Saturday, September 29, 2012


(I wrote this a few days ago - just found it and it made me smile. Still intend to write more soon about the gift and what it means, and perhaps what it doesn't mean.)

It's 2 am and I'm awake because Frances had a nightmare that I wouldn't talk to her. She wept and wept, and then she would quiet, but the memory would come again and up came a wail that broke me. I'm right here, I said over and over as I brushed the hair off her sweaty face. I will never not talk to you. I will always be here for you.

6 years ago this minute I was strapped to an IV spittiing out pitocin, laboring hard, miserable. I think it was about this time that I freaked out and turned off the machine myself, told the nurse to unhook me because I was done; I was going home.

That didn't happen.

And now there's a box at the foot of my bed, wrapped and bowed, with an american girl doll inside. It is going to make one 6 year old very very happy.

I still have all kinds of reservations about (and some outright hostility toward) that particular company, but I've chosen to let that fall away for the moment in the service of giving her what may be the only material thing she really wants on this earth.

That will be in the morning. Six years ago when morning came there was no baby, and wouldn't be for a good while yet. But tomorrow morning there is a family here where there was none. Six years. Is that a short time or long? Both, I think.

birthday drama

Well, I'm not baking the crazy fancy cake this year. I have a much more brilliant idea: decorate your own cupcakes! How's that for getting out of it? Let's hear it for cutting stress! I am quite excited.

I already made the cupcakes, as well as the cake that was for the family gathering on Frances' actually birthday (Wednesday), but the latter was simply decorated like a regular birthday cake, lavender frosting with trim and writing. For both the cake and the cupcakes I used a very risky blend of whole wheat and gluten free flours. Vanilla. She wanted vanilla with vanilla frosting. Tastes pretty good, so good in fact that I threw the rest of it in the trash last night because I could not stay out of it.

Two sets of parents were here for the actual birthday and in the 36 hours before they arrived I moved nearly every piece of furniture in this house. Shifted everything around. Clark got a new room in the process. It's like having a whole new house!

......Aaaaand I lost an entire post. I had written at length about the controversal gift we got Frances, many paragraphs examining my motives and ideas, and now there's a blank page below these three paragraphs above. Very frustrating. Will have to recreate.

But not this minute. This minute I am recovering from the kid party this afternoon. More on it all to come. 

Thursday, September 20, 2012

insight from the girl

My cousin's child C started kindergarten this year in North Carolina. The teacher - check this - uses a star reward system. If you don't get in trouble all day you get a green star at the end of the day. If you were put in time out once you get a yellow star, and you get a red one if you were in trouble lots. Apparently C was put in time out two days in a row for not raising her hand before talking. Not raising her hand! (So... what? The child has to endure the humiliation and punishment of time out as it's happening, and then again at the end of the day? How is that a good idea? Way for the kids to leave with a good taste in their mouths.) I was telling the au pair about this and Frances overheard us and wanted to know why the teacher would act like that. She kept thinking about it, kept asking over and over, "why would she do that?"

"It doesn't seem very kind, does it," I said.

"No," she said. "I mean, why would she do that?"

"Why do you think?"

"I don't know. I mean, why would she act like that?"

"Maybe someone told her it was a good way to teach kids how to behave."

"Maybe." Pondering. "But why was she like that?"

"Why do you think?"

She paused, and this time really thought about it. Then she said, "Oh, I understand. I know why."


"Maybe that's the way the teacher was to her when she was little."

I tell you, if she knows this already about the world, and Clark knows that you still miss the old thing even when you enjoy the new, they are both going to be waaaay ahead of the rest of us.

Tuesday, September 18, 2012


Ok, so the last post really just caught everyone up on the facts. And facts are important, right? I suppose so. But the real truth I need to express - and that all those facts were supposed to express - is that right now, for this sliver of time, this very moment, things are GREAT.

I read another blog post about an email the blog author had received, and the email asked, among other things, "...DO YOU HAVE ANY ADVICE FOR PEOPLE LIKE ME WITH BABIES OR PERHAPS REFLECTIONS OF HOW YOU GOT BY WHEN YOUR KIDS WERE BABIES?  HOW DID YOU NOT JUMP OFF A CLIFF?  ..." I remember those days. I remember wondering how any moms were standing upright, because I certainly felt any uprightness of mine was a trick of light. 


It all reminded me of the first few months, or perhaps years I suppose. 

A friend of mine has a 5 year old and a 9 month old and always feels like she should be accomplishing more than she is. When she's at my house and our daughters are playing together, she's always offering her help while I'm fixing snacks for them, as if she isn't already trying to keep the baby from killing himself by swallowing legos. I mean - really. She has enough to do. Recently she said, "How long will I be tied down like this?" I had enough presence of mind to remind her it's until the kid turns 3. "Oh right," she said. "That's about when I started to feel out of the weeds with the first." So funny how we forget. This forgetting is necessary for survival, I'm certain. 

But Frances will be 6 next week, and Clark is 4.5. I am officially out of the weeds. I still have to tie shoes and sometimes chase and tackle a naked one who's refusing to put on jammies, but really - I'm not in danger of cliff diving any longer. 

Of course, now that I'm out of the weeds, being back in them seems awfully attractive. Thankfully I have reasons not to do it again. The main ones are my age (too old for sleep deprivation), my migraines, and the medications I'm on to control them. Good reasons. But the real reason, when I'm being honest with myself and my brain is functioning well enough for me to remember accurately, is that having a new baby is hell. Hell. Those of you who are saying, "Oh no, it wasn't that bad," are suffering from a case of Refusing To Remember. (It's also Amazing and Wonderful, and thankfully we don't forget that part.)

So here is where I am. Here, where my kids dress themselves (mostly) and feed themselves, though they do not yet fix the food and put it on plates. They can (sort of) clean up messes, and can (generally) quiet down when asked. I can leave the house (with them of course). I can shower without interruption. I can eat an entire meal sitting down. 

Great. That is how I'm feeling. I'm slightly worried that this feeling greatness is due to the help I'm receiving at home with the au pair here, and that when she leaves in 2 weeks I will be feeling a lot less than great. I tend to anticipate the worst that way. I'm trying my best to simply enjoy the weather and the wonderfulness of this place I am in for but a moment. Because it always changes so fast, doesn't it? Whatever the stage is, it will pass. Fabulousness and all. 

Saturday, September 15, 2012

big changes afoot

Everyone loves school! We are a success! What a relief!

I haven't written since Karen the german girl arrived. She's here not to go to school, but on her break between semesters. It's a kind of language emersion for her, an extra family member for us.

When she first arrived I was in heaven and meant to write a post saying only that, but I never sat at the computer. She does the dishes! All the time! I fix food for the kids, turn around, and the dishes are already done! It's like magic.

The second week I had a hard time adjusting to having someone else around all the time. I kept thinking I needed to entertain her, thought of her as a guest. It was funny - we are putting her up and feeding her but since I'm not paying her for babysitting I kept feeling I couldn't ask for her to watch the kids while I went out. And she felt like we were going so out of our way to provide for her that she owed us as much help as she could be. So for a while both of us were working our asses off, neither of us taking a break.

Not long after she got here we loaded everyone up and traveled to Washington DC and that was nice, and back home Karen came along with me on some adventures with the kids, and that was wonderful. Now that school's started we've gotten into a rhythm and I'm really feeling it. It seems like she's been here forever and I honestly don't know how the adjustment is going to go for me once she is gone. I'm rather in love with her company and she's an ENORMOUS help around the house and with the kids and oh my goodness what am I going to do when I'm alone again??

Here's what's the what on school:

Both Frances and Clark are at schools new to them, whole new worlds. Clark had tough transition, missing his old school and friends, and my heart felt for him. He loved his old school, knew the rules and the expectations and the people, and he loved those people. At the new school (the Waldorf school Frances went to the last 2 years) he felt so shy. Shyness is painful, and who wouldn't want to end that feeling by running back to that other thing you already love and feel close to? Why take a risk? Thing is, he didn't even realize it was a risk, didn't realize there was possible gain on the other side. He just did it cuz mom made him. Still, I knew he was going to fall in love with it. The first day when I picked him up his shoes were completely and totally covered in mud and sand. They had been buried. I had to take off his shoes and socks and rain pants and let him walk barefoot to the car. (It's amazing how those rain pants keep everything dry underneath. Clark was amazed too. His feet were soaked through but his shorts were completely dry. "Look at that!" he said.) The Waldorf school is a place where that kind of activity is expected and even encouraged - sometimes when it's raining only lightly out they go to this hill nearby that's more dirt than anything else, and they take turns sliding down on their butt. In the mud. He's going to be in heaven. I love Waldorf because it is this joyous celebration of the earth and the natural world, a kind of love affair. You can't help but respond.

Mitch told me on the way to school yesterday Clark said he loves his school. When I asked him about it Clark said, "yes, I LOVE my school." "What do you like about it?" I asked. "The whole thing," he said. There's so much motor skill activity - grinding grain on the mill, churning butter, chopping veggies, sweeping, balancing on logs and climbing swinging ladders - all stuff that will please him at a deep physical level.

Frances is thrilled to pieces with kindergarten. She wasn't nervous to go, didn't seem apprehensive at all, and loves everything about it. The first day I walked her to school and I hope I remember that moment always. She was so happy and excited and the weather had been perfect but a storm was coming so it was cooling off. We stopped at the corner and chatted with our neighbors in their pool, then went on. After dropping her I walked home while the gray clouds gathered. It wasn't until I was on the sidewalk right in front of our house that I felt the first drop. And then the downpour. It was all very symbolic and lovely.

The interesting part is that Clark is in school in the morning (Tuesday - Friday) and Frances is in school in the afternoon. (I wrote about this here.) So far I'm in love with the setup. Of course, Karen is still here, which means I can leave Frances with her in the mornings while I take Clark to school or go to the gym or the grocery. When I'm on my own again the lack of a break may be trying, but I'm trying to enjoy the moment. Having the kids each alone is SO DIFFERENT. They are civilized people! And when Frances gets home from school at 3 they are so happy to see each other and they play so well together, since they've been apart all day.

My challenge now is to enjoy them each and not spend all our time running errands or doing dishes or laundry. Which means this school year I may not get much done. I'm trying to be okay with that. Trying to spend my time sitting on the floor playing old maid and doing puzzles. Frances will be in school full day next year, then Clark the year after that. It's all coming to a close, this time of our lives. It sounds so dramatic when I say it like that, but it's true. That full time baby-toddler-preschooler segment of my life is nearing an end.

When Clark said he loves his new school he also said he still misses the old one. I told him it's that way with a lot of things in life. Including this one for me. I'm excited to move on to the next stage - with activities and no naps and the ability of children to become hungry without turning into screaming maniacs. We can travel! And go out to dinner! And talk about issues! Frances is already there, and Clark is mostly close, and I can see the bright lights glimmer. Still, I'm aware I'm going to miss this. This time when I am their world, when they rely on me for so much, and when they give so much love. It's a sweet time, something I've looked forward to my whole life. That it is ending is why the baby urge strikes now, I believe. Still, the shine of what is to come lures me more. I don't want to stay here in baby land. (I mostly don't. Except when sometimes I do.) In any case, I'm still here now, and I plan to cherish it while it's happening.