Tuesday, July 29, 2008

Try Try Again

Just because it's cute: Genevieve strikes a pose

Yesterday in the car the song "Fruit Jar" came on the stereo, and when Justin Roberts sang the line, "When trouble finds you/you'll find your way through it," I swear to God, Julia said, "Mama, that means that when things are hard, if you just try, try again you'll figure it out." Which I decided was just about as good a lesson for the day as any.

Damn those preschoolers and their wise philosophies of life. They make adults look like crazy stressed-out freaks. Oh wait, that's just me. Ha! Well, anyway.

I'm figuring out, along with (thank God) various colleagues and friends who happen to be involved, how to approach and tackle this unexpected new challenge that's going on. I will say this: no, I am not pregnant (Good Lord in heaven, not funny) and (again) there is no reason FOR ANYONE ELSE to panic. Just me. Ha! The rest of you have NOTHING TO WORRY ABOUT. And I will (re)clarify that what I was/am upset and stressed out about is not panic that the current situation is unsolvable or of dire emergency-level importance or anything like that; it's that I'M BUSY ENOUGH ALREADY and the idea of having to squeeze so many more time commitments into my current life makes me primarily want to lie down on the floor. I'm trying to resist that impulse though because do you know how long it's been since I've vacuumed? Also, do you know how to spell vacuumed? Because apparently I'm not sure.

I am sure, however, that rising to the occasion is one of the things I do best. You may not know that, if you don't know me well and you've read the last few posts here. Or if you were at my meeting last night when I broke down in tears. (Ha ha! Sorry about that everyone! I'm fine, really! Ha! Just a little intense sleep deprivation! Nothing to see here! Move along!) But honestly? It's one of my biggest strengths.

So. Onward. Nothing to see here.



Monday, July 28, 2008

Can I Just Say?

...That the fact that a stranger in Australia is praying for me because she reads my blog and thus knows I am not exactly a happy camper right now makes me feel a whole heck of a lot better? Seriously: someone in Australia? Reads me? And cares? And is sending good thoughts my way?

The blogosphere once again salvages my mental health. It's an amazing thing, people.

Clarification, at 4 a.m.

Oh, my dear readers. I should reassure you about the post below. No one is sick, or injured, or has lost a job. Thankfully, I can say that my stressful recent turn of events does not involve anything as serious as that. What I'm stressed about is significant, important, time-consuming, and a total surprise, but it is not life-threatening or cause for alarm for anyone other than me and perhaps my spouse.

What I will say is this. It appears that August is now going to be, for me, not the relatively unstructured last month of summer--busy but fun, and punctuated with a fairly long trip to visit family up north mid-month--but instead basically one big long unpaid job. I mean, a real job with a lot of hours. One with a ton of responsibility that I never, ever wanted or expected. Arranged, somehow, around my OTHER job--you know, that one about caring for my two small children all day long? Oh, and this new unpaid job? It comes with a lot of PRESSURE. It's also not optional. And what's more? I am not particularly qualified to do it. And that family trip? Probably not going to happen now.

What I'm really upset about is this: I am really not the person who would naturally come to mind if you tried to think of someone in need of, say, more things to do. Or, you know, less sleep. Less free time. More on her plate. More things she is required to get done in any one 24-hour period, while the baby screams and the preschooler demands ever-more constant adult interaction and her insomnia blooms like a toxic flower. Yeah, that's really not me. In fact, were you to think of me, you might instead think something like: If she were to become any more tired she'd need a one-way ticket to the loony bin. Or: In dire need of a vacation, not a surprise unpaid job. Or: Maybe when her kids are in school she'll regain the ability to generate a complete thought and remember things that aren't written down in ten places. Or, at the very least: Husband already has two jobs and a time-consuming volunteer position of his own; what is she, crazy? When is that family going to have time for all THIS?

Um, yeah. Exactly.

Believe me, if I could give you all the details I would. Sorry for all the mystery. Just please: send me telepathic messages of energy and optimism. Something to quell the fury and resentment might be good, too. Oh, and the ability to sleep? Can someone send me that?

Sunday, July 27, 2008

#@$!!&%$!

If only I could tell you, dear Internets, about the *#%$! turn of events in my life today. And how I'm shaking my fist at the universe right now, and scrapping all my previous plans to have a relaxing rest of the summer, and changing/cancelling my family's planned August trip and muttering curses under my breath as I mentally fill up my calendar with things I don't really have time to do, but that I have no choice about. Did I mention, #@$!!#%#@!?

I'm not at liberty to say more, nor should I. I can only say, I don't have time to blog at present, and may not for awhile. Please don't give up on me. Check back. I may need you. Someone, after all, has to ship me unsolicited packages of Advil and Diet Coke and plane tickets to secret hideaways in the Antilles. (Is that an island group? The Antilles? See, I don't even know; how pathetic is that? Or is it Antigua? Or are there both? Sigh.) Someone has to remind me to ingest something other than coffee and not to give up my runs altogether because I'm too busy fulfilling multiple obligations I never wanted to have.

In the end, I am sure things in Wonderland will calm down. And at some point I'll maybe even be able to fill my dear readers in a bit on what's going on. But people, seriously: is there anyone less suitable for taking on additional stress, angst, and late hours at the current time than me? I think not. After all, I'm the INSOMNIAC with the TODDLER WHO NEVER STOPS SCREAMING.

So, so many rants. So little time.

Friday, July 25, 2008

Rants

So many rants, so little time.

Actually, things haven't been so bad here at Wonderland this week, given the gorgeous weather and the fact that Genevieve has FINALLY FINALLY FINALLY agreed to actually give SPEAKING a try. You know, rather than just whining and fussing and SCREAMING. She has finally turned that corner where she's now trotting out new words on an hourly basis, even if sometimes it takes a few tries for us to be able to understand her. The funniest part is how casual she is about the whole development. Yesterday she sat down for naptime stories, gazed at the sole of her foot, and said worriedly, "Uh-oh!" When I looked, I noticed a piece of tape or paper stuck to the bottom of her foot, which I quickly peeled off, saying "It's OK, honey, all gone." She shrugged and said, "Sticker." Or, rather, "Dit-dur." Which is, you know, pretty much hilarious. But not as hilarious as how, when she wants to get on top of our new giant bed, she toddles down to the girls' bathroom and then, amidst all sorts of banging and huffing and puffing, two-handedly carries the extremely heavy, two-step, wooden stepstool ALL THE WAY DOWN THE HALL and back into the master bedroom, plops it by the bed, and proceeds to use it to scale the mattress. She narrates this by saying, "Deh-doo." Stepstool.

OK! Got off track there! Was trying to say, pretty good week and all, but, people: pretty good week still translates into INCREDIBLY HARD WEEK. It's rather disheartening, really. Even a pretty good week with Tyrant Toddler means a heck of a lot of screaming, not that much sleeping, and that lovely combination, whining/fussing. Always with the whining/fussing. The clear and ready speech, it cannot come soon enough, because I do feel that about 90% of the whining and fussing is due to the fact that Genevieve can't often get her message across. Sticker, stepstool--not exactly the most helpful and necessary words out there, you know? Not like, "I am asking you for a SPOON!" or "Please can I go pat that stone turtle in the neighbor's flowerbed?"

This is a long way of saying that I am suffering from chronic stomachaches. Constant screaming and fussing give me stomachaches. I cannot stand it. Also, I am bone tired. Yes, I'm sleeping great on my new mattress. But I'm still bone tired. When I get tired and stomachachey, I become intolerant of all sorts of things, like teenagers who drive too fast through my subdivision, the dead rosebushes in my front yard that my townhouse association was supposed to replace but, mysteriously, hasn't, and the fact that my only vacation this year is an all-day driving trip that will likely kill me (see above re: whining/fussing) before I arrive at my destination, where my baby will no doubt be unable to sleep for much of the entire week we are there, at which point I will return home exhausted and with a giant stomachache. Sorry, family, I love you and all, but that kind of vacation ISN'T REALLY A VACATION.

I'll stop now. It is Friday, after all, and I have a dear, dear friend swinging through town later this morning to visit the girls and me--someone I have not seen in two years and who I will likely attempt to kidnap and keep at my house to entertain me and make me happy for the next three years or until Genevieve stops screaming, whichever comes first. TGIF.

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

Read for Pleasure, Make Yourself Sad

Last evening I started reading the newly-published anthology of mama-blog writing, "Sleep is for the Weak," edited by Rita Arens and including essays by several of my most favorite online mama-writers. I can hardly tell you how excited I was to have this book in my hot little hands. The second I first heard about it last spring (little did I know it had already been two brutal years in the making), I wanted it NOW NOW NOW. I ordered it off Amazon earlier this week, as soon as I'd heard that it was out early and pre-orders were already shipping; its arrival yesterday in the mail made my whole day better. Susan Wagner is in it, with one of my all-time favorite posts about being a stay-at-home mom and why one would still be one once the kids are in school; Alice Bradley is in it with a hilarious list of toddler demands; it's chock-full of brilliant writers who agreed to put their online words onto paper so readers like me can carry them around, read them in bed, save them. And the title: does any phrase sum up better, and with more we're-all-in-it camaraderie, the way it feels to be a new mom, the way you spend your nights--all those dark hours of wild insanity--nursing and soothing and rocking and checking, rather than sleeping? And how in the morning you just, well, suck it up and soldier on, take your tiredness with you into the field, pushing it aside in order to get on with the work of mothering?

But here's the thing. When you're a tired mama-writer yourself, when you too survived your postpartum mamahood solely because you discovered the mommy-writer-blogosphere and it saved you, well--reading this book can make you a little teary-eyed. The essays, they're funny and poignant and insightful and, mainly, true to life. And that can be a lot to take in sometimes, especially when you're an overtired, overworked mama in the middle of the best and simultaneously the hardest time of your life. You can get a bit sentimental about all these writers who feel like people you already know intimately, when you read their words that so closely describe your own experience. Not to mention, if you're a fairly isolated striver-writer like me, with the crickets chirping in the background every time you hit Publish, you can't help but gaze feverishly at this pleasing book and think, "I want to be in a book like this too!"

It all might make you just a little bit emotional.

Go read the book. It'll make you laugh. It might make you think weepily of your own very first postpartum period, when you may or may not have been recovering from 60 hours of back labor and a fourth degree tear so horrific you were forbidden to walk for ten weeks, and your newborn may or may not have screamed all night long for weeks on end until you began to get stomachaches every afternoon around four, and maybe you sat up late reading mommy-blogs because they made you feel better about your shocking new life. But don't worry. Because this book will also remind you of all the really good things, the funny things, about being a parent. You'll be glad to have it in your hot little hands too.

What-to-Do Wednesdays: Take it Outside

My girls are big into coloring. Give them some Crayola markers and a few color books and they'll go to town. But sometimes you want to mix it up a little, right? They're bored with the same old, same old? It's nice outside, and you feel the need to soak up some vitamin D? Well, what if you spread a sturdy picnic blanket out in the backyard and took the art supplies out there? You could call it Outsider Art! (Ha; I crack myself up.) It might just occupy them for an extra ten minutes.

I'm going to try it later today. Maybe you too?

Monday, July 21, 2008

A (Relatively) Well-Rested Mama is a Happy Mama


On Saturday the furniture store switched out our new mattress for a firmer model, and I AM IN HEAVEN. OK, so I'm still looking a little pale (as always), but people--I've just enjoyed two nights in a row of sleeping straight through from bedtime until Christopher's alarm clock at 6:15 a.m. NO PRE-DAWN SLEEPLESSNESS. NO WAKING UP AT FOUR OR FIVE IN THE MORNING. NO INABILITY TO FALL ASLEEP. NO INSOMNIA.

Of course, this also means I'm not doing those morning runs. Because if I'm not already awake at five, I'm certainly not going to wake myself up early to go running. I mean, what am I, crazy?

Sunday, July 20, 2008

Not at BlogHer

If you can't be at BlogHer (for the uninitiated, that's the 4th annual national conference on women and online writing, held this year in my favorite vacation-city, San Francisco), here's the next-best way to spend your July Saturday:

Morning run; homemade iced soy lattes (yes, that's plural); newspaper; successful delivery-exchange of an enormous new king-sized mattress (now extra-firm, much better, ahhhhhhh.....); afternoon ice-cream cones at Cocoa Bean; family stroll to the town square fountain and along the River Walk; sandwiches from Hogan Bros. for supper so Mama doesn't have to cook; The Office on DVD in the evening; reading The New Yorker high up on the luxurious new bed before a good night's sleep (at last).

Hope you're having a similarly indulgent weekend, wherever you are.

Friday, July 18, 2008

Week of Firsts


My four-year-old went to her first "big kid" birthday party today, the kind where you drop off your child and then....GO AWAY. You actually leave the premises. You come back an hour and a half later to pick her up, at which point you hug her little wet-from-water-games head and hoist her into the car while she talks nonstop about the Winnie-the-Pooh cake and the presents and how they ate their refreshments on the patio instead of inside, and keeps dropping all her little favors that are piled into a plastic miniature sand pail with her name lovingly painted on the outside. And she marvels at the curly straw and lets her baby sister hold the rubber super-ball and politely asks, "Did the baby sisters have fun at THEIR playdate?" and says, "I remembered to say please and thank you to Lucas's mama and daddy, Mama." And you wish you could have been there, a fly on the wall at this party, to see just what a table full of four-year-olds talk about when they're high on sugar and the thrill of their first solo birthday party.

This week she also participated in her first kid-only dance class; I stayed to watch, but I wasn't a part of the action like all the other little creative-movement activities we have done in the past. I sat on the sidelines and watched her serious little face as she tried to skip, as she touched her toes. So sweet! So FOUR.

I'll stop now, before I say something universal and eternal about the blink of an eye.

Thursday, July 17, 2008

Loose

(photo credit: The Snarky Squab)

This morning, as I'm told (I was upstairs at the time), Genevieve stood up on the sofa as she is not allowed to do, leaned over too far, and accidentally did a front somersault over the back of the couch, landing squarely on her back on the floor while Christopher was preparing her breakfast around the corner. For awhile afterward--even after she'd been well comforted and had moved on to other concerns--she kept doing all sorts of uncharacteristic things like kissing me and willingly giving me cuddles, so Christopher and I joked that when she hit her head, something jarred in her brain and miraculously turned her into Sweet and Lovey Baby, shook the surly factor loose. We laughed about how we'd say, years later, "....and then that one day she fell over the back of the couch and hit her head really hard, and from that point on she was NICE!"

But then an hour later she was yelling at me ("Nuh-uh, MaMA!") and running away if I tried to smooch her, so all was back to normal.

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

My First Writer's Paycheck

What-to-Do Wednesdays: Pasta Necklaces

This week's kids' activity is courtesy of my friend Connie, who has a fantastic mental store of creative ideas for keeping children entertained. She's always doing things like playing yoga class or making boats out of sofa cushions, and later on I'm thinking, Why didn't I ever think of that?

Anyway, you know those necklaces small children sometimes make in preschool, little dried noodles strung onto yarn? Sometimes decorated with paint or glitter? Well, that alone is a great idea, really--one of those old classics. But what if you, just for fun, used three-year-old manicotti noodles you forgot you had in your pantry, and made GIANT pasta necklaces? And painted them with Crayola washable easel paint? Wouldn't your kiddos love that?

I admit that when Connie suggested this idea to me the other day, my first reaction was, "Yeah but hey, to do that you have to have both yarn and tube-shaped pasta on hand. Not to mention poster paint." At which point I called Connie--affectionately, of course--an overachiever. Or was that last part in my head? At any rate, giant pasta necklaces sound fun. Now get on that!

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

Twenty-Three Months

An hour ago it suddenly occurred to me that today is the 15th. That means it's time for my Genevieve's-monthly-birthday post. She only gets two more, this one and when she turns two, so I'd better not forget.

That's right, Genevieve is 23 months old today, and nothing says "23 months" like the sound of a furious toddler in her crib at the end of the hall, standing up (no doubt) and SCREAMING at me like the enraged 16-year-old she will one day be. Right now she's hurling the word "NO!" at me with so much bile--it's more like "NNNNNNNNNNNNO! NO! NOOOOOOOOOOO!"--that I can clearly picture her, teenaged and obnoxious, slamming doors and destroying personal property. Seriously, if you get this worked up over a nap--enforced relaxation, for God's sake!--what are you going to be like when it comes to curfew and chores and oh no you are NOT going out of the house wearing THAT? I shudder to think.

Luckily, I don't have to worry about the teen years just yet when I'm so fully occupied with 23 months! Yesterday, for instance, Genevieve screamed for 40 minutes at naptime, then fell asleep for half an hour, then woke up and screamed for 30 more, before conking out for good. At the end of the day, a friend called to check on my sanity level, and I told her--in all honesty--that "my day wasn't bad." The fact that a day characterized by 70 minutes of baby-shrieking could count as "not bad" tells you an awful lot about the life of a stay-at-home mom to a toddler and preschooler, and also, about JUST HOW RELATIVE EVERYTHING IS. Am I right?

Then there was Sunday, when I went for an evening run for the sole purpose of escaping the house during Genevieve's bedtime scream-fest. Because when she cranks it up like she's been doing these days, believe me, there is no place within the house to hide. You can actually hear her downstairs, with the baby monitor off. So I did my four miles instead, taking my time afterward to cool down before coming in, and when I returned home I learned that she'd hung in there for 50 solid minutes. Now that's hard-headedness, people. And why it didn't occur to me to go somewhere for, say, a glass of wine or a movie, rather than a four-mile run, is beyond me. I don't know, people. Something about being sleep deprived.

But, you know, the thing about Genevieve is that, as I like to put it, when she's not being naughty she's really, really cute. You could just eat her up, she's so cute. She's a giant ball of pink and yellow baby chub, in candy-striped sunsuits and pink-gingham sundresses and bright white sandals and flower-trimmed sunglasses, and she looks like a pastel-hued hard candy. She has started, just these past two days, to call casually at me from her highchair when I come down for breakfast: "Hiiiii, Mama!" and it's like the rays of the sun breaking through six months of glowering thunderclouds. Every now and then I even get a hug and a kiss from her, and it almost makes up for all the scowls and yells of, "Nuh-UH MAMA!" I usually get when I lift her from her bed after naptime and try to nuzzle her neck, or when I greet her in the morning with an attempt to smooch and cuddle. I made the girls applesauce popsicles the other day for snack, and you should hear her try to say "popsicle"; you'd fall over from the adorableness. I can't even write it, it's just some three-syllable mystery, but she says it, pointing at the freezer, and she knows. She knows you won't say no to her.

And that's the other thing. This baby, she knows how to get what she wants. She throws the tantrums, oh yes she does, with the energy and force of a tropical storm. It's rather admirable, in a way: how she'll repeatedly throw herself onto her back from a standing position, all the while screaming, turning bright red, and working up a sweat, all for, say, a third string cheese. And people, no one really needs three string cheeses. But would YOU choose to subject yourself to ear-splitting screams all freaking day long? I never thought I'd be the kind of mom to give in to tantrums just to stop the screaming, but what I have learned is this: it's not the potential embarrassment factor, or lazy parenting--I couldn't care less that the neighbors hear her shrieking for another biter biscuit during our stroller walk, and in my honest moments I will allow that I am probably one of the least lazy parents you will ever meet--but, people, sometimes YOU JUST CAN'T STAND THE NOISE ANYMORE. You give her three snacks instead of one, because Good Lord above, you put up with the tantrums most of every single day, and every now and then you just want the screaming to stop before you lose what's left of your mind.

But did I mention the cute? The cheeks? The hair? The "Hiiiii, Mama"? Did I mention her nerve, her determination, her absolute refusal to let anyone help, ever, and how she always gets it in the end, she even climbed up the giant new king-sized bed with its extra-deep mattress and box-spring twice her height, growling all the while at my offers to assist, falling backward onto the carpet THREE TIMES in a row before she succeeded, but she succeeded? Did I mention all that? Because I have a feeling Genevieve's going to be President one day, given her tenacity and her sass and her deep and utter inner belief that there's nothing she can't do.

I'll tell everyone, I knew it at 23 months.

Tuesday Do-Little Dinners: Swiss Chard Quiche

I know I just put Do-Little Dinners on hiatus, but this week I'm back with a wonderful recipe discovery I can't help but share.

Last Tuesday I was the lucky recipient of the weekly farm-share box of a friend who was gone on vacation and thus could not use her CSA produce. Bliss! We've spent the last week joyfully consuming zucchini, yellow summer squash, red-dragon carrots, fresh snap peas, beets, and spring mix salads. And dark leafy greens. Lots and lots of greens.

When you first start eating greens, if you're like me (and many Americans), you don't know what the heck to do with them. Most of us--unfortunately--did not grow up eating beet greens, kale, and chard. But a little Internet and cookbook research reveals them to be easy, versatile, and delicious. Swiss chard is in high season right now, all over farmers' markets and CSA farms, and you can use any variety for this recipe: green, white, or rainbow (these terms refer to the color of the stems; rainbow chard boasts brilliant red and gold stems that are especially beautiful in this quiche). And chard is extremely healthy; it's chock full of vitamins and antioxidants.

My family loves this recipe so much that we've had it for three dinners in the past week and a half! It's great with crusty bread and some fresh fruit on the side.

Crustless Swiss Chard Quiche
Serves 4 (can easily be doubled; use two pie pans)

1 tsp. olive oil
1/2 bunch Swiss chard (including all but very end of stems)
1/2 large sweet onion, chopped
salt and pepper
4 eggs
1 cup milk
1-1/2 cups shredded or crumbled cheese (any variety; cheddar and feta are especially delicious)

Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Rinse and dry chard. Trim off very end of stems. Coarsely chop all the rest--leaves and stems. Heat oil in large skillet. Add chard and onion and saute until chard stems and onion are tender, about 5-7 minutes. Sprinkle with salt and pepper to taste.

Meanwhile whisk eggs. Whisk in milk and shredded cheese. Gently fold in the vegetable mixture. Pour into oiled pie pan.

Bake 35 to 45 minutes, until top is golden brown and no liquid seeps when cut with a knife.

Sunday, July 13, 2008

One Hundred Years of Not Sleeping

I haven't written here for a few days because I've just been too tired. Seriously, the quality of sleep in this household right now is bordering on INSANE. Oh wait, maybe that's just what I'M bordering on. Ha! Lack of sleep will do that to you!

I feel like my house belongs in a Gabriel Garcia Marquez magical-realism novel. Really, do you remember One Hundred Years of Solitude, in which the Buendia family becomes cursed and unable to sleep for years at a time, the whole family enduring generations of insomnia, an entire saga of sleep-deprivation angst and grief? Um, yeah--that's my household. Except not really, because the patriarch of THIS family seems exempt from the troubles. It's the rest of us who might as well be up watching movies till 2 a.m., for all the good a normal bedtime is doing us.

So first there's Genevieve, who every other month or so embarks on a crusade to have all bedtimes banned. Her campaign mainly involves nonstop wailing and screaming upon being placed in her crib, for up to an hour at a time. I've said it before: when one hears the words "baby screaming nonstop for an hour at a time," one MIGHT--especially if one is not a parent, or not a parent of a baby anymore--think to one's self, Well, that sounds like a pain, but not all THAT intolerable. But I'm here to tell you this: MUCH WORSE THAN YOU CAN IMAGINE, WHEN YOU ARE ACTUALLY EXPERIENCING IT.

This time around, Genevieve has added naptime to her official docket of Things To Scream About. So we get to go through this twice per day instead of just once.

Then there's the Great Black-Out Blind Solution, an adventure that commenced, oh, about a hundred years ago, when we gave a lot of money to Menard's and tearfully begged them to rescue us from the 16-hour-long daylight that has apparently convinced our baby that no one should be sleeping, ever. Turns out Menard's is incompetent, and not only did they deliver our custom-ordered super-black-out blinds three weeks late (three weeks! that's like 12 years in baby-not-sleeping years!), but when Christopher installed them yesterday morning to our imagined background soundtrack of an angel choir singing hallelujahs of joy and relief, we discovered that THE BLINDS WERE NON-BLACK-OUTS, sent by mistake, and were rather some kind of blindingly-white light-producing panels of shimmering, glow-in-the-dark fairy dust. Making the nursery brighter than it was before we even had the damn blinds. Seriously: you could READ by these blinds.

Since, as we have already determined, Menard's is incompetent, they cannot rectify their mistake immediately. Which means that now we are attempting to put our girls to bed at night--in July, people, when 7 p.m. bears a striking resemblance to, oh, NOON--with the room lit up like a carnival.

Amidst all this screaming and window-non-blinding, Mother Nature threw in two days of violent thunderstorms, complete with shrieking winds, power outages, terrifyingly loud thunderclaps, flashing lightning, and clattering downpours. During naptime (day one) and nighttime (day two). Let's just say not a whole lot of sleep went down those two days.

As for me, one morning late last week I climbed down off my huge new bed, upon which I had been awake most of the night--tossing and turning, hot and uncomfortable--and hung my head in my hands, because WASN'T THIS NEW BED SUPPOSED TO SOLVE ALL MY SLEEP PROBLEMS? Why was my big new bed so hot? And squishy? Why could I not sleep on it? Did we get the wrong bed? (This, comfortingly, reminded me of a moment in Catherine Newman's pregnancy memoir Waiting for Birdy, when Catherine and her husband scrape up enough money to at last get a new mattress so poor Catherine can finally get some sleep and yet she remains sleepless, and breaks down in tears, wailing, "We bought a bad bed! We bought a BAD BED!" At which point Michael reminds her that perhaps the problem is simply that she is nine months pregnant.)

I thought to myself that if I couldn't sleep even on this huge luxurious new bed, it would mean that clearly I would never sleep again, and therefore I would die. So I burst into tears.

Luckily my dear friend Connie suggested I try taking off the thick, quilted, cushy mattress pad I had bought for the top of the mattress, and see how the new bed felt then: cooler, firmer, more like how it felt in the store? THANK THE LORD IN HEAVEN, YES. If Connie had been nearby, I would have kissed her.

But still. It's not pretty, insomnia in the house of a young family. The babes become overtired and sink further and further into sleep deficit, which any pediatric sleep expert knows leads, paradoxically, to even less sleep. Mama becomes irrational, even more short-tempered than usual, and fatalistic ("I will never sleep again. I cannot do the job of a stay-at-home mom without sleep. I may die."). Daddy does a lot of heavy sighing (and yet! he can sleep fine! no matter what! ALL THE TIME). It begins to feel rather desperate, like no one will ever fall asleep at a normal time again, nor sleep in past five a.m., nor take good naps. I'm still exploring just how difficult it would be to change out the giant mattress for the same model but extra-firm instead of medium. And that black-out shade is being re-ordered.

I hope to report, sometime this summer, that the nursery is black as night, my new bed is firm and cool, and we're all sleeping hard and well. No more Buendia family hex.

Please. Please. Please. (Yawn.)

Thursday, July 10, 2008

Will You Take That Train?

Another summer, another outdoor Justin Roberts concert on a glorious sunny evening in the middle of the sweetest little college town you'll ever see. Last night's library benefit was as fun as always, and as soul-nourishing. I went exhausted from a nonstop day of action with the girls and I came home happy; tired, yes, but filled up with a sense of blessing. Which is always how I feel after this annual concert.

Words sort of fail me this year, but other diehard Justin Roberts fans know what it must have been like: the catchy songs, the sweet lyrics, the mosh pit full of kids, everyone singing along and bouncing and dancing and smiling. And other families in my particular town know what it's like here: the lush green of the park and the sun glaring and then fading; the way, when you're a young family here, it seems that every single other family you know is at this show. It's overwhelming, the goodwill and cheer and friendliness, the common love affair we're all having with young children and babies and summer and music.

Justin performed a lot of songs from his new CD, Pop Fly, which my family had not yet heard before last night, so we didn't get to sing along to as many songs as usual, or fully appreciate each lyric. But I could tell they were gems, and all day today the girls and I have been listening to our newly-purchased copy of the disc on "repeat". Genevieve loves the title track, and requests it by saying "Ba ba ba ba ba ba ba!" and pointing at the CD player. I love it too; I can't stop laughing at the adorable lyrics that so accurately capture what little kids are like when they play team sports: "Coach has put me in the outfield/Do I even need to mention?/It's my job to catch the ball and more important pay attention/To the pitcher or the batter is it the former or the latter?/Does it even really matter?" It reminds me of when my nephew used to play T-ball. The tune is so catchy I've been singing it all day--and that's not a bad thing.

Julia already has most of the lyrics memorized to the awesome "Henrietta's Hair," with its sweet jangly R.E.M.-esque guitar and mandolin and its clever Bob Dylan reference. (Justin always throws in some stuff for the grown-ups. Check it; it's great.) I challenge anyone to listen to this song without smiling and dancing.

But best of all, when you're a sentimental mama watching the days whip by like train-cars on a track, was the lullaby with which Justin ended his show. There's nothing like a little poem about living each day to its fullest ("Will you take that train?/Will you take it 'round?/Will you get back up when you've fallen down?") to remind a person to embrace life, with all its meltdowns and messes.

See you next year.

So How Was It?

I had high hopes that my new giant bed would somehow cure my insomnia. However, I sort of forgot that the new giant bed would not magically solve Genevieve's sleeping problems. Which is my way of saying that I was up four or five times last night with a crying baby. On the other hand, I SLEPT UNTIL 7:15 THIS MORNING. Which I think is pretty much all you need to know about the new bed, right there.

Wednesday, July 09, 2008

In Case You Were Wondering...

The bed? ENORMOUS. It may have its own zip code. Also? I may need oxygen up there, the altitude is so high.

Don't worry; pictures will come soon. I'm waiting to hang some flower prints above the headboard.

What-to-Do Wednesdays: Make Mama an Espresso

Just kidding about that, above. I would only let my babies make me an ICED espresso. Ha!

Really, I was just lazing around here trying to recover from: a.) only six hours of sleep last night; b.) THE 6:30 A.M. RUN--YES I DID IT AGAIN, YOU DOUBTERS!; c.) the mattress delivery guys arriving 45 minutes early, before I'd removed the wall-mounted baby gate from the top of the stairs or finished taking down all the pictures hanging on the staircase walls, and also arriving on the heels of a 45-minute tantrum from the preschooler, during which one exchange went like this: Julia: "Mama, it seems as though you're having a bad day." Me: "No, YOU'RE having a bad day."; and d.) twenty gazillion crying spells by the baby, about things like stepping in spilled water, desiring Kix cereal from the pantry, despite it being past breakfast and not yet snacktime, dropping her water cup, bumping her head, Mama being on the phone, and Mama stepping away to use the bathroom. Amidst all that, I also dealt with a phone call regarding the black-out blinds we ordered for the nursery, now a week past their scheduled delivery.

Yes! And so! I was lazing around just now, reading the blogs and ingesting copious amounts of caffeine, when I discovered that I've been singled out over at What Do We Do All Day? as a good blog read. I am so honored! Also! She reminded me that it's Wednesday! And I'm supposed to be discussing WHAT TO DO WITH YOUR KIDS. Hmmm. Huh. Um...

Well, let's see. You could consume four shots of espresso while speaking sharply to people who only come up to your knee. Not pleasant enough for you? OK then. How about mopping up a watering can-full of water that your four-year-old accidentally poured on the floor? While she cries? No? Let's see...you could attempt to launder a bunch of new king-sized bedding while watching the baby stain her sundress with strawberry fingers. Or best of all: wrestle a giant bedskirt onto a king-sized bed while the kiddos nap!

Or. If you were me, you could take a deep breath, gaze outside at the hanging begonias, think of your good-hearted next-door neighbor who heard the tantrum and therefore brought a gift of the fresh-picked strawberries, gulp your feel-good espresso, and consider that tonight as the sun begins to sink, you'll be in a small, green, leafy park in the center of your small, green, leafy town, amidst a bank of happy families and dancing kids, with the breeze wafting and the flowers bursting and the mamas rocking their babies and everyone jamming out to Justin Roberts, live.

And you could contemplate all this lucky goodness and think of your napping wee ones and practice repeating over and over--because it's true, after all: I love you just the way you are. I love you just the way you are. I love you just the way you are.

If you were me, that's what you could do today.

Tuesday, July 08, 2008

Talking at Night

Ever since Genevieve moved to her crib, she's been talking and crying in her sleep a lot. I expected the initial waking and crying out for comfort, but what's continued is periodic crying out when she is clearly sound asleep (or nearly so). She's been doing it multiple times per night. Out of the blue she'll suddenly screech out, "DADDY!" or "Mama!" or, more often, an unintelligible cry--often loud enough to spur Julia to sit up in bed, startled and confused. But when you go to her, she's lying there, eyes closed. Sometimes she isn't even moving. Julia typically goes right back to sleep, if she's even all the way awake. But for me it's not that easy. This sleep-talking is making my insomnia worse, because not only am I jarred awake several times per night, but afterward I can't fall back to sleep right away.

When I was a child, I talked and walked in my sleep a lot. I've heard this tendency is often inherited. I wonder if Genevieve is going to be my sleep-talker and -walker. I really hope not; it seriously scares the wits out of me each time I'm startled awake by the cry of a child. If Genevieve one day shows up, asleep, at my bedside, or strolls somnambulistically into the kitchen as I'm watching the late news, I will have a heart attack.

Monday, July 07, 2008

Busy Mamas Embrace the A.M.!

This morning I did something TOTALLY UNCHARACTERISTIC. Something you'd never expect of me. Something I have often considered impossible.

That's right: I went running at 6:30 a.m. Oh, not shocking enough for you? Perhaps you'd feel differently if you knew that I've been a regular exerciser for a nonstop 20 years or more, and during that time, I have gone for an early-morning, pre-workday run perhaps two times. TOTAL. Or if you knew that I am so much not a morning person that I find it difficult to speak to anyone during my first hour up. Or if you reminded yourself that since becoming a mom four years ago I've pretty much been constantly sleep-deprived (just like every other mother, of course), and that I'm one of those people for whom lack of sleep has dramatic physical and emotional effects. (I'm not one of those people who can nonchalantly power through a few sleep-deprived days and shrug it off; I'm more the person who starts to feel dizzy, achy, and mentally unbalanced.)

But, when Genevieve woke up at 5:30 this morning and I contemplated the fact that I never, ever fall back to sleep at that point, I thought to myself, It's only going to get hotter and windier, and I'm only going to be more tired, at 5 p.m., or 7 p.m., or 9. Plus, who cares if I'm so anti-early-morning that I don't want to interact with anyone when I first wake up? If I'm running, I won't be interacting with anyone!

Somehow I talked myself into it. When I came downstairs in running clothes, Christopher, who was feeding the baby her breakfast, just about fell over. His mouth actually gaped open. But I did it; I ran my four miles, at 6:30 a.m., and I did it before ingesting any coffee, people. It was truly a miracle. And you know what? I'm a total convert. It was so unbelievably great, all day long, to have already run. It solves all my problems: the problem about being too tired after chasing two small children all day long to exercise; the problem of the intense heat and glaring sun at 5 p.m.; the problem of how to cook dinner and go running at the same time; the problem of being up too late at night because I'm running, cooling down, cooking, eating dinner, participating in the bedtime routine, stretching out, and showering all during the evening hours; the problem of juggling workouts and evening commitments. Plus! I'M AWAKE AT UNGODLY EARLY HOURS OF THE MORNING ANYWAY. Why the hell aren't I running then?

I'm in love.

Of course I've only done this once. So check back with me on, um, Wednesday, to see if I've stayed strong. Oh, and I'll admit: I certainly cannot imagine running at 6 a.m. in the dead of winter, when it's pitch-black outside AND a thousand-million degrees below zero. Though I know some crazy folks who do. (Power to the crazy folks!)

Run on!

Sunday, July 06, 2008

Love/Hate, Spend/Save, Less/More

As I've noted here before, amassing material goods always makes me feel uneasy. I don't know if it's the effect of my frugal upbringing, the fact that I live in a house with almost no storage space, or simply the result of excessive rumination on the sorry state of the environment and our throw-away culture (I have been known to feel physically sick while contemplating all the computers sitting in landfills somewhere), but I pretty much never purchase a non-consumable object without feeling at best ambivalent and at worse vaguely immoral. It's kind of a bummer.

This all may seem odd given the fact that in recent months Christopher and I have seemingly been on a buying spree, at long last properly furnishing and decorating our dining room; replacing our microscopic grad-school-era TV with a screen large enough to see from the couch without squinting; buying me a new spring wardrobe; outfitting the girls with outdoor toys for the long summer days--those ubiquitous splash pools and ride-on cars and scooters of early childhood; ordering new black-out blinds for the nursery window; taking the plunge and using Julia's need for a bigger bed as an excuse to shift around all the beds in the house and upgrade ourselves to the near-mythic king-size (along with, of course, new mattress and box-spring, headboard, bed-frame, and bedding), and, finally, just the other day, giving in and returning to the land of cell phones, after two cell-less years. (This last one had become a safety issue, as I was no longer comfortable having no way to be reached by Julia's preschool in the event of an emergency if I wasn't at home during nursery school hours.)

All of these purchases can be justified in some way; some were long overdue, some were absolute necessities, and at least one is partially needed but mainly a splurge and a celebration of a long-held goal (to officially be a published writer, in print, with a check in hand to show for it). And surely none of it would have been possible without a lucky combination of some well-timed stock options, a hefty tax refund, and that blessed economic stimulus check.

But the bottom line is that, justified or not, I'm trying to make peace with my recent consumerism. It would be nice, even just once, to thoroughly take pleasure in a purchase, as long as we can basically afford it, without obsessing on: a.) the fact that I am not currently earning an income, b.) all of the more responsible things we could have done with the money (invest, save, etc.), and c.) the disgusting spectacle of the typical American family and all its stuff, stuff, stuff.

The main way I cope with my conflicted feelings about buying new things is to regularly, and ruthlessly, purge my household of items we no longer need, use, like, or have room for. I detest owning too many things; clutter makes me very, very unhappy. I strictly follow the "one new thing in, [at least] one old thing out" rule; I have neither the physical nor the psychic space to bring home new material objects without getting rid of something else. All this recent shopping has spurred me to go through closets, cabinets, the girls' toys--and I currently have four giant bags of stuff to give to the donation truck that comes to my curb every month. My one dissatisfaction about my anti-pack-rat mentality is that ideally I would have the time and energy to hold a garage sale, and earn some money from all this stuff I get rid of every month.

When I look around even my relatively modest home, I can't help but think that no one in the world really needs all this stuff (who really needs two computers? honestly, who?), that to most people on the planet this middle-class American life of cell phones and king-sized beds is unimaginable, and that even attempting to live more simply by routinely giving away excess possessions might not be enough to teach Julia and Genevieve my personal values regarding consumerism and materialism, about how no one really needs to live in a 3,000 square foot McMansion with five bedrooms and four and a half baths and each of those rooms crammed with furniture and clothes and the latest electronic gadgets. (After all, don't we have a king-sized bed and two computers?)

At the same time, it would be nice if Julia and Genevieve could grow up with a better balance than I have between environmentally-conscious, simpler-life frugality and the ability to simply enjoy buying things they want and can afford.

My Head's Not THAT Big

OK, you all, what's the deal with king-sized pillows? I didn't even know they existed. Isn't a pillow a pillow, and they're all, you know...pillow-sized? Apparently not. Today I opened up my king-sized bedding set to iron the bedskirt in preparation for mattress delivery on Wednesday. Those pillowcases and shams are ENORMOUS. So what, do all of you with king-sized beds have those enormous pillows, too? Huh. Back to Target?

Saturday, July 05, 2008

The 4th is Over; Now Get Ready for Christmas

In my mail today I found a gift catalog with a snowman on its cover and the words, "Holiday Preview 2008!" emblazoned above the festive scene.

UNCALLED FOR.

Happy 4th of July!

You know you had a good holiday when you not only successfully shopped for a new king-sized mattress at a huge outlet-store sale 30 miles away from home (and neither child fussed or had a meltdown during the shopping excursion), but you also hosted a big potluck 4th of July party for multiple beloved families, complete with children ranging in age from 14 months to 10 years, and everyone ended up stuffed with great food, covered in bubble solution and sidewalk chalk, and exhausted. Yay for holidays!

Thursday, July 03, 2008

Insomnia, ad infinitum

Am just now reminded of the OTHER reason I could not fall asleep the other night until after 11 p.m.: BACKYARD FIREWORKS.

AM NOT IN FAVOR.

What-to-Do Wednesdays (on Thursday): Colored Ice!



I got lazy yesterday. Actually, I got busy, but at any rate, I didn't post my usual Wednesday kids' activity. You don't mind a day late, do you?

Remember last week's ice cube activity? And remember how oh-so-wise MNmom suggested freezing water in little containers, adding a little food coloring for fun, and letting the wee ones loose with that? Well, any experienced mama knows that stealing ideas from other parents is the best way to keep your kids busy and happy. My girls (and their little toddler playdate buddy) were entranced by the frozen containers of green, yellow, and blue water (old Tupperwares, measuring cups) I placed at their feet on the patio yesterday morning. To the mix, I added plastic buckets and spoons, and as the ice began to melt, they busied themselves stirring the colored water, dumping out the Tupperware-shaped, brilliantly-colored ice, and water-painting with the runoff. I admit: messy. And I'm not 100% sure the food coloring will come out of the seat of Genevieve's little dress. Then again, it was highly diluted, and the girls had so much fun I hardly care.

Try it!

Wednesday, July 02, 2008

Sleep Is For The Weak

Because Genevieve, scared of her "new" (ha!) crib, woke up crying several times during the night on both Sunday and Monday, by the end of the day yesterday I was Comatose Mama. Zombie Mama. Don't Talk to Me and I'm Sure We'll All Be Fine Mama.

When Christopher got home from work, I was outside in the backyard supervising Julia, Genevieve, and their little neighbor friend swimming, running through the sprinkler, slipping down the Little Tikes mini-slide into the splash pool, making sand castles in the sand table, and drawing with sidewalk chalk. We had been out there, all of us, doing all that, for more than an hour in the 90-degree, high-humidity heat, and let me tell you, people: singlehandedly supervising a 22-month-old, a four-year-old, and a five-year-old amidst water, concrete, and a nearby county highway, especially when at least two of the children are very over-tired, ISN'T EXACTLY RELAXING. Oh sure--on the surface it might sound easy enough, but remember: 22 months, four years old, five years old. We're not talking about watching a trio of seven-year-olds entertaining each other. This is still high-maintenance child-minding, here. It involves such challenges as poopy swim diapers and individuals so little they cannot yet climb into or out of the pool by themselves without falling on their faces.

I was doing OK, you understand, and had not yet slipped up and raised my voice or threatened to turn off the sprinker for the remainder of the summer, but I had definitely slipped into an exhausted state of mind I like to call Survival Mode, which involves conserving all energy by no longer verbally responding to anyone about anything. The second Christopher stepped onto the patio, I believe I said something like, "The rules are: no more water in the sand table; no jumping off or walking down the slide into the pool; no teddy bears or blankies in the sand table in fact they shouldn't even be outside but whatever; and ENOUGH ALREADY WITH DUMPING SAND IN THE POOL" rather than saying "Hello, how are you, hot day isn't it?" And then I beat it inside.

I was so tired that after dinner I fell asleep sitting up while watching the TV news, over the background noise of Christopher giving the girls their bath. I said I was going to bed--lights out, even--by 9 p.m., or I'd never make it through today (a running day, no less!). I knew it was imperative that I get a lot of sleep, and I figured if I went to bed at nine, I might get nine full hours (Genevieve's been sleeping later these days, probably from being so tired from being up all night). Ah, nine hours. That should do the trick.

And then I laid awake in bed until after 11 p.m., kept up by the heat and the light and Genevieve crying out in her new crib again. And woke up before five, from the sun coming up and the birds singing and Genevieve crying out in her crib (again).

This is why I live on coffee and Diet Coke, people. I'm not saying it's healthy.

Tuesday, July 01, 2008

Tuesday Update

People, I'm sorry, but Tuesday Do-Little Dinners is going on a hiatus of undetermined length. Five months of weekly fast, easy, nutritious, delicious, and economical dinner recipes is all I've got in me, for now anyway. Happy cooking, and more importantly, happy eating. Resist the pizza delivery guy and the fast-food drive-through! You can do it.

In other news, poor Genevieve has not yet tried to climb out of her crib, but she keeps having bad dreams at night, waking up and crying, calling out several times overnight. She did this when we first moved her into the nursery (in her beloved Pack-'N'-Play) too. She gets scared at night in new circumstances, and right now her (and everyone else's) sleep is suffering. I suspect it will pass soon, though.

And then there's Princess Camp. Julia's little neighborhood co-op nursery school is the best preschool ever, and I'm not just saying that because I'm the new president of the board. This week Julia's at a princess-themed preschool summer-school session (two mornings, only--alas), and people--can you imagine anything more blissful to a four-year-old girl than going to school in the fanciest clothes and jewelry she owns, being greeted by her teachers dressed in floor-length ball gowns, and spending the day doing things like having tea party picnics, getting her fingernails painted by "big girl princess" visitors, reading princess stories, making construction-paper crowns, and eating miniature cupcakes and teeny-tiny PB&J tea sandwiches? These teachers are geniuses. Anti-princess feminist rhetoric be damned; Julia's in heaven, and Genevieve thinks she ought to join in as an honorary baby princess. As long as they're happy, I'm A-OK with the whole princess thing. Any experienced parent of girls knows why, too: you can't do a damn thing to avoid it. They discover it magically, on their own, and become immediately enthralled. It's an inevitable phase. Roll with it.

Happy July, everyone. Summer is 1/3 over; are you getting the most out of it so far? My two little princesses and I think we are.

Take Some Stuff Off My Hands

It's a long shot, but who knows? Maybe there are some readers of this blog who live locally and know of someone who needs some used baby gear. We are selling a (brand-new! unused!) standard-sized crib mattress, a white metal toddler bed (headboard, footboard, and frame), a white plastic Safety 1st baby gate (can be used either tension-mounted or bolted to wall), and a Medela Pump In-Style double electric breast pump in the black shoulder bag. (Note to the uninformed: a used breast pump is perfectly safe and fine; it's just the motor that one passes on. The new user can buy replacement kits of the personal parts i.e. tubing, flanges, etc. for far less than the cost of a new pump.)

All have served me (us) well, they're all in good quality, and it's time for them to find a new home. Pass on this info if you can.

Thanks!