Saturday, June 30, 2007

Eight Random Facts About Me

Yikes, I've been tagged. So, here are eight random facts about me:

1. I lived in the same house from the time I was four years old until college. Since then, I've lived in seven different apartments /houses (including my current house, but not including college dorms). My parents still live in the house I grew up in.

2. Despite an excessive love of sweets, I didn't get my first cavity until I was 31. Yes, the fact that I said "first" means there have been more than one since then.

3. There are or have been at least five Lutheran pastors in my extended family, including my dad and my sister. I say "at least" because I've probably forgotten some.

4. I successfully kept my toenails polished (by myself) until the week I delivered my second baby last summer. If you've ever been pregnant, you understand what a challenge this was.

5. A long time ago, I taught preschool.

6. Some of the career options I considered at least somewhat seriously during college included: kindergarten teacher, magazine editor, magazine writer, high-school English teacher, arts journalist, art museum curator, juvenile/family court attorney, and clinical psychologist. I changed my major at least three times, and ultimately double-majored in English and psychology. All this vocation ambivalence may help explain my lack of extreme commitment and investment in my career today. There are just too many other things I find interesting in life to be passionate about one career I settled on at age 22. Too bad about those psychology-grad-school loans.

7. I have a terrible memory for plot lines in movies and books. It is not unusual for me to have no recollection, later on, how a particular movie turned out (unless it's a fave I've seen more than once), even one that I've seen fairly recently, like in the past year or two. Sometimes I can't even remember if I've seen a particular movie at all. Of course, these days I don't go to many movies. But still.

8. In 1998, before I developed arthritis and chronic foot pain, I ran the Chicago Half-Marathon.

I don't know eight other bloggers to tag who haven't already been tagged by someone else, so....sorry.

Do You Think Popcorn AND Junior Mints is a Little Much?

This afternoon I am going out with some girlfriends (fellow full-time at-home moms) to see a movie at the giant multiplex two towns up the interstate. I am purposely not going to eat lunch beforehand, so I'll be appropriately hungry for popcorn. I have cash in my handbag and mascara on my eyelashes. Can you tell that I am SO EXCITED? To give you a little perspective, I have only been to one movie with girlfriends since Julia was born three years ago. (I have also seen two movies solo, and two movies on rare "dates" with Christopher, so it's not quite as dire as you might think. However, in my pre-children life, going to movies was my favorite weekend activity, so it was hard to go without, especially at first. Later, I got used to it, and stopped thinking about it. Plus, never going to movies--or out to dinner, for that matter--is a GREAT money-saver when you're on a tight baby-budget, so it's probably good that we don't have available family nearby to babysit and we don't have any good restaurants in our small town.)

In other news, Julia's in big-girl cotton training underpants today for the first time since potty training began in earnest earlier this month. (We're trying training underpants first before resorting to the bare-bottom method.) So...isn't it nice that I get to leave for the afternoon?*

*(Don't feel too sorry for Christopher. In a week and a half, he goes on a four-day business trip, leaving me alone with both girls for the first time. I have several friends with children whose husbands travel on a regular basis and they don't seem to dissolve into attacks of panic and dread every time they think or talk about it, but that only makes me admire those friends all the more, not dread my own upcoming solo-parenting stint any less.)

Thursday, June 28, 2007

Formula Follow-Up

(Below: Genevieve's disgusted and angry response to the sippy cup of formula after taking her first taste.)

OK, so I accidentally offended a dear friend with my Genevieve-hates-formula-and-I'm-not-too-sure-about-it-either post, but as luck and reasonable minds would have it, a little discussion and explanation put us back on track just fine. However, the comments on that post (from friends and from me back in response) were so interesting and thought-provoking that I'm linking to them explicitly here in the hopes that those of you who don't normally go to the trouble of clicking on comments might do so this time. Because a.) my first comment is (I hope) a clarification of what I REALLY wanted the post to mean, and b.) my second is a follow-up musing on why it's so risky to express even the slightest uncertainty about utilizing formula to nourish a baby, but I'm too lazy to write another whole post expanding on this idea. So go read. If you feel like it.

Wednesday, June 27, 2007

Impetuous Baby

Vivi (as Julia, and now our whole family, nicknames her) is in total unabashed love with her Silky. A little mini-blankie with one fuzzy side and one satiny side, she sleeps with it, cuddles it, coos and grins at it when she wakes up each morning, and throws it over her face when she nurses at bedtime. She carries it all over the house, and rubs it against her cheeks.

So why has she begun pitching it over the side of her crib every time she goes down for nap or bedtime?

We hear her usual verbal shenanigans over the monitor--the babbling, the yapping at her PJ Bear, and sometimes the dissatisfied moans. And when we check on her later, after she's fallen asleep, we find her pink flowered Silky sitting forlornly on the floor next to her bed. Sometimes at the end of nap we find her sitting up on her knees, hands against the side of the crib, squawking unhappily at the Silky beyond her reach. What exactly is going on in there when we leave the room? Do Genevieve and her blankie get into a fight? Does she impulsively throw it overboard, only to immediately regret her actions? Only to resign herself to sleeping without it by her side? Is she yelling at it in her bed when we hear her fuss and groan over the monitor? (You made me do it; it's all YOUR fault!) Or is she imploring it to take a flying leap back into her crib, or imploring us to come and return it to her?

Every morning I say to her, "Vivi! Why did you throw your Silky overboard?!" and she grabs it to her face with glee. She croons at it, giggles, and sucks on the binding. All is clearly forgiven. Until the next nap.

Maybe I'll Have the Milk After All

Genevieve's not a huge nursing fan anymore, unless it's first thing in the morning and she's starving, or bedtime and she's sleepy and craving comfort. She's a go-getter baby: any other time of day and she's all like, Are there not interesting things going on in the world right now? Things I should be a part of? WHY would I lie here in your lap and waste time nursing, missing out on all those things?!

On Sunday she really didn't nurse at all between wake-up and bedtime, and on Monday I called our pediatrician's office to ask if I could start her on a little cow's milk early. (She's 10 months old.) The answer was a big fat NO. They told me to start giving her formula in a sippy (since she already uses a cup, not a bottle) at meals or snacks (when I used to nurse her). I was not thrilled with this answer. I was totally expecting a, "Sure, go ahead, a little cow's milk before 12 months won't hurt her," so I was less than enthusiastic when the doctor told me to buy some formula. Neither of my babies have had a drop of formula before this, and while I know intellectually that it is fine and perfectly safe, after nourishing two babies solely on the 100% natural perfect food that is breast milk, I have to admit I'm a tiny bit leery--for some reason--about such an artificial food source. (I mean--could there be anything more artificially manufactured?) But what choice do I have? She's got to have more milk than she's drinking most days right now.

Yesterday I brought home some formula powder that a friend had leftover from her youngest, and mixed up a sippy for Genevieve to have at lunch. Julia and I watched as she brought it to her lips, drank, and then gagged, shuddered, spit it out, and looked at me as if I were crazy. You would have thought I was feeding her poison. The look on her face was one of total disgust. Since then, I've tried it three more times, and this morning she even drank maybe half an ounce to one ounce.

Perhaps not coincidentally though, today she has also nursed better than she has in weeks. After the morning formula try, she even nursed at an odd time while I sat near a friend during a playdate at our house, amidst conversation, a strange baby, and the cacophony of two three-year-olds playing near our feet.

Maybe that formula attempt scared her straight.

Monday, June 25, 2007

Definition of Toddler Life

This morning, talking to Julia:

"It's Monday. Daddy-goes-back-to-work day. Also garbage-truck day, and nail-clipping day."

(Edited to add: That was me saying that, above, TO Julia, in response to her asking me what day it was. Not Julia saying those things to me. I just thought it was funny how a three-year-old's day is defined. Remember when those kinds of things were the most important features of a particular day?)

Friday, June 22, 2007

Zoe's on the Phone

There are many things that, before having kids, I could never have imagined myself doing. Today I found myself gravely telling my three-year-old that Zoe [much-loved character from Sesame Street] really, really wants Julia to keep her Pull-Up dry, and instead use the potty chair. For all its intended purposes. Every time. And that Zoe is so, so sad that Julia still has not done this, and that therefore Zoe will not be able to come live with us [in the form of a stuffed doll Julia gets as a potty training reward. When she finally gets trained. You know, at age 16 or so, at the rate we're going here]. And I told her that Zoe keeps calling the house to check. And we have to keep telling her, Sorry, no go. And that the preschool keeps calling to check too. And that we have to keep telling them, Sorry, doesn't look promising on our end. And Julia listens to us solemnly, eyes wide, dead serious, appropriately concerned, promising her cooperation from that moment on.

Yup. Lying to our child. That's what it's come to. We've got a serious deadline, people!

Oh, one more thing. It's not working.

Wednesday, June 20, 2007

Why Can't I Breastfeed Forever?

Have I mentioned that Genevieve is growing increasingly bored with nursing? And that as far as the daytime nursings go (mid-a.m. and mid-afternoon snack), apparently just about everything in the world is way more exciting than lying still long enough to take more than a sip or two? That leaves just the wake-up and bedtime nursings as even remotely substantial. Who knows how few ounces of milk she's actually taking in these days. I suppose I should call our pediatrician and ask if I can sneak whole (cow's) milk to her a couple of months early. There's no way I'm going to introduce formula to her at this point, and I'm certainly not going to start pumping again just to get breast milk to put into a cup for her to drink with her meals.

Oh, and have I mentioned that, since Genevieve is just barely still a nursling, it really is time now--really, for real, I mean it--to stop eating like a lumberjack? A very chocolate-addicted lumberjack? Who also likes ice cream quite a bit? It is. Oh, people. It is.

Not all that long ago, my body was producing, who knows, maybe 30 to 40 ounces of milk every single day (probably more, actually--I made way too much in those early months). Yeah, um....there's a big difference between manufacturing 40 ounces of milk each day and manufacturing, maybe, eight. Guess what? Your body doesn't require you to be a total pig anymore just to operate. And if you insist on continuing to be so, you will gain weight. Surprise! What a bummer. I liked being a total pig. It was delicious.

Have I mentioned that, owing to all this, awhile back I decided (in my own head) that, once summer began, I'd get serious about giving up sweets (namely chocolate), exercising like the summer-loving runner that I am, and stemming the tide of weaning-related belly flab? Meet the end of summer in really, really good shape to run the Northfield 5K and feel less guilty about the no-doubt terrible state of my (current, unknown but much dreaded) cholesterol level?

And that I keep thinking I'm gonna start doing all that soon, now that summer is starting? Except it's actually JUNE FREAKING TWENTIETH? People, June 20th is not the beginning of summer, calendar be damned. June 20th is THREE WEEKS INTO SUMMER. It is late June. It is nearly one-third of summer OVER.

Yeah, I used to be good with deadlines. Then I had two kids.

We Love Amanda

Picture proof that a VERY SWEET, thoughtful friend of mine came down from the Cities to visit the girls and me yesterday, the kind of friend who always, always brings some extra-special little gift for the children, and often something edible for me as well. For no reason other than that she is extremely thoughtful and nice. We had a great time even though Genevieve was teething and didn't show her true adorable colors until after a dose of Tylenol and a nap, just when Amanda had to leave. I've known Amanda for nearly seven years now, which is truly hard to believe, and I still miss working with her even though we haven't been co-workers for 4-1/2 years. Some people are just joys to have around, you know?

Monday, June 18, 2007

Get Out and Play

At the beginning of June, in the spirit of a Retro Mom summer, I declared my goal that I would get the girls outside to play at least once every day all summer long, unless it was raining or above 90 degrees. Every. Single. Day. So far we're doing well, though it's only been, what?, two weeks or so. We've been doing stroller walks, hikes in the college arboretum and nature preserve, romps at any number of parks and playgrounds, outdoor playgroup meetings, walks downtown, runs through Julia's sprinkler and soccer scrimmages in the backyard with her miniature soccer set. And sometimes we stay still and play at Julia's sand table or draw on the sidewalk with chalk.

Since Julia's just three and Genevieve is hard to pacify outdoors (no, Vivi, no rocks in the mouth! no sidewalk chalk in the mouth! no, you can't eat the gravel at the park! no, you can't eat the sand from the sand table! no, you can't get out of the stroller and walk, because you can't walk yet!)--and also because they're both on long-term daily antibiotics that cause them to sunburn even if they're slathered in SPF 55--this feels like no small feat.

Even though it's only mid-June and we've got most of the summer ahead of us.

Oh, and hey! For those rainy days? Guess what I did over the weekend? I assembled a craft box, full of Elmer's school glue and wrapping paper scraps and toilet paper tubes and paper plates and toddler scissors and ribbon and empty berry baskets. Because sometimes you just gotta do yourself some arts-'n'-crafts.

Friday, June 15, 2007

Sweet Vivi

Ten! Months! Old! Today!

Thursday, June 14, 2007

It Was Lovely and So Were You

We did it! We all made it to our town's annual summer outdoor Justin Roberts concert last night, and we all stayed through to the end, even Genevieve who should have been in bed two hours earlier, and Julia who was tired not only from being up past her bedtime but from a busy day hiking the St. Olaf Natural Lands in the sun.

And you knew I would say it, didn't you?, that it was worth the exhausted babies, that it will clearly always be worth it, that we will be doing it every single year until the girls are too old and complain that kids' music is dorky, and we'll probably still do it even then by telling Julia to come just to keep Genevieve company, and then when Genevieve's too old we'll tell them both to come and help entertain our friends' younger children--anything to keep this sweet summer tradition alive as long as possible. Anything to dance with babies in the park, to witness the preschooler version of starstruck, to watch the sun set and the peonies sink under their own weight and the families come out in droves--trikes and scooters and strollers and bikes with trailers, SUVs spilling lawn chairs and picnic blankets--, anything to stay a young family (isn't that really it?) just a little bit longer.

But oh, what a different experience it was this year compared to last.

Do you remember last year? When our first summer in this new town was just beginning, and we were the parents of only one, and the evening bloomed with that sense of a magical first? You know what I mean, don't you? When you look back and say, Oh, remember our first Justin Roberts concert in Northfield? Remember how wonderful it was? Remember how Julia danced? Remember the songs? Remember walking away afterward, and humming? And part of what you're really saying is, Remember our first summer here? Remember our first friends here? Remember the summer Genevieve was born, and how the small-town hospital was so nice to us? Remember how she fell asleep to Justin Roberts lullabies when she was four weeks old and had colic?

Last year it was just us and Julia, and we immersed ourselves in the music and the dancing antics of a joyful crowd of kiddos; we felt surrounded by an aura of blissful relaxation. We knew almost no one there, and while surveying the idyllic small-town scene, the sense was one of, THIS is our town? Really? This Norman Rockwell-esque, too-sweet-to-be-true, kind and happy community is where we live now?

This year we had a baby to wrangle as well, which meant that there was no relaxation to be had, at least not the kind of relaxation that might be defined by sitting down, sitting still, and keeping one's clothes and hair free of drool and wet Cheerios. This year I felt like I knew every other family there; it seemed like everywhere I turned there was another mother I know, whose kids play with mine at playgroup or the park, whose stroller I have seen parked outside the coffee shop or the library. This year I couldn't tell you half the songs in Justin's set--as much as I adore them all--because I spent most of the evening comparing notes on potty training and preschool registration with two other moms as our toddlers grooved near the stage and our babies pulled our hair.

The families laughed; the babies clapped; the children danced and screamed and sang. The sun still set and the breeze still slowed and Justin still riled everyone up in the most genuine, and generous, way; I imagine he always does, no matter where he is performing. It was still wonderful, just wonderful in a different way.

I suppose that's because it's a different summer, right? I mean, Genevieve's here, for one thing. Julia's three, for another. We've been here over a year now. We've made many friends. If you miss the second verse of "Meltdown" because you're busy running your palm over a friend's newborn baby's hair, or squatting down at eye level to congratulate your best friend's three-year-old on wearing undies now, not diapers? Or if you're thanking your daughter's favorite library volunteer for coming all the way through the crowd just to say hello to her and hold her hand, making her smile shyly and flush with delight? Well, there are worse things.

It was lovely, all of it. And there is always next year, when things will surely be different, and the same, all over again.

Wednesday, June 13, 2007

We Still Had Fun

I think our family has a new catchphrase. It goes as follows. And you have to say it in a very earnest, cheery, glass-half-full, toddler-esque tone of voice.

"Even though [insert timely calamitous event here], we still had a lot of fun!"

Remember a couple of months ago when I ran that 5K in Minneapolis, and on the drive up Julia threw up in the car? And at the end of the day, that's what she said? "Even though I throwed up in the car, Mama, we still had a lot of fun!" Oh, toddlers. Even throwing up in the car can't stop them from having a joyous day, if the day happens to involve smoothies, sidewalk chalk, and some playground equipment.

Since then, she's repeated that sentence a few times: "Even though you sprayed sunscreen in my eye, Mama, we still had a lot of fun!" "Even though Genevieve fell over and cried, we still had a lot of fun!" It's good she's so able to maintain her sense of enjoyment despite the slings and arrows of daily life, isn't it?

This morning we went for a hike in a local nature preserve with my friend Dawn and her two kids. As a favor to another friend, who had to work for a couple of hours today but couldn't find a sitter, we brought along Julia's other playgroup buddy, a rambunctious toddler with a flair for the mischievous. It was quite an adventure. Let's just say that Dawn and I, wrangling three toddlers, two infants, a double stroller, two diaper bags, and a motley assortment of sippy cups, snack containers, sunscreen bottles, sunhats, and bug sprays, got quite a workout.

And Julia had the quote of the day, as we bellied up to the lunch table at home afterward: "Even though Lucas ate a pinecone, we still had a lot of fun."

Whew. Yep.

Sunday, June 10, 2007

Big Love

This weekend I noticed that Julia's blankie--her Silky, we call it: a satin-backed, hand-made, Pooh-print baby blanket she's had since she was an infant--is TOTALLY falling apart. It's way more threadbare than the last time I examined it, which should tell you something about how often--or not often, as the case may be--we think to kidnap it from her bed and throw it in the wash. Last time I checked, there was one hole in the satin backing, which Julia liked to worsen with her fingers as she fell asleep. Now there are six or seven holes, plus the edges of the binding are completely undone all the way around the perimeter, leaving wispy threads hanging off the hem for Julia to pull off and discard on the floor around her bed. Ah! So that's what I've been vacuuming up recently! Poor Silky! It looks like it's been through a war. A very loving war.

Speaking of love (and have I told you that "speaking of..." is Julia's new favorite figure of speech? And that she uses it correctly? After discussing a friend's newborn during lunch: "Speaking of babies, Mama, Genevieve is a baby too!"), Genevieve has just learned to say "Mama," to clap her hands and bounce when we sing or recite a rhythmic poem, and give big, indiscreet hugs and kisses (sometimes) upon command. How can you not love that?

And finally, happy happy joy joy: the annual Justin Roberts concert is this week. Our family is already buzzing with excitement, and no, I don't mean just the kids. I said last year that this June we'd be there with two girls instead of just one, so bedtime be damned, and stay awake Vivi, we're going. Because talk about love! There's nothing more lovey--and lovely--than sweet happy music under the sunset with your babies and half the town.

Monday, June 04, 2007


Lest anyone get too excited, please note that when I said yesterday that Julia began using the potty chair, I meant that she is now willing to occasionally TRY using the potty chair. Which is progress.

Sunday, June 03, 2007

She's Three

Sure, we've been celebrating for awhile, but this weekend Julia actually turned three. The last of the birthday celebrations took place: a family party with Nonna, Boppa, and "Auntie" Sue (actually my godmother) on Saturday. (The "early-birthday" party happened over Memorial weekend, with Grandma and sweet family-friend Jan.)

Coming up on this birthday weekend, I was a little worried that it couldn't be as perfect as last year, when Julia turned two. I kept replaying those memories in my mind: the storybook weather, the sunlight, the flowers; the bubbly chaos of toddler cupcake-eating; the sundress, the photos, the bubble-blowing and chalk-drawing outside after dinner; the way Julia wilted at sunset like a sleepy birthday rose, and went to bed with happy songs in her head and new jammies on her body; the end of the day, when the adults chatted and ate berry cobbler on the patio until the night and the mosquitoes drove us in. We ended that day with sober memories of our firstborn's hard-knocks birth, and with much contentment and excitement for the lovely summer ahead, a summer that would end with another birth. Recalling all that, I thought, Can Three be as amazing?

Well: yes. Because the house filled up with love and busy-ness, and games were played and songs sung and baby sisters mollified, and there was cake and ice cream and bubbles and paint and Play-Doh. And because all at once, Julia began using the potty chair, saying her "L's", and solo-pedaling her Big Wheel. Now THAT'S taking the passage of another year seriously--wouldn't you say?

And also because, well--Julia at three is just as sweet as Julia at two. Different in a thousand ways, brilliant and hilarious, taller than ever--and still the sweetest thing on two feet.

Did you know that three-year-olds are no longer babies? It's true. One day: two, and in my book still a perfectly acceptable baby prototype--after all, only two!--just a baby. Next day: three, with babyhood giving me a backward wave goodbye.

It's so, so hard to believe.

Friday, June 01, 2007

What I Did Yesterday

Yesterday was one of those days that perfectly illustrates what makes being at home full-time with small children much, much harder than any old office job. Yes, this is an old saw of mine, but it's true, so I'll keep repeating it. And OK, maybe if you're an ER physician or the Attorney General or an air traffic controller your job is harder than being a stay-at-home mom of little tinies. MAYBE.

It wasn't a bad day yesterday, it was just what ends up being normal when you've got one child starting (?) to potty-train and one child who just learned to crawl, and who has decided that her ONE GOAL IN LIFE is to explore two particular forbidden places in the house as many times, in as short a period, as humanly possible. Those places being: 1.) behind the TV, where she likes to pull out handfuls of the cat's fur (to stuff in her mouth, natch) and also gnaw on the electronics cords with alarming ferocity, and 2.) the gas fireplace, the metal frame of which she is systematically working on dismantling by yanking repeatedly (yank, bang! yank, bang! "Vivi, NOOOOOOOOO!") on the lower strip with her sweaty, stubborn little hands.

But that's just it. It wasn't a bad day. It was a totally normal day, and for me, totally normal included plopping the big girl on the potty chair, running in the other direction to catch the baby, yelling over my shoulder, "OK, so just try and go, honey, OK? It might take a minute! Try a little longer, OK? A little longer! Wait, a little longer!", repositioning the baby near us with appropriate toys, only to have her turn her sassy little hips and wiggle away on all fours as fast as she could go back toward the TV, the fireplace, and oh yeah--the dirty shoes on the boot tray (yum yum)--over, and over, and over again. If there were ever a time (and there have been many, actually) that I've thought longingly of my husband's seemingly sweet little gig--you know, where he goes to work and sits at a desk in front of a computer, no one hanging on him or whining at him or nursing off him, iced coffee at hand, and SITS STILL for much of the day?--well, yesterday was it.

And yet, let me repeat--it wasn't a terrible day. It was a fine day. The girls (eventually) napped. We took a walk in the morning, and the weather was glorious. We played outside in the backyard. We read books, sang songs, kept up the house (me) and played house (Julia). It was fine. It was just---demanding, in a quotidian kind of way--to a degree far greater than my work life ever was in the past (at least, not since my clinical psychology residency at a ridiculously demanding urban medical center where interns proved themselves by seeing more patients than their supervisors).

I don't need to end this by reiterating that it's all worth it, do I? That I chose this job for a reason, that the rewards outweigh the exhaustion? I don't, do I? Because if you know me, you already know that's true. You already know, I'm sure, about that moment Julia took my hand and said, "Mama, you're so pretty," and about how Genevieve gave me three open-mouthed kisses in a row--big, enthusiastic, love-all-over kisses with much sloppiness included--and about how Julia wanted to hold Genevieve on her lap at morning naptime, and recite the naptime storybook herself, and how Genevieve kept turning her head to look up at Julia and grin at her.

I know I don't have to tell you.