Monday, December 31, 2007

Happy New Year

You know you have wise, good readers when their advice-giving comments on your post-holiday-doldrums blog post can be summed up more as less as: find a project; read a good book; remember to put everything in perspective; count your blessings.

Because, really, isn't that reliable advice for pretty much any situation? I think so.

Friday, December 28, 2007

Maybe I Need a Goal of Some Sort

I don't want to be a downer on a holiday weekend, but does anyone else have the post-Christmas doldrums? Is it the hangover that comes after spending the past five weeks planning, shopping, wrapping, cooking, baking, cleaning, addressing, mailing, delivering, decorating, and entertaining--being the heart of it all in your house, being the one in charge of "throwing" Christmas, like you throw a party, because you're the mama after all, and for the first time you have a child old enough to participate in Christmas--only to have it end in a whirlwind of trashed gift-wrap and sleep-deprivation-fueled tantrums?

Is it the somewhat sad, but mainly tedious, prospect of taking it all down in another week, of throwing out the tree and wrapping up each of those many, many ornaments, venturing back into the storage closet to fit each crimson candle, each handmade stocking, into its precarious space?

Is it the soul-sucking experience of spending a full day at a nearby suburban mall in search of new jeans on after-Christmas clearance, only to--of course!--leave with the conviction that THEY DON'T ACTUALLY MAKE JEANS FOR A BODY SUCH AS YOURS. MAYBE NOT EVEN ANY PANTS AT ALL. APPARENTLY YOU'RE SUPPOSED TO GO AROUND WITH NO PANTS ON. BECAUSE PANTS THAT FIT YOU DO NOT EXIST.

Maybe it's the depressing realization that no one else is ever, ever going to come and do the dusting. They're just not. Ever.

Also those curtains, valances, rods, and holdbacks you ordered SIX WEEKS AGO for the guest room window, but that are still sitting, packaged, in the utility room where you stashed them when they arrived in the mail? No one is ever going to come and hang those curtains for you. Nor are the curtains going to hang themselves. Dang!

Maybe it's the fact that I'm out of eggnog.

All of a sudden I'm in a major rut, bored with running (!) and cooking and making grocery lists and reading magazines. Bored with relying on the not-very-flattering ponytail because, with a baby who wakes up by six each morning to nurse, I've got no time in the a.m.'s to do my hair. Bored with sleeping terribly. Bored with lack of career ambition or plans. Bored with weekends full of chores and errands instead of movies and brunch.

OK, OK--I realize it's unseemly to harp on a laundry list of complaints when (yes of course I know it's true) my life is actually, truly, a litany of blessings. (I mean, all I have to do is recall those two little girls of mine, all dressed in red and hugging each other before Christmas Eve church, to know that's true.) But come clean, people: don't any of you other mamas ever feel like this, when the holidays die down?

How do YOU energize yourself to face the new year with excitement, to pack away those Christmas ornaments with good cheer, not the overwhelming desire to take a nap? How do you get yourself out the door into the chill air of a winter evening to run those three miles? How do you motivate yourself to keep dusting the furniture, week after week after week? Any new-year tips would be greatly appreciated.

I'll tell you one person who's happy that Christmas is over, though: Genevieve, who is glad she doesn't have to wear a Santa dress with matching hat and booties anymore.

Thursday, December 27, 2007

Merry and Bright


Christmas Eve 2007, ages 1 and 3.

Saturday, December 22, 2007

A Little Holiday Reading, Perhaps?

The mid-December issue of The Mothers Movement Online includes an expanded version of an essay I originally wrote for MotherVerse Magazine's blog, about the full-tilt, rat-race, no-free-time life of a household with small children.

Maybe no one does any online reading over Christmas. In which case, go open your presents, eat your candy canes, and check back here, and there, when you've got more time and fewer sugar cookie crumbs on the front of your shirt.

(As always, I encourage everyone to peruse the rest of the December MMO issue as well; it's full of thoughtful commentary and great writing about many issues related to mothering and social change, including commentary about and comparisons of the '08 presidential candidates and where they stand with respect to crucial family-life policies.)

Friday, December 21, 2007

Merry Christmas

Christmas is almost here, and thanks in part to the stress relief of a super fun, festive, and friendly playgroup session today (presents! treats! big basement playroom!), I'm not even about to lose my mind or have a stress attack about my to-do list. Good, huh?

Here's how I'm making peace with the holiday, its hoopla, and its many mama-centric demands:

* Plans for a no-cook, pre-prepped, hors-d'ouevres-type holiday buffet for Christmas Eve supper, so we can come home from the late-afternoon "Family Christmas Vespers" service at our best friends' church and get two tiny girls fed as fast as possible without the hassle of attempting a fancy sit-down holiday meal.

* Saving the fancy sit-down holiday meal for Christmas Day dinner, when, without a church service to get to or the big-deal present opening to take place (just stocking gifts from Santa in the a.m., because that's how we do it at our house, folks), I'll have more time for cooking.

* Fine china--because it's easily accessible yet rarely used, a family heirloom, and lovely to behold--but paper holiday napkins and regular daily-use silverware. Because really: would YOU polish all that silver, in a year when your babies are 3 and 1? Aren't there better, future years for investing time and energy in a task like that, when the girls are older and you don't have to interrupt the job to do things like nurse the baby or empty the potty chair?

* Reminding myself that when your babies are 3 and 1--heck, I imagine even when they're 7 and 5--Christmas doesn't have to be "perfect" or overly-busy or planned within an inch of its life; in fact, it can't be. It just needs to be sweet, genuine, and focused on the blessings of a happy year past and the joy of another to come, with peach-cheeked angels inhabiting the house and giving it life.

* A whole lot of homemade eggnog lattes: much less expensive than the ones from the coffeeshop, and you can cut the eggnog with skim milk if you're feeling especially virtuous. Or not. And the caffeine? Very helpful on days when you've been up half the night with an inexplicably fussy baby (teeth coming in? cold coming on? who knows?), nursing at 3 a.m. just like the old days, one year ago.

Sincerest wishes for a joyful holiday to all of you. Take a nap, drink some eggnog, and think of me.

Wednesday, December 19, 2007

Tempted to Move Closer to Kindly Grandparents

Realization: the three-year-old and I really, really need a break from each other.

Second, horrific realization: preschool is off for Christmas break for the next two weeks.

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

Making a List and Checking it Twice

I know, I know: this week this blog is so boring it's even boring me. I've been busy:

a.) creating multiple to-do lists, new variations on the to-do lists, and detailed schedules for accomplishing everything on my to-do lists
b.) stressing about my to-do lists
c.) pondering the merits of the various brands of peanut brittle in my neighborhood grocery store
d.) wondering if peanut brittle and eggnog count as "protein" and "dairy". what if it's "light" eggnog? does that help?
e.) wondering if, when the baby starts making wake-up noises after only an hour of nap (that's the day's TOTAL, people) and you're just not ready to deal with her again yet, you can just ignore her for awhile
f.) not that she'll go back to sleep
g.) because she never does
h.) so, really: how long can you justifiably ignore her?
i.) wondering if "deli ham and turkey on grocery-store buns with a pickle if you're lucky" can count as "Christmas Day dinner"
j.) wondering if I'm the only full-time stay-at-home mama of two children under four who wishes someone else would take care of Christmas so I could focus on taking naps and drinking eggnog
k.) trying really hard to maintain some semblance of Christmas spirit
l.) and yes, loving, loving, loving my new dining room table (don't you love how I keep calling it a dining "ROOM", as though it were actually its own separate room? when really it's just part of the living room? Yup, I do too.)

Saturday, December 15, 2007

Sixteen Months Old


Today Genevieve is 16 months old. It's so unbelievable to me that when I typed the post title up there, I accidentally started writing "Fifteen Months" instead.

Sixteen months old, and this afternoon she actually fell asleep nursing. Can you believe it? Isn't she a bundle of sweet?

The Long-Awaited Dining Room Table

Have you been waiting? Well, here it is. Wish I had a "before" picture of our dining room for comparison purposes, but I don't, so: here's the "after." (The pic is a little dim; I had to close the blinds to block the too-bright morning light.) So, seriously: anyone want to come for dinner?

Thursday, December 13, 2007

Big Enough for All

Good news. My (big, big, big) new dining room table is up! With all six chairs. Of course, when you've got a big, big, big dining room table, the room that it is in suddenly becomes small, small, small. Or smaller, as the case may be. But I don't care! I love it. I can't wait to have you all over for dinner. Warning: some members of our household aren't the most decorous eaters.

Photo as soon as we've hung the painting that is waiting to adorn the giant blank wall that has been staring us in the face for the past two years.

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

Never Too Tired to Eat Chips and Dip

Last night, at 3 a.m., Genevieve began groaning and fussing in her crib. She kept it up, off and on, for 40 minutes before Christopher went in to see if anything discernible was the matter. He talked to her, he changed her, he checked her bed to make sure her Silky and teddy bear were still there, he cuddled her and asked her what was the matter. In the end, he put her back to bed, convinced that whatever was wrong wasn't serious or extreme. Even so, she moaned and groaned periodically the rest of the night, which means, of course, that after about 3 a.m., my night was pretty much shot. (My mysterious chronic neck problems, stemming from the legendary pinched nerve of Thanksgiving weekend, did not help my sleeping situation. Or non-sleeping, as the case may be. I'm in major sleep debt right now, and my only consolation is that it seems that whenever I'm not sleeping well, I've got company in dear friend Squab.)

At any rate, today was killer. Genevieve was exhausted, but would not succumb to my last-resort strategy of throwing the old morning nap back into her routine. She preferred, instead, to become a miserable train-wreck of a baby who spent the hours between approximately 9 a.m. and 1 p.m. crying over just about everything. And nothing. She then napped for an hour and 45 minutes, which would not sound like much for total baby-napping in one day, unless you knew my Vivi, in which case you'd realize it's the longest afternoon nap in, oh, ten months or so.

Having been basically awake since three, I was pretty much comatose by the time Christopher came home from work, bearing the junk-food leftovers of his potluck contribution to the office Christmas party the other day.

Those plans I had, last evening, about making up an earlier missed workout by going for a run or doing my best strength-training workout DVD tonight after Vivi's bedtime nursing? Let's just say I ended up having a date on the couch with a bag of Lay's and a tub of french-onion dip. Wearing, for pj's, the same yoga pants I wore all day AS ACTUAL PANTS.

I swear, people, I only eat chips and dip about once every 20 years. Truly. Now the dirty yoga pants? We don't have to get into the frequency of that.

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

All I Want for Christmas is One Peaceful Meal

So, so tired of meals. Not of eating them myself, of course. Of feeding them to someone else. Of having to jump up every ten seconds to get something (read: more food) for someone who can't get it for herself. Of all the biscuit crumbs and broccoli morsels and chicken salad glops and errant Cheerios and toast crusts and crumbs crumbs crumbs crumbs crumbs that end up on the floor, again--that floor that have I mentioned is COVERED IN CARPET? IN THE DINING ROOM, FOR THE LOVE OF GOD?--that floor that I must get down on my knees and clean up ten million times a day.

And what is with the throwing of food, people? The sassy little fuss-budget scowl as one tosses a handful of polenta with white bean-tomato sauce on the floor? If you don't want any more of it, YOU CAN LEAVE IT ON YOUR TRAY.

Is it any wonder that the office Christmas party-luncheon attended by my spouse yesterday afternoon, involving potluck-style goodies, complicated punch, and unidentified hotdishes (that would be casseroles, to my non-Minnesotan readers) sounds, oh, about as luxurious as a three-day spa weekend? Because I would bet you that no one at that party was throwing handfuls of french-onion dip on the floor. At least, I hope not. And even if they were, it wouldn't be MY responsibility to clean it out of the carpet.

However! Having said all that, I must mention that last year at this time I had a newborn and was so brutally sleep-deprived that I accidentally used a debit card for a defunct checking account and consequently bounced checks--twice!--AND unwittingly left a shopping bag full of just-purchased Christmas gifts in a cart in the Target parking lot and drove away without it. So, you know, it could always be worse.

Monday, December 10, 2007

End of an Era


Have I mentioned? The morning nap is officially over. Genevieve is almost 16 months old now, which is maybe (who remembers?) a month earlier than when Julia dropped hers, but it's certainly well within the normal range for saying adios to the lovely morning snooze. My favorite baby-sleep book says that, while at 14 months old the majority of babies are still taking two naps a day, by just four weeks later, at 15 months, the ratio has flipped, with those morning snoozers in the minority.

Oh yes, we're having a rough time of it; of course! Dropping the morning nap is notoriously painful for all involved. Baby isn't tired enough for two naps a day; baby is too tired for just one nap a day. Simultaneously. I'm not even going to write any more about it. You can use your imaginations.

But what I am mainly focused on--because I am me, and you know me--is the end of an era! No more morning naps in this house! Onward to old-babyhood and toddlerhood and beyond! There is no more time to nap in the mornings. There is too much living to do.

Friday, December 07, 2007

Sleigh Bells Ring

Last night was our town's annual "Winter Walk." This was its 9th year, but our first time going. (We moved here two winters ago, but just after Christmas, so we missed it that year. Yes, we moved two days after Christmas. Yes, it was total hell. No, I am never, ever moving again, at Christmas or any other time of year.) And last year it was something like ten degrees outside, and we had a newborn, so....no.

But this year, hurrah! We loved it. Winter Walk takes place downtown, around the town square, and the whole place is lit up with tiny white lights in the trees and paper-bag luminarias lining the sidewalks. Choirs are caroling, horses are pulling children on "sleigh" rides, elves are handing out candy canes (though, truth be told, we never located these elves, we just heard about them), all the shops are offering special deals and treats and entertainment, there was cocoa and cookies and I even heard rumor of a bonfire with marshmallow-roasting. The whole place is just jam-packed with, as I commented to Christopher as we approached the festivities, "happy townspeople." Really, it was just like a scene out of a movie musical. In a good way.

After two snowstorms in one week, last night the weather cooperated, and the girls--bundled into snowsuits and boots--didn't get too cold or cranky. In fact, we all had a fantastic time, even though we kept it to an efficient, child-dictated 45 minutes. Much holiday cheer was felt by all. Photos (vague, blurry--I prefer to call it "impressionistic"--, but festive in spirit) below. Oh--and despite appearances in the bottom picture, Genevieve really did have a good time. And yes, it is just a coincidence that the only in-focus photograph is the one taken by someone other than me. Really.




Waiting for Santa


Thursday, December 06, 2007

Learned My Lesson

The very, very painful lesson I have learned this week is that Genevieve will no longer take two naps a day. If, in response to her eye-rubbing and fussing, you put her down for the old familiar morning nap--even if you wake her up in 45-60 minutes so she won't nap too long--she will NOT take her afternoon nap. Will. Not.

Then she will be so tired by 6 p.m. (at which point she has not slept in eight hours) that, when you try to nurse her for bedtime, she will fall heavily asleep within five minutes, sucking lazily in her sleep in a decidedly non-drinking manner.

However. If you keep her up in the morning, because you realize she is an old baby now who is giving up her morning nap, do not go around thinking she will then sleep for a good two or three hours in the afternoon. Because you will be wrong, and when she wakes up in 45-60 minutes, and it's not even 2 p.m., you will be sorely disappointed. Or maybe LOSING YOUR EVER-LOVING MIND is a better way to describe what you will be.

So I guess that's two lessons I learned this week. I hope Santa is good to me this year.

Wednesday, December 05, 2007

Incredible Differences


The differences between my two children amaze me every day. We have this plastic Little Tikes slide (you can see it in the background in the photo above) that I got last spring for $15 at a garage sale (best $15 I ever spent), and before the snow began last Saturday we brought it inside to the playroom for the winter. (Yes, you heard me. A big, bright orange, outdoor toy, inside our house. In the "playroom", which is actually a multi-purpose room that also serves as our office. I use the term "multi-purpose" to make it sound all fancy and like we wanted it that way. In reality we now have, well, a giant plastic climbing toy in the same room as our Crate and Barrel desk and bookcases. Yep, I know who runs the show around here, and they are small and cute.)

Anyway! This slide does not have a ladder; instead, you crawl in a little door and hoist yourself up onto a little platform to go down the mini slide. For Genevieve, that platform is waist-high. Even so, since we brought the slide in the house four days ago, she has handily taught herself to do the slide completely by herself, start to finish. Goes in the door, climbs up onto the platform, sits herself down on her bottom (even mastering that tricky maneuver where you have to get your back leg out and around to the front to slide down), and rides down the slide. Gets up, toddles back, and does it again. All day long. You can sit at that Crate and Barrel desk reading the blogs (or, more nobly, sit nearby and play elaborate make-believe games with your more high-maintenance three-year-old) and Genevieve just plays on that slide on her own.

Of course, that whole dynamic is probably the very reason it only took Genevieve a day to learn to do the slide by herself. Right?

Back to the point of this post. At 15-1/2 months old, Julia wasn't yet walking by herself. She didn't learn how to go down a slide by herself--climbing up, sitting down properly, etc.--until she was two. When we got this slide last May, it still took her quite awhile to figure out how to climb up onto the platform. And yet here's baby Vivi, scrambling around like an intrepid monkey.

But here's the kicker: at 15-1/2 months, Julia had 35 words. (I just looked it up in her toddler journal, where I wrote them all down at the time.) Thirty-five! It's unimaginable, now, when my current 15-1/2-month-old says only five things on a regular basis: Mama, Dada, Boo-wah (Julia), uh-oh, and mmm-hmmm (for yes).

So: one non-physical, nonstop talker; one on-the-go, non-wordy climber. It was inevitable, wasn't it?

I love having two children.

Tuesday, December 04, 2007

Future Dietitian


Sign that my three-year-old may know a little bit too much about nutrition for a child her age:

Julia (surveying her lunch plate): "Mama, why is there no bun? Is corn a starch in this meal?"

Bad, Meet Good.

Today after preschool drop-off I had to decide whether or not to go home and try a morning nap for Genevieve, or go with the giving-up-the-morning-nap flow and drive to Target to buy the last of the Christmas gifts. I asked her opinion. "Vivi, do you want to go home and have night-night with Silky and PJ Bear?" She shook her head no, so I drove off to the store. Halfway there (like, two minutes later) I noticed she was closing her eyes. On the way home from Target she almost fell asleep in the car. I chose wrong. Bad, bad, bad.

But they were giving away free coffee and giant muffins at Target today, so that was good.

Then at preschool pick-up I had to tell the teacher that no "special adult" (optional! really, it's optional!) would be coming on Thursday for the celebration of Julia's half-birthday (because her real birthday is in the summer), because Daddy has to work. Bad. But Julia's class made gingerbread men today at school, and she was very, very excited, so that was good.

Then after lunch, when I trundled both girls off for the joint nap that I kept Genevieve up to preserve, Julia wouldn't nap. Bad.

But now outside it is a frenzy of winter-wonderland snow falling, so that's good. But I have to go and get Julia up from her aborted nap rather than finish my gift-wrapping and Christmas-card-addressing: bad.

But we have leftover delicious lentil soup to have for dinner tonight, so I don't have to cook! Good!

How is YOUR day going? Good or bad?

Monday, December 03, 2007

Confidential

To the friend who called me tonight and asked me to tell her a.) if she should have a second baby, and b.) if so, when?, the answers are as follows:

a.) Of course. Because if you don't, you'll never get to experience this:


and,

b.) When they would look, together, just like this:

So Very Nice

An amazing writer--someone who lives in my town but whom I don't even know--wrote something super nice for me on his blog today (and then commented on the post below to say hi and let me know about it). For me! I think he's famous! And his writing is gorgeous! Go read the yogurt essay! You won't be sorry!

So thoughtful. So nice.

Winter Wonderland

As some of you know, I haven't been terribly excited about the holidays this year. All the extra work, all the errands and cooking and to-do-listing. You know. But one of the things I decided to do to make the holidays more enticing to myself this year is keep things as simple as possible. I've got a baby and a preschooler; things are already complicated enough. Keeping things simple includes obtaining our town's smallest available (live) Christmas tree. Which we did, on Saturday.



I couldn't be happier.

In addition to experiencing the season's first snowstorm, buying and decorating the Christmas tree, and drinking an eggnog latte over the weekend (holiday-ish enough for you, all of that?!), today I bundled both girls up in snowpants and parkas and extra socks and boots and hats and mittens and took them out back in the snow with a big red sled (guess who got all the exercise out of that little outdoor play session?! It's hard work pulling two small children around on a sled! I'm already sore!). Plus, I made a recipe called "Meringue Snowmen" with Julia (Genevieve watched). Snowmen! Out of meringue! To eat! I don't even like meringue, and it's not as if my children need anymore treats right now, but we needed an activity today. (Genevieve is in the middle of dropping her morning nap, for real this time. I'm sure you don't really want me to say anything more about that.)

So I kind of feel like, in the past 2-1/2 days, I've sufficiently embraced the holiday season. Don't you agree? I mean, the meringue snowmen alone!

Saturday, December 01, 2007

Brrrr.

I went for a run yesterday at dusk, when the windchill was 1 below. How's that for hardy? (Credit goes to the much hardier friend of mine who inspired me to get off my butt, put on some fleece, and just get out there.)