Saturday, January 21, 2012

2011 in 6 minutes

I forgot to post our holiday video here.... I sent it out to our friends and family, and here it is for my online friends too. Enjoy!

Happy Holidays 2011 from cali lovett on Vimeo.

Monday, January 16, 2012

big changes afoot

So. I've realized something. I've realized we have a situation here and that I created it. This was not by accident, not for lack of attention; I willingly created a breeding ground for lunatics in my home. Oops. They're not lunatics elsewhere, and everyone is surprised when I tell them they are here. In fact, I don't generally think of them as lunatics, which is why by role in all this escaped my attention.

On Sunday I went to Wegmans by myself at 3pm. If you have a Wegmans near you, you know what folly this was, though to my credit I at least did it without kids. It was a ZOO in there. As I was walking in, a dad and three kids were coming in at the same time. I had plenty of opportunity to study this family, as we weaved in and out of each other's aisles the rest of my visit. I took a good long look at these kids: the one in the cart probably 3 1/2 - Clark's age - and two on their feet, probably 5 and 7. Everyone was calm. The dad did not once have to rein them in, tell them to be quiet or calm down. They browsed the produce, discussed which color pears to buy, hung out. If I had been there with my kids, they would have been laughing, pulling at each other, making faces, getting wound up until I shushed and reminded about the Great Big Bribe at the end of the trip.

Thing is, Clark and Frances love each other so much, and they love to be together, to play together. I have friends with kids further apart in age (mine are 17 months for those of you who are just joining the regularly scheduled program) and their kids just don't really interact. They're not interested in creating pretend games together in the plastic car attached to the front of the cart. They don't laugh with each other. Generally, what they do is tolerate. But my kids think all time is playtime. Anytime they are together is the opportunity for play. Of course, eventually someone gets hurt, gets offended, whacks the other over the head. This I want to avoid, which is why I shush - before it happens.

But the shushing makes me crabby. Who wants to be the person telling everyone to calm down? Sometimes Frances looks at me with pure hate in her eyes. No wonder she feels that way; I'm constantly grouching at her.

We've allowed them to run wild in the house, did it on purpose. We have this great big rambling house and little furniture, and I've purposely not furnished it so the kids can have the space to tear around. When they were toddlers it made sense to me: it felt like a privilege that I could offer them unlimited exploration of their world. Now, however, they are bigger. They are louder. They are making me insane.

No wonder I always feel like I need a break from them.

So I just decided: no running in the house, no jumping on the furniture, no wrestling or carrying each other around (I don't know why this is a big activity), no climbing over the back of the couch, no no no screaming. I know plenty of people who have these rules in their house, and I have until now thought of those people as uptight and unfair. Ha! A lot I know.

The kids forget, of course, but they really are adapting pretty well to the new rules. Mitch thinks it will take them about 3 weeks to acclimate. Will see. I'm holding the line for sure. We have a bouncy house in the basement and they are willingly and quickly going down there when I tell them it's the only place they can play like that.

The most interesting thing to me are the side effects I didn't see coming. The kids are calmer overall. Usually I have to force them apart to calm them down, which is why we have strict alone play for at least an hour each day. But today they played for ages and didn't get exhausted, found ways to regroup and recharge in each other's space. They would be playing Mama and Baby, for example, and Frances would go to her room to fetch the plastic fruit or whatever, and she'd get distracted in her closet. Meanwhile Clark was distracted with his trains, and they played a little while alone before coming back (calmly!) together. This is radically different from, say, last week, when all their play consisted of shrieking and grabbing and chasing and having an uproariously good time until it wasn't anymore. You know where that story ends. With a grumpy mama.

Not only are they calmer in the house, but - surprise surprise! - I am a more patient parent! I don't watch the clock for Mitch to come home or the sitter to get here! I LIKE being near and with the kids! And here I thought maybe I simply wasn't cut out for this. Holy crow.

I do see the irony that I did this to myself.

That's okay. I'm going to undo this thing.

I'd forgotten how much children love discipline, how much they thrive when they understand the rules and the limits. I've known this before, but I'd forgotten.

Also, I've started using different language. We had a big long discussion about Community, being a part of a community and which ones we participate in - school, neighborhood, family etc - and what the community rules are. And how, since we are part of a community of family, we have to have some rules that take into account everyone in the community. I've also started to talk about Playtime. As in "now it is dinnertime, not playtime. Now it is time to get ready for school, not playtime." The rules make everything so much simpler. I just remind them of the rule (in my calm mom voice), rather than try to impose my own agenda (generally after becoming irritated), which I'm pretty sure is how they see any limitations without specific rules anyway, as the grownups' agendas.

And here I was trying to come up with schedules and routines and approaches and techniques when all I had to do was change the house rules. Funny when the answers are surprisingly simple.

Will keep you updated.

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

three and a half is LOUD

I've decided my impatience is directly related pretty much solely to Clark's screaming. This is an interesting revelation.

The last Friday of vacation was a gem of a day. I was patient, the kids were in good moods, my offer of candy provided there were no fighting or screaming during the grocery run was highly successful. I also didn't feel any pressure to get anything done. No laundry, no cooking. No headache. I spent the time doing puzzles with them on the floor, or just lounging around. It was lovely.

At first I thought the big deal difference was that I felt great: no headache, no headache hangover from headache yesterday, no being tired from getting up the night before with the kids, good exercise  (finally!) after being out with Terrible Illness. I'm a considerably (understatement) more patient person when there's no screaming. Plus, we got out of the house early, grocery shopping complete before a 10 a.m. playdate. AND Frances's playdate came with a mom - a playdate of my own! Interaction with actual adults! But it occurs to me now that perhaps the most relevant detail is simply that Clark wasn't screaming. 

Ahhhhh, yes. 

Yet today there was just so much. Sigh. Why must there be so much? 

On another note: I think the babylust has passed. What a relief! A couple of things happened: 1) I held a sweet cuddly newborn (so warm!) and he smelled like spit up. It's different when it's your own's spit up, your own sour milk; 2) I found an old video of Frances and Clark. She was just barely three and he was 19 months. I've so longed to remember what they were like, had a kind of pain inside that I can't bring them up in my mind. And there they were! There in our driveway in early fall. Frances was riding her trike, her pigtails streaming out behind her. Clark was pushing around the orange Little Tykes car, ramming it into the garage and then shrieking because it wouldn't go. Actually, that part was particularly interesting to watch, since I see the same exact physical movements in him still. Frances was such a willing helpful sister, cheerfully hopping off her trike when I said, "Frances, can you help your brother pull the car out?" He didn't want her though. He wanted Mama. MamaMamaMama! And the video ended. It reminded me with sharp clarity how maddeningly boring toddlerhood can be. Fun, full of exuberance, but also quite tedious. Thank you, modern technology. 

I find this part much more interesting. Also more daunting and complex... My friend Emily, whose kids are 4 1/2 and brand new, said the other day, "Should it really be this hard?" But it is. If you're paying attention, anyway. No offense to those who aren't paying attention, of course. Or those who bizarrely find parenting easy. Don't know what you're smoking in your pipe, but it ain't from the same plant as mine. Which is why I savor the easy days. The days when the light falls just so through the window, when there's no headache and no screaming.

Saturday, January 7, 2012

funny kids

guess what? what? chicken butt.
guess who? who? chicken poo.


Friday, January 6, 2012

not babies anymore

Lately I've found myself in a bit of a muddle about the kids and their lack of babyness. They are not babies anymore, even the three and a half year old screamer. They are little children, and my job is a different one. Before, it was diapers and breastfeeding and pumping and bottles and diapers and pureed food and wiping faces and diapers and carrying and schlepping and rocking and soothing and diapers and general exhaustion. Now it's talking and cajoling and explaining and reprimanding and hurrying along and watching, watching, watching, listening listening listening. I understand why people say it's harder now; it's more complicated for sure, more complex and nuanced. Trying to explain why Frances can't have a no-clothes party takes a bit more wherewithal than simply keeping the baby from falling down the stairs.

I've had the baby itch. I assume it's born of nothing more than the fact that mine aren't babies any longer. Everyone who counts is 99% certain that there will be no more pregnancies in our house, so my internal response to the baby itch has been to lament the loss of the babyness of my present kids. 

Maybe I should get a lap dog. 

It occurred to me recently that instead of enjoying what they now are I've been wishing for what they were, and that's a silly thing to do. Because who they are now is a really wonderful joyful place to be. For example, I give you the picture of the day:

Tuesday, January 3, 2012


Holidays are a big thing in mom-land. They can really serve to be the measure of your success, in your own eyes I mean. (supermom pressure switch ON.) When they're holidays I like it works well for me. I craft and bake and decorate with the kids and see the fruits of my labor in plates on the counter and taped to the walls all over my house. But when it's a holiday I don't care about... Let's talk about New Years, shall we? This is a holiday that really doesn't mean anything to me. I don't believe in New Year's resolutions because if it were a real resolution you wouldn't have to wait for New Years to make it. I get the 'out with the old, in with the new' but that happens better in spring and, besides, it should be something you do with regularity, not once a year. Really, as I've experienced it, New Years is just a drinking excuse, as is 4th of July.

Then you have kids. And suddenly New Years becomes a Life Lesson and about the Nature of the Universe, the turning of the earth around the sun, the Passage of Time, and feel I guilty as shit if I don't somehow mark the occasion with the kids. I mean, what kind of slacko mom am I if I can't even buy a couple of hats and a noisemaker? I thought about making New Years hats with the kids - that would have gotten me off the crafting hook - but I didn't get it together in time. Since I was near death just before Christmas and we never got to bake christmas cookies, I thought we could make New Year's cookies. But we didn't. We did have a family movie night, all snuggling under the same blanket on the couch, which was nice. Then the next morning, Jan 1st, Mitch wished Frances a Happy New Year, and Frances said she was so glad it was New Year's Day because we get to blow the blowers that night. Luckily the NYC ball drop is on youtube, about 8 minutes long. We hyped it up and after dinner we set the kids up with noisemakers my friend Holly generously passed on from the night before. Two minutes into the video we discovered (from the mouth of Carson Daly) that we were watching New Years 2010. (We also watched London's, and I gotta say - NY has nothin on London 2010. Crazy amazing fireworks! I advise you to check it out here.)

I think next year we're celebrating the turn of the new year on Greenwich meridian time, which is 7pm here in cold Upstate. We can light some candles and say something about the past year and about the one to come. Intention. And I don't even have to set up crafts.

For now we're done with the crunch of holiday pressure. Starting with Frances's september birthday, I'm pretty much on Holiday Duty from mid september through new years. We moms all have a little breather til Valentines. Frances has already decided how we're celebrating that one: she wants to have a Valentine tea party with pink food. Jello is the exciting food of the moment. Sounds good to me!