Thursday, May 28, 2009

My Day So Far

There must be some sort of medal awarded to moms who take two children under five--one of whom is actively potty-training and is wearing underwear for only the second day in her entire life--to the grocery store to buy enough groceries to apparently feed a small nation (or at least enough groceries for a birthday party plus a weekend of meals with family guests, not to mention all the other food needed to feed a family of four for a week or so); choosing the double-length, unsteerable airplane cart at the request of their children, who then refuse to ride after five minutes anyway and instead prefer to "help" put things into the cart; bag the monumental amount of groceries while policing the two children who are inspecting the candy rack and the magazines and getting into all the other customers' way; pay the heart-stopping grocery bill while willing their pulses to slow down; clean up a potty accident while madly unpacking all the groceries once back at home; ask the children to please play in the backyard for 20 minutes so they can get the food put away and get lunch on the table; have the children then come back into the house after five minutes, whining and crying for lunch, while also tracking sand from the spilled outdoor sand table all over the linoleum.

Musn't there be?

Did I win it?

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Captain Underpants

So after I told the entire Internet that Genevieve had potty-trained herself, naturally she suffered some regression in that department. She still used the toilet, but in between her diapers were always wet. More importantly, she seemed already jaded by the process. Like three days was the longest she could sustain any sort of excitement about this developmental milestone. Potty-training? Yeah, it was fun for awhile, but...meh. I'm fine with things as-is.

I kept encouraging her to try a Pull-Up, or even padded cotton training underpants (of which I have about ten million because I tried so many times and at so many stages/ages/sizes to potty-train Julia). Genevieve said nah, she liked her dipes. I didn't want to push it, because that was my downfall with kid #1. So, I let her decide. Plus, I'm lazy. And laziness, let's remember, has been working for me just fine in this regard.

But I refused to buy another package, so as the diapers in the drawer dwindled, I knew the moment of reckoning was coming. (I am, however, still buying "overnite" diapers for, well, overnight, and don't care how long that goes on, really.) This morning there weren't any more diapers in her dresser drawer, so Genevieve was faced with a choice of either a Pull-Up or training underpants for the morning. She chose the undies, and we got through two errands and an hour at the park with no problems.

After five years, my days of changing diapers are almost over! I feel a little bit giddy.

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

You Thought the Bedtime Screaming was a Thing of the Past, Didn't You?

Dear Two-Year-Old,

You're cute and everything, and the way you kept trying to negotiate additional tastes of my ice cream yesterday was hilarious (apparently you realized that the chocolate brownie flavor I chose was better than your orange sherbet, which HELLO, anyone could have told you that beforehand), but honestly now. Bedtime tantrums lasting until 10 p.m., two nights in a row? No. No, no, no, and oh yeah: no.

That whole crazy obsession with having your fluffy blue moon-and-stars-printed quilt pulled up ALL THE WAY OVER YOUR HEAD even though it's summer now and hot in the nursery and you've already insisted on keeping out all your winter blankets for the crib so you're under three other blankets as well and you wake up each morning damp with sweat? And how you manifest this little obsession with having the quilt over your head by screaming at the top of your lungs, over and over, no matter how high I pull the blanket, "No, higher! Higher! Higher!!!"? A LITTLE INSANE.

Oh, and the maniacal repetitive screaming of, "Nigh-night, love you, see you in da moh-ning!" even when the parent putting you to bed has ALREADY said "Night-night, love you, see you in the morning!" approximately TWELVE TIMES? FEEL FREE TO STOP THAT AT ANY TIME.

It would be nice if you STOPPED WITH THE CRAZY OBSESSIVE SCREAMING. ALSO THE SUFFOCATING YOURSELF WITH THE BLUE BLANKET. Did I mention the screaming? The screamy, screamy, nonstop screaming? STOP. THAT.

Thank you.

Your frustrated mother.

And thus ends another relaxing holiday weekend in Parent-Land.

Friday, May 22, 2009

Life is Good (and So is Summer)

Julia was a little sad last night when she realized that she wouldn't be headed to preschool today, like all the other Fridays this year. School is out for the summer, and even more profound, Julia is done with preschool--forever. (There's a chance she may be attending a brief four-morning session of preschool "summer school" at the end of June, but it's not quite the same.)

To cheer her up, I told the girls yesterday that I would plan a picnic at the park today. We invited our best friends, who drove to our house around mid-morning and unloaded kids, bikes, and picnic gear so the kids could bike the block to our beloved neighborhood playground. I followed pushing our double stroller, stuffed with lunch food and drinks, bubbles, sidewalk chalk, jackets, sunscreen, bug spray, extra diapers and wipes, and Genevieve's PJ Bear, who likes to ride.

OK, there was a toddler tantrum (miraculously, it did not involve Genevieve), but aside from that, it was the perfect "summer" outing. The four girls played on the jungle gym, chalked, took off their sandals to climb up the slides, went on the swings, biked (more than once) around the entire bike-path loop that encircles the park's grassy field, blew bubbles, and picked dandelions. We ate sandwiches and cookies at the picnic table, and no one spilled their drink or dropped their cucumber slices into the dirt. The weather was an easy and ideal 70 degrees, calm with partial sun: no 98-degree temps, no 50 mph winds. No schedules, no stress, just the beginning of summer, fresh air and green grass, lilacs in bloom and barefoot kids.

Life is good.

Thursday, May 21, 2009

Later On I Self-Medicated With a Salon Visit and a Giant Frozen Coffee Drink.

Yesterday was a hard day. My oldest completed her two-year stint at the neighborhood co-op nursery school we love so much, and we had to say goodbye to her wonderful teacher--also the school's new(ish) director--who truly made this year extraordinary for Julia and our family. I can hardly believe the end of this era is upon me; sure, I'll have another child at this school, and probably soon, but to see my firstborn finish up her preschool years, to be sending her off to kindergarten in the fall--well, it's a milestone (that cliched word, so insufficient for describing the way I felt yesterday morning). When we walked into preschool in the morning and checked the hallway white board to see which stories and art projects were on tap for the day, and I read the book titles listed there--Will I Have a Friend? and Make New Friends--and imagined Julia's teacher talking to the class about moving on to elementary school, to new places and situations and classmates...well, of course I teared up. Wouldn't you? I mean, honestly: Will I Have a Friend? Don't you want to cry right now, just thinking about it?

Well. Maybe not you.

During Julia's last day of preschool, but before the family ice cream social, I had coffee with some fellow preschool moms and found out that one of them is separating from her husband and moving away this summer with her two young children. I had imagined this family going on through the grade school years with mine, our children in the same kindergarten class in September, so I was very sad to hear the news, and felt terrible that I had not known, that I had inadvertently caused the topic to come up when surely this mom would have preferred to be talking about, say, grocery shopping or the high price of gas. So then I felt all weepy and sad about that. Just in time to go back to the preschool and, you know, cry some more.

Fun times.

So, OK, life goes on and all that. When we said goodbye, my daughter's teacher--a grandmother of four--said, about parenting milestones, that they never stop coming and they never get easier, so the only thing to do is stop and think hard about the wonders of each experience you move on from, to be able to say to yourself, "I got as much out of this as possible; I'm so grateful for each moment I was present in this stage of life and parenting. Now it's on to the next exciting adventure for my child and myself."

And it doesn't get much wiser than that.

So. Onward (to the next exciting adventure).

Julia on her first day (ever) of preschool, age 3, September 2007

Julia on her last day (ever) of preschool, age not-quite-5, May 2009

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

I Feel Like I'm Living in the Black-and-White Part of "The Wizard of Oz"

Yesterday morning the girls and I toddled all over town doing fun things and hanging out, and repeating over and over with sincere wonder, "What a BEAUTIFUL day! It's just PERFECT outside! It couldn't BE more perfect!" And then between noon and 4 p.m. the temperature alarmingly rose to 98 degrees and the wind kicked up to a level that garnered a Wind Advisory from the Weather Service. It goes without saying that I skipped my evening run. Sigh. Will I ever burn off all the ice cream and Cheetos? I think not. It's too damn hot and windy where I live. (Note: two days prior, it had been 35 degrees when we woke up in the morning, and I put Genevieve in FLEECE to play outside. Think on that 63-degree temperature shift for a moment. It is truly the essence of Minnesota transitional-season weather.)

The wind howled and banged all night long without letup, and is continuing today. It's so windy that my friend just informed me that her METAL FLAGPOLE--the one in her yard--snapped off yesterday afternoon. Snapped. Off.

Poor Genevieve cried all night, calling and tossing in frustrated agitation. She had attended her first toddler-swim class after dinner with Christopher (side note: Julia took this same class when she was an entire year younger than Genevieve is now. Oops. Sorry, second child.), and though she loved it at the time, it left her so tired and overwrought that her bedtime routine was basically one giant tantrum. She was not in a good state for sleeping through the night, and so she didn't.

In other news, today is Julia's last day of preschool. All sorts of excitement and sadness go along with that--including an ice cream party on the playground (excitement!) and saying goodbye to her dear, dear teacher (sadness!), and, of course, there will be more to say (and photos to post) about that later.

Carry on, and don't blow away.

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Genevieve Raises Herself

Over this past weekend, Genevieve spontaneously decided to potty-train herself. We hadn't put her in underpants or even Pull-Ups yet--she was in diapers (still is, actually). But all of a sudden we caught sight of a two-year-old-sized blur running toward the bathroom. When we asked her what was up she yelled, "I going potty!" Sure enough, she'd shed her pants, flung her diaper to the floor, and gone to the bathroom all by herself. Afterward we replaced her diaper and went about our business.

This happened several times, and has been happening ever since. She hasn't quite kept her diaper dry 100% of the time (and certainly not overnight or for naps), but for the most part (so far) she knows when she has to go, and gets herself there in plenty of time. Today the girls and I were taking a stroll on a biking/walking path at a park across town when Genevieve suddenly yelled, "I hafta go to a baffwoom!" and the three of us had to turn on our heels and run back to the playground-area porta-potty, dandelion fluff swirling in our wake. Where she then did her business easy as pie, and stood while I put her diaper and skirt back on.

The best part of ALL of this is the fact that she's bypassed the potty-chair completely and has gone straight for the toilet. No fussing around with baby potties for Genevieve, nosirree. She drags the stepstool into place, climbs on up, balances her little bum on the seat, and takes care of business like she's been doing it for years. This cracks me up, since my older daughter--like every one of her firstborn peers that I know--used a potty-chair and/or a toddler-sized toilet-seat attachment on the big toilet until she was well past her 4th birthday. Believe me, Mama is not arguing about skipping the emptying-and-cleaning-of-the-potty-chair-routine this time around. In fact, I'm basically doing an internal happy dance five or six times a day right now.

The other funny thing about all this is our complete lack of planning, rewards, or incentives of any kind for potty-training Genevieve. Neither Christopher nor I made up any sticker charts, stocked any candy jars with M&Ms, read books to Genevieve while she sat on the potty and "tried." We haven't encouraged her to let her stuffed animals try the potty. We haven't promised her a prize when she's trained. We've barely talked about it at all compared with how fervently--and how many times--we tried to get Julia to give up the diapers. Basically, we've put zero effort into this whole endeavor.

Yay for parenting laziness! It really DOES pay off sometimes.

Monday, May 18, 2009

Thank Goodness for Upcoming Three-Day Weekend

This week:
* Genevieve's first baby-swim class
* Haircut appointment for Julia
* Haircut appointment for me
* Julia's last day of preschool
* Mom-baby playgroup/coffee hour at the home of a friend during last day of preschool
* Annual family ice-cream social at the end of the last morning of preschool
* The girls' last toddler tumbling class
* Julia's "literacy assessment" for kindergarten
* Finalize logistics for starting a small amount of private practice work this summer

Next weekend:

You'll Do it and You'll Like it

My girls have a stack of activity books, "restickable" sticker books, paper doll books, water-painting books, and practice-your-letters-and-numbers color/workbooks a mile high (or so it seems), most of which they've never tried or which they've used once, for five seconds, and have since forgotten even exist. Which means the stack then exists primarily to annoy me by cluttering up the arts-and-crafts cupboard and falling out all over my feet at the most inopportune moments. So I was particularly proud of myself the other morning when I staved off a threat of post-breakfast fussiness by using my Magical Powers of Superhuman Mom Idea Generation to make up a "new game" called Activity Lottery. If there's one skill you develop fast and furiously as a mom--and I'm going to go out on a limb here and say ESPECIALLY as an at-home mom, since SAHMs have way more hours each day to fill with Kid Things To Do than their working-mom counterparts--it's coming up with spontaneous activity ideas in a split second off the top of your head and making them sound well-thought-out, appealing, and exciting. I have saved many a day with this skill. The key is quick thinking combined with animated voice inflection.

The girls were starting to fuss and whine about who knows what when I yelled, "I know a new game! You're going to LOVE IT." I told them the game was called Activity Lottery and that they had to close their eyes while I put a mystery activity in front of them at the table. When they opened their eyes, they had to do whatever activity had appeared on their placemats for AT LEAST FIVE MINUTES (this part is key, people. KEY). Then they could either trade activities or close their eyes while I surprised them with something new. They didn't make it past the second pick, but they did play with restickable sticker books and an Elmo bugs-and-birds color/workbook for at least ten minutes.

I take my successes wherever I can find them.

Thursday, May 14, 2009

Next She'll be Ordering Side Dishes, Too

Twice in the past 48 hours Genevieve has called from her crib at a time she's normally asleep and demanded food. The other night it was a 2 a.m. request for "a bowl of cereal." This morning at six (much earlier than she usually wakes up these days) she told me she needed "a new sandwich." Growth spurt, anyone? Or maybe it's that she's entered that typical-for-most-toddlers-but-foreign-in-this-household stage of eating, like, two bites of bread and a grape for lunch and then two lettuce leaves for dinner, so I guess it's no wonder that by 2 a.m. she's a little ravenous. Or maybe she's been dreaming about food, and gets mixed up about what time of day it actually is. (Note to Vivi: SLEEPING time. SLEEPING.)

All this would be fairly amusing were it not for the characteristically surly nature of these snack requests. Those of you who know Genevieve well will not be surprised. It's like Rude Customer Day at the Deli: "I NEED A NEW SANDWICH! NEW!!!!! SANDWICH!!!!! RIGHT! NOW!" It's a bit discombobulating. One minute you're sound asleep in your cozy bed, the next you're standing bleary-eyed by the crib rails, peering down at a two-year-old putting in a brunch order and trying to figure out how to get yourself out of this one. I mean, seriously: cereal at two a.m.? What?

Can't we all just sleep during the night, and eat cereal (or sandwiches!) at 7:30 a.m.? Please?

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

School of Life

Two nights ago I attended and ran the last Board meeting of the current school year at my daughter's co-op nursery school, my last meeting as president of the volunteer Board of Directors. I know that most people probably stay on the Board longer than one year, and perhaps even persevere in the president position for more than one year, but a.) I've never been convinced, this year, that Genevieve will be ready for nursery school in the fall (and if she's not, I won't have a child at this preschool for the upcoming school year), and b.) I was never cut out for this job in the first place.

Now please understand, this past year was not normal IN ANY WAY, and though you may have listened to my hysterical reaction to what my volunteer job had become last summer and thought, What in the world is her problem? People volunteer on preschool Boards all the freaking time!, I guarantee that what this current Board endured did not even remotely resemble a normal volunteer experience. I am frankly surprised we all survived with our sanity intact. That history is in part why I am bowing out now---not that I expect next year to involve anything similar at ALL, but this past year wore me down, and as a friend said the other night, I have other irons in the fire I need to attend to. It's time for me to make time for different goals, to clear my schedule enough to do so.

Of course then I went and did some crazy spontaneous scrambling in order to accept an opportunity to do a (very) small amount of evening psychotherapy work for the summer, something I haven't done in three years, since just before Genevieve was born. One step forward in clearing my schedule for a free-and-easy summer of parenting zen, two steps back. Although maybe this is one of my irons in the fire, and I just didn't know it until now.

Yesterday I read an interview with the singer Tori Amos over at the online parenting magazine Babble. I'm not a big Tori Amos fan, but she said something very compelling in this interview. She said, "The universe never deals you a problem you can't handle. If it's on your plate then it's your time to learn this at Earth school."

Notice that this concept doesn't include anything about whether or not you WANT to learn whatever it is that's on your plate. Maybe you didn't exactly want to learn how to run a preschool or how to balance the overwhelming competing demands of modern work/family life (or any other personal challenge that's stressing you out right now). Maybe that doesn't matter. I love the idea that your desire is immaterial, and that the challenge is there, on your plate, for a reason outside of your own agenda, because in my own experience it is so often the case that things that feel like burdens or insurmountable challenges at the time turn out to be useful in a way that only becomes apparent later.

Are you struggling with or annoyed by something on your plate right now? Maybe this is just your time to learn this thing. You're in Earth school--the school of life, really--and this is your current lesson. Power through it. You can do it.

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Living Well

My new women's wellness blog, Living Well, debuts over at today. I'm going to be writing anywhere from once a month to once a week about women's health and happiness--all the variables that go into our physical, emotional, social, spiritual, and psychological well-being. This week I'm talking about positive visualization, which can be very useful even if you use it only to resist that second bowl of ice cream or to remind yourself that one day spring will actually arrive and stick around for more than one day at a time. Go read about it. It might do you some good.

Monday, May 11, 2009

Flowers and Sandals

Yesterday afternoon I found myself mopping the floor, doing laundry, and cleaning the catbox before I came to my senses and decided to stop spending Mother's Day doing housework and instead spend the rest of it admiring the flowerpots my girls planted for me (with help from Daddy) at the town's nursery two Saturdays ago:

as well as the sandals I've been coveting for two months, which Christopher graciously bought for me for Mother's Day as soon as the shop opened yesterday at noon (they're even cuter in real life):

I'm going to be chasing two children around the playground all summer long; I need some good cute sandals in which to do it, don't I?

Gotta love Mother's Day. Not to mention the husband and daughters who make it what it is. Hope yours was nice too.

Sunday, May 10, 2009

Now Why Didn't I Think of That?

Julia (spying my candy wrapper): You got to eat a piece of chocolate?
Me: Yep. Mamas get to do that sometimes. It's one of the nice things about being a grown-up.
Julia: EVERYTHING'S nice about being a grown-up!
Me: Ohhhh no it's not!
Julia: What??? What's not nice about being a grown-up?!
Me: Well, grown-ups are the ones who have to do all the cleaning and the cooking and the diaper changing and the working and the preschool volunteering and the paying bills and the shopping and the sitting in the hallway at bedtime.
Julia: Well, Mama, I'M not going to do any of those things when I'M a grown-up.
Me: Really? Who's going to do those things for you?
Julia (all but rolling her eyes at me): My HUSBAND!

Mother's Day

The two little reasons I'm so lucky to be a mom:

Julia and Genevieve, summer 2007 (ages 3 and 1)

Happy Mother's Day to all my fellow mamas, near and far. I wish you a day free from tantrums, diaper changes, potty accidents, and spilled sippy cups (but full of love).

Friday, May 08, 2009

Doctoral Degree for Sale, Good Condition, Hardly Used

Last night, preparing for the annual Spring Parent Meeting at my daughter's preschool where I volunteer as president of the Board of Directors, I stood in front of an office copy machine and squinted hesitantly at the buttons for just a little too long. Then I mangled a stack of handouts when I tried to slice them neatly in three with the paper cutter. I may also have inadvertently sliced up my own copy of the meeting agenda, along with the handouts. Possibly.

I stood there and realized it's been 4 years and 11 months since I've used any sort of office machine.

Later on, I stood chatting with a fellow preschool mom friend, a woman I've known the past two years as our children have been in nursery school together, and we talked about our firstborns going off to kindergarten in September, and what we're going to do when our kids are all in school--real school, not 2-1/2-hour, two-or-three-days-a-week nursery school. She's about my age, with kids about the same ages as my kids. She said that she and her husband have an agreement, that as long as it's possible to do so, she'll be an at-home, full-time mom until her youngest has graduated from high school. "I want to be there after school, and to volunteer as a room parent, and to be able to go to the daytime school programs and drive them to their after-school activities," this friend explained. But she also said she's a first-generation college student, and her extended family all wonder why she earned a college degree if she's not going to use it. I didn't say anything about my Ph.D.

At this meeting, we reflected on what a tough--but ultimately triumphant--year it's been for my daughter's little school and everyone who's been helping run it, and how it's really taken near-heroic efforts by everyone involved to keep it afloat after the disruption of the former director's abrupt departure just before the school year began and the crisis of a budget that left us contemplating layoffs and worse. The school director reflected on the high points of the year ("Spaghetti Day! Violin music, saxophone music, harp music, guitar music! The Art Crawl! Our resident mama and papa ducks, hatching their 13 babies in the courtyard just last week!"), and I was deeply happy to have been there for all of it. Not literally there in Julia's classroom for every moment, but present, participating, aware of the daily minutiae of my daughter's school life.

I don't know what's down the road for me, if I'll be using a Xerox machine in the next 14 years or not. I like to think it doesn't really matter. We full-time, years-long, stay-at-home-moms---we're just following our hearts right now, and trusting that everything will work out later on. It's not easy, but what is? It will be OK.

But I may need to brush up on my copy-machine skills in 2024.

Tuesday, May 05, 2009

Summer Plans

Hey, all. So, over here in Wonderland, such as it is, I'm still obsessing about schedules and summer and living life differently.

I like to have very little going on. Oh, I didn't say I HAVE very little going on. Ha! I wish. I mean I do BETTER when I have very little going on. I don't like tons of classes and activities and lessons for my children; I don't like evening commitments for myself; I don't like every single weekend booked with social plans (even when I adore all the friends with whom we make plans). I'm an introvert. I like my quiet time. Being too busy stresses me out. It also makes me a worse parent. I honestly think I am happiest, and enjoy my life the most, when I've got almost nothing going on besides the day-to-day work of raising a family. And that's because, of course, the day-to-day work of raising a family--particularly when both your children are under five years old--is MORE THAN ENOUGH GOING ON, ALL BY ITSELF.

This summer, my poor husband will resume (we think) his second, part-time job. (This is a boon for our budget, but a bummer for him.) But I am working hard at seeing what I can cut OUT of my own list of obligations. My volunteer job will be over. (Forgive me for saying this, but: THANK GOD.) My girls are doing two things this summer: one session (four mornings) of preschool "summer school" for Julia, and toddler swim for both. If I felt that one of those was optional, I'd do less than even that, but for various reasons I really feel that those two activities are necessary. Grandparents will be visiting here and there, and we may make a short visit up north in August, but I'm studiously avoiding any week-long travel plans this summer. Julia and Genevieve will both have birthdays during the summer months, but I'll continue my tradition of keeping those celebrations simple. I'll be writing my columns for, but I might purposely take a break from any other writing efforts (except, maybe, that long-held dream of the book proposal....). I was recently contacted about some potential summer-only psychological consulting/practice work, but I'm not sure it will work out and even if it did, I might give it a pass.

In short, I'm doing all I can to make the upcoming summer a period of leisure (ha!), unscheduled time, and a break from stress--particuarly after this difficult past year. When I envision the upcoming summer, more than anything on earth I want to feel happy in my soul, and what that means to me is the luxury of focusing on backyard play, cooking with organic produce from our farm-share box, walks and bike-rides, spontaneous playdates with friends, and lots of time at the park--all without the pressure of a list of all the OTHER things I need to be doing.

So if you're a friend of mine, please don't take it personally if I turn down some invitations this summer, or avoid any summer-long commitments to regular playgroups or classes. It's not you. It's my stressed-out, over-tired psyche, and my need to make some changes. I hope, later on, to be able to update you all and say, Summer's going great. I'm raising my girls, playing in the sun, cooking from scratch, running, and doing the very least paid work I possibly can.

Life is short! Not to mention summer.

Talking About Making Women Friends

My latest advice column is up over at today. Check it out!

Saturday, May 02, 2009

Non-Awesome Mom

Chris over at Notes From the Trenches is writing this week about ways she fails as a mom. Oh, not anything big and horrible--we're not talking about abuse or neglect or anything like that. Chris, from what I can tell, is an incredible mom, not least because she has seven children and she home-schools them all and they all play Little League (read: much juggling of various practice and game schedules) and Chris still manages to regularly cook great meals, dress well, and maintain long, gorgeous hair. I digress.

I read her post tonight, about little ways she fails--the mismatched socks and the forgetting to play tooth fairy and the not washing the baseball uniforms every night--and I almost cried. Because this past week for some reason I felt an awful lot like the kind of mom who fails in not little ways but big. I don't know why this past week more than any other.

Maybe because the sleep-training has failed.

Maybe because most days my two-year-old wakes up crabby, moves on to surly, and winds up cranky. (Unless she's in public, when she usually vacillates between silent and compliant.)

Maybe because Julia's needs often get neglected in my attempts to placate Genevieve. Or because I yell at Genevieve a lot, becoming very often these days the kind of mom I don't want to be. Or because I think of her as "naughty" and "infuriating" rather than "determined" and "spirited." And because I started to wonder if Genevieve is so naughty because I don't pay enough dedicated attention to her, free from multi-tasking and social networking and online writing and checking e-mail and cleaning the house and making shopping lists and paying bills and volunteering and venting to fellow-mom friends so that I can get through the day. Last week we went to toddler class and on the way there, Genevieve said, "Mama stay with me, and NO TALKING TO ANYONE. Just PLAY." Sometimes I think Genevieve's naughty because I don't pay enough attention to her. Which is a lot worse than mismatched socks.

When Julia was a baby, I didn't write a blog. There weren't many mommy-blogs yet, so I only read one or two, maybe once a week instead of every day. I wasn't on Facebook. I didn't read Babble or Work it, Mom! or Parent Dish. I wasn't volunteering anywhere. I wasn't trying to write essays and columns for publication, I wasn't planning book proposals. I didn't have many friends; I didn't spend daytime hours talking to anyone else but her. I filled my days playing with her, talking with her one-on-one, for hours. Every day. All week. Of course, I almost lost my mind as well, without the companionship of mom-and-baby classes and blog-friends and new social media and daily phone calls that take me away from floor play and art projects. But I think Julia was happy. And she was certainly not naughty.

All week I wondered if I need to live my life differently, if I need to live my life better. And I wasn't talking about remembering to play tooth fairy.