Sunday, September 30, 2007

Sweetest Thing Ever

Tonight after dinner--a big vegetable-lentil soup I made from a ton of fresh produce from the farm-share box--Julia said, utterly sincerely, "I sure enjoy your cooking, Mama."

Don't you just want to squeeze her?

Friday, September 28, 2007

Cutest Thing Ever

One of Julia's favorite storybooks is a fairly new acquisition called "Bunny Cakes." It's a Max-and-Ruby book, so what's not to adore? Somehow, she has already memorized it, and she LOVES to "read" the entire thing at nap or bedtime storytime, rather than having it read to her. She pretty much gets the whole thing right, and it's beyond adorable to hear her little dramatic inflections.

But the best part is how she reads the author's name each time: "'Bunny Cakes', by Mose-Rary Wells."

That would be ROSEMARY WELLS, to you and me.

Mama on the Edge

I've been pretty stressed out lately. No reason any more serious or important than anyone else's reasons--and certainly less serious and important than many people's reasons. But, you know: the firstborn's rocky transition to preschool; my relicensure ordeal with the Minnesota Board of Psychology and the ridiculously high licensure fee ($500) due this month (seriously, would it kill them to institute some kind of lower "maintenance" licensure fee for folks who are temporarily not working at all and thus not using their licenses? Like, er, full-time stay-at-home moms?).

Plus, there's Christopher working a ton lately (super-busy at regular job plus part-time second job), Julia being sick (cough, cough all night long = no sleep for me), Genevieve taking crappy naps or skipping her naps altogether all week long, me lying awake at night worrying about the fact that my choice is either be my girls' daily caregiver OR afford to save for retirement (not both).

This week I was almost undone by a gigantic box of Swiss chard. Actually what happened was that my very thoughtful and generous friend gave me her family's CSA farm-share box of produce for the week, because they were going out of town and wouldn't be able to use it. It is wonderful: chock full of fresh veggies and herbs, apples and garlic--and it is seriously saving me a couple of weeks' worth of grocery-store produce expense. But people--that stuff is time-consuming! You get home with your giant box and you've got, like, five pounds of beet tops to trim off and wrap in damp paper towels, and all that chard to deal with, and the fresh oregano and the parsnips and salad mix. And you've got to look up all the recipes you can find for preparing things like carrot tops and beet greens. On the day I picked up the box, Julia had a killer cough and didn't nap, and I swear to you, I was knee-high in leafy greens and about ready to hire a nanny just so I could deal with all the vegetables. Can you picture me, standing at the counter chopping mountains of beet greens and researching ideal storage conditions for leeks, while the baby crawled accusingly up my shins and Julia called for my nose-wiping services for the ten millionth time in half an hour? Yeah, I bet you can.

All of which is to say, I've changed my stance on TV-watching. If I didn't park Julia in front of PBS now and then I would never get anything done. No one's napping, I'm not sleeping--do you think I have patience for both playing fairy-dance-party AND mopping the floors at the same time? While also roasting a squash and preparing to host playgroup? No, I do not.

So: does anyone know what that show "Dragon Tales" is all about? Because I let my kid watch it today while I did the laundry. Hope it was educational.

Thursday, September 27, 2007

Oh! And!

This morning at preschool, while I was still dropping off our tuition payment and thwarting an escapee Genevieve's attempts to open all the floor-level cubbies in the hallway, Julia ran right into her classroom to "plant her star" in the flowerpot (each child has a paper star on a popsicle stick with his/her name written on it, and each day when they arrive they find their star and poke it into a flowerpot filled with rice, to show that they are there that day). I got intercepted by a friend for a moment, and when I finally made it into the room, Julia was sitting at the Play-Doh table with two little buddies, rolling out dough with a smile on her face.


We Must Be Doing Something Right

While sitting down to dinner last evening:

Me: Julia, what do you want on your salad, the homemade salad dressing Mama made this afternoon, or the white Ranch dressing from the store?

Julia: The homemade. I like yours better, Mama.

Tuesday, September 25, 2007

Quit Complaining, All the Rest of You

You know, I wonder what it would be like to have babies and/or small children who nap past, oh, 2:15 in the afternoon. After going down at one.

Every day when I put them down I think, Today they'll take good long naps for sure. It's dark and cloudy out/she's got a cold/it was a tiring preschool morning/she skipped her morning nap/she woke up early today/she seems tired. For SURE they'll nap more than 90 minutes tops. FOR SURE.

Does this make me an eternal optimist? Because really, I'm not. It must make me deluded, then, or, more likely, very, very desperate.

Because every day by 2 p.m. I start to hear, over the monitors, the snifflings and yawns and sighs and turning-overs that signify the beginning of the end of nap. And every day I slap my forehead (well, figuratively, I mean) and go, DAMNIT! Sixty (seventy, sixty-five, eighty, whatever) minutes?! That's IT?!

When Genevieve was a newborn I had high hopes for her napping abilities. She was an easier infant, by far, than Julia had been, and she seemed to sleep better, and harder. And for awhile there she did sleep significantly longer than Julia ever did--usually 90 minutes per nap, morning and afternoon, when Julia as an infant OFTEN topped out at half an hour. (To think: that a tiny infant napping for three hours TOTAL in one day seems like a lot to me!) But Genevieve doesn't usually nap that long anymore. An hour, maybe a bit more, sometimes 90 minutes if I'm lucky. Occasionally she skips the morning one (already!) and then never makes up for it by napping longer in the afternoon. All of that feels very familiar. It goes without saying that neither of my babies ever, EVER took that third, late-afternoon nap. (I've heard of this alleged third nap, and have even met other moms who had no idea that some babies DON'T take it. But to me, it's a bit like hearing stories about life in an exotic foreign country. I'll have to take your word for it, but it sure sounds farfetched.)

Once in a blue moon one of the girls--usually Julia--will throw me an utter curve ball, like the other week when she napped till 3:40 and I was convinced I must have accidentally overdosed her on children's Benadryl. On those days, I marvel that there are people out there for whom children taking naps until 3 p.m. or later is completely normal. I sort of hate those people.

Sugar Rush

The good: Today was the first tears-free preschool drop-off. Sure, Julia was still worried all morning before we left, and she still said over and over that she didn't want to go and that she wanted me to stay at school with her, but for the first time, once there she didn't cry when we said goodbye.

The bad: The morning snack today at preschool (to clarify: provided by parents on a rotating basis) is Nilla wafers and chocolate milk. Did you get that? COOKIES AND CHOCOLATE MILK. And that qualifies as a "healthy snack" how?

Monday, September 24, 2007

Quality (and Quantity) Time

Those days of sitting at a desk all day in a quiet office were EASY.

Here's what we girls did today (in no particular order, and not counting routine things like meals, snacks, naps--or lack thereof--, potty time, diaper changing, and nursing):

* Went for a walk in our neighborhood
* Played "school"
* Played "grocery store"
* Had storytime
* Played "dance party" (wherein we put on loud kids' music and run around/dance/play musical instruments/pretend we're in a marching band)
* Made a turkey meatloaf (Julia and me)
* Played baseball with Genevieve's new Playskool baseball toy
* Played dress-up
* Built a house with Duplos
* Made a leaf-rubbing art project (Julia)/ate crayons (Genevieve)
* Did a huge stack of wooden puzzles (twice)
* Played tea party/birthday party

I am exhausted. Playing is hard work!

More, More, More

Over the weekend on "Prairie Home Companion" the incomparable Garrison Keillor was talking about the last week and its summerish heat, and about how when you live in Minnesota, you always have to wonder about days like these, Is this it? Is this the last warm day?

And you never know, do you, if it really is? If someone asked you, "Do you think today was the last 80-some degree day you're going to see until May?" you'd probably say no, right? Because it's hard to imagine, this dramatic switch of seasons we have here, even when we experience it every year. And it's especially hard in a year when the mosquitoes didn't even arrive until September (June-through-August insects! Absent until September!), and when it's been so warm that you lose track constantly that it's actually late September, and you keep doing things like thinking of the baby as having just turned one a few days ago (it was five weeks), like believing it's still pretty much the first week of preschool (preschool began the day after Labor Day). And you accidentally keep thinking, as Garrison Keillor said, that there will always be more. You think that right up until there isn't.

And isn't that just like what I said last fall, about parenting the last baby? About any baby, really. That you never know when something's going to end until one day it's done? And so you look around one day with a profound feeling of unfairness and loss (if what's gone is, say, the last lingering toddlerish mispronunciation, or that final nursing), or, sometimes, a deep sense of relief (the last night-feeding; the end of the colic). But either way, an ending.

And that fact, that little truism of life, can just about kill you, when you're watching a 13-month-old toddle haphazardly, like an airplane out of control, down the hallway in a fuschia skirt that her sister used to wear--one of your all-time favorites!--with bare feet and crazy baby hair. And can you imagine, that when you say to your husband, "Doesn't it just kill you, that this one-year-old-ness is temporary? Don't you just want to cry?" he says with complete seriousness, "No, not at all. Because I know there will be just as many wonderful things about every other age to come"? Can you imagine that?

Well. I suppose it's true. If today was the last warm day, that means soon come crunchy leaves and pumpkins and wood-smoke and geese honking overhead. And that's all good. And if that one-year-old baby one day grows out of the fuschia skirt and stops nursing and gets over her obsession with her baby-toothbrush (which I let her sleep with the other day: all curled up, cuddling with her toothbrush), well--won't she be just as precious and adorable at sixteen months, and eighteen, and two years, and--gulp--at three, starting preschool?

But don't you wish someone could say to you, "Hey, I know that you're sick to death of the whining, I know that if you never hear the words, 'Mama is dinner almost ready?' ever again it would still be too soon, I know the kicking and the slapping while nursing is getting old, but today is the last day you're ever going to hear 'yor-gut' for 'yogurt', so listen up."

Or conversely, don't you wish someone could tell you, "Hey, I know that this is the millionth night in a row you've been up too many times to nurse the baby, and I know you're sitting there thinking this hell will never end and if you don't make her cry it out you're doomed and if you do make her cry it out you're cruel and that's no choice, but listen: this is the last night she's going to nurse at 2 a.m., and before long you're going to have the two best night-sleepers of any kids you know, and this will be just one more thing over and done with."

Do you know what I mean? Wouldn't a little warning, a little wake-up call, make you both more immediately aware and present for the best moments, and a little more hopeful and calm in the worst? Too bad life is all about lack of advance warning. No one ever tells you if what's coming is more or no more. Maybe the lesson is that life is all about constantly finding the more in whatever glorious stage you're in, right? Whether it be the sweet-angel newborn or the heart-achingly adorable one-year-old or the brave, preschool-bound three. And trusting that the most trying things about being a parent will one day be no more.

Friday, September 21, 2007

A Few Very Random Thoughts

I can't seem to organize my mind today to write a coherent, topical post. So I'm just going to provide you with a few of the scintillating random thoughts flitting around my TGIF-feeling brain.


After a very long, frustrating online shopping process that involved numerous ordering-trying-on-and-returning experiences, I at last found a new denim skirt AND a new khaki skirt, both of which I ordered from L.L. Bean. (I've been searching for a good khaki skirt since my last postpartum one went the way of Goodwill, two sizes too large.) Here's the kicker. They're size ten. Now, I don't care one bit about the size number, but get this, people: I am normally a size eight, plenty of eights often feel too large (but sixes are too small), and my favorite and most-often-worn skirt is an Old Navy SIZE FOUR. On the same body, at the same time. Size four, size ten. Is it any wonder it's just about impossible to online shop successfully? How in the world are you supposed to know what size to order? (Don't tell me to consult the size charts. I also ordered two Ann Taylor Loft knit tops, size small--my usual size--by checking the size chart beforehand. They arrived so gigantic that I sent them back and gave up completely. So sorry, Susan! I was VERY DISAPPOINTED!)


All the coolest bloggers are insomniacs, so I guess I'm in good company. I keep waking up at night from who knows what, and then can't fall back to sleep. This is nothing new for me, but it hasn't been this bad for a long time (read: almost ten years ago during my hellishly hard psychology residency; the year the Minnesota Board of Psychology almost refused to license me because I had done my graduate work in a different state). The baby monitors torture me. I hallucinate faint cries from the girls' rooms; I'm convinced someone, somewhere, needs something. I get out of bed to stand by the monitors and crank the static up as high as it will go. Nothing. I go back to bed and lie sleepless. I think preschool is getting to me.


I told a friend the other day that the more time goes by, the more I feel convinced that our original decision to stop at two babies was right. My hormones seem to have settled down, and I don't second-guess every baby item given away. But then I catch a glimpse of Genevieve at this glorious baby age--an early one-year-old: they're sublime! Perfect! COULD NOT BE CUTER.--and it kills me, just kills me, that I can't freeze time and keep her just like this for another half year or more. I see one-year-old babies everywhere and they all seem the same to me: like babyhood incarnate, like the very definition of babyhood. And I don't really want another; I just want mine, forever.


Remember that frosty night when the girls froze in their summer-weight jammies? It's been, like, a zillion degrees with ten zillion percent humidity ever since. Of course. No, we're not wearing the blanket sleepers and fuzzy hats and mittens I found. We're not sleeping under flannel sheets. We are, in fact, running the central air and wearing sleeveless shirts. Are you familiar with Minnesota weather? This is it.

Thursday, September 20, 2007

Break My Heart, Some More

Tearful conversation last night at dinner:

Julia: Mama, I think I know why I'm so sad when I'm at preschool.
Me: Why, honey?
Julia: I think...I think it's just that...I really miss you and Vivi.

Tuesday, September 18, 2007

Where Are You Going With That Yogurt, Anyway?

So far, for preschool snack, Julia has had, per her report, "teddy bear cookies," "robot crackers," "multicolored Goldfish," and bright blue "Go Yogurt" ("Mama, it's yogurt you can GO WITH"). Plus, each day, juice, not water, to drink with it.

OK, so I know there are far worse things than "multicolored Goldfish." And no, I'm not throwing a holier-than-thou, crazy-health-food-nut-parent fit about the processed snacks (all of which are completely new to Julia, and about which she is totally confounded: such "treaty" snacks?! Every day?! WITH JUICE??). But it bothers me that this losing control over my child's nutritional habits has to begin, however incrementally, so early. I already knew they'd be serving her "deep-fried shrimp poppers" for lunch in first grade--and I've already had an internal heart attack about it. But at age three, in preschool, they're feeding her bright blue, sugar-laden yogurt, when at home she is perfectly happy with--adores, even!--PLAIN, all-natural, unsweetened yogurt?

Why, people? What's wrong with apple slices? What's wrong with whole-wheat crackers instead of sugary teddy bear cookies? Why do we have to start on this junky road so soon?

Monday, September 17, 2007

Tell Me This

Why, oh WHY does the garbage truck have to come during naptime every week? Why, people? Isn't it enough that the tornado siren, the one ACROSS THE STREET FROM OUR HOUSE, gets tested once a month at naptime too? But every single week with the trash truck banging its way down our block, beeping and clanking and crashing just outside the babies' bedroom windows, invariably during nap? And on Monday, no less, when life is hardest and energy is lowest and everyone says, Isn't Daddy home yet? Can't they ever deviate, just for fairness' sake, and come at, like twelve noon? Or 4 p.m.? Does it always have to be at 2 p.m., people? I hate someone. Someone in charge of sanitation in my town.

SIGH. Gotta run.

Saturday, September 15, 2007

Thirteen-Month-Old Baby

Oh, and did I mention? Genevieve is thirteen months old today. I thought I just threw her first birthday party, like, yesterday. That was a month ago already?

The last month has been full of adventure and ambition for Genevieve. She's learned to walk, for real; she still crawls a fair amount of the time, too, but she's perfectly capable of jauntily toddling halfway across a room or down the hallway if she feels like it. She has continued her fearless climbing activities, resulting in numerous scrapes, bumps, and bruises as she scales a kid-sized camp chair and flings herself forward off it into the miniature bookcase or follows Julia onto the bathroom step stool only to step off the side by accident. These experiences do not stop her from attempting the next mini-Mount Everest, however; you could, I suppose, interpret that as inability to learn from past mistakes, but I prefer to view it as optimism and bravery.

In addition to furniture-climbing, Genevieve has been busy talking ("Dada! Dada! Dada!"), coloring (read: eating crayons), finally overcoming her fear of playground baby swings, throwing any and all sippy cups of cow's milk to the floor in repeated rejection of any milk that doesn't come from my body, reading while nursing, and mysteriously and systematically extracting herself from any blanket placed surreptitiously over her sleeping body in order to rearrange it into a large mound which she then throws her body on TOP of. Because THAT'S how blankets keep you warm, you know.

I used to say Genevieve is an easy-going, amiable baby, and she still is, in a way--at least to us, because easy-going is a relative term, and when you're used to babies who cry over the feel of particular blankets against their legs or wake up crying because you flushed the toilet too loudly ON A DIFFERENT FLOOR, well--easy-going and amiable can mean "any baby who is not thrown into complete discombobulation due to one detail of her normal routine being altered." But I think to most people, easy-going and amiable might imply something Genevieve perhaps is not. Because this baby? She's got attitude to spare. She growls and shrieks a lot. She glowers and shakes her head. She claws hair and pinches cheeks. She just might take your ball away or give you a little swat, if you're another baby--not because she's trying to be mean, but just because she's one, and she knows how to look out for her own interests in this world. She's a little bit used to fending for herself.

But to us, she is still amiable and sweet, despite the attitude and the stubbornness and the screeching. Because she's sassy--but she's also easy. And (usually) happy. And what more could you ask for, in a 13-month-old baby?


Hooray! Just recently discovered: Julia still has a couple of toddler-style mispronunciations in her verbal repertoire! My faves from this weekend: "vegetenary" (vegetarian). As in, "Yay, we're having vegetenary chili with cornbread crust for dinner tonight!" And "squig" (squid). As in, "A squig is a big silly sea creature! Look Mama, I'm being a squig!"

I just don't have the heart to correct her at this stage in the game. These little gems are like postscript gifts from a previous developmental era.

Relatedly, though it's not a mispronunciation, Julia recently described a preschool classmate as being "a girl with curls on the down of her hair." The best part was how she gestured toward her shoulders as she said this, to show us where the curls were. At the BOTTOM of her hair. (Sweet!)

Friday, September 14, 2007

Nighty-Night to You, Too

I still nurse Genevieve four times a day, in part because she absolutely refuses to drink cow's milk. Her nursings are calm and normal except for her bedtime one, when many nights she's some combination of very sleepy and sort of wound up in a silly way. On those nights she acts all crazy and full of shenanigans, turning her nursing session into some kind of baby-circus act. She whips her Silky around over her head like a lasso, and occasionally flips it to the floor. She throws it over her face. She pulls my hair and my earrings. She pokes me in the mouth with one finger. She makes questioning, grunty sounds at her teddy bear, being unable to actually talk since her mouth is otherwise engaged. She kicks her feet and lifts her top leg high in the air, watching her own toes out of the corner of her eye.

Tonight she spent her bedtime nursing alternately falling asleep for a second and then slapping me in the chest just as I drifted to sleep myself (six o'clock p.m. in the cushy rocking armchair in a dim room = my energy low for the day). RUDE.

Thursday, September 13, 2007

My Triple-Shot Life

Preschool is messing with the simultaneous afternoon nap. Genevieve has to wait until we get back from nursery school drop-off to go down for her morning nap, usually significantly later than it should be. Then she sleeps too late in the morning to be tired at the regular afternoon nap time, so she stays up while Julia goes down. You can see where all this is going, I'm sure. Just now, literally 30 seconds after Vivi finally stopped yelling and babbling in her crib and apparently succumbed to sleep, Julia started talking from her room. After one hour of nap. One hour?! What kind of an excuse for a post-preschool-morning nap is that?

I see down this road, people, and I don't like the view. It involves Genevieve giving up her morning nap right around the time Julia gives up her afternoon. Leaving me with no--repeat, NO--break during the day. Not even on preschool days when Julia is gone. Because Vivi will be up. Not even during the afternoon when Vivi is down. Because Julia will be up.

Yeah yeah, I know there are some moms of older children out there, children who are no longer of napping age, who are saying, Uh-huh, welcome to my world! And who are probably rolling their eyes and thinking, Didja think the babies were going to nap forever?!

No, but since I never got a baby who naps for hours at a time, never could say, "Well, she'll be down from 2 to 4, so I know I can get x, y, and z done then", never knew that if I could just get through the hectic morning I could get a good solid shot of quiet stillness to eat my lunch or make a phone call....well, I guess the idea of naps--any naps! even tiny naps! any naps at all!--being GONE FOREVER fills my heart with dread.

There is a reason I'm addicted to coffee, people, and that reason is that there is no time to rest. Soldier on!

Wednesday, September 12, 2007

Who's in Charge Here?

You know it's a tough day when it's 1:30 and you haven't yet finished your morning coffee. Don't even ask about breakfast or lunch. I just ate some yogurt with granola, raisins, and walnuts (at least it was healthy!) and I'm not sure which meal it was.

Genevieve woke up at 4:45 this morning and refused to go back to sleep. It wasn't her fault; we got frost last night and she sleeps in the Cold Room. Since she was only dressed in a light sleeper and WILL NOT KEEP ANY BLANKETS ON. EVER! NO MATTER WHAT YOU DO!, she froze into a little baby fish stick. Aren't we bad parents? But let me point out that last week--LATE last week, people--it was 90-some degrees here. This is so typical Minnesota I can't help but shake my head. Ninety degrees! Humid! Sweaty! Then, oops! no warning: here's your 35-degree overnight low! Freeze the kids in their beds! Feel like worst parent ever! Scramble around at 7 a.m. determined to find winter blankets, comforter covers, blanket sleepers, hats, and mittens! What are those, the babies' shorts and tank tops still in their dresser drawers? Where are the long pants and sweaters? I have no idea.

Of course then there's the fact that my sweet little child is lonely at preschool and doesn't want to go. (Yes, I called the teacher(s) today. Not sure how that went. Don't feel like writing about it.) And her three little best buddies--all too young to start preschool with her this year--are just starting their new fall ECFE class today, together. How sad is that? Trust me. Very sad. You know, you try really hard to be a good parent and make all the right decisions about what your child is ready for and what she really needs. And then the first week comes and kicks your you-know-what.

Oh and did I mention that the notoriously evil and incompetent Minnesota state Board of Psychology doesn't quite feel like renewing my professional license this term? Which could in effect ruin my career? Yeah, that's just what I need right now. (It's a long story, so ridiculous as to be hard to believe, and par for the course with this group of monkeys, so I'm not gonna bore you. Just take my word on this one.)


Tuesday, September 11, 2007

Break My Heart

This parenting thing is going to break my heart.

Turns out that second-day preschool jitters are actually worst than first-day. And despite seeming fairly happy when she came home, chattering about Brownie the gerbil and trying on the dress-up high-heeled shoes, Julia talked all day--right up until bedtime--about how she really, really doesn't want to "have any more times at preschool." No more preschool, Mama. Because I will be lonely. And nervous. And worried.

Tonight, she even started to cry.

When did she even learn what lonely means?

When I ask her who she played with at school, she says, "I just played by myself."

I don't need to hear how this is just the second day, and how it will take time, and how it's an adjustment, and how she'll make friends and get used to it and love school in the end. Or how all children have to experience obstacles and fear in order to learn how to live in the world and trust their inner strength. I'm a psychologist and I know all that. Bottom line: it doesn't make it any less sad.

I don't want to be the hyper overprotective mom who bothers the teachers. But is anyone, I don't know, checking on her during the morning? She's the quiet, easily-intimidated rule-follower over in the corner, sweetly reading books to herself and not causing any trouble; does anyone even notice her? I'm sure they do, but how would I know? Preschool pick-up is like Applebee's Carside-To-Go; your kid is walked to your vehicle and deposited in her carseat quick as can be, with a line of other moms behind you in the queue. You don't get much of a how-did-the-day-go report. Do they know this is the child they need to look full in the face and check for wet eyes? Take her hand and invite her over to the science table to play with Owen or Mia? Because if you let her, she'll just sit with her books the entire time, keeping herself from crying by doing what she does best. And then she'll come home and tell me in her little voice that she's lonely, Mama.

Monday, September 10, 2007

Kinda Like Reading the Newspaper with Your Morning Coffee

Lately Genevieve has started showing up for her nursing sessions with her Silky (security blankie), her teddy bear, AND one of her two bedtime board books clutched in her fierce little paws. And she will NOT relinquish any of the above-named items before she nurses, how dare you suggest such a thing, and if you try to wrest the bear (rather large for a nursing companion) or the book (um?) from her arms, she will glower at you and shake her head no and yell. So, OK. Whatever. But, really? It's a little CROWDED. OK, the blankie? Fine, normal, can live with that. The bear, too? Well...OK, MAYBE we can squish him (her?) in somewhere. But come on, a book? Are you kidding me? Where's that gonna go?

Sometimes she even tries, one-handedly, to prop the book up in front of her so she can, I don't know, read I guess, while she nurses.

Yeah, that doesn't really work. In case you had any doubt.

Saturday, September 08, 2007

Should We Have Sprung for the Babysitter?

Whew! The first week of preschool really takes it out of you. Last night both girls slept more than 12 hours, and we're on our third straight day of more-than-90-minute afternoon naps. I think we're all recovering.

Good friend Elise asked, in her comment to my first-day-of-preschool post, if I thought it would have been easier for Julia if she was used to being apart from Christopher and me. She says:

"I'm wondering - do you think it would have been any easier if you HAD ever left J with someone else before? Looking back, would you try to incorporate more of that if possible, or do you think it's purely a temperament thing, and nothing you could have done would have made a difference?"

Such a good question! I've been thinking about it all day. My first reflex was to think yes. That seems logical, no? And I had a moment of revelation, when I realized that all those children who skipped in happily and didn't even seem to notice when their parents left?--those kids are probably in daycare. Aha! (Yeah, my deductive reasoning skills have become a bit rusty since those graduate-school experimental-methods courses, oh so long ago.)

It would seem like a safe assumption, wouldn't it, that if Julia had ever had a regular babysitter, or gone for weekends at her grandparents' (but isn't she too little for that?), or gone to daycare, that she would be familiar with the circumstances of being without Mama or Daddy, of being somewhere else with other people taking care of her, and secure in the knowledge--through prior experience--that Mama (or Daddy) will always come back to get her. I am sure that this is partly true. After all, think of this: as my friend Connie said the other day about her own girls as well as mine, "There are probably no other children we know who get as much attention from the same two people every day--their parents, and literally no one else." She's right. Of COURSE our girls cry when we leave the building, or the room. They've pretty much never been alone with any other adults in their whole lives, besides their mama or daddy. They're with us every second of every day.

But really? It's not that simple. Because then I recall that it took Julia a year of regular playgroup before she'd spontaneously speak to the other mamas. And that it took a year and a half of weekly ECFE baby/toddler class before she skipped eagerly into the classroom upon arrival rather than hanging back to hold my hand. Transitions and new experiences are so challenging to Julia's inborn wary personality that I think the only "being left" experience that would have made the first day of preschool less scary would have been to have been in full-time daycare. Because unless it was every single day, it wouldn't have been enough exposure for Julia to feel comfortable with the "being left" scenario. And you all know that she never, ever would have been put in full-time daycare. So, I doubt the occasional babysitter would have made much of a difference, although--who knows?

The one thing I'm so thankful for--and I've been thinking over and over about this since Thursday morning--is that Julia did ECFE. Because of 1-1/2 years of weekly ECFE classes--even just 2 hours once a week with a parent along--she was already familiar with so many characteristics of early-childhood-school "culture": the morning greeting song (which she was delighted to discover was the same song at nursery school as she learned in her ECFE classes), the miniature chairs and tables, lining up to wash hands for snack, the time-to-pick-up song, circle time. Think how unnerving it would be to walk into a bright, busy classroom and encounter all these rituals and protocols for the very first time, having been only at home with Mama every day since babyhood. Talk about a whole different ballgame! At least it wasn't completely foreign. Thank you, ECFE, for making some aspects of nursery school familiar, and associated with fun, and good feelings. I think the ECFE experience put Julia on a slightly more even playing field with all those daycare kids than if she'd never been.

Now, aren't you glad you asked?

Thursday, September 06, 2007

(Life) Lessons

I figured out how to get a two-hour nap out of my oldest child. Send her to preschool.

I know what you really want to know. Did she cry? Well, yes, a little. I don't really know how much, or how long, because I was ushered out by the preschool director, who is also Julia's head teacher. But I think she did OK, because when I picked her up before lunch, she was happy to see Genevieve and me but did not immediately burst into tears as one might expect if she had been struggling to be brave for 2-1/2 hours. She said she read a lot of books, which is just what she does when she's too shy and scared to talk to anyone, but she also spoke about Play-Doh and seashells and the morning greeting song. And she got not only crackers at snack, but juice. Juice, people. We do not drink juice in our house. I don't think she's ever even tasted juice before today. So, you know, that was a high point.

She said the children and teachers were nice, so I'm assuming someone talked to her, played with her, paid attention to her rather than letting her sit by herself in the reading corner for the entire free play period.

She said, "I was a little sad when you left, Mama." And once, "I was pretty sad when you left." And several times, "But I'll be lonely AGAIN, the next time I go back to preschool!" And, "But I don't WANT to go back to preschool and be sad again, Mama!" I told her she would be less sad every time, and that she will get to know her new friends and teachers better each week, so that she won't be lonely when she goes. She looked at me skeptically, but didn't argue.

And what about me, did I cry? I actually didn't, believe it or not, although if I had stayed a moment longer, I probably would have. Those wise head teachers, they know.

And what did I do when I got home and put the baby to bed for her much-delayed morning nap? Well, I very consciously and purposely brewed myself a cup of coffee, sat down, and checked my e-mail and all my favorite blogs in leisure. I didn't do the dishes or clean the catbox or start the laundry. I will, other days. But I figured on this very first day of semi-, pseudo-, slightest shred of tiny taste of freedom, I deserved a little break.

So, Julia learned that she can be sad but still be OK, and that Mama always comes back. Genevieve learned that she misses "Boo-wa" when she's gone. I learned that I can walk away from my first baby as her chin trembles, trusting that an adult I don't yet know will make her feel better--something I will no doubt do, in one form or another, many, many times over the next 15 or 20 years.

And, did you know? I bought the cute, dainty shoes, and I wore them to preschool, and that was a lesson too: that it's OK to do something nice for yourself, spiff yourself up a little bit, even if money's tight and you spend your days taking care of wee ones who drool and step on you.

Happy back-to-school, everyone. It might be a little scary, but be brave.

Wednesday, September 05, 2007


Yesterday I took Julia to preschool orientation at her little nursery school a mile from our house. She was super excited to go, but got pretty quiet once we arrived and were met by all the teachers, aides, and volunteers, and saw all the other unfamiliar children and parents. She received her very own nursery school tote bag, we bought a nursery school t-shirt, and were directed to her locker and her "main room." Each child has a homeroom, so to speak, with 10 or 11 classmates, but there are three rooms in all that are interconnected and open to one another. Each day after morning greeting, the children and teachers will be together for open play and other activities among all the rooms. Still, it was a lot of take in at once, and with at least one parent accompanying every child, it was extremely crowded and noisy.

Julia did okay, although when it was time for the parents to go to a meeting down the hall while the children stayed in the classrooms to play, her little chin trembled. Thus, I was unable to absorb anything that was said during the parent meeting. What was that about the snack schedule? The snow day policy? The volunteer committees? Sorry, didn't hear you; I was too busy worrying about my sweet little timid angel mouse down the hall all by herself in a room full of wild things.

When I went back to retrieve Julia to go home, she told me she had sat and read books by herself while I was gone. In the second telling, which I choose to believe because it prevents my heart from breaking, the story went that Miss Kathy sat and read books to her, instead.

We tried out the bathroom, where she was unable to reach or do anything by herself and where I had an internal panic attack because the head teacher had just told me that, while the teachers of course will help in the bathroom if asked, they do not automatically accompany a child to the potty if she needs to go. (Julia's potty trained, but she generally needs help with the mechanics of several of the steps, including things like reaching the toilet paper and getting up and down off even a child-sized toilet).

When some friends came over later in the day to play and Julia was asked how preschool went, she replied cheerfully, "Good! Very good!" But she also repeated a few times, "I felt a little nervous when the mamas left the room." Later on, when she asked me, "Mama, why did I feel a little bit nervous?", I asked her what she thought. She said haltingly, trying to find the right words to explain what she meant, "Because I didn't know"

Is your heart broken yet? Oops, mine is. I told her everyone else probably felt the same way, and she can go up to another child and say, "Hi! My name is Julia. What's your name?" That's how you meet your kids.

This morning Julia said, "I don't want to be left all by myself at preschool tomorrow." It's not a surprise. She's never been left anywhere. Ever. Who can blame her now? I am steeling myself for a teary scene. But as we walk away to go home, Vivi and I are going to be crying on the inside, too.

Tuesday, September 04, 2007

Holiday Hangover

Remember before you had kids, when holidays were quiet and relaxing and involved nothing more taxing than going to the movies?

Yesterday before 11 a.m., Genevieve had already refused to take her morning nap and Julia had unleashed two epic tantrums (the second one so bad that I told her she was going down for nap at twelve noon--an hour early--and that she wasn't allowed to get out of bed before two even if she woke up).

There was one moment of humor during the morning however, as the four of us were walking by a park near the college:

[dog barking]
Julia: Antelope!
[dog barking]
Julia: Antelope!
Me: Why are you saying, 'antelope'?
Julia: I have no idea why. [pause] I thought it was an antelope.


Because of all that barking that antelope do, you mean? And because of all the antelope that live in southern Minnesota?

Oh, by the way. Later on Genevieve refused to take most of her AFTERNOON nap, too. And Julia threw a third tantrum. The words "poke my own eye out with a stick" may have been uttered. Also perhaps "surely there must be some leftover prescription narcotics from that C-section one year ago." And possibly "WHY in God's name do we not live near any of the GRANDPARENTS?!"

So--what did you do on YOUR holiday? If you say went to the movies, I may be forced to stop speaking to you.