Wednesday, December 30, 2009

2009 Took a Village

At this end of the calendar year, I can't help but be a little reflective about the past 12 months. 2009 was a fantastic year in some respects (the book! THE BOOK! Also kindergarten, the CSA farm, and did I mention the book?), but it had its major low points as well (public social-media marital bickering, crushing insomnia, the endless preschool-or-no-preschool question, and SLEEPING ON THE FLOOR IN THE HALLWAY OUTSIDE THE NURSERY, oh God, the horror).

There were a lot of times I thought I might just crumble into a weepy pile of mothering housewifely nerves, save for the friendship and love of some pretty amazing people. And I just want to formally thank them all for helping me get through 2009 with my sanity (mostly) intact and my pulse (relatively) normal. Some are fellow moms I talk to nearly every day and who help me through the nitty-gritty of daily parenting, some are townie friends I rarely see in real life but who unfailingly stand behind me in everything I do and leave supportive comments and blogging-love for me via the Internet on a regular basis. One is a long-ago friend who tracked me down after 25 years, looked me up, and for some reason cared enough to read me, write me, and send me care packages through the mail; one is an Internet friend-of-a-friend who I have never even met in real life but who has sent me late-night and early-morning Facebook messages saying things like, "You are right" and "You can do it" and "I have felt that exact same way" at times when I could have cried with gratitude for such words. Sometimes I actually did. And, amazingly, some of the biggest and best supporters in my SAHM life are women who have never been mothers and yet feel like--surely are--friends to the end.

For fear of leaving someone out and unwittingly hurting feelings, I'm not going to name names; but if you think I might be talking to you, well--I am. I can't imagine what I've ever done to deserve any of you, but I thank you for being there for me. In the notorious words of Miss Kelly Clarkson--and the cast of "Glee": my life would suck without you.


Moms Know Christmas

Whew! Throwing Christmas is tiring. Do you know what I mean by that, "throwing Christmas"? It's like throwing a party, only it extends from Thanksgiving through New Year's. It's all the stuff moms are usually--or often--in charge of: planning, shopping for, and cooking the holiday dinners; baking the cookies and other holiday treats; planning, buying, wrapping, and shipping the gifts; decorating the house and the tree; hanging the stockings; ordering, writing, signing, addressing, and mailing the cards; planning and procuring the children's holiday/church outfits and shoes; organizing various fun holiday family activities (holiday carol concerts, ice skating, sledding, visits to Santa, etc.); hosting guests for parties, dinners, and/or overnight stays.

The list goes on and on, but--honest!--I'm not complaining. Generally speaking, I love the holidays, and I'm usually glad to put in the time and work to make them memorable.

Well, OK, true: it's been a little hit or miss since the babies came along. When Julia was six months old, I basically sat at my parents' house and nursed. When she was a year and a half, we had no Christmas; I packed up an entire house with her at my knees the whole time, listened to my sister-in-law (who does not read this blog) throw an insane and hours-long tantrum about not getting enough attention during our move (and yes, I do still hold a grudge), and moved my family two days after Christmas while four weeks pregnant with Genevieve. (It was the Worst Christmas Ever, although finding out on Christmas Day that I was pregnant with Genevieve was certainly a welcome comfort.)

The following Christmas, Genevieve was four months old, and I spend the holiday half-assedly (sorry, Mom and Dad! cringe. I was so tired!) throwing a 40th-anniversary party for my parents and camping out at their house for TEN DAYS with a toddler and a newborn, spending most of my time nursing. Again.

The year Julia was three and Genevieve one, I admittedly was still very, very tired, and I strove to make Christmas as small and simple as possible while not quite skipping it completely.

So there was all that.

But! Last year and this year have been great! I've thrown great Christmases! I've baked and decorated and sung carols and hung stockings and lit candles and driven around gazing at Christmas lights with my daughters. I've done holiday kid crafts and attended family parties. I've cooked big dinners. It's been fun. I've loved every minute.

But seriously, it's tiring. And I don't know about you, but I react to tiredness by skipping planned evening exercise, watching cable TV, and eating Cheetos. Or cheesecake. Or fudge. Perhaps all three. Then January comes and I get sick of the lethargy and sugar, and embrace things like five-mile winter runs and diets and writing projects. It all evens out in the end.

For now, though, I'm resting. And eating. Resting and eating. See you in January.

Monday, December 28, 2009

The Stains Came Out, By the Way.

We've been busy since the last time you heard from me, which is why I haven't really been writing. Would you like details? Or, at the very least, a short summary?

Well, let me tell you.

First, it snowed. A lot.


My girls were super-cute all dressed up for the Family Vespers service at our friends' church on Christmas Eve. (I know you've seen this before. But they're just so cute. And no one's crying!)


We ate hors-d'oeuvres for dinner on Christmas Eve. Then I spilled a glass of red wine on myself, including my white sweater, my jersey wrap dress, and the couch, and spent the next half-hour grappling with a laundry detergent-hydrogen peroxide mixture and several paper towels. Sigh. Eye roll. Sigh.


Everyone liked their presents.


Especially me, because Julia gave me a paper heart with "I love you, Mama" written on it and colored pink, cut out and packaged in a toy basket, covered with a dolly blanket as wrapping paper.


Of course we've been doing a lot of sledding and playing in the snow.


And enjoying wintry views like these.





Not pictured: excessive cheesecake and cookie consumption; multiple bedtime tantrums; beloved friends who came for Christmas dinner; me accidentally going down the steep and super-icy sledding hill BACKWARD when my sled did a 180, while my husband fell over laughing and I screamed at the top of my lungs; giant snowman in our backyard; me lying around reading magazines for an entire day after risking my life running five miles on glare ice and deciding that lethargy is underrated.

Hope your Christmas was as wonderful as ours, and also that you are still in the midst of holiday fun, because remember: it's not over until January 2. If then.

Friday, December 25, 2009

For Grandparents, on Christmas

Julia (5) and Genevieve (3), Christmas 2009

I hope I never forget the sounds of their voices in bed last night--Genevieve so excited she was literally squealing with glee, "Santa coming TONIGHT!"--and how sweet and innocent they are when they are this little and they truly believe.

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Merry Christmas 2009

Here's hoping that all of your Christmas wishes come true, whether they involve gingerbread:


or wearing your Halloween costume in December:


Love to each and every one of my faithful readers. Merry Christmas!

Monday, December 21, 2009

Holiday Hustle and Bustle


I know I'm supposed to write here, but in all honesty I don't have that much to say. I mean, there's tons to say, I guess--last week was Julia's kindergarten "Winter Sing" at elementary school, which was indescribably sweet; we're at the beginning of Christmas vacation and are busy with sledding and snow forts and grocery shopping for Christmas dinner and baking shortbread cookies shaped like stars; Julia's being tested for hypothyroidism, which would explain a million things about her and would be good in that way but it is always sad to see one's child diagnosed with a chronic medical condition (and we've had several in our family already); Genevieve and her scrappy, hilarious, surly, ill-sleeping self---well, the list goes on and on.

But other than the occasional health/wellness column I'm producing for our town's newspaper, I'm not really feeling the writing bug these days. (Lori, I'm also not doing a thing with the book proposal, by the way. But after the holidays I plan to.) I think I'm too preoccupied with the good (Christmas fun!) and the bad (money concerns!) to have any mental energy left for writing. I hope you'll forgive me for that, and stick with me. For the most part, the girls and I are having a ton of fun--baking ever more Christmas cookies to a holiday music soundtrack, doing holiday arts and crafts and inviting little friends over to play, going to holiday playdates and teas and family parties--so don't worry about us. I'm sure I'll have something to say eventually.

Thursday, December 17, 2009

Silent Night

So this morning while listening to a downloaded (not by me) mix of CD music, I suddenly realized that the version of "Silent Night" the girls and I have been listening to obsessively this week is by Sarah MacLachlan, not Shawn Colvin as I told you earlier. Which is kind of funny because, although I love both singers, I do know their distinctive voices. Sorry to have steered you wrong. Have a listen. GORGEOUS.

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Crankypants


Genevieve totally needed these pants when she was a baby. Too bad I didn't know about them then, and also that they are CRAZY EXPENSIVE SERIOUSLY WHO HAS THIS KIND OF MONEY? Also too bad that they don't come in size 3T, because she still needs these pants most of the time.

Oh, wait a minute. Anonymous? I STILL LOVE HER EVEN THOUGH SHE'S A SURLY BIRD 90% OF THE TIME AND ANY NORMAL PERSON WOULD HAVE TAKEN TO DRINK ABOUT 2-1/2 YEARS AGO. Did you get that? I can make jokes at my toddler's expense, and it can still be in a loving, good-natured way, and I can even snuggle and kiss her as I think and write these things. I actually love her! And she knows it! And yet, I make jokes like this. Mind-boggling, isn't it?! But true.

In other news, I found out today that my husband's second job is ending again this month, until next summer. Surely you remember last winter, when I stayed awake most nights brainstorming ways to save on cleaning supplies and Kleenex? Also that one month when I couldn't afford to buy milk, Genevieve's prescription refills, AND school snack during the same week? That was fun. Yes, so it seems we'll be reliving that little adventure again during the first half of 2010! FANTASTIC. I can hardly wait to not be able to afford my family's basic living expenses, and to beg my daughters' grandparents for a check to cover milk and medicine! (It was especially interesting that one time one of them refused.)

Despite all this, the girls and I are having Christmasy fun, and trying to focus on the festive tasks at hand. Today we made cookies decorated with red and green sugar, and now my kitchen is covered in sprinkles.


It's totally worth the mess. We've also been chain-listening to Shawn Colvin's version of "Silent Night" (you'd have to be dead inside not to love it), excitedly awaiting Julia's kindergarten class's "Winter Sing" on Thursday morning, and planning scads of playdates and sledding afternoons for Christmas vacation. I can hardly wait. January--and empty pockets--will come soon enough.

Sunday, December 13, 2009

Note to Anonymous

To the anonymous commenter who left the remark (which I chose to disallow) basically calling me a bad parent for my post below: You obviously neither understand my sense of humor nor do you seem to have the sensibility required to read a "mommy-blog," so you probably should not visit here again. You are not likely to ever get one of your comments published here, and you clearly don't understand what it's like to parent a tantrummy three-year-old. Anyone who knows me knows that I work really hard every single day to be a good parent to two extremely high-maintenance (each in her own way) daughters, including one exceedingly willful and surly toddler, and that if I didn't joke about it now and then, I'd probably be unable to perform the job of all-day, full-time, no-outside-help, stay-at-home mom. I've got many deficits as a mama, but a lack of love and compassion is not one of them. I do my very best, which--because your mean-spirited comment says a lot about you--I can only assume is a heck of a lot better than yours.

Anyone who reacts with self-righteous criticism to a harried mom's use of sarcasm and humor to manage the stress and strain of full-time mothering MAKES ME SICK. So therefore? You can just go ahead and bite me.

She Spent Yesterday Eating Pancakes and Candy Canes, How Hard Can it Really Be?

She's happy in this picture but those moments are rare.


Random quote during yet another morning festival of tears at our house:

Genevieve: I CRYING BECAUSE IT'S HARD TO BE THREE!

Friday, December 11, 2009

Does Santa Deliver Sleep Medication?

I'm off this morning to help Julia's class of kindergartners make gingerbread houses. You can say a prayer for me if you like. What do you get when you mix 22 five-year-olds with gingerbread walls, icing, and copious amounts of candy decorations? I'll let you know when I find out. I'm hoping the answer isn't "Behavior that would give Santa pause."

Speaking of behavior that would give Santa pause, we haven't talked about Genevieve and sleep for quite a long time. I suppose maybe you were assuming that's because the issue is all wrapped up. Oh, but you'd be so wrong! Don't worry, I'm not going to bore you now with stories of needed naps, bedtime tantrums, and the strange toddler math involving too little sleep and that weird wired state that keeps them up until all hours even though they're exhausted. That's always nice.
Before you kindly steer me toward all the sleep books and sleep experts and sleep studies, please know that I have all that stuff practically memorized. Believe me on this one. I do know what I'm supposed to do with my toddler regarding sleep. She just refuses to comply even when I follow all the rules.

Well then! In other news, my folks arrive today for a mid-holidays visit, which shall include a preschool pancake breakfast with Santa, our town's youth choirs' Christmas concert, a drive around town to see all the lights, and no doubt a good deal of treat-eating, sledding, and cocoa-drinking. Because it is Christmas, after all.

But seriously? Wish me luck with the kindergartners and the gingerbread houses. Gulp.

Thursday, December 10, 2009

Winter Layer

We made the fudge! Oh Lordy, did we ever make the fudge. Tell me people, what made me think that making fudge with a three-year-old and a five-year-old was a good idea? I won't go into detail, other than to say this: CHOCOLATE EVERYWHERE.






Perhaps it's fudge-related, but lately I'm noticing a stubborn little layer of extra poundage insulating my midsection. If by "midsection" you mean "everywhere but my collarbone." True, my town is now blanketed in snow and gift-wrapped in sub-zero windchills, but I'm not a hibernating grizzly; I don't need extra fat stores to stay warm.

In truth, I've gained seven pounds in the past year or so, and I've been analyzing possible explanations for this annoyance. Am I snacking too much? Well, I snack a lot, and yes, I have become accustomed to a humming-furnace metabolism in recent years, the kind that burns it all off, but I'm not eating any more now than I was a year ago. Exercising a lot less? No. Sure, I skip a fair number of workouts, but I always have, and in between those missed sessions I tend to make up for lost time by doing things like going for four-mile runs in shin-deep snow and completing the entire 30 Day Shred just to say I can. Is it because I'm almost forty? Is it just aging, plain and simple? Well, while this could very possibly be true, it's so depressing that I reject it as an explanation.

Instead, I've decided that my nuisance weight gain is because I am now firmly settled into the stage of mothering life wherein no one is being carried, pretty much ever, in my arms anymore. My daughters are three and five; they walk on their own two feet, and climb the stairs by themselves. For years there, I was carrying, lifting, or pushing a child pretty much constantly all day long, but now? No more constant 25-lb. weight on my hip. No more built-in continual resistance training. No more lifting, hoisting, carrying, toting. Now that my daughters are no longer babies, I must be missing out on hundreds of burned calories every day, people. Maybe thousands. Not to mention the fact that my all-day mothering job is markedly more sedentary in general than it was a year or more ago. I used to sit down only during stories and naptime; now it's possible to sit down at all the other times, too. Like during lunch, for example. When getting ready to go outside, I can say things like, "Run upstairs and grab yourself a pair of socks" or "You can get it yourself; your legs work just as well as mine," and then remain stationary while their bodies burn the calories, not mine.

Bummer. Before becoming a mom, I always assumed that pregnancy and new motherhood would fatten my figure; instead, it was the early years that burned everything off and kept me thin. Who knew that it would be preschoolerhood and beyond that would mark the biggest change?

Or maybe it's just getting old.

But if you think I'm giving up eggnog and fudge this holiday season, you're crazy. After all, I have the whole rest of my girls' self-ambulatory childhoods to lose the seven pounds, right? And don't go thinking I'm going to have another baby just to get my former metabolism back. I'm not that desperate to be thin.

Wednesday, December 09, 2009

First Snowstorm

Yesterday morning it started to snow. The predicted storm was on its way. By late afternoon, there was more than enough on the ground to go out and play in it, so the girls and I bundled up and headed out into the backyard for an hour. It was fairly warm (20 degrees or so), and the snow was fluffy and powdery, so we had a good time tromping around, making snow angels, and digging with sand shovels. Then we came inside so I could cook dinner. The girls busied themselves hiding in the cupboards. Yes, I do find it hilarious that my 5-1/2 year old can fit in the kitchen cupboard.




After dinner, I decided to be an insane person and go for my usual Tuesday run. In the snowstorm. Why not? It was warm (to a Minnesotan), the neighborhood was glowing white, and everything looked beautiful outside, all hushed and lit up with Christmas lights. Of course it was also dark, windy, and THE MIDDLE OF A SNOWSTORM.

It took me nearly an hour to run four miles, and it was totally outrageous and fun, except for when I turned against the north wind and was pelted in the face by icy snowflakes and actually said "Ow, my face hurts" out loud (to no one). But mostly it was great in a crazy sort of way. I live in a quiet, safe neighborhood bordering the rural countryside, so running at night--and in the snow--is often peaceful and gorgeous. I will say that I got a few strange looks though, and I'm sure my neighbors thought I was insane.

Last evening, when the girls were tucked in bed and the wind and snow were whipping in a frenzy outside and the snowplows started out and the school cancellations began, I sat on the sofa drinking hot tea and eating popcorn, recovering from my ridiculous workout, and noticed that the furnace had not clicked on in awhile. Hmmm. It sure felt cold in the house of all sudden. And that is how we ended up calling the furnace-repair company's 24-hour emergency line at 9 p.m. during the first snowstorm of the season.

Luckily, it was a quick fix, and thanks to our fireplace and an upstairs space heater, the girls didn't even wake up from the chill. We went to bed late, assured of no kindergarten for Julia today, and woke up to this:


So what are we doing today? Shoveling out our back door (Christopher), making Christmas cards, listening to Christmas music, braving the sub-zero windchill to test the snowed-in backyard, drinking hot cocoa, and--yes!--making fudge. Poor Daddy has to go to the office (albeit two hours late), but we'll save him a piece of fudge or two.

Tuesday, December 08, 2009

Unfortunate Update

I just dropped Genevieve off at nursery school (less than an hour after I wrote the post below). Genevieve burst into tears and sobbed her little heart out, even though her class gets to make gingerbread men, paint gingerbread-man-shaped paper, and play outside in the snow today. I guess none of that matters if Mama isn't with you.

Let it Snow, Let it Snow, Let it Snow



We're getting ready for a major snowstorm where I live, the first storm of the winter and the first real snow of the season (it snowed last week, but didn't even cover the grass). The children are thrilled and excited. Because the storm is supposed to span two days and involve 6-12 inches of snow, yesterday morning Genevieve and I ran out to the store to stock up on the basic necessities. You know: ingredients to make fudge.

In other news, as soon as I wrote that post last week about Genevieve's separation anxiety, she stopped crying about going to school. To be clear, she's not exactly bounding excitedly into her nursery school classroom like she did in September, and she's utilizing the coping strategy of bringing a teddy bear along each time (a practice tolerated by her teachers but technically against policy; you can imagine why the staff might want to discourage 20 children from all bringing their "loveys" to school each day), but the tears have stopped, and Genevieve seems fairly satisfied about going. Who knows? In another week it may be different again, but for now I'm thankful for the respite from preschool angst. On Friday, though, I'm leaving her with a friend for an hour so I can go help Julia's kindergarten class make gingerbread houses--an endeavor I imagine will be either unbearably cute or frighteningly ambitious (perhaps both)--and Genevieve's already lobbying hard for that entire plan to be scrapped. I'll let you know how it goes.

In the meantime, I hope you're enjoying your own winter wonderland--whether it involves a major snowstorm, and homemade fudge, or not.

Saturday, December 05, 2009

Tightening Our Belts

It's been a tough year, financially speaking, for most Americans, and our family is no exception. Thankfully, Christopher is employed and we haven't faced home loss or any other monumental financial tragedy, but money's tight to say the least, especially making do on one income. We always keep Christmas small, but this holiday season, our family is tightening its belt even further, in the following ways:
  • We're using our artificial tree again, despite the fact that we'd much prefer a live tree. You can't argue with saving anywhere from $20-50 by using the tree we already have in a box in the garage.
  • We're cutting our holiday-card list down by 1/3 or more, sending mainly to relatives and long-lost friends who aren't blog-readers or Facebook friends and who therefore aren't in touch with us during the year. (Everyone else: please know this is no reflection on how much we love you, but merely a reflection on our checking account balance.)
  • We're not giving baked goods and treats to all our neighbors, co-workers, and playgroup friends this year. I love doing this--I really do--but the grocery budget doesn't lie. Ingredients are expensive.
  • We're--as always--limiting present-buying, recycling gifts when we can, and focusing more on holiday experiences than the number of objects under the tree. The other evening we enjoyed our town's quaint annual "Winter Walk," and I plan to take the girls ice-skating and sledding this month. We'll also be attending a preschool-benefit "Pancake Breakfast with Santa" and our town's youth choirs' Christmas concert next weekend with visiting grandparents. And, of course, there are always the drives around the neighborhood after dark to see the Christmas lights, walks in the falling snow, and singing carols at home. Experiences make better memories than toys, anyway, and they're often free.
  • I'm shamelessly using some of the grandparents' gift/toy money to pay for my daughters' little-kid gymnastics classes this winter. It's the one activity they do besides school, it gives them exercise when we can't get outside to play, and it challenges them in important ways. It's also hard to afford on our household income alone. Thanks, grandmas and grandpas! I promise you this experience is just as, if not more, enjoyable and important for your granddaughters than another toy.
So what about all of you? Are any of you tightening your belts this holiday season? If so, in what ways? Does it disappoint you, or are you taking it in stride?

Friday, December 04, 2009

At Least I'm No Longer Sleeping on the Floor in the Hallway Outside Her Door, People.

The other day Christopher tried--once again--to switch Genevieve's crib over into a toddler bed. The child IS 39 months old, after all. Of course, come bedtime, she cried for her "cwib," and it was back to babyhood. This was attempt #4 at the Crib-to-Toddler-Bed Transition. Of course, since Genevieve has not been a good sleeper since was one year old (see: the months of April 2008 to September 2009. Especially autumn 2008 with its 5-10 night-wakings per overnight period), it's totally not worth it to argue this point and insist on having Genevieve give up her crib. What do we care? She still wears a diaper at night and is not yet able to wake up to use the bathroom, so she doesn't need to be able to get out of bed on her own. Still, I do wonder if she's setting some kind of record for Oldest Child Still Sleeping in a Crib. It strikes me as odd, sweet, and hilarious all at the same time.

Genevieve told me once that she's going to sleep in a crib until she's "a gwowm-up," but then later she amended it to age five, and then age four. She's not coming down any further, however. Negotiations have hit a stalemate. She's holding firm.

Thursday, December 03, 2009

Thank Goodness for Sisters

During a lunchtime tantrum yesterday:

Me: Genevieve, Santa is paying attention to how you are acting right now.*

Genevieve (sobbing and wailing): He can't hear me!!!!

Me: YES HE CAN. And he's thinking about whether to fill your stocking on Christmas.**

Genevieve: WWWAAAAAAAHHHHH! (scream, wail, sob, sob.)

Julia: Genevieve, even if Santa doesn't put anything in your stocking on Christmas, I will put something in it for you. I will make you a paper heart.

Genevieve (sniffling, hiccuping, wailing): Thank you, Juliaaaaa!

Me: Sigh.

*Yes, I do pull out the Santa card. Shameless, I know.
**Yes, yes, I know, cruel. But sometimes necessary.

Tuesday, December 01, 2009

Do A Few Projects...

Yesterday after nap Julia was playing house with her doll, a grade-school-aged stuffed cloth doll with various kid outfits and accessories. As she changed the doll's clothes, she said to me nonchalantly, "My daughter is five. She goes to kindergarten. I work half-days, you know? And on Wednesdays I come home early!" (Wednesdays are Julia's real-life "early-release days," the day of the week when all the school-kids in our town get out a half-hour early so the teachers can do professional training.)

"That sounds perfect!" I told her. "You're lucky. I know an awful lot of moms who would love to find a job like that."

"Yeah," Julia said contentedly. She busied herself with her doll for a few minutes and then paused, glancing over at me conversationally and tipping her palms upward. "I just...go to work in the morning..." And here her voice took on a casual, singsong tone: "You know, do a few projects...have a snack...and then I leave!" She sighed and smiled, and got busy preparing her doll's toys and snacks.

I was left thinking, Now there's a job I could get behind. Doesn't it sound perfect? Go in, do a few projects--this part sounds so easy and enjoyable, doesn't it? As if the projects involve glitter and glue? or a little writing project with pencil and lined paper?--have a tasty snack, and go home by lunch, even earlier on Wednesdays? Ample time to balance work and family? With PAY?

Awesome. Save me a spot at that job, will you? In about fall 2011?

Monday, November 30, 2009

Separation Anxiety (Or: Yet Another Reason for Mama to Feel Guilty)

September, preschool orientation

Genevieve is going through some major separation anxiety. Last night she begged me not to go running while Daddy put her to bed. The other weekend Christopher had to stay with her at a close friend's birthday party (I was doing the Thanksgiving grocery shopping), even though it was a drop-off party and Julia was there too and she's known this family her whole life and sees them multiple times per week. But mostly, Genevieve cries about going to preschool.

Yes, even though for the entire months of September and October--to my great joy and relief--Genevieve ran happily into her nursery school classroom with a grin and a backward wave, now for some mysterious reason she has decided she does not like being there. Or, rather, about four weeks ago she decided this, and she has been crying about it ever since. There is no discernible explanation. No one is being mean to her. Her teachers are skilled and sweet. She has good buddies in her class. Nothing has changed at home or in her routine. When asked--prompted, probed, begged for a reason--she says things like, "I miss you, Mama," or "It's too long," or "I just want to be with you." I have talked with her teacher, at parent-teacher conferences earlier this fall, and we have yet to figure it out or solve it.

You have no idea how awful this feels. Or maybe you do, if you're a mom who's gone through it. I know Genevieve stops crying once I leave (the teachers tell me), but I think she's probably pretty sad most of the time she's there, even if the tears abate. I feel heartless leaving her at school when each morning she says, "I don't want to go to weschool." It's horrifying to hug her goodbye and watch her toddler face crumple--again! Every time! And, worst of all, I wouldn't have had to send her this year at all. She's a super-young three; I debated and debated whether to do nursery school this fall or wait a year. She could have easily spent another year home with me full-time. But part of me also knew how well she knew this school from bringing Julia there the past two years, and how she told me all summer she wanted to go, and how her best friends would be there, and how Genevieve is a really hard child to parent (though her teachers can't believe it, since she's utterly silent and compliant at school) and it would likely be good for my sanity to get a short break from her each week given the fact that I don't have any alternative resources for getting a break from her the other 163 hours of the week. I was THRILLED when the first two months of school went so great. It was unbelievable! There wasn't even a second of hesitation on her part, not a moment of fear or sadness from day one. She was ready and happy to go. Until about a month ago.

And here's the thing: there's nothing I can do to change things. I can't withdraw her; I am contractually obligated to pay tuition through the year, because my tuition pays the teachers' salaries. We are committed through May. I don't have the option of taking her out. Also, I have a really hard time believing that a few hours a week of away-from-Mama socialization and care isn't a good thing for a baby who's never been left anywhere. I mean, she's with me the other trillion hours out of the week; it's only five hours she's at this small, play-based nursery school. Think of all the children who are in daycare eight or nine hours per day from infancy on, or even how many children have babysitters at their homes for a few hours per week so Mom and Dad can have date night or Mom can run errands or do some part-time work. Three years old doesn't seem all that unreasonable an age to spend a few hours a week away from a parent.

Last night I had a terrible nightmare about Genevieve. She was kidnapped, and terrible things happened to her before she was returned to us. It was definitely the worst dream I have ever had in my life; far worse than anything I might have dreamed about my own safety before I became a mom. I know it's because my brain is preoccupied with concerns about her well-being, her fear of being apart from me even for a short time--even for a 40-minute run!

But the year has to go on; even if she cries every single day and it never stops, preschool continues, the rest of this year and then next year when she's four. I could take her out of preschool this year, but I'd owe $100 a month until May, for care she would no longer be getting. Who can afford that?

I made the decision to send her to school with the best information and knowledge I had at the time, and it was good information in the beginning. I had no way to know that by November Genevieve would be in tears about school; you should have seen her pride and excitement every day back then, when she'd bound into school! You would never have guessed she'd start to cry about it later.

As if I need anything more keeping me awake at night.

Friday, November 27, 2009

Blessings

Conversation at Thanksgiving dinner:

Me: You know, the most important thing about this day is thinking about the things you're most thankful for in life. I'm thankful for all of you, and that we're healthy, and that Daddy has a job that takes care of us and buys our home and clothes and food. What are you most thankful for?

Julia: My birthday.

Me: .....OK, that's nice. Can you think of anything else you might be thankful for?

Julia: Myself.

Me, in my head: What about THE MOTHER WHO WENT THROUGH 60 HOURS OF BACK LABOR TO GIVE BIRTH TO YOU, AND TOLERATES YOUR INSANE SOCK-CHANGING ROUTINES EACH AND EVERY DAY?! Good Lord in heaven, can we get any thankfulness for THAT?!

Ahem. I'm thankful my mysterious tailbone pain went away. Also that Julia's stomach bug only lasted a day and a half, and that though I was convinced I was catching it earlier today, I seem to be fine after all.

I'm also thankful that even slight hints of having caught your child's stomach bug give you free rein to skip any previously planned workouts for this evening and instead lie on the sofa watching cable TV while sipping ginger tea and eating pumpkin cheesecake pie. Because pie is restorative, right?

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Favors, Blessings, and Pains in the...

So, Julia has a minor stomach bug. Other than a mild cold, she has not really been sick all autumn, and, sadly, this little virus chose to strike the very day we were set to host a kindergarten-friend playdate, for the very first time. Yes, I overcame my natural impulses toward social laziness and introversion, called up a mom I don't know, and invited her and her daughter over to our house to play, all because Julia talks about this little girl all the time and I kind of figured maybe I should do something about the fact that Julia has no friends from school.

Of course, that playdate has been rescheduled, and Julia is heartbroken. However, copious amounts of PBS Kids, plus Cinderella on videotape, is helping her get over her disappointment. Also the fact that a local friend, reading my complaints on Facebook, just dropped off an entire grocery bag full of games, books, finger puppets, and puzzles that her son has outgrown, for my homebound daughters' entertainment--and my sanity--today. Can you imagine? This is not even a close friend, but rather a fellow local mom, a kind acquaintance, someone who takes that adage "It takes a village...." seriously. This Thanksgiving week, I'm thankful for her and this extraordinarily kind gesture.

Overall, it's fair to say I'm very thankful for the blessings in my life. And, to be honest, I'm extremely thankful to not be going on a 300-mile road trip for Thanksgiving this year, the experience of which I find torturous given the fact that my children neither sleep in the car nor sleep well at other people's houses nor refrain from whining about being in the car from miles 3 to 300 on such road trips. GAH, ARGH, UGH, torture.

So, I'm thankful. I am. But, I volunteered at Genevieve's preschool yesterday morning and I am currently beset with frustration and weariness over her current separation anxiety and the way she cries every morning about going to nursery school. She does not like it there anymore, which is really making things difficult. I'm also weary of how she cries at the idea of going anywhere without me or Christopher (especially me), how she can't be dropped off for playdates or birthday parties anywhere even if Julia is with her, even if she's with my closest friend who has known her since the day she was born, and how the only place she wants to be is by my side or on my hip. It's not that I'm tired of her presence, but rather that I worry about how she's making her own life difficult with her sadness and anxiety. And how that makes things hard for me, too, because of course I worry about her and don't like to leave her at school if she feels sad and lonely there.

In TOTALLY unrelated, and possibly too-much-information news, I have been stricken with utterly mysterious tailbone pain. No, I have not fallen on my tailbone recently. I either have cancer of the tailbone, or I am an old decrepit lady who now develops random debilitating aches and pains without discernible cause, simply to make my life all the more interesting. Go, me. (Note: I really don't need my life to be more interesting.) Anyone with any insight into myterious sudden tailbone pain is free to enlighten me.

Happy Thanksgiving, everyone! Also, wishing a pain-free tailbone to you all.

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

So How Did it Go?

Well, people, you will be happy to hear that yesterday, with its extra toddler peopling my household due to a working-mom friend's unexpected daycare snafu, went JUST FINE. I'm sure many of you are not surprised. There are some of you out there who actually have three--or more!--children in YOUR OWN FAMILIES, and you carry on as usual every single day with, presumably, minimal nervous breakdowns or stress-induced headaches. However, you are not me.

Before our little friend came over yesterday, Genevieve and I put Julia on the kindergarten bus, watched "Curious George" on PBS Kids, and then went out on a long (2 miles) stroller walk to clear our heads and ready ourselves for a long day shut inside with multiple small children (it was a wet day, unclear as to whether we'd make it outdoors to play). Just to be safe, we armed ourselves with stroller trays full of morning snacks consisting of granola and a sippy cup of water (Genevieve) and holiday-themed M&Ms (me), the better to lift our moods. It worked.

By mid-a.m., our toddler buddy arrived, and the rest of the day was a blur of toys, books, and peanut-butter sandwiches. Miraculously, the older two children actually NAPPED (in separate rooms; I set Julia up in the middle of our king-sized bed in the master suite, and put our guest to sleep in a sleeping bag on the floor of the guest room, accustomed as he is to such camp-out napping conditions at his usual daycare). Of course, Vivi stayed awake and held court over numerous stuffed animals in the nursery, reading books and singing songs at the top of her lungs, but that is to be expected. Someone has to stay up and hone her comedy skills.

As for activities, we did Play-Doh, played backyard toddler soccer and our favorite new made-up outdoor game known, uncreatively, as "Challenges" ("Challenge number one: run up and down the hill two times, jump over the red plastic bat, kick a soccer ball, and go down the slide. OK, go!"), and made handprint turkeys with paint and paper plates. All was well. Sure, by 5:30 p.m. I was ready for someone to give me a bath and put me to bed, but it wasn't nearly as tiring as I'd expected it to be.

Although I'm still not interested in having a third child.

Also, I skipped my workout yesterday.

(P.S. Today I'm volunteering at the nursery school, helping make soup with twenty toddlers. Would it be safe to say I'm generating some major good karma for myself this week, people? I think it would.)

Monday, November 23, 2009

Stay-at-Home Mom to the Rescue


I was recently overtaken by some sort of alternate personality that might be labeled something like, "Reasonable, Nice Person Who Does Favors For Others," causing me to say yes when a working-mom friend of mine with a sudden daycare crisis asked me if I could watch her four-year-old son (a friend of my daughters') for the day today. I KNOW. Me! I can barely manage my own two! And here I am taking on an extra toddler for the majority of the day. Which also guarantees that there will be no "nap/quiet time" break today. (He won't nap here, and if he's not napping, my girls definitely won't agree to sequester themselves in their beds while their buddy is up playing with toys.)

I'm a little (lot) scared.

I'll get back to you later, when I'm back to two children and my normal every-mama-for-herself state of being.

On the other hand, this must be good karma. Right?

Thursday, November 19, 2009

Buzzkill.

Julia: Genevieve, when you grow up are you going to be a teacher? I am.

Genevieve:
I going to be SUPERGIRL!!!!

Julia:
What?!

Genevieve:
I going to be SUPERGIRL!!!!

Julia
(sighing): Genevieve, a person can't be a superhero!

Genevieve:
Dat what I going to be!

Julia:
Well. When you get older you just might change your mind about that.

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

What Would YOU Do With All Your Extra Time?


Now that my book trip to Chicago is over, it's time to get serious about a couple of important endeavors. No, no, no, I don't mean cutting off my questionable long hair and losing five pounds. I don't mean resolving my insomnia by developing a Tylenol PM habit. I don't mean having a third baby, going back to work, or training for a marathon. I don't even mean preparing for the holidays. (Side note: our family is neither traveling for nor having company visit for Thanksgiving. Relatedly, I have not yet purchased nor thought about a turkey or any other Thanksgiving-dinner groceries.)

No, no, I'm talking about a.) obtaining all my continuing education credits for my psychologist license, and b.) writing that book proposal. Both of which involve prodigious amounts of time.

I recently found a special deal where I can take a boatload of home-study professional psychology courses from my computer, all on sale for a limited time. If I work really hard at it, I could possibly obtain all--or nearly all--my required credits for one low price, between now and next November. But it will require me to sit in front of the laptop for hours each week reading tedious course materials and taking tests on things like "Clinical Aspects of Traumatic Brain Injury" and "Methamphetamine Addiction."

Much more exciting, I still have this book idea I'm dying to work on, plus a reference book about writing book proposals lent to me by my awesome writer friend Lori, who is patiently waiting for me to WRITE THE BOOK PROPOSAL ALREADY. (This woman is a superstar who had TWO books published during the same month earlier this year, people. TWO.)

How to find time for these things, people? My children aren't in school all day yet, and they don't nap anymore. I don't have any "free" chunks of time during the day long enough to get anything like this done. Most evenings, I try to turn out the light by 8:30 so that, given my early alarm clock, my husband's snoring, my toddler's periodic night awakening, and my subsequent insomnia, I can stand a reasonable chance of getting seven or so hours of sleep. Weekends, I'm usually trying to balance a bit of relaxation with family activities and the normal household chores.

Argh! Does it ever end, this desperate quest for "free" time for personal pursuits, professional goals, or hobbies? Are there ever enough hours in the day?

Here's how the considerations have played themselves out in my mind so far: Give up running? No. Give up watching "Glee"? No. Sleep less to stay up late and work? No. Give up writing this blog? No. Give up Facebook? Sigh.

Yeah. You get where this is going. While there are some things I'm not willing to relinquish, I suppose it's true that I "waste" an awful lot of time surfing my favorite sites online, keeping up with Facebook friends, reading Salon.com and the best mommy-blogs, skimming Babble essays and FameCrawler, checking out the latest headlines at the New York Times website. What would my life be like without all that screen time? Probably a lot less "busy" and perhaps a lot more meaningful.

Maybe I'd even get my license credits done and my book proposal written in record time. Maybe it's time for an experiment.

Monday, November 16, 2009

Book Press

Special Monday bonus: some awesome press about the anthology P.S. What I Didn't Say and the recent bookstore readings, via the Powell's Books blog! Click here to read editor Megan McMorris's take on contributors, readings, and women's friendships.

Back from Chicago, and Already Thinking Too Much

I've often wondered, since becoming a parent five years ago, if I'm a total stress-case freak for finding mothering (or, probably more accurately, full-time at-home mothering) simultaneously the best thing that's ever happened to me (because, hello: my two amazing daughters who give meaning to my life) and the hardest, most aggravating, most challenging endeavor I've ever experienced (hello: toddler who cried at bedtime for hours on end every single night for 17 months straight. AS JUST ONE EXAMPLE).

My dear friend Mnmom has frequently reminded me that there's a real reason it's so hard: that humans aren't meant, nor did we evolve, to raise our children alone in a nuclear family unit, far from extended family with generations of advice-givers, helpers, partners in parenting and running a household. And yet I always forget this fact, and ponder repeatedly why in the world I find parenting so difficult and my SAHM days such contradictory combinations of drudgery, anxiety, contentment, and joy. How can you adore being a mom AND dread every crabby-toddler morning at the same time? How can you love being at home with your children but simultaneously lose sleep (and hair) over not having enough money to pay the bills, not enough sleep to feel rested, not enough patience to be the one who does everything all day long? Sometimes I forget how, exactly, that math all adds up.

Over the weekend I read the latest issue of The Atlantic. Regular Atlantic readers will know that famous mother-writer Sandra Tsing Loh writes a regular book-review column for the magazine. She's a bit of a loose cannon--for example, she famously announced her unexpected divorce in the July/August issue, which was sort of odd and riveting at the same time--but I like her and her writing, in that sort of can't-tear-myself-away manner of car wrecks and cable-TV episodes of Keeping Up With the Kardashians. (Gah.) And this month's column is a good one: in between unsettling descriptions of her current, mid-divorce, rather homeless state, she reviews two books related to mothering, and discusses the strangely difficult state of modern motherhood, in all its Creative-Class, overly-educated, anxious, isolating glory. Or, rather, the opposite of glory; what would that be? Ingloriousness? Yes.

Ms. Tsing Loh quotes Germaine Greer's classic The Female Eunuch, in the chapter called "Family," discussing how extended, multigenerational ("stem family") households (how we were meant to live, and how we all used to live, long ago), are inherently stable in comparison to modern two-parent nuclear families, because they don't rest solely on the shoulders of just two adults, trying to juggle multiple and competing demands of daily life. And Tsing Loh identifies immediately with this idea, and goes on to write:

"Bingo. What better phrase to describe marriage among those of my own bewildered demographic slice—parents of the Creative Class? We start with the best of intentions. In her 20s, the Creative Class female carves out a cool Creative Class career, like Writer. She meets a man with an equally cool Creative Class job...In their 30s, the baby comes...

After kissing her husband goodbye, the Creative Class mother now begins to care for their baby, alone, in New York, or Los Angeles, or whatever cool city they’ve moved to. She’s isolated from her stem family—the grandma, aunts, and in-laws (who all love children!) have long been left behind in notoriously un-Creative Lompoc, Fort Lauderdale, or Ohio. She can barely maneuver the stroller down the four flights of stairs to get to Gymboree ($20 for 45 minutes, and you have to actually
stay with your nine-month-old and drum). Result: the 21st-century Creative Class mom’s life is actually far worse than that of her 1950s counterpart. Her husband works as many hours (and travels more), but life is uncomfortable on his salary alone, and the isolated mom has no bingo-playing moms’ group to ease the unnatural, teeth-chattering stress of one-on-one care of her child..."

Wow, does THAT ever describe my experience parenting Julia as a newborn--my first baby, my first experience leaving a career world of offices and co-workers to stay home all day long with no one to talk to, no one to help me, no one to answer questions about what to do about all the parts of mothering I was completely unfamiliar with (read: pretty much all of them). Sure, I called my mom a lot, but she was 250 miles away, and, living in a less-than-intimate urban environment, I didn't meet my first fellow-SAHM friend until Julia was 11 months old. ELEVEN MONTHS, people. With a baby who had colic as a newborn, had zero capacity for self-soothing, and who didn't really sleep for the first seven months of her life. It was a long, desperate year--even while being a wonderful, incredible year. (Hence my confusion, above.)

Even now, with two children, five years of parenting experience under my belt, a home in a friendly, family-filled small town, and a social network of other mom friends, parenting small children remains, well, much the same: a puzzling combination of The Best Thing Ever and Things That Make Me Want to Poke My Own Eye Out With a Stick.

Is this normal? Well, perhaps not back in the "stem family" day, but now? Sandra Tsing Loh--and, before her, Germaine Greer--would say yes.

It's nice to know that you're not just a total stress-case freak. Or, at the very least, that if you are, then most other nuclear-family, isolated, full-time stay-at-home moms probably are too.

Am I right, moms? Go read your Atlantic. Then tell me what you think.

Friday, November 13, 2009

Book Reading Recap

So I've got my first book reading/signing under my belt. I'm home from the Chicago book trip for P.S. What I Didn't Say, and I am SO GLAD I decided to go. I will remember it for the rest of my life, I am sure, and not just because my toddler welcomed me home with a two-hour-long raging tantrum IN THE MIDDLE OF THE NIGHT last night. Ahem. I refuse to discuss that hellishness any further. I will now pretend it did not occur, and I will also pretend that I have gotten more than nine hours of sleep total in the last three nights. Please help me out by supporting this delusion for the rest of the day. Thank you.

So anyway! Remember how my awesome BFF from Texas flew into Chicago to join me on this book reading adventure? As you might imagine, this made the whole trip about a hundred million times better, and I was in tears on the flight home missing her and touched by her amazing act of friendship. V. is a private person, not the type to blog or Twitter or Facebook or post photos of herself to the Internet, which is why I'm not writing her full name or including here the adorable picture of the two of us at the bookstore (though V., if you're reading this and it doesn't bother you, let me know). All you really need to know is that we landed within two minutes of each other; spent the next hour walking aimlessly around the giant metropolis that is O'Hare with our cell phones to our ears trying to find each other at Rental Car, saying things like, "I'm by baggage claim and there are numbers on the pillars, where are you?" and "I'm at baggage claim too, but there are no numbers on my pillars" and "OK, now I'm outside and I've just crossed 8 lanes of traffic and am standing on a median by a sign that says Rental Car Shuttles" and "I'm outside too, but there's no sign and all I see is a Hilton across four more lanes of traffic," and ultimately realized we'd landed at different terminals (who knew?) and were roughly a hundred miles from one another. I may exaggerate slightly.

In the end, we DID find one another, find a shuttle bus to the rental car lot, get a car, drive successfully into the city, check into a lovely old hotel on the Gold Coast (with a room heater that ultimately kept us up all night with its insane level of noise), eat a ridiculously large lunch at 3 p.m., pull ourselves together enough to not look like we'd been walking around O'Hare all afternoon, and drive up Lake Shore Drive seeing the sights (my old stomping grounds! my apartment from 1995-2000! my old running route!) on our way to the great bookstore hosting the reading.

At the hotel, ready to leave for the reading, Wednesday night

The Book Cellar, Lincoln Square, Chicago: the location for our event

The reading itself was awesome. It was so much fun to meet Megan, the book's talented editor, and the three other writers participating in the Chicago reading. There are some amazing writers in this book, people! If you haven't gotten your hands on a copy yet, DO IT NOW. You will not be disappointed. The essays are so diverse--some funny, some poignant, some riveting, some dramatic, some incredibly sweet--and the three ladies reading with me on Wednesday showcased some great work.

Me with lovely editor Megan McMorris and talented
writers
Anna Cox, Judy Sutton Taylor, and Margaret Littman

The bookstore ended up being standing-room-only, and a good friend of mine and Christopher's, who moved to Chicago last spring, attended to support me (thanks, Lisa! It was so great to see you!). I was only a tiny bit nervous, and the subject of my essay did NOT show up to heckle me, so I basically just had a rollicking good time and tried my best to, as several wonderful friends urged before I left town, smile, soak it all in, and fully enjoy the moment. Who knows? I may never be lucky enough to do a book reading again! I wanted to appreciate it 100%.

And I did. It was wonderful. I'm so proud of this book. Please read it, buy it for your sisters, moms, and friends for Christmas, pass it around, enjoy the tales of friendship within.

There's the book! On the left!

And thank you, from the bottom of my heart, for supporting me in my first foray into book publication (especially Christopher for letting me go, V. for coming along, and Christopher's mom for helping take care of the girls while I was gone). I hope there will be more to come, but even if there aren't, I've accomplished a life-goal and experienced a personal dream.

Thursday, November 12, 2009

Home From Chicago!


This is where I was last night. I'm back now. I'll tell you all about it soon. Stay tuned, and check back!

Monday, November 09, 2009

My Trip is Coming Up!

In just two short days, I fly to Chicago for a whirlwind one-night trip to participate in the book reading for "P.S. What I Didn't Say: Unsent Letters to Our Female Friends." There, I'll be meeting--at last--the anthology's wonderful editor, Megan McMorris, and three of the other writers whose essays are included in the book. We'll be promoting the book at the independent bookstore The Book Cellar. SO EXCITING!

But what I don't think I've told you all yet is that one of my very best friends in the entire world is coming on this trip with me, meeting me in Chicago for 24 hours, in an incredible act of friendship that seems befitting of the event--a bookstore reading for a book about female friendships--and, also, a little ironic considering the topic of my particular essay in the book (someone who was anything but a real friend).

My friend V. lives far away from both me and Chicago. But she's the owner, with her husband, of an incredibly successful small-business franchise, which means she can sometimes set her own schedule and get away for a couple of days mid-week. And, more to the point, she's the most generous-hearted person I've ever known. She offered to fly to Chicago to meet me, be in the bookstore audience at my reading, and spend one night in the city hanging out with me, and fly back home the next day, when I leave. There is no way to put into words how much it means to me to have my friend V. along on this trip. She makes everything even better just by being a part of it. And, because we haven't lived in the same state since 2004, I miss her terribly, every day. I'm so excited for our reunion in Chicago, and so honored that she chose to support me in my first publication in a book. How will I ever repay her for this act of friendship? I can't imagine.

Between now and Wednesday, I'll be busy with my girls' school schedules, various appointments of my own, and getting my household set up to hum along without me for two days. In other words, I won't be writing here. But I'll tell you all about it later this week when I get back. Wish me luck, and think of me on Wednesday night, when I'll be joyfully reading my essay to a bookstore audience. With V. in the front row, I'm sure.

Friday, November 06, 2009

Not Funky Just Busy

Hey, you all. So, I'm busy. How's that for a boring blogging topic? How busy I am? Yeah, well, sorry; I'm so busy I don't have time to think about anything else to write. My trip is coming up, and life has been a whirlwind lately.

A loyal reader mentioned the other day that she hoped my trip might provide a welcome kick out of my recent funk, and I just want to make clear that, aside from my kids being oppositional recently and thus causing my head to explode and me to daily pine for a local grandma to drop them off with occasionally, I'm not in a funk; I'm just super super super busy. Sorry I wasn't too clear about that. I'm insanely busy, and when I've got a lot going on PLUS my husband snores PLUS my cat harasses me at 4 a.m. PLUS one of my children is sick and therefore coughs at night, I don't get much if any sleep, which is, um....exhausting.

For some reason, everything in the whole world fell onto my schedule at the same time this autumn. In the past couple of weeks, and next week until I leave town, here's what's been filling up my calendar: a kid Halloween party; Julia's school Halloween party (for which I shopped for supplies); the children's tumbling classes; pumpkin patch visiting; pumpkin carving; our town's annual kid Fun Run; three dentist appointments; both girls' school conferences; school volunteer work; Halloween itself/trick-or-treating; cooking, delivering food, and hosting a playdate for a family down the street with a new baby (all of which was done 100% happily, I might add; it is a joy to help neighbors with a newborn); three haircut appointments; consultation work involving various client phone appointments; both girls being off school some days for various teacher conferences and workshops; school fundraisers due; kid flu shot appointments; my mother-in-law's arrival for a visit; and a pre-trip manicure appointment. There may have been a Tupperware party in there as well.

Let me tell you, attempting to fit all that into my regular daily schedule along with cooking, shopping, housekeeping, exercising, childcare, and regular bathing has been a challenge. Something had to go, and it might have been bathing. Possibly.

So let's just say I've barely even thought about my trip next week yet; I've been so busy taking care of all these other obligations--while not really sleeping--that I've yet to time my reading to make sure I can read the whole essay in under 10 minutes (or, if not, determine an appropriate excerpt). My main fear about my trip is that I will sleep so little between now and then that a.) I will be incoherent by next Wednesday night, or b.) the dark circles under my eyes will frighten the bookstore audience.

I'll try to work on that before next Wednesday. But I've got a lot to do between now and then.

Thursday, November 05, 2009

Yet Another Reason to Love The First Lady


I read on Babble.com the other day that Michelle Obama was recently interviewed by Katie Couric about how she balances motherhood with work, marriage, and all the other many demands in her life. (Like, you know, being the wife of the leader of the country. Which is far more demanding and important than anything I'VE got going on, how about you?)

Apparently Mrs. Obama said that, aside from the benefits of having paid staff to help with many aspects of her daily life, the biggest factor in maintaining her sanity is prioritizing her own needs and self-care after those of her girls. Her advice to other moms? Put your children first, but make yourselves "a close second."

I love that, don't you? Not just put yourself second, but a "close" second. She's awesome.

Wednesday, November 04, 2009

Stumbling Block


So last week Genevieve started crying about going to preschool. Out of the blue, for three days now, she's sobbed and wailed, her little chin quivering, saying she doesn't want to go. When I ask her why, there doesn't seem to be a major reason. She says things like, "I just want to be with you, Mama!" and "I don't want you to go!" Sometimes she says, "It's too long!" or, once, "It's boring!" But mostly she hugs me and tries to convince me not to drop her off at nursery school, where her sweet and loving teacher is as puzzled as I am and gives her extra cuddles and attention to help ease the drop-off transition.

Two adult friends who know Genevieve have speculated that the novelty has worn off for her. "It's been two months; she's probably totally over it," said my hairstylist Shauna. "She's been there, seen it all--now she's all, 'Eh. I'm done with this. I want to stay home to watch "Curious George" and bake muffins with you instead.' Think about it: wouldn't you?" She has a point.

Next Wednesday I leave for two days to participate in one of the readings for the "P.S. What I Didn't Say" book tour. Both girls have school during the time I'll be away, detailed routines and schedules that I'm usually in charge of. I dislike being away from my daughters like this; I hate to travel far away from them, worried about what could happen to me (but likely won't). It doesn't help that Genevieve's begun crying every morning before school.

This kind of scenario is exactly what I feared, when I questioned whether or not to send Genevieve to preschool this year as a "young three." I didn't want her to cry about going, to beg for more home-time with me, or to not enjoy her time there. I was so relieved when the school year began and for two months straight she ran into school with joy and enthusiasm, and loved every minute. I was so glad to not have to feel guilty about letting my baby spend time away from me at such an early age and giving up a year that we could have spent in full-time home/parenting activities.

Ah, motherhood: providing continual experiences of guilt from birth until, um, forever?

Wish us luck.

Short But Sweet

New fall haircuts:



Tuesday, November 03, 2009

Nearly the Same Thing

Last night around dinnertime, Genevieve started begging for "Swing Low, Sweet Chariot." She kept saying it over and over, and when you imagine this, you must recall the fact that she cannot pronounce the letters "s" or "r." She knows this song from a Raffi CD, so naturally I thought she was asking me to put on the music. But she clambered over to our games-and-activities cupboard, opened the door, and pointed emphatically to the shelf, saying "Mama, Swing Low Sweet Chariot! Swing Low Sweet Chariot!"

What was she pointing to? The children's board game "Hi Ho, CHERRY-O."

Christopher and I laughed for a long, long time. Funny little Vivi.

Sunday, November 01, 2009

Obligatory Halloween Photos for Grandparents & Devoted Others

It was cold here yesterday (as it often is for Halloween), so when I discovered Genevieve's old bumblebee costume in the back of the nursery closet early in the day--a puffy, fuzzy pullover the weight and thickness of a winter jacket and sporting a hood, though with no sleeves--I thought it would be a warmer option than the jack o'lantern and fairy costumes she had been considering earlier. (We have a lot of dress-up clothes, passed on from a friend with older kids, as well as a few hand-me-down costumes from cousins; nothing fancy in the least, but a few different options.) Lucky for me, Genevieve agreed.

Did I mention the tag on the bumblebee costume says 12-24 months? And that she wore it the year she was ONE? (Remember all that talk from me last summer about how Genevieve seemed too little to start preschool?)

Good thing she liked it better this Halloween than she did two years ago. Does everyone remember this?

Halloween 2007, ages 1 and 3


Two years later, though she's often surly and screaming, it's no longer when wearing a fuzzy bee costume and preparing to go procure copious amounts of candy.

Halloween 2009, ages 3 and 5


Bumblebee and fairy


And isn't Julia a precious little fairy? She was mistaken for a butterfly at many houses--I guess because she was with a bee--but she took it in stride. And, thanks to a friend's reminder that fairy dust makes winter clothing invisible, she tolerated the necessary parka, hood, and mittens that must accompany a fairy costume when you trick-or-treat in Minnesota with nary a tear. (Thanks, Laura! She TOTALLY BELIEVED IT.)

I just have to say that, walking behind my little trick-or-treaters and seeing their tiny fuzzy and beskirted bottoms toddling down the sidewalk with wings flapping and stinger bobbing, looking so unbelievably toddlerish still--honestly, they're so small and little still, they really are, especially when you see them beside mobs of rowdy grade-schoolers with light sabers and face paint--well, it made me want them to be three and five forever. They're just babies! And yet--they're already three and five.

I didn't envy our neighbor who just came home from the hospital last night with a newborn, though. Not the slightest bit. So there's that.

Hope you had a sweet, sweet Halloween! Onward, to November and my book trip and the holidays!

Saturday, October 31, 2009

Born That Way

Julia's all-time favorite book, about a preschooler
mouse who worries about everything, even the playground slides
and swings ("too high; too rusty; too loose").


You really ought to read this absolutely fascinating article in the New York Times a few weeks ago about babies, brains, and inborn traits for anxiety and worry. Of course, as a psychologist, this research does not surprise me at all. But it's nice to see scientific validation for how you know you (and your firstborn daughter) were just made, no more alterable than the color of your eyes or the shape of your face.

Thursday, October 29, 2009

More to Love

I can't be the only mom who loves loves loves the current/recent Target commercials--you know which ones I mean, the ads with the Minnutes song "More to Luv" in the background ("Today I woke up/And I found more, more more...") and the hip, busy moms gamely navigating the chaos of modern family life?

"Meet Lisa, Tara, Jodie, and Emily. They love Target because they can always get a bargain on their basics. But that's just the beginning of their high, high expectations...They expect their towels to take it. Their handbags to handle it. And their tighty whities to see tomorrow. And they don't mind getting checked out, as long as it's quick..."

"Lisa digs Target, where it's not an uphill battle to save on the stuff she needs. But she also expects her SoyJoy bar to kick her buttercream frosting fixation, her vitamin water to help her out-bend the chick in the yellow..."

"Alison loves Target for its low prices. And with the kids back in school, she expects it's time for a quickie face lift. Maybe a little color therapy, lunch with the ladies, and getting back to her routine...."

LOVE THEM. Target has hit a home run with these ads, people. And I've been thinking about why. What makes these commercials so incredibly appealing to moms like me is that they capture perfectly the crazy, busy, go-go lifestyle of the modern mom, and make the mainly mundane business of domestic life seem not boring and repetitive but cute, funny, and even stylish. The moms in these commercials do all the same things I do; they struggle with exercise and school clothes and crazy kids too! They juggle babies, strollers, school supply lists, laundry, jobs, diets, and potty-training toddlers, and they do it with grace and a smart little touch of mom-glamour. They pack lunches in shirtdresses and heels; they handle a million competing demands while appearing hip and content.

But not TOO hip and content; not TOO graceful and stylish; this part is key. This is the other reason I love these commercials, these moms: the exasperated exhalation at the never-ending to-do list, the errant wisp of hair sliding free of its ponytail during a nonstop parenting day, the good-natured huffing and puffing during the kids-in-school workout, the barely-making-it hike uphill with the baby stroller: who hasn't been there, fellow moms? I love how these moms feel relatable; sure, they're prettier, cuter, and more stylish than you, but not so flawless that you can't think, "I'm a hip mom like that, too. After all, I shop at Target! And I have a buttercream frosting fixation!"

Ah, Target. Making motherhood hip, stylish, and fun--and with just the right soundtrack. There's always more to love.



Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Less-Than-Impressive Parenting Directives

Parenting quote of the day:

Me (to the girls, who are squabbling over something or other): Julia, calm down! Genevieve loves to act naughty like that because you get so upset and she thinks it's funny to bother you. So Julia, try not to be so bothered, and Genevieve, try not to act so naughty.