Thursday, April 30, 2009

Awesome Mom

I've been feeling a little crazed lately. There's Genevieve's continued--ahem--challenging behavior, and the work I need to do for the preschool before the end of the year (which, mysteriously, is May 20th; doesn't seem quite late enough, does it?), and the fact that apparently it is going to be chilly and rainy here until the end of time, which isn't good for anyone's mood. Also there's the husband-working-late-and-going-out-of-town stuff and the kids-are-sick stuff and the hey-wait-a-minute-I-think-I'm-sick-too stuff. Not to mention the fact that even though it's not quite May, the paperwork for registering one's children for a multitude of summer activities has been ambushing my household for the past month, and I've got to make decisions about how much we should do (answer: not much) and how much we can afford (not much) and which activities are crucial (swimming lessons, a few mornings of preschool "day camp").

So, you know, busy. Busy and tired of tantrums and not altogether on top of my daily to-do lists. Honestly, my to-do list is a mile long and my patience is running short.

But then today I managed to get on the phone and schedule Julia's five-year-old well-visit at the pediatrician, more than four weeks in advance. I also, during naptime, made an entire chicken-and-apple curry with brown rice recipe for dinner tonight, along with a fresh green salad and a jar of homemade salad dressing, so that even though I'm running tonight over the dinner hour, my family can eat a real dinner rather than the usual convenience fare I throw at them on running nights (frozen veggie burgers, leftovers, etc.) So now I feel like I should be wearing a shirt that says, "Awesome Mom" on it.

Some weeks, it doesn't take much.

Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Of Course, at This Rate in 20 Years I will Probably Have Lost my Mind

So last night after the Very Challenging Day of Vomit-Laundry and Tantrums, after I wrote about wishing it were all easier and about wondering how I'd feel in ten years when the babes are 12 and 14 instead of two and four, I was sitting in bed re-reading one of my favorite books, the mommy-blogging anthology Sleep is for the Weak. And I got to the essay by Risa Green about her New Year's resolution, "to pretend that I am twenty years older and that I have been given a chance to go back in time and relive this period of my life." About how in twenty years she'll be 55, and if the 55-year-old Risa could go back and be the 35-year-old Risa over again, she'd probably "do some things...differently."

She writes about how her son is currently two years old and he's whiny and super-clingy and he requires countless maneuverings before he'll lie down in his crib to go to sleep at night; how he cries, "Mommy, uppy! Uppy!" when she's on the phone, and it drives her insane; how she just wants to go and get some peace and eat some dinner and have an uninterrupted phone call for once. But then she thinks about the 55-year-old her, and how that older self "would probably kill for the chance to pick up her son...and have him wrap his arms around her neck and squeeze her so hard that she very nearly loses consciousness." Because, of course, when she's 55 all this will be over and gone.

And OK, she wasn't talking about, necessarily, her older self being willing to kill for the chance to listen to a two-year-old throw an ear-splitting tantrum over a request to share the pink paint, or refuse to go to sleep, or scream and yell and behave as cranky as a cat in water ten million times a day. But honestly? I sat in my bed reading that essay and cried like a baby.

You know what she's talking about. If you're a parent, you know. Just like I do.

So, now. How to keep that ingenious New Year's resolution in mind all day long, every challenging moment of every day? Risa? Any tips?

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Two and Four

So the other day I was wondering what happened to my motivated, best version of myself, the one who used to do structured kid activities and cooking lessons and art projects on a regular basis. Wasn't that me, with the homemade finger paint and the baking of the soft pretzels and the cake? I fear I've misplaced that best self. I think it got lost somewhere during the never-ending winter and the six-weeks-and-counting project to (re-) sleep-train Genevieve. How's a person supposed to maintain full reserves of kid-centered energy, patience, and ideas for fun and enriching playtime activities when she's sitting by the crib until half an hour before her own bedtime? Thrice-weekly breaks to go running aside, that's not a whole lot of down-time from the kiddos.

Lately, Genevieve's been backtracking in the sleep-training department. She throws more little fits at bedtime, and has started to whine and yell and call for me and demand that I sit by her crib again instead of out in the hall. Lately, when I leave after five or ten minutes on the hallway floor outside the cracked door, she inevitably calls for me after a few minutes and I have to go back in and see about the problem, spend more time fixing her blankets again, repeating the bedtime rules, trying to convince her a second time to go to sleep. We're backsliding. I'm starting to hold my head in my hands, dreading that perhaps my 45 nights of determined sleep-training consistency may end up for naught. I can hardly stand the thought. When she throws inexplicable tantrums in the middle of the night, like she did three nights ago from 2 to 3 a.m., and then both girls wake up in a fit of rude and cranky behavior, I find myself praying that parenting gets easier than two and four years old, that something will change for me and make each day easier somehow. As my friend Connie said this morning, "Any job that involves someone screaming in the background is by definition a really, REALLY HARD JOB."

And yet I also wish I was better at appreciating the fleeting moments these are (not the screaming, necessarily, but all the rest). Because I know just as well as any other parent that I should really cherish two and four. Soon they'll be 12 and 14 and I'll probably be wishing I could turn back time.

Or maybe not? Because who would want to return to tantrums and sleep-training?

Monday, April 27, 2009

And I Wonder Why I Can't Get a Book Proposal Written.

Way back in January, when I was recovering from the busy-ness of the holidays and facing an inexplicably jam-packed household calendar full of things like New Year's and post-New Year's parties, Julia's swimming lessons, both girls' tumbling classes, volunteer-work meetings, coffee dates, kid birthday parties, and an out-of-town trip for a family funeral, I said aloud several times, "Oh, but February will be a lot better; we've got a lot less going on in February."

And then February came and it was busier than January, what with my birthday and tumbling class and a family visit and volunteering at preschool registration and Christopher working late and us hosting a multi-family brunch at our house and playgroup meetings and the start of Genevieve's toddler class and a baby shower for dear friends up in Roseville. And I said to a friend of mine, "Wait until March. March is much less busy for us."

And you get the idea about how March was. Also April, which had both February and March beat by far.

And now I am looking at our kitchen calendar for May, and I see that in the first week alone, in addition to the normal preschool and toddler class schedule, the squares are filled with: a monthly coffee date with my mom friends; Julia's annual nursery-school field trip; dentist appointments; tumbling class; the preschool spring parent meeting, which, as president of the Board, I am helping to run; a two-day work trip to NYC for Christopher; and, on Saturday, TWO not-to-miss parties, both of which I'll be attending with the girls while Christopher is out of town. And that's just week one. I won't even tell you everything else we've got going on later in the month.

You'd think by now I'd stop uttering proclamations about how NEXT month will be less busy.

And yet....June looks pretty empty. Talk to me in a few weeks.

Saturday, April 25, 2009

Just One. ONE, People.

I know, I know; where've I been? What's with the writing about the five years and the rhubarb and then being done with it for the week?

I don't know. I've been busy. The toddler-teething and tantrums, the usual cooking and baking and cleaning, the preschool runs and playdates and Board meetings--all this is time- and energy-consuming enough; then it goes from winter (hats and mittens during a windy early-morning walk on Tuesday) to high summer (sun and 85 degrees on Thursday) in the same week, and I've got to find all the summer clothes and the hand-me-down sandals and switch out the corduroy pants and sweaters. One morning there I swear I lost an hour to a Rubbermaid storage bin of sundresses and shorts.

In between, Christopher came down with pinkeye, Julia rode her training-wheeled two-wheeler for the first time, and Genevieve caught a spring cold.

Just so you know the world is still turning, Julia and Genevieve continue to stride determinedly toward setting world records in both "Crabbiest Children Upon Awakening Each Morning" AND "Most Mornings in a Row Involving Meltdowns, Tantrums, Whining Fits, Rude Yelling, and Uncooperative Behavior." Seriously, I would give my left foot for a pleasant morning. My left foot AND my right hand. Also possibly an ear, so all future whining might be muted.

In other news, our espresso machine just died.

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Rhubarb, You Idiots.

The other day I bit the bullet and registered Genevieve for preschool. In case you haven't been following along, the question of whether to send Genevieve to preschool next year--when she only turns three at the end of the summer--has been dogging me for weeks. In the end, I started panicking that August would arrive and Genevieve would be more than ready--not to mention continuing to test every ounce of patience I have, thus causing me to yearn for any kind of respite from all-day toddlerhood--and the class would be full. Can you imagine the slapping of the forehead that would occur?

So I wrote out the nonrefundable registration-fee check and hoped for the best. Of course, as soon as I turned in her registration form, Genevieve suddenly began seeming as baby-like as possible for a 2-1/2-year-old, sucking on her fingers all the time and crying during parent-child separation at early-childhood class and firmly ensconced in things like diapers and her crib. Then there's her lingering unintelligible baby speech, which is adorable in its own way but results in situations like the one we experienced recently, when Genevieve pronounced "rhubarb" so much like "blue ball" that it took us DAYS to realize which part of an afternoon outdoor-playdate she was actually trying to talk about (discovering the first shoots poking up in the garden): RHUBARB, we said to each other with deep sighs when we finally figured it out. Not blue ball. RHUBARB! Too bad so much wailing and gnashing of teeth had to occur in the meantime, before we realized our mistake. Poor Genevieve! Can you imagine being so chronically misunderstood?

Well. We have a whole summer ahead of us, one that I hope to God is an easier one than last, with fewer tantrums and less crying (them), and also fewer urges to open a bottle of wine at, say, noon (me. not that I ever did. but I thought about it.). Wish me luck.

Monday, April 20, 2009

Five Years

My firstborn daughter's fifth birthday is six weeks away, and I've recently begun to consider some birthday party plans. This means I've had opportunity to muse on this whole notion of five years, that my first baby could actually almost be five years old. Five years! How can it be? Is that even possible? I sit here and think about how big she is, how long five years really is, and truth be told, I can hardly remember the actual details of her infant self, of how she felt on my shoulder or how she looked in her crib. You think you'll never forget these things, but you do.

A lot happens in five years! You can go from total neophyte parent, completely ignorant of all things baby, steeped in the kind of naive idiocy you can hardly fathom now--How could we have been confused by the introduction of solid food? Why did it seem so complicated? Or, Can you believe we didn't know we'd never really sleep again?--all the way to experienced mother of two, with the rhythms of baby/toddler-parenting so ingrained in your existence that when a childless friend asks you, "How does a person know she's ready to give up all her selfish needs, her freedom, and have a baby? How do you even stand that kind of sacrifice?", you actually give some surely incomprehensible response about it not being that hard, really, about how when it's your own baby you just do it and it's fine in the end. It's as if you don't even remember, or any longer experience in a visceral way, the years of sleep deprivation and fatigue-induced panic, the hours of colic-crying, the months of nursing every two hours around the clock and a baby who wouldn't take a bottle, the times you went for weeks without speaking to another adult during the day, just paced back and forth across the floor with a fussy infant, wondering what you were doing wrong and how you'd ever survive it. You look at your nearly-five-year-old daughter now and you think, Well, here we are, and look at this big kid I've got here, with her jokes and large vocabulary and ability to brush her own teeth. You don't think about how when you first brought her home from the hospital she cried every single night from 7 p.m. to 4 a.m. for the first four weeks of her life.

Except when you do. And then five years seems so, so short--just a flash, really.

The other day I was talking to a friend of mine with kids my girls' ages, and we were bemoaning the usual minor conundrums of preschooler-parenting life--what to bring for school snack, the healthy option or the cheap one--and I said to her, "Just think though: in ten years the things we'll be concerned about will be things like missed curfews and dating and keeping them from alcohol and drugs and having sex too soon, and we'll look back on the question of preschool snack as the ultimate luxury when it comes to parenting worries. We'll want to cry! Oh, if only our biggest concern was how healthy their preschool snack is!, we'll say to each other! Remember when our biggest worry was preschool snack?!"

So there you have it. Five years is really short. And also really long. And then short again. And sometimes long.

And I have a feeling that's how it's going to go for the rest of life.

Sunday, April 19, 2009

Infamy

Our family joined another family on a little half-hour trip this morning, to another town for a chilly, rainy 5K run and pancake breakfast. We drove behind them on the way there, and when we arrived at the parking lot, my fellow-mom friend relayed the following conversation she'd had with her daughter in the car on the way there, while the children whined and fussed about the drive and complained of being "bored, bored, bored" and "so tired."

Friend: Do you think Shannon and Christopher's girls are behind us in their car, whining and complaining this much?!

(pause...)

Friend's 4-year-old daughter: ....Um....Probably just Genevieve.

Thursday, April 16, 2009

Only 2-1/2 Years to Sleep-Train the Baby! (We're Not Exactly Overachievers, Are We?)

Late last November, we put Genevieve back on gastric-reflux medicine, in the hopes that a recurrence of her infant reflux was causing her mysterious five-to-ten-times-per-night wakings/cryings that had been going on every night for three full months (kill me). It took a couple of weeks to fully take effect, but it seemed to help the night-crying a lot. Just over a month ago, I began the infamous "Sleep-Train Genevieve (Again)" project, sitting by her crib at bedtime and gradually moving toward the nursery door, in the hopes that she would cease her 11-month-long bedtime-screaming-fit jag. It worked, and it also had the unexpected benefit of indirectly eliminating her multiple-times-per-night nightmares/sleep-talking/sleep-yelling/etc.

(Side note: I'm still sitting outside the cracked-open nursery door for 5-10 minutes at bedtime, biding my time in the hallway for a few minutes, after reminding Genevieve of our bedtime rules: "No crying, no screaming, no talking, no singing, no whining, no fussing, no whistling, no complaining; just yawning and going to sleep." Lest you think I'm a tyrant, please be aware that Genevieve herself added most of those warnings to the list. She also included the part about yawning being allowed, after politely checking with me first. Except for when we were out of town, this system continues to be successful.)

This is a long way of saying that my life has changed dramatically in recent weeks. Genevieve goes to bed without crying for hours at a time; then she sleeps all night long without calling or crying out in the night. That means, for the first time in, uh, YEARS, I routinely get a full night of uninterrupted sleep. I still suffer insomnia when something unusually stressful is going on, or when Christopher is snoring, or when something else wakes me up in the middle of the night and I find myself lying in bed contemplating the economy, but for the most part I'm actually getting the kind of sleep most people--excluding new parents--get. I realized today that my life is no longer defined by daily exhaustion. I no longer struggle to keep my eyes open in the late afternoon. Julia no longer thinks of me as exceedingly, mysteriously, chronically tired.

Words cannot fully express the wonder of this development. You never know what a luxury it is to be able to sleep as you wish until you become a parent and that privilege goes right out the window for 3-5 years (sometimes more).

Am I right, fellow parents?

I'm Being Outsmarted by a Preschooler


Last night at dinner, the girls were particularly dirty from an afternoon playdate at a nearby park and from dribbling salad dressing and pasta sauce down their fronts while they ate. I told Julia that it was OK, because after supper they'd get a good bath, and then they'd both be "as clean as new."

"But Mama," Julia said, "When people are brand-new babies just being born, they're not all clean. When you're new, you're messy."

Uh...you got me.

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

I Could Get Behind That Lifestyle Myself, Frankly

Tonight at dinner Christopher confessed that he'd been so busy at work today, he hadn't had time to eat lunch. The girls were amazed. Not get lunch? What? Julia said, "That's why I'm just going to stay home when I'm a grown-up. I'm not having kids and I'm not going to go to work. I'm just going to stay home so I can eat lunch."

Now that's a plan!

(I did reassure her that, in general, everyone at work still gets to eat lunch. It's not an either-or proposition.)

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

The Writing Life

My fellow-writer friend Rob just wrote a profile of me for our town's community website, Northfield.org, part of a new feature he's launching to showcase Northfield writers. (My small college town is exceedingly writerly.) The interview is here, if you're interested. Thanks, Rob!

I Laughed Out Loud at the Very First Part About Reading the Newspaper for the Last Time.

My dear friend Ruth just sent me the following "essay" via e-mail--maybe some of you have already seen it floating around the Internet. Usually I hate these kinds of things, but trust me, this one is truly hilarious. All of you fellow parents out there will laugh, I guarantee it, and those of you who aren't yet parents, well...don't worry--we all survive it. Also, as the e-mail said at the end, ultimately it's all worth it. But I sure can relate to the part about the toddler on a road trip after this past weekend. Read on:

Thinking of Having Kids? Do this 11-step program first!

Lesson 1
1. Go to the grocery store.
2. Arrange to have your salary paid directly to their head office.
3. Go home.
4. Pick up the newspaper.
5. Read it for the last time.

Lesson 2
Before you finally go ahead and have children, find a couple who already are parents and berate them about their:
1. Methods of discipline.
2. Lack of patience.
3. Appallingly low tolerance levels.
4. Allowing their children to run wild.
5. Suggest ways in which they might improve their child's breastfeeding, sleep habits, toilet training, table manners, and overall behavior. Enjoy it because it will be the last time in your life you will have all the answers.

Lesson 3
A really good way to discover how the nights might feel:
1. Get home from work and immediately begin walking around the living room from 5PM to 10PM carrying a wet bag weighing approximately 8-12 pounds, with a radio turned to static (or some other obnoxious sound). Playing loudly. (Eat cold food with one hand for dinner.)
2. At 10PM, put the bag gently down, set the alarm for midnight, and go to sleep.
3. Get up at 12 and walk around the living room again, with the bag, until 1AM.
4. Set the alarm for 3AM.
5. As you can't get back to sleep, get up at 2AM and make a drink and watch an infomercial.
6. Go to bed at 2:45AM.
7. Get up at 3AM when the alarm goes off.
8. Sing songs quietly in the dark until 4AM.
9. Get up. Make breakfast. Get ready for work and go to work (work hard and be productive)
Repeat steps 1-9 each night. Keep this up for 3-5 years. Look cheerful and put-together.

Lesson 4
Can you stand the mess children make? To find out:
1. Smear peanut butter onto the sofa and jam onto the curtains.
2. Hide a piece of raw chicken behind the stereo and leave it there all summer.
3. Stick your fingers in the flower bed.
4. Then rub them on the clean walls.
5. Take your favorite book, photo album, etc. Wreck it.
6. Spill milk on your new pillows. Cover the stains with crayons. How does that look?

Lesson 5
Dressing small children is not as easy as it seems.
1. Buy an octopus and a small bag made out of loose mesh.
2. Attempt to put the octopus into the bag so that none of the arms hang out.
Time allowed for this - all morning.

Lesson 6
Forget the BMW and buy a mini-van. And don't think that you can leave it out in the driveway spotless and shining. Family cars don't look like that.
1. Buy a chocolate ice cream cone and put it in the glove compartment. Leave it there.
2. Get a dime. Stick it in the CD player.
3. Take a family size package of chocolate cookies. Mash them into the back seat. Sprinkle cheerios all over the floor, then smash them with your foot.
4. Run a garden rake along both sides of the car.

Lesson 7
Go to the local grocery store. Take with you the closest thing you can find to a pre-school child. (A full-grown goat is an excellent choice.) If you intend to have more than one child, then definitely take more than one goat. Buy your week's groceries without letting the goats out of your sight. Pay for everything the goat eats or destroys. Until you can easily accomplish this, do not even contemplate having children.

Lesson 8
1. Hollow out a melon.
2. Make a small hole in the side.
3. Suspend it from the ceiling and swing it from side to side.
4. Now get a bowl of soggy Cheerios and attempt to spoon them into the swaying melon by pretending to be an airplane.
5. Continue until half the Cheerios are gone.
6. Tip half into your lap. The other half, just throw up in the air.
You are now ready to feed a nine- month-old baby.

Lesson 9
Learn the names of every character from Sesame Street, Barney, Disney, the Teletubbies, and Pokemon. Watch nothing else on TV but PBS, the Disney channel or Noggin for at least five years. (I know, you're thinking What's 'Noggin'?) Exactly the point.

Lesson 10
Make a recording of Fran Drescher saying 'mommy' repeatedly. (Important: no more than a four second delay between each 'mommy'; occasional crescendo to the level of a supersonic jet is required.) Play this tape in your car everywhere you go for the next four years. You are now ready to take a long trip with a toddler.

Lesson 11
Start talking to an adult of your choice. Have someone else continually tug on your skirt hem, shirt- sleeve, or elbow while playing the 'mommy' tape made from Lesson 10 above. You are now ready to have a conversation with an adult while there is a child in the room.

My Four-Year-Old: Future Early-Childhood Teacher

Matching Easter dresses, Sunday, April 12

I am very glad to be back home from our four-day weekend trip, back to my own bed and my girls' own beds and (hopefully) a return to the children's daily naps (please God) and semi-uneventful sleep-trained bedtimes (please please God). However, it is not even 8 a.m. and so far Genevieve has thrown at least four raging temper tantrums. As fiesty as she is, she's at her worst when she first wakes up. Genevieve is not a morning person. And by "not a morning person," I mean "do not talk to her, look at her, engage her in any way, glance in her direction, nor even dare to breathe or eat your own breakfast in her presence, because it will offend her." You'd think that if you disliked being up so much, you'd sleep in a little later. (I remember saying this same thing when she was a pre-talking, pre-walking baby, too. Hmmm, anyone care for a discussion on nature vs. nurture? Because I'm pretty sure nature wins this one.)

I think we can all agree that some days, the person who gets to escape the house and go off to the office, where he or she gets to interact with people who do not throw all their puzzle pieces on the floor and then hit you while screaming and crying for no reason you can ascertain, is very, very lucky.

That said, when Genevieve refused to pick up her puzzle pieces and threw her fourth tantrum of the day, Julia silently kneeled on the carpet and began to pick them up herself, then said, "We have to be very gentle with Genevieve today. She's having a very, very hard morning."

Then I parked them in front of PBS Kids for extra TV so I could drink a cup of coffee and attack the giant mountain of laundry sitting on the floor of our laundry room. Because sometimes, if you're not the adult who gets to leave for the office, you do what you have to do.

Sunday, April 12, 2009

Out-of-Town Holiday-Weekend Trip Update: Day #3

So far: three days, one nap, too many tantrums and time-outs (the two-year-old, naturally) to count. Pretty much all you need to know. Mama has a headache.

Saturday, April 11, 2009

Plea From a Tired Four-Year-Old

Julia, last night, in her bed, yawning and sighing with frustrated exhaustion, as Genevieve screamed and cried in the toddler bed three feet away:

"Mama, Genevieve should really think about other people's feelings!"

Friday, April 10, 2009

Out-of-Town Holiday-Weekend Trip Update: Day/Night #1

Today we drove 300 miles north to my flooded hometown, for our traditional Easter-weekend visit to the grandparents. We left at noon. Both girls were yawning uncontrollably. Despite a nearly six-hour drive, no one napped in the car. Much whining ensued. The questions "Where Mo'head?" and "Where Nonna and Boppa's house?" were repeated approximately 600 times. Mama nearly poked her own eye out. Julia developed either a sudden head cold or a massive allergy attack, and spent at least 200 miles sniffling and sneezing uncontrollably. At minute 49 of the road trip, she said, "Boy, I sure hope we're almost there. This is a long drive!" Children were bribed with extra snacks and nearly two hours of laptop-played downloaded episodes of "Teletubbies," "Super-Why," and "Barney." Upon our arrival at the grandparents' house, when bedtime rolled around, Genevieve was put to bed in an experimental toddler bed, where she proceeded to scream deafeningly until we took her out of the room so Julia could go to sleep. Because we are desperate, the house is very cramped, and there is nothing else to do with her if she insists on screaming in the bedroom, she is currently up, playing with toys (!) in the living room, even though it is way past her bedtime, she is totally exhausted (remember: no nap), and her older sister is asleep. Thirty nights of sleep-training undone by one road trip. 

I am seriously considering never traveling with children again. Don't take it personally, parents who travel with their children, but right now I am filled with a seething rage toward people whose CHILDREN ACTUALLY SLEEP. I kind of hate you right now. No, actually: not "kind of." Just hate. Sorry. I may feel differently in, oh, ten years or so.

Thursday, April 09, 2009

How Cool is This?

Yesterday I got a message from Seal Press about the book I'm being published in this October. The editor of the anthology was updating all of us contributors about various details of the publishing process. First and foremost was the news that the book--due out October 1st--now has its own page on Amazon, where you can see the new title and the awesome cover.

So incredibly awesome.

Wednesday, April 08, 2009

What-to-Do Wednesdays: Breadstick Snails

I got this idea out of a recent Parents magazine. It's about as easy a "cooking" project as you can get, but every stay-at-home mom (and probably every working mom too) knows that sometimes simple is all you can handle, particularly on those days when it's too cold and windy to play outside and the toddler hasn't napped and you've already played "pretend birthday party," read books, done puzzles, colored, danced, and constructed a blanket tent--and you've STILL got time to fill. Plus, my two-year-old and four-year-old LOVED doing it. They each ate one for afternoon snack, but these would also be good alongside soup for a quick lunch.

Breadstick Snails

Ingredients:

1 can refrigerated breadstick dough (i.e. Pillsbury)
Prepared pesto, marinara sauce, or garlic butter (optional)
Tiny slivers of carrot or shredded cheese

Instructions:

Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Unroll the breadstick dough into long strips on a cutting board or other large surface. Help child spread each stick with pesto, sauce, or butter (or just leave plain). Let child roll dough up into a snail shell shape, tucking end under to make a head. Secure with toothpicks.


Bake 10-15 minutes or until golden brown. Remove toothpicks and let cool.


Before serving, poke holes into each snail "head" and insert slivers of carrot or cheese to make antennae (sorry; not shown in photo above).

Cute!

Tuesday, April 07, 2009

Then She Goes and Kind of Melts Your Heart

This evening, after a long and difficult afternoon with Genevieve, I was on the floor of my walk-in bedroom closet, lacing up new running shoes before heading out on a tired five-miler. Suddenly Genevieve scampered into my bedroom and through the closet doorway, naked for her bath. She knelt down beside me and said in her adorable, still-effortful baby voice, "Yet me hode your hand." I gave her my hand and she said, haltingly and with much concentration, "Mama, I sorry for having a rude day to you." Then she gave me a huge hug and walked away.

I'm pretty sure her daddy put her up to it, but: awwww.

Oh and By the Way

So far this week I'm on day two (in a row) of Genevieve refusing to nap. Yeah, I'm pretty much ready to call up and register her for preschool in September RIGHT NOW.

Double Stroller

Even though Julia will be five in June, I still like to take our double stroller along when the girls and I go for walks. Genevieve's only two, and sometimes her tiny legs get too tired to make it all the way home. Our double is much newer than our five-year-old single stroller, which has been so run into the ground (I'm recalling many desperate newborn/postpartum hours spent pushing a difficult baby around unending cracked concrete-sidewalk blocks in south Minneapolis) that it barely steers, so I prefer to take the double no matter who is (or is not) riding. (I often find myself pushing a teddy bear while my two girls run on ahead.)

Mainly I bring the double stroller because I like to drag my girls way the hell out all over the far reaches of our subdivision in an effort to tire them out in the wind and sunshine, and even a nearly-five-year-old sometimes hits a wall and just. can't. walk. home. That's fine by me; it's great exercise to push some 70 pounds of children and however-many pounds of stroller up the far hill by the east-edge farm field and back to our house, and bringing the stroller along allows me to extend our walks as far and long as I want (within reason). Today Julia walked an entire mile, and let me tell you, a mile is a long way when you're only four.

Yesterday on our afternoon walk, the girls and I encountered an elderly man working in his yard, about three blocks from our house. We said hello and chatted a bit. He was sweet toward my girls, a grandfatherly type. As the girls skipped on and I followed pushing the empty stroller, the man chuckled, nodded at the stroller, and said, "Now you need another one, to ride in there!" For just a split second, my heart considered this idea and seized just a little, but only because he was a sweet grandpa who probably raised four or five kids in his day and knows a thing or two about babies--how they claim you forever, you're eternally beholden to them, how even as they grow before your eyes you remember when they were cozy bundles riding in the stroller because they were too small to walk, not because their preschooler legs are too tired from clambering over rocks and running up hills.

Then I realized it's still probably not a good idea to take advice about one's reproductive plans from an elderly stranger you meet on the street.

Sunday, April 05, 2009

Domestic Sunday

From 6:30 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. today: fed cat; changed sheets on all beds; did all laundry; ironed blouse; wrote a blog post for my new writing job; shook out rugs; cleaned catbox; emptied dishwasher; loaded dishwasher; prepared breakfast, snack, and lunch; printed and filed preschool Board documents (volunteer work); wrapped gifts for loved ones with birthdays this month; wrote packing list for family trip to grandparents' for Easter next weekend; washed girls' hairbrushes; readied all outdoor gear for girls' playtime in backyard snow (ARGH!); made homemade hot chocolate for girls upon coming in from playtime in backyard snow (ten minutes later) (ARGH!); completed tedious, difficult exercise DVD. (Notice that "bathed and/or groomed myself" is not on the list.)

Plan for rest of the day: as little as possible. Possibly involving homemade popcorn and the watching of movies.

Yay for my cozy domestic life.

Friday, April 03, 2009

Friday of Spring Break

This morning a friend and I took our girls (two four-year-olds and two two-year-olds) to the city an hour away to see the Clifford (the Big Red Dog) exhibit at the Minnesota Children's Museum. It was a big event, an all-morning field trip, a huge adventure. (By the way: so, so happy I'm a stay-at-home mom on days like this. So thrilled I get to do fun things like this with my babes on a random weekday, just for fun and excitement. Grateful for my life.)

The girls all had a blast. On the way home in the car, when they were all full from their sack lunches and exhausted and frustrated from not being home in their beds where they could stretch out and nap, Julia said, "Mama, the sleep in my body is almost all the way up to my eyes."

Don't you love it?

Thursday, April 02, 2009

I Have NO IDEA.

Tonight at dinner, apropos of nothing--

Julia: When I win a contest, I'm going to stick a fork in a chickpea and LICK IT.
Me: .....
Julia: Ha, ha, just kidding. Ha!
Me: What? What kind of a contest is THAT?
Julia: A chickpea-licking contest of course! HA! Just kidding.

Of course.

Wednesday, April 01, 2009

Make Yourself a Priority

Happy April, everyone! Here in Wonderland, there's snow on the ground this morning, which is the ultimate April Fool's joke, if you ask me.

Given the weather, I'm working hard to focus on happier news today. Awhile back I was hired to write a newsletter questions-and-advice column and a women's wellness blog for the new women's website PriorityMe.com, which launched this morning! Go check it out! The site is all about women putting themselves back on their own list of priorities, amidst the mothering and working and cooking and cleaning and caretaking of all kinds. Who couldn't use a few reminders about that?

My first column is here, but you'll have to wait a couple of weeks for my blog, which is slated to go up around mid-April. Please bookmark the site and check back often! It's sure to be interesting and fun, and it's already jam-packed with great content from a wide variety of talented writers, bloggers, photographers, and others--all busy women with lots to say.