep you occupied.

Friday, May 18, 2007

Because There Can Never Be Too Much Potty Talk On This Blog

While Julia used to tell me that she would use the potty chair when she "gets a little bigger--later--before preschool," she has now changed her tune and says that she is not going to ever use the potty, because she is not going to go to preschool, because she does not WANT to go to preschool, because she's "too little" to go to preschool.

Um, listen. If you're two weeks away from three years old, and you're as tall as a four-year-old and possibly heavier than your five-year-old cousin, and you READ FIELD GUIDES for entertainment, YOU'RE NOT TOO LITTLE FOR PRESCHOOL. Got it? Not too little. Not.

Mama no likey.

Thursday, May 17, 2007

Conversation I'm Glad I Was Not a Part Of

Overheard last night when Christopher was upstairs bathing Genevieve:

Christopher (to Julia): Honey, honey. Listen. I'm taking Gigi to go get jammies on now. Whatever you do, do not touch the poop floating in the bathtub.

Wednesday, May 16, 2007

Getting a Little Too Close to One

My baby is nine months old! People! Isn't that basically just an eye-blink away from one year? It is, and you know it. I'm not ready for the big O-N-E, people. Sure, it's exciting; it calls for portraits and a big-deal bash (not for the baby, really, but for the tired and slobby parents). And true, I'm really NOT ready to plan a first-birthday party or even THINK about a portrait appointment (hate them! hate them! end up cute but hate them!). But that's not what I mean. What I'm not ready for is a baby who is almost a year old, which means no longer an infant, which means no longer so, so many wonderful things. Like no longer a languid nurser. No longer a ball of grasping, snuggling chub. No longer a wearer of tiny pink-rosebud sleepers and onesies that say "sweet baby" on them. But oh yeah! Good things keep coming. Forgot about that for a minute. (Must be from dealing with all the sitting up in her bed. All the crawling away while I'm changing her diaper. All the throwing a fit when required to sit or lie still for a fraction of a second while I dress her or wash off her face or pretty much anything except allow her to crawl away bare-bottomed.)

Just got back from her nine-month well-baby (no shots! yay.), and here are the stats, grandparents: 28-1/2 inches long (82nd percentile--up from 75th percentile at six months), 18 pounds 13 ounces (50th percentile--down from 75th percentile at six months). Her head circumference is the 91st percentile, which is consistent with all the rest of the big fat heads in this family. But people, this height my girls have: from where? huh? I don't get it.

I haven't had a child at the 50th percentile for weight since Julia was, like, four months old, so I keep looking at her like, Sheesh, wouldja eat a six-inch sub or something? You gotta keep up, girl!

The Power of the Mommy-Blog

I spent the day yesterday with a brand-new mom--my dear friend Kristi, with whom I go back some eight years--and her newborn (sweet! gorgeous! adorable! longest lashes known to babies!). (And, by the way, Kristi swore I could both blog this anecdote and use her real name.) Kristi's got major milk over-production going on: the leaking, the spraying, the baby choking as if trying to take a sip from a gushing garden hose. When Genevieve was a newborn, I made way too much milk too, though I never had much trouble with milk leaking at inconvenient moments. I had tons of breast milk; it just tended to stay where it belonged until Genevieve latched on, at which point it poured all over the place and overwhelmed her tiny baby mouth for three months until my milk supply settled down.

Yesterday as the babies napped, we sat on the couch eating brownies and talking about new mamahood and how to survive the initial (and ongoing, many times) social isolation that comes along with it. I was fervently preaching the power of the new motherhood-oriented online social media when Kristi grabbed her chest, groaned, and said, "My milk's leaking!" We tried to figure it out: the baby wasn't crying, we weren't looking at baby photos--none of the usual triggers. Brownies? Didn't seem likely. (Thank God! Can you imagine if chocolate was a reliable milk-letdown trigger? Think how many times per day you'd have to change your shirt!)

Eventually Kristi figured it out. "Ohhh! I know--You were telling me about mommy-blogs."

People, THOSE are hard-working breasts.

Tuesday, May 15, 2007

I Know You Would Too

Since Genevieve's been celebrating her newfound crawling skills by compulsively eschewing sleep in order to practice them--waking at 5 a.m. to sit up like a jack-in-the-box, survey her cramped Porta-Crib, and proceed to complain loudly about her current lot in life, and defying naptime by quickly flipping over and pushing herself up to a more desirable position--, I am tired, tired, tired. So tired, in fact, that I have ditched my original plans this evening to work out after the girls went to bed for the more appealing plan of watching the "E! True Hollywood Story: Demi Moore" episode (ah, cable TV....) and eat the last Mother's Day cupcake with ice cream.

Wouldn't you?

Uptown Girl

This is Julia dressed for a hike in the Arboretum on Saturday. You've got to be properly accessorized, you know. Don't YOU bring your pink handbag and your sparkly sunglasses when YOU go for a hike?

Sunday, May 13, 2007

Give it a Rest

You have not seen sad until you've seen your baby sitting up, crying, WITH HER EYES CLOSED, in her bed, because she has recently learned to sit herself up from a lying-down position and apparently feels compelled to perform such maneuver repeatedly despite no knowledge of how to reverse it when she becomes so tired she can no longer keep her eyes open.

But then, you have not felt frustration until you have lowered said baby onto her back over and over, only to have her, each time, scream furiously, pop back up like a Weeble, and then continue sobbing as her head involuntarily falls forward and jerks back in a fight with sleep.

When this goes on for two hours, late on Mother's Day, when you are the only parent at home to deal with it, and when three times in a row you finally find the baby with the lower half of her body in a perfect seated position and the upper half lowered straight down between her legs all the way to the mattress, and she is so pathetic and uncomfortable that she is actually periodically WEEPING IN HER SLEEP, but when you swiftly, while holding your breath, pull her hips back and over to the side so she'll lie on her tummy on the bed, she then lifts her head, wails with dismay, and SITS BACK UP, you may find yourself stress-eating all the chocolates you got from your husband for Mother's Day and pacing the stuffy, 80-degree living room to the soundtrack of the "What Not to Wear" marathon on cable, muttering to yourself about how Mother's Day really ended on a low note.

Mother of Two

The bad news: NEITHER child napped this afternoon. (Can you believe it? Ridiculous!) The good news: since it was Mother's Day, I was not responsible for dealing (much) with them in the aftermath of their nap refusal.

No, really, I had a great Mother's Day, my first as a mother of two. It included sleeping late (after doing the 6 a.m. wake-up nursing, I got to go back to bed for two more hours while Christopher manned the parenting ship--and, people, that is gift enough!); two lovely cards; presents of a DVD of home movies, chocolates, and a book I'd had my eye on; homemade dinner made by someone other than myself (aaaaaahhhhhh......); and an hour to myself in the afternoon while Christopher took both girls on a walk.

Now, it could be said that I am in need of an intervention, because during my hour's break I did not take a nap or read my mile-high stack of waiting magazines (as I should have done), but instead found myself mending (with actual needle and thread) a tear in a size 3T flowered shirt and updating Genevieve's baby book. I did do those things with a Diet Coke at hand and in front of "What Not to Wear" on TLC, but still. Maybe not quite the ideal example of kicking back and relaxing. I apparently find it impossible to turn off my mama switch even when I have the chance to do so. Help! (Is this related to my current obsession with all things Retro Mom? Perhaps so.)

All in all, aside from the end-of-day, overtired-from-lack-of-naps meltdowns, it was a lovely Mother's Day weekend. In addition to the above-mentioned festivities, we went on a family hike/run in the Arboretum, played with a couple of great used toys I found for the girls on Saturday during an early-morning garage sale expedition--including a large bin of the giant-sized Legos for Julia, who was thrilled beyond belief--and, on Saturday evening after the girls were in bed, I self-celebrated Mother's Day early by painting my toenails a nice shade of pink and watching "Arrested Development" episodes on DVD.

Oh, and Genevieve crawled! She's a crawler now! So it was a big weekend all-around.

Meltdowns and nap refusals aside, I love being a mom. I really do.

Saturday, May 12, 2007

Falling Asleep Sitting Up

This is what happens when you're a baby and you sit up in your crib after being put down for nap, and then you don't know how to lie back down by yourself, but you get really tired, and you just have to fall asleep anyway. Ouch.

Friday, May 11, 2007

Weird Things, Cute Things, Treasure Hunts

  • There is a (we think) raccoon who keeps pooping on our patio, in one particular corner, overnight. Why do we think it's a raccoon? Well, the poop is definitely not dog poop. Not bird poop. And it's way too big to be squirrel, rabbit, or cat poop. And we apparently live on the edge of the wilderness. So a raccoon seems the most likely culprit. ANNOYING. And UNSANITARY.
  • There is also a giant toad who likes to come out in the evenings and sit directly outside our patio door, gazing in at me and FREAKING me out. Christopher likes to call him my "boyfriend." Nice. We live on the edge of the wilderness, have I mentioned that?
  • Yesterday at naptime Genevieve would not go to sleep, but instead cried and fussed for such a long time that I finally went in to check on her. Turns out she was SITTING UP in her crib, totally distressed about the fact that she didn't know how to lie back down by herself. She was so worked up that I had to take her out and nurse her to sleep, which, you know, I don't even mind doing occasionally because now that she doesn't need to nurse to fall asleep, sometimes those little cuddle moments are just so nice and sweet. The way she clutched her little Silky in one fist and fell hard asleep in my lap with her chubby legs curled up and her bare feet so cute and round, and then snuggled right against my shoulder when I lifted her up to put her back to bed--it was like a pre-Mother's Day present. But that sitting up in the crib stage--do you remember that? This was Genna's first time. It's so annoying--but so endearingly sad too! They're all like, Help, I didn't mean it, lay me back down, I'll go to sleep now, I promise! I don't know how I ended up like this!
  • Yesterday morning we all went for a walk. I told Julia it was a treasure hunt walk, to collect leaves and blades of grass and sticks and other interesting tidbits of nature to use for an arts-and-crafts project after nap. She was so excited, and we collected a nice little Ziploc of specimens. We used Elmer's to glue our treasures onto paper plates to make nature collages. No, we did not include the live earthworm we found on the sidewalk. And yes, I am very proud of my alpha mom self.

Tuesday, May 08, 2007

The Great Wig Head Incident of 2007

This afternoon I drove to our adorable little downtown with the girls--threw the stroller in the back of the car so we could go for a walk in the spring sunshine. Kill some loooong-afternoon time, get some exercise, and enjoy the sweet little shops and the town square and the river view all at the same time. It was lovely except for the little incident I'm about to relay. Well, OK, there was also that moment when my toddler almost ran into the street (though, as she explained to me quite vehemently at the time, she was NOT RUNNING INTO THE STREET, she was ON THE SIDEWALK, which was technically true, but since she was racing headlong toward the end of the sidewalk with no discernible clue that she was planning on stopping before the curb, you can see why I might have misunderstood her intentions) and, while I was busy stopping her, my baby's stroller almost rolled backward into the river. Thanks, older lady on the park bench who snagged the stroller (there was a fence, people! it only rolled a few feet down the sidewalk! there was no real danger!) and no doubt looked up the number for Child Protective Services shortly thereafter.

OK, but that was just a fleeting moment of, um, parenting underachievement, and the rest of the walk was fine, until the Great Wig Head Trauma.

First of all, you have to understand that Julia is scared of a larger-than-life-sized mural of a giant hot dog with arms, legs, and a smiling face that adorns the wall outside Tiny's hot dog shop on one of the downtown blocks. She calls him "Hot Dog Man," and she worries about him a great deal: "We won't see Hot Dog Man, right Mama? Where is Hot Dog Man? Why am I so scared of Hot Dog Man? Is Hot Dog Man up here, Mama? Is he up here? Is he here? We WON'T see Hot Dog Man, right Mama?"

So, of course, in persuading Julia that going downtown for a walk would be a fun activity, I assured her that we would walk on the other side of the street from Hot Dog Man when we came to that block. Of course I had to reiterate this plan about, oh, ten million times on the two-minute drive to Division Street and another ten million more as we parked the car, began our walk, and almost ran into traffic/rolled into the river.

So we crossed the street to the west side, and as usual I positioned Julia on the storefront side of the sidewalk while I pushed the stroller on the street side. This meant that her face was just inches from the various shop displays. Including the Ragstock display. With the WHITE STYROFOAM WIG HEAD SPORTING AN UNHYGIENIC-LOOKING BLACK WIG. INCHES FROM HER FACE.

You know the rest of the story, right? How she jumped a foot and then talked nonstop for the next two hours about the "scary mannequin"?--"Why was I so scared of the mannequin? Why was there a wig head there? Will I have to go by the wig head again? Where is the scary wig head? Why was there a mannequin with a wig? Is it up there? Where is it?" And, when I assured her that I never would have walked us past the shop if I had known there was a wig head in the window: "You didn't mean to go by the wig head. You didn't know there was a wig head there!" Oh, and this heartbreaker: "Mama, my tummy began to scare!" And then, "Why did my tummy begin to scare?"

OK, but there's this: At first you feel really bad for her. You really do. It's obviously a big deal to her and you're a good parent; you're not going to belittle or minimize her fears. You try really hard to reassure her over and over, explain what a mannequin is, what a wig is, what a costume is. And then after awhile--a long, tedious, repetitive-Q-&-A while--you start sighing heavily and saying things like, "Honey, can we just not talk about the wig head anymore? We're ALL DONE talking about the wig head!"


[*and isn't "no more wig head" just begging to be the next Dooce header slogan?]

Monday, May 07, 2007

Embracing my Inner Retro Mom

One of my favorite bloggers, Susan Wagner of Friday Playdate and Friday Style, is writing a new feature over at ParentDish this summer. It's called Retro Mom, and I love it. I love her whole embrace-it vibe, where she says that this summer she's going to reclaim her inner '70s housewife, inspired by her memories of her own stay-at-home mom back in the day. The 1970s day, that is--which is also when I was a child, with my stay-at-home mom. So I can relate.

I'm not sure why I find Retro Mom so fun and joyful. Maybe because I'm sick to death of hearing about Leslie Bennetts' book. (No, I haven't read it, though I've read a ton of reviews and blog posts on it, and I can't even go there, because it's just too tiring to even imagine writing a critical analysis of her whole shtick, even though I feel like I should; I feel like my blog (and other) writing is made for stuff like that. But I just don't have the energy. All I will say is, Judith Stadtman Tucker, editor of The Mothers Movement Online, has some great things to say about it in the current MMO issue's editor's letter. Check it out.) I'm sick of thinking and worrying about the work vs. stay-home debate. It's a refreshing change of pace, this idea of taking on the role of at-home mom with enthusiasm and aplomb--not to show anyone else up or to be Ms. Perfect Mother, but just...for fun. Not just do it, but do it RIGHT--and not to make anyone else feel like they're doing things wrong, either.

Come on--doesn't it sound kind of fun to, just for awhile, just as an experiment, make elaborate fruit-Jello salads and teach your kids hopscotch and collect empty toilet-paper tubes and pieces of wrapping paper and cotton balls for an arts-and-crafts box? Bake a casserole each afternoon and supervise little projects like homemade finger paint? Maybe not; maybe I'm nuts. But this is definitely appealing to my inner self-competitive side, the part of me that commits to a goal and does it all the way. I like the idea of, if even for a summer, being an Alpha Mom.

I think one reason all this appeals to me is that it implies a sort of in-the-moment, devil-may-care attitude about being home full-time (an attitude that would no doubt fill Leslie Bennetts with dismay and disdain). I'm tired of constantly thinking about, as a friend of mine put it over the weekend, "what's the next step." What comes next. As in, what comes next, after the babies get a little bigger? What comes next, when they start preschool or kindergarten or....? What's the next step, after being home for a few years with small children? Are you going back to work? If so, how? When? How much? Same career? Different one? Why? What's next?

Why do we always have to think about the next step? (Oh, Leslie Bennetts, I'm not asking you.) My friend was pointing out that when our mothers were home with us, there wasn't the expectation that anything "next" was going to--or had to--happen once we were three, or four, or five. It wasn't assumed that a woman HAD to find an additional career at all, beyond raising her children and managing her house and household, if she didn't want to. Today, it's all about the next step, and it's hard for me to imagine what it would be like to let go--even temporarily--of the back-burner, chronic, humming worry about what I'm going to do next, when I've (presumably) been home with my girls long enough. What if there is no long enough? What if the now is what's next?

Does that make me a Retro Mom?

Sunday, May 06, 2007

Advance Planning

Conversation at our house yesterday (after the girls were in bed):

Me: If I died tomorrow, would you keep up the girls' baby books and photo albums and journals?
Christopher: No.
Me: [silence]
C: My new wife would do it.
Me: But you wouldn't find her immediately!
C: How do you know?

Saturday, May 05, 2007

Preschool Preview

So the other day we got a packet in the mail from the preschool. Never mind that the beginning of preschool is over four months away; I guess this is when it all begins. Inside the envelope was just what you'd expect: immunization and other health forms to be signed by our pediatrician, an emergency contact card for the school's files, forms to fill out listing Julia's likes, dislikes, skills, particular needs (if any), etc. Oh, and the sheet listing the tuition and when it's due. OK, I don't expect preschool to be free, and my understanding is that this program is reasonably priced, but to get a tuition bill in early May, right at the vivid blossoming explosion of spring, when all you want to think about is the carefree summer ahead (not how the heck you're going to pay one more bill), is, well, a bit of a buzzkill.

However, the tuition bill wasn't nearly as much of a buzzkill as the notice, in bold caps, that ALL CHILDREN MUST BE POTTY TRAINED; NO PULL-UPS! No Pull-Ups? THAT is hardcore. Let's just say that right then, my concerns about paying the preschool bill started to fade away, so unlikely does it seem at this point that by fall Julia will be potty-trained--and, in fact, potty-trained to such a degree that she does not even need Pull-Ups. I could be wrong. But really? Seems unlikely. (Actually she only has until August, when the first tuition installment becomes unrefundable.)

Then there was the firm statement that "all families are expected to volunteer on a committee" and that "parents are expected to volunteer in the classroom." However, naturally, "no other children are allowed" to come along during these classroom stints. What, I'm supposed to pay for childcare for one child so that I can go volunteer in the preschool room of the other? Apparently, I am!

Yeah, yeah, I know this is TOTALLY typical, that this is what you have to do when you have a kid in preschool. I'm sure it's even typical to send out the tuition bill in May. But it just felt a little unseemly to me, anyway--the surprise early tuition bill, the stern warning about Pull-Ups, the faintly authoritarian "we expect you to volunteer." Maybe it was just my mood at the time, but it just about begged the cliched reaction of, What, my tuition money isn't enough?

I don't mean to sound, um, less than enthusiastic and appropriately involved. As a psychologist and an educated, interested parent, of course I know that parental involvement in a child's school experiences predicts a host of positive outcomes. I was just thinking that, oh, maybe that kind of thing wouldn't need to happen in earnest QUITE this early. Like, maybe my three-year-old could go to nursery school for two hours at a time a couple of mornings a week while I at last enjoy some quality alone time with my infant--maybe taste the semi-freedom of only one child to care for on those mornings--without having to throw in extra hours of my time here and there for committees and projects? Like, isn't there enough time for all that craziness during, oh, the next FIFTEEN YEARS?

Maybe another year (of Pull-Ups!) before preschool wouldn't be the worst thing in the world?

Thursday, May 03, 2007

Cute All Over

Conversation at our house yesterday while I was changing Genevieve's diaper:

Julia: Is it a poopy diaper?
Me: No, it's just wet.
J: I wish it was a POOPY diaper.
Me: What? Why?!
J: Because poopy diapers are CUTE.


Slightly less bizarre conversation at our house today while Genevieve was on her stomach beside us on the floor:

Julia: Look at Genevieve's bottom! Look at her cute bottom!
Me: Yup, she's got a cute bottom all right.
J: Why does she have a cute bottom?
Me: Because baby bodies are just so cute. All the parts of their bodies are just so cute.

Wednesday, May 02, 2007

No Rest for the Weary

Poor Genevieve: she's at that stage where she's compelled to practice her almost-there crawling skills when you put her down for nap or bed, rather than gamely staying on her back, where you put her, and closing her eyes to go to sleep. Instead she groans and grouses and complains, and you hear her efforts over the monitor or through the door: the huffing and puffing, the snorty snuffling, the mashing of the face into the Silky in frustration. If you could peek in, you'd see her turning herself 180 degrees on her stomach and ending up with her blanket in a knot by her shoulders, or twisted around her waist. You'd see her backing herself into the end of the porta-crib, and then scrabbling her feet in fury against the mesh that holds her in place. You'd see her eventually fall asleep, cover-less, on her tummy, using her PJ Bear for a pillow. Or with a corner of her blankie clutched in one hand and pressed to her lips. You'd see a baby who did not drift off to sleep, but who succumbed to her lot in life, reluctantly. You'd have to sneak in on tiptoe to cover her up so she didn't get too cold. You'd wait until she woke up and yelled for you indignantly as if no time had passed, picking up where she left off. You'd go in and she'd be up on all fours, unsure of what to do next but convinced that what she wanted to do next was not what she actually ended up doing. You'd feel sorry for her; you'd pick her up and say, "Oh, poor babykins, poor frustrated baby-pie." You'd kiss her neck. You'd put her down somewhere to play and within minutes she'd be, somehow, over by the fireplace trying to pull the metal strip off the bottom, or eyeing the tax folders on the bottom shelf of the bookcase by the desk, or, if you were outside on the patio, she'd be leaning over to grab a rock out of the flower bed and furtively putting it to her mouth. You'd be realizing, oh, we're at THAT point now, okay. And you'd be realizing that keeping one mobile baby out of the cat dish and away from the trash can was a heck of a lot easier than keeping a new baby out of the cat dish and away from the trash can when you're busy paying attention to that first baby, who is no longer a baby.