Friday, December 16, 2011

I've got a screamer

Oh the screaming. Clark is three and a half, and boy is he a screamer. He's always been a screamer, but I thought somehow he'd grow out of it once he could form a complete sentence that accurately described his desires. But no. Instead of saying, "Sissy, could I play with that when you're done?" he just screams. And when the gum I have is the wrong shape, boy howdy. It's not infrequently that I careen from the grocery with one hand on the cart and one hand on him just to keep him from vaulting out, his piercing scream the 5 alarm kind. People flinch away from me, or start in surprise, or stare unabashedly, or shake their head, or sometimes smile in pity and sympathy. Yesterday he continued screaming well after I'd gotten him restrained in his seat, and still on while I stood outside the car in the freezing wind and snow while I answered my phone, since I wouldn't be able to hear anything from inside the car.

They're not tantrums, just extremely loud wordless complaints. When they go on and on they certainly qualify as fits, but he never loses control. No it's all very intentional.

I just keep waiting for this stage to pass. It will, won't it?

At the same time, when he's not screaming he's unbearably cute. And I'm aware that both are going to go at once. His baby three-year-old cuteness is just the flip side to eardrum shattering complaint. It's a terrible dichotomy.

Written days later:
Maybe it's not all so intentional, Clark's screaming. Perhaps he can't help it as much as I've believed. Not that this changes much of anything. I still have to deal with it, respond to it, help him find other ways to express himself or take control, and he still has to learn what's acceptable here in this dimension we call society. But it does change my internal attitude toward it a bit. It gives me a little sympathy for him.

Sympathy's always a good thing.

Saturday, December 10, 2011

quiet time parenting success! and the holidays

Yay me! A couple of weeks ago I bought Frances a big round old school $3.99 Target clock with numbers and hands in bright yellow (so sunny!). The next day I told her to play in her room and watch the clock, and when the big hand came all the way around to the 12, she could come out. I put public radio on low (which here is excellent musical programming during the day) and left her to herself. One time when I came in she was humming and dressing some polly pockets, and she didn't even speak to me though she smiled (so engrossed...), and the 2nd time I checked on her the room was spotless and she was sitting in her chair listening to the music and watching the clock. "It's on the 11, Mom!" she said. All very exciting stuff, these clock hands. I didn't foresee a clean room as one of the perks, and I'll take it.

Meanwhile, Clark listened to a book on tape, then I set him up with a Christmas ISpy. I read a couple of pages to him and helped him find the objects, then he was off and running on his own, and I was free to straighten up the house. After that he just moved around me while I did my work and he did his.

A couple of days after our phenomenal success we left for NC for a lovely 5 day family visit. I'm now in the throws of having to implement this whole thing again now that we're home, travel always interrupting any possible routines.

It's not long before we leave again - this time for Florida and my in-laws - and I've been feeling enormous pressure to make christmas cookies and ornaments and gingerbread houses. I'm mighty glad I got the (silver! aqua!) trees up before we left. The kids, of course, decorated the bottom halves of the trees and the ornaments are clustered in twos and threes, which is a lovely look, turns out.

Aaaaand now I have pneumonia, plus Mitch is going to be out of town all next week, both of which mean I'm letting go of my ambitions for cookies and ornaments and gingerbread houses. Only so much one sick human can do, and now what I can do is lie on the couch and play knights with little playmobil folks while closing my eyes.

In other news: the botox is working this time. Headaches be gone! And the snow is coming, some of it already swirling around in the air, father winter on his way. Can't wait!

Monday, November 28, 2011

parenting with headaches

It's 4 pm and I'm on my own for dinner and bedtime tonight. I had plans to go out with the kids this afternoon - Clark needs socks and Old Navy seemed a fun adventure - but then my friend and neighborly headache appeared and plans changed. Now we're going to spend the whole afternoon at home! Yay for a low key afternoon! Granola bars and hot chocolate with mini marshmallows! Hype it up as much as you can!

This minute I'm sitting on the couch with the kids watching Gnomio and Juliette, bemoaning my fate and blaming my headaches. Seriously. I would be a much more enjoyable human being to be around if there weren't hot nails behind my eyes. My poor kids. Oh well. This is simply their fate, their story; to have a mother who suffers from headaches. I've been having them every afternoon / evening for what feels like weeks running. No idea why. The botox didn't take as fully this time, no idea why about that either. Even back on my old diet, and still they linger.

Frances has been off today, from the moment she woke up. Everything's upsetting her to the point of tears. I was telling my friend H about it earlier, then later in the conversation I happened to mention Frances has her 5 year molars coming in, and it wasn't until I said it then that the connection occurred to me. Gave the girl some tylenol and - ta da ! - much better. Pain is an amazing mood killer.

I beat myself up a lot about my inability to be a sane human during bedtime. Yesterday (and maybe even earlier this morning) I had this fantasy about doing bedtime by myself all 3 nights Mitch is out of town, but at this moment (and not even dinnertime!) it's clear to me that is simply silly, an unwise discounting of my limitations. Limitations are bullies, you know; it's best to respect them.

Next botox treatment in a couple of days. Counting the hours. I wonder what kind of parent I'd be without them, and I wish I'd stop wondering that. They are what they are; I am who I am; my children will weather this too. 

Sunday, November 27, 2011

thanksgiving report

Wellll, being with only us on Thanksgiving turns out to feel a bit lonely. It was lovely though, and the food was fabulous (though it did feel a bit wrong to simply spoon the food into serving dishes to warm in the oven). Indeed we dined by candlelight, and spent the rest of the evening that way too, playing charades (which is really a game of "which animal am I?") and taking a walk in the dark with our lanterns.

The funniest thing to me about it was that I was dead asleep by 8pm. I guess electric light really does mess with our circadian rhythms.

And onto the next holiday! Today our silver tinsel tree may go up. Yay!

Friday, November 25, 2011

a just us thanksgiving

Wrote this yesterday afternoon. Follow up forthcoming.

For Thanksgiving this year we are not traveling, nor is anyone coming to us. This means a quiet meal, just two adults and two kids. I didn't think I wanted to cook a big meal for just us, so we ordered our dinner from the fabulous and incomparable Wegmans. I'm getting ready to go pick it up now.

I do sort of wish I were making simple things like the mashed potatoes or stuffing, so the kids could help and see the progress as the food goes from raw material to piping hot casserole dish. Oh well. Next year.

I put up a tree on the wall of the living room and the kids and I watercolored some paper, then cut leaf shapes out of the paper. We've written things we're thankful for on the leaves and stuck them to the tree with a little glue stick. So far Frances is thankful for Mama, Daddy, Clark ("because he's my brother so I'm not alone"), her stuffed kitty Tootsie, our real cat, our real dog, Thanksgiving, Christmas, her camera, balloons, the weather (I asked if she was thankful for specific weather - sun or rain or snow for instance - and she said no, just all weather), clothes, her room, our home.

Clark, however, is thankful for only a few things: Mama, superheros, supervillans, and pillowfights. We've been doing 2 leaves a day and after the first two days he could only say he's thankful for Mama and superheros. Not even Daddy, even when I suggested it. I didn't repeat leaves but if I had, we'd have lots that say Mama and superheros.

But the big way we're taking note of the holiday is to be electric lightless. When it gets dark today (which it does about 4pm), we're not going to turn on any lights. I'll plant candles in all the rooms so we can light them when we go in. Dinner by candlelight. I hope it will be lovely. 

Monday, November 14, 2011

aaaand onto the next thing

Things are changing around here. Clark decided he was missing too much possibly exciting activity when he was napping, and though he loved his naps greatly, he has given them up. We are in transition, that amorphous space between this routine and that one, and in fact we don't know yet what shape that one is going to take. That's okay; working on it, waiting patiently.

By patiently I mean I've pretty much given up cooking and doing laundry in order to spend all my time with or near the kids. When they played outside today in the driveway I rearranged the garage, and when they moved to the back of our yard I abandoned my garage project and took up raking near them.

I am trying to establish the best routine for us. The key seems to be the balance of big activity to quiet, high energy to low, as well as the quantity of group time vs individual time. I'm hanging out near them in order to feel out when they need more, when they need less, and when we should go inside for story time before Clark swings a baseball bat at Frances because she won't stop mimicking him. I believe fully in my investment now and the benefits it will reap later. When Frances was first having quiet time, I committed myself to her for a couple of weeks, teaching her how to play quietly. Now she can do it - and in fact longs to do it - all by herself, and I'm completely free to cook dinner and facebook. I wonder how long I'll have to commit this time?

The kids don't have to be alone for individual time, they just have to be spending the time inward. Today, for example, while Clark was spinning on the driveway with his beanie kitty tied to a long piece of rainbow yarn, Frances was pushing her baby around the yard in the stroller, singing to her and showing her the dead flowers in the flowerbeds. The kids were within 15 feet of each other for ages, but didn't interact. The key with it is figuring out how to keep them in this alone play space for enough time to recharge, rather than turning from their own play to engage the other in who-can-say-the-funniest-poop-phrase, a favorite game around here.

Today as I worked near them, I was really on my game. Frances had moved from the dead flowers to the path through the brush at the back of our yard - we call it the enchanted forest - and found a tree branch where her baby could nap. When Clark was sufficiently dizzy he wandered to the back of the yard where he put his kitty in the now empty stroller. Frances got all bent out of shape about the stroller, so I suggested the baby would probably really like to sit in the sling, be close to her mama. Frances disappeared into the house for a long time; no idea what she was doing in there, but since she was having alone play I didn't care. When she came back she was carrying the baby in the sling and feeding her a bottle. At snack the baby sat in the doll highchair and I brought her own food on a tiny tea set plate. Frances informed me it was the baby's birthday, so we made cake out of graham crackers, peanut butter, and marshmallows, with cream cheese frosting. She had two candles and we lit them and sang. It was lovely.

Monday, November 7, 2011


We're having control issues around here, particularly that Frances would like all of it. The other day as she hollered in frustration, I asked her, "What is it you want?" With a wail of deep sorrow and tears dropping into her lap she said, "I want to be in charge!" That's about all if it, from what I can tell.

I've been perplexed for a while, because she'll ask for something - like a smoothie when we're leaving the gym - and I'll pause and think and say okay, but then as she sucks down her smoothie she asks for gummies, and cookies, and a trip to the toy store, and on and on. When I say no pitches a fit and acts like she never ever gets anything she wants. I stop and point out to her that she did indeed get just the thing she asked for and why is she so upset?

Conversely, when Clark asks for something like gum in the grocery and I say okay, he thinks it's the best thing ever. It improves his mood immediately, and he hangs onto it well after we've left the store, chirping from the backseat, "I just love my gum, Mama."

The tiniest thing will placate him. A dollar pack of army men, a 50 cent gumball toy. If I say yes to her to the 50 cent gumball toy, then she wants two of them. She wants that and candy too. She wants chocolate milk and why why why can't she have M&Ms?


On one hand, I don't want her to feel powerless, could try to contrive some situation in which she makes all the decisions. On the other hand, she's never ever actually going to be in control (oh the fools children are about adulthood!), and the sooner she learns this morsel about life, the easier it will be.

I do sympathize with her. Control would be lovely. 

Friday, November 4, 2011

the older sister always knows the games

The other day Clark had his very first playdate without a parent- his friend Cole from school - a very exciting thing. Frances has, on average, 2 playdates a week, and has for about a year, but she did not have one the day of Clark's. On the way home from school she wailed, it's not fair it's not fair! My. The drama.

When Cole got here Frances was immediately upon them. Cole you stand here, and Clark you stand here, and this is what we're going to do. After a few minutes I called her into the kitchen to help me make sandwiches. "But Mommy, they NEED me," she said. "What do they need you for?" I asked. "They need me because I know all the games and they don't," she said. "You don't think they can think of things to play on their own?" I said. "NO! Okay, I'll help with the sandwiches, but I'll listen for them and if they call me or if they get hurt or if they argue, I'll go to them."

I wish I could include inflection here in the retelling.

The next day I asked Clark about it, asked if he would have liked to play with Cole more by himself, and he said no. "I like Sissy there," he said. "It's like a playdate with her." Yes, yes it is. 

Friday, October 28, 2011

sweet siblings

I'm having some computer issues that have made it impossible to download photos onto the existing array of computers in this house. BUT! Yesterday a new harddrive arrived in the mail, and as soon as it's set up I will be on my way. And I will first thing post a picture of Frances with her new purse.

Yes, Frances got a denim across-the-body purse for her birthday that she carries everywhere. In it is: her camera (kids, also for her birthday), cell phone (old one of mine for which we still have the charger, so it "works" though when you call somewhere you get an out of service message, double bonus!), nail file, and chapstick. All of which is so cute of its own accord. Clark is allowed to touch none of it, as you can imagine. Then, the other morning I let Clark get to me with his 3-year-old demands and shrieking, and I yelled at him. While he cried Frances dumped everything in her purse onto the family room floor and said, "You can play with this stuff, Clark."

They both do this, take care of each other emotionally. A couple of weeks ago Frances demanded GUM! GUM! UHUH UUUUHHH!!! not so politely (tired? overstimulated? five?). Her dad and I said we would love to get her some if she could ask a bit more nicely, but she couldn't. She had herself in some emotional spot that she just could not see her way out of. After a few minutes Clark came to the kitchen and said, "Daddy, may Sissy have some gum please?" in the sweetest most charming voice ever. It is so interesting to me that he recognized that Frances couldn't do it herself, that she was unable to get it together, so he did it for her. Sweetness. 

Tuesday, October 25, 2011


Clark seems to think it's time to give up his nap. He's 3 and a half, and perhaps it is indeed time. I've looked forward to this on one hand because having to come home for a nap does tie us down; if there were no napping kids we could stay out and run errands or go play, whatever. But there's a snag, I'm finding - besides the general one, which is that the newly-not-napping kid is still tired as hell and hollering in exhausted frustration because his gum is the wrong flavor. The snag is how to do downtime.

Frances needs downtime. She would go and go and go all day if I let her, and then she would fall to pieces. I believe in, as Waldorf philosophy says, letting the day breathe. In breath, out breath. Outward activity, inward quiet. Then again. During Clark's nap she has developed some space for herself which works well; she quietly sings while she draws (the most common) or sets up a carnival in her room or dresses herself for her doll's tea party. It's amazing and wonderful to watch. When Clark wakes up she comes out of her inward time and they run off with hysterical laughter to play.

Clark knows nothing about downtime. Whenever they are both awake they are together, playing. Vigorously. I haven't figured out yet how to enforce some down time for both at once. I could send them each to their rooms to play, but right now there aren't any toys in Clark's room. (An easy thing to rectify.) Yesterday I had them lie with me on the bed and I read a thousand books until Clark actually fell asleep. Today I thought myself quite brilliant and turned on a CD story that is this minute working well while I write this blog post.

I'm feeling at a loss for what kind of activity he could do, as he usually doesn't play by himself. A few minutes ago the story ended and I gave him some lacing cards. Which he seemed interested in for about 40 seconds until he discovered he could hang onto the lace and throw the board and it would kind of glide like a frisbee. "Look Mama it's a surf board!"

Maybe I should get a table for his trains. I'm open to suggestions here! Maybe raw materials for building? Like rope and silks and boxes? Do I just need StarWars legos instead of plain??? Help!

(As I write this I'm realizing: I'm probably going to have to participate in his quiet time for a while. I did that with Frances. I drew with her, or did drawing games with her, until she enjoyed doing it on her own. (My favorite is when Frances and I take turns adding to a picture until it's a full scene.)  Clark doesn't like drawing and crafts, but I could come up with something to build and do it with him to get him going. The problem I was having was trying to come up with an activity that doesn't include me so I can get other things done during that time. But that thinking is backward. For a bit I'm going to have to give up my time in order to teach him how to have quiet time. Yes yes yes. Tomorrow I will begin.)

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

solo time

Sunday morning we went to the Memorial Art Gallery because there's a show coming up called Extreme Materials which uses odd or everyday objects to make the art, and one of the installations was going in that morning. I thought the kids would find it cool to see one as it went up. And it was - made of plastic chinese restaurant spoons. Turns out the gallery is an excellent place to be with kids first thing on a Sunday morning. Since we were the only people in the building that didn't work there we wandered around and found our way to organ music upstairs. There was a man in a big hall playing, no one around, and we listened for a bit. Clark put his hands over his ears and said, too loud let's go, but Frances wanted to stay. After a while we went up beside the organ and waited for the organist to pause, and we said hello. He said if we liked it we should come back later for the concert. Frances wanted to.

Clark stayed with his dad while Frances and I went alone to the concert after dinner. She was the only child in the room, and I wondered, when she got squirrelly, if folks around questioned my wisdom in bringing a five year old to an organ concert. But I didn't bring her; she brought me. She sat through an entire hour, which was more than I expected. Some of that time was spent trying to get up the nerve to move from the end of the 3rd row where we were, up to the open seats in the front row. She finally did it, then spent a good bit of the time up there turning and studying the people behind her, goading them to smile at her. Luckily the performer in an organ concert is not facing the audience, a thing I'd never considered one way or the other before. We did spend the last song in the gallery studying the inclusion of genitalia in the 16th century pietas, about which she had lots of questions.

Afterward we went to tell the organist how much we enjoyed it, and he lifted her onto the bench and let her play some sounds. When we left the building it was pouring rain and dark, so we held hands and ran in the rain to the car which was all the way around the other side of the gallery. She thought that was great. AND on the way home when we stopped at the grocery, the cute checkout girl asked Frances if she wanted to scan the bread and bag it.

Back in the car Frances said, "This was the best night ever."

Friday, October 14, 2011

in the garage

I am this minute squeezed into a cushioned kids chair in the garage in the dark with the computer on my lap. I can't turn the lights on because the kids might see me from inside the house, and they think I'm at the grocery or walking the dog but probably not sitting in the garage with a bottle of wine. In fact, I am listening to some impressive music while on hold with applecare. (Who picks their playlist? Sometimes Apple marketing astounds me.) I've spent many an hour recently entertained by their playlist while on hold with applecare. Generally I'm holding while the good spirited front line fella named Jake talks with someone in the back who knows which end is up. Not that Jake doesn't. Just somehow I've dug myself into a digital hole from which only experts can save me.

We had swim lessons tonight, which end later than the kids should be in their pjs, and Mitch is at a work dinner. Sometimes I pressure myself about doing it alone - feel that if I'm a good mom I should be able to put them to bed by myself forcryingoutloud, but other times I'm pretty clear about acknowledging my limitations. Given Clark's incessant screaming and general volatility, my limitations these days come sooner than they have other times. Good Enough Mommy, right? So tonight I have a sitter just for bathing them and putting them to bed. It's someone they love, and whom they haven't seen for a while. Everyone was happy when I lugged my electronics out here.

You may be pleased to know that as long as I don't die from a spider bite I might soon have pictures on a computer again. I have pictures, but I can't get them off the camera. So many I've wanted to post here recently! I have faith in this round of computer support. Maybe it's the wine.

A few minutes ago I nearly killed myself tripping over a trike while unplugging the computer from the wall as requested by Applecare Jake. Besides that, and the spiders, it's rather nice out here. I can hear the rain and smell the sawdust left by the guys who've been working on our house. I can also hear my son screaming absolute bloody murder in the upstairs bathroom. My guess is it's about getting out of the bath, though really, it could be about anything. It's hard to be three. Poor Sitter Liz, but she's a capable human and besides, it's good for Clark to have to receive comfort (and reactions) from people who are not Mommy.

Sometimes Mommy needs a break. I'm pretty sure I would not have believed you if prekids you'd told me that a satisfying break would involve sitting in my dark garage in a kids' chair drinking wine and listening to music akin to The Shins while on applecare hold. Ah, the poetic twists our lives take. I hope Clark doesn't scare away Liz. She's a great sitter, and she folds laundry and does dishes. What more?

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

job description, again

I've been thinking lately about my 'job'. It used to be changing diapers and spooning runny food into mouths and nursing and changing diapers and making sure no one choked on the legos, but now it's different. There are times when it seems amorphous to me, when I can't get a handle on it exactly. And then there are other times. Like a couple of nights ago when Clark didn't want to go to sleep. He'd already been read to and sung to and had someone lie down with him and sung to again by multiple people (including my mom, who was visiting), but still he was not asleep. I met him halfway down the stairs and told him he needed to be in bed, and he asked what we grownups were doing downstairs. We were spending grown up time together, I said. "Are you sitting down?" Yes, we were sitting. "I want to sit with you, Mama. Can I pweeeeeesssseee?" Oh my. We were, in fact, watching Dancing with the Stars, which Clark loves. I told him he could come down for two dances, then it was back to bed.

Of course, when it was time to go back to bed Clark was not ready. By now it was an hour and a half past his bedtime, and I was done with negotiations. It was time. So I carried him upstairs shrieking hysterically and I put him in his bed. He climbed out and stood next to the bed. I picked him up and put him back in. He rolled out and stood. I put him back in. He rolled out. Again and again. Every time he rolled out he screamed NO I WON'T and he kept trying to push my anger button. There was a moment when I thought about getting angry, but decided against it. I thought two things: 1) good thing I didn't go to the gym because I'm now getting a great arm and back workout picking him up over and over, and 2) what else do I have to do? I mean, it would have been nice to go downstairs and hang with my mom, especially since it was her last night. But what struck me is that this is my job. This. Standing patiently, putting him back in his bed over and over, however long it takes. I don't have anywhere else to be, anything else to do. I did need to move the laundry to the dryer in the basement, but that could wait. In fact, it all could wait for this.

I thought the same thing last week when Frances had a screaming fit while I was cooking dinner. The end of it found her standing on the stove sobbing down! down!. I lifted her off the stove and she crumpled in my arms, and I just sat with her on my lap, as long as she needed. We could always eat tuna fish and crackers if I didn't finish cooking.

Over and over I learn this same lesson. I don't know why I forget. I slide into thinking that keeping the house is my job, or having things run on schedule, or organizing unruly and amazing amounts of clothes (a feat all its very own): goodwill, pass to friend, next season, too big. And while those certainly are my responsibilities, they are not primary. Simply being with the kids when they truly need me and my attention: that is my job.

Back to Clark, in case you're wondering how that turned out: after a while I started to count how many times I put him back in his bed. My guess is we'd gone about 15 rounds when I started counting, and I got to 32 (he was rolling out much more slowly each time by then though the screaming was just as lively). I was wondering how it would look when he finally gave up, then Mitch came to relieve me. Glad I've been lifting weights these days. 

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

the Overview Post

I do believe this is the longest stretch between posts since I started the blog. It's been a steady stream of off-kilterness since my birthday: school started for one kid (week 1 september); school started for the other kid (week 2 september); Frances had a multi-leg birthday celebration culminating with a fairy party (photos to come) and a ceiling high stack of gifts; a crew of fellas showed up to work on the house (woodworking guys, stucco guys, painters, their stuff so packed into my garage that my car hasn't been in there for two weeks); grandparents visited; I left Mitch with the kids and spent 4 days in NYC w/ my bestfriend; and I'm sure I'm forgetting something. (Didja hear that? It's true! I left Mitch with the kids and went to NYC all alone on an airplane! Good looking famous people sat one table over at lunch in a charming Village restaurant! I slept til 8 am two days in a row! Excellent times abound!)

It's perhaps because of all the BBETRA (Back to Back Events That Require Adjustment) that Clark is the creature he currently is. Or perhaps because what he is, is a 3-year-old. It appears that I'd forgotten what 3 looks like, though it was only 2 years ago that I had the joy of visiting this stage in FrancesWorld. In case you don't know or don't remember, three is not pretty. This mama blogger says it pretty well (in her recent post "Rule of Three" which for some reason I can't link to directly), and it wasn't actually until I read this post that I realized this was perhaps a stage. STAGES ARE A PAIN IN THE ASS. He's pushing every button I've got and I just keep up the mantra: itsonlyastage itsonlyastage itsonlyastage.

Again - this pattern being pointed out to me by my friend Andrea - when one child is particularly difficult, the other turns into the sweetest lilting tune you've ever heard. They trade. It's always a little bit of a disappointment when Frances throws her fits during Clark's naps: because he's not there to witness them he doesn't know to take on the Fabulous Offspring role when he wakes.

What else? (Since I've been having a bit of trouble coming to the blog at all, I'm not going to be too ambitious with this post. As the title notes, this is an Overview Post, a summary of this corner of the world, no groundshaking observations. Hopefully it will warm me up so I can return with more heft before long.)
  • I have all these wrinkled folded up pieces of paper in my purse covered with hand written blog posts. I think that's how they're going to have to stay: in that archival form of putting hand to paper. It is a nice sensory exercise. 
  • Went to the top of the Empire State because I hadn't been up there in decades. I recommend it. It was night, and dark, and bright lights, and we saw a whole full size firework show over by the Statue of Liberty, the bright blooms of sparks so tiny from up where we were. 
  • Clark requests a new song, Mommy every single night, so I've been going back through my music to remember songs I mostly know by heart and to learn the lyrics to ones I know less. It's turned into a part time job all its own. 
  • Bought some Frye boots in NYC that bring me irrational happiness. 

That's about all, folks. Watching while the seasons change. 

Sunday, September 4, 2011


I'll be 40 on Tuesday. I've been thinking a lot about 40, as might be expected. And I've been thinking about  babies, specifically a new one of my own. Oh, babies (new, little, soft ones) are so sweet! And being pregnant - mmmmm. I just loved it, feeling this creature moving inside me of its own accord; a completely raw experience of the mystery of life. Oh, and the nursing. I love nursing a tiny baby, the ability to offer sustenance and comfort, to be able to keep alive another human with only my own body. Okay okay, enough of that. I'm aware that this picture in my head conveniently forgets the other side effects of pregnancy (which I will let go unnamed here), plus mastitis, engorgement, irritation that I alone am in possession of the only source of complete comfort, and the accompanying feeling of strangulation and tetheredness. I've been reading over some old posts. They do a lot to help with this visual.

Besides, lately I've been remembering a time when, lying in bed at night with Mitch, we mused that one day we would be able to sleep in. The kids would get up and play or turn on the tv or whatever, and they wouldn't need a pair of eyes on them to make sure they didn't accidentally kill themselves. It was sort of a shock for me to discover that that day has arrived. Actually, it snuck in, slithered up quietly, and now we're here, no idea when that happened. Needless to say, having another would return the train to the beginning of the track.

This is the way it occurs to me now: my 20s were rather a train wreck, my 30s were recovery, and my 40s are all mine. When I thought of it this way, I realized that I am indeed done having little babies.

I am 40.

AND! If that weren't enough evidence, my son wore his last diaper on the day of my (surprise) birthday party. I smell a little symbolism here. We've had someone in diapers, you know, since September of 2006; a good chunk of that time I had two someones in diapers.) I told him at the grocery store as I put the diapers in the cart, "Clark, these are the last diapers we will buy. After these are gone, there are no more diapers; only big boy underwear." He was down with that. Told his dad that night about the diapers and what happens after. The last diaper just happened to fall on the day of my party. And Clark very willingly sat on the potty and then put on his (fabulous exciting Diego) underpants. That was yesterday. We've only had a few accidents and many successes.

I can take the changing table out of his room. We're done with diapers.


I put the cloth ones on Ebay this week, most auctions to end tomorrow.

Done with diapers! And I'm 40. 

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

we welcome all comments here!

Last week I got what might be my favorite comment ever. It was in response to this post. I've been thinking about it some and thought you'd appreciate seeing it. Here's the comment: call your little baby a "little fucker" ?? you should be ASHAMED of yourself for even thinking that, let alone posting that on the internet. some of these posts are pathetic. grow up. if you can't handle kids, you shouldn't be a mother. i know plenty of single working moms who don't bitch and moan about how hard their lives are and they don't have the luxury of being a stay at home mom while their husband provides everything. you need to get your priorities straight, and think a little more about your children, and the good things you do have in life. you may have been an only child and gotten your way all the time, but it's time to stop being the drama queen and focus on your children, white trash mama.

Well! Let's take a look at this, shall we? I like particularly that she tells me I should be ASHAMED for even thinking those thoughts. Sigh. This is exactly the public's attitude I talk about all the time. This is the reason I started the blog in the first place (you can read more about that here). I believe it's the main contributor postpartum depression and anxiety, because we are taught that in order to be good mothers, we can never have a negative thought about our children. Yet all worthwhile relationships in this world are complex. They have multiple sides, attitudes, feelings; both positive and negative. To think otherwise is to ignore reality.

After all, we feel what we feel. Ignoring our feelings - or even worse - being ashamed of them, only bottles everything up and creates a big mess. In order to move past these feelings to the other ones, the ones in joy, we have to acknowledge the hard ones, respect their power, see what they have to teach us, then let them go. 

It's true that plenty of single working mothers don't bitch and moan as much as I do. There are plenty of stay-at-home ones that don't either. I'll be the first to admit that I do more moaning than is ever necessary, and my navel gazing does indeed reach irrational proportions. She got me on that one. I even admit my over-complaining in this post.

At the same time, this blog is about the trials of being a mom (as it says right in the subtitle up on the banner), particularly a stay at home mom, and I'm willing to bet that any working single mother would have plenty to bitch about were she to write her own blog. There are other blogs that celebrate momdom rather than bitch about it, and they are great. They, in fact, provide me with a lot of inspiration in my daily life. I choose not to write about those moments, however, and I talk about why in this post. All in all, I find writing about the struggles cathartic. Sometimes it helps me regain my sense of humor, even if it doesn't always come across on the page. 

As for how I should "think a little more about my children," I don't even know how to respond to that. My concern for my children, and how to wade through these young child years gracefully while also giving them every opportunity and support, and indeed sheltering them from my negative feelings, is my prime motivator in writing. Maybe this was the only post she actually read from the blog.

AND I'd like to point out that she left her comment anonymously. I mean, really. If you're going to land that kind of trip on someone else, you should at least own up to it, doncha think? 

Now that I think about it, maybe she doesn't have kids. If I had to take a guess, she's pregnant, is dreamily looking forward to the moment she first lays eyes on her beautiful baby, at which time all the pieces of her life will come together in a magical fusion that leaves her complete. She's trolling the internet for information about being a mom, and my post's proposition - the idea that she might have negative feelings about her sweet baby - threatens her sense of self and maybe even the steadiness of the world. Well, all I can say is bless her heart, and she'll find out when the time comes. 

Saturday, August 27, 2011

vacation caboose

(So I just found this post I wrote over 2 weeks ago, before we got back to Rochester. Meant to post it before, clearly, but I thought I'd go ahead and post it now because maybe it sheds some light on the Frances-attitude-situation. Plus some parenting thoughts.)

We're in Michigan now, returned from our 2,054 hours in transit to my in-laws house where the kids are. They were (of course) SO excited to see us. But the next morning Frances was in a funk. When we brought out the gifts from India, she was excited to see, then disappointed. She pouted, wouldn't talk to us. Then outside she got in a scuffle with her grandma and not only wouldn't give the big wheel back to Clark though he very nicely asked, but she wouldn't talk to anyone. Just sat heavy on the big wheel with her chin down and her face set. Later on I found her outside by herself on the big wheel, riding in circles on the brick patio, sobbing. When I opened the door she stopped crying and wouldn't talk to me. Hey- sometimes a girl just needs a good cry.

As I've mentioned before, she has a hard time with transitions. And this is a big one in her world. We've been gone 7 weeks from our house; she's been here in Michigan with Clark for 2 weeks without parents; here we've come home and probably we are not the fabulous people she missed so much in her mind, but instead just ourselves. Emotions are hard to handle, especially when they loom so large in a nearly-five-year-old body. AND I forgot some of my new resolve to attend to my children differently, and rather than spending the morning with her sitting on my lap, if that's what she wanted to do, I organized my india photos on the computer while she helped Grandma with the pancakes and periodically tried to get my attention. Bad mommy! I could have done that later, and should have. But it is what it is, and now I remember said resolve, and I'm back in the game.

In fact, I've got a whole new approach to parenting up my sleeve for when we return. Much of its success will depend on my emotional state, which I'm hoping will remain positive and relaxed, and we'll see.

I will:
~ do more planning ahead for activities, as complicated as art projects and as simple as riding our trikes to the big bush down the street.
~ leave the house more. visit friends just to say hi for an hour, or go to Ellison park to roll down the big hill, or seek out a bubble gum machine at the strip mall.

(And there I quit the post, which is why I never posted it in the first place: it needed an ending. I don't have one now, however, and I'm here to offer you these thoughts anyway. Cheers!)

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

the girl tries me

Seriously new territory. I need a book or something to tell me how to wade through this. Is it true that if the girl child is particularly difficult at age 5 she won't be so bad at 13? Can I only hope? It's like she's hormonal or something. Seriously. Here's what happens: she gets upset about something (like my telling her to please stop wrapping Clark's blankie around his head, though he's screamed "STOP IT SISSY!!" eight times already and shoved her away her twice) and she gets this look on her face. She just stands there, stony, and won't talk to me, won't move. Then she does something with the absolute intent of pissing me off. Yesterday she put both the phone and the oven timer in the trash, then she tossed my Kendle across the room. Ahem.

Conversely, Clark is the sweetest cutest three-year-old on which I have ever laid eyes. "Do you know," he asks at dinner, his eyes big with import, "that frogs are bigger than bugs? Do you know that?" Tonight I was off to the grocery while he ate his snack before bed and four times he said, "Mama, can I have just one more hug?" I put my arms around him and he lays all his weight into me, so warm and sweet.

It's true that Frances has just had a major adjustment. We are home (home boring home) after 7 weeks of travel and entertainment round the clock. She's always been more sensitive than Clark, less able to roll with it. It's like her skin is thinner, more exposed, tender. And everyone I tell about her behavior says, "Frances? She's so polite and sweet and easy to be around." For you, maybe. She saves up the other just for me.

Although it could very well be nothing more than boredom and adjustment, my inclination is that it's about control. After all, kids in general are on the receiving end of lots of directives. Time to go. Put on your shoes. Climb in the car. Buckle up. Eat this. Brush your teeth. Turn off the tv. No cheetos before 10am. Wash your hands. Don't chew the paper. Please take the tutu off the dog. One would indeed feel powerless. So she's figured out how to get a little power for herself. Oh, the myriad of responses I could have... I've been trying them all out. I am seriously at a loss about it. Traditional techniques are being met with sweeping failure and escalating behavior. Lovely.

Is it a stage? Just a stage that will pass like the others? It's always so hard to tell. About all I know for sure is that it's a pain in my ass and I feel like I'm missing some essential piece of information, like the 6-page instruction manual came without pages 3 and 4.

And there are other times when she's perfectly wonderful. Sweet and loving and fun to talk with and laugh with. I'll focus on those in my mind. 

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

august day

You know the Frog and Toad story The List? Where Toad writes down on a list everything he's going to do for the day? Here is Frances' list.

When she said she was going to make a list, I don't know, I thought she was going to "write" (scribble, random letters, squiggles that resemble my writing) lines of text. I'm rather impressed with her thinking of drawing her list instead. At the top is the bed for her to get out of in the morning, then apparently we're having cereal for breakfast and using a spoon, then art camp where she used a slab of clay yesterday that I suppose resembled this one, then I wish I knew what was on that lunch plate, then naptime, then go to the pet store because they have a gumball machine and Frances has quarters (four of them, and she happily shared two with her brother), then a toothbrush that looks rather like a tree to brush teeth, then bed. And that's just what we did. 

Thursday, August 18, 2011

summer left to its own devices

When we left at the end of June the sunflowers were about 12 inches high. Here's what they looked like when we got back:

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

coming home

I wrote this on a piece of hotel stationary the night before we left India:

It's been a wonderful two weeks in India, and we were traveling more than four weeks in the US before that - to the beach, to visit family, etc etc. So we will be going home to New York after nearly seven weeks away.

And I'll admit is here: I'm nervous. I'm nervous about going back to our life, back to it's being just me and the kids. During the travel before India I enjoyed the kids almost more than I ever have. Mitch says sarcastically, "It's nice to be on vacation," but that's not it. I mean, that's some of it, certainly, but not the meat. It's not just that I've been freed from my normal household duties and all that; it's the lack of lonesomeness when other family members are around, and the hugeness of the help in having other adults nearby for the kids to engage with. Not just me. It's so much pressure for me, to be the only one responsible for their care, their entertainment, their sense of safety and freedom and well being.

Is it just that I put too much pressure on myself? Perhaps it's about reframing my role as a mother. What indeed is my role, my responsibility?

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

plus the taj

traditional postcard pic.

See the tiny specs at the front wall that look like ants? They're people.

tiny bits of india

Monday, August 1, 2011

more india

We called Frances and Clark while we waited on our plane from Delhi to Jaipur. It was late afternoon here, morning there.

"What are you doing?" we asked.

"Eating pancakes with chocolate in them," Clark said. Then, "MommyDaddy, I miss you so much."

There are peacocks in the garden outside our hotel window. They are amazing. And loud.

Only four more days in India. It really is amazing here. I've fallen completely in love with the place, which is not terribly surprising. I've wanted to visit here forever. What I didn't know is how warm and friendly Indians are.

The cows are hilarious. Everywhere - in the middle of the road, cars swerving around them. Yesterday we drove through the mountains from Jodhpur to Udaipur which was beautiful and also a bit odd; rocky mountains with palm trees. Udaipur is the most beautiful city we've seen; green and lush, surrounded by water and mountains. Tomorrow we fly back to Delhi which is the biggest city we visit. 20 million people! We were there a short time in the beginning; it really doesn't feel as big as that. I do wish we were staying here longer rather than going back to Delhi. Next time, next time.

Americans are a novelty here because we come from so far. Most westerners we see are French and Spanish. I guess no one else is nuts enough to travel in the hot rainy season, though there hasn't been nearly as much rain as I expected. They say the monsoons haven't come like they usually do. Some of the fields by the villages are brown and dry and the people pray for rain.

My blond hair causes more than a little commotion on the street, people openly staring, children smiling and waving, boys shouting I love you. When I smile at the school girls they light up like they've seen a movie star.

I will post pictures, promise. Maybe the ones of Mitch and me on a camel! Which is not a smooth ride, in case you're wondering. 

Sunday, July 24, 2011


I wrote this a few days ago just before I left the country. I didn't get a chance to post it then, so I'm posting it now. We (obviously) have internet access at this incredibly fancy hotel - that used to be a palace forcryingoutloud - but only for the next couple of days. I'm pretty sure I won't be able to get online after that, until we get home. So I'll post this now, and later today or tomorrow I'll post an update with travel details. I can't post pictures yet (sorry!) - don't have a cord to download them from the camera. But there will be lots to come! (And btw, it's wonderful here!!!) 

I'm off to India later today. This will be the last of this nutso summer vacation. At least it's been a vacation for me. For my husband it's been lots of work, a dying and then dead computer, several presentations at conferences, and stress. I've had a (mostly) lovely time. In fact, today I was thinking that during this trip I've experienced more joy than I usually have in my life. I need to examine why that might be the case. Then, it might be as simple as I'm on vacation.

Last night as I put Frances to bed I brought up the fact I was leaving in a day or two. She seemed sad. "Will it be shorter or longer than when we stayed with Grammy?" she asked. That was the 5 days we were in California. "Longer," I said. I didn't tell her it will be nearly three times longer. Then I talked about how Grandma and Grandpa are going to take good care of her, and I talked about the fun things she will do (including swimming in the lake every single day. Three days ago Frances didn't much want to put her face in the water, and today they both were doing running cannonballs off the floating dock. They did have on their float vests, but would go under completely when they landed. It's amazing). I don't know if talking about it helped, but she does seem less easily irritated today. I've really made an effort to focus on the kids nearly all the time, to let them sit on my lap anytime they want to, to give them as much energy and attention and eye contact as I can. I'd like to fill their cups before I leave so they have some reserves. And I keep telling Frances, next time I want to bring her with me. This time, though, it's just the grown ups!

Friday, July 22, 2011


Bedtime is the pits. It's the time when the kids push all my buttons at once, try all their tricks, delay delay delay. The other night I was trying my best to stay calm and Frances was acting like a spoiled petulant 14 year old. Since we're at the grandparents', both kids were set up on air mattresses on the floor, with Mitch and me on the bed in the same room. Frances and I really got into it. Afterwards she wouldn't let me hug her, so I said that was okay, just said goodnight and hugged Clark, then I stood out on the hall to wait for her inevitable appearance at the door and to peek at her through the crack. At first she just sat on the bed and at the ceiling, the walls, the curtains. (I'd already threatened her with her life if her body left her bed).

"Clark," she said. No response. "Clark! I don't want Mommy to come back in here."

There was a pause, then "Why you not want Mama?" Clark asked, as if he hadn't just witnessed the conflict and subsequent wailing.

"Cuz she's bad."

Clark rolled over with his thumb in his mouth. Frances sat for a minute more looking up at the ceiling, then she started to make this funny loud grunting sound.

"Clark, I'm gonna make loud sounds to bother Mommy," she said. Which I thought was funny since she supposedly didn't want me back in there.

Clark sat up and looked at her. "But then I can't sleep good," he said frankly, and lay back down.

Finally she got up and wandered my way. She opened the door and saw me leaning there against the wall, and she just stood. I waited. Finally I said gently, "Did you need something?"

She waited another moment then said, "You're mean."

"I'm sorry you feel that way, honey," I said.

We stood and looked at each other a bit more, then I told her she could go to sleep on our bed rather than on the mattress if she wanted, and I would move her later. She turned and went back to her mattress. I kept watching. After a minute she got up and walked to the bed, where she curled up. I was getting ready to leave when she got off the bed and came back to the door. She walked right to me and wrapped her arms around me. I stooped down and hugged her, picked her up and sat her on my lap, and rocked her for a long time. I kissed her face and stroked her hair.

Finally she said, "I love you, Mama," and kissed me.

"I love you too," I said. "Are you ready to get in your bed?"

She nodded yes. Then she climbed off my lap and went into the room. At Clark's bed she leaned over to kiss him but he squirmed away, then she got in her bed, pulled up the covers, and went to sleep.

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

wear and tear

Our summer travel is rather cumbersome. So far we've been gone 27 days, driven 2236 miles, and slept in 7 cities. (That doesn't include the transcontinental flight Mitch and I took, and that's because we did that without kids. It falls only into the joyandrelief column, not the trialforkidsandparents column, which is what this post is about.) We've left the kids twice with family while we went away for 3 or more days, and we're getting ready to leave the kids with Mitch's parents for two full weeks while we saunter across the world to India. For some reason I didn't think clearly before we began about the effect all this was going to have on the kids. I hope this next trip isn't terribly trying for them.

Clark (age 3) is having a hard time. Either that, or he's moved into some fabulous new stage that I do not relish the thought of enduring. Someone told me recently that boys age 2-6 have 10 testosterone spikes an hour on average, and I believe that. I am further reminded of it when he's been away from his own routine and universe for weeks at a time. And weeks to kids feel like decades; I remember. Poor guy. It's all coming out in uncharacteristic aggression. He's defiant, he's resistant. Bedtime is a power struggle of wholly new dimensions. He's taken to yelling "NO! I WON'T!' about many things. He bit his cousin at the beach, and he's never bitten anyone before in his life.

That said, he and Frances are in love with each other. They spent the last hour of the last car trip in complete hysterics, cracking each other up over and over. It was charming to watch in the rearview. They hold hands between their car seats; they soothe each other when upset; they hug and kiss and offer to let the other play with cherished possessions. Maybe it's a defense mechanism to help each other cope while under stress, but it also assures me that having two was good for our family, rather than the solo one I sometimes wish I had.

On a separate note: we drove day before yesterday up from North Carolina to Michigan, where it's lovely and really hot. At 12 hours it was our longest drive so far, but that included stops for gas and bathrooms and searching under the seats for a particular toy. On the way to the bathrooms at a food / diaper change / bathroom rest stop Frances said to me, "Why do you call it a damn tv?" "What do you mean?" I asked. "Why do you call it a damn tv?" she said again. I had no idea what she was talking about. "When did I say that?" I asked. "Whenever," she said. "Like you do." "Can you give me an example?" I asked. "You know," she said, "like when you say 'Fine. Just turn on the damn tv.'" Which I haven't said in at least a month, so you know. 

Friday, July 8, 2011

water sky sand guns

Well, my son has learned the word gun, and how to make one with your thumb and index finger. And with legos. Until now he's been calling things shooters, a word I do prefer, and often the shooting is done by blaster dasters; for example, belonging to Iron Man and someone I had to look up named War Machine (played by Don Cheadle in the Iron Man movie, which I'm certain I will some day view). Yesterday when he pointed his index finger gun at me and said pshw pshw, I asked who told him that was a gun. "Henry," he said. His six year old cousin. "He said you point this finger, then put up your thumb like this, and it's a gun." Uh huh. This is what we get for multigenerational beach vacations. That, and really good scallops and cherry pie.

I'm rather in love with both my kids right now, sweet stages all around. We're in North Carolina for a two week beach vacation (with cousins and aunts and grammy), though Mitch and I left in the middle for three days to visit friends in Durham. For the first time ever, I believe - excluding going back to work when Frances was mere months old - I missed them. Maybe they simply had to be more than babies for the missing to happen.

It took me two full days in Durham to relax. I couldn't figure out why I was anxious - just general floating anxiety - and I now think it's simply that I'm always tensed and ready to spring to action. I was still tensed, but with nothing toward which to spring, and so the tension just circulated like stale air. It reminded me of when I went to visit Boise by myself (when Clark was 15 months, Frances 2 and a half) and I cried for the first three days. About nothing. Everything was just so moving. (You can read about that trip here.)

So now the beach the beach. A week is never enough, but maybe two weeks is too much? Yesterday the kids came to blows, but perhaps that is to be expected and means little about how long we should stay. There are big tide pools here during low tide and some of them are deep enough for the kids to actually swim, and for the adults to lounge comfortably. I'm including pictures.

Tomorrow morning we will leave. Half the party left today because of the gray skies and rain, though Frances and I went and swam in it. When we were walking to the beach this evening, Frances asked if the cousins were already at the beach, then she remembered they had gone home. Clark expressed sorrow and Frances said, "You still have me, Clark. You will always have me. We will always be together. Forever. When you go to Harlan's house for a playdate I won't go, though. But other than that, we will always be together." They were holding hands at the time. It was the first time they had been alone together in two weeks. I wonder if they missed each other. Sweet.

kids are (left to right) 2, almost 5, 6, 3, 4.  

poopie jokes are hi-larious

fourth of july parade

tide pool

Sunday, July 3, 2011


I'm at the beach! It's lovely here. And hot.

I'm well aware it's been a long sad time since I've written here last, but I have excuses! After the last post I spent a full two weeks freaking out about getting packed for our SIX WEEKS of summer travel (will get to that in a minute). I mean, how do you pack for 6 weeks? Although there was little I could do two weeks before departure, I still dashed around the house in a state of mild panic which rendered me useless for things like fixing food and blogging. (And I do mean dashed. I found myself sprinting from room to room, as if walking was going to put me so much behind. Just a little anxiety.)

Then there was the first part of the travel itself (nine hour drive to Virginia with kids age 4 and 3, two night stay with my dad, four hours in the car to see more family, then four more hours to this lovely beach house.) We will be here two weeks - can you believe it? Two weeks at the beach. Yesterday Mitch and I floated in the ocean (temp of bathwater, so you know) while grandparents and cousins watched the kids to be sure no one ate sand or drowned, and Mitch said, "This is what it's all about," and then insinuated that all his crazy hard work and unavailability and stress is worth it so we can float in the ocean.

I don't know. It's hard to say.

Nonetheless, his hard work is indeed allowing us to not only hang out sunburnt for two weeks, but afterward we will leave the kids with my mom and go to California for five days (where he will have a conference and I will have a good time). THEN we will pick the kids up and drive to Michigan where they will stay with grandparents while we go to India for two weeks. Really! India! How awesome is that? I'm still trying to decide if I should haul my big fancy camera or take my mediocre tiny one....

So more to come, just an apology now for all the time between posts. It's hard for me to post when I don't have time alone, and it's hard for me to create time alone on vacations like this one. But there will be more. Soon.

Thursday, June 9, 2011

bedtime is not my time

Okay, okay. So too much chocolate (probably coupled with handfuls of peanuts) is indeed too much of a good thing. Botox has its limits, turns out. So sad. Still! Only one headache in two weeks! It's unheard of, until now anyway. Since the one headache - last Friday - I've eaten all the triggers (cheese, chocolate, nuts) but not by the handful. Interestingly, I can feel this one muscle in my shoulder lock up when I eat these things, but no pain in my head. Good times!

I have so much more energy, am more patient with the kids, both of which are a relief to me. Now I understand how all the crafty moms take care of their kids AND sew whole quilts. 

Still, the botox didn't fix my bedtime problem. I am horrible at bedtime. I know it's supposed to be this lovely relaxing snuggle time with the kids, and maybe if I worked and didn't see them during the day, that is what it would be. But I don't, and it's not. It's the time when I'm almost off duty, just a few more minutes, dammit stop fooling around and open your mouth so I can brush your damn teeth. Sigh.

I try to give bedtime to the babysitters as much as I can. Last night the kids were out with their sitter and I was in the house being quiet, and I thought it would be nice to participate in bedtime, so rather than take the dog for a walk so I wouldn't be home when the kids got here, I stayed. Which was a mistake. It's not just hard on me; it's hard on them too. They just go down so much more easily for the sitter, everyone is calmer.

It's taken me a while to be honest with myself about this limitation. I felt like I should be better at it, thought somehow this one time of day was crucial to my success as a parent. Now I've simply admitted what is true. I don't know why it frightened me so. 

Monday, May 30, 2011

a crossroads. a turn.

[Note; the following post is mostly for my far away friends who use this blog to keep up with my life. Though this issue certainly impacts my parenting, my indulgence of it here is for those who know and love me personally. The rest of you, I will not be offended if you skim.]

It's a new world! Major changes over here, and this time not due to the kids' developmental stages. Nope, this one is about my developmental changes. Hold on to your seats. IT'S POSSIBLE MY HEADACHES ARE CURED. Perhaps I should wait to write these words, wait until the verdict is clear, but already the impact on my days and on my participation in motherhood (as in much else, as you will see) is radical. Let me explain.

I'd heard about botox as a treatment for migraines, heard it as a rumor. Then I read some, and turns out that women on the front end of the botox revolution who were receiving cosmetic botox in their forehead and temples, and who also had migraines, were discovering that their migraines were going away for the duration of botox treatment. At some point the pharmaceutical companies started running clinical trials, and last October the FDA approved it as a treatment for migraines. I found out in a random article sent to me by someone as a link. Why my neurologist did not shout this from the rooftop is a bit hazy for me, but it could be simply because folks get stuck in their ways.

I called my insurance company to see if they would cover treatment and, a thirty minute wait on hold assured me, indeed they will. When I asked my neurologist about it he referred me to a new neuro who treats patients with botox. Before hanging up I asked if in his experience it worked, and he said it was hard to tell because people generally used it as a last ditch, after all other medications had failed. But why? Why would it not now be a first choice? Or at least a third? Why would my doctor be more comfortable having me ingest handfuls of pills? I'm a bit confused about it.

Because the upshot is that if this works, not only can I eat like a normal human again, but I can come off at least 3 medications I'm on daily, not to mention the migraine pills I take for the actual headaches, plus the high dose NSAIDS (frequent) and codeine (rare) and anti nausea pills (medium). Are there any downsides to the Botox? Are people afraid of it and assume there must be? Cuz I don't see any. Except maybe that it's expensive, even with the insurance covering 80%. Still, it's not THAT expensive, and it's going to same me the money I currently put into the other migraine medications.

PLUS. Let us briefly discuss the things I will be able to enjoy on this earth. We'll touch on a select few and then move on. Ahem.

Brownies. Chocolate chip cookies, chocolate cake, Reeces cups. Dark chocolate bars, truffles, chocolate mint ice cream. Blue cheese, brie cheese, cheddar cheese, parmesan, manchego, fontina, gjetost, drunken goat. Enchiladas, PIZZA!, peanut butter, trail mix, ohmygoodness.





(I don't hold out much hope yet for the coffee. It's the worst trigger of all. We'll get there and just see.)

I'm gonna gain a bunch of weight.

I had to jump through about 120 hoops to make all this happen, and maybe that's why the docs don't advertise... they don't want to deal with the hassle. But last Wednesday, a whole six days ago, I went to the neuro's office and had her stick my head - all around my forehead and temples (those really hurt!) and the back of my head. Since then I've felt better than I have since I was perhaps 5. Really. Six days might not seem like a lot to you folks, but it's unheard of for me. I recently kept a headache diary for the first time in a few years, and turns out I was having headaches 6 of 7 days. I didn't even realize how frequent. The really big ones were every 3 days or so. In addition, I now know that what I thought was "no headache" was actually about 2 notches up the pain scale. Who knew! There were times when I really did believe I had no headache, but I was wrong. It's like when white noise you didn't notice suddenly stops. Quiet. But you didn't realize it had been loud before. That's what it's like.

So no pain! On two different occasions so far I've had a handful of peanut M&Ms; two big triggers, and a certainty of a headache before. And nothing! Two of the last few days I took naps where I feel deeply asleep for an hour. Nothing! Magic! The past few days I've been happier, more patient with the kids. I also have the emotional space to be more creative with them, convince them to drink their milk at dinner by slurping my own and making it a game rather than badgering.

I could come out on the other side of this a different person. I wonder if you folks will even recognize me. Plus, I have a really smooth forehead.

For those of you with questions, you'll find the answers here: 1) The needles hurt some, but nothing a person can't handle. 2) Yes, my forehead is very smooth, but mostly in the middle. Up at the scalp line my skin still wrinkles; my neuro said they target more specifically in cosmetic botox. 3) They don't know why it works exactly, but the theory is that the botox relaxes the nerves that spaz out, which cause the migraine. 4) It doesn't work for everyone, and for some people it only gets rid of the big ones, but the little ones still slip through. (yet, maybe that's because botox is mostly being used for the most extreme cases... when I first saw this new neuro and told her what I wanted to try, before she said yes she gave me a whole speech about which medication combinations I could still try, and wrote me a prescription for several.) (And, frankly, if I had to pick, I'd rather have my big ones. Those I can at least treat with a triptan. The low grade ones I fight all the time are the ones that make me a shitty mom who yells at her kids.) 5) It lasts for 3 months. I've already made an appointment for 3 months from now.

I'm supposed to start my period in a couple of days. If I don't have a headache then, we'll know some major plate in the earth has shifted. Then I'll enjoy an amazing glass of red wine and see what happens. Oh my.

I'll keep you updated about the new me.

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Frances in charge

Frances: "Pretend I'm a princess and you've never met me, and this is a real duckling. I mean, pretend you have met me before, but you've never seen this duckling, and he's real. Pretend you can only hear the duckling, you can't see him, and he surprises you. Pretend I'm a real princess, and I'm your sister, and this duckling is my pet."

A separate subject.
To my displeasure, Frances has lately been obsessed with American Girl Dolls. Do you know what these things are? They are overpriced and absurd, the hot thing now for at least the last decade. Because of their expense, they seem to be a sort of status symbol among girls, though Frances can't know that yet at 4, can she? They promote consumerism at its height, providing a catalogue carrying any kind of accessory you can imagine. The want is bottomless. I ended up on the American Girl Doll mailing list somehow, and when the catalogues come I rush them to the recycling before Frances can see them. Over Christmas, however, Frances got ahold of one and perused it at leisure with her grandmother. Oh well. So now an American Girl Doll is the goal.

Our eight year old neighbor got one, and she told Frances you have to be eight before you can get one, and I appreciated that. So I had my line: When you're eight, we can talk about it. Then Frances went to another friend's house for a playdate and at the end, while I was gathering up her shoes and coat, she appeared with Bitty Baby Twins, the American Girl Doll for the younger set which costs $100, two of them off all things, naked. "Maia said I could keep them," she said. Hm. I was saved by Maia's father, who said that "actually, Maia was given those by a special friend, and they need to be here when she comes to visit." Maia doesn't like dolls at all, and she was perfectly happy to hand Frances both dolls and their suitcases overflowing with pajamas and bunny slippers and blankies and several other outfits. "You can borrow them, though," said her dad. I tried to insist that we had enough doll clothes already and we'd just take the dolls, but in the end it all came with us.

We've since returned all of that, and at another playdate with a different girl, Frances came home with a full size American Girl Doll. Holy crap! How did she do that? She said she wanted one, and here one came. I have to say, she did seem to love it more than any other doll. She brought it to the grocery, to the library, and she buckled her securely in the seat beside her in the car. And, average sucker mom that I am, I did love seeing her joy with that doll. It's gone back now to its owner. This morning Frances asked how long it is til christmas because she knows what she wants to ask santa for. Her list was impressive; two specific American Girl Dolls, a bike for one, mugs and drinks and clothes, a pet for the other. She drew this picture to illustrate.

Much as I hate them, I wonder if she'll end up with one, and before she's eight. She certainly knows what she wants and does whatever it takes to get it. It's rather impressive. 

pirate love

Recently Clark and I went to visit the school where he'll be going next year. On the way he wanted to know if they had pirate hats and swords. He thought maybe he should bring his own. 

At the school is a great big castle room - a big wooden structure to climb on, with turrets and flags and thick matts up pushed up beside for jumping down onto. After a good bit of very physical climbing and playing on the castle, we all sat in a circle and sang w/ Teacher Tom while he played the guitar. He's amazing. He's one of those people who has a gift of speaking the Language of Children.

Anyway, after some singing and talking and instrument playing, some folks had questions, had things they wanted to say. Tom told anyone who wanted to say something to raise their hands and Clark put his up right away. I thought maybe he misunderstood, but then when Tom called on him he asked - without the first whiff of timidity - if Tom had pirate hats and pirate swords, which he did not. It was so cute.

Sunday, May 15, 2011


Thank god, thank earth, and all that is; it is finally, finally, FINALLY spring. Horrible, that's what that was, the six weeks before. Maybe that's why everyone here hates the winter snow so much - they all know what's coming after.

I love the snow up here in the snowbelt. Though, to be fair, I have the ideal set up. I would probably not love it as much if I a) didn't have a garage and was forever brushing and scraping my car so I could b) go to work. That I am a stay-at-home-mom means when it's really painfully cold and deep, I just don't go out in it. It's one of the perks. Perhaps the perk, come to think of it. So I get to enjoy the snow when I want to. (In case anyone cares, I believe there are only two things you must do to enjoy the snow here. 1) get a really good coat (you'd never believe the number of fools walking around here in hoodies), and 2) go out in it. You don't even have to ski or anything; just layer up and go for a walk. The world coated in white is an amazing one.)

But now we're actually done with the snow. Done! I had truly begun to wonder if it was going to get warm again. I thought perhaps it would stay in the 40s all summer until the snow started up again in the fall. You should see the pink blooming trees in my yard.

So. Tuesday when I went to pick up Frances from school, she skipped to me singing, "playdate! playdate!" as she always does. Previously I'd made a policy not to give in to spur of the moment playdate requests, but I apparently forgot. She went home with her friend Maia, and Clark and I went home and ate lunch then took a snuggly nap on the couch.

When we got to Maia's house to pick her up, she and Maia were playing in the back of the backyard. They ignored me as long as they could, and before she'd even said hello to me I heard her say to Maia, "I don't like Clark." Frances was very difficult about leaving, as she often is, and when we got home she was as mean to Clark as I've seen her be. Wouldn't let him touch her things, grabbed things away from him, said how much she doesn't like him and how he's not good at playing, and then shoved him down. I didn't know what on earth was going on, and the end result of all of it was that I broke my no yelling streak. I was eight days in! Oh well.

After much crying and much lap sitting, she told me Maia said something really sharply to her at school and it made her cry, and then one of the boys was boasting about how great he was going to be, how he'd build skyscrapers and she wasn't going to do anything, he was so much better than her blah blah blah. That made her cry too. So she turned and did the same thing to her brother.

I don't know why I don't see this behavior when it's happening as a red flag that she is suffering in some way. If I could pause and address the suffering, rather than the behavior, everything would go a lot more smoothly.

Hopefully next time.

How confusing it must have been for her to have Maia be so mean but then want Frances to come to her house and play. And probably confusing for Maia too! To have these aggressive feelings toward someone you like... Emotions are a bizarre and unwieldy jungle to trek.

I hope I can help her, at least draw her a crude map of the paths I know to the other side.

I also think she was simply overstimulated, overexcited, exhausted. That's her temperament, her tendency, after all. It is spring - so suddenly - and she's probably playing harder (they play outside more than 2 hours at her school) Plus, it was on Tuesday, which is the first day of her school week, plus she stayed longer at Maia's than I would have liked. That's one lesson I had already learned (like the no-spur-of-the-moment-playdates lesson) but let slide: playdates should be two hours max. Any longer and she melts - usually moments after we pull away in the van.

My new rules, in order to avoid the above situation: no playdates on Tuesday, no playdates spur of the moment, no longer than 2 hours, and - the most important one - if she's acting uncharacteristically badly, then she is suffering because of something else. Gently, go gently. Try to wait. Listen.