Monday, November 30, 2009

Separation Anxiety (Or: Yet Another Reason for Mama to Feel Guilty)

September, preschool orientation

Genevieve is going through some major separation anxiety. Last night she begged me not to go running while Daddy put her to bed. The other weekend Christopher had to stay with her at a close friend's birthday party (I was doing the Thanksgiving grocery shopping), even though it was a drop-off party and Julia was there too and she's known this family her whole life and sees them multiple times per week. But mostly, Genevieve cries about going to preschool.

Yes, even though for the entire months of September and October--to my great joy and relief--Genevieve ran happily into her nursery school classroom with a grin and a backward wave, now for some mysterious reason she has decided she does not like being there. Or, rather, about four weeks ago she decided this, and she has been crying about it ever since. There is no discernible explanation. No one is being mean to her. Her teachers are skilled and sweet. She has good buddies in her class. Nothing has changed at home or in her routine. When asked--prompted, probed, begged for a reason--she says things like, "I miss you, Mama," or "It's too long," or "I just want to be with you." I have talked with her teacher, at parent-teacher conferences earlier this fall, and we have yet to figure it out or solve it.

You have no idea how awful this feels. Or maybe you do, if you're a mom who's gone through it. I know Genevieve stops crying once I leave (the teachers tell me), but I think she's probably pretty sad most of the time she's there, even if the tears abate. I feel heartless leaving her at school when each morning she says, "I don't want to go to weschool." It's horrifying to hug her goodbye and watch her toddler face crumple--again! Every time! And, worst of all, I wouldn't have had to send her this year at all. She's a super-young three; I debated and debated whether to do nursery school this fall or wait a year. She could have easily spent another year home with me full-time. But part of me also knew how well she knew this school from bringing Julia there the past two years, and how she told me all summer she wanted to go, and how her best friends would be there, and how Genevieve is a really hard child to parent (though her teachers can't believe it, since she's utterly silent and compliant at school) and it would likely be good for my sanity to get a short break from her each week given the fact that I don't have any alternative resources for getting a break from her the other 163 hours of the week. I was THRILLED when the first two months of school went so great. It was unbelievable! There wasn't even a second of hesitation on her part, not a moment of fear or sadness from day one. She was ready and happy to go. Until about a month ago.

And here's the thing: there's nothing I can do to change things. I can't withdraw her; I am contractually obligated to pay tuition through the year, because my tuition pays the teachers' salaries. We are committed through May. I don't have the option of taking her out. Also, I have a really hard time believing that a few hours a week of away-from-Mama socialization and care isn't a good thing for a baby who's never been left anywhere. I mean, she's with me the other trillion hours out of the week; it's only five hours she's at this small, play-based nursery school. Think of all the children who are in daycare eight or nine hours per day from infancy on, or even how many children have babysitters at their homes for a few hours per week so Mom and Dad can have date night or Mom can run errands or do some part-time work. Three years old doesn't seem all that unreasonable an age to spend a few hours a week away from a parent.

Last night I had a terrible nightmare about Genevieve. She was kidnapped, and terrible things happened to her before she was returned to us. It was definitely the worst dream I have ever had in my life; far worse than anything I might have dreamed about my own safety before I became a mom. I know it's because my brain is preoccupied with concerns about her well-being, her fear of being apart from me even for a short time--even for a 40-minute run!

But the year has to go on; even if she cries every single day and it never stops, preschool continues, the rest of this year and then next year when she's four. I could take her out of preschool this year, but I'd owe $100 a month until May, for care she would no longer be getting. Who can afford that?

I made the decision to send her to school with the best information and knowledge I had at the time, and it was good information in the beginning. I had no way to know that by November Genevieve would be in tears about school; you should have seen her pride and excitement every day back then, when she'd bound into school! You would never have guessed she'd start to cry about it later.

As if I need anything more keeping me awake at night.

Friday, November 27, 2009

Blessings

Conversation at Thanksgiving dinner:

Me: You know, the most important thing about this day is thinking about the things you're most thankful for in life. I'm thankful for all of you, and that we're healthy, and that Daddy has a job that takes care of us and buys our home and clothes and food. What are you most thankful for?

Julia: My birthday.

Me: .....OK, that's nice. Can you think of anything else you might be thankful for?

Julia: Myself.

Me, in my head: What about THE MOTHER WHO WENT THROUGH 60 HOURS OF BACK LABOR TO GIVE BIRTH TO YOU, AND TOLERATES YOUR INSANE SOCK-CHANGING ROUTINES EACH AND EVERY DAY?! Good Lord in heaven, can we get any thankfulness for THAT?!

Ahem. I'm thankful my mysterious tailbone pain went away. Also that Julia's stomach bug only lasted a day and a half, and that though I was convinced I was catching it earlier today, I seem to be fine after all.

I'm also thankful that even slight hints of having caught your child's stomach bug give you free rein to skip any previously planned workouts for this evening and instead lie on the sofa watching cable TV while sipping ginger tea and eating pumpkin cheesecake pie. Because pie is restorative, right?

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Favors, Blessings, and Pains in the...

So, Julia has a minor stomach bug. Other than a mild cold, she has not really been sick all autumn, and, sadly, this little virus chose to strike the very day we were set to host a kindergarten-friend playdate, for the very first time. Yes, I overcame my natural impulses toward social laziness and introversion, called up a mom I don't know, and invited her and her daughter over to our house to play, all because Julia talks about this little girl all the time and I kind of figured maybe I should do something about the fact that Julia has no friends from school.

Of course, that playdate has been rescheduled, and Julia is heartbroken. However, copious amounts of PBS Kids, plus Cinderella on videotape, is helping her get over her disappointment. Also the fact that a local friend, reading my complaints on Facebook, just dropped off an entire grocery bag full of games, books, finger puppets, and puzzles that her son has outgrown, for my homebound daughters' entertainment--and my sanity--today. Can you imagine? This is not even a close friend, but rather a fellow local mom, a kind acquaintance, someone who takes that adage "It takes a village...." seriously. This Thanksgiving week, I'm thankful for her and this extraordinarily kind gesture.

Overall, it's fair to say I'm very thankful for the blessings in my life. And, to be honest, I'm extremely thankful to not be going on a 300-mile road trip for Thanksgiving this year, the experience of which I find torturous given the fact that my children neither sleep in the car nor sleep well at other people's houses nor refrain from whining about being in the car from miles 3 to 300 on such road trips. GAH, ARGH, UGH, torture.

So, I'm thankful. I am. But, I volunteered at Genevieve's preschool yesterday morning and I am currently beset with frustration and weariness over her current separation anxiety and the way she cries every morning about going to nursery school. She does not like it there anymore, which is really making things difficult. I'm also weary of how she cries at the idea of going anywhere without me or Christopher (especially me), how she can't be dropped off for playdates or birthday parties anywhere even if Julia is with her, even if she's with my closest friend who has known her since the day she was born, and how the only place she wants to be is by my side or on my hip. It's not that I'm tired of her presence, but rather that I worry about how she's making her own life difficult with her sadness and anxiety. And how that makes things hard for me, too, because of course I worry about her and don't like to leave her at school if she feels sad and lonely there.

In TOTALLY unrelated, and possibly too-much-information news, I have been stricken with utterly mysterious tailbone pain. No, I have not fallen on my tailbone recently. I either have cancer of the tailbone, or I am an old decrepit lady who now develops random debilitating aches and pains without discernible cause, simply to make my life all the more interesting. Go, me. (Note: I really don't need my life to be more interesting.) Anyone with any insight into myterious sudden tailbone pain is free to enlighten me.

Happy Thanksgiving, everyone! Also, wishing a pain-free tailbone to you all.

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

So How Did it Go?

Well, people, you will be happy to hear that yesterday, with its extra toddler peopling my household due to a working-mom friend's unexpected daycare snafu, went JUST FINE. I'm sure many of you are not surprised. There are some of you out there who actually have three--or more!--children in YOUR OWN FAMILIES, and you carry on as usual every single day with, presumably, minimal nervous breakdowns or stress-induced headaches. However, you are not me.

Before our little friend came over yesterday, Genevieve and I put Julia on the kindergarten bus, watched "Curious George" on PBS Kids, and then went out on a long (2 miles) stroller walk to clear our heads and ready ourselves for a long day shut inside with multiple small children (it was a wet day, unclear as to whether we'd make it outdoors to play). Just to be safe, we armed ourselves with stroller trays full of morning snacks consisting of granola and a sippy cup of water (Genevieve) and holiday-themed M&Ms (me), the better to lift our moods. It worked.

By mid-a.m., our toddler buddy arrived, and the rest of the day was a blur of toys, books, and peanut-butter sandwiches. Miraculously, the older two children actually NAPPED (in separate rooms; I set Julia up in the middle of our king-sized bed in the master suite, and put our guest to sleep in a sleeping bag on the floor of the guest room, accustomed as he is to such camp-out napping conditions at his usual daycare). Of course, Vivi stayed awake and held court over numerous stuffed animals in the nursery, reading books and singing songs at the top of her lungs, but that is to be expected. Someone has to stay up and hone her comedy skills.

As for activities, we did Play-Doh, played backyard toddler soccer and our favorite new made-up outdoor game known, uncreatively, as "Challenges" ("Challenge number one: run up and down the hill two times, jump over the red plastic bat, kick a soccer ball, and go down the slide. OK, go!"), and made handprint turkeys with paint and paper plates. All was well. Sure, by 5:30 p.m. I was ready for someone to give me a bath and put me to bed, but it wasn't nearly as tiring as I'd expected it to be.

Although I'm still not interested in having a third child.

Also, I skipped my workout yesterday.

(P.S. Today I'm volunteering at the nursery school, helping make soup with twenty toddlers. Would it be safe to say I'm generating some major good karma for myself this week, people? I think it would.)

Monday, November 23, 2009

Stay-at-Home Mom to the Rescue


I was recently overtaken by some sort of alternate personality that might be labeled something like, "Reasonable, Nice Person Who Does Favors For Others," causing me to say yes when a working-mom friend of mine with a sudden daycare crisis asked me if I could watch her four-year-old son (a friend of my daughters') for the day today. I KNOW. Me! I can barely manage my own two! And here I am taking on an extra toddler for the majority of the day. Which also guarantees that there will be no "nap/quiet time" break today. (He won't nap here, and if he's not napping, my girls definitely won't agree to sequester themselves in their beds while their buddy is up playing with toys.)

I'm a little (lot) scared.

I'll get back to you later, when I'm back to two children and my normal every-mama-for-herself state of being.

On the other hand, this must be good karma. Right?

Thursday, November 19, 2009

Buzzkill.

Julia: Genevieve, when you grow up are you going to be a teacher? I am.

Genevieve:
I going to be SUPERGIRL!!!!

Julia:
What?!

Genevieve:
I going to be SUPERGIRL!!!!

Julia
(sighing): Genevieve, a person can't be a superhero!

Genevieve:
Dat what I going to be!

Julia:
Well. When you get older you just might change your mind about that.

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

What Would YOU Do With All Your Extra Time?


Now that my book trip to Chicago is over, it's time to get serious about a couple of important endeavors. No, no, no, I don't mean cutting off my questionable long hair and losing five pounds. I don't mean resolving my insomnia by developing a Tylenol PM habit. I don't mean having a third baby, going back to work, or training for a marathon. I don't even mean preparing for the holidays. (Side note: our family is neither traveling for nor having company visit for Thanksgiving. Relatedly, I have not yet purchased nor thought about a turkey or any other Thanksgiving-dinner groceries.)

No, no, I'm talking about a.) obtaining all my continuing education credits for my psychologist license, and b.) writing that book proposal. Both of which involve prodigious amounts of time.

I recently found a special deal where I can take a boatload of home-study professional psychology courses from my computer, all on sale for a limited time. If I work really hard at it, I could possibly obtain all--or nearly all--my required credits for one low price, between now and next November. But it will require me to sit in front of the laptop for hours each week reading tedious course materials and taking tests on things like "Clinical Aspects of Traumatic Brain Injury" and "Methamphetamine Addiction."

Much more exciting, I still have this book idea I'm dying to work on, plus a reference book about writing book proposals lent to me by my awesome writer friend Lori, who is patiently waiting for me to WRITE THE BOOK PROPOSAL ALREADY. (This woman is a superstar who had TWO books published during the same month earlier this year, people. TWO.)

How to find time for these things, people? My children aren't in school all day yet, and they don't nap anymore. I don't have any "free" chunks of time during the day long enough to get anything like this done. Most evenings, I try to turn out the light by 8:30 so that, given my early alarm clock, my husband's snoring, my toddler's periodic night awakening, and my subsequent insomnia, I can stand a reasonable chance of getting seven or so hours of sleep. Weekends, I'm usually trying to balance a bit of relaxation with family activities and the normal household chores.

Argh! Does it ever end, this desperate quest for "free" time for personal pursuits, professional goals, or hobbies? Are there ever enough hours in the day?

Here's how the considerations have played themselves out in my mind so far: Give up running? No. Give up watching "Glee"? No. Sleep less to stay up late and work? No. Give up writing this blog? No. Give up Facebook? Sigh.

Yeah. You get where this is going. While there are some things I'm not willing to relinquish, I suppose it's true that I "waste" an awful lot of time surfing my favorite sites online, keeping up with Facebook friends, reading Salon.com and the best mommy-blogs, skimming Babble essays and FameCrawler, checking out the latest headlines at the New York Times website. What would my life be like without all that screen time? Probably a lot less "busy" and perhaps a lot more meaningful.

Maybe I'd even get my license credits done and my book proposal written in record time. Maybe it's time for an experiment.

Monday, November 16, 2009

Book Press

Special Monday bonus: some awesome press about the anthology P.S. What I Didn't Say and the recent bookstore readings, via the Powell's Books blog! Click here to read editor Megan McMorris's take on contributors, readings, and women's friendships.

Back from Chicago, and Already Thinking Too Much

I've often wondered, since becoming a parent five years ago, if I'm a total stress-case freak for finding mothering (or, probably more accurately, full-time at-home mothering) simultaneously the best thing that's ever happened to me (because, hello: my two amazing daughters who give meaning to my life) and the hardest, most aggravating, most challenging endeavor I've ever experienced (hello: toddler who cried at bedtime for hours on end every single night for 17 months straight. AS JUST ONE EXAMPLE).

My dear friend Mnmom has frequently reminded me that there's a real reason it's so hard: that humans aren't meant, nor did we evolve, to raise our children alone in a nuclear family unit, far from extended family with generations of advice-givers, helpers, partners in parenting and running a household. And yet I always forget this fact, and ponder repeatedly why in the world I find parenting so difficult and my SAHM days such contradictory combinations of drudgery, anxiety, contentment, and joy. How can you adore being a mom AND dread every crabby-toddler morning at the same time? How can you love being at home with your children but simultaneously lose sleep (and hair) over not having enough money to pay the bills, not enough sleep to feel rested, not enough patience to be the one who does everything all day long? Sometimes I forget how, exactly, that math all adds up.

Over the weekend I read the latest issue of The Atlantic. Regular Atlantic readers will know that famous mother-writer Sandra Tsing Loh writes a regular book-review column for the magazine. She's a bit of a loose cannon--for example, she famously announced her unexpected divorce in the July/August issue, which was sort of odd and riveting at the same time--but I like her and her writing, in that sort of can't-tear-myself-away manner of car wrecks and cable-TV episodes of Keeping Up With the Kardashians. (Gah.) And this month's column is a good one: in between unsettling descriptions of her current, mid-divorce, rather homeless state, she reviews two books related to mothering, and discusses the strangely difficult state of modern motherhood, in all its Creative-Class, overly-educated, anxious, isolating glory. Or, rather, the opposite of glory; what would that be? Ingloriousness? Yes.

Ms. Tsing Loh quotes Germaine Greer's classic The Female Eunuch, in the chapter called "Family," discussing how extended, multigenerational ("stem family") households (how we were meant to live, and how we all used to live, long ago), are inherently stable in comparison to modern two-parent nuclear families, because they don't rest solely on the shoulders of just two adults, trying to juggle multiple and competing demands of daily life. And Tsing Loh identifies immediately with this idea, and goes on to write:

"Bingo. What better phrase to describe marriage among those of my own bewildered demographic slice—parents of the Creative Class? We start with the best of intentions. In her 20s, the Creative Class female carves out a cool Creative Class career, like Writer. She meets a man with an equally cool Creative Class job...In their 30s, the baby comes...

After kissing her husband goodbye, the Creative Class mother now begins to care for their baby, alone, in New York, or Los Angeles, or whatever cool city they’ve moved to. She’s isolated from her stem family—the grandma, aunts, and in-laws (who all love children!) have long been left behind in notoriously un-Creative Lompoc, Fort Lauderdale, or Ohio. She can barely maneuver the stroller down the four flights of stairs to get to Gymboree ($20 for 45 minutes, and you have to actually
stay with your nine-month-old and drum). Result: the 21st-century Creative Class mom’s life is actually far worse than that of her 1950s counterpart. Her husband works as many hours (and travels more), but life is uncomfortable on his salary alone, and the isolated mom has no bingo-playing moms’ group to ease the unnatural, teeth-chattering stress of one-on-one care of her child..."

Wow, does THAT ever describe my experience parenting Julia as a newborn--my first baby, my first experience leaving a career world of offices and co-workers to stay home all day long with no one to talk to, no one to help me, no one to answer questions about what to do about all the parts of mothering I was completely unfamiliar with (read: pretty much all of them). Sure, I called my mom a lot, but she was 250 miles away, and, living in a less-than-intimate urban environment, I didn't meet my first fellow-SAHM friend until Julia was 11 months old. ELEVEN MONTHS, people. With a baby who had colic as a newborn, had zero capacity for self-soothing, and who didn't really sleep for the first seven months of her life. It was a long, desperate year--even while being a wonderful, incredible year. (Hence my confusion, above.)

Even now, with two children, five years of parenting experience under my belt, a home in a friendly, family-filled small town, and a social network of other mom friends, parenting small children remains, well, much the same: a puzzling combination of The Best Thing Ever and Things That Make Me Want to Poke My Own Eye Out With a Stick.

Is this normal? Well, perhaps not back in the "stem family" day, but now? Sandra Tsing Loh--and, before her, Germaine Greer--would say yes.

It's nice to know that you're not just a total stress-case freak. Or, at the very least, that if you are, then most other nuclear-family, isolated, full-time stay-at-home moms probably are too.

Am I right, moms? Go read your Atlantic. Then tell me what you think.

Friday, November 13, 2009

Book Reading Recap

So I've got my first book reading/signing under my belt. I'm home from the Chicago book trip for P.S. What I Didn't Say, and I am SO GLAD I decided to go. I will remember it for the rest of my life, I am sure, and not just because my toddler welcomed me home with a two-hour-long raging tantrum IN THE MIDDLE OF THE NIGHT last night. Ahem. I refuse to discuss that hellishness any further. I will now pretend it did not occur, and I will also pretend that I have gotten more than nine hours of sleep total in the last three nights. Please help me out by supporting this delusion for the rest of the day. Thank you.

So anyway! Remember how my awesome BFF from Texas flew into Chicago to join me on this book reading adventure? As you might imagine, this made the whole trip about a hundred million times better, and I was in tears on the flight home missing her and touched by her amazing act of friendship. V. is a private person, not the type to blog or Twitter or Facebook or post photos of herself to the Internet, which is why I'm not writing her full name or including here the adorable picture of the two of us at the bookstore (though V., if you're reading this and it doesn't bother you, let me know). All you really need to know is that we landed within two minutes of each other; spent the next hour walking aimlessly around the giant metropolis that is O'Hare with our cell phones to our ears trying to find each other at Rental Car, saying things like, "I'm by baggage claim and there are numbers on the pillars, where are you?" and "I'm at baggage claim too, but there are no numbers on my pillars" and "OK, now I'm outside and I've just crossed 8 lanes of traffic and am standing on a median by a sign that says Rental Car Shuttles" and "I'm outside too, but there's no sign and all I see is a Hilton across four more lanes of traffic," and ultimately realized we'd landed at different terminals (who knew?) and were roughly a hundred miles from one another. I may exaggerate slightly.

In the end, we DID find one another, find a shuttle bus to the rental car lot, get a car, drive successfully into the city, check into a lovely old hotel on the Gold Coast (with a room heater that ultimately kept us up all night with its insane level of noise), eat a ridiculously large lunch at 3 p.m., pull ourselves together enough to not look like we'd been walking around O'Hare all afternoon, and drive up Lake Shore Drive seeing the sights (my old stomping grounds! my apartment from 1995-2000! my old running route!) on our way to the great bookstore hosting the reading.

At the hotel, ready to leave for the reading, Wednesday night

The Book Cellar, Lincoln Square, Chicago: the location for our event

The reading itself was awesome. It was so much fun to meet Megan, the book's talented editor, and the three other writers participating in the Chicago reading. There are some amazing writers in this book, people! If you haven't gotten your hands on a copy yet, DO IT NOW. You will not be disappointed. The essays are so diverse--some funny, some poignant, some riveting, some dramatic, some incredibly sweet--and the three ladies reading with me on Wednesday showcased some great work.

Me with lovely editor Megan McMorris and talented
writers
Anna Cox, Judy Sutton Taylor, and Margaret Littman

The bookstore ended up being standing-room-only, and a good friend of mine and Christopher's, who moved to Chicago last spring, attended to support me (thanks, Lisa! It was so great to see you!). I was only a tiny bit nervous, and the subject of my essay did NOT show up to heckle me, so I basically just had a rollicking good time and tried my best to, as several wonderful friends urged before I left town, smile, soak it all in, and fully enjoy the moment. Who knows? I may never be lucky enough to do a book reading again! I wanted to appreciate it 100%.

And I did. It was wonderful. I'm so proud of this book. Please read it, buy it for your sisters, moms, and friends for Christmas, pass it around, enjoy the tales of friendship within.

There's the book! On the left!

And thank you, from the bottom of my heart, for supporting me in my first foray into book publication (especially Christopher for letting me go, V. for coming along, and Christopher's mom for helping take care of the girls while I was gone). I hope there will be more to come, but even if there aren't, I've accomplished a life-goal and experienced a personal dream.

Thursday, November 12, 2009

Home From Chicago!


This is where I was last night. I'm back now. I'll tell you all about it soon. Stay tuned, and check back!

Monday, November 09, 2009

My Trip is Coming Up!

In just two short days, I fly to Chicago for a whirlwind one-night trip to participate in the book reading for "P.S. What I Didn't Say: Unsent Letters to Our Female Friends." There, I'll be meeting--at last--the anthology's wonderful editor, Megan McMorris, and three of the other writers whose essays are included in the book. We'll be promoting the book at the independent bookstore The Book Cellar. SO EXCITING!

But what I don't think I've told you all yet is that one of my very best friends in the entire world is coming on this trip with me, meeting me in Chicago for 24 hours, in an incredible act of friendship that seems befitting of the event--a bookstore reading for a book about female friendships--and, also, a little ironic considering the topic of my particular essay in the book (someone who was anything but a real friend).

My friend V. lives far away from both me and Chicago. But she's the owner, with her husband, of an incredibly successful small-business franchise, which means she can sometimes set her own schedule and get away for a couple of days mid-week. And, more to the point, she's the most generous-hearted person I've ever known. She offered to fly to Chicago to meet me, be in the bookstore audience at my reading, and spend one night in the city hanging out with me, and fly back home the next day, when I leave. There is no way to put into words how much it means to me to have my friend V. along on this trip. She makes everything even better just by being a part of it. And, because we haven't lived in the same state since 2004, I miss her terribly, every day. I'm so excited for our reunion in Chicago, and so honored that she chose to support me in my first publication in a book. How will I ever repay her for this act of friendship? I can't imagine.

Between now and Wednesday, I'll be busy with my girls' school schedules, various appointments of my own, and getting my household set up to hum along without me for two days. In other words, I won't be writing here. But I'll tell you all about it later this week when I get back. Wish me luck, and think of me on Wednesday night, when I'll be joyfully reading my essay to a bookstore audience. With V. in the front row, I'm sure.

Friday, November 06, 2009

Not Funky Just Busy

Hey, you all. So, I'm busy. How's that for a boring blogging topic? How busy I am? Yeah, well, sorry; I'm so busy I don't have time to think about anything else to write. My trip is coming up, and life has been a whirlwind lately.

A loyal reader mentioned the other day that she hoped my trip might provide a welcome kick out of my recent funk, and I just want to make clear that, aside from my kids being oppositional recently and thus causing my head to explode and me to daily pine for a local grandma to drop them off with occasionally, I'm not in a funk; I'm just super super super busy. Sorry I wasn't too clear about that. I'm insanely busy, and when I've got a lot going on PLUS my husband snores PLUS my cat harasses me at 4 a.m. PLUS one of my children is sick and therefore coughs at night, I don't get much if any sleep, which is, um....exhausting.

For some reason, everything in the whole world fell onto my schedule at the same time this autumn. In the past couple of weeks, and next week until I leave town, here's what's been filling up my calendar: a kid Halloween party; Julia's school Halloween party (for which I shopped for supplies); the children's tumbling classes; pumpkin patch visiting; pumpkin carving; our town's annual kid Fun Run; three dentist appointments; both girls' school conferences; school volunteer work; Halloween itself/trick-or-treating; cooking, delivering food, and hosting a playdate for a family down the street with a new baby (all of which was done 100% happily, I might add; it is a joy to help neighbors with a newborn); three haircut appointments; consultation work involving various client phone appointments; both girls being off school some days for various teacher conferences and workshops; school fundraisers due; kid flu shot appointments; my mother-in-law's arrival for a visit; and a pre-trip manicure appointment. There may have been a Tupperware party in there as well.

Let me tell you, attempting to fit all that into my regular daily schedule along with cooking, shopping, housekeeping, exercising, childcare, and regular bathing has been a challenge. Something had to go, and it might have been bathing. Possibly.

So let's just say I've barely even thought about my trip next week yet; I've been so busy taking care of all these other obligations--while not really sleeping--that I've yet to time my reading to make sure I can read the whole essay in under 10 minutes (or, if not, determine an appropriate excerpt). My main fear about my trip is that I will sleep so little between now and then that a.) I will be incoherent by next Wednesday night, or b.) the dark circles under my eyes will frighten the bookstore audience.

I'll try to work on that before next Wednesday. But I've got a lot to do between now and then.

Thursday, November 05, 2009

Yet Another Reason to Love The First Lady


I read on Babble.com the other day that Michelle Obama was recently interviewed by Katie Couric about how she balances motherhood with work, marriage, and all the other many demands in her life. (Like, you know, being the wife of the leader of the country. Which is far more demanding and important than anything I'VE got going on, how about you?)

Apparently Mrs. Obama said that, aside from the benefits of having paid staff to help with many aspects of her daily life, the biggest factor in maintaining her sanity is prioritizing her own needs and self-care after those of her girls. Her advice to other moms? Put your children first, but make yourselves "a close second."

I love that, don't you? Not just put yourself second, but a "close" second. She's awesome.

Wednesday, November 04, 2009

Stumbling Block


So last week Genevieve started crying about going to preschool. Out of the blue, for three days now, she's sobbed and wailed, her little chin quivering, saying she doesn't want to go. When I ask her why, there doesn't seem to be a major reason. She says things like, "I just want to be with you, Mama!" and "I don't want you to go!" Sometimes she says, "It's too long!" or, once, "It's boring!" But mostly she hugs me and tries to convince me not to drop her off at nursery school, where her sweet and loving teacher is as puzzled as I am and gives her extra cuddles and attention to help ease the drop-off transition.

Two adult friends who know Genevieve have speculated that the novelty has worn off for her. "It's been two months; she's probably totally over it," said my hairstylist Shauna. "She's been there, seen it all--now she's all, 'Eh. I'm done with this. I want to stay home to watch "Curious George" and bake muffins with you instead.' Think about it: wouldn't you?" She has a point.

Next Wednesday I leave for two days to participate in one of the readings for the "P.S. What I Didn't Say" book tour. Both girls have school during the time I'll be away, detailed routines and schedules that I'm usually in charge of. I dislike being away from my daughters like this; I hate to travel far away from them, worried about what could happen to me (but likely won't). It doesn't help that Genevieve's begun crying every morning before school.

This kind of scenario is exactly what I feared, when I questioned whether or not to send Genevieve to preschool this year as a "young three." I didn't want her to cry about going, to beg for more home-time with me, or to not enjoy her time there. I was so relieved when the school year began and for two months straight she ran into school with joy and enthusiasm, and loved every minute. I was so glad to not have to feel guilty about letting my baby spend time away from me at such an early age and giving up a year that we could have spent in full-time home/parenting activities.

Ah, motherhood: providing continual experiences of guilt from birth until, um, forever?

Wish us luck.

Short But Sweet

New fall haircuts:



Tuesday, November 03, 2009

Nearly the Same Thing

Last night around dinnertime, Genevieve started begging for "Swing Low, Sweet Chariot." She kept saying it over and over, and when you imagine this, you must recall the fact that she cannot pronounce the letters "s" or "r." She knows this song from a Raffi CD, so naturally I thought she was asking me to put on the music. But she clambered over to our games-and-activities cupboard, opened the door, and pointed emphatically to the shelf, saying "Mama, Swing Low Sweet Chariot! Swing Low Sweet Chariot!"

What was she pointing to? The children's board game "Hi Ho, CHERRY-O."

Christopher and I laughed for a long, long time. Funny little Vivi.

Sunday, November 01, 2009

Obligatory Halloween Photos for Grandparents & Devoted Others

It was cold here yesterday (as it often is for Halloween), so when I discovered Genevieve's old bumblebee costume in the back of the nursery closet early in the day--a puffy, fuzzy pullover the weight and thickness of a winter jacket and sporting a hood, though with no sleeves--I thought it would be a warmer option than the jack o'lantern and fairy costumes she had been considering earlier. (We have a lot of dress-up clothes, passed on from a friend with older kids, as well as a few hand-me-down costumes from cousins; nothing fancy in the least, but a few different options.) Lucky for me, Genevieve agreed.

Did I mention the tag on the bumblebee costume says 12-24 months? And that she wore it the year she was ONE? (Remember all that talk from me last summer about how Genevieve seemed too little to start preschool?)

Good thing she liked it better this Halloween than she did two years ago. Does everyone remember this?

Halloween 2007, ages 1 and 3


Two years later, though she's often surly and screaming, it's no longer when wearing a fuzzy bee costume and preparing to go procure copious amounts of candy.

Halloween 2009, ages 3 and 5


Bumblebee and fairy


And isn't Julia a precious little fairy? She was mistaken for a butterfly at many houses--I guess because she was with a bee--but she took it in stride. And, thanks to a friend's reminder that fairy dust makes winter clothing invisible, she tolerated the necessary parka, hood, and mittens that must accompany a fairy costume when you trick-or-treat in Minnesota with nary a tear. (Thanks, Laura! She TOTALLY BELIEVED IT.)

I just have to say that, walking behind my little trick-or-treaters and seeing their tiny fuzzy and beskirted bottoms toddling down the sidewalk with wings flapping and stinger bobbing, looking so unbelievably toddlerish still--honestly, they're so small and little still, they really are, especially when you see them beside mobs of rowdy grade-schoolers with light sabers and face paint--well, it made me want them to be three and five forever. They're just babies! And yet--they're already three and five.

I didn't envy our neighbor who just came home from the hospital last night with a newborn, though. Not the slightest bit. So there's that.

Hope you had a sweet, sweet Halloween! Onward, to November and my book trip and the holidays!