Friday, January 30, 2009

Clearly the Cutest Baby EVER.

I haven't been writing much about my daughters lately. I've been too distracted by the stresses of family illness and death, an out-of-town trip for a funeral, recent job leads and job interviews and writing submissions and bills and volunteer work that still gives me insomnia. So I've been neglecting the mothering part of this mama-blog; I've had no capacity for recalling cute anecdotes and ironic parenting moments. Thankfully, my husband is on task.

Check out this video Christopher took the other night of Genevieve reading "Brown Bear, Brown Bear, What Do You See?" at bedtime. If you don't think it is the cutest thing you have ever seen, you are CRAZY. (How adorable is "what do DO dee?" for "what do you see?")

Remembrance of Things Past

The day before I left for my great-aunt's funeral, I was packing and deciding what to wear to the service--a brown and ivory print jersey wrap dress, sheer hose, and heels--and it occurred to me that a gold necklace, not silver, would go best with my outfit. Only I didn't think I owned any gold necklaces. In fact, I was sure of it: I didn't have any. But something compelled me to open my old jewelry box anyway. I didn't even know why I was looking. But I did.

There, nestled into one of the velveteen compartments, was a gold oval-shaped locket with my initials engraved on the back, that my great-aunt (and great-uncle) had given to me for my confirmation, when I was 15 years old. I swear to you, I had not thought of this locket in probably 15 or 20 years. I'm not even sure I ever wore it; at 15, I had no appropriate photo to place inside, and wasn't interested in delicate jewelry. But there it was. And in an instant I knew I could cut out the tiny faces of my daughters from an extra holiday card I had saved and hung on our refrigerator door, to fit perfectly inside the twin inner photo nooks of the locket. While my girls napped, I did this, and the photographs did fit perfectly; they were just tiny enough--two miniature faces for two tiny spaces.

I still can't quite believe the whole thing.

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Bathing Beauty Breaks My Heart

Genevieve doesn't want me to leave tomorrow. Can you imagine this sweet little face whimpering, "Mama, stay home! Mama, don't go."? Oh my. Being a grown-up is hard.

Monday, January 26, 2009

Sad.

My great-aunt finally passed away late last night. I'll be leaving town later this week for her funeral, leaving the girls home with Christopher. I wish we could all go, but it's too much driving in too short a time for the girls, and they're too little for a funeral service anyway. Today I am thinking of my great-aunt's long and wonderful life, and missing her.

And then there's Julia's first swimming class yesterday afternoon, which was so awful I can't even talk about it. (Not that the class itself or the teachers were awful; it was awful watching my tiny daughter become more and more paralyzed by fear, white as a sheet, and chin-quivery as she struggled not to cry from across the pool from where I sat with a perfect view of her suffering little face. It was worse than the first month of preschool at age three. It was worse than her past medical tests and surgery. I am miserable just thinking about it!)

I need some sort of (legal) mood-altering self-prescription!

Sunday, January 25, 2009

Weekend Update

Genevieve's had four straight "cry-cry"-free bedtimes. So far, she has scored herself two miniature Strawberry Shortcake books, a lift-the-flap book about the world, and a fancy pencil. She is extremely proud of herself. She is also much nicer to be around in general. She does things like speak in adorable five-word sentences and allow her hair to be put into pigtails "yike Abby Cadabby." She repeatedly allows me to kiss and hug her, and says to me, "Mama, you a buddy." When I say, "You're a buddy too, Vivi", she then says, "You a buddy TOO!"

*****

Julia got to skip her nap yesterday to attend a birthday party at the gymnastics club where the girls take their toddler tumbling class. She had a fantastic time, but once she got home, she basically spent the rest of the day crying, and asked to go to bed at 6 p.m. THIS is why my four-year-old still naps.

*****

My great-aunt Audrey is still hanging on to this life, as unbelievable as it seems. She has not had food for over a week and a half. She is under hospice care at her home. Her children--my mom's cousins--and my mom have been holding a death vigil all this time, lives and families on hold, and yet each day I hear nothing. Or, rather, there is nothing to hear. And while you might think that one would just put it out of one's mind and go on living a normal life during this kind of protracted death watch, that's not what's happening with me. Every time the phone rings, I expect it to be news. I lie awake at night thinking about death. I worry about my upcoming week, and wonder if I'll have to--if I'll be able to--go out of town, leave Christopher and the girls with no car, no way to get to preschool and tumbling class. I wonder about icy roads and driving after dark, how fast I can make the 14-hour round trip. I wonder if my parents are still coming to visit next weekend as planned long ago, or if those plans will be postponed. I've got a million things scheduled between now and the end of February--preschool Board duties, children's classes, baby showers and brunches and parties and, oh yeah, my birthday--and I just don't know which of it will actually happen, which will be interrupted or cancelled or missed altogether, and it's stressful to not be able to envision my life in the next few days or weeks, and it's sad to imagine my great-aunt suffering in any way as the days tick by.

*****

Lastly, Julia, who is afraid of the water, begins community-ed preschool-age group swimming lessons this week. Even though it's just half an hour each time, once a week for only five or six weeks, she's dismayed. When I told her about the class, she cried, "Oh, NO, Mama! Not again! I already DID swimming lessons!" Yes, seven months ago. For one week. During which she never did put her face in the water. Poor little water-phobe.

Friday, January 23, 2009

I'm Fighting a Losing Battle with January.

Is anyone else besides me wondering if they should even bother washing their front-door area rugs again before spring? What I've learned this month: do not buy a beige area rug for the entry-way floor. It will constantly be covered in muddy snow-slush-dirt tracks from everyone's boots, and when you wash it, it will remain clean for about five minutes, until the next person comes in the door from outside. Brilliant.

Thursday, January 22, 2009

Grand Prize


Genevieve has been crying at bedtime each night--generally the word "screaming" is more accurate--for about nine months now. Her overnight wakings/crying spells, the ones that occurred anywhere from five to ten times per night every single night from September to December--have improved now that she's back on her reflux medicine, but for the most part she's continued to rage about bedtime pretty much every night. Sure, there's been the occasional easy bedtime. And sometimes the screaming lasts for, say, 20 minutes rather than 30, or 45, or an hour. But generally bedtime around here has been One Big Nightmare for almost a year. We've tried early bedtimes, later bedtimes, quicker bedtime routines, longer bedtime routines, bedtime with Julia, bedtime alone, blah blah blah. But we'd never tried PRIZES.

Yesterday while Julia was at nursery school, Genevieve and I went to Target and bought a handful of rewards from the dollar section--stickers, pencils, little Strawberry Shortcake books. Then all day we talked about it: Genevieve would get a prize in the morning if she went to bed with "no cry-cries."(In our house, "cry-cry" seems to indicate more than just the usual baby-crying, but rather an incessant, terrible, shrieking tantrum. Genevieve is master of the bedtime cry-cry.)

Last night Genevieve went to sleep before 8 p.m. without one tear or scream. She slept straight through until 8 a.m., and scored a "Strawberry Shortcake Pony Friends" miniature board book at breakfast.

I'm an experienced parent now, and I know my stubborn second child well, so I'm skeptical that this may be merely a temporary "no cry-cry" honeymoon period. But a girl can hope. And stock up on dollar-store treats.

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Inauguration Day, Part Two

The girls and I just celebrated Inauguration Day with a festive hot-dog-and-cocoa lunch after watching the Inauguration Ceremony. Genevieve took a break halfway through the coverage to go and draw a Crayola-marker picture of "Barack Obama on TV." She also gestured at the television at one point and proclaimed, "Barack Obama, you a BUDDY!" Which is just about the highest praise imaginable from Genevieve.

Inauguration Day

Surely it's a good day to re-post the following photograph:


Happy Inauguration Day, everyone! Aren't you proud today? I am.

Sunday, January 18, 2009

Waiting

The past week has been a stressful one for me. I have a dear great-aunt in northern Minnesota with pancreatic cancer who is moving slowly but inevitably toward death, and the maternal side of my family has been keeping the death watch, putting wet cloths to her lips and holding her hands. She was akin to another grandma to me during my childhood, and a second mom to my mother. She is one of the most special people I have ever known. She can no longer swallow food and has not eaten since Wednesday, is under hospice care at her home, and those of us far away are merely waiting for the call. Thankfully, over Christmas I was able to drive the extra hour north to see her with my mom, to say my goodbyes, but the question of traveling to her funeral remains: how, when, who? I'm just waiting for the call.

I was also sick all last week, taking cold medication and having vivid, emotional dreams at night, barely getting by during the day, calling Christopher home from work to take over at times. Amidst all this, I also underwent two phone interviews for a part-time freelance writing job that, if it pans out, could be a great opportunity for me but will also require a major change in my current lifestyle and schedule. Hours once spent running, or cooking and cleaning, or eating ice scream in front of What Not to Wear, would be spent writing fast and furiously, and I'm not sure I'm up to it. I'm not sure I'm ready to suddenly become a work-at-home-mom. Can I do it? I'm not sure. At the same time, though, I realize that sometimes a person needs to take a leap of faith even when she doesn't know exactly how something new will feel, or how it will go, or if it will even work out, or be worth it. So I'm trying to keep an open mind, and just wait to see what the universe has in store for me. Which is all any of us can really do, right?

Thursday, January 15, 2009

Argh! Sick!

I'm crazy sick, everyone, so I don't think I'll be doing much writing for the rest of this week. My idea of hell is definitely being home full-time with two children under five with no help when you're so sick that you've lost your voice, your throat is on fire, you're wracked with repeated coughing fits, your ears and head ache, and your nose won't stop running. I mean, seriously--it's a nightmare to not be able to retire to one's bed when one is this sick. Talk about a luxury one does not appreciate when one is childless: the ability to have a real sick day when you are sick, rather than miserably staggering around changing diapers and preparing meals for other people. My only consolation is that it could be worse: the last time I felt this terrible, Christopher actually went on a business trip, leaving me with a ten-day fever and two toddlers to care for. At least this time he's in town, if at work.

Stay well, everyone--and stay warm. It's -30 degrees here, so staying warm is a bit of a losing battle, but we're all trying. The girls and I have discovered that hanging around in Disney Princess and Dora the Explorer sleeping bags seems to help.

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

Butter and Sugar Cure Colds, Right?

Julia and I caught a cold over the weekend, and while I didn't feel too bad for the first couple of days, now all of a sudden I feel like I've been run over by a truck. Unluckily for me, my three-hour volunteer board meeting that was cancelled yesterday due to our snowstorm ended up rescheduled for tonight. You know, right when I feel like I've been run over by a truck. Great.

However! Not even a terrible cold will keep me from posting recipes for my dear readers. Remember that Gypsy Soup, Herb Oat Bread, and Butterscotch Shortbread I made last Saturday and Sunday? Well here's another reason to love the Internet: while each of them came from my trusty collection of well-loved cookbooks (Moosewood, Quick Vegetarian Pleasures, and the Betty Crocker Cookie Book, respectively), I was able, in just a few short moments, to find each of them online. Here are the links for you.

Click here for Gypsy Soup. (Note: I used green peas instead of green peppers, and canned tomatoes instead of fresh, since, well, it's January.)

Click here for Herb Oat Bread. (Note: I used buttermilk instead of plain yogurt; they are interchangeable.)

Click here for Butterscotch Shortbread. (Note: The comment about being careful about the baking time is accurate; I under-baked my second batch, and the first round--a bit darker, and with a VERY slight burnt-caramelly-sugar taste--was much more scrumptious. But don't worry--you can't really go too wrong here. Another note: I rolled my shortbread dough into a big sheet and cut it with a sharp knife into small rectangles, rather than using cookie cutters to do shapes.)

Monday, January 12, 2009

Is Never Good for You?

The high tomorrow is supposed to be one below zero. The HIGH.

Today we got about six inches of snow, and I was forced to cancel the volunteer board meeting I had scheduled for tonight. Sadly, this gives me no remaining excuse to skip my normal Monday evening workout, but it does give me the unpleasant task of having to find an ALTERNATE meeting date that works with eight different people's schedules. GAH! I'm going crazy. This all reminds me of an old New Yorker cartoon that Christopher and I had taped above our phone for a very long time back in graduate school: a businessman standing at his desk contemplating his calendar, with the phone to his ear, saying, "How about never? Is never good for you?" We found this cartoon absolutely hilarious, and honestly, I still do. It's exactly how I feel about most scheduling commitments. I wish I still had that cartoon.

Of course part of why I'm going crazy may be that Julia has yet another terrible cold and was home from preschool again today (for the fourth day so far this year, and after only one week back at school and healthy after her holiday vacation/cold virus). Also, Christopher ended up working an hour late tonight. And I cleaned up two potty accidents this afternoon. Two! Did I mention that I caught this cold, also? Ah, fun times, people. Sure, it's an amazing blue-and-white winter wonderland outside, but I'm stranded indoors behind a giant snowdrift cleaning pee off the floor.

Oh, and for those of you interested in the recipes for the yummy things I cooked and baked over the weekend, stay tuned. I'll get that info posted for you soon. Right now I'm too busy eating shortbread and, um....cleaning pee off the floor (not at the same time).

Sunday, January 11, 2009

Fruits of the Weekend

First-time preschooler-ice skating:


And too-little-to-go-ice-skating:


Homemade Gypsy Soup:


And buttermilk herb oat bread:


Plus butterscotch shortbread:




YUM.

Good weekend.

Friday, January 09, 2009

I Wouldn't Do This for Just Anyone

I swear to you, people, my dear friend V. from Texas called me yesterday and made a special request that I post details about my housekeeping routine. And since she is one of my best friends in the entire world, and treated me to many a restaurant meal, movie, and expensive spa treatment when I went to visit her last autumn (seriously: most generous friend EVER), I am in no position to refuse. I told her no one wants to read about the way I clean my house, that it's just not that special--I'M just not that special--and yet she still insisted that I must, I SIMPLY MUST TELL ALL, because she is in need of a routine, and wanted it all spelled out. OK then.

So you remember how I wrote awhile back about the fact that I clean by a weekly schedule. But just so you know, I didn't clean like this before I became a stay-at-home mom. I didn't clean this much or this often when I was pregnant, or when I worked part-time at night in addition to being home full-time with a baby during the days, or when I had newborns, or when I had two toddlers in the house, or when both my girls were in diapers. I didn't clean this much before my cat grew old and messy and began tracking cat litter all over the house and shedding hair all over the couch. I didn't clean this much before my home became my every-day, all-day workplace. This has been an ongoing process, coming to this weekly system. It works for me now, but it's not realistic in all circumstances.

Oh, one important thing: this is quick cleaning. I have no idea how long these chores really take me, because I've never paid attention, but honestly---it's not like I spend all day dusting my house. I do them thoroughly, yes, because it's a lot easier to keep things up than to let them slide and then have to clean an inch-thick swath of grime from the floor behind the toilet months down the road. But I can be thorough and fast; I have to, I have kids hanging off me most of the time! One reason I can clean quite quickly is that I keep the house fairly uncluttered; that makes it easier to speedily wipe down a kitchen counter or dust a dresser.

Blah, blah, blah. So here's what I do. [Recall from my original post: this list does not include things I do every day like cook, do laundry, and clean the catbox. And there are some things that don't appear on this list because they almost never get done, like wet-mopping (not often necessary and not recommended for our flooring), washing windows (we hire that out once a year; in between our windows are a wreck), and dusting the blinds and ceiling fans (no one does that. ever).]

Monday: Clean the kitchen. (Scrub the sink; wipe down counters, appliances, and cabinets with soapy Lysol water.) Shake out the rugs. Sweep and Swiff all hard floors.

Tuesday: Dust all rooms. (I break this up into: dust main level; dust upstairs.)

Wednesday: Scrub toilets. (I separate this from the major bathroom cleaning because it's just so distasteful it gets its own day.) Clean the half-bath.

Thursday: Clean the other two bathrooms. (The usual: scrub sinks, vanities, tubs, and showers. Shine mirrors. Wipe down the baseboards, the bases of the toilets, and the floor around and behind the toilets.)

Friday: Water the plants. Empty the trashes. Put out fresh towels everywhere. *Vacuum all carpet. (I break this task up into: vacuum main level; vacuum the upholstered furniture; vacuum the stairs; vacuum the upstairs.)

Saturday morning: Change the sheets. (I don't do this every week.)

Did I miss anything? I don't think so. All written out like that, it looks like a lot, but it's really not bad. And I don't like cleaning any more than you do, so you can believe me on this one. Also, right now, it's my job--in addition to that bigger, more important job of raising two daughters. If I could afford to hire it all out, I would, but overall I take pride in keeping my house clean and staying organized. Oh, and also? I'm 100% certain that a whole bunch of people do this just as much and as well as I do, and another whole bunch do this more and better than I do. So really, it's not all that special. It's just keeping house. Lots of moms (and dads) do it, and some even do it with more than two kids hanging off them.

You're welcome, V.! And good luck.

*A word about vacuuming. Three years ago we got a higher-end bagless vacuum cleaner--not a Dyson, but a moderately expensive model that shows you, via red and green lights, when the carpet you're working on is clean or if it's still dirty, and with a see-through canister you empty when it's full of dirt. Let me tell you, people, once you get one like this, there is NO GOING BACK to vacuuming on less than a weekly basis. That canister is CHOCK-FULL of dirt, dust, kitty litter, and hair EVERY SINGLE TIME I VACUUM. And sometimes I have to empty it between doing the first and second floors. It is appallingly disgusting, and it makes one think twice about letting the vacuuming go for more than week at a time. Especially when you have small children in the house and you spend a lot of time on the floor.

Thursday, January 08, 2009

That Sounds a Lot Like How Things are RIGHT NOW.

This morning, during breakfast:

Julia: When I'm big, I'm not going to have children, so THEN I'LL BE ALL ALONE EATING MY BREAKFAST!
Me: Well that's why some people decide to have children.
Julia: But I'm not going to. So I'll be lonely! Oh, wait. Genevieve will be with me.
Me: Yes, Genevieve can still be your friend even when you're grown-ups.
Julia: She's my sister!
Me: She can be your sister AND your friend.
Julia: Yeah! We can live in the same house. Together.
Me: Sure. You can do that if you want. And maybe the two of you can live in a house together near Daddy and me, so we can see you whenever we want.
Julia: Yeah! We can come to your house every morning and you can make us waffles!

Wednesday, January 07, 2009

This "Resting" Business is Really Tiring.

Several days ago I decided that a major source of my stress and anxiety is never getting enough sleep. Every morning I wake up--actually some nights I feel like I never went to sleep--with a nervous thrumming in my torso and a sort of dread about having to get up and face the day when I'm still so tired. Genevieve's nighttime sleep has improved since she went back on her acid-reflux medication, but she still has her bad nights. Also, my husband snores.

So anyway, I decided that I would experiment with forcing myself to lie down and rest during the girls' naptime, despite the fact that normally during that time I cook, clean, do laundry, return phone calls and e-mails, conduct computer tasks for my volunteer job, and write. There just aren't enough hours in the day to take one or two off in the afternoon, you know? But I vowed, even so, to try to take a breather during naptime--maybe even nap! If I can't sleep at night, maybe I can sleep during the day. Right?

Well this little plan HAS BEEN SHOT ALL TO HELL. So far this week, instead of resting, I have a.) listened to Genevieve scream for an hour at a time about not wanting to nap; b.) listened to Julia sing in her bed when she's supposed to be napping; c.) submitted an essay to a proposed anthology; d.) submitted an essay to a magazine; e.) created a writing resume for potential freelance writing jobs; f.) joined an online freelance writing job-lead service recommended by my sister, which involved creating a professional writing profile and a portfolio of sample work and posting them all online; g.) applied for two part-time online freelance writing jobs; and h.) brainstormed (unsuccessfully) ways to survive the failing economy.

I AM EXHAUSTED.

Monday, January 05, 2009

Having Hysterical Meltdowns in Advance; Not Helpful in Any Way

Argh!---I just cried my way through this essay from the New York Times parenting blog! If I'm generally an emotional, insomniac stress-case NOW, what am I going to be like when I send my first baby off to kindergarten next September?! And then, Good Lord, when I send my last baby off to kindergarten?!

There are not enough prescription medicines in the world.

Sunday, January 04, 2009

The Holidays Aren't Over Yet

It's hard to believe that tomorrow means back to preschool, Tuesday means back to toddler tumbling class, and in general the weeks now revert back to our normal routine. Julia had a solid two weeks off from school for Christmas, and even though she's not in "real" school yet, just three-mornings-a-week nursery school, it really did feel like a long, lovely break, and I'm in no way itching for school to start back up again. We all had a great time over "vacation," both as a family of four during our trip to see family (except for the drive, of course) and over New Year's Eve/Day, and just me and the girls the rest of the time: hanging out, baking, sledding, singing Christmas carols, playing with new toys, watercolor-painting, staying in our pj's later than usual, going to various holiday events and gatherings. Last night we went to a little family-friendly cocktail party and we admired the tabletop creche and the tall short-needled Christmas tree, and decided to keep up our Christmas decorations for one more week. Because even though nursery school begins again tomorrow, we're not quite ready to say goodbye to the holidays in our house. What about yours?