Friday, December 22, 2006

Angst and Spilled Milk

I know I wished you a merry Christmas already, and said I didn't have time to write for awhile now because it's time to go north for the holidays, but some mornings are so blogable you just have to sit down with the laptop and a caffeine-free Diet Coke as soon as the babies are mercifully asnooze. This morning really tested my patience--and I'm not sure it passed.

First of all, Miss Julia was quite the Cranky von Crankster today. Maybe Early Christmas was a little too much for her; I think she's still tired out from being up late yesterday opening gifts and then being too wired to calm down and go to sleep once in bed. At any rate, whining, fussing, and melting down over seemingly nothing were all major features of the morning. Then at one point when she was actually acting happy and calm, she went upstairs by herself to grab a toy while I played with Genevieve, and yelled down that she was stopping in the playroom to read a book, "Hug," by herself for a minute. Fine. But then something totally strange happened. I should explain first that "Hug" is a board book she received from some friends as an infant, and we've read it many, many times over the past 2-1/2 years, with nothing but enjoyment. It's a picture book about a baby gorilla named Bobo, who is looking for his mama. He wants a hug from her, and along the way he sees all sorts of other animals hugging each other. He gets more and more distraught, until, at the end, his mama runs into the picture, yelling, "BOBO!", arms wide. Bobo yells, "Mommy!" happily, and everyone hugs fiercely. Happy ending.

So she's up there reading, and then she comes downstairs and she's weirdly upset. She says she's Bobo (which is actually her daddy's nickname for her), and she hugs me over and over, and embarks upon a pretend "game" where she sits on the other side of the room "on a rock" (just like the baby gorilla does in the book), with her hands to her eyes in the universal gesture of crying, and calls for Mama, then runs over for a hug when I tell her to come over to where we are. She's not crying, but her eyes are shiny and she can't keep her mouth from turning down when she talks to me, and her voice has that breathy, stuttery, about-to-cry tone that kids always get when they're ready to lose it at any moment. She keeps asking me, "Why the monkey sad?" and "Why Bobo does this with his hands?" (rubbing her eyes with her fists). "Where's his mama?" It goes on and on, and it's so odd, because she's truly about to cry from reading this book; she's not putting this on. We go over it and over it a million times, and I hug her and hug her and ask her if the book made her sad, and why, and I remind her that I'm always nearby, and that if I have to go anywhere, I always come back and she's always with Daddy or Nonna or her teachers at baby class when the mamas go to the other room to talk. But it doesn't seem to help, and she keeps getting shaky all over again, thinking about Bobo in the book, looking for his mama.

I know: totally sad, right? Except--and this is terrible of me--after awhile, after maybe the twentieth time of hashing this out, it started to get a little....annoying. Because Genevieve was fussing, and lunch needed to be made, and I was supposed to be packing, and the whole thing was just getting a little tiresome. But, she got over it eventually and all was well for the time being.

Then Genevieve started to get really upset. I'd tried to nurse her awhile earlier, because she was due to eat, but she didn't want it then. Now I knew she was actually hungry, so I tried again, multiple times, as she cried harder and harder. She wouldn't take my milk. She kept latching on and then pulling off the nipple in rage, as if something tasted terrible, even though she'd nursed as normal two times already this morning. In the end, I pulled some old milk out of the freezer and started thawing it out, while she screamed bloody murder--starving by then--and I made lunch for Julia at the same time. Genevieve kept screaming, not wanting to drink her milk from a bottle when the lovely breast was RIGHT THERE--and Julia started acting up too, throwing a huge meltdown fit when I told her she had eaten her whole clementine. This made Genna scream harder, since the sound of Julia yelling and crying scared her. She did end up taking the bottle, but she was still hungry when the milk was gone so I had to go start to thaw out another bag of milk. While doing that, Genevieve spat up half her bottle all over herself and me, Julia continued to cry over her lunch, and as I turned to grab a rag to sop up the spit-up, the bag of thawed milk tipped over and spilled all over the floor. Yep. Goodbye, milk. Did you hear my internal screams of frustration echoing across the universe just then? I bet you did.

At 12:20, a full 40 minutes before Julia's usual naptime, she said, "Mama, I'm ready to go up for nap." I didn't argue. Eventually Genna Rose conked out on my shoulder, having grumpily sucked down five or six ounces of pumped breastmilk from her bottle, leaving me to wonder what exactly her objection was to her usual meal of milk from its original source, and is she going to reject the breast all day here?

And who, exactly, is going to get all this packing done? Oh yeah--me, when I'm not blogging about it.

Thursday, December 21, 2006

Have Yourself A Merry Little Christmas

A few updates:

It's pouring rain here, though I hear it's starting to turn to ice outside. Still no snow, so I'm looking out the window at greenish-brown grass. In Minnesota. Just a few days before Christmas.

Tomorrow I begin the great organize-and-pack-a-thon (a true challenge with a baby and a toddler along for the task), and Saturday morning we take off for the big drive north. Wish us luck--again--because, as you are well aware by now, Julia never, ever, ever sleeps in the car (300+ miles be damned), and Genevieve, well, she's a wild card right now, what with the nursing and everything.

I won't be doing much blogging in the next week, as we celebrate Christmas with my entire family and then put on a festive anniversary party for my parents on the 30th. Merry Christmas and Happy New Year in advance!

Resolutions, anyone? This New Year's I am resolving to do whatever I can to make it possible to continue to stay home full-time with my girls and NOT have to also take on a second job. Yes, I consider full-time parenting, childcare, and household-running one job, and anything else for pay would be my second job. I don't want two jobs right now. I just don't. I'm too tired. So, I resolve to figure something out, whether it be cutting our grocery bill (our single biggest non-fixed expense--Julia goes through the fruit and veggies like you would not BELIEVE), giving up my cell phone, or even just making peace with the notion of actually using our scant savings to make up the difference each month between our income and our expenses (rather than leaving it alone for the potential great emergency)--until it runs out, that is. Or maybe my resolution should be to trust the universe, and know that it will all work out somehow. In any case, my avoid-second-job resolution also includes the desire to never again be in a situation where I need new underwear but actually put off buying it because the checking account balance is so, so low. People, I never want to be in that situation again.

On a cheerier note, here are a few nuggets about the girls. Genevieve can sit by herself in the middle of two stacked Boppys, surveying her domain with joy and awe, for about ten minutes before I find her fallen over backward, pillows shifted. She is drooling like mad these days, and has some sort of odd love-hate relationship with burp cloths and drool bibs: she must have them, and stuff them into her mouth like a maniac, but then she gets very, very angry with them, and cries. She loves loves loves Julia, and grins like crazy when she sees her or gets a kiss from her. When we go in to get her in the morning, Julia runs up to the porta-crib and says, "Good morning, Genevievey!" like her heart is about to burst with joy to see her baby sister again.

Julia is extremely excited about Santa. She thinks it is amazing that he is going to bring her presents, and she is also very curious about his reindeer. I don't think she quite gets the whole down-the-chimney part, though.

That's all, folks. Happy Holidays, be well, peace.

Tuesday, December 19, 2006

One Toy

All month long I've been trying to figure out if I feel bad that we're only giving Julia one toy for Christmas.

Understand: she'll be getting toys from her other relatives as well; it's not as if this is her one and only present. And she's getting a few small toy items in her stocking from Santa. She also has a second gift from Mama and Daddy, but it's a non-toy gift (a very cute pink cartoon-pig-themed cereal bowl, plate, glass, and big-girl silverware set) that I bought back when I thought we'd have enough money for other toys too, so that it wouldn't seem quite so lame. (Actually, knowing sweet, enthusiastic Jujee, she'll probably be just as excited by the dinnerware as by the big toy we're giving her--the Fisher Price Little People Circus.) Genevieve is only getting one toy too, but she's only four months old, so not only will she never know, but there's not a whole lot she requires; her life is full of infant toys that used to be played with by baby Julia, but that are new to her, and at this age she's not doing a whole lot of playing with toys anyway (though she will soon).

We just don't have the income right now for lots of gifts, and early this month it became clear that it would behoove us to stop at the gifts we'd already bought rather than adding some of the other toys I'd thought of for Julia. On the one hand, our family's values include restraint when it comes to buying material things for our kids; Julia has far fewer toys than every other child with whom she plays, and while sometimes I worry that perhaps that is why she is so easily bored at home, most of the time I am confident in our decisions regarding parenting and consumerism/materialism. And, when it comes to Christmas gifts, my family of origin typically gives modest gifts to each other and to our respective children; none of us has much money anyway, and we've just never felt the need or had the means to spend large sums of money on each present. So, in some ways, this giving only one toy to my child for Christmas doesn't seem so out of the ordinary.

But on the other hand, my family didn't have much when I was growing up, and yet my sisters and I always got lovely Christmas gifts from our parents, and more than one toy each year, too. And my girlfriends--the fellow moms I meet for playgroup and the like--talk of shopping for clearly way more than we are giving our girls.

So I can't decide. Julia's young; she doesn't have any expectations, so she won't know that most kids get more than one toy for Christmas, right? Better this year than future Christmases, when she has more of a frame of reference? And, naturally I know full well that the number of toys under the tree is not what Christmas is all about--nor is it a reflection of love. But still. If I had bought one less nursing bra in August, a few fewer iced coffees on the way up to my office last May, if we had ordered fewer pizzas or gone for sandwiches at Hogan Bros. fewer times, would we have more resources for filling out the space under our tree now?

Part of it is that Julia IS easily bored, she DOES need a lot of mental stimulation. She gets tired of the toys she has, and not because she's greedy or jaded or used to being overindulged. It's because she's bright and gets bored easily. That's also why I refuse (unless absolutely necessary) to give up her toddler classes that cost us money. She needs classes and toys--she needs things to DO, new things, things that challenge her--or she'll never make it until next fall to start preschool.

I guess it's all a moot point. This is what we're giving her this year. I know she'll be happy. I've just been thinking about it.

Monday, December 18, 2006

Four-Month Check-Up

Genevieve had her four-month well-baby doctor appointment this morning, and she continues to be a total overachiever in the growth department. She's gained almost three pounds since her two-month visit, topping the scales at 14 pounds, 15 ounces, and measuring 25 inches in length (1-1/2 inches longer than last time). She's at the 75th percentile for height, weight, and head circumference. She's also more than a pound heavier than Julia was at the same age, and a half inch longer. It's fascinating to me to witness how different babies grow. I have a friend in playgroup whose baby was born a week before Genevieve, and she's absolutely tiny in comparison; you'd never guess they're the same age.

Our pediatrician pronounced Genevieve "perfect" (LOVED the giant chipmunk-cheeks!), and I got all the usual reassurances about normal baby development, including our doctor's strong professional opinion that most breastfed babies still need to wake up to nurse overnight until they're six or seven months old. I love it when doctors have strong opinions and, though supportive and courteous, brook no nonsense and just lay it on the table for you: Yep, she's supposed to be waking up to nurse still; that's what babies do, she's hungry and growing and I think training a baby to sleeping through the night at four months old is ridiculous. Makes me feel better about all my interrupted sleep.

Of course, Genevieve got the requisite four shots. Julia insisted on giving her a hug and a kiss on the cheek afterward, saying, "It's OK, Genevievey." The nurse was thoroughly charmed, and said, "Sweet moments like those are why I chose to work in pediatrics!"

Friday, December 15, 2006

Working Up An Appetite

Tonight was Julia's weekly toddler tumbling class at the town gymnastics center. She runs around for 45 minutes straight, playing on a bunch of age-appropriate gymnastics equipment: racing down the springy mat, bouncing on the trampoline, jumping into a pit of foam cubes, etc. Total unabashed toddler fun. When she comes home, we have a fast, late dinner, and she's understandably starving. Today at one point during dinner she surveyed her empty plate and then turned to me and said, "More bun and more squash and more broccoli and more chik patty and more mayo and more mustard and more dip-dip [ketchup]."

OK then!

Welcome to the World, Baby Suvi!

The last baby of 2006 among our circle of family and friends has just been born, and she continued the streak, being the 11th baby girl to enter the world within our social and family circles. Eleven girls born this year! That is so amazing! Welcome, baby Suvi, and congrats, Rachel and Conor. I can hardly contain my excitement, as their first daughter, Mathea, was Julia's first friend and is two months younger than Julia. Now their second daughter is four months younger than Genevieve--to the day!--and is destined to be one of Genna's first friends too, even though we no longer live down the street from their family.

In an uncanny moment of intuition--or something--I had just called Rachel at home and left her a voicemail asking what was up, and how her prenatal doctor visit had gone this morning. Before I hung up, I said, "Who knows, maybe you're having the baby right now!" Not five minutes later--I'm serious--Conor called from the hospital to say that Suvi had been born less than an hour before. Unbelievable, right?

I'm hoping to get up to Minneapolis in the next week--before we begin the big trek north for a stay of ten days--to meet Suvi, congratulate Rachel and Conor in person, and bring presents, meals, and sweets. It'll drive me crazy if I have to wait until after New Year's to see this new wee one, so I'm going to try hard to find time next week, even if it's going to be a crazy week preparing for our holiday trip.

Isn't it a wonderful thing?

Ups and Downs

Have you heard? My crazy, humming-furnace, postpartum-nursing-mom metabolism has vanished. Well, not vanished, really. But slowed to a more humdrum level, I guess. So sad.

That was one advantage of Genevieve refusing to nurse at anything but two-hour intervals for weeks on end: every time she stepped it up again and kept me awake at all hours of the night with my pajama shirt hiked neckward and my head lolling against the back of the rocker, the next morning I'd have dropped a pound. I kind of miss those days--for that reason only, understand.

Now, thanks to last week's too-cold temps and too-busy evenings--which nixed my outdoor running routine--and too much stress-induced mindless snacking (HATE the nonstop-sick-baby-fussing, HATE the not-sleeping, HATE the crying and the do-we-or-don't-we-sleep-train dilemma!), well....let's just say those last two or three pregnancy pounds that were so effectively burned away during my autumn weeks of nonstop milk production are making a return appearance. Uninvited, too.

See, the problem is, I got really used to stuffing my face 24 hours a day for a few months there, with no physical consequence. I got really used to being constantly ravenous, and being able to suck down just about any food--healthy or non--that I desired, in any amount, and still shrink past all my old jeans until only one pair wasn't too large for me. Now, I'm still eating like that, only my excessive milk production slowed WAY down when Genevieve turned three months old (gone, the days of accidentally spraying her face like an errant garden hose; gone, the gulping and choking and gasping as milk rolled down her chin. I'm sure she's relieved, but it was nice to have so much extra milk, if only for stockpiling in the freezer for future times away from baby), and with it, my body's ability to burn off everything I eat.

What a disappointment! You realize this means I actually have to start, oh, not eating my weight in food every day. And/or exercising on a more committed level. BOR-ING.

Hey! On the other hand, I have read that many breastfeeding women start burning the MOST fat when their babies are between three and six months old, because that's when their babies are drinking the largest quantity of milk (before the introduction of solids). So maybe this downturn is temporary and I can expect a pleasant reversal of my fortunes soon? I can always hope, can't I?

Pass the giant tin of Christmas cookies, please.

Thursday, December 14, 2006

What Christmas is All About

This morning while Genevieve took her morning nap, Julia and I watched "A Charlie Brown Christmas" on video. (Video! So old-school.) Of course, she's really too young for it; she was full of all sorts of questions about why that girl is so loud (Lucy), why that boy is so dirty (Pigpen), why Charlie Brown is so sad, where are those children (in the auditorium, practicing their Christmas pageant, strangely bereft of adult supervision as always), why is that tree pink (at the tree lot, when Charlie Brown and Linus go to pick out a tree and are disgusted by all the colored metal ones--which makes me wonder: was there a big rash of pink aluminum Christmas trees in the '50s? Or whenever this show was made?). But, you know, it's a classic, and that moment when Linus starts his little speech always gets me a little teary ("I can tell you what Christmas is all about, Charlie Brown.").

After Genevieve woke up, we all put on our jackets and trooped next door to deliver a holiday card and some Christmas cookies to our beloved elderly neighbor, Mary. (Note: we also had a beloved elderly neighbor at our last house, on 19th Avenue in Minneapolis. We must collect beloved elderly neighbors! How lucky!)

All of this wouldn't have seemed so odd--and in fact, would have seemed a lot more Christmasy--if it wasn't a sunny, windy, 50-degree day outside today. So, naturally, after we dropped off our holiday cheer and chatted with Mary a little bit, Julia ogling her Santa and Mrs. Claus dolls on the living room bookshelf, we went for a walk with the stroller. Yup, nothing like a nice holiday walk through the....greenish grass and sidewalks damp with the rain that fell overnight!? Is this really Minnesota at Christmastime?

I, personally, could go for a little more ambiance, something a bit more Currier & Ives-ish. But, in the end, I guess it doesn't really matter, does it? We're still here, baking cookies and singing songs; we're still admiring the light-up reindeer and Santas in people's yards; we're still getting cards in the mail that remind us of everyone we love, near and far. Julia and Genevieve are our own little holiday angels this year, and every year from now on. I'm a total sap for Christmas, snow or no snow. But I've never experienced a Christmas without snow in my 35 years, so I'm still hoping.

Is This Terrible of Me?

Listening to a baby scream is never fun or easy, but it's amazing how much less the crying bothers you with the second baby. As my friend Connie put it, "When the first baby squalls, you feel so badly for her and you say, 'Poor baby!' But with the second, you say, 'Poor ME!'"

Wednesday, December 13, 2006

Can You Believe This Kid?

At dinner last night, as Julia was energetically polishing off her second or third bowl of black bean soup, she charmingly exclaimed, "This is fanTAStic!" It's nice to cook for such an enthusiastic audience, you know?

Later on, as I was taking a shower and getting changed and Christopher was in charge of the girls, I heard Julia having a meltdown. When I emerged awhile later and saw Julia in the hallway, she was still tearful and said to me, "Mama, I DO want another toy, I DO!" She led me to the guest room closet, where we store a bin of old baby toys she has outgrown but that Genevieve hasn't grown into yet. Apparently she had been asking to get a toy out, but when Christopher got the bin down, she kept stalling and messing around and changing her mind about which toy she wanted, delaying her bath. In stellar child fashion, she had decided to try her luck with me, since I didn't really know what had been going on. "What toy do you want out of the bin, honey?" I asked her, but she was still tearful and couldn't say. I asked her again, pulling down the bin, confused. "Honey, which toy do you want to look at?" With tears in her eyes and a plaintive voice, she said to me, "I just want a RANDOM toy, Mama!"

Good grief. Don't ask me where she learned the word "random," let alone how to use it correctly in a sentence.

Tuesday, December 12, 2006

Why God?

Genevieve is suddenly constitutionally unable to take more than a 30-minute nap. And the 30-minute ones? Those are the long ones. More often it's 20 minutes, or 15, or 25. (Gone are those multi-hour snooze fests in the middle of the day. I knew I was lucky when they were happening, but I took them for granted.) It is bringing back every torturous memory of Julia's infancy that I have in my tired brain. Lord help me.

I'm Dreaming of a White Christmas

We have this "Christmas Mix" CD Christopher burned a year or so ago, with all the classics on it: Andy Williams, Bing Crosby, Doris Day, etc. It's great, in a total retro way. But what's so funny is how much Julia adores it. She's totally crazy for it, and requests it by name in her own little way: "Mama, I want to hear the regular Christmas music, with the words." (As opposed to an instrumental Christmas CD I also play sometimes.) She loves "Frosty the Snowman" and "Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer" (though for quite some time she referred to him as "Rude Elf" before getting it right), but what cracks me up is how she also knows, and waits for, "Winter Wonderland" and "Sleigh Ride" and "White Christmas." Yesterday she said to me, "I'M having a holly jolly Christmas, Mama!" I'm so glad. But, you know, we're still waiting for a white Christmas here in southern MN. I think in most of MN, actually! Crazy.

In other news, the story is way too absurd and annoying to tell in detail--involving phone conversations on Friday with one doctor, two nurses (all three of which were incensed at this insanity, by the way; it wasn't our clinic's fault), and FOUR pharmacists at two different pharmacies--but we finally got Genevieve her medication in LIQUID form, the dosage just 1 cc, once per day, and grape-flavored. No granules, no packets, no mixing up in my kitchen like a sorcerer. Um, yeah. Turns out our good friend got liquid Prevacid easily and immediately (in another town) when HER baby had reflux several months ago. Don't ask me why, for us, this turned into some ridiculous wild goose chase. Since Genna has only had the correct, new medicine for a few days, we don't really know yet how effective it is going to be for her. She's still spitting up a lot and isn't napping well. But we've got our fingers crossed. Poor thing, she also caught her daddy's cold--though, thankfully, not his recent stomach bug. (It's true! Christopher actually GOT SICK the other day!)

I don't know about you, but after all this, I'm ready for a nice, white Christmas and a little relaxation. (There IS no relaxation when you have a newborn and a 2-year-old, by the way. This is wishful thinking on my part. And by the way, can I still refer to Genna Rose as a newborn? Probably not. She's four months old on Friday. But humor me.) I've got our holiday cards mailed, Christmas cookies baked for gifts to friends, neighbors, and co-workers, all the presents bought and wrapped. Holly jolly Christmas, indeed.

Saturday, December 09, 2006

She's a Keeper

Two little anecdotes from the Land of Toddler:

Last night with dinner we had some clementines. Julia had never had one before and thought they were baby oranges. After I taught her the word and she repeated it after me, she said, "Sounds like 'valentine!'"

At lunch today, while munching her veggie-hot-dog and green peas, Julia looked over at me and said amiably, "How's your lunch, Mama?"

Thursday, December 07, 2006

I Hate Blue Cross Blue Shield

We got Genevieve's new medicine last night. Turns out, when Blue Cross said (finally) that they would "cover" the prescription, they meant they would cover it at some mysterious crappy rate that they save for medications they don't believe in subsidizing fully. Oh, and you can tack on a new prescription for me, that Blue Cross also doesn't believe in subsidizing at their normal rate. Therefore, instead of the $10 co-pays we have paid in the past for our prescriptions, we paid $50 for one and $40 for the other. Yep, $90 for medicines that we will need on an ongoing, long-term basis. I am not feeling the Christmas spirit. Nor, apparently, is anyone at Blue Cross.

Unrelated to the expense, get this: This new medicine of Genevieve's? Could it be any less conducive to giving to an infant? It's like some sort of weird high-school-science-lab experiment. It comes in packets of granules, that you mix with water and then drink as fast as you can. Crazy enough, right? (Have those chemists HEARD of pills? tablets? liquid?) But for a 3-month-old, you can only give HALF the packet, mixed into ONE AND A HALF TEASPOONS of water. What? Half the packet? Am I supposed to have a chemist's scale in my kitchen? Mix it into 1-1/2 tsp. of water? With what, a toothpick? Drink it as fast as possible (and "if any granules are left, mix with more water and drink immediately")? Mmmm-hmmm. Makes me want to say to whomever came up with this brilliant drug-administering plan, Listen, YOU come over and try to pour granules-in-water down my infant's throat as fast as possible and see how successful YOU are. Makes me actually miss, already, the nasty-tasting, not-fully-working, baby-Zantac we've been giving her until now, the medicine we are replacing because it's not controlling her reflux symptoms anymore. Sure, it tasted so bad she spit half of it out all the time, but at least we didn't have to PREPARE it with, I don't know, fairy dust and a test tube.

I know we're lucky to have any sort of health coverage at all, and I am grateful for that. However. This is the crappiest health insurance I have ever had, including the student plan I had in graduate school at the University of Illinois. Every time I go to the doctor, let alone stay in the hospital to have a baby via C-section, the bills that follow me home are staggering. At risk of straying into a topic you don't want to think about, you should have seen the bill I got for pursuing a particular form of birth control after Genevieve's birth. God forbid my health plan actually cover a preventive health behavior (to avoid, I should point out, another very expensive hospital stay to have another baby). It's like Blue Cross doesn't think anything is worthy of reasonable reimbursement.

ARRRGH! I hate them!

Wednesday, December 06, 2006

That Dryer Thing? It WORKS.

It's been a crappy day in Wonderland. Genevieve has been uncharacteristically crying most of the day (she never does that during daytime!) and has only napped in 10-minute snatches. I suppose it's her reflux. Blue Cross just this afternoon agreed to cover her new prescription, so she hasn't been able to start her new medicine yet even though it's been five days since it was prescribed. (Don't EVEN get me started on evil insurance companies. Hello, how can any human being hear the sentence, "Please, my baby NEEDS HER MEDICINE!" and not respond?)

But out of desperation I just put her in her carseat, covered her with a blanket, placed the seat on top of the dryer, and turned it on. And now she is sleeping.

[An aside: I'm sure I don't need to tell you that when we tried this tactic with infant Julia, it did not work.]

More updates later, but I do want to say a big thanks to all the loved ones who expressed concern, support, and ideas regarding our tight money situation. I just wish the ideas didn't so much involve, you know, WORKING. (Kidding! I love you all!)

Many people have suggested ways to work and also stay home full-time (like I did until last June). I guess I'm spoiled and lazy, because the idea of working, on top of working all day long at my primary job--the job that involves babies crying all day long and three loads of poopy laundry in one morning and the skipping of lunch because OOPS! you didn't ever have time to eat it, and oh yeah, the toddler tantruming and the cat puking and the frantic attempts to cook dinner and nurse the baby at the same time--makes me feel so hopeless and exhausted that I just want to cry. Right now, in the evenings, do you know what I do? I take my bath and put on my pj's by 7 p.m., and I try really hard to stay awake until 9 so I can watch Studio 60, and then all night long I nurse the baby whenever she wakes up even though I'm dying of tiredness. Yep. Don't I sound like the ideal evening-hours, part-time employee? I'm sure I'm the model of clear-headed productivity. (Remember, I'm the one who left the bag of presents in the cart in the Target parking lot, and drove away?)

Sorry. I really, really do appreciate the suggestions and the concern. What I would really like is to find some freelance writing and/or consulting work that I could do from home, at whatever god-awful hour works for me. But hey, who wouldn't, right?, and if you have even the slightest clue as to how to find that sort of work, let me know. I feel very overeducated and overqualified these days, but I still don't know how to find someone who needs my skills and will pay me (anything! any little thing!) to, say, write or edit or research something for them, or design an eating-disorders prevention program, or write an emotional/behavioral health training manual for teachers, or develop guidelines for chemical health coordination in public schools. I can do all those things, but I don't know that anyone's willing (or able) to part with funds to hire me to do them.

I forgot there were clothes in the dryer, but shrinkage be damned, that thing is going to run continuously all afternoon if it keeps the baby asleep. Bye for now.

Monday, December 04, 2006

They're Only Young Once

Today during Genevieve's morning nap, Julia and I made Christmas cookies. Sugar cookies, to be exact, the kind you cut out with cookie cutters and sprinkle with red and green sugar. OK, so I bought a tube of the pre-made dough from the store instead of mixing up a recipe from scratch like MY mom used to do when I was small, but it's better than getting that pre-shaped stuff that comes already cut into miniature trees and stars! Julia helped me press the cutters into the dough and then poured colored sugar all over them. We listened to Christmas music while we did it, and discussed the merits of Frosty the Snowman vs. Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer. We're planning on giving these cookies away as gifts, but also "saving some for us to eat!", as Julia enthusiastically reminded me. OK, so she's only two, but it was still a lot of fun to do this little holiday project together. I love stuff like that, and the fact that my own mom developed traditions like this to do with my sisters and me when we were little is surely a big part of why I am so thrilled to institute holiday rituals for my girls now.

But this morning's Christmasy project was especially poignant given what's been on my mind the last couple of days. I'm deep in a thicket of money stress right now, which is only new in the sense that rather than a sort of theoretical "can we really afford for me to be home full-time with the babies?", the issue now takes the form of a very real "don't spend any more money before the end of the month, and by the way, these groceries have to last three weeks" type of scenario. Over the weekend, after Christopher got his paycheck, he subtracted from our online checking register all the set monthly bills to be paid in December--mortgage, utilities, car payment, and the like--and told me what was leftover. Let's just say the number was small enough to cause a mild case of nausea that lasted the rest of the day and kept me up that night. It's the beginning of the month. To only have this small amount of disposable income leftover to get us through four more weeks--for diapers, for gas in the car, for doctor co-pays and Genevieve's ridiculously expensive medicine, for my Visa bill with the Christmas presents on it--was shocking.

Yes, I knew it would be tough. I knew the day would come when we'd be watching every penny. And money's been tight for months, not just now. But it's certainly worse now that my business is five months gone, and to be faced with the reality of our finances so suddenly in black-and-white, during the holidays no less, is depressing. I found myself giving thanks for a little recent unexpected donation from my parents, and wondering if we really should have bought that (much-needed) new mattress last month after all. I found myself weighing the $132 due for Julia's winter/spring session of two educational toddler classes vs. the fee for an online writing class I was hoping to sign up for in January, and deciding that Julia's classes are more important.

I started thinking about ways to earn money, and imagining the equation of income minus daycare costs. And then getting really, really sad about it, picturing Julia being left with (at first) a stranger all day, and how that would just crush her little heart. (OK, I know all parents probably feel that way at first, and I know she'd survive. But if you are doubting my dramatic choice of words, you probably don't know Julia very well.) Picturing Genevieve's little baby face and imagining only seeing her a couple of hours a day, between work and bedtime. I wouldn't be leisurely making Christmas cookies with Julia on a weekday morning, and making the memories attendant with such an activity. I would miss my girls so much. It would kill me.

It is true that, until Julia turned two, I did work part-time and managed to avoid daycare, by working in my own business during hours I could set for myself, choosing evenings after Christopher came home from work. But the truth is, were I to open a practice again in our new town, with no contacts, no network, no one who knows my work who could refer to me, it would take a year or more (probably more) to break even, let alone make a profit. It takes a long time to build up a practice from scratch. And the other work options potentially imminently open to me (the college counseling center seems to always need people, and a friend of a friend is looking to open a new clinic down this way and has been asking about hiring me) are daytime ones, with the number of work hours per week unknown to me right now. And daycare for two is EXPENSIVE. And I can't help but wonder: so am I just a bratty member of the overly-entitled Generation X, because I simply insist that I be able to stay home with my kids because that is how I want to raise them? Because I refuse to believe that it's not possible for me to give up work and afford to do so?

I'm not friends with many rich people--though there are a few--so I'm not trying to paint myself as worse off than everyone else. Many families we know are struggling these days, in one way or another, so it usually feels pointless to compare or complain. At the same time, though, these current tight purse-strings make me really miss living in a working-class neighborhood (in Minneapolis), where no one had a whole lot and therefore no one felt strange (at least, they didn't seem to). It makes me miss having my friend Rachel just down the block, because she was worse off than I, money-wise, yet had chosen to be home with her baby for the same reasons I had, and we could sit and play with our kids and talk about the best way to save money on groceries and not feel weird with each other.

Because wouldn't it feel better, sometimes, if our own finances weren't such a taboo subject, and we could support each other now and then by commiserating about how hard it is to give up an income to stay home with one's children, those of us who are doing it, and not doing it easily? How come no one ever talks about this with each other? Wouldn't it feel less hopeless, wouldn't we feel less alone as the ones without the college fund, without a respectable investment portfolio, without a reserve of emergency savings?

Is anyone out there going through this too?

In my Coffee Mug There's a Feeling of Christmas

As a nursing mom off dairy during the Christmas season, I have two words for you: Silk Nog. Yum. Soy-milk eggnog is good, people, and a heckuva lot healthier than the real thing. Oh, and eggnog-flavored nondairy creamer in decaf coffee is pretty good too.

Is this post kind of pathetic?

Sunday, December 03, 2006

Losing my Marbles, but Having Fun Doing It

I'm convinced that having a baby--or more than one baby--causes forgetfulness, absentmindedness, and all manner of mental fogginess. When you're pregnant, it's called "pregnancy brain," and I've actually read that there's some sort of hormonal mechanism at play that contributes to the ridiculous flightiness many pregnant women experience. After childbirth, though, I'm not sure if hormones are at work--all that milk-making, all that postpartum-ness--or if it's strictly due to being pulled in a trillion directions at once while also suffering from prolonged sleep deprivation.

At any rate, proof of this phenomenon is the fact that, in the past month, I have actually BOUNCED CHECKS (bounced checks! something I've never done in my life! good lord, the bank fees alone....) AND left a bag full of just-purchased Christmas gifts in the cart in the parking lot at Target while I drove all the way home with my other bags, oblivious. (I subsequently drove back a half hour later, to find said bag sitting just where I'd left it, in the dark parking lot, with nothing missing from inside it.) Oy vey. It's a wonder I don't lose one of my children.

OK, enough about my mental deficiencies. I also wanted to say that we have had a very fun weekend here, despite the bone-chilling cold. Yesterday we enjoyed the birthday dinner of a 2-year-old buddy of Julia's, where under one roof were the birthday girl, her 6-month-old baby sister, a 3-year-old friend and HER 6-month-old baby sister, 2-1/2 year-old Julia, and 3-month-old Genevieve. It was adorable: little girls everywhere! Wildflower-printed shirts, curly eyelashes, plump cheeks, and rosebud lips at every turn! Much joyful shrieking and unabashed drooling! We had a great time. And today, we decorated our Christmas tree. Julia hung all the Pooh ornaments on the lowest branches and oohed and aahed over every one.

Have a great week, all--and happy December.

Friday, December 01, 2006

Imagination Station

Julia loves to pretend that she's various characters of whom she is fond, such as Elmo, Winnie-the-Pooh, Olivia the pig from the "Olivia" books, etc. She always announces it when she decides to become one of these buddies, and then a conversation ensues about who can be all the other related friends (i.e., Zoe, Big Bird, Grover, etc.). Here's a snippet of conversation from this afternoon, after Julia spent some time perusing a Pooh storybook wherein Pooh gets stuck in Rabbit's hole and Gopher stops by to chat:

Julia: I'm Pooh, Mama.
Me: Hi, Pooh Bear!
J: Who should be Gopher?
M: Hmmm, I don't know, who do you think should be Gopher?
J: Genevieve can be Gopher!
M (laughing): OK, Genevieve can be Gopher, that sounds good.
J: Where's Gopher?
M: She's downstairs sleeping in her swing.
J: Where's the REAL Gopher?
M: The real Gopher? Um, probably outside hiding under a bush.
J: Where's the REAL Gopher, Mama?
M: Real gophers are outside.
J: No, Mama! The REAL Gopher is DOWNSTAIRS SLEEPING IN HER SWING!
M: Oh, of course.

Boy, sometimes it's hard to keep up, you know?