Friday, December 24, 2010

merry christmas!


Christmas is here. Right here.

Our graham cracker houses

Cut out cookies

Our frozen ornaments, hanging on our teepee. 

Aaaand, finally, the tree is up!
I love a silver tree.

Plus, as a bonus, the cutest picture of Clark and Milo ever

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

here comes christmas, ready or not.

Well, my christmas tree is not up and I've done almost no shopping. How did it come to this? And now anxiety has gripped my throat so that I can't breathe deeply. It seems I believed making graham cracker houses and chocolate dipped pretzels and cut out cookies were more important holiday activities than shopping. Which, come to think of it, they are. Except now it's December 21st and in 4 days I still have to have gifts for kids and parents and in-laws. Cousins and nieces are simply going to have to receive their boxes after the holiday. Same for the video card I'll be sending out electronically..... there's no way for holiday cards to find themselves done and addressed and mailed. A simple impossibility. Perhaps I'm learning to acknowledge my limitations.

I hope I have pictures of the projects we've been doing. One of my favorites is the outdoor ornaments Frances and I made the other day. The idea came from this blog, and they used cranberries; I didn't have cranberries, and getting to the grocery is yet another activity that's falling off my list, so I used limes which are green and celebratory, I figured. I did use the Artful Parent's learning curve--for example, I put one lime slice in the muffin tin and then water just to cover it. I froze those for a while, then added the yarn and another lime slice, then water to the top, then froze all. Don't they look lovely?

Note that I said Frances and I did this project; I've started to leave Clark out of some of these activities, and without much guilt. He was part of the graham cracker houses (in retrospect, I should have just bought the damn gingerbread house kit since I was not going to commit to baking the gingerbread myself. The graham cracker houses were not as easy as I expected) but I spent a good bit of time saying, "Clark, sit down. Please stop shaking the table. Okay, only one more piece of candy. Don't sit on the table, Clark. In your chair. Could you please stop moving for a moment?!" Man, he makes me nutso sometimes. Constantly in motion, constant activity, constant throwing of things. Constant, constant. In the end I just released him: "Clark, go. Go play over there. Legos. You want legos?" and I finished his house.

Good enough parenting. That's the aim, remember?

Tuesday, December 14, 2010


When my husband read the last post, the one about the woman at airport security with two tiny children, he got rather irritated with me. Since he was with me at the airport he of course knew the whole story, and he called me out for the part I neglected to include, which I didn't because the post was already long and I didn't think it was necessary in order to make my point, when in fact it makes the point even stronger and clearer. Also, Mitch felt I was unfairly ragging on dads, on men, when the problem is much larger than that, as you will see.

So. After the dad came and took the boy from me, and after I'd put my shoes in the plastic bin and my backpack on the conveyer belt, and after I'd walked through the metal detector, I sat down on a bench to put my shoes back on and generally organize myself. That was when I noticed the mom in the middle of a circle of security folks who were helping her take the baby wrap off, patting her down, going through her suitcases. (of course they were.) I stood by the entrance to the terminal to wait for Mitch, and the little boy tried to dart by me (unwatched as he was for the moment, because his mother was needlesstosay dealing with other shit). I sort of blocked his way, trying to keep him in the general security area rather than running loose in the terminal, but he was determined and going toward something specific, and when I turned, there was his grandmother. I assume that's who she was; in any case a woman older than his mom who was smiling and holding her arms out to him, and he clearly knew and trusted her. 

So not only had the mom been left by the dad to deal with both kids on her own, but the grandmother (we're going to call her that for the sake of simplicity) was there somewhere too, not helping. Again, I know nothing. Maybe she too was dealing with passports and hassle from TSA and no one meant to leave the mom by herself. But I don't think so. If that were the case, then why was the grandmother not over by the mom and toddler just then, while the mom was being patted down, trying to do as they asked and hold out her arms while also holding the baby? Why had the dad or the grandmother not offered to hold the baby? Why were the grandmother's arms empty, not even a bag to carry? Why wasn't she helping????

The point is that it's not just the non-maternalness of men that mistakenly assumes the mom's got it under control. It's ALL of society that believes moms are the only ones responsible for the children. Maybe in past times, when households and neighborhoods were multigenerational, it looked like the mom was doing all the work, but she wasn't--not if it was going smoothly. 

And this is an interesting issue, because I find it bleeding over into my own perception of my parenting. There are times when I ask Mitch to take the kids so I can do--whatever--run errands or go out with friends or go to a doctor's appointment, and I feel guilty, like I'm shirking my duties, because my duties are the children. I feel like I'm not supposed to ask for help with them. The first few days of Frances's life this issue was already in play. I had a rough recovery, couldn't stand for more than a few minutes. But I felt like I had to do everything. Mitch finally said, "I want to help. I want you to tell me how I can help." It was hard for me to accept, to wake him in the night after I'd nursed simply to say, "Would you mind changing the baby's diaper?" I felt like it was silly for us both to be up... I was already up nursing; I should be able to also change her and swaddle her and rock her back to sleep. Truth was, I needed the help. I needed to not be getting in and out of bed so much, because it was painful, and I needed to know someone was there to help me if I asked. 

Someone there to help if you ask. Isn't that what we all need? Just to know that? 

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

because we're all in the same big boat

I've been away from the blog because we've been away on vacation! To LA! Without kids! Mitch was invited to present at UCLA and I went along while my mom stayed with Frances and Clark. Sunshine! Ocean views from our (Santa Monica) hotel! It was fabulous and warm (I left here with a tiny bit of snow on the ground, and returned to much more snow on the ground. I had to dig the car out in just my little sweatshirt and no gloves...), and I got to see two old friends, which was renewing in ways I didn't see coming. 

We took the redeye home. Redeyes always seem like a good idea--get on the plane at 11:30pm (which means an extra full day in LA) then sleep while in transit (cuz why would you want to be awake for that anyway?) and arrive at 9am, rested and ready for the day. But the reality is that you step onto the plane already bleary eyed and then only sleep in 2 minute increments because you're sitting upright in a tiny airplane seat forcryingoutloud and besides, the seatbelt sign keeps dinging on and off. 

At least my mom stayed an extra day here, so I could sleep once we got home. It all worked out. 

At LAX there was a young mom at security with a baby strapped to her chest--maybe 3 months old? I had been watching the baby earlier with a kind of yearning I've become familiar with and will discuss later, and I didn't realize until I heard the screaming that she had a toddler too. My guess is he was not yet two, and the poor mom was trying to get her million bags organized for security and the kid kept running off. She'd go get him and drag him back by the arm, and drag him she had to because as soon as she touched him he went boneless and screamed and flopped on the floor. A couple of times she left him there on the floor for a moment, lolling around on the ground, while she again tried to organize baby crap diaper bags shoes belts phones on the conveyor belt, and the kid would get up and run off. Then she'd go get him, and again with the screaming and flopping. She couldn't pick him up or get a good grip on him because of the baby on her front who thankfully wasn't hollering too; he was rather mesmerized by the lights on the ceiling. 

As soon as the security fella checked my ID with his little pen light and scribbled on my boarding pass with his highlighter, I made my way to the mom and toddler. At that specific moment she was simultaneously trying to hold him by the arm and lug a suitcase up onto the conveyor belt, and he was 90% on the floor. I just said, "Let me help you," and scooped him up. I didn't know if he'd let me hold him, but he did, and the crying didn't get any louder though it didn't let up any either. I didn't worry about that, just let him cry and tried to jolly him a bit and simply keep him from running off while the mom dealt with everything else. She looked so surprised when I picked him up, and then enormously grateful, and then she paused and stood there a moment, her hair falling in her face. It took me a minute to realize she was crying. 

Before that moment I sympathized with her (and greatly) but when she started to cry I suddenly knew what she was feeling, and I could feel the echo of it in my own chest. I remembered the exhaustion and desperation and trying-my-best-because-what-else-is-there-to-do-but-slog-through and oh I felt for her. I should have known she would cry. That's what I always did when strangers rescued me. The reason the tears come at those moments of rescue is because 1) the sheer gratitude that someone else sees your suffering and simply wants to help is overwhelming, and 2) you would be doing nothing but crying anyway if only you were able to pause for a moment to feel what it is you're feeling. 

The mom only cried for a moment and then got it together and thanked me, and thanked me again, and then again, and that was when I realized she didn't even speak english. Damn, she must have been even more overwhelmed than the average distressed mom. 

And THEN. The dad appeared. Seriously. Where the hell had he been? Had he just been at a different conveyor belt station, leisurely taking off his shoes and getting his bags in order and ignoring the screaming? Good grief. He didn't even take the kid from me right away. What the hell??? She was already wearing the baby, probably sleep deprived and sore nipples, her back aching from the wrap, and why was she left to drag the toddler around in the first place? Damn. Although we've come a long way, it's true that women are still assumed to be the ones fully responsible for the kids. Hello postpartum depression! And then the dads don't understand why the moms are emotional or overwhelmed. Or worse: sometimes they don't even notice. 

Now, to be fair, I don't know anything about their situation. Maybe he was dealing with legal crapola and passports and being hassled by TSA while she tried to get their shit through security. That they were of another culture (unnamed) I see as relevant. It's a culture that's typically rather misogynist. But still, if I can see she's struggling and I don't even know her, can't he? 

But the flag I'd like to fly here doesn't have to do with dads, but with us moms and the others we witness. I want to call you to action: Help those moms you see struggling! Help each other! And I think it's important to not just ask, "Do you need any help?" politely waiting to be invited and perhaps uncertain about interfering. Instead, straight up offer: "What can I do?" or "Here, let me hold the groceries while you get the baby in the stroller." When Frances was 5 months old I flew with her by myself to NYC, and as I got to my seat on the plane, the woman in the row behind just stood up, held out her arms, and said, "I'll hold the baby while you get settled." I almost cried then too, so grateful not only for the help, but also that someone would know the struggle inside me. 

Being a mom of a tiny baby feels so lonely, so alone. When most people see a mom and a baby, all they see is the baby and her incredible cuteness. What a beautiful thing to have other people see us moms too, and know our struggle behind the sweetness that is the baby. Both exist at the same time: the wonder of a small baby, and the anxiety and fear and exhaustion of being a mom. We need to tell each other we're not alone, give a shout of support--You can do this! and remind each other that there are people around willing to help, to be kind, to offer a hand. 

Thursday, November 25, 2010

let's give some thanks, shall we?

Thanksgiving is my favorite holiday. Good food, good company, no consumerism, and thanks. Here's what I've got to give thanks for today:

Good health, strong marriage, sweet children, clean water, cuddling in bed with my husband and kids while I type this, coming snow, that my husband has the means to support our family plus something extra to save and give back to the community, and the sweet bare curiosity and honesty of childhood.

I'm also extremely thankful that some things have changed. I find myself suddenly in a different space--where I don't long for the relief of a sitter or Mitch's getting home at night, where I look forward to hanging out with the kids, letting Frances help me make the cranberry sauce or Clark help me do the laundry. I'm aware that it was a mere three weeks ago that I thought I couldn't be around them at all. So what changed? it is me? Is it them?

More on that later. For now, just thanks. And off to a hike with my sweet husband, my shrieking son, my cooperative daughter, and our funny dog. Happy day of thanks to you too!

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

the moments to see

Ages ago someone posted an anonymous comment on the blog that just said, "You sure do complain a lot." Most likely some random surfing bloodshot human, probably childless, but it bothered me a good bit. I conjured up responses in my head like, "the blog is, after all, about the challenges of being a mom..." In the end I just deleted the comment.

Today, though, I gave the blog address to a new friend, and just this minute I took a look at the blog and read the last few posts to see what she was going to see when she looked it up. And damn, I sure do complain a lot.

That's unfortunate.

Because there are certainly lovely moments. There are transcendent moments. Moments when the light comes in all soft around the edges. Another blog I won't post a link to writes about exactly those moments, and I will admit that when I took a look at it (having been directed there by its being voted one of the top 50 mom blogs on Babble) I almost laughed. Yes, it's sweet, and grateful, and celebratory of life. But it also seemed like a bunch of crap to me, somehow. Not that I believe the blogger doesn't experience things in that light, (though, does she, really?) but why do other people want to read about it? I don't know... I feel like the transcendent moments are more private. The crappy ones are the ones you need company for. They're the ones we need to share so we don't feel so alone in our frustrations. Hence this blog.

However. One might argue that it's good to fine tune the focus on those sweet moments, let our eyes go lazy and our gaze drift on the more challenging ones. That would be nice. An nice way to live, to pay more attention to the laughing than to the yelling. Okay, perhaps I could use more of that.

Yet it's the challenging moments that call us, that ask of us the most that we have, ask us to look hard at the things that need seeing. Isn't there some danger to putting them aside? We can't live our lives in soft focus. (And who knows, maybe she doesn't. Maybe she just wants to capture those moments in the blog. Yet I have to ask: why? Why do you want to share them? Is it a kind of art? Capturing the sweet? The dainty? What about the powerful? No judgement, though.) It is a spiritual journey, after all. It's also a nerve-fraying-screaming-and-petrified-cheese-under-the-carseat journey, which makes us forget it's a spiritual journey. Perhaps we could remember if we could hear ourselves think.

Or maybe the moments that try us are just more interesting. They show us our mettle.

Moving on.

My new camera is lovely. Here is its rendition of JOY, or what we did Saturday morning:

And here's LOVE:

This is Leo. He lives across the street. He and Frances love each other. Love. Like the real, true, affectionate, whole kind. He's moving away at christmas, and my heart will break for her. For now, though, here they are. Happy. 

Tuesday, November 9, 2010


Turns out that particular freak out had much to do with hormones. Did I mention I got the IUD with the hope of eradicating PMS? Oh well, it's early; my body is still adjusting. And currently I blame the IUD not only for the hysteria itself but also for its wacky intensity, because it was way wackier than my usual PMS episodes. Hormones are strange things. Anyway, things are much improved over here, and I'm a much saner person.

In other news: Clark has a stutter. It's kind of cute, though am I allowed to say that? It started maybe 2 weeks ago and the past few days have actually been better. It's only the first sound of a sentence, and as he tries and tries to get it out, he gets louder and louder until he's shouting and red in the face. After about a week he realized he could speak clearly if he whispered, which I found to be pretty nifty of him. But then he started to stutter in the whisper.

It's a normal thing for kids to go though, I know. They say there's only need for concern if it goes on 3 months or longer. I'm not worried.

Also, Frances is a gem right now. Which is particularly fabulous given the terror that is my son. She's so helpful and patient when I have to deal with him. She's also very very affectionate, kissing, hugging, generally wrapping herself around me, telling me she loves me, wants to play with me, wants me to be with her. Aaaah, at least they're not horrible at the same time. (I probably shouldn't write that. My next post could be about what kind of padded cell they're going to put me in since they've both become intolerable.) For now, though, I can at least see that my patience comes and goes, rather than is gone. I was really worried for a minute. Thanks for all the concern and the love. It helps--really.

Plus, I bought a big fancy camera. Results to come.
Top 50 mom blogs... vote for your favorite (or for mine. :)

Saturday, November 6, 2010

my undoing

I have no dishwasher and no camera. Damn the modern need for this gadgetry! It turns out I live in a very fragile and procarious tower (midieval stone and tiny window variety) where one brick goes and the whole thing tumbles down. I'm falling apart over here. I couldn't even get it together enough to go vote. And I really wanted to vote.

At first I thought it was the dishwasher that put me over the edge--the final straw--, or simply the snowball effect of sitters who cancelled and Mitch's migraine that put him completely out of commission for bath/bedtime routine the night before my embarrassing emotional collapse in the middle of the gym (while on a machine, no less. I had to flee to find a more discreet place to disintegrate). But it wasn't the dishwasher. It's Clark. Clark Clark Clark, who used to be my sweet baby, my agreeable one, the easy going, the less intense, the one who could adjust and flex and roll. I somehow thought his personality would allow him to bypass this developmental stage. How silly of me.

Let me be clear. He is no longer a sweet baby. He is two and a half, and he is a monster. MONSTER. Perhaps we are at the height of the thing? The most intense it will get? Perhaps he's not still building to his full monsterdom? Oh please let that be so. For everyone's sake, let that be so, and let this peak not last long, let us soon come down the other side oh so gently.

A MONSTER. It's gotten to where I don't want to go anywhere--the library or the carousel at the play museum or the hardware store--because there is a 100% chance he's going to be incredibly difficult about something. Getting in his carseat. Getting out of his carseat. Which carseat to sit in. Which song is on. The fact his blankie fell on the floor.

He's got a terribly traumatic life.

But the thing that undoes me is the 100% chance that once we get to the bagel shop, farmer's market, grocery store, he's going to throw a fit about something he absolutely cannot touch, climb, hit. Mr. Destructo coming through! I simply cannot take it. So we go nowhere.

He still throws fits at home, of course; about my telling him he can't throw Little People at the dog, or hit the cat with the wiffle bat, or climb daddy's dresser. Today we had a fit with Every Single diaper change.

It exhausts me.

It's not that I'm embarrassed about his displays in public. It's not that I feel like an incompetent parent because he's delivering them. I know it's a stage and it will (eventually...!) pass, but somehow the shrieking or the flinging--or something--has tripped my panic button and I don't know how to turn it off. I feel like a crazy person. (A couple of days ago I seriously wondered if I could come back from it, thought maybe we'd have to hire a full time nanny for a month or so, so I could lie in bed and read The Age of Innocence and the New York Times Magazine. I'm way behind on current events.)

I'm trying. I'm doing all the right things; going to the gym, being social, doing laundry. I have absolutely no motivation to organize and prepare food, and that's a bummer for everyone. But a few dinners of mac and cheese never hurt any kid. And a few dinners of cereal for mom and dad never did either. Hopefully the tide will turn and my energy will come back, my motivation will return. This hideous gray rainy weather isn't helping I'm sure. I'm holding out for the pretty white snow...

Monday, November 1, 2010


I've lost my camera again. Or more specifically, Frances has lost it. Just so you know. No pictures anytime soon, unless I cave and go buy the big fancy one I've been wanting. Which I just might do.

what is there to fear?

Boy, I'm really having trouble these days getting to the blog. Part of that is because in my free time I go to the attic, to my new painting studio, with which I am in love. This is a good thing, of course, but I also need this blog; I need it for for me, for me to process and record and extrapolate, to make some sense and order of the disorderly world. And I apologize to those loyal followers who check back often: YOU! You are some of my favorite people, the ones in it with me.

Sometimes I feel like all I do it try to get breathing room. Each art activity, trip to the park, sitter I schedule, space I declutter, are all done with the goal of feeling calmer, more organized, revived. I can't seem to revive.

But it occurs to me that there is no point in revival, just like there's no front of the line of traffic on the highway; there's always more traffic, and always more space to declutter, sweaters to mend, laundry to fold, dinner to cook. There's never going to be a time when it's all done and I can sit and read my book (or write on my blog) while feeling free and relaxed.

There are things I want to do with the kids--projects--but it's like I can't get myself rested enough (emotionally, physically) to put them together. If I wanted to make excuses we could talk again about my headaches... And it's true; much of the time I'm so depleted from the migraine and hangover after that I'm a success if I get people fed.

I feel like I'm waiting for the storm to pass, hanging on. But the truth is that there is no storm, and there is no passing. It's just life. Instead of hanging on and waiting, I should be letting go--falling falling, and enjoying the wind and rain.

Monday, October 18, 2010

venting venting complaining and venting

I know I do a lot of complaining on this blog. I would like there to be more questioning and celebrating and a little less complaining, but there it is. Perhaps that was part of the blog's initial intent anyway--a place to vent. (That's not true. I hoped it wouldn't be just a place to vent--that's for journals and coffee shop napkins--but a place to examine concepts with some consciousness.) One of the reasons I've been absent here for the past short bit is because I couldn't come up with much to write that wasn't complaining: about the strep Frances and I had (deargod did that hurt) or how although she seemed well within 5 minutes of starting her antibiotics it took me days and days of lying in bed without the energy to lift a spoon of soup to my lips; about the two-kids-and-one-me air travel which wasn't actually so bad and involved only a moderate amount of screaming ("Sit down, Clark. You must sit down on your bottom." "AAAAaaaahhhhhaaaahhhhaa!") and only one spilled drink in someone's-not-mine lap and seat, and I even had a change of clothes handy; about how I mistakenly thought that traveling by myself wasn't going to be the same energy expenditure as regular single parenting because we were going to see fun people and do fun things, but in fact it was rather exhausting; and now--now!--after coming home to my sweet sweet husband who not only greeted us at the airport with a rose for me but also straightened the whole house--our first weekend back and the excitement of being with Mitch because it's fun and because it gives me a hand, and Mitch spent most of the weekend in bed with some unidentifiable illness. Sigh.

I mean, really. My life does not suck. I do not live in war torn Serbia. I do not support these kids by myself with two low paying crappy jobs. I am not alone, abused, hungry. I live in a very nice house with a wonderful and supportive husband and disposable income. I have the freedom to choose whether to work or stay home with these children. My family are all healthy. Yet still I complain.

While we were in North Carolina I talked with one of my oldest friends about this: about the frustration and underlying general dissatisfaction that seems to come with caring for young children. My therapist assures me it is particular to this stage of my life and theirs; that staying home with small children is isolating and frustrating and makes you feel the loss of self, of identity, and that eventually the kids will grow and need me less, and things will all change.

Not that I need to tell this to anyone who has ever had a child, but it's just so emotionally exhausting. The crux of the thing is that you're never off duty. Even when they're finally (finally!) asleep in their beds and you and your glass of wine are settled on the couch for some mindless entertaining 30 Rock, they could resurface at any moment. You still have to listen for their calls, their cries, have to be ready to console or convince or clean up vomit, can't drink too much of that wine lest someone wakes with a fever of 105 and you have to drive to the hospital. You listen in your sleep, always ready and trained to act.

I've mentioned before my friend Sylvia's comparison of parenting to the trenches of war: hunkered down, ready to act, sleeping with one eye open. I really don't want to make light of war experiences, but it is a funny way to think about it.

I'm done. I feel much better.

No, one more thing: when will Clark stop flinging across the room everything he touches? When will he stop shrieking in response to any form of correction or suggestion or coercion or discipline? When will he actually play with toys rather than just dumping tubs of them on the floor and walking away? These things will pass, right?

Okay, now I'm done.

And since I'm done, I will tell you one uncomplaining thing: I set up my painting studio! I bought paints and funky gel texture mediums! I can't wait to get up there! I just have to find the time... and that's just a fact, not a complaint.

Wednesday, October 6, 2010


Got an IUD. While I know that our contraceptive decisions may not be of any interest to you at all, I tell you this because 1) it brought back some pretty strong emotions and memories from our infertility days when I had to have that horrific test done where they tell you it might feel "a little crampy"as dye is shot into your uterus, and in fact you end up nearly coming off the table, and 2) it hurt like a motherfucker. Really hurt. Really. For several hours. Even though the gynecologist told me it would feel nothing like the dye test, liar she is. I'd even taken six (six!) ibuprofen an hour before. The plus side, besides contraception, is that it could help enormously with my PMS and mood swings (which, for everyone involved, are more trying than I want to tell you) and even with my headaches. I'll take almost any help with my headaches.

I didn't start this blog until Frances was 8 months or so, so I wasn't blogging when we were going through the 4th circle of hell, otherwise known as Infertility. Before I participated in that particular train wreck, I didn't understand when people said it was hard. Hard how? Why would it be hard? We didn't end up having to go the distance: Frances was conceived on our fourth try with Intra-Uterine-Insemination (IUI) rather than In-Vitro-Fertilization (IVF), so I still tasted the bitter pill, but didn't have to injest bottle after tiresome bottle. There are people out there who do a better job talking about it than I... the blog A Little Bit Pregnant is wonderful (and very funny) in exploring what infertility does to a person and how one slogs through it with some amount of sanity intact.

It's Hard because it makes impersonal and clinical something that should be the realm of story and fable, something surrounded by deep heart desires, by yearning. It's a private thing, this desire for children, for creating history, for connection and relation and love, and here you are on a table with your feet in the stirrups.

Also, you have no control.

But not only that: the logistics of infertility treatments provide a lovely roller coaster of hope and emotion. The third day of my cycle (day 3 of my period) I would begin taking oral hormones, and I would nurture this tiny sprig of hope that perhaps this time... Every few days I would go in for an internal ultrasound (a rather phallic wand, not very comfortable) where on the screen I would see the number of eggs developing that month. There they are. Hope. Each time I was there they would get bigger and bigger, until it was time. Then I would give myself a shot at home which guaranteed ovulation so precise the doctors knew the moment the egg was released. Hope hope hope. The insemination part was a turkey baster type of thing, just at the right time, no better opportunity, and now just up to the swimmers to get there. I didn't have to--as with IVF--have my eggs "harvested", removed and fertilized in the petri dish, a painful detail from what I'm told. After the insemination there was the waiting. Waiting. Ten days, which might seem short but absolutely is not. Then. After all that, after you're up up up at the top of the hope hill, you wake up one morning to the bright beginning of your period, and down down down you come. But lest you get too comfortable down there in the pit of hopelessness, in two days you will start another round of hormones and "this time," you think. "Maybe this time."

Oh god it's hell.

Why was I telling you this? Oh yes, the IUD. Well, enough about that.

A Little Bit Pregnant brought up an interesting question recently: does going through infertility hell make you a better parent? (ostensibly because of the sheer gratefulness of finally being pregnant.) But I say no. Grateful as you may be, blessed as you may feel, success granted through all the times you pledged to be a perfect parent if you could only become one forgodsakes, regular day to day parenting still puts you in that spot. That spot without much forest for the trees. You still have the regular frustration of unending care for someone else, and the needs of these little people are great as well as immediate.
The abovementioned blog says it nicely:

I don't think infertility has made me a better parent.  If anything, it's made me acutely aware that I am an average parent.  If I'm more grateful than I'd otherwise have been -- and whether that's the case is utterly unknowable -- well, so what?  Sometimes the only thing the gratitude buys me is the knowledge that I should do better, and the sadness when I don't.
Which sounds like a big damn downer.  But I actually think it's beautiful.  Isn't this what we all hope for when we seek to become families?  The chance to try, maybe fail, and then grow?

That's an awfully nice way to frame it. Yes, I believe that no matter what you go through to get here, here is where we all are. Welcome! I think I'll stay awhile.

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

happy happy birthday birth day.

A nice little quote to start us off:

The most important thing she’d learned over the years was that there was no way to be a perfect mother and a million ways to be a good one. — Jill Churchill

Oh, I've been thinking about this quote, and every time I do it makes me feel better. Because, of course, I am a good mother in a million ways, but somehow I so often forget that and focus on my lack of perfection. 

Being the good mother that I am, I spent all of last saturday--and I mean all--baking a castle cake. Frances was four on sunday and the party was by royal invitation. We had mostly princesses, one knight, one prince, and one determined royal firefighter. I was a little surprised by the lack of kings and queens. Perhaps these little people recognize their true lack of power and go instead for simple prestige. 

And I made princess hats (what is the actual name for them? the cone shaped things with veils out the top...) out of elmo birthday hats from Clark's party last year: I covered them with foil, cut the tip off, and pulled netting and ribbons through. I cut a few crowns for the fellas out of posterboard and covered them with foil also. They got to decorate these with little stick on gems from Michaels. Mitch erected a "castle" in our family room from a tent, a big blanket, and a broom, and inside we spread out the tea set on a footstool. It was the hit of the party. (Frances is third from the left in this picture, in the lighter pink.)

After the party Frances kept telling me, "You're the best mommy in the whole world." Ten hours on a cake will do that to you, it turns out. I'd been thinking about the cake for some time, trying to figure out how to put it together, or perhaps how to decorate the yummy Ultimate White Cake I was going to buy from Wegmans. Somewhere I heard the suggestion to use upside down ice cream cones for castle turrets and that seemed like a good idea except that I couldn't figure out, once you've frosted the thing, how to get it from your hand onto the cake. You see what I mean? In the end I felt brilliant: I thinned out the frosting with milk, used a pastry brush to paint it on the cone, and then rolled the cone in silver and purple sprinkles. They were lovely. I do wish I'd used a different color of gumdrops, maybe yellow, for the tops of the turrets... the purple doesn't really show up, but I'd already been to the store twice and wasn't going back again. 

The party was lovely. I boycotted the tradition--at least around here--of pizza before cake, which made me a little nervous and feel a bit like an outlaw. (When I brought out the cake, Frances said, "Mommy, where's the pizza?") And I boycotted the goodie bag, as I plan to do for the rest of my kids' lives. Good grief, they've just gotten free cake and drinks and maybe pizza, plus bouncing or painting or some other intentionally fun activity, and now they need goodies in pretty bags too? I don't get it. Isn't the party enough? But I digress.

Just before cake I had the kids line up outside the Entry to the Royal Ballroom and I recruited an older sibling as a trumpeter while each child was announced and introduced to the Royal Court. It might have been my favorite part. Really, can it get any cuter than happy agreeable four year olds? 

So four years ago today I had a newborn and no sleep and ice packs between my legs. Four years ago today we brought Frances home from the hospital and put on on the bed in her room where she lay mesmerized by the light through the gauze curtains. Four years ago I was a new mom and the light came down a little differently through the trees. Happy birth day to me. 

Friday, September 24, 2010

sleepy toddler update

A big THANK YOU to everyone who responded with suggestions! (there were also about 25 more suggestions on my fb page...) It was interesting: all of it was helpful, even if I disagreed with it, because it helped me frame what I believe would work for us.

Here's what's happened: I unplugged the lamp in Clark's room (he has no overhead) and told him it was broken, and then I hung up a pretty little string of multi-colored japanese lantern lights. When I brought him in the room to show him the lights he said, "So beautiful!" That night in bed he stared up at them for ages and was so entranced with them that he let me leave before he was asleep.

The next night we had a harder time when Mitch told Clark he was leaving the room. There was screaming. Mitch left anyway and Clark screamed for a while more before he climbed out of the bed and came downstairs. I took him back up and sang him a song and told him I was going to leave. He protested, as expected. I got the bear off his changing table and put it in his crib, and told him the bear was very sleepy and he wanted to be sung a song so he could go to sleep. I asked Clark if he would sing the bear a song, asked what song he thought was the bear's favorite. Clark thought Row Row Row Your Boat might be, so I suggested he sing it to the very sleepy bear, and then I left. From downstairs the monitor told us that he sang and sang to the bear, and then happily talked to himself until he was asleep.

The next night Mitch was the one putting him down again, and when he told Clark he was leaving Clark screamed, but only for a moment. Maybe we've turned a corner. Aaaand in the middle of the night Mitch  dreamed Clark had climbed up into his arms, and then he woke, and Clark indeed was in bed with us, wrapped in Mitch's arms.

Since then we've been up and down... most nights we leave before he's completely asleep. Since we turned out the bright lights he definitely sleeps more consistently until morning, rather than getting up and 2 or 3 or 4 and wanting to get on with the day. Some nights he has a harder time than others, and we adjust; we stay with him a little while, or we make some kind of deal like we'll leave the door open and books in his bed as long as he will stay there, and some nights we just muddle through. But! Overall we're in a better place. Yay!

Frances's 4th birthday is the day after tomorrow and I'm busy now with the making of princess crowns and the creation of a castle cake, plus family is in town for the festivities, so it might be a few days before much more.... Though I do want to say that the birthday ceremony today at her Waldorf school was the sweetest thing I may have ever seen and it was all I could do not to blubber right there in the middle of it. I'll try to post pictures.

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

looking for suggestions!!

Serious sleep issues, and I need some help. At two this morning Clark was standing beside my bed saying "downstairs! downstairs!" and this did not work for me. In the end I was only up with him for about 40 minutes, but the night before it was an hour and a half. I'm starting to feel like when he was an infant and I was sleep deprived for legitimate reasons.

Here's what we've got:

First, he sleeps with his light on full, which is a problem because when he wakes up he doesn't know if it's morning and insists that he's ready to get up and go downstairs. I've thought about just taking the bulb out, telling him it's broken, and putting in a small night light. That means we'll have to read books at night somewhere other than in the armchair in his room, but that's okay. Another option is to put in a clock and tell him he can't get up until the first number is a six or seven or whatever, but honestly I don't think he's going to go for that at all. He'll just get up anyway. Or we could try both.

The next issue is that he wants us to stay in the room until he falls asleep. He doesn't do this at nap, by the way. He asks sometimes at nap and I tell him "no, at nap we don't do that," and he accepts it. So we're going to have to have a talk about how mom and dad are not going to stay in the room anymore. I could deal with letting him cry it out (and I think it would only take a day of this....) but he won't just cry it out; he'll climb out of the crib. This all started with his climbing out in the first place: we tried the supernanny thing of putting him back, putting him back, not speaking to him and just putting him back, but he just became more and more hysterical and worked himself up into what seemed an unnecessary panic. When that would happen and I would stop and just put my arms around him, he'd quiet immediately. We figured it was just a stage, some kind of anxiety that would pass, so we started to stay in the room. It isn't so bad to sit with him when we put him to bed, especially as we've taken to watching netflix on our iphones with headphones while we wait, but the problem is that he expects it again when he wakes in the night.


Okay. So when he wakes at night and screams, I tell him it's the middle of the night and everyone is sleeping and he needs to sleep too. He shrieks. If I say I'm going back to bed he shrieks and then climbs out of his bed. Here are the options as I see them:

1) Get a crib tent. Zip him in. Ignore the possible hazard were there a fire. Make him feel powerless but dominated. Get some sleep.

2) Get a new toddler bed he loves, a fire truck or pirate boat or something, and tell him he can only have it if he stays in it. In order to enforce that, however, I'd also have to get a crib tent so I can move him to the crib if he won't stay in the bed.

3) Leave the crib the way it is but put latches on the door so he can't get out of the room. This will probably mean he will cry until he passes out on the floor. Again with the powerlessness.

4) Is he old enough (2 1/2) for a sticker chart? I don't know... I don't think he'll get the idea of accumulating stickers toward a goal. But maybe there's something I can bribe him with immediately? I don't know what. He doesn't sleep with any stuffed animals, nothing I can take away if he won't comply...

5) Dose him heavily with narcotics every night before bed. Kidding. Sort of.

6) Gear myself up and do the supernanny sleep training for a couple of nights: simply put him back in bed every time he gets out. The problem with this is that I have to stay nearby to put him back in, and that's just what he wants. He doesn't mind being in the bed as long as I'm there too.

7) Take him into the bed with me in the guest room. (you note the absence of the option to put him in bed with us... both of us are light sleepers and it simply would not work.) I fear this would mean I would forever sleep in the guest room, which just creates another problem rather than solving this one.

8) Is there something I can get for his room that would make him more comfortable, less needy? Suggestions????

He used to be a great sleeper. He used to just wave to us from his bed as we said goodnight. He would wake up and sometimes call out in the night, but then go right back to sleep. All by himself. And I don't feel this is any longer about anxiety and separation and fear; now it seems to be about control, the way he is trying to assert control over his world. Maybe one solution, or part of the solution, is to help him feel in control in other ways, give him choices or let him make other decisions. Thoughts about that?

So, please, if you have any suggestions at all, please please offer them. Helpful or unhelpful, tried or absurd, I'll take em.

By the way, I'm writing this while both kids are at preschool! All on my own here in the world, for a little while. Maybe this space will mean I can keep up with the blog better. That would be nice.

Monday, September 13, 2010


I think my brain is deteorating. This is mostly why I haven't been posting... sometimes interesting issues come up, but then I can't think through them or something. This is what too many diapers will do to a person. Or maybe it's the volume of the screaming; maybe it's not just my eardrums it's damaged, but my actual brain cells too. I'll buy that.

Recently I made a new friend, a childless friend who is a PhD and new faculty here. She uses her brain on a regular basis for more than estimating the fullness of a diaper or how many snacks are necessary for a given outing, and while talking with her I felt like I was sprinting to keep up. It was pitiful. I need to take a class or something.

We are in transition. (We are actually all in transition all the time, but some transitions move more earth than others...) For one thing, school just started for Frances. We visited for a bit on Wednesday and then she had regular school days Thursday and Friday, though Thursday afternoon I was rather shocked to realize she was going again the very next day. I felt like it should be once a week or something....

Wednesday morning was going along fine, everyone wearing their own clothes and generally behaving, then Frances started losing her shit. "Is she hungry?" I asked Mitch. She cried about the toy Clark was playing with. She cried because the 6 page paperback book she was reading 'pinched her finger'. "Did she not sleep?" I asked. "Is she nervous about school?" And she was. It took awhile for her to admit it, or discover it, or something. She appears to be blessed with my complete inability to know what it is I'm feeling while I'm feeling it. I'm trying to help her with this, which is hard since I don't know how to do it in the first place.

So I told her about my scary first day of school, embellishing with all kinds of real and possibly real details. I reminded her I was going to be with her at the school--this was just a visit, not the actual first day--and then I realized she might not remember being there before, so told her what the school looked like, about the play kitchen and the dress up clothes and the baskets of rocks and wood and the chickens in the back. She calmed down, and when we were there she had a lovely time.

Thursday morning at the beginning of school they had a ceremony with this rainbow bridge, where the children, holding flowers, stood on one side of the bridge with their parents and the teacher stood on the other. One by one the children kissed their parents and crossed over the bridge where they gave the flower to the teacher who collected them into a bouquet. It symbolized their spirits going from their parents to the care of the teacher while in school, and at the end of the year ceremony they will walk over the bridge in the opposite direction. It was very very sweet. Frances had no issue at all with it and marched right across the bridge. Later in an email, the teacher said Frances had a really good day and was so confident. How funny to me that she is. The school is a Waldorf Kindergarten which is mixed ages, 4-6, and she's the youngest there. I worried a little that this would show and she would feel out of her element somehow, but I guess not. She's already attached to one other girl whose name is Francesca, interestingly.

So there's that. We've been getting along so well the past few days and Mitch suggested it's because she has school, something of her own away from me, something to make her feel independent. Or maybe we're just in the next (and much improved) stage.

But Clark! The stage we're in now is not so fabulous. I know I've said it before but since I think it every third minute of the day, it can bear repeating here: I cannot WAIT until no one in this house is two. Just the noise level alone is enough to put a person over the edge. I've taken to putting tissue in my ears first thing in the morning. (earplugs seem to be a bit too effective.) It does help with my patience.

There's the sitting in his room until he falls asleep thing; I worried we were creating a monster and indeed here it is. Now he's waking up in the night and wanting us to sit with him until he falls back asleep. Actually, that's after all the arguing; last night he was up from 4-5:30, wanting to go downstairs, wanting snacks, wanting different pajamas. Every time I told him no, explained it was the middle of the night, he screamed. A being attacked 5 alarm kind of scream. I think we're going to have to pick a night, a couple of nights, and just let him scream. It's going to suck. But he's old enough now to understand it, old enough that it will probably only take one night of that kind of hell for him to realize what it means.

Oh when there are no more two-year-olds. But he's so charming and sweet when he's not screaming. When he's not out of sorts he is lovely to be around. I remembered this last week when Frances was in school and I had him all to myself. When they're together they kind of rile each other up, but alone with me he was only joy. Except when he was screaming, as I've said before. I swear I think he's louder than most children.

Yet! Tomorrow! Tomorrow is the first day with both of them in school. I drop Frances off at 8:45, then Clark at 9. What will I do with myself? And then! It will happen again on Thursday! Oh blessed day.

Friday, September 3, 2010


Lots I want to post about; no time, no time. Which is mostly because I've been spending all my time helping Clark with his outfit changes. Seriously. We go through probably 8 different outfits by 10 am. It's currently the way he's attempting to assert 2-year-old control over his out of control world. I can't remember how Frances did it, though I do remember trying to come up with ways for her, things like letting her choose which sippy cup she wanted. Clark has come up with this all on his own and it's simply impossible (or at least unadvisable) to fight. His clothes, her clothes, doesn't matter. It even extends to pajamas. Last night Mitch put him down and when I got him up this morning he was wearing three shirts and two pairs of shorts over his onesie. We don't have air conditioning; he had to be hot, silly guy. 

Clark is the same age now as Frances was when she was tantrumming in full. There was a stretch months that were very loud and volatile, plus an enormously long couple of weeks when she tantrummed about once every 30 minutes. All day long. Sometimes the tantrums would last 20 minutes, which meant only 10 minutes or so of reprieve between. It was seriously exhausting. 

It's that age where they are so proud to be big (Clark tells us all the time, "I a BIG boy.") but also want to still be a baby. Being big is exciting and wonderful--to realize you have power and are ultimately separate--but they also are frustrated by how little actual power they have. After all, I make most decisions for him all day long: where we go, what he eats, when he eats, when he watches tv, when he gets his diaper changed, whether we get to go see the train in the grocery store though he begs and begs and begs. He wants to make some decisions. His clothes have taken the focus. 

But being separate can also be scary, all exposed and vulnerable in the big world. He's back in his crib now, wanted to be in it rather than the toddler bed, and he wants me to carry him everywhere, from room to room, up and down the stairs, to the car, through the parking lot, which is a problem since he's a full 30 pounds now. "Uppy! Uppy!" he says, and I try to explain that I will hold his hand but I can't carry him, and he loses his mind. It's not just the wail of not getting his way; it's a lament of deep sorrow, keening, stamping his feet, tears. Sometimes I just give in and pick him up, but my back is suffering for it. I can't do it much longer. 

I'm struggling with my headaches again, a thing that puts me out of commission on the blog completely. Hopefully they'll let up soon. I'm trying to post at least twice a week but clearly have not been meeting that goal lately. Yet! Next week Frances starts school! Four mornings a week! Clark starts the week after that--two mornings. Which means I'll have two whole mornings to myself!! It may be a whole new world. 

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

boys will be girls

Clark is all boy. Climbing, jumping, running, tumbling, car-zooming, rocket-blasting, tiger-growling, monster-roaring boy. But he also LOVES his big sister and wants to do whatever she does, which these days means wear her clothes.

"Sissy's clothes!" he says, and pulls open her drawer. "Princess dress!" It started with the dress up clothes, pink tutus and velvet leotards, but now it's Frances's actual clothes he demands, usually a skirt and tank top. His favorite tank top is orange with a bejeweled pineapple on the front. It's lovely. 


I let him. Everyone thinks he's a girl, of course, what with his long hair and stick on earrings. I don't correct them. (The stick on earrings were a big thing for a while and looked particularly funny with his regular boy clothes, but now that Frances has her ears actually pierced he's not interested in the stick ons anymore, I assume because she's not.) It occurs to me that it's a good thing his hair isn't buzz cut short--I'd really have to deal with comments then. He looks so funny to me dressed in poofy pink while zooming cars all over the family room floor and walls. I try to squint and see him as a girl but I can't--he just looks so boyish, despite the frills. Handsome as he is, he would not make a pretty girl. 

Salon recently did an article on this, from the point of view of the dad who was much more distressed about it than I am. His son was four and in school, and he was worried about whether the other children would tease him. We start school in about 3 weeks and we'll see then if it's still the fad. I might make a we-wear-our-own-clothes-to-school rule. Then again, I might not care.

My mom was here recently and she bought him a spiderman shirt for dress up. I think she hoped having some dress up of his own would mean he would abandon his sister's. He loved it. He accessorized with a wand and fairy wings. Very nice. 

Monday, August 23, 2010

time for bed

Finally, FINALLY we've got a new functional bedtime system. (All parenting is about systems, isn't it?) For ages bedtime around here was pretty easy. Clark was a dream: plop him in his crib and wave goodnight as you close the door behind you. Frances sometimes argued and negotiated but you can't have everything.

Then a couple of months ago everything changed. It's all Clark's doing--we moved him into a toddler bed and he literally could not stay in it. It was like his feet were physically pulled to the floor. There was lots of carrying him back to bed, back to bed, back to bed, discussing with him, possible threatening, then more simple repetition. Finally we moved him back to the crib, which helped for about 2 days. (For a split second I really thought we were onto something there--that maybe he didn't feel safe in the toddler bed or something, and that being in the crib would solve the problem.) Then he just climbed out of the crib over and over.

Finally he impressed upon us that he wants someone to sit in his room until he falls asleep. Some new fear / insecurity that he's developed, also probably related to his insisting that all the lights stay on like it's daylight in there. (For a short time I would sneak in after he'd fallen asleep and turn them off, leaving a closet light with plenty of light to see by, but he'd just wake at 3 am and insist that the lamps be turned on too...) So these days someone sits in the armchair by the crib until he falls asleep. We'll only stay if he doesn't talk or sing or bang on is crib in an effort to keep himself awake. Now that he trusts we'll be there, doesn't have to argue with us and chase after us, he actually falls asleep pretty quickly. I bring reading material--it's certainly bright enough to read, after all. I have Frances read to herself on her bed while I sit in Clark's room; I tell her I'll come back and lie with her for a few minutes after. And sometimes by the time Clark's fallen asleep, Frances has too.

So. Whew. It's funny the way things move in stages with kids. So often it's hard to spot; you think this new thing is some personality flaw or parenting failure, something you need to address and fix, only to discover a month later that it was a phase and just passed on its own. It would be so much more helpful if the phases would announce themselves.

For now, though, bedtime is no longer a 2 hour ordeal. So happy.

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

brave big girl

Frances got her ears pierced. She's been asking for a couple of months and decided she wanted to do it when my mom was here visiting last week. I told her it would hurt, tried to impress this upon her so she would be prepared--she is a big wimp when it comes to pain, the tiniest scratch can bring hysteria. Some random person told her it would be just a "little pinch" and she kept repeating this to me. I said, "It's going to be more than a little pinch, Frances. It's going to hurt." "Just a little pinch," she said. So we went.
She was beside herself with excitement while they drew the dots where the piercing would go. They use two folks for the actual piercing so that both ears are done at once (thank goodness) and it was only when they told her to look straight at me and hold very still that she realized it was serious business and nervousness crossed her face. Then the guns clicked and she looked stunned for a moment. Her face crumpled and she leaned into my chest and cried very softly. She tried not to cry, tried so hard to be big and brave. I said, "it's okay to cry, honey," and she did only for a minute. Afterward there were lollypops and she was so proud. She's shown them to every single person she's come into contact with, strangers in the grocery included. And she's very into taking care of them, reminds me when we're supposed to clean them. What a big girl she's getting to be. 

Saturday, August 7, 2010

it's not a competition

Saw a friend of mine last weekend at a birthday party and she said she had a question for me. She had read my blog post that mentioned Frances' writing the alphabet and wanted to know if it was something we'd worked with her on, if she initiated interest herself, etc. My friend had recently taken her son for his 4-year-old check up and the doc scolded her because her son wasn't writing yet. Later in the visit when they discussed some other developmental strength, the doctor said, "See? You're doing some things right."

Ack! This makes me nuts. It's a wonderful example of the pressure we put our kids under. WHO CARES if he's not writing yet? He's only four! If he were eight and not writing, then perhaps someone should take a closer look at what's going on. But it's not a competition!!!!! It's the very same thing as parents who brag that their kid walked at 7 months. WHO CARES?!

Kids are different. They develop at different rates. I have a friend whose son didn't walk until he was 22 months old. (He's now four and walks just fine.) When I asked her if this had worried her at the time, she said no, that he was very verbal and she just trusted that he would do things in his own time. She's a wise woman, and an exception, I think. There's so much pressure for our children to be successful in the very same ways, and so much assumption that we parents are doing something wrong when they are not. (This doctor, someone who should know better, pointed this out to my friend specifically--"See? You're doing some things right!" Funny that she'd meant it as an encouragement, because it actually was a condemnation. Which, now that I think about it, pisses me off even more--even if this child were delayed somehow, the doctor assumed this was the fault of the parent, and not the result of many many different and complicated factors that make up this particular child.)

I just wanted to put that out there. It made me wish I hadn't mentioned Frances's alphabet writing in the first place. And for the record, her dad has been working with her on it, and she did initially show interest that led him to work with her (mostly she wanted to use the computer, so they started spelling things on it, which led her to writing...) and at her school they do no letters or reading at all, which means she's felt no pressure from that direction. I mention the school because I firmly believe that teaching letters and reading in preschool is a detrimental thing for those many children who are not yet interested. It just makes them feel pressure and many times eventual dislike for reading and writing. Frances will be attending a Waldorf school in the fall and the Waldorf philosophy specifically holds off on any reading until age seven. I'm for it, but maybe it's easy for me to say that since my kid loves to read and write.

At the risk of sounding like a Waldorf advertisement (which I don't intend to be), I'm going to include a response from the website linked above about the question of why Waldorf teaches reading so late (I just happen to agree with them strongly here...):

"There is evidence that normal, healthy children who learn to read relatively late are not disadvantaged by this, but rather are able quickly to catch up with, and may overtake, children who have learned to read early. Additionally, they are much less likely to develop the "tiredness toward reading" that many children taught to read at a very early age experience later on. Instead there is lively interest in reading and learning that continues into adulthood. Some children will, out of themselves, want to learn to read at an early age. This interest can and should be met, as long as it comes in fact from the child. Early imposed formal instruction in reading can be a handicap in later years, when enthusiasm toward reading and learning may begin to falter.

"If reading is not pushed, a healthy child will pick it up quite quickly and easily. Some Waldorf parents become anxious if their child is slow to learn to read. Eventually these same parents are overjoyed at seeing their child pick up a book and not put it down and become from that moment a voracious reader. Each child has his or her own optimal time for "taking off." Feelings of anxiety and inferiority may develop in a child who is not reading as well as her peers. Often this anxiety is picked up from parents concerned about the child's progress. It is important that parents should deal with their own and their child's apprehensions.

"Human growth and development do not occur in a linear fashion, nor can they be measured. What lives, grows, and has its being in human life can only be grasped with that same human faculty that can grasp the invisible metamorphic laws of living nature."

My truest hope is that I am able simply to see my children for who they are, to allow them to be who they are before the pressure of who they are told, by other people and by my own expectations, they must be. One of my jobs, as I see it and hard though it may be, is to protect them from those expectations and to remind myself--and them--that they are more than the sum of their abilities. They are worlds unto themselves. 

Tuesday, August 3, 2010

perspective from below

My son is in love with a pinata. It's a Dora pinata (rather large) and he drags it everywhere behind him by a string.

And I'm depressed.

Those are the main news items coming over the reel.

I hate that I get depressed. It's just a part of my life, something that comes and goes, and these days as long as it doesn't hang around for too long, I can ride it. I've been so tired, so tired all the time. I thought at first it was because I hadn't been exercising, but then several days of 40 minutes on the elliptical at the gym didn't seem to change much.

I'm having trouble keeping in perspective that I won't have a 2-year-old forever. One day, no one in this house will scream at the absolute top of his lungs anytime he disagrees. Somedays I feel like this, this, is my world forever and ever, packing snacks and cajoling into carseats, wrestling hollering toddlers to the ground simply to change a diaper, pulling dimes out of mouths to screams of protest.

But then there are clear moments when I can see my life in a long flat plane, and I realize that This Time--with babies--is a distinct phase, and one day (and not that long from now) I'll look back on it as some previous lifetime. When I think this way it all feels so sweet, their chubby little cheeks, their tight hugs, the way Clark smashes his entire face into mine. There are people, certainly, who are best cut out for this work, who in previous eras served as wet nurses and nannies for an entire career lifetime. Though I sometimes wish I were, that's not how I'm built. And, frankly, I suspect most women aren't built this way. Isn't that the trouble, though? That we all expect ourselves to be good at all the jobs, or at this one in particular? We think we are somehow less if we can't easily do this mom thing.

But all that is another issue. For now, I just try to see them. (They are both so sweet. Yesterday Clark brought Frances his own cherished blanket when she hurt herself, because we were at a friend's house and it was the only blanket available. He tucked it under her chin and then patted her back.) I focus and feel my smile every single time Clark says "No dis going," the cutest phrase ever, which means several things from "this toy isn't working" to "I can't get the lid off the applesauce." Cute cute cute stage (except when it isn't), even when he's mad. One of my favorite moves of his right now is his hollering: MOMMY! BAD! GIRL! when I lose my cool and holler at him for hollering at me. Nothing like being called flat out on your stuff.

Sunday, August 1, 2010


I feel like the summer is going by too fast. I know that's crazy anxiety talking, but anxiety about what? Frances is going to camp this week--9-12 every morning--and I'm all flubbered about that too. What's my problem? It's like I fear summer will be ripped away, my time with them gone, my children suddenly grown and I missed it. Is it just all those people (ALL. THOSE. PEOPLE.) who KEEP telling me that it goes faster than you realize...?

I KNOW THAT. Life goes faster than you realize (unless you're a prisoner of war, then it moves much too slowly).

But the truth is that even after her week in camp, and then a week with my mom visiting, there will still be almost 4 weeks of summer. (School here doesn't start until nearly mid September. Don't know why.) It's like I somehow think this is the only summer I'll get to have with them... and I suppose that's true to some degree; this is the only summer I'll have where F is 3 1/2 and C is 2. But--comeon!--that's not such a fabulous thing. Summers to come will be better, more fun, filled with more activity and less screaming. (Oh I can't wait to move past the screeching stage. It's hard on everyone for a household member to be 2.)

Sunday, July 25, 2010

the little things

Who knew how much enjoyment could be provided by a construction paper balloon on a yarn string?

We were unpacking (finally... I know...) the stuff from Frances's school at the end of the year, and in the bag was a construction paper balloon with her name on it that decorated the classroom door. Clark nearly lost his mind with excitement about it and Frances got very upset because she didn't want it torn, so I got out the construction paper and let him pick a color for his own balloon. We taped on some yarn just like the school balloon. Frances wanted another one of her own so I made a second and they ran around with them for something close to an hour. For a while they flew them in the fan wind, and then dragged them around outside behind their trikes. Sometimes I feel like there is a secret book of tricks like this to entertain them when it's late and they're hungry and waiting for dad to come home. Where is that book? It took me all of 30 seconds to make these balloons. (I waved aside their suggestion to help me cut it out, though I suppose that could be a project in itself...)

Summer here is fabulous. Have I said that before? Really really lovely. We can be outside all day, every day, very few bugs, not too hot but hot enough for the sprinkler or kiddie pool. And cicadas. I missed them out west. They make everything sound like summer.

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

only kid blues

Would you look at this child's art space?! Officially jealous. And trying to remember that a year from now I will not only have children old enough to do projects without pouring the paint on their heads, but also a couple of days a week when they're both in school to organize such a thing. Gotta give myself a little slack and try to keep my story in perspective.

That said, we've done a couple of fun things lately--Did this art project a few days ago. We only had a few minutes to fill and so just did the muffin tin, not the pie plates and other larger items. I painted the paint on the back of the tins (she told me where to put which color) and then I had her draw in the paint with Q-tips. She made some pretty nifty designs but some of them were lost when we did the print.

We also did this art project with coffee filters, markers, and the rain. I loved it and so did Frances. It was particularly fun because it was multi part (meaning we colored the filters, then waited days for it to rain, then left it out and watched the colors run, then had to wait for them to dry)--it sort of kept the fun going. Will post a picture of the result soon.

Note that I did the above things with Frances alone.... while Clark was napping, or playing with his trucks.

While I'm here I might as well bitch a bit, because I do that so well. SO MANY of the art activities in the blogs linked above would be SO MUCH FUN if I only had one kid. Really. Much of my life, in fact, would contain less stress. I sometimes imagine my days would be filled with patience and connection and love and sunshine. I know it's ridiculous. And I know why I had more than one kid--it was on purpose, and because I'm likely to fall into some of the traps of the parent of an only child. (None of my friends with only children are likely to do this, of course.) I fear I would attach too firmly, unhealthily. I suspect I would put even more pressure on myself for the child's success in whatever area. I am an only child; I know the burden. 

So I've got a little of the wish-I-had-only-one-kid blues. My friend D (who ironically desperately wants more more more but her husband won't have anything to do with that idea) is spending the summer with her 4 year old son, going to farms and playgrounds and swimming pools, having a great time. I'm refereeing screaming toy ownership and trying to keep people from dashing out in front of cars in parking lots.

Oh yeah, and to enter a drawing for a kids craft book giveaway, I'm linking to the post on Paint Cut Paste about using bubble wrap to do ocean themed prints, which is pretty cool. We've done bubble prints before, but not used them as ocean or any other specific thing. This is the same blog that did the coffee filter flowers above. It's a GREAT source for art projects, my new favorite. That one and The Artful Parent (where the post about the fabulous kid art space came from) are where I get most of my kid art ideas these days. 

There are a lot of blogs out there with great ideas about things to do with your kids, and I love reading them. They give me great ideas, but they also produce a good bit of I-should-be-doing-more-with-my-kids guilt. Then it occurred to me that--I'm pretty sure--every single one of these blog moms has only one kid. Or they have one kid with whom to do the projects, and one baby--at least 4 years apart. Why didn't anyone tell me about having them close together? 

Okay, enough of that. It's what I've got, and it's got its plusses too. And everyone says the plusses grow in number as the kids get older. I'm holding onto that idea with something akin to hope. 

Thursday, July 15, 2010

hi there.

Lots of time since my last post, lots of summer in between. We were traveling--visiting my dad, then Mitch's brother and family, then we were at the beach in North Carolina with my mom, and aunt, and cousin, and cousin's husband, and three kids (making 5 in total, all 5 and under) which was wonderful but also full of company and little time for reflecting and then posting about my reflections.

Frances and her constant companion, Cousin Claudia

We're home now, after a 17 hour drive that Frances announced to her sitter was her favorite part of the trip. (I laughed out loud and asked her what she liked about the drive home and she said the music. Hm.) I had the post vacation blues in a bad way, suddenly again alone with my children, no adults around to talk to, no grandparents who enjoy putting my kids to bed, no husband because he's vanished back into the unbelievably demanding world that is academia. It's better now. I'm getting back into our rhythm. 

The news: Frances can swim! Actually keep herself afloat while propelling forward across the pool! She started lessons on Monday, four days ago, four swim lessons ago. On Monday she couldn't swim, and was actually scared of putting her face in the water. (Clark, by contrast, has not even healthy fear of the water and flings himself in with abandon. He's not bothered in the least by water in his face, by going under completely. This was the case in the ocean too...) Today she jumped in without my catching her, just jumped in by herself, went under, came up and paddled herself back over to the side. This means I can actually take both kids to the pool by myself, though the showering part is still exhausting. 

More news: Clark is a screaming lunatic! Oh, wait. That's not new news. But man has it amped up the last couple of weeks. Screaming. About everything. All the time. I can't wait for this stage to pass. 

Also, Frances wrote the entire alphabet yesterday without any help from me, without my even telling her what letters come next. She's getting so big. And when she gets mad at me she tells me I'm not her mom.

p.s. We have an active television in our house.