"The drug of emotional attachment has destroyed me, as it has destroyed the whole world.” - Sri Guru Granth Sahib

May 27, 2008

I hope you enjoyed your Memorial Day weekend. We did; we went camping in Vermont. Had a wonderful time.

For your pleasure, here is a great article about children's attachment to parents and child-care providers: When Children Treat The Child Care Provider Like Mom

“Habit and routine have an unbelievable power to waste and destroy.” -- Henri de Lubac

May 22, 2008

For some crazy reason, last week, the week that had no format, no schedule, no routine, full of changes and adaptations every single day, that week went fine.

This week, the week where E is supposed to be "back on schedule" - back to daycare, back to his regular schedule, this week is a mess.

He's refusing to nap at daycare. He's hitting everyone (me, his father, the other kids at Daycare, Sarah), and sometimes does this thing where he turns into a writhing ball of flailing arms and legs, often lying on his back and kicking and holding a stuffed animal in each and flinging them around with wild abandon. He doesn't seem upset when he's in dervish mode - in fact, I think he's doing it because its fun - but its a little weird and scary to watch. I'm trying to chalk it up to being (almost) two, but his father voiced to me a concern yesterday that "maybe its something he's eating that makes him go crazy like that."

Perhaps. But this morning he woke up at five fifteen, raring to go, begging for milk - no, juice - no, milk - no, juice - Oh! the world is ending - Milk! Juice! Milk!, and then commenced to thrash around on the bed in this same wild way, rabbit in one hand, elephant in the other, kicking his legs and slamming the animals together. At five fifteen. In the morning.

I finally got him a drink and got him to snuggle in the bed with me, but he never fell back asleep. By seven fifteen he was up and dressed and ready to go, but rubbing his eyes and being grumpy and sleepy already. I don't envy Sarah for her day with him. We get a note back from her every day, outlining what he ate and how many diapers and what they did for the day, and on Monday the note said read "Tough day today. As M (one of the other toddlers) said "E was a wild man today."

I can't help but believe that he misses being at home.

This weekend we're going camping in Vermont. Four days of family and friends togetherness time. I wonder if, by Sunday or so, I'll have a different, sunnier boy on my hands. And I wonder if, come Tuesday or Thursday of next week, he'll be back to dervish mode again.

"The marathon can humble you" - Bill Rodgers

May 19, 2008

Today was one of those crazy 15 hour days I sometimes have, where I work both jobs and only get to see my baby awake for the first forty minutes or so of the entire day. It was his first day back at daycare after a week away, and the day our roofers arrived to tear our roof (and lawn. and driveway.) apart.

But, strangely, here at midnight, at the end of this marathon day I'm not nearly as tired as I was last night at 8pm when I fell asleep in the bed next to my baby boy.

Being a stay at home mom isn't something you just jump into. Were I to suddenly win the lottery and be able to stay at home from tomorrow on, I'm not sure I could physically handle it. I'm just not in shape. On the days -- the rare and beautiful days -- when I get to spend the entire day with my son, with no plans and no agenda, I feel as though I've been thrown headlong into a marathon without having ever run a step. My body aches. I'm tired - the bone tired of physical labor, but also the deeper tiredness that happens when you work your imagination all day. I've spent the day doing laundry and playing trucks and making lunch and being hyper vigilant, and by E's bedtime I'm a wreck - ready to lay down next to him and fall asleep, struggling to keep my eyes open until he shuts his for good. In some ways, working is the easy way out -- I get to do the fun stuff, the easy stuff, and someone else gets to do the more difficult and exhausing day-to-day grind of maintenance.

Last night I was waiting for his peed-on bedding to finish it time in the dryer, so we put him to bed in our bed as his father waited for the laundry to dry. E and I snuggled up, as we often do, and read books. But I kept yawning. I had to read the same page three times, because I kept yawning. Finally, E looked up at me, and patted my face, and said "night night, mamma, night night." He reached over and closed the book and laid his head on the pillow next to mine. And held my hand, as we both went to sleep.

"The first step to getting the things you want out of life is this: Decide what you want." - Ben Stein

May 16, 2008

Wendy Anderson could probably be considered the cover girl (poster woman?) for the modern executive working mother. After spending five years as the head of global energy research for Lehman Brothers in London, she mommy-tracked herself and moved from London to Edinburgh, taking a position at investment company Martin Currie, where she negotiated two afternoons off per week as a part of her employment package. At the end of 2005, she left Martin Currie to be a full-time mom, and on May 5th, 2008 she gave birth to her fourth and fifth children, twins, son Alexander and daughter Mackenzie.

Two days later she died, at the age of 38.

We all know at some level that the choices we make in how we live our lives are predicated on our perceptions of our own mortality. Before my son was born, I had no fear of death. I'm not religious, and can't really find it within myself to believe the logistics of an afterlife, but the idea of death held no terrors for me.

Now, of course, its all different. Its the mechanics of death that frighten me -- the fear and pain and uncertainty and desire to live contained in the actual moments of dying. Its the loss and confusion and bereavement and anger of those who must live on. I've been reading Gwendomama a lot recently, which is a blog written by a woman whose son, Elijah, died at the age of 11 months after a lifetime of illness. The trial of Pamela Henderson, a local woman whose infant son drowned in the tub when she fell asleep has been big in the news here. And, of course, China and Myanmar. "If it bleeds, it leads" is what they say. Death, and the struggle against death fill our media, our thoughts, our conscious and unconscious minds.

I know this seems like an odd and morbid topic on a beautiful spring day like today, but bear with me.

Right up until the part where she dies, I think a lot of working moms would be green with envy for Wendy Anderson's life. She had a successful, lucrative career. She was able to find a way to balance her desire for a family with whatever personal satisfaction her work gave her. She was also prosperous enough to be able to give it all up when she chose to, deciding that adding more children to her family and being with them full time was the path that would be most fulfilling for her. She worked in hedge funds, so I have no doubt that she had ample investments and savings, but the loss of an executive income like hers, not to mention the addition of two more babies to her household, must have have caused some lifestyle adjustments for her family.

As we get older, parents or not, our priorities change. What seemed life-or-death at 20 is old news at 30, and what seemed crucial at thirty is, at fifty, an amusing phase. In every other aspect of our lives, we are allowed -- indeed encouraged -- to have our priorities change. Its natural, of course, to also have our priorities change when we become parents (one might even say that its instinct). In part, this happens because becoming a parent makes you so much more keenly aware that you are mortal. Platitudes like "every day is valuable" suddenly have a new meaning. "Live each day to the fullest" becomes more than a cliché.

So, despite the abrupt and untimely end to Wendy Anderson's life, I think I'm still green with envy. She had it all. How cruel -- how specially cruel -- for fate or destiny to take it from her.

"Life being what it is, one dreams of revenge." -- Paul Gauguin

May 13, 2008

I recently stumbled across SouleMama, which is a wildly interesting blog - moreso because she lives here in Portland and writes about a lot of things that are very familiar to me (like her current post about the Salvation Army Fabric Sale, for instance).

Days one and two of the "daycare vacation" have gone quite well. My mother was here looking after E (with her dog, Nick, with whom E is wildly in love). Tomorrow E is home all day with Daddy, and Thursday its my turn. I can't wait for my turn. Its a chance to live my fantasy life as a Mamma more like Soulemama -- an earth mother, a bread baker, a maker of things.

When I was home on my maternity leave - a moment and a lifetime ago now, it seems - I made myself crazy because I couldn't seem to do anything. I vividly remember the day I went back to work. I got to the stop sign at the corner and actually yelled "Yipee!" out loud, because I was so happy, at that moment, to be going back to the world of adults. My infant son was beautiful, but (truth to be told) a trifle dull. But my toddler son - so bright, so full of words, so interested in things, so loving - he's a person.

These past two days, instead of E leaving at 730 with is father, he and I have been home together for two hours before my mother arrived to watch him. This morning we played with blocks. Yesterday we touched our noses for fifteen minutes, then talked about elbows and knees. I'm starting to think that finding a way to have those two hours every morning would make a huge difference in my life, but doing that would involve so much upheaval for him that I'm reluctant to do it.

Having my mother here for two days has also been an interesting experiment in Free Range Parenting. She has a whole different set of expectations about what his abilities (and responsibilities) should be. And I learned, I think, that my expectations of him and his abilities should be more like hers. I have to stop thinking of him as "the baby". He's a toddler now, and more independent by the day.

“Consistency is contrary to nature, contrary to life. The only completely consistent people are dead.” - Aldous Huxley

May 8, 2008

My son got in the tub himself last night. In his diaper. And socks. Yes, its true -- I let my son take his bath with his socks on.

I've been trying to reinforce the idea that "no means no". The logical and consistent outcome of this is that when he flatly states "no" I have to at least attempt honor that. Even if it means that he gets in the tub with his socks on and then takes them off himself when he finds his sodden socks to be a hindrance. I find this to be doubly important when it comes to his willingness to allow anyone else to remove his clothing. Especially his diaper. It is very important to me that he understand clearly that no one is allowed to remove his diaper without his permission.

If his diaper seems wet or soiled, we'll always ask him if we can change him ("Buddy, can we change your diaper?"). He's very good about telling us when there is poop in his diaper and almost always asks to be changed right away. Wet pants are another case .... he doesn't seem to mind them, so sometimes he'll say "no" to having his diaper changed - because, perhaps, he doesn't want to be interrupted in whatever toddler task he's undertaking (or sometimes just because its cold) - I'm happy to wait. When he's uncomfortable he'll let us know, and then we'll get him dry pants. With his permission.

Eventually we should probably begin to toilet train him. Hannah, our caregiver's daughter, is currently being trained (she's about three years old), so the word "Potty" and the concept of using the toilet are coming into his range of ideas. He's seen both his father and I use the toilet (and, I understand, his father has narrowly avoided peeing on E's head on more than one occasion when E got a bit too ... curious). His father has even gone so far as to sit E up on the toilet, at E's request.

But, honestly, I'm kind of hoping we can put toilet training off for another few months, at least.

Every August, we attend a living history festival for two weeks, and camp. This time in camp seems like a perfect opportunity to toilet train our son. We'll be outdoors, so I can let him run without diapers without having to worry about mopping up pools. We'll be in a physically close environment, so I'll never have to be a few steps from a potty without dragging it all over the house with us. (A friend's daughter loved to drag her potty into the living room and watch TV while sitting on it. That's not going to fly in our house.) And, most basically, if we can wait until our August Vacation, it means I'll get to toilet train him myself.

He took his first steps at Sarah's house. Probably has had many other "firsts" there as well, but she is kind enough not to tell me. Toilet training is such an intimate, delicate thing. Not only does it seem like a strange thing to ask a caregiver to be responsible for -- please housebreak my child, thank you -- but it seems, to me, to be a mother's duty. My duty. And so we'll keep talking about the potty and leaving him in diapers and letting him get the hang of dressing (and undressing) himself and asking permission to change his diaper.

And waiting for summer to come. So I can do my duty by him.

“Happiness is not a matter of intensity but of balance, order, rhythm and harmony.” - Thomas Merton

May 7, 2008

I've written about our Tuesday's here before. On Tuesday,E's dad has a weekly practice he attends (along with many of our friends) and I've been trying to make those Tuesday evenings a focus-time for E and I to have some time where we do something fun, just he and I.

For a few weeks (while the weather was still lousy here) I was taking him to Whole Foods, letting him select what he wants to try ( or what I think he'll eat) from the immense buffet of pre-made food and we've been having dinner together. However, there are a ton of distractions there (last week I think he fell in love with a much older girl -- she was easily 7 or 8 -- who was wearing a full ballet outfit, classical tutu and tiara included) and he tends to want to people watch and not eat. The people watching in and of itself isn't a problem, but considering how tight our budget is it was somewhat frustrating to me to spend ten or twelve dollars ($7.99/lb for the buffet) on dinner for him (with me eating the leftovers) and still have a hungry toddler at the end of the meal.

Last night, with the advent of better weather and longer days, we took a different approach. I loaded him in the car and bought him a huge treat -- a fast food kids meal from the burger joint drive-through -- then we went to watch daddy at practice (which was being held outside for the first time this season). He ate everything, watched practice with rapt attention (Dadda! Dadda!), then ran amok on the grass until it got dark and he was so tired he could barely put one foot in front of the other.

The running amok part I hope will always stay with me -- his warmest sweater, black, with his blond curls blowing in the breeze as he ran and ran and laughed and laughed and laughed.

For the first time since we've started, I felt like, at the end, his evening had been as special as mine had been.

"A smiling face is half the meal" - Proverb

May 5, 2008

How To Get a Toddler to Eat Something New

1) Make him his mostest-favoritest food that you can think of.

2) Make you and your husband a different meal -- something with a strong garlic flavor that your son has shown repeatedly to dislike.

3) Let the toddler eat first. Do not get upset when he rejects his mostest-favoritest food, eats three bites then dumps the rest on the table, booster seat, and floor.

4) Release him from the table and let him run around and play as you and your husband sit down to eat your garlic-laden (or otherwise "yuchy") meal.

5) When, after your first few forkfuls, your toddler appears at your elbow saying "Bite? Bite? Bite?" tell him "No, this is mommy's dinner. You had yours."

6) Repeat.

7) Repeat.

8) Repeat but substitute "No, this is daddy's dinner" for dialog listed in step 5.

9) After he's asked at least ten times, give in. Feed him a single forkful, confident that he will spit it out as he's done about three dozen times before.

10) End up feeding said toddler your entire adult-sized portion of dinner, one forkful at a time, as he practices saying the word "Bite" about a hundred and fifty times.

At least at my house, it never fails.

"this is a community of women coming together to make each other feel less alone." - Heather B Armstrong

May 2, 2008

"We are an army of educated mothers who have finally stood up and said pay attention, this is important work, this is hard, frustrating work and we're not going to sit around on our hands waiting for permission to do so. We have declared that our voices matter."

Someday I hope I can write this well.

"We must be willing to get rid of the life we've planned, so as to have the life that is waiting for us." - J. Campbell

May 1, 2008

As much as I do try (daily) to remind myself of all the upsides to having E in an in-home care situations, there are sometimes downsides as well. Vacation time is one of those.

We've known since the middle of last year that Sarah, our care provider, was planning on taking two weeks of vacation in 2008: the week of May 12th and a week in August. The August week isn't a problem for us (we're on vacation ourselves, anyhow), and we've sorted out a plan for the May week (Josh and I each take one day off, my mother drives down to watch him two days, he spends one day with Josh's dad). But now Sarah has thrown a wrench in the works, and its a frustration.

She wants to take an extra week, in June. She has basically offered us three options: make other arrangements and we don't need to pay her; bring E to her house where she will arrange for "someone else" to cover her for that week (but we don't know who, and, in the past, at least once she's had her 19 year old cousin cover for an hour, which I was not ok with), or decline to give her permission to go (since we didn't know about this in advance). Well, far be it from us to be the bad guys, so we're going for the "make other arrangements" option, but its frustrating. (Partly its frustrating because I started this new job in February and haven't yet accrued much vacation time, but even if I had five or six weeks of vacation time it would still be frustrating, because its not my choice.)

In a center, of course, this wouldn't have been an issue - staff would take vacation and then come back, and although E's routine would be changed it would not be totally interrupted. E is, by now (having been "in care" since he was 8 weeks old) used to the routine of "going bye-bye" each day. He's getting used to weekends, but things like this - extra days or changes in his schedule - can really throw him off and make him into cranky savage toddler. I think by the end of this week in May he might very well be a total mess.

I've spent a good deal of time this week looking for some alternate solution - checking to see if our local YMCA can take him for a full week, for example, or seeing if we could find someone trustworthy to care for him in-home for a week, but so far, no luck.

On the other hand, a patchwork solution is better than no solution at all. I'm constantly aware of how lucky we are, to have such a great support network. I'm always so painfully aware of all those folks who do not have the resources we have.

And, of course, it means I get to spend a spring day doing an assortment of nothing with my favorite person on Earth. And what can be wrong with that?