Wednesday, October 31, 2007

And One Late-Night Link

Over at MotherVerse tonight, I'm talking about rotating the toys. Enjoy.

First Trick or Treat

Before we go on to the details--and the photos--, let me just say that the moral of the story is this: Going trick-or-treating with your very young children for the first time is totally, completely, incredibly fun. Even if you only go out for half an hour and you hit, maybe, six or eight houses. It's a total blast because your three-year-old has never experienced anything even remotely like this before, and she is 100% thrilled and delighted with absolutely every detail about the endeavor.

Oh, and the other moral of the story is that we have some very, very nice neighbors. Including a sweet elderly couple down the street who have loved our girls from day one and who gave Julia a FULL-SIZED SNICKERS BAR. Because they "bought special treats for the neighbor kids" they know personally. And including the multiple houses whose owners plopped, like, three or four pieces of candy into Julia's trick-or-treat bag. Not one treat. Not even two. Three or FOUR. Oh, and also? Including our sweet neighbor across the street who, after we had returned from our evening foray, CAME OVER TO OUR HOUSE WITH HER BOWL, because she happened to be driving away from her house to run an errand as we ventured out to begin trick-or-treating, and she didn't want to miss out on giving Julia a Halloween treat. Trick-or-treat house calls? Do we live in Mayberry?

There is one more moral of the story, and I'm telling this one to MYSELF. Ready, self? Remember: it was our OLD house, in our OLD neighborhood, up in the CITY, where we ran out of candy every Halloween no matter how many jumbo-mega bags I bought at Target beforehand. NOT OUR CURRENT HOUSE. IN OUR CURRENT TOWN. In fact, self, HERE is where last year we hardly went through any candy at ALL. Like, not even the first bag. So next year? DO NOT BUY THREE SUPER-GIGANTIC "THE HUGE ONE!" BAGS OF CANDY. YOU WILL NOT USE UP EVEN HALF OF ONE OF THEM. EVEN IF YOU GIVE EVERY CHILD WHO COMES TO YOUR DOOR A HANDFUL OF TREATS. Someone please remind me of this next year. I am begging you.

OK! Enough with the boring stuff, let's get on with the photos! So, Julia was a jack o'lantern, and Genevieve was a bumblebee. At first, Genevieve was, shall we say, a little less than thrilled about putting on her bumblebee suit.



But she was so cute! She even had a stinger.



And after awhile she calmed down and posed for a few pictures.





And look at Julia! Doesn't she look like she's hopped up on sugar, even though in this picture she hasn't even had any yet? She was a little excited.



Last Halloween, I couldn't eat chocolate, because of my nursing newborn's colic. You can bet I'm making up for lost time this year. What? I'm a runner again, and I'm STILL nursing too many times a day, so I can get away with it. Although maybe not 2-1/2 super-jumbo-mega bags' worth. Happy Halloween!

Halloween Fun

Tonight will be Julia's first experience trick-or-treating (and Genevieve's first experience tagging along, be-costumed but candy-denied). Tune in tonight or tomorrow for photos, of course (I know, I'm a big tease).

In other news, Genevieve slept from 6:15 last night to 6:30 this morning. Ah, 6:30 a.m....

And, over at the MotherVerse blog, editor Melanie Mayo-Laakso writes me a very kind introduction and, surprisingly, indicates that I'm not the only person who thinks I'm funny. Who knew?!

More later, both here and there. Thanks for waiting, and reading.

Tuesday, October 30, 2007

No-Brainer

The weather here has been fantastic lately. (Today it hit 70 degrees.) I've spent the last two days doing things like chasing small girls all over the playground and going for my hard, hilly run--the one that goes all the way up to county road 19, with oh! so many hills!--and, though unrelated to the weather, cleaning the ENTIRE HOUSE.

So here's a little quiz for you. What do you think I will choose to do tonight? When my choices are: a.) go to a community lecture at the middle school on the topic of kids and substance abuse, in the hopes that I could later submit a request to the state psychology board asking them to approve said lecture-attendance for two hours' worth of continuing education credits for my licensure, though I don't currently know if the lecture will include a program or flyer of some sort needed for documentation of such a request, nor do I know if the board would approve the lecture for CEUs anyway, nor do I even really know where the lecture is being given (though I'm sure I could find it); OR, b.) sit on the couch in my jammies reading a stack of old secondhand People magazines, eating Halloween candy out of the bag.

Come on now, people, have you been paying attention at all? Because ARE YOU KIDDING ME? I'm already on the couch.

Cheers!

Monday, October 29, 2007

Guest-Writing Gig

Hey, loyal Mama in Wonderland readers--

Remember a couple of weeks ago when the literary journal MotherVerse Magazine ran an essay of mine on their "mothering out loud" blog? Well, I'm honored to announce that shortly afterward, MotherVerse invited me to take a two-week guest-writing post for their online site. I am extremely flattered, since previous guest writers have included fellow mama-writers with publications in magazines and webzines like Hip Mama; Brain, Child; Mothering; Literary Mama; and the Utne Reader (Good Lord!). Seriously, people: ridiculously flattering. Thank you, MotherVerse!

So: posting here at Mama in Wonderland may be light the next couple of weeks. Please come check me at MotherVerse while I'm writing there. My first piece is up today.

Sleep/Cold Update

At least one reader of this blog appears to be concerned and agitated about how cold Genevieve's current room apparently is, and how it seemed to be waking her up early in the morning, and about what we plan or do not plan to do about it. Lest anyone (else) think that Christopher and I are either a.) cruel, or b.) stupid, and therefore willingly allow our infant to freeze herself to misery in her bed at night, I thought maybe I should clarify. Who knows how many readers are out there thinking, Sheesh, are they doing anything to try and keep that baby warm?

YES OF COURSE we have tried a space heater; in fact, we tried it a whole year ago, when Genevieve FIRST spent a winter in the guest room. I hope no one out there truly thinks we are stupid enough to not try to warm up the room in whatever way possible. Guess what? The space heater--just as it did when we used it in our decrepit Minneapolis house when Julia was an infant--kept Genevieve awake with its constant cycling on and off as it attempted to regulate the temperature in the room. And guess what else? It raised the temperature in the room by ten degrees in less than half an hour, ON THE LOWEST SETTING. Does that sound safe to you? Or feasible? Or reasonable? (And yes, it was a modern, new space heater.) So no, we cannot actually use a space heater in the room with our baby in it. And yes of course we have used every other imaginable tactic to keep the room warmer for her at night. We moved her crib away from the outside wall. We moved the furniture in the room so the one heat register was not covered by anything. We open the room's door when we go to bed, to get heat from the rest of the upstairs into the room. We keep the furnace turned up higher than is prudent for our bank account or the environment.

Last winter, despite the space heater troubles, Genevieve did fine because she was a very young infant who could still wear a typical baby sleep-sack and was not yet mobile and so stayed under her blankets. This year, those things are no longer true, but last week we were able to procure, from a specialty company, a crazy toddler sleep-sack-type-garment that we now put her in at night. It's a huge bright-blue pile of fleece, and she looks hilarious in it, like she's lost in a Cookie Monster costume. But when we layer it over a onesie, regular pj's, socks, and a blanket sleeper, she's warm as toast.

So everyone stop worrying.

Friday, October 26, 2007

Halloween Treat

I probably won't be posting much in the next few days, since we have family in town. So I'll leave you with a little Halloween treat in the way of a picture or two of some Halloween treats that Julia and I made last weekend. Aren't they cute little witches' hats? Yum!


Wednesday, October 24, 2007

To Sleep, Perchance to Dream (of Both Children on the Same Sleep Schedule)

Lately Genevieve's been waking up for the day at five each morning, and Julia's been sleeping till eight. This means that Genevieve takes her morning nap around seven, and is generally awake again when Julia wakes up just as Christopher is leaving for work. Then the rest of the morning becomes a torturous marathon of trying to keep tired, crabby Genevieve awake until afternoon naptime at one. (Ha! You could also substitute the word "Mama" for "Genevieve" in that sentence and it would still work!) But these circumstances also mean that Julia is not tired for nap at one.

I'll leave it unsaid just how much I do not like the current sleep timing. (I will clarify, however, that YES OF COURSE we have tried to alter one or both of these sleep patterns.)

People: One child waking up at five, and the other at eight? RIDICULOUS. AM PULLING MY HAIR OUT. CANNOT STAND IT.

That is all.

Tuesday, October 23, 2007

Burned Out

I keep getting into these ruts where I'm supremely tired--so tired I feel that I'll never be not-tired again--and I never really get over it; I just suck it up and absorb it for awhile, until it starts overwhelming me again, typically in the middle of the afternoon when I am faced with (yet another!) day of short naps (the babes) and caffeine over-reliance (me). And the light at the end of the tunnel is difficult to see because until Genevieve deigns to drink whole milk--cow's milk, that is--I am doomed to nurse her several times a day, including upon wake-up (oh, so early is the wake-up! six a.m., five a.m., the dark depths of pre-dawn!). Which means that the idea of a long night of sleep--ever!--that extends, uninterrupted, beyond 5:30 a.m. or so seems like science fiction. I have a wonderful husband who, if time and scheduling permit, sometimes allows me to return to bed after this wake-up nursing to snatch some extra sleep, but truth be told, it's usually not very restful. Either there's too much to do and the day has already begun to run away with itself (and me), or the baby's shrieks permeate the bedroom door, keeping me awake, or Julia wakes up at the same time and then it just doesn't seem right to leave one adult up with two wee ones while the other slacker adult goes back to sleep. Even if the slacker adult totally deserves it.

Sometimes I dream of talking the grandparents into coming and taking care of the girls some weekend--even just one night!--and Christopher and I would go out for dinner and stay away overnight at the fancy river inn downtown, and come home rested the next day, giddy with the joy that (so I've heard) comes with a few child-free hours. Can you imagine? A night away from the babies? Something we've never, ever done? In over three years? But then I remember that I have to nurse the baby to bed at six p.m., and nurse her first thing upon wake-up the next morning (at the aforementioned ridiculously early hour). And so I have to rub my eyes and square my shoulders and think, "OK, brew some coffee, get on with it."

It's strange. I love these early baby days, you all know that. I kind of dread no longer being a "new mom" or a "young family" or having "babies" or "toddlers" or "preschoolers" in the house. Because there's just something special about this time, all of it, no matter what other, unknown joys lie in wait for the years to come. But at the same time, it's sort of torturous too: how there's never enough time to care for all of them, and yourself. How there's never enough sleep, enough relaxation, enough replenishing and recharging. How that treadmill of get up, get going, nurse the baby, drink the coffee, stay awake, keep going, muster the energy never ends, it just gets adapted to, successfully and less so, depending on the week.

The one good thing about feeling this way is that perhaps it makes it easier to resist the temptation of having just one more baby. Because the exhaustion? Wouldn't it just about kill you? Mother Nature might be smart that way: surely I'm partially this tired because I'm still nursing a baby four times a day, which is probably a signal to nature that another baby, a new one, would not be the best idea right now. So, to make sure I don't do anything stupid, I guess, Mother Nature just makes me really, really tired and burned out. Awesome!

THANKFULLY, my dear husband is taking three days off from work soon, which means he'll be home for a five-day weekend for the first time in almost a year. Also, my parents are coming for a few of those days, for the first time in over two months. Hopefully I can pawn off as much baby care on all those other adults as possible. Because Mama needs a break, a nap, and a full night's sleep. NOT another pot of coffee.

Don't Mess With My Kid

Today Julia was back at preschool after last week's vacation. Afterward, when she was hanging around the kitchen waiting while I fixed lunch, she said--and all names are changed here--"Today at first Oscar was touching me nicely, but then he hit."

Sigh. The first instance of some other child--not a playgroup buddy, not a friend's child, not a cousin, just a child from school I don't even know (is he a bully in the making? run-of-the-mill aggressive? or a sweet boy who didn't mean to?)--being mean to my kid.

First I thought I'd better get some clarification, though. "He hit YOU?" I asked.

"Yeah," Julia said. "He hit me and I fell down."

"What did you do?"

"I just got back up."

Of course by now I was Mama on a mission, intent on somehow getting all the details. "Well....did you say anything to Oscar?"

"No."

"Did anyone else say anything?

"What?"

"Were the teachers there?"

"I was over somewhere else."

Um....

"Did you tell a grown-up what happened?" I persisted.

"What, Mama?" [Here I started to get the feeling Julia was less than enthralled with the whole conversation...]

"Did you tell a teacher that Oscar hit you?"

"Miss D-- told Oscar not to hit," Julia explained.

"Did she ask if you were okay?"

"Yeah, she did."

"Did she make Oscar tell you he was sorry?"

"Yes."

"OK. But honey, if Oscar does that again, I want YOU to say, 'Don't hit me, that's not nice.' OK? Do you understand?"

She said yes, but I don't know. She's a meek little baby rose at heart, and she doesn't often stand up for herself, despite parental coaching. I also told her maybe it would be a good idea to keep her distance from Oscar for the time being, until he learns how to be nice and not hit.

It's hard to face the reality of someone else being mean to your child. Can you imagine anyone intentionally knocking sweet little Julia off her feet? Can you imagine the look on her face when it happened? In her world, the idea of anyone being mean or aggressive is just...well, unimaginable. Except I guess now it's not.

Monday, October 22, 2007

Trick? Or Treat?


The other day I took Julia to the local chain walk-in hair salon to get her hair cut. They always give out little toys or treats of some kind after the trim, and as soon as I saw what the surprise was this time, I had my doubts about how it would go over with Julia. It was a set of plastic chattering teeth--for Halloween, I guess--and though the mouth part was a cheery bright red, and there were relatively friendly-looking eyes attached at the top (?!), they were still a bit odd at best and creepy at worst. Julia's very frightened of statues, mannequins, wig-stands, and all things statue-, mannequin-, and wig-stand-related, so you can imagine where this might be going.

Actually when the nice woman handed them over, at first--I guess because of the red color and the big white googley eyes--Julia thought it was Elmo. Isn't that hilariously sweet? And aren't you now thinking, ooh, poor little honey!, because wouldn't it be disappointing to be three and think it WAS Elmo, only to find out it was something called "a set of chattering teeth"? I mean, what the....?

I tried to talk the teeth up in the salon, making them seem all silly and fun, because it was a gift, after all, and supposed to be a treat. So Julia played along and smiled and held it and, I could tell, tried to like it. But halfway home, in the car, she suddenly told me that she didn't want the toy, that she was kind of scared of it. ("Because it's just a mouth," she said. Indeed!)

Sunday, October 21, 2007

Fall On Me


This was the view outside our window on Saturday afternoon. Minnesota does autumn well.

And you know, when things look like that outside, you sort of feel like you'd better get out and do autumn well, too--especially when you've just waded through a week of solid rain. So yesterday, after errands (Julia and me), backyard play (Christopher and the girls), and two respective runs (me, Christopher), we all headed downtown for iced coffee (me, Christopher), a Family Walk, and playtime at the park.

Before you have kids, you spend your time doing things like going to the movies, going out for brunch or dinner or a beer, visiting museums, seeing plays, visiting friends--and the idea of spending a weekend afternoon cutting up someone's snack and then following them around a park fishing gravel out of their mouth sounds about as appealing as dental work. But then you have your babies and days like that are just what you want out of life, only more of them. You come home and bathe everyone and nurse the baby and tuck their little selves into bed, and when you reflect on the day you think, Yep, just right.

Funny how that happens, huh?

Friday, October 19, 2007

Naptime Stories and Circus Seals

The girls have been cracking me up lately. The other night Julia was running all nudie-patootie around the upstairs playroom, playing with a beach ball while awaiting her turn in the tub. She told me she was a seal (because of the color-blocked ball; don't all seals play with big striped beach balls, balancing them on their noses and such?). After awhile she came over to where I was sitting at the computer and said, nakedly, "I'm a seal. I'm such a beautiful seal. Look at me, Mama! I'm....seal-licious!"

And Genevieve? Yesterday at naptime stories, when she usually toddles crazily all over the nursery, busily pulling books off the shelf and animals out of the toy bin and crawling across Julia's and my legs, she brought a board book over to where we were sitting to read, sat down on her bottom, and opened the book in her lap. Then she began paging through the book, babbling loudly and purposefully to herself. Every now and then she'd glance up at me, grinning proudly over her "reading" skills.

Thursday, October 18, 2007

A Quiet Week

The girls and I have been having a surprisingly calm, even-tempered week so far--surprising because there's no preschool this week, Julia and Genevieve are on their fourth and third weeks of being sick, respectively, and we've been mostly stuck at home since we've only had the car one day out of the last four. Oh, and we've been mostly stuck inside, too, since the reason Christopher has been driving our only car to work (instead of biking as usual) is because now that the weather realized it could stop being 85 degrees every day it decided instead to rain every day. Nonstop. Since overnight Saturday. (Oh, wait! There were those few hours yesterday morning. When I decided we should run our necessary errands instead of go to the park, which could wait until afternoon. When it started raining again! On us! At the park! Just as our friends arrived to meet us! Dang.)

Oh, and yesterday? Julia didn't nap and Genevieve only napped 40 minutes.

So by rights I should be stark raving mad by now, clearly. But I'm fine. We're all fine. We've been doing a LOT of playing. Just....playing. I've still been doing what I need to get done here and there--laundry and cleaning and cooking and whatnot. But since we're not rushing to go off anywhere, we've had a lot of time to do things like put all the cookie cutters one by one in an empty coffee container. Pretend the laundry basket is a car. Have imaginary dinner parties (soup and pancakes) and birthday parties. Line up all the dinosaurs. Un-line them up. Line them up again. Do our "Baby Dance" DVD (fantastic! love it! for 1 to 5 year olds: perfect!). Pretend a wooden block is a bone, and we are a dog. Pretend to take our pull-along dog toy for a walk. And numerous other things I can no longer remember.

It's kind of nice to not have so many places to go. But, ask me again in January and I probably won't feel the same way.

Wednesday, October 17, 2007

These Days

Remember that heartbreakingly poignant essay by Anna Quindlen that my friend Jordan wrote about on her blog awhile back, "All My Babies are Gone Now"? I was reminded of it today.

The girls and I were running errands, and I took them to the post office. While waiting in line, we met a nice woman behind us, who was charmed by Julia's identifying each letter in the "Caution: Wet Floor" sign and by Genevieve's overall 14-month-old adorableness. She guessed their ages correctly, and said, "I remember so well when my kids were that age." I asked her how old her children are now, and she surprised me by telling me they are young adults, in their late teens and early twenties. She said that this--my girls' age--was her favorite age, that she'd relive it all if she could.

"I believe it," I told her. "It can be so hard, but I just love having a one-year-old and a three-year-old. Every day I think about how fast it's all going by and how special these days really are."

As we stepped up for our turn in line, the woman said to me--not morosely, just with a sweet, poignant awareness that comes with having parented babies and small children and then having watched them leave their babyness behind--, "Those days were the best of my life."

I thought about this chance encounter all morning, as we left the post office and went to Target, as we ate our lunch and played "farm" before nap. This was a good morning, one of those "easy" days. No one had a meltdown, no diapers exploded at the store, the baby napped. No one's teething, no one ingested any crayons, everyone's cooperating and in a good mood. It's an easy day for appreciating how precious one- and three-year-old sisters are; it's easy to believe that a kind, friendly woman at the post office really was the happiest and most fulfilled in her life when her children were babies and toddlers together, that she'd look at her grown kids and adore them, of course, but also gaze at the baby pictures and think, "I wish I could remember everything about that day, when those honeys were babies," just like Anna Quindlen suggests.

On the hardest days, I try really hard to remember these things. If this had been one of the hardest days, surely my conversation with the woman at the post office would have moved me to tears--to be reminded of something so true, and something so in need of remembering. But I don't think a day goes by--not the hard, desperate days and not the so-called easy ones either--that I don't know, don't feel in my bones and in my heart, that you don't get much luckier than having two tiny girls, ages one and three. And to spend every day with them, to squeeze every moment out of this time--this blink-of-an-eye time!--is something for which I will always be grateful. One day they will be young adults, college students, and though I know they will be delightful, brilliant women, interesting and cherished in all their adult-ness too, if I happen upon two tiny sisters in the grocery store or the bank, in chenille jackets with flowers and pink hats, holding hands, one with the chubby round cheeks of babyhood and the other just barely beyond? I'm pretty sure I'll smile and shake my head wistfully and start telling that mama how wonderful it all is.

Tuesday, October 16, 2007

Inner (and Outer) Peace

Now that we've tried the Vivi-in-the-crib experiment and abandoned it, I feel completely at peace with having moved her back into the porta-crib in the guest room. Surprisingly at peace, actually. All those reasons I wanted her in the nursery--they still exist, but I don't care about them at all right NOW anymore. All it took was seeing how miserable it was for Genevieve at the time, and how clearly relieved she was to be back in her old space, for me to go, Eh--we'll do it later; who cares? Which, really, is unlike my typical approach to the world. I'm generally a champion second-guesser, poor-decision-maker, waffler.

I think the fact that Genevieve slept until 8 a.m. on Monday morning, and then from 12:45 to 3:30 for nap on Monday afternoon, and is currently on hour two of her morning nap today, has something to do with my intense inner peace. Genevieve's relief over and love for her old bed is practically palpable. I think the saying shouldn't be, "If Mama ain't happy, ain't nobody happy," but more accurately should go, "If baby is sleeping, then Mama is happy. And that makes everyone happy."

Or something like that.

Monday, October 15, 2007

OK, We Caved

The current score in the great room-sharing experiment? Genevieve: 1; Us: 0.

Last evening, after poor, sad Vivi had been crying (sitting up, of course) for an hour post-bedtime, we gave up, put her back in her old bed in the guest room, and promptly ordered a super-fleecy, older-baby-sized sleep-sack from an online specialty store. Because the guest room is so cold that even an old-fashioned blanket sleeper over regular jammies isn't warm enough in the winter, for a baby who won't keep any covers on. And it looks like she's going to be sleeping in there for awhile. Sorry, potential guests, but we don't have any space for you, again.

Christopher wanted to give this whole room-share attempt until Wednesday, but truth be told, I couldn't bear all the crying. Or the poor sleep. On the part of Genevieve AND me. She kept falling asleep sitting upright, as if she didn't dare let down her guard in the strange room. She kept moaning and wailing at bedtime. She wouldn't nap in there (we'd already returned her to her old bed for naps, so impossible did that situation seem). I stood in the dark and thought, Genevieve isn't ready for this. She needs her old bed and her old room. She's happy there. And we all sleep. In other words, if it ain't broke, don't fix it. Or, rather, more accurately, if it's only broke a little bit and is mainly more of an inconvenience and perhaps an unconventional set-up, don't try to fix it because what you'll actually end up doing is making the whole situation a lot worse, idiot. It appears that--surprise!--babies thrive on consistency and routine, and that this is typified by the 14-month-old baby, especially. Don't mess with her world. You'll regret it.

Some of you out there may have babies who are flexible, easy-going, and unbothered by changes in routine or environment. As parents of such babies, you may assume that this is true of all babies; it may not have even occurred to you that some babies are not like that. I am here to tell you that you are both lucky and, given what I have gleaned from countless conversations over the years with fellow-mom friends, not particularly typical. I hope that you are taking advantage of your serendipitous circumstances and grabbing every opportunity you can to, I don't know, go camping (some people do this! camping! with babies! and small children!) or travel to large cities on vacation and stay in hotels, or go on trips to visit far-away friends and relatives where your children will have to go to sleep on the floor or in a borrowed crib. You can do it extra, for me, too. Because I won't be doing any of that with my babies, who DO NOT SLEEP ANYWHERE ELSE, EVER, than where they are used to sleeping, and thus make my life miserable if I attempt to alter such arrangements.

I thought, on Friday when we began this endeavor, that I'd pinpointed a great truism of parenting: milestones are tough, and oftentimes you have to let your children suffer through them to get to the necessary, better state awaiting on the other side. And surely that's still true. But now I realize I've been slapped in the face with another, momentarily-forgotten parenthood truism: you've got to stay flexible, and never forget that your own personal plans and intentions mean little when the will and desires of a baby are involved. Sometimes they won't do what you want them to, what you have planned for them. And then you may have to change course for a bit, try something else, try something again later. The key is to STAY FLEXIBLE.

Ah, yes! Now I remember.

Saturday, October 13, 2007

Publication

Hey, all, the literary magazine MotherVerse has just published an essay of mine on their "Mothering Out Loud" blog. (If you read here regularly, it'll be familiar to you from a blog post I wrote awhile back.) If you're my mom, or anyone else interested in something I've published, you may want to check out the site.

Second Thoughts

Sometimes, as a parent, you do something that throws your child's whole world into disarray, because you know, as the older, wiser person, that it's necessary in the long run even if it's painful in the short. Even if it makes your baby cry and moan and wail and look at you like you're crazy, or mean, or both. Even if it makes you wring your hands and chew your fingernails and pace compulsively. Even if it makes your stomach hurt. Things like, oh, night-weaning, or potty training, or dropping your first child off at preschool for the first time. Or taking your youngest out of the only bed she's known so far and putting her instead in a new room, in a new crib, with her sister sleeping four feet away.

Right about now, of course, I can't help but think, Why in God's name are we doing this?! Are we COMPLETELY INSANE??? Because Genevieve was fine in her porta-crib, in the guest room. Everyone slept fine ("fine" being, of course, a relative term). So on the surface, we do appear insane.

Because last night, although she fell asleep at bedtime after after only some minor tears, she woke up the instant Julia crept in an hour later to be tucked in herself. And then she cried and moaned in a very disturbing manner every 15 minutes for a very long time. Until, after about two hours of this, I felt compelled to sneak in and check on her, to make sure she hadn't, say, thrown her Silky through the slats of the crib and no longer had even that to comfort her in her strange sleeping place.

And what did I see when I tiptoed in? What made me catch my breath and hurry out, only to burst into tears in the hallway? Genevieve was sound asleep, clutching her Silky and her teddy bear, BUT SHE WAS SITTING FULLY UPRIGHT. I know this because I stood not six inches from her, gazing down at her head, and she didn't even know I was there. Her eyes were cast downward toward her lap and her head was bobbing forward. But she was asleep. Sitting up.

People, there is something about babies and distress in the night that just does me in, makes me sick with worry and empathy. Those poor babes! Crying in the dark! Unable to locate their blankies, or wondering where they are, or who knows what. Teething, or sick, or just sad. It kills me. And seeing a little baby sitting straight up in the middle of her crib, but clearly asleep? After listening to her moan and cry out every quarter-hour since bedtime, and realizing it was probably because she couldn't bear to lay herself down, so confused or interested or curious or worried she was about her new environment, but that she was also so uncomfortable sitting up that she didn't know what else to do? Oh, people. So sad.

Eventually she did lie down and go to sleep. I heard her moan and cry a few more times in the night, and I barely slept at all. And this morning? Morning nap? Um, no. She cried in there for 45 minutes and when I went in to rescue her, she was sitting up again, weeping into her bear's face, telling him her troubles. She's so tired she doesn't know what to do with herself.

So why are we doing this? I'll tell you. We want our girls to share a room. We want them to be "sleeping buddies." We want our guest room back, for guests. We want to get Vivi out of the Cold Room before the winter comes. We want to do this before Genevieve grows out of the porta-crib. We know that it will never be easy, initiating the room-share, so there's no sense in waiting. We will all suffer whenever it's done. We need to just jump this hurdle and get over it. We believe that tiny children don't each need their own room. We believe sharing is good for siblings. We don't want to spend the money to decorate a second nursery. We know that eventually, the girls will love being together in the night. All of these reasons.

But why do these transitions have to be so hard?

Friday, October 12, 2007

I Know, I Know: Boring.

Sorry, dear readers: my posts this week were so boring they bored even me. They were an accurate depiction of my life this week, which is to say, rather mundane. To make up for such boring entries, here are a few more cute pics of our trip to the pumpkin farm last weekend. Does that help? Oh, and here's a cliffhanger for you: though we mentioned it not once in recent days, tonight is the night Christopher and I planned to move Genevieve into Julia's room at last--ahem, I mean into the girls' nursery, until now inhabited only by Julia, as the lovely baby crib stood empty for an entire year and Vivi slept in a porta-crib in our guest room due to our complete and utter terror of messing up what seemed to us a tenuous state of relative grace when it comes to babies and sleep. In particular, both girls' habit of sleeping 12 to 13 hours, uninterrupted, each night, with (generally) nary a peep. And also due to our complete and utter terror of what happens when you try to get two underachieving nappers to take an afternoon nap at the same time in the same room. Question: does all hell break loose, and no one naps again, ever? I guess we'll find out. (Right now in my head I am whimpering for my mommy. Lord help me.)

So! How's it all gonna play out? Check back and see. And in the meantime, enjoy these photos of cuties in the country.




Nap Math

Rule for getting your children to nap past 2:15 in the afternoon = have company come over for a late lunch so your girls don't get to their beds until 1:30, a good 30-45 minutes later than usual.

Note that, naturally, this may not always work. But it worked today. Of course, they still only napped for under 90 minutes, because, after all, they ARE my children. But they napped past 2:15. Miracle, people.

Thursday, October 11, 2007

Next Week, For Sure

After a ridiculously protracted summer--meaning, temps in the 80s and beyond (90 last week! 90, people!), with sky-high humidity, well into autumn--it's finally perfect fall running weather: crisp, cool, dry, with gold leaves underfoot and streaky purple clouds overhead. And, in an unfair twist of fate, I've been too sick all week to run.

Seriously, people, outside right now it's absolutely gorgeous. There's no wind at all (if you lived here you'd know how miraculous that is--damn that insane wind that blasts me from across the farmfields every time I run the hilly road along the woods by my house!), the sun is slicing through all sorts of dramatic cloud formations over the pasture to the south, and the air is so dry and crisp that the sound of children playing outside a full street over carries like they're next door. But, you know, I've got this headache and sore throat and stuffed-up nose, and I'm doped up on Benadryl. So a three-mile run sounds a little unlikely right about now. Seeing how I sort of feel like I'm in a coma. OK, a partial coma. A coma that still allows me to type.

But really, now that it's no longer 90 degrees outside, I really wish I were running.

So Cute it Makes Your Heart Hurt

Ever since Julia started nursery school, she's been wanting to play "school" at home several times a week. This typically involves me in the role of "Miss Kathy," the assistant teacher she adores so much, and Julia and Genevieve as the students. Mainly we sit on the floor for "morning greeting," and pat our legs in rhythm as we chant the ritual hello song--the same one Julia learned in her ECFE baby/toddler classes when she was younger--which goes, "Julia's here today! Julia's here today! Hooray, hooray, hooray, hooray, Julia's here today! And Genevieve's here today! Genevieve's here today!...(etc.) At school, they go through every child's name, naturally, and on the "hoorays" they lift their hands up higher and higher before returning to the leg-patting part. It's all very rhythmic and sweet.

The best part, though, is how much Genevieve loves doing this "song" with us. When Julia and I position ourselves on the floor, she sits right down and begins slapping her lap with her palms along with us. She even attempts to shake her hands up, up, up in the air as we say "hooray, hooray, hooray, hooray!" And she grins the whole time.

But you'll never be able to get over the cuteness when you see how she starts these actions ANY time she plops her bottom on the floor, no matter if we're playing school or not. She starts patting her legs and looks searchingly around the room to see if we're doing it too. School? Is it school time? Morning greeting? I'm on top of it; see me doing it?

We keep saying that when it's Genevieve's turn to go to preschool, she'll be all ready. She already knows the hello song.

Total Nap Frustration

On Tuesday we went back to the normal routine for morning nap. No negotiating, no considering. It went well, and yesterday, Genevieve even napped for 90 minutes in the morning (and another 90 in the afternoon).

So then why now, on this lovely preschool morning, has she been standing up in her bed (I know this), crying and yelling and carrying on for the last 40 minutes, refusing to nap, so that now I must go and get her up and resign myself to losing the rest of my preschool time alone when I had planned to Swiff the floors and make hummus and finish the laundry. Because people, you can't really do those thing with Genevieve underfoot (or should I say, climbing up your legs?).

She was super tired before we dropped Julia at preschool, too. What a little rascal.

Wednesday, October 10, 2007

Mending

I feel like such a good mom today. Because I didn't snap at anyone all day, despite being miserably sick? No, can't say I can claim that. Because I actively played with my preschooler this morning instead of letting her watch "Sesame Street" while I nursed a cup of tea for my sore throat? Well, no. Maybe I was continually patient for hours on end when the baby fussed and cried and generally made her loud, grumpy presence known? Sigh, nothing so noble as that. I wish.

No, I feel like such a good mom because I just finished mending the hole in my daughter's knit leggings by actually ironing on a little patch on the reverse side. An iron-on patch! It seems so....retro. Oh, and why else do I feel like a good mom? Because I also sewed up a split seam in a little stuffed fabric spoon from a (stuffed, fabric) tea set.

Now, who else does these kinds of things besides moms? Not to be too sexist, but really: do dads ever do this kind of thing?

Sick Day

Being sick as a stay-at-home mom is a pretty rotten deal. Not only do you not get to call in sick, but the job you still have to do is one that requires a great deal of patience, energy, and compassion--YOU have to actually take care of others! While sick! When what you really need is to be taken care of yourself! It's not like you can sort of sit at some desk somewhere trying to look busy while you suck throat lozenges and sip your fifth cup of tea.

However, the one good thing about being a sick stay-at-home mom is that during the babies' naps, when you usually do things like switch the laundry, sweep the floors, do the dishes, and start dinner, you can instead lie on the couch and surf the cable channels, GUILT-FREE. Because you're SICK.

Monday, October 08, 2007

Fall Frolic

Yesterday we took the girls to Thorn Crest Farm to buy pumpkins to decorate our front walk, gourds for a dining-table centerpiece, and squash to roast for autumn suppers. We had never visited Thorn Crest before, but it turned out to be a total gem. It's only seven miles from our house, in the countryside south of our little rural college town, and admission to the grounds is free.

The small farm included lovely, curving displays of picked pumpkins and gourds ready to peruse and select, bright against the vivid green grass; apple trees for picking your own snack; a barn with animals to visit up close (including two pink piglets); fenced pastures of fluffy white chickens; a field of pumpkins still on the vine, where customers can stroll and explore; a grass maze (which we skipped, but which would be fun for older kids, I'm sure); several rustic sheds dotting the property filled with handmade crafts and gifts for sale; a food wagon for impromptu picnics or ice cream cones; old rusty children's wagons for loading one's autumnal goodies (and for little girls to pull); and the promise of a candle-lit Christmas festival in December (you can even cut your own tree there).

Words don't really do it justice, but maybe our photos will give you a small taste of our lovely autumn outing. The fact that it was over 80 degrees at 10 a.m. and we were dressed in short-sleeves and tank tops detracted a bit from the overall ambience, but even so we had a wonderful time. Any place you can kill 90 minutes with a one-year-old and a three-year-old, with no meltdowns or boredom-induced fussiness, is highly recommended in my book.

Here are the photos, in no particular order. Enjoy!







Suffering

Something nutty is going on with Genevieve's naps. (See last week and its attendant misery, tooth-gnashing, and exhaustion--on my part, I mean.) Sure, maybe it's just her cold, but maybe it really is what people keep suggesting to me: the beginning of the end of the morning nap.

Yesterday morning Genevieve refused to nap, so we got her up and got on with the day. This morning, she didn't wake up from the night's sleep until 7:40 a.m. (13 hours!). That occurrence, coupled with the fact that in the past week she has taken very short morning naps that often started late due to all the carrying on she did before finally falling asleep, made me think maybe I should just skip the nap altogether today. I knew that if she went down, it wouldn't be until 9:40, at which point she would probably fuss and cry for a good 20 minutes, and then, what? Fall asleep at ten and then not be tired when afternoon nap rolled around? Who needs that? I debated and debated. I looked at her and waffled. Finally I gravely made my decision--skip the nap, go instead to open playtime at the library--and if this had been in the movies you would have heard some very ominous music right then: big, minor-key chords that would have alerted me to my mistake in time to take it back.

Need I say that, at that crucial moment, I made the WRONG DECISION?

Poor Vivi. She was a total wreck at the library, crying over everything and scrubbing at her eyes like a college student pulling an all-nighter. Talk about a rough morning! But what can you do? You have to stay the course, people. You can't go home at 10:30 and put the baby down then--that's crazy talk; that's, like, the time that morning naps are supposed to end. If you do that you've had it for naps for the rest of the day by twelve noon.

We stayed at playtime until 11:30 and then came home for a fast, early lunch. I still had to put her down by 12:15; keeping her up until Julia went down at the normal time would have been torture. And now I'm thinking, OK. Tomorrow, after preschool drop-off? Nap. Short, long, love it, hate it--whatever. But a morning nap of one kind or another. I'm not going to relinquish this part of baby life until I have absolutely no other choice.

Whose Homework?


This must be a rite of passage, right? The first experience with a school "homework" assignment that ends up really being homework for the parent(s)? No, seriously, it was fun, took less than ten minutes, and is a really sweet idea: for Julia's nursery school, each family was asked to make, with their preschooler, an "All About Me" page--with suggested inclusions but free range to design it however they wish--for the "Class Book." Then each child gets a turn taking the binder home overnight to learn more about their classmates, and at the end of the year, each child gets his/her own page back to keep.

(There was a back side too, where we pasted a family photograph and added some other stickers and notes--favorite books, favorite song, etc.--but I didn't photograph that part.)

Saturday, October 06, 2007

Aimless and Grim

Things were pretty grim in our house this past week. The girls are sick, and Genevieve didn't nap more than 40 minutes at a time all week long. You know those dreams I had, about dropping Julia off at preschool, putting Genevieve down for her morning nap, and then having, like, more than an hour of time to myself to, I don't know, clean the house or chop vegetables for dinner or return phone calls or shower? Yeah, I had that for about one week. Lately Vivi naps for 30 minutes and then calls it a day. I would think this was her way of telling me she's about to drop the morning nap, except she does the same thing in the afternoon. So it's not so much dropping the morning nap as it is about TORTURING HER MAMA.

After about two days of Genevieve being done with her afternoon nap by 1:45, I started to have terrible flashbacks to the time when Julia was four to six months old or so--the time when her sleep issues were the most severe, and she never, ever napped for more than half an hour, and often then only if she was in my lap after a nursing and I didn't move or breathe. It doesn't sound all that bad--and neither does one week of Genevieve hardly napping, I suppose--but you'd be surprised how quickly that lack of any break at all in the relentless needs of baby-care will make you feel not only crabby and annoyed but truly desperate. How you can be so furious at an adorable infant you love more than life itself. How you feel like you won't make it through the day, because they take too much out of you and you need an hour, at least, to just sit and drink your coffee, before jumping back into their demands.

By 3:20 yesterday afternoon everyone was so miserable and cranky that when Genevieve overheard me talking to Julia about picking up Daddy from work at 4:00, she toddled straight over to the door out to the garage and banged on it with her palm, screeching, and Julia said, "Let's go, let's go! I want to go pick up Daddy!" I told her it was too early to go just then, because Daddy wouldn't be ready to leave the office yet.

"Honey, if we went right now, the only thing we'd be able to do is drive aimlessly around town until it was time for Daddy to be done at work, and then go pick him up."

You know things are grim when, in response to an offer like that, your preschooler says, "Yeah! I want to go drive aimlessly around town!"

OK then.

Thursday, October 04, 2007

Love it in Theory

I think I must love being a stay-at-home mom IN THEORY. How else to explain the fact that, when Genevieve wakes up from afternoon nap BEFORE 1:45 P.M. FOR THE SECOND TIME THIS WEEK (and rarely sleeps past two on all other days), my instant reaction is to feel like poking my own eye out with a stick?

If I truly loved being a stay-at-home mom as much as I think I do, wouldn't I be overjoyed to spend more moments with my sweet cuddly cutie? You know, to be doing more of this job that I supposedly love?

Sigh.

Hand me a stick.

Mom, I will pay you to come stay here for a week.

Wednesday, October 03, 2007

The Death of Chivalry (and Other Adventures)

This morning, despite Genevieve's vicious cold, I took both girls for a stroll downtown. The weather is too amazing to pass up (sunny and 70-something, not a cloud in the sky, blazing orange and yellow trees). On our way to the town square, I stopped at a coffeeshop--not our usual haunt, because they don't take check cards and I was out of cash, but another place--for a drink. Since moving to Northfield, I've cut WAY back on my coffeeshop-drink purchases, but every now and then, especially if you're home all day alone with small children and not sleeping well at night, you need a little store-bought caffeine pick-me-up to get through the day. Unfortunately, the handicapped-accessible automated-door-opener button wasn't working, so I had to wrestle simultaneously with the single door, a wayward preschooler, and a stroller that has seen better days and so doesn't quite steer properly anymore. Not five feet from the door, an apparently able-bodied, solo man sat drinking his coffee with us in plain view and did nothing to assist me as I stumbled my way inside, hands full and kids in tow. Of course, I'm a pro by now at doing the whole stroller plus non-automated-door maneuver, but still. Even worse, on our way out, when I now also had a large iced drink in hand (too tall for the stroller cupholder), the same man watched us again with no offer to hold the door. Nice.

When we got home, before nap, just as I emptied Julia's potty chair into the toilet, Genevieve (whose current mission in life is to position herself as close as she can to the potty chair and/or toilet whenever possible--but especially when one or both are being used--and then try to snake a sneaky hand into the bowl when the opportunity presents itself) dropped a Fisher-Price Little People (Little Person?) into the toilet. Guess who got to fish it out? With her HAND? Because I somehow felt it was best to act quickly rather than, I don't know, run and get a soup ladle or something?

Do I get some kind of employee of the month award for any of this? A bonus? Raise? Day off? Lunch out? Anything?

Tuesday, October 02, 2007

Ga Ga, Goo Goo, Hack Hack

There are very few things sadder than a baby with a hoarse voice. (Genevieve caught the cold.)

Monday, October 01, 2007

Kids and Stress

As a psychologist, I'm intimately familiar with the fact that even kids can get stressed out. Over at Work It, Mom! today, I'm writing about how parents can teach stress management skills to their children. I'm speaking mainly of mid-grade-school-age kids and up, but certainly it's never too early to start talking with children in simple ways about feelings, how to calm down when upset, etc. I wish all of you Happy October (my favorite month!), and low stress levels, too.